Friday, December 28, 2012

A note about hate

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post, Becoming what you hate. I think it is important to distinguish between two types of hatred.

It's good, and important, to hate things like injustice, ignorance and superstition. Slavery would still be going strong in the US if there wasn't a critical mass of people who hated it and wanted to put an end to it. Hatred against evil and harmful ideas puts fire in our bellies and gives us the energy to make the world a better place.

Hatred of people is different, however. Are you in a position to hurt the person you hate? No good can come of that, for either you or them. And if not - if you are sitting at home and stewing because Someone Is Wrong On The Internet - you are only going to hurt yourself.

Your hatred has no effect on its intended object - it only harms you, and drains your emotional energy. You should forgive the other person, if only for your own sake. Forgiving them doesn't have to mean feeling warm and cuddly towards them - it means denying them any power over you.

I don't want to hate the people I disagree with. Ideally I should see them as fellow humans, perhaps misinformed and deluded, but subject to the same cognitive biases I am vulnerable to, and perhaps trapped and self-victimized by their hatred of me.

And if someone is truly unpleasant and dishonest, I don't have to respect them, over and above the minimum level of respect that any human being is due. But neither should I give them power over me. If things get to be too much, I can always switch off the computer and walk away for a while. Hopefully I will have more perspective when I return. At the end of the day, it's only pixels on a screen after all.

So that's my resolution for the coming year. Happy 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Becoming what you hate

Have you heard the Cherokee legend of the wolves? Inside each of us there is a battle going on between two wolves. One wolf represents kindness, compassion and empathy. The other represents hatred, resentment, and anger. Which of your two wolves wins? The one you feed.

I've been thinking a lot lately about why the Great Atheist Schism is such a fascinating topic for so many of us. On the one hand, it's sad that at a time when women's rights are being rolled back wholesale in state legislatures across the US and the Republican party is ever more blatant in pushing its Christian Dominionist theocratic agenda, so much of our precious time and energy are being used up by internal divisions. On the other hand, there's something morbidly engrossing about the spectacle, like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

I'd like to say that my motives are pure - that I stay in the fight because I deeply care about skepticism, rationalism and free thought. I care about opposing dogma and authoritarianism, whether of the traditional religious or radfem kind. I care about equal rights, respect and responsibilities for all humans. I care about free speech, fairness and due process, and despise censorship, moral panic and witch-hunting.

However, I also have a little more self-awareness than any of the plussers (or indeed all of them put together) have shown so far. I'm a human being, and if you attack me or those dear to me, I will be hurt and angry. I will be strongly attempted to reply in kind. I have to keep reminding myself not to become what I hate, not to sink to their level.

I know some people on both sides have played hardball and done things that were not their finest moments. Personal attacks, cyberstalking and doc-dropping are never acceptable, whether aimed at men or women, radfems or anyone else.

A wise friend of mine once said, there are some arguments you lose just by taking part in. When you see Pope Peezus of Plus declaring infallibly that all opponents of his berserk man-hating clique are stupid assholes at best and mass murderers at worst, you realize that there is simply no point in trying to engage in any kind of reason- or fact-based debate with him and his flying monkeys. This asshole is just not interested in defending any kind of defensible or even coherent position. It's all about the hatred.

Myers is consumed with hatred for anyone who isn't 100% in lockstep with his rigid radfem ideology. He basks in it, soaks it up, and projects it onto anyone who has the temerity to dissent from his dogma. And the more people who disagree with him, the more sure he is of his absolute infallability. "See! Michael Shermer said something off the cuff that can be twisted by the most uncharitable possible interpretation into an insult to women! It just proves what I've always said, everyone in the world is a mass-murdering rapist except me and my merry little band!"

Which led me to a sudden realization:

(Caption: P.Z. Myers is the Fred Phelps of atheism)

So how do we fight Fred Phelps and his brood of inbred haters? Not by sinking to their level. Not by feeding the same wolf they're feeding. Not even by opposing them by legitimate means, such as lawsuits and counter-protests. Not only do they have a big advantage in being able to claim religious freedom (a great example of unchecked privilege), but the opposition just reinforces their self-image as a persecuted righteous minority, the victims of a sinful world.

Experience has shown that the best way to deal with the Phelpsoids is to refuse to play their game. Call in some mean-looking biker gangs or tough-ass veterans to keep them out of your face. Then get on with your life. Pay no attention to the trolls, except to mock themDO NOT TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY - they don't deserve it.

If christians use A-plus as a stick to beat all atheists over the head with, as they have already started to do, we should give an embarrassed grin and say, "Well, you've got your Fred Phelps and we've got PZ Myers and his Goddess-hates-men clique - but they don't represent us." But we should not try to engage directly with the plussers, except to have a good laugh at them.

Now, there are some people who have been attacked by A+ who nevertheless want to keep the lines of communication open, who want to empathize with their enemies and understand what's going on in their heads. The amazing Maria Maltseva is a prime example of this. But much as I admire and respect Maria, I fear I don't have her reserves of compassion, and her path may not work for me.

So that is my resolution for 2013 - treat Atheism÷ the same way as the WBC. Imagine the endless drama is something you're watching on TV, and enjoy it in a hip, cool, ironic way. Of course if they're doing serious harm to someone, that's something to take seriously, but so far they've proven incompetent at that.

But - I want to change my perspective and put as much emotional distance between myself and Atheism♀ as possible. I don't want them draining my emotional energy. Above all, I don't want to run the risk of becoming what I hate.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A couple of observations...

I know I've been remiss in maintaining this blog in the last couple of months, so let me close out the year with a couple of observations.

First of all, it seems to me that feminism (of the more radical, academic kind) is very much a first world problem. You don't hear much squawking about rape culture, male privilege and "Teh Patriarchy" in poverty-stricken third world countries, or for that matter in the hood or the barrio. That's because everyone has it tough there, and women don't have the luxury of sitting around moaning that they have it much worse than men. There's a sort of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs going on:
This is not to say that all women's grievances are invalid. But the gap between men and women was never as wide as, say, the gap between black and white people in the days of slavery. Did black men and white men sip mint juleps together on the veranda while black women and white women toiled in the fields? No, of course not! Which makes the core dogma of radical feminism - the claim that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others" - look staggeringly self-obsessed and narcissistic.

And while economic inequality persists today, women typically have the same socioeconomic status as their husbands, partners, fathers, and other male cohorts. A cursory glance at the ubiquitous lists of alleged "male privilege" that you see everywhere on the internet shows that what is called male privilege is often actually wealth privilege which hurts men as often as women.

Whoever compiles these lists must have zero grasp of economic or legal realities. There is always much moaning and gnashing of teeth along the lines that every workplace is dominated by overpaid guys who were hired just because they possess a penis. And of course every boss is not only male but a lecher who molests female employees at will, with no consequences. Not to mention the absolute, unbearable horror that your coworkers will think that you, a mere female, got hired only because of your vagina! Dear FSM, what planet do those people live on?

Which brings me to my second point. Even as things get relatively cushier for women in the workplace, as it gets harder to fire them and the legal system gets increasingly skewed in their favor, far from admitting the gains they have made, radical feminists keep increasing their demands and ramping up the rhetoric about male domination and oppression. It's the shit test on a massive scale!

Why the disconnect? Why are some feminists so obsessed with their own grievances and so clueless about, and apathetic towards, the often more serious social injustices that are staring them in the face?

I believe the problem is that we have (at least) a whole generation of feminists whose views are informed, not by any real life experience, but by the hatred indoctrination they received at "womyn's studies" courses in college. The radical, extreme ideology that feminism has mutated into in recent years is too out of touch with reality to survive in the real world, but in the sheltered cocoon of academia, it grows ever more virulent in its misandry - and unfortunately exerts a disproportionate influence on government policy, ensuring its own survival, and creating a growing cadre of dogma-spouting ball-busters.

