The pits

The pits July 1, 2012

This post is a call for civility, personal responsibility, and integrity. It’s going to get a little worse before it gets a lot better.

Don’t do this

Shortly after that first post, the diarrhea hit the fan in the backchannel. For the most part, I think their criticisms were spot on, and I made some instant corrections to some sloppy writing. Shockingly, I received an email from one of my fellow bloggers that was coercive in nature and included violent threats.

Greg Laden went way too far that night.


What I said in a public comment (that you should grow up) is the ultra mild version. What I said on the mailing list is still the mild version. Here’s the real version and it is the last thing you are ever going to hear from me until you have issued a fully adequate and very public apology to everyone you’ve offended. I say that fully knowing that you do not have to issue such an apology. All you get if you do is that I recognize that you exist. You certainly don’t need me thinking of you as a human being.

Justin, have you ever killed anyone? By that, I mean, in your tours of duty, did you ever have someone you know die and that happened because you failed to do something, or worse, because you DID do something? I’m thinking not. I’m thinking you probably are a good soldier. You probably didn’t do that.

But, Justin, if you were me, and Abbie Smith’s slimepit was after you like they’ve been after me, that is what it would say on the internet, dude. It would say that you were responsible for the death of fellow soldiers. It would say that all over Abbies blog. Why? Because that is how they could hurt you, both personally and professionally.

I have to live with the fact that when my son gets old enough to surf the web he is going to see horrific things, terrible accusations and horrible insults, about his daddy. It does not matter if they are accurate or not. (They’re not, in case you were wondering).

Think about that. You fucking shit.

Now, get forever out of my life. Do not turn back. You do not deserve to even know the people you’ve insulted in that idiotic post you wrote. Don’t ever, ever find yourself in my presence or think you deserve to breath the air that I, and Jen, and Stephanie, and Gret and Ophelia and PZ and the rest of us breath, because you do not.

If you do make that apology it better be from laying face down in the mud.

Have a nice day and kiss my ass.


PS, don’t you dare ask, ever again, for an upvote or any other support from your colleagues. I’ll kick your fucking ass if you do. You will regret it. (Unless that apology is forthcoming.)

His peers did not know that he was using this type of coercive and violent threatening language towards me. They universally condemned it and now there is a zero-tolerance policy in place going forward (I did not call for any punishment.)

I highly doubt I’m the first recipient of this bullying, and I feel that our side benefits from admitting we have made mistakes. That’s why I’ve exposed this drama. This type of language is only going to set the gender equality battle back. Just like when the ERVite rhetoric makes even their valid points a lost cause, Greg’s coercive and threatening internet tough guy behavior has the same effect.

Greg also recently admitted to taking his slime fighting to directly attempt to interfere with Abbie Smith’s education and career. This tactic has been used on Hemant Mehta, PZ Myers, and even me by Christian extremists. I understand the urge to stop something you see as evil at all costs, but our movement does not need to stoop to that level. Are we going to attempt to deprive humanity of a scientist? Notice, I’m not trying to find Laden’s employers to tell them about his behavior. His exposure here is for the betterment of the movement as a whole, not a personal vendetta. Even if it is possible that his employers may see this (I hope they don’t), the secular movement deserves the truth.

I know that my fellow FtB’ers are friends with Greg Laden. I hope they realize that publicly posting his violent coercive threat is a necessary condition for my continued activism. I receive lots of these threats, and I usually send them to the FBI and make a public spectacle. I initially extended a heartfelt plea to simply talk on the phone (repeatedly). His response was to continue treating me ‘like a toddler in a parking lot’… This pushed me over the “reconciliation is possible” mark. He established a pattern of bullying and coercion. It was not simply in the heat of passion, or a slip up.

Always name names

Why? So that a predator is identified and either removed from positions of influence, or changes their behavior. Also to protect future victims, and empower past victims. If nobody stands up to the bully, nothing ever changes. It is my opinion that it wouldn’t happen without exposure.

Last thoughts on the Slime Pit

Most readers have heard of 4chan or Anonymous. Few understand it. It’s a very large chaotic force made of hundreds of thousands of people pulling in several directions. Some of them are hackers like the infamous AnonOps and LulzSec crews, but most are not. Part of the chaos includes the embrace of so-called “true” freedom of speech. Anonymous often uses racist, sexist, violent humor to shock or troll people. Everything is acceptable if it’s “for the lulz” (for the laughs). There is some really terrible stuff there that you can’t unsee. Then again there is a beautiful human rights, free speech, anti-totalitarian, anti-corporate mindset that I’ll never be able to explain to an outsider.

