The silencing of hate

By Phil Plait | August 20, 2012 11:16 am

[I wrote this article for my friend Amy Roth, aka SurlyAmy, who has asked leaders in the field of skepticism to write about the recent surge of anti-women rhetoric. She posted my article on the Skepchicks site, and you can find links to the whole series of articles at the bottom of that post. I’m posting my piece here on my blog as well because this is a very important topic, and I want as many people to see it as possible.]


What the hell is going on in the online community?

If you’ve been reading or paying attention at all to any of the online cultures like skepticism or general geekery (scifi, gaming, convention-going, and so on), you’ll have seen astonishing and depressing displays of sexism. That’s been true for a long time. But recently some sort of sea change has occurred, and what we’re seeing now is a marked increase in outright misogyny and thuggery.

The examples are so distressingly ubiquitous I hardly need point them out. A woman gamer wants to make a documentary showing misogyny in video games, and she gets rape and death threats. Rebecca Watson calmly and rationally tells men not to hit on women in enclosed spaces and reaps a supernova of hate and irrational vitriol. And now we’re seeing death threats, rape threats, all kinds of violent threats, against women who are simply trying to improve the way they are treated at meetings as well as online.

This. Must. Stop.

I am a skeptic and a scientist. I know what’s it like to feel anger and frustration toward implacable forces I think are threatening my way of existence. You may feel this way about many things as well. And while you and I may disagree on some of these topics, the way to work out our disagreements is through the exchange of ideas via honorable words and actions.

Threats, dickery, bullying, hate, insults, mob-baiting, and humiliation are not honorable actions and must not be used. You want to change my mind? You want to win my heart to your cause? Then argue your case logically and based on evidence. If you have to resort to the kind of crap we’re seeing now, then maybe your convictions aren’t as rationally based as you think they are.

Look, I know people are angry. Some of them have the right to be. As I have said many times, anger is natural, anger can be warranted, and anger can be a great motivator. But it must not lead to hatred. Unfocused anger, uncontrolled anger, cannot lead anywhere but away from a goal. Once hatred leaks in through those cracks, rational discussion is dead.

I have seen precious few discussions on this where sooner or later (and usually sooner) the comments don’t devolve into spittle-flecked rhetoric. Even if the original article is well-reasoned, thoughtful, calm, and rational, the comments quickly fall apart. That is what hate does.

That’s unfortunate, but that’s the internet. There’s not a whole lot that can be done about that in general, because you cannot control how others act. But here’s what can be done in particular: you can control how you act. Don’t let the anger, don’t let the hate, get the better of you.

Internet discussion devolves quickly, but discussions in person tend not to. We know when we are facing another living, breathing, feeling person, but that knowledge is easily overwhelmed by emotion online. But the two are not separate: raging emotions online have real life consequences. Threats and bullying online don’t just go out into the ether. They affect real people, and can cause a lifetime of damage.

Don’t let the hate get the better of you.

I’ve been quiet about this up until now for many reasons. Whenever I dip my toes into this miasma the overwhelming response is been vicious and hateful. Even many people who claim to be critical thinkers dive into the ichor and become part of it.

But I decided I can’t stand by and watch this anymore, and that’s why I’m writing this now. My friend, Surly Amy, has been posting a series of articles by men speaking out against this incredibly disturbing trend toward violent rhetoric, and the post by Dale McGowan, Executive Director of Foundation Beyond Belief, really struck home:

Silently shaking my head does nothing. The women under this kind of attack can’t hear my head rattling, so they can only assume I don’t care, when I actually care deeply. I think it’s the difficulty of putting this massive, deranged genie back in the bottle that keeps so many of us quiet. But that’s a poor excuse that only keeps the victims feeling isolated and besieged.

This.

If you threaten violence against someone you disagree with, then you are not a critical thinker. You are not a skeptic. And you are most certainly not a decent human being.

If you disagree with someone, fine. You may be right, you may be wrong. But if, when expressing your disagreement, you bully, threaten, verbally or mentally abuse the person you’re arguing with, then you’re doing it wrong, and you need to stop.

Maybe you’ve heard me say this before, but it’s just as relevant now as it was in 2010, and it always will be: Don’t Be A Dick. If we can just start there, we’ll get a lot farther along the path of understanding and mutual benefit. And from there we can get on with the real work of making the world a better place. For everyone.

Comments (188)

Links to this Post

  1. [LINK] “The silencing of hate” « A Bit More Detail | August 21, 2012
  1. Bob

    I’ve seen hate from both sides of the skeptic movement – they should all grow up.

  2. Mikael
  3. Man, 20108 was a long time ago. Good times, good times.

  4. Bandsaw

    Phil and Amy,
    Thank you for doing this. This whole saga of events as I’ve been following it on skepchick has almost brought me to the point of not allowing my daughters on the internet. We cannot give up, we cannot yield the battlefield to the evil that is going on. Thank you.

  5. Kemp

    Not related specifically to your post, but a more general piece of advice – when I go to post something online on Facebook, Youtube, or anywhere else that allows rapid commenting I follow three easy steps:

    1) Write the comment, but don’t post it, just leave the window open.
    2) Come back five minutes later and read the comment back to myself.
    3) 90% of the time just close the window.

    It helps me to avoid posting things that seem amusing/insightful/whatever on the spur of the moment, but which actually are unlikely to be seen the same way by others and which contribute nothing. Maybe the same advice will help someone avoid posting hate.

  6. Lars

    It’s mind boggling. On the bright(?) side: At least now we know for certain that feminism still has a long way to go. That’ll shut up all those who think the job is done, or that it’s already gone too far. (Or it won’t. We’ll see.)

    (Btw, today you write about misogyny, while PZ writes about antivaxxers. Almost as if you’ve decided to switch roles for a day. Keep up the good work, both of you.)

  7. John

    *clap*

    *clap*

    *clap*

  8. Sam

    As the Internet expands, it will reach more and more people, and it is still expanding. What was once the realm of the computer obsessive is now ubiquitous for teenagers and young professionals, but it hasn’t completely permeated all age groups and demographics. I would suggest this wave of ignorance is a direct result of the inclusion of a once rarely heard section of society – but I make no guess as to what they could having in common besides their attitudes.

    Put simply, we might have to harden ourselves to this unpleasant minority of opinions. The equilibrium the internet brings will help to bring some sense of balance to these people, hopefully, but the fact people think these absurd things can’t really be avoided as we all become more connected.

  9. Mejilan

    I wish it were just the online and/or geek worlds that were under threat. But when you wake up in the morning and see hate mongering and ignorance being vomited out by Tea Party mouthpieces such as Todd Akin, you can’t help but wonder how the hell things have gotten so bad. If there’s one decent thing to come out of wide adoption of social media, is that the panderers and ideological extremist nut-jobs have a lot less wiggle room when called out for the filth they peddle. The world is filled with very small people equipped with very small hearts and very big mouths.

    Edit – It says a lot, I think, that the Augusta Masters Golfing Club has only now admitted its first two female members. It’s only the year 2012, after all…

  10. Kim

    Thank you so much for doing this. As a woman who’s a feminist, atheist, and skeptic, I sometimes have trouble defending my communities–there are still way too many people who claim to be skeptical atheists and say (yell) things like “evolutionary biology justifies rape and racism,” and unfortunately they become part of the public image of skepticism. Being a skeptic should never mean using science to support oppression. Critical thinking should mean seeing through the B.S. that is misogyny and rape culture, not defending it.

  11. DJ (not Grothe)

    “If, when expressing your disagreement, you bully, threaten, verbally or mentally abuse the person you’re arguing with, then you’re doing it wrong, and you need to stop. ”

    Sadly, the people who should take this to heart will instead say “Yeah! My enemies need to stop doing this!” and not see themselves in it at all. BOTH sides have people who need to take this to heart.

  12. SteveT

    Very well said, Phil. This message needs to be repeated over and over again, in as many different formats as possible. People need to remember that the people they’re arguing with are fellow human beings. Sometimes very wrong human beings, but human beings nonetheless.

  13. Jan

    Kemp mentioned something that xkcd made a comic about a while ago.

    http://xkcd.com/481/

    If people would be forced to reread what they typed, or to listen to themselves, the internet could be a less vitriolic place. Of course, through the rage and anger of the moment, such a technique might actually infuriate the person further, and make the internet an even more vitriolic place.

    I cannot say I am always reasonable or level-headed when arguing on the internet. Hell, I’m _arguing on the internet_. But even when people get under my skin, I don’t see myself resorting to bigotry, misogyny, threats of murder or rape. I cannot understand this. Not at all.

  14. Brian

    Thank you, Phil. I had in fact noticed that you had kept quiet about this issue lately, and I admit I appreciated the fact that I had one science blog that remained unaffected by it all. But I’m happy that Amy asked you to speak up, and I’m happy that you rose to the occasion.

  15. ZK

    I don’t follow the skeptical community very closely; is there a sense that the people making violent threats online are “members” of this community? My impression, from the reactions to the gaming documentary, for example, is that they were largely your standard internet troll. Asking anonymous trolls to behave isn’t going to be constructive; you might as well command the tide to halt.

    I guess my question is this: do you really think that the people making childish threats are the people you’re reaching with science blogs?

  16. Michelle

    I’m a fairly young, female Ph.D. astronomer trying to make it in a field littered with dismal portfolio reviews and dire budget predictions.  Although I consider myself to be a woman of strong character and a feminist, I find that I don’t have the time to participate much in online feminist, skeptic, or science communities. I watch with interest and follow the odd blog or story when I get the chance – but save most of my scant time for actions and deeds on a local level.

    A few weeks ago, I accidentally stumbled across the “Elevatorgate” disaster and fallout. Since then, I have found myself absolutely devastated. I think I’m exactly the sort of woman that both the skeptic and feminist community want to recruit, but the deeds of nearly everyone involved have disheartened me. On one side, I see terrible vitriol and name calling; words used to describe feminists and their followers that honestly break my heart. On the other side I see plenty of bullying and shaming that has made me question whether feminists I admire would consider me “feminist enough”.

    I think about it fairly often now and continue to watch and listen– worried that both the skeptic and feminist communities are tearing themselves apart from the inside. I feel, for the first time, ashamed to be both or either. I consider myself a humanist above anything else and right now, don’t feel that either camp is acting within the tenants of THOSE beliefs.

    I wonder if anyone in the blogosphere is truly aware at how shameful those of us on the sidelines find all this. Phil, I’m glad you’ve started to address this — but until genuine apologies are issued, from as many people involved as possible, those of us in the silent majority who view all of you as mentors and role-models will continue to be hurt. This is a call, not just for civility among the actors in these dramas — but for respect to your audience and adherents.

  17. Jens

    “Threats, dickery, bullying, hate, insults, mob-baiting, and humiliation are not honorable actions and must not be used.”

    I agree completely. It would be nice if everyone took this to heart, including PZ and his regular commenters.

  18. Morellio

    Just like you can’t appreciate good without evil, you can’t appreciate the absence of hate without seeing it in the brazenly naked examples you’ve illustrated. The choice is as obvious in this subject as it is for most avenues of that particular human emotion, and I’m pretty sure it crosses most western geographical and political divides; it’s not right. I don’t feel the congressmen pushing against birth control or trying to get invasive tests mandated for women are accurately representing their constituents. There is always an unavoidable drift between the public and those in the government, and well.. Here we are. We need a correction. Please vote. :)

  19. Zeff

    Many of the godless enjoy saying that all people are born atheist, and in one sense, I agree with the sentiment. However, a vast chasm yawns between the unexposed child and the decided adult, and in a world teeming with diverse forms of nonsense, the latter has the greater potential to recognize, resist, and combat dogma.

    In the same spirit, however much our intellects may disavow the notion of hate, our instincts remain open to the pleasure of viscerally rejecting some “other.” It is, therefore, not enough to quell active disputes, nor even to cow the active sponsors of hate, for these leave the seeds of discord untouched and create a hate-blind and naive population. To move forward, we must become experts in hate, a people aware of the sources and mechanisms of guttural disdain and the reasons why such emotions ultimately cause harm. In so doing, we fundamentally improve ourselves and our ability to address malevolent thinking.

  20. Drew

    Well, it is an all too often theme in the skeptic community, that of looking down upon and insulting those who disagree with a POV, and we are back at the well.

    I am not current on this particular issue, so I will limit my comments thusly:

    First, if you are finding that your blog posts are drawing threats of violence, you might wish to consider what you wrote that triggered the attack.

    Second, instead of whining about it and/or admonishing these largely harmless anonymous threats in order to fulfill your superiority complex, do something constructive and report the threat to the police.
    Preaching is just as boring and pointless as empty threats…

  21. Anthony

    It doesn’t matter how right you are or how important the topic is:

    Lecturing the Internet is absurd.

    Name names, don’t feed the trolls.

  22. Prof.Pedant

    One good practice would be to avoid the use of gendered terms of opprobrium. As a male my reaction to being told to “Don’t be a dick” is to tell the speaker to ‘F*** Off and Die’. If that same person said to me “Don’t be a jerk” my reflexive response is to ask him or her to further explain the point being made and to continue the conversation until we are both happy with the communication. The ‘dick’ in “Don’t be a dick” is commonly understood to refer to the male genitalia – so analogically telling a male to ‘not be a dick’ is pretty much telling him to not be a male, with the assumption that being a male is a bad thing.

    The same construction is a problem with the commonly used phrases “don’t be a pussy” or “don’t pussy out”. The ‘pussy’ in the phrase is not a reference to cats, it is a reference to female genitalia – and makes the analogy that having female genitalia means that a person is weak. I haven’t asked around, but it would not surprise me if the reaction of most women to the phrase “don’t be a pussy” is a similar “F*** Off and Die”. Similarly I am quite confident that most of those women would be happy to discuss the matter if instead the offensive speaker had suggested “don’t give up before you should!”.

    So please, people, stop saying “Don’t be a dick” and “Don’t be a pussy”. The phrases are offensive and do not communicate anything positive that cannot be better communicated by “Don’t be a jerk” and “Don’t give up!”. Additionally, using these gendered terms of opprobrium implies that gendered insults are permissible…..

  23. semi

    There is ample evidence out there of people respectfully disagreeing with the “Skepchicks” and being labeled as “trolls,” “misogynists,” “sexist,” and “gender traitors” and being blocked on blogs and twitter feeds for expressing disagreement. In fact there are entire web sites and wikis devoted to this issue. Do a search.

    While I certainly condemn violence or threats of rape against anyone, many people are upset with the ‘grabbing of the microphone’ with the respect to feminist matters in the skeptic community, and the *shutting out* of dissenting opinions on the primary blogs and feeds (Skepchicks and FTB).

    All of this has culminated with conflation of legitimate dissent as misogyny and harassment, as seen in the Harriet Hall t-shirt issue, the pummeling and labeling as sexist of D.J. Grothe, etc. (put his name and “sexist” into Google and see what comes up), the vilification of Dawkins, etc. Dogma has now replaced critical thinking in this area, and purity tests are now in order.

    The fact of the matter is that there are many people now in the skeptic community who have positions of leadership who probably have neither the training nor the personality to actually succeed at that job without descending into petty name calling and vapid drama. Just because one has a blog does not make one a thought leader. And it certainly doesn’t make one right.

    And it’s the vapid drama that attracts the trolls.

    So why is Amy coming to you for help? Does she think that trolls who send death threats and rape threats are somehow going to be swayed by your column?

    You’ll get a lot of “Here Here!” and applause for this column, but unfortunately it will be completely ineffective.

    Here’s a news flash: trolls do it for the lulz. The more drama, the more histrionics, the more freak-outs that are generated, the more you encourage that behavior.

    And that is how the internet works.

    P.S. If you want to effectively handle threats in email, report it the primary ISP. Almost all have abuse@ emails addresses. Violent threats are against the law, and the ISP should handle it appropriately. And whatever you do, keep it private, otherwise you are just encouraging more of the obnoxious behavior.

  24. The only way to address this issue is to take it head on. It stuns me how much sexism still exists in the 21st century, even in the most educated of places. But then again, all the awfulness of the past is continually with us. The “barbarians” are always at the gate, from racism to sexism, from the 3rd to the 31st century. It is therefore important to not stay silent or become apathetic, but to speak out against such injustice. Thank you for doing so.

  25. Eric Atkinson

    Don’t be a P Z Myers. You know, it rhymes with “hunt.”

  26. Christopher Jablonski

    It seems to me there are the hate-spewing trolls and people making threats, but then there are also the people who calmly, measuredly deny the existence of misogyny in the community. (See semi’s comment above.) I’m not sure which group is the bigger problem.

  27. Drew:

    First, if you are finding that your blog posts are drawing threats of violence, you might wish to consider what you wrote that triggered the attack.

    This might seem a reasonable thing to say, but IMO it strikes me as victim-blaming, especially since, as far as I can see, one of Phil’s claims is that such threats are never appropriate. Some people writing or speaking in skeptic/atheist circles may have stated things worthy of angry rejoinder, but angry rejoinders and threats of violence are, I hope you will agree, rather distinct.

    Also, IMO the assumptions behind your second, dismissive comment are false. Speaking out is important, whether it is speaking out against ridiculous medical claims (e.g. alt-med or anti-vaccine), anti-science activism (e.g. creationism or climate science denial), or anti-social behaviour (threats of violence, however anonymous or prevalent). If no one spoke out against such things, however would they be challenged and overcome?

