Courtney Caldwell

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Courtney Caldwell

  • This post originally appeared at Mad Art Lab

    When Riot Grrl band Sleater-Kinney dissolved in 2006, I was about to b e a senior in high school, and I was devastated. All major (or minor) life events can seem […]

  • Rappers Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea have been feuding off and on for a couple of years now, and much digital ink has been spilled on the matter. For those of you who haven’t followed their spat, let me catch you […]

    • Anonymous has made me nervous since they claimed credit for the Arab Spring. I guess it’s one problem of their complete anonymousness, for lack of a better word. Maybe they helped, maybe they didn’t. It’s hard to say.

      But I always get nervous dealing with people who know what’s best for me, and if I don’t like it, no problem. We have ways.

      Cthulhu save me from those who would save me from myself.

      I come from a family of control freaks, so it’s one of my issues.

    • Agree with all of the above, although it’s worth pointing out that this completely misguided (to put it charitably) Iggy Azalea and Ferguson stuff was not the work of the “real” Anonymous, to the extent that that can be defined. See, for example, and, where more thoughtful and established branches of Anonymous dismiss whoever did this as a troll and an idiot.

      Which of course means that organizing your activism around a name that anyone can adopt for anything is maybe not the best strategy, but I do think there are many Anons who are better than this.

      • Again, that’s part of the problem. Was it Anonymous, or was it Anonymous’ twin brother. Looks just like him.

        I would think, I could be wrong, that they have to capability to expose someone else speaking in their name, instead of just saying “Wasn’t me. Can’t prove it was me.”

        • I’m not disagreeing with you — this is certainly part of the problem, that’s what I meant about the issue of organizing around a name that anyone can claim. I guess they could try to expose the real names of people claiming to be Anonymous, but given that there aren’t membership lists or anything this wouldn’t prove much unless the actual Anonymous weren’t anonymous. So it comes back to the same issue that the whole model is problematic.

    • Hmm… No true Anonymous?

      • Well, there was t3hj3st3r and Backtrace. LulzSec (the ones who told the Tunisians “Yeah, everyone else hates your government too.”) was really the offspring of Anonymous and the old Antisec movement, though.

        Note that the origin of the name Backtrace should tell you all you need to know about 4chan.

    • … I don’t know, at one time I would have personally freaked over the idea, even as a guy, of having a sex tape leaked. Now… I think my reaction is, “I wish I had a cause someone hated, and was female, so I could say, ‘F you, I don’t give a damn!’, and release it myself.” Now, I understand how other people might not see it that way, especially if in a position where the existence of such a tape, never mind its release, might cause other assholes to create problems for them, but.. I think my reaction to that happening would also be F-U. Just saying.

    • What’s bad about this is, I wouldn’t have even cared about two celebrities beefing. I would’ve probably made a comment about how Azealia Banks could at least get the hemisphere right and gone on my merry way. (Seriously, igloo?)

      But yeah, their answer seems to be to threaten sexual assault.

      But I might point out the Emma Watson sex tape hoax. Yeah, it’s still proof of how horrible the internet is to women, but, in (grudging) fairness to Anonymous, it wasn’t them.

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 5 months ago

    Shameless self-promotion is totally fine!! I love what you’ve got! 🙂

  • Thumbnail
    Are you a holiday procrastinator (like me)? Never fear, the Official Skepchick & Mad Art Lab Gift Guide is here! For the skeptic, nerd, feminist, or all-around badass in your life, here are some great gift […]

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 6 months ago

    It’s a step, I’ll give you that. But that step means nothing without confronting the roots of our racist systems.

    • True, but we need to, as Eisenhower most likely never said, “get it all on record now…because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened” before we can even begin to confront it.

  • Amadou Diallo.

    John Crawford.

    Sean Bell.

    Yvette Smith.

    Aiyana Jones.

    Tamir Rice.

    Michael Brown.

    Eric Garner.

