Feminism, Civility, and Ron Lindsay’s Welcome to Women in Secularism

Ron Lindsay opened last week’s Women in Secularism 2 conference with a very inappropriate welcome message. It was a misuse of his position as the head of the organization sponsoring the event to take the opportunity to level serious and controversial charges against the members of the audience in lieu of a welcome. It was especially troubling, from an optics point of view if nothing else, that he chose to do this specifically to feminists, a group defined primarily by the women associated with it. That he broke with traditional form of being a host rather than a critic when the event’s speaker roster was set to be all women and his audience was predominantly women sent a message, whether he intended it or not. It was that women don’t deserve the same basic respect and civility that is routinely afforded to your average conference speakers and participants. A crowd of women can get a stern talking to and skeptical querying about issues they are probably oblivious to in lieu of a welcome.

Like myself, Ron Lindsay has a PhD in philosophy. I was appalled and insulted at how Lawrence Krauss arrogantly, ignorantly, and counter-productively belittled philosophy and encouraged know-nothing attitudes about the subject as I sat in the audience at the American Atheists convention in 2012 (and got a depressing amount of raucous applause for doing so). I would be beside myself were I to be invited to speak or attend a secular conference and be introduced by Lawrence Krauss and have him ambush me with remarks impugning the integrity of philosophy as a discipline and remarking that he hoped I would address them in my pre-prepared talk as he handed me the microphone.

Now pretend this was something far more personal and important to me than just my field of study and teaching and writing, imagine this was my field of study, teaching, writing, and an area of my life in which I suffered daily, systematic, culturally engrained discrimination. I would be very angry too and so I sympathize with the visceral outrage and incredulousness of many of the women attending the conference and reading about it online. Particularly galling was Lindsay’s inability to adequately define privilege before criticizing it or to adequately explain how it works well in helping us analyze injustice against marginalized people before talking about potential abuses of it. As a philosopher, I am bothered by Lindsay’s laziness in understanding concepts before criticizing them and his blindness about feeling like he was in a position to criticize the concept to an audience of feminists without even taking any time to treat it in its strongest and most useful senses. This was, remarkably, an astounding instance of privilege induced blindness itself. It is staggering and upsetting that he managed to do that to open a conference on feminism. 

Let me make one final and crucially important criticism of Lindsay’s speech’s timing and content. I deeply share his concerns about authoritarian approaches to spreading ideas. I think they are antithetical to everything the freethought movement claims to stand for and should stand for. I am against silencing and bullying people. I do not think that activists on behalf of marginalized people are immune to criticisms that in specific instances they try to bully or silence people. It is human nature to fall into this tendency. They are humans. They do it sometimes. And there are advocates of social justice who outright refuse to criticize at least certain behaviors that I consider abusive, bullying, and authoritarian.

I have received extensive criticism ranging from passionately civil and deeply insightful (which I appreciate and have learned an immense amount from) to nasty and hateful for deviating from pro-incivility social justice activists on this one simple point. I have had my entire motives treated with suspicion out of a facile assumption that the only reason one would ever argue for marginalized people to be civil is out of a desire to silence them.

And, yes, even after I have actively listened and listened, even going so far as to restate the strongest objections to my position in strong ways in a post in my own words before writing posts defending my views, I have been told by a few that it must be only my privilege that gives me my perspective that all abusive insults are wrong, even when coming from marginalized people. This is very frustrating. I think the onus of the relatively privileged in any discussion with the relatively marginalized is to take the testimony of the experience of the marginalized as crucially important evidence and insight to weigh when the privileged then go and analyze and think for themselves and make arguments for themselves. I think it is important we affirm the right of conscience of those we disagree with, even those more privileged in some way, to sometimes reject what those more marginalized conclude about the causes or remedies or best ethical responses to their marginalization. It is crucial that we who are more privileged  scrupulously and continuously try to understand the content of those experiences and how that content makes certain ideas seem really true to those who have had those experiences before, during, and after we disagree with them. But ultimately, we must have a climate in which no one feels like ideas are being forced upon them or that they are being invalidated on account of their gender, sex, sexual orientation, faith status, etc.

So, really, I understand Lindsay’s anxieties. I feel them strongly. But here’s why he has doubly disappointed me given my agreements with him.

The problem is that there is a long history of calls for civility being used as a silencing tactic. Certain forms of civility that try to apply a false neutrality cut specifically against the marginalized for various reasons I have been taught about by my critics (to whom I am genuinely grateful) over the past year. I understand that when marginalized people are used to countless personal experiences and a long history of political experience with civility being used as a silencing tactic that they reflexively mistrust the concept and relatively privileged people like me who invoke it.

This is why when my co-writers and I wrote the civility pledge I published and signed in February, I tried to lay down guidelines of civility that tried to rehabilitate civility and develop mechanisms for criticizing those who would abuse it to silence others. I devoted several points to talking about a number of ways in which we must train ourselves not to be guilty of microaggression and not to allow our prejudices to create false neutralities or to ignore marginalized voices. We all need civility. I think my critics are wrong that it can ethically be discarded in most cases that they argue it can. But we also need a better concept of civility.

Now, Ron Lindsay was an egregious violator of civility principles by being such a disrespectful host and then poisoning the well against Rebecca Watson in his post replying to her counter post to his talk and to his first blog defense of it. And this is especially upsetting given that only this past spring he signed a civility pledge meant to set a standard for others in the community to follow. This pledge gave a ton of instruction to people engaged in emotionally upsetting fights, including to people who were on the receiving end of awful interpersonal abuse. I believe in the ideals of that pledge. I believe that even though it demanded people do difficult things that they are vital things that must be done if the movement is to have healthy debates about serious philosophical differences in the future.

And Ron Lindsay showed that he could not stick to the pledge the first time that he felt like someone made an uncharitable reading of his words in a very heated, public dispute after he signed it. The first time! He is asking women, specifically Rebecca Watson, to be bigger than a torrent of abuse that includes rape threats, death threats, sexually degrading photoshops, a website devoted to monitoring their every misstep, etc. And he cannot handle civil criticism from that same woman  that was not a fraction as abusive to him as what she has had to endure. And he showed this thin skin while being the host of a conference where she was a speaker and it was his obligation to respect the position that that role put him in as a host. This was an abuse of his position and an embarrassment. We proponents of civility must be far more above reproach than that or we will give evidence that civility is a hopeless deal and that the marginalized would be suckers to sign on to and be held to it. We must model much more personal restraint than that.

Finally I share Lindsay’s worries that people not feel like they have to accept ideas being foist on them without being able to personally question them first. That strikes me as authoritarian as it does him. And I am quite happy that Amanda Marcotte has repudiated blog commenters that misuse the concept of privilege as a silencing tactic in her open letter to CFI. I hope that bloggers will call out such behavior and that they will generally disown bullying verbal abuse and other authoritarian attitudes and tactics that are antithetical to freethought. Rebecca Watson has also helpfully acknowledged that sometimes the occasional feminist gets carried away and tries to silence men for speaking about feminist issues as men. Feminists are not perfect any more than anyone else is. There are many people in this movement who mistrust feminism and take bullying tactics by feminists as proof that feminism actually is about female supremicism rather than equality. I feel for feminists who are outraged when all the good that feminism does is dismissed and mischaracterized in such a way.

By highlighting his anxieties with the worst instances of feminist activism as though they were the most central and pressing concerns related to feminists Lindsay inadvertently sent this message: When I think about feminism the first thing that comes to mind is how feminists act counter to rational ideals. Given feminism’s vital accomplishments, feminism’s hugely important substantive goals, and the long history of women being misogynistically mistrusted as inherently irrational, Lindsay could not have sent a worse signal.

He should apologize. And we should have the substantive debates about the meaning of feminism and how to prioritize privileging the marginalized perspective without sacrificing everyone’s right to a free and skeptical conscience without being incivil and thin-skinned about it.  And on the subject of incivility and thinness of skin, it is especially we straight, white, cisgendered, neurotypical, non-disabled men who should be the ones taking planks out of our own eyes during such discussions before taking specks out of the eyes of the marginalized.

Your Thoughts?

For those interested in exploring and/or challenging my ideas on civility, I have written about them at great length. Many links on many topics can be found here.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://drzach.net Zachary Moore

    Bravo.

  • William Brinkman

    At the very least, he should apologize and resolve to honor the open letter to the secular community. If he doesn’t, the board of directors should consider disciplinary action.

    He showed disrespect towards a paying audience, by giving them a straw man argument, and giving a passive aggressive welcome. If he had concerns about the conference, he should have addressed them in private with his staff. It’s my understanding that he skipped a fundraising dinner just to compose his Internet messages. Also, when an event his organization is sponsoring was under relentless attack on the Internet, instead of defending the event, he implied that he supported those attacks. So instead of having a conference where the attendees leave more inclined to support CFI, many left wondering if Melody was going to have job because she offended her boss.

    CFI, from my understanding, has many liberal/pro-feminist members. I personally stopped donating to CFI because of Lindsay’s actions. I’ve heard others have stopped donating as well.

    His remarks and conduct have embarrassed CFI, and he should be held accountable for them.

    • jfigdor

      One way to look at this is to think that maybe CFI becomes a more “conservative” atheist organisation while AHA continues to be the more “liberal” (in terms of being strong proponents of feminism {I saw Gloria Steinem receive an award to a standing ovation in New Orleans at last year’s AHA conference}). Organizations like the AHA, SSA, and AA (among others) should be lauded for their commitments to feminism (although even they can always improve).

  • picklefactory

    Very well said. I appreciated the twitter dialogue, too.

  • Chris Ho-Stuart

    Well said.

    I think it might be a positive thing to write up some of this again as a letter, and send to CFI and Ron as they proceed to look into the whole matter.

  • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

    Regarding your first two paragraphs:

    I think Krauss is wrong [I don't think Lindsay is wrong, so this provides a useful example]. I think he’s ignorant of philosophy, and has a warped understanding of what it is that philosophers do. I want to tell him why I feel that way.

    What I won’t do is say ‘you’re a scientist – what do you know?’, ‘Oh great, a scientist [scoff scoff] lecturing me on philosophy.’ and then start calling for an apology and his resignation. Why won’t I do that? Because we, as skeptics, secularists, whatever, should be better than that, and not respond to things we disagree with in that way.

    Returning to the specifics of Lindsay’s talk – it seems like you read a very different talk to the one I read. For instance I did not see him “remark that he hoped [they] would address them in [their] pre-prepared talk as he handed [them] the microphone.” He simply didn’t do anything like that.

