Notes and Comment Blog

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.)

The self-serving transparency

Feb 8th, 2014 12:57 pm | By

Now for the very bad thing: Woody Allen’s letter to the New York Times. Ashley has a thorough takedown analysis, which is how I learned there was a letter. There’s no need for me to add anything but I don’t always do these things based on need…and I can’t resist, because it’s so revolting.

TWENTY-ONE years ago, when I first heard Mia Farrow had accused me of child molestation, I found the idea so ludicrous I didn’t give it a second thought. We were involved in a terribly acrimonious breakup, with great enmity between us and a custody battle slowly gathering energy. The self-serving transparency of her malevolence seemed so obvious I didn’t even hire a lawyer to defend myself.

What a self-serving self-absorbed empathy-free piece of shit. They were “involved” in a “breakup” with “great enmity” because he had started secretly fucking one of her daughters. Her putative “malevolence” would be seen by any non-pathologically selfish onlooker as understandable upset at this turn of events. He doesn’t even mention it. That’s the first paragraph and it sets the tone. The guy is a complete shit.

I had been going out with Mia for 12 years and never in that time did she ever suggest to me anything resembling misconduct.

Not true. He was seeing a therapist because of his inappropriate behavior with Dylan.

Now, suddenly, when I had driven up to her house in Connecticut one afternoon to visit the kids for a few hours, when I would be on my raging adversary’s home turf, with half a dozen people present, when I was in the blissful early stages of a happy new relationship with the woman I’d go on to marry — that I would pick this moment in time to embark on a career as a child molester should seem to the most skeptical mind highly unlikely. The sheer illogic of such a crazy scenario seemed to me dispositive.

Oh, oh, oops, he forgot to mention something! He forgot to mention that “the woman” he was in the blissful early stages of a happy new relationship with was Mia’s daughter and Dylan’s sister.

Last week a woman named Stacey Nelkin, whom I had dated many years ago, came forward to the press to tell them that when Mia and I first had our custody battle 21 years ago, Mia had wanted her to testify that she had been underage when I was dating her, despite the fact this was untrue. Stacey refused. I include this anecdote so we all know what kind of character we are dealing with here. One can imagine in learning this why she wouldn’t take a lie-detector test.

We? We? What  kind of character we are dealing with here? Who’s we, kemosabe?

There’s a lot more of the same. The guy’s a piece of crap.



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

How 17%=50%

Feb 8th, 2014 12:30 pm | By

A good thing (before I get to a bad thing) – someone sent an email to the people at The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe complaining about Rebecca feminism agenda females stopped listening fan ruined yadda. Steve Novella replied in a very good way.

Thanks for your feedback. Sorry you are unhappy with the “this day in skepticism” segment.

To investigate your claim that the segment overemphasizes feminism to a disgusting and off-putting degree, I tallied the last 52 TDIS segments (essentially the last year). This is what I found:

Topic did not involve a specific person – 24
Topic was a man – 21
Topic was a woman – 7

It seems you feel that men should be the focus of TDIS more than 3 times as much as women, or that using 13.5% of TDIS segments to highlight women in science is excessive.

Fabulous, isn’t it? 7 women compared to 21 men, and that’s a crushing stifling unbearable Ima stop listening agenda. One commenter, frogmistress, noted:

Representation has been skewed for so long that if you bring up women, they are taking over the topic!

Geena Davis talked about a study she found:
“We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

No wonder all of pop culture is 80 to 90% male – the men perceive that as 50-50.

Steve goes on -

I don’t share this view. In fact, part of the mission of the SGU is to promote science and enthusiasm for science. There is a large gender gap in science, partly because women are not as encouraged as much to pursue STEM careers, and there are fewer role models. (I wrote about this recently here – – if you are interested). Making a little effort to highlight some awesome women in science (13.5% of topics) is just part of promoting enthusiasm for science where it is most needed.

In fact, if anything we have not been doing this enough. I thank you for alerting us to this deficiency.



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

The rainbow flag will remain flying for the duration of the Olympics

Feb 8th, 2014 11:34 am | By

Toronto’s fun-loving mayor Rob Ford didn’t like the rainbow flag that went up on one of the many flagpoles outside city hall on Friday, and he tried to have it taken down.

The flag-raising was meant as a response to Olympic host country Russia’s anti-gay laws. Several other municipalities around Canada have done the same.

