Sunday, September 22, 2013

Call the cops!

Remember Trayvon Martin? (You should)

Then remember the fuss Greta Christina made, the article Questlove wrote, and the response Rebecca watson wrote?

Also recall the provocative statements made by Geraldo, wherein he states that the women of the jury would have made the same decision in the same circumstances.

Now this history is fresh in your mind, fast forward to to September 14 of this year.

Early that Saturday morning, a young black male college student was in a car accident in North Carolina.

The man allegedly knock/kicked door of nearby house. This was likely an attempt to get help.

The woman inside the house trips an alarm, calls 911 and tells them something about the event (it's not clear yet precisely how she described the situation to authorities).

Three cops show up, one of them shoots the man multiple times.

The story has made the rounds to Skepchick, in a post titled "When Stereotypes Kill".

It contains a long story in which Rebecca Watson makes the same choices. A young male college student kicked her door, Watson called the cops. Cops then sorted the situation out.

The article admits fault for all parties, but then continues on some very specific policy suggestions:

I can say without a doubt in my mind that both the homeowner and the cop in Ferrell’s case were very, very, tragically wrong.
These are only two data points: black man gunned down by a cop for knocking on a door in the middle of the night; white man handcuffed and talked to by cops for kicking a door in the middle of the night. They’re different cities, different people, slightly different circumstances. But I do think we need to recognize that there are clearly ways to solve these problems without guns.
If, as “AtheistGorilla” and others suggest, it’s understandable that a cop would shoot a black man for being suspicious, then cops shouldn’t have guns. End of story. Remember that this isn’t a ridiculous idea: cops in Great Britain don’t (by and large) carry firearms, and surveys show that they like it that way.
The research at this point is very clear: stereotypes are intensely powerful ideas that directly impact our behavior. We clearly need to take some drastic steps to be sure that the people most affected by stereotype threat are protected from the authority figures who we allow to carry lethal weapons.

Of course, one stops short of calling the police racist in this situation as going as far as to say that would also call into question the reaction of white women everywhere pulling alarms and calling 911 every time a black person is at the door.

But then it ends with this demand that cops stop carrying guns.

It's interesting cops receive the longest lecture about how they should have handled the situation. They should have showed up unarmed, gave the man a stern talking to, and then everything would be great.

And every other day of the week, social justice warriors are telling cops to go fuck themselves.

Instead of cops not using guns, perhaps "progressive" white women everywhere can stop using cops. It just so happens that strangers trying to rob, murder or rape might not typically loudly announce their presence at one's front door.

Not using cops. It's the only foolproof way to protect people most affected by stereotype threat from authority figures.

More seriously however, perhaps the most effective weapon the cops had that night was numbers.

It's conceivable that fewer police officers would need to carry guns if there were other means of force always at their disposal. Perhaps public safety did not need three armed individuals at the scene.

More boots on the ground. Guns only in the hands of experienced officers. It's a workable idea, but it costs money.

Time to start complying with tax law!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Circumcised Frontal Lobe

Believe it or not, there happen to be days when Hensley is right:

Slate is really good at cranking out the clickbait journalism (everyone seems to be following Huffington Post around).

This case is particularly egregious as far as it claims to have "science" on its side.

As it happens so often with journos reading studies, the article seems eager to do the following things:

  1. Inject itself into an ongoing flamewar on the internet
  2. Attempt to drop some "data" into the conversation
  3. Convince the reader that this "science" is relevant to their choices the debate
The error in the article is essentially in the following nonsensical paragraph:
But that’s not circumcision’s only benefit. The procedure also protects men against a variety of other STDs, significantly reducing their odds of contracting herpes and syphilis. Moreover, circumcision is highly effective in preventing transmission of HPV in men, which in turn reduces their risk of penile cancer. And circumcised men are far less likely to contract genital warts or develop urinary tract infections. Fewer circumcisions mean more STDs and infections—and billions more in health care spending.

So much of this is absurd.
  1. No reputable medical organization in any developed nation is seriously advocating circumcision as a way to put a cap on sexually transmitted infections
  2. The United States circumcision rate is already the highest in the developed world. However it is also #1 in sexually transmitted diseases. (USA #1! USA #1!) How does that work?
  3. One can get herpes and other infections from circumcision. 
  4. There is a HPV vaccine. Give it to people already!

One of the most insulting data points used is the reduced incidence of urinary tract infection. The idea that someone is going to cut parts off an infant so that it might avoid a round of antibiotics in later life is a ridiculous proposal.

Further, the "billions saved" in health care spending assumes that what we're already spending for routine infant circumcisions is already low without actually providing anything in terms of estimates.

Let's assume for a moment that every male in the nation was circumcised.

The American health care system does not remove 150+ million foreskins for free.

More on cost in a later post. For now, back to HIV.

What routine procedures would be more effective at ensuring that one's new baby boy does not contract HIV over his lifetime?

Some ideas:
  1. Slice the penis at the base instead of the tip
  2. Tattoo profanities on the boy's forehead
  3. Graft the removed foreskin onto the boy's chin
  4. Circumcise the pre-frontal cortex

Now, we haven't done the studies, but a little bit of logic informs us that the boy will have larger problems than potentially contracting HIV.

As an added bonus, the boy would be almost guaranteed a job at Slate.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Everyone must have a penis

In a post titled "The future will not be the past", PZ writes:

The future? Right now. There are a lot of people within atheism staring at the new kids in puzzlement and horror. They don’t have penises, their skin isn’t pasty white, their hair isn’t graying — what weird aliens are these? What do you mean, they don’t consider the constitutional separation of church and state the only cause worth fighting for? How dare they threaten to change my movement, the movement I have contributed so much to, the movement that is supposed to cater to my needs?

It would seem in PZ Myers' history of atheism in the United States, Ayn Rand and Madalyn Murray O'Hair had penises.

Further, it would seem Annie Laurie Gaylor and Anne Nicol Gaylor also have/had penises.

Julia Sweeney. Eugenie Scott. Ayaan Hirsi Ali. More penises.

It's one big sausage fest.

Everyone must have penises because PZ's leading questions would not make sense otherwise!

Nothing brings in the women like denigrating the accomplishments and involvement of women already in the group.

It makes "sense" when one considers how PZ Myers views himself - PZ Myers views himself in an "old guard" of atheism (presumably PZ Myers invented the concept of atheism in college in Indiana in the late 70's, early 80's).

It's essentially an "old boy's club" that is the "Four Horsemen" of philosophers and bestselling writers (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett) plus himself.

Similar to how a man lacking confidence may find solace in a big vehicle or bank account, PZ Myers finds himself an equalizer in being the only one of the "old boys" that is actually dynamic and "gets it" when it comes to the so-called changing face of the "movement".

Presumably PZ Myers needs to go to conferences with college-aged women to "introduce" them to skepticism and atheism because all the other old white guys are big Republican meanies.

The only thing PZ Myers is truly is a narcissist, hypocrite and a gigantic asshole.

Take a moment and read some Susan Jacoby.

Susan is about a decade older than PZ Myers - and perhaps more white. But she'll undoubtedly will shape secularism's future more than PZ Myers will.

Here is perhaps the best part of PZ's post:

I sympathize. Some of them don’t even idolize science, and they actually dare to criticize the actions taken in the name of science. Don’t they realize the movement must be entirely about science?
Oh, wait. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe there are other non-scientific goals that are also worth pursuing, and that doesn’t mean we have to abandon science — I can still be an advocate for it myself — but it does mean I don’t get to remake everyone into a clone of me.

On one hand, we could drive for fairness and equality through evidence based social policy.

On the other hand, fuck science! Politics is about feelings.


I will not sniff indignantly at that. If I want to promote my personal goals within atheism, that’s fine — but I will be most effective at that if I fit them within a complex and diverse framework, rather than trying to reshape every other individual within this movement into my likeness.

The great insanity here is:

  1. He's already entirely dismissive of the role of people not like him in the movement (remember, everyone has a penis!)
  2. It's an absolutely nonsensical and hypocritical political statement
PZ Myers' statements are more true to his opinions and make more sense if one appends "except for those fucking Libertarians" on the end of each sentence.

