Putting Sealions to Work

I’ve been gearing up to get back to more regular blogging here for a while without actually doing it. As commenting has shifted to social media, so have a lot of my observations of the world. But I don’t want to be dependent on sites that aren’t mine for retaining the things I have to say, so I’m going to try to put more of this here.

Today, I posted an anonymized snippet of conversation:

Them: If I’m wrong, why won’t you try to educate me instead of saying I’m ignorant?

Me: Have you read the article you’re commenting on yet?

I posted it because it amused me. Then a friend commented that the original sounded a lot like sealioning. Of course, that’s exactly what it is.

This person has already been arguing (read: asserting their opinion) at length. I’ve been commenting mostly short posts in return, pointing out they’ve already told me they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re frustrated because they’re working harder than I am and getting nowhere. So they’re trying to challenge me to do more.

Sealions: You can’t talk about this topic without doing a lot of work to defend yourself.

This person: You telling me I’m ignorant isn’t valid unless you do a lot of work to fix it.

Same argument, slightly different wording.

So why am I blogging this? Because my friend’s question made me realize that this is why sealioning fails so badly around me.

Even before we had a name for this kind of bad-faith arguing, we had sealions. Oh, did we have sealions. And I developed strategies back then that still serve me well dealing with them today. Namely, if someone wants me to do work, they need to demonstrate they’re willing to put in work themselves. Also, they need to do it first.

A lot of people don’t like that last part. Not just sealions, but onlookers too think it’s unfair not to go into this with the assumption people are really there for conversation. I don’t really care. It’s my labor. They’re my conditions.

At the same time, I’m already doing work. These interactions tend to start something like this: Continue reading “Putting Sealions to Work”

Putting Sealions to Work
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David Silverman: Liar for the Defense

See updates at the end of this post.

Late summer is apparently the time of year when David Silverman gets a new website and a new story. Last year, it was Transformative Humanists of America. That was where the man who wanted everyone to identify as an atheist instead of humanist urged people to elevate forgiveness to the pinnacle of Humanist values.

If you want to know more than that, you’ll have to read about it at Pharyngula, since the domain itself has been surrendered. It’s okay, though. A new year brings a new rebranding.

Silverman is now apparently a “firebrand for good“. Of course, like “humanism”, “good” takes on its own meaning in Silverman’s hands. Looking at the site, it appears to mostly mean appearing on conservative TV. Oh. And saying, “Bitches be lying.”

I suppose the new site represents something of an improvement in intellectual honesty. He’s no longer arguing for forgiveness without mentioning that sexual assault is the thing he wants to be forgiven for. On the other hand, he’s now moved from preaching forgiveness to claiming he has nothing to be forgiven for.

His argument? Well, a whole bunch of people suddenly decided to lie about him. No, I don’t know what their motivation was supposed to be either. It doesn’t really matter, though, because he’s lying himself. He’s also very bad at keeping track of the lies he’s told.

Is that a strong claim? Yes, but I have evidence. Continue reading “David Silverman: Liar for the Defense”

David Silverman: Liar for the Defense

Mock the Movie: Not That Lizard Edition

Yonggary (or Reptile 2001 or The Reptilian) is not Godzilla, thank you very much. The monster is resurrected by aliens instead of being created by radiation, for one thing. Also…um…eh, it looks both worse and more fun to watch. We don’t really need more of an excuse than that.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Not That Lizard Edition”

Mock the Movie: Not That Lizard Edition

Mock the Movie: Stylish Possession Edition

I freely admit at the outset that the only reason we’re watching The Secrets of Emily Blair this month is that every picture I can find of Emily looking horribly, inhumanly, grossly possessed still features her in killer eye makeup. Really, that’s it. Well, I mean, it also looks terrible.

[Warning for strobe cuts at the end of this trailer.]

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Stylish Possession Edition”

Mock the Movie: Stylish Possession Edition

Find Me at CONvergence!

We’re just under two weeks to CONvergence. As usual, I’ll be there, paneling and other stuff. Here’s where you can find me if you like that sort of thing.

Super Heroes and PTSD
Thursday July 4, 2019 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Hyatt 2 Northstar B
PTSD has become a much better understood concept in the past decade. Please join us for a discussion that will explore how super heroes from Batman to Spiderman and everywhere in between seem to suffer from this disorder, and how they deal with it. Participants: Peter David, Stephanie Zvan, Lathan Murrell, Sean Casey (mod), John Shea, MD

Writing Religion
Thursday July 4, 2019 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Hyatt 2 Greenway HI
We’ll discuss techniques that help ensure that you represent the effect religion (or the lack of it) has on your storytelling. Participants: Bryan Thao Worra, Rory Ni Coileain, Shauna Aura Knight, Stephanie Zvan (mod), Tim W Lieder