How can we break the vicious circle? How can we repair the damage to male-female relations that decades of academic feminism has wrought? I wish I knew!

I think our only hope is a broad and genuine equal-rights movement that acknowledges both the injustices towards women in the past and their continuing effects today, and the serious problems many men face in modern society in cases where the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. I'm a bit put off by the "other side of the coin" misogyny shown by some big names in the current MRM, but at the same time I see signs that the femocracy is starting to run scared.

Witness the constant harping by radical feminists that men's rights supporters are a hate group. For proof, they point to the SPLC officially declaring MRM a hate group along with the KKK and the John Birch Society. And why did the SPLC make this determination? Because radical feminists pressured them into it! The same people who now turn around and screech that men's right supporters are officially-designated terrorists and should be denied their right to free speech.

It reminds me of the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." I think right now we are in the transition between laughing and fighting. There is a long slog ahead, but I try to remain upbeat, knowing that there are still plenty of women with a sense of goodwill and fairness, and more women are waking up every day, smelling the coffee (so to speak), and realizing that radfem is insulting and infantilizing to women, consigning them to a state of permanent helpless victimhood.

And on that note I leave you for now. Have a great holiday and an equally great New Year!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Has the Schrödinger's Rapist meme backfired?

As promised recently, I have plunged back into the fray on r/DebateAtheismPlus. So here's the question I posed:
Let me say first of all that I understand what the author of Schrödinger's Rapist is getting at - when a woman encounters a strange man, she has no idea a priori whether he is a rapist or not. And to be on the safe side, she should assume he is a rapist until proven otherwise. Let me add that I think rape is a horrible crime, and should be punished severely. (And false rape accusations, if and when they occur, should be treated proportionately seriously.)
However, a great many men (and more than a few women) have been offended by this analogy and have reacted very negatively to it - they can't help seeing it as an insinuation that all men are rapists. Or perhaps Phaedra Starling is merely saying that there is no such thing as a man who is purely and simply a non-rapist - he is at best a quantum superposition of rapist and non-rapist, until - being male - he inevitably commits rape, at which point the quantum wavefunction collapses and he becomes a fully-fledged rapist.
The situation isn't helped by Starling's smug, condescending tone. Most puzzling of all is that she starts out by addressing herself to "good guys" and non-rapists - but near the end, she writes: "Don't rape." Whatever her protestations of good will at the beginning, she seems to have the fixed idea that all men, at best, need to be reminded not to rape.
Also, given that the majority of rapes are by an acquaintance of the victim, is it really helpful to focus on rape by strangers? Or to imply that only men rape, and only women are raped?
Many feminists, seeing the resistance to SR, have responded (like PZ Myers' mini-me, Chris Clarke): "Well, this just proves that they are walnut-size-brained MRA's who are prone to rape." But remember that the ostensible purpose of SR was to reach out to potential allies among men, and try to help them see the rape situation through a woman's eyes. If you don't succeed in making the sale, do you take your ball and go home, muttering: "I knew they were all rapists anyway"? Or do you try to figure out what went wrong, and tweak the message to make it less gratuitously alienating to the people you are trying to win over?
Apparently no hard-core plussers saw it, or if they did, they didn't feel it was worthy of their time to respond. I did get this comment:
I'm not sure you do. SR is supposed to be an awareness raising idea for men. It's not that the woman walking in front of you should or will be scared of you. It's that she might. So be aware of yourself and that other people can see you as a threat.
To which I replied:
In that case, instead of telling every man, "Hey dude, you're Schrödinger's Rapist", we should just tell men that every woman is "Schrödinger's rape-phobic".
This may sound flippant, but I am trying to get at a serious weakness of the analogy - its muddled point of view. ("You can't be sure that the woman can't be sure that...") Even Phaedra Starling (who originated the meme), while lecturing men that they should adopt the woman's viewpoint, seems incapable of seeing anything through anyone else's eyes. Apart from the bizarre "BTW, don't rape" admonition, there is her insistence that she alone sets her level of risk tolerance, which then becomes unilaterally binding on everyone else. This means that if Starling has a racist fear of being mugged every time she sees a black person, too bad for black people - each and every one of them is "Schrödinger's mugger", regardless of how unreasonable her fear is.

Look, it's one thing to ask you, if you're a guy, to be sensitive to the possibility that a woman may be nervous in your presence when you are a stranger to her. I have absolutely no problem with that. Even before Elevatorgate, although I often struck up conversations with women in elevators, I never pushed if they seemed unwilling to converse, and I never tried to pick them up right there.

However, SR is about asking me as a man to debase myself solely on the basis of my gender, and accept that I am a criminal until proven otherwise, in a game that has been rigged so that such proof is impossible. This was too much for even the notorious Rhys Morgan to swallow. I am certainly not going to play that game - I have way too much self-respect.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oppression: a Helpful Guide for Victim Feminists

  • Genocide?
  • Slavery?
  • Concentration camps?
  • Famine as government policy?
  • Seeing a T-shirt you don't agree with?
  • Spotting a homeless man masturbating in the street?
  • Being politely invited for coffee, even if you consider the guy "creepy" (i.e. he's not Brad Pitt or Warren Buffett)?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Misogyny! Misogyny everywhere!

(Full cartoon here. This excerpt is used in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of the DMCA.)

Reviewing my ill-fated attempt to debate an Atheism-plusser, I saw a comment from a third commenter which I hadn't really paid attention to before. He points out the possibility that I and Pwrong (my anatagonist) were using different definitions of sexism, and thus talking past each other. I was using "sexism" in the everyday sense of "animus against women", while Pwrong was using it to denote men and women being treated, on average, differently by society.

This is a perceptive point. I've seen racism similarly redefined when racism in the everyday sense of animus against (e.g.) African-Americans can't be proven - just point to different outcomes, label it "institutional racism", and carry on as before. Similarly, if you can't prove that the dreaded wage gap is caused by hatred of women, just redefine sexism as "when bad things happen to female people" (while ignoring the possibility that many women would freely choose the trade-off of more time with their children in return for less status and seniority at work - they're just gender traitors anyway).

But the problem is, vicfems (victim feminists) want to have it both ways - they want to have their victim cake and eat it too. Having defined sexism as the effect, you can't also define it as the cause! Otherwise you whole world view obviously becomes circular, an impenetrable cocoon of dogma.

But that's precisely what vicfems do, and when you consider how often they throw words like "misogyny" and "oppression" around, it's very clear that they have the everyday definition of sexism - hatred of women - in their minds even as they redefine sexism as any inequality in outcomes.

Let me state very clearly that I strongly believe in equal rights, respect and responsibilities for all people, regardless of gender or skin color. Compared to other species, there is so little genetic diversity in humans that racism makes no sense whatsoever - it only reveals its exponent as ignorant. The issue is not as clear cut with gender - there is growing evidence of differences between male and female brains, and it's uncontroversial to all but the most rigid dogmatist that women, on average, are more likely to find greater fulfillment in raising a family while men are more likely (and under more pressure) to be the hunter who brings home the bacon at all costs. But no individual should ever be denied opportunities on the basis of these averages.

Try telling this to a plusser, though. It's a sacred, unquestionable core dogma of extreme feminism that men and women are identical, and gender is nothing but an arbitrary social construct invented by the dreaded Patriarchy to oppress women and steal 23% of every woman's paycheck (and at the same time throw money away by forcing women out of the workplace so that they can hire more men for more pay).

There really is no point trying to have a rational argument with anyone who is so deeply stuck in a blinkered dogma that ignores reality, evidence, logic and the most rudimentary knowledge of economics.

