Notes and Comment Blog

Driven out

Sep 7th, 2014 11:50 am | By

Last Monday Jenn Frank wrote a piece for The Guardian about “a hot trend among a vocal minority of gamers right now: the harassment of women developers and critics.” She summarized what’s been happening to Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.

Yes, it’s been quite a banner season for the collective of self-identifying core gamers who gather on forums to muster shared fury. Now they feel they are at war with a group of left-leaning games writers and developers who they refer to as “social justice warriors” – this is effectively anyone who has ever questioned the patriarchal nature of the games industry or the limited, often objectifying depiction of women. Because, you know, games are fine as they are thanks.

It’s so familiar – in fact “familiar” isn’t even the right word; it’s not so much familiar as exactly the same thing. I’m surprised these angry gamers don’t call Sarkeesian and Quinn “rage bloggers” or “FTBullies” or “The Sisterhood of the Oppressed.”

Crucially, a good troll knows how to attack a woman’s “professionalism” – particularly if you’ve never read, watched or played anything she has produced. Your method is to undermine her credibility and devalue her work by hardly discussing it – and maybe discussing her full sexual history instead.

Your goal – if you, too, are keen on suspicion and hate – is total alienation, making your target feel impossibly hopeless and alone by way of attacking her friends, colleagues or anyone who has ever written anything positive about her.

Because war is war! A cherished way of life is at stake, so there must be no prisoners, no neutrals, no non-combatants, and no survivors. Feminists criticizing the depiction of women in games are obviously such a terrifying existential threat that only Total Thermonuclear War will do.

…if you really want to help ruin the games industry, it helps to have money on your hateful side. For instance, you might launch a successful online campaign to fund a documentary exploring how tech culture has been “hijacked” by Sarkeesian and other “social justice warriors”.

All the while, bullies of the games industry, do insist that your efforts to totally ruin a woman’s life and career are founded in “transparency”, “ethics” and “integrity”. Do suggest, at every turn, that “games journalism” has not yet fully acknowledged your campaign of terror because of an industry-wide “cover-up”.

Be careful not to concede that anyone writing about said campaign may also fear retaliation. Certainly we do. In fostering this culture of terror, you can ensure the majority is silent – that it won’t speak out against the harm you are doing.

Well how else are they going to prevail?

So guess what happened after that. Can you?

David Futrelle has the details.

Congratulations, assholes! You did it! Your threats and harassment have driven game journalist/designer Jenn Frank and game designer/media critic Mattie Brice to leave the gaming world.

Frank, an award-winning writer and sometime game designer, came to the attention of the misogynist mob after writing a brief opinion piece for The Guardian decrying the widespread and vicious harassment of women in gaming. In addition to writing about the harassment she’s gotten — including someone trying to hack into her email account — she (as you might expect) also highlighted the misogynistic rage directed at feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian and indie game designer Zoe Quinn.

The new rule seems to be that any woman who writes about online harassment will herself be harassed, and in this case it didn’t take long.

It took a couple of days. By Wednesday night she’d had enough.

This proves that there is no misogyny problem in the gaming industry. Right? Right?

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

Clerics jumped in

Sep 7th, 2014 9:54 am | By

Another depressing/enraging story out of India – a woman is repeatedly raped by her husband’s father while the husband is working in Dubai, and clerics want to reward the rapist and punish the woman.

The 28-year-old victim alleged that her husband has been working in Dubai for the last two years and her father-in-law has been sexually assaulting her at gun point since 2013.

She remained silent because he used to threaten to kill her. He also video recorded his act and threatened to make it public if she opened her mouth.

When she told her husband about it, he blamed her for making a false allegation against his father.

She told her parents, and they advised her to go to the cops.

She created ruffles in the local administration and the Muslim community on Thursday by moving an application before District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma to arrest her father-in-law and allow her to abort her seven-month pregnancy.

After the application by the victim, clerics jumped into the case and declared that the husband of the victim will be treated as her son.

Avoiding any comment against the father-in-law who repeatedly raped and blackmailed the victim, Maulana Mohammad Nazar of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said: “As per the Sharia law, the baby in her womb is her husband’s brother. Her husband must divorce her, even if his father looked at his wife with lust.”

In other words the whole thing has to do with men and relationships between men. The woman is just a cipher with a pleasurable hole between her legs. The father, the husband, the “baby” all matter, while the woman is a mere object, like a broom or an urn.

H/t Kausik

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

They read it and thought it a reasonable, cogent piece of commentary

Sep 6th, 2014 6:13 pm | By

The Freedmen’s Patrol on that Economist review.

…the fact remains that the editors published the review. They read it and thought it a reasonable, cogent piece of commentary worth putting forward in one of the more prestigious magazines in the Anglosphere. My honest first inclination is to presume stupidity, but one should not let shock entirely determine one’s response. Likewise it seems improbable that The Economist would assign a reviewer who literally does not know what the word “slavery” means or ignorant of who enslaved whom in Americas to a book about slavery in America.

