Notes and Comment Blog

Guest post: The difference between waspish criticism and mean shittery

Feb 18th, 2015 6:01 pm | By

Originally a comment by thephilosophicalprimate on The demarcation problem.

I think the difference between “waspish” criticism and just being “mean shits” is easier to articulate than you suggest, Ophelia. What you’re talking about is rooted in this commonly recognized tension: Thoughtful people believe and say, for good reasons, that hostility and contempt aimed at PEOPLE is bad. However, some IDEAS are clearly deserving of hostility and contempt, and nothing but. The difficulty arises because it’s difficult, perhaps even impossible, to keep the hostility and contempt for the bad ideas entirely separate from the people, because it’s the people who embrace the contemptible ideas.

But which comes first, and why, does matter. Criticizing people for having bad ideas is perfectly reasonable and respects their fundamental humanity; in effect, such criticism asks others to be better people by chiding them for ideas which are bad but *which they can change*. Recognizing someone’s humanity means, ultimately, recognizing their autonomy and consequently their responsibility: You have this belief, advocate this position, and take these actions — and I argue that they are horrible beliefs and positions and actions, and that such beliefs and behaviors make you a bad person. My criticism respects your humanity by holding you accountable for your choices, and is consistent with encouraging you to make better choices and thereby become a better person.

Criticizing people for who they are — attacking their character and identity rather than their beliefs and actions, especially when the attack is on a part of their identity that is not chosen or subject to change (gender identity, able-bodiedness, race, etc.) — does not show the same respect for humanity. Generally speaking, such criticism places ideas in a secondary role: Instead of saying that you are bad because and only to the extent that you have bad ideas and engage in bad behavior, such criticism declares that only a person who is fundamentally bad would embrace such a bad idea or behave in such a way. Such criticism bears no element of encouraging or recognizing the possibility of change in it, and shows no respect for the humanity of the one criticized.

Thus, what separates a sharp and witty critic like Jon Stewart from some asshole who thinks he’s witty but is actually just a mean shit — Rush Limbaugh is a paradigm case — is the recognition of a fellow human’s humanity even when one thinks that fellow human is being a complete shit and has horrible beliefs that motivate horrible behavior. For example, Stewart will criticize Faux News broadcasters by eviscerating their bad ideas and actions — their hypocrisy, self-contradiction, blatant denial of reality, systematic deceit of the public, lack of journalistic integrity, and so on. But his criticism consistently puts the priority on the ideas: you are bad people because you have and promote bad ideas, and by implication you would be better people if you had and promoted better ideas. For the perfect counter example, Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of Sandra Fluke for testifying about the mandate for insurance to fund birth control under the Affordable Care Act was to label her a slut and generally belittle her with every misogynist insult he could spit into his microphone: He offered no real criticism of the ideas Fluke advocated, and he dismissed the idea of birth control subsidies as so obviously wrong-headed that they are something only a bad person would ever argue for in the first place — a filthy slut like Fluke.

Now, those are extreme opposite ends of a spectrum for illustrative purposes, but I think the underlying distinction is basically right: We can and should criticize people for bad ideas and bad behavior, and that can and should be uncompromising and even cutting when necessary, but such criticism is ultimately respectful of the humanity of others because it implies that they can become better people through embracing better ideas and behaviors. But attacking people for their identity rather than their ideas — especially for elements of their identity that they cannot change or choose — or suggesting in any way that their ideas spring from or should be judged according to their identity rather than the other way around, is fundamentally dehumanizing because it denies the very possibility of choice and improvement.

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

No future

Feb 18th, 2015 5:38 pm | By

The New York Times has a feature by Stephanie Sinclair on child marriage in Guatemala.

In Guatemala, the legal age of marriage is 14 with parental consent, but in Petén, in the northern part of the country, the law seems to be more of a suggestion. Underage brides are everywhere. They parade endlessly through Petén’s hospital in San Benito, seeking medical care. Most have traveled from the villages along the mud-soaked roads that flow out in all directions.

…the physically immature and psychologically unready young mothers were prone to complications during childbirth, which often took place at home. For girls in Petén villages, the journey to competent care could take hours and the consequences dire. According to the International Health Alliance, Petén has the highest rate of maternal mortality in Guatemala at 172 deaths for every 100,000 births. The infant mortality is also high at 40 deaths for every 1,000 births.