  28. semi

    @24

    >It seems to me there are the hate-spewing trolls and people making threats, but then there are also the people who calmly, measuredly deny the existence of misogyny in the community. (See semi’s comment above.)<

    I did no such thing in my post. Thank you for proving my point.

  29. What I see here is interesting. Some seem to find threats inevitable. That it’s even acceptable and expected to be the norm.
    And those same seem to think that it’s only confined to skeptic or feminist sites.

    I’ve personally have received death threats on news sites. I’ve had one even mention my home town and claim he was out front of my house.
    Apparently, the poster thought that I’d freak out or stop putting holes in their idiotic posts.
    When they got was a simple mention that I didn’t really care if they WERE out front, but if they were and entered my property, it would not be by invitation, hence a felony forced entry and that such would be handled quickly and finally.
    I’ve received threats via e-mail in the past. I let law enforcement handle it, not the ISP. For, a person can quickly change ISP’s when their account was suspended and continue to break the law. A visit by the local law enforcement quickly stops any further threats and potentially stops someone from potentially following through on a threat.

    Apparently, our society is de-evolving, where threats in public are permissible, as was proved when there was little backlash when a political candidate suggested her party “use their second amendment option”, to the cheers of her party.
    Today, rape isn’t rape, to listen to certain political figured, indeed, we most move back to the dark ages to grasp some of the concepts espoused by that figure and his cohorts.
    Today, we hear politicians espouse summary execution!
    So, I honestly DO believe that as a society, we are are moving backwards socially, rather than continuing forward.

    I DO agree with Phil, this must stop. One never achieves a rational discussion when it erodes into such nonsense. It wins nobody over to the abuser’s cause. It silences people who honestly want to exercise their rights and to be blunt, nobody really respects someone who makes idle threats.
    The only thing that such people prove is that they’re great internet warriors, who would never speak that way in person, face to face, because they KNOW that they’d eventually get a fist to their mouth or get arrested for making terroristic threats.
    What I truly see is, the generation of ME. Where the poster is the only one in their mind who has a right to speak. Only THEIR opinion is permitted to be expressed. Only THEIR threats are worthy. All must obey THEM or else they will behave in a childish manner.
    For, only THEY may have the right to express themselves. And they proclaim their absolute right under the first amendment to do so, never realizing that threats, abuse, “fighting words” and words that promote a breach of the peace are not only NOT protected, they are totally unlawful.
    And also have another effect, such behavior makes them an object of scorn.

  30. Jess Tauber

    I agree with 23- I’d bet a good many of the folks that post such acid aren’t themselves actually angry while posting, but are just doing to get reactions, to play with heads. They may even treat people decently when in person. But still evil, showing their dark side. I myself have no dark side- but the rest of you should die in indescribable and enduring agony….

  31. davepy

    Entirely by coincidence, I happen to google this particular kerfuffle today, only because I recalled hearing that Rebecca Watson did not attend TAM this year on the SGU podcast (of which I am a great fan) from a few weeks back. I’d dismissed it at the time, but today I got an email from the JREF about the last TAM which triggered the memory, and decided to investigate on a whim. I googled “Rebecca Watson DJ Grothe” and… well, holy sh**, am I profoundly disappointed in quite a bit of the skeptical community with all the name calling and the childishness displayed on both sides. As Phil has pointed out in the past, we’re already outnumbered. This sort of irrational–and yes, I’m calling it irrational when 90% of the arguments I’ve read on both sides seem to be based on personal loyalties and ideologies rather than evidence-based reasoning–fracturing of the skeptical & scientific community is the last thing we need.

    Lest anyone raise any straw persons of “deniers of the existence of misogyny…” I will fully admit being sickened by some of the sexist personal attacks directed at Rebecca and her female supporters. Shame on the people who wrote them. I’m merely pointing out that there was plenty of pettiness from both sides. While they might not be as equally vile, merely pointing out the opposition is worse does not absolve you of your own faults.

  32. gopher65

    I agree that there is an overabundance of anti-feminism in the skeptical movement. This is probably due to the large number of right wing libertarians in the skeptical movement, many of whom view life through misogynist-tinted glasses

    That said, did you REALLY just ask if there is too much vitriol being flung around on the internet? Ahahahaha! As I’ve said before, I’ve seen more hatred and rape attempts thrown around over LOLcat pics than have been thrown around over the elevatorgate scandal.

    It’s the internet. That’s just the way it is. If you really want to see an overwhelming amount of hatred and vicious (potentially serious!) threats thrown around online, post an essay about how much you hate bacon. People will threaten to kill you within minutes, and some of them will be deadly serious. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be a blogger.

    It sucks, but unless you want to ban all the misogynists from 3rd world countries (and almost everyone… including the women… that I’ve met from third world countries (and I’ve met many) think women are less than men), all religious conservatives, and all spoiled, unruly 13 year old kids from the internet, this kind of hatred (whether real or nothing but masochism) will continue.

  33. gopher65

    PS, while I’m not actively involved in the skeptical community, I am involved in the Wikimedia community. Anti-female sentiment shows up a lot on Wikipedia and its sister sites, and we’ve been fighting a failing battle against it for many years. So far all our attempts to eliminate such acts have failed miserably. This has led to a much lower rate of female participation that we’d like.

    We’ve already tried everything the skeptical community has tried. Everything that you’re doing now we did 10 years ago. Didn’t work. Here’s our guess as to the reason: what percentage of the worldwide male population feels women are somehow “lesser”? I don’t know, but I’d guess it’s really high. Equality for women is still a new thing on the scale of civilizations, and it hasn’t spread far and wide yet.

    We aren’t going to stop trying, but for the moment (and probably the whole next century) it’s a losing battle.

  34. Jason Dick

    Yes, yes, yes.

    I know, this comment is yet more noise without substance. But I just want to help show how many of us there are that agree with you in support of the many women who have been horribly abused (usually verbally, though sometimes physically) by others in the skeptical community.

  35. Infinite123Lifer

    “What the hell is going on in the online community?”

    “This. Must. Stop.”

    “Don’t let the hate get the better of you. ”

    That would have almost been sufficient, and probably is simple enough for . . . less empathy driven folks . . . to grasp while questioning whether or not they should seek and attain change.

    Its a bit comforting to see that several of these issues are being addressed and that folks are mostly on the same page. This is a hugely erratic cultural issue, a global issue. One that does not have a timely end but must not be just let go and forgotten about. Cultural issues are difficult territory. The video game issue is madness. Our family does not restrict children from learning about the world. If it is a certain way, we explain that it is a certain way because . . . . . do you know how hard it is to explain to a child that women in video games aren’t all really like that. I am behind your sentiments 100% Phil.

  36. Thanks for weighting in on this. Your verbal support will mean a lot to a lot of people.

  37. Wzrd1

    @Gopher65, “People will threaten to kill you within minutes, and some of them will be deadly serious. If you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be a blogger.”, really?
    One should only express themselves if they’re prepared to have to accept serious death threats?
    That appears to be what you suggest.

    I fail to comprehend the relevance of the “ban all the misogynists from 3rd world countries ” has to do with US citizens, many of whom were born in the US and are multiple generations from any immigration, making these threats and diatribes. Indeed, foreigners posting threats are a miniscule part of the spectrum.

    What I hear is, accept inequality, accept inequity, accept crime and accept violence, instead of trying to change things for the better.
    What would we be like if Washington and his friends thought that way? Other than singing “God save the Queen”?
    What would we be like if Lincoln thought that way? Other than either being two nations or having slavery?
    What would we be like if King thought that way? Other than having white and black water fountains, double the number of bathrooms and segregation?
    The “accept what is” mentality is a mentality that gives away the rights of others. Like that silly right to free speech.

  38. Jason

    Excellent post Phil. It is amazing how some peoples’ behaviour changes when they are behind the screen.

    Reminds me of a line from a standup I cannot remember. “The entire Bible should be reduced to one page with “Don’t be a c***” in big letters.”

  39. gopher65

    I see you didn’t bother to read the second part of my post. I’ll summarize:

    1) Most males in the world think that women are less than men. Remember, the US is only about 4% of the world’s population. In a game of sheer numbers, it’s basically irrelevant. This reality is a combination of third world attitudes, anti-feminist conservationism, and the fact that 13 year old males are idiots. If you group those 3 together, they make up the vast, vast majority of the online community.

    2) Universal suffrage is a very new concept on the timescale of civilizations. Only a tiny portion of the world’s females are “free”. The US, Aus, Can, EU, NZ, Iceland, etc, make up, what 12 or 13 percent of the world’s population?

    3) The US is no longer anywhere near a majority of the online community, and its percentage of the whole drops quickly every day.

    4) Because of 1, 2, and 3, it will take a long time (I’d guess at least a century) for anti-female attitudes to lower on the internet. There is nothing we can do about this (we on Wikipedia, Wikinews, etc have been putting out far more effort than the (frankly lazy and slow moving) skeptical community for years. No dice.

    5) Just because there’s nothing much we can do in the short term doesn’t mean we can’t speak up.

  40. gopher65

    Oh, and Wzrd1: That part of my post that you quoted was actually talking about a hypothetical post about bacon, not about feminism. Way to take that line out of context.

    Regardless, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” is a commonly used phrase in parts of the business world. For good reason. If you can’t take heat, you shouldn’t be a cook. If you’re claustrophobic, don’t be a miner. If you don’t have a personality of steel, you shouldn’t be a public figure, especially on the internet. And especially a public figure in a politicized area like skepticism or (as an example completely different from what we’ve been taking about) climate change.

    That’s just the nature of life. It boils down to this: “don’t do something that you aren’t emotionally or physically equipped to handle”. It doesn’t matter how much you want to be a professional cook. If you collapse into tears everytime the temperature hits 25C, you’ll never make it.

  41. Drew

    Composer 99,

    Thanks for the thoughts and opportunity to expand.

    First, I will agree with you and Phil, threats of violence are never appropriate. If you do intend to visit harm on someone, warning them simply makes your intentions harder to execute. If you don’t intend to hurt anyone, what is the point of saying so?

    What I tried to convey however, is that such threats are rarely created in a vacuum. Sure a very small percentage of people are unhinged enough to respond with little provocation, but most people are lead to threaten over the Internet by the “victim”. While I am not justifying or defending people who threaten others, it may be more productive for the Skepchicks to review how they come across.

    I personally stopped visiting their blog years ago, I read their brand of skepticism and feminism to be more of the style of shoving it down your throat. Any dissention was met with some of the rudest comments I have read on any blog, from the blog owners. RW was my initial reason for no longer listening to SGTU. That is why I had no knowledge of these threats first hand, and again, while I do not condone them, I am hardly shocked to learn of them. I see by the remarks of others in this thread, I am not alone in this assesment.

    Moving on to my second point, I disagree that this is the same as reporting about anti-vaxxers and those who try to force creationism into the science curiculum. Those posts are showing people how and why to discriminate between science and sound bites.

    Anyone however should be able to ascertain for themselves that threats of violence, death and rape are inappropriate, but more than that they are also felonies. Rather than waste time and bandwidth just report them to the authorities.

    I do read quite a bit of atitude in the skeptical community. Such attitudes are why I don’t read the Skepchicks and P.Z. Myers, and why I (usually) skip the political posts on B.A. and no longer listen to Skeptics Guide. The “we are smarter than you neener neener” attitude was amusing when I first encountered it, but long ago I had enough.

    Bottom line is, if you want your opinion and yourself to be respected, you need to offer the same to others. I first learned the phrase “martyr complex” on an old email list called Debunk Creation. The way I see it, PZ Myers and the Skepchicks are trolling for threats, perhaps to satisfy their “martyr complex”.

    Then again, I could be wrong.

  42. Janice D.

    Thank you, Phil! My husband is a big MMORPGamer, and I join him in the dark and cold winter months. I have found it difficult to explain to men, even otherwise thoughtful feminist men (like my husband), why the completely unexamined and ubiquitous misogyny in gaming culture is so hurtful. And I have thick skin, but, damn does it get old.

    Thank you for not just being against this, but for speaking out against it. Your article gives me a window into what my LGBTQ friends must feel like when my husband and I speak out for them. It feels good, and like my women friends and I are a little bit less alone.

  43. Wzrd1

    @Gopher65, I extended the logic, in the manner of the hypothetical bacon post, because one can post on pretty much ANYTHING and get an argument about it. Once the argument starts, the threats inevitably follow. Doesn’t matter if it’s about bacon, it’s raining outside or anything else.
    That doesn’t justify threats or make them acceptable. MOST of the threats I’ve read in response to posts or news stories are US based people. Not foreigners, not “third world nationals”, indeed, the vast majority of the third world populace lack internet access. They most certainly are not fluent in US English.
    I DO agree with your point 5. :)

  44. gopher65

    Kemp #5:

    I’ll try that in the future. I think I’m the type of person that your delayed posting system would help.

    Michelle #16:

    That’s pretty much how I feel.

  45. Lee from NC

    “Rebecca Watson calmly and rationally tells men not to hit on women in enclosed spaces and reaps a supernova of hate and irrational vitriol.”

    Sorry, but this is simply way too glib. I don’t want to reopen the whole elevator debate but the supernova started when a fellow feminist, also female, disagreed with Watson in a completely rational and calm manner. From there it spiraled into madness and there was much mud-slinging on both sides.

    Watson bears as much responsibility for where that “conversation” went as anyone else does so I think it does a disservice to objectivity to present it as if she was a shining light of reason being crapped on by a bunch of mean men and women.

  46. mike burkhart

    “Don’t give into hate that leeds to the dark side” .Obi wan is right hate for any one based on: race,gender,sexual ortation, religon or lack of,is worng. What this shows to me is a lot of men think of women as nothing but ‘sex objects’ and that attatude thats leeds to the things that Phil is talking about. Women deserve respect not humulation.I would also point out that makeing death threats and rape threts is not only worng but in some cases illeagle. SO CUT IT OUT !!!!!

  47. Derek

    Misogyny, bullying, and anti-woman sentiments are most certainly wrong.

    But so are the people who, like you here, Phil, are pretending that this is suddenly some sort of massive problem that has overtaken the skeptic / geekdom world. It isn’t. In fact, it has been my experience (and that of my female cohorts) that the skeptic world is generally more approving of feminist values than other places.

    Unfortunately, a few high-profile incidents like the Rebecca Watson case got latched onto by popular skeptic bloggers, who blew the reactions to that event way out of proportion, and launched a massive debate within the skepticism blogosphere. The disproportionately huge amount of discussion that occurred on this topic gave people the false impression that these were issues that were actively and endemically plaguing the skeptical community.

    Even worse is that, when people try to point this fact out, they are immediately decried as “anti-feminist.”

    This has highlighted a major problem with the skeptical community. The people who should be most interested in reserving judgment until presented with evidence are, instead, jumping to conclusions, and allowing their personal biases to color their interpretations of the events. It has actually started to embarass me greatly to see other members of my community behaving like this.

  48. Colugo

    Online ‘communities’ – including gamers, sci-fi/fantasy fandom, and skeptics – are full of toxic memes: any variety or combination of trolling, MRA (men’s rights activism), PUA (pick up artists), racists etc. It’s the nature of the internet – a habit for the normal, a way of life for the psychosocially stunted – to attract more than its share of resentful, frustrated oddballs. Someone can be a skeptic/atheist, or sometimes even left of center, and be one of the above varieties of miscreants.

    Solution: Vigorously police online forums for any outbreak of these kinds of crap, and delete and ban away as soon as they appear.

  49. William

    “If you threaten violence against someone you disagree with, then you are not a critical thinker. ”

    Phil, I want you to do a little experiment. Make a dummy account and then make a post/comment disagreeing with something that Rebecca Watson or Amy Roth has said. Then watch and see how long it is before you are called a misogynist, rape apologist, or are threatened with violence.

  50. Devin

    Bravo good sir.

    I find it disturbing to see the extreme paths some people have taken to “arguing” with our female community members. I think its extremely unfortunate to see that this sort of behavior exists within the skeptic/nerdy world.

    Obviously this is nothing new (misogny is a problem that exists throughout our entire society), but I guess it strikes closer to home due to my general attachment to the geek and skeptic movements.

  51. I am a woman who has, apparently, trespassed into a field controlled and dominated by males – I won’t call them men – who have bitched and moaned, bullied and criticised. While they’re entitled to their opinions, I think these opinions are better expressed as such, in the form of a review, rather than an ongoing ‘discussion’ where they gather together to pour bile on my every move, creation and intention. It is distressing to be bullied by this GANG of males. What I particularly find disgusting is that some of these males are award-nominated and even award-winners (Chris Garcia is NOT one of the bullies, a point even the bullies have noted when they’ve commented on his TOLERANCE). For example, Taral Wayne has been nominated for a Hugo this year, and not only is he one of the gang but he’s also come out against gender parity. Many of his cronies seem to be similarly aligned: if they’re ganging together to bully me, then they’re also against gender parity. An interesting connection.

  52. Gonzo

    so analogically telling a male to ‘not be a dick’ is pretty much telling him to not be a male, with the assumption that being a male is a bad thing.

    Maybe you define yourself solely through your gentalia but please don’t pretend you’re being insightful and speaking for more than anyone but yourself.

    First, if you are finding that your blog posts are drawing threats of violence, you might wish to consider what you wrote that triggered the attack.

