Notes and Comment Blog


Mar 29th, 2013 4:01 pm | By

Dave is pissed. A judge ruled in the World Trade Center cross case today – Dave was brandishing the actual ruling, with a big red blob visible on it (I’m assuming a seal). The judge dismissed it – the cross is just “secular.”

That’s such a crock of shit, just as it is with the ten commandments slab here at the state house – it’s highly conspicuous, there’s nothing secular apparent, and at the top it naturally begins with god god god god god. Worship god, have no other god, blah blah blah.  Secular?

This is why we need American Atheists.

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

Morning session

Mar 29th, 2013 9:36 am | By

I went to sleep very late last night and woke up very early so I was perilously close to falling asleep but then Anthony Grayling came in and sat next to me and Dave did his talk so I WOKE RIGHT UP.

It was a great talk. Dave’s a rouser, and a rouser is what we need, which is what he said. American Atheists is doing people like the Harvard Humanists a favor because now there are the bad atheists over here and the good atheists over here and what does that mean?

That there are good atheists!

You should say it in a shout, the way Dave does.

I was telling Anthony how Dave can stand up to O’Reilly, which hardly anybody is good at doing.

Near the end Dave said and also we need to work together, we need unity, so if you’re someone who is taking potshots at other atheists just because it’s fun, cut it out.


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

U mad bro?

Mar 29th, 2013 7:43 am | By

Aha. My response to Shermer’s response to me is now online.

At Free Inquiry

Outraged shouting and tweets and photoshops in 5, 4, 3….

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

And another thing

Mar 29th, 2013 7:36 am | By


My god the bird life here. I don’t know what the birds are – they’re not the birds you see in Seattle, so I don’t know. There’s a ubiquitous one that’s black with a long tail and a very loud voice. After I crossed the Congress Avenue bridge and Cesar Chavez Street I approached a cluster of oak trees on the corner and my god the din – it was an absolutely deafening racket of those black birds, whatever they are, shouting. You never hear bird noise like that in Seattle – let alone in downtown Seattle! It was very impressive and foreign and cool.

In the Capitol grounds there were a lot of mourning doves making that call. Also very nice.

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

What I saw

Mar 29th, 2013 7:25 am | By

1. On the Capitol grounds (which are very nice, very broad and seweeping and parklike) a memorial thing to brave…Confederate soldiers. Signed by Jefferson Davis.

Oh right. This is the Confederacy.

2. Also on the Capitol grounds, on the north side, a big granite slab with…the ten commandments.

Oh Dave, I thought. Actually I said, because there was no one around; it was very early. Oh Dave; got one for ya.

3. On Congress Avenue, a statue of a ragey woman firing a cannon.

She made me giggle.

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


Mar 29th, 2013 3:18 am | By

No seriously. I’m in Texas. It feels like being in a foreign country. The trees are different. The birds are different – very different.

I got here in time for the auction dinner. I sat between Richard, from San Francisco, and Glen, from Philadelphia, who had donated one of the items to be auctioned – and what an item it was: a week at a retreat he designed and built in Costa Rica. Whooo…It was a fund raiser for American Atheists. Funding buys their work, Dave told us, like that case they won at the Supreme Court this year.

And Anthony Grayling was there! It’s lovely to see him again.

Now I have to go out and see a little of Austin. I didn’t get much sleep but that’s good because it gives me time to see a little of Austin.

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


Mar 28th, 2013 8:06 pm | By

In Austin. Among the atheists. Dinner. Auction. Amanda, Dave, Matt, Ingrid, Greta, Anthony. Didn’t see the bats though.

Love Austin.

More later.

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

The struggle

Mar 28th, 2013 6:59 am | By

There will be a book in which Malala tells her own story published in the fall.

The memoir of 15-year-old Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai will be published this fall, publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson announced Wednesday. The deal is reportedly worth about $3 million.

Titled “I Am Malala,” the book will tell the story of the young advocate for women’s education who was shot in the face at point-blank range by Taliban gunmen on Oct. 9 in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

I’m assuming she has a co-author or ghost writer or some such, because that’s a very short time for publishing and she’s in school and has only just recovered from being shot in the head and is only 15 anyway. “Memoir” seems like the wrong word for that – but I don’t know, maybe it’s not. Anyway it doesn’t matter; it’s good that there will be such a book.

