Religion

The Friendly Atheist Endorses a Hate Forum

Hemant Mehta, aka The Friendly Atheist, has written a post characterizing “The Slymepit” as “online forum that frequently criticizes and mocks (PZ MYERS) and is populated by people he deems trolls (even though they correctly uncovered plagiarism on his blog network).” The Slymepit, in fact, is a forum that was created specifically to host hate speech directed toward me and other feminists after National Geographic refused to allow blogger Abbie Smith to host a discussion about what a cunt I am on their servers. For the past several years it has served as a place for misogynist atheists to gather and circlejerk over how much they hate me, PZ Myers, and other outspoken feminists.

Mehta wrote this in support of Michael Nugent, a man who has, bizarrely, been obsessed with PZ Myers for the past year or so, writing an inordinate number of long essays chastising him for every out-of-context insult he ever uttered about anyone. The most recent was inspired by PZ daring to criticize Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who recently told American gays and lesbians that the worst thing that could happen to them in the US is being refused cake. PZ pointed out that she was mimicking other conservatives, who exploit atrocities (in this case, the murder of gays and lesbians outside the US) to “justify continued injustices” (in this case, the murder of and bigotry against gays and lesbians in the US). It was a remarkably mild condemnation in relation to the utter ignorance of Ali’s statement, but Nugent and Mehta feel that it’s enough to call for PZ’s banning from all future Atheist Ireland events.

The entire thing is incredibly sad to me, as I quite liked Nugent when I met him years ago, and it’s been seriously embarrassing to see him become more and more obsessed with PZ over the past year while allowing his blog to be overrun by the bigots and rape apologists of the Slymepit, who finally found a prominent voice in atheism that would give them a platform in the comments. This will likely be my first and only comment on Nugent’s behavior, because I can’t imagine that giving his obsession with PZ more attention is at all healthy for him. I hope he finds a way to stop stalking and lashing out at other atheists and gets back to the good work that he was previously doing to fight for secularism in Ireland and elsewhere.

And I hope Mehta figures out what the word “friendly” means and how it relates to a forum for abusing women online.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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69 Comments

  1. April 8, 2015 at 7:23 pm —

    This all is so depressing. I don’t get how people can see Ayaan Hirsi Ali making the exact same argument as Tom Cotton and claim that she meant it in a totally different way! People claiming that PZ’s fans just do whatever he say while refusing to question AHA’s shitty comments have got to be totally un-self-aware.

    • April 9, 2015 at 1:22 pm —

      I wouldn’t put it so badly. Unlike Tom Cotton, she’s actually lived under an Islamic theocracy, so it’s more like when an abuse victim says “Why do men do this?” But hey, you know, #NotAllMen are abusers, amirite?

      One particular problem is, if you go onto social justice blogs, you’ll see people quick to defend the honor of Islam. On Daily Kos, there are Jews referring to Palestinian Arabs, whose ancestors migrated to the Levant in the seventh century, as ‘indigenous’. I cannot tolerate the implication that conquest can make one gain indigeneity, or diaspora can make one lose it. One user, now-banned, suggested that we can’t fight ISIS because Gamergate. (Because, you know, even though I shame Gamergate and all related movements at every opportunity, I can’t possibly fight ISIS as long as Gamergate exists.) These defenses include things like Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, who defend Gaza, a place where being gay is a capital offense.

      Perspective is always important. AHA has received death threats as well. Pinned to corpses.

      tl;dr: It’s our fault for corrupting intersectionality into meaning its opposite.

      • April 9, 2015 at 11:13 pm —

        “I cannot tolerate the implication that conquest can make one gain indigeneity”

        If a people who have been living in Palestine for 1300 years aren’t indigenous, then surely you’re giving up your home of conquest to the American Indians whose ancestors lived here before yours did?

        If a people who have been living in Palestine for 1300 years don’t have legitimate claim to the land, then don’t people who have been living there for 80 years and who ethnically cleansed the prior inhabitants have far less legitimate claim?

        • April 10, 2015 at 11:37 am —

          “If a people who have been living in Palestine for 1300 years aren’t indigenous, then surely you’re giving up your home of conquest to the American Indians whose ancestors lived here before yours did?”

          Dude, you’re turning irony meters everywhere into tactical nukes. (I’m Lakota.)

          As for ethnic cleansing, it’s funny, wouldn’t ethnic cleansing, like, decrease the population? Just a thought.

          • April 11, 2015 at 4:23 am

            I fail to see what Palestinian politics has anything to do with PZ or any of the points addressed by this article.

          • April 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm

            My point was specifically about how social justice blogs are quick to defend leaders in the Islamic world from any sort of critique. And it’s irritating when I see them trying to draw comparisons to us without asking first. (Of course they didn’t ask first. They know Keith Harper’s opinion on it. And Joy Harjo’s.)

            Another good example has been the tendency I’ve seen on Tumblr (Really, I could have enough material to write volumes of ‘stupidity I’ve seen on Tumblr’.) to pretend that Queen Noor is not privileged. You know, despite her being a queen, she somehow is representative of all Arab women, from royalty all the way down to the working class and even the lumpen.