There are photos, and a short film. It’s sad, depressing, hopeless. Therefore you should look at the pictures, and read the article, and watch the film.



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

Controversial but wholly natural

Feb 18th, 2015 4:35 pm | By

She knows what’s best for the health of her family, and it’s magical thinking. Reductress:

I’m a mom, a wife, a doula, an urban chicken farmer, a life coach, an extended breast-feeder, a weaver, a kombucha brewer, a yogini, and a Therapeutic Healing Touch practitioner. But most importantly, I’m a mom. And as a mom, I know what’s best for the health of my family: magical thinking.

I have a question. What are her shoes made of? I feel that this is decisive.

She’s not stupid. She’s had tertiary education. She understand how science works.

Science is great. It’s done a lot of good for the world, to be sure. It’s just not right for me or my family.

We have opted for a more controversial but totally natural method called “Please No Bad.”

I like it. I think I’ll adopt it.

She understand how vaccines work, too.

I understand that vaccines bolster vulnerable immune systems by stimulating your body’s natural defenses against disease without actually giving you the disease. I understand that vaccines are safe and effective, and that herd immunity is the best way we have to ensure that young or immunocompromised children don’t get sick and die from terrible infectious diseases that, until relatively recently, were commonplace. I get it. And if you want to live and die by the wholly effective, risk-free, and affordable breakthroughs that Western medicine has produced, that’s fine. That’s your right.

But don’t expect me to come along on that joyride of lies.

What’s her plan? Toxins. It’s all about toxins.

I believe that toxins are in everything, and even though I can’t exactly articulate what these toxins are or where they come from or where they live in my body or what they’re doing that’s apparently threatening my life, I know they’re there. And as a mother, you can be damned sure I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that these imaginary toxins don’t get into the pure white light embodiment of the physical plane occupied by my nine beautiful children. My husband and I practiced magical thinking as a form of birth control, and we have had sex way more than nine times. How’s that for proof?

Read on.

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

American women who have been babied for too long

Feb 18th, 2015 3:48 pm | By

I don’t see the logic.

Raw Story shares a plan to fix the rape problem by MRA Roosh Vörek.

Anything to do with not raping, you ask brightly? No, not at all; don’t be silly.

Here’s the thing. He saw women get drunk and then have sex with someone, and then when sober, go all angsty and get the guy thrown in jail or out of school. It’s that easy; who knew? But he says he saw it, so it must be true.

“By attempting to teach men not to rape, what we have actually done is teach women not to care about being raped, not to protect themselves from easily preventable acts, and not to take responsibility for their actions.”

“I thought about this problem and am sure I have the solution: make rape legal if done on private property,” he continued. “I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds.”

Vörek predicted that after rape was legalized, a woman would learn to “protect her body in the same manner that she protects her purse and smartphone.”

That’s the logic I don’t get. So if murder were legalized, would we all learn to protect our bodies the way we protect our phones, so that murder stopped? Except wait, phones still get stolen, and so do purses. Also stealing them hasn’t been legalized, yet they still get stolen. Why would legalizing rape cause it to stop happening?

Especially since it’s already mostly legalized in practice, given the tiny percentage of rapes that ever get successfully prosecuted. So, no, I can’t begin to see how that could possibly work.

“Such a change will provide a mature jolt to American women who have been babied for too long, who are protected and coddled as if they have no agency or intellect of their own,” he asserted. “Let’s make rape legal. Less women will be raped because they won’t voluntarily drug themselves with booze and follow a strange man into a bedroom, and less men will be unfairly jailed for what was anything but a maniacal alley rape.”

Also? When are we going to see babies on the menu at five star restaurants? When will we finally realize it’s time to start setting fire to people when the local polo club wins a game?

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

The demarcation problem

Feb 18th, 2015 11:46 am | By

Indignation continues about some atheists wondering about possible connections between the more combative style of atheism and the reason[s] Craig Hicks lost his temper. (I don’t know he lost his temper, but I’m assuming he did since he turned himself in to the police so quickly. That seems incompatible with murdering in cold blood, because why would you do that? If he’d done it in cold blood, planning it in advance, he would have known the next step was turning himself in – so he would have cold-bloodedly decided not to do it at all. Turning himself in implies regret, in other words, which implies bad impulse control, i.e. loss of temper.)

