Monday, April 8, 2013

NonStampCollector's final blog post

NonStampCollector (from this point on, 'NSC') wrote a final blog post on FreeThoughtBlogs.

NSC makes some decent YouTube videos, and this is likewise a decent post.

The reasons cited by NSC for leaving FTB was primarily to focus on work/career/life.

Some excerpts of interest from 'part two' of the post [with emphasis added on a few things to be addressed later]:
I’m aware that many will want to gloat that in “leaving FTB”, I will have proven to all and sundry that all those rumors about FTB are true, and that I got the hell out of there because I couldn’t take the cult-like behaviour any more, and that I’d been wrong all along and the anti-FTBers had been right all along after all… etc. 
OK, let’s deal with this right away. And yes, I’m going to take my time and have some fun with this. As I sit here writing this post, the section you’re about to read gets bigger and bigger on every read-through – and I’m letting it. I think it’s a good way to wrap up my FTB experience. I held back on this since starting my blog, because I didn’t want my blog to be about my blog. And now I can finally use some of those screen-shots I took! 
Let me say, for the first and last time on this issue, that the only rabidly dogmatic crazies I ever came across upon setting up this blog at this particular site, were the anti-FTBers. 
I never had any problems whatsoever with any of the folks who blog here. Never. I was never pressured to toe any particular line, I was never encouraged to take a particular stance on any particular issue, I was never given cause to be concerned about being ‘reviewed’ or edited,…I was only ever invited to write anything I liked about anything I liked. Those were the terms given to me on the way in, and nothing ever, ever changed.
YouTube Comment 1: "Nope. Just look at Thunderf00t's case, if you date say anything that pisses off Mr. Myers he either forces you to humiliate yourself and apologize or he bans you. Free thoughts blog my ass"
YouTube Comment 2:  "Oh, a "free from thought blog" convert. You should make a video on how that happened. Are you going to two the party line over there or get banned by the way?"
YouTube Comment 3: "I'm going to laugh my socks off when you get band from FFB for saying something out of line." 
The ‘backlash’ that came at me after I accepted Kylie S’s invitation (on behalf of those at FTB who decide these things) to have a blog set up for me here began slowly, gradually rose over a few days, and then stayed at an unbelievable pitch for literally months. Suddenly I was being accused of every criticism that was being thrown at PZ Myers, Jennifer McCreight, Greta Christina, or even Rebecca Watson. (I’d heard of two of these people before joining, and had regularly read one of them; albeit not for a few years.) Suddenly, in the eyes of many, I had become a staunch, outspoken advocate NOT ONLY of man-hating radical militant feminism, but also of Atheism+, and I had people DEMANDING that I retract everything I’d ever said promoting both of those, taking me to task for the unforgivable crimes of the moderators at some Atheism+ forum, and composing long, strongly-worded messages detailing to me the philosophical and practical problems of Atheism+. 
All of this prompted me, after a few weeks, to find out what Atheism+ was. 
I read about it, said ‘meh’, and haven’t looked again. 
My impression of Atheism+ is that it was a simple idea, fairly well stated in its ‘manifesto’, on whoever’s blog it went up on, and then, obviously, pretty badly promoted, executed, and managed. It was obviously a flop from whatever angle you look at it, and if everybody had paid as much attention to it as I did, and have, instead of squealing about it for months and months and months and months, and months, it would have gone the way of the dodo.
YouTube comment: "Poor NSC. Now he is part of the drama. The atheism+ crowd has a new bait. The popular but somewhat naive NSC. He might have looked at the offer a bit more critically had it come from someone else. But he did not here. Its ok. He has not been making good videos anyway. Not much of a loss. But hosting the blog at a more neutral venue would have been a win-win." 
I simply cannot overstate the BACKLASH that I received over Atheism+ during the several weeks before I took the time to find out what it was. Think about that for a second.
YouTube(?) comment: "NSC demonstrates the ability to research and delve into subjects in a methodical fashion... except when it comes to his greenhorn defense of A+ with admitted ignorance of many of the facts. Well its understandable that he wants to impress his new found friends. To bad he didn't exercise the same diligence in research before he began spewing in public." 
Then there were the countless messages and emails informing me of what the management structure of FTB was like, who was in charge, what happened on the backchannel, who pulled the strings, what bloggers were and weren’t allowed to do, the methods of surveillance used by FTB ‘leaders’ to monitor the online activity of the bloggers (on and off FTB)… these things just went ON and ON and ON.
YouTube comment 1: "I seriously doubt they would literally censor you. The problem is we'll never know what you were discouraged from saying either because you've been assimilated through the back channel hive mind indoctrination system, or because you don't want to risk your slot on FTB.."
YouTube comment 2: "FTB has a very high ban rate for any level of disagreement and is tied to Atheism+. It is also run by PZ Myers who rubs some people the wrong way, mainly because he does things like say anyone that disagrees with his particular brand of humanist outlook is an asshole. This and many others things has led it to be a fairly divisive issue. Personally I don't like the way FTB operates or handles issues at all."
