Second correspondence with Michael Nugent

Michael Nugent has graciously responded to my previous posts “Negative Criticism and the Internet” and “Two answers and questions for Michael Nugent” with “Two questions for Justin Vacula about ‘nasty pushback’ against some feminists online” and, more recently, “Examples of ‘nasty pushback’ against some atheists/feminists on the Internet.” This post will address Nugent’s most recent post and continue our ongoing dialogue.

First, I have to acknowledge Michael Nugent’s openness and civility. He is actually willing to have an ongoing conversation which seems quite genuine and is not making plenty of unreasonable demands (he makes one, I think, but I will get to this later). While doing all of this, Nugent does not seem to assign bad motives to what I present and seems to be quite charitable. This is much unlike some of my detractors who utterly refuse to have conversations although they are happy to heap abuse on me within their websites and elsewhere. Nugent even said he would appear as a guest for a future (not yet scheduled) episode of Brave Hero Radio – the brand new, and quickly popular, program which Karla Porter and I are hosting on Blog Talk Radio.

Nugent did not respond to two questions I posed to him (in response to his two questions) and said he would do so in a future post. Fair enough, it may take some time. I will only, then, be responding to his newest post which has not yet answered my two questions at this moment.

Nugent acknowledges that it can be difficult to ‘draw a line’ concerning whether nasty pushback people experience online is morally justified, so he provides a list of comments — without any links or context — to a forum I post in called the Slymepit (not before providing a trigger warning and a reminder of a trigger warning). Answering to all fifty items Nugent provides, none of them authored by me, and most of them unrecognized by me, would be quite the daunting task; it is simply too much to reasonably expect me to do…so I will take a line from Greta Christina and say I could write an entire novel about what’s wrong with Nugent’s post, but I just don’t have the time. The first comment Nugent lists, though, is explained by the author here.

I’d rather not, anyway, be rebranded as a ‘vacuous shitbag troll’ or a ‘douchebag’ by Stephanie Zvan…which leads me into an important matter largely left out of this discussion I will later discuss. First, though, it may be important to quantify what, exactly, the harm of the comments Nugent provides actually entails.

Youtube user IntegralMath, also known as Justicar, has an interesting comment concerning this matter (watch his video or read the comment) in which he asks for explanation of the harm Nugent talks about. Is there objective harm? Is there a subjective component? If there is no objective harm, and the matter is purely subjective, it seems that one must be a hostage, as IntegralMath notes, to others’ feelings simply because one claims to be offended. [Personally, others’ coarse language doesn’t upset me too much or really at all when it is used in reference to myself. If I were upset by the coarse language, though, I probably would avoid the people using it and the forums in which the language were posted.]

Many people objecting to the coarse language, though, seem to be hunting for the language and intentionally trying to find something to claim offense to. Does this language, I wonder, happen to appear on Freethought Blogs — on the blogs of the writers objecting to it — or individuals’ Facebook accounts or Twitter pages? If commenters are blocked (and we know many are) and if Twitter users are blocked (and we know they are), how are these individuals who object to the language finding the language…and why are they hunting for it? If the language offends them so much, why would they try to find instances of it and complain about how terrible people on the internet — a place we know can be quite nasty — can be?

The language that they complain about, though, as we will see, can be found at Freethought Blogs – but it is not from the people they are complaining about. Instead, the complainers happen to utilze it themselves and engage in tactics similar to their ideological opponents. While Ophelia Benson, for instance, might not use the word ‘cunt,’ she is really no stranger to using diminishing and crude language to describe others while treating others with little or no respect.

I can provide countless examples of the hypocrisy in this piece but, again, that would be too much of an unreasonable daunting task. If you really care to see examples of the Freethought Blogs hypocricy, read the contents of the Slymepit, Franc Hoggle’s blog Grey Lining, or the Phawrongula Wiki [I will also provide more links with specific examples later in this piece]. While I was considering writing this post, the biggest hypocrite and moral grandstander of Freethought Blogs — from my estimation — Ophelia Benson — described my good friend Karla Porter as a ‘thug’ and accused her of harassment while unfairly assigning malicious motives to Karla [see my piece “Blame and Intent” for more charitable ways to look at situations before unfairly assigning blame to others].

