6/19/12

Blaming the Victim?

What is it with the atheist online community in the summertime?  Last summer "elevatorgate" was endlessly discussed. This summer there's another brouhaha, also involving the treatment of women. Three years ago there was another interminable debate about very, very little.  You might be forgiven for suspecting that the no-God hypothesis leaves atheists with not enough "meat" on their plates, though it should be said that some atheists do manage to write on real topics, day in and day out.  I periodically criticize Jerry Coyne for some position or other, but he's always writing about something interesting.

Anyhow, I'm paying attention to the latest scandal for only one reason: because it's about the alleged sins of DJ Grothe, and listening to him on Point of Inquiry for a couple of years made me think the world of him.  His alleged crime, in a nutshell, is making this argument (I will number the steps for clarity):
 (1) Some people in the online atheist community have been talking about the mistreatment of women at atheist meetings out of proportion with how frequently mistreatment occurs.  It doesn't occur frequently at all, if you go by a survey of 800+ attendees conducted by DJ at The Amazing Meeting (TAM) last summer.
(2) This disproportionate talk of mistreatment may be scaring women away from further meetings (like this summer's TAM), and gratuitously so, given how frequently mistreatment actually occurs (see (1)).  Thus, the way people are trying to reduce mistreatment is interfering with the separate goal of increasing female representation at meetings.

Now, you could criticize this argument.  About (1), you might say that the survey measured mistreatment at just one meeting, and that it was a singular meeting, coming (as it did) so soon after the elevatorgate controversy. About (2), you could say that it's only possible that all the talk is reducing attendance at this summer's TAM.  That's speculative, and DJ doesn't have proof.

Fine, criticisms like that wouldn't be untoward (which is not to say I find them conclusive). But instead what we see is piles and piles of ... horse excrement.  I don't really want to spend too much time wading through it, so will just pluck out a few examples.  One is the accusation that, by making claims (1) and (2), DJ is guilty of the sin of "blaming the victim."

This is just weird.  Surely it does sometimes happen that people talk about mistreatment of Xs out of proportion to how often it occurs, and this can scare away Xs.  Worrying about this -- and speaking out about it -- can't possibly be out of the question.  If that does sometimes occur, could it possibly be taboo to try to tamp down the excessive talk, to make a plea for proportionality?  No, it really can't.

And when you do point out disproportionality and worry about possible negative consequences, no, you're not "blaming the victim" within the usual meaning of that phrase. You're not blaming victims for being victims.  The blame has got to be about overgeneralization or extrapolation or spurious inferences.  Or perhaps the complaint is about other people, people who are not victims at all, who make it seem as if there are far more victims than there really are.  This worry about disproportional talk and overgeneralization is perfectly consistent with taking injustice to individual victims very, very seriously. All signs are that DJ Grothe does (and I certainly do).

Saying (1) and (2) should have been possible in a community of so-called "skeptics".  People who claim to care about reasoning and data should have taken notice of the survey data that was the foundation of DJ's argument. But no, it's seldom mentioned in the endless discussions at blogs. A rational debate about (1) and (2) could have taken place, but was instead pre-empted by all sorts of histrionics, like demands for DJ's resignation, accusations that he doesn't care about harassment, ludicrous charges about his being gay and being out of sympathy with women, etc. etc.

Good heavens. If I were a religious person, I'd keep close track of what passes for reasonable discussion at atheist blogs and I'd be laughing my head off.  As it is, I'm doing some laughing, but also shaking my head in disbelief. OK, back to trees ....

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This really needs to be said. If you want to introduce "newcomers" to atheism, skepticism and freethought, there are certain places that should be dearly avoided. They may (and in one particulary scary example do) carry these qualities in their names, but there is almost nothing of the sort to be found there.

Just vitriol, mind reading, attribution errors and screaming. An almost complete inability of impulse control. Now, it may be different to keep your cool when someone disagrees with you on a topic that you hold dear, but oh my. At some point you'd think the ability to reason would kick in any second, but it doesn't. This attitude is dragging the whole affair down into the mud. It's damaging and leads to the betterment of nothing.

Deepak Shetty said...

Usually you provide a fair summary - even if I disagree mostly with your conclusions. I don't think your summary is fair in this instance (you are missing the parts where DJ said harassment didn't occur - not that it's rare). you are missing the places where people like PZ and Rebecca watson did say that TAM was good, praised DJ for his efforts and they wanted it to be better.

Jean Kazez said...

I think the gist of DJ's argument is about disproportionality, and that's why I've focused on disproportionality. "Too much talk about mistreatment of women, given actual amounts of mistreatment." That's his allegation. I think it's a mistake to think his main claim is about an actual number. In fact, I recall him saying the survey did reveal one incident of some sort, but again, the issue is not whether he said 0 or 1 or 2 incidents. The issue is disproportionality. So all these efforts to find one example (using whoever now crawls out of the woodwork, and setting aside DJ's survey) are foolish. If you find one case of mistreatment at TAM 2011, you don't rebut his argument about disproportionality, and that's his main point. Really--just adopt a more charitable stance toward DJ (he's a smart, thoughtful person ... he deserves it!), and I think you'll agree that's just got to be the correct interpretation.

Jean Kazez said...

I think it's fair to sum up this comment of DJ's as saying that talk of mistreatment is out of proportion to the number of actual incidents--

http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/05/30/where-are-the-women/#comment-84813

It would be very strange, in fact, to think (after reading that) his main contention is that there were no incidents whatever. No, the point is about a mismatch between talk of mistreatment on the internet and incidents on the ground.

Corylus said...

I completely agree.

Evidence that harassment has been over-estimated should be treated with pleasure - not excrement.

Deepak Shetty said...

@Jean
Ah but that's not DJ's first comment specifically #9
"It should be said that there has never been a report filed of sexual harassment at TAM to my knowledge and there have been zero reports of harassment at the TAMs we’ve put on while I’ve been at JREF."
So no I wouldn't agree with (since Ashley millers incident did show that DJ was aware of it)
It would be very strange, in fact, to think (after reading that) his main contention is that there were no incidents whatever.


Really--just adopt a more charitable stance toward DJ (he's a smart, thoughtful person ... he deserves it!),
Oh but people have given him and TAM and JREF credit (see PZ, Rebecca et al.) Thats what makes this so stupid.

Jean Kazez said...

They're giving credit to TAM, but not giving any credit to DJ's argument--(1) + (2)--and it does deserve some credit.

As far as very strong opening assertion goes -- there are a lot of slippery phrases here. What does "a report filed" mean? What counts as "sexual harassment"? As that term is usually used, none of the incidents now being brought up would qualify.

Also, I think he sees his survey as "the bottom line" and there are some good reasons for that. Ashley Miller now says such and such happened, but she didn't see fit to report it in his survey. What does that tell us? What's more informative, what she said anonymously, at the time, or what she says now, in the middle of an argument? Same goes for that business about the camera guy. If the person now complaining did not make the complaint in the survey, at the time, what does that say about the seriousness of the problem? It would not make sense for DJ to quantify incidents by adding together what was reported in the survey and whatever else he remembers being reported directly to him, as that could involve double counting the same incidents, or counting incidents that were eventuallly dismissed by the people who reported them. Seems right to me that he's replying on the survey to reveal what did and didin't happen last summer. It's not a perfect measure, but it's the best thing he's got.

Jean Kazez said...

To clarify--I have no problem with people disagreeing with DJ's argument. I just think they ought to talk about it, instead of making up a bunch of sins he supposedly committed. He made an argument that's contestable, but as far as I'm concerned he said nothing atrocious or reprehensible. He's been treated as having done so, and that's what I'm objecting to.

An Ardent Skeptic said...

Great post, Jean!

@Deepak
Ashley Miller did not report the sexual harassment to D.J. D.J. had the drunk removed from the speaker's reception because a) he was drunk, and b) he wasn't supposed to be there. Ashley assumed that the man from Shrewsbury had been asked to leave because he was harassing women.

Why is it that we have become incapable of speaking with others directly to resolve misunderstandings rather than just blasting away at people publicly with our invalid assumptions?

This incident should have been handled as follows:

Ashley Miller reads that D.J. has not had a report of sexual harassment at TAM.

She contacts D.J. privately and says, "But I thought you had the drunk from Shrewsbury thrown out of the private speaker's reception because he was harassing women."

D.J. responds by saying, "I didn't know he was harassing women. I threw him out because he wasn't a speaker and was drunk. If I had known he was harassing women, I would have taken his badge and told him that he could no longer attend TAM."

Then both Ashley and D.J. could make a public statement about the need to inform D.J. directly about harassment problems and his willingness to deal with these problems when he is made aware of them.

Do public crucifixions really have to be our first line of defense against a perceived wrong?

(If Alexander Graham Bell were still alive, he would be horrified to know that his great communications invention, the telephone, is being thoroughly ignored as a way of having genuine interactions with our fellow human beings. Telephones are not just for tweeting to everyone willing to read our every thought. D.J.'s phone number is published on the JREF website. I've actually dialed that number and D.J. has, in fact, answered the phone. AND, we carried on a real conversation. It's SO last century, I know. What can I say? I actually prefer to talk directly with people when I have issues I need to have resolved. ;-)

Sorry for my bit of snark, Jean, but I'm getting very tired of all of this public shaming which has gotten us absolutely nowhere. If sexual harassment is a serious problem at conferences, we should be having a serious conversation about it, not just hurling ugly, unsubstantiated accusations in blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts across the internet.

Jean Kazez said...

Ardent, I think "public shaming" is the perfect term for what's going on -- public shaming in a situation that doesn't call for public shaming, because no one's actually done anything shameful. DJ made a non-shameful argument and critics could have just straightforwardly offered rebuttals. Instead you've got someone like Greg Laden getting the ball rolling with an insincere demand for resignation. I say "insincere" because in that Google Hangout, bizarrely enough, Laden said he never really meant it. Weird. Back where I come from, you just say what you really do mean--you don't hype things up for maximum effect.