      • April 11, 2015 at 4:21 am —

        You are aware that people can support multiple things at once right? One can be for treating the Palestinian people as human beings who deserve basic human rights while also being critical of aspects of Palestinian culture that are also troubling. I don’t know why you seem to think all these issues are either/or.

      • April 13, 2015 at 10:41 am —

        What a load of nonsense. Can’t you conceive of the idea that “social justice blogs” (whoever they are) aren’t required to have a black-and-white view of the world? It is perfectly possible to support the human rights of palestinians while at the same time rejecting the islamic ideology of many palestinians, just as it is possible to reject or criticise certain policies of Israel while at the same time accepting Jews’ right to live in peace and safety.

        Your comment is largely irrelevant to the the discussion of PZ Myers’ blog and comments, since one can both understand why AHA would be overly critical of Islam while rejecting her particular arguments and dismissal of LGBT* people.

        Amazing: Two. Thoughts. In. Your. Head. At. One. Time! Nuance!

  2. April 8, 2015 at 7:58 pm —

    It’s especially depressing to consider that so much of this is fueled by pure misogyny and the unbridled desire to abuse and harass feminists. The idea that Michael Nugent and now Hemant Mehta would openly support or defend such vile attitudes is a clear indication that something is very wrong.

  3. April 8, 2015 at 7:58 pm —

    For someone familiar with this only insofar as recognizing the guy in this image as the guy who keeps showing up on all the cozy atheist related stuff that comes up on the internet, this was ridiculously hard to follow. Skepchick commenting on a blogger reporting on an organization denouncing a guy for criticizing a lady.

    • April 8, 2015 at 11:59 pm —

      In other words, you don’t follow the politics of movement atheism, and how dare someone make a post about said politics because you’re ignorant of them. Why even make a comment like this rather than close your browser window and go do something else? No one here cares if you don’t understand the politics the post is referring to.

      • April 9, 2015 at 10:00 am —

        Will, please don’t take this the wrong way, but sometimes you come across as needlessly hostile.

        They look like they’re confessing personal ignorance to an author with the hope of getting more background in the next post. Not everyone follows the politics of atheism, and I think they were just trying to engage as an knowingly ignorant person.

        Not trying to demand validation for that ignorance. I also don’t follow patheos blogs, so I don’t know much about him. I read his brief rationalwiki blurb to educate myself a little, but it’s woefully inadequate.

        • April 9, 2015 at 12:54 pm —

          What’s the “right way” to take your comment? Just curious, don’t want to “needlessly” offend you. *eyeroll*

          Anyway, if they were innocently confessing ignorance and wanted more information, they should have asked for advice on where to find such information and not called Rebecca’s post “ridiculously hard to follow” (it’s not, they’re just ignorant of the issues) or given a smart-ass summary of the post as their last sentence. If they were trying to innocently engage and ask for guidance on where to find more information, they failed.

          • April 9, 2015 at 3:06 pm

            Yeah, I agree, there’s a lot they could’ve done, but didn’t. And yeah, that’s a personal failure, but it’s also actually hard to contextualize some information in the article as an outsider to the dispute.

            Letting Rebbecca know that doesn’t have to be something done with ill intent.

            I’m sorry if I was too abrasive to you as well.

          • April 9, 2015 at 5:25 pm

            It is totally fine to ask for more of that context. That’s not what they did though.

            I don’t know their intent, and really it doesn’t matter (intent isn’t magic and all that). Their comment comes across as someone being critical of Rebecca having the audacity to post something that some people may not be able to easily follow because they don’t follow the politics of movement atheism. Maybe I’m quick to peg it that way because I see all the crap that comes across the backchannel aimed at Rebecca and so comments like this read like much of those sorts of things that are more about harassing Rebecca than about making a valid point or asking for more information.

            So, yes, I am hostile to the type of commenter who would enter a thread to assert their ignorance and ridicule the post based on that ignorance. That doesn’t mean I’d be hostile to genuine requests for more context/sources of information. This original comment does not read to me as that, though.

  4. April 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm —

    Hemant Mehta has proven himself to be a liar and a now a promoter and endorser of misogyny-based harassment campaigns against atheist feminists. I formally disassociate myself from Mehta and any group of which he has a leadership position.

  5. April 8, 2015 at 8:13 pm —

    I’ve met Hemant on several occasions, read his blog, and listened to him speak, and I wish I could say he was a better person than this. But the fact of the matter about any person is that they are defined by their actions and by the company that they keep.

    About three years ago, I started noticing that I was seeing the same avatars on his comment threads that I was seeing on female bloggers’ “pages of harassment and hate.” I also noticed that he was making uncritical announcements of projects by reactionaries like Justin Vacula (often while they were being criticized elsewhere); who would then personally swoop in to thank him for the mention.

    I stopped visiting most Patheos sites (his included) when Disqus started blocking my browser from viewing their JavaScript-addled comment threads circa 2013. His TJ Kincaid and “pro-life” kerfuffles…and, of course, this…came soon after that. And while I’m saddened and incredibly disappointed to see him sink to this level, I’m jaded and cynical enough not to be surprised any more. This isn’t the first “ally” I’ve lost, and I know it won’t be the last.

