Notes and Comment Blog

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.)

Fancy seeing you here

Jun 5th, 2013 9:17 am | By

Lindy West gets a torrent of abuse for…the horrible crime of arguing that

comedy’s current permissiveness around cavalier, cruel, victim-targeting rape jokes contributes to (that’s contributes—not causes) a culture of young men who don’t understand what it means to take this stuff seriously.

What kind of abuse? Silly. You know what kind. She screencapped a slew of it. Ugly, nobody wants to rape you, cunt, fat, panties in a bunch. That kind.

Take a look. You’ll recognize one or two of the fun-loving abusers.


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

What next?

Jun 5th, 2013 1:25 am | By

It gets crazier every day. You would think it couldn’t, but it does.

The new thing is to send open or closed letters to Michael Nugent, telling him a pack of lies about me (mixed with a small amount of truth) and demanding that he take a stand and denounce me.

The first was the work of Tim Skellett aka Gurdur, who took a violent dislike to me years ago – something to do with the closing down of the forum at the Dawkins Foundation, and my having the wrong attitude to it – and has occasionally posted nasty stuff about me ever since. His open letter is all about my criminal act of not sufficiently protecting the secrecy of people who drop in on my blog to harass or taunt me. He adds the story of Katie Graham and her tweet, and on that subject he tells the biggest lies in the whole post. Even Graham, who detests me, said the account is totally inaccurate and that I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s too bad she said it only on her blog (which she says no one reads) and not at the places where the inaccurate accounts are, but at least she said it.

So hey, this is a fun game, right? So others are joining in.

@ I'm going to scrap rewrite of my comment, and instead write something much longer re Benson/Zvan directly to AI/Nugent.
@ @ As will I. Posting on his site or e-mail?
SubMan USN

“Sub man” posted his on his blog.

The blogs, as you know allow the author some revealing information merely by the person “logging in”. IP address, e-mail address, etc. How can women feel safe in voicing their opinion? Indeed, how can any of us who might suffer real life repercussions from having our atheism revealed to our bosses, clients, and social circles?

I hope you read that blog post as I (and many others) did, as the Nuremberg Race Law of 1935. It is the first step in declaring open war on those who do not walk in lockstep with the dogma. There will be casualties on both “sides” if this type of behavior is not met with harsh reprimands from conference organizers and leaders in the atheist community. You know the mood of this rift, both entrenched sides will declare ever more trivial “offenses” worthy of doxxing.

I am asking you, as a leader of a humanist organization to make a public stand denouncing this linked blog post and the consequences that any rational person can see for this type of threatening of and actual release of information which could cause real world harm to real world people on both “sides” of this rift.

Is this the type of “community” you want to be involved with? Please make a stand, sir.

Yours truly,


And Michael Nugent tells them he will respond.

@ @ I am aware of the recent online open letters to me, and I will be replying to them.
Michael Nugent

So Nugent will respond, and no doubt he will “make a stand” and agree with Sub Man that my blog post about “Skep tickle” is like the Nuremberg Race Law of 1935. Either he will disinvite me from the conference, or I will be forced to withdraw, because the slime pit will do whatever it takes to hound me out.

Stephanie has some reflections on the slime pit. She includes a comment that represents their obsessive horror and disgust at my ancient dried-up genitalia.

Had Ophelia gone to the pit to check out the weirdness showing up in her comments, this is what she’d have seen:

Regarding Skep Tickle, I am too dense/do not read enough to have seen the alleged subtle outing of you already, but FUCK YEAH. EXPOSE THAT DRIED UP VAGINA TO THE WINDS OF TRUTH, AND WATCH THEM SCOUR AWAY THE DUST OF AGES.

Ahem. Or something.

I found a different one a few hours ago, when I looked for a sample to send to the president of Seattle Atheists, who had been pestering me about “Skep tickle.” It was on the page where “Skep tickle” incited them to rage by reporting my putative “doxxing.” She incited them all right.

Re: Jim the Pleb Made Me Do It

Postby Lsuoma » Mon May 27, 2013 9:12 pm • [Post 25431]

Skep tickle wrote:Okay, so let’s just say that Ophelia Benson emails me at an email address* that isn’t the one under which I posted at her site, one which I haven’t used it at FtB in many months (if not a year or so), and in that email addresses me by my professional title & last name, chastising me for my post(s) at her site today.

If that happened, would it be fair game for me to post the content of that email here? (With her email address, and mine, redacted. But without having sought, or gained, her permission to post it.)

*It’s also not the email address I use for communication about the Nugent site…but it IS the email I use for the Slyme pit. Hmmm…

Zebra tits, I could tell by her responses today – including the use of your first name – that she’s aching to out you. She’s going to almost moisten her panties as soon as she can post any pointer to your identity online or offline.

As soon as you do what you’re suggesting, the floosh from her vajayjay will be like a fricking tsunami of dust, so wear a mask, and also be prepared for ALL your details to be <*>accidentally<*> leaked to the webz.

But this is a place where you can post what you want…

That’s where “Skep tickle” feels at home.

So what’s next? They’ll report me to the FBI? Interpol? The ICC? The UN Human Rights Commission?

I don’t know. I can’t guess. It will continue to escalate, but I can’t predict how.

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

It starts again

Jun 4th, 2013 4:56 pm | By

In Greece the cops are torturing anti-fascist protesters, apparently; at least that’s what the protesters claim.

Fifteen anti-fascist protesters arrested in Athens during a clash with supporters of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn have said they were tortured in the Attica General Police Directorate (GADA) – the Athens equivalent of Scotland Yard – and subjected to what their lawyer describes as an Abu Ghraib-style humiliation.

Members of a second group of 25 who were arrested after demonstrating in support of their fellow anti-fascists the next day said they were beaten and made to strip naked and bend over in front of officers and other protesters inside the same police station.

One wonders if the cops are Golden Dawn.

Several of the protesters arrested after the first demonstration on Sunday 30 September told the Guardian they were slapped and hit by a police officer while five or six others watched, were spat on and “used as ashtrays” because they “stank”, and were kept awake all night with torches and lasers being shone in their eyes.

Some said they were burned on the arms with a cigarette lighter, and they said police officers videoed them on their mobile phones and threatened to post the pictures on the internet and give their home addresses to Golden Dawn, which has a track record of political violence.

That is disgusting.

One of the two women among them said the officers used crude sexual insults and pulled her head back by the hair when she tried to avoid being filmed. The protesters said they were denied drinking water and access to lawyers for 19 hours. “We were so thirsty we drank water from the toilets,” she said.

One man with a bleeding head wound and a broken arm that he said had been sustained during his arrest alleged the police continued to beat him in GADA and refused him medical treatment until the next morning. Another said the police forced his legs apart and kicked him in the testicles during the arrest.

“They spat on me and said we would die like our grandfathers in the civil war,” he said.

Quick, somebody call for a chat over a beer. Surely they can just work it out.


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

Don’t deport

Jun 4th, 2013 4:41 pm | By

London again: a protest calling for an end to deportations to Uganda of known lesbians who face death if returned there.

Around 20 protesters from Queer Strike (part of the Global Women’s Strike movement) and the Movement for Justice protested this afternoon against the deportations of gay asylum seekers to countries such as Uganda, where gays are persecuted and even killed.

The protest came months after lesbian Jackie Nanyonjo died following injuries inflicted on her during her forced deportation by thugs contracted to the UKBA in March, and a single day before flights are due to return Linda N on Qatar Airways and Josephine by Royal Air Maroc.


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

London rally for marriage equality

Jun 4th, 2013 3:03 pm | By

Why look who’s there.

More on Facebook.

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

That’s “all the necessary protection”?

Jun 4th, 2013 2:39 pm | By

But at least “Beatriz” got a C-section at last.

Health Minister Maria Isabel Rodriguez said the baby had died five hours after the C-section.

Doctors decided the procedure had become necessary when the woman started having contractions on Sunday night, Ms Rodriguez said.

She insisted that the medical intervention did not contravene the court ruling.

Under the ruling, she said, “mother had to be given all the necessary protection to save her life, while analysing how long one could wait and do the utmost to save the baby’s life”.

For no reason since the baby had no brain and would not survive more than a few hours no matter what. One should not have waited one single second.

A medical committee at her maternity hospital, the Ministry of Health and rights groups had supported her request to terminate her pregnancy.

But the Supreme Court argued that the “the rights of the mother cannot take precedence over those of the unborn child or vice versa, and that there is an absolute bar to authorising an abortion” under the Salvadoran constitution.

El Salvador banned all types of abortion in 1999. The sentence for doctors and women violating that ban is 50 years in prison.

50 years.

There’s just no punishment harsh enough for women, is there.

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

“Worsening symptoms are signs of improvement”

Jun 4th, 2013 10:27 am | By

A terrible story out of the Burzynski clinic, the story of Amelia S., told by Bob Blaskiewicz.

3-year old Amelia S. lived in Reading. In about September of 2011, Amelia started displaying neurological symptoms–wobbliness and a trembling left hand (often drawn into a fist). The family brought her in to the hospital after she started falling down. On Jan 30th, 2012, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and on the 1st of Feb it was determined to be a large tumor on the brainstem. Surgery revealed a grade 2 diffuse astrocytoma, which the family was given to understand meant that the core of the tumor was likely grade 3. Doctors were unable to remove much of the tumor, only the 4 bioppsy samples.

Amelia’s medical team was honest. The benefit offered by radiation and chemotherapy, on average, could be measured in weeks. These are bad, bad tumors.

So they went the fundraising and Burzynski route. It didn’t work. The particular point of this story is that

it tipped skeptics off to a pattern in the stories that patients at the clinic were telling, that their worsening symptoms were signs of improvement. As you will see, this is a story that Burzynski’s patients have been relating for decades.

That would be a very effective way of getting more money out of people, wouldn’t it. Bad symptoms are signs of improvement; X thousands of dollars to continue the treatment.

The symptoms we are seeing right now are a direct result of the tumour, hopefully due to it swelling, and the steroids will fix this. They are also what we would see if it has grown.

It really, really looks that her wellness is linked directly to how much steroid she is receiving. And here’s another example of something that is…desperately, desperately wrong at the Clinic. The patient is being told that the tumor is swelling because of the treatment. How is it that only at the Burzynski Clinic that getting worse is indistinguishable from getting better? Second point: this is a tumor on the brainstem. If a possible side effect were swelling of the thing pressing against the brainstem, you’d expect that to be on the informed consent form, right? The type of thing that would be among the “serious side effects,” right? It’s not, at least not in a version of the consent form used after Amelia had started ANP…

It wasn’t working, but the Burzynski clinic was spinning it as if it were, and the newspapers helped it do that.

At this time, Amelia was returning to school (she had already been going to nursery school on treatment). And the way it appeared in the press, and certainly how I and other skeptics read it, it was being promoted as, “See? This treatment is working enough to let this little girl go back,” a human interest story (The Mirror’s coverage was profoundly disgraceful–suggesting UK doctors “refused to treat” Amelia, whereas when you look above you see that in fact: “The doctors here are being very cooperative – but I must emphasise that they are recommending different treatment (chemo) and we have consistently turned this down”), and by god it was good to hear that Amelia was having a great time, but there’s a lot more going on than is contained in the articles.

H/t Bob Blaskiewicz on Twitter.‏

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

Not postmodernist

Jun 3rd, 2013 6:24 pm | By

I posted a couple of paragraphs last summer from a piece I did in 2002 about difference feminism. Now I’ll just post the whole thing, because I want to.

I want to because some people are confusing the kind of feminism that was discussed and assumed at Women in Secularism 2 with difference feminism, and with postmodernist feminism more broadly. That is completely wrong. Nothing that was said in talks or on panels had anything to do with difference feminism, much less postmodernism. Nothing.

The word “privilege” is not code for epistemic relativism. It’s not.

I will admit that I don’t use the word in this context myself. It puts people’s backs up, and it’s never been part of my vocabulary anyway, so I don’t use it. I don’t bark “check your privilege” at people. But then, who does? Not many people that I know.

But I at least get what’s meant by it, and I understand that it’s not sinister. It doesn’t mean that what Privileged Person knows is untrue because privilege. It doesn’t mean all knowledge is relative to privilege. it doesn’t mean there is no truth, there is only situation. It doesn’t mean the Enlightenment was a big mistake because it forgot to do feminism, or that we should do the opposite of everything the Enlightenment did because the Enlightenment forgot to do feminism. It doesn’t mean science sucks because privilege. It doesn’t mean anything like that. It simply means that if your privilege insulates you from a particular kind of experience that a non-privileged person has, then you probably don’t have a good understanding of that particular kind of experience.

There, that’s not so scary, is it?

It applies to all of us, doesn’t it. Nobody knows every kind of lack-of-privilege there is. We’re sealed into our own heads, and we can be dense about that which happens in someone else’s head. We’re all the more dense if their circumstances are radically different from ours. The good news, though, is that we can learn.

Is that really such a terrifying insight?

I’ll repost Difference Feminism in a new post.

Update: Coincidentally, Jason was writing a much more thorough post at the same time. Read it.


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Difference Feminism

Jun 3rd, 2013 4:53 pm | By

Reposted from the first Butterflies and Wheels.

Second wave feminism has always had a radical strand. It has always been about   more than equal pay. It was also, for instance, about exposing and then discarding   banal conventional unreflective ideas that led to banal conventional unreflective behaviour. Ideas about cooking and cleaning being somehow naturally women’s work, for example, which led to men cheerfully lounging about while women put in what Arlie Hochschild calls a second shift. And even more than that, unexamined ideas about what women are like, what they want, what they should be and do.   David Lodge once remarked that women became much more interesting after feminism,   and his own novels bear this out, as do those of Michael Frayn and other male novelists who started writing in the ’50s or ’60s. The pre-1970 female characters are non-entities, the post-1970 ones – Robyn Penrose in Nice Work, Kate in Headlong – take up a lot of space. The very way women are perceived and noticed and thought about changed with feminism, and that would not have   happened if mere institutional reform had been the only goal.

But there are radical ideas and then there are radical ideas. One of the less helpful ones was difference feminism. The foundations of this shaky edifice were laid in the ’70s, when a popular rhetorical move was to label many usually well-thought-of attributes and tools–reason, logic, science, “linear” thinking, abstract ideas, analysis, objectivity, argument–as male, and dub their opposite female. So by a contortion that defies “male” logic, it somehow became feminist   to confine women all over again to intuition, guesswork, instinct, feelings, subjectivity, and arm-waving.

This school of thought became mainstream in 1982 with the publication of Carol   Gilligan’s highly influential In a Different Voice. Gilligan claims that women have their own special version of morality rooted in relationships and   caring rather than abstract notions of justice and equity. This of course sounds startlingly like the patronizing pat on the head with which women were barred   from public life in the 19th century, because the dear creatures were simply too good for that mucky arena. It is quite a feat of legerdemain to take what   had been thought a classic bit of sexist mystification and turn it into new feminist wisdom.

But however perverse or odd it may seem, and though her research has been sharply criticised,[1] Gilligan’s views were and are indeed popular. The criticisms were in small academic publications, while Gilligan got an admiring profile in the New York Times Magazine in 1990, complete with cover picture. In the wake of In a Different Voice came epigones such as Nell Noddings’ Caring, Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking, and Belenky, Clinchy,   Goldberger and Tarule’s Women’s Ways of Knowing. The last-named book, based on interviews with 135 women, claims that women are uncomfortable with   argument and disagreement, and that they have a different approach to knowledge   that emphasizes collaboration, consensus, mutual understanding. Women’s Ways   of Knowing declares in the final paragraph, “We have argued in this book   that educators can help women develop their own authentic voices if they emphasize connection over separation, understanding and acceptance over assessment, and   collaboration over debate…if instead of imposing their own expectations and arbitrary requirements, they encourage students to evolve their own patterns of work based on the problems they are pursuing.” What a flawless recipe for   infantilization and mental abdication. If it were in a book dated 1886 we would all point and laugh, but tragically it is dated a century later.

Women’s Ways of Knowing raises questions about the evidence its findings   are based on, and about what to do with those findings. Critics have duly pointed   out that the interview subjects were told in advance that the topic was women’s   different approaches to knowledge, which is not quite the way to elicit uncontaminated testimony. But even apart from that, even if their findings were really findings rather than self-confirmed prophecies, there would still be a problem with the   conclusions the authors draw. If the evidence truly supported their idea that   women prefer to maintain “connectedness”, make everyone feel good, and promote   understanding and acceptance over judgment or assessment, then clearly the response   ought to be loud and urgent demands for remedial education for women starting   yesterday. In morality, ethics, social life, friendship, there is something   (though far from everything) to be said for preferring understanding and acceptance   to judgment and assessment, but in epistemology or “ways of knowing” there is   just about nothing. Critical thinking is widely recognised to be a basic tool   for cognitive work, and surely the whole point of critical thinking is to know   what not to accept, to know how to judge and assess. It is all about   rejection, separation, negation, being “judgmental”; tolerance and love and   sympathy and sensitivity are the wrong tools for the job. A favourite move for   the different ways of knowing crowd is to quote an aphorism of Audre Lord’s, “the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house”, which fact perhaps demonstrates the result of eschewing logic. Why on earth would the Master’s tools not dismantle his house? If he goes to town or gets drunk and falls asleep   in the corn crib, his tools will work very nicely. But in any case feminists   need to resist any rhetorical move to hand those tools over to the Master, that   is, to claim that logic and reason and evidence and “linear thinking” and judgment   belong to men, and women should claim what’s left over. Carl Sagan used to like   to say, echoing Hume, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,   and we should demand very very good evidence indeed (better than 135 women summoned to describe their different way with knowledge) before accepting the notion   that logic is male.

And the evidence is not particularly good, to put it mildly. The notorious   1990 American Association of University Women study of the putative fall in self-esteem of adolescent girls was assailed from all sides for its flawed methodology,   but it got a flood of media attention all the same. It inspired more studies and books such as Peggy Ornstein’s Schoolgirls and Mary Pipher’s best-selling Reviving Ophelia, and wasted the time of countless girls in “self-esteem” classes when they might have been learning history or math. Bizarre claims resting   on flawed evidence generated even more bizarre claims resting on yet more flawed   evidence, in a spiral of epistemological breakdown. If only everyone had done less accepting and more judging. Susan Haack sums the matter up:

“But even if there were such a thing, the case for feminist epistemology would   require further argument to show that women’s ‘ways of knowing’ (scare quotes   because the term is tendentious, since ‘knows’ is a success-word) represent   better procedures of inquiry or subtler standards of justification than the male…[W]hat my experience rather suggests is that the questions of the epistemological tradition are hard, very hard, for anyone, of whatever sex (or gender), to answer or even significantly to clarify.”[2]

We have certainly gone to a great deal of trouble in order to come back to   where we started. Women are sweet, women are soft-headed, women are nicer than   men and don’t like all that pesky judgmental science and logic and reason and argument and disagreement. If this were true it ought to be changed, but there is little reason to think it is true. We thought we had escaped the tyranny of low expectations for women, we thought we had crashed that prison and freed   ourselves to be as tough and hard-headed and autonomous and wide-ranging as   men–and now here come the beaming Ed School professors to tell us No, no, that’s   all wrong, that’s the male way of doing things. We are women and we have to   park our brains at the door and be nice and warm and caring and empathic and fuzzy. That’s the sort of thing that makes a self-respecting feminist want to   be as opinionated and cold and uncompromising and downright ruthless as she   can find it in her to be. Janet Radcliffe Richards puts it this way:

“It is hard to imagine anything better calculated to delight the soul of patriarchal   man than the sight of women’s most vociferous leaders taking an approach to   feminism that continues so much of his own work: luring women off into a special   area of their own where they will remain screened from the detailed study of   philosophy and science to which he always said they were unsuited, teaching them indignation instead of argument, fantasy and metaphor instead of science, and doing all this by continuing his very own technique of persuading women   that their true interests lie elsewhere than in the areas colonized by men.”[3]

Feminists need to keep their eyes on the prize, as the saying goes, and resist   with every fibre of their being attempts to persuade them that the most fascinating,   inspiring, exhilarating, productive, truth-generating fields of intellectual endeavour are the private property of men and that authentic women are too maternal   and caring and touchy-feely to be good at them. A more perverse, backward-looking, destructive idea is hard to imagine, and the fact that it comes from friends rather than enemies is one of the surrealistic jokes of modern life.

Footnotes 1 Colby, Anne & William Damon. “Listening to a Different   Voice: A Review of Gilligan’s In a Different Voice.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly   29, 4 (October 1983). Walker, Lawrence J. “Sex Differences in the Development   of Moral Reasoning: A Critical Review.” Child Development 55 (1984).

2 Haack, Susan. Manifesto of a Passionate Moderate The   University of Chicago Press (1998).

3 Radcliffe Richards, Janet. “Why Feminist Epistemology Isn’t”. The Flight From Science and Reason ed. Paul Gross, Norman Levitt, Martin   Lewis, New York Academy of Sciences (1997).

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

Lord Warburton

Jun 3rd, 2013 2:40 pm | By

It’s a funny thing…I thought Portrait of a Lady was one of my favorite novels, but I started reading it again for the tenth time or whatever it is and discovered that…it’s not any more.


There’s less to it than I’d remembered. It’s just endless wandering around Gardencourt talking in a desultory way, and then Osmond and lots of baroque but boring plotty stuff and an annoying end. I’ve never liked the baroque plotty stuff after she marries Osmond, but I thought up through the fireside scene, where she reflects on the marriage and the awfulness of Osmond, was great stuff. Now I don’t. The fireside scene still is, but the hundreds of pages that lead up to it – meh.

Nobody does anything. They’re all rentiers. Mr Touchett was a banker, but he’s not any more, and no one else is anything. Henrietta is supposed to be a journalist, but she’s a funny kind of journalist – she writes stuff about staying in country houses – in other words she’s Henry James. That’s not journalism. Caspar Goodwood does working, but he’s offstage almost the whole time. Everybody else – bupkis. They don’t even do intellectual stuff with all that nice leisure. They just stroll up and down, and chat.

Isabel is supposed to be so great, but all she does is decline one suitor then decline another suitor then accept a third. That’s not doing anything. You could say the same of Jane Austen novels, but they’re much shorter and tighter than this one, and in a way the protagonists do do more than Isabel does. Plus it’s almost a century later – Isabel has less reason to do nothing.

It’s as if the whole subject is living in one big house or another, and who marries whom. There’s no world. There’s no action, no real thinking (apart from the fireside scene, and that is still all about The Marriage), no learning, no work, no real effort…

It seems empty now.

I get more and more ruthless about fiction all the time. It’s strange.

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