Meanwhile, I was actually ON the backchannel, witnessing not only NONE of what was being described to me daily by hysterical know-it-alls in messages and comments, but witnessing instead the polar opposite. A very cordial, very democratic, at times very light-hearted discourse – so cordial and congenial, in fact, that I didn’t actually feel all that comfortable participating in it! I’ve always been a lone-wolf on this Atheism thing, and suddenly, confronted by a mutually-supportive ‘network’ of like-minded writers and thinkers, I slowly came to realize that I kind of preferred being on my own and I never really joined many of the conversations on the back-channel. Simply not my cup of tea, despite it being very positive, constructive, and friendly. All the while I’m being told repeatedly, from what felt like every angle, that I had been tricked into joining a cult that was going to attempt to control my thoughts, and abuse my popularity on Youtube to implement their feminism-based agenda. It was like I was living in two different worlds at once.
NSC YouTube comment: "Well why haven't I ever had even the slightest inkling that they are there? I'm on the backchannel all the time,... listen to this video from 4:42. Seriously, is FTB the most incredible covert operation in the history of mankind or something? I'm in the think of what this guy thinks is a raging cult, and I have seen absolutely NONE of it. Not the slightest trace of what he's making sound like North Korea. Apparantely regulating my behaviour even whilst off the site! I throw my hands up"
YouTube Comment Response: "So you defend Nazism in the atheist community? Piece of shit. Someone DMCA this fucker to closure, it's about time the A+ Nazis got a test of their own blocking." 
Some of these anti-FTBers make 911-Truthers look like Ph.D geniuses. Sorry, it’s just the fucking truth.
FreeThoughtBlogs, it turns out, means different things to different people. To me, it meant a site that hosted about 35 bloggers all writing independently on a range of topics based around a common thread of secularism. To its critics, it means PZ Myers and two or three others. They don’t like PZ Myers and those two or three others, and therefore FreeThoughtBlogs is entirely, irreconcilably, bad. I often asked my critics to name, without looking online, as many of the 35 bloggers at FTB that they could. Guess how that went among people who had characterized the entire site as “PZ”, or even better – and this happened ALL the time - as “Rebecca Watson”, who has never even blogged at FTB!!
An utter inability to look objectively at a situation and evaluate it based on what one actually observes through rudimentary investigation – from people who accuse FTB of “hive-mind”.
YouTube comment: "I won't be the only subscriber he loses today. Perhaps you should pull your head out of your asshole and take a look around. Everyone is in arms over NSC's idiotic choice. I blacklist everyone who supports the A+ crowd. It's called having principles, I know that's an alien concept to you."
Another comment: "BTW, I was just over reading Non Stamp Collector's YouTube channel comments. that poor sap doesn't know what he's getting into. Somebody should warn him to at least keep an eye on his wallet and get a list of things he's not to mention on his blog from PeePee. I like his videos, but I won't be reading his blog... same as Rad (who is better on video anyway)."
I asked my critics, a few times, how many of the bloggers at FTB were supportive of Atheism+. I’m still waiting for an answer to those sort of meaningful, practically valuable, thoughtful questions – the kind of questions that I oughtn’t to have had to ask – the kind of questions that might burst bubbles of irrational thinking.
What I’m saying here, is that my involvement at FTB highlighted something that I had simply not anticipated after four active years in internet atheism. That is, an enormously disappointing irrationality, paranoia, and lack of critical thinking within our ranks. The atheist community, for want of a better term, around Youtube, it turns out, is populated by some seriously irrational unthinking people. One would expect that to be present in any group of people, fair enough. But the EXTENT to which it came at me was eye-opening and very disturbing. I can only hope that something happens to change that.
An enormous number of ‘skeptical’ and ‘rational’ people showed that they were willing to swallow whatever line they were fed without evaluating it or investigating it at all. A rumor spreads about the FTB backchannel, and that becomes unquestionable truth. An “enemy” is named, and a witch-hunt begins. PZ Myers got cooties – and suddenly so did EVERYONE within a few clicks of him. “Eeewwwwww!!!! You’ve got cootieeeeeeeees!!!!”
YouTube comment: "Unsubscribed. Sorry man. That's a deal breaker."
NSC's response: "I fully understand. I can no longer watch NSC's videos because of what PZ Myers said about Rebecca Watson. [slow clap]"
YouTube comment: "You're blind to the stakes. They will trample us if no one opposes them, you craven. I can unsubscribe from anyone I want, but if I had power to ban or censor them I wouldn't. I would rally others to rebuke them voluntarily as should be done for all psychopaths like A+. They are nazis, they are bigots, and nothing I said was wrong. You're just a craven little pussy who doesn't like mean-sounding words being brought to bear against evil. Sit on that fence pole, coward, but the rest of us won't"
Friends, how sad to say it, but irrationality, dogmatism, and uncritical thinking needs to be dealt with in the online skeptical rational community. There’s way too much of that shit going around.
Disagree with whomever you like, but do it for good reason. Speak out against ideas you disagree with, but do it with reference to actual checkable facts – and cite your sources.
And as simple as it seems: Don’t read people whom you don’t want to read. Nobody would ever have heard of Rebecca Watson if her critics hadn’t LOST THEIR SHIT, and gone and made websites, Twitter accounts, Youtube channels, and blogs in honor of demonizing her! Same goes for this otherwise tiny, insignificant proposal called Atheism+. Some ban-happy forum moderators banned you and a million of your friends? Well – there’s a forum that isn’t going to survive, so shut the fuck up about it and go and have a cup of tea! Be an adult – stand your ground and keep your integrity. Don’t start a fucking website bitching about how harshly you were treated by some faceless ban-happy dickhead on some forum!