  6. April 8, 2015 at 8:15 pm —

    In context, Hemant appears to be complaining that PZ Myers in a tweet associated Atheists Ireland with Slymepit. Wait, I’m missing some background. Who are Atheists Ireland?

    • April 8, 2015 at 9:31 pm —

      Atheists Ireland is Michael Nugent writing in the third person.

      • April 8, 2015 at 10:39 pm —

        I will never, ever, ever stop laughing. That was beauty.

      • April 8, 2015 at 11:49 pm —

        Brilliant.

      • April 9, 2015 at 9:01 am —

        Sending bill for keyboard cleaning… ;)

      • April 9, 2015 at 1:24 pm —

        That reminds me of the other day:

        “Victim-blaming, blaming Obama, comparison of self to Anne Frank. Man, Zimmerman only needs to lapse into illeism to complete the grand slam of sociopathy.”

      • April 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm —

        Okay, so it seems that Atheists Ireland is mostly just Michael Nugent, and Michael Nugent is closely associated with Slymepit?

        I previously thought the OP was overstating the case, since Hemant’s comment didn’t sound like much of a ringing endorsement. But in light of this information, it appears that the OP understates the case. Hemant didn’t simply endorse Slymepit in an offhand comment, the *entire post* was about supporting Atheists Ireland.

        • April 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm —

          Michael Nugent runs a blog which gets one or two comments on most of the threads. However when Nugent complains about PZ Myers those threads get several hundred posts, mainly slymepitters.

          It started after PZ wrote the “Grenade” post on Pharyngula, warning women about Michael Shermer’s rapist proclivities. Nugent sent PZ an email saying basically “don’t post unproven allegations and don’t name names, especially the name of someone important in the atheist/skeptic community.” PZ responded that he thought it was important to warn possible rape victims about Shermer. Nugent then went to Twitter, demanding that PZ retract the accusations and apologize to Shermer and to Nugent. After a bit more back and forth between PZ and Nugent, PZ decided that Nugent was more concerned with protecting Shermer than protecting women and told Nugent to mind his own business. Nugent then jumped on his high horse and rode off in all directions, declaring PZ anathema to the Atheist Movement™.

          Essentially PZ and Nugent are on opposite sides of the Deep Rift.

  7. April 8, 2015 at 8:15 pm —

    Hemant Mehta’s endorsement of slymepit bigotry is the last straw for me regarding any personal credibility he might have had with me. Can’t imagine why movement atheism might be unwelcoming to women or non-binary people when he blatantly refuses to acknowledge that an atheist hate group that’s been around for years is a hate group. </sarcasm>

  8. April 8, 2015 at 8:20 pm —

    There goes another one. Yet another atheist blogger who wants to let the bigots run amok.

    He isn’t “friendly”. That’s not what “friendly” means.

    I’m really sick of these assholes.

  9. April 8, 2015 at 8:54 pm —

    Technically Mehta only briefly mentioned Slymepit at the very end of his blog post, and it wasn’t a glowing review. He just described it as “an online forum that frequently criticizes and mocks him and is populated by people he deems trolls (even though they correctly uncovered plagiarism on his blog network).” To me, it seems like Hemant just doesn’t know how toxic and ugly Slymepit is. At least that’s what I hope!

    • April 8, 2015 at 9:18 pm —

      Hemant “didn’t know” how toxic and ugly The Amazing Atheist was, either, and we saw how that turned out. The unfortunate thing is that this is a pattern of repeated behavior, not a fluke.

      • April 8, 2015 at 9:39 pm —

        Ah, good point.

        • April 9, 2015 at 12:40 pm —

          Hemany has a history of what I hope is simply being snowed by some pretty obvious jerks. I hope its just naivete on his part, although even that doesn’t speak so well of him.

          • April 9, 2015 at 3:47 pm

            That should be “Hemant”. I didn’t check for unhelpful tablet autocorrection.

    • April 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm —

      Given his history with The Amazing Atheist, Justin Vacula, and pro-lifers, I think he’s fully aware and simply doesn’t care.

    • April 9, 2015 at 9:03 am —

      I’m not sure how that is possible in this case. A minute of Googling could explain the basics of the situation.

  10. April 8, 2015 at 9:16 pm —

    This is very disappointing to me. I used to have a great deal of respect for Hemant Mehta. He used to always seem to be much more respectful and more mature than this. But I decided to unfollow Mehta on Twitter today after this and I won’t be reading his blog in the future anymore.

  11. April 8, 2015 at 9:41 pm —

    This is really disappointing in a long string of disappointments. Mehta’s blog was one of the first ones I read when I started to identify as an atheist, and because I’m interested in religion and the public schools I appreciate his regular coverage of church/state issues in education. But between his own developing pattern of being a poor ally for women, and the types of articles Terry Firma publishes on the site, I’m rapidly losing trust and admiration.