    Victim-blame much? Shouldn’t matter what you’ve written, it doesn’t justify threats of violence. Especially something as innocuous as “don’t hit on me in enclosed spaces” – which is really just common courtesy. Don’t be a creep? Yeah, I think I can manage that.

  53. Chris

    Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a man.

  54. Vacca

    Seems like a fantastic way to make a big splash about feminism and how hateful men are and make Chris ashamed to be a man, would be to start a thread about misogyny and then have all your friends post hateful remarks in it. Not saying those aren’t trolls, or that this is what happens but I’m sick of the constant uproar and anti-male crap that comes out from the feminist movement.

  55. shawmutt

    I don’t like the way the skeptical movement has been commandeered by the e-feminist movement. People like PZ and Rebecca hurt the skeptical movement more than help it, but they have a voice in the skeptical movement and have followers and friends in high blogging places, so we get to hear all about it ad nauseum.

    Why is there such a backlash against the PZs and the Rebeccas and others? Perhaps its the vitriol a person gets for daring to disagree with the e-feminists. Perhaps it’s the condescending tone fellow skeptics get from the e-feminists. Perhaps because there are a few loud voices that get cut and pasted across the blogosphere that we’re supposed to take for Gospel.

    Perhaps because this e-feminism is kind of like the woo woo we fight so hard against.

    I wouldn’t condone death/harm threats on anyone for any reason, but anyone with a loud enough voice and opinion regarding any subject gets them. Are we supposed to suddenly stop everything and take heed because they are against e-feminists? Are we supposed to be shocked and dismayed because these particular death threats are against women? Go ahead, tell me to “check my privilege”.

  56. anonymous skeptic

    I count a number of Skepchicks as friends and have been appalled by their collective behavior. I have watched as they have turned on friends for mildly disagreeing with them. I have watched them police twitter feeds and attempt to disrupt the good work of (female) science communicators merely on the basis of who they follow. I haven’t said a thing about this to any of them because I am actually afraid of the Skepchicks now. They have shown no hesitation at throwing anyone under the bus, and I have no doubt that they would do the same to me. Rebecca and friends, this is nothing to be proud of under any circumstances.

    I have to agree with semi (@23), and I encourage you to take up William’s proposal (@49).

    You were the president of the JREF, Phil. Is it the seething den of rapists, misogynists, and their supporters that they seem to think it is? Is that the type of organization Randi runs?

  57. George Martin

    Just yesterday, the 19th, Phil posted a link to Pamela Gay’s talk at TAM2012. I was there. The last few minutes of her talk, she suddenly switched gears (although within the context of Make The World Better and started describing the harassment she has experienced going to meetings. Given the context of what was going on for a few weeks before TAM, she was quick to say that she herself had never experienced harassment at TAM. But she said that she should be able to go to meetings and not have not have to stand against the wall with her arms folded against her chest. Yes, she has experienced groping at meetings.

    She was very passionate in those last few minutes. She was given a standing ovation.

    George

  58. James Evans

    What the hell is going on in the online community?

    If you’ve been reading or paying attention at all to any of the online cultures like skepticism or general geekery (scifi, gaming, convention-going, and so on), you’ll have seen astonishing and depressing displays of sexism.

    Is it fair to group skeptics and/or atheists together with larger online communities like gaming or scifi? Is the percentage of members within the former group engaging in “threats, dickery, bullying, hate, insults, mob-baiting, and humiliation” really comparable to that in the latter? Are they trending with the marked uptick? Those are earnest questions, not snarky rhetoricals, because I scanned multiple blog posts and comment threads during the Elevatorgate saga and recent TAM issues, and while I saw vehement disagreement and standard, shopworn, pointless insults, I really did not see much that crossed the line into uncontrolled anger/hatred. However, the mindless, traumatizing devastation I’ve personally witnessed spewed out in ceaseless rapid-fire fashion onto gaming servers is a different story altogether…

  59. Maria

    While hate is not always directed at women I will say that (as someone who’s spent 20+ years online in one form or another) it’s often directed at women in very direct, very graphic, very violent, and very intimate terms. (http://superopinionated.com/2011/02/08/here-is-a-project-troll-data-analysis/ Interesting analysis on troll comments on the penny arcade fiasco.)

    But even when it’s not at women there’s a general nastiness that easily bubbles to the surface if allowed to take foot. It’s like a sort of unhinged crazy thrum encouraged by a potent combination of anonymity and exhibitionism. The background hate is a bit like the noise of densely packed city blocks on a Saturday. Screams, sirens, crazy rants, machinery, traffic. If you live in a city you get used to it, you don’t take it personally, and you sure as hell tune most of it out to maintain sanity. But maybe that’s my apathy talking.

    That said, the general nastiness does seem like it’s getting louder the past 5 years or so. At least much more vitriolic, open and unabashed. Have there been studies done? Maybe I’m just getting older because it sounds like something my mother would say doesn’t it? “Kids these days, no respect! Git off my lawn!” But that’s not quite right. The online age spread keeps growing so it’s not just young people. I wonder if such default flippant nastiness is due to how easily accessible the online world has become for so MANY different people and spheres of culture. Anger and attack of things that are not like us, by default. And lots of boredom to spare.

    ” From there it spiraled into madness and there was much mud-slinging.”
    Indeed.

  60. NickMatzke

    This is a great article. But really, it shouldn’t be surprising this happened within a movement where many of the leaders and commentators practically made careers out of being angry and mean to everyone who didn’t toe the hardest possible line on religion (liberal religious folks, “accommodationists”, “faitheists”, etc.), and where those who raised concerns about the frequency of insults, abuse, invective, vitriol, hyperbole, etc. were called “tone trolls”. Once they drove away everyone who was more or less on their side but insufficiently hostile to religion, there was nothing much to do except turn on each other.

    Now everyone in the Gnusphere is talking about tone and moderation and civility like it was some new invention. Strange world.

  61. zandperl

    I have seen the argument made that sometimes the only tool the oppressed have is anger. When women are being told they’re being oversensitive, that no one likes to listen to someone who talks too much or talks about themselves all the time, what other recourse do we have? We can’t explain logically because they don’t even want to let us talk, and when they do let us talk they dismiss our words as being unreasoning. Of course when we then try to use anger as a tool, we’re called emotional, so really we can’t win. I would suggest however that male allies listen to our anger and try to understand why it is that we’re so frustrated with the way that things are. You may not like how we’re saying what we’re saying, but we’ve been backed into a corner where that’s the only way we can say it and be heard.

  62. Grand Lunar

    Phil, THANK YOU for speaking up about this. I hoped you would.

    It’s hard for me not to give in to hatred toward those that are letting their hate beam out like a gamma ray burst.

    I’ve followed these events on Skepchick, and it makes me feel disgusted to read just how low people can sink.

    I also feel sad, wondering where this hate comes from and why people would be opposed to improving the way we live.

    There are also thoses that dismiss the signifigance of this issue.
    That angers me further.

    It is past time that the vile hatred be exposed for what it is.

    And articles like yours, Phil, are a first step.

  63. _C_A_T_

    I think the problem is a lack of leadership. PZ & Co went and ran all the grownups off the playground and declared it to be party time so anarchy erupted. You surprised? This is what they wanted, wasn’t it? We quiet scholarly types weren’t “in your face enough” for the new generation of Web 2.0 inspired crackpots. A lot of the guys running around sending out rape threats and such were attacking guys like me at PZ’s request a couple years ago. We were called “accommodationists” or “appeasers” for asking certain prominent secularists to tone down the rhetoric a bit … Or even for telling people they needed to get their fact straight. The New Atheists got what they wanted – a bunch of fat, perverted, vulgar, selfish, pigheaded, obstructionists. Their mothers must be so proud. I know, why don’t they run upstairs and ask their mother about it ….

  64. VinceRN

    This is why I, though very much a skeptic, have never had any use for the skeptic community.. ” Threats, dickery, bullying, hate, insults, mob-baiting, and humiliation” are their stock in trade, constantly directed at religion or other silliness that makes easy targets. It should surprise no one that these same things are used internally as well.

    Those things are not honorable, but they seem to be a core value of organized skepticism and atheism. I wish more folks in this were more like our host and some of the other few reasonable ones.

    What really gets me is the folks who use these tactics themselves against things they dislike, but now decry their use in these cases. Sweet irony.

    Reasoning does not excuse folks from being reasonable.

  65. noen

    “the way to work out our disagreements is through the exchange of ideas via honorable words and actions.”

    I have seen precious little honor or respectful debate on atheist blogs. More so on skeptical blogs. Blogs that are wholly devoted to a profession and run by someone with a stake in the game (a reputation to lose) are the most respectful. That is because the blogger has standards and is willing to enforce them.

    Most discussions on blogs are not debates. They are fights. The goal is to bully your opponent into submission by any means you can get away with.

    commenter A: “X is true.”

    commenter B: “No it isn’t.”

    commentor A: “Yes it is.”

    [repeat ad infinitum]

    ———

    Culture is important. The best blog that I know of, which I will not name here, has no explicit rules and rarely if ever actually bans anyone. Yet they have relatively few trolls or flame wars. Why is that? It’s because they are small and share a common culture. There are limits but they are not explicitly stated. Everyone just knows what they are and you risk a loss of social status if you get out of line.

    That’s how all cultures work. The rules are implicitly known and policed by everyone. Get out of line and you get rebuked…. and it matters to you.

    The Lord of the Flies is a refutation of Libertarian social theory.

    You are not lord and master of all you survey. You are a weak, naked little ape who wouldn’t last 5 minutes on your own. You are deeply embedded in the social fabric that surrounds you and nourishes you. It’s the only thing holding you up. Shake yourself loose and you will fall and fall and fall.

  66. Wzrd1

    Noen, I respectfully disagree that The Lord of the Flies is a refutation of Libertarian social theory. That is a work of fiction. HISTORY is a refutation of Libertarian social theory.

    As for your last, I’ve done quite well on my own. I was one who literally gained weight in survival courses in the military. However, that does not make me lord and master of all I survey. I’m merely an occupant who will eventually fertilize all that I survey. I’m cool with that.
    But, I FAR prefer society and social discourse. Something that is increasingly becoming uncommon online or even offline. :(

    I’m old. I’m so old that vaccinations were still pretty new when I came onto the scene. Hence, our family doctor made a small mistake when I was a baby when vaccinating me. He used a phonograph needle. ;)

  67. Niveker14

    @63. _C_A_T_: “The New Atheists got what they wanted – a bunch of fat, perverted, vulgar, selfish, pigheaded, obstructionists. Their mothers must be so proud. I know, why don’t they run upstairs and ask their mother about it ….”

    I hear what you’re saying, though I don’t really agree with you, but what does being “fat” have anything to do with anything? Your comment doesn’t really seem like a “quiet scholarly” type which you claim to be… But then again maybe you’re just responding in anger. Right?

  68. amphiox

    On the one hand you have a group spewing out the most hateful, misogynistic, and often personally hurtful bile, and on the other hand you have a group trying to respond to that, sometimes angrily. (As if one can reasonably expect decent human beings to observe such things and NOT get angry).

    That there are still some people, even in this comment thread, trying to set up a false equivalence between these groups is just sickening. The level of intellectual dishonesty it takes to even contemplate doing such a thing boggles the mind.

    These privileged, tut-tutting equivocators are really a bigger problem than the hate-spewers themselves, as the actual number of these vile specimens is actually quite small, and they would not be such an emboldened, visible, or threatening force if it were not for the far larger group of equivocators who enable them with their equivocation.

  69. sh99

    Please update yourself on the whole PZ/FTB/Skepchick cult. They dismiss any dissent by calling them rape enablers and misogynists. You will be blocked out if you ask these skeptics for evidence. The Skepchicks claim real rape threats yet report nothing to the police, and if asked for examples, they block you and call you part of the problem. Someone wears a T-shirt with a nonoffensive message which makes Amy cry and leave on an earlier plane. They are professional victims.

  70. jd

    funny. I don’t remember any women being called “vacuous ****bag trolls” by prominent members of the atheist community. THIS MUST STOP. Unless someone more famous than me does it, and I don’t like the target much, then it’s cool.

  71. jd

    30 minutes later I’m still in moderation. I must have said something really horrible. Oh, yeah, I criticized Phil’s buddy P.Z.

  72. Lars

    @#67: It’s almost like they want to “teach the controversy“.

  73. My husband made a YouTube video discussing this blog.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugaHbqWzXgo&feature=g-user-u

    I have decided to write a blog myself on the matter. It will probably be available in a few days.

    In short, this entire debate is stupid.

  74. Messier Tidy Upper

    Well said Phil Plait. Very well said. Hear! Hear! {Applauds.}

  75. Mari

    Phil Plait,

    I agree with everything you say here except for your characterization of Rebecca Watson as a completely innocent victim. Watson was the subject of a firestorm not just because of the knuckle draggers but because she and her followers attacked and sought to delegitimate everyone who did not agree with every word she said. Including her name in a post about the need for basic civility smacks of hypocrisy because her antics are far from civil and have no place in any argument based on reason and fact.

  76. NickMatzke

    These privileged, tut-tutting equivocators are really a bigger problem than the hate-spewers themselves, as the actual number of these vile specimens is actually quite small, and they would not be such an emboldened, visible, or threatening force if it were not for the far larger group of equivocators who enable them with their equivocation.

    Ah, the old New Atheist solution to everything! Attack the moderates! Never mind that Gnus are on both sides of this one and tearing at each others’ throats from both extreme positions – at least they aren’t committing the most vile sin of all, equivocation.

    Leaving sarcasm aside for a second, it is really so hard to consider the possibility that the commonality of insults and hyperbole and shoot-from-the-hip tendencies in the New Atheist movement — from both the leadership and the blog commentators — has contributed significantly to the whole explosion over sexism and feminism that we are discussing in this thread? In the first place, that kind of behavior attracts just the sort of mean and/or juvenile people who will leave anonymous insults and flames against feminists or anyone else they think it is entertaining to abuse. And in the second place, the preference for assuming the worst about someone who disagrees, and pouring on the invective accordingly, instead of trying to see what they are getting at and offering constructive criticism, can turn what should be a reasonably easy issue to agree upon into a years-long blog-aggeddon.

    Raising such points is not at all equivalent to endorsing the misogynist BS spouted on r/atheism or youtube comment threads. (An aside: Are those sorts of forums even really “part of the movement”? Aren’t they mostly hives of scum and villainy inhabited by bored 14-year olds looking to be as offensive as possible just for the hell of it?)

  77. bad Jim

    The issue is sexism, and it isn’t specific to the atheist or skeptic communities. It’s showing up in every field that historically has been a boy’s club, and I’ve seen recent discussions of problems at Defcon and ICANN. In fact, it seems to be an open scandal throughout academia. As women enter fields that once were reserved for men, they’re discovering that too many of their colleagues are stuck in adolescence or otherwise obsolete sexual roles, and insisting they change. Of course there’s resistance, but the visibility of the controversy is reason for optimism.

    It’s striking that in this discussion so many have pointed fingers at P.Z. Myers for being such a meanie. Please keep in mind that Myers and the Pharynguloid horde have been consistently feminist. Civility is important, to be sure, but in this case what is most important is which side are you on?

  78. semi

    @71
    >Civility is important, to be sure, but in this case what is most important is which side are you on?<

    From http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/

    -Black-or-White
    -The black-or-white fallacy is a false dilemma fallacy that unfairly limits you to only two choices.

    – Example:

    – "Well, it’s time for a decision. Will you contribute $10 to our environmental fund, or are you on the side of environmental destruction?"
    – A proper challenge to this fallacy could be to say, “I do want to prevent the destruction of our environment, but I don’t want to give $10 to your fund. You are placing me between a rock and a hard place.” The key to diagnosing the black-or-white fallacy is to determine whether the limited menu is fair or unfair.

  79. Michelle

    I’m really disheartened and angered by misogynists who are crawling out from every rock to say terrible things about women in general. I am **APPALLED** at those threatening Watson and her supporters with rape and worse. I think they should rightly bare the bulk of the shaming here. I have no problem with people giving them “what for”. It is deserved and it is the only thing that will stop this kind of verbal intimidation in the community.

    On the other hand, I’m very disappointed with the way some feminist skeptics have implied that people who do not agree with *everything* they think and say are party to that misogyny. I’m saddened that a prominent blogger humiliated a student and fellow feminist skeptic blogger at a conference. I’m deeply depressed that she defended these actions in a rebuttal that read as though there were a “right” and “wrong” way to be a feminist. I’m mad that it made me question my own commitment to feminism (see recent article by Amanda Palmer for sanity check!). All this from a woman who thought Watson’s original post and request was pretty reasonable (me!)

    If you see feminists and skeptics who align 80-90% on the “side” of Watson and others get absolutely blasted for the 10-20% of the actions they disagree with; if you watch as they are told that they don’t understand feminism or are “brainwashed”, likely you, the person on the sidelines, are just going to opt to not be part of the dialogue (and/or the movement). If you see feminists who do agree 100% be threatened with rape — you are REALLY going to think twice. That is really sad because the skeptics movement should be all about debate and dialogue. Still, it took me weeks to be brave enough to even post a moderate reply begging for some sanity to a blog I trust absolutely.

    To be asked to choke down any doubts or concerns about the way this was handled so that I can pick a “side” and be judged by blogosphere royalty? I think I’ll pass on that, bad Jim. I’m too busy actually being in the trenches to care about someone judging my street creds. However, I AM sending a plea back up the line of command to knock it the heck off so I DON’T have to read uber-religious websites mocking this quarrel and relishing the total lack of reason and civility that is being evidenced by both sides. You’ve left the bowl of cream unguarded, folks, and the cat is licking his chops in anticipation.

