Whether it is morally outrageous to suppose

Nov 11th, 2011 2:11 pm | By

Andrew Brown goes out of his way to misunderstand William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins on William Lane Craig. Does he really misunderstand or is he just playing silly buggers? I often think coat-trailing is all Andrew Brown ever does. He only does it to annoy, because he knows it teases.

What he misunderstands is the part about the slaughtered children of Canaan.

…if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

Brown misunderstands or pretends to misunderstand the outrage at that claim of Craig’s.

The question is whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that the innocent victims of such crimes go to heaven.

No it isn’t.  The question is whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that that belief makes it perfectly all right for “God” to “command” humans to kill them. It’s not whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that people go to heaven; it’s whether it is morally outrageous to suppose that because people do go to heaven therefore it is fine to kill them, at least if you’re “God” or obeying “God’s” command. That’s Clifford’s leaky ship. Human beings have no right to believe that their spooky mysterian boss tells them to massacre people and that that’s ok because the innocent ones will go to heaven. That’s a reckless, negligent, self-serving belief that would justify horrors.

via WEIT

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

It’s the spook or nothing, punk

Nov 11th, 2011 12:25 pm | By

I should at least read to the end before I throw a verbal punch, but you know sometimes it just can’t wait. Rabbi Adam Jacobs, ornamenting the Huffington Post with his wisdom.

He just doesn’t get it about believers, he confides. They keep making him jump with surprise.

 Often, I’ve inquired of non-believers if it at all vexes them that nothing that they have ever done or will ever do will make the slightest difference to anyone on any level?

Stupid man. He thinks because we don’t believe in the omni-god, we believe nothing makes any difference to anyone on any level. He thinks either there’s an omni-god, or nothing makes any difference to anyone on any level. On any level. If only he’d had the wit to leave off the “on any level” he wouldn’t look so dumb! But he just had to add that, thus underlining that he really was talking unmitigated nonsense.

After all, one random grouping of molecules interacting with another has no inherent meaning or value. I still await the brave soul (or neuron complex if you prefer) who will respond that I am quite correct; that no thought, deed, action or impulse is any more significant or meaningful than any other, that statements like “I would like to enslave all of humanity” and “I would like a chocolate bar” are functionally equivalent, and that their very own thoughts and words are intrinsically suspect as they are nothing more than some indiscriminate electro-chemical impulses. Until then, I will carry on believing that most “non-believers” actually believe a bit more than they generally let on, or are willing to admit to themselves.

Nooooo, you dope – we believe that things do matter on the level where we live, and that belief in a magical spooky omni-god is not necessary for that belief. It’s really not that difficult!

H/t Ezra Resnick, who does a more patient and meticulous critique on his blog.


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

Sandals with socks? A whiff of wet dog?

Nov 10th, 2011 3:16 pm | By

Another rather heavy-breathing piece by Julian in his “Heathen’s Progress” series. Once again he’s saying very much what “new” atheists have been saying all along, so why is it again that he’s so annoyed by “the new atheists”? Loud voices was it? Bad haircuts? Garlic breath?

I’m very much in sympathy with this view*, and this series is largely an attempt to try to find more constructive points of engagement that can only emerge if we ditch lazy and tired preconceptions about those with whom we disagree. At the same time, however, I’m all too aware that “you just don’t understand” is a card that is often played far too swiftly and without justification.

On the one hand, but on the other hand. I agree with the obvious, but at the same time, I also agree with a different obvious. That’s philosophy.

It has become evident to me, however, that many people, especially the religious, suffer from a kind of conceptual claustrophobia. Their beliefs are of their essence somewhat vague and they are terrified of being pinned down. Although critics often leap on this and claim that this betrays woolly thinking, evasion or obscurantism, I think that there are times when such a refusal to commit is justified.

Yes – provided that you don’t then go on to make lots of confident claims, but how often is that condition met?

But embracing this mystery comes at a price. If, like the archbishop of Canterbury, your faith is a kind of “silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark”, then think very carefully before you open your mouth. Too often I find that faith is mysterious only selectively. Believers constantly attribute all sorts of qualities to their gods and have a list of doctrines as long as your arm. It is only when the questions get tough that, suddenly, their God disappears in a puff of mystery. Ineffability becomes a kind of invisibility cloak, only worn when there is a need to get out of a bit of philosophical bother.

