On “Not Harassment Per Se”

Posted on April 29, 2013. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Internet Etiquette, Personal, Social Justice |

EDIT:  If you are here to talk specifically about Justin Vacula and WiS2, I have created a follow up post that addresses many of the issues hashed out between myself, John C. Welch, Pitchguest, and others.  See my new post “On ‘Not Harassment Per Se’ Part 2” to join the discussion there.

This is going to be one of those harder posts for me to write.  I’m going to be talking about things I’m not that proud of; I’m going to be recounting a time when I wasn’t at my best.

I had a pretty steady girlfriend in High School.  We started dating when I was in Grade 11 and she was in Grade 9.  We were together for 5 1/2 years over the span of about eight years.  We had, as you can imagine, many of the same friends- being together as long as we were means nurturing many common friendships.  As with most relationships, there are several sub-groupings of our common friends- there are those much closer to her, those much closer to me, and a large swath in the middle that hold no immediate allegiance to one of us more than the other.

My girlfriend and I once broke up around the end of May in my Grade 13 year.  The whole thing was rather anti-climactic as far as break-ups between us usually went; there was no yelling or fighting or schisms within our group of friends.  It was really just her telling me that things were done, and me not really liking it but trying my best to be mature about the whole thing.

There was an end of school party planned by several of our friends- we were all going to camp out in tents and toast the end of another school year.  My ex didn’t want me to go to the party.  She made that pretty clear to must of our common friends, perhaps hoping that I would get the hint.  At the time I thought it was pretty childish of her to try and prevent me from going to this party, after all these were our mutual friends and I knew and had good relationships with many of them.  Why should I have to stay home while she has a good time?   In her defence, this party was going to be overwhelmingly occupied by people who were closer to her than to me- and I knew this.  In my mind though, these were my friends too, and I was not about to sacrifice my social life for the increased comfort of my ex girlfriend.

Just to make sure my bases were covered, I took special care to let as many people as possible know that I was going to be coming to the party.  Most were very supportive of my coming, though some indicated some trepidation at the prospect of having to be put in the middle of things.  Those who were closest to me were of course excited that I would be coming and considered my ex’s protestations to be petty and unfair.  The friends who were closer to her tended to suggest that maybe my going was not necessarily wrong per se, but that it might significantly impact the enjoyment of everyone there and that I might want to avoid her as much as possible if I did decide to go.

Once it became apparent that I was most definitely going and that I wasn’t about to change my mind on this- my ex made a very public decree that if I were to show up that I was not to speak to her at all.  She told everyone that if I was in the same circle of conversation- that she would leave, if I attempted to speak to her- she would not respond, and that several people she knew who were very close to her would be avoiding me as well.  Lines were drawn- and the ball was in my court.

So the day of the party I did what any reasonable person would do….  I showed up and made it my mission to make her look bad. 

I didn’t go up to her and speak to her directly because I knew that she explicitly had said that would be wrong.  No, instead I told everyone that I thought it was just so childish that the two of us couldn’t exchange cold pleasantries- that I understood how hurt she was, I understood her decision, but that perhaps- just maybe- it was a little immature and petty and cheap.  I took special care to join into conversations in which she was one of many participants- surely she could not tell me when and with whom I could have conversations, right?  I made a concerted effort to involve myself as much as possible with her close friends, thus forcing them to choose between being being dicks to me or anger her.  If she was in a certain area- I was happily found within earshot, but never speaking to her or hanging out with her specifically.  I made a conspicuous show of just how much fun I was having with everyone, laughing a little louder and drinking a little more and hamming it up in general.

What I never did was talk to her.  What I never did was break the rules that she had set for that party.  I never tried to turn people against her, or take friends away from her or confront her in any way.  Not at all.

What I did instead was just have a good time with my friends.  Sure, maybe I really needed to speak with that person who she was presently engaged with.  Maybe I spent an inordinate amount of time within 10 yards of her present location.  Maybe I was having an absolutely wonderful conversation with her two best friends that night.  Perhaps I was really genuinely enjoying a wonderful party.

So how do you think she reacted?

She got mad. 

She cried. 

She had to be consoled by several other guests, she made a scene, and then she left.

“It’s not my fault” I said, “I never spoke to her or confronted her at all!”

Some of the people on Team George said it too….

She was being unreasonable.  She couldn’t expect me to not go to the party- even if most of the people there were more closely aligned with her.  We were still all friends, right?  George didn’t confront her.  He didn’t speak to her against her wishes.  He didn’t do anything that was harassing her in any real way.  She was the one with the problem.

See?  I was not harassing her.

Well, not per se.

Did I purposely do things in an attempt to force her hand?  Yes.  Did I do things with the intention of making her look silly?  Yep.  Was I enacting a calculated and methodical plan to ruin her experience and try to get her to do something irrational and blameworthy?  You bet I was.  Not just that, but I was manipulating friendships and social conventions to make other people complicit in my passive-aggressive vendetta.

Yet I really didn’t do anything that I couldn’t explain away as normal party behaviour.  I was just having fun at a party, right?  I knew those people I engaged with when she was talking to them.  I wasn’t ever in her personal space.  I was never threatening.  I was just conspicuously there.

Could a case be made that my ex was being unreasonable and petty by asking me to be uninvited?  Certainly.  Someone could make the case that people need to be aware that when you have a relationship long enough you are going to have many of the same friends and likely find yourself at many of the same gatherings.  Perhaps it is immature to ask someone to not speak to you at all at a group function or to foster the kind of tribal loyalties that are a reality in and group of feuding people.  Some people might see what I did as a reasonable punishment for being unreasonable.

I just look back and feel like an ass.

What I accomplished felt very satisfying at the time.  I was cheered on by a bunch of my friends who felt she deserved to be shown as a fool.  My ex was hurt by the whole thing- as were some of her closer friends who had to deal with the fallout.  In the meantime- though they wouldn’t necessarily say it- I managed to alienate several of the “fence-sitters”, those friends who really didn’t want to take sides.  Most of them were smart enough to see through the “just a guy having fun at a party” act.  They knew I was punishing her- and whether they called it harassment or not- they knew that it was genuinely wrong and just as petty as anything she had done to that moment.

I’m not proud of any of this.  I just read something today that reminded me of what a complete jerk I was and the sharp pangs of guilt and remorse came bubbling up to the surface.  What felt like requital now feels like hollow contempt. Some people might not call that harassment.

I guess it isn’t harassment per se, but I don’t particularly want my actions to be thought of as “not harassment per se“.

This is one of those moments that I wish I could have back.  What if I had have passed on a party that I was destined to sour?  What if I had have gone and just made an effort to live and let live- to consciously avoid putting either of us in an unnecessarily compromising position?  What if I had have been the bigger person and tried to build solid bridges and fences instead of charging around with a battering ram?

What I’m saying is that victory never tasted so sour or left me so wanting.

With all that said enjoy Women In Secularism 2.  I’m sure nobody is planning to follow around certain speakers in a totally non threatening manner.  I’m sure no one is planning to ask questions of speakers who have asked that person not to speak to them, or conspicuously “just need” to speak to that person who is currently engaged with certain speakers, or find themselves always in the next conversation over in the room, or otherwise try to “do absolutely nothing wrong” in an effort to make others misbehave.  I’m sure it will be an absolute blast…..

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75 Responses to “On “Not Harassment Per Se””

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Wow. The entire time I read this post, I kept thinking, “This sure does sound like a certain upcoming conference I’m going to.” Apparently I wasn’t the only one who made that connection!

Did your ex spend a year calling you, among other things, in as public a way as possible:

a misogynist
a (potential) rapist
a source of hate speech
someone who doesn’t believe women are human beings
a “stochastic terrorist”

Did your ex start a letter campaign to a group you were part of that she was *not* a part of to get you fired and forced you to resign just to calm the idiocy down?

Did your girlfriend smear your name continually and regularly every chance she got?

Because, and I know this seems weird, but maybe, just maybe that if she had, you’d have been a bit more justified in going to said party. That was a somewhat public event, and cost a batch of money to get in.

Perhaps, just perhaps, that if the various “exes” in this story had spent the last year or more actively trying to fuck up your life, you might, just might, not be as charitable towards them as you were to your actual ex.

Perhaps after that kind of crap, you just might be out of fucks to give about how she felt.

