People say nice things about FtB, mean things about Paula Kirby’s vitriol

I’m sure you’ve seen all the sturm und drang over Freethought Blogs being a cesspool of bullying and thought-policing hive-mindery. Despite this, a few people outside the network have voiced their support of people inside the network, and are picking off the worst lines of argumentation that people are using to try claim that we’re dogmatic bullies who do not tolerate dissent. What catalyzed this show of support? Why no less than Paula Kirby calling us all Feminazis and Femistasi (Ophelia’s take on that nonsense).

And where the hell is Orac to shout down this particular Godwinning?

Anyway.

It’s really great to know that some fantastic writers are not letting this slide, even though they’re not personally the ones being targeted. Several of them below the fold.

Alex Gabriel writes us a fan letter and eviscerates the FtB-as-Stasi meme, shows amazing support for the key FtBloggers involved in this fight, and starts the #WeLoveFTB hashtag.

Now, clearly my opinion is just that: personal, subjective, an opinion. But for all the accusations of throwing their weight around, there’s a reason FtB has weight: it’s extremely popular. None of these people have to read it, and I’m not asking you to read it if you’re reading this. In fact, I’m not even asking you to like it.

But it’s obvious large numbers of people do like it. Over five thousand, according to Facebook. And while, contrary to some of what Paula suggested, no one who disagrees is being stopped from saying so, I think it’s time FtB-lovers sent in some support – because while it’s easy to be negative on the internet, especially on sarcasm-positive social networks like Twitter, sticking up for people is important.

tigtog of Hoyden About Town reposts a comment xe left at Ophelia’s, with this lead-in context paragraph:

In a truly rational world, it might be possible to substantively and productively explore the pros and cons of competing positions in good faith and reach a nuanced understanding and a mutually satisfying path forward.  Unfortunately the “don’t give disproportionate emphasis to sexism” side has basically been hijacked by a bunch of bad faith contrarians who advocate never ever listening to women because women be lying because that’s what bitchez do amiright.  These are the folks who’ve “excessively emphasised” the issue of sexist misbehaviour by continually stirring the pot, and this week a post on the FreeThoughtBlogs.com network from Justin Griffiths outlined exactly how this has been going down (mostly indirectly via contrarians’ now-I’m-using-my-reasonable-voice comments which have now been deleted). In short, for a large number of the noisiest pot-stirrers the whole meltdown is just an exercise in 4chan-style gamesmanship, where they get to bask in their supposed superior rationality as shown by the way that they can disrupt discussions and spark off flamewars by stating positions they claim not to truly hold, because they’re just making a point (that well-know close relation of JAQing Off).

And direct allies aren’t the only ones countering the “you people are bullies” memetics — Atheist Logic fisks that Kirby open letter with aplomb.

Now I don’t really have a problem with namecalling when you’re trying to make an emotional appeal. I don’t have an issue with terms like “anti-choice” or “idiot” when you’re just trying to get in a quick jab at the person you’re arguing with. But when it comes to “nazi”, can’t we at least agree that that’s a little extreme? You don’t win argument points by pointing wildly at something bad and saying “YOU’RE JUST LIKE THEM!” (complete with caps-lock). Nazis killed millions of people in an attempt to exterminate entire segments of the human population. Kirby is arguing against a group of people whose “crimes” are literally things like saying “Guys, don’t do that“, or that sexual harassment is a thing that happens sometimes. The thing about analogies is that they should scale properly. Comparing people saying words to other people killing millions is more than a little bit out-of-sync. On top of which, 99% of the time that you compare your opponent to Nazis, you’ve already lost the argument: it’s just not a point that people tend to respect.

But! (says Kirby) we’re not comparing them to actual Nazis, but rather to a general notion of Nazisim “used to simply mean ‘extremist’ or ‘obsessive’”.

And Rebecca Watson weaves together a few of the weirdest bits of anti-feminist thought from various quarters of the skeptic-and-atheist blogospheres:

[I]t just continues to amaze me that these clueless misogynists haven’t even figured out how to camouflage their hatred. Like, you assholes do know that Rush Limbaugh came up with the clever epithet “feminazi,” right? Rush Limbaugh, the guy who hates women so much that he spent hours yelling about how Sandra Fluke is literally a filthy whore because she thinks that birth control is medicine that should be covered by health insurance.

