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.


#51 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:24pm

Amy, your information is publicly available and easy to find. Quit making mountains out of molehills…or not. Manufacturing controversies sells lots of trinkets, eh?

#52 Amy (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:28pm

Yeah, I agree. I am tired of all of it too.

#53 Justin Vacula (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:31pm

There was only one post on the Slymepit in which I posted your address. Shortly after posting, recognizing it was a mistake, and after correspondence with a fan/friend of yours, the post was edited following my request sent to the admin of the forum. The address was posted to ‘disprove’ a conspiracy claim that I was trying to obtain your personal private information, as you and many others know (although you neglect to state that on various, if not all, occasions, and paint me as someone who wishes physical harm occur to you).

Twitter? I don’t think so…although you tweeted your address to your followers shortly following the initial post in the Slymepit.

One post in the Slymepit which was later taken down, none in Twitter (unless you count the one from yourself).

I’m skeptical of your claims of being so concerned about your safety and feeling threatened considering that you listed your address (rather than a P.O. Box or something else) in a trademark registry AND because you re-tweeted your address AND because you and your fans/friends keep talking about the issue drawing more light to the fact that your address is a matter of public information.

Apparently, you were in so much danger because your address has been posted and later edited out…although nothing, as far as everyone on the internet knows, happened to you.

Back up your claim of me posting your address on “various sites” with more than ‘off the top of my head’ unless, of course, you’d just like to make false statements about me.

#54 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:38pm

What a surprise. More spin and faux-troversy from the FTB/skepchik/Aplus camp. How anyone can take them seriously, I don’t know.

#55 EllenBeth Wachs (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:43pm

Enough with this nonsense that simply because someone’s address is public information you have the right to post it wherever you want.  That means that anyone that owns a house has given you their permission to disseminate their address.  When you incorporate, some states do not allow you to use a post office box as the business address.  I also remember that you weren’t very happy when your parent’s address was given out, were you?

Can we simply agree that posting someone’s address is a very bad move and go on?  How about giving Amy the apology you never offered her Justin?

#56 Justin Vacula (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 4:49pm

Ellen, no one is claiming that one has the right (or lacks the right, I may add) to post an address wherever one wants. What does this mean, anyway? A moral right? It is indeed bad form (and something I even noted evidenced by my blog post and taking down/editing the post). A legal right? Certainly one has the legal right to make public information public.

When ‘Stephanie’ posted my address, she didn’t do so to debunk a conspiracy claim, but rather stated very precise intentions with it (sending letters to newspapers, banning me from speaking at churches, etc) as you know.

Posting the address is indeed a bad move.

What really hurts, though, is that people like Amy and her friends continue to spread misinformation about the address debacle. Rather than stating what happened, they attach malice and claim in some way that my actions are informed with some monstrous intent. They even went so far as to create an organized campaign against me when I was chosen to be the co-chair of the SCA’s PA chapter and—dare I say it—harass the SCA for days about my appointment.

How about an apology from Amy? Stephanie? Greta? PZ? How about an apology from Rebecca Watson who labeled me as an “anti-woman leader” while Amy sat by presumably with joyous glee and approval?

#57 EllenBeth Wachs (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:05pm

Justin, I am asking YOU.

#58 EllenBeth Wachs (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:17pm

Justin, fine. quick question. You were so upset with Amy because she didn’t ask you to remove the image first before filing the DMCA, correct?  My question is- did you ask her permission to use the image before doing so?

#59 Justin Vacula (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:19pm

I don’t see apologies as unilateral matters - especially when multiple parties are at fault.

#60 spokesgay on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:31pm

Damn it Ron. You have women employees who probably feel a little intimidated and can’t say this as directly as they’d want to (did you think of that?) so I will.

You have a commenter on here who’s styling him/herself “cn-tu,” an obvious means of typing “cunt.” You can’t bother yourself to notice that and do something about it?

If I were your employee and someone logged in as “fg-tto,” in the midst of a conversation about homophobia and bigoted abuse, I’d feel betrayed by my boss allowing it to stand and saying nothing about it. Frankly I’d be thinking of filing a formal grievance.

You’ve seen enough of this to know what’s going on. You’re not naive to this problem.  Buck the hell up and stick up for your employees. And for your secular humanist values.

#61 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:41pm

Ladies and gentlemen,

I can categorically and unequivocally say that the information originated from Amy.

This is because the information revealed in @HomerVacula twitter account was ONLY contained in the Counter DMCA notice. It’s like using radioactive isotopes in medical investigations; it was a marker.