  80. Nigel Depledge

    Sorry, I know this is a serious topic and all, but I cannot resist this line:

    The BA said:

    As I have said many times, anger is natural, anger can be warranted, and anger can be a great motivator. But it must not lead to hatred.

    To the dark side this leads.

  81. Nigel Depledge

    Mejilan (9) said:

    Edit – It says a lot, I think, that the Augusta Masters Golfing Club has only now admitted its first two female members. It’s only the year 2012, after all…

    And, for the first time, women’s boxing was included in the Olympic Games. And Brit Nicola Adams won gold.

    Maybe things will be different when we enter the 21st century . . .

  82. Nigel Depledge

    Zeff (19) said:

    Many of the godless enjoy saying that all people are born atheist, and in one sense, I agree with the sentiment.

    IIUC, recent research has shown that our minds are pre-disposed to see agency where none exists. Examples include weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, bad luck, coincidence and so on. So it is normal for us to imagine supernatural agencies operating in some way that we cannot perceive.

  83. Messier Tidy Upper

    @9. Mejilan wrote :

    The world is filled with very small people equipped with very small hearts and very big mouths.

    Well, yes, that’s true but don’t forget our world isn’t totally full of such people. There are a lot of others who are equipped with metaphorically large hearts who are good and try to be considerate and kind as well. I think and hope and try to be in that second category myself. I know the BA and many others are for sure. Humans are, as I noted in an earlier thread extremely paradoxical in our nature with immense potential for acts of enormous evil and evil.

    I believe I vaguely recall reading a Native American quote (can’t recall exact wording or source, sorry) that is quite apt here about all of us having two wolves fighting inside us – one representing our best side and qualities and emotions and one all our worst and most base* and evil. Which one wins? The one we feed.

    @12. SteveT observed :

    Very well said, Phil. This message needs to be repeated over and over again, in as many different formats as possible. People need to remember that the people they’re arguing with are fellow human beings. Sometimes very wrong human beings, but human beings nonetheless.

    Yes. Definitely. Seconded by me.

    People can and do change and learn and grow as well. I know I’ve said things in the past – incl. comments here but elsewhere as well – that I’d cringe at now. :-(

    People have bad days and good, we’re all humans and, as such, very fallible. Its worthwhile to be a bit humble and remember we can all be mistaken. If we are to err lets try to err on the side of compassion and making things better for people not worse.

    @15. ZK asked :

    I guess my question is this: do you really think that the people making childish threats are the people you’re reaching with science blogs?

    Some might be, many might not be, but, to answer that question with another, – could it hurt to try? ;-)

    I don’t think so! Every little bit, every person who is reached and does rethink, helps.
    ++++++++++++++++++

    * I guess according to the english language acid = good! ;-)

  84. captain swoop

    I play ‘Skyrim’ a fantasy adventure game that treats male and female characters as equals. You are as likely to find a Bandit, City Guard or for that matter any other type is female as often as male. Clothing and Armour are the same, no iron bikini as armour etc.
    Skyrim is easy to modify and to create extras for. What do we find in the online ‘Mod’ sites. Masses of naked females, revealing clothes, bouncing breast mods etc.
    Not huge example in the scheme of things but telling I think.

  85. Look, there are two things here. One is that there is certainly a huge amount of filth out there; things such as the Encyclopaedia Dramatica and others. Yes, it’s reprehensible, but good luck trying to clean up the internet. You might as well drain the Atlantic with a thimble. A thimble with holes in it.

    Rebecca Watson calmly and rationally tells men not to hit on women in enclosed spaces and reaps a supernova of hate and irrational vitriol

    Well, that’s one way of phrasing it. Here’s another: RW whips up a storm of self-pity that continues to rage of a year. A year, during which, I might add, far better women than she, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Abbie Smith, are smeared and defamed by the same fools who are joining in the pity party. And anyone who offers the slightest objection is smeared as a rape apologist. And then we find that, incited by Watson and similar types, FTB bloggers are showing up at workplaces and trying to get people fired And then we hear yet more smears by complete nonentities against people like Sam Harris and D.J. Grothe, without whom we’d have an extremely impoverished movement.

    And on it goes.
    And
    On
    And

    On

    It

    Goes.

    Threats, dickery, bullying, hate, insults, mob-baiting, and humiliation are not honorable actions and must not be used.

    Dr. Plait you are clearly a man of integrity and honesty, and I respect you, but… tell it to them. Did you say something when the reprehensible smearing of Dawkins happened? Or about the endless filth thrown at Sam Harris? Or the recent denunciations and smears of Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Or when Greg Laden showed up at Abbie Smith’s workplace to cause trouble for her?

    Well, did you?

    Why not?

    Well, why not?

    To return to the case of Watson, I had never heard of her before this spat – that’s how valuable she’s been to atheism. If it had stayed with her simple comment, I might have defended her. But it didn’t, and the more I learned, the more disgusted I got. I learned that she would use her position in a public lecture to go after someone just for an internet argument. I learned of her wonderful “Wild West Bordello” skepchick party ideas (but please, no sexualizing!) and how those who objected found themselves attacked as “feminazi”, “prude”, “anti-sex”, “anti-feminist”. I read her disgusting screed about “gender traitors” – note this well: Watson explicitly canalizes the most toxic and vile political tradition for her own ends.

    Did you speak about any of that? Did you defend those that did?

    And on it goes, and on it goes.

    So, sorry. No sale. Thanks but no thanks. We seem to be told that if you want to be a “skeptic” you have to be willing to throw out Dawkins, Harris, Ali, Warraq, Grothe, Jillette and every person with anything interesting or intelligent to say.

    Well in which case: you can take your skepticism and shove it. You know where.

    I was down in London the other week with a wonderful old humanist comrade of mine. She’s a real, old-school feminist, and she said that she was fed up with the “skeptic” movement. She said that all she found was a bunch of people sitting round the pub smirking at how superior they felt.

    Is that what you want skepticism to be? Is it just another club for upper middle-class twits to feel self-satisfied?

  86. Radwaste

    Gee. If gender is your sole distinction, or the criterion by which you gauge merit, you’ve a ways to go.

    I’ve read Ms. Watson’s output, and I do not wish to speak to her at all for fear of being confused with somebody who scared her in an elevator.

    There’s paint everywhere.

  87. @ ^ Radwaste :

    I do not wish to speak to her at all for fear of being confused with somebody who scared her in an elevator.

    What a pathos inducing gross mischarcaterisation of the whole “Rebeccapocalpyse” episode. :roll:

    Context required. What the Skepchick noted was that it was four in the flippin’ morning, she’d made it absolutely clear she didn’t wish to be hit upon and she found people assuming she was asex object first and foremost offensive – and she was tired and going to bed. Then a some putz approaches her alone in the elevator asking for – let’s be absolutely clear here – sex. She ofud that uncomfortable and later blogged about it a sone of hermany experiences of unwelcome sexual harassment asking calmlyand reasoanbly “guys, don’t do that.”Then the floodgates of misogny and priviledge and clulessness and hatred opened.

    Was Rebecca Watson really, *really*, asking so much that we blokes be just a little bit considerate and think before we approach women whether its the right time, place and what they want or not? And if we’re in doubt, then don’t? Really?

    @76. me – I stuffed up and the fixing it for me is :.

    Humans are, as I noted in an earlier thread extremely paradoxical in our nature with immense potential for acts of enormous evil and evil good alike.

    Aaaarrrggh!! That was a hell of a typo, sorry. (Blushes.)

    @54. Vacca :

    I’m sick of the constant uproar and anti-male crap that comes out from the feminist movement.

    Imagine how women feel then about the hateful crap that they get all the time. :-(

    Imagine how it must feel to be constantly judged instantly and solely for your appearance and valued primarily for your sexual availability and imagine how it feels to post something calmly and rationally like : “Guys , uh, a word to the wise, don’t do that. Don’t approach me for sex in elevators at 4am when I’m tired and have already made it crystal clear I don’t want to be hit on” and have it spark an endless firestorm of controversy and hate including threats of death and rape? :-(

    Can you do that, please? Seriously. Try.

    If you cannot imagine what it is like to be a woman – and most of us, myslef included, almost certainly cannot – then here’s a thought :

    Listen to them and what they say about being them and respect that.

    Is that really so difficult a thing to ask?

  88. @15 ZK: I don’t follow the skeptical community very closely; is there a sense that the people making violent threats online are “members” of this community? My impression, from the reactions to the gaming documentary, for example, is that they were largely your standard internet troll. Asking anonymous trolls to behave isn’t going to be constructive; you might as well command the tide to halt.
    I guess my question is this: do you really think that the people making childish threats are the people you’re reaching with science blogs?

    Very well put, and I wondered about that as well. How does one define the “community” part of “Skeptical Community”? Certainly we long-time fans of Phil like to consider ourselves part of this community, even if we don’t have blogs of our own, but then we also all know a few “colorful” posters who pop up now and again who most of us would hardly consider “skeptical”. Does merely posting comments on a blog make you part of this community?
    I guess what I’m getting at is this: is this the sort of thing where active and well-known members of the blogosphere are spewing this hateful rhetoric, or is it more like the anti-vaxxers and climate change hoax conspiracy theorists (such as a few who comment here) who only make themselves known when “their” subject comes up?

    As someone not too active in the blogosphere, especially lately, these are sincere questions. I’m not doubting the depths to which folks like Phil are saying that this rhetoric has sunk (I’ve spent too much time online for that) – I’d just like a quick summary from folks who are more up-to-date and in the loop.

  89. Lars

    @Captain Swoop #77: Skyrim is pretty good when it comes to gender equality but, it’s still got a long way to go.

  90. Nigel Depledge

    Drew (20) said:

    Well, it is an all too often theme in the skeptic community, that of looking down upon and insulting those who disagree with a POV . . .

    I have never seen this happen. Could you cite some examples?

    What I have seen is the disdainful dealing with people who refuse to change their minds even when presented with overwhelming evidence that they are wrong, or people who refuse to acknowledge the possibility that scientists who have spent decades studying a phenomenon might just know more about it than they themselves do. I have done this myself. After all, when someone, having spent an hour on the internet reading about a topic, considers themselves more expert than people who have dedicated their lives to the study of that topic, what else can you do?

  91. Nigel Depledge

    Semi (23) said:

    There is ample evidence out there of people respectfully disagreeing with the “Skepchicks” and being labeled as “trolls,” “misogynists,” “sexist,” and “gender traitors” and being blocked on blogs and twitter feeds for expressing disagreement. In fact there are entire web sites and wikis devoted to this issue. Do a search.

    What, no linky?

  92. Radwaste

    @79: Messier, it’s been awhile since I’ve read her account, but it struck me forcefully as much ado about nothing, and went on from there.

    Wasn’t the initial report that the unidentified fellow (anybody know who that was, so we can hear the whole story?) asked Ms Watson up to his room to have a cup of coffee? Isn’t that rape?

    And thank you here for validating my decision. As the son of a woman pilot who ran her own business in 1960s Florida, I am no misogynist. I’ve expressed my wish to stand clear of this, and I will, because the story has become bigger than the incident.

    This is because sex is more important than murder in the USA.

  93. noen

    Bad Jim said: “Civility is important, to be sure, but in this case what is most important is which side are you on?”

    It is exactly this attitude which must die. Civility is primary, basic, fundamental to any society. Without the observance of social norms you don’t have one. Political identity, which “side “one is on, are secondary. You can tell the health of a movement by whether or not they are inclusive and gaining members or exclusive and overly concerned with ideological purity.

  94. Utakata

    The problem of those who claim, “There is ample evidence out there of people respectfully disagreeing with the ‘Skepchicks’ and being labeled as ‘trolls,’ ‘misogynists,’ “’exist,” and ‘gender traitor’ and being blocked on blogs and twitter feeds for expressing disagreement (as sema dubiously quoted at 23)”…and other false equivalencies, that these same use a lot of flowery, turgid launguage of hyper/psuedo skepticism, cherry picked facts, confirmation biases. straw manning, etc., that can illict a lot of raw emotion and illicit protest…to even from those with the most reasonable patience. You know, a lot of the same song and dance I see with the global warming denialst who post here that makes many a person do head desking. And granted, sometimes I wonder if we could be a more polite in the matter. But somehow, you just can’t compare this to rape threats, harrassment, bullying, stalking and bigoted language that many have recieved by merely mentioning “guys don’t do that”. It seems to be on another level that goes beyond those complaining of getting moderated on blogs for being polite.

    And for those, perhaps they where being polite….but it is unlikely it’s the behavior they’re getting draggged over the coals for. It’s their claims that are perhaps being unreasonable and irrational. And supporting misogyny in ways they have not considered. /shrug

    Good one Phil.

    …and I think my respect for Messier went up a whole lot. I have obviously misjudged this person from long before.

  95. Drew

    Bad Jim,

    “”It’s striking that in this discussion so many have pointed fingers at P.Z. Myers for being such a meanie. Please keep in mind that Myers and the Pharynguloid horde have been consistently feminist. Civility is important, to be sure, but in this case what is most important is which side are you on?””

    I think you missed the point, it isn’t which side of the debate P.Z. falls on, it is the way he chooses to argue. He and the Skepchicks have made an art of insulting their opponents. While P.Z. seems to revel in the hate mail and threats he receives, posting them like badges of honor, it would seem that the Skepchick bloggers are sick on their own medicine, and asking for validation from their friends.

    This is the reason I am no longer even remotely active in the skeptic community. I listen to few podcasts, read few blogs, attend no conventions. I am tired of reading about how oppressed the atheist/feminist/free thinker community feels that it is, but rather than try to honorably argue their way out of obscurity, they get snarky and (where applicable) power hungry. When the tables are turning they start crying again.

    Very childish, the exact opposite of the “educated professionals” they keep screaming they are.

    I am only posting here in the hope that people like Phil might read this and then see the other bloggers in a different light. He has quite a bit of pull in the skeptic community, and perhaps he can get things turned around.

    My position, or side you ask? The Skepchicks are not being attacked because they are women. The Skepchicks are being attacked because they are not nice people. The insults and threats they receive are directed at their gender because that is the most insulting thing the insulters could come up with.

  96. Drew

    @ Nigel #82:

    Are you serious? How about almost every post on Pharyngula, or the Skepchick site, or every episode of SGU prior to when I stopped listening (Perry was still alive, maybe 10ish episodes after Rebecca became a regular).

    Even here, the snark is thick at times.

    What can you do? Really, you haven’t learned how to disagree without becoming disagreeable? Look, everyone, when in a debate with a dogmatic person, your function is to maturely present your argument. Your end game is not to change the opinion of the person you are arguing with, but rather to sway all the people who have no personal stake in the discussion who happen to read what you wrote.

    The second you go on the offensive you lose.

  97. Levi in NY

    I am a man, and I am on your side here, Phil. I just wish there was more I could do.

    Let’s also stop blaming the victims, as is happening even in these comments. Misogynist attacks are not acceptable because “they had it coming for being such meanies” (and if you think that women who are speaking their minds in a calm, civil manner aren’t receiving these attacks, you haven’t been paying attention). That’s the kind of attitude that makes people think it’s okay to hurl hate-filled vicious attacks at anyone they’re having a disagreement with.

    Besides, how much does it really matter whether or not the hate is genuinely held by the person expressing it? Hate speech hurts, regardless of the motives behind it.

  98. shawmutt

    “That’s the kind of attitude that makes people think it’s okay to hurl hate-filled vicious attacks at anyone they’re having a disagreement with.”

    You missed entire swaths of points here in order to make your point about “blaming victims”. _Any_ attack is not acceptable for that reason, not just attacks against women. I bet Phil gets death threats for some of his posts. I don’t think those that blame Phil for daring to post something about vaccines are taken seriously.

    I believe that as skeptics, we tend to patronize the true believer of woo–we are better than them, more refined in our thinking, etc. How many among the skeptical are the true believers on this subject? How can the skeptical community recognize its own shortcomings on this subject and bring it back to rational and logical discussion?

  99. Jimbo

    Your account of the situation looks like it was just regurgitated from a Skepchick or a Freethought Blogs post.

    If you actually want this to be resolved your influence would go a lot further if you didn’t take such a biased approach.

    What about the bullying we’ve seen from various leaders in the skepchick and FTB communities. what about he McCarthyism?

    Yes there are awful misogynistic comments, but there are also people without a misogynistic bone in their bodies who are being are being accused of misogyny for the crime of disagreeing with the FTB/Skepchick echo chaimber.

    This issue is being used cynically by people looking for power and influence in the atheist/skeptical communities. There are people profiting from their victimhood who’s best interests are not served by this issue going away… but it is served by you getting invovled in the way you have.

  100. Steve Metzler

    This is probably self-evident, but it looks like the skeptic/atheist community has finally found that elusive Deep Rift™; the one that we can all agree actually exists.

  101. Civility is important, to be sure, but in this case what is most important is which side are you on?””

    Well, I didn’t care to choose sides but people like Myers have said, “It’s either me & Watson & Jen McCreight – or Sam Harris, Abbie Smith, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali etc.”

    As outlined above, I made my decision in a nanosecond.

    @Messier, you’re a good guy, but how can you defend this sort of behaviour? It’s not about RW’s comments on the elevator, it’s about the relentless smearing and hatred levelled at anyone who has decided to disagree with the Party Line.

