I pity the poor sod who has to wade through and moderate all the comments over at CFI’s blog. Frankly, they’ve got possibly the worst job in the world right now. However, I’m going to push that fact aside for a moment, mute that in-built empathy for my fellow human being for just long enough to complain that they’re not actually doing that job to any degree one can call reasonable.
Note that these blog posts are not ABOUT Women In Secularism 2, which was a tightly organized and implemented CFI conference, and which by my understanding, through the rumour mill, is the CFI conference closest to breaking even this year (can we get independent verification of this?). It was by all accounts a success, but by no accounts an unmitigated one. It was bookended by tone-deaf missives about how terrible feminists have been to certain clueless, privileged dudebros in our community. In fact, the first one, by Ron Lindsay, carried with it a heavy dose of shame for daring to invoke the sociological concept of privilege, showing a blatant misunderstanding of the word.
But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’ll be fisking his post another day — and on that day I’m sure I’ll be called irrational and compared disfavourably to some despotic country. Today, instead, I’m talking about the CFI Open Letter, and how it reflects upon the community what’s being left up in the comments on those blog posts.
Libertarians of the laissez-faire and no-rules-allowed sorts, anti-feminists and anti-Watson-ists, flat-out Men’s Rights Activists, and the usual crew of people fixated on how horrible Watson, PZ, FtB and A+ are because they got banned at one point in the distant past for having been themselves abusive of dialogue, all swarmed on these comment threads. In part, many of them did so to post their support of Ron Lindsay for standing up to those uppity women, and calling him (and themselves) “Brave Hero” for doing so.
A lot of comments are civil enough about their contrafactual takes on human history and the existence of gender imbalances in our present Western society, and are worthy of smacking down in the same way that one might smack down the hundredth time someone smarmily demands us to explain why there are monkeys if evolution is true. Those sorts of re-fighting the same territory with little added value are a distraction, certainly, but they are not themselves exemplar of any sort of abrogation of “civility” of the sort decried in the Open Letter that is supposedly epidemic in our movement except that they themselves claim to be members of our community of skeptics, and/or are names that have long been associated with fighting these specific fights.
For instance, we have Elevatorgate posting about his Storifys and his having misappropriated the womeninsecularism.com domain to post a vitriol-filled “parody” site. The same guy that ostensibly Lindsay should be going after for misappropriating and attempting to destroy the Women In Secularism “brand” had this to say about Ron:
#7 Hero on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 1:51am
Thanks for remaining steadfast in your heroism, and standing up to Becky. http://storify.com/ElevatorGATE/conversation-with-rebeccawatson-ralindsay-and-mist
The Tim Channel pipes in with some of his usual hyperbole, followed by his omnipresent entreaty to please, please enjoy what he has to say, as though it’s entertaining, relevant, or even close enough to reality to bear some commentary value. You’ll note that there’s a severe shortage of charity, a distinct dialing-up of drama, and a total disinterest in the actual history and actual feelings of the people involved in some historical events of the secular community, many of which have achieved mythological proportions amongst feminism-haters:
#16 The Tim Channel (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 6:37am
Many other men of high stature within the skeptic community have tried to make the point you made, the most humorous and damning of which was Matt Dillahunty. They are American Girlyban. They do not negotiate. They block, ban and bully. I was one of the early victims so I cleaned up the evacuation shelter and just waited for the rest of you to roll in. I got a ton of company now, even a lot of women. I expect this debacle will continue until the top two or three lunatics on the #atheismplus side are more fully marginalized. Lord knows they jumped the shark sometime between #elevatorgate and #donglegate. Welcome. Coffee is on the house. Enjoy.
He goes on like this in a few more comments, and rest assured, you’re asked to “enjoy” every one of them!
Elsewhere, another person laments that PZ Myers never gets his say unless he’s expressly allowed to speak by the feminist overladies, an opinion that doesn’t at all need to be backed up by evidence (surely, we should trust this person, and not bother to verify!), nor would ever poison the well by refusing to listen to the actual arguments presented, or serve to increase the “drama” of this conversation, given how charitable it is about the idea that women might actually deserve a say now and again:
#18 Hunt (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 2:40pm
>>“It’s also ironic that of the three examples you linked, two are articles written by men. So how could they be invoking identity?”
The reason for that is that many feminist men have embraced the idea that their place is to remain mute, i.e. not interact conversationally, when instructed to do so. PZ Myers certainly fits this model. They might converse when tolerated, that is, speak when spoken to, but women feminists have the option to direct them to remain silent at any point they deem appropriate to convey a salient point that should not be interactively questioned. I leave it to the reader to judge whether this is a healthy direction for feminism to take.
Pitchguest reminds us that “trust but verify” also refers to people’s feelings… uh, minus the “trust” part, because you can’t verify that someone felt harassed. Because unless we show evidence that she left because of harassment, we can’t claim that she left because of harassment, no matter how much harassment we see involved, and no matter what her final post as a member of the secular community said. Therefore, “distrust and impossible to verify” applies to feelings. That’s why these guys never make any arguments borne of emotion, except for all the ones they make predicated on the fact that someone was mean to them by blocking them on Twitter.
