October 16, 2013

#PZ, #FTB, #GnuAtheism, booze, assault, and privilege

Update, Oct. 16: At Slate, Emily Yoffe absolutely nails this issue of how young women need to take responsibility and stop getting so drunk in the first place, as part of reducing sexual assault.

And, before Gnus and Atheism Plusers flame me (or others, or Yoffe) here, on Twitter, or elsewhere, she has all the disclaimers about not blaming the victim, etc. She notes what I've said in other links, namely that:
1. Women metabolize alcohol differently and get drunk faster than men;
2. College sexual assaults usually aren't by strangers, but fellow students;
And goes beyond that to note:
1. Yes means yes and no means no aside, there's no bright line on how drunk is too drunk to influence consent;
2. A rape reported by someone who was drunk is harder to prosecute, for obvious memory reasons;
3. Rohypnol or other "spiking" of drinks isn't the problem; it's women getting this drunk, whether encouraged by a predatory male, as part of a party where both men and women drink to the point of loss of control, or a bit of both.
So, click the link and read, please.

Because, as expected, a possible nth-wave feminist has now done the flaming, on Talking Points Memo (ugh), with me saying she's a possible nth-wave feminist by a look at her blog. Or that she writes that everyday gender inequality could cause the next war. Or, the name of that just-linked URL.

That said, to my original post:

There's two types of drunkenness: Literal and metaphorical.

And, good critical thinkers, whether they prefer the term "skeptic" for themselves, are fine with "critical thinker," or something else, should be wary of both.

However, in the latest brouhaha over actual or alleged sexual assault, sexual harassment, and/or general sexism launched by the clique and claque, or rather, cadre of Gnu Atheism (since P.Z. Myers, the grand poohbah of Gnu Atheism outrage on the march, prefers that term, which went out of date with Chairman Mao), it appears we have both in play.

P.Z. upped the ante on this by throwing out what he called a live hand grenade.

Well, the title of his blog post is disingenuous as best.

And, it's strange how that word, in the "spirit of charity," keeps coming up.

He says: "What Do You Do When Someone Pulls the Pin and Hands You a Grenade?"

Well, first, one asks if it's a real grenade, and a live one.

P.Z. would tut-tut back, in the War on Terra "ticking time bomb" converted to Gnu Atheism, "there's no time for that!"

Well, then one asks, or should ask, if one is a critical thinker and has a modicum of self-reflectiveness do you have the right metaphor?

Probably not. Especially when you double down on anonymity.

Here's why, from Der Gruppenführer's own words:
It’s been a few years, so no law agency is going to do anything about it now; she reported it to an organization at the time, and it was dismissed. Swept under the rug. Ignored. I can imagine her sense of futility. She’s also afraid that the person who assaulted her before could try to hurt her again.
We're not told why it was dismissed. We're not told why this person didn't go to legal officials, and I'm going to tackle that more in a minute.

What does this sound like, though? Oh, maybe the National Enquirer, as Al Stefanelli reminds us that the potential libel not only applies to the overarching claim, but details of how it allegedly happened. Don't worry, PZ; Ophelia Benson, of the lovely Butterflies and Bull--, has your back. (And, if he's right about PZ doing this in part for blog hits, Do Not Follow is a simple way to stop that.)

And now, Shermer's lawyer's thrown the grenade back. And, PZ's gone scrambling to PopeHat lead blogger Ken White for possible legal protection, even though White agrees with many others and thinks PZ is a fundamentalist atheist moron.

(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.)

Given the whole situation, to be honest? I hope PZ's wrong, and Shermer sues his ass off. He's being disingenuous about having "no choice." Maybe we'll get about 10-20 dueling suits and countersuits over these allegations before we're all done.

Unfortunately, Shermer's lawyer, in throwing the grenade back, seems to have kind of neutered it first. The likelihood of an actual suit is slim at this point. Of course, it's arguable Shermer has more to lose by suing than he does by accepting any legalistically narrow apology.

But, there's now a legal fund for Shermer! Set up by an outside party, but Shermer knows and approves.

And, if he follows through with a suit, the fact that PZ did multiple rewrites could blow up in his face, essentially leaving him testifying against himself.

In essence, it's like the Gnu Atheists are drunk on power. Mix in one apparently legitimate claim about sexual harassment and now, any years-old claim is fair game.

But, the booze of inflated self-empowerment is not all that's at stake here.

