“One should examine oneself for a very long time before thinking of condemning others” — Molière
“A Discordian is Prohibited of Believing what he reads” — The 5th Pentabarf
Any movement that tries to claim both a moral and intellectual high ground, then fails to objectively and mercilessly apply its own standards to itself is a failure. QED.
I’m already resigned to the big godless social sites being overrun by vanity spammers, ideological monomaniacs and gibberish machines. That’s OK. I can live with that – when you pander to the lowest common denominator you get what you deserve. It’s quite another matter though when you see major, allegedly rationalist, portals skid off down the same path. That starts to hurt and you begin to wonder what happened to the integrity that first attracted you to, what you at first assumed to be, fellow Freethinkers – only to discover most are anything but.
The degeneration of both the atheist and skeptic communities over the last few years has been more than noticeable – repugnant don’t be a dick accommodationist populism; self-loathing, neo-puritan* groupthink; and complete abdication of clear- and freethought principles – culminating in the recent crucifixion of Richard Dawkins by a torches-n-pitchforks mob (for daring to respond to stupidity in a manner that would have made Voltaire proud), and largely with Pharyngula‘s and PZ’s blessing.
[* – For the sake of those that dismiss this charge, my definition of “puritan” is one in the habit of denouncing the moral shortcomings of others primarily to highlight the moral purity of themselves. A thoroughly repugnant, and absolutely theistic, characteristic – and now, absolutely the defining characteristic of all godless and skeptic parties that drive these kinds of pointless melodramas]
The Watson / elevator guy fiasco is hardly the only idiocy responsible – it’s just the cherry on top of the dung heap. Anyone who has followed my writings around the place will know this is far from the first thing I have taken issue with, nor is it likely to be the last. Accusations of bandwagon jumping about this are irrelevant.
So to see such double standards, Pollyannaist naivety and exceptionalist considerations extended purely on the basis of gender by sacred cows PZ Myers and Pharyngula is enough to just make you want to hang up your boots and give up.
Integrity is a commodity that is currently being sold by many in the community for the sake of grubby, short-term political reward. It’s bad economics to stick your neck out for the sake of reason in the face of populism. This is more commonly known as appeasement – and it is any weenies preferred method for dealing with maniacs that are very vocal and very loud. Behold the terror of Skepchick! This is probably the clearest lesson I have ever learned from you PZ – ethics, standards and spinal resilience are relative to self-interest and preservation.
So let’s start picking all of this apart using your own words shall we?
PZ on Pharyngula taking exception to my article amongst others –
So let’s just be clear here. If your version of the events requires comically strident exaggeration in order to make a case, you’re definitely wrong, and you are to blame for the discord and confusion. You are lying. And, by the way, if you even mention the words “misandrist blog industry”, you’re a flaming conspiracy nut.
Is it still argument from authority if you use yourself?
Only thing that is really evident here immediately is that PZ didn’t actually read what I have written (I assume someone pre-digested it for him), and also appears to suffer what most of the ‘net also suffers – the inability to understand variable use of the serious versus satiric without the ample and explicit use of smilies (very sad how linguistic subtlety is a dying art). Just a trite dismissal, without answering a single point, of one that is too lowly to even consider seriously…
But, what makes this aloof flip-off all the more delectable is this citation of PZ from RationalWiki –
The Courtier’s Reply is a term popularized by biologist/blogger PZ Myers for a logical fallacy that essentially boils down to “But you haven’t read enough on it!”… Essentially it is a form of intellectual bullying that questions a person’s right to rebut an argument due to the rebutter’s supposed lack of experience with the subject in question… This argument is particularly favored by anyone who fancies themselves more qualified than others on the subject [source]
Isn’t it wonderful eating your own cooking? Is PZ even aware? No. Does he care? No. Too busy tripping over his own shoelaces to prove to the Skepchicks that… what exactly? That he has a wonderful new outfit that’s totally invisible to stupid people.
This whole fiasco is really all rather like discussing with Jyllands-Posten with islamist-bots –
“We are offended. It is your fault. We do not have to provide any more reason than that. And your insistance for reasons is only grounds for futher offense. You are wrong, we are right, get used to it. Lather, rinse, repeat.”
