A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

The place to ask questions about the basic values of Atheism Plus, feminism and social justice.

A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby jimhabegger » Wed May 22, 2013 9:25 am

I've seen people wondering sometimes why some atheist celebrities keep smearing A+ the way they've been doing. I see one possible reason that I haven't seen mentioned here. Maybe it's too obvious to mention, but, um, maybe because their privileges are suddenly being threatened in a much bigger way than they have ever been before? Maybe because you are making some BIG WAVES that can't be ignored? I don't mean that they're aware of their privileges, or even aware of feeling threatened. I imagine that they would deny all that, and give other excuses for their behavior. What I mean is that what is moving them to try to discredit A+ might be the impact that it's having. This might not be any news to anyone, but I'm not sure it isn't, so I'm saying it.

That might also apply to some of the assaults on these forums. Reading some past debates about these forums, I see a recurring objection to the name. One objection people have raised is that the behavior of some people associated with A+ is giving atheism a bad name, but that explanation doesn't seem to me to entirely explain the reasons for their behavior. That behavior might also be a reaction to the way that name enhances the impact of A+ on the atheist movement.

I see attempts by privileged celebrities to discredit A+ as a good sign, a sign of its impact, and in any case good publicity. It seems to me like a mistake though, to consume time and energy shooting at those decoys, time and energy that might be better spent reviewing what's been accomplished so far, and discussing what to do next, to promote a better environment in the atheist community.

One of the most powerful things I see for you to do, is to continue to be visible, as who you are, and keeping these forums safe seems to me like one good way to do that.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby FrogSaga » Wed May 22, 2013 4:03 pm

I disagree with you entirely on the "atheist celebrities feeling the threat of having their privilege exposed or eliminated" bit. I read a lot of criticism of A+ and FtB by others in the secular community, and their criticisms are much too detailed and nuanced to be explained away so easily. We have to start taking the arguments and criticisms seriously, and move away from the "they are victimizing us because we are changing the community for the better!" response.

Argue against the real criticisms and, if needed, grow and change accordingly. For example, argue against this:

"A+ is a divisive movement created by professional victims who never apply skepticism or rationality skills to their social justice claims. They care less about atheism, and more about nitpicking every instance of privilege in Western society. They perceive feelings and emotions to be more valuable as a path to truth than rationality, and they demonstrate this fact with every chance they get. Atheism conferences are not safer, they just now operate in congruence with the wills of people like PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson and their sheep-like followers. They dictate what an atheist conference should be, what atheism should be, and you just follow suit or you will be labeled as an oppressor. It's about taking control.

They change the definitions of words, deny science when it opposes their worldview, and make enemies out of allies routinely. It's exclusive, it's combative, and it's domineering. The main proponents of Atheism+ want to control the community, not to make it better or safer or more reasonable. They can't allow real discourse because they fear the rigors of methodological critique. When faced with a real argument, they quickly bring up ad hominem style attacks on the person's status, privilege, or sex to try and silence them. They see reasoned arguments as harassment, as they are victims foremost and forever. If you attack A+ or FtB, then you must have it out for them, you're a bigot, or you're scared of losing your privilege. A+ is a monolith of an ideology, operating more like a religion than a skeptical movement. It's an embarrassment, a festering wound that seeks to infect the entire body that's been built without their assistance. They are intellectually lackluster and contribute nothing of value to atheism's stance against the pro-religion/pro-theism world".

Things like that should be addressed. This is the kind of stuff I hear over and over again from youtubers and bloggers who oppose A+.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Eowyn Entwife » Wed May 22, 2013 4:26 pm

FrogSaga, the only thing that quote IMO deserves is pointing out to the author that they have a million dollar prize to collect from James Randi, seeing as they claim to have vast telepathic abilities. Or how else could they use expressions like: "They perceive" "[they] want to control" "a monolith of an ideology" "sheep-like followers"?

Also, as soon as I see a "never", "always", "nothing", "all", "every" or "none" claim about the behavior of even one human being, let alone a group, I promptly lose interest in that author's texts. IME absolute claims have very little to do with reality in the psycho-socio-behavioral context of animals with established social habits/norms (including crocodiles, ravens and seahorses, as well as humans, dolphins and dogs).
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby jimhabegger » Wed May 22, 2013 4:33 pm

FrogSaga, is that quote taken from the Web somewhere? If so, can you give me a link? I'd like to see it in context.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby FrogSaga » Wed May 22, 2013 5:18 pm

@Eowyn
I was just making a collection of comments of dissent that I routinely see. It's a summary, hence words like "always", "all", etc. When people attack a group that they see as ideologues, they tend to make broad statements. It wasn't a quote, it was a collection of criticisms. And the thing about the JREF prize doesn't really apply here. For example, if PZ Myers says something like, "Atheism is the radical notion that <something social justice related that has little to do with atheism>, detractors will say that he is attempting to redefine atheism to shift it into accordance with his own beliefs. No telepathy required.

