Of Book Burnings and Fundamentalism

Damion Reinhardt has decided that he would, sort of, accept my terms for having a discussion of our differences (although he talks about “ceasefire terms”). He has some conditions of his own, however. I thought they were worth dealing with at a detailed level, so you’ll find both his post and my reactions below. 

Adam Lee isn’t the only one laying down terms, we also have this much shorter set of conditions from Stephanie Zvan:

What are my terms? Any participant from that “side” renounces the slime pit.

I inadvertently sprayed out some of my beer upon reading this, because it sounded so reminiscent of the Catholic christening ceremony, in which participants are asked to “renounce Satan and all of his works” in order to validate themselves in the eyes of the Sancta Mater Ecclesia. The longstanding narrative within the Pit is that they are continually vilified as Satanic for propagandistic reasons, as noted here:

Concoct a vile and powerful Satan looking to destroy your group, and the members will not only unite under you, but become even more ready to eat your bullshit, and even more hostile towards any outside influence. It’s the perfect tool for any demagogue to solidify their power and influence.

The fact that the word “renounce” rings religious bells for Damion doesn’t actually mean that any call to renounce something is religious or anything like religious in nature. “Renounce” simply means “to give up, refuse, or resign usually by formal declaration” or “to refuse to follow, obey, or recognize any further”. Both meanings are at play here.

Damion frequents the pit. He gets benefits from it in terms of people to spread his message without him doing it personally and of participants in his drive to “test” the Center for Inquiry by sending Justin Vacula to the Women in Secularism 2 conference. He’s being asked to give that up. He also benefits the pit by lending it what reputation he has as a “reasonable” party in these matters. When his comments appear next to the ugliness, he legitimizes that ugliness, particularly when he turns a blind eye to the behavior. He is also being asked to stop doing that.

My use of the word here is entirely unreligious, and the introduction of religion is a non-argument, a mere emotional appeal.

At this point, I should probably back up and provide a brief history of the Slime Pit, or That Which Must Be Renounced if one hopes to join to the ranks of Svan’s better opponents.

It’s all so Lemony Snicket, isn’t it? I don’t know about Damion, but I talk about the pit as the pit as the squalid thing it is, not some big, scary monster. Slime doesn’t usually get capital letters.

The original slime pit thread kicked off on July 1st, 2011, and I first joined in four days later in the second of six threads. The whole collection of ERV threads criticizing PZ et. al. was first christened as the “pit o’slime” by one of the commenters on the original Butterflies and Wheels website a few weeks later, about one week prior to the auspicious launch of Freethought Blogs. This makes for the bizarre situation in which the loyal opposition coalesced somewhat prior to announcement of the new ruling party.

There’s a funny thing about the term “loyal opposition”. It means that those so described recognize the right to rule of the people so opposed. First, nobody at FtB has asked for the right to rule anything (except those of us who have leadership positions in various organizations, and that’s really a matter of service and representation, not ruling). Second, there’s a not-insubstantial segment of the pit that thinks we should be drummed entirely out of the movement, removed from any public stages, and shouted over whenever we say anything (or are mentioned) in spaces we don’t control. That’s not a loyal opposition.

For that matter, abuse is not opposition, not in any reasonable sense of the word. It’s intimidation, intended to stop participation. For example, Justin Vacula has gone as far as to tell people who don’t like it to “get out of the kitchen”.

Additionally, this is ahistorical. Those threads were created to castigate Rebecca Watson. She doesn’t blog at FtB. She never has. PZ became part of the target when he “betrayed” Abbie by disagreeing with her.

The opinion leaders over at Freethought Blogs did not relish the idea of having any sort of dedicated opposition, so they began a campaign to have the slime pit threads taken down, which consisted primarily of harassing Abbie Smith by contacting her employers and blog hosts. This campaign culminated in the equivalent of a massive digital book-burning, as all six threads (16.6 megabytes from countless diverse contributors) were taken down from the web, and Greg Laden received an ovation from the Skepchick crowd for having lighted the pyre.

Greg and I are now apparently opinion leaders at FtB. Who knew.

