Notes and Comment Blog

Some doodle

Jun 10th, 2013 4:05 pm | By

Wow, the Google doodle today. If you haven’t already, click on the play button. At Google.

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

One of these things is not like the other

Jun 10th, 2013 7:18 am | By


It's odd nobody described the year long campaign of vilification aimed at Chris Mooney as bullying or harrassment. Oh right, no it's not...
Jeremy Stangroom
  1. It wasn’t year long. It was season long – summer 2009. It was about four months, June through September, while the promotion of Unscientific America was in high gear.
  2. It wasn’t incessant. It responded to articles Mooney, or Mooney and his co-author Sheryl Kirshenbaum, wrote attacking “new atheists.”
  3. It lacked a number of features of the harassment campaign that Stangroom is minimizing by tweeting this.

Still. I get that it probably felt like bullying and harassment to them, so in that sense perhaps it was. On the other hand Mooney was a Name at the time, in the wake of the success of his best-seller The Republican War on Science. He was able to get articles published in a lot of very visible mainstream outlets. He made new accusations about “new atheists” each time. I still don’t think it was particularly unfair for bloggers to respond to the accusations. I get that Mooney sees it differently though.

So I should be able to see the same thing about the people who harass me every day, right?

No. Because the two are not comparable. Thanks anyway.

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

Pick up the Skype

Jun 9th, 2013 4:43 pm | By

I mentioned yesterday that I was more cheerful about the Dublin conference, and added that it was because there had been some communication. I was cryptic about it because I’d forgotten to ask if it would be ok for me to mention it.

(Some buffoon pretended to think I was making a threat. Seriously – “there’s been some communication” – a threat.

I'm now happy about going to Ireland. There's been... a 'communication'. And I'm not telling you what is was, so BE AFRAID! #atheismplus

Not a communication, some communication. And why would that be a threat anyway? Jeezis.)

I repaired the omission today, so I can be less obscure: I’ve talked to Michael Nugent and Jane Donnelly, and it went well. (Nothing to BE AFRAID of there, either. It went well, meaning what that normally means, not what it means in a TV show about MI5.)

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

“To destroy skepticism and atheism”

Jun 9th, 2013 11:49 am | By

Another branch of Deep Rifts, this time nothing whatever to do with me (hooray!).

The story, as concisely as possible: before the Freedom From Religion Foundation had a Facebook page, someone set up a group called Freedom From Religion Foundation as a place for fans of FFRF to hang out. It apparently became rather…contentious as time went on, and meanwhile FFRF got itself a Facebook page. On Friday the publicist for FFRF posted there.

My name is Lauryn and I’m the publicist for the FFRF. Eric and other admin have been kind enough to agree to shut down this group  by June 30 and start a new group. The reason for this is because our pages have been commonly confused.

We know this is disappointing and we apologize for the inconvenience. However, as an organization we had no choice. Eric’s group although known as “Friends of FFRF,” is actually known as and officially registered as “FFRF”. They cannot change the name based on the size of members. It was was created before an official FFRF page existed. Because FFRF is our official name, we must keep full control of all domains including just that name.

As you’ve mentioned, people forget about the pages they “like” and check them less frequently than groups. However, at our FFRF page you can find official press releases, updated news and photos from inside the FFRF etc. Our page is moderated by staff and volunteers to prevent an …overwhelming amount of proselytizing from trolls.

The good news is that Eric is creating a new “Friends of FFRF” group. We urge you to join the new group created by these folks. We would also appreciate if you follow our official page at Thanks so much for your support!!

All good. But guess what – it’s being spun as politicalcorrectnessgonemad and ftbulliesplusshuttingeveryoneup. “MosesZD” spins it that way on Michael Nugent’s post about the attempt to get me kicked out of the Dublin conference:

This link: was to a friends of the FFRF group – a FB page for friends of the group but is not officially representative of them.

It was shut down by A+. Maiforpeace, The Lousy Cannuk and others who waged a false-flagging campaign.

Now do you see what we’re up against? Now do you see the problem? Or is it going to be more of the golden mean fallacy as A+ strives to destroy skepticism and atheism with their intolerance of others and desire to inflict their ideas of ideological purity on others.

Not true. Just made up, out of whole cloth. Jason once argued with some people on one thread there, and that’s it – the sum total of his involvement with that group.

We’re like the Freemasons, right? We have a secret hand in everything. We are hidden and dangerous. Be afraid.

