EllenBeth Wachs

My Cats are My Gods

Yes, I’m going there. Dongles, Disagreement and Disproportionate Derision

with 217 comments

I have been hesitating to write this blog post for various reasons. Amazingly enough, there are still a few people not familiar with Donglegate.  Which means in the secular community, many won’t be familiar with an incident arising out out Donglegate.  I have read that I am being referred to as a casualty of friendly fire.   The impetus of my finally writing about this was a comment PZ Myers made on a blog post Jason Thibeault wrote yesterday. More on that later. First the background. For those of you familiar with the story, you won’t need the following summary.

Adria Richards, a self-described developer evangelist, was at a tech conference sitting in the audience for a presentation.   Two men were seated behind her and talking using technical language (dongles and forking)  that allegedly  morphed  into a juvenile sexual joke overheard by Richards.   She  stood up, turned around and took three pictures of them.   She then tweeted the pictures to her thirteen thousand followers with the conference hashtag. She made a second tweet then asking for conference organizers to do something. Conference organizers removed the men, talked to them, one denied that some comments were sexual, admitted one was and apologized profusely. They were allowed back into the conference and that would have been the end of it BUT THE INTERNET EXPLODED.

Adria Richard’s company was besieged by DDOS attacks by Anonymous. One of the men was fired. Adria began receiving horrid rape and death threats. Adria got fired. And I commented on a blog post PZ Myers did about this titled, “Adria Richards did everything exactly right” and I disagreed with him. And got vilified, insulted, abused and disabused of the notion that what you think you know sometimes just isn’t quite what it seems.

I, of course, knew that the blog had a certain reputation for not suffering fools lightly. I know PZ, himself, promotes it as a “rude blog.”  I wasn’t aware of how abusive it gets. I have been an avid supporter and defender of the so-called FTBullies and have paid a high price in the form of vicious ridicule and mockery by members of the slymepit. I cannot claim innocence as I have certainly thrown my own share of knives without knowing the full story some of the time, hell, maybe all the time. I don’t know anymore.  I am doing what I need to in order to make myself right.

Full disclosure. I have met PZ several times. He actually spoke for me at the Humanists of Florida conference last September.  I consider him a friend and an ally.  So, imagine my shock and dismay upon voicing what seemed to be a mild disagreement on this thread of already close to three hundred comments the  nasty reception I received.

So, let me start by saying, I never heard of Adria Richards prior to this incident.  I am aware of the reputation the tech industry has for rampant sexism.  I consider myself a feminist. I am also a retired attorney.  When I was practicing, I actually handled a sexual harassment lawsuit.  I represented a plaintiff in a claim against Circuit City in a sexual harassment case claiming a hostile environment and was successful in obtaining a settlement for her. I was a sole practitioner two years out of law school facing one of the best law firms in Philadelphia.  I have also been falsely accused of a crimes and had it plastered all over the internet and been shamed for something I didn’t do.   I commented about this coming from a mindset of maybe knowing a thing or two about sexual harassment AND that people have the right to the presumption of innocence.  We  should not turn them over to the people with the pitchforks and torches.

I didn’t find Adria Richards’ tweeting the event a proper method of reporting.  Neither did a lot of people. PZ obviously did. That is his right. His commenters agreed with him That is their right. Chris Clarke explained that I got it “catastrophically wrong”  As I am a woman, a feminist and a retired lawyer, couldn’t this be described as “mansplaining?”  Meh, not important to me, or this post.  I like Chris a lot. I happen to disagree with him. What this post is about is the manner in which my disagreement was handled.  I come into the thread after the commenters have tangled with someone named Matthew Best. He also does not agree that Adria did everything exactly right. He faced a blistering attack of insults and his positions were grossly misrepresented.  I am not going to post all of his comments and responses.   I recognize the mistakes I made commenting though some were naivete and some were simply my style misinterpreted in a thread I wasn’t known.  This thread is closing in on two thousand comments. It may be hard to follow simply due to the massive volume of comments and the fact that I am leaving a great  many out.  If you want to wade through the miasma, feel free. I suggest you take a valium or a swig of scotch first. It’s not for delicate sensibilities. What is, or should be, apparent is the abuse that was heaped upon me and the blatant misrepresentation of my character that got casually thrown at me as easily as a used tissue gets tossed.

Let’s get to the most pertinent point of his blog post – PZ states on his blog regarding Adria Richards tweeting the picture of the two men-

This was a measured response. It wasn’t a blast of anger, it was a request that the conference enforce its code of conduct. It disrupted the meeting less than a couple of chattering smart-asses did. This is exactly what we should want people to do: polite confrontation through appropriate channels.

I stumble into the thread at comment 284. Now, I have skimmed over the comments and seen what has transpired thus far and it has been heated but not overly outrageous. first comment thumper to me david porter David Porter calls into question the need to eviscerate people and whether the abuse wrought outweighs the benefit gained. Me comment 341 JAL- to me pz-blame the woman I am now going to have some comments out of order simply so that you can see which comment the person is responding to. 353 blitzgal says Im implying she deserves it response to blitzgal Blitzgal response to my response I am utterly confused by this as I haven’t made that many comments and certainly haven’t stated any intentions. My response- Blitzgal- kreskin me-commenting answering PZ glass houses And, going the glass house path didn’t work because apparently these expert troll bashers know exactly when and where to draw the line and never slip up.  Except when they do. And then I really step in it.I defend Matthew. defend MB I immediately get called a “chill girl.” JAL- chill girl lol at chill girl I n response to my glass house question PZ comes in and says I asked the wrong question. PZ wrong question My response to PZ presuming guilt Then I get two comments (well 3 actually but the third is just trying to prove to me how terrible Matthew is) in a row slamming me. Caine and JAL And here is where I become an apologist for misogynist behavior. nerd calls me apologist and now we have Caine rewriting history and totally distorting and misrepresenting what I said about what occurred at my conference. Caine rewrites history JAL then comes in to back Caine up despite the fact that she has the facts wrong and knows nothing about me but I want the presumption of innocence to attach to people. How awful. JAL seconds Caine I then get asked if Pharyngula looks like a courtroom. Well of course not. This was an angry lynch mob. pharyngula a courtroom Enough with the screencapping- I am simply going to copy and paste.

Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls
22 March 2013 at 5:06 pm (UTC -5)

 FFS, now I’m an apologist for misogynist behavior? Are you fucking kidding? And I’m getting called a “dumbfuck

Yep, that’s what comes when you essentially keep blaming the victim. How you would have handled it is irrelevant; a non-sequitur. So, quit telling us about how you work. Or rather, don’t for the women.489

kate_waters
22 March 2013 at 5:16 pm (UTC -5)

 EllenBeth:

I really don’t think you’re in any position to tell ANYONE how to act “properly”. I am familiar with your version of “proper” and it’s fucking gross. I don’t think any woman here would want to have anything to do with any conference where you were in charge of anything, even if it were just hiring the caterer. You’re just plain ol’ icky.

JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness
22 March 2013 at 5:19 pm (UTC -5)

 #484 EllenBeth Wachs

So Nerd, do you think being abusive to me is helpful to the discussion?  You’re the one derailing the discussion to complain about how Adria reported the incident. And you clearly don’t know what the word in bold means. How dare you, especially after that triggering shit Best pulled to us that word against us when we’ve treated you fairly based on the crap you posted. Do you think misrepresenting who I am and what I stand for is appropriate? Didn’t happen. We only have your words to go on, the proof is in the pudding as they say.

kate_waters
22 March 2013 at 5:38 pm (UTC -5)

 EllenBeth:

Fuck right the fuck off you fucking fuck. Go organize a “d00dbro” friendly conference somewhere far away, would you? I’m sure there’s thousands of douchecanoes who would welcome your toxic brand of “rationality”.

I don’t even want to go on posting more of these. There’s really no point. I am looking at this thread and forgot just how many vicious, angry comments there were and I am not even close to getting through them. They continued to savage me for hours after I left the thread. I have already taken all day to write this. What was my point in doing so? I wanted to point out how easy it is to get misrepresented and misquoted and mischaracterized over minor points of disagreement. IS IT WORTH IT?? I don’t understand the feeling of glory one could get from being that abusive to another person. I got called their enemy. Why? Because I said she should not have tweeted the picture? And yes, I also came at this from the perspective of a conference organizer. You see, I can look at this from many angles, not just one.  I think the key is, can you put yourselves in her shoes AND the shoes of the men?  I did. Matthew Best did. A lot of others in the general community did. That is what was lacking from most of the commenters in that thread. They had tunnel-vision. SUPPOSE THEY WERE INNOCENT?? What if she got it wrong?  We know she didn’t, but that is irrelevant. The poignant question is, what if she had gotten it wrong? And THAT is why her tweeting this is a mistake. Just because I think so does not make me a rape- apologist, misogynistic, victim-blaming, chill girl and if you think so there is something deeply flawed in your logic. I left that thread bewildered, raw and with my head spinning. I was caught between the Scylla and Charybdis.  So, I left the internet for a week.  Well, that’s not accurate. I didn’t interact publicly on the internet.  I didn’t tweet nor facebook for the most part except to extend some apologies I felt were due.  I read history; not American history, but deeeep rifts history. My reaction to all of this is basically the same as when I left that thread, “What the actual fuck?” So back to the reason for this post.  I was planning on writing it. I didn’t know what would spur me on. As I stated earlier, it was this comment from PZ yesterday on Jason’s blog post about defamation not being dissent.

I’ve been threatened with a false rape accusation, one that could have totally destroyed my career. I took it very seriously and moved quickly to provide evidence that it was false.

PZ was very fortunate he was able to do that. But it isn’t actually his responsibility to prove his innocence. As I brought up on the Adria Richard’s thread. We work from a presumption of innocence and THAT is where I came from. I have been falsely accused myself. I wasn’t accused of rape but it was equally, if not more, horrific in the public’s perception. It came across that I was being accused of being a pedophile. How does one go about proving you haven’t made sexual noises in your own bedroom?   I have a lunatic stalker running around the internet calling me a “kid fucker”  because a rogue sheriff used his clout to publicly shame me into silence.

Yes, the slymepitters have done some terrible things. I’m pretty sure they know that and own that. Photoshopping people is not legitimate criticism. It’s just mockery and mean. Spreading false stories and misinformation, that’s damaging. I saw it happen to me within minutes by overzealous commenters.  So if they were that wrong about me, who else are they wrong about?  Who are you wrong about? I left that thread hitting the reset button pretty much on everybody. If you haven’t personally wronged me, consider yourself safe. Even if you have, I have looked at what my role might have been. Multiple people have received apologies already.

Does the sheer magnitude of the awfulness overwhelm the benefit?

Oh and there always has to be a t-shirt

IMG_0422

Edit 4/2/2013 PZ has posted a response to this blog.  I am disappointed, to say the least, that one of the commenters is “Doubling Down” and continuing to misrepresent me and my positions.

Nerd-doubles down

Written by EllenBeth Wachs

March 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

217 Responses

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  1. Matt said:
    “The problem is, quite frankly, some of the abuse is more than warranted. The MRAs who pop up from time to time are a prime example. And look at the crap Rebecca Watson received from Elevatorgate. Simply saying “Guys, don’t do that” got her a half-century’s worth of rape threats.

    IMO, a lot of the anger at Pharyngula stems from the fact that, often, being nice and polite is overrated and useless. Simply stating, “I don’t believe in God or an afterlife” is considered being strident and antagonistic. I’ve been on the receiving end of that. Screw civility at that point.

    I’m not going to condemn the Horde for the act of piling on itself. Atheism and feminism do need voices that aren’t are going to back down. The abuse, quite frankly, is sometimes deserved. That said, anyone who is perceived as a potential enemy is in for a hurting.

    That’s the culture there. At the end of the day, it’s a blog. Don’t like it? Don’t go there.”

    Couple points, Matt.

    ~”And look at the crap Rebecca Watson received from Elevatorgate. Simply saying, “Guys, don’t do that” got her a half-century’s worth of rape threats.” Yep. That’s a problem. No one should get rape threats on twitter. However, those rape threats have allowed Watson to deflect arguments against her own behavior. She had a right to her opinion about ElevatorGuy, but so did Steph McGraw, and Steph McGraw got called out and insulted in a very public way instead of being addressed directly. Getting harassed by trolls does not equate to one always being right. I’ve been told by countless creationists and theists that I just need to get fucked by them and then I’d know god. If I countered their arguments with, “Your god isn’t real because Homeopathy is the one true faith!” those rape threats would have no bearing on the merit of my argument. Address the arguments people are making instead of equating them with despicable people out of the gate.

    ~”I’m not going to condemn the Horde for the act of piling on itself. Atheism and feminism do need voices that aren’t are going to back down. The abuse, quite frankly, is sometimes deserved. That said, anyone who is perceived as a potential enemy is in for a hurting.

    You could say the same thing for the slymepit, couldn’t you? I’m sure the photoshoppers there feel like the ridicule is deserved. Why not encourage arguments rather than tactics? There’s no middle ground between polite disagreement and the abuse in the comments? That’s a pretty sad dichotomy. Both sides could say, “Abuse is deserved and anyone perceived as a potential enemy is in for a hurting.” Where would that get us?

    ~”That’s the culture there. At the end of the day, it’s a blog. Don’t like it? Don’t go there.”

    That would be all well and good, but there have been attacks on people’s careers, livelihoods and reputations. It’s not “just a blog.” People are trying to bar others from speaking at conferences or sharing their own work in skepticism with the world. An ex-FtBlogger was bragging the other day about how a certain person isn’t relevant because they didn’t speak at the American Atheist convention. They are actively trying to bar activists who have simple disagreements with them in the comments section from doing skeptical work. You can’t tell me that “Don’t go there” is a solution.

    Katie (@tkmlac)

    April 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    • The last paragraph refers to JT Eberhard and Justic Vacula, just in case anyone wants to look up what Eberhard ACTUALLY said to Vacula.

      Sally Strange

      April 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      • Because apparently merit is based on how many of your friends at AAC like you…

        Katie (@tkmlac)

        April 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    • 1) I’m can’t seem to find exactly where Watson insulted McGraw. From what I can find, Watson quoted McGraw’s publicly available comments and disagreed with them in a speech.

      As for your encounters with creationist/theists: I don’t know what to say. If people are telling you that, you need to tell them to fuck off, as it were. You know, be rude. Because if they’re telling you you’ll believe in God if you get laid, answering with another non-sequitur about homeopathy is pointless.

      2) I’ve been to the Slymepit. There’s no comparison. I’ll side with Pharyngula on that one.

