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.

On not buying into the LULZer playbook

Jul 3rd, 2012 10:12 am | By

Someone (handle: tigtog) left a good comment here and then made a blog post out of it for more visibility, so I’ll make a blog post out of it too for more visibility again.

On not buying into the LULZer playbook at FtB (or anywhere) #WeLoveFTB

(This will be teaching many of you to suck eggs, I know – this is mainly for lurkers and newbies, especially newbie lurkers. Apologies in advance for the tl;dr)

The idea that each pocket of cyberspace should be a clean slate for somebody with no reference to what they are known to do elsewhere is a page dusted off from the old USENet alt.syntax.tactical playbook, as is the uber-purist semantic-hacktivist stance that objecting to having one’s argument misrepresented by poo-flinging howler monkeys *really* means that one knows one’s position will not withstand a “rigorous logical challenge”. These faux-purists in fact know very well that it’s not only possible but appallingly easy to rhetorically sandbag *any* line of argument no matter how rigorously supported it may actually be.

This is achieved largely by exploiting the phenomenon summed up as “a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” e.g. their new spin on the meaning of “slimepit”, the year-long lie that “RW cried Rape on EG” etc etc etc. They combine these lies with their other favourite tactic (from the old alt.tasteless playbook) that *nothing should be exempt from being “joked” about*, aiming to provoke an emotional response that buys into their lie instead of scorning it as it deserves. Once someone takes their bait they deploy a hyper-skeptical pose of Just Asking Questions and Just Wanting Evidence to a double-standard far beyond that which they apply to Bigfoot or UFOs.

Repeating the lies and slurs derails any progress in the discussion by diverting the targets’ resources and time to yet again countering the lie/challenging the slur instead of moving the conversation forward, and *that’s exactly what it’s designed to do* (allegedly just for the LULZ of watching yet another thread erupt into a flamewar, which is actually just re-framing getting one’s jollies from bullying and vandalism – disruption for the sake of disruption).

One of the reasons they hate Pharyngula so much is that there are a lot of ‘net veterans there amongst the regulars (largely because PZ is also an old ‘net vet), and the vets see very clearly what is happening when the lies start being told and spoil the LULZ-fun by flatly identifying a comment as a lie without getting sucked into a derailing defence. Denied their jollies there, the LULZers have decided to target the rest of FtB because many of the other blog-owners and their commentariats have not yet become sufficiently acquainted with the LULZ playbook to cut the thread-derails off at the knees i.e. the LULZers are *relying* on their behaviour elsewhere not being known on the target blog, and thus being given more leeway than they deserve.

Ophelia’s Rules spoil the LULZ-fun, thus they’ve added her to their special extra-shitpiling list. Accusing her of “intellectual dishonesty” for refusing to let them fling shit all over her cybersalon is just the cherry on the top of the LULZers’ cake of pointless bile.

Anyone who comes onto an FtB blog and starts repeating the LULZer lies and slurs as part of their oh-so-noble groupthink challenge has already identified themselves as intellectually dishonest. Checking to see whether they’ve misbehaved using the same nym elsewhere before banhammering is actually extending them a benefit of the doubt that is IMO excessively generous.


There’s more on the post, so check it out.


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

The tide of history advances only when people make themselves fully visible

Jul 2nd, 2012 4:54 pm | By

Good about Anderson Cooper, huh?

I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.  There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

Yep, and the same applies to atheists. Boy do young atheists get bullied in this country. Any hidden Name atheists out there? Speak up!

Anderson himself (he doesn’t mind if I call him Anderson, does he? I’ve considered him a close personal friend ever since he interviewed my friend Josh, so he can’t mind) ends with some ooky god-talk, which is unfortunate, but still – good about what Anderson said to Andrew.

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

The Oppressed Sisters and their Approved Male Chorus

Jul 2nd, 2012 12:37 pm | By

The second part of problems with Why it’s totally fine to call The Sisterhood of the Oppressed Feminazis and Femistasi and totalitarian.

Remember the Women in Secularism conference the other week? How that conference was hailed by the Oppressed Sisters and their Approved Male Chorus!

Wow. I don’t have much more than that.

