On Shunning Fellow Atheists and Skeptics

November 25, 2012

Shunning and boycotting may be gaining acceptance in the atheist and skeptic communities.   In particular, it appears they are being adopted as tactics against fellow atheists and skeptics.  This is regrettable.

By shunning I mean deliberately avoiding association with an individual, even when the association is as attenuated as attending an event or conference where the shunned individual is speaking.  By boycotting I mean deliberately avoiding association with anyone or any entity (such as an organization that sponsors an event) which does not support one’s shunning. 

I am motivated to write about this topic for a couple of reasons. First, Russell Blackford has recently announced via Twitter that he will not attend any conference at which Rebecca Watson or PZ Myers is speaking.  Second, in the last few months, a number of individuals have advised me that CFI and its affiliates should never invite certain persons as speakers.  This advice has often been accompanied with a statement such as “If X speaks, I will not attend the conference.”  There was a flurry of such advice around CSICon, the Nashville conference of our affiliate CSI, presumably because our speaker list reminded people of objections they had to this or that individual.  Some of the advice was prompted by an essay by Watson that appeared in Slate around the same time as the conference, which, among other things, contained a mischaracterization of one of my blog posts.  This was offered as convincing proof that Watson was beyond the pale and should be considered persona non grata by CFI. 

In any event, the list of individuals that CFI has been advised not to have any dealings with is long.  In no particular order it includes: Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Ophelia Benson, Harriet Hall, Russell Blackford, Edwina Rogers, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, and Sharon Hill.  I am sure I am forgetting several more. 

This is advice which I decline to follow.  Let me explain why. 

CFI is an organization that has as part of its core mission the promotion of free inquiry.  We try to fulfill that mission in several ways.  One way is to campaign against government restrictions on speech, in particular, speech deemed intolerable because it offends the sensibilities of the religious.  We also try to promote discussion of important issues, often by inviting speakers to events or conferences who have contrasting views.  For example, we will be holding a symposium in Washington, D. C., on April 27, 2013 which will focus on Brian Leiter’s new book, Why Tolerate Religion?  Leiter has a provocative thesis and CFI firmly believes that the best way to examine this thesis is to have other speakers who disagree with Leiter and will be able to point out what they perceive as flaws in his arguments.  (The speaker list for this event has not been finalized, but it will be announced shortly.)  Put simply, contrasting viewpoints are something we intentionally try to present at many of our events.  Our conferences are not designed to be the atheist/skeptic counterparts of Unification Church assemblies. 

Accordingly, it is inconsistent with CFI’s mission not to invite someone to speak at a conference merely because that person has expressed views with which other atheists/skeptics disagree.  Nor is it a sufficient basis for exclusion that the person has offended others while expressing his/her views.  We certainly hope atheist sensibilities are not more fragile than the feelings of the religious. 

Of course, there are persons who combine controversial opinions with outrageous, intolerable behavior or express their opinions in such a fashion that they do not allow for a meaningful exchange of views (e.g., their “views” consist largely of a string of racist epithets).  Similarly, there are persons who repeatedly make demonstrably false claims, whose every word out of their mouths, including “and” and “the” (to paraphrase Mary McCarthy), are lies.  Such persons would not be invited to speak at CFI events. 

Without scrutinizing every statement that has ever been made by the individuals listed above, I am confident that none of these individuals falls into the “unacceptable” category.  We will continue to invite them to CFI events when warranted. 

Naturally, if a significant percentage of the pool of potential speakers adopts a position similar to Russell Blackford’s, it will make assembling a roster of speakers for a conference more difficult.  (And Blackford is not the only one who has taken the position that he will not attend conferences where certain individuals are speaking; he just happens to have made his position public.)  If we want to comply with the various preferences of these speakers, we will have to keep in mind that speaker A does not want speaker B or C; speaker B does not want speaker A or D; speaker D does not want C or F; and so on.  We’d need a computer program to keep track of everyone’s objections.

We’re going to avoid that problem by not going down that road. As indicated, we’ll continue to invite individuals who we think can make a meaningful contribution to a particular event.

Let me also respectfully suggest to my long-distance friend Russell that his position that he will not attend conferences where Watson or Myers is speaking does not rest on a sound argument. One has to be very charitable when trying to interpret a tweet, but Russell appears to believe his position is justified, in part, because an organization “supports” an individual by having them speak at a conference.  Not so.