Precisely; my point exactly. I’ve been saying that for years. Julian doesn’t need instruction from me, of course, but nevertheless I don’t quite see why he’s presenting all this as if it’s new and fresh as opposed to just the kind of thing the gnu atheists get so much shit for saying, sometimes from Julian himself.

*that disputants in the religion debate are talking past each other because they do not have a sufficiently rich understanding of the positions they stand against.

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

After she was raped, she was charged with adultery

Nov 10th, 2011 2:13 pm | By

The EU commissioned a documentary film on women in Afghanistan who get shoved into prison for doing outrageous things like leaving abusive “husbands” they never wanted to marry in the first place. The documentary was duly made, at which point the EU got cold feet and said on second thought let’s put this documentary in a locked drawer and never think about it again.

The documentary told the story of a 19-year-old prisoner called Gulnaz.

After she was raped, she was charged with adultery. Her baby girl, born
following the rape, is serving her sentence with her.

“At first my sentence was two years,” Gulnaz said, as her baby coughed in her
arms. “When I appealed it became 12 years. I didn’t do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?”

Or, for that matter, at all? Why not, rather, sentence the rapist? Now there’s a novel idea!

But don’t worry: there’s a happy ending for Gulnaz.

Gulnaz’s pardon may be in the works because she has agreed – after 18 months
of resisting – to marry her rapist.

“I need my daughter to have a father,” she said.

Nothing to add.

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

Not just making it up

Nov 9th, 2011 3:41 pm | By

Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber was on the trail of internet misogyny last week too.

Anyone who blogs regularly gets annoyed by commenters. We do our best to screen out the worst here at Crooked Timber, but inevitably some get through, and, just as inevitably, they can sometimes upset us. But though I’ve had my intelligence, good judgement and moral character questioned many times, I’ve never had to cope with the kind of abuse female bloggers sometimes get. And the women at CT have had that too, from behind the protective shield of anonymity (though I did work out who on one occasion and warned a fairly prominent academic about what would happen if he came back).

Many interesting comments. This one from Henry Farrell (of Crooked Timber) for instance:

…you folks are only seeing the comments that make it through. There is a steady-ish (it is a little slacker at the moment) trickle of nasty stuff which doesn’t. Most of it, but not all, is drive-by. And the really vicious stuff is aimed at our women posters. The shit that we guys get is mostly laughably generic – communist, socialist, idiot-professors etc. The comments that the women posters get are more intense, vicious and personalized.

And John Quiggin, also of CT:

My experience here and elsewhere is entirely in line with Chris’ post. Even when being deliberately provocative, I don’t get anything like the abuse directed at women bloggers even on posts that would seem unlikely to offend anybody.

It’s not our imagination.

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

Unconvincing claims of exercising free speech

Nov 9th, 2011 12:43 pm | By

A week ago the Paris correspondent of Time, Bruce Crumley, wrote an article on the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo, saying…that we journalists and beneficiaries of free speech stand shoulder to shoulder with Charlie Hebdo?

No actually. Not that. Something different.

Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts
by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?

Oh gee, I don’t know. I ask myself the same question whenever I have the audacity to write something and then go ahead and click “Publish” so that it appears online. Surely I’m just begging for the very misogynist responses from misogynists that I claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. Amirite? I tempt belligerent reaction several times every day. What do I think I’m doing!?! What does anyone think she’s doing by writing down what she thinks about something when she knows full well that someone somewhere could disagree with it and be tempted into belligerent reaction?! It’s such a petulant, futile thing to do, to say something that somebody might dislike.

The difficulty in answering that question is also what’s making it hard to have
much sympathy for the French satirical newspaper firebombed this morning, after it published another stupid and totally unnecessary edition mocking Islam. The Wednesday morning arson attack destroyed the Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo after the paper published an issue certain to enrage hard-core Islamists (and offend average Muslims) with articles and “funny” cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed—depictions forbidden in Islam to boot.

Stupid and totally unnecessary – so is it Forbidden to publish anything that’s not necessary now? And what are the criteria for “necessary”? And is the fact that something is certain to enrage hard-core Islamists a good reason not to do it? Women going out in public is also certain to enrage hard-core Islamists; should they therefore stay at home? And is “forbidden in Islam” a good reason for the whole world to not do something? Charlie Hebdo isn’t in Islam, so why should it care what is forbidden in Islam? The prohibitions of religions don’t apply to people who don’t adhere to the religions, after all. I know this is old news, as well as obvious, but this Crumley fella seems to have missed the memo.