This leaves us with a far worse scenario: Whoever wrote this review understood the subject, knew the facts, and thought it correct anyway. One still has room to question the second presumption, though. Anybody who thinks Puritanism characterize the American South doesn’t understand much about the region during that time. Proslavery writing routinely castigated antislavery Puritans, denouncing them as fanatics and heretics at odds with true Christianity. B.F. Stringfellow looked into the census and found out that the New England Puritans had fewer churches with fewer seats in them than the slaveholding South did and used it as evidence that slaveholders were the better Christians.

Southern slaveholders identified themselves with the Royalists while the Abolitionists were more on the Puritan side. Christopher Cameron has a long article on the subject at

Back to Freedmen’s Patrol.

The Economist asked its readers to believe that the operative force in American slavery was not cruelty but benevolence. The magazine asked that we set aside the nineteenth century’s notorious exploitation of labor, including the labor of children, its horrific working conditions, its ruthless and violent suppression of labor activism (Activism aimed at better working conditions, no less!), essentially the entire body of literature produced by the slaves themselves, by contemporary observers of slavery, and from the very pens of the slaveholders who did the whipping or ordered others to do it on their behalf.

Take, for example, this incident from the life of probably the most famous and celebrated American slaveholder born after 1800, a man we often hear cared greatly for the slaves he inherited and treated only with kindness. I quote from Eric Foner’s Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction:

Wesley Norris, a slave of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, later recalled how after he and his family had attempted to run away, Lee ordered a local constable “to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each.” Lee, Norris added, “stood by, and frequently enjoined the constable to ‘lay it on well,’” then ordered him “to thoroughly wash our backs” with saltwater to increase the pain.

You can read all of Norris’ story in his own words here.

The Economist’s reviewer and its editors, until shamed into correction, would probably complain that this story reflects poorly on Lee when, after all, Norris and his family did attempt to run away. They were stealing from him. Did they have no regard for his property rights? One can hardly blame Lee for going to the law to defend those rights. Clearly some anti-capitalist bias animated Foner and Norris both.

It’s political correctness run mad! Again.

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

Necessary conditions

Sep 6th, 2014 4:18 pm | By

Ken White at Popehat takes the Chancellor of Berkeley to task for an email he sent to students faculty & staff on the subject of free speech. You can see what’s coming a mile off, can’t you – the Chance said free speech is very nice but you can’t say anything Offensive.

Well he didn’t, really, although he did say something tending in that general direction – free speech to work properly should be civil and respectful yadda yadda. But Ken thinks he said it With Menaces, so to speak, and I don’t really think he did. Several commenters don’t think so either. (For a piquant detail I’ll add that before I saw this post of Ken’s, I saw a tweet of Sommers’s on the same subject, and I read the Chance’s email then, and thought it was more advice than commands. Who knows, maybe if I’d seen Ken’s post first I would have agreed with him. Priming, doncha know.) (Mind you, I did think it was depressingly woolly bureaucratic buzz-speak even then.)

Let’s take a look.

…it is important that we recognize the broader social context required in order for free speech to thrive. For free speech to have meaning it must not just be tolerated, it must also be heard, listened to, engaged and debated.

Well, no, not really – that’s a woolly generality that doesn’t really mean very much. But I don’t think it’s particularly worrying. I think it’s just some advice, not an announcement of new Rules For Speaking.

After some more wool, there’s even more wool.

Specifically, we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility.

Now, Ken takes that “requires” literally, as the Chance telling everyone that civility is required:


Civility is an admirable value. It is right and fit that we ask it of each other and impose social consequences upon the uncivil. But speech need not be civil to be entitled to robust protection.

But the Chance isn’t saying otherwise. He isn’t saying it need be civil to be entitled to robust protection, he’s saying it need be civil to be available and usable for everyone. It’s a different kind of “needs” or “requires” – not literal, but the condition of something else happening. “I need to inhale some coffee if I’m going to stay awake for the Chancellor’s talk.” That’s not someone compelling me to inhale some coffee, it’s a necessary condition for my staying awake. That’s what the Chance takes civility to be for everyone’s ability to exercise her right to free speech.

That’s what I think anyway.

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

Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery

Sep 6th, 2014 12:44 pm | By

Yikes. The Economist published a grotesque review of a history of slavery and capitalism in the US. so grotesque that it ended up apologizing and withdrawing the review, while also keeping it for the record.

Apology: In our review of “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward Baptist, we said: “Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.” There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so.

Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil. We regret having published this and apologise for having done so. We have therefore withdrawn the review, but in the interests of transparency the text remains available only on this special page and appears below.

Yup, that’s what the review said.

The reviewer’s point was that Baptist overstated how profitable cotton combined with slavery was, and that other Excellent Protocapitalist Virtues also played a role.

Take, for example, the astonishing increases he cites in both cotton productivity and cotton production. In 1860 a typical slave picked at least three times as much cotton a day as in 1800. In the 1850s cotton production in the southern states doubled to 4m bales and satisfied two-thirds of world consumption. By 1860 the four wealthiest states in the United States, ranked in terms of wealth per white person, were all southern: South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia.

