The Role the Internet Plays in the Exchange of Ideas

Free Speech and Being Offended

Censorship311“Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.” – Salman Rushdie

The concept of ‘Free Speech’ is often misunderstood. The thing is, a person does not have the right not to be offended by another person, and either persons have the right to speak their mind on whatever they want (even if it is in opposition to what the other person says), however they want, as long as where they are doing it allows it. This includes public spaces and the Internet. Free speech is an integral part of skepticism (the right to call ‘bullshit.’) and critical thinking. Politeness has nothing to do with any of this, although I reason that it will usually get you further in most situations. Nor does diplomacy figure into it. In fact, politeness and diplomacy are,

Separate From Free Speech…

This is where it gets tricky for many people, because there are situations that are uncomfortable to talk about. There are aspects of the human condition that will immediately trigger a reaction in some people that can cause them duress. Some venues exist where speech is regulated for content. These restrictions have nothing to do with politeness or diplomacy. They are put in place because these areas represent spaces that may be accessed by the general public without their consent.

If someone is walking down the street, they are exposed to a variety of stimuli that they are forced to observe. This is called ‘advertising,’ and is one of the venues where free speech comes with restrictions. Let’s use an adult entertainment establishment. Here’s a typical advertisement for a gentlemen’s club:

billboard1

The sign is legal because it doesn’t violate obscenity laws, contains no objectionable words, etc. The subject might elicit a wide variety of conversation regarding the very existence of strip clubs. However, the sign itself is merely an advertisement. It offers information that the establishment exists, the city it is in, and a phone number for more precise information. This particular image is of a billboard, but the point would be the same if it was the sign on the front door of the business.

The Game Changes When You Go Inside…

Using our example of an adult entertainment establishment, the minute someone walks through the front door, they lose their right to not be offended. They have made a conscious choice, having been advised of what takes place at the establishment. If they approach someone in authority and demand that the girls get dressed immediately because they are offended at the sight of naked women, their request can not only be refused, but the establishment has the right to ask the offended party to GTFO, forthwith.

You see how this works? This is where free speech allows the establishment to advertise, and what keeps their advertisements from being censored, as long as they remain within the law of the land. It doesn’t matter if it’s a strip club, a pharmacy, a church, a cemetery or a strip club that looks like a pharmacy, located in a church cemetery. Someone bitching and moaning about a perfectly legal sign being offensive is ridiculous, and if you think I need to further explain this, then you should just stay inside your home and never venture out into the real world. By the way, I have the same opinion on people who find certain styles of dress offensive. That’s a whole other post, right there, but I digress. Now, with that said about public spaces and advertising, there are a lot of people who just don’t understand that this is,

Not How The Internet Works…

For fuck’s sake, if something is being said about you or about a subject that you are sensitive to on the Internet in a way that is going to cause you extreme duress, stress you out, or trigger a reaction that will cause you to have a psychological breakdown, the stay the hell away from those spaces. Really, it’s that simple. This is a truism that effects anywhere on the web. Read these words, carefully:

“The Internet is the last bastion for total and complete freedom of expression in the known universe”

If you click on a link that you know is going to take you somewhere that is gonna flip your shit, in spite of the fact that you don’t want your shit flipped, then your shit deserves to be flipped. This is not blaming the victim, because you have made a choice to expose yourself to something that you are fully and completely aware will cause the exact reaction that you expect it to. It is not blaming the victim if you intentionally step in front of a freight train. Jesus Christ in pink satin pumps, what his so hard to understand about this? If you are a writer, author, blogger, journalist, news reporter or in a related field and you are that sensitive to the shit you write about, you would do good to find another topic, or unplug from the web.

I don’t care where it is on the Internet, free speech here needs to remain unfettered. I will state it again, and I will type slowly for those of you who still don’t get it. If you know what is on places like Omegle, 4Chan, Chatroulette, YouPorn, Reddit, The Slymepit, Freethought Blogs, Skeptic Ink, Big Think, CNN, Fox News, The Southern Baptist Convention, etc., etc., times a gazillion, and you know it is going to offend you, and you go there anyway, you pretty much deserve to be offended. You have the right to be offended, but another person also has the right to offend you. The rights of the one offending trump whatever it is that you find offensive if you are in their house.

This Is Why I Don’t Moderate Comments…

As I stated in my irritatingly forced and hastily crafted ‘Welcome Aboard‘ post yesterday, my house (this blog) has an open door policy. If I have the right to say what I want, about who I want, in any way I choose, then others have the right to comment on it – which, by the way, includes their right to disagree with me, even vehemently. This is how unfettered free speech works. This is the way of the Internet. This is why it is so important to keep it this way.

