An open letter to Michael Nugent and Atheist Ireland - blog by Gurdur

 




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An open letter to Michael Nugent and Atheist Ireland
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Posted 31-May-2013 at 05:58 AM (05:58) by Gurdur
Updated 31-May-2013 at 08:27 PM (20:27) by Gurdur

To Michael Nugent, Atheist Ireland (@atheistie) and all atheist conference organizers:
The recent initiative started and sponsored by Michael Nugent, aimed at promoting dialogue within the atheist movement despite differences, is a praiseworthy endeavor. I have now added a new effort of my own to that overall general attempt at ending the defamation, harrassment and bullying going on in the atheist movement. However, very recently important questions have come up.

These concerns involve the safety of women (prinicpally, but also men) using pseudonymous accounts in order to be able to comment safely on the net in general, and in particular, on the Nugent-sponsored dialogue site. As you would well know, many women use pseudonyms for self-protection on the net, whether in the atheism or science-communication or other spheres. It is a generally accepted principle on the net, throughout the usual worlds of science-communication, atheism etc., that such pseudonyms with their concommittant protection of privacy are almost always respected. It is generally accepted that only under genuine, detailed circumstances of demonstrated abuse using a pseudonym is revealing the identity of the person behind the pseudonym in any way acceptable.

Now we have a situation where Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers and Stephanie Zvan, all on the FreethoughtBlogs (FTB) portal site, have been glorying in calling as much attention as possible to a pseudonymous woman commentator, giving enough details to make it easy for anyone to discover that woman's actual identity, and that on very flimsy excuses. Two of those three, Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers, are invited to give speeches at the upcoming conference sponsored and organized by Atheist Ireland, the "Empowering Women Through Secularism" conference. The third person, Stephanie Zvan, is supposed to be working together with Skep tickle and others on the dialogue site started by Michael Nugent.

On Tuesday 28 May I tweeted my concerns to Michael Nugent; I have not received any reply so far, and as detailed below, aspects of this matter are of great concern. Therefore this open letter in a blog post. The situation is such as detailed below, and the concerns are listed throughout and after that. Please note that the terms "dox/doxx" and "doxxing" are derived from "documents" and refer to illegitimately giving personal information about someone on the net.
  1. On Monday, May 27, 2013, Ophelia Benson blogged about Justin Vacula allegedly "stalking" her to the Dublin conference, and Vacula being allegedly a "dedicated harrasser". Benson repeated on Twitter her allegation of stalking. Skep tickle answered Benson in a comment on Ophelia Benson's blog.
  2. Despite that any connection was most likely (see below) unknown by any direct means to Ophelia Benson between the known pseudonymous identity "Skep tickle" and the actual person, Benson then claimed to know Skep tickle's name, occupation and location.
  3. Benson then later in that comments thread posted Skep tickle's real first name (no, I will not direct link to that, nor give it myself).
  4. Benson then gave Skep tickle's real first name again in another comment on that thread - despite it not being mentioned there at all by Skep tickle herself - and Benson added, "skeptickle’s whole schtick there is revolting. A wall of text of advice for me on how to deal with nonstop harassment, as if it were some unavoidable thing like an earthquake; no advice whatever to the nonstop harassers on not doing nonstop harassment. What a flaming creep."
  5. Please note a glaring omission on that whole page of comments: at no point does Ophelia Benson there detail any harrassment by Skep tickle, or claim direct harrassment by her. That absence becomes important later.
  6. Meanwhile, also on that comment thread, commentator "Feline" claims: "Justin Vacula is a young US rape activist who has focused on the harassment of women". That defamation comes in importantly into other concerns detailed below.
  7. The following day, 28 May, Ophelia Benson blogged again, this time about Skep tickle directly, and directing people to her previous post's comments thread (in which she without justification had mentioned Skep tickle's first-name twice). In that blog post, Benson directly challenged Skep tickle's right to pseudonymity and personal privacy.
  8. The next day, 29 May, Ophelia Benson blogged again directly and mainly about Skep tickle. In that blog post, Benson claims, "No. I was not “doxxing” her. I did not “dox” her. That’s an outright lie." Except that Ophelia Benson did mention Skep tickle's real first name twice, then added in posts and comments enough further personal information about Skep tickle to make it very easy for anyone at all to google up Skep tickle's real name, occupation, and address. Benson also mentioned Skep tickle's comment about paranoia.
  9. Then on Thursday, May 30, Benson blogged yet again expressly about Skep tickle, this time in post-facto legitimization by digging up old comments by Skep tickle under an older username she had used before, Skeptixx. In that post, Benson refers to a comment about an older blog post of Benson's, in which Benson went out of her way to impute that noted skeptic and atheist Harriet Hall thought certain people needed to be shot. Benson later added an edit that she finally realized that Harriet Hall was referring to vaccinations, and not at all to Ophelia Benson, but the entire accusation was bizarre.
  10. There have been previous not-so-hidden threats against Skep tickle - note for example this comment by Stephanie Zvan to her, which seems to carry threats, and not only of revealment of Skep tickle's identity.
  11. Of course, PZ Myers got into the act, with a blog post unintentionally ironically claiming "manufactured outrage". The same PZ Myers had also recently on Twitter defamed noted author and atheist Russell Blackford, to wit that Blackford, according to Myers, was a "lying fuckhead". Myers has a long record of such trolling and personal abuse.
  12. Justin Vacula will be attending the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin. Vacula is someone whom I have harshly criticised for some of his actions recently. However none of his actions give any credibility at all to the accusation of "stalking", and the defamatory spite whipped up against him is also a major concern.
The main campaign of spite this week is being whipped up against Skep tickle. Please see all the comments in those posts' threads for many more, much worse defamatory remarks. They so often bear the tenor of "She was asking for it". Ophelia Benson claims that Skep tickle used an email address that enabled Ophelia Benson to know Skep tickle's real identity. Skep tickle stated that was not so. If Skep tickle is correct, then further information was necessary to make any connection, and Stephanie Zvan was the most likely route and source, if not the only possible one. As noted before, Zvan had already threatened Skep tickle.

Is there any genuinely plausible threat from commentators on FT & Butterflies+Wheels (B&W, Benson's blog) themselves, rather than just the potential threat from those whom they whip up? The answer seems to be "Yes" - see this comment here for example on the B&W blog, where one talks about; "You have to hit back hard ... They will never stop until you can instill fear. If I were supplied with any address in Southeast Texas of one of your harassers I would gladly paint a butterfly on their driveway to send a message."

Is the comment from Skep tickle to Ophelia Benson about paranoia sufficient warrant for the campaign against Skep tickle, inluding the express information given to help others track down who Skep tickle is?
In my own view, the comment by Skep tickle was mistaken, and not a comment I would have made myself, however when one takes into account such bizarre behaviour as manifested in this tweet just below of Ophelia Benson's, directed against noted skeptic Sara Mayhew, then one might be pardoned the occasional such mooting:



That still leaves the major point that Ophelia Benson had no right to give so much personl information about Skep tickle as to make discovering her real identity very easy for all onlookers. Nor does Benson seem to have any adequate excuse.

It is a major concern that, among those Atheist Ireland have invited to be speakers at a conference, two have attacked without sufficient justification the idea of a right to pseudonymity of a woman on the net, and have allowed or even enabled commentators to give further details of the woman in question, and have indulged in defamatory comments, while allowing on their blogs commentators to indulge in even more vicious defamation of the woman in question. That the conference in question is about empowering women through secularism is sadly ironic, in view of these attacks on a woman's pseudonymity, attacks lacking in sufficient justification.

It is a matter of fact that both those people, PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson, have publically made false claims about others that would more than very likely be found to be defamatory under Irish and British law. Both Irish and British law are far less accommodating to personal defamation than is USA law, which will be interesting when the tweets start going out from the conference.

It is now a major concern that Stephanie Zvan, who has joined in the above attacks, and who has displayed a very cavalier attititude towards the right of a woman to pseudonymity on the net, may have access to IP's of commentators on directly or through her partnering moderator on the dialogue site started by Michael Nugent. There are now major questions of trustworthiness, data and privacy protection, and not only of expressing or enabling defamation, a point which will be covered in much greater detail in a later blog post.

These concerns must affect anyone using any pseudonym to comment, whether on the FFTB site, or on the Nugent-sponsored dialogue site. Since obviously no trust can exist with the FTB management and bloggers, there is no point attempting to do anything about it there, at least until something becomes legally actionable under USA law.

However, the Nugent-sponsored dialogue site, and the Empowering Women conference website, are entirely different. Therefore I request Michael Nugent and Atheist Ireland to make sure all IP's of commentators, usually automatically recorded, are hidden from Szvan and her moderator on the dialogue site, and that no FTB blogger or representitive has any access to such information on that site or the conference site.

Furthermore: while I hold strongly everyone should have the chance to be heard, the chance to speak, including Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers, given that both have transgressed against a very important principle of net privacy especially for women, then it is incumbent upon the conference organizers to expressly publically state that women do have a right to pseudonymity on the net, and to protection of personal privacy.

Into addition, major concerns about women being bullied today in the atheism and skepticism movements should be discussed with Sara Mayhew (@saramayhew), Paula Kirby (@PaulaSKirby), EllenBeth Wachs (@EllenBethWachs), Sharon Hill (@IDoubtIt) and others , who would all give you a view on bullying going on very much at odds with the narrative being pushed by Benson, Myers, Zvan et al.

Lastly, while everyone should be heard, atheist conference organizers should well think over just how many times they invite such people as Myers, Benson and so on, who are openly defamatory of others, and so contemptuous of basic privacy. At the very least people of different and relevant opinion should also be invited to speak.

I stress again that I am one of those who is calling for the cessation of all personal defamation and harrassment, and that my own blog and the Heathen Hub bulletin-board are far more stringently moderated than any FTB blog or many boards such as the Pit, in order to stop any such personal defamation.

Thank-you in advance for your prompt consideration of these concerns,
Tim Skellett (@Gurdur)


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Note: the comments thread here underneath will be strictly off-limits to any empty name-calling.


        


              

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  1. Old Comment
    Thank you, Tim.

    I want to clarify a couple of things, and add some information and observations. Sorry this is long.

    I have no reason to think that Stephanie Zvan had access to, or used, or would have tried to obtain, information from the blog site on people who were involved in the dialogue effort as participants or commenters, nor that the person serving as moderator for "her side" of the dialogue did so or would do so.

    There are also a couple of things that seemed one way at first based on my recollection (believe it or not, I don't keep a mental catalogue of everything I've ever posted) but which Stephanie Zvan and/or Ophelia Benson have documented in Ms Benson's long posts about me in the past few days.

    While I had not initially remembered using the email account at Ophelia Benson's site, I apparently did do so, but it would have been several months earlier. (She used this email account to contact me while the discussion was going on in her thread.)

    Also, I did post initially under my first name then later as Skeptixx (which I had used for 1 or 2 posts at Skepchick) then Skep tickle (which I had used at the Atheism+ forum in 10/2012 and have since stuck with). I am not aware of a policy, at least not one readily apparent to the casual poster, that specifies that this is not allowed at the blogs in question. (PZ Myers seems more clearly to be plagued by, and ban, sockpuppets, but I haven't made any attempt to post at his site since he banned me as Skep tickle in the "anti-feminist" thread.)

    As Stephanie Zvan has pointed out, there was one thread at her blog in which I used one name and reported using the other. I had forgotten that in my shock at seeing myself addressed by my first name when I'd been using Skep tickle (and apparently skeptixx a few times) in my occasional posts at FtB. In that post I made under my own name but mentioned the other (topic was Matt Dillahunty's own banning from Atheism+ forum, I think), I did say to someone that if she wanted to discuss something further, "Stephanie and [another poster] can tell you where to find me"; I mean the Slyme Pit. Stephanie's response was essentially that I should be glad she had not told that other woman my location, which I interpret as my physical location, but that was not specified.

    Most of my only-occasional attempts to comment at Ophelia Benson's blog ended up with the post never showing up. Her post called "Stalking", in which she reported that Justin Vacula had posted a fundraiser to attend the Empowering Women in Secularism conference in Dublin then wrote "So this is how it’s to be. I can’t go anywhere now without being followed by a dedicated harasser" seemed to me to ramp up a pattern of intense focus on potential threats with little actual basis. It came on the heels of a young woman, Katie, recently begging Ophelia to remove some of the woman's past tweets from a recent post at Ophelia's website, as Katie has reason to fear actual violence from an armed relative with mental illness. I hadn't followed that situation closely, but what I did see was very troubling. Apparently it took some time for Ophelia to remove the images in question, despite being told of the severity of the threat. Others will know more of the details.

    I was very concerned to see this behavior and language, particularly in close proximity. I was and remain concerned that someone will be seriously harmed whether through false accusation of stalking, or through revelation of information that leads a specific person who poses a specific danger to a participant on the blog. I realized that my comment urging Ms Benson to seek help for what seems to be a progressive issue was "beyond the pale", but I also did not expect her to let it through moderation, given my past experiences at her site.

    At any rate, I can't fault Ophelia Benson and Stephanie Zvan for having the information they had on me (first name, email address, last name possibly from an email address). I do feel that their USE of that information, to essentially urge people to google my first name and 1 word so as to identify me, is reprehensible. Apparently they didn't feel that my expressed reason for preferring to remain "semi-anonymous" (as I put it), "my job", held up to scrutiny when compared with what they found out about me from google; therefore, I became labeled a liar, with no opportunity (or inclination) to explain.

    "My job" concern is this: I'm a physician. Patients have to trust me. Some patients chose me as their doctor >15 yrs ago and have trusted me all that time, assuming I share their Christian beliefs because they like me, and having expressed casually along the way that they think atheists are evil.

    Other patients do not get to choose; they get me as their doctor if they happen to be admitted to my hospital when I'm on duty as a supervising physician. Some people in this latter group are very, very ill. (If you've googled me you may have seen that I work at an academic medical center that's the tertiary & quaternary hospital for a multi-state region. There are large swaths of territory where "out" atheists are not common.)

    For those very, very ill patients, transport to the hospital where I work is a last-ditch effort to try to save their lives. The patients and their loved ones need to be able to trust that the hospital AND the doctors at this medical center will do their utmost to provide every appropriate measure to diagnose and treat their condition(s), and try to save their lives.

    It is for the sake of these patients and their families that I have not wanted atheism to come up on the first page of a google search of my name. (I figure that the patient who is "shopping" for a doctor & spends more time scrolling through page after page is in a better position to decide how they feel about it before they meet me, hence my preference for it to stay on page 2 or beyond.)