John C. Welch, I don’t know you. I don’t know what prompted this response to George’s post. But it sound like you might be planning on going to the event and behaving exactly as described in this story. If so, I hope you grow some maturity before the event happens. You would only contribute negative energy to the situation and all you would achieve is escalation of the conflict. I can guarantee that you will not generate any comfort or happiness for yourself or for anybody else, nor would you inflict any meaningful pain on your supposed enemy. You would just make the world you live in a little uglier and make people who hate you already hate you just a little bit more. If that’s your intent, if that’s really what you want to do, fill your boots. But please be aware that when you shit in your own bed, you are the one who will have to sleep in shit. And it is just possible that, after a few more years when you have actually gained some maturity, you will look back on this time in your life and cringe in shame. I speak from experience.

In addition, this post by George isn’t about “how she felt”. This is about how he feels. And he feels like he was an asshole. You are reveling in anger and bitterness. Those are not good feelings to cultivate. They do not make you an attractive person, not even to yourself. They make you loathsome. Sooner or later you will come to understand this. You should try for for sooner.

I can promise you that you will not achieve a result that makes you happy with your current attitude. It’s not like you are going to win. What does winning look like? Why not find a way to improve your world and deescalate this conflict? Why not try to achieve a resolution you would actually like, that would be possible, and that would make you feel good? You feel maligned and hurt and you don’t think you deserve it. So how about explaining yourself in ways that make people understand you, understand your feelings, and see you for the good person you believe yourself to be. You are responsible for creating the emotional texture of the world you live in. Your thoughts, beliefs, and actions created this pile of negative shit you are expressing. Isn’t it time to change the way you have been behaving?

Take it from an old guy who’s been where you are, okay. It gets better. But it’s up to you.

John C. Welch, I don’t know you. I don’t know what prompted this response to George’s post. But it sound like you might be planning on going to the event and behaving exactly as described in this story. If so, I hope you grow some maturity before the event happens.

I can safely say that I would rather lick a woodchipper in an isopropyl shower than go to pretty much any skeptic or atheist event. “Turgid” is the kindest word I can come up for most of them. If I want to go out drinking with friends, I can do that without spending 2-3K to do so, and have better conversations. But, thanks for the assumption. Of course, this part being wrong does take the piss out of the rest of your reply.

You would only contribute negative energy to the situation and all you would achieve is escalation of the conflict. I can guarantee that you will not generate any comfort or happiness for yourself or for anybody else, nor would you inflict any meaningful pain on your supposed enemy. You would just make the world you live in a little uglier and make people who hate you already hate you just a little bit more. If that’s your intent, if that’s really what you want to do, fill your boots. But please be aware that when you shit in your own bed, you are the one who will have to sleep in shit. And it is just possible that, after a few more years when you have actually gained some maturity, you will look back on this time in your life and cringe in shame. I speak from experience.

“negative energy”? You mean like…oh when ophelia benson has called me, in addition to a misogynist, a “vicious piece of shit” because I don’t take her quite seriously enough?

Or would that be when all of the FTB bloggers, after Greg laden got his ass kicked off the site, and DEFENDED his threats against another FTB blogger? Which was prompted by him refusing to hate on Abbie smith?

Or when Laden contacted her employer in an attempt to silence her? how about that?

Would that be the “negative energy” you’re talking about?

You know, it’s funny how you seem to think that if the people that the FTB lot are rather continuously attacking just smile a bit more as the shit hits their face, and ‘rise above it’, well, then things will all be better. Funny how that only seems to encourage the FTB cretins into thinking they’re right.

Case in point, when Justin Vacula resigned his post with a skeptic/atheist group after Steffie Zvan started a frigging protest against him, because you know, he was taking that “high road” you’re so fond of, what did that tell Zvan? that her tactics work, and that they are so effective, she should use them more.

Was she taking the high road? I don’t think so.

Personally, I’m not a member of any of these groups. But I am highly, *highly* amused to watch two groups of people so convinced of their own rationality behave like angry monkeys. If they aren’t flinging shit, they’re telling the targets to “just let it slide off you, you get used to it after a while.”

you planning on lecturing them too? I bet you aren’t.

In addition, this post by George isn’t about “how she felt”. This is about how he feels. And he feels like he was an asshole. You are reveling in anger and bitterness. Those are not good feelings to cultivate. They do not make you an attractive person, not even to yourself. They make you loathsome. Sooner or later you will come to understand this. You should try for for sooner.

Sometimes, when someone is shitting on you, the appropriate reaction is not to ask for more. You are reveling in sublimating yourself as a person just to avoid the appearance of controversy. Let me ask you this:

if FTB was a religious organization, saying the exact same things, would you be recommending such a passive reaction? I bet not.

I can promise you that you will not achieve a result that makes you happy with your current attitude. It’s not like you are going to win. What does winning look like? Why not find a way to improve your world and deescalate this conflict? Why not try to achieve a resolution you would actually like, that would be possible, and that would make you feel good? You feel maligned and hurt and you don’t think you deserve it. So how about explaining yourself in ways that make people understand you, understand your feelings, and see you for the good person you believe yourself to be. You are responsible for creating the emotional texture of the world you live in. Your thoughts, beliefs, and actions created this pile of negative shit you are expressing. Isn’t it time to change the way you have been behaving?

I’m sorry, i didn’t realize I was the one fucking with people’s jobs and calling them terrorists. I’m sorry, “stochastic” terrorists. Or saying that if someone doesn’t perfectly agree with you on feminist issues, they are like a spree killer, only too cowardly to actually do the deed.

Wait, I know why I didn’t realize I was doing that. It’s because *i’m not*.

You know what makes me feel good? that when I see hypocritical bullshit, I say “Hey! That’s some hypocritical bullshit right there”. That when I describe a standard of behavior I wish others to live up to, I can say, with all honesty, that I myself am living up to that standard as well. That I don’t pull “do as I say, not as I do.”

Maybe it doesn’t make me a lot of friends. I’m fine with that. Honesty and speaking the truth as best you can are in fact, their own reward.

Take it from an old guy who’s been where you are, okay. It gets better. But it’s up to you.

I’m sorry, when exactly have we met, and how long have you actually known me?

@Darwinharmless. Dunno if you know anything about the Slymepit but you just described John Welch and the other pitters to a tee…

Also interesting was your one mistake, John is not personally affected by the stuff he reels off as crimes to justify whatever Justin Vacula does at wis2. Him and the rest get angry and upset by proxy at the crimes they think are aimed at others. Whipping each other up in a frenzy of butthurt. Hence it seemed very *personal* to John, because he’s made it his aim in life to take it personally.

Shame, as you say, they will lose out and feel like shit when all they do is talk shit all day.

Oolon, thanks for the info. I’m aware of the name Vacula but I’ve tried to steer clear of the whole flame war and I’ve avoided going anywhere near the Slymepit. I got enough of a whiff of what’s been happening from PZ, Rebecca, Greta, Ophelia and the rest of the crowd at FTB. Not much interested in hearing from the Slymepit or learning the names and histories of the denizens.*

I’m a feminist. Have been since my teens when the inequality of women became obvious to me. I think Dawkins was wrong, which is sad because he’s one of my major heroes. I just wish he had apologized instead of doubling down in a truly stupid way. If you’ll forgive some shameless self promotion, I think this pretty much sums up my attitudes: http://www.darwinharmless.com/thoughts_and_comments/?p=933

*No, John, call me closed minded but if the attitudes you expressed on this thread are any indication of what I would find in the Slymepit, I am not going to listen to your side of the story. I know you have a side. I’m not on it and I’m not interested in hearing more about it.

isn’t it interesting how you’re so willing to buy that Oolon actually knows anything about me?

or, that you do.

@Darwin Harmless
Please take care sir, that bag may be on fire, but it is also full of dog poo.

TaylorMaid, I take your warning with appreciation. Thanks.

BTW I remember when I was an early teenager thinking that the flaming bag of shit gag was just hilarious. Never did it to anybody, but the fantasy was delicious. Teenagers can be such assholes, and I was no exception.

Whenever I get near a comment thread on Misplaced Grace, I pick up cooties. The last one was Neil C. Reinhardt. Took me months to get free of that idiot, and he still sends me the occasional all caps tirade. I stopped answering him when I realized that he’s just a pathetic old man and I started to feel sorry for him. Beating him up felt like smacking down Grampa on the Simpsons.

I’m still enough of a juvenile that I can enjoy a good flame war. It’s so much fun to find metaphors, like John’s “I’d rather lick a wood chipper in an isopropyl shower”. I can just imagine him chuckling to himself as he finds that image, if it’s original to him. And it does approach poetry, though maybe from the back side. But in the end I find myself damped down by the realization that my “adversary” is a human being and all I’m trying to do is inflict pain on another human. I got over that a few years ago. Maybe someday John and his ilk will get over it too.