And lest you think she just used the term “feminazi” out of pure ignorance about what feminism is or what a Nazi is or what a Rush Limbaugh is, she actually doubled down with even more hilarious slurs, specifically created to express her individuality from Limbaugh[…]

It’s really nice to know we’re not taking this so-called-friendly fire, from people within the skeptic and atheist communities, alone. It still amazes me that the people doing the most bullying of ideas they don’t agree with, are the ones calling us bullies. Is it a case of “attack your opponent’s strengths to make them look like weaknesses”?

I mean, what is this strategy really? I’m not asking rhetorically — someone explain what these people think they’re accomplishing, please.

And all over a harassment policy campaign that we’ve basically already won.

Hmm. Maybe THAT’S it. Maybe they’re just being sore losers.

{advertisement}
People say nice things about FtB, mean things about Paula Kirby’s vitriol

80 thoughts on “People say nice things about FtB, mean things about Paula Kirby’s vitriol

  1. GMM
    51

    @jenniferphillips

    I thought she started it, sorry, but she is still going on about it. If you read her tweets, they are just unreal. Here’s a few new ones:
    “If your idea of feminism is infantilising and patronising women while demonising any woman who objects, ‪#FTBullies‬ is the place for you!”

    “Opposing ‪#FTBullies‬ no more means you approve of misogyny than opposing death penalty means you approve of crime.”

    “The ‪#FTBullies‬ hashtag crashing is, of course, just a continuation of what they’ve been doing on their blogs: silencing dissent. Pathetic.”

    “Best descrip of the ‪#Bullies‬ yet:An ongoing experimnt with shrill invective, point-missing & the absolute evasion of personal responsibility.”

    xoxo, Paula.

  2. 52

    No worries, GMM, there’s a depressingly long list of people who might have started it, isn’t there? Jean Kazez mistakenly credited Jeremy Stangroom with starting it earlier today but has since edited out that declaration. Ophelia says who it is at her place.

    My, Paula has been busy. I especially LOLed at:

    “The ‪#FTBullies‬ hashtag crashing is, of course, just a continuation of what they’ve been doing on their blogs: silencing dissent. Pathetic.”

    She said freely. On Twitter. As many times as she wanted to.

  3. 53

    GMM:

    FtB bloggers ‘drove Orac away?’ How?

    Read the first comment on this thread and what I wrote to jenniferphillips.

    GMM:

    Check out the hashtag she started on twitter called #FTBullies.

    When you provide a citation, it has to actually support your claim. You have yet to show, for example, that she’s used #FTBullies against those who’ve calmly disagreed. Instead, you’ve shown her using it against those whose behavior is perceived as, well, bullying.

  4. 54
    She saw that it was wrong and corrected it.

    And then uncorrected it.

    She did correct it. She agreed it was extreme and unnecessarily inflammatory. Her protest were only that her actual analogy keeps being misrepresented.

    Citation needed.

    You could check out the #FTBullies hastag whenever The Justicar and the rest comment about it.

    Again, FtB bloggers and commenters burned the bridge to Orac.

    This is just stupid. Even if a bridge was burned it would be between Ophelia and Orac not the entire FtB network which, for the most part, didn’t even weigh in.

    In any case, it’s not much of an issue as social justice, feminism and the like aren’t on Orac’s blogging radar. He’s a medical blogger.

  5. 55

    Read the first comment on this thread and what I wrote to jenniferphillips.

    Were I in your position I would have linked to an actual argument. Not your typical sniping bs.

    this somehow gets interpreted as him pressuring Benson not to go to TAM, rather than, y’know, hoping that she’ll meet him at TAM and maybe find that he’s not as bad as she thinks he is.

    Yeah. Sure. It wasn’t at all taunting.

  6. 56

    julian:

    She did correct it. She agreed it was extreme and unnecessarily inflammatory.

    And then she posted a defense of her original point, with no acknowledgment of any previous retraction.

    julian:

    Yeah. Sure. It wasn’t at all taunting.

    The only way the taunting interpretation makes sense is if Orac were attempting to say, “Show up to TAM and you’ll see what an asshole I really am,” which hardly jibes with the conciliatory tone of the post where the supposed taunt was made. One commenter, Aratina Cage, jumped on his statement “if you still go to TAM,” but that part makes no sense as an attempt at intimidation, either. Given the negative statements that Benson had already made about TAM, it was hardly unreasonable to expect that she might not choose to go to it.

    julian:

    Even if a bridge was burned it would be between Ophelia and Orac not the entire FtB network which, for the most part, didn’t even weigh in.