We, by contrast, have another reaction to the firebombing: Sorry for your loss,
Charlie, and there’s no justification of such an illegitimate response
to your current edition. But do you still think the price you paid for
printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the
logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good luck with those
charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring.

Oh good god, what a horrible brainless thug. He’s right up there with Brendan O’Neill. Sorry for your loss, he says sneeringly, and there’s no justification but all the same I will tell you how very bad and wrong you are – you the one who just had your offices and equipment destroyed. It was offensive and shameful so nyah nyah good luck with the charcoal.

…rather than issuing warnings to be careful about what one asks for, the arson
prompted political leaders and pundits across the board to denounce the arson as an attack on freedom of speech, liberty of expression, and other rights central to French and other Western societies.

Oh jeezis mary and joseph, the guy is a journalist and he said that – he wants political leaders and pundits issuing warnings to be careful about what one “asks for” by writing or drawing cartoons! He wants them to do that instead of defending freedom of speech!

In 2007, Charlie Hebdo re-published the infamous (and, let’s face it,
just plain lame) Mohammed caricatures initially printed in 2005 by Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. As intended, those produced outrage–and at times violent reaction–from Muslims around the world (not to mention repeated terror plots to kill illustrators responsible for the drawings). Apart from unconvincing claims of exercising free speech in Western nations where that right no longer needs to be proved, it’s unclear what the objectives of the caricatures were other than to offend Muslims—and provoke hysteria among extremists.

He says the caricatures were intended to produce outrage and violent reaction, and terror plots to kill the very cartoonists who apparently intended all this. He attacks the very idea of free speech in the act of informing us that it no longer needs to be “proved” – well with people like him around it sure as hell does.

…it’s just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a
minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their
rights and liberties—and that isn’t happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble
statement by gratuitously pissing people off.

A minimum of calculation. We’re allowed to have free speech but we have to exercise a minimum of calculation before we actually use it – so we’re not actually allowed to have it at all. “Let’s see, will this cause Islamists to blow us up? Will this cause misogynists to threaten to rape me? Hmmmmm yes maybe; I’ll just go get drunk, instead.” There’s your free speech.

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

L’amour plus fort que la haine

Nov 9th, 2011 9:18 am | By

Via Maryam - Charlie Hebdo says love is stronger than hate. C’est vrai!

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

18, 19, 20!

Nov 8th, 2011 4:33 pm | By

Oh hey, what exciting news, the Duggars are going to have child # 20 – that is, Michelle Duggar is pregnant with child # 20. Quiverfull strikes another blow for theocracy.

The Quiverfull movement places emphasis on the importance of women submitting to their husbands and fathers, and is often recognized as a backlash to the gains made in women’s rights by the feminist movement. It is an anti-feminist backlash that holds that gender equality is contrary to God’s law and that women’s highest calling is as wives and “prolific” mothers. In line with other fundamentalist Christians, they believe a woman’s place is in the home, breeding children and serving her husband.

The movement embraces misogyny as God’s law. Women are reduced to breeders. Children reduced to metaphorical cannon fodder in to be brainwashed and sent out as cultural warriors, fighting for Christian dominion over America.

Yes yes yes, but let’s don’t be a party-pooper – they’re going to have another baaaaaaaybeeeeeeeeeee for Americans to watch on tv. Isn’t that cute?

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

Brave contrarian Brendan O’Neill

Nov 8th, 2011 4:11 pm | By

Brendan O’Neill is happy to characterize feminists as stupidly and feebly delicate and hyper-sensitive, and to use (or to allow the Telegraph to use) a 19th century illustration of a vapid woman tipping over to underline his sneer.

Would he be equally happy to see other people characterize Irish people as stupid and otherwise contemptible and use a 19th century cartoon to illustrate the sneer? Like this one maybe?


 There are more where that came from. Does Brendan O’Neill of Spiked really want major media returning to the good old days of publishing insulting caricatures of Other racial and ethnic groups? Or is it just women, or just feminists, who are fair game for that kind of thing.


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

Brendan O’Neill wins the sneering prize

Nov 8th, 2011 12:51 pm | By

Brendan O’Neill sneers again – this time at women resisting misogynist silencing campaigns.

