Unskeptical Complaints

If you’re reading a blog as small as this one, chances are you know about the problem of online harassment of women, trans* people, people of color, LGB people, and other minorities. It’s a problem in just about every subculture with a significant online premise, from the skeptic/atheist community to comic fans to video game nerds to sci-fi/fantasy buffs, and so forth. Different groups are attacking the problem in different ways, but there’s a pretty general understanding among social justice supporters that this is a symptom of larger problems that will only go away if the overall culture changes and the systems of kyriarchy are dismantled. In the meantime, we need to find a way to deal with the trolls, harassers, assholes, and disingenuous arguers that flood various timelines and hashtags. One such stopgap solution is the Atheism+ Block Bot, helmed by Oolon1.

The Block Bot grew out of various needs in the social justice wing of skepticism/atheism, and the problem of online harassment has grown large enough to garner international attention, which led to a media promotion of The Block Bot on BBC Newsnight. It’s nice to see this issue getting mainstream coverage, and hopefully it’ll lead to more substantial action.

Skeptic activist Tim Farley took issue with the idea of the Block Bot as a general-usage or all-purpose solution to the problem of online harassment, and there’s a kernel of truth to his complaints. The Block Bot isn’t a perfect solution for everyone, even though it has grown and expanded its scope since its first appearance (I’ve noticed people in the comic fan community using/talking about it, for instance). Most of Farley’s complaints rest on that premise, which is a little like complaining about your toaster because it doesn’t accommodate every kind of baked good. That’s not what it was built for or intended to do. It’s the “Atheism+ Block Bot” for a reason, though the basic principle could be adapted for most groups.

The issue I had was with his “Problem 5.” That is, his second “Problem 5.” The first “Problem 5″ is problematic as well–“blocks have consequences” he says, and I say “so should being an annoying asshole online.” If you’re worried about ending up on a Level 2 or 3 block list, maybe don’t say the kinds of intentionally ignorant, antagonistic, baiting, or bigoted types of things that lead to people wanting to block you en masse.

Which is where his Problem 5b picks up. Farley takes issue with the point that many of the people on Levels 2 and 3 aren’t “just anonymous trolls that deserve it.” The problem is that his entire objection is built on a mountain of logical fallacies, at least one of which is belied by the example he led off with2.

The problem isn’t just anonymous trolls. In fact, I suspect it’s rarely strictly anonymous trolls and far more frequently pseudonymous trolls, but that’s pedantry. Anonymity is a convenient shield for trolls and harassers to hide behind, but not everyone feels the need to do so. There are plenty of people on the Block Bot’s lists, and on the various pages documenting this harassment who are perfectly willing to say abusive, offensive, and antagonistic things right next to their real names and faces. Anonymity is a red herring.

And Farley should know this, since he begins the post by talking about his dealings with Dennis Markuze/David Mabus, who spent decades abusing, harassing, and threatening people on the Internet under a stable pseudonym, and who wasn’t stopped or mollified once his true identity was known. Markuze is a special case, being more prolific, more overtly abusive, and more clearly in need of help than most of the people on the Block Bot’s list, but he’s still a stunning example of how anonymity/pseudonymity is neither necessary nor sufficient for this kind of behavior.

But Farley’s justification is a stunning example of Skeptics Being Profoundly Unskeptical, which I think I’m going to have to make into a post category for how often I talk about it. Here’s the relevant bit:

However, just a casual scan down the list of Level 2 and Level 3 blocks reveals people, many of whom I know personally, who are deeply involved in the atheism, skepticism, secularism and humanism movements all around the world. They include:

  • A Research Fellow for a U.S. think-tank who is also deputy editor of a national magazine, and author of numerous books

  • A Consultant for Educational Programs for a U.S. national non-profit
  • A long-time volunteer for the same national non-profit
  • An organizer for a state-level skeptic group in the US
  • A past president of a state-level humanist group in the US
  • A former director of a state-level atheist group in the US
  • An Emmy and Golden Globe award winning comedian
  • A TED Fellow
  • Co-founder of a well known magazine of philosophy and author of several books
  • A philosopher, writer and critic who has authored several books

These are not anonymous trolls. They are not likely to be arrested anytime soon. Most of these people regularly speak at national conferences to audiences from several hundred to over a thousand people. Starting from the publicly available block list you can click the names to go directly to their Twitter feeds, I see little evidence that these people are attacking, threatening or spamming anyone.

This would make for a great game of spot the fallacy, wouldn’t it? Farley lists all these qualifications, but none of them are “noted anti-spam crusader” or “longtime anti-bigotry activist,” not that those would be excuses either. See, none of these qualifications are inconsistent with “abusive [...] anti-feminists, MRAs, or all-round assholes” or “annoying and irritating”3. It’s possible to be an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning comedian and also be an annoying asshole who delights in baiting feminists with disingenuous arguments, just as it’s possible to be a Ph.D. biochemist who believes in intelligent design. This is a pro hominem argument, an argument from false authority, that these people’s lofty credentials make them somehow incapable of being bigots, jerks, trolls, abusers, or just antagonistic assholes to specific groups of people.

The last paragraph there is a doozy of arguments from ignorance and unstated major premises. “I see little evidence” is very different from “there is no evidence,” and the mechanics of Twitter mean that offensive tweets are often lost to the depths of a person’s timeline after a relatively short amount of time. But there’s plenty of evidence that prominent skeptics are capable of being petty, antagonistic, obtuse, bigoted (both in overt and unintended/unconscious ways), and asshole-ish. Some skeptics love poking various hornets nests, some love directing snide comments and thinly-veiled insults at people/groups they disagree with on social media, some keep dredging up sexist/racist/homophobic arguments and tropes time and time again even after hearing repeated responses/debunkings, some hyperbolically respond to the slightest criticisms with howls of NaziCommieStasi witch-hunt inquisitions. Farley’s right, they’re probably not going to be arrested anytime soon, but that’s because being an annoying, antagonistic asshole isn’t a crime.

The unstated major premises here are that “only anonymous trolls (and certainly not people I consider friends) behave in ways that would merit mass blocking,” which I dealt with above, and “only behavior that is illegal merits mass blocking,” which is the usual response to those complaining about harassment: if it’s not illegal, it’s not really harassment; if it was real harassment, why didn’t you call the police? I’ve responded to this notion, so has Stephanie Zvan, and the fact that Farley is able to spout off with it in such a casual manner shows just how insulated from this stuff he really is.

There are degrees of harassment. Some of it is criminal, some of it is civil, none of it is pleasant for the target. Blocking someone on Twitter is not a punishment that requires a trial and a sentencing phase. And if you were receiving the same disingenuous arguments, the same JAQing off on Twitter day-in and day-out, you might not see it as all isolated innocent incidents. The dude who wolf-whistles at a woman walking down the street might be just one dude, whistling at just one woman, so that’s clearly not harassment, right? But if it’s the thirtieth time she’s had to roll her eyes at that on her walk to work, it takes a different tone. One guy asking a person of color if they wouldn’t rather wash all the color off and be white, or touching their hair and talking about how much they admire it, might be an act of clueless ignorance, but if it happens over and over, it doesn’t matter to the target that the act is being committed by different people. People get worn down. Why should every person have to deal with each individual ignorant microaggression as if it were the first time they’d experienced it? Why would you begrudge people the option to avoid those microaggressions, even if it’s only in one forum? Don’t other people deserve the same ability to check their Twitter mentions without seeing harassment, insults, slurs, ignorance, and abuse that Tim Farley has?

The Block Bot is not a perfect solution for everyone. It’s not meant to be. It’s a decent stopgap for the people who are tired of dealing with harassers, abusers, bullies, and assholes. If you think it’s a problem in and of itself, the solution is to change the culture so there are fewer harassers, abusers, bullies, and assholes, not to buy into a set of fallacies that makes you think only anonymous other-people are capable of that behavior, and that being a prominent speaker (or worse, a friend) puts a person above that capacity.


1. Full disclosure: I don’t use the Block Bot, though I have some of the same people blocked. I do, however, follow the Block Bot and its related Twitter accounts.

2. Yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition. It’s a myth rule. Get over it It is a thing you should get over.

3. The actual descriptions of Levels 2 & 3, from here.

64 Responses to Unskeptical Complaints

  1. oolon says:

    Put far better than I have managed! I somehow missed that daft bit of Farleys about people with “credentials” … So what? Cathy Brennan is a lawyer and a nasty transphobe and one of the few people who has a real account that is on level1.