Clearly, “support” cannot mean endorsement because CFI does not endorse the views of every speaker it invites to a conference. Indeed, CFI probably doesn’t endorse all the views of any speaker it invites to a conference, including me and other staff. Inviting a speaker to a conference means, as indicated, we believe this person will contribute in some fashion to the conference. It doesn’t mean we agree with this person about the dangers from moderate religion, the wisdom of libertarianism, the poverty of philosophy, or the implications of feminism. It also doesn’t mean we vouch for the person as even-tempered, pleasant, and agreeable.

And as Russell knows from his own experience of speaking for us, “support” cannot mean financial support because typically we do no more than cover expenses. Occasionally we offer honoraria, but the amounts involved are so small as to constitute mere tokens of appreciation.  Certainly, they cannot supply a meaningful source of income.

If Russell believes that Myers and Watson trade in bad arguments, or perhaps no arguments at all, but just unsupported assertions and accusations, then the best remedy for that is the time-honored one of pointing out the flaws in their claims. Or, if one thinks enough effort has been spent on rebuttal, simply ignoring them. Shunning and boycotting are extreme responses best reserved for truly exceptional cases.  I would hate to see the atheist and skeptic communities dissolve into a snarl of dueling fatwas.

Which brings me to the above-referenced observations by Watson about me.  In her October Slate article, Watson suggested that I was a person who, with respect to the controversy over feminism and harassment within the atheist/skeptic communities, “play[ed] the ‘both sides are wrong’ game, insinuating that ‘misogynist’ is just as bad an insult as ‘cunt.’” Her characterization of my position in the blog post to which she linked is incorrect and should have been known to be incorrect to anyone who read that post carefully. First, my pointing out that various people with contrasting positions have arguably made unsupported accusations, such as “misogynist” or “feminazi,” does not imply both sides (if, indeed, there are just two sides) are substantively wrong or mistaken to the same extent.  Second, I make no attempt, explicitly or implicitly, to equate the accusation “misogynist” with the insult “cunt.” I don’t even use the word “cunt” in my essay. Moreover, it should be obvious to anyone that these terms don’t admit of an easy comparison because, in their most typical use, they fall into two different categories. One is an accusation of bias which can seriously damage one’s reputation. The other is a term of contempt, a hateful dismissal of another’s humanity.  Trying to compare “cunt” and “misogynist” is like comparing “spic” and “anti-Semite” or “kike” and “racist.” These terms are harmful but in different ways.

In short, Watson mischaracterized my views and her observations manifest either poor reasoning or a lack of reasoning.

However, if CFI were to disassociate itself from everyone who ever mischaracterized my views or the views of others at CFI or displayed flawed reasoning we’d have a very thin roster of potential speakers.

A couple of years ago Jerry Coyne claimed that CFI had declared war on atheists. No, really. Moreover, he specifically mentioned me as someone who had gone out of his way to criticize CFI’s atheist supporters. No statement by me was provided as evidence. And I assure you this this declaration of war on atheists was news both to me and Tom Flynn, who never suspected we might declare war on ourselves. Presumably, it was also news to Richard Dawkins, who at roughly the same time, received an award from us for being the person who had most contributed to the advance of freethought in 2009. But despite Coyne’s unsupported claim, he’d be welcome to speak at CFI events. 

And don’t get me started on PZ Myers, who has raged against those alleged accommodationist “wankers” at CFI, stating that CFI stood for the “Church of Fatuous Incompetence.”

(Remember when accommodationism and not sexism was the big issue in the atheist community? Ah, the good old days.)

My point is that occasional sloppy research or poor reasoning resulting in unsupported claims should not necessarily result in someone becoming a pariah. We need to cut each other some slack. Nor should criticism of one or the institution with which one is associated necessarily result in placement of the offender on the “To Be Shunned” list. We need to develop thicker skins. Critical thinking and a commitment to free inquiry do not mix well with hypersensitivity.

As I have said before, we should not cut ourselves off from fellow atheists and skeptics who agree with us on core principles. Disagreements should be resolved through dialogue, not denunciation.

