Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Eran Segev on a few cruel individuals

Sep 11th, 2012 4:08 pm | By

Another in Amy’s series: another guy saying yeahno, harassment and bullying and threatening aren’t funny or cute. Eran Segev, contributor to the Skeptic Zone podcast and to the Skeptic magazine (in Australia), and former President of Australian Skeptics.

He’s had some of it himself. Way too much of it.

When organising TAM Australia, my fellow organisers and I were the subject of some astonishingly rude and unfriendly tweets and blogs over some decisions we made. Not one of the authors had contacted us to ask for the reasons behind the decisions. All were skeptics; people who wanted to attend the conference, and most eventually did. And over the past year or so, I have had a cruel and nasty campaign of vicious defamation directed at me. Obviously I will not be repeating what was said, but I’ll say that it was directly related to my being a man, and I can assure you it was so nasty that it could easily ruin my life. No exaggeration. Let’s just say, that because of a few cruel individuals I have had a pretty tough year. These people got to me.

We can see that he knows what it’s like.

I have met Rebecca a few times, and exchange emails with her occasionally, but we are not close friends by any stretch, and until fairly recently I had no idea of the composition of her mailbox. However, some mutual friends gave me some of the details of the emails and other messages she has been receiving, for years. I was horrified. I was at the local police station for less than Rebecca receives in an average week.

When I found that out, I started asking around, and discovered that not only is Rebecca not alone, it is practically the norm for women who are active online. And if they dare to be active feminists, then the level of hate becomes immense. And these are not just some gamers or kids. There are good reasons to believe that at least some of the messages come from adult members of the skeptical community; from people you might meet at Skeptics in the Pub or at TAM.

I have no idea how Rebecca and women like her tolerate it. I don’t completely understand how they don’t crack under the pressure. Perhaps they sometimes do.

No, we turn into Feminazis and Femistasi instead. We morph into the Oppressed Sisterhood. We become Infantilizers and Victims.

I also don’t understand, and surely never will, what goes through the minds of the perpetrators. I try to reason: OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I. So what? Why does it mean that she deserves to be insulted, humiliated and threatened with physical violence? If you want to say something, say “I disagree with you and you’re being unreasonable. Here’s why.” And if that gets shot down, argue some more; or leave. But hatred and violence?

Do you threaten a colleague you argue with that you’ll kill them? Do you wish the shop assistant that hasn’t helped you that she’ll be raped on the way home? What gives you, what gives ANYONE, the right to subject another person to such hate? And where does this hate come from? And why women? Do you not have a mother; a sister; a girlfriend? Do you hate them too? Do you insult and threaten them, too?

I was shocked that someone could hate me enough to want to ruin my life; imagine having dozens, maybe even hundreds of people personally wishing you raped. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I hope I never find out.

It’s what we’re supposed to expect because we say things in public. We have to develop a thick skin and then it will all be fine.

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

Anatomy of a bully is it

Sep 10th, 2012 6:06 pm | By

Yeah here’s Wooly Bumblebee’s “Anatomy of a Bully” post.

Her name is Kristina Hansen, by the way, she made it public the other day on a blog post about how evil atheism+ is. Hansen is easier to type than Bumblebee, and besides Bumblebee makes her sound cuddly. That doesn’t work for me.

So here’s her “Anatomy of a Bully” post that all the FTB haters were so wowed by.

What is bullying?

Bullying is persistent unwelcome behavior, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, shunning, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more.

Excessive monitoring! Funny she should mention it. Hansen and her friends monitor a few selected people they hate very excessively indeed – daily and hourly, via tweets and blog posts. They seem to do nothing else while online. And then there’s “humiliated”…Not to mention  unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, exclusion, shunning, being singled out and treated differently. Check check check check check check check.

Bullying is present behind all forms of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, persecution, conflict and violence. When the bullying has a focus (e.g. race or gender) it is expressed as racial prejudice or harassment, or sexual discrimination and harassment, and so on.

No comment necessary.

Gang bullying is a serial bully with multiple partners. Gangs can occur anywhere, but flourish mostly in corporate, educational, and on-line arenas. If the bully is an extrovert, they are likely to be leading from the front; they may also be a shouter and screamer, and thus easily identifiable. If the bully is an introvert, that person will be in the background initiating the mayhem but probably not taking an active part, and may thus be harder to identify.

