Thursday, November 29, 2012

PZ Myers, Guru of Hate

Can this angel get off the ground? Or
out of the gutter?
Introduction: Some time ago, I challenged biologist PZ Myers to a debate over the impact Christianity has had on women.  I meant that challenge sincerely: I would not issue such a challenge to someone I couldn't (at the time) have seen myself on a stage with, however unlikely it might be that he or she would accept.  I also make hypothetical travel plans to Minnesota, thinking about what else I might do along the way.  (I've always wanted to see if I could find more of the dinosaur fossils I brought back from eastern Montana on my last visit 30 years ago, for instance.) 

I later came to think that it would probably be wrong to debate Myers. I have come to see PZ as a bad person, a character who serves much the function of a Rajneesh or a Mao in Gnu society, who should be exposed, and probably not treated with the respect sharing a public forum (were PZ bold enough to do that sort of thing) would imply.

The reality was staring me in the face all along, having been the target of a few of PZ's "ten hour hates" myself.  But I downplayed that evidence, partly because of PZ's charm -- and also, ironically, precisely because I was the target.  The fact that PZ rejoiced in and was implicitly directing crude bullying, violently pornographic insults, and cowardly, mob-against-individual verbal brutality, did not entirely register with me, both because I didn't really want to think that of someone who does, after all, have a lively sense of humor and a keen eye for wonder in Nature, and because I knew that in a sense, "I had provoked it."  After all, I'm a Christian "apologist," intruding shamelessly and provocatively into PZ's space, brushing aside taunts with attempts at wit, and firing my little torpedos at the mothership.  Of course the hive began to buzz angrily. 

But recently I observed a whole series of "high tech lynchings" of atheists (or at least their reputations) that at times turned my stomach.  PZ was not just complicit in this foul, dishonest, and cowardly dismembering of human souls, he gloried it in, like a cackling Jim Jones, or a petty North Korean prison guard who gets his kicks out of setting inmates against one another for a few extra kernels of corn, patting himself on the back for his cheap wit and moral virtue all along. 

Do not be deceived by the humorous front.  PZ Myers, I have concluded, is frantically at work to desensitize thousands of young Gnus to civil behavior and open-mindedness, all while cultivating in them a feeling a self-righteousness virtue, because they are, supposedly, "on the right side" in important moral issues. 

Pardon the nastiness.  What follows is a front-line report from a skirmish in what I earlier called the Gnu Civil War

The issue, in this case, is rape.  The designated villains do not themselves seem to be rapists. (Just as, to give the mob equal back-handed credit, there is no evidence that it is made up solely of cannibals.)  Nor does anyone justify rape with so much as a single syllable.  Rather, the point is to take a Righteous and Progressive Stance, then verbally crucify anyone who, however tentatively or merely stupidly, expresses a view or even asks a question that shows he (usually but not always a he, in this thread) is not quite up to speed on the Great Feminist Catechism, version 2.012. 

I cringe when I hear Christian preachers joke that more women are likely to go to heaven than men, or praise mothers on Mother's Day, then tell dads to shape up on Father's Day.  I have seen no evidence whatsoever that women in general are morally superior to men, or vice-versa. 

What is amusing about this conversation, is the terror displayed by sycophantic male feminists, who realize their own righteous status may be revoked at any moment, and the full wrath of the Mad Women of Thebes may descend upon them as well, should they step out of line.

Also, like Winston Smith, the first Little Satan to be thus set upon, who calls himself 999, tries at numerous stages to make it plain that he has "learned to love Big Sister."  But his cringing is not quite abject enough, he fails to slink low enough to the ground, and the mob soon sets upon him afresh. 

I will not address the substantive issues raised here: Is America a "rape society?"  Are there, in fact, any actions that women can do to make rape far less likely?  The main point of this piece is to describe the psychology of group hatred, the anger and verbal "violence" of the mob, in a Gnu context. 

I am unsure how much of the actual language of PZ's cult to preserve.  This blog is not a sewage treatment plant or a village dump.  But it is important to expose evil for what it is, and that cannot always be done with a G rating.  It is easy to replace some of the cruder Anglo-Saxon with abstract symbols.  The violence of some of the language will, however, be preserved.  I apologize to readers with sensitive stomachs.

But the motto of journalism is "Show it, don't just say it," so I step down from the pedestal, and let the conversation work its own magic.  Feel the love.


Round One: 1-500 (selected)


"So right, so right."

"Yep, that's about right."

(Snake #1 enters the garden . . . )

#7  Oneplus 999: "Ok this is getting really meta… I completely agree that society’s treatment of women is terrible. I do everything in my own life to alleviate that. That said, the fact is we DO still live in this rape-isn’t-that-bad-she’ll-like-it scenario.

