Message to everyone who came to this blog because of the DJ Grothe controversy

My post defending DJ Grothe is now, by a significant margin, the most-read post in the history of (this incarnation of) this blog. I have mixed feelings about this. I’m glad I said what I said and that so many people read it, but (while it’s not the first time I’ve done so) commenting on fights within the atheist community is not the reason I maintain this blog. What I’m really passionate about is shooting down bad arguments made by religious apologists.

To that end, I’d encourage people to read my many posts on William Lane Craig, such as the one titled “The creepy delusions of William Lane Craig.” Other posts in this vein include “When the people you’re trying to reach say stupid things” and “Questions for Bart Ehrman/Ehrman sort-of defends Christianity.” Though it strays slightly from my main areas of interest, I’m also quite proud of “The under-rated ‘famous violinist’ defense of abortion.”

I’m also trying to gather together my thoughts on these and related topics into a book format, tentatively titled Angry Atheists?: Why the Backlash Against Dawkins, Harris, and the Rest Is Silly. At that link you’ll find links to drafts of some of the chapters. Drafts of chapters two and three are crap, and were posted partly to punish myself for not having gotten more work done on them, but while the length of one and four might discourage some people, I’ve gotten a mostly positive response to them.

Also, FYI I generally try to post MTWTF, giving myself a break on the weekends. Though this coming week I may take off Tuesday and Wednesday Wednesday and Thursday, because I have random days off work those days and will likely be spending much of them with friends.

  • http://irenedelse.wordpress.com Irene Delse

    commenting on fights within the atheist community is not the reason I maintain this blog. What I’m really passionate about is shooting down bad arguments made by religious apologists.

    Then it’s a good thing that others in the atheist community are also interested in shooting down bad arguments made on atheist blogs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Well, I try to do some of that. (Though Richard does a rockin’ job of responding to the likes of William Lane Craig.)

  • http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com SC (Salty Current), OM

    This is hilarious. Made my day.

    • LeftSidePositive

      Scrounging!

  • mnb0

    I am also more interested in you shooting down bad arguments. So I maintain my hope that you will read those articles in English written by my compatriot GJE Rutten …..
    Craig is a bit of an easy target. I’d like you to tackle Swinburne as well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      On Swinburne, ask and you shall receive.

      Swinburne’s weird, he has more status in the philosophical community than Craig, but I don’t think many people actually think his arguments do much for the credibility of theism.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/ Greg Laden

    Chis, although we disagree on a few things, I’m glad you wrote that post. You are not correct when you characterize those who disagree with certain things that DJ has done as attacking him. We are disagreeing on things, we are arguing about things. If my post was an all out attack that you disagree with, do you also disagree with the very positive things I put in that post, in order to make sure that people understood that I was objecting to a specific thing DJ was up to (and yes, claiming that that was the sort of thing that disqualifies him, if it really is what he wants to do, from being in charge of the Flagship Sketpic Organization during a time when the skeptics movement is finally embracing the fight against sexism, if not out and out feminism?) The first word in the title of my post was “perhaps” … that was a signal. Did you notice it?

    But regardless of our disagreements, many of the points you make in that post are very important and clearly should be part of the dialog. I hope the extra viewing that post gets leads to more people joining your blog community.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Maybe I should drop the use of the word “attack” for “criticism.” I hate the non-literal use of the word “militant,” but I hadn’t thought about that one.

      That said, Stephanie’s posts on DJ have been quite nasty, and that’s what I mainly meant by “attacks.” I recognize your post suggested he leave his position in a face-saving manner, though those face-saving measures might be less effective given that they were suggested publicly.

      I also tried to follow your “perhaps” signal by writing “the suggestion…” rather than “the calls…”

      But thank you for your comment.

      • LeftSidePositive

        So what, exactly, is “nasty” about quoting DJ directly, saying what she perceives the problem to be–supported by textual evidence–and identifying a pattern that is concerning to her? Is open and frank disagreement “nasty”?

        • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

          How about “DJ Grothe has a probmlem and that problem is him”?

          You can debate whether that was an “attack” or “nasty,” and I think there are times when being not-nice is called for. But that was, at minimum, not nice.

          • LeftSidePositive

            That does not, to put it mildly, meet my standards for “nastiness.” If someone has a repeated history of problematic statements, which Stephanie sourced, substantiated, and explained, then drawing a reasonable conclusion is not, by any stretch of the imagination, “nasty.”

