AS271: Living Up To Smalley’s Message

I’ve gotten quite a few requests that I comment on David Smalley’s debate with PZ Meyers, so in today’s episode I do just that. Smalley has a message of putting aside our petty differences in service of the atheism movement as a whole. Find the Patheos article here. Find out my take on his post and on his debate, and whether or not David has lived up to his own message. As a hint, see the attached PDF.

PDF of the Smalley-Torrez interaction

The above interaction was on a public Facebook post and is viewable by anyone, so I’m PDFing it for ease.

122 thoughts on “AS271: Living Up To Smalley’s Message”

  1. One big sticking point between us Thomas is you seem to think that calling people fat, or ugly (something the extreme among the anti-SJW crowd engage in) is worse than dishonestly calling people racists, misogynists, or Islamophobes, which even the mainstream among the SJW’s engage in (The treatment of Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins for example). While calling someone fat, or ugly might hurt their feelings, calling someone a racist et al. is much more destructive, and can destroy their reputation or potentially even their livelihood, as we’ve seen repeatedly. This girl killed herself just due to fear she might be called a racist.

    1. Worse is a relative term. What is worse for you may not be for others and vice versa. Your also assuming that those people don’t think that Sam is a racist, I would hope you would take them at their word. It doesn’t mean they are right but you are assigning motive where you have no evidence that they are willingly lying. I personally don’t think Sam is a racist or a bad guy, I just think some of his ideas are shit and some of them are good like most of our ideas.

      I think calling people SJWs as a dismissive term shows disregard for actual discourse. And shows that your argument may not be any better. I’m not saying you were doing it but whenever I see “SJW” in someone’s comments it gets harder to read what the person has to say without thinking they are an asshole. That’s my own personal bias.

      1. “Worse is a relative term. What is worse for you may not be for others and vice versa.”

        I suppose so, but only if you have particularly fragile feelings is being called fat going to be more bothersome than being called things that can destroy your reputation, and livelihood. And that’s true whether the person saying it believes it to be true or not.

        1. Honestly you sound like you want a safe space to me. If Sam, Dawkins, etc.. wants to be in the public sphere they need to grow a pair and be ready for the fact that some people aren’t going to like them.

          1. “Honestly you sound like you want a safe space to me.”

            To the contrary. I want no double standards. If you call me a racist, hurt my feelings, potentially destroy my reputation, and career, then don’t whinge, and play the victim if I call you a fat ugly cunt.

        2. “To the contrary. I want no double standards. If you call me a racist, hurt my feelings, potentially destroy my reputation, and career, then don’t whinge, and play the victim if I call you a fat ugly cunt.”

          Wanting no double standards and a safespace (meaning hiding from criticism) are not mutually exclusive. You seem to want both.

          If racism was as overt as obesity we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Imagine if that were so. The consequences of being called racist wouldn’t apply. It would be an unnecessary acknowledgement of something we already know.

          Let’s break down how you framed this. Any accusation of racism, unfounded or not, is so profound it will devastate your reputation forever. In 2016, we all live with this risk. On the other hand, anyone upset about being purposelessly insulted about their appearance must be particularly fragile. Seeing as how I deal with the latter far more than the man-bites-dog anti-racist witch hunt, I’m going to assume you’re stretching reality to fit your false dilemma.

          I don’t have to choose between a world where everyone is callous to calling each other misogynist fat racist cunts and worldwide

          I hope we can agree “hurt feelings” isn’t the only barometer for decency. Sometimes for authenticity’s sake feelings need to get hurt.

          I think I’d agree with you if you said making accusations should be taken more seriously, or that an accusation shouldn’t necessarily be the end of a conversation.

          Also, I agree with Ahuman666 that “SJW” (used pejoratively or not) is like insecticide for nuance, like a flag for the Us and Them.

        3. If someone calls you racist because something you’ve said seemed racist to them is very different from someone calling you a fat, ugly cunt just because they want to hurt you.

          1. If someone disingenuously, or uncharitably misinterprets, or misrepresents something you said, and calls you a racist for saying it, how is that any better than an ad hominem? I would argue it’s worse because it’s intent is to silence, ostracize, and it could potentially result in you losing your job. Being called a fat, ugly cunt is only going to hurt your feelings, and even then only if you are particularly sensitive to insults from people who have no real relevance in your life.

          2. Sorry. I didn’t read your comment closely enough. I missed that you were talking about people pretending that they’ve found something racist, misogynist, etc. rather than someone who actually feels that way. This does raise a question however, how are you determining who is being dishonest?

          3. “how are you determining who is being dishonest?”

            If I’m the target of you calling me a racist or a sexist I’m determining it based on the fact that I know I’m not a racist, or sexist. So my point is calling you fat, or ugly it would be a pretty minor response to your publicly shaming me in the eyes of decent people. Something that could have significant real life ramifications.

          4. “how are you determining who is being dishonest?”
            “If I’m the target of you calling me a racist or a sexist I’m determining it based on the fact that I know I’m not a racist, or sexist.”

            That’s faulty reasoning. Just because you don’t find your words and actions to be racist, sexist, etc. that doesn’t mean that someone else who says they find your words and/or actions to be racist, sexist, etc. is lying.

          5. “that doesn’t mean that someone else who says they find your words and/or actions to be racist, sexist, etc. is lying.”

            I don’t understand the relevance of that? Of course it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying. As I said they could also be giving it an uncharitable interpretation. I suppose they could also simply be an idiot in which case I might add idiot to fat, and ugly.

          6. You specified people being dishonest in your first comment… which I’m on board with. If someone calls you racist just to hurt you and not because they think you’ve actually been racist, that’s outrageous. What constitutes an uncharitable misinterpretation?

          7. “What constitutes an uncharitable misinterpretation?”

            Sam Harris is a case study in that, but if you’re looking for a specific example, it would be something like saying Hillary wants to start WWIII because she supports a no-fly zone over Syria.

          8. Do you think this guy has a point?

            ARTVOICE: What would you most like to happen in 2017?

            PALADINO: Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.

            ARTVOICE: What would you most like to see go in 2017?

            PALADINO: Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.

            Paladino has denied that his comments were racist. “It has nothing to do with race,” Paladino told the Washington Post. “That’s the typical stance of the press when they can’t otherwise defend the acts of the person being attacked. It’s about 2 progressive elitist ingrates who have hated their country so badly and destroyed its fabric in so many respects in 8 years.”

    2. I wanted to comment on this, because I research suicide, and I think it’s important to note that the mental illness with the highest mortality rate is Anorexia Nervosa. Partly this is due to the high comorbidity between Anorexia and suicide. I don’t mean to imply calling someone fat or ugly will cause them to develop symptoms of an eating disorder, however, there’s a huge interaction between eating disorders, shame, and percieved negative evaluation.

      Additionally, reading your comment reminded me of an incident from last year in which a young woman died by suicide after a video was posted of her father cutting her hair to punish her for misbehaving. I think it’s grossly irresponsible for the writer of the article you included in your comment to present this young woman’s death as being definitively caused/motivated by fears of being perceived as racist, and I won’t repeat their mistake by asserting that the young woman I referenced died as a result of being shamed online. But, I think it’s worth noting that a willingness to attempt suicide does not speak to the legitimacy of an anticipated negative outcome. Likewise, whether or not you think it’s legitimate for people to be negatively affected by accusations of anything other than racism, they are.

      Also, I think we agree that shaming is a serious problem, but I think we’re being pretty quick to assume negative backlash in response to “identified racists” is solely comprised of SJW activists. I’ve seen anti-SJW proponents argue that oversensitive SJW’s distract from the “real racists.” Yes, anti-SJW’s might be hesitant to call out microaggressions, but why should we assume that they’ve taken a principled stance against criticizing people they deem to be “legitimately” racist? I’ve seen anti-SJW’s glibby advise strangers online to kill themselves for offending some deeply held anti-SJW values.

      Lastly, how can we be expected to accept that there are such dire consequences to being labelled a racist when anti-SJW’s so casually dismiss claims that there are harmful consequences to the incidents activists highlight?

      1. “I wanted to comment on this, because I research suicide, and I think it’s important to note that the mental illness with the highest mortality rate is Anorexia Nervosa.”

        So if an adult insults me by calling me a racist is it OK for me to insult them by calling them a fat idiot, while responding to their criticism, if I give them a trigger warning first? I’m sorry, but in my book calling someone a racist is orders of magnitude worse than calling them fat. If you can’t stand the heat, as the expression goes. It should be pretty obvious to someone who is overweight that if they say something people are going to take personally, that there’s a good possibility that’s going to be brought up. You have no business when it is to play the victim.

    3. Calling someone racist has value, because that person and others around can evaluate whether or not the action actually was racist. Calling someone fat, ugly, or a gender specific slur has no value other than meanness. (I see from your post below that you like to employ meanness.)
      Racism is not the same as intent. If you step on my toe but didn’t intend to, do you say “No I didn’t!”? Denial is not negation of the fact. You still hurt my foot. If someone tells you that you did something racist, your first effort should be to inquire and learn, not to negate.

      1. “Calling someone racist has value, because that person and others around can evaluate whether or not the action actually was racist.”

        Did you miss the part about dishonestly calling someone a racist? Meaning their intent was to silence, destroy the person’s reputation, or career. It wasn’t so the person or others could “evaluate whether or not the action actually was racist”.

      2. Calling someone racist has about the same value as calling someone an imbecile. They will never agree, and the conversation will almost always turn into an insult fest or just shut down. There are, of course, exceptions, especially with good friends who can actually get past the hurt feelings and deal with the truths that may be uncovered. That’s why it’s way better to simply say you think the statement or action is racist, and why without accusing the person of being a bigot.

        I’ve had this conversation hundreds of time in a forum I frequent where the moderator enforces a “no personal attacks” rule, banning people for getting nasty. However, calling someone a disgusting racist, sexist, homophobe, islamophobe bigot doesn’t count as a personal attack. How about them apples?

    4. Racism takes place in the realm of ideas. Being obese is a health problem. I think it’s far better to attack someone for their ideas than their physical attributes.

      1. “I think it’s far better to attack someone for their ideas than their physical attributes.”

        Assuming you actually read my comment this perfectly illustrates a big problem with online discourse. You can deliberately, and dishonestly misrepresent someone’s position, and call them a racist, misogynist, Islamophobe, destroying someone’s reputation, and potentially putting their livelihood at risk, but if you angrily respond and call someone a fat ugly idiot, and god forbid others come to your defense, you’re the bad guy who sicked a mob on them, and they’re the victim.