      3) I’m really having a hard time believing that people’s lives/reps/careers are in ruins because of Pharyngula/FTB. Christ, you make it sound like an atheist star chamber.

      mattand

      April 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      • Well, interestingly enough, I am being totally maligned and lied about right now on Pharyngula and that could have an impact on my activist career.

        EllenBeth Wachs

        April 2, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      • Rebecca Watson called McGraw’s opinion “Misogyny 101.” She used her power and a public forum to shame her. Even if Watson was right about McGraw (she wasn’t), that is completely unprofessional.

        “If people are telling you that, you need to tell them to fuck off.” I DO. That’s not the point. The point is that them telling me those nasty things doesn’t automatically lend my arguments against creationism any credibility. Those have to stand on their own. I can’t tell a Creationist my argument is better than theirs because another Creationist threatened me on twitter. Rebecca Watson doesn’t get to be free from criticism by skeptics just because she gets shitheads on her twitter feed.

        2) So the “fuck off and die,” “kill yourself with fire,” etc, –being said directly to other people– that goes on constantly in PZ’s threads are incomparable to a forum of people snickering amongst themselves? You’re right. There’s no comparison. Pharyngula is much worse. Do you know how disagreements are handled in the slymepit? By open discussion of ideas and not slamming people down right away if they disagree with you.

        3)You haven’t been paying attention. Calculated attempts at “drumming people out of the movement,” contacting employers and educational institutions, smear campaigns and petitions.

        If you really don’t see that kind of dialogue as damaging, so be it. You can go ahead and keep it up, but when it spills over into people’s lives, there’s going to be pushback. Also, people on both sides are tired of it and are willing to come to the table and agree to stop the bashing and name calling. Are you?

        Katie (@tkmlac)

        April 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      • EllenBeth said:

        Well, interestingly enough, I am being totally maligned and lied about right now on Pharyngula and that could have an impact on my activist career.

        Good point. While I doubt that you’re actually banned there – yet, anyway, although that you read the Pit (“the horror!”) might suggest, if Julian is any example, that you’re next to be dungeonized – even if that is effectively the case, many others have been and are denied the right to even present a case in that “court” of opinion. Although justice, and respect for the truth seem to be the last principles championed there.

        But somewhat apropos of that you might be interested in this “opening statement” (1) in Michael Nugent’s “Atheist Skeptic Dialogoue” which argues that:

        5. We believe that in order for us to be effective we should strive to avoid:
        ….

        5(d) Commenting on others without accepting a right of reply. The right of reply is fundamental to any open society. If we criticise others then others have the right to respond to that without being personally attacked for doing so.

        You might also be interested to note someone who, I think, from recollection, posts on various FTB sites was rather dead-set against the idea (2):

        This is unclear. Is JS saying that people who post criticisms on their own blog must then open that blog up to rebuttals from the criticized party? If he is, I am in complete disagreement. Bloggers must be allowed to control their own blogs. Otherwise, they have no defense against spam, trolls, etc.

        That seems decidedly self-serving to me (being charitable), or, at the very least, a case of tarring everyone with that rather narrow brush. And while I can at least sympathize with blog owners wishing to maintain some control over their blogs, to at least keep the “riff-raff” out, it seems there is some evidence – your experiences on Pharyngula might be adduced as a case-in-point – to suggest that that tends to be rather counter-productive. You might wish to brave the Pit once again to read this post (3) on how, in one case anyway, reducing the moderation tends to “improve the posts and the tone of the place”.


        1) “_http://atheistskepticdialogue.com/2013/03/31/strand-1-opening-statement-by-jack-smith/”;
        2) “_http://atheistskepticdialogue.com/2013/03/31/strand-1-opening-statement-by-jack-smith/#comment-41”;
        3) “_http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=81346#p81346”;

        Steersman

        April 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      • One of the prize comments from Watson’s oh-so-dignified response was where she accused McGraw, in exactly so many words of “parroting misogynistic thought”. Awesome response in a situation where McGraw could not have possible responded back in kind.

        Then, when McGraw CLEARLY stated *how she felt*, that she felt “attacked” and singled out, what was the response from both PZ and Watson?

        “you’re wrong for feeling that way”

        Way to mansplain. Way to tell someone their feelings are unimportant because they disagree with what you want, *all the while* attacking anyone who has the temerity to even DISAGREE with Watson, much less *dare* to say she’s wrong for feeling that way.

        I’m sorry, I thought when women said things like what Stef said, you were supposed to “listen, and consider that your opinion is not inherently superior” or something like that. I guess that’s only when women think correctly. If they think wrong, then you just have to correct their pretty little heads.

        John C. Welch

        April 2, 2013 at 9:22 pm

      • Ellenbeth, to be honest, while it seems hard to believe, if you step about…a centimeter outside of the FTB/Skepchick sphere, you can barely hear the faint echoes of their silliness. They are not nearly as influential as they desperately wish you to believe.

        (If they had that much pull, FTB wouldn’t be on their what, third? fourth? attempt to actually have that site make enough money to exist long-term. Really. They have about as much pull outside that site as a bumblebee pulling a Mack Truck.)

        John C. Welch

        April 2, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    • ” I’m sure the photoshoppers there feel like the ridicule is deserved. ”
      It’s pretty obvious that the slymepit was in part an obvious reaction to the low level of discourse in some blogs at FtB, To be honest when you actually go see it (the slymepit), most of it is pretty tame bar a few that go over the line… but then the line is crossed 24/7 in the comment area of some ftb blogs anyway. So when they complain about the slymepit you really have to wonder how much cognitive dissonance can be in effect before a brain explodes.

      Women get rape threats on the internet and guys get threats of rape on their mothers, wives or sisters. I get these all the time. I don’t pay any attention to internet trolls, people who put trolls on pedestals at shows and present their works of art on a stage should think twice about it.

      Watson’s video was lame enough whether you agreed with it or not, but the argument raged out of proportion to the incident so much that when some poor English biologist tried to deflate it by putting it in perspective, well the true pettiness and vindictive nature of Watson was there on display for anyone to see. And the spokesperson against sexism went on and with the juvenile dick jokes debasing herself even more to the complete contentment of other even less accomplished blind fans.

      jacklewis2012

      April 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm

  2. As a long time reader of Pharyngula but not your blog (I had never heard of you before) I don’t think I have ever felt more disappointed in at least that part of the atheist or skeptic community than I did after following that infamous thread. This wasn’t even about what was right or what was wrong. It was about a clique of regular commenters who were outraged by the notion that others might have opinions different than their own. Both you and Matthew Best made quite calm and measured comments. For that, both of you were bullied, marginalized, dismissed, insulted, and lied about. The thread was quite manifestly about the totality of the Richards event, though they tried to silence and dismiss people on the grounds that it was only about how she was treated after the event (which we can all agree was terrible).

    Interesting that a small cadre of commenters feel they own the place, but it is apparantly with P.Z.’s blessing so what can you do? They seem to think that the hardships they have faced in this world grants them a group-license to treat others poorly.

    I would have hoped better from people who claim to champion rationality and ideals for a better world. They should all be utterly ashamed of themselves. Not impressed with P.Z.’s wishy-washy non-defence of you or his commentary on the behaviour of the regulars on his site, either. Not that anyone would care, but I can hardly bring myself back to Pharyngula again. Think I will stick to Ed Brayton’s blog from now on. What a shame: a site ruined by people who act worse than the people they condemn.

    Just know you have support.

    Shawn

    April 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    • This kind of comment is exactly what we need. I have mistakenly distracted myself answering comments in this very thread by people who’ve come over from Pharyngula to defend the abuse that Ellen Beth and many others are subject to. You are a Pharyngula reader and I’m a “Slymepitter” and we both can agree that the attacks are damaging. This is the common ground we need!

      Katie (@tkmlac)

      April 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm

  3. PyCon 2013 Code of Conduct states: If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff. [...] Report the harassment incident (preferably in writing) to a conference staff member – all reports are confidential.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 states: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    Richards has been the protagonist in this series of events, as it was reported by her and picked up by nearly everyone else through her. I don’t want to go through the details, but it is apparent that Richards was both the center of attention and the person who did the wrong things (see above)–minus what happened afterwards to her, which are yet other issues. Not even PZ Myers told the story from the perspective of harassment & treats against her. He, too, placed Richards in the center and declared her actions as “exactly right”. Why is it then that others are not allowed to find her actions not “exactly right”, which seems a reasonable position given the above facts.

    It is very well possible to hold views at the same time, that the tech industry is sexist, that the two men only made double entendres that were inappropriate but not sexist and that Richards taking pictures was both against the Code of Conduct and privacy laws (or the Human Rights Declaration, Article 12, yeah I know how this sounds). Therefore, your views were reasonable, even when someone disagrees by placing a different emphasis somewhere. In that sense, the FTBers should have adjusted their hate-level accordingly. I find it also odd how they disregard convention policies when in previous situations all their hatred was geared towards those who mildly criticized the upgrading of convention CoCs.

    Owlglass

    April 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    • I think you may have meant to use “antagonist”? But, I get your point.

      MyCatsAreMyGods

      April 2, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      • Depending on who you ask ;)

        Owlglass

        April 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    • Wow – do you realize that rights are of different types, some against the government, others against individuals? If you believe that this declaration was meant to protect against someone accurately describing your behavior and declaring an opinion that such behavior is “not cool” then you have so misconstrued the nature of that document and its words that meaningful engagement on the issue is almost impossible.

      Think it through. Do you have a “right” to make sure that any exes of yours never speak of ways in which you hurt them if such accurate speech might reflect badly on you **if true**? Seriously? That sounds a lot like silencing and control to me, and if your right to silence other has “protection of the law” then you’ve got a serious breach of free speech rights.

      You really know how that sounds? It sounds like you think that truthful accusations are against the human rights of the accused.

      Crip Dyke

      April 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      • What you bring forward has no substance. On top, you: 1) declared that meaningful engagement with me was almost impossible, quite the contrary 2) accused me that I was interested in “silencing and control”, which you made up and 3) you created a new case with a “do you still beat your wife” style suggestion. It tells me that you are a FreeThoughtBlogs Regular. Perhaps lurkers see the issue now, if it isn’t clear by now.

        The Human Rights declaration is, as the name prominently suggests, “universal”. Additional laws in each country protect privacy, reputation or even such notions as honor. Obviously, there are differences in each country’s laws. You are generally not allowed to disseminate any information about other persons to the public. Whether you are convinced that your claim is true does not matter. You are not getting to decide what is considered “the truth” about another person. Your freedom ends where another person and their rights begin. If there is something that concers violation of laws and rights, you are obliged to tell the respective authorities. That is the rule of thumb. There are edge cases, and it can get complicated quickly. Consider this my lampshade. Eventually there are courts dealing with such issues which suggest that nothing about the issue is “exactly right” or easy. At least. In turn, this means there is normally room for discussion or different opinions. Not so with FTBullies and their over the top style of discussion.

        For those interested how it works: there is normally a number of scouts who prepare the ground in the fashion you see here. They introduce all kinds of over the top interpretations with emotional load that can be exploited further. After that, the so-called “dogpiling” sets in. I’d call it the cavalry, as individuals are anyway no longer discernible. They come riding in a Deliberate Offense Gish Gallop. After some time, the priests show up, who pray to the powers-that-be to ban the target for the reasons that have been produced before.

        Owlglass

        April 3, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      • Quoting Owlglass:
        =======
        What you bring forward has no substance. On top, you: 1) declared that meaningful engagement with me was almost impossible, quite the contrary 2) accused me that I was interested in “silencing and control”, which you made up and 3) you created a new case with a “do you still beat your wife” style suggestion. It tells me that you are a FreeThoughtBlogs Regular. Perhaps lurkers see the issue now, if it isn’t clear by now.
        =======

        Okay, first, what I said has no substance? I don’t think so. 2nd:

        “you: 1) declared that meaningful engagement with me was almost impossible”

        No. I did not.

        I said IF, let me repeat IF you believe a particular document says a particular thing, then you have misconstrued its meaning to the point that engagement ON THAT ISSUE is almost impossible.

        If I felt all engagement with you on any subject whatsoever was “almost impossible” then I wouldn’t have engaged with you.

        If X then Y

        is not the same as saying

        Oh, most definitely in all cases Y.

        ————
        Moving on. you say that I

        “2) accused me that I was interested in “silencing and control”, which you made up”

        Again, you are completely ignoring the difference between “if X then Y” and “Oh, most definitely in all cases Y.”

        I did not accuse you of anything. I asked you to think through the consequences of your position. I said – and even used multiple asterisks to highlight “**if true**”, then certain consequences would follow. I actually assumed you would detest those consequences and the logical outcome of your stated position would cause you to rethink your stated position.

        this brings us to

        “3) you created a new case with a “do you still beat your wife” style suggestion”

        Here you almost have me. But “do you still beat your wife” is not merely a question of offensive implication – on which point you might arguably have had me – but it is a trap of a yes/no question so that if you answer the question at all, you’re either implicitly or explicitly announcing beating your wife.

        But you can answer my question without any negatives attaching to you. All you have to say is that you don’t believe that you get to control what your exes say about you. Which, frankly, I take as a default. I was using this as shock value so that you would see that your stated position carries offensive implications. Even you seem to believe the implications are offensive, but they logically follow from your stated position. You either have to give up on the idea that a person can be compelled not to speak truth in public, or you have to vastly curtail it so that it doesn’t apply in most situations. Depending on how much you curtailed it, we might even be in agreement. If a known murderer seeking to murder you shows up and asks, “Where’s Owlglass?” and I point to you and say, “there!” there’s a good case for that speech to be prohibitable. I think there’s a more convincing case on the other side, but you could convince me with a good argument.

        I asked my questions, Socratically, in order to get you to think about things in a way that brings you closer to my position.

        I never asked questions of you deliberately so as to harm your reputation – which is the trap of “Do you still beat your wife?”

        Therefore, on point 3 you are also in error.

        As a final note in this section, i do say,

        “You really know how that sounds? It sounds like you think that truthful accusations are against the human rights of the accused.”

        It does sound that way. You may not like the implications of that, but it does sound that way. I don’t say it to injure you. I say it to get you to rethink your position. I included this bit about how your argument “sounds” because perhaps you simply had expressed yourself badly, rather than accurately expressing something that is offensive to any system of law of which I am aware.

        I actually hoped you had expressed yourself badly. I still do.

        —————–

        But let’s go on: you say

        “You are generally not allowed to disseminate any information about other persons to the public. Whether you are convinced that your claim is true does not matter.”

        This is just so wrong I don’t know what to say. I can tell my partner that my school friend ate pulled pork for lunch, and I can even do so at a dinner attended by a number of people, and I can even do so where those people belong to the same congregation as my school friend, and I can even do so where my friend’s congregation is such that eating pork is considered a grave sin.