Half the people in the gang are happy for the opportunity to behave badly; they gain gratification from the feeling of power and control, and enjoy the patronage, protection and reward from the serial bully. The other half of the gang is coerced into joining in, usually through fear of being the next target if they don’t. If anything backfires, one of them will be the scapegoat on whom enraged targets will be encouraged to vent their anger. (Sound familiar, FTB?)

No, Kristina, not in the way you intended. It sounds like you and the other obsessives.

Cyber bullying is the misuse of email systems or Internet forums, Social media, blogs, etc for sending/writing aggressive, abusive, or belittling messages, statements, e-mails, or articles.

There is quite a good example of this happening recently on Greta Christina’s Blog, and on the Lousy Canuck where they thought it would be funny to take over the Twitter hashtag #FTBullies and use it to mock Paula Kirby who had written an open letter titled Sisterhood of the Oppressed, as well as any, and all those on Twitter who are speaking out against FTB and exposing their bullying for what it is.

No, it had nothing to do with Paula Kirby, or any other individual; it was mockery of the hashtag itself. It wasn’t personal and vicious the way Hansen’s disgusting post about Mike McCreight is.

The expert on bullies is a mind-searingly vicious bully herself.

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

There is no low too low

Sep 10th, 2012 5:02 pm | By

Fucking hell. I keep thinking they can’t go any lower, but they always do.

Remember when all the FTB-haters were retweeting that post on bullying by “Wooly Bumblebee” at Is God a Squirrel? She’s an expert on bullying, she said. The haters were way impressed.

Today she has a post shitting on Jen McCreight’s father for writing a blog post saying boo talking shit on the internet and yay Jen.

Yes you read that correctly. Wooly Bumblebee/Is God a Squirrel wrote a longish blog post shitting on Jen McCreight’s father for writing a blog post defending his daughter.

You could light a small city with me right now.

Here’s some of Wooly’s shitting:

But, some parents are abject failures, such as Jen McCreight’s father. He has written a short blog post for and about Jen. He has come to her rescue, like a parent does for their small child, only Jen is not a child… She is an adult. Well, an adult in the sense that she is over 18 and looks older than 12. But apparently she still needs daddy to come to her rescue when she gets emotional. She still needs daddy to kiss her boo-boos and frighten the monsters away. She needs this because her daddy failed as a parent and never equipped his daughter with the tools she needs to get through life. It’s quite sad, and a great example of bad parenting.

When you coddle your kids constantly, refuse to see them as their own person, and feel the need to constantly prop up their ego, you get people like Jen. Jen should be completely embarrassed by the fact that her father wrote what he did. If she had any self-esteem she’d be furious that her daddy felt he had to come out and publicly chide everyone as if we are all 5 year olds because she got a boo-boo. She doesn’t because she is just like a child, and doesn’t see her daddy saying what he did as him actually infantilizing her.

This has to be the most pathetic thing I have yet to see. A grown woman being rescued by her daddy. It’s a fucking joke, and speaks volumes as to why she can’t handle the slightest little bump in the road. She is completely incapable of functioning as an adult. I rather pity her, and that is not a good thing.

Congratulations daddy dearest, and thank you for proving once and for all how completely incapable your little Jen really is.



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

A hassle

Sep 10th, 2012 11:52 am | By

I’ve turned on comments registration for awhile. The trolls have stepped up their merry pranks, so it can’t be helped. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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

Happy to be described as a traitor

Sep 10th, 2012 11:36 am | By

An anti-corruption cartoonist in India has been arrested for sedition.

Mr Trivedi was arrested on Saturday for a series of cartoons lampooning politicians. He refused to apply for bail at Monday’s hearing, and said if telling the truth made him a traitor then he was happy to be described as one.

Cartoons lampooning politicians – if there’s anything you’re supposed to be able to do without interference from the state, it’s lampooning politicians.

Government officials say that while they are in favour of free speech, there is a thin line between that and insulting national symbols, the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi reports.

