The SCA’s decision making process

You might be interested in this comment at WWJTD by Michael Gobaud:

JT, you may already know this, but all these phone conferences the SCA has been doing in their national expansion effort have been recorded and put online for anyone to listen to (you can even scan through the recordings to particular speakers, very useful). Anyway, I just listened to the first 2 PA conferences to see exactly how Justin was made co-chair of the PA chapter (this is all very interesting to me because I might become a co-chair of the NV chapter, I don’t really know much about Justin). So you might wanna listen to those recordings to see the process of Justin’s appointment, it was actually very enlightening for me because I wanted to understand your complaint better.

Here is the SCA PA website with links to all the recordings: http://secular.org/states/chapters/pennsylvania

Here are the relevant parts on Justin’s appointment:

1ST PA CONFERENCE CALL (50 minutes):
Justin Vacula (7:02): “I’m Justin Vacula. I’m calling from Scranton, PA…”
Edwina Rogers, JD: “We don’t know you guys… I’m taking notes.”
Justin (32:55): “[I was in the press recently about the bus ads and have done a lot of media. You could speak about the SCA on my podcast].”
Edwina (36:00): “We’ve got three solid people with extreme talent in Pennsylvania… Hoping we can turn the Republicans around… We’re looking for a committee.”

https://www.freeconferencecallhd.com/playback.asp?n=116-17-65-6735121-17-65-67-17-65-6777-17-65-67-17-65-67-17-65-6716-17-65-67-17-65-67%3B0MzkwNTMxMjc%3D1

2ND PA CONFERENCE CALL (34 minutes):
Kelly Damerow: “[Scott, Brian, Stacks, and Justin expressed interest in taking a leadership position].”
Jusin (15:00): “[I have spoken with my legislature in the past].”
Kelly (25:00): “[You guys are all pleasant to work with and cooperative, making my job easier].”
Kelly (26:00): “Do any of you have any interest in being a chair or co-chair?”
Stacks Rosch: “I would nominate Justin.”
Kelly: “Justin you’ve been nominated, what do you think?”
Justin: “Thanks, I’ll accept the nomination.”
Kelly: “Excellent, is anyone else interested and want to be co-chair?”
Brian Fields: “I wouldn’t mind working with Justin. Justin and I work really well together, we’ve done a lot of stuff in the past.”
Justin: “I’ll nominate Brian.”
Kelly: “Ok Justin and Brian, you guys are going to be our co-chairs of our executive committee… Thank you so much for accepting… Woo hoo!”

https://www.freeconferencecallhd.com/playback.asp?n=-17-65-6733-17-65-6777-17-65-67-17-65-671356-17-65-672-17-65-67105-17-65-67-17-65-67-17-65-67;1MzkwNTMxMjc=1

Well there ya have it. It looks like despite Justin’s presence on the internet (positive and/or negative), Edwina and Kelly had never heard of him (and neither had I until somewhat recently). His co-chair “appointment” took all of 60 seconds, and pretty much anyone who accepted a nomination by a fellow founding member was “approved.”

I don’t really read blogs much, so perhaps I am just out of the loop on how “bad” Justin is. But I think that’s sort of the point: a lot of activists in our movement (e.g. Edwina, Kelly, myself, etc.), just don’t keep up much with all this internet drama stuff; it’s just not a big deal for many of us (for better or worse). I think there is definitely merit to some of your complaints that you have backed up with evidence, but I just don’t think it is enough to warrant an attempt to systematically ostracize an activist from our movement who seems to be doing SOME positive things and many people seem to respect.

He is DEFINITELY polarizing, and has apparently made some pretty bad judgement calls, so you and others who dislike him should certainly ban him from the orgs. that you guys control, but is it really necessary to attempt to exclude him from ALL corners of this movement? Show me that this guy has a history of violent crimes/felonies and then MAYBE you would have a case for total exclusion. But I mean, are you really going to circulate petitions outlining the allegedly nasty things he’s done online to get him fired from every secular leadership position he ever achieves his whole life? Seems like a hopeless pursuit…

To the last two paragraphs, by not even Googling the guy’s name they missed out on learning all the many ways the man is a terrible fit for representing our movement and undercuts inclusivity for his divisive and polarizing attacks on members of said movement. They were missing a hell of a lot of information in their decision making progress and in their haste to “make their jobs easier” have incurred some terrible blowback.

The goal here is to provide that information. SCA has to now decide to stand by their man to the exclusion of the people that man alienates, or not.

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The SCA’s decision making process

66 thoughts on “The SCA’s decision making process

  1. 51

    Vacula was straight up harassed by someone over the Amy thing. There were some threats and harassment thrown at him far nastier than anything he ever said or did.

