Bullying the bullies into stopping bullying

As I mentioned in my essay on safe spaces, sometimes bullies win.

Sometimes the bullies wear at a person’s resolve enough so that one little weird and probably innocuous incident from an unrelated source is enough to rattle that person. Enough to change the calculus used to determine whether something is worth doing, such that suddenly something that they were gung-ho to do (like Ophelia Benson speaking at TAM) becomes a headache just not worth undertaking.

It doesn’t matter that the last straw — the incident that caused the equation to flip from “worth it” to “not” — might have been completely innocent. It really doesn’t. All the damage has already been done.

The years of targeted hatred someone like Ophelia Benson has experienced has done its job, has sensitized her to the point where an ambiguous warning that she might be shot must needs be taken seriously. Especially where the convention at which she was to speak, has taken great pains as of late to studiously avoid any responsibility for making the convention a safe space for these people.

And yet, people have as of late taken to calling Freethought Blogs and its bloggers the bullies. I’m guessing it’s because when we say that harassment policies help to protect people from nonsense like this, and others complain bitterly that we’re trying to “ruin” their convention, they see our unwillingness to back down as an effort to bully them into seeing things our way.

Are you noticing a familiar motif to this particular fight? It rings almost identical to the fight against Christians who believe that stopping them from bullying others is in fact a way of bullying THEM. That they have such a fundamental right to bully others that someone telling them to stop is the REAL bully.

I complained bitterly on Ophelia’s post that this situation played out the way it did.

Jafafa Hots @74:

Well, I guess TAM is now a safe space for poor Blackford now that one of the “bullies” isn’t going to be there.

I bet he, Stangroom, Sarah Mayhew and the ERVites are so pleased that they’ve successfully bullied one of the “bullies” out of the picture.

What’s the commonality between all four of the entities/groups I mentioned? They’ve claimed we’re the bullies. And, they’ve themselves bullied one or many of us. They’ve done all the chipping damage they needed, so that our resolves were weakened such that one of us, when faced with an ambiguously worded but creepy email flipped her “worth-it” equation.

And now they’re doing it with me, claiming, repeatedly, that I blamed them for the emails that Ophelia received. Of course, I didn’t. It doesn’t even take any kind of special parsing of my original bitter complaint about the bully-crying bullies to get exactly what I meant.

But what I meant doesn’t matter. Nor does what I actually said, regardless of how well it comports with what I meant. What matters is the narrative that the bullies built to be able to slime me with the epithet “liar”, and the fact that they’ll use it in isolation of corroborating evidence from now til eternity.

Do I care what the bullies themselves think? Of course not. It would be a difficult slog trying to post my beliefs and my philosophies on the internet every day if I had to kowtow to every bully who came along and demanded that we stop talking about the things I want to talk about. It’s never the bullies that one cares about when one laments that certain contrafactual narratives gain a foothold. It’s the fact that good people, who are right about a lot of things, and who otherwise agree with a lot of what I say, fall for these narratives and repeat them credulously.

That’s what hurts. Not the bullies, but the people who believe them.

Of course, I’m certain that by my saying so, the bullies will take heart in the fact that they can win these wars of attrition — that all they have to do is keep piling on the slurs and the insults and the lies and eventually that camel’s back will break and that equation will flip.

And they’ll pop their champagne corks, even if none of them get to claim the killing blow. They’ll have achieved their goals even without being the last person to place that one last straw. They’ll have won.

At least, temporarily. At least, until people support the demoralized and mend some of the damage. Challenge the lies and the liars using those lies to bully us.

Bullying the bullies into stopping bullying
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109 thoughts on “Bullying the bullies into stopping bullying

  1. 51

    And Sally — now that I know you’ve been smeared by these same lying asshats, if I ever encounter this particular set of lies again, I’ll happily provide the links to prove exactly what two rape jokes you found funny. (You know, the two from The Onion that were joking about the rapists, and rape culture, as opposed to rape itself. In case a search engine hits here or some other douchebag derails us on this.)