No…That’s doing it wrong. Really. You don’t want to make it a crime to “insult national symbols.”

But Indians have condemned Mr Trivedi’s arrest, calling it a “wrongful act”. Protesters on social networking sites said it was shameful that corrupt politicians were being let off while those who highlighted corruption were being jailed.

“From the information I have gathered, the cartoonist did nothing illegal and, in fact, arresting him was an illegal act,” the chairman of the Press Council of India, Markandey Katju, told The Hindu newspaper.

The arrest of Mr Trivedi comes after other recent controversy over cartoons in India.

In April, police arrested a professor in the eastern city of Calcutta for allegedly posting cartoons ridiculing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the internet. He was later released.

A month later, a row over a cartoon showing Dalit icon BR Ambedkar in a school textbook disrupted the Indian parliament.

Cartoonists have been taking a lot of heat lately. India: do better.


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

Not reading Naomi Wolf

Sep 10th, 2012 9:38 am | By

The UK neuroscientist who blogs as (and at) Neuroskeptic reviewed Naomi Wolf’s new book for the New Statesman blog. I was surfing Twitter the other day at the moment when there was a deluge of tweets about Wolf and the book because everyone was watching Paxman interview her (and because I follow a great many people who watch things like that). Most were funny, all were scathing, and taken together they made for a hilarious few minutes. The review, however, just makes me cringe.

NS starts with an extract.

Words, when deployed in relation to the vagina, are always more than “just words”. Because of the subtlety of the mind-body connection, words about the vagina are also what philosopher John Austin, in his 1960 book How to Do Things with Words, calls “performative utterances”, often used as a means of social control. A “performative utterance” is a word or phrase that actually accomplishes something in the real world. When a judge says “Guilty” to a defendant, or a groom says “I do”, the words alter material reality.

Studies have shown that verbal threats or verbal admiration or reassurances can directly affect the sexual functioning of the vagina. One suggests that a stressful environment can negatively affect vaginal tissue itself…

Ogod make it stop. When deployed in relation to the vagina? Oh jeezis on toast does she do that throughout? Does she use “in relation to the vagina” for “to/at/around a woman”? Does she drag in seriousy-looking stuff to make it sound more seriousy ‘n’ true? Does she pretend the vagina has some kind of special receptivity to words?

NS comments on the extract.

True of course, but it’s nothing to do with vaginas specifically. Threats, admiration and reassurances all influence our stress levels, and stress can affect the function of the vagina. But the same could be said for any other organ: stress also affects the heart, the stomach, and even the penis.

So apparently she does. Ogod.

There’s a good deal more along the same lines.

Why would anyone do that? Write about neuroscience without being a neuroscientist?

It makes me cringe.


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

15 items or fewer

Sep 9th, 2012 5:07 pm | By

What’s the deal with people talking about sexism and someone asking “So is this only for women who experience sexism?”

The dialogue continues.

Someone: Women, then. I guess sexism doesn’t happen to men.

Replier: Always “What about the menz?”

Someone: No… always what about everyone. We ALL deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

Well duh, but why does that mean we can’t talk about sexism without being jostled and chivvied and harried for talking about something that happens to women? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights doesn’t include a coda saying nobody must ever talk about or resist violations of the rights of particular people.

Shut up about racism, because what about everyone. We ALL deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Shut up about xenophobia, because what about everyone. We ALL deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Shut up about human rights in Iran, because what about everyone. We ALL deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Shut up about rape in DR Congo, because what about everyone. We ALL deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Shut up about anything particular, because what about everyone. We ALL deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

There is sexism. We can be against it. That doesn’t mean we want to take away your rights. Singling out one form of oppression doesn’t entail approving of all the others.

Isn’t this just a little obvious?


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

Everyday sexism 2

Sep 9th, 2012 11:44 am | By

An ad I keep noticing here and there. The copy says

How Cruise Lines Fill All Those Unsold Cabins

And the image is


It couldn’t get much cruder, could it. (Well it could. It could skip the bikini and aim the camera up between her legs. But other than that…)

Hay! Look! Legs bum sex! Now click on the ad.

(I suppose they fill all those unsold cabins with women’s bums? That must be it?)