And for heaven’s sake – if you don’t like PZ Myers, don’t read him either! Been banned by him? Well whoopdy-friggin-doo! You didn’t like what he had to say anyway, obviously! But don’t then assume, and spread the irrational idea, that 34 others publishing independently on the same website are going to think exactly like him! And don’t say that “FreeThought” is a misnomer and that hive-mind is rampant throughout the site if you haven’t even read more than two or three of the fucking bloggers writing there, and instead just take everyone else’s word for it! Fuck! THINK!
Ahhhh. That felt good.
I will say this in closing: my first ever input into the atheism feminism fracas:
I have never had much of an interest in feminism despite my undergraduate degree in English and Cultural Studies, but as a 21st century somewhat enlightened guy with a mother, a sister, and a wife, (and 50% odds on having a daughter before too long!) I’m all for gender equality, inclusiveness, women’s safety, and equal opportunity, and that’s that. How such issues ever became the point of division amongst atheists is not only confusing, but troubling, and I have no qualms in saying that both sides of the cat-fight ought to have conducted themselves better at every turn. It should never have escalated to the shit-storm it became. That’s why I stayed out of it. It has been undignified and embarrassing from the start, and I wish those taking an active position on it would do a better job of it. Many of them are embarrassing themselves and the rest of us. I hope both sides can see that it’s not only the “other” side who is at fault, and I hope that it gets well and truly sorted out very soon. I advocate a loud and vocal third side – the “Guys, knock this shit off. We’ve got bigger fish to fry” side. I repeat, this issue is an embarrassment to our movement, and the fault is not solely on either side.
UPDATE: I’ve had a bit of a response from this passage above, that I’d like to address. I can see what critics are saying here, so allow me to elaborate and clarify.
What I’m talking about here, as far as fault not only being on one side, has mainly to do with diplomacy and effective communication. Even when one is firmly on the right side of an issue, such as when defending gender equality, fairness, safety and inclusiveness, failing to effectively communicate what you’ve got to say, and instead pissing people off, blocking them, banning them, insulting them, and prolonging the enmity is really destructive to your cause. How did those ideals come to be so controversial? I don’t know why that side of this argument has been so difficult to sell. It ought to have been a no-brainer, and the fracas ought to have been over pretty much immediately after it began. How the side championing those principles came to be so virulently hated is really cause for a collective “WTF?!”. It could have, and should have, been argued a lot better. Atheism and secularism ought not be embarrassed by having this as an “issue” hanging over our heads.
If you can’t sell water to a man walking out of a desert, and can’t sell pretty basic ubiquitous 21st-century ideals to do with gender equality to a crowd that prides itself on being progressive and enlightened, then your approach and methodology is all wrong. Whatever that wrong is- that’s what I’m critical of on the pro-equality (and dare I say) feminist side of the fight. It’s not their stance or their case, it’s simply to do with the presentation of the argument, or counter-argument or whatever it was.
Be the side that can act diplomatically. Take the high road and sell your approach as the more attractive and sensible one, if that’s what you actually think it is. Appeal to the nobler ideals of the ‘enemy’, rather than kicking the shit out of them the first chance you get. It ought to have been done better, and I think it definitely could have been. I think something really must have been fucked up for this issue to fester for so long. It should have been put away quickly, so lots of people somewhere were obviously screwing things up.
And disagree with me too, that’s fine, and it’s simply not my argument and I’m getting the fuck out of here anyway! I never ever would have paid it any attention if it weren’t for the fact that I was constantly being tarred with being on a radical fringe of one side of an argument that i would never have voluntarily entered. I’m saying my final, parting 2c worth and walking away. If you think that indeed all the blame lies on only one side of this, then OK, have fun with that, see you later sometime on youtube or something, whatever, it’s really not my issue. And be pissed at me for leaving it like that too if you want. No correspondence will be entered into, because it’s essentially not my issue and never was. I got dragged into it and embarrassed by it like a lot of people. I may have come out and said things earlier if I didn’t think that doing so would simply tar me even further by aligning me with certain people who were simply not doing a very good job of confronting the issue cool-headedly, diplomatically, or effectively- no matter whether they were on the right side of it.
So: all I’m saying: separate to the anti-FTB insanity, the feminism thing wasn’t handled particularly effectively by those with a more defensible stance. I hope it fixes itself up nicely very soon and that we can all forget it ever happened. That won’t happen until things calm down, idiotic minorities are healthily ignored, and broader points of agreement are recognised.
Anyway, that’s my rant, and a hell of a farewell, I think! And I’m probably not going to hang around to defend any of it or respond to much response.
Thanks to my overlords here, ie Rebecca Watson and Josef Stalin, for making my time at FTB pleasant and telling me what to think, always.

