Friday, March 15, 2013

The Slymepit and the Pendulum

The Atheism+/FTB narrative: They alone are the brave, pure and noble Social Justice Warriors, fighting the good fight against misogyny. Everyone else is a "slymepitter": a rich, privileged, white, hetero able-bodied male yada yada, who hates all womyn and wants to marginalize them and keep them out of any position of power or visibility within atheism at all costs.

The reality: it's just not as black and white as that.

It's really disappointing to break free of the simplistic, binary, us-vs.-them thinking of the religion many of us were indoctrinated with while growing up, only to find exactly the same kind of dogmatism so widespread among so many of our fellow atheists. But let me just point out a few counterexamples to the assertions of Mick Nugent, Pissy Myers et al.

First of all, the Slymepit itself was started by a woman, Abbie Smith. Many women are active in it.

Secondly, there are many people who neither identify as Atheism-plus nor have any involvement with the Slymepit. I myself have never posted there and rarely read it. Since there's essentially just one thread with thousands of posts in it, I find it hard to make sense of what the conversation is about unless I spend a lot of time researching the background, which frankly I'm not that interested in doing.

I will say though that the few times I have browsed the Slymepit, I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary. It's just another internet forum, certainly not the vile den of misogyny where rapists gather to plot their brutal attacks, as the A-plus types would have you believe.

The big difference of course between the Slymepit and the A-plus spaces is that the former is essentially unmoderated while the latter are very tightly controlled. I gather that some Slymepit users occasionally take advantage of their freedom to post what seems like crude and perhaps juvenile humor. Some folks such as Mick Nugent have taken exception to this, and used it to portray all who may or may not have frequented the Slymepit as guilty of "nasty pushbacks against feminism" and hatred of all women.

Mr. Nugent produced a list of fifty examples of "nasty pushback" and challenged Justin Vacula to defend them. I wonder how long it took Mr. Nugent to come up with this list by diligent (obsessive?) trawling and quote-mining. More to the point, I wonder what anyone is supposed to do with these examples, divorced from context as they are. Finally, glancing over the list, some of them are undoubtedly crude and insulting, but others simply express opposition to Atheism-plus and to the words and actions of specific women such as Rebecca Watson. In some cases, it's quite hard for me to see what Mr. Nugent is exercised about.

The point that seems to escape Mr. Nugent is that I could look through a single thread on Pharyngula or and come up with a list as long or longer than his. So Atheism-plus most definitely does not hold the moral high ground. If anything, there is much more hatred, rage and vitriol present on the "plus" threads as opposed to the crude humor and derision in the Slymepit. There is also a degree of groupthink and credulity that I personally find abhorrent and is certainly incompatable with freethought and skepticism. And the ruthless quashing of dissent and suppression of any diversity of opinion is something I also find repellant.

I used to have a lot of respect for Mick Nugent, so I find his selective outrage and tribalism very disappointing. Of course, I lost my last shred of respect for Pissy Myers a long time ago.

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