Whether it was Amy or someone In her clique is neither here nor there.

#62 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:44pm

Is there any depth that will not be plumbed to feign outrage? Quick! To the SocialJusticeMobile, someone used an anagram of ‘cunt’ on the internet. Get a life, Josh.

#63 Franc Hoggle on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:46pm

I guess you can’t be everywhere at once and read everything, so it’s probably understandable you have overlooked -

* Rebecca Watson calling for a Richard Dawkins boycott
* Greg Laden writing letters to Abbie Smith’s (ERV) supervisor seeking to get her fired
* Stephanie Zvan organising a petition to ruin Justin Vacula’s prospects within SCA
* PZ Myers long running “blacklists” of community members

and the endless list of other abuses over the years.

Please don’t write about this topic unless you are prepared to REALLY address the issues. It’s just flatus otherwise. And cleaning up your own back yard would also be a great place to start -


#64 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:54pm

#60 -

So now allowing somebody to use the word “cunt” or even an anagram thereof on ones blog is some kind of act of workplace harassment? Good grief, that’s a stretch.

It certainly adds fuel to the argument made by people like Eugene Volokh that much of sexual harassment law is a threat to free speech rights, as every place, including libraries, publishers, and other media, is somebody’s workplace. A bit of a slippery slope argument perhaps, but seeing as there are some people who really want to go down that slippery slope, not a misplaced one.

#65 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:59pm

Soon to be followed my a flurry of tweets calling Mr. Lindsay a mysoginist and starting a petition to have him removed.

#66 SF (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 5:59pm

“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?”

In their private lives? How about public speaking engagements? What about Rebecca Watson’s presentation entitled “Don’t be a Dick: Etiquette for Atheists and Skeptics” that I saw on youtube? Is this not liberal use of a sexist epithet? Disgusting!

...or not. I actually have no problems with Rebecca using that word. It’s perfect for what the topic of her speech was, and I only took it as a lighthearted jibe at some people who aren’t as sensible as others. If you want to play word politics, however, you have to play fair. Where was the disgust then? Or is it less outrageous because it’s not an “epithet” directed towards women?

NB: I am not actually part of the atheist community. I don’t attend conventions because I don’t find them appealing, though I do attend the occasional lecture by some of the more prominent speakers who I enjoy listening to. Regardless, as someone who reads a number of blogs, this “clique” business and the amount of contempt that has been flung every which way from both sides just makes these parts of the community look stupid. Congratulations!

(And yes, before someone links to xkcd - I do feel superior)

#67 Franc Hoggle on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:02pm

Neglected to mention the reason for comment #63 -

Despite all of the above excesses, you still manage to devote the bulk of this post to *one comment* by Russell Blackford. Blackford’s one liner is a hanging offense, yet over a year of hysteria and smear campaigning from the Skepchick/FTB camp is somehow being “blown out of proportion”. It is perfectly clear where CFI stands on these issues - this pretence of “fair and balanced” commentary doesn’t fool quite so many people any more. It is also perfectly clear why godlessness and skepticism is sliding down the toilet.

#68 EllenBeth Wachs (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:02pm

Justin, this is the problem. I am asking you why you never apologized for your behavior. Forget about anybody else’s actions. Only you can accept responsibility for what you did and apologize for it. Either you want to or you don’t. Your apology isn’t dependent upon anybody else doing the same.

I also notice that you failed to answer my question.  Perhaps you overlooked it.  Did you simply ask Amy for her permission to use the image?

#69 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:05pm

Dear EllenBeth,

Thank you for posting the video off Becky’s speech on YouTube. I watched it with great interest, especially the part where Becky announced that I had been barred from entry. (http://youtube.com/watch?v=uUk-2xZWyBk). The way you clapped in unison was reminiscent of a Scientology event.

When the video was posted, I asked you to kindly clarify if I had ever sought to attend your event. To no avail. I have never been to Florida, ever.

I reside in merry old England. Even when Becky lived in London, I did not attend any events, for example Skeptics in the Pub, The Pod Delusion Live or QEDcon. It is simply not something that appeals to me.

The notion that I would attend your event is preposterous.

You and Becky should be ashamed, deeply ashamed of the chilling effect.

In the United Kingdom, one of the people courts conspiring to divulge an adversary’s information was Reese Morgan. (On Facebook, no less). A whistleblower sent me screenshots.

We have a clique, here in the United Kingdom, also linked to Becky and radical feminism. Your collective behaviour serves to repel people.