Thanks for the explanation about Ashley Miller. If that's what happened, then everything makes more sense.

Deepak Shetty said...

@Jean
Im not going to rebut the points - my point is merely that your summary was biased - it's probably DJ's perspective but its not an objective summary. I can read DJ's initial responses as stupid while also thinking that calls for his resignation were stupid.

@Ardent skeptic
Do public crucifixions really have to be our first line of defense against a perceived wrong?

Pot kettle etc etc.

Russell Blackford said...

Great post, Jean - and great comments by you in the thread.

Jean Kazez said...

Deepak, I didn't intend to write a comprehensive account of all events (snooze), but I (obviously) think I've been accurate about the bit I've discussed. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

**

Thanks, Russell.

Deepak Shetty said...

I didn't intend to write a comprehensive account of all events (snooze)
Oh I didnt expect you to. but I would expect you to start at the very beginning (A very good place to start) - not when people are annoyed or in damage control mode.

For e.g. DJ pointed to Rebecca Watson's - "I don't feel safe anymore" as an example of misinformation (people who get violent threats should feel safe?? - which yes he has subsequently apologized for - which is good) . Now a smart thoughtful person would have responded to "I dont feel safe" - a personal statement, with either "Why?" or "What can we do?" or "this is what we have done to make it safer" - not "hey saying stuff like this reduces attendance."

We'll just have to agree to disagree.
Don't we always (responded only because I could quote Sound of Music)

Jean Kazez said...

I wrote this post the day after listening to PZ&Co doing their Google Hangout. There's a bunch of them there (7 or so), and nobody seems to even try to represent the gist of Grothe's argument so they can respond fairly to it. That's what I'm trying to do--capture the gist, and not worry about bits and pieces. Sure, if you want a comprehensive narrative you have to explain what he said first, and then second, and then third...and that narrative will help shed light on what made people angry, etc etc. But the gist of the argument is what I care about, not the whole history. I don't think my account of it is half bad!

Rebecca Watson actually said something about the atheist community not being a "safe space." So, it was not just a matter of her saying she didn't feel safe. It was a claim about a "space". If you construe her claim as being about literal spaces like meetings, then it's fair to assess what she said using hard data. That's where DJ's survey comes into play.

I should say though--there are lots and lots of crazy people on the internet and with email accounts, and by all means she's been treated terribly. I don't blame her at all for not feeling safe. I just think it's also fine for someone like DJ to ask about "spaces" -- i.e. meetings -- themselves, and how many bad incidents occur, and how many attendees are uncomfortable. I think it's just all to the good to try to quantify these things, and being a feminist does not mean I have to be unreceptive to that.

The Sound of Music. Well, the hills are a live ... these are just some of my favorite things ... a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down ... I'm not sure what lyrics you're thinking of. I'm sure they're very relevant, though, whatever they are!

Ardent Skeptic said...

@Deepak

Mr. X, the camera man, has a disability which makes it very difficult for him to pick up on social cues and self-censor his dialog for "polite" society. We know there have been difficulties as a result of his disability, and there has been discussion about what to do about it.

A public outing of him by a woman who wore an "I Love My Cunt" T-shirt in the bar at Southpoint during TAM with the accusation that it's his "cis/privilege" which causes his unacceptable behavior towards others is disingenuous and uncharitable. How is someone who has difficulty picking up on social cues supposed to understand the public announcement, "I Love My Cunt"?

Yes, I know people who have such disabilities can be a problem. But, IMO, this community has a far bigger problem when we decide it's fair game to go after this guy publicly.

This is getting very ugly, and I am very worried that someone's life will be damaged beyond repair as a result.

It needs to stop. AND NOW!!!!

We should be capable of dealing with serious issues in an intelligent, productive way. What has been transpiring in this community is ugly. People are getting hurt because we are incapable of behaving like adults. Does someone need to commit suicide as a result of a public shaming before we are willing to face the reality of how horribly negative this is from all sides of this "debate"?

Deepak Shetty said...

I'm sure they're very relevant, though, whatever they are!
it isn't - It's lets start at the very beginning - A very good place to start.Do Re Mi etc etc.

Deepak Shetty said...

We should be capable of dealing with serious issues in an intelligent, productive way.
Sure. Typing with caps lock on - isn't one of them. However if you see fault only on one side you aren't seeing clearly.

Jean Kazez said...

Ardent, Great addition to the camera guy story. The plot thickens considerably!

Ardent Skeptic said...

@Deepak

Typing with caps lock on is apparently necessary for people to thoroughly read what has been written. If you take a closer look at the last sentence in my last comment you will notice the word "all" in the phrase "horribly negative this is from all sides of this "debate"."

Perhaps I should have put "all" in caps.

Deepak Shetty said...

@Ardent Skeptic
Look through your comments and content instead of the generic all sides need to take a look.
Or in your opinion what have people who supported DJ Grothe , including DJ ,do, that's so horribly negative?
My last comment though - so treat that as a homework exercise.

Ardent Skeptic said...

I have stated publicly elsewhere, and e-mailed D.J. that I do not think the way he chose to engage was the right way to go about it.

As JREF president he should be positive and proactive, and not be seen to be on the defensive. Engaging in blog wars is not an effective way to solve this problem for someone in his position.

Ashley Miller had already stated on Facebook that she had been "annihilated" by D.J. before she gave him a chance to clarify a misunderstanding. That isn't appropriate behavior either.

Like I said. all sides!

Jean Kazez said...

Deepak, Could you please skip giving "homework assignments" to other commenters? It does seem a bit arrogant.

Julian Francisco said...

"Ashley Miller had already stated on Facebook that she had been "annihilated" by D.J. before she gave him a chance to clarify a misunderstanding. -Ardent Skeptic"

It would not have been difficult for Grothe to determine what happened which was his responsibility. Even if all he knew was that there was a drunk man behaving obnoxiously it should have been standard operating procedure to ask what he had done, where he had come from and how long this had been going on. But it was not.

Instead the man was shuffled off (as he should have been), Grothe, despite knowing about it never had it recorded (which is incredibly irresponsible on all fronts), and here you are pretending his failure is somehow Miller's. There was no misunderstanding because there was no miscommunication. Grothe didn't do his job. There's a difference.

You may like the man for his work on POI, his willingness to stand up to the bullies at FtB (or whatever memes going around now) and his generally calm, polite demeanor but none of those things make him a good administrator.

"there are lots and lots of crazy people on the internet and with email accounts -Jean Kazez"

It would be more accurate to say, there are a lot of crazies in atheist/skeptic circles who don't like her.

"But no, it's seldom mentioned in the endless discussions at blogs. -Jean Kazez"

It was mentioned and it was discussed. It was also dismissed because it's an unreliable method of gauging prevalence of sexual harassment. Why should it constantly be brought up? I would think shoddy tests wouldn't be given so much value and weight.

Ardent Skeptic said...

Jean,

It's OK. I don't need to do my homework because I have done my homework. I have six 5" binders, printed duplex, full of the blog wars about this controversy.

I mentioned on a previous post that I had taken a 90day/17,000 mile road trip in 2010. I just took another recently, 80days/11,000 miles birding along the Texas Coast. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not ignoring the internet nastiness.

I had plans to be in Las Vegas during TAM as a volunteer for one of the skeptic podcasters. At this point, I just want to get in my car and drive as far away from this disaster as possible.

Julian Francisco said...

No one's forcing you to read or worry about this, Ardent Skeptic. You're not the one getting threats or having to defend your claims of being harassed every time you open your mouth. You're free to enjoy TAM as you would have any other year, so I don't understand why someone who views internet drama with such contempt would get so squicked by it.

Jean Kazez said...

Julian, It's pretty odd that you think DJ let problems go "unrecorded" when in fact he gave all attendees a survey to fill out, and they had a chance to list all the problems they had (anonymously, which is the best way to gather accurate data), and they also had a chance to register whether problems affected their satisfaction with the meetings or not. Basically, DJ gave people a chance to do their own recording, and the people now complaining declined to do so. Surely it's not his fault they didn't take advantage of the reporting opportunity he gave them. I also don't blame him at all for drawing his conclusions about the amount of harassment that occurred from the survey alone. For the reasons I already gave in the comments above, I think that was a reasonable thing to do.

Ardent, Birding on the Texas coast sounds cool! Maybe a bit like "treeing" on the west coast (reference to my other recent posts). Maybe while we like birding and treeing, we are also "people people" and find the antics of our fellow man/woman intriguing. Quite possibly we don't have to apologize for that.

Julian Francisco said...

"anonymously, which is the best way to gather accurate data - Jean Kazez"

So is asking the right question. For example, asking "have you been sexually harassed?" vs asking "has anyone ever groped you without your consent?"

I don't know the contents of the survey or what was asked but ultimately, from the impression I was given, it relied upon self reporting of harassment.

That's never going to give you a complete picture.

"Basically, DJ gave people a chance to do their own recording, and the people now complaining declined to do so. -Jean Kazez"

I actually laughed when I read this. Everyone of Grothe's critics has congratulated him on the success he's had with TAM. Watson and Skepchick got their start raising funds so women could go to TAM. Most (even Miller) have talked about how much they've enjoyed TAM.

Were they supposed to peer into the future and see Grothe blame them for a decrease in TAM participation among women or foresee his denial of any sexual harassment at TAM?

"Surely it's not his fault they didn't take advantage of the reporting opportunity he gave them."

That's irrelevant. It may not be his fault but it's his responsibility to not misrepresent the amount of harassment that goes on at his organization and to make it as harassment free a zone as he can make it. If he's using an unreliable method (unreliable for whatever reasons) he's at fault whatever his intentions (and I don't doubt they've been good).