One of the great curiosities of modern feminism is that the more radical the feminist is, the more likely she is to suffer fits of Victorian-style vapours upon hearing men use coarse language. Andrea Dworkin dedicated her life to stamping out what she called “hate speech” aimed at women. The Slutwalks women campaigned against everything from “verbal degradation” to “come ons”. And now, in another hilarious echo of the 19th-century notion that women need protecting from vulgar and foul speech, a collective of feminist bloggers has decided to “Stamp Out Misogyny Online”. Their deceptively edgy demeanour, their use of the word “stamp”, cannot disguise the fact that they are the 21st-century equivalent of Victorian chaperones, determined to shield women’s eyes and cover their ears lest they see or hear something upsetting.

Like this, he or the Telegraph helpfully illustrates:

 Oh yes, that’s it exactly – we’re all falling over, because we’re so fragile and stupid.

Would even Brendan O’Neill sneer in quite such a contemptuous way if the issue were racism instead of misogyny? Would he (or the Telegraph) include a cartoon like that, mocking the very idea of disliking and resisting racism? I do him the credit to doubt that he would, and the discredit to point out that he has no business having different standards for women.

…the most striking thing about these fragile feminists’ campaign is the way it elides very different forms of speech. So the Guardian report lumps together “threats of rape”, which are of course serious, with “crude insults” and “unstinting ridicule”, which are not that serious. If I had a penny for every time I was crudely insulted on the internet, labelled a prick, a toad, a shit, a moron, a wide-eyed member of a crazy communist cult, I’d be relatively well-off.

He says, missing the point by a mile. A toad, a shit, a moron, are all generic. It’s interesting that he didn’t include any anti-Irish epithets, but even if he had, at this point in history they don’t have the bite that racist or homophobic or sexist ones do. (But I’m not Irish. Correct me if I’m wrong and they still have all the old bite.)

He prides himself on being a libertarian contrarian. That’s nice, but he doesn’t get to ignore reality to shore up his case. Being called a cunt is not the same kind of thing as being called a shit.

For better or worse, crudeness is part of the internet experience, and if you don’t like it you can always read The Lady instead.

He says, exemplifying the problem himself. Either you put up with being called a cunt every time you say anything or you have to go read something called “The Lady.” Why would those be the only choices? Why does Brendan O’Neill feel so comfortable letting his contempt for women show?

Muddying the historic philosophical distinction between words and actions, which has informed enlightened thinking for hundreds of years, is too high a price to pay just so some feminist bloggers can surf the web without having their delicate sensibilities riled.

Of course it is true that the standard of discussion on the internet leaves a lot to be desired. There is a remarkable amount of incivility and abusiveness on the web. But that is no excuse for attempting to turn the internet into the online equivalent of a Women’s Institute meeting, where no one ever raises their voice or “unstintingly ridicules” another or is crude. I would rather surf a web that caters for all, from the clever to the cranky, rather than put up with an internet designed according to the needs of a tiny number of peculiarly sensitive female bloggers.

More easy contempt –  ”their delicate sensibilities,” “a Women’s Institute meeting,” “peculiarly sensitive female bloggers.” And one of the tags on that piece is, incredibly – “wallflowers.”

It’s just unbelievable.


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

Not as easy as you might think

Nov 8th, 2011 11:59 am | By

You may think it’s a cinch getting rid of misogyny. Turns out it’s not. Sady at Tigerbeatdown started out thinking it was (or more like assuming it was without noticing she was assuming it – we all know how that goes), and then she realized it’s not.

In 2009, I genuinely believed people were going to change their minds about being sexist, because they read my blog.

I know, right? If only someone had come up with this plan before! All I had to do was register a WordPress domain, compose some charmingly ironic yet pointed analyses of Ye Aulde Patriarchy, cite some academics so they knew I wasn’t stupid, throw a lot of jokes and references to oral sex in there to prove feminists weren’t “humorless” or “frigid,” and the sexists, they would be delighted. So delighted they decided to stop being sexists! “Hmmmm,” they’d say. “Sady sure doesn’t appreciate it when I do the sexism. Since she’s my new Internet Best Friend, I had better cut that shit out pronto! Then we can all join a bowling league!” BLAM. REVOLUTION ACCOMPLISHED. No more problems, for anyone, ever, because I blogged.

I hate to tell you this, friends. But I think my plan, it had a minor flaw. Which is: Misogynists don’t like women. It doesn’t matter how uniquely charming and witty and acquainted with various fine bourbons you are. Are you a woman? Then they don’t like you. And they especially don’t like you telling them what to do. By, for example, asking them to cut it out with the misogyny.