I would urge to stop behaving like the vicious and dangerous Scientology cult. Like them, the core motive is money. The parallels are staggering.

#70 CommanderTuvok (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:07pm

Ophelia makes a comment on her own blog (stuffed to the gills with back-slappers and cognitive dissonance) that Abbie Smith made a vague threat to Greta Christina before a conference.

“Vague” is an overstatement!

What was not at all vague was Greg Laden’s threats. Ophelia BFF!

This is part of the problem. People like Becky, oh sorry, Rebecca Watson (I will await Ophelia’s calling out of Stefanie Zvan for calling Dawkins “Dick”, since she’s so on message about calling people out), Ophelia, PZ, Greta, Svan, etc. is that they don’t apply their “calling out” standards to those on the inside of their clique.

Svan famously taunted Dawkins that the criticism of him was “pushback”. Well, the folks FTB mentioned folks here really don’t like it when the “pushback” is aimed at them. And trust me, there is a lot of pushback against them - as demonstrated at TAM.

#71 Franc Hoggle on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:11pm

#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”... =-

For the curious, I have actually quantified Ophelia’s linguistic contributions to the debate -


#72 Zenspace (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:18pm

Wow. It didn’t take long for all the usual players to show up. What a fine example of skepticism and rational behavior, all around.

Here is an observation from someone completely outside this circus:

I had been a longtime fan and follower of many skeptic blogs for years. One was a long time favorite: Pharyngula. Its mix of real science, snarky humor and atheist related commentary was always interesting and often just plain fun. Over the years I noticed a subtle but very definite change in attitude, such that I gradually stopped following it. It became, for lack of a better word, nasty. Just before the jump to FtB, I pretty much stopped visiting at all. Along with that, I stopped visiting any of the blogs associated with the group, as all the prominent ones reflected that same quality of bitter visciousness in varying degrees. When the current and ongoing controversy came to my attention, I went back to see what the fuss was about.

My observation was clear and immediate - the vindictive and lack of rationalism and objectivity,had gone right off the scale. Surfing the comments was akin to mind bending self abuse in its sophmoric exchanges. Feh. I don’t know exactly what it is, but there is something seriously wrong within that group.

The net result is this - I have no time and less interest in spending my time with such drivel. Instead, I’ve turned away from the group all-together and sought out the real skeptics and rationalists, such as Abby Smith and Barbara Drescher. As other bloggers have become disenchanted enough to leave the FtB group, I have checked them out and re-subscribed once it was clear that they were not perpetuating that mess. The most recent example is Al Stefanelli. Skeptic ink has proven to be a breath of fresh air as well.

I don’t know any of these players personally. I don’t attend skeptic conferences. I rarely post comments. I simply want clear, objective skeptic writing. I want to keep up with what is going on in the skeptic community. Those bloggers that maintain that simple integrity without sinking into the morass get my subscription and my clicks.

That’s it. Take it for what it’s worth, or don’t. I don’t much care as long as sources like CFI, JREF and others I’ve named keep up the good, rational, objective work. My thanks go out to them.

#73 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:22pm

One of Reese Morgan’s favourite insults has been the use of the word “cunt”. Ophelia hate this word, except when one of them when one of her darlings uses it.

Grooming young, impressionable children is morally dubious.

#74 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:25pm

(I meant to say that grooming young, fragile and mentally ill people for use as canon fodder, is dubious. It would appear that Siri failed to transcribe some of my words)

#75 aanimo (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:31pm

Instead, I’ve turned away from the group all-together and sought out the real skeptics and rationalists, such as Abby Smith and Barbara Drescher.

How do you know these are the “real” skeptics and rationalists? What precise criteria have you used to determine who is or is not a real skeptic/rationalist? Please name at least three.

#76 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 6:50pm

#69, concerning Watson having the owner of the ElevatorGate blog/twitter feed banned from a conference. This is exactly the kind of hyperbole that gets people’s backs up. ElevatorGate is indeed a critical blog focused to a large degree on one person. One could even call it trolly if one is less charitable. There are many such venues out there devoted to various public figures. The idea that this in itself constitutes stalking and represents some kind of physical threat is simply absurd. Watson apparently thinks it’s something to report to the FBI.

It also shows what huge double standards are at work. Apparently, actions like contacting Abbie Smith’s employer to try to punish her IRL for things said on ERV is not at all creepy or stalkerish.

A standard refrain from Watson’s supporters is that her critics are quick to play the “free speech” card. Well, when one does things like try to get the FBI to go after your critics, or have them fired from their jobs, the, yes, free speech are very much at play.