    I feel I am "guilty" of these things:

    (a) not having realized before my first posts at Stephanie Zvan's and Ophelia Benson's blogs at FtB that a person posting there might have need to actively hide any identifying information (first name much less last name; email with any connection to name; and if were being extra cautious, perhaps even IP address) from the bloggers or risk their RL identity being exposed; and

    (b) using snark and sarcasm in my posts at their sites; but I have to qualify this by explaining a pattern that myself and others have observed: for those who aren't part of the usual group, polite reasoned responses are less likely to be let through moderation than hostile responses. In one memorable example, Stephanie Zvan let stand a post in which one of her commenters asked whether people in the Slyme pit would have to "actually bomb" a conference before people would see what a threat we are. I submitted a very polite, neutrally worded comment asking that person to clarify whether "bomb" was used there to mean set off an explosive device or a different meaning was intended; by 3-4 days after I posted it, it was still held in moderation.

    When reasonable discussion is not allowed - not just not responded to but not allowed - one can (a) walk away and let the other person keep putting forth anything he/she wants to, (b) shut up, keep reading, and accept that only approved views & voices will be allowed, (c) keep trying to get polite reasoned comments and questions through, or (d) change tone or methods to something other than polite reasoned dialogue.

    There were opportunities at these 2 blogs for polite comments to be let through moderation to public view, and for snarky ones to be the ones that weren't, rather than the opposite. I have, perhaps, been a thorn in their side, but my thorniness had been cultivated by this moderation practice.

    But again, my main concern is preventing HARM to people from who face ACTUAL rather than nebulous or nameless threats; namely (a) the accusation of stalking against a specific young man for planning to attend a conference; and (b) not removing information, despite urgent request, that could lead a mentally ill armed relative to a young woman.

    My secondary concern is the urging of readers to google a participant to violate that person's chosen and expressed wish for "semi-anonymity".

    Citations available on request (for example for the "bombing" remark and a copy of the text of my attempted query for clarification). Late here - good night.
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 09:41 AM (09:41) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
    Updated 31-May-2013 at 10:15 AM (10:15) by Skep tickle (Minor corrections & clarifications, and added last line)
  2. Old Comment

    Some Thoughts

    @Gurdur:

    Excellent post. Bravo. I'll be honest - I have reservations about the long-term effectiveness of your new project, "The Hub" (although I applaud the effort). But, in keeping with your wishes for more civil dialogue, I'll keep this as "nice" as possible.

    Ophelia Benson's actions over the past few days were, in my opinion, extremely contemptible. My issue is not just with the doxxing of skep tickle, but also how she went about it; I feel that she did it in a way that managed to be even worse than merely publishing all her information.

    If she had done that, most people would have opposed her. But the gradual, "trickle" style she used had three effects. First, every "step" she took seemed less serious than a full-on doxxing (it's just her first name, it's just her career industry, it's just that she said this on a different name, etc.); creating the illusion that nothing serious was taking place. Second, prolonging it seems to have caused skep tickle no small amount of stress (I base this on her posts on the slymepit, please correct me if I'm wrong!) Finally, it shifted some of the responsibility away from herself - "I'm innocent, I didn't dox, I just gave a few small clues!"

    But, even more egregious is the narrative she's been weaving for her supporters. I've been following her comments very closely as all this has been happening*, and the entire time, she's been trying her hardest to paint skep tickle as a ruthless aggressor, and herself as a victim. She's had some difficulty in this, though. She's most recently had to resort to accusing two other commenters on her blog of being "sockpuppets" of skep tickle in a further attempt to harass her.

    When I noticed her doing this, I recognized one of the names - Mark Thomas (this is merely the name on the comment, and may or may not be a real name). Ophelia claimed that she did not recognize this name, and that the posting style and content was suspiciously similar to skep tickle's.

    Based on this, Ophelia Benson said "goodbye" to Mark Thomas, implying that he wouldn't be allowed further comments. I posted a response to Ophelia providing details on Mark's posting history - his first known comments were on Skepchick on May 13 (long before this all went down), and since May 15 he's been posting intermittently on the slymepit. Given this, the chances of Mark Thomas being skep tickle are extremely slim, if not nonexistent.

    Ophelia deleted this comment. As things continued, Ophelia claimed that Mark Thomas and the other suspected sockpuppet, "Joanne York", could clear their names by making a comment on Ophelia's blog themselves, stating that they are not in fact skep tickle.

    Both of them did so, and Ophelia let both comments through moderation. However, things escalated when she quizzed them about how they knew that Ophelia sent an email to skep tickle using an address other than the one she had recently used to comment there. I decided on another comment, explaining that this was public information, and almost everyone involved knew about it. Ophelia let this comment through moderation, although presumably to get another rhetorical shot at skep tickle and the rest of the slymepit ("you people are *that* delusional?"; she also referred to the site as "Team Harassment").

    Anyway, this is just a summary of the events. Why she's behaving this way, I don't know, and I won't hazard a guess. I will say this: whatever it is, it's not a good reason. To my knowledge, skep tickle has never said anything even remotely deserving of such treatment. I'll even admit this: I'd be far more deserving of being doxxed than skep tickle. Not that I actually do deserve it, but I've done more to earn Ophelia's ire in one day than skep tickle ever has (I even invented one of the snarky nicknames for her which she claims is harassment).

    And yet, for some reason, Ophelia picked someone completely innocent as a target for her ire. So, you can count me as a supporter of both the letter to Michael Nugent, and of skep tickle personally.


    *I've read only public comments on her blog. I've documented quite a bit in my posts on the slymepit, which I will not repeat here - it's copious, to say the least.
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 10:48 AM (10:48) by Metalogic42
  3. Old Comment
    AbsurdWalls's Avatar
    Regardless of the fine details of what occurred, there is no disputing the main point which is that Ophelia Benson has released personal information on Skep Tickle as a form of "punishment" for her perceived transgressions. I do not see anyone claiming that this was not done intentionally. The crime which Ophelia apparently found Skep Tickle guilty of was posting comments on the Butterflies and Wheels blog. This is ridiculous.
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 01:25 PM (13:25) by AbsurdWalls AbsurdWalls is offline
  4. Old Comment
    There is a certain standard for treating other human beings that you have to live up to if you want to be a decent human being. Benson, Zvan, and Myers are not living up to this standard, especially with how they treat other women who wish to be in or join the atheist community.
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 03:05 PM (15:05) by EdwardGemmer EdwardGemmer is offline
  5. Old Comment
    D4M10N's Avatar
    Reading through those comment threads, one is given the sense that Skep Tickle must be some sort of moral monster. It's amazing how worked up they can get without actually saying what she did that was so terrible, and it's very unfortunate that they picked one of kindest people who posts on both FtB and the 'Pit for this sustained campaign of negative attention.

    It is past time for Atheist Ireland and the other major organizations to stop inviting circuit speakers who openly reject civility and practice personal abuse in lieu of doing rationalism.
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 04:06 PM (16:06) by D4M10N D4M10N is offline
    Updated 31-May-2013 at 04:35 PM (16:35) by D4M10N (I'm a devious bastard!)
  6. Old Comment
    BrenWeb's Avatar
    Well said. Conference organizers do have a responsibility to invite (and pay) speakers who've proven themselves to be rational, responsible people, and to reject those who do harm to the goal of promoting skepticism. Personal attacks, vague threats and harassment do harm to the perpetrator's reputation as a rational being, and they should feel the consequences of their actions. This community must strip any influence and power these harmful actors have by choosing to relegate them to the scrap heap of bad ideas.
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 05:33 PM (17:33) by BrenWeb BrenWeb is offline
  7. Old Comment
    D4M10N's Avatar
    Not to unduly lighten the mood, B-dub, but your avatar looks like an ancient petroglyph of Caleb Lack, Time Traveler.

    Perhaps we can recruit him to go back in time to a certain Dublin elevator and interpose himself into the situation. Then again, maybe that is how this all started in the first place. Better not risk it.

    Nonsense mode off.
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 08:19 PM (20:19) by D4M10N D4M10N is offline
    Updated 31-May-2013 at 08:25 PM (20:25) by D4M10N
  8. Old Comment
    This was an excellent article, Tim. I wonder how many times I have said, "surely they (Benson, Myers, Svan, etc.) can stoop no lower than this!", only to again see them engage in even more reprehensible behaviour. I do hope conference organizers are paying attention to these discussions...
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 08:47 PM (20:47) by Unregistered
  9. Old Comment
    BrenWeb's Avatar
    I thought he looked like The Dude. A friend of mine found him among some ancient cave paintings in New Mexico. Maybe Dr. Lack actually does have a time machine...
    Posted 31-May-2013 at 09:07 PM (21:07) by BrenWeb BrenWeb is offline
  10. Old Comment

    A letter to Skep Tickle

    Hello, Skep Tickle!

    You may remember me as an FtB commenter. Or maybe not - I don’t belong to the most active ones. Be that as it may, here are a few remarks.

    First of all, I imagine that I would feel quite upset myself about revealing my RL identity (for very different reasons than yours, but never mind that), so I can understand your reaction and I definitely don’t like what happened to you. But since I don’t like also what happens to Ophelia, I’m torn – as usual, one might say. (Almost got used to it.)

    I read the comments about you at Butterflies and Wheels. You think that many of them are pure crap? Well, me too. But while I’m reading them, I can see also this line from Ophelia: “They won’t agree to hate me and then move on. No, they have to hate me out loud every hour of every day”. And my problem is that somehow I’m not able to treat this line as politics. I don’t think it’s pretending, playing games, trying to win something among her supporters. I think it’s real. I think she really feels that way.

    Reading the selection of your comments gathered by Ophelia (see Butterflies and Wheels), my first reaction was: it’s nothing. I saw worse snark and taunting coming from FtB commenters, sometimes even directed against me personally (so I should know). Even seeing what you write at the pit, I’m inclined to think “sure, I could talk to someone like Skep Tickle, discuss with her, quarrel with her, and why not?”. These are my impressions. (And yes, I have similar impressions about some other pitters as well).

    But it’s exactly for this reason that I don’t understand why you (plural) don’t leave Ophelia alone. So often in your comments you look like normal, reasonable people. And that’s why I don’t get this. What the hell is going on? Maybe you think the line I quoted is pretending on Ophelia’s part? (If so, I think you are wrong.) And if not, why do you do this to her? In general: what’s the point of concentrating on a particular, very narrow group of bloggers and have a whole site dedicated (to a large degree) to taunting them? What’s the point of making them feel hunted down, surrounded every day and every hour by a crowd of hostile paparazzis?

    I could find this understandable only in some *very* special situations. I could understand it if the targeted narrow group was so powerful and harmful, that a decisive action against them was needed. But is this the case with the FtB bloggers? I don’t see it, but maybe I’m wrong – if so, please explain.

    I could understand also that a group using a given site may be irritated and fed up with (what they consider to be) radical feminism. No problem with that, I can see no reason why such sites shouldn’t exist. No free ride for anyone, sure! What I don’t understand is the narrowness of your focus. If that’s your situation, why not choose your material from Jezebel, Feministing, Shakesville, and so on, and so on, with FtB being just one among the very many? What’s so special about FtB? Why not make it broad enough, so that no concrete persons would have to feel hunted down, as they do now? You know – pick something from a given feminist site, criticize it severely, even satirize it if you wish, and then … well, then stop, move to something (or someone) else, give them a break. *Why not*? As it is now, it looks almost like a personal vendetta, and that’s what puts many people off. (Well, some people. All right, me.)

    Skep Tickle, it is in this context that I look at what happened to you. It’s been nasty and I wish it to no one. You became one of the casualties of this stupid nonsense. At this late stage, is there anything, apart from a personal vendetta, which makes you want it to continue?
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 01:02 PM (13:02) by Ariel
  11. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    Hello Ariel

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ariel View Comment
    ..... But since I don’t like also what happens to Ophelia, I’m torn – as usual, one might say.
    ......
    I can see also this line from Ophelia: “They won’t agree to hate me and then move on. No, they have to hate me out loud every hour of every day”
    ......
    Even seeing what you write at the pit, I’m inclined to think “sure, I could talk to someone like Skep Tickle, discuss with her, quarrel with her, and why not?”. These are my impressions. (And yes, I have similar impressions about some other pitters as well).

    But it’s exactly for this reason that I don’t understand why you (plural) don’t leave Ophelia alone. So often in your comments you look like normal, reasonable people. ......
    Hello Ariel,
    while your comments are addressed to Skep tickle, I wish to address a couple of points myself as well, no matter what Skep tickle says later or doesn't.

    You keep conflating Skep tickle into one large diverse group, which would be exactly the same as talking about you, Ariel, as if you represented the FTB Borg. This kind of conflation does not help at all, and such conflation or tribalism is one of the major problems present.

    As to Ophelia Benson; I'm sure she believes what she is saying, I don't. What I see is mutual obsession from two opposing large., diverse groups. What I see is one hell of a lot of tribalism dressed up as ideology, and I've seen one hell of a lot of provocations coming from Benson. You might ask, why doesn't she take her own advice? It was more than extreme that she devoted several blog posts to Skep tickle, and to the point now where elementary trust has been breached, and questions regarding potential IP abuse and misuse on a different site must now be raised in view of the unnecessary conduct of several FTB bloggers.

    IOW; why didn't Benson simply agree to hate Skep tickle and move on? Why the overt glorying in knowing Skep tickle's personal identity? The repeated blog posts, which were waaaaaaay out of proportion to the original trigger?

    This is what brought me into this particular matter at all. The fact of the sheer massive overkill. The fact that through their conduct Myers, Benson and Zvan have attacked the whole basis of a very necessary principle -- the right of especially women to pseudonymity on the net.

    You know yourself how vicious many comments were, and all along the lines of "She was asking for it", "She shouldn't have been dressed spoken that way", when Skep tickle's original remark was quite small in propportion to the massive overkill. You know yourself how Aratina -- a pseudonymous commentator, ironically -- gloried in saying they would doxx anyone who said bad things about "them". Instead of just hating Skep tickle and/or the Pit group, and then moving on, your whole FTB group have now willfully made it thus that the entire public must now consider the questions of:
    - data privacy, data protection,
    - right of people including women to net privacy and pseudonymity,
    - potential abuse and misuse of IP's, etc..

    And these issues won't go away.
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 03:31 PM (15:31) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  12. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    One more note in view of that now that there is some dialogue going with at least one FTB commentator, I stress again I will not allow any comments that include mere empty name-calling.
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 03:36 PM (15:36) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
    Updated 01-Jun-2013 at 03:48 PM (15:48) by Gurdur
  13. Old Comment
    So here's the thing. I keep seeing people saying "just stop reading FTB if it bothers you", but when the same is said about the Slymepit or other sites the FTB folk dislike, that's never an option. I mean, at one point, the time to response between someone saying something about Ophelia in the 'pit and her commenting about it was less than a day.

    Why can't *she* just not read the site?