I wish John would read “The Four Agreements” and take it to heart. It would change his life.

I wish people who know nothing whatsoever about the person they are talking at, (not to, but at) would stop deciding they know how to “fix” them, as if, because they approach things differently, they must be broke.

I have done little but say that maybe, just maybe, when people are taking a huge shit on you, it’s okay to not only not be happy with it, but to even push back against it. You have no problem whatsoever with the people you agree with espousing this. In fact, I have a bright shiny nickel that I will bet that you in fact, do not tell people you agree within this issue that when they feel someone else is shitting on them, that they should just smile and take it because after all, who wants to create all that negative energy?

It’s really not the condescension, or even the stupidity in “if you just read this magic book, it will change your life” that are annoying. It’s the hypocrisy driving it. I doubt you’d appreciate me telling you that if you’d just stop thinking that it’s okay to abuse people who don’t think exactly the way you think they should, the those people would stop thinking you’re a condescending hypocrite.

Tell me, as someone who is so very, very concerned that *i* apparently don’t see my “opponents” as human beings, (incorrect by the way. I think they’re as human as me or anyone else. I just think that at the moment, they’re doing some pretty shitty stuff), just why you have no problem into hearing me or others and referring to us in rather dehumanizing terms. “Ilk” for example. Wait, I know. Because your standards aren’t applicable to you. They’re only things for OTHER people to live up to. You’d do the same, but sometimes, well, the ends justify the means, right? So, as long as it’s in service for a worthy goal, well, dehumanizing/othering people, that’s okay?

Maybe you should follow your own advice before you foist it at someone else.

John,
I understand the history between Justin and FtB/Skepchick bloggers. I really do. My name might not ring a bell to you but I have been part of the online skeptic community for years now.
I find it interesting that you have simultaneously argued on my blog that Justin has every right to “go stir the pot”/ “not harass per se” and that he is “just attending a convention”. To me, that is telling. You can’t have it both ways.

So let’s be clear about what we are arguing here, because I want to address your position but I don’t really know what it is.

Are you saying that Justin is justified in going to the conference specifically with the intention of trying to game the harassment policy and be as “just-shy-of-harassy” as possible? Because that is what you argued in your first comment and this last one.

or

Are you saying that we are being unfair to Justin by imparting false motives to his choice to attend WiS and that he is “just going to a conference”? That is the argument you made at 9:27 PM.

What do you want me to address here John? I’ll happily address an argument once you pick which one you want to run with….

John, after your first response to me I decided I did not want to engage with you in conversation. Hence the decision to talk about you, or at you as you put it, but not to you. But you make some very good points. Looking at myself through your eyes, as best I can, I can see a condescending and supercilious jerk. Sorry about that. As Peter O’Toole said in “Lawrence of Arabia”, it’s just my nature. A bit embarrassing, but I have to live with it because it’s me when I let myself out.

I wouldn’t think for a minute that reading “The Four Agreements” would “fix” you. Nor do I see you as in any way broken. That book had an impact on my life, so I tend to recommend it to people. Sorry if you find that offensive.

Also, I take the word “ilk” to mean nothing but “type” or “persuasion” and hadn’t thought about it being particularly offensive or dehumanizing.

I have been reacting to your words. And what I get from your words is a huge amount of anger and hostility. If I’m wrong in this perception I really want to apologized. But if I am correct, you might ask yourself whether your words, and your anger and hostility, are making your world more pleasant or more ugly. (I seem to be into movie lines tonight, and the one from American History X comes to mind: “Has anything you’ve ever done made your life better?”) If you spend your time throwing poo, you will find poo thrown back at you. Frankly I don’t care what kind of world you want to live in. If blog thread poo fights are what you enjoy, go for it. And there I go, lecturing you again. Sorry. Like I said, it’s just my nature.

Frankly, I don’t find you an attractive personality, and it seems you don’t much like me. So let’s just leave it at that, okay. It looks like we won’t be friends. I’m okay with that. I hope you are okay with that too.

I understand the history between Justin and FtB/Skepchick bloggers. I really do. My name might not ring a bell to you but I have been part of the online skeptic community for years now.
I find it interesting that you have simultaneously argued on my blog that Justin has every right to “go stir the pot”/ “not harass per se” and that he is “just attending a convention”. To me, that is telling. You can’t have it both ways.

Seeing as I’m not justin, I don’t actually know what he’s thinking.

However, you’re conflating a few things.

He does have, in fact, every right to go solely to be a raging cockmonkey. I’m pretty sure that’s not why he’s going, although for the record, I thought the entire idea was not the best one. But he also has the right to not do what I think he should, he’s a grown-assed adult. So, he has the right to act however he wants, and the corresponding responsibility to accept the consequences of his actions for good or ill. I don’t think anyone should get a bye on accepting the consequences of their actions, not even me. However, I also think one should be given the chance to actually prove oneself before one is tarred and feathered. That seems to be a rather radical concept, but let’s pretend it’s not.

Do I think Justin is going to this conference solely for innocent reasons? Of course not. His presence there is clearly making a point to Zvan et al, and that point is “you don’t actually control the atheist/skeptic community. Even people you don’t like get to participate.” But at this point, without any proof that he’s going to do much more than be at the conference and attend sessions, you’ve bought, hook line and sinker, the FTB “stochastic terrorist” idiocy. What if that were applied to you? You’re firmly on their side, what if, the next time you wanted to register for a conference, a small, loud group of people who don’t like you or your views conducted the same kind of FUD campaign against you?

Take a real look at the crap they are accusing him of doing, in the past, the present, and mind, you, the future. They are predicting what he will do. How “skeptical” is that? I mean, if you can predict the future, why are you wasting it on Justin?

Justin is in fact, allowed to attend this conference. As long as he plays by the rules of the conference, the fact his mere presence pisses someone off should be given the exact level of concern the four-year-old logic behind it justifies. Because what if he doesn’t go around fucking with people? What if he goes and is in fact, just another attendee in terms of behavior? You planning on apologizing to him? Color me skeptical. He has the right to go, he has the right to be an ass, he has the right to NOT be an ass. But y’all aren’t even willing to allow him the chance to go.

Are you saying that Justin is justified in going to the conference specifically with the intention of trying to game the harassment policy and be as “just-shy-of-harassy” as possible? Because that is what you argued in your first comment and this last one.

No, not really. What I said was, and I will actually look at my words, was that if your ex had spent *years* shitting on you the way zvan et al have shit on Vacula, including bullshit DMCA silencing attempts, that you’d have been more than justified in ignoring her wishes, and that you just might not give a tinker’s damn HOW she felt. I did not, in the first comment, say “you’d have been totally justified in following her around and actively fucking with her” or similar. I said, and I’ll quote here:

Because, and I know this seems weird, but maybe, just maybe that if she had, you’d have been a bit more justified in going to said party. That was a somewhat public event, and cost a batch of money to get in.

Perhaps, just perhaps, that if the various “exes” in this story had spent the last year or more actively trying to fuck up your life, you might, just might, not be as charitable towards them as you were to your actual ex.

Perhaps after that kind of crap, you just might be out of fucks to give about how she felt.

That quote is pretty clear about attending. Doesn’t excuse you actively being a jerk. It just points out that had you been fucked with the way Vacula has been, you might not particularly care how she felt. I know it’s a subtle point, but I assume we’re all old enough for subtle. If not, do tell me, and I’ll drop down to elementary school obvious.

I have also said that I don’t see anything wrong with pushing back when people are fucking with you. Maybe if Zvan et al would stop fucking with people so relentlessly, (see “Trying to get Abbie Smith’s Boss to make that uppity bitch shut the fuck up”), they’d not get the pushback they get. But, when you say that people who don’t completely agree with you in every way on feminist issues are spree killers, but too cowardly to actually kill people, oddly, the people you’re libeling tend to get just a little fucking annoyed with you.

how’s THAT work. However, I fail to see how any of those points read “JUSTIN SHOULD TOTALLY GO AND JUST FUCK WITH EVERYONE.”

Are you saying that we are being unfair to Justin by imparting false motives to his choice to attend WiS and that he is “just going to a conference”? That is the argument you made at 9:27 PM.

You do know that I can’t actually see time stamps on comments, right? Just the date stamp. Maybe try providing the comment number? Or a blockquote?

