Michael Nugent and the Email

Mick Nugent has responded to my post about providing haven for rapists. As he titles his post, “Why Stephanie Zvan’s defence of PZ Myers’ ‘haven for rapists’ smear is not reasonable based on the evidence“, allow me a moment to clarify a couple of things.

If I thought that PZ’s comments particularly needed defense, I’d have done it before now. I think the tweets in question, which can be found here, stand on their own for anyone who is familiar with Nugent’s recent behavior in email and on his blog. My post responded to demands from Aneris, a slimepitter, that I respond to a skewed version of PZ’s statement in which Nugent’s behavior was attributed to the pit. I ignored that problem and responded because it gave me an opportunity, a hook on which to hang some writing I wanted to do anyway.

I wrote my post because I wanted to say, in my own words, that Mick Nugent has provided a haven for rapists. I’ll still say it. Mick Nugent has provided a haven for rapists by his actions with respect to Michael Shermer. I don’t have to consult with PZ in order to say it. I don’t have to be defending PZ in order to say it. I said it. I believe it. I said why I believe it. I’ll stand by it on my own, thank you very much.

However, rant aside, that’s not what I want to draw people’s attention to. I want to draw attention to the fact that Nugent says PZ claimed Nugent’s commenters were rapists. In particular, I want to draw attention to Nugent’s use of an email from PZ in this regard.Nugent is attempting to establish what creating a haven means.

Taking all of these uses of ’haven’ together, it is unambiguous what PZ means by me “providing a haven” in this context. He means that identifiable people are actually commenting on my blog who also post on the Slymepit, people who PZ frequently refers to in dehumanising terms.

Indeed, when asked, PZ specifically said that the presence of these people as commenters on my blog was “the evidence” that I am providing a haven for rapists.

Well, no. The presence of pitters was evidence that Nugent was “defending & providing a haven for harassers, misogynists, and rapists”. So was the fact that these people were “Trolls, creeps, & phonies who seem to have found a copacetic environment in Nugent’s blog.”

“Troll” doesn’t equal “rapist”. “Phony” doesn’t equal “rapist”. “Creep” is a catch-all term that sometimes does include “rapist”, but doesn’t imply it by definition. There’s nothing about this line of argument that suggests he’s even trying to prove his assertion about rapists by referring to pitters or commenters. He is, however, arguing that they’re harassers, which “troll” is widely used to mean.

Later in his post, Nugent refers to an email from PZ that we can’t see in order to try to make his point again. (I’ll skip over his argument about what a reasonable person would read from PZ’s words, as it’s made up entirely of assertion where it isn’t circular.)

As I said in my last post, I have also emailed PZ to ask him to withdraw and apologise for his smear.

I am not publicly discussing the detail of that email exchange, other than to say that he has also declined to withdraw and apologise, and when I asked him to clarify some ambiguous assertions in his response, he replied ‘Not interested.’

However, given Stephanie’s intervention, I will add that the context in which PZ used the word ‘haven’ in these emails was unambiguously referring to people who actually comment on my blog.

As of this morning, we can see that email, because PZ published it himself.

8 October email: Can you please withdraw and apologise for your allegation that I am defending rapists?

I made the mistake of replying. “No, because you are.”

So course he immediately fires back:

Can you please withdraw and apologise for your other allegations

– That I am providing a haven for rapists;

– That I am defending harassers and misogynists;

– That I am providing a haven for harassers and misogynists?

Again I replied, which answers all of his demands, although not to his satisfaction:

But you do provide a haven for harassers and misogynists — your blog commentariat is almost indistinguishable from the slymepit.

Look here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/10/07/turning-over-a-rock-and-exposing-slime-to-the-light/ . These are the people nestling happily beneath your wing. Yet you choose to write thousands of words repudiating me because I specifically criticize the actual words and actions of people like Dawkins, Harris, and Shermer, while turning a blind eye to the rot festering in your own place.

And you have defended Michael Shermer, preferring to demand that others not publicize his well-documented behavior, rather than criticize a big name in skepticism.

Shermer is not commenting on your blog, so I will say that you aren’t providing a safe harbor for him, yet. But I don’t know — I get the impression that if a rapist were chattering away there, you’d rather everyone kept silent about it.

Let me just pull one line out of that again and highlight a bit of it for emphasis.