Well wait, one thing occurs to me. Paula’s counterpart Liz Cornwell was at that conference. Liz and I were both absolutely electrified by the talk that Wafa Sultan gave, and excited about possibilities for RDF to help her get the word out. It seems odd that Paula is willing to be quite so rude about the conference. She’s angry at “the Oppressed Sisters” for dividing the movement, but that remark doesn’t seem very collegial.

But also, wow. She might as well call the “Approved Male Chorus” pussy-whipped – that’s about the level of that remark.

Far from encouraging new women to get involved, all this hysterical and unjustified insistence on how dangerous our conferences are for women, how hostile our movement is to them, the indignities and humiliations they will be exposed to should they dare to set foot over the skeptical threshold could have been calculated to scare them away.

That’s all nonsense. Nobody’s been saying that. That’s ridiculous.

DJ Grothe was, predictably, shot down in furious flames by the Sisters when he dared suggest such a thing recently, yet Ophelia Benson herself would have us believe she’s been scared away from attending a conference because of the exaggerated and over-the-top messages she got about the terrible risks she’d face if she went.

So for the second time she all but calls me a liar, and she presumes to be able to know what it’s like to get a peculiar email that could be read as an exaggerated warning or as mockery or as a threat.

It’s interesting that she calls me out by name twice. I guess she really didn’t like me when we met at QED. She certainly hid it well. I liked her a lot, despite the fact that we’d disagreed sharply over elevator issues and she’d defriended me at Facebook. I must be gullible!

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

How to oppose the use of any kind of name-calling

Jul 2nd, 2012 11:38 am | By

Ok so what about Paula’s Google doc?

Sigh. Do I really care?

Oh well. Maybe a point or two.

First, since I gather this has touched a nerve in some quarters, I shall deal with the terms “feminazi” and “femistasi”. As a general principle, I oppose the use of any kind of name-calling.

Well don’t we all, provided we get to resort to it when we really want to.

For the record, I am categorically NOT suggesting that the people I have applied these terms to are, in fact, Nazis or Stasi members, or would ever have sympathized with either of them. There are many of us who are proud to be called Grammarnazis and who know perfectly well that no aspersions are being cast on our intentions towards either Jews or Poland. It might be considered distasteful that the suffix -nazi has come to be used simply to mean “extremist” or “obsessive”, but nevertheless, it has come to be so used, and The Sisterhood of the Oppressed cannot legitimately chalk it up as yet another example of their alleged victimization.

She says, carefully avoiding name-calling as a general principle. But notice that the suffix -stasi has not come to be used simply to mean “extremist” or “obsessive.” Notice that an epithet one can be proud to be called, like Grammarnazi, is not the same thing as an epithet applied out of hostility, like Femistasi. Remember that Paula included the fact that she had spent two years in East Germany to back up her claim that FTB shows “strains of totalitarian thought.” In short, what she said was not similar to saying someone is a grammarnazi. It was an accusation that a few feminists and Freethought blogs are like Nazis and the Stasi.

In the case of the -stasi suffix, it draws attentions to behaviours associated with the thought police, for whom anyone who dares to hold non-approved attitudes is automatically persona non grata and to be treated as an enemy of the people. I am referring, of course, to the unfailing response on certain blogs whenever someone has had the temerity to challenge the claims that have been made there.

Yes, but that’s just it. The comparison is over the top. (That’s an example of understatement, pupils. Make a note of it.) The thought police don’t stop with comments on blogs. The Stasi – as Paula knows far better than I do – didn’t stop with comments on blogs. (Blogs didn’t even exist then! Can you imagine it?)

Sure, comments on blogs can be annoying, or even worse than annoying. When they get very personal and very malicious and go on for months or even a year, they can be a lot worse than annoying. But they’re still not the Stasi! They’re still different from the Stasi in many salient ways. I get a lot more shit in blog comments than Paula does (and who knows, maybe I deserve every bit of it, for being so evil), but I still notice the advantages I get from not being a victim of the Stasi. They are many and various, and I enjoy them a lot. I think Paula should be more alert to this difference – alert enough not to try to defend the idea that comments on blogs are in any way like the Stasi.

Now Paula gets personal.

Good heavens, we have even seen Ophelia Benson describe DJ Grothe’s call for more balance in the discussions as “sticking a metaphorical target” on her!