And because this ties into the rest of your rcent comment

"Ashley Miller now says such and such happened, but she didn't see fit to report it in his survey. What does that tell us? What's more informative, what she said anonymously, at the time, or what she says now, in the middle of an argument? - Jean Kazez"

Ashley Miler believed the incident had been reported and that it had been taken care of. She was pleased it had been handled so promptly and properly.

She did not know Grothe would claim there had never been a case of harassment at TAM.

Do not misrepresent her. She's had enough of Grothe's defenders do that already.

Anyway, I'm out. I don't do gatherings and am actually glad to see Ophelia, Watson and others moving away from TAM.

Anonymous said...

Some of the comments from the thread where DJ posted in are pretty shocking:

Example:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/05/30/where-are-the-women/#comment-84870

I won't post the whole comment but the jist is this

"Women, in general, have more data about sexism than men do, in general, simply because they cannot afford to ignore it, whereas men are actively encouraged by cultural training to ignore it.

These are the facts.

Now you can’t say you didn’t know anymore."

This is a response in reply to someone who (correctly) backs up DJs point that there is "quite a bit of fear without facts".

Is this what skepticism has come to? Women have "more" data than men? How does that work? Is it now experience = data?

In the entire post NO data is referenced. Merely an accusation that someone who supported DJs comments was "not in possession of all the facts", because of "[cue dramatic music] MALE PRIVILEGE." and that "harassment occurs on a regular basis."

Oh, well I'm glad we have all the female data now. That says more than DJs survey ever could.

The only person in the entire debate using argument is lambasted for not counting anecdotes that only came to light AFTER the survey was referenced, while those who are not understanding data properly and referencing anecdotes and hypotheticals as evidence are championed as englightened.

Is this what passes for debate in the skeptic movement now? Merely sling an ad hominem at your opponent and claim they can't help but misunderstand the issues because of their demographic background (so no actual debate of reason and evidence is actually necessary).

This is not the movement I signed up for. I guess I "just don't get it" anymore.

Ardent Skeptic said...

Jean,

I do read your other posts, I just don't comment because I don't know the first thing about philosophy and don't believe that I fully understand them.

I do know to keep my mouth shut when I'm unsure about my ability to comprehend what I've read.

Skepticism was how I made it out of the ultra religious wilderness I grew up in. I know the importance of critical thinking and evidence. I am thoroughly disillusioned to have ended up back in an environment where inquiry is off-limits, at least for some topics.

I used to enjoy being a member of the skeptic community. I can't any longer. And, I can no longer bear to watch this madness. My people watching days have come to an end. Bird watching is far more pleasant.

Anonymous said...

I was also surprised that DJ's argument, as you've laid it out, didn't get a better hearing. I realise he stepped over the line in jumping to conclusions, but his argument is another form of 'perception of crime' statistics that is tracked by authorities. 'Perception of crime' does tend to increase even as crime levels go down, and women are more likely then men to think crime has risen 'a lot', with little to support it.

http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/381-400/tandi396.aspx

I don't see how this situation is that different, and therefore DJ could be correct that the perception of harassment may greatly exceed the incident.

A clear idea of how prevalent the problem is is crucial to determining the best course of action, and deciding what an acceptable failure rate is. Currently the only hard data on the problem seems to be the survey. That suggests future meetings should try to collect better information. That'll become harder as self-selection comes into it, and people are driven away by the perception.

Jean Kazez said...

Ardent, Ahhhh, I didn't know you were a regular reader. Thanks for that.

Anonymous, It certainly doesn't seem surprising that the president of an organization of "skeptics" would not automatically trust perceptions of prevalence!

Deepak Shetty said...

Could you please skip giving "homework assignments" to other commenters? It does seem a bit arrogant.
Intentionally So.

But then there was no response from you for statements of the form
"Does someone need to commit suicide as a result of a public shaming"

For someone complaining about horse excrement , I would expect some reaction - when comments like the above are being made on your blog.

Ardent Skeptic said...

@Deepak

? is how my statement ended.

And, as we have now decided it's OK to publicly shame lesser known people with disabilities, suicide is not out of the realm of possibilities. In fact, severe clinical depression is one of the other possible problems which people like Mr. X can suffer.

Sorry about my over-sensitivity to the feelings of others. In this debate, I know that we must show no mercy to our enemies.

Thanks, again, for the great post, Jean!

Julian Francisco said...

"Sorry about my over-sensitivity to the feelings of others. In this debate, I know that we must show no mercy to our enemies."

?

And yet not a word of sympathy for people like Stephanie Zvan who do have a history of suicidal depression.

To borrow a page from your book, do you have any evidence suicide would even be on the table for Mr. X?

And stop using being on the spectrum as a cop out to harassing behavior. Most of us don't like it. It isn't an excuse to be a jerk or put people ill at ease.

Ardent Skeptic said...

@Julian

Not a word of sympathy for me either. I, too, have a history of suicidal depression. That doesn't mean that everything I say should be above question and that I should not have to back up my assertions with facts.

I have not copped out on Mr. X. If you read my comment closely I said that, "We know there have been difficulties as a result of his disability, and there has been discussion about what to do about it." and "Yes, I know people who have such disabilities can be a problem." I have, in fact, acknowledged that Mr. X's behavior has been and can be problematic.

But, his problem is not "cis/privilege" as claimed. It's actually a medical problem which we must accept and figure out how best to deal with it. Any suggestions other than taking away the things he lives for most which are being a member of the skeptic community and attending TAM? We should certainly be able to come up with a solution other than public shaming.

No, I have no evidence that Mr. X suffers from clinical depression. OTOH, I have no evidence that he doesn't suffer from clinical depression. To the best of my knowledge he hasn't said, so none of us knows. (Just like you didn't know that I have suffered and continue to suffer with clinical depression periodically.) And, that's why we should exercise caution in our dealings with others.

I have stated that ALL sides are engaging in horribly negative behavior. Skepticism is dispassionate. If we had stuck with just arguing the evidence from the get go, I don't think this would have become the barroom brawl that it has.

Julian Francisco said...

"That doesn't mean that everything I say should be above question and that I should not have to back up my assertions with facts."

Then you'll agree Mr. X's actions, motivations and behavior should not be off limits for criticism.

And please drop the implication that Stephanie Zvan doesn't back up her position on sexual harassment. She does (a lot more than she should as people can't seem to agree on sensible positions) and almost always has a link to relevant statistics, research or work.

Re Mr. X,

You may not think you are using spectrum disorders as cop outs but you are. The fault, in all your comments is not on him but on Autism and Aspergers. That's what I'm objecting to. It isn't being on the spectrum that's kept him from ignoring the feelings of others. He's been told (often by the accounts I've heard) that what he's doing is off putting and "creepy" but he continues to do those same things. There's has to have been a personal decision on his part not to take those things under consideration and the constant shielding has only reinforced that decision.

Blaming a medical condition is not the way to handle this. If he genuinely does not want to put people ill at ease, or cause them unnecessary discomfort, he'll find ways.

P.S. Sort of a quibble more than anything else,

Skepticism, reason and logic aren't dispassionate. They don't discriminate based on infliction or timing. An argument stands on it's merits whether the speaker is monotone or not. Dispassion may be useful in presentation but it doesn't correct for fallacious thinking. How could it? It's every bit an emotional state as anger or sadness. It may even lend false credibility as we have a tendency to interpret removed as impartial and impartial as capable of weighing all sides evenly.

Anyway, I hope this isn't to forward of me but I hope you are doing well. Like with Ophelia and Watson I'd rather you shut out all this business than get swallowed up by it.

Deepak Shetty said...

@Arden Skeptic
Ok Im going to respond seriously.

The motivations of mr X , or mr drunk guy, or mr elevator gate guy are not in question(Dennis markuze was probably mentally disturbed and sent death threats. The fact that he is/was mentally ill has no relevance to how people were going to perceive his comments.)

The response to reports about harassment are and the proactive steps being taken (because of the nature of harrasment) are.


If you are going to respond to women saying they feel uncomfortable/unsafe with I don't personally know of any cases then you have a problem.

If you are going to respond to valid concerns with I have a survey (the analogy would be a Catholic Priest pointing to a survey in his church that no children have been molested as evidence that child molestation claims are 'misinformation')

I personally think that aside from his initial responses DJ didn't do that bad a job , but the people who supposedly support him blew a lot of stuff out of proportion - and people calling for DJ's resignation or suspecting his motivations because he is gay were similarly responsible for this fracas being what it is.

You must realize that when you start using the phrase "bullies" (if Jean Kazez has a bunch of commenters who criticse me would it be bullying?) or seemingly repeat Stangroom's moronic tweets , you are going to be dismissed arrogantly.

. If sexual harassment is a serious problem at conferences, we should be having a serious conversation about it,
You can't, because every time it is raised , however well or reasonably phrased , it always blows up with all the same old stuff being dragged out.

Skepticism is dispassionate.
Perhaps it is the fault of Star Trek - but Skepticism doesn't mean you have to behave like Mr Spock (The Leonard Nimoy one). Most skeptics I know are passionate about what they do. If you are a skeptic then you should be able to distinguish between what is being said and how it is being said.

Jean Kazez said...

Deepak, I'm not about to dismiss anybody's sincere concerns about real events. For example, take the incident involving the swingers giving a speaker their card. I think that's inappropriate, and entirely understand that she'd be uncomfortable. Or take what's been said/done to Rebecca Watson over the past year. Of course she feels harassed. There are people online also harassing Ophelia day in and day out. It's appalling. All these things are realities and I've complained about them in past posts.

