Monday, October 20, 2014

A reply to Michael Nugent’s extraordinarily long post about why I am wrong

In response to this masterpiece:

I said on Twitter that Michael Nugent defends rapists. I didn’t say he defends rape.  I said that he defends (some) people who are rapists, I meant something fairly specific by this: Michael Nugent continues to provide a safe haven for people who perpetuate rape culture. People who trivialise rape. People who use the threat of rape as an instrument for silencing women. People who vociferously claim that sex with someone whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or youth is not rape. Nugent does not condemn people who espouse such opinions in the comments on his blog. He equivocates, pretending this means he isn’t taking a position.

I expect Nugent despises some or all of these opinions. But he doesn’t condemn them. This is not an issue on which one can be apolitical. Refusing to comment or pick a side; refusing to condemn hateful comments; calling for the abused to engage in dialog with their abusers… These are political statements and failure to condemn them is tacit endorsement of a deeply unfair and horrible status quo.  This is what I mean when I say that Michael Nugent defends rapists. It’s what I always meant. I stand by it. I didn’t apologise for that and I don’t apologise for it now.

I’ll get to what I did apologise for later, First, I’ll address a tiny portion of Nugent’s ~3000 words of self-indulgent claptrap.

I’ll begin by saying that nothing I said was in any way representative of anything PZ Myers said, Michael can’t understand this. He used his conversation with me - and his misunderstanding of what I was apologising for - in an attempt to somehow shame PZ into apologising for something he said. We don’t speak for each other and my apology for one thing shouldn’t be seen as a reason for PZ to apologise for something else.

Latsot, a pseudonymous occasional guest blogger at FreeThought Blogs, has withdrawn and apologised for their repeated allegation that I defend rapists, saying that they had intended to convey something else.

I didn’t say that I intended to convey something else. See above for what I intended to convey. See below for what I apologised for.

This might be a positive first step in trying to reverse the demonisation of some atheists by PZ Myers and others, which has resulted in increasingly serious allegations being casually made as if they were an acceptable part of normal discourse.

Michael, you may not use an apology I made to imply a change in stance of anyone other than me.  As you’ll see, you shouldn’t use it to imply a change in my stance, either. If you think other people are making serious allegations against you, take it up with them. It has nothing to do with me and what I say has nothing to do with them.

There’s a long part of Michael's post where he quotes some things I said interspersed with calls to “[some time later]” in which he removes things that were said, for some reason. The reason certainly can’t be edits for brevity. He says it’s difficult to reconstruct Twitter conversations into a linear thread. He’s right. Others might call it cherry picking but I’m more generous.

This part ends with me explaining my point, which was the point I was making all along:

Because the point is a little more subtle than you’ll admit. Being complicit in rape culture is making a haven for rapists. I think you are defending people who happen (probably) to be rapists. If that sounds like I’m backtracking, I’m not. I think – and no doubt I could have been clearer – that you defend the actions of people who either rape or apologise for rape when you dismiss evidence of rape and when you encourage people who do the same. I think that it is a moral imperative to take a stand on this issue and hyperskepticism is at best a cop out. This is what I’ve been trying to say. Most of the time I’ve been replying to what other people have said, so the message will be fragmented at best. I hope this is a little clearer.

I daresay Michael didn’t see much of my earlier conversation with others and indeed believed that this was a new argument. But as you can see, I made it clear that this is what I meant all along, even if I was unclear earlier even though the discussion spanned several conversations, not all of which Michael was necessarily privy to. I thought this would clear the matter up. I wasn’t making the simplistic and wrong claim that Michael advocates rape and I told him so.

But this wasn’t good enough for Michael. He was only concerned with trying to intimidate me into withdrawing statements he misinterpreted in the first place. 

I did withdraw them. Not because I was intimidated but because I didn’t mean what he continued to think and claim that I meant.  In that sense, it was a not-pology: sorry you thought that’s what I what I said. Sorry if I came across that way.  But what I said stands. 

Michael, I didn’t apologise for what you seem to think I apologised for.  I apologised for being unclear. I don’t think I implied that you endorse rape but if I did, I’m sorry. But what I didn’t apologise for still stands.

