Feb 25 2013

Moving Forward

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363 responses so far

363 Responses to “Moving Forward”

  1. Marc David Barnhillon 25 Feb 2013 at 8:16 am

    This is good. I’d hoped you might act as a go-between in such an exchange, Steve, and I think it’s extremely helpful — to all of us — that Harriet and Amy agreed to make this opening conversation public.

  2. arnieon 25 Feb 2013 at 8:22 am

    Steve, Thanks for sharing that very encouraging exchange. Together with the continuous education I receive from Neurologica and SBM blogs, your wisdom, caring, and respectful approach to everyone, especially those blog responders who lack the same, are key elements in why I find your blogs especially worth reading without fail. This was an excellent example of how productive such an approach can be.

  3. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 8:29 am

    They make images of her crying. Interesting, I thought the responsibility of one’s actions laid with the actor, not with the the satirist who depicts them or with the reporter who comments on them. Alas, never let objectivity and personal responsibility impinge on the narrative of victimhood feminism.

    I’m not aware of any photoshopped porn and certainly none which was produced by the many skeptical satirists who took an interest at this drama. I follow them on Twitter and most appear to gather and publish at the slymepit. I wonder why these ugly pieces always manage to elude my attention.
    Rape and death threats are also nowhere to be found, with both sides strongly united in condemnation and disdain. But, together with sexism and misogyny, they keep on being pinned – by one side – on the community at large and mischaracterized as a widespread internal problem.

    I find these manipulations despicable and unless the slander and libel cease, I don’t see a good reason for “peace talks”.

  4. NicoleIntroverton 25 Feb 2013 at 9:04 am

    Thank you so much for acting as a mediator in this and using your blog to help remedy this situation. I have felt so conflicted being a fan of both Skepchick/SGU and SBM and again, am very thankful that you are using your position in being involved in multiple areas of skepticism for the better of the entire community.

  5. SandraMcEwenon 25 Feb 2013 at 9:06 am

    Great post- thanks for that. It’s frustrating to see two groups of people whom I respect go at each other’s throats cheered on by an angry internet mob.

  6. Murmuron 25 Feb 2013 at 9:15 am

    @Decius

    “…I thought the responsibility of one’s actions laid with the actor, not with the the satirist who depicts them or with the reporter who comments on them.”

    It does indeed, but it is also the responsibility of the commentator to depict the issues in context and not to sensationalise or deliberately misrepresent the “actor”.

    As for the rest of your post, I am not going to engage you as you clearly come from a different place to where I do, there are other commentators on this blog who will say it much more concisely. Suffice it to say, I think you are misguided.

  7. justinvaculaon 25 Feb 2013 at 9:28 am

    Dr. Novella, it is with much regret that this post addressing what some consider to be sexism in the skeptical movement is absent of discussion of women using sexist language to describe other women (‘kissa**es, ‘gender traitors,’ chill girls,’ trying to preserve token status, or implying that women speak and write to gain the attention of men, etc.) and women using language unfairly calling men ‘rape apologists,’ ‘misogynists,’ ‘women haters,’ ‘anti-woman leader,’ etc. It’s probably not worth going into specific examples here, but I can if you would like me to in a follow-up comment.

    Second, what are these rape threats and threats of violence you [and Amy] speak of? Who is saying these things? Where can I find these comments? Day in and day out I hear these claims and see no evidence attesting to them; I see only troll-like comments like ‘go die in a fire’ and ‘go kill yourself’ which — although unacceptable — are not at all ‘rape threats’ or ‘threats of violence.’

    Many who are veterans of the internet and share controversial opinions — especially if they engage in character assassination campaigns against others in a ‘call out culture’ of social blogging/networking — will receive less than charitable pushback. This is not something women exclusively face. This is not something that happens because people are women (how someone would demonstrate this, anyway, is beyond me). I’d like to think, too, that this sort of negative criticism follows certain behaviors of certain individuals and can see — in many cases — why certain people are targeted by negative criticism and others are not. Individuals who are professional, respectful, charitable, etc. — I would venture — are far less likely to receive negative criticism while those who are unprofessional, disrespectful, and uncharitable are far more likely to receive negative criticism.

    The principle of charity you speak of is an ideal and something many should consider/adhere to. Unfortunately, though, you have one ‘camp’ of people — those complaining about these alleged ‘threats’ — failing to adhere to the principle of charity constantly quotemining, unfairly assigning the worst possible motives to others, and smearing respected figures in skepticism (again, I won’t go into detail on this, but can if you’d like in a follow-up).

    It’s nice that Dr. Hall and Amy could come to a sort of understanding through private messaging. Perhaps this can be a future standard, but what about the attacks on Dr. Hall and the misrepresentation by people like Amanda Marcotte — to just provide one example — who suggest Dr. Hall is trying to ‘preserve a position as a token?’ This comment is most offensive and egregious…and the accompanying article is trumpeted by many friends of Amy. I won’t say Amy is guilty by association, though, but it hardly seems to be the case that there can be ‘ceasefires’ or mutual respect and comments like these linger and are trumpeted by those under the banner of feminism. Perhaps there is some hope…

  8. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 9:35 am

    The thing is, Murmur, despite your poisoning-the-well dismissive rhetoric, I would be more than just appalled to be part of a community that not only harbours misogynists, sexists and people who issue death threats, but ignores the signs of its malady.
    The evidence for this to be the case, though, is hardly compelling. Instead embellishing and outright fabrications have been incontrovertibly exposed more than once.

    Furthermore, when disagreement or mild criticism are immediately equated with sexism, and outstanding members of the community are routinely labelled as “chill-girls” or “sister punishers” for no good discernible reason, it is sure sign that ideology has hijacked the discourse.

  9. ccbowerson 25 Feb 2013 at 9:40 am

    “It has struck me throughout that many of the people involved, steeped in critical thinking, firmly believe they are correct and are being reasonable and yet are in such heated conflict with other critical thinkers who also believe they are correct and being reasonable.”

    Do you think this a problem that is particularly true for people within the skeptical movement, or is what we see in the skeptical movement on par with the general population? What I am referring to is an excessive level of certainty, perhaps an intellectual overconfidence, which can interfere with being open to the idea that that person is mistaken. In some ways, I think that its easier to convince people who identify as skeptics of a fact that they didn’t know (or thought otherwise), but once that person is intellectually or emotionally committed, it becomes nearly impossible (at least in the short to medium term).

  10. thunderbirdon 25 Feb 2013 at 9:54 am

    I’m glad to see a little light shining out in this tempest–bravo for facilitating it. I believe one of the major problems is that people get so used to argument that they forget the other side are people who share the same complex inner state they enjoy and just immediately attack. The internet echo chamber reinforces their decision because their followers applaud their “courage.” I used to, for instance, follow professor Myers on a daily basis, but he’s just so SURE of everything that I can’t take him any more. Extreme certainty is plausible in some cases, but not ALL of them. (Your observation about the professional trolls can’t be overlooked, either–they’re a major reason it’s tempting to model the opposition as uniform asshats).

    I don’t know how you avoid such a thing, either–it’s natural for groups to sort themselves out on the basis of mutual agreement. It seems like it would take a fearless commitment to intellectual honesty that would be difficult to maintain in the long run. Certainly you couldn’t allow the kind of dogpile that you see in comment threads on various popular blogs, where incivility is the rule. And that incivility guarantees that the only opposing viewpoints will be the tribe across the river running past flinging poo, which reinforces the assessment of them as one-note jerks.

  11. ccbowerson 25 Feb 2013 at 9:55 am

    decius,

    Perhaps you missed the comment about the principle of charity. You criticism in your first comment seems to be based upon (a lack) your own personal knowledge, and I’m not sure why this is relevant:

    “I’m not aware of any photoshopped porn and certainly none which was produced by the many skeptical satirists who took an interest at this drama. I follow them on Twitter and most appear to gather and publish at the slymepit. I wonder why these ugly pieces always manage to elude my attention. Rape and death threats are also nowhere to be found”

    OK, well you are unaware of photopshopped porn, and you wonder why they ‘elude your attention,’ and you cannot find rape and death threats? Umm… ok. So the obvious implication here is that if you are unaware of something, it probably doesn’t exist or is exaggerated. Perhaps you are ‘just asking questions?’

    “Furthermore, when disagreement or mild criticism are immediately equated with sexism, and outstanding members of the community are routinely labelled as “chill-girls” or “sister punishers” for no good discernible reason, it is sure sign that ideology has hijacked the discourse.”

    If ideology has “hijacked” a person’s perspective away from skepticism then that person should be called out for that, but it appears you want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  12. windyon 25 Feb 2013 at 10:00 am

    Resolving misunderstandings through direct communication is commendable. However, this post leaves out the background to the misunderstanding between Dr. Hall and Surly Amy. That is understandable for a first step, but moving further, are there any plans to address the misinformation and smears on JREF and TAM that preceded Dr Hall’s decision to wear the shirt? The message on the front of the shirt seems more salient to identifying real differences.

  13. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 10:01 am

    Murmur, apologies for forgetting to address the meat of your post.

    “It does indeed, but it is also the responsibility of the commentator to depict the issues in context and not to sensationalise or deliberately misrepresent the “actor”.”

    What was misrepresented and how, in your opinion?

    If calls to “ban the fake jewellery” and turning on the waterworks at the sign of printed t-shirt cannot be parodied in an adult, what can?
    If I were engaging in that sort of censorious and capricious behaviour, I’d fully expect my mates to make light of it until I regain composure.

  14. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 10:17 am

    ccbowers, I’ve discussed this in a previous thread, so forgive me for not rehashing the entire argument.

    Lot of material get shared and offered as evidence for harassment or even crime, only for the claims not to withstand scrutiny (I previously offered an example in another thread, but feel free to visit the places where the arguments are dissected without intervening censorship). Therefore, I would fully expect the most serious items to be made public as well in order to silence the doubters.

    Also, I’ve just been reliably informed that, in the US, it is a federal crime to issue death threats via correspondence. Declaring that authorities wouldn’t get involved in the absence of physical violence is an extraordinary claim per se. I’d go with the more parsimonious interpretation that the narrative looks like an overblown caricature of reality, as soon as independent observers look at it.

  15. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 10:21 am

    To clarify, I wasn’t implying that this blog is censored – FTB and Skepchick are.
    But I don’t feel comfortable to hijack the thread with specific examples, with so many other dedicated places in existence.

  16. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 10:36 am

    I have been cc’d on e-mails to Rebecca that were outright sexist or misogynist. She has certainly made public numerous others with statements to the effect – you should be raped in some horrible manner. She has also reported actual threats to the FBI and police.

    Just use your Google skills and you will find many sites dedicated to cyberstalking everything coming from Skepchick and those who tend to agree with them, and taking an incredibly unfair and harsh critical approach. They take the principle of charity and turn it on it’s head, taking a maximally negative and nitpicky interpretation of everything they write or say. It’s all incredibly counterproductive, it is anathema to logical discourse, and a lot of it is hateful trolling.

    But of course, there is a spectrum. They do latch onto legitimate criticisms and run with those as well.

    Amy made it clear above that she does not equate criticism with hate or sexism. Moving forward is not about obsessing over perceived past slights, but acknowledging when people accept common-ground principles.

    Decius – your denial and uncharitability seems to be transparent to the other commenters here.

  17. Zhankforon 25 Feb 2013 at 10:50 am

    Decius,

    Rebecca Watson made a post on Skepchick no more than three weeks ago with a specific, graphic, and horrifying example of the abuse she receives on a regular basis. That these instances have eluded you suggests either an unwillingness to make even a small effort to find them, or, and perhaps as well as, a willful blindness towards them.

  18. tmac57on 25 Feb 2013 at 11:04 am

    My observation on this is that the trouble makers in this battle are on high alert to be offended,and have their confirmation bias turned up to 11.
    Steve’s recommendation to employ the principle of charity,should be a no brainer for a a person who claims to be a critical thinker. It seems like people who forget this are focusing on the ‘critical’,and completely forgot about the ‘thinking’ bit.

  19. Murmuron 25 Feb 2013 at 11:18 am

    @decius,

    The only poisoning of any well I see is your assumptions that Amy Davis Roth is making up her allegations. You are clearly hijacking the spirit of this post in order to further your own agenda. If you feel she is fabricating anything I would ask you to challenge her directly and not via a 3rd or even 4th party on the comments of a blog that is commenting on her recent disagreement.

  20. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 11:21 am

    justin – “less than charitable feedback” does not begin to cover it. Please Google “Rebecca Watson” and see what you find. Really try to imagine that you were the target of such attacks. Do you imagine that any online activist, blogger, etc. could stand up to this level of obsessive negative scrutiny?

    In any case – this post is not about assigning blame, cataloguing past transgressions, and pointing fingers. I only singled out certain trolling behavior that is truly hateful and counterproductive. I also pointed out that this has tended to heat up discussion and radicalize all those concerned.

    Now is the time to step back, focus on the positive and on common ground, and begin (emphasis on begin) a process of better understanding where everyone is coming from.

    I agree that the principle of charity needs to be spread to all sides.

  21. Murmuron 25 Feb 2013 at 11:31 am

    Also… refresh before you post after tabbing out for a while. My most recent post is clearly redundant.

  22. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 11:32 am

    Steven, what I always liked about scientific skepticism was its respect for the integrity of lexicon and ease with which one could parse a paragraph without falling into semantic traps.
    This feature has quickly vanished as soon as politicised rhetoric made its appearance.

    Having heard your type of criticism elsewhere before, I must ask. When you say cyberstalking, you mean “The use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization. It may include the making of false accusations or statements of fact (as in defamation), making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, the solicitation of minors for sex, or gathering information that may be used to harrass”.