Mr Baptist cites the testimony of a few slaves to support his view that these rises in productivity were achieved by pickers being driven to work ever harder by a system of “calibrated pain”. The complication here was noted by Hugh Thomas in 1997 in his definitive history, “The Slave Trade”; an historian cannot know whether these few spokesmen adequately speak for all.

Another unexamined factor may also have contributed to rises in productivity. Slaves were valuable property, and much harder and, thanks to the decline in supply from Africa, costlier to replace than, say, the Irish peasants that the iron-masters imported into south Wales in the 19th century. Slave owners surely had a vested interest in keeping their “hands” ever fitter and stronger to pick more cotton. Some of the rise in productivity could have come from better treatment. Unlike Mr Thomas, Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

Whooooooooooooooo that’s an incredibly bizarre thing to write.

I guess this is now the Reactionary Talking Point For the Decade – that everybody who takes any kind of progressive or egalitarian or social justice position whatsoever is simply “playing the victim card” and must be derided and then ignored.

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

They made all the rules

Sep 6th, 2014 11:43 am | By

NPR did this story on the “Men’s Rights” movement the other day, starting from that conference in Detroit organized by A Voice for Men.

Leaders in the movement say they want to bring more attention to the problems of men and boys. Critics worry, however, that these sites are a breeding ground for misogyny.

For his part, Farrell actually tries to avoid the phrase “men’s rights.”

“It’s like somebody saying we’re in favor of the king’s rights,” he says. “The average person thinks that men are already at the top of the political structure. They have all the rights, they made all the rules, [and] if anything is going wrong with men, it’s their fault, because after all, it’s just a consequence of men’s rules.”

Who made the rules isn’t really the point. (Well sometimes it’s the point. The fact that the Catholic church is officially all-male in the upper reaches is because of the rules, which were indeed made by men, and which obviously create a situation that is self-perpetuating, so who made the rules really is the point. But broadly speaking it isn’t.) The point is making better rules. The point is moving from a hierarchical situation (that none of us alive now ever actually agreed to, much less created, after all) to a non-hierarchical one. And that would be good for men and boys.

For one obvious thing, in a non-hierarchical situation, men in families no longer have the whole responsibility for bringing in the money.

More than that…if we ever could get to a place where people weren’t constantly policing both genders, boys and men would be under so much less pressure. Are we supposed to assume that they all actually like all that shit? All that contempt for showing what’s taken to be “girly” and all those commands to “man up”?

Boys also drop out of college and commit suicide at higher rates than girls, Farrell notes.

“We need to know not only why are our sons committing suicide, but also why are our sons much more likely to be the ones to shoot up schools?” he says. “We’re all in jeopardy if we don’t pay attention to the cries of pain and isolation and alienation that are happening among our sons.”

Well of course we need to know those things. Is there a feminist on earth who doesn’t agree?


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

Elizabeth Eckford

Sep 6th, 2014 11:02 am | By

Via a public post at A Mighty Girl on Facebook:

Elizabeth Eckford, September 4, 1957


On this day in 1957, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford encountered an angry mob when she attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Eckford was one of nine teenagers, known as the Little Rock Nine, who became the first African American students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional in its famous Brown v. Board of Education decision.

While the nine students had planned to enter the school together, the meeting place was changed the night before and Eckford, whose family did not have a telephone, did not learn about the change of plans. As a result, she attempted to enter the school alone through a mob of 400 angry segregationists and a blockage by the Arkansas National Guard, which the pro-segregationist governor, Orval Faubus, had ordered to block the students in violation of the Supreme Court decision.

Due to the line of soldiers blockading the school and threats from the crowd, Eckford was forced to flee to a bus stop. As she sat at the bus stop crying, New York Times reporter Benjamin Fine consoled the scared girl, telling her “don’t let them see you cry.” Civil rights activist Grace Lorch, who had learned that Eckford had arrived separately from the other students, then arrived to escort her home.

Read the whole thing if you can (I know some of you hate Facebook and avoid it).

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

Mother of three

Sep 5th, 2014 6:25 pm | By

Via @EverydaySexism September 1

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Remember the last time you saw the headline “Father of three poised to lead the BBC”? No, neither do I.

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

Con-sent? What’s that?

Sep 5th, 2014 5:25 pm | By

Talk about chutzpah

A Los Angeles artist is planning to display uncensored nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson and other celebrities whose intimate images were recently stolen and then posted online.

The exhibition by the artist known as XVALA will start Oct. 30 at the Cory Allen Contemporary Art “Showroom” in St. Petersburg, Florida, the gallery announced this week.

Excuse me? You can’t “display” stolen photographs. They’re stolen.

It’s like buying a fenced Rembrandt stolen from the Rijksmuseum and then announcing plans to display it in an exhibition in a few weeks. The cops will be the first in line on opening day.