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

Defense attorneys made the shocking argument

Jun 9th, 2013 10:52 am | By

According to Reality Check, the Texas case didn’t happen the way it was described.

It is not in dispute that the defendant, Ezekiel Gilbert, paid the victim, Lenora Frago, $150 for 30 minutes of escort services advertised on Craigslist. After Frago refused to have sex with him, the defendant shot her. Frago was paralyzed and the defendant was charged with aggravated assault.  When she died seven months later Gilbert was indicted for murder instead.

At trial, defense attorneys made the shocking argument that Gilbert was justified in shooting Frago because she had stolen from him and Texas law permits the use of deadly force to defend one’s property at night. That a defense was raised in this case based on Texas’ awful defense of property law is certainly newsworthy and even more reason to reform that law. But there is no evidence that the jury acquitted based on the defense of property law in the first place.

It’s a horrible defense, Bridgette Dunlap agrees, but that doesn’t mean the defense shouldn’t use it.

As Professor Michael W. Martin of Fordham Law’s Federal Litigation Clinic reminded me: “If the law allows the defense, the lawyer must use it, if it is viable, unless there is a good strategic reason not to. Otherwise, it is ineffective assistance of counsel. If the lawyer feels like he is ethically barred from using a legal, viable defense, he should ask to be relieved.”

That’s how an adversarial system works, hence all those rape trials where the defense tries hard to discredit the victim.

The problem is that the law does allow the defense.

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

To the neglect of their duties in the home

Jun 9th, 2013 8:09 am | By

I don’t think I knew, before yesterday, that Ireland’s constitution has a clause about women and “their duties in the home.”

It’s in Article 41, starting on page 160 of the government version.

2° The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.

That’s an alarming sentence already. It sounds Vaticanesque, but I haven’t been able to find anything from the Vatican that says, as that sentence seems to, that the family is “superior to” (and thus immune from?) the law. I have a feeling I’ve written about the idea before, too, but I haven’t been able to find that either. It’s a terrible idea, though. We’re all very familiar with how common it is for someone - especially someone female - to need the protection of the law because ”the family” is intent on killing her, or beating her up or locking her in her room forever or keeping her out of school. Yes the law is cold, and no substitute for a loving family, but it can be a much-needed protection from an enraged family.

1° In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

2° The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.

Wow. The Constitution tells the women of Ireland that they have duties in the home, which they should not neglect.

Yes, Ireland needs to empower its women through secularism!

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

Reasons not to be a prostitute in Texas

Jun 8th, 2013 5:56 pm | By

Prepare to turn pale with horror, then scarlet with rage. Prepare also to send a message to the Texas Attorney General.

A court in Texas just exonerated a man who shot and killed a woman who had refused to have sex with him. She’s dead, and he will serve no time at all.

Here’s what happened: Ezekiel Gilbert shot and killed a Craigslist escort after she left without having sex with him. His lawyer argued that since he had paid her $150 for the evening, he was justified under Texas law in shooting her because state law allows people “to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft.”

It’s legal in Texas to kill a woman for refusing to have sex?

Are you serious?

For that matter, it’s legal in Texas to kill someone for stealing $150? Provided it happens at night?

What is wrong with them?

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

Oh look, blue sky

Jun 8th, 2013 3:36 pm | By

I’m much more optimistic about the Dublin conference now* – and thus able to be excited about it again. It’s going to tackle important subjects, and Ireland needs it. Lucky lucky me to get to be involved.

There’s a bit of privilege for you.

The clouds really are parting here, the band of blue really is bright, the colorful sails on the many sailboats on the Sound are festive.

*Because there’s been some communication.

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

An invisible adjective

Jun 8th, 2013 9:53 am | By

I’m still thinking about “privilege” and its discontents. It interestes me, for several reasons, not just the ones that have to do with Ron’s talk at Women in Secularism 2 and the disagreements and battles that ensued.

Sometimes (often in fact) people hear things that aren’t intended in the use of any particular claim or word or phrase. Words and phrases can be used in many ways, some of them less reasonable than others.

Is that enough platitudes to get us started?

I do have a point. I’m thinking that one thing people who bristle at the word “privilege” hear is an added “unearned” in front of it. That can be massively annoying if one has in fact earned the privilege in question (or the privilege one thinks is in question even though in fact it isn’t).

Maybe you can see where I’m heading.

