Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, and Freethought Bloggers, Listen to Me

I know you have a herd mentality and have a strong tendency not to listen to outsiders, especially "apostates" who have "left the fold" like me. But you must if you want to restore your credibility and be a positive force for skepticism in the world. We are allies in our desire to change the socio-religious landscape, not enemies. For those who don't know, Greg Laden, the obnoxious Ph.D. from Harvard, was just kicked off FtB for good reason [Harvard must be so proud--not!]. So also was Thunderf00t. I've written about Thunderf00t before. He set a record by lasting less than two weeks at Freethought Blogs! Ed, PZ, if you had just listened to me you would not be in this mess. Let me explain.

I had previously asked Ed Brayton what the mission statement is at FtB. You can see in the comments they didn't want one. Brayton basically agreed there was no need for one but offered some nebulous criteria that might constitute one anyway.

Look, I have no trouble banning people. But it's based on a stated and enforced civilized comment policy. What is yours Ed? You need one. In it you should include a non-harassment clause that applies to your regular bloggers, one that forbids much of the vitriol your bloggers dish out toward others. Greg Laden obviously crossed that line, but many people think he did so long before you gave him the boot. You only took notice when he attacked one of your own. That seems hypocritical to many of us who have repeatedly been the brunt of his obnoxious demeaning rhetoric. If you had a comment policy in place before this you would've saved yourself from this present debacle. All you would have to say at any time previous to this, is that you've kicked him off for violating your stated policy and that would be that. It would be his fault since he broke the agreed upon rules. You have a lot of nasty mean-spirited commenters there too, atheists. They have taken their cue from some of the FtBers themselves, you and PZ included. They have imitated what they have seen. I, however, want a respectful civilized debate between people as much as possible, or none at all.

The problem you had with Thunderf00t, on the other hand, could have been avoided if you had a mission statement, which would dictate who to ask to join FtB in the first place. Now I happen to think he was a helpful corrective to some ideas floating around FtB about what sexism entails. He was what is called a "naysayer." Given that people are so prone to confirmation bias they OUGHT to seek out the naysayers just to keep them honest. However, this isn't the issue here. That you booted him off without a mission statement looks bad on you, for up until this time you advertised your blog as a a freethought one. Nonetheless, let me help you with a mission statement for inviting people to Blog at FtB:
Our goal at Freethought Blogs is to have a diverse set of perspectives from a diverse group of popular people having diverse levels of competence who largely write in their area of expertise and who are all united in undermining the religious mind-set and all that it entails. We have joined together in order to have a larger audience than we would have individually, with the added benefit of getting paid for blogging.

We strenuously defend minorities against the majorities, since the present majority opinions are religiously motivated, even when argued for by other atheists who disagree. That means we do not pretend to speak for anyone but ourselves. We are, however, trying to flesh out what a we think a commitment to science and reason calls us to, even though we know others disagree. We abhor sexism, homophobia, racism, ageism, militarism... We are in support of the liberal/progressive agenda. We are against accommodating to religion. We agree that the Jesus story is probably a myth. We see nothing wrong with pornography or prostitution if performed by consenting adults. We are against sexual harassment, racial harassment, gay harassment, and all harassment of minorities in its various forms wherever it raises its ugly head.
Now granted, this is just a starter statement and not intended to be a completed one. But you get the idea. After making it, publish it with a link in the sidebar.

Then when asking someone to join FtB you should provide prospective bloggers with a questionnaire asking what they think about the various important issues you deal with at FtB. Ask them what they think about sexual harassment policies at freethought conventions just to be sure. There is nothing wrong with doing this. At least then you will tell your readers what your agenda is, and you have one. Most authors of controversial books state from the outset what their perspective is in the introduction (if it's not already clearly understood), something like a disclaimer. Why not include such a disclaimer at FtB, that is a mission statement, along with that aforementioned comment policy? Without these two things I think you're making atheism look bad for your own profit and influence, for your own privilege and power.