Comments:

#1 Cethis on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:11am

Good.  For example, I have problems with some of Sara Mayhew views, but I have no problem with her speaking at CFI or any other event.

#2 Brian Dunning (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 9:00am

I am glad to read this post, and I fully agree with your ignoring blacklists. Too many people spend too much effort looking for rifts to quarrel over. In my experience, they are the people who do not have a positive outlet for their creative energies.

#3 S.Hill on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 9:04am

I was very surprised to find my name on this list but I guess I have “enemies”. That’s a shame. I’m all for cooperation for common goals. I have responded to this post with my own asking for people to tell me directly what the problem is, maybe we can solve it.

http://wp.me/p2DFR-l7

#4 Shane Brady (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 9:48am

I applaud the CFI for taking this stance.  Too much time is wasted with all this needless drame.

#5 Faithlesseye on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 9:50am

Without naming names, could you expand a little on where this speaker “advice” came from? Did you just look through a few tweets or is there a person out there who actually feels that they have the authority to pass this sort of judgement?
I think this is important as the people on the list ought to know whether this is just tittle-tattle or part of something worth taking notice of.

#6 Marc David Barnhill on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 10:28am

Not long ago, I was deeply frustrated by the rash of sophomoric drama in skeptical and secular circles. Now I wonder if the secessionist impulse mightn’t be a good thing, as the more irrational and unhelpful elements gradually remove themselves from the center of the discussion.

#7 Ophelia Benson on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 11:01am

I’m so flattered to be on the list.

The bit about the complexity of keeping track of all the shunnings has long been a source of amusement to me. It’s like some excruciating upper class twit dinner party out of Trollope or Anthony Powell or Nancy Mitford - “No, darling, James is on non-speakers with Diana but then also Diana is on non-speakers with Boffy and Boffy in turn is on non-speakers with Pip - how shall we ever manage?”

#8 Pneumo (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 12:06pm

I would like to be given some examples of people who “combine controversial opinions with outrageous, intolerable behavior or express their opinions in such a fashion that they do not allow for a meaningful exchange of views”, and will not be invited.

#9 Hank Fox (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 12:56pm

Good piece. The speakers who refuse to attend, when the real goal is to get the word out, to persuade more and more people toward rational worldviews, risk undercutting their (our) own larger aims.

#10 widow42 (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:05pm

Shunning is necessary for self-defence since the people on that list have made it clear they will try and sabotage the career of people who will disagree with them - ironically by shunning (See the PZ Myers post “There is no black list”).

This would certainly be a serious concern for those too young to have a stable job established, which is a common problem for young academics.

#11 Tom Keller (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:08pm

Watson at times can be a sanctimonious a-hole, but that’s no reason to call for shunning her… She also has some really good things to say…

#12 S.Hill on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:11pm

widow42: That is an accusation that has no basis for generalization. I have never sabotaged anyone. My personal opinions are my own. If someone has a problem they need to be clear about what exactly it is I can fix. But they haven’t ever said what it is about my work they dislike that would relegate me to a black list. I am FAR from controversial.

#13 N_J (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:11pm

Ophelia Benson @ #7 - your comment is particularly ironic, since it is you and your fellow FTB bloggers who have done more work to shun and exclude people than anyone else in atheism.

#14 Ophelia Benson on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:19pm

And here it comes.

No they haven’t. No it isn’t. No we haven’t.

#15 Greg Laden (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:25pm

One of the reasons conferences happen to begin with is to get people together who otherwise might not, to hear voices we might otherwise not know about or ignore, and to have views and perspectives brought forth that might but for the support of conference organizers be left without illumination.  “Shunning” tends to interfere with this.  Having said that, I can understand why an individual might have personal preferences as to whom they sit with at a conference.  But, I’m sure it is also true that the prevailing view of people watching this whole process is that the various actors in the various dramas are unlikely to be seen with each other, when in fact, very public arguments usually don’t lead to that. 

(I remember people getting mad at PZ Myers and me both for not being really mean to Chris Mooney and Matt Nesbit during the Great Smackdown Event and that shocked me.  We are all colleagues, what did people really expect?)

There is one very acceptable form of meta-shunning which has happened, and to good effect, that I’m afraid might have led others to think the whole shunning and blacklisting thing is a good idea.  This is when various potential speakers have either threatened to not bother with a given conference, or simply declined, because of a very blatant sex bias (or some other bias) in the speaker’s roster.  That was right, and it has been effective. 