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

Pribble’s project

Sep 9th, 2012 11:00 am | By

Martin Pribble discusses the results of his 3 Questions project, Part One.

The first question was

How does your worldview, (atheism, skepticism or agnosticism, whichever is applicable to you), influence your life?

Martin summarizes the replies:

It seems to me that atheism/agnosticism/skepticism is either seen as a platform from which to build all of life’s experiences, or that it is just accepted as “the way things are”. In either case, it does inform parts of the respondents’ lives, particularly when it comes to the analysis of doubtful claims.

What it does show is that, of the 326 respondents, there is a level of certainty about how their worldview of atheism/agnosticism/skepticism influences their lives, and that most respondents did see this as an important part of them being themselves.

Many of the replies that Martin quotes are skeptical more than atheist; I chose to answer as an atheist. Atheism is more close to the bone, in a way – it’s about rejecting one tyrant, one Big Boss, one imposed celestial dictator. Theism is the model for all kinds of tyranny, so it shapes our thinking in bad ways. The Boss in question is a big deal, and makes big demands on us. Not believing in it makes a difference specifically because of that. I replied from that point of view.

My atheism frees me from thinking I have to obey a mysterious hidden god that I’ve never met or encountered or had any communication with. It frees me from thinking I have to obey rules I think are vicious and horrible. It frees me to judge moral questions in human, this-world terms.

I never stop being grateful for that.

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

The faux-masculine shibboleths

Sep 8th, 2012 5:28 pm | By

Don’t miss Bruce Everett’s great piece, “…assuming the mantle”.

I’ll give you a teaser to make sure that you don’t.

I didn’t get it, and I haven’t got it for most of the time. I’m only just getting it – the faux-masculine shibboleths that I’m expected to observe, in order to be ‘one of the guys’.

Especially the degradation of women as rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong…

I’m nobody’s knight in shining armour (I think this will be the last time I repeat this for some time), and I don’t believe in chivalry towards women – chivalry, as opposed to decency, assumes that women are frail objects to be protected like delicate porcelain in a world they’re not equipped to deal with. Women are no such thing.

I’ve got an interest in this. If pseudo- and actual misogyny are used as defining criteria for what it is to be masculine, then I consider that an imposture. I don’t want that group identity lumbered on me, and moreover, I’m willing, if imposed upon, to fight for my stake in masculine culture to the exclusion of other men.

Gentlemen, if you’re going to make an asshole out of yourself in the first instance, I’m not going to take much notice when you make squeals of indignation, when you get a little comeuppance. That is unless, I find it justifiable, useful, and entertaining, to laugh at you.

Seriously though, some men really shit me. The things that some of you expect me to take on board as normal, or healthy, or unappealing-but-otherwise-not-rebarbative.

Read the whole thing.

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

Proxy decisions on genital snipping

Sep 8th, 2012 5:11 pm | By

Brian Earp is unimpressed by the American Academy of Pediatrics ’s (how do you make a possessive out of that, anyway?) revision of its policy on circumcision.

They now say that the probabilistic health benefits conferred by the procedure just slightly outweigh the known risks and harms. Not enough to come right out and positively recommend circumcision (as some media outlets are erroneously reporting), but just enough to suggest that whenever it is performed—for cultural or religious reasons, or sheer parental preference, as the case may be—it should be covered by government health insurance.

That turns out to be a very fine line to dance on. But fear not: the AAP policy committee comes equipped with tap shoes tightly-laced, and its self-appointed members have shown themselves to be hoofers of the nimblest kind. Their position statement is full of equivocations, hedging, and uncertainty; and the longer report upon which it is based is replete with non-sequiturs, self-contradiction, and blatant cherry-picking of essential evidence. Both documents shine as clear examples of a “lowest common denominator” mélange birthed by a divided committee, some of whose members must be well aware that United States is embarrassingly out of tune with world opinion on this issue.

Child health experts in Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada say there is no meaningful benefit and it shouldn’t be recommended. Seems fair. There is no meaningful benefit, so don’t snip off a bit of the penis. Err on the side of not snipping off, because no meaningful benefit.