No, we have not seen that. Bad work, Paula. Be fair. This is what I said:

A few people think I’ve been unfair to DJ Grothe. I don’t. I think it’s the other way around.

I’ll explain why, as succinctly as I explained it to DJ (and Carrie) the day after threat-day.

I think he stuck a metaphorical target on me. He didn’t do anything to take it off. He didn’t do anything to assure me that he still welcomed me to TAM. He triggered a shit-storm, and then let it get worse and worse and worse.

That’s it.

He stuck a metaphorical target on me (in my view) when he blamed the fall in women’s attendance at TAM on

irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.

You see where she went wrong? I quoted exactly the part I meant when I said DJ stuck a metaphorical target on me, and in that passage he doesn’t “call for more balance in the discussions”; he blames a small number of women skeptics who probably include me. There’s not a word about balance in that passage.

Really, Paula. Is that “skepticism”? Not in my book.

That’s the first item. (Yes that was all one item. Don’t be such an itemnazi.) Second item later.

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

Nazis and Stasi and bears, oh my

Jul 2nd, 2012 9:43 am | By

Dear oh dear, lots of new assigned reading first thing in the morning; how will I ever catch up.

There is Rebecca’s post on being called Feminazis and Femistasi. (I read that yesterday actually, but late in a long and rather nerve-racking day, so I’m treating it as new.)

There is Paula Kirby’s eagerly-anticipated (since she announced it yesterday) Google doc “Sisterhood of the Oppressed” (gee I wonder what that could possibly be about, and what its take might turn out to be).

There is Alex Gabriel’s unanticipated and lovely mash-note to Freethought blogs. Alex’s note is especially pleasant because it includes detailed accounts of what he likes about a whole slew of particular blogs on the network, which makes a nice contrast to people who simply rant endlessly on Twitter about “FTB” as if it were allonething. It also offers the comradely suggestion to tweet #WeLoveFTB. It offers it for the same set of reasons as the one we were talking about on the video yesterday. (That was only yesterday? It feels like weeks ago now.)

All of these people are tremendous, and so are many of their co-bloggers from the little of them I’ve seen. But none of them is the biggest reason I love FtB.

The biggest reason is the same one other people have been criticizing them recently: that they speak out so often, and so eloquently, on feminism, queer and racial struggles, politics and other Causes That Aren’t Directly Related To Atheism. That while primarily they’re an atheist network, they’re a collective of atheists with other opinions, where atheist discussions on justice, ethics and politics can take place – especially where the perspectives of the marginalized are included.

If we had a word for atheists doing this, what would it be?

Oh yes. ‘Freethought’.

The criticism of religion is a very much older beast than RDFRS, or CFI, or FreethoughtBlogs itself. It’s older than the skeptical movement writers here belong to, and which focuses (don’t get me wrong, correctly) on attacking religion epistemologically.

In Europe, the historic home of freethought, and elsewhere in the world, there exists a long and esteemed tradition of thinkers and writers who called out religion for being unjust and oppressive: traditionally, feminists, Marxists, queer theorists and all the other famous bêtes noires of the Daily Mail have been the first to bash religion. There’s clearly no real dichotomy, and many people who identify with these groups also foreground science, but I relate to that atheist tradition at least as much as to Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. And I love FreethoughtBlogs – I adore it – for representing that contingent.

So here’s my invitation to you, if you love it too. Now that I’ve set out what makes that set of writers special to me, I’m not going to try and stop people calling them bullies or totalitarian. They’re entitled to their opinion – but so are we, and while the FtB crowd are, frankly, being bombarded with abuse, I think we ought to share it.

Remember when Tory politicians said we needed to privatise health, and #WeLoveTheNHS trended? I think it’s time for #WeLoveFTB.

Tweet it. I’m about to. Tweet it so that everyone from that network knows we support them, and find love as well as hate when they search for FtB.

Thank you, Alex.

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

There are also global standards

Jul 1st, 2012 4:20 pm | By

At least someone gets it: why if person X – let’s call him Merelyatruck – is a sexist shit at blog Y – let’s call it ARF – a woman Z – let’s call her OB – wouldn’t want him commenting on her blog (let’s call it B&W) no matter how fake-civil he pretended to be while there.