For example:
"I will be most effective at that if I fit them within a complex and diverse framework, rather than trying to reshape every other individual within this movement into my likeness. [Except for those fucking Libertarians, they can shut up and listen. They're fuckbrained assholes and CHUDs]"

Of course it doesn't necessarily begin and end with Libertarians. PZ Myers has a long list of "suppressive persons" that don't belong in his movement. 

It's the usual massive failure from social justice warriors.

It sounds "inclusive" to armies of naive people, but it's merely a demented façade.

It fits a script.
  1. Create a problem that is difficult to refute or completely absurd
    • "There are no minorities! There is a demographic shift happening!"
    • "In the future, nobody will have a penis!"
  2. Fail to define the problem in concrete terms
    • How would we know if secular communities are leading or trailing these changes? It's important to never even try to collect information.
    • Even basic terms like defining what "in the movement" means is completely ignored. Presumably many of us are not "in the movement" because we don't attend conventions.
  3. Blame it all on someone else
    • Other old men in the "movement" are the reason "the community" is not tackling "the problem".
  4. Remind everyone of how you are better
    • Be clear that you have an action plan that is better and most importantly more kind than the other evil white dudebros

It might sound ridiculous to cast PZ Myers in this role if he didn't already outline his mentality in a speech.

Surely you've heard of the four horsemen. I'm not talking about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the book of Revelation; I'm talking about Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, popularized as the four horsemen of the New Atheism. They are all widely read authors of popular books who have been largely responsible, I think, for vaulting atheism into the public consciousness in the last few years. It's a slightly unfortunate analogy though, and I don't quite know why they're running with it. One problem, of course, lies in matching up identities. I can sort of see Hitchens as War but the other three are going to have to divvy up Pestilence, Famine, and Death. And this is probably not the best image we want to get across about humanism and atheism.
Another problem with the Four Horsemen analogy is the number. As we all know, there are quite a few more vocal people who have been active in atheism and humanism and secularism in general than just the four. What about Victor Stenger or Pascal Boyer? Richard Carrier, Julia Sweeney, Dan Barker? Don't they get horses? And what about me? You know, I'm as atheist as those others and I'm probably "atheier" than some of them. (Although I do have to admit I haven't written a book yet. I'm on sabbatical this year to finish my book, so maybe I'll get a horse after all.)
So I'm going to very prematurely declare myself a fifth horseman. I picture myself, though, as a little guy on a very small pony trotting after the other four. However, I'm waving a great big banner that has the words, "The Internet" on it. That's me.

Ah yes, The Internet.

Here Myers declares himself a part of "The Internet" which is presumed to be something new, youthful and dynamic while his peers can be assumed to be describing it as "a series of tubes".

The general story is that PZ Myers somehow commands a group of scrappy young go-getters connected by his electronic clarion call. Myers is ostensibly on an upward trajectory and his efforts will define the movement in the future.

The truth of the situation is that Pharyngula and "FreeThoughtBlogs" do not represent a generational shift in the secular and skeptic communities.

Atheism+, Pharyngula and "FreeThoughtBlogs" are merely the embodiment of a narcissistic, judgmental and self-important subculture that secularism has always had.

It's clear, especially to the believers, that secularism has several assholes.

What do the assholes spend their day doing?

Atheism+ is the internet hate machine.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Skepchick Standards

Eventually we'll get back to writing about feminist topics.

For now we're stuck on the Skepchick trainwreck, as the Skepchick bloggers have outdone even the ridiculousness that is tablegate ( Posts 1 2 3 4 5 )

How? By reviving the ridiculousness that is elevatorgate.

In a new post, Sarah M (of "MRAs don't care about black folk" fame) writes:

My Time With Richard Dawkins (Or, Why You Should Never Meet Your Idols)
At this time (September of 2011), Dave Silverman was heading up the Reason Rally Committee. There was still quite a bit of planning and promotion that needed to be done, so Dave asked Richard, Elizabeth, and Sean to make videos to promote the Reason Rally. (The video Richard ended up making is still viewable.) Richard was standing behind the podium, and he asked Dave something along the lines of, “What exactly is the Reason Rally?” Dave started explaining it, and as he did, someone who was waiting in the line outside opened the door to peek inside and we could all hear a lot of noise. I rushed up the aisle and made frantic “shut the door” gestures at the people peeking inside, and they did. As I walked the ten feet back, I couldn’t hear everything Dave was saying, but I heard the name “Rebecca Watson.” Richard suddenly had a very angry look on his face and I heard him almost shout, “No, absolutely not! If she’s going to be there, I won’t be there. I don’t want her speaking.” and then Dave immediately replied, “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.” Richard huffed for a moment, Dave continued to placate him, and then he made the video.
I think the head of every single organization would have done the same thing, had they been in Dave’s position– and that right there is the problem. Yes, Richard Dawkins is a big draw. Yes, the Reason Rally was (for the most part) successful. But at what cost? Are we okay sacrificing the voices of some people in order to get others involved? Do we have too much of a culture of celebrity, so that we are willing to do things we otherwise wouldn’t do in order to get those celebrities involved? Is this indicative of a mindset that some people’s opinions are more important than others?
I think the atheist movement has reached a critical point that will determine whether it succeeds or whether it flounders. I think we need to take a long, hard look at what we’re doing and decide if our actions truly line up with our values. Do we want to be a movement that refuses to change, simply because we think it’s too hard? Do we want to become a movement that doesn’t critically question people in leadership roles? Do we want to become a movement that only pays lip service to minorities, instead of actually working to include them? What do we want this movement to become, and how can we really achieve that?
As for me? I’m sorry it took me two years to build up the guts to share this story publicly. I’m sorry I didn’t have the courage to speak up when I saw things I disagreed with. I’m going to stop making excuses for why I haven’t been living up to my values and start actually doing it. I hope you’ll join me.

Wow. Everyone should understand how absolutely absurd Sarah's reasoning is.

Please take the a moment to learn.

Let's add some background.

First, in 2011 sometime (June?) the elevatorgate debacle happened. A man asked Rebecca Watson for coffee. Rebecca Watson thought he was creepy. That's pretty much the story.

Richard Dawkins writes a post dismissive of Rebecca Watson's chastising of the "creepy" male, essentially saying that if this is the worst problem white godless women have then it's not really the end of the bloody world.

In July 2011, Rebecca Watson writes in a post titled "The Privilege Delusion":
So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer.

Before we get into the timeline that Sarah M shares, let's take a moment to point out that David Silverman (head of American Atheists) has already come out and stated Sarah's statements reflect a reality that never existed:

While Mr. Silverman does not dispute that an exchange with Dr. Dawkins took place in Miami in September of 2011, there was no acquiescence on Mr. Silverman's part. At the time the exchange took place, Ms. Watson had not in fact been invited to speak at the Reason Rally, and that decision had already been made. The Reason Rally had many more requests from prominent atheists to speak than speaking slots to offer.

The claim from American Atheists is essentially that it didn't matter what Dawkins may or may not have wanted - Watson was already not on the list of invited speakers.

However, for a moment let's pretend that Skepchick facts are true facts.

In September 2011, the following things are true:

  1. Rebecca Watson states she is no longer buying Dawkins' books 
  2. Rebecca Watson states she is no longer attending Dawkins' lectures
  3. Rebecca Watson states she is no longer recommending anyone purchase Dawkins' books
  4. Rebecca Watson states she is no longer recommending anyone attending Dawkins' lectures
  5. Rebecca Watson states that Dawkins is blind his privilege and will be "stinking rich until the end of his days"

In this context, Dawkins would be found saying similar to:

"I'd rather stay home than share a speaking engagement with this person that hates me."

It would appear that this was already not a possibly given Watson's own non-endorsement of Dawkins' lectures.

In this view, Sarah Moglia and Rebecca Watson are mad because they did not get a chance to say no first.

How would this work?

  1. Dawkins has no objections to Rebecca Watson speaking
  2. David Silverman extends an invitation for Rebecca Watson to speak at the Reason Rally
  3. Rebecca Watson asks who is sharing her stage/session/time slot.
  4. David Silverman says "Richard Dawkins"
  5. Rebecca Watson says "Hell no! He's a evil privileged bastard!"
  6. Rebecca Watson posts an "activist" article about how the Reason Rally hates women

It's not unreasonable to think that this is a sufficient alternative reality to the false reality that Sarah describes. For Watson already stated that Dawkins' "lectures" were now a non-event in her books.

