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David Silverman In Wonderland

David Silverman, the current president of American Atheists was invited to and agreed (after some haggling) to be a guest on the Brave Hero podcast which is hosted by Justin Vacula (va-cool-a) and Karla Porter (chill-g-rll) I know them both and have found them to be honest and they both tend to take a more formal (professional) approach towards conflict. That podcast took place on June, 15 2013. David was invited to further discuss issues raised in a twitter conversation with Justin. These are my thoughts on that podcast and some related interaction I have had.

ftb

Freethought Blogs -We fail with more than just words

Before I talk about the Brave Hero podcast I’ll give you a little background on my interaction with David to be open and honest about things. I’ve had David Silverman on my podcast as a guest, I’ve had a couple conversations with him in person. I’ve had an ongoing conversation with him in the last week in private messages about the conflict that has been ongoing between atheist/skeptics and FTB/A+/skepchick poser skeptics. Nothing extensive, David didn’t seem to have many facts about Justin Vacula and his role in the conflict so I figured he would appreciate being better informed. That way he could form a fair opinion based on truths.

David was more than happy to discuss the issue with me but insisted I was associated with “the shit”. He wasn’t nearly as interested in listening to what I had to say as he was in getting me to understand his version of the conflict. It was as if I was just making things up. At times it was like I had said nothing at all. David just walked by facts as if they were not even there, he didn’t even stumble over them a little. It is like David doesn’t need any facts or details, he has the answers already.

So David agrees to appear on Brave Hero radio after he and Justin Vacula (vac-cool-a) had a dispute over Justin denouncing what David refers to as “the shit”. I’m not sure what “the shit” is exactly. So far, “the shit” seems to be defined as stuff that David calls “the shit”. That is as clear a definition as any David has offered (which is none/nothing/nada)

David dives in right at the start and you can hear the condescension immediately. When asked for some examples of what it is exactly David thinks is “the shit” in the atheist community he replies that he doesn’t need to provide any examples.  David then goes on to point out that there is no way for men to know what it is like to be a woman. It is one of the few valid points that David makes, the problem is Justin has not made the demand that women shut up  or claimed to know better what it’s like to be a woman than even women do. Never once have I heard him even come close to either of those things.

David gives me the impression that he thinks it is his place to scold Justin “to help make him a better activist”. If being a better activist means over-talking the host when on a podcast or steamrolling over another person during conversation then David Silverman is the best activist I’ve ever seen. PZ Myers calls me a ranting asshole? At least I can get my facts straight. David has a problem with that. He also seems to be hung up on a few catch phrases. “Go fuck a knife” is one “You are too ugly to be raped” is another. David also seems to be under the impression that fake twitter accounts are a major factor in people leaving atheist activism. He gives Jennifer McCreight as an example of someone who was forced out. From my understanding Jennifer has some issues that contributed to her leaving that had nothing to do with fake twitter accounts. I’m not sure what David thinks is going to result from something called ‘boobquake’ when it goes viral but if he expects the world to mind it’s manners when it comes to boobs he is living in a fantasy land. I’m not saying it is acceptable behavior but people should accept the fact men are often pigs who say rude things to women, it is going to happen.

David  continues to insist that Justin act with professionalism. I’m left wondering what would happen if say if Justin took David’s example for professionalism and embraced it. Would yelling over people and using vague undefined terms while he making false accusations and ranting about things he knows absolutely nothing about be a better approach than offering to discuss issues in a open public forum without personal attacks? I think any mature intelligent adult would say no to even suggest such a thing is shit.

David Silverman repeatedly dodges any attempts to point out how his relationships are just like the ones he is calling Justin on. PZ Myers has behaved in incredibly irresponsible ways. PZ should consider changing his legal name to Libel Lyers (nice ring) at this point.  I can’t believe David is totally ignorant to the  actions and words coming from PZ or the number of people he has pissed off because he isn’t willing to accept people as allies. He makes it quite clear he has no use for people who disagree with him or his attempts to force a certain mindset be accepted by atheists.