  2. Tim Farley says:

    I don’t buy your argument at all, especially your wanton tossing around of names of logical fallacies.

    You are missing my point. I was not saying “these authorities are on the list therefore it is bad”, I was saying that if you actually look at what those people do on Twitter they are demonstrably not abusers/harassers/whatever. They are simply people that (some, all?) Atheism+ people disagree with on some topics. I repeated several times that I do not begrudge them the right to use the block bot in this way, but I think it reflects poorly upon them as skeptics that they are so unwilling to be questioned.

    Blocking functions can do a variety of things, all the way from protecting someone from abusive threats of bodily harm to simply avoiding having your assumptions challenged by people disagreeing with you. Unfortunately The Block Bot makes big noises about it being an important tool for the former, when in fact my article shows it is mostly being used for the latter.

    As for me being insulated from this stuff, I take it you’ve never actually read my Mabus posts all the way through. It might interest you to know that Mabus verbally threatened my life at the time of his second arrest (as well as the life of the police officer arresting him) and there is now a court order in place prohibiting him from contacting the officer or myself.

  3. Doubting Tom says:

    I don’t buy your argument at all, especially your wanton tossing around of names of logical fallacies.

    Then please explain the logic in listing a set of credentials as if they were relevant to the point of whether or not certain people could be reasonably or justifiably considered abusive, anti-feminist, MRAs, assholes, annoying or irritating. Your list isn’t even relevant to the second sentence that follows it–“they are not likely to be arrested anytime soon”–because I can think of at least one example of a credential that would not be out of place on such a list–“A longtime blogger and podcaster who ‘regularly speak[s] at national conferences to audiences from several hundred to over a thousand people'”–who was arrested within recent memory. None of those credentials are relevant to whether or not a person has the capacity or history of being abusive or an asshole on the Internet–or even whether or not they are capable of criminal offenses. Is there another term for giving a person’s credentials and implying that said credentials are relevant to an unrelated area of expertise? One that makes it not fallacious?

    Please explain what you meant to imply when you said “I see little evidence that these people are attacking, threatening or spamming anyone.” If the conclusion you meant to draw was “therefore I ought perhaps to do more looking through their Twitter feeds in order to discover the reasons that they were added to the block list,” then I retract my accusation of argument from ignorance. If, however, your implication was as it appeared to be: “therefore it’s unlikely that they did anything to merit inclusion on the list,” then I would like to know if there’s another term for claiming that because one doesn’t see any evidence, there must not be any, preferably one that makes it not fallacious.

    Please explain what you meant when you said “These are not anonymous trolls.” If you meant to imply “therefore they are pseudonymous or eponymous trolls,” then I retract my accusation of an unstated major premise there. If instead the implication was some variant on “only anonymous trolls are a problem big enough to merit inclusion here,” then I would like to see the research and valid reasoning which led you to this conclusion.

    Please explain what you meant when you said “They are not likely to be arrested anytime soon” and that these people were not “attacking, threatening or spamming anyone.” If the implication was that “therefore they may instead be doing other things that fall under the broader categories of harassment, bullying, or nuisance,” then I retract my accusation of an unstated major premise. If, however, your point was that the only behavior which merits inclusion on a mass-block like this is criminal behavior (plus spamming), then I’d like to see the research and valid reasoning which led you to that conclusion.

    Apologies for the wanton tossing around of words, there.

    I was saying that if you actually look at what those people do on Twitter they are demonstrably not abusers/harassers/whatever. They are simply people that (some, all?) Atheism+ people disagree with on some topics.

    I would like to see the evidence that people have been put on the Block list for simple disagreement. Because I have been following this mess fairly closely, and if I can decipher some of the names that you alluded to through credentials, then I can certainly recall instances of assholery and abuse from various of them. One of the members of your list coined the term “FtBullies,” and has consistently involved himself in immature and antagonistic behavior. One of the members of your list (who, as far as I can tell, is not actually on the block list, so maybe I’m misinterpreting) responded to mild criticism with multiple long, hyperbolic posts in which he claimed to be the subject of a Nazi Inquisition. One of the members of your list (again, if I’m interpreting correctly) tweets snide, insulting, baiting remarks to people she “simply disagrees” with on an obsessively regular basis.

    The problem is that you’re trying to take one portion of these people’s online/meatspace activities, and act as though it is a complete picture. And I suppose the Block Bot does the same, in the other direction. But I’ve been in the situation multiple times where I unfollowed or blocked people because 75-90% of their tweets were good skepticism while the remainder were tweets or retweets of “jokes”/insults/abuse directed at women/feminists/bloggers of a particular network. There are tons of skeptical tweeters out there; there’s no reason to settle for following abusive assholes even if they’re mostly fine.

    I think it reflects poorly upon them as skeptics that they are so unwilling to be questioned.

    You’re joking, right? This is a joke, and not a meme that you’ve absorbed and are repeating without questioning, because I certainly wouldn’t want to have to wantonly throw out additional fallacy names. Blocking someone one Twitter does not indicate an unwillingness to be questioned, even if the only reason you’re blocking them is because you simply disagree with them. Twitter is only one social medium, and most of the folks you’re talking about use many. They get questioned on their blogs, on Facebook, in magazines and publications, and in other media that I can’t even think of. And for most of the “questions” that the targets of these campaigns get, they get those questions in real life from a society that has ingrained systems of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Some people might want Twitter to be the venue where they don’t constantly have to hear “so, did you get it cut off” or “which bathroom do you use” or “don’t you wish you were a real woman?”

    Blocking someone on Twitter shows an unwillingness to put up with their ignorance and abuse. It shows an unwillingness to let conference hashtags be dominated by garbage like this or to have your mentions clogged up with this shit. I’d really like to see the statistical analysis done on how much of what’s been blocked are just “questions.”

    Unfortunately The Block Bot makes big noises about it being an important tool for the former, when in fact my article shows it is mostly being used for the latter.

    No, your article argues that it is mostly being used for the latter. I think it argues that point rather poorly. And as someone who’s been paying attention to/participating in this situation as it has unfolded, I think I’ve seen a lot of the evidence that your cursory checks of Twitter feeds missed.

    As for me being insulated from this stuff, I take it you’ve never actually read my Mabus posts all the way through. It might interest you to know that Mabus verbally threatened my life at the time of his second arrest (as well as the life of the police officer arresting him) and there is now a court order in place prohibiting him from contacting the officer or myself.

    That’s cute.

    You realize Mabus is one guy, right? One very prolific, very disturbed individual, but he’s just one guy, one guy who split his prodigious amount of free time between dozens of different targets and media. Women like Rebecca Watson and Amanda Marcotte and Stephanie Zvan and Ophelia Benson and their allies are the targets of multiple forums dedicated to the harassment and abuse of feminists. Hundreds of individuals send often violent, often sexualized insults, threats, and slurs to a comparatively small number of outspoken women online, and that’s not including the people who specifically go after trans* activists or gay bloggers or people of color online. Mabus was an outsider, decidedly not a skeptic, not someone that you were very likely to encounter at a conference or convention (yes, except that one time), and certainly not someone you were likely to share a stage with or write a book with or invite onto your blog network. If you did come into contact with him at a conference, it’s a fair bet that the majority of people there would side with you, not him, unless it was Nostradameetup or something. Mabus’s threats didn’t come along with a whole culture that encouraged and enabled such threats; there are no maybe-Mabuses out there taking surreptitious pictures of skeptics, following you alone into enclosed spaces to ask if you want to join them for some charbroiled goat. Mabus’s threats don’t get dismissed and laughed off as “just jokes.” If, heaven forbid, Mabus had followed through on his threats, there would be no question who was at fault. No one would ask if what you were wearing, what you had said, how you had behaved, had caused Mabus to attack you, or to be justified in doing so. If Mabus had followed through on his threats, there’s the very real likelihood that he would be tried and convicted, and that your character wouldn’t be the one on trial.

    Mabus is an extreme example, yes. He’s also an example of something very different from what women and minorities in this and other online communities are experiencing. The fact that you think he’s analogous to the experiences that the Block Bot was invented to counteract proves my point about your insulation.

    Perhaps you should engage in a bit more research before assuming that your experience with one extreme troll is representative.

  4. Tim Farley says:

    Sorry, I’m not getting into a Fisking war with a totally anonymous person flinging irrelevant info into replies that are 5 times longer than the original.

    if you want to discuss my blog post further, come over to my blog and discuss it with everyone else.