So for the benefit of PZ, I have catalogued these “tired” arguments I and others have raised here in one place. I would be far more reassured if he could quickly go over them on the off chance that there are maybe one or two things he has been too busy to notice and consider. It is generally polite to understand what has been said prior to firing off responses. I know. Probably too much to hope for. So let’s go –
The question of unbiased objectivity
Following on with the preamble on how fair and balanced both PZ and Pharyngula are, let’s start with some more editorialising from PZ in the same post aimed at those of us (“us” being “assholes” I assume) who not only think that Dawkins’ treatment has been disgraceful, but that his original response was a perfect deconstruction of the stupidity –
“What’s happened here is that he is at some remove from all of the details, and this issue got blown up by lunatics who felt their manhood threatened and who exaggerated the situation to an absurd degree…”
So we’re essentially a bunch of absurd extremos blowing things out of proportion – all we really need is a Bex and a good lie down… Thanks champ.
Watson also editorialises on Skepchick –
I figured I should post this for the record: yes, Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man! … So to have my concerns – and more so the concerns of other women who have survived rape and sexual assault – dismissed thanks to a rich white man comparing them to the plight of women who are mutilated, is insulting to all of us… That’s where you come in. You, dear reader, have been incredible. You posted in response to Dawkins on the Pharyngula thread, bravely battling both him and the hoards of clueless privileged people who didn’t get it. You emailed me to tell me to keep talking. You introduced yourself at SkepchickCon and told me how much you loved Skepchick and SGU. You wrote blog posts and made videos and were kick ass, and you made me realize that Dawkins is not the present. He is the past.
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.
Uhuh. So let me get this straight. It’s the phallocentrists overreacting here right? One is obviously acceptable, the other is not. OK, I think I get it. Watson is entirely correct. Those (like me) that dissent on the other hand are stupid, irrational, insecure and have tiny penises…
How refreshingly candid and well reasoned. Not to mention un-courtierlike. I have nothing to add. Other than a suggestion PZ get a clown nose and some floppy shoes for his next lecture to us. Be honest PZ – you are pwned.
[Following points start with the common that are just a rehash for the benefit of PZ. The ones I find more pertinent and interesting follow.]
The question of predators
The question was posed in my first post on this dumbness (I think the one that PZ dismissed as crap) –
But what I would really like to ask Watson is this – can she honestly claim to never in her life, herself, perhaps drunkenly, made a pass at another person that was neither called for nor appreciated? Ever? We can safely assume that Watson will probably claim “no”. We can also all pretend to believe her. But can she confidently assert the same for the army of urgers standing behind her? That really would stretch credulity to breaking point.
This question is not flippant. It lies at the very heart of everything. Though Watson herself will most likely categorically deny ever behaving in such a manner, with a very serious face and ignoring all the sniggers in the audience, even she can’t expect anyone to believe that no one in her army has ever done so. Glasshouses and stones. To elevate what was at worst a social faux pas to the scale of a gender war crime, as his been implied, reeks of raw hypocrisy and exceptionalist special pleading on the grounds a celebrity skeptic was involved. Apply the same standards to yourself and those in your coterie sweetie, then get back to us.
The question of empathy and catastrophism
So much wrong in so many ways here. First, one of the recurring themes in comments from both sexes has been that of opportunity squandered in their own experiences. Where tact prevailed over impulse and a tryst that could have been is forever lost – then finding out years later that it could have been, but is now no longer possible. Watson’s complaining really only has one solution – and that is to remove spontaneity from all human interaction. I’d rather be dead than live in a world of automatons, and many will probably share the sentiment.
But the real question posed is what sort of neurotic basketcase are you if you automatically default to an absolute worst case scenario for any such spontaneous interaction? How do you ever manage to leave the safety of your own bedroom? This is very much a case of automatic presumption of guilt indicative of any kangaroo court system – choose the target, choose the crime, the rest can be reverse engineered. At no point is any empathy exhibited to make any effort to understand the other. And absence of empathy is…
The question of contrived fear
And the word of the month is creepy1. I will never look at another elevator again without imagining a darkened crypt in an abandoned graveyard. Seriously, I don’t know what kind of hotels Watson is used to staying in, but I doubt any are run by Norman Bates. Really. Any of even the lower classed Hilton Hotel chain equivalents, at minimum, have elevator alarms, intercoms, probably CCTV and 24 hour concierges. Quite a contrast to the image that Watson paints with such dread in our minds.