I sort of get the indignation, because atheists are a demonized group anyway (as are Muslims, oh the ironies), and because the mainstream media are all too ready to bash us without our help.

But, at the same time, I have learned way more thoroughly than I ever wanted to, over the past 3.5 years, that movement atheism has lots of room for mean shits, and mean shits flourish there. And then, I like to write waspishly myself, and if you put a heavy hand on my shoulder and demanded that I explain to you where the boundary is between “waspish” and “mean shits” I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Or, I don’t know, I guess I would, but it would take a lot of hemming and hawing and we’d both be bored to death before I succeeded in really explaining.

Maybe the real point is that this isn’t an atheist problem but a mean shit problem – much like the proudly racist “football fans” on the Paris metro, perhaps – and that atheism gives mean shits an exciting new base from which to share their mean shit skills.

The mean shittery is prior, and the atheism is a medium for expressing it, perhaps.

I don’t have a conclusion. It’s not as if I want waspishness to cease; I absolutely don’t. But…there’s Jon Stewart and Kate Smurthwaite and the like on the one hand, and there’s everyone else on the other. There’s talent, and there’s the absence of talent. People who are waspish or mean shits without talent…well they’re just mean shits, aren’t they.

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

Jesus og Mo på dansk

Feb 18th, 2015 10:25 am | By

How appropriate, how timely, how right in every way – Jesus and Mo the Book is now available in Danish.

Jesus and og Mo

Jesus og Mo på dansk

De bedste striber udkommer på dansk fredag den 20. februar.

Overskuddet går til at støtte kampen for ytringsfrihed.

Hver uge i 10 år har den anonyme tegner bag ”Jesus and Mo” lagt en ny stribe ud på sin hjemmeside, og i den tid er tegneserien blevet kult i brede kredse i Storbritannien. Nu kommer de bedste på dansk.


Overskuddet går til et godt formål

”Jesus og Mo – de bedste striber” er blevet gjort klar til tryk samtidig med, at to tragiske terrorangreb ramte ført Paris og så København.

Da terrorangrebet på Charlie Hebdo fandt sted 7. januar, var vi næsten færdige med at gøre den danske udgave af ”Jesus and Mo” klar til tryk. Vi besluttede hurtigt, at de frygtelige begivenheder gjorde det endnu mere nødvendigt at udgive bogen…

[Google translate with some tweaking]

The proceeds will go to charity

Jesus and Mo – the best strips was being prepared for printing while two tragic terrorist attacks hit first Paris and then Copenhagen.

When the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo took place on January 7th, we were almost finished making the Danish version of Jesus and Mo ready for printing. We quickly decided that the terrible events made ​​it even more necessary to publish the book…

After that there’s something about the terrorists’ goals and the boys and freedom of expression but there’s a verb missing so I don’t know how to tweak it. Maybe Sili will read this and assist.

Update: he did. Herewith:

When the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo took place january 7. we’d almost finished preparing the Danish edition of Jesus and Mo. We quickly decided that the terrible events made it even more necessary to publsih the book in order that [the] terrorists not succeed in their goal of suppressing the freedom of speech that is the foundation of democratic society.

But for the sake of safety we also felt that it is necessary to publish The best of Jesus and Mo anonymously. That decision was vindicated [not a literal translation, but doing it word for word sounds odd] when Copenhagen too was hit by terror. The attack took place to days after we had sent the book and a press release to the Danish media, and while we were arranging interviews with the British artist on the occasion of publication.

We have decided to make the publication a non-profit event. In consequence the profits from the sale will be used to support the fight for freedom of speech in the spirit ofJesus and Mo. What project we’ll support will be decided later when we know how big the profit will be. It will then be published on this site and by press release.

Many thanks, Sili.

Enjoy, Denmark.

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

They are racist and that’s the way they like it

Feb 18th, 2015 9:45 am | By

Good god. Chelsea fans (fans of the football club of that name) are caught on video on the Paris Métro pushing a black man off the train and chanting “we are racist and that’s the way we like it.”

The jaw drops. The eyes bug out. What are they thinking? What is wrong with them? What is it about being a Chelsea fan that requires or enables this? Football is hardly a lily-white sport, happily, so…what??