    Now there’s perhaps a point about etiquette in the opening talk. I personally prefer Lindsay’s approach (applied to any issue) as it gives meat and substance right from the word ‘go’. Perhaps some would rather some less cerebral pleasantries at the start instead. We all have our preferred approaches. Either way, it’s a minor point of disagreement, and not the sort of thing that should cause the pitchforks to be removed from the garden shed.

    If he apologises for this complaint (i.e. his opening talk) then I’ll feel very sad that things have come to this, such that pressure from special interest groups is dictating the ‘inquiry’ part of CFI. I don’t want Lindsay to apologise for simply having an opinion on the vague and contentious concept of ‘privilege’ any more than I want Krauss to apologise for expressing his honest opinion about my cherished discipline. If he apologises for ‘North Korea’, well, I can understand that. We won’t be seeing apologies in the other direction, of course. That’s a given.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      The part about making remarks and handing them the microphone is that Lindsay framed the whole thing in this way:

      “The first Women in Secularism conference was a ground breaking event, but that’s just it. It broke ground, it helped lay a foundation, but it’s not clear yet what’s going to be erected on top of that foundation. That’s in part what we need to find out over the next few days and that’s one reason CFI decided it was important to have a second conference.

      The first conference raised a number of questions in my mind, and if the vigorous online debate that has occurred over the last twelve months is any indication, in the minds of many others as well.”

      Basically, he’s saying here are a bunch of issues I want you to address but he didn’t tell them that in advance. Had Rebecca Watson, for example, who was any moment about to be on stage known what was going to proceed her, maybe she could have addressed it and the substantive discussion you and I want to see happen could have happened in a pre-planned way.

    • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Well, before I disagree with you ;) let’s just say that even if you’re right; it’s a pretty minor quibble with his talk, and doesn’t justify the calls for ‘disciplinary action’ by the CFI board and accusations that he was opposing feminism, etc etc etc. In fact, I (and I don’t presume to know this) doubt that you’d even have mentioned it if it wasn’t for the huge fuss kicked up by others.

      To me, it sounds like he’s excited about the conference, and the fact that the it will provide a symposium for discussing the questions raised in people’s minds after the first conference. It (to me) comes across as respectful. He believes that they all have questions and are serious about answering them. He listed a few of his own questions after that point, since it’s always good to provide examples.

      In short, he sounds like someone who wants to promote the idea that there are interesting questions to think about; not, as I think you are portraying him, listing things that he expects the speakers to incorporate in their pre-written talks.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      I think he meant well, as you suggest. But I don’t think that’s enough. He had to be more conscientious and pick his spots better.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      I was there and listened to the speech, and didn’t get any of “he means well” out of it. He took what should have been a short welcome speech and used it to deliver a long sermon on tone, before the conference had even started. His remarks weren’t focused on the conference about to happen, they were focused on the personal opinions of Ron Lindsay. If he wanted there to be a discussion on the idea of privilege, he could have asked Melody to schedule a panel discussion on the subject, and asked to be included on the panel. He abused his power as head of CFI by making that speech, and then by making the situation worse instead of better with his responses. He should save the sermons for times when he is speaking on his own behalf, and not has head of a sponsoring organization.
      I think he should apologize, and publicly. Not for having those opinions, but for giving the wrong speech at the wrong time, and then for his nasty follow-ups when called out on it. As CEO of an organization that runs on donations, he should know that making a speech on behalf of CFI in front of a room full of donors and potential donors and “poking them in the eye” is a huge PR mistake. The “disciplinary action” the board should take is to ask him to apologize. His job should only be in danger if he continues a pattern of verbally abusing the same people who are providing his funding.

    • Plutosdad

      He wasn’t just somebody questioning, he is the head of the sponsoring organization, giving the welcome address. He is responsible for fundraising and making sure the conference is a success. by all those accounts, even if he personally thought the entire conference was a waste of time and was against it, he STILL should have never said those things at that time. That is just good business sense. The fact that he did is the reason he needs to be held accountable by CFI, not because he has those views.

    • picklefactory

      I can’t see “but I meant well” as a reasonable defense of this behavior, much less having it roundly rejected as an excuse for well-poisoning. You can only jump down from the high road, not back up onto it.

    • http://twitter.com/KrisVal Kristen Valanoski

      If he would have been willing to spell out what his exact disagreements were instead of making the argument about “tone/approach” (telling us to watch HOW we use the concept of privilege IS in fact a tone argument), maybe we could really have the true discussion he claims the “dogmatic” feminists are supposedly silencing.

      (which begs the question however: Why is he upset with the word privilege, but so casually throws out the term “dogma”? That’s a silencing word, no? Assumes we haven’t thought out our arguments, we’re just regurgitating?)

      By making it about tone/approach, he is indirectly giving legitimacy to blatant misogynists who will use this speech as fodder. Not all disagreements are created equal. Not all discussions are worth having. Not ALL ideas/opinions belong on the table! They understand this when it comes to “teaching the controversy” of intelligent design vs. evolution. Alt med quackery having no place in medicine. Not inviting white supremacists to a civil rights meeting.

      By assuming that too many feminists (enough to warrant it being brought up in the opening speech) so casually drop the privilege bomb merely to avoid outside opinion is nothing short of insulting.

    • 3lemenope

      By assuming that too many feminists (enough to warrant it being brought up in the opening speech) so casually drop the privilege bomb merely to avoid outside opinion is nothing short of insulting.

      Personally I loves me some privilege analysis, but even I would say that the “privilege bomb” does get used in precisely that way far more often than never. It’s not an assumption if it is coincident to observation, but merely an opinion, and one I would personally say is closer to true than false, insulting or otherwise.

      I agree with Katie Graham below that it wasn’t so much the point that was being made as it was the timing. Welcome remarks are not a great place to tone-troll (if that was even what he was doing), and so perhaps the comments were not as welcoming as they should have been.

      Not all disagreements are created equal. Not all discussions are worth having. Not ALL ideas/opinions belong on the table!

      As a general notion, that’s probably so. But, and this is a mighty “but”, I personally trust nobody and nothing to actually make the determination about which are worthy and which aren’t. If there is a valid intersection between a general topic and a particular concern, like “Feminism” and “the social effects of using analytical tools in a normative way” for example, a person would certainly be hard-pressed to explain exactly why such a nexus shouldn’t be explored. It verges on infantilizing people to assume that they can’t handle certain topics, like the old chestnut that the two things you should never discuss at the dinner table are politics and religion. Damn silly rule, all things considered; some of the best dinner conversation I’ve had were on those two topics, and unsurprisingly, because they are vast and fertile areas of discussion!

  • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

    I have to agree with Notung here. It seems like you agree with what Lindsay was saying in his talk, that having your opinions discounted with “check your privilege” and “shut up” are extremely frustrating and not helpful to skepticism and free thought, but you express huge disappointment that he said it to a group of feminists.

    Maybe it wasn’t great timing, but it was still a good point, in my opinion. If it had been said by a woman feminist speaker, would you still feel the same disappointment over what was said?

    His response to Watson was harsh, but I don’t think it was any more harsh than her attack on him for his skin color and gender. She did the very thing that you agree is useless, dismissed him for who he is. Getting trolled and insulted on the internet doesn’t give a person a free pass to pull that on someone else. Ideas, not people, should be attacked. Still, I can see how Lindsay’s post about Watson didn’t have to be harsh. He could have taken the high road here and that would have been more in line with the civility pledge and the open letter to secularism.

    Those are just my thoughts. Other than that, this is the best critique I’ve seen because it doesn’t paint Lindsay as an “MRA” or as someone who is “anti-feminist.” His words have been so twisted by some people (ahem, marcotte ahem) that anyone not reading his actual words would think he stood up there and told women and minorities to stop arguing for equal rights. I appreciate that you’ve been mostly fair about the subject of his talk.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      The timing and his position were everything. Leaders need to understand this. They have to understand the power dynamics in what they do. They have a great deal of influence and others feel that. Others are rightly sensitized to how they use what is given to them and how they overstep their bounds. He used his position of power to take the stage and as a host to scattershot a number of criticisms when it was his role simply to welcome them and thank them for spending likely $1000 to come participate in his organization’s conference. And his criticisms were not layered within a significant demonstration of an understanding of the concerns of the people he was addressing to make them at all receptive. He didn’t demonstrate that he understood them and cared about them. Just as he said, “look certain tactics don’t work on privileged white men like me”, he needs to understand what about his presentation does not work for feminists if he hopes to make criticisms they will take seriously. We need to communicate with each other by genuinely showing we understand and appreciate each other. I tried to explain how he failed to do that. I want the constructive dialogue to happen. Explaining to other privileged white guys like me why their attempts fail is part of that, just as pleading with marginalized people to be just a little more patient with us and not explode out of frustration is also part of it.

  • BB

    While I think certain aspects of his approach are problematic, I generally agree with what he said.

    Perhaps we should consider the constant festering drama of the last year over elevatorgate, feminism, atheism+, and FreeThought blogs as we judge Lindsay’s comments.

    I for one am tired of it. Look at the response to Lindsay. People want his head, his job. All this over ONE speech. never mind what he has done in the past. All that matters is that he offended some people.

    In a comment I left on Greta Cristina’s blog, Lindsay’s critics sound like Fundamentalists who can tolerate nothing but the pure atheist feminist gospel. The savagery of the attack is unwarranted and is a reminder to me why I want nothing to do with atheism+ , FreeThought blogs, and Fundamentalist feminism.

    The first response to my comment called me an ass and the second said I wasn’t a decent person. No need to read any more comments. I know how it works since we have had to constantly hear and read about these issues over the last year.

    I almost always agree with you my friend, but not this time. I am tired of the drama and the shrill rhetoric that seems to constantly flow from certain parts of the atheist community.

    • sinmantyx

      “People want his head, his job. All this over ONE speech.”

      That is not what is happening. A few people were annoyed by his speech, but that was about it. There were calls to simply “talk to him about it” and it was generally described as “off-putting”. That’s it.

      Rebecca Watson’s response on twitter was a little terse, but not aggressive. Her blog post was not combative; and essentially agreed with the point that invoking “you’re privileged” can be used to dismiss and that it shouldn’t be used that way. If you read the response by Lindsay and not the actual blog post by Watson; you will not get an accurate account of it.

      The brunt of the backlash did not begin until after he wrote the incendiary blog post attacking Watson while the conference was still going on. A few people were already slightly annoyed, but THAT is what really escalated things.

      If you are tired of the “shrill rhetoric” you shouldn’t be so happy with Lindsay right about now.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      I was trying to argue against the twisting of Lindsays words into some silencing of minorities (which it wasn’t) over on Marcotte’s blog. She told me if I didn’t come up with one substantive argument to support an anti-feminist position, I would be banned. I explained she was asking me to argue a position I didn’t hold and listed a number of things I see as problems within feminism. She banned me for it.