"THAT SAID when I park my car in a sketchy parking lot, I hide my valuables so that I don’t get robbed."

We are the One the Matrimonial Collective: "* you. I hope someone breaks into your car anyway and @ on the seats . . . Seriously give me your plate number that way I know to key your car because you didn’t take the precaution of keeping your mouth shut."

"Please do us all a favor and get in your precious car, garage it, turn it on and stay there until your brain either wakes up or expires ridding the world of one more &;.

999: "I'm failing to see the relevance . . . "

(): "Here’s a fun experiment: if you saw a naked woman lying on the street do you think a) what happened I should get help this is odd? B) ***? Or c) well I never thought of it before but hey free pussy!

"People oppertunistically stealing and raping is not the * fault of the victim…such people either search out or keep an eye open for such opertunities because they’re predators. Decent people don’t do that. Decent people don’t even check other cars for exposed valubles."

Giliell: "Because, you know #@, I had my purse picked, my handbag stolen and my car broken into. But you know what, none of this was half as bad as the day some guy followed me and tried to get me when I went to my car. Oh, and just for the record, I wasn’t wearing a short skirt. But I wasn’t wearing a burqa, so * you and your victim blaming You don’t do “everything” to alleviate that, you actively participate in rape-culture."

999: "Well this has been eye-opening. I appreciate the feedback . . . "

Ps: I don’t blame someone who got broken into their car any more than I blame someone who gets raped. And of course, I have far more antipathy for rapists than for vandals and thieves.


999: I completely agree that the ideal solution is “don’t rape people”, but until that magical day, I just don’t see why it’s so terrible that someone say “WE ARE DOING WHAT WE CAN TO REDUCE RAPE but until then please be safe”. I feel like it’s a kneejerk reaction to assume that someone who says “don’t go out late at night” is ignoring the real problem. I’m NOT ignoring the real problem. I just think we should do EVERYTHING we can to reduce rape, which including being safe.

Brownian: You’re long past the point where you should be saying anything but “Sorry for butting in on a subject I know nothing about and derailing the conversation. I am an %$.”

Ing: Did you read the * cartoon at all?  Look & do we go to your tea parties and (Ing implies graphically that 999 commits incest)? No? % off then #%.

Hyperdeath: “Please be safe.” What amazingly insightful advice. Well done. I’m sure that all of the silly little girls who frequent these parts are secretly glad of your manly wisdom.

999: You are right, which is why I’ve never told someone “hide your valuables when you park your car”, and I’ve NEVER told a woman to do something to avoid being raped. Because I AM smart enough to know that they already know that (I am married, I hear about the cat calling and that kind of stuff all the time). My point is just that some poor slob who DOES suggest it might be condescending, but it’s not the same as being accepting of the rape culture.

Ing: Congratulations on getting someone to let you * her. I’ll send her my condolences card.

My point is just that some poor slob who DOES suggest it might be condescending, but it’s not the same as being accepting of the rape culture.  I’m sorry when in the course of (Ing uses another graphicly obscene image of 999 commiting incest) did we crown you the Pope of Feminism? Yes it * is.

Seriously, manwhining about name calling is not going to make me stop you cry baby.

Pitbull: And what you’re doing is contributing to rape culture — by distracting from the conversation which should be about eliminating rape culture — even if (as far as you’re concerned) you’re not accepting of rape culture.  You can “be against” something even while you’re making it worse.

SS: There is a lot of research behind our reactions to you, but you are totally * unaware because, in your little sexist brain, you assumed that anything having to do with women and feminism didn’t require you to do your due diligence and find out what the background is before offering your tired, ignorant, ever-so-common “advice”, which has repeatedly (like, 1,000s of times) shown to be not only not helpful, but actually toxic. “Advice” like what you just dispensed shows that you are unaware of the research that has actually been done about the behavior or rapists, and it is part of the rape culture narrative that rapists exploit in order to get away with their crimes. Not only are you ignorant, you are actively feeding into a narrative that ensures that less than 10% of rapists ever see a jail cell for their crimes.

So go the * AWAY already and start educating your arrogant pissant self. Don’t do any more damage than you’ve already done.

You’re helping rapists get away with their crimes, +*. You don’t think that warrants a few well-placed cusswords and choice insults? * you.

Brownian: "You’re either a * moron or a * liar."

999 (Visibly cringing): I’m really confused here, so women already change their behaviors to prevent rape, but this doesn’t actually prevent any rapes according to a post above, and when an ignorant man (whether it’s myself or someone else) suggests that women do what they already do (in addition to doing what he can to condemn the rape culture), rather than just being ignorant and condescending, he’s actually actively promoting the rape culture?