    Fair enough, but you still have the problem that the ones “paging” Orac to weigh in on Kirby are the ones who have burned the bridge. Quibbling aside, the main point still stands.

  7. 57

    Just in the interest at keeping the record straight:

    GMM (@47):
    But people latched onto that comment and accused her of saying TAM is just like Nazi Germany
    JJR (@48)
    Citation needed.

    It’s on the “Phawrongula” wiki, which I won’t link to. Ophelia refers to this and other sites where the claim was repeated in this post. The headline of the article on Phawrongula is “Ophelia Benson: TAM is like Nazi Germany”, so it should be easy enough to find at the source.

    Now I need a shower.

  8. 58

    jenniferphillips:

    It’s on the “Phawrongula” wiki

    Fair enough. One catch with the wiki page is that it accuses Benson of writing incoherently and “interprets” her as saying “And SPLC is a KKK front? Or what?” and then adds “We’re not sure even Ophelia knows…” Given that, the bit “At least the main point, that TAM is probably run by Nazis, manages to convey itself pretty clearly,” looks more like a bad attempt at both dry humor and hyperbole than an effort to convey (or misconvey) Benson’s point with any precision.

    In any case, it doesn’t seem obvious that anyone in Benson’s opposition seriously thinks that she meant that TAM is just like Nazi Germany, rather than thinking that she just made a bad, over-the-top comparison involving Nazis.

  9. 59

    Oh, so it’s all in good fun? I don’t know what she’s so bothered about then! It’s perfectly ok* to publish something with an inflammatory headline referring to someone by name, retweet & link to it, etc. as long as no one doing it actually *believes* what they’re spreading around.

    Congratulations! You’ve won the debate!

  10. 62

    jenniferphillips:

    Oh, so it’s all in good fun?

    Never said that. On the main Butterflies and Wheels site, there’s an archive of Bad Moves in arguments. I suggest that you read “Motivation speculation” and “Partial defence = support.” You might learn a few things.

    Anyway, the snark on that page of the Wiki is badly done and comes off as bitter, and the attempt to make Benson look incoherent doesn’t wash. As for the headline being “inflammatory”? Sorry, but as a thumbnail sketch of what Benson actually said, it’s not that far off. A more accurate title would have been “Ophelia Benson Makes Over-the-Top Nazi Analogy About TAM,” but that would hardly be less inflammatory. The inflammation started with her own Godwin. That’s on her head.

    GMM:

    You didn’t ask me calmly enough. Stop bullying me.

    I guess the writers of the Phawrongula Wiki aren’t the only ones making a bad attempt at dry humor.

    That was a joke, right?

  11. 63

    I had several responses to Paula S Kirby’s “open letter” the final one (#12) was:

    “Real skeptics” “Real freethinkers” “Real feminists” “real women”

    Right. Good thing you are here to protect the “ideological purity” of the movement from all those “nazis”…

  12. 64

    Teresa, your comment implies that Kirby contrasted “Real skeptics,” “Real freethinkers,” etc., with the fake ones who are amongst the “feminazis”[*]. This is what was actually said:

    Real skeptics are better than you’d think from reading certain blogs.
    Real freethinkers are better than you’d think from reading certain blogs.
    Real feminists are better than you’d think from reading certain blogs.
    And real women are better than you’d think from reading certain blogs.

    The contrast, here, is not between, say, “real” skeptic Orac and “fake” skeptic Benson, but rather between what “Orac” is really like and how he is portrayed on “certain blogs.” More generally, the contrast is between “Real skeptics,” “Real freethinkers,” etc., and the images presented of them on certain blogs.

    [*]”Feminazi” is Kirby’s unfortunate word choice, not mine.

  13. 65

    Waiting on Ramsey’s half-assed rationalization for “real women.” It’s fucking obvious what Kirby was doing and I’m not inclined to bend over backwards to excuse her.

  14. 66

    “Real skeptics” “Real freethinkers” “Real feminists” “real women”

    Right. Good thing you are here to protect the “ideological purity” of the movement from all those “nazis”…

    LOL. Of course. It’s only bad when FTB does it – or, more specifically, DOESN’T do it, but since when have the FTBwannabes ever been honest?

    Of course its Kirby who decides who the “real” skeptics, free thinkers, and women are – they are whomeeve agrees WITH HER!

    Of course! It all makes sense! You’re only censoring, thought-policing, femnazis when she disagrees with you.

  15. 67

    and I’m not inclined to bend over backwards to excuse her.</blockquote.

    Than you're JUST like a genocidal nazi, clearly.