The show could test the boundaries between art and privacy, freedom of speech and content ownership. Lawrence, for one, warned in a statement that authorities …

 … will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos …

The hack was being investigated by the FBI.

XVALA told us, “I hope we don’t need an attorney.” But he said he definitely plans to move forward with the exhibition, with the backing of the gallery.

It’s like breaking into your neighbor’s house and then announcing plans to “display” the stolen goods in a yard sale.

The photos were stolen.

The gallery is helping itself to someone else’s stolen photos. Its “backing” is the backing of a thief.

“I’m taking them off the internet and putting them into a new medium that is transformative,” he said. “I’ll be using them as commentary.”

The artist says he hasn’t entirely decided yet which pilfered images he’ll display, but that Lawrence’s and Johansson’s are shoo-ins because both women have admitted that the photos are theirs.

You can’t just “take” whatever you want off the internet. The fact that it’s on the internet doesn’t mean you can just help yourself to it. It’s not the free box at a garage sale.

Lawrence has said (why “admitted”? she didn’t do anything wrong) the photos are hers, and that they were stolen. This XVALA schmuck is planning to display Lawrence’s photos that are not his to display and that she doesn’t want displayed and that are stolen.

The art show is titled “No Delete,” and it’s part of an ongoing “Fear Google”-themed series that showcases “the artist’s seven-year collection of images found on Google of celebrities in their most vulnerable and private moments,” according to a statement from the gallery:

In 2011, XVALA posted the leaked nude images of actress Scarlett Johansson throughout the streets in Los Angeles with “Fear Google” logo covering her intimate areas.

The photos from that collection were snapped by paparazzi or stolen by hackers, XVALA acknowledges, and that’s part of his point…

Oh, that’s just fucking disgusting. It’s just one more way someone has found to degrade women and ignore their explicit strongly-stated wishes. Fuck his “point”; he’s making it with photos that belong to other people who don’t want them used. What a pig.

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

Don’t forget Article 5

Sep 5th, 2014 3:31 pm | By

Well naturally.

I’m doing a little research preparatory to writing a letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the US calling on his government to release Raif Badawi from prison and the other penalties, so I needed to find out if it has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Why? Because I wanted to point out Article 19 and Article 5, but only if SA had in fact signed, because if it hadn’t, there wouldn’t be any point in underlining the gaps between Articles 5 and 19 and the grotesque sentence passed on Raif Badawi.)

Never mind signing it, Saudi didn’t even agree to adopting it.

On 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly by a vote of 48 in favor, none against, and eight abstentions (the Soviet Union, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, People’s Republic of Poland, Union of South Africa, Czechoslovakia, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).[13][14] Honduras and Yemen—both members of UN at the time—failed to vote or abstain.[15] South Africa’s position can be seen as an attempt to protect its system of apartheid, which clearly violated any number of articles in the Declaration.[13] The Saudi Arabian delegation’s abstention was prompted primarily by two of the Declaration’s articles: Article 18, which states that everyone has the right “to change his religion or belief”; and Article 16, on equal marriage rights.[13]

Oh? Just those? What about Article 5?

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

I’d call ONE THOUSAND LASHES cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

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

Swelp us all

Sep 5th, 2014 12:12 pm | By

How is this even possible? From the Washington Post:

An airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev., was denied reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states “so help me God,” according to a letter from the American Humanist Association. The letter was sent on Tuesday to the Air Force’s Office of the Inspector General on behalf of an unnamed airman.

How can a branch of the government require anyone to say “so help me God” as a condition of employment? How is that not a glaring violation of the Establishment Clause?

inquiries into the oath uncovered a change to Air Force rules last year that previously went unnoticed, as the Air Force Times noted. Until October 2013, Air Force Instruction 36-2606 (which governs the enlistment oath) included a short note: “Airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons.” That was removed in an amendment to the rule, effective Oct. 30, 2013, according to the Air Force Times.

Removed by whom, under what authority? Did Baby Jesus hack into the Air Force computer system, or what?

Speaking to the Huffington Post, U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Officer Chris Hoyler said that the change now makes “reciting ‘So help me God’ in the reenlistment and commissioning oaths…a statutory requirement.”

According to the Air Force’s statement to the independent Air Force Times, Congress would have to change the statute mandating that part of the oath in order for the Air Force to make it optional again.

Now that it has the attention of the AHA and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the policy change seems bound to become another source of disagreement over the role of religion in the U.S. military.

The Air Force, in particular, has faced intense scrutiny for what some believe is a preferred status for Christians in the service and at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Because that’s what we need in this country – religion enforced by the military. What could possibly go wrong?

And in the same month that the Air Force’s enlistment oath rules changed to make the “so help me God” portion mandatory, the Air Force Academy announced that it would allow its cadets to opt out of the very same phrase in the honor code.

Those changes, however, have angered some conservatives and evangelicals in and out of the Air Force, who believe that many accommodations designed to protect religious minorities in the service violate the Christian majority’s right to religious freedom.

