June 30, 2013

#PZMyers channels his #GnuAtheist #FTB Watergate concern trolling

Ron Lindsay, CFI CEO
For those of you who don't keep up with the ins and outs of modern atheism, and its subgroup of Gnu Atheism, the flip side of at least conservative evangelical Christianity if not of hardcore fundamentalism, you can just skip this post.

That said, a recent brouhaha over a leading secular humanist organization, which has been slouching more toward Gnu Atheist Gomorrah, or Bethlehem, under its current executive director, Ron Lindsay, has now spilled out into the world of modern skepticism and leading light and fair-haired boy Chris Mooney. (Mooney's quite overrated in my book, including at least skirting the edges of scientism, but that's a matter for another blog post; in fact, it's the matter for more than one other blog post, and I've written them!)

Anyway, Mooney cohosts the popular Point of Inquiry skeptical podcast. Or, he did, until just a couple of days ago.

But, because of what Lindsay said at a recent Women in Skepticism conference, he and PoI cohost Indre Viskontas have resigned their positions with Center for Inquiry. Popular science and Gnu Atheist blogger P.Z. Myers channels his inner Woodstein, or Gerald Ford, by noting "CFI's Nightmare."

So, how did we get to this point?

First, here's a link to what Lindsay said. In summary, he criticized some nth-wave feminists, including Rebecca Watson by name, in part for abusing the word "privilege."

Shorter take by me? Nth-wave feminism exists. Watson, Stephanie Zvan ("wife" of Greg Laden) and others DO abuse the idea of "privilege." Maybe Lindsay could have put it more politely, and fired a gun smaller than a 12-gauge with both barrels. But he did what he did.

And, Watson (among others who are nth-wave feminists, and members of the Young Jacobins within Gnu Atheism, calling themselves Atheism+) responded. Largely wrongly.

Like this:
To summarize, Lindsay spends a good deal of time arguing against the idea that feminism as a movement has no significant internal disagreements, an absurd idea I have never actually heard expressed by any feminists, but I suppose Lindsay and I travel in different circles. Lindsay doesn’t mention who exactly has argued this point so I can’t check to see why on Earth they’d think something so obviously contradictory to reality. It seems impossible to me that a person could be involved in modern day feminism in any way without noticing the lively and occasionally contentious debates among feminists about topics like intersectionality, particularly with regards to the fringe radical feminists who hold openly transphobic beliefs.
Actually, from what I've read from various schools of feminism, and individuals within them, this actually is an issue. Unless one school things that by not discussing the differences, they can self-privilege? This ignores the convoluted writing, where RW does not make it clear at first whether she thinks Lindsay is denying significant internal disagreements in feminism, or denying the deniers of that. OK, she thinks he's denying that, she finally makes clear.

And, here's how she's wrong. Lindsay says:
But are there truly no significant divisions currently within the feminist movement? It would be surprising if that were the case b/c the feminist movement has had sharp divisions in the past. ...

Also if there were no divisions among feminists, that would arguably make feminism unique among social movements; the secularist movement has significant divisions.
Yeesh. Watson can't be much wronger than that.

I gave Watson a partial kudo, in another recent blog post, for pointing out some Pop Ev Psych errors by Ed Clint, though even there, her thinking was discombobulated.


She's a moron, and nothing more, on this part of Lindsay's talk.

As for him, the "White CEO," giving the introductory welcome/speech? What if he had sent CFI's top female employee instead? Would Watson have then accused him of tokenism?

That said, Lindsay then labeled her response to him thus:
“It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.”
Lindsay, who led a palace coup inside CFI against founder Paul Kurtz, still hasn't cracked the spine on "How to Win Friends and Influence People," should have kept his mouth, if not shut, at least more tightly monitored. And, per the Watergate part of the theme, apparently needs a lawyer's lawyer, or something.

Watson's piece had its degrees of dishonesty. I've just shown you one huge one. Was it 110 percent dishonest, though? No, probably not.

Did it deserve that much attention? No, certainly not.

And, trust me, as well as Ron, unless you toe the party line, nth-wave feminists have plenty of vitriol. From a vaguely related blog post at Patheos, a comment from Greg Laden's wife, Stephanie Zvan:
Well, Steve Snyder/SocraticGadfly, since no one else can be assed to step up and say this, no matter how much me being harassed "pisses them off", no matter how much they'll stand up for JT, fuck off, you putrid, obsessive, pointless, sexist smear of slime. It is not anything but vilely anti-social to spend two and half years after a woman tells you that rape allegations need to be taken seriously popping up any time she and the man on whose blog you were schooled are mentioned together to say that this woman is controlling this man's behavior by having sex with him.  
Bit of background on that.

We first really tangled over Julian Assange and the Swedish rape allegations. The take of not only me, but others, was ... nuanced. I can't remember exactly what I said, but I said the charges were a matter of serious concern. At the same time, I said it was legitimate to ask about Swedish political motivations for ... for reopening what had been a legally closed case, in essence. Given that we already knew then that Sweden had been a willing participant in more than one of the CIA's "renditions," and given the scenario of Edward Snowden now, I, and many others, said that Assange's request of the Swedish government that it offer an in-advance guarantee it wouldn't extradite him to the US was reasonable, at least.