Ford wanted it taken down as soon as he saw it. 

The Olympics, ”is about being patriotic to your country, this is not about someone’s sexual preference,” he told reporters. 

It is? That’s funny. I thought the Olympics was about going beyond “your country” to international amity and friendly competition. Yes there’s a tension there; yes the nationalism often drowns out the internationalism; but I didn’t think patriotism was supposed to be the official point of the whole thing.

And the rainbow flag doesn’t reduce to just “someone’s sexual preference.” Way to miss the point, Rob Ford.

But it’s not his decision to have the flag taken down. The city’s protocol officer is the only one who decides what flags fly from the city hall`s “courtesy” pole. That pole hosts all sorts of flags during the year — for autism week, fair trade, and to honour the national days of dozens of countries, from Azerbaijan to Israel. The Canadian flag is always flying on several other poles around city hall.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti sent a letter to the mayor and councillors reminding them of flag protocol on Friday afternoon.

Pennachetti noted the rainbow flag is flying at the request of the 519 Church Street Community Centre, the heart of Toronto’s LGBT community, and will remain flying for the duration of the Olympics.

So there, yabooSUCKS, Rob Ford.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he supports keeping the rainbow flag up, saying it sends a message to the host country, which has been under fire for its anti-gay laws.

“There’s no antagonism between the two flags,” said Kelly. “Cities right across the country are doing this. This is an expression of Canadianism.”

In protest, Ford placed a Canadian flag in his office window. Upon leaving city hall Friday evening, he said he still wants the rainbow flag removed.

What a crap. Fun-loving Rob Ford is a crap.



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

Forget the whole “cave” thing please

Feb 8th, 2014 10:01 am | By

No, the counterpart to the “man cave” where men go to escape the dreaded pesky women who clutter up everything (except most movies, most tv shows, most workplaces, most sport, most news coverage, most religious administration…) and watch football on Giantscreen TVs – the counterpart to that, I say, is not the “mom cave” where women go to heat canned soup for men.

One reason: “mom” is not the counterpart to “man”. The counterpart to man is woman. The word “mom” is the counterpart to the word “dad”.

Notice right away how the whole thing has veered into totally non-counterpart territory. On the one hand we have men, who are people, who do things in the world. On the other hand we have moms, who do mom things. What happened to women, who are people, who do things in the world? Why do men get to have a whole big open category while women get a partial tiny closed category? Why are men left to define themselves while women are defined as parents and nothing else?

Another reason: the kitchen is not a personal space where a woman can go to escape pesky men or obligations or anything else. The kitchen is the opposite of a “woman cave”.

How long is it going to be 1955, anyway?

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

Reading Radical

Feb 7th, 2014 5:40 pm | By

I’m reading Maajid Nawaz’s book Radical. It’s intensely interesting, and (not surprisingly) disturbing.

One thing about it that’s slightly odd is that so far, at least (Part One), he describes a totally male world and discusses it from a completely male point of view. Women just aren’t there, nor are girls in his childhood. He mentions women only as consumer items, things to “chase.”

Sometimes their absence is really surprising. For instance there’s a part where he writes about his older brother Osman’s shift to Islamism. It includes one of those offhand mentions of women as things -

Osman started going with Nasim to his talks and study circles, and pretty soon became a changed person. Everything we’d been doing together – going to clubs, chasing women – was now anathema to him. [p 48]

- and then there’s discussion of the fact that until then the brothers had sided more with their mother “and taken advantage of her more liberal views” but now Osman was sharing their father’s interest in Islam. He thought the sons were becoming traditional Muslims, and was pleased…

…and that led, inevitably, to a change of mood in the household: the balance of power, as it were, had started to shift. You could see it in Abi’s reaction. She didn’t know how to respond to Osman’s criticism of her behavior. Later on, when I joined him, she would become even more isolated. [pp 48-9]

And that’s all; in the next paragraph he moves on. He hadn’t mentioned “Osman’s criticism of her behavior” before and doesn’t go on to say more about it, and I want to know more. What behavior? And how did Osman go about criticizing it? I can imagine all too easily, but I don’t want to imagine, I want to know. It seems like a very important point, to me, but Maajid does nothing with it.

Then an even more striking example, at the end of Part One when he is discussing Hizb al-Tahrir’s idea of “the Khilafah,” the Caliphate.