Police are looking at the video in hopes of identifying the perps.

The footage was obtained by the Guardian, which reported that the incident had happened at Richelieu-Drouot station in the centre of the French capital on Tuesday evening.

British expatriate Paul Nolan, who filmed the incident on his phone, told the BBC it had been an “ugly scene” and “very aggressive”.

In a statement, Chelsea condemned the behaviour as “abhorrent” and said the fans’ actions had “no place in football or society”.

English football’s governing body, the Football Association, said it “fully supports Chelsea’s position in seeking to ban any of the club’s season-ticket holders or members who face criminal action in relation to these abhorrent scenes”.

Sepp Blatter, president of world football’s governing body Fifa, tweetedthat there was “no place for racism in football”.

Lord Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, which campaigns against racism in football, said the fact the incident involved an assault on the man was “even more shocking”.

The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) said the overwhelming majority of Chelsea fans would be “disgusted” by the incident.

Perhaps it’s just the aggression of football fandom, channeled into an irrelevant form of aggression outside the stadium.

Paul Canoville – the first black footballer to play for Chelsea – told the BBC he was saddened by what had happened.

“For me as a black player, and other black players, it would hurt, most definitely.

“It is haunting. It wasn’t nice seeing it, hearing it, at all,” he said.

Frank Sinclair, a black footballer who played for Chelsea more than 150 times, said the men in the video had nothing to do with his former club.

“They tend to move from club to club, they drift and they look at an opportunity where they might have got tickets on the black market, decided to go to this game to cause problems,” he said.

“Certainly, they’re not represented by Chelsea Football Club.”

Ah – if that’s right it’s the aggression that comes first, and the match is just a place to put it to work. Like real-life trolls.


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

A great day for Malawian girls

Feb 17th, 2015 5:44 pm | By

Here’s a piece of good news for a change – Malawi has said no to child marriage.

Malawi has passed a law banning child marriage, raising the minimum age to 18 in a country where half of girls end up as child brides.

Women rights campaigners hailed the move as “a great day for Malawian girls” and said the law would help boost development in one of the world’s poorest countries.

But they warned Malawi would not end child marriage without concerted efforts to tackle poverty and end harmful traditional practices like early sexual initiations.

The law is an important part though.

Malawi has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage. Half of girls wed before their 18th birthday and nearly one in eight is married by 15.

Early marriage not only deprives girls of education and opportunities, but also increases the risk of death or serious childbirth injuries if they have babies before their bodies are ready. Child brides are also at greater risk of domestic and sexual violence.

And they’re less able to protect their children, and to teach them, and generally to be a parent to them.

Child marriage is deeply entrenched in Malawi’s society partly because of a belief that a girl should marry as early as possible to maximize her fertility.

Because that’s all women are: machines for making babies.

Brussels Mughogho, Malawi country director of development charity EveryChild, said poverty pushed some families to marry off young daughters in exchange for a dowry payment or so that they had one less mouth to feed.

Mughogho said it was also vital to work with traditional leaders to end early sexual initiations which fuel child marriage.

In parts of Malawi, when a girl reaches puberty she may receive a night-time visit from an older man – known as “a hyena” – who has sex with girls to prepare them for marriage.

“There are so many driving factors behind child marriage,” Mughogho said. “This is a very important step that we’ve taken, but child marriage will never end with legal instruments alone.”

Good luck, Malawi. You’ve taken a crucial first step; well done.

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

As long as one father

Feb 17th, 2015 4:20 pm | By

But David Futrelle didn’t mess around with just one stupid meme. David Futrelle got together a whole bunch of stupid memes to admire.

Ian Ironwood, as he calls himself, is the proprietor of the blog The Red Pill Room. He’s also a big fan of retro art.  Alas, he has attempted to combine these two interests, producing a series of baffling “memes” in which he pastes little manosophere lessons on top of artwork borrowed from postwar American magazines and paperbacks.

It’s hard to pick a favorite but I’ll go with this one, partly because it’s so wordy, which is kind of not the point of memes.

Nothing puts hair on your chest faster than carbonated beverages.

By…tinkering with their sodas?

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

Didja hear the one about the feminist?

Feb 17th, 2015 3:53 pm | By

Lucky me, I just saw a meme on Facebook, with an approving comment.

