On All the Podcasts

I’ve been a bad guest. A bunch of great podcasters have had me on their shows recently, and I’ve been just boosting their social media posts instead of linking them here. So if you want to hear me talk about various topics, here’s where you can do that.

Bi Any Means with Trav Mamone, “‘Divisiveness’ in the Atheist Movement

Today we’re going to talk about a recent blog post she wrote about “divisiveness” in the atheist movement.

The post was written in response to Dogma Debate host David Smalley’s recent talk at this year’s Gateway to Reason conference (the link to which I’ll put in the show notes). As I tell Stephanie in the interview, at first I thought he did a good job talking about how not to let different opinions divide the movement. But as Stephanie explained, when people in the atheist movement talk about divisiveness, they’re not talking about the “Everyone I don’t like is Hitler” meme.

Serious Inquiries Only with Thomas Smith, “Stephanie Zvan on Anti-Harassment Policies and More

Stephanie was on the ground floor in terms of trying to get anti-harassment policies into the codes of conduct for skeptic and atheist conferences. We talk about the history of that, and then we discuss whether the atheist movement is worth saving or if we ought to abandon it altogether and start something new.

I recall going on at least one rant about the conceptual penis “hoax” as well.

The Inciting Incident with Marissa Alexa McCool, “Outrage Brigade

This week, Rissy is joined by activist Stephanie Zvan in studio to discuss the Outrage Brigade, among other things, and Bethany and Rissy reflect on what’s transpired since the interview was recorded afterward.

We touched on a lot of issues in this one: Mythinformation Con, who gets to have their concerns heard, the problems of celebrity in movements that are supposed to be about truth.

Brainstorm Podcast with Cory Johnston, “Sexual Harassment in the Atheist Community

There’s something troubling going on in the atheist and skeptic community, and apparently it’s been happening for awhile. People are getting away with sexual harassment and sometimes assault because they have standing in the community and people want to hear them speak at their conferences and have them as guests on their shows. I talk with Stephanie Zvan about this, how long it’s been going on, and what we can do about it.

This is very different than my interview with Thomas. There’s a lot less history and a lot more practical details, including evaluating allegations as a skeptic. I turned an awful lot of these questions on their heads and was perhaps not at my most diplomatic. Cory handled it all with very good grace.

On All the Podcasts
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Retconning Mythinformation Con

After last weekend’s debacle at Mythicist Milwaukee’s conference, which included the audience cheering on harassment of a rape victim and victim’s advocate, Mythinformation Con speaker Melissa Chen has decided she knows what really happened. It was impressive enough that I had to share. My comments are included.

Now that #MythCon is over, I see the entire tempest in a teapot that resulted in a very different light. This was more than just an attempt by a radical faction of atheist activists who are fully aligned with the political machinations of ANTIFA to deplatform speakers they didn’t want to hear.

This was presumably Chen’s original position on those objecting to having a professional harasser there. I’m half giggling over “We show up where those we believe to be fascist are engaging in organized action and disrupt or protect those who do” being rendered as “political machinations” and half wondering when the self-appointed hyperbole police are going to show up. Chen posted this several days ago. Dan Arel identifies as antifa (no capital letters required), but to the best of my knowledge, Steve Shives and Kristi Winters have mostly refuted anti-antifa nonsense. If that makes people politically dangerous in Chen’s mind, there are an awful lot of us she’s eyeing as enemies.

Also, this has never been about not wanting to hear people. Winters spearheaded the effort to get Mythicist Milwaukee to remove Sargon as a speaker. She’s listened to more nonsense from Sargon than anyone but his most undying fans. She documented his behavior. She debated him. If Chen ever believed this was about anyone objecting to hearing him personally, she might want to spend more time checking her assumptions about people with differing politics.

It was more than just a campaign to be a thorn in the side of organizers (Mythicist Milwaukee) by driving up security costs with audacious claims to local police and media with no basis in truth.