It would sweep across all national boundaries; HT’s version of Islam would be the ruling philosophy. Apostates, adulterers, and minorities considered abhorrent, like homosexuals, would suffer the death sentence. Criminality would be met with rough justice; thieves would have their hands cut off. Rights such as free speech would be curtailed, because “God’s law” must trump all. [p 61]

And that’s the end of that topic. Notice anything missing? Yeah. Not a word about women; nothing for instance about how differently “adulterers” who are women are treated compared to men. Nothing about child marriage or having to “cover” or being confined to home, nothing about polygamy or unequal inheritance or domestic violence.

It’s an uncomfortable read in this way. I hope he knows a lot more women now.

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

Putin will frown

Feb 7th, 2014 4:20 pm | By

Quoth the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion:

The games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way.

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

Implied contempt

Feb 7th, 2014 3:50 pm | By

I just wasted a few minutes arguing about sexism and language. Always a waste of time! And yet I keep doing it.

The issue this time is the insult of telling men they’re not men. The claim is that it’s not always insulting to women, because it doesn’t always mean “you’re a woman”; sometimes it just means “you’re a failed man.”

No. I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that the qualities implied to belong to men by this whole line of talk are valuable qualities, and that it’s insulting to women to imply that they are unique to men. Can I?

Like the phrase “man up.” I hate that phrase. Why do I hate it? Because it implies that courage is more of a guy thing.

I hate language that treats courage as inhering in testicles, too, such as “it took balls to do that” and “he doesn’t have the cojones to say that to your face.”

I hate the stupid made-up “man cave” – because what the hell makes anyone think it’s only men who need rooms of their own?

He throws like a girl. You’re such a girl. You assholes played like a bunch of girls today.

Yes, Virginia, it’s all sexist.

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

Amna Bawazeer

Feb 7th, 2014 1:01 pm | By

A woman student at a Saudi university died after an ambulance crew was denied access to her because strangely enough they didn’t have a male relative of hers with them.

Amna Bawazeer, 24, died of a heart attack in the compound of the social sciences faculty of Riyadh’s King Saud University.

Local media said medics in an ambulance were denied access because they were not accompanied by a “mahram”, a legal guardian or male member of her family.

Obviously without her father or brother or husband or son along, they would have fucked her, heart attack and all, instead of doing what they could for her and taking her to the hospital. Also obviously even if they hadn’t fucked her she still would have been “dishonored” by their presence without her father or son there to watch, so it’s much better that she’s dead.

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

Spirit of benevolence undermined

Feb 7th, 2014 12:05 pm | By

There’s a review of 50 Great Myths About Atheism at the MIT newspaper The Tech. The author, Roberto Perez-Franco, is oddly unsympathetic to the whole idea – or maybe I’m the one who’s odd. I like the enterprise of collecting misconceptions and then saying what’s wrong with them, but Perez-Franco seems not to.

The authors deserve recognition for their exhaustive efforts of documentation. Personally, I feel for them. They dug through piles of writings and utterances from the likes of Dinesh D’Souza, acting as if such nonsense was worthy of a serious response, and then went point by point through the material to provide a thoughtful and rational response. This undertaking must have been masochistic, but it was necessary. Blackford and Schüklenk were compelled to catalog and refute these claims in order to “encourage more fairness to atheists,” which, as they report, “constitute the most disliked among marginalized groups” in the U.S.

Just in the US? They surely didn’t restrict themselves to the US; Udo is in Canada (and from Germany) while Russell is in Australia. Anyway I doubt that the undertaking was masochistic. It can be interesting digging through piles of nonsense.

But then he goes right off the rails.

I do think, however, that the spirit of benevolence toward atheists that the book presumably pursues is undermined by the unfortunate inclusion in the book of a series of comics from “Jesus & Mo” peppered throughout the text. These cartoons depict the founding figures of Abrahamic religions having tongue-in-cheek philosophical and religious conversations in what I only care to describe as less than kosher settings, and with not necessarily pious intentions. Regardless of whether the cartoons are funny or clever, a book that seeks to combat prejudices against atheists should, in my opinion, be more careful in its choice of tone, lest they undo some of their hard work for the sake of cheap laughs.

I have been an atheist for a long time, and criticizing a particular choice of a particular book does not make me a closet deist While I praise the authors’ efforts to bring greater understanding to the general public about what atheism is and is not, I regret they lacked the good judgment to do so through a book that showed to others the same respect and benevolence they are hoping to inspire in the general public’s perception of atheists.