Said eigenperson:

#87 Justicar:

I think it’s very clear what Ophelia is saying there. She’s saying that if you are good in Location 1 and bad in Location 2, then you may act well sometimes, but you are not a good person, because a good person tries not to act badly anywhere.

I would agree with that. While it is entirely appropriate to adapt one’s behavior to the local community standards, there are also global standards by which one ought to govern oneself everywhere, or at least anywhere public. What those standards are is, of course, debatable.

For example, I know of one prominent scientist (now deceased) who was an absolutely raging sexist while he was at work. He did a lot of harm with his sexism in that context. But, in other contexts, he was not a sexist at all; in fact, he was very respectful to women in every location except his own office at the university, where he would recommend rejecting their applications (if they were grad students) or denying them tenure (if they were professors), or if they showed up in person, verbally abusing them until they went away.

I am not willing to say that he was a good person, even though in so many contexts he acted according to standards I would be okay with. Because there was one context in which he consistently did not, even after it was explained to him that his behavior in that context was very harmful. This wasn’t just a case of “Oh, gee, I didn’t realize I had that bias!” No, it was very deliberate.

If Ophelia thinks that the way you act on ERV is willful and harmful, it’s entirely rational for her to say that you are not a good person, even though you behave like one on her blog.

Why yes, that’s it exactly. Thank you, eigenperson.

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

Another afternoon

Jul 1st, 2012 3:22 pm | By

Oh, jesus christ.

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

The borg talks to itself

Jul 1st, 2012 10:43 am | By

We did another Freethought blogs conversation video. We talked about social justice and facts v values and equality / happiness.

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

Everybody’s an expert

Jun 30th, 2012 4:06 pm | By

There’s another thing Paula said, that’s much much more trivial, so I didn’t want to combine with the Nazi&Stasi totalitarian accusation – but it’s one that I keep getting and it’s really…a bad thing to do, so I want to address it too. Actually it’s not all that minor, as a thing to do – but it was about me, so it’s minor in that sense.

It started where I left off, with

I disagree. I see real strains of totalitarian thought over there. And I lived in a totalitarian state for 2 years.

The other said

Incidentally, I do hope you are as strident in your condemnation of threats against eg Ophelia Benson. That’s serious.

Paula said

What threats? There was no threat. Only ridiculous, OTT ‘concern’, which just goes to show how silly these overreactions are.


The reason it’s a bad thing to do, as I said a week ago, in response to Russell Blackford’s claiming to know more than he knew about what I was reacting to, is that you can’t judge what it’s like to get a threat (or threat-like message) if you’re not the one who gets it. You can’t judge, and you should be able to figure that out. Within reason. I don’t mean that if one gets a pretty postcard that says “Having a lovely time!” it’s reasonable to think that’s a threat. But within reason – you should be able to figure out that something that can be read as a threat might well be scarier to receive than it is to read about someone else receiving. See what I mean? It’s not real to them because they don’t have to do anything about it. I did. I had to decide whether what looked threat-like actually was a threat. Fortunately Tim Farley helped enormously with that, by doing all the hard work involved. But I didn’t know that was what was going to happen when I had to decide what to do.

So. It wasn’t “ridiculous.” It wasn’t OTT. It wasn’t “concern.” It wasn’t silly. It wasn’t an overreaction. It’s easy for Paula to think it was, but she didn’t receive it.

I’ll just remind Paula – clearly she’s reading me, in the same benevolent spirit as Abbie’s friends – that I didn’t squall and tear my hair the instant I read the first message. I puzzled over it and then sent a reply saying oh come on, it’s not going to be that bad, just maybe awkward at times. That’s not ridiculous, or OTT, or silly, or an overreaction, is it.

It was the last part of the second message that did sound threat-like.

I’m happy that PZ was not shot (gun or uppants camera) at GAC, but that gives me scant reassurance that you will *not* be shot either way in Las Vegas.

Please do not respond to this message. If you adopt safety measures, whether I’ve suggested them or not. DO NOT TELL ANYONE, including me.

Don’t you dare tell me that doesn’t look anything like a threat. Don’t you dare tell me I was silly to think it might be meant as one.