            Also, if repeatedly dismissing women’s concerns is not something for which you think it’s valid to be “not nice,” I would like to strongly suggest you reconsider your priorities.

            I’m sorry that someone that you perceive to be in your “group” got held accountable, but accountability is a totally reasonable consequence of a public figure making public statements and doing so with a certain insensitivity or ineptitude. It is a mark of unexamined privilege to expect that those like you will not be criticized in such an open, direct, and well-substantiated manner.

  • Jouras

    I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning.

  • Josh, Official SpokesKraftDinner

    I think it’s just darling that you imagine, Chris, that the nasty crew who showed up here from the slimepit have the slightest interest in your work.

  • xtog42

    “My post defending DJ Grothe is now, by a significant margin, the most-read post in the history of (this incarnation of) this blog.”

    Not really surprising if you visit some of the other blogs and see how they respond to people with your opinion on this controversy.

    A post like yours would have gotten you viciously and personally attacked and sworn at — some might say verbally harassed, and if you dared to respond to that harassment you would have gotten moderated then banned.

    Just take a look.

    On the Almost Diamonds blog,….Masakari defended DJ with the following,…

    “Masakari says:
    May 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm
    D.J. Grothe’s responses appear accurate, and the burden of proof is still on the people making claims of harassment, yet fail to at least provide details of what happened. D.J. has emphasized many times that he is willing to do something if harassment is reported. He can’t go around and impose boundaries on other innocent people (or all men, from the FfTB standpoint) because a few women are scared of men talking to them or propositions. I say this because the people commenting on these types of blogs don’t seem to know what harassment and abuse is, and this is probably why the “victims” won’t say what happened. Either that, or one of these bloggers created those harassment stories themselves, to stir controversy and blog hits. There’s no way to know.

    Elevator-chick already gave other women the impression that these conventions are unsafe, and now the numbers have suffered because of it. She also gave the impression that a polite invite for coffee is harassment. It is now possible that her like-minded fans may be interpreting some non-harassment incorrectly, which is why normal, sane people are skeptical about the recent complaints of “harassment”, or “abuse”.

    If there really were victims out there, then it sucks that it happened, but it also sucks that they lacked the intellect and courage to report it to authorities. What these bloggers want are for men to make special exceptions for women, and to walk around on egg shells because anything men say can be interpreted as sexual harassment or make them uncomfortable. They represent a position where women are weak, a position which is sexist against men and women.

    It’s funny to see how Rebecca Watson wondered which prominent and well-meaning women skeptics gave other women that impression (in comment #11 of the other article),
    D.J. pointed out it was her in comment #13, Rebecca Watson running to USA Today and these types of yellow-journalistic blogs gave women that impression,
    and then Rebecca Watson acts surprised in comment #25.

    This yellow journalism is disgusting. You people just want D.J.’s head. You act like you care for a response, wait for him to say something, and then find something to pick on or twist to your advantage.

    D.J. Grothe should get together with the other women-skeptics in his organization (since crazy radfems would use an “ad-HIMinem” attack on any man that speaks with D.J.), make a long video doing what they does best, and debunk the myths from these types of yellow-journalistic blogs. If it wasn’t already done, at future conventions have all attendees fill out feedback cards stating their gender and their experience.

    JREF should also denounce these bloggers and not have any of them speak at future conventions. They’re not skeptics. They’re religious, rad-fem kooks, looking to burn people at the stakes. People would eventually see these bloggers for what they are, and the number of women who attend future conventions will go back up.”

    This post was responded to by Stephanie Zvan with the following,…

    “Masakari is gone for the gross crime of being boringly stupid. If he’d only put his “ideas” in his own words….”

    I wonder if Greg Laden would consider Stephanie’s response an “attack”?

    And in another amazing example on the Lousy Canuck blog a fellow named Joejoe was trying to get the bloggers to define what “harassment” is — since of course anyone looking for a solution to this problem should be concerned with this endevour.

    Well,….guess what happened,…

    Joejoe began getting threats of banning for this and in reply he wrote,…

    “joejoe says:
    June 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm ADT
    ‘Tis Himself: And there is exactly the problem.

    I stare at people, directly in their eyes or mouth. One could say I leer at them, especially when they talk. I need to, there is no way around this as I have a compulsion to do it.