"Atheism plus we use critical thinking and skepticism" - MY ASS!

Friday, November 23, 2012

There oughta be a name for it...

...And if there isn't, I hereby name it Tea Party Syndrome.

What am I talking about? Well, if you're at all familiar with US politics over the last few years, you've seen the Republican Party zoom off into the furthest extremities of right-wing lunacy - and at the same time insist all the more strongly that they stand for wholesome all-American values, and the "loonie left" Democrats are the ones who are "out of touch with American traditions". It's not enough to say that you disagree with the Dems and you think they're wrong - they have to smeared as communists, socialists, fascists, godless atheists, death-panelists, Kenyans, secret Muslims, Jeremiah Wright followers, all of the above at the same time.

Your politics may be different from mine, and that's okay - but you have to admit that precisely the same process is going on with Atheism♀. You don't march in 100% ideological lockstep with all the dogma about patriarchy theory, male privilege theory and rape culture theory? Shove a decaying porcupine carcass up your ass, you misogynistic rapist!

Much to my sorrow, this mind-rotting virus has contaminated the Atheist Experience, something I used to have a lot of respect for.

"Oh, it's dogma to think women should be treated equally to men, huh?" Good grief - I expect this kind of dishonesty from the christbots!

I can't wait for the day when Atheism♀ finally implodes under the weight of its own sophistry, mindless dogma and screaming rage and hatred.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why we fight

Instead of the usual A+ bashing, I want to talk about a story which has exploded in the last few days - a story which perfectly illustrates how toxic, cruel and heartless religion can be, and why it is so important to oppose it and fight for church-state separation.

By now you've probably heard of the death of Dr. Savita Halappanavar, a dentist who died in agony in an Irish hospital after being denied a life-saving abortion following a miscarriage. And if you've missed this story because you've been living on the far side of the moon, read Michael Nugent's article which fills you in on the context and the legal vacuum and political cowardice which allowed this tragedy to happen.

The tl;dr version is that this is a complicated story, decades in the making, which reflects badly on Ireland but is not simply a case of a backward, barbaric country practicing racism against a brown-skinned woman, as some uninformed armchair analysts in other countries are superficially describing it. And if you still think it's all about racism, check out these photos from the massive protests in Dublin and other cities across Ireland in response to this needless death.

The fact is that religion is dying in Ireland faster than just about anywhere else, but for historical reasons the Vatican still has a stranglehold on politics and successive Irish governments have been scared shitless of pissing it off, even after the endless priest child-rape scandals of recent decades. Now the Irish people are erupting in anger, and hopefully the government will finally listen to them.

Some commentators have focused on the phrase "this is a Catholic country" which was apparently said to Dr. Halappanavar's husband as an excuse for not terminating the pregnancy. I don't know the context in which this was said, but I used to have a friend who was a pain nurse in a Catholic hospital in the US. Sometimes she had to deal with terminal patients who were in excruciating pain, but she couldn't treat the pain as aggressively as it needed to be treated, because that would shorten the life of the patient. She was a Catholic herself, but didn't agree with the church's rigid stance on euthanasia. She had to explain to the family why their loved one was in so much pain, and all she could do was tell them: "This is a Catholic hospital." So the remark made to Mr. Halappanavar may have been callous, or it may have been an admission of helplessness.

On the other hand, it may be that the hospital was overly cautious and they could in fact have acted to end the pregnancy without running afoul of the law. Hopefully the investigations which will take place will bring some closure to the case, though that does not relieve the Irish government of its duty to clarify the legal situation. There's an interesting variety of opinions on this Irish Times Letters to the Editor page - from theological sophistry about "ensoulment" and "desoulment" (AKA death) to informed discussions of medical ethics.

This kind of tragedy reminds us that Atheism-plus and its opponents are equally irrelevant - we're all just a bunch of people who spend too much time on the internet, yelling at each other. Meanwhile, thousands of people are taking to the streets of Irish cities on cold winter nights to demand change. Atheists and believers are working together, building coalitions, making their voices heard. People aren't demanding ideological purity and lockstep conformity from each other - they are focusing on the common goal of working for women's rights and health. (Okay, so I had to get a dig against A+ in there. Sue me.)

If the dead, withered claw of Vatican control can finally be pulled from the throat of what was formerly one of the most religious countries in Europe, and a more humane and enlightened law can be put in place, some good will come of this senseless death.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Would you like some microcheese with that microwhine?

Spotted in the comments section at Al Stefanelli's blog: (don't forget to read Al's article too, it rocks)
I don’t know a whole lot about al’s problems with FTB, but I have noticed that some of the folks there go a little far with the nuttery. One commenter on a thread went so far as to suggest that by referring to Savita Halappanavar by her first name was an example of 'microaggression'.
(If you're not familiar with the Savita case, here's a link)

I also had a WTF moment, so I made the mistake of googling "microaggression". According to Wikipedia, it's "the idea that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, or genders can be interpreted as mostly non-physical aggression." There's also microassault, microinsult, microinvalidation and - get ready for this - microrape. (I guess victim-politics scholars haven't yet gotten around to investigating micro-inviting-someone-for-coffee-in-the-elevator.)

I swear, you can't make this shit up...

Interview with the Plusser

[EDIT: Rats! I didn't think of the right title for this post until now: "Interview with the Fempire"]

Recently I attempted to debate a point about male/female privilege with an atheism-plusser on r/DebateAtheismPlus. You can view the thread here, but to summarize, it was a gigantic exercise in frustration for me.

The points I was trying to make were:

  • There is no such thing as blanket "male privilege" that all men have, and no women have.
  • Most alleged examples of male privilege are really just wealth privilege. If Richard Branson is a billionaire, and he has a penis, and I have a penis, does that make me a billionaire? Of course not!
  • The much-ballyhooed gender wage gap is based on faulty and simplistic interpretation of the statistics. When you compare apples with apples, instead of e.g. comparing the salary of a part-time community college teacher with an Ivy League tenured professor, the loudly-trumpted N-cent gap (where N increases with every telling of the story) actually shrinks to within the margin of error.
  • While sexism undeniably exists, to scream "the whole of society is sexist" and make knee-jerk assumptions of all-pervasive sexism as both the description and explanation of everything that happens in both the workplace and the broader society, is mindless and unhelpful.

Unfortunately, no matter how clearly I tried to express myself, I might as well have been banging my head against a wall. Pwrong, my antagonist, has cocooned himself in fem-plus dogma and simply will not entertain any thought that contradicts that dogma. Nor can he recognize how internally inconsistent this dogma is, or how it is ultimately insulting and infantilizing for women.

A perfect example was when I challenged the implicit assumption that there is some vast male conspiracy by employers to steal 23% of every woman's paycheck. If it is so easy for employers to pay men more than women for the same quality work, I asked, why would anyone ever hire men? His response: because they assume that men will do better quality work. Even when I pointed out the blatant contradiction in assuming "the same quality" and "better quality" at the same time, he just couldn't - or wouldn't - see it.

Another point of frustration for me was his refusal to understand the well documented fact that women, in aggregate, make less money than men in large part because they freely make different choices and trade-offs between career and family - and very often have more flexibility than men, and more freedom to make such choices. Doesn't sound like sexism to me, unless it's a case of anti-male sexism - but I very much doubt that Pwrong would ever concede that there is such a thing! For him, "sexism" is the knee-jerk answer to every question, just like "goddidit" is for religionists. When confronted with a counterexample, just label it "benevolent sexism", include it under the all-encompassing rubric of "sexism by men against women", and carry on regardless!