If someone demands the censorship of something just because it fucking offends them, then how is this different from a certain religion that separates heads from bodies because members of said religion are offended at something as simple as a carfuckingtoon. Do you understand where this is heading? How long will it be before there are beheadings just for uttering the words, “Picture of Muhammad,” because it sparks a mental image?

Final Thoughts…

I want to thank everyone who has offered support for my move back home, here, in this space. The response in my email, my Facebook inbox and on Twitter has been wonderful. I have a list of websites, blogs and forums that I will be visiting – thanks to many of you not only letting me know you are out there, exercising your right to speak your mind, but also to those venues that have been unfairly represented as being something other than they are.

———————————————

Follow me on Twitter at @Stefanelli

  59 comments for “The Role the Internet Plays in the Exchange of Ideas

  1. Eilis
    October 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    just wondering if you are so big on letting people say what they want, then what about people who just come on to scream abuse at you or spam? Do you censor them or just ignore them?

    • October 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Let them scream. Usually they are addressed by other commenters. As far as spam goes, WordPress has a pretty good spam filter.

  2. October 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    “if something is being said about you or about a subject that you are sensitive to on the Internet in a way that is going to cause you extreme duress, stress you out, or trigger a reaction that will cause you to have a psychological breakdown, the stay the hell away from those spaces. Really, it’s that simple.”

    But it isn’t that simple. Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory? Suppose it could do you real-world damage? Then just staying the hell away isn’t really a solution, is it.

    So you’re over-simplifying, Al. Quite drastically. It’s just not the case that the only harm ever done by any kind of speech including written speech is that it “offends” someone.

    It’s also not the case that saying what is wrong with X example of speech is the same thing as censorship.

    I was sorry to see you go, by the way. You went so fast I didn’t even have a chance to say so!

    • Tim
      October 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      I agree – Thank God Freethought Blogs got rid of Greg Laden – never to return im sure

      • John
        October 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

        Yes, I too am also glad Ms Benson decided to take the time to remind us all of the reasons she would never, ever support letting Greg Laden back on the FtB network.

        Thank you for your principled stand, Ms Benson. It won’t be forgotten.

    • October 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Real world damage Ophelia? You mean like like trying to get people such as D. J Groethe booted, and successfully hounding Justin Vacula out of his position, plus miscellaneous doxing, employer harassment, getting people fired, and bogus DMCA threats? You mean that kind of “false and defamatory” stuff that you and the AthiPlus Ministry of Truth excel at?

      You remind me of the old adage “The more he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons”.

    • Eshto
      October 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      “Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory?”

      You mean like a lot of the stupid shit you and your “atheism plus” pals have said about a lot of people? Calling people “misogynists”, “anti-woman”, “white supremacist” just because they disagree slightly (not even just conservatives and libertarians, but other liberals and feminists)? Conflating valid criticism with troll comments? Taking screen caps of tweets and people’s private facebook walls and plastering them, completely out of context, all over your public blogs so your readers can berate them? Whining about totally facetious insults, characterizing them as “threats” or “harassment”, and milking them for attention and blog hits? Portraying yourselves as experts on gender issues when you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about at any given moment?

      Begone, hypocrite.

    • October 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Bad and inflammatory things are said about me all the time, Ophelia. It goes with the territory of being a prominent blogger, etc. I cannot allow other people to rent space in my head. I’ve got enough mental issues, as it is. I can’t control what others say about me, only how I react to it – and that includes my participation.

      As far as real world damage goes, I am not denying that this happens. I am skeptical about the rate of incidence. This doesn’t demean anyone’s experiences, just puts it into perspective.

      I wasn’t planning to leave so soon, but you let the cat out of the bag on your blog before I had a chance to really do anything.

      • October 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm

        I wasn’t planning to leave so soon, but you let the cat out of the bag on your blog before I had a chance to really do anything.

        Yep. you left so fast, she barely had time to blog about it before you announced it.

      • Steve Schuler
        October 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

        What?

        So I guess Ophelia was either just too anxious to ‘scoop the story’, and/or just happy to see you gone, that she simply could not resist the urge to blog about your departure until you had actually announced it yourself. Should I be surprised? No, probably not. Very Ophelia-like behaviour, I’d say, I mean, how could it be construed as other than that?

    • October 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      But it isn’t that simple. Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory? Suppose it could do you real-world damage? Then just staying the hell away isn’t really a solution, is it.