Ophelia wrote (emphasis mine),

Karla Porter” – I didn’t mean I thought I’d never seen the name before, I meant who the fuck is she, what does any of this have to do with her, why is she helping Vacula harass me, why is she caling me “Ophie” in that matey-contemptuous way, who is she.

But since she is harassing me alongside Vacula, I’ll point out what a thug she is. It’s my impression that she has some kind of responsible adult job – yet she spends time jeering at a total stranger on social media and in podcasts, and even contemptuously calls her by a diminutive, just to belittle. How very odd.

One should notice that the only reason Ophelia Benson was being called Ophie was because Karla Porter used the name in a satire piece, an episode of ‘As The Atheist World Turns,’ titled “ATAWT: Please Be My Agent Ophie.” While Karla was writing the piece, she didn’t use real full names, but rather only made references to actual people [Notice the characters EB, L Moore, Ophie, and Porter (who isn’t even necessarily Karla)] . People ‘in on the joke,’ then, would easily get it.

But, no, that interpretation is the implausible one on Ophelia’s account and the name ‘Ophie’ is just to “belittle” Ophelia. Ophelia is complaining so much and taking great offense to a shortened version of her name. Give me a break.

* 3/4 update: Karla changed ‘Ophie’ to OB in the satire piece following more complaints from Ophelia…although on 3/5 she blogs about being called ‘Ophie’ and doesn’t acknowledge the change which happened on 3/4. Karla said that the use of ‘Ophie’ was not meant to offend, but Ophelia does not believe Karla.  More is here.

I suppose that if Ophelia Benson can pretend to be a victim and act like the people who treat her poorly come out of nowhere and do so for no good reason even though people explain why they, for instance, post in the Slymepit, her behavior can be justified…and the people who uncritically read her blog (especially those who comment there) excuse or otherwise overlook the constant abuses. The oppressed, since they are such a poor and desperate situation, can respond in kind to the alleged oppressors. All means are justified for the “djihad fi sabil Allah.”

The harsh language directed at Karla and I is really nothing new as can be seen here. Ophelia Benson, who demands people treat her with respect, is totally fine with calling us ‘dishonest,’ ‘disgraceful,’ ‘not too careful with the truth,’ and ‘dishonest hacks.’ She also believes my offer for her to appear on my podcast (which still stands, now moved to my new radio show) was a “calculated insult.” She’s also just fine calling me an asshole. How can she possibly demand respect from others, and expect to be treated with respect, when she is so disrespectful?

Ophelia continually laments the treatment she receives online (objecting to ‘bad names,’ people making fun of her, and most recently shortening of her name) and protests with battle cries of “the bullying should stop” while she, herself, engages in bullying behavior. She has no moral high ground and is simply grandstanding. She appears to be doing nothing to stop the treatment she receives and continues to engage with the dissenters she allegedly detests so much – only adding fuel to the fire. Just like prayer, Ophelia’s efforts at stopping bullying by telling people to stop bullying fail. It seems easy for her to do nothing and pretend like she is doing something. Further, when people start to fight back (read: respond via internet communications) against Ophelia or her friends, all bets are off. Don’t try to convince me with messages from God. You accuse us of sins committed by yourselves.

Benson is really no better than Bucky Bumpers — the leader of Bucky Bailey’s Bully Buckers (TM) — from the South Park “Butterballs” (read the Wikipedia decription and watch the full episode to have a better picture). Below is a short clip from the episode:

Ophelia talks so much about how horrible bullying is (and how frequent it is), yet engages in bullying behavior while being completely unaware of her bullying behavior. Further, she and her friends demand people ‘take a stand against bullying’ and believe that this will somehow make the problem disappear. Those who refuse to ‘take a stand against bullying’ or happen to even merely associate with people who are the alleged bullies are, on Ophelia’s account, either bullies or complicit to bullying behavior. Guilt by association – quite the mark of sloppy thinking. You’re with us or against us! Those who oppose the Patriot Act are not patriotic.