        1. Even if you are falsely accused of being racist, that is still an idea of yours being misrepresented and used to attack you. Ideas are fair game because you chose to put your opinion out there. If you speak an idea into the public square, that idea is open to criticism. Your weight is not what you submitted to be judged. Maybe if we were talking about a beauty parent you’d have an argument.

          1. I hope the fantasy world you’re living in, or would like to live in, where no one can be judged without their permission, implicit, or explicit, isn’t someplace I ever have to live in.

  2. I’m not a big salute the flag type, despite being a veteran, so I don’t really care that he sat, but my perception is that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of what the national anthem is about. Standing for it isn’t about showing your approval for US policy, it’s about supporting the ideals we purport to stand for as a nation. Ideals we don’t always live up to, or those which for example give a football player the right to sit during the national anthem.

  3. I think you are missing what this SJW debate is really about. It isn’t really about trigger warnings; it is about atheists not wanting to be called racist for criticizing Islam. The opposite of the “anti-sjw” crowd aren’t usually talking about trigger warnings; They are the people saying all the nonsense Talib Kweli was saying last week (if you criticize Islam, you are a white supremacist, and, if do so while being a PoC, you are some sort of race traitor), so I think maybe those are the types of examples you should give for the other extreme.

    This split began when Sam Harris went on Bill Maher with Ben Afleck (before that, there wasn’t a lot of debate between new atheists and liberals). After that, a lot of people that Harris fans thought were on their side, came out and said they agree that Sam and Bill are bigots. A big part of the reason why Rubin left The Young Turks was because TYT kept going after Sam in dishonest ways after that Bill Maher interview. That is why he had Sam on as his first guest after leaving TYT. I think the whole trigger warning safe space thing was an afterthought, just more ammunition to throw at the “you’re a racist!” people to say “see, we are the real liberals; you try to silence discussion,” but it was bad ammunition because people are confused about what the words even mean. Rubin went on to have anyone on who took the anti-SJW line, and that brought a lot of right-wingers like Milo (who’s no fan of atheism) into the fold, and now it is a mess (I keep seeing Milo/Trump supporter commenting on Harris’ twitter saying they lost all respect for him when he came out against Trump).

    1. Thanks for the update Seth. I witnesses all of that, but having just learned about it, I did not realize the “split” between the atheist community started with the Sam Harris/Afleck exchange. While I don’t totally agree with Harris and I think Maher is sloppy (to be edgy), I simply cannot fathom how anyone who claims to be atheist can take Afleck’s side on this matter. It never occured to me that anyone who understands why we criticise religion would think we’re being bigots.

  4. Yea I kind of thought the same thing when I listened to the podcast he did. I also never realized pz was such an asshole. Looking forward to listening to yours.

    1. PZ has been an asshole for years. He is an ideologue and showed it so clearly while talking to David. With PZ you either 100% on his team or you are the devil.

      1. Yea, PZ flip flopped so much in the discussion i couldn’t even tell what they were arguing about. It seemed that they were having two different discussions.

        Not that Smalley did a great job or anything. I’m not sure why people assume that atheists have anything is common other than not believing in gods. A large fraction of them aren’t even skeptical,

  5. I’ll try not to pimp the NRR blog post that I linked in the last post, but I’ll try to sum up the discussions on racism succinctly

    I think that the term racism developed as more of an academic thing. If you’re going to study racism as a thing, at least sociologically where we are trying to solve large-scale institutional problems, it’s going to be institutionalized and cultural biases. We already have a term for the bias which is “prejudice”, and it’s helpful to distinguish the two.

    Also, there’s the dynamic of prejudice and power. Calling someone names is shitty, but if someone doesn’t have societal power or privilege over you it doesn’t actually affect your livelihood beyond the effects of bullying, which is still bad but at least you can live with relative freedom away from that person. Think of it in terms of LGBTQ. The Andersons and the Mannings of the world are total assholes, but really they are angry men yelling at clouds. The bigger problems are job discrimination and not even being able to pee without being in fear.

    While being more on the social justice “side”, this is one thing that I’ve seen my peers fall short on. Because this usage is not as popular in common parlance as the other usage, and words don’t have inherent meanings. I don’t think the definition has “changed”, like you said, it’s just adopted another usage that’s a bit more rigorous. It does no good to insist on one usage of a label. The idea itself is the important part.

    1. With regard to the “academic” definition of racism, I get that. You’re talking about critical race theory. I have read up on CRT a bit, and there is a lot to it. I think it’s can make a big difference fighting racism moving forward as it’s advocates spread the word.

      One problem I see, (a big one that is the focus of much of the divide I believe), is that while most academics welcome criticism, understanding that their theories can only be improved by them, so many of the advocates of CRT do not seem very comfortable with criticism. That puts the entire movement at risk, imo, making them and (by extension) the theory look indefensible.

      I have a lot of questions I’d like to grill an expert on CRT about, like the current discussion on why they choose to use such a confusing definition for starters, but also much of the way they look at Indigenous people and past imperialism. I’ll be honest, I haven’t found many advocates who could make much sense of it to me.

  6. Also, I think you characterized the debate perfectly. David characterized the little squabbles between friends as something breaking up the atheist movement, which I don’t agree with at all.

    There are not just some differences in opinion, these are major differences in paradigm. There isn’t really one movement, there’s a lot of movements with a lot of overlap. And one side is the one trying to change the harms that religion has caused for the world regardless of whether it’s “atheism” or not, and the other seems concerned with keeping everything an “atheist movement only” and is unhappy with other causes being included. I don’t demand that everyone take up the cause that I think is useful, so I don’t insist that people fight for social justice causes. However, if someone is actively tearing down my work I have no use for them.

    People act as if this unnecessarily divides us and prevents us from getting to our goal, but I think that assumes our goal. I don’t care that much about making atheism a big thing so much as correcting the wrongs that religion has institutionalized (LGBTQ and gender issues, race, etc.). There are atheists who don’t share that same goal apparently, so why would I want to work with them? Just to fight separation of church and state better? I could see myself being at a protest with a Thunderf00t, but I have no use for one in the communities and organizations everyday.

    Trying to bridge the gap is fine, but I don’t see much reason to try and ensure that two big movements with two separate ideals should try and get together.

  7. I did listen to your rebuttal to my comment and I’d prefer to avoid another diatribe because I think the conversation between PZ Myers and David Smally is far more interesting/prescient.

    Suffice it to say, however, that I think you should check out the link below on Tommy Robinson and the EDL because you made several pleas for me to look into the EDL (believe me I have) when determining the relative worth of Tommy Robinson. Tommy Robinson left the EDL and did so by giving a speech via the Quilliam foundation, which is run by Majeed Nawaz.

    Tommy Robinson’s main contention with the modern day EDL, as he has espoused in multiple interviews/speeches, is that it was taken over by the far right and no longer represents what he created it for. He now openly stands against the thing he created and I have to applaud him for it.

    Also, I DO think you were being hyperbolic when you said that Robinson’s antics towards Namazie were akin to a white guy calling a black guy the N word in a moment of pettiness. The two are nowhere near comparable.

    Lastly, having met Milo in person and finding him personally affable, I disagree with him on nearly 100% of the things he espouses. You can see him on Joe Rogan’s podcast being taken to task. In fact, after being so obviously eviscerated during his first appearance, Milo openly avoided several topics the second time he appeared. Joe Rogan is a perfect example of why we need to engage people like Milo, rather than try to censor them. Milo utterly fails to sound convincing in his arguments when held up to scrutiny by Rogan. If everywhere he went he ran into people arguing like Rogan, Milo would have no chance but to marginalize himself. His arguments were that bad.

    This brings me to the point of this post: the David Smalley V. PZ Myers ‘debate’. As you can imagine, I am no fan of PZ Myers. Oh boy can I not stand that troll. What I think the real issue – aside from the social justice debate – we are seeing in the atheist community is the inability to even entertain opposing thought. I primarily see this happening on the ‘pro social justice’ side. PZ Myers made this stance clear as he – with exasperated breath – admonished Smalley for not recognizing the TREMENDOUS gulf between the warring factions in the atheist movement. To PZ Myers, the people he disagrees with are so utterly without worth – intellectually and personally – that not only should you not entertain their ideas, you should do everything you can to stop them from being able to espouse them in the first place.

    This brings me back to your issues with Dave Rubin: you have taken him to task for being uncritical to guests (which I feel is more of a style choice than failing on his part) and for having a preponderance of right wing/”new atheist”/libertarian voices and not enough from the progressive left. I think this is a problem too, but I think it’s for reasons other than lack of interest on the part of Dave Rubin. Just the other day, he had Roasanne Barr on his show. You can’t get more left wing than her. She isn’t the first leftist guest he has had either.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of – and probably have distaste for – a relatively popular youtube atheist named Sargon of Akkad. He has attempted to reach out to Steve Shives (of the infamous #BlockedbySteveShives hashtag) in order to discuss – rationally – their differences of opinion on the very same social justice debate PZ Myers and Smalley were discussing and you mention in your podcast. He even went as far as offering to donate 1k dollars to the charity of Steve’s choice in order to hold this debate so that both sides could have a conversation outside of profanity laced blog posts/youtube videos.

    Instead of agreeing, Steve Shives made a “5 toxic things about youtube atheism” video where he makes a bunch of veiled character assassinations against fellow youtube atheists, without naming them personally of course. It was a PZ Myers bolshevik (yeah I like coming back to that word for good reason) saveging in video form.

    Regardless of what you think about The Amazing Atheist, you should watch his “the beautiful destruction of Steve Shives” video as it demonstrates the issue with ideologues like PZ Myers and Steve Shives. Steve has been open about his hatred of The Amazing Atheist and how he would take down his channel if he could. To him, TJ has no worth and should be actively censored.

    PZ Myers himself has determined the networth of anti social justice atheists to be approaching 0 and he refuses to even entertain their arguments, let alone their presence at conventions he’s attending. You’ve read his blog posts – as you stated on your podcast – so you know the level of discourse he prefers to engage in and I’m sure you’re aware of his willingness to de-platform people whose opinion he finds to be toxic.

    What we need in the atheist community is the ability to disagree – vehemently at times – while still being able to allow for an opposition of ideas. Instead, we are seeing – primarily from the pro social justice side I’d argue – is an unwillingness to directly entertain opposing ideas in formal debate and, even worse, a willingness to try and silence opposing views from even being allowed to exist. The atheist community – IMHO – should be fighting against the very idea of thought crimes and not presiding judgement over those we deem guilty of it.