    I agree that the people @messaging her on twitter are a different story, and I've said that's not a good idea. (It's also unnecessary. It's fairly clear that Benson, Zvan, et al have an extensive set of vanity search agents running that report back any mention of their names, and probably some of the more common misspellings of their names as well. Again, the time to respond is pretty fast.)

    But why does the whole "site bothers you? Don't friggin' read it" only apply to the people on Ophelia's enemies list. She could stop reading a fairly small number of sites, tell her followers to stop bringing them up, and move on. Same thing with zvan et al.

    It's what they tell us to do. Why doesn't it ever seem to apply to them.
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 04:58 PM (16:58) by Unregistered
  14. Old Comment
    Vjack's Avatar
    I think that Ariel raised some important points in her comments. First, she suggests that OB is not pretending and really feels that she is hated. I think Ariel is correct here. I agree that OB probably feels this way and is not merely playing games. Of course, how OB feels does not necessarily provide an accurate indicator of what is happening. Time and time again, she has labeled things as "harassment" that many reasonable people do not perceive as being harassment. Perhaps her perceptions are at least somewhat skewed.

    Second, Ariel asks why people don't just leave OB alone. That is a fair question. I suspect some feel the need to defend themselves against her frequent posts about them (e.g., Vacula). Others are probably just drawn to the constant drama that seems to surround her. And still others are merely expressing disagreement with her. This is a community that prides itself on skepticism, after all.

    Last and perhaps most important, Ariel questions the power of the FtB bloggers. Perhaps they do not have as much power as they are perceived as having. Entirely possible. But consider that PZ has what is probably the most popular atheist blog in terms of traffic and reach or that he, OB, and a few others are nearly always among those speaking at atheist conferences. Consider how the leaders of certain secular organizations seem to suck-up to them. Is it any wonder that this looks like power to some?
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 06:10 PM (18:10) by Vjack Vjack is offline
  15. Old Comment
    Ariel,

    Thank you for posting your letter to me; your questions are really important ones, and I am delighted to reply but must dash off to work. I'll post again in a few hours.

    I have appreciated your thoughtful comments where I've run across them, here & there at FtB (including your guest post at Almost Diamonds earlier this spring).

    Unrelated to your letter: to complete my outing, in order to remove any further potential stringing out of information, my name is Eliza Sutton. I am a physician in Seattle. Anyone who wants to is welcome to Google me. I'd prefer that the evidence of how unphotogenic I am be ignored but have no control over that (any more). Please be aware that there are at least 2 other women in the world who share my first and last name; I urge people to look below the surface rather than make any assumptions based on a superficial search.

    Perhaps related to your letter: Some might find the 30 minute mp3 of a 2007 interview I did on stage at a small liberal Christian conference interesting, particularly if you listen to it considering a potential analogy between the lessons I describe having attended and those offered to the A/S community - including to "seekers" who are feeling shaky about participating online or in real life - by prominent FtB bloggers who frequently speak at A/S conferences. The difference is that the lessons I attended would not be mistaken for, or advertised as, freethought or skepticism. Those offered by the A/S bloggers ARE so advertised, but are so inconsistent with freethought and skepticism that I feel compelled to speak out.
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 07:23 PM (19:23) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
  16. Old Comment
    I'm going to try to break up my responses, post when one thought or topic is done, in case I get pulled away for any reason.

    Re the interview I mentioned above, it's linked here. The posts of my observations on the class I attended is here (only the stuff from "Eliza's Christmas thoughts" on down is mine) - the link at the first url above to those class posts is defunct.

    I brought up the interview because in I described how scared I was x ~40 years of being known as an atheist, how something I stumbled upon online exposed me to a radical idea (that some people felt comfortable being "out"), that reasonable dialogue was/is possible between people who have hugely different beliefs about the topic, that once I followed that initial piece of information it led me to a very supportive community that really nurtured me eventually being able to sit in on purpose in the same room as people who could possibly vilify or target me for my beliefs.

    No analogy is perfect. The analogy I posed between the Lutheran pastor and some prominent atheist bloggers & speakers falls down quite completely in the area of "internal consistency". Guess which one displayed it.

    More on internal consistency in next post, then I'll answer Ariel's specific questions.
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 10:19 PM (22:19) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
  17. Old Comment
    My own consistency: As I said in the interview, when I first started reading then posting at the ebay atheist blog in ~2006, 7 years ago, I had zero experience in using the internet for anything other than email and reading news. It turns out that when you're a n00b like that, especially if you've only been following one site on which people are nice to each other, you don't know how far your information travels or what might be done with it. So I posted as Eliza. I *think* that the interview was the first time my last name had been given out, and my place of work was given out, and I was nervous about that, but really was only thinking about the people in the room (some of whom I'd interacted with for ~1 yr online, and several of whom I'd met; really nice people). Jim might have mentioned that the interview would be posted online, and I think I signed some kind of release, but frankly I just didn't know what that could mean. And it wasn't all that much later that I had my arm twisted to join Seattle Atheists and run for the Board (h/t to the person who did that, you know who you are). I purposefully didn't have my picture put up, but I decided it was probably okay to have my full name publicly associated with this 501(c)(3) organization, a legal entity, of which I was one of the Board of Trustees. (I'm not aware of too many such organizations in which a person's name is kept from public view or pseudonymized.)

    But back to my naivety in 2006-2008: Are the new people the movement hopes to attract to become active in atheism, skepticism, secularism, and humanism only to be drawn from those internet users who are already so savvy that, if they're nervous about their information being out there, they use an IP anonymizer and, from the very first time they post anything anywhere, a pseudonym? Or so savvy that even if they don't themselves use the internet, they would know to enroll in a RL atheist organization anonymously? Is that really what we want?

    If so, we as a community need to put a concerted effort into getting that message out there to all the people who might join our collected movement but aren't already internet savvy.

    I find it particularly ironic is how much safer I felt with liberal Christians then, than with people who identify as atheists and freethinkers now. (Of course, it's now several years later, and I'm engaging in a much broader area of the internet, and I'm poking at the side of the people who are public faces of the movement but who have this disturbing tendency to vilify anyone who disagrees with them.)
    Posted 01-Jun-2013 at 10:36 PM (22:36) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
  18. Old Comment
    All right, turning attention to Ariel’s letter.

    Ariel, I would love to sit down and talk with you face to face, and I extend that to anyone who is willing to really delve into & examine the issues rather than shut down discussion if there might be disagreement. The feedback I generally get from people is that I’m calm and reasonable, but I also will act decisively when I feel injustice is being done, which is what I see here.

    Communication in person is not only about the words; in that setting, most of us also rely on clues from how the words are said and from body language. That’s lost, of course, in any written communication, and any misunderstandings can be rapidly amplified at the pace communications can occur on the internet.

    I appreciate that it may look like I’ve targeted Ophelia Benson, and that I should have just given her a break. See my post right after Gurdur’s OP above regarding my concerns about the very real potential for actual RL harm posed to Katie (risk of family violence) and Justin Vacula (claim of illegal behavior, could affect his reputation) based directly on Ophelia Benson’s actions and words on her (prominent) blog. That’s why I pressed on.

    I definitely believe the claim that prominent people are targeted by internet trolls. But I have seen no evidence that people in the atheist/skeptic community are these trolls.

    I definitely know that people who publicly put forth opinions on any subject may hear from people who don’t automatically agree with them, including questions for clarification and/or statements of disagreement about content. But I don’t see how “disagreement” is “harassment” (until or unless the “disagreement” leads to some different behavior besides simply disagreeing).

    I absolutely believe that skepticism and critical thinking should not be suppressed in the community and still have it be called freethought or skepticism. If it were someone’s completely personal blog unrelated to being prominent in the A/S community and I did not feel I had something positive to contribute, I would not go there. (Actually, because of time constraints, I would be very unlikely to even know about it or think about leaving any comment if I did.) I am oh so happy to have people of like interests join together and work for the cause that inspires them; wouldn't it be great if the current SJ movement in atheism were called “Atheist feminism” and atheists who didn’t care to participate weren’t accused of being woman-hating anti-feminist misogynists.

    You pointed out that to you it looks like I have a personal vendetta against radical feminism. I have absolutely no beef with feminism of any kind, when I and others do not automatically become vilified for not falling into line (including for not participating, or being allowed to participate, in discussion). I think it’s only fair to all participants for the rules to be clear about what you can say, but *hey* that’s really up to the participants, isn’t it. Personally, were I to choose to engage in a discussion about feminism, I only do so if all aspects of discussion, including the questioning of assumptions, were allowed for everyone involved rather than stifled by anyone involved.

    Anyway, feminism is a big topic; it would be fabulous to delve into but this thread isn’t the place.

    Besides that, I don’t see this as being about feminism, except that feminism and atheism overlap but are not the same thing - do I have to qualify that with "in my opinion"? - and I resent attempts to say that one MUST believe X or Y in order to be allowed in the atheist club or the good person club.

    Funny thing is that for about 30 years I considered myself a feminist, won’t go into the details but as a woman who went through a mostly-male educational process and now mostly works on women’s health issues I think I have the “cred”. Obviously, not everyone need agree. I now don’t use the term “feminist” for myself, thankyouverymuch. I’d now substitute “gender egalitarian” as a clunkier but more accurate description of my values & stance in this area.

    Another post coming, there will be some repetition, I’m having to do these w little editing for cohesion and repetition of same idea.
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 12:11 AM (00:11) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
    Updated 02-Jun-2013 at 12:19 AM (00:19) by Skep tickle (Add couple of missing words)
  19. Old Comment

    Just want to verify what Skep Tickle says about moderation at FTB

    fwiw, I am not Skep Tickle, and I too have had many many polite, on topic, relevant (or so I thought) comments help in moderation forever at Free Thought Blogs at Benson's, Zvan's and many other of the blogs there.

    What we read there is precisely what Benson, Zvan, Myers want us to read. The echo chamber and the in group bullying and any lack of intelligent opposition that they may claim. All of that are messages they form with comments published that will back that up.

    I tend to try and mostly ignore FTB.

    I am saddened that so much discourse on the net runs in the FTB vein, but FTB is certainly one of the worst.
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 12:18 AM (00:18) by Unregistered
  20. Old Comment
    Anonymous poster, yes the filtering of comments at several FtB sites is crucial. Again, an analogy: it's like a prominent chef is welcoming everyone in the community add a cup of whatever they like to the stew (as long as it's on-topic for that stew), but then when someone they don't like or disagrees with submits a cup of ingredients, it's stopped by the chef's filter (sieve). The poster tries again, watering it down (making it ruder, more snarky, etc). It doesn't get through. The poster (who feels this stew is really lacking some important ingredient) waters it down quite a bit (makes it ruder) again, and finally the drivel gets posted, and the poster gets piled on, reviled, accused of having added poison to the stew or being an awful person, etc.

    This is a pattern I and several other people have experienced at some of the FtB blogs, including Almost Diamonds, Butterflies and Wheels, and I think Greta Christina's blog. I've also experienced the blocking of what seemed like a really reasonable question phrased politely at Miri's blog Brute Reason.

    I'd love to give an example or 2 if I get around to it (in chapter 11 of my novel here, lol and apologies).

    Others can post links if examples might be helpful. Some people have saved at the Slyme pit a few of the reasonable, relevant posts they've submitted at some of these blogs, which were never let through moderation.
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 12:47 AM (00:47) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
  21. Old Comment

    Focusing more on Atheism Plus

    Ariel,

    In your letter to me, you asked “At this late stage, is there anything, apart from a personal vendetta, which makes you want it to continue?” I addressed that in my first response after your letter. As I read it, you suggested that criticism like mine at Butterflies and Wheels recently might be appropriate were “the targeted narrow group…so powerful and harmful, that…decisive action against them was needed”. I do think that what some people relatively powerful in the community are doing is harmful.

    When I first thought it was harmful to the whole atheist/skeptic community because of the vitriole that seemed to come from both “sides” and wouldn’t stop, I tried to ignore it – I hoped it would go away or that someone else would address it – because it just seemed so out of character with the community that it didn't seem like it could persist.

    When I later started thinking that it was harmful to the atheist/skeptic community because it relied on dearth of skeptical thinking and looked much like dogma and seemed so antithetical to the tenets underlying atheism for me and others (and skepticism for anyone), I started reading more about it, seeing what I could find from “each side” that might explain their point of view.

    After lurking for a while, I tried commenting at the Atheism+ forum http://atheismplus.com/ , which describes itself on its welcome page as “a safe space for people … to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues…”. Safe space was and remains undefined; it seems a good case could be made that it hasn’t been a safe space for many of the people who have tried to engage there, even people who claim to have interests and values similar to the members with the highest post counts, nor for many people who have suffered in one way or another in society and could actually use a supportive safe community. That might include the man who said in a discussion at the atheism plus forum that he'd been raped, after which one of the regular posters said (apparently thinking this was a theoretical discussion) that it would have been better to be murdered, and in the resulting exchange the man who'd been a rape victim was banned. (That ban was later reversed, but he left later in apparent disgust after being told he was wrong about what racism is.) It’s certainly not a place for people to apply skepticism and critical thinking to “everything” much less to “social issues”.

    I don’t believe they are looking for my opinion on this, but I would suggest that the Atheism Plus forum could be more accurately named and should more accurately describe on its welcome page what the forum is actually about – basically, to warn people who are not unreasonable but who do like to apply skepticism and critical thinking as these terms are understood in our community to everything, including social issues, that they are not, in fact, “welcome” at that page currently states. (Remember, some of the people who stumble upon the site will be new to the atheism/skepticism movement – this may be one of their first exposures to it.)

    I was banned in the thread posted by Greta Christina here which pointed people to the petition to remove Justin Vacula from his volunteer leadership position in the Secular Coalition for America. My comments starts at the 8th comment after the OP there, and I was the only one to question the claims in the petition (which were repeated in her OP).

