Retconning Mythinformation Con

After last weekend’s debacle at Mythicist Milwaukee’s conference, which included the audience cheering on harassment of a rape victim and victim’s advocate, Mythinformation Con speaker Melissa Chen has decided she knows what really happened. It was impressive enough that I had to share. My comments are included.

Now that #MythCon is over, I see the entire tempest in a teapot that resulted in a very different light. This was more than just an attempt by a radical faction of atheist activists who are fully aligned with the political machinations of ANTIFA to deplatform speakers they didn’t want to hear.

This was presumably Chen’s original position on those objecting to having a professional harasser there. I’m half giggling over “We show up where those we believe to be fascist are engaging in organized action and disrupt or protect those who do” being rendered as “political machinations” and half wondering when the self-appointed hyperbole police are going to show up. Chen posted this several days ago. Dan Arel identifies as antifa (no capital letters required), but to the best of my knowledge, Steve Shives and Kristi Winters have mostly refuted anti-antifa nonsense. If that makes people politically dangerous in Chen’s mind, there are an awful lot of us she’s eyeing as enemies.

Also, this has never been about not wanting to hear people. Winters spearheaded the effort to get Mythicist Milwaukee to remove Sargon as a speaker. She’s listened to more nonsense from Sargon than anyone but his most undying fans. She documented his behavior. She debated him. If Chen ever believed this was about anyone objecting to hearing him personally, she might want to spend more time checking her assumptions about people with differing politics.

It was more than just a campaign to be a thorn in the side of organizers (Mythicist Milwaukee) by driving up security costs with audacious claims to local police and media with no basis in truth.

You can tell me the fans of Gamergater shitlords aren’t dangerous when their targets stop being doxxed and swatted. When their targets’ events stop being cancelled because of shooting threats. When their “ironazi” flags stop showing up at rallies where people die. Then I’ll listen.

Until then, you’re just telling me you’re either not paying attention or not being honest.

This was ultimately about keeping atheism activism within the bounds of “Atheism Plus.”

2012 YouTube called. It wants its authoritarian bogeyman back. Continue reading “Retconning Mythinformation Con”

Retconning Mythinformation Con
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Property Damage as Violence

There’s a lot of good analysis out there right now deconstructing media and other attempts to paint antifa protests as the mirror image of white supremacist rallies featuring Nazis and KKK members. I like this one in particular, because it breaks down how it’s done.

So. It wasn’t too long before “alt-right” meant something negative again (as it should). Which is why calling antifa its antithesis, “alt-left,” is notable. Without the racially critical lens that white supremacy tries to avoid, “alt-right” can be reduced to meaning that one is way too conservative, to the point that it is impolite and problematic. And because white people have shown historically that they are bad with definitions (coincidence? unlikely), most would opt to assume that “alt-left” simply means being way too liberal.

Most of them I don’t share, though, because they’ll be rolling along just fine then pop out with something like “And stop saying property damage is violence!” Oops. Continue reading “Property Damage as Violence”

Property Damage as Violence

Policing Self-Defense

[CN: on top of all the Nazi stuff, talk about the threat of sexual assault]

Black-and-white photo of a large monument consisting of a stone fist atop a stone pedestal. An unreadable sign is taped to the fist.
“Fist of Freedom” (a monument to Nelson Mandela) by sacks08, CC BY 2.0

Yesterday I asked whether the people still telling me not to punch Nazis after Charlottesville were telling me to be martyred or to stand aside while someone else is.

Mostly I didn’t get any answers. I expected that. That’s what happens when “Just say ‘no’ to violence!” runs into situations where violence is inherent and inevitable. Ironically, the act of making an option unspeakable makes the pro-rational discussion with Nazis crowd unable to discuss current events rationally. Weird. (Not at all weird.)

I also ran into a couple of people yesterday who would prefer martyrdom to enacting any violence. That’s fine. I can’t relate to it in any way, but I don’t have to. It’s a personal choice. But it being a personal choice means you don’t get to impose it on me or anyone else. You don’t get to choose that someone else dies in the name of nonviolence.