“I hope the book will reach people around the world, so they realize how  difficult it is for some children to get access to education,” Malala said in a news release. “I want  to tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children  who can’t get education. I want it to be part of the campaign to give  every boy and girl the right to go to school. It is their basic right.”

That’s why it’s good that there will be such a book.

“This book will be a document to bravery, courage and vision,” Arzu  Tahsin, deputy publishing director at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, said in a statement.  “Malala is so young to have experienced so much and I have no doubt  that her story will be an inspiration to readers from all generations who believe in  the right to education and the freedom to pursue it.”

That’s why.

It’s a struggle, promoting education for girls in places that are both impoverished and ferociously traditional.

An Afghan father of two young daughters, Saidal Pazhwak, works with Kissell’s group in Kabul. “I believe that education is a girl’s right,” he says, adding    that many parents want to educate their daughters but lack either a safe environment or nearby schools to do so.

His mission, he says, is to train more teachers, especially female teachers. He says his group has helped train around 10,000 women teachers in Kabul in    the past two years, with funding from the World Bank. He wants to see more women in government positions in remote areas as well, serving as role models.

There is a considerable way to go, says Sabatina James, a Pakistani-born activist who defied a forced marriage as a teen. When she refused to marry a    cousin, she says, her parents threatened her life, telling her she had ruined the family honor. Now in her 30s, she hasn’t seen her family since. Today she    lives in Germany, where her nonprofit group, Sabatina, rescues girls whose fathers try to force them to wed.

“In honor-based culture, people think that girls could become too independent and make their own choices if they educate themselves,” she says. “They are afraid what could happen if girls learn to read and write.”

Just as slaveowners in the South were afraid of what could happen if their slaves learned to read and write. That’s why it was a crime to teach a slave to read.

Meanwhile teachers are picked off, one at a time.

UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown has condemned the shooting of a female teacher in Pakistan on Tuesday as a “Malala-style” incident.

Shahnaz Bibi was shot dead on Tuesday by two motorbike riders as she disembarked from a passenger van near the school where she taught in the Khyber tribal region.

No memoir for her.


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

Time check

Mar 28th, 2013 5:19 am | By

I’m leaving for the airport in three hours.

I just thought you’d like to know that.

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

Speaking out

Mar 27th, 2013 5:13 pm | By

Waleed Al-Husseini

Leo Igwe

Marie-Thérèse O’Loughlin

Maryam Namazie

Gina Khan



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

Power to the fertilized eggs

Mar 27th, 2013 4:56 pm | By

So in North Dakota, as I mentioned in passing a few hours ago, the legislature has decided to define eggs as people.

North Dakota lawmakers voted on Friday afternoon to pass a “personhood” abortion ban, which would endow fertilized eggs with all the rights of U.S. citizens and effectively outlaw abortion. The measure, which passed the Senate last month, passed the House by a 57-35 vote and now heads to a ballot vote, likely in the next November election.

The fertilized eggs have all the rights of US citizens with the result that their mothers don’t. All rights for the egg, no rights for the woman the egg is in. The egg is everything the woman is nothing. Some twelve or thirteen years down the line, that egg herself might get pregnant, and goodbye her rights – she’ll be nostalgic for the time when she was just a fertilized egg and had all the rights of a citizen.

A personhood ban could have far-reaching consequences even beyond abortion care, since it will charge doctors who damage embryos with criminal negligence. Doctors in the state say it will also prevent them from performing in vitro fertilization, and some medical professionals have vowed to leave the state if it is signed into law.

Fewer but better North Dakotans.

There’s more.

Lawmakers endorsed a fourth anti-abortion bill last week that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the disputed premise that fetuses feel pain at that point. The governor stopped short of saying he would sign it, but said: “I’ve already signed three bills. Draw your own conclusion.”

The signed measures, which take effect Aug. 1, are fueled in part by an attempt to close the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo — the state’s only abortion clinic.

Or they could just send all pregnant women to prison.