Then Michael included a conversation we had about his cat. It was dying and I felt sorry for it and for Michael. I still do. I’m appalled that he included this exchange in his post. It had nothing to do with what we were talking about and he presumably only included it to make me seem contrite for whatever it is he mistakenly thinks I apologised for.

The second part of Michaels post was about what he considers my ‘new’ argument. Which was actually what I was saying all along. I’ll skip the passive-aggressive parts where possible (it’s not easy):

I will now address your rephrased intended allegation, which is not that I defend rapists, but that in your opinion, my actions seem to perpetuate rape culture and are very problematic.

This allegation is vague and impossible to respond to in its current format.

I daresay that a statement made in chunks of 140 characters was indeed vague.  I’d have thought the appropriate response would be to seek clarification rather than to write a long blog post about what you assumed I was saying.  But as we’ll all see, I apparently don’t know what I’m talking about.

I will assume that it is related to your previous opinions that I don’t take a stand against rape culture, that I clearly don’t understand how much rape hurts people, that I dismiss evidence of rape, that I have defended someone you strongly suspect is a rapist, and that I am defending people who happen (probably) to be rapists.

I said those things. There’s quite a lot of context missing, but I stand by them. Let’s get to Michael’s measured response:

To put them in perspective, the most common advice that I am getting from people who actually know me, including women and including rape victims and including lifelong social justice activists, is that I am out of my mind to be even giving you the credibility of responding to you.

Some of my best friends….

Michael, it’s an astounding piece of arrogance to think your responding to me somehow lends me credibility. Authority is not a very good basis for an argument.

Seriously, Latsot, I really have to emphasise this. You have no idea how bizarre your allegations seem to people who actually know me, who actively campaign for social justice, and who do not share the particular worldview that has shaped your public allegations about me.

I’m sure that many of my opinions seem bizarre to people who don’t share them. I’ve been told that my opinion that women ought to be treated with respect are bizarre. I’ve been bewilderingly called racist and threatened with death for celebrating Christmas while being atheist. I’ve been threatened with death for suggesting that the terms ’Muslim’ and ‘Islamist’ referred to different sorts of people. None of these opinions make any sense at all. What was your point again?

I’ll start with your general opinion that I don’t take a stand against rape culture.

You provide a long quote, which is pretty reasonable. But you’ve also stressed (which seems at odds with what you’ve said here) that allegations of rape ought to be handled by the police with the clear implication that if the victim didn’t go to the police, the credibility of the argument is reduced.

Firstly, you say that I clearly don’t understand how much rape hurts people. The only response I will give to that is that you don’t know what you are talking about.

A brilliant argument.  Of course, that statement of mine was not made out of the blue but as part of an ongoing argument with someone who wasn’t you. But why listen to me?  Apparently I don’t know what I’m talking about. And you know what? I’ve never been raped. I know people who have been, but I certainly don’t understand how much rape can hurt people.

Secondly, you say that I dismiss evidence of rape. Actually, I don’t dismiss evidence of rape. I take evidence of rape very seriously.

Providing evidence is defined the way you choose. You seem to wilfully make the mistake that evidence of rape is necessarily how a police force would reckon it. If so, which police force? One in Ireland? In England? In Pakistan?  Credibility of a rape allegation is not increased by reporting it to the authorities. Evidence of a rape is not more credible if authorities endorse it or less so if they dismiss it. Evidence is still evidence outside a police investigation or court of law.


See above. I don’t think my suspicions are more important than due process and I have never said so.  We’re not talking about convicting anyone here, we’re talking about whether we believe a rape happened.  I strongly expect it did, but I have no case to bring to court. I don’t think anyone should be imprisoned without appropriate due process but I wouldn’t want to leave a vulnerable person alone with someone I suspected of being a predator.  This point has been made to you many times: there are different standards of evidence for different situations. Like many others, you choose to hide behind legal definitions when nobody has even suggested invoking a legal system. I find that stance sickening and you should be ashamed of yourself for holding it.

Who are these people?

Example: people who have sex with others who are impaired by alcohol. That’s rape.  Lots of people commenting at your place have argued otherwise and claimed to have had sex with people with impaired judgement. Those people are rapists. In any case, it’s not up to me to tell the police. It’s not my decision.  But I certainly don’t have to tolerate those people or their views in a space I own and police.  I consider such tolerance tacit endorsement.