    Or is the feminist Newspeak’s definition which runs something like “take public statements made on social media and public internet sites and dissect, ridicule them and expose real or perceived errors”? Because, as uncharitable as the second process may be, it actually meets the original definition of cyberstalking by making false accusations (of cyberstalking) to critics.

    Assuming the first case be true, then I already declared my shared disgust for professional troll and sleaze sites, which are nevertheless – and contrary to a certain narrative – not associated with skeptical movement in any shape or form. Their sole mission is to feed internet drama, upon which they prey and thrive. They smell controversy and act like vultures, like everyone who’s been on internet longer than a week knows.

    This leads me to Zhankfor’s objection. As I pointed out in another occasion, the picture you mentioned originated with Encyclopedia Dramatica (removed since) and is still available on another sleaze site, where the file properties reveal that it was posted there one full day before it was emailed to Rebecca.

    This situation was pointed out to her, together with reassuring remarks, but she chose to delet the comments and ban those who dared challenge the official hyperbole.
    I happen to be counted among the ever-increasing ranks of those who find it unacceptable that the result of anonymous troll activity be laid at the doorstep of fellow skeptics and atheists, under the barely concealed agenda of gaining political capital.

    http://s9.postimage.org/3kofsh3mn/Capture.jpg

    The aforementioned example is just precisely that. Nothing really seems to check out and you people should be worried, but in a more neutral manner than what’s on display here.

    In conclusion, far from wanting to engage in denialism, I would appreciate all solid evidence thrown my way helping to prove the case for misogyny and sexism infecting the movement in any appreciable measure.

    So far, I’ve seen the reputation of good people being thrashed for no good reason whatsoever.
    Unless of course, one is so gullible to believe preposterous unevidenced notions, such as the act of carrying a monopod around is per se an indication of sexually-deviant behaviour.

  23. Murmuron 25 Feb 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Clearly, it wasn’t as redundant as I thought.

    “… the result of anonymous troll activity be laid at the doorstep of fellow skeptics and atheists…”

    Please can you point out where in this whole discourse on this blog where anyone has done this?

  24. MKandeferon 25 Feb 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Steve, thanks for starting a mediation process. Your skills at communicating are a gift to the skeptic community. I know it isn’t the point of this post, but I think a more nuanced discussion on free speech and taking offense would be a good topic for the future. I can sympathize with freedom of speech concerns, but also think some speech isn’t without harmful consequences.

  25. loyalbon 25 Feb 2013 at 12:26 pm

    “A second source of conflict are those who have chosen cyberstalking and daily harassment as their chosen mechanism of activism.”

    Another source of conflict is that legitimate criticism, including satire, of public figures is being cast as harassment. The people calling Rebecca Watson rude names are not the same people sending her the rape-wish emails. The former are crude, probably misguided, and usually not as funny as they think they are; the latter should be on an fbi watch list. Stop conflating the two groups, there is a big difference.

    And speaking of grossly offensive language, didn’t your SGU co-host once wish Mike Huckabee would “go f*** a blender?” I don’t like Mike Huckabee, either, but I’m content to leave his genitals intact. She’s also mocked her critics for being virgins, which must be some kind of new sex-positive feminist statement. I’m not sure. I don’t really mind that she does these things. I just think, if you’re going to preach civility and charity, you should start in-house.

    Here’s my theory: we should try to like each other, but we shouldn’t always repress our passionate disagreements. Sometimes, full-throated criticism needs to cross some lines. I feel like there’s one side that thinks we need to always be offensive, and another side that thinks we need to always bottle everything up. What we really need is some balance. Sometimes you have to be offensive to shock people out of their complacency. Sometimes you need to be patient with people. Sometimes you need to be forgiving of other people’s faults and missteps (Amy Roth and Harriet Hall both give a great example of doing this.) Charity is usually nice, but it can make you a pushover sometimes.

    Above all, what we really need is free and open dialogue to express ourselves. To get the bad feelings out and move on. In this regard, one “side” is clearly deficient, and until they address this problem, the conflict will continue.

  26. PharmD28on 25 Feb 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I am a fairly casual reader of this blog…and I listen to SGU when I can….I am also aware vaguely about all the sexism controversy and such.

    It just seems to me that folks on both sides get too damn inflamed. People when they feel so strongly that they are right can indeed lose the ability to imagine their opponents as having good intention but just diagreeing….and if I may…it would seem that is the root of this…I think steve you pointed this out with your comments about needing to be charitable.

    I am happy to see that some prominent actors in such a debate are finding ways to disagree with more tact.

    I am not at all an expert on the subject of feminism…so I will claim total ignorance on the subject….but from that standpoint in being a casual observer…it makes most of these folks arguing from both sides look like raving lunatics…the audience effect from my standpoint is as such…my 2 cents….

    I will say that I think the subject deserves some attention and it is a reasonable dialogue to have….some feel it is overblown, some feel it is under-appreciated…I have no frickin clue…but if I am to be swayed one way or the other it will be based on the merits of various arguments, the reason, the logic, and the evidence….hard to get to that with all the drama…

    Glad that it looks like we are getting past it in part?

    Take care everyone.

  27. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 12:54 pm

    I did not conflate anything. That is a straw man of your making. What you are calling the labeling of legitimate criticism as harassment is filed under “misunderstanding.”

    You then commit a false dichotomy and straw man by blaming “one side” – there are not such simple “sides” in this and you appear to be conflating a lot of individuals and groups as one “side.”

    And again, you appear to want to go backwards by focusing on past perceived transgressions. There have been many mistakes all around. Amy and Harriet have admitted some of theirs and wish to make this into a learning experience.

  28. tyroon 25 Feb 2013 at 12:56 pm

    That’s heartening, thank you for posting that and for facilitating the reconciliation.

    I reacted very negatively towards the t-shirt at first. I didn’t see it as specifically attacking Amy or the skepchick group, but when one group of women says that they are getting threats, the statement “I don’t feel threatened” appears to me to be diminishing or dismissing their genuine concerns. I thought it was in bad taste and not well thought out, but I think now that Hall’s heart was in the right place. We’ve all said or done things out of good intentions but which ended up going badly wrong. Hopefully we can chalk it up to that and extend Hall the benefit of the doubt given her many valuable contributions.

  29. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Murmur, I just posted a link to the refuting evidence to RW’s implications and allegations that the picture originates from fellow skeptics.

    It’s all here, included the header of the email she received, showing it was sent a day later than publication on at least one extraneous site.

    http://skepchick.org/2013/02/objectified/

    This has been going on for close to two years now. Lots of good people have been directly accused of horrible and unforgivable flaws on a whim. I’m not going to glorify those lurid accusations by making yet another digital copy, but the list is incredibly long.

    I dare speculate everyone here is a fellow egalitarian. How would you like to be branded a racist or a supremacist? Is it possible that many seem unable to understand that being called a misogynist without being one hurts as much and is entirely unacceptable?

    If you think the pushback – harsh, rude, snarky and juvenile as it might be – constitute “cyberstalking”, you simply don’t understand how people will react to injustice in order to defend themselves.

    Steven, I’ll ask you directly – does a site like Elevatorgate (which I do not represent nor endorse) fit your bill of “cyberstalking”?

  30. loyalbon 25 Feb 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I’m all for charity, Steven, but not at the expense of being able to read between the lines. Who were you referring to when you wrote the paragraph about daily harassment? Specifically,

    “Rape threats, threats of violence, sexually charged and grossly offensive language have no place in this discussion, but have infiltrated our community.”

    That is pretty much the definition of conflation. You’re including much lesser offenses (which arguably aren’t even offenses) in the same pot with rape threats. I don’t think you meant to, but you did. The strawman is yours. Literally nobody is defending the rape-wish emails to Rebecca Watson. We all find them abhorrent. So why include them in the same sentence with, e.g., “grossly offensive language?” If I’m misunderstanding you. can you at least see how your formulation is misleading?

    I completely agree that there aren’t only two sides (hence the scarequotes, if you’re reading my comment charitably), but there are sides, and the boundaries are pretty clear on the various issues.

    I like you. I appreciate what you do for skepticism (which is way more than I will ever do), but, dude, you have got to approach this problem with some self-awareness. The problem isn’t just everybody besides you and your friends.

  31. Zhankforon 25 Feb 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Decius,

    You have a problem with such trolling being “laid at the doorstep of fellow skeptics and atheists,” yet earlier you complained that you hadn’t seen any evidence of the trolling. How, then, would you have the evidence come out? It seems you find fault with either allowing the evidence to come to light, and with stating that it is a real problem yet not producing the smoking guns.

  32. Zhankforon 25 Feb 2013 at 1:30 pm

    loyalb,

    Steven was obviously not conflating rape threats and offensive language – I would suggest you are willfully misinterpreting his statement. By including the items he did in that list, he was not suggesting that they are all equal. He was suggesting precisely what he said he was suggesting, that they “have no place in this discussion” – that they are all unacceptable and unproductive. Not equally unacceptable – no one would deny (and no one is doing so!) that rape threats are much, much worse than offensive language – but certainly all the elements of the list are well below what ought to be the threshold of acceptable behaviour within our community.

  33. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 1:31 pm

    decius – I don’t think you have provided evidence for anything. The picture linked to from Rebecca’s blog was posted the day of the blog post. The link you provided had a “date modified” but I am not sure that is the same as the date uploaded or the last time the picture itself was modified, and you don’t provide evidence for who uploaded it. Seems like you are making a pretty serious accusation based on nothing.

    Regarding cyberstalking – it’s all a matter of degree. A certain level of obsession and persistent negativity does rise to the level of stalking, but there is no bright line. The elevatorgate site is targeted and unfairly negative and hostile, but you seem to want to focus on semantics to avoid the obvious facts here.

    The point is – this kind of behavior is not helpful. I have seen counterproductive behavior all around, but it is not equivalent. Some of it is over the line and rises to the level of poisoning discourse.

  34. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 1:38 pm

    I must have expressed myself poorly. I meant to say that every time I looked at some purported smoking gun, which recently I did with a lot out of sheer exasperation, nothing really checked out.

    In other words, I’ve yet to see a single piece of evidence supporting the notion of a community infected with misogyny and sexism. It’s only by loosening the definition thereof, until the words are no longer recognisable, that one could make such a claim. Secondly, all the obscene materials and purported threats are either taken out of context, or originate from troll sites.
    When anything resembling an actual threat came from within, condemnation has been unanimous and offenders were driven out of sites and fora critical of RW and her fellow feminists.
    This supports the notion of a healthy community, by all objective standards.

  35. errollon 25 Feb 2013 at 1:43 pm

    “to avoid the obvious facts here. ”

    Steve perhaps it would help to state what you think the obvious facts are.

  36. windyon 25 Feb 2013 at 1:50 pm

    And again, you appear to want to go backwards by focusing on past perceived transgressions.

    What was this post about, if not “past perceived transgressions”?? If you mean that they shouldn’t be dragged up simply play the blame game, fine; but as long as they’re dealt with constructively, why impose some arbitrary cutoff point?

  37. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Steven, I would never make such an accusation lightly.

    I must beg you to verify on your own. Please, point your browser here and inspect the file properties. Depending on browser, the procedure might change. The “date modified” tag, on internet refers to the day it was last uploaded or overwritten.

    http://rule34-data-000.paheal.net/_images/7eeb4425a87e4cd391a7b21f4c508356/1033240%20-%20rebecca_watson.jpg

    By comparison, the header of your blog was uploaded Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:42:27 AM

    I couldn’t make this shit up, could I?

    Then let me know if you need screenshots of the banning, because nothing goes unnoticed or undetected any more. The community has had enough.

  38. Oracon 25 Feb 2013 at 1:52 pm

    I have been cc’d on e-mails to Rebecca that were outright sexist or misogynist. She has certainly made public numerous others with statements to the effect – you should be raped in some horrible manner. She has also reported actual threats to the FBI and police.

    Methinks Justin must be lacking in Google skills if he is unable to find evidence of sexist and misogynistic materials directed at Amy, Rebecca, and others. Either that, or he doesn’t find what he doesn’t want to find. Whatever the situation, Steve has briefly discussed such e-mails/posts with me. Although he didn’t forward the actual e-mails to me (and why should he, given that they’re private?), I trust Steve and have no reason to doubt his word on the matter.

    That being said, I can only hope that Amy and Harriet’s example will inspire similar behavior by others.

  39. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 2:00 pm

    decius – you dodged my question above about the photo and your accusations.

    In any case – I am not arguing that the worse sexism and misogyny is coming from within the skeptical community. I think a lot of it is coming from troll sites or from misogynists who are coming onto our sites just to attack feminists. But, it is hard to tell online whether someone is a skeptic who happens to be a sexist or a sexist who isn’t really a skeptic, or whatever.

    I am criticizing the behavior itself. Also, regardless of the source, daily harassment has a negative emotional effect on people (its intended effect). I do ask for a little understanding of the targets. They are being beaten down.

    The “obvious facts” here are the one I have already enumerated. I have already stated being personal witness to sexism targeted against Rebecca – over years, even before Elevatorgate. The Skepchicks have documented many instances on their site.

    Decius is essentially accusing them of lying (please correct me if I am wrong). One major point of this post is that of charity – don’t assume horrible motives on the part of someone you disagree with. I happen to know many of the Skepchicks personally. To you they may just be internet personas, but to me they are people I actually know. They all are sincere and well-meaning. This does not mean they haven’t made mistakes, or that perhaps they are operating from a certain perspective or set of assumptions.

    What I would like is to be able to maturely discuss valid points of disagreements. Assuming they are lying for shallow motives is not fair, charitable, or productive. Also – don’t conflate them with everyone who is taking up feminism. I have read some very uncharitable and unproductive things on all sides. The point of this post is to move past all that. Clearly some people are going to make that very difficult.

  40. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 2:09 pm

    decius – but who uploaded that photo? So – someone made the photo, uploaded it, then e-mailed it to Rebecca. What am I missing. Who exactly are you accusing of making and/or uploading this photo and what is your evidence?