  12. April 9, 2015 at 5:22 am —

    I’ve long come to the conclusion that Hemat Metha is the Friendly to the Status Quo Atheist. After all, they have cake to share. Alligning with them has advantages and pays off quite well.

  13. April 9, 2015 at 5:56 am —

    As for Myers himself, he responsed on Twitter with a sarcastic “Oh no! I’ve been disowned by the slymepit!”… in other words, associating Atheist Ireland with an online forum that frequently criticizes and mocks him and is populated by people he deems trolls (even though they correctly uncovered plagiarism on his blog network). In other words, he didn’t care.

    – Hemant Mehta

    As for Myers himself, he responsed on Twitter with a sarcastic “Oh no! I’ve been disowned by the slymepit!”… in other words, associating Atheist Ireland with an online forum that frequently criticizes and mocks him and is populated by people he deems trolls (even though they correctly uncovered plagiarism on his blog network). In other words, he didn’t care.

    – Hemant Mehta, Atheist Ireland “Publicly Dissociates” from Blogger PZ Myers

    I’ll stop there for now. (The denizens of the Slymepit forum — normally people I’d prefer to ignore — have uncovered these examples and then some and they’re showing no signs of stopping.)

    – Hemant Mehta, Another Atheist Caught in Case of Serial Plagiarism

    I think it’s a bit strong to consider Hemant’s comments about the Slyme pit to be an endorsement.

    Doing a google search on his blog, there’s hardly any mentions of the Slyme Pit at all. The two above were the only two I could find – although I could easily have missed something.

    In both cases, Hemant refers to the fact that, on one particular occasion, the SlymePit were actually right about something.

    In one of those mentions, he states flat out that they are people he would normally prefer to ignore.

    Outside of those two blog posts, it seems to me like Hemant actually does pretty much just ignore them.

    That’s not an endorsement.

    The worst criticism I think Hemant qualifies for in that area (if any) would be that mentioning the one time that the Slyme Pit actually got things right on two occasions, but only having offered a tepid rejection of their tactics on a single occasion, presents an unrepresentative view of the Slyme Pit’s general tactics and behavior.

    That would be a valid criticism of Hemant on grounds of sloppy and unrepresentative reporting on current events in atheist blogging. But calling that an endorsement? Not justified.

    • April 9, 2015 at 6:48 am —

      Wringing his hands about someone calling people who came together for the express purpose of a multi-year harassment campaign “trolls” isn’t the world’s most ringing or broadest endorsement. It is still him saying they should be treated with more respect than that, when calling them “trolls” is, in fact, a kindness after their behavior. Don’t let pedantry distract you from what’s right there in his words.

      • April 9, 2015 at 8:13 am —

        It is still him saying they should be treated with more respect than that, when calling them “trolls” is, in fact, a kindness after their behavior.

        This is an argument that Hemant was insufficiently condemnatory towards the Slyme Pit. I can see how that could be a fair call.

        That’s still not a fair example of an endorsement.

        The cover of Good Omens (by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) carries an endorsement by Clive Barker: “The Apocalypse has never been funnier.”

        That’s what an endorsement looks like. “The denizens of the Slyme Pit are people I’d normally ignore, but there was that one time they happened to be right” isn’t an endorsement.

        At absolute best, it’s a grudging and hesitant admission.

        Don’t let pedantry distract you from what’s right there in his words.

        Pedantry?

        I have a disagreement with a part of how Hemant is being presented here, and I’m trying very hard to support that disagreement with direct citations, reasoning, and careful consideration of possible-counter arguments to my own position.

        I understand that you disagree with me, but I’m arguing in good faith and trying very hard to be a good skeptic. Getting labelled as a pedant because I’m trying hard to get it right seems a bit unfair.

        • April 9, 2015 at 3:01 pm —

          Oh, so if Hemant had his words about them being *too good to be called trolls* because they uncovered plagiarism printed on a book, it would have counted? You have a disagreement with one word in the title based on a usage of the word that is well within its definition. Yes, I’m calling that pedantry.

          • April 9, 2015 at 7:26 pm

            You have a disagreement with one word in the title based on a usage of the word that is well within its definition.

            An endorsement is supposed to be something that is unequivocally positive and supportive.

            Pointing out that a group of people you’d normally not want anything to do with got something right that one time is not an endorsement. It doesn’t fall within the definition of ‘endorsement’.

            If I’m a pedant, you’re an eisegete.

    • April 9, 2015 at 7:40 am —

      The problem is Mehta’s weasel-wording and eliding. PZ is “associating” Atheist Ireland with the Slymepit, nevermind that Nugent’s comment section is a who’s who of the Pit and pit-friendly people, nevermind that Nugent’s talking points (in particular the one about calling Russell Blackford a “lying fuckhead”) are straight from the ‘pitters.