I suppose your mind will play tricks on you if you make a habit of trying to frighten yourself to death with childish bogeyman fantasies2. Realistically, how does Watson get milk from a store, or catch a tube train, without dying of terror? Situations orders of magnitude riskier. Obviously she is capable of negotiating the real world unassisted for most things. But never let such realities ruin a good story. Fear mongering and propaganda are like bread and butter.
The question of -isms and -ists
As one of the Youtube responses mentioned previously, the issue at the root of all of this is a demographic one. It is plausibly suggested that Watson’s response would probably have been different were the accused from a minority demographic. I further the suggestion that if the accused were disabled – or a another woman – Watson would never have even considered mentioning it in such a spectular and public manner.
Put simply, there would be no mileage in any of this were the accused not a white, normally enabled, heterosexual male. There would be no audience. White males are a soft target that anyone can kick with impunity. There is no assembled mob to leap to their defense, the few voices that do get raised in protest are immediately shouted down and pilloried. It is so easy to do, the likes of Watson and Greta Christina don’t even think about it anymore – the just do it. The irony is that behind this charade of noble social consciousness is a whole rainbow of bigoted -isms that the accused elevator guy couldn’t even begin to catch up with.
The question of exploitation
Given the now well established and perennial popularity of flogging the atheist / skeptic misogyny memes to a massive audience of confirmation bias junkies, this question does need to be asked. Exactly who is exploiting who here? To put it bluntly, you just can’t buy this kind of viral advertising – an opportunity too good to refuse. So what is the foremost consideration here? Pursuing the martyrs crusade out of pure ideological zealotry, or the much more banal consideration of web traffic metrics3?
The question of the complaint factory
Following on with the previous. As far as atheist / skeptic misogyny goes, history is split into two epochs, those of the pre- and post- Greta Christina / Rebecca Watson / Skepchick worlds. My best pinpoint on the time map is this article from September 9, 2009. Prior to this, the “problem” was little more than ungeneralised anecdotes of isolated unsavory incidents, or responses to mischievously (and deliciously) crafted handiwork from professional provocateurs. But after, and it’s suddenly a leaden blanket that is suffocating every female involved in the movements – oppressing and constricting, actively silencing their voices and denying them anything more than chattel status. My only consolation here is that many women are even angrier than I at this deliberate, destructive and delusional idiocy. So lets look at some statistics as detailed previously –
- since the Watson / Christina show started this nonsense, there has been a 1000%+ increase in atheist / skeptic misogyny articles online
- misogyny and sexism articles at Skepchick outnumber any other topic on the site by a factor of at least 2:1
- up to 80% of all the atheist / skeptic mysogyny hits in google are either about Rebecca Watson, or reference her
- searching for Watson herself, you remove 50% of total hits by subtracting sexism, misogyny and white males from the search4
This is all just so staggering I don’t even know where to begin. This is not simply a blogger that has issues. This is an industrial scale production line that is actively and knowingly subverting and deforming our entire reality for the sake of a grubby personal agenda. I have no idea what Watson’s problems are, or what skeletons she has lurking in her closet. Whatever it is, it’s not trivial. I would kill to sit down with her now ex-husband and get him really drunk to get a window into Becky’s secret world. I would guess he is too much of a gentleman to let anything leak any other way.
What is readily evident is that this current incident is nothing either new or surprising. It is just the latest installment in relentless campaign that stretches back years. It is also a misnomer to state Watson’s primary focus in life is skepticism.
The question of anecdote as evidence
Pharyngula is full of opinion on anecdotes and evidence. It’s all variation on stuff like this –
Sean, anecdote isn’t evidence. Nor is plural of anecdote equal to data. So far, all you have is nothing but a personal opinion which isn’t worth the electrons used to post it.