    And perhaps Orac only polices the blog posts of feminists. Perhaps Kirby gets a Godwin free pass because she's a REAL WOMAN ™ and therefore her godwinning is okay.

    I know nothing about Orac, but after his very tellingly selective application of the "no nazis" rule, I have absolutely no desire to know more about him.

  16. 68

    @Illuminata

    Ramsey’s rationalization are beyond pathetic, especially when his condemnation of Ophelia Benson is placed side by side to his defense of Kirby. Ophelia Benson made a much weaker analogy and only corrected (yes, corrected, Ramsey. She hasn’t denied it was problematic) those who insisted she said something else.

    Kirby outright states she views feminists like Watson and Benson mirroring the totalitarians of East Germany and goes on to parrot language that isn’t only devisive but co opts womanhood itself from those she disagrees with. But no words of condemnation? We have to absolutely read it in the most favorable light?

    Fuck that. Call me a bully, narrow minded or whatever. I don’t care. I saw screeds like that almost weekly in The Young Republicans and I’m not putting up with it now.

    And yes, I’m likening Kirby’s post to the general attitude the Republican girls I knew in high school had towards feminism. Hopefully that doesn’t offend anyone.

  17. 69

    julian:

    Waiting on Ramsey’s half-assed rationalization for “real women.”

    Oh, good grief. Just follow the logic that I wrote previously:

    The contrast, here, is … between what “Orac” is really like and how he is portrayed on “certain blogs.”

    Substitute “real women” for Orac and make the obvious grammar corrections, and the answer is obvious: a contrast between what women are really like and how they are portrayed on certain blogs.

    julian:

    Kirby … co opts womanhood itself from those she disagrees with.

    Correction: you chose a reading that attributes those sentiments to her, even after having been shown a reading that is not only more charitable, but makes better sense of the text. (And no, I’m not expecting you to be clairvoyant and read this post before I post it. What you read from me previously was enough to cast doubt on your reading.)

    Meanwhile, Illuminata has illuminated why the #FTBullies are considered so blinkered:

    And perhaps Orac only polices the blog posts of feminists…. I know nothing about Orac, but after his very tellingly selective application of the “no nazis” rule, I have absolutely no desire to know more about him.

    He admits that he knows nothing of Orac, yet he feels absolutely no compunction about casting aspersions upon him, even going so far as to refuse to seek additional information that would show the wide range of people on whom Orac has sicced the Hitler Zombie. Real show of skepticism there.

  18. 70

    Correction: you chose a reading that attributes those sentiments to her, even after having been shown a reading that is not only more charitable, but makes better sense of the text.

    Better sense? In what way does your reading make anymore sense than mine?

    He admits that he knows nothing of Orac,

    What? You’re not going to give it the most favorable reading? You’re not going to read “Perhaps Orac…’ as just general snark? You’re not going to read the rest as specifically referring to the selective application of Godwin to Benson but not Kirby?

    For shame.

  19. 71

    julian:

    In what way does your reading make anymore sense than mine?

    Because Kirby nowhere directly contrasts “real skeptics,” “real freethinkers,” etc. with fake ones, but she does directly contrast them with what certain blogs say about skeptics, etc. Your reading requires a far more indirect reading. Also, if someone were to say “Real Democrats are better than you’d think from reading right-wing blogs,” would not I obviously be contrasting what Democrats are really like versus how they are portrayed by certain sources? There’s no need to assume that actual people are being described as fake Democrats.

    julian:

    You’re not going to read the rest as specifically referring to the selective application of Godwin to Benson but not Kirby?

    If by “selective application,” you are referring to the aspersion that Orac was deliberately choosing to not point out Kirby’s Godwin out of favoritism to her and antipathy toward feminists, then, yes, I am reading Illuminata that way.

    You don’t want to admit it, do you? You apparently refuse to see the possibility that when he says “this particular blog war long ago got too nasty even for Orac,” he means it — and that this is more than adequate explanation for his further silence on the matter. You don’t want to admit that Orac is one of the bullied and not the bully, that he was cowed by the kind of spew that Illuminata is repeating.

  20. 72

    Ok, I’m not continuing this. I care more about what Sarah Palin has to say on sexism and feminism than I do what Paula Kirby does. She’s irrelevant to me. If I want more of her opinions I’ll look up the latest bs from the Heritage Institute.

    I will say this though.

    If by “selective application,” you are referring to the aspersion that Orac was deliberately choosing to not point out Kirby’s Godwin out of favoritism to her and antipathy toward feminists, then, yes, I am reading Illuminata that way.