#77 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:01pm

“How do you know these are the “real” skeptics and rationalists? What precise criteria have you used to determine who is or is not a real skeptic/rationalist? Please name at least three.”

I feel no obligation to “name three” when any one criterion might be sufficient. I think it is sufficient to distinguish between a rationalist versus a polemicist or ideologue. A rationalist weighs available empirical evidence to assess a question. An polemicist or ideologue simply selectively marshals whatever points of evidence they can find in service of an a priori opinion, without consideration of contrary evidence.

Without even naming specific individuals, I think it’s clear that there are more than a few ostensible skeptics and rationalists of various political stripes who are really more polemicists or ideologues when it comes right down to it.

#78 Military Historian on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:04pm

Had the various warring sects of early Christianity communicated via email, blogs, and twitter, I am quite certain the documentation of their petty squabbles would seem little different than those of the so-called Modern Atheist Movement.  For all our advances over the past few millennia the nature of humans remains essentially unchanged:  Feces slinging, displays of dominance, and generally boorish behavior have merely been transmogrified into electronic ones and zeros.  We apes are Hilarious.

#79 arglebargle (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:13pm


Oh, Invisible Pink Unicorn! Quit being such a tool. Do you want to know who sounds like a whiny little snot that keeps trying to play the victim card?


You do.

Every time you crash one of these comment threads you do nothing but demand that other people’s sins are at least equal to your own and that you deserve apologies with interest, flowers, chocolates, and a medal for your bravery fighting your oppressing oppressors.

Newsflash: You haven’t apologized. You continue to minimize your own wrongdoing and make mountains out of molehills with everyone else’s. That’s a classic not-pology. You don’t deserve the time of day from anyone, much less war reparations, until you quit being a selfish, whiny twit and issue a genuine apology.

@ Whoever thinks objecting to using the diminutive of Rebecca is grade school playground behavior:

Calling other people doo doo heads and plugging your ears screaming, “NANANANA NOT LISTENING!” is childish. Pot. Kettle. Black. Grow up and get a life.

#80 Justin Griffith (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:16pm

I can only offer anecdotal evidence, but I think it’s probably relevant. I was threatened with violence by Greg Laden, then a fellow blogger at FreethoughtBlogs. Keep in mind that I am an American active-duty military activist, and interact with the national media regularly (including Fox News, and similar outlets). I’ve gone to the FBI for statements similar to (and often worse than) Laden’s. Prior to Laden’s over-the-top threats to me, even my wife and infant daughter both were threatened with a painful death by a self-identified Christian. Regarding Laden, I did not initially take the situation public, and was honestly considering abandoning activism altogether (still possible, actually, but for many reasons - including a disturbing stalker who actually does show up to my house. Did you know that anti-stalker / anti-cyber stalker laws are very often manipulated by stalkers? Yeah, me either.)

Laden - and, to a much smaller extent PZ Myers - ridiculed me publicly and privately for taking a stance similar to yours (urging peaceful / calm / rational dialog while simultaneously stating that people shouldn’t use ‘gendered slurs’.) As a result, PZ Myers publicly ‘washed his hands of me’, and now refuses to answer my email, despite being the top-billed speaker on a conference I am attempting to co-organize on large military base (this fight will take years, I know from experience). Thinking that he had simply not seen my multiple messages, I sent one more message, asked if PZ could ‘see my email’. He replied, “Yeah, I see them, but I chose not to reply.”

Only one of my allies - Ed Brayton - (and I still consider just about all of my colleagues ‘allies’) made any public statement against Greg Laden’s violent threats, though a handful made very much appreciated private statements to me. Part of my peace-maker stance was to preemptively tell my colleagues that I didn’t need them to take a potentially divisive stance (as was happening privately). Two made public statements supporting him (!?) This blew my mind.

Greg Laden acted out with threatening and bullying behavior because he (falsely) perceived that I deserved it. He ‘saw red’. My father did something like this once, and actually followed through on the threat, but he still was a great father with a temporary lapse in judgment. I forgave my father (a very loving person and by a wide margin the smartest I’ve ever met), and I can probably even forgive Laden. But I didn’t expect the clique-based approach to the situation. Both sides were quick to fit the situation into their narrative or ignore it if they couldn’t.