Allegedly, that's Atheism Plus darling Rebecca Watson
at left. (Link of photo implies no consent to all content.)
There's the literal booze, too. Indeed, it appears that the Atheism Plusers may actually have no problems drinking to excess at various cons, then, possibly (who knows) leaving it to others in attendance to make judgments if their flirting or worse means anything, if they've had too much to drink to give consent to sexual activity or not, and more.

In short, reverse victimization.

With that said, just as this post expanded off a previous one, and because my initial contretemps with Stephanie Zvan started over the apparently alcohol-fueled sexual interaction between Julian Assange and two women in Sweden, with that case being closed then re-opened, it's about time to start a new blog post off of this one.

With that in mind, let's note that many of the current over the transom allegations include drinking to near, or well past, excess.

And, here's the ultimate. I didn't know that Atheism Plus women were so physically or mentally weak. Apparently, they're incapable of refraining from drinking more alcohol if some man pours it in a glass.

So, let's put it simply.

If you're starting to get drunk, and about to enter a "situation,"  fucking drinking for the night. And watch your future consumption. Any good skeptic, critical thinker or intelligent person by another name should know this. And should know, per Assange's case and more, that booze always adds to the "he said, she said" issue on assault claims, because ...

If you've had too much, you can't fucking remember. You can't remember whether a "yes" eventually became a "no" or you're backwardly projecting a regret. Or, in cases of alcohol and sex, just like alcohol and drunk driving, if it does lead to something potentially criminal, then there's sidebar issues of trying to minimize how much you drank to try to spiffy up how reliable your memory should be regarded.

And, this is not a "blame the woman" issue, namely that one issue involves no women and no straight sexuality. It applies to straight women, gay women, straight men and gay men. (Although I'm sure any thinking along this line IS considered "blame the victim" at Freethought Blogs.)

Beyond that, there's sociological research that indicates women tend to underestimate the effects booze will have on lowering their sexual impulse control and leading to casual sex. 

And, then, watch this video.

Start at about the 12-minute mark, where a college woman has drunk but consensual sex with a man. She then goes back to her place, texts him to ask if he has a condom, then goes back and has more sex, despite attempts of friends to stop her. She then "cried wolf" the next day claiming lack of memory. The college eventually took no action, saying, in essence, she was too drunk to even know at the time whether or not she was in a state of being able to consent, and the man was too drunk to know that she was that drunk. Tavris goes on to note that the type of feminism that, even in the light of text messages, undercut the claim of "I couldn't help stop drinking," is not the type of feminism she believes in.
I also noted the issue of "why didn't this person go to legal officials?"

First, someone may object that harassment, unlike assault, is not a crime. Not true.

Laws, and the details of them, vary from state to state, but harassment can indeed be a crime, and even before it rises to the level of stalking. (And, since Stephanie Zvan's falsely accused me of that, let me state that as a newspaper editor, I have some actual knowledge of the issue.)

Beyond that, harassment is certainly a matter of civil tort lawsuit.

And, that leads me to the nth-wave feminism of Zvan, Greta Christina, and others like them, most of them under a new movement of Atheism Plus, who felt that good old Gnu Atheism wasn't confrontational enough on enough different issues.

If you're about actually self-empowering women, then why aren't you, instead of making semi-anonymous to fully anonymous allegations over the transom, encouraging any actually harassed women to sue? And certainly, why aren't you encouraging them to file criminal charges if possible?

And, all of this applies in spades to sexual assault.

Women's first step has to be reporting sexual assaults to the police. If we're going to talk about female empowerment, in the case of sexual assault, society's first step has to be supporting them doing that, not being brave about anonymous allegations being made in public.

Meanwhile, let's note that not all sexual harassment, or sexual assault is by a man on a woman. The reverse is the minority, but women do harass or even assault men, both sexually and otherwise. Of course, a Greta Christina doesn't want to talk about this, but I can't say that, because I'm blocked on her blog.

There's also gay and lesbian assault and harassment.

As a newspaper editor, I have reported, off police report and arrest lists, women assaulting men. (I'm now talking non-sexual physical assault.) Yes, it's still a lot less common than men assaulting women, but it does happen. The idea, let alone spoken claim, that women can never do such things is more than "reverse sexism," It's simply sexism, period, and like all sexism, perpetuates stereotypes about both sexes, not just one.

Beyond that is the Manichean issue. You either fully accept the nth-wave feminist stance or you're an enemy. And, wirth anybody who dares present a more nuanced picture, they're labeled as men's righters or worse.

That's not to say that such people aren't out there, and it's certainly not to condone them. However, it's not fair to lump everybody in such a group.

But, when you're drunk on trying to claim scalps, you don't care about fairness.