  5. Doubting Tom says:

    My name is kind of an open secret, and not all that difficult to find. And, to be quite clear, I’m not “totally anonymous.” I’m partially pseudonymous. I’ll let you figure out which part of my Twitter handle/blog name is on my driver’s license.

    But I appreciate your willingness to make accusations without backing them up, and then flounce back to the venue you control.

    In any case, thanks for proving my suspicion that doing a little reading is just too much to ask. If it’s not short or on that first page of the Twitter feed, then by golly, it must not exist or be relevant!

  6. I don’t get why the Block Bot is such a bleedin’ issue. Who cares what “credentials” those on the list have, who cares what they “do” for atheism, who cares if 99 out of every 100 tweets they make are innocuous, if that one tweet is going to upset a group of people, why the hell shouldn’t they be able to block those people?

    I mean, for cat poop’s sake, people CHOOSE to sign up for the Block Bot, knowing exactly what the bot does and many of who the Bot blocks. Nobody’s being sold a fraudulent bill of goods here. It’s pretty transparent.

    And just because I don’t use it (because I’ve been privileged enough to be able to adopt the “Never Gonna Give A Fuck” attitude), doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who would want or NEED this service.

    Sheesh, people’s lack of empathy is so infuriating.

  7. Doubting Tom says:

    Hear hear.

    And on a different point, I love how I’m “totally anonymous” when my name’s right at the top of the post I linked saying “I’ve responded to this notion”. Following links is for chumps, is what it is.

    What is it with the old guard skeptics (this guy, Loxton, etc.) thinking “anonymity” (that is, pseudonymity) is a blanket excuse for avoiding criticism? Isn’t there a term for using some personal aspect of your opponent as an excuse to not address their actual point? Oh, but then I’d be wantonly tossing logical fallacy names again.

  8. Pingback: Meme Debunking #3: The Faceless Troll Horde | Dubito Ergo Sum

  9. I’m not getting into a Fisking war with a totally anonymous person flinging irrelevant info into replies that are 5 times longer than the original

    His reply was not irrelevant. He clearly demonstrated your reply fails as a defense and that Dubito Ergo Sum is correct in labeling your argument fallacious.

    if you want to discuss my blog post further, come over to my blog and discuss it with everyone else

    “Everyone” isn’t interested in coming over to your blog. This is the first I’ve heard of you, and the piss-poor reasoning I’ve seen from you here doesn’t commend it.

  10. Finally added you to Feedly!

    I’m going to say here what I said on Twitter: There is zero harm done to someone by blocking them, the same way I’m not hurting anyone on TV by changing the channel. It makes my life easier, and doesn’t hurt the other person at all. And if I “mistakenly” block someone, STILL I don’t see the harm. Were they about to offer me free cash, or are they the Messiah? No? Then I already have access to more people than I can ever pay attention to, blocking one is meaningless to me and to them.

    … except not meaningless to them? Why do you care if you’re blocked? Do you think I’m going to give you free money? Do you think I’m the Messiah? Do you like me so much that you have to see everything I say online? Or is it about you? Do you insist that I see everything you say? Or do you want to read everything I say so you can find things to attack me for? Do you insist on arguing with me on things I’m not interested in debating? If I’m not your Messiah, the only other obvious conclusion is that you want to be abusive towards me. Even if you pretend to be polite, if you insist on being in my space when I would prefer that you not be, that is abusive BY DEFINITION.

    Also, Tim Farley is one of the least logical people I’ve ever seen in my decades online. How did he ever get to the point that people took him seriously? What a fucking joke that guy is!

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  12. Rod says:

    Improbable Joe:
    “What a fucking joke that guy is!”

    That was uncalled for. Hypocrite!!

  13. Awwww… someone named Rod came to call names. How cute!

  14. Doubting Tom says:

    I don’t get the hypocrite charge. It’s not like Joe said “ridiculing people is always bad.” Do I need to pull out the Inigo Montoya clip again?

  15. Tim says:

    If I block someone I’m not reading what they write. I’m not marching them off to the FEMA camps to be tortured. I’m not threatening their lives or their livelihoods. I’m not denouncing them publicly before an audience. I’m just not reading them. I don’t care if they’re King Montezuma the Nobel Laureate and Rock Star. For whatever reason is reasonable for me, I’ve decided I don’t want to read their writings.

    Some people object to the various lists of blockees. Sorry, but if you’re a misogynist, racist, trans*phobic or otherwise unpleasant to read, then there’s good reason for you to be on the lists. It’s nobody’s fault you’re on a list except your own. Free speech does not mean the right to a platform to say hateful things. If you don’t like being labeled as hateful then there’s a simple fix for that: Stop being hateful.

  16. Rod says:

    Joe has commented numerous times at FTB about how he dislikes it when other people make personal attacks, rather than refute what they’re saying. He then turns around and says: “What a fucking joke that guy is!”

    That is hypocritical. Wouldn’t you say?

  17. manyironsinthefire says:

    That is a very well written argument, definitely adds to the discussion of censorship and privacy.

  18. Doubting Tom says:

    Rod: Except that I did the refutations, leaving things wide open for ridicule. I can’t speak for Joe, but I have a problem with fallacious ad hominem attacks–using personal attacks instead of an argument–but a lot less problem with ridicule when used in conjunction with arguments. There are definitely forms of ridicule and personal attacks that are unacceptable either way, but ridicule has its place when discussing the ridiculous.

  19. liarsgameover says:

    [On a different post, I might tolerate your nonsense, Dennis, but this is not the venue for it. Seek help. - Tom]

  20. Wow, so “Rod” is a creepy stalker. Good to know.

  21. Tim Farley says:

    Sorry my Google Fu isn’t up to your standards. And I did read all of your posts. There are a number of red flags that I’ve learned about online commentary and you hit 2 of them: Fisking, and replies that are more than 4x longer than the post they are replying to.

    Long experience has told me that discussions in that state go nowhere.

  22. Rod says:

    Tom, “What a fucking joke that guy is!” isn’t ridicule, it’s a personal attack.

    I’m sure Tim Farley has been called worse, and I assume it doesn’t bother him.
    But that’s not the point, Joe has claimed in the past that he opposes personal attacks and then he makes a personal attack!!

    Joe, I often read and comment at FTB. I guess I’m stalking everyone else that posts and comments there as well.

    That’s ridicule! See the difference?

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  24. Doubting Tom says:

    Tim: That’s twice you’ve posted about how my fisking and wordiness are excuses you can use to ignore criticism. Imagine if you’d instead used either or both of them to actually respond. I’ve always seen it as a red flag when people handwave criticism by citing irrelevancies. Kind of a standard woo-woo deflection tactic.

    Rod: You’re moving goalposts, and I’m not aware of the hair-splitting definitions of ridicule and personal attacks that you’re citing. I do think that, as far as personal attacks go, that’s slightly less mild than the “harassment” Tim got from SpokesGay Josh last night. There are plenty of linked examples above of unarguable harassment and personal attacks; it’d be nice if you tut-tutters would take your finger-wagging to some of them instead.

  25. Rod says:

    Tom: “There are plenty of linked examples above of unarguable harassment and personal attacks; it’d be nice if you tut-tutters would take your finger-wagging to some of them instead.”

    You seem to be assuming I don’t.

    Why don’t you let Joe defend his own comments and behavior?

  26. HJ Hornbeck says:

    And I did read all of your posts.

    Then surely you’ve formed an opinion about them, no? Something you could have articulated within three comments, instead of repeatedly telling us this is a waste of your time?

    There are a number of red flags that I’ve learned about online commentary and you hit 2 of them: Fisking, and replies that are more than 4x longer than the post they are replying to.

    Uhm, aren’t you the guy who just wrote 4,308 words on a Twitter Bot, complete with a 800 word introduction and 600 word conclusion? Didn’t you become famous for doing heavy research into a topic? Fisking is your natural habitat, and yet you view it as a red flag to be avoided? Wow, slight bit of hypocracy there.

    Also, didn’t you say it was 5 times longer?

    replies that are 5 times longer than the original.

    Yep, you did. Funny thing, Farley: thanks to the magic of word processors, I can trivially count the number of words in a post. Ready for the stats?

    Original post: 1,692
    Reply to your first comment: 1,568

    I get the feeling that your problems with Tom’s post have nothing to do with fisking or the massive length of his reply.