    • iamcuriousblue

      It was a repeat of a similar post by PZ Myers some months back. Basically demanding that those of us “anti-feminists” (actually, simply critical of some aspects of feminist ideology, in many cases) make our full case against feminism, in a hostile comments section, and if they don’t like your answers, you’re blocked and your writing removed. I don’t think you have to be some major “anti-feminist” to see what’s wrong with that approach.

      I’d actually love to have an open dialogue on just what issues I have with some of the problematic feminist ideas that have currency in many circles, but not if I’m constantly under the threat of the banhammer, surrounded by an angry mob egged on by the “moderator”. “Shut up and listen” indeed.

    • http://westcoastatheist.wordpress.com/ Katie Graham

      One commenter on Raw Story finally admitted that the goal wasn’t just “shut up and listen,” but “shut up and listen and believe. I gave two examples where a member of an oppressed group could be talking about an issue related to that group and the “privileged” person wouldn’t have to “shut up and listen.” I talked about arguing with a Latina about Affirmative Action where this Latina was absolutely against it in any form and didn’t even know her state doesn’t have Affirmative Action. Next, I described women of oppressed cultures in Muslim states who support FGM. It was still over their heads.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      “shut up and listen and believe.”

      Yes, I am very uncomfortable with that. I made that abundantly clear at least twice in my essay here. What’s important to note though is that all the major feminists in the secular blogosphere have been disowning such an interpretation of “shut up and listen” and cashing out its meaning in terms of “let the marginalized have their turn to speak”. Yes, “shut up” is a harsher term than that. But no one I see is supporting the full harshness. That’s a really good thing.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      But would you crash Women in Secularism demanding that open dialogue?

      I want genuine philosophical disputes over the best interpretation of how to implement feminist ideals to happen, in a non-hostile way. This wasn’t the way to go about it.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      The point is that one needs to lead by example when it comes to civility. People who sign civility pledges, as Ron Lindsay and I have done, must hold ourselves to that standard if we are to expect anyone else to do so. He was very undisciplined and I can’t advocate for civility in ways that make enemies of a lot of social justice focused people and then not denounce major uncivil actions from a civility pledger like this. I have spent enough time arguing against authoritarian attitudes and tactics in the movement, even among certain social justice defenders who loathe my insistence they be held to comparably high standards of civility as their enemies. I’ve been out in front on that and taken plenty of knocks.

      On this issue, I think they had the real grievance and, without hiding my disagreements with them, I spoke up to articulate the reasons their feelings made sense. I’m gratified that people who are critical of my civility calls are sharing this post. It shows there is a way to talk about my concerns and Lindsay’s concerns that does not completely alienate them.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      Will you please tell me how exactly I’m supposed to phrase ‘get your
      hand off my breast’ to make the drunk guy at the bar leave me in peace
      without hurting the feelings of said drunk guy and inciting
      defensiveness in all his friends?

      I wouldn’t want to be ‘uncivil’. And I am truly concerned that you may genuinely think that my objecting without using the exact properly civil phrasing may be just as bad as what the drunk guy is doing. I’d hate to come across as too authoritarian in defending my personal boundaries against those who feel entitled to violate them in a manner that has in the past left actual bruises upon me.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Within, the context I am referring to civility being necessary in is debate contexts. I am not at all judging your self-defense against crimes being committed against you.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      But that’s exactly what you are asking. You are asking us to be ‘civil’ in the face of threats and harassment. We are being asked to be ‘nice’ and ‘civil’ in situations that are actually threatening and which we may actually be in danger – such as, oh, being cornered in an elevator at 4am.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      Also, Dan, I notice you didn’t actually answer my question.

      What response can I give that will qualify as both A) effective, and B) civil?

      If the response is not civil, I will be condemned as a bitch. If the response is not effective, the assault will continue.

      Please tell me what response I am supposed to give, the magic words I can say that will make the abuse/ harassment/ mistreatment actually stop?

      You’ve given call after call to ‘civility’.

      Obviously, you have a deeply profound faith in these magic words. I would just like to see some evidence that they exist.

    • Liralen

      Well, if you used dismissive terms like “drama” and “shrill rhetoric”, I can understand why they might call you names.

      Edited note: “hysterical” and “over-reacting” would do it, too.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      I know I am deeply ashamed of my hysterical over-reaction to the time a guy shoved me into a corner and stuck his hand down my pants while telling me what he intended to do to me. If only I’d used the approved civil magic words to object, we could have avoided any unpleasantness and probably all parted friends joking about the misunderstanding. My shrill response of fighting back was truly uncalled for, especially since I was female in not just public, but in a traditionally masculine workplace. I should have had more compassion for his feelings instead of dialing up the drama by screaming and thus getting him all embarrassed. I’m just glad that my over-reaction didn’t result in any legal complications for him.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Ugh. What an awful thing to have to go through, Within. Let me be clear that when I talk about being civil, it’s a matter of how we treat our interlocutors in debates about ideas, not the people physically or sexually assaulting us.

      Again, ugh.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      It’s not about debate, Dan. Think back on how this all started. A woman objected to being in a situation that started out very similar to how my situation began – a man got her alone in a private place where she could not escape and began trying to entice her into ‘coming back to his place’. In her case, he took no for an answer. In mine, he didn’t. It could, very easily, have been the other way around.

      The reactions we got were even quite similar. She pointed out he made her uncomfortable and she wished guys wouldn’t do that. I defended myself with force that could have been lethal. We were both roundly accused of overreacting and being dramatic and hysterical. We were both demonized and shamed for not being more aware of his feelings and what consequences he might suffer. And we were both threatened by those who felt our actions were out of line.

      And then, someone like you comes along when we are frustrated and angry about how we are being treated, how we are being blamed for the events, how we are accused of wanting to be victims, and admonishes us to be ‘civil’.

      I’m going to be blunt here, Dan, because I want you to realize the full extent of YOUR contribution to this issue – if I am ever sexually assaulted again, I am going to keep my mouth shut. I am not going to file charges. I am not going to call the police. I am not going to report it to HR. I am going to shut up, walk away, and get on with my life. Why? Because the end result will be the same – no consequences for the one who did the crime – but it will be a hell of a lot easier on me.

      Welcome to rape culture.

    • ahermit

      Are you talking about this thread Bruce? It’s the only place I can find a comment by you on Greta’s blog between the time of the speech and now…

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/05/22/if-you-have-something-to-say/#comments

      You jumped in with a rude comment comparing Ophelia Greta (thanks for the correction silentbob) to a fundamentalist Christian (for a post in which she simply advised people to contact CFI to make their opinions known.) People disagreed with you…

      …But no one in that thread called you an ass or was any more rude to you than you were in your initial, aggressive, dismissive comment…

      This kind of misinformation is part of the problem; a false narrative has been constructed around this “debate”.

    • cripdyke

      That’s definitely the post.

      Bruce said:

      I assume you want us to shut up, which, of course, only reinforces Lindsay’s point.

      And in response, Throwaway said:
      What an asinine assumption.

      Yeah, they’re engaging the statement, not the person – just what civil debate should do. And that’s what Bruce can’t stand.

      …Because he can’t tell the difference between an assumption being called asinine and a person being called an ass.

      Oy. This is yet another reason I hate the calls for civility. I’m happy as a clam with acting out civility, but Bruce’s behavior shows that persons lying about, misremembering, exaggerating, or otherwise wrong about what was said/done is all that is necessary to create the impression of incivility on the part of feminists. Until people like Ron Lindsay demonstrate the same ability to think critically about the claims of a Bruce as they do of a feminist, we’re going to continue to have an environment where incivility on the part of the Bruces and Rons is considered completely reasonable as a response to the labeled a priori feminists.

    • BB

      I have stayed out of the whole elevatorgate/feminist/atheism+/FreeThought blogs drama outside of a couple of posts I have written and a total of two comments I have written, one on the above mentioned blog and the other on this blog. I also had the distinct pleasure of being savagaged by the atheism+ preacher Richard Carrier. Dan knows me well enough to know how I view these issues.

      I view these issues from a distance and tend to view them as a collective whole. From my seat in the pew I see people who can not tolerate anyone who disagrees with them and that is how I view the shrill, over the top reaction to Lindsay.

      My conclusions are based on what I have observed and by the personal response of people like Richard Carrier and a few blog commenters. If people want me to view them differently then I suggest they learn to treat people differently, especially those they disagree with. So far, what I most often see is behavior and rhetoric no different from what I experienced in Fundamentalist Christianity.

      So believe what you will about me.

    • cripdyke

      I believe that you said you were called an ass, and that your statement was untrue. I believe your argument was called asinine, and that you clearly conflate criticism of argument with personal insult.

      You can say all you like that you perceive no difference between the behavior & rhetoric of group X and fundamentalist Christians, but if you can’t make the distinction between words and human beings, your inability to perceive other differences won’t be much use as evidence…pretty much anywhere.

  • iamcuriousblue

    In a word, humbug. Lindsay said something that very much need to be said, and his choice of venues was perfect – an audience full of people who needed to hear that message, even if they didn’t like it very much. People, I might add, who’s staggering incivility toward practically anybody who they disagree with makes any rhetoric about the incivility of Lindsay’s speech ring hollow. I can very much understand his motivations as well. Myers, Watson, and company have been sending the message loud and clear over the last year that they more or less own secular organizations like CFI, and that those organizations are there to do their bidding. If I was head of such an organization and had an audience that included more than a few people who were treating my organization that way, I might drop some pointed criticisms too.

    More to the point, if you read the entire speech, it’s a very good one. It speaks of a commitment to gender equality as a key value of a secular society, and the need for secular organizations to engage with humanist values. At the same time, it contained some sharp criticism of those who are abusing ideas like feminism and social justice to in an attempt to silence others, monopolize discourse, and grab power for themselves. (And can anybody at this point say with a straight face this is not, in fact, what some people are doing?) I’d say his speech was a very strong statement of secular liberal values, and the fact that some people have a problem with is simply a sign of how utterly illiberal their ideas have become.

    Also to the point, Lindsay was given a pulpit, and it was his to say what he wanted. It was clear from the content of the live tweeting, that the audience were fine with Lindsay having that pulpit, until he dropped some opinions they didn’t like. As far as I’m concerned, if you give somebody a platform, it’s for the speaker to say what they want to say, not to repeat some script you want them to say.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      “I’d say his speech was a very strong statement of secular liberal values, and the fact that some people have a problem with is simply a sign of how utterly illiberal their ideas have become.”