Seriously? Those specific changes have angered those people for those reasons? Allowing people not to say “so help me God” is seen by those people as a violation of the Christian majority’s right to religious freedom? How? How is imposing a religious oath on unwilling people a form of religious freedom?

It’s Humpty Dumptyism run mad.


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

Installments of 50

Sep 5th, 2014 10:56 am | By

Michael DeDora updates us on the situation of Raif Badawi, which is more horrendous than ever. The last appeals court has upheld his appalling sentence, so the first installment of the


he was sentenced to by Jeddah’s Criminal Court in May will happen in a few weeks.


for setting up a liberal website urging Saudi Arabia to respect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and women’s rights.

According to the final decision, Badawi will receive 50 lashes per session, with a break of no less than a week between sessions. The lashings will be carried out in public after Friday prayers in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.

That final sentence is so disgusting it makes my skin crawl. 50 lashes, as punishment for doing a good thing, carried out IN PUBLIC



Michael says what we can do:

As you can imagine, we here at the Center for Inquiry are outraged by this injustice. Badawi, a husband and father of three children, and has now been in prison for more than two years simply for starting a website devoted to open dialogue. We have already relayed our concerns to several governments, including the United States, and will soon communicate them directly to the Saudi Arabian government. We will also be raising Raif’s (and Waleed’s) case once again at the upcoming 27th session of the Human Rights Council, which I am attending.

But, in the meantime, we need your help. CFI urges you to join us by sending an appeal to one, or all, of the following officials. In your messages, we urge you to make clear three demands:

1) Release Raif Badawi immediately and unconditionally;

2) Drop any charges against Badawi and others for “blasphemy,” “insulting Islam,” or “apostasy,” which are protected by international human rights law, and;

3) Reform the country’s laws to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression.

Please send your appeals to the following officials. Also, if you can, please share your messages with; we will be collecting them to feature on the website in the future.

King and Prime Minister                                       

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax:  011 966 1 403 3125

Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125

Minister of Justice

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741 | +966 1 402 0311


His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 5983

I will update you all with more information if and when possible. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions or provide suggestions in the comments below. Together, we might be able to make a difference for not just Raif, but countless others who have been persecuted by the Saudi government for doing nothing but excercising their basic human rights to believe and speak.

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

Orange vests do not police power make

Sep 5th, 2014 10:25 am | By

Imagine living in Wuppertal and encountering this:

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Bild reports that these guys are “patrolling” in central Wuppertal. The chief of police, Birgitta Radermacher, on the other hand says no they’re not, because policing is for the state, not roving bands of intimidators. (Ok I made up that last clause, but she implied it.) Some of the “Sharia police” were arrested Wednesday evening.

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

Not in its founding tablets

Sep 4th, 2014 6:00 pm | By

The really odd thing about Sommers is that she can be more reasonable. It’s puzzling that she finds it worthwhile or fun to be so belligerent and sneery on Twitter. Ordinarily feminists who disagree with each other disagree with each other as opposed to pissing all over feminism as such. Sommers keeps pissing all over feminism itself.

She tweeted a link to a January article of hers in Reason, so I read it. I don’t agree with it, but it’s not vulgarly insulting the way her Twitter output is.

She’s explaining her book Freedom Feminism in response to a review she says misrepresented it.

Freedom feminism stands for the moral, social, and legal equality of the sexes—and the freedom of women (and men) to employ their equal status to pursue happiness as they choose. Freedom feminism is not at war with femininity or masculinity and it does not view men and women as opposing tribes. Theories of universal patriarchal oppression or the inherent evils of capitalism are not in its founding tablets. Nor are partisan litmus tests: It welcomes women and men from across the political spectrum. Put simply, freedom feminism affirms for women what it affirms for everyone: dignity, opportunity, and personal liberty.

(“Founding tablets” is a little insulting, but only a little; mild compared to her Twitter personality.) The as they choose bit is a warning, because I know she considers preferences to be sacrosanct, and that’s one of the places where I disagree with her.

Freedom feminism shares with egalitarianism an aversion to prescribed gender roles: Women should be free to defect from the stereotypes of femininity if they so choose. At the same time, however, it respects the choices of free and self-determining women—when they choose to embrace conventional feminine roles.  Nowhere do I say women should stay in the home or that women who defy convention are “aberrations.” I simply note that, to the consternation of hardline contemporary genderists, many women, when given their full set of Jeffersonian freedoms, continue to give priority to the domestic sphere. Somehow in Presley’s mind “giving priority” means a total rejection of the workplace. Not at all. But many women, especially when they have children at home, do appear to have a strong preference for working part-time.

I’m not really sure what she’s fighting with there. I don’t know of any feminists – however “hardline genderist” they may be – who think women should be forbidden to work part-time, or forced to work full-time. Maybe what she’s fighting with is the thought that if social arrangements were such that both parents could spend more time with their young children than is practical now, then maybe choices would start to change. Is that it? If it is…it doesn’t seem enough to explain her rage at feminists. That’s true not least because surely it could be a good thing for children to spend a lot of time with their fathers as well as their mothers when they’re small? (Once they’re not small they mostly just want to get away, let’s face it.) It could be a good thing for the fathers, too.