As usual John you give me a lot to unpack.
I’m glad that we both agree that Justin should be allowed to go to the conference. So we need not argue that point…..
I’m glad that we both agree that Justin is likely going to attempt to use the letter of the harassment policy to “not harass per se” guests at WiS. I assume we need not continue arguing what his motives likely are….
So what that leaves us with is whether his intention to be as “legally disruptive” and “covertly harassing” as possible is productive, mature and hypocritical given his past interest in fixing these “deep rifts”.
You are arguing that Stephanie, Opelia, PZ, Rebecca and whoever else Justin feels has wronged him with an ongoing vendetta deserves to be treated with contempt and actively made uncomfortable.
I am arguing that someone like Justin, who has sought the respect and authority to represent the atheist community at large is doing himself and others a disservice by trying to act out an escalationary and mean spirited agenda.

Is that a fair representation of where we part ways?

I wouldn’t think for a minute that reading “The Four Agreements” would “fix” you. Nor do I see you as in any way broken. That book had an impact on my life, so I tend to recommend it to people. Sorry if you find that offensive.

Had it not followed the rest of your comment, it might not have come across that way. I can’t read your mind, nor do I know you personally. All I have is what you write here.

I have been reacting to your words. And what I get from your words is a huge amount of anger and hostility. If I’m wrong in this perception I really want to apologized. But if I am correct, you might ask yourself whether your words, and your anger and hostility, are making your world more pleasant or more ugly.

Sigh.

Yes, I am in fact angry about this issue because that seems the only sane response to the raging hypocrisy of it all. However, like many people who seem to fear any emotion but placid happiness, that does not mean I, or anyone else walk around angry and hostile all the goddamned time. It’s like when someone spills coffee on you. In that instant, I imagine you’re pretty damned pissed, and probably in pain, and in that instant, both of those are perfectly justified and rational responses. However, a half-hour later, when you’re not in as much pain, if any pain at all, then are you still just as pissed? Probably not. Same thing here. This particular issue pisses me off. But I have other things in my life besides this. (now to be fair, I’m a sysadmin, so there are a lot of things that tend to annoy me. Anger is an easily accessed emotion in my line of work, but one does learn to master and control it.)

I don’t go home and kick my dog, (as Laden once accused me of), nor do I beat my spouse or my child. I have some pretty awesome friends I do stuff with. Just because you only see this one particular reaction, that doesn’t mean you have any data on the rest of my life. Even though I have no warm feelings towards Zvan et al, do I think they walk around shitting on everyone they know all the time? Please. I’m pretty sure that in general, they’re fairly normal people. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving them a bye on their bad behavior, nor am I not going to be annoyed as hell by it.

It just means that I’m not annoyed by it all the damned time. You might want to examine the source of that ease with which you think people who are angry about a specific thing must therefore be angry and bitter 24×7. It’s not doing you any favors.

I’m glad that we both agree that Justin is likely going to attempt to use the letter of the harassment policy to “not harass per se” guests at WiS. I assume we need not continue arguing what his motives likely are….

That would require us to agree on what harassment is. Clearly, you seem to feel that him being at the conference or in the same room qualifies. I clearly do not.

So what that leaves us with is whether his intention to be as “legally disruptive” and “covertly harassing” as possible is productive, mature and hypocritical given his past interest in fixing these “deep rifts”.
You are arguing that Stephanie, Opelia, PZ, Rebecca and whoever else Justin feels has wronged him with an ongoing vendetta deserves to be treated with contempt and actively made uncomfortable.

Well, I thought I was arguing that given the way they’ve treated him, to expect any sort of consideration for *their* feelings is kind of stupid, and shows a complete inability to see beyond their overweening sense of righteousness. As far as treating with contempt, well, if one acts in a contemptible fashion, one should not be surprised to be treated that way. If I, nigh-constantly for an extended period of time, go out of my way to shut you out of various activities or even fuck with your livelihood, while I certainly have the right to express shock, shock I tell you that you are not particularly solicitous of my feelings, I think doing so would be astoundingly stupid.

However, “treating with contempt” is a bit of a bag of cats. Is it giving them the stinkeye? Yelling at them? Physical attacks? Or merely being somewhere they don’t wish you to be, even though that venue is one that is, in theory, open to anyone with the cash to pay the entrance fee and who will follow the rules.

As far as actively being made uncomfortable, you’re talking about people who define the following behavior as harassment:

1) Regularly reading your public twitter stream, then bagging on it on a different website you are under no requirement to visit.
2) Regularly reading your public blog, then bagging on it on a different website you are under no requirement to visit.
3) Calling you rude names on a website you are under no requirement to visit.
4) Using common diminutives of one’s name

this is made all the more hilarious given the “Dear Dick” idiocy and the number of times they say “If you don’t like what we write, you don’t have to read it”, yet get all kinds of butthurt when you say the same to them.

I am arguing that someone like Justin, who has sought the respect and authority to represent the atheist community at large is doing himself and others a disservice by trying to act out an escalationary and mean spirited agenda.

Given that in many ways, he is simply doing the same kinds of thing they do, how is it okay when THEY do it, yet bad when HE does it?

Is that a fair representation of where we part ways?

No, I’d say it’s more at your insistence that their bad behavior is okay, but justin’s, (and I still think him going to this is kind of fucking stupid), is just OMG BEYOND THE PALE.

sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, etc.

I’m not excusing their bad behaviour John. If anything, I have made it clear that I am sympathetic to charges that both sides bear a great deal of responsibility for the flame wars we have had the past few years. I’m not here to defend FtB or Skepchick, I’m here to argue that Justin is making a mistake if he chooses to escalate- even within the rules- at WiS.

I’m glad that we do at least agree in spirit, if not to the letter, that this is where the debate stands. You don’t disagree with my framing by design so much as by degree. This is a good enough starting point for a conversation.

Just in case you missed John’s point: Women ain’t shit and deserve rape threats, harassment and slander/liberl because women ain’t shit. This is all John ever says. Anywhere. At any time.

clap.

clap.

clap.

Hey Bruce, got links?

Aaaaaand this is why we don’t argue like this on my blog.

I’m sorry George. Clearly, I should have thanked Bruce for his incisive observations, even though completely untrue and unsupported, and done whatever it took so that I could make things right. The fact that anyone at anytime accuses me of something is obviously a sign I must be guilty.

I’m not sure if your missing some of my comments, John. I castigated Bruce for his comment and told him to stop arguing like that. I pointed to your response (which I think was fair given his comment) as the reason why people shouldn’t argue as Bruce has on my blog.

I don’t agree with you on just about anything but please give me credit when I do take your side.

I’m glad you noticed that George. you seem pretty annoyed that I would seem to not notice when you do things right, and properly acknowledge them even though we disagree about other issues. It’s kind of frustrating isn’t it, when you do the right thing, and solely because of other vaguely related issues, the person whose side you took won’t take the damned time to even *try* to credit said good action.

Really sucks.

I mean that it really does.

Congratulations, you now know what a lot of other people feel on a fairly regular basis.

You should ponder that more I think. Could be useful.

and yes, I did get what you did there. But when one sees an opening to possibly allow someone else to gain greater understanding of the other side of an issue, sometimes one should run like hell through it.

Just to make things perfectly clear Bruce, my blog will not become a place to throw around those kinds of allegations. I’m not interested in dragging arguments you have had elsewhere onto my blog.
So we are understand each other, I am firmly on one side of this divide philosophically, and as such you and I likely share many of the same goals. That does not mean that I’m going to allow anyone- ally or not- to use unhelpful and incendiary tactics to shame people into silence.

John is plainly wrong. I know this and you know this. So let’s take the time to discuss why he is wrong using the arguments he uses here- and not to bring in things I don’t have the time to verify or defend.
I’m letting your comment stay on my blog only as an example of how not to argue on this blog. I think comments like this are the reason why we are in the ridiculous position of having “deep rifts” in a community supposedly committed to reason.
I would ask everyone to try and argue in good faith on this blog.

Other than I don’t completely agree with you, why am I wrong? Thus far, the only logic you’ve offered is you are right, and if I don’t agree with you, then I have to be wrong. Clearly there is a single objective, empirically correct viewpoint, and as there can be only one of those. It must be yours.

Pick an argument, John, and let me get to work on it…..

Thus far, that seems to be your argument. I don’t agree with you, therefore I am wrong. Pretty simple actually. Silly, but simple.

Here is the thing, John. It doesn’t matter what my ex did to “deserve” my behaviour. At the time I thought I was really quite brilliant and now I just think I was petty. I’m not saying that Justin doesn’t think that the “feminazis” deserve what they are about to get at the conference, or that he doesn’t think he is doing the right thing.
I’m saying that going to a conference to punish people for their wrongs is petty, childish and immature.
I’m saying that it creates a lot of splash damage to people who are trying to rise above the current bickering, and that it might bolster his position with his own group but it will more than likely alienate the people he needs to build bridges in the future.