The imageboards that Anonymous was born on are a different animal than a messageboard (or a blog comment section). They are very conducive to creating memes. These memes are often innocent, like caturday (also called lolcats), advice animals, etc. Sometimes the memes are also very crude and shocking. An insider can recognize a fellow anon by their usage of the various memes.

Abbie Smith is clearly one of them. I know this because I was once very active in deep pockets of the culture. When I first started blogging, I struggled to find an appropriate tone. I mean, it’s all about free speech when you’re writing, right? No. Not if you want to accomplish anything. It was hard to tell exactly where the line was when I first brought my head out of that pool for meaningful public discourse.

When I took one look at Abbie’s blog and the ‘shocking statements’ people attributed to her… it was clear that the socially irresponsible free-speech angle from Anonymous culture was at play. The signature is unmistakable, and the memes are beacons to the trained eye. These sustained attacks have stressed out people and derailed conversations for a year now.

ERV tones it down, but keeps gendered slurs?

It’s true that “Cunt Punt[NSFW] and other gendered slurs are a part of anonymous lexicon. It doesn’t translate well to serious discussion. And that’s fine if you want to troll. But Abbie Smith already tones down so much of the Anonymous speak, I don’t see why she holds on to gendered slurs. Abbie Smith knows full well that she doesn’t attach the word “fag” as a suffix to some word in every other sentence. (e.g. If you’re new, you’d say “I’m a new-fag. Sup?”) Abbie Smith does not draw swastikas all over stuff, or make “Jews did 9/11” jokes. She does not use the word “nigger[NSFW].

Why not tone it down just one more notch? Many of her commenters are similarly ‘90% of the way toned-down’ 4channers (0verlord, Miranda, Tristan, etc.) who *will* say ‘cunt’ but will not say ‘fag’ or ‘nigger’.

The slime isn’t that bad…?

Some of them say things I totally agree with and then things I disagree with profusely often in the same comment. Some people make awkward comments (MKG lolwut?), and I’m not sure what they’re on about. Shit, I still can’t figure out what John Loftus is doing in there. He seems to be kind of sensitive, and they play rough. John Loftus will repeatedly point to his support of Ed Brayton and PZ, and I’ve not seen him make a single comment about gender… but he identifies with them. It’s like a social outcast magnet, and there is no uniformity. It’s Contrarian Central (inb4: no it’s not!).

Oh wait, the slime is that bad…

I was in the pit, talking about how the new American Atheists sexual harassment policy was a necessity. I even stated that it probably wasn’t perfect, and would evolve over the years. I had concerns in the discussion phase before we announced it, and Amanda Kneif (the person in charge of the policy’s implementation) answered all of my questions like a boss. I suggested they take their nitpicks there, because who knows – maybe we’ll even adopt some of the changes! (To all of my commenters, I’d like you to read Richard Carrier’s post about Sexual Harassment Policies and comment *there* if you want to argue against them. Please don’t do it here.)

Rock Puppet: If you have a problem with it [the policy]– report it directly to them. Otherwise, you’re volunteering to have it implemented ‘as is’.

Justicar: I don’t attend such conferences. So, if I’m volunteering to have it ‘as is’, then lucky everyone else that my non-vote counts as a vote.

What the fuck? Why would you waste a year of your time talking about sexual harassment at atheist events if you don’t even attend atheist events? If you’re against hypocritical bloggers, or just want to troll etc. I get that. However, I’m sure there have to be more opportunities all over the place for you to use your wit, Justicar! I facepalmed hard here… you’re obsessed. There are so many others there that also say they ‘want nothing to do with atheist events’, or the ‘atheist movement’, but remain curiously obsessed. I swear, you guys can still easily contribute meaningfully to the movement like this.

The slime pit boils down to this:

Then, John C. Welch – who is overwhelmingly a supporter of mine, and Air Force veteran says this:

My wife just came home from a going away party for a friend, and told me how she broke another person there, who’s not much of a friend. Evidently, leaning over and telling her “Hey Laura…what’s red and crawls up your leg?”

