Let me paint a landscape for you as 2012 ceased to be…
On November 12 2012, Russel Blackford, in a rare moment of absolute exasperation, tweeted what most folks actually feel, but restrain themselves from articulating –
I will NOT be attending any convention / conference that features Rebecca Watson as a speaker. What were the Australian Skeptics thinking? smh
— Russell Blackford (@Metamagician) November 12, 2012
On November 10, Rebecca Watson took her very own brand of air-headed cluelessness to new heights in a talk at Skepticon 5, dragging evolutionary psychology through the mud as some kind of tool of patriarchal oppression. Whether Blackford’s tweet was a direct result of this exhibit of buffoonery or not is not known, but doesn’t seem likely given the video was not posted until November 20. If by some chance it did, it only vindicates Blackford’s outburst as Watson now consistently paints a picture of skeptics and atheists to the outside world as a bunch of ill-educated, poorly read, perpetually squabbling clowns. Remember Galileo Becky? No, that was not an excusable “slip up” – it’s basic junior high school level history/science knowledge. It reeked of the pig ignorance of a stupid girl-child that fills her vast expanses of idle time between booze ups playing video games and tweeting snark instead self-education – the latter being what many folks would assume came as a minimum responsibility for someone that feeds at the teat of the community and claims to represent it.
On December 1, Ed Clint posted a methodical take down of Watson’s nonsense1. It was clinical and everything a skeptical dissertation should be – concentrating entirely on what was said and not who said it. Predictably, the numbskulls at freefromthoughtblogs responded in the only way they know how – with personal attack. Stefanny Zwan babbled her usual semi-coherent babble with a quick series of posts attempting to shame individuals, piss on Clint’s credibility and, just for good measure, imply conspiracy –
So, yes, targeted. A bunch of lay people whose hobby seems to be talking about how bad Rebecca and her friends are decided without seeing her talk what it was about. Then they recruited someone to be the mouthpiece for their complaints. This isn’t something they do generally. Rebecca was targeted for this criticism because of who she is and her relationship to these people.
Myers, the mother of all mean-spirited short fat pricks, was not to be outdone. His contribution to “reasonable and balanced” discussion shows Zwan how it should be done –
You may have already heard that Ed Clint, a guy who has been dedicated to bashing Skepchick and Freethoughtblogs for over a year, has cloaked his biases in a pretense of objectivity and written a long critique of one of Rebecca Watson’s talks, accusing her of being a science denialist and anti-science because she so thoroughly ridiculed pop evo psych. The excesses and devious misrepresentations in that post were painful to read, as was the revelation that Clint is throwing away his career by jumping on the evo psych bandwagon in graduate school… Fortunately, Stephanie Zvan has already torn into his ‘analysis’, showing that it’s mostly misplaced and misleading. I’m relieved, because I’m going to be tied up for a while, and I found Clint’s response to be extremely irritating.
Problem is neither Myers nor his beached whale gibberish monger actually addressed any of Clint’s points, with Myers falling back on the way too familiar gretachristinitis excuse for absence of substance. Myers entire critique is encapsulated in a subsequent paragraph –
One think that particularly rankled is that Clint puts up a pretense of being objective and that his criticisms are nothing personal; bizarrely, he even puts up a photo of himself taken with Rebecca Watson as if that were evidence that he’s not biased against her. What he doesn’t mention is that he’s been sharpening an axe since the “elevatorgate” episode; together with a disgruntled ex-FtB blogger who left in a bizarre huff over not getting enough respect, he founded a competing network (which is fine, of course) which they proceeded to stock almost entirely with writers with an an anti-FtB and strongly anti-Skepchick slant — I’ve had to laugh at the lineup which looks largely drawn from the ranks of the Slymepit, a notorious anti-feminist/anti-Rebecca Watson hate site, and my list of banned commenters. And looking at the people who comment there, again, they seem to be largely driven by hatred of Watson and feminism in general.