I’m saying that it will be a hollow and worthless victory for him- one that he will ultimately regret if he has a descent bone in his body.

Will any of this stop him from doing it anyway? No. I just wanted him to know that some of us are not going to buy the “just going to a conference” bit.

And thank you for justifying every single one of my concerns.

Dude, it’s pretty clear that had he gone just to go. Just to see the conference, and said he was going to do his damnedest to stay the hell away from those assclowns, you’d say the same thing.

Because in the end, the only way Justin or anyone you don’t agree with can be “allowed” to go to a conference is if they first vet their attendance with anyone who dislikes them, and only after ensuring that there are no objections whatsoever because no one who dislikes him is going, only THEN is it okay for him to go.

What conferences is he allowed to go to? Clearly, none that anyone from FTB is attending. We’ll add Skepchicks as well. So that means what, he can’t go to TAM?

Under what conditions, exactly, is Justin Vacula, myself, or anyone you don’t like allowed to go to public events that are open to the general public that you have to pay to attend in the first place? If Justin Vacula or anyone offends you that much, that *fucking* much, maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t them, it’s you.

You do realise it goes both ways, don’t you, George?

Telling someone not to go to a conference (a conference he has EVERY RIGHT TO GO TO) is petty, it’s childish and it’s immature. If he wants to go, why the hell shouldn’t he go?

A hollow and worthless victory?

I’m sorry, I didn’t realise that the only people allowed to go are the ones throwing allegations around. Fucking hell, George.

To address this argument specifically, I never said that Justin has no right to go to the conference. I did say in my post that I thought my ex girlfriend’s attempts to disallow me from the party were understandable but immature. I don’t agree with anyone who tells me that Justin should be preemptively banned fro WiS. I don’t. I never said or insinuated that I did. Justin has as much right to be at a public conference as any other person, including people who would seek to undermine the spirit of the entire conference. There is no prerequisite or benchmark people must meet to attend WiS and I’m not inclined to side with anyone who feels otherwise.

At the end of my parable, I did offer some very specific alternatives to my going to the party with the intention of making my ex miserable. You might be surprised to note that “not going” was not the only option I offered up.

If you are going to toss around arguments I’m not making, should I just start by asking “do you know me?” Is that really what you want this conversation to devolve into?

The difference is that Justin Vacula wants to go, and Ophelia Benson et al. doesn’t want him to go. It has no relevance to your anecdote where you went to deliberately make your ex miserable while there’s no evidence that Vacula’s going to make them miserable. And yet, the only one’s at fault (or at least in similar territory, according to you) is Justin Vacula, because he refuses to heed the entitled wails of a few people to attend the conference. By your own admission, he has every right to attend and you don’t agree with anyone who says different. Well, Ophelia Benson says different, Stephanie Zvan says different, Jason Thibeault says different.

(That’s also why I brought up Richard Dawkins and others, because these people doesn’t want Richard Dawkins (et al.) to attend these conferences either. Again, who do they think they are and why should Richard Dawkins [and Justin Vacula] give a shit about their demands?)

I don’t know anything about you, but I assume you think the anecdote of you and your ex-girlfriend (which by the way is your entire blog post, with an extremely aside mentioning Justin Vacula at the end) must have some relevance to the situation with Justin Vacula or you wouldn’t have brought it up.

To be clear, I understand the reasons why certain people don’t want Justin to attend. I don’t agree with them that he shouldn’t be allowed to go. Those are two very different arguments. I am not beholden to Jason, Stephanie, Ophelia, or anyone else. We are welcome to disagree, and they are welcome to challenge my belief that Justin has a right to attend.

The whole point of this post was to highlight a time in my life that I went somewhere that I was aware I was somewhat not welcome (I think that we can agree that Justin is in a similar situation?), where I used my time to “game the system” and cause as much discomfort for someone else as I could without doing anything that someone could point to as “clearly harassment” (and again, the conference has not happened and Justin may not do anything, but he has been- I believe purposefully- evasive about his planned conduct).

So yes, the point of this post was to draw a parallel between my personal experience and the one Justin is getting himself into. I’m not saying Justin is without a doubt going to try and be a shit disturber, but remember- and I believe this is by far the most important fact- he hasn’t said it either.

Instead of just responding to my post, Justin linked it to the Pit. This tells me that
1. He is aware of this post and its contents
2. He felt it important enough to bring to your attention
3. but not important enough to address.

I will leave it to you to suppose why Justin hasn’t been clear about his intentions and why he has not addressed my post- since you seem, by your own estimation, much better at imparting motives to Mr. Vacula.

Maybe because Justin knew exactly how you’d treat him from the get-go, and realized that nothing he said would be actually listened to, because he’s Justin Vacula, Prince of Darkness, and therefore everything he says is de facto bad and wrong?

So, you perhaps allow someone else without the automatic ad hominem attack substitute for you. Seems to not be the worst strategy ever.

Exactly what about your post would make Justin think that he’d get anything resembling a fair chance to explain his own thoughts on this issue here? You’d decided he was wrong and bad for going from the first word.

What evidence do you have that I intend to be uncharitable to anybody, John? When have I been uncharitable to you, for example? When have I been uncharitable to Pitchguest? Other than an unfortunate hissy fit I had on Neil Reinhardt a few years back, when have I ever been one to call people names and shout them off my blog?

I’ve never said that everything Justin says is de facto bad or wrong. Justin knows me to be someone who generally argues in good faith and as someone who listens and ponders his objections. Rest assured, Justin and I disagree on much- but it has absolutely nothing to do with it being him and everything to do with his opinions.

Besides, the guy challenges tons of bloggers who treat him more uncharitably than I have ever treated ANYONE, ever. Why would he suddenly stop being a “brave hero” when it comes to challenging me?

What evidence do you have that I intend to be uncharitable to anybody, John?

Your entire post? That’s a good start.

When have I been uncharitable to you, for example?

your insistence that because I disagree with you, i’m wrong?

Other than an unfortunate hissy fit I had on Neil Reinhardt a few years back, when have I ever been one to call people names and shout them off my blog?

being polite does not make things okay. The Dred Scott decision is a remarkably polite bit of legalese.

I’ve never said that everything Justin says is de facto bad or wrong. Justin knows me to be someone who generally argues in good faith and as someone who listens and ponders his objections. Rest assured, Justin and I disagree on much- but it has absolutely nothing to do with it being him and everything to do with his opinions.

You seem awfully willing to ignore the bad behavior of those you agree with, yet anything justin does you don’t like MUST BE CALLED OUT.

Besides, the guy challenges tons of bloggers who treat him more uncharitably than I have ever treated ANYONE, ever. Why would he suddenly stop being a “brave hero” when it comes to challenging me?

I will agree that is the stupidest name for a podcast. Ever.

I disagree that my post was uncharitable. I think given the examples I gave to Pitchguest that it is certainly something Justin has contemplated and seems to want to do. Your own past comments (and again, you are not Justin) seem to say you think that being a “tricky dick” is something Justin has good reason to do. I don’t know exactly what your point is here- since you have argued that he has the motivation to do it but that he also likely won’t. I would like it if you committed to a position on this. Is my post uncharitable or is it inconsiderate of his predicament?

I was not uncharitable to you by saying you are wrong. I have offered many reasons to assume that I was right when I said this, and I continue to ask you to defend your positions in an effort to prove my assertion wrong. In fact, my main argument against you is that you don’t really want to commit yourself to any single argument. I estimate that your argument that certain people deserve mistreatment is wrong. I’m happy to defend that assertion at any time.

I don’t think I’ve ignored bad behaviour from people I agree with. I have made my feeling on the “banning” argument pretty clear. What do you assume I have let slide?

it was her choice to attend after she knew you were going to – and she had no basis to say you shouldn’t go

but you could have been in the same party and took turns with people and just let it be ass-awkward instead of harrassing her. because you did

but. you were also an immature teenager with frustration

so you should cut yourself some slack

which is the only thing anyone should cut themselves

[...] a father-of-fiveish . Even the strongest people have skeletons in their closet, though, and George shook one free from his closet and set it to electronic paper to illustrate a [...]

