Monday, January 7, 2013

Feminism poisons atheism part 2 response.

Here we are once again those dinosaur names try to say them out loud and then say them again!  err youtube atheists.

Phil Mason* has releases another video and after some debate I've decided to respond. In for a penny in for a pound. There may be some minor paraphrasing in my transcript part but I have tried to keep the ideas intake as they are presented as much as possible and be honest to all that is being said. Here is a link to the original video Why 'feminism' is poisoning atheism (Part 2)

Legend  /cut : refers to a place where the clip has been cut and Phil has placed originally 2 non continuous ideas together.

Video starts with a woman introducing herself as the leader of a secular university group Monica Harmsen. She goes on to explain that youtube channels, twitter accounts and face book pages are personal property and people have the right to moderate their channels. This moderation she says is not silencing someone because they can speak on their own channels and voice themselves there.

Phil Mason responds they are not personal property they are public communication media. They are more like public open spaces (he shows a people rallied in a park). Claims in the public forum good ideas propagate better then bad ideas. If arguments can't withstand public scrutiny they're probably bullshit.

I'm actually wondering why Mason is so stuck on this issue. Why do all internet conversations have to follow the same format? For example in the offline world you can have a public lecture where a speaker talks to the public uninterrupted and there may or may not be time for questions. Or you can have a classical style symposium or dinner party where a number of people have related discussions but a certain decorum at the request of the host is expected. Or you could all gather in a park with maybe with a microphone you cycle through and have a discussion and people who don't like it can leave.

Mason view of youtube etc  seems to be that they must be the last example but why must this be any better then the other 2 or any other form. You can go to a lecture get ideas debate them at the symposium share your understanding at the rally then discussion your altered views at the next symposium before listening to another lecture. That's fine that's what we do all the time and its still as he would call it an open market place of ideas. Mason's arguement would be like a saying the dinner party or lecture must change and be like the rally the only real form of free speech which just isn't the case.

I'm also not at all convinced good ideas propagate better then bad ideas. There are certainly some ideas (you shouldn't pet tigers, the earth is round) that have a lot of very practical short term uses (not getting eaten, global trade) that make their acceptance highly favored but this isn't true for all ideas. Creationism, Religion, global warming denial all do very well for themselves in the public forum despite being bad ideas.

Phil Mason: I think that's how it should be run. You think it's like you get to get up on your soap box and if someone speaks up and says your're wrong you evict them. If you want to create an echo chamber and create a forum where no one has the right to reply we have names for places like that they're called churches.

This is frankly a mischaracterization of what people are saying. There is a difference between evicting a guest from your dinner party because he disagrees with your views on economic policy and evicting a guest because he says you're an pinko communist who can't wait to send people to the gulags. One involves actually trying to understand the opposing position and trying to make a reasonable critic of it. The other is just an attempt to slur and slander the person making the claims instead of addressing their validity. If the guest continues to go on like this making conversation between the other guests difficult the proper thing for the host to do is get them to leave so people interested in a real discussion can have that opportunity. This is what people want is a forum where a discussion of the issues can be had without getting sidetracked.

In this video Mason again shows the disabled comments on Myer's youtube account and makes no mention of the open comments on the linked blog post or the continuous open unmoderated post. Leaving both out it is frankly disingenuous to suggest that there are no opportunities for disagreement to be had.

Monica Harmsen says you see it as an open forum others see it differently. 

Phil Mason responds you're right some people view it more as a church. And to me and many others with a strong commitment to the fundamental virtues of a first world society this is a deal breaker.

Again you're argueing against lectures and symposiums with this argument. It is not unreasonable to suggest that some areas of the public forum have different rules in how you engage in them then others.

Rebecca Watson on google+: The best you can do if you're running a forum you know who gets in utilize the block button on twitter. 
Phil Mason: In an instant it shows that persons's contempt for one of the most important aspects of modern society. If they're willing to throw open expression in a free and public media under the bus for personal convenience fuck them. Sure it's a choice by them, It's a choice that they prefer the echochamber or church approach and I'm really not sure that's a ringing endorsement of them to be a critical thinker.