  2. 52

    “Every post” is rhetorical excess on my part. But you have plenty of post where you are incredibly attacky, call those that disagree with you “trolls”, are proud that you lose your shit over people who you consider “sexist”, which seems to be defined *very* broadly by you. Don’t go claiming to be proud of your hostility, then wonder why people call you a hater.

  3. 53

    be prepared to open up all the rhetoric at play in the argument to charges of hate or bias speech. You don’t get special dispensation against the standards you hold to others.

    No one should get “special dispensation,” and nobody here is arguing for it. You, however, are making a false equivalence by comparing rudeness on FtB to what goes on at ERV.

  4. 54

    Which is exactly why I called it out as “rhetoric inflation”.

    Except it isn’t ‘inflation’, it’s in fact a fairly accurate description of what is going on, not least because I was able to quickly discover that if I wished, I could provide you with a link to a comment that defames my character. Me, personally. For no other reason than I commented on a blog here at FTB. No one brought up that accusation in the thread where it was conceivably of possible relevance, instead it had to be discussed elsewhere in a cesspit of the Internet. Why is that?

    If, on the other hand, we wished to find a written example that defames the character of say, Jason or Ophelia, then the task becomes quite a bit easier, since the bloggers here have been the targets of an extra-ordinary hate campaign for the last year.

  5. 56

    Sally –

    Are you trying to get rhetorical with me?

    In general, I think it can mean a lot of things, with the common denominator being the belief in women’s equality. (Though I’d have to qualify that, since there are schools of feminism that see cis women as *superior* to men and trans people.) That’s the general sense (one that I have no objection to), though ideological feminism can be much narrower and more specific in its demands to follow a specific line on a number of questions.

    In the context of the ideology touted around here, I think it means a great deal more, and plays roughly the role that authoritarian Marxism played in the declining days of the New Left. Thirty years ago, the equivalents of the the people here would have been the ones with Mao wrapped around their tonsils. Now ideological feminism is the intellectual fashion. Same bullshit, different era.

  6. 59


    Now ideological feminism is the intellectual fashion

    They’ve been saying that for forty years. Except for a while in the 1990s, when “post-feminism” and Camille Paglia really were the intellectual fashion.]

  7. 60

    And while we’re at it, I’d like an example of something false I’ve said about D.J. Grothe while “bullying” him (which, according to comment 15, means arguing really hard, just like “dogmatic”; I’m not sure why we need so many words if they all mean the same). Surely you can come up with something, particularly since I can point to his “controversialist”, “page views”, and “responsible for the declining female attendance at TAM” lies about me.

  8. 61

    Hell, I’m still waiting for links to the specific bullying behaviour IACB is talking about, that Stephanie requested way up at @11. The links at @15 were less than damning of the bloggers xe’s talking about so damn much. Stephanie moderates people who are carelessly thoughtless about what they’re saying, and who are obstructionist to commentary, and therefore… we’re bullies and authoritarians who block everything outside the party line? How are you still commenting *anywhere* then?

    And the second link @15 is a list of times people have attacked one another that some of our bloggers were involved in. Do we count times when bloggers defend themselves from attack as “bullying”, rather than self defense now?

  9. 62

    Jason @65: Wow, waiting a whole 30 minutes! Some of us aren’t permanently at our computers, you know.

    @61: “Really. Wow. Now with examples, please point to someone saying something on a Freethought Blog that is fascistic and in support of feminism.”

    Coming right up:


    eulercycle says:
    March 16, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I deal with the Hipster Misogynist/Racist/Whatever “but it’s art! you can’t censor art!!” excuse all the time. And it is wrong for all the reasons you outlined, but it also bothers me in particular because art has always been a way for repressed groups to speak out. And the problem with censoring art has been that it has invariably been used by governments to suppress these persecuted communities. So now a lot of artists have a knee-jerk reaction against censoring, so when a Hipster Misogynist says “but it’s art!” a lot of artists will, understandably, react immediately by supporting the artist. But they shouldn’t, because the two cases: censorship of art produced by persecuted minorities, censorship of hipster art appropriating narratives of persecuted minorities, are completely different.