We all really do want the strife to be over too, Ron. I was sometimes accused of being a fence-sitter for my ‘peace-maker approach’. I now no longer view the debate as something with an actionable neutral solution. Some people are probably too close to this thing - potentially, including me - and smart people are unaware that there are bad actors on both sides. They prematurely say “Aha!” and pick a clique. It’s sad that humans are simply just vulnerable to pick sides at the expense of evidence / inquiry. We have some people in our movement that are toxic, but are still capable of doing good. It’s bizarre, and not inherently obvious.

I generally try to bring a solution to the table when I point out a problem. I just don’t have one here (though maybe there are plenty). The strict peacemaker approach is almost certainly doomed, though, in my opinion.

#81 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:21pm

‘Notpology’. Classic baboon speak for anyone who doesn’t kowtow and immolate themselves at the altar of Skepchik/ftb/A+.

#82 arglebargle (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:38pm

@Mr.Dank #81

You’re so obsessed with Skepchick/ftb/A+ that you’ve invented a derogatory name for them. You spout crap about them constantly without hardly being provoked. You take quotes out of context, make clumsy literal interpretations of statements you actually understand perfectly well just to make them look bad. Their only crime? Saying something you didn’t like once? I don’t know.

Take your own advice and “quit feeding the trolls”. It’s snots like you who keep dragging this out by bringing it up over and over and over and over again. You can’t even tell it’s a horse anymore it’s been beaten so much. Get a life.

#83 Iamcuriousblue on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:43pm

#80 - I’ll add that when this finally came to a head and Greg Laden’s blog was dropped from FTB as a consequence, only a week or two later, he was invited onto a panel at Skepchick Con on the subject of none other than cyberbullying. To get back to the original subject Ron Lindsay was writing about, I’d say if there’s any reason to shun a particular speaker, at least on a particular topic, that absolutely would have to be it.

As it was, I’m kind of glad Laden was on that panel, as it underscored just what a bias-fest the whole thing was. Basically, a discussion of “bullying” in which a panel made up of members of one faction pointed the finger at their opponents for everything wrong with Internet culture.

#84 Greg Laden (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:47pm

You guys are just sore because you lost the election.

#85 Iamcuriousblue on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:54pm

#82 - Wow, that’s a lot to read into one sentence! (I’ll grant the “baboon” quip was gratuitous and uncalled for.)

But on the topic raised in #81, indeed, the rhetoric of “Notpology” is pretty loaded, and pretty specific to “feminist blogosphere” culture, and is something that those of us who dislike that culture object to. Basically, the idea that an apology must be absolute and, figuratively speaking, on ones knees, no face-saving, hedging, or partial apology allowed. Almost to the point of Maoist self-criticism. And, similarly, a norm of aggressively *demanding* apology for any real or imagined slight or disagreement.

The demand for this kind of “apology” is in fact hyper-polarizing, and if anything, makes the one it is demanded of *less* likely to admit fault or nuance their position further. I know when I’ve been confronted with such demands, I’ve taken it as *extreme* incivility, and reacted in kind.

#86 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:54pm

#82 arglebargle (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:38pm

You have me at a loss. Would you care to say where you are getting your accusations/implications from?

#87 Iamcuriousblue on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:01pm

#84 Greg Laden writes:

You guys are just sore because you lost the election.

Now this is the kind of crap that makes everything else go south. Do you have any evidence whatsoever that anybody here is a Romney supporter? Not saying that nobody here is, but really, can’t spot anybody as such just based on their comments. It’s this idiotic assumption of a very broad set of politics based on some much lesser differences that’s simply a non-starter. While I would say that, on average, the “social justice” crowd is politically much further to the left than their critics, that’s far from an absolute difference, and I think there’s very few people in this debate you can definitively call conservative.

Try again, Greg.

#88 Justin Griffith (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:08pm

#87 Iamcuriousblue:

That’s *likely* a troll, not Greg Laden. I’m 99.9% sure, anyway. This is what I mean that both sides are quick to throw my (everyone’s?) story into their side’s narrative.

Trolls are legion, and I hear they have trouble with forgiving / forgetting.

#89 John Greg on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:11pm

Laden, you are a deeply, deeply toxic individual, and the blackest of black marks in the so-called atheist/skeptic community.

You threaten innocent people, and think it’s funny. You (and your bummy-buddy Svan) stalk people with whom you disagree,  and think it’s justice. You insult defenceless people and think it’s righteous. You lie with the finesse and conviction of a true sociopath.

In short, you are a blight upon academe, the Internet, and the real world in general.

#90 c*-** (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:15pm


According to Greg Laden’s twitter he is following this thread right now and seems a bit upset bit upset that people aren’t being banned for civil disagreement.