@Jim
If you haven't heard any of these types of statements before, then I don't know who you have been conversing with. Not all of these are what I would call celebrities of the atheism movement, but here are a few examples of people who have espoused such views, go ahead and search them on youtube:

Noelplum99
Integralmath
Thunderf00t
thecriticalg
Snakepliskinist
Weisapple
The Amazing Atheist

There are many others too, of course.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Iguananaut » Wed May 22, 2013 5:50 pm

I think that most of those arguments *are* addressed right here in this very forum in the "Arguments to Avoid" page. And it's not so much that they're arguments that should be avoided because they would upset someone or that they simply can't be addressed. It's more that they've already been addressed time and time again.

That said, I think some of those "arguments" can and should be addressed in more detail.. Most of them have been in countless blog articles and other resources, but it would be nice to have more collections of links and resources (evidence!) readily available on that page. I agree with you FrogSaga that those of us who have the spoons to do so should spend more time refuting these arguments, in particular because I think they're easy to refute. I myself don't often have the time or energy, though I have a lot of time opening up soon thankfully.

The other problem is that to really get anywhere on this you kind of have to corner people and explain these things to them one on one. There are people on the fence, sure, who will respond to well-presented evidence from either side. But for those already entrenched in, say, the slymepit they're pretty much going to ignore anything I or anyone else is saying unless we manage to grab them one on one or just a few at a time and hash this out in a format that enables a discussion. As it is most of my interaction with "those people" is just on Twitter which consists mostly of crude sniping that accomplishes little to nothing.

Some of them, like TheAmazingAtheist or noelplum I'm afraid are lost causes. TF I'm pretty sure is just trolling at this point and I don't know what to make of him anymore. The thing is not to win over people like them, but to present more compelling arguments. And that includes more *emotionally* appealing arguments as well, because let's not pretend like they do that there's no emotional reaction involved in any of this.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby jimhabegger » Wed May 22, 2013 5:56 pm

FrogSaga, I've seen most or all of that in various places on the Internet, but I don't see anything in that quote to argue against. All I see is a stream of assertions without any arguments to support them. I would need to see the arguments, in order to respond to them, but actually I have no interest in responding to defamatory statements like those.

I've seen criticisms and ideas for improvement, and I have some of my own, that might need to be addressed, possibly including some that resemble those, but I wouldn't want to discuss them here. Also, I'm not sure that there are any of those that have not already been addressed.

I didn't mean to say that feeling threatened explains all the opposition to Atheism Plus, or even most of it. I've seen objections and concerns that look very reasonable to me, and a variety of other possible explanations for people's anger and opposition. I've also felt angry sometimes myself about some of the behavior of people in A+, and I don't imagine it's entirely because I feel my privileges being threatened.

If I wanted to respond to all that defamation, I might try to translate it as much as possible into constructive criticism, to see if it gives me any new ideas for improvement, or questions to investigate.

Thinking about it some more, I just really see no point in me trying to respond to all of that. If that's taken from blogs and forums, then I imagine that others have already responded to all of it, repeatedly, far better than I could. I see better things for me to do.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby ceepolk » Wed May 22, 2013 6:36 pm

Most prudent, jimhabegger. I don't have time to waste on that sort of nonsense either.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Tinjoe » Wed May 22, 2013 9:31 pm

Some of the people on FrogSaga's list have been engaged before and they continue to parrot the same ill defined criticisms. The above example of criticism is devoid of any specifics and simply asserts irrationality on the part of social justice advocates without demonstrating it (So what's there to address?). When you can nail them down to specifics they show a gross misunderstanding regarding the subjects they complain about. Schrödinger's Rapist, patriarchy, privilege, racism, etc… all concepts that I see misrepresented again and again.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Setar » Thu May 23, 2013 4:19 am

FrogSaga wrote:Noelplum99
Integralmath
Thunderf00t
thecriticalg
Snakepliskinist
Weisapple
The Amazing Atheist

If we still need to refute the arguments those people and their supporters parrot, we should be demanding that evolutionary biologists give the same treatment to Ray Comfort's "Way of the Master" series.