It’s a funny (I may use that word a lot here) thing to suggest that vocal atheists who come together as part of a freethought network are shy about the idea of having “dedicated opposition”. It may be a little telling that Ed’s and PZ’s dedicated opposition are people like Vox Day and Kent Hovind, while mine and Greta’s and Ophelia’s are other atheists and skeptics, but what can you do aside from continue to point that out. The very point of this network is to have a place of shared strength from which to address that constant opposition.

Damion and friends don’t seem to like it when I point out that the strategy of posting crap about us when we get mentioned or the practice of demanding that I listen and respond to people is harassment, but he’s apparently okay labeling an email from Greg to Abbie’s supervisor–regarding this commentary that suggests they talk to Abbie before she faces the career consequences he talks about just a couple of comments later–as harassment. As far as I know any “campaign” to have the pit threads removed from ScienceBlogs consisted of Greg pointing out to his bosses(and I use the term loosely) there that the threads violate their terms of service and me writing one letter to the same effect after pointing out that these threads were being used to defame and stalk me, including the posting of the name of my employer, information only available through election contribution records. (For the record, no one at the pit has objected to the dropping of that piece of information.)

Telling a company you expect them to take their own terms of use seriously is apparently not just “harassment” but now also “a massive digital book-burning”. [Update: Abbie herself seemed to disagree at the time.] Forget that everyone there had warning that the change was coming and plenty of opportunity to preserve the threads for posterity, which they did. In other words, this is just another non-argument, another slapping of inappropriate, emotionally evocative labels on a reasonable behavior. Nothing was burned. Nothing was lost. It moved, and National Geographic (through Seed Media) stopped paying Abbie for the privilege of hosting things they said they didn’t want to host.

It was at this point that I finally realized what we are up against as freethinkers. These are not opponents who hope merely to persuade us to conscientiously avoid threatening language or personal attacks (as we surely should) or who hope merely to tamp down disagreement and dissent. These are people who actively applaud the wholesale elimination of entire threads from shared digital spaces, because those threads contain some objectionable material interlarded within reams upon reams of dissent. They are, in a word, fundamentalists, looking for an excuse to suppress anyone who dares speak out against the received wisdom.

Ah, fundamentalism. I’ll assume Damion is going for the definition of “a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles” while inviting the emotional response appropriate to the religious definition. The only fundamental he mentions, however, are avoiding threatening language and personal attacks. If that were true, that would make us dull and unthreatening fundamentalists indeed.

I’ve already covered the high terror that is persuading National Geographic to stop paying Abbie Smith for hosting such things as my employment information, musings about slipping something into PZ’s pocket at a conference, or jollying around about turning Rebecca Watson upside down and using her as a planter. Damion has decided, however, that he has some secret, inside information about why that isn’t the real reason (as though it weren’t enough of one) to have those threads removed from ScienceBlogs. It’s because we want to suppress dissent.

So…Franc Hoggle/Victor Ivanoff has a blog or three. Justin Vacula has a blog. Damion has a blog. Russell Blackford and Miranda Celeste Hale, who posted at the old pit, have blogs. There are blogs dedicated specifically to hating Rebecca and friends. Ed Clint built a fake blog network to “disagree” and “dissent”. Then he helped create (at our suggestion) a whole new blog network that seems to exist largely as a forum to talk about how much the bloggers dissent from FtB and Skepchick. A bunch of the other people who posted at the pit have blogs and Twitter handles and podcasts and pseudonyms to make themselves look like multitudes. They don’t need the pit for that. I pointed that out two days ago.

Moving the pit off ScienceBlogs changes nothing about whether it exists. It does what I said then. It “cut[s] cut off all social support for that inexcusable behavior.” Or it would, if people like Damion used the spaces they already have for that “dissent” instead of continuing to post their names right alongside the abuse. Ever so fundamentalist, I know.

Naturally, high hopes for total suppression are bound to be let down in the digital age. Not only did Scented Nectar create an archive of the old threads, but a level-headed fellow called Lsuoma created a replacement forum which had steadily gained in membership and popularity as those driven out of the Freethought Blogs and Atheism Plus threads have sought out a please to voice their opinions without getting hit with the one-two punch of dog-pile followed by moderation. It is that new forum which has taken on the mantle of a vile and powerful Satan which must be renounced.

Oh, Satan. That first fall wasn’t enough for you? You had to mar the grand with the petty? Stomping in the muck just doesn’t have the same poetry as being ejected from Heaven, you know.