I have alot of skeletons in my closet. Something you have to come to grips with is the lesson that is learned from the experience you have just described. it is easy to wish to go back and not to have made those choices, but that choice, actually every choice you makes becomes the sum of who you are today, the good, the bad, the ugly. to say you wish it didn’t happen is to deny a part of yourself. to say you would change it if you could do it all over again is to deny a lesson well learned only to possibly make the same mistake again down ther road. This is how we learn, unfortunatly. good people make bad choices sometimes. It’s what we do with the experience after we screw up so monumentally that makrs as as the person we are.

Did I purposely do things in an attempt to force her hand? Yes. Did I do things with the intention of making her look silly? Yep. Was I enacting a calculated and methodical plan to ruin her experience and try to get her to do something irrational and blameworthy? You bet I was. Not just that, but I was manipulating friendships and social conventions to make other people complicit in my passive-aggressive vendetta.

Sorry to break this to you, George, but this was harassment per se. You were intentionally trying to create a hostile environment for her, you were trying to punish her as best as you could while still maintaining a pretense of moral superiority. Direct confrontation isn’t a necessary condition of harassment.

Hey, guess what Ibis? If you read what I wrote I never said it wasn’t harassment. I said that some people don’t consider this harassment and that drawing the line at “coincidental effects” does not necessarily make something “not harassment”. Maybe the title threw you off……

So you think Justin Vacula is going to Women in Secularism just to “force their hand,” “do things with the intention to make them look silly” and “enacting a calculated and methodical plan to ruin their experience and try to get them to do something irrational and blameworthy”? And not only that, but also “manipulating friendships and social conventions to make other people complicit in his passive aggressive vendetta”?

Do you have all the facts? Do you know all there is to know about Justin Vacula, his friends and his reasons and intent for going to Women in Secularism? Are you at all engrossed in what makes him tick?

You don’t? Great. And you’ve made it clear to another that you have no intention of finding out. Brilliant. Full time skeptic? Could’ve fooled me.

Here’s my opinion, George. Your ex-girlfriend told you not to go to the party she was attending. Who the hell does she think she is? She wanted you to stay home and be miserable while she’s out having fun? What’s mature about that? Awfully entitled of her to decide where you should and should not go. Besides, you were both invited and you both had friends there. You didn’t bother one another. I don’t know what was said or in what fashion it was said, but so what if you laughed a little louder and so what if you were visibly more entertained than she was; what fucking difference does it make? So what if she cried and made a scene? Fucking irrelevant.

Let’s compare this teenage lover’s spat to the situation with Justin Vacula: are you saying Justin Vacula shouldn’t go because these people feel entitled enough to tell him he shouldn’t go? Who do they think they are to make such demands? Moreover, would it be his fault should they happen to CRY and/or MAKE A SCENE? I mean, what the fuck are you talking about? You don’t know anything about him, you don’t know the history between these people and yet you presume to judge that his intentions will be the same as yours as when you felt like being an asshole to your ex-girlfriend in high school (which you had every right to), without due process; you trust the ramblings of deliberate troll oolon of all people, refuse to do any research on Vacula or the forum he frequents (the Slymepit) and you call yourself a FULL TIME SKEPTIC? A full time skeptic? In which universe? Have you been spending time with Jason Thibeault by any chance?

You know, you’re right. Justin Vacula is a professional public speaker who’s done work for the atheist organizations in Pennsylvania. I’m sure he’s going to go to WiS just to be an asshole. In fact, there’s another professional public speaker these people have been railing against, who they claim only rile people up, who they claim is a misogynist and a chauvinist and what have you. He’s called Richard Dawkins – ever heard of him? Indeed, THE SAME PEOPLE who are now railing against Justin Vacula for going to conventions only to cause a ruckus have said THE SAME EXACT THING about Richard Dawkins. Not just Richard Dawkins, but Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens (when he was alive), and many women speakers too, like Harriet Hall, Barbara Drescher, Paula Kirby, Sara Mayhew, to mention but a few. Should they all decide to heed the wailings of people who feel awfully entitled to tell them not to go?

Is there even one good reason why these men and women should give two shits about the demands from these people?

Retraction: Apologies, the one who refused to do research on Vacula and the Slymepit was Darwin Harmless, not you. Just ignore that section.

For the record, I don’t do research on the players in this spat because I’m not interested in who did what to whom or who is justified in retaliating for injustice done. I was not commenting on Justin Vacula, nor on the apparent feud that is underway. I was commenting on John’s post, without knowing him or knowing any of the background to what he was posting. My comment was simply that his attitude, as reflected by his words, didn’t sound like it was going to make him happy. I could be wrong about this. It was only my impression. Maybe his attitude will give him a life of pure bliss. But that’s not how it looks to me. John doesn’t sound like he’s interested in changing his attitudes. Fair enough. It’s his life, his choice, and his emotional world. It’s not my place to tell him how to think. It was intemperate of me to do so.

I don’t think one loses one’s sceptic credentials by refusing to investigate something which one has no interest in exploring or understanding, and which is irrelevant to the point one is making.

So you admit you don’t have any real knowledge of this, but because the people you agree with say Justin Vacula is bad, he must be?

Is this how a proper skeptic evaluates things? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong.

This is what you wrote:

Oolon, thanks for the info. I’m aware of the name Vacula but I’ve tried to steer clear of the whole flame war and I’ve avoided going anywhere near the Slymepit. I got enough of a whiff of what’s been happening from PZ, Rebecca, Greta, Ophelia and the rest of the crowd at FTB. Not much interested in hearing from the Slymepit or learning the names and histories of the denizens.*

I’m a feminist. Have been since my teens when the inequality of women became obvious to me. I think Dawkins was wrong, which is sad because he’s one of my major heroes. I just wish he had apologized instead of doubling down in a truly stupid way. If you’ll forgive some shameless self promotion, I think this pretty much sums up my attitudes: http://www.darwinharmless.com/thoughts_and_comments/?p=933

*No, John, call me closed minded but if the attitudes you expressed on this thread are any indication of what I would find in the Slymepit, I am not going to listen to your side of the story. I know you have a side. I’m not on it and I’m not interested in hearing more about it.

You talk shit about the Slymepit and its denizens even though by your own admission you know nothing about it. You say you have learned enough about it from PZ, et al, and “the rest of the crowd at FtB” (i.e. partisan parties). You refuse to do any more research and you say to John he “[has] a side” and how you’re “not on it” and you’re “not interested in hearing more about it.” Does that sound like a sceptic to you?

Gee Pitchguest, where do I start?
Let’s start with a little thought experiment to see if you are arguing in good faith…..

Let’s say some “evil slymepitter” made insinuations about Ophelia Benson’s motives for doing something. I know, it’s a fucking stretch, but bear with me here…..
Let’s say that Ophelia said “You don’t know me and you don’t know my motives, what kind of skeptic are you?”
Are you claiming that you would accept that explanation and defend her against any charges questioning her motives? Can you give examples of times you might have done that?
So here is the crux of the matter: When you think and speak the worst of Jason, Stephanie, Ophelia, Rebecca, PZ, and whoever else you choose to rail against that day, are you insinuating that you do this because you intimately know them? That you have some clairvoyant perception of their real and genuine motives? Or are you trying to shut me up by trying to make me buy wholesale an argument that we both know you yourself would never accept?
Make me your best case that I am being uncharitable to your argument and I’ll address you concerns. Otherwise I will assume that you are just here trying to save John C. Welch’s floundering argument.

Floundering argument. You put to me a thought experiment where someone had made an insinuation to another – what kind of insinuation? If the insinuation had to do with the motive of the other, then what evidence is provided to give them the idea of such a motive? If they provided clear evidence that this person’s motive is to do what they’re insinuating, or at least so close an account it’s difficult not to predicate otherwise, then I would argue that “you don’t know me and my motives, what kind of sceptic are you?” would be ridiculous.

Then to exit it with a measure of good faith, I wouldn’t accept it as an answer, no.

But are you saying that Justin Vacula has made it clear — or at least to such an extent that it’s difficult to see otherwise — that he’s going to this conference only to make a scene? Because if the thought experiment is to bear fruit and the insinuations being made is such that a simple “you don’t know me” answer wouldn’t suffice to defend it, then that must be what you’re implying, no? I also made a mistake when I confused you and Darwin Harmless, so maybe you do know who Justin Vacula is and his history with these people and in that case I’m doubly perplexed by your words and your own insinuations in this.

When I “speak the worst” (hold off on the hyperbole) about Jason, Stephanie, Ophelia, et al, I usually do so with a frame of reference. I don’t go out guns blazing. I also wouldn’t “speak the worst” about them for no reason and I do my utmost to be fair at all times. Objectively speaking, would you say the same holds true for FtB and their accusations against Justin Vacula?