    The only reason we’re allowed to have these debates – as atheists – is because we live in a country that affords us freedom of speech (both protections from government censorship and also the ideals behind free speech held by individuals in society that we should strive for). Atheism, as is evident in Pew Research polls, is the least tolerable ‘belief’ to the American population. I think it’s sadly ironic that we’re becoming so intolerant of opposing ideas ourselves. It’s gotten to the point that our conventions are turning into ghost towns because people like me are feeling unwelcome because I don’t toe the party line. I firmly believe that the Reason Rally’s attendance was so dismal because of this very issue we’re seeing.

    This isn’t about politely arguing our differences behind closed doors. PZ is right that the divide between the likes of him and myself are FAR too great for that. It’s being able to tolerate a difference of opinion without feeling you have to censor the opposition or try to ruin them personally.

    I’m partly an atheist because I spent HOURS upon HOURS watching debates between atheists and theists on youtube. I find it sadly ironic that atheists are so willing to debate non-atheists on matters of faith, dogmatism, and the dangers of unchecked ideology but when there is an ideological disagreement within the atheist community we hunker down into camps and do our best to un-person the opposing side so we can justify ignoring them, censoring them, or worse.

    If we can’t debate the merit of our ideas in a rational, polite, and official capacity we should at least be able to entertain both sides of an argument at the same event, even if that means opposing panels on different days so guests who differ never have to meet. That’s what Smalley, and every voice in the atheist community, should be striving for. Unfortunately, we’re way past the point of polite phone calls.

    You were wondering if I still listen to your show?

    Looks like I still do 😉

    1. Received and read. Thanks Devin. I don’t think we see eye to eye on much but I respect your opinion and I see better where you’re coming from now. Maybe I should try to have Sargon on the show or something. I just never dreamed he would come on.

      1. Give him a shot, he’s always seemed willing to speak to people with opposing ideas.

        Also, we agree on much more than you think. Economically, I’m very much a social democrat. I’m very pro living wage, universal healthcare, progressive taxation, stronger regulations, anti-anti-worker trade deals (TPP etc), deflating the military budget etc.

        I just have a VERY strong libertarian streak in me when it comes to matters of speech and free expression. I’ll always prefer more speech as the answer rather than any attempts to curtail speech because the answer to questions like “what is harmful and toxic speech?” is highly subjective and prone to abuse/tribalism/ideological purity tests/dogmatism/confirmation bias etc by whichever current arbiter de jour you’ve aligned yourself with.

    2. Wow, Devin, I just started listening to atheist podcasts, having only discovered I’m atheist a few years ago. If what you just described is true, I’m amazed. I’m gonna have to dig into this and figure out why so many presumably skeptical atheists who respect objective reasoning are falling into this social justice orthodoxy that embraces shutting down points of view they strongly disagree with. Haven’t they read their Mill, their Locke? What is going on here?

  8. “Maybe I should try to have Sargon on the show or something. I just never dreamed he would come on.”

    Please don’t. Sargon is the PZ of the anti-SJW’s. And don’t ask me who you should have on. While I consider myself an anti-SJW there is no one who’s representative of my views. Most are too extreme. Jerry Coyne is probably the closest I can think of, but even he fails in respect he has for some people I have none for. Perhaps he’s just not fully versed in some of the things they say.

    1. I would suggest Armour Skeptic over Sargon. Skeptic is far more measured in his approach. I would also suggest Logicked but I think he is backing away from the SJW debate to focus on Islam.

    2. “Sargon is the PZ of the anti-SJW’s.”

      I’m sorry but I don’t see the comparison, at all. Sargon does not censor, de platform, or character assassinate (yes he can be insulting in videos – not usually to ones face – but he doesn’t call people racist/sexist/misogynist/transphobic to harm their credibility. He is strong in his opinions but entirely willing to entertain anyone who disagrees. Please provide examples where I’m wrong.

      This is the issue though. Obviously Thomas and Sargon are both something of prominent atheists in the community and a conversation between them on their differences would be productive, and entertaining. Yet, there are already calls to avoid the debate because someone doesn’t find Sargon’s views worthy of being addressed because he’s “too extreme”.

      Carl Benjamin (Sargon’s real name) is not an extremist. He’s not even a conservative. We need to get over this idea that someone is too extreme to address, especially when they speak for a LARGE segment of our overall population. I love Sargon. All you’re going to do is make him seem even more right because he can say “aha ..see…the ‘tolerant’ are so very intolerant of opposing thought”.

      You say you’re anti-SJW but NONE of the anti-SJW voices in the Atheist movement should be brought on because they dont’ represent YOUR views?

      A. so?

      B. You’re clearly not part of the anti-SJW camp if not a single of the prominent anti-SJW voices represent your views. The Amazing Atheist has 1 million + subscribers. Armoured Skeptic and Sargon both have 300K+ and Thunderf00t has 600K+. These people represent the anti-sjw side of atheism, like it or not, and they have HUGE audiences. If you want to engage in this debate, honestly, you have no choice but to do it with them. To pick someone less ‘extreme’ would be tantamount to arguing against a strawman since you’d be picking someone who doesn’t represent their views but instead views more in line with the pro-sjw side.

      I think Sargon would be great.

      1. “I’m sorry but I don’t see the comparison”

        In the same way that PZ zealously sees racism, sexism, Islamophobia everywhere, and assumes racist, sexist, and Islamophobic motivations behind every criticism of “SJW’s”, Sargon is almost as zealously blind to real cases of racism, sexism, and homophobia, and assumes people who criticize “SJW’s” aren’t racists sexists, and Islamophobes.

        He also seems completely oblivious to the fact that systemic historic racism is still a problem today. In that respect while I wouldn’t go so far as call him a racist he’s certainly consider him ignorant, and racially insensitive, and I see that as a widespread problem among my fellow anti-SJW’s. I understand it’s difficult to criticize groups like BLM, or feminism without appearing to be at least borderline racist, or sexist, but Sargon doesn’t always do a very good job staying on the right side of that line, and his audience rarely if ever call him on it when he crosses it. I’ve tried, but he has never once responded to my reasonable, and respectful criticism.

        1. That’s the problem. You just equated PZ Myer’s subjective condemnation of peoples character with your subjective opinion that Sargon is blind to racism/sexism and called them the same thing.

          The only similarity I see is that both you and PZ are making value judgements against Sargon. PZ undoubtably views Sargon as a hateful bigot and you’re being much more charitable and effectively calling him ignorant to the truth you clearly see.

          It’s entirely possible he just disagrees with you on what you deem to be racist/sexist and it would make for a productive conversation if someone like him and Thomas were to hash it out, even if they ultimately agreed to disagree.

          As for why he hasn’t responded to your criticism:

          I’ve been trying to get into his pants for well over a year now and yet my love remains unrequired. Maybe he’s just too good for us little people.

      2. “The Amazing Atheist has 1 million + subscribers. Armoured Skeptic and Sargon both have 300K+ and Thunderf00t has 600K+. These people represent the anti-sjw side of atheism, like it or not, and they have HUGE audiences.”

        I would prefer to see the The Amazing Atheist on than the others you’ve mentioned. despite the fact I’ve often disagreed with him, in the 10 years I’ve followed him I’ve seen him change his opinion repeatedly, even instantly when subjected to evidence that brings his opinion into question. Somehow he seems to avoid the echo chamber others with large followings get trapped in. Perhaps it’s because of the disdain he has for most people who aren’t him. I suspect if he were on with Thomas people would find him to be much more nuanced in his opinions than he sometimes appears to be in his video’s.

        1. I’d like him too but I fear a lot of people would immediately cringe because of his more outlandish nature – however much a characture it is – but you’re right: he is much more nuanced.

          Check him out on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The dude has some intellectual chops.

          1. “Check him out on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The dude has some intellectual chops.”

            Thanks for the heads up, never knew he was on there, I’ll check it out.

  9. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comment from last week. I see your point about inadvertently leaving out the big, seemingly obvious ideas while focusing on a smaller, more counter-intuitive aspect during a particular discussion.

    I apologize if my comment came off as too critical. I was aiming for more of a nitpick on the part about conflating the terms racism and prejudice. I agree it’s important to clarify how we’re using words while engaging with other people, and I think it’s valid to examine how usage helps or hinders our ability to communicate.

    I can empathize when you talk about struggling with the definition of racism suddenly having changed. I had some truly embarrassing conversations as an undergrad in which (not unlike the Trump spokesperson I called out in my previous comment) I arrogantly/myopically tried to explain to friends, who were people of color, that changing the meaning of the term “racism” to conflate it with “structural racism” was undermining their advocacy work, “because you can’t fight discrimination with more discrimination” (or something equally as vapid).

    After engaging more personally and academically with advocates and people of color, my conception shifted so that instead of viewing the “change” in definition as a deliberate move on the part of activists, I viewed it as me gaining a more nuanced understanding of the term. Essentially, it was like learning that the word “gravity” describes “things falling toward the ground”, then learning about space and recognizing that it describes “the attraction of bodies toward one another”, and then after being introduced to more advanced physics, beginning to understand that gravity is the result of “massive objects curving spacetime.” It’s not necessarily wrong to use the first definition of gravity, particularly in casual conversation, but if you want to develop cellphone navigation technology that relies on satellite transmission, which requires factoring in distortion due to the change in spacetime in objects further from the Earth, “things fall toward the ground” doesn’t cut it.

    I think Jeremiah Traeger addressed the issue well in an earlier comment, so I would just want to add that while it is confusing (and I definitely fail to appreciate that enough, despite having struggled considerably), I think using the contextually nuanced definition of racism has the benefit of highlighting the importance of social inequality during these discussions. I think if we discuss racism as prejudice, we too often drift into speculation about what’s happening inside a person, and we shift the criteria by which we judge racism’s “badness”. It’s not a problem that people are racists “because it’s bad to be a racist,” it’s a problem that a society is racist because it disenfranchises people who are not part of the mainstream race. A contextually informed definition of racism lets advocates say it’s not enough for a person to say “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” if their actions continue to propagate a system that disenfranchises people of a particular race.

    1. Excellent comment. I appreciate the input. I think that makes sense. I want to have more of a discussion on it later. I worry that people will be tired of these topics, but I certainly am not.