    These names represent a mere fraction of an ever-growing list of unarmed black […]

    • Exposure to all this has only solidified for me the importance of intersectionality.

      When society sees black bodies as objects to fear or to exploit within the system the uncaring death of thousands is the result.

      When society sees woman as objects to excite or as decorations we end up with rape culture.

      When society sees your sexuality as their business and weird if it’s not standard vanilla we end up with discrimination and death for gay and trans people and those outside the norm.

      When society sees “the other” as undesirable if they can’t give you something we end up hating immigrants, or foreigners, or the poor, or those we see as damaged in some way and it makes them disposable.

      As a cishet white American male I am dripping with privilege but I don’t want to give it up, and while I don’t doubt the sincerity of those who say they would give up theirs it’s easy to claim something that will never happen. No, I don’t wish to give up my privilege I just wish that privileges that I have were standard issue for everyone.

      I shouldn’t have to wish that my very existence would make me subject to harassment or possible death to be decent. I shouldn’t need to want to experience molestation or even sexual violence for simply walking down the street or death and rape threats for having an opinion to want that shit to stop. I shouldn’t need to experience homelessness or the alienation that can come from mental issues to realize that it sucks to be there with no help. And I shouldn’t have to experience discrimination for my lifestyle to believe that we should treat all people as human with all the rights that should entail.

      No, I don’t want to give up my privilege and anyone who truly wants to is a fool. What I want is not the elimination or ignoring of differences, what I want is for our differences to not matter in how we treat each other. Privilege us all with human dignity.

      I like Matt Dillahunty’s improvement on the golden rule that has been called the platinum rule. “Treat others as they would like to be treated” or alternately “Be excellent to each other”.

      • Yes. Sadly, starting with all-male Arab delegations hijacking women’s conferences to Palestine in the 1970s and going all the way through animal rights terrorism against Indians and Suey Park leading an online harassment campaign against Indian activists and the Palestinians still attempting to hijack discussions on race in America and indigenous issues, intersectionality is dead.

    • “Murder” is distinguished from other forms of homicide by a requirement of premeditation on the part of the perpetrator. Are you claiming as fact that police officers planned the deaths of all of these people?

    • Obama’s plan leaves others asking, “Why even bother with cameras?”

      Well, I would like to think that this helps make us all “eye-witnesses” instead of having to rely on actual eye-witnesses to discern the truth. As noted in the article, “Even Bill O’Reilly begrudgingly admitted that perhaps Garner didn’t deserve to die.” If this had not been recorded, would O’Reilly have admitted as much? I’m doubtful. I think it’s a step in the right direction, even if it seems a very small step. It’s better than no step at all, IMO.

      • It’s a step, I’ll give you that. But that step means nothing without confronting the roots of our racist systems.

        • True, but we need to, as Eisenhower most likely never said, “get it all on record now…because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened” before we can even begin to confront it.

    • I disagree that cameras are only a band-aid. I agree that the real problem is much deeper and harder to confront than a mere lack of concrete evidence (such as in the Michael Brown) case, which the Garner case illustrates. And I agree that these problems can’t be overcome until our system starts to operate as though black lives matter.

      But cameras can be a useful tool in doing that. Beyond reducing claims of excessive force, cameras will enable us to see the humanity at the heart of the case. And Garner is actually proof of that, regardless of what the prosecutor decided to do. It is easy enough for people (who want to do so) to believe that Michael Brown was a huge, aggressive “demon” in the events that resulted in his killing. But no one (except those who are hopelessly racist) can see it in the Garner case, thanks to the camera. We are left to face the reality that there was a large, but scared (not scary) black man being murdered by the police. Without the camera, there would be allegations that he attacked and could not be brought down otherwise. With the camera, those claims (largely) evaporate.

      And so if the goal is to make people see how broken the system is (or as you put it, that the system is designed to seek a broken, injust result), then the camera on Garner and the grand jury decision help people see the problem much more than in the Brown case. Quite frankly, an indictment might have made it easy for people to believe that the system works when blacks are truly victims, and to dismiss the controversy altogether. Now, the reality of the system — which you accurately describe in my opinion — is hard to ignore. And we have a camera to thank for that.