But you do provide a haven for harassers and misogynists — your blog commentariat is almost indistinguishable from the slymepit.

Once more, the pitters are referred to only as harassers and misogynists. This not being Twitter, it is even more obvious that PZ is saying that Nugent provides haven to and defends the pitters as harassers and misogynists, not as rapists.

Rapists, on the other hand, are represented in PZ’s email by Michael Shermer and a hypothetical commenter–presented in the future subjunctive for language geeks–who would find haven under Nugent’s guidelines. The email explicitly does not refer to any current commenters. It refers to a possibility.

Not only does PZ’s email not provide evidence that my interpretation of what a “haven for rapists” would constitute is “not reasonable” when applied to his words, but it uses the same definition. In both cases, a “haven for rapists” is not somewhere that rapists currently exist but a place that protects them by policy. At Nugent’s, the policy in question is his policy of silence.

I can’t tell you why Nugent has been posting about PZ “smearing” him by saying his commenters are rapists despite having this email in hand for three weeks. It may not be intentional dishonesty, as Nugent has a reputation for being a poor listener. I don’t imagine that feeling personally insulted would improve that ability any.

Nonetheless, it’s time for Nugent to give this up as being based on his misunderstandings. I won’t even bother suggesting that he apologize, as PZ has blocked him on Twitter and in email, but it’s well past time for this to stop.

Michael Nugent and the Email
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13 thoughts on “Michael Nugent and the Email

  1. 1

    Nugent’s getting damn near obsessive with this, which is creepy in its own right. And his “wah, let’s talk about sexism but don’t publicize rapists’ names!” is as disingenuous as it comes – did anyone ever hear him seriously talk about sexual violence problems in the atheist community before it finally started outing the predators like Shermer?

  2. 2

    Of course it’s worse than that, Brett: it’s literally impossible to talk seriously about the problem of sexual harassment and abuse in a community if you forbid people from naming names. That doesn’t mean that any individual must name names, but people must be free to do so. If you’re telling victims to shut up and not tell their stories accurately you’re part of the problem.

  3. 3

    I am not publicly discussing the detail of that email exchange

    I wonder if he’ll ever realize that conversations both proceed better and require fewer walls of text if you actually get to the fucking point instead of dancing around refusing to sully your pure eyes by looking directly at the subject of interest?

  4. 4

    I don’t imagine that feeling personally insulted would improve that ability any.

    Yeah, it never does for me, anyway.

    In both cases, a “haven for rapists” is not somewhere that rapists currently exist but a place that protects them by policy. At Nugent’s, the policy in question is his policy of silence.

    I like the clear way you expressed this. I can get a clear idea of what you mean. I think you did a nice job reducing the ambiguity.

  5. 5

    I wonder how Nugent is going to deal with the story of Mr Ghomeshi, now the subject of a police investigation, and whether his blog will be equally hospitable to the defenders of what looks like another serial abuser with a carefully maintained public persona. And a similar set of unthinking fans.

  6. 6

    I’m still wondering when he will apologize to Stephanie Zvan for the Dialogue mess. She has shown exceptional patience with all of his nonsense, starting with his patronizing behavior back then. Nobody backed him into a corner. He’s had every opportunity to be reasonable. There has been enough time for him to cool down. There have been many face-saving ways for him to back off. Instead he keeps digging himself a bigger hole. Yet another so-called leader of the atheist movement proves himself to not be worthy of playing even a minor role in a modern, broad-based, ambitious movement. Instead he appears to be pining for the days when atheism was just a bunch of old white academic types and nobody paid any attention to them outside their little self-congratulatory circle. Instead of quietly stepping down and handing over the reins to those more well-suited, most of his ilk seem to prefer the spectacular flameout.

  7. 7

    By this point, Nugent’s boxed himself into a corner. He’s bought into the narrative that Myers is Atheist Satan, to the point that he’s badly misinterpreted Myers’ words and allowed the ‘Pit free reign over his blog. Saying “whoops, sorry ’bout that!” just isn’t an option anymore, as it would be a big blow to his ego.

    The best-case scenario is to walk away for a bit; by giving himself some mental distance from this topic, he can privately re-evaluate things and maybe realize he’s mistaken. Given the volume of his output, that’s highly unlikely. With Myers ignoring him, though, he’ll be starved of new material to yell about. So either he runs out of steam, or continues to feed off tidbits slipped to him by the ‘Pit or critique the works of other people that tangentially relate to Myers.