      PZ “deems” the Slymepit trolls. It’s not that they have a well-documented history of trolling, harassment, and obsession—documentation that Nugent himself contributed to a couple years ago. This is classic weasel-wording; Mehta is trying to appear impartial by bending over backward not to state outright what the facts are. The same goes for singling out that time the stopped clock happened to be right. Or, more accurately, the time that obsessive dirt-digging actually turned something up. On someone other than PZ. Note that Mehta is doing the same guilt-by-association thing that he applied to PZ above, except that plagiarism is a rarity on FtB, while trolling is not similarly uncommon for the Pit. The “even though” implies somehow that being trolls and also being obsessive shit-stirrers with a vendetta are somehow inconsistent. It’s designed to make it seem like PZ is just irrationally against the Slymepit, not that they are a hate group that anyone in their right mind would be opposed to.

      Which, incidentally, is the same kind of shit Nugent pulls in this most recent nonsense, acting like PZ saying mean things about Rush Limbaugh and Fred Phelps is somehow inappropriate.

      On Twitter, Mehta said he’d often been on the receiving end of PZ’s tirades, a claim PZ debunked immediately. I haven’t seen Mehta respond. It’s beginning to look like Mehta is deliberately trying to make PZ look like someone who just gets irrationally angry at other atheists for no reason.

      Which is probably great for Mehta, because if he can convince people of that, then he can use it as a nice deflection tool next time people get angry at him for promoting rape apologists or giving a platform to libertarian islamophobes and forced-birth advocates.

      • April 9, 2015 at 8:29 am —

        Just for context: I’m really unfamiliar with Nugent and Atheist Ireland. I’m too uninformed to hold a justified opinion, which is why I haven’t offered one.

        On Twitter, Mehta said he’d often been on the receiving end of PZ’s tirades, a claim PZ debunked immediately. I haven’t seen Mehta respond.

        I did see that.

        I’m waiting to see if a response from Hemant is forthcoming. It could be completely true that Hemant got it wrong. Perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally in the form of a constructed memory. Or perhaps an incident Hemant has in mind didn’t happen on PZ’s blog itself. Any of these or none of them could be true. That’s one of the dangers of speaking in generalities without referring back to the particulars that informed them, it leaves too much open to speculation on the part of the reader.

        I’m not rushing to any conclusions. But the burden of response is indeed on Hemant right now, so it will be interesting to see if he says anything in response – and if so, what?

        If it does turn out to be the case that Hemant misrepresented PZ, as very much appears to be the case right now? Then yeah. That would be a bad thing. Hemant should accept the correction and publish an update to reflect that. Because misrepresenting people is bad practice.

        Similarly, I think that stating that Hemant’s comments regarding the Slyme Pit constitute an endorsement of a hate group is also a misrepresentation. And I think the same standards should apply to all.

        PZ “deems” the Slymepit trolls. It’s not that they have a well-documented history of trolling, harassment, and obsession—documentation that Nugent himself contributed to a couple years ago… It’s designed to make it seem like PZ is just irrationally against the Slymepit, not that they are a hate group that anyone in their right mind would be opposed to.

        There’s some stuff in that paragraph I might want to quibble with. But for the most part, that entire paragraph seems good enough.

        As I stated in my previous response to Stephanie: If the criticism is that Hemant was insufficiently condemnatory towards the Slyme Pit, and that he presented a misleading picture of their behavior and tactics? I can see how that could be a fair criticism.

        But that does not make what Hemant said an endorsement of a hate group.

        • April 9, 2015 at 9:55 am —

          Here’s all you need to know.

          The Slymepit formed several years ago, directly in reaction to Elevatorgate. They’re a forum that acts like a kind of derivative of 4chan: anarchic, with their most precious value being the preservation of their anonymity, and largely acting as a reservoir of stupid memes that they gladly regurgitate in any open comment section they can find. They hate Rebecca Watson, FtB, and anything connected with Social Justice.

          They have successfully parasitized Atheist Ireland, in particular the head of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent. About 6 months ago, this head of an atheist organization decided he needed to spend a great deal of time scolding one individual, me. Flattering as it is that Atheist Ireland, i.e. Michael Nugent, finds me the greatest threat to godlessness in the world, requiring 30+ repetitive, long-winded posts and nearly daily Twitter harassment, it got old fast…especially since his arguments consisted entirely of strung-together slymepit memes.

          Really. A lot of those memes are based on long-propagated errors within the slymepit community, along with common obsessions, all of which I’ve heard over and over for years. They have signature traits that make it really easy to spot their source, and Nugent has simply been regurgitating slymepit hate-stories.

          These same slymepitters comment frequently on the Friendly Atheist, puking up the same myths.

          So when Hemant Mehta agrees with Atheist Ireland (which is bizarre in itself: Nugent has been fucking deranged and obsessed lately) he is in fact endorsing the slymepit and their party line. He has actively sided with a group that considers Rebecca Watson Public Enemy #1, and I can see why Rebecca would be less than impressed.

          • April 9, 2015 at 10:13 am

            People really seem to hate you apparently on the central premise that you’re not an awful person.

            I really don’t get it.

          • April 9, 2015 at 10:14 am

            Thanks for the context. Greatly appreciated.

            I know that my general state of being uninformed about the Slyme Pit generally is a bit of a problem to my credibility. The thing is, every time I go over there to check it out, I just wind up getting depressed and sad.