We have a world in which Watson publicly states her resentment of all things Dawkins, while Dawkins allegedly shares in private a preference to not working with her.

Which of the two is being cast as a villian?

Not Watson, because she's an untouchable hero.

From Skepchick comments:

Itchy Fisher Price 
After reading Sarah’s post, I’m more convinced that Richard is basically a douchenozzle. When I read Rebecca’s account of what Dawkins said, I thought he was being a jerk and maybe a one-time thing. You know how you ask a celebrity’s opinion on something and it turns out their take is pretty much worthless? Exactly.
Now with this account, it isn’t a one-time thing. Richard *IS* a misogynist prima donna. Someone ought to get him a diaper and a pacifier.
I don’t want to pile on Dave – but I also do not want to give anyone the idea that being spineless in the face of powerful celebrity and exertion of privilege as an OK thing to do if you are “a nice guy”….Nice guys need to be checked just like everyone else.
I am disappointed as HELL to hear this about Dave S.
I would also like to ask Mr. Dawkins to get over himself.
What a prima dona!
Dawkins is as big a blowhard as Rush Limbaugh. He also seems to look at women the same way as Rush…only Rush says women are inferior because of God, whereas Dawkins would say women are inferior because of Evolution.
manuelmoeg:Bleh, some men in the atheist movement are incredibly self-entitled with impossibly fragile egos, ultimately to their own detriment – how could it be otherwise; it is the opposite of maintaining an attitude of capability. That the “senior” leaders of the atheist movement see fit to indulge this jibber-jabber is nauseating.
Nathan:I want to second Melanie, here. Silverman isn’t the bad guy on this one. It’s Dawkins’ petty childish grudge-holding and the abuse of his celebrity to stick Silverman into a rather horrid position. I wish Silverman had given a better response, but I also can’t yell at him for it because… to be entirely honest… I’d fail when put on the spot like that, too. I think that’s common, in fact. So this certainly is not an attack on David Silverman (which is actually part of my problem with AA’s response… they act as if Silverman was cast as the bad guy, and he clearly wasn’t).
Joerg:American Atheists have issued a statement that dances around the main question at hand (what did Dawkins say, how did Silverman react) in favor of some strong self-aggrandizing. I’m very disappointed and will reconsider donating to them again.
I’m very willing to believe it wasn’t obsequiousness on David’s part and merely reflective of a decision which had already been made. I’d RATHER believe that in fact.
What IS problematic still is the imperious demand on the part of Dawkins which no amount of Febreze could unstinky-fy.
Cygore:Welcome to the major leagues of blogging Sarah. Good job!
sevlevboss: Not all that surprising really, it’s no secret that RD and RW do not like or respect each other. If those were indeed his exact words, that’s pretty childish. I think RD has done lots of admirable things, but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of being childish or petty on occasion.

In support of the argument that Dawkins supports the "pwnage" culture of "dudebros", cityzenjane links to this video:

Which was pointed out in the thread as a reference to this meme - however such facts did not get in the way of blasting Dawkins for saying "bitches" at a lecture.

For committing the crime of not waiting to appear in public of Rebecca Watson, the Skepchick peanut gallery has stated the following things:

  1. Richard Dawkins is exactly like Rush Limbaugh and views women as inferior due to evolution
  2. Richard Dawkins is a "misogynist prima donna".
  3. Richard Dawkins has a fragile ego and has a self-entitled attitude
  4. Richard Dawkins is indulging in "jibber jabber" and holding a "petty" and "childish grudge" about a dispute that at that time was only about four months old
  5. American Atheists does not deserve donations because of something Sarah overheard in two years ago
  6. Sarah is now in the "major leagues", seemingly simply for admonishing a famous person

Ponder how ironic it is for a frequent commenter to point out that it makes Sarah a "major league" player to cut down a famous person's rep in this way.

All in a thread that is supposedly asking why a famous person may have refused to give these clowns a platform. 

Is it really such a mystery? Where is the self-awareness in this thread?

How silly is this going to get? Is logic out the window here?

It is already absurd, but then PZ Myers and the FreeThoughtBlogs party chime in!

In a post titled "Time to make a promise", PZ writes:

OK, here’s my deal: a promise. I’m not an important speaker, and I’m not the kind of make-or-break participant that any conference might want, and I’ve got a lot of haters out there who want nothing to do with me anyway, but this is how I will approach speaking invitations from now on.
I will decide whether to accept only by considering my availability and the purpose and execution of the event. I do have some restrictions: I’ve got a heavy teaching load and limited available time. I also expect some reassurance that significant effort will be made to promote diversity; if I’m one more white guy in a roster already overloaded with white guys, I’ll step aside and suggest that you invite someone who doesn’t look like me instead. If your conference doesn’t have a harassment policy or treats attendees poorly, I won’t be interested.
But otherwise, I will not discriminate on the basis of who else you’ve invited to speak. So sure, you can also invite Ray Comfort to your conference, and I won’t use that as an excuse to back out. I won’t necessarily get chummy at the event, and I might even aggressively speak out against that other person, but I’ll do my part to make your conference interesting and a good experience for the paying attendees. 
One more thing: conference organizers, I expect you to have the spine to refuse to cave in to suppressive demands from other speakers. I’m promising not to make those demands, I’m expecting you to refuse to honor them from others.

PZ Myers has done a 180.

And commenters catch on:

It was claimed a while back (am just trying to find the link) that you had stated you wouldn’t speak at a con where Abbie Smith was also a speaker. I don’t know if that’s true but if so, I guess that is no longer the case?
Here it is!
Policies can change, embertine. It’s allowed.

The story has changed.

Previously, it was cool to prevent certain women from being speakers - PZ public stated this as policy and it was accepted as good.

Here is PZ Myers saying he'd prefer staying home than speaking with Abbie Smith (posted May 2012):

For instance, I will not participate in any conference in which Abbie Smith is a speaker. If I’m invited, and later discover that she is also invited, I will politely turn down the offer. 
I could find myself spending a lot more time at home, which wouldn’t be bad at all, except that she doesn’t get invited out that often, and her coterie of slimy acolytes are virtual non-entities, too. It is a positive aspect of the growing atheist movement that it tends to be progressive, egalitarian, and not particularly supportive of shrieking over-privileged children. 
Now I have to stroll out to a bäckerei for coffee and pastries.

Now that it comes to light that someone might not want to speak with one of his "friends", suddenly it's the most evil thing an invited speaker can do.

It's also weird now PZ Myers' about-face changes in light of their previously accepted dogma from Skepchick: 

Q. What usually happens when the event inviting you doesn’t already have an anti-harassment policy or 35% women speakers?
So far, every conference organizer has leapt at the chance to institute these things. Often it’s something they were considering anyway, but maybe they needed a little push and a little help. I offer to help them (or find them someone more qualified to help them) if they need. I have a thick Rolodex (not actually a thing anymore) full of smart, funny, entertaining women who can sell tickets so it hasn’t been an issue.

Of course, any conference could simply add more female speakers to fill the 35% quota.

However what is more cost efficient is to simply swap speakers out in-place - just adding a woman does not change the percentages as fast as adding a woman and dropping a male.

Basically it all works out like this:

The Social Justice Warrior speaker rules (effective ~2010 to September 2013) 
[insert some legalese here] The Social Justice Warrior will speak at your conference if:
  1. You can guarantee that Abbie Smith, Justin Vacula, DJ Grothe, Michael Shermer, Paul Elam, "Chris H", Paula Kirby, Ron Lindsay, JT Eberhard, Paul L, Cat B and Justin G or anyone named in Appendix A, Table 1 (also known as the "harassers" or the "Block Bot table") are not attending your conference 
  2. At least 35% of your speakers have genitals similar to those pictured in Appendix A, Figure 1
  3. You need to have a set of rules similar to those outlined in Appendix B

Then the document was updated!

The New and Improved Social Justice Warrior speaker rules 
[insert some legalese here] The Social Justice Warrior will speak at your conference if:
  1. At least 35% of your speakers must have genitals similar to those pictured in Appendix A, Figure 1
  2. You need to have a set of rules similar to those outlined in Appendix B

Meanwhile let's look at the competing document.