      You mean like falsely accusing people of crimes? Or attempting to get them in trouble/fired at work as an attempt to “silence” them by stalking them to find out their work info? Or spamming their blogging host with complaints so that they’ll be silenced? Or threatening to kick another blogger’s ass?

      Gosh Ophelia, I don’t know, ask Laden about it, he did all of the above, and the only “bad” thing that happened was he was booted off of FTB. Doesn’t seem to have hurt his demand as a speaker. Your lack of reaction seems to indicate that you’re absolutely fine with that kind of behavior, as long as it is on your side and working for your advantage. It is only when it inconveniences you that it becomes bad.

      So you’re over-simplifying, Al. Quite drastically. It’s just not the case that the only harm ever done by any kind of speech including written speech is that it “offends” someone.

      and yet, Al wasn’t saying that. He was rather specific in his thesis, namely this YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO OFFEND ME. Not once, not a single time did he bring up legally actionable speech. Of course, he doesn’t have to, you’re good friends with an expert, why not ask him.

      It’s also not the case that saying what is wrong with X example of speech is the same thing as censorship.

      It’s a good thing Al didn’t say that then, isn’t it. Oh, and weren’t you just castigating people about how stupid it is to be overly bothered by a t-shirt? Why yes, I do believe you were.

      I was sorry to see you go, by the way. You went so fast I didn’t even have a chance to say so!

      you were probably too busy telling people “it’s just a T-shirt”.

    • October 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      If you feel that what someone has said is false and defamatory, you aren’t helpless – you can seek redress of your putative grievance through litigation, if you choose. Then you must provide evidence that the words meet some legal definition.

      If what someone says is false and defamatory (e.g., “God hates fags!”), however, the speaker still has the right to say it! Yes, it is that simple! People who say things (presumaby, that includes all of us capable of verbal expression) must accept responsibility for any consequences arising as a result of their words – if that means being sued for libel or for being shot by a fanatic, so be it. But the right of free speech isn’t limited to words that describe only “truth” (however that might be determined).

      • October 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

        As I directly told laden once: When I was in the military, I was there to defend EVERYONE’s rights. Atheist, fundie, liberal, conservative, everyone. Even Fred Phelps, the KKK and the American Nazi Party. Gloria Steinem and John the Other.

        Free speech is the shittiest right in the world to defend, because there is so much bad included. But if you can’t defend speech you hate, then what are you actually defending.

    • masakari2012
      October 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      “Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory?”

      False and defamatory… You mean like how you and your FTBully allies use your blogs to say false things about other atheists, misquoting and misconstruing their words, implying a false context to support your narrow, biased views, while publicly defaming them? You mean like trying to find out other people’s employers so you can falsely accuse them of crap to their bosses with hopes of getting them fired? You mean like accusing people of being misogynists, rape-supporters, rape-enablers, rape-apologists, and gender-traitors? You mean like implying that D.J. Grothe didn’t care about women because he didn’t make a decision based on FTB-hearsay? Blogging that TAM is not a safe space for women? Falsely accusing a man with a camera on a x-shot extender of taking upskirt photos, based only on hearsay and rumors? (since that MUST of been his intent because in your sexist minds, that’s the only reason why a man would have such a device, and not because he wanted to take pictures of himself with celebrity/popular atheists). You mean like misrepresenting Justin Vacula’s case, and starting a petition against the SCA? You mean like Comradde PhysioProffe blatantly misquoting John Brown (a veteran), who inquired about A+’s position on sex workers? Stupid Canuck calling for Matt Dillahunty to apologize for something he wasn’t wrong about via blog with Stupid Canuck’s biased opinion? Rallying sycophants to write “Dear Dick” letters to Richard Dawkins and accusing him of misogyny and racism? Calling someone a “dick” is okay, but calling someone a “cunt” or “twat” is sexist, regardless of context.

      • masakari2012
        October 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm

        The last sentence was sarcasm, by the way.

      • October 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm

        “Calling someone a “dick” is okay, but calling someone a “cunt” or “twat” is sexist, regardless of context.”

        Yes. Just like calling someone a cracker is “okay” (in the sense of not being racist, at any rate), but calling them a nigger is racist, regardless of context. Your attempt at sarcasm fails due to reality.

        • October 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm

          In the right part of the u.s., you call a honky you don’t know well a cracker, and they’re throwing blows. Also, what if you mostly call men cunts and women dicks?

          • October 13, 2012 at 10:44 am

            “In the right part of the u.s., you call a honky you don’t know well a cracker, and they’re throwing blows. ”

            OK. Thank you for the non-sequitur.