        Listing the things I **can** say in public is fruitless. It is much easier to list the things I *can’t* legally say.

        I get to talk about what I’ve seen and what I know. It’s called freedom of speech. That’s also in the document you cite.

        If you live in a country where the government can prevent you from speaking and/or another party can sue you for speaking true facts – and speaking true facts alone – then I am dreadfully sorry for your situation, but it is not endorsed by the document you cite.

        Privacy suits involve not merely speaking truth, they involve breach of fiduciary duty.
        Negligence claims involve not merely speaking truth, but doing so in a way that gives information to someone who intends harm and to whom you know or should have known you cannot give that information without leading to the harm of a 3rd party.
        Conspiracy prosecutions aren’t based on speaking truth, they are premised on making agreements [promises] to carry out other crimes.

        I could go on and on, but speaking truth alone, even in public, even if someone who encounters that information eventually uses it to cause harm, is not enough to sustain an action at law – and in fact, UNCHR does not want it to be.

        Though there is a case where speaking the truth alone can be sufficient for arrest: Blasphemy laws. While they are said to be used against insults and lies, if believers take offense at something true, that can be the basis for a blasphemy prosecution.

        Please note that the UN is against this practice.
        ————-

        Finally, you say that I am a “FreeThoughtBlogs Regular. Perhaps lurkers see the issue now, if it isn’t clear by now.”

        Frankly, *I* don’t see the issue now. What is the issue again? Is it that I’ve objected to your arguments and used a socratic method that, if you squint at it, looks like an attempt to paint you into a trap and yet clearly has at least one huge, honkin way out?

        It seems like there’s more here about FtB and my possibly being a “scout”. But I really don’t know exactly what you’re saying or exactly how it relates to me, so I’ll leave that alone.

        Let me just conclude, Owlglass, by saying your numbered points are in error, and the UNCHR does not support the idea that one person has a human right of general applicability to prevent another person from telling the truth in public.

        Instead of talking about scouts and cavalries, perhaps you could find a decision from the ICC or other court of relevant jurisdiction upholding such an international right? I doubt it exists, but that’s the way to prove me wrong.

        Crip Dyke

        April 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm

  4. “And I have been supportive of EllenBeth. Just ask her. But I have read the word of the likes of you for years. And I have read the Slymepit. I do not like nor trust the lot of you.

    Make of it what you will.”

    I’ll make of it what it is, Janine. You separating yourself from the solution so you can keep on dehumanizing, “the likes of me.”

    Katie (@tkmlac)

    April 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm

  5. Ellen, I am sorry that you experienced this. I have been there as well, but I was better prepared than you. This was because, in that in my final rage against the absurd (aka non-evidenced accusations) in certain online environments, I knew exactly the reaction I would get and I cared not one single bit. Sometimes you just have things to say.

    You do not recognize yourself in the picture painted of you. Neither should you. It is like fighting with someone who insists on shadow-boxing while in a ring with you. You watch them getting their exercise in, but it is not you that is getting hit. OK, they occasionally they scratch their own hand on the wall, but that all. To understand this all a bit more though (rather than just feeling hurt and confused) it might help if you consider the nature of what it is that they seem to be seeing in their own shadows. Not you needless to say. Something much different.

    We often experience an emotional, nauseous, visceral reaction when we find ourselves looking at a real life, full-blown, bone fide sociopath. They look normal, they sound normal, but they most certainly aren’t normal. There is something lacking you see, they not all there, and what IS there can take enormous pleasure in feeding off the rest of us.

    Now, I tend to read books written by people much smarter and wiser than I can ever be when trying to get a handle on emotions, so please indulge me in a little quoting :)

    Steinbeck described this observation fabulously when describing an execution of one of the worse types of sociopath:

    -=-=-=
    “The golden man seemed to have no arms. He looked out over the crowd and then looked down, looked right at Samuel. The picture was clear, lighted and perfect. The man’s eyes had no depth – they were not like other eyes, not like the eyes of a man.”
    East of Eden. (Chapter 16)
    -=-=-=-

    You know, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this gut reaction at an observed lack of affect; at a lack of empathy; is at the source of many traditional fairy stories about monsters and shape-shifters. I further wonder if this reaction could be be an adaptive reaction – an alarm bell against cheating types. For nobody wants a free-loader, even in a kin group. Sigh, it would certainly explain the pitchforks that seem to appear with breathtaking suddenness from time to time.

    Some lives have doubtless been saved by it from time to time, but at the dreadful at the cost of making harsh some, normally very kind, people.

    Steinbeck again (here describing a good man explaining to his son his reaction to the execution).

    -=-=-=
    “I have to tell you. They were killing a bad man.”
    “Was it the golden man?”
    “Yes, it was. And you must put no sorrow on him. He had to be killed. Not once but many times he did dreadful things – things only a fiend could think of. It’s not his hanging sorrows me but that they make a holiday of it that should be done secretly, in the dark.”
    -=-=-=

    Now are there ‘golden men’ (and ‘golden women’) in the real world?

    Oh yes. I have worked in Child Protection, and have had reason to sit in rooms with – what I can only describe as – destroyers. I have seen flat eyes combined with smiling, lying mouths. Do some of these people get onto the internet? *Shrug* No reason to think they don’t. However, are they as common as is assumed? No, I don’t think so. I really don’t.

    Yes, we must be vigilant and look out for their ‘tells’ (playing on sympathies when nervous being a big one) but we cannot allow the mere possibility of their existence to them to make us feel all nauseous and besieged all the time. It gets tiring.

    You say that you are now less sure that things are as clear cut as they have been made out to be. Not a comfortable place to be. However, much less uncomfortable than wondering; with each and every online interaction; whether the eyes of your unseen interlocutor are actually flat. I hope that you can get some peace at not feeling that churning sensation quite so often now.

    The people who you dealt with are still in that place though. You know how they got there, and you know how it feels. So I hope you can forgive them a little. Also, being a bit forward here, may I also hope that you can forgive yourself for the time that you spent in that place also? You may have to coldly reassess your previous comments to some people before this completely happens for you though.

    Anyway, enough waffle from me!

    Best wishes :)

    Corylus

    April 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm

  6. I think a decent summary of many of the comments you’re pointing out are that they were assuming you were simply using the position that Adria Richards didn’t do things exactly right, in your opinion, to heap blame upon her for the whole mess. The reason for that is that, if you read the whole three threads about this (which is a bit of a monster task, as this totaled 3000 comments before I left it alone), you see person after person after person come on there and try to make it all about how and why it was Adria Richards fault, so she got exactly what she deserved, and, if anyone is the victim, it’s the two guys for her disproportionate action of invading their privacy by publicly outing them and calling them sexual deviants all over the internet (which was actually one picture on Twitter, calling their actions ‘not cool’ and asking for the staff to ‘have a word’, that would have quickly been forgotten if not for the subsequent events, and actually revealed less about the guys than about Richards herself). Thus, in that context, it simply seemed as if you were another one of those, despite your comments about her not deserving the reaction she got, as it seemed you were merely mentioning that in passing to give it lip service, whilst continuing to concentrate on how Richards shouldn’t have used Twitter.

    To actually address your argument, though, you seem to be suggesting that it is possible that, despite being right there, and personally hearing the comments come directly from the mouths of two guys she was actually speaking to at the time, it is possible she could have ‘got it wrong’. Well, let’s suppose she did. Let’s suppose, hypothetically speaking, these guys made perfectly innocent, totally appropriate comments that, for some reason, Adria Richards mistook for highly inappropriate sexual ‘jokes’. What would have happened? The two guys would have been pulled aside by the PyCon staff, they would have denied or expressed puzzlement over the claims, and, basically, simply sat back down. And, if the world was as it should be, that would be about it. The world being what it is, though, the internet still would have exploded at Richards over the temerity of a woman actually complaining about inappropriate jokes, the DDoS attack would probably have still happened, and Richards, at least, would probably have still been fired – even if she had posted a subsequent tweet saying ‘oops, got it wrong about those two #redface’, or something of that nature.

    However, that didn’t happen. Richards complained, accurately, that two men were making inappropriate jokes, and, instead of it being that the only thing that happened was the men had a quiet word put in their ear by the PyCon staff, and that’s about it, the entire internet exploded at the woman involved for actually complaining, which led to DDoS attacks, firings, and death and rape threats. That is the part we should be concentrating on, and the part we should be finding utterly ludicrous, absurd, and morally reprehensible, even if you personally think that Twitter was the wrong way to contact the PyCon staff to make that complaint.

    Zmidponk

    April 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    • The important word is “assume”. On the evidence presented, the commenters had no excuse for any doing such thing. EllenBeth clearly stated what her view was. If commenters are prone to mistaking her opinion for others’ then they should not comment. The fact that there are hundreds or thousands of comments is no excuse. On the other hand, to say that it may have “seemed you were merely mentioning that in passing to give it lip service, whilst continuing to concentrate on how Richards shouldn’t have used Twitter.” is just to excuse spouting a lot of venomous bumwash, quite frankly. There is a strain of self-righteous absolutism is Pharyngula that often makes the place unpleasant to visit. Arguing with or even shouting down obvious trolls is one thing but screaming abuse at people commenting in good faith whose opinions do not align 100% with yours is quite another. If you can’t see any distinction then perhaps you need to hush for a while and get some perspective.

      Stephen Beesley

      April 2, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      • ^ This. Seconded by me.

        Pharyngula is a good and interesting blog but, a-yi-yi are some of the commenters there ever prone to overreaction, jumping to false conclusions, missing important nuances (reading comprehension fails) and general abusive nastiness that people especially those merely disagreeing reasonably on certain issues & offering different perspectives – not trolling – should NOT have to endure.

        I hope this acts as awake up call for PZ to start dialling things back and maybe changing his commenst policy to a more reasonable one such as that used by PhilPlait’s bad astronomy blogand some of other FTB blogs.

        I hope it makes some of the more brutal less thoughtful commenters there think twice about how they come across and realise that disagreeing with their opinions doesn’t make the person whose disagreeing with them a bad person merely some one human with a different view than theirs.

        astrostevo

        April 2, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      • “The important word is “assume”. On the evidence presented, the commenters had no excuse for any doing such thing. EllenBeth clearly stated what her view was. If commenters are prone to mistaking her opinion for others’ then they should not comment.”

        The point is that the evidence presented ISN’T the whole story. The whole story is the threads in question. In there, you have multiple people saying things that are actually quite similar to EllenBeth Wachs in order to, as I said, heap blame upon Adria Richards, and make it entirely her fault. So, yes, assumptions were made, and I can see why you might think it was unfair for those assumptions to be made, but there were very good reasons that the assumptions were made.

        “On the other hand, to say that it may have “seemed you were merely mentioning that in passing to give it lip service, whilst continuing to concentrate on how Richards shouldn’t have used Twitter.” is just to excuse spouting a lot of venomous bumwash”

        What you call ‘venomous bumwash’ can be useful, which is why it is allowed and even encouraged at places like Pharyngula. There, it’s seen that, if someone is being a fucking idiot, calling them a fucking idiot should be an option (though it’s generally seen as being a bit pointless unless you also explain why they’re being a fucking idiot). If you find language like that ‘venomous bumwash’, then fine – don’t read Pharyngula, or anywhere else that finds this idea acceptable.

        Zmidponk

        April 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

    • There’s no great disadvantage to concentrate on both the inappropriateness of “report by twitter” and also the egregiously horrible reaction by the internet. I don’t understand why people make this out to be a verboten issue. It goes against time tested means by which we process adverse events. When a plane crashes we concentrate on the injured victims, but we also try to figure out why the plane crashed. When a negligent driver causes a pileup, we focus on the victims, but also charge the driver with negligence. At the heart of this entire mess is a logical inconsistency: that the egregious response by the Internet must, MUST, absolve Richards of any possible wrongdoing. But, I mean, this is absurd. We can do a simple reductio to prove to ourselves that it’s absurd. What if Richards had turned in her seat and gunned the two men down? Do we still pay no attention to what Richards did?

      Hunt

      April 3, 2013 at 7:20 am

      • “There’s no great disadvantage to concentrate on both the inappropriateness of “report by twitter” and also the egregiously horrible reaction by the internet.”

        As was explained, several times, in the thread EllenBeth is referring to, and has also been explained in the thread PZ put about this post here, it basically equates the two things and butresses the argument that this can all be laid at Adria Richards door, because she did the egregious and outlandish thing of, you know, actually complaining (via Twitter).

        ” I don’t understand why people make this out to be a verboten issue. It goes against time tested means by which we process adverse events. When a plane crashes we concentrate on the injured victims, but we also try to figure out why the plane crashed. When a negligent driver causes a pileup, we focus on the victims, but also charge the driver with negligence.”

        And there you’re equating Richards with the reason the plane crashed and the negligent driver. Even if you disagree with Adria Richards complaining via Twitter, what you’re actually doing is, in a plane crash, meticulously examining the pilot’s conduct to see if it’s his fault the wings fell off.

        Zmidponk

        April 3, 2013 at 10:38 am

  7. “the blog had a certain reputation for not suffering fools lightly”

    Really? Most of the regular commenters seem to be thinking with what the rest of us are sitting on.

    someone

    April 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm

  8. IS IT WORTH IT?? It’s worth making the first post or two, clearly and politely, to present the ideas you believe in. It’s not worth engaging at the point where it turns into mud-slinging and imputing bad faith to anyone who disagrees about anything however minor. At the point of the “so you think he must be right because he’s a man, chill girl,” it’s time to close tab.

    The thing that I find peculiar about Pharyngula is that the attack-y threads are followed by sincere discussions on how to grow atheist conferences/movement, without any awareness that there may be a relationship between the two.

    But to be fair, PZ’s response to this thread was an attempt at a decent engagement of differences.

    suya

    April 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

  9. I took a look at the pharyngula thread discussing your post (first 40 comments or so, couldn’t take any more of it). The people there are trying to defend their being complete and utter assholes because they were “right”. Of course that means being right even in their silliest conjectures (see nerd of redhead: “When here, she said she would have ignored the content of the tweet as the tweet was the wrong way to communicate the complaint. And would have tried to talk Adria out of the complaint.”). What a toxic mentality that place has developed.

    PS: I see the slymers are still courting you. Cute. :-)

    bombomomb

    April 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    • Hardly “courting” – at least in my view. Some sympathy – “been there; done that” – mixed in with a sense of vindication: “See what a toxic mentality that place has developed” that it shoots first and asks questions later – maybe. So to speak … ;-)

      Curious, and maybe encouraging, that even PZ is getting that message (1):

      However, man, some of you commenters were brutal. I’m all in favor of letting your views hang out there and letting you express yourselves freely, but this is a case where some of you were so angry that it interfered with your ability to communicate rationally. And then I’m torn, because that anger is actually valid, too.