The Richard Dawkins speaker rules 
[insert some legalese here] Professor and NYTimes Bestseller Richard Dawkins will speak at your conference if:
  1. You do not book somebody that wishes to injure his career.

How outrageous, right?

Seems like there is a double standard. People want to get away with any demand - especially the demand that Dawkins have no demands of his own.

Someone who picks up on a double standard but completely confuses the poles of this dispute is Stephanie Zvan.

In a post titled "Defending Dawkins, or How Many Standards Do We Need?", Zvan writes:

In case you missed it, there was a bit of a to do at DragonCon this last weekend around the Skepchick fan table selling their Skeptical Robot and SurlyRamics to raise money to promote skepticism at an event that doesn’t cover their travel costs. There are as many versions of why the conference abruptly found these sales objectionable after four years of them happening (and were willing to be abusive about it) as there have been con representatives talking about why Skepchick shouldn’t have the table anymore. The rules for fan tables (distinct from vendor tables) are appallingly vague and not consistent with any of the complaints made.
One of the most ridiculous things that they’ve said, however, is that if Rebecca or Amy can’t afford to pay for their own travel to do this outreach, they should get a job. Yes, apparently selling merchandise that people want is somehow wrong now. Ophelia has given that idea even more attention than it deserves, so I won’t repeat any of it. Instead, I’ll contrast that attitude to another one.
Grants to other organizations are a small part of what the foundation does. The website has been central to the foundation, but the costs involved are not huge. The larger part of the foundation appears to be underwriting Dawkins’ notorious willingness to speak to student groups at very little cost. If the groups don’t pay the cost, someone still has to. In the case of the tour Sarah wrote about, the book’s publisher likely covered the cost of Dawkins’ travel, but Sarah had a year’s salary and Faircloth had travel expenses for the whole tour, while Cornwell accompanied them for about half of it. Similarly, the foundation was a sponsor of the Reason Rally. It’s quite likely that it covered the costs for all the foundation employees who spoke, as well as Dawkins.
That’s right. Dawkins’s foundation didn’t pay to have him travel, but they did pay to have his entourage travel with him–partly funded by their merchandise sales–to allow him to speak to audiences he felt needed it. To be clear, I don’t have a problem with this, though a little more transparency about this purpose of the foundation would be nice and would help avoid situations like the unfounded accusation. No one I discussed this with in the course of laying the rumor to rest had a problem with this. 
Now, however, when it’s Rebecca, suddenly people have problems with selling merch when someone doesn’t want to put the costs of travel directly on the audience. I wonder why that could be. Hmm. 
Isn’t it about time we got a single set of standards for this movement?

Stephanie Zvan has failed in a multitude of ways in understanding the ridiculous event that is the tablegate situation

The only description of the event is a quotemine of sorts copying a regrettable statement made in one of the posts on this blog.

Here's how the FreeThoughtBlogs information train works:
  1. A blogger on the DailyDot quotes you
  2. Ophelia Benson quotes that quote
  3. Stephanie Zvan links to the quote of the quote
  4. Stephanie Zvan believes she now understands things, and continues to leave out details and misrepresent critics

Stephanie Zvan honestly wishes to spin Sarah Moglia's post into some lame attempt to point out the hypocrisy and double standards of the critics of Atheism+.

The relevant facts of tablegate, summarized so even Stephanie Zvan can grasp them:

  1. Nobody has criticized Watson and Roth being able to sell their merch online
  2. Rebecca Watson never had an opportunity to charge attendees at DragonCon more for her appearance. Terms of her appearance were simply a free pass to the convention. She was not granted a vendor table.

Understanding just these two elements of the situation is enough to grasp where Zvan has gone wrong, but those that want all can read the entire mess again.

Dawkins' foundation may fund his lectures through merchandise sales. 

However what the foundation has not been known to do is camp free tables and piss off vendors at events that are unquestionably not a party created for them.

Only people that are well and truly idiots would see a double standard when it comes to secularists selling merchandise.

Fellow Greta Christina chimes in on her blog:

"September 5 [the date of Sarah's post] is not the first time I heard reports about Richard Dawkins blackballing Rebecca Watson."

So now what Dawkins is apparently doing is "blackballing".

However when PZ Myers publicly stated his intention to stay home instead of speaking with Abbie Smith, as well as slandering her fans as "slimy acolytes", this was known in "social justice" circles as "supporting the local progressive bäckerei" or some such euphemism.

It's as if these Atheism+ thugs advocated for land mines and sarin gas, and then found that the workers at the weapons factory were non-union.

Atheism+ here is denouncing the morality of their own tactics once they get one inkling of their opponents doing precisely the same thing.

Of course, there is another reason PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson want to walk away from the "social justice" boycotts of conferences.

It hurts them professionally.

This hullabullo with Dawkins provides a good pretext for PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson to backpedal from their previous statements of what conferences they're willing to attend.

By many accounts, they were breaking their own rules before Sarah even wrote the post:

  1. PZ Myers is attending the Paradigm Symposium, Oct 17-20 2013. It's a quack conference that he's already booked (Posted about it back in April, but leaves off his calendar on Pharyngula)
  2. Rebecca Watson has seemingly broken her "35% women" rule several times, most recently sitting in otherwise all-male panels at DragonCon. But it doesn't matter - she got a free ticket!

Previously, refusing to speak at a conference was merely the Atheism+ good guys kicking out the "C.H.U.Ds" (as Richard Carrier would say) that have no conscience

Now that it may have happened to one of their tribe, it's "the harassers" that are "blackballing".

Let's go over the multitude of Atheism+ privileges:

  1. Atheism+ can show up at your conference and sell what they want
  2. Atheism+ can publicly refuse to buy your merch
  3. Atheism+ can publicly refuse to attend your lectures
  4. Atheism+ can blast your fans as "slime" and "harassers"
  5. Atheism+ can call you a misogynist and racist
  6. Atheism+ can publicly refuse to speak at conferences you attend (i.e. "blackball" you)

You're a bestselling author, professor and scientist. You would rather spend a weekend with the family than attending a political conference headlined by a bunch of your detractors.

But too bad, Atheism+ is entitled to your appearance.

How would Atheism+ book its con?

Presumably this is how it would engage its speakers:

Con-woman: "Hello, is this <famous philosopher from now on called FamousDudeBro>?"
FamousDudeBro: "Speaking."
Con-woman: "Yes Daniel, we'd like to invite you to speak at Atheism+ convention 2014"
FamousDudeBro: "That's interesting. Would it be a large time commitment?"
Con-woman: "Oh no, not at all. Just a 15 minute panel session."
FamousDudeBro: "That's great, as I'm not as young as I used to be! Which session would this be?"
Con-woman: "This is just the short welcome panel to the conference."
FamousDudeBro: "I see. Who would I be speaking on the panel with?"
Con-Woman: "We plan on inviting Brad Pitt, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Noam Chomsky, Bill Clinton, David Beckham, Tony Blair, Sam Harris, Malcom Gladwell, Sam Harris, Stephen Pinker, Paul Krugman, Ben Bernanke, Vladimir Putin... it's a sizable panel"
FamousDudeBro: "Oh, wow! And this is just the opening act!"
Con-woman: "Yes, the rest of the afternoon will be great. Hour-long speeches from Janeane Garofalo, Ingrid Newkirk, Lindy West, Meghan Murphy, and then our headliner!"
FamousDudeBro: "Who is the headliner?"
Con-woman: "Rebecca Watson!"
FamousDudeBro: "I'm not familiar with this person, what will she speak about?"
Con-woman: "The great thing about Rebecca Watson is that she's a very dynamic speaker. She rarely tells anyone what she's going to speak about! And a lot of the talk is improv! She might talk about internet trolls, HBO's Game of Thrones,  Prometheus, or critique evolutionary psychology!"
FamousDudeBro: "It's about time someone applied a critical eye to evolutionary psychology. Is she coming from a background of biology or psych?"
Con-woman: "She's has the perspective of a feminist activist blogger!"
FamousDudeBro: "Oh."
Con-woman: "Yeah! It'll be great!"
FamousDudeBro: "And the talk about Prometheus? Is this a feminist analysis of Greek mythology?"
Con-woman: "No, it's the movie that came out last year. You know, the one with Charlize Theron?"
FamousDudeBro: "Oh."
Con-woman: "I'm surprised you didn't know about Rebecca Watson. She's written at length about your privilege."
FamousDudeBro: "My what?"
Con-woman: "Privilege. Essentially how your identity, wealth and success has led to a sense of entitlement and inability to relate to disadvantaged groups."
FamousDudeBro: "That's... interesting, I guess."
Con-woman: "So can we count on you to show up? Note that we can't comp expenses, you will need to figure out how to pay for most of your travel expenses."
FamousDudeBro: "Actually I think I'll stay home."
Con-woman: "Oh, really? You don't like the panelists?"
FamousDudeBro: "The panel is amazing. The rest of the event is... well... the rest of the event is a little suspect."
Con-woman: "You hate Rebecca Watson?"
FamousDudeBro: "It's not that I hate Rebecca Watson, I'd rather sat home and see how this plays out instead of putting my rep on the line. I think the rest of the invitees on your 'panel' will say something similar."
Con-woman: "Wait, are you guys conspiring to blackball Rebecca now?"
FamousDudeBro: "What? No, I just think it's not my scene. We don't necessarily see eye-to-eye."
Con-woman: "I'm blogging about this!"
FamousDudeBro: "This? What is 'this'?"
Con-woman: "You're a misogynist prima donna, obviously!"
FamousDudeBro: "I think I'll hang up now."
Con-woman: "Shitlord!"