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

Not a dry eye in the house

Mar 27th, 2013 4:36 pm | By

The Onion…

Supreme Court Justices Brought To Tears By Heartfelt Testimony Of Bigot Who Hates Gay People

WASHINGTON—Listening to oral arguments Wednesday regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, all nine Supreme Court justices were reportedly moved to tears by the heartfelt and highly personal testimony of a bigot who despises homosexuals unreservedly. “It’s impossible for anyone who hasn’t spent their whole life in a state of benighted prejudice to know the pain and hardship that people like myself endure every day in our efforts to ensure that gays and lesbians remain oppressed and unequal,” said the immense homophobe, whose stirring, emotional speech about his harrowing daily struggles to impede social progress prompted a weeping Chief Justice John Roberts to halt the proceedings briefly so that he and the 500 individuals in attendance could compose themselves.

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

This thing is not like the other

Mar 27th, 2013 11:52 am | By

Now look here. Politicians get caricatured. There’s a long and glorious tradition of caricaturing politicians. Right? Right.

Therefore, bloggers should get caricatured too. It’s the same thing, after all – being a politician and being a blogger.

Or is it?

No, actually. It’s not. Being a blogger isn’t the same as being a politician.

Frankly it wouldn’t occur to me to caricature a blogger. It wouldn’t occur to me to caricature anyone (even a pol, actually) because it sails way too close to plain old meanness. It would feel awful, for that reason – it would be like pinching a smiling baby or kicking a friendly dog. It makes me flinch just to imagine doing it.

That’s not to say I have any delusion that I’m a super-nice person. I can get very pissy when exasperated. But sit down in cold blood to caricature an ordinary private person? That pissy I’m not.

I think saying “wull politicians” is complete bullshit.

One of the nameless people commenting on Michael Nugent’s blog – nym “Cian” – is a bullshitter of that stripe.

Regarding this issue of “”harassment”” through cartoons of public bloggers like PZ Myers and Benson, by the same token do you think cartoons of politicians ( who are “real people” too, whether you like them or not ) mocking and satirizing their work should not be done?

Please. I’m not Obama, I’m not Romney, I’m not even a North Dakota rep who voted to pass a fetal personhood bill.

And caricatures don’t mock and satirize the work, they mock and satirize the person, including the person’s face.

My face in the Peezus and O “cartoons” is not my face; the photo was doctored.

The photo:


The doctored version.

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

Distinctions, always distinctions

Mar 27th, 2013 10:28 am | By

Adam Lee did a post in Amy’s series a week ago and I missed it. (Too busy stuffing my face with cupcakes, probably.)

Most of us became atheists for intellectual reasons, because we find the arguments for theism unconvincing, or for moral reasons, because we find its teachings intolerable. But it seems to me that there’s a small number of men (and a smaller number of women) who are atheists purely because they delight in being offensive, because they believe no one has the right to tell them what to do. They think this community is a place where they can indulge those impulses: where they can be as crass and boorish as they want, where they can leer at or hit on women in any way they want, or cheer on those who do. And too often, we’ve seen that when women object to this treatment, however politely, they become the targets of a campaign of violent threats, abusive hate mail and dehumanizing filth.

It’s even trickier than that, because there is some merit in being “offensive,” depending on a lot of particulars. But there’s offensive and then there’s offensive. There’s telling the Catholic church it’s an evil institution, and there’s telling a particular nun that she’s ugly and repellent. Or to put it another way, there’s offensive and there’s mean. The people Adam is talking about are blind to that distinction.

But the sexists are not the future of atheism. No matter how much noise they make, they’ll never be anything but an ignorant, resentful minority. I’m confident that most atheists are good, decent people who don’t condone harassment. But to those good and decent people, especially us atheist men, I want to say this: This isn’t just a women’s fight, it’s your fight too. We all have a stake in the future of this movement, so raise your voice, speak out, make yourself heard! Call out the trolls and the harassers; tell them that their behavior is wrong and unacceptable. Don’t sanction them by your silence. They do what they do because they believe that it’s socially condoned, that people who don’t speak up must approve of their behavior.

Don’t sanction them by your silence. And you know what else don’t do? Don’t encourage them by your “dialogue.” Don’t say “we have to start somewhere” when the somewhere in question is just more of the same old harassment. Don’t talk about “grievances” on “both sides.” Don’t encourage the harassers.