Interesting he cuts off Rebecca there. She continues on the atheism + google+ conversation. "Utilize the FBI when necessary." Why would you call the FBI over criticism? Obviously you wouldn't and this conversation is out of context. If you watch the video the people they are talking about are people harassing them with threats of violence and rape. They are not discussing criticism. Harassment is not criticism. Calling someone a fascist anti intellectual cult leader is not criticizing their ideas. The repeated conflation of harassment with criticism is mind boggling, disingenuous and not a ringing endorsement of a critical thinker.

3:40- 4:24
Monica Harmsen: In that same vein harassment policies at conferences should not be limiting to you. I've been to many conferences since this conversation started. I was at women in secularism 1 when this conversation got started. I have seen these harassment policies they're not that restrictive.

Phil Mason: I think we're looking at different policies I'm looking at the one that want fake jewelry and offensive speech banned at conferences.

Amy Roth: We're not asking for basic rules so we can say things like making fake jewelry and intentionally offending people is not ok.

There are currently no policies that ban fake jewelry. Although Amy Roth said that at the time her position seems to have since changed. From the skepticon 5 policy which you quoted from last video:

"Harassment includes offensive verbal comments [related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religious identity], deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. Assuming the absence of problematic behavior (intimidation, following, inappropriate physical contact, etc.), criticism or disagreement regarding an attendee’s belief structure will not be construed as harassment." 

This is the kind of behavior we are talking about with these policies notice no mention of jewelry. Your continued misinformation about these policies despite repeatedly being pointed to the policies is dishonest on your part.

Phil Mason: And if you really think that's the way to go, fine. Then I find your brand of feminism offensive. Does this now mean you should be banned from any conference you show up to attend for harassing behavior.

Monica Harmsen: The only people who would be potentially hurt or affected by these policies would be creeps. Do you want to be a creep at conferences [phil mason]? If not then the harassment policies don't affect you.

Phil Mason:Well actually if the harassment policies include offensive speech then yes, yes it does.

The policy clearly lays out what speech might be labelled offensive namely "verbal comments [related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religious identity], deliberate intimidation,...[or] sustained disruption of talks or other events..." Someones views on the limitations of free speech is not something that is covered by the policy so they would not be thrown out for it. If they attacked your race gender etc or threatened you then yes they could get evicted. Similarly if are planning to make personal attacks or threats etc then yes this would affect you if not then it wouldn't. If it would affect you frankly we don't want you attending, if it doesn't then offensive speech is not something that will affect you.

Phil Mason: For my part I think Dave Silverman gets it absolutely right that above all conferences should be fun.
Dave Silverman: well we followed the reason rally with our largest atheist convention ever and it was our most fun american atheist event ever. One thing that I feel very strongly about is that conventions need to be fun. They need to be informative and they need to be empowering and they also need to be fun.

Phil Mason: And you're not going to get that with a bunch of hyper offend-able feminists trying to make the whole bloody conference about their professional victimhood.

That's not exactly what Dave said he said the conference should be fun he didn't say above all else. Reasonable rules do not preclude an event from being fun. A strip clubs for example has rules about what you can and can't do with the dancers by following these rules you can have a good time and the dancer can have a known set of limits that can be maintained for their benefit. Similarly although the presence or absence of racial slurs may not affect your enjoyment it may be a significant factor to the enjoyment of others. By setting and enforcing rules we can ensure that a reasonably high level of enjoyment can be had by all the attendees.

Monica Harmsen: If it's spelled out in black and white what is or is not acceptable at that conference. /cut
We define what that harassment is then we can say whether or not there is any legitimacy to these claims which means you would no longer have to complain about people talking about rape threats or other things you don't see as being threatening. I don't think rape threats are acceptable but we wouldn't be talking about whether or not they were acceptable if they were written in black and white rules, Rape threats are not acceptable.

Phil Mason: What the fuck are you on about? Where did I ever say that rape threats weren't threatening? I mean let me be absolutely clear if someone make a credible threat that they are going to rape you then that's a criminal offense whether you're at the conference or not at the conference. If you like there is already a harassment policy that covers that absolutely it's called the law.