And don’t tell other people things like that, either. Have some sense. You don’t know. Leave it to the cops, or to people who are involved. Don’t sneer at people who think a threat-like warning looks like a threat. Have some sense, some epistemic humility, some decency.


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

That’s not a Godwin, that’s a Wollstonecraft

Jun 30th, 2012 3:07 pm | By

More deep rifts. Or the same quantity of rifts, but deeper. Or more, and deeper, rifts. Or rifts that are no deeper but spread out over a wider landscape. Or -

Stop it at once.

Wossa rift this time? It’s calling Freethought blogs totalitarian and comparable to both Nazis and the Stasi.

That’s a bit much, I think.

One reason for my judgment there is that Freethought blogs is not actually a secret police force. It’s not actually any kind of police force. It doesn’t have a police force. It doesn’t have state power. It doesn’t have any power, except the power of opinion.

There are other reasons, but that will do to be going on with.

The sad thing is that it’s Paula Kirby calling us that, on Twitter (and elsewhere, for all I know). I would dispute the claim with her on Twitter, but I can’t because she’s blocked me. I can’t dispute it with her on Facebook because she defriended me there last year, because we disagreed about elevators. I don’t have her email address. I have no way to dispute the claim with her except here, and I want to dispute it, because I think it’s wrong. I also think it’s a little skeevy to block people so that you can say vile things about them and they can’t see you do it. I’m surprised at Paula – I’d have thought she was better than that.

Paula’s a terrific writer. She was very nice to me at QED, despite the defriending last year. We were on a panel together, along with Maryam and (don’t laugh)…DJ Grothe. Adam Lappin was there. (He was also at my talk the day before, and took extensive notes.)

Alex Gabriel took a picture.

See? I’m next to Paula. Sad, isn’t it.

Paula said

Those who disagree are by definition strawmanning. That’s part of the Feminazi doctrine, isn’t it?


It’s still part of Feminazi doctrine! Pharyngula, Skepchick and B&W, by contrast, have of course been bastions of calm reason!

Someone asked her if she really wanted to sound like Rush Limbaugh, and she replied

No, just like me, thanks. I quite like Femistasi too. One form of totalitarian thought is, after all, much like another.

The response was

Really? Radical feminists are as bad as the people who butchered millions of Jews?

[Paging Orac! Paging Orac!]

Paula responded

The allusion is to totalitarian thought and no tolerance of dissent. FTB is currently awash with it.

The other

Regardless of the unpleasant atmosphere on FtB (and elsewhere), it’s a ridiculous equivalence and you know it.


I disagree. I see real strains of totalitarian thought over there. And I lived in a totalitarian state for 2 years.

So there you are. She seriously said, and repeated in response to incredulity, that she thinks Freethought blogs is like Nazi Germany [paging Orac! Paging Orac!] and East Germany. She lived in the latter, and she says she thinks FTB is like it.

I find that staggering. Really staggering.

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

Stinking Islamists in Mali have destroyed Timbuktu shrines

Jun 30th, 2012 10:48 am | By

Right after UNESCO listed the city as an endangered world heritage site. Take that, UNESCO! Take that, blasphemous infidel western kaffir filthy secular impure internationalist proponent of heritage and culture and human artefacts.

Ansar Dine, one of the armed Islamist groups which has seized control in northern Mali, has said no site would be safe in Timbuktu.

“Ansar Dine will today destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception,” spokesman Sanda Ould Boumama told AFP through an interpreter from the city.

The Ansar Dine spokesman suggested Saturday’s action was in retaliation for the UNESCO decision on Thursday to put the World Heritage site, a cradle of Islamic learning founded in the fifth century, on its endangered list.

“God is unique. All of this is haram. We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what?” he said, declaring that Ansar Dine — which wants to impose sharia law in the region — was acting “in the name of God.”

Yes, we know, and that’s why we hate you.

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

The disproportionate amount of attention it gives to sexism

Jun 29th, 2012 5:42 pm | By

I usually avoid the word “privilege,” because it’s a red rag to a bull and I’m nothing if not accommodating, but sometimes…

Like now, at Thunderfoot’s Palais de Contempt.