I get the fact that David Silverman is probably sick of the petty fighting, he is sick of the childish and chickenshit attacks on women. Let it be known I am tired of it too. There were things I thought I could count on from people who were skeptics and atheists as a general rule. I have learned a lesson. People, all types of people have the potential to act like fucking childish, self centered, judgmental, hyper-sensitive,  humorless, biased, idiots. I will no longer underestimate anyone’s ability to fit that description. I will however wait for them to fit the description before I apply it to them. Until then they get a basic deserved respect from me by default. They get the benefit of the doubt. I will also always be willing to settle any differences by talking to people. I will not sit on my hands and watch as religion is replaced by  something just as dangerous hidden under a veil of someone’s righteous ideology.

I am bothered by David Silverman’s behavior. As I have said before I had respect for him but I can not respect his actions in this case given I know for a fact he knew better. Here is my direct reply to him just  so no one gets it twisted.-

    David, I gave you examples of things that were done/said to me that are far more damaging than any Photoshop of FTB bloggers holding We (heart) Justin signs. There are dozens and dozens of examples on the net of other people with the same stories. You were deliberately deceptive in your conversation with Justin about association. Do you think he or anyone else doesn’t know that?

I made that Photoshop David and it was for a reason. Those people, just about EVERY SINGLE ONE in that photo suggested he not attend or even attempted to keep Justin from attending that conference. That is wrong and for you to be critical of Justin for trying to make light of actions that are sickening and juvenile demonstrates a clear favoritism on your part.

     Justin DID NOT post Surly Amy’s address on purpose. I was in contact with Justin during that event. He never wanted to attack Amy in any way. He was trying to defend himself. He posted the address by accident. He got chewed out for his mistake as soon as he made it by myself and others. It was a stupid mistake. For you to accuse him of malice is bullshit. Listen closely-I WAS THERE. YOU ARE WRONG.
Who do you think you are fooling David? Do you really think anyone who knows anything about this is going to have any respect for you after hearing your skewed version of events? There are 600+ members of the slymepit, you gave the impression that you think they are all making rape threats, that isn’t even close to true. To say they are all “shit” is just dumb.

       A couple of isolated comments by someone with a 12 year old maturity level are not a solid base for your argument. You are the shit in this instance David. You are full of shit, you are spreading shit, and you have stepped in shit. You can’t even define your own term. At one point you told Justin to own his own ownership? Really? I had a lot of respect for you David, I thought you would be at least fair, shit I thought you would at least be civil. You couldn’t even have a conversation, you had to try and intimidate Justin. What if he responds in the same manner as you have to him? I’m sorry I was mistaken and I’m embarrassed for you David.

 

One of the high points of the podcast was the chat. Someone under the name PZ Myers was part of the conversation. I have reason to believe it was him because I can’t think of anyone else who would claim to be even in jest. Could it be PZ finally gained the testicular fortitude to venture out from his protected little den infested by the inept horde and stepped into the real world? I will give him credit for that if it is the case. I will also note he was up to his same old tricks blabbering away as if his psychic powers allow him to know me and what I am thinking at all times. Claiming that my responses to his attacks on my character are reason to dismiss anything I may have to say. If you are reading this PZ keep in mind what I told you in the chat. It would do you wonders to chill the fuck out and listen to people just for a little while instead of treating them like shit for daring to disagree. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you it doesn’t make them wrong.

Here is a link to the Brave Hero podcast 

Here is a link to the chat,( highly recommended reading )

 

Note- As this is posted David has responded to my last message. While we still have major differences in opinion. It should be noted that David Silverman is willing to continue to discuss those differences in a respectful manner. If I am going to criticize I must also be able to acknowledge reasonable behavior and willingness to at least try and find common ground. After the reasoned, respectable behavior we have seen from slymepitters who have been in discussion with Stephanie Zvan.  I wonder what will be said when it is proven that people who are part of the slymepit are not  hateful monsters after all. Time will tell, I hope some people are ready to put their social justice feet where their mouths are.