Linford: I want to put a few caveats before I say anything. Mainly this is because I am intensely aware of my own privilege as a male entering this conversation, and want to say upfront that if anything I say reeks of sexism, I deeply want to be corrected. I’ve read through this post carefully, and I am really trying to understand the issues involved. As a guy trying to understand these sorts of things, I sometimes find myself a bit confused. What I’m writing here is not intended as any kind of rebuttal to any one else or even an argument; I started thinking about something when I read this post (and the comments) and would just like to ask a few questions to better understand the discussion.

Could it be that the man who takes the sort of position we’re talking about here (the idiot responding in the cartoon) is simply woefully misinformed and overtly privileged and not necessarily a bully? A bully, as I understand the term, is someone who purposefully sets out to say malignant things and to hurt others, and not someone who says a load of bullshit out of their own stupidity, arrogance, ignorance, or privilege.

As many in the atheist community know, it can be difficult to awaken from the hold of religious dogmas and doctrines. That one has to somehow get outside of a framework that one has accepted for a really long time in order to do so. I strongly suspect that privilege can have much of the same hold on people. How many men who take the position we’re talking about here don’t even know what the word “privilege” means in this context? Or that their perspective, due to their limited experience, is actually so radically different from that of their female friends? I suspect that the incredulity felt by some men in relation to this subject matter is more a matter of ignorance than anything else.

Audley Darkheart: I was going to respond to dumb#999 or whateverthe* their name is, but Ing’s

* you. I hope someone breaks into your car anyway and # on the seats pretty much sums up my reaction.

999:  Hah wow people make comments that serve no purpose but to call me names, and I get called out for tone trolling! Great community here guys.

Nerd of Redhead: What a demented non-thinking loser.

Brownian: Getting #holes like you to shut your * your ignorant yaps when you don’t have a * clue is fixing one of the woes of society, and the point of the * cartoon, #@)%.

AR: oneplus999: You are an ignorant, arrogant, ill-informed fool, and, by refusing to simply sit and listen to what people are trying to tell you, you are denying your self a chance to explore an alternative viewpoint that may allow you to understand why your earlier comments were so offensive.

999: I’m sorry if I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings, I err’d my original post on the side of “devil’s advocate” because I wanted to stir up the hornet’s nest a bit, to get as much data as possible. I’m doing my best to take in all that data objectively.

You have convinced me that a man who “blames the victim” is being fairly ignorant because most women are already going to be taking as many reasonable precautions as possible, so, as one reader aptly put it, it’s like telling someone to lift the toilet seat.

I still reject the idea that it is distracting and thereby promoting rape culture, and that our feeble minds somehow can’t manage to simultaneously take personal precautions WHILE we work towards a better, safer tomorrow.

Leebroomincombe: Oneplus999, YOU are the clueless offscreen voice in the cartoon, making things worse and not better. For things to improve it starts with people like yourself modifying your behaviour. For example, you could start by not victim-blaming or saying anything which even hints that a victim might be culpable for her rape.

That WOULD begin to set the world to right. If enough folks did that, the world would be a better place. And if you think this too little a thing to do, then let me remind you of the proverb about acorns and oak trees…

I mean, if you really cannot do this one small thing, then what hope have we to do anything to stop rape?

999: Ok so now I’m really confused again. I directed the conversation a certain way, and was accused of “distracting” from the conversation that was SUPPOSED to be happening. So I try to leave, and [obviously snarkily] say, “ok, have your great conversation that’s supposed to be happening. I’m waiting for it”, and the response is that correcting me WAS the great conversation? So how was I distracting from it?

My point is that I’m still missing how suggesting victims take precautions = rape culture promoting.

In my car example, I park in a sketchy parking lot. I see a sign that says “don’t leave valuables visible”. I do not get pissed off at the sign about how it’s thievery-promoting and victim blaming. I might think “well obviously” and move on with my life, but I wouldn’t read darker intentions into the sign, or assume that whoever put up the sign would gladly allow theft to happen.

If you think I’m lying and that this wasn’t my original argument at all, fine. It’s understandable, I did a terrible job of presenting myself in my original post. I was trying too hard to get something posted before the comment count got too high and my post got lost in the shuffle. This is what I meant by “I err’d on the side of Devil’s Advocate”. I’m not trying to say that I completely disagree with my original post, just that it’s not quite accurate of what I was trying to say.

So, assume that I’m the one telling you “don’t do X, it might lower your chances of getting raped”. Why is the response automatically “YOU ARE A RAPE CULTURE PROMOTER” and not just “you are an idiot we already do X” (and for some reason people also say “doing X won’t actually help”, while doing X themselves).

