Friday, February 18, 2011

I have a horse. It is dead. I shall beat it some more.

If you have no idea what this post is about, check here, here, and here first.

A couple of days ago, Jen published another post by Sharon and Lyz "clarifying" their infamous Pear post. It did not clarify much except for the level of their dishonesty. Basically, it was a bunch of backpedaling and political spin, just enough to appease (most of) the offended, but not enough for them to lose face. Pride is terribly important, especially to the young.

They start out by saying how wonderful an event SERAM was and how they didn't want to disparage it or American Atheists in any way.
We did NOT mean to make it sound as though any one person, organization, event or organizer was at fault or the focus of this article. Here's where our intentions were blocked by our inexperience in blogging - despite our best intentions, it did come across as though we were attacking the SERAM, American Atheists, the organizers, Sean Faircloth, and others. That was *never* our intent, and we want to apologize for not making that clear. We still think that the SERAM was a great event - in fact, we want to see more events like it! (Sold out, 200 attendees from all over, over a third women and almost half at their first event - awesome!) Likewise, American Atheists not only has a history and continuing practice of women in leadership positions, it is doing great work to improve our movement's diversity (have doubts? check out the speaker lineup for their national convention!), focusing on its niche as an activist organization, and providing support for local groups. While the issue we're discussing affects the entire freethought movement, we don't want anyone to come away thinking of AA, SERAM or Sean Faircloth as the bad guys. 
I checked their original post. It had two positive things to say about the convention and AA.
When David Silverman polled the audience on Sunday afternoon, for about half of those in attendance, this was their first atheist conference of any kind. Clearly, American Atheists is on to something.
American Atheists created a real opportunity for members of local groups to come together, share ideas, get leadership training, and go home ready to take over the world. For many issues-- activism, law, supporting campus groups, the future of the atheist movement-- they were incredibly successful.
And, for just a bit of the negative,
In fact, almost the entire conference had a bizarre quality to it when it came to gender issues.
I haven't enough room to quote all of the negative. If you have the time, read their original post. It is almost entirely negative. With their clarification, they try to make nice. Hell, they try to make so nice, they put in three exclamation points in the section describing how much they like everyone, including an "awesome!" By the way, do check out the speaker lineup of the national convention, and try to find another organization that works as hard at diversity.

From here, they move onto parsing and spin that would make Weeper-of-the-House Boehner proud. Concerning Sharon going after the woman who left the panel discussion, they originally said,
I - a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers - went after her.
And the spin,
We realize that our article made it sound like Sharon was the only person to follow the young woman - she wasn't the only one, but she was the first (and she couldn't very well see that others behind her also moved to help). The point we wanted to make was that she wasn't an event organizer but still wanted to help; not that the event organizers didn't help or didn't want to.
From reading the original article, anyone can tell at the very beginning that Sharon was not one of the event organizers. There was no need to remind her readers at this point in her narrative. I think it is clear that she is claiming that she meant that she wasn't one of the organizers, but she originally meant that she was the only one to help this woman. I don't buy the spin.

And, yada yada yada, they get the the crux of the matter,
You might be asking why we chose to focus on the SERAM so specifically if it wasn't itself the problem. Well, we chose to focus on these instances, at this event, for two reasons. First, they were recent and relevant - they were specific examples of specific behaviors that we have observed, time after time, that can and often do make women uncomfortable. Second, because we had to focus on something. If we had just posted an article about how “sometimes there's some stuff that makes women feel uncomfortable in our movement,” our post would have been ignored, or readers would have demanded to see the evidence. So we provided recent, relevant, specific examples that illustrated our main point: that we should work to make women in our movement feel more comfortable. If nothing else, we have succeeded in making enough noise that lots of people are talking about the issue - and that is our goal.
That kind of gets to the point of it all. They needed evidence, so they created some. I posted a comment to this post saying,
I'm wagering that this really means that they needed a good story to hook in their readers, so they exaggerated, misrepresented, twisted and invented the facts so they would have a shocking story demonstrating the horrid sexism that permeates the atheist community.

In the process, they went about willy-nilly slandering a lot of good people.

And, after they received a shitload of flack from the people they harmed, as well as those of us who care about honesty and decency, they post this joke of a clarification, which is filled with obstructifications, backpedaling, and more outright lies.
Someone responded, accusing me of assigning some kind of "Machiavellian Evil" to the writers' intentions. I don't. I think that they are young kids, passionate about a cause, and they exaggerated a little, and in the process they also lied, in order to give them a decent story to make their readers think that the atheist community has some kind of serious problem. I don't think them evil, but I do think them careless, callous, and cruel.

If nothing else, we have succeeded in making enough noise that lots of people are talking about the issue - and that is our goal.
Well, fuck you, you silly little cunts*. You hurt an awful lot of good, decent people just so you can get everyone talking about your pet issue. Are you happy now that everyone from PZ Myers to Dawkins** are talking about this? Bullshit like this little drama that you created is not the way to make our group more inclusive. It is a damn good way to drive a wedge between people, though. To quote you one last time,
We are trying to make the point that if you're making fellow supporters of our movement that uncomfortable, then you're doing something wrong. 
Try to understand that yourselves. By creating all of this drama, you are making your fellow supporters uncomfortable. You are doing something wrong. You should apologize. OK, got it?

* I know that that was sexist. I don't care. Consider it irony or satire or something.
** I know they are both men. I'm being sexist again. Sue me.

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