      While I think he is quite right to suggest that anger frequently precludes rational thinking – e.g., “crimes of passion” – he has, unfortunately, yet to twig to the possibility that that is not just “a case”, but the modus operandi of the place. With obviously detrimental consequences to a great many.


      1) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/04/02/ellenbeth-wachs-recounts-her-experiences/”;

      Steersman

      April 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

  10. I disagree, tactically, with the choices some persons made in that thread.

    I believe that some persons’ actions were wrong in that thread, in the sense that they believed that they knew EllenBeth’s motivations (for instance, “chill girl” is a name not merely for a woman whose actions reinforce sexism, but one who makes her sexism-reinforcing choices with an eye toward the approval of sexist men) – I never thought that there was any evidence of her motivations in that thread.

    I believe that some persons’ actions were wrong in the sense that they misread EllenBeth’s words to say things other than what she meant. The anecdote about talking someone out of filing a formal complaint is a case in point.

    I think that to the extent EllenBeth’s statements were greeted with hostility (as opposed to EllenBeth personally), I think the pharyngula horde was more than justified.

    If EllenBeth truly doesn’t understand that presumption of innocence is a bulwark against the government and not a moral principle preventing certain accusations and/or forms of accusation, she hasn’t thought it through. The presumption of innocence isn’t even raised until there is a de facto accusation.

    It is not up to a victim of behavior to presume the innocence of those doing the victimizing.

    That is for the persons sitting in judgement. If it was acceptable to prevent reporting certain behaviors and/ or to prevent certain forms of reporting, far too many incidents would never even get to the point where we would have to apply the presumption of innocence.

    EllenBeth somehow doesn’t even understand what the presumption of innocence is, much less how it functions. I find this astonishing in a lawyer (even one now retired).

    Does ElleBeth really believe that it is somehow inappropriate for me to come home from a restaurant and blog that the server spit on me? Why? Why shouldn’t I be free to say that?

    What about Adria makes her the exception to the moral and legal principles that govern the rest of us? Adria wasn’t alleging a violation of a specific statute of which one can be legally guilty or not and even certain knowledge of an accused’s factual guilt is insufficient to go round tweeting that someone was found legally culpable of a specific crime.

    She said what happened. She said she didn’t like it. But this, to EllenBeth, is wrong. So EllenBeth wants to make it clear to everyone that Adria was wrong to, y’know, speak. Because the guys might not be legally guilty of something? Is there some other reason?

    Adria was there. She knew what happened. To say that she can’t speak about what is true b/c some people wouldn’t like the consequences of having their actual deeds attached to their actual identities is bizarro-world level argument. To say that she can’t speak because she might be lying is ridiculous: If the reason is that Adria might be lying, well, the answer to that is that it’s not okay to lie. If you’re doing that online or in person, it’s wrong. I get to blog about some server spitting on me in a restaurant. If it happened, I’m right to blog about it. If it didn’t happen, it’s as wrong to tell one person as to tweet to 10k.

    The *consequences* are different – but that goes to damages, not to fault.

    Moreover, EB is disturbing in her persistent failure to appreciate that a focus on Adria’s [perceived] wrongs is entirely consistent with the longstanding mechanism of oppression in which the unjustly powerful insist that criticism be issued only in ways that don’t have consequences for the criticized.

    Here’s a clue: If there are no consequences for the criticized, there is no end to the oppression.

    To the extent people are upset with EB’s arguments & statements, they are upset with very good reason.

    Crip Dyke

    April 2, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    • Thanks for taking the time to make a detailed comment. I am truly sorry you failed to actually take the time to see my points. I do see you think you know me better than I know myself.

      MyCatsAreMyGods

      April 2, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      • Please, tell me where what I’ve said is contradicted by your comments.

        Also, please tell me where I tell you who you are or what you know. I’ve tackled – or tried to – your public statements. If I’m wrong, point out where & I’ll happily concede.

        It seems to me quite clear that your statements contain an argument that there is a role for the presumption of innocence before an accusation is made – which is logically ridiculous, when you think about it. I’ve engaged that and tried to pull apart the consequences of your argument.

        I have never implied anything intrinsic to you. Or at least I don’t know where I have done so. If you wish to engage, please do so. If you don’t have time, I understand. But to say that I failed to “take the time to see [your] points” clearly is belied by my specifically addressing your point about the presumption of innocence.

        If you do not believe the presumption of innocence should weigh on a victim/witness before a complaint is made, then I believe your assertion that it is appropriate for the victim/witness to consider PoI before reporting is nonsensical. I prefer to interpret your argument as sensical but wrong. But I’ve certainly taken the time to engage with it, and I certainly am addressing at least one of your points. Taking the time to write, but failing to engage with my comment seems to me a waste of everyone’s time.

        How about actually showing where I’m wrong? quotes or citations would be helpful in making the conversation productive.

        Crip Dyke

        April 2, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    • For one thing the argument about whether or not Richards was correct in her actions is separate from how Pharyngulites conducted themselves. You seem to think that if it were the case the Pharyngulites were right, that would entirely justify their behavior, and part of the contention of this post is that it doesn’t.

      Second, you seek to justify Richards’s actions, because as you say she was there and knew what happened. However, that doesn’t by itself mean her interpretation of events was accurate. In fact, we now know that she misinterpreted part of what was said. What if she had misinterpreted all of it? Like you say, these things have consequences. One of the men was fired. Richards herself was fired merely because one of the companies believed that the notoriety gained by this instance made her ineffective in her job. Exactly the same kind of rationale might have been used against one of the men, had he been a tech evangelist and at the same entirely misinterpreted. Can you at least see why a precedent like that might be dangerous?

      So the situation we’re faced with is one where people bring their grievances to the court of public opinion, and in doing so, might disrupt the careers and lives of people without actually being certain that their perceptions are entirely correct.

      Hunt

      April 3, 2013 at 6:36 am

      • First, I said at the beginning that I didn’t agree with some of what the Horde did.

        Let me quote myself:
        “I disagree, tactically, with the choices some persons made in that thread.

        I believe that some persons’ actions were wrong in that thread, …”

        So when you say that I seem to think that any Horde behavior would be “entirely justify[ied]” by having the right side of the argument, you are contradicting my exact and express words.

        Second, your argument that I am missing the point … that’s what was said about EB by the Horde. And she doubled down by continuing to miss the point – hard. I don’t defend the name calling, but if it is oh-so-important to make sure that we pick apart what victims do wrong, why aren’t you picking apart EB’s behavior? Why focus on the Horde when you could focus on EB’s missteps?

        …the defensive tone sounds a tad ridiculous when you’re upset about the same thing the Horde thought was wrong. To the extent that the Horde was more boisterous about their objections, I think that has a lot to do with the practical effect of what was being said and advocated, to wit

        (and Third,) you are arguing that people shouldn’t be publicly honest because they might be wrong. You might not hold that position for all public honesty – if, for instance, the topic under discussion couldn’t have any negative consequences for anyone (e.g. Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books are the best young-adult SciFi evan!!! or No way! Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books are much better than the Pern novels.) But your argument is explicit: because/when bad consequences are possible, people should not tell the truth publicly.

        This is also EB’s argument, as near as I can tell. Why do you endorse an argument that calls public truth a bad thing? Have you thought this through?

        What do you see to be long term consequences of implementing such a social practice? Clearly you believe that it is worth it for some undefined but rather large set of truths. Clearly there is no justifying being publicly truthful in the case of men making sexual jokes disrupting the one tech panel devoted to presenting the work/research/perspectives of women at an entire conference. Do you see any negative consequences for your policy, or do you see only positives?

        How broad should the “PoI applies to victims/witnesses not merely triers-of-fact” policy apply? I see no nuance here. I would love to see this fleshed out, b/c I think an extended rumination would lead to EB highly qualifying things and/or backing out of her statement that PoI should be applied before an accusation has been made. And I see those possibilities as productive directions for movement.

        I also see EB quoting the policy asking conferees to contact them and encouraging e-mail. However, a sign in a bank lobby directing persons to make complaints via the lobby suggestion box does not curtail the right of a customer to blog about their experiences with the bank. There are good reasons to use formal mechanisms of reporting. One of them isn’t that the existence of a formal mechanism of reporting strips away the right of persons to talk, tweet, or blog.

        Quote:
        So the situation we’re faced with is one where people bring their grievances to the court of public opinion, and in doing so, might disrupt the careers and lives of people without actually being certain that their perceptions are entirely correct.
        =========================

        And the solution you and EB are advocating is that victims/witnesses lose the right to talk about what happened to them and/or in their presence b/c humans are human.

        it’s a bad solution. It’s a contemptible solution. And whether EB meant to use PoI as a metaphor or not, PoI before the accusation stage is both nonsensical and counterproductive to creating justice.

        And that is why I’m discussing what EB did.

        I do not do it to justify any behavior. I do it because EB still appears to be advocating that it is somehow “wrong” (I don’t know if she means in a moral sense or what other sense) for Adria or anyone else in a similar position to tell the truth in public. Dangerous truth, in this formulation, is only for the quiet backchannels, no matter how public the original behavior might have been (in a well-attended lecture hall at a conference!).

        When she has a new post up saying that PoI pre-accusation is a bad idea and that victims/witnesses are not wrong to discuss in public what happens in public and/or what happens privately that has public impact, at that moment I will consider it entirely unnecessary and counterproductive to continue pointing out the harm and nonsense of pre-accusation PoI.

        Until then, the situation with Adria and with EB is different: Adria did something that fights injustice in our society. She did it in a way that is arguably sub-optimal. She did not do anything “wrong”. If Adria’s position is adopted, sex-joking during the sole panel of women experts will be eliminated unless and until it happens in a context where it doesn’t reinforce problems with sexism.

        EB did something that **attempted** to fight injustice in our society. She did it in a way that was arguably sub-optimal. But moreover, she did something wrong: she argued that there was an obligation for victims/witnesses to shut up if there is a private avenue for reporting bad behavior. If Adria’s position is adopted, victims/witnesses will be encouraged to doubt themselves and public discussion of behavior that contributes to injustice will be curtailed.

        There are clear reasons why I dislike this particular position of EB and am fine with Adria’s response at PyCon. Instead of accusing me of justifying behavior I don’t seek to justify, perhaps someone on EB’s side could actually engage with those arguments.

        Crip Dyke

        April 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      • I should have responded explicitly to this point of yours:
        One of the men was fired. Richards herself was fired merely because one of the companies believed that the notoriety gained by this instance made her ineffective in her job. Exactly the same kind of rationale might have been used against one of the men, had he been a tech evangelist and at the same entirely misinterpreted. Can you at least see why a precedent like that might be dangerous?

        =================
        yes. I absolutely see why that precedent might be dangerous. Can you see that Richards isn’t responsible for that? Can you see how she wasn’t advocating for that outcome and in fact advocated against it? Can you see how that outcome is entirely disproportionate to saying “not cool”?

        And this thing with “misinterpreted”. She said that they were making jokes about “forking one’s repo” and “dongles”.

        **AND SHE TOLD THE TRUTH ABOUT IT**

        She may very well have also thought that the two guys literally wanted to have sex with a canary that was just outside the window of the conference and that their joking was a conscious expression of their unconscious canary-horniness, but that’s not what she tweeted.

        She said what they said. She said it was “not cool” which was obviously an opinion. And EB says that that was wrong. You say it’s wrong b/c someone might do the wrong thing with a publicly spoken truth.

        Can you see why a precedent like that might be dangerous?

        Crip Dyke

        April 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      • Thanks for the reply. It’s great that we can discuss this without calling each other fuckbrained assholes or something worse. Civil discussion could have happened at Pharyngula, but it didn’t. I reiterate that not because I don’t think you agree, or at least seem to be willing to come part way on that point, but because that is the topic of this post. Rehashing the topic itself is actually a digression, which is important to keep in mind. The fact that discussion is being quelled by environments directly encouraged by PZ, et al. is why they’re causing real damage. Yet, they don’t seem able to acknowledge that, and there’s only so many times others are going to sound the alarm before they give up trying.

        So even though this is off-topic, I’ll keep going until someone tells me to shut up.

        The matter seems to boil down to a dilemma between reporting an incident publicly and risking bad consequences (firing, etc.) and possibly curtailing the right of a victim to publicly describe what happened.

        There a number of things that need to be clarified here. I agree with you that it’s hard to tell to what extent presumption of innocence should be applied here, since we’re not talking about a court of law, and as you say, this is even prior to accusation. Metaphorically, it’s still a good principle to apply (I think), particularly since this event exists within an even more reactive environment, that of the company workplace. Representatives at a conference are still very much within their job environments. This may be a motivation to act more deliberately, not less than if we’re talking about a legal proceeding. We have the rather quixotic decision process of corporate leadership, the tentative, perhaps ill-considered and incomplete guidelines of conference rules, and the lack of hundreds of years of collective wisdom backing jurisprudence. Into this arena we inject, basically, a mob, which is what broadcasting to the internet essentially summons.

        Now, what is the benefit to “going public”? And what does it mean, to report the incident publicly (through “the mob”) or to describe it, perhaps later, on your blog as you describe. Unless one’s aim is to actually resort to vigilante justice, I don’t see the profit to a (prospective) victim of reporting something publicly through the mob. If your resort is to vigilante justice, that is only the tacit admission that you don’t actually trust the methods in place, which you implied agreement to when you decided to attend the conference in the first place. It seems that the only utility to going public, other that perhaps to express yourself freely as a psychological purge, is in public shaming of your targets.

        So then things reduce to asking whether that is/was a good idea or even ethically sanctioned. We might conclude right off the bat that since everyone seems to agree that the outcomes were bad (firing) that it wasn’t. But then also part of the bad reaction was the trolling, the threats, etc, and do we want to allow argument to consequences be part of the deliberation. In other words, do you want to let the mob dictate your actions? Perhaps I can tempt you, and others, to agree that amid the present status of things (the status quo!) it is prudent, in fact, it is extremely sound judgement, to attempt to exclude the mob internet from rational discourse and deliberation as much as possible. And that, in essence, is where my opinion lies. Richards didn’t do that.

        (Postscript: Or, maybe you don’t agree with that. Maybe you think including the mob wins the cost/benefit analysis.)

        Hunt

        April 4, 2013 at 6:18 am

      • @ Hunt:

        First, I agree with you that this isn’t on the original topic. I actually mentioned that in a previous post.

        Moving on:

        You can’t see a benefit to public knowledge other than personal catharsis or vigilante justice?