…but guilt by association only applies to Ophelia’s ideological opponents. Nevermind, of course, the frequent vitriol posted in the comment sections of Freethought Blogs – much of it on Ophelia’s posts. Like Nugent, I can list many examples of morally unjustified behavior and ‘bad language’ directly from the people who demand civility of others (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6). Unlike Nugent, I won’t ask him to justify anything others happen to write, but rather will ask him to acknowledge that this behavior exists from the people who are complaining about it.

Might there be a ‘false equivalence’ between the Slymepit and Freethought Blogs? I don’t know. I don’t care. It is besides the point. …but only Ophelia and her friends will deny that they are partially responsible for the ongoing in-fighting in the online atheist/skeptic community. Can anyone reasonably deny that Ophelia Benson and her friends are not at all responsible for the in-fighting? I think not.

I really would like the in-fighting to stop. I would really like for Freethought Blogs and the Slymepit to tone it down. There have even been debates about this in the Slymepit (!), but this doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon. If people from the Slymepit, for instance, do not respond to what they perceive to be the bullying coming from Freethought Blogs, the perceived bullying will go unchecked and get worse. Silence, some believe, is not an option. Perhaps the same sentiment comes from authors at Freethought Blogs – that they cannot be silent about what they perceive as bullying? Regardless, I think all of us, regardless of ‘side,’ can treat others more respectfully…but it will probably not happen. I will, though, do my part and keep it civil. I might have a snide comment here and there, but, as far as I can remember, I am not using vicious language or engaging in any alleged harassment (although some think otherwise and will probably consider this post to be more examples of harassment, no doubt).

Why does it rain, rain, rain down on utopia?

I await, then, Nugent’s next piece which will address the following two questions:

Do you believe people have any legitimate grievances against the behavior of feminists in the atheist community? Consider some individuals whom many believe were unfairly maligned — dubbed ‘witches of the week‘ — such as Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Ben Radford, and Sara Mayhew.

People accuse popular feminist bloggers in the atheist community of shaming, blaming, defaming, and participating in ‘call-out culture.’ Do you believe that these claims have merit? Can you find fault with this perceived approach and understand why people are angry?

Please leave your comments below!

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia.

He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events.

Vacula received bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County’s Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher’s assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.

  • Good on both of you for coming to the table!

    I know this isn’t necessarily what you’re trying to do, but at some point I’d love to see a few specific propositions (unrelated to prior personal grievances) that the two sides can actually disagree upon and debate about, e.g. X is true / no it isn’t.

    • TheDevilsTowelboy

      Debate on a level playing field for the FTB/Skepchick crowd is like garlic to vampires. Sorry for the oft repeated cliche, but it is essentially true.

  • Kevin Solway


    There is no “in-fighting”, unless you mean that some things in nature are opposed to other things in nature.

  • athyco

    Nugent acknowledges that it can be difficult to
    ‘draw a line’ concerning whether nasty pushback people experience online is morally justified….


    If there is no objective harm, and the matter is purely subjective, it seems that one must be a hostage, as IntegralMath notes, to others’ feelings simply because one claims to be offended.

    Yes, you think that as evidenced by your prior posts. Obviously IntegralMath thinks that as you link to him. But who’s holding you hostage, where, and how?

    You’ve told me that you find it “petty” of me to respond to your posts in a certain way. That’s purely subjective; it means you’re displeased. But sorry, Vacula, your displeasure ain’t holding me hostage. Really…why are you using that term? Where does “freedom of speech” mean that feelings are off-limits in public discussion because they’re not objective? Should we tell Lee Moore he can’t have peace talks because he wants “civil” discourse, and “civil” is purely subjective and would hold people hostage? Shall we tell him that it is difficult to ‘draw a line’ so that this is deemed civil while that is not?

    IMO (which also means subjective, just like your opinions), that’s downright silly.

    • You can respond how you’d like; I am not holding you hostage by any means. I might just not respond, though, depending on how you post. Say what you want about writing style, I really don’t care (although it is quite annoying to read and has little to do with the post itself). Indeed my claim that your response is petty was subjective.

      • athyco

        You’ve said it. You’re not holding me “hostage” by your subjective claim. I can respond how I like; you can respond how you like. You can even add “annoying” to “petty.”

        So, it seems that you and I agree. It’s downright silly to claim that someone else is holding you “hostage” simply because they claim to feel offended.