There may be one exception to that rule. It may be that if you are a woman who likes misogynists then they do like you – for now. But apart from that, no.

What I got, friends, were comments. Comments about myself. And blogs about myself. And message-board discussions, also about myself. And e-mails. What I got was what every woman (feminist or not) and openly anti-sexist person (woman or not) on this our Internet gets: I got targeted. With threats, with insults, with smear campaigns, with attempts to threaten my employment or credibility or just general ability to get through the day with a healthy attitude and a minimal amount of insult.

This is a recurring problem! Not a Special Sady Problem, but an Everyone Problem. And, increasingly, folks are identifying it as such.

Which means we can count on the threats and insults and smear campaigns to expand hugely, but it also means we can do a better job of resisting.



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

A highly gendered phenomenon

Nov 7th, 2011 4:34 pm | By

Anyway, even though I have no immediate plans to out any of the people who put a little sparkle into their drab lives by calling me and some of my friends cunts and manginas and worse than genocidal dictators, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do anything at all. Nuh uh. I’m going to go on kvetching and nagging, like the other women bloggers who have decided no thanks, not having any more of that.

I’m going to call your attention to the AAUW report on sexual harassment in schools, for instance. I’m going to quote from it.

Girls were more likely than boys to say that they had been
negatively affected by sexual harassment—a finding that
confirms previous research by AAUW (2001) and others.
Not only were girls more likely than boys to say sexual
harassment caused them to have trouble sleeping (22
percent of girls versus 14 percent of boys), not want to go
to school (37 percent of girls versus 25 percent of boys),
or change the way they went to or home from school (10
percent of girls versus 6 percent of boys), girls were more
likely in every case to say they felt that way for “quite a
while” compared with boys. Too often, these negative
emotional effects take a toll on students’ and especially
girls’ education, resulting in decreased productivity and
increased absenteeism from school (Chesire, 2004). Thus,
although both girls and boys can encounter sexual harassment
at school, it is still a highly “gendered phenomenon
that is directly and negatively associated with outcomes
for girls” (Ormerod et al., 2008).

It’s not harmless. It’s not just “how it is.”

Many of the students who admitted to sexually harassing
others didn’t think of it as a big deal (44 percent), and
many were trying to be funny (39 percent). Only a handful
of students who harassed others did so because they wanted
a date with the person (3 percent) or thought the
person liked it (6 percent). Thus, sexual harassment does
not usually appear to be a misunderstanding. Few harassers
see themselves as “rejected suitors,” and many appear
to be misguided comedians or simply students who are
unaware, or unwilling to recognize, that their actions
may bother others. These findings suggest that prevention
efforts need to address when humor crosses the line and
becomes sexual harassment. Moreover, for some students,
understanding that sexual harassment can indeed be a big
deal for other students is a necessary first step.

Of course, for the ones who do it precisely because they do understand that it’s harmful, it’s more difficult to know how to improve their thinking. What’s a school to do? Sit them down and look them in the eye and say “why are you so determined to be a malicious piece of shit?” Well no. I don’t know what they can do though.

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

Secularist of the Year 2005

Nov 7th, 2011 3:40 pm | By

Since Maryam has just joined FTB and Kenan is about to, I thought I would repost this item from October 2005, when Maryam was named Secularist of the Year and I rejoiced rather noisily. Pleasingly, I quoted an earlier article in the Guardian in which Kenan talked about and quoted Maram. It all joins up, you see.

October 9, 2005

Maryam won! Maryam Namazie is Secularist of the Year. Ya-hoooooo. Sorry to be so American, but I’m really really pleased. As a matter of fact, I’m also damn smug. Here I’ve been publishing her articles like mad all this time, which I haven’t noticed the Guardian or the Independent bothering to do. Well? Well??! Wouldn’t you be smug? Wouldn’t you? Who has the better judgment? Eh? Eh? Which would you rather have published – Dilpazier Aslam, or Maryam Namazie?

Well maybe now they’ll start publishing her. Maybe this will be the push they need. Kenan Malik said, you know. Remember that? In the Guardian (she said pointedly). All the way back in January.