And to everyone else, don’t think that you’ve seen the last of me. I’ll still be checking my Youtube inbox and popping up here and there. Life outside of NonStamping is getting a lot more engaging, and those five or six half-baked scripts that are in my “Works In Progress” folder are going to have to sit there fomenting for just a while longer.
This post, and this NSC blog itself, will self-destruct in a few days or weeks or something.
This is the end of NSC's post.

Some observations and clarifications:
  1. It is regrettable that so many people violated Godwin's law. It simply is not a persuasive line of argument to label a group a bunch of fascists/Nazis all the time.
  2. Speculating about what might be happening on a private forum/discussion list is counterproductive. Nobody really cares what might be happening on a "backchannel" without evidence.
  3. Watson is not a member of FTB in the same sense that a guest on a talk show is not technically a cast member. FTB bloggers should not be surprised to hear about Watson, as she appears in PZ's video discussions, and is often the topic of Zvan's and Benson's articles. And they should not be surprised to hear about PZ, who probably makes up more than half of the total traffic.
  4. NSC had an opportunity to ask his fellow FTB members directly what they thought of Atheism+. The ridiculous feedback NSC received aside, NSC could have showed some initiative and asked his fellow bloggers where they saw Atheism+ going. That may have happened, but nothing in the post suggests it.
It is an interesting question.