How lucky for people who hate feminism that ISIS and Boko Haram exist.

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

It’s a kind of stupid logic

Feb 17th, 2015 11:27 am | By

Lars Vilks has indeed gone into hiding now, which is tragic. I’m relieved, though, that he says it’s probably temporary.

Lars Vilks, the controversial cartoonist who escaped unhurt from the café hosting the debate, told Channel 4 News he is now in hiding.

“I am at a secret place, totally unknown. I can’t give you countries or one place. I can only just say that I will remain here until we have a more clear picture of how things are looking and hopefully I will go back into a bit more normal routines within a few days or a week or so.”

By the way Channel 4 News? He’s not really “controversial” – not to reasonable people he’s not.

“I have become some sort of symbol because I’m pointed out as a kind of target and that target is then attacked. But there is this kind of symbol that is chosen for this purpose and the idea about freedom of speech or the attack on it.”

Exactly. It’s not that he is himself especially “controversial”; it’s that a small number of people have singled him out for the label and all that goes with it. We can’t let them set the terms of the discussion. They’re the wrong people to do it. They don’t think well, and they don’t have the interests of human beings in mind.

The Swedish artist produced a series of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed in 2007, but says he feels no guilt after one man was killed in the attack on Saturday.

“We have a murder who was [in] cold blood sinking another person. And that’s the deed. That is his reason.

“It would be like saying that when he attacked the Jews: if they were not in Copenhagen then we wouldn’t have the problem. It’s a kind of stupid logic.”

It is indeed. He did nothing wrong. Nothing. No, not a little tiny bit wrong; not wrong at all. Jews did nothing wrong by living in Copenhagen and going to a synagogue, and Lars did nothing wrong by drawing cartoons.

I hope he can get back to mostly-normal life very soon.

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


Feb 17th, 2015 10:59 am | By

The BBC is still at it. This must be a deliberate policy, not mere laziness or habit.

It’s at it in a story on what the Danish domestic intelligence agency knew about El-Hussein. Prison officials told them he was at risk of being radicalized. I would guess they are told that about a lot of people, and can’t closely monitor all of them.

Danish intelligence chief Jens Madsen acknowledged that El-Hussein had been “on the radar” of his services.

Mr Madsen said investigators were working on the theory that he could have been inspired by the shootings in Paris last month.

Lars Vilks told AFP news agency that police “did not step up security on Saturday. It was the same as we had previously”, confirming that he had since gone into hiding.

The cartoonist stoked controversy in 2007 by drawing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad dressed as a dog and has been under police protection since 2010.

There they are, at it again – firmly blaming Lars Vilks for drawing a cartoon that in just about any other context would be simply a cartoon, like any other. There they are again, dishonestly and damagingly saying that Lars Vilks “stoked controversy” when he simply drew a cartoon.

Image result for lars vilks cartoon

They really really really need to stop doing that.

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

The ability to shock and terrify

Feb 17th, 2015 10:33 am | By

The BBC reports that a police chief in al-Baghdadi, Iraq reports that IS torched 45 people there.

Jihadist militants from Islamic State (IS) have burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, the local police chief says.

Exactly who these people were and why they were killed is not clear, but Col Qasim al-Obeidi said he believed some were members of the security forces.

IS fighters captured much of the town, near Ain al-Asad air base, last week.

Col Obeidi said a compound that houses the families of security personnel and local officials was now under attack.

Shiraz Maher explains why IS does things like torching people to death.

Content warning.

Even by the barbaric standards of Islamic State, the murder of the captured Jordanian pilot is particularly gruesome. The 26-year-old is paraded around the site of an alleged coalition airstrike, presumably to witness its effects first-hand.

He is then placed in a metal cage and set alight. The scenes are harrowing, the screams of anguish unimaginably horrific.

The slow, soft focus cinematography – coupled with primitive sadism for which IS’s videos have come to be known – is always designed to shock.

It was quite deliberately aimed at capturing the world’s attention.

That of course is evident enough. They make these videos for a reason, and what other reason could there be?

Questions abound over how or why IS could do this. To understand their mindset requires a brief examination of Islamic, or Sharia, law.

IS believes in a principle known as “qisas” which, in its broadest terms, is the law of equal retaliation. Put another way, it is the Islamic equivalent of “lex talionis”, or the doctrine of an eye for an eye.