    • Boomer — I presume you’re a racist troll, but no, murder does not mean that. Negligent Homicide specifically acknowledges that you didn’t necessarily intend to kill the person, but if you go all Yosemite Sam and start shooting your sixguns out your window on 5th Avenue during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, you’ll be charged with murder. Hell, the Christian Science parents who refuse to bring their kid to the ER when he’s having appendicitis or burning up with some fever are charged with murder, and the Supreme Court has upheld those convictions. So in answer to your question, two possibilities: 1) Yes, racist shitstain cops really do enjoy murdering black men, it’s what they’ve been hired and trained to do, and it’s why they joined the police in the first place, to be murderous bullies, and they’re the worst human beings in America, yet we load them up with killing hardware and call it safety; and 2) even the better sort of modern cop couldn’t care less — they may not mean to kill the unarmed teenager, but if they do, no big deal, the kid stole something or his registration had expired or he backsassed me, so, you know, he was a thug who had it coming, and if I hit the heart rather than the leg with my 6th or 10th shot, well, ooops.

      So now, there’s not always intention to kill when someone fires a deadly weapon at another human. Sure, 99 percent of the time there is. But with that 1 percent, it’s just negligence rather than intent. But it’s still murder, you fuckwit.

      • Just to piggyback, in New York, the statute for murder in the second degree includes behaving with depraved indifference to human life and killing someone (regardless of intent) during the commission of another serious felony such as an armed robbery. Reckless behavior where a potential death is foreseeable is also covered under most homicide statutes.

      • Your comment is a tirade against people who make deadly presumptions, yet yours starts with one and condemns an entire class of civil servants based on one.

        Perhaps that’s related to your poor comprehension skills, as demonstrated by your lack of response to my question. Most people understand “murder” to include the element of premeditation. This is not a legal blog, so I understood the writer to be using the term colloquially, which is why I referred to premeditation in my question.

        You don’t know me, or anything about me, yet somehow you seem to’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a racist apologist for police brutality. The truth is I could care less about the color of the people involved. I’m just as outraged when a black cop kills a black suspect, and you should be too.

        Are there racist cops out there? Absolutely. Do some of them act on their racism? Probably. But there is a much evidence to support the notion that racial disparities in crime (as both victim and perpetrator) and the way law enforcement interacts with minorities has less to do with skin color and more to do with being poor combined with official policies that have evolved as a result of the drug war. The kind of policy, for example, that values the preservation of evidence over the safety of human life, ultimately leading to “no-knock” police raids and the deaths of innocent people like Aiyana Jones.

        Lets do a bit of shaving with Occam’s Razor here, shall we? Did the cop who killed Aiyana Jones indulge a racist fantasy about killing a little black girl, or did he simply panic and make a deadly mistake during a violent, chaotic, high-adrenaline (yet done-by-the-book) police action? Was Gescard Isnora, the cop who initiated the shooting of Sean Bell fulfilling a racist desire to kill a young black man? Well, he may have been fulfilling a fantasy to kill someone, but I don’t know how it could be classified as racist given Isnora is himself African American.

        As I said, I don’t doubt there are racists who act on their racism among the police force. But I believe articles such as this one detract attention from the issues that have a much greater impact on the problem of police abuse.

        And also, go fuck yourself.

        • You miss an entire body of study that shows that the drug war has largely targeted blacks and hispanics (mostly blacks) by a large margin. The fact that blacks convicted of drug possessions with much stiffer sentences vs. whites despite the figures that show drug usage rates are roughly similar between the populations shows a SYSTEMIC problem.