But now, it's also quite fine to try to quantify how often these things happen, and especially how often they happen on the ground, as opposed to on the internet. There are various reasons why quantification is important. First, you don't want to buy into the idea that atheists are especially bad, when it comes to how they treat women, do you? Surely not. Second, in a community with under-representation of women, you don't want to scare them away by exaggerating the problem.

Imagine the issue were racism instead of sexism. I think in that case everyone would be in 100% agreement. Of course you don't want to paint a picture of atheists as being especially racist, without having solid evidence. Of course you don't want to scare away people of color, without good reason.

About bullying. I don't think it's really entirely germane at the moment to think about who's been bullying whom over the past several years, but I agree with Jeremy that lots of bullying goes on in the atheist community. Duh. Of course I agree, because I'm one of the people who have been bullied. I'm not sitting around at this point nursing my wounds. In fact, I have established friendly relations with several people I've felt bullied by in the past. I'm a person who's pretty happy to move on and try to make things better. So--I will not be rehashing old stories here. But Jeremy's not nuts. What's that PZ Myers called him recently? A dingle-something. I don't agree, but he certainly enjoys being provocative.

Deepak Shetty said...

I'm not about to dismiss anybody's sincere concerns about real events.
I didnt say you did(I said DJs initial comments come across as that way) - my only complaint about your post was that's its one sided and leaves out things that are relevant to the people who don't agree with you. Since the normal style of your posts is to present a somewhat objective summary before writing your views , I pointed that out.

First, you don't want to buy into the idea that atheists are especially bad, when it comes to how they treat women, do you? Surely not.
No. But I don't think they are especially better. The difference is non believers have a better shot at improving their behavior.

Second, in a community with under-representation of women, you don't want to scare them away by exaggerating the problem.
But that's a big claim. far more deserving of evidence than the fact that some women feel uncomfortable at events or don't think their problems are taken seriously. You have some women who did post saying that its not the harrasment that is driving them away - its the reaction that people like Rebecca/Stephanie/Ophelia get when they raise these topics. Correspondingly I havent read women who have said what DJ said - That reading FTB bloggers is the reason they don't want to attend skeptical meetings. That's admittedly a biased sample anecdote.

But Jeremy's not nuts.
Maybe not. But you can't read him about gnus and think that he is being remotely reasonable. He believes he can complain about abuses while simultaneously abusing people. It's like if PZ complained about profanity use.
I still can't believe this is someone who co-wrote does god hate women.

I've felt bullied by in the past.
I suppose you are referring to MooneyGate. I would also agree that if you perhaps posted a dissenting view say on Pharyngula , you will get some abuses, and you will get quite a few people disagreeing with you - while the abuses can legitimately be considered a form of bullying can you really generalize to bullies at FTB? What if I disagreed with you ? Am I included in the FTB bullies?

Jean Kazez said...

Not everyone who disagrees with me as a bully. They're merely wrong. (Joke.)

Don't have time to respond to everything you said, but just wanted to point out that some of what I omitted is grist for the other side, but some of it is grist for DJ's side. I actually left out a key piece of evidence that the online talk of harassment is scaring away women. DJ said the JREF has received a lot of email to that effect!

Truth is I don't really have any strong views on why women do or don't go to these things, but my suspicion is that it's not a coincidence that the number of women at an atheism conference is about like the number of women in philosophy. The same parts of the head are emphasized in both worlds.

Deepak Shetty said...

The same parts of the head are emphasized in both worlds.
Im not sure I understand this. Care to elaborate?

Russell Blackford said...

@ Deepak - no one says that every single blogger at Freethought Blogs is a bully or a bully enabler or a witch hunter. But quite a large number of them (I can think of at least eight) are. I think it's about time the others had a good look at whether they now want to be associated with a site that is so thoroughly tainted, discredited, and ridiculed.

Furthermore, apart from the actual bloggers, there are some truly vicious thugs who regularly comment there - the likes of Josh Slocum and "Salty Current" (and many others).

I think that Jeremy Stangroom's view of Freethought Blogs is absolutely correct.

Also, no one objects to people raising topics such as sexual harassment for discussion. We do object when any scepticism leads to violent language, bans from blogs, witch-hunt threads, public humiliations (as happened to Stef McGraw), etc., etc.

For what it's worth, I am an expert (or at least, to be honest, a former expert, in that I have not been in legal practice for over a decade now) on the subject of sexual harassment law and workplace misconduct in general. I have investigated many cases of alleged workplace misconduct, including alleged sexual harassment, have overseen the prosecution of many internal disciplinary proceedings against people who have been accused of workplace misconduct (including cases of alleged sexual harassment), have given legal advice on sexual harassment issues to large organisations, including business corporations and universities, and have even written a book (!) on the subject of equal employment opportunity and sexual harassment law for the corporate market (although the legal team in the large firm where I worked at the time was listed as "author" and I was only listed as "editor"). This is a topic on which I have some real, even if somewhat rusty, expertise.

Moreover, I am no friend of sexual harassers. If anything, I am known for taking a hard line against them.

Russell Blackford said...

But what I can tell you, based on all that expertise and experience, is that most of what I am reading from Benson, Zvan, Watson, Myers, Laden is total bullshit. These people don't know what they're talking about, but are merely subscribing to an ideology. I am very worried at the prospect that their views will be taken seriously in a spirit of engagement with "feminist critics".

I'd be happy to give free advice on such topics to any secularist, etc., organisation that wanted it (since I am no longer a practising lawyer, it would not, strictly speaking, be legal advice, but I'd still be entitled to charge a considerable consultancy fee if I wanted to). Furthermore, I'd be happy to discuss all these issues in a rational, nuanced, civil way in any forum where that was possible.

However, there is no prospect of doing that at Freethought Blogs, where a radical anti-sex pseudo-feminist ideology rules, and where much is believed as a matter of faith rather than evidence. Freethought Blogs (or, rather, the subset of it that we are talking about) is a good example of how the real enemy of reason is not religion, per se, but irrational ideology in general.

Last point: I now regret getting caught up so much in the participation mystique that surrounded the vilification of Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum a few years ago. As I've said on my own blog, I will apologise to them in person when I finally meet them.

I still totally disgree with many of their views (and I am being strongly critical of them in the book that I'm currently writing with Udo Schuklenk). But I do regret being caught up in all the Colgate Twins, etc., stuff.

Note, however, how Chris Mooney fell for the Tom Johnson/Wally Smith story because it confirmed his biases. This should be a lesson to us all. Be sceptical about every such story, even if it tends to confirm your biases. In fact, especially if it tends to confirm your biases.

We now know that there were no upskirt photographs. We now know that Ophelia Benson did not receive threatening emails (she received a couple of earnest, concerned emails from people who were on her side ... unless the emails were actually intended as parodies).

I think we should suspend judgment as to whether there was ever an Elevator Guy or a conversation in a lift in Dublin - we need more evidence as to what, if anything, took place that night.

As a general rule: be aware that people misinterpret, misremember, exaggerate, embellish, and generally confabulate just about all the time. Untested witness evidence is useless. This does not mean that, as a generalisation, "women lie" - the rule applies to men AND women. And, alas, sometimes people, of both sexes, actually do lie.

Always be sceptical when you see claims about someone behaving badly unless you see the events with your own eyes or there is plenty of corroboration and/or testing of the evidence (via cross-examination, for example).

Among sceptics, all this should go without saying ... but evidently not.

Julian Francisco said...

I suppose it would be asking to much for the great Russel Blackford to substantiate his criticism. Particularly the anti-sex accusation considering when both Talisma and Sikivu Hutchinson made arguments to the affect that pornography was degrading there was an incredible backlash within the commentariate and bloggers.

"I think we should suspend judgment as to whether there was ever an Elevator Guy or a conversation in a lift in Dublin - we need more evidence as to what, if anything, took place that night."

"Always be sceptical when you see claims about someone behaving badly unless you see the events with your own eyes or there is plenty of corroboration and/or testing of the evidence (via cross-examination, for example)."

So ignore both Watson and Miller because they didn't have a camera crew following them

Miller was right to be worried people like you would warp her story even more than several of Grothe's defenders already have if there hadn't been so many witnesses.

"We now know that there were no upskirt photographs. "

No you don't. You know he wasn't seen taking upskirt pics. Don't overstate your case Mr. King of Skeptics.

" We now know that Ophelia Benson did not receive threatening emails"

*facepalm*

Ardent Skeptic said...

@Russell

Thanks for the reminder about what skepticism is.

I think a major factor in this brouhaha has been overconfidence about what we know.

Fortunately for me, I had most of my self-esteem destroyed at a very young age. I say "fortunately" because, as a result, I don't have all that much confidence in what I know. I'm a serious fact-checker. (Fanatical is probably a more apt description. I got a huge laugh when Deepak gave me a homework assignment. I have the “sexism” blogwar printed, sorted, and tabbed with “Tables of Content” in six binders printed 2up/duplex. It’s a pretty extensive resource for this debate. ;-)

As an example:

When the Mr. X and Lee problem surfaced, I remembered them both from TAM9. I was pretty sure who both were, and what I had witnessed. Still, I searched the internet for hours, (finding all the history I could about both Lee and Mr. X, looking at Mr. X's pictures, and photos of Lee at TAM), until I was absolutely positive that Mr. X was who I had been speaking with in the bar, and Lee was who I had been sitting with at a vendor table periodically for three days and also the one wearing the above mentioned T-Shirt. I found a photo of Lee sitting at the vendor table and one in that T-shirt taken in the bar at Southpoint. I'm in the background of one of Mr. X's shots, sitting at the same table he was before he took the shot.

Memory just isn't all that good. Better to be sure of the facts before making a claim.

@Everyone

I think skeptics should take a charitable attitude when responding to others. We've been playing a very dangerous game throughout this debate by being too quick to think the worst, looking solely for reasons to find fault, and letting vicious ad hominems go unchecked as our response to dissenters. Skeptics should know that this kind of behavior is unhelpful and can even be harmful.