Often these discussions happen between men who have some power and influence and women who have much less. The tricky part there is that usually the men have the power and influence because they’ve earned them. Not always, and even less always all of it – the more power and influence you get, the more you can leverage it to get more and to squelch people who are trying to compete with you, sometimes in illegitimate ways. But apart from inherited “nobility” and people born rich and the like, usually power and influence (and piles of cash) have been earned at least to some extent. In some cases they’ve been earned with real talent and effort.

The word “privilege” can sound to such people like a denial of the earning. Sometimes it even is that.

That’s got to be annoying. You know? “Yes, I’m Mr Big, but I’m Mr Big because I’ve written ten critically-acclaimed best-sellers about science and atheism. Is that a bad thing? And by the way I’m not preventing you from trying to do the same thing. Go ahead!”

So that’s one item. I’d say more but I have an appointment, so later.

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

Alabama: pastors divorce the Boy Scouts

Jun 8th, 2013 8:23 am | By

Some Alabama pastors say they don’t want any pesky Boy Scout troops meeting in their churches now that the organization has gone all queer.

The Rev. Mike Shaw, of the First Baptist Church of Pelham and former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, says his church will no longer sponsor Troop 404 after the policy takes place next year.

“We’re not doing it out of hatred. The teachings of the scripture are very clear on this. We’re doing it because it violates the clear teaching of scripture,” Shaw told the Birmingham News.

And obviously a three thousand year old book is right about everything, and its “clear teaching” must be obeyed, and never mind what actual thinking about the issue might come up with instead.



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

A response

Jun 7th, 2013 5:40 pm | By

So there’s Nugent’s response to the shamelessly dishonest “Open Letters” demanding that he denounce me for doing something I didn’t in fact do. Let’s take a quick look at it.

Thank you for the various open letters and emails regarding the ongoing conflicts between some atheists and skeptics on an interacting range of issues including sexism and harassment, feminism and free speech, personal abuse and bullying, and the impact of these issues on the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin on June 29 and 30.

No. He shouldn’t be saying thank you. This is just more harassment, ramped up to trying to get me denounced or disinvited from the conference. The “Open Letters” are thick with lies. He shouldn’t be taking them at face value, or as a favor, or as a good and legitimate thing to do.

Firstly, from a personal perspective, I know from experience of much more vicious conflicts than these that it is likely that there are good people on all perceived ‘sides’ who are unfairly hurting other people because they or people close to them have themselves been unfairly hurt, and who are unfairly attributing malign motivations to other good people who in turn are unfairly attributing malign motivations to them.

No. He doesn’t know that. He only thinks he does. That’s one of the ways he’s gone so badly wrong on all this. No, the sides are not equivalent. Sometimes there just really are bullies and harassers who bully and harass people because they like doing it. He can’t be bothered to figure even that much out, yet he can be bothered to meddle in the matter while being that clueless about it.

Since I started facilitating the paused online dialogue on these issues, I have been listening to and considering what people on all perceived ‘sides’ have to say.

Ohhhhh no he hasn’t. Oh no he has not. He’s been dismissing and ignoring what at least one person centrally involved has to say.

I have had the pleasure of working with moderators and participants in the online dialogue who have been acting with integrity and reason despite unfair criticism of them from people opposed to dialogue.

Meaning me, for one – and of course me especially, since I am the subject of those “Open Letters.”

I am not “opposed to dialogue.” I am opposed to this “dialogue,” run by someone who admittedly knows little about it, against the will of the people most targeted by the harassers. I’m opposed to forced dialogue. I’m opposed to people taking over the management of other people’s problems while refusing to talk to those very people.

As many people have commented here lately, if someone is punching you in the face, is it fair to try to force you to have a “dialogue” with that someone? Isn’t the job rather to make the puncher stop punching?

I have read a great deal of the online material that shows how various issues have both escalated and became entangled with each other in recent years. And I want to add to my understanding by talking to some of the people involved when they come to Dublin, because I think that face to face discussion can be more useful than online discussion.

He wants to “add to his understanding”? As if this is just some educational project for him? And he wants to talk to us when we come to Dublin instead of now? To say nothing of two months ago? He wants to wait until after all the damage has been done to the conference and to some of the participants, especially me – why? Because it will be more fun for him that way? Well what about other people? What about the people he has exposed to more lies and libel by hosting them on his blog?

He’s wrong about the face to face discussion, too. His refusal to discuss this “online” – while forcing an online conversation about it on unwilling targets of harassment – is not going to make face to face discussion one bit more useful.