I think Monica erred by focusing on rape threats instead of sexual harassment more generally which is what the policies more specifically address. Though when rape threats are mentioned its also qualified "or other things you don't find threatening" but you ignore any of that. However I take issue with "Credible threat" especially coming from someone as supportive of free speech as yourself it seems almost hypocritical. The possibility of action being taken has never been the reason for such threats.  If one is considering violent action yelling a warning to the world is counter productive as you are more likely to succeed in such violence if the victim is less aware of your efforts to begin with. The purpose of threats is intimidation either of the person directly threatened or to others who view the threat and may fear engaging in actions or speech like threatened person did.

These are silencing tactics, bullying tactics, trying to use the threat of force to discourage free speech and the discussion of ideas. This is true regardless of any intent on the person issuing the threat to follow through something which is often unknown and hard to gauge. This is why under Canadian law for instance it is illegal to issue threats regardless of your intent to carry them out.

Phil Mason: But it gets worse then that because there are no rape threats at conferences just like there are no babies microwaved at conferences. But should we now have anti baby microwave policy at conferences. Well why not because the only people affected by that policy are those microwaving babies. I mean you're not going to microwave a baby are you so why would oppose such a policy? Well now maybe you can see that there might be a downside to this. Like maybe a right wing group picking this up saying atheist conferences are so immoral they need an anti baby microwaving policy.

It bugs me that you start conflating their are no rape threats at conferences with the broader aims of anti harrassment policies. Mention of threats is a foot note in these policies. I'll address the lsat point about right wing groups further down.

Phil Mason: Or maybe just maybe this is the sort of thing that will discourage ladies from attending the conference. I mean I've got to admit if i was going to a conference and it said murder rape mutilation and torture threats were against the conference rules it would put so many read flags up for me. I mean I stand to be corrected but please just tell me when someone threatened to rape someone at a secular conference or for that matter eat a baby. Until such evidence is forthcoming you are proposing a solution to a problem that doesn't exist and in doing so you're making us all look like immoral losers and you are pointlessly disenfranchising women from this movement by creating such fictitious boogeymen and that is why you are poisoning atheism.

Your continued vexation by rape threats aside people do get harrassed see Ashley Miller
Or accounts like these

So these things do happen. This idea that having a policy will hurt attendance has always seemed short sighted. Without a policy and with events like these there are people being harassed and the response is uneven because there are no guidelines to follow. People who get to events are are harassed may not want to come back and may tell others about their experiences leading them not to attend. By trying to address the problem it may make things worse in the short term but if it makes the events better for people who go to them they will have a good time and they will get more people to come out next time.

Think of it like infrastructure investment. If you have a road that's full of potholes and its a horrible drive that slows everything down then starting up road work is probably going to slow traffic down even more in the short term. In the long term though, having a better paved road where you're not worried about damaging your car can make traffic better for all the drivers that use it.

I wish I could find it now but back 6 months ago when this was in full swing a commenter on FTB made a good point that these policies also protect the convention should horrible event occur.

Monica Harmsen: Conferences are privately founded affairs. The organizers of the conferences like the moderators of youtube channels and twitter accounts are entitled to make any rules they want. If you want to follow those rules don't go to the conference.

Mason: Yeah that's sort of right and the biggest goal of such conferences is to have people going home thinking.... [umm ok this is badly recorded... umm Mason and Aron are singing in a large auditorium setting and the audio quality seems to suffer] that lets do that again and lets bring some friends next time.

Finally something easy we all agree on. Conferences are fun and should be fun for everyone you should leave wanting to go again. But if you have 20 kids playing in a school yard and one of them is running around whacking the others with a stick and you make rules and take the stick away. You have made the experience less enjoyable for one person but more enjoyable for everyone else. Some parents seeing a no rough housing rule may worry about the kind of play that occures but if the experience is good parents will spread the word and it will be a great space for kids to play because everyone is following the rules.