            Everything over there is creepy and obsessive and pathetic. I’m a person that gets a huge kick out of bickering online, but even I have to wonder about how empty someone’s life needs to get before they start to find something like this to be comedic or insightful.

            (Note: SlymePit link above contains a rel=”nofollow”, hope that linking to the Pit in that form to cite a negative example is okay.)

            What always happens is I find myself drained of the will to live way before I get to grips with everything going on over there. The highlight for me of course is I’m not someone they’re targeting, so I get to ignore them if I choose to do so. You guys don’t have that option, so I do get how that would change things from my kind of pity-them-from-a-distance outlook to more of a justified-furstration-and-anger focus.

          • April 9, 2015 at 10:33 am

            Actually, they hate him because he calls them on their shit and dares to criticize their hero/leaders like Dawkins and Shermer.

            Plus PZ is a gender traitor for daring to care about social justice issues. Slympitters are often MRM/MRA and a lot of their vitriol is spewed towards feminist atheists, it all started when Rebecca dared to ask guys to not be pigs.

            They feel it is their clubhouse and there are “No Gurlz Alloud” unless of course they are will to be misogynists too, cause then they can show them off as trophies.

            And Hemant is going along with this because PZ can be mean sometimes and Hemant is “friendly”, see it’s right there in the title. It’s the problem I’ve always have with accommodationists, they are so worried about offending that they won’t even call out shitty behavior unless it is from someone they see as mean. PZ is not one to parse his words so he, in their eyes, is more of an enemy than those who would spout misogyny, dox, and threaten but do all that with a smile on their face, at least when they are around him.

            Hemant really needs to visit the pit to see their true form, I would recommend to him that he doesn’t eat much beforehand.

          • April 9, 2015 at 12:07 pm

            That was really helpful! I’ve long been a lone skeptic and atheist, but I realized I need to join the community of skeptics when my article, “Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience,” was accepted by Skeptical Inquirer. Before my six-week coma and non-supernatural NDE, I was solely a fiction writer. Anyway, I’m getting an education about the seedier aspects of atheist community. Wow!

          • April 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm

            Now, now, let’s not compare them to 4chan. They’re closer to 8chan. (Anarchic, valuing anonymity above all else, with a collection of OVER 9000 stupid memes, and their moderators encourage misogyny, even when it crosses the line into criminal behavior.)

            4chan…eventually stops when it crosses the line into death and rape threats.

            (Man, I never thought I’d defend 4chan.)

  14. April 9, 2015 at 10:34 am —

    I’ve always liked both PZ’s and Hemant’s writing. In true skeptical fashion, I’ve not always agreed with either of them. Hemant’s bending over backward to appear fair to everyone has gone too far many times. PZ’s quickness to outrage goes too far for me sometimes (usually not those times that some people would think of). But this kind of response to PZ’s criticism of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is completely out of line. Criticize him back all you want, but they really want to disown a blogger because he disagrees with another atheist and clearly (and for PZ, quite moderately)? I at least thought that Hemant would not support an atheist echo chamber of approved opinions.

  15. April 9, 2015 at 10:36 am —

    Talking about “out of context”:

    …Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who recently told American gays and lesbians that the worst thing that could happen to them in the US is being refused cake

    Skeptics shouldn’t rely on straw man arguments like that.

    • April 9, 2015 at 10:44 am —

      Well, while it is a snarky summation of her opinion it’s not far off the mark. There was a definite air of “how can you complain about your petty problems when there is real suffering the world.”

      While it wasn’t as inflammatory as Dawkin’s “Dear Muslima” it was most definitely in the same vein, disagreeing with it is hardly out of line.

    • April 9, 2015 at 1:07 pm —

      Let’s look at what she said in context then.

      If you are gay, today in the United States of America, the worst the Christian community can do to gay people is not serve them cake… I tweeted Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, whom I think is very brave by going out there and describing what it is that the LGBT community faces in predominantly homophobic communities. The discrimination is subtle, and it lurks in the shadows. But I just want you to think about being Muslim and gay today. In the worst case scenario, you’ve seen it on television, on YouTube… if you’re accused of being gay, you are marched to the tallest building in town and bullies throw you off that building and there’s a crowd of people waiting there…

      As you can see, she is comparing what happens to gay people in the US to Muslim gay people (I guess everywhere?).

      So, the worst thing that can happen according to AHA to gay people in the US is:
      – Christians will not serve them cake
      – They will face only subtle discrimination that lurks in the shadows (no blatant discrimination)

      This is patently false. All it takes is a quick google search (for example, http://www.avp.org/storage/documents/ncavp_2012_hvreport_final.pdf) to see that there is plenty of violence directed at gay (and other queer and trans) people in the US. It’s not just “lurking in the shadows”–I have myself been subject to blatant homophobia quite recently.

      The effect of what AHA is doing is trying to tell queer people and feminists and activists of color and so on to shut up because people have it worse elsewhere. That’s unacceptable.