    Three things about my comments there:
    (1) yes, I dissed the Slyme Pit (actually, its first incarnation, the slime pit) and the people who posted there – like some others, I had only noticed the “bad werdz” in my brief focused foray there for information, it was only on reading it later that I came to appreciate that unfettered speech is on display there and while sometimes rude it is much more to my liking than fettered speech masquerading as “skepticism and critical thinking”;
    (2) yes, I pointed out the fact that Amy Davis Roth’s business address for Surlyramics is available online in public California business records; now I’m not sure whether I think that crosses a line regarding pointing people to “private” information, and
    (3) yes, I used snark, but given my experiences there including this last exchange, I think some might forgive my inability to keep the tone light and neutral. This exchange from the thread linked above is between me and a moderator nymed Flewellyn; most links and all bolding & an emoticon or two removed here:
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Skep tickle
    I'm sorry, but this seems like a witch hunt.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flewellyn
    It isn't. It's holding his feet to the fire for bad behavior. There's a strong difference, and I think you know that.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Skep tickle
    Sure, but so far what I've seen said about him doesn't seem to me to fit "bad behavior". Now, that is of course a value judgment, but there just doesn't seem to be a beef patty between the buns here.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flewellyn
    Given your posting history here, and the fact that your "analysis" of Vacula's actions curiously bears a very strong resemblance to his own excuses, I am extremely dubious of your claims that you didn't know about this beforehand.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Skep tickle
    It's the truth. You are welcome, of course, to be skeptical of that claim of mine...and to let me know what might serve as satisfactory evidence for you of my claim that I didn't know something before I learned it today.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Flewellyn
    So, do you have anything intellectually honest to say on the matter? If not, I suggest not posting again.
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Skep tickle
    Wow. How ironic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_honesty :
    Quote:
    Intellectual honesty is an applied method of problem solving in academia, characterized by an unbiased, honest attitude, which can be demonstrated in a number of different ways, including but not limited to:
    • One's personal beliefs do not interfere with the pursuit of truth;
    • Relevant facts and information are not purposefully omitted even when such things may contradict one's hypothesis;
    • Facts are presented in an unbiased manner, and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another;
    • References are acknowledged where possible, and plagiarism is avoided
    I've posted some actual information, for example that he DIDN'T in fact "write for" the MRA website on which his post appeared. I'd be delighted to post the relevant links showing the posting dates, but I'm pretty sure if I link to an MRA site (which I don't support, not that that's relevant) that would be considered a hostile act. But a quick search will turn this information up for anyone who's interested, and I'd be happy to post the links IF you'd like.

    Or you can just continue with your assumption that because I am skeptically considering the claims made against this person, as I would normally do (being a skeptic and all), I'm dishonest.

    Your choice.
    Again, the above exchange is at a site that is the only place one can go to see “atheism plus” manifest openly under that name, even though seems to be halfway disowned by the prominent FtB bloggers and ignored by the Skepchick site (AFAIK). The above exchange is at a site that claims to welcome "everyone" to use “skepticism and critical thinking about everything”. The above exchange is at a site that was trying to drum up hits on a petition to drive a young secular activist out of his volunteer leadership position in a national secular organization, in which sure looked to me like a witchhunt. They succeeded.

    I shudder to think that it might be considered wrong to press ahead with trying to demonstrate what I and others can only describe as hypocrisy infecting the movement that we're a part of...the movement that (unless you want to restrict it to 'atheism' and remove all 'skepticism' and 'freethought' and 'critical thinking') is based upon EXPOSING misinformation, illogic, hypocrisy, and dogma.

    Especially since it isn't just some people saying what they want to on the internet, but instead there was a real life consequence for an actual person who has an established history of atheist activism, floated on what seems like dislike and maybe fear and apparently dogmatism rather than evidence – that gets my goat.

    I'd really like an explanation for that, if someone has one. I do not in any way wish to cause anyone harm, including Ophelia Benson or any woman or any person who might be feeling like harassment is coming in from all directions and is getting to be too much, but a prominent person shouldn't be able to put other people at risk in real life and not be called out about it. I would hope some people who are close to her or to anyone in a similar position can encourage disengagement from the internet, or at the very least encourage cessation of the ongoing pattern of pouring gasoline on the fire then pointing to how threatening the fire is.

    For what it's worth, I have no idea what's been said about me at FtB in the past 3-4 days. What's the point of going to look? There's not going to be anything I can do about it, other than make it worse, so I'm just going to ignore it and move ahead with what I feel strongly is the right thing to do. (Spread the word about the egregious behavior I see.)
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 01:19 AM (01:19) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
    Updated 02-Jun-2013 at 01:24 AM (01:24) by Skep tickle (Clarification)
  22. Old Comment

    On Eliza (Skep Tickle) and Seattle Atheists

    I have been hesitant to add my two cents on this issue because I saw no way to explain the Eliza that I know personally from serving with her on the board of Seattle Atheists without adding to her outing. Since she has decided to “rip the band aid” if you will, I now feel I can say my piece.

    I am very proud of the Seattle Atheist board, the diversity of opinions our members hold, our ability to disagree calmly – and Eliza is a big part of the culture we have developed. We don’t always agree and she has voted against me on issues, but she is always thoughtful and respectful in expressing her opinion and I have found myself grateful when she “saved” me by defeating a motion I argued for that turned out to be problematic. When I needed advice on a sensitive issue, I turned to her because I knew she would be fair and insightful. Much has been made of harassment policies – or lack there of – at events, so I think it is noteworthy that Eliza was one of the main drivers in the development of our code of conduct. (http://www.seattleatheists.org/wordp...uct-Policy.pdf)

    She has explained here what she meant by being “semi-anonymous” and her reasons for wanting that. I can say that everything she has said here is completely consistent with what she had expressed to our organization. She stays out of group photos and her photo is not listed on our “board” page so that any patient stumbling on our site can wonder if this Eliza Sutton is the same Eliza Sutton they know but not have that idea confirmed. Nothing on our site (to the best of my knowledge) identifies her as a doctor for this reason. I have noticed that on forums she has spoken of her experience in women’s healthcare. There are obvious reasons why her credentials are relevant to various discussions. Since she is being open about that personal detail on forums, it makes sense that she wouldn’t want to use her real name. Her use of a pseudonym was clearly not to keep her online activity a secret from the rest of the board. She has been open in expressing her concerns about discussions on various online forums, the fact that she watching the activity on certain forums, and she has mentioned being banned from certain blogs.

    Despite the impression you may have, Eliza doesn’t spend all her time speaking ill of Ophelia Benson so we have never spoken about her motivations in entering this debate. I don’t want to speculate on that and put words in her mouth, but I would like to share my feelings. I was raised in an oppressive cult-like environment. People who didn’t agree with my father – even other Christians – were not truly saved, were demonically oppressed, were acting out of greed, etc. For me, as a result of this, speaking of “the others” as inferior in some way is a bit of a trigger for me. In fact, I stayed out of the atheist movement for years because of my (I’m glad to say erroneous) assumption that atheists who gathered together in groups did so for the purpose of talking about how stupid theists are. While Seattle Atheists has many members who come together because of our shared belief in working to make the world a better place, I do see the troubling tendency toward vilification for anyone who doesn’t agree with “us” in various corners of atheism. I think this mindset is toxic and I wish everyone were brave enough to call it out.
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 09:18 AM (09:18) by Maxwell Smart
  23. Old Comment

    Context, moderation sieves, and "actually bomb a conference"

    So I did peek a bit at the last of the multiple threads about me at FtB Butterflies and Wheels. Some of my posts do look egregiously snarky, so I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that often relevant context wasn't posted alongside.

    For example, when I wrote something and added that people could reply (paraphrasing here) "using their 4th grade writing skills or whatever level writing skills" they had, that looks mean...but what's missing is that I was echoing an insult that had been directed at me not much earlier in the thread (about my writing skills being 4th grade level).

    And, as has been mentioned before, so often only the more aggressive comments get through and are thus visible for posterity. The calm reasoned ones don't.

    Here's an example alluded to up-thread of a post of mine not being allowed through moderation. At Stephanie Zvan's Almost Diamonds on April 12th, in a thread about the dialogue project hosted and coordinated by Michael Nugent, of which Stephanie Zvan is or was one of the participants and I am or was one of the moderators, Setar here wrote (links removed here):
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Setar
    So when do we get to point out that their ideology and tactics mirror those of libertarian “gun rights” advocates and anti-choice zealots? When do we get to note that Melissa Harris-Perry received similar treatment from the Right for simple comments about changing how we view kids, as Rebecca Watson did for her comments about changing how we view women? At what point can we say that dehumanizing ideologies lead to dehumanizing behaviour?

    Do they have to actually bomb a conference or get on some major atheist podcasts and start saying the things they’ve been documented as saying already? When do we call this waddling, quacking ball of feathers a fucking duck?
    About 12 hrs later, on April 13th, I posted a response which as of this moment, 50 days later, is still awaiting moderation. I took this screenshot on within the last hour (on June 2nd):


    Well, Almost Diamonds is Stephanie Zvan's blog, and she has every right to allow through the posts she wants to and not the posts she doesn't. She can use any criterion she chooses.

    I don't know what lead her to decide not to post my submission below (which I'd copy/pasted elsewhere, suspecting it would not be let through; I can provide the link upon request, but understand Gurdur would prefer no links to the 'Pit).

    The submitted-but-not-posted comment (from April 13th) looks pretty reasonable and polite to me, though it's possible I'm simply missing whatever about it someone might find unacceptable:

    Quote:
    Quote:
    Do they have to actually bomb a conference...
    Setar, could you clarify, were you using the verb "bomb" literally or figuratively?

    "Actually" seems to imply actually "attacking with explosive devices", but perhaps that's not what you meant.

    Thank you.
    The juxtaposition of "bomb" and "get on some major atheist podcast" suggests possibly Setar didn't mean "bomb" literally - instead, perhaps, xe meant "fail spectacularly" or "show up en masse and disrupt completely". On the other hand, the adverb "actually" does suggest xe might have meant "bomb" literally. Since it's still in moderation, xe never saw it, so we'll never know, so let's move on.

    Again: Stephanie Zvan (and any other blogger) has the power to decide what gets through to be posted and what doesn't, based on any criteria they like. But then that also places some responsibility on the blogger-moderator for the comments that appear there.

    Given that, IMO it's troubling to have someone who's relatively prominent in the A/S community, including speaking at A/S conferences, allowing the suggestion to sit on her blog that the "other side" (of which I'm one) might be so similar to "anti-choice zealots" and have "dehumanizing ideology" which could soon become "dehumanizing behaviour" such as "actually bomb[ing] a conference.". And not only letting it sit on her blog as if it were a reasonable comment, but also without letting through a pretty basic request for clarification.

    If the "other side" is effectively demonized and marginalized, they (we) might be less likely to attend said conferences - and they (we) will be less likely to be invited as speakers. And the apparent facilitation of that demonization by someone who is, or some people who are, also frequently conference speakers concerns me - whether or not it's done intentionally or simply all a part of a big misunderstanding.

    Finally, allowing Setar's "actually bomb a conference" comment and others like it to sit in view, unexamined (even when an opportunity arose), may baselessly fuel the concern some people have apparently been feeling about their safety at A/S conferences, and IMO for that reason is also fairly irresponsible behavior from a leader and frequent conference speaker.
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 10:20 AM (10:20) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
    Updated 02-Jun-2013 at 11:19 AM (11:19) by Skep tickle (add an important 'not')
  24. Old Comment
    JackSkeptic's Avatar
    I think one of the things we should not forget is that while today it may be Skep Tickle who is being attack tomorrow it will be someone else and one day it may be you. There is no protection from how prominent you are or what you have done for the community.

    People need to be fully aware of all the tricks they pull to smear and vilify anyone who disagrees with them. This gives a chilling effect intended to reduce opposition and assert control. It is something that must be resisted if we are to assume to be a rational and open community of diverse ideas.

    Mr Nugent, I do feel you're an honest and decent person who should take credit for being able and willing to accommodate diverse views and opinions. I do feel you were initially mislead into what the 'rift' was. Hopefully now you have some understanding that there are decent people out there being attacked, smeared and hurt for nothing more than disagreeing with someone. The people that you invited to Eire are some of the main proponents of this attack. Please take care.
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 02:05 PM (14:05) by JackSkeptic JackSkeptic is offline
  25. Old Comment
    Skeptickle or Eliza, if you prefer: thanks for your reply. I will want to write a longer comment, but now it’s weekend, which in my case means a real life with family.

    So at the moment just a quick remark to vjack: I’m a guy, not a woman. Curse the damned mermaid and burn the Disney studios!
    Posted 02-Jun-2013 at 05:44 PM (17:44) by Ariel
  26. Old Comment

    "Ethics of Unmasking" - who decides? Are some regular in-group commenters abusive enough for doxxing?

    Ariel, I understand; hope you're enjoying your weekend!

    I have to focus on work for the next couple days but will peek in to see if you've had a chance to respond.

    Unless you find that my wall o' text above brings up so many areas for clarification or of disagreement that your plate o' response is full, I'd be really interested in your comment on this blog post by Stephanie Zvan: The Ethics of Unmasking

    I think it's quite relevant to doxxing, to abuse/harassment, and to snark or rudeness vs actual harm or illegal activity. I'm really glad she posted it.

    Ms Zvan focuses on the situation of a person, presumably including (if not limited to) bloggers, who feels subjected to abuse by a person posting pseudonymously. She argues that the recipient of abuse has an obligation to decide whether the behavior crosses a threshold to abuse, and that it's unethical to require the recipient to protect the abuser from exposure of their personal information.

    She says, "The abused don’t ask for abuse" and that "Tying social consequences to social behavior...is how we function together."

    She does not mention the power differential, in which the blogger can simply not let through moderation the posts of the person who is felt to be abusive, or might (depending on the setup of the blog) route the person's posts automatically to a spam folder, or block the person from posting all together (under that account or name/email combination, anyway).

    I don't see how the situation might not apply in the other direction, in which a person trying to participate in an apparently open blog or forum has the unpleasant experience of being "piled on" by regular commenters. Perhaps the person is not currently or probably never will be a good fit for those already there; perhaps they're simply new & don't know the local culture & inadvertently say the wrong thing, or they have not read and agreed with all of the "101" topics before posting, or perhaps (even unintentionally) they use sexist or ableist language. Perhaps it's someone who shows up to try to poke holes in a favorite argument of the regulars. Perhaps, even, it's a group member or ally who disagrees on the in-group's interpretation of a recent event at a conference, based on her own experiences as a conference organizer. (Most of the people who attacked the woman in this example were, as is commonly the case, posting under pseudonyms).

    If "abuse" could go the other way - directed by regular commenters and/or blogger onto individuals participating at the site - the ramifications would be significant for Ms Zvan's proposal that "unmasking" of abusers be an option.

    It would mean that regular commenters anywhere, including but not limited to regular commenters at Freethought Blogs and Atheism Plus forum, who "abuse" others could potentially be considered not only "fair game" but in fact appropriate candidates for said "unmasking" (aka doxxing).

    Of course, I doubt Ms Zvan's intent was to cast the net so widely. But as she so eloquently said, "the abused don’t ask for abuse" and "tying social consequences to social behavior...is how we function together."

    In the "reverse situation" I brought up, the blogger's powers of moderation (and persuasion and example) would be the first line of defense against such abuse, with potential release of the personal information of the blogger's regular commenters who have been behaving abusively as a subsequent step that - for consistency's sake - we should ask the community to consider if Ms Zvan's proposal is considered.

    The other key consideration is: what is "abuse"?

    Besides lawbreaking or risk of physical violence, what words or behavior qualify?