…what I have been trying to tell deaf ears on freethoughtblogs for the past week, that their views are poorly positioned to achieve their stated objectives and are widely unrepresentative of the wider rationalist community in:

1)      The disproportionate amount of attention it gives to sexism compared to other issues.

2)      The way that those who disagree on the matter of sexism are attacked with a disproportionate amount of strawmen, invective and branding (misogynist, MRA, etc etc).  This is a behavior more in line with bullying than free thought.

We give a disproportionate amount of attention to sexism – because obviously sexism is a very minor thing, because hardly any people are women.

That’s privilege. He’s clueless about sexism because he has the privilege of not being the object of it. Hey, it’s trivial, because it doesn’t happen to him! Case closed.

And it’s bullying to talk about misogyny merely because there are guys around who are talking about kicking us – that is, me – in the cunt. I’m bullying, by saying it’s misogyny; the guy who’s talking about kicking me in the cunt is a victim of my bullying. Derp!

Justicar says:

If that’s true, it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of baboon writings. That’ll fuck up anyone’s critical faculties.

Consent need not be explicitly granted. Indeed, of all the times I’ve been raped, err, had sex with people after ingesting a date rape drug, I mean, having a glass of wine over dinner, I can’t recall a single conversation that entailed extracting consent from my rapist, err, sexual partner.

And if anyone ever asked me “If I can have your permission, may we now engage in a little sexual intercourse?” or anything like that, I’d have Hoggle have a sex change back to a man after his having had a sex change to kick Ophelia in the cunt to in turn kick my lousy date in the dick.

Is Thunderfoot right that our views are “widely unrepresentative of the wider rationalist community”? Are Thunderfoot and Justicar more representative of “the wider rationalist community” than we are? I don’t think so, but I don’t know. At any rate, I do know I want to stay away from their segment of it. I can’t, entirely, because some of the members of that “community” help themselves to my name and then talk about kicking me in the cunt…but I sure as hell want to.

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

At the end of Kasr El Nil bridge

Jun 29th, 2012 5:05 pm | By

Don’t read this unless you’re prepared to be upset and enraged. It’s Natasha Smith’s account of being grabbed, stripped and assaulted by a swarm of men in Cairo a couple of days ago. It’s horrible.

Don’t read even this brief excerpt unless you’re prepared. Trigger warning, in short, though I don’t usually like the term.

Men began to rip off my clothes. I was stripped naked. Their insatiable appetite to hurt me heightened. These men, hundreds of them, had turned from humans to animals.

Hundreds of men pulled my limbs apart and threw me around. They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way. So many men. All I could see was leering faces, more and more faces sneering and jeering as I was tossed around like fresh meat among starving lions.

Meanwhile “Thunderfoot” says we people at FTB talk way too much about sexism.

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

So get off Twitter. We see you are still on Twitter.

Jun 29th, 2012 4:15 pm | By

A guy who talked shit to Tory MP Louise Mensch and threatened her children via email was given a suspended 26-week sentence earlier this month.

Zimmerman targeted Mensch after last summer’s riots when the Corby MP suggested that sites such as Twitter ought to be closed down if the police thought it necessary. Mensch was also in the public eye as a member of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, which questioned Rupert and James Murdoch over phone hacking.

Oh well in that case – obviously she deserved anything he chose to deal out.

Addressing her as the “slut of Twitter”, Zimmerman said: “We are Anonymous and we do not like rude cunts like you and your nouveau riche husband Peter Mensch. We are inside your computer, all your phones everywhere and inside your homes.

“So get off Twitter. We see you are still on Twitter. We have sent a camera crew to photograph you and your kids and we will post it over the net including Twitter, cuntface. You now have Sophie’s Choice: which kid is to go. One will. Count on it cunt. Have a nice day.”

Well if she doesn’t like that kind of thing she should just stay home and shut up.

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

Chopping children for god is not abuse ok

Jun 29th, 2012 12:26 pm | By

Via Zinnia – more vicious shite from Brendan O’Neill.

There are many bad things about the modern atheistic assault on religion. But perhaps the worst thing is its rebranding of certain religious practices as “child abuse”. Everything from sending your kid to a Catholic school to having your baby boy circumcised has been redefined by anti-religious campaigners as “abuse”.

