Just a quick one – harassment

Posted: January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is just a quick post. I’ve seen a lot in the Atheism+, FreeThoughtBlogs and Skepchick communities allegations of harassment and threats going on in that community.

See for example, @jennifurret who has been claiming harassment but refusing to provide any evidence.

A theist made me feel unsafe due to my atheist writing ONCE. Other atheists threaten and harass me due to feminist writing DAILY

People asked for evidence so they could see it and her response was:

Seriously, no record? Read my blog. Goodbye.

When I reviewed her blog, I came across this post. My understanding from this (you need to go a few links deep to get a handle on it) is that McCreight (aka jennifurret) was getting criticised on her blog for a few things, complained to her dad about nebulous harassment, he stepped in with his own blog and got trolled.

Issues of whether parents should be blog-defending their children’s blogs aside (my mum is ready to write a blog for me right now!), it seems he did get trolled. But it’s not like how she portrays it of the hate spreading to her family; her dad elected to get into the muck of it and the internet does not respond well to being accused of harassment. (Unfortunately, people then tend to go the way of harassment when this is alleged against them…)

However, I am not seeing this as though it is the first thing to happen. Jennifurret’s tweets are the latest in a continuing cycle of A+ers, FTBers and Skepchicks accusing people of being harassers and of threatening them.

From what I can see (including in my own interactions), people are being banned or blocked for harassment or threats for communicating disagreement with the views espoused by the banners / blockers. That is not harassment or threats. (For what it’s worth, @jennifurret has today blocked me on Twitter for the tweets you can see in my public feed.)

Harassment is aggressive pressure or intimidation. It is not communicating disagreement with a view, even if the discussion ends up long winded and / or the disagreement ends up rather heated. This is why we have words like debate, argument and fight. Harassment is more sustained.

Threats are very serious. These are statements of intent to inflict harm on someone for retribution for something done or not done. These do not include comments like “Fuck. I hope she’d fuck off and die.” or “I wish someone would run over her face I can’t stand looking at it.” These aren’t threats. They aren’t pleasant, but are more like insults than threats. Please call them what they are.

When these terms are misused, we end up with enraged people who are not thinking skeptically about the claims made. When Rebecca Watson says “I got threatened all night”, you are expecting her to use the word according to its meaning. When Ophelia Benson goes on about “rape threats”, everyone gets concerned because holy shit, someone just threatened to rape someone?.

But this isn’t what’s happening. What’s happening is that people are disagreeing with A+, FTB or Skepchick and then getting blocked and accused of harassment. I have been blocked by many FTBers, A+ers and Skepchickers that I haven’t even interacted with or have only asked questions about their views. (Please, check my Twitter feed, that’s where it is) Then they go on to say “I only block people who harass or threaten me.

Once again, folks, you are embarrassing the skeptical community with your sensationalism. Please, let’s get back to atheism and skepticism. If you want to do your feminist stuff and if you want to mislead, go somewhere else. The only reason people are calling you out is because you go into a community known for its critical thinking, plant your flag and expect everyone to regurgitate nonsense. And then when they don’t, you purport to exclude them from the community as harassers, threateners, misogynists, chill girls and so on.

Get a grip.

  1. hjhornbeck says:

    You missed a spot.

    I don’t feel safe as a woman in this community – and I feel less safe than I do as a woman in science, or a woman in gaming, or hell, as a woman walking down the fucking sidewalk. People shat themselves with rage at the suggestion that cons should have anti-sexual harassment policies. DJ Grothe, president of JREF, blamed those evil feminist bloggers for TAM’s female attendance problem instead of trying to fix what’s scaring women away (and then blocked me on Twitter and unfriended me on Facebook for good measure). A 15 year old girl posted a photo of herself holding a Carl Sagan book to r/atheism and got a flood of rape jokes in return. The Amazing Atheist purposefully tried to trigger a rape survivor. Paula Kirby decided we’re all feminazis and femistasis. I’ve become used to being called a cunt or having people threaten to contact my employers because a feminist can’t be a good scientist. Rebecca Watson is still receiving constant rape and death threats a year after she said “Guys, don’t do that.” And mentioning her name is a Beetlejuice-like trigger for a new torrent of hate mail.

    Groups of people are obsessively devoted to slandering Freethought Blogs as a whole because many of us have feminist leanings. They photoshop things to try to humiliate us, they gain unauthorized access to our private email listserv. And anyone associated with us feminists are fair game. People have tried to destroy Surly Amy’s business, and Justin Vacula has publicly posted her home address with a photo. One blogger who describes their blog as “rejecting the watson/myers doctrine” ridiculed skeptical teen activist (and feminist ally) Rhys Morgan for flunking his exams because he had severe physical and mental illnesses.

    How much research did you do, if you missed the post which spawned Atheism+?

    • rocko2466 says:


      I missed this one in moderation before (I think?).

      As a lawyer, you learn to look for conclusionary statements and weed them out. These statements are not useful for anything, as they don’t state what was actually said, but that it was a “threat”, or it was “harassment”. I’ve been accused of harassment, for example, by Ellen Beth Wachs, when I had never interacted with her in any way on any medium. That’s obviously a stretch (I have an article about the Michael Nugent article which details my interaction with her).

      I think people should also be aware that if there are trolls (i.e. with the Carl Sagan girl), these people aren’t necessarily those who want to participate in the online skeptic / atheist community, but more people knowing that they are responding to the trolls. (See further e.g. Ana Kasparian’s response to Thunderf00t – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcSglVRYe6M)

      All of the Slymepitters (for example) and all of the shunned on Twitter who I’ve interacted with (many aren’t Slymepitters) are in the latter group.

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