And just so people know I am learning: it did not occur to me before to take offense at the comments because they are condescending. It’s just not something that would have occurred to me, but I honestly get that now. Condescension and malice are different though, and it’s the assumption of malice that bothers me.

Dave: It makes me sick to my stomach to remember that there was a time I sounded like oneplus.

I’m just chiming in to thank those people doing their best to educate the * troll. He may never learn, but there are plenty of lurkers out there who’ve manged to pull our heads out of our # because of you.

Special thanks to Pteryxx for all the linkstorms, I haven’t read em all, but I’m trying.

(At about this point the Guru-In-Chief, the voice of reason in a lost world of religious and political madness steps in to settle this unequal battle of wits between 20 cursing "feminists" and one cautious dissenter: he cheers the violent and hateful language, and threatens to ban the one dissenter, who has been its target, and who almost alone is actually reasoning!)

PZ MYERS: The comments section here is not forgiving. You’d think people could figure that out, but it’s like watching someone stick their hand in a blender once, and when they discover they didn’t stop the sharp whirly thing the first time, they do it again and again and again, while all the spectators are yelling at him to stop sticking his hand in the blender, you *%!

Oneplus999, how’s the hand? I recommend that you stop right now, or I’ll take actions to prevent you from grossing everyone out with your self-mutilation any further.

RahXephon: None of that stops acquaintance rape, or spousal rape, or rape by a relative.

You’d added nothing new to the conversation, all you’ve done is waste people’s time and energy going over the same # feminists (and women in general) always have to go over with * like you. How many more times do I have to say it? SHUT UP AND GO AWAY.

PZ: Seriously, oneplus999, you’re done. Stop now. Do you really think people here need your condescending advice? Do you think women are all idiots?

999: O hi PZ :) sure. Stopping now. Sorry didn’t see you post before my last one. Very educational for me, I’m sorry that this is rehashing old topics for the rest of you.

(After another long spate of insults):

Sorry PZ ban if you must but I’m getting lots of people directing comments at me.

420. PZ MYERS: Oneplus999 has met the mighty banhammer.

999. Never did I say

*that this would prevent all rapes

*it would have prevented your rape

*if you don’t do these, then it’s your own fault

*that you should be required to follow MY rules for preventing rape.

I gave my silly list up above because people kept goading me to provide such a list. The real list is this:

1) Use your own common sense to avoid rape.

2) Don’t rape.

Here’s the analogy, going back to my original:

You see a sign in a parking deck, it says “don’t leave your valuables out where they are visible”. Your car gets robbed. The police officer asks if you left your valuables out. You say yes. He then blames you for the crime.

I think it’s feasible to have the sign out there, regardless of how stupid, incorrect, or condescending it is, and still COMPLETELY DISAPPROVE of the police officer’s behavior.

I honestly do now realize that having the sign up PROMOTES the police officer’s behavior in this case, even if the person who put the sign up had no such attitude himself WHICH MAKES THE SIGN A STUPID MISTAKE THAT SHOULDN’T BE THERE AS LONG AS THE POLICE ARE THAT STUPID. But at the same time I’m saying the sign itself isn’t wrong, which is where a lot of our actual disagreement is coming from. So, I hereby apologize for what I said not because it was inherently a bad thing to say, but because, in our current society, it promotes the assumption that the latter is okay, which was entirely not my intention.

To turn my own argument back on myself, if we were in an ideal world where victim-blaming didn’t exist, I could freely ask the question “can a woman do anything to reduce her chances of getting raped?” and there wouldn’t be a crowd of fratboys and ex-boyfriends and police officers out there to interpret this as acceptance of victim-blaming. But in the real world, they almost certainly DO hear it as such, regardless of my intentions. Even more importantly, rape victims themselves hear it as such, and for those of you I hurt I really am sorry.

PZ Myers: The oneplusxxx # has been banned, and has skulked back at least once. Do not bother to reply to him, I will delete his comments as I catch up with them.

And what is this with another clueless whiner or two showing up as soon as I get rid of one? Could you people PLEASE STOP MAKING THE SAME STUPID ARGUMENTS. Read the thread. They’ve been dealt with multiple times.

II. (Exit, 999, tale between legs.  Enter, pinata number two.)

Marlococci: 1. The 1 in 4 statistic is a well established lie.

2. A rape culture is one where rape is accepted, like Saudi Arabia where children can legally be married off.

3. A rape culture is NOT where you can potentially be put in jail for life for committing it.

4. Claiming this culture is a “rape culture” is a backhanded way of saying all men commit or approve of rape. That’s about as bigoted as saying the jews run the goverment.

Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle: Those things all DO REDUCE RAPE.