Latsot’s withdrawal and apology is a positive first step in trying to reverse the demonisation of some atheists by PZ Myers and others, which has resulted in increasingly serious allegations being casually made as if they were an acceptable part of normal discourse.

I hope you now understand that I didn’t apologise for what you thought I apologised for.  I didn’t mean to suggest that you endorse rape and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear about that. But I still wholeheartedly think that you provide something of a safe haven for rapists and misogynists; that you insist on sometimes inappropriate standards of evidence regarding the credibility of rape allegations; and especially that you are determined above all to tell everyone else how they should think.

What PZ chooses to say and do has absolutely nothing to do with me and vice versa.  Stroppily using our argument as a bat to hit him with is rather pathetic. Not quite as pathetic as using our conversation about your poorly cat to make me appear humbled and contrite, though.


  1. Anonymous12:28 am

    If you read this, you suck.

  2. You could have walked away from this with some dignity but you'd rather roll around in your own shit.

    1. I think I'd rather roll around in my own shit than in someone else's? What was I supposed to walk away from? Why?

    2. Anonymous1:47 am

      Dignity latsot. You did the right thing with your half apology.

    3. I had only one thing to be sorry for: I was sorry that someone was deliberately offended. I wasn't sorry about anything that actually happened.

    4. Anonymous1:54 am

      Can you name a single rapist that he is defending?

    5. I suppose you're right. I could have walked away from my own blog.

  3. Anonymous1:33 am

    Just curious. Who are these alleged rapists that he is defending/harboring? This looks like a doubling down of the worst proportion to me. Why is it so hard for PZ or his friends to ever apologize?

    1. Because religious zealots are never wrong. Ken Ham is never wrong. William Layne Bryant is never wrong. Kent Hovind is never wrong.

  4. Holy shit, I think I had some sort of stroke before making it three paragraphs in. Focusing on one point, how are you going to harp on someone for writing something in the ~3k range when your own post is over 2,000 words long?

    1. Nugent has made more than a dozen posts on this topic, most around 5000 words. It's hilarious that he cares so much when people don't like being bossed around by him.

    2. We're not talking about his other posts (which were not addressed to you, and had nothing to do with you). We're talking about his one post that DID have something to do with you, and was on slightly longer than yours, yet you feel the need to mock it for it's length.

    3. Yeah I mock it for its length. Nugent could have called me a poopyhead in one sentence. You realise, right, that most of the words in my response are his?

  5. Anonymous1:40 am

    Was your original intent to say something so stupid that you garner ore hits and comments than all your other blog posts combined?

    You've done it.


  6. Tell me something, Latsot, why are you providing a haven for rapists in your comments section? I see two of them already.

    1. Shatterface and Rhino are both pitters (I lurk, so I know) and are therefore confirmed rapists. Why are you doing nothing about this?

    2. I've never said that all people who frequent the pit are confirmed rapists. That's something Nugent conjured up all by himself.

    3. When you use the word "rapist" you say you mean people who perpetuate rape culture, which the pitters obviously do. I ask you again to stop providing a haven for these rapists.

    4. Nugent asked you to name the rapists or retract. You did neither. Therefore you're just dropping generic, dehumanizing ad hominems. Just like the racists and other bigots that frequent the very sites you deplore.

      You are what you claim to be against.

    5. I don't think I'm subject to the whims of the almighty Nugent. He can bluster all he likes (and he sure as shit does that) but that doesn't place any obligation on me,

  7. Anonymous1:55 am

    Who is threatening you about this post? I see you mention it on your twitter.

    1. Anonymous2:21 pm

      I'm still awaiting your reply. It seems like you're inventing these threats. Skepchick/SJW/Sarkeesian 101. When you don't have any substance to add make up threats to deflect from your crumbling argument.

    2. Anonymous6:18 pm

      Still nothing?

    3. Anonymous2:23 pm

      Still not a single reply.

    4. Hey, look, I didn't reply to some anonymous wanker making crazy demands. I guess that means I'm guilty of whatever the crazy anonymous wanker thinks I'm guilty of. That's exactly how logic works.