It’s usually a point of the lowest kind of derision – kind of like a forum equivalent of an I’m with STUPID t-shirt. The ladies at Skepchick on the other hand seem to be far less reactionary about it, and there’s even a few articles devoted to the defense of the anecdote. At least in this instance, there is some consistency, considering how much they like to rely on anecdotes when it comes to gender spookiness – and, of course, expect anecdote to be accepted without pesky questioning.
Nevertheless, when the sincerity, with which all concerned believe the anecdote in this case, is only exceeded by the passionate vehemence with which they pounce on those, ahem, skeptics that stop to question it, it is a cause of concern.
We have no real evidence that this elevator guy even exists, let alone that he actually is an atheist and/or skeptic. Yet we are watching the entirety of both communities being denigrated and and the whole scene accused of being overrun by misogyny endorsing rape apologists. On the strength of anecdote. Why is it such a crime to expect more substance in lieu of blind belief?
To put it quite bluntly, there is less evidence to confirm anything about the elevator incident than there is to suspect that Watson may just be an amoral, (not so) borderline narcissist / psychopath on a personal vendetta against the entire male gender, callously exploiting the good natured gullibility of folks like PZ. Dupes who really want to believe that folks like Watson would never do anything so malignant.
The question of definition
By no means the least annoying point. Misogyny is an ugly and very charged word. Sadly, hardly anyone seems to want to look it up in a dictionary and instead use it to death as an all purpose you are wrong, so shut up term of contemptuous dismissal. So here it is –
mi·sog·y·ny [mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-]
–noun: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.
So there are really two flavours, hatred or paranoia. The first conjures up to me Westboro Baptist, or KKK good ol’ boys dragging a black guy by a noose from the back of their pick-up truck. Y’know, something a little bit more gritty than semantic misunderstanding, misread humour or poor selection of elevators – that’s not really hatred. Hatred, to my misogynist brain, is more along the lines of compiling lists of people’s real names that have disagreed with you in the past and then circulating them under the banner of RAPE APOLOGISTS5. Of course I am being flippant, because stuff like this doesn’t really count in the skeptic / godless communities because it is different.
But nevertheless, it would be very helpful if we could actually see some examples of genuine misogynist hatred that has been tolerated. Because without any, I am ::cough:: a bit skeptical. Ordinary maniacs, along the lines Charlie Check’m don’t count (not quite the same thing, a gay hater, but good enough for example, as I can’t actually think of any real life atheist misogynists) – though they occassionally pop up, no one wants them and they get nuked before you can blink, much to unanimous relief. So please, this really is a case of evidence or STFU.
And as for paranoia, well that’s precisely the type of feeling actively promoted by this nonsense. Thanks to Watson, my trust of women I don’t already know (and good faith that they won’t turn like vipers on a whim) in the godless / skeptic community is a whole lot closer nil. Was that part of the objective?
The question of the language of hatred
Both Watson and Greta Christina would do well to print out the rather famous poster on the right and hang it above their ‘puters as inspiration for when they sit down to slap out their next screeds.
Watson on Skepchick –
So to have my concerns – and more so the concerns of other women who have survived rape and sexual assault – dismissed thanks to a rich white man comparing them to the plight of women who are mutilated, is insulting to all of us. Feminists in the west have been staunch allies of the women being brutalized elsewhere, and they’ve done a hell of a lot more than Richard Dawkins when it comes to making a difference in their lives.
Some clown on Stormfront –
The names most closely associated with Israel and the Jewish people include: tyranny, oppression, torture, murder, endemic corruption that runs deeper than anywhere else in the Orient, arrogant disregard of international law and basic human decency, perversion and rape, forced prostitution of young Eastern European women and messianic rabbinical madness. Israel is a country based on a colossal act of theft built on a foundation of lies.
Now, anyone not schooled in the arts of selective reasoning might see marked similarities between the two outbursts – highly charged language designed for a specific, pre-determined emotional response. On the other hand, an enlightened Freethinker like PZ will point out the obvious – one is an example of hate speech, the other is not ::cough::
This is the language of propaganda handed down through the ages – establishing a tenuous connection between a trivial social incident and the violent act of rape – in order to cynically exploit the generated emotions.