I know the internet is a rough and tumble world generally, but in the skeptic blogosphere we should be setting higher standards. I'm not satisfied with the "internetitis" excuse which has been given. Skepticism should provide immunity from this disease.

@Julian

My comment that skepticism is dispassionate isn't about tone of voice or timing. It's saying that critical thinking based on evidence is a pursuit which requires us to set aside our emotions and let evidence alone inform our provisional conclusions. Sometimes that means that something which feels emotionally 'right' can be wrong based on the evidence. It also means that we shouldn’t be so emotionally attached to our conclusions that we are unwilling to change our mind when we are presented with evidence which disproves our conclusions. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being wrong as long as we are willing to accept that we are in error and change our thinking based on new evidence.

Finally, I am not saying that the autistic get to behave inappropriately towards others and we just have to put up with it. I'm saying that we need to take this into consideration when trying to deal with the problem. That may mean setting more explicit and concrete rules for people like Mr. X because of their more limited ability to understand social cues and empathize with others.

Julian Francisco said...

@Ardent Skeptic

Again, not really a big point, but none of that makes your conclusions or beliefs anymore valid. You could be entirely dispassionate in your evaluation of evidence but be so unable to deal with your own cognitive biases (for whatever reason, I'm prone to believe just about every argument for God. Still don't know why) you always get the wrong conclusion.

Really don't know why I'm pursuing this. Maybe SIWOTI and way too much time on my hands. Anyway later.

J. J. Ramsey said...

"However, there is no prospect of doing that at Freethought Blogs, where a radical anti-sex pseudo-feminist ideology rules"

This is the part that mystifies me about your position. If I look at an older post written in the aftermath of ElevatorGate by Jen McCreight, now a member of Freethought Blogs, her message is that there's a time and a place for flirting, hook-ups, etc., and even said things such as "Feel free to say I'm cute when I'm rocking my black cocktail dress at Penn Jillette's party at TAM 9" and "Feel free to tell raunchy jokes when I'm having a beer at post-talk social. I'll join you." There's no indication that she's changed her mind about this. More currently, there have been positive discussions of polyamory by J.T. Eberhard. Francisco already pointed out the pushback by other FtB bloggers against Taslima's anti-porn rant. In the Google+ video discussion about Grothe and TAM between Myers, Fincke, Benson, and several other FtB bloggers (a transcript of which is now available), they came out against a policy which would ban consensual sex between speakers and audience members.

The only way I can see your position making sense is if you thought that in spite of their personal sex-positive views, the policies that they'd encourage would lead to unintended chilling effects on consensual flirting, sexual overtures, and so on. You have yet to actually present such a case, though.

This is not to say that there are no problems with bullying and such. I of all people would be the last to say such a thing.

Jean Kazez said...

JJ Ramsey, What I want to see is people engaging in reasonable, respectful debate, so that someone can take a minority position without being demonized or ostracized. I don't think the treatment of Tasmila Nasreen is anything FtB-ers should be proud of on that score. In fact, I think it's an example of group think and piling on, whether in a "sex positive" spirit or not. One post after another treated her as naive and claimed that it was outlandish for an atheist to be opposed to prostitution. Even the more philosopher writers treated this as something medieval and outmoded. It was amazing, because there is a big literature in ethics about what should be for sale (see new books by Sandel and Satz, for example), marriage ethics, pornography, etc. There are lots of completely non-religious arguments questioning prostitution. Of course, there are arguments on the other side, too. Instead of actually having an informed, sophisticated debate about prostitution (and other sexual issues), a party-line position develops quickly at FtB and almost everyone falls into position. Outliers get hammered, scorned, sometimes driven out.

***

Russell, I think it's fascinating to compare this brouhaha to the thing about Mooney and "TJ"--and those who put themselves in the middle of both disputes are not being consistent. Interestingly (I think!) both disputes are about how atheists behave at meetings. In the first dispute--do they verbally attack religious people? In the second--do atheist males often harass females? (I agree with you that the term "sexual harassment" is thrown around in this dispute in a way that has nothing to do with its legal meaning.)

Here's the inconsistency: in the first dispute many people were extremely concerned to protect the image of atheists, so it was extremely important to have solid evidence before accepting TJ's anecdote as truthful. The image of atheists as a group was at stake, so people weren't going to listen to ol' TJ telling stories.

OK, fine. It turned out he was lying or at least wildly exaggerating. So skepticism lead to the truth about that incident.

In this case, the image of atheists is also at stake, but now the bar for accepting anecdotes as truthful is set very low. Basically it seems like the rule has changed from "every complaint must be challenged" to "ever complaint must be unchallenged"!

You've got this principle that says that challenging any woman's complaints, or even trying to quantify incidents, is "blaming the victim". It's horrible and sexist and disrespectful to women. Thus, someone can come along and tell the camera-guy story, and a lot of people just accept it at face value. If we were still in Mooney-TJ country, they would care about the fact that the story is coming out now, a year later, and wasn't mentioned by anyone in the anonymous survey conducted by DJ Grothe at the time. But we're in another country, where compassion for any remotely possible victim of sexism takes higher priority than defending the image of atheism.

My feeling is--you can be a feminist and be serious about standards of evidence. You can care about real harassment without uncritically embracing just any complaint. You can and should quantify incidents before making general claims about what goes on at meetings (saying they're not a "safe space" for example).

***

Deepak (way up), What I meant is that the issues skeptics are similar to those in certain areas of philosophy (critical thinking, philosophy of religion). You're not going to have any trouble getting women to come to a conference on animal rights (over 50% will be female), even if there are rumors that women get harassed by men there. But you've got a problem getting women into philosophy and philosophy-like things, and its only compounded the more there are rumors of harassment.

J. J. Ramsey said...

"I don't think the treatment of Tasmila Nasreen is anything FtB-ers should be proud of on that score. In fact, I think it's an example of group think and piling on"

It might be an example of "piling on" in the brute sense of there being several bloggers disagreeing with Nasreen, but the disagreement was civil. Taslima was not hounded as a "witless wanker" or some sort of buffoon. You could argue that those arguing against her should have used particular pieces of literature as sources, but given, for example, discussion of the downsides of the Swedish model (where only the buying and not the sale of sexual services is illegal), or the input of experiences of actual sex workers, both good and bad, I would not call the debated ill-informed.

More to my point, though, is that if Dr. Blackford is going to claim that FtB has this "radical anti-sex" ideology, he's going to have to square that with the prima facie evidence that the opposite is the case, especially if he wants to have some credibility in the current debate. Otherwise, he just looks like he's presenting straw men.

Jean Kazez said...

JJ, That's certainly a good example to show that FtB-ers are not anti-sex. That's all you really intended, so fine.

But I stand by my complaint! It's not that the discussion was uncivil, but that there was an unearned air of "we know better" about it. As an example, look at this post by Richard Carrier--

http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/925

He comes across as a master of the philosophical debate--throws around all sorts of terms, authors, links, etc. But he misleads and omits everything contrary to his outlook. For example, he writes this--

Taslima has blogged avidly since she started this month (at No Country for Women), and among her posts was Sex Slavery Must Be Abolished, in which she railed not just against actual sex slavery, but all forms of sex work (and then responded to critics of it in Do Women Really ‘Choose’ to Be Prostitutes). For example, she repeats the Old School Feminist adage that all “prostitution is sexual exploitation” (which must mean “engineering is intellectual exploitation” and “janitorial work is domestic exploitation” and…well, you can already see this kind of thinking just doesn’t make much sense) and that all hookers are “forced to enter prostitution” by the need to make money (which must mean my wife was forced into accounting by the need to make money, therefore she is a business slave, and therefore accounting is “not an acceptable job for women,” and we should outlaw accountancy). All this kind of logic is fallacious because it enshrines sex as somehow sacred and different from other human behaviors, which is a distinctively religious thing to do. Which makes it peculiar for an atheist to be caught back up in that superstitious thinking as if it’s somehow correct (and not just correct, but beyond dispute).

There's an "I know better" insinuation here, especially if you read the whole post. Yet the passage is in fact naive. He doesn't seem to realize that there are a variety of completely non-religious, non-"old school feminist" arguments why sex should not be for sale. One argument is in Michael Sandel's new book "What Money Can't Buy." Another is in Debra Satz's recent book "Why Some Things Should not be For Sale." I think the post tries to "snow" Nasreen and just does not fairly represent the arguments on both sides of the debate about prostitution. The "anti" side is not the superstitious, illogical mess Carrier makes it out to be.

Granted, she certainly did not do a good job of making arguments on her own side. So she elicited a lot of backlash....

Anyhow. This was sort of a side issue. You're right that there's plenty of pro-sex writing at FtB. There's also a lot of a certain kind of feminism that's hard to reconcile with skepticism.

Julian Francisco said...

"There's also a lot of a certain kind of feminism that's hard to reconcile with skepticism."

Such as?

Midnight Rambler said...

But I stand by my complaint! It's not that the discussion was uncivil, but that there was an unearned air of "we know better" about it.

This is ridiculous as an argument against FtB, since it's a justifiable criticism of pretty much everyone. In addition to Blackford's comment above, Taslima's post that set off the whole debate was full of it - "girls are exploited for prostitution in Bangladesh, therefore every form of prostitution and pornography is evil and must be banned absolutely."

Bruce Gorton said...

We now know that Ophelia Benson did not receive threatening emails (she received a couple of earnest, concerned emails from people who were on her side ... unless the emails were actually intended as parodies).

Unfairly put. We know the emails Ophelia received were not threats because Ophelia got some friends to investigate. It was not some grand deception that she was trying to pull.

She posted excerpts from the email exchange on her blog.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/06/closing-the-file/

Chris Willett said...