Within Islamic law qisas typically relates to cases of murder, manslaughter, or acts involving physical mutilation (such as the loss of limbs) and creates a framework for victims (or their families) to seek retributive justice.

In other words, they believe in a principle that dates from a time when very few people had thought carefully about retributive justice, a time when moral thinking had not made much progress. That was then, this is now. This is the thing that makes religion so dangerous – the fact that it puts a veneer of justification on the refusal to allow morality to make progress. It makes it seem respectable to continue to believe in a “principle” that if it were a secular “principle” would be obviously horrific and sadistic. It makes it seem respectable to embrace sadistic retribution as a principle.

All armies want to develop an edge over their adversaries. Typically this involves investment in better hardware to project more power and menace.

IS knows this is not an area where it can compete.

Instead, what it has is asymmetric power – the ability to shock and terrify with videos such as the one released on Tuesday. As always, we are the audience and the aim is clear – to shock and scare us.

As was the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket, as was the attack on the blasphemy conference and the synagogue in Copenhagen. It’s all a big ol’ Surrender Dorothy.

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

Nor does the future look rosy

Feb 17th, 2015 9:54 am | By

What it’s like to be a child and a mother.

Many of the babies are born with complications, far from the nearest hospital, and the mortality rate for mother and infant is sky-high.

Nor does the future look rosy. The daughters of these child brides are born into a cycle of systemic abuse, violence and poverty.

“I thought I’d have a better life, but at the end, it didn’t turn out that way,” says Aracely, who was married to a 34-year-old when she was 11. When she was four months’ pregnant, her husband left, declaring the child wasn’t his. Now 15, she is raising her son on her own.

“During the time I was pregnant, he didn’t give me any money,” she says. “He hasn’t even come to see the boy now that he’s a year old.”

Aracely is one of the girls who feature in photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair’s Too Young To Wed project on Guatemala, where it’s legal for a girl to marry as young as 14 — though many are married far younger than that.

The UNFPA says one in nine girls in developing nations will marry before 15, with 50 million likely to marry before their 15th birthday in this decade. They are usually poor, less educated and living in rural areas — and their early marriages make life even worse.

Puberty is a death sentence for many girls, and a stunted life sentence for a whole lot more. It’s tragic.

“Sadly, child marriage directly affects approximately 14 million girls a year, and in the process legitimises human rights violations and the abuse of girls under the guise of culture, honour, tradition, and religion. It is part of a sequence of discrimination that begins at a girl’s birth and continues throughout her entire life.”

This weekend, the group launched a global report on sex discriminatory laws around the world, using the hashtag #unsexylaws.

It shows in shocking clarity that these discriminatory laws are not simply relics of the past. Just last year, Kenya adopted a marriage act that permits polygamy without consent of the first wife, while Iran’s 2013 penal code maintains that a woman’s testimony is worth less than a man’s.

An Indian Act from 2013 states: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”.

There’s more, lots more. There’s Equality Now’s 2014 report, Protecting the Girl Child.

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


Feb 17th, 2015 9:37 am | By

My friend Sadaf Ali has a post about the fact that far too many activist atheists talk over ex-Muslims and liberal Muslims instead of listening to them and/or helping them get a turn at the mic.

I was recently quote in Allie Conti’s article for VICE on this issue:

But Sadaf Ali, a Muslim turned atheist activist, says that many New Atheists are just grown-up version of the bullies who called her a “terrorist” as a kid.

“I’ve had to debate people often who make gross generalizations of Muslims and Muslim cultures,” she told me. “People hide their bigotry behind their promotion of atheism, and I think it’s disturbing.” She has a pretty easy solution to changing the movement’s alleged-racism rap: Giving people besides Dawkins and Harris a prominent platform.

That would help. It would help with a lot of things.

It’s a familiar problem with how the media operate, which is that once X gets called as an expert then X becomes that expert you always call when you want an expert. It’s a stupid & lazy shortcut which seems to be damn near impossible to overcome.

How could a major newspaper or tv news station possibly illustrate a piece on anything atheism-related without including a photo of Dawkins??! The world would tilt off its axis and plunge directly into Venus if they did that. There is only Dawkins, and maybe farther down the page one other atheist, so naturally that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for including ex-Muslims or women or unwhite people or anyone else who’s not Dawkins. It’s very sad and all but their hands are tied.