On the surface this fight is about the treatment of women, but ultimately it’s about what kind of community we want atheism to be. Do we want it to be an insular and impotent subculture, where we do nothing but complain that the world doesn’t understand us? Or do we want it to be a mass movement that fills streets, that strikes fear in the hearts of theocrats, that shifts the course of history? If we’re willing to do the work necessary to broaden our appeal as much as possible, to make the atheist community a welcoming and tolerant landing place for all kinds of people, it can be the latter. If we divide ourselves and chase away allies by allowing prejudice and hate to spread unchecked, it can only be the former.

To put it another way, you gain harassers but you lose people who dislike harassment. Is that really a good bargain?

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

How can we be multicultural if we don’t allow sharia?

Mar 27th, 2013 9:39 am | By

Anne Marie Waters had a depressing experience a couple of weeks ago.

On Sunday, I spoke at the University of Kent’s Critical Law Society conference under the heading of ‘Equality: Are We There Yet?’

I was invited to speak alongside pro-sharia advocate Aina Khan (more on her later) and a PhD student (more on her later as well) and found myself in a not-too-unfamiliar situation of having to argue against domestic violence in opposition to a room full of “feminists”.

Having described how sharia family law in Britain allows men to beat their wives – as the testimony of women who have been through it confirms – the “feminists” weren’t quite sure whether or not they disapproved. I was met with highly accusatory questions such as How can we be multicultural if we don’t allow sharia?, and comments such as We must tolerate … well, pretty much everything from what I could make out. With the mumblings and applause in favour of my opponents, I was left in no doubt as to the company I was keeping.

Here’s how it seems to go: “We are feminists. We are incredibly right-on. We read the Guardian. We disapprove of women’s breasts getting a public airing and we strongly object to the fact that boards of directors are not 50% female. We will go absolutely ballistic if anyone dare understate how vile domestic violence is, or attempt in any way to justify it. We are feminists you see. Oh, but only when it comes to white women – did we mention that?”

I think I understand where it comes from. (I’m sure so does Anne Marie.) Muslims are underdogs here (here=at the University of Kent; the UK; “the West”; the developed world, the first world, the rich world). There is racism and xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment. We mustn’t add to it by being critical of sharia.

It comes from a benign place, but it’s not benign itself.

I must talk a little more about Aina Khan – Britain’s favourite sharia-loving lawyer who is making quite a name for herself in such circles. I’ve heard Aina speak many times but this weekend her comments were even stranger than usual. This time, upon realising she was defending the indefensible, Khan stated that she doesn’t send her clients to the Islamic Sharia Council or the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal; the two largest sharia court bodies in the country. What they’re doing isn’t proper sharia, she said. It’s strange how this only came to light after I had read out the quotes condoning domestic violence and marital rape from ‘judges’ of both the Islamic Sharia Council and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (people Khan has previously boasted about how wonderfully respectfully they treat her, but this time denied having any contact with them).

Anne Marie is having an effect then! Good. But not good that Aina Khan is dodging and weaving. Another thing to keep an eye on.

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

The pulchritude of Mo

Mar 27th, 2013 8:58 am | By

A very pointed Jesus and Mo today.


Aha. It makes him look like Jesus’s wife, and thus his subordinate.

Think about it, Mo.

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

Guest post: what harassment really is

Mar 26th, 2013 4:35 pm | By

Guest post by Tom Foss.

Quoting “vjack”


Harassment involves repeated, unsolicited behavior in which the target is demeaned, threatened, or offended in such a manner that a hostile environment is created for the target.

I wonder if Vjack’s workplace ever includes presentations on sexual harassment. If it does, I wonder if he just spends his time during them sleeping or doodling, because even cursory attentiveness would show what kind of bullshit this is. “Repeated” is often the case (and includes microaggressions that add up to create a hostile environment) but is not a necessary component–and, in fact, the sources I found (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) don’t include “repeated” as a condition. Instead, the necessary components are severity and pervasiveness (1, 2, 3), with repetition figuring (as one of multiple components) into the “pervasiveness” aspect.