Detoxifying Fandom
Friday July 5, 2019 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Hyatt 2 Greenway CDE
Why does toxic fandom happen? How do we fight back against it? Can’t people just like things? Participants: Taylor Cisco, Shaun M Duke, Stephanie Zvan (mod), Boone Dryden, Ashley Myhre

Everyone Is Cancelled
Sunday July 7, 2019 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hyatt 2 Northstar B
When a public figure crosses a line, they can be shunned by fans in our cancel culture. We’ll discuss how far someone can go, and whether canceling someone can be worthwhile. Participants: Rakhi Rajpal, Stephanie Zvan, Susan Willson (mod), AlysshaRose Jordan

I’ll also be in the Magic School party room with science demos aimed at young audiences and discussion salons aimed at older audiences. Minnesota Atheists is sponsoring the room again this year. I’ll update here with specific programming I’m doing there once our schedule is final.

Find Me at CONvergence!

So You Want a Positive Primary

I hear you. The unending negativity directed at Hillary Clinton over the last several decades certainly didn’t help turn her voters out in 2016. Neither did the disproportionately negative press. All the general cynicism about government made Trump’s “Drain the swamp” palatable to some where it should have been laughable. You don’t want that to happen again.

Neither do I. I’m overwhelmed and anxious about the ongoing harm that needs immediate reducing, and I’m not going to be any less ready to make that vote when I can actually do it in a year and a half.

Come fall of 2020, even if Trump is impeached and not running, I’ll be all about “blue no matter who”. In every election with a moderately plausible Republican candidate, not just for the presidency. The party has shown it doesn’t believe in democratic governance. It needs to be treated as invalid.

But it’s 2019. Still spring for a couple of weeks. And during this primary season, we’re having real, important discussions about what we want our country to be. Continue reading “So You Want a Positive Primary”

So You Want a Positive Primary

Mock the Movie: Satanic Seductress Edition

Feeling sad you missed May’s mocking? You didn’t actually. We had to cancel at the last minute. Watch with us this month instead.

We were feeling in need of one of those great Fifties and Sixties exploitation movies that ends up exploiting little more than its actors because it’s so confused about its subject. In this case, the subject is Satanism. Or paganism. Or voodoo. Or…oh, I don’t know. Come watch The Devil’s Hand with us and find out.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Satanic Seductress Edition”

Mock the Movie: Satanic Seductress Edition

Living Our Secular Values

Earlier this month, I spoke at the Minnesota Atheists Day of Reason event at the state capitol. The theme for the day was secular values.

Last month was the 100th anniversary of the birth of American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair. O’Hair had something of a reputation for being a difficult person. Yes, really. She would have that reputation even correcting for the smaller leeway we give to difficult women, but part of her reputation was almost certainly due to her militant feminism. Among the many fights she took up was her fight against the idea that women were created for men’s pleasure.

As atheists, we understand that women weren’t created at all. We evolved. And I hope that after so many years of fighting for good education on evolution, we understand that evolution is not directed. It has no end goal. So any discussion of our secular values must be informed by the knowledge that women, like men, exist for themselves, not in service to others.

You can read the whole thing on the Secular Woman site.

Living Our Secular Values

Making Me Safer

The mosque shootings in Christchurch aren’t about me. I’m not Muslim. I’m not an immigrant. I’m not a brown-skinned other. As much as my heart embraces the dead and injured as my fellows, I don’t live with that target painted on me. I have no business that would take me into a mosque during worship.

The rhetoric that got us here, though? That is about me. It’s about me as a white person doomed to see “my race” die out. It’s about me as city-dwelling possible target of terrorism. It’s about me as a woman facing religious sexism. It’s about me and the threat I present as an atheist. It’s about me as a sinner where the cost of sin is death.

I’ve lived for nearly 20 years being told we must talk about the “unique dangers” of Islam to keep me safe.

I’ve lived for nearly a decade with atheist movement leaders who tell me I can’t talk about their racism and sexism because I need them to keep me safe.

I live with increasingly unstable international politics and diminishing civil rights in the name of keeping me safe.

I live with grifters coming to my beautiful frozen city and lying about being threatened, because how else are they to keep me safe?

I live with terrorists from out of state making road trips to blow up my neighbors. You’ll never guess why. Oh, it’s to keep me safe?

None of this makes me safer. I mean, I don’t really have to say that to you, do I? It’s obvious that fewer rights and more violence don’t make me any safer, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Yet here I am. Again. Not directly threatened by the violence, but still less safe than I was. Again. And still being told it’s all being done for me.

To make me safe.

It doesn’t. If you say these things, you are the threat to my safety. Not the Muslims. Not the immigrants. Not the black and brown people. You. If you say these things, you make me less safe.

So stop acting shocked when I treat you that way. I’d just like to be safe.

Making Me Safer