In view of this empirical uncertainty on the medical question, it is problematic to assert, as the AAP does in its new report, that a person does not retain the right to decide whether he wishes to keep his own healthy foreskin–and preserve his genitals in their natural form–and that the right belongs instead to his parents.

Which is odd, because they have their own genitals. Why don’t they alter their own if they want to alter? Why is it always vicarious?

A more reasonable conclusion than the AAP’s, then, is that the person whose penis it is should be allowed to consider, for himself, the available evidence (in all its chaotic murkiness) when he is mentally competent to do so—and make a personal decision about what is, after all, a functional bit of his own sexual anatomy and one enjoyed without issue by the vast majority of the world’s males.

Ah but liberals. Choice. Secularism. Community. Just ask Giles Fraser.

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

550 complaints

Sep 8th, 2012 3:57 pm | By

The historian Tom Holland came close to saying Mohammed may not have existed at all in that Channel 4 documentary on Islam last week. Result: almost 550 complaints to both Ofcom and Channel 4. Also lots of outraged tweets. (Well that goes without saying at this point.)

The Islamic Education and Research Academy has published a lengthy paper denouncing the programme. But historians have rallied to Mr Holland’s defence.

The Academy claims the programme’s assertion that there  are no historical records detailing the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad is flawed, saying:

Holland appears to have turned a blind eye to rich Islamic historical tradition.

Ofcom, which has received 150 complaints about the programme’s alleged bias, inaccuracy and offence caused to Muslims, is  considering an investigation.

I like the flourish of “rich Islamic historical tradition” – as if a “rich” tradition were the point instead of an accurate one.

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

Every snowflake

Sep 8th, 2012 11:46 am | By

Renee Hendricks has her facts wrong. She has a post on The Women Behind AtheismPlus, and she says there are three, and I’m one.

I’m going to try very hard to make this the last spiel I have on “Atheism Plus”. It’s hard simply because I hate seeing the community I’ve come to love be so divided and actually hampered by the creation of a group intent on co-opting not only the term “atheism” but also a logo (apparently the A+ logo on is from a tee-shirt that has been available on Richard Dawkins site for over 4 years). What is more distressing and pertinent to women is that there are 3 women behind the “movement”: Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson, and Rebecca Watson.

Nooo, that’s not right at all. It’s wrong on two counts – it counts two who aren’t and omits many who are.

Rebecca has said explicitly she’s not joining. I’ve said explicitly I consider it a description or label rather than a movement. Neither of us had anything at all to do with starting it or setting it up.

Hendricks of course considers her inclusion on the list as blame, while I’m disavowing the credit. Other people have put in considerable effort on the project and I haven’t, so I don’t get credit for doing so.

Normally, I wouldn’t give 2 shits about these women or the movement. But they are actively and divisively stripping apart atheism and attempting to bring together a happy little club of women and sycophantic men under the guise of being more socially responsible. Nothing could be further from the truth. These women are simply angry that they’ve been slighted/harassed/sexed in some way, shape, or form and feel their best course of action is to create a “special snowflake” clique.

We’re stripping apart atheism? Really? I wouldn’t even know how to begin. Also, atheism isn’t stripped apart. And then the “special snowflake” thing – that seems to be very popular with Hendricks’s clique. It’s kind of an ugly concept, at least it is if it’s applied too broadly. Sure, some people are way too quick to take offense. That doesn’t mean everybody is. It depends. There are particulars. Just calling everything “”special snowflake” doesn’t further the discussion.

She goes on to assert a whole bunch of things about all three of us that she can’t possibly (and doesn’t) know. She also says we don’t know what “misogyny” means, then tells us what it means, which I already knew.

Other than that, a valuable intervention.



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

Making an example

Sep 8th, 2012 10:38 am | By

Another petition you can sign, this one recommended to me by Bruce Everett. It’s to put some heat on Alan “destroying the joint” Jones. Formally it’s to urge advertisers to get him to apologize, but really I think it’s to get him to take some heat. (I mean who cares if he apologizes, really? What good is that? But some heat might décourager les autres.

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

Hatred and the hijab

Sep 7th, 2012 6:03 pm | By

Via Lauryn Oates, a terrific article on the myth that the hijab protects women against sexual assault.