      1. When the meanings of words change so much then what do we use to replace the word that no longer applies. Anyone can hate anyone else based on skin colour or ethnicity, that used to be racism but now racism includes power so what is the word we use to describe hated people based on skin colour or ethnicity?

        Similar to misogyny, that used to be hatred of women but now means what chauvinist used to mean.

        The broadening of definitions makes communication really difficult since we can use the same words but I 40yo and a 20yo think they mean very different things.

        1. We use the word prejudice.

          As for meanings “changing”, again, these aren’t new definitions but rather a more complex definition than the definition we were taught as children.

          1. Prejudice is just pre judging people which is not racism. I can pre judge white men like Ryan Lotche or whatever his name is with it being racial.

          2. I guess you could use context clues…? If your time isn’t too valuable, you could say racial prejudice, or racial bias. You could hyphenate it, or say it real fast, if you really need one word to convey the whole thing (while also leaving out the socio-political context that makes the terms relevant). I mean, you’d still have to expand on it to convey your meaning, because saying “that’s racist” (i.e., prejudiced) doesn’t let the person you’re speaking to know which races you think the statement is prejudiced against (e.g., white, black, asian, latinx, etc).

            Honestly, what I’m hearing is that the way you use the word racism doesn’t require, and is not helped, by the cultural context of racial inequality in the US. People who have a vested interest in discussing and addressing that racial inequality seem to find the inclusion of that context useful. If I’m choosing whose definition to accept as my working definition, I would rather err on the side of the people doing the work.

    2. I’m sorry but I’m going to have to come back HARD on your acceptance of the redefinition of racism (go figure).

      My issue is that structural racism or ‘systemic racism’ are perfectly adequate and contextualized definitions for racism as seen on a macro scale and projected on the minority by a majority. Racism is the belief that one race is inferior to another and structural/Systemic, as a prefix, ascribes the mechanisms by which the racism is manifested.

      When people equate racism with structural/systemic racism under the generic term ‘racism’ they’re not expanding speech but narrowing it. They’re removing all other contexts in which someone can be racist and allowing only one possible context (that of racism on a systemic level by a racial majority to a racial minority).

      I think they’re doing it for obvious reasons too: to justify blanket statements against the majority that would be otherwise seen as racist in nature.

      It’s very similar to my issues with the term PoC replacing “racial minority” or just “minority” because the re-definition excludes any perceived racism/bigotry against he majority group because racism requires – thanks to do the redefinition – structural controls that the minority doesn’t operate.

      When it comes to the term PoC, I dislike it because it’s not descriptive, has no empirical basis (what is “color”) and removes context.

      For instance: if PoC is a catch all term for Minority, then I am a PoC when I visit Asia/Africa/Middle East? Not according to most people who use the term unironically.

      If PoC = not-white, then isn’t it just a divisive term that exists to create an us vs them dichotomy? Either you have color (you’re not white) or you dont’ (you’re white). Again, why not just minority/majority? Is it because the former is rigid and the latter far too contextual?

      Structural Racism
      Systemic Racism
      Individual Racism
      Collective Racism

      these terms have contextual meaning.

      Redefining racism doesn’t add context, it’s narrows it in a way that harms conversations about matters of race.

      1. “When people equate racism with structural/systemic racism under the generic term ‘racism’ they’re not expanding speech but narrowing it. They’re removing all other contexts in which someone can be racist and allowing only one possible context”

        With respect, this is incredibly tautological. If you have a specific meaning for a word and you use that meaning in a conversation, then of course we are excluding those other meanings from a conversation. This clarifies what we mean. The labels for words aren’t that important, it’s the ideas behind them. People do this all the time. A clear example, watch any atheist/theist debate on morality and watch how each party defines “moral”.

        “I think they’re doing it for obvious reasons too: to justify blanket statements against the majority that would be otherwise seen as racist in nature.”

        I really don’t think you have grounds to read people’s minds, especially if you’re a skeptic who I assume rejects ESP, but I’d also like to comment on this too. What types of racist comments are you talking about?

        I’ve argued with people over the word “Cracker” for example, which people will say is actually racist against white people. Applying the more simplistic definition of racist to basically be equivalent to “prejudice”, then that would fall under the category of racism that we have defined. I am 100% ok with saying that that is racist if that is how we have agreed to using the term right now. But what is the effect of that? Calling me a cracker doesn’t really assist in the systemic oppression of white people. In fact, as Louis CK has humorously pointed out, it means “my ancestors owned slaves”, which almost implies an ELEVATION of white status.

        The “power” component is really essential in a lot of these discussions. There’s a post by my friend Callie Wright of The Gaytheist Manifesto who says similar things regarding queer and trans issues.

        I like this whole article, but the most relevant paragraph is the 3rd from the bottom. And it essentially states that calling people “fags” and shit are extremist examples that can hurt feelings and tear people down, but it’s not these hateful pastors that have the systemic power to keep people oppressed. Rather, it’s the politicians who will say “I love trans people” in one minute and the next minute sign off a bill to keep them out of public restrooms. Similarly, certain politicians will think they’re totally innocent and treating ALL criminals the same, even though things like the war on drugs have massively disproportionate effects against black people. They may not even have strong intentions or biases, but their effect is massively negative.

        1. Then you’re suggesting racism can = systemic racism and just plain ol’ garden variety “I think your race is inferior” racism based entirely on the context of the conversation being had. I find this hard to believe when I openly see people profess the dogmatic belief that “reverse racism isn’t a thing” or de facto state that “you can’t be racist against whites”.

          The problem with redefining a word based on context is that, if we were to have a conversation where racism defaulted to mean systemic racism, I would have no ability to use the word racism for anything else. If I were to bring up an example of non-systemic racism, I’d be left without a word to use that wouldn’t immediately be self defeating. Any mention of racism towards whites in a conversation about systemic racism, where racism = systemic racism by default, would immediately be false because, under that context, whites can’t be oppressed by the systems they control.

          Maybe I’m making that more convoluted than it needs to be.

          “A clear example, watch any atheist/theist debate on morality and watch how each party defines “moral”.”

          Morality is a subjective term but if defined as “biblical morality” and “secular morality” greater nuance is achieved and we can beging to examine the pros/cons of each. That’s what i’m arguing for. It’s why it is always so important to define terms before debating.

          Someone like mr Uhuru nation “white toilet seat complextion people” man isn’t going to accept the label racist because he lacks structural power. It brings me to my next rebuttal:

          “I really don’t think you have grounds to read people’s minds, especially if you’re a skeptic who I assume rejects ESP, but I’d also like to comment on this too. What types of racist comments are you talking about?”

          No. I leave it up to them to be very explicit with their beliefs and intent. When they say “you can’t be racist towards whites because racism = power + prejiduce” I don’t need to read their minds to know why they redefined the word.

          “I’ve argued with people over the word “Cracker” for example, which people will say is actually racist against white people. Applying the more simplistic definition of racist to basically be equivalent to “prejudice”, then that would fall under the category of racism that we have defined. I am 100% ok with saying that that is racist if that is how we have agreed to using the term right now. But what is the effect of that?”

          Depends on the intent of the person saying it (yes intent matters). If someone really dislikes white people and calls someone a cracker, he/she is a racist. But that’s ultimately a strawman. It’s a mean word most whites don’t take seriously and certainly not a legitimate example I’d use. What is troublesome, however, is when I see people using the progressive stack to determine a person’s value on their race/gender/etc where white male = lowest on the totem poll. Evaluating worth based on physical characteristics becomes a noble deed. Not if whites were doing it. Hence the re-definition of the term Racism.

          When I see another buzzfeed video that might as well be labeled “25 blanket accusations against whites thinly veiled as innocuous questions” or a documentary on MTV called white people that serves as nothing more than a religious sermon on the original sin of being born white.

          When White people/reporters are told to move to the back at BLM protests or BLM protestors block the sidewalk to force white people to walk on the street.

          None of these actions would be acceptable if done by white people and none of the people doing them would accept the term racist because they dont’ hold structural power. In fact, anytime you can use the phrase “if a white person were to say/do this it would make headlines” and it applies, you have an issue where redefinig racism to = power + prejudice is creating a double standard where one race is given carte blanche to act in a way another would be admonished for and that’s ‘problematic’ and ultimately destructive to race relations.

          I watched a video of Steve Shivesjust yesterday where he agreed that Islam has a bad track record on human/women/lgbt rights but as a white guy he feels wrong criticizing it because that would be punching down.

          We’re doing no one any favors here.

          “The “power” component is really essential in a lot of these discussions. There’s a post by my friend Callie Wright of The Gaytheist Manifesto who says similar things regarding queer and trans issues.”

          only in conversations about systemic racism.

          It’s one thing to push back against your oppressor, but when your oppressor becomes all whites, even when millions are far more disadvantaged than you might be, I find it hard to take the next word out of your mouth seriously even if it’s simply the word “the”.

          Whites are not universally privileged, they do not all benefit from structural power and any privilege some of us have (in some respects) are not universal, do not follow us despite minority/majority status, nor are permanent.

          Unfortunately, far too many people hold those ideas as self evident and when mixed with a willingness to re-define speech to fit a narrative we end up with what I see as a new brand of illiberalism that is the main driving force in the divide within our community.

          As for your last paragraph. I agree that all those things are problems. I don’t see how any of them change the fact that racism is a universal term and anyone can be guilty of it. I also don’t see how any of those real issues change the fact that Structural/Systemic racism is a subset – and not part and parcel – of racism.

          1. “When White people/reporters are told to move to the back at BLM protests or BLM protestors block the sidewalk to force white people to walk on the street.”

            If black people are being disproportionately affected by police violence, then doesn’t it make sense that they should represent themselves? It’s not like white people aren’t subject to police brutality, but this is a disproportionate effect and BLM has that specific focus. They have specific things that they would like to change in how policing is done that would benefit everyone, but a lot of things that is very specific to black people, such as stopping broken windows policing and focusing on eradicating bias that causes the school-to-prison pipeline. It’s everyone’s choice to support BLM or not, but if someone is white you are an ally to the cause. An ally’s job is to support someone, so why wouldn’t they go to the back if specifically requested by the people they are trying to help? If someone isn’t willing to do what’s necessary, then it doesn’t appear that they really care.

            “What is troublesome, however, is when I see people using the progressive stack to determine a person’s value on their race/gender/etc where white male = lowest on the totem poll. Evaluating worth based on physical characteristics becomes a noble deed. Not if whites were doing it. Hence the re-definition of the term Racism.”