  27. pzmyers says:

    I think the block bot is inadequate because it can’t be personalized or customized except by a few people: it’s a special case solution to a general problem.

    But Tim’s worry that it’s being used to block people who don’t deserve it is irrelevant. If I decide to block someone for something trivial like a grammatical error, for instance, that is my right — I am not obligated to pay attention to everyone in the world. What’s also absurd are all these people whining that they were blocked because they were friends to someone else…SO FREAKIN’ WHAT? Get over it. If someone doesn’t want to listen to you, then respect that desire.

    When someone tells you to leave them alone, for any reason whatsoever, you leave them alone. Anything else actually is harassment.

  28. pzmyers says:

    There are a number of red flags that I’ve learned about online commentary and you hit 2 of them: Fisking, and replies that are more than 4x longer than the post they are replying to.

    Uh, that’s an unfortunate sentiment. Ever hear of the Gish Gallop? That’s exactly what your excuse defends. We’re confronted all the time as scientists and skeptics with people who make extravagant assertions that requires ten times as much time to explain properly as it does to make crap up about it.

  29. whatever says:

    Hey Dubito, you should check your privilege then you should adjust the standard font on your blog so that the over 50 can read it along with anyone else not as privileged as you in sight.

  30. Forbidden Snowflake says:

    There are a number of red flags that I’ve learned about online commentary and you hit 2 of them: Fisking, and replies that are more than 4x longer than the post they are replying to.

    Fisking is a rather standard format for criticizing a text that makes many claims, and it’s quite normal for a correction to take up more space than the original mistake. Why on Earth are those considered red flags?

  31. bjartesf says:

    I’d really like to see the statistical analysis done on how much of what’s been blocked are just “questions.”

    Or “disagreement” (unless you mean “disagreeing with basic human decency”). If we peel away all the layers of straw men and distortions (conflating reactions to bullying with bullying, conflating “X is a shitty thing to say/do” with “X is/should be illegal“, conflating “guys, don’t do that” with “freaking out because someone offered her a cup of coffee”, conflating bans on “booth babes” at cons with “talibanesque” dresscodes, conflating “atheism + social justice” with “atheism = social justice”, conflating anti-feminism with the “apolitical”, non-ideological position, etc. etc.), there is no major point coming from the feminist crowd that a non-asshole could fail to agree with, which is why the scum in “the other skeptical movement” has yet to make a case that a legitimate disagreement on principled grounds even exists.

  32. Bronze Dog says:

    What is it with the old guard skeptics (this guy, Loxton, etc.) thinking “anonymity” (that is, pseudonymity) is a blanket excuse for avoiding criticism? Isn’t there a term for using some personal aspect of your opponent as an excuse to not address their actual point? Oh, but then I’d be wantonly tossing logical fallacy names again.

    Funny, I always thought that behavior was strictly a woo, quackery shill, and propagandist thing. Guess this “old guard skepticism” doesn’t include basic logic.

    I’ve got to wonder what kind of skeptic would object to “wanton” labeling of fallacies. The issue is whether or not the labels are accurate, not how many there are.

  33. Doubting Tom says:

    Sorry for everyone whose comment got held up. I turned on moderation again before going to bed so that I wouldn’t end up with a flood of Mabus abuse.

    Rod: What. Ever. Continue your bizarre vendetta, I’m done with your derailment.

    HJ: I think he meant that my reply was 5 times longer than the original comment he left here. I would think a skeptic would be familiar with the notion that a rebuttal often needs to be longer than the statement it’s rebutting (PZ covered exactly the example I was thinking of), but it’s true that fisking is my default mode. I think it’s the best way to keep my responses grounded and address individual points, but whatever. Deflectors gonna deflect.

    PZ: The point about what “deserves” blocking is well-said and well-taken. As I put it to Improbable Joe last night, they think they’re entitled to your time & attention until they decide that they’re no longer entitled to your time & attention. Anything else is “unfair.”

    Whatever: There are browser and screen resolution settings that can ameliorate that on your end, but it’s true that this is a pretty small size. I’ll look into it.

    Forbidden: Again, things I’d expect skeptics to know. Seems like each new run-in I have with someone big in the skeptic movement leaves me with less respect for people who primarily self-identify as “skeptic.” It’s sad.

    Bjarte: Good point.

    Bronze Dog:

    I’ve got to wonder what kind of skeptic would object to “wanton” labeling of fallacies. The issue is whether or not the labels are accurate, not how many there are.

    Yes, and on Twitter he called this post sad because I only attacked one small part of his enormous post. Apparently I must spend an equal amount of time on every aspect of the argument in order for it to be valid, not address one section that’s completely fallacious in its attempt to make the point that the bot isn’t just inadequate, but harmful. Whatever, any excuse in a storm, I suppose. With the amount of time/words he’s spent making excuses, he could have explained how his arguments weren’t fallacious. That he decided not to do so suggests to me that he doesn’t care.

    I’m beginning to think this point about the Block Bot users not liking disagreement is projection.

    Thanks to everyone for commenting!

  34. Bronze Dog says:

    And now that I see some comments that were in moderation, a big thumbs up for everyone pointing out the stupidity of that “red flag” of long replies and how pro-Gish Gallop the attitude is. Assertions are generally easy to make short. Explanations of why those assertions are baseless, fallacious, or just plain wrong typically take longer. It amazes me that anyone who claims to be a skeptic would be ignorant of this.

    Heck, even listing fallacies can take longer because they can be densely packed, and sometimes the fallacy needs explaining. For one example, pointing out a straw man fallacy typically requires the skeptic to reference his actual position and why the arguments against the straw man don’t apply to his position.

  35. Yakaru says:

    @Tim Farley,

    You wrote:
    You are missing my point. I was not saying “these authorities are on the list therefore it is bad”, I was saying that if you actually look at what those people do on Twitter….

    If you have expressed an idea badly, apologize for it; and if you realize that you did in fact mean what you wrote at the time you wrote it, it’s better to simply retract it.

    In fact what you are saying is that there was absolutely no point in your listing their qualifications. Why did you list them if you didn’t want people to take any point from it?

  36. I first signed up to follow Farley on Twitter a while back from a podcast or other pointing to nifty skeptical history tweets. Seems like the last few months have just been ads for TAM, though. And then nonsense like this. I do really get tired of the fence sitters, of the people with little knowledge of what’s going on except from a couple of comments friends of theirs made, blundering in to spew their opinion around.

    That list of qualifications part of Farley’s post does really scream fellacious, and merely siding with friends without looking in to anything. And the responses here too about how pointless responses to a fisking are. Bah.

    I got in to the skepticism thing from the atheism side. From Skepticon and Pharyngula and such. The more I see of the ‘skeptics’ community the more turned off I get by the poor reasoning, short-sighted priorities, and general failures of empathy.

  37. Pingback: An Organizer for a State-Level Skeptic Group in the US » Almost Diamonds

  38. J. J. Ramsey says:

    And now that I see some comments that were in moderation, a big thumbs up for everyone pointing out the stupidity of that “red flag” of long replies and how pro-Gish Gallop the attitude is.

    It’s not “pro-Gish Gallop” so much as it is avoiding getting into long and drawn out discussions with someone who is “wrong on the Internet.” I’ve had such discussions myself and found them to be a tiring time sink, and I can see why Farley would want to avoid that. And given that potential hazard, I’ll also try to be brief.

    I’ve got to wonder what kind of skeptic would object to “wanton” labeling of fallacies. The issue is whether or not the labels are accurate, not how many there are.

    Given the usual connotation of “wanton,” I gather that the implication is that the labels are inaccurate. Furthermore, in an argument with implied premises, it can be easy to label the argument as fallacious by filling in those premises with ones that the argument’s author never intended. Indeed, I suggest that when our blog host lists the supposed “unstated major premises” of Farley’s argument, he can easily be doing just that. This is one reason to employ the principle of charity; that way, the missing premises may be filled in by premises at least as good as what the author had in mind.

    As for a charitable reading of Farley’s missing premises, I’d suggest this one: “It is difficult for someone to have become, say, a consultant for educational programs for a U.S. national non-profit, or a past president of a state-level humanist group in the U.S. while being abusive, anti-feminist, MRA, annoying and irritating, or an all-round asshole.” Most of the sorts of positions that Farley describes are ones that require a degree of social interaction that is hard to maintain while being a jerk. A president, for example, is an office typically obtained by appointment or vote, and one at least has to rein in one’s propensity for being irritating enough to avoid pissing off those who do the appointing or voting, plus the matter of being able to get enough positive attention to even be considered for such a position.