    And again – you seem to be offering this as evidence that the Skepchicks are not the target of frequent harassment, but there is plenty of evidence that they are.

    Windy – wan’t it clear that I am talking about using past perceived transgressions to play the blame game?

  41. wellerpondon 25 Feb 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Decius:

    “Rape and death threats are also nowhere to be found, with both sides strongly united in condemnation and disdain. But, together with sexism and misogyny, they keep on being pinned – by one side – on the community at large and mischaracterized as a widespread internal problem.”

    Do these count?

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/sexism_in_the_skeptic_community_i_spoke_out_then_came_the_rape_threats.html

  42. erikthebassiston 25 Feb 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Decius,

    As a regular at Pharyngula, I can and must point out that your line on this smacks of the typical MRA, anti-RW, anti feminist BS.

    We have spent countless hours trying to reasonably debate with people like you. At the end of the day what it boils down to is that your ilk wants to defend the use of sexist language and deny that there is a problem with sexism within, or outside of the Movement™.

    When they are called on it, they scream about their “Freeze Peach” rights and hurl insults, sexist insults, claim feminists are professional victims and deny that we live in a patriarchical society.

    When you deny sexism exists while using sexist slurs, yeah, you’re going to be called a misogynist.

    No one ever said the problem was worse with in the skeptical movement. What people complained about, rightly, was that women were under represented and that simple steps like anti-harrasment policies might go a long way to make women feel more welcome at conferences and in online spaces. None of this should be controversial but when the suggestions were made, the sh*&t hit the fan.

    I’ve been watching this play out since “Guys Don’t Do That”. The only way you think there is any merit to the slymepitter POV is to be willfully ignorant of the history of events, or quite frankly, to be a misogynist.

    It’s simple, one side is saying “Women are people to and deserve to be treated with respect” and the other side is saying “My right to free speach is more important than women being treated as equals.”

    When one argues on behalf of the pitters they are clearly shoosing a side, the side of the all white he-man women haters club, and yes, that can even include non-white and females.

    Steven,

    I admire what you are doing here and I commend you for finally taking a stand, but I don’t think there’s any chance of mending the Deep Rifts™ until the pitters realize they are on the wrong side of history here.

  43. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Not sure what I dodged, since it’s all information publicly available, as detailed by the provided direct link to a troll site.

    Obviously, I don’t personally know who posted, but given its provenance, it’s presumably a troll and not a skeptic. That would be the safer assumption over claims of an inside job. What’s more, evidence contrary to the narrative was summarily ejected and the messenger banned. If that’s normal for you, then colour me surprised.

    It seems to me that both Rebecca and you have failed to make a case for misogyny in the community, regardless of how much shit is thrown at her over the internet at large. Your blogs on the subject do not seem to differentiate sufficiently, in my opinion.
    Incidentally, you just said “regardless of the source” – this cavalier attitude is entirely unacceptable when dealing with grave accusations such as sexism and other forms of supremacism.

    I agree with you that abuse may drive people to the edge. However, no culture or ethical system condones retaliatory bullism regardless of the severity of the abuse received. You may want to revise that rather paltry line of defence of yours.

    I also don’t buy the notion that we’re dealing with a group of fundamentally good people, for certain actions are simply too revealing to be ignored. Also, good people do not associate with rabid ideologues and hate-mongers like Amanda Marcotte.

    Finally, Sam Harris spoke eloquently on the secondary and long-terms effects of internet defamation by organised lynch-mobs.
    I guess that makes him a misogynist, too.

    As always, thanks for your hospitality. All the best.

  44. ivoryboneson 25 Feb 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Maybe I’m being facetious but I see this no where else except the world of text based correspondence. Maybe another suggestion for the article Steve mentioned; Proper Criticism.

  45. errollon 25 Feb 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Steve I think that is decius’s point, we don’t know who created the photo, or where the threats are coming from, but they are being used as leverage against the community, and as a shield against legitimate criticism.

    I don’t think all the threats are from non-skeptics/atheists but I also don’t think they represent RAMPANT sexism and misogyny in the community. Or that that is why there are so few females in the community. The recent poll showed that 74% of atheists were male. So it would seem that women for the most part are over represented at TAM, etc.

    Anyway we should have solved this already with some panels, and debates, and an eagerness to get down to the hard facts. I think it`s an embarrassment that this issue has not been solved yet.

  46. Shelleyon 25 Feb 2013 at 2:59 pm

    “Here’s my theory: we should try to like each other, but we shouldn’t always repress our passionate disagreements. Sometimes, full-throated criticism needs to cross some lines. I feel like there’s one side that thinks we need to always be offensive, and another side that thinks we need to always bottle everything up. What we really need is some balance. Sometimes you have to be offensive to shock people out of their complacency. Sometimes you need to be patient with people. Sometimes you need to be forgiving of other people’s faults and missteps (Amy Roth and Harriet Hall both give a great example of doing this.) Charity is usually nice, but it can make you a pushover sometimes.
    Above all, what we really need is free and open dialogue to express ourselves. To get the bad feelings out and move on. In this regard, one “side” is clearly deficient, and until they address this problem, the conflict will continue.”

    I will apologize at the outset if this is not terribly coherent as I am home ill and my head is a bit fuzzy, but I wanted to make this quick point:

    It is a common belief (here and elsewhere) that venting, ‘crossing lines’, and broad self expression allows us to “get the bad feelings out.” It is a popular sentiment, and many people subscribe to the idea. However, there is clear consensus against cathartic theory (which was based on Freudian models and had only mixed support at best), with a literature that demonstrates that cathartic aggression actually increases aggression and has a number of negative psychological, interpersonal, and physical consequences (see for example: Carlsmith et al, 2008; Bushman, 2002, Bushman, Baumeister & Phillips, 2001).

    Overall, venting fuels the fire, discourages reasoned discourse, and pushes your opponent into a defensive or counter attack position. A charitable interpretation allows for clarification and possible enlightenment.

    Okay, back to bed for this puppy.

  47. SandraMcEwenon 25 Feb 2013 at 3:00 pm

    If people can’t even agree to be civil to one another, I don’t see how we can move forward. Steve, kudos to you for attempting to bring some semblance of reason and kindness back to the table, but it seems like an uphill battle.

    I don’t really participate in online forums and such, mostly because it can so quickly turn into a mess of ugliness and, frankly, it’s demoralizing. I know that leaves the loudest and most extreme members of the community to appear to have the mainstream viewpoint.

  48. Gojira74on 25 Feb 2013 at 3:09 pm

    “I guess that makes him a misogynist, too. ”

    This is a good example of the immaturity displayed in a lot of posts on the sexism topic. However, the problem this current blog is dealing with isn’t sexism. It is immaturity and the inability to act as an adult. To communicate as skeptics and as human beings, we need to be adults and human beings.

  49. windyon 25 Feb 2013 at 3:11 pm

    wan’t it clear that I am talking about using past perceived transgressions to play the blame game?

    Thought so, thanks for the clarification; but then how do you know that loyalb was trying to play the blame game, rather than pointing out a possible double standard?

    What about the recent comments/articles that dragged the t-shirt into the discussion again and where Dr. Hall was labeled a “token” and other charming things- would you classify those as playing the blame game?

  50. oldandslowon 25 Feb 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Dr Novella,

    I am so thankful to have come across your blog. I had found other ‘skeptic’ blogs or sites, and became very disappointed in the ‘skeptic community’. I was looking for people that questioned things, like I do, except I am not of the ‘scientific community’, just a stay at home mother looking for truth to teach her children. All I seemed to find was a bunch of children calling themselves skeptics because they didn’t believe in bigfoot or the bible, but fell hook line and sinker for global warming. I very much appreciate the truth and honesty in your words, and your questions of the world and people. I don’t know who these people are that you are talking about, it makes me sad that we have to fight with each other over nuances, when the real result should be to educate the uninformed. Thank you for trying to bring peace between those that could be doing so much for humanity, if they weren’t fighting over who is right about this, or who is right about that. And it is absolutely terrible that because these women are trying to bring truth to the world, that their health and lives are threatened. These ‘trolls’ are the epitome of what I think true skeptics are fighting against. Ignorance and bullying.

    Not very scientific or enlightening, but I wanted to say my part, and thank you for your time on your blog.

  51. loyalbon 25 Feb 2013 at 3:22 pm

    “Steven was obviously not conflating rape threats and offensive language – I would suggest you are willfully misinterpreting his statement.”

    No, not willfully. Why would I want to misinterpret him? I want him to be right. I want to believe that if we all just mind our “p”‘s and “q”‘s we can stop this interminable argument. I really want that, because I’m naive and idealistic.

    “By including the items he did in that list, he was not suggesting that they are all equal. He was suggesting precisely what he said he was suggesting, that they “have no place in this discussion” – that they are all unacceptable and unproductive. Not equally unacceptable – no one would deny (and no one is doing so!) that rape threats are much, much worse than offensive language – but certainly all the elements of the list are well below what ought to be the threshold of acceptable behaviour within our community.”

    If skepticism means anything to me, it means, above all else, being honest with ourselves and with each other. Honestly, if I’m parsing his sentences exactly, precisely, literally, maybe you’re right. But if I’m reading him in the context of the two-year+ civil war in the a/s community, he obviously is referring to the (dubious) behavior of some of the slymepit along with the (intolerable) behavior of some anonymous trolls.

    He is listing grievances. He cannot list these in the same breath with each other and not expect people to make a connection.

  52. loyalbon 25 Feb 2013 at 3:34 pm

    We don’t have to be civil. We’re a community, which is a kind of family. We have to be understanding and forgiving, but we also have to sometimes be honest and unkind. Again, most importantly, we can’t shut out each others’ voices. That is the absolute worst thing you can do in resolving a conflict and, disappointingly, the only thing Novella leaves out of his advice.

  53. justinvaculaon 25 Feb 2013 at 3:35 pm

    “Methinks Justin must be lacking in Google skills if he is unable to find evidence of sexist and misogynistic materials directed at Amy, Rebecca, and others.”

    I’m not denying this. What I am questioning, though, is the “hundreds of rape and death threats from atheists” and the “avalanche of rape and death threats from skeptics.” We keep hearing about these things, but time and time again we fail to see evidence. When evidence is presented, it is not rape and death threats but rather trollish Youtube comments and comments like ‘you are so ugly’ and similar silliness. While nasty comments are not productive or fair criticism, they are much different than rape and death threats. All Rebecca has to do is make these alleged “hundreds of rape and death threats” public and all of the critics will be quelled. Why isn’t this happening?

    Re: ‘move on and stop focusing on the past’

    Dr. Novella, if we are to move on and stop focusing on the past, why is it the case that the alleged threats Rebecca receives are being discussed and others’ grievances are shut out of the discussion? Are her grievances permissible to be voiced while others’ grievances should not be voiced? You aren’t necessarily advocating this, but this seems to be the message being sent.

    Many — I am sure — would be happy to move on and cease criticism of Rebecca and friends when they stop attacking fellow atheists and skeptics by unfairly representing them (being uncharitable) and assigning the most unpalatable labels. When the people who demand civility (Rebecca and friends) fail to model civility and instead ‘dial up’ the character attacks, I can’t take their concerns seriously (or really have much empathy for them).

    Of course, I must add, rape and death threats are not permissible. I don’t think you would find many who disagree. The message, though, that Rebecca and friends seem to cast is that these are commonplace and women are exclusively targeted – that the atheist and skeptic communities are unsafe places. It’s simply not the case. Not all critics are horrible people making nasty comments, but it the message sent is that so many of them are or that this is a majority position.

    “Really try to imagine that you were the target of such attacks. Do you imagine that any online activist, blogger, etc. could stand up to this level of obsessive negative scrutiny?”

    I know of many fellow activists who have stood up to the level of negative scrutiny in a professional and productive manner. Personally, in 2009, I had a whole community of real-life people with names attached living minutes away from me constantly sending hate mail (and some threats I reported and openly documented) for weeks following my complaint about a courthouse nativity scene. They also sent letters to my college demanding I be expelled, lose financial aid, be suspended, reprimanded, rebuked, etc. Donors threatened to cease funding the school and some outright vowed to boycott. People also sent ‘snail mail’ to my parents, family members, and associates filled with invective. Comment sections of local newspapers glew with hate and character attacks. I handled it well, though, and know what it is like. If people want to play the ‘oppression olympics’ I can play along, too.

    With Rebecca, it’s a polar opposite. When she receives criticism, no matter how mild, it’s the end of the world and an army of misogynists or ‘chill girls’ are allegedly ‘invalidating her experiences,’ ‘parroting misogynist thought,’ etc. If Rebecca handled the criticism more professionally and was civil, I doubt this level of pushback would exist. There are several women (and men) online who incur criticism, handle it professionally, and the haters go away or otherwise aren’t as vocal. With Rebecca, it’s transgression after transgression after transgression. She displays poor behavior and is so amazed when the negative feedback is received.

    Why is it, I wonder, that so many women in the skeptical community receive little to no hate while Rebecca receives it? Perhaps it is something to do with Rebecca’s unprofessionalism and character attacks on skeptics and atheists? If it really were because she is a woman or a feminist, I would expect many more to receive hate…but this simply isn’t the case.

    Surly Amy, I must admit, is making great steps toward a positive direction. She ‘freed the art’ and now she’s here communicating with Dr. Hall. She also contacted me quite nicely on Twitter asking for attribution for an image rather than resorting to other options. A point for her, I must say.

    I would be happy for Rebecca to ‘move on,’ but it probably isn’t going to happen.