    Does the definition of "abuse" depend on the reaction of the person being "targeted"?

    Does it depend on the intent of the person causing the discomfort?

    Where's the line between vigorous (or sometimes even mild) disagreement or pursuit of meaningful discussion?

    And who decides all of this?

    Is behavior exempt from being considered abusive if it follows PZ Myers' The Desert Tortoises With Boltcutters Civility Pledge, or does that document only apply in society in general (somehow) but not online interactions? (Jump down to "flense" comment below to use if the pledge is not felt to be relevant here.)

    If PZ's civility pledge might apply, how is that document interpreted, and who does the interpretation?

    That pledge says, in part (with bolding changed from original by me, for emphasis):
    Quote:
    I recognize that the very notion of “civility” is defined in large part by those in whose benefit the status quo is maintained. I further recognize that the structure of “civility” at least in part has been created with the express purpose of bolstering chronic injustices. ...

    I pledge to remember that civility and compassion are not the same thing. ...

    I pledge to remember that a fetishized civility is a field mark of insulation from suffering. ...

    I pledge to keep a sense of perspective. Tossing basic civil rights under the bus in order to maintain a jury-rigged superficial peace in a single-issue movement is a bad bargain.

    Rather than worry overmuch about civility, I pledge to be as kind as possible. And sometimes the kindest possible contribution to a discussion with someone acting in bad faith and harmfully is to tell them to go fuck themselves sideways.
    What is "acting in bad faith" - is that the kind of thing you know when you see?

    If I think someone is acting in bad faith and harmfully, is it okay then for me to tell the person to "go fuck themselves sideways"? (Which I would never do; I repeat it here only for purposes of discussion.)

    If you think someone is acting in bad faith and harmfully, is it okay then for you to tell the person to "go fuck themselves sideways"? (Again, for the purposes of discussion.)

    If PZ or his regular commenters think someone is acting in bad faith and harmfully, is it okay then for him or them to tell the person to "go fuck themselves sideways"? Because they actually do that. Well, they've cut back since that meme was pointed out as being "bad form", or at least the rusty knife and the porcupine parts of the meme are now de trop. (And then there are the prior exhortations by one FtB regular for someone - a woman, as I recall - to "go die in a fire, I really mean it"; that person remains an apparently valued participant in FtB.)

    As another piece of evidence that PZ wants his commenters to abuse (in my understanding of the word "abuse") some people who post on Pharyngula, there's this:
    Quote:
    ... Yeah, I hate that faux-Vulcan shit so many skeptics and atheists love to pull, but I’m not forbidding it — I encourage the commentariat here to instead draw their knives and flense it so thoroughly the dispassionate ass is feeling the pain in every nerve ending.

    It’s a difference between this site and McEwan’s. McEwan would rather provide a sanctuary for the oppressed. I’m more interested in rhetorically arming and inflaming them.
    So, would that type of posting behavior be considered "abuse"?

    Should, then, pseudonymous regular "armed and inflamed" Pharyngulites who "flense" "faux-Vulcan" posters, be doxxed?

    If not, why not?

    Does the regular commenters agreeing with PZ and/or doing it with PZ's encouragement change it from "abuse" to something acceptable for which any resemblance anyone might think exists to "abuse" can and should be ignored?

    Or is it that "faux-Vulcan" "skeptics and atheists" don't, somehow, deserve the same protection from abuse, if protection is to be offered? Or that they deserve the abuse?

    If you don't want to take this on, I'll understand.

    But I do think it's relevant and important to "the movement" to discuss openly among all interested parties. Thanks!
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 03:44 AM (03:44) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
    Updated 03-Jun-2013 at 04:13 AM (04:13) by Skep tickle (clarification and added a bit more about faux-Vulcans)
  27. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    I will reiterate: Stephanie Zvan now has to face huge issues of breaches of trust. Since:
    1. Szvan knew Skep tickle well, under that username, from their working together on the Dialogue site,
    2. and since the excuse for Benson's dribbling of personal information about Skep tickle is not at all justified by the excuse Benson gave for it,
    3. and since the several blog posts Benson made about Skep tickle specifically also drew attention to the personal information about her that Benson released in drips and drabs,
    4. and since szvan was a part of all that,
    5. and since Zvan has made a peculiar threat in the past to Skep tickle over personal, confidential information,

    then Stephanie Zvan does not seem capable of handling confidential information in a responsible, ethical way. I am totally unimpressed by Zvan's dismal evasion of the issues. These issues must be and will be brought up each time Zvan has access or may have access to confidential information, personal data, of those she does not like. As in any conference, and as in the Dialogue site.
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 04:22 AM (04:22) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  28. Old Comment
    Submariner USN's Avatar
    Another thing Skep Tickle, to go along with "what constitutes abuse".

    I'm sure you've heard it said from various bloggers that merely posting on a particular website turns one into an SP (whether you read that as Slymepitter or Suppressive Person is entirely up to you).

    Is it then fair game to cry abuse by association (as it seems was done to you).

    How far down this rabbit hole must we travel Mr. Nugent?
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 04:29 AM (04:29) by Submariner USN Submariner USN is offline
  29. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    By the way, everyone, I have not allowed a total of 3 comments now through the modding queue owing to crossing of the name-calling line. I would be grateful if people would observe my guidelines for my blog. I can easily be reached over Twitter if anyone wishes to discuss with me why their comment did not get through the mod queue. If made necessary, I will also hide comments made by Hub members who cross the line in comments, though none has so far. I have already discussed more than fully with two people why their comments were not allowed through, and I have notified the third.
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 04:41 AM (04:41) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
    Updated 03-Jun-2013 at 05:19 AM (05:19) by Gurdur
  30. Old Comment

    Posted on Anne C. Hanna’s blog, Icarus Swims (3), referring to her comment on Almost Diamonds:

    Anne:

    Saw your recent comment (2) over on Almost Diamonds and, as I’m banned there, I thought I would comment here. You said:

    Quote:
    For example, Skep Tickle apparently decided that it would be easier to suffer the oh-so-dire consequences of completely outing *herself* than it would have been to make a cogent argument in her own defense.
    You might want to consider that she is probably (and apparently) prevented from commenting on both AD & B&W. And you might also want to give some thought to what that says about “Free-thought Blogs”. But as for “making a cogent argument” I might suggest you take a look at this (1) where she seems to have done just that.

    Finally, Stephanie said:

    Quote:
    A pseudonymous person engages in social behavior [abuse] that is clearly outside of community standards.
    So, pray tell, who decides what constitutes “abuse”, and who gets to dictate “community standards”? Seems to me that unless something is clearly illegal in the eyes of the law, what she is talking about is peevish butthurt and flagrant pettiness, if not outright vigilantism. “In-group morality, and out-group hostility”, indeed.

    ----
    1) “_http://heathen-hub.com/blog.php?b=1712”;
    2) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/06/02/the-ethics-of-unmasking/#comment-240922”;
    3) “_http://icarusswims.blogspot.ca/2013/02/workouts-28-42.html”;
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 05:22 AM (05:22) by Steersman
  31. Old Comment
    JackSkeptic's Avatar
    With a misuse of words anything can be justified. Am I not alone when the words 'social punishment' send a chill up my spine? Where have we heard such words before?

    When someone decides their own loose criteria for victimhood as well as judge, jury and executioner they assert the sort of power and authority that is against everything we stand for and which has made the atheist movement so effective over the years.
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 01:24 PM (13:24) by JackSkeptic JackSkeptic is offline
  32. Old Comment
    Vjack's Avatar
    Ariel, I am sorry about making the unwarranted gender assumption. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Not cool.

    Skep tickle and others, I cannot begin to express how mad it makes me that something like this may have happened. This sort of thing cannot be tolerated no matter who does it or who is on the receiving end. What is the FtB response? Are they denying the allegations, claiming the doxxing was justified, ignoring it, what?
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 06:02 PM (18:02) by Vjack Vjack is offline
  33. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Just received now:


    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 06:55 PM (18:55) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  34. Old Comment
    I sent a link for this Open Letter directly to Atheist Ireland as well as CFI and a few other places. This despicable act needs to be shared with every atheist organization we can reach. It is good to see that more and more people in the community are starting to recognize that FtB is the problem.

    Gurdur - first time poster (just recently discovered your blog) but you did an excellent job on this. As noted above, I'm sharing the link to this post with as many people as I can.

    Vjack - FtB/OB/Svan are justifying the action by classifying Skep tickle as a dangerous harasser 'who deserved it'. In other words, they continue to redefine reality to suit their needs.
    Posted 03-Jun-2013 at 08:44 PM (20:44) by Zenspace
  35. Old Comment
    Hello again,

    “Ariel, I would love to sit down and talk with you face to face”

    Would be nice; I agree that personal contact can change a lot. It’s a pity that it’s not possible.

    Eliza, before formulating my thoughts, I will start with a short recapitulation of your main points, at least on my understanding of them.

    (1) You say that people who publicly put forth opinions may encounter disagreement, and disagreement is not harassment (the hidden message: only too often the two are confused).
    (2) You stress the tendency (presumably present on FtB) of automatic vilification for “not falling into line”. You “resent attempts to say that one MUST believe X or Y in order to be allowed in the atheist club or the good person club”.
    (3) In a somewhat similar vein, you say that “reasonable, relevant posts” are blocked and the commenters are banned. As I understand, your diagnosis is that it’s an attempt to promote dogma and to suppress skepticism and critical thinking.
    (4) You note the demonization and marginalization of the "other side" (your example: Setar’s comment). It’s for you especially troubling if done by “someone who is, or some people who are, also frequently conference speakers”.
    (5) You say that your opponents are indeed powerful and harmful. You indicate RL harm (actual or potential) posed to some people; your examples are Katie and Justin Vacula. In your own words, “a prominent person shouldn't be able to put other people at risk in real life and not be called out about it”.

    These are at least the main points which I have noticed. (Not your ordering, but since (5) seems to me particularly serious, I want to leave it for the end.) If I omitted something of crucial importance, it was not on purpose; in such a case please just say what it was.

    Now some comments. First of all, this will be an unabridged version. In particular, if someone is expecting from me an outright, incensed denial of all of this (because, you know, slyme pit!), then sorry, but it won’t happen. You are sometimes right. Nevertheless, you are (imo) wrong often enough. So let’s start.

    I think that (1) is a red herring and it seems to me that you still underestimate what Ophelia was saying. Perhaps I’ve added to the confusion myself when I said than a lot of the pitters’ comments look normal and reasonable. Ok, here is an explanation.

    As I see it, the issue is not disagreement, but *focus*. A person X writes a (reasonable and normal) comment disagreeing with a person Y. Fine. Then X writes the second, third … eleventh comment disagreeing with Y. Hmmm, also fine. Then X writes hundreds of comments – a mixture of (reasonable and normal) criticism, taunting and photoshopping, a huge series, which betrays X’s concentration on Y and his constant monitoring of Y’s activities. Is it also fine? How should one treat it, especially given the information that Y finds it awful and asks X to stop? And what if it’s not just a single X, but a whole group engaged in such a behavior? Eliza, in this context “disagreement” is really a red herring. It’s not about disagreement and criticism, even if many comments contain just that; even if many of them – taken individually – can be assessed as reasonable. It’s about focus. It’s about the pattern. I don’t really mind criticism, but I must say that I understand Ophelia. I wouldn’t want to have X monitoring me. It would probably end very badly for my state of mind. I don’t know how I could stand it. How about you?

    I think that (2) is correct. The vilification and dog piling is real, I saw it myself. I still read the OPs on Pharyngula, but I don’t read the comments any more. If you want to have here an FtB-er defending this, find someone else.

    I have mixed feelings about (3). If your complaint is that the pitters are banned, then you should take into consideration that the bloggers reject not so much your comments (because, disagreement!), as *you*. See my answer to (1). But I find your story about Atheism+ forum troublesome, hence the mixed feelings. I have never commented there and I don’t really know this forum. Seeing the citations you provided, I don’t know why they banned you.

    As for (4), yeah, demonization happens. And Setar’s comment was inflammatory, sure. I participated in those threads on Stephanie’s blog and I remember it well. It seems to me that I made even some remark about Setar. But please, if you can, don’t demonize Stephanie. It’s just too easy. Her situation was quite difficult. There was a strong opposition criticizing her for participating in the dialogue (yes Eliza, opposition on FtB!); there were also fears that admitting the pitters’ comments on her threads will radicalize the regular commenters (Stephanie wrote this somewhere quite explicitly. I say this from memory, but I can find the link if needed.) Starting a melee about an inflammatory comment in such a context? Sure, and good luck to everybody! As I see it, it’s not a black and white story. Please, don’t try to make it look as such.

    Ok, before I say something about (5), a few remarks. In my opinion (1)-(4), as reasons for not giving people a break, are very weak. Just to make you understand my perspective: as it happens, *the place* for me on FtB is Greta’s blog. It’s the first I found; it’s the first I usually check. And my “criminal record” on this blog is quite extensive. Quite often I have disagreed or even quarreled with Greta. She hasn’t banned me for this (yet! ) and I must say that I like both her and her blog. Now: if she bans me tomorrow for mere dissent (unrealistic given the past, but let’s assume it), I will be upset. Since I’m not an angel, I could indeed go to some other place crying havoc, making angry, snarky or taunting remarks. But that’s it. After that, finished. I wouldn’t become her shadow, I wouldn’t take a mission of criticizing and ridiculing her on a regular basis. The very idea seems outlandish to me and that's the reason why I find your war difficult to understand. Unless … yeah, unless I had a very strong reason. And this brings us to (5) at last.

    Harming people in RL is a serious matter. I’m not sure about your examples though.

    I read the thread on BW starting with Katie Graham’s request. Frankly, I don’t see there much of a reason to blame Ophelia. (Maybe it’s my weakness: I’m usually quick with charitable interpretations. But I will apply the same to you, I promise.) I don’t know much about Katie, but as I understand, Ophelia doesn’t trust her. Ophelia’s reaction was “I think you’re just staging this as yet another way to trigger yet more torrents of shit aimed at me.” Given her situation, I can understand this. It reveals only how troubled she is by what happens. And after additional explanations, she took it down (whatever it was – sorry, I don’t know much about Twitter). All of this didn’t take a long time. What’s the problem, really? Eliza, some charity, please. We all need it.

    As for Justin Vacula, I need time to educate myself since I know too little about him (yes, I noticed that he is a sort of a “public enemy”, but I don’t know full reasons). I read about the affair with Surly Amy's address and on the most charitable interpretation (remember my promise?) I would say that it was a very stupid thing to do. But since I’m not really ready to judge people by a single stupid thing they do, I need more time to form an opinion.