        • But in some cases, there are instances of hostage holding. I’m not telling you not to post, but if I did that while claiming offense and dismissing or banning yu because of my offense…

          • athyco

            That’s still not hostage holding. If you tell me not to post, even if you want to claim offense/dismiss/ban me, I’m not stuck here silent, unable to go anywhere else.

            If I am offended by your claim of offense/dismissal/banning, I can take it elsewhere. Even if I decide that I’m not going to post on anything produced by you–your Facebook page, your Twitter–I can produce content in places that I have a reasonable expectation that you’ll see it.

            Under those circumstances, you’ll have to provide specifics for your continued use of the term “hostage holding.”

  • athyco

    If people from the Slymepit, for instance, do not respond to what they perceive to be the bullying coming from Freethought Blogs, the perceived bullying will go unchecked and get worse. Silence, some believe, is not an option. Perhaps the same sentiment comes from authors at Freethought Blogs – that they cannot be silent about what they perceive as bullying?

    There is evidence out there rather than “if” and “what they perceive” and “some believe” and yes, “perhaps.”

    For example, one argument from the Slymepit is that they are being unfairly lumped together. Is it the case that those who do not “poke the bear” (a Rocko2466 phrase), still DO get called those things in other areas of the social media–blogs, and YouTube and Twitter and tumblr and Facebook and Googleplus–out of the blue? Can such evidence be produced?

    The argument from FTB, Skepchick, A+ that the “perceived bullying” will not go unchecked is one that you can check from personal experience, if you would take the steps to do so. After your contretemps with Surly Amy ended with her dropping the DMCA, what happened? You can make two columns: what Justin Vacula publicly wrote/said about Amy Roth and what Amy Roth publicly wrote/said about Justin Vacula between October 2012 and now. What are the results?

  • athyco

    [Notice the characters EB, L Moore, Ophie, and Porter (who isn’t even necessarily Karla)].

    Do you notice that of all the characters, only one is given a diminutive misspelling of the name? The others are minimized to actual initials or surname. Why not OB or Benson (same number of letters as Porter)? If it takes people in the know to get the joke, those same people in the know would recognize the abbreviations that fall in line with the others.

    • I’m running back over there right now to change my name to Karlie as Ophelia suggested and changing her to OB. However – I know it won’t make a difference at all. It’s like the white glove test on a clean floor… some people are not happy unless they find dust. Me? I’m just happy.

      • athyco

        Thank you, Ms. Porter. Having lurked at the Slymepit before registering to comment, as you said on Brave Hero Radio, you’ve probably seen that several uncharitable nicknames for Ophelia have been used. The context of some of them are humor; the context for others is insult. Changing her name on your satirical piece of her will be evidence that you haven’t a desire to associate your usage with the latter.

        The OB reminds me. Have you heard about the gynecologist, Dr. Kenneth Jones, who bought a WWII bomber at a government auction? The sale and buyer was listed: Ol’ B-1 – Ken/OB

        • You are most welcome Athyco. As you saw, I have positions my first and last names as diminutive. It doesn’t irk me in the least. After more than 10 years of living in Latin America where use of diminutives is a sign of affection I have nothing whatsoever against them. Some people just don’t get it. to be quite frank, I had considered OB and because it is a brand of tampon I stayed away from it because I thought it could be taken not to mean her initials. Can’t win for losing sometimes =) Your joke is cute!

  • athyco

    I await, then, Nugent’s next piece which will address the following two questions:

    No, you misread Michael Nugent. His next post will address (probably) how you missed the mark in addressing his second question. Then his third post will answer your two questions.

    • Fair enough. We will see which order the posts come in.

  • “but only Ophelia and her friends will deny that they are partially responsible for the ongoing in-fighting in the online atheist/skeptic community” and “I am not using vicious language or engaging in any alleged harassment”

    Do you not see how this reads to people who think of you as one of those who harass? Or how the #bravehero hashtag – with its constant allusion to standing up to oppression – sets a tone that’s anything but conducive to civil discourse? Wall off the issue of whether the insult is legitimate or not (or whether it’s intended or not) if you like, but it’s nevertheless experienced, and results in perpetuating these antagonisms.