It also creates a climate of censorship in which any criticism of Islam can be dismissed as Islamophobic. The people who suffer most from such censorship are those struggling to defend basic rights within Muslim communities. Marayam Namazie is an Iranian refugee who has long campaigned for women’s rights and against Islamic repression. As a result she has been condemned as an Islamophobe, even by anti-racist organisations. “On the one hand,” she says, “you are threatened by the political Islamic movement with assassination or imprisonment or flogging. And on the other you have so-called progressive people who tell you that what you say in defence of humanity, in defence of equal rights for all, is racist. I think it’s nothing short of an outrage.”

I don’t see anything about the award in the papers yet (Maryam told me herself, and Azar Majedi sent a congratulatory message), so I’ll just link to this for now. It wouldn’t do for people not to know.

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

You should be ashamed of yourself, JD

Nov 7th, 2011 10:31 am | By

Chris Rodda points out a really staggering example of abuse of privilege: an Air Force Major defaming enlisted service members who can’t reply because he outranks them. You probably won’t be astonished to learn that the Major is a Christian, and a proselytizing one at that, while the soldiers he goes after are atheists.

For the past three years, an atheist Army sergeant has had to remain silent as lie after lie was told about him by an Air Force Major named Jonathan Dowty. Major Dowty, a.k.a. JD the Christian Fighter Pilot, is a Christian officer who belongs to the Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF), an organization that thinks the real duty of a military officer is to raise up “a spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

As a devout Christian officer, Major Dowty has made it a practice to publicly attack and defame atheist and other non-Christian enlisted service members by name, knowing that they can’t respond to defend themselves because he’s an active duty officer, so it would be insubordinate for them to respond to him.

Would you believe it? I really do find myself incredulous. Wouldn’t you think he would recognize that that is taking a grossly unfair advantage?

Major Dowty has relentlessly targeted five particular service members on his christianfighterpilot.com blog — three atheists and one Muslim in the Army, and one Air Force tech sergeant who practices an earth-centered religion. All of these service members are or have been clients of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and include my fellow blogger here on Freethought Blogs, foxhole atheist SGT Justin Griffith.

Well, one of the soldiers Major Dowty has been lying about on his blog, SGT Dustin Chalker, just got out of the Army, and is now free to fight back against this Christian bully who has dogged him for the last three years.

Dustin’s “first order of business” upon becoming a civilian was to go straight to Major Dowty’s blog and post a little comment on a post that Dowty wrote about him just this week. Dustin’s comment, submitted last night, has not yet shown up on Major Dowty’s blog, where the comments are, of course, “moderated,” so I thought I would post it here.

And she did. It’s not a “little” comment, and it’s very satisfying. Go read it.

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

One stop shopping

Nov 7th, 2011 10:09 am | By

All your bases are belong to us, or, Freethought blogs assimilates more of the very best secular and/or atheist bloggers, or, yee-ha! Coming soon to a Freethought blog near you:

Kenan Malik

John Loftus of Debunking Christianity

Richard Carrier

Do admit.




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

It’s mine and you can’t play with it

Nov 7th, 2011 8:27 am | By

This is no good. No good at all. The video of the Haught-Coyne Q and A is mysteriously gone. Just gone. Page unavailable.

Perhaps there is some explanation other than the obvious (and discreditable)? I don’t know. I await further knowledge.

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

My ladder doesn’t go that high

Nov 6th, 2011 4:59 pm | By

From Tigerbeatdown, less than a month ago.

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people, especially women, but not always, as I can attest, and particularly feminists, though again, not always, as I can attest, online. The readers, the consumers, the fans, may not always notice it because people are silent about it. Because this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it.  To open your email, take note of the morning’s contents, and then quickly shuttle them to the appropriate files for future reference or forwarding to the authorities. To check on the server, fix what needs fixing, and move on with your day. To skim the comments to see what needs to be deleted, to know that when you write a post like this one, you will have to delete a lot of heinous and ugly comments, because you want to protect your readers from the sheer, naked, hate that people carry for you. To weigh, carefully, the decision to approve a comment not because there’s a problem with the content, but because you worry that the reader may be stalked by someone who will tell her that she should die for having an opinion. And when it happens to people for the first time, they think they are alone, because they don’t realise how widespread and insidious it is.