    Ok, it’s been long enough. Sorry for not answering to all the comments directed to me (and also to Eliza’s questions about the new thread on Stephanie’s blog), but I’m just one person, not the Horde, even if I look to you like one.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 01:21 AM (01:21) by Ariel
  36. Old Comment
    Thank you for your comments, Ariel. I don't expect you to answer everything I've said; I'm using this thread to download thoughts and concerns mostly related to the revelation of one's identity. There are other things that bug me (mostly inconsistency and even hypocrisy), but that's unlikely to harm anyone.

    Your 5-point list does capture my key concerns well, with a bit of clarification:

    I would overlay the whole list with a big-picture observation that this is occurring in a community of people whose common interests are some combination of atheism, freethought, skepticism, and humanism. The people whose behavior concerns me purport to be adherents of "freethought" and (in most but not all cases) "skepticism"; they are not infrequently the first contact of people new to the community, and are in positions in which a reasonable person might be expected to think they and their actions "represent" or "lead" the community (along with other prominent people in those roles, and as much as one can represent or lead atheists & skeptics).

    That means, at least among those who identify as skeptics, it's not "disagreement" that's a problem. In fact, "disagreement" is a pretty common, comfortable, and even desired state with skeptics, isn't it? As are "asking questions", "asking for clarification", and "asking for evidence", all of which seem to be discouraged (not allowed to see the light of day, not answered, not encouraged, and even seen as attacks) in certain company these days, rather than being seen as constructive steps in discussion and "argument" (the engaged, interesting, let's get to the meat of the matter kind, not the "fight" kind).

    If this community had pretty much any other mutual basis and focus, or had clearly distinct subgroups (skepticism, atheism, humanism, freethinkers, etc) which never interacted with each other, I wouldn't be bothering to pursue this. If I had stepped into an online community of people who considered themselves "atheists" but clearly eschewed skepticism and freethought, I would move right along, perhaps thinking "Hunh, that's weird. Oh well, not for me."

    I need to catch up at work so it may take me a couple of days to reply in more detail than what I've jotted here. If others wish to post their thoughts, they are welcome (calm and reasonable preferred, by me at least). I do want to take this opportunity to mention 1 correction and 1 update:

    1) I described the hospital where I work as "the tertiary and quarternary hospital" in a multi-state region. That was a mistake born of trying to get thoughts & explanation quickly; there are many other "tertiary hospitals" in the region (a hospital IS tertiary care). We're one of the few quarternary hospitals, and the one that's a referral destination for people with certain advanced or unusual conditions.

    2) It appears that in one comment at Ms Benson's blog (which mentions how it's concerning that I might work with domestic violence victims and that even Ted Bundy did charitable work; see quote below) and in the post on "Ethics of Unmasking" at Ms Zvan's blog (in which the discussion of unmasking of bad guys starts with how important it is to "unmask" serial killers), there may be some attempt - from a distance of deniability - to compare me with serial killers.

    I had brushed this off at first, seeing these mentions as very extreme examples from within the large group of people who might be considered harassers, but several people have now pointed out to me that this also caught their eye.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pteryxx
    Quote:
    And, seriously, if Skep Tickle/skeptixx does indeed work with victims of domestic violence,
    …okay, that’s a horrifying thought.

    for what it’s worth, there’s precedent for various kinds of abusers working with victims, or children, or other vulnerable populations while convincing themselves that abuse they themselves commit doesn’t really count. They may not even be the predators seeking easy access to potential victims, either; some folks can defend their own clients and peers wholeheartedly against other abusers and go home with a clear conscience to their own personal victims.

    from Blain Nelson’s pages on abuse:
    Quote:
    “Man, he really treats his wife like crap. I never call my wife a slut like he does. I never call her anything worse than a bitch. And I never swear when I’m yelling. Boy, he’s really out of control. I’m glad I’m not like him. I wonder why she puts up with him.”
    See also Ted Bundy’s service as a suicide hotline volunteer, for a famous example.
    I don't know whether or not Pteryxx and/or Ms Zvan intended to draw clear parallels between me and a serial killer, but even raising it as a similarity seems really beyond the pale - much worse than people using rude words or tone. "There’s precedent for various kinds of abusers [like Skep tickle/skeptixx, it's implied] working with victims, or children, or other vulnerable populations while convincing themselves that abuse they themselves commit doesn’t really count...see...Ted Bundy's service as a...volunteer, for a famous example."

    This would all be laughable except that it's actually happening.

    For clarification in case it matters to anyone, my clinical work is not specifically with victims of intimate partner violence (IPV), though some of my patients over the years have been in abusive situations. It's in my role as medical director of a women's clinic that I help coordinate the clinic's resources for and approach to IPV.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 05:50 AM (05:50) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
    Updated 04-Jun-2013 at 06:42 AM (06:42) by Skep tickle (couple of typos, word omission & word choice)
  37. Old Comment

    Rape culture

    Myers is a truly repulsive character. It was a meme of his blogs since August 2010 to allude to anal rape by rusty porcupine. "Where’s my rusty porcupine?" he jokes(1) whilst referring to Martin Rees being awarded the Templeton Prize. So keen is Myers on anal rape threats that between August 2011 and August 2012 the official commenting policy of his blog said this(2):

    "Don’t waste time whining at anyone that they’re not nice, because this gang will take pride in that and rhetorically hand you a rotting porcupine and tell you to stuff it up your nether orifice."

    An endorsement to anal rape culture which his commentators accepted with vigour. A blogger by the name of Skepsheik has catalogued(3) the violent sexual imagery which Myers found suitable to remain unmoderated on his blogs.

    Myers has never apologised for his disgusting behaviour. However even he has realised how unsustainalbe his position is, and his revised commenting policy(4) now says:

    "Threats of any kind of physical violence are forbidden."

    Myers claims to be feminist. Which branch of feminism condones rape culture? Myers associates with many others who are feminists and skeptics, why do they give his repulsive behaviour of using violent sexual imagery a free ride?

    Myers has been fêted by humanist, skeptical and atheist organisations with awards and speaking engagements. Why do these organisations honour a man who is unrepentent about his love of rape culture and making threats to those he does not like?



    1 truth-isnt-reached-by-dissembl/
    2 pharyngula-standards-practices/comment-page-1
    3 the-pz-myers-guide-to-violent-sexual.html
    (Skepsheik has not included links back to the original comments, but the sample of comments I checked were found to be sound)
    4 the-new-rules/
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 07:33 AM (07:33) by Pogsurf
    Updated 04-Jun-2013 at 04:01 PM (16:01) by Gurdur (to fix links. A comment by Pogsurf)
  38. Old Comment
    Thank you for this excellent post ... I really hope Michael replies to this as I have been disappointed with his failure to deal with the behavior of some of the prominent FTB bloggers when pointed out to him ( particularly as they are booked to appear at a conference organised by him ).

    Thank you for the tone of your work.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 12:52 PM (12:52) by Cian
  39. Old Comment
    Ariel, you say:

    "As I see it, the issue is not disagreement, but *focus*. A person X writes a (reasonable and normal) comment disagreeing with a person Y. Fine. Then X writes the second, third … eleventh comment disagreeing with Y. Hmmm, also fine. Then X writes hundreds of comments – a mixture of (reasonable and normal) criticism, taunting and photoshopping, a huge series, which betrays X’s concentration on Y and his constant monitoring of Y’s activities. Is it also fine? How should one treat it, especially given the information that Y finds it awful and asks X to stop? And what if it’s not just a single X, but a whole group engaged in such a behavior? Eliza, in this context “disagreement” is really a red herring. It’s not about disagreement and criticism, even if many comments contain just that; even if many of them – taken individually – can be assessed as reasonable. It’s about focus. It’s about the pattern. I don’t really mind criticism, but I must say that I understand Ophelia. I wouldn’t want to have X monitoring me. It would probably end very badly for my state of mind. I don’t know how I could stand it. How about you?"

    However, that's kind of a strawman. First, almost no one amongst the "antis", or possibly "SPs", unless they start making fake IDs, is commenting on Ophelia's site. She actively moderates and bans people, as do Pz, Greta, and the rest of that core group. So the number of people successfully commenting on Ophelia's site from the SPs is quite low.

    Should they be even attempting to comment? Well, I don't know, but I can understand why they would. When you have PZ slagging, (and that is the only word for it) everyone who doesn't agree lockstep with *his* version of feminism, and Ophelia allowing people in her commentariat to:

    1) Threaten people with violence if a "bad" word is used, specifically Julian's "if you call me a spic, I'll snap your neck". That one not getting any kind of a reaction other than 'tut-tut' is especially hypocritical given Ophelia's multi-year freakout over Franc Hoggles VERY similar comment.

    2) Offer to dox people so they can vandalize their property as part of an intimidation campaign, aka the 'maybe if they start seeing blue butterflies spray-painted on their driveway, they'll back off' schtick.

    3) Compare members of the pit, in all seriousness, with serial killers.

    I can see why someone might wish to defend themselves. I'm not among that group, I have no more hope for any form of dialogue with Ophelia et al that doesn't involve everyone bowing and scraping to her than I do an in-depth discussion of various computer programming topics with my cat. It's a fun mental 'what if' exercise, but in real life? Not happening.

    Secondly, there are actually a lot of people in the pit who don't engage them directly. We don't @-message them on twitter, we don't send them email, we don't try to sneak in comments. What is our "great crime", the one that even you talk about? We sometimes read her blog posts, (although I've stopped even that. Outside of Ally Fogg and Aron Ra, there's no one at FTB doing anything I'd classify as "thought" of any kind. Reactions, yes. Responses, occasionally), and we make comments on a web site or web sites that she is perfectly able to *not read*. In fact, that's one of the refrains from FTB: don't like what we say, *don't read our site*.

    Again, why does that advice never apply to them? Ophelia complains about being "monitored" when it's pathetically obvious that she is monitoring the HELL out of the 'pit and various people's public twitter and FB accounts. She's not the only one mind you, but there are days when the time between a comment in the 'pit and a post on FTB is measured in hours. Not days. Not weeks. Hours.

    If she wishes to complain about monitoring, perhaps she should do less of it herself. But then, applying their own rules to their own behavior is not something they're real good at.

    "I have mixed feelings about (3). If your complaint is that the pitters are banned, then you should take into consideration that the bloggers reject not so much your comments (because, disagreement!), as *you*. See my answer to (1). But I find your story about Atheism+ forum troublesome, hence the mixed feelings. I have never commented there and I don’t really know this forum. Seeing the citations you provided, I don’t know why they banned you. "

    Of course they ban the person. Because if they don't, there's a chance that person might turn out not to be the demonized other image they have created of them. There's a lot of othering going on at FTB.

    "As for (4), yeah, demonization happens. And Setar’s comment was inflammatory, sure. I participated in those threads on Stephanie’s blog and I remember it well. It seems to me that I made even some remark about Setar. But please, if you can, don’t demonize Stephanie. It’s just too easy. Her situation was quite difficult. There was a strong opposition criticizing her for participating in the dialogue (yes Eliza, opposition on FtB!); there were also fears that admitting the pitters’ comments on her threads will radicalize the regular commenters (Stephanie wrote this somewhere quite explicitly. I say this from memory, but I can find the link if needed.) Starting a melee about an inflammatory comment in such a context? Sure, and good luck to everybody! As I see it, it’s not a black and white story. Please, don’t try to make it look as such."

    Wait, so now we are responsible for zvan's regular commentariat behavior? That if allowed to actually defend ourselves, THEY might react poorly? Oh dear lord. That's exactly like arguments against equal rights for {insert minority group here} being a bad idea because those racists over there would get upset, and then we'd have a problem.

    And given how much Zvan demonizes all the SPs in the 'pit, i'd say that asking people to not demonize her is weak. If she dislikes demonization, she should cease doing it herself. Heck, fairly recently, she and the Canuck once *again* took it on themselves to slag Justin Griffith for publicizing Laden's threats against him, because he clearly "missed the point" that greg was trying to "patton slap" him back into proper thinking. Justin's crime? He refused to demonize Abbie Smith.

    I have little concern for Zvan's feelings about demonizing people when she so gleefully and enthusiastically does so herself. It's actually quite black and white. If you don't like being demonized, don't demonize others.

    "Ok, before I say something about (5), a few remarks. In my opinion (1)-(4), as reasons for not giving people a break, are very weak. Just to make you understand my perspective: as it happens, *the place* for me on FtB is Greta’s blog. It’s the first I found; it’s the first I usually check. And my “criminal record” on this blog is quite extensive. Quite often I have disagreed or even quarreled with Greta. She hasn’t banned me for this (yet! ) and I must say that I like both her and her blog. Now: if she bans me tomorrow for mere dissent (unrealistic given the past, but let’s assume it), I will be upset. Since I’m not an angel, I could indeed go to some other place crying havoc, making angry, snarky or taunting remarks. But that’s it. After that, finished. I wouldn’t become her shadow, I wouldn’t take a mission of criticizing and ridiculing her on a regular basis. The very idea seems outlandish to me and that's the reason why I find your war difficult to understand. Unless … yeah, unless I had a very strong reason. And this brings us to (5) at last. "

    One time, I made a single comment that was actually something of a defense of another FTB blogger on greta's site. It took less than ten minutes for her commentariat to tell on me to mom that I was a big mean poopyhead on other sites and so I was banned. Not for my comment on Greta's site, but for my comments on other sites.

    Many people find rape, or even rape fantasies extremely triggering. Would you support them banning Greta from their sites solely because she's written books that contain rape fantasy? I kind of doubt you would. You might *understand* it, but you wouldn't *support* it. So why do you support Greta's similar behavior? Do forgive me if my impression of her intellectual and ethical standards is somewhat less than yours.

    I think I am safe in saying 99% of the 'pit's objections to the FTB core crowd/Skepchicks/et al is based on two things:

    1) The *massive* zero sum thinking they not only engage in themselves, (THERE IS ONLY ONE CORRECT OPINION), but *require* everyone else to engage in.

    2) Their continual hypocrisy in demanding standards of behavior from others that they refuse to impose upon themselves.

    Until they start dealing with those two issues themselves, actual communication with them is impossible. you can't dialogue with people who operate like that.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 03:39 PM (15:39) by Unregistered
  40. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    I've let through one comment which was right on the borderline, and am uncertain as to whether I should have. Again, I stress I will not let through any empty name-calling. Also: four comments so far have not been let through, but in each case of those four I contacted the poster personally, and offered to discuss the matter with them, and how to redo the comment. I also offered them a copy of their comments, in case they had not saved a copy.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 04:07 PM (16:07) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  41. Old Comment

    I support Skep Tickle

    I'm sorry that I'm coming to this conversation so late. When I first heard about the kerfuffle, I wanted to stay out of it because saying anything would have completely doxxed Skep Tickle. But, as the cat is now out of the bag, I feel I can speak freely.