    5. Anonymous9:25 pm

      So you have any examples of these threats? Like a screen cap?

  8. Anonymous2:35 am

    Honestly, I believe he included the cat bit to show that you are capable of actual compassion instead of just the usual piss and vinegar. He did rather than the dehumanization that Myers, et. al. typically do.

    1. Anonymous9:35 pm

      Wow, I butchered that last sentence.

      Instead of dehumanizing you the same way that Myers typically does, Nugent showed us that you are a compassionate person.

  9. Anonymous3:25 am

    I'm shocked at you latsot. I used to think you were an ally. Now I know you are all too eager to give these rapists a safe-space to spew their rape-apologetics.

    You are worse than the way ducks mate.

    Fuck you forever at thunderdome from now on.

    1. Then something good has come of this, I certainly don't want someone like you considering me an ally.

  10. Latsot:

    [TL;DR] “But I still wholeheartedly think that you [MN] provide something of a safe haven for rapists and misogynists; that you insist on sometimes inappropriate standards of evidence regarding the credibility of rape allegations; and especially that you are determined above all to tell everyone else how they should think.”

    Seems to me that if you wish to have any credibility at all then you’re going to have provide some specifics: which rapists is he providing a safe haven for? What evidence do you have that they have raped, and been charged and convicted of that crime? What justification do you have for thinking that he is using, nay – insisting on, “inappropriate standards of evidence”?

    Seems to me if anyone is insisting on telling others how to think then I would say you take the cake.

  11. Patrick12:09 pm

    What Steersman said. Either support your claims or retract them. I suspect that, like Myers, you lack the integrity and honesty to do either.

    1. What claims do you demand I support or claim, ironically anonymous person?

    2. Patrick1:29 pm

      From your first paragraph, hypocritically anonymous person: "Michael Nugent continues to provide a safe haven for people who perpetuate rape culture. People who trivialise rape. People who use the threat of rape as an instrument for silencing women. People who vociferously claim that sex with someone whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or youth is not rape."

      Identify those people and provide links to where they have acted as you claim.

    3. Patrick4:00 pm

      While you're documenting your claims, don't forget the most serious: "I said on Twitter that Michael Nugent defends rapists. I didn’t say he defends rape. I said that he defends (some) people who are rapists...."

      Who are the rapists that Michael Nugent defends and where does he do so? Surely you wouldn't make a serious accusation like that without evidence?

  12. Anonymous3:40 pm

    Who are the rapists and "rape apologists" for which Michael Nugent is providing a "safe haven"? Show some courage and integrity, and "name names", as PZ Myers suggested.

  13. Anonymous6:48 pm

    Leaving aside, for the moment, whether any of your accusations are true...

    You do recognize a difference between "perpetuating rape culture" and actually committing rape, right? Likewise, "trivialising rape" and actually committing rape - you do recognize the difference, yes? And "using the threat of rape" is not the same as actually raping someone, is it? "Vociferously claiming that sex with someone whose judgment is impaired by alcohol or youth is not rape" is not the same as actual rape, right?

    In other words, you aren't actually talking about people you actually believe to be actual rapists. But you are referring to them as actual rapists...

    Care to explain why you feel justified in labeling people "rapists" when what you actually mean (by your own admission) is something else entirely?

  14. I really don't understand why Latsot keeps defending the position of those who do not defend him. I haven't found a single favourable comment on this thread (except those by Latsot).

  15. Patrick6:09 pm

    Two days later and you still haven't supported your claims. It's past time to retract them and apologize to the people you've libeled, starting with Michael Nugent.

    1. I didn't realise there was a statute of fucking limitations on blog allegations. Two days, is it? The T&Cs didn't say anything about that.

    2. Patrick12:57 pm

      An honest person wouldn't make claims they couldn't support. It shouldn't take days to either provide the evidence you should have before making potentially libelous accusations or to retract those statements.

      Support your claims, retract them and apologize, or be recognized as mendacious and lacking in integrity. There are no other options.

  16. Nice post, the pitters are really worked up about this! Don't you dare "libel" one of our own ...

    1. Nice comment. Short and empty.

    2. oolon,

      Could you help out latsot by providing specific evidence, links or whatever, that support his original claim or any of his modifications of it? Do you know of any rapists or defenders of rapists commenting on MN's blog?