I was bashed mercilessly, wrongfully accused of trolling, wrongfully accused of making comments I did not make, shamed as a "tone troll," and summarily banned from Greg Laden's blog (and all my posts deleted) for merely disagreeing with his conclusions regarding Elevatorgate. Then Laden made comments on my blog (the entirety of which I have since deleted because there is no point in arguing with these people) regarding urine. I faced similar atrocious treatment at Skepchick, though I think you can still find my comments there and judge for yourself whether I am truly a "raging misogynistic MRA" or whatever it is I have been repeatedly labeled.

It didn't take too long for me to realize that this isn't skepticism. This is nasty tribal warfare. Arguments are interpreted to mean the worst; disagreements on any point, no matter how minor, place you in the opposing camp or get you labeled a "troll"; personal attacks from otherwise intelligent, well-spoken people are routinely vicious and unrestrained. So I left. I deleted my blog and stopped participating in most of these "discussions." And after Ernest Perce of American Atheists questioned my sincerity as someone opposed to religious belief, I no longer identify as non-religious on Facebook. I didn't leave one cult to join another.

CommanderTuvok said...

Bruce Gorton: Unfairly put. We know the emails Ophelia received were not threats because Ophelia got some friends to investigate. It was not some grand deception that she was trying to pull.

Well, OK, but she was perfectly fine with her bunch of foaming-at-the-mouth followers to insinuate that "Jeremy Stangroom, Sara Mayhew and the ERVites" were somehow responsible. That accusation came from Jason Thibeault. Thibeault and Ophelia them flamed Sara for asking for clarification about the accusation. Sara was also bullied, and generally told to get lost because she was "trolling" and was "too young to understand". LOL.

I can accept that Ophelia was genuinely upset by the unusual nature of the emails before the investigation revealed they were not a threat, but that does not excuse her behaviour, and the behaviour of her followers.

John C. Welch said...

""There's also a lot of a certain kind of feminism that's hard to reconcile with skepticism."

Such as?"

Well, for one, the assertion by Laden et all, numerous times immediately following elevatorgate, that if a man is walking down the street, and sees a woman, and it's late, and they are the only ones on the street, then the only correct behavior is for the man to cross the street until he is no longer near the woman, because otherwise, he *will* be seen as...I don't know, insert your favorite bad thing there.

This applied to well, everything. Woman gets on the elevator with a man already on? Man must get off. Man wants to get on the elevator, but only a single woman is on it? Man must get on a different elevator.

Basically, at not time can a man be alone in an enclosed space of any size, (including evidently, "outside"), because there is no way on cthulu's perverted earth that a woman can possibly feel safe in such a situation. Evidently, any time a man attacks a woman, the woman must always lose, and you are always at risk from attack by strangers.

Laden also talked about some silliness involve a "rape switch".

Now, let us be clear on a few things:

1) Women are FAR more in danger from people known to them than strangers. The numbers on this are BEYOND clear.

From http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32306:

"Seventy-seven (77)% of completed rapes are committed by non-strangers (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997). A woman is four times more likely to be raped by an acquaintance than by a stranger (Illinois Coaliltion Against Sexual Assault, 2002).

Acquaintance rape is rarely reported to police. Less than 2% of acquaintance rape victims reported the assault whereas 21% of women raped by strangers reported the crime to police (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2002).

Every year, an estimated one woman in eight in college is raped and in 85% of those assaults the women knew their attacker (Texas Woman's University, 2007.

When most people think of rape, they visualize an unknown lunatic violently dragging a defenseless person into a dark alley. This is a very inaccurate portrayal. Almost four out of five rapes are committed by attackers who knew or recognized their victims (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992)."

So on that entire point, everyone pushing it, which is the usual lot at FTB, but Laden somewhat leads the pack, they're wrong. The data doesn't back their assertion up.

Of course, that doesn't stop them from pushing this, which leads to a far more dangerous viewpoint:

Women need protecting at all times, for they are incapable of handling the world and its bumps unless men smooth all the bumps, round all the corners, and make sure there is no chance of problem. Women are just too helpless to stand up for themselves.

That's the implication of all this. Women need men to protect them. Well, bollocks. This is infantilizing women. When you tell me the simple act of being on the same street as a grown adult woman will reduce her to a ball of trembling, helpless fear, I think of all the women I know, and have known and think "Maybe you should hang out with grownups".

There is no way this is promoting women as full, equal, members of society. This is promoting women as helpless children who must live in fear of every shadow, and tremble at every noise.

That's one small, highly offensive example. There are many, many more, but low-hanging fruit and all.

(also, starting counter on how long someone will discount anything I have said, say, or ever will say solely because of certain NatGeo blog I hang out at.)

Chris Willett said...

". . . Of course, that doesn't stop them from pushing this, which leads to a far more dangerous viewpoint: Women need protecting at all times, for they are incapable of handling the world and its bumps unless men smooth all the bumps, round all the corners, and make sure there is no chance of problem. Women are just too helpless to stand up for themselves." - John C. Welch

Yes Yes Yes! I was told all the same things you were – that I need to cross the street; that I shouldn't ever enter an elevator if a woman is in there, etc. So I tried to make the point you did, above, but I was bullied into silence by dozens of pseudonym'd commenters who pile on anyone who disagrees, no matter how slightly, with the prevailing doctrine at FtB. I too felt that Laden and others were making arguments that belittled women, but when I pointed this out, I was branded "misogynist" and "privileged" and "troll."

Iamcuriousblue said...

Jean - I think you're going *way* off topic here, but the backlash Taslima received was actually quite warranted. She made a very poor case against sex work and pornography and general, one that was based on some not particularly well reasoned and highly *dated* arguments. At one point she went so far as to call a sex worker who responded in her comments section as a "tool of the patriarchy". Just because you happen to agree with the whole anti-porn/anti-prostitution line does not mean Taslima made a remotely rational or evidence-based case for it.

I will point out that for the most part, disagreement with her from the other FTB bloggers was respectful, with Greta Christina in particular providing a clear, evidence-based rebuttal for Taslima's assertions, and at one point, opening up her blog to a comment thread by sex workers to directly talk about *their* experiences in sex work rather than have it as simply a topic discussed over their head by third parties. I fail to see anything wrong with that response at all. The rest of FTB basically threw support behind Greta's position, and most notably did not write post after post about Taslima being an idiot or asshole. Contrast that with posts about DJ Grothe.

As to FTB more generally -

I'll point out that there's a *huge* difference between the response to Taslima, and the collective response to those who are perceived as "anti-feminist" or in some way "enemies" of FTB. If that's the case, the really ugly "us vs them" piling-on behavior comes to the surface. This isn't all FTB bloggers, but as Russell says, there are several that are quite vitriolic, Jason Thibault in particular. PZ Myers, for his part, can be pretty nasty as well, and since he has the largest, most widely-read blog on FTB, that really sets the tone for the rest of FTB. While there are a few blogs that are fairly vitriol free, and one that even dissented from the FTB vs TAM wars (Uncredible Hallq), it's a problem that's endemic there. A core element of the problem with FTB is the commentariat there, which is basically a modern-day equivalent of the Parisian mob in the darkest days of the French Revolution. These people go a long way to contribute to the vitriol that comes from FTB and the "piling on" culture that comes with it. They encourage the worst tendencies of the bloggers there, becoming an audience the bloggers demagogically pander to.

For my part, I just had a massive falling-out with Greta Christina, a blogger I've read and respect for many years now, long before there was a "Freethoughtblogs". However, I got quite sick of the hateful comments I received from the commentators there whenever I disagreed even slightly with something she'd written or was critical of FTB at all. And for Greta's part, she was clear that she was going to side with the commentariat on this, enforcing a set of civility rules quite selectively to make it clear that dissent wasn't allowed, but piling-on in support her position was. It's really sad to see a writer I once respected dragged down by this utterly fucked-up mob culture, but symptomatic of just how toxic the culture there is. It is clear that the culture that has evolved at FTB and key figures like PZ Myers are a detriment to the skeptic/atheist milieu, and I hope that the larger milieu makes some effort to insulate themselves against takeover by that hateful little subset.

Iamcuriousblue said...

BTW, when I lead off on "way off topic", I probably didn't follow up on what I meant by that. I think your specific defenses on the merits or lack thereof of the anti-commercial sex position are a really long conversation in and of itself, and quite apart from the larger argument about the culture of FTB.

Then again, as I hadn't noticed when I first comment, it's your blog, and you can take discussion any way you want.

Jean Kazez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean Kazez said...

Iamcuriousblue, I didn't mean to imply I admired the way TN made her case against prostitution. I just think it's a mistake to say that atheists have to speak with one voice on that subject, or that the arguments against it are necessarily religious. But yes...that's a "long conversation", and pretty tangential here.

Deepak Shetty said...

@Russell

We do object when any scepticism leads to violent language, bans from blogs, witch-hunt threads, public humiliations (as happened to Stef McGraw), etc., etc.

Sorry , but you didn't object much to the ERV gang - and they used extremely nasty language. Much more than anything Ive read at Pharyngula.

And as far as I know , no FTB blogger supports any kind of violent language , though you might find a few comments that cross that boundary.
As far as public humiliation etc is concerned - both sides have used harsh language. Your own comments calls people as bullies (because a bunch of people collectively criticise someone harshly? - heck then we all bully the RCC) - that's a meme that's been picked up by many bloggers. How is that not an attempt at public humiliation - when you do it , it's reasoned criticism directed towards deserving bullies I suppose.