High comedy. Myers is accusing Clint of the inability to be objective. This is the man who’s blog, if all of his hate mongering, personal smear and slut shaming were removed, would be little more than white space peppered with ads. Myers, who has not articulated an objective line in half a decade (if ever), pointing out lack of objectivity in others. Emperor – you are NAKED. It is disturbing to consider the fact that Myers may even believe his own shit. As it stands, he is a prime example for anyone choosing to enter the fields of science of what not to be.
And in the midst of all of this, on November 25, CFI’s current president Ronald Lindsay chimes in with a piece that, shock and horror, attempts to point out that there appears to be shunning within the community. Well, cut my legs off and call me shorty…
Shunning and boycotting may be gaining acceptance in the atheist and skeptic communities. In particular, it appears they are being adopted as tactics against fellow atheists and skeptics. This is regrettable […]
I am motivated to write about this topic for a couple of reasons. First, Russell Blackford has recently announced via Twitter that he will not attend any conference at which Rebecca Watson or PZ Myers is speaking. Second, in the last few months, a number of individuals have advised me that CFI and its affiliates should never invite certain persons as speakers. This advice has often been accompanied with a statement such as “If X speaks, I will not attend the conference.” There was a flurry of such advice around CSICon, the Nashville conference of our affiliate CSI, presumably because our speaker list reminded people of objections they had to this or that individual. Some of the advice was prompted by an essay by Watson that appeared in Slate around the same time as the conference, which, among other things, contained a mischaracterization of one of my blog posts. This was offered as convincing proof that Watson was beyond the pale and should be considered persona non grata by CFI […]
If Russell believes that Myers and Watson trade in bad arguments, or perhaps no arguments at all, but just unsupported assertions and accusations, then the best remedy for that is the time-honored one of pointing out the flaws in their claims. Or, if one thinks enough effort has been spent on rebuttal, simply ignoring them. Shunning and boycotting are extreme responses best reserved for truly exceptional cases. I would hate to see the atheist and skeptic communities dissolve into a snarl of dueling fatwas.
Quite unbelievable that someone in Lindsay’s position can innocently proclaim he’s only just noticed the prevalence of this vileness and that it took a tweet from Blackford to stir him into speaking out. Really? Ok, if you say so Ron… That’s a mighty big rock you live under.
The final image in this panorama may at first seem irrelevant, but is decidedly not. It concerns this blob of vomited bile from the Naked One on December 6 recalling the anniversary of Marc Lépine’s École Polytechnique massacre –
I remember following the events of that day intently, horrified that there are people who will kill women simply because they are women. And these anonymous monsters on the internet who shriek affrontedly about women and feminists and moan that any feminist allies are ‘manginas’ — to me, every one of them has the name Marc Lépine, and is just hiding it in shame and fear and hatred and cowardice.
Not all spree killings are equal if you ask PZ. Some are more equal than others. In his enthusiasm to shake his sisterhood fist of solidarity, Myers only really succeeds in pissing on the collective graves of all who die at the hands of unhinged maniacs by exploiting it as a means to further cheaply vilifying the entire atheist and skeptic community that do not partake of the FfTB/Skepchick Kool-aid. Myers’ conflation of a creature like Lépine with all the “monsters” that are unkind to his precious pudgy pink princess is raw shrieking histrionics – it is laying bare the mind of a delusional obsessive who is no longer distinguishable from the various theist fanatics he claims to despise. I won’t go into the specifics of the Lépine case, but it is a repugnant strawman that has been admirably debunked elsewhere –
That blog item also raises a quite adroit observation –
It might be worth noting that Marc Lépine was an atheist. Lazy thinking theists could just as easily say that Marc Lépine murdered all of those women because he was an atheist.
Myers malicious gibberish is quite correctly paralleled to that of “lazy thinking theists” in search of a scapegoat. Fred Phelps immediately springs to mind as a cohabiter of the same diseased mental space Myers now occupies – and also looks decidedly less crazy in the light of Myers’ Lépine outburst.
So this is the snapshot of the public face of “organised” atheism and skepticism at the close of 2012. Not a pretty picture is it?