    Here are some tips, anyway, for Rebecca and anyone who faces criticism/hate to reduce the criticism/hate:

    Do not directly or indirectly engage with dissenters.
    Avoid commenting on websites of your ideological opponents.
    Refrain from attacking individuals; stick to criticism of ideas rather than persons.
    Consider how people might respond to what you write. Can something be reframed so as to not lead to undesirable criticism?
    Avoid sharing content when experiencing heightened emotions (great anger, disgust, stress, etc)
    Consider sharing something with friends before it becomes public. A second (or third) set of eyes might suggest helpful edits which would avoid negative feedback.

  54. Halfdeadon 25 Feb 2013 at 3:57 pm

    With Rebecca, it’s a polar opposite. When she receives criticism, no matter how mild, it’s the end of the world and an army of misogynists or ‘chill girls’ are allegedly ‘invalidating her experiences,’ ‘parroting misogynist thought,’ etc. If Rebecca handled the criticism more professionally and was civil, I doubt this level of pushback would exist. There are several women (and men) online who incur criticism, handle it professionally, and the haters go away or otherwise aren’t as vocal. With Rebecca, it’s transgression after transgression after transgression. She displays poor behavior and is so amazed when the negative feedback is received.

    Wow…the story of the pot and the kettle come to mind….

  55. Venomon 25 Feb 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Hello everyone,

    Steven Novella wrote: “One particularly relevant rule is the principle of charity”. That sounds really nice indeed. Only last week I read on PZ Myers’s blog (in reply to Ben Radford): “Yeah, right. Fuck the principle of charity. No charity for you, Radford.” Here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/02/22/i-am-so-over-the-skeptical-movement/

    I think it’s important to remind that it’s the kind of discourse (or tone) we are facing today in the community of the rational. Not the very sensible approach advocated by Steven Novella on this blog.

    At the end of the day, I think too much damage has been done. I’m just talking about myself here, but I really lost a big part of the trust I had in the skeptical movement, especially its rationality (including the ability to have rational discussions). In a way, those dramas opened my eyes. Whatever who’s right and who’s wrong, not everybody can be right, but everybody claims to be “skeptical”, “rational” and so on. It’s obviously BS. Ideology are clearly blinding people.

    Today I stopped listening to lots of skeptical podcasts I was one a huge fan of in the past, including SGU (can’t stand to listen to Rebecca Watson anymore, sorry to say). An today I feel more and more uneasy with the label “skeptic”, and I hesitate more and more to apply it to myself, when once I was a big proponents of it.

    At the end, I think it’s a good thing. All those dramas made me more and more critical of the skeptical movement (as a movement, not skepticism as a way to look at the world). I learned a lot reading all those dramas. For me, the “moving forward” Steven Novella is talking about is probably synonymous of “let’s move away from the skeptical movement”. I don’t wish to support CFI anymore (because of the actions of Melody Hensley, for example). I don’t want to go to TAM anymore (because you have to be careful of the kind of T-shirt you wear there).

    Well, at the end, just thank you all for the hard job you did making people realize that the skeptical movement wasn’t so much worth promoting after all, and making someone sympathetic to feminism a few years ago really critical of it today. Nicely done. Now, let’s “move away” with our life…

    Sincerely,

  56. gusrineharton 25 Feb 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Would it be too silly to propose a code of conduct for the skeptic’s community to adhere to when discussing thing on various popular blogs and other social media? How about some simple frame work to allow criticism without it becoming personal? Steve’s proposals are a good start. Formalize it and call it the “Novella Accord.”

  57. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Please try to understand what people are actually saying and not make unsupported inferences. A lot of comments are simply addressing straw men.

    I never said that the threats and harassment were coming from skeptics and atheists. I have received e-mails claiming to come from skeptics, or listeners of the SGU, and probably some of them were being honest. But I have no idea about the source of anything online that is not coming from a named source.

    In terms of the effect this is having on the conversation, and the fact that such behavior is unacceptable, the source does not really matter. In terms of the question of whether or not the skeptical/atheist community has a particular problem with sexism, I have not commented on that at all, so you can’t infer what my position is. I tend to agree that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that we have a particular problem. I anyone is making that claim that is certainly a legitimate point of polite discussion.

    I am only point out the harassment because it seemed that certain commenters were denying their existence or authenticity. I never commented here on the behavior of others, and I certainly never set out hear to catalogue all the various violations of polite discourse that have occurred and still are occurring. Obviously, if I am advocating for being charitable and constructive I do not support behavior that in uncharitable or counterproductive.

    The goal here is make the conversation more productive, rather than negative. Since I am not defending anyone’s bad behavior I’m not sure why certain people feel the need to constantly point it out to me. Justin – you specific recommendations at the end of your last comment are all reasonable.

  58. Steven Novellaon 25 Feb 2013 at 4:31 pm

    I have heard from “both sides” now (there aren’t really two sides) something to the effect that – “we will never make progress until the other side changes its ways or realizes that we are right and they are wrong.”

    That’s not going to work.

    I have now provided you evidence that two people who perhaps thought that way realized it wasn’t true, they were much closer than they thought, and some reasonable communication was all that was needed.

    I am not saying there aren’t real difficulties here, but sometimes you do have to give people a chance.

  59. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Forgive me, Steven, but this:

    “I never said that the threats and harassment were coming from skeptics and atheists.”

    came after this:

    “I have not been a direct participant in the recent drama over sexism in the movement, but I have had a front row seat.”

    So, if “sexism in the movement” is the stated bone of contention, the veracity of the charge becomes salient to a honest discussion, without anyone necessarily wanting to strawman your unstated position.
    Please realise that if threats and ugly stuff do not significantly originate from within the community, then “sexism in the movement” is a gargantuan non-sequitur, and from the POV critical of the notion it represents an unacceptable framing of the debate.

    If you can’t see it, I’d like to invite you to a polite debate over “the problem of defamation and slander perpetrated by feminists in the movement”.

    You say:

    “I tend to agree that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that we have a particular problem. I anyone is making that claim that is certainly a legitimate point of polite discussion.”

    Please, take a second to realise the implications, because this isn’t about inconsequential problems like the existence of chupacabras.
    If a side is accusing the other (on insufficient evidence) of heinous prejudice and discrimination, then it isn’t the subject of polite conversation over tea.

    Supremacists will rightfully end up shunned by civil society and slanderers will typically end up in a court of law. These are serious and life-changing consequences and the lack of strong evidence should take the front seat and shape the debate, not the other way around.

  60. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 5:36 pm

    To the nice fellow who accused me earlier of being an MRA and other funny things, I’d recommend to expand his world-view beyond that simplistic manichean narrative.

    As a gender-blind egalitarian, I’m appalled and puzzled at groups who approach humanitarian issues from parochial perspectives.

  61. loyalbon 25 Feb 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I just realized something, since you haven’t addressed it: was I wrong? Did your co-host/employee suggest genital mutilation for an opponent or not? Do we do that now? Did she insult somebody for being a virgin or not? Do we do that now? I’ve tried to be nice, but you’re full of crap. Either these things are ok (funny!) or not ( misogynist :( ) What is your stance, and how will it be reflected in your popular skeptic podcast?

  62. Michaelon 25 Feb 2013 at 5:43 pm

    And thank you, Venom, for helping me realize what has been a growing sense within me as well.

    I have been feeling less and less comfortable with this “Skeptical Movement” over the past few years. There are personalities that are growing in prominence and influence within this movement. They are driving this movement more and more to place that I don’t want to be. I used to read several different blogs and have stopped — can’t take the nasty, arrogant tone. Of course, whenever someone makes a comment about tone, that quickly gets dismissed and derided. I used to think I wanted to go to a skeptical meeting. Not for a while though have I felt that way.

    I am about ready to give up on the SGU for the same reason you listed (in fact I can even recall when that first started — a well-meaning and completely innocent-sounding emailer asked a question about atheism and RW proceded to humiliate him (in my opinion). I find her at odds with the rest of that podcast panel.

    I find myself slowly moving toward the exit. And apparently a line is forming!

  63. Aidanon 25 Feb 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks Dr. Novella, it is so nice to see a dialogue starting on this issue. I hope more people can get on board and find productive solutions to these issues. I for one will do my best to take these ideas to heart and apply them in the future.

    I’ve been frustrated by what I have seen as many people deliberating misinterpreting other’s arguments. But, when I look at the history they are writing from (such as Watson’s history of abuse) suddenly their responses make a little more sense.

    It seems that a lot of these arguments are arising because everyone has a different view of events based on their personal history, the blogs they read, and the comments they read. Which is why your principal of charity is so important. But I fear that many bloggers won’t take this to heart. As Venom pointed out, PZ already criticized the principal of charity and refused to apply it to Ben Radford. This is the biggest problem that I see in these debates. When prominent bloggers like PZ choose to frame issues in ways that inflame their readership (rather than using the principal of charity) they derail conversations from the start. I’ve been trying to figure out how to look at PZ’s accusations against Radford charitably but I have a hard time doing so. Perhaps evidence of my own bias so I would love to find out why he refuses to use the principal of charity here. My best guess is that he thinks the principal of charity is a cop out for those who know they did something wrong.

  64. ConspicuousCarlon 25 Feb 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I think Steve Novella’s charity principle can easily turn into a habit of helping one’s friends excuse inexcusable behavior. It is a good thing, but not exactly an antidote without qualifications. It’s more like chelation. Sometimes life-saving, but also able to induce a different harm if overused.

    Also, NOT THAT ANYONE HAS ACTUALLY SAID THIS, but just to be preemptive, the overwhelmingly hideous threats sent to Rebecca and others from unspecified trolls are not an excuse for Rebecca’s nasty comment on Harriet Hall’s post. In fact, nothing is.

    Maybe instead of us all just getting along and moving on, Steve should come out and tell his co-podcaster, “sorry, but in spite of everything else, you were just wrong there.” It’s not like Harriet Hall has some equally crude offense and it all just cancels out.

  65. erikthebassiston 25 Feb 2013 at 6:21 pm

    “As a gender-blind egalitarian, I’m appalled and puzzled at groups who approach humanitarian issues from parochial perspectives.”

    I suppose you’re also ‘color blind’ when it comes to race issues? Do you really think it’s possible to be ‘gender blind’ or ‘color blind’? If you do, that’s your privilege talking.

    See this is the problem, claiming to be above racism or above sexism is sexist and racist in and of it’s self, but you can’t see it because you’re so convinced of your own apparent inability to be biased.

    To furthermore deny that not only can you not be sexist but that sexism doesn’t exist, denying the very existence of it, well that’s just unbelievable. I see sexism around me all the time, and I’m a white guy!

    We all carry cultural baggage about race and sex, no one is above it. It’s only provileged white dudes who think they can be, and usually fail miserably at trying.

  66. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Eric, I can only once again invite you to stop making assumptions based on parroting simplistic narratives which only betray your own lack of worldly experience.

  67. erikthebassiston 25 Feb 2013 at 6:42 pm

    “Eric, I can only once again invite you to stop making assumptions based on parroting simplistic narratives which only betray your own lack of worldly experience.”

    Right, so ad hom me and ignore anything I’ve said, while misspelling my name. Stay classy decius.

  68. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I didn’t mean to misspell you, sorry.

    There was nothing of substance, only assumptions and political mantra, so I can safely ignore your comments and invite you to consider that there exist experiences and places, which largely differ from yours and from the regurgitated bullshit you treat as acquired wisdom.

  69. Aidanon 25 Feb 2013 at 6:49 pm

    “claiming to be above racism or above sexism is sexist and racist in and of it’s self, but you can’t see it because you’re so convinced of your own apparent inability to be biased.”

    @erikthebassist you are likely correct that no one is really sex blind or color blind because of unconscious internal biases, but calling someone sexist and racist for believing that they are gender and race blind isn’t helping. Imagine how that is received… If I try to treat everyone equally regardless or race or sex and then you tell me that I’m being sexist and racist for doing so I will think you are crazy. That’s how your words will come across from the other side. Of course, I agree that we all have biases and we must do our best to overcome them. But calling someone sexist because they don’t think they have internal biases isn’t really fair or productive.

    @conspicuousCarl: isn’t the point of the principal of charity that we might be wrong and what appears to us to be inexcusable was actually just misinterpreted? If we refuse to apply the principal of charity because its used an excuse for bad behavior then that means we are refusing to accept a differing interpretation of an event. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this circular logic? It seems like you are saying: I won’t interpret what you said charitably because, under my interpretation of what you said, you said something inexcusable.

  70. Halfdeadon 25 Feb 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Steve, I owe you an apology, In previous threads I was a little upset with you for not addressing obvious falsehoods people were stating as facts. I now see you are bending over backwards to maintain civility and give people charitable interpretations of what they are saying. you may be trying too hard though, denigrating Rebecca and other women is all some of these people have, take that away and they have nothing to talk about.

  71. erikthebassiston 25 Feb 2013 at 7:19 pm

    “invite you to consider that there exist experiences and places, which largely differ from yours and from the regurgitated bullshit you treat as acquired wisdom.”

    Oh can you teach me oh wise one? Please? Please? I promise to wax your car and sand your deck for you if you do! I must learn of these places and experiences without which I am nothing but a flea on the back or your profound and wordly POV!! /sarcasm

    like I said, stay classy.

  72. Jacob Von 25 Feb 2013 at 7:22 pm

    “As a gender-blind egalitarian,…”
    Clearly the profound privilege of your ascendency is to be admired.

  73. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Another assumption and a poor attempt at comedy.

    Eric, there’s nothing that anyone can teach you. You have already been successfully indoctrinated by neo-marxist rhetoric. Now it’s up to you to check out reality against the 2-bit model you inhabit. Have fun with that.

  74. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Hey Jacob, why don’t you join Erik and help him explain me and my family to me? Does clairvoyance come with sanctimony upon indoctrination, or is it installed in the blinders?

    I don’t remember how it works, it’s been a long time since I lived under socialism. It was good to forget all about it, trust me.