Secondly, as chairperson of Atheist Ireland, I want to make clear that the Empowering Women Through Secularism Conference is not ‘my’ conference. It is an Atheist Ireland conference, and it is disrespectful to the committee members of Atheist Ireland, and particularly to the conference chairperson Jane Donnelly, to frame it as something which I control personally.

No, it is not disrespectful, because this is the first I’ve heard of it.

We invited speakers to contribute to this important agenda, and not on the basis of their involvement in the ongoing conflicts. We won’t be uninviting any speakers, and we won’t allow our ongoing work as an advocacy group to be used as a vehicle for adding to the escalation of the conflicts by unfairly maligning any speakers or any other person who is attending the conference.

It’s distracting some people from the conference and its agenda, isn’t it. It’s too bad he insisted on this “dialogue” then, isn’t it.

We considered having a session during the conference to discuss the ongoing conflicts, and we decided against doing this. The background would require too much explaining for conference attenders, many of whom function mostly in real life and are blissfully unaware that these conflicts even exist. Also, we do not want it to unduly dominate the focus of the conference.

Indeed. Neither do I. It’s too bad he insisted on this “dialogue” then, isn’t it.

We are asking speakers and participants to focus on the agenda for the conference, and to leave discussion of the conflicts for the many opportunities that exist to discuss them elsewhere.

But I never wanted to discuss it in the first place. That was his idea, not mine.

Please be respectful to all of the speakers and to all of the other participants. Please do not attribute malign motivations to any person who is attending the conference.

Not even one who has been relentlessly harassing you for nearly a year, and who is quite open about his hostility and scorn for conferences about empowering women through secularism.

Ultimately we need to resolve the ongoing conflict issues in some manner, and I have been actively trying to work towards this by facilitating dialogue.

There is no “we” there. He does not need to resolve the ongoing conflict issues, and he is also not able to do so. His active work has made it worse, and shows no signs at all of “resolving” it.

And then there’s the muck in the comments. Like “Eucliwood” “Eu” etc etc etc, here “Sister Eu” -

And, just like that mishap with the signature sheet (hmm.. wonder who signed Ophelia’s name and gave FTB a way to invalidate it?), it could so easily be them themselves putting threats there so that no one can argue about the actual topic.

That’s great, isn’t it? I get both the harassment of sticking my name on that thing, and an accusation of doing it myself.

And Renee Hendricks -

Michael, thank you for taking the time to write out your stance with regard to the upcoming conference and the online conflicts. At this point, I cannot see an amicable end to the bickering back and forth, short of putting us all in one room and letting us duke it out.

She sounds like Nugent. “Put” us all in one room, whether we consent or not. I refuse to be put in a room with Renee Hendricks. I don’t want to “duke it out” with anyone. I want to be left alone by assholes. There’s nothing to “discuss” or even “duke it out” about. There’s just: leave me alone.

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


Jun 7th, 2013 4:47 pm | By

The hacker known as KYAnonymous went after the rapists in the Steubenville case:

he obtained and published tweets and Instagram photos in which other team members had joked about the incident and belittled the victim.

The FBI busted him, and if he’s convicted he could get a lot more time than the rapists did.

He’d read about the Steubenville rape in the New York Times, but didn’t get involved until receiving a message on Twitter from Michelle McKee, a friend of an Ohio blogger who’d written about the case. (You can read about her story here.) McKee gave Lostutter the players’ tweets and Instagram photos, which he then decided to publicize because, as he put it, “I was always raised to stick up for people who are getting bullied.”

Oh, she wasn’t getting bullied. That was just dissent and disagreement. She needs to get a thicker skin. She needs to ignore the trolls.

At first, he thought the FBI agent at the door was with FedEx. “As I open the door to greet the driver, approximately 12 FBI SWAT team agents jumped out of the truck, screaming for me to ‘Get the fuck down!’ with M-16 assault rifles and full riot gear, armed, safety off, pointed directly at my head,” Lostutter wrote today on his blog. “I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house.”

Because hackers are notoriously violent.

Lostutter believes that the FBI investigation was motivated by local officials in Steubenville. “They want to make an example of me, saying, ‘You don’t fucking come after us. Don’t question us.”

If convicted of hacking-related crimes, Lostutter could face up to 10 years behind bars—far more than the one- and two-year sentences doled out to the Steubenville rapists. Defending himself could end up costing a fortune—he’s soliciting donations here. Still, he thinks getting involved was worth it. “I’d do it again,” he says.

