Friday, April 12, 2013

Good cop, bad cop

On the last post there was an item of feedback from reader latsot as to something that was perhaps conveniently left out.

Whereas the blog post here seemed to show PZ as an all-encompassing dictator of what matters, had the earlier paragraph on Pharygula been included it would have shown PZ in a more reasonable tone:
Anyway, the final straw was DJ Grothe, who, in replying to someone who said they wanted him to pay as much attention to atheist issues as he does gay issues (a point I definitely strongly disagree with: no one gets to dictate what matters to someone else), made the statement that gay concerns are very, very different than atheist concerns, and we shouldn’t conflate the two. Again, a point I agree with 100%.
PZ, in this quote, seems to allow for disagreement as to what matters, whereas the commentary of his "atheist victory" did not reflect that.

Let's table this question as item number one - could be phrased as "does PZ adequately respect dissent?"

PZ's comrade in blogs, Richard Carrier, has also taken a sort of "social justice" slant in his recent support for all things Atheism+.

Some comments were contributed to Carrier's blog, attempting to concisely detail why people disagree with Atheism+ and asking some specific questions about Carrier's opinions.

One of  the following questions was the following:
[uberfeminist] And, if you disagree vehemently with them on what constitutes “social justice”, you are apparently a misogynist, libertarian, harasser, or CHUD. What am I misunderstanding?
Richard Carrier responded:
That’s bullshit. If you demean and harass women, you’re a CHUD. If you merely disagree on how to solve the problems of the world, you’re one of us.
If you advocate against progressive solutions to evidenced injustices and for libertarian ones instead, then your a libertarian…and can fully be that and still fully on board with A+ (as I explained last year). You just have to argue from facts and logic and not armchair ideology, and be courteous, thoughtful and reasonable doing so.
But if you repudiate the goals and values of A+ and argue no one should support them, then yes, you are an asshole. Not a CHUD or a misogynist or a harasser. Just an ordinary run of the mill asshole.
Only someone who voices or displays unambiguous hatred for women is a misogynist (someone who displays ambiguous hatred for women only might be a misogynist, so one may be wary but uncertain…not everything is black and white, not everything is certain). And only someone who actually harasses people is a harasser. Though someone who defends harassment is toxic and disturbing.
Are we clear? 
The blog Carrier links to explains specifics about his view on libertarians:
PZ Myers takes a more hardline stance against Libertarians and equates Atheism+ with explicitly progressive politics, but though I agree he is probably right (IMO, Libertarianism, on any full and proper analysis, doesn’t hold up as sound, and won’t work to solve most of the actual problems we face), I do not agree that it is any defining characteristic of Atheism+. [...] I also know many Libertarians who actually do care about social justice issues, and admit problems exist in that domain, and actually have passionate ideas about how to solve them. 
Carrier saying PZ has a "hardline stance" against libertarians is an understatement.

In a post titled "Just when you thought Libertarians couldn’t get any more revolting", PZ blasts libertarians for the rumblings of some academic that asked if people lost property rights when unconscious or some other nonsense.

If this line of reasoning held any water, any theocrat could simply point at PZ as the be-all end-all of progressivism or atheism. How screwed up would that be?

Back to our original question - does PZ adequately respect dissent? And the append, does Richard Carrier?

To the central point - just what is Atheism+ trying to be?

Claim: Atheism+ can not be two things at once.

If only for the sake of keeping the English language somewhat sane, this must be true.

Let's give Atheism+ two options.

It can be either:
  • A basic test of human value. A litmus test of simple etiquette. A big list of people one would want to meet at a pub. People that can split bills and would refrain from cussing in front of your mother... or...
  • An engaged group of people with specific social goals. A group focused on debating the tough questions, creating actionable philosophies and generally moving the same direction.
Carrier often speaks as if it were the former, but when the rubber hits the road everyone behaves as if it is the latter.

Specific examples:
  • PZ's bigfoot skeptic fiasco. (thanks Shrodinger for pointing this out in the other thread)
  • PZ's writing about libertarians [cited above]
  • PZ's tagging of specific people as "fuckbrained assholes"
  • Carrier's doxxing and labeling of Thunderf00t. Thunderf00t was "sociopath" apparantely
  • The Atheism+ forum echo chamber discussing everything as if it were a crisis of morality: food, computers, and the Human Rights Campaign.
  • Near uniformity of political opinion - A+ supporters are speaking about having libertarians on side as theory, not practice.
  • Atheism+ and FTB's distancing themselves from plenty of decent people in the secular/skeptic community - Richard Dawkins, Harriet Hall, Michael Shermer, Paula Kirby, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christopher Hitchens, the list grows every day.
  • The group's willingness to use insults and the ban hammer against those already deemed in-group.
  • Half-assed attempts at reconciliation with critics.
  • Discussions explicitly talking about purging the right-wingers.
What is this drama?

It seems like a convoluted game of good cop, bad cop.

Good cop Carrier runs the PR and platitudes side of things. "Baby, you're so fine! You're already one of us!"

Then bad cops Myers and the Atheism+ forum regulars crack the whip. Need to get the new recruits in line by making an example out of somebody. Even if they show up to talk about something as bland as an essay about gender inequity, they'll get torn to shreds.