      They haven’t denounced those values. They complained that he implied feminists were especially problematically bad at understanding them. They have at the same time given interpretations of “shut up and listen” that are more about those who are used to dominating conversations actively realizing how much they have to listen. They have not endorsed the illiberal “shut up and listen and believe” that Katie Graham mentions in another comment here. You also had Rebecca Watson explicitly acknowledge that sometimes feminists go too far and silence men as men. And Amanda Marcotte has mentioned that at least blog commenters have abused privilege calling. They are not obtuse to the potential for these problems. They did not balk at the suggestion that silencing was illiberal and bad.

    • iamcuriousblue

      Amanda Marcotte is one of the worst abusers, actually, of dismissing anybody who disagrees those that disagree with her as privileged, misogynistic, etc, so I absolutely don’t accept her good faith here. Not to mention, she’s hypocritical about the whole concept – there have been several occasions when she’s been “called out” on *her* relative privilege by women of color and sex workers, among others, and speaks very much out of the other side of her mouth in such situations.

      Look, I understand what privilege means as a sociological concept, and to some degree, it’s a valid one. (Though I think it’s an absolutely terrible concept to hang an entire set of political beliefs around – I remain a proponent of *rights* based liberalism, not privilege-punishing radicalism.) However, the use of sociological concepts for moralistic one-upmanship is absolutely wrong-headed in the extreme.

    • cripdyke

      The fact that you think people hang “an entire set of political beliefs around” the sociological concept of privilege shows just how little you know about the perspectives of people who critically employ the concept.

      You also say that he spoke to:

      an audience full of people who needed to hear that message, even if they didn’t like it very much. People, I might add, who’s staggering incivility toward practically anybody who they disagree with makes any rhetoric about the incivility of Lindsay’s speech ring hollow…

      =========
      Am I to believe that you know – individually – the tendencies of these conference goers in using both the concept of privilege and the phrase “shut up and listen” sufficiently well to know whether the audience is accurately described as “full of” people who needed Lindsay’s message? Am I to believe that you know – individually – these audience members sufficiently well to know that this sizable majority sufficient to describe the audience as “full of” this type AND that each of the members of this type identifiable by their use of privilege and “shut up and listen” is staggeringly uncivil?

      Or should I actually believe you make things up about people you don’t know?

      I certainly know which is dramatically more likely. Am I uncivil to believe this evidence?

    • 3lemenope

      Am I to believe that you know – individually – the tendencies of these conference goers in using both the concept of privilege and the phrase “shut up and listen” sufficiently well to know whether the audience is accurately described as “full of” people who needed Lindsay’s message?

      Is such an impressively granulated level of knowledge about one’s audience truly a prerequisite for making generalizations in speeches, or is there something particular about this topic and/or audience that moves you to make such steep and exacting epistemological demands? Because given this standard you’re articulating here, it seems difficult to justify using, really, any term or argument of general applicability in any speech ever. I tend to think that might stultify the speech-giving enterprise.

    • cripdyke

      Nope, generalize away. But when you generalize and it’s arguably untrue, don’t be surprised when someone asks you for evidence.

      And if you’re going to dismiss the critique of Lindsay tu quoque style, with charges that his audience – and thus his critics – consist of a group “full of” [not including, but "full of"] people of “staggering incivility” you should have either evidence, not merely that staggering incivility exists, but for your actual claim: that the audience was full of people of staggering incivility.

      If you don’t have evidence, it would be nice if you were at least expert in the relevant field – in this case, at the bare minimum you’d have to have some history of judging the comparative magnitude of incivility amongst different people performing different actions in different contexts AND have examples of uncivil actions from each member of at least a majority of the audience.

      Since I don’t have reason to believe you’ve got specific expertise, since you’ve asserted no specific expertise, and since you muster no evidence whatsoever, I’m not inclined to assume that the audience was “full of” anything on your say-so.

      Your lack of relevant knowledge, along with your tu quoque and $5, will get you a cup of coffee. It won’t convince anyone of your argument, however.

    • 3lemenope

      It makes perfect sense to apply one’s own knowledge-seeking criteria to whatever claims one encounters; if yours are stringent, and that stringency works for you, that’s great. Universalizing those criteria and making them normative is an entirely other thing, but dominant strands of this thread seem to pull in that direction.

      I personally don’t find your criteria workable because they seek specific justification markers that seem inappropriate to the contexts of the content being subjected to the criteria. For example, iamcuriousblue never claimed expertise in the field at issue, and never based the validity of his/her comments upon any such assertion. (I am passingly curious about what such an expert would even be like; what would a relevant marker of expertise in the rather narrow field of the sociology of the feminist and atheist blogospheres be?) In an area that for all intents and purposes is not and likely never will be formalized, the primary form of evidence is going to be personal experience and anecdote, as unfortunately degraded an information source as they tend to be.

      Equating lack of expertise with lack of knowledge is a category error, and a pretty big one at that. A person can have relevant experience and valuable insight without passing through any gatekeeper of verification of expertise. The prior probability of any given statement by a layperson being probative and/or insightful is generally smaller than that of a similar statement by an expert, but the difference is in my experience somewhat overemphasized, particularly in areas and fields where having acknowledged expertise doesn’t mean much because the field itself is in a beginning stage of development. To say nothing of when the “field” doesn’t really exist at all, such as in the current example.

      And all other things aside, the argument was not a tu quoque. Iamcuriousblue did not say, well, Lindsay was mean but that’s OK because the feminists in attendance are meanies. He/she argued, rather, feminists are often mean, and that to interpret Lindsay’s statements as similarly mean because he criticized that meanness is an error. (I agree at least insofar as pointing to audience consternation is insufficient to demonstrate “meanness”; people generally don’t like being publicly criticized no matter how nicely it’s worded.) You can think whatever you like about the truth value of that statement, but whatever it happens to be, it’s not a tu quoque.

    • cripdyke

      You clearly don’t have any idea of what iamcuriousblue was saying/arguing. Let me remind you:

      People, I might add, who’s staggering incivility toward practically anybody who they disagree with makes any rhetoric about the incivility of Lindsay’s speech ring hollow.

      This is the exact form of tu quoque: the critics have characteristic X, which fact makes me disbelieve there arguments that I relate to X. No mention is made of the the actual arguments.

      Bingo! Tu quoque.

      you can try to reframe it by rewriting iamcuriousblue

      Iamcuriousblue did not say, well, Lindsay was mean but that’s OK because the feminists in attendance are meanies. He/she argued, rather, feminists are often mean, and that to interpret Lindsay’s statements as similarly mean because he criticized that meanness is an error.

      but this has 2 problems.

      1st, a tu quoque isn’t about saying that something is morally justified (a la your first formulation). If you don’t know what a tu quoque is, that’s okay. There are places where you can look it up and have it explained. However, it’s about fallacious reasoning in relation to argument. It is not about moral justification.

      2nd, iamcuriousblue did *not* say that it was an error to attribute meanness because he criticized meanness. IACB dismissed the arguments about whether or not Lindsay was disrespectful and unwelcoming and targeting more criticism of incivility towards those who respond to ongoing rape threats and harassment with insufficient polity than towards those engaged in an ongoing campaign of rape threats and harassment…and dismissed those arguments because of a [perceived] characteristic of the critics.

      Seriously. Read IACB. You’re making things up. IACB was clear that the reason to dismiss the arguments critical of Lindsay’s behavior was that such critique “rings hollow” **when coming from certain specific people**.

      Again, if you don’t know what a tu quoque is, that’s fine. You can get more info in lots of places. you don’t have to take my word for it that this is the classic form of tu quoque. I encourage you to check my work, but please, don’t rewrite what IACB said and don’t invent new definitions of tu quoque in order to assert that I am wrong if by tu quoque I mean something about moral judgements and justifications…which is no part of the definition of a tu quoque.

      Finally,

      In an area that for all intents and purposes is not and likely never will be formalized, the primary form of evidence is going to be personal experience and anecdote,

      Yes. And that’s why I insisted that it was ridiculous to accept IACB’s analysis when IACB has no relevant personal experience. Note that “anecdote” here means nothing more than personal experience unless you mean to say “repeating someone else’s personal experience second hand”. In that case, I would say that you’re wrong. Second hand info isn’t evidence. It’s a recitation of the evidence. The evidence is the original personal experience.

      So given that we agree that personal experience is the best available evidence, why are you defending IACB’s insistence on speaking without any evidence or even recitation of evidence?

      You say that

      Equating lack of expertise with lack of knowledge is a category error, and a pretty big one at that. A person can have relevant experience and valuable insight without passing through any gatekeeper of verification of expertise.

      Which is why I was saying that IACB cannot be an expert because IACB does not have any knowledge, not that because IACB is not an expert, the knowledge that IACB does have is worthless.

      At the risk of boring the people who actually read my comment:

      If you don’t have evidence, it would be nice if you were at least expert in the relevant field

      And in conclusion:

      Your lack of relevant knowledge,

      There is nothing in the conclusion about failing to get a PhD in Ron Lindsay Studies.

      Note where the priority lies: on having actual evidence. It is only when one ventures into the realm of opinion that assessing expertise becomes useful in assigning weight to speakers’ arguments.

      Go ahead, critique me if you like, but a helpful critique would be one of what I actually wrote, not one that not only did I not write including things that I did not assert and errors of category I did not make, but also one in which I did not employ tu quoque to mean something that it has never meant on this planet as long as I have been alive.

    • 3lemenope

      This is the exact form of tu quoque: the critics have characteristic X, which fact makes me disbelieve there arguments that I relate to X. No mention is made of the the actual arguments.

      Bingo! Tu quoque.

      Simply false. A “tu quoque” is actually shorthand for “argumentum ad hominem, tu quoque”, a very specific type of ad hominem argument. You wrote the general definition for argumentum ad hominem above, mistaking it for the more specific ‘ad hominem, tu quoque’. A “tu quoque” argument is specifically when a person asserts that the other party in the argument has committed an error and thus it is legitimate to commit the same error in response, or alternatively that the person’s criticism of an argument is in error because they have committed the same error in an unrelated instance. “Tu quoque” is Latin for “you, too”; the actual meaning of the term is right there in the name; it’s a deflection towards the moral category of hypocrisy, and is deductively unsound.

      1st, a tu quoque isn’t about saying that something is morally justified (a la your first formulation). If you don’t know what a tu quoque is, that’s okay. There are places where you can look it up and have it explained. However, it’s about fallacious reasoning in relation to argument. It is not about moral justification.

      Tu quoque is one specific sort of error in deductively valid arguments that can render them unsound; it is an informal fallacy. It can crop up in arguments of any content type, including arguments about moral justification. I know that and have known that; your understanding of what a “tu quoque” is is in far more significant question given the definition you proffer. You could always ask Fincke to referee, as he indisputably has philosophy expertise (I do too, but I can understand you not just taking my word for it), but your definition of “tu quoque” is pretty far afield of what it actually is, and is far more akin to the general, undifferentiated concept of an ad hominem.