        If the public doesn’t know about the harms being done, how can policy be formulated to respond to such harms? How do you think the conference policies got formed in the first place?

        There had to be public identification of, and discussion of, actual bad behavior. If this is reported privately, and handled privately, with Adria unable to speak about it, others who didn’t report it but didn’t like sex jokes being made during the one panel where women are featured might simply not come back to the conference, thinking such things are tolerated. In fact, we don’t know to what extent the interactions between the conference and the callous, rude guys would have been communicated to Adria. SHE wouldn’t necessarily know the outcome, and if she did, she might not know what factors were considered. Was one a billionaire who escaped consequence by threatening to shut the conference down through media pressure? Was one kicked out despite no past history b/c a conference organizer thought muslims who do this kind of thing are less trustworthy than christians who do this kind of thing? Was the response ultimately just, considering all the circumstances? We don’t know unless we know not only outcome, but also process and what factors were considered.

        If Adria goes public, there can be a discussion of this kind of thing, with one possible outcome being that the community decides Adria is a jerk who is hypersensitive and the comments were actually fine. In which case we can make plans for the next conference without considering any need to discourage such jokes. If the community decides that Adria is insufficiently condemnatory, they might wanna add a specific flyer saying that no matter how many alternate meanings your speech does or might have, a double entendre (or triple, etc) is such because it has both a non-sexual and a sexual meaning, and if you use even one, even in the hallway, even in a way that is not disruptive to events or that has an impact on whether people feel welcome or not, you will be kicked out, your photo given to hotel and conference staff, and you will be arrested for trespassing if we see you present again this year or any year.

        I think both those conclusions are ridiculous, but we can’t consider any possible responses, ridiculous or not, unless we know that something happened in the first place.

        ***we literally cannot make anything better than the status quo unless we have public discussions***

        Therefore, asserting that one can’t/shouldn’t speak publicly is asserting that the status quo is all we can ever expect. That’s a detriment. Public discussion is a benefit.

        As for vigilante justice, there was no vigilante justice by Adria or on the part of feminists. One guy was fired despite Adria’s wishes. It wasn’t because of a DDOS attack launched by feminists. Reports I’ve read say that the guy had a history with bad behavior, though they didn’t say how much bad behavior or how bad it was. The other guy wasn’t fired, even though he worked for the same company, so clearly this was a corporate decision that used individual situations in the analysis.

        So what is the “bad thing” we’re supposed to be avoiding? The mob justice that ruins everything? Misogynistic assaults on women who calls, “not cool” some sexual jokes during the one panel that features women at a conference that is struggling to make women feel welcome.

        And what’s the answer that you & EB propose? Sexist jerkwads might overreact, therefore feminists can’t express such harsh sentiments as “not cool” in public, certainly not combined with accurate, truthful descriptions of specific behaviors (because her sentiment “not cool” could arise from a mistaken interpretation of the actual events).

        I don’t get it. I don’t understand why you assert that there is no good in expressing oneself in public. Do you believe that one has or should have a right to free expression? If so, why does the fact that **other people** might do something bad if we tell the truth in public mean that it is morally wrong to tell the truth in public?

        Or do you see no moral issue here? EB said it was “wrong” (it’s hard to tell, but it didn’t seem like a mere statement: “it didn’t get Adria her desired outcome, therefore was wrong in the sense of ineffective”, EB clearly had ideas that “wrong” had moral connotations here), and you seemed to say the same thing, but now you’re taking a more pragmatic approach.

        Don’t forget, if you’re talking pragmatics rather than morals, then Adria can’t be said to have acted “wrongly” without knowing the motive. If she wanted to generate public discussion, she did and thus acted “rightly” from a pragmatic point of view. If you are talking about morals, then I seriously oppose any intimation that it is morally wrong to tell the truth in public.

        One last thought: do the 4chan sexists come out of this looking good? It is certain that Adria didn’t intend the ridiculous overreactions of sexist jerks. However, they happened and their visible presence now creates awareness of what they are, what they do, and why they do it. Now there can also be discussions about responses. This, too, is a good. But even if it ended with no silver lining, please tell me why I should consider the possible unjust, unreasonable reactions of jerkwad sexists when I am deciding whether or not it is “right” that women speak about problems impacting women.

        Crip Dyke

        April 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      • One thing I’m interested in, that I haven’t seen discussed much, is Richard’s reasoning. She clearly stated she thought what the guys said was a barrier to women in the tech field. Is this true? does any evidence suggest this? I know women are underrepresented in technology fields, but it doesn’t feel right to say the reason is the oversexualized culture there. If anything, those fields have a reputation for being undersexualized. See Dilbert. So, an honest question – leaving out everything else, was her reasoning correct?

        Edward Gemmer

        April 4, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      • 2 thoughts:
        First, there’s a lot of sociological research on stereotype threat and related concepts. That these guys were near the front in a room where there’s a panel featuring women for the one & only time, well, there’s reason to believe that that would impact whether women on the stage felt taken seriously, and that would affect whether or not they would be willing to come back again. [if it occurred]

        I haven’t read any of the research specifically about tech environments, so I can’t speak to it, but the above seems likely. If you want a definitive answer, you have to refine your question:

        is it
        1: Was harm certain?
        2: Was it certain that the behavior risked harm, and that enough similar events would be certain to eventually cause harm.

        I think the first one is only answerable if it did cause harm, and evidence is found later. Telling the difference between no harm, and no currently available evidence of harm, is beyond our powers.

        The second one is answerable, and you would use sociological research to do it.

        Second:
        About sexualization. While nerds have been stereotyped as non-sexy, that’s not the same thing as saying within nerd-dominated spaces, sexualization is less likely.

        Also, the term you’re looking for is “desexualized”. Nerds are “desexualized” meaning they are seen by non-nerds as beings less likely to have sexual interests.

        Nerds can respond to that in several ways. One is to withdraw (“I wasn’t interested in sex anyway”) and another way is to prove them wrong (“I’ll show them how sexy and sexual I can be!!!”)

        There are many others, but having your masculinity and sexuality questioned can lead quite naturally to inappropriately bringing sexuality into nonsexual contexts. Look to the sociological literature to find out exactly how tech became dominated by men and tech subcultures developed their customs and identities.

        Of course, if we’re lucky enough to have a tech sociologist of gender here, we might not have to read the literature ourselves.

        Crip Dyke

        April 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      • “But even if it ended with no silver lining, please tell me why I should consider the possible unjust, unreasonable reactions of jerkwad sexists when I am deciding whether or not it is “right” that women speak about problems impacting women.”

        I had a long-winded response to a lot of things, which I deleted because I think there’s more profit in just focusing on this. I don’t like this answer, and you aren’t going like it, but I think it’s as close to accurate as I can compose, given what I know. This is going to be kind of brutal, but keep in mind that it’s a status quo answer and accounts for the situation as it is on the ground at the moment, something that should be changed, if possible.

        Why should women heed the jerkwad sexists when speaking about problems impacting women? Let’s just call it the “internet mob” because it’s really all the same amorphous, half-informed and reactive mass of conflicting impulses. The answer is: because companies heed them, and companies are directly in control of people’s livelihoods and therefore…lives. I know how that sounds. It’s bad, and I don’t like it, but there’s no immediate way out of the implications.

        Now, I’m no employment lawyer. I don’t know whether a person can force a company to support their efforts to fight various SJ issues, and in which jurisdictions, but from what I’ve read and heard there seem to be some company base jurisdictions which will allow them to fire employees based merely circumstances shifting such that they cannot do their jobs, as adjudicated (of course) by corporate management. This is what appears to have happened to Richards herself.

        There are two possible solutions: change the internet mob (!?) or lobby for changes in corporate law.

        Outside those, this is what I initially said we are faced with. The internet mob can get you fired, can get others fired, because companies, for whatever reason, are influenced by the internet mob. AND…and, this is important, hold employees accountable for attracting its attention. It sucks, but that is simply the way things are now. That is the status quo.

        Hunt

        April 5, 2013 at 7:02 am

      • Yes, but EB’s argument – and your earlier argument, was not merely that speaking truth in public sometimes has bad outcomes given the status quo.

        Your earlier argument was that Richards was **wrong**.

        Now you seem reticent to say that internet might makes right, but EB clearly said that Richards was wrong. You clearly said it, too.

        I have no problem with you saying that the status quo sucks and that it’s reasonable to take that into account when making a decision to go public with a critique.

        I have a problem with saying that going public with the truth is **wrong**.

        Do you have a defense of that assertion, or have you changed your mind and now agree with me that

        …1 there are other motives for going public than calculated revenge
        …2 while reasonable persons can make different decisions about going public, choosing to speak the truth in public is not wrong.

        I think I have yet to convince you, but would be happy if I did convince you that:
        …3 therefore, since what Richards did was not wrong, asserting that Richards was wrong is in error and not true.

        I think you still believe that there’s somehow some exception, that Richards should have had the foresight to know…something. Whether or not it’s something as ridiculous and specific as the men’s company had issues with one of the men or that 4chan would launch a DDOS, or whether it’s something more general like, “a wise person in a public role should know that 10k is too many twitter followers to have if you’re going to tweet info that may stir up trouble” it’s my impression that you won’t agree with #3.

        I hope I’m wrong, but I fear I’m not.

        Still, it sounds like we’re in agreement on #1, and you might very well agree with #2.

        If not, I still need a reason why it’s wrong to speak the truth in public. Not impractical. Not without negative consequences. Wrong.

        Do you have such a reason/argument? Cuz that’s what I’ve been waiting for this whole time & no one yet has given me one.

        Crip Dyke

        April 5, 2013 at 7:10 pm

      • Looking back over my comments, I don’t think I’ve said I thought her decision was wrong on a moral sense. I made an objection to the idea that the internet mob response abrogates the possibility of finding her actions wrong, but that was a theoretical point (in the other subthread above). My argument has mostly been to the consequences–but I’ll lay my cards on the table. Even if I haven’t argued it (since I think the stronger case is the consequentialist one) I probably do still think she did “some” wrong for the reason that I dislike public shaming. Part of the long post that I deleted yesterday addressed the morality of “breaking a few eggs to make an omelette” type activism, or of “making an example.” If you examine your position, I think you’ll find that there are strong elements of example making. But example making, though effective (and used quite a bit by the justice system), is logically immoral if you think about it. By definition “making an example” directly implies disproportionate punishment. It’s also interesting that “making an example” is itself a form of consequentialism.

        Yes, everything can be swept under the carpet just by saying that Richards didn’t know what the consequence might be, but that’s actually a pretty weak defense, because she resorted to an unorthodox reporting method. When she did that, she did assume some responsibility for the outcome. I know this directly challenges one of your opinions on the matter. At the same time, the convention only later modified its rules to exclude public reporting…so whatcha gonna do? The more I think about it, the more ambiguous it all seems.

        You have managed to move me incrementally closer to your side though.

        Now let me ask you a question: If someone, fully cognizant of the Richards case, did exactly the same thing tomorrow, would you support her? Would you support her even if she contravened part of a convention code?

        Hunt

        April 6, 2013 at 6:06 am

      • “If not, I still need a reason why it’s wrong to speak the truth in public. Not impractical. Not without negative consequences. Wrong.”

        Let me just add, without snark (honest) that I’m baffled by why you discount consequences as a valid moral reason, or at least a valid proposal for a moral reason. In the jargon, you appear to only want a deontological moral reason and not a consequentialist one, and I’m confused by why.

        Hunt

        April 6, 2013 at 6:12 am

      • Well, we disagree about her being wrong.

        But as to wanting a deontological reason – no. I’m not asking for that.

        But you’re not getting that consequentialism, no, scratch that. Your post contains no acknowledgement that reaching a moral decision in a system of consequentialism requires more than merely the existence of negative consequences if yes/no choice X is given value “yes”.

        You have to look at the positive values of “yes” and the negative and positive values of “no”. It is in the comparison that we understand the morality of the choice “yes”.

        Here, I haven’t seen you engage at all with the immorality (or at least the negative consequences) of removing the free speech rights from victims of things that range from unpleasant to heinous. There’s not a theory of how awful the behavior has to be before speaking truth in public carries too great a risk of negative consequences (for whomever) to know in advance that speaking about A event in public is okay, but speaking about B event in public is not okay.

        Here statements was that jokes were made and this was “not cool”. Clearly it carried a risk of negative actions, because holy F, reality, right? But statements that bad and much worse are made every day without resulting in firings from jobs and other serious consequences.

        It really seems like you are looking backwards and saying: this action had this bad consequence that I can quite obviously see, and that consequence outweighs what good might have come from the action that I think is reasonably possible, therefore the action is immoral.

        But that’s not how morality works. It’s the making of the choice that was moral or immoral and she couldn’t have known what would happen. You can call it the tweet that launched a thousand-zombie DDOS if you like, but that doesn’t mean that **at the time** we knew that this was the ugliest tweet in the world.

        Yes, consequentialism is fine. But you’re not arguing a consequentialist morality. You’re merely mentioning that X bad consequence happened. That’s the beginning of consequentialist analysis, not the end.

        If we stay silent, the status quo doesn’t change. For those who see harm and do nothing, is there a moral cost? When and how is that moral cost weighed against potential future harms, like firings and DDOS attacks, especially where we all agree that the firings and DDOS attacks would be unjust responses.

        Let’s use a ridiculous hypothetical.

        I go on a date. It goes well. We even smooch. I’m happy. I meet my best friend in a tea house the next day and talk about the date. When I say that I got a good night kiss, my date’s abusive ex stands up, yells something incoherent about the pain I’m inflicting, and uses an automatic weapon to hurt a lot of people. I even get hurt in the process.

        Now we have me
        …1 telling the truth in public
        …2 where that truth has a risk of harming someone
        …3 I am fully aware that abusive exes exist in the world
        …4 I am fully aware that abusive exes experience subjective pain at hearing about the former SO’s new romantic adventures
        …5 I am fully aware that guns exist, and of their portable, concealable nature
        …6 I am fully aware abusive exes experiencing subjective pain sometimes lash out randomly, even with guns.
        …7 I did not take steps to ensure that no abusive ex of my date could ever overhear – directly or indirectly – my words.

        Am I morally wrong to have spoken truth in public?

        A further hypothetical:
        Some despot kills one person in the village every friday, because reasons.
        I know that eventually everyone in the village of 10,000 will die – or at least have a loved one die – if despot isn’t deposed.
        I am considering organizing a resistance that, based on historical study, has a success chance that is very high – call it essentially guaranteed.
        While the despot picks the person to be randomly killed, I will be picking members of the resistance.
        It will take about 50 people to execute my plan.
        Although failure isn’t possible, success could be easy or have setbacks.
        At the very least, 1 person will be killed. At the most, 25.

