Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thunderf00t does it again

I’m not at all sure which is worse: the pointless spite and vitriol, the sheer blindness to a genuine issue or the unbelievably fuck-witted arguments.  But Thunderf00t is back in the saddle with his particular brand of idiocy.

I wasn’t sure whether to write about this post since the whole thing is so painfully, embarrassingly, foolish but I felt compelled to since it is such a perfect example of someone deliberately misinterpreting what people say in order to score dubious points. Which is pretty much what Tf does now.

She [Surly Amy] was apparently reduced to tears simply because someone wore a Tshirt (see below).

She wasn’t.  She says so.  I see no reason to disbelieve her.  She made one post where it did look a bit like a t-shirt made her cry and a later clarification where she says it didn’t. Tf takes the bizarre step of deciding that the latter was an attempt to re-write history.  This is the greater part of Tf’s ‘point’: that Amy’s posts show inconsistencies therefore…… well, I’m not sure because Tf doesn’t say. I’m not sure how being inconsistent in writing necessarily invalidates a point, but as we’ll see, Amy is not inconsistent anyway.  But I’m getting ahead of myself:

If you are banging your head on the desk in disbelief at the moment I just want to remind you that this is a girl who blogs regularly onskepchick, and has been supported by freethoughtblogs.  She’s also the girl who makes those little ceramic pendants that many people wear (or maybe used to wear at conferences before Amy’s crying over a Tshirt antics).  Indeed the only way I think you might have a chance of explaining her self-centered position to Amy is though the concept of reciprocation.  How would she feel if I were to be in tears because of people wearing those little ceramic pendants at conferences, suggesting that they indicate people support her anti-freespeech position, and that merely wearing these pendants is ‘dehumanizing’ and ‘very hurtful to me’, with the clear expectation that everyone else should conform to behaviors that I do not find hurtful or offensive: anything less would just be hateful.

Let’s ignore the condescending use of ‘girl’ and the dismissive tone. Tf is drawing a false equivalence.  Harriet’s shirt could easily have been interpreted as a personal attack on Amy and the other Skepchicks. In fact, I find it very difficult to interpret it any other way.  If someone I’d previously felt was an ally, maybe even a friend, wore a t-shirt – in public, in a position of some power – which insulted me and my friends personally, I’d be offended.  I’d be upset.  I wouldn’t demand that she remove the shirt.  I wouldn’t try to infringe on her freedom of speech. Amy did neither of these things either (Tf is lying when he claims Amy has an ‘anti-freespeech position’). I’d sure as hell say something to her though and explain why I thought the message was hurtful. Which is in fact what Amy did.

This situation is entirely different to the arbitrary one Tf conjures up.  His feigned offence would be entirely arbitrary.  It would not be based on a personal insult, intended or otherwise.  It would not be a case of someone sending a clear message from a prominent position without much of an opportunity to respond to the audience it was aimed at. These two situations are not the same at all.  Tf is trying to make Amy look absurd by drawing this false equivalence, but it is so ham-fistedly done that he only splatters himself with the backfire.

Yup, I’m pretty sure Amy would fairly quickly come around to the position that just because someone takes offense at a t-shirt (or similar), no how matter how hysterical the outburst, it really should have no impact on the way conferences are run.

Unless that t-shirt were a deliberate attempt at bullying. For example, if the shirt were designed to make a group of people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome or to feel bad, then I’d rather hope the conference organisers would gently put a stop to it.  I’m not saying that Harriet’s shirt intended any such thing.  In fact, Harriet has been surprisingly quiet about why she promoted that particular message.  But I certainly don’t condemn Amy for feeling that it was a personal attack.  That’s the way I read it too. 

But let’s look a little more closely at what Tf is really saying here.  He’s talking about conference harassment policies, of course.  He seems to be saying that Amy claims we need (presumably overly strict) harassment policies at conferences just because someone was offended at a t-shirt.  I’m not aware that she made any such argument (I doubt it) but Tf strongly implies that she did.  He also conveniently misses out the point that a t-shirt can genuinely be offensive.

I know, I know (I know, alright, stop saying I don’t know!) that nobody has the right not to be offended.  And as far as I can tell, this is how Amy treated the situation. She was offended by it and said so.  She questioned Harriet’s decision to wear it.  She condemned the message as a bullying one. And that’s all. She didn’t call for t-shirt censorship at TAM or anywhere else. 

So what’s the problem?  Apparently that Thunderf00t doesn’t think the t-shirt was an adequate reason for Amy to get upset. Personally, I think I’d rather let the targets of bullying decide what’s offensive.  A lot of bullying went on at my school.  If anyone reported what was said or done to them, it often sounded inoffensive or absurd.  But the hurtful part wasn’t always what was said or done so much as the fact that a particular person was singled out for it, often repeatedly, sometimes for years.  Tf doesn’t get to decide what people should be upset by and ridiculing upset people seems insensitive at best.

Now it turns out Amy Roth has since issued a ‘clarification’.  It’s often said that a clarification is not made to make oneself clear, but to put oneself in the clear.  Regrettably that only works if you are honest and/or competent, rather than just the shamelessly self serving ‘Rebecca Watson’ type attempt to rewrite history.

Thunderf00t has no reason to believe that Amy was trying to rewrite history (and just look at the list of slimy accusations he makes in that one paragraph).  Let’s dissect his argument.

