Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Shouting "Bigotry!" In a Crowded Internet

Michael Shermer:

Perhaps unintentionally, Benson makes a strong case that something other than misogyny may be at work here, when she asks rhetorically if I would make the same argument about race. I would, yes, because I do not believe that the fact that the secular community does not contain the precise percentage of blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans as in the general population, means that all of us in the secular community are racists, explicitly or implicitly. A variance from perfect demographic symmetry does not necessarily correspond to racist attitudes. It just means that the world is not perfectly divided up according to population demographics, and people have different interests and causes. There is nothing inherently bigoted, racist, or misogynistic in the fact that the demographics of the secular community do not reflect those of the general population (in gender, in age and socio-economic class, or in height, weight, or any number of other variables for that matter), so short of some other evidence of bigotry, racism, and misogyny, there is no need to go in search of demons to exorcise.

OhI feel his pain. And let me tell you, that last link to the Austinist article by Terry Sawyer, man; if I ever write anything that good, that pitch-perfect, I might just have to retire from blogging, because it would be only downhill from that point on.


  1. Brian M9:07 PM

    Interesting response by Mr. Shermer.

    What is MORE disturbing is how the comments section devolves into the same kind of name calling and in group/out group dynamic that Ophelia Benson is accused of.

    Interesting and sad.

  2. Ha. I said to myself after finishing the post, "Well, I'm sure many reasonable discussions are occurring now." I didn't bother to look, of course. As I said before, posts with comments are like crossing swaying rope bridges: don't look down.

    I did see that the very section I excerpted here incurred the wrath of Peezus. That man gets more inane and incoherent by the day. I hope it's not syphilitic dementia or something.

  3. FTB is a laughing stock. It's like watching people on a leaky raft push off into the sea while screaming insults at those who tell them about the leaks. My favorite comment: "I wonder which Teletubby is a misogynist?" (The answer is, of course, all of them, for failing to point out how women are oppressed.)

  4. Brian M1:33 PM

    I have jumped into the fray. :)

    I am smack dab in the middle. I think Ophelia and crew are being quite unfair to Shermer. I think they bring up other, good points.

  5. I think my favorite FTB post of recent vintage would have to be the one arguing for a "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding the need to inform potential partners of your HIV+ status.

    The only thing that could possibly make that better is if we could find a fringe fundie group making the same argument, only based on religious principles, and contrast the reactions (or lack thereof, as the case happens to be).

  6. @Brian: You dared to suggest a more reasonable response to Shermer? I imagine there is a Mancontrol squad out hunting you down to cut off your balls for your apostasy.
    The problem is that Shermer did not say what he is accused of saying - that public speaking should be "a guy thing" - at all. His statement was an off-the-cuff answer to a question he was asked. He's not even claiming that it's true, and there is no reason to believe that he meant anything disparaging to women. Obviously. None. I think the misunderstanding is intentional, and beyond contempt.

  7. You know the worst thing about all this internecine atheist warfare? It diverts valuable resources away from the War on Christmas. I really thought we were on the verge of delivering the killing blow this year, until we had to put down this SJW rebellion.

    Shermer's politics, like Sam Harris's, are more libertarian than progressive, which probably explains a good deal of the animus against them.


  8. We all have to say extra "Happy Holidays!" to make up for it.

  9. (continuing) That said, I feel like adding that what Shermer said was obnoxious, when taken out of context, in the same way that saying "most great leaders have been men" is. It's true, but... obnoxious. His apology was adequate, if unrepentant, and quite reasonable; he gets points for not adding fuel to the fire, unlike the commenters. Ophelia is now claiming she never said he was sexist. Please. She said he implied that women weren't capable of "thinky stuff". He did no such thing, but, ironically, she did reveal herself to be bad at thinky stuff.

  10. Well, maybe a leetle fuel to the fire:

    "BTW, is it sexist of me to say random mass shootings is "a guy thing"? It is. As Steve Pinker says-the #1 predictor of violence is maleness"

    Heh. That's okay, though. It's gotta be exasperating to be the focus of one of these two-minute hates.

    I think you were right earlier: the misunderstanding is intentional. I don't think they're being dumb, per se, they're being uncharitable, they're probably predisposed to find fault with him for previous deviations from the party line, and, as the old saying goes, they only have a hammer and thus see nails everywhere. If you're determined to see absolutely everything reduce to a question of misogyny or privileged oppressors vs. marginalized minorities, you will.