      Now, since arguments are situated in and proceed from actual people, there is some fuzziness associated with how and when it is appropriate to level a charge of hypocrisy. Clearly, within the structure of a larger deductive argument it would be unsound; it cannot do the work of discrediting an opposing position, as that is clearly a tu quoque. But if it is employed for other reasons, it can be a legitimate rhetorical tool. After all, it is reasonable in general to question whether one’s interlocutors are acting in good faith when prior hostility has transpired; while it is preferable to be in a situation where one’s interlocutors can be given the benefit of every doubt, it is not strictly speaking always prudent to do so. So long as the accusation of hypocrisy is not situated within a deductive structure, its deductive unsoundness is irrelevant to properly assessing its use.

      What you’re missing is that the accusation of hypocrisy iamcuriousblue offered is separate from the argument about the identity and appropriateness of the contents of the speech itself and addresses something entirely different, and importantly for the purposes of identifying logical fallacies, the accusation does no work whatsoever in the other argument. He offered his thesis, that the speech was a good one, delivered to the right audience, that sought in particular to point out and contrast his understanding of secular liberal values with what he saw as behavior which diverges from them. He *also* said that some of the individuals who complained about said speech are hypocritical in their complaints about civility. Now, the easy way to tell that the statements are disconnected is that if the second I listed there were to be false, it would have no effect on the truth or falsity of the first. One is the argument, the second is a bit of meta commentary on how he/she expects the argument to be received/has been received. He/she could be completely wrong about the charge of hypocrisy and still be completely right that the speech was both good and addressed to the right audience.

      And just how do you know that IACB has no relevant experience? It seems like you’re just assuming that for the convenience of deprecating what he/she has to say. My point in shearing off the “expertise” prong of your unworkably strong criteria was to point out gently that if all anyone can possibly have in this subject area is their own personal experiences, you are exactly as qualified to opine on the matters and critique arguments persuant to such matters exactly as much as IACB and me and everyone else in the known universe is. To get all meta-meta here, this is me pointing out the hypocrisy of your demand to have knowledge of a random asserted strength of justification prior to opening one’s mouth and expecting to be taken seriously, and it is not a tu quoque, because it is not situated in an argument. It is merely my observation.

    • cripdyke

      if all anyone can possibly have in this subject area is their own personal experiences, you are exactly as qualified to opine on the matters and critique arguments persuant to such matters exactly as much as IACB and me and everyone else in the known universe is.

      No. People who were actually there and witnessed the speech and, in fact, whose behavior we are considering are far more qualified to opine on the matters in question than I or anyone else who was not there. At a bare minimum, one individual attending the conference knows the history of incivility of one attendee.

      If you believe that I am as qualified to comment on the behavioral history of someone unknown to me as that person is to comment on hir own behavioral history, you have no concept of what constitutes evidence whatsoever.

      My point in shearing off the “expertise” prong

      But you didn’t shear off my expertise prong. You falsely asserted that I prioritized expertise over evidence in an area where formal study is unrealistic to expect.

      In fact, I specifically prioritized evidence and said that if a person has none, the least an observer could ask is for expertise.

      Otherwise, that person’s opinion holds no more value than my own, and therefore I have no reason to change my mind.

      “Shearing off” my expertise prong would have left me insisting SOLELY on evidence. Your writing actually sheared off the evidence prong. Read it again:

      Equating lack of expertise with lack of knowledge is a category error, and a pretty big one at that.

      And then read me again:

      If you don’t have evidence, it would be nice if you were at least expert in the relevant field

      I clearly treat them as separate categories, with evidence prioritized first.

      Finally, let’s deal with tu quoque.

      An ad hominem definition would be:

      the critics have characteristic X, which fact makes me disbelieve there arguments that I relate to X -OR WHICH I CONSIDER ENTIRELY UNRELATED TO X. No mention is made of the the actual arguments.

      This is the general definition of tu quoque. If you can’t tell the difference between that definition and the one that I provided, I likely can’t help you.

      As a reminder, my definition of tu quoque is

      the critics have characteristic X, which fact makes me disbelieve there arguments that I relate to X. No mention is made of the the actual arguments.

      This is really not that hard. It is actually in agreement with your latest post in which you say:

      A “tu quoque” argument is specifically when a person asserts that the other party in the argument has committed an error and thus it is legitimate to commit the same error in response, or alternatively that the person’s criticism of an argument is in error because they have committed the same error in an unrelated instance.

      And yet, you insist that:

      [my] definition of “tu quoque” is pretty far afield of what it actually is, and is far more akin to the general, undifferentiated concept of an ad hominem.

      No. Simply wrong. To be the undifferentiated concept of ad hominem, characteristic X cannot have the limitation of being related to the argument in question.

      1. You wear pink

      2. Therefore I disregard your assessment of President Obama’s drone assassination’s constitutionality.

      This is an ad hominem but not a tu quoque

      1. You wear pink

      2. Therefore I disregard your assessment of whether President Obama’s pink tie is appropriate politically.

      This is a tu quoque and by definition also falls within the larger category of ad hominem. Your refusal to accept a definition that clearly places limits on the relationship of the characteristic to the argument shows that you either

      a) don’t understand my quite standard use of X as a specialized pronoun that keeps its value unless and until changed

      b) don’t accept the actual definition of tu quoque, or

      c) are arguing mendaciously and in bad faith.

      Personally, I believe a) but you are free to try to convince me that the issue is b) or c) or even something which I have not considered.

      To get all meta-meta here, this is me pointing out the hypocrisy of your demand to have knowledge of a random asserted strength of justification prior to opening one’s mouth and expecting to be taken seriously, and it is not a tu quoque, because it is not situated in an argument.

      First, I am not asserting knowledge of a “random asserted strength”. IACB declined to provide evidence for assertions. Any evidence. At all. I **might** have protested the quality of that evidence if there were any evidence at all on the matter being discussed, but I didn’t have any opportunity as there was no evidence. At all. Period.

      Not to belabor the point, but your hypocrisy accusation is far off the mark – or your definition of hypocrisy is “pretty far afield of what it actually is”. The difference here is that I am actually employing evidence: I am discussing what people are actually saying in this thread. The evidence is there for all to see and frequently quoted by me. There is no hypocrisy in asking for evidence and providing evidence. Cheese Whiz, what do you think all these quotes are for?

      Finally, you do reveal one mistake of mine: I said that IACB had no evidence. I could have said that IACB had no evidence **on offer** and been perfectly correct. I do not have the means to prove that IACB has no such evidence through long friendships with a large number of attendees, relentless reading of the internet history of persons identified through a conference registration list, or, y’know, telepathy.

      it was careless wording on my part, but I thought “has no evidence” might be interpreted as “has no evidence” in the sense of current possession: on an internet comment stream, “to have” is easily and frequently used to mean “to have in this thread”. Certainly IACB doesn’t have any evidence for the claim in this thread. I will cop to minor laziness in thinking that I would be interpreted as not asserting metaphysical certainty of non-existence, but rather asserting that IACB lacked evidence in the only sense that could possibly be important in an internet debate.

      I snark a tiny bit, but not to take back my error, only to point out that your expectation that words with multiple possible senses be used only in ways that could not possibly be misinterpreted is a bit ridiculous given the forum in which you find yourself engaged.

      Now, do you have any errors you wish to concede? Do you wish to take back your insistence that I equated lack of expertise with lack of all knowledge or evidence? Do you wish to concede that a definition of tu quoque that includes a standard requiring the characteristic X to be related to the argument is not “far afield” from the actual definition or closer to the definition of a general ad hominem? Because there are an awful lot of people that would be surprised that ad hominem includes such a limitation.

      Any other errors you wish to concede? Or would you like to blithely continue insisting on the same things, heedless to what has been said previously? If the latter, I’m done.

    • http://twitter.com/AleisterHermit A Hermit

      Cripdyke may be exaggerating a bit but knowing one’s audience is pretty much a fundamental requirement for making a successful presentation of any kind. Lindsay apparently couldn’t be bothered.

      And, more to the point that cripdyke was making, if you’re going to generalize about an audience you better make sure your generalization isn’t attributing false characteristics to that audience. The suggestion that this was an audience that “very much needed to hear” Lindsay’s scolding is condescending to that audience, to say the least…

  • Ariel

    Since I commented earlier on Ashley’s blog, articulating the need for exactly this sort of reaction as Daniel’s OP, all I can say now is: shut up and listen, atheists! Prayers are answered and God exists!

    So Daniel, thank you for this; evidently I have no quarrel with your main points. However, I will use this opportunity to comment on one particular issue.

    And I am quite happy that Amanda Marcotte has repudiated blog commenters that misuse the concept of privilege as a silencing tactic in her open letter to CFI.

    I both liked and disliked Amanda’s “repudiation”. I liked it, because it was a smart move, sending the critics on a fool’s errand (very funny). And I disliked it because it missed the point, quite badly in my opinion.

    Here is the relevant fragment of Amanda’s letter:

    I have seen people use this word “privilege” as a weapon to claim that no one of a certain race/class/gender has a right to an opinion at all, but that strategy tends to be the purview of anonymous blog commenters who have no real power in the world. The thought leaders who have been angling for feminism to be a major concern of the secularist movement do not do this, and when Lindsay caved to demands that he provide examples, he was unable to do so.

    In effect Amanda invited everyone to look for examples of the “thought leaders” who do just that: who claim that no one of a certain race (etc.) has a right to an opinion. Since no convincing examples were given, she pronounced victory. And her invitation looks like a trap (a fool’s errand, if you prefer) because … well, because the “thought leaders” would have to be extremely foolish to formulate explicitly and unambiguously such claims. From the start the chances are high that what you will find are (at best) imprecise remarks, prone to various interpretations, like the fragment from PZ produced by Lindsay. All in all, weak examples are what you can count on. You want to accept Amanda’s challenge? Good luck to you on a fool’s errand!

    So that’s why I liked Amanda’s “repudiation”. And here are the reasons why I didn’t like it.

    First, it presents the movement as a sort of elitist club composed of the thought leaders who have real power in the world, as opposed to anonymous commenters who don’t. The fragment conveys an impression that it is the leaders that matter; all the rest is a trifle. I think it’s wrong. A single anonymous Jill or John (or Ariel, for that matter) doesn’t have much power, agreed. But the situation is different when they start forming groups. The whole problem (imo) is not so much about individuals abusing the “shut up and listen” strategy, as about groups supporting and encouraging their members in such an abuse. Repudiating individual blog commenters, while at the same time declaring them unimportant, is imo not much of a repudiation.