When I pointed out that women often have more freedom than men to tip the work-life balance in the direction of family rather than career, his reply was essentially: "Why does society force women to choose this way?" Obviously the answer he was fishing for was that women are pathetic, helpless, agency-less victims who are brainwashed by Teh Patriarchy, and forced out of the workplace so that employers can continue throwing money away by paying men more for the same work. He can't seem to imagine that women can freely make their own choices based on their own values, nor can he see how insulting and patronizing to women his blinkered assumption is. (And his willful ignorance of Economics 101 reminds me of a point made by Thomas Frank in What's the Matter with Kansas - the right-wing defenders of capitalism, ironically, try to take economic realities out of the equation and recast the conflict between the 1% and the 99% as a "culture war" and a "war on religion".)

Perhaps most frustrating of all was his tactic of dishonestly misrepresenting my position. "I'm saying that the wage gap is due to sexism by society and sexism by employers. Schrödinger's Therapist is claiming it's 100% due to sexism by society." God damn it! I've been saying all along, very clearly, that it's NOT SEXISM!!!

This whole exchange strengthened my suspicion that Atheism♀ is basically another religion, with Rebecca Watson as its Jesus Christ figure, PZ Myers as its pope, and radfem as its gospel. Skepticism, rationalism and critical thinking fly out the window, and "misogyny" is the battle cry for every situation.

As an atheist, I've often noticed that religionists believe in their religion for emotional rather than logical reasons, and are heavily emotionally invested in their beliefs. It's not necessarily that they're stupid, but people have an amazing ability to compartmentalize their brains. They can be paragons of rationality in general, but as soon as you touch on the area they are emotionally invested in, they respond viscerally as if their identity, even their very existence is threatened. The syndrome is as evident in fem-plus as in any fundamentalist cult. For whatever reason, they have a deep emotional need to play the victim card - a need that trumps reason and evidence at every turn.

One interesting thing I learned is that at least some plussers dislike the radical feminist label, even though it seems to me that the definition of this movement - the ideology that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others" - is perfectly aligned with the constant complaints of misogyny, oppression and victimhood emanating from the fem-plus forums.

However, plussers apparently redefine radical feminism so that transphobia is its core, defining characteristic. This strikes me as a little disingenuous, but whatever. I have to wonder if transphobia would be an issue at all, if Natalie Reed and Zinnia Jones weren't top-tier "Freethought" Bloggers. Clearly, this whole never-ending shitstorm is much more about tribalism and "us versus them" than about any principled or even coherent position. In any case, I will try to avoid equating Atheism♀ with radical feminism in cases where it could cause confusion - my preferred term, anyway, is victim feminism.

Another thing I learned is that there is apparently some huge, earth-shattering difference between "having privilege" and "being privileged". Good luck figuring that one out!

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I've just kicked off another debate in r/DebateAtheismPlus - Has the Schrödinger's Rapist meme backfired? We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Deconstructing the A+theism manifesto

It has come to my attention that there are actually other people who read this blog. In the light of this surprising revelation, I must apologize to you (all one or two of you) for being so inactive lately. Let me fob you off for now with a link to Politically Incorrect Skeptic:
They only want people who think like them to have a voice, but they want them in different colors. If their idea of diversity was applied to cars the world would all be driving different colored Priuses. If it were applied to music, we'd all be listening to a racially/(pan/tran)sexually/abley diverse singer song writers on acoustic guitars earnestly singing about how the corporations are evil, man,...I mean woman, er person of non-specific sex or sexuality.
Here's the link. See you later!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Can the circle be unbroken...

AgentOfDoubt nails it - A+theism is the Tea Party of the freethought/skeptic movement.

Now, I'm pretty liberal in my social and political views, certainly by the standards of the part of the US where I live. But when you look at the manifesto of A+, and their jeremiads against misogyny, racism, ablism, speciesism, homophobia, heteronormativism, cis-gender-normativism, cis-vestite-normativism, neurotypicalism, etc, etc... it really looks like a self-parody of bleeding-heart political correctness gone berserk.

It really shows how immature the plussers are that they insist on mindless lockstep conformity with their rigid ideological agenda on an ever-growing laundry list of victimhood grievance issues. Out in the real world, people are building coalitions, learning to work with other people who aren't clones of them, and GSD (Getting Shit Done).

Hopefully A+ will self-destruct (as I predict it will) before it does permanent damage to the cause of secularism.

Expelled: No Freethought Allowed

The plussers have tasted blood - Justin Vacula was forced out of his position at the SCA, mere days after he was appointed. The slavethought bullies who forced his departure with their mouth-foaming witch hunt are crowing insufferably.

I don't know Justin personally, but from everything I've heard, he done a great job promoting freethought and rationalism in his neck of the woods (Pennsylvania), despite harassment and threats - while Weepy Amy was selling her stupid trinkets. Unfortunately the two of them got into a pissing match, both sides played hardball, and both did things that were not their finest moments.

The difference is that Justin was big enough to admit it and apologize, as he does in a very classy way at the above link. He was also mature enough to see that the whole shitstorm was hurting the SCA, and took a bullet instead of letting his ego get in the way - something I can't imagine the immature and narcissistic Amy ever doing.

It was probably the correct decision for Justin to step aside, but it sets a horrible precedent. Do you think the A+theism witch-hunters will stop there, satisfied with their work? Of course not! In their cult's short existence they have already notched up an impressive record of doc-dropping, IRL harassment, contacting people's employers and professors etc. to destroy anyone perceived as an enemy of their mindless extremist fanaticism. The loathsome slimeball Greg bin Laden has been trying to get DJ Groethe fired and replaced by Rebecca Watson, Watson herself has launched a boycott campaign against Richard Dawkins and attempted to smear Laurence Krauss as a child sex trafficker, the list goes on. [Clarification: I struck out the stuff about Watson only because she did it before A+theism was formed.]

From now on, every position of any visibility in any national or regional freethought/skeptic organization is subject to a veto by the professional screamers and bedwetters of the FtB/Skepchick Axis of Misandry. Anyone who departs from rigid ideological lockstep with their radfem agenda will be hounded out of office unless we nip this shit in the bud right now. We need to grow a backbone and stand up to these screeching harpies!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The hits just keep on coming!

What I predicted is coming to pass even sooner than I expected. A+theism is turning on itself and collapsing in a cloud of bile and butt-hurt.

Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience, who was initially supportive of A+theism, found out what kind of people he was dealing with. He posted something on the official A+ forum, some tinpot dictator of a "moderator" arbitrarily deleted it, he posted again to ask why - and for this unpardonable crime, he got banned.

Perhaps Matt will rethink his support for a group that is so antithetical to free speech and free thought.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Radfem as a religion: more thoughts

I've touched on some of the following points in various posts, let's wrap them up neatly and list in one place all the reasons why radical feminism is a cult:

  • It believes dogmatically in all-powerful but invisible and unverifiable entities like "patriarchy", "male privilege", "rape culture" etc. etc.
  • It has its own version of the Courtier's Reply: "Fuck off, this is not a 101 space". If you disagree with or even question radfem theology, the radfems will very magnanimously grant you the benefit of the doubt the first time, and assume that your disagreement is due to ignorance and your deplorable lack of a degree in Womyn's Studies - it couldn't possibly be that you have legitimate points to make. If you persist in your disagreement or questioning, then you're an MRA - i.e. an evil rapist scum.
  • It arbitrarily redefines commonly understood words like "rape" or "privilege" so that the radfems are always right and men are always rapists. It's just like Christian theologians constantly redefining "god" so that a god can be argued to exist, albeit as an increasingly abstract and vacuous concept.
  • It has an all-purpose answer to every question: "male privilege". A man gets custody of the children in a divorce - male privilege. The woman gets custody - male privilege, because now she is responsible for raising them (with the unacknowledged help of the man, who is now nothing more than an ATM for the next 18 years). It's exactly analogous to the Christian's all-purpose answer - "goddidit". I shouldn't have to point out that some pat answer that explains everything actually explains nothing.
  • Like religion, radfem (and especially A+theism) claims to have a monopoly on morality and caring (we care about X, Y, and Z, and those asshole MRA atheists don't) but in reality it is all about tribalism. It's become a high-school clique based on a cult of personality around Myers, Twatson, McCreight etc.
  • It demands groupthink and lockstep adherence to the group ideology above all. Independent thought of any kind is taboo.
  • I've always noticed that Christian blogs, forums and YouTube channels were the most tightly controlled, and either prohibited comments altogether or were constantly on hair-trigger alert to ban any comment (and any commenter) who departed a hair's breadth from the reigning orthodoxy. But the A+theism forums put them all to shame. I've never seen a banhammer go berserk to such an extent.
  • Continuing on from the previous point, remember when Justin Vacula tried to come up with the most inoffensive possible atheist billboard, to see if it would still be banned (it was)? Now there is a contest on to see who can get banned from most quickly and for the most innocuous and harmless comment. There are some real doozies, but the bottom line is that r/atheismplus is a joke.

Do you have anything to add to this list?

The Naked Empress

Whenever someone posts a comment on any radfem-dominated forum on the internet that is critical or even merely questioning of radical feminism and gets the inevitable response, "Fuck off, this is not a 101 space, don't come back here until you have cured yourself of your ignorance of feminism", I think of PZ Myer's famous "Courtier's reply". Perhaps it's time for an update:
I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the horrific tortures of the Empress in the elevator, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Weepy Amy’s masterwork, On the Dehumanization and Traumatization of Seeing a T-shirt I Don't Agree With. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the oppression of the Empress, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to the evil rapist nature of all men; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that for the Empress, a privileged western white woman, to be on the receiving end of a clumsy pass is an infinitely worse atrocity than for a Muslim woman to be a victim of female genital mutilation.
What do you think, will it catch on?

Monday, September 17, 2012

A charter for the rest of us

Great idea over at Coffee Loving Skeptic:
Since Atheism+ has sought to unite the worst elements of FTB, Skepchick, and elsewhere under a common banner of emotional outrage, I have wondered what it would look like where those who opposed these people were to have a common set of principles.
The author goes on to list ten principles for having a worthwhile debate with people you don't agree with while acting in good faith - all principles that the A+theism crowd make a point of violating. Take a look.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Feminism: religion for atheists

[Edit: I've decided I'm not happy with the above title. I don't want to smear all atheists with the Atheism-crucifix lunacy. Also, not all feminists are mouth-foaming radfems. More thoughts on A+ as a religion in an upcoming post. Meta-edit: here it is.
Meta-meta-edit: Thunderf00t used this meme in his famous video! I thought it was really cool until I noticed a typo. Argh! Fixed.]

We atheists are supposed to be rational thinkers. We reject claims that are made without evidence. We don't believe in mystical, immaterial, ineffable entities that control our lives and makes us nothing but helpless victims. Right?

"I can see misogyny from my house!"

Who is Rebecca Watson anyway? I had never heard of her before Elevatorgate. I gather she is involved in the skeptical community and is considered quite a leader in some quarters. However, looking at pre-Elevatorgate videos of her adressing various skeptical groups, her contribution seems quite minimal. The only subject she seems interested in is douche - according to her, using douche is like setting off a nuclear bomb in your vagina. She's quite obsessed on that score, and doesn't see the irony of a "skeptical leader" making such a wildly hyperbolic assertion.

But there is a much darker side to her. Do a little googling and you will find out about her campaign to smear the highly respected scientist Laurence Krauss as a child sex trafficker, and destroy his career. You'll also find out about how see abused the JREF online forums, abusing moderator privileges (which she was accidentally given) to create sock puppets, write obscene comments using other people's identities, even delete other accounts because the owner had committed the unforgivable sin of saying something she disagreed with. (So when Watson's fanboys such as Greg bin Laden call for DJ Groethe to be sacked and replaced by Watson, I have to wonder if this isn't Watson's attempt at payback for JREF holding her accountable for her abuses.)

All of this, let me remind you, was even before Elevatorgate. Obviously she is a very vindictive woman and an extremely nasty piece of work.

When you look at Watson's Wikipedia page, it's obviously a vanity page created either by her or a fan. However, there's no indication that she has any scientific credentials what so ever - and she has few educational attainments of any kind that I could discover despite diligent searching. Apparently she started her career as a street juggler, and now, if you don't mind, she has an asteroid named after her, and thousands of people hang on to her every word. Talk about privilege!

In short, Watson came out of nowhere, rose without a trace, and has made a living the last few years being flown first-class around the world from conference to conference, wined and dined in top hotels, and in return she harangues the audience on what an oppressed victim she is. It's always me me me - "thousands of atheists are sending me bajillions of rape threats."

Watson is ignorant, ill-educated, narcissistic, self-obsessed, and her only talent is shameless self-promotion and self-aggrandizement. She is the Sarah Palin of the freethought movement.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The great schism begins!

I took a break from blogging the last couple of weeks - not because (unlike the Blag Hag and some other feminist bloggers) I am such a delicate wilting wallflower that I can't handle disagreement, I was just on vacation. Anyway, on coming back to civilization I see that the radfems now have their very own Church of The One True Atheism with PZ Myers as its pope.

In a way, I'm happy for them. Let them have their own little Kool Kidz Klub. Let them sit in their own echo chamber, blocking comments and banning everyone else who isn't 100% on board with their radfem ideology. Meanwhile, the people who want to make an actual difference in society will continue fighting the good fight, hopefully without constantly being screamed at that they are rapists and misogynists.

The sad part is that I actually agree with a lot of what the plussers are saying about social and political issues. However, my beliefs in those areas are independent of my atheism. Atheism is simply a recognition of the true state of affairs in the universe, that there is no old man with a beard in the sky pulling all the strings and preparing to reward us with Heaven or Hell. Saying "I'm a liberal because I'm an atheist" makes as much sense as saying "I'm a liberal because I realize that the world is round, not flat."

I value my right and ability to make up my own mind on any given issue, and I will never surrender that right to some 57-year-old untenured professor at some cow college in East Jesus, Minnesota. And it's really disappointing to see Myers, the oldest of the plussers, behaving so immaturely. A big part of growing up is realizing that people have their own ideas and you will never meet someone who is 100% in agreement with you, but you have to work with other people never the less - you can't just dismiss them as poopieheads.

Myers is making the same mistake that religious leaders have made throughout history. They try to cut themselves off from the rest of the world and create a utopian society which will somehow transform the outside world despite having zero contact with it. Then reality catches up with them and they either fade into oblivion (like the Shakers) or melt down spectacularly (like Jim Jones and similar cults).

If I were a gambler, my money would be one the second outcome. There are so many narcissistic, self-obsessed personalities within the "plus" movement, they will inevitably come into conflict. A few months from now, Myers will be calling McCreight a cunt, Watson will be accusing Richard Carrier of trying to rape her because he said something on the internet that she disagreed with, and everyone will be at everyone else's throat. Eventually any pretense of a coherent movement will be lost and there will be nothing left but a bunch of butt-hurt individuals screaming at each other and everyone else over their hurt feelings and first world problems.

The simple fact is that atheism is not a movement, any more than refraining from collecting stamps is a movement. We do need a movement to separate church from state, but religious people have as much to gain as atheists from defending the constitution in this area. We need a movement to improve science education and defend it from religious dogma and fairy tales, but again this is not specifically an atheist issue. Countries like Sweden and Norway don't have atheist movements because over there atheism is the default, as it logically should be.

