Notes and Comment Blog

Boundaries that parents and parental figures must respect

Feb 11th, 2014 9:32 am | By

Jessica Valenti says why it matters how we treat claims about sexual abuse.

I’ve never watched a Woody Allen movie. My parents refused to rent them after he began a “relationship” with Soon-Yi Previn and their explanation stuck with me through adulthood. I was around 13 years old at the time, and always looking to pick a fight—I asked why it mattered since Previn wasn’t his “real” daughter. My parents sat me down and talked about the responsibility adults have to children, and certain boundaries that parents and parental figures must respect.

It’s more than a little sickening how that got normalized over the past couple of decades. The guy married someone he’d been in a semi-paternal relation to, no matter how much he says he didn’t interact with Mia’s children. She was on a tiny list of women who were simply off limits to him.

As I grew older—as I had teachers come on to me as a teen, as I experienced the way grown men get away with sexualizing girls—I understood the significance of what my parents told me. Today, as an adult, I know that when we make excuses for particular, powerful men who hurt women, we make the world more comfortable for all abusers. And that this cultural cognitive dissonance around sexual assault and abuse is building a safety net for perpetrators that we should all be ashamed of.

There’s another thing we do when we make excuses for particular, powerful men who hurt women, besides making things nicer for the powerful men. We also make the world less comfortable for women. We tell women – all women – that women just don’t matter as much as powerful men. We tell women that we’ll throw them overboard in order to hang on to the favors of the powerful men. Mr Big groped you? Well that’s sad for you, but shut up, because we want him to speak at our next event, and frankly we don’t give a fuck about you.

We know that abusers are manipulative, often charismatic, and that they hide their crimes well.

Well yes, and we also know that that’s why they’re powerful, that’s why they make good speakers for our events, that’s why they pull in the start-struck crowds, and that’s why we’re not going to hold them accountable. We like them and we don’t like you, their victims, so just shut up and go away, or we’ll trash you in every newspaper and blog in the land.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Let my pastafarians go

Feb 10th, 2014 6:01 pm | By

Rory Fenton, President of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies in the UK and Ireland, responds to the nonsense at Southbank University.

Students’ unions have a duty to protect the rights of their students, not their students’ beliefs. As President of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, I’ve seen a 2013-14 academic year in which this principle has been too often forgotten. 

It’s as if there’s a nonsense pill that students have been taking.

South Bank’s Atheist Society are no stranger to hostility from their students’ union. When they were formed last year and affiliated to their union, they were accepted only on the condition that they didn’t criticise religion or hold debates with religious groups, which is as absurd as telling the Socialist Society to steer clear of critiquing capitalism. Despite hopes that a new academic year would bring a more reasonable union committee, the group has faced constant opposition. Since the start of their first term, they have seen their posters torn down and stamped on the day they are put up, including posters simply showing Brian Griffin, Family Guy‘s atheist talking dog. I attended a meeting last term at which their union accused them of picking on Christians for a poster stating, “We may not be able to turn water into wine but we do like wine, join us in the bar next Thursday”.

Hmm. Was Southbank University a bible college until a couple of weeks ago? That might explain it.

The ultimate irony of these attacks on free speech is that they so often only give a louder voice to their targets. The LSE Union’s attempt at censoring students’ t-shirts lead to those same students being invited onto the BBC’s Big Questions, wearing those same t-shirts. South Bank’s Atheist Society’s pasta posters are now on blogs right across the country.

Oh yes, thank you for the reminder!

Noodly appendage to you too.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Because the rice worshipers will be upset?

Feb 10th, 2014 5:52 pm | By

The Student Union at Southbank University has removed a poster removed from an AHS stall at (yes this again) a freshers’ fair, on the grounds of (yes this again) “religious offense.” The poster was of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The SA displayed the well known image of the FSM on their pre-prepared stall the day before the freshers fair this week but when they returned to the stall the following day found that the posters had been removed. When they went to print some more to replace the missing posters they were stopped by union representatives who said that the posters had been deemed offensive and that it was the union that had removed them. The image parodied the Sistine Chapel painting of God poking Adam. The initial justification was that the posters show Adam’s genitals but when Cloe Ansari, Southbank Atheists President, offered to censor them, they then said the problem was religious offence, because the image was based on religious art. The next day their stall had been replaced with that of another society.