    We’ll differ on how justified the offense is. I think it’s more legitimate than you seem to, and the people who say they are victims of abuse might say it’s more legitimate than I think it is. But forget history for a moment, and the various incidents that started all this. Think about where we are now, and whether you can perhaps make exactly the same points – regardless of their merit, which can also be walled off – without using devices (the hashtag & the pineapple being the recent examples) that seem designed to do little more but taunt?

    What substantive value do they add? And again, even if you think the offense is unnecessary, it’s still hurtful. If you want to persuade people that it shouldn’t hurt them, fine – but they’re not listening to you, or have no reason to, if you tell them those things using additional instances of what they consider hurtful.

    • “Do you not see how this reads to people who think of you as one of those
      who harass? Or how the #bravehero hashtag – with its constant allusion
      to standing up to oppression – sets a tone that’s anything but conducive
      to civil discourse?”

      Anyone who has attempted to hold a conductive discourse with someone like Ophelia, whilst also holding dissenting views, knows that “civil” is not on Ophelia’s agenda. The best way to respond to that is with satire. And, you know, it’s working.

      • Again, even if that were true (which it isn’t, if I’m allowed to include myself in your “anyone”), how does someone else’s incivility merit our own? Perhaps, as you say, because it “works”. But what does that mean? Works to make us feel smug, or virtuous? Works to generate blog hits? And how are we measuring it “working”?

        • Hopefully this ongoing discussion with Michael should do some good at ‘working’ …and by working I mean reaching toward understanding and hopefully a better online community.

          • An Ardent Skeptic

            I don’t see this as working based on the comments on Michael’s post and, unfortunately, your response to Michael’s post. It’s just the same old mudslinging and finger pointing. It isn’t a pretty sight.

            You need to discuss this at a higher level (like Jacques has done) to prove that you are, indeed, interested in conflict resolution and working towards a more positive and constructive dialog about the many issues which have been raised throughout this debacle.

            What’s the goal in all of this discussion? You said, “reaching toward understanding and a better online community”. Understanding what? And a better online community in what way? State what you want specifically, and make some proposals as to how you feel those goals can be achieved.

          • What do you suggest as a specific, tangible goal or method by while to improve the online community?

          • An Ardent Skeptic

            You claimed that you wanted to make a better online community so it’s up to you to decide how that might be done.

            If it’s what you want, I would strongly suggest that it start in your own little corner of the internet world. Engage by writing blogposts which discuss the issues which have arisen during the debate about sexism and misogyny, rather than point fingers at people you consider to be bad players. There are plenty of issues to choose from. Shall I start a list for you?

            1) The claim has been made that bad behavior at conferences is by heterosexual men who harass women because of the underlying problem of sexism and misogyny in the atheist and skeptic communities. This is keeping women away from conferences. Is it only heterosexual men who engage in harassing and inappropriate behavior? (In case you don’t know, the answer to that question is “no”. I have witnessed women engaging in inappropriate behavior at conferences. And, both men and women have stated that they have received unwanted attention from women including unwanted physical contact.)

            2) Since the answer to question 1 is “no”, are we correct to make the assertion that it is sexism and misogyny that motivates heterosexual men to behave inappropriately rather than make the lesser claim that in social situations some people behave badly?

            3) Is the almost exclusively negative messaging, coming from those claiming to be fighting against sexism and misogyny, a productive and constructive means of solving the problem of bad behavior online and at conferences?

            4) Is it empowering to women to continue a narrative which implies that women need to be treated like victims who are incapable of knowing their strengths and weaknesses, and behaving in a way which plays to their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.

            Example 1: The claim that some women would have had a panic attack if they had been invited for coffee in an elevator in Dublin at 4am while alone with a man. Let’s dissect this claim:

            Women who are prone to panic attacks hang out drinking in bars in foreign countries until 4AM, and then wander off alone to their hotel room (for which taking the elevator is necessary). Really? Are women who are prone to panic attacks incapable of knowing what sets them off and, therefore, incapable of minimizing the risk of having such attacks? Is that claim empowering to women, or is it an insult to women because it is, in essence, stating that women don’t know what they can handle and aren’t good problem solvers? After all, it’s a pretty simple problem to solve.