I really despise this idea that you’re supposed to “rise above it.” I fucking hate it. It makes it our problem, while the shit-throwers don’t have to do anything – they just get to go right on throwing shit. I despise the idea (that I’ve seen touted approximately seven trillion times in the last few months) that saying this is misogyny and it sucks is “playing the victim.” I beg your pardon? If you’re mugged is it “playing the victim” to say you were mugged? Sure, it’s childish to make too much of a fuss about one cross remark; it’s spoiled and whiny to talk about your own thin skin while ignoring tanks running over other people; but that doesn’t mean anyone should “rise above” deliberate calculated sustained campaigns of vituperation. If people are trying to bully you into shutting the fuck up, you really do get to resist. Not “rise above”; not ignore; resist.

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

You come to expect the vitriol

Nov 6th, 2011 9:20 am | By

Laurie Penny knows about misogynist abuse of writers who have the effrontery to be women.

You come to expect it, as a woman writer, particularly if you’re political. You
come to expect the vitriol, the insults, the death threats. After a while, the
emails and tweets and comments containing graphic fantasies of how and where and with what kitchen implements certain pseudonymous people would like to rape you cease to be shocking, and become merely a daily or weekly annoyance…

An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and
flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male
keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill and urinate on you.
This week, after a particularly ugly slew of threats, I decided to make just a
few of those messages public on Twitter, and the response I received was
overwhelming. Many could not believe the hate I received, and many more began to
share their own stories of harassment, intimidation and abuse.

Note to self: Follow Laurie Penny on Twitter.

Perhaps it should be comforting when calling a woman fat and ugly is the best
response to her arguments, but it’s a chill comfort, especially when one
realises, as I have come to realise over the past year, just how much time and
effort some vicious people are prepared to expend trying to punish and silence a
woman who dares to be ambitious, outspoken, or merely present in a public

Quite. The time and effort create a very sinister impression of dedicated, indeed downright Spartan, rage and hatred. The lack of proportion is unnerving.

Many commentators, wondering aloud where all the strong female voices are,
close their eyes to how normal this sort of threat has become. Most mornings,
when I go to check my email, Twitter and Facebook accounts, I have to sift
through threats of violence, public speculations about my sexual preference and
the odour and capacity of my genitals, and attempts to write off challenging
ideas with the declaration that, since I and my friends are so very
unattractive, anything we have to say must be irrelevant.

And one starts to think it’s not worth it.

I’d like to say that none of this bothered me – to be one of those women who
are strong enough to brush off the abuse, which is always the advice given by
people who don’t believe bullies and bigots can be fought. Sometimes I feel that
speaking about the strength it takes just to turn on the computer, or how I’ve
been afraid to leave my house, is an admission of weakness. Fear that it’s
somehow your fault for not being strong enough is, of course, what allows
abusers to continue to abuse.

I believe the time for silence is over. If we want to build a truly fair and
vibrant community of political debate and social exchange, online and offline,
it’s not enough to ignore harassment of women, LGBT people or people of colour
who dare to have opinions. Free speech means being free to use technology and
participate in public life without fear of abuse – and if the only people who
can do so are white, straight men, the internet is not as free as we’d like to

Well then, the internet is not as free as we’d like to believe.

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

Fat, ugly, desperate or a bitch who deserves to be slapped, hit or gang-raped

Nov 5th, 2011 3:35 pm | By

And here’s the New Statesman on the subject.

Helen Lewis-Hasteley -

The sheer volume of sexist abuse thrown at female bloggers is the internet’s festering sore: if you talk to any woman who writes online, the chances are she will instantly be able to reel off a Greatest Hits of insults. But it’s very rarely spoken about, for both sound and unsound reasons. No one likes to look like a whiner — particularly a woman writing in male-dominated fields such as politics, economics or computer games.

Hmm…I don’t seem to have that problem. Maybe that’s because I don’t see talking about it as being a whiner at all; I see it as political. That’s because it is political. The misogyny is political and talking about it is political. Goebbels was political; Radio Mille Collines was political; why would misogynist campaigns not be political?

While I won’t deny that almost all bloggers attract some extremely inflammatory comments — and LGBT or non-white ones have their own special fan clubs too — there is something distinct, identifiable and near-universal about the misogynist hate directed at women online. As New Statesman blogger David Allen Green told me: “In three years of blogging and tweeting about highly controversial political topics I have never once had any of the gender-based abuse that, say, Cath Elliott, Penny Red, or Ellie Gellard routinely receives.”