I am confident that I know enough about Justin Vacula and his history with FtB and Skepchicks to caution him not to act in a way that escalates a problem he has acknowledged and paid lip service to in the past. I think his own words are evidence of his possible motives at the conference.

The only person who can definitively tell us what Justin Vacula’s motivations are at WiS is of course Justin Vacula. Given my previous dealings with him, don’t count me surprised that he personally dropped a link to this post (with no comment) on the slymepit and has yet to address any of my post. He is quite welcome here in my comment section- as are you and John C. Welch. He knows quite well that I won’t call him names or throw unfounded accusations- in point of fact I suspect that is why he avoids engaging me.
He could just come out and say that he is “just an attendee” and that he plans to keep his distance (as much as this is possible) from the people who want nothing to do with him (and honestly, I wouldn’t much want to associate with them if I was him either). He could just say that he thinks that the silent treatment is petty and childish but he respects the rights of others to make petty and childish choices regarding who they want to associate with. He could just say that as best as he is able, he will not address or approach any of these petty people, and he won’t attempt to walk the tightrope between harassment and defensible behaviour.

I wonder why he has done none of these things; given your past line of reason that one cannot imbue motives on people without knowing them, and since you also seem to be more aware of Justin’s motives than I, perhaps you might see fit to answer those questions on his behalf?

You won’t throw unfounded accusations, except for the unfounded accusation in the blog post itself where you accuse him of attending the conference only to make a scene?

Wow. Once again, could have fooled me.

You’re not surprised he linked to this post without comment? Mate, you give us some bullshit story — doesn’t matter if it’s true or not — about a squabble between you and some girl, where you set out to deliberately make her miserable at a party, and you make a direct comparison between that situation and this situation with Vacula. Already you’ve painted him into a corner. Is he supposed to justify himself to you, defend himself from your obvious strawman? Give me a fucking break.

“Could just come out and say”? Actually, he doesn’t have to do anything. It goes both ways. Right now you have the story from one side; FtB. They claim he’s going to the conference to harass people. They’ve already threatened to report him, if he does something they disapprove of – whatever that could be. You’ve given all the power to them. What gives them the right to dictate his behaviour? What about them? He got a ticket to the conference same as them, so why shouldn’t the same principles apply to them? Petty? Immature? Shit, they’re EQUALLY immature in that case. If they don’t want to attend only to suffer the *presence* of Justin fucking Vacula, then has it occured to them that they don’t have to attend the conference themselves? Or maybe they could compromise and NONE OF THEM attend? Or there’s another option: ALL OF THEM attend, they keep away from eachother, and shut the fuck up. How’s that?

Ophelia believes her feelings trump where I may happen to walk, who I may happen to speak with, and my level of enjoyment at the conference.- Justin Vacula

Ophelia acts as the arbiter, dispensing what she sees as justice by removing me from the event if I happen to “approach” or chat with her – and she believes the conference policy is on her side. -Justin Vacula

On what grounds can Ophelia Benson legitimately make an “official complaint” if I happen to “approach” her? What threat do I pose? What harassment is inherent within myself being in earshot of Ophelia Benson? I should not have to ‘walk on eggshells’ concerned with where I am standing and who may happen to stand near me while a conference policy threatening to eject me is held over my head.-Justin Vacula

What justification might PZ Myers have to report me to conference organizers and dictate where I may stand and who I may talk with at the conference?-Justin Vacula

I come — as I stated — with intentions to report on the events of the conference, seek interviews with attendees/speakers, and offer critical commentary in accord with the Center for Inquiry’s mission statement.-Justin Vacula

That was just from one post, Pitchguest. There is an awful lot of “if I just so happen to” and “if I stand near” when none of those things were mentioned by either Ophelia or PZ. Neither said “don’t stand near me” or “don’t talk to people I’m talking to”. Yet Justin insinuates that they can’t stop him if he “happens to” do these things. I don’t think my concerns are “unfounded” Pitchguest, I think they are very much witnessed by Justin’s own words.

Also, please describe the corner I have painted Justin into. I really want to be charitable to you, but the only corner I can see is the “I can’t deny that I’m going to try and be as much a pest as possible without breaking the rules” corner, and I don’t think that it is unfair to ask him to clarify that he doesn’t intend to “covertly harass” certain attendees.

George, thought experiment:

exactly how do you define “approach” here. Is it:

actually directly engaging the person?
Being in the same room?
Being in the same building?
Being near them, but not actually engaging them, because the person he’s talking to happens to be near her?
Walking towards her because the person/thing he’s actually intending to engage is in the same direction as she is?

See, that’s the problem with this “approach” thing…it’s pretty vague. So, to have any sort of rational argument, you kind of have to figure out what ophelia even MEANS by that, and to me, that’s kind of justin’s point.

Now, to be fair, he’s dreadful at making a point in under 3000 words, so that’s not helping him. But, if we all have rather different definitions of “approach” well, talking about it for good or ill is kind of difficult.

Finally, John, you and I are getting somewhere!
I really do think this is at the heart of the matter, and I’m glad you brought it up. Would you like me to name some particular things I would consider “harassy”? We could do this one by one and discuss whether or not we think it is harassment. I could make a post out of it. I’ll name ten or more situations I would consider “harassy”, and ten or more I consider normal conference contact. I’d welcome you and others to respond to them, and perhaps even Justin could play along. Are you game?

absolutely. A basic requirement of communication is that we both know what the words we use mean. Otherwise, you’re shouting “OOK OOK OOK” and I’m shouting “AAAAAAAH AAAAAAH AAAAAAH” and it all just turns into flinging poop.

I can see your point, George W., I even understand how this realization could have made you a better person. You are probably more mature and empathetic now, a better person. In a way, this could also apply to Mr. Vacula’s decision to go to the conference and how he could come to regret it in the future as he also grows as a person. Time will tell.
But something about organizing a campaign (by other bloggers, not yourself) to prevent a person non-grata to assists a public event, reminds me of creationists that expel unbelievers from their museum. At the end, any analogy that you or anyone can draw from your personal experience and Vacula assisting this event will not go far, because they are not that similar. Insularity is anathema to freethinkers.
There are many atheists that I abhor, and would avoid in real life,if possible. However, I despise more the idea of getting them banned from public events just because I had a personal or ideological issue with them.

I don’t think that my analogy is that dissimilar, Axel. In fact, as far as analogies go, I think it is pretty darn apt.

If you disagree I would ask you to show me where- specifically- my analogy breaks down.

I think that you are closer to an ex-girlfriend, therefore, it’s personal and intimate. In the case of JV vs some FTBloggers, the disagreements are about ideas and approaches, the dislike is personal, but it should not be intimate.

So Axel, are you then claiming that Justin has less justification to “covertly harass” guests at WiS, or more justification- based on this obvious difference in the two narratives? Why do you think he has less or more justification?

I don’t accept the premise that will “covertly harass” anyone in a public setting, anymore than an relatively well-known evolutionists “covertly harassing” Ken Ham in a creationists conference.

Look, George, we both know what side of the fence you’re sitting on, so what’s with the charade?

By the way, I think we both know what Justin means when he says “approach”, but it’s clear you don’t like Justin (either from some previous encounter or something else) and you choose to see it in the worst possible light. He says if he happens to come within earshot. He says if he happens to walk in her general direction, not towards her. And he’s right. Ophelia’s feelings shouldn’t trump where he should be able to walk. He’s absolutely right. However, not even all that talk about if he happens to “approach” someone who’s considered him persona non grata at the conference do I note anything about deliberately going to the conference to make people miserable. Do you? And what about him seeking interviews from attendees? Did you miss where he’s a host for a podcast?

Again, you have conceded to give all the power to FtB and its ilk. Everything wrong falls on Justin to justify. The actions of Stephanie Zvan, making pre-emptive threats of reporting him and writing a four page complaint to Ron Lindsay saying who knows what is all well and good. Ophelia Benson already calling it harassment, that’s all well and good. Jason Thibeault’s referencing your post to say Justin is *clearly* just going to make others uncomfortable is all well and good (but the last thing you knew, since you commented on it).

Now why on earth should Justin justify himself to you when you’ve already chosen to condemn him?

What “charade” are you speaking of Pitchguest? I have argued in good faith this whole time. I’d appreciate you at least having the guts to do the same.