        Is it moral to do nothing in the face of the ongoing harm?
        Is it moral to organize a resistance, when that will involve me selecting people to face risk of death?

        You see, you’ve shown harm from challenging the F’d up status quo, but you haven’t argued that that outweighs the harm of doing nothing [you haven't even articulated what those harms would be] nor have you weighed the harm of saying no one can speak in public about, shit, I have no idea how many things would be covered – every truth with risk of bad consequences above level X%.

        If you can take into account the universal loss or rights to speak freely, the long term harm done because of impaired societal communication, including the inability to change the status quo that leads to things you don’t like [e.g. unjust firings and DDOS attacks], and say that you have a guideline that balances these and decides that any person in a similar situation to Richards would be immoral to choose to speak truth publicly, THEN you have a consequentialist argument her actions were wrong.

        I’m perfectly happy to listen to it. I just don’t think you’ve made it. I’m not looking for someone to say, Hey, did you see the consequences? Duh, obviously wrong! I find that offensive because it takes not one moment to consider the consequences of leaving sexism in place. I find it offensive that someone could place literally no moral value on attempts to have conversations that reduce sexism. That implies that either a) conversations never reduce sexism (which I think is demonstrably untrue), or b) the person places no moral value – it neither increases nor decreases justice in the world – on the elimination of sexism, or c) the moral value on decreasing sexism is negative (it would increase justice to increase sexism).

        I’m trapped: I either have to assume my rhetorical opponent is ignorant of basic facts relevant to the debate (that conversations have the capacity to change minds) OR I have to assume my opponent places no or negative moral weight on ending sexism. The best case for the latter is that my rhetorical opponent hasn’t even thought about the possibility of ending or reducing sexism, and that the lack of moral weight in the calculus is an oversight.

        But again, since the discussion was sparked by opposition to sexism, it seems rather ridiculous to just assume that the other side of a debate isn’t aware that sexism is in the calculus.

        So why is the potential benefit of ending or reducing sexism not in the calculus? It leads to some very frightening conclusions: either my debate partners aren’t thinking things through, in which case I’m wasting my time and I have to conclude that I’m kind of an idiot. Or my debate partners have thought about sexism and don’t see any value in reducing it, and/or think it’s impossible to reduce sexism despite all the change that has happened between the 19th century and the 21st. In one case, my debating partner is immoral – which I don’t wish to conclude. In the other, my debating partner is vastly ignorant, which I also don’t wish to conclude.

        it’s a really frustrating thing, but I end up deducing that the most likely thing to be true is not that my debating partners have no idea the 19th century was different from the 21st in terms of gender, but rather they they don’t care about ending sexism OR they think something has magically changed so that despite past change, future change is impossible.

        I hate those conclusions.

        Finally, let me just add that you keep saying that there is no possibility that the tweet was made without malice. You first said she wanted to invoke the mob [which is weird, since the mob was universally opposed to her]. Things progressed, but without you admitting that there’s a possibility that she wanted to end sexism, and that that was the whole of her motive.

        Now you are saying that she’s engaged in public shaming. While it’s true that some people have made arguments the men should be ashamed of their behavior the fact that shame results is not proof in and of itself that something immoral called “public shaming” is going on, is it?

        What’s your definition of public shaming? If I’m gang raped in a locker room and run screaming into a crowd of people in the hallway as soon as I get away and point back at the locker room saying, “The football team raped me!” am I engaged in public shaming?

        If not, what makes something public shaming? Once you have a definition, ask yourself if you have proof Richards’ actions meet it. Then convince me. You don’t get to just throw out a term like public shaming and expect that I know exactly what you mean and that we have proof Richards is guilty of same.

        I have a problem with the focus on Richards’ “guilt” when clearly she neither started it (that was the two guys) nor did she engage in the more outrageous conduct (that was the harassment and DDOS attacks). But I also have a problem with, even in venues where it might be more appropriate to discuss any moral failing of Richards, people pointing out the mere existence of a negative consequence and assuming that nothing else need be shown to prove Richards actions immoral.

        Convince me – I’m willing to listen. But I find lacking your assertion that she *must* have been engaging in public shaming or she *must* have been immoral a negative consequence occurred. Show your work is all I ask.

        Crip Dyke

        April 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      • I just wanted to drop in briefly to mention that I think Crip Dyke has been patiently making very good, thoughtful arguments. Pretty sure I mostly agree with all of that, so I wanted to mention some support as well as the fact that I’m getting a lot out of it.

        I’m not entirely convinced that what Richards did was the *best* option. But I also think that most responses beyond the conference organizers privately politely asking her to report such problems a better way, which they had better follow through on, are gross overreactions and worse than anything Richards did. There’s also a strong point there that publicly chastising bad behavior is a good way to get it out of the culture; people do need examples to work from, even if ‘making an example’ tends to imply overly harsh treatment.

        John-Henry Eric Beck

        April 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      • Wow, there’s no way I’m going to be able to respond to all of this without fisking it, which is usually regarded as a somewhat aggressive way to respond, and I don’t mean it that way. It’s just the only way I’m going to keep it all organized, since at the moment I don’t feel up to composing an essay that encompassed all of it.
        @J-H EB:
        “There’s also a strong point there that publicly chastising bad behavior is a good way to get it out of the culture.”
        You can’t argue with the efficacy of it, that’s for sure. Going public, putting as many eyes on something as possible, has been a tried and true form of activism since sit-ins and before. Of course, a large part of the debate is when and where the benefits of public spectacle are enough to automatically sanction it.

        @Crip Dyke

        “You have to look at the positive values of “yes” and the negative and positive values of “no”. It is in the comparison that we understand the morality of the choice “yes”.”

        That’s true and I find that probably your strongest theoretical point. We need to distinguish between the theoretical and this concrete instance though; otherwise it still constitutes a straw man. In your reply to Edward Gemmer you appear to be uncertain about the actual harm caused by the two men, though I don’t think there is any question that their jokes were inappropriate and against convention code. But anyway, it bears noting that if we abstract their actions to include any range of sexist egregiousness, then almost any response might seem just. It’s unclear, to me anyway, whether there was any sexism involved at all.

        However, in theory this is a winning stroke.

        “Here, I haven’t seen you engage at all with the immorality (or at least the negative consequences) of removing the free speech rights from victims of things that range from unpleasant to heinous. “

        Again, I view this as hovering at too high a level of abstraction. It has a convincing ring to it, probably because it isn’t tied to specifics. It’s important to keep in mind that this happened in the context of a convention, therefore there are special circumstances. I haven’t heard anyone talking about striving for a general culture of silencing; however you have to admit that a convention is already an environment of restricted speech. After all, isn’t that what this is all about?! The men didn’t abide by the restrictions imposed by the convention. It’s actually kind of amazing just what little fiefdoms of power conventions seem to reserve for themselves. They’re really kind of the autocrats of this situation, and if you disagree with that, might be shooting yourself in the foot, since it’s the same authority that can impose a harassment-free environment. I just read the Harassment Policy for that convention PZ just attended, and it’s really quite an eye opener. To be honest, I’m not sure how well they would stand up if anyone tried to challenge them in a court of law. For the same reason, I’ve always wondered about the legality of things like Hotel security. But I digress.

        Anyway, I would actually consider this a checkmate by me, except that the Pycon code did not exclude public reporting, as I noted in a previous comment. Had it (as it does now, presumably), I think you would have a tough time arguing from free expression when a failure to heed restriction on free expression was the origin of the affair.

        “There’s not a theory of how awful the behavior has to be before speaking truth in public carries too great a risk of negative consequences (for whomever) to know in advance that speaking about A event in public is okay, but speaking about B event in public is not okay.”

        Well, yes, but there is also no theory of how awful behavior must be before it warrants speaking truth in public. At some threshold level of mundanity, doesn’t reporting the actions of others kind of become just an invasion of privacy? And so there has to be some criteria that might be determined. How can you be so sure that Richards got it right?

        “It really seems like you are looking backwards and saying: this action had this bad consequence that I can quite obviously see, and that consequence outweighs what good might have come from the action that I think is reasonably possible, therefore the action is immoral.”

        Sort of, although my case is seriously hindered by the fact that Pycon did not include the contingency against public reporting. On account of that Richards gets a full pass, save perhaps for noting that she probably should have known her unorthodox method was not going to be well received by the convention organizers. (By the way, somewhere in here I think we’re approaching EllenBeth’s argument, but I can’t put words in her mouth.)

        Then there’s the benefit analysis, which you’re correct to underscore. Here I think people actually have done the moral calculus and those arriving at a result counter to Richards just think that in this instance the scales are against her. This is the whole “Richards overreacted” argument. As you have seemed to concur, it’s unclear how harmful the statements could have been. And again, from previous, you can’t just abstract this to sexist comments in general without creating a straw man, since the conclusion is drawn from this case alone.

        “If we stay silent, the status quo doesn’t change. For those who see harm and do nothing, is there a moral cost?”

        Yes, I absolutely agree that there is. The argument really is about when and where, which invites charges of condescension. I’m guessing you agree with PZ that Pycon’s decision to prohibit public reporting is a craven act?

        (Much of your comment then reiterated what has already been mentioned with examples…”)

        “You see, you’ve shown harm from challenging the F’d up status quo, but you haven’t argued that that outweighs the harm of doing nothing [you haven't even articulated what those harms would be] “

        Here’s a dispassionate list of possible harms. I don’t endorse each equally. Note I don’t directly consider riling the Internet harmful. That really would be craven.
        1. However companies heed the mob, and fire employees accordingly, which can be harmful.
        2. Public shaming and humiliation can be harmful to a person’s psyche.
        3. Public recording and reporting of individuals might create a paranoid and anarchic convention atmosphere. Do we want to replicate a panopticon in our conventions?
        4. Trivial reporting of offenses can be harmful to women’s status in the workplace if they are perceived as dangerous to be around.

        “If you can take into account the universal loss or rights to speak freely, the long term harm done because of impaired societal communication, including the inability to change the status quo that leads to things you don’t like [e.g. unjust firings and DDOS attacks], and say that you have a guideline that balances these and decides that any person in a similar situation to Richards would be immoral to choose to speak truth publicly, THEN you have a consequentialist argument her actions were wrong.”
        This is not a logical formulation. Arguing for the silence of Richards doesn’t imply universal loss or rights to speak freely any more than the restriction on the men’s free speech implies a universal loss of free speech. Again, the lack of a rule prohibiting what Richards did hamstrings my argument, to say the least, but I’m happy just to make the point again that conventions do have the power to modulate speech.

        Anyway, I think this is enough from me for now.

        Hunt

        April 7, 2013 at 6:58 am

      • A couple of points occur to me, but I think I’m done, too. Thanks for engaging, Hunt. We now have about as thorough a discussion as it is possible to have on the internet about what would make speaking truth in public immoral. Now it’s up to readers to decide whether labeling Richards’ actions “immoral” is productive and/or accurate.

        Crip Dyke

        April 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      • @my cats are my gods:

        And how does Blackstone apply to assigning guilt to Richards?

        I don’t want to engage in long debate of that point, but it doesn’t seem to have any place in EB’s argument, in the posts that I’ve read. Just something for people to think about.

        Crip Dyke

        April 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      • I think MCAMG is EllenBeth.

        I agree, this discussion seems to be verging on diminishing returns. Let me just ask one final question, and maybe you can give a one or two sentence reply if you have the time.

        Given that conventions already reserve for themselves the power to regulate speech, do you agree with Pycon’s decision to (or do you agree it has the right to) regulate the means of reporting violations of its code?

        Hunt

        April 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm

        • Yes, MCAMG is EllenBeth. That is the name of the blog. And I never talked about assigning guilt to Adria. That was partly why I was so upset at what happened. I got accused of victim-blaming, which I never did.

          I am not going to re-hash this.

          MyCatsAreMyGods

          April 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      • @MCAMG

        I will respect your desire not to rehash.

        @Hunt

        Yes. I absolutely agree that a private gathering has the right to determine its own rules about membership and conduct.

        I don’t think that morality necessarily comes into all those decisions. For instance, I don’t think it’s immoral to sell things, but if the conference decided that you could discuss apps you’ve invented from a programmer’s perspective and talk about techniques used to create it, but you weren’t allowed to mention the price on stage or where to get it from the stage. This could come from a desire to simply use as much of the time as possible to focus on programming, and that the temptation to hype the product itself would inevitably lead to some people taking time away from the conference priority if selling from the stage was allowed.

        If this was violated, the conference could ask the person to leave immediately, remove the from the speaking list if they were scheduled for additional panels, etc. They might even remove all speakers from your company from any speaking list.

        So long as those rules were agreed on in advance and the penalty was either specified or at least not specified as being something else/less, it would be perfectly fine for the conference to act that way.

        The fact that some policies *do* have a moral dimension doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t *required* to have a moral dimension. It can simply be the preference of the organizers.

        With a clear policy against this sort of thing, acting on it is fine, so long as it’s brought to the attention of the attendees from the get go. (It can be on a website so long as when you show up the orientation materials say, “Hey! Complicated rules! We’re saving trees, but if you don’t wanna be kicked out accidentally, read the website!”)

        So, yes, with this policy in place, Richards or any other person publicly tweeting about something occuring that the rules say should be handled privately (one hopes the rules are flexible enough to allow, “Whoever brought this coffee cake was not paying attention: it’s dry and tastes like it’s 2 weeks old!”) could fairly face partial or total exclusion from the gathering.

        Crip Dyke

        April 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      • That’s pretty much how I view things too, which is why I disagree that the rule change was a craven act. It may not be following a principle that PZ favors, but we have to remember that conventions themselves are business ventures and probably have a pretty dim view of controversy. You’re aren’t going to catch me assigning undo primacy to business over individual interests, since I’m pretty close to a socialist, but you have to ask yourself, what are the chances that a business venture is going to go out on a limb and fight a SJ battle? –Actually I guess that has happened, but not too often, rare enough to catch my attention when it does happen. If it’s craven, then it’s the nearly universal trait of business not to fight any battle it sees no profit in winning.

        Anyway, thanks for the conversation.

        Hunt

        April 9, 2013 at 5:21 am

    • “presumption of innocence is a bulwark against the government and not a moral principle preventing certain accusations and/or forms of accusation”

      This appears to me only partially true. The presumption of innocence is a bulwark against government but also against popular opinion (e.g. lynch mobs), and it is the latter against which it is being applied here.

      “The presumption of innocence isn’t even raised until there is a de facto accusation.”

      This looks like a telling slip to me. There has been a de facto accusation, and you are correct that after that is when the presumption of innocence must apply. What there has not been is a de jure accusation.