What the hell is wrong with students in the UK?

AHS President Rory Fenton said, “This is beyond parody and it is not the first time one of our groups have had similar problems with Southbank University, who were last year told not to criticise religion. We are very concerned by the tendency to censor our member societies for fear of offending religious sensitivities by overly zealous union representatives. Universities need again to be reminded to recognise our members’ right to free speech: the same rights that also ensure freedom of expression for religious students, adherents to the Flying Spaghetti Monster included. Universities must recognise that their duty is to their students, not their students’ beliefs”

Southbank University Atheist Society President Cloe Ansari said, “I felt harassed and intimidated – it was not aimed at protecting other students from harm, but rather an attempt to sideline and restrict our rights; perhaps perceived as the easier option rather than standing up to the (much bigger than us) “religious societies”. Rather than included, we have been made to feel as an unwelcome minority of secularists”.

It’s grotesque.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It can, and must, be fixed

Feb 10th, 2014 5:35 pm | By

Abhishek Phadnis reams the publishers and media outlets who refused to publish the Jesus and Mo cartoon that Maajid tweeted (and who talked as if they were occupying the moral high ground in the process, which made it all the more disgusting).

The media’s refusal to show the cartoon has elevated this ancient superstition into a masochistic national fetish, emboldening professional victims and censorious grievance-peddlers at the expense of inoffensive satirists. It has robbed the cartoonist of the presumption of innocence, by feeding insidiously into the notion among the uninitiated that the cartoon really must be beyond the pale if no outlet will show it. As Flemming Rose, the publisher of the Danish cartoons, lamented to Jytte Klausen, “once people see them, they see that they are not as bad as their reputation would indicate”.

Those of us who have followed the news media’s refusal to show any illustration of Mohammed over the past decade will recall being fobbed off with soothing explanations that the climate is unsuitable, the editorial justification not strong enoughor the content too crude, to publish the images in question. Nine years after the Danish cartoons affair, the Goldilocks moment of this piece is upon us – an utterly innocuous depiction of Mohammed is at the heart of a major news story, at a time when the right to depict it is in question and a nascent school of Islamic thought is defying crude reactionary opposition in urging the media to show the cartoon. If they won’t show it now, they never will.

The Islamist propensity for violent offendedness is the national equivalent of a child’s tantrum in the cereal aisle, not an insuperable law of physics for which every allowance must always be made. It can, and must, be fixed, and if the media won’t support those undertaking this thankless task, the least it can do is admit it’s scared, and stop getting in the way.

Beautifully said.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It’s nearly that day

Feb 10th, 2014 4:56 pm | By

Heh heh heh

H/t Lisa Ridge

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Also I am hearing rumors

Feb 10th, 2014 3:59 pm | By

Huh. I kind of vaguely though that “the atheist community” would be horrified by the DDOS attack on Saturday. Huh. I haven’t seen much of that. (But maybe I’ve missed it. That could be. I don’t see all the things.) I have seen some of the other thing – like for instance accusing us of blaming our “fellow atheists.”

Huh. No we haven’t. Not one person said “it was our fellow atheists who did this!”

But that’s ok, because the way to accuse people of something and not be held accountable for it is to preface your accusation with “I am hearing rumors that.” Then, for extra points, when someone points out that it’s a pack of lies, you say you were rebuking the people spreading the rumors.

So I have heard there has been DDOS attack against several social justice Atheist websites. Also I am hearing rumors that they are blaming other atheists for these attacks. It blows my mind that the first people you would point your finger at would be your fellow atheists when there are hordes of religious people out there who would like nothing more than to either convert you or ruin you. Well done kids.

Yeah, that’s someone rebuking people for spreading rumors that we are blaming other atheists for these attacks. Suuuuuuuuuure it is.

