Jan 212013

I prefer to stay out of on-line warfare. But sometimes you just have to stand up and be counted.

These are two people within the freethought communities who for some reason have been attracting unbelievably vicious on-line attacks. Not from people who might be expected to be inherently opposed to the concepts of “freethought”, but from apparent insiders.

I’m not objecting to the particulars of any disagreement. If you are on-line some people will disagree with you and criticise your position, and they have a right to do so. (I don’t claim to agree with everything these victims say). But there are many very personal attacks which are clearly intended to silence or inhibit people like Ophelia Benson and Natalie Reed, and others such as Jennifer McCreight and Rebecca Watson that I’ve posted about earlier.

Why? Is it retaliation for vicious personal attacks the other way? No! (And tit-for-tat would not be the best response anyway). Is it because their body of work is harmful to humanity in some way? Once again, no! It has been characterised as “hatred”, but that leads to the question “why hate these people?” (And another question is “how can anyone even consider writing such vicious attacks?”)

I think it is “rage against the enlightenment”.

The Enlightenment overthrew the previous order. It replaced theocracies and monarchies with democracies, and replaced revelations with evidence-based reasoning. But it also set in motion the trend towards acceptance of all sorts of people and behaviours that were once suppressed. It even led to women (women!) being able to speak their minds, and even criticise patriarchal attitudes!

This sort of unsettling of the old ways of thinking and doing things led to fundamentalism in religion. Fundamentalism is like a stake in the ground: “this is what we believe in and we will not budge from this”. But it isn’t confined to religion. It applies to any attitude of the form “this is how things have been done and we must defend this position”.

The “dimension of enlightenment” that appears to be the sticking point is “Empathy”. This involves seeing others as ends in their own right, not as means to ends, and naturally or deliberately examining things from their point of view (although not necessarily agreeing with them afterwards):

  • Summary: Attitudes and views towards other beings, human or otherwise.
  • Enlightened views: Peers. Equality. LGBT-acceptance. Pluralism. Meeting of minds. Sympathy. Compassion. Autonomy. Great apes.
  • Unenlightened views: In-group only. Belief in sub-humans. Patriarchy. Intolerance. Slavery. Property. Racism. LGBT-intolerance. Misogyny. Misandry.

Lack of empathy is both an explanation for why these attacks happen, and for the vicious nature of the attacks. This may be related to the following inquiry:

Amy Davis Roth tweet

Perhaps they are simply not intended to help skepticism or atheism. Not everyone who pursues those “isms” is enlightened in a rounded way. They may be good at evidence-based reasoning, but that is only one aspect of enlightenment. These accounts (etc) are intended to inhibit some other aspects of enlightenment.

This sort of post is unfortunately one of a set:

  150 Responses to “A message of support for Ophelia Benson and Natalie Reed”

  1. “Unbelievably vicious on-line attacks”?!?

    People make fun of these supposed feminists’ hypocrisy and paranoia. Sometimes using crude vocubulary.

    That’s not vicious. Maybe to an over-privileged mommy’s child, but not in reality.

    Seriously A+, stop discrediting feminism for personal gain!

    • Something tells me you’re not actually speaking on behalf of feminists or even speaking while knowing what you’re talking about.

      • Neither are you.

        A+ is a victory for mainstream liberal feminism as it gives the absurdist anti-rational radicals a label of their own to ruin.

      • Barry, people engaged in anything even remotely political, and let’s face it anti-theism is, get this shit all the time. I usually make educational videos and wouldn’t touch this stuff with a ten foot pole, but I had to make ONE, UNO, video in which I explained why a creationist is wrong and shit hit the fan. Death threads, threads that my family will be cut in pieces before my very eyes and all that nice stuff. They strike, verbally that is, where ever they think it’ll hurt the most. Single men, it’s their life. For fathers, it’s their family. For women, it’s their vagina. The only difference between the three is that a very small fraction of the latter group decided to turn this mundane nonsense into a career.

  2. They have participated in silencing/shunning/shaming tactics as well; it looks like they are just getting what they deserve…

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