Ten years for hacking, one or two years for rape with aggravated Twitter. Something amiss here.

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

The cumulative effects

Jun 7th, 2013 10:38 am | By

Maureen Brian at Pharyngula, on PZ’s post about the limits to any perceived right to anonymity on the internet. She addresses a couple of commenters.

You both seem to be to be ignorant of or deliberately ignoring a key aspect of how we human beings work.

Plead innocence and confusion all you want but it is a factor which the bullies and harassers know well and exploit to the full.  Bullying and harassment work by the cumulative effects of abuse, lies, threats over time.  We may appear to brush off an individual incident but that does not mean we are unaffected or that we recover instantly from the hurt.  Bullies know and exploit this, keeping up the pressure and even working as a team so that their target never, ever recovers and can then be “teased” by which I mean abused for being over-sensitive / making it up / having no evidence.  (Sock-puppeting is just a pretend version of working as a team in the hope you won’t be spotted quite so quickly.)

This is why it is so hard to get, say, the police to take matters seriously  –  they look at a series of discrete acts no one of which is absolutely outrageous and fail to spot the cumulative effect.

This is the psychological equivalent of the old death by a thousand cuts and it’s time that all the “yes, but” brigade recognised that and stopped pretending not to understand.

It’s cumulative all right. Trust me on that.

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

Being able to ignore certain inputs

Jun 6th, 2013 4:57 pm | By

From Jason’s megapost on privilege and strawprivilege.

Our minds are notoriously buggy machines, being made of meat and all. We’ve evolved toward certain biases in daily living, one of the biggest of which is that we can filter out things as white noise. Normally this is a huge advantage — there is so much going on all the time that we would be immobilized by trying to process it all, since our brains — fast though they are — are pitifully underpowered. Evolution came up with the trick of being able to ignore certain inputs as unnecessary. Thus, you stop hearing rain on your window after laying in bed for a while. Thus, you stop noticing every tiny irrelevant movement on your periphery while driving down the road, focusing only on that which presents an immediate danger to you. You ignore the flock of birds flying overhead, the cloud that looks like a bunny, while you get on with your business of avoiding the child that just chased a ball into the street.

Privilege is interpreted as white noise. You don’t see the smooth, clean road as a piece of information you need to interpret while you’re driving it — you notice the potholes and obstacles, though. You filter out the clean smooth road. You sink into a daily routine and don’t notice all the ways in which you have it better than the next person, until that next person starts itemizing them.

It surprises me a little that this is even contentious. Isn’t everybody familiar with the way you don’t notice something and then once it’s drawn to your attention you do, and you wonder how you missed it for so long? Also with the way you don’t know things and then when you learn some of them, that changes the way you understand a lot of things? Doesn’t it happen all the time?

The funny thing about privilege is, it’s not rational, at least not any more than it is conscious. It’s a blind spot. It’s your inability to recognize the scope and depth of a problem because it is a cognitive bias.

In sociology (which is, in fact, a science, like it or not!), the term privilege has remarkable descriptive power with regard to the power dynamics we experience, because the term is in fact, definitionally, one pole on those power dynamics (the opposite being “underprivilege”). So when someone says, for instance, “check your privilege”, they mean to check your blind spot. They mean that you should be aware that you may not be equipped to recognize the scope and depth of a problem because of the cognitive biases that keep you from seeing the problem to begin with.

It’s a blind spot. Like the one just over your shoulder when you’re driving. It’s not an insult or an attack, it’s just a blind spot. You can turn your head and look.

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

You infidel

Jun 6th, 2013 2:27 pm | By

Tunisia is considered one of the more secular states in the region. And yet -

Thirty-year-old Tunisian blogger and secular activist Lina Ben Mhenni is concerned about death threats posted on her Facebook page and sent to her mobile phone.

“You see this message is in Arabic, it reads: ‘You infidel, we will kill you.’”

Pointing to another message, she says: “And this is just as clear: ‘We will find you.’”

If there’s anything that’s not secular, it’s the concept of being an “infidel.”

But many of the country’s more radical religious groups do not like people like Ms Ben Mhenni pushing to keep post-revolution Tunisia liberal and secular.

“This is not Tunisia it used to be,” she laments

“Radical Islamists are flourishing in the new Tunisia. They are a minority but have become very vocal.”

Ms Ben Mhenni says those who disagree with her do not limit their criticism to Facebook or texts.

“I have often been harassed by hardliners on the streets physically and verbally.”

Well she’s an infidel.

Ms Ben Mhenni showed me a recent YouTube video of a leader in the hardline Ansar al-Sharia group – which supports the introduction of Islamic law – attacking her on Tunisian TV.

“His statements are misleading really and taken out context to frame me,” said Ms Ben Mhenni, who teaches linguistics at Tunis University.

But she’s an infidel. That’s what one does to infidels.

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

More poetry

Jun 6th, 2013 11:06 am | By

Continuing in the poetic vein – the Cuttlefish has a great one.

I love to start fires; it’s just what I do—

I’ve started them all over town—

But recently, folks have begun to complain,

And they’re working on shutting me down.

I’m just having fun, but they say that it’s wrong;

I’m a danger, or that’s what they say.

I want lots of fires; they’re screaming for none:

Why can’t they just meet me half way?

Read the whole thing.

The analogy speaks to me, because about 20 years ago there was a bad arsonist at work in North Seattle, where I lived at the time. His fires were frequently very close to my neighborhood. Worse, my place had a lot of the features shared by places he struck, and he did his thing in the middle of the night. He scared me. His fires killed at least three people.

I don’t like arsonists.

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

What puts the ape in apricot?

Jun 6th, 2013 10:26 am | By

Mona posted a sonnet poem on my Facebook page.

You have no enemies, you say?
Alas, my friend, the boast is poor,
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes. If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never set the wrong to right.
You’ve been a coward in the fight.

– Charles Mackay (26 March 1812 – 24 December 1889), author of a history of popular folly, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”

It’s very appealing, but I have an inner daimon or teaser or pest or red flag or something, that won’t let me accept the compliment, much as I’d like to.

Why? Well because it works in one direction but not the other. Yes if you’ve never ever pissed off a single person, you probably haven’t done much righting of wrongs. But that doesn’t mean that the more people you’ve pissed off, the more righting of wrongs you’ve done.

Think Galileo. Yes, people thought Galileo was wrong. That doesn’t mean that just because people think you are wrong, you are therefore right.

Think Bill Gates. Yes, there must have been people who thought he was daft to drop out of Harvard. That doesn’t mean that everyone who drops out of college will become another Bill Gates.

I frequently piss people off by being an asshole. Sometimes, I think, I’m an asshole but still right about whatever it is I’m being an asshole about. But not always, and I don’t necessarily have to be an asshole about it. Sometimes one has to be an asshole, but not always. Sometimes I’m an asshole and wrong besides.

(But then there’s the whole thing about different standards for asshole status depending on whether you’re a woman or a man. That complicates things.)

Having said all that, I certainly enjoy getting flattering sonnets on my Facebook page!

Probably because I’m an asshole.

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

The victim should have kept quiet

Jun 5th, 2013 3:57 pm | By

That’s all the good news for now. Here’s more bad news. In Pakistan, a girl of 13 was gang-raped by four men, and now she and her family are being persecuted because her family refused to kill her. That’s what they were supposed to do, you see, because the gang rape was her crime, not the crime of the men who did it to her. It’s a “tradition.” (Funny how the story never mentions the word “Islam.” No, “funny” isn’t the right word…)

The Soomros have faced isolation, fear and intimidation from the four men Kainat accused of raping her, and from the members of the small village who were afraid of challenging moral laws which have been in existence for centuries.

Moral laws? Not religious laws? Nothing to do with the majority religion?

The film, which was selected for screening in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, retells the story of the young girl’s attack while walking home from school down a narrow village street by a shop where Kainat says the owner, Shaban Saikh, and three other men including a father and son held her down and sexually assaulted her.

The village declared her “kari”, or a black virgin, and ordered her family to carry out an honor killing to end the shame a rape victim brings to a family, according to Pakistani culture.

And religion. The culture is rooted in the religion. The god of that religion hates women.

The alleged rapists beat her father and one of her brothers. Her older brother went missing for three months and was found murdered.

But Kainat’s parents refused to kill their daughter, instead deciding to take up her cause in a legal system which places the burden of proof on the victim.

The rapists attacked relatives of the victim because they refuse to murder the victim. It’s so twisted it’s hard to read without squirming.

When Kainat attends court she undergoes a barrage of “nasty” questions, up to 300 at a time, including “what part of your clothing did you remove?” or “who raped you first?”.

The presiding judge is affronted that Kainat has brought the charges, and rules against her in part because she has accused a father and son of a gang rape.

“In his view,” the film’s narrator says, “he said that would never happen in Pakistan” and describes Kainat’s accusations “as a product of her own fantasy”.

The men are acquitted, and, in an interview with the film makers, appear bewildered at why their accuser didn’t just stay at home “and keep quiet”.

They see their acquittal as proof Kainat “does not have good character. If she was a decent woman, she would have sat at home, silent.”

A decent “woman” of 13 sits at home silent after four men in her town gang-rape her, murder her brother, and beat up her father and another brother. That makes a lot of sense. Victims of crimes are supposed to imprison themselves and shut up so that the criminals can have a pleasant life. It’s gruesome.

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

Plan B

Jun 5th, 2013 3:11 pm | By

In better news – althought it’s better news we shouldn’t have needed in the first place – the Obama admin has lost its more-Republican-than-thou battle to delay a ruling that makes emergency contraceptives available to women and girls of all ages.

Three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit did grant the White House its requested delay to keep one-pill products, like Plan B One-Step, restricted to females 15 and over. The court will not, however, allow any age restrictions on other two-pill emergency contraceptive products.

Well good. Thank you for small favors.

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

The low road needs feminism too

Jun 5th, 2013 10:00 am | By

Jessica Valenti is not a fan of “don’t feed the trolls.”

Don’t feed the trolls: it’s probably the most common refrain in online  discussions, especially when dealing with misogynists in feminists conversations. The idea is that the best way to deal with sexists is to starve of them of the attention they’re so clearly desperate for. Besides, we think, why sink to their level?

But the high road is overrated. It requires silence in the face of violent misogyny, and a turn-the-other cheek mentality that society has long demanded of women. A vibrant feminist movement has ensured women don’t take injustices  lying down offline—so why would we acquiesce on the Internet?

Because it’s trivial. It’s just messing around. It doesn’t matter. It’s not as if it’s like racism or anything.

When I started Feministing in 2004, the  hate mail started to pour in right away. At first it felt easier to ignore the  haters, but it was incredibly difficult to write about feminist issues every day without acknowledging the awful backlash we were experiencing behind-the-scenes.  So we created a series of posts called “Anti-Feminist Mailbag”—we published our  hate mail, mocking the often mystifyingly stupid prose. (“Why do you have to be  for abortion to be for women’s rights? How can it be a part of your body if it  is a male?”) It was a way to take back power through humor, while revealing just  how much hate is still directed at women who speak their mind.

It was also a way to demand accountability in a space that’s often dominated  by hate speech made anonymously. If someone was thoughtless enough to message us  from a easily-tracked e-mail address, we outed them. One lucky young man who  called me a “stupid cunt” turned  out to be the public relations officer for his college republican group.  Good times ensued.

Omigod! Doxxing!! They doxxed people!!! People who all they did was send hate mail. Somebody send an Open Letter to someone! Better yet, lots of people send lots of them. Plus a petition. With Jessica F. Valenti among the signatures. LOLZ

For Lindy West, staff writer  at Jezebel, engaging with hateful detractors is not just important as a way to  bring attention to misogyny—“A lot of those attitudes are poisoning our culture,  and it’s too easy to write them off as some fringe opinion,” she says—but also  because it can be cathartic. Recently, West has been taking on sexists on  Twitter over rape  jokes and their cultural consequences. “If talking back to some random idiot  makes me feel better—if it’s fortifying for my mental health—then I don’t care  if I give some dumbass with thirteen followers the flash-in-the-pan attention  he’s been craving.”

“I’m in this for the long haul. It’s not a game to me. I’ve been lucky enough  in my career to get to the point where I can talk about things and people  listen. And now that I’m here I have an obligation to keep going, and, by  extension, to do whatever I need to do to keep my brain intact,” she says.

For me, sometimes, it takes a whole roll of duct tape.

The downside of engaging with sexists is that in an online culture where common  knowledge says ignore trolls, speaking out becomes “asking for it.” You don’t  get a ton of sympathy for egging on assholes. While ignoring haters can  sometimes be the best move, putting the onus on women to stay silent is not. So  though I still believe in picking your battles, I’ll continue to get down in the  muck with misogynists from time to time—because the low road needs feminism too.

Putting the onus on women to stay silent is not the best move. No it is not.

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