          The fact is, regardless of their own perceived intent, police officers are continually upholding racist tropes, largely rendered invisible because of our contention that this is a post-racial “color blind” society, when in fact, just by seeing the differences on how so many in the media portray differing suspects (i.e. Adam Lanza was troubled, Mike Brown was a thug). I had a nice long discussion with a corrections officer at Riker’s Island once where I pointed out that despite his best intentions, how he viewed his inmates (in this case, women) were still skewed by his own upbringing in mostly white middle class surroundings. Of course he thinks he’s trying to do the right thing. Few people are mustache twirling Nazi supervillains intent on a racially segregated hegemony.

          While police brutality is an issue that can affect almost anyone, no amount of ignoring the issue of race alters the fact that a disproportionate, lethal burden of brutality is faced by people of color because cops are acting out our system’s inherently racist policies. By claiming that this detracts “from the issues that have much greater impact on the problem of police abuse” is itself a derailment of the issue of who receives the greater impact of the problem of police abuse.

          I would suggest an excellent breakdown by the lawyer Michelle Alexander in her book ‘The New Jim Crow’ that connects all the layers of America’s inability to admit to its racist tendencies to how law enforcement policy is made and carried out.

          • Again, I don’t doubt there are true racists serving as police officers in America. But I would give more weight to intent than you. Calling someone a racist because they are ignorant will neither change their mind nor motivate them to educate themselves.

            My opinions regarding the issue are best summed up by this Harvard study:



            Although racial discrimination emerges some of the time at some stages of criminal justice processing-such as juvenile justice-there is little evidence that racial disparities result from systematic, overt bias. Discrimination appears to be indirect, stemming from the amplification of initial disadvantages over time, along with the social construction of “moral panics” and associated political responses. The “drug war” of the 1980s and 1990s exacerbated the disproportionate representation of blacks in state and federal prisons. Race and ethnic disparities in violent offending and victimization are pronounced and long-standing. Blacks, and to a lesser extent Hispanics, suffer much higher rates of robbery and homicide victimization than do whites. Homicide is the leading cause of death among young black males and females. These differences result in part from social forces that ecologically concentrate race with poverty and other social dislocations. Useful research would emphasize multilevel (contextual) designs, the idea of “cumulative disadvantage” over the life course, the need for multiracial conceptualizations, and comparative, cross-national designs.

            How would the average person’s conception of minorities be different if so many weren’t branded “criminals” because of insane drug laws? How would the average person’s conception of minorities be different if illegal drug-trade violence were eliminated or greatly reduced?

            • I find intent isn’t something to emphasize when we’re talking about privilege and systemic violence. I don’t doubt that most cops aren’t, or believe themselves not to be, overt racists. That has never been the claim. Implicit biases exist like they do among general populace.

              Automatic Preference for White Americans:
              Eliminating the Familiarity Explanation

              The cop that texted the n-word that was made public is hardly as much of a problem as the cop that doesn’t realize that perhaps they might hold certain biases.

              Regarding more of Sampson and Lauritsen, I found a pretty good breakdown of the numbers on this blog post, that would somewhat suggest an agreement with them and yourself (though I think the blog too ignores certain issues as does the study ). However, the author demonstrates that “no evidence” of bias is too strong even from his point of view:

              It would be nice to say that this shows the criminal justice system is not disproportionately harming blacks, but unfortunately it doesn’t come anywhere close to showing anything of the sort. There are still many ways it can indirectly harm blacks without being explicitly racist. Anatole France famously said that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich as well as poor people from begging for bread and sleeping under bridges”, and in the same way that the laws France cites, be they enforced ever so fairly, would still disproportionately target poor people, so other laws can, even when fairly enforced, target black people. The classic example of this is crack cocaine – a predominantly black drug – carrying a higher sentence than other whiter drugs. Even if the police are scrupulously fair in giving the same sentence to black and white cokeheads, the law will still have a disproportionate effect.