    Second, the role of the thought leaders is also misrepresented. A leader might be cautious enough to avoid making explicit claims, but still support the abuse by … well, by not talking about it openly, by minimizing it, by not reacting when it happens, by tolerating or encouraging a group of followers who engage in such an abuse. Acknowledging such possibilities widens considerably the scope of permissible examples. And I think they should be acknowledged.

    I hope that bloggers will call out such behavior and that they will generally disown bullying verbal abuse and other authoritarian attitudes and tactics that are antithetical to freethought.

    I like this very much, even if (at the moment) I’m not able to share your hope. It’s a difficult situation. What if such a disowning would produce (in practice) a strong backlash from your regular commenters? What if calling out such behavior would alienate the bulk your regular readers? Small and cautious moves in this directions are probably all that can be counted on (and perhaps even this is overoptimistic). Maybe Amanda’s “repudiation” should be treated as such? I don’t know.

  • Plutosdad

    What is amazing is that Mitt Romney was more respectful in his speech to the NAACP.

  • Pitchguest

    Dan, the Women in Secularism conference has nothing to do with feminism. Why would you even think that? Are you seriously suggesting that every woman attending Women in Secularism were feminists? Moreover, Lindsay’s TALK said NOTHING about feminism, about feminists, or any of that sort, so I have no idea where you got the idea that it was used to ‘level serious and controversial charges to people in the audience’. What on earth are you talking about?

    Furthermore, to add insult to injury, you are concluding that everyone in the audience at Women in Secularism disagrees with Ron Lindsay’s talk. I’m sorry, but when did you become their arbiter? Do they not have agency of their own to conclude this for themselves? And what is this ‘a group of women can get a stern talking to’ bullshit? No, what Ron Lindsay spoke BRIEFLY about was how the concept of privilege can be abused to tell other people to ‘shut up’ because they lack one thing or another, which is of course not a good way to shape a debate. Do you disagree with this contention? Skimming through your post, no, no you do not. You even yourself say it has happened to you and how this can be *very frustrating.*

    In addition, are you telling me, Dan, that the concept of privilege and how it can be abused only applies to women and feminists, hence why the criticism that feminists were being targeted?

    As for the civility aspect, aren’t you forgetting something? After Ron Lindsay’s talk, he was harangued by the very people you say he ‘poisoned the well’ against, accused of ‘mansplaining’ and so on, given demands to resign and much worse. Ron Lindsay was very cordial to his detractors for a while, and if you noticed he didn’t actually write a post saying he was ‘bullied’ and ‘harassed’, he gave examples of the things he’d claimed in his talk, that people tell other people to ‘shut up and listen’ and then, after numerous tweets by Rebecca Watson insulting him, assertions of ‘mansplaining’, only then did Lindsay respond. I mean, you are cutting it close by calling what Rebecca Watson, Amanda Marcotte, PZ Myers and the rest said to Lindsay ‘civil criticism.’

    And speaking of Rebecca Watson, since we’re apparently specifically talking about her, do you have evidence for her ‘torrent of abuse’? Or should we just take what she says at face value? If I said I endured a ‘torrent of abuse’, would you believe me or would you think I’m lying? Or would you think it’s not the same thing because I’m not a woman? Answer very carefully. (Oh, but you don’t know if I’m white or black or brown or whatever, so think about it *extra* carefully.)

    By the way, are you actually speaking of ‘thin skin’ in reference to Lindsay’s response to Rebecca Watson? Thin. Skin. Wow. I have no words.

    No, I don’t think Lindsay should apologize. I think *you* should apologize for pandering to the hypocrites who have shown none of the efforts to be civil that you have shown and that you would actually defend their actions towards Lindsay, and you do it seemingly only because they happen to be women. Shame.

  • Liralen

    Thanks for speaking up, Dan.

    It’s a bit sad that despite living most of my life as an agnostic in secular environments, I never noticed the second class status of women when I started occasionally attending fundamentalist churches. The lack of women in leadership roles just wasn’t unusual enough to notice.

  • Pitchguest

    Look at this, Dan:

    http://storify.com/jaspergregory/richard-dawkins-versus-the-online-wimmin-mob

    This is what Ron Lindsay was talking about. Read the comments.

    • Ariel

      This was to Dan, not to me, but interesting read. Would it be possible to present a similar selection of the tweets supporting Dawkins (sorry for asking, but Tweeter is definitely not my sort of medium)? Anyway, my impression is that what the both sides are really fighting for is the right to use the word “sexist” and racial qualifications as insults. Otherwise the question of how sociologists are using them would provoke as much interest and emotions as … well, as the question how the mathematicians are using the term “lattice”. Very emotional, the last one, isn’t it? All of this is rather sad.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      I don’t think anyone disagrees that some people use the concept of privilege to dismiss substantive arguments. Rebecca said as much in her response. The issue is that he spoke in very general terms which made it unclear exactly what he was talking about, so of course everyone thought he was talking about them. Also, since he was opening a conference, it was quite reasonable to infer he was talking about the conference. A leader needs to understand this stuff.

    • Pitchguest

      Both you and I know that Rebecca abuses the concept of privilege to dismiss arguments just as much as these other people she points out. She doesn’t stand on higher ground, she’s just as bad. And the thing is, she did it again when she criticised Lindsay’s talk; accused him of “mansplaining”, called him a “white male”, I mean come the fuck on.

      He spoke briefly about the concept, it wasn’t the “crux” of his talk like Rebecca deduced, and he might’ve spoken in general terms, but that doesn’t explain why they felt targeted. Again, the concept of privilege doesn’t solely apply to women and feminists, does it? They’re not the only ones using the concept to shut down conversation, are they? So why do they feel *specifically* targeted? I read the transcription and I see reasonable talking points that could be discussed, not dismissal or “mansplaining” or “white male privilege.” If he had that talk on any other conference or convention, would they have had the same reaction? Or was it simply because it was a conference for women?

      Then, to move away from Ron Lindsay, we have Richard Dawkins proving Lindsay’s point by just pointing out “white” people, “white men” to be precise, can be victims of racism and sexism too, and for some reason that translates as ignorance.

      Like this one for instance:
      https://twitter.com/YasminSadie/status/337798158597898240

      Even the suggestion that you might be “oppressed” because of your skin colour is dismissed. It’s ridiculous. Of course you can be “oppressed” for being white, it’s no fucking panacea or getting out of oppression free card. But the thing is, Dawkins didn’t even say anything about being “oppressed” so that’s not the issue. The issue is racism and sexism, which is apparently something that “white men” is exempt. Because of this invisible power dynamic that seemingly comes from nothing, “intersectionality” and the patriarchy. And if you don’t agree, you need to “check your privilege” and what have you. It just shuts down conversation completely.

      So to return to Lindsay, I think what he said was very much needed. It clearly needs to be discussed more and we need to set boundaries. In particular, we need to stop people closing down debate by abusing the concept of privilege (like the one above – and for your information, I’ve seen similar tactics employed by Rebecca Watson and Amanda Marcotte).

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      She was engaging his argument. Privilege is a reason why his personal experience has mislead him, not a dismissal. That’s why she went to the trouble of explaining that he was right, to a degree. The issue is that he wasn’t specific enough to make it clear what he was complaining about and doing this as the opening speech of the conference sure made it sound like he was complaining about the speakers, even if that’s not what he intended.

  • sezit

    I paid and was excited to attend. That quickly became irritation as I listened. I was so pissed off by his tone that I walked out about the time that he told us he was not welcoming us. (Came back after he finished.) This type of anti-welcome is, I believe, an absolute outlier and a complete fail in terms of professional conference openers. He went on to scold us. Then, he went on to single out and engage in a public flame war on CFI’s FRONT PAGE with one of his organization’s speakers, who was not the only one criticizing his behavior. No matter what his intentions were, he owes me and the other attendees an apology for hijacking the conference with these sour notes and making us doubt CFI’s commitment to civility and desire to further Freethought. This is not the way to grow an organization, and it shows that he is seriously lacking in political savvy.
    Even if you think he was absolutely 100% right (I don’t), this was unquestionably not the venue for his talk. His behavior after is just plain out of line. How can other CFI sponsored speakers trust his support in the future, knowing of this lack of effort to privately address an issue, and his misuse of the organization for personal argument driven public slap-downs? Is there any possible big-picture benefit here?

    Dan, I appreciate your civility in discussing this and calling out his failure to hold up his promise of civility. Thank you.

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Thank you sezit.

  • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

    It seems every year we have an incident where a cop(s) with a history of bad behavior/bigotry screws up and shoots an unarmed person or leads a raid against the wrong house that gets people killed.
    And whenever that happens, folks come out of the woodwork to talk about how hard it is being a cop, and how if you had to do the job, you’d be seeing folks that looked like the unarmed person as the enemy as well. And they talk about what the unarmed person could/should have done differently to avoid being shot. There are complaints about how we shouldn’t judge all cops by the actions of this one and those that covered for/stood by because if our house gets robbed we may want cops do do their jobs and write up a report for the insurance company. Those criticizing the police are called all sorts of nasty names for not understanding that to ‘protect and serve’ sometimes you must ‘abuse and oppress’. Crime statistics are trotted out that ‘prove’ those of the race/gender/sexual orientation of the victim are more likely to be criminals instead of just more likely to be investigated/convicted.

    There is call for investigation. Sometimes the cop is even taken off the streets on paid leave while the investigation is takes place.
    Eventually, the hubbub dies down, the cop returns to work, possibly with some sort of reprimand added to the stack of reprimands already in the file. No new policies are past. The only long term consequences are on the victims.

    And then, a couple months later, it all happens again.

    Status quo is preserved. Nothing changes.

    Why should it?

    After all, the victim is a different race/gender/sexual orientation than ‘normal’, so what do ‘normal’ people have to fear? If they weren’t doing anything wrong, they’d have nothing to worry about, right?

    It’s easier to pretend it couldn’t possibly happen to you than it is to actually do something about the problem, so folks rationalize it away until it’s all the victim’s fault/imagination. And that way they can cling to their often false sense of security.

    He shouldn’t have been driving while black.
    She shouldn’t have been talking while female.
    Zie shouldn’t have been flaunting hir sexual orientation.

    What did they expect, after all, being black/female/gay in a world designed for white/male/heterosexual?

  • Edward Gemmer

    I dunno. It’s hard not to be profoundly disappointed in the atheist community. Many people are rejecting religion and supernatural. Does the atheist community offer a attractive alternative as a community? Not really.