You can tell me the fans of Gamergater shitlords aren’t dangerous when their targets stop being doxxed and swatted. When their targets’ events stop being cancelled because of shooting threats. When their “ironazi” flags stop showing up at rallies where people die. Then I’ll listen.

Until then, you’re just telling me you’re either not paying attention or not being honest.

This was ultimately about keeping atheism activism within the bounds of “Atheism Plus.”

2012 YouTube called. It wants its authoritarian bogeyman back. Continue reading “Retconning Mythinformation Con”

Retconning Mythinformation Con

Mock the Movie: Hacksploitation Edition

No, not hackers. If only. Larceny isn’t even that. It’s a bad Dolph Lundgren film. No, not a bad film that has Dolph Lundgren in it. I mean a film on the bottom end of the Dolph Lundgren oeuvre. Yeah, that bad. We’re watching it anyway.

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

Mock the Movie: Hacksploitation Edition

Mythicist Milwaukee in Their Own Words

Callie Wright of The Gaytheist Manifesto released an extra edition of the podcast this week. In it, she speaks with the organizers of Mythicist Milwaukee’s conference being held this weekend about their decision to invite YouTube anti-feminist (anti-Sarkeesian, Gamergater) “Sargon of Akkad” (Carl Benjamin) to speak at their conference.

It’s not a friendly interview. Callie challenges them on nearly everything they have to say. In response, they say…anything, really. They brought him in as an entertainer. They want to settle the record on him. These are conversations already being had, so why not on their stage. People are bored with atheism. We don’t know what’s in his heart. He’s not really as bad as people say. He does a bunch of dry stuff talking about political philosophy.

This seems to be the most straightforward statement of their position:

He has a huge platform. He’s wildly successful in his own right. Why not Sargon? I understand what you’re saying about Twitter and all these other things, but guess what. There’s been entertainers that troll each other all the time. That’s just the way the world goes.

Also known as, we don’t really care what he did.

Callie did a great job pointing out false equivalencies and attempts to stray from the topic. There are a few things I want to add, though. Continue reading “Mythicist Milwaukee in Their Own Words”

Mythicist Milwaukee in Their Own Words

Let Me Count the Ways

I hate understanding what Peter Boghossian is tweeting about. It doesn’t make him less wrong. It just means I have to write about it, because everyone else is trying to figure out what he thinks he means, and he’s still wrong.

This latest nonsense is no exception. It’s nearly fractally wrong. Let me count the ways.

Screen capture of three Boghossian tweets. Text in the post.
Text: Tweet 1: There are no right angles in nature, yet no one says right angles are *social* constructs because they’re not morally motivated to do so.

Tweet 2: I’ll amend this with the modifier “Platonic” or “perfect”.

Tweet 3: Actually. I rescind this. I think it still holds. No?

He went back later and specified Platonic, in case you think it makes a difference.

Let’s start with the way this is supposed to be wrong. Continue reading “Let Me Count the Ways”

Let Me Count the Ways

Mock the Movie: Cheeky Ferret Edition

I have to admit that I resent this movie a bit. I quite liked Andre Norton’s The Beast Master when I was younger (no idea what I’d think of it today). The Beastmaster was supposed to be an adaption of the book. It’s so far from an adaptation of the book that Norton made them take her name off it. But it has ferrets, so I’ll watch it. I’m easy that way.

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

Mock the Movie: Cheeky Ferret Edition

How to Make Applesauce

I’m digitizing our collection of recipes. It’s gotten a bit unwieldy over time, and these days, we’re just more likely to use an electronic recipe than one on paper.

Photo of two reddish apples on a branch against a blue sky.
“Apple” by Alessio Maffeis, CC BY 2.0

A lot of this was easy, collecting links to recipes we’d printed out a long time ago, when that was the way we worked. Some of it required copying recipes to a new file to incorporate the changes we’d made to make them ours. Now I’m doing the hard part, the handwritten recipes.