I still like some atheists. But “the community”? No. Too many assholes like that in it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Bowling for abortion access

Feb 10th, 2014 3:39 pm | By

Sarah Moglia is doing a National Abortion Access Bowl-a-thon. (I like typing -a- things.) Her team is Coup de Twat. You can donate RIGHT HERE.

She says you don’t have to be as fancy as she is to support abortion access, so do it!

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Unemployed and homeless, they quickly become prey

Feb 10th, 2014 11:38 am | By

Bill Cooke has an article about humanists helping pregnant teenage girls in Uganda at the CFI blog.

Since 2011 HALEA has been working with a group of girls in the local district it is based in. It began after a survey of its immediate neighborhood found 111 teenage mothers, nearly all out of school and unemployed. Religious superstitions are such in Uganda, that pregnant girls are often thrown out of the family home and suspended from school. Unemployed and homeless, they quickly become prey to unscrupulous relatives or to organised crime.

Faced with a daunting problem in their own back yard, HALEA supporters began by helping those girls willing to return to school. This often meant persuading the school authorities of their legal obligations. And usually, it also meant HALEA taking on the ongoing school expenses on the girls’ behalf. 26 of them returned to their studies. Another 21 were given some basic computer skills and nine undertook other vocational training.

But they’re running out of money, and cutting back on what they do.

In Uganda it costs about US$440 to keep a teenager in vocational training for a year. Overall HALEA has helped 57 girls, but this year the programme is only able to support the ten girls still at school. —  CFI is concerned about this cutback, and will be happy to take donations on HALEA’s behalf for this program, or you can donate directly to the HALEA website.

Bill and Melinda – just down the hill from me – please note.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Why women have to stfu

Feb 10th, 2014 11:08 am | By

Deeply stupid man explains that women can’t do things like talk and give lectures in public because come on, guys, keep it real. Imagine a woman giving you a lecture. Imagine it! Are you going to listen to what she’s saying? Please! You’re not going to look at her as if she’s a wall unless you’re a wall. Amirite?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

More art for your walls

Feb 10th, 2014 10:56 am | By

Forbidden. Not allowed. Right out. Impermissible. Banned. Don’t even think about it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Rot and corruption

Feb 10th, 2014 10:40 am | By

Via PZ, who cites the American Life League, this thing of horror:

Suffering is a grace-filled opportunity to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ. Euthanasia selfishly steals that opportunity.

That is sick. Sick sick sick sick.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

My other toy

Feb 9th, 2014 5:51 pm | By

Oh hahaha I just heard of a car bumper sticker I was unaware of. So I Googled it and yes it exists.

my other toy decals stickers


It’s also a motorcycle helmet sticker.

Here’s the sexy version hahaha

 My Other Toy Has Tits Decal Sticker Car Decal Bumper Sticker

Hilarious, right?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Free and safe

Feb 9th, 2014 3:38 pm | By

That story yesterday about Masood Ahmad, the 72-year-old doctor jailed in Pakistan for reading the Quran while Ahmadiyya? He’s out of prison and safe in the UK.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A new generation of anti-colonial politicized youth

Feb 9th, 2014 12:56 pm | By

More from Maajid Nawaz’s book Radical.

From Chapter 9, “12,000 Muslims Screaming ‘Khilafah‘!” He’s talking about how HT was able to have so much success at Newham college, having won election to all the Student Union posts.

We disguised our political demands behind religion and multiculturalism, and deliberately labeled any objection to our demands as racism. [p 69]

That sums it up right there, doesn’t it. That explains why so much of the left still falls all over itself sucking up to Islamism: it’s because it thinks the only alternative is racism, or at the very least being accused of racism. Maajid goes on to spell that out too.

Even worse, we did this to the very generation who had been socialist sympathizers in their youth, people sympathetic to charges of racism, who like [the student affairs manager] Dave Gomer were now in middle-career management posts. It is no wonder then that the authorities were unprepared to deal with politicized religion as ideological agitation; they felt racist if they tried to stop us. [p 69]

And the cynical shits used that.

