You’re Not Helping

An Open Letter to The Tone Troll

Posted on June 22, 2012. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Humour, Internet Etiquette, Personal, Religion, Social Justice, Trolls, You're Not Helping |

Hi there!

     I bet you’re wondering why I’m writing you this letter.  You might even be wondering why people are all so mad at you right now- and why they are calling you mean names.  I know, I know- you were only trying to help, right?  You just wanted to see a little decorum, a little civility- and everyone is just amplifying the very thing you are trying to help them discard.  It must be frustrating.  It must feel as though you are experiencing the cruel effects of tribalism- a sort of “internet xenophobia”, if you will.  You are a mere missionary preaching the gospel of civil discourse and the lynch mob stands with torches and pitchforks waiting for you at the county line.


Here is the thing.  Those people you were trying to help?  They are having a conversation.  That conversation has a topic.  That topic is important to them.  It is important enough that they are wearing their gut reactions on their sleeves.  So when you come waltzing in, and you say “Guys- hey, guys- Y U mad, bro?” they are more than likely going to turn on you.

Why, you ask?  You’re only trying to let cooler heads prevail, right? I totally get what you’re feeling right now.  I understand.

What you need to understand is that the reason they are mad is right in front of you.  It’s right there- in the post you are reading.  Heck, it may even be summed up pretty succinctly in the title of the post.  Yet here you are, telling these people that you don’t understand what could possibly have them up in arms.  This, to them, is the problem.

Imagine you find yourself in a hotel burning to the ground.  You see a number of people frantically yelling to wake the guests up- pounding on doors and shouting.  You have that mental image yet? Don’t worry, I’ll wait….. (more…)

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Fahgettaboudit: What Happens When Right People Say The Wrong Things

Posted on June 9, 2012. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Internet Etiquette, Personal, Trolls, You're Not Helping |

There is a pattern emerging in the comment section of posts about “good people behaving badly”.  It seems that some people seem obsessed with the idea that people we share some common goals with are beyond reproach. 

Richard Dawkins writes off sexual harassment as a worthless First World Problem- people insist that he get a pass. Commenters all over the internet tell us that we can disagree, but politely- and we must- MUST- afford his comments the most charitable possible interpretation.  I agree with Dawkins on most subjects- but I find his line of reasoning dismissive and dangerous on this issue.  So why am I supposed to give that idea less measured criticism than I give to any other? 

We come to respect people because they are uncannily right- so when they get something wrong- do they not equally earn criticism as they have earned esteem?

The faux-pas du jour is now DJ Grothe’s.  The President of the James Randi Educational Foundation has handled the issue of harassment at TAM with all the tact of a bull moose courting a chihuahua. 

DJ decided to do some classic victim blaming.  He suggests that harassment victims “regret” past “sexual exploits”.  In other words, he suggested that harassment is not that big of an issue because the people claiming to have experienced it are just feeling guilty for letting their hair down.  Some of the bloggers out there have suggested (in no uncertain terms) that DJ is forwarding an offensive and unwelcoming opinion of people who are trying to share their experiences in an effort to make conferences safer and more enjoyable. 

Once again, the chorus of those who think that certain people deserve a pass chimes in.  Why should victim blaming be considered reasonable by virtue of the person who initiates it?  Why should I or anybody else give Grothe’s comments the most charitable interpretation when such an interpretation doesn’t even exist?  He doesn’t get a pass.  He doesn’t get to act like he never said those things.  People have a duty to call him to account until he acknowledges his mistake. 

Did people call DJ some bad names? Sure.  Has he earned most of them? Yep. 

Ideas that don’t respect facts don’t deserve respect.  Period. 

They deserve to be mocked.  They deserve to be attacked.  They deserve disdain.  Measured comments deserve measured responses. Poisonous comments deserve poisonous responses.

So why am I writing a post about this?  Because a friend of mine is dealing with a troll over at his blog who is arguing that DJ deserves to be treated with more respect than his actions deserve.  Not only that, said troll is arguing that he himself doesn’t deserve to be called a troll- and doesn’t deserve to be banned- because he is Kind of A Big Deal™. 