The CFI, by the way, seems to do a very good job at selecting speakers even if they occasionally get one that everybody hates. That is the price of being big in one’s thinking.

#16 Justin Vacula (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:37pm

Yes, of course, Ophelia, you and other bloggers at Freethought Blogs has nothing to do with—to just mention two names—shunning Thunderf00t and myself. Funny. Yah, and PZ saying that he won’t speak at conferences in which Abbie Smith is invited to speak doesn’t count either…

#17 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:41pm

Why stop at shunning? I think that lives should be ruined and jobs should be threatened, if not lost. Oh wait, those tactics are already in use, aren’t they, Greg?

#18 Ophelia Benson on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:51pm

Justin Vacula - how have I “shunned” Thunderfoot?

And I’m not responsible for things that PZ says, either. It’s not the case that everything said at one Freethought blog is said by every other Freethought blog.

Is it your claim that PZ’s post about Abbie Smith demonstrates that “FTB bloggers have done more work to shun and exclude people than anyone else in atheism”? If so, I think that’s inadequate to the task.

#19 Melody Hensley on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:51pm

I’m not trying to put you on the spot. These are genuine questions that I know people are wondering. It seems that you take racist epithets seriously. However, would it really take a “string of racist epithets” to to disinvite someone from a conference? What if we discovered they did this in their private life? Do you not take sexual epithets as serious?

#20 c*-** (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:57pm

@Ophelia.

He did say “you and other bloggers at Freethought Blogs”. So, not just you.

Remember what Ed Brayton had to say about thunderf00t as they parted ways.

“I want to do whatever it takes to make sure that he is essentially drummed out of this movement, never invited to speak anywhere again and is forever a pariah.”

#21 Ophelia Benson on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:08pm

Freethought blogs is not one blog with a lot of bloggers (who work together). It’s a network with a lot of independent bloggers. We don’t speak for each other or take responsibility for what the others say. We blog independently.

#22 B Hero (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:09pm

Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel as though I should raise a finger off complaint.

I was barred from attending a Florida Humanist Conference, by Becky.
I have never set foot in Florida. I can empathise with Russell Blackford’s contempt for Becky.

Becky uses the privileged position of the speakers’ podium to misrepresent people, who have no right-to-reply.

It matters not in my case, as I am extremely thick skinned, and also happen to live on a completely different continent. Furthermore, I do not attend such conferences in my country of residence.

#23 Ophelia Benson on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:17pm

If you mean Rebecca Watson, use her name. Calling her “Becky” is a deliberate pointless bullying insult. People have been doing it for going on two years now.

#24 David Gluck (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:24pm

“Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something—if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” - Roseanne Roseannadanna

#25 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:28pm

A conference called QEDcon is coming up. It is interesting that Tristan Swale, a highly intelligent individual , shall not be attending, as he has concerns for public order. Not surprising, given that Hayley’s father announced (on twitter no less) that he was heading to his home to duff him up.

By way of background, Tristan was a close associate of Hayley. It is my understanding, that Tristan became disillusioned and frustrated with the radical feminist ideology that seems to have superseded scepticism. It’s all about “patriarchicy”.

This is actually related because Hayley is a associate of Becky. Militant new wave, radical feminism appears to have taken over

#26 John W. Loftus (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:41pm

I’ve been trying to get shunned with posts like this one Ophelia, to no effect:

#27 c*-** (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:41pm

@Ophelia

I’m not saying that you should have to take responsibility for everything that your fellow bloggers on the network say. I do agree that you’re independent - up to a point.

Lets be honest. You’re friends and colleagues. You’ll talk to each other, share ideas and attend conferences as a group. None of this is a horrible crime. I do think that by hosting your blog on the site you need to accept that you are tacitly approving everything else that happens there.

Of course you personally have been involved in efforts to remove members of the atheist community from their posts. So you’ll have to bear full responsibility for that.

#28 badrescher (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:42pm

I was happy to see this post because I think that if organizations make it clear that they will not be bullied, less of that kind of thing will occur. I find petitions, demands, and dictates rather disgusting attempts to control others.

