Stephanie Zvan’s lie machine in action

Yesterday, I authored a piece concerning PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson publicly broadcasting that if I were to approach them at Women in Secularism 2 (WIS2) — a conference I will soon be attending thanks to gracious donors — they would report me to conference organizers and have me expelled from the conference. I explained that a false threat narrative about me has been cultivated — that I am a bad, dangerous, and violent man who should be feared — and this is being capitalized on by some who wish to see me banned or ejected from the conference.

Today, Stephanie Zvan — a blogger on Freethought Blogs and a speaker at Women in Secularism 2 — added her voice to the discussion with a post titled “I did what now? The lie machine in action” in which she asserts that I have been “whining that CFI’s policy on hostile conduct protects its conference attendees freedom to associate with each other without having that associaion [sic] disrupted by hostile elements.” I have done nothing of the sort, but rather responded to declarations and the false threat narrative constructed by PZ and Ophelia. I also noted that PZ or Ophelia may, of course, may wish to have no contact with me, but it is impermissible to hang a conduct policy over my head – abusing it to fit their own whims and threatening to have me ejected from the conference if I merely “approach” either of them.

Zvan, continuing her blog post, writes that she has a “game plan” (which does not include talking to me) at the conference and notes that speakers and people who want the conference to be a success are “upset” about my attendance at Women in Secularism 2. She also mentions that she sent a 4-and-a-half page letter with 11 PDFs to the CEO of the Center for Inquiry – the organization hosting WIS2. The letter notes, in quite an exaggerated manner, notes that she will have a “much less productive conference” and that there is “no upside” for her if I attend the conference. Zvan also believes that everything she says and does at the conference will be “observed and reported on by a hostile party” and that there is a “not insubstantial chance” that she will “engage in the reporting process for hostile behavior.”

The unjustified threat narrative continues. Why did Zvan author a 4.5 page letter with 11 PDFs about me and send it to the Center For Inquiry? Is this really, as she says, not an attempt to have me banned or ejected from the conference? What does she think I am going to do at the conference which will warrant an official complaint to conference staff? It is complete nonsense. Stephanie Zvan paints herself as a damsel in distress (although, I am told, this is contrary to feminism) and seems to believe that the conference staff should bend to her whims and desires. It will be a much less productive conference if I am there? There is no upside for her? Give me a break. The conference is not about her and is open to the public. I have registered. My registration has been approved by conference staff. I will be attending.

There will be no “hostile behavior.” I am not a “hostile party.” If anything, Stephanie Zvan, PZ Myers, and Ophelia Benson are “hostile parties” who are constructing an unjustified threat narrative and creating a climate of fear for me — a conference attendee who seeks to enjoy the conference and report on the activities of WIS2 — and other attendees who may disagree with their viewpoints. They are abusing conference policies to fit their personal desires and intimidate.

The unwillingness of Benson and Myers — perhaps also Zvan — to have a face-to-face conversation with me is quite telling of their dogmatic nature and intellectual dishonesty. They relish smearing me on their blogs, launching personal attacks against me, and even contributing to efforts to get me fired from leadership positions with secular organizations…but I am the ‘stalker,’ ‘harasser,’ ‘bully,’ and ‘hostile party’ in their books. They all want the attention and benefits from being writers, public figures, and speakers, but when dissent rears its head all bets are off.As #bravehero Caias Ward says, it is ‘bravery of being out of range’ from people who want to have a pass on their ideas being challenged:

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Zvan, Benson, and Myers betray what I think is a fundamental aspect of the wider ‘rationalist community’ – to display willingness to engage with dissenters and discuss ideas without resorting to personal attacks and character assassination. They are really no better than purveyors of psuedoscience and fundamentalist religious perspectives who wail “I have the right to my own opinion” and “respect my beliefs” or claim offense when discussion happens – effectively ending discussion and removing oneself from rationality.

As Roberts and Wood explain in their book Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology:

One sign of insufficient concern for truth is that when such people are given an opportunity to test their more cherished beliefs, they decline it, or apply it too casually, or offer defenses of the beliefs that are weaker than any that these people would accept in other contexts.

See you at the conference and be sure to tune in to live Women in Secularism 2 reporting from my radio show — Brave Hero Radio — in which all voices are welcome on Friday May 17 at 9:30PM EST, Saturday May 18 at 9:30PM EST, and Sunday May 19 at 12:30 PM EST. Check back, too, if you miss the live episodes.

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.