            As a white male and in my progressive circles, I rarely see this happen to me. I’m against oppression olympics as much as the next person and I don’t think it does any good to try and see who has it the worst, but I think within the secular community it’s not as much of a problem. Being privileged in certain ways does not make me a worse person, and I’ve never been told that for anything, just that I may not have a perspective that others had based on it, and to recognize that statistically I might have it easier because of my outward characteristics. This doesn’t eliminate the fact that white men can be poor or have bad circumstances, etc. but the major reason for that isn’t going to be “because they’re white”. I’ve certainly been told that on Tumblr, but that’s Tumblr.

            “None of these actions would be acceptable if done by white people and none of the people doing them would accept the term racist because they dont’ hold structural power. In fact, anytime you can use the phrase “if a white person were to say/do this it would make headlines” and it applies, you have an issue where redefinig racism to = power + prejudice is creating a double standard where one race is given carte blanche to act in a way another would be admonished for and that’s ‘problematic’ and ultimately destructive to race relations.”

            The whole “It’s a double standard because X can do it but not Y” has never made sense to me. If someone asks to touch my hair, for example, it’s still a crossing of boundaries for me. However it’s not racist because I will never go into a job interview and worry that I’m not going to be hired because of my natural hair behavior, since society values straight “caucasian” hair over afro-textured hair. Similarly, “cracker” has NEVER and will likely never have the history of keeping black people down as the word “nigger” has. It’s just incomparable. You can’t just say the two are equivalent.

            And I don’t agree that defining racism the sociological/academic way eliminates some of the types of racism you list as there is still a power component that can easily be included within them. And none of this excludes the fact that black people can be racist, as there are other minorities that they can be racist against, and they can have plenty of internalized racism. All it does is say that it can’t be racist AGAINST white people, since caucasians are the most represented in the US in terms of population, employment, media, ect. (though Asians do have a lower unemployment rate).

            The reason this definition is used is because this prejudice so much more disproportionately affects POC. Actions based on prejudice alone aren’t ok, but there’s a distinct power structure that we have to take into account. It doesn’t mean that all whites are in power, which is certainly not true, but there is a measurable societal bias that is different between the two.

      2. Not to pile on, but just to respond to your questions in this comment, I think the issue with “majority/minority” is that numbers are not necessarily reflective of power. In the US, white people aren’t a majority, but rather the largest minority.

        The terms I tend to see used are “mainstream” and “marginalized.” I hope that doesn’t come across as another new definition to needlessly confuse/frustrate you.

        As for the phrase POC being used interchangeably with the terms minority/marginalized, I imagine that’s just contextually based rhetoric. To answer your likely rhetorical question, if you visit a country in which caucasians are systematically disenfranchised based on race, and you use POC to refer to marginalized people regardless of phenotype, you would be a POC. If you use POC as it’s used in the US (i.e., to describe people who are not considered white), then you would not be a POC, but you would still be marginalized. Finally, if you went to a country in which white people are not the majority but they are also not disenfranchised, you would be neither a POC nor a marginalized individual, but you would still be a minority.

        These words are interchangeable in some contexts but not in every context.

        Again, not to pile on, but since you’re making an assertion that activists have “redefined” the term, can you point to a specific/vague date/time that this redefinition occurred? My subscription to the OED has lapsed, so I can’t confirm usage too far back, but I do know until I learned what the term meant, I was walking around wrongly assuming my fourth-grade understanding (i.e., racism = prejudice) was the established definition and that people who knew better than me were trying to change things.

        1. I guess I wouldn’t say that a minority necessarily holds less power, but it tends to be a contributing factor. After all, if a group tends to vote in their own interest, then having a more sizeable population is going to be pretty useful for achieving certain political ends.

          I pretty much agree with your second paragraph. A lot of these conversations are limited to Western Culture and United States-centric problems. I think that’s assumed a lot of the time, such as in pretty much anything discussed in the Eli/James debate.

          Also, I wouldn’t necessarily state that activists have redefined the term, and I wouldn’t even say that the term has been completely redefined. Words aren’t set in stone, and we can usually understand by context what they mean, it’s just that this particular word seems to trip conversations up. From what I can tell, the people studying racism developed a usage that they found useful. Rationalwiki has a bit of history, along with some criticisms of that usage:

          Again, it’s not a radical change, but that’s how sometimes words go. The original meaning of “atom” described matter so small that it couldn’t be divided further. Later on, we found out it had components of positive and negative charges, so we made models like the plum pudding model. Then we discovered the nucleus and the relative separation of the electron cloud from it, and had that relatively accurate model. Throughout this entire history we used atom as the label for each model, even though they’re vastly different. There wouldn’t be much point to having to pick a whole new word each time there’s a new concept.

  10. And I absolutely agree with you that we need to accept terms when we’re debating, which is where I think people who I otherwise agree with in the social justice camp have dropped the ball (though people on the other side from me can be equally as insistent on their definition of racism as well). I’m perfectly willing to have a discussion with you on racism and for the moment agree with you within this conversation and use racism to mean essentially the same thing as prejudice, but I’m also able to give a talk and define it with power as an essential component. I have reasons for doing so, because the prejudice against a white person and a person of color simply don’t have the same effect. It just doesn’t.

    Similarly, I will be able to listen to a debate where a Christian defines morality as “whatever my god says is moral”. I wouldn’t recognize it as promoting well-being for anyone, which is my definition, but I can follow their thought process and understand the points that they are making. This is because their logic isn’t dependent on the label for their ideas, but the idea itself.

  11. I find it somewhat discouraging that Thomas and apparently many atheists seem to think that conservatives, even the “Fox News crowd,” are unreachable. I see it totally the other way, especially when you happen to find yourself in a discussion with one of them on social media.

    I think all of us suffer from the disease of ignorance, and it is the polarization of views that is so damaging. You’re just as likely to find a close minded ahole on the far left as on the far right. So when you happen to find someone who thinks the opposite of you who is willing to debate you, it should be viewed as a great opportunity to nudge someone in the direction of truth, and that person could even be you!

    This is why communication is so critical, especially online, and why I agree with Thomas that the liberal use of terms like racism, and to some extent sexism, islamophobia, etc., are often confusing, and I think much more damaging than he realizes. Each time those terms are allowed to confuse people, inflaming tempers and shutting down discussions, not only do you lose the fence sitters in the middle, but you miss a great opportunity to soften a conservative who really doesn’t hate minorities, but probably is just a bit ignorant. Just like you.

    1. For the most part the anti SJW crowd are liberals not conservatives. Rubin, TJ, Sargon, Chris Ray Gun and Armoured Skeptic are all liberals. All of them are beyond conversation in the eyes of PZ Meyers. So we aren’t even talking about conservatives, he won’t even talk with people that agree with him on 90% of the issues and 100% of the secular issues.

      To the best of my knowledge those listed are more than willing to have discussions with the other side. The SJW side is too busy blocking everyone out who disagrees with them. That makes Eli a real island on the SJW side since he is willing to have the conversation. The others just demonize the objectors and therefore don’t have to talk with them.

    2. I agree that there’s benefit in reaching out, even if there’s little chance of being heard, and that it’s unfair to write off Fox News viewers.

      Reading your comment though, I think it’s important to note that using terms in ways that don’t exclusively cater to the broadest audience doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re responsible for shutting down conversation. I agree with you that it would be self-defeating to hold to confusing definitions for no reason, but if those definitions serve other, valid purposes, it might be worth it to ask others to overcome their minor discomfort, or at the very least, to accept that they share responsibility for these conversations not happening.

  12. I object to the SJW mindset. Misogyny, sexism, and racism are everywhere and they need to be called out. Sounds well intentioned. But as David mentioned, the SJW mindset cannot accept intentions. Everyone is a lightswitch, with only saint and hitler as the settings. Well, I am older and I do not try to ascribe the worst intentions in people when they say things I don’t agree with or they say something…..problematic. I also know when someone is my 80% friend, and not my 20% enemy. When I want to make a more just and verdant society, I become the change I want to see and my actions speak far louder than any offences taken and ism’s called out. SJW tactics hunt for heretics; I am looking for converts.

    The atheist movement is about the separation of religion and government and the normalization of atheism in the gen pop. How does one make the leap to feminism, BLM, and LGBTQIA activism from there? If I want to march for those causes, I will…and have. Since atheism is about the answer to one question, proposing additional planks in the platform are debatable. I want to keep things simple. PZ and his ilk are proposing the same things that Atheism+ proposed, and not everyone agrees with this proposition. PZ and his ilk cannot handle a disagreement without calling into question everyone’s morals. PZ and his ilk need their own SJW movement separate from the atheism movement…but I think without witches to hunt and burn, they’d quickly notice their numbers dwindling.

    1. Every time you add a cause you lose people along the way that don’t follow that cause. Eventually you end up alone with no allies. See the Darkmatter2525 video on SJWs for a cool example.

      1. That’s a grim take.

        On the other hand, when you add causes, you gain allies. Additionally, if those causes are important and relevant to your movement, you not only benefit society, but you empower yourself by taking them on.

        I take it you mean to criticize the rejection and alienation of group members who do not deem those added causes to be worthwhile or valid? I agree, it’s counterproductive to accuse others of being false atheists if they don’t support other, semi-related causes (e.g., humanism, feminism, racial equality, etc.), but I also think it’s important to note that a large group of atheists, who also happen to be feminists, engaging feminist issues does not force out non-feminist atheists.

        A worthwhile question to ask is whether a movement benefits more from having a large number of ideologically pure members who refuse to engage socially for fear of alienating those members, or having fewer members, but those members it does have are actively engaged in making social change.

        Essentially, how much value is added by atheists whose only contribution is to threaten to disavow atheism if it gets too liberal?

        1. One of the theories of the utter failure that was reason rally is it was too much about all SJW causes.

          To be part of the secular movement you also have to buy into third wave feminism for example. The feminist movement is not expanding their group to fight for secular issues so to add feminism to the secular movement only shrinks the numbers because you add a poison pill for some people with each additional cause.

          You think you are expanding your numbers by being inclusive but the opposite is true.

          SJWs just believe in a different religion complete with the original sin of privilege.

          Reason rally should have doubled their numbers this year but they failed because they have created an in group out group dynamic.

          1. But doesn’t the same argument apply to the inclusion of anti-SJW/alt-right voices?

            “Anti-SJW’s just believe in a different religion complete with the original sin of victimhood/oversensitivity/censorship.”

