And You Shall Know the Free Thinkers By Their Cussing?

hands on ears

Last week, an atheist friend of mine posted a link to Mark Oppenheimer's feature article on misogyny in the atheist movement, sharing a quote and a comment: "Jillette embodies that side of the freethought movement that prizes absolute free speech above feelings."In other words, the only side that enables free thought, period. The Oppenheimer article had written up several instances of alleged sexual abuse or harassment, but Penn Jillette had wound up included in the piece because he … [Read more...]

My turn to play #mencallmethings


After a little more than four years of blogging, last night is the first time I got called a c-word online.  And then it happened again.  And then again. What provoked this?  These two tweets: Not going back to the convenience store on the corner after clerk aggressively asked for my number (but not my name) #YesAllWomen I really don't like that sketchy clerks, etc can de facto bar me from places, since it's imprudent to return & keep saying no #YesAllWomen It was medium-unpleasant en … [Read more...]

Fixing Fights in Ireland

irish catholic talk

I had a great time speaking at the offices of The Irish Catholic this past week on tactics for having better fights about religion.  It also wound up being written up for The Irish Times by Breda O'Brien.  The video is now up on, plus, I've embedded it below:Often, here on the blog, I talk mostly about tactics for online fights, but, during the talk and the Q&A, more of the focus was on engineering productive conversations between small groups or even pairs of people, rat … [Read more...]

Trigger Warnings and Coal Mine Canaries


In discussion of trigger warnings  (particularly when requested by college students), I've seen a fair amount of think pieces suggest that this is more evidence that young'uns have gone soft.  It's not quite "When I was your age, I walked uphill both ways, five miles, through a sea of graphically dismembered bodies marked with racial slurs, and it made me stronger!" but there's a certain family resemblance.  There just seems to be a suspicion that attaches itself to people complaining that the st … [Read more...]

False Friends and Tone Policing

ear trumpet

When I went on a two-week exchange trip to China, it was clear the cultural briefing was informed by whatever mistakes or misunderstandings had occurred on previous trips, recorded and relayed to us so that we wouldn't think, for example, that our host siblings were hitting on us if they took our hands while we were walking.But the most memorable warning had to do with Mandarin filler words.  While English speakers cover gaps with "uh" "um" "ah" and so forth, the equivalent filler words in … [Read more...]

Put Up Your Ideological Dukes!

fish shooting

Earlier this week, Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, published a good op-ed on the danger of focusing too hard on the "critical" part of critical thinking. The combination of resistance to influence and deflection of responsibility by confessing to one’s advantages is a sure sign of one’s ability to negotiate the politics of learning on campus. But this ability will not take you very far beyond the university. Taking things apart, or taking people down, can provide the sat … [Read more...]

Debating Brendan Eich’s Resignation


This weekend, my DC friends and I will meet to hold a debate on the Brendan Eich debacle.  In order to assure civility, there will be cookies (to break bread together) and a gavel (for the enforcement of Robert's Rules and the potential breaking of kneecaps).  We've been trying to pick a resolution for the debate (though, at some point in the afternoon, I'll stop asking for affs and negs and call for speeches "on or about the topic").  Of the options we came up with, the best is probably the si … [Read more...]