Myers behaviour is to be expected. When you are a vulgar demagogue who peddles imaginary fears, you are subject to the law of diminishing returns. Each fear-mongering excess must be grander than its predecessor or you risk losing your target audience’s attention. Just over a year ago, Myers assaulted reality with this smear of atheists “not of the faith” –
The problem, as we’ve seen in online behavior by the self-centered pigs, is that there’s no shortage of men (and women!) willing to form a support group for misogyny and rape culture.
The truth is there are two hundred white women raped in America by a black man for every one black woman raped by whites.
There’s not a lot of wriggle room left beyond this kind of smearing of critics. It’s further hyperbolised by the subsequent harping about the supposed rape switch that apparently lies just beneath the surface of all males (but especially those that criticise Myers’ precious snowflakes) and justifies the truly idiotic Schrödinger’s Rapist theory. So it should come as absolutely no surprise that Myers now wants to further terrify the credulous by imputing that those that disagree with him also have murder switches. Each new fear must be greater than the last…
But, some questions need answering. Like why this memorial hand-wringing is about Lépine in particular, and not say Ted Bundy? Does Lépine hold some special significance to Myers? Let’s see by searching Pharyngula –
One hit. That’s right. Just *one*. Commemorating the 23rd anniversary of his crimes. An arbitrary number of no significance to anyone other than Discordians (of which Myers decidedly is not one). If it was the 2oth, perhaps it would be noteworthy, but not this number just drawn out of a hat. No, unless you are one of the credulous numbskulls that read Myers the way creationists read Genesis (and obsessively avoid digesting what is said and fact checking), Myers’ selection of Lépine had more to do with Wikipedia’s “on this day” pages than any actual historical knowledge or compassion for Lépine’s victims. Any brutal murderer would have done, even one that is as unsuitable to use for broad-brush demographic-wide smearing as Lépine. “If you throw enough shit, something will stick” – which is pretty accurate for Pharyngula editorial policy.
Myers’ toxic invective has long been beyond the realms of common misrepresentation and slander. It is very firmly in the territory of blood libel – the false accusation of entire demographics of heinous criminality in order to incite fear and then encourage that fear to fester into hatred. The blood libel aspect is particularly stark in light of this latest outburst that invokes the memory of Marc Lépine – the implication is clear, those that do not subscribe to the approved ideology are all potential murders hanging by a thread that could snap at any moment… This is a superstitious voodoo ritual conjuring demons in the uncritical imaginations of Myers’ audience. It’s particularly disturbing when you consider exactly how marginal and paranoid some in his audience already are –
So who is it that is supposed to be afraid of whom again? Despite the continuous flood of accusations against the critics of the Myers / Watson circus, I have yet to see any that have come even close to being as threatening as what is routine on freefromthoughtblogs..
Does any of this raise any concerns with Ronald F. Lindsay? Of course not, he has more important things to concern himself with.
As for Watson and cohorts’ pseudoscience and pseudoskepticism… well, this stuff just doesn’t make itself up. It is not legitimate enquiry that has the expansion of knowledge as its goal. And, unless you are involved with Ig Nobel prize type science POE for laughs, there is never any reason for it in its own right. Both pseudoscience (alt.whatever) and pseudoskepticism (mostly tinfoil hat conspiracism) are impelled by personal motives – be they financial fraud, common narcissism and delusions of personal “genius”, or the promotion of ideological positions. Or in Watson’s case, all three.
Watson’s evolutionary psychology Queen Bee snark was thoroughly debunked by more qualified minds than mine, so nothing more needs to be said. What I can add though is the perspective of the enlightened jack-of-all-trades. To my mind, the best way to ascertain the value of any field of study is the extent to which other fields find it useful. As one example (of particular relevance to PZ Myers / Watson and the buffoons that swallow their nonsense) is Bruce Schneier’s interest in evolutionary psychology for his work in security systems research – specifically how it relates to the history of lying and the human mind’s evolving defence mechanisms to detect lying2. So who’s opinion am I supposed to consider more seriously? That of Schneier, who finds value, is a meticulous researcher and arguably one of our greater living intellects; or Watson, a 32 year old teenager, who tritely dismisses it and who’s expertise consists mainly in Twitter snark, video games and getting trashed on free booze? And who finds available literature on evolutionary psychology to be “LOL! Boooring!”3 and can’t even be bothered to try and establish a baseline level of knowledge on her subject?