    Listen to them and what they say about being them and respect that.

    How about directing that at those smearing Abbie Smith in the most vile way possible? Or the slime that the FTB fools have recently been directing against Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Or how about you direct it at RW’s evil nonsense about “gender traitors”?

    I repeat my question from @85: Is this what you want skepticism to be?

  102. Well at least one positive thing is women don´t get pregnant when raped.
    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/08/21/todd-akin-challenged-by-doctors-on-rape-and-pregnancy/
    Seriously.
    Need help with your jaw?
    *lifts jaw back in place*
    You´re welcome.

    BTW the most fun to be with people (even if you don´t agree) are smart/educated* people who look further. And see bigger pictures.

    *education is not simply school, but a whole array of skills, views, insights etc and you might receive it any time any place by anyone.

  103. JamesM

    @95 Not the least bit true. The people who began the attacks on the Skepchicks were (and are) MRAs. The “insulting” nature of Skepchick articles are no more or less insulting than that found in ANY article by any skeptic or atheist writers in the community. The Skepchicks and PZ Myers are the only people singled out, not because their style of writing is different (it isn’t), but because of what it is they write about. No one complains about the insults that James Randi hurls at the people he criticizes. No one complains that Penn Jillette is just too mean. You are upholding a dishonest double standard.

    As far as rape threats go, PZ doesn’t receive that many of them, and being a man, there isn’t much reason he would be concerned about them.

  104. Keith Bowden

    Since “Elevatorgate” has been brought up a few times, I have to chime in.

    I had just started reading the Skepchick blogs when that began. And I stand with Phil’s statement above (and Rebecca) – for what was a minor anecdote and mild admonition (“guys, don’t do that”) which should have passed relatively unnoticed was zeroed in on and Rebecca was viciously attacked, slandered, ridiculed and threatened (which is the whole point of this series of postings from community leaders). Anyone claiming that Rebecca was “just as bad” as any of her detractors, kindly link to a single post where she threatened anyone with rape or death or any violence.

    Yes, there are posters on Skepchick comments who vociferously dig their heels in and go a little too far in their “tone” and get dismissive of other commenters, but A) they’re usually going after trolls, not simple disagreements but even when they aren’t: B) they aren’t the Skepchicks.

    Finally, if in your eyes “anti-jerk” = “anti-men”, because these are not inherently the same thing, you just may need reevaluate yourself because you’re part of the problem.

    Honestly – if this were just about the Skepchicks or Rebecca, then why are rape, death threats, gender-specific insults so prevalent in gaming, comics and other online communities? Relegating this problem to be all about the skeptic community/atheist community/Skepchicks is deflection from the core position: if you disagree, discuss it, don’t lower yourself to gendered insults or threats of violence of any form (or wishes for same, don’t be pedantic).

  105. Ow and btw, check this also out:
    “Why is everybody so angry on the internet”
    http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/forums/viewthread/14965/

  106. Thomas Streeten

    Firstly, no argument starts off well with “too many examples to give so I won’t give any”.

    What online communities are some of you hanging out in where the conversation degenerates to such awful levels? People have a tendency to grossly exaggerate issues to make a point, especially when it’s fuel for their outrage, so I doubt that the picture is really as grim as some here are painting. Death threat becomes death threats, rape joke becomes rape threat, ‘your argument is stupid’ becomes ‘you’re stupid’ etc. There’s now a prevalence of rape and death threats and gender-specific insults in gaming and comics? Please…

    There’s an obvious solution, don’t visit the hives of scum and villainy, or better, come up with ways to improve behaviour on the internet rather than just lament the fall of civilisation. And that, I think, is the problem frankly. There’s way too much sensitivity on the internet, and everyone feels that they need to speak out whenever they are even slightly offended by what others have said. Everyone has to extol their opinion and worse… we can’t stop ourselves apparently (as the length of this blog comments and my post attest).

  107. Derek

    @ Keith Bowden –

    You’re making the same mistakes that made this a problem in the first place.

    Yes, the Internet trolls who responded to Rebecca in such a hateful way were out of line. But they are not representative of the greater community, and the “threats” they made were an attention whoring strategy, nothing more.

    Yes, they were out of line and deserved to be decried, but the response from community leaders on this has been even more than that – and completely out of proportion. They have published article after article after article expressing the viewpoint that sexism and misogyny, as expressed by these forum trolls, are in fact major endemic issues with the greater online skeptical community as a whole. They have repeatedly stated that women aren’t safe at skeptical conventions, a stance which has resulted in a significant decline in female attendance at skeptical conventions, despite no actual increase in incidents of harassment.

    Further, rather than trying to argue against dissenters with reason and logic, they have taken to simply vilifying absolutely everyone who disagrees with them by calling them misogynists, rape apologists, and a whole lot worse. It’s nothing short of embarrassing.

  108. semi

    Let’s do a little thought experiment in human psychology.

    Let’s say you live in a large town with your spouse. There is a park across the street where teenagers hang out after dark. Sometimes these teenagers are loud and drink beer.

    You get fed up one night with the loud noises coming from the teenagers in the park, so you go out and yell at them, angrily calling them thugs and sluts, and threatening to call the police and have them arrested. The teenagers quickly disperse.

    A couple of weeks later, you and your spouse go out for dinner on a Friday night. When you return home, you find that your house has been toilet-papered and egged. Ignoring this act of vandalism, you dutifully hose off the house the next day, and wonder if it could be the action of the teenagers in the park a few weeks before. It was pretty dark when you confronted them, and you didn’t get a good look at anyones’ faces, so identification seems out of the question. You try to put the incident out of your mind.

    The next week you and your spouse go out on a Saturday night for dinner and movie. When you return home you find that your house has been once again toilet papered and egged, and in addition, someone has put dog feces in your mail box.

    Completely fed up and somewhat distraught, you decide on a course of action.

    Now, of the two choices below, which do you think will be more effective in dealing with the problem?

    Choice #1 – Contact the principal of the local high school, ask him to address the student body, and make a plea for you that the vandalism of your house be stopped because it is making you a nervous wreck. This has the added benefit of publicly portraying yourself as a victim in need of sympathy from the community.

    Choice #2 – Quietly contact the local police and work with them to find out who is vandalizing your house. Say nothing in public, but work behind the scenes to remedy the problem.

    Now if you chose #1, then you probably don’t have a good grip on human psychology. In fact, choice #1 will probably result in MORE vandalism, not less. Why? Because once the vandals hear about how much anguish they are causing, they are likely to step up their activities. They already don’t respect authority, they definitely don’t respect you, and you are giving them positive feedback that their actions are very effective.

    Furthermore, it never occurs to you that this course of action results in the wasting of every students’ time at the high school who has to sit through this plea from the principal when the odds are that almost the entire student body has nothing to do with the vandalism. Hell, you don’t even know if it *was* students from the high school, or even if the park incident with the teenagers and the vandalism are related. You are shooting blindly and wildly, but it does make you feel better that *something* was done to address *your* problem. Your role as a victim is now complete.

    Finally, by making your cause an issue in front of a large audience, you now inadvertently encourage others to get involved in vandalizing your house because they see the type of reaction they can get out of you. Perhaps some students don’t like you and have heard about your piggish behavior in the park, and are looking for any excuse to be involved.

    Choice #2, working quietly with the local police, is probably the way the better way to deal with the issue. By making no public statement, you don’t feed into the psychological need of the vandals to know their actions cause hurt. No ones’ time is wasted with lectures and dealing with your problems. You are not publicly portrayed as a victim, so you get no sympathy -nor disdain- from anyone else in the community about the incidents.

    And even if the local police are not effective in identifying the vandals, the fact that you didn’t react publicly means that there is a good chance that the vandalism will stop spontaneously when the perpetrators get bored and frustrated that they have gotten no reaction out of you. After all, acts of vandalism require the expenditure of energy, and if there is no payoff, then what’s the point? The vandals risk getting caught every time they act, so the whole exercise is a cost/benefit analysis for them.

    There’s a Part 2 to this thought experiment, but for now let’s keep it simple. This is basic human psychology.

  109. Mari

    The way this thread developed is exactly why Watson should not have been mentioned in the initial post. Virtually everything said here has been yet more discussion of Watson herself and the abuse of women online has been passed over in favor of giving Watson and her particular viewpoint even more exposure.

    Watson is not the personification of victims of misogyny online nor does she speak for the experience of all women. Her shadow should not be given the opportunity to dominate the discussion by turning every discussion about online misogyny into a discussion about her.

  110. Keith Bowden

    @Derek –
    The issue is still the violent threats as a response to anything one doesn’t agree with.

    Blog posts are made and rather than discuss the issue, some commenters decide to publicly or privately harrass and threaten them – primarily women. Yes, the issues get blown way out of proportion because of this type of backlash, but short of someone actually being attacked (if even then – I can see “she had it coming” flying all over the interwebs in that situation), where do you draw the line?

    Again, whatever your opinions of their blogs or of Rebecca Watson, Felicia Day, etc. personally, when have they ever told someone that they should be raped or die?

  111. Hugo

    @Keith,

    I should be extremely grateful if you would consider the backlash directed not at the Skepchicks but from them, especially against women who do not want to be suitably subservient to them.

  112. Keith Bowden

    @Hugo
    Again, please post links to examples of death threats and rape threats from the Skepchicks, Felicia Day, Anita Sarkeesian, etc., and in what manner that would somehow excuse anyone else who makes similar threats.

  113. Utakata

    @Hugo

    We do. So yes, Paula Kirby gets labled as a “chill girl” for example after accusing Skepchicks and such of feminazis/femistasi’s. (What did expect them to pat her on the back for that?) But as unpleasant as that is, it’s nothing in comparison to rape threats. To suggest that only marginalizes the threat of such. And that’s irrational and a false equivelance at best. Perhaps addressing those issues seperately would avoid thread derailing Phil’s important message. Non?

  114. Drew

    @ Keith,

    “”The issue is still the violent threats as a response to anything one doesn’t agree with. “”

    I don’t see anyone condoning the threats. In fact I personally, all the way back at post #20 suggested that rather than complain about threats online in a blog setting, call the police.

    Even if the “perps” have no desire or ability to carry out those threats, imagine the terror they will feel when served with a restraining order and court papers. It would go a lot farther in the attempt to clean up your monitor.

    IF you feel the threat is legitimate and NOT someone just typing away, then by all means CALL THE POLICE.

    However the fact remains that there are literally millions, perhaps billions of threats posted since the inception of the Internet, and I imagine less than 5 were ever carried out.

    *I am not talking about people who also have an extensive offline relationship*

  115. Hugo

    @Utakata & Keith, allow me to repeat and restate my point. First of all, this is about rather more than Paula kirby and those accusations and threats reached people who were, e.g., upset at that wild west bordello theme. I know that Thunderf00t has received rape threats, and I got them myself at times. I also entirely agree with Drew‘s comment that this is a matter for the police.

    Now, as I said at the time, this is reprehensible, but it is also the nature of the internet. There are many trolls who will tap this stuff out because they know it’ll get a rise. If you can bear it, visit /b/ of 4chan and see how you get on.

    But mark the converse. The skepchicks and FTB bloggers have been quite happy to smear anyone who simply wanders off the reservation, who dares to disagree about this or that point as a “rape apologist”, something that can completely wreck someone’s life simply by being up there. They whip their supporters into such a state that some of them – such as Greg Laden – do things like stalk IRL people like Abbie Smith. I have heard not one word of condemnation of any of this stuff, and I will point you to my post @85 about it.

    Which brings me to the next point about these anonymous threats – how many of these really happened? Yes, I make the direct, conscious accusation that given the disgraceful smirking way that Watson was cheered how well she’d exploited the controversy, given the horrible attacks on anyone who even slightly disagrees, given the smearing of people like Abbie Smith and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, given all this I make the direct accusation that RW and her ilk are not above fabricating false accusations to advance themselves, and it is exactly that which is why they want a system of all-accusations-accepted, no-evidence-or-facing-the-accuser required. I do not trust them, I do not trust the crowd that indulges them. Never forget that we are talking about a group so self-pitying and divorced from reality that some of them, such as Ophelia Benson, can seriously equated The Amazing Meeting’s attitude towards women with Nazi Germany’s attitude towards Jews.

    I would finally note that people like Myers and Watson have set up a choice “It’s either us or Dawkins, Harris, Smith etc.” Well, how can anyone fail to choose the latter then?

  116. Keith Bowden

    @Drew
    I see plenty of people in this very thread who have turned it around and blamed or put the onus on the victims with comments like “Well, they were too extreme in their views” or “They weren’t nice to begin with”. Comments like that are, in fact justifications for the treatment some women have received.

    Dealing with the aftermath of a threat, credible or otherwise, also seems to be separate, though related, issue. The idea is to have people think about this sort of behavior – even if they themselves have never done this – and be willing to say “Hey, you’re out of line,” online or in real life.

    Whether the threats are carried out, the harassment itself is still a crime.

    Reporting is not always a viable option for women.

    Victims gave a number of reasons for not reporting their victimizations to
    law enforcement officials (exhibit 12). Some reasons indicated that they did
    not see the incidents as harmful or important enough to bring in the authorities.
    Thus, the common answers included that the incident was not serious
    enough to report and that it was not clear that a crime was committed.
    Other reasons, however, suggested that there were barriers to reporting.
    Such answers included not wanting family or other people to know about
    the incident, lack of proof the incident happened, fear of reprisal by the
    assailant, fear of being treated with hostility by the police, and anticipation
    that the police would not believe the incident was serious enough and/or
    would not want to be bothered with the incident.

    The Sexual Victimization of College Women
    https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf

    It’s a complex issue, and it’s difficult for us (as men) to ever really understand the societal/social pressures from a woman’s perspective (and all people have various experiences and have different reactions – no two people are going to be the same no matter what their gender/background/orientation/philosophy).

    @Hugo
    Though Rebecca was used as an example, the OP is not about the Skepchicks or their audience, nor FtB or any specific blog posts. “Evil thrives when good men do nothing.”

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
    Martin Niemöller

  117. bad Jim

    Anyone who thinks the problem is just this or that endlessly rehashed Internet controversy really needs to get out more. It’s much bigger than that.

    Women face harassment and discrimination in school, at work and at play. As their numbers increase in fields that were once limited to men, they are insisting that their mistreatment must cease. However, the suggestion that conferences should institute and enforce sexual harassment policies brings howls of rage or worse. It seems that a great many are infuriated when they’re told that their accustomed behavior will no longer be tolerated.

    Treating women as equals, with everything that implies, is what this is about. Isn’t this really kind of a big deal, and is it so hard to choose sides? Not between one band of noisy partisans or another, but between traditional sexism and women’s rights.

  118. Keith Bowden
  119. NickMatzke

    Treating women as equals, with everything that implies, is what this is about. Isn’t this really kind of a big deal, and is it so hard to choose sides? Not between one band of noisy partisans or another, but between traditional sexism and women’s rights.

    Yes, it’s about this, and rightly so. But it’s also about treating people you disagree with with respect and civility, at least if they aren’t horrible monsters. And this is something the Gnus have a HUGE problem with. The prevalence of a sort of nasty “shock jock” culture in general in the community is probably a significant contributing factor driving many women away from the movement — heck, it drives a lot of men away.

  120. Utakata

    @Keith Bowden

    …As Paula Kirby liberally equates feminists with Nazis. So that’s not the best thing to one up me by rolling out the old Godwin on this. But I do see this is circular thinking on your behalf. And it appears you inflicted with what Randi call’ “true believer” syndrome. That is, no matter what evidence is provided to you that is contrary to your position you’ll simpley reject out right. And in this case throwing further smoke screens to mask your false equivelances and now with apololegtics. So I am done debating this. It doesn’t appear you want change….just to look for reasons lay irrational blame on victims of hate, because they occasionally had the audacity to fight back.

    As for Thunderf00t recieving rape threats…I think my baloney detector went threw the ceiling (since you didn’t cite this). But I susppose it’s plausible…that some derranged person would threaten that of him. But that’s unlikely reperesents the opinion and views of the said entities you seem to in willful ignorance despise. /shrug

  121. Derek

    @ 111 –

    That’s a non-sequitor. I already agreed that behavior was bad and should be decried.

  122. @85. Hugo — you asked:

    “Dr. Plait you are clearly a man of integrity and honesty, and I respect you, but… tell it to them. Did you say something when the reprehensible smearing of Dawkins happened?”

    YES.

    YES, HE DID.

    RIGHT HERE:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/07/05/richard-dawkins-and-male-privilege/

    Or were you talking about somebody else smearing Dawkins, rather than the smearing that Dawkins handed out?

  123. Solius

    tracer at 124 wrote:

    YES.

    YES, HE DID.

    Yes. Yes, he did. And, apparently Dr. Dawkins’ point flew completely over the head of most of the skeptical community; it was not that women’s issues are not deserving exploration by the community, but that he didn’t think that that RW’s paramours attempt to get to know her was significant… then the crap hit the fan.

    I agree with others in the the thread- sides have been drawn- I chose that of reason and logic.

    Too, I don’t cherish being raped with a spiny rodent.

    One of my greatest regrets of all this is that I refuse to visit that hoard of sycophants at FTB. I used to love Ed Brayton, and I do miss his wit.