Yes, I’m mocking the hyperbole again.

Let’s just note that the same blogs in which the dissenters can dissent have commenting functions.

Enough history, back to the question at hand. Shall I renounce the SlymePit for the chance to have a sit down with Zvan herself? I have to admit that it’s just a bit tempting. I’m not particularly partisan about where I post, and I’d be completely content to move on to another forum. That said, I require clarification on what exactly a fully qualifying renouncement must entail. Do I have to honestly believe that the SlymePit should be completely shut down, as Greg and Stephanie appear to believe? Must I enthusiastically applaud when the bytes are consigned to the bit-bucket?

If so, it’s a no-go.

I will happily renounce every comment designed to mock individuals for their appearance or sexuality instead of their bad ideas. I’ll renounce personal attacks in general as both needlessly hurtful and generally ineffective. I’ll go beyond renunciation to condemn outright anything that resembles fantasy violence or threats. However, I cannot honestly say that the Pit should cease to be. It plays host to many insightful diatribes, many effective (relatively impersonal) satires, and countless honest conversations in which skepticism is allowed truly free range over subjects such as feminism and gender relations.

Earlier Damion seemed to think renunciation was some sort of religious thing. Now it means “denounce”. Could this entire post have been avoided with a dictionary?

Renounce. It means give up. Walk away from. Don’t go back. That’s not hard.

So here is my counter-offer to Stephanie: Renounce any and all attempts to hinder free speech and free thought.

Given that I’m not a governmental unit, nor am I lobbying on any non-religious issue having to do with the First Amendment, I have nothing to renounce regarding free speech. Does Damion want me to campaign to outlaw terms of service or apologize for asking that they be enforced? No that’s not going to happen. Nor, as I’ve argued repeatedly in this post, does that put anyone’s free speech at risk. It doesn’t, as he just said himself, even cut down in any substantial way on his opportunities to exercise that free speech.

I haven’t got a clue what he means by hindering “free thought”. If he thinks I’ve tried to be the thought police, he can explain just how I thought I’d go about that. If he’s talking about offenses against “freethought”, he’s a year or more behind the argument. “Freethought” is “thought unrestrained by deference to authority, tradition, or established belief, especially in matters of religion.”  It is, in fact, the opposite of arguing for the status quo, which is the entire point of “equity feminism”. So Damion’s going to have to explain what he means here.

Publicly apologize for supporting Laden in his digital book-burning campaign against Slime Pit 1.0 and declare that the Slyme Pit should be allowed to exist in its current form, under its current rules.

Yawn. Yeah, again, no “digital book-burning” happened. That’s transparent hyperbole. You don’t get to point out that nothing was lost, then claim that I tried to make things disappear because…I don’t know. Because I’m such a naif in matters of the internet, I guess?

Also, nowhere have I even come close to saying the slyme pit shouldn’t be “allowed” to exist. It has every right to exist, and I have every right to choose not to give the people who support it my time, attention, or platform.

Renounce your efforts to prevent known ‘Pitters and others falsely accused of misogyny from obtaining positions of responsibility and leadership in the movement.

Well, here we get into ahistorical territory again. I’ve “made efforts” (and was successful) in exactly one case, that of Justin Vacula. You can see that I made no accusations of misogyny in that petition. I spoke to his actions, actions that condoned and encouraged harassment, including but not limited to the harassment that comes from the pit.

I note that Damion doesn’t make an argument for why I should do anything but exactly what I did. It’s apparently an arbitrary demand. Either that, or Damion thinks that leadership is a right rather than something to be earned.

Do all that, Stephanie, and I’ll gladly leave the Pit and come to the table. Having done so, of course, I would not be representative of anyone but myself. Feel free to DM me on Twitter if you have any questions.

I think the only question I have left after all that is, “Do you know how hard I’m going to laugh the next time someone accuses me of ‘redefining words’ to suit my purposes?”

Damion’s whole post is an exercise in slapping on emotionally evocative labels that don’t fit the situation. I tend to think that if I’d done anything for which renunciation were inappropriate, it wouldn’t be difficult to state the case plainly and simply–and accurately. After all, that’s what I did. I let the pit the pit speak for itself.