            If we’re concerned about adding poison pills, I would be hesitant to cater to anti-SJW/alt-right voices that are absolutely as alienating, if not more so than people who think women, POC, LGBTQI individuals (et al.) deserve respect and equal access to resources.

            Moreover, I’d be more inclined to believe anti-SJW claims about being tough enough to have difficult and challenging discussions if they didn’t keep complaining about women and POC invading their safe spaces and forcing them to abandon their movements.

          2. Victimhood, oversensitivity and censorship are not traits you have no control over. Privilege is something you have just from being born, so your connection of those things is a false equivalency. Original sin is the sins of your ancestors being applied to you. In this case the sins of people that share your skin colour and gender.

            My position is not to court the alt-right, but to narrow the scope of the secular movement. Keep religion out of government, that’s it. People that agree with that position should be involved. If you add that they have to be atheists, then you have cut out 95% of the people right off the top. It’s unnecessary to keep adding more litmus test to getting in the club.

            Anti-SJW is not the alt-right, I am very liberal but against many things the SJW crowd wants to do. My beef with SJW is that they exaggerate statistics to bring attention to their causes and they try to silence dissenting views. I agree with some of their causes but I hate the methods.

            Your last paragraph is ridiculous and not worthy of consideration. Just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring it.

            The problem is that to join a group with the cause of A, you have to also believe in causes B, C and D which have no connection to A.

          3. I think a great example of your point that “victimhood is a choice” is your insistance on interpreting “privilege” as an unjustified attack on you for things your ancestors did. A way to interpret it that doesn’t emphasize your feeling persecuted is to recognize that talking about privilege isn’t about assigning blame or asking you to apologize for things you didn’t do, but to describe the ways people are treated differently and have access to different oportunities and resources based on race/sex/ability/etc.

            I take your point about narrowing the focus of the secular movement. I don’t disagree, but as I posted elsewhere, it seems unrealistic to expect people in the secular movement to limit their social engagement to that single issue, especially if they are directly affected by racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. It’s not wrong to say agreeing with their advocacy can’t be a litmus test for the larger movement, but I think it’s a mistake to assume they weaken the movement or “force” others out.

            If you want to put some distance between yourself and your fellow, reasonable anti-SJW’s, and the alt-right anti-SJW’s whose views and practices you reject, will you be so kind as to offer that same benefit of the doubt to mainstream SJW’s who share your disdain for false statistics and silencing dissenting opinions?

            “Your last paragraph is ridiculous and not worthy of consideration. Just didn’t want you to think I was ignoring it.”

            I respect your position and will not make accusations about your actions hindering discourse, hurting our movement, or speaking to your inability to face the real world.

          4. Let’s start with hashtag not all. Not all SJWs share those undesirable traits, I just don’t want to be a part of groups that do.

            I’ll try a different approach. I’m a sports fan, I like baseball, hockey and football. There are other sports fans that like my sports but also knitting and superhero movies. Now let’s say that the people in the latter group insist that to be a sports fan you must also like knitting and superhero movies. If you don’t like those then you can’t be part of our group of sports fans. That’s how the SJWs are treating secularism.

            Don’t believe me? Go check Steve Shives latest video on the atheist movement. Give him a click him, he can use the ad revenue.

          5. I guess my “SJW approved secular person” card hasn’t arrived in the mail yet.

            I follow your logic, I just don’t think it accurately depicts reality. How are the SJW’s gate-keeping the secular movement? Who has been outed as a false-atheist by the SJW’s?

            To follow your analogy, I like going to games to be social, eat hot-dogs, and cheer with a bunch of loud people, but I don’t care who wins the game, and I don’t watch sports on TV. Some sports fans who love watching sports on TV and get super competitive about the games look at me and say I’m not a real sports fan. That sucks, and maybe I’m sad about not fitting in, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop going to games and eating hot-dogs.

            I watched Steve Shives’ video. I think my take away is that we’re making a lot of assumptions about there being a singular atheist/secular movement. Shives describes the movement he’s a part of as a social justice movement. You describe the movement you’re a part of as a highly specific one focused only on addressing the separation of church and state and normalizing atheism. There seem to be overlaps (e.g., the names), but they don’t seem to share goals and values.

            I didn’t hear the part where he said your movement wasn’t valid or that you’re not a real atheist, just that it doesn’t address the things he believes his movement has to if it wants to be relevant.

          6. He describes what the atheist movement is, not what it is to him but what it is. He speaks as if he is an authority on the movement. But he is right, and that’s why so many people just don’t want to be associated with that movement anymore. It’s not what it used to be and I don’t want to be a part of that toxic movement of anti liberty. Which is what it has become.

    2. “Well, I am older and I do not try to ascribe the worst intentions in people when they say things I don’t agree with or they say something…..problematic” unless they’re SJW’s on one of their witch-hunts, I take it?

      1. It isn’t a witch hunt on my part. I think their intentions are great. Who wouldn’t want to live in a society sans racism and misogyny? I actually agree with the majority of SJW goals…it is their tactics that are troubling….too authoritarian for my taste. I know they are on the right side of the atheist issue…but when did the atheist movement become about feminism, LGBTQIA, and BLM? Doesn’t the atheism movement have enough to contend with, without adding to our plate? SJWs are my 80% friend. I don’t want to add more planks to the atheism movement. The atheist movement is about the separation of religion and government and the normalization of atheism in the gen pop.

        1. I agree. I share many of the same stated goals as so called SJWs, and I also share many of the same stated goals as so called Christians. But both orthodoxies tend to suffer from a certain rigidity and authoritarianism that I can’t get behind.

        2. I think I may have misconstrued your previous comment, and I apologize for that. Thanks for expanding on it.

          I didn’t mean to imply that you were on a witch hunt against SJW’s, but that the way you characterized SJW’s hunting for heretics, I took that to mean you felt SJW’s are conducting witch hunts for racists/bigots/homophobes etc. It seemed to be a contradiction to say “I try not to ascribe the worst intentions to people” while also characterizing SJW’s as people who hunt for heretics and only see others as “saints or Hitlers.”

          I take it from your follow up that what you were saying is that you find the methods by which SJW’s engage to be troubling, and that you don’t see the value in “the atheist movement” engaging in social movements outside of strictly atheist-related issues.

          I see your point, and to some extent, I agree. In many ways, asking atheists to involve themselves in tangential social movements has a similar ring to asking Black Lives Matter to protest police shootings of white people. You could make the argument that there’s some connection to certain principles (e.g., egalitarianism, humanist values, addressing religion’s negative impact on society, etc.), it would widen the tent (e.g., welcome people into the movement who are motivated by social engagement), and it would challenge preconceptions others have (e.g., that atheists have no moral framework). But, there’s also a danger that we risk losing our focus, alienating members who disagree on those tangential issues, and not being able to affect social change on those strictly atheist issues.

          Personally, my understanding of this is that “the atheist movement” isn’t an organization that acts deliberately to affect pointed social change. I assume there are atheist groups that engage in political action to challenge violations of church/state separation, but to the extent that there are public atheist figures whose contribution is to normalize atheism, restricting their social engagement to “atheist issues” is unrealistic.

  13. I found it somewhat hypocritical of Smalley to call out people for shutting down conversation and having confrontational conversation online because I see him do exactly that online. On his show, he definitely is much more reasonable and measured. That said, I do think he is actually right on this, and his Dogma Debate episode clearly illustrated the problem.
    Despite what PZ asserts, the disagreements I see online between atheists are almost never that large of disagreements at their core. Instead, I usually see people with nearly identical values blow their disagreements out of proportion based on tactics and their interpretation of facts. For example, if you compare Eli Bosnick and Devin Tracy (Atheism is Unstoppable), you have two atheists on the complete opposite end of the SJW spectrum. However, you will be challenged to see any daylight between their actual core values. They both believe they are doing their best to promote equality and free speech, yet are simply divided (albeit in this case quite starkly) about their interpretation of the facts and what tactics are effective.
    That is why I think Smalley’s argument was far more convincing than PZ’s. PZ seemed to be saying that essentially everyone that disagrees with him is a bigot and not worthy of conversation. All that mentality does is further divide the community and shuts down any possibility of productive conversation.

    As a quick and final aside, I find the idea of redefining the word “racist” to one that pertains only to systemic racism is a counterproductive endevour. Not only does it go against what the majority of people (especially the ones who need to be reached) understand it to mean, but it actually makes it an essentially useless term on an individual level. A truly racist klansman has no more power over the government than any other ordinary citizen. By redefining the term, especially when it is unnecessary when people use the modifiers “systemic” and “institutionalized” anyhow, the term is stripped of its power to identify these people. The term “prejudice” is insufficient in this case because prejudice simply means that the prejudice person is falling for stereotypes, but does not necessarily indicate the the person sees the other races as superior or inferior, which is what racist actually means.

    1. I think there’s a danger of overlooking relevant differences when we focus on what we assume to be people’s core values. I apologize for not knowing much about Devon Tracy (his Wiki is impenetrable, and I’m sure it’s hilarious in context), so I’ll stick to metaphor and hope something applies.

      Both liberals and conservatives share certain core values (e.g., freedom, national security, a strong economy, etc.). But when we look more specifically, not only do we disagree on the means to achieve these goals (e.g., laws which protect or prohibit certain behaviors, gun-control v. gun ownership, limiting v. enabling Wall Street, etc.), but we can also disagree about what these values mean (e.g., freedom to assemble vs. freedom to isolate, being able to walk to the store vs. having overwhelming military strength, empowering everyone to escape poverty vs. enabling some to amass exceptional wealth, etc.).

      Even if our core values are in alignment, disagreements about the ways to achieve those goals can be both relevant and diametrically opposed. If Devon argues that we need to toughen up and never concede to SJW’s asking for space to speak because that silences mainstream voices, and Eli argues that our refusal to respect SJW’s request for space will, in effect, silence those voices, that’s an important distinction.

      I think you raise an interesting point about the utility of the word “racist.” Similarly to what I posted in response to another comment, it seems that including the socio-political context of racial inequality is not useful for you in the ways you tend to discuss racism. People with a vested interest in addressing systemic racial inequality do seem to believe including that context to be useful to their work. If I have to choose between accepting a definition from the people addressing racial inequality, or from someone online who thinks it’s important to quickly identify single actors with little to no power, I would rather err on the side of those doing the work.