  17. Anonymous5:31 pm

    latsot, your publishing of libelous accusations on this blog is in fact a violation of the terms and conditions, which state (in part): "Do not use Blogger to engage in illegal activities."

  18. Anonymous5:47 pm

    Someone I don't really know told me that someone they don't really know said that someone told them that Latsot no-contact-raped Ogvorbis in an empty pre-school octopus tank while Oolon watched while texting the events to PeeZus who was daydreaming about student mermaid.

    So it must be true.

    Karey Poopey told somone so.

  19. I thought, from your social justice concerns, that you might be sincere and would want to do the right thing. But it seems you are more interested in deflecting the accusations made against you, that you have defamed MN by making accusations about him, and by implication about his commenters, that you cannot support.

    So many times you've been asked to be specific, yet you are not. I'd have thought that someone so sincere with regard to social justice would want to give the ones they accuse the right of reply, as so many are giving you.

    Even when Jesse offers you Shatterface and Rhino as pitters you use slippery language to deflect: "I've never said that all people who frequent the pit are confirmed rapists." So, are you saying they are suspected rapists? You could have clarified and said explicitly that you have no reason to suspect them of being rapists and that your accusations were not meant to imply anything at all about them. But instead you let your accusation aimed at MN and his commenters linger unchallenged over their heads.

    I can't figure out how anyone genuinely concerned with social justice would not apply those principles to everyone. I appreciate your concern for women that are victims of rape and abuse - as far as I'm aware most of those objecting to your accusations have explicitly stated their agreement in that worthwhile endeavour.

    If you are as genuine about social justice as you claim to be, wouldn't it benefit that worthy cause to be more explicit? If you could show that the 'some' people you think are rapists themselves or defenders of rapists and harassers are actually commenting on MN's blog then perhaps you might get a response from MN that would address those specifics. While you continue to make these accusations that are very specific with regard to the crimes but vague about those you claim are committing them you can hardly expect MN to take your accusations seriously other than ask you to put of or retract.

    I'm really not sure what else you expect to get out of this.

  20. Latsot, you tweeted "Which is worse? Accusing someone of defending rapists or defending people who vicariously at best defend rapists?"

    Don't you have to establish that the first is correct before accusing people of the second?

    If you can show the first is correct, that some people are defending rapists, then anyone who defends them in turn for doing so would mean that the second is worse.

    But if your first claim that someone is defending rapists is unfounded (and the burden is on you to support your claim), then those defending the accused are not defending defenders of rapists, they are defending non-rapists wrongfully accused - which is good social justice right?

    But nevertheless, most of those making points here against you are not people defending defenders of rapists, but people asking for evidence to support your accusations.

    I tell you what, if you can show that MN is defending rapists, or defending defenders of rapists, or defending misogynists or women harassers, then I too will point this evidence out to MN and see how he responds to that.

    Now, where's this evidence?

  21. Latsot:

    First, let me congratulate you on your openness to accept opposing views in this comment thread.

    You said:

    "Lots of people commenting at your place have argued otherwise and claimed to have had sex with people with impaired judgement. Those people are rapists."

    I'll make it easy for you: some of the people who have commented at Michael Nugent's blog are:

    Jan Steen
    Steve Vanden-Eykel
    Crackity Jones
    Phil Giordana
    Dave Allen
    Guestus Aurelius
    John Morales
    Sally Strange
    A Hermit

    Now, could you please indicate which ones, if any, "claimed to have had sex with people with impaired judgement"?

  22. OK, Latsot. It's been ten days already. How long does it take to find the evidence? Surely you had it before hurling your accusations, because as a rational thinker and sceptic you could not possibly have made irresponsible, unsupported statements, could you?

    So, can we please have the name of at least one person who has commented on Michael Nugent's blog who has also "claimed to have had sex with people with impaired judgement"?

  23. Anonymous5:29 pm

    I find it fascinating when idiot trolls like Latsot get confronted with their own vapid and insupportable bullshit, they just shut down and play three monkeys and the "LaLa LaLa I can't hear you" game.

    Love your proofs, Latté; love 'em. Real rigorous research you got going there puddin'.