  75. maudellon 25 Feb 2013 at 8:01 pm

    @ decius

    The concept of gender-blind equalitarianism sounds good. However, studies seem to indicate that it’s a lot more complicated than that (surprise…).
    In this case, I’m talking about studies about race, but the concept is similar (it doesn’t refute the “gender-blind” assumption, just something to think about). First, I’d like to say that there aren’t enough of these studies for them to be very solid, and that they are always performed on WEIRDs (EIRDs in this case). So lack of representative sample. Nevertheless, I think we can see a trend.
    This is one of those studies from MIT, but I have read other ones too. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_EACITlY-6BbkRlVjUzWG1OMUk/edit
    Anyway, the overall findings is that people who consider themselves to be “race blind” in social interactions end up making more decisions based on race when they interact with other people. It’s not that they’re racist as a person; but they have biased assumptions based on race. We all have that.
    So I think the problem raised with “gender blind” is that we all see gender, whether we want it or not, whether we realize it or not. If we want to strive for a more level playing field for all to compete, we have to acknowledge realize. I.e.: gender exists and we make decisions based on that. If we want to change that, ignoring categorization might not be the best way. In other words, it makes inequality impossible to see.
    [or I might have misunderstood what you meant]

  76. windyon 25 Feb 2013 at 8:17 pm

    A charitable reading of “gender-blind” would be that it refers to an ideal, not a claim that one (or society in general) already lives up to the ideal. Kind of like “skeptic”.

    ConspicuousCarl: agreed.

  77. Catsyon 25 Feb 2013 at 8:28 pm

    decius, you have acquitted yourself very poorly on this thread.

  78. Catsyon 25 Feb 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I am very glad that Amy Roth and Dr. Hall talked things out. I’m very glad Dr. Hall is not on the side of the haters.

    The haters have taken a big blow today. But they will try and spin this to their advantage. They will continue to play “tu quoque” (But PZ said! Yeahthehateanstuffisawful BUT what about that time Rebecca said…!?)

    They will continue to hate. It’s their raison d’etre.

    Principles like “reading charitably” are good heuristics, but, as others have said above, they can be used to deflect criticism of uncharitable (and dishonest) arguments.

    And “ignore the bullies” isn’t good advice. Ignoring them doesn’t stop them. It just further marginalizes their targets.

  79. ccbowerson 25 Feb 2013 at 9:07 pm

    The title of today’s post is “Moving Forward.” Apparently this is difficult for some.

    “Eric, I can only once again invite you to stop making assumptions based on parroting simplistic narratives”

    If you can recognize this pattern, why can’t you apply this inward?, because that quote applies to many of your comments here today. For example:

    “Finally, Sam Harris spoke eloquently on the secondary and long-terms effects of internet defamation by organised lynch-mobs.
    I guess that makes him a misogynist, too”

    Who here said that last statement (besides you)? No one else here even mentioned Sam Harris. It looks like you are the one parrotting a simplistic narrative.

    “It seems to me that both Rebecca and you have failed to make a case for misogyny in the community”

    This is not even what this post was about, perhaps you should read it. No where was he attempting to “make a case for misogyny in the community” so its not surprising that he failed at doing so. You are bringing other baggage into this discussion and it is not helpful. Perhaps the only way it is helpful is by demonstration of what is unhelpful.

  80. Halfdeadon 25 Feb 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Also, NOT THAT ANYONE HAS ACTUALLY SAID THIS, but just to be preemptive, the overwhelmingly hideous threats sent to Rebecca and others from unspecified trolls are not an excuse for Rebecca’s nasty comment on Harriet Hall’s post. In fact, nothing is.

    Hi Harriet,

    I won’t bother commenting on the sex/gender argument, as Will is more than capable of handling that. I will echo a few other commenters and point out that your “queer” statement doesn’t do you any favors in convincing anyone that your knowledge of these topics is anything close to approaching Will’s.

    You didn’t mention me as a person included amongst your feminist critics, but I suspect many people reading this will assume I’m in there somewhere, possible because your t-shirt at TAM did directly call out my website and you’ve mentioned that incident specifically in your post. So, I figured I’d respond briefly because I’ve never really discussed it publicly and never talked with you about it at all.

    When you made your “I am not a Skepchick” shirt, I did consider writing a blog post about it. Then I changed my mind and I composed an email to you in which I explained my feelings on the subject, since you seemed confused by the reaction you received. I pointed out that no one to my knowledge had ever called you a Skepchick, and I had never asked you to become a contributor to the network. I then used an analogy in which I pointed out that if a physician like Steve Novella went to the effort to create a CafePress shirt that read something like “I am not a SkepDoc. I am a skeptic,” you would be confused, a little hurt, and, when he wore it three days in a row, concerned for his personal hygiene. Your hurt feelings would be completely understandable, especially if he did this following a year in which you received a nonstop avalanche of insults, slurs, rape threats, and death threats from skeptics.

    So I wrote the email, tinkered with it for a few days, and eventually I deleted it without sending. The reason was that after reflecting on it for so long, I came to the realization that while a week prior I held an immense amount of respect for you, I suddenly had lost that respect so completely that I had no interest in getting it back. I realized I was stressing out over someone who was so proud of an immature t-shirt she made that she wore it for an entire weekend. I realized that anyone who needs an explanation of why that was silly and hurtful doesn’t actually deserve an explanation, and they certainly don’t deserve real estate in my head. So I let others argue over it while I moved on to more interesting things.

    I’m writing all this to you now because I want to be sure that you know that I do not think of you as my enemy. In fact, I don’t really think of you at all. The most one could say is that when you are occasionally brought to my attention, as happened with Will’s recent posts, I simply think of you as ill-informed on social issues.

    So, having now spent ten precious minutes on the subject, it’s once again time for me to move on to more interesting things.

    I’m not finding the nastiness. Perhaps you could underline it.

  81. Catsyon 25 Feb 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Given the ample evidence of daily attacks on Rebecca and other feminist bloggers–they are NOT all coming from “outside the community”–we have ample evidence of misogyny in the community.

    In the comments, somebody equivocated by claiming our feminist bloggers are saying that “misogyny in our community” is WORSE THAN “misogyny everywhere else. Nobody has claimed such a thing. Is it *worse* than misogyny elsewhere? Probably not. It may even be a bit better.

    So what? That’s a very very low bar. We should be better than the wider community. Misogyny should be unacceptable in our community.

  82. deciuson 25 Feb 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Sam Harris disagreed with PZ and was therefore snidely crucified as a racist. Sorry, my bad, I remembered wrong. I can’t keep track of who is a rape apologist, who a privileged old white misogynistic scum, who a garden misogynist, and so on, in the community .

    I’m glad that you, excellent FTB people and RW the Unwrong worshippers, can keep track of all that noble stuff for us.

  83. ccbowerson 25 Feb 2013 at 10:08 pm

    “I can’t keep track of who is a rape apologist, who a privileged old white misogynistic scum, who a garden misogynist, and so on, in the community .”

    Oh so you can’t keep your made up strawmen straight. Understood.

    If anyone is making unreasonable claims, then feel free to take them to task for it, but stop talking about these as if they are legitimate positions that people are taking (ocassional outlier aside). You are bringing this baggage with you, and that seems to be the source of your problem. And charitable, I am being.

  84. Biohazardon 25 Feb 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Steven Novella wrote: “Regarding cyberstalking – it’s all a matter of degree. A certain level of obsession and persistent negativity does rise to the level of stalking, but there is no bright line.”

    No “bright line” indeed unless we are willing to give credence to similar accusations made by creationists like William Dembski who claimed that Wesley Elsberry and Richard Wein are “Internet stalkers”

    Dembski: “My most obnoxious critics have been Internet stalkers (e.g., Wesley Elsberry and Richard Wein), who seem to monitor my every move and as a service to the Internet community make sure that every aspect of my work receives their bad housekeeping seal of disapproval.

    Source: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/docs/bd-meta098.html

    Steven Novella wrote: “The elevatorgate site is targeted and unfairly negative and hostile…”

    A creationist might similarly characterize a blog like Pandas Thumb, Pandas Thumb being the place that Freethought Blogs owner Ed Brayton responded to William Dembski’s “internet stalking” accusations thusly:

    Ed Brayton: “William Dembski has this odd habit when someone publishes a criticism of his writings. Rather than engage in substantive refutation of those criticisms, he often claims either to be the victim of some cosmic unfairness by the Darwinian Inquisition, or he claims that the person criticizing him is obsessed with him. As an example of the first, I point you to his frantic complaints of copyright violation and ethical mistreatment by Rob Pennock in early 2002, after Pennock had included a couple of essays of his in an anthology he edited called Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics. He accused Pennock of copyright infringement, but in fact he had the written permission of the actual copyright owners, Metanexus. The owners of Metanexus published a public exoneration of Pennock in the matter.

    For an example of the second strategy, I point you to his having called Richard Wein, Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit his “internet stalkers” because they – gasp! – read and criticized his work. And in public. The nerve of these people, actually analyzing and critiquing the work of a scholar! He hasn’t done much to actually answer their critiques, mind you, but he’s called them “obsessed” and it appears that he thinks that actually defeats their arguments.”

    Source: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/10/dembskis-obsess.html

    A lot of this language is eerily familiar.

    I have not been a participant in this conflict and am not taking sides now. I just wanted to point out this interesting repeating of history.

    Re-lurking.

  85. ChrisHon 25 Feb 2013 at 11:23 pm

    People need to earn our respect. Dr. Hall and Ms. Roth have earned our respect by discussing their issues like adults. They have realized where they made errors, and have admitted them. This is a good thing.

    Perhaps others will learn from their example.

  86. Chason 26 Feb 2013 at 12:18 am

    @gusrinehar

    That sounds cool and all but Dan Fincke has already done the heavy lifting on this front with his civility pledge. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2013/02/the-camels-with-hammers-civility-pledge/

    Let’s all try to follow the lead of Surly Amy and Harriet Hall and give charity a chance.

  87. rafalon 26 Feb 2013 at 1:16 am

    Now, if only this type of thing happened more often.

  88. erikthebassiston 26 Feb 2013 at 1:43 am

    “Now, if only this type of thing happened more often.”

    So then feminists and MRA’s could lay down in a bed of roses and kiss and make up…

  89. erikthebassiston 26 Feb 2013 at 1:46 am

    decius… WTF does feminism have to with socialism and neo-marxism?

  90. erikthebassiston 26 Feb 2013 at 1:48 am

    have to do with*

  91. erikthebassiston 26 Feb 2013 at 2:11 am

    ok seriously… JV, you’re reading this comment thread, do this:

    Renounce the pit, renounce reap paden, he is clearly off the deep end.

    Every one renounce thunderfool…..

    ERV has some splainin to do…

    The ftbullies# stops now….

    You want a cease fire…. Call a cease fire, no more bashing of RW, no more bashing of Skepchick or FTB, admit that feminism is a voice that will be heard, acknowledge that women are people, and should be treated as equals at secular events. Start fucking there.

    Thunderfool doesn’t get to gnaw on people’s extremities without their consent. RW doesn’t have to get propositioned in an elevator at 4:00 AM when she’s clearly there to talk about women in the secular movement and not get hit on in enclosed spaces by strangers.

    Women don’t attend secular events so you can try and fuck them. Start there JV, admit that, admit that men can make things uncomfortable for women when they act like predators, admit that women want to be seen and acknowledged for their intellectual contribution, and not their vaginal worth.

    Start there……

  92. Murmuron 26 Feb 2013 at 4:44 am

    I think the discussion in the comments of this blog entry are quite interesting. The original post was made with the best of intentions and in the spirit of clearing the air and creating a forum for fair discussion. There will always be those who will not accept any kind of conflict resolution and who will bring their own agendas to any discussion, and as much as we can try to be charitable, it is hard sometimes to figure out what real arguments they may have.

    I have noticed a trend in this and other posts that some people seem to have the most laboured and “vomitted dictionary” style of writing. As a proponent of speaking plain Enlgish I find it very funny, and if I didn’t have a job would love to go through each post and boil their alphabetti-spaghetti splurge into something that makes sense without having to decode what they are trying to say through context and other clues they may drop during their diatribes.

    Back to the topic though, ccbowers and ericthebassist have pretty much said exactly what I would have said, so no point repeating it all.

  93. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 6:13 am

    The framework is the same, Erik, at least in the form that is being pursued and peddled in the movement.
    The basic tenets and modus operandi are very similar.
    Both are based on binary divisions, which make sense only very superficially.
    People are not regarded as individuals, but as members of their sex or class. Either they’re party members or enemies of the people. Hatred and mistrust for the ideologically-impure drives the aeternal witch-hunts and purges.

    It’s like an old movie, one I had hoped not to see again. But whatever rocks your boat, mate. You will one day wake up in the same place as your intellectual predecessors.

  94. Steven Novellaon 26 Feb 2013 at 6:56 am

    Carl wrote: “I think Steve Novella’s charity principle can easily turn into a habit of helping one’s friends excuse inexcusable behavior.”

    I disagree. The principle of charity is not about making excuses, but about making a sincere attempt to understand the position that someone else actually holds, and giving them the benefit of the doubt when there is ambiguity or incompleteness in how their position was stated. It also means not making negative assumptions about motivation and not inferring motivations or goals that are not expressly stated.

    The constructive response when you suspect someone has an ill motive or goal is to simply ask them for a clarification, not to make negative (and often self-serving) assumptions.

    Again – we point this out in non-skeptics all the time. True-believers often accuse skeptics of being afraid of the truth or being on the take. We also are often careful not to assume that someone peddling snake oil is a con or fraud, perhaps they are just sincerely wrong. These are the same violations of charity as assuming someone is being sexist, or of self-promotion, or fomenting drama,etc.