      Also, if you remove the context clues that inform your use of the word racist instead of prejudiced, you still have nearly as much ambiguity (e.g., racist against which races?).

      1. I agree that there is without a doubt dramatic differences in how people want to achieve those goals, but that was actually somewhat of my point. If two people share similar values and goals, they should be able to find at least enough common ground to have a fruitful and productive conversation. For example, if you have one person who thinks BLM is destructive and another who thinks BLM is righteous, calling either person a racist because of their stance is counterproductive because it instantly shuts down the conversation. Not only that, but in this case, it is demonstrably untrue because both parties are arguing to achieve equality which is obviously the antithesis of racism.
        As for that term of racism itself, if you are talking to other people who you know interpret it the way you do, then by all means carry on. However, it is not the dictionary definition, not the way that the vast majority of people use it and understand it, so when you engage people online, you are creating unnecessary confusion. It is trivially easy to include the “systemic” modifier to clarify this and avoid the confusion, so I’m not sure why you would refuse to clarify that when talking to people who you know have a reasonably high probability of understanding it in its traditional sense. I tend to agree with Mike Paps’ comment below, that it seems to be used as a form of virtue signaling to intentionally avoid using it in general audience settings.

        1. I think I see your point a little better now.

          I think your example is somewhat overly reductive though. If two people disagree about whether BLM is destructive or productive, and both want to work towards an equal society, assuming they agree on what that would look like, there can still be problematic and irreconcilable differences between their plans. If person A thinks BLM is productive in that it will scare white people into recognizing that black people are too scary to oppress anymore, and person B thinks BLM is destructive because it distracts from the good work white people are doing to give black people equal rights, I would argue that both those plans/interpretations are racist.

          Maybe more relevantly, I think I have to object to the idea that calling someone a racist automatically shuts down a conversation, and that the person who pointed out the racism is responsible for shutting the conversation down. I’ve had conversations with people of color in which things I’ve said were called out as racist, I’ve had racial biases pointed out, and I’ve similarly called out others for saying racially problematic things. These conversations didn’t immediately end, because we got past the unhelpful idea (propagated by conflating racism with prejudice) that it’s a terrible offense to be a racist.

          When we agree that we’ve internalized racial biases as a result of being raised in a racist society, and we stop expecting to never do anything racist or problematic, it’s easier to engage in discussions without getting defensive and feeling accused.

          Honestly, I see your point about it being easy enough to add in the word “systematic”. Personally, I think it’s important to establish that racism has a contextual meaning though, and isn’t synonymous with prejudice when we’re discussing racism in that context, because as you can see somewhere else in this comment section, people then view systematic racism as a result of individual racists acting on their racial prejudice in a system. It lets people ignore the fact that we can participate in disenfranchisement and inequality or marginalized individuals solely by not being prejudiced.

          “I don’t hate black people, so I don’t have to stop voting for politicians who put policies in place that punish black people disproportionately for the same crimes.”

          “I don’t hate black people, so I can make jokes that imply black people are lazy/stupid/criminal/disloyal/etc.”

          “I don’t hate black people, so I don’t have to think about whether it’s okay for me to hire the white candidate that I liked rather than the black candidate who made me kind of uncomfortable.”

          While using the “generally accepted” definition does have the benefit of minimizing the initial discomfort, but it also validates a counterproductive message that it matters if you feel like you’re not a racist, that you can’t harm others unless you deliberately intend to, and that social change will just happen if we just try to treat everyone equally when we meet them.

          1. “Maybe more relevantly, I think I have to object to the idea that calling someone a racist automatically shuts down a conversation, and that the person who pointed out the racism is responsible for shutting the conversation down. I’ve had conversations with people of color in which things I’ve said were called out as racist, I’ve had racial biases pointed out, and I’ve similarly called out others for saying racially problematic things. These conversations didn’t immediately end, because we got past the unhelpful idea (propagated by conflating racism with prejudice) that it’s a terrible offense to be a racist.”

            This may seem a bit nitty, but I think it has critical importance. You notice how you went from saying “calling someone a racist” to “things I’ve said were called out as racist”?

            There is a real and important difference there. I think 95+% of conversations turn to shit the moment one person calls the other racist, sexist, or otherwise bigotted, but a significant percent of conversations can be productive when the object of the attack is the statement, instead of the person. Now, it’s not magic, and plenty of people will still get nasty, but you have a fighting chance to convince people when you clearly and respectfully (as possible) explain why you believe their statement or action was racist, rather than simply telling them they are a horrible person (which is what racist means to 95+% of people).

            I understand this is what is referred to as “tone policing,” but christ, what do you expect will happen when you attack someone personally? How often does is that productive with any other argument?

          2. No need to apologize. I appreciate the distinction. We’re in agreement about having more productive conversations by focusing on actions and statements being racist than on whether or not people are racist. That’s a big part of my resistance to validating racism as a synonym for prejudice. In addition to wanting to challenge the idea that systematic racism is solely a culmination of individual racists acting racistly, as I explained in my first comment on this episode, focusing on whether someone is racist on the inside is not a productive avenue for achieving meaningful change (in my experience more because it’s a distraction than a conversation killer… but we seem to largely agree).

            Again, I think the fact that 95% of people equate being called racist with being called a horrible person is an argument against validating the conflation of racism and prejudice.

            I don’t know if you’re using the royal “you people” here, because I don’t recall attacking anyone personally, or at the very least calling anyone a racist. If only to defend the SJW’s who might be more free with their personal attacks (or if I’ve said something I should probably apologize for today) I will say that there are instances in which it can be important to call someone a racist when they’re consistently doing/saying racist things and making no efforts to change (e.g., people running for public office, for instance).

            Possibly straining for another justification, I’ve seen people getting called out overtly and explicitly, and as a result of the ensuing conversation, relationships being strengthened. That feels like a cheap answer though, because while the phrasing may have been “you’re an asshole,” as far as usage goes, the meaning was more “you’re acting in a way that is hurtful to those around you” and not “you’re inherently bad.”

            Also, I think it’s important to note that while I agree with you that it’s a problem for SJW’s to call people racists, particularly as it concerns engagement, I also think it’s problematic (if understandable) to dismiss their arguments, which may or may not be valid, because they hurt your feelings by calling you out in a way that feels disrespectful.

            I agree, it’s ridiculous to expect to offend people and then convert them to your cause, but I think it’s far more ridiculous, as well as immoral and petty, to check out and refuse to engage in addressing racial inequality because you felt an activist was disrespectful.

  14. I think some white people support that definition of racism as a form of virtue signaling. As in “look I’m so not racist I give blacks a pass on being racists towards whites”. While personally I’ve always been understanding of blacks who have grown up being discriminated against, suffered being stopped by the police for “driving while black”, heard stories of discrimination from their parents, or just know the history of this country, for having negative feelings towards white people, it’s still racism if you paint an entire race negatively based on the actions of some.

  15. I feel like an asshole for not putting this together until now, but a more topical analogy about activists redefining the word racism:

    Everyone knows atheism just meant “hating god and worshiping the devil” until Richard Dawkins and Matt Dilahunty came around and decided to make it mean something else. Aren’t we atheists hurting our own cause by insisting on a definition of atheism that just confuses and frustrates the general public?

    1. I’ve actually used that analogy before when discussing this very thing. I’ve made the point that we shouldn’t expect religious folks and regular agnostics to understand wtf we’re talking about when arguing pro atheism if we don’t first clarify that we aren’t talking about dictionary atheism, but a more specific form that is much more like what many people think of as agnosticism. That helps set up the remainder of the conversation in a way that is less confusing.

      So basically, sure, feel free to redefine racism, but maybe let people know first that when you call them disgusting hateful racists, you’re really just explaining you politely disagree with their pro cop arguments 😉

      1. Thanks for the tip.

        Feel free to educate yourself about advocacy work and the economic, mental, and public health effects of systemic racial inequalities before demanding that people trying to have meaningful conversations stop and adhere to your fourth-grade understanding of terms. *winky-face*

        1. Please give one example of systemic racism.

          Why do people not understand the difference between a system and the people that work within that system. But please one example would be enough.

          1. “Please give one example of systemic racism.”

            Alumni preferences in higher education. In case you’re unaware of what alumni preferences are it’s an advantage given in admission to students who have family members who were graduates of said university. Since historically minorities weren’t allowed into most colleges, due to racism, they are disproportionately shut out of alumni preferences.

          2. Do minorities get the same family privileges? If the answer is yes, and we both know it is, then it is not systemic.

            The system is the framework everyone works within, show the racism in the framework not in how it’s applied.

          3. “The system is the framework everyone works within, show the racism in the framework not in how it’s applied.”

            So by your standards any laws that disadvantages a minority group is perfectly acceptable, and doesn’t qualify as systemic, as long as doesn’t specifically mention minorities, or wasn’t, ostensibly at least, intended to disadvantage a minority? We clearly have different definition of systemic racism. Mine is more in keeping with the generally accepted ones where intent isn’t relevant.

          4. The term you are looking for is institutional racism.

            This is why changing definitions of terms is so problematic, make conversation difficult and makes solving problems impossible since we aren’t talking about the same thing.

          5. “The term you are looking for is institutional racism.”

            No I think institutionalized racism is a much broader term, and generally does involve intent. I don’t believe the US has much problem with institutionalized racism, but there’s is significant systemic racism.

          6. You are just defining systemic as institutional racism. I am saying systemic is the law and institutional is the people that apply the law.

            Hope that is clear.

          7. Try this thought experiment. If you replaced every person in the current government, police and legal system with a perfect representative blend of ethnicities and genders would the results be the same as today or different?

            If the results would be the same then it’s a system problem, if the results would be different then it was an institutional problem.

          8. “If the results would be the same then it’s a system problem, if the results would be different then it was an institutional problem.”

            Well then systemic was correct. Alumni preferences would still be a problem.

          9. “Here are some actual acceptance numbers.”

            Because many colleges have implemented affirmative action programs to counter things like alumni preferences. Programs of the type that people who don’t think systemic racism exists oppose.

          10. No, it was a program implemented to correct historic systematic racism and it is working. Affirmative action is part of the system. A necessary correction.

          11. “No, it was a program implemented to correct historic systematic racism and it is working. Affirmative action is part of the system. A necessary correction.”

            I said things like alumni preferences. That doesn’t exclude other reasons. And I agree it is necessary, and is working.

          12. You are confusing application with the system. Show me the law that says arrest blacks at a higher rate or give them longer prison sentences.