For what it's worth, I am an expert (or at least, to be honest, a former expert, in that I have not been in legal practice for over a decade now) on the subject of sexual harassment law and workplace misconduct in general.
I've no doubt that you are - but it's here where a lot of skeptics miss the plot. There's the legal definition of sexual harassment and then there is what women experience. My wife was waiting at a train station for me and a couple of guys passed some remarks - not necessarily to her , no witnesses. It upset her so much that now she ensures that I am there before time to pick her up - there is no court on this planet that would convict the two guys of sexual harassment. Perhaps they only wanted to ask her out for coffee.

These people don't know what they're talking about, but are merely subscribing to an ideology.
What ideology is that? I only follow Ophelia regularly and PZ sometimes(the rest I dont follow much). I don't think they are guilty of what you accuse them of. Go ahead make your case.

In fact, especially if it tends to confirm your biases.
Shrug. It applies to everyone including you. I liked your blog - I liked your views(Heck I bought your book as promised) but you just lose your judgement when it comes to this issue.

We now know that Ophelia Benson did not receive threatening emails
No - If someone writes me an email saying that if I go somewhere something bad may happen - I too would read it as a threat. It may not be what the person intended but I'd probably go with the same its not worth it to find out - I only have one life.

Always be sceptical when you see claims about someone behaving badly unless you see the events with your own eyes
I wasn't there when my wife told me what happened. Im sure if your wife told you something similar you wouldn't ask wheres the evidence? It's not out of the ordinary that women are the target of lewd remarks and other types of harassment which makes them sensitive to a whole lot of things and that legally permissible actions would make them uncomfortable. I have seen some things in my old workplace where I thought that the women should complain about the behavior of some managers - but they don't and they don't fill in anonymous surveys either , and this in organizations with well defined sexual harassment policies. Do you know why? It's because they say there is no use - anonymity only goes so far - if it comes to proving it , you would have to reveal yourself or the incident would reveal the identity of the person. It's not worth it.

It's unbelievable to me that people point to surveys as evidence.

Jean Kazez said...

Your own comments calls people as bullies (because a bunch of people collectively criticise someone harshly? - heck then we all bully the RCC) - that's a meme that's been picked up by many bloggers. How is that not an attempt at public humiliation - when you do it , it's reasoned criticism directed towards deserving bullies I suppose.

Deepak, This is ridiculous. You can make a claim that certain people are engaged in bullying because you think it's wrong and want it to stop, and not because you're tying to "publically humiliate". I don't think you can serious believe Russell thinks bullying is nothing more than "collective harsh criticism". Obviously that's not his definition and not the nature of his accusation. Why bother making that charge, if it only takes 10 seconds of thought to see that it's false? I suspect this was really just rhetoric, and so a waste of everyone's time.

Speaking of wasting time .... I suppose it's time to wrap this thread up. moderate. Very soon, anyway.

Jean Kazez said...

Whoops--Delete "moderate."

Chris Willett said...

Just think of all those poor fundamentalist Christians who are oppressed whenever gays and lesbians refer to their speech and tactics as "bullying!" Obviously, calling someone a bully is as objectionable as the behavior of the bully.

By comparing the nasty, degrading remarks that come out of FtB to mere complaints about those remarks, Deepak Shetty is engaging in a FALSE EQUIVALENCY. Jean is right; that argument is a waste of time to even refute.

Further, Shetty's obsessive defense of FtB, including remarks that can be fairly summarized as, Oh, but look at ERV! They do it too! convince me that this is indeed a tribal conflict, one that may have begun with Rebecca Watson's public shaming of Stef McGraw during some conference however long ago now. It's childish. It's pathetic. It's why I now read the blogs of the skeptic "community" primarily for entertainment: Any content of value is sadly crowded out by endless dramas among giant egos defensive of their status as "well-known bloggers" in a community that few in the real world even take seriously.

Deepak Shetty said...

I don't think you can serious believe Russell thinks bullying is nothing more than "collective harsh criticism"
Again - If the FtB bloggers have done anything more than this , then make your case. I suspect it will fall under
a. Calls for DJ to resign - Certainly that could be a form of intimidation and shouldn't have been done(and I think Laden was wrong) - but is it any different from saying Prez Obama is doing a poor job and should resign - It's not necessarily bullying , it depends.

b. Use of profanity - some of which cross acceptable boundaries.

c. Calls to effectively boycott TAM (even if phrased as Im not going) - again this could be seen as bullying , but is also a legitimate form of protest.

Do you have anything else? What are you/Russell referring to? You cannot keep repeating that its obviously bullying when the other side doesn't think it is.

Deepak Shetty said...

@Chris Willett
Just think of all those poor fundamentalist Christians who are oppressed whenever gays and lesbians refer to their speech and tactics as "bullying!"
Analogy fail. If all the fundies were doing was saying gays and lesbians were sinners and would burn in hell - I and as far as I know Russell Blackford would have to reluctantly defend their right to do so. And no I wouldn't consider that bullying either.
But they do much worse (and I dont have to point you to a list of what they actually do)

Obviously, calling someone a bully is as objectionable as the behavior of the bully
Without proof or explanation like Mr Stangroom? Yes it is objectionable.

Oh, but look at ERV!
Nope its that if you want to complain about harsh language - be fair. If I'm an admirer of Pharyngula (im not incidentally), I cannot complain about profanity. At no point have I said that FtB can use sexist insults or harsh language because ERV does so.

Jean Kazez said...

Deepak, To back up a charge of bullying takes sifting through tons of posts, comments, incidents, etc. Not the way I want to spend my time today. This wasn't the topic of my post, so I don't think it's my job to do all that legwork. I just think you shouldn't pretend that the people complaining about bullying are bothered simply by the specter of a group of people criticizing something or someone. They think something more than that going on. That ought to be obvious, even if youdon't think anything more is going on.

J. J. Ramsey said...

I'd say that when FtB bloggers and commenters cross the line from harsh criticism to repeated abuse and even libel, then we get into the territory of bullying. Take, for example, the response to Orac calling Benson on an over-the-top Nazi analogy. Benson's commenters pile on, with Benson herself falsely accusing Orac of reading her blog "to get some ammunition for more bullying", another commenter ignorantly claiming "until now he also didn’t get involved in calling people out for bad (and ridiculous) analogies and gratitious godwining," when he's had a long history of mocking such analogies, and still another describing him as a useful idiot. The signal-to-noise ratio is too low to call any of that legitimate criticism.

On a different note, one thing that bugs me is what constitutes what D.J. Grothe calls "irresponsible messaging." I'm reminded of what Daniel Fincke said in the Google+ talk about how "obviously humans are bad at statistics, right? So if you hear about three instances, and everything was wonderful, people, you know they’ll exaggerate how bad that was for the totality." I think at least part of what may be happening is that the readers of the various blogs see real problems being pointed out, such as the Elevator Guy or the existence of an unwritten list of sexist speakers circulating via backchannels, and then overextrapolate and come to conclusions that the bloggers themselves never conveyed or meant to convey. Worse, it's not entirely clear what the bloggers can do to mitigate this problem, especially if it's not apparent at the time how their readers can misconstrue what they are saying. In short, I don't think the problem is that the bloggers themselves are being irresponsible, at least not in what they are posting.

Julian Francisco said...

I can see this isn't going to be a receptive environment so this will be my last comment.

I realize I won't be able to convince you all FtB isn't a gang of bullies or that there's any merit in the discussions going on there but

"I was bashed mercilessly, wrongfully accused of trolling, wrongfully accused of making comments I did not make, shamed as a "tone troll," and summarily banned from Greg Laden's blog (and all my posts deleted) for merely disagreeing with his conclusions regarding Elevatorgate. "

is completely untrue. I disagreed with Laden's conclusions on E-gate particularly about whether it was acceptable for Watson to call out McGraw. (Mind you unlike you all I don't think it was bullying for her to quote relevant portions of McGraw's blog post.) I don't know why whoever this is was banned but I doubt it was because he disagreed with a set of conclusions.

Ardent Skeptic said...

And, Now for Something Completely Different...as we are unlikely to reach any consensus on how to resolve the problem of sexism in the skeptic community.

This is a video from a TED talk posted in May 2011 by Louie Schwartzberg entitled, "The Hidden Beauty of Pollination". Schwartzberg has been a time lapse photographer of flowers for over 35 years. (I would have posted this link in the comments on one of your other blogposts, Jean, but I'm not sure of the relevance to your other posts. On this post, I am sure of the relevance, and know it is completely irrelevant.)

If you haven't seen it, I think you will enjoy it.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/xHkq1edcbk4?rel=0

I hope the link included in the post will send this comment to moderation and you will not have to include it in this thread about "Blaming the Victim?".

I blame the birds and the bees, BTW. Sex is always the problem, just ask Freud. ;-)

Jean Kazez said...

Thanks a lot, Ardent. I ran out of things to say about the various topics in this thread, so moving on to pollination sounds great. Will watch that video. I'm a big fan of the movie Queen of the Sun...about bees (and their role in pollination).

Thanks for all the comments, folks. I think that's probably the end of this thread. I won't be able to contribute or moderate for a while, as various real life things are going on.

Wonderist said...

Hi Jean, if I may, I was surprised that you would want to wrap up the thread at this point. I thought/think that we are just finally getting to the meat of it.

For example, Deepak asked for examples of bullying behaviour, and I totally understand if you don't have the energy to dig through to find the juicy bits (I might recommend in the future, should it interest you, to save copies/links of specific examples of such behaviour; it significantly reduces the effort of making your point in the long run).

But it just so happens that in trying out some new (for me, anyway) discussion techniques, I was able to elicit *many* examples of what I would refer to as 'social bullying behaviour', simply by making an honest criticism on Greta Christina's blog, and by waiting for and responding to the inevitable backlash I knew I would receive.(See my (Thaumas Themelios) several comments at http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/17/update-clarification-correction-on-holy-fucking-shit/)

It is really not difficult to catch out those who bully. They are only too eager to pile on. The real trick is to elicit the bullying behaviour without *likewise engaging* in retaliatory behaviour that can itself be seen as dishonest or unethical on its own. That was my over-arching strategy in that comment thread, and I hope it provides a good example for others for how to identify and respond to bullying behaviour without getting caught up in the drama storm oneself.