    Farley’s weakest example is that of a comedian, and it’s telling that that’s the example that our blog host picks. If he had said, instead, “It’s possible to be a past president of a state-level humanist group in the U.S. and also be an annoying asshole who delights in baiting feminists with disingenuous arguments,” it would have raised the obvious rejoinder, “Sure it’s possible, but is it likely?”, and if one asks that question about most of those on Farley’s list of people who probably shouldn’t be on the Block Bot list, it becomes clear why they are on that list.

  39. Doubting Tom says:

    I’ve had such discussions myself and found them to be a tiring time sink, and I can see why Farley would want to avoid that.

    There’s a difference between “avoid” and calling them “red flags.” I wonder if Farley would be similarly inclined to think of them as “red flags” if they were coming from Orac or Mark Crislip.

    Given the usual connotation of “wanton,” I gather that the implication is that the labels are inaccurate.

    Yes, and the good skeptic follows up his “that’s not a fallacy” by explaining how/why.

    Indeed, I suggest that when our blog host lists the supposed “unstated major premises” of Farley’s argument, he can easily be doing just that.

    I could, which is an indication at the very least that his writing left gaping ambiguities that impeded the message he intended to communicate.

    This is one reason to employ the principle of charity; that way, the missing premises may be filled in by premises at least as good as what the author had in mind.

    I could talk about how this principle only seems to apply to internecine disagreements and rarely to outsiders, but instead I’d like to wonder where the principle of charity was when, finding no immediate evidence of harassment, abuse, or being annoying, Farley jumped to the conclusion that people on the block list were “simply people that (some, all?) Atheism+ people disagree with on some topics,” and not, say, “people who may have had legitimate transgressions that have slipped below the Twitter timeline horizon.”

    Where was the principle of charity when Farley based his entire article on the fallacious assumption (1, 2) that Ool0n was promoting the Block Bot, in its current form, as the actual solution to everyone’s harassment problems on Twitter, and not promoting the “shared block list strategy,” of which the Atheism+ Block Bot is one model? Wouldn’t that be the more charitable (not to mention accurate, and supported by the BBC video and article) interpretation? Isn’t thinking that the “Atheism+ Block Bot” was promoted for use by all communities outside of Atheism+, and that Ool0n was suggesting making himself the moderator of all Twitter, so uncharitable as to be absurd?

    Funny how that principle of charity only seems to work one way.

    I’d suggest this one: “It is difficult for someone to have become, say, a consultant for educational programs for a U.S. national non-profit, or a past president of a state-level humanist group in the U.S. while being abusive, anti-feminist, MRA, annoying and irritating, or an all-round asshole.” Most of the sorts of positions that Farley describes are ones that require a degree of social interaction that is hard to maintain while being a jerk.

    I think we can all imagine tons and tons of counterexamples to that. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner springs to mind immediately; Richard Nixon, serial groper Isaac Asimov, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Rahm Emanuel, etc.

    And that still amounts to an argument from personal incredulity.

    Farley’s weakest example is that of a comedian, and it’s telling that that’s the example that our blog host picks.

    It’s okay, Stephanie Zvan picked better. For certain definitions of “better.”

    I’m less concerned with “possible” and “likely,” and more concerned with “actual.” If the Block Bot existed solely for people who disagreed with Atheism+, there’d be a lot more names on it, and a lot of people who aren’t on it now would be. Farley hasn’t been paying attention to this stuff, so it’s not entirely surprising that he’s missed the big flare-ups that have put some of the people on the list. I mean, it didn’t take me long to find this or this or this featuring just two of the people on Farley’s list. Can’t imagine why anyone would be annoyed or irritated by people who call them despicable, go out of their way to tell people what “sketchy” “bullies” they are, or claim that they “ruin lives.”

  40. jjramsey says:

    There’s a difference between “avoid” and calling them “red flags.”

    That’s splitting hairs. He saw red flags to indicate that further discussion with you wouldn’t be worthwhile for him.

    Yes, and the good skeptic follows up his “that’s not a fallacy” by explaining how/why.

    Presuming that he/she thinks it’s worth his/her time.

    I think we can all imagine tons and tons of counterexamples to that. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner springs to mind immediately; Richard Nixon, serial groper Isaac Asimov, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Rahm Emanuel, etc.

    A couple problems.

    First, in some cases, you are comparing, on the one hand, people who have committed people who were private assholes with good public fronts to, on the other hand, people who have supposedly been public enough with their assholery to put it on Twitter where it can be blocked. That’s flat out an apples-and-oranges comparision.

    In others, you have examples where the transgressions are more public, but are aided and abetted by others who are in on it. That’s not a contradiction of the notion, “It is difficult for someone to have become, say, a consultant for educational programs for a U.S. national non-profit, or a past president of a state-level humanist group in the U.S. while being abusive, anti-feminist, MRA, annoying and irritating, or an all-round asshole.” Rather, it’s an example of what could be used to overcome that difficulty — in this case, fellow accomplices or enablers. And then the question, “But is it likely?” can be asked of such scenarios for overcoming that difficulty. How likely is it, for example, that members of a humanist organization would want to enable or abet someone clearly acting contrary to humanist goals, to the point that said someone could even hope to be a president of that organization?

    Farley hasn’t been paying attention to this stuff, so it’s not entirely surprising that he’s missed the big flare-ups that have put some of the people on the list. I mean, it didn’t take me long to find this or this or this featuring just two of the people on Farley’s list.

    Here’s one of your “this”es, some tweets by Jeremy Stangroom (with slashes separating the tweets): “Here’s what what we do about the problems in the online atheist community. 1. Marginalize & isolate the incendiary, know-nothing bloggers./ 2. Disavow this toxic callout culture. 3. Promote credentialed expertise; / 4. Have a conversation about gender, race, etc., but recognize these are complex issues & that rational people can disagree in good faith. / 5. And it goes without saying that we need to recognize the humanity in our opponents, which means that you’ve gotta have bloody good reason / if you’re going to photoshop their head on top of a cow. Or indeed any other kind of animal.”

    This is apparently what you think is worthy of blocking?

  41. jjramsey says:

    Arrgh, I need to be more careful in editing. That should be “people who were private assholes with good public fronts to, on the other hand, ….”

  42. Doubting Tom says:

    1) I think there’s ample evidence to suggest that people think the Internet is more private than it is. Not that I think people necessarily need the veneer of privacy or anonymity to be assholes. It’s equally plausible that prominent status, especially in a movement like skepticism/atheism, is awarded to people with a take-no-prisoners approach to ambition, or people with a reputation of “calling it like it is” even if it means saying unpopular, intemperate, or blunt things. Should such behavior spill out into personal conversations or conversations online, it may very well be seen as annoyance or assholery.

    2) There is a large and vocal contingent who see feminism as not part of humanist goals, or opposed to it. Similarly, I think libertarianism is frequently opposed to humanist goals, and yet we have lots of leaders and luminaries who are libertarians. Your assessments of difficulty appear to be little more than baseless guesswork.

    3) If I’m one of the people being targeted, then yes, I think I’d very much be annoyed by someone calling me an “incendiary, know-nothing blogger,” and outright stating that it’s okay to photoshop my head onto an animal’s body as long as you have a good reason.

  43. Doubting Tom says:

    Moreover, I’ll grant that (from my perspective) Stangroom and Blackford are far from the worst, though the mileage of people who are actually on the receiving end of the online abuse may vary. But their use of dog-whistles and snide barbs and thinly-veiled subtweets (see the “incendiary know-nothing bloggers” comments), and friendly conversations with the worst of the worst are the very same enabling and abetting that you mention. The real trolls and harassers are emboldened by what they at least perceive as support from bigger names like Blackford and Stangroom.

  44. jjramsey says:

    Okay, your (1) is a non sequitur, since it’s about behavior that “may very well be seen as annoyance or assholery” for possibly the wrong reasons (i.e. “calling it like it is”) rather than actual assholery. As for your (2), my response is (a) citation needed for the first bit; (b) for the second bit, the supposed incompatibility of humanism with various viewpoints about the role of government is too disputable to serve much use in your argument; (c) for the third bit, you’ve offered no objection of substance.