Zvan's take on any "nuance" like that? It's siding with a rapist. Not even an alleged rapist, but a rapist. At least that's how I remember it at the time.

And, this is why, even for the "fun" of shooting fish in a barrel who refuse to admit they're dead, this is why I rarely do that in the Gnu Atheist drained pool, the Atheism Plusers' kiddie pool, or anything else.

I did respond to her once on thread there, and somebody, I assume her, has fired back. I didn't open the notification email.

And, if she wants to up the ante, as she now has, that's fine. (A friend sent me the link, and no, I haven't read the whole thing, and am not likely to.)

And, to fire back? Wikileaks had an FBI mole inside its ranks. Putting aside the issue of how Assange didn't suspect him, it underscores how right he has been to be suspicious in general. Thordarson  at one point, before the FBI got to him, contacted LulzSec, unaware that the FBI had already turned its head. But, that's NOT when the FBI turned him. Bottom line is, he appears as unstable as Assange himself.

Beyond all the other "issues" of Gnu Atheism, and even more of Atheism Plusers ....

As for Mooney, et al, leaving Point of Inquiry? Puhleeze, no hand-wringing. More on that below the fold.

First, here's the official reason-giving;
We, like others, welcome Lindsay’s recent apology. That apology, however, was not followed by any direct effort to retain Chris or Indre, nor did it make up for the very real toll this controversy has taken upon our podcast and our ability to produce it.
OK, did CFI know this was affecting your attempt to land speakers as much as you claim? If not, then by definition, they didn't know this was a matter of concern. Ditto on your leaving. Did they know you intended to?

Beyond that, Mooney's the skeptical-world equivalent of Brat Pack Beltway journos like Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias. With freelance gigs scattered all over the place, he may have had a move like this in mind some time ago. Related to that, while Mooney's comment and commentary is by no means as science-free as Watson's, he sometimes has problems on the other end. Like many another Gnu Atheist, Mooney has his flirtations, or more, with scientism. That was especially the case in "The Republican Brain."

At the time of the announcement, I said I'd like to hear CFI's side of the coin on this one.

And, a CFI statement on Facebook now claims that that was exactly the case, that he had another gig lined up.
We are disappointed that the short notice provided to CFI means the show will need to "go dark" for the next few weeks. We certainly would have liked the chance to resolve any differences they may have had with management. We also did not know when the team resigned that they had already established an arrangement with another media outlet -- we learned about this at the same time as everyone else.
Whether the Women in Skepticism speech started the process or not (even before a non-apology that didn't need to be one became what PoI felt was a red line), they reportedly had another gig lined up at some point.

Of course, given that Lindsay's a suck-up for rich, not-too-liberal donors (and, hey, Mooney, why was that never on a PoI podcast?) expect this all to get rolled into a CFI solicitation drive.

Anyway, this is all about "posturing." Or, for the men involved, "dick swinging." Chris, you can put those in your next book on motivated reasoning.

And, I have just the title for you:

"Mansplaining, the CFI, and How I Learned to Love the Watson."

And, since there's more than two "houses" involved, I'll end by saying a pox on all their houses. As for Lindsay's house, I wonder if this is part of what Kurtz saw in him shortly before Lindsay shoved him out the door. It just amazes me that a lawyer with inside-the-Beltway lobbying-type experience can be so tactless, no matter how right he may be.

That said, let's get back to following the money. Previous threats by Atheism Plusers from their kiddie pool to stop sending Lindsay their nickels and dimes were probably scoffed away by him, and by CFI's board. A bigger dollar loss from Mooney et al moving on? Probably not.

So, if Lindsay's on some sort of contract, possibly with rollover years, does it get renewed or extended the next time CFI's board has to vote on that? Quite possibly not. So, the nth-wave feminists count a scalp. And, "slymepit" male Gnu Atheist trolls up the baiting of them. And, no, although it is "potshotting," my posting on Gnu sites is by no means baiting anybody, not in that way.

The overlapping group of Atheist Plusers think it's time for the kiddie pool to take over Gnu Atheism in general. And, to the degree they do so, and try to read those in disagreement out of Gnu Atheism in particular and modern "movement" atheism in general, the broader secularist enterprise gets a big black eye. Or, perhaps, bigger than what it already has.

And, per a couple of good humanist friends on Facebook, this shows a lot of the hell that has been secular humanism the past few years. Not to mention what could be ahead.

Let's just say that plenty of other folks besides Ron Lindsay haven't yet channeled their inner Dale Carnegies.

(Update, Aug. 20: Greta Christina gives me another laugh-my-ass off moment, claiming this is NOT an "anonymous complaint," then implies that PZ is Woodward and Bernstein! This ignores that Woodward, at least, eventually became a whore to power and was worried about Mark Felt coming out as Deep Throat in part because of how much potential he had to show how Woodward, or Woodstein, "skated the edge" on truthfulness in details, and occasionally in big picture, at times.)