      I am not commenting on anything outside of the words which I am actually using. Read this in the context of a person who was peripherally lurking prior to this and is only partially informed regarding this conversation. I am not stating any position here on Adria Richards, though I do of course hold one myself. I am only replying to this one comment.

      And please don’t jump on me for that last paragraph or for this one. In my experience leaving it out leads invariably to someone reading it in the light of some external context which I had no reasonable way of discerning prior to the writing.

      Yiab

      April 5, 2013 at 1:05 am

      • What you’re missing is that EB advocated for Adria Richards to employ the PoI **before** making an accusation.

        Of course there’s been a de facto accusation now. You’re not getting what the issue is. The issue is, Was EB correct to say that after something “bad” happens to you or that you witness, is it your job to presume people innocent before you open your mouth to say, “A bad thing happened”.

        Nonsense ensues if you have to apply the PoI before you open your mouth and make an accusation, but that’s what EB said.

        Now, do you …or do you not … believe that the PoI applies before word one has been said about any given “bad thing” and that a victim must presume her attackers innocent?

        That’s not to jump on you: that’s the question into which you have inserted yourself – apparently without understanding. If you say that Jo has victimized you, *i* have to consider whether you are telling the truth, etc.

        If you are victimized by Jo and think, “Well, here I have a picture of Jo victimizing me, but I have to presume that Jo is innocent,” then you get the absurd result that it becomes morally wrong to report crime. Crime that actually took place.

        EB doesn’t go that far, she just thinks that the PoI should limit a person to using confidential and official channels. But even if you think that confidential and/or official channels are better (or should be used exclusively), is PoI the mechanism to achieve it? How would we even know if someone is presuming innocence, then considering evidence, and *then* reporting? How could we, from the outside, tell the difference between that and just reporting?

        And since that result is absurd, the only practical application for the PoI is to say that people shouldn’t report what they can’t prove. That creates an insurmountable barrier to victims – how could they be sure that they could prove things? How could they be sure that other witnesses wouldn’t lie? How would they know in advance what information might be admissible as evidence?

        The PoI is lousy, lousy, lousy for the purpose EB put forward. If you wish to dispute that, don’t talk about what happened after the accusation was made. Talk about how it would be used and the effects it would have before it was made. That’s what EB advocated. That’s what I’m contesting. That’s the conversation to have if you want to be relevant.

        Crip Dyke

        April 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm

  11. Well written EllenBeth Wachs, I’ve had my own unpleasant misunderstandings and disagreements on Pharyngula and been horrified at the appalling personal abuse incl. false accusations and outright lies spewed about me. That was because I dared to disagree with the Pharyngula consensus on a couple of issues notably Israel’s right to defend itself and the issue of Jihadist terrorism and extremist Islamism more broadly. I’ll admit (& admitted almost immediately there) that I’d messed up in a few of my more tired and emotional comments on that issue which I feel passionately about and that Pharyngula has sometimes brought out the worst in me too,

    However, from experience I’ve found the Pharyngula culture to be very often extremely abusive, intolerant, polarising and hostile to any criticism or disagreement and I’ve seen it described elsewhere as a “cesspit” – not sure I’d go quite that far but can certainly understand it having that reputation.

    I think Pharyngula and many of its commenters and even bloggers need to take a long hard look at themselves and how they misjudge, misread and mistreat those who are disagreeing with them reasonably. Too often Pharyngulites seem to simplistically and unthinkingly view their own opinions and perspectives as good and anyone taking an alternative view as evil. Pharygulites often accuse of their opponents of seeing things in only black and white terms and straw-personing others yet they seem to do the same themselves to a particularly vicious extreme.

    Not that this excuses the bullying and abuse done by the “slimepitters” and others either. I think bullying should be condemned and rejected whoever does it and all of us should always try to learn new things and ideas and be considerate of all other people . I try to learn and grow and be a good person and think I usually succeed despite the straw-monster caricature some ignorant bullying online strangers on Pharyngula have wrongly created of me.

    astrostevo

    April 3, 2013 at 12:15 am

  12. “I generally don’t go where I am not wanted.” So maybe a few commenters don’t want you at Pharyngula? How many commenters have said you are welcome? A lot more… Entirely up to you, but you are not “not wanted”. For a start its not up to any of them and PZ says who is not wanted by banning them.

    I’ve seen some of your tweets on this, do you really think PZ should change his moderation/comment policy? I didn’t get on well there either but I cannot agree with that – they want a rude no holds barred discussion forum – things will get heated and misunderstandings will happen. Its really up to them/PZ how they manage their community and given bigotry is absent I have no issue with it beyond “concerns” about tone that I cannot back up with a good argument. Maybe you can, I’ve not seen one.

    Surprising the “free speech” slimers need a fainting couch to recover from the horrible language they see there ;-) Maybe they are pro their own free speech, actually free expression, and not anyone else’s.

    oolon

    April 3, 2013 at 6:21 am

    • “they want a rude no holds barred discussion forum”

      You can’t really have a rude, no holds barred discussion with a capricious host hovering over the delete button. That will always hamstring any type of actual dissent.

      “Surprising the “free speech” slimers need a fainting couch to recover from the horrible language they see there”

      It’s not the horrible language. It’s the horrible behavior. A thousand F-bombs don’t even amount to a single act of blind viciousness, which Pharyngula excels at. No, I’m not saying the Slymepit is abuse free, but you can read a hundred pages at Slymepit and not come across the daunting level of aggression in a single thread at Pharyngula.

      Hunt

      April 3, 2013 at 6:50 am

    • I said I would but outt of commenting but I can’t let ‘oolon’s’ disingenuous comment past without being countered.

      “I generally don’t go where I am not wanted.” Wow things are so simple in your world aren’t they. EllenBeth has already said she doesn’t want to go back there. Though what is she suppose to do about the lies, misrepresentations and outright accusations on her character. Lie: She would have talked Richards out of her complaint. So she is unprofessional now? Misrepresentation: She is only looking at this through the eyes of a conference organizer. Erm wouldn’t that give her some insight about this incident. accusation: she is a misogynist and a rape enabler. What the.. I don’t even know were to begin with this I’m simply lost for words.

      I have no problem with insults and robust debate I even enjoy it. Though I have no tolerance for lies, misrepresentations and baseless accusations.

      ‘ and given bigotry is absent’ What really, so misogyny isn’t bigotry in your book as I have never witnessed such sustained vile and hatred aimed at a woman before and all coming for the same thread. A thread that is from a place that prides itself on freethought, science, reason and feminism WTF. All this coming from people who claim to be her friends and have met her in real life, they even know she is a flesh and blood human being. Yet not once did that stop the vitriol.

      ‘ slimers’ Can’t speak for the slymepiters here but this is a very uncharitable reading of their posts. What I do know is the slymepit came about because of this type of behaviour for the FTB crowd. Is it impossible for you to believe they might sympathize with someone who is going through just what they went through. That’s is the impression I took from their posts anyway.

      David Leech

      April 3, 2013 at 9:03 am

      • Quote:
        I have never witnessed such sustained vile and hatred aimed at a woman
        ==================

        WTF does this have to do with misogyny? Misogyny? Y’know, miso-gyny, not miso-EllenBethy.

        and are two very different things. And only one is misogyny.

        Me, I’m for no hatred of persons at all. But we utterly lose our ability to fight oppression if we confuse hating an individual’s actions – or even hating an individual – with the institutionalized hatred of a class of people and things associated with that group. We have to maintain this distinction.

        Crip Dyke

        April 3, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      • So Crip Dyke, do you also point out to RW, PZ, Svan, Benson et al, that hating anyone of them(or even all of them) is not evidence of misogyny on the part of the hater. Maybe that person just hates them due to their own comments and actions and it has nothing at all to do with their gender? Watson and Benson specifically hold up nasty things directed at them, as evidence of misogyny.

        Remick

        April 4, 2013 at 8:24 am

      • @Remick:
        Yes, when necessary.

        However, if in the course of insulting a particular woman, one uses terms that -due to long historical usage- have more generally harmful effects (at Pharyngula it is called “splash damage” after a term in role playing games) then in the course of one’s insults toward a particular woman, one reveals

        at the very least…

        …that one doesn’t care about the harm done to women generally in the course of hating on a single woman or feminist.

        For assessing the misogyny (or not) of those who use or tolerate “Rebeccunt Twatson”, it is useful to ask, “Why is it insulting to be called this? Why are these insults chosen?” The answer, inescapably, leads one to observe that the RT formulation would not be insulting unless it is insulting to be associated with c***s/t***s.

        If you think that being associated with that part of the body is insulting, then you’ve associated the negative with every female person out there. You’ve tarred all female folks with whatever luckiness you associate with female genitals.

        The slymepit has used such terms quite liberally, and defends them as useful. In doing so, they argue that they don’t see a reason to stop hurting all women a tiny bit so long as they get to hurt one woman a lot.

        To me the contempt necessary to not care that one is hurting all women is part of the definition of misogyny.

        If you said, “I hate Rebecca Watson, that liar who clearly doesn’t have any empathy and who stole my ticket to ride to the moon in a new Dragon capsule, that despicable wretch!” You would be demonstrating hatred of RW, but not misogyny. If you said the same thing using the RT formulation instead, you would be demonstrating hatred of RW AND misogyny.

        It is perfectly possible to hate individual women or their actions without enacting misogyny. It is not possible to think all women’s genitals are so icky that just mentioning them in association with someone’s name must therefore be insulting without enacting misogyny.

        I saw a disproportionate reaction to EB on that Pharyngula thread. I didn’t like it. But I understood it, and I didn’t see anyone using language that implicitly condemned all women or all female folk in the process of attacking EB. I would say that the thread demonstrated that some people hated EB’s actions and that there is evidence that some people might even hate EB, though I wouldn’t go as far as to call it demonstrated unless I reread the thread and found something more specific on that point. I wouldn’t say that the thread demonstrated misogyny – certainly not of the Horde generally, and I don’t remember anything for any specific person, either – in the course of the attacks on EB.

        Crip Dyke

        April 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      • Crip Dyke said:

        The answer, inescapably, leads one to observe that the RT formulation would not be insulting unless it is insulting to be associated with c***s/t***s.

        If you think that being associated with that part of the body is insulting, then you’ve associated the negative with every female person out there.

        So why, pray tell, doesn’t that work with “asshole”? Seems to me to be directly analogous. If you think that being associated with that part of the body is insulting then you’ve associated that negative with every male and female person out there. How is that not worse than “cunt” or “prick”? Special pleading, methinks, at the least.

        As for the prevalence of that insult on both Pharyngula (1) and Skepchick (2), you might take a look at those references and note that there are over 100 uses of the term in each case. People in glass houses and all that.

        To me the contempt necessary to not care that one is hurting all women is part of the definition of misogyny.

        That has to qualify as a rather largeish strawman as the fact is that the use of “cunt” directed at a single woman does not hurt some other women so your “all women” is knocked into a cocked-hat. To continue to insist on that in the light of that evidence – and I’m quite sure that more than a few women in the Slymepit would be more than happy to tender signed affidavits – is most illogical, at best, and, at worst, evidence of egregious demagoguery.

        It is not possible to think all women’s genitals are so icky that just mentioning them in association with someone’s name must therefore be insulting without enacting misogyny.

        Pray tell, where has anyone, much less everyone, said that “all women’s genitals are … icky”? For one thing I have used the insult myself against a few women, and I have tasted more than a few of those, and I can assure you in the strongest possible terms that that is the last adjective, particularly any that are even remotely related to that one, that I would apply to that anatomical feature. Seems to me that that is a very questionable inference on your part for which you haven’t yet provided any evidence that that is the case, and my example quite conclusively proves that that is not universally true which is the essence of your claim. I think you’re very badly mistaken in your understanding of why those types, and that one in particular, of insults actually “work”.

        But if you still insist then maybe you can explain how it is that associating someone’s name with some bodily feature that we all share – assholes – that is supposedly so “icky” as to constitute an insult isn’t an insult of all humans, i.e., misanthropy.

        —-
        1) “_http://skepchick.org/2011/12/reddit-makes-me-hate-atheists/#comment-140078”;
        2) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/22/adria-richards-did-everything-exactly-right/comment-page-2”;

        Steersman

        April 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      • Your argument is ridiculous.

        IF I had said that “asshole” doesn’t insult all people, you would begin to have a case. Where have I said that?

        Good job making things up, Remick. I was perfectly willing to have a conversation with you. I’ve done it with others here with whom I disagree about one thing or another, but when you make things up and assume a stance of defensiveness, the conversation ain’t fun and is much less likely to be productive.

        I *hate* using asshole as an insult to people, b/c of exactly what you said: it encourages misanthropy. But you wouldn’t know that because you went off assuming you knew what the hell I think. Your “refutation” of me is based not on refutation of my argument, but assuming I’m not serious about my argument. This crap about how I can’t make an argument on the topic of body-part insults because some people on FtB use the insult asshole would be a classic tu quoque if I was actually one of those people. Your argument is not even false.

        Go jump in a lake.

        Crip Dyke

        April 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      • Crip Dyke said:

        Your argument is ridiculous.

        IF I had said that “asshole” doesn’t insult all people, you would begin to have a case. Where have I said that?
        ….
        Good job making things up, Remick.
        ….
        This crap about how I can’t make an argument on the topic of body-part insults because some people on FtB use the insult asshole would be a classic tu quoque if I was actually one of those people. Your argument is not even false.

        First, unless you’re trying to kill two birds with one stone, you’re quite mistaken in thinking that that post of mine came from Remick. I’m Steersman; Remick is someone else.

        Second, if that’s your conclusion, although you should note that I didn’t actually say that you had said that, then I think you’re very badly missing my point. But I’ll concede that I could have made it a little more pointed. And to do so now, and for starters, I’m certainly glad to see that you at least concede the point that “using asshole as an insult to people … encourages misanthropy”. Although I would go further with this analogy (1): using “cunt” as an insult is to misogyny as using “asshole” as an insult is to misanthropy.

        And considering that you at least – as a fair minded individual – probably appreciate the equity of that construction, particularly since it seems consistent with your concession, I’ll take it as a given that you agree with it. And, under that assumption, I expect that you, as a fair minded individual, will forthrightly, and with as much self-righteous umbrage and indignation as you exhibited over “Rebeccunt Twatson”, take the offending posters on Pharnygula and Skepchick, as well as PZ and Rebecca themselves, to task for their egregious transgressions of that principle.