  124. Utakata

    @Utakata 121:

    Edit: Bad mistake. That was to be direct at Hugo of 116 and not Keith Bowden. My apologies for this error.

  125. Lawrence

    I spend a lot of my time teaching teenagers in my church, and the subject of mysogyny and sexism is one of the things we try to address. Hear Hear, Phil! On a related note, I have decided not to use synonyms for male genitalia as synonyms for inconsiderate behavior, i.e. “don’t be a dick!” This term is sexism directed at men, and imprints the idea that their very identity includes inconsiderate behavior. You can do what you want with this information, I am just explaining what I do. Likewise, I do not use the word “suck” as meaning something generally negative or unpleasant. This is a sex act generally performed by women and gay males on males. What does using the word in this way say about those folks, particularly gay men? That they are generally unpleasant and negative too? I avoid (difficult, I know, in today’s culture) using this term in this way, and explain this to teens. Some will decide to follow my example, some not. But the point that gay men need to be respected is made.

    We could go a long way in this world toward respecting women, gay men, and other folks who have been marginalized, by paying attention to language and using it consciously. Perhaps one of the young men in my class will think twice before posting such disrespectful hate against a woman or a gay who speaks out, after hearing some of these ideas. I certainly hope so.

  126. flip

    As someone who has also been threatened online – and off – I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much Phil for posting this. Especially as I similarly don’t understand why there is such outrage at speaking out about harassment and other actions. For a bunch of skeptics, there’s been a whole lot of irrational vitriol about this: to the point where I’m not even bothering reading about the issue anymore.

    @Kemp, #5

    As a sufferer of SIWOTI, I also have learned to do the same. I type my responses into Notepad, then post later if I think it’s important enough to say. Has the added benefit of not repeating what someone else says further down a thread too.

    @Kim, #10 and @Keith Bowden, #104

    Hear hear!

  127. flip

    @Drew, #20

    First, if you are finding that your blog posts are drawing threats of violence, you might wish to consider what you wrote that triggered the attack.

    Seriously? Seriously?

    Did it ever occur to you that people send threats for no other reason than that you politely criticised their point of view?

    Second, instead of whining about it and/or admonishing these largely harmless anonymous threats in order to fulfill your superiority complex, do something constructive and report the threat to the police.
    Preaching is just as boring and pointless as empty threats…

    Anonymous threats are not harmless. They can upset your day (because your either having to deal with the threats themselves, or because you are dealing with the authorities), they can be upsetting to you emotionally, and they can cause you to wonder about your own safety – and the precautions you might need to take and how it affects your friends, families and employment. And just because they’re anonymous doesn’t make them less threatening either.

    Did it ever occur to you that people who are threatened actually *do* call the cops, and then instead of being chilled into silence (which is what the threats are designed to do), talk about it on blogs like this?

    In fact, after being threatened myself, the one thing that made me feel more in control was openly talking about it with others and warning people of such behaviour. Being quiet about it up until that point only made me more scared and more willing to accept my situation as a victim.

    In fact, reading about other people’s experiences with death threats made me realise a lot of the tactics that the person who threatened me used. It’s made me much happier in the long run to learn these tactics and recognise that I have a better chance of getting them in trouble than they do for me and my criticisms. Talking about it also tends to make other victims realise that they too can speak out, and a group effort can help people deal with the issue in a supportive environment.

    @Drew, #41

    Sure a very small percentage of people are unhinged enough to respond with little provocation, but most people are lead to threaten over the Internet by the “victim”.

    Most rapists are lead to rape because of the short skirts worn by women.

    … Yeah, great logic there.

  128. flip

    @Semi, #23

    See above, re: chilling effects.

    @Gopher65, #40

    If you don’t have a personality of steel, you shouldn’t be a public figure, especially on the internet.

    Does this include average people, who say, just want to have a conversation about something utterly uncontroversial? Or are you saying that “public figures” are people like Phil (ie. well-known amongst a large community of people)?

    You really do seem to be arguing for a hampering of free speech. Shouldn’t we make the perpetrators of threats do the time, instead of blaming the victim?

    @Shawmutt, #55

    Commenting about death threats isn’t about feminism. They’re about death threats.

    @MTU, #87

    Watson was not approached for sex, just an invite to the person’s room for coffee. One may from there make an assumption as to whether or not that was a euphemism, however, it’s good to be accurate.

    The general sentiment of your comment though, I agree with.

  129. flip

    @Jimbo #99

    I don’t believe Phil took any sides. He simply said “don’t be a dick”. That could equally apply to the Skepchicks as much as it does anyone else. (Not to speak for him, but I didn’t see him pointing fingers at anyone/away from anyone specifically)

    @Semi, #108

    Your thought experiment is a false dichotomy.

    Also, generally crime decreases when more light is shone on the issue; quite literally when more lights are put up in crime areas, criminals tend not to do their thing.

    In your example, maybe the rest of the student body hasn’t done the crime: but they may have seen or heard something that would help in catching the ones responsible and/or might not have realised they heard or saw something that might be helpful until they hear about what happened.

    You’re right in that the students might not be responsible. Which is why you have evidence before going on about approaching certain groups of people to demand something be done. Talking about the issue in general though, isn’t a bad thing.

    Finally, by making your cause an issue in front of a large audience, you now inadvertently encourage others to get involved in vandalizing your house because they see the type of reaction they can get out of you.

    Yeah, talking about how you got the cops involved is *so* damaging to your cause. Or making people aware that while it appears like a “joke” to the perpetrator, it is quite scary for the victim…

    You are not publicly portrayed as a victim, so you get no sympathy -nor disdain- from anyone else in the community about the incidents.

    FMS forbid that we acknowledge that people are victimised.

    The vandals risk getting caught every time they act, so the whole exercise is a cost/benefit analysis for them

    You’re assuming that all people think rationally at all times. Some people screw up; some bow to peer pressure; some require help (see Mabus).

    @Drew, #115

    Having threats made against you and taking them to the police doesn’t necessarily result in restraining orders or law suits. The police can be quite limited in what they can do following up internet harassment. Which is why talking about it on the net can be helpful: it can highlight the issue and make people aware that it’s happening.

    @Bad Jim, #118

    I agree with your comment too.

  130. P.

    @130: “quite literally when more lights are put up in crime areas, criminals tend not to do their thing.”

    This is highly contested, at best, and more to the point it’s a perfect example of one of those bits of conventional wisdom that gets put into the echo chamber and repeated until “everybody knows” it’s true.

    (Need I also mention that this is ostensibly a blog about astronomy and science? You know, dark skies, circadian rhythms, all that jazz?)

  131. Solius

    Lawrence wrote:

    I spend a lot of my time teaching teenagers in my church, and the subject of mysogyny and sexism is one of the things we try to address.

    Sir, you win the internet for you daring admission.. Accomodationist, be damned!

  132. Zeff

    @82. Nigel Depledge
    I also find the tendency you cite very plausible. As I agree with the “born atheist” sentiment in the sense that social agents bear a vast responsibility for building upon our irrational tendencies, I disagree in the sense of which you speak — while we do not enter life believing in Jesus Christ or Buddha or Thor, we do bear a peculiar and pervasive tendency to ascribe intentionality to all sorts of occurrences. I suggest that we also draw an innate, primal pleasure from the experience of hatred, of disdain, of what sociologists might call otherization. I would further argue that combating such tendencies in the long run requires continued research and broad education concerning both the vicious failing itself and the rationale for dismissing it.

    We cannot just bury the problem behind conduct rules and taboos, though our surface behavior absolutely must change. We must wade into this deficiency, discover its roots, and construct into ourselves an awareness of this frailty, the cognitive means to resist it, and also the social mechanisms to pass forth a measure of intellectual immunity. If we do otherwise or follow through inadequately, we will forever fight this same battle, though it be with different actors.

  133. Hugo

    I notice that there is still a refusal to confront what the Watson and her rabble have been doing and how no one is willing to even touch that. Case in point, keith‘s rather obscene invocation of Niemöller.

    Here’s a more appropriate one:

    First they chased out Dawkins, and I did nothing, because his great contribution made me uncomfortable…
    Then they threw out Abbie Smith, and I did nothing, because she preferred to write about real science and I had trouble following it….
    Then they kicked out Sam Harris, and I did nothing, because he’s actually risking his neck and I didn’t want the bother…
    Then they threw out Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and I did nothing, because after all I’m in favour of women’s rights only when they’re not under any real threat, and, anyway, the women she fights for are mainly poor and brown…
    And then one day I saw that the “skeptics” were nothing but bores, bullies, and bigots, and I wondered: how did that happen?

  134. Nigel Depledge

    Drew (96) said:

    @ Nigel #82:

    Are you serious? How about almost every post on Pharyngula, or the Skepchick site, or every episode of SGU prior to when I stopped listening (Perry was still alive, maybe 10ish episodes after Rebecca became a regular).

    Even here, the snark is thick at times.

    But this does not support your contention.

    Here at least, snark is reserved for those who persist in disagreement even after their arguments have been shown to be false.

    This is a hugely different thing from being disdainful of people who merely have a different opinion on a topic.

    Here (and occasionally on The Panda’s Thumb, which I used to frequent until it became too great a timesink) I have seen respectful disagreement between people who are making rational arguments. I have onl;y ever seen disdain directed towards people who – for example – re-use already-refuted arguments, or who persist in their view after it is pointed out that they are wrong and why, or who change their position by degrees withouty making any acknowledgement that what they claim in post #168 is different from what they claimed in post #23.

  135. LarryR

    Thank you, Dr. Plait, for a timely and well-written message about something that happens to women of all levels of education. It needs to be said.

  136. Mike Wagner

    It’s all too easy to stir up sickos who get their kicks out of making violent threats. Even if they can’t carry them out. A fellow on Twitter named @goferet was sending rape threats to atheist and skeptic women. When people began to report him to Twitter he elevated to death threats. I never had any worry that the idiot would carry them out against me, but with some of my friends having already been sexually assaulted in their past this was intolerable.
    I collected over a dozen screenshots of threats and submitted them to Twitter. The response from 3 different reps was that his actions did not violate the terms of service. I provided a link to the page and paragraph where it states that threats are a violation. They blew me off and closed the ticket. The only reason he stopped was that I asked one of his friends to go back through his tweets and see what he was doing.
    There’s no effective way to report these sorts of cases to the police because they don’t care about internet squabbles, and even won’t take action against actual cases of cyberstalking. A professer I know has been harassed at his workplace on the other side of the world by a crazy woman here in Canada. She believes god has dictated that they belong together, and will destroy his career to make it happen if she can. His employers have even had to ban here from their facebook page.
    As much as it would crush freedom of speech for many, I would love to see more venues where there is no anonymity. Where there are real repercussions for viciously attacking someone. It’s hard to weigh the cost.

  137. gimpy

    Having been a minor victim of some appalling behaviour from some of those you cite approvingly in your article, over a misunderstanding at that, all I can say is a plague on all their houses. US Skepticism seems to have degenerated into ultra-weird personality cults intolerant of the fact that people may be wrong, and may be persuaded they are wrong, and all sides seem willing to lie and distort while waging their petty, and ultimately inconsequential little feuds.

  138. Nigel Depledge

    Drew (96) said:

    What can you do? Really, you haven’t learned how to disagree without becoming disagreeable? Look, everyone, when in a debate with a dogmatic person, your function is to maturely present your argument. Your end game is not to change the opinion of the person you are arguing with, but rather to sway all the people who have no personal stake in the discussion who happen to read what you wrote.

    This is only true to a limited extent. Some of the arguments I have seen to support (for example) an anti-evolution stance are so illogical and insane that they do not deserve respectful treatment. This is especially the case when the arguments in question have been refuted a thousand times already.

  139. Nigel Depledge

    Thomas Streeten (106) said:

    . . . rape joke becomes rape threat . . .

    Wait, what?

    What the hell is a “rape joke”?

  140. Mean people suck!

    Great writeup!

    ==>Lancer—

  141. Nigel Depledge

    Thomas Streeten (106) said:

    There’s an obvious solution, don’t visit the hives of scum and villainy, or better, come up with ways to improve behaviour on the internet rather than just lament the fall of civilisation.

    Uh, yeah. IIUC, many fora have a “report post” button or some such, where a comment can be reported to moderators for violating terms (including those of civil behaviour).

    I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard for those versed in Coding to come up with a way to do the same for blog comments.

  142. Drew

    @Flip #128

    First, having frequented the blog cited in the OP, no it never occurred to me that the were having a polite disagreement.

    Second, I have been threatened myself numerous times. I am sure almost everyone on the Internet has. If you have admin, get the IP, do a WhoIs, and if they are close call the PD. Personally, I don’t give much thought to threats, and never have. Most are completely harmless, and those that aren’t are generally obvious, and only occur in the offline world. There are a lot of key board tough guys out there.

    Third, I personally draw a distiction between threats posted on the Internet and real actual rape, where people are brutalized and sometimes even worse. Equating the two IMO is poor logic indeed.

    Fourth, threats of physical violence and/or death made with the intent of causing terror are considered “terroristic threats”, and are a felony, in my state for sure and I believe the other 49 as well. Police are compelled to act when a felony is reported. Help yourself out with a WhoIs on thier IP. If they are located 2500 miles away from you, forget the threat. If they are in the next town over get an RO.

    I feel like I am spinning in circles here. I have made my points, more than once. Unless something else comes up I feel the need to address I shall thank every one for a spirited, yet civil discussion, and say bye-bye.

  143. Drew

    @Nigel:

    “”This is only true to a limited extent. Some of the arguments I have seen to support (for example) an anti-evolution stance are so illogical and insane that they do not deserve respectful treatment. This is especially the case when the arguments in question have been refuted a thousand times already.””

    Thats fine if you are in a one on one personal conversation. However, again, these comments will be here indefinitely, by abusing the other persons the snark is there for all to see. So when someone comes a Googling, looking to learn, well most people I know start looking to likeable people first, no matter how fallacious their arguments.

    Again, the second you get offensive, you lose. Post a link a good refutation instead of an insult.

  144. Hugo

    Since people keep bringing up Paula Kirby, I googled and I found these two posts:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/02/16/i-want-to-be-paula-kirby-when/

    and

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/07/10/the-saga-of-paula-kirby/

    Which seems to me to say it all. Have the temerity to disagree with any of the party line, wander off the reservation, and see what happens. And once again, it’s those with actual achievements that are being cast out while it’s the no-point-whiners that are staying. Great. Lovely. Just what we need.

  145. Tim Gaede

    The first time “elevatorgate” was written about on this blog, it quickly garnered over a thousand comments. It seemed that the commentary leveled against Rebecca Watson didn’t acknowledge her perspective.

    Suppose there is a particular elevator whose usage meant there is exactly a one in ten thousand chance of being violated in a traumatic manner. If some people said they would rather take the stairs, I would not blame them one iota. Rebecca didn’t know the odds that the man in the elevator wouldn’t take “no” for an answer but there were some red flags that most other conscientious would also have noticed. But the prospect of rape isn’t the only issue. Just prior to getting in the elevator, Rebecca had expressed her dismay at how some men communicate with women within the community.

    Matt Dillahunty spoke about elevatorgate and its circumstances recently. If you don’t know who he is, you should. He should be at least as well known as Richard Dawkins.

  146. noen

    Hugo said: —- “I notice that there is still a refusal to confront what the Watson and her rabble have been doing and how no one is willing to even touch that.”

    Probably because there is disagreement about how to handle the extremist positions some prominent figures have made. Sam Harris gave a full throated support for torture during the Bush admin. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has blamed the “PC atmosphere” in Norway for Anders Breivk’s mass murder of over 69 people, mostly women and children.

    Some people believe this disqualifies them as representatives of the community. You apparently disagree.

    I suspect the reason some people will continue supporting those who make extremist statements is out of some kind of misguided sense of loyalty and a need for ideological purity. Or fear. Fear is a powerful motivator. The fear that those people over there are evil and going to hurt me, therefore I have to support anyone on my side no matter how extreme they are or we lose everything.

    If there is one game in town that is not (and should not be) zero sum it is politics. Making it into one as those on the far right and far left have from time to time can only lead to failure. So… if that is true then what? Well, if you choose to enter the social/political sphere then you are going to have to compromise, negotiate and moderate your beliefs. You’re going to have to call out those on your side who take extreme positions because by entering into social life your goal becomes that of capturing the middle instead of establishing ideologically “correct” opinions.

  147. Hugo

    Probably because there is disagreement about how to handle the extremist positions some prominent figures have made. Sam Harris gave a full throated support for torture during the Bush admin. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has blamed the “PC atmosphere” in Norway for Anders Breivk’s mass murder of over 69 people, mostly women and children.

    noen, could you do me a favour and not lie? Please? Just quit lying and smearing those far better than yourself.

    Harris’s discussions of torture have been gone over several times; it is quite clear that he is not giving a “full throated support” to torture. I will direct you to Richard Dawkins’s very careful and sober discussion of the same. And anyone who bothers to read Ali’s speech that is twisted by people like you, that what she says is that the reason that Breivik himself gave for resorting to violence was that he saw the crawling cowardice of many – such as Myers – before the Islamic far right, because that far right is violent, and decided “Hey, why not me?” So that the horrible atrocity was very much a result of the suppression of freedom of speech. So what she was talking about was how the suppression of freedom of speech leads to violence, something understood by every serious advocate and defender of freedom of speech in history

    So. Please. Stop lying. Stop lying and smearing those better than you. It’s disgusting.