He points out that on July 17th, Amy wrote:

I think one of the most hurtful things I experienced while attending TAM was Harriet Hall’s Tshirt that she wore three days in a row. I told her through tears, in the speakers’ lounge, that it was dehumanizing and gender/color blind and very hurtful to me specifically as a person who does have to deal with harassment regularly.

And then that on 18th said:

So know that just a ‘silly tshirt’ did not reduce me to tears. Sadly, there was a lot more going on.

Tf’s insightful comment on this is:

Yup in just one day, a T-shirt goes from “dehumanizing”, “gender/color blind” and “very hurtful” to now just a “silly tshirt”.  Think someone is trying to shamelessly rewrite history there Amy!

I genuinely don’t understand how an honest person could come to this conclusion.

For one thing, a t-shirt can be dehuminishing, gender/color blind and very hurtful while at the same time being silly.  More relevantly, though, it seems clear that in her second comment Amy was refuting claims by others that a ‘silly t-shirt’ (he quotes) made her cry.  She has said it didn’t. She was already crying because of other stuff. 

She has not changed her stance on the fact that she was upset by the shirt for the reasons she stated and there is certainly no reason to suspect that she’s trying to rewrite history.  That seems a crazily-paranoid interpretation at best.

Tf’s cherry-picking is even more shameless in his next point:

on July 17th, Amy wrote:

I said I was glad she [Harriet] felt safe and that I wouldn’t have sent 22 women to the event if I didn’t think it was safe for them either. So who was she talking to?”

and Tf adds:

Bravo Amy for saying how you think TAM is safe.  Great so what was all the ‘we want a policy and to lynch someone at TAM’ tantrum of FTB and skepchick all about?

‘Lynch’? WTF, Thunderf00t, whoever said anything about lynching?  This is an excellent example of those‘reasoned arguments’ you are so proud of.  It was hardly a tantrum, either.  And you already know the answer anyway: some people think that conferences are better if they have harassment policies so that people can feel safer. Nobody intends that they be used to prevent people from having fun, but to help people who are actually harassed: a thing which actually does happen. Tf just can’t resist putting these sneering little jibes, based on gross misrepresentations of what anyone actually said, into every paragraph, like a petulant child.

Oh wait…. wait… Amy is about to retell the story….

Let’s see, shall we?  On 18th she said:

I hope that Harriet will realize why it was so hurtful and why I was offended by both the front and the back. Some of us have been harassed at events and do not feel safe. The shirt was also hurtful to those in that context as well.

I read that as a partial explanation of why she was offended by Harriet’s shirt and why she feels others might have been offended too.  Thunderf00t, on the other hand, has a different (read ‘batshit insane’) interpretation:

Bravo Amy, Bravo (slow hand clap), so now we have two sequentially, mutually inconsistent accounts of ‘history’ from the same person, both given within about a day of each other.  One in which TAM is safe, and that’s why you have worked to send people there, and in the other versions of ‘Skepchick’ history, where you worked to send people to an environment that was not safe, indeed that you worked to send women to an environment populated by “gropers and PUAs and drunk fumblers“.  **SLOW HAND CLAP**

There is nothing inconsistent with what Amy said unless you read it with deliberate dishonesty. First she said that she thought TAM was safe at least at the time she raised funds to send women there.  Then she says that Harriet’s shirt might have been offensive to people who had been harassed at events (she doesn’t even mention TAM) and who might, consequently not feel safe. 

She said nothing about whether TAM was safe or otherwise, just that the shirt might have offended people who didn’t feel safe.

There is no inconsistency here and again, no possible attempt to rewrite history.

Tf then quotes Amy saying that she respects Harriet and hopes that one day she’ll understand why her shirt was hurtful and then:

I will continue to try to be a better person and I will continue to try to help other people get involved and to set an example of kind, productive, proactive behavior in hopes that more people will follow my lead than the those who want to mock and belittle.

This, Tf argues, is a case of double standards.  Why? Because Rebecca Watson – a person who is not Amy – thinks that:

[…] people (notably myself and Paula Kirby) who disagree with them on reason based arguments, actually all think they are a Totalitarian Nazis clique.

Go and see for yourself.  I think anyone honest can see that Rebecca is being flippant and employing sarcasm.  She is ridiculing Paul Kirby’s ludicrous name-calling.  It is perfectly clear that she (Rebecca) doesn’t really believe that Paula believes there’s an exact equivalence between Skepchics and Nazi Germany, although the quotes from Paula do explicitly compare the organisation to undesirable aspects of the regime in the old East Germany.  To be fair, I don’t know why Rebecca includes Thunderf00t in this part of her article,  I’m not aware of his using the same slurs as Paula (although my impression is that he endorses her). 

But who cares?  Tf’s argument is invalid anyway.  Amy’s personal statement that she wants to continue trying to be a better person and setting a good example would be in no way contradicted by someone else thinking that “people (notably myself and Paula Kirby) who disagree with them on reason based arguments, actually all think they are a Totalitarian Nazis clique.”  Something, of course, that Rebecca (regardless of what she thinks Paula thinks) categorically did not say.  She took some very specific quotes from Paula (not a reasoned argument in any way) and represented them on face value. And ridiculed them.

Thunderf00t is a liar and a bully. He misrepresents what people say and ridicules people who are genuinely upset because he has decided that they shouldn’t be.  Then he makes transparently bogus arguments that his mis-representations and ridicule somehow undermine the arguments.

I’ve no idea why anyone takes that idiot seriously.

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