Harassment often involves repeated behavior, but not always. No HR representative worth their salt (and wishing to avoid a legal conflict) would tell a complainant “Well, no, you see, they have to tell you how much better that outfit would look on their floor twice” or “Yes, but if Peterson only called you a ‘lazy w*tb*ck’ once, there’s nothing I can do.”

If we put these pieces together, we’d end up with an understanding of harassment as a pattern of repeated, behavior in which the harasser intentionally acts in such a manner that a reasonable person would find threatening, annoying, intimidating, alarming, or offensive.

More bullshit. Nothing in the law suggests that there must be one “harasser;” in fact, that’s the whole point of the “hostile environment” model of harassment–that there are a variety of aggressions which contribute to an overall air of hostility. The “pattern of repeated behavior” need not come from any one person, but can be a result of many people.

The behavior would need to have no other purpose besides impacting the target in this manner,

Bullshit. I mean, this would be great for harassers, right? “When I told her to bend over to pick up those files, I just wanted the files cleaned up!”

and typically, the behavior would be intrusive in some way. If the target has to go out of his or her way to discover the behavior, odds are pretty good that it is not even close to harassment.

So it’s okay, for instance, to hang pornographic images in the stalls in the men’s room, because women won’t see that, right? It’s okay, even, to write long, lewd screeds about the dirty things one imagines their coworkers would do for money, as long as it’s somewhere in the building that they won’t see? If I trade e-mails with all the white coworkers sharing racist jokes where a PoC coworker is the punchline, it’s okay as long as no one tells him about it?

See how well that flies in a workplace, or a courtroom. Because at the very least, such conduct forms an important piece of the context of more overt harassing behavior, and would serve as evidence of a pattern. Maybe “did you know they photoshopped your head onto a whale’s body and hung it up in the men’s room?” won’t come out until you’re filing a grievance over someone dumping a bag of pork rinds into your cubicle, but it would be pretty bad for the harassers when it did.

It’d also be bad for the employer for allowing/not preventing it in the first place, but that’s a little outside the scope.

Of course, by restricting his discussion to “harassment” and the legal definition thereof, Vjack’s missing that a good deal of this falls under the umbrella of bullying, which is related but distinct.

I’ll note the irony of steve harping about “vanity searches” when so much of the Slymepit oeuvre is about the nonstop monitoring of anything an “FtBully” says so they can snark about it. The mental gymnastics of “there are loads of Ophelia Bensons” while ignoring that only one of them uses those particular pictures and avatars, ought to earn a gold medal. Again, flashbacks to grade school. “You can’t prove we were talking about you!”

As to the list:

  1. I think you’ll find that repeated/constant name-calling would result in a hostile environment and would form grounds for a harassment case.
  2. If this were all that were happening, we’d have a very different conversation right now. Then again, if every time a Hispanic employee walked into the lunchroom, his coworkers were all talking about how the “illegals” need to learn English or go home, I think he’d probably have a case too.
  3. Yeah, guess again–whether it’s Harriet Hall’s exercise or the kids who wear “It’s okay to not be gay” and “straight pride” t-shirts to schools, the effect is to intimidate and contribute to a hostile environment.
  4. See #3.
  5. That’s…weird.
  6. Ah, right, the old “public figures” gambit. It was dumb before, it’s dumb now. And again, if one posted a bunch of “satirical” pictures of their supervisor in a lunchroom depicting them as a portly slave driver to protest working conditions, it doesn’t make it any less of a contribution to a hostile environment, even if it is about an issue important to the community.
  7. Oh just fuck off. If you can’t “defend yourself” without invoking Nazi Commie Witch-hunters, you don’t have a place in the conversation.
  8. Depends on the content & context of the review, I suppose.
  9. See #5.
  10. Hold on, I’ve got to set up a Vjack parody account so I can tweet things under his name.
  11. Depends on the content & context. And, of course, the “accuracy.” There’s nothing “inaccurate” about that quote that creationists use about Darwin and the eye, but it doesn’t make their use legitimate.
  12. Depends on the content and context of the “silly images.” If you’re making those “silly images” to call people old/pigs, then yes, it may contribute to a hostile environment.
  13. Depends on the content of the forum, now, doesn’t it?