Prove it. Or are we supposed to accept what you really really really want to be true? And then go tell Melissa McEwan how she could have prevented her rape, since it’s all her responsibility.

Then, throw yourself off a bridge. And take that painfully uneducated marlorocci with you. You’re both utterly and completely worthless.

AR: marlorocci: I shall respond to your points one by one:

1. Please read this before furthering your stupidity.

2. Actually, check your definitions, rape culture is defined as a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence. Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape.

3. Yes, it is, if your chances of that fate are relatively low given the patriarchal, victim blaming nature of rape culture.

4. Please, explain this further, because I have never seem any reasonable feminist suggest this.
Gen, Uppity Ingrate: Hey everyone, marlorocci totally solved it all! We’re not living in a culture with a distressingly high number of unreported rapes! All rapes are reported because women aren’t shamed by society, disbelieved and abused for daring to report a rape! Rapists get convicted every time there’s evidence (the evidence being two male witnesses, of course! Who should be present in any case, because if there aren’t other, impartial, non-abusive men present, well, what was she doing with a man alone?)!

SO yay! Now we can all go have a beer! Just don’t have a beer if you’re a woman, y’know. You might get yourself drunk and vulnerable. And if it’s night where you are and you’re a woman, you’ll have to get someone to go with you to have this beer. Or really, just stay at home till it’s day again. And then, when it’s daylight and you’re drinking your non-alcoholic beverage, make sure to dress appropriately and talk to no men and certainly have no consensual sex before getting yourselves all raped!


(Ironic interlude.) 

Emrysmyrdddin: Seriously, this is the only place I post online, now. It’s the only forum where you can guarantee decent-*-human-behaviour from the commentariat. Keep on trucking.

(Resume vitriol.) 
Josh: You really are being a *#. It’s you, not us.

III. (A third round of ritual sacrifice soon followed, with a woman calling herself A Maclean being the victim.  Her crime, like that of 999, was to suggest that women should take precautions to make getting raped less likely.  She also turned out to be an utter failure as a human being, which PZ's mob helpfully pointed out.

(Seeming a touch more secure than 999, perhaps in part because of her status as a member of the supposed victim group, Maclean seemed to take the insults with surprising patience, though finally blowing up and returning a few obscenities to nastier members of the circling crowds. 

(For the most part, I omit that conversation, the pattern having already clarified itself, and no need to add to the muck.  But I found one ironic comment by Maclean, and a longer autobiographical comment from a female lawyer, particularly interesting, ominous in the latter case):

2. 335  A Maclean "Am I comparable to Hitler yet?  Or am I at more of a Pol Pot level?  I do somewhat idolize Dexter, I admit."

2.470 Lyn M, Purveyor of Fine Aphorisms of DeathFor 25 years I worked in various courts trying to take down men who thought they could abuse their wives and kids and no one would oppose them. I understand a bit of what the spouses and kids felt because these heroes would try out the same techniques on me, without the hitting. You hit a lawyer working for the prosecution side, you are going to jail. Even with the police at the courthouse and all that privilege, there were times I felt the threat, some fear. None of the weasels who stalked me ever went beyond that, but again, lucky me.

As I got more senior and (I like to think) more skilled, I got the cases involving violence and sexual perversion and drugs. Must say, I was never bored. When a judge saw through these fellows and made a strong order, I felt great.

One day, we were finishing up a case, and in the break, a bailiff said, “hey, it’s all girls day.” I looked around the court and realised everyone working there was a woman that day, bailiffs, reporters, registrar, the judge and me. I thought, it took long enough, but the system is responding to relentless pressure. If you don’t push, you don’t get movement."


A. What if Lyn M, Purveyor of Fine Aphorisms of Death, is also a purveyor of injustice against men?  Human beings come in male and female, but in some ways -- "power corrupts" being one -- we are made of much the same stuff.  When men are on trial, isn't "all girl's day" something to be concerned about?  Especially when the "girls" have the kinds of attitudes displayed in this thread, along with tremendous, sometimes super-judicial, I would say in some cases unConstitutional and even tyrannical, power over men, not all of whom are as obviously guilty as sin? 

The refined savagery of this thread need not be limited to cyberspace.  It can burst those bounds and spread out into the real world, just as surely as the refined hatred and arrogance of Karl Marx spilled out into the Gulag. 

Lives are destroyed this way. 

B. If love "believes all things," that is, tries to interpret a person's actions and words charitably, it seems that "hate takes all things badly," finds a way to construe the words of the person hated in the worst possible light.  Thus, 999 says he does everything in his personal life to treat women with dignity.  He is quickly accused of rape, incest, and Lord knows what other crimes, completely gratuitously, with PZ cheering the mob on. 