Oh, please. What on earth is wrong with depicting the founding figures of Abrahamic religions having tongue-in-cheek philosophical and religious conversations? How is that not just a good, interesting, and amusing idea? How is it not just a descendant of Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion? How is it contrary to respect and benevolence?

It’s respect-creep, that’s what it is.


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

Fallen foul of Ireland’s defamation laws

Feb 6th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

The Irish state broadcaster RTÉ paid a €85,00 libel settlement to a journalist and the Iona Institute and they’re getting a lot of criticism for doing so.

The payout followed RTE’s Saturday Night Show presented by Sunday Independent journalist Brendan O’Connor on 11 January featuring drag artist Rory O’Neill, who is better known by his stage name Panti Bliss.

During the interview, O’Neill outlined the high levels of homophobia present in contemporary Irish society. Towards the end of the interview O’Connor asked O’Neill to name names which led to RTE issuing the payout.

That has to be some bad libel law there. RTÉ says it is.

…managing director of RTE television Glen Killane, said the broadcaster could not defend the case taken by the Iona Institute and the Irish Times columnist.

In a statement released today, Killane said:

Over the last week a number of people have approached me questioning RTÉ’s apology to John Waters and members of the Iona Institute following the receipt of six legal complaints and you will, no doubt, have seen the ongoing debate on this subject.

I want to reassure you that RTÉ explored every option available to it, including right of reply. Legal advice was sought and all avenues were explored, including an offer to make a donation to a neutral charity.

However, based on the facts of what was broadcast, and having regard for broadcasting compliance issues, the seriousness of the legal complaints, and the decision by the complainants not to accept RTÉ’s proposed remedies, we decided that a settlement was the most prudent course of action.  Senior counsel was consulted and confirmed that the legal position was far from clear.

As a dual-funded public body, RTÉ should not knowingly progress to defend an action when it is advised, internally and externally, that such a defence is unlikely to succeed before a jury.

RTÉ has not engaged in censorship, but has rather fallen foul of Ireland’s defamation laws. The topic reopened over the weekend and RTÉ will continue to cover this and related issues, as evidenced by last week’s Late Debate,  coverage of the protest in Dublin city centre on Sunday, today’s item on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 and last weekend’s debate on the subject on The Saturday Night Show.

 Terrible defamation laws, they must be. No room for political discussion or argument. Index on Censorship had commentary a few days ago:

Irish state-run television broadcaster RTE has come under heavy criticism after offering a full apology and possible financial compensation to the Iona Institute, a conservative Catholic lobby groups declared “homophobic” by a talk show guest.

The decision appears to have been reached under pressure from Irish Broadcasting Authority board member John Waters, who was also declared homophobic during the same segment. The allegations follow RTE’s decision to remove  the remarks, made by Rory O’Neill who performs as one of Ireland’s most acclaimed drag queens under the name Miss Panti, and extensive popular debate about the treatment of Ireland’s conservative lobby groups in mainstream media.

RTE’s sudden condemnation of the remarks has been linked to legal action pursued by John Waters, a conservative Catholic commentator and journalist, and board member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland . The Irish Independent cite anonymous sources confirming that legal representatives of Waters sent a legal letter to the broadcaster seeking the removal of the interview on the popular Saturday Night Show. It has since been restored to the website, though the offending portions of O’Neill’s interview have been edited out. Waters resigned from his position with the Irish Broadcasting Authority on January 23rd, after the letters had been drafted and sent. His decision to legally challenge RTE has been broadly criticized as an abuse of office. As solicitor Simon McGarr explains, this “was not merely a letter from an aggrieved citizen to a broadcaster. It was also a letter from one of that Broadcaster’s regulators seeking to have that broadcaster censor a citizen, who was both contributing to a matter of public debate and engaging in a defence of a minority of which he is a member, bona fide and without malice”.

Well quite.


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

Homer Plessy in Edinburgh

Feb 6th, 2014 12:51 pm | By

The Student Association of Edinburgh University (EUSA) had a meeting a few hours ago. There were many items on the agenda. One item was a motion by the Humanist Society (a subgroup of the Student Association) to

Commit to disallowing imposed or directed segregation, based on any characteristic, in EUSA buildings or at EUSA events.