In other words the preferences people have now aren’t necessarily the preferences they would have no matter what, so what is so wrong with trying to change conditions so that people can try different possibilities?

That’s article-writing Sommers. Twitter Sommers is just a brawler. (Maybe it’s because Dawkins keeps sharing her tweets? Maybe she’s enjoying the popularity?) Like this from 3 hours ago:

Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers · 3h
Going on Michael Savage Show in few minutes to talk about feminist
Myths and Ms.Information.

See what she did there? Ms. Information? Isn’t that cute? Dawkins retweeted that one.

I don’t know. She claims to be a feminist but she’s devoting all her energies to helping people like Michael Savage piss on feminism. That’s a funny kind of feminism.

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

An emerging generation of human rights activists in Britain

Sep 4th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

A letter in the Independent today tomorrow from an outstanding group of people who allowed me to join them:

Professor Alexis Jay’s report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has been met with an array of trite responses. Some commentators have placed undue emphasis on the fact that child sexual exploitation happens in all communities, obfuscating the fact that offenders of Pakistani origin are over-represented in this specific form of child sexual exploitation (on-street grooming).

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s 2011 report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, researched 2,379 potential offenders caught grooming girls since 2008. Of 940 suspects whose race could be identified, 26 per cent were Asian (almost all of Pakistani origin), 38 per cent were white, and 32 per cent were recorded as unknown. According to the Office of National Statistics, only 6 per cent of the English population is classed as Asian.

We must face up to the cultural, racial and even religious specifics in these crimes. The “double life” syndrome of some men in Pakistani communities cannot be ignored. At the more benign end of the scale, young people will have secret boyfriends and girlfriends, yet display a more pious image in front of their families. The sort of reprehensible conduct we have seen in towns like Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford is an extreme example of this phenomenon.

Tribal mentalities have imported an honour code that labels women as either honourable or shameful. In some quarters this has developed into an underground “gangster” culture of exploiting and abusing girls who do not fit the honour code. In either case, abuse must be exposed and perpetrators brought before the law.

The honour code has no place in this country: women and girls, regardless of background, culture, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, or familial lineage, are of equal worth. Fortunately, there is an emerging generation of human rights activists in Britain – many of whom are young, female and secular-minded – who are campaigning hard against misogyny and patriarchy within our communities.

We will continue this important work, through raising awareness, lobbying parliamentarians and facilitating workshops with Muslim women. The victims’ best interests always come first – which is why silence and apologia should never have been an option.

Dr Shaaz Mahboob

Trustee, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Tehmina Kazi

Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Diana Nammi

Executive Director and founder, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Kalsoom Bashir

Co-director, Inspire

Mahnaz Nadeem, Iram Ramzan, Ophelia Benson,

Deeyah Khan, Gina Khan, Habiba Jaan, Dr Elham Manea, Lejla Kurić

London WC1

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

She has one thing to say

Sep 4th, 2014 1:34 pm | By

More Sommers. She’s ratcheting up the trashy malevolence by the hour, in a way that’s honestly kind of strange. She’s coming across as more like a bottom-feeding political operative than even an agenda-driven hack at a far-right think tank.

Retweeted by Christina H. Sommers
Astrokid @AstrokidNJ · 1h
#FTBullies PZMyers NEVER felt embarassed for womens hate, violence & death threats at men though … @CHSommers

The very bottom of the swamp.

Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers · 3h
Must-read now! “Men are Harassed More Than Women Online” by
awesome freedom fighter & truth-teller @CathyYoung63

You can be against hardline feminism, but pro-equality. @CathyYoung63 suggests an “equality without anger ” movement. …

Gamers, libertarians, atheists, techies–constantly hectored by gender zealots. But look what they do to one another.

Etc etc etc etc. She’s a hedgehog not a fox; she has one thing to say, and she says it over and over and over again. She hates feminism. She thinks women objecting to street harassment and internet harassment are “gender zealots” who “hector” everyone. What a terrible position to stake a claim on.

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

Guest post: The collection of stories we tell about ourselves

Sep 4th, 2014 1:08 pm | By

Originally a comment by A Masked Avenger on Sommers thinks she is liberal-minded.

aliam, #18:

If you call our ENTIRE CULTURE a RAPE CULTURE then you are saying that MEN have culturally been indoctrinated into being potential rapists in the waiting.

Brian Pansky is right: you’re doing “why are there still monkeys?” You’re trying to interpret a criticism of culture as a criticism of all members of the culture in general, and each one in particular, so that you can conclude, “If ‘rape culture’ is real, then you’re saying I am a rapist!” No such thing.

TW: rape culture, references to rape.