    Your point (3) is very interesting, and very telling. Here’s what Stangroom said:

    And it goes without saying that we need to recognize the humanity in our opponents, which means that you’ve gotta have bloody good reason / if you’re going to photoshop their head on top of a cow. Or indeed any other kind of animal.

    Here’s your interpretation:

    outright stating that it’s okay to photoshop my head onto an animal’s body as long as you have a good reason.

    You get the emphasis of Stangroom’s tweet exactly backwards. His tweet is pretty clearly discouraging the sort of photoshopping that he describes, and yet you somehow mangle it into an encouragement. You even miss that he’s effectively taken a swipe at several Slymepitters, who do those sorts of photoshopping.

  45. Doubting Tom says:

    Is there a substantive difference between being an actual asshole and being perceived to be an asshole? Particularly from the perspective of the person doing the perceiving (and blocking)?

    You’re seriously asking for a citation to demonstrate that there are anti-feminist humanists? Have you been living under a rock? John “the Other” Hembling, atheist and humanist, writes against feminism and for humanism at the anti-feminist MRA hate site A Voice For Men: avoiceformen.com/feminism/to-the-nice-feminists/ (no way I’m linking that). Justin Vacula, atheist activist and speaker at multiple humanist conferences, also contributes to AVfM. Wooly Bumblebee, one-time AVfM contributor, calls herself a humanist in her Twitter profile. I’d keep looking, but I’m tired of wading in that muck.

    I disagree about how disputable the harm of laissez-faire capitalism is to the goals of consumer protection and equality, but then, I disagree that the ideal of equality for women and dismantling toxic patriarchy is incompatible with humanism as well. The point, which you seem to be missing, is that being an anti-feminist or an MRA is not incompatible with being a humanist or a leader in humanist circles, and you’ve done nothing to back up your claim that holding such beliefs would make it more difficult to achieve such status within the movement. That claim is especially silly when we recall that the issue of feminism has grown in response to the influx of women into the movement over the last several years; people who achieved leadership roles early on or in male-exclusive or male-dominated groups might never have had cause to make anti-feminist or MRA views public.

    It’s funny that you think noting your complete lack of basis for supposing it’s difficult to achieve status in a group while holding anti-feminist views or being an asshole, but you need a citation to prove that there are anti-feminist humanists.

    You get the emphasis of Stangroom’s tweet exactly backwards. His tweet is pretty clearly discouraging the sort of photoshopping that he describes, and yet you somehow mangle it into an encouragement.

    No, I’m reading it for what it is: qualified license. Exactly how hard is it to say “there’s no good reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body”? Why is it so difficult to make an unqualified condemnation of such juvenile, asinine behavior? Why did he feel it necessary to leave the door open to those who think they have “bloody good reason”? It’s not much of a “swipe” when it has a big ol’ loophole right there at the end. “Oh, well he didn’t mean me, obviously taking down the bullies is a bloody good reason.”

  46. jjramsey says:

    You’re seriously asking for a citation to demonstrate that there are anti-feminist humanists?

    Lemme put it this way. What I’ve seen of the various Humanist Manifestos tends to preclude misogyny. And if I look at an article written by an executive director for the American Humanist Association, I see this:

    Most folks have a sense today that humanism has historically supported feminism, but few realize how deep that connection is. The American Humanist Association (AHA) supported elective abortion in the 1950s long before NARAL existed and before Planned Parenthood expanded beyond contraceptive services. Among nearly two dozen AHA resolutions spanning seven decades that specifically promoted feminist ideals is the latest, released just August 24, which calls for final passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The AHA’s Humanist magazine was carefully prepared in gender-neutral English in the 1970s, long before most newsstand magazines even considered the issue. In response to this issue, past AHA President Bette Chambers said, “The AHA always recognized men and women as equals in all matters and has always been ‘feminist.'”

    Is it a wonder why I’d be suspicious about claims of anti-feminist humanists?

    And let’s tie this back to my original point. I had posed, “It is difficult for someone to have become … a past president of a state-level humanist group in the U.S. while being abusive, anti-feminist, MRA, annoying and irritating, or an all-round asshole.”

    How much luck would, for example, John the Other have in getting to be a president? (Bear in mind he’s your example of an anti-feminist humanist.) Given what the AHA espouses, and what he espouses, would members of a local AHA group even get along with him, let alone put him in any leadership position? Or would they think that a guy who thinks radical feminism is about exterminating men is, to put it sort of politely, stark raving bonkers?

    Exactly how hard is it to say “there’s no good reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body”?

    If a murderous dictator were to massacre children of dissidents, I could hardly fault someone for mocking him by photoshopping his head onto the body of an adult chimp killing a baby chimp. I’d consider child murder a “bloody good reason,” to quote Stangroom, for that sort of mockery.

    Is there a substantive difference between being an actual asshole and being perceived to be an asshole?

    Really? Really? That’s such an obtuse question that I’m not sure that it merits an answer.

  47. Doubting Tom says:

    I agree that humanism and feminism should go hand-in-hand, but I’m not so foolish enough as to think that humanist groups don’t have people who can compartmentalism apparently contradictory beliefs. There’s ample evidence of it; I cited biochemist ID proponent Michael Behe in the original post. Moreover, one might call oneself a humanist (and Tim Farley might call an organization a “humanist group”) without actually being one.

    That said, it’s curious that you picked John Hembling as the example to call out, as if it were the only one I gave. To cop a phrase from an earlier comment of yours, it’s telling that you didn’t pick Justin Vacula, who is on the board of a state-level (or at least large-region-level) freethought group, and was nearly a council member for the Pennsylvania chapter of SCA. Seems like an awful lot of people didn’t think his notions were stark raving bonkers, and in fact, it seems like a lot of people were completely unaware of his anti-feminist views until they were specifically informed.

    So yes, I think one might very well harbor MRA views and achieve a level of status in their local atheist/humanist/skeptic/freethought community. It may be harder to do so now than it was five years ago, but I think the evidence indicates that it’s absolutely possible. And if the humanist group were stocked with Reddit or YouTube atheists, or were a more fringe group like the anti-gay Black Atheists of Atlanta, then that sort of thing would be expected.

    If a murderous dictator were to massacre children of dissidents, I could hardly fault someone for mocking him by photoshopping his head onto the body of an adult chimp killing a baby chimp. I’d consider child murder a “bloody good reason,” to quote Stangroom, for that sort of mockery.

    Why? How is that “mockery”? What message does it send? Isn’t there, I don’t know, a less grade-school/dehumanizing way to make that point?

    That said, I would have also been okay with “Unless you’re satirizing a murderer, there’s no reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body.”

    Really? Really? That’s such an obtuse question that I’m not sure that it merits an answer.

    Let me put it two other ways:

    1) I don’t give a flying goddamn fuck if you say offensive things because you get a thrill out of pissing people off or because you’re completely clueless. I’m under no obligation to listen to it either way, and I don’t have the telepathy helmet to be able to determine which one’s which. See also: people who tell racist/sexist/homophobic jokes because they believe racist/sexist/homophobic things, and people who tell racist/sexist/homophobic jokes because they think they’re so outrageous and taboo.

    2) If someone is, as I proposed before, rewarded with admiration and status for saying things bluntly, without regard to the popularity of the statement or going against the flow, for calling it like they see it, there’s a decent chance that they’ll eventually say some things that are wrong, offensive, or borne out of unexamined privilege or uncritically accepted myths. Some people may be corrected on these matters, and may change that behavior. Others, on the other hand, will see the corrections in the same light as they’ve seen other responses to their intemperate comments, and assume that, as before, they’ve just struck a nerve by saying something unpopular and politically incorrect, which just reinforces their prior certainty. The latter person in this instance would not be seen as an asshole “for the wrong reasons” as you suggested earlier. They would be an asshole.

  48. PatrickG says:

    @ jjramsey:

    What I’ve seen of the various Humanist Manifestos tends to preclude misogyny.

    Doubting Thomas does an excellent job of rebutting most of your points, but due to a Failure of Fisking he seemed to overlook this one. Thus, I must inquire further as to your position here. You cite the various Manifestos (or at least, what you’ve seen of them) and one article by one leader of one group as reasons to doubt the existence of anti-feminist humanists.

    Therefore, I ask you:
    1) Do you take the public statements of any given group at face value? More specifically, do you feel that looking at the mission statements of groups is sufficient to evaluate the behavior of that group and all of its members?
    2) Do you consider one exemplary statement by one person, representing one organization, representative of a much larger group of individuals? If one Republican senator is pro-gay rights, does that mean you doubt the existence of anti-gay rights Republicans?
    3) Do you actually — without any sense of irony — identify as a skeptic? If so, forgive me for laughing uproariously.