That seems to be the general dialogue happening at Skepchick headquarters right now.

This is a long post, so let's reiterate some items:

  1. Atheism+ speakers (Myers, Watson) are the kings and queens of rejecting speaking engagements for subjective and political reasons. (But now it's apparently the worst thing anybody could ever do!)
  2. Atheism+/Skepchicks are miffed that in this scenario they didn't get first chance at saying "No".
  3. Atheism+/Skepchicks forget basic elements of their last manufactured drama in a hope to catch opponents in a "double standard"
  4. Atheism+/Skepchicks are enraged that Dawkins had the courage to say "No" to someone that seemingly hates him

There's something that these "progressives" need to learn. People, even if they are old rich white males, have something called "rights" and "choices". They are not obligated to share a stage, meal or bed with you.

There's a simpler way to state this.

No means no.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Regrettable Statement

It seems the most quoted lines of the post about the "tablegate" drama is the following:

Skepchick may say they're not trying to make a profit, they're trying to "break even" when accounting for the cost of making the trip happen. 
That's just irrelevant. Skepchick wants to do something (i.e. attend an event) and has chosen a suspect way to fund it (i.e. skirt convention rules). 
Presumably the majority of attendees make this work by having a day job and saving money.

Skepchick's plan counted on avoiding merchant fees at the event. Not a good idea.

These sentences wished to convey the following:

  1. The plan hatched to fund their trip was horrible
  2. Other attendees did not have the same opportunities
  3. Perhaps most importantly, other attendees did not have the same expectations about the event
However due to the clichéd instructions, emphasis and poor phrasing, it's being read this way:
  1. Rebecca and Amy suck for not having a 9 to 5
  2. The products made by Rebecca and Amy are terrible
  3. Trying to make a buck is evil
  4. Etc, etc, etc.

Let's clarify a few things - these articles exist not to judge the merits of the products being sold.

These articles exist not to second guess entrepreneurship or career choices.

The intention of covering "tablegate", if not always the words in all circumstances, is to lend a critical eye to intentionally playing the "woe is me" card or leading the internet hate machine down a path to hurt your opponents unfairly. Perhaps even naming a friend or the wrong person entirely during episodes of insane "social justice" rage.

That these acts are usually executed in a hypocritical, exposure-raising or profit-seeking manner merely adds to the absurdity of the situation.

One will not find a critique of arts, crafts and t-shirts here. 

If think a particular product is good, or you think a friend will enjoy it, go for it

Afterwards you can go buy some groceries or lunch at that shop you know is staffed by very religious social conservatives. World will not end.

Boycotts and preachy walk-outs are not really productive.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Skepchick named the wrong man

(EDIT: A few people have suggested this person was actually Robert Dennis. Because Colanduno hadn’t sounded sure when he gave me Cody’s name, I told him to get bak to me immediately if it was in fact someone else. When I heard nothing for six hours, I went ahead with the name he gave me.)

Then later:
(Same edit: crossed out in case this is actually Dennis.)
It is enough to note that the Skepchicks waited a whole six hours before blasting someone on the internet for abusing them. That is self-restraint as yet unheard of!

The pertinent details seem to have arrived via this commenter:
Melissa September 2, 2013, 10 pm
Sorry I’ve been traveling & I’m very tired. But I feel I have some pretty relevant info I’d like to put out there. My boyfriend and I were at Dragoncon and went directly to Dragoncon management to find out what happened with the Skepchick table. We spoke with Sara McKorkendale, Information Services & Tables and Robert “Bobby” Dennis, Senior Director. We believe Bobby was the same person who had told Rebecca & Amy they were breaking the rules because he used the same wording with us regarding his partner/boss Chairman Pat Henry as the person who we “DO NOT WANT TO HAVE GET INVOLVED” So to be clear, it was not David Cody.
Anyway Bobby told us specifically they broke the rules because their merch wasn’t logoed. He also claimed all merch profits must go to a nonprofit org.
We politely pointed out the rules do not state that absolutely everything must be logoed and we quoted the rule. “You can sell logo merchandise from your organization and other items made exclusively for & by your club, band or organization”
Right from the start Bobby was unnecessarily defensive, belligerent and rude to us. However, Sara did acknowledge the error on their part as far as the wording and they would be more clear on their wording next year.
We then took a look around and noticed other tables in that area that were selling non-logoed items and books whose proceeds were not going to any non profit (unless you count the author’s pocket as a non profit). So the crux of the issue was the arbitrary interpretation of their policy and very unprofessional manner handling the situation. I don’t blame Amy or Rebecca at all for leaving after talking to this asshole. I would too.

To this there was the reply:

Will I wish there were some pictures floating around of the fan booths that could demonstrate how arbitrarily this rule was applied.

Amy then states her case:

Amy  September 3, 2013, 3 pm
I purchase vendor booths and tables for my art all the time. I also get free tables at conventions very often due to my participation. I am happy to do whatever is required of me depending on the situation. I am not out to break any rules. IN THIS CASE, I had participated and had my art available for sale on the Skepchick Fan table at Dragon Con for 4 years in a row. I also participated in the Skeptrack during that time both on stage and off. I helped with vaccine clinics and other promotional events tied to the Skeptic Track and the con. There was no reason for me to assume this year would be any different. I was there to promote the Skepchick Blog Network and to encourage critical thinking and to help promote Cosmo Quest. BUT, however you want to slice it up, this year we were treated very, very rudely, unnecessarily. If I had thought I had to be in the vendor room ALL OF A SUDDEN after four years of participating in the EXACT same way, I would have certainly considered doing that, or simply not attended or attended and not lugged all my art with me. At least I would have been given an opportunity to make a decision .
I find it so disheartening that so many self-proclaimed “skeptics” are happy to ignore or invent their own facts just so they can hate us and assume that we have the worst intentions, regardless of the situation, no matter what we do. You people are awful (you know who you are) and your unbridled hate and cynicism, if left unchecked will ruin what is left of the skeptic community. Skeptics should want to HELP other people and help make the world a kinder, more just place otherwise the movement is nothing more then self-congratulatory I-figured-out psychics-aren’t-real BS. And if THAT is what it is going to be about, then I can certainly find better things to do with my time and other things to promote with my art.
Melanie states the core issue:

Melanie September 3, 2013, 4 pm [...]
The point is this: They were targeted and verbally abused. That is a serious issue. That is THE issue here. They aren’t playing the victim. They were targeted. There isn’t a line to cross in regard to the rules that puts them at fault for being targeted and verbally abused. That is solely the fault of the people targeting and verbally abusing them. Period. They don’t deserve to be targeted and abused for breaking rules. 

Let's ask some questions.

Was the Skepchick table targeted?

Yes. Skepchicks received a complaint specifically about them. Presumably from a vendor at a paid table.