    In short, he’s stuck in a positive feedback loop: since admitting he’s wrong isn’t an option, he’s forced to search for ways he’s right. But if those keep getting disproven by himself or others, he’ll be forced to make greater and greater leaps to avoid admitting he was wrong. Thus he’s driven towards cycling around a treadmill of lies and half-truths, racing to keep ahead of his doubts.

    Just like most of the SlymePit. The long list of grievances they keep, as well as the ease with which they transition between them, are not a symptom but a necessary defense mechanism. The more items they have, the less cognitive dissonance they experience and the easier it is to convince themselves they’re not part of a hate group.

  8. 8

    Maureen Brian as she often does has said what’s on my mind. The comparison to the Ghomeshi situation is quite interesting. In that case the women who complained about him were taken seriously enough that the CBC cut ties with him But it’s only because his actions are being publicly discussed that others have had the confidence to come forward and tell their stories.

    It’s all well and good to talk about harassment and abuse in hypothetical terms but without addressing specific incidents directly nothing will change.

  9. 9

    I would say that Nugent’s behaviour looks just like that of a troll, when the only defence they have against exposure is to kick up more dust and throw up more smokescreens, spread as much misunderstanding as possible.

    But as others have pointed out, it may not be a tactic, he may actually just be that incompetent.

  10. 11

    Maureen Brian, A Hermit & Ibis: I fully agree that further talk in vague, hypothetical terms leads nowhere.

    All we have at the moment are the following remarks (made earlier by Nugent but quoted in his latest OP):

    investigative journalism by credible impartial sources can help.

    The Buzzfeed article wasn’t impartial, but was it considerably better than PZ’s intervention.

    Also, in his reply to a tweet by Monette Richards (which contained the question “Yes, stronger laws, etc. IN THE MEANTIME, what do we do? Suffer in silence?”) we read:

    I agree there is obviously a problem. There is no easy answer. I’ll try to address this in more detail in a blog post.

    And later:

    There are many hard situations with ethical/legal dilemmas.

    In short: there is nothing concrete. Nothing. When asked for details, he promises a fuller answer (this has already happened a couple of times), but so far nothing has materialized. Is he trying to avoid the topic altogether? I cannot tell; but (imo) it’s fair to say at least that he is postponing it as much as he can (and no wonder, since the topic is difficult and full of traps!).

    Anyway, it seems to me that until he fulfills his promise, continuing to ask concrete questions (exactly as Ibis did) is an excellent idea.

  11. 12

    I’d like to know how Nugent would define “impartial”. I mean, couldn’t it be said that PZ was *more* impartial than BuzzFeed, since he was approached by the victim and merely gave her a platform to publish her personal testimony whereas Oppenheimer presumably decided deliberately to investigate and write an article on the subject of sexism and misogyny in the atheist community? Likewise for Jesse Brown & The Star. They actively sought out victims to interview. For some definitions of impartial that isn’t. It’s not like PZ was partial to the fact that Michael Shermer (or anyone else for that matter) is a rapist, in the sense of wanting it to be true. So what exactly does Nugent mean?

  12. 13

    Ibis, I’m not planning even to try to answer your last question – let Nugent do it. However, what I want to emphasize is that the task is far more demanding than that of providing the definition of “impartial”. It is the question asked by Monette Richards which is *really* troublesome. What can the victim do IN THE MEANTIME, that’s the issue. What if in the meantime the victim has few other choices but going public? Should she still remain silent because … you know, because reasons? And if the victim’s account is to be published, would Nugent also require that *the victim herself* remains “impartial”? Moreover, if her account is not impartial (ok, let’s be realistic, there is no ‘if’ here), should it be refused to be published not just by the mainstream media, but by every possible outlet and every blogger? No one is to be morally permitted to take her side? Really?

    Well, the reality may prove me wrong … nevertheless, here is my prediction: Nugent won’t touch these topics even with a very long stick. In particular, he will never discuss it with real life examples taken into account. He will be absolutely happy to leave any such discussion to his commenters. Only from time to time he will make noncommittal remarks like “there is no easy answer” or “there are hard ethical dilemmas” … while stressing at the same time how bad PZ’s behavior was. Because, you know, in this particular situation the answer was of course easy and there were no ethical dilemmas.

    Michael, am I right?

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