The only honest and accurate bit of Damion’s post is the part where he says he could give up the pit. It’s the most interesting too, since it raises the question of why he doesn’t. Sadly, he seems to want to try to put the responsibility for that decision on me. I’m not going to take it.

Of Book Burnings and Fundamentalism

49 thoughts on “Of Book Burnings and Fundamentalism

  1. 4

    Well, personally I don’t think it would have been too far out of line to expect any reasonable person wanting a debate on the subject to DENOUNCE the pit – as, in repudiate the sexist, racist, ableist, transphobic language and various other bigotries that are simply tolerated, if not in fact carefully cultivated, encouraged, and wholeheartedly approved and relished in, over there. For example, someone can post something derogatory like this following quote: “I’d just call her a poison-cunt if it was me. How’s that bigotry you fucking retard mutant?” and virtually no one will jump in to disapprove it or gainsay it. And if I wanted (guess what, I really don’t) I could multiply that comment by a hundred more, just like it. Silence is consent, so if people like you who go there (Vacula, or Reinhardt, or Stefanelli) won’t speak out against bigotry like this, it is an entirely reasonable assumption that you in fact approve it.

    Instead, Stephanie very reasonably asked merely for people who are wanting this attention by way of a debate (like Vacula, or Reinhardt, or Paden) to RENOUNCE the pit. Stop visiting it, stop posting there, stop contributing to the ongoing festival of bigotry there, supposedly conducted in the name of ‘free speech’ or ‘anti-censorship’. Sorry, any reasonable inspection shows what you’ve got going on over there contains more than a fair serving of bigoted hate speech. But it seems these supposed members of a ‘atheist/skeptic community’ prefer having their jolly sport to acting like responsible, grown adults. It’s far past time to treat them like bad children, and not let them play with others until they give up their anti-social pursuits.

  2. 5

    I’m so glad to see you take apart that stupid ‘Ftb tried to get Abby fired” nonsense.

    Like conspiracy theorists everywhere these people have invented a whole mythology, completely divorced from reality, to justify their abuse. And like conspiracy theorists everywhere they will demand evidence and when the evidence is provided will invent all kinds of reasons for rejecting the evidence. Or just ignore it…

  3. 9

    Once again the simply concept of ‘show, don’t tell’ demonstrates the dishonesty of Damion and his ilk – they’ll say they’re against threats and misogyny, but when asked to actually demonstrate that in an unambiguous manner, they refuse and bleat about FREEZE PEACH and lie about the beauty and wonder and transcedent power of their ‘unmoderated forum’ where great minds can gather to inspire each other.

    Liars, cowards, creeps and scumbags all.

  4. 10


    What exactly were you hoping for me to unambiguously denounce? Perhaps your fantasies to rejoice while watch women die in a fire? If so, you’ve got it. Perhaps the visual jokes at Stephanie’s expense? You’ve got it. Those sorts of hateful messages add nothing useful to the conversation.

  5. 13

    Jeeesus H salsa-dancing Christ.

    First it’s that “feminazis” Google doc, then a mild eyebrow-raise at Shermer is a “McCarthy-style witch-hunt” and now the migration of the Pit is a fucking “digital book-burning”? And Stephanie is accused of stifling free speech, as if she’s a ruling party of something-or-other – not only that but she’s stifling “free thought” as well? Who is she meant to be? Dr goddamned Manhattan?

    Is there no hyperbole too ridiculous, no comparison too inappropriate? From a member of a forum which seems obsessively focused on the hysterical over-reactions of other people to their apparent reasoned disagreement, this endless stream of histrionics and invocations of the worst crimes of humanity in response to written criticism and the calling-out of open harrassment and abuse is not only laughable, it’s fucking hilarious. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing. It’s like certain people are going out of their way to get the most incredulous or inflammatory or condemnatory response possible – as when Ken Ham stares a feathered dinosaur in the face and declares “It’s just a bird!” or William Lane Craig calmly and smugly defends Biblical genocide.

    Can we please have a pit-member who can accurately and reasonably describe the events of the last two-plus years (preferably without invoking the fucking Nazis), or have I just described a contradiction in terms?