I will be following up on this, trust me.

Conditions on Conversation

blog

      Something interesting happened the other day. Justin Vacula and David Silverman had an exchange on twitter. Dave was taking issue with Justin not being vocal enough about bad behavior from his “side” ( note:there is no one, two or ten sides to this. There are way more than that. Trying to simplify it as two sides shows a lack of understanding about the issue)  At one point David said this –

@justinvacula for example, the fake pic of @rebeccawatson in sexually demeaning position. Can you agree that’s shit? Publicly?

i don’t know what pic Dave is talking about. I don’t pay attention to that kind of shit and I don’t mention it because I assume people will know I do not approve of those types of pics. To draw attention to such idiotic behavior is to give the person who created it exactly what they want , attention. If you do not then people of this caliber will almost always go away. A need for attention is the entire reason for creating such a pic.

Sometimes even asking a question is insulting.  I wonder how Dave would feel if someone on CNN asked him if he thought child porn was a bad thing. I imagine he would scoff and maybe even hesitate before answering such a question because it would ( i hope ) be unexpected. Would he wonder why he was being asked such a question? Would he be just a little offended that someone would feel they needed to ask him if he was against child porn?

@justinvacula hate and threats against your opposition is the wrong thing about which to be silent.

Something really bothers me about the demand David Silverman made before he would have a conversation with Justin. Maybe because it was public and didn’t need to be. It kinda made Justin look bad when he really didn’t deserve it. Far worse behavior has been witnessed, calling  Justin out on this is a strange place to begin addressing bad behavior. Hasn’t Justin been misrepresented enough? I know he can take it but it is almost as if David was just bored or frustrated and needed to vent on someone. Did David Silverman feel like it was his chance to teach Justin a valuable lesson in life and he just chose to do it in a disrespectful manner?  I suppose only David knows the answer but I know I was uncomfortable reading the exchange. It was another instance where the leader of a large organization picked out an Individual to criticize in a public forum.  Justin has put himself in the middle of things, but again , there are others who would benefit more from the lesson David was attempt to teach IMO.

The exchange continued-

Richard Reed ‏@RichardReed8422 May

@MrAtheistPants are you going to condemn the way PZ has described people like myself? Disagreement is not trolling.

@JimMacDonaldMMA quit crying. We will deal with this one issue at a time. Step one is no anonymous hate, threats of violence, shit.

  So David says “one step at a time” regarding PZ then this happens-

David Silverman, a principled atheist: Go to twitter now: David Silverman (@MrAtheistPants) is tearing the ath… http://bit.ly/14y2yqF 

    David Silverman, a principled atheist

Atheism

by PZ Myers

Go to twitter now: David Silverman (@MrAtheistPants) is tearing the atheist trolls a new one. This is really what I like to see: a leader of a major atheist organization taking an unambiguous stand against this ulcer in our midst, and repudiating the spammy, photoshopping, lying behavior of the anti-feminist clique.

How much do I appreciate it? With my dollars. My wife is going to sign us up for a lifetime membership in American Atheists while I’m away. It’s not a casual investment, so not everyone can do that, but you could send them a donation to let the organization know that you like a leader with a spine.

 Here is where the real problem starts-
  1. Thanks! : David Silverman, a principled atheist: Go to twitter now: David Silverman is tearing the ath…

  2. Thank you for your support! We’d be proud to have you as a Life Member!

  3. you’re not listening. I tried to help. Please consider what I’ve written and meant. Gotta go.

 

So PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson are like two old squawking vultures circling David and Justin waiting for David to deal the last blow to the guy who has been disrupting their feeding time. David actually acknowledges PZ with a tweet/wave. At this point as you can see they are right in the middle of David calling on Justin to condemn behavior he had no active part in and has never made excuses for except to say nothing.  David Silverman has a perfect opportunity to address another large part of the problem. All he had to do was make the play-field level, apply the same rules to everyone. David should have asked the same thing of PZ  and Ophelia as he did of Justin. Of course PZ would have had to condemn himself if he were to properly answer David’s request. It would have been interesting to watch what happened.