This discussion has been had. Multiple times. We are no more interested it in having it than we are interested in discussing evolution versus creationism. Why is it okay to declare the discussion over in the latter case, but not in the case of social justice?
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby jimhabegger » Thu May 23, 2013 4:24 am

Seeing where it has gone, maybe this whole thread needs to be moved into the Information and answers forum?
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Buckle » Thu May 23, 2013 4:56 am

You know I don't understand. Is A+ even really making waves? Sure when it started, but now?
From my pov we are just chilling on our island telling some people sometimes that they need to get off it. Even then, they have to be pretty obvious assholes to be kicked off indefinitely. Essentially - we haven't ever gone on attack. We've defended our borders and tried to remain Switzerland. Why can't they just leave us the frack alone. No one has the TM on atheism. We don't even have a so-called leader - no one they even mention even posts here. The only thing we really agree on as a group is pretty much equivalent to "be nice" which even a child knows is a good concept.

Seriously though. It irritates and confuses me and I hate being confused.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Setar » Thu May 23, 2013 5:01 am

Buckle wrote:The only thing we really agree on as a group is pretty much equivalent to "be nice" which even a child knows is a good concept.

Seriously though. It irritates and confuses me and I hate being confused.

because we're demanding that everyone "be nice", rather than giving rich white straight cis able right-wing men free passes.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby SubMor » Thu May 23, 2013 1:13 pm

Buckle wrote:You know I don't understand. Is A+ even really making waves? Sure when it started, but now?
From my pov we are just chilling on our island telling some people sometimes that they need to get off it. Even then, they have to be pretty obvious assholes to be kicked off indefinitely. Essentially - we haven't ever gone on attack. We've defended our borders and tried to remain Switzerland. Why can't they just leave us the frack alone. No one has the TM on atheism. We don't even have a so-called leader - no one they even mention even posts here. The only thing we really agree on as a group is pretty much equivalent to "be nice" which even a child knows is a good concept.

It'd be a mistake to imply that "we here" and "A+ members" are equivalent. There are people who identify with A+ without participating here, and I have no doubt that some of them have gone out into the wild to challenge irrational nonsense. Is that "going on attack," though? That's a subjective question, but I don't think so. Refuting bullshit hardly strikes me as attack mode. To the anti-feminists out there, going on the attack is generating obscene pictures, stalking and harassing people, and deliberately being a nuisance. To the best of my knowledge, no self-identifying A+ person has done anything even remotely close to that (and no one on "our side" is likely to, so I won't be losing any sleep worrying about it).
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby qmartindale » Thu May 23, 2013 1:21 pm

Setar wrote:because we're demanding that everyone "be nice", rather than giving rich white straight cis able right-wing men free passes.


I think I'm missing something in your post. Aren't we saying that demands for everyone to "be nice'' are harmful?
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby ischemgeek » Thu May 23, 2013 2:20 pm

qmartindale wrote:
Setar wrote:because we're demanding that everyone "be nice", rather than giving rich white straight cis able right-wing men free passes.


I think I'm missing something in your post. Aren't we saying that demands for everyone to "be nice'' are harmful?


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Setar might not be, but I would, yes.

Simply put: Can you remember a time when something grievously unfair happened to you? Like, say, maybe your sibling, if you have one, punched you with no provocation, but you were the one punished because you must have done something to provoke it and not admitting to it was lying? Or, say, as an adult, maybe you were pickpocketed and had the cops refuse to even file a police report because, "We have more important things to work on,"?

How "nicely" could you argue your case then, when you throat and eyes stung with unchecked emotion and anger at the unfairness of it all? Do you remember the helpless despair of knowing there was absolutely nothing you could do to make it right?

Now imagine those sorts of things happened to you every day of every week of every year for your entire life, for things you have no control over: your gender, your skin color, your accent, your level of ability, etc. How angry would you get? How helpless would you feel?

How nice would you be able to be?

That's why "if you can't say anything nice, say nothing" and similar sentiments are harmful: They de facto silence the marginalized. I sure as hell can't talk sexism or ableism or bullying without getting angry and saying some not-nice things. If you demand that I ask for accessibility nicely, you demand that I swallow inaccessible situations without comment, because if some asshole wants to bring their cat on a plane, yes, I am going to get pissed off and angry that they think their ability to have Muffy the Cat with them on the flight is more important than my health and wellbeing. And so I'm probably not going to be "nice" about it. If you demand that I ask not to be sexually harrassed or assaulted "nicely," you're demanding that I put up with groping silently, because if some asshole gropes me, he's lucky if all I do is scream at him that he's a fucking asshole and who the fuck does he think he is? If you demanded that I asked not to be bullied and harassed on a daily basis in school "nicely" before you helped me, you'd be just like all the other teachers who made sure I was yet another silent victim because I couldn't get through my explanation of what was going on without crying and cursing.