The default liberal position was to embrace the movement as part of multicultural sensitivity: to tell people to stop practicing their faith was imperialism in nineties clothing, a colonial hangover bordering on racism. Instead, we were embraced as a new generation of anti-colonial politicized youth. [p 70]

And still are, and still are. As Maajid of course is very well aware.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Even more explanations for why the DDOSers did it

Feb 9th, 2014 12:11 pm | By

Because the guy making these profound arguments is making them because he sees the DDOS attacks on FTB, SC and FF as “an opportunity for constructive dialogue.” On Ed’s page, because Ed just longs for constructive dialogue about why the DDOS on his blog network is totally understandable.

Chapter 3:

Ron B. Rown While I’m still learning about the MRM, from what I’ve come across, I think I would qualify as an MRA. But that doesn’t mean I hate women. I don’t. I’m pro equality, but anti-feminism. I’m anti-feminism because the movement’s equating so many of the evils of the world with maleness (Patriarchy). I reject the feminist culture of scoffing at and ignoring the issues and perspectives of straight white cis-gendered men (“ohh, teh poor menz”; or the privilege card when such a man offers an opinion contrary to that of a given feminist or minoriy group), while simultaneously claiming to be for equality, social justice and pretending to be the ultimate progressive authority on gender issues. I reject what I see as a tremendous amount of groupthink and hostility to dissent among many feminist communities, and the demonization of any dissent as misogyny, ignorant privilege, etc. I reject the perpetual victim culture that is feminism. The hair-trigger oversensitivity of so many feminists to any perceived slight. The culture makes my skin crawl. I don’t think that women don’t need advocacy. There are legitimate women’s issues. I just reject the feminist movement as a particular means of women’s advocacy. I also think that there are many very important men’s human right issues. I think both are important.

Chapter 4:

Ron B. Rown (Sorry for the mini-essays. I just view this as an opportunity for constructive dialogue. Perhaps a silver lining to the unfortunate circumstance of some assholes taking down these websites)

People amaze me.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Motivated by contempt

Feb 9th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

One touchingly sympathetic response to the DDOS attack on FTB, Skepchick, and Feminist Frequency, in a comment on a Facebook post by Ed Brayton.

While I reject ddosing like this, to say that the ppl who disagree with the feminism of ftb, skepchick and ff is bc they want women to be doormats is absolutely ridiculous. I used to respect ppl like pz. I used to self identify as a feminist. I m still an egalitarian. I’m still pro choice, pro gay rights, left leaning, and I still can’t stand macho men and damselish women. But I want no part of this divisive with us or against us uppity atheist plus community.

Followed by

Ed, while I can see where you’re coming from in your assessment, I don’t know that the people were necessarily motivated by hate for women. My guess is that they’re motivated by contempt/hate for FTB, Skepchick and Anita Sarkeesian, and feminism. I now self-identify as an egalitarian anti-feminist. Up until this past summer I identified as a feminist. My values haven’t changed. I just got to learn more about feminist beliefs and culture within feminist circles. And I’ve seen the stunning groupthink of the A+ forums. I’ve seen the divisiveness on FTB (e.g., Richard Carrier’s big call to arms). I’ve seen one hysterical feminist after the next, and the legions of moderate feminists that excuse the vitriolic conduct of their radical peers (serving as the moderates that lend protection to the radicals, a la religion as described by Sam Harris). I’ve seen the one-sidedness of Anita Sarkeesian, feminists, A plussers, etc. So I can see why these DDOSers would want to take the sites down. I absolutely reject the people who did this for doing it. And I’m not denying that there are MRAs that go too far the other way. But I have to say, I get why those who did the DDOS would do what they did – and it need not have anything to do with hating women. I don’t hate women. I called myself a feminist for years. Was raised by a strong single mother and had a loser father. I’m pro-equality, pro-gay rights, pro-choice. Gender stereotypical people annoy me greatly. I’m definitely left of centre. And I reject feminism and am often disgusted by what I see of femnists and the feminist culture. That someone like me can feel this way, I think, says something.

It’s a great line of argument. “I reject murder, but I get why those people murdered you. You’re annoying. Murder is wrong, but I have to say, I get why those who murdered you did what they did.”