    Echoing DT, I’d also very much like to know why you ignored Justin Vacula, since his leadership role and stated positions are highly relevant to this discussion.

    @ DT: Thanks for an excellent article and a very entertaining read in the comments. I appreciate your continued engagement, if such approbation from an interested bystander is worth anything.

  49. jjramsey says:

    To cop a phrase from an earlier comment of yours, it’s telling that you didn’t pick Justin Vacula, who is on the board of a state-level (or at least large-region-level) freethought group, and was nearly a council member for the Pennsylvania chapter of SCA. Seems like an awful lot of people didn’t think his notions were stark raving bonkers,

    And those notions are? I’m not too crazy about him contributing an article for AvFM, but if you compare that one article that he wrote to those of Wooly Bumblebee or John the Other (and yes, I noticed that you falsely claimed that Wooly Bumblebee was the one who wrote the one article), there’s a world of difference. He doesn’t go on about feminism being some eugenics project or similar babble. Instead, he points out the problems with Surly Amy using arguments against some fairly tame mockery (Harriet Hall’s T-shirt, “fake” jewelry satirizing Skepchick) that would not be acceptable if they were made against similarly tame mockery aimed at the religious. Judging from what Vacula has actually written, he can be a bit dense, but his views on women come nowhere near those of Wooly Bumblebee or John the Other, nor has he been prone to their levels of viciousness.

    Why? How is that [photoshopping the head of someone onto the body of an animal] “mockery”?

    Another obtuse question.

    Isn’t there, I don’t know, a less grade-school/dehumanizing way to make that point?

    Probably, but that misses the point. You asked, “Exactly how hard is it to say ‘there’s no good reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body’?” and I gave you an example illustrating why it would be hard to say.

    That said, I would have also been okay with “Unless you’re satirizing a murderer, there’s no reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body.”

    In other words, you just demonstrated why “there’s no good reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body” would be hard to say, and undermined your own criticism of what Stangroom actually said.

  50. Doubting Tom says:

    Oh for fuck’s sake.

    I’m not too crazy about him contributing an article for AvFM, but if you compare that one article that he wrote to those of Wooly Bumblebee or John the Other (and yes, I noticed that you falsely claimed that Wooly Bumblebee was the one who wrote the one article)

    Where, exactly, did I “falsely claim” that? I claimed that WB was once an AVfM contributor. That’s true. I haven’t said anything else about her.

    Vacula hasn’t just done one article for AVfM; he’s also been a guest on their radio program. As for his “level of viciousness,” I’ve never seen Wooly Bumblebee or John the Other (though I wouldn’t put it past him) post an opponent’s address in an unfriendly forum. That’s straight-up anti-abortion soldier-of-God shit.

    Also, you know, thinking it’s perfectly okay to contribute to a hate site. Can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with that.

    Another obtuse question.

    Was it over your head?

    Probably, but that misses the point. You asked, “Exactly how hard is it to say ‘there’s no good reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body’?” and I gave you an example illustrating why it would be hard to say.

    I don’t think it’s hard to say. Look: There’s no good reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body. That’s the intersection between juvenile bullshit and dehumanizing propaganda. No matter what you’re trying to say or do, there’s a better way to say or do it.

    But let’s say that Stangroom thinks there are some circumstances, as you apparently do, where such a dumbass notion of satire would be appropriate, something with which I disagree. It would be good, in that instance, to at least give a degree of scope, so that someone might know what kind of circumstances Stangroom thinks warrant animal headswap photoshoppery. Because saying “have bloody good reason” to people who think they’re “brave heroes” standing up to witch-hunting CommieNaziStasi bullies doesn’t actually condemn the action.

  51. Doubting Tom says:

    Oh, I almost forgot. Thanks, PatrickG, for the kind words! I almost certainly won’t be able to keep up this rate of post-writing, but hopefully you’ll enjoy these intermittent spurts.

  52. jjramsey says:

    Where, exactly, did I falsely claim’ that? I claimed that WB was once an AVfM contributor.

    You called Wooly Bumblebee a “one-time” contributor. Of the trio of John the Other, Bumblebee, and Vacula, Vacula was the only one who had written just one article and thus was more readily describable as a one-timer, I thought that you got sloppy and had the histories of Bumblebee and Vacula mixed up. If I am mistaken, I apologize, especially since I had written earlier here about the principle of charity.

    I’ve never seen Wooly Bumblebee or John the Other (though I wouldn’t put it past him) post an opponent’s address in an unfriendly forum. That’s straight-up anti-abortion soldier-of-God shit.

    Um, you don’t really know what that was actually about, do you? Vacula was responding to a post that read, in part,

    Also, regarding the DMCA counterclain, would that allow the counterclaimant to learn the address of the claimant? Of course, it could have been a third party who filed the claim. But if it was Amy and she would have to surrender her address, I could see that as a problem.

    His response was “Nonsense. The address of ‘Surly Amy’ (at least the one provided to ‘[REDACTED]‘ is public information. It seems she has trademarked ‘Art You Can Wear’ (really??!?) and ‘Surly-Ramics,'” followed by a screen shot from the [REDACTED] site as evidence of his claim.

    And funny thing, the admin of that unfriendly forum nonetheless had the good sense to not only replace the screenshot with a Cthulowl, but edited out the reference to the site that I replaced with “[REDACTED].” Real “anti-abortion soldier-of-God” of him/her.

    Sources: https://twitter.com/magicthighs/status/236850528120872961/photo/1 and slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=31&t=73&start=6825#p8183 (with the “http” left off the URL just as you did for the AfVM site).

    Thank you for making me do your research for you. I really love wading through the ‘Pit. (For the sarcasm-impaired, that was sarcasm.)

    Was it over your head?

    More obtuseness.

    I don’t think it’s hard to say. Look: There’s no good reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body.

    Which is it? There’s “no good reason” or “I would have also been okay with ‘Unless you’re satirizing a murderer, there’s no reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body.’” Pick one. Unless you want to contradict yourself, you can’t have both.

    It would be good, in that instance, to at least give a degree of scope, so that someone might know what kind of circumstances Stangroom thinks warrant animal headswap photoshoppery.

    Oh, yes, that’s a great thing to add to what for Twitter is already an overlong multi-part Tweet. More obtuseness on your part.

    It’s becoming more and more clear that Farley was right in his spotting of red flags.

  53. Doubting Tom says:

    You called Wooly Bumblebee a “one-time” contributor. Of the trio of John the Other, Bumblebee, and Vacula, Vacula was the only one who had written just one article and thus was more readily describable as a one-timer, I thought that you got sloppy and had the histories of Bumblebee and Vacula mixed up. If I am mistaken, I apologize, especially since I had written earlier here about the principle of charity.

    You are mistaken:

    one-time
    adjective
    1. having been as specified at one time; former: my one-time partners.
    2. occurring, done, or accomplished only once: his one-time try at elective office.

    Emphasis mine. To be clear: At one time, in the past, Wooly Bumblebee was a contributor to AVfM. At this time, that is no longer the case.

    And funny thing, the admin of that unfriendly forum nonetheless had the good sense to not only replace the screenshot with a Cthulowl, but edited out the reference to the site that I replaced with “[REDACTED].” Real “anti-abortion soldier-of-God” of him/her.

    I’m sorry, was I comparing the forum admin, or Justin Vacula, to the people who publicly post the addresses of abortion providers to unfriendly forums? Yes, the admin of the unfriendly forum had better sense than to allow what is, at worst, a veiled threat to sit on the website. Vacula lacked that sense, instead thinking that because her address wasn’t unlisted, it was okay to post it wherever. At best, for Vacula, that’s a stunning degree of cluelessness. And yet, his position of prestige.

    Thank you for making me do your research for you. I really love wading through the ‘Pit. (For the sarcasm-impaired, that was sarcasm.)

    Considering how much of that kind of shit I’ve been doing to answer your questions, I can’t feel much sympathy. Spend some time on ElevatorGATE’s storify page why don’t you.

    Which is it? There’s “no good reason” or “I would have also been okay with ‘Unless you’re satirizing a murderer, there’s no reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body.’” Pick one. Unless you want to contradict yourself, you can’t have both.