              Race and Justice: Much More Than You Wanted To Know

              The cumulative affects of “stop & frisk” style profiling programs are not addressed in the Harvard study. They do not necessarily yield “unfair” arrests, which would leave them out of the study, but these policies do manage to further estrange cops from the populace they are policing. An individual having a criminal records in areas already high in poverty only reinforce the cycle of unemployment and crime, further constraining minorities with these “ecological” concentrations.

              The police are the enforcing arm of these ecological and cumulative disadvantages. The cited Harvard study does clearly state: ‘But it is in the juvenile justice system that race discrimination appears most widespread-minorities (and youth in predominantly minority jurisdictions) are more likely to be detained and receive out-of-home placements than whites regardless of “legal” consideration’. There is no special “juvenile” police on patrol, thus career criminality is witnessed by the same police from childhood onward. So yes, it is a cumulative and multilayered problem, but this does not change the fact that racism DOES affect police shootings, from soup to nuts.

            • Long story short, even judging by the language of the study, Sampson and Lauritsen does not eliminate the idea of bias, merely that is more indirect. Ignoring it, however, doesn’t change that it is there and important to address.

    • Correction: The truth is I could care less about the color of the people involved. I’m just as outraged when a black cop needlessly kills a black suspect, and you should be too.

    • The point that there are deeper social problems underlying police violence, particularly racialized police violence, is well taken. In fact, I think the metaphor of a “centuries-old wound” understates the case, if anything; I’d say it’s more akin to an active, malignant cancer.

      But I think characterizing police body cameras as a “band-aid fix” is excessively dismissive of a partial solution that growing evidence suggests actually improves outcomes in community-police relations, particularly if applied as part of a more comprehensive reform of police policies and tactics. See for example the DOJ-commissioned study Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence. It notes that there is as yet “not enough evidence to offer a definitive recommendation,” but that “[m]ost of the empirical studies [of police body cameras] document a reduction in citizen complaints against the police,” and that a possible explanation is “a consequence of improved behavior (i.e., the civilizing effect [of being recorded]) – whether it is citizen behavior, officer behavior, or both.” (My suspicion is that it’s probably primarily police behavior which improves with body cameras, as they’re the ones more aware of being recorded, but I’m only guessing.) Also relevant are resources on the Smart Policing Initiative website, which is focused on evidence-based practices in policing, and strongly emphasizes positive police-community relationships both as an intrinsic goal and as a strategy for crime reduction. It also seems they’ll also be holding a webinar on body cameras on December 10.

      Yes, body cameras themselves are not going to fix the problem of racialized police violence. Racism’s roots are much deeper in our society and no police policies are going to change that, and police violence is going to continue to be a problem as long as the paramilitarization of the police continues. But we shouldn’t let the fact that these deeper problems persist keep us from pursuing evidence-based solutions that will at least improve the situation, even if not fully solve it.

  • The Darren Wilson grand jury decision was made this afternoon and announced this evening, 108 days after Michael Brown was shot and killed in the street by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. After three months […]

    • I am rendered almost incoherent with outrage and sadness over the people saying that Darren Wilson’s life is over. I don’t think I have ever seen a better example of irony, intentional or not, than these schmucks saying that.

      • “His life is over.”

        No, that would be Mike Brown’s life. I wish people would put things in proportion. But if they did, they wouldn’t be narcissists, now would they?

    • It seems to me, as a distant observer, that “stand your ground” means if there is a confrontation, rather than backing off and attempting to de-escalate, you can “stand your ground” at which point either the other person backs off or

      * If you are white and the other person is black, you get to shoot them.
      * If you are black and the other person is white, they get to shoot you.

      Racism aside, the idea that the law should back you to escalate rather than de-escalate is madness, and inevitably leads to situations where both sides feel legally justified in using lethal force.