    We owe our fellow skeptics at least the minimum courtesy that we grant to our adversaries. But allies do make the bitterest enemies.

  95. Steven Novellaon 26 Feb 2013 at 7:02 am

    erikthebasist – it is easy to make a list of grievances you want the other side to own up to and correct.

    Try this – make a similar list of the things that what you consider to be your side can and should acknowledge and improve.

  96. Steven Novellaon 26 Feb 2013 at 7:05 am

    biohazzard – don’t commit the “False continuum” fallacy. Just because there is a continuum does not mean that we cannot meaningful label the extremes.

    Of course creationists are going to use the “stalking” defense. Any “watchdog” effort could be spun as stalking. One might argue that the ID crowd are stalking evolution, pouncing on every evolution-themed news item and spinning it with their propaganda. They need skeptical watchdogs.

    This is significantly different than a site dedicated to smearing an individual.

  97. oolonon 26 Feb 2013 at 7:10 am

    Wow Justin Vaculas comment giving “advice” on how to avoid harassment campaigns is rather inappropriate… Comes across as shut up or I’ll carry on punching you in the face (Or in his case – his mates will carry on punching you in the face). Really shows how clueless he is at times. Let me give it a go …

    Justin when you hang out at the Slymepit which is dedicated to finding the least charitable interpretation of anything and everything said by Skepchicks/FtBers and anyone on the periphery you are not in a position to give advice. Especially when that forum creates “disagreement” along the lines of this without so much as a whimper of complaint from you.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/02/02/what-is-more-important-than-peace-nsfw/

    That’s not even the worst of it… The “skeptics” at the Slymepit have recently targeted Ellen Beth Wachs, cheered on by the queen of the forum ERV of scienceblogs, to side with the fundamentalist Christian Sheriff and his allegations against her designed to smear and undermine her secular activism. Here is James Randi’s opinion of Ellen ->
    http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1399-polk-county-sheriff-grady-judd-loses-fight-against-humanist-activist.html
    Here is ERV encouraging her internet mob to “carry on trolling” Ellen, by trolling she means continue spreading the Sheriffs false allegations against her.
    https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/559922_575610799116647_1451923567_n.jpg

    That is still not the worst of it…. Really! Avicenna is a new blogger on FtBs, who has the great minds at the Slymepit trying to deny him his massive £1 income a day from blogging. But even more worryingly the great “freethinkers” over there have been supporting and encouraging a particularly nasty MRA who engages in some pretty nasty rape apologia over the recent Indian rape cases. Big cheer for “freethought” there!
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/amilliongods/2013/02/22/conflict-in-atheism/

    So Steven Novella will find some push back for his call for both sides to be more charitable. I agree with him there is a continuum of criticisms the Slymepit etc pick up on … But when the “reasonable” people criticising, like Justin Vacula, hang out with a group of despicable bullies and say nothing why should anyone listen to them?

  98. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 7:24 am

    Maudell, I know that egalitarianism is difficult to pursue and that as imperfect humans we’re prone to faux pas and errors.
    That doesn’t validate any competing world-view, though, particularly one that comes laden with an extremely divisive ideology.

  99. arnieon 26 Feb 2013 at 7:25 am

    Thank you, Murmur. I suspect there were others, besides me, who were trying to formulate something akin to your words, but you said it very well.

    It is so hard to not to “bite” when someone presents themselves as truly believing that they have somehow managed to achieve the well-documented impossible, namely that they are truly gender-blind or race-blind and imply that they speak totally bias-free. However, I think that the ensuing exchanges with “decius” reveal once again the utter futility of getting diverted into attempting meaningful dialogue with someone who apparently sincerely believes he or she has achieved such bias-free purity.

    Dr. Novella’s fair-minded and constructive efforts in posting his original comments above deserved better than such dead-ended diversions

  100. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 7:34 am

    Arnie, fantastic exercise in ascribing words, thoughts and generally missing the point. Bravo.

  101. Bill Openthalton 26 Feb 2013 at 7:42 am

    @erikthebassist:

    WTF does feminism have to do with socialism and neo-marxism?

    Radical feminism uses the same dialectic approach as marxism:

    - Both divide humanity in two arbitrary groups, with one group systematically oppressed by the other (workers vs. bourgeoisie, women vs. men).

    - Both hold that individuals are primarily defined by the group they belong to, and that any individual’s instinctive loyalty is to the group with the proviso that members of the oppressing group only favour members of their own group, whereas members of the oppressed group want the best for all of humanity.

    - Both feel a better society will arise when the perceived roles of the groups will be reversed. In other words, the currently oppressed group is morally better than the oppressing group, and will not oppress the defeated group once in power.

    - Both redefine and create language (comrade, sister, class war, rape culture, entitlement, etc.) and develop pseudo-philosophy and pseudo-science around their core dogmas.

    - Both hold that those they identify as members of the oppressing group cannot have valid criticism of the core beliefs. In fact, criticism is seen as proof of membership of the oppressing group.

    - Both believe that purported past injustices against members of the oppressed group (even if the circumstances were different and the “members” of those days did not perceive their situation as injust) justify retaliatory action against living members of the oppressing group (even if these individuals personally never did anything “oppressive”). The group is more important than the individual.

    - Both believe a self-defined victim status intitles them to the moral high-ground, and both believe that doubting their victim status is the same as oppression.

    - Both believe the members of the oppressing group are aware of their privileged status and maliciously protect and promote the injust privileges of their group.

    - Both ignore evidence showing their worldview is too simplistic.

    Basically, both are a non-religious expressions of the group-building behavioural patterns that allow humans to build large, cooperative societies. While in earlier days the grouping was based on genetic relationships (tribe vs the rest) and used religion, Marx used the worker/bourgeois division and socialism. This doesn’t mean there is no good in socialism or religion, just that the ideology+group pattern is a very powerful organisational tool. One only has to look at history to see it occur over and over (mormonism, scientology, moonies, companies such as Apple, etc.). It becomes problematic when the group claims universality and moral authority over those not formally part of the us/them divide (this is the case for religions such as christianity and islam, or political ideologies such as marxism).

    Does this answer your question?

  102. arnieon 26 Feb 2013 at 7:42 am

    Decius, Of course. Thank you. I rest my case.

  103. Bill Openthalton 26 Feb 2013 at 8:00 am

    Folks, let’s not forget it is all about individual humans. Some are very nice, some very nasty, and the rest are somewhere inbetween, but pretty decent overall. When we stick on labels, it is to further understanding, not to force individuals in our more or less arbitrary pigeonholes. Statistics give valuable information on populations, not on individuals — this has been said before, but it should be said louder and more often.

    Another oft-forgotten fact is that humans are social animals. We form groups, and defend them against other groups. Once individuals identify with a group, they subconsciously adopt the values of the group, even if these values were not the primary reason for joining. Once part of a group, even skeptical individuals will subconsciously jostle for position. Some are leaders, and will do what is required to affirm their leadership. Some are lieutenants, and will attach themselves to successful leaders.

    Leaders adopt the viewpoints that ensure them of the largest following — one of the defining characteristic of a leader is the ability to “embody” the ideas that live within the vast majority of their potential supporters. In doing so, they take the ideas to their extreme (as far as they can go to promote the growth and strength of the group). One only has to look at populist political parties to see this pattern in operation.

    The problem with Steven Novella’s (and Harriet’s and Amy’s) laudable attempts to close the “rift” is that the leaders of the opposing sides benefit from widening it, and will subconsciously do whatever is required to keep it open.

  104. Steven Novellaon 26 Feb 2013 at 8:15 am

    Bill – I disagree. You are oversimplifying. Not all leaders seek to maximize their following or will be motivated to maintain rifts. Some leaders are “value based” in that they base their role on promoting a certain value system or ideology. That value system may include principles of polite skeptical discourse.

    I believe our community generally values skeptical discourse, and therefore those who violate this to promote their perceived “side” may risk marginalizing themselves.

    We also have to consider how we are viewed by the general public. It is actually possible for people to put the movement as a whole above their personal motivations.

    Many of the more cynical comments here I find to be self-fulfilling. If we assume it’s hopeless, then it will be. If we assume that people (dedicated to reason) can be reasonable, then there is hope.

  105. utiboon 26 Feb 2013 at 8:20 am

    I think its positive whenever people put their differences aside in order to engage in some rational debate, as Roth and Hall have done here. So well done them.

    There are, it seems to me, three general sources of this conflict. One is sincere and real ideological differences. If you read the recent exchange between Harriet Hall on SBM and Will on Skepchick, and a sample of the comments to each, these differences become apparent. Where exactly to draw the line between free speech and the avoidance of offense is one recurrent theme. Still, this by itself should not be enough to cause such a rift, for our common ground dwarfs these differences.

    If you were to write it out as a list then I would agree that common ground dwarfs these differences. I think you’re missing the value that people place on certain beliefs and positions. When PZ Myers says, to paraphrase, “if skepticism won’t allow for advocacy of feminism, then fuck skepticism” he is entirely justified in placing his value of feminism above all else. To the extent that it can nullify all of the common ground he might have with other skeptics and atheists. I think the proper response to this kind of behaviour should be to wave him a cheery goodbye, a no hard feelings and best of luck in the feminist movement. It shouldn’t be to accomodate him and fundamentally change the focus of the skeptical movement in doing so.

    This doesn’t mean that ideological differences can’t be discussed, nor that some of the feminist concerns can’t be discussed and addressed. Just that at a certain point our goals obviously diverge and at that point our differences do become more important than our commonalities.

    A second source of conflict are those who have chosen cyberstalking and daily harassment as their chosen mechanism of activism. Rape threats, threats of violence, sexually charged and grossly offensive language have no place in this discussion, but have infiltrated our community. The result has been to raise the level of emotion and defensiveness and pushing all sides toward the more radical extreme. This is, unfortunately, part of the new social media world we have created. We have to find ways to marginalize and ignore these elements, and not confuse them for those who have reasonable and friendly disagreements.

    First off, yes obviously, rape-threats, threats of violence, sexually charged language and grossly offensive language have no place in any discussion. What actually constitutes “grossly offensive language” is an area of disagreement but suffice it to say that just outright calling a person an offensive name while claiming to be engaged in discussion with them is not on.

    Another fundamental disagreement between the two sides though, is what actually constitutes cyber-stalking and daily harassment. A recent article by Stephanie Zvan (linked by oolon above) implies that talking on a forum about her is enough to constitute harassment and that reading her blog is enough to constitute cyber-stalking. To my mind, if you are going out of your way to find things that offend you, you aren’t being harassed. I think its important that people are very clear about what they mean when they use these terms if there’s any chance of moving forward.

    The third source of conflict seems to be avoidable misunderstandings on all sides. This is something we can fix, with a few helpful rules of conduct and more open communication.

    There is a lot of misunderstanding on all sides. A lot of it is intentional. I think this can be addressed but only with the good faith of all participants. I’m not holding my breath for that.

  106. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 8:21 am

    Bill, thanks for your post about the analogies between marxism and feminism. I’m not knowledgeable enough to answer Erik’s question so eloquently.

    I don’t think you will find much in the way of leaders and hierarchy on the side of the divide which opposes the feminist takeover, though, unless I missed something
    What you will find is impatience for the continuous waste of time and distraction from common causes. The wound being entirely self-inflicted for motives irrelevant to anything we spontaneously coalesced around for, there’s no great motivating force other than shared exasperation and self-defence from ideological attacks.

  107. windyon 26 Feb 2013 at 9:10 am

    …admit that feminism is a voice that will be heard, acknowledge that women are people, and should be treated as equals at secular events.

    Agreed. As equals, I don’t think we need to be protected from exposure to occasional awkward advances, snarky t-shirts that we disagree with, harsh critiques of poorly conceived presentations, or ‘dangerous’ ideas like the possible existence of some persistent average gender differences in psychological traits.

  108. Bill Openthalton 26 Feb 2013 at 9:12 am

    Steven – I merely observe that the subconscious drive to gather the troops by defining an enemy and villyfing them is operating in the “skeptical community”. I am loath to name names, but I found PZ’s comment on the reconciliation of HH and AR typical of the pattern:

    arriet Hall and Amy Roth have reconciled. I’m pleased to hear it; I wasn’t worried about Amy, but Hall was going to hit mantle at the rate she was digging. It is a great relief that she stopped, looked around, and considered her situation thoughtfully, and then responded well.

    “Damning with faint praise” comes to mind. You only have to read the comments in this thread to observe a bunch of faithful lieutenants hard at work fanning the flames.

    It is for the leaders to see how, for all their claims of skepticism, rationality and science, they are running some of the oldest programs of organised humankind. If there is any value to skepticism and a science based approach, they should prove it by taking a long, hard and objective look at their behaviour, see where they are ideologically motivated, and correct that by becoming inclusive instead of exclusive. And as far as I am concerned, they could try and include those a lot of vocal atheists and skeptics love to insult and belittle, such as the conservatives (“wingnuts”), religious believers, and yes, even the pope :) .

  109. rafalon 26 Feb 2013 at 9:37 am

    A cool thing I noticed about applying the principle of charity is its ability to subtly influence the views of the other person.

    When you make a positive interpretation, the other person has the choice whether to agree with that interpretation or not. This eliminates some of the inherent vagueness in arguments, forcing them to either adapt the more charitable interpretation – which is great, or rebel against it and so burring themselves into a less defensible position, and making it easier for you to checkmate them argumentatively.

    And if they do yield to your charitable interpretation, they’ll start defending it in order to be consistent, slowly internalizing it.

  110. Steven Novellaon 26 Feb 2013 at 10:14 am

    Bill – yes, tribalism kicks in. It is something to be aware of.

    rafal – you are giving away my secret :)

    Seriously – it does have the advantage of being an effective strategy, as you point out.