Yes imagine that! Some people are so depraved that they actually think it’s “abuse” to slice off part of an infant’s penis to please an imaginary god. How could that possibly be abuse?! 

This use of emotionally loaded language to demonise the practices and beliefs of people of faith has reached its ugly and logical conclusion in Germany, where a court has decreed that circumcision for religious purposes causes “bodily harm”, against boys who are “unable to give their consent”, and therefore should be outlawed.

Because obviously slicing off part of the penis in no way causes “bodily harm”; and obviously infants are perfectly “able to give their consent”; and anyway causing bodily harm without consent is obviously not something that should be outlawed. Right?!

No. It is bodily harm; it is without consent; it is far from obvious that it should not be outlawed.

The labelling of religious practices as “child abuse” is the most cynical tactic in the armoury of today’s so-called New Atheists. They are effectively using children as human shields, as a cover under which they and their beloved state might interfere in both family life and the realm of religious conscience in order to reprimand people for believing the wrong things and carrying ou[t] “cruel” practices.

“Cynical tactic” forsooth. I have a feeling I’ve been here before – marveling at the gall of Brendan O’Neill accusing anyone else of using a ”cynical tactic.” I don’t think the former Living Marxism guy believes a word of this bullshit, I think he just enjoys the sport.

He’s chicken-shit, too; the comments are closed.

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

How to rig everything in your own favor

Jun 29th, 2012 11:42 am | By

Dispatches from the “Sharia tribunals what could possibly go wrong” file: Charlotte Rachael Proudman in the Independent:

After fleeing a forced marriage characterised by rape and physical violence, Nasrin applied for an Islamic divorce from a Sharia council; that was almost 10 years ago now. Despite countless emails, letters and telephone calls to the Sharia council as well as joint mediation and reconciliation meetings, the Sharia council refuse to provide Nasrin with an Islamic divorce. Why? Because of Nasrin’s sex. An Imam at the Sharia council told Nasrin that her gender prevents her from unilaterally divorcing her husband, instead the Imam told her to return to her husband, perform her wifely duties and maintain the abusive marriage that she was forced into.

What more do you need to know? What more does anyone need to know? After millions of years of human history wouldn’t you think we could start to get this right by now? No, don’t force girls and women to marry someone; no, don’t forbid girls and women to escape men who abuse them. No, don’t make special asymmetrical rules by which men can do whatever they want to and women might as well be donkeys.

Read the whole thing, but be very careful of your teeth while doing so, or you’ll find you’ve ground them to powder by the end of the page.

H/t Babar Riaz.

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

Hostile conduct and intimidation

Jun 29th, 2012 9:46 am | By

CFI has announced its new policy on hostile conduct/harassment at conferences.

This is huge. Huge. I’ll tell you why. It’s the first part. Hostile conduct.

That’s what I’m worried about, personally as opposed to generally, I can tell you. I’m certainly, and obviously, not worried about sexual overtures, as the cyber-stalkers love to remind anyone who will listen. But I certainly am worried about hostile conduct, since I’m treated to it day in and day out. Therefore I’m very pleased that CFI put that aspect first.

Ron Lindsay has a great post about the background and the thinking.

Rationale for the policy: First, let’s step back a bit and ask why employers are effectively required to have policies prohibiting harassment, whether it’s sexual harassment or harassment based on protected group status. (I say “effectively” because absent such a policy, an employer has a much greater risk of legal liability.) This may shed light on why it’s also prudent for conference organizers to have such policies, especially conference organizers who try to create an atmosphere that promotes intellectual exchange.

At least in the United States, the primary rationale for workplace policies is not that employers have an obligation to ensure that all their employees are “nice” to each other. Rather, it is that harassment interferes with an employee’s ability to work; employers can be liable for such harassment when it is so severe that it “alters the conditions of employment and creates an abusive working environment.” Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 67 (1986). Workplace harassment policies are actually intended to help both employees and employers. Properly administered, they increase workplace efficiency.

An abusive working environment. That’s the thing. It’s not a matter of being “nice” but it is a matter of not being overtly (noisily, energetically) hostile. Think teenage boys, school bus, Karen Klein. An abusive working environment really does interfere with doing the job – and that’s all the more true when the job is talking and listening and interacting, as it is at conferences.