The only way that sentiment could be any more annoying is if it was written in Comic Sans.

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But It’s Not About Me

Posted on May 11, 2011. Filed under: Apologetics, Atheism, Religion, You're Not Helping |

Many theists are annoyed by the fact they believe in something they cannot logically defend. When discussing religion with an adherent, you can usually break down the argument to where reason ends and faith begins. Unfortunately, from time to time you run across a believer who tries to shift the entire discussion about what I believe or don’t believe. Instead of actually trying to defend what they believe, they waste your time trying to attack a position that was never introduced in the first place. That’s like questioning the reporter. It’s not about me.

Even if you define the term “atheist” in its narrowest sense of asserting the non-existence of a deity, it still has nothing to do with defending the believer’s position. It’s merely a distraction to shift any burden of defending their claim. I wonder if two theists with conflicting ideologies would suffer the same fate. There seems to be more tolerance from adherents towards people with any faith rather than dealing with someone with no faith.

So, it all comes back to my original question of asking “why do you believe what you believe?” Your answer should be about your position, not mine. It’s not about me.

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A Year in Review: Misplaced Grace

Posted on January 4, 2011. Filed under: Astrology and Related Bunk, Atheism, Global Warming, Humour, Personal, Politics, Religion, Science, Trolls, You're Not Helping |

This has been a fun first year of blogging.  I graduated from a chronic lurker and occasional commenter on other blogs to having my own platform with which to discuss those topics that really interest me.  I want to give new readers a bit of a review of my first year of blogging so that everyone can catch up on issues they may find interesting but missed the first time around.  I also want to take this opportunity to go over some of my upcoming plans for posts and projects in the new year so that I can get feedback to help shape what direction I go with this blog and it’s content.

Misplaced Grace had it’s first post back on June 10th of 2010.   After the required “Welcome to My Blog” post, I chose Anthropogenic Global Warming as my first subject for a full post.  My WordPress widget tells me that that first post received a grand total of 5 views, the first one being a month after this blog started. Not exactly a winner out of the gates.   The first post that ever received a comment, as well as the first post that ever got a significant number of hits was about Andrew Rosenberg, a teenager who got in over his head by e-mailing PZ Myers.  One of the comments turned out to be from Andrew himself, and this prompted two more posts where I tried to answer his questions about evolution, religion, and science.  These posts turned out to be among my most popular, as well as contributing to many new pageviews long after the posts were published.   The You’re Not Helping debacle got me the busiest single day of traffic ever to my blog, and still gets regular hits.  My Apologetics and Apostasy series came next, followed by a sometimes rocky exchange with a theist when I commented on her blog and linked a post that turned into a great and thought provoking conversation.  My long and drawn out argument with astrologers over at Lousy Canuck became the impetus for some cross posts as well as a challenge with James Alexander that has not yet come to fruition.  My commentary on the Wikileaks/Assange rape case finished off the year with a bang.  I joined Planet Atheism this fall, and it has certainly helped.  So here is a breakdown of my first year of blogging, both statistically and personally, with added commentary.

Misplaced Grace 2010

Total posts: 40– This breaks down to about 6 or 7 a month, a number I would like to increase in the New Year.  My goal is to have 2 or 3 posts a week.  So hopefully my 2012 New Year message will have a total around 110-150 posts for the year.

Total Pageviews: About 2800– That averages to about 70 views per post, and I would be pretty happy to keep that pace.  My goal for 2011 then would be somewhere around 10,000 views.

Total Comments: 215– A bit deceptive because I reply to almost every comment, so let’s half that number and say 107.  That is less than three comments per post, and the number I would most like to change.  I need to make posts that demand feedback; something that I have had trouble doing thus far….

Busiest single day: October 6th, 2010, 69 views–  WOW! I remember that day and it was a real high.  That number seems really low, but to me it was really exciting.  I would love to get over 100 views in a single day this year.

Most viewed post:  Polaris Software:  A Critical Analysis–  Other than my homepage, this post has generated the most views at 292.  Every one of my astrology posts has had more than 50 views, making them pretty popular.