In other words, atheists need to build coalitions with other atheists who don't necessarily agree with them on every particular, as well as with agnostics and theists. The plussers' insistence on lock-step conformity, and the eagerness with which they antagonize and alienate everyone who isn't ideologically pure enough for their liking, is stupid and immature.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your genitalia is your uniform!

Two words sum up the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of radical feminism: "gender traitor". This term is increasingly being thrown at women who dare to depart from the ideologically pure party line. Stef McGraw is a gender traitor for pointing out the obvious fact that a man can be sexually attracted to a woman and still consider her an equal. Harriet Hall is a gender traitor for wearing a T-shirt that someone disagrees with.

It seems the radfem extremists have no problem making intellectual and linguistic common cause with neo-Nazi skinhead white supremacists who constantly use the term "race traitor" against white people who oppose racism. The skinheads long for an apocalyptic race war in which "you skin is your uniform." I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we start hearing: "Your genitalia is your uniform!"

Feminist vs. Feminist

Dr. Harriet Hall is a woman of impeccable feminist credentials. She was one of the very first female physicians in the US Air Force, long before the days of gender quotas and gender norming. Throughout her career she has gone toe to toe with men as an equal in brains and knowledge, and beaten the brightest and best of them without having to have the playing field tilted in her favor.

Unfortunately, the kind of feminism and empowerment that Dr. Hall embodies in her life and achievements makes her a "gender traitor" to today's victim feminists. Ophelia Benson, among others, is baffled as to why a women would NOT demand special favors and brownie points just for being a woman. And Surly Amy was so "dehumanized" on seeing a T-shirt that she didn't agree with, she went on a crying jag and left TAM a day early.

In this blog I am careful to distinguish between feminism in general, and the toxic subset known as radical feminism. Let's recall Wikipedia's definition: a movement which holds that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others." Oh, poor me! I'm such a victim! I have a monopoly on suffering and persecution, and no-one else has any right to consider themselves oppressed! Doesn't this sound incredibly narcissistic and self-obsessed?

For many decades there has been a schism in feminism, with different writers at various times using different labels to refer to the two opposing camps. There's second-wave feminism (led by the incredibly ugly and hateful Andrea Dworkin) vs. third-wave feminism, gender feminism vs. equity feminism, radical feminism vs. sex-positive feminism. These are all valid ways of capturing some of the aspects of the division, but I think what it all comes down to is victim feminism vs. empowerment feminism.

An empowerment feminist says, "I'm a woman, I'm proud, I'm strong. I'm powerful, I challenge any man to meet me on a level playing field and I'm confident that I'll prove to be at least his equal."

A victim feminist says, "I'm a woman, I'm weak, I'm pathetic, I'm an eternal helpless victim totally lacking in agency, I need Big Brother to step in and not only tilt the playing field in my favor, but fix the final outcome."

I have a great deal of respect for empowerment feminists, and more than a little contempt for victim feminists.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An alternative to SlavethoughtBlogs

Skeptic Blogs is a new site that will feature skeptical and atheist bloggers. It's led by John Loftus, and hopefully it will provide a truly diverse set of viewpoints and favor good, solid writing over diversity hires. Let's face it, the vast majority of the bloggers at FTB are narcissistic, self-obsessed and often incredibly long-winded - and they get all butt-hurt when someone says he doesn't enjoy reading them.

The site is new but there is already some pretty interesting content up there. Check it out!

Dawkins vs. the dworkins

Dear Muslima,
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep "chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so …
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
This was the comment Richard Dawkins left on Pharyngula on the "Always name names!" post. The comment that was met with an orgy of screaming and ranting about misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and what not, sneers about Dawkins being a privileged rich white heterosexual male, and a two-minute hate led by Rebecca Watson, complete with a "Dear Dick" harassment and boycott campaign. (That's funny, I thought gendered insults were bad?)

Now, Dawkins is of course an Englishman, and he has a very English sense of humor. He understands advanced concepts like "irony", "sarcasm" etc. that are lost on most Merkins (who think irony is a black fly in your Chardonnay). But once you see his point, you realize that he is brilliantly skewering the vapidity and narcissism of the Watsonistas, who are creating such a deafening and never-ending shitstorm over a relatively trivial incident.

One very common and telling reaction was that Dawkins was trying to "silence" women. First of all, it isn't possible to silence anyone as long as they have access to the internet. Even if you ban someone from one forum, they can just pop up on another. But Dawkins wasn't even doing that - he was simply making one comment in a 10,000-comment thread. (If anything, the radfems were the ones trying to silence dissenting opinion by their massive piling-on, with some commenters writing hundreds of comments on the same thread.)

Why is it that when a man has a difference of opinion with a radfem, he is automatically accused of trying to silence her? What does that say about her level of security? Look, sis, if you are going to state your opinion in a public forum, you have to be prepared for other people disagreeing with it. If you can't handle that, then stay out of the kitchen. And if you suggest that "persons of gender" need special protection against having to hear dissenting opinions, then you are infantilizing and insulting women. True equality would mean that women can get in the thick of it and share their opinion with men on an equal footing - wouldn't it?

The Gathering Shitstorm

Apart from Rebecca Watson, the individual most responsible for constantly stirring the shit and keeping the radfem jihad boiling over in the atheist and skeptic movements is the odious more-feminist-than-thou PZ Myers. As I've mentioned before, Elevatorgate would have fizzled out in a matter of days had not Watson attacked a fellow female (and less privileged) blogger in an unconscionable way, been called out on it, and needed a distraction from her asshole behavior. That's when Elevatorgate suddenly and conveniently became a massive shitstorm that is still raging over a year later, thanks in large part to Professor Zerobrains.

The opening salvo was a post entitled "Always name names!", defending Watson's behavior by grossly misrepresenting the Stef McGraw incident. Stef had made it clear that what she took exception to was not being named, but being put in a position where she was attacked with no ability to defend herself. Myers knew this but chose to join the radfem chorus attacking Stef as a mindless parrot of "standard misogynist thought." (Myers' post is still on the old Scienceblogs site, though only part of it, and without the comments. Anyway my policy is not to link to SlavethoughtBlogs because they make buttloads of money in ad displays, especially Myers who appears to be gaming the system so that he benefits from hundreds of ad displays from every visit, especially if you use Google Reader. If you must go to SlavethoughtBlogs, be sure to use software such as AdBlock or Do Not Track to avoid the ads.)

Anyway, what I really found stunning was the comments on this thread. There were something like 10,000 comments, the vast majority of them screaming about what evil pigs and rapists men are. It was a real red-pill moment for me to see such seething, mindless hatred being expressed against men - all men. The few brave souls who dared to question Watson's behavior towards Stef McGraw were screamed down with accusations of being a rape apologist if not an outright rapist. Because apparently in what passes for a brain among radfems, being on the receiving end of a clumsy but polite pass is exactly the same thing as being raped. And because of course it's very convenient to be able to confuse two totally separate incidents in order to distract attention from your goddess's feet of clay.

Again and again I saw the same pattern: "Fuck you, rapist. You are a man, therefore I can dismiss out of hand anything you say without reading it, but I demand that you drop whatever else you were doing today and read through the 27 lengthy treatises I (along with 4,567 other womyn) have cut and pasted links to."

There were even some pathetic grovelers who whined, "Please forgive me for being male, I am a recovering misogynist who only recently became aware of the awesome overwhelming privilege he possesses, please educate me and help me to understand why what happened to Rebecca was rape. I'm sure you're correct, but I just don't understand how." (Response: "Fuck you, rapist," etc. etc.)