#39 Pitchguest (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 7:26pm
And pray, what was said to her? She claims was bullied off the internet. Really? Any evidence to amount for that? As far as I’m concerned, before she made these alleged claims she was busy creating a “third wave of atheism” in the form of Atheism Plus™, for which she would be at the forefront, and actively creating blog posts on FtB (Freethought Blogs).
If she can regularly dish it out like she did with her blog posts, as well as in her post about Atheism Plus™ said the atheist community is just a “boy’s club” filled with (and I’m paraphrasing) privileged old white men, who didn’t care about misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, etc, then I should think she should be able to take it when she gets dished right back.
So when was she “bullied out”? When she was “literally” run out of the community? Provide examples and cite sources.
And of course he’s right that demanding that people stop being homophobic, transphobic, etc., is “dishing it out” and being unable to take targeted rape threats, death threats and repeatedly having her physical locations revealed on the internet against her will is “taking it”. How dare she tell people to stop being awful to others, and expect people not to be awful to her in return!?
That is weak tea as far as incivility is concerned, though. Not compared to the well-poisoning when Elevatorgate again lauds Lindsay for “resisting the groupthink”:
#1 Hero on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 5:47pm
I have tremendous respect for you, thanks for your courage.
I’m not sure if Miss Watson is being deliberately obtuse or, if she is indoctrinated.
You have resisted groupthink – I hope that one day, Steven & Jay Novella can do the same. You are an inspiration.
Because our opinions are groupthink, their opinions are bravery and heroism. Why are they entitled to cranky missives delivered from bully pulpits without the least regard for who their audience is and what they are trying to achieve, why are they entitled to put a shiv in the kidneys of the people they claim to support, but our attempt at engaging in civil discourse is indoctrinated obtuseness? Rebecca’s first response was about as civil as I’ve ever seen anyone on topics like whether or not they should be allowed to have a say once in a while, to the point where I thought someone ghost-wrote it for her to eliminate most of the snark!
But remember, there was absolutely nothing provocative or confrontational about Lindsay’s bravery, whereas women posting about wanting a voice only do it for the hits:
#2 Ryan Grant Long (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 5:49pm
No no no, you’re missing what’s going on here. Skepchick runs on intentionally provocative blog posts and tweets. And as I’ve already said many times, PZ and Rebecca are perfectly happy to tell women and minorities to shut up when they disagree with them. I believe they genuinely care about discussing gender and working for equality like I believe opponents of marriage equality really do care about “the children” (which is to say, I don’t).
It’s not an alternative universe, it’s just vastly different intentions and goals. You seem to be trying to genuinely understand the issues under discussion, and you’re acting as if either Rebecca or PZ are honestly committed to the causes they claim to be for. Meanwhile, Rebecca and PZ are at best writing gossip and at worst trolling, riling up both their fans and detractors who eat this stuff up; their “feminism” is simply a cover and vehicle for these behaviors.
If you truly care about politics you don’t attempt to engage with the likes of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh expecting anything useful to happen. Likewise if you want to explore gender issues in any meaningful way, you consult real activists, social scientists and other experts on gender; not drama bloggers.
It surely is a good thing that Long was around to question the intellectual honesty of the people disagreeing with Lindsay about whether or not privileged folks should make an effort to recognize the people who are otherwise disadvantaged by happenstances of their gender presentation. Surely they’re the real trolls, what with their disagreeing with people. They’re just like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, whereas the people cowing others out of the movement with death threats and dehumanizing photoshops and never actually making counterarguments to anything are truly the Brave Heroes and the paragons of civil discourse.
#8 RefreshingChange (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 6:08pm
Get ready for more smear campaigns, Ron. They hate it when they get “called out”, and can;t get their own way.
No doubt guttersnipe Oolon will be here any minute to defend his chums.
Because the status quo of No Damn Uppity Feminists In Our Movement is a “refreshing change”. And here I thought calling people out was frowned upon!
#12 allison (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 6:34pm
An excellent response to Ms Watson’s characteristically fact-challenged blather, Ron. Thank you.
No need for evidence — it’s self-evident that Rebecca Watson’s rebuttals are fact-challenged. Trust allison, and don’t verify!
#14 Marc (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 6:39pm
Very well said.
What communication should be: Open, respectful dialogue between two people of differing opinions.
PZ and Watson-style communication: One-sided monologue by the less-privileged individual (or PZ, when inserting himself into this role), in which the privileged viewpoint is not permitted to speak, question the validity of, or request evidence to support assertions made by the less-privileged. When the privileged is permitted to speak, discussion will be thwarted with shaming tactics, foul language, insults, and generally childish behavior.
Based on their behavior, PZ and Watson are children, and you should never give candy to children.