Instead we get PZ throwing a reward at David and American Atheists as if there had been a WANTED sign with Justin’s name on it.

David Silverman does mention donations and new memberships later on in the evening so I guess we can credit Justin Vacula for doing more good work on behalf of atheism. If it were not for Justin no one would have been inclined to donate and PZ most likely wouldn’t have signed his wife and himself up as a lifetime members. PZ did make it sound like he had been holding off on offering his wife until a worthwhile deed was done. One worthy of his wife’s lifetime pledge. Justin attempting to get David Silverman on his podcast was that special thing PZ was waiting for. Seems odd to me but whatever PZ wants to give as a reward is his business, not mine.

To be fair David Silverman probably doesn’t know about all the childish, divisive, and hypocritical antics of the few FTB bloggers and Skepchicks. I wouldn’t expect him to, he has (I hope) better things to do up until now.

That has changed a little bit now. When David demanded a certain level of behavior from Justin then he set the bar. Neither The Lord of Hate PZ  or The Queen of Stalking Ophelia could  currently touch that bar even if they had a ladder.  That needs to change now. Since they both thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread watching David get Justin Vacula under control it should be just as entertaining when it happens to them. Will it happen? Will the bar be set at the same height for everyone? I hope so because if it isn’t I have a feeling there is going to be some fallout from that, as there should be.

 

     As a sideline I should mention I think David had the right idea in mind. No one should be correct by default and no one is always wrong. There should be more instances of people talking about things they agree about and making sure the unfair and pointless responses on either side get little or no attention.

 

 

 

Talking Things Out

   hypocrisy

 

Trigger warning- If you are one of those people that likes to whine about things in life that are unfair or you are paranoid that something is out to get you then this post may not be for you. If you have mental issues that hinder your ability to read things that may be totally random and you can not tell the difference between the threat posed by the written word and a direct threat posed by a real life situation….this post may not  be for you. If you fit one of the previous descriptions you are advised to seek the assistance of a mental health professional and above all DO NOT PROJECT YOUR INABILITY TO DEAL WITH LIFE ISSUES ON OTHER PEOPLE WHILE USING THE INTERNET.

Thank You

A guy named Michael Nugent is in the middle of an exchange of questions with Justin Vacula. Michael has written a blog post where he gives some examples of “nasty pushback”.

Michael asked Justin-

Which of the following specific examples of “nasty pushback” against some feminists on the Internet do you consider to be morally unjustified?

This question is followed by the mandatory trigger warning. Does it bother anyone else that this has become an accepted practice? I can understand a warning for adult content but where do we draw the line when it comes to warning people because they may be offended by foul words?  If a person wants to refrain from offending or disturbing anyone who may for whatever reason be too sensitive to handle certain words (these words could be related to just about anything so it’s impossible to give a good example) then there should be a trigger warning on everything they post.

Michael not only gives the initial warning but then warns everyone again. He acts like everyone reading has a man with a chainsaw standing behind them ready to start choppin’ as soon as anyone lets out  a sound. I wonder what kind of world it is that Michael lives in when you coddle people to this extreme. It’s almost as if he is  codependent.

He then gives 50 examples of quotes he picked from the slymepit. I assume he picked the examples to try and show volume rather than to give specific examples of differing types of comments that could be considered abusive. 50 seems like an unreasonable number of examples to me and could be interpreted as an attempt to single out the slymepit as a den of misogynist, sexist atheists.

There are a couple main reasons why Michael’s examples fail him. First one is that there is no context, no back-story, no explanation as to why his examples were posted. I know for a fact that some were in jest. Others were echoes of things said by members of A+ or FTB and were posted in the slymepit as mocking hypocrisy shown by those people. Several of his examples were exchanges between people who were known to not be offended by such words. Without context it would be difficult if not impossible to give an opinion that was any better than if Michael had just made up all of his examples. Of course some people would say that simply the use of certain words is misogyny or offends people no matter what the context.  Those people are just being silly. Context makes all the difference many times. Michael almost seems to assume Justin has psychic abilities and can get into the minds of the authors and explain what they were thinking and why. To have such expectations would be completely unreasonable. Even if Justin did go through every single example, by the time he was finished much time would have been wasted when it could have been spent on more important matters.