    And finally, I would far, far rather have people who go a bit too far than those who never go anywhere, who do nothing, who simply sit on their pampered backsides and moan and whine, who have that peculiar self-pity of the well-off that they didn’t get it all handed to them with a dollop of Sauce Bernaise on top of it.

  148. Drunk Vegan

    Screw both misogynists and misandrists.

    Personally I think we should drop the whole sexism debate because it just feeds on itself. The feminists and the (masculinists? Anyway the group which is pro-mens’ rights) will only continue to see injustice everywhere they look and throw fuel onto the fire for the other side by stating diametrically opposite opinions.

    Personally I think we should start debating something more relevant than sex and gender.. like whether redheads or brunettes are the superior hair color.

    At least then all anyone could do was laugh at the ridiculousness.

  149. flip

    @P, #131

    Not at all. There are variations depending on location that’s all. Ie. it works better in Britain than it does in the US.

    onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-9133.2004.tb00058.x/abstract

    Feel free to point me to contradictory citations. I did some minimal research on this a while back but due to time didn’t go into a huge amount of depth on it.

    (Hmm, thinking about it, I may have been better off using the example of security cameras, rather than lighting… )

    @Mike Wagner, #137

    Some countries’ police do care about internet harassment; many of them are simply untrained/lack the time/manpower to go after anonymous people on the net. I was told quite directly that unless I knew who the person was who was harassing me (I had my suspicions but no proof), there was little they could do. (Which of course, almost defeated the purpose of going to the police in the first place)

    Although I understand the want to reduce the amount of anonymity… the very reason I use a pseudonym is because I was harassed when posting using my real name. It’s a double-edged sword.

  150. flip

    @Drew, #143

    Second, I have been threatened myself numerous times. I am sure almost everyone on the Internet has. If you have admin, get the IP, do a WhoIs, and if they are close call the PD. Personally, I don’t give much thought to threats, and never have. Most are completely harmless, and those that aren’t are generally obvious, and only occur in the offline world. There are a lot of key board tough guys out there

    Well you’re tougher than many of us. I can tell you when it happened to me, it scared me quite a bit. Mostly because I am pretty sure I knew who the person was, and because the person has a reputation for not being harmless. And because it turned from online harassment to offline. It wasn’t obvious from the outset that they might go from one to the other.

    Secondly, not everyone IS admin. It requires much more work to then find the admin, get the IP and follow it up. When it’s something that occurs across state lines (and remember, harassment and threats are important to report even if the person is nowhere near you) or country borders, then it gets even harder to track, report or pursue as a crime. The police may actually refuse to deal with the issue if it goes out of their jurisdiction, and the ones in the relevant jurisdiction will complain that your outside of it and to approach your own local police. (This happened to me)

    The whole “harmless” thing is like that line “it’s not personal”. Yeah, it’s not personal for the one making the threat (or the joke or whatever) but it’s personal to the person on the receiving end. The whole point is that one shouldn’t have to accept harassment as part and parcel of life. Just because it exists doesn’t mean we sit there and do nothing about it: “harmless” or not.

    Also, “harmless” harassment is not harmless: as I pointed out, you can waste an awful lot of time dealing with it. It can interrupt your day, taking huge amounts of time and effort not only receiving the harassment, but then dealing with the results. Even if it’s just a matter of deleting hundreds of harassing emails.

    Third, I personally draw a distiction between threats posted on the Internet and real actual rape, where people are brutalized and sometimes even worse. Equating the two IMO is poor logic indeed.

    Well that has to be a nice little strawman you got there.

    Fourth, threats of physical violence and/or death made with the intent of causing terror are considered “terroristic threats”, and are a felony, in my state for sure and I believe the other 49 as well. Police are compelled to act when a felony is reported. Help yourself out with a WhoIs on thier IP. If they are located 2500 miles away from you, forget the threat. If they are in the next town over get an RO.

    You’re assuming we all live in the USA and have the same laws. Of course, most countries would have similar ideas and funnily enough when harassed *I did* go to the police and so do many others. It happens that (if it’s who I suspect it was) that the person often travels between my state and their home state. I didn’t know that then: I only worked it out due to my own investigation of the person’s activities (all public info obtained via legal methods). See my above comment about the police only being interested if they had a name to follow up with.

    You’re assuming that there is a perfect solution to following this up, and in my case at least, the usual solutions didn’t work. Furthermore, at no point have you rebutted the idea that if harassed you should *only* go to the police, or that going to the police *negates* any other tactics. See Popehat for examples of how speaking out about chilling effects can actually help people: get the word out; collect relevant info; get pro bono assistance for those who can’t afford it; put pressure on governments and authorities to act (the Kimberlin case is good as an example); etc.

    I notice not at all have you commented on whether or not speaking out about these problems are worthwhile. I’ll assume by your “bye-bye” that you have no logical rebuttal to make about how keeping quiet about victimisation is not a good thing. All you’ve done is agree with me that when harassed, one should approach the police. I disagree with you on how effective that actually ends up being.

    I honestly don’t understand the insistence to act like if you go to the cops that’s all you need to do. Not all of us are thick skinned. Not all of us can cope. Some people lose their employment because of the harassment (see Kimberlin again). Not all of us have money to hire a lawyer. Not all of us have the technical knowledge to actually know what an IP address is. Not all of us know the law or harassment techniques to know whether or not a threat is hollow. Not all of us can do much of anything except speak out.

    If you can, great for you. But everyone insisting that you just need to grow a spine needs to recognise not everyone is like you. The whole thing smacks of victim blaming and pisses me off because at the end of the day, not everyone can handle harassment with such aplomb – see the numerous suicides of kids because of being harassed online.

  151. shunt1

    I would take y’all more seriously if there was some consistency.

    It only took me about one minute of searching YouTube for a good example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=–VfCiBrEb8

    Where were y’all when women such as Sarah Palin are being attacked?

  152. Hugo

    @shunt1,

    Oh come on and get real. If they won’t defend people like Abbie Smith and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, what’re the chances they’ll apply that principle any further?

  153. shunt1

    Yup, if you are a black or female supporter of conservative views, you can be attacked personally without ANY limits.

    I would be classified as a “South Park Conservative” and proud of it. So all that “religious right” non-since simple does not apply to people like me. My political views have been shared by American citizens since 1773.

  154. Hugo

    Well, I’m no conservative or American, but to me it is plain as day that what you can see is the deep, visceral nature of the American class system at work; the despising of those lower down as not really human. Witness the contemptible Myers again; after six months of smarmy crawling to Watson’s self-pity and windbag pronouncements against “sexualizing” women, what does he do? Posts a picture of Bachman eating a hotdog in an unfortunate way, with a lot of nudge-nudge, wink-wink, doesn’ t-it-just-look-like-a… stuff.

    Palin and Bachman are bloody fools that I can do without, but I cannot stand any of this stuff.

  155. NickMatzke

    “And anyone who bothers to read Ali’s speech that is twisted by people like you, that what she says is that the reason that Breivik himself gave for resorting to violence was that he saw the crawling cowardice of many – such as Myers – before the Islamic far right, because that far right is violent, and decided “Hey, why not me?” So that the horrible atrocity was very much a result of the suppression of freedom of speech. So what she was talking about was how the suppression of freedom of speech leads to violence, something understood by every serious advocate and defender of freedom of speech in history”

    Wow – that’s your spin to defend Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Even on your spin, it’s as bad as the original accusation against Ali. Myers is a *coward* about the Islamic far right??? What’s a guy gotta do to get respect as an anti-religionist, if PZ doesn’t qualify then no one does…

  156. shunt1

    @Hugo: “visceral nature of the American class system at work; the despising of those lower down as not really human.”

    Only one political party has been trying to divide American citizens against each other. Class, Racial, Female or whatever the current daily fad is; they are always trying to get us to fight against each other.

    I am sick and tired of listening to them!

    Sadly, like with this thread, some people are still easily manipulated and will believe anything that they are told.

    I have used Palin and Bachman as an example of how women are often attacked at the personal level, by the very same people who were complaining on this thread about the “war against woman.”

    Trying to keep things honest!

  157. shunt1

    “If you threaten violence against someone you disagree with, then you are not a critical thinker. You are not a skeptic. And you are most certainly not a decent human being.”

    …..

    Sorry Phil, but I can not agree with you on that one.

    …..

    Perhaps I am old fashion and my concepts of being a man and husband are obsolete, but my wife and daughters will always be defended.

    If anyone dared to discriminate against my wife or my daughters because they are female, then they would have to answer to me. I do not use lawyers!

    I have a strong suspicion that most American husbands and fathers would do the exact same thing to defend and protect their wives and daughters.

  158. shunt1

    My wife once implied that the female nurses at her company were only being paid 70% of what the men were earning.

    Monday, I thundered into the office and demanded to know why my wife was being discriminated against and why the men in the company were being paid so much more.

    Well, there was only one male employee in the company and he was paid only half of what the Registered Nurses were earning.

    Once they understood what had happened, we all laughed.

    Next time Sue, quit listening to NPR radio and implying something about your company that was totally false!

  159. Keith Bowden

    @Hugo
    People aren’t addressing the pros and cons of the those debates because they are off topic. You’re trying to derail the conversation. The subject is people escalating a disagreement or argument into the illegal activity of harassment and threats, no matter who might be making the threats or who might be receiving them.

  160. shunt1

    10 Concepts Liberals Talk About Incessantly But Don’t Understand

    “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.” — Ronald Reagan

    ”You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” — Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

    1) Being Open Minded: To a liberal, this has nothing at all to do with seriously considering other people’s ideas. To the contrary, liberals define being “open-minded” as agreeing with them. What could be more close-minded than assuming that not only are you right, but that you don’t even need to consider another viewpoint because anyone who disagrees must be evil?

    2) Racism: Liberals start with the presumption that only white people who don’t belong to the Democratic Party can be racist. So, for example, even if Jeremiah Wright can make it clear that he hates white people because of their skin color or if liberals take an explicitly racist political position, like suggesting that black people are too stupid and incompetent to get identification to vote, they can’t be racist. White Republicans, on the other hand, are generally assumed to be racist by default, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

    3) Fairness: In all fairness, I must admit that fairness is an arbitrary concept. So, you could make the argument that no one could get “fairness” wrong. Still, liberals do because they don’t make any effort to actually “be fair.” As a practical matter, liberals define “fairness” as taking as much as possible from people who they don’t think are going to vote for them and giving it to people who may vote for them in return for their ill gotten largesse. Certainly conservatives, libertarians, and moderates might disagree about how much money to take from the wealthy to redistribute to the poor or how to help the disadvantaged, but the only liberal answer to the question, “How much is enough?” is “more.”

    4) Greed: To a liberal, believing that you pay too much in taxes or even opposing paying more in taxes is greedy. In actuality, wanting to loot as much money as possible that someone else has earned to use for your own purposes, which is what liberals do, is a much better example of greed.

    5) Hate: Liberals often define simple disagreement with them on issues like gay marriage, tax rates, or abortion as hatred. No matter how well a position is explained, or the logical underpinnings behind it, it’s chalked up to hate. Meanwhile, the angriest, most vicious, most hateful people in all of politics are liberals railing against what they say is “hatred.” This irony is completely lost on the Left.

    6) Investment: Actual investments involve putting money or resources into a project in hopes that they will appreciate in value. Liberals skip the second half of that equation. To them, an “investment” is taking someone else’s tax dollars and putting them into a project that liberals approve of and whether a profit is made or lost is so irrelevant that they typically don’t even bother to measure the results.

    7) Charity: Contributing your own money or time to a good cause is charity. Liberals view themselves as charitable if they take someone else’s tax dollars and give them away to people they hope will vote for them in return. At a minimum, they should at least credit the taxpayers who paid for the money they gave away for the charity, although it’s not really charity if it’s involuntary. Of course, there’s nothing charitable about asking someone else to sacrifice for your gain, which could actually be better described as selfish.

    8) Patriotism: Liberals love America the way a wife beater loves his spouse. That’s why they’re always beating up the country “for its own good.” Doesn’t the country understand that liberals have to hit it in the mouth because they LOVE IT SO MUCH?!?!? Of course, the conventional definition of patriotism, which is loving your country and wishing it well, isn’t one that liberals can wrap their heads around.

    9) Tolerance: In a free, open, and pluralistic society, there are all sorts of behaviors that we may have to tolerate, even though we don’t approve of those activities. Liberals don’t get this distinction. For one thing, they don’t understand the difference between tolerance and acceptance. They also don’t extend any of the tolerance they’re agitating for to people who disagree with them. Liberals silence people who disagree with them at every opportunity which is, dare we say it, an extremely intolerant way to behave.

    10) Diversity: What liberals mean by “diversity” is that they want a broad range of people from different races, colors, and creeds who have identical political views. A black or Hispanic conservative doesn’t contribute to “diversity” in liberal eyes because he actually has diverse views. Incredible role models for women like Sarah Palin can’t be feminists to liberals because she doesn’t share the same liberal beliefs as sexist pigs like Anthony Weiner and Bill Maher. How can you have any meaningful “diversity” when everyone has to think the same way?

  161. Keith Bowden

    @shunt1 158
    So… someone who doesn’t like your daughter’s favorite band would have to “answer to you”?
    159
    wtf?
    161
    You seem VERY open minded…

  162. shunt1

    @Keith Bowden:

    “…doesn’t like your daughter’s favorite band…”

    ……

    This is what I said:

    “If anyone dared to discriminate against my wife or my daughters because they are female, then they would have to answer to me.”

    #159 was an example of how I actually did something when my wife told me that she was being discriminated against.

    @Keith Bowden: Perhaps you are correct in that I will never be able to comprehend your concepts of equality and defending the rights of women in America.

    What type of father or husband are you? Are you a coward and afraid to defend the most important women in your life?

    If someone discriminated against the women in your family, would you then write a “stern letter” of protest, but insure that the language you used could not be considered a threat in any way?

    Hopefully, no female is depending upon you for protection.

    Oh I am very open minded, but no so open that my brains fall out. LOL

    Nothing that I have said was hatefull in any way, other than daring to have a view other than yours.

  163. jazzidiot

    I’m sure someone covered this in this sea of comments. I don’t have time to read them all. So just in case nobody brought this up: The misogyny problems in the skeptic community are hardly happening in a vacuum. The REAL, EXISTENTIAL threat to women, is in politics! The conservatives in and out of govt are devoting huge amounts of their time and energy to roll back women’s rights to not only outlaw abortion, but deny exceptions for rape and incest! In fact, there is a debate right now about “legitimate” rape. Please, if you aren’t acutely aware of what’s happening, the progressive, fact-based blogosphere needs us skeptics to get in the game!
    http://crooksandliars.com/susie-madrak/secret-world-rape-or-i-enjoy-being-gi

  164. shunt1

    @164. jazzidiot:

    I agree that the Democratic party has been very busy lately trying to divert your attention, and as usual, you have fallen for it “hook, line and sinker.”

    I wish that you could do some basic research on your own, but I know that will never happen. Instead, you will blindly follow exactly what you have been told to think.

    What sudden “threat to women” are you talking about?

    Who tells you how to think, and have you ever taken the time to research who these people are?

    ….
    Nothing that I have said was hateful in any way, other than daring to have a view other than yours.

  165. jazzidiot

    What you said may not have been “hateful in any way”, but it was certainly ad hominem, and contained no information.

  166. shunt1

    An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.
    ….

    Sorry, I do not see how that would apply to any of my postings.

    Pointing out a logical fallacy by using counter examples to an hypothisis, is not an ad hominem, even if I must reply to a specific person’s posting.

  167. jazzidiot

    BTW #166 was a reply to #164

  168. Hugo

    People aren’t addressing the pros and cons of the those debates because they are off topic

    Yes – if I point out the mean, cowardly, bullying and dishonesty of RW or Myers, that’s off topic, see? It only counts when it’s against them, not from them.

    The subject is people escalating a disagreement or argument into the illegal activity of harassment and threats

    I repeat. If it’s illegal, take it to the police. That will, however, involve, what’s the word? Ah, yes: evidence. Something the watsonista brigade are quite, quite uncomfortable with.

    On the subject of Ayaan Hirsi Ali – it is quite clear why she is hated by people like NickMatzke and the watsonista brigade. Consider what she has achieved, from where she comes from. She is living proof that the reason for the failure of people like Watson to achieve anything worthwhile is not because of any crap about “the patriarchy” (Somalia has a real patriarchy); it’s because they are mean, spoiled, worthless little princesses and princes. Daddy’s little darlings who spent too much time eating chocolates.

    Now if you want a club like that, fine. Enjoy it. Just don’t pretend it has anything to do with reason or atheism. There are real issues here, and a real struggle. We don’t need you lot poisoning the well.

    Oh, and….

    Myers is a *coward* about the Islamic far right??? What’s a guy gotta do to get respect as an anti-religionist

    Here’s one thing: not gleefully post every scatalogical cartoon about Christ he can get his hands on and run screaming for cover during the Muhammad cartoon crisis. When people were being murdered and jailed for standing up to religion, did Myers show one iota of solidarity? Did he hell.

  169. Hugo

    @shunt1,

    Only one political party has been trying to divide American citizens against each other.

    I doubt it. I know it’s a matter of American political orthodoxy that only the other guys do the bad things, but you can’t sell that line to a European.

  170. kennypo65

    Anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to the Dark Side. Didn’t these yahoos learn anything from Yoda?