The thing Vjack seems to mistake (going all the way back to his fallacious assumption that there must be one “harasser” involved) is that you can take all these things in isolation. You can’t. The whole point of “hostile environment” harassment is that a number of factors contribute to a sense of hostility and unwelcomeness. Any one of his bullet points there might be fine in isolation. In isolation, most don’t amount to a case for harassment (some, however, clearly do). But the notion of a “hostile environment” considers the larger context and pattern of those instances. And when you have, say, a dozen things that, each considered on its own, might not be harassment alone, happening to the same group of people? Well, that creates (say it with me, folks) a hostile environment for those people.

But it sure was nice of Vjack to compile such a long (albeit woefully incomplete) list of microaggressions, even if he doesn’t understand how they add up into a hostile environment.

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

So what’s the other side like? Ask Surly Amy

Mar 26th, 2013 4:07 pm | By

It’s psychic Surly Amy!

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

Understanding understanding harassment

Mar 26th, 2013 10:14 am | By

Update March 27 – the tweet was a mistake, and does not reflect AAI’s views on harassment. See comment 33.

Update 2 See also AAI’s post on the subject.*


Aaaaaaaaand there’s this.


Atheist Alliance Int

Understanding Harassment | Atheist Revolution

And it links to the article at Atheist Revolution. There “vjack” explains what harassment is. Guess what!! It just so happens that it’s none of the things that the people I call harassers are doing to us! Is that a coincidence or what.

No, it’s not. It’s the whole point. Understanding Harassment=harassment is not what I’m doing to you.

How fucking convenient.

vjack is worried about the word.

The word “harassment” is being thrown around quite a bit these days in the online atheist community. I find this troubling for two reasons. First, accusations of harassment are highly inflammatory and typically lead to an abrupt end to any discussion in which they occur, followed by increased polarization by the parties involved in the discussion. When the accusations were truly warranted, this may be unavoidable; however, unwarranted accusations seem to be surprisingly common and can do real harm. Second, harassment has legal implications in that it is defined as a criminal offense in most jurisdictions. Because of this, we should exercise caution about using the term to describe all behavior we do not like and reserve it for the occasions where it is clearly appropriate (i.e., real harassment).

Just as we should distinguish between real rape and the other kind, which is just a bit of fun with some drunk girl who shouldn’t have gone to that party in the first place because football.

According to, legal definitions of harassment vary from state to state but it “is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety.” They go on to explain:

Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim. Harassing behavior may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.

Huh. There are quite a few items in that list that match exactly what I’ve been calling harassment: epithets, derogatory comments or slurs, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.

vjack adds some refinements.

  • Harassment involves repeated, unsolicited behavior in which the target is demeaned, threatened, or offended in such a manner that a hostile environment is created for the target.
  • Harassment can involve speech (e.g., threatening statements, derogatory cartoons) as well as observable behavior (e.g., touching, physical interference with someone’s movement).

If we put these pieces together, we’d end up with an understanding of harassment as a pattern of repeated, behavior in which the harasser intentionally acts in such a manner that a reasonable person would find threatening, annoying, intimidating, alarming, or offensive. The behavior would need to have no other purpose besides impacting the target in this manner, and typically, the behavior would be intrusive in some way. If the target has to go out of his or her way to discover the behavior, odds are pretty good that it is not even close to harassment.

Ah what do you know – that link in “go out of his or her way” leads to a post by another nym, “unbelieve steve” this time, about…me. You can tell it’s about me because of the title. Ophelia Benson takes offense to parody accounts she scoured the interwebs to find.

Ok before I read that post, I’ll say – yes, I keep track to some extent of what kind of shit people are saying about me on the interwebs. It’s a meme among the harassers – yes, the harassers – that this is me doing “vanity searches.” Vanity! Hardly. And there are reasons for trying to keep track of shit people say about you in public. I don’t think I’ll even bother explaining that, because it seems pretty obvious.

[reads] Oh look, there it is already – “vanity search.”

A truly amazing feat. Ophelia Benson makes it her god given right and duty to conduct vanity searches for any mention of her name in any form of digital conversation.

She goes one step further and scours twitter feeds and monitors satirical accounts for the slightest WTF comments to be offended by.

Two satirical twitter accounts engage in a comedic conversation completely unrelated to any direct reference to the real Ophelia Benson.

