Blogosphere shitstorm being picked up by papers

aka the tale of Dawkins making a sarcastic comment on a blog that I think rightfully can be seen as appalling, misguided and knee-jerky which subsequently made it into online news papers. (Yep, there were a lot of colourful adjectives being used to describe Dawkins mishap.)

So, I’ll attempt to recap the gist of the shitstorm with lame attempts to see this in a lighthearted way.

Hey, I guess if tweets can make news in meat space that’s totally expected for blogosphere drama, or something. At least atheist blogs and their comments are noteworthy enough for some online papers.

What did disrupt the calm ocean of the atheist teacup? Well, in this case a coffee cup would be a more apt metaphor as a lot of folks probably would have benefited from more caffeine and a bit more hunting for the facts before commenting during this whole mess.
Yep, this is about ElevatorGate, or rather Rebeccapocalypse as it was so beautifully termed by Greg Laden. If you’re completely unaware of the ordeal (which I doubt if you end up at my blog after virtually the whole atheist/skeptic sphere chimed in) start with Greg Laden’s posts in his Rebeccapocalypse category and follow links to other blogs (Laden’s link farm post might be a good starting point).

Note – I won’t give every freaking detail. That would be way too much work.

So, how did it come about?

The starting point was Rebecca Watson’s vlog in which she merely mentions in passing how some guy made a rude, unwanted and frankly lame and idiotic pass at her. In an elevator. Hence ElevatorGuy (EG). And the words coffee were used. I guess coffee is more arousing than tea, so the whole saga that ensued is understandable. Or maybe not.
Rebecca simply asked that such lame, creepy behaviour shouldn’t be repeated.

A blog post by Stef McGraw (which largely missed the point and ran away from the point made by Watson), a talk by Rebecca Watson at CFIcon using McGraw’s post and some reactions to that started some dissent. Mainly because Watson may or may not have addressed McGraw’s post in a wrong way. (I’m withholding judgment on that until the CFIcon video becomes available.) McGraw posted her impression and Watson clarified her position after that talk.
After that it went off the rails, especially when PZ Myers chimed in, giving it even more exposure due to his huge readership.
And the rest is history, or something. It goes messy and hard to follow.

There were verbal battles about EG’s intent, if that mattered at all, if EG was or wasn’t sexist, if Watson was correct in naming McGraw, if Watson misaligned McGraw, and a lot more nitpicking which I lost track off. Some old personal animus was revived, some probably newly created. Major battle themes were feminists vs. MRAs. Some people called for calming down, the reactions to that were everything from lauding to damning. Some jokes were attempted (e.g. Hemant Mehta’s T-Shirt posts), which were received in diverse ways. Somehow it could be argued they weren’t called for as Hemant made a calm down post before that.

Some aftershocks still occur at various blogs (too many to mention).

Oh yeah, and at some point in the middle of all this, Richard Dawkins made 3 comments at Pharyngula. Jen McCreight replied to the first two. Let’s classify those as being misguided, probably outright wrong, at the very least ill-received. That’s fine everyone fucks up from time to time. Dawkins’ third comment was him asking for explanations why he was wrong without using fuck in every sentence. *giggle*

And this is now being picked up by papers / news outlets on the net:

And those are mostly weird. I mean I understand it’s hard to have a grasp of the whole shitstorm, but except for Gawker they fail to reasonably tell the whole story.

  • David Allen Green from the New Statesmen leaves out a lot and seems more interested in grinding an axe with Dawkins and atheists in general (Why the fuck does he bring up AC Grayling and Johann Hari? Not involved, afaik)
  • Caitlin Dickson from the Atlantic Wire only deals with it on the surface and kinda simplifies what was said to be fought about and what actually was fought about. And frankly, no one’s winning. This is a discussion. Opinions may change, but no one will have won. Hopefully after cooler (re?)examining of the facts the best conclusions will prevail. Then the discussion was good to be had.
  • Gawker’s Brandon K. Thorp gives the best account. And his attempts at humour are actually enjoyable. I don’t understand why he links to stclairerose’s vlog (which was only briefly discussed at the very beginning) and missed the angle about McGraw.

So, the article on Gawker is actually rather good given how messy the last days weeks where.

So, Dawkins’ comments got picked up along with Watson’s contributions and some other participants were mentioned, too. From what I saw mostly better-known names. The way this was reported, I’m not sure if this exposure gives up a good light. Oh well.

What do I take away so far? During this I

  • was sad
  • laughed
  • was disappointed
  • reevaluated my positions
  • stumbled across some blogs I didn’t know
  • changed some stances
  • learned some tidbits
  • got bored
  • even left some comments (yeah, I fueled the fires, too)
  • …?

I guess somehow it still results in a net positive. Even though some of the exchanges went awry, it’s good to have discussions about sexism / feminism.

There are still minor points I’m not yet settled about (mainly about Watson’s talk at CFIcon and her point about McGraw as the video’s not yet out – I’m curious if that video will have an effect on ERV’s opinions).

So, let’s end on a light note, we’ve got visuals to remember this:

UPDATE: What I forgot to mention: I wonder if any of the main blog overlords mailed each other over this issue to ask for clarification on the respective standpoints before furiously making post after post after post in order to avoid misunderstandings? ;-)

One Response to Blogosphere shitstorm being picked up by papers

  1. Like everyone on Rebecca Watson’s side you are missing the point.

    For about the previous two month Rebecca had been on a role complaining about sexism in the atheist community. She went to conferences and steered the conversation all the time to how horrible the atheist men were and never gave any real evidence (she cited a few emails, but they were mostly from religious trolls). Time and time again she asserted that atheist conferences were hell for women, like some kind of sexist gulag, never really giving other evidence, just claiming that other unnamed women agreed with her (even when other women disagreed with her about how terrible the atheist dudes were, she simple dismissed them out of hand).

    So people were very hungry for an actual example of the actual “misogyny” Rebecca kept ranting about so they could consider and debate the situation, but when if finally came it was utterly pathetic. Of course she got jumped all over, rightly so.

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