    So here we have the claim that people only deserve protection of basic civil liberties, such as free speech, insofar as they are a member of a historically marginalized group, and members of historically dominant groups should be perfectly liable to have their speech censored. Sorry, but that’s pretty damn fascistic in my book, even if it supposedly does serve the interests of the marginalized. (Not to mention, even if that idea had any merit in itself, who gets to claim to be the “oppressed” group getting the spoils of such entitlement is absolutely open to political jockeying between interest groups, as any observation of anti-trans/anti-sexworker “radical feminism” would show.)

    If that’s the kind of politics the “militant” mob at FTB supports, I’m quite proud to be in the opposition!

    Sally Strange: At this point, I don’t think you’re arguing in good faith, but just being an asshole, something I gather from your previous writing you excel at. You want to know what “authoritarian” means, grab a dictionary. I think the passage I quoted above well defines an approach to feminism or “social justice” that is clearly authoritarian.

  10. 63

    To back up Xanthe:

    At Justin’s blog, I learned that I am being trotted out in conversations, in which I am not involved, by strangers, as an example of the Horde’s hypocrisy. because nobody at Pharyngula has called me out over my enjoyment of rape jokes, even ones mocking Sandusky’s victims.

  11. 64

    Wrong. 65 wasn’t a request for you to hurry up about my request at 61, it was a request for something a little more substantive than what you gave at 15. Read for comprehension please.

    I don’t particularly support the idea that these people should be “censored” from making their horrid misogynist art that the commenter you pointed to has apparently advocated. I do, however, advocate that they shouldn’t be exempt from criticism for their shitty misogyny because it’s art.

    You have the right to speak. We’ll judge you for it though. Just like you have the right to stand on a street corner and scream obscenities at passers-by until someone arrests you for making a public disturbance, you have the right to make all the nasty evil art you want that perpetuates all the hatred you so choose, but people will see that art and will recognize that you are a hateful person because of it.

    All that notwithstanding, this commenter did not advocate that the government censor these things. It’s not censorship when someone shouts down an odious idea in the “marketplace of ideas”. If your idea doesn’t find purchase, it’s because the public is against it. And if FtB is against ideas like rampant misogyny, I’m very proud to be part of this community too.

    Now try again. Find something actually fascistic.

  12. 65

    That’s what you’ve got?! That’s the fascist feminism “we” support?

    Go ahead, people, and follow that link. See what kind of support that maybe-possibly-referring-to-government-censorship-but-probably-not comment got. It’s truly terrifying to see how people jumped on the bandwagon of…saying, “Yes, we can criticize art.” Fucking fascists, they are.

  13. 67

    Let’s count up all the things that are bullying and its “synonyms”.

    – Criticizing art (which = fascism)
    – Defending one’s self from attack (which = bullying)
    – Arguing forcefully (which = dogma)
    – Having more than one person agree that something is a poor argument (which = mob)

    Now let’s itemize that which isn’t.

    – Engaging in a years-long campaign to harass certain individuals
    – Defaming individuals by lying about them repeatedly in numerous places
    – Attacking the perceived “weak” targets, like rape victims

    Have I missed any?

  14. 69

    So, moving goalposts, are we? The term used in the post was “censorship” and I take it as such, and like anybody who happens to believe in little things like basic individual rights, find that pretty objectionable.

    I damn well know the difference between that and criticizing, objecting to, or even protesting art, media, or writing one disagrees with. Such as what I’m doing now. If you’re going to strawman the fuck out of what I’m saying, that says more about you than it does about me.

  15. 70

    So here we have the claim that people only deserve protection of basic civil liberties, such as free speech, insofar as they are a member of a historically marginalized group, and members of historically dominant groups should be perfectly liable to have their speech censored. Sorry, but that’s pretty damn fascistic in my book, even if it supposedly does serve the interests of the marginalized. (Not to mention, even if that idea had any merit in itself, who gets to claim to be the “oppressed” group getting the spoils of such entitlement is absolutely open to political jockeying between interest groups, as any observation of anti-trans/anti-sexworker “radical feminism” would show.)

    Ummm, perhaps I’m missing something here. But to be fascist don’t you have to also be racist? If so, then I’m not seeing how this comment is fascist. Nor do I see a call for a dictator to decide what is hipster misogyny or hipster racism. And I don’t see anyone calling for oppression through terror and censorship.