When I looked at some of the links, I only got even more depressed. There was that godawful "Schrödinger’s Rapist" screed (funny, I never knew Schrödinger had been raped - but men do get raped too, you know), there was the stupid story about the husky and the iguana, which is supposed to make some point about "male privilege" - apparently all men are dogs, or something. And there was a whole shitload of privileged upper-class educated (and probably mostly white) Western women moaning about how tough they have it.

And then Richard Dawkins entered the fray, which led to the shit really hitting the fan. More on this later.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Just a quick thought - in the midst of all the shrieking and fainting about Thunderf00t's behavior, how come no-one remembers much more egregious action by Rebecca Twatson on the JREF forum not so long ago?

Thunderf00t and Listservgate

My general goal in this blog is to work through the radfem witch-hunt in the skeptical/freethought community from Elevatorgate up to the present day, but of course events are moving rapidly and I will occasionally break from chronological order to comment on breaking news.

Now you are aware that Thunderf00t has been declared an unperson for deviating from the radfem ideology that is mandatory at SlavethoughtBlogs. But now the hive mind feels the need to double down and declare him a super double-plus ungood unperson and demand that he be a pariah lo until the end of time, verily verily. The allegation is that he hacked into some ultra-secure "listserv" (has anyone called it a listserv since the late 80's?), obtained people's private information, and maliciously scattered it to the four winds.

The truth, as you find out if you make the most cursory effort to ascertain it, is much more prosaic. When Thunderf00t was booted out of SlavethoughtBlogs, they forgot to remove him from the list of people eligible to subscribe to their internal mailing list. (Apparently the software they were using was never intended for private lists.) Thunderf00t resubscribed, presumably to know what people were saying about him - they were saying some pretty vicious and ignorant things about him when he joined but before he had even published his first post.

It turned out that Thunderf00t wasn't the only person on their hit list - they were also conspiring to destroy the livelihood of Michael Peyton, a Canadian skeptic who had committed the unforgivable sin of tweeting that he didn't enjoy reading SlavethoughtBlogs. The sort of behavior Greg Laden regularly engaged in and talked about on the list - the other FTBullies only took exception to it when he turned on a fellow FTB'er, Justin Griffith.

So in other words Thunderf00t isn't some mysterious Ninja hacker with mad pwning skillz - it's more a case of stupidity and bad security on the part of SlavethoughtBlogs. Despite their frenzied shrieks and accusations, there's no evidence that Thunderf00t actually leaked anyone's private information. If there is such evidence, the FTBullies should pass it on to the police - otherwise they should shut the hell up and withdraw their accusations. In any case, people should be angry at SlavethoughtBlogs for leaving the door wide open and putting their private information at risk.

I'm not carrying a torch for Thunderf00t here, he does not come out of this smelling of roses. But all the screeching and pearl-clutching is deeply hypocritical. Obviously, the bullies are angry that their slash-and-burn tactics against people like Michael Peyton and anyone else who disagrees with them have been exposed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Elevatorgate could have been handled...

A quick thought before we plunge into the cesspit of dishonesty and shit-stirring that is PZ Myer's exploitation of Elevatorgate. How could the incident have been handled better? Could it have been used as a valuable teaching moment instead of the radfems declaring feminist jihad on everyone else and dehumanizing them as "rabid misogynists"? You bet your ass.

First of all, there is ZERO EVIDENCE that Elevator Guy used, or would have used, any kind of violence or undue pressure against Rebecca Watson. It would appear that he did not do anything illegal, or even immoral. He spoke some words to Watson, words which were polite on their surface and even tried to reassure her that he found her "interesting" and wanted to "talk more". As feminists love to remind us, words are not fists.

Now, you could fault the guy for hitting on Watson in an enclosed space. (You could question his taste, or his eyesight, for hitting on her at all.) But did he do it with malice aforethought? More likely he was simply clueless and socially awkward. Perhaps he had been sitting in the bar for hours, pining away for Watson, but too shy to approach her with other people around. Perhaps when he saw her heading for the elevator, he thought it was his last chance. He threw a Hail Mary, and struck out - and I've totally mixed my sports metaphors, but who gives a crap.

Of course it's also conceivable that he was as slimy and scheming as the radfems assume in knee-jerk fashion that he was, based only on their hatred of all men as a group, but in the absence of any evidence for this, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Personally, having been pretty awkward around girls when I was younger, I can sympathize with EG. Imagine having a brief, embarrassing interaction with someone, going to bed alone and thinking it was all over, and waking up the next morning to find almost the entire internet screaming that you are a rapist and a danger to persons of gender everywhere.

Imagine if a woman, preferably a prominent figure in the atheist/skeptical community, had written an open message to EG along the following lines:
Hey dude, I'm sure you didn't mean any harm, and it's kind of sweet how you did your best to be polite and respectful. But there are a couple of things you should be aware of. 
First, an elevator is an enclosed space, and some women - not all, but some - feel nervous when a strange guy propositions them in an enclosed space. Maybe they've had bad experiences in similar situations in the past. Maybe they've even been raped, or know someone who has. So don't take it personally.
Secondly, when you try to go from zero to sex in one sentence, it comes across as desperate, disrespectful, even sleazy. I'm sure you didn't mean it that way, but try to put yourself in the woman's shoes. She doesn't know you from Adam, but she's less physically strong than you and she doesn't know how you will conduct yourself. You've just made a bad first impression, sweetie, and that's kind of hard to recover from.
How could you have handled this better? Unlike some people, I'm not saying you should never share an elevator with a woman, much less that you should cross the street to avoid them. This is not Saudi Arabia. You have a perfect right to be in the elevator. But be sensitive to the woman's demeanor. If she seems nervous and won't make eye contact, don't give her any reason to be frightened. She is not going to be receptive to your advances. Just try again later with someone else.
If she does seem open to eye contact, try a simple "hi". If she says "hi" back, again try to gauge her demeanor. Does she smile, and seem open to conversation? Or is it a perfunctory "hi"? If the former, feel free to engage her in conversation, but don't immediately make it about going to your room.
Do you see the pattern here? Take things one step at a time. If you get pushback at any stage, wish her a polite "good day" or "goodnight" and move on. Only if you get positive feedback should you take it to the next level. And always remember that no woman owes you sex. If she says "no", you have to respect that and not take it personally. Be polite and move on. What have you lost? Nothing - you had a brief but pleasant interaction with another human being, and she is less likely to blog to the world about what a monster you are.
This may seem like a long drawn out process, which is another reason why elevators are not usually good places to pick up a chick. But keep these guidelines in mind, and I'm sure you will get lucky more often in the future.
All the best,
Some Hypothetical Woman
Schrödinger's Therapist speaking again - this is the approach I use with women, and it works very well most of the time. Plus, I'm more selective than EG apparently was. I wouldn't hit on a woman it it was 4AM and I had heard her say that she really needed to get some sleep. Hell, even I'm usually not horny at that time of the night. And let's be honest, Watson doesn't turn me on in the slightest.

Anyway, imagine if a woman with clout in the community had responded in this way, instead of going to Defcon 1 immediately. There might still have been a few Neanderthals - there always are - whining, "How come we're not allowed to hit on chicks in the elevator? How are we supposed to get laid?" But I'm sure most guys would have distanced themselves from the Neanderthals, and said, "You know, what Some Hypothetical Woman says makes a lot of sense." It would have been a valuable learning moment, not only for EG but a lot of guys who might have been inclined to approach a woman in a way that would inadvertently make her feel uncomfortable, but who had no bad intentions in them.