    Is this harassment? Even if they tell me to stop, I simply cannot without a severe detrimental effect to my enjoyment of the event.

    Why must I do this? Because I am deaf and I hide it pretty well (I can speak like someone who isn’t deaf apparently). I gain 80% of what is being conveyed through lipreading and body language. No way around it. I know some people find it unsettling, some have complained about it to event organizers. But what am I going to do about it?

    If events start applying some slippery slope, knee-jerk policies it wont take into consideration people like myself. But who wants the deaf guy who stares at people at these events?”

    So Joejoe is deaf and he brings up a clearly legitimate point that deserved a thoughtful response from anyone really concerned with solving the problem, but what he got was nothing short of verbal abuse from several commenters,…here’s a taste,…

    From the author of the blog,…

    “Jason Thibeault says:
    June 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm ADT
    People can tell the difference between being harassed and having someone lip-read you. For instance, harassment usually involves actually mistreating someone. If you, personally, can’t tell the difference between lip-reading and harassing someone, you’re done here, joejoe. You can slippery-slope your way right out the exit. Thanks for playing.

    Peanut gallery, what have we learned from joejoe’s attempted derail?”

    Next up,…

    “Stephanie Zvan says:
    June 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm ADT

    Peanut gallery, what have we learned from joejoe’s attempted derail?

    Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!

    *ahem*

    That people who feel perfectly entitled to waste your time asking questions that have easily researched answers never, ever get the point when you waste their time with lmgtfy.com. Because that would require them to actually value the time of anyone else. Also that these same people tend to have problems with the idea of harassment because, of course, they don’t value the autonomy of anyone but themselves either.

    That was the answer, right?”

    Then the author of the blog replies,…

    “Jason Thibeault says:
    June 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm ADT

    Absolutely, Pteryxx, and they shouldn’t even try. It just gets under my skin that someone might try to use their disability as cover — e.g., “you can’t stop me from creeping on someone because I’m deaf”. Especially if the behaviour they’re being told to stop doing has nothing to do with lip-reading.”

    These are just two examples out of many that proves Melior’s statement on your “I support DJ Grothe” post,…where they say,…

    “The same handful of self-congratulating insiders reinforcing each others’ over-the-top panicky mischaracterizations and stereotypes, interspersed with an occasional ping by a quizzical well-meaning newcomer, followed by even more vicious piling on the naive interloper as further evidence of the evil conspiracy.”

    That is precisely what is going on, and why your post was so popular, because many of us simply cannot post sane rational comments of disagreement without be verbally harassed. This was the first of the FTB blogs I could post to without immediate verbal attacks and I really appreciate it.

    However, I of course agree that we should rather be deconstructing the ridiculousness of WLCraig, and his ilk then spending my time on this issue and I really look forward to taking on the religious apologists on here with you when I get the chance.

    • A nym too

      Why am I not surprised that you quoted the comments replying to JoeJoe the liar,yet left out the only response from another deaf person? One that calls “Bullshit” on his attempted “GOTCHA!”

      Funny that.

      Also, according to your slimepit cadre of howler monkeys, calling women.”cunts”is just “adult language” that is nothing to worry about, is entertaining even. Yet the possibility of this blogger being sworn at is abusive, “verbal harassment”.

      Which is it? Need to check with your handlers I think.

      • Patrick

        If you want to understand why a lot of us find your side do creepy, it’s right here. Even if the guy you’re responding to us an idiot, it’s still not ok to use someone else’s bad behavior to shame him and discredit his position, absent any reason to think he endorsed that bad behavior. And no, an unjustified belief in your own righteousness and the villainy of your foes is not a reason.

    • Ray Staroof

      I’m running into similar problems (regarding the definition of harassment) on Zvan’s post citing survey data. There was a commenter that said harassment was when someone feels harassed, and that was a clear definition. I simply said that was not clear to me. I was responded to with condescending attitudes and accusations that I think women aren’t people, merely receptacles.

      • LeftSidePositive

        Aaaaaawwww, poor baby!!! Someone criticized your blatant ignorance and self-importance, and then had the temerity to observe your unexamined privilege?! I feel so sorry for you.

        • Ray Staroof

          You have no idea who I am or what kind of privilege I may our may not enjoy, or if I have examined said privilege. I never even disagreed with the definition of harassment offered, only that the definition wasn’t clear to me. If you would like to explain how you came to your conclusion about me, I’m willing to listen.