Just how many FTB people do support Atheism+? Do we know?


  1. "Just how many FTB people do support Atheism+? Do we know?"

    We know for certain how many don't actively oppose it, or openly question it.

  2. "Just how many FTB people do support Atheism+? Do we know?"

    I think a better question is, in the wake of this ridiculous drama, and seeing how the slightest criticism is handled, how many are afraid to criticize it, even slightly? If that number could somehow be quantified, it'd be a very important statistic to have.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. NSC claims he followed one of the A+ bloggers for years, yet the content of this blog post suggests he is almost entirely unaware of the rabid, self-serving delusional rantings that are vented by A+ and seems to have some idealised view of them as simply wanting basic equality of opportunity in life for women, an aim that most anti-A+'s would support I suspect.

    How can NSC possibly think that his summary of the supposed objectives of A+ in any way relates to the reality of their ludicrous outpourings, in which the acceptance of the existence of a conscious, vicious and malicious "patriarchy" is obligatory, amongst many other things ?

    NSC claims that the problem with A+ is basically one of presentation, and unfortunately this seems to confirm that he is simply unfamiliar with some of their insane perspectives. The problems are of substance.

    One can only presume that NSC's disinterest in A+ seems to have lead him to presume they are virtuous because he is vaguely aware that they are pro-women. He talks about evidence, and the need to base opinions on evidence but he seems to be ignoring his own advice on this occasion.

    Wake up NSC!!!!

    You make great videos and make intelligent comments on most issues, and I look forward to reading and watching more of your usually considered output.

  5. Ideas that I don't agree with earn my indifference, whether it be religion or this ridiculous drama. I stopped reading almost all the atheist blogs I used to read avidly because it seemed that all they could talk about was the elevator ride and the fallout thereof. The great mounds of idiocy that followed, each group rallying to carry about their straw men and beat their drums, soured me on the entire affair. How so simple a statement could turn into this madness and cause such rifts among people who were, and I believe still are, so like-minded could only happen on the faceless battleground of the internet, where one may sit comfortably at home and vomit the most vile commentary into the ether without consequence or censure, never having to remember that the person on the other end is another human being, and worthy of civil treatment and at least a modicum of respect.

    I find the entire affair exhausting, even though I apparently stopped paying attention before the advent of the A+ thing even came to pass. I hadn't heard of it before reading this, I don't care about it now, and it has shown me that everyone still hasn't grown up enough for me to try to start reading again.

  6. Is there a point to complaining about how bad the city dump smells? When I seek knowledge, I venture toward credible sources; I don't trumpet about how infantile all the non-credible sources are (how foul they smell).

  7. I think anyone here commenting about how wrong NSC is missed the substance of his message.

  8. I am not wearing any pants.

  9. @ 8:34 Me neither

  10. What's FreeThoughtBlogs?

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to more videos from NSC.