CFI believes we should look at the goals of a harassment policy for conferences in an analogous light. A primary objective of our policy is to ensure that everyone at our conferences — speakers, attendees, and staff — will feel safe and at ease and be able to participate fully in all conference-related events. Intimidation and harassment prevent this objective from being achieved, so such conduct should be prohibited.

This is why we have embedded our harassment policy within the context of an overall prohibition on hostile conduct. We seek to prohibit any abusive conduct “that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another person’s ability to enjoy and participate in the conference, including social events related to the conference.”

Looked at this way, CFI’s policy supports the goals of CFI in holding conferences, just as workplace policies support the desires of rational employers for workplace efficiency. CFI’s policy promotes friendly interaction among conference participants, including the candid exchange of viewpoints, and this, in turn, helps ensure a successful conference.

Long exhalation. Yes. Thank you.

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

We know they’re miserable – we made them miserable!

Jun 28th, 2012 5:41 pm | By

David Robert Grimes has a piece on the Dublin anti-abortion ads. He points out that it’s not true that abortions tear apart the lives of the women who get them.

Dr Nada Stotland has published extensively on the topic, including a paper for the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled “The Myth of the Abortion Trauma Syndrome” in which the legend of Pas is firmly put to bed. “Currently, there are active attempts to convince the public and women considering abortion that abortion frequently has negative psychiatric consequences. This assertion is not borne out by the literature: the vast majority of women tolerate abortion without psychiatric sequelae,” she wrote.

Unless people see to it that they feel guilt and sadness.

A corollary of the research was that while women did not suffer long-term mental health effects due to abortion, short-term guilt and sadness was far more likely if the women had a background where abortion was viewed negatively or their decisions were decried – the kind of attitude fostered by “pro-life” activists.

This leads to the dark irony that while groups of this ilk claim to support women, they increase the suffering of women who have had abortions – the very women they ostensibly claim to help.

So typical of the church: pretend to be concerned while actually being crueler than the average street thug.

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

A dangerous contempt

Jun 28th, 2012 5:00 pm | By

Taslima has a great post showing sexist advertising in the airline industry, with picture after picture of gorgeous pouty women falling out of their tiny shreds of underwear. Great stuff for selling sex, but peculiar for selling a way to get from A to B in a hurry.

Taslima quotes an official on the subject:

Civil aviation secretary Gabriel Mocho says, “I don’t want to give this airline the free publicity that its rather grubby little ad was designed to attract, but this kind of thing matters. Cabin crew are there to save your life, not to offer sex. Portraying them as flying centrefolds undermines their ability to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for passengers – and can make their working lives unbearable. It can breed a dangerous contempt that undervalues them as individuals and also as the people who have to get you out in an emergency or deal with abusive passengers in air rage incidents…The portrayal of cabin crew-members as sex objects undermines their key safety role and diminishes the level of respect passengers are likely to have for their professionalism and competence. This applies regardless of the gender of the individuals involved. For this reason, the federation believes the decision to promote such images to have been irresponsible and reckless. This kind of initiative does not foster a positive aviation safety and security culture – instead it damages safety.”

That’s an important point, and it doesn’t get discussed enough. It’s not that sexy pictures of gorgeous pouty women falling out of their tiny shreds of underwear are bad in themselves, certainly, and it’s not that it’s bad to enjoy looking at such pictures or to use them as inspiration when a real woman isn’t available. It’s that using them to sell airline travel translates women doing jobs into sex toys. That can breed a dangerous contempt that undervalues them as individuals. It’s tits or GTFO – it’s you’re either here to turn me on or you’re in my fucking way. It diminishes the level of respect passengers are likely to have for their professionalism and competence.

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

Falsehood in advertising

Jun 28th, 2012 12:41 pm | By

An Irish anti-abortion group, Youth Defence, has stuck up hundreds of posters all over Dublin announcing that abortions tear women’s lives apart.

abortion woman

That’s crap. Sometimes abortions are very emotionally painful, but not always. It’s certainly not true that there’s always a better answer – that’s why the right to get an abortion is worth having.

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