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 7 months ago

    Hey! You won the free digital copy of Newsfail! Can I email you at the email address tied to your account to send you the deets? 🙂

  • (Featured Image Photo Credits: Jakub Moser & Kevin Allen Caby)

    As a long-time fan and subscriber to Citizen Radio, I was psyched to hear that podcast founders and hosts Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein would be releasing a book detailing the many failures of today’s modern media. I sat down with them to talk about the book, Richard Dawkins, and government watch lists. You can pre-order/purchase #NEWSFAIL at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster, or at your local bookstore. The book releases on October 14th, and every purchase  is a step toward putting two atheists who don’t hate women on the best seller list! Don’t forget to subscribe to Citizen Radio as well!

    I will also be giving away a digital copy of #Newsfail! Just leave a comment with your favorite example of a media fail by 6 PM CST today, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win. EDIT: Congrats to commenter Nerdling for winning the free copy of #Newsfail!

    CC: Thank you guys for sitting down with me!

    JK: We gave you a shout out on todays’ show. We ended the show early so we could do the interview because my voice is shot and I was like, “Only we would turn down an interview with Thought Catalog who has millions of viewers, to go to our friends over at Skepchick!”

    AK: We would much rather do an interview with nice people, who aren’t awful and transphobic.

    JK: Our publisher was so excited, they were like “Guess who wants you to write a piece!” and we have to be like “We have terrible news for you…”

    AK: I feel like we have that conversation with them once a week, where they’re like “Oh boy, have we got news for you!” and then we have to explain why we’re not going to do an interview.

    CC: I’m sure they’re pretty used to that at this point.

    AK: To their credit, they’re never mad. They’re like “Oh yeah, cause you guys are ethical, we’re just not used to that.”

    Image by Shane Pope

    CC: So here at Skepchick, we have always appreciated that on Citizen Radio you guys (who are atheists) don’t hesitate to call out other atheists who are being shitty. Do you do any of that in #Newsfail?

    AK: We have a chapter called “Just because you’re pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re not a sexist douchebag.”

    JK: Yeah, we talk about the rape culture stuff, and I think we talk about Rebecca Watson in there! We talk about how with progressives and atheists, it’s all good to talk about scary Muslim sexists, but not sexually harassed people at atheist conferences. The book went to print before Richard Dawkins went fucking HAM on Twitter and was just like “Hey I could tweet about biology, but why not tweet about not knowing how ladies work!”

    AK: I think we took a lot of themes that sadly we’re seeing in the larger atheist community like rape culture and Islamophobia, and talked about that without necessarily targeting the atheist community itself.

    JK: I will happily say that when we talk about Islamophobia, we’re talking about Sam Harris, and when we talk about sexism, we’re talking about Richard Dawkins. But I got a huge uptick in fans when I first became an atheist, and I was definitely that angry white dude atheist. My mom came to visit us this weekend, and she goes, “The thing that’s really been pulling me through, and I don’t want to upset you, is prayer.” Mom, you are telling me the thing that’s making you happy and helping you through all your struggles… and it was like, “Oh yeah, I must have been that asshole atheist.” Like I would have been like, “That’s not real, dummy!”

    AK: “Who are you praying to, stupid?”

    JK: “Read the God Delusion!”

    AK: I think sometimes things like Elevatorgate, and really brave people like Rebecca Watson are the best things for communities like the atheist community, because that was a moment where we very clearly got to see where everybody stands. So that’s when I got to say, “I like the Rebecca Watson atheism. I don’t like the Richard Dawkins atheism.”

    JK: And I stuck up for those dudes for a long time. I loved Harris and Dawkins. But the true privileged white guy has come out of both of them. And it really is a shame, because to us, the reason we cared about atheism, was we saw religion oppressing people, we saw religion oppressing women. We saw people refusing to ask questions of these powerful beings. And now you see atheists harassing women. The way they stick up for Sam Harris is hilarious to the point where I’m waiting for Sam Harris to pass around a fucking collection plate at his talks.

    AK: For a group of people who believe in critical thinking, they don’t seem to apply that same reasoning to their beloved leaders. The second they’re challenged, they freak out. It is highly suspect that these freak-outs keep happening when we talk about women and when we talk about Muslims. Why does it keep happening when it’s those two groups of people?