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

We apologize for the interruption

Feb 9th, 2014 10:53 am | By

As you may have seen, or figured out, or been told, FTB got hit by a DDOS attack last night. So did Skepchick and Feminist Frequency. Huh; how about that. Funny coincidence.

I’ve seen one or two people gloating about it on Twitter, but I’ve seen more people saying DDOS attacks are unacceptable, period.

Mind you, they’re also against the law.

Deep rifts.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by Bruce Everett: The Good Juror Pose

Feb 9th, 2014 10:41 am | By

Preamble: This essay focuses on a common source of contention in discussions of accusations of rape. It is understood that for some rape survivors, this article will file under “Too Long – Didn’t Read”, purely for reasons of mental health and self-preservation. An obligatory trigger warning also applies.

It is also understood that for many people, a simple “fuck off!” is the best, and a perfectly justifiable, response to what I am calling ‘The “Good Juror” Pose. I’m tentatively offering my prescription to those best able to help, rather than making expectations of those who have been hurt.

I think there is a need, for those in a position to make a difference, for more reflection on what is actually being said, and on where distinctions and demarcations can be made in order to prevent a lot of unnecessary acrimony.


Recent discussions of Woody Allen, and revived accusations levelled against him by Dylan Farrow, have drawn the usual roaches and lice out of the woodwork – specifically, those with an interest in the spoils of providing earnest character references for, and supererogated defences of, the accused.

The presumption of innocence is important for jurors, and for journalists reporting the bare facts of cases like these. This is, however, not so much the case for journalists engaging in meta-analysis, and much less so for the rest of us, especially those discussing rape in informally therapeutic environments.

I wish to suggest that, outside of discussions where jurisprudence and primary reporting of facts is relevant, “belief” and “knowledge” are less relevant than “trust” and consequences. I have more than one Facebook friend who has claimed to have been raped as a child and I trust them when they make these claims.

In fact, unless I’m provided with evidence to the contrary, that a given accusations is a lie or a fabricated memory, or unless I’m in a jury, I’m going to presume the truth of what they are saying. The presumption of innocence for the accused, in the context I’m talking about, is not of consequence, because the accused isn’t on trial, nor are they being excoriated by a populist media (or equivalent).

I’m opting, as much as I can, to withdraw from the language of “belief” and of “knowledge” in public discussions of the experiences of rape victims. If you’re not a juror, nor a frontline journalist (or equivalent), it’s not like the welfare of the Woody Allens of the world hinges on your believing them.

Conversely, it’s more likely that you’ll come into contact with someone who has been raped, who needs and deserves your moral support and trust.


Before I continue, I’ll point out that I don’t – nor should I - expect in discussions of rape that people who have been raped be as exacting about language as I choose to be. With the exception of the discussion of a few related issues that trigger my depression, I’m in a position to make these distinctions with relative ease.

I’m less forgiving of people who haven’t been sexually assaulted, or people who are purportedly professionals, or responsible community leaders, exercising less care with their language, or being uncharitable in interpreting the language of others. Aside from time and patience, nothing is lost by being thoughtful.


So, as I said, I’ve got a Facebook friend – Angie Jackson – who informed her friends that she was raped as a child, and unintentionally courting the sophistry of The Good Juror, in light of all the doubt being poured on Dylan Farrow, innocently asked  by way of status update,  if she herself was believed. Here’s some of what she copped as a result…


“Kids have made up stories of abuse. That is undeniable. Kids have also been brainwashed into believing they were abused by parents (and others) in a custody battle. This too is undeniable. These facts are the reason such claims are investigated and people are not simply put in jail without an investigation, evidence, and trial. I am inclined to neither believe nor doubt any claim based solely on the claim itself. My doubt or acceptance of the claim is based rather on the supporting evidence. Is that really so radical and/or wicked as to elicit such hostility?” – Brian Dalton.

For those not familiar with the name, Brian Dalton is the chief creative force behind the disastrously kitsch series of YouTube videos detailing the tribulations of  his satirical “Mr Deity” character. I caught his talk on his experiences as an ex-Mormon at the Gala Dinner at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, which I found much more interesting than his comedy or scepticism.