Interestingly, the first person to respond to me in that thread was none other than 'julian', whom I have a hunch is the same person as 'Julian Francisco' in this current thread. My first comment is #11, his first reply to me is #13. My response to him at #19 illustrates how I identify and call out such social bullying behaviour (the 'mind reading', falsely attributing to me thoughts and motivations which I did not possess, etc.). There are many more examples in that thread.

So, I think there is clear evidence of this bullying behaviour, and not only that, but it is *very* easy to gather yet more and more evidence -- if one so wished to -- simply by engaging in any of the threads on these kinds of controversial topics.

Again, the trick is to elicit the evidence without engaging in any unethical behaviour oneself (counter-bullying, for example). That, I believe, is where the major failure lies on all sides of these flare-ups. People are simply not applying self-skepticism, which as Richard Feynman has so famously said is "the first principle": the easiest person to fool is yourself.

One side says something the other interprets as horribly offensive (though it was not meant that way). The offended side then makes the mistake of un-self-skeptically *assuming* that their initial interpretation 'must be' and 'can only be' the correct one. They do not take that all-important step of asking themselves, "Well, how do I *really* know that? Isn't it possible that I could be wrong?"

And so, in my opinion, the meat of the discussion is just this: In order to have productive conversations while reducing the risk of conflagrations like these drama storms, we (all of us, including me of course) need to reflect our skeptical tools back upon ourselves and to be more cautious about making spurious, unsubstantiated accusations and attacks against each other. This should be one of our 'ground rules' which will be a foundation upon which we can base our further pursuit of mutually beneficial cooperation, rather than mutually destructive eye-for-an-eye retaliations.

This is the area we need to explore more thoroughly. Maybe close this thread, and start another. But let's not miss this opportunity to finally address the root issue of all of these destructive conflicts we've been experiencing.

Wonderist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wonderist said...

Oops, that link didn't auto-generate. It should be http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/17/update-clarification-correction-on-holy-fucking-shit/

And I forgot to mention that another good discussion on this current drama is at the Ask an Atheist podcast, where they discussed it in an episode, but which also sparked several good comment threads about it.

The podcast itself (one regular episode, and two follow-up discussion episodes) is good, but I'm mostly pointing it out here because of the discussion that took place in the comments. All material (podcasts themselves, related posts, and comment threads) can be found at the post, "The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism".

Verbose Stoic said...

Wonderist,

Skimming through them, at least, I think that those are poor examples of bullying. At most, you found people guessing at your motivations which is not actually bullying. Sure, multiple people replied, but that sort of "piling on" isn't bullying either. What would be piling on or bullying would be flooding with insults and personal attacks and character assassinations without attempting to address any of the points, or attempts to ban or repeated calls for banning people who happen to disagree when others saying similar or worse things in agreement aren't.

This isn't to say that there isn't bullying going on at FTB. I think there is. But your example doesn't seem to cut it, as most of the comments were attempts to address your point and up until that point no one asked for you to be banned, and I don't see you being banned.

julian was actually rather restrained from what I've seen him before. He seems to be mellowing a bit for some reason.

There was some worse behaviour later, from who could be called the usual suspects.

Jean Kazez said...

I think it would be good to have this discussion thoroughly, but it didn't actually come out of my post--it came out of Russell Blackford's comments and Jeremy Stangroom's tweets. So there's no special reason why the thorough discussion should happen here. If I wanted to have that discussion here, I'd write a post about bullying.

This topic tends to bring out lots of nastiness in people, so I'd rather not continue the discussion right now--it would require close moderation and I can't do that at the moment. As I said before, some serious "real life" stuff is going on (a funeral, to be exact) and I will be away from the computer for a few days. Y'all can follow the links in the last couple of comments and perhaps continue the conversation there.

Wonderist said...

"At most, you found people guessing at your motivations which is not actually bullying."

It is an example of rumour mongering, and 'othering', which are definitely examples of social bullying behaviour. By pointing them out explicitly, I nipped them in the bud. But these are exactly the same behaviours that started the whole campaign against DJ Grothe escalating to where it is today.

Rumours like these don't just stay as simple guesses like the ones I exposed. Like the game of Telephone, or Chinese Whispers, rumours build on one another. If I had let those 'guesses' stand, and especially if I myself had started bickering back and forth with people, then pretty soon I would have been labelled a misogynist, liar, troll, etc. I could easily have been banned.

As it stands, for *not* taking the bait, I was accused of:
- making excuses for harassment,
- 'blaming the victim' (note the title of Jean's post here),
- being obtuse and an obnoxious pedant, of trying to silence women,
- defending Lee Harvey Oswald (by sarcastic analogy),
- JAQing off,
- arguing that "IT WAS TOTALLY FINE FOR HIM TO BE POINTING A CAMERA UP PEOPLE’S SKIRTS AND THAT WASN’T HARASSMENT AND YOU ALL SHOULD STFU" (in all-caps no less),
- being a "weird, biased, pedantic, bent-over-backwards dummy",
- being a troll
- being insulting
- myself "baselessly accusing people of lying"
- being biased and 'privileged'
- attempting to 'derail'
- not arguing in good faith
- being 'hyper-skeptical'
- "attempt[ing] to confuse the standards for reasonable suspicion and a reasonable conclusion"
- 'whining' about personal insults

Top top that off, comment #56 suggests I be 'insta-banned' for raising these questions and criticisms; essentially, for having a different opinion.

I lay out my overall position, including why rumour-mongering is a type of social bullying, in my comment at #71, here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/06/17/update-clarification-correction-on-holy-fucking-shit/#comment-77190

Wonderist said...

VS: "What would be piling on or bullying would be flooding with insults and personal attacks and character assassinations without attempting to address any of the points, or attempts to ban or repeated calls for banning people who happen to disagree when others saying similar or worse things in agreement aren't."

As you can see from the highlights I pulled out, that is exactly what happened, sans an outright-ban, but including at least one call for me to be banned (which I nipped in the bud by pointing it out).

"most of the comments were attempts to address your point "

As far as I remember, none of the comments attempted to address my point. I would be surprised if you can find a single example.

"julian was actually rather restrained from what I've seen him before. He seems to be mellowing a bit for some reason."

Could it possibly be in part because I gave him *nothing* to work with? And I explicitly identified every example of him making faulty assumptions about me, etc?

I believe my behaviour in that thread -- which again it appears needs emphasis, was based on some new techniques I've been practising specifically for the purpose of preventing conflict escalation -- played a significant role in the fact that he could not make any of his insinuations stick to me. I gave him no fuel in return (e.g. retaliatory snark, etc.) and so he could not fan the flames any hotter, and the nascent flame-war died for lack of fuel.

This is a strategy of discourse that I have been working on for a few years now, under the working name of 'unapologetic atheism', and which became more crystallized in my mind around the time of ElevatorGate (see Still Unapologetic, Thanks for Asking), and which I've already applied several times in regards to this current conflict (see my comments on the Ask an Atheist threads I linked to earlier, and especially this one: http://askanatheist.tv/2012/06/10/the-problem-of-dogmatic-feminism/comment-page-2/#comment-10027).

It's not a coincidence that I've been working on this style of discourse for several years, and the fact that Julian "was actually rather restrained from what I've seen him before". I won't take all the credit, of course. Julian himself deserves credit for not going as far as some others, who made direct insults and asked for me to be banned. However, my style of discourse there definitely played an important role in preventing the thread from escalating.

Wonderist said...

"As I said before, some serious "real life" stuff is going on (a funeral, to be exact) and I will be away from the computer for a few days."

Fair enough Jean. I'll refrain from commenting further on this thread.

Deepak Shetty said...

@Jean
To back up a charge of bullying
As far as I know , you haven't made that claim so you don't have to (But it did appear that you agreed with Russell...)
Russell Blackford doesn't usually just post his conclusions without explanations so this is not normal for him - so this isn't a case of me not being charitable towards him , much the reverse.

On the other hand , hyper skeptic "Ardent Skeptic" is silent on his demands for evidence when it comes to accusations of bullying(which is a subjective term and would need careful boundaries) - no calls for this must STOP NOW?

(Personally , I think Dan Fincke has written some stuff about what is and isn't bullying , most of which I agree with - coincidentally also available on freethoughtblogs)
And hopefully that's it for me on this thread.

Corylus said...

Just one point of information to provide - I also ended up participating in the thread that Wonderist mentions.

I was spurred on by witnessing what I viewed as ... well you guessed it.

If anyone wished to reply to this just leave a comment on my blog so Jean can get some peace. You all seem quite civil so I have no worries about it filling up with dross :)

Sorry to hear about your situation Jean - I am now out of here.

moother said...

has it occurred to anyone else that all of this frantic hand-waving is coming from the usa and not very much coming from other developed countries?

when dawkins or blackford give their opinions (dawkins with elevatorgate) they are immediately and extremely villified.

there is some evidence that their (australian and english) experiences (and hence their opinions) are derived from continents where harassment, although not non-existant, is a much less serious problem and people are a lot more competent in dealing with each other before they need to call in the authorities.

it does, however, seem entirely fitting that yanks scream and shout and throw their toys around the room whenever they are not getting their way...

(apologies to all the sufficiently advanced yanks who just got caught up in that stereotype!)

Jack Rawlinson said...

The problem here is that we've all seen through religion, so we can all be level-headed and reasonable about it, but sadly we have not all seen through the pseudo-feminism of the entitled rich western neurotic, so we can't all be level-headed and reasonable about it. See Rebecca Watson et al for further details.