…bear in mind that I speak from experience and interactions that I’ve accumulated over several years as an activist. If you are unfamiliar with my work and who I am, I started a grassroots initiative that built the foundations for the community building organization known as Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA). I am EMNA’s co-founder and former Director of Community Development. I have been privy to the environments and attitudes in which ex-Muslim activists are exposed to and have to work with when it comes to the secular movement. There has been a consistent erasure of ex-Muslims and vocal secular Muslims this past decade.  .

Many of the other ex-Muslims I have worked with and contact on a regular basis have shared this sentiment with me. For starters, Kiran Opal, another co-founder of EXMNA, has written about something she coinedkuffarsplaining. It is the attitudes she captures in “A How-To Guide For Talking About Islam” that make it difficult for (ex-)Muslims to discuss Muslim issues. The first 7 deal specifically with the cultural relativist attitudes that many people hold that promote the erasure of ex-Muslims.

Number 8 on the guide is a special note for atheists:

  1. *Special Note: If you’re an ‘atheist’, instead of giving a platform to theEx-Muslim atheists that are risking their lives now to ‘come out’ and be visible… instead of tagging your Ex-Muslim atheist colleagues and acquaintances in conversations with other Western atheists… instead of promoting Ex-Muslim atheist voices… just do all the talking for them yourself.
    a. Talk about how well you understand Islam, being Muslim, and everything else about the issue so much better than the other white Westerners you’re talking to.
    b. Don’t be our ally, be our mouthpiece. We love it when you do that.

Please make note that the quoted text was written sarcastically!

She tells us something I don’t think I knew, and it makes me want to heave.

Would you like another example? In October of 2014, there was a two-day International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights with Maryam Namazie. Here is a photo gallery of the conference. Here is what Kiran wrote for Atheist Alliance:

“Among the Secular Conference’s speakers, organizers, volunteers & delegates, two thirds were women and 75% were people of colour. This diversity served to shatter the notion — often propagated by antisecularists and far-right fundamentalists — that secularism belongs exclusively to “white men”. Manyspeakers directly challenged the patronizing idea that women, people of colour, ethnic and sexual minorities, and citizens of non-Western countries cannot comprehend, handle, or fight for secularism, freedom of conscience, and universal human rights.”

The Guardian covered the two-day conference by using a picture of Richard Dawkins and as Kiran put it: “All the people of colour and women were erased or downplayed and instead Dawkins’ picture was posted when he was not a speaker or organizer of the event.”

Dawkins has actually done a lot to help ex-Muslims get a platform. The Guardian’s coverage isn’t his fault, it’s the Guardian’s. An damn but that’s a glaring example of the problem.

There are many ex-Muslim and progressive/liberal/secular Muslim voices out there, many of whom are doing fantastic work and outreach within their communities. I no longer buy the excuse that both ex-Muslims and others in the movement have given me – that there aren’t enough of us.  I just don’t buy it anymore because I know firsthand how organizations handle diversity and issues of representation. I know how people get picked for these conferences and conventions to speak and to be on panels. I know how this all works now.

Also? The claim that there aren’t enough is just ludicrous. There are many! Very very many!

Instead of telling me I’m brave, perhaps people should be telling me and other ex-Muslims the truth: we’re patient.


Let’s do this thing.

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


Feb 16th, 2015 4:24 pm | By

There was a rally for free speech in Copenhagen tonight.

Via Twitter

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It’s what they do

Feb 16th, 2015 3:59 pm | By

Via Grammarly

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

But some experts see

Feb 16th, 2015 3:39 pm | By

Tom Gjelten at NPR did a typically NPR passive-aggressive story on “extreme” atheists and Craig Hicks and yadda yadda. I’ve been doing the same sort of thing ever since last Wednesday, but…I think without the passive-aggressive aspects. That’s been my intention at least. I’m up front about it – Craig Hicks freaks me out because we had friends in common, because his Facebook wall looks exactly like the walls of countless other bro atheists, because I don’t know but I fear his anti-theism – which I share – may have had something to do with the three murders he apparently confessed to. I don’t like the idea, and that’s exactly why I’ve been poking at it so hard.

But Gjelten…well let’s see.