The culture is basically the collection of stories we tell about ourselves. It’s a set of shared myths. Such as the myth that men are protectors, and “don’t hit women,” but rather defend them. That they’re providers. That women are the nurturers. That “normal” is growing up with your mommy, who is definitely a woman and makes dinner every night, and your daddy, who is definitely a man and comes home every night bringing the bacon and stories about his day. And so on, and so on.

And within those myths are some that weaken women’s boundaries by trivializing them or outright denying their existence. There’s the myth that marriage is a contract to have sex, and saying “no” to your husband is a violation of the contract. Or the myth that women say “no” in order to look like “good girls,” when really they mean “yes,” and what they really want is for your manly manliness to overcome their resistance in order to give them an alibi. Or the myth that women who aren’t “good girls” are “sluts” who will have sex with anyone, and who if they say no to you, are insulting your masculinity. And so on, and so on.

The net effect of those stories isn’t to make men hide in the bushes and rape random passers-by. But it very much IS to make men less respectful of boundaries. More likely to badger women who say no, or have sex with intoxicated women without worrying whether they’d have consented when sober, or otherwise have sexual contact with women who are not freely consenting. Which is very much not OK. Which is rape.

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

It is their attitude to women that defines them

Sep 4th, 2014 12:23 pm | By

I had somehow overlooked the fact that Nazir Afzal is not just a regional CCP but also the Crown Prosecution Service’s lead on child sexual abuse and violence against women and girls. Amelia Gentleman in the Guardian points out what this means:

His role means he has oversight of all child sex abuse cases in England and Wales. “So I know that the vast majority of offenders are British white male,” he says, setting the number at somewhere between 80 and 90%. “We have come across cases all over the country and the ethnicity of the perpetrators varies depending on where you are … It is not the abusers’ race that defines them. It is their attitude to women that defines them.”

Engrave those words in letters of fire on your inner bulletin board. It is their attitude to women that defines them. And this, Christina Hoff Sommers & her fans please note, is why so-called “equity” feminism is an insulting joke. Attitudes matter. Racial attitudes matter, and so do other attitudes; attitudes to women matter. This sick idea that all efforts to change attitudes for the better is “radical” in a bad bad bad sense is reactionary and ugly and wrong.

Afzal also makes a shrewd factual point.

Where there is involvement of Asian men or men of Pakistani origin, he points to a practical, rather than cultural explanation – the fact that in the areas where grooming scandals have been uncovered, those controlling the night-time economy, people working through the night in takeaways and driving minicabs, are predominantly Asian men. He argues that evidence suggests that victims were not targeted because they were white but because they were vulnerable and their vulnerability caused them to seek out “warmth, love, transport, mind-numbing substances, drugs, alcohol and food”.

He says the failures in Rotherham were very little to do with “political correctness” and far more to do with incompetence – just not doing the job of policing very well.

…he believes that the cases were not pursued properly because “everyone involved was not as competent as they should have been. I can only speak for the cases I’ve dealt with, but it usually comes down to poor investigation; we didn’t investigate early enough. People have not been as good at their job as they should have been. They haven’t asked the right questions. As a result the victims did not have the confidence to come forward.”

He is disturbed at the number of times cases were dropped because police were concerned that they would be too difficult to prosecute because “the credibility of the young woman was damaged by her chaotic lifestyle”. Sometimes police would decide not to pursue a case because the victim had criminal convictions herself. “My view is that this is exactly what you would expect with a victim. That she has been led astray and manipulated by the abuser. He’s not going to look for the young girl who has never been in trouble. They deliberately target the ones who have the most chaotic backgrounds, the most troubled lives.”

I can all too easily imagine being incompetent that way myself. The victims are doubtless very off-putting in a lot of ways, and I’m not at all good at ignoring off-putting qualities. It’s a difficult skill.

Afzal has received criticism from all sides for his work in this area. Members of the Asian community have asked him: “‘Nazir, why are you giving racist or Islamophobes a stick to beat us with?’ My response to that is that we as a community should be carrying our own stick. Then there won’t be a reason for people to launch blanket attacks on the whole faith and the whole community.” He had hope for more “vocal” condemnation of the child sexual abuse scandals by the Asian community, as well as more support of his work combating “honour”-based killings and forced marriages – two other issues he has focused on in the past decade. “I do feel that there’s a deficit of leadership in some parts of the Muslim community. They could be much more challenging of certain behaviours,” he says, adding that this is the most effective way to counter the threat of Islamophobia. “The silence of people who may know something or have heard something only hurts our children.”

It would help if the media and others listening for vocal condemnation of the child sexual abuse scandals asked more women for their thoughts. I know a lot of liberal Muslim women they could ask; I know a lot of people who know a lot of liberal Muslim women they could ask. The trick is to get the media to know them too.


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

Humanists in Nigeria are not fighting semantic battles

Sep 4th, 2014 11:19 am | By

Padraig Reidy at Index on Censorship fisks Helen Ukpabio’s lawsuit against the BHA and the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network.

Her specific claim against the BHA is that an article on its website claimed she believed that noisy babies may be possessed by Satan.