    If you will indulge me in some counseling 101 – it is most helpful not to focus on what others should do (or speculate about what they will or will not do), but rather to focus on what you should and can do. Waiting for everyone else to start behaving better does not help, you have to just do it yourself and hope others will follow.

    Also – counselors talk about the notion of the “identified patient.” Within a group people often blame problems on one person or subgroup, when the real issue is the dynamics of the interaction of the whole group. Again, it is most constructive to be introspective about your role in the group dynamic and how you can improve it, rather than blame one segment (which always happens to be someone else).

  111. erikthebassiston 26 Feb 2013 at 10:16 am

    Bill Openthalt,

    Odd how I have no problem at all imagining some one making the same argument during the civil rights movement.

    Steven,

    I would love to able to make a charitable interpretation of the other side’s demands, but I can’t fathom such a list that doesn’t include women shutting up.

    Windy,

    Your list reads like a straw fest. In isolation, none of these things are particularly egregious. It’s when such behavior is done with the intent of creating a hostile environment that it rises to the level of harassment and should not be tolerated if we expect to create an open and welcome environment for every one.

  112. thetalkingstoveon 26 Feb 2013 at 10:24 am

    “erikthebasist – it is easy to make a list of grievances you want the other side to own up to and correct.
    Try this – make a similar list of the things that what you consider to be your side can and should acknowledge and improve.”

    Steve…do the comments here not give you a pretty good idea of which side needs to do the vast majority of the corrections? I appreciate you’re trying to be a mediator, but you’re dealing with people who think feminism is at best irrelevant and at worst (apparently) dedicated to subjugating men.

    On one side are people saying ‘let’s respect women. men should think about how they approach them. we shouldn’t use gendered slurs. We shouldn’t ascribe gender differences where there isn’t much evidence that they exist. Here’s some robust criticism.”

    The other side says “women should just put up with it. I’ll say what I want. It’s obvious that there are differences even though I don’t have any evidence. don’t criticise Sam Harris. no, wait, not criticise – don’t LYNCH him. now here’s some photoshops, stalking websites and fake twitter accounts.”

    The things which our side should do, Steve? Vacula pretty much told you what it would take: for Rebecca Watson (in particular, but I’ll take it it applies to the rest of Skepchick and FTB) to shut up.

  113. Murmuron 26 Feb 2013 at 10:33 am

    “…it is most helpful not to focus on what others should do (or speculate about what they will or will not do), but rather to focus on what you should and can do. Waiting for everyone else to start behaving better does not help, you have to just do it yourself and hope others will follow.”

    This deserves repeating… everywhere that everyone can repeat it.

    It should be the quote of the week on the SGU.

  114. Steven Novellaon 26 Feb 2013 at 10:46 am

    thetalkingstove – the comments here are not representative, and there are more than two sides in this. It is probably not a good idea to paint the perceived “other side” with one extreme brush (hey, maybe that can be the first thing on our list).

    Harriet and Amy perhaps represented the lowest hanging fruit, in that they were never very far apart and are both exceptionally nice people. There are plenty of people in the middle ground, who mean well but have said things that were perhaps not helpful, and perhaps can do a better job of promoting their perspective while making a genuine attempt to understand other perspectives.

    What I do see some of in the comments are people saying – the “other side” is incorrigible – just look at these worst examples I cherry picked.

    We can start in the middle and work our way out. Sure, some people are going to be over the line and irreconcilable. But let’s not worry about them. Let’s focus on what we can do, and who will be amendable to reason.

  115. Coelon 26 Feb 2013 at 11:11 am

    # thetalkingstove:

    In the spirit of Steve’s request, here are two starting suggestions for ideas one’s own “side” could adopt:

    “The other side says “women should just … “”.

    #1: Not see everything in terms of binary “sides”, and thus not automatically assign anyone who disagrees with you on anything to some opposed “side”.

    #2: Produce summaries of an opponent’s position that there is some chance they might accept as fair!

  116. Bill Openthalton 26 Feb 2013 at 11:32 am

    Erik — You don’t have to believe me, but I am an lapsed marxist-leninist (full disclosure: I am also a lapsed catholic, who started out as an altar boy, making a detour through Opus Dei and ended singing Gregorian masses before moving to “the other side”). I have first-hand experience of ideology-based groups, and how they affect the way one interprets reality.

    The filters that are put in place are very strong, and they do effectively colour the perceived opponents morally bad. I known the visceral disgust towards the opponents and their ideas, the total incomprehension at their incredible stupidity, the certainty they had to know they were doing wrong, but still chose to do it for their selfish purposes. I even know how it feels to be certain that killing these people and their associates, especially the “innocent bystanders” (whom I did not consider innocent, but supporters of the regime though their guilty inaction) would bring along a better world. I was lucky not to go beyond the hot air before snapping out of it all. I don’t know why, it just happened, and I am thankful it did.

    I am not saying the feminist movement is violent (though some extremists no doubt are). I am just saying it’s an ideology like marxism is an ideology. Like marxism, it starts from real issues only to transform them into grotesque manichean caricatures. Reality is not like this.

    Reality is so much more. Drop the glasses for a moment and look at the other side. They are like you, and you could well be them. Find what unites, not what divides.

  117. rafalon 26 Feb 2013 at 11:44 am

    I like the point about the real issue often being the dynamics of the interaction of the whole group.

    It’s as if feuds get too complicated for our brains so instead of manoeuvring around conflict, best option we see is to not lose the next skirmish. We buckle down, get defensive, focus on the flaws of the other side and rationalize our own. The key problem being, that even if we’re more correct than the other side, we can still be a fundamental part of the problem.

    So just reinterpreting the victory condition as moving ALL participants toward a better place, as opposed to triumphing over the villains can go a long way.

  118. Cunning_personon 26 Feb 2013 at 11:58 am

    “Renounce the pit, renounce reap paden, he is clearly off the deep end.
    Every one renounce thunderfool…..
    ERV has some splainin to do…
    The ftbullies# stops now….”

    RENOUNCE, RENOUNCE, RENOUNCE!!

    Do you have the slightest idea how ridiculous you sound? Are you a freethinker or a cult member?

    What else is in your repertoire? Struggle sessions? Self criticism? Not for you of course – there is absolutely nothing you need to be criticized for.

    This kind of garbage is why I am no longer a supporter or reader of freethought blogs.

  119. hermiton 26 Feb 2013 at 11:59 am

    Frankly Bill your comparison of feminism to Marxism looks like a house of straw. I’m resisting the temptation to Fisk the whole thing, but really; “Both feel a better society will arise when the perceived roles of the groups will be reversed..” is not true of feminism at all. No one is arguing that men should be subjected to the kind of sexism women have to put up with.

    The rest of your list isn’t much better. The only caricature here is the one you’re presenting and it’s not very helpful.

    Asking that we not condone or dismiss or ignore harassment, wherever it’s coming from, is hardly a radical idea. Neither is the suggestion that we might strengthen our community by finding ways to make under-represented demographics more visible, welcome and comfortable in our midst.

  120. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Not a former communist myself, but I used to travel extensively beyond the Iron Curtain, then moved to the DDR in the crucial weeks of its demise and lived through the reunification process in East Berlin.

    From my window, I can literally still see the remnants of the Wall erected by the regime’s priesthood, in order to “protect” the citizens from bourgeois decadence and all the hateful influences spreading from the opposite side of the ideological – but ultimately non-existent – divide.

    Just like Bill, I can spot the hydra as soon as it rears one of its ugly heads.

    It’s amazing that anyone, in this day and age, would take any of that ideological bullshit seriously, but it feels like a civil duty to oppose it.

  121. SallyStrangeon 26 Feb 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Steve Novella,

    While I appreciate your pointing out that there are more than two side to this–that is true–I would also remind you that there is one simple binary proposition here that deserves a yes or no response:

    Is sexism a problem in the skeptical community?

    The answer is obvious.

    Premise 1: Sexism is a problem in this society and culture. (Whether you’re in the USA or elsewhere, this is true; there are, as far as I know of, zero countries on the planet where there are no gender inequalities to address, though some countries have fewer and some have more.)

    Premise 2: The skeptical community is composed of people who grew up with and exist within this culture and society.

    Conclusion: Sexism is a problem in the skeptical community.

    Those who claim to be skeptical about this are making the claim that either sexism is not a problem in our society–and there is some overlap between self-proclaimed skeptics and people who believe this obvious falsehood–or that there’s something about adopting the label “skeptic” that magically erases all of society’s programming about gender roles, sex, consent, homosexuality, and all the rest of it.

    I know of nobody who has claimed that sexism is WORSE in the skeptical community than out of it, although I will cop to starting to wonder if this is the case after two years of sustained, targeted harassment against women known for being feminists in the skeptical movement. I doubt it, though. But for a person who has the facts, and who applies critical reasoning to the facts, claiming that sexism is not a problem is simply not a supportable claim. And in order to move the conversation forward, we need to stop stalling out at the “Is/isn’t sexism a problem?” conversation. Which means excluding those who claim that sexism isn’t a problem from the conversation, just like we exclude climate change denialists in order to have meaningful conversations about what to do to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

  122. Oracon 26 Feb 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Harriet and Amy perhaps represented the lowest hanging fruit, in that they were never very far apart and are both exceptionally nice people. There are plenty of people in the middle ground, who mean well but have said things that were perhaps not helpful, and perhaps can do a better job of promoting their perspective while making a genuine attempt to understand other perspectives.

    Indeed. Most of the Slymepitters, as far as I can tell, are a lost cause, but I am hoping that Amy and Harriet’s example will rub off on some of the combatants within the movement who are not.

  123. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Right Orac. I will renounce Reap Satan and the Flame Pit, after all She was threatened for our sins.

  124. hermiton 26 Feb 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Re: Justin Vacula’s suggestions above:

    “Do not directly or indirectly engage with dissenters.
    Avoid commenting on websites of your ideological opponents.”

    These first two might be taken by a less charitable person than I as a polite suggestion to “shut up and go away”…not good advice at all.

    The rest of them are sensible enough:

    “Refrain from attacking individuals; stick to criticism of ideas rather than persons.
    Consider how people might respond to what you write. Can something be reframed so as to not lead to undesirable criticism?
    Avoid sharing content when experiencing heightened emotions (great anger, disgust, stress, etc)
    Consider sharing something with friends before it becomes public. A second (or third) set of eyes might suggest helpful edits which would avoid negative feedback.”

    I would suggest that Mr. Vacula himself might do a better job of following that advice and would add one more suggestion; avoid running to websites which promote hatred of a group of people to attack individuals who may belong to that group…http://www.avoiceformen.com/author/justin-vacula/

  125. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Sallystrange, your reasoning omits to consider that the single biggest contributor to sexism is our society still is religion, which is remarkably under-represented in our movement.

    The current biggest contributor is the feminist contingent, who continue to act as if our genitalia is what define us.

  126. rafalon 26 Feb 2013 at 1:11 pm

    @Orac
    Actually, I disagree with the idea of labelling some people as a lost cause.

    While a 360 transformation might be unlikely, progress can be made with anyone.

  127. MCORon 26 Feb 2013 at 1:21 pm

    It’s good to see some progress being made. While I could debate and quibble and discuss and cavil about all the controversies and conflicts involved, personally I think that the worst part of all this in-fighting is just how dull it all is. As if there weren’t enough problems in the world…

    I just find it disappointing to see so many talented people arguing over internet drama. And I think this applies to both “sides”.

    I look forward to everyone talking about science and skepticism again.

    Keep up the good work.

  128. parseon 26 Feb 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Justin Vacula, I see that you have some tips for Rebecca (and other people who are the recipients of abuse) to minimize the grief they receive. Though I strongly disagree with some of them, there’s others that are useful to people that haven’t heard or considered them before.
    Per Steven Novella’s comments around 7:00 am this morning, could also you make a list of some of the things your side can and should acknowledge and improve? Do you have any advice for them, on how to minimize grief and abuse?

  129. utiboon 26 Feb 2013 at 2:15 pm

    @SallyStrange

    The answer is obvious.

    Premise 1: Sexism is a problem in this society and culture. (Whether you’re in the USA or elsewhere, this is true; there are, as far as I know of, zero countries on the planet where there are no gender inequalities to address, though some countries have fewer and some have more.)

    Premise 2: The skeptical community is composed of people who grew up with and exist within this culture and society.

    Conclusion: Sexism is a problem in the skeptical community.

    Those who claim to be skeptical about this are making the claim that either sexism is not a problem in our society–and there is some overlap between self-proclaimed skeptics and people who believe this obvious falsehood–or that there’s something about adopting the label “skeptic” that magically erases all of society’s programming about gender roles, sex, consent, homosexuality, and all the rest of it.\

    Premise 1: Violence is a problem in this society and culture (Whether you’re in the USA or elsewhere, this is true; there are, as far as I know of, zero countries on the planet where it does not occur in some form, though some countries are worse than others.)

    Premise 2: The skeptical community is composed of people who grew up with and exist within this culture and society.

    Conclusion: Violence is a problem in the skeptical community.

    Obviously, i’m being slightly ridiculous here but I think its sometimes useful to look at arguments divorced from their original subjects. If there are problems within the community based around gender and sex then they should be based on logical foundations far less shaky than this one. I think a lot of the misunderstanding that Steve Novella mentioned come about through a reflexive dismissal of this kind of normal skeptical exercise and an automatic jump to the conclusion that the person doing it must be unaware or unconcerned about any problems women might face in either this movement or society as a whole.

    Despite this, if we actually conclude that yes, sexism is actually a problem in the skeptical community (no more or less so than society at large). There are certainly some things we can try to combat that. Harassment policies are probably a good thing. More female speakers. Treating the men in the community as if they’re unaware idiot-children who constantly need to be reminded of sexism, that is not a good thing. There are only so many times that we can decry trolls and kooks and highlight some of the misogynistic language online before we have to move on and accept that doing that really has little effect. The primary focus of the skeptic movement should always be the promotion of skepticism and rational thought. If your focus is on gender equality in society and feminism there is another vibrant movement for that. Depending where you’re from, there is most probably a feminist wing of a political party that could use people like you.