I did get one response that boiled down to “Well, it’s okay in self-defense. No, I mean immediate self-defense.” Continue reading “Policing Self-Defense”

Policing Self-Defense

The Power—and Danger—of Story in Activism

It didn’t take long after Trump’s initial attempt at putting his promised Muslim ban in place by executive order for the stories to come rolling in.

There were people who disembarked from their planes, only to find they were no longer welcome in what was to be their new country. There were families, some with children, trapped and neglected in the limbo that is an airport on the wrong side of Customs and Immigration. There were heroic young attorneys sitting on hard floors, clustered around the outlets usually monopolized by business travelers.

There were Iraqi military translators who had risked their lives for our soldiers, sent back to a less-than-united country where their service was viewed by some as treason. There were students whose studies and research came to an abrupt halt when they couldn’t re-enter the country. There were doctors stretched thin across rural populations who faced the choice of never seeing their families again or abandoning their already underserved patients.

There were workers coerced into signing away the documents that make them “legal” immigrants instead of the faceless horrors of our national imagination. There were children awaiting live-saving medical coverage. There were athletes turned away trying to compete. There was a photogenic prime minister next door, always ready for slivers of positive coverage.

There were tears and patience and hunger and dashed hopes and confusion and righteous protests against blatantly unnecessary cruelties. There were stories. There were so many stories. Continue reading “The Power—and Danger—of Story in Activism”

The Power—and Danger—of Story in Activism

Because Ignoring It Worked So Well

Yesterday, an article was published in The Observer1 to let us all in on the exciting secret that Milo Yiannopolous likes attention. He even actively seeks it out.

Someone like Milo or Mike Cernovich doesn’t care that you hate them—they like it. It’s proof to their followers that they are doing something subversive and meaningful. It gives their followers something to talk about. It imbues the whole movement with a sense of urgency and action—it creates purpose and meaning.

You’re worried about “normalizing” their behavior when in fact, that’s the one thing they don’t want to happen. The key tactic of alternative or provocative figures is to leverage the size and platform of their “not-audience” (i.e. their haters in the mainstream) to attract attention and build an actual audience. Let’s say 9 out of 10 people who hear something Milo says will find it repulsive and juvenile. Because of that response rate, it’s going to be hard for someone like Milo to market himself through traditional channels. His potential audience is too spread out, and doesn’t have that much in common. He can’t advertise, he can’t find them one by one. It’s just not going to scale.

You’re shocked I know. Me too. I never would have guessed this before I saw people sharing it on Facebook in yet one more attempt to find an acceptable way to say, “Don’t feed the trolls.” I thought he was shy and retiring.

All right. That’s 100% obvious bullshit. Yiannopolous didn’t invent shock jockery. It’s not at all a new concept. We all know that protests draw attention to the thing or person being protested. We do it anyway, and for very good reason. Continue reading “Because Ignoring It Worked So Well”

Because Ignoring It Worked So Well

Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech

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In the past couple of months, I’ve seen many, many people complain about protesters blocking entrance to talks on campus by professional instigator Milo Yiannopolous. “No, no”, people say. “Go in and listen and challenge him. Free speech is important. The best counter to bad speech is more speech. Ugh, these protesters are so violent and immature.”

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen many, many people say that willingness to punch neo-Nazi Richard Spencer or to appreciate the fact that someone else punched him makes someone equivalent to a Nazi morally. “Noooo”, they say. “If you resort to violence, you have no standing to object to their violent suggestions. You say it’s okay to hit people whose opinions you disagree with. Plus it won’t stop them.”

Photo of an olive green megaphone against an olive green background. Interior of megaphone is bright red.
“Megaphon” by floeschie, CC BY 2.0

To everyone who’s found themselves saying one version or another of those: Y’all have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re making stuff up to support your predetermined stance on freedom of speech.

I mean that part about making stuff up literally. No one I’ve heard say anything like this about Yiannopolous has been to one of his productions. I have.