  6. 14

    After all this horror, I find myself continually stunned anew at the utter blindness and projection of the Slymepitters, who may be able to find one or two “attacks” against “their side” remotely comparable to the flood that people like Stephanie have to up with every day. You can show them a million examples, and they either reject them in “no true Scotsman” fashion or don’t realize they are giving implicit support to those examples.

    Yes, have your free speech. Feel free to attack and rip someone down and try to destroy them, because it’s “Free speech” devoid of value except as a concept floating in space where people an never suffer or be hurt. It’s a moral choice whether or not to put unfettered free speech above humanity toward a fellow human being … if, indeed, FTB blogs were inhibiting anything but foul behavior.

  7. 15

    Damion wrote:

    Perhaps your fantasies to rejoice while watch women die in a fire?

    Ah, the famous lies and false equivalence of the mildew mob. With a touch of tu quoque thrown in as well.

    Do you mean the one instance of a comment made by me and only me to a single anonymous commenter on one occasion on one blog? The comment which I, only multiple occasions, on blog posts you have been commenting on, have admitted it was the wrong thing to do and have since not directed any comments of that sort to anyone, anywhere?

    Note the key terms there: one . One person. One time. So, not ‘fantasies’. Not ‘women’, plural – one. Oh, I’m not psychic, so I have no idea who the person I directed that to was, or what gender they identify as, but nice try at palming off your own woman-hating tendencies on me.

    Also important: have not since. By claiming otherwise you are a liar.

    And, more importantly and even without the fact I have admitted it was wrong and have since made no remarks of that kind, are you really comparing that single instance to the co-ordinated campaign of bullying and intimidation you and your pack of vile, cowardly, cronies have been engaging in – and are still engaging in – against non-anonymous bloggers like Rebecca Watson, Ophelia, Stephanie, Surly Amy and Jen McCreight?

    Anyway, that aside – you missed my point. Show, don’t tell. Don’t claim to be against the things you rush to distance yourself from here but embrace while neck-deep in mildew; demonstrate that you’re against them.

    Just refuse to participate while these sorts of comments and posts are being made. Tell them you’re done until it stops. Or stay but call each individual who does post them out. Actually do something that might make a difference.

    Or admit to being a liar about your feelings towards such behaviour. Your choice.

  8. 16

    Thanks for the laughs, Damion.

    Hate to break it to you, but you and your buds aren’t Satan and his minions. You’re narcissistic little thugs: losers individually, but bullies and proud of it in the safety of a group.

  9. 17

    Where would they be without their false equivalences and tu quoques, Wowbagger?

    Without those, all they’d have left to justify their obsessive hatred would be their self-aggrandizement: They’re fighting for free speech and free thought!!! Which wicked Freethoughtbloggers are trying to hinder !! (Wait, who’s Satan in this narrative?)

  10. 18

    Stacy wrote:

    Where would they be without their false equivalences and tu quoques, Wowbagger?

    Why, without that false wall to hide behind they’d just be a bunch of angry, privileged douchebags lashing out in the only way they can because they’re afraid their position as the target demographic of the atheist community is being taken away from them, and with that the power to demand that writers, bloggers, podcasters, videographers and conference organisers cater solely to their narrow range of interests.

    “Wah! Wah! I’m not in the spotlight anymore! Wah! Wah! People are talking about stuff I’m not interested in! Wah! Wah! I just want to be told how dumb and evil religionists are so I can feel better about myself! Wah! Wah! Waaaaaaaaaaaah!”

  11. 19

    Stephanie, I probably don’t say it often enough, but I really appreciate your tireless and frustrating work to on behalf of making the secular movement more welcoming to women. I absolutely hate it that anyone has to deal with 1/10 the shit that you deal with. But I love it that you’re so damned good at this kind of analysis. I’ve learned a hell of a lot on this blog. Thank you.

  12. 20

    They’re fighting for free speech and free thought!!!

    … by mistaking them for the right to be assholes. Which is a subset of the rights to free speech and free thought, but not a particularly interesting one.

  13. 21

    Just once I’d like to see a ‘Pitter make their argument without hyperbole, without tortured comparisons to Nazis/Stasi/Maoists/etc., without rewritten history of things that are easily researched and still freely available, without pretending that tu quoque is somehow a valid argument for skeptics to make, and without tired attempts to dredge up quotes from the distant past and bend over backward to pretend that they’re the just as bad as or worse than what happens on the ‘Pit every damn day.