Mason: and** I'll be frank all this bullshit that's grown out of one guy asking one professional victim feminist out for coffee is an absolute mood killer for 9 out of 10 in this community. Myself included. You know the 9 out of 10 who when they go to such a conference expect to be treated like a responsible adult and not get nananied by some absurdly politically correct list of do's and don'ts.

Here is the classic misinterpretation of what elevator gate was about. Asking a woman out for coffee was not the problem. Rebecca stayed up late talking in a bar with some of the attendees. When she said she was tired and had to go to bed one of the people there followed her to the elevator. While in the confined space of the elevator he asked her if sh'ed like to go to his room for coffee despite knowing she was very tired. She found this creepy made a brief mention of it in a video and then people went nuts. As if a big deal should be made out of saying I find people staring at me where ever I go in a room creepy people don't stare at me.

I'm very curious where the 9 out of 10 figure came from. I googled a bit trying to find a source but no luck. Please try using more citations in the future if this number came from somewhere say so link it somewhere maybe in a references section in the video description. If you pulled it out of your head (I'll be charitable) you should't be citing it.

Mason: And yeah to be honest I'm really pissed it ever came to this. I'm a solid believer in the big tent approach and that civil wars the ones  that always kill more of your guys then any others, should be avoided at all costs.

I can tell you're really pissed cause you keep going on and on about it long after other people had the good sense to move on. I have three problems with your stance on "civil wars".

First problem coming from you it's oddly anti free speech. You proudly trumpet the free market place of ideas and open discussions but addressing problems in our own community and things that we need to be better at is somehow wrong and labelled a civil war. Having internal debate and discussion is not a war it's the kind of thing you yourself advocate about not creating and echo chamber. If you don't want an echo chamber don't be surprised if people in your movement sometimes disagree with you (sometimes strongly disagree) and try to argue about it.

Second problem I have no idea your position but for a lot of atheists this would be a hypocritical stance. When the pope says something anti homosexuality and we know prohomosexuality Catholics exist we expect them to speak out about it. If a Muslim issues a death threat we want the rest of the muslim community to come down on them hard saying this isn't how we have discussions or settle out disagreements. When Christians fragrantly flaunt constitutional law in the states we don't want to be the only voice we want other Christians calling them out on it as well. We can not expect other groups to police them selves and speak out against the stupidity in their communities if we don't do it in our own.

This is where I'll call back to your idea that right wing groups may see the policies and use them against us. Lastly it starts to create the very worst of in group biases. Situations where its more important to ignore whats wrong in our group then call attention to it cause someone outside might use it against us. Taken to the extreme this leads to the way the Catholics have handled their sexual abuse scandals or the penn state Jerry Sandusky scandal. People  see real people being hurt in their communities either being harassed or worse and they decide the person doing the abusing is too important to be criticised. That keeping it all quiet makes us strong and keeps our opposition from using it against us. It is the worse aspect of in group bias and exactly the thing we should avoid. If that means a right wing group uses it against us fine (they take any opportunity) as long as we address the problems in our community and make things safe for the people there in.

9:33- 10:30
Mason: But this poisonous splinter has worked itself in so far has become so distracting so that I now fully support the earlier call from atheist+ movement for all you crazy feminists to join their completely socially progressive movement. Yeah you do that you organise your own conferences your Atheist + style conferences where you'll all be happier with your church style discourse rather then messy open market place of ideas where you can pander as much as you want to the paranoid and the professional victim minority. Where you can try to create this safe space from threats that don't even exist. Let the rest of us mature responsible adults have our own conferences where the big boys and the big girls can have responsible fun together.

We already seem to be winning most conferences have policies in place and the situation is better for everyone in my opinion because of it. I'm amused it's only facing this that you fully support atheism+. Always nice to get in a little mental illness shaming in there as well.

Mature responsible adults don't have a problem with a few rules to have fun. Kids don't have a problem with rules to have fun. Water parks and swimming pools have rules but that doesn't stop thousands of kids from having fun. Adults engaged in nonmonogamous relationships have a conference and they have a whole bunch of rules . I bet they had a lot of fun. Life has a lot of rules and there's a lot of fun to be had. Being a responsible adult doesn't mean you don't need rules.