Least Viewed Post: Anthropogenic Global Warming and the Denial of Science– Only 5 views.  Sad, really.  I kind of like that post…..

My Favorite Post:Does Righteousness Recuse One From A Rape Investigation–  I really like this post and I really liked writing it.  I also enjoyed the discussion that ensued.

What To Expect In 2011

Here is a list of posts I have been sitting on for the coming year, as well as some projects I have planned.  Commentary is appreciated.

1. The Ian Juby Project: I plan to pick apart some YouTube clips from Ian Juby of the  Portable Creation Museum Project.  This guy lives in my backyard, just down the road in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario.  He runs a traveling creation museum that aims to spread creationist propaganda to any group willing to pay his expenses.  Lots of lies, half truths, and misrepresentations.  I want to address as many as I can, to offer a resource for people being shoveled his brand of bullshit.

2. My Conversation with Jehovah’s Witnesses: I have been getting these people at my door lately and want to make the most of it.  I find that for a group of people who go door to door trying to sell their religion, not many of us really know what exactly they believe.  I am going to take one for the team and sit them down for a series of conversations, which I will blog about here.  Any submissions of questions would be appreciated, as well as suggestions for how I should format the exchange.  I am kind of excited about this project, I am really interested about where JW’s stand on a host of issues.

3.  Evolution and Science Debates in Meatspace:  I have a creationist friend who is getting a basic cable television project developed on the intersection of faith and science.  I  will be a contributor and presenter in parts of this series and I hope to keep everyone abreast of developments as they emerge.

4.  Expanded Canadian Content:  I want to try and focus on Canadian issues and content in the coming year.  This will hopefully include a few more posts on Canadian history and politics, as well as some current events stories.  An election is looming, and this should provide fodder for more posts with Canadian content.

5. Tying up Loose Ends:  I had some posts this year where I wanted to do more research or work and have fresh posts on the topic.  In some cases I made commitments that remain unfulfilled.  I hope to sew these up this year, with an end to my Apologetics and Apostasy series, a meeting of my challenge to Polaris astrology software and other subjects.  (more…)

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Hey “William”- You’re Definately Not Helping

Posted on June 29, 2010. Filed under: Atheism, Internet Etiquette, Personal, You're Not Helping |


Edit July 1, 2010:  William, the author of You’re Not Helping, has made a proper apology here.  I would like to add that I believe this apology to be sincere, and applaud William for his bravery in coming forward and clearing the air.  Thank you William.

I don’t get to do much blog watching on weekends and completely missed the climax of a story I had been following since mid-last week.

You’re Not Helping imploded before our very eyes this past weekend; effectively verifying accusations made by a couple of bloggers, most notably oedipusmaximus of The Buddha Is Not Serious.

After reading oedipus’ post and the comments last week, I was convinced something was gravely wrong with YNH (beyond just contradicting themselves on a post by post basis).  Facts came to light that eventually prompted “William”, the “brains” behind YNH to admit to creating a circle-jerk of sock puppets to congratulate one another on their brilliance and gang up on dissenters.  He does not, however, admit to being a religious Poe masquerading as an atheist to shame New Atheists; an allegation I leveled at YNH over on Camels With Hammers and still believe to be the case.

So “William”, it turns out, was several regular commenters on his own blog.  I assume he used this system to bolster his argument by creating false consensus, maybe hoping that a gang mentality would eventually take hold so that his sock puppets could be eventually phased out.

This post, though, is about none of those things.  Oedipus and Greg Laden and others have done a fantastic job of documenting the rise and spectacular fall of YNH.

This is about the last post on YNH, the one that should have been an apology to people who were attacked and villified by one person masquerading as many.  It should have been an apology; what we got instead was an admission and finger pointing.  It wasn’t even a good admission.  Admissions should involve some degree of humility, some indication that the author bears responsibility for both the actions and the consequences.

So to Will, what I want to talk about is that last post; the missed opportunity to make a bad situation better and possibly save what could have been a welcome voice in the blogosphere: (more…)

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