    I think I’m beginning to see where the obtuseness is. Let me lay it out in very simple terms:

    I believe there is no good reason to do human-head-on-animal photoshops.

    Stangroom, apparently, believes that there may be a good reason to do human-head-on-animal photoshops.

    I disagree with Stangroom.

    You agree with Stangroom.

    Stangroom said that to justify human-head-on-animal photoshops, one needed a “bloody good reason.”

    Stangroom did not give any qualifications or details that would indicate what “bloody good reason” might entail.

    That lack of qualifications, and the resultant ambiguity in what constitutes a “bloody good reason,” is my problem with Stangroom’s statement.

    Stangroom previously said that to solve the problems in the online community, we need to “Marginalize & isolate the incendiary, know-nothing bloggers.”

    This leaves the possible interpretation that if one’s reason for doing a human-head-on-animal photoshop were to “Marginalize & isolate the incendiary, know-nothing bloggers,” Stangroom might consider that “bloody good.”

    Even without that interpretation, Stangroom’s audience, who are apt to do such human-head-on-animal photoshops, consider themselves “brave heroes,” and see their petty campaigns of “satire” and harassment as fighting against dangerous forces that they compare to Kim-Jong Un and Chairman Mao.

    Stangroom’s lack of qualification on the admonishment thus left considerable opening for his followers to produce such photoshops and feel justified by someone they see as an agreeable authority.

    If Stangroom had given parameters for what constituted a bloody good reason, such as “the subject has to be a murderer,” I would have considerably less problem with his statement, because it would have been less ambiguous. I would still disagree, but I would not see it as a qualified endorsement of human-head-on-animal photoshops that were done for “bloody good reason.”

    Clear?

    Oh, yes, that’s a great thing to add to what for Twitter is already an overlong multi-part Tweet. More obtuseness on your part.

    Yes, because six tweets would be waaaaay beyond the pale in ways that five were not. Or maybe Stangroom should have expressed his views in a format that is more conducive to what appear to be important information about how to fix the problems in the atheist movement.

    It’s becoming more and more clear that Farley was right in his spotting of red flags.

    Just like he was right that it’d be difficult for an anti-feminist, annoyance, and predatory serial harasser to become a “A Research Fellow for a U.S. think-tank who is also deputy editor of a national magazine, and author of numerous books.”

  54. jjramsey says:

    I’m sorry, was I comparing the forum admin, or Justin Vacula, to the people who publicly post the addresses of abortion providers to unfriendly forums?

    Yes.

    I believe there is no good reason to do human-head-on-animal photoshops.

    I don’t believe you. If you really believed that, you’d never have said “I would have also been okay with ‘Unless you’re satirizing a murderer, there’s no reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body.’” You’d have stuck to your guys and said, “No, even if you’re satirizing a murderer, it’s still not okay.” Your whole bit about how Stangroom should have been more exacting about what “bloody good reason” meant, lest a follower mistake his swipe at ‘Pitters for approval, looks like a poor attempt to shore up a bad misreading of his tweets.

    Just like he was right that it’d be difficult for an anti-feminist, annoyance, and predatory serial harasser to become a “A Research Fellow for a U.S. think-tank who is also deputy editor of a national magazine, and author of numerous books.”

    Wow, it’s as if you never read me when I wrote, “in some cases, you are comparing, on the one hand, people who were private assholes with good public fronts to, on the other hand, people who have supposedly been public enough with their assholery to put it on Twitter where it can be blocked. That’s flat out an apples-and-oranges comparision.” You’re still making that apples-and-oranges comparision.

    ool0n’s cast his net so broadly that it’s not that surprising that some of the people that his Bot blocks are genuine bad news. That’s no more a vindication of the Bot than a “hit” by a media psychic is a vindication of the paranormal.

  55. Doubting Tom says:

    Yes.

    I’m afraid that was a rhetorical question, and I’m beginning to think that English isn’t your first language. The correct answer was “I was comparing Justin Vacula,” but thanks for playing.

    I don’t believe you. If you really believed that, you’d never have said “I would have also been okay with ‘Unless you’re satirizing a murderer, there’s no reason to photoshop someone’s head onto an animal body.’” You’d have stuck to your guys and said, “No, even if you’re satirizing a murderer, it’s still not okay.”

    I do think it’s still not okay. I also think that people can disagree. For instance, you think I’m obtuse, and I think you’re borderline illiterate and utterly tedious. I suspect we have different views on those things.

    Your whole bit about how Stangroom should have been more exacting about what “bloody good reason” meant, lest a follower mistake his swipe at ‘Pitters for approval, looks like a poor attempt to shore up a bad misreading of his tweets.

    I misread nothing, and I don’t see any further point in debating this. I could not possibly dumb it down any more than I did in the last post.

    You’re still making that apples-and-oranges comparision.

    Radford was public enough with his abusive behavior and assault that it was known to his employers and known to multiple acquaintances of Stollznow, with nothing of substance being done to his status in the organization or larger movement. His assholery and anti-feminism (you know, the things both Farley and I were actually citing) were publicly posted on his blog and the CFI’s website. Why, it’s as if you’re completely clueless!

    But back to the point, it’s one thing to be an asshole on Twitter. It’s another thing to repeatedly sexually assault a colleague. And that latter thing still didn’t impact Radford’s employment or status. Which makes your incredulity that a person could simply harbor anti-feminist or MRA views and achieve a position of prestige in the movement all the more ludicrous, given that once again we’ve seen that people in positions of power (like Radford’s bosses, like Ron Lindsay) have a history of treating women’s concerns dismissively and being openly hostile to feminism.

    About the Block Bot, I don’t think it needs “vindication,” but you miss the point spectacularly once again. It’s not just that it happened to catch someone who was “genuine bad news,” it’s that one of the people in Level 3, the unlikely-to-be-an-asshole-or-harasser guy that Tim Farley chose to lead his list of ten-people-out-of-679 turns out to be a bigger sexist asshole predator than a lot of the dipshits in Level 1 are likely to be. If that’s Tim Farley’s top choice for someone on the list who’s unlikely to be a harasser, what does that say about the rest, or about the level of engagement Farley actually has with the problem of harassment in this movement?

    Anyway, enjoy your time away from this blog. Toodles.

  56. jjramsey says:

    Given your last comment, I doubt this will get posted, but I have a long-shot hope that you don’t like deliberately leaving a misrepresentation standing.

    There’s a big difference between blatant badgers and wolves in sheep’s clothing like Radford, and I’m incredulous of the former getting prestige, not the latter. I already said as much.

    Someone who writes a poem where he denounces the notion of a “good rape” isn’t not publicly posting “assholery and anti-feminism.” In Radford’s case, it’s a front to keep it hidden. And given that Stollznow had said that she was told to keep her mistreatment at the hands of Radford confidential (to the point that she’s only revealed Radford’s name indirectly, e.g., via Ian Murphy), it’s bizarre that you call that “public.”

  57. Doubting Tom says:

    There’s a big difference between blatant badgers and wolves in sheep’s clothing like Radford, and I’m incredulous of the former getting prestige, not the latter. I already said as much.

    And the problem is that you think someone posting malicious things on Twitter would be seen as a badger, while a guy with a history of reported assault is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” The problem is that you don’t see Radford’s frequent combative, dismissive posts on feminist issues and individuals (the “over rape” post, the 4-year-old marketing discussion post, the media and body image post) as “anti-feminist.” The problem is that you don’t see petty, combative stuff like this (yes, it’s on Reap Paden’s blog; it was written by Radford and posted to his blog, then subsequently deleted) as being an asshole. The problem is that you’re conflating anti-feminism and assholery with assault and predation. The latter is what Radford may have wanted to hide; the former he had no problem displaying.

    Perhaps you missed the parts of Stollznow’s or PZ’s posts where they talked about other people knowing of Radford’s history and talking about it. Enough people knew that Stollznow could flesh out a post with different reactions. The people running TAM knew. So it sounds like it was pretty well-known among people with sway over his status and employment, you know, like I said: “public enough.”

  58. Tim Farley says:

    I have addressed some misunderstandings about my blog post on Virtual Skeptics this week. The video, cued directly the relevant section, can be seen at the bottom of the original blog post here: http://bit.ly/19gLw6q

  59. Pingback: Following the Block Bot | Dubito Ergo Sum

  60. Pingback: Only the Dumbest People on the Internet get to Administer @the_block_bot » Oolon's Blog

  61. Pingback: Tom and Tim » Butterflies and Wheels

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