Ed, as you and PZ once said to DJ Grothe, please fix this problem!

The problem is that yours is no longer perceived as a free thought blog any more. It never really was in the first place. So state your agreed upon agenda. Let your readers know what it is, that FtB is not actually a freethinking blog, and that you do not speak for all people who embrace science and reason. That you don't do so is crystal clear, as even some educated women have said below:

I think shocking comments can be useful for jarring somebody who believes crazy things because they think they will go to hell if they don't. But this attacking of fellow skeptics turns my stomach. Every guy who doesn't jump on board is a suspected misogynist. People who write some of the questions I have or make the observations I've made are told to "go fuck themselves". They are primed to think the worst if anyone shows any deviation from the stance PZ/Laden have taken.

There is enough hostility coming from the religious crowd. I feel disgust for the bloggers who encourage this "if you're not with us; your against us" meme in regards to misogyny... they've confused their opinion for facts and set a pretty aggressive tone at FTB....I consider myself a feminist-- but certainly not the "skepchick" brand..... Link.
Maria Maltseva:
I would technically be considered an egalitarian libertarian feminist (though my thoughts are not completely encompassed in that definition), and a mixed-economy socialist. I've been attacked with more vitriol than I've ever been in my life by that gang, mainly for my belief that attacking McGraw was completely inappropriate, especially since under any rational definition of "objectification," she was absolutely right....Their argument is largely this: if you agree with most of my views but not all, you're an idiot. Mind you, there are some issues they'll accept disagreement on, though not many, and not very much. And usually you have to be one of them already to voice that disagreement, or have some financial power and fame. For instance Myers clearly stated that Dawkins is not a misogynist, but on the other hand called me "mentally ill" for expressing my views. Sexist? You betcha.

As for equal pay for equal work, the main problem is that most women have to work two jobs while men only have to work one. Women are still the child bearers, and the primary caretakers and home-makers. I imagine hat's why women's happiness levels have actually gone down in the last twenty years or so, while men's have stayed the same. Let's face it, lots of women (and some men, I assume) would like to stay home with their children or work part time, but it's not necessarily possible. Women are not always in the workforce by choice, and there's nothing wrong with the job of being a full-time parent, if that's the choice a particular woman (or man) wants to make.

All they need to do is accept that not all feminists or women are the same. Not to do so, and to assume that we all want the same thing, is extremely limiting to women and our free agency, no less limiting than their imagined monstrous patriarchy. Link.
articulett again:
The way FTB has chosen to address sexism is in a particular manner that seems to be divisive. Some feminists might think it's privileged women whose major complaints in life is guys hitting on them at skeptical conventions. Some might think a "skepchick" calendar and skeptic jewelery are sexist or frivolous representations of skeptic women. Some might think douchebag is a sexist term or that twat is not. But you better not have those opinions if you post at FTB... or at least not express them out loud. You will be told to go fuck yourself if you do.

I agree that most skeptics are for womens rights and homosexual rights because it's religions that make these things "wrong"-- but I don't agree with the way FTB is going about it. I can think of a number of women feminists whom they've attacked far worse than nebulous harassment that may have happened at skeptics conventions. Moreover, I don't see harassment policies as addressing their supposed problem in any way. ThunderfOOt is now some sort of threat to women in freethought?! I don't think so. And I think the way PZ's acolytes are treating him (ThunderOOt) is repulsive. This is not my kind of feminism. I don't think anything positive for women comes from this. Link.

Professor Cathy Hooper:
I once wrote a post about how far we still have to go in the area of equality and the views that men and women hold about women--as when women give themselves derogatory names, such as "boob" or "chick"--they are literally labeling themselves as "stupid." This comes from thousands of years of patriarchy, and what they are doing at FTB will not help change the views of women as "boobs" and "chicks" until they realize what they are doing. Link.
See also The Sisterhood of the Oppressed, by Paula Kirby, where she wrote:


Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting this together. I was beginning to despair with life, the universe and everything.