We do both know what Justin means when he says “approach”. That is exactly my point.
I don’t “choose to see this in the worst possible light”, I simply am trying to be a realist about the prospects of how someone who has felt slighted and dumped-on is going to react at a conference filled with people who he perceives are out to get him. I’m not saying that I don’t relate to the situation he has put himself in. In fact, my whole post is saying that I relate all too well. I intended this to be a cautionary tale, one that Justin might read and think twice before he decides to do something he might regret. The sad fact is that he is surrounded by enough people who are willing to egg him on and backslap him after he does it.

His quotes from the post are most certainly enough to call my suspicions “founded”. Whether he chooses to prove himself a better man than I was at 19 when put in a similar situation is, as you say, entirely up to him. He may very well rise above the level of those who have been unreasonable. He may very well be so mature about the whole thing as to win the admiration of some of the people who currently think the worst of him. He may yet be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

I still don’t know where you and John are going with this “Justin is rightfully justified in not engaging you” bit. I have been far more charitable to Justin than anyone else “on my side of the fence”. I have treated both you and John with respect this whole time. What on earth makes you or Justin think I intend to be an unfair prick when he decides to comment?

To be absolutely blunt, Vacula’s actions remind me of a little kid being told, “Don’t touch me!” by another kid and then proceeding to hold their finger an inch from the other kid and loudly proclaiming, “I’m not touching you!” No, you are not technically touch them, but that doesn’t mean what you are doing is okay.

I want to caution that technically Justin hasn’t done anything yet. I can only predict what actions he might take or might think of taking based on previous statements and behaviour. The conference has not happened yet, and as much as I can- I do want to give him the benefit of the doubt. This post was deliberately designed to give an example of “harassy” behaviour, the kind where- as you say- someone follows the letter of the rule but abuses the spirit of it. It doesn’t make one blameless if they use the rules to hurt someone else- and I have tried to instill this in my children when they have done the very thing you mention.
I want this post to stand as an acknowledgement that you can break the spirit of the rules without betraying the letter of them. I want it to show that following the rules does not make you morally or ethically blameless. It was not meant to convict Justin of a crime he hasn’t committed- it was meant to take what he has hinted are his plans for WiS2 and show how those plans are not helpful, right, or particularly clever.

[...] a somewhat civil conversation with John C. Welch and Pitchguest about my last post “On ‘Not Harassment Per Se’” and the subject came up that part of my problem is that we diverge on what constitutes harassment [...]

We all made little high school games. After some amount of time, we leave high school and realize that all those catty actions were worthless and unhelpful. I don’t know Justin Vacula personally, and I don’t have mindreading powers, but I do see grown people acting like douchebags because they don’t have control over where Justin Vacula wants to go spend his time. There is one appropriate reaction to Justin Vacula attending a conference, and it is “Thank you for attending our conference. I hope you have a nice time.”

As you know Edward, that has actually been the response from the people who would call it “our conference“. The people who are “acting like douchebags” don’t necessarily want control over where Justin spends his time. They want him to respect their wishes to not speak with them at the conference. There is a more-than-subtle difference between reality and how you chose to frame your argument.

No, there isn’t. They don’t want him to attend, or say anything, or ever show his face anymore. They want to feel warm and secure in their bubble and talk about how wonderful they are and how awful everyone else is. Vacula is a very small needle in this bubble, because many of the people in charge of the conference hate him for some undefined reason. He’s an atheist activist who works with disabled people. There is no good reason to treat him like garbage. It’s yet another example of how the skeptic movement has in large part become a glorified hate group.

Again, no one is suggesting that Justin can’t go. There may be people who don’t want him to go, but that is no more noteworthy than the people who don’t want Ophelia to blog. People are free to have prefereces, they just don’t necessarily have the authority or even the will to enforce them.

Skepticism has a long and noble past, so if you have a conference and call is a skeptical conference then you better live up to it. Nobody but nobody gets to define skepticism to suit themselves. Not on my watch, call youself a skeptic then you better act like one or you will get called on it. Who the fuck gets to ban a fellow skeptic because they don’t like their views? If someone else’ views hurt your feeling then so what. If you find their presence uncomfitable tougth shit. If they break any of the conference rules prior, during or after then deal with it and act on it, so long as you have evidence for it. If CFI, FTB or Skepchicks want to have a mean girls conference then they should do so and ban anybody they want. Though while they go under the banner of skepticism then they have to act like they understand what the word means. You have no right to project your love tiff immature behaviour on anybody else but yourself.

David, who on this blog has argued that Justin should be banned? Who?
Every time someone comes on this blog to argue that I agree that Justin should be banned from WiS2, it gives me the sneaking suspicion that those who come here to defend Justin have no intention of even trying to argue in good faith.

Let’s just break down your comment to see how you guys like to present an argument:

Skepticism has a long and noble past, so if you have a conference and call is a skeptical conference then you better live up to it. Nobody but nobody gets to define skepticism to suit themselves. Not on my watch, call youself a skeptic then you better act like one or you will get called on it. Who the fuck gets to ban a fellow skeptic because they don’t like their views? If someone else’ views hurt your feeling then so what. If you find their presence uncomfitable tougth shit. If they break any of the conference rules prior, during or after then deal with it and act on it, so long as you have evidence for it. If CFI, FTB or Skepchicks want to have a mean girls conference then they should do so and ban anybody they want. Though while they go under the banner of skepticism then they have to act like they understand what the word means.

“ZOMFG!!!! Y U TRY TO BAN JUSTIN FROM WiS2!!!!! BAD SKEPTIC!!!!!!”

You have no right to project your love tiff immature behaviour on anybody else but yourself.

“Since your post was not about banning him, I’ll throw it one sentence that addresses the subject at hand in an effort to conflate the two.”

You guys are soooo right. The problem is totally the FtBloggers. Thank FSM we have you guys to diligently fight for The Truth.

Nice to see that, as usual, the ever-narcissistic and endlessly self-promoting Justin Vacula depending on others to fight his battles for him. I see this all the time – he stirs shit up and then completely disappears when he has an opportunity to defend his position. I guess doing that would take time away from his busy schedule of talking about himself or declaring himself a “public figure” as if he was actually someone of note. Vacula is not a person of note within the atheist/skeptic sphere; he is a little boy wearing his daddy’s business suit and pretending he’s a big important businessman. He so obviously desperately wants to be one of the ‘big boys’, but due to his own immaturity and lack of impulse control, will forever be destined to be no more than the smallest of small potatoes.

The community, for the most part, is smart enough to know when someone is genuinely acting in the community’s best interest, and when someone is acting solely in one’s self-interest. Even most of the people he hangs out with on the Slymepit know which side of that equation Vacula is on, as evidenced by the many posts by Pitters expressing their boredom with Vacula’s constant use of the Pit as his own free advertising.

I’m a longtime reader and fan of the Slymepit, and other than some dismay at the 8th grade gym class locker room behavior that goes on there, I am in full agreement with their assessment of FreethoughtBlogs and the viciousness and bullying that goes hand-in-hand with waving the FtB banner. But I have to say, it’s apparent to me that Vacula is going to this conference for the drama it will create. Vacula is by no stretch the misogynistic demon that FtB/Skepchick/etc. paint him as. But the fact remains that his attendance at this conference has nothing to do with interest in the conference itself. This is all about Justin Vacula making a point and getting some attention; yet one more tiny and unimportant non-accomplishment he can point to on his massively over-embellished atheist/skeptic resume and crow “See? I’m SOMEBODY!”

Color me completely unimpressed.

I really want Justin to feel like he can come here and engage me in conversation. I don’t blame him for not posting here when he reads stuff like this, “brave hero” or not.
Ad hom-ing both sides of an issue doesn’t make it right. Whatever my issues with Justin (and believe me there are many), I don’t think attacking his character is productive or even relevant. I want to talk about his positions and ideas, and I don’t think his ideas deserve to be swept aside in favour of what we think of Justin personally- regardless of whether he personally deserves the criticism you are levelling.

So don’t be impressed. Really, who cares what your opinion of Justin Vacula is? He’s a dude going to a conference. There is a bit of drama because some at the conference have insulted him and now warned him to stay away. That’s really about all there is to it.

Leaving aside all the metaphors for current events that are intended here for a second, this story unfortunately is a textbook case of social bullying, or at least attempted social bullying. You’re the victim here to be honest…well..at least you’re the intended victim. It doesn’t sound like many of the other folks in this particular community wanted to partake in it. She attempted to use social power to ostracize you from a mutually shared community. As someone who went through pretty much the exact same thing growing up, it sounds very familiar. At least for me, it really did institute a big dose of social anxiety that I’m still battling to this day.


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