    I think Lindsay was just one of many who are frustrated with the constant, constant, constant awful behavior. He seemed intrigued by the idea of celebrating women without insulting a bunch of people or telling them to shut up, but he learned his lesson for that hope.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      Yeah, it’s understandable that the constant, constant, constant awful behavior is frustrating. I mean, getting years worth of hate mail and death threats because you objected to being hit on? Being vilified, hated, and having your family harassed because you objected to having your personal boundaries violated? Being unable to so much as walk through a conference without being objectified and made to feel unwelcome? Having your valid concerns about your safety being belittled because someone elsewhere has it worse?

      It sucks, I know, it’s frustrating as hell and it drives people away from the community…

      oh, wait…my bad.

      That wasn’t the constant, constant, constant awful behavior you and Lindsay refer to.

      You mean the constant, constant, constant awful behavior of daring to OBJECT to that kind of stuff in something other than the properly approved, utterly civil, magic words that will somehow enlighten jerks on why their behavior makes them jerks without actually requested the jerks change their behavior or otherwise inconvenience or ‘insult’ said jerks in any conceivable way?

      I see.

      Well, since you are here and you are so ‘frustrated’, perhaps you’ll help. Will you please tell me how exactly I’m supposed to phrase ‘get your hand off my breast’ to make the drunk guy at the bar leave me in peace without hurting the feelings of said drunk guy and inciting defensiveness in all his friends?

    • Pitchguest

      Wow. Way to derail the topic. What *are* you talking about? Who’s objectifying you? Who’s making you feel unwelcome?

      What does anything of what you said have *anything* to do with the argument put forth by Ron Lindsay?

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      You are, among others, such as Ron Lindsay.

    • Pitchguest

      Ron Lindsay is *objectifying* you?

      *raised eyebrow*

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      Ron Lindsay went out of his way to make women feel unwelcome at an opening speech for a conference intended to be about equality and allowing women to actually have their voices heard.

      Yes, Ron Lindsay is making women feel unwelcome.

    • Pitchguest

      Oh, he went out of his way for nothing. Please stop trumping up the drama, you’re being ridiculous enough as it is. You’ve ridiculously asserted that Ron Lindsay have in no uncertain terms *OBJECTIFIED* you, as well as claiming that Lindsay is making WOMEN — not you, but WOMEN — feel unwelcome, in a shameless effort to speak for all women who may even have LIKED the talk.

      Furthermore, Lindsay’s talk did NOTHING to denigrate either feminism or women, so this accusation that he went out of his way to make women feel unwelcome is an outright lie. He spoke BRIEFLY about the concept of privilege and how it can be abused to shut people up, he spoke BRIEFLY about how he didn’t like the phrase “shut up and listen” because of what it entails. It wasn’t the “crux” of his talk, it wasn’t the main point of his talk: STOP OBFUSCATING AND LYING ABOUT IT. You, Watson, Marcotte, and to my great shame, Dan Fincke, need to stop repeating it like mindless zealots. And in my humble opinion, there was nothing REMOTELY offensive about it.

      His talk would have been WELCOME at any other conference or convention to do with secularism, scepticism or atheism, but apparently not THIS particular conference. Why? And don’t give me your non-sequitur bollocks about how people touch you inappropriately or how people issue rape and death threats. That has NOTHING to do with what Ron Lindsay was talking about, nor has it ever been SUGGESTED he would condone such things. His talk also never suggested that it would be okay, appropriate, acceptable or anything of the sort for people to issue such things, so don’t bring it up again. It’s IRRELEVANT.

      Yes, you could argue that Lindsay could have been more tactful in his opening speech, but the rest of his content was fine. It was reasonable. It was sound. Where Rebecca Watson and Amanda Marcotte even get the IDEA that Lindsay was “mansplaining”, or your PROPOSTEROUS ASSERTION that he was “objectifying” you (seriously, explain that one to me) or making WOMEN feel unwelcome is beyond me.

      Equality, you say? With equality comes equal treatment, and that is exactly what Lindsay provided. He didn’t mollycoddle you, he didn’t give you special treatment, he didn’t think you of as incapable, he didn’t think of you as less than a man; he treated you like intelligent, smart human beings, and yet … Because he discounted the concept of privilege? Because he didn’t speak highly of Atheism+? These are subjects that solely apply to women and feminists, are they?

      And no, I’m not saying this because you’re a woman, I’m saying this because you’re being obtuse. If you were a man, I would say exactly the same things, and frankly it’s insulting that I should have to point this out just because some have a penchant to build up a false victim narrative. If Dan wants to delete this post because it’s not civil enough, fair enough, but it needs to be said. Your strawmanning, misrepresentation and outright lying is getting on my bloody nerves.

    • cripdyke

      Wow, Pitchguest. You’ve really worked yourself into a fever pitch.

      You asked a couple questions:

      What *are* you talking about? Who’s objectifying you? Who’s making you feel unwelcome?

      Within answered that you are and that Ron Lindsay is. Within was ambiguous as to which question was being answered. After you assumed Within was answering the first and not the 2nd, Within corrected you quite clearly, saying,

      Ron Lindsay went out of his way to make women feel unwelcome

      …Yes, Ron Lindsay is making women feel unwelcome.

      Then you come back with the insistence that, despite the correction of your previous erroneous assumption as to the question being answered, Within has said you and Lindsay were engaged in objectification. Let me remind you:

      You’ve ridiculously asserted that Ron Lindsay have in no uncertain terms *OBJECTIFIED* you

      The first time could have been an innocent – though foolish and unwarranted – assumption. Now you escalate your claim by asserting that Within made the claim that you assume Within made, but never once specifically appears in the relevant comments, “in no uncertain terms”. The continuation and, indeed, hyperbolic and comically erroneous escalation in spite of a clear correction is evidence of either your inability to engage the arguments and statements before you, or your bad faith in doing so. In either case, conversation with you is doomed to be unproductive unless you find a way to correct one or both.

      Finally, your insistence that there is no difference between the word “women” and the phrase “all women” reinforces the above conclusion. If I said that “women are carpenters” would you really respond, “I know a woman who isn’t a carpenter”? If I said that humans have ten toes, would you really respond, “I know someone whose right leg was amputated and that person is still a human being”? Would you be furious that the speaker was speaking for all human beings and their toe-numbers? If your answer to this last question is no, then you prove yourself not merely dishonest, but willing to attack aggressively based on something you know to be false.

    • Pitchguest
      You asked a couple questions:

      What *are* you talking about? Who’s objectifying you? Who’s making you feel unwelcome?

      Within answered that you are and that Ron Lindsay is. Within was ambiguous as to which question was being answered. After you assumed Within was answering the first and not the 2nd,

      No. I didn’t. I ASSUMED she meant both, but if she didn’t then that’s a fault with her communication and not with my understanding.

      Finally, your insistence that there is no difference between the word “women” and the phrase “all women” reinforces the above conclusion. If I said that “women are carpenters” would you really respond, “I know a woman who isn’t a carpenter”? If I said that humans have ten toes, would you really respond, “I know someone whose right leg was amputated and that person is still a human being”? Would you be furious that the speaker was speaking for all human beings and their toe-numbers? If your answer to this last question is no, then you prove yourself not merely dishonest, but willing to attack aggressively based on something you know to be false.

      Hahahahaha.

      Really? Okay. What about this then: women are strippers. Women are sex workers. Women are weak. Etc. Etc. Etc. You’re damn right I would object. Learning to speak with distinction reduces misunderstandings, and if WithinThisMind doesn’t wish to condescendingly speak for all women, then WithinThisMind should learn to speak with distinction. Or alternatively, not build up strawmen that presupposes a lack of distinction.

      As for the “human” question, humans usually have ten toes. Humans usually have one head. Humans usually have two nostrils. But sometimes mutations happen and humans can be born with two heads, more or less toes and more or less nostrils. That’s how that works: with distinction.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      No, actually, PG, it’s a fault with your unwillingness to understand. You keep asking questions, now shut up and listen to the answers.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      Cute little gish gallop, lovely little pack of lies.

      I never said Lindsay ‘objectified’ me. I said he made me feel unwelcome.

      Thank you for proving that your side has no honest arguments.

    • Pitchguest

      Gish gallop? Hahahaha. Okay. Fine. Have it your way.

      The claim was you couldn’t walk through a conference without being objectified and made to feel unwelcome, and I asked specifically, who is objectifying you, who is making you feel unwelcome?

      And the answer came thus,

      You are, among others, such as Ron Lindsay.

      Lovely little pack of lies? I am merely responding to your own exaggerated and deceptive points. Should I be punished because you’re a bad communicator, who can’t seem to make a point without bringing up irrelevant non-sequitur arguments, strawmen and misrepresentations?

      As for who’s making you feel unwelcome, you didn’t say you personally, you spoke in general.

      So if the answer to the question who’s making YOU feel unwelcome (and not women in general) is people like Ron Lindsay and I, then I ask again: WHO IS OBJECTIFYING YOU?

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      The folks who think their ‘right to get laid’ trumps my right to walk through a room without being pestered.

      We’ve answered these questions already. Why are you acting like we haven’t? Why are you pretending we haven’t answered that question in copious detail thousands of times. There are hundreds of posts discussing the many, many reasons women feel unwelcome at conferences and what behavior qualifies as ‘objectifying’.

      So why are you asking the question again?

      For the hell of it, here is a brief list –

      Bill Willbaum – who grabbed my breast when I walked by him and called me an over-reacting bitch when I objected, then spent the next twenty minutes talking about ‘fucking cunts who dress like sluts but act all frigid’.

      James Douglas – who kept invading my personal space at the gaming store and ‘accidentally’ brushing up against me and then got mad when I asked him to step back.

      ‘Frog’ Douglas, real name unknown – who kept ‘helping’ me with my character sheet – constantly snatching it out of my hand to add up my numbers for me – because ‘girls are always getting confused with math’.

      Vinny Patel – Couldn’t stop starring at my chest at any point during the brief conversations I had with him

      Abel Lastnameunknown – Asked me out then called me a fucking fat ugly bitch when I declined

      And that’s not even including all the many guys who are the reason I gave up gaming online, jogging, and going to certain gyms. It’s also not including the many guys who made working in construction or going to school for IT a hostile environment for me. Nope, that’s just the guys who made me stop going to game night at a particular game store after only a month.

      Tell me, PG, since I can get that shit anywhere, why the hell would I PAY to go to a conference and get more of the same? Why would I pay to go to a conference where people are not just only paying lip service to the anti-harassment policies – they are actively fighting against having such policies in the first place? Why would I want to be part of that community? You keep demanding we answer your questions – now answer mine. Why would I want to go out of my way, cause myself additional difficulty and expense, give up my time and energy, to be part of that community?

    • Edward Gemmer

      Object away. I love objections. I do them for a living. But the problem is that on the internet, and like in real life, there is a way to object without insulting everyone around you. Calling someone a jerk because they have the audacity to talk to you like a human being is a good way to get them to stop treating you like a human being.