            “Also, what if you mostly call men cunts and women dicks?”

            You mean, is that not sexist? In the same way calling white men “nigger” would not be racist? You really don’t know the answer?

          • October 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm

            again, you aren’t even paying attention to your own argument. You said that “dick” is not sexist, but cunt and twat are. Therefore, calling someone “dick” is not sexist. Really, YOU said that. You also said “cracker” is not racist, so no matter how you use it or against whom, according to your “logic”, it’s never racist.

            If you can’t keep track of your own points, find new ones.

        • Liam
          October 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm

          How is “cracker” a race based colloquiallism, used in context in an attempt to cause offence, specifically as if to compare the recipient to a slave owner.

          Slavery is considered abhorrent in today’s modern society, just as using words associated with being a slave to someone, for example calling a black man a “cotton picker”, to call a white man something comparable to someone who would own other human beings is also used to offend.

          Both Cracker and Nigger are racist words. Your double standard is not twice as good as a standard.

          • October 12, 2012 at 8:47 pm

            You don’t actually know the history of “cracker”, do you.

          • Liam
            October 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

            I’m sure you are going to enlighten me.

          • October 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

            I wasn’t the one saying calling someone a cracker is okay. That’s your take there, sparky. Try to keep it straight.

          • Liam
            October 12, 2012 at 8:49 pm

            I was referring to One Brow, who could not comprehend how a racial epithet used against white people could in any way be racist.

          • October 13, 2012 at 10:48 am

            ‘You don’t actually know the history of “cracker”, do you’

            It seems to have several histories.

          • October 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

            “I was referring to One Brow, who could not comprehend how a racial epithet used against white people could in any way be racist.”

            Since racial epithets are defined by their cultural connotations, and in the US (particularly in the South), epithets primarily applied to poor white people carry the connotation of “white yet xxx”, while for black folks the connotation is “xxx because black”, the former are not basically not racist, the latter are.

            Of course, you can always add weasel words like “in any way” to 1) exaggerate a general categorization into a formal definition, and 2) use the formal definition to pretend some extremely rare counter-example is some sort of disproof. If you are talking among people who aren’t very bright or unaware of that trick, it might even make you seem like a “real skeptic”. To others, it just makes you look pendatic, stubborn, and unwilling to acknowledge the basic tenets of human existence, which are not amenable to or well-modeled by formal systems.

            So, gosh-golly-gee, I’m sure that that are rare circumstances where calling a man a dick, or a white person a cracker, is in some fashion remotely comparable to sexism or racism respectively. Why do you think that’s some point that needed to be made?

    • Steve Schuler
      October 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      Ophelia, my old pal, how nice to see you here!

      Regarding blog moderation my perspective is pretty simple: Your House, Your Rules. I don’t think that people have the ‘right’ to expect that their comments should be published on any particular blog or that their comments should even be considered for editorial approval by the blog owner, i.e. blocking comments from specific commenters because a blogger doesn’t even want to read them. Slightly altrered: Their House, Their Rules.

      Now, as you are aware, I am in a state of permanent moderation on your blog and, as infrequently as I comment there, none of my 6-8 (maybe less?) comments over the last 6 (maybe less?) months have passed editorial review, which is fine with me. The same is true on our pals Jason’s and Stephanie’s blogs with a similar number of comments/time. Now, I did acheive ‘banned’ status on Stephanie’s blog the other day after she posted, ” I’d be more amused if birdterrifier, Steve Shuler, and PG (in yet another morph) hadn’t all commented within hours of me posting this to try to claim that right.”, referring to the ‘right’ to comment, to which I responded (with no ranting, profanity, or threats) that any comment I made on her blog was made with the full expectation that it would NOT be published. Well, she made it clear that commenting is not a right in Steph’s World and nailed me pronto with her ban-hammer. Oh well, life goes on…

      I admit that it can be a little frustrating to have one’s voice stifled as was the case when I left a comment on a post of yours a while back titled, “Girls, like boys, feel fully human” (http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/girls-like-boys-feel-fully-human) which you concluded with, “Boys get all kinds of cultural crap too, but on the whole it’s better crap. It’s less belittling crap.” I submitted a comment for your editorial consideration in which I stated that we needed to get the word out to boys because evidently they hadn’t received the memo as evidenced that males in the 15 to 24 year old age bracket comitted suicide at 5.5 times the rate as females in that age bracket. A bit sarcastic I’d say, as tends to be my communicative style, but no profanity, ranting, or threats, . A day or two later it became apparent that you did not want to sully your blog with such distracting information and/or offensive dry wit as my comment contained as it remained in moderation. I then submitted a second comment in which I turned up the snark quite a bit in which I offered some recently discoverd infornation that even though boys suceed at suicide 5.5 times as often as girls, girls in fact attempt suicide at 3 times the rate as boys and that the problem was far worse than I originally thought it was. I think that I suggested to you that you ought to write an article addressing this problem which might help girls close this unacceptable “gender gap” (and overcome The Patriarchy) by learning how to be more sucessful at suicide. Now, of course I had absolutely no expectation that this would be published and only hoped that it might startle you into some sense of awareness as to the depth of your hypocricy and one-sidedness. Your disingenuity probably has limits, but I don’t know what they are. Freethought requires free dialog, I think, but each of us will have to determine just what the limits of that freedom should be.

