Ed Brayton, the FTB high priest, writes that:
When I started this network, it was intended to be very “loosy-goosy,” where we would all make decisions together like a commune; it turns out that doesn’t work very well …
Ha ha – great – the pinnacle of free thought, the one place that they claim is stuffed with all the right people having what it takes, who, if only everybody were half as Jesus as them, would turn the world into paradise, needs Dear Leader to add a little Stalin because “it turns out that it doesn’t work very well”. Surprised?
Since PZ Meyers was involved from the start, “Free Thought Blogs” was certain to resemble other places that define themselves via “freedom”, like the land of mass incarceration self-identifying as “the free world”. “Free speech” let the term “imperialism” effectively disappear. “Exceptionalism” is the euphemism that may be employed academically; it refers to the ‘special equality’ reserved for the one that brings freedom to the sorry rest of the world. Run fast whenever something self-identifies negatively via the absence of something else loosely defined. These are war machines; war itself has become the basis on which they survive; they usually decay due to internal strife.
Mature criticism implies self-criticism, which is suicide in circles that pretend to be especially critical. Skeptics see self-criticism as treason. Thunderfoot’s mistake was to point out that the “Free Thought Blogs” are Group Think Blogs:
As such I personally see ‘freethoughtblogs’ as unrepresentative of the wider rationalist community in:
1) The disproportionate amount of attention it gives to sexism compared to other issues.
2) The way that those who disagree on the matter of sexism are attacked with a disproportionate amount of strawmen, invective and branding (misogynist, MRA, etc etc). This is a behavior more in line with bullying than free thought... and this puts FTB on a trajectory to be more of a fringe group that is intolerant of non-conformity, than a haven for free thought. (Emphasis added)
Funny how he is surprised about bullying and strawmen arguments on a skeptics’ site, though do I read correctly: they are here “disproportionate” but otherwise fine? Anyway, he mentions two aspects you cannot freely discuss in such “free” places:
1) That “free” presupposes conformity; you are free to do whatever only if there is no danger of you doing anything non-conform. Freedom is either a forced doctrine or the substitution of artificial constraints by more efficient, systematic, integrated mechanisms.
Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. Julian Assange
2) Sex, sexism, boobies, whatever: Elevator gate was far from the end of the new atheist crowd going at each other with all forms of sexism, real and imaginary.
Number one is obvious, but why number two? They claim that it is their fight against the religious and the sexism inherent in traditional power structures that makes endless debates inevitable. They turn the sexism at TAM meetings into a proof of that sexism is everywhere and that only they do not suppress a free discussion about it. But why not racism instead?
The FTB crowd is almost homogeneous - racially, politically, culturally, … . You do not find for example the percentage of colored people encountered in a mall. Skeptics are privileged whites plus a few who manage to behave like them and are thus welcome as show pieces of diversity. There is only one such difference left: Penis versus no penis. You would think that on a platform like FTB, you know, with modern, scientifically educated, progressive people, they therefore would have no such xyz-ism problem left at all. Instead, they just can’t stop tearing each other up over what many leave behind with puberty. Why?
There are many aspects that come to mind. One could mention “affirmative action” back firing, but featuring mediocre females prominently because females draw readers happens everywhere. Females utilizing sex, stuff like “science cheerleaders” and “skepchicks”, is as usual as defending this against criticism with sexism charges, but no communities are bogged down in sexism debates and severe sexism charges like the new atheists.
I think it is simple, namely, what else would you expect? The popular new atheism and skeptics movement is all about convenient bashing. It stabilizes a new establishment, but instead of being positively doing so, it is “anti”. It is somewhat like being the democrats in two-party tyrannies, supplying token criticism and a playground to abreact, but skepticism largely feeds on the internet where relatively young people seek excitement – fast, no deep thinking. Skepticism sells to much the same audience that watches war porn, free world drones blowing “sand niggers” to shreds somewhere down in oil-land. It sells because “yeah, f’ them, this feels good, I belong to the winners.”
Sexism charges are convenient weapons that fit the usual strategies of skeptics. They love kicking babies and having the minions high five in the comment sections. Call somebody a crackpot because “Einstein disproved the ether” – it is easy and guarantied to mobilize back-up no matter how wrong it is. If semi-intellectual stabs at easy targets are what you do, if a charitable reading and understanding of your opponent is not what you are able to deliver or willing to deliver because it does not sell, then the easy way is what you do and are used to do, also to get ahead inside a community of peers. Accusing each other of sexism – nowhere as viciously as on sites like FTB – reminds of closet gays “finding” and bashing homos. Repressed sexism boiling over alternating with the over-compensation characteristic of religious hypocrisy and liberal guilt – I am not surprised.
The funniest about the recent affair on FTB has got to be that they kicked out Greg Laden. Greg played the “look, I am really a feminist woman inside” game like few others. He was one of the best and became overconfident, kicking around people like Thunderfoot for their “sexism”, telling people in no uncertain terms that he, Greg Laden, is on the high priest level with PZ and Ed (and a few women he always mentions in order to mention women as if they would ever tolerate a woman in such positions anywhere, FTB or SB or …). And now he is surprised I guess, as surprised as so many revolutionaries getting hung as reactionaries by their comrades. Oh Greg – you were playing with a double edged sword there my friend! Didn’t you know?
I respect some of Greg’s writing. I hope he learns a certain lesson that he refused to listen to and moves on to write less but more insightfully again.