    I don’t know his full history I’ve just read some of his blog and he seems to be one of the tamer ones out of all the people critical of FTBs.

    But don’t listen to me listen to his own words.

  2. 53

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I wouldn’t have a problem with “naming and shaming” someone who doc-dropped. I would think that position just a hair untenable.

    Maybe Justin feels like he is showing that he “learned a lesson” from the Surly Amy fiasco- but I think people who publish other people’s personal information deserve to be called out.

    The lesson wasn’t that you don’t call people out when they seemingly misbehave- it was that maybe you could fall somewhere south of giving their home address and a picture of their house.

  3. 54

    Just want to mention, I got a chance to hear a bit of Staks’ take on this issue tonight during chat before the Sam Singleton concert, and it sounds like the bottom line is that he really truly didn’t know, because he’s just been trying to stay away from this kind of discussion altogether after he got so badly burned with the “top atheists” list.

    And, in addition to him (and quite likely the others) not really knowing about this stuff, it sounds like there just really was nobody else who was actively involved even remotely looking like they were offering themselves for the job. So the guy who was there on the spot willing to do it got picked. In my experience with small organizations, this is pretty common, and, although it almost always leads to problems, it’s not entirely trivial to avoid when you just simply don’t have enough people to be choosy. I suspect this kind of thing is going to be endemic to the freethought movement as long as we remain a small and often-disengaged minority.

    So it’s starting to seem to me like this is one of those things where the best way to fix it and avert similar future incidents is probably for more people to step up and become active. Vacula might stay where he is for now, but if enough people who see things differently start putting ourselves forward for leadership roles, it won’t matter so much, because he’ll be drowned out in a sea of more positive voices. I’m not the right one for this particular job, on accounta I’m totally a n00b and am moving soon anyway, but I’m certainly going to take this as a lesson for my involvement going forward.

  4. 56

    Stephanie, just to clarify, are you referring to my #51 or my #54? Just in case it’s #54, I want to clarify that I’m not saying that it’s okay for SCA to appoint people who have done the kinds of things Vacula has, just proposing a strategy to avert such things and/or deal with them when they can’t be averted.

  5. 58

    “Fuck. You. It isn’t “internet drama”. The internet isn’t some separate space divorced from reality where people exist as fictitious characters. It’s “real-life bigotry” that is the problem.

    Feel important.

  6. 59

    Any of you lot got the guts to put your hand up amidst the wider feeding frenzy and correct the record as regards the JV doxing? I can’t or I’ll be put into moderation or banned.

  7. 60

    @59 permanganater
    Are you talking about him doxing Amy or “S” doxing JV? I’ll happily take a stab at the former:

    I will concede for the sake of argument that Justin meant no ill will toward Amy by publishing her personal information. For me, this is not germane to the discussion- and it is imparting unknown motives. So by my estimation, Justin published Amy’s info as a response to a comment from someone concerned that a DMCA complaint might be used to gather personal information on someone else. Not an entirely unfounded claim, but perhaps a bit conspiratorial and alarmist. It would have been enough for Justin to just point out how a DMCA complaint is a relatively complicated way to get someone’s personal information- especially when they have an online business. It would have been enough to tell the commenter that they are being alarmist.

    Instead what Justin did is post the address of Amy to prove a point. The information was in the public domain- but that doesn’t mean it was his information to give out with reckless abandon. It really served no purpose outside of bragging. My address is in the pubic domain- so is my full name- my job title- my employer’s name and address- even the name of my children and with enough know-how likely the school they attend. The question is not “is it legal to give out that information?”, the question is “is it right to give out that information?” and “is any good served by giving out that information?”.

    I don’t care where the information was posted- but don’t mistake my ambivalence for importance. Publishing someone else’s personal information online shows a lack of respect, a lack of judgement, and a lack of understanding of basic internet etiquette.

    Did Justin have a right to do what he did? Sure, whatever. Does that make it a desirable thing to do? Fuck no. Just because YOU CAN do something doesn’t mean YOU SHOULD do something. This is a question of whether or not we want someone in a leadership position who is absolutely daft when it comes to social mores. It is a question of whether that person is a desirable leader of any movement. Have others done the same thing? Yep. Are any of them currently being considered to lead a national organization? Not so much.

  8. 61

    Anne, I was agreeing with you that what “S” did wasn’t good. It seemed so obvious to me that I didn’t think to say it in my first comment on the topic, but sadly, nothing is taken as obvious these days.