      Oh well, that was then, but this is now. If you’d just stay at home you wouldn’t have to put up with cretins like me. Please feel free to respond to this comment if I could clarify anything for you.

      Cheers!

      • Steve Schuler
        October 12, 2012 at 7:12 pm

        Wow!!!

        I just caught latest blog entry in which uses a young girl’s suicide as an opportunity to assault Al!

        I left a comment there, which I doubt will see the light of day (she’s commented since I submitted it and it’s still in moderation) so heres what I wrote:

        “Ophelia, do you seriously believe that you’ve only recently coined the phrase “real- world damage”, and that Al’s use of it can only be attributed to you only recently exposing him to it?

        Almost Amazing!

        Except that it is coming from you, a person who is capable of using something as tragic as this poor girl’s suicide in such a callous fashion in such a ridiculously pathetic attempt to smear Al’s reputation.

        Too Much!!!”

        She has since commented on that thread that “the usual suspects have followed her” to Al’s blog to futher abuse her and malign her reputation. How would that even be possible? I certainly had no idea that Ophelia had left a comment here when I came here to check out Al’s latest entry, I mean, it’s not like I have some kind of ‘spidey sense’ that allows me to track Ophelia’s internet movements. This woman never ceases to amaze and entertain!

        • Bedlin88
          October 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm

          Wow, I am really glad I don’t know people in real life who could use a poor girls death for a personal attack on someone. Congratulations Ophelia you have achieved a notable low.

    • CommanderTuvok
      October 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm

      “But it isn’t that simple. Suppose what is being said about you is both false and defamatory?”

      A bit like the stuff aimed at Justin Vacula?

      “I was sorry to see you go, by the way. You went so fast I didn’t even have a chance to say so!”

      You post about Al leaving seemed quite snarky to me. Are you sure you are sorry, Ophelia?

  3. October 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I completely and wholeheartedly agree! Fantastic post and I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

  4. Astrokid.NJ
    October 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    By the way, I have the same opinion on people who find certain styles of dress offensive. That’s a whole other post, right there, but I digress

    I look forward to that post Al. I have some issues with certain styles of (un)dress, well articulated in the Booby trap by Bettina Arndt, specifically the following quote.

    …the simple truth that some men spend their lives in a state of sexual deprivation, dealing with constant rejection. Roy F. Baumeister is a psychology professor at Florida State University who has extensively researched gender difference in sex drive.
    “Sexual frustration is almost inevitable for the majority of men and not just occasionally. They won’t have enough partners or even enough sex with one partner to satisfy their wishes,” he writes, concluding, “the tragedy of the male sex drive” is men’s state of perpetual readiness, which so rarely meets its match.
    That’s the context that makes the constant just-out-of-reach titillation men now face confusing, irritating and even insulting. Yet many men are still trying hard to get it right.

  5. October 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I will be reading you here, Al, where I get the feeling you are more free to think out loud.
    -Q

  6. October 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Ophelia: “I was sorry to see you go, by the way. You went so fast I didn’t even have a chance to say so!”

    And yet you announced Al’s leaving before Al himself did… What’s the weather like in your fantasy world? Why do you lie so much? Why was the *way* you mentioned Al’s leaving perceived as having a bit of a gleeful hint to it?

  7. Don Alberto Doyle
    October 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Hi Al —

    I confess I never read you or Thunderf00t before the tribal cannibalism began, and was prompted to solely because of the butthurt elsewhere. But where Thunderf00t strikes me as intentionally provocative (though often entertaining and witty), your pieces I’ve now read seem eminently reasonable. And you write quite cogently. I look forward to reading you in this venue on an ongoing basis.