Conversely, it would be interesting for Watson et al. to inform us of precisely what, if any, other fields of study find any use for their own particular brand of wallowing victim gender feminism? That is anyone outside of the political science/gender studies ghettos of mostly second rate backwater universities? Holding your breath for that answer is not recommended. As Barbara Kay so deliciously nailed it in Canada’s National Post –
Identity Studies are to evidence-based scholarship as astrology is to astronomy. With astrology you buy the whole irrational, unsubstantiated package or leave it.
Which is precisely the problem Watson has – there is no substance to her gibberish; no carefully reasoned world view supported by independently verifiable evidence; no logical steps growing into a plausible theory; just categorical assertions and unquestionable conclusions. There are no bits and pieces of what Watson blathers on about that have intrinsic, standalone value. It is entirely take it all as irrefutable gospel or drop the lot like a steaming turd. Which brings us back to an interesting line quoted from Ron Lindsay’s blog above –
If Russell [Blackford] believes that Myers and Watson trade in bad arguments, or perhaps no arguments at all, but just unsupported assertions and accusations, then the best remedy for that is the time-honored one of pointing out the flaws in their claims.
Is Lindsay trying to charm us with his innocence and naiveté? As with his claims of only just now, shockingly, noticing “shunning”, this glib little snippet of ancient wisdom just rolls off his tongue as though in the last year and a half, not a single person has seriously addressed the pernicious deceptions of the Watson/Myers smear campaign. Seriously Ron, did you manage to type that with a straight face?
Without stating it in plain language, Lindsay is imputing that Watson has never had her nonsense criticised on its own merits and that the only responses she’s ever had have been (unsubstantiated) rape threats and calls for boycotts.
Fine Ron, let’s humour your alternate reality and look at how Watson handles criticism – in this case, her rebuttal of Ed Clint’s rebuttal. She found it entirely unnecessary to point out any flaws in Clint’s response, most likely because finding any would require actual work. Instead, her rebuttal consisted entirely of her usual ad himinem – Ed Clint is wrong because he hates her and he’s a rapist. All done via media which she can readily censor and control and which favours slander and misrepresentation by minimising risk of real information poisoning it – Twitter and Facebook. This is a LARGE image that needs to be viewed externally in full resolution –
This is Watson’s real forte – New Media Douchebaggery4. The NMD link is well worth reading and goes a long way to explaining the chicanery with which the atheist / skeptic community has been made to look like a bunch of credulous, exploitable children by the Myers/Watson circus – with the able assistance and support, both financial and promotional, of folks like Ron Lindsay.Not only is unsubstantiated gibberish now being welcomed as acceptable within the atheist / skeptic conference circuit, it is also being treated as “protected speech” that shall not be subjected to scrutiny or criticism5 – which is now categorised as “harassment”. Wonderful. Providing you speak out in favour of officially approved identity politic theology, you will be granted a protective cocoon, carte blanche to say whatever you please (including equating established atheist public figures to the KKK and organisations that don’t submit to demands to Nazis), with absolute impunity, complete immunity from responsibility or accountability and full steam support and endorsement from CFI.
Does any of this raise any concerns with Ronald F. Lindsay? Of course not, he has more important things to concern himself with.
But, on the other hand, Russell Blackford’s spur-of-the-moment tweeting that he will not attend any event that features Rebecca Watson as a speaker and it’s –
Hit the emergency handbrake! Drop everything! This is a global calamity that demands Ron Lindsay’s immediate and undivided attention…
This is a very clear snapshot of what CFI’s priorities are under the command of Ron Lindsay as chief executive.