      • April 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm —

        Not to mention that, in more than half the country, there still are no LGBT employment discrimination protections, so you can be fired if your boss thinks you’re gay, and you have no legal recourse.

        Out of context, Ali’s comment is incorrect and dismissive. In-context, she says the same thing Dawkins did in “Dear Muslima,” but with more words, and roping gays into the mix.

        • April 9, 2015 at 7:11 pm —

          And further not to mention that, while bakeries are in the news because of a variety of reasons, the real fear with overly-broad RFRA laws like Indiana’s is that they will be used to deny things like medical care and other vital services on the basis of sexuality or gender identity. At every layer, Ali’s comments are ignorant at best and insultingly dismissive at worst.

          • April 9, 2015 at 11:35 pm

            Yes, exactly, to both of your above comments.

      • April 11, 2015 at 4:45 pm —

        I could take the same approach to many of PZ’s comments that were criticized. Except Rebecca will excuse all of these as “out of context” while not allowing Hirsi-Ali the same courtesy.

        Look, “the worst thing that can happen…” was also obviously a boneheaded comment. It was also obviously hyperbole. If you read her whole piece or watch talks she has given you can see it’s not meant to be taken literally. (From the piece you quoted, she thinks Tim Cook is “very brave” – so obviously she agrees it’s more than just the cake.) If you’re being intellectually honest here you can’t excuse PZ for comments because they are “out of context” and yet pick on this one sentence by Hirsi-Ali and ignore everything else she has said on the subject.

        • April 12, 2015 at 3:12 pm —

          I consider PZ’s post a knee jerk response to a knee jerk out-of-context tweet. PZ’s interpretation based on what he knows is a bite out of a long speech is, again in my opinion, over the top and obviously coloured by his knowledge and dislike of Hirsi-Ali’s opinions. It’s not like this is the first times she communicates her views so he has a context, just not the context of this particular speech.

          And that’s why he’s not that far off the mark, while Mehta and Nugent, biased to play nice and not rock the boat of international atheism, and in Nugent’s case obsessed with finding fault with PZ, ends up having to offer their “what she really means is” interpretation of the parts even they can see are problematic.

          Now I didn’t watch the hour long speech, so I’m relying on Mehta and Nugent having picked the important parts to quote, but a message of Hirsi-Ali’s speech appears to be this, both quotes via Mehta:

          “Yet given the limited resources we have, the limited time we have, and the potential energy and force and magnitude and resources of the Islamic threat, I wanted to draw your attention to the religion that threatens us the most in 2015.”

          “Let’s stop going after Christians and Christianity. Let’s go after Islam as the most threatening doctrine of our time.”

          Even with the best of interpretations she’s saying: Spend less time on these issues you have with not being served cake, you’ve come so far that you can opt for not giving them your business, you need to go after Islam instead. The best Mehta and Nugent can do is to tell their readers she really meant spend less time, not spend no time, but even then the belittling of US-centric issues becomes problematic and exactly what PZ calls the excerpt, a sort of rhetorical extortion.

          And even her stated empathy with those facing discrimination in the US and admission there are fights left there rings hollow when it’s accompanied by consistently downplaying what those fights are about.

          Personally I think her biggest sin here against rational thought is that of not seeing that the resources available to the average American in fighting persecution in countries and communities not their own are not in competition with fighting discrimination in America.

          What Americans can offer is support, which costs nothing, and participating in changing the culture that hinders effective participation by the US in political pressure against governmental discrimination and persecution, which is pretty much the same fight as fighting the culture that feeds discrimination in the US.

        • April 12, 2015 at 3:26 pm —

          Oh, and while we’re on the topic of “out of context”, if you start digging through Nugent’s, sorry, Atheist Ireland’s excommunication of … sorry, disassociation from PZ, you’ll find pearls such as being upset that PZ has posted he despises Ben Stein. Yeah, pro-life, Strauss-Kahn-apologist, creationist all round asshole Ben Stein.

          I’m confident if one actually trawled through the whole list, most of the “accusations” there are statements that would be applauded by the vast majority of PZ-haters, but they’re all happy to gleefully cheer Nugent on because of various criticisms they disagree with.

        • April 13, 2015 at 2:04 am —

          I haven’t said anything about PZ’s comments and actually have no interest in them at all. I really couldn’t give less of a shit about PZ vs Michael Nugent.

          I am interested in correcting your accusation that what AHA said was taken out of context by Rebecca, because it wasn’t. I quoted it in full. Introducing your imaginings of her intentions is unnecessary. I will take her words at face value. If she issues a clarifying statement, owning that it was an irresponsible thing to say and that she said it only to score points and not out of an actual interest in social justice, I’ll also take her at her word for that. But until then, all I have are her words, which have the effect of downplaying very real problems that people face in the US.

          So, speaking of intellectual honesty, if you want to make the argument that I should not take AHA’s statements literally because they were hyperbolic, you should extend that same courtesy to Rebecca’s summary of AHA’s statement in her post. I mean, wasn’t it obviously tongue-in-cheek??

          But something tells me you’re not actually interested in intellectual honesty.