What happened instead? Well, as I mentioned previously, Watson's initial response was at the right level: "Guys, don't do that." But then she got called on her assholistic treatment of Stef McGraw, she needed a distraction, and that's when (with the help of Professor Zerobrains) Elevatorgate conveniently became a Category 5 shitstorm that continues to generate bad feelings and divide the community to this day. We got the insulting "Schrödinger's Rapist", we got that stupid story about the Siberian Husky and the iguana, we got Phil Plait running around like a headless chicken and calling a trivial incident a potential sexual assault (see also this terrific response), and we got a two-minute hate against Richard Dawkins (more on this later).

Okay, this post has gotten way longer than I intended - perhaps I'm putting off the moment when I hold my nose and wade into the "all men are rapists" slimepit formerly known as Pharyngula. But my point is that if Elevatorgate had been responded to with good will and a genuine desire to educate instead of eviscerate, the subsequent history of the freethought movement would have been very different.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Atheist idols

For me, one of the most depressing aspects of the never-ending shitstorm that began life as Elevatorgate and has been mutating and metastasizing ever since, is realizing how flawed one's idols are. Pharyngula was my introduction to the atheist blog world, and from there I discovered Greta Christina, Phil Plait, and other bloggers. I thought it was great to see such articulate, passionate people laying into religious stupidity and hypocrisy, and destroying god-sophistry with reason, logic and wit.

But after Elevatorgate, PZ and his fellow radfems very quickly showed their true colors.

I have to say, Rebecca Watson's initial response to Elevator Guy's overture was on target. "Guys, don't do that..." End of story, move on. Fine. Now you might argue that it was unfair for Watson to be so creeped out  by a guy merely (and politely) expressing interest in her, but the way someone feels is the way they feel. Nobody owes an explanation or apology to anyone else for how they feel - you are only responsible for your own words and actions. As long as Elevator Guy was not violent or threatening - and on Watson's account, there's no indication that he was - Watson could feel whatever way she liked, as long as she treated him - and he treated her - with at least the minimum level of courtesy and respect that any human being is due.

Anyway, there's no record of what happened after EG spoke to Watson. Presumably she said no, he took no for an answer, and there was an awkward moment of silence for both of them until the elevator doors opened and they went their separate ways. EG presumably thought it was all over, and consoled himself with the thought, "better luck next time." Meanwhile, Watson presumably thought "what a loser." But there is no evidence that she felt herself to be in any particular danger at the time.

The whole thing would have quickly died the natural death it deserved had Watson not decided at a conference shortly after - she seems to make a living going from conference to conference and giving speeches - to abuse her position as keynote speaker and launch into a personal attack on Stef McGraw, a fellow female blogger who had dared to deviate from the radfem party line by pointing out the obvious fact that just because a guy is attracted to a women doesn't prove he thinks of her as nothing but a piece of meat.

Watson knew very well that Stef was in the audience, and choose to put her in a very uncomfortable situation, lumping her in with violent christian extremists and basically calling her a mindless parrot who repeated "standard misogynist thought." It was rather cowardly, seeing that Stef was not in a position to defend herself, given the format of the event. Watson later made some mealy-mouthed noises about "proper attribution" to justify her vendetta, but the damage was done. It was a remarkable display of crassness and unprofessionalism, and in effect Stef became the woman in the elevator. It was also thoroughly disrespectful to both the audience and the organizers of the event.

And that was where PZ Myers entered the picture, and showed himself to be a colossal ass. But this post is getting too long, so I will continue later.

A radical notion

We are constantly being hit over the head with the soundbite, "feminism is the radical notion that women are actually human beings." But what ordinary, fair-minded human being - i.e. not a republican or christian theocrat - says that they aren't? This is such a dishonest strawman.

On the other hand, I find it very telling that the worst insult radfems can hurl at a man is to call him an MRA - "Men's Rights Activist". I guess it's a radical notion in today's world (as opposed to the 19th century when the above soundbite originated) to say that men have rights.

I'm not involved in the MRM (another TLA - this one means "Men's Rights Movement".) I've checked it out online and find some of its members just as scary as any Rebecca Watson or Andrea Dworkin. On the other hand, they make a very good case that society, the workplace and the legal system are increasingly stacking the deck against men, and criminalizing maleness. And forget what you've heard about the pay gap - when you compare apples to apples, women often earn more than men for the same work. In so far is there is a pay gap, it almost always arises from women exercising options that men don't have - putting in fewer hours at work and being less productive so that they can spend more time with their children, have a shorter commute, etc.

Unfortunately, although radical feminism is a small and extreme fringe, it is a very vocal one that dominates academia and has a disproportionate influence in government policy and the legal system. The root impulse of radfem is to control both men and women by preaching ad nauseum that the latter are helpless victims, unable to do anything for themselves to better their situation, and their only hope is for Big Brother to step in and not only tilt the playing field in their favor, but fix the final score.

In a nutshell, radfem criminalizes men, infantilizes women, and hurts both.

Is radical feminism compatible with skepticism?

There’s something that’s been bugging me a lot recently, especially in the wake of Elevatorgate/Bunnygate/T-shirt-Gate/Camera-on-a-stick-Gate... I keep seeing the trope "if you are a skeptic then you have to reject Teh Patriarchy and become a radical feminist."

This is stupid. First of all, skepticism is about questions of fact. Does Bigfoot exist? Do UFO’s exist? But if you take some random ideology, you are no longer dealing with questions of "is" but "ought" – how ought society be ordered? Should this ideology be implemented in sociery? It’s a totally different category of question, so it has nothing to do with skepticism.

But it’s even worse when you consider radfem specifically. Radfem is the ideology that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others." (Wikipedia) Everything in nature and society must be viewed through the lens of patriarchy theory, privilege theory, rape culture theory etc. etc. And every idea on any subject must be filtered through this agenda.

Of course there is not a shred of evidence that there is some vast international Y-chromosome conspiracy and that every man on earth is privileged over (and the oppressor of) every women on earth, but that means nothing to the "Sisterz in Skepticism". In a nutshell, it is not possible to pick an ideology that is more the antithesis of everything skepticism stands for.

Who is Schrödinger's Therapist?

First of all, I intend to remain anonymous and have no intention of revealing any details about myself that might lead to someone being able to track me down in real life. Call it cowardly if you like. The reality is that there is currently a poisonous, witch-hunting atmosphere in the atheist/skeptical community. I have heard from several independent sources about prominent bloggers including PZ Myers, Greg (bin) Laden and others contacting the employers of someone they disagree with and trying to get that person fired. In today's economy, I am not willing to take that risk.

However, I cannot stay silent in the face of the increasingly hysterical and toxic witch-hunt already mentioned. The Myers's and Twatsons of this world are growing ever more extreme and fanatical. They have nothing but contempt for the broader freethought movement, because it is insufficiently ideologically pure for their liking, and they care only about advancing the most extremist, man-hating, mouth-foaming radical feminist agenda which smears all men as rapists and intentionally poisons relations between the sexes. And they would rather burn the whole freethought movement to the ground than not have control over it.

In case you are wondering, the name "Schrödinger's Therapist" is a reaction to the very ugly, bigoted and demeaning trope of "Schrödinger's Rapist" which is being pushed by many radical feminists. Basically the idea is that there is no such thing as a man who is purely and simply a non-rapist. At best, a man is a sort of quantum superposition of a rapist and non-rapist, until - being male - he inevitably commits rape. At that point, presumably the quantum wavefunction collapses and he becomes a full-fledged rapist. Fuck that shit!

I shouldn't have to say this, but I think real rape is a horrible crime which should be punished severely. But, COME ON! Is being on the receiving end of a clumsy pass the equivalent of rape? Or seeing a T-shirt that you don't agree with?

This whole shitstorm has nothing to do with rape, or coffee, or hurt feelings - it's all about an extremist fringe trying to control everyone's behavior and police their thoughts. In other words, the very antithesis of free thought.

I will have much more to say on this topic in future posts.