    First off, I want to say how powerfully grateful I am to have Skep Tickle on the board of Seattle Atheists. She didn't want to run for office but I'm glad we were able to talk her into it because we are better off thanks to her work. She is a thoughtful and diligent skeptic. She's been vaccinated against fallacies and can see things from all sides. She is willing to listen to criticism of her ideas and can to admit when she's wrong (provided you actually manage to prove her wrong.)

    At this moment in Seattle Atheists' history, the organization's work is wrapped heavily around revamping our administrational infrastructure (developing our code of conduct, money handling policy, volunteer training, changing how we process memberships, etc). It's all very dry and tedious stuff but ever so crucial for the longevity of our organization and health of our community. Skep Tickle was particularly instrumental in developing our Code of Conduct (http://www.seattleatheists.org/wordp...uct-Policy.pdf) and I want to thank her again publically for all that she does. Thank you, Skep Tickle. I am grateful and honored to work with you.

    Being fallible and open to criticism is so important! None of us, not me, not Dawkins, not Benson, not Watson, not PZ, not Thunderf00t, should ever think they're above being called out on their bullshit. And right now, Ophelia needs to be called out on her bullying behavior. Not only did she dox Skep Tickle, Ophelia used embarrassing ad hominems to glaze over Skep Tickle's very fair critiques. Even more worrisome than that, if Skep Tickle's statement about how Butterflies and Wheels' comment moderation works is true, Ophelia is actually cultivating a culture of antagonism on her blog. And that brakes my heart. It kills me when people who should be allies are divided over issues that could be resolved over a cup of tea or a pint. We have so much work to do for the atheist movement and atheist community and it's so hard to see my allies fighting with each other.

    I don't mean to minimize the bullying Ophelia Benson has experienced and I understand how endless harassment can make someone raw and extremely sensitive to criticism. I hope, though, that she can see that Skep Tickle was trying to have a real conversation with her and not trying to be a bully or harasser.

    I know some people will likely not listen to what I have to say here. They'll call me a tool or a sock puppet or the like. But some of you will. Some of you reading this are just as frustrated as I am over all of this bickering, with one or both sides talking past each other. I know it may seem like us calm-thoughtful people are out numbered, but we are not. We're just not the type to flood comment threads with knee-jerk reactions. But know that you're not alone. Know that there are LOTS of atheists and skeptics who want to work to make the world a better place. You're a part of a larger community who is out there doing good in their communities. Don't give up!

    Ericka M. Johnson
    President
    Seattle Atheists

    P.S. If you'd like to reach me privately to make comment, give criticism, offer suggests or ask questions, you can reach me at ericka at seattleatheists dot org.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 07:01 PM (19:01) by ErickaMJohnson
  42. Old Comment

    Moderation Policy

    Gurdur,

    I understand that you wish to keep the focus on the issues and avoid "empty name-calling." A number of commenters are from the pyt and therefore are unused to such standards, but are likely willing to abide under the theory of "your blog, your rules."

    It might help if you were to be a bit more explicit about what you will and will not allow. I understand that you blocked at least on post for using a diminutive that you thought had a disparaging connotation, I would not have made that connection. One poster appears to be complaining in the pyt that his namecalling wasnt "empty," by which I take him to mean without purpose.

    Your blog, your rules, but you appear to be developing some frustration that not everyone is abiding by those rules. In some cases, that may not be intentional. The more explicit you are in stating the rules, the more likely that others will follow them.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 07:09 PM (19:09) by Dave
  43. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    Moderation Policy

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dave View Comment
    Gurdur,
    I understand that you wish to keep the focus on the issues and avoid "empty name-calling." A number of commenters are from the pyt and therefore are unused to such standards, but are likely willing to abide under the theory of "your blog, your rules."
    Dave, what I note is flames at me elsewhere for having any rules at all. To say they are willing to abide by the rules seems only true for two people, neither of whom have complained; for three more, not at all.

    Quote:
    It might help if you were to be a bit more explicit about what you will and will not allow. I understand that you blocked at least on post for using a diminutive that you thought had a disparaging connotation, I would not have made that connection. One poster appears to be complaining in the pyt that his namecalling wasnt "empty," by which I take him to mean without purpose. ....
    It can hardly get any more explicit than "no empty name-calling". I note in at least one comment not let through the use of a peculiar dimunitive was in fact intended to be offensive, so I think people do get the idea, no? That they disagree with it is not my problem. The rule is very clear; offensively-meant dimunitives are out, and to be on the safe side, commentators should stick with a commonly-accepted form of a person's name -- the full name, surname, first name in full, Twitter handle, or net-pseudonym in full of the person under discussion by the commentator.

    None of this is controversial nor difficult; and all those whom have had their comments not let through have been offered a copy of the comment in question, in case they had no copy themselves, and offered the chance and assistance to rewrite the comment.

    Or, in other words, I've really gone out of my way to contact the commentators in question, to be helpful to them, which is way more than usual on the net. The rules are far more explicit and have been made far more explicit in each case than you seem to see. What makes me frustrated is that a couple, despite all help offered, do not wish to accept the rules as such -- at all. But in the end, this really is not my problem. It is theirs.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 07:48 PM (19:48) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
    Updated 04-Jun-2013 at 07:57 PM (19:57) by Gurdur
  44. Old Comment

    When to stop and what to stop

    I frequently get acused of trolling on peoples blogs, because I have a very direct style of making an argument, and many people are very sensitive about having their beliefs, ideas and arguments challenged. I usually ignore acusations of trolling; I'm not even sure the word has an unambiguous meaning.

    However I try to make it a rule that if I receive a direct instruction to stop commenting on a blog, to stop emailling or contacting by twitter, I stop. PZ Myers lacks the social skills to put it politely, but I am even happy to honour his recent crudely put request to "fuck off and never bother me again". According to UK law at least, I could put myself at the wrong side of harrassment legislation if I continued to contact him directly.

    I am utterly free to continue to read his blog. How could he possibly know if I am doing this? If he puts stuff into the public arena (ie published worldwide on the internet) how can he possibly complain if people read it? Benson's argument that the reading (or using the more sinister sounding verb "monitoring") of her blog by someone she dislikes as harrassment is just plain bonkers.

    However I am perfectly free to comment on Myers' actions and behaviours in whatever forum I choose. Short of injuncting me, or suing me for libel, Myers has no redress except to face the arguments I might produce, or to ignore them. Humour, sarcasm, satire and other forms of wit all have their place in spreading ideas, but in this case I think Myers has made a serious error of judgement and I find plain English is therefore the most effective way to put my point across.
    Posted 04-Jun-2013 at 09:44 PM (21:44) by Pogsurf
  45. Old Comment
    "there are actually a lot of people in the pit who don't engage them directly. We don't @-message them on twitter, we don't send them email, we don't try to sneak in comments. What is our "great crime", the one that even you talk about? (…) we make comments on a web site or web sites that she is perfectly able to *not read*. In fact, that's one of the refrains from FTB: don't like what we say, *don't read our site*. Again, why does that advice never apply to them? Ophelia complains about being "monitored" when it's pathetically obvious that she is monitoring the HELL out of the 'pit and various people's public twitter and FB accounts."

    Dear Unregistered,

    I don’t see the pit as a uniform mass (confusing Eliza with Welch and Welch with Franc Hoggle? Never in my life!!!). I understand that you are different. Nevertheless, be honest: there is hardly a day without mentioning Ophelia, PZ or RW. That’s the focus and one would have to be blind not to see it.

    As for “great crime”, there are – as you observed yourself later in your comment – too many big words on both sides and I’m not planning to fall into this. I also don’t have much patience with refrains and ‘gotcha’ strategies. Please try it with someone else. And as far as I’m concerned, feel free to read whatever you want.

    I guess that in the end the message is: the people you are targeting are also different. Some of them may be strong; others may find it difficult to distance themselves emotionally from what happens. It doesn't have to be vanity or narcissim; it's rather that sometimes the distance is really hard to find. And it simply seems to me that noticing this and acting on this could make the world a slightly better place.

    But of course it won’t happen. It's war and as you say, communication is not possible. I know; I’m not that naïve.

    Good night
    Posted 05-Jun-2013 at 01:22 AM (01:22) by Ariel
  46. Old Comment

    monitoring is hell

    "I don’t see the pit as a uniform mass (confusing Eliza with Welch and Welch with Franc Hoggle? Never in my life!!!). I understand that you are different. Nevertheless, be honest: there is hardly a day without mentioning Ophelia, PZ or RW. That’s the focus and one would have to be blind not to see it. "

    that is not the point. they of course get mentioned. but the previous unregistered (...) was specifically pointing out that the comments would not be seen if THEY were not being specifically monitored. who cares if someone is slagging someone else if its going on in 'that house over there, behind closed doors, but with a window open?' you already dont like that house or the occupants, you think the lawn is untended the siding is falling off, the pets unruly, and the place stinks.
    and yet--you sneak onto the property to eavesdrop. you pay close attention to which friends visit and listen to what they say when coming an going. your friends follow those cars and listen from outside the window while youre sleeping, and cant wait to tell you what horrible things others are saying about you from inside their house, and you then yell at them from down the block and hang signs around the neighborhood calling attention to it. you ring the doorbells of five other neighbors and badger them about how horrible it is that one of your friends listened ALL NIGHT at their window and took COPIOUS NOTES about every slur and slight and you were FORCED TO LISTEN to all of this and they should ALL SHARE your personal outrage and host a block party to specifically not invite THOSE PEOPLE who never show up to them anyway.

    for the love all that is double-blinded WHY??

    if anyone around ophelia is guilty of harassment it is her commetariat who hunts down and searches for every scrap out there for her to take offense at, and ophelia herself for never once telling them 'i do not care in the slightest what they have to say, stop linking to them' and indeed constantly--CONSTANTLY engaging them. and occasionally doxxing bystanders. because no matter what you think of this first part and the extended circumstance, it has no real connection and certainly no justification over her actions towards skep tickle.
    Posted 05-Jun-2013 at 02:18 AM (02:18) by Different Unregistered
    Updated 05-Jun-2013 at 02:24 AM (02:24) by Gurdur (A bit redacted. At the request of whomever it was who posted this.)
  47. Old Comment
    Welch here. (the reg. setup in this comment engine is somewhat suboptimal)

    "I don’t see the pit as a uniform mass (confusing Eliza with Welch and Welch with Franc Hoggle? Never in my life!!!). I understand that you are different. Nevertheless, be honest: there is hardly a day without mentioning Ophelia, PZ or RW. That’s the focus and one would have to be blind not to see it. "

    Yes, compared to all the days and weeks and months on FTB without even the slightest mention of the pit. Nor is it specifically mentioned in comment policies.

    That, by the way, was sarcasm. It is rather difficult to take Ophelia's, or rather anyone at FTB seriously when they do the *exact* same thing they excoriate others for. I mean, seriously, as someone said, it's like listening at my kitchen window and complaining that I said unkind things about you. if you hadn't been on my property, eavesdropping, you'd have not heard any of it. However, that's a really bad analogy, given the nature of a public blog. It's more like complaining that I drive down the road your billboard is on and read it every day, then go home and bag on it with my wife, with the only reason you know this being because you drive by MY billboard thrice daily and read it, even though there's no other reason for you to be on that road.

    If Ophelia is THAT bothered by the pit, why. does. she. monitor. it. so. closely?

    Why *especially* does she monitor it so closely when one of her primary complaints is?

    That the pit is "monitoring her". How? *by reading her website*. I mean come on, at some point, I start to get tired of figuring out adjectives to modify hypocrisy. I've a decent vocabulary, but it has limits. Ophelia, and to be accurate, the entire core FTB crowd spend a *lot* of time monitoring everything said in the 'pit. I'm pretty sure were I to come up with a brand new way to deliberately misspell her name in an insulting manner, she'd be in arms about it within a fortnight. Probably by day's end.

    Why should I take her complaints about me seriously at all when she monitors my words FAR more than I monitor hers?

    "I guess that in the end the message is: the people you are targeting are also different. Some of them may be strong; others may find it difficult to distance themselves emotionally from what happens. It doesn't have to be vanity or narcissim; it's rather that sometimes the distance is really hard to find. And it simply seems to me that noticing this and acting on this could make the world a slightly better place. "

    Being charitable, and taking her distress at the pit at face value, why can she not stop obsessively monitoring it. I'm quite sure that were she to stop for a week, a month...heck, *today*, she'd feel noticeably better. I don't know what the vast majority of people who know me or know of me say about me, for good or ill. It's quite simple: I don't look for it.

    People may be saying kind things, they may be saying horrible things, but I'm not going to spend any amount of time caring. The people whose opinions I DO care about, I know what they think, we talk, regularly. Why does my opinion of Ophelia, for good OR ill matter to her in the least?

    That is what I cannot understand. It's like the joke about the dumb guy who gets a job at the sawmill, and is told "don't touch the blade, it'll cut your finger right off."

    Not being the smartest lad, he of course, sticks his finger in the blade, and ZING! Off it goes. He starts screaming and hollering, and the other folks in the lumber yard come running in and ask what happened.

    He says "I was just seeing what happened when you touched the saw blade, and THERE IT HAPPENED AGAIN!!!"

    at some point, *ophelia* has to take some action to not read the 'pit every day. Demanding over 600 people who aren't her change their behavior to suit her is has not worked, is not working, nor is it *going* to work. Maybe she should take her own advice and, if it upsets her so, stop reading it?

    "But of course it won’t happen. It's war and as you say, communication is not possible. I know; I’m not that naïve. "

    She doesn't seem to want an end to the war as much as she wants people to stop returning fire. There's a difference.
    Posted 05-Jun-2013 at 03:37 AM (03:37) by Unregistered
  48. Old Comment
    A thousand thank yous to all the people who have expressed support and shared their own experiences and concerns, and especially to Tim for this Open Letter and all of his efforts to raise awareness of the deep problems in the A/S community.

    Regarding moderation & empty name-calling: It's hard to go wrong if you refer to each person by the name(s) she or he has chosen to be known by.
    Posted 05-Jun-2013 at 03:39 AM (03:39) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
  49. Old Comment

    on not giving people a break

    Quote:
    I appreciate that it may look like I’ve targeted Ophelia Benson, and that I should have just given her a break. See my post right after Gurdur’s OP above regarding my concerns about the very real potential for actual RL harm posed to Katie (risk of family violence) and Justin Vacula (claim of illegal behavior, could affect his reputation) based directly on Ophelia Benson’s actions and words on her (prominent) blog. That’s why I pressed on.
    This reminds me of some similar sentiments from some time ago:

    Quote:
    From this far away, it could look as if I planned and intended all this. It could look as if I set out to goad Mooney into banning me and thus looking like someone who bans reasonable dissent from his blog. But I didn’t. I asked my questions repeatedly, but I always thought Mooney would answer them. Each time, I thought (however fatuously) “this time he’ll answer.” I didn’t intentionally set him up. What happened to him is not my fault. I bother to say that because one or two people who used to be friends of mine think it is. They’re mistaken.
    Posted 05-Jun-2013 at 01:01 PM (13:01) by windy
  50. Old Comment
    Hi Tim, Skep Tickle, and all other posters.