    I don’t think I’ve seen it yet. Starting to think it can’t be done.

  14. 22

    That’s some amazing revisionist history there.

    About that business of getting Abbie’s thread evicted: it didn’t happen that way.

    When NatGeo took over scienceblogs, they told us that there was content they were uncomfortable with, and that they hoped to, errm, tone it down a bit. That was one of my reasons for joining Ed in building FtB — I wanted my free speech (Oh! Oh dear!) I mentioned somewhere on one of my posts that Abbie might want to watch out, too.

    And for that I was jeered at by the slyme-to-be. They said it wasn’t going to happen. That I was crying wolf and running away and that Abbie had nothing to worry about. I recall quite a bit of online mockery of those of us who decamped, and quite a bit of praise for Brave Hero Abbie who would never stand down.

    Nobody had to complain — although I think Greg Laden did bring her monstrous thread to their attention — the writing was on the wall. There was no campaign. All anyone had to do was point out that they’d given me a list of posts that were objectionable to the new overlords, and that they were far milder than anything in Abbie’s column of hate, and the conclusion was inevitable.

    By the way, I do wish they’d get their story straight. Is Greg an immensely influential person who uses his clout with NatGeo to supress Abbie Smith, or is he just a weird guy with a blog? (I think the truth is somewhere in between, actually.)

  15. 23

    By the way, I do wish they’d get their story straight. Is Greg an immensely influential person who uses his clout with NatGeo to supress Abbie Smith, or is he just a weird guy with a blog? (I think the truth is somewhere in between, actually.)

    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled…

  16. 24

    They said it wasn’t going to happen. That I was crying wolf and running away and that Abbie had nothing to worry about.

    If memory serves, Abbie herself claimed you were lying and that NatGeo was totes cool with the ‘pit threads.

  17. 25

    Stacy @24:

    If memory serves, Abbie herself claimed you [PZ] were lying and that NatGeo was totes cool with the ‘pit threads.

    Along with most of her public musings on these topics this shows that, similar to that of her beloved pit-stains themselves, Abbie’s relationship with facts is more of an open, convenient “friends with benefits” type of arrangement than even at attempt at an exclusive commitment.

  18. 26

    In Anita Sarkeesian’s talk about her experience with online harassment, she called the people harassing her a cybermob, and noted that for them, harassing her was a game, and they got points FROM EACH OTHER for making her miserable.

    Similarly, when writer Leo Traynor tracked down one of his worst internet harassers, it turned out that it was the teenage son of some friends of his. He confronted the young man.

    Then it happened…

    The Troll burst into tears. His dad gently restraining him from leaving the table.

    I put my hand on his shoulder and asked him “Why?”

    The Troll sat there for a moment and said “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry. It was like a game thing.

    This appears to be what’s happening right now. The pit is where the gamers get points, in the form of encouragement from each other, for harassing their targets.

    That’s the reason the pit formed, to encourage and reward harassment. It still serves that function.

    I have no suggestions, I’m just trying to more precisely identify the dynamic at work here.

  19. 27

    Anthony K,

    I renounce Reap Paden for banning oolon from his blog.

    Well Reap did unban me when I pointed out to him there was more than a little hypocrisy in banning me for “disagreeing” on his blog… He wouldn’t want to be like his bete noir, PZ, now would he 😉

    I do think if you went on there you’d be banned in double quick time however!

    Then again, taking Wowbagger as my standard, you can never forgive anyone for anything no matter how many times they apologise or point out they know they were in the wrong (Not that Reap did any of that). So fuck Reap and his freeze peach banning actions! (Note to Reap, that was sarcastic hyperbole) … On a more serious note you can see the effect of the constant climate of distortion and lies about “FfTBs” in the pit on the “seemingly reasonable” people like Damion in that snipe at Wowbagger. Would he usually beat down someone he is arguing with using an age old wrong that the person has since apologised for repeatedly, and distorting it to boot?

  20. 28

    Why do their “the pit might have vile misogyny but it’s also a cool place with threads that are NOT about harassing Stephanie/Ophelia/Greta…” sound so familiar?
    Ah, yeah, I remember history.
    Insert Goodwin here*. Autobahn features.