Was Skepchick verbally abused?

Yes. It's likely that words were said.

Were other fan tables breaking the rules as stated?

Yes. It's a reasonable assumption that someone else was breaking the poorly written rules.

Now this is out of the way, let's move on to the more pressing questions.

Does everyone hate Skepchick?

No. The only person blinded by rage is Watson. She's the one that immediately dashed to Twitter with her issues, she's the one that named names that turned out to be incorrect, she's the one that enlisted a posse of males to find the guy that spoke to her.

Was Skepchick treated unfairly?

No. Here's the thing about conference policies that nobody reads - they are created to protect people at the conference.

The purpose of crafting something like a harassment policy is to protect everyone from harassment.

Similarly, the fan table policy at DragonCon was crafted to protect vendors.

You piss off the vendors, you're done. 

Skepchick's description of the situation as the worst thing since the last uniquely horrible thing that happened to them is quite ridiculous.

Why did the vendors let the other fan tables get away with it?

Who knows, and who cares?

Sometimes getting asked for a coffee while sharing an elevator is the creepiest event of all time, and in other circumstances with different people it's the beginnings of a Meg Ryan movie.

The important thing to remember is that if a guy is creepy in an elevator, he doesn't have the following excuses:

  1. "I've asked women in elevators for coffee before, and they were cool with it."
  2. "Other people are hooking up in elevators here."
  3. "The rules say elevator chats are cool."
He must understand that the situation might be a little subjective and that he's got to leave the elevator.

When you're privileged and you break the rules, sometimes there is only one thing you can do.

Shut up and listen.

... and perhaps apologize to David Cody.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Skepchick fans are true believers

The comments over at Skepchick about the latest Skepchick drama are amazing.
If I were you, I’d talk to Cody’s boss and find out what gives. Get him to show you the complaints in writing and ask him about the supposed change in policy. Don’t just walk away.

David Cody has been there forever. From Wikipedia: "It was founded by a board of directors including John Bunnell, David Cody, Robert Dennis, Mike Helba, Pat Henry, and Ed Kramer."

But Skepchicks think he's just another clown they can push around. Hopefully this proves not to be true.

Is there any evidence or reasonable suspicion that the original complaints were from the usual suspects?
I’ve never been to Dragon Con (or any con but CONvergence) so I can’t directly relate but I can imagine the frustration of being treated like criminals. First, there is estopple, as you point out. Then there is the question of all other venders never violating the rule, which is unlikely. Then there is that the rule is misapplied. Then there is the problem that the rule was changed just for you.
If I was regularly attending DragonCon as a pro, I would stop because of this. Sorry I can’t offer that support meaningfully. But I will look sternly at anyone I know who goes to Dragon Con ever again, if that helps.

A truckload of insanity.

If you happen to mention to Greg that "other vendors" do not violate the rule as they front the $550 or so for a dealer table, you will receive this response:

Apparently anybody that disagrees with the hivemind must be an obsessed stalker.

Where did the two years come from? For what it's worth, this blog is only about 10 months old.

Well. That’s interesting. Mostly because my partner and I were going to go to DragonCon next year, after I graduate, BECAUSE OF skepchick involvement. Otherwise it’s kind of a generic con for us. It’s far away and expensive, but we’ve seen skepchick’s at GeekGirlCon, and thought if you all went, it was a good con to go to. If you lot, are not there, then I’ll save my pennies, and go to something more local.
It’s just that I don’t trust a lot of conventions to do things right these days, and we’ve been kind of using Skepchick involvement as a rule of thumb for the kind of places we want to attend.

Beginnings of a boycott! Here it comes! Amy replies:
We are like the canaries of the coal mines.
Amy should have saved everyone a lot of time and went full Niemöller.

Trying to make it look like this is part of a crumbling DragonCon is simply pathetic.

First they came for the Skepchick fan table,
but I did not speak out because I was not an idiot.

I know more than one Con that ruined itself by treating volunteers like shit…

The idea here is that Skepchick qualified as volunteers at the convention.

Were they working security? Cleaning the bathrooms? Giving people directions? Pushing wheelchairs around?

No, Watson got a free pass for speaking at a panel (a bit more high profile than your usual volunteer peon) while Amy was seemingly staffing the table the entire time.

When asked why Skepchick didn't just get a dealer table, a person steps up to explain what the real "problem" is:

the problem was that they had done it that way before, that they were told they were okay after the first complaint, that others had done, and were still doing, what they had done, and that the rules seemed to have been arbitrarily changed and just for them.

Yes, the rules were misleading.

However, issues with this:

  1. It doesn't matter that Skepchick previously got away with selling stuff at a fan table
  2. It's been said that other fan tables break the rules. No evidence presented by Skepchick suggests this.
Then it gets more bizarre:

Also the disrespect and the implication (unless I’m misreading something) that whomever brought this up with management had some sort of antifeminist agenda. Clearly Rebecca is not yet saying this is the case, but you know how these things go, sigh.

Yes, obviously the DragonCon organizers hate women because everyone that hates Skepchick must be an evil misogynist.

That's just how things go, right?

You mean the rules they weren’t breaking with anything but the Bigfoot air freshener, which Rebecca offered to remove from the table? Everything else was branded or “made exclusively for and by” Skepchicks.

 Sorry Melanie, but this is not correct.

In Rebecca Watson's tweets, the show stopper was also sales of a "Put Thor back in Thursday" shirt that was not logo wear. The Bigfoot air freshener was simply another instance of breaking the rules.

Of course, Watson left that bit out of her post which is why Melanie does not have all the facts.

Then there is the obvious problem of whether Amy's ceramics qualify as something by-and-for Skepchick, when profits seemingly go straight into Amy's pockets.

Skepchicks had several questionable products at their table.

Then the commenters continue berating the person who brought up the rules:

Keep on trying for that reading comprehension. 
Shhh, you’re confusing him with facts. *near fatal eyeroll*

The irony of course being that Skepchick didn't give them all the facts in her post.

Then commenter-extraordinaire marilove appears:

Seriously? The rules are really terribly written and not easy to understand, but even if they had broken ONE FREAKIN’ RULE because of ONE FREAKIN’ TYPE OF MERCHANDISE, it doesn’t mean they needed to be removed from the entire convention.
Why can’t people just be fucking human beings to one another and stop acting like spoiled, power tripping high school principals?! How difficult would it have been to say, “Hey, yeah if you could stop selling the Bigfoot toy, that would be great, and we promise to clarify the rules for next year.”
DONE! No need to start a ruckus. Just ask Rebecca and her crew nicely to remove the one toy, and then everyone could have had a wonderful rest of the weekend.
But no.
Of course that’s not what they did. Why would they do something that doesn’t cause a lot of drama, right? I mean, Rebecca and crew must be ONE HUNDRED PERCENT PERFECT! At all times! Or ELSE!

Alright, marilove.

"ONE FREAKING RULE" - It is interesting to suggest that Skepchick should be allowed to break more than one rule at a convention. Contemplating this reality is quite terrifying.

"ONE FREAKIN’ TYPE OF MERCHANDISE" - Actually there were three distinct types of merchandise - t-shirts, air fresheners and ceramics - which accounted for dozens of items at the table.

"it doesn’t mean they needed to be removed from the entire convention."

They weren't removed from the "entire convention". They were asked to stop selling stuff.

"Why can’t people just be fucking human beings to one another and stop acting like spoiled, power tripping high school principals?!"

The implication here being that it is the other (non-Skepchick) people that are power-tripping.

marilove continues:

So they can be poorly written but she should be psychic and know exactly what the rules should be, even though they are vague and hard to understand because it appears whomever wrote them sucks at writing clearly? Really?
Why do these douche bags act like the asshole principal from my high school, power tripping over shit that does not even fuckin’ matter? And why are you putting all the focus on someone who clearly didn’t really do much wrong, rather than the assholes who kicked them out for almost no reason whatsoever?
It’s like they were watching for Skepchicks to make one tiny little mistake, and instead of discussing it like adults and saying, hey, can we fix this? They just go straight to kicking them out.
Which was not cool. Not cool at all.
People really need to get over themselves. This wasn’t a big deal. But it was made into a big deal because of a clear agenda that some dude named Derek has. Really pathetic.