WON’T SOMEONE FINALLY LET MEN SPEAK UP AGAINST FEMINISM? I’d like to know what Ron Lindsay has to say about this business! Zeus knows we’ve never gotten to hear from him on that topic!
Reap is his usual charitable and drama-free self:
#36 Reap on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 8:02pm
Ron-I’m pleased to see you follow up on your earlier post as needed. I expect we will see more childish and ignorant rambling from a certain click before the discussion is finished. How many times do PZ, Rebecca and their little gang of poser skeptics need to be shown their position is unreasonable? The simple fact that no one on their side will engage in a real discussion on the subject gives them away. It is laughable that PZ will engage with creationists but hides like a scared child from any discussion with atheists/skeptics who disagree with him unless its where he can control the conversation. Or he leaves it to his inept gang of socially retarded commenters. Otherwise he would rather brand critics as unworthy of his consideration and dismiss their opinions before he even hears them.
I’m afraid you were in the wrong place at the wrong time Ron. Rebecca has been without any drama and some of the blog site are seeing less hits. That makes it time to stir things up doesn’t it? We can depend on Rebecca to cause problems, we sure as hell can’t depend on her to try and resolve any.
Yup, Rebecca Watson hasn’t done anything at all, like helping bring dozens of people to TAM, to WIS, et cetera. Not a single charity like a blood or vaccine drive to her name. Zero dollars brought in to various secular organizations, unlike the brave heroes in this comment thread.
Melody reminds people that none of these folks are CFI conference attendees, donating zero dollars at said events, and that they’ve been working the hardest at dividing the movement and driving wedges between feminism and skepticism — as though those aren’t the same damn thing, with feminism focused on skepticism about traditional gender roles and power structures in society. This should clue people in that they are not the revenue stream that any sensible CEO should be pursuing. But this entirely went unheeded, apparently because it was insufficiently dramatic.
Thankfully someone came along to rip off George Hrab’s character, and point out the real villain here: Rebecca Watson. Seriously, how dare she disagree with Ron?
#46 Rupert MacLannahan (Guest) on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 8:59pm
Sir, you and your organization took the idiotic step of inviting Ms. Watson as a speaker and VIP at your conference. Any conference organizer that invites Ms. Watson (or PZ Myers) is a nincompoop. This is what you get. Slander. Defamation. Attacks. Biting the hand that feeds you, etc. Just look at how she turned on Mr. James Randi. After she essentially called for a boycott of the JREF and tried to destroy that organization because it refused to kowtow to her every desire (no matter how ridiculous, like trying to impose harassment policies at skeptics conferences that would require everyone to abide by workplace modes of communication and behavior), anybody who organizes an event with Ms. Watson being even peripherally involved deserves everything they get in return. It is like inviting a Tasmanian Devil to your event—it might be interesting, it might bring extra attendees, and it might even get you some publicity, but someone has a very good chance of getting bit. And you, Sir, have been bit, and I predict that this is not the last wound that Ms. Watson and her sycophantic cohorts will inflict on you or your organization. Now that you have called a spade a spade, and dared to say something contrary to Ms. Watson’s world view, you and your organization will now be on the receiving end of calls for boycots, calls to stop donations of money, calls for people to leave local groups, and so on. The funny thing is that even a blind man could see this coming from a kilometer away. You, or more likely some incompetent subordinate, made the big mistake of inviting Ms. Watson into your life and painting a great big bullseye on your organization. It is lucky for you that Ms. Watson’s act has worn thin on most of the rest of the secular community, and right thinking people look upon her with contempt, if they actually give her any thought at all.
Thankfully, he’s super charitable about it. Not trying to escalate things one bit.
#60 Weeblo on Saturday May 18, 2013 at 11:07pm
Mr. Lindsay, the bad news is that you’re a skeptic who has gotten on Rebecca Watson’s bad side.
The good news is that this is practically synonymous with “a skeptic”.
Everyone on Rebecca Watson’s side is not a skeptic. Everyone not on Rebecca Watson’s side is a skeptic. Further, climate change skepticism is totes legit and climate scientists are climanazis.
Surely if you were at all interested in reducing the flare-ups in the secular community, you could start by getting rid of any of these posts for being too divisive, too uncharitable, breaking one of many of the rules-from-on-high that your vaunted Heads have passed down on stone tablets for us all to follow (except you, it seems). If you absolutely need balance, you could also remove all those ones saying that you’ve acted unprofessionally, or suggesting that they feel betrayed by your actions, or saying that they aren’t going to donate to CFI any more, because those ones are all obviously just upping the rhetoric and aren’t at all representative of civil disagreement or even measured disgust at your actions. Surely those are all just a witch-hunt, yes? Or must we believe that the ones disagreeing with you, AND the dramatic and divisive ones I’ve posted above, are all on par and they all passed your moderator’s muster?
Ron Lindsay, did you only work on the letter to insert the paragraph on civility, and that’s why you signed? Or did you actually agree with the whole thing? Your clarification would be helpful here.