The Treasurer of the Humanist Society, Jonathan Ainslie, reports that the motion was heavily voted down. Yes that’s right: down.

Quoting Jonathan:

The Humanist Society submitted a motion to Student Council – EUSA’s policy-setting body – for a ban on imposed or directed segregation on union premises, or at union events.

Voluntary segregation was explicitly permitted. The motion was entitled “Separate but Equal.”

That motion fell heavily, after a number of opposing speeches which either stated or implied that the society’s motivations were racist and Islamophobic.

Here is the whole motion, available on the Society’s Facebook page:

Separate but Equal

What will we do?

  1. Commit to disallowing imposed or directed segregation, based on any characteristic, in EUSA buildings or at EUSA events.
  2. Petition the University of Edinburgh to prohibit imposed or directed segregation in University of Edinburgh buildings or at University of Edinburgh events.
  3. Acknowledge that voluntary non-directed segregation is permissible.
  4. Ask that Universities UK (UUK) clarify their position on segregation.
  5. Ask that the National Union of Students (NUS) clarify their position on segregation.
  6. Publicly endorse and support Stewart Maxwell MSP’s Motion S4M-08419: Universities UK Guidance on Gender Segregation at Scottish Institutes of Higher Education.

What is the background to this?

  1. Universities UK published guidance that gender segregation at events may be appropriate. The NUS claimed that the guidance had their full support, and was drafted with their assistance.
  2. UUK has since retracted their guidance.  The NUS has since distanced itself from “endorsement” of enforced segregation, but is yet to express opposition to the idea.
  3. Students Rights has noted that at least 40 gender-segregated events took place within a one year period, at 21 higher education institutions in the UK. At one such event, a purely academic debate on Islam and atheism, despite prior assurances to the contrary, three audience members were ejected for refusing to comply with enforced gender segregation.
  4. Segregation on racial grounds is illegal, as noted by Universities UK.
  5. EUSA operates a Zero Tolerance policy towards discrimination based on gender and gender identity.
  6. Gender segregation requires that trans* and non-binary individuals identify themselves publicly.

The UK Supreme Court deputy president recently ruled that, “To permit someone to discriminate on the ground that he did not believe that persons of homosexual orientation should be treated equally with persons of heterosexual orientation would be to create a class of people who were

  1. exempt from discrimination legislation.”  Allowing imposed gender segregation would similarly create a class of people exempt from discrimination legislation.
  2. Stewart Maxwell MSP has lodged a Scottish Parliament motion opposing segregation in universities.  Michael Gove MP has called the guidance “wrong and harmful”.

What beliefs motivate the actions you propose?

  1. That EUSA should be pro-active in tackling issues of concern.
  2. That segregation as originally recommended by Universities UK is anathema to the principles of equality, and should not be tolerated.
  3. That “separate but equal” is a pernicious doctrine.
  4. That preventing a person or persons from oppressing others is not oppression itself.
  5. That religiously-motivated discrimination is no more deserving of respect or toleration than is politically-motivated discrimination.
  6. Gender segregation is no more acceptable than would be racial segregation.
  7. If segregation is enforced by gender, the case against segregation by race, religion, sexual orientation and disability has been profoundly weakened.

[Update to include amendment I omitted for no special reason]
Amendment 1 (Proposer: Kirsty Haigh)

Amend ‘What will we do?’ point 1 to read:

1. Commit to disallowing imposed or directed segregation, based on any characteristic, in EUSA buildings or at EUSA events with the exception of:
1.1 toilets and changing rooms
1.2 liberation groups who wish to exclude those who do not self-identify into that particular group

With a list of signatories at the end.

Voted down. In Edinburgh of all places. Hume’s statue will haunt their dreams.

Major thanks to Helen Dale for this.

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

Music hath charms

Feb 6th, 2014 12:02 pm | By

Peace? Reconciliation? Music to unite people? We don’t want no stinkin peace and reconciliation and music!

MUMBAI: Shiv Sena activists on Tuesday disrupted a media gathering and vociferously protested the presence of Pakistani musicians at the Press Club here.

Shortly after the programme to launch the first joint India-Pakistan band comprising musicians from the two countries started, a large group of Shiv Sena activists barged inside the club carrying party flags.

They raised slogans against Pakistan, the visiting artistes and waved banners with “Pakistan Murdabad” printed on them, thereby disrupting the media briefing even as a large posse of policemen attempted to control them.