    As for the free speech issue, I think every rational human (perhaps a minority among us) knows immediately when there’s genuine malice (N or K or C or F words, a demonstrable and undeserved sense of privilege combined with the most inhumane vitriol), or a constant Jesus or TeaParty or NRA troll in the midst. I can understand cutting them off, but I also find their evisceration by the rational commenters to often be priceless. I think unmoderated is fine, if everyone knows it is so,and is not expecting a “safe” environment, and if some form of moderation exists to stem the flood of idiocy, rather than every single orignal idiogram.

    As for FTB, well, I find they often pile up on and drive out some of the most interesting and intelligent counter-observations, all relegated to immediate troll accusations, rather than expressions of…em….free thought, then accuse them of being cowards for departing from the feeding frenzy as soon as they stop responding to the CLEARLY IRRATIONAL pounding they are taking. And I find the fetishistic focus on themselves and their conferences and their internecine squabbles as being rather detrimental to secular, atheist, skeptical, and rational thought in general, There are genuine issues out there, which weeks-long screeching about who wore what t-shirt at which conference nobody has ever heard about offended whom, and how novel it is to be concerend about fellow humans AND be an atheist, ignore. Plus, well, the classism, that presumes atheism trumps all other human needs. I like the evolutionary biology, and advice about how to stop religious assholes from being religious assholes, and exposes on which communities and organizations are behaving poorly….but the junior-high-school popularity-club mentality is probably best avoided in more serious forums.

    Hope yours turns out to be one of them.

    Best of luck, from an ex-pat working with peasants down in that unspeakably horrible land that begins with M.

    • October 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      Don, thank you. I appreciate it.

      • Don Alberto Doyle
        October 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm

        The Don’s a self-applied classist Latin honorific, by the way — it’s tongue-in-cheek, and not my given name. Boy, they’re having at your fedora over at FTB right now. Did you know that only racists wear fedoras? It was news to me too. I’ve got three panamas — ergo, homophobe. Imean, I’m guessing.

        • October 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

          I had no idea there was a racial component to millinery. Props on the “Don.” I proudly carry the title of the “Don” of the Wheelchair Mafia. 🙂

  8. El Sid
    October 12, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Nice to see you back here where free thought can be free, without contrary posters being pounced on as a “chew toy”. Maybe I can even be “shrill”, or go so far as to be a “concern troll”? (add your own favourite FTB group-think words here folks 😉

    Seriously Al, I agree with your thoughts on free speech and so I very much choose to read your stuff here and maybe have a say about what I think.

    Cheers, cobber*.

    *Australian colloquialism meaning “mate” or “friend”; rare on the mainland but still common in Tasmania.

  9. sleeper
    October 13, 2012 at 2:42 am

    I don’t follow bloggers Al… but after hearing you on the Angry Atheist I checked out your last post at FTB and here I am. The shit being said about you on PZ’s blog right now is unbelievable. Srtawman crap worthy of any theist. One even attacked your hat. How low can an ‘atheist+’ go?

    • October 13, 2012 at 9:07 am

      This is the way of free speech, Sleeper. I am glad you’ve taken the time to read my words, by the way. I have no control over what is being said about me, or my hat, on PZ’s blog. I can only control how I react to it. My reaction is to ignore it and keep writing. 🙂

  10. October 13, 2012 at 4:36 am

    So Al, when you are on the Slymepit as a commentator now does that mean you have no right to be offended when they criticise “Rebbecunt Twatson” or go on about what a horrible “prune” and “cunt” Ophelia is? Maybe your dislike of her from her posts on Reap and equating the child bullying thing to you post will make it easy to have a little laugh?

    What do you think of people who participate on board where there is racist, homophobic or ableist language and sentiment? Do you think if they don’t join in and never criticise the language or sentiment that they are absolutely fine…? No one could criticise them for it? Or is there just a double standard for misogynistic language?

    Finally in terms of your post and the Slymepit – that absolutely does not apply, although they claim the SammyBoals (@SamanthaBoal now) troll is not one of ‘theirs’ it is trotting out Slymepit created memes like a trooper. Directly to Jen who is trying to take a break from blogging due to clinical depression, so do you think it tweeting “kill yourself” will help? I’ve seen the Slymepitters all over FtBs and calling people slurs… I’ve seen them all over Twitter obsessing over all the FtB’ers but particularly the feminist four of Jen, Greta, Stephanie and Ophelia. So I don’t see how the Slymepit fits into this mold…

    .. Looking forward to your more substantial contributions to the Slymepit.

    Oh, BTW on a more positive note PZ is a shit if he is insinuating you are racist in his ‘goodbye’ post to you. You should go over there and get banned, I’d be glad to be in the cell next to you!