To be fair, the above points are technically neither shunning nor boycotting in their own right. But there is no shortage of these items either – and all of them are in Lindsay’s “LALALA!!! I’m not listening!!!” basket as well.
Here’s decidedly non-comprehensive list of divisive and malicious shunning games that Lindsay chose to ignore in the recent post-elevatorgate past, all on his watch –
- Rebecca Watson’s epic tantrum over Dear Muslima and her calls for a Richard Dawkins boycott. The same tantrum the dingbat then tweeted about, bragging about what a great publicity stunt it was.
- The boycott of TAM 2012 by Greta Christina, Ophelia Benson and others at freefromthoughtblogs – much to many an attendee’s relief it needs to be said – with the latter even concocting non-existent “death threats” (from what turned out to be one of her own supporters) and a plethora of other equally nonsensical fear-mongering.
- Steffanny Zwan organising a petition to sabotage Justin Vacula’s new appointment at SCA.
- Surly Amy Roth (who kicks ass on a daily basis) fleeing TAM 2012 in tears due to “harassment” in an orchestrated piece of outrage theatre – which, after much desperate straw clutching, ended up involving a t-shirt and “fake jewellery” for lack of any other substance. Which was then followed up by a series of spurious DMCA attacks against individuals in efforts to censor and/or obtain personal information for further real world attacks.
- And the pièce de résistance, Melody Hensley, Executive Director of CFI, using her position of authority to order her minions to use Creationist style false flagging of Youtube videos to shut down dissenting opinion6 –
And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. But LALALALA!!! Ron is not listening…
Looking over this entire quagmire, I am reminded of a corrupted police force in a large metropolis trying to assure the public it is waging, and winning, its War on Drugs. The streets are so awash with poisonous home cooked meth and its associated violence and madness, to the point that denialism that the existing policing efforts are failing to deal with the problem are no longer fooling the bulk of the public – most of whom are even aware that the police force itself is rife with police officers not only profiting from the blackmarket trade, but in many cases, even controlling it.
I just have this mental image of Police Commissioner Ronald A. Lindsay on teevee wearing surgical gloves holding a shame faced Russell Blackford by the scruff of the neck with one hand while proudly displaying a powder filled condom with the other. Because that’s just the kind of guy he is – he cares so deeply about the welfare of the community that he personally dug it out of Blackford’s ass. Meanwhile, as he speaks, yet another container of ephedrine is unloading in the port that is his responsibility and vanishing into the night as customs officers and cops politely look the other way, daydreaming of the new big screen LCD teevee they’re gonna buy from the proceeds of doing so.
Who exactly is Ron Lindsay fooling here with his public shaming of Russell Blackford? Not me. Not by a longshot. Nor the ever growing numbers amongst the silent majority of the atheist / skeptic community that, ultimately, are the ones that pay his wage.
I’m calling shenanigans Ron.
Now what was supposed to be a review of the 2012 year that was may appear to be an unfairly biased exercise in CFI bashing. Well, there is an old Chinese proverb for this –
While the blame for almost all of the idiocy that our communities deal with lies squarely at the feet of freefromthoughtblogs, Skepchick and it’s brain-damaged crack baby Atheism+, the oxygen that feeds the idiocy has one primary source – CFI, the organisation that Ronald F. Lindsay has sole ultimate responsibility over. Unlike JREF and DJ Grothe who have the spine and the integrity to make some effort to dissipate the McCarthyist machinations of this neo-Jacobin cult – Lindsay just bends over and submits, and sells us all out in the process.
Who’s interests are actually being looked after here Ron? Where does the rank and file, subscription paying membership of CFI sit in the grand scheme of things? Nowhere that I can see. The secular community’s interests are ignored in lieu of a coterie of privileged and entitled pudgy pink, middle class, professional victim Americans.