            Example 2: We need harassment policies so women will feel safe at conferences. Let’s dissect that claim:

            Is it empowering to women to assume that they are incapable of setting boundaries when it comes to appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and making it clear what those boundaries are? Is it empowering to women to assume that they don’t know how to handle a grievance unless the procedure is clearly spelled out in a policy? Is it empowering to women to hand them a policy which states that bad behavior isn’t condone, but which can’t actually prevent bad behavior? Do we really think that women are so stupid that a written policy will make them FEEL safe?

            5) Is the Slymepit a true representation of the skeptic and atheist communities, and an indication of the behavior women should expect if they attend atheist and skeptic events?

            6) What’s the difference between “hitting on” and “flirting”? Rebecca and others have stated that they don’t mind flirting but, apparently, they don’t want to be “hit on”. How do we define these terms in such a way that people will know whether they’re flirting, or if they have crossed the line to hitting on?

            7) Is it appropriate to attend conferences under a pseudonym to maintain anonymity? Should this be allowed?

            8) Is it appropriate to write blogposts which result in public shaming of individuals before providing those individuals the opportunity to address grievances in a constructive manner?

            9) What is a hyperskeptic?

            Make your own list, Justin. Then discuss the issues, rather than pointing fingers at those you think are behaving badly.

          • I agree that definitions are vital. Reading a draft of the anti-harrassment policy I found these to be lacking, but did not get far in trying to establish these before the mud began to fly. My first – and last – visit to FtB and an attempt to discuss these issues with a supposedly rational community. My first comment no 42.

          • These are damn good questions, too.

        • I can assure you that it is true. And personally, I have not responded in kind, but simply disengaged as it is clear no rational discourse can be had with Ophelia on some things It’s also clear that some people like the rough and tumble of such exchanges and I would include Ophelia in this number [judging by actions not words – always a good tell! but what I see on Slymepit is overwhelmingly satirical and not spiteful.

          By working I mean who is looking more rational and measured. As a person who wants to discuss tricky things rationally, I’d chose to do so with the ‘Pitters.

    • I’m attempting to add some humour to the conversation. I think we take ourselves way too seriously sometimes. Karla Porter, for instance, released a satire piece and, in response, a commenter released a satire piece with the same characters in a different light. I don’t get upset about these things and actually had a good laugh. I’m all for civil discourse with Ophelia, but so many of the conversations she initiates seem quite hostile. I invited her on my podcast. She wants nothing to do with it. I invited her on my radio show. She wants nothing to do with it. I might be snarky here and there, but I tend to keep it civil. Satire and ridicule are not my two main approaches – I tend to mostly discuss ideas and strength of arguments.

      • athyco

        You’ve not added any humor. Ms. Porter wrote a satirical piece, but we all know that satire doesn’t have to be humorous, only to point out something that the author thinks should be changed. (Actually, I think the closer to reality the satire can come to the larger issues rather than giggling over some nitpicky detail, the more likely it is to be effective.) The followup script in the comments was pointing out such things, too, and added information to make the claimed previous interactions something that could be looked up, not inventions for the sake of advancing an evaluation.

        After all the “invites” you’ve given Ophelia, you’ve finally come to a correct conclusion (with perhaps an error in pronoun choice): she wants nothing to do with it/you. If you keep repeating the invites, you become the child in the backseat whining, “Are we there yet?”

        I invite you to take the advice of Jennifer Hancock (to whose work you linked in Twitter) and turn your frustration into compassion. Those who annoy you are the drivers of their own lives, no matter your opinion of them. You would, I’m sure, be happier not whining in the backseat but focused on your own road. Jennifer Hancock’s work, after all, does focus on dealing with challenges through self-control rather than the fear-based idea that one protects oneself by controlling others. For example, advice directed toward a specified set of other people doesn’t fall under the heading of “self-control.” Nor does requiring venues not determined in prior agreement to be neutral. Go ahead, take advice from your friend Ms. Porter as well.

        Me? I’m just happy. Here you go, have at it. Now who is diminutive? Who cares?