    I was a bit hesitant about posting a comment here, since I have interacted with Michael before, as well as most of the other commenters on this thread (save Ariel, hello), and wouldn't see the point in jumping in. Maybe now I'm starting to see that point.

    I would just like to voice my support to Skep Tickle and my disgust at the so-called "other side" actions. Skep (if I may be allowed the shortening) has been polite at all times and has provided nothing other than honest criticism. Whatever justifications presented for her doxxing are nothing short of bullying.

    Hang in there Skep!
    Posted 05-Jun-2013 at 01:10 PM (13:10) by Unregistered
  51. Old Comment
    Quote:
    Skep (if I may be allowed the shortening) has been polite at all times and has provided nothing other than honest criticism. Whatever justifications presented for her doxxing are nothing short of bullying.
    I try to be polite & calm, but (a) sometimes anger or irritation or frustration gets the better of me, and (b) sometimes "polite" can't get a word in edgewise.

    Many of my posts at Freethought blogs, particularly those that got through moderation at Almost Diamonds and Butterflies and Wheels, were not polite, whether snarky, sarcastic, or otherwise rude. I think that's quite clear (understanding that there's some individual variation in what might be considered polite or not, and context can matter).

    But I was and am not willing to sit back and see other people treated so badly directly by, and/or with the encouragement of, people who are seen as being among the celebrities if not leaders of the A/S community.

    Besides which, a simple comment policy could go a long way toward alleviating much of this. Just imagine how much of this could be prevented if it were clearer at FtB (and Skepchick) what's acceptable and what's not; what will be allowed through moderation (with some degree of consistency) and what won't; and when you are no longer welcome to continue trying to participate based on the examples of your prior submissions to the moderator-blogger, with a clear message sent in the latter case rather than what seems (on some blogs there) almost like behavioral conditioning to encourage progressively ruder behavior from those who would pose questions or different opinions, and who see any reason to try to keep participating (in the absence of a clear message that they're not allowed to participate).

    I received a request yesterday to locate examples of posts not allowed through moderation by Ophelia Benson at FtB, made a list of links, and will consider whether & how it might be made available for those who haven't personally experienced of this phenomenon. (It's a list of links to Slyme pit posts, since that's been the place I know of that has served as a repository of any documentation of this type of thing, so out of courtesy and in light of Tim's expressed preference I won't try to link those posts here directly.)
    Posted 05-Jun-2013 at 10:19 PM (22:19) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
  52. Old Comment

    Moderation limbo is not a fluke, it's SOP

    In support of Skep Tickle's and others' claims of having reasonable comments unreasonably moderated, I hope Gurdur doesn't mind this one link to where I've previously documented *yet another* example of the unreasonable standards of moderation which result in 'moderation limbo' for reasonable, polite posts which nevertheless calmly poke holes in the accepted narrative of 'harassment'. This is the only place I thought to document it at the time, so I don't have another link handy as an alternative. Apologies in advance: SlymePit link - enter at own risk

    As you can see, the slightest misunderstanding (and it is so *obviously* a misunderstanding on the part of Zvan, there can be no doubt, you just have to read it to see where she misinterpreted what I said) is seen as grounds for 'mod limbo'. This kind of reaction to dissent is so over-the-top, that *no reasonable dissent* can take place on her blog under those conditions. This is not some fluke that is the 'exception', this is standard operating procedure at certain blogs and sites (in this case Zvan's, though there are plenty of examples from many others, largely under FTB domain name).

    Zvan is free to run her blog however she likes. And I'm free to criticize how she runs it. If she exercises her freedom to run her blog dogmatically, then I'll exercise my right to point out that that is the case. That's how it works. If we are all skeptics and rational, evidence-based reasoners, then the accumulation of evidence like this will eventually (eventually! It's taking longer than I ever thought it would!) bring people to the truth: Many so-called skeptic/freethought people in our wider community are not really thinking like skeptics and free-thinkers when it comes to certain, particular subjects which appear to irritate their cognitive dissonance about certain beliefs they have. In this case, the belief that all members of the slymepit.com forum are 'freaks', harassers, stalkers, etc.

    In particular, I showed up on the thread to confront that false belief and present myself as a counter-example. By implication, I was accused of 'defending', 'enabling', and 'supporting' bullying and harassment, when I've done no such thing.

    The result? The false accusations stand, my own defense has been censored from Zvan's blog (where the accusations stand, to repeat the obvious), she puts me in mod limbo, and *yet more* false accusations are made about me and others by commenters whom *apparently*, Zvan is perfectly happy to host and represent. Since she didn't put their comments in moderation, but did put mine, why *shouldn't* we come to that conclusion? She agrees with what she lets be through and disagrees with what's not. And two of my reasonable posts, defending myself from false accusations, she obviously does not. So, there ya go.

    My example is relatively mild, it's just the latest one I've taken the time to thoroughly document. This happens all the time on a regular basis, however, and there are many more documented examples. It is *not* any kind of a fluke. It's been going on for *years* now. Indeed, it's the very thing that triggered my bullshit detector early on, alerting me that the 'Elevator Gate' debacle was much wider in scope than I'd thought until that point. It turns out this rabbit hole is deep, very very deep.

    That is the state of the world at certain FTB et al blogs. That's the reality. Please, people, Ariel, Nugent, everyone, ... wake up to that reality. This is not free-thought. This is not skepticism. It's the opposite. I have no other word for it than dogma. If you can provide a better word that describes what I'm talking about, then please propose it and if it's better, I'll use it instead. Until then, I'll call it dogma.

    (And now I'll disappear again for another while, only to pop up again at yet another inconvenient moment...)
    Posted 06-Jun-2013 at 01:44 AM (01:44) by Thaumas Themelios
    Updated 06-Jun-2013 at 02:31 AM (02:31) by Gurdur (editing a link.)
  53. Old Comment

    Clarification about Katie's tweets at Butterflies and Wheels

    I just came across Katie's post at her blog seeking to correct people's impressions of her recent experience at Butterflies and Wheels, which as it turns out includes my impression. I'd like to point people to it as I was the one who mentioned her in this thread as someone whose situation at B&W concerned me quite a bit.

    I had been going by what I'd seen in a quick scan through a mega-thread at B&W, which included the posts Katie had screencapped and posted here on May 25: Ophelia Benson and Twitter

    I had been struck in particular by one post at B&W which I interpreted as pleading with a tone of desperation from Katie, where the response by Ophelia Benson seemed to pose a condition for doing as Katie asked with her information.

    Today I noticed 2 subsequent posts at Katie's blog.

    She and Ophelia Benson apparently reached an agreement, as on May 26 Katie posted: Update
    Quote:
    Ophelia Benson agreed to take down the pictures of my tweets. I thanked her and am moving on.
    On May 29th, with an update on June 5th, Katie posted this: Please get your facts straight

    Including (links not carried over from original):
    Quote:
    Ophelia’s breakdown of my story was accurate and in the comments of her “Documenting Harassment” post, I thanked her for taking the screencap down. My issue with that screencap was that I wanted to be assured I could control what content from my twitter goes on the larger internet. I don’t think this means I shouldn’t blog or should start using a pseudonym.

    My name is already out there, my mom already knows it, she already has plenty of personal information about me including my address. I’m actually pretty lucky that my mom doesn’t really know shit about the internet. I almost doubt she’s even found this blog.

    I wasn’t afraid Ophelia was tipping my mom off. I just wanted to have as much control as possible and allowing screencaps of my tweets that occurred very close to when I blocked my mom and went private gave me cause to worry I wouldn’t have that control.
    Quote:
    If anyone can provide links to this doxxing thing, please feel free to do so in the comments. In the meantime, please don’t drag my exchange with Ophelia into it because Ophelia ended up doing the right thing and I’m grateful to her for that. Don’t put me in a position to defend a person I have strongly criticized. My ego doesn’t like it.
    So having not seen that until now, Katie, I apologize for having dragged your exchange with Ophelia into it, and Ophelia I apologize if I significantly misinterpreted this exchange and made unwarranted assumptions about your actions and her safety.

    (The exchange 'capped in Katie's post from May 25 still looks concerning to me, but the two of them of course know more about what went on before and after that snippet, including its context.)

    __________________
    __________________

    Skep tickle's comment here edited by Gurdur only to add this bit of info:

    this is the end of the first page of comments. To see more comments, please go to this second page of comments here, or use the "Archives" links at top and bottom of the Comments section to the same end.
    Posted 06-Jun-2013 at 05:55 AM (05:55) by Skep tickle Skep tickle is offline
    Updated 07-Jun-2013 at 08:01 AM (08:01) by Gurdur
  54. Old Comment

    Speaking up for Skepticklie IRL

    Just a quick note to say that my friend, skeptickle, has been upset by this ordeal and I want to stand up as a friend of hers to say that you cannot imagine the kindness this woman possesses. She has, to my direct knowledge, helped MANY members of our local community both professionally and personally and it pains me that people would question her ethics as I consider her to be one of the most ethical people I know.
    Posted 07-Jun-2013 at 07:44 AM (07:44) by Unregistered
  55. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    Speaking up for Skepticklie IRL

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Unregistered View Comment
    Just a quick note to say that my friend, skeptickle, has been upset by this ordeal and I want to stand up as a friend of hers to say that you cannot imagine the kindness this woman possesses. She has, to my direct knowledge, helped MANY members of our local community both professionally and personally and it pains me that people would question her ethics as I consider her to be one of the most ethical people I know.
    That's good, and appropriate, though it might help if you gave a name of some kind?
    Posted 07-Jun-2013 at 07:49 AM (07:49) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  56. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    This is the second page of comments. To see the first 50 comments, please see this page of comments here or use the "Archves" links below and above.

    Michael Nugent has now written a reply, both in his personal capacity, and also as chairperson of Atheist Ireland: he tweeted just now,
    Quote:
    "I have responded here to the recent letters and emails to me about this http://bit.ly/11ohJiJ "
    So go to that link for his reply.
    Posted 07-Jun-2013 at 07:56 AM (07:56) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
  57. Old Comment
    What I have found disheartening is the direct harm to our movement. First a bit of background as I think it is important. I'm relatively new to all this, I have stayed far away from atheist/sceptical forums as I stayed away from twitter for years. I'm hardly new to electronic media but, I had my reasons for staying away. Finally events here in Canada made me realize I had to become involved somehow. We have a PM who is the son of evangelical minister and thinks mentioning 'god' in speeches to parliament is a good thing. We have Catholic school funding here in Ontario. Since I've always been a sceptic being an atheist is natural. I decided to join the local CFI Ottawa group since CFI Canada is doing something about religiosity in Canada. Imagine my surprise to end up in the middle of a war between atheists and furthermore be put on a side in this war simply for being the natural sceptic I have always been. Despite being a feminist, apparently I am not the right kind of feminist and, must be an enemy or something despite being an ardent reader of Ms magazine. Recently, I saw a retweeted link to an article Ophelia Benson had written which I went and read. I happened to think it was very pertinent and important. In other words, I do not take sides, I read and make up my own mind about matters. (Odd that for a sceptic.) She was writing about the direct harm religion does in Nigeria and I decided to retweet the link. This is important stuff but twitter would not let me. I think(?) I am blocked by her. So, her article did not get retweeted. Apparently it is more important for a public figure in the atheist movement not be hurt by the possibility that someone she has never met (we came close to meeting at Eschaton 2012) might hurt her in words? I never did retweet her link.
    Posted 08-Jun-2013 at 04:22 PM (16:22) by DianeBruce DianeBruce is offline
  58. Old Comment
    Sorry to hear that, Diane,

    This really is *not* an atheist/skeptic thing, except indirectly, kinda accidentally. It's really a feminist ideology thing, and it only became a problem within the atheist/skeptic community when some folks who'd bought into a particular brand of feminism (with particular beliefs associated with it) who also happened to be involved in the skeptic/atheist community, decided to assert their ideology as dogma and declare skepticism of it taboo.

    That. Is basically the whole thing. Now, there are lots of incidents here and there, the first huge one being ElevatorGate, but the root of all of them always comes back to the same issues of dogmatic beliefs that they don't want questioned.

    Now, yes, this really *has become* a problem in our atheist/skeptic communities, because we, as a collection of self-declared skeptics, have not been diligent enough in the most important kind of skepticism of all: Self-skepticism. Nobody has everything right, and that's why it's important we must all remain open to the possibility we could be wrong. Some people in our community are doing whatever they can to avoid that self-skepticism, and that's when the conflict starts getting really nasty.

    As long as you maintain your skepticism, even of your own beliefs, you'll be fine. Maybe you can help us convince our colleagues of the importance of self-skepticism, too. Personally, I think it's a crucial skill we as a community need to develop and sustain. Otherwise, who are *we* to tell others how to be skeptics, if we can't even rid ourselves of our own dogmas?

    Nice to meet you. Good luck, and don't be discouraged. Things were a lot worse 2 years ago. It's been slow, but it's improving. Cheers!

    A useful reminder for all of us: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." ~Richard Feynman
    Posted 09-Jun-2013 at 03:24 AM (03:24) by Thaumas Themelios
  59. Old Comment

    discussion at blog "Lawyers, Guns, and Money"

    I have become engaged in a lengthy comment thread for a post at the blog "Lawyers, Guns, and Money". My part involves Ron Lindsay, and the Skep tickle "doxxing" incident. I'm getting a lot of push back (I'm the "troll"), including particular claims involving exactly what happened around the doxxing. The thread seems to be winding down, but it might help if somebody (Eliza herself?) engaged some of the comments more authoritatively than I am able to. I've tried to be polite, always; please don't fling back any of the shit you'll get if you participate there. And Eliza, I've mentioned your name (first and last), which I regarded as "out" (per your post here), but if you'd rather I hadn't, I'm sorry.

    -Kiwanda
    Posted 10-Jun-2013 at 06:10 PM (18:10) by Kiwanda
    Updated 10-Jun-2013 at 07:59 PM (19:59) by Gurdur (link corrected.)
  60. Old Comment

    Thanks for providing brain food

    Thanks for running this thread Tim, it has really helped me to understand the issues and to get involved in a meaningful way.
    Posted 11-Jun-2013 at 06:58 PM (18:58) by Pogsurf
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re two comments made on Ophelia Benson’s blog that were allowed through moderation. Provided here is Tim Skellet’s open letter to Michael Nugent, an organizer for Atheist Ireland and the upco

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