It’s not the typing that makes it hard. It’s the depersonalizing. It’s taking the quirks of gifts and rendering them all in pixels and plain fonts. It’s knowing that even though I plan to keep these pages, we’ll hardly look at them again when there are easier copies to use.

The recipes resist depersonalization, though. They resist standardization. They can’t be fit into a normal recipe format without losing the knowledge they contain. In celebration of that and of the people who live on in these recipes, here’s what my grandmother wanted me to know when I asked her for her special applesauce recipe. Continue reading “How to Make Applesauce”

How to Make Applesauce

Property Damage as Violence

There’s a lot of good analysis out there right now deconstructing media and other attempts to paint antifa protests as the mirror image of white supremacist rallies featuring Nazis and KKK members. I like this one in particular, because it breaks down how it’s done.

So. It wasn’t too long before “alt-right” meant something negative again (as it should). Which is why calling antifa its antithesis, “alt-left,” is notable. Without the racially critical lens that white supremacy tries to avoid, “alt-right” can be reduced to meaning that one is way too conservative, to the point that it is impolite and problematic. And because white people have shown historically that they are bad with definitions (coincidence? unlikely), most would opt to assume that “alt-left” simply means being way too liberal.

Most of them I don’t share, though, because they’ll be rolling along just fine then pop out with something like “And stop saying property damage is violence!” Oops. Continue reading “Property Damage as Violence”

Property Damage as Violence

Questions from the Outrage Brigade

If this post sounds familiar to you, that’s because, like all the talk of “dividing” the atheist and skeptic movements, none of this is new. None of what we’re seeing these days is even responsive to prior critique. But if other people can repeat themselves on this, so can I. Maybe this time, I’ll even get some answers.

For context, a friend posted recently about finding out someone they’d looked up to had been accused of unethical behavior. The post was more a cri de coeur than anything else, along the lines of “Will everyone in this movement disappoint me?” Given that my first guess regarding which person they were talking about was wrong, I can’t really argue with the sentiment.

Someone else did, though. An atheist media personality responded to suggest the question was unfair and unhelpful. Continue reading “Questions from the Outrage Brigade”

Questions from the Outrage Brigade

Everyone (Not You) Should Be Welcome in the Atheist Movement

It’s funny how things change.

Back in the dim recesses of history, otherwise known as about five years ago, I was ruining the atheist and skeptic movements, otherwise known as advocating for codes of conduct at conferences. It was a lonely process.

The other people working on the issue were great. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. There just weren’t a lot of us. Institutional support was…uneven. A few organizations were happy for our help. Others claimed we were persecuting them for the money.

Atheist media? Well. Let’s just say that we were generally spoken about, not with. We were called dogmatic and divisive, as though divisions have only one side. The interviews I did on harassment were mostly outside these movements. And the group of media hosts who stood up for our place in the movement were—I’m kidding. That didn’t happen.

Today, however. Oh, today is a glorious new day in atheism and skepticism, in which critical voices are welcomed as our movements’ immune systems. We are hailed for our work to improve our collective thinking and positions on important topics. We are, as every atheist and skeptic is, seen as a crucial part of these movement.

Yeah, I’m kidding about that too.

I’d avoided getting deeply into the recent golden mean piece blaming the left yet once again for destroying the atheist movement. It’s been done. It’s stale and trite, and anyone who’s been in these movements for a few years but doesn’t bother to address the old objections to both-sides-but-really-you-rabble-rousing-SJWs isn’t going to respond to me repeating myself.

I could have done a links post of old work, I suppose, but then Thomas Smith came out with a response. There are pieces of it I disagree with, mostly in places where he was willing to concede equivalencies I’d argue against and his acceptance of labels as demonizing, but it covered most of the bases. I could let it go and let someone else pick up the work this time. It felt like freedom.

Then came the weekend of the Gateway to Reason conference. Continue reading “Everyone (Not You) Should Be Welcome in the Atheist Movement”

Everyone (Not You) Should Be Welcome in the Atheist Movement