The stunned artistes, comprising visiting members of the Mekaal Hasan Band and the organisers, were pushed into a corner. No one was injured and there was no damage to property, a club office-bearer said.

Police rounded up several Shiv Sainiks and detained them for creating the ruckus.

Justifying the action, Shiv Sena spokesperson Rahul Narvekar said it was the party’s policy not to allow any Pakistani artiste to perform in Mumbai.

Well isn’t that just charming. (Shiv Sena, in case you don’t know, is a far-right Hindu nationalist political organisation.)

Two Pakistani artistes – guitarist Mekaal Hasan, flautist Muhammad Ahsan Papu – and three Indians – drummer Gino Banks, bass player Sheldon D’Silva and vocalist Sharmishtha Chatterjee – were present at the media briefing.

“This is the first initiative of its kind and aims to create a positive interaction between musicians of both India and Pakistan, create a relationship of mutual benefit, trust and thereby strengthen peaceful ties between the two countries,” said organiser Jatin Desai.

Can’t have that. Gotta have hatred and violence, instead.


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

Not suitable

Feb 6th, 2014 11:50 am | By

From The Annals of Valentineophobia, three years ago:

Islamic morality police in Malaysia have arrested more than 80 Muslims in an operation to stop them celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Officers raided budget hotels in the central state of Selangor and capital, Kuala Lumpur, detaining unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms.

The religious authorities in Malaysia say Valentine’s Day is synonymous with immoral activities.

Those arrested could be jailed for up to two years if convicted.

I have a feeling unmarried Muslim couples share rooms on days that are not Valentine’s Day, too. Just a hunch.

On Monday evening, religious enforcement officers launched co-ordinated raids, targeting budget hotels and public parks in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

In Selangor alone, officials said 80 people were detained for khalwat or close proximity – an Islamic law that prevents unmarried Muslims from being alone with someone of the opposite sex.

So Malaysia has “religious enforcement officers” who are authorized to break into hotel rooms and arrest people for being in hotel rooms. In Malaysia officers are allowed to use force to impose religious “law” on people who don’t want to obey it. How hellish.

The government-run Department of Islamic Development said Valentine’s Day was “synonymous with vice activities” and that it contravened Islamic teachings.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had labelled Monday’s celebration as “not suitable” for Muslims.

Why does the government have a Department of Islamic Development? Why does the deputy prime minister think the state should impose ideas of what’s “suitable” for Muslims on people who don’t want to be subject to those ideas?

Because haram. Don’t ask silly questions.



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

Oh right, this again

Feb 6th, 2014 11:13 am | By

I think “Valentine’s Day” is one of those stupid pseudo-events like “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day” that exist to funnel money to florists and greeting card companies. But I don’t think it’s Forbidden or Impure or Pollution.

Unlike some.

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

Doing their utmost to confirm the bigot’s view

Feb 6th, 2014 10:45 am | By

Unrepentant Jacobin makes a good point in his post from yesterday on Maajid Nawaz and the cartoon uproar:

It’s interesting to note that secular and progressive Muslims also seem to be those who complain least about ‘Islamophobia’. What drives them to distraction is the refusal of Western relativists to offer them support in their own confrontations with the Islamic far-right. Meanwhile those identitarians who complain most often and most noisily about ‘Islamophobia’ are often the same people doing their utmost to confirm the bigot’s view that all Muslims are childish and intolerant. Not only do they behave in a childish and intolerant way, but they insist that it is they who really represent Islam.

That’s exactly what I kept noticing and objecting to over the past two or three weeks – the way so many people seemed absolutely determined to confirm and spread and celebrate the very worst stereotypes about Muslims there are. The mashup of adamant dogmatism and frothing rage is not a good look.

It is astonishing how quickly a deeply-entrenched taboo can collapse in a free society once it has been violated. Had the reporting of the Jesus and Mo row been universally accompanied by the cartoon in question (as it would have been in any other context), it would have demonstrated at a stroke how stupid the debate about Islam has become. Shafiq and Ansar understand this perfectly, which is precisely why they have kicked up such a racket over such an innocuous image. If sharing a gently satirical comic strip can attract such outrage, vituperation and hatred, what are the chances of a genuinely provocative, transgressive and iconoclastic satire of Islamic beliefs and ideas emerging?

Ask Taslima, ask Salman, ask Waleed.


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