          • LeftSidePositive

            1) You have a male-identified name on a thread about male privilege.

            2) You are actively defending male privilege.

            3) You have an insufferable self-entitled attitude that made you feel entitled to feel offended at a very slight joke.

            4) When you act like there can be clear rules that dictate what is acceptable treatment of someone, you are denying them their own subjective experience, which denies that they are people. This is not hard.

          • Ray Staroof

            1. Yeah. Ray Staroof couldn’t be a pseudonym (raise the roof).
            2. Citation needed
            3. You are doing what you day I do in 4.
            4. Could have been said to the first time I said the definition was unclear. No condescending attitude needed.

          • http://notungblog.wordpress.com/ Notung

            How does ‘acting like there can be clear rules that dictate what is acceptable treatment of someone’ ‘deny them their own subjective experience’, and how does that ‘deny that they are people’? Neither of those propositions seem to follow.

      • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

        There was a commenter that said harassment was when someone feels harassed, and that was a clear definition. I simply said that was not clear to me.

        Why do you need more clarification on this? Could it be because you know your own behavior is close to the line, and you’re trying to stay out of trouble without having to change your act too much?

        Ever heard of something called “manners?” It’s something sensible parents at least try to teach their kids from a rather early age (like maybe six?). The more you understand this basic concept, the less you’ll need to demand clarification of what, exactly, “harassment” is.

        • Ray Staroof

          No, I don’t think that’s the reason. I understand people have different lines and the empathetic person does his best respect those lines, but do all transgressions constitute harassment? The answer may be yes, but why is simply discussing this topic grounds for assuming I am some MRA who thinks women aren’t people?

  • http://www.jafafahots.com Jafafa Hots

    I guess if hits are what matters most to you…

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Well duh I want lots of people to read my stuff. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother posting it publicly. That doesn’t mean I’ll say something just to be controversial.

      • wanderfound

        The only reason I read the DJ Grothe post was because I was curious about what possible reason one of the FTB bloggers could have for defending DJ’s behaviour.

        After reading your post, my reaction was shock that any of the bloggers here could be so oblivious as to not realize just how unacceptable DJ’s actions have been.

        Come on, this isn’t even a close call. Characterizing complaints of harassment as “rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers” is the sort of thing you’d expect from a stereotypically slimy criminal defense lawyer rather than the leader of a skeptic’s organization. DJ Grothe shouldn’t resign; he should be sacked, for serious and persistent cluelessness that is demonstrably doing significant damage to both the organization he leads and the community he serves.

        The DJ Grothe post was not an advertisement to new readers; it was a warning. Keep an eye on the quality of the commentariat you attract with this.

        • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

          Sorry, I just did a double-take with the words…

          “rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers”

          The phrase “sexual exploits” normally means CONSENSUAL sex, not harassment; and “recounting sexual exploits” normally means talking (or even bragging) about pleasant sexual adventures. Was DJ actualy trying to say certain women were bragging about consensual sex with speakers? If so, is there any evidence for this that we haven’t seen in the last year of Watson-bashing? Lots of people called Watson et all sex-hating, castrating feminazis, but I don’t recall anyone alleging they were promiscuous sluts at the same time.

          And if DJ was not trying to say that, then he chose his words VERY stoopidly — just like saying “green” when you really meant “red.”

  • julian

    If there really were victims out there, then it sucks that it happened, but it also sucks that they lacked the intellect and courage to report it to authorities.

    They lacked the intellect and courage? Fuck you. Even Grothe backed off from shit like that. But here you are proudly calling it rational and thought provoking. It isn’t, not by any stretch of the imagination.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      My eyes glazed over reading xtog42′s comment, but yeah, that part was dumb. I really do think it’s the responsibility for conference organizers to make it as easy as possible for people to report harassment, and to ask people, “do we understand what happened right?” in cases like the incident with Ashley Miller.

    • xtog42

      Even if someone disagrees with what he said there or at least the way he said it,…the question is,…

      Should it have gotten him banned? That is what my post was about. Should these two posters have been threatened with being censored from those blogs? This post is about the new commenters on here and maybe this is the reason why they are here, because here people might actually be able to make their point without fear of banishment for posts that involve no swearing and no personal attacks, no redundancy or childishness.