    • October 13, 2012 at 9:18 am

      So, Oolon,

      I stopped in the pit to say hello. Are there people there who don’t like Rebecca, or Ophelia or whoever? Yeah, sure. There are people on my street who don’t like Mexicans. I say hello to them when they are outside. Does that mean I don’t like Mexicans? Does that mean I support bigotry against Mexicans? Of course not, but there are going to be people who think so, and there are going to be people coming here and telling me that what I just wrote has nothing to do with it, and will cite all sorts of reasons why.

      Here’s why I don’t give a fuck: I have nothing against people who are Mexican. I’ve got Mexican friends, I’ve got a Latino heritage myself, one of my daughters is engaged to a man who was born in Mexico which will give me a Mexican son-in-law, and I am very fond of him. But there’s going to be people coming here and telling me that what I just wrote is another one of those ‘I have a black friend therefore I am not racist’ remarks and proceed to tell me why none of it is relevant.

      You might see me post on the Slymepit here and there, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everyone there. I wrote on FtB for a year and a half (or something like that) and I didn’t agree with some of the points of view of some of the writers there. Did the fact that I was part of the Freethought Blog network mean that I held their views? Does the fact that there are a few who have unfortunately sunk to insulting me (and my hat) mean that the entirety of the Freethought Blog network agrees with them? See, this is how it works.

      That someone might see me post on the Slymepit is irrelevant. The same goes for someone’s Facebook wall, or if I comment on their blog, or whatever. Those who know me understand that I am not the things that I am being accused of, and those who do not, will quickly realize this if the read my work. It speaks for itself.

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm

        So you see them beating up a Mexican and you pass by and say “Hi! Hows it going” and move on… Plainly not. It’s a bit different from knowing or suspecting people are racist or misogynist and then validating that by supporting them? I’m not so sure on this as I’ve mainly been over to the Slymepit to ‘whine’ as they say but I’ve also had a bit of a laugh with them. I don’t agree with demonising and labelling a diverse group like that (which got me banned by PZ) .. But I don’t agree with tacit support of them, walking on by and saying and doing nothing is not enough IMO. Bit of an extreme analogy but I reckon the more people that stop ignoring bigotry the better, just exchanging civil pleasantries with people who are engaging in hateful behaviour is not the answer. I’m probably with Dan Finckes view that civil argument and discourse is the way, but I don’t see him promoting just ignoring the bad while being civil?

        Or do you just think they just ‘don’t like’ their targets and there is nothing wrong with the way they express it?

        I understand you getting annoyed with some at FtBs, but have a look at how obsessed a few members of the slymepit have become and how damaging it is to rational thought. I’d hate to see you turn into some Thunderf00t clone railing against feminism and ‘some’ at FtBs because of this.

        • October 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

          I don’t support racists or misogynists. I do not advocate places that advocate for the pathological hatred of women, nor do I advocate places that discriminate against individuals because of the color of their skin.

          Ironically, it seems that there are more than a few comments within the hundreds that have been posted here and at FtB over the last few days that appear to support the pathological hatred for men, as well as hateful and bigoted comments written about people only because of being born Caucasian.

          Obsession seems to be very subjective, and free speech is never damaging to rational thought. As well, I have never stated (or acted) in a way that would suggest I have anything against feminism.

          Hope that helps…

          • October 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm

            Interested in the ‘pathological hatred for men’ bit… Maybe I’m blind to it but I cannot see any comments here and not at FtBs that denote a pathological hatred!

            Where!?

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm

        Oh and in the thread I saw they decided your hat is cool as Matt Smith/Doctor Who wore something similar once! 🙂

    • October 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Oh oolon, you just can’t help yourself, can you. Bless your heart.

  11. October 13, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Freedom of speech is a negative right against the state – the right that the state will not enact laws to silence people or restrict the ways in which they express themselves.

    It has various limits and exceptions, some of them obvious but many of them controversial. In any event, it is quite consistent with our right, as individuals, to criticise others’ speech (for incivility, unfairness, falsity, cruelty, naivety, endorsement of bad values, or whatever) or to restrict what sort of speech we allow in our own living rooms, on our own blogs, etc. A lot of the analysis that I see in the OP and on the thread seems to miss this basic point.

    I do agree that’s it’s generally sensible to stay away from places where you already know that what you might see or hear or read is likely to freak you out in some way. But that’s no cure for when your good name is being dragged through the mud on a popular site, as has happened to me on occasion. In those situations, what matters is not that the speech offends me; it’s that large numbers of *other* people might believe the rubbish being said about me.

