Friday, March 7, 2014


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Exhibit A' revisited

The return of Tom Johnson/Wally Smith?

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.

Exhibit B?

Part of the transcript from Jamie Kilstein's accomodationist video: "Recruiting Tools for Atheists"

"The 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.
When I 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”.
Hey, New 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.
As an 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!
Atheism is 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.
“Atheism, our prophet also hates muslims”
Richard Dawkins, by the way, that’s who I was talking about.
Richard Dawkins hates muslims.
You don’t 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."

The return of Sneer Review.

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.
Expect a lot more writing in the near future.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mars rex

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Hat

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What's it all about?

Sad to hear that Hal David has died.
Here's one of my favorite versions of one of his greats (in this case with a slightly altered title)