#91 Hank Fox (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:18pm

Iamcuriousblue, I think Greg was making a joke.

Everybody else: I blog at FTB (formerly the Blue Collar Atheist, my banner now reads “A Citizen of Earth”), and the place has something like 34 diverse bloggers, with more to come in the near future. It is by no means the monolithic place you think it is. 

Whatever conflicts there are here or elsewhere within the atheist community, note that in each case probably only a very few FTB bloggers are involved.

#92 Annie (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:28pm

Trying to guess the average age of commenters on this thread. I’m coming up with… 12.

#93 John Greg on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:29pm

The evilly named, cn-tu ... ooh, erg, what an awfulawfulawful word, because, um, er well ... because, um, letters! Ya, that’s it; letters!

(Josh, you are a fucking clown in a sore vagina suit.)

Anyway cn-tu said:

“... Greg Laden’s twitter he is following this thread right now and seems a bit upset ... that people aren’t being banned for civil disagreement.”

Quelle surprise/surpees. He’s probably throwing together yet another McCarthyesque dossier of the one true vile evilness that is free speech he disagrees with to try and force CFI to censure the OP, have him removed from access to public discourse, and drawn, and quartered, and disseminated to the four corners of the known world.

After all, Laden is a vigourous supporter of truth and justice.


#94 Mr. Dank (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:44pm

#85 Iamcuriousblue on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 7:54pm
‘#82 - Wow, that’s a lot to read into one sentence! ‘

It’s likely that it is one of my online stalkers. The writing style is familliar. If it is, I can understand why they would use their ‘usual’ name.

#95 badrescher (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:51pm

Ron, with all due respect, your reply is puzzling.

I think that you are saying that inviting a “celebrity” to speak is not giving them a stage because they are already well-known. That’s not a particularly strong argument. You’re still giving them an opportunity to address an audience that they did not have before and that extends to any video which might be posted.

More importantly, however, is the item you did not address: that you are endorsing that speaker and lending them credibility, whether or not you endorse what they say.

Also, I put the “celebrity” in quotes because your definition of the term puzzled me. For example, I think that Ron Bailey is probably known by a hell of a lot more people than some of the speakers you listed, like Rebecca Watson. I could be wrong, but his exposure to people outside the secular/atheist/skeptic blogosphere through his books alone is enough for me to think so.

I think that the internet can give a pretty warped view of things like “celebrity”.

#96 Iamcuriousblue on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 8:54pm

#88 - I definitely would take that into account, and indeed I might be addressing somebody other than the actual Greg Laden. However, I see another post upthread that I’m pretty sure is the actual Greg Laden, so I assumed #88 was him too.

#91 - I realize the joke aspect of it, but the upshot is “You’re a bunch of right-wingers”. I really can’t see what point that joke (or attempt at one) is trying to make beyond that.

#97 Iamcuriousblue on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 9:04pm

#91 - And, yes, I realize that FTB does consist of 34 blogs, not all of which share the same perspective or approach. But you’d have to be kidding yourself to not acknowledge the highest-traffic blog (Pharyngula) and a number of other key bloggers (Svan, Benson, Thibault, Christina, and Carrier, just to name a few) share a particular party line and are quite aggressive toward anybody who challenges it. Yes, that’s not everybody on FTB, but it’s enough of that network that I think people can safely name that the FTB clique and be understood. More on this under my comment @ #39.

#98 Mrs. A. S. (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 9:15pm

I guess I am one of the people Ron Lindsay is talking about in his post, as I have stated that I will no longer be giving financial support to CFI.  Of course, I am withdrawing all financial support from all large skeptic organizations until I see that organized skepticism is viable without compromising the ideals skeptics claim to advocate - critical thinking based on evidence.  It is compromising when a platform is handed to people who consistently fail to uphold those ideals.

Going forward I will only be supporting individuals who do a good job of promoting those ideals in not only the work they do but in the way they do it.

Thanks very much to Barbara Drescher and Tired (guest) for articulating my thinking so perfectly!

#99 Hero on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 10:18pm

Greg seems distraught that CFI is allowing just anyone to post.


#100 CommanderTuvok (Guest) on Sunday November 25, 2012 at 10:51pm

It is typical of Greg to moan about how he can’t censor people here. You have to understand that Greg and his chums at FreeThoughtBlogs are used to controlling the narrative, via banhammers, editing comments, and memory-holing stuff.

Also, that IS Greg Laden posting, and it is exactly the kind of moronic thing he would say.

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