After reading Michael’s question and examples a person would probably get the impression that he was serious about all this gender slur and harmful language stuff. I know that was the impression I got from him….Then Michael posted this.

It is about the Atheist Ireland Forum Moderating Policy. It seems that there were several…actually make that numerous posts in that forum which didn’t meet the social justice standards Michael had set for others. A reader by the name Skepsheik had taken the time to point this out along with many examples.  Those examples were as bad if not worse than what Michael had presented to Justin.

 

I wondered how all these instances had gone unnoticed for such a long period of time in Michael Nugent’s own forum.  Justin wasn’t responsible for moderating the slymepit forum.  If he were to try and moderate he wouldn’t get anywhere because there is not an ‘edit button’ available to members of the slymepit.  Everything is public and forever unless it goes to unacceptable extreme, child porn would be an example of an unacceptable post.  Justin, while a regular contributor to the forum, was not it’s spokesperson either.  The diverse make-up of the slymepit forum made it difficult if not impossible for there to be consensus on almost anything.  Each individual is responsible for themselves. This was not the case with Michael Nugent  and his forum. From what I can tell Michael is an active member and moderator in the Atheist Ireland forum. He was, after all, the one who authored the post explaining the removal of improper content on the forum.

Shortly after the announcement about the removal of unacceptable content on the Atheist Ireland forum Skepsheik again contributes some information. It seems there is much, much more- Pharyngula-style rape torture and murder wishes, sexist language, racism, homophobia, animal rape to name a few. Michael has explained this as a way to protest a law involving blasphemy. He explains it like this-

There is, as you know, a distinction between something being illegal and something being immoral or unethical.

we have left them published on our website to make the point that we do not want blasphemy criminalised, even if we ourselves would not personally agree with all of the blasphemous comments that other people make.

 

While I don’t think it is nessecary to remove any of the content found on the Atheist Ireland forum, I do see an example of hypocrisy poking up from Michael Nugent’s position and his tone towards Justin Vacula when giving the slymepit quotes without any explanation about the circumstances of those posts.

I left the following comments on Michael Nugent’s post

First comment-

     I’m glad to hear this news and the timing is perfect considering the way you are drawing attention to posts on other forums that you consider abusive, shaming and very disturbing. I’ve always thought it better to clean up your own yard before bringing attention to the condition of your neighbors lawn. Good thing Skepsheik brought the issue to your attention or who knows how long those offensive postings would have stayed up considering no one brought them up prior to now. It’s only human to have biases, it’s been brought to your attention and you are addressing it, so everything turns out well.

Follow-up comment

Nevertheless, in the slymepit we make the point that we do not want blasphemy offensive language criminalized, even if we ourselves would not personally agree with all of the blasphemous offensive language comments that other people make.

See how that works Michael? You say blasphemy, we say offensive.
You really do need to figure out where you stand on all this cause after the latest list Skepsheik provided you really don’t have any right to be critical of anyone else. In other words- Your house is still dirty.

 

I don’t want to give the impression that Michael Nugent has no credibility due to his oversight. I do think he should be more aware of what is going on in his forum. I am looking forward to the discussion as a result of this debate. As I have said previously, very few of the FTB bloggers involved in this dispute or A+ members are willing to have an adult discussion about the expectations they have or the tactics they have employed to encourage others to do as they request without question. Michael has been the exception to this. Now if others would stop making childish demands be met or claim that their critics are not able to have a rational exchange and instead follow Michael Nugent’s example then maybe we could see a return to skepticism rather than McCarthyism.

You can find Justin Vacula’s blog here

Michael Nugent’s blog is here