However, refusing to attend (or appear in the program of) a conference with specific speakers is not even close to telling organizers how to run their events. It’s an expression of one’s own values, opinions, and wishes, not a demand that they be shared.

Also, inviting someone to speak is indeed supporting that individual. It does not need to be an endorsement of the speaker’s views to be an endorsement of the speaker. It gives the speaker a stage and lends them credibility; you would not invite them if you did not think that they had something to say that is worth listening to, whether you agree with their conclusions or not.

In many cases the presence of a specific speaker (or set of speakers) is a good indication of the priorities of the organizers. Personally, I see the quality at most events eroding as organizers seem to be more concerned with appealing to/including everyone (without a good understanding of who attends conferences and why) than advancing their cause(s). Popularity in a small community is not a good measure of quality and as soon as you’re more concerned with numbers than quality, you’ll lose both.

Furthermore, when an individual’s behavior consistently conflicts with the values that an organization has adopted, caveats about not sharing opinions and views don’t matter. Yes, we should all be allowed to make mistakes and be individuals, but there are lines. Where an organization draws them is not a trivial matter.

So, while I am glad that you’ve declared that CFI will organize its events as it sees fit, I do hope that its priorities and values are in line with my own.

#29 John W. Loftus (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:42pm

Oops, Google this to see:

“An Open Plea to Advocates of Atheism Plus, Apologize and Then Start Over”

Do it at Skepticink dot com if nothing else.

Cheers.

#30 adamtm (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:46pm

Ronald, would you attend/speak/invite Watson to a conference if she called you/cfi misogynist?

#31 Randy on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:46pm

“Our conferences are not designed to be the atheist/skeptic counterparts of Unification Church assemblies.”

How shocking.  Did someone propose that, or are you just trying to demean opposing points of view?

#32 Z (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:47pm

Re: Brayton’s quote cited at #20 cn-tu (Guest)</strong> on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 1:57pm

As far as I can remember, he wrote that after Thunderf00t access-violated Freethought Blogs’ private mailing list and started sharing emails with third parties.

freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/08/10/thunderfoots-unethical-obsession/

So yeah, it was a bit more personal than “differences in opinion”.

#33 John Greg on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:50pm

“Calling her ‘Becky’ is a deliberate pointless bullying insult. People have been doing it for going on two years now.”

Oh, for crying out loud.

Ophelia, because you cannot direct and control the dialogue here, perhaps you should just glare angrily at your screen and psychically shun into silence all the evil, mean, and wicked, world destroying monsters who use such dastardly weapons of hate and turmoil as diminutives and nicknames.

Alternatively, you could always scurry back to your blog of truthiness, and ban a couple of folks just for the thrill of it.

#34 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 2:50pm

Ladies and gentlemen,

In post 26, I see John Loftus attempted to post a link (which was then removed as guests can’t post links)

The link John attempted to post was : 

======================
I’ve been trying to get shunned with posts like this one Ophelia, to noeffect:

http://skepticink.com/debunkingchristianity/2012/11/24/an-open-plea-to-advocates-of-atheism-plus-apologize-and-then-start-over/

Maybe later, eh?

==================================

#35 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:00pm

I have addressed an article widely promoted by the FTB clique here: http://elevatorgate.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/dissecting-amys-final-message-under-the-moniker-of-homervacula/

This tribal mentality is toxic

#36 c*-** (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:04pm

@Guest

“As far as I can remember, he wrote that after Thunderf00t access-violated Freethought Blogs’ private mailing list and started sharing emails with third parties.”

Yes I think Ed was angry but so what? His first thought seems to have been “how can I shun thunderf00t”.

This is the mindset that we have to move past.

#37 Z (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:23pm

Tell that to “Hero” above you.

#38 Reap (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:39pm

“As I have said before, we should not cut ourselves off from fellow atheists and skeptics who agree with us on core principles. Disagreements should be resolved through dialogue, not denunciation.”

I think that says it all. I would like to see more thinking like this among some circles of atheist/skeptic speakers/writers. All-inclusive because we are all in this together. It would be nice to see the return of the sense of humor too. I think that would go a long way towards diffusing some of the perceived aggressions.