I must say the back and forth by the two parody tweeters left me chuckling whilst enjoying my morning coffee.

Ophelia took offense to the content of the conversation and decided this is something that needs to be documented on her blog as some sort of proof of harassment.

“Two satirical twitter accounts engage in a comedic conversation completely unrelated to any direct reference to the real Ophelia Benson” except for the fact that both of them use my real name.

The fantasy world these people live in, where a person’s real name is completely unrelated to the real person.

Ophelia Benson is not a name exclusively owned by just one person. Census statistics show that in the United States alone, 17490 entries recorded for the use of “Ophelia” as a first name. “Benson” is not rare, showing 84233 instances recorded. Vital records show 31 entries for “Ophelia Benson” recorded in the United States. I feel ya O’Feel’ya, but a person is not identified by name alone. Impersonation is hardly the correct term to describe the parody accounts. One’s a pope and the other a parody Nazi nincompoop.

TIP: Stop doing vanity searches. Stick to blogging, and if at all possible, try keep it on topic of “free thought”. Just sayin’.

No harassment there! Nothing to see here folks, move along, keep the sidewalks clear.

So vjack draws on this scholarly and thoughtful source to explain that harassment you keep track of is not even close to harassment.

And then he moves on the the specifics.

Behavior That is Clearly NOT Harassment
Some of the behavior I have seen being labeled as harassment that does not appear to warrant the label, no matter how objectionable it may be, includes the following:

  1. Using the #FtBullies hashtag on Twitter.
  2. Expressing disagreement with someone’s position, no matter how cherished that opinion might be (e.g., one’s religious beliefs or one’s preferred brand of feminism).
  3. Wearing clothing with social or political messages, including those that are critical of a particular group, to a conference.
  4. Wearing “fake jewelry” to a conference.
  5. Inserting yourself into someone else’s conversation and making absurd accusations against them.
  6. Using mockery or satire in one’s work to lampoon public figures, call attention to relevant issues in the community, etc.
  7. Defending oneself against public criticism from others.
  8. Critiquing someone else’s public work (e.g., writing a book review).
  9. Calling someone a misogynist because they had the nerve to disagree with Rebecca Watson.
  10. Running a silly parody account on Twitter.
  11. Accurately quoting someone.
  12. Making silly images to mock someone.
  13. Belonging to an Internet forum.

Item 7 is weirdly gratuitous, because the link is to Shermer’s eSkeptic piece that shouts at me. It’s gratuitous because no one ever called it harassment, that I know of.

Some of the items are true enough if that’s all there is to it – but if it isn’t, they’re not. Others are highly dubious even if you don’t know they’re part of a pattern and practice of extended non-stop harassment. Making images to mock people? That’s just self-evidently not harassment? Certainly not.

So the “dialogue” proceeds.

*AAI’s post didn’t sit well with everyone.



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

Dedicated dialogue

Mar 26th, 2013 8:42 am | By

It’s still going on, Michael Nugent’s project to create a “dialogue” between harassers and the people they harass. He doesn’t call it that. In fact he doesn’t call it anything – he’s being so carefully neutral that he refers to it as just two “perceived sides.”

I find the whole thing rebarbative, because nearly all the participation so far is by people who have been harassing me and others for months–>almost two years now. I don’t want to talk to them. I don’t want to talk to them on the forum they set up to harass me and others, I don’t want to talk to them here, I don’t want to talk to them on Twitter, I don’t want to talk to them under the auspices of Lee Moore and his friends, and I don’t want to talk to them on Nugent’s blog. Nugent is doing this over the heads of the people who have been and still are being harassed. It’s not two “sides”; it’s people harassing and people being harassed.

So far all the project has accomplished is to give the harassers a new and much better place to post their “grievances”…and their compliments to each other on the quality of their harassment. Like just now, on this new post of Nugent’s announcing a new phase and a new website – we get a compliment to “Skepsheik” -


Phil Giordana March 26, 2013 at 10:14 a.m.


(Love your Peezus and O series, so that’s out of the way).

Ah yes, “Skepsheik”‘s Peezus and O series, Yes who could fail to love that, when it’s so witty and sophisticated and sharp?



That’s it, the whole brilliant series.

“Dialogue” – seriously?

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