Let's go over a few things here:

  1. Rules were poorly written. But Skepchick neglected to read them anyways
  2. Why didn't Skepchick think it was a bit weird that other people were paying $550 for sales tables?
  3. Marilove has some things to work out from high school
  4. Apparently not getting paid is "no big deal"
This is the especially odd part.

DragonCon, as an organization, works to make sure it isn't getting the run around at fan tables because dealers will stop paying for dealer tables if the rules are too relaxed. 

By many estimates, a dealer camping a free fan table would mean that the DragonCon conference loses anywhere from $550 to $1200.

Skepchick didn't pay for a table, DragonCon couldn't be said to necessarily owe Skepchick a table.

Yet the situation we end up in is that Skepchick is outraged that they are out airfare + hotel costs.

They flew to Atlanta, booked a hotel and intended to finance it all based on sales at a table whose rules they never read.

At one point, DragonCon essentially throws up its arms and asks "Where's my money?"

Skepchick's response, unbelievably, is "Where's your money? WHERE'S MY MONEY?!"

This is called privilege.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Skepchick's not-so-accurate DragonCon story

Skepchick responds to their table being punted in a post titled "How Skepchick Got Booted from DragonCon Today"

(Background - Earlier article about this here)

Even the title is a lie. More on this later.

In any case, continuing:

As we have for the past several years, Surly Amy and I staffed a Skepchick fan table, selling (as always) our t-shirts, buttons, and jewellery. We talked a lot with a very nice man in charge of overseeing fan tables in our area (unfortunately I don’t recall his name), who helped us find a good spot for our table.
On Saturday, he came around and said he’d had a complaint from someone that we were selling buttons that were against the rules for fan tables. He explained the relevant rule, which on DragonCon’s site reads:
In deference to our dealers and exhibitors, who purchase a table or sponsor the convention, no general merchandise sales are permitted at concourse tables. You can sell logo merchandise from your organization and other items made exclusively for and by your club, band or organization. Dragon*Con does not charge a percentage of these merchandise sales.
(We hadn’t read that rule because Skeptrack admin Derek Colunado arranges all the skeptic tables and we have no contact with DragonCon.)
I explained to the man that I personally make every button with my printer and buttonmaker, so by that rule they should be fine. However, I pointed out that I was selling Bigfoot air fresheners (like last year), which I don’t make and are not exclusive to Skepchick. I just think they’re funny and relevant. But, I acknowledged that that could be against the rule and if so, I was happy to take it off the table. The man thanked me for being flexible and told me to leave everything as is for now and that he’d run it past his higher ups and let us know if Bigfoot had to go. We thanked him for being fair and understanding, and Amy gave him a Surly necklace he had been eyeing. We didn’t hear back from him by the end of the day.
This morning, we set up the table and were having our coffee when Derek Colunado came over and pulled Amy aside as I was helping a customer. Amy came back and told me, “We’re being shut down.” Derek had told her that according to his boss, there had been another complaint that we were in violation of the fan table rules. She asked to speak with the boss, who Derek went to fetch.
A few minutes later we were approached by David Cody, who is apparently Senior Director and co-chair of the gaming division. (He didn’t identify himself but Derek gave me that name after our conversation.)
Cody pointed at Amy’s jewellery and said we could not sell anything on the table that did not carry the Skepchick logo. While we do have a few logo shirts and buttons and jewelry, most of our handmade stuff is related to science and skepticism but without garish branding.
We first tried to figure out why the rule changed from “logo merchandise from your organization and other items made exclusively for and by your organization” to “logo merchandise only,” but Cody did not acknowledge that the rule had ever allowed for non-logo merch. Then we wondered how we’d been able to sell everything in the past but not now, but Cody simply insisted we were flouting the rules. When we kept asking questions, he told us, “If you don’t like it, I can call my boss, and believe me, you do not want that to happen.”
We were confused. Was his boss a vampire? Cthulhu? We asked him if he was threatening us and if so, could he explain what the actual threat entailed. He told us we had been warned twice already by convention staff that our merchandise was in violation of the rules. We said that did not happen and as I tried to tell him about our positive interactions with his staff, he talked over me and insisted we were lying about having been warned. I told him that it didn’t even matter because I was going to pack up the table no matter what, but at this point all I wanted was for him to stop treating us like garbage and attempting to intimidate us.
After I repeated several times that I was packing up and leaving, he finally left us alone. Amy immediately changed her flight to leave today. I packed up, got some lunch, and then went to the literature track where I spoke about women in Game of Thrones before a packed and engaged crowd that lined the walls of the room and filled all the floor space right up to the lectern.
Now I’m back in my hotel room wondering if I should go to my final panel at 7pm in the Skeptrack room. On the one hand, I do these talks and panels for the DragonCon audience, who are consistently wonderful and enthusiastic. But on the other hand, I’m exhausted and frustrated from the stress of dealing with all this.
I’m an “attending professional” at DragonCon, meaning that I get a free pass to perform on panels but I’m expected to pay for my own airfare and hotel, costs that add up to be nearly $1,000. I expect to take a loss, but selling some Skepchick merchandise at least helps off-set that loss. This year, I have hardly even made a dent in my expenses.
I have essentially paid hundreds of dollars to perform for free for a for-profit organization, whose representative berated me. [emphasis original]
That’s a big deal, especially for someone like me who lives on a blogger’s salary. It’s such a big deal that in a way it undoes all the good that was done by every other hard-working and accommodating DragonCon employee and volunteer I interacted with this weekend. It means that if things are the same next year, I won’t be able to attend DragonCon again despite the requests of the many people who apparently enjoy my contributions each year. And this is all thanks to one DragonCon employee on a power trip.
Apparently, it isn’t the first time Cody has behaved this way. Small comfort.
Regardless, I do want to clearly thank everyone at DragonCon who made this an amazing weekend up til now, and to all my friends on Twitter and Facebook who have my back. I truly hope that next year DragonCon officials decide my contributions are worth keeping. If not, I’ll see you all elsewhere.

What a bunch of malarkey.

The convention policy is badly worded

Admittedly the phrasing around "and other items made exclusively for and by your club, band or organization" does sound like it makes an "out" for items that have a particular affinity to the group.

For this reason, Amy in particular gets a pass for thinking her handmade jewelry (unique and made only by her) is within policy.

Skepchick did not read the policy anyways

Bad wording does not excuse Skepchick not reading the policy in the first place and playing with an adhoc interpretation of the rules worked out on the fly with convention organizers.

Does anyone think convention organizers want to screw around with people at the free tables that so obviously want to bend the rules as far as possible?

Details conveniently missing

In her recap, Rebecca Watson fails to include a crucial detail:

In all this talk about homemade jewelry and buttons, it comes down to the sales of a t-shirt being allowed that is the final show stopper.

Nobody would dare argue that t-shirts don't qualify as "general merchandise" and therefore break conference rules.

It seems that Watson had a load of garbage to hawk, from air fresheners to joke t-shirts, and the organizers understandably gave her the WTF treatment.

Reality distortion field

This sentence is amazing:

I have essentially paid hundreds of dollars to perform for free for a for-profit organization, whose representative berated me.
In Watson's fantasy world, the following things are happening:
  1. A big mean man named David Cody was awful to her (and he's probably a misogynist)
  2. Watson is being abused by a profit seeking enterprise. 
Of course, the facts of the situation are a lot different.

The Skepchick business plan

DragonCon reps, while they make money, aren't the ones shamelessly trying to make a buck here. Rebecca Watson is the scam artist in this situation.

Let's go over the business plan:

  1. Get yourself signed on to speak in a panel (perhaps about how Game of Thrones related to feminism)
    • You'll get a free pass to the event
    • The panel will boost your profile
  2. Park a free booth at the event
  3. Be sure to plug the booth when speaking in the panel
    • Free advertising!
  4. Sell untold amounts of tinkets at said booth
Typically businesses have to pay a lease as well as all travel costs.

In this fantastic plan, Skepchick pays precisely $0 for operating space.

Skepchick may say they're not trying to make a profit, they're trying to "break even" when accounting for the cost of making the trip happen.

That's just irrelevant. Skepchick wants to do something (i.e. attend an event) and has chosen a suspect way to fund it (i.e. skirt convention rules).