Kate Smurthwaite -

I get abusive comments on my blog or under my videos. Some is straight up hate-speech: fat, ugly, desperate or a bitch who deserves to be slapped, hit or gang-raped. Other times it is in the form of unsolicited advice: subjects I “shouldn’t” cover or opinions I “shouldn’t” have. I’d say in a typical week I get 10-20 abusive comments though there are undoubtedly more that I don’t see on other sites.

The vast majority of the abuse is gender-related. There is a clear link to internet pornography. Much of the language used could have come straight from pornographic sites.

There is an underlying issue though — the people who post these comments reveal a deep-seated hatred towards women. I find that unsurprising in our culture. Violent extreme pornography is normal internet fare. Gang rape and prostitution are subjects for popular music. At least 95 per cent of actual rapists are still on the streets. That’s the real problem. We need to address that.

Eleanor O’Hagan -

On the whole I’ve managed to avoid the worst threats and misogyny that other women writers endure, but I don’t think that’s luck or because my opinions are more well-argued. I think it’s because, very early on, I became conscious of how my opinions would be received and began watering them down, or not expressing them at all. I noticed that making feminist arguments led to more abuse, and as a result, I rarely wrote about feminism at all. I was so nervous about the abuse I would receive when I wrote an article about cultural misogyny. It felt like I was exposing myself as a feminist.

Yikes! That’s a scary one. Not at all surprising, but scary.

Cath Elliot -

How am I supposed to know for instance whether “Let’s hope she doesn’t end up getting stabbed in the head or something” is a throwaway comment by a sad little man sat in his bedsit in his underpants, or whether it’s something slightly more sinister that means I need to keep looking over my shoulder whenever I leave the house? At what point does “a bit of online abuse” cross over into sexual harassment or hate speech? And how do you determine when a ‘nasty comment’ has crossed a line and become a genuine threat to kill?


That’s all I can stand to read for the moment. To be continued.

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

Crude insults, aggressive threats, unstinting ridicule

Nov 5th, 2011 3:11 pm | By

Wo. What was that we were saying about misogynist comments and sexist epithets and stereotype threat and the way racist and homophobic comments are uncool but misogyny is edgy and funny?

Maybe there’s actually something in it?

Crude insults, aggressive threats and unstinting ridicule:  it’s business as usual  in the world of website news commentary – at least for the women who regularly contribute to the national debate.

The frequency of the violent online invective – or “trolling” – levelled at female commentators and columnists is now causing some of the best known names in journalism to hesitate before publishing their opinions. As a result, women writers across the political spectrum are joining to call for a stop to the largely anonymous name-calling.

Largely anonymous, is it? Oh but surely that doesn’t matter. Surely that doesn’t make any difference, and anyway it’s a sacred right. Everybody has a sacred right to anonymously call non-anonymous women bitches and cunts. Obviously.

The columnist Laurie Penny, who writes for the Guardian, New Statesman and Independent, has decided to reveal the amount of abuse she receives in an effort to persuade online discussion forums to police threatening comments more effectively.

“I believe the time for silence is over,” Penny wrote on Friday, detailing a series of anonymous attacks on her appearance, her past and her family. The writer sees this new epidemic of misogynist abuse as tapping an old vein in British public life. Irrelevant personal attacks on women writers and thinkers go back at least to the late 18th century, she says. “The implication that a woman must be sexually appealing to be taken seriously as a thinker did not start with the internet: it’s a charge that has been used to shame and dismiss women’s ideas since long before Mary Wollstonecraft was called ‘a hyena in petticoats’. The net, however, makes it easier for boys in lonely bedrooms to become bullies.”

Linda Grant, who wrote a regular column for the Guardian in the late 1990s, has stopped writing online because of the unpleasant reaction. “I have given it up as a dead loss. In the past, the worst letters were filtered out before they reached me and crucially they were not anonymous,” said Grant.

“What struck me forcibly about the new online world were the violence of three kinds of attitude: islamophobia, antisemitism, and misogyny. And it was the misogyny that surprised me the most. British national newspapers have done little, if anything, to protect their women writers from violent hate-speech.”

The author and feminist writer Natasha Walter has also been deterred. “It’s one of the reasons why I’m less happy to do as much journalism as I used to, because I do feel really uncomfortable with the tone of the debate,” she said. “Under the cloak of anonymity people feel they can express anything, but I didn’t realise there were so many people reading my journalism who felt so strongly and personally antagonistic towards feminism and female writers.”

Neither did I. I do now though – boy do I ever.

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