It needs pointing out, that despite the mention of “belief”, it was established emphatically prior to Dalton’s comment, that the discussion was not about establishing a guilty verdict, or locking anyone up, or “all those men who get away with rape”, or reaching for the pitchforks. It was at base, and was little more than being, about people’s online relationship with Angie, and that’s it.

All that Dalton’s observations achieved was to point out that it is logically possible for someone to lie, or for people to be brainwashed, but this doesn’t obligate anyone to suspend their trust in Angie. Moreover, these kinds of concerns weren’t even being denied to begin with – Dalton merely pointed out what everybody in attendance already knew.

Forget the courtroom. A setting more analogous to the conversation Dalton injected his opinion into would have you playing the role of a supporting friend or counsellor. Contrary to the Good Juror: as a matter of decision making, while they may be cautious, counsellors don’t suspend their belief in rape allegations.

Dalton may make a Good Juror, but what kind of friend would his red-herring-ridden hectoring make him to people who’ve been sexually assaulted without establishing the fact in court? This isn’t a purely emotive concern – the atheist community has a sizeable subset of people who have left religion owing to sexual abuse, and not all of them have had their day in court. Is Dalton going to talk down to them about the bleeding obvious as well?

Many people in our community can’t avoid making decisions relating to these matters, and a lecture on why people like Dalton don’t “believe or disbelieve” the sexual abuse claims of individuals doesn’t get this decision making done (more on that later).

Dalton continues….


“Angie, I don’t have any reason to doubt your claim. But if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t have any reason to believe your claim either. I don’t know you personally, know your character, background, the specifics or circumstances. For all I know, you were brainwashed by a parent in a custody battle or had some other motive. I don’t know, and that stuff DOES happen. Is it common? No. But we cannot generalize in any specific case based on statistics that represent the whole (it is a common logical fallacy to move from the general to the specific). The fact of the matter is that I have no basis on which to make a judgement one way of the other. I happen to have been intimately involved with a case in which a bay WAS brainwashed into believing that he was molested by an older neighbor child at the age of five by parents who wanted that to be the case because of a dispute with said neighbor boy’s parents. Sadly, I have also seen parents do terrible things to their children during the duress of a divorce/custody battle. And these are people I knew and respected. My only point here is that I don’t jump to conclusions in these cases because the history of the human race is not one of such jumping leading to good things and/or real justice. So let me ask you this: Do you believe that someone accused of abuse should be summarily imprisoned? Or do you believe there should be an investigation and trial? If the former, why?” – Brian Dalton.

Again, keep in mind that it had already been pointed out that the discussion was not about sending people to jail, or custody battles, or about courts at all. The continued hectoring of people who claim to have been raped, with arguments like this, whether you believe their claims or suspend your belief, is more than fair invitation to criticism.

Yes, inferring from the general directly to the specific is a logical fallacy, but what if you make communicating like this with people who claim to have been raped a general policy? Probability comes into play again, and it is probable that if you keep it up, you’re going to be hectoring people who have been raped. Dalton gives no indication that he is singling Angie out for special treatment, so we can be reasonably safe in assuming that this is a general policy for him, even if not on the basis of his past form.


So if people aren’t talking about court battles, and being a Good Juror is beside the point, what is the point?

It’s not enough to simply make the distinction of “trusting” to denote something in a different category than “believing”, without actually having a bit more underlying the distinction. Without that, it’s closer to being a get-out-of-jail-card to be used in awkward situations, than anything else.

At base what I’m talking about when I mention “trust” (and it’s something that’s impossible to avoid) is decision-making, and Bayesian guesstimation. Verdicts, and the matter of believing/knowing them, are matters of hypothesis testing, which is something else.

Opting to give moral support to a friend who makes a rape allegation, may entail consideration of the merits of the accusation, but at base this is an exercise in decision making. Choosing to pick up their kids; make them meals because they’re too depressed to cook; give money to fund legal expenses, all because they claim to have been raped; these are decisions, not hypothesis tests.

The decisions are made on the balance of probability, weighted by the consequences of different choices – and it is not an appeal to consequences fallacy to do so, because again, we’re making choices, not testing hypotheses.