The article, which appeared in July 2009, says that Ukpabio wrote in her book, Unveiling The Mysteries Of Witchcraft, that “A child under two years of age that cries at night and deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan”.

In this, the article is mistaken. Ukpabio’s book does not seem to contain this sentence. Rather, under the heading “How To Recognise A Witch”, Ukpabio writes: “Under the age of two, the child screams at night, cries, is always feverish suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.”

In other words, she didn’t write that a child under two years of age that cries at night and deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan, but rather, that such a child is a witch.

Therefore she is suing for five hundred million pounds.

But is that really even what she’s objecting to? Padraig says it’s not.

Her complaint, in reality, is not about the 2009 article, or the difference between satanic possession and witchcraft. Ukpabio’s underlying complaint is about a campaign to have her banned from the country in April 2014. It is the coverage of her controversial trip to Britain in April that her lawyer claims caused her to suffer reputational injury.

So why, rather than attack the numerous news outlets who reported negatively on her UK visit, during which a London venue cancelled her booking after being alerted to her witchfinding and exorcising activities, is she instead pursuing threatening humanists?

[thinks hard]

Because Leo Igwe is a humanist?

At the World Humanist Congress in Oxford last month, Nigerian delegates such as the brilliant, brave Leo Igwe, spoke passionately about preachers and witchfinders like the Lady Apostle. While in Britain “militant atheist” has become a term of abuse associated with the gauche tweets of Professor Richard Dawkins, in Nigeria, a forthright approach to religion and the abuses carried out in its name is a necessity. Humanists there are not fighting semantic battles; rather, they are engaged in a real struggle to save children and vulnerable people from accusations of witchcraft and possession: accusations that could lead to them being thrown out of their homes, beaten and even killed.

What scant support Nigerian activists receive comes from the international atheist and humanist community. While I would not cast doubt on western humanists’ solidarity with their Nigerian comrades, a costly court case would make anyone think twice before getting involved in faraway struggles again.

Seriously. It’s given me pause. It’s likely to give anyone pause.

To grant Ukpabio’s claim any credence would be to severely inhibit the struggle against dangerous superstitions in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. To even get involved in an legal argument over whether satanic possession is worse than witchcraft would grant a glimmer of legitimacy to the abuse of children in the name of God. That is reason enough for the English High Court to dismiss the Lady Apostle’s ludicrous lawsuit.

In some states in the US it would be liable to anti-SLAPP suit laws. People like Helen Ukpabio, who cause the kinds of terrible suffering and harm that she causes, should not be able to use the courts to silence people who campaign against the harm they do.


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

All aboard for Manchester Peterloo

Sep 3rd, 2014 6:26 pm | By

Here’s a good idea – changing the name of Manchester’s main railway station from Manchester Piccadilly to Peterloo.

Last month was the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. This peaceful rally on 16 August 1819 radically transformed British politics and marked the beginning of the long march to universal suffrage.

To mark the occasion this year, actor Maxine Peake read out the names of the 15 people who lost their lives in the tragedy. But for the 200th anniversary, in 2019, we want that important day to be given the commemoration it deserves.

We want it to be remembered by having the word Peterloo on the lips of the millions of people who ask for train tickets across a counter each year or type out their request on a web page and say where they want to go. We want to see it on thousands and thousands of train timetables, and day after day night hear it boomed out across the station platforms, from Euston to York, Newcastle to Carlisle, Penzance to Inverness. Everywhere. How? By changing the name of Manchester’s main station from Piccadilly to Peterloo.

Go for it, I say!

We need the support of the Manchester city council, and indeed the councils of the towns around Greater Manchester which sent their people to the demonstration.

It will not cost the council a single penny, only a council resolution and a letter to Network Rail. We need the support of the trade unions, such as the RMT. We need the support of all railway users to get onto their MPs and councillors. We need the support of all the political parties acting together, no matter how divided on other issues, to remember the 100,000-plus men, women and children – ordinary working people from Manchester and Salford and all the surrounding towns – who converged in St Peter’s Fields, right near what is now the Central Library, to demand the vote and representation in parliament which was completely denied them.

The authorities turned the cavalry on them. Fiften were killed, over 600 injured. The shock waves took England by storm. It was the explosion that began the journey to universal suffrage, to this day our most important democratic instrument and right. Uproar and demonstrations followed across the whole country and inspired Shelley to write The Masque of Anarchy, the greatest political poem in the language, his denunciation of the aristocratic land-owning elite who had parliament in its pocket. From that moment no amount of suppression could hold back the tide demanding change. Thirteen years later in 1832, parliament was forced to bring in the Great Reform Act, which for the very first time gave parliamentary representation to the growing populations of the new industrial towns and cities such as Manchester which up to then had no parliamentary representation at all, and with it an extension of the right to vote.

Well worth commemorating, wouldn’t you say?

Anyone who wishes to join the campaign can contact John Browne on or Michael Knowles on

H/t Maureen


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