      The fact is that on other blogs debate on this issue is absolutely unacceptable no matter how calm and rational an oppositional point is made,…like Joejoe’s. I have yet to see any one poster supporting DJ treated with respect and dignity no matter how calm, rational and reasoned they make their point on certain FTB blogs particularly the Diamonds blog and the Canuck’s blog.

      The threats of banning comments that are pretty tame and refusing to engage newcomers with anything more than snide dismissals while at the same time watching people on your side of the issue swear at and berate people for daring to challenge your view is absolutely unfair and is unbecoming of our movement and is why maybe so many people have come to this blog to make their points in support of DJ.

      Yes, the invective is coming from both sides, but I have only seen one side using the threat of banishment towards commentators with a different view point. The people who criticize DJ use exactly the same harassing rhetoric that the other side gets banned for.

      This post is about the people who came to this blog to write about the DJ issue, and I am simply trying to give a possible reason why. If other blogs had treated us with more understanding and patience and less presumptuousness maybe we would not even have had to post here and this blog would have been able to avoid the sexual harassment apologizers vs the femninazi hijackers/derailers debate swarm.

      • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

        Dude, your use of the term “feminazi,” without a trace of humor or irony, pretty clearly proves you have no credibility. I’m glad I skipped to the end of your comment and saw that — it saved me the trouble of reading the whole thing before realizing it was untrustworthy.

        And no, banning commenters is not a horrible atrocity, especially when the said commenters show themselves to be nothing but tiresome repetitive trolls who only rehash the same old irrelevant pet peeves, repeat the same already-discredited horseshit, and offer nothing good to a conversation that needs to be had, and needs to move forward.

        I’ve been to the Diamonds and Canucks blogs — among others, of course — and I have yet to see non-obnoxious, non-trolling, non-bigoted differing views banned in either one. So your self-pity-party about how you’re SOOOO oppressed elsewhere really isn’t plausible on its face.

    • xtog42

      If you do not agree with me, fine,…but to say “fuck you” ????

      How dare you talk to me that way?

      And how in the world can someone not be banned for that sort of comment, while others have made comments with no personal attacks or swear words,….like Joejoe’s and they get banned?

      The point stands,…how can administrators deal with these claims of harassment if the people involved do not report them? That is a thoughtful and rational question to ask.

      Responding with F*** Y**, now that is really mature and is a perfect example of what I have written above.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

        xtog42: I didn’t ban Joejoe. It’s up to each blogger to decide how to moderate comments, and I’ve chosen to be super laissez-faire. As for your other point, it’s one thing to say that it’s important for people to report stuff, it’s another to imply they must be dumb and cowardly not to. The latter was an asshole thing to do.

        • xtog42

          I didn’t say you did,…it happened at a different FTB site, I was using this incident as an example of why you got such a huge response to your previous post. Because people with your point of view (DJ supporters) were being unfairly treated on the other FTB blogs.

      • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

        …how can administrators deal with these claims of harassment if the people involved do not report them? That is a thoughtful and rational question to ask.

        There’s nothing “thoughtful and rational” about asking the same question over and over, and ignoring the answers you get. Seriously, boy, it’s already been explained, by more than one respondent in more than one thread, that a) people HAVE reported harassment, b) the have been problems of intra-organizational communication of known incidents, and c) like it or not, organizers have to deal with general expectations, appearance and atmosphere, not just documented incidents.

        There’s more to being “thoughtful and rational” than just asking a few questions over and over. You also gotta listen to the answers you get.

  • J. Goard

    Though this coming week I may take off Tuesday and Wednesday Wednesday and Thursday, because I have random days off work those days

    What’s random about Children’s Day???

    The gf has been working opposite hours to me lately, so it’s gonna come as a real relief to see her in the middle of the week…

  • jody

    Chris–

    Props again for taking the unpopular stand, issuing a public support of DJ but making sure the issue of sexism is worked on / dealt with by our community. Yes, you got some of the nuttier people that responded here, but there were also quite a few, from both “sides” of the issue, who endeavored to approach the issue with far less vitriol.

    As for the rest of your page, I’ve bookmarked it and added it to my FtB reading list. Your Lane-Craig stuff is quite interesting and I’ve started combing through them!

  • Zengaze

    Thumbs up chris, a return to skepticism on freethought blogs, whoda thunk it. Perhaps with a few more dispassionate appraisals on the blogs we may just climb out of the same league the xtian apologist bloggers are in.

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