Presumably the majority of attendees make this work by having a day job and saving money

Skepchick's plan counted on avoiding merchant fees at the event. Not a good idea.

Yet there are actually people out there that believe Watson's bogus narrative, and they're actually incensed that DragonCon had the courage to deny Watson free hotel and airfare. 

What service did Watson render to deserve this compensation from DragonCon?

She graced the conference with her presence. Such humility. Such compassion. Such bravery.

Skepchick was not booted

The heart of the matter - it's simply not true that Skepchick was "booted" from the event.

No evidence presented suggests that Rebecca and Amy were asked to leave the event. They were simply told to stop selling stuff at their free table.

They appear to have had several choices:
  1. Close the booth and attend the event like normal people
  2. Sell only Skepchick logo'd t-shirts
  3. Pay the fee to be in the merchant hall
Of course, the choice made was option 4. What is option 4?

    Option 4.  Go apeshit, claim harassment and persecution at the hands of rich white males

It's a bit predictable at this point. 

Watson is carried this victim cross quite far. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end.

The free ride is over.

It might be time to raise money in a more honest way.

Perhaps Watson needs some venture capital to get started.

In that case, here's a quarter.

DragonCon rules are rules

Remember DragonCon? The event that had posed some ethical problems for Skepchick?

It turns out that DragonCon has since resolved that particular issue. 

Now we're on to the next dramatic events.

First, some background. Let's read a conference policy!

From the Dragon*Con 2013 Fan Table application form :
Concourse Tables
Dragon*Con Concourse Tables are defined as groups located in areas at each hotel designated as a concourse. Concourse areas are open areas that receive a high volume of Dragon*Con traffic. Tables consist of Fan Groups, Conventions, Band Merchandise tables, Performers, and Sponsors. [...] The rules for reserving and setting up these free tables are different than those of the Dealer and Exhibitor Halls. Please see instructions for applying and rules below.
Our onsite coordinator for fan tables will be Sara McCorkendale. If you have specific questions, she can be reached at via our contact form.

Rules and Guidelines – Concourse Tables
  • Tables must be staffed by Dragon*Con members. In other words: yes, you will need to purchase membership badges for the people who will be staffing your table.
  • Table staffing hours:
  • Concourse table hours will vary depending on the hotel location. The hours are designated to maximize exposure for the groups given the traffic patterns of Dragon*Con members. Groups should plan to staff the table minimum of 40 hours across the designated times and days as assigned by hotel.
  • Concourse Table groups must provide their own staffers to cover their table. Dragon*Con volunteers are not permitted to assist in managing your tables. If you need to step away from your table, it is your responsibility to have another designated person to watch your belongings.
  • Dragon*Con is not responsible for displays, merchandise, or other items left at tables during closed hours. Any items left are at own risk.
  • In deference to our dealers and exhibitors, who purchase a table or sponsor the convention, no general merchandise sales are permitted at concourse tables. You can sell logo merchandise from your organization and other items made exclusively for and by your club, band or organization. Dragon*Con does not charge a percentage of these merchandise sales.
  • Charity collections are not allowed at Concourse Tables as it may interfere with the integrity of the Dragon*Con approved and sponsored charity.
  • No raffles or other games of chance are allowed. Sorry, but it is illegal according to the laws of the State of Georgia.
  • Electrical power:
    • Be sure to bring your own extension cords and splitters.
    • There may be a charge for access to power. Please check with the individual hotel.
  • If you need Internet access at your table, you'll have to arrange this with the individual hotel. Although our host hotels offer wireless access in guest rooms, this service is usually restricted or blocked in the lobby and function-space areas
  • Concourse tables are typically 6 feet in length and will have two chairs per table. Extra chairs are sometimes obtainable from the individual hotels. They also usually have table cloths.
  • You may utilize the space behind your table in whatever way you see fit, so long as no fire or safety hazards are created. Anything that extends into a walkway is considered a safety hazard.
  • Nothing may be attached, in any way, to the ceiling. If there is a wall or column behind you, you will need to arrange with the individual hotel to attach materials; there may be a fee. Any publicly displayed items must be suitable for all audiences; in other words, it must be child friendly.
  • Table placement will be at the sole discretion of Dragon*Con, the Concourse Table director or their assistants. We will work with you as much as possible, but we can make no promises.
Rules and Guidelines – Band Tables
  • Each approved band will be assigned a merchandise table within the Marriott Marquis on the Marquis Level.
  • Merchandise tables are 6 feet in length and will have two chairs per table.
  • Only official band logoed merchandise may be sold at your table.
  • Bands must provide their own staffers to cover their table. Dragon*Con volunteers are not permitted to assist in selling or managing your tables. If you need to step away from your table, it is your responsibility to have another designated person to watch your belongings.
  • Electrical outlets are not provided for free at the Marriott Marquis. For a fee of $75 - $150 the Marriott Marquis will have a power outlet ran to your table. Please note that it is acceptable to share with other tables that are adjacent to you, provided that no cables run across any pedestrian walkway.
  • Playing samples of your band's music is allowed at your table; however, there are limits on volume. We understand that the convention gets louder at times, but in order to prevent escalation in volume between tables, if a Dragon*Con volunteer asks you to turn your music down, you will be expected to do so. Failure to comply with this may result in losing the privilege to play your music or in the forfeiture of your merchandise table.
  • You may utilize the space behind your table in whatever way you see fit, so long as no fire or safety hazards are created. Anything that extends into a walkway is considered a safety hazard.
  • Nothing may be attached, in any way, to the ceiling. If there is a wall or column behind you, you will need to arrange with the Marriott Marquis to attach materials; there may be a fee. Any publicly displayed items must be suitable for all audiences.

DragonCon graciously allows people to setup a table for free for fans and bands  as long as they abide by certain rules.

The rules contain restrictions on sales. The restrictions are presumably important because there exists paid booths in the other halls for people that want to make tons of money off conference sales.

This is what happens when you break the rules:

Then famous people show up wanting to "name and shame" the poor fellow that was ENFORCING THE BLOODY CONVENTION RULES:

A few things:

What got them into trouble

They were selling the following things:

  • A t-shirt that read "Put Thor back in Thursday"
  • Several handmade ceramics with different symbols and slogans
None of it really had anything to do with the "Skepchick" brand and could have been sold by any generic retailer with consumers having no idea that it is a "Skepchick" product.

This obviously breaks convention rules.

Rebecca says "after 4 years"

This could mean two things

DragonCon recently changed their policy, as it is their right to do

- OR -

Skepchick has been pulling a fast one over at DragonCon for nearly half a decade

Either way, Watson is in the wrong.

Rebecca says "we weren't given a T&C"

Bullshit. Terms and conditions are right on the application form page.

Rebecca says "can't recoup costs now"

Costs... for your free table?

Once again, Watson thinks the world owes her something.

The rest of the proles at DragonCon pay their way and you will not find them on Twitter complaining about failing to "recoup costs" by breaking sales rules.

Rebecca says "provide free entertainment"

Yikes. What an incredibly conceited view of one's role at a convention. Especially a comic con.

It's a wonder if everyone in cosplay thinks of themselves as "providing free entertainment" to those that enjoy seeing people dress up.

What a glorious conference full of jerks that would be. Bunch of people walking around thinking they're doing something people should be paying to see.

Rebecca makes up a story about "threats"

The man enforcing the rules said he'll fetch his boss if Skepchick did not comply with the rules. That's not much of a threat.

In addition to this, the man apparently called the Skepchicks "liars".

How do Skepchicks respond? They go on Twitter with a completely manufactured sob story and rile up the crowd against this as-yet-unnamed man who's only crime was doing his job.

Liars. Yes, liars.

Rebecca apologizes to her "new followers"

Watson rounds out the conversation by hinting she's received a fresh bucketload of naive followers due to her most recent Twitter drama.

Play the victim card and the idiots show up.

Watson is sure to plug the online site, and is retweeted by John Hodgman to his 900,000 followers. That alone should make up for any "lost sales" from any illicit transactions.

It's hard to explain why these policy lovers fail to follow policy.

One wonders how they choose to define words.

How could one define "Atheism+"?

Playing the victim card for cash.