It is the selling of one’s own inherent moral superiority and just cause as the only civilised human condition, as opposed to the other – who is a subhuman brute that considers rape as sport. And the other is anyone who dares criticise or object.
The question of McCarthyism
Are you a misogynist? Have you ever knowingly consorted with any known misogynists, sympathised with or defended their causes?
It’s all so ’40s-’50s US you need to pinch yourself. For me, with geneological tentacles stretching back into Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, the comparisons are even more striking. There it is like being denounced for extravagance or speculation by your neighbours or children. You can scoff at the comparisons, but be assured were you to jump into a time machine and go back to question the sanity of the process of branding people with such ideological crimes, you would be greeted with the same expressions of indignant outrage as people now get from the Watson apologists – and probably get branded a collaborator and locked up yourself. You should also remember that Watson has begun compiling her own blacklist of prohibited authors and books.
My mum is more succinct having lived through much of this dangerous idiocy. On reading of Watson’s theatrics, she simply stated in her rustic Russian kakaya chuchila – which roughly translates as what a grotesque parody. I really can’t think of a better summation.
The question of gender and theistic catastrophism
Everyone is sick of these, and can usually see through them unassisted –
- Islamists taking events such as the death of bin Laden as proof of a war on islam
- The deranged end of humanist / liberal town taking objections to the introduction of sharia law to secular democracies as proof of islamophobia
- (mostly) US christians taking resistance to prayer in schools, nativity scenes and 10 commandment displays on government real estate as proof of a conspiracy to destroy christianity
- Professional bloggers taking isolated instances of mundanity most folks would dismiss without a second thought and injecting them with fear and malice as proof of how sexism / misogyny have overrun the skeptic and atheist movements and entrenched a system of gender apartheid
Oh wait. Scratch the last one. That’s nothing like the others. At all.
The question of Watson as Lord Monckton
In what is yet another example of quantum sardonics, all-round reasonable guy with no agenda, nosireebob, Lord Monckton is in town as I write.
I find the activities of folks like Lord Monckton fascinating, if infuriating. He arrived on the scene with a bunch of other climate skeptics and, almost overnight, took a debate that was largely one of harmony and consensus and turned it into one of suspicion, conspiracy and division. Much like what Watson and Greta Christina have done to the atheist and skeptic communities as I have detailed above. They do this by injecting doubt, controversy and mistrust where there was none, and doing so in a sustained and relentless manner, and for no good reason other than personal ideological axe-grinding and, quite likely, self-promotion and associated benefits. The modus operandi is that of a machine guided with premeditation – systematic, sustained and unrelenting – and it has successfully subverted our communities with slanderous nonsense at enormous expense to all.
You advertise yourself as a Godless liberal biologist – in your own words. Yet you are actively supporting what can only be described, for reasons detailed previously, as an illiberal, crypto-fascist cult. If you can reconcile this with “freethinking”, you are more than just a failure. You are a fraud6.
I’m sorry, but there really is no other conclusion that can be drawn. You support Watson (and Greta Christina who has made a business out of baiting you on other matters3) and spit at those that do not support them – without the dignity making yourself too aware of what is actually involved here. Dawkins saw this nonsense for what it was – and you fed him to the wolves. I’m sure he appreciates your friendship.
And you use your large established audience to assist you in legitimising and endorsing this nonsense – using a convenience store approach to the dissemination of information. To say this is somewhat disillusioning is to say black is a shade of grey. Your integrity is not even a variable. Nil is not a variable. Whether your motives are fear, cowardice, deliberate ignorance, expedience, not wanting to harm your business or simply “not making waves” is irrelevant. You are doing a grave disservice to reality and to the greater atheist and skeptic communities by allowing yourself to be so cheaply exploited by professional manipulators and petty ideologues that create moral catastrophe out of a mundane triviality that your average high school kid could deal with with more maturity. I have no hesitation in stating this – this ideological jihad being driven by Watson in this case has no consideration for the welfare of the greater atheist and skeptic communities. It is the kind of one-eyed zealotry that would be content with absolute ruin of all as an acceptable second choice option to not getting its own way. And you promote it, uncritically and as a true believer.