C. Why do PZ and his female sycophants neglect to look in the mirror, but absurdly pretend as if all or almost all the injustice were a one-way street, or as if more than a tiny minority of American men have, in fact, committed, encouraged, or in any way condoned rape?

As a non-combatant in the Battle of the Sexes, in some ways the whole thing seems pointless to me. Good and evil, Solzhenitsyn pointed out, is a line drawn not between parties or nations, or genders one might add, but through every human heart. And when one fails to see the evil of one's own heart, one tends to project that evil on others -- often on a disfavored group en masse. And there is enough evil in the world that this trick always works, one can always find plenty of sin in whatever group one chooses to hate.

Focused rage, scapegoating in other words, is one of the traditional tools of the trade for a hate guru.  Perhaps PZ really believes his own propaganda.  More importantly, it is essential to his success.  When he shows wonderful pictures of underwater sponges, his posts tend to only get a few comments.  (Though that may be true of the Internet in general.) 

D. Let that be a lesson to lurkers! We verbally disembowl this gentleman to set an example! The lynch mob thus shows that it believes firmly in the power and moral justice of social ostracism. We don't ostracize women or doctors who kill unborn babies, still less women who have babies without a Dad (though we can ostracize the Dads who run off). Terror, as Lenin recognized, is a powerful tool for shaping a community.

E. What this thread shows, is that religion does not make PZ Myers and his disciples hate. (As is often implied, for example by a recent book called Why Atheists are so Angry.) Why are so many New Atheists so angry? Simple. Those who go in for hate cults, even in the name of morality and the rights of women, come to need hatred as an addict needs his next fix, come to need a focus of rage, that 10-Minute Hate that justifies their lives. After offing five sacrificial atheist victims in turn, having run out of "virgins," someone links to the Christian blogger, Vox Day, who makes himself an easy target, for more grist for the mill. 999 rightfully perceives that verbally disembowling his soul is not an interruption to the conversation, as PZ and others claim, but is the whole point of the ritual of human sacrifice being that is performed on a weekly, if not daily basis on Pharyngula.  

F. Like any guru of hate, like Adolf Hitler or the Bagwan Rajneesh or Jim Jones, P. Z. Myers should probably be exposed, not reasoned with.  At this point in his life, he appears beyond reasoning.  He is selling a psychological drug to addicts, for which he actually makes a fair bit of copper. 

Apparently Myers can be civil, even charming, in person.  Some have suggested this dichotomy between on-line and in-your-face personai reflects PZ's essential cowardice.  He is simply too timid to be other than polite in person -- or to engage in public debates, or to seriously research the ideas that he so venomously attacks, and ironically godes his disciples to attack. 

After getting my fill of the sort of stuff on display above, I came to suspect that there is probably something to this theory. 

For all his wiles, P.Z. Myers seems, in some ways, a timid soul. 


Crude said...

Some have suggested this dichotomy between on-line and in-your-face personi reflects PZ's essential cowardice. He is simply too timid to be other than polite in person -- or to engage in public debates, or to seriously research the ideas that he so venomously attacks, and ironically goads his disciples to attack.

I've said that, and I stand by it. I'm always amazed when someone says (not just of PZ, but of anyone) that the extremely nasty, vicious, namecalling person is affable when someone is face to face (and, at the same time, within swinging distance) of someone else, as if that somehow makes them a better person. There's other descriptions for that: cowardly. Two-faced.

On the other hand, there's some lesson to be learned for atheists. You've logged a conversation between what seems to be an atheist, bowing and scraping before his comrades. I know he was neither the first nor last. I wonder how many of them assumed that in the Great Hate, they would always be on the side of the mob.

But more than that - I think PZ Myers' antics belong to a larger class. This is how things get accomplished nowadays politically and socially. You don't argue, you don't reason. You just scream louder.

David B Marshall said...

Crude: Maybe all I really needed to say was, "These people really need Jesus."

Tom Gilson said...

I met PZ briefly at the Reason Rally last March, along with a friend of mine who had invited him to visit his church. The occasion for that invitation was PZ's complaining about Christians coming to the Reason Rally. He said that was about as rude as atheists coming to church; to which my friend responded with a warm invitation for atheists to come to church.

(Of course the analogy is a silly one: the Reason Rally was on the National Mall, outdoors, in a public place, with a public-policy purpose, where dissenting groups meet dissenting groups all the time.)

My friend reminded him of that invitation, and PZ said he couldn't come: it would be impossible for him to be respectful in a church, he said. I said, "we're being respectful here." He agreed. Then he said, "Is anyone mocking you?" We said yes. "They should be," he answered.