    *Before they cry out: No, I’m not comparing the pit to Nazi Germany. I’m comparing the argument that because somebody does some good, too, the bad can be overlooked.

  21. 29

    Stephanie, I will leave most of the discussion to Damion and yourself as I have never been on the slymepit so cannot attest to its contents.

    However I would like to comment on this,

    Then he helped create (at our suggestion) a whole new blog network that seems to exist largely as a forum to talk about how much the bloggers dissent from FtB and Skepchick

    This is completely untrue. There are currently 24 bloggers on the network and only 4-5 have written anything about FtB or Skepchick. Over 95% (probably more) of the content has nothing to with FtB or Skepchick. So I am not sure how you interpret the network as existing to largely to discuss bloggers dissenting from FtB and Skepchick.

  22. 30

    Also for “harming Abbie Smith’s career”:
    The only person I can see doing that is Abbie Smith herself.
    Because if I were a prospective employer and thought about hiring her for a position where she would probably have to supervise grad students, and where she would have to handle complaints about harassment as in accordance with the college/company’s own anti-harassment rules, and I saw the vile shit she wrote about Jen, and saw her dismissal of complaints and her engaging in harassing behaviour herself, I would hire somebody else.
    Because contrary to what the Freeze Peach crowd believes, we don’t live in a world where ordinary people can get away with such shit. We live in a world where you’re held accountable for your behaviour and where there are social consequences for behaving like that. Because, in short, most people have grown out of the playground bully age and they have no fond memories of that time.

  23. 31

    “We live in a world where you’re held accountable for your behaviour and where there are social consequences for behaving like that.”

    So I guess when they call for the right to say horrible things, that’s not what they’re asking for, because they already have it; they’re asking for the right to say horrible things _and not face any consequences for it_. That kind of makes sense (for certain values of “sense”) of what Reap Paden was bleating about to Ophelia- he can’t stand that other people might hear what he says and not share his own very high opinion of himself. Interesting.

  24. 32

    […] said, which is completely beyond the pale judging from his ongoing howls of outrage, and there was that one time that someone once angrily invited an anonymous opponent to go die in a fire. Oh, also, we try to talk people in to seeing women as human beings, deserving of being treated as […]

  25. 34

    It just occurred to me yesterday that these people are not just bullies, they’re vandals. And they behave in exactly the same way as the skating from wall to fence to telegraph post taggers do. “See! That’s mine over there! I got twenty of them last week.” There are other graffiti examples that are not just tags but offensive remarks about someone or something, but it’s poor struggling Mr and Mrs Old Age Pensioner who have to put in the money and the effort to clean up their fence, and whoever was the target of the offensive remarks has to put up with seeing them and hearing people talk about them until someone gets around to cleaning them off or painting over them.

    And it doesn’t much matter in the larger scheme of things how much of the ugly stuff is offensive insults and how much is tagging, either way it wrecks the neighbourhood. For everyone.

  26. 35

    One of the pit’s attempts at internal damage control against Stephanie’s earlier post showing why it’s renouncement-worthy was that the most recent thing she found to post was from “way back in October” and just wasn’t representative of what they’re like today. And then D4M10N brings up the “die in a fire” thing here…which happened in…May.

  27. 36

    Whereas the acid in the face thing was only a couple of weeks ago (Jan 18th was when the prune image Stephanie linked to made its appearance at the Slymepit).

    Wrong again, pit people! Jeez it must really suck when the rest of the world refuses to accept your revisionist history.

  28. 37

    I just put on the biohazard suit and took a peek into mildewland. Looks like Damion is getting slapped around in the pit right now for daring to suggest that maybe some of this stuff might just be a wee bit counterproductive…

    Poor little lamb…

  29. 38

    A Hermit wrote:

    I just put on the biohazard suit and took a peek into mildewland. Looks like Damion is getting slapped around in the pit right now for daring to suggest that maybe some of this stuff might just be a wee bit counterproductive…

    That’s part of the problem: the gang mentality and the crushing off dissent through bullying.

    I honestly believe not all of the people at the pit are as gung-ho about the bullying, and some would probably like to move on from it and spend their time discuss other things – but they know they can’t say that, because they’re aware that the worst of the bullies will turn on them in a second and give them the same treatment, since it’s the only way they know how to react to a contrary opinion.