        But should you balk at doing so, at least as a result of thinking that that analogy doesn’t hold, then it seems one might reasonably argue that either you’re a hypocrite – in-group morality and out-group hostility; sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander – or, you’re going to have to concede that it is not true that using “cunt” as an insult is necessarily “enacting” a case of misogyny.

        And that latter case – using “cunt” as an insult is not necessarily a case of misogyny – seems particularly persuasive since you didn’t even address my previous argument on the point, much less refute it. And that argument was essentially that you had not proven that such an insult is “hurting all women”, something rather difficult to prove since I provided evidence, or at least suggested that it was readily available as a brief perusal of The Pit is likely to confirm, that some women are not offended – are not “hurt” – if some other woman is called a “cunt”.

        So, to summarize, it seems to me that if you accept the above analogy then you either have to accept that both the insults “cunt”, and “asshole” are, respectively, misogynistic, and misanthropic. Or, neither of them are. My argument was only to elucidate those alternatives, but it is your choice which one you choose to defend, although each is likely to have some problematic consequences. Unless you have some other way off the horns of that particular dilemma.


        1) “_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analogy#Identity_of_relation”;

        Steersman

        April 5, 2013 at 1:37 am

      • @ Crip Dyke

        I haven’t been back since I made my previous post, until now. On occassion Work/RL prevents me from checking back to online conversations I am having. I am certainly not steersman, nor would I make the arguments he has made. In any case, I asked a question regarding certain behaviors.

        You mention using language and terms that are harmful to women in order to denigrate or express anger to a specific person. In other words, splash damage. Is causing splash damage evidence of misogyny? If you have ever been truly angry at someone, you might say something to them to hurt them or at least express your anger. This might cause splash damage to anyone else in the area, or anyone else who might hear your comments/conversation. Does your lack of concern over splash damage(temporarily or permanently) show evidence of hatred towards which ever group you are offending?

        We all say things that are sexist or racist at times, we do these things most of the time by accident or without knowing it. We all make mistakes in this regard, no matter who you are, there are groups you are not a part of, that you can never know as well as you know yourself. Does causing splash damage to this group mean you hate the entire group? Is this misogyny? I would contend that it can definitely be sexist, but I would suggest that it is extremely unlike that it is misogynistic. A big issue on FtB is that they refer to someone as a “misogynistic asshole” when what really happened is that a person, said something a bit(or a lot) sexist. Does that mean they are a misogynist? PZ says things that are(or can be considered) sexist at times, but is he called a “raging misogynistic asshole”? No, why? Good faith, benefit of the doubt. In most instances I have seen, disagreeing with the majority immediately strips you of any good faith, or benefit of the doubt. What happened to EBW is a prime example of that. As soon as she disagreed with the “prevailing wisdom” of the horde, most immediately ceased to read anything she posted in any sort of charitable light, or even neutrally, instead there is immediate suspicion and everyone looks for the “gotcha” that would reveal EBW as an enemy, sockpuppet, misogynist, chill girl, whatever. Nerd of Redhead even accused EBW of silencing people by talking them out of filing complaints, which EBW didn’t even suggest at ALL.

        There are many of us who find that the term misogynist is being thrown about very loosely and very inaccurately. Does it matter that many consider me a misogynist simply because I post at the slymepit sometimes? Isn’t that worse than splash damage? People are passing judgement on my entire view and feelings towards a gender, based purely on my decision to post in A internet forum. I don’t use “cunt” I don’t call women “bitches”, I never slur RW’s name. I am not fond of how often it is used at the pit, but I value the forum and its openness and that is part of cost of doing business there. Sort of like how being maligned, abused, silenced, and banned, at PZ’s blog if you disagree with the horde is the cost of doing business.

        Pro Tip: Another cost of doing business for Phrangula is the creation of the pit. If you constantly malign people’s character and motives, simply for disagreeing with you on a point(say, “Andria Richards did everything right”). They will go elsewhere, the language and coarseness at the pit is no better or worse than the language and coarseness used at Phrangula, it is just pointed in a different direction. The pit has been holding up an mirror for the horde to see for some time now, its an ugly image. Some(not all) of the pitters exaggerate their comments and purposely cause offense for this purpose. To some extent they are almost charicatures of themselves. But it exactly what happens on FtBs, just because they aren’t “punching up” it is somehow morally terrible and different.

        The pit won’t change until a lot more people have the wakeup call that EBW has had. Then the pit won’t change, but it simply will no longer be necessary.

        Remick

        April 5, 2013 at 9:44 am

    • Oolon said:

      Surprising the “free speech” slimers need a fainting couch to recover from the horrible language they see there. ;-) Maybe they are pro their own free speech, actually free expression, and not anyone else’s.

      What is surprising is that you haven’t yet noticed that most “slimers” don’t give a rat’s ass about the language; what they care more about is the hypocrisy exhibited at Pharyngula – and many other FfTB sites – not just on that issue, but on many others. For instance, in this thread of Myers’ on Adria Richards (1) there are over 100 uses of the epithet “asshole” which is, I think, rather misanthropist behaviour, and, to boot, suggests that the users think they don’t have one. And which I think is exactly on par with using “cunt”, “prick”, and “nigger”. As I’ve argued elsewhere, I think a useful point to debate would be:

      Resolved: Calling someone a “cunt” is to a charge of “sexist” or “misogynist” as calling someone a “nigger” is to a charge of “racist”. Or, as calling someone an “asshole” is to a charge of “misanthropist”.

      In addition, if “bitch” is such as to cause all women to weep and strong men to blanche – not to mention causing radfems all across the land to go on the warpath – then why does PZ get a pass for saying “It works, bitches”? (2)

      Seems to me that an important precursor to a reasonable and rational system of ethics is the principle of equality, that there isn’t some “in-group morality” and “out-group hostility”. Something that I, and many others, would say that PZ and many in his company fail rather badly at.

      Speaking of which, you also said:

      It’s really up to them/PZ how they manage their community and given bigotry is absent ….

      Really? Well then, I guess you missed the hilarity over at PZ’s Palace the other day where he joked “Clear! No ragheads hiding in this cave! But bring in the flamethrower to be sure.” (3)

      —–
      1) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/22/adria-richards-did-everything-exactly-right/comment-page-2”;
      2) “_http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/08/07/it-works-bitches/”;
      3) “_http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/31/dude-trust-me-you-do-not-want-to-go-in-there/”;

      Steersman

      April 3, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      • I’ve been regretting signing up for notifications of replies on this thread with all the ‘Pitter nonsense. But, I actually skimmed some and noticed this latest post that I figured was worth a quick reply.

        Steersman,

        A quick answer to your #2 there, “…then why does PZ get a pass for saying “It works, bitches”?”

        Answer: Because only obsessive slymies like yourself are dredging back to 2006 looking for gotcha quotes.

        I’m not nearly well versed enough to know whether there’s contexts considered okay for a phrase like that. But I haven’t been seeing that from PZ any time lately. And most everyone around Pharyngula and FTB are pretty open about the whole thing being an ongoing process to be better people. Quite a few things have been cut back over time as people realize or determine it’s not really acceptable. There’s no claim that having said something bad once years ago forever tars you.

        So, in summary, attempted gotcha comments like are a major reason I can’t take slymies seriously.

        John-Henry Eric Beck

        April 4, 2013 at 12:11 am

      • John-Henry Eric Beck said:

        Answer: Because only obsessive slymies like yourself are dredging back to 2006 looking for gotcha quotes.

        Not at all easy for any of us to change our spots. And the evidence in PZ’s case suggests he hasn’t very much. But my impression is that it isn’t just the “slymies” who have long memories.

        But I haven’t been seeing that from PZ any time lately.

        Well then, I guess you didn’t notice the evidence I gave of his very recent “ragheads” “joke”. Or of the equally recent and frequent use of “asshole”. Not a particularly good recommendation for someone who makes some claim to the moral high ground.

        So, in summary, attempted gotcha comments like are a major reason I can’t take slymies seriously.

        That is – as I’ve indicated here – only the tip of the iceberg; you might want to try digging a little deeper before making up your mind.

        Steersman

        April 4, 2013 at 3:25 am

      • The horde’s attempts to be better people updates by the rate of 1 slur per 6 months or so. They were more than ok with rape jokes and ableist slurs (durrrrrr) for a very long time. The problem really isn’t any one mode of slurs or another. The problem is that so many of them reach for the harshest language and strongest attempts to inflict psychic pain as their primary mode of discussion.

        Note that suggesting to the horde the concepts of non-violence or humanism are met with the same deluge as gendered insults. That lack of discrimination or proportionality is never going to get better by fixing one slur at a time.

        baal

        April 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

        • Rape jokes have never been acceptable at Pharyngula. Baal, I have no idea if you are a liar or just confused.

          janphar

          April 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm

  13. A minor (?) thing first. Ellen Beth, your stated aim is “to point out how easy it is to get misrepresented and misquoted and mischaracterized over minor points of disagreement”. I understand, although it looks to me like an understatement of the week. I don’t treat also this incident as an isolated case of friendly fire. I think rather that this way of “discussing” is actively and consciously promoted on some blogs; in effect what happened is not accidental at all: it’s systematic.

    But the above is a side remark; it’s is not the real reason I write. So … to the point now.

    I’m an FtB (although not a Pharyngula) commenter. Even if I function as an outsider there, I consider myself part of the commentariat to a sufficient degree to feel some responsibility. What follows is written from this perspective.

    First: I agree that you have been abused and I find your description of what happened quite accurate. Although I didn’t participate in the infamous thread, I don’t think it’s a good idea to rest satisfied with yours “if you haven’t personally wronged me, consider yourself safe”. Some people – including me – have a tendency to steer clear of discussions which go awry and nasty. We don’t want to touch them, we don’t want to enter them. We are sooo clean after all, aren’t we? Ok, the point is that we may be a part of the problem. If it weren’t for such attitudes and fears, you might have received more support. And it seems to me that you deserve an apology also from people who read the thread but didn’t react enough. I was one of them. I’m sorry.

    Second: I see that some Pharyngula commenters did support you. There were too few of them, not enough to stop the tide, but they were trying. In my opinion they deserve admiration: it really takes some guts and independence to oppose your own group, especially such a group! They look like trustworthy and sincere people (no political interests involved) and if I were you, I would be happy to have them on my side.

    All the best to you

    Ariel

    April 3, 2013 at 6:38 am

  14. [...] male privilege.’  Women who challenge the rhetoric associated with feminism are branded as chill girls, gender traitors, and sister [...]

  15. The comment area of pharyngula is just a cesspool. Once you go there and see the sort of company PZ keeps, you just end up losing a lot of respect for the guy which is a shame but you can’t help it..
    On the one hand he thinks a fork and dongle joke warrant having your picture taken and tweeted at large.
    He also thinks that it’s appropriate behavior for a professional who’s job it is to unite the programming community to act in such an antagonistic way instead of simply turning around and telling them to shut up.

    On the other side it’s perfectly OK for the @ss hats in his comment area to treat anyone who disagrees with the official party line with completely out of control rage and venom and juvenile name calling that makes you seriously consider that some of these posters are mentally deranged. They never actually bother to address anything of substance, they have no interest in the actual argument. They just relish the idea of bullying people under a false pretense (feminism being one of them).

    But hey, at least they are not making dongle jokes between themselves… that’s where the line is drawn.

    jacklewis2012

    April 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm

  16. It is fine to disagree and discuss. It is fine to be angry and upset. It is not fine to try and shout down legitimate commentary with no attempt at rational discourse. It is not fine to vilify and personally attack those who disagree or provide an alternate view. That is the way of cults and the religious for thousands of years and we are better than that. Reasoned discourse supported by logic and the examination of ideas has been an incredibility powerful weapon we disregard at our peril.

    What is said does not matter, it is how it is said that does. Justice is only served by the truth. And truth will always win.

    EBW whatever you choose to do I hope you get back into the fight and stand up for what you believe in yet again, even If I disagree with you. These attempts at shutting down discourse need to stop. You’re one of many victims and it is a shame this happened to you. I do hope you will bounce back with a vengeance.

    Jack Smith

    April 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

  17. I find the discussions fascinating for a variety of reasons:
    1) PZ and several other national bloggers were insistent on a convention “code of conduct”policy. They even referenced several policies found at conventions currently as well as basic policies found on the internet relating to convention behavior. In reviewing those policies I am unaware of any component as part of a harassment policy from any of these sources identifying live tweeting as a response to an alleged incident of harassment.
    2) PZ’s blog in fact violates the code of conduct in behavioral terms for just about any policy I have seen
    3) The absolute irony is Pharygula has become a shining example of the monster it is trying to slay as it relates to hostile behavior. In any professional organization, the types of hostile responses PZ allows on his blog would in fact get the people making those comments terminated for cause. As this is PZ’s blog and he is in fact in a position to moderate responses, which he does, that puts him in a position of power.
    The entire quote, “Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

    Darwintyson

    April 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm

  18. EllenBeth,

    I remember the one and only time I attempted to start a dialogue in the Paryngula comments section.

    The funny part is, I went there because i was discontent with the treatment I had received over at Brayton’s blog by his commenters. hehe…

    I didn’t realize that Brayton’s commenters were pussy-cats compared to PZ’s horde. I learned real quick.

    It sounds like there’s a lesson to be had in your story here – a mob on your side is a mob nonetheless. And once they turn on you, there’s nothing you can do but sit back and watch helplessly as they devour you.

    I think you were perfectly reasonable in your comments. But you committed the unforgivable sin of dissension, and you paid the ultimate price.

    Time to find a better community, right?

    Kacyray

    April 8, 2013 at 12:20 am

  19. [...] #1 is that this happened (emphasis [...]

  20. I’m having minor PTSD from reading the account here and from my time trying to be decent in the phyrangula horde. You have my sympathies. I don’t understand why or how the rest of the atheist blogosphere has been ignored by the commentators there or by PZ personally and why they (the horde) cannot see the harms they are inflicting.

    baal

    April 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm

  21. […] the group has negative social consequences. The social consequence can vary from being “dogpiled” on an internet forum controlled by the Polarised Group when somebody brings up information […]

  22. […] Myers did about Adria Richards. If you aren’t familiar with what happened in that thread, see my post about […]

  23. […] I understand the feeling the, Katie.  Good luck to you! […]

  24. […] male privilege.’  Women who challenge the rhetoric associated with feminism are branded as chill girls, gender traitors, and sister […]

  25. […] η αντιμετώπιση της EllenBeth Wachs από τον PZ Myers και την ορδή του σε άρθρο του Myers για το Donglegate (3/2013) […]

  26. […] he doesn’t mention (or maybe doesn’t realize), first, this one regard might be an extremely hateful, extremely absusive episode, enough to propel the targets into the ever-growing opposition against the Commentariat (which they […]


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