    Witches could disguise themselves as old crones or beautiful young women. Jews could be powerful capitalists or subversive communists. A diagnosis of neurosis could only be further confirmed by denial, never refuted. When contradictory evidence manages to point to the same conclusion regardless, when nothing is ever allowed to stand as reasonable proof against an accusation, people quickly realize that the best way to avoid being accused is to loudly accuse someone else first.

  11. Didn't see that, but t's not a personal attack.
    But that reminds me of the related issue that keeps getting mentioned: the war between the feminists and the men's rights guys. Both sides have become entirely unhinged. Seething with hatred. Shameless. I guess they get off on the drama. There are always those who want war.

  12. Brian M6:17 PM

    I still have to admit that IF it truly is war, then while both sides are indeed becoming "unhinged", the Men's Rights crowd is unhinged in a far more repugnant way. Because "the patriarchy" is still where the power is at.

    Of course, I am not acknowledging that it IS "war", so....

  13. Brian M6:19 PM

    Scribbler: I always KNEW you were really a fundamentalist killjoy. Because you know who REALLY fought and WON the War on Christmas, doncha know?

    Oliver Cromwell...and the American Puritans!

    Can we expect a "Sinners in the Hands of an Amgry God" speech from you soon? You do seem prone to bookishness and stuff!

  14. Brian M7:05 PM

    Wow. Went there again. While (again) the MRAs are even more loathsome, they cannot leave it alone. It really is WAR!

  15. If we're at war, then I declare this territory to be an anarchist enclave. I get to be Nestor Makhno!

  16. @ Brian: I agree. They're really much worse. But isn't there a tendency to be pleased at having an enemy you can justifiably hate? That justifies saying, "See how men are?".

  17. Brian M10:54 AM


    Of course. The fixation on this writer's off hand comment is a bit too much, to be honest. But as a male, and white to boot, I cannot understand the depths of the repression, I guess. :)

  18. Since you've asked about this before, Brian, I'll say that personally, I don't find it imperative to "choose sides" in fights like this. All other things being equal, I'd normally side with feminists, sure. But supporting feminist ideals as a general rule doesn't require supporting this particular group of people who have laid claim to the name.

    Of course men shouldn't make passive-aggressive remarks about rape to intimidate women. But while it may be obnoxious, I don't find it truly threatening, and I think it's more a product of the anonymity and distance of Internet culture than it is evidence of sociopathic men hating women. In other words, trolls be trollin'.

    If anything, my ire is raised more by the fact that the ostensible defenders of ideals I could otherwise support are such a pack of dishonest, cynical bullshit artists. Take Rebecca Watson's latest transparently cynical troll-job and the support it got from the usual suspects -- I don't see any reason to believe that they're doing this in good faith.

    I don't know much about the men's right's movement per se, but I know that A Voice for Men, for example, is not synonymous with the Slymepit, and that not everybody who takes issue with FTB/A+/Skepchick is an MRA, no matter how much Peezus uses the terms interchangeably.

    Speaking of drama, every time i've taken your suggestion and looked at Ophelia's blog, I've been struck by the fact that each time, she's had some useless post up to say something like, "Oh, look, someone Photoshopped my face in an Amish bonnet!" "Oh, look, someone used me in a parody of a Jesus and Mo comic!" "Oh, look, trolls on the internet say mean things!"

    Your mileage, of course, may vary, but it almost looks to me like pro wrestling theatricality, where keeping the stupid drama going for the audience's entertainment is the whole point. Or like grade school kids hitting each other to pretend they're not flirting. I mean, if your critics have anything worth engaging with, then do it. If not, then fucking ignore them already.

    Anyway. Despite the enormous reserves of self-importance involved, I really don't see this as an important battleground where genuine feminist ideals could be set back decades if not defended. It's just a bunch of assholes squabbling on the Internet.

  19. Brian M11:13 AM

    Have to admit my reading of her blog HAS declined, because of her passionate focus on TRIVIA. There....I said it.

    There is still good stuff there, though. Of course. One of her persistent memes is suspicion towards the concept of "community"
    and group identity. i.e., "we cannot criticize genital cutting or forced group marriage because the Muslim Community demands this as part of their culture and we cannot be imperialists."

    So there is good stuff there.

    BTW...comment moderation now? Have you been getting spammed?

    I still enjoy her criticism of "communities" and t

  20. Moderation only kicks in on posts more than two weeks old. Most spammers concentrate their efforts on the archives.