          13. Dan, I agree that much of what is termed systemic racism is really just racist people working in a system that is not itself particularly racist. Or at least, the only way it will get dramatically better is by simply having fewer (dictionary) racists within it.

            But I think a couple of examples of actual systemic racism are voter ID laws which are both unnecessary and clearly intended to disinfranches poor and minority voters. Another is the drug war, which is just the wrong way to treat drugs in society, and the violence it causes effects the poor and minorities more than white folks.

            I’ve come to these conclusions arguing with pro social justice advocates online whom I won’t call SJWs because they were some of the good ones 😉

          14. Voter ID laws apply to everyone this same, minorities just happen to be affected by it more. But it doesn’t target minorities.

          15. Dan, how do you quote? I don’t see a quote button and it won’t let me copy… maybe it’s because I’m on my phone.

            Anyway, I was convinced about the Voter ID laws because in a previous conversation someone showed me with sources:

            1) The laws are unnecessary, i.e., there is no evidence of any significant voter fraud. Someone posted a link to several studies confirming this, which sold me.
            2) There intent is to disenfranchise poor and minority voters who are more likely to vote democrat, which is why republicans push for them. There is a youtube floating around of a republican congressman blatently admitting this in a speech to supporters, something along the lines of “after we these voter ID laws pass, we’ll surely win another term.

            Taken together, no significant need and clear intent to disenfranchise, lead me to believe they are racist in the same way reading tests and poll taxes were back in the early days.

          16. No idea how to quote, probably done from a PC.

            But I think it’s done to make it harder for democrats, young voters and those without drivers licences. It is also not necessary.

          17. “I live in Canada and I have been voting for 25 years. I have always had to prove I lived in the area I was voting in. We have always had voter ID laws. We could use a phone bill as id, just something to prove residence.

            Your ID laws seem to favour republicans over democrats but are not racial.”

            Yeah, I can understand why many people aren’t convinced. It makes sense to have an ID to vote on many levels, and many countries have them. I think in effect the laws are racist in the US, whereas in many countries like Canada or in Europe, with much less poverty and fewer blocks of minority voters, they probably aren’t.

            Btw, I think the correct stance for the well-meaning social justice advocate is to simply keep making the case. Assuming those who disagree on this are stupid bigots and trying to shame them is arrogant and probably counterproductive.

          18. I think the reason people push back on SJWs is because they cannot make the case without lying. If you can’t beat Milo in the world of ideas them your ideas are terrible.

            If you have to lie about an earnings gap and call it a wage gap to get people’s attention then you are telling me the real wage gap is not bad enough to be taken seriously.

            Nothing gets me to care less than lying or exaggerating the truth.

          19. I live in Canada and I have been voting for 25 years. I have always had to prove I lived in the area I was voting in. We have always had voter ID laws. We could use a phone bill as id, just something to prove residence.

            Your ID laws seem to favour republicans over democrats but are not racial.

          20. If your argument is that racist language has to be codified into the law for there to be a systematic disenfranchisement of a particular race as the result of the application of that law, you might as well argue there was nothing racist about red-lining… or that American slavery wasn’t human rights abuse because the law at the time didn’t recognize slaves as fully human.

          21. The point is the law as best I can tell is equal. The problem we have now is correcting the behaviour of those within the institutions that apply those laws.

            What’s the racial component that gives women 60% of the sentence that a man gets. It’s not systemic, it’s judges giving preferential treatment to women over men. It’s the same problem we have with race, there is prejudice in the people that apply the system. That’s what needs to be fixed.

        2. We scrapped before about this, and I’m calling BS. When many people who claim to be arguing in favor of social justice get tripped up and angry, they lash out just like typical human beings and many of them call others evil racists, sexist, bigots, yada yada, and they don’t mean it in any newfangled academic way. They’re simply being aholes.

          I really believe some people don’t even realize they’re doing it. They get the terms mixed up in their heads, and it allows them to rationalize demonizing good people who just disagree with them on the particulars of racism.

          1. I disagree that people expressing frustration at having the same objections raised by white dudes who think it’s important to “just ask questions” while also consistently dismissing the experience of women, people of color, people with physical and mental disabilities and illness, LGBTQI individuals.

            Why is it so difficult for you to accept that people who care about social justice, and spend their time researching, discussing, and participating in activism might have a better understanding of it than you? You’re probably right, it’s more likely they’re just assholes making up stories to get attention.

            Marginalized people aren’t frustrated that you disagree with them about racism. They get frustrated when you fail to use what power you have to address racism, stop them when they try to address racism, and demand they defend themselves while simultaneously educating you, while you imply they’re liars, mentally defective, and oversensitive crybabies.

            Obviously, I’m not speaking for all marginalized people. I usually assume that’s implied, but I’ve recently been informed I need to start spelling things out more.

  16. I think if someone is more educated about an issue, but cannot (or is unwilling to) explain it in a way that a reasonably intelligent person can understand, then it could be they actually don’t understand the issue as well as they think. This is actually the biggest value, imo, of welcoming dissenting opinions instead of trying to silence them. We get to “sharpen our swords.” It’s also possible we’re right, but not completely, and we may just learn something.

    And we could just be wrong. I find it somewhat amusing when advocates of Critical Race Theory act as if is as defensible as say, The Theory of Relitivity or TOE.

    There are actually still a lot of very smart academics who disagree on many of these issue. They can all be right and wrong about the specifics. Have your read the exchange between Coates and Chaite?

    1. I agree that being able to explain complicated things in a clear and concise way is a great skill. That said, if someone uses a phrase in a way you don’t understand, and you ask them about it, and then instead of listening to their explanation, you tell them that you know better and that they’re just being confusing, I don’t think the fact that you still don’t understand the term speaks to their knowledge.

      Moreover, I’ve heard people of color discuss this very problem when talking about ham-fisted attempts to implement diversity based on poor understandings of cultural context. POC and advocates are not on call white people teachers.

      I appreciate your point about sharpening your swords, but you have to acknowledge that debate is not always the most effective/constructive means of having a conversation. I think this is especially true when the conversation is about a cultural power imbalance wherein one race of people are constantly invalidating, dismissing, and denying the lived experience of another race. Generally speaking, it’s rude to show up for a debate when you were invited to a discussion. It’s ruder still when you weren’t invited in the first place, or as a friend of mine recently put it “I’m just trying to eat lunch.”

      Thanks for the article. I hadn’t read it. I’ll check it out.

      1. It’s an amazing back and forth. I’d like to see more of that.

        “POC and advocates are not on call white people teachers.”

        I’m afraid that is what productive advocacy is: convincing and educating. I understand the frustration when not everyone quickly jumps on board or places your cause in as high of priority. But I think it’s the burden we all have if we seek to promote our causes effectively. Bullying, shaming campaigns and off-hand comments like “read a book” make so called advocates look arrogant, and frankly ill-prepared to defend the cause. It also creates a backlash, which we have witnesses in Gamergate, the alt-right, (I’d like for more people like Thomas to “get this” and how it relates to Trump) and even among liberals who fear the “SJW” orthodoxy has become too illiberal.

        I honestly don’t know where I stand with regard to Critical Race Theory. Much of it seems very interesting and good, and some of it is very radical, and perhaps wrong. I think I can learn a lot from reading up on it, and I have done a bit of studying. That tends to make we want to ask questions about some of the points I think I disagree with, for instance, the outlook on past imperialism, and the tendency to dismiss historic figures like Jefferson and Locke as racists.

        And? Their racism, which was the norm back then even among many abolitionists, does not disqualify their writings on liberty, secular government, free speech, etc., but I find a lot of social justice advocates trying to make that case.

        1. I think the advice I tend to hear when people argue that advocates need to be always available to teach is that advocacy is difficult work, and you have to choose where you can make the most progress. It would be great if we all had an infinite well of energy to spend at every opportunity for a “teachable moment”, but the truth is you’re not achieving the most you can when you spend all day arguing with a guy on the internet who just wants to convince you that he knows more about racial injustice and advocacy work than you, based solely on him figuring things ought to work the way he thinks they should (that’s not a passive aggressive attack on you, by the way).

          I get that it looks arrogant to tell someone to “read a book,” but it also looks entitled to say to someone, “work your ass off to convince me I’m wrong on this,” or even just “spend your time walking me through this because I can’t be bothered to look into it myself.” Maybe it’s fine, if you’ve got a free afternoon, but if you need that time to chill out so you can wake up tomorrow and engage a group of people who will do more with that information than maybe, at best, shrug their shoulders, say, “yeah, all right” and maybe not type as much half-informed shit on the internet, you’re not being a productive advocate.

          I also get bothered by the idea that anything out a a person’s mouth is fruit from the poison tree if that person also held problematic views.That said, I think it’s important not to assume people affected by those issues are wrong because they can’t ignore them for the length of a particular discussion.

          1. I get what you’re saying, and I can’t imagine badgering an activist while he’s trying to eat lunch or whatever. I don’t know if this is wrong, but I also tend to have the highest amount of deference when discussing such issues with a minority. Almost to the extent I won’t challenge them if I have any feeling they aren’t receptive.

            It’s when involved in a political or philosophical conversation online that I’m mostly referring, where such challenges and questions seem appropriate, that I often observe this behavior that just seems childish and counterproductive. It clearly happens on both sides, so I don’t want to sound like I’m giving the racist trolls a pass. The internet has seriously fucked us up in a lot of ways, like some sort of semi-anonymous road raging shyt, lol.

          2. Btw, I also understand that not everyone on the internet has time for “teachable moments,” but I still don’t think that excuses the huge amount of trolling and hate I see directed at often sincere posters. It seems rather obvious to a lot of us that their is too much “cliquiness” with SJW’s (as there certainly is to the anti-SJW’s, and people showing off to gain acceptance withing a group. I think it polarizes and really harms any movement when things get to the point nobody wants to listen and instead just demonizes the other side. It often seems like the war for racial justice is being fought in high school, not among adults.

          3. I do not disagree with these points.

            I like the idea of conceptualizing internet discussion as a “semi-anonymous road-raging shyte.”

            I saw a study that found a correlation between experiencing road-rage and having bumper-stickers/decorations on your own car.

            The researchers theorized that personalizing your car communicates your identity to other cars, which potentially transforms traffic incidents and frustrations into personal attacks against you. I don’t remember how strongly the conclusions were supported by the data, but I do remember thinking it was interesting that whether or not the cars that cut people off had bumper-stickers had no effect on inducing road-rage.

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