    Do you honestly believe that it’s okay for a white rapper to say the n-word ironically? If not, why is it no okay to ask that they not use it? And if so? Well I guess I have nothing more to say.

  16. 71

    “Defending one’s self from attack”

    *If* that’s in fact what you’re doing. A less partisan observer might see otherwise, namely FTB going on the offensive in a big way.

    And, in any event, I’m sure if you asked the ERV crowd, they’d just say they’re defending themselves too. But, oh, you’re “right” and I should take your version of things as gospel.

  17. 72

    No, telling you that you don’t understand the words you’re using is not moving the goalposts.

    Fascism includes censorship BY THE GOVERNMENT, not “censorship” by criticizing the thing that should never have been added to the public discourse but was anyway because it wasn’t censored. Just because the commenter used the word doesn’t free you from reading for comprehension.

  18. 73

    And now accusations that you have to take my word as dogma. Riiiiiight. This after saying “they did it first isn’t an excuse”.

    So ERVites attack, and we’re not allowed to defend. If we do, then we’re being bullies. Why are you stacking the deck in favor of the people who hate us so much, if you aren’t invested in tribalism and explicitly in the “tribe” that just wants us all to shut up so badly that they’re willing to bully “disagree using adult words” for YEARS?

  19. 74

    “But to be fascist don’t you have to also be racist?”

    Um, no, not by a long shot. Even if I’m talking about Fascism in the strict historical sense, a precondition of that would be *nationalism*, not racism. (And “nation” does not necessarily equal “race”.) And if you’re using “fascist” as shorthand for “authoritarian” (and you can object to the specifics of that – I’m just using the word Jason introduced to the conversation), I see no precondition for nationalism or racism at all.

  20. 75

    Look. I am growing very tired of these baseless repeated accusations, deck stacking, goalpost-shifting (since YOU’RE the one doing it, not us!), complete misapprehension of the language being used, et cetera.

    So I’m going to do something kind for you, IACB. I’m going to put you in moderation. That way people won’t pile onto your shitty argumentation overnight while I’m not looking, thus “bullying” you.

    How about you try to find something actually fascistic (e.g. authoritarian, yes, I’m using it as shorthand) and make an actual case that one of us is actually advocating something like that? Preferably, this time, a top level blogger. It should be easy to find something like that on my own blog, considering how every post is invective, right?

    So you go ahead and try to do that while I go get a good night’s sleep. I’ll check the moderation queue in the morning and release whatever’s closest to actually making a coherent case.

  21. 76

    Jason @73:

    For fuck sake, Jason, can you even begin to argue in good faith? I understand perfectly well what *censorship* means, even if you don’t. It means either censorship by a government (either a priori or by punishment after the fact) or a non-state entity that uses violence or other coercive force to similarly silence a point of view.

    I am not including under censorship banning someone from your blog (which might be cowardly, but not censorship) or a gallery not carrying a piece of art they find offensive or just shitty art.

    I’ll also count as borderline censorship things like Morality in Media using boycotts to get certain programing off the air, or, say, attempts by some to have a “geek feminist” policy against “sexualized” imagery adopted across the board in so many venues that it amounts to an across the board ban.

    I understand such distinctions even if you don’t quite seem to get them.

    The poster in question used the word “censorship” with no clarification that they did not mean state censorship, so I take them at their word.

  22. 79

    It’s not like there’s no overlap there.

    Like it or not this sort of thing is going to be almost an eternal conflict within the skeptic community. There’s simply no way around it, like it or not. Yes, you will be told when people think that your ideas and actions harm other people around you. Yes you will not like it. But that’s the way it works.

    Social pressure and influence are only wrong not because the pressure and influence are wrong (they’re unavoidable, for what it’s worth), but because they are regarding things that would be negative and harmful to change. It’s not hurting you to not have booth babes. Really.

