A few months ago, in response to a rumor that Ophelia Benson, an atheist and feminist activist, was also a transphobe (a bigot against transgendered people), she was targeted by a massive witch hunt similar to the one on tumblr stirred up against Lacy Green years earlier. As a result, Benson left Freethought Blogs (FTB) in disgust and founded her own personal blog elsewhere, badly damaging the credibility of FTB, so much so that one of its founding members, Ed Brayton, also took down his blog there and moved to another network.
Now Benson has been attacked again, in reference to Richard Dawkins suffering a mild stroke recently. Around the same time, he was disinvited to a skeptics conference and then just as quickly reinvited to it. The battle between them produced the exchange of the following statements between them and one of Dawkins’ fanatical followers.
First read this entry by Benson:
Dawkins then said:
Ophelia is apparently so eager to revel in the victim’s-eye-view of the underside of the bus, she overlooked the fact that I actually said the exact OPPOSITE of what she so spitefully alleges. I said it MIGHT have seemed easy to claim that my stroke was caused by the stress of being disinvited by NECSS. But I went on explicitly to rule that out because the stroke came AFTER the joyful news that NECSS had decided to re-invite me. And that, by the way, also rules out the equally spiteful suggestion, by one of the commenters on this site, that the NECSS change of mind was a cowardly response to my stroke. To repeat, for the benefit of those who seem to have difficulty understanding plain English, the wonderful (and stress-REDUCING) news of NECSS’s courageous change of mind arrived, and greatly cheered me up, BEFORE my stroke.
And I most certainly do not “jeer at feminism”. I remain a passionate feminist who looks at the world beyond America and clearly sees that by far the majority of misogynistic atrocities are committed in the name of Islam.
I await Ophelia’s apology and thank her in advance for it.
Benson then replied:
First of all, I reiterate what I said in the post – I would never have wished illness or disability on you (and I never did), and I’m sorry it happened to you. That’s the first thing I said in the post, and I meant it.
Next – I don’t agree that I “revel in the victim’s-eye-view of the underside of the bus.” I think that accusation is just more of the jeering at feminism that I accused you of and that you deny. I don’t in fact think that I personally am a victim, in general, although it’s undeniable that I’m a target of a great deal of very ugly verbal harassment. But I don’t object to your extended series of Dear Muslimas because they victimize me – of course they don’t. I object to them because I think they help exclude women from the atheist / secularist movement, directly and also indirectly by encouraging your less thoughtful fans to harass women. We talked about this in our email exchange leading up to the statement – I told you then that harassers take comfort and inspiration from your example.
Next, no, I didn’t overlook the rest of what you said. That’s why I said “he’s sort of kind of blaming us for his stroke” – sort of kind of is there for a reason. You did mention it after all, and there is such a thing as implication. I think you have a tendency, at least on Twitter, to imply things and then get indignant when people understand your implication.
Finally, yes, you do indeed jeer at feminism; you do it all the time. And we all know you consider yourself “a passionate feminist who looks at the world beyond America and clearly sees that by far the majority of misogynistic atrocities are committed in the name of Islam.” We know that very well, you’ve said it repeatedly. That’s another one of those implications, by the way – you left unsaid the part you want us to understand: “and therefore I get impatient with American women who complain of inappropriate touching at the water cooler or invitations for coffee.” That’s a jeer right there, and a rather contemptuous belittling.
It’s not your job to tell American feminists what we get to care about and talk about. It’s really not. I don’t see you scolding anti-racism activists in the US, so why do you consider it up to you to scold US feminists?
We can care about more than one thing. We can also care about different things. Consider yourself – you spend time scolding feminists on Twitter when there are much worse things elsewhere you could be working on. You pay attention to church-state issues in the US and UK when you could be paying attention to theocracy in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. So what? You can pay attention to more than one thing, and so can we. You can choose your subjects, and so can we. We don’t need you telling us that misogynist atrocities in the name of Islam are worse than anything we confront.
So I’m sorry, but I can’t give you the exact apology you asked for.
In case you are wondering what “Dear Muslima” is about:
Who the hell is Dawkins to be telling any woman that some mistreatments of women in the west should be tolerated because mistreatment of women by Muslim men in the Middle East and elsewhere is often worse?! That doesn’t make any sense. Unless you consider that the Western men doing the abuse of women are fellow atheists, of course. Because bashing outsiders for their vile deeds is more important than trying to clean up your own community to set an example for the outsiders to learn from. That is what hypocrisy is all about, Dick Dawkins!
Then a weapons-grade asshole siding with Dawkins weighed in on Dawkins’ own site:
The SJWs keep bringing up Richard’s “Dear Muslima” comment, and keep deliberately misinterpreting it. Because that’s what they do. They lie, and lie, and lie some more. I’m thinking of folk like Adam Lee, who claimed in a piece in The Guardian that Richard was essentially arguing that women in Muslim theocracies have it much worse than women in the West, and that therefore the latter should remain silent about “sexual harassment and physical intimidation”.
I can imagine how infuriating such dishonesty must be to Richard. He should (and probably does) realize that SJWs are much like fundie believers. They are equally dogmatic; they are opposed to free speech (who needs free speech, when your side has all the correct answers?); and they routinely lie for The Cause. They are totally dishonest. It is no use trying to reason with the likes of Adam Lee, PZ Myers or Ophelia Benson.
What you should never do when dealing with such people:
Apologize to them. First of all, they will rarely accept an apology. They will try to find reasons to dismiss it, and call it a not-pology. Secondly, they will treat the apology as a confession of guilt, a confirmation of their righteousness. Your apology can and will be used against you. Thirdly, they will never apologize to you (look at Benson’s response to Richard).
Believe them on their word. When they appear to sound reasonable it’s because you are hearing the Motte of their Motte and Bailey doctrine. They will say “Why are you against us? Don’t you think women are people too?” It’s exactly the same trick the Christians pull, when they say “Why do you oppose our religion? Don’t you want to behave ethically?”
Try to reason with them. Like hardened Maoists or cult members, they firmly believe they already have all the answers. You cannot convince them of anything they don’t already believe. In their unshakeable opinion, it’s you who has to listen and believe.
Believe that they see you as a fellow human being. They don’t. They are identitarians. To them you are not an individual person, with his or her own ideas and unique life experience, but a point in a fictional space spanned by axes of oppression. If you are deemed to be inordinately privileged (that is, if you are a cishet white male), then that defines you. All you are supposed to do is grovel and be a good ally to the “oppressed”. Your opinion, your ideas, your experience don’t count. Shut up and listen to the people who are punching up: this is what is demanded of you.
What you should do:
Mock them relentlessly for the ridiculous authoritarians they are. Never make them appear credible.
Make your point once, very clearly, and then stop engaging them.
Never forget that you are dealing with totally dishonest ideologues who can’t be trusted.
I wish Richard a full and speedy recovery. Don’t let the Regressives get you.
SJWs = Social Justice Warriors = feminists like Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Watson, P Z Myers. and myself. This is a term used exclusively by anti-feminists.
I do wonder how one can “Mock them relentlessly” but also “Make [one’s] point once, very clearly, and then stop engaging them.”
With a dishonest and abusive attitude like that, Hermann Steinpilz deserves only one response from me:
Fuck you in the lowest pit of HELL!
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