Of course, people (usually MRAs) will complain that one can make inferences about character from people’s decisions, and that this potentially threatens The Good Reputation ™ of the accused. Aside for there being no good reason to self-censor signs of support for someone making a rape allegation, it’s a sign of unchecked privilege when someone claims reputation must necessarily be treated with legalistic precision.

This is because in the first instance, it is literally impossible to consider all matters relevant to reputation in a purely legalistic (or para-legalistic) fashion – only those who can afford to force the point can, and even then not always. Further, it’s far more common than not in our culture for reputation to be managed via decision making; ‘will I employ so-and so?’, ‘do I want to hang out with this person?’, ‘which mechanic will I take my car to?’ – if you can envision these decisions being made without legalistic precision, then you’ve ceded my point.

As far as conventions and organisations in atheist circles go, there’s ‘do I invite this person who has been accused of rape to speak?’ and ‘do I want this person to assume this office?’ This is often the source of an underlying anxiety for public speakers, which in atheist/secular/humanist circles has flared up amongst brattish types in response to harassment policies and claims of sexual harassment.

But this is how reputation is normally addressed and it isn’t going to change any time soon, and to expect better is to expect special treatment. Of course, the usual suspects expect exactly this and as a result, in the atheist community, we have much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the prospective standings of atheist speakers and writers.

Strangely enough, nobody objecting to these ‘witch-hunts’ and ’purges’ by ‘Feminazis/Femistazis’ bother to consider the set of people whose reputation doesn’t allow them to speak at conventions, but who could, and who could do it well if not better than most. Such potential good speakers didn’t earn their lack-lustre reputations, nor did they get such reputations from nowhere, but they don’t deserve their lesser standing any more than at base, the more fortunate deserve theirs.

(And don’t get me started on the contempt towards volunteers, inherent in this sense of entitlement).

Attempts at the preservation of special treatment seem to motivate a lot of The Good Juror pose (and a good deal of nepotism to boot).


While it may also have the potential effect of partitioning public opinion away from a jury, my primary intention is for the trust/belief distinction, and any demarcation that goes with it, to circumvent the involvement of The Good Juror in discussions and decision making where it would be ill-placed. There would of course be push-back from the usual suspects and enablers (even if they didn’t push back against… everything).

Let’s be blunt. Often The Good Juror should know full well that the context into which they are deploying their lectures doesn’t and needn’t involve hypothesis testing to a judicial standard (or hypothesis testing at all). For what it’s worth, I don’t trust that Brian Dalton is oblivious to this at all.

Aside from the blunt-instrument effect you’d expect from Dalton’s lecturing in an irrelevant context about concerns of jurisprudence, there’s a second, more insidious aspect to The Good Juror Pose. Specifically, it hides the process of decision-making that The Good Juror must be undertaking on some other level.

In Dalton’s case, it could be ‘will I choose to make back-handed jokes about rape allegations, or will I opt not to be dismissive’, or ‘will I continue to work side by side with my friend Shermer, or wait until this blows over?’… If you’re cynical about Dalton, you may suspect considerations along the lines of ‘how can I exploit the stress that Michael Shermer is under to my own advantage?’

Again, we are talking decisions, not hypothesis tests, and unless Brian Dalton has no executive function at all, something resembling these considerations  must be occurring in addition to his thoughts about “belief/disbelief”. This is Dalton the decision maker – the Good Juror Pose is just that: a pose; a mask.

When you recognise this, you’ve reached the root question relevant to all such scenarios; ‘by what criteria should I make decisions on how to interact with people who say they’ve been raped?’

People will differ, of course, on these criteria. Deontologists, virtue theorists and utilitarians could argue at length. The libertarians who peddle Ayn Rand (who don’t really belong in a category of philosophers), and the people who suck up to them, can be expected to engage in self-serving rationalisations – this is at base, why in these matters, I don’t trust Brian Dalton, or Michael Shermer, or Penn Jillette, or DJ Grothe, etc..

(Well, that and previously documented acts of bullshit artistry by the libertarian primaries).