    I said what I meant. (Benson’s Godwin and Kirby’s Godwin) I didn’t bring in feminists.

    And I actually respect and like Orac. I’ve been following Gorski since I first picked up the label skeptic (abandoned since then for reasons unrelated to him) and I’ve found him incredibly informative, insightful and passionate.I don’t doubt he got his feet burned a bit and decided to bail. I don’t doubt that, because I’ve never had any indication Gorski has patience for these types of cross blog arguments when they’re outside of his specific field (medicine).

    That’s a much more reasonable explanation than a few bits of snark hurting him so much he just couldn’t bear to lift his face in the morning.

  21. 73

    julian:

    That’s a much more reasonable explanation than a few bits of snark hurting him so much he just couldn’t bear to lift his face in the morning.

    That’s your hyperbole, not a fair statement of what I actually said. Actually, when you wrote,

    I don’t doubt he got his feet burned a bit and decided to bail. I don’t doubt that, because I’ve never had any indication Gorski has patience for these types of cross blog arguments when they’re outside of his specific field (medicine).

    you were pretty close to my actual position. Where we differ is that I consider the process of how he got “his feet burned” to be a form of bullying.

  22. 74

    Ok, I’m not continuing this. I care more about what Sarah Palin has to say on sexism and feminism than I do what Paula Kirby does. She’s irrelevant to me. If I want more of her opinions I’ll look up the latest bs from the Heritage Institute.

    No, no, no, Julian. Have you learned nothing from this endless struggle? The proper response to reading an opinion you strongly disagree with is to relentlessly hound the author every day for a year, on Twitter, RDNet, Facebook, the comments section of any blog that might be tangentially related to the issue. You should, of course, make unkind remarks about her age, appearance, sex appeal and motives as you go, and create wikis and blog posts misrepresenting her whenever possible. A truly rational skeptic would do no less!

  23. 75

    I am not a blogger and I am thankful after reading all this dialogue on this page. What is the point of all the back and forth trashing ? Famous bloggers ? Who gives a shit ? I see to many heroes/kings being crowned in the free thought and atheist pages of late. In my humble opinion issues of harassment should be taken up by the people involved not in a forum as this. I have not followed this but was this a case of physical harassment involved or on a internet exchange ? If the attention or harassment happened in real time it should have been reported to the proper authority. I know some women describe harassment if you look at them the “wrong way”. Again I don’t know how this started. I was at the American Atheist conference in Maryland and it seems that all was well.I am not a party person so I suppose I missed a lot. I am just an old man putting my two cents in. You can carry on now with your bickering. Have a great secular day.

  24. 76

    johnlynch, since you’ve admitted you don’t know anything at all about the topic or the people involved, exactly why did you think you had an opinion worth sharing and contributing to the discussion? Is there ever a voice in your head that says “hold on, maybe every thought that comes into my brain isn’t worth saying out loud”?

  25. 77

    That is why I asked the question about this topic. There is a voice in my head that says you should follow your own advice about voices in your head that should stop you from being an obstinate ass.I guess you must be the official censor for this site. I was not aware opinions were not welcomed that you do not share. I am happy for you there is no hell for ________ as you to go. I left that for you to fill out because I don’t want to offer an opinion. I am confident the voice in your head will figure it out. Peace.

  26. 78

    johnlynch: if you actually care about this topic, I can provide links that would help you learn the backstory to all of this. If you don’t care about it, you’re absolutely free to prioritize other things. Spending your time telling people that you’re doing so and that they should too, however, is usually considered quite rude. Especially since you admit you don’t know that backstory.

    Carlie is not the “official censor”, and you’ll note that your “additions” to the conversation have not been censored. Frankly, if you have nothing to add, telling people that you don’t get it and that they shouldn’t care about it because you don’t, and then being surprised when someone rebuffs that suggestion, implies a gross lack of social skills. Blogs are a social medium, and the people on the other end of the computer screen are in fact people. You may want to brush up on how to talk to other people if you want to participate in social media.

  27. 79

    I would appreciate the links. I can’t see where I claimed not to care about sexual harassment but I won’t argue about it. I will admit to lacking social media skills. I felt a tad insulted by Carlie’s initial reply to me about voices in my head. I guess I am the sensitive one. I in turn gave a immature response. I apologize for that. Again I would like you to send me the links and will not return until I can see the person on the other side as human. Lacking those media social skills a difficult task. Peace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *