Notes and Comment Blog

Laudable aims?

Mar 4th, 2013 12:10 pm | By

Peter Tatchell is outraged that Reading University’s Muslim Society invited Abu Usamah at-Thahabi to speak, given that Thahabi has endorsed the murder of gays and “apostates.”

A joint statement by the Reading University Muslim Society, Reading University Students Union and the University of Reading praised the “laudable aims” of the Muslim Society.

Laudable aims? Are the university authorities and student’s union bonkers or bigots? Do they, too, justify murder?

I find it impossible to believe that the Muslim Society was not aware of Thahabi’s extremist opinions. He is a well publicised hate preacher. How can an organisation be laudable if it hosts a person with such intolerant, murder-endorsing views?

Well…because if you don’t say the aims are laudable, maybe someone will call you Islamophobic. That’s how.

The joint statement went on to say:

“Both the University and RUSU (Reading University Students Union) are committed to supporting the Muslim Society in its aims of raising awareness of Islam and building mutual understanding. We are delighted that other events in the week’s programme will be going ahead as planned.”

Building mutual understanding? Has Reading University taken leave of its senses? How is mutual understanding advanced by hosting a preacher who advocates murdering ex-Muslims and gay people? Who disrespects women as inferior, lesser human beings? And who calls for the beating of littler girls?

By ignoring that part, and pretending that raising awareness of Islam is all about good things with no possibility of bad things creeping in.

At the last minute, the university decided to cancel Thahabi’s talk but not because of his sexism, homophobia and de facto incitement to murder. The reason the authorities cited for cancelling was, they said, “the increasing threat of violent protest by extremist groups.” These groups were not named.

Some people interpreted this as a smear against the peaceful counter-protest planned by the anti-extremist group, Student Rights, and by the Reading Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society (RAHS).

However, a post on the English Defence League-linked Casual’s United blog stated that “local activists will be turning up to disrupt” the event. It also posted a telephone number that its readers can call to “tell them [the university] what you think of them for hosting this rodent.”

More fodder for the EDL. Bad move. Next time just don’t invite murderous clerics.

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

She sees all

Mar 4th, 2013 11:50 am | By

Ania Bula made me a picture.

Beware the Masked Pineapple – it never Goes Home!

masked pineapple

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

“People trying make a name for themselves by posting fluff”

Mar 4th, 2013 9:37 am | By

Another week begins. Mayhew is still at it, still publicly fuming about the way I blog. It’s on Google+ this time, and she did some research. She also did some attempted argument.

I pointed out the lazy blogging habits of certain Freethoughtblogs authors because it bothers me to see people trying make a name for themselves by posting fluff, when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there.

That’s the argument part.

It’s a stupid argument.

One, “trying make a name for themselves”? How does she know that’s what we’re doing? How does she know all of us or any of us are doing that? How does she know we’re doing that more than anything else, or to the exclusion of anything else? She doesn’t. She doesn’t know any of those things. My main reason for doing it is the fact that I like doing it. When I started doing it I had no reason to think anyone would ever read a word of it.

Two, “when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there”? Wut? Of course there are. There are tens of thousands of them. If we’re talking the whole world, there are millions of them. What’s that got to do with anything? Do I have some big fraudulent label on my blog that says “quality, hard working science here!”? No. Am I taking anything away from any quality, hard working science advocates and educators? No. That “when” is as random and meaningless as if she shouted at someone for eating lunch when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there or going for a walk when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there or burping the baby when there are so many quality, hard working science advocates and educators out there.

Three, don’t make me laugh. She suddenly starts complaining about “the lazy blogging habits of certain Freethoughtblogs authors” out of some broad social concern for quality science and education? Please. Out of all the bloggers in all the world, not to mention all the problems in all the world, she zoomed in on the putative lazy blogging habits of certain Freethoughtblogs authors…because she has a burr up her ass and she just can’t shut up about me. It’s got nothing to do with quality science and education. Her attempt at a “Dear Muslima” is pathetic.

Now for the quality hard-working research.

Here are some recent posts from Butterflies and Wheels, which shows how many words were copy/pasted from a secondary source, out of the total words of the post:

How to read satire 555/895
Michael Nugent visits the slime pit 556/791
Imagine 282/647

This isn’t simply trying to be transparent and quoting people accurately. Anyone who took high school English knows that if you can’t summarize a large chunk of text, you probably don’t understand it. Quotes should be supplementary, not nearly 50% of your piece.

This isn’t high school English, Sara. A blog isn’t a term paper. It isn’t a book report. It isn’t a dissertation. It isn’t a magazine column or a book chapter. A blog is a blog, and one of the distinctive features of the blog as a medium is that there are no rules. No rules at all. You can do anything with your blog you want to (within the law).

My aim isn’t to summarize stuff I read. I know how to summarize a large chunk of text, thank you, but it’s hardly ever what I want to do here. You’re trying to invent a new rule but it won’t work, because you’re not in charge of blogging. There’s no such “should” as “quotes should be supplementary, not nearly 50% of your piece,” not for blogging. There is for other kinds of writing, of course, but not for blogging. Blogging is a flexible, shifting, creative genre, and your invented rules cut no ice.

Blogging isn’t the same as handing in an academic paper, but having this much of someone else’s writing pasted into your post is intellectually lazy and sloppy writing. You could argue substance over style, but there’s so little substance there. It would be fine to do a TMZ/tabloid style take-down of subjects, but even those mediums have an element of entertainment and/or humour; it’s not to be mistaken for serious, quality information.

I’m not saying these peanut gallery style blogs shouldn’t exist. I’m saying that they should be given the credibility a peanut gallery deserves, which is much much less than well written, content focused bloggers who aim to communicate science and secular humanism with quality information. Those are the bloggers that deserve your serious attention and the guest speaker chairs at events.

Aha, now we get to the point! Nobody should be asking me to speak at events! Mayhew is pissed off that someone occasionally asks me to speak at an event.

Why? Why me, why now?

I have no idea. Maybe she’s used up her other targets and cast around for a new one.

It’s funny how I’ve never seen fit to do this to Mayhew. I don’t tweet and post and Facebook update to say she does shitty work and doesn’t deserve your serious attention and the guest speaker chairs at events. I don’t talk about her at all – until she starts poking at me.

Kylie Sturgess has a couple of very good comments on Mayhew’s post. Mayhew would be wise to heed them.

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

Leave it to Vacula

Mar 4th, 2013 9:23 am | By

And Vacula is still working overtime displaying his bullying skillz to an admiring world.


Karla Porter@karla_porter

People don’t take yourselves so seriously. We are all blips on the cosmic clock. Enjoy or short life, don’t be miserable =)

Justin Vacula@justinvacula

Ophie asks “who the fuck is @karla_porter anyway?” Interesting she forgot about this FB conversation from July 2012 – …

Justin Vacula@justinvacula

@ElevatorGATE What nonsense. Ophie also complained much about July 2012 podcast w @karla_porter …#bravehero


Ophelia Benson@OpheliaBenson

@daiapmorgen @justinvacula @karla_porter Notice that I don’t talk about “Justy” and “Karlie”? No sense of humor, I suppose.

Justin Vacula@justinvacula

@OpheliaBenson @daiapmorgen @karla_porter If Ophie really bothers, I’ll consider stopping. Karla just used it to not use real name in satire


Justin Vacula@justinvacula

@OpheliaBenson @TonySidaway You know that broadcasting what you dont like to be called may inspire people to call you it? It shows weakeness

A tidy collection.

Those ones about “who is Karla Porter” – I didn’t mean I thought I’d never seen the name before, I meant who the fuck is she, what does any of this have to do with her, why is she helping Vacula harass me, why is she caling me “Ophie” in that matey-contemptuous way, who is she.

But since she is harassing me alongside Vacula, I’ll point out what a thug she is. It’s my impression that she has some kind of responsible adult job – yet she spends time jeering at a total stranger on social media and in podcasts, and even contemptuously calls her by a diminutive, just to belittle. How very odd.

Anyway, Vacula’s last item is a real gem. Spoken like a true bully.

Update 6 hours later – because it’s too funny.


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

The status of women

Mar 4th, 2013 8:03 am | By

Here’s something to follow in case you want a good thing to follow today – #CSW57, the Committee on the Status of Women at the UN. Michelle Bachelet is speaking right now.

United Nations CSW@UN_CSW

“1 in 3 girls in developing countries is likely to be married as a child bride.” – Ms. #Bachelet at #CSW57 opening. #endchildmarriage


Bachelet: Ending violence against women is the missing Millennium Development Goal that must be included in all future discussions. #CSW57

Anna Johnson@annaj21

Bachelet: it’s for Malala that we must come to a strong, action-oriented outcome. This is a historic opportunity #CSW57


@myworld2015Up to 70% of women in some countries face physical and /or sexual violence in their lifetime.” – Ms. #Bachelet at #CSW57

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

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

Mar 4th, 2013 7:39 am | By

Tarek Fatah has written to Mark Zuckerberg.

Embedded image permalink

I wonder if Zuckerberg will reply. I wonder what he can possibly say.

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

Michael Nugent visits the slime pit

Mar 3rd, 2013 5:23 pm | By

A couple of days ago Michael Nugent posted two questions for Justin Vacula about ‘nasty pushback’ against some feminists online.

Justin Vacula has published a video (here with transcript) titled “Feminists’ million dollar question” in which he elaborates on his advice “for people who face criticism and hate on the internet.”

While I fundamentally disagree with his analysis, I am interpreting his intentions charitably, and I would like to ask him two questions.

Justin asks why some feminists receive what he calls “nasty pushback” while others don’t, and he concludes that it is because of the way that they present themselves on the Internet. He says of this “nasty pushback”:

“It’s not to say the nasty pushback is morally justified, but it’s just to state a fact; it’s just to state how the internet “is.” It’s not to justify the behavior.”

Justin, here’s my first question for you. Can you go a step further than that, and say that at least some of “the nasty pushback” is morally unjustified, and can you give some examples of morally unjustified nasty pushback?

I don’t think Vacula has answered yet – he was too busy doing an hour-long podcast devoted to examining a few comments of mine on Facebook – but Vacula did a post purporting to answer Nugent’s questions but actually failing to answer them; meanwhile Nugent has posted Examples of ‘nasty pushback’ against some atheist/skeptic feminists on the Internet. Boy has he ever. He went to the slyme pit and dug deep and came up with a big, dripping, stinking, oozing collection of examples. I haven’t seen anyone else do that before apart from us – the targets of the slime – and we do it only sparingly. This should make some heads explode.

He gives two trigger warnings. Then into the muck we go. [Trigger warning, by the way. As you doubtless know, this is horrible stuff. It makes you think ill of humanity. Be warned.] A sample.

      1. If I was a girl I would kick [named person] in the cunt. cunt.
      2. [named person] comes off as the most disgusting human being I have ever encountered. What a fucking self-pitying arrogant twat/bitch/cunt/asshole. Oh, was that sexist? Boo fucking hoo; stop complaining and grow a pair. Oh, was that sexist again? Fuck you.
      3. But for her victim ploy [named person] needs to believe that there are people who want her to be raped, and all her little smelly-skepchick-snatch-sniffers are more than happy to magic them into being in their own tiny shiny minds.
      4. It really bothers me when fucking special snowflakes like [named person] complain about “sister punishing” or privilege. That fucking bitch is the textbook definition of privilege. A useless, worthless cunt that gets to complain about stupid trivial shit because of her comfy, cushioned life.
      5. I find their behaviour disgusting and hilarious at the same time. I don’t argue against them, I don’t try and build bridges or attempt to change their minds. I’m just here for the laughs and to watch them dissolve in a pool of their own angry tears.
      6. [named person]’s whole strategy is to make herself a target to get attention to her bleating. What the fuck do I care if someone then tells her she’s ugly or makes funny pictures of her? That’s what she fucking wants, she can have it.

That’s the first six. It goes all the way up to 50.

A bit more.

      1. Links to photos of a named couple’s wedding, and mocking comments about their marriage including [in response to a tweet by the wife about how much she loves her husband]: To me, that looks like she’s trying to tell herself she still loves a man who no longer does it for her.
      2. A photo of several named feminists with the commentary: – Oh no. Wow that photo could be used for chemical free pest control. – Yeah, and [named person] certainly looks as though someone’s tampering with her rusty tradesman’s entrance… – Holy shit that’s a table of fuglies! and i have beer goggles on. – By the way, that picture is revolting. When you look at [named person] her atrocious oral hygiene is overwhelmingly evident. – The other “chicks” in the picture aren’t smiling, they’re grimacing at her repulsive appearance and are disgusted by her atrocious breath. Meow [named person]! – What is [named person] doing with her right hand? Wanking off a hobo? – [named person] looks like she’s in the before shot for a tooth whitening product.
      3. A video animation of a named person masturbating over a computer image of another named person.

That’s 43 through 45.

What can a #bravehero say to that? Nothing, but no doubt he’ll come up with something to say about a different subject.

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

Sarah Palin what now?

Mar 3rd, 2013 4:33 pm | By

Oh this is fun – I was poking around with Google, searching for this and that, and turned up this 2010 post at Jezebel on “Sarah Palin Feminism.” Say what? Yes, apparently Sarah Palin was calling for a new, conservative feminism (starring Sarah Palin, presumably?), and Kate Harding came up with five ways to look at it.

All this would hardly merit more than a quick Inigo Montoya impression, if not for the fact that people won’t quit trying to make the idea of Sarah Palin Feminism happen. And if the fringe right has taught us anything over the last few years, it’s that the more the media takes your horseshit seriously, the more people start to forget that you’re completely disingenuous and/or out of your friggin’ mind.

So fine, let’s take an old, liberal feminist look at this concept before it gets too much more traction. Five looks, in fact.

A new, conservative feminism…what does that remind me of? Oh, I know – it reminds me of Sarah Palin’s funny way of being a brave hero by quitting her job as governor, and of serving the people of Alaska by quitting her job as governor. She’s a woman who like to square the circle. Conservative feminism is another one of those. Yes, sure, there are people who combine the two, but let’s face it – it’s a bad fit.

Look 1: You’ve got to be fucking kidding me

In a series that begins with “anti-choice feminism,” “Tea Party feminism,” and “Sarah Palin feminism,” what comes next? “Phyllis Schlafly feminism?” “Patriarchal feminism?” “He-Man Woman Hater Feminism?” I mean, how long until the Washington Post publishes a “feminist” argument for repealing the 19th Amendment (there’s no truly pro-woman party anyway, don’t you know?), or widening the pay gap (so more men can be sole breadwinners again and more women can freely choose to stay home) or, I don’t know, reclaiming the word “chattel”?

See why I say this is fun? It is. That’s funny stuff.

So, can’t I just agree to disagree with Sarah Palin – or at least to ignore her use of the term and continue to go about my business? Well, evidently not, or I wouldn’t be writing this. The problem is, words mean things. I could start calling myself a red meat conservative, or campaign for those of us who are against the death penalty to “reclaim” the term “pro-life,” but at some point, the relationship between your beliefs and your choice of words either passes the sniff test or it doesn’t. And someone who actively seeks to restrict women’s freedom calling herself a feminist is, not to put too fine a point on it, a liar. There’s a difference between a big tent and no boundaries whatsoever; if Palin’s “entitled to be accepted” as a feminist just because she says she’s one, then the word is completely meaningless — as opposed to merely vague and controversial. And I might just start calling myself a “right-winger” because I’m right-handed, or a “fundamentalist” because I believe everyone deserves a solid primary education, or a “birther” because I once hosted a baby shower.

That was 2010 though. Now this shiny new conservative feminism is all the rage, and we crazy old liberal feminists are twisted sisters.

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

The cardinal tripped and fell below the standards

Mar 3rd, 2013 12:48 pm | By

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, after saying “I never!!” for several days, has given a delicate admission that he was sexually…well he doesn’t say exactly, apart from admitting that it wasn’t quite the done thing. Well he’s a Catholic priest, and a high-ranking one, you can’t expect him to just come right out and say he fucked goats or had affairs with slabs of liver or raped children in the confessional.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, today admitted his sexual conduct had “fallen beneath the standards expected of me”.

The Northern Ireland-born cleric stepped down from his post as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh last month, a day after three priests and one former priest made allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour against him.

After initially denying the allegations, the cardinal last night admitted sexual wrongdoing for the first time, as he asked forgiveness for those he had “offended”.

Lots of squeamish wording there, as the Indy’s scare-quotes hint, and no particulars at all. Inappropriate is it. Hmm. He announced he had a hard-on in the middle of Mass? He played with himself while telling the nuns what to do? He plastered his office with photos of sheep?

And then the apology to those he “offended” is rich. “Sorry for raping you in the bum, little Johnny, hope you weren’t too offended.”

Last night Mr O’Brien, 74, said: “I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

Until the allegations last month, the cardinal had been outspoken on issues including euthanasia and abortion, and had described gay marriage as a “grotesque subversion”.

Yeeeah, that’s how that works. He can marry chickens, but gay marriage is grotesque. One law for me, a totally other kind of law for thee. Now get the fuck off my santified lawn.

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

Another “resistance movement”

Mar 3rd, 2013 12:15 pm | By

The Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser does not welcome the “Vaccine Resistance Movement” on campus. It has issued a statement to say so.

FHS disavows any support or affiliation with Vaccine Resistance Movement

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) was surprised to learn that SFU has rented space to the “Vaccine Resistance Movement” for their Summit 2013 at the Harbour Centre Campus. Renting space to  outside organizations for events such as these is done without any  academic oversight. FHS disavows any support or affiliation with this  event which we believe to be  anti-science and contrary to good public  health practice. We are deeply concerned that the public will perceive  the SFU venue as legitimation of the dangerous misinformation that the  Vaccine Resistance Movement is known for. Please accept our sincere  apologies for the inappropriate use of SFU facilities to promote this  event.

That is forthright. Well said.


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

One particular kind of harassment is “just a joke”

Mar 3rd, 2013 10:40 am | By

Catching up. This is from way back in January but I didn’t get to it then. It’s a post on the Ms blog about online harassment of women and what men can do about it, by Ben Atherton-Zeman.

He starts by saying that women get more online harassment than men do.

Racists harass people online; so do homophobes. Most people agree this is harassment. But my gender’s online harassment of women seems to go unquestioned, even defended, in most circles. Yet men’s online abuse of women has been well-documented by women such as Laurie Penney, Jennifer Pozner, Emily May and many other women.

“The sad part is that it works,” says feminist blogger Soraya Chemaly. “I have spoken to many, many women writers who ‘tone down’ their voices or stop writing entirely as a result of threats. … I mean, who wants to wake up in the morning to ‘Stupid cunt’ or ‘I’ll go from house to house shooting women like you.’”

Chemaly adds, “The point of the harassment, like harassment on the street, is to make the public sphere seem dangerous and to portray women as provoking a violent response through their actions.”

Pozner agrees. “It’s about the policing of women … using threats to keep us silent.”

And there isn’t much reaction, except from the targets themselves. There isn’t a great deal of blogger solidarity or human solidarity or progressive/liberal solidarity with women who are targets of harassment. That’s changing – some of that change happening right here, with you guys setting the example – but it’s slow.

But most men have remained silent, as we do with many forms of our gender’s violence against women. Many of us blame the victim, suggesting things women can do differently to ameliorate the problem. We tell women to grow a thicker skin, not to “feed the trolls” and not to assume all men feel that way.

Like Vacula. Ben A-Z missed something there: that suggesting things women can do differently to ameliorate the problem is not just victim-blaming, it’s also helping the harassers and telling the women to change what they do in order to appease people who are harassing them. It’s saying “if those harassers are harassing you for speaking out then you should stop speaking out.” It’s treating harassers like weather or a steep mountain, rather than as human beings who can decide how to treat people.

Think of the labor movement. Think of union organizing and strikes. The labor movement often encountered violence from the owners and the goon and scabs they hired. Progressives and liberals didn’t advise union organizers to stop organizing in order to avoid the violence; they did everything they could to expose the violence and to stand with those on the receiving end.

Men’s online abuse results in women hesitating to write, stopping writing altogether and fearing for their physical safety. Many women have told me that such abuse doesn’t just happen when women are writing about feminism, it happens to them all the time. Amy Davis Roth blogged about atheism and was subjected to daily harassment as a result. Roth described a “typical day” as “Wake up. Make coffee. Block hateful messages on Twitter or other social media … Make art.”

All the time. Once it starts, it doesn’t stop. Harassment becomes a career for some people (who promptly accuse the objects of the harassment who write about the harassment of “doing it for the hits”). It gets so non-stop and so obsessive that you can find two adults spending an entire hour doing a podcast to discuss a few comments that A Target made on a Facebook post. No really. I know that sounds incredible, but it’s true. Two adults, plus three callers. An entire hour. A few comments. By one person. On a Facebook post. “Dramatic reading”; discussion; more discussion; more discussion. For an hour.

Ben A-Z has some suggestions for what men can do to help.

1. Listen to women’s experience of online abuse and threats by men. Let us read articles about it – the ones linked here are a good place to start. Instead of suggesting solutions, we can take in how hurtful the comments are.

4. When men harass women online, speak up. We can say something like, “As a man, your harassing comment offends me,” in the Comments sections.  Say how it hurts you rather than speaking on behalf of the target.

5. Name the specific silencing tactic being used: name-calling, focusing on a woman’s appearance instead of her argument, etc.

7. Watch for “professional trolls” from the “Men’s Rights” or “Father’s Rights” groups. They will often use terms such as “misandry” and refer to the feminist movement as anti-male or the domestic violence movement as an “industry.”

8. Send supportive emails, letters, candygrams, etc. to feminist women. Thank them for the good work they are doing–not just when they are targets of online harassment, but all the time. “If you see someone doing good work, you can be sure they’re being told they’re fat and ugly,” says Emily May. “Nice emails counterbalance the noise.”

Good advices. You peeps are already doing them. Change is happening but my god it is slow.

Speaking of that, though – Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker signed Adam Lee’s petition a few days ago. That’s good. That’s very good.

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

Who was that masked pineapple?

Mar 2nd, 2013 5:27 pm | By

By the way, that whole pineapple thing? Mayhew’s witty “Pineapple go home!” on Facebook, Vacula’s witty repetition of “Pineapple go home!” farther down the thread on Facebook, “Pineapple go home!” as the title of the first episode of Vacula & Porter’s new podcast, Mayhew’s witty cartoon of “Pineapple go home!”?

I take it they have no clue what the pineapple is about. It’s about something. I didn’t make my profile picture a pineapple just because I wanted a piece of fruit as my profile picture. No. No, I made my profile picture a pineapple in solidarity with the Reading University Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society. There was a little incident last October, which I blogged about several times. I first blogged about it on October 5.

I will just repost the whole thing here, because it’s mine, and I can do that.

Either the pineapple goes, or you do       


And on the same day, in another part of the forest…

…another busy representative of another university Student Union meddled with another Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society. Reading University this time, and RUSU and RAHS. This time not a Jesus and Mo toon on a Facebook page, but a pineapple named Mohammed.

The NSS quotes a statement by Tim Rouse of the Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society:

Among the material displayed on our stall was a pineapple. We labelled this pineapple “Mohammed”, to encourage discussion about blasphemy, religion, and liberty, as well as to celebrate the fact that we live in a country in which free speech is protected, and where it is lawful to call a pineapple by whatever name one chooses.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we were informed by a member of RUSU staff that there had been complaints about the pineapple, despite the fact that no complaints had been made at any point to anybody on the stall. Our commitment to freedom of expression meant that we refused to remove the pineapple from our stall. After a few minutes, we were told by another member of RUSU staff that “Either the pineapple goes, or you do”, whereupon they seized the pineapple and tried to leave. However, the pineapple was swiftly returned, and shortly was displayed again, with the name Mohammed changed to that of Jesus.

Shortly afterwards, the second RUSU staff member returned and ordered RAHS to leave the Freshers’ Fayre. At this point, a group of around five students, some of whom self-identified as Muslim, approached the stall and began to criticise us, asking and telling us to remove the pineapple. Though these students mainly engaged in discussion, one removed the label from the pineapple without our permission.

And on it went, wrangle wrangle, until they felt forced to leave, although they continued to hand out leaflets outside the event.

One fire is put out while another is set ablaze.


Back in the present now.

So you see the pineapple has a meaning – one that even Justin Vacula and Sara Mayhew might appreciate. But they’ve been too busy making videos and podcasts to jeer at us, or cartoons of angry pineapples to jeer at us, to pay attention to things like the above incident. So they jeered at the poor loyal pineapple. Sad, isn’t it.

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

Go home, pineapple

Mar 2nd, 2013 12:23 pm | By

Another cartoon, not quite as funny as Bjarte’s, but still funny, in its way.

[Art removed at the request of the artist. It was a cartoon of an angry scowling pineapple next to a sign with an arrow pointing to "Home."]

[The art can be seen here.]

[Missing art compensated for with amusing Twitter exchange.]


Sara E. Mayhew‏@saramayhew

@daiapmorgen It’s a pineapple, not an argument. Chill out. Just a doodle of a funny sounding phrase.

Justin Vacula@justinvacula

@saramayhew May I use this picture w attribution for tonight’s #bravehero podcast? …

@justinvacula rather not. It was just supposed to be a doodle of how funny the phrase sounds, not about Benson.

Don’t geddit? It helps to know that my Facebook profile picture is a pineapple, and that Sara Mayhew told me to “Go home, pineapple” on her Facebook post in which she picked a fight with me. Justin Vacula found that so amusing that he echoed it. Then he was so taken with that that he decided to do a podcast titled “Go home, pineapple!” for a new series titled – I’m not making this up – Brave Hero. He’s named it after the obsessive loon who does the “ElevatorGATE” blog and Twitter account.


Justin Vacula Introducing the Brave Hero podcast with hosts Justin Vacula and Karla Porter…we’re just two young muppets in a balcony.

Episode one — “Go home, pineapple!” — will be aired Saturday (3/2/13) at 7:00PM EST. We would be honored if #bravehero Sara E Mayhew would call in.

Be a #bravehero and join the growing resistance movement today! Callers — no matter their viewpoints — are welcome and encouraged. Save the online atheist community, save the world.

Weekly live episodes of ‘As The Atheist World Turns’ with @JustinVacula, @Karla_Porter, and guest callers. Drama never dies. #bravehero

He’s thorough, isn’t he. Brave Hero as a nod to the guy who taunted Rhys Morgan for failing his exams and for having a chronic illness. Two young muppets in a balcony as a nod to Sara Mayhew’s taunt at Stephanie and me and Daniel Waddell’s ditto. “Go home, pineapple!” as a nod to Mayhew’s telling me to “go home” as if I had started this brawl when in fact she started it. “Join the growing resistance movement” as if we were the Nazi occupation. “Save the online atheist community” as if the bloggers that Vacula has contempt for were destroying it. “Drama never dies” as if nonstop harassment and denigration of women were “drama” and as if Vacula weren’t an enthusiastic participant himself.

I think telling me to “go home” is especially notable. It’s of a piece with his “advice” to feminists who get harassed by him and his friends, nearly all of which boils down to telling us to stop blogging – in short, to go home. It’s notable that Vacula apparently has no qualms about ordering a woman to “go home!” – as if he’s completely oblivious to the obvious overtones of men ordering women to go home. He’s a strange guy.

Update Sunday morning:

Mayhew is still at it.


Update 2:

Vacula is actually proud of that podcast.


Proud of it. Of doing a whole hour’s podcast, with another adult human being, to discuss my comment on Mayhew’s Facebook post about me. A whole hour! Two people! It’s like being proud of spending two weeks making a peanut butter sandwich.

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

No thinking involved

Mar 2nd, 2013 11:54 am | By

Five students have been arrested in Dhaka in the murder of the atheist blogger and campaigner Ahmed Rajib Haidar. The police say all five confessed to involvement in the murder.

The detectives identified the five as Faisal bin Nayeem alias Dwip, 22, Maksudul Hassan Anik, 23, Ehsan Reza Rumman, 23, Naim Sikder Irad, 19, and Nafis Imtiaz, 22.

Dwip and Anik, who hail from Matuail and Keraniganj in Dhaka, are students of electrical and electronic engineering, while Rumman and Irad, who hail from Jhenidah and Brahmanbaria respectively, are students of electric and telecommunications.

Imtiaz, who hails from Sandwip in Chittagong, is a student of business administration.

Notice all the high tech. I mentioned this to Tasneem Khalil, who sent me the link, and he told me that Islamists recruit the brightest in high tech and finance.

Makes sense. They would, wouldn’t they. But notice how brightness of that instrumental kind can be compatible with moral idiocy. From Islamists to bankers, murderers to technocrats in charge of genocidal wars (I’m thinking of Halberstam’s Best and Brightest here), one kind of brightness does not necessarily imply or include another kind.

The “Borobhai” [senior brother; the mastermind] gave the NSU students links of some blogs and asked them to collect information about the bloggers.

Analysing the posts, the group decided to kill Rajib, who used to write under the pseudonym of “Thaba Baba”, Monirul Islam, the DMP joint commissioner, told the newspersons.

Once the decision was taken, an “intelligence group” was formed to collect detailed information about the blogger analysing his posts on blogs and Facebook, and track him down.

An “intelligence group” with no moral intelligence whatever.

On February 11, Rumman followed their target from Shahbagh Projonmo Chattar to Mirpur-10 intersection. “Rajib was in a bus and Rumman followed him by a bicycle,” said the police official.

Rumman failed to find out Rajib’s house that day. But the next day he succeeded to locate his place at Palashnagar.

“The group later started to collect information from locals regarding his profession, lifestyle, relatives, etc to finalise their killing plan,” said Monirul.

Anik and a couple of others went to Notun Bazar and bought machetes and knives. Anik paid the money, the arrestees said.

On the day of the killing, the group came to know from Rajib’s Facebook page that he would not go to Shahbagh that day and rushed hurriedly to Palashnagar by bicycles and bus, said Monirul.

They reached there around 4:00pm, carrying the machetes and knives in schoolbags.

The group started to play cricket in an alley near the blogger’s house to monitor his return.

As the sun was going down, Rajib was seen returning home. When he neared the gate of his house, Dwip hit him with a machete in a bid to sever his head from the shoulder, but failed to succeed in doing so.

After two more hits, the victim fell on the wall and Dwip continued to chop him, said Monirul.

Why? Because. He was an atheist. What more reason did they need?

“Three of them told us that they were not repentant for what they have done. They said it was their religious obligation to kill Rajib.”

No thinking involved. Just a made-up rule, and stupidly blindly following it, without thinking. Your superior officer tells you to kill everyone in the village, you do it. Your “superior brother” tells you to kill an atheist blogger, you do it.

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

Bjarte Foshaug does layers of irony

Mar 2nd, 2013 11:38 am | By

Bjarte has a new cartoon.

Embedded image permalink

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

How to read satire

Mar 2nd, 2013 10:55 am | By

Stacy alerted me to a good (feminist) analysis of the Onion tweet.

First of all, she says, Quvenzhané Wallis is terrific, no question.

But you know what? All of the women at the Oscars last night are awesome. Just to have survived to that level in an industry that, at best, ignores women, and, at worst, actively despises them means they have to be awesome. Maybe they’re not awesome in ways that everyone sees or acknowledges. But in their own way, they’re fierce and strong and bursting with personality in an industry that is designed not to see women that way…

The best examples of how Hollywood hates women were supplied by Oscar host Seth MacFarlane himself. He sang an entire gleeful song about how he saw famous actresses’ breasts in movies, as if he were 12 years old and had no hope of seeing breasts in real life (maybe, with his attitudes, he doesn’t), including movies in which their characters are abused, even gang-raped. (Yup, so sexy, getting a glimpse of nipple as a woman is being brutally attacked.) He degraded women left and right by reducing all their immense talents to how “beautiful” they are or how human carbuncle Rex Reed might insult their body size.

Hollywood and pop culture — including most pop culture watchers, such as the mostly male ranks of film critics and the mostly rank roster of “serious” film fans who populate movie sites from the IMDb to Rotten Tomatoes – is absolutely vile to women, with extra bile if they’re famous and don’t give that particular boy a boner.

And the Onion tweet was parodying that. Not echoing it but parodying it. I saw that as one possible reading at the time, but I saw the shock-horror about the tweet before I saw the content of the tweet, so I was primed not to see the parody reading as clearly as the echo reading. Or I was just stupid. One of those.

Or maybe a third possibility, which is that so much humor these days turns out to include misogyny, to have a misogynist edge, to be compatible with misogyny, to be the product of people (mostly men) who are misogynist. I occasionally watched Family Guy for awhile because I found Stewie and Brian hilarious. I find parts of The Big Bang Theory hilarious. I find Jon Stewart sexist quite often. I’m used to discovering that something hilarious turns out also to be misogynist and/or sexist as well.

It was probably all three of those. Anyway, the parody reading seems like a better fit now – but Twitter can be a bad medium for jokes like that. I know this. People mis-read my jokes aimed at myself as jokes aimed at someone else, and then ignore my corrections. Twitter can be a dangerous toy.

But the point was a good one.

What highlights how outrageous is the loathsome treatment of women on the Web?

Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?

That gets attention in a way that calling a famous adult woman the same thing never does. Because it’s clearly outrageous in a way that, apparently, isn’t quite so clear-cut when it comes to an adult woman. But she asked for it by wearing that dress. She’s an attention whore. She likes being in the spotlight. She can stop being famous any time if she can’t take it. We should see such rationales as ridiculous. We can see it when they’re applied to a nine-year-old. But we don’t see it in general.

Well. Okay. Feminist pop-culture watchers see how all women are treated in pop culture as outrageous. But we feminists are still a minority. That Onion tweet was not directed at feminists. It was directed at a general readership that probably has not yet internalized that it’s just plain wrong to talk about women like this, but might possibly understand that it’s just plain wrong to talk about a little girl like this. And might possibly start to get an inkling of a clue.

God damn that sounds familiar. She’s an attention whore. She likes being in the spotlight. She can stop being famous any time if she can’t take it.

She’s a professional victim. She engages in drama for the blog hits. She can stop blogging any time if she can’t take it.

So the point was a good one.

The Onion likely demonstrated some tone-deafness when it comes to issues that some online feminists I respect immensely pointed out, like how women of color come in for extra bonus disrespect and misogyny, and how little girls are inexcusably oversexualized.

But that’s not what this tweet was about. As I think many of my readers would attest, I am attuned to misogyny in pop culture, even the point at which I see it when others don’t. And still, I didn’t see it here. I didn’t see Wallis as the butt of this joke. It seemed completely obvious to me — to the point that I didn’t even have to think about it — that the butt of the joke here is people who say such things about women.

But she reads the Onion much more regularly than I do, so she had a better sense of their overall attitudes than I do. I’ve learned to expect to be suddenly disappointed.

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

Muppets are always boys

Mar 1st, 2013 6:04 pm | By

As I mentioned, I’m not familiar with Statler and Waldorf. So here, via a Facebook friend, is a selection.

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


Mar 1st, 2013 5:19 pm | By

Michael Nugent asks what if Ireland discriminated for atheism instead of for religion?

Imagine if 96% of our primary schools were run with an explicitly atheist ethos – not a neutral, secular ethos, but an explictly atheist ethos – where children were taught that there is no god, and that ethos was permeated throughout the entire curriculum.

The idea seems bizarre, doesn’t it. Surplus to requirements, just as god is. It would be odd to have schools run with an explicitly atoothfairy ethos, too. Secular is all that’s needed. Don’t teach math with extra added gremlins, don’t teach biology with added ghosts, don’t teach geography with added atheism. Just skip it. Don’t pack more than you’ll need. That bag will get heavy, so don’t pack a big coat if it’s not going to be cold.

Imagine if our hospitals were run with an explicitly atheist ethos, with signs on the walls saying that there is no god, and with atheist ethics committees, and with the danger of a dying patient being told ‘this is an atheist country’.

And yet without the danger of a dying patient being told ‘this is an atheist country’ as justification for refusing to prevent the patient from dying by completing a miscarriage, because it’s so very difficult to get from atheism to stupid arbitrary cruel anti-human “rules.” For that you need a Holy Superior Being, and atheism is Un that.

I walked up a trail through a park this afternoon and saw on the wide board at the top of the railing a small written message: “All praises for Allah.” What a nasty message, if you think about it. All praises for the imagined entity, so no praises for any real ones. The hell with that, I thought. Save your praises for real achievement.

That’s another one where atheism has no counterpoint. “All praises for no god”? Yeh, nobody would come up with that. Which is Michael Nugent’s point, of course: swapping atheism makes the absurdity of all the deference and knee-bending obvious.

Imagine if an atheist group that runs most of our schools had been found by various tribunals to have been abusing children, and covering up the abuse of children, for decades.

Imagine if an international atheist group, to which that atheist group was affiliated, that acted as if it was also a state, had been involved in moving atheists who abused children from country to country to avoid facing up to the legal responsibilities of their actions.

Imagine if our state continued to have diplomatic relations with that association, and exchanged ambassadors with it as if it were a legitimate State.

Imagine, further, if an atheist group had special magical men – men only – at the top of the group, special magical men who had a special magical connection to…to no-god. And those special magical men were the ones abusing children, and being protected by other special magical men with a special magical connection to no-god. And they all got away with it because the surrounding society is so deferential to atheism and to no-god that it lets these groups act like a law unto themselves. Imagine all that.

It’s hard to do, isn’t it.

Imagine if there was even one explicitly atheist school in Ireland – not a secular school, but an atheist school, that explicitly taught that there was no god.

Imagine that even one set of religious parents was forced by circumstances to send their child to that school.

We would never hear the end of it until it was resolved.

But in Ireland we have multiple times that discrimination continuing without anyone even thinking that it is a problem.

Why do you believe that your religion is more important than our atheism?

The State certainly should not believe that.

Because a special magical god trumps a special magical no-god.

Yes but why does it?

Ah, that’s a tough one.

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

The two old muppets in the balcony

Mar 1st, 2013 4:04 pm | By

Via the dedicated harasser Daniel Waddell on Mayhew’s Facebook page.


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

Lazy blogging. Bad writing.

Mar 1st, 2013 11:53 am | By

Sara Mayhew must have wanted more attention, because as tonyinbatavia pointed out in a comment, she posted another random tweet about Stephanie and me, apropos of nothing.


Learn to summarize someone else’s point instead of quoting huge blocks of text. Lazy blogging. Bad writing. Examples: @OpheliaBenson @szvan

She’s weirdly persistent about picking fights with me. I don’t know why, apart from wanting more attention (but then there are billions of people in the world, and I don’t know why she wants attention from me in particular). I don’t know her. I haven’t written about her here (except about these bizarre random fight-pickings). I haven’t interacted with her. But pick pick pick.

She did a more extended version (less lazy! less bad!) on Facebook, too. It’s a public post. (We’re not Friends, needless to say.)


The post:

Bad blogging is when you need to quote huge blocks of text. It makes me believe you’re either a lazy or incompetent writer, when you can’t make a summary of someone else’s point.

Her comments, following one by Dan Fincke:

Dan Fincke it takes a lot of work to write a good paragraph. I don’t blame bloggers for not spending their time rewriting others’ ideas when they can simply quote them for their readers and save their hard writing energies for their own original stuff. A blog is a journal, a place you sometimes just record other people’s words that are interesting sometimes.
Sara E Mayhew It starts to become really lazy, like Almost Diamonds and Ophelia Benson’s blog, when it’s 90% blocks of quotes and they insert a sentence or two in between.
12 hours ago · Like · 1Sara E Mayhew At that point, just link to the entire article you’re discussing. But I guess Zvan and Benson aren’t really generating content as much as just being the two old muppets in the balcony.
So I’m a lazy bad writer, so let’s see what content Sara generates. Her latest post is…

…four photos, of four dresses. And some writing.

Strapless dresses from SammyDress! This wholesale Hong Kong fashion site has incredibly cheap clothing prices, but my experience has been that what you save on items is made up for with very expensive shipping. Quality is typical of Chinese produced fashion—cute on the outside but low quality is seen on the inside of the dresses with imperfect stitching. Petite sizes. I haven’t yet bought a dress from them I didn’t like.

That’s good hardworking writing.

Having conceded that point, I’ll say a few words – of my very own writing, that I wrote myself! – about Mayhew’s claim that quoting is lazy and bad compared to summarizing.

The first word I’ll say about that is “horseshit.” That’s horseshit. It’s not true, not as a generalization. Sometimes summarizing is preferable to quoting, but certainly not always. If it were always preferable, why would the Daily Show use so many clips? The Daily Show is quite popular, and also well thought of. It’s both. It’s considered good tv, good commentary, good humor, good news analysis. Part of what’s good is the use of video clips that show people saying things, so that we can all see exactly what they say and how they say it. A summary would not be better than that for the purposes of the show. The same goes for the Rachel Maddow show and plenty of other shows. The same goes for many many blogs that quote extensively. Some websites do nothing but link to others’ material with a headline and a teaser – like Arts and Letters Daily for example. That’s different from writing a book or an article, but that doesn’t make it worthless.

I’m interested in language and rhetoric, in the words people use and the possible reasons why they use them and the likely effects the words will have. When I’m looking at that I don’t want to summarize, I want to give the actual words, so that readers can see exactly what I’m talking about. This is a new genre that blogging makes possible in a way it wasn’t before. I like the genre, and I use it a lot. It would have been useless to “summarize” what Rod Liddle wrote, for instance; it was necessary to give a good sample of it so that people could see his particular brand of smug laddish dismissiveness.

I don’t consider that a whole lot more lazy than posting four photos of dresses.


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