And he did it all with the warmest, friendliest, most charming smile. If it weren't for the words coming out of his mouth, I'd have considered him the kind of person I'd love to have coffee with.

Do I think he's a coward? I would rather say he's a man of small character but a big mouth. His antics are juvenile. The way he spoke with us was middle-school-ish, though with a touch of class for veneer. He is, in other words, a small man, though he has a loud mouth and a large audience. Cowards are often small men, and vice versa, so maybe he's a coward, too, but I won't say that based on what I know.

Two-faced? Sure; though I wish we had a better metaphor in our culture, since there's nothing wrong with his face: it's consistently friendly. His mouth is consistently wicked (in its small-man way). It's as if his face and his mouth don't know what each other are saying.

David B Marshall said...

Thanks, Tom. I'm still wondering about the psychology of the mob, and PZ's eager complicity.

Crude: As to the choice between "reasoning and screaming," by coincidence Thomas Sowell posted an excellent short article on this very issue today, which puts things in a similar light:

Rhology said...

PZ is awful, no question. I do wonder whether engaging him face to face would result in less sewage than his keyboard excretes.

I have had at least one similar experience - an atheist named Alex Botten, a perfect cretin and absolute master of illogic on keyboard, approached cordiality at times when I went on his podcast.

TheBrainFromPlanetArous said...

Myers Law is demonstated yet again.

For those unfamiliar, this from Grey Lining blog:

...Myers’ law – that what you say to any denizen of their sheltered workshops never has any realistic relation to what they actually hear – has also been postulated and covers the origin of much of the baboons’ general incoherence. Myers’ law is easy enough for anyone to verify by simply attempting to initiate a discussion in any of their forums (degree of difficulty: like falling off a toilet drunk).

Discussion forums in the Myersverse are howling monkeymasses of screeching, cage-banging and crap-flinging.

Forget about robust debate... even normal conversation is impossible with that crowd if you have the slightest disagreement on one of their hot-button issues.

During my time at Pharyngula I felt like one of those police shrinks talking jumpers off bridges. I'm not saying that for snark. There is something deeply, genuinely malignant about the whole 'scene' there.

David B Marshall said...

Brain: It's a little off-topic, but -- where exactly is the Planet Arous? I'm always interested in geography.

Anonymous said...

Please don't assume PZ Myers and his gang of snarling subnormals to be representative of the godless community. They are not. In any way. They are a loathsome minority that creates the illusion of presence through sheer noise and shameless snarling. They are source of immense embarrassment and are neither wanted nor needed by the rest of us. With patience they will run out of steam, turn on each other and finally return to the sewers they crawled out of.

Crude said...

Please don't assume PZ Myers and his gang of snarling subnormals to be representative of the godless community. They are not. In any way. They are a loathsome minority that creates the illusion of presence through sheer noise and shameless snarling. They are source of immense embarrassment and are neither wanted nor needed by the rest of us.

As much as I enjoy seeing some members of the godless community denouncing Myers... it's not that simple.

Did Myers have a speaking role at the last big US atheist convention?

Do all or most of the most visible atheist leaders - Dawkins, Coyne, etc - cozy up to him and praise him?

He's not shunned. He's celebrated. People turn a blind eye to his antics, or even encourage them, in large part. He's got quite the influence for the minority member.

Anonymous said...

Crude: "He's not shunned. He's celebrated. People turn a blind eye to his antics, or even encourage them, in large part. He's got quite the influence for the minority member."

Hardly. The godless ail from 'politeness' disease even more than the theistic. There is much coughing and looking the other way, yes. Cowardly, yes. But there is no 'approval' or 'encouragement'. It's like watching an obnoxious drunk best man ruin a wedding by having a podium. You have nothing but my word on this - outside of the sheltered workshops of freethoughtblogs and Skepchick, you will have very little luck finding any kind of 'approval'. To our great shame, we are allowing this.

Crude said...

Hardly. The godless ail from 'politeness' disease even more than the theistic.

Westboro Baptist is comparable to Myers. They are pariahs who are shunned. Good luck trying to find theists who stand at their side.

With Myers? Is he or is he not on good terms with Richard Dawkins? Jerry Coyne? Dan Dennett? Do I need to list more?

But there is no 'approval' or 'encouragement'. It's like watching an obnoxious drunk best man ruin a wedding by having a podium.

Drunken uncles do not stumble onto the podium of ReasonCon or whatever it was called. (They also invited WBC, so hey.)

I check wikipedia. What do I see?

"Additionally, PZ Myers was the recipient of the Humanist of the Year award in 2009, and the International Humanist Award in 2011."

Is that luck? Did they pick his name out of a hat?

You say PZ Myers and his supporters are a minority. Are you sure it's not you and the likeminded who are in the minority?