    Now, IACB, I’ll give you a point somewhere, although you’re probably too filled with the blind RAAAAAGGGGEEE to realize it. I do think that on occasion that on our side people have been less than clear on what exactly is being pushed for. There really is an automatic mental link between strong moralistic (what people are calling being “dogmatic”) views and extremism. It’s probably a fallacy, of course, but I think it’s generally speaking something that we all fall for to some degree, but it’s nobodies fault..it’s the nature of these types of arguments, but maybe we should try to account for it? But we really can’t without undercutting the moral nature of the debate. Sure! It’s fine if some people keep on being misogynistic and all that, we’ll just agree to disagree!

    Errr…no. I don’t think that’s realistic.

  23. 80

    Wow. I go out to a nice dinner and what happens? Freethought Blogs goes from “bullying” and uncivil, tribalist “atmosphere” to totalitarian Maoist fascism.

    My feelings are hurt. As a semi-regular commenter, I demand in future to be kept in the loop. I don’t even have a pair of jackboots.

    …er, All hail PZed, our Coleoidean Leader.

  24. 81

    here we have the claim that people only deserve protection of basic civil liberties, such as free speech, insofar as they are a member of a historically marginalized group, and members of historically dominant groups should be perfectly liable to have their speech censored.

    That is a very uncharitable and hyperbolic reading. Looks to me like the author is urging a more receptive stance to critiques of art that are sociological, while expressing sympathy to the automatic anti-censorship stance most people take.

    I thought you were a fan of nuance.

    I’m adding “fascist” to my list of words you should define–IF you are wanting a good faith discussion.

  25. 82

    Jason, the bullies’ bahaviour doesn’t just remind me.pf Christians.

    It reminds me.of right-wingers. They get to have their own major networks twisting up conspiracy theories, strawmen and pure bullshit, and if we don’t give their craziness the time of day, or worse yet go on the attack and call out their pattern of disingenuity and dishonesty, we get them plus a fucktonne of “centrists” whining about how we’re biased closed-minded bullies.

    -sigh- it’s fucking disheartening.

  26. 85

    SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says:

    iacb, what is feminism?

    The reason he can’t get a girlfriend. If you poke most of these misogynistic little manchildren hard enough, that’s what it usually amounts to.

  27. 87

    or, say, attempts by some to have a “geek feminist” policy against “sexualized” imagery adopted across the board in so many venues that it amounts to an across the board ban.

    Amazingly enough, that policy asks that the venue itself not engage in “sexualized imagery” which sets a tone of “objectification of women is hereby officially part of this venue” and helps to create a chilly climate for them. This is the difference between hosting a wet t-shirt contest, and having someone come in out of the rain with a soaked white t-shirt.

    If you want sexualized imagery, e.g. people in bikinis or doing sexually suggestive (or explicit) things, there are plenty of venues that’ll oblige. Why does the freethought movement absolutely have to include officially-sanctioned sexual objectification lest people like you cry “censorship”? And when has it been a problem committing to that? Do you think Dawkins should hawk The God Delusion at a booth at TAM wearing nothing but a speedo? Do you think Penn and Teller should be allowed to add strippers to their live show for everyone to ogle?

    Methinks you protest too much.

  28. 88

    Fascist. Hmm. I don’t wish to Godwin up the thread, but I’m pretty sure fascism is what killed a good chunk of my family, and about eleven million others in camps, plus about forty million others who died in occupied territories.

    Apparently not though. As IACB has pointed out (so kindly and patiently too) fascism is actually arguing against the defence of oppressive language.

    Wow, thanks IACB! I consider myself schooled. I know English is a rapidly morphing language, but that was quite a shift.

  29. 89

    In fairness, I used “fascism” as a shorthand for “authoritarianism” but IACB rolled with it. But yes, it does say exactly where xe was going with it, and it does inform why xe’s wrong.

  30. 92

    #87 Um, yes, as a matter of fact, I do prefer sleeping to beating at your cyber door all night. (#78 summed up anything immediate I had wanted to respond to.) It also might come as news to you that not everybody on the internet is in the same time zone.

    Now on to more substantial matters, #89 and #90, um, yes, as a matter of fact, Jason, you *did* introduce the term “fascism” to mean “authoritarianism”, and I quite clearly pointed out in #75 that I was just going with that usage. But, hey, invoke Godwin on me over that for cheap debate points. It’s a good substitute for debating in good faith.