Asking people to be "nice" isn't nice at all. It's harmful, and it's silencing, and it furthers the victimization of the already victimized.


EDIT: qmartindale, I misread your post. My bad for not re-reading it before I had my morning coffee. However, I'm leaving the original text above as 1, record of what I'd said, and 2, hopefully an explanation that will get through to those who deny that asking everyone to "be nice" is harmful.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Setar » Wed May 29, 2013 9:18 am

I'm more of the opinion that privileged people use an Orwellian definition of "nice" that really only means "nice to them" while they're still allowed to be total shits. Not to mention, the privileged will break their own rules and then try to handwave this away as though it means nothing...
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Buckle » Wed May 29, 2013 2:58 pm

Ah right just to clarify, I honestly didn't think of that and now that I have I remember plenty of times 'be nice' was used to silence me and devalue my feelings and opinions. In light of this I apologise!

I meant it more in the Wheatons rule kind of sense. Meh I hope most of you understood what I was meaning. I can't seem to find words right now.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby Iguananaut » Wed May 29, 2013 8:27 pm

Tinjoe wrote:Some of the people on FrogSaga's list have been engaged before and they continue to parrot the same ill defined criticisms. The above example of criticism is devoid of any specifics and simply asserts irrationality on the part of social justice advocates without demonstrating it (So what's there to address?). When you can nail them down to specifics they show a gross misunderstanding regarding the subjects they complain about. Schrödinger's Rapist, patriarchy, privilege, racism, etc… all concepts that I see misrepresented again and again.


I totally forgot about this thread, so I just want to make a brief followup comment. When I (and I won't speak for FrogSaga but maybe they have the same idea?) discuss engaging with "these people" I tend not to mean actually with Noelplum or The Amazing Atheist or TF or the like. Those guys are mostly either beyond reason or just deliberately trolling and not worth trying to reason with. But they do have sizable audiences who have sort of latched on them as affirming their base prejudices. Some of those people are also unreachable, but some of them aren't--I've seen people turn around and I've even helped turn people around myself.

Some might say "Well if it wasn't obvious to them in the first place that they shouldn't associate with rape apologists and harassers they're irredeemable scum anyways--this should be *obvious* to any well-socialized human being capable of empathy." Well, yes, I feel that way sometimes too, and if somebody doesn't have the spoons to deal with that sort of person there should be zero expectation for them to do so. But then I remember that I've had all sorts of problematic beliefs and behaviors and the past (and still do) and that without having been called out a few times in the right ways, and at times when I was open to listening, I could have gone right along blissfully being unaware (or worse, in denial) about my privilege.

So TL;DR there are people out there who are on the fence and are kind of ignorant but just need proper nudging. For example a friend of mine recently had no idea why Tucker Max was problematic because they only voices he was even exposed to were other college-age douchebros. Likewise, I think we should cede the ground to the misogynists on platforms like YouTube or Twitter. On Twitter we've been putting up a decent fight, I think, but it's not a medium well-suited for message communication. Ditto Reddit. YouTube I think most (though not all) of us sensibly avoid as an irredeemable cesspit. But I don't see the problem if somebody, who has the patience, makes for example point by point video responses to every vile thing Integralmath puts up. If even a handful of his viewers follow through to see the other side of the argument they might realize how ridiculous that guy is. Responding to them does not automatically lend legitimacy to them any more than responding to creationist arguments gives them legitimacy, so long as it's stated up front that these guys HAVE no legitimacy in the topics they're speaking about. The fact is that the more ignorant people listening to them already think they have legitimacy because they don't look very far for alternative viewpoints and really, genuinely might not be aware what those viewpoints are actually saying.
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Re: A possible reason for celebrities smearing A+

Postby ApostateltsopA » Thu May 30, 2013 6:56 am

Iguananaut,

I read that as basically the same reasons to challenge other woo peddlers and asshats. (not necessarily mutually exclusive badges) and that is the reason I engage with such folks, well one reason, when I have the spoons to do it. (This has not been lately).

I think it is funny you mentioned Integralmath, I'd never heard of them until they replied via video to one of mine. I'm still debating if a response would be fun.
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