#39 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:45pm

@#21 Ophelia Benson claims:

“Freethought blogs is not one blog with a lot of bloggers (who work together). It’s a network with a lot of independent bloggers. We don’t speak for each other or take responsibility for what the others say. We blog independently.”

Oh, this line again. The claim that because there are many FTB blogs, pointing to a core group of aggressive and obnoxious bloggers that happens to include the highest traffic blog on FTB (Pharyngula) is somehow painting with too broad a brush. I see that some of you have been disavowing Atheism+ as well, just a month or two after helping bring that vile little forum into existence. All smoke and mirrors, in my estimation.

However, when it comes to pulling together to engage in hate campaigns against bloggers and individuals you don’t like (among many others, Abbie Smith, DJ Grothe, Justin Vacula, and, this week, Richard Dawkins) it seems the various FTB, Skepchick, and Atheismplus blogs and forums readily pull together in one pitchfork-wielding mob.

So enough with the misdirection, already! You people are a clique, and one that makes attacks on hated outgroups a core part of your mission, whether you openly admit to it or not.

#40 c*-** (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:49pm

Okay, Hero/@elevatorGATE stop using your position as a well known atheist speaker to shun other people from the movement.

#41 Ophelia Benson on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:51pm

No, we’re not all in this together. There are limits. Ron gave the example of people whose ‘“views” consist largely of a string of racist epithets.’ I would also give the example of people whose “views” consist largely of a string of sexist epithets - or of shouting on a podcast that a particular woman is a “fucking bitch” over and over again…such as Reap Paden.

And aren’t we droll, calling ourselves “cn-tu”...

#42 Amy (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 3:58pm

First of all that post that “Hero” aka “elevatorgate” linked to above is nonsense. He links me to someone else’s twitter account and then says it is me. It is not. He is a perfect example of the incessant online harassment some of us have to endure. Should we avoid people like that if we can or should we embrace them at events?

As for this post in general, I have to say I am a tad bit disappointed.  No, it’s not ok to harass and call people names constantly. This sort of thing has real life consequences. For example that poster “hero” aka “elevatorgate” has posted my home address on various websites. So has Justin Vacula. So MAYBE this post is relevant if you are, for example, calling out someone like Dawkins for saying HE is not gonna speak if so and so he disagrees with is on the roster because that could be construed as him using his power for control. You could say the same about other famous or powerful speakers in the movement but if you are referring to people like me or other women who have been threatened or harassed in this ongoing controversy then it is a different thing and not so simple to pass judgement on.  I won’t go to an event if I know certain people who have threatened me or somehow jeopardized my safety are on the roster. Am I fucking it up for organized skepticism or am I protecting my safety and sanity? And fyi shunning and attempting to avoid drama and peril are different things. I’m sure there is more to the story than I know, since I don’t know who is ‘shunning’ who but Ron, you need to understand that that some of us just want to protect ourselves and I would hope that an organization with humanism at it’s core will be equipped to understand the intricacies in what is happening.

#43 c*-** (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:00pm

“And aren’t we droll, calling ourselves “cn-tu”... “

What? Presumably you disagree with some point i’ve made and aren’t merely grasping at straws.

#44 Reap (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:01pm

@ophelia
“Freethought blogs is not one blog with a lot of bloggers (who work together). It’s a network with a lot of independent bloggers. We don’t speak for each other or take responsibility for what the others say. We blog independently.”
Is it reasonable to expect people to believe that? If true then why have so many bloggers left FTB and why were some booted off? I find it hard to believe you would associate with a website if you didn’t agree with it’s content. If you do disagree then I would assume your blog reflects those times? I will pay better attention from now on.


“If you mean Rebecca Watson, use her name. Calling her “Becky” is a deliberate pointless bullying insult. People have been doing it for going on two years now.” 
If this is one of your problems I suggest you check into getting that GED. Maybe then you can get past the high school mentality.  Ophelia, with all due respect, please stop being part of the problem. I know there is a grown up in there somewhere.