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to think nobody there has a conception of what libel is, in its actual legal sense. I thought Ed Brayton knew better, but he either doesn't, or, as he showed with Block Bot, doesn't care.

And, should a Michael Shermer or anybody else ever sue, Ed, you'd be liable, because in the past, you promised more top-down control.

And, for a blog site that was explicitly formed in part for commercial reasons, that's not a good attitude to have.

That said?

As I said above, none of this is a "blame the woman" issue, namely that one issue involves no women and no straight sexuality. First, drinking aside, it applies to straight women, gay women, straight men and gay men. And yes, straight men vis-a-vis gay women can be, if in the minority of the times, harassed, propositioned, and more.

That said, nth-wave feminists and Atheist Plusers like to trot out the word "privilege." As in white males have a "privilege" that, in today's world, means their stances and statements deserve an extra level of scrutiny.

To that I say: Check your own "privilege" in calling "privilege"; your mileage may vary. Overuse of this word is like sticking your fingers in your ears. It's also often invoked in defense of privilege itself.

That includes:
1. the suggestion that your statements are worthy of a lower standard of scrutiny — unskeptical;
2. The suggestion that questioning No. 1, or whether you are exercising privilege yourself is antifeminist — unskeptical
3. The suggestion that the degree of broader support for your claim should not be questioned — unskeptical.

Back to the privilege issue. This is where privilege conflicts with privilege at times.

And, as far as getting fucking drunk? As I said, that's metaphorical as well as literal. That includes not getting drunk on power trips. And, overuse of the word "privilege" has the potential to become one of those.

None of this is to suggest that legitimate problems don't deserve legitimate investigation.

But this is ridiculous.

At the same time, to look at the accused? If you have been disciplined for harassment, or assault, and you claim that things are being overstated? All you have to do is give the present or previous employer a legal waiver to open the files.

True, that risk a further escalation of s/he said, s/he said. But, if what you did is relatively not that bad compared to the allegations, it seems like a fairly low risk.

That also said, in the future, if you have even one ounce of bad record in the past, and it occurred due to one reason?

I suggest to you, too:

Stop getting fucking drunk!

I mean, use common sense, everybody.

You're jet-lagged, up late, and eating crappy or overly rich conventioneering food, since a lot of these incidents, if one-offs, appear to be at a "con." So, you're tired, loggy, and alcohol-vulnerable anyway.

It's called Coke Zero. Or iced tea. Or plain old water. Give it a shot.

And, this isn't something new. Secular Organizations for Sobriety, the first organized non-12-step alternative to AA, is under CFI's wing. It has, or did at the time of this, non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic board members. Well, at one annual meeting, there was enough wine on the table that it's likely at least one non-alcoholic (putatively) surely got tipsy.

Per my first pull quote, being a skeptic, or an atheist, also is no guarantor that you won't become a full-on alcoholic, or at least, an alcohol abuser in the borderlands. Nor, per halo effects and whatnot, will it guarantee that, if you have a drinking problem, you won't go into denial about it.

Next, to look at the defenders of the institutions involved? Is it just possible that there's at least some fire behind the smoke? Hell, yes. Neither CFI or JREF, nor their founders James Randi and Paul Kurtz, are anywhere near immune from the halo effect, founder's syndrome, or other issues. In fact, both Randi and Kurtz have personally illustrated that.

I'm sorry, but, while I see Gnu Atheists in general and Atheist Plusers in particular as nutbars, and fundamentalist-like ones, nonetheless, there's issues of "tolerance" of such things in the past in both organizations. And, with Randi with Carlos and Kurtz with Al Seckel, there's non-sexuality issues of less than critical thinking, and less than critical-thinking fueled behavior.

As I said earlier this week, I have no doubt CFI needs to clean house in some way. JREF probably does too.

Finally, a thought or two otherwise, as I get ready to detach from this all again.

Gnu Atheism, Atheism Plus, Professional Skepticism, and many individual participants? Are we all getting a bit puffed up, not so much over this issue per se, or not only it, but alleged societal importance and many other things?

(Hell, for that matter, I probably puff up how astounding my insights are and how much anybody is going to listen to them.)

I came to both atheism and skepticism without the help of any outside group, or any conventions. I also came to more liberal and humanistic political thought the same way. I accept that skeptical groups, and atheist ones, have had some value in things like battling creationism in public schools, where a concerted effort has been needed.

But, organized atheism's probably changed very little otherwise, and organized skepticism hasn't done a lot more.

And, deliberately using a sexual word in an acceptable metaphorical way: Isn't there some incestuousness in all of this?

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