    • Jacques – Our guests are brave heroes for calling in and publicly speaking out about topics that are difficult to discuss in their lives in regard to their philosophical life views, how they are perceived by others and living as skeptics and atheists in a world of believers. There are a variety of topics planned for discussion. I hope you’ll listen and call in.

      • Name change suggestion, then: Brave Heroes, not Brave Hero.

        And just to make it perfectly clear, a logo of a montage of people in all their diversity, being heroes. Or, simpler, no specific heroes highlighted. Or, cuter, a friendly animal hero mascot like Firefox’s mascot. (Foxy? Sparky? Couldn’t find the name in less than 5 minutes, strangely) Have a contest to propose a a hero symbol/mascot. Have another to design it. Have another to name it. Go wild, have fun, make it a community thing.

        • athyco

          They have a featureless, rounded cartoon guy, no hands or feet, in a Superman-flying pose, an arm outstretched to the right to point the way. He has #Brave Hero on his body. And, contrary to Edna “E” Mode’s vehement objection in The Incredibles, he’s wearing a cape.

    • Good questions. I think some of them have good answers myself (not speaking for Justin, of course!), but I just wanted to say that these are definitely good questions that add to the discussion.

  • In the first episode of your podcast, Moore said something interesting. He said that there had been very little interest on the side of the FtBullies in coming together for any sort of “peace talks” (my term, not his). He went out of his way to suggest that there had been interest and a willingness to sit down on the other side but not so much on theirs. Reconciliation is unlikely when one side does not support it.

    • blondein_tokyo

      I wonder, why should the “Ft Bullies” support reconciliation at all? Personally, when I get into spats with people online who are, in my view, being utterly unreasonable and/or harassing me, I simply ignore them. I may try to talk once or twice in good faith, but after that….I just de-friend them/delete their address/delete the bookmark to their site. I hope this bouhaha dies down and these two just simply stop taking to each other. There’s hardly any point in reconciliation when the two sides are so far apart in their positions that they can’t possibly come to an agreement. Who cares, anyway, if two prominent atheists don’t get along? Who says everyone has to get along? They ought to just ignore each other and get on with life.

      • That is certainly a valid point. It is not always necessary that everyone get along. Maybe it is time for the groups to go their separate ways. I’m not sure the various groups will ever be content to truly ignore each other, but ending the attacks and attempts and provocation might be a positive step.

  • Vanda

    “The first comment Nugent lists, though, is explained by the author here.”
    I’m sure Nugent will understand now. Backed up with a picture of a giant vagina on a bike as Ophelia Benson, that’s one strong argument.

  • Beth

    I don’t think that context is necessary, at least for some of the comments listed. What moral justification can there be for comments like: “If I was a girl I would kick [named person] in
    the cunt.” and : “I’d just call her a poison-cunt if it was me. How’s that bigotry you fucking retard
    mutant?” And yes, I read the link regarding the first example. It provided context, but
    there was no attempt at a moral justification for making the statement.

    So, if you think comments like these can be morally justified, what would that justification be? What
    context would make them morally justified.

    • This is black humour to me. Humans use this kind of humour to explore the space between the sacred and the profane (after Rosanne Barr). Is black – or gallows humour immoral? Context is essential.

      • athyco

        Black humour, says the Britannical Online Encyclopædia, is

        writing that juxtaposes morbid or ghastly elements with comical ones
        that underscore the senselessness or futility of life. Black humour
        often uses farce and low comedy to make clear that individuals are
        helpless victims of fate and character.

        I don’t get it then. What’s morbid or ghastly about PZ’s head photoshopped onto a male body that’s wearing a diaper and tassels hanging from his nipples? What’s morbid or ghastly about “poison cunt”? Is the slymepit comedy (although admittedly farce and low comedy) attempting to make clear that individuals are helpless victims of fate and character? Not only does the definition not match the examples, that can’t be right with all the demands that some be responsible for their own actions/feelings while the others decide which actions/feelings are wrong enough to merit an attack like that photoshop or “poison cunt” (that cannot possibly have anything to do with the prior ideas/words the “poison cunt” speaker finds so wrong).

        Where’s the lack of belief in “fate” that goes along with the lack of belief in gods? Where’s the humanism and equality that’s been touted as the replacement for the feminism denounced so fiercely?