    CC: The kind of journey you’ve described here that you guys went through, where you started out in the atheist community, and you’re like “Yes! All these like-minded people” and then you slowly start to realize that isn’t the case… a lot of us actually went through that. You guys have always been really open on the show about your evolving viewpoints. Is there anything in #Newsfail that “Past” Jamie and Allison would have been like “Ugh, those assholes” because you just didn’t get it quite yet? 

    Image by crouchy69

    Image by crouchy69

    JK: Oh yeah, I tell the story of how I became an atheist in the book. It wasn’t this cool epiphany that you hear the scientists talk about. I was very college kid agnostic, like “Look at the stars, there has to be something out there, we’re all one!” Because I was high.

    AK: I want to punch you right now.

    JK: Allison looks so violent right now. But even as an agnostic, because religion is so ingrained in us, that when Allison & I were having our first date, and I said I was agnostic, and she said “Cool, I’m an atheist,” and my first thought was, “You’re going to go to hell!” Because I didn’t know any people who said they were atheists.

    AK: I think Old Me would be mystified by my nuance when it comes to stuff like finding political allies with religious people who do a lot of community organizing. When you first discover atheism, you have this impulse to be radical about your atheism and think that religious people aren’t capable of doing good work. And now, I’m much more nuanced with it. I don’t put my atheism first, I’m much more likely to want to talk about global warming and stuff like that. And my atheism is still there, it just happens to be another aspect of my personality. But I think it’s totally normal when you first discover atheism to be really excited about it and want to talk about it all the time. So I think “Old Me” reading #Newsfail would be like “Why aren’t you talking about your atheism as much?”

    JK: Yeah, like, “Why don’t you have the ‘Fuck the Church’ chapter?” I’ll also say this, when we were watching protest in Ferguson, I saw priests getting pepper sprayed, and then I saw Richard Dawkins on Twitter like, “What is rape, really?” Granted there were probably lots of atheists on the ground –

    AK: We just don’t have uniforms.

    JK: But I’m just done subscribing to these fucking movements, I just want to help and be around good, funny people.

    AK: I think that happens as you get older, you’re less interested in “groups” and “labels,” and you’re just like “Are you a good person, and are you doing good work?” I know great activists and organizers who believe in god, and to me it’s just like “Okay! We won’t agree on that, but what else are you about?”

    CC: So you mentioned earlier about Richard Dawkins saying some shitty stuff on Twitter, and that you didn’t get to cover it in the book because it had already gone to print. There’s probably a lot of examples of things you didn’t get to cover –

    AK: *laughs* Yeah.

    CC: What do you think is the biggest example of a Newsfail that you didn’t get to cover in the book? 

    AK: Oh my god, so many. This is like, what is most frustrating to me, because I didn’t want people to think that we didn’t think certain things were important. A quick example, the gun violence chapter was incredibly difficult to keep up to date because there are so many shooting massacres in the United States. Until the last minute, I was in communication with our editor and throwing in new examples of gun massacres. I would have loved to have something about Ferguson in the book, because it was just such a glaring example of a Newsfail and how independent media is really important because independent journalists were doing great work going into St. Louis and covering the story.

    JK: We didn’t want a list book of “Here’s all the things the news did.” The reason I think people will like the book, is all the chapters are sort of combinations of ridiculous personal and political anecdotes that Allison & I have gone through. And also, covering these sort of broader issues.

    AK: A book like #Newsfail could be volumes and volumes and volumes, and that’s kind of daunting and a problem in itself because we had to pick just a handful of examples of “Here are the biggest Newsfails. What does the media fuck up on the most?” So it was like climate change, race, rape culture, the big broad categories. And then we worked from there.

    CC: Do you worry after people read the book that they are going to be like “Why didn’t you include [XYZ pet cause]!” and be really upset at you?