And just a final personal note from a concerned observer – you don’t look that flash buck naked either, in case the point was lost on you earlier.
Amusing/Depressing Footnote 1 – ConfirmationBias-r-Us
Were this waif-like credulity at Pharyngula only a one-off. Some time back in May, PZ presented us with this item about some preacher, somewhere, from some church, terrifying somebodies children to illustrate some kind of biblical story or other by killing a bunch of innocent fish because it made some kind of point. Sorry, but that’s about all the detail we are given –
[…] I am also not surprised that kids are shocked to discover their priest has such a callous disregard for life — I hope it was the first step in freeing some of their minds from the embrace of the Christian death cult. […]
Yes, we can only hope that these children grow up into objective, clear-thinking, reason loving rationalists, just like the ::cough:: Pharyngulites.
The “evidence” amounts to a link to an unreferenced, descriptionless .jpg at imgur.com – apparently that’s good enough for the highly discriminating local crowd. In fact it is a good ~500 comments before anyone even bothers to try and do some fact checking – and even then it points to a ‘tardbook page that has been deleted. One commenter has the temerity to point this out – and of course gets shouted down. Marvelous. Reassured my faith in reason. Of course by this time, much like a sneeze with a mouthful of baked beans, this piece of gospel truth about theist evil had bespattered every piece of godless social media real estate out there – again, without a single person stopping to try and verify anything. Whether this story is real or not is irrelevant. What is relevant, is that nobody bothered to check.
What is evident here is Pharyngulites are quite prepared to swallow any kind of nonsense, providing it confirms the right biases, and are quite happy to launch themselves into self-congratulatory orgies of their bleeding obvious intellectual and moral superiority at the drop of a hat without so much as firing up Google. Perish the thought. If it sounds true and tells you what you want to hear, it therefore is true. And the lead dancer of this merry troop of baboons was PZ Myers himself, in fact playing the role of piper.
Amusing/Depressing Footnote 2 – PZ as Prison Trusty => here
1 – Googling +rebecca +watson +creepy +elevator is running 1.2 million hits and counting.
2 – As one female correspondent wrote me pointing to a SGU interview, “she compares it to walking alone at night, and why if she is walking alone for an extended period of time, she chooses “flats” instead of “heels” why? so she can run”. It really is a case of being unable to step out of doors without worst case scenario planning. Again, I am in danger of tipping into pity for the crippled. But her point is, comparing walking alone outside at night, which can be disconcerting on unfamiliar ground, to a well lit hotel elevator is a dramatic exaggeration – and a false analogy. She also notes that there are many men that at night will actually cross the road in such circumstances *precisely* to avoid catastrophising lunatics like Watson.
3 – As a parallel example of this, Greta Christina, Watson’s co-star in originally entrenching the atheist misogyny meme, also periodically indulges in PZ Myers baiting on other subjects with argumentum ad regurgitātiō for the very same reason. –
What a tawdry word we live in.
What makes the result more staggering is the common names – there would have been a significant number of lesser Rebecca Watsons adding to the total result.
5 –You can play spot the maniac in this thread, though it is a fairly tame example and nowhere near her best work. This creature has been through every online godless forum there is like a dose of salts, before performing Hiroshima scale flounces, branding anything with a dick a rapist, denouncing everything else in sight as “no better” and vanishing. Current whereabouts unknown. Ooh, the stories I could tell were I not a gentleman, and they would certainly be very valid in a topic on unsolicited non-platonic attentions. This person, to the best of my knowledge, has never actually been banned anywhere for these kind of theatrics, or even reprimanded. In comparison, when you consider that there is a steady stream of others (and by “others” I mean danglies) getting banned from these social sites for crimes such as sarcasm you do lose a lot of faith.
6 – For the sake of full disclosure, I don’t earn a cent from this blog – so this is not provocation a la Greta Christina – but I do have a right of reply, even if it is to a lowly courtier. There is no pay off for this – this is just an “enough is enough” scream. Further, I am a deranged loner. I don’t write for you or anyone else*, let alone represent any group. I write for me. Thanks for asking. [* – this is actually a lie. I do love the nudie pics I get – I write for them. And only them.]