    #88: First, I’ve never said that individual venues can’t regulate what imagery can be displayed. It’s the all “geek” venues everywhere push that I have a problem with. As I discussed elsewhere, I gave some examples of vendors like Seduction Cinema and Justine Joli that would be banned from DragonCon if such a policy were implemented and a number of people defending the policy conceded it would do just that. Also, Ask an Atheist in their recent critique has discussed how such a policy would likely prohibit a forum they want to have on sexuality as part of a conference they’re taking part in.

    And considering the push to have such an overreaching policy implemented across the board in what might be broadly defined as “geek” spaces (never mind that DragonCon and a professional engineering conference are places where one can and should expect a very different atmosphere), yes, I do think the push for such a policy to be adopted widely is pretty fucking problematic from a free speech point of view. Now I’ll probably hear that the policy can be “modified”, which *really* doesn’t exactly square with the kneejerk defense of the policy as written. I get some *very* mixed messages from the defenders of the “geek feminist” model policy in that regard.

    (Too many to number.) As for the pithy two sentence responses by several of you – you really do think you’re clever, don’t you? Have fun with that, kiddies.

  31. 93

    As I discussed elsewhere, I gave some examples of vendors like Seduction Cinema and Justine Joli that would be banned from DragonCon if such a policy were implemented and a number of people defending the policy conceded it would do just that.

    I don’t think it would, in fact. Even with the “no sexualizing language” clause. You can professionally talk sex, and you could probably sell sex toys and accurately describe exactly what they’re used for, without telling (say) audience members or debate opponents to suck their cocks. (Just the first example that comes to mind of sexualizing language.)

  32. 94

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. Now Iamcuriousblue is back to claiming people are objecting to changes to the sample policy? First s/he fails to point out where that had happened here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/05/sexual-harassment-not-naming-names/#comment-75107 Then refuses to answer here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/14/sexual-harassment-and-the-opensf-conference-code-of-conduct/#comment-77420

    But, hey, it’s been a few days since those posts, so maybe everyone forgot, right?

  33. 95

    The poster in question used the word “censorship” with no clarification that they did not mean state censorship, so I take them at their word

    lol. Here we have iacb’s intellectual honesty and acumen laid out for all to see.

    Yes, in casual communication, jumping to the most extreme possible interpretation of a word demonstrates both good faith and sensible interpretation skills.

    (And I point out that that single comment, which was not posted by an FtB blogger or afaik even regular commenter, was the best, and only, example iacb could offer to prove xir claim of authoritarianism on the part of FtB.)

    Have fun with that, kiddies.

    It is fun, thanks for making it easy! 🙂

  34. 96

    If I now call iacb a hypocrite, am I bullying them

    I called him one way back in comment #13. He didn’t even contest it, probably because the evidence is overwhelming.

  35. 97

    iamcuriousblue is so opposed to internet bullying and personal attacks that they go around leaving comments like this on a commenter’s personal blog:

    Or maybe, Setar, because you’re a cowardly little shit who’s only good at oh so bravely badgering people you disagree with in 10 on 1 pile-ons in comments sections of blogs where you know most people support you. Bet you aren’t much one on one, intellectually or as a person.


    If I now call iacb a hypocrite, am I bullying them?

  36. 98

    “Every post” is rhetorical excess on my part.

    You can’t fucking use rhetorical excess when crusading for people to tone it down and be more polite. If you want people to be more fair and more accurate and show more intellectual depth, then rein it in yourself. Resist the dark pull of parody and exaggeration and cheap shots.

  37. 99

    @95 Sally Strange:bf,w-sp
    You are, in fact bullying them. You see, iacb called Setar a bully first, thus nullifying their own culpability as a bully.
    See how that works?

    You called iacb a bully, so does that mean you aren’t a bully either?
    You can’t be a bully if you bully a bully but if a bully bullies you for bullying a bully then they….Oh for fuck sakes…

    I give up….

  38. 100

    It is possible to summarize iacb’s posts very succinctly.

    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

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