I was only 6 years old when my family was forced to flee the civil war in Afghanistan for Pakistan in the late 1980s. My sister, Neelo, who is five years older than me, was enrolled in a Saudi-funded Muslim Brotherhood-inspired public school for Afghan refugees. She, like many Muslim women, wore a simple headscarf.

I remember Neelo picking up her tiny bag, wrapping her scarf around her hair, and going to her first day of school. I also sadly remember her coming back from school that day and telling our parents: “The guards told me, ‘Either you are going to wear the full hijab or wear a chador [an Afghan burqa], or you can’t come to school.’” Her tiny headscarf was no longer enough.

Age 11. Ordered into a body bag at age 11.

Neelo was forced to wear the most restrictive form of the hijab—almost exactly like the woman in this image. Things were fine until the next year, when I started school myself. My mother sat me down and told me that from then on I would have to walk my sister to school every day.

I grew to hate it. Every school day, for years, as the two of us walked toward Neelo’s school, men would stare at her, sizing up her body behind the dark clothes, whispering to each other, making signs with their hands, making catcalls, taunting her, and saying things like how pretty she was—even though the only thing you could see on my sister’s body were her eyes.

The men who passed us on sidewalks would say demeaning things—things sexual in nature that I was too young to understand. My mom and dad wanted me to walk her to school because if I wasn’t with her, who knew what these men would do? I grew up hearing stories about women being groped, punched, even abducted—all while wearing hijabs. The perpetrators were from all ethnic groups and were both Pakistanis and, like us, refugees.

The experience left me angry, helpless, and traumatized.

It’s hatred. Hatred, contempt, domination. It leaves me angry and traumatized too. It makes the world feel like an alien place sometimes.

The myth that there’s a correlation between the hijab and a low incidence of sexual harassment and violence against women actually systematically victimizes them. Men are doing women a disservice in that they are placing blame on women who don’t cover themselves, as well as insinuating that a woman who is attacked while wearing a headscarf somehow did something to deserve it. As with all victim-blaming, this prevents women from speaking up about sexual assault. Many mainstream conservative Muslim clerics and pseudo-social scientists—like Zakir Naik, in this video, which is a must-see for anyone wanting to learn about this issue—openly imply or proclaim that women who don’t wear the hijab are callingfor sexual harassment and sexual violence. They go so far as correlating a woman’s right to wear what she wants in the West with a high incidence of sexualized violence against women there.

That’s what it’s like. It’s as if, by going outside, you’ve actively asked for attention or interference.

I’m celebrating World Naked Head day.

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

No emerald palace

Sep 7th, 2012 3:54 pm | By

The good news is, Rimsha has been granted bail. The bad news is, it’s about $10,500 or £6,200. The worse news is, would anyone keep her safe if she did make bail?

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Rimsha is the first person accused of blasphemy to have been granted bail by a trial court.

Blasphemy is not a bailable offence but her lawyers pleaded that she was a juvenile.

Blasphemy is not a bailable offence. Blasphemy is not a bailable offence. Would you believe it? It shouldn’t even be a crime, yet it’s such a crime that it’s not even bailable.

Honestly, you would think that Allah really existed and lived in an actual palace made of emeralds and appeared on the balcony to the whole world every day. You would think ah really existed and did wonderful things for people all the time, and that “blasphemy” did real harm to this real and beneficent Allah, and that everyone knew that, and that Rimsha had actually committed it, and there was actually reason to think so.

But none of that is the case, and “blasphemy” is not a real crime and doesn’t harm anyone and Rimsha was just throwing out some garbage anyway.

Rimsha’s safety upon her release is likely to be a key concern for campaigners. Her father has previously said that he fears for his daughter’s life and for the safety of his family.

Her parents were taken into protective custody at an undisclosed location following threats, and many other Christian families fled the neighbourhood after her arrest.

If her bail payment is met, Rimsha is likely to be reunited with her parents, correspondents say.

There have been cases in Pakistan where people accused of blasphemy have been killed by vigilante mobs.

But the imam in Rimsha’s neighborhood wanted the Christians out, so he planted evidence, and if Rimsha ends up killed by a mob – oh well.