Carrier's message sounds so good. Ohh.

Atheism+ wouldn't say you're in the club today only to call you a "sociopath", "CHUD" or "fuckbrained asshole" tomorrow, would they?

Atheism+ is no stranger the movement they love, you know the rules, and they just want a full commitment. You can't get this from any other secular group. Skepchick just wants to let you know how she's feeling.

Atheism+ just wants you to understand.

Never gonna give you up

Never gonna let you down

Never gonna run around and desert you

Never gonna make you cry

Never gonna say goodbye

Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I deleted my earlier comment because it was ambiguous. What I meant to say was:

    It shouldn't be surprising that a bunch of people with similar values who decide to get together under a banner of similar values might have, you know, not dissimilar values.

    It doesn't mean that they'll agree on every single detail, just the broad details. That was the point in establishing the blog network in the first place, after all. And it doesn't mean groupthink or dictatorship. It means that when these people decided to get together it was because they wanted to. Because they shared some ideals, presumably. Why is that sinister or surprising?

    The only sinister part is when people decide that when a few dozen people agree with something they don't, there's some sort of conspiracy afoot.

    1. Funny how this shithead sells himself as Mr. Reasonable on the one hand, whilst with the other he just regurgitates the same old dismissed doxxing of pensioners and dead people and then attention whores by goading a personal response by twitter bombing -

      Baboons will always be baboons. With no substance, the only thing they really have is seeking to cause personal harm. Vicious, ugly imbeciles.

    2. I haven't doxxed anyone as you are perfectly aware. I've no idea to which pensioners, dead people or attention whores you refer, but to say I've dropped docs on anyone is a complete lie.

      Funny how you have to turn up on someone else's site to call me a shithead.

    3. Well the idiot that owns the blog thinks Carrier doxxed Thunderf00t so the definition of this term is somewhat warped in slime-land. Basically Carrier repeating his well known name that is on his rational wiki page, encyclopediadramatica, all over the internet is apparently him being "doxxed" ... LOL, hardly surprising they are not taken that seriously.

      So you repeating the often remarked on doxxing of Franc/Felch as Victor Ivanoff is also a dox. Even though according to the Hoggler himself it is "not" him so cannot be a dox at all.

      Anyway don't expect much said by great "sceptics" such as Franc and Uber to make much sense.

    4. There is nothing in itself "sinister and surprising" about a blog network blogging about the things it cares about.

      However it is sinister and surprising for a supposedly "free thought" blogging network to be more of a name, shame, blame, tar and feather blog network.

      Dictatorship? No. Fascism? Probably not. Conspiracy? It seems hardly organized.

      But are they assholes? Can we agree they are often assholes?

      Here is the fact that oolon forgets - when someone on the Pit shared personal information, it was defended as being "public" and "easily discoverable".

      While that might have been true, it was still a douche move.

      Similarly, Carrier digging up Thunderf00t's real name, just to share it for no particular reason, is a douche move. On top of that, calling Thunderf00t a sociopath, was completely ad-hom. Thunderf00t sorta called Carrier a Nazi, so no tears for Thunderf00t, but can we not agree that Carrier isn't really taking the high road here?

      This blog may not make any sense. But can you say the A+ forum threads that have been documented make any more sense?

    5. i didn't do any of those things.

    6. I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm accusing FTB folks of being jerks and wondering if you may agree.

    7. Details on "doxxing" of Thunderf00t? If it's just giving his real name, TF has given that information of his own volition in the past, and repeating it is hardly doxxing. If there was additional information released via "digging", say home or work addresses, even if you can say it was found via a publicly-available database, that crosses a line.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hoggle said I did, I didn't, that's all.

    Go right ahead and make crazy accusations against groups you're afraid of defining if you really want to.

    1. The core of my argument is that Atheism+ is undefined when it wants to be undefined, then it switches gears into a echo chamber of political opinion.

      To address the issue specifically - if you had a local Atheism+ chapter, would you have me as a member?

    2. What issue do you imagine this addresses? For starters, I get the impression that if I answered yes or no you'd find a way to make it seem like it proved your point. But why are you asking me? I don't particularly advocate a+ as a movement, I just strongly agree with the idea that atheists shouldn't tell other atheists not to care about issues of social justice.

      I think you need to go back to your argument if it's core is what you say it is.

    3. Fair enough - the question was unfair because A+'s definition does not rest on your shoulders.

      >"I just strongly agree with the idea that atheists shouldn't tell other atheists not to care about issues of social justice."

      I agree here. If I'm sending a message that people shouldn't care about SJ, then I'm doing something wrong. what I'm trying to convey is that 'feminists', FTB, and A+ have a brand of SJ that is more about drama+distraction than addressing the issues directly.

  5. Please try to remember that I was disagreeing with some things you said about PZ not advocating any imagined version of A+ you decided to credit me with.

    Way to keep it real.

    1. Wasn't trying to blame A+ on you, was trying to address your critique of the last post you made. If I can change the phrasing to make that more clear, I will.

    2. And yet you don't admonish people who comment on your site only to make up stories about people. Hoggle is quite obviously lying about me but you are perfectly happy to let him.

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