    • cripdyke

      Calling someone a jerk because they have the audacity to talk to you like a human being is a good way to get them to stop treating you like a human being.

      Yeah, this is the same crap analysis of nothing. Find an example of someone doing that – and then find enough examples to prove that this use of “jerk” is at least a sizable minority of the uses of jerk in this community, THEN you might have a point.

      But people are being called jerks not for talking to others like human beings, but for harassing and stalking behavior, for hurling insults and petulantly insisting that the world will end if they are ever called out on creepy behavior. That’s certainly one way human beings treat other human beings, but it’s not the mere fact of being treated in a way that some other human somewhere has experienced that makes Within use the word jerk.

      Jerkish behavior is called jerkish. If you want to assert otherwise, find some examples.

    • Edward Gemmer

      It’s easy to find. Hop on a random thread on Pharyngula. Here’s a sample from a Lindsay post – http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/05/24/thugs-in-cheap-suits-are-not-paragons-of-human-rights/#comments

      “OT, but Dawkins is showing that he’s a useless, drama llama, conceited shit again.”

      “Holy fuck, but Dawkins is a clueless git.”

      “and even after he dies, we’ll still have the equally insufferable Sam Harris to put up with”

      “Hearing you say that “free speech” is more important than discussing women’s issues at a women’s conference is simply destructive. You know what? Fuck you.”

      “you. are. a. failure. You don’t belong. go away.”

      “I have nothing important in common with these people and want nothing to do with them.”

      That’s in the first 80 comments before they have a big convo with someone who wants to kill all men.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      You mean, where they called him out for being a dismissive jerk?

    • Edward Gemmer

      And that’s the thing. You aren’t against harassment, harsh language, or anything. You are just against it when it bothers you or people you like. That makes you like everyone else, and makes the atheist community like every other group, which is what is so disappointing about it.

    • cripdyke

      Do not conflate harsh language with harassment. If I say that “Catholicism is complicit in the ruthless and mechanical murder of at least 8 million jews over the last 800 years,” my language is harsh. That has nothing to do with harassment.

      Within has suggested things to be considered objectionable. Have you any evidence whatsoever that Within has celebrated these tactics being used against opponents? If not, then you have no evidence for your assertion.

      You can only make Within blatantly hypocritical if you believe that objecting to rape threats is the same thing as asserting that the word “jerk” is beyond the pale. That position would put you outside the majority in any room I’ve ever occupied.

    • Edward Gemmer

      My goal isn’t to make someone else hypocritical. My goal is to get people to stop acting like self-absorbed jerks. Calling someone a useless conceited shit is not just harsh language. It’s an awful thing to say about someone else, and the reason behind it doesn’t really make sense, but it happens constantly because it’s easy and lazy to say that instead of making an actual point. Saying easy, lazy things seems to be the hallmark of atheism. Like you guys say, other people get the easy, lazy response all the time. A woman is an easy target – just say you’ll rape her or she deserves to be raped or she’s too ugly to rape – they are all easy, lazy avenues to what the person wants – to make that person feel like garbage. These postings mentioned above aren’t factual and aren’t logical; they are made to make the target feel like garbage. It’s really tiresome to see such crap defended.

    • cripdyke

      So is your problem harsh language or not?

      Is you problem that insults are used when someone is engaging in ordinary, non-offensive behavior, or is your problem that insults are used at all, ever?

      If you want to condemn someone for screaming names at a violent person in the process of axe murdering a pet, fine. Own that argument. We can disagree and I can call that argument idiotic.

      If you want to assert that what those commenters wanted was to make Dawkins or someone else feel like garbage, provide some evidence of the motive. You have provided evidence of insults, but not of the motive.

      **You keep asserting things which are not in evidence.**

      That is a ridiculous way to argue your point, and that you continue to do it by adding new, unestablished claims (“the reason behind it doesn’t make sense” when you haven’t established the reason behind it, for instance, means you are making things up) shows that you **have** no evidence for your point of view.

      Finally, you say that these insults are “not just harsh language”.

      Answer honestly: do you or do you not have a problem with harsh language. If you don’t, why did you include it in your criticism above on equal terms with your condemnation of **harassment**? If you do, why are you using phrases like “They are all easy, lazy avenues to what the person wants – to make that person feel like garbage” and “Saying easy lazy things seems to be the hallmark of atheism”?

      Clearly you don’t believe your own arguments. Why should we believe you?

    • Edward Gemmer

      Actually I don’t have a huge problem with much of it. Insults, harsh language, and emotion are all part of being a human being. What I hate is the teamsmanship that is rampant – everyone has to pick a side and be loyal even in the face of utter stupidity. There’s never any forgiveness or catharsis – it’s just hate and more hate.

    • cripdyke

      Then why oh why do you condemn harsh language – and on an equal footing with harassment – if you don’t actually object to it?

      That’s called arguing in bad faith. It wins you no points.

    • Edward Gemmer

      It’s not so much that I’m condemning it, it’s that it’s disappointing to find the atheist community is indistinguishable from college football fan bases.

    • cripdyke

      Why would it be disappointing to find that the atheist community enjoys athletic excellence?

      Oh, wait, that’s not the commonality is it? And that commonality wouldn’t be disappointing, would it? It seems that the only reason that the commonality is disappointing is because it’s a characteristic, common or not, that you condemn.

      Seriously, could you be more deceptive? “It’s not that I hate murder, it’s just that I’m disappointed you share something in common with Charles Manson…oh, and breathing air, having two arms, and speaking English don’t count.”

      If the behavior is fine & dandy, then it doesn’t matter who does it. If the behavior is wrong, it shouldn’t matter is there is only one person in the world doing it.

      But no, Edward Gemmer, he who hates tribalism, can only find grounds to critique something when it reminds him of groups he doesn’t like.

      After this thread, can anyone take you seriously again?

    • Edward Gemmer

      LOL, I hate the idea of constantly treating other human beings like garbage. I understand you like communities that treat other human beings like garbage. That’s why I’m disappointed – people like you seem to outnumber people like me in the atheist community.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      At my little sister’s high school, there is a policy – if there is a fight, all people ‘involved’ are suspended. Even if one person attacked another and the other just hit back in self defense. Even if a group of people attack one and that person only fights enough to escape and then runs. Even if a group of people attack one and that person does nothing but try to block blows.

      That’s the easy, lazy way to go about it. And yet, that is also what you are defending.

      You claim your goal is to get people to stop acting like ‘self-absorbed jerks’…and yet…here you are, complaining because folks rightly pointed out that Dawkins was acting like a self-absorbed jerk.

      Do you have a coherent point to make?

    • Edward Gemmer

      (1) Dawkins wasn’t acting like a self absorbed jerk. He wasn’t acting like anything. He was making his point, and instead of arguing the point, people want to just call him names. Great for them, but my point is that when you start approving calling people horrible names, you are also approving the “harassment” that goes around. If you like your community to be ugly and insulting, then your community will be ugly and insulting.

      (2) I’m also disappointed to see so many people do anything possible to avoid taking responsibility. “It’s not my fault I called him/her a lying ugly bitch/mangina/rapist/littleshit,” it’s his/her fault!” Give me a break.

    • cripdyke

      No one is saying, “Not my fault”. What people are saying is, “This behavior of mine isn’t wrong, and here’s why.” People are freely admitting engaging in the behavior. They are simply trying to explain that this behavior doesn’t make them bad…

      …a point to which you should be sympathetic, since you said:

      I don’t have a huge problem with much of it. Insults, harsh language, and emotion are all part of being a human being

      So you don’t think it’s wrong, but you’re “disappointed” that other people are saying that they don’t believe their strategic uses of those tactics are wrong.

      Wow, you really believe that it’s okay to jump on your rhetorical opponents for holding a position that you, yourself, hold? Well, I suppose you’re at least someone who’s a supporter of tribalism.

      Wait! You also said:

      What I hate is the teamsmanship that is rampant – everyone has to pick a side and be loyal even in the face of utter stupidity.

      Right. You’re such a tribalist, you hate the tribalism of others, but your tribalism is a noble, self-righteous tribalism that is so, so useful in debate.

      I really think you’re done here. You couldn’t make yourself or your argument look worse if you tried.

    • cripdyke

      Seriously, this is a majorly clueless response.

      I said:

      people are being called jerks not for talking to others like human beings, but for harassing and stalking behavior, for hurling insults and petulantly insisting that the world will end if they are ever called out on creepy behavior.

      You have pointed out insults, but your original claim for which evidence is required is NOT that insults were used, but that in YOUR words the feminism advocates had been

      Calling someone a jerk because [those called a jerk] have the audacity to talk to you like a human

      Therefore to provide evidence, you have to provide evidence not merely of insults, but of **why** those insults were being made.

      I think we can all reasonably agree that if someone were in the process of axe murdering my dog, I would not be uncivil to [among other things] shout insulting things at the axe-wielder. As in most things, context is key.

      You have asserted not merely that insults were used, but that they were triggered by behavior that should not trigger insults (“treating someone like a human”). This is what shifts the moral blame onto the feminism advocates. This is what you have not proved. I was clear above, and I’m clear now. Provide evidence or stop making the assertion.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      So…photoshopping someone’s head on an insulting picture, sending them rape and death threats, harassing them everywhere they go….is ‘treating them like a human’, and if they point out that you are being a jerk, they obviously deserve such treatment?

  • ahermit

    What would possess anyone to turn what should have been a boilerplate
    “welcome to the conference, enjoy the weekend, don’t forget to tip your
    server” speech into an opportunity to lecture their paying customers
    like a stiff necked school-master?

    One has to wonder, would Lindsay welcome the audience at an African Americans for Humanism conference on ethnic outreach by fretting about about the
    possibility that some unnamed person might use the concept of racism to
    shut down debate and silence people?

    Somehow I doubt it. At least I hope that even he could see the
    inappropriateness of such a speech in that context. Too bad he can’t
    seem to see it when the context is women in secularism.

  • Pitchguest

    I just saw this, Dan, and I have to ask, what’s gotten into you?

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/05/22/vacula-v-silverman/

    Is the sole reason for the Slymepit to hate on Rebecca Watson? What an asinine thing to say. If you must know, there are places where you can find information why the Slymepit was formed, HOW it was formed and when, instead of running blind. More importantly, you can post there and find out for yourself. It’s not a hate site, it’s not a site dedicated to hating Rebecca Watson, get your head out of your arsehole — or Rebecca’s arsehole, whichever — and sort it out. You’re supposed to be a sceptic, for crying out loud. A freethinker. Fuck sake.

  • baal

    I’m endlessly impressed with your analysis, conclusions and writing.


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