“I don’t know?”

“A homesick abortion”

was enough to send the woman skittering off to the bathroom.

I really want to send her to Skepticon and tell her “fifty bucks per FTB twonk or Skepchick you break”. She’d be rich by the end of the first day.

I don’t really have any problem with abortion jokes in the right context (this instance seems fine.) It’s that last bit, though. I know this is hyperbole, and he was not actually suggesting his wife would try to physically go to Skepticon. I think the sentence is telling though, and indicative of the Slime Pit’s modus operandi. They want to troll hard enough to piss off Skepchicks and FfTB’ers.

They think it’s the funnest possible thing ever when they try to make Ophelia Benson, or Stephanie Zwan, or whoever ‘break’. These bloggers are real people who give a shit about what they are writing. You’ve been trolling them long enough to make them sharpen their eyes and their claws towards gendered slurs. I understand that you think they’re the bullies, but making somebody cry, or extremely uncomfortable is not a respectable tactic. It’s chaos that generates more people against you than for you. Stop now.

Most of them view themselves as some sort of ‘keeping them honest’ task force. Their strategy is self-defeating in the extreme. In the same breath that they denounce some real bullying tactics, they’ll finish their sentence with a “take that, cunt!” at the expense of credibility to any outsiders. Their point is *always* made moot by their runaway rhetoric, even if their point happened to be a good one.

To be clear, they were right about one bully, but nobody would listen. Which is why they should stop using gendered slurs and torturing real people that shed real tears.

Last thoughts on Greg Laden

I think Greg needs to take a breather. I realize that he’s fought hard on the side of feminism (valiantly so), and he’s contributed some excellent content to the blogosphere for years. I know that while cutting down some slimers, you occasionally get some slime on you. Maybe it affected him, and desensitized him. But he needs to understand that there is such a thing as a learning curve. He’s been guilty of calling a woman a ‘bitch’. This was before he learned about gendered slurs. How could he forget that he was guilty of the same thing so quickly? I urge my peers to realize that every newbie is a potential ally, and to allow some sort of learning curve to exist. Clearly, I’m not suggesting that my peers try to ‘teach Justicar’. I’m only talking about people new to the subject.

I also think the slimers should shut the fuck up for a moment and not escalate. Don’t do a victory dance, or pretend that I’m on your side of the gender issues. Fuck strife. I believe in redemption. So should you. It is not likely to come any time soon, but I hope he changes. (Abbie too for that matter).

Stop this war

Here’s a song that I vicariously apply to the situation (meaning: you’ll probably never click play… I swear this shit would heal your brain though.)

I have no idea how Greg is going to react. I alerted the leadership at FtB that I was going to post this, and I apologize if my friends feel they have to ‘pick sides’. They don’t. I want him to recognize this type of behavior is not acceptable, but you don’t need to come here saying that you’ve got my back (or his). I already know you’ve got my back. I already know that you may think it’s bad form to post this – I disagree. This post is what it is. Feel free to discuss it here, but in a few days… Let’s move on.

 All rights preserved, all wrongs reversed. End of interview.

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One response to “The pits”

  1. In a move that should surprise nobody…Pool’s closed. No more comments.

    This is the last blog post I’ll ever do on the subject. I was hoping that the discourse would be more cordial, but it’s not. Many of you were fine the whole time. It’s largely becoming another game of “who started it” or “look at the hypocrit comments”…

    It’s also shameful to turn this into a chance to shit all over my peers, when you KNOW it bothers them. I asked for calm. I don’t want to have to learn how to ban etc. When I get driveby comments lobbed against me, I usually make them into a post and leave them up. You guys are spamming here at mindboggling pace. I can’t keep up, and it looks like I’m just giving you a platform to speak to my peers in ways you know I don’t like, and they don’t like. Keep that shit on ERV or whatever ‘new leaf’ you’ve got going from now on. I appreciate that you support me on other stuff, and I think you can continue to do so. I’ve got other issues to post about.

    Julian, (non slimer) you disappointed me a little too buddy. As did the people coming in to stick up for Greg Laden by stating that I sniffled up to Uncle Ed etc. Victim blaming.

    Ophelia, I did not mean to be dismissive or handwaiving of your concerns. I get it, and it does matter to me, too.