CFI is corrupt – there is no other conclusion one can arrive at. And nowhere does the corruption reek more than the appointment of Melody Hensley – who by strange coincidence, seems to have earned her position by assisting in the political assassination and coup d’état to eject the late Paul Kurtz and anoint Ron Lindsay in his place –
I wrote of this tawdry piece of Machiavellian bastardry well over a year ago – with many folks suggesting my reaction was a bit extreme. I now feel somewhat vindicated. I can only hope Kurtz did not die embittered by the experience.
But there is a question for Lindsay that I have no hope of ever getting an honest answer. It’s certainly a question that perplexes everyone else – what exactly has Hensley done that has contributed to the skeptic and Freethinker communities that CFI is supposed to represent? No one can think of a single thing. The sum of all of Hensley’s activities lie in dictating what others may, or may not, think and say; promoting the divisive gender feminist ideology that is fragmenting the community; endlessly concocting evidence free Munchausean fairy tales of her own persecution; and harassing private individuals that have the temerity to speak up in protest. Beyond this, she does nothing. Nothing whatsoever.
Another question for Lindsay – does he actually really support and endorse all of Hensley’s activities? Or has he managed to trap himself in his own den? Having invited invited the vipers in, is he now too terrified to make a move lest he is the next corpse strung up in the gibbet?
CFI is rapidly becoming a failed organisation losing touch with it’s membership and relevance to the community. And looking at the 2012 financial reports, it wasn’t that great a year with far more cash going out than in. No doubt, Lindsay will start rattling his beggars cup and crying poor again real soon. At which point those who have contributed in the past should take full advantage of the situation and ask Lindsay the questions that need to be asked – like when are you going to get back to skepticism and stop the idolatry of sacred cattle?
This has no doubt been a depressing read, but I make no apology. It needed to be written. Next item should be more up beat – what 2013 brings and what new approaches we can take, now that we have slowed the FTB/Skepchick/A+ cult to a halt, to turn them around and drive them back to the identity politic ghettos where they belong so the rest of us can get on with doing what our communities actually should be doing.
1 – There’s no shortage of others. These are just a few that popped up in my various RSS feeds –
2 – Schneier’s book Liars and Outliers is an extended rumination on the ideas of trust versus security and cooperative systems interacting with parasites. Pertinent in very many ways to the issues that currently plague atheism and skepticism. The authors overview –
3 – Clint’s blog refers to the video of Watson’s talk –
At the end of her talk, an audience member asks Watson if there is any “good evolutionary psychology”. Watson throws up her hands while saying “prooobably? I’m guessing yes, but it’s so boring.. because you can only make it interesting if you make up everything. […] if there is good evolutionary psychology, it’s not in the media[…]” (see index 47:30)
4 – This is a simpler representation of the Watson loop. As can be seen, once initiated it becomes eternally self-perpetuating –
5 – In the interests of fairness and consistency, I don’t see why CFI is so against allowing proponents of Intelligent Design to present their theories at their conferences. After all, if they are likewise shielded from criticism and expectations of evidence, then they too can build pretty convincing stories. As least as convincing as any Rebecca Watson has fed us.
6 – This is the video in question. It’s crime is sarcasm, which does not invalidate the valid criticism it makes –
Now compare Hensley’s behaviour, as a CFI Executive Director, against it’s official “Campaign for Free Expression” initiative –
Despite what many would have us believe, the right to freedom of expression is not a luxury valued mainly by Western elites but a widely accepted, foundational principle. Several important international agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, clearly outline that freedom of expression is a universal right possessed by all persons, regardless of geography or nationality.
No person should face social or legal punishment simply for speaking about his or her beliefs in public. And no topic should be off limits—especially religion, which has such an enormous impact on the lives of billions. Part of the freedom of expression is the freedom to inquire—to ask questions and seek answers beyond what is dictated by a religious text or cultural dogma. This freedom is at the core of CFI’s mission. How can we truly have freedom and equality if certain groups of people aren’t allowed to exercise the same rights as their fellow citizens? And how can we as a civilization grow, learn, and prosper if we allow for the suppression—often violent—of minority viewpoints?