    So it’s either toe the company line or fade out quietly and hope no-one notices.

  30. 40

    It all depends on whether or not you deserve it. I deserve to be told I should have acid thrown in my face, while the good slime people don’t deserve to be blocked from commenting when they “dissent.”

  31. 41

    Which is worse…being told you should have acid thrown in your face when you dissent or being blocked from commenting when you “dissent?”

    There seems to be a lack of any sense of proportion on the part of the antis. I was reading comments at SkepticInk and a number of the commenters there were explaining that they picked that side because of their outrage at the way Rebecca Watson treated Steph McGraw (by publicly disagreeing with her…)

    On the one hand they seem to be claiming that this all about how mean that was, because of the “power imbalance” between a speaker on a platform and a member of the audience but on the other hand we keep hearing from them that women should have thicker skins, that threats about rape and acid attacks are “just jokes” and no one should ever complain publicly about being “disagreed with” like that, and that anyone who sticks up for someone who’s been on the receiving end of such abuse is a “white knighting mangina…”

    Somehow Watson publicly, politely explaining why she disagreed with something someone else said publicly is the worst crime ever, but anonymous threats, sexual harassment, fake twitter accounts, photoshopped images and all this nastiest is an acceptable, even necessary, part of the conversation.

    The ease with which they embrace this double standard is really amazing.

  32. 43

    “Which is worse…being told you should have acid thrown in your face when you dissent or being blocked from commenting when you “dissent?”

    I’ll bite, Ben. If Stephanie takes me out of moderation here, you can all talk about how funny it would be for me to take some acid to the face. I’m totally willing to make that trade-off, since I don’t imagine you all are actually violent people. Well, maybe Wowbagger. I’d still rather take the acid to the face than die in a fire.

    “Damion is getting slapped around in the pit right now for daring to suggest that maybe some of this stuff might just be a wee bit counterproductive…”

    That’s just business as usual. They tend to see any calls for reasonable self-restraint as an attempt at censorship. Real censorship is more like getting 16.6 megabytes of text pulled down off the internet and then celebrating your achievement with a round of applause.

  33. 44

    D4M10N, I have no interest in anyone joking about acid to the face. If you want to do something interesting or productive, how about you step up to the level of argument instead of trying to drag others down to the level of emotional appeals and joking about threats.

  34. 45

    Blogs at Skeptic Ink that have weighed in on the fray:

    1. Debunking Christianity
    2. IncrEdulous
    3. Hume’s Apprentice
    4. Skeptically Left
    5. Dangerous Talk
    6. Justin Vacula’s Blog
    7. The Lateral Truth
    8. Notung
    9. The Prussian
    10. Background Probability
    11. Avant Garde
    12. Toward a Free Society
    13. The Hellfire Club

    And that doesn’t count you, Ferguson, who does your work on Twitter instead of the blog. You need to count. As to why it seems that way, the sad truth is that almost every time a piece from Skeptic Ink gets widely promoted, particularly by other Skeptic Ink bloggers, it’s one of the hit pieces. Maybe try supporting each other better?

  35. 46

    “They tend to see any calls for reasonable self-restraint as an attempt at censorship.”

    And do you see any problems with that kind of thinking?

    “Real censorship is more like getting 16.6 megabytes of text pulled down off the internet and then celebrating your achievement with a round of applause.

    Except it’s not “off the internet” is it? In fact it’s all still there on the Slymepit, and spreading (as molds and funguses tend to do) every day…

    There’s nothing wrong with pointing out to a prominent organization like National Geographic that someone is abusing their hospitality by violating the agreed to terms of participation in their network.

    Or don’t the good folks at Nat Geo have a right to freedom of association and the right to say what can and can’t be done with THEIR resources? I can’t believe we have to keep pointing this out; the right to free speech does not include the right to demand that someone else provide you with a platform.

  36. 49

    @Stephanie in #43 That list of blogs that have “weighed in on the fray” is perhaps a little misleading. Mine is one of those listed, and I don’t know if you’ve just looked at titles, or done a keyword search, or relied on word-of-mouth – but when I have weighed in on the fray, it has usually been to agree with people on FtB (albeit perhaps not as vociferously as some might think required).

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