    • Tim
      October 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

      There are always two sides to a story – thats why its kinda important to see both sides

  12. Liam
    October 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    ““I was referring to One Brow, who could not comprehend how a racial epithet used against white people could in any way be racist.”

    Since racial epithets are defined by their cultural connotations, and in the US (particularly in the South), epithets primarily applied to poor white people carry the connotation of “white yet xxx”, while for black folks the connotation is “xxx because black”, the former are not basically not racist, the latter are.”

    Ah, the old “you cant be racist unless you are white” motif

    “Of course, you can always add weasel words like “in any way” to 1) exaggerate a general categorization into a formal definition,”

    I felt that “in any way” was a close enough approximation to “at any rate”,

    ” and 2) use the formal definition to pretend some extremely rare counter-example is some sort of disproof. If you are talking among people who aren’t very bright or unaware of that trick, it might even make you seem like a “real skeptic”.”

    Ho ho ho, spare me the condesending bullshit, your ideology clouds your critical faculties.

    “To others, it just makes you look pendatic, stubborn, and unwilling to acknowledge the basic tenets of human existence, which are not amenable to or well-modeled by formal systems.””

    Thank you for telling me what “others” think of me.


    So, gosh-golly-gee, I’m sure that that are rare circumstances where calling a man a dick, or a white person a cracker, is in some fashion remotely comparable to sexism or racism respectively. Why do you think that’s some point that needed to be made?””

    There is a simple test to see whether something is a racial epithet

    1) is it used against a particular race?

    In this example, we could ask, would a black person reasonably call another black person, an asian or any race other than the target (white)?

    The answer to this one is “no”, “cracker” is reserved for white people, as the historical connotations dictate, calling an east indian a cracker would not make sense.

    2) is it used to offend?

    Just as the word “nigga” can be used in an endearing sense between friends, it is possible that “cracker” could be used as a light hearted term of endearment to a close white friend of a black person, BUT that is not the general use. The answer here is “Yes”, the word is used in an attempt to offend, or used in anger. Remember the video we all saw of Kramer(Michael Richards) going off the rails and using the racist word “nigger” at a comedy show, in the video I saw, many black people, offended by the racial epithet, responded in kind, calling him a cracker. There was a reason for this.

    So you see, if it fits the two definitions inherent in its words “racial epithet”, 1) being targeted to a particular race, and 2) being used in an attempt to offend or abuse.

    • October 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      One Brow is being conveniently ignorant. “Cracker” is an old southern tradition as a term, and it specifically means a white person who’s just no damned good, never will be any good, and we’d be better off if their momma had said “no” that night.

      It’s only used against honkies. You call someone who isn’t white a cracker, and the usual reaction is confusion or laughter.

      It’s also interesting that there’s no “only (blank) group can say it. Honky calls another honky a cracker? There’s an excellent chance someone’s getting punched.

      But i’m sure One Brow will come up with, as you said, some form of “only whitey can be racist.” He’s down with “only men can be sexist” it seems, so really, nothing he says along those lines will surprise me.

      • October 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm

        Joihn C. Welch,

        Since you seem to have a problem with selective reading (for example, the interpretaion of a remark as not being wrong in a racist fashion as one that says its not wrong, period), you accusation of “selectively ignorant” is self-parody.

        I don’t really see the point in responding in more detail, since you can’t even bother to find out if I agree with a statement before saying that I do.

    • October 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm

      Liam says:

      “Ah, the old “you cant be racist unless you are white” motif”

      I searched the rest of you post for any indication of the intelligence required to discern the difference between the speaker and the person about whom one is speaking. I found no such evidence. Your comment is rendered moot on that grounds, but the reason may forever be beyond your ken.

      “I felt that “in any way” was a close enough approximation to “at any rate”,”

      So, you also have a problem confusing phrases that indicate absolute conditions with those indicating the existence of reasonable differences.

      ”Ho ho ho, spare me the condesending bullshit, your ideology clouds your critical faculties.”

      I doubt you either know anything of my ideology, and I see no reason to think you would understand it if explained to you.

      “There is a simple test to see whether something is a racial epithet”

      Of course, not being able to actually argue against what I said, you now retreat from a discussion of what constitutes racism/sexism to some notion of the definition of a racial ephitet, as if they were more than orthogonally related.

  13. October 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    Racist hat? How very Fox News of them. (“terrorist fist bump” anyone?)

  14. Candy
    October 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Racist Hat would be a good band name.

    Glad to discover your voice of common sense and it’s nice to see a refusal to conform to the brow beaters. I shall enjoy visiting your blog in future.

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