What needs to be asked, when The Good Juror interlopes outside their remit, is ‘why the pose, and what criteria are you are using to measure your behaviour?’ ‘Are those criteria self-serving or altruistic?’

(One wonders what Brian Dalton’s criteria actually are, or if he’s actually reflected upon them.)


The only concession arising out of this, that needs to be made in the opposite direction, is to recognise that “belief” in claims being made, given certain circumstances (being on a jury, journalism reporting on factual claims, and where vigilantism is a probable risk), needs to show due scepticism. That is to say, that sceptical, rigorous discussions of truth claims, even painful truths, have their place where the presumption of truth shouldn’t occur.

However, not all forums for rape survivors where claims are discussed, even where the claims may in fact be unresolved and genuinely contentious, entail prejudicing a jury, producing poor journalism, or setting the torches and pitchforks in motion. And these forums, these informal therapeutic environments, are very much needed in atheist and humanist circles.

What is needed, I think, where possible, is clearer demarcation of these zones in the same vein as “trigger warnings” – something that should be facilitated by those in a position to do so; organizational leaders, professional bloggers and public speakers, may be in a position to help prevent the damage that can occur when these domains leak into each other.

And of course, to varying extents, we can self-regulate, and pay attention to what environment we’re speaking in. Hopefully the Brian Daltons of the scene can heed the signposts a little better in future as well.

Bruce Everett

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

What, just because she’s 13?

Feb 9th, 2014 10:14 am | By

A slice of life in Sydney.

A Sydney man has been refused bail after being charged over a live-in sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl.

The pair were living together in Sydney’s west.

Police sources say the 26-year-old man and the girl were “married” in an Islamic religious ceremony in the Hunter region last month.

The marriage has no legal standing in Australia because of the girl’s age.

How dare the police violate that man’s religious freedom.

Police have questioned the girl’s parents and believe they had a hand in arranging the marriage.

Detective Inspector Peter Yeomans says it is a disturbing situation.

“It’s really really unusual,” he said.

“We do have sexual assaults of minors… but this type of situation where it is almost sanctioned by a family, if that ends up being the case, is a very very unusual set of circumstances to happen within NSW.”

But the NSW Minister for Family and Community services, Pru Goward, says it is not an isolated case.

“There are actually a significant number of unlawful, unregistered marriages to underage girls in NSW, particularly in south-west Sydney, western Sydney and the Blue Mountains,” she said.

Either the DI or the Minister is badly misinformed. I hope they can get together and figure out which claim is accurate.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

In prison for “posing as a Muslim”

Feb 8th, 2014 5:02 pm | By

A story from Pakistan a couple of months ago:

A 72-year-old British doctor is in prison in Pakistan for “posing as a Muslim”, charges that reveal an escalating ideological fight that often spills over into violence.

Masood Ahmad is a quiet, reserved widower who returned to Pakistan to open a pharmacy in 1982 after decades of working in London to pay his children’s school fees, his family said.

He is also an Ahmadi, a sect that consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims, and Ahmadis can be jailed for three years for posing as a Muslim or outraging Muslims’ feelings.

Some mullahs promise that killing Ahmadis earns a place in heaven. Leaflets list their home addresses.

Ahmadis are under a lot of pressure in Pakistan.

Ahmad was arrested in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore last month when two men posing as patients questioned him about his faith and used mobile phones to secretly record him reading a verse from the Koran.

“He (the patient) said you are like a father to me, please help me with some questions,” said the doctor’s older brother, Nasir Ahmad. “When (my brother) answered, they began beating him and dragged him outside by his neck.”

One of his accusers, Islamic teacher Muhammad Ihsan, told Reuters that Ahmad had preached to them illegally.

What a horrible thing to do – ask a kind man for help and then beat him and drag him around by his neck when he gives the help.

Mullahs have twice sought the arrest of an entire town of Ahmadis – 60,000 people – for holding religious celebrations. Residents were serving food, giving out sweets and displaying bunting, the complaints said.

“We would not have a problem with them if they did not use the name of Islam and the symbols of Islam,” said Tahir Ashrafi, head of the powerful Ulema Council of clerics.

Oh mind your own business, you hateful fanatic.





(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)