See my various links and discussions above for the rest. These problems exist, and free speech is more then just your favorite form. I can add public 1 v 1 debates and round table television discussions (real ones not just talking heads) to the various forms of the market place for ideas. Stop asking that  every event be the same.

Monica Harmsen: No matter how I try to look at it and no matter how fairly I try to examine the situation the only conclusion I can come to is that this is less about some sort of righteous crusade and more about [Phil Mason]. /cut  I don't actually think that [Phil Mason] is looking out for the best of the movement of the movement as a whole as he would like to think that he does. He might think that he does.

Phil Mason: Well that's just wrong on so many levels and this is probably why it's best to keep the discussion to arguments and not who's making them. Else you start expressing opinions that you think that I think that I don't care about the movement as much as I think I do even though I might think that.

Monica Harmsen: I don't think he cares about the movement as a whole as much as he think's he does. He might think that he does but in the end I think it's less about the good of the movement and more about the good of [Phil Mason] and his opinions.

Phil Mason: Oh boy did you ever choose the wrong day to release this. The same day that I announced that I'm basically making all of the donations of last year for a prize fund to promote rational video making on youtube and for good reason.

I'll actually grudgingly agree with Phil Mason here, I do think he cares about the community. He has a short sighted view of the problem and his complete inability to take criticism prevents him from changing those views. However in his own understanding of the situation he does actually want to make things better. Of course trying to treat a collapsed lung like any other gunshot wound won't save the victims life in the long run but someone is trying to help. There's also a certain about of self serving adoration in what he does.

Monica Harmsen:
And when it comes to the movement youtube, twitter, that kind of stuff doesn't actually matter that much.

Phil Mason: And there you are 100% absolutely categorically wrong. The internet is where religions come to die. Especially the viral media like youtube and this is why folks like myself have been thinking of ways to prevent the slow die off that this community has been experiencing and to encourage new talent into this forum. However I'm just one guy with no experience doing this sort of thing which is why I'm currently asking what you think the best way to achieve these goals would be.

While I'd go farther then Monica does I do think the consciousness raising of the internet is helpful I think Phil takes it over the top. Religion is not where religions do to die they are dying all over the place and for more reason's then just the internet. The God delusion sold 2 million copies by 2010 was read more then that by people sharing the book and libraries etc, atheist groups continue to push for awareness in the public media, events and the courts. There are even atheists who don't do much of anything online I talked to at least one at a recent conference for whom the internet wasn't that big a deal. Your focus on yourself and your medium as being so great frankly comes off a little narcissistic.

Phil Mason: In the meanwhile I'll leave you this unintensional irony of this wonderful band of feminism. 

Monica Harmsen: I know activists. Real activists who do things who try to make this country and this world a better safer place for non believers and a place where actual science and reason can flourish
[theres a little speed reel clip show of various youtube  videos and from thunderf00ts own works]
Like I have never seen somebody with so much hubris as [Phil Mason].

While the work online is admirable, enjoyable and productive it is not sufficient and it requires work beyond that in the real world to achieve results. It's not all about your chosen media Phil but in many videos you take a moment to masterbate (metaphorically) about how awesome your media (youtube) when there is lots of other work being done like court cases to get changes made as well.
I mostly left out his picture this time, we get a number of him goofing off with Aron et al and some repeats from the last video like Harriet Hall's t-shirt. Mostly I think they are minor to what he is actually saying.

I also notice youtube has started providing transcripts through its captions option. Not sure I want to trust those yet.

Anyway thank you for reading if you want to disagree or correct anything I've said that's what the comments are for.

*I realized it would be odd if I was using everyone else's name except his. So no special treatment for him. His name is out there, he posted it in a video and its easy to find.

**Ok this is trivial but bugging me stop using and over and over again. Please find a new way to join or start ideas.


Atheist + conversation on google + is the video source for rebecca's comments.

edit:Here is the Monica Harmsen video he used video from.

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