          • April 13, 2015 at 10:06 am

            So, speaking of intellectual honesty, if you want to make the argument that I should not take AHA’s statements literally because they were hyperbolic, you should extend that same courtesy to Rebecca’s summary of AHA’s statement in her post. I mean, wasn’t it obviously tongue-in-cheek??

            1) Hyperbole is not the same as tongue in cheek
            2) Since Rebecca went on to say “in relation to the utter ignorance of Ali’s statement” it is very clear that her summary of AHA’s comments were neither.

            But something tells me you’re not actually interested in intellectual honesty.

            Considering your misrepresentations above, you are describing yourself.

          • April 13, 2015 at 3:35 pm

            Just to make sure I got this right, your argument is that hyperbole should be excused but a tongue-in-cheek comment should not. And therefore, I should excuse AHA’s comment because you want to interpret it as hyperbole but that you should not excuse Rebecca’s sardonic characterization of AHA’s comment because only hyperbole is worthy of excuse. And if I do not agree to this arbitrary difference you’ve made without any justification as to why hyperbole should be overlooked but tongue-in-cheek comments should not, I am being intellectually dishonest.

            That about sum it up?

          • April 17, 2015 at 10:21 pm

            Just to make sure I got this right, your argument is that hyperbole should be excused but a tongue-in-cheek comment should not.

            No, I didn’t say anything even close to that. I just said they are not the same thing. Although I’m not sure what you introduced “tongue-in-cheek” since I didn’t mention it.

            And therefore, I should excuse AHA’s comment because you want to interpret it as hyperbole but that you should not excuse Rebecca’s sardonic characterization of AHA’s comment because only hyperbole is worthy of excuse.

            Again, nothing like what I said. My point, which I made very clearly, was that Rebecca’s comment was not meant as hyperbole. (Or tongue-in-cheek.) My point was that she meant it literally, and so, no, I did not have to “extend that same courtesy to Rebecca” since she was doing something different from what AHA was doing.

            And if I do not agree to this arbitrary difference you’ve made without any justification as to why hyperbole should be overlooked but tongue-in-cheek comments should not, I am being intellectually dishonest.

            No, you’re being intellectually dishonest because you are making up a straw man version of my argument to argue against.

            That about sum it up?

            Not even close, obviously.

  16. April 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm —

    The Slymepit certainly sounds aptly named. mrmisconception certainly hit the nail on the head. It’s like these men never got over dipping girls’ pigtails in inkpots. Okay, so that’s a really dated analogy–I’ve never even seen an inkpot. Such vehement misogyny seems particularly absurd for people who consider themselves critical thinkers. These people are giving a bad name to atheism. ;-)

  17. April 9, 2015 at 4:23 pm —

    It takes all kinds. PZ does routinely engage in hate speech though, whether or not he is fun to read. In fact, I found this article through a link from pharyngula in an article the purpose of which is solely to devalue another human whom I’ve also never heard of.

    That post is called “start acting whiter” and it uses the terms “vile scumbags” to describe people he disagrees with. To be fair, the person his blog post is about did make a surprisingly ignorant comment regarding race and police brutality, suggesting that the victim somehow deserves it. However, I can’t help noticing that is exactly what PZ is saying in that article by claiming justification for devaluing another human because of his beliefs. Social Justice begins with an understanding of tolerance.

    Just saying.

    Anyway, this is my first visit here and I will read a few posts before commenting any more. It looks interesting and you are a very good writer so I’m sure I will enjoy.

    Also, I’m not, to my knowledge, a “slimepitter”. Nor affiliated with them in any way I may remember. I am, however, familiar with Abbie Smith. Not through the slimepit connection though. It’s been at least a few years since I have heard of her and this sounds like a more recent development.

    Cheers all.

    • April 10, 2015 at 9:54 am —

      I was inclined to reply to this to simply tell you that you appear to be operating from a very unusual definition of “hate speech”. For example, here’s one definition that I found in a post on the website of the American Bar Association:

      Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.

      So calling people vile scumbags because of their behavior, with no mention or regard for any of the sort of characteristics mentioned in that definition is in no way hate speech.

      But then I noticed the way you mentioned the title “Start Acting Whiter”, without any reference at all to the fact that it was in quotation marks and clearly a quote from the person that PZ was referring to as a vile scumbag for that persons racist comment, and I realized that there’s no way on earth you’re being the least bit honest. You already know it’s not hate speech, so much so that you’re trying to pretend PZ said something that was actually a quote from someone else to make it seem more like hate speech. Then you claim not to be a slime pitter. Forgive me if I don’t believe that, either.

      • April 10, 2015 at 5:31 pm —

        Here’s a link, for anyone interested:
        http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/04/08/start-acting-whiter/#more-23374

        The ‘vile scumbag’ writes in reference to ‘black lives matter’ and particularly the Charleston shooting:
        “I know this isn’t getting through Myers’ defensive shield, but damn do black people ever need a reality check. You can get pissed off about racism, or you can start acting whiter and have a better life.”

        Pretty vile. Pretty scummy. Viciously racist.

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