        • Beth wasn’t talking about a photoshopped PZ, neither was I. I didn’t just say black humour, nor was I being especially literal, so invoking dictionary definitions to selective bits of text isn’t going to help us understand one another. I also said dark, gallows humour. I also mentioned the link between the sacred and profane. Add dry in there. Vulgar too. Shakespeare wasn’t above a bit of vulgar farce and low comedy, so it’s hardly an insult.

          Maybe the ‘Pitter’s use un-pc language precisely because it’s an antidote to the politically correct fluke that’s stifled rational debate on FtB? Because it represents the right to offend enshrined in liberal democracy?

          • athyco

            It makes little difference now hereabouts. A lack of engaged direct response led to other voices/sites being more useful. Plenty of things are still acrimonious, but others have been hashed out. There have been apologies, and the parties to them have squashed or blocked jabbing comments that tried to start that particular cycle back up again.

            So no, I don’t agree that it’s as binary as poison/antidote. It wasn’t the un-pc language that led to the understandings and the apologies. It was talking about specific actions/words/ideas, not personalities. It was also in part due to the understanding–after the latest nude photoshop on the ‘pit–that multitudes of positive content–500 to 600 things according to Karla Porter (on the Brave Hero interview with Jen Hancock, author of The Bully Vaccine–is needed to push down the negative that folks can find in the easiest ways online. It might also be that more people are wondering if they’ve narrowed themselves by this focus on their “rights” into ignoring humanism (even if they think feminism has no place in that) for the sake of skepticism rather than melding the two productively.

        • And I also see a lot of humanism and equality in the Pit.

          • athyco

            No one says you can’t, just as no one says it’s out of bounds to disagree. I do. I’ll run the risk of quoting an outside source again: (International Humanist and Ethical Union, bylaw 5.1):

            Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

            I’d say that the ‘pit and the FtB “crowd” both agree with that statement. They are 100% on the third sentence. I’d say that the ‘pit values the first sentence (with the repetition of the italicized material) over the second while the FtB “crowd” values the second over the first.

          • I can’t speak for anyone else but my impression is that people in the ‘pit wouldn’t disagree with any of those points. Where they place them in terms of precedence is merely a matter of timing. I have personally found FtB’s to be overzealous in their interpretation of what is morally acceptable – to the point where it stymies debate. There is a definite ‘party line’ which has a radical feminist flavour – and I’m not a radical feminist. I’m sceptical of radical feminist premises. I think they place feminism itself above the women its supposed to be representing. That kind of talk – that kind of exploration – ironically – isn’t tolerated over on FtB’s.

  • Wil Kuhlmann

    I am even finding people in the atheist community that are not in favor of these some what well known feminist are tip toeing around them, and not putting it out there for fear of over stepping political correctness and current day policiy .

    • athyco

      I am even finding people in the atheist community that are not in favor of these somewhat well-known people against these somewhat well-known feminists who are tip-toeing around them and not putting it out there for fear of [add appropriate catchphrases here].

      “The lurkers support you in email” is not an argument.
      Buzz words are not an argument.

      • Wil Kuhlmann

        That made no sense what so ever.

        • athyco

          None whatsoever? There’s just one piece added to your work.

          You say unnamed disapproving people in a community are tip-toeing around outspoken Group A.

          You give catchphrase reasons for the unnamed people tip-toeing around outspoken Group A.

          I simply add Group B–who are just as outspoken against Group A–and say that unnamed disapproving people in the community are tip-toeing around them instead.

          My point about Group B is unsupported by conjuring unnamed people. It is unsupported by using lazy but loaded terms (like “political correctness.”) Your point about Group A is unsupported for the same reasons.

          • Wil Kuhlmann

            Holly shit, you sound like some old cougar on a Couger Cruise that can’t get laid because you are so nit picky no one can say shit with out you having Menapausal moment.

          • athyco

            Noted for all due consideration.

  • Justin don’t forget everything Stef McGraw had to go through just for questioning Watson’s tantrum (she even had her posts deleted!).

    By the way, what do you think Nugent have to say about these examples (list of bullying and hypocrisy from femtheists: ) ? Should we find out?