A few years ago Chris Mooney experienced a massive journalistic fail when he allowed himself to be fooled by an online troll named Wally Smith.
Smith had created a sock puppet called Tom Johnson, who proceeded to make up stories about misbehaving atheists who claimed to have been directly inspired by famous New Atheists like Dawkins.
As this fitted in with Mooney's accomodationist narrative it seemed almost too good to be true - a direct link between New atheist rhetoric and obnoxious and destructive behavior (the 'atheists behaving badly' happened to be scientists on an outreach program at a church, a program which failed due to their insulting actions.)
Needless to say, it was too good to be true.
Smith/Johnson was revealed to have lied about the incidents - although it took almost six months before the truth came out, and not without Mooney dragging his heels every step of the way as it was gradually uncovered that Smith had multiple sock puppets commenting simultaneously on 'The Intersection'.
The point here is the problem with the seductive nature of such 'Exhibit A' style posts. When someone makes a claim that fits in with your own chosen narrative it can be easy to believe that claim without doing the necessary checks, even for a respected writer like Chris Mooney.
Or, I am sad to say in the current instance, a respected writer like Ophelia Benson.
If someone is prepared to serve up stories that confirm, and indeed prove, our personal bias it is encumbent upon us to ensure we are not being fooled - particularly if those stories involve serious allegations.
Part of the transcript from Jamie Kilstein's accomodationist video: "Recruiting Tools for Atheists"
majority of rape threats I see online, the majority of death threats, aren’t coming
from people whose twitters profile are like:“Rush Limbaugh 4EVA”. It’s people whose profile was like: “Secular
Humanist,just asking the big questions”,
as if their definition of human is like privileged white male and with a lot of
free time on their hands.
first started questioning religion it had nothing to do with a chip on my
shoulder, it had to do with the way that organized religion treated the LGTB
community, treated women, were cool with slavery, declared wars in their name. Yet if you go to
an atheist subforum it’s the exact same shit, they just occasionally throw in
the word “science” instead of “talking snake”.
Atheists, guess who else wanted to eradicate Islam? George Bush!
Guess who else hates women? The Taliban.
Go hang out
with them and leave poor dead Carl Sagan out of this.
atheist, you shouldn’t want to make religious people feel uncomfortable,you should want to make bigots uncomfortable.
If you really care about the cause and you want more atheists, here’s a
recruiting tip: stop being a dick!
already hard enough to market, like hey, those religious guys may have heaven
and all you can eat pancakes and reuniting with all your dead pets, but with
atheism I hope you like nothingness and peer reviewed graphs.
our prophet also hates muslims”
Dawkins, by the way, that’s who I was talking about.
Dawkins hates muslims.
need to add white supremacy and sexism on top of all that.
If you want
to prove to people you can be good without God, then look in the mirror and
start with yourself."
After a long work-related hiatus I think it's time I restarted this blog.
I've decided to change the focus, somewhat. While I've avoided direct involvement in much of the histrionic rollercoaster that has characterized the onlineatheist/skeptical online community over the past couple of years, I have not avoided paying close attention to the underlying conflict between scientific skepticism and identity politics.