To start with, Yiannopolous makes nearly no arguments in his presentations. He does make assertions, but rather than backing them up with anything, his schtick is to talk about how outrageous he is for saying these things and giggle that it makes people mad at him. No one will be educated on the reasoning of the Right by engaging with him.

What they’ll find instead is demagoguery and Yiannopolous encouraging the audience to suppress dissent. Continue reading “Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech”

Nazis, No Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech

The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics

An earlier form of this post was originally published on Facebook a few days ago.

I was dealing with a “You’re why Clinton lost” guy the other night. I’ve dealt with them before. My usual go-tos have been “What exactly do you mean by lost, given the popular vote?” and pointing out that this isn’t supported by the data we have so far. Then he said the fatal words “I’m just trying to improve our strategy”, and that little portion of my brain lit up.

So let’s talk strategy. Let’s talk about ditching “identity politics”, strawman version and what people are really objecting to. Let’s talk about not allowing deflections from discussing racism, because of course, that’s what this guy was advocating against. (Disallowing deflection is rude, people.)

However, we’re not going to pretend this can happen in a vacuum. That’s bad strategy. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to look at the choices this forces on us. Because make no mistake, the people advocating for this are telling us to choose between them (or not them, exactly, but all those nameless, faceless people for whom they’re carrying water) and other people.

So, strawman identity politics. This is the Bernie Sanders et al version, in which representation is happening for its own sake regardless of positions on issues. Continue reading “The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics”

The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics

On Shame and Elections

I had some things to say about shame while driving down to Skepticon. I did manage to save them until we switched drivers, at least, but then Twitter got an earful. Enough people shared the thread there that I’ll collect the whole thing here.

Continue reading “On Shame and Elections”

On Shame and Elections

Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort

On Saturday mornings, I put on a bright pink or yellow vest and go get between people who think abortion is the world’s big evil and people who want or need one. As someone in this position, I can’t help but think that much of the talk about wearing safety pins to tell people you’re a resource in the face of the freshly empowered right is reinventing the wheel. My vest isn’t a perfect analog of the safety pin or the situations its meant for, but it’s close enough to make it worth talking about.

When I put on my vest, I’m making a promise to the clinic I work with and to its patients and their companions. I’m promising to watch, to see and document what happens, to be aware of everyone’s rights in the situation and the resources we have (or don’t) for protecting those, and to intervene as needed and wanted in a way that puts the patient first. If I’m not prepared to do that, I don’t go put on a vest that day.

There is the possibility of violence any time I put on a vest. Continue reading “Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort”

Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort

Everything Is Horrid and Still I Hope and Work

The Democratic National Convention happened recently, of course. Even if you don’t live in the U.S., it was nearly impossible to miss this or to miss seeing how utterly different it ws from the Republican National Convention the week before.

Photo of a branch of bleeding hearts with filter applied to enhance reds and yellows.
Crop of “My Red Bleeding Hearts” by Diane Beckwith-Zink Photography, CC BY 2.0

One of the major differences was that the speeches brought joy and hope to most of those watching. I won’t say there were no positive emotions engendered by the RNC, but they were the exception. Fear, anger, jealousy, and hatred were the order of the day. The DNC? Many people had forgotten they could cry healing tears over politics. They remembered watching the convention in Philadelphia.

I also won’t say there were no negative emotions inspired by the DNC. Obviously, some people were in mourning for the political dreams they had tied up in Bernie Sanders. Some people were in despair because they believed the primary election was stolen from them. (It wasn’t.) Some people were frustrated as their positions and priorities weren’t completely shared.

Some people, though, were angry and scared that Hillary Clinton won’t solve problems that are life and death to them. For them, the convention meant screaming and crying and watching others celebrate as they did. And when they saw celebrations, when they saw tears of joy, they wondered whether anyone saw what they saw in the world. They wondered whether anyone cared. Continue reading “Everything Is Horrid and Still I Hope and Work”

Everything Is Horrid and Still I Hope and Work