Outrage over the murder of three young Muslim Americans in North Carolina last week has gone international. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Saturday that the killings reflected “Islamophobia” and “bear the symptoms of a hate crime,” but local authorities say they don’t yet know what motivated the murders.

Stop right there. Why on earth would a reputable journalist go to the OIC for a comment? It’s a terrible organization. It’s the outfit behind the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, which allows no human rights that are not “compatible with Sharia” – which means many of the most basic rights are nullified, though the declaration doesn’t spell that out.

So that’s one bad move.

The man held responsible for the killings is an avowed atheist. Whether that’s relevant in this case is not clear, but some experts see a new extremism developing among some atheists.

See? Pure passive-aggression. It’s not clear, BUT, some experts see blah blah, so let’s just leave that lying there like a turd so that we can make atheists sound bad while pretending not to. How handy to be able to say some experts see whatever you want to claim.

Religion scholar Reza Aslan says ordinary atheists just don’t believe in God. Hicks, Aslan says, was an anti-theist.

“An anti-theist is a relatively new identity, and it’s more than just sort of a refusal to believe in gods or spirituality; it’s a sometimes virulent opposition to the very concept of belief,” Aslan says.

Reza Aslan isn’t a religion scholar tout court, he’s an apologist for Islam.

The anti-theists have their own heroes; people like the outspoken writer Richard Dawkins, who appears often on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher condemning religion generally and Islam in particular.

“I mean these people have a holy book that tells them to kill infidels,” Dawkins once said on the show.

Yes, and? That’s true. It’s also true of the bible, certainly, but then Dawkins doesn’t say otherwise. It’s so passive aggressive to quote a true statement as if it were some terrible outrage, without actually saying it is, much less saying why it is.

Reza Aslan says the anti-theists are few in number. But just as mainstream Muslims must confront the extremists in their communities, Aslan says, it’s time for mainstream atheists to do the same.

False equivalence. Very false equivalence. One Craig Hicks, even if his atheism did contribute to his murder of the students in Chapel Hill, is not anywhere near the equivalent of Boko Haram and IS and the Taliban and al Qaeda and the government of Saudi Arabia. The idea is laughable.

So, yeah, that adds up to a lot of passive-aggression in one short piece.

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

Where girls and boys are taught separately

Feb 16th, 2015 2:41 pm | By

Some people in Izmir protested the growing influence of Islam in schools in Turkey on Friday. They were dispersed by water cannons.

Education is the latest flashpoint between the administration of President Tayyip Erdogan, and secularist Turks who accuse him of overseeing creeping ‘Islamization’ in the NATO member state.

Riot police were out in force on Izmir’s streets, with water cannon being used to disperse banner-waving demonstrators who had gathered in the center of the city, according to pictures from Dogan news agency. At least one person was seen being led away by plain clothes security officers.

Parts of some regular schools have been requisitioned to create more places for students in “Imam Hatip” religious schools championed by Erdogan, where girls and boys are taught separately. Almost 1 million students are enrolled in those schools, up from 65,000 when AKP came to power in 2002.

Sort of a Turkish Tony Blair then.

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

The horrible idea filter

Feb 16th, 2015 2:21 pm | By

I wrote this month’s column for the Freethinker yesterday. It’s a rather heated rejection of the “we must be responsible if we want to live in harmony with horrible ideas” approach. I don’t want to live in harmony with horrible ideas; I want to reject them, and explain my reasons for rejecting them.

It’s not always immediately clear which ideas are horrible. Sometimes it takes extended discussion and illustration and listing of examples to make the horribleness of a particular idea clear. That’s one major reason free speech is important, and why it often trumps other goods.

But some ideas we already know are horrible. We don’t need to keep reopening the question every hour, because we already know and because the ideas are so horrible that they do damage and harm. It can be worthwhile to discuss such ideas in classrooms or seminars, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be discussed in every newspaper and chat show. Should we be sitting down for a serious conversation with Boko Haram in order to come to an understanding? No. Boko Haram has murdered some 30 thousand Nigerians. There’s nothing to discuss. Its members may be rehabilitatable, but its ideas are the ideas of murderers.

But you won’t find Boko Haram in a Copenhagen coffee shop or a Paris newspaper office. It’s not Boko Haram that keeps getting threatened and killed for trying to have a conversation.

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