Crude said...

Let me be clear.

I'm not doubting your sincerity. I'm saying that the problem is worse than you're admitting. You're making it sound like Myers is the WBC of atheists, with corresponding treatment.

Now, maybe you think as much - but when the man is winning International Humanist Awards, is a featured speaker at major atheist events, when so many of the most prominent atheists are on friendly, positive terms with him, I can't buy the 'he and his ilk are a loathsome minority' line so easily.

It really does seem as if Myers isn't some wretch who everyone barely tolerates out of politeness. He actually seems like he's at the forefront of public American/western, certainly internet, atheism.

Unknown said...

I have been talking about PZ and his band of merry morons for some time now. PZ has taken a following created by posting educational, interesting material and by taking on creationists and used it as a platform to soil reputations for no good reason. I have been tossed into the 'dungeon' PZ created to list all of those he has banned forever from his comment section. I am an atheist and I find his behavior repulsive, childish, and irresponsible. Many other atheists and skeptics feel the same way and the number is growing. I've seen PZ speak, I had him as a guest on my radio show, I have met him in person even drank beers with him. He is a mouse in person, I think that is a front because he lacks the testicular fortitude to show his real self face to face. It is probably a good choice considering the things he has done and said to and about people. He publicly called me a racist, insulted my show (the one he was a guest on but had forgotten)and has made clear the level of respect he has by the names he has called me. I was banned for being critical of one of his regular commenters (brownian)I will say this- One day he will have to explain his actions in person to me. He is a sad representation of atheist/skeptics IMO. I thank you for writing this up and agree with much of what you have said it's interesting how apparent his behavior has become to all sides.

David B Marshall said...

Towelboy, Reap: Thanks for visiting, and sharing your perspectives.

To make things clear, I'm not a big believer in "guilt by association." If visitors from Pharyngula show up (as some have, in the past), if they can act civilly and talk sense, they're welcome to dispute any of my arguments here, or point out things we've missed. So much the more for atheists or agnostics in general -- we have some regular atheist visitors whose demeanor carries the double benefit of making their challenges more interesting, and proving that one doesn't have to skulk through the sewers to argue for atheism. I'm setting up a debate schedule for 2013 right now, and have three knowledgable and well-known atheists more or less lined up for what I expect will be substantive and mutually-respectful debates, some time in the New Year.

Anyway, I really don't see Secular Humanism as necessarily the worst possible alternative to Christianity. Sweden is a better place than Aztec Mexico was.

So while Crude makes a good point, and I agree your community could do with some house-cleaning, as everyone knows, we've had our own problem with huckster televangelists, etc, over the years, so I won't be triumphalist about this.

Crude said...


I'm not trying to be triumphalist at all. Far from it. I'm simply saying that it does no good to insist that PZ Myers is a kind of maverick in the atheist community who is frowned upon but generally ignored.

We can agree PZ's behavior is deplorable. We can agree he's an embarrassment to atheism. But look at the awards he's won. Look at the company he keeps in terms of atheist leaders. He's simply not a pariah in the atheist community.

Obviously that doesn't mean all atheists agree with him. It does mean that the problem is bigger than 'well, this guy's just some wingnut with a minor following' or the like.

David B Marshall said...

Crude: I wasn't aiming that at you; I can be tempted that way, myself.

Your point is well made.

Wonderist said...

I appreciate your post, David B Marshall, and would like to 'second' or 'third' Reap's and Towelboy's comments. In my opinion, this is not *specifically* about PZ Myers, although he surely has his part to play in it. It is a much bigger problem than the accidental personalities involved. If it wasn't PZ Myers, it could just as well have been some other person who succumbs to the same irrational group-think ideologically-driven mentality that PZ and *many* other atheist/skeptic folks have succumbed to.

I don't think anyone's really trying to say PZ is some aberration or No True Scotsman. Sadly, he is just as human as the rest of us, and his example should be a warning to us all, that we too share the risk of letting our egos and our personal dogmas run rampant over fellow humans.

That's why we must remain vigilant about our *own* beliefs and behaviours, and sadly, PZ has failed at this. *That* is the real issue. We need to be not only skeptical, but *self*-skeptical too.

It's not often I compliment the writings of a theist criticizing atheists, but I think your article was quite perceptive and, aside from your own religious interpretations of certain things, refreshingly accurate. Thanks for taking the time to investigate this and post about it. If you keep thinking critically like this, who knows, one day you might wake up an atheist ;-). (Not kidding, actually. :-) ) In the mean time, keep posting on this if it sparks your interest. I think you add a useful perspective, and it's good to hear cogent (mostly, disregarding the theology) critique of our foibles as a 'movement'.