This case has only served to intensify concerns over the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Rights activists have long urged Pakistan to reform the laws, under which a person can be jailed for life for desecrating the Koran.

In March 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs, was killed after calling for the repeal of the blasphemy law.

His death came just two months after the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who also spoke out about the issue.

Despite no Allah, no emerald palace, no wonderful things, no reason to think so.

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

Kurdish DGHW

Sep 7th, 2012 3:41 pm | By

There was huge (two people) demand for a picture of the book so I took a video still. What Kurdish readers will see:

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

Fielding and MissSpidey

Sep 7th, 2012 11:32 am | By

Neil Denny of Little Atoms pointed out to me this piece on comedians using their fans to gang up on critics yesterday.

Being a public figure on the internet means having to deal with a barrage of abuse, which has been covered on this blog before, in my podcast interviews with Jonnie Marbles and Charlie Brooker.  It’s unpleasant and unnecessary, but people quickly become emboldened by the deindividuation that occurs when their identities are withheld, given that there’s no chance of getting a punch in the hooter.  Stewart Lee’s current show, Carpet Remnant World, involves a whittled down list of the most frothingly insane online critiques he could find on internet messageboards and social networking sites.  The “40,000 words of hate” can be viewed on his website.  They frequently seem unhinged, over-the-top and staggering in their lack of compassion and humanity – but such is the way with internet communication.  People vying for attention on a crowded medium quickly escalate the ferocity of their vitriol so their opinions stand out.

Except that if their identities are witheld, it’s not really “their opinions” that stand out, it’s those of WestKilburn47 or Shoopy or Trollsalot. But West and Shoop and Trolls still want their opinions to stand out, I get that. Still there’s something odd about investing your ego in an alter ego.

Noel Fielding decided to moblize his fans to go after a critic -

a form of safety-in-numbers bullying that cast fans and followers in the guise of a personal army, mobilised to defend the fragile ego of a lazy, uninspired narcissist.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, and I’ve previously written about Ricky Gervais’ penchant for the same sort of coordinated bullying.  Similarly thin-skinned, Gervais, while still new to the social networking site, quickly found that he could point his fans to negative reviews, and then pat these obedient, bile-spitting dogs on the head afterwards for fighting his battles.  Some of you, I know, will say ‘but he never actually asked them to do anything’, and you’ll say the same thing when we get back to what Noel Fielding has been up to lately, towards the end of this blog.  You have to decide what the reasons are for Gervais and Fielding posting these things – whether they know what the result will be – and then think about the approval explicitly given out afterwards.

That’s one of the complaints about the putative FT bullies, you know: that we do that. Well “we” don’t all do it, but it may be that some of us do, or do something like it. I’ve learned to try to be careful about that. On the other hand I think that as the level of venom goes up, the importance of relative size goes down. It’s not a straightforward calculation to make. Westboro Baptist is tiny, and feeds off publicity, but that’s not necessarily a reason to ignore it. So…it’s tricky. But the whole thing is worth keeping in mind.

(On the other hand I also see people who rant one minute about hugely popular FT blogs [? - only PZ and Ed are hugely popular] bullying smaller blogs, and rant the next minute about a comment on one FT blog [ok this one] that criticizes Dawkins. Wut? It can’t be both.)

There’s a lot more; read the whole thing. Toward the end we get Noel Fielding’s attack on MissSpidey – which sounds horribly familiar at the beginning stages.

Back to Fielding, and he’s now in a narcissistic rage over the whole affair, continuing to repeatedly tweet about MissSpidey, advocating a namechange from “Twitter” to “Cunt Platform”, and talking about how he’s a “horrible boy who likes to pull the legs off spiders.”  A fairly lame attempt at contrition is made, before he RT’s a supportive fan, then immediately goes back into “fuck em” mode.  Then we get a spot of victim blaming for good measure before, finally, Fielding thanks his followers for the support.

The support was, as you can see from what he chose to retweet, abusive and insulting towards MissSpidey.  She was repeatedly opened up to the hostility of 340,000 followers, many of whom are young girls who worship Fielding and his contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism.  Fielding personally set the tone early on to one of personal abuse, using MissSpidey’s avatar picture to make unflattering remarks about her appearance.  This thread was picked up by his followers, but they went further.  Much further.