  130. Halfdeadon 26 Feb 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I would suggest that Mr. Vacula himself might do a better job of following that advice and would add one more suggestion; avoid running to websites which promote hatred of a group of people to attack individuals who may belong to that group

    Woah woah woah, that advice is for them uppity womenz its not for menz.

  131. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Halfdead, at the Pit I argue with the few resident MRAs all the time, like many others do. Their talking points are critically examined and their arses nitpicked like it would never be possible in certain echo chambers.

    It may seem like too little, because they don’t get photoshopped or publicly parodied like the feminists, but the crucial difference is that there is no MRM contingent seeking to conform the skeptical movement to its political agenda. The moment they try to do that, the situation will be reversed.

    Moreover, it is the fundamentalist attitude of those who want to impose their “progressive” policies, which pushes us to join forces with anyone who democratically opposes them, even though some of us are politically very distant.

    You should give this some thought, rather than caricature us as women-haters.

  132. hermiton 26 Feb 2013 at 2:41 pm

    “The current biggest contributor (to sexism) is the feminist contingent, who continue to act as if our genitalia is what define us.”

    Wow.

    When did we get transported to Bizarro World where everything is backwards?.

    Feminism is the idea that people’s identities, whatever their gender, shouldn’t be defined or limited by their genitalia. Feminism is a reaction against sexism, not the cause of or a contributor to it.

  133. Halfdeadon 26 Feb 2013 at 2:48 pm

    You should give this some thought, rather than caricature us as women-haters.

    I don’t think you hate all women, I just think you live in a Just World surrounded by your own privilege.

  134. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Halfdead, you don’t know jackshit about me or where I live, face it. But I’ll gladly give you a guided tour, should you happen to visit the place.

    “Privilege” is the new original sin – white noise to my ears.

  135. Halfdeadon 26 Feb 2013 at 3:00 pm

    decius when I was 14 i spouted similar bullshit to what you spout here, eventually you need to grow up and realize the world is not how we wish it to be, it is how it is, and everything must be taken in the context of what the world is really like instead of trying to take each action as if you were in a vacuum.

  136. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Hermit, socialism is the idea that people’s condition, whatever their accident of birth, shouldn’t be defined or limited by their social class. Socialism is a reaction against class warfare, not the cause of or a contributor to it.

  137. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Halfdead, when I was 14 I had ideologues such as yourself telling me how the world is and what I ought to do to change it the way it suited them. Nowadays, I look with my own eyes and pick my battles according to interest, perceived priorities and available resources. But thanks for your concern.

  138. hermiton 26 Feb 2013 at 3:16 pm

    “…they don’t get photoshopped or publicly parodied like the feminists”

    I wonder Decius…do you think that what you call “public parody” (like this example from AvFM contributor Mykeru ) contributes to a healthy debate about issues? Can you even name an actual issue in any of this? Is that the kind of thing that will serve to move us forward, as Dr. Novella is asking, or does it merely contribute to a hostile atmosphere?

    There’s a whole thread at the slymepit (one of the most active on that forum) devoted to this kind of …I was going to say childishness, but that would be an insult to children…this kind of mediocre, lowbrow “humour.” If you’re proud to be a part of such efforts that’s your business I suppose, just don’t expect me, or any mature, rational thinker to take you very seriously.

    “Socialism is a reaction against class warfare, not the cause of or a contributor to it.”

    Socialism is a reaction against class based inequality, from which class warfare might well emerge. But socialism isn’t the cause of the class divisions being fought against. Analogies…you’re doing them wrong…

  139. utiboon 26 Feb 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I wonder Decius…do you think that what you call “public parody” (like this example from AvFM contributor Mykeru ) contributes to a healthy debate about issues? Can you even name an actual issue in any of this? Is that the kind of thing that will serve to move us forward, as Dr. Novella is asking, or does it merely contribute to a hostile atmosphere?

    Wait, do you think it was supposed to move us forward or contribute to a healthy debate?

  140. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I can only respond for my own stuff, Hermit. The Pit doesn’t have a monolithic position about anything and is uncensored. The only unifying factor is that we find the current political split both unhelpful and ridiculous, so we do laugh and bitch a lot.

    However, I have advocated for higher comedic standards many a time. If you want to know my position, here is an excerpt from a post of mine.

    You’re mistaken in attributing prudery to us, Cowherd.
    The aesthetics boundaries of satire should be drawn by the context in which it operates while keeping in mind the political goals one is trying to achieve. Therefore, attacking someone’s physical appearance isn’t off-limit in an absolute sense. For example, it would be in order to ridicule for their size an obese person who portrayed themselves as a lifestyle guru.

    But we are waging a war against bad ideas and a certain type of imagery is the artistic equivalent of an ad-hominem logical fallacy. It is absolutely irrelevant and tells more about the author than about the target.

    I know that many people find it funny, but it just gives free ammo to our critics and achieves nothing.

  141. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Hermit, my point is that I consider both socialism and gender feminism dangerous and divisive tripe.
    I wasn’t after a perfect analogy, just illustrate how the sloganeering is similar, self-absolutory and ultimately meaningless.

    Not sure how much clearer I could make that point.

  142. SallyStrangeon 26 Feb 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Conclusion: Violence is a problem in the skeptical community.

    Obviously, i’m being slightly ridiculous here…

    That seems like a completely un-ridiculous statement to me. I think that the causes of violence, and strategies for reducing it, are an appropriate target for skeptical inquiry, and I would not be surprised to find that there are self-identified skeptics who have either experienced or perpetrated violence. Their experiences would certainly be a valuable resource for anyone wishing to bring skeptical inquiry to bear on the problem of violence, whether within the skeptical community or not. Any level of violence within the community qualifies as a problem, and thus the statement that “There is no problem with violence within the skeptical community” would be a claim falling under the “extraordinary” category, i.e. it would require extraordinary evidence, just as the claim that “there is no problem with sexism within the skeptical community” would.

    As far as the correlation between religiosity and sexism goes, I find that response quite humorous. Indeed, religious IS the source of a lot of justifications for misogyny. Which makes the non-religious skeptical resistance to critically engaging with the sexist stereotypes they unwittingly subscribe to baffling. You have observed that people who stop believing in god sometimes continue to subscribe to other unevidenced beliefs, such as psychic phenomena or ghosts, yes? One only rejects previously held beliefs if one takes the opportunity to examine them. In order to reject sexist beliefs, one must first examine the content of one’s beliefs about gender, sex, masculinity, femininity, etc. Examining the content of one’s beliefs about gender, sex, masculinity, femininity, etc., is precisely what feminists are encouraging, and it’s something that’s not going to happen as long as the default assumption is that there is no problem with sexism in the skeptical community.

  143. hermiton 26 Feb 2013 at 3:59 pm

    So which is worse in your opinion decius? the nasty and unfunny “parody” crap, or people objecting to being the targets of said crap? `Cause you seem to be more upset about the latter…

    “I consider both socialism and gender feminism dangerous and divisive tripe.”

    And what specifically about feminism (ie the idea that people’s identities, whatever their gender, shouldn’t be defined or limited by their genitalia..) is “dangerous and divisive?” What s the actual, substantive objection here?

  144. SallyStrangeon 26 Feb 2013 at 4:04 pm

    The primary focus of the skeptic movement should always be the promotion of skepticism and rational thought. If your focus is on gender equality in society and feminism there is another vibrant movement for that.

    Observe the embedded assumption that gender equality and feminism are not compatible with the promotion of rational thought. It leaves open the possibility that there might be something rational about treating women as lesser beings than men.

    Sorry, but I’m passionate about skepticism AND feminism and I will continue to try to ensure that the space between them grows smaller and smaller. This means that eventually there will be no place in the movement for misogynists or misogynist thought. Unless you sincerely believe that misogyny is based on rational thinking, this shouldn’t be a problem.

  145. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Sally, the only humorous part was your failing to distinguish between subsets and self-selected subsets, which invalidated your entire line of reasoning.

    Does the lack of religiosity exclude all sexism a priori? Of course not. Show us the evidence and we’ll deal with it on a case by case basis, like all healthy communities do.
    As far as the preaching and shaming goes, I’m not interested, thank you.

  146. SallyStrangeon 26 Feb 2013 at 4:09 pm

    “Privilege” is the new original sin – white noise to my ears.

    Sociology denialism should not enjoy any more respect in the skeptical community than climate change denialism does.

  147. SallyStrangeon 26 Feb 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Preaching and shaming, right.

    Who have I shamed? At whom have I preached. You destroy your credibility further with every response you write, decius.

    Or, as Walter once said, “Calmer than you are, Dude. Calmer than you.”

  148. SallyStrangeon 26 Feb 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Show us the evidence and we’ll deal with it on a case by case basis, like all healthy communities do.

    Healthy communities don’t deal with systemic problems on a case by case basis.

  149. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Everyone else, please notice how this conversation has suddenly been turned into an indoctrination class.

    Sally, your “systemic problems” are an artefact of feminist pseudoscholarship of which you’ve regrettably just given us another taste. It’s assumptions and a bunch of propping rationalisations which vanish under scrutiny.

    If this is how the future of the skeptical movement looks like, I want nothing to do with it.

  150. hermiton 26 Feb 2013 at 4:28 pm

    “If this is how the future of the skeptical movement looks like, I want nothing to do with it.”</I

    Right, `cause we wouldn’t want to subject our own assumptions to a little skepticism, would we? o_O

    Seriously, what are you so afraid of?

  151. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Hermit, all what’s been asked for is evidence in exchange for cooperation. Tackling individual problems will help collect data point to establish a systemic problem not concocted out of thin air for possible political gain.

    Skepticism begins with analysis of the available evidence. What is your problem?

  152. deciuson 26 Feb 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Here’s an example of what passes for feminist scholarship.
    A twelve-year-old could debunk parts of this text, and yet it has been a staple for many years.

    Why are we supposed to take any of it on faith, Skeptics?

    http://chronicle.com/article/Persistent-Myths-in-Feminis/46965/

  153. errollon 26 Feb 2013 at 5:15 pm

    From what I’ve read of the slymepit no one there is anti equality, that is actually what they seem to want. The problems are rape culture, rampant misogyny, privilege, patriarcy etc.

    Patriarcy seems to be a conspiracy theory blaming all of socities problems on ‘half’ the population without examining the issues of that demographic, which seems a bit myopic. Rape culture seems to be the opposite of the culture we live in as rape is thought of as the worst crime one can commit even murderers shun rapists in prison. Privilege is an adhominem attack. Those are some examples that seem to be at odds with the evidence, but I am very open to contrary evidence, and that i might be wrong(as all skeptics should be).

    I’m not sure what kind of feminism is being advocated and there is often an equivication happening, and redefition of terms.

    Perhaps a website could be set up specifically where this equity feminism/gender feminism, and the application skepticism could be debated. (Isn’t there a piece project being talked about)These conversations need to happen and need to cross the devide, so that both “sides” can perhaps understand why there are dissagreements.

    Thanks for any info adressing the above!:)

    So thanks for the space Dr Novella. And thanks to the other “side” for the info and comming here to discuss.

  154. Karmakinon 26 Feb 2013 at 5:19 pm

    As an old-school online progressive, it’s interesting to me to see all the stuff against Photoshopping and satire and all that. Namely, because a lot of that is how the progressive blogosphere cut its teeth. In fact, those sorts of things are still fairly common today, although not nearly as common as they used to be, which is a bit to be expected, as the movement gained its own intellectual momentum and as such could start to move away. Although you still see it, in terms of things like “Puppet Theater” and the like.

    “Preznit giv me turkee” anyone?

    Of course, nearly nothing is as good as that was (and nothing will probably ever be), but it comes more or less from the same place. Generally speaking, that’s not a place I in particular want to be, but it’s not like it’s coming out of right field (get it?) or there’s no precedent for it. Actually, to be honest a lot of what goes on out there reminds me a lot of John Cole of Balloon Juice and the rotating “obsessions” first, with Andrew Sullivan (Who by the way has had some REALLY nasty things said about him that I’ve seen in the past), and more recently, Megan McArdle.

    Point is, what we see going on these days simply isn’t that abnormal.

    The second half of the equation, that’s been mentioned, is the “call out culture”, really escalated the conflict much more than it really had to be. And yes, it was people on my “side” at the time who started it. People thought it was acceptable to use social power in order to affect change upon a larger group. Didn’t think it was acceptable at the time, still don’t.

    This is actually one battleground of a much larger conflict, one that’s still in the process of forming. Try as you like, you can’t put the worms back in the can without one side basically winning. That’s the unfortunate reality. Now, I wish it was more of an intellectual debate than the current debate, where one side is ideological/authoritarian and the other side is mocking/irreverent, but that’s what we have right now.

    Yes, there are a lot of us who truly believe that yes, getting rid of overt and restrictive gender roles is a good thing, and yes, that some what goes for modern feminism thought and culture is actually in the way of that. Until that debate gets hashed out…and it may never…you’re never going to see this conflict end.

  155. hermiton 26 Feb 2013 at 5:28 pm

    “Hermit, all what’s been asked for is evidence in exchange for cooperation.”

    As Dr. Novella has pointed out there is plenty of evidence out there if you’re willing to look. it seems to me that too many self described skeptics have no problem accepting charges of sexism against religious organizations at face value, but when it comes to our own community they demand video evidence or CSI-type forensics before even acknowledging that there might be a concern here…

    One of the things being asked for here is a cessation of the hostility and harassment and the use of demeaning images (what you call “parody”) to attack our fellow skeptics. You’re on record above as being opposed to the latter tactic; do you really need more ev