#45 Ronald A. Lindsay on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:09pm

I am going to be traveling or in New York City on business for the next couple of days, so this response, however brief, will probably have to do until Tuesday night. 
@Faithlesseye #5 The advice comes from people I meet in person or from e-mails.  Most of the people offering advice are simply supporters or people who happen to be attending our conferences.  Some advice comes from public figures.  And do not assume it’s an avalanche.  For most of the speakers I listed, it is only two or three people who have urged me not to invite them to events. 
@Pneumo #8 All I can say is that no speaker on CFI’s potential invite list has engaged in disqualifying conduct.  If you look at some of the contemptible, vitriolic comments that Dawkins, Watson, Blackford and others receive, you will have an idea of the statements that would disqualify someone.  But as far as I know, those comments have all come from people who would not be invited anyway because they lack the qualifications to be a speaker.
@Melody #19 You put too much weight on something I gave as an example, specifically labeled as an example. Sexual epithets are also serious, of course. 
@badrescher #28 You are correct that inviting a speaker does give them a stage, although the majority of speakers CFI invites are well-known already (some more than others, obviously.)  We do sometimes invite a speaker who is not that well-known to the atheist/skeptic community (for example, Ronald Bailey, who was invited to our Orlando Conference) because we think the person is well-qualified to address a particular topic and they will present a point of view that otherwise might not be heard.  However, these individuals are not the ones who generate suggestions of banning.  It is the celebrities who receive this level of attention.
@adamtm #30 I would not refuse to go to a conference just because some speaker at the conference had insulted or defamed me, assuming the conference was otherwise worthwhile. With respect to inviting that person to speak at a CFI conference, it would depend.  If she just called me a misogynist without offering an explanation, then perhaps not. However, if she presented an argument as to why I was a misogynist, I might well invite her to debate me in public. I am a firm believer in airing disputes and trying to resolve them through debate and discussion.
@Randy #31 I plead guilty to a light, and I hope tolerable, dose of sarcasm.

#46 Justin Vacula (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:12pm

” For example that poster “hero” aka “elevatorgate” has posted my home address on various websites. So has Justin Vacula”

Amy…can you please identify the “various websites” I posted your address on? Until then, stop making things up.

#47 Cleon (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:14pm

One of these days I’d like to get involved with skepticism again. Based on the responses to this blog post, it won’t be any time soon.

I mean, “Becky?” Seriously? Are you afraid if you say her real name, she’ll appear in a mirror and call you a misogynist?

Grow the hell up. All of you.

#48 Amy (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:16pm

@Justin Sure! Off the top of my head, twitter and the Slympit each more than once. Did I spell that last one correctly? It always seems like such a weird title to give a forum.

Now when you want to explain why posting my home address with a photo of where I live was a terrible thing to do to a person, do get back in touch.

Cheers!

#49 Tired (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:20pm

Oh,  for F@$K’s sake!

I am a reader of various “skeptical blogs” and I am part of the large group of lurkers that rarely post comments, but probably represent the bulk of the traffic to these blogs.

I read a wide variety of blogs, and I read them for the Skeptical content.

I also don’t attend conferences or other “skeptical” functions.

I suspect there will be a significant portion of the audience who will agree with me when I say…... “I’ve had enough”

Enough of the in-fighting, the name-calling, the holier than though attitudes.

This is NOT why I read the blogs.

Lately it seems the general nastiness towards others in the movement has become the dominant theme of many of the blogs I read (perhaps it hasn’t really, but it does certainly seem that way).

Personally I don’t really care about the little cliques in the movement, the “personalities”, or the petty squabbles. It all comes across as so much schoolyard bullshit.

If you want to persist with your in-fighting, how about you treat your “skeptical* audience with a little more respect and keep it to your personal emails and private mailing lists.

I, for one, am tired of it.

#50 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:23pm

SurlyAmy @ #42:

The problem is that you’re very quick to deny your own role in this controversy, and are quick to fall back on claims of victimization. For several months now, you’ve been very liberal in making defamatory accusations against a number of people, often based on very sketchy tales of how they supposedly made you feel bad in some way. And your accusations have been amplified by people like Rebecca Watson as Exhibit A on how the entire Atheist movement, outside of Skepchick and its supporters, are a bunch of utterly vile misogynists who should be shunned. You think that the many people who’s reputation is being damaged by your antics don’t have reason to be very upset with you?

And, no, that does not justify any kind of violent threats or doxing (though I will point out that people on all sides of this drama, Justin Vacula among them, have been on the receiving end of such treatment), but most people who have issues with you have not behaved in this way, and it’s really not OK to lump threats and criticism together.

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