MissSpidey was swamped by hundreds of mentions, from hundreds of users.  These tweets, as I’ve said, mocked her physical appearance as being “old” and “ugly” – in reality, she is neither.

Well I am, and it’s not a lot more fun being sneered at for that when you are than it is when you aren’t. Actually it’s less so. (That’s litotes.)

Then it took a more sinister turn, and MissSpidey found that her address had been tracked down and was being published by the “FieldMice”, who were also threatening violence.  Then she started to receive death threats – Noel Fielding was, as you’d expect, copied in on much of this by the fans seeking his approval, so presumably knew what was going on.  MissSpidey tried to counter the avalanche of hostility by using the official mechanisms in place for doing so: she started to block and report the users, eventually ending up suspended from Twitter for “aggressive blocking.”  I know, isn’t it?

MissSpidey suffers from Cyclothymic disorder.  Twitter was a vital support network for her.  With that suddenly taken away – through no fault of her own – and with a continuing barrage of hateful, hurtful messages being continually delivered to her, MissSpidey lost hope.  She tried to end her own life.

Not such a good outcome.


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

Everyday sexism

Sep 7th, 2012 10:49 am | By

Just a small one, and utterly routine, but then that’s just it – it’s routine.

An ad I saw on tv last night, or half saw, because I was doing something else besides – probably playing “toss the squeaky hedgehog” with Cooper. Something about a thing for guys, a thing guys like, a guy type thing. A cable channel, or service, or something like that. Anyway the “don’t you wish you could join all this fun” part was guys watching a game on tv and doing the usual sporty chatter and laughter.

Line of dialogue:

He throws like my sister!

Jolly guyish laughter.

So. Young girls exposed to that get more twigs added to the stereotype that Girls Can’t Throw and Sport Is For Guys and Girls Trying To Do Sport Is Just Funny Always and Hahaha Girls Throwing Hahaha.

Boys and men exposed to that get their existing stereotypes to that effect further augmented and entrenched.

And it’s just routine. Hardly anyone will even notice (so the stereotype will do its work below the radar).

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

Chocolate chip ice cream

Sep 7th, 2012 10:02 am | By

There’s been a fair bit of discussion of Edwin Kagin’s post on atheism+ yesterday. I haven’t read most of it though, just seen it in passing. I want to comment on a couple of things.

We are now experiencing a most divisive phenomenon where some atheists are viciously excoriating other atheists for not embracing loudly enough certain of a list of worthy causes to which they are joined.

That seems a very back-to-front way of putting it. The vicious excoriation has been coming from a coalition of haters of feminism and of feminists and, arguably, of women in general. It’s been coming from them for more than a year. It comes with (at the extremes, and there are lots of those) rape threats, ugly caricatures, sexist epithets, obsessive cyberstalking, and endless other forms of frothing raging retaliation.

The idea of atheism plus is not vicious excoriation, it’s escape and resistance. What atheism+ wants to escape and resist is not a failure to embrace causes loudly enough – that’s a grotesquely off-base way to describe it. Atheism+ is about escaping and resisting active energetic organized hatred of feminism and women. Active energetic organized hatred of feminism and women is not the same thing as not embracing loudly enough a certain list of worthy causes. It seems very obtuse (if not worse) not to see that.

(Is that me viciously excoriating? I don’t think so. I think it falls well short of that.)

One can be an atheist and like chocolate chip ice cream. This does not mean that it is a good idea to form a club that excludes, and sees as enemies, anyone who does not like chocolate chip ice cream, or who actually prefer some other flavors.

How many bloggers, laid end to end, would it take to bridge the gap between science and religion?

Lord dog, the Religious Right certainly need have no worry over us. We will self-destruct without their help.

A population that eats its own young will probably not long survive.

Sigh. Really? Liking or not liking an ice cream flavor? As an analogy for hating and dumping endless crap on feminists and (at the extreme) women? Really, Mr Kagin? That’s how much you think women matter?

He’s done lots of important work, and hats off to him, but that’s just embarrassing.


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