  171. Hugo

    This really, really struck home:

    Threats and bullying online don’t just go out into the ether. They affect real people, and can cause a lifetime of damage.

    Oh, indeed it can, indeed it can, not just for the individual but for his family too. Take the following:

    Accusations of racism and similar libels tend to stick online. If my daughter one day reads in my obituary that her father “was persistently dogged by charges of racism and bigotry,” unscrupulous people like PZ Myers will be to blame.

    The gutless, spineless coward Myers doesn’t even have the nerve to stick by his own slime; so far, so typical. Was there a word about this sort of thing from Dr Plait however? I haven’t noticed it. And that does bother me, because it seems that the honourable and decent members of the skeptic community are going along with these online thugs. Why?

    And I’ll say it again, if that’s what “skepticism” is, you can stick it. The tradition I adhere to was there long before there was anything like the “skeptic” movement, and it will outlast it.

  172. Hugo

    Afterword, that’s from Dr. Harris‘s “wrestling the troll”.

  173. Doug

    I know you’re kind of infested with misogynist trolls and what not, but I want to say thank you. Your stance and advocacy on this is much welcomed and appreciated, and I look forward to continuing to read your blog.

  174. Maria

    “US Skepticism seems to have degenerated into ultra-weird personality cults intolerant of the fact that people may be wrong.”

    As a complete and utter non entity who has no blog, no followers, and a calm nondescript career in software development with an armchair interest in scientific topics … +10 on this statement. It’s really bizarre and unnerving And one of the reasons I stopped following a number of popular skeptic/science/atheist blogs.

    It just got really weird. (I apologize for the completely unquantifiable descriptor…)

    There seems to be little humility in some of the leaders/voices of the skeptic/atheist community. The ratio of science/fact to social/political editorials has gotten way too skewed and a bit on the echo chamber cult side.

  175. Cygnus X-1

    @Maria,

    +10 here too. I’m interested in science blogs. The skeptic/atheist part I can do totally
    without. Blogs like “A Quantum Diaries Survivor” (Tommaso Dorigo) are the type I like,
    because I can actually learn thing there, and the science is not watered down.

    In fact, I see no point in the whole “skeptic movement.” There are a group of people who
    have practiced rational inquiry long before the skeptic movement ever existed – they
    are know as scientists, and I think they can speak for themselves; they don’t need
    cheerleaders or a “fan club.” Sometimes I think it does more harm than good. As far
    as the so called skeptic/atheist community goes, I think it has completely run off the rails
    and they are just beginning to realize how bad the trainwreck has become.

    When I want interesting, “real” science, I can attend the excellent lectures they have
    at FermiLab, which are not limited to particle physics – there is an upcoming one on
    epigenetics for instance.

    I’ve noticed there are not really many “first-rank” scientists involved in the skeptic
    movement. P. Z. Myers, for instance, while he has published papers on developmental
    biology, as far as I can tell has never been to any of the Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on
    Quantitative Biology, which are attended by anyone who anyone in the field of biology. I
    guess he is too busy going to atheist and skeptic conventions, and ranting on his blog, to
    have time for anything important from an academic standpoint.

    You don’t see people like, for example, Adam Riess & Saul Perlmutter blogging about
    skepticism & atheism, they are too busy doing serious research ( and in their case winning
    the Nobel Prize for their work).

  176. Doug says:

    “I know you’re kind of infested with misogynist trolls and what not, but I want to say thank you. Your stance and advocacy on this is much welcomed and appreciated, and I look forward to continuing to read your blog.”

    This is exactly the smug, crap-spewing, INHERENTLY AND COMPLETELY DISHONEST, fact-free attitude I’ve seen from Pharyngula and Skepchicks for months and years now. Standard Operating BS attitude for many of the activist FTB’ers and Skepchicks.

    What actually brought me here was a short conversation between Ophelia Benson and a couple of her commenters, to the effect that the comments HERE were horrible, and clear evidence of how deep misogyny is ingrained in the skeptic culture. She implied that she read the “top few” comments, it was somehow ugly, and she “made her escape”, almost as if she were fleeing a threat or something…in short, complete and utter dishonest horse crap, that will be parroted by others as “evidence” of ugly misogyny. Ophelia, you are a slippery and skilled liar, a dishonest propagandist plain and simple.

    Out of 175 comments, there is not one person here defending people who make threats, or promoting inequality, or anything even close. Not one. So far, there is much agreement with Phil, some very calm disagreement, ONE PERSON who did a tiny bit of POSSIBLE , mostly meaningless victim-blaming by saying that maybe on an open forum like the internet, you could basically expect certain stupid responses from certain types of people, and late in the thread, one idiot republican trying to say that all of the ignorance and misinformation he’s swallowed is just a difference of opinion and deserves respect, while sitting there and accusing all liberals of being idiot thieves and completely lacking all morals. (Way to troll, Shunt1…you’re a worthless moron. No respect for you!)

    Yet in all this, not one misogynistic troll, not one threat of any kind, nobody justifying such behavior, nobody suggesting that sexism doesn’t exist…just a few well-spoken people who feel that PZ, some FTB’ers, and some Skepchicks often overstate their cases, make very uncharitable assumptions, lump mild, fact-based disagreement and criticism in with rape threats and open misogyny, and try to pretend that a tiny, tiny minority of stupid, mean people are completely representative of the greater skeptic/geek/atheist culture(and anyone who disagrees with them of course). They have also taken a tiny amount of very minor, non-incidents, and tried to use them to show that we need some kind of huge overhaul of public policy- a whole new set of “acceptable” ways to talk to women, creation of a liberal utopian atheist movement, purging of all the libertarians and non-activists. They have for years consistently abused the very slippery concepts of privilege and oppression to ridiculous levels.

    I am a feminist. I do not tolerate misogyny. I support every meaningful fight for full equality for all. I realize that even the US and other free societies still have problem areas. We already know that more conservative areas and areas with highly religious populations are decades behind the rest of us in terms of real, legal, enforceable equality. We know who the real enemies are, and we are all working to keep them out of office and influence. But the only part of the last year’s drama that reveals ingrained misogyny or oppression in the skeptic or atheist culture in any real way is the handful, the tiny, tiny percentage, of ridiculous trolls and bitter losers that are regularly thrown in everyone’s faces as “normal” in a prolonged and dishonest PR attempt.

    In socially conservative and religious circles, these kinds of clowns can be a real threat. They are sometimes even a majority, and MUST be opposed as vocally as possible. In atheist/skeptic/freethinker/liberal and even most libertarian circles, they are a tiny, mostly powerless minority who are ignored and marginalized except when they are being (rightly)publically flogged. Daniel Tosh has never and will never be responsible for inspiring a rape, no matter how many sick, dishonest people wish otherwise.

    Any honest adult knows this is the case in large parts of America and western society. Those of us who are willing to say this publicly, or who are willing to disagree with some of the many sweeping claims made by some feminists, are sick and goddamned tired of being lumped in with rapists, religious zealots, and violent psychos, especially when we are being smugly lectured about privilege by people who were born more privileged that most of us (including the men) will ever be.

    I am an ally to women and minorities, no matter what anyone thinks. It’s part of who I am and what I do with my life. I will continue to vote and speak out for equality for all, even if every last internet “real” feminist hates my guts or thinks I’m stupid. Either way, that doesn’t mean that I am somehow bound by oath to agree with every thing every liberal activist says, or to go along with outlandishly overstated claims or questionable, mostly “pulled out of my ass” social analysis.

    Peace to all.

  177. Hugo

    I entirely agree with what Neil says. I should also add the following questions.

    1) It’s a matter of fact that we have heard no comparable outcry when genuine feminists have received relentless threats – Ali’s the best example, but there are many others, such as Nonie Darwish, or Wafa Sultan, or FEMEN most recently (from what I recall, Maryam Namazie was the only FTB blogger to cover that; she is, not coincidentally, almost the only one worth reading there). Why is this?

    2) Threats are not merely reprehensible, but criminal. Why is there no report made to the authorities?

    3) What evidence do we have about any of this? Think rationally for a few seconds. Rebecca Watson, who goes into maximum self-pity mode at the offer of coffee claims to have been continually denigrated for years, and more than that, sexually assaulted. By skeptics and atheists. Remember, this is the one who goes into poor little me mode at the offer of coffee but remained, on her own claim, silent about this sort of thing for years. Is this likely? Is it like that Amy Roth, reduced to tears by a mean ol’ t-shirt, was similarly sitting on stuff like this?

    Or does this all begin to smell a little? Doesn’t this place the demand for a “all accusations accepted, no evidence required, no right for the accuser to be even informed” policy in a new light?

    Here’s what I think. There’s a handful of nutcase trolls out there who really send nasty threats. The watsonistas jump on anything that allows them to feed their sense of grievance and self-importance, and, in the same way that the Mullahs who started the cartoon pogroms added some cartoons of their own, invent a couple more incidents along the way.

    Prove me wrong. Make a report to the real authorities. But I don’t think that’ll happen.

  178. Keith Bowden

    @shunt1
    You disagreed with: “If you threaten violence against someone you disagree with, then you are not a critical thinker. You are not a skeptic. And you are most certainly not a decent human being.”

    A disagreement is no reason to threaten violence. But the subject, which you quoted, was disagreement. Which you reframed to “discriminate”. Not at all the same thing, but you equated the terms, not I.

    Sorry, your anecdote was confusing. I think I’ve worked it out, probably just needed better phrasing. (I take it Sue is your wife?)

    Then you went further off topic with a weird screed against a cartoon version of liberals, which didn’t seem to foster a view of open-mindedness on your part.

    Getting back to the original topic: Do you really think it is okay to threaten someone you have a disagreement with? (You said you disagreed with Phil’s statement, which I requoted above.) It’s a very simple, un-nuanced question. Is it okay to skip “I think you’re wrong” and launch into “I hope you get raped and die”? At its core, it’s simple civility, whether it’s rhetoric or an actual threat.

  179. For the record, as far as real-world vs. online, I have no problem with reasonable harrassment policies, especially considering that the basic usual rules are generally de facto enforced at public gatherings even when no paper policy exists. I have never once, in decades, been to an event where unwanted groping, following, or making repeated passes to the point of annoyance was considered OK…not at punk shows, metal shows, sales conventions, sports events….you will get thrown out or at least put on notice and watched if anyone complains or security sees you, at least in every single town I’ve ever lived in or gone to, policy or not. Is this just a California thing? What hell-holes do people live in?

    Until Pamela Gay spoke up, none of the incidents I heard about were anything that a harrassment policy would have prevented at all, or in most of the examples, even should have prevented. Considering the open and relaxed atmosphere many skeptics like to promote at their events, I would have expected multiple problems per large event, or even one real problem per large event, if the community in general was really so bad.

    If the problem within the skeptical community is so appallingly awful in regard to harrassment, why does it take years worth of anecdotes from years worth of conferences to demonstrate even a small problem? Considering that it does take years worth of anecdotes to even demonstrate a problem, and how very few spoke up, and how late, why were there people, some prominent, calling for DJ Groethe’s job after one day of questioning and debate? Why are people conflating honest, cautious responses with rape apology or even a clueless disregard for women? That is not skepticism, reason, rationality, inclusiveness, progress, or the moral high ground. That is a bunch of spoiled, entitled, privileged children who think they can define and enforce every moral and social issue by decree, like religious conservatives do. And then, to act so outraged and disappointed….by reasonable people mildly disagreeing, or wearing a not-even-provocative T-shirt, or even the huge crime of not treating a handful of anecdotes as infallible data for policy….beyond ludicrous. A tiny handful of trolls get treated as the normal “male” perspective, yet popular commenters and bloggers can ignore every argument and question, call for immediate firings and get cheered on. Double standard much?

    I don’t think it is unreasonable or harmful to have a more lax atmosphere at a convention or conference than one would expect as an employee at a daily workplace. Public figures, lecturers, and people who are essentially entertainers generally understand this quite well, and allow their audiences to behave a bit more like they are on vacation than at church. I’ve yet to hear any good argument to the contrary. I think Marty Klein wrote a short but great piece, which was never argued against or rebutted, but simply mocked and ignored by the priests of the “movement”. Apparently, acting like a rational adult really is too much for some in the “movement”. They demand obedience from others who are harming nobody, make dishonest comparisons between honest debate and the worst misogyny they can find, and have the nerve to say that their opponents(who are really barely even opposing anything, except ugly mudslinging and group madness) are the immature, entitled, privileged ones.

    And again, for the record, this is coming from a liberal pro-equality democrat who has worked harmoniously around majority female, majority liberal co-workers and managers for 20 years. I would not be employed if I didn’t know how to treat people and manage basic public events. The mostly female people I work with know I’m on their side, and somehow, they manage to navigate life without either tolerating harrassment or ignoring victims, and also without whipping up outrage, calling for random firings and comparing innocent, if annoying, chat to assault and rape.

    I’m not even going to ask for evidence of claims, or strong arguments….it’s not really my point, and there haven’t been any so far, so why start now….what I want to know is, who is everybody so damn mad at that they have to lie, misrepresent, ignore, defame, and rely on media magnification, innuendo, and mob emotion to make their points? Who is the enemy here? Am I the enemy, because I live in a tolerant, pleasant place and would like to see that trend encouraged, instead of reading from the inafallible social justice handbook on every issue, or acting like I’m in a conservative church all the time so I don’t possibly make anyone slightly uncomfortable ever? I think that many of the online liberal activists have let their well-fed emotions dictate their thinking…much like the trolls they like to wave around.

  180. John Smith

    The example at the beginning is genuinely the first time that I have seen such disgusting responses to feminists seeking equal rights. Personally, I feel her cause is unfounded, and i have seen many vlogs by women feeling that there is equal misandry and misogeny in videogames (i.e. its not a sexist issue – its a media issue). But anyway, as a male who feels that the MRM has legitimate cause, I am concerned that we MRMs may be confused with misogynists, who certainly exist just the same as misandrists do. The problem is, if women’s rights are ever pursued with no balancing measure, then we can’t really expect equality now can we? While i concede that there are issues for feminism to tackle, like female role models in media being demeaning to girls or to those that don’t meet standards, there are other areas that MRM is already needed. Such examples are paternal rights and contraception options.
    Whatever the case, there needs to be simultaneous (and constantly so) interest for the welfare of both men and women. To deny the need for MRMs of some kind simply opens the door for feminists to be called misandrists. I feel that this is already having an effect and feminists are increasingly having to show how they can benefit males due to the increasing scrutiny of feminism. Interesting though, the benefits that feminism claims for men are the problems allegedly caused by feminism and patriarchy (ironic right?) in the first place.
    I can’t accept society that only has welfare interest when it concerns a feminist to the neglect of others, and that is where I feel we have been heading for a while.

  181. Hugo

    Well, whoop-de-do, the strawmen are coming out. I notice, having addressed Keith’s point that only actual threats count for anything (in which case the community should have shut up about Dawkins, right?), he doesn’t care to answer that.

  182. Keith Bowden

    Well then, Hugo, why don’t you leave the strawmen at the door?

    However, yes, Dawkins was out of line with his Muslima message. He was equally out of line in The Greatest Show On Earth, one of my favorite books, by the way, which I’ve read three times so far, when he wondered why we should use Chinese names for their cities when we have perfectly good English names for them. Doesn’t invalidate his accomplishments, but neither do his accomplishments give him a pass when he says something out of line.

  183. Hugo Schmidt

    Your ability to dodge around arguments is amazing, you know that? Try answering anything I’ve said, especially in my first post @85.

    Incidentally, I do hope you never do anything like call Muenchen, “Munich”. That’d be terrible, wouldn’t it?

  184. gooby

    I sort of knew RW before the whole elevator kerfuffle. That is, we were living in the same city, and I saw her a few times at venues we both might be expected to be in, but never talked to her. All told, she didn’t leave any kind of impression and I never understood why there was much of a fuss about her.

    Then all this happened, and I still don’t get it. She seems to know about as much about science and philosophy as a marginally bright high schooler might know. Why is she in the skeptical movement anyway? Mild inconveniences she’s dealt with aside, she’s pitifully underqualified. And she’s most certainly not worth all the drama. End of discussion. The only thing I would ever possibly want to learn from her is how she hammered in the last nail to her self-pity cross.

  185. Keith Bowden

    Hugo:
    Um… what????

  186. Drunk Vegan

    @Neil (#177 & 180): Well said.

    Dissent with a group’s means to achieving a cause *does not* equal dissent against the cause itself. These skeptics are essentially silencing dissent by stating that anyone who disagrees with them is automatically the enemy of their cause and anti-feminism.

    (And in some cases equating those individuals with rapists and oppressors, which is I believe where much of the anger towards them is coming from.)

    There’s a word for this kind of movement that distorts reality when it does not meet with accepted doctrine, and silences dissent when it does not align with that doctrine. It’s called religion.

  187. Knud

    You are asking why the hate is getting worse? As someone in Europe I am only shaking my head when looking at the ongoing US-presidential campaigning. What do you expect people to do if they are subjected to the hateful (in)fighting, insults, lying, etc. that the GOP et al. used in their primaries and now in the actual campaign. If as a politician you can be racist, religion-fundamentalist, anti-gay, anti pro-choice, anti everything in a way that would get me to simply want to slap your face already for its insulting and rude nature (aside from content), then why should any normal citizen behave differently? Sorry to say that, but I think the US society in general has a very very serious problem. Side-effects of the crumbling empire?

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