  9. 62

    Stephanie, yeah, there’s enough mess going on these days that I’m always afraid I haven’t put enough caveats in place to prevent myself from coming off the wrong way. I’m finding myself starting to hedge more and more and ask for clarification more and more for fear of carelessly stepping into something I didn’t even know existed. And even then it’s usually not enough. :/

    Anyway, glad to confirm that we’re on the same page about this one at least.

  10. 63

    I’m finding myself starting to hedge more and more and ask for clarification more and more for fear of carelessly stepping into something I didn’t even know existed. And even then it’s usually not enough. :/

    Jebus but do I know that feeling.

  11. 64

    Wow, I can’t believe that my first time commenting on a blog is so controversial that it gets posted on another blog! Well, I’ve read through all these comments and I can understand why some of you took issue with my opinion on this situation. Perhaps my characterization of this whole fiasco as “internet drama” was inappropriate and unintentionally came off as belittling. I admitted in my post that I don’t keep up with the online community as much as many other atheist activists and that I am probably out of the loop with a lot of this. So to an outsider like myself, who just tried to do some balanced research on this issue, the conclusion is not as one sided as many of you believe it to be, and it can appear on the surface that what is going on can be characterized as “drama.” Nevertheless, I can appreciate that this is a very real and grave concern for many of you, and I didn’t mean to discount it.

    I think that “permanganator” @36 did a pretty good job of summarizing much of what I also discovered in my research on Justin. Basically, there are two camps out there on this issue who are diametrically opposed to each other: one side thinks Justin is a “vacuous douchebag troll,” and the other side thinks he is a fine activist who is being bullied and sabotaged. Both sides think that they are 100% right and that the other side is ignorant and/or deceptive in portraying their message. Personally, I think that there is some merit to both sides, and there is also a lot of irrationality and bullying on both sides.

    It also seems like both sides stick to reading primarily sources which they tend to agree with on the issue, thus leading to the illusion that EVERYONE feels the same way. I really hope people on both sides can at least recognize that BOTH SIDES EXIST. You are welcome to think that you are completely right and that the other side is composed of idiots, but you are either ignorant or in denial if you think that the ENTIRE skeptic community is on YOUR side–they aren’t, there is a split (even if you haven’t seen it). So it is not completely absurd for the SCA to chose to withhold judgement on an issue they are not intimately familiar with (and yes, allowing Justin to volunteer IS withholding judgement because that is how all other people are treated; “firing” him would be taking a positive stance on one side).

    Anyway, incase some of you haven’t heard, Justin actually just resigned his position with the SCA on Thursday (http://skepticink.com/justinvacula/2012/10/04/i-resign-my-leadership-position-with-secular-coalition-for-america/). I’m sure some of you will celebrate this, but I would just hope you at least recognize that there are many people who are upset by this, and it just MIGHT be hypocritical to celebrate this if you criticized those on the “other side” who celebrated Jen McCreight’s hiatus from her blog. I don’t think anyone in our movement should be celebrating when ANY fellow activist decides that they can’t deal with the bullying anymore so they quit a project. I would say to take this as an opportunity to be the bigger person, but from the foul language and attitude directed at me by many in this thread already, I’m not sure that EITHER side is interested in winning a battle of integrity or civility. And if this is the common atmosphere found online, I can see why both Jen and Justin quit, and I am not very convinced that I need to immerse myself anymore in this arena of activism–people are much nicer in real life, even those who vehemently disagree with me or even dislike me!

    This might explain some of the problem: http://shanebrady.com/post/32788593159/interactions-in-real-life-beat-the-blogosphere-every

  12. 65

    Welcome, Michael. You might want to read this to see why your “both sides” argument falls way flat, and this to see our real-time reactions to the Vacula resignation.

    Needless to say, holding someone to account for bullying is not, itself, bullying.

  13. 66

    Jason, thanks for responding. Interesting article on the “both sides” argument, I think there’s definitely some merit to what you say there. However, I’m not sure that it really responds to my point that we all need to recognize that there is NOT total agreement in the skeptic community on Justin, and that an outsider doing research on the subject would not necessarily come to YOUR conclusion immediately. I understand that you 100% think the “other side” uses far more despicable tactics in their battle against “your side” and they are only “an incredibly tiny but incredibly vocal slice of our community.” Now that very well may be true, but you should recognize that those conclusions are not completely obvious to an outsider researching the issue (such as myself or the SCA). I mean, do you have some data showing that “their side” actually IS the minority even, or is it just anecdotal on your part? I’ve seen BOTH sides make this claim that a majority of the community adheres with their stance and would love to know who is right.

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