    AK: No, actually, I just don’t want them to think that WE thought it didn’t matter! I think that would actually be good if people started thinking of their own examples of Newsfails, because that would just means you’re thinking critically about the media. So that would be really good if people were like “Oh yeah, I remember being really pissed off about how the news covered this story!” Great! That just means like, you’re aware of what’s happening.

    JK: I mean if #Newsfail takes off on Twitter because of this, that’s fucking awesome. We would love that! We would get in on that!

    CC: Switching gears a little bit, I’ve got a friend and I introduced them to the show. They were really excited, and wanted to sign up for a monthly donation, and they told me, “I’m going to have my partner do it, because I’m worried that I’m going to be put on a government watch list if I donate to them.” 

    JK: Haha, awesome.

    CC: Is there anything in the book that makes you think, “Oh yeah, this’ll be the thing that gets us in trouble.” 

    JK: Oh man, listen to tomorrow’s episode of Citizen Radio where I encourage people to put the book in front of a conservative author and then tweet us a picture with #BookJihad.

    AK: I think you would be naive to believe if you’re in alternative media, if you’ve ever contacted Glenn Greenwald at any point in your life, like we’re all kind of on the radar, without sounding like a conspiracy theorist. But I mean, in terms of what we do for Citizen Radio, we’re in a very privileged position where it’s like, “We’re two white, documented citizens.” In terms of being afraid, I’m not afraid.

    JK: I was really upset when I saw Black Twitter kind of have a riff with the Glenn Greenwald types, and I didn’t know why it was happening. And I realized it’s because communities of color have been spied on for fucking ever. So we’ve seen our names come up on weird watch lists and shit like that before and I know a lot of white libertarians don’t want their porn history to be public, but the way communities of color have been spied on and harassed is just so bad.

    AK: We’re in a really privileged position, where we can say the stuff we say.

    JK: I’ve got Economy Plus on United! I’m a big fucking deal at the airport. I see Arab people without podcasts getting searched every time I go to the airport, and I pretty much just cruise on through. But at the same time, if it was “Mohammed and Mohammed Radio” and we talked about the exact same issues, we would probably be in a lot more trouble.

    AK: And not to downplay, there have been private security companies who have included us on watch lists, and we know that for a fact. We’ve seen the data. Privacy concerns are completely valid, and you do get placed on those lists very quickly depending on who you associate with.

    newsfail3CC: One last question, if there was one thing you would want readers to take away about #Newsfail, what would it be?

    AK: We need better media. Independent media is really important. We try to present that argument in a really funny and accessible way by detailing how Jamie & I met, the evolution of Citizen Radio, but it’s called #Newsfail for a reason. The corporate media we have right now is fucking up, and not serving us in the way it should.

    JK: Also that people are more progressive than you think. They just don’t have access to the facts. I mean, the majority of people are against the war in Iraq, but the reason we were so gung-ho to invade them is because a bunch of very serious newscasters said that we were in danger. Conversely, the reason that Ferguson is getting so much coverage, and Steubenville is getting so much coverage, is because of Twitter, because of independent media, because of independent sites like Skepchick. And that’s really important. We’re forcing these motherfuckers to cover these stories. And that’s a big deal!

    AK: And I think we’re not going to beat the corporate media in the way that we thought traditionally we were going to beat them, like with the Air America model. “Oh, we’ll just match Fox News in size, and scope, and messaging.” It’s not going to look like the liberal Fox News equivalent. It’ll be more like guerrilla warfare.

    JK: Now we’re on a watch list!

    AK: But we can win that way. We just have to think differently about alternative media.

    JK: Also, the book is funny as shit. It’s filthy, it’s funny, it’s designed for people who are good people, but would rather watch The Simpsons than CNN. It opens up with a fake quote from Wolf Blitzer, and a dedication to our cats. So if you like fake quotes from Wolf Blitzer, dedications to cats, then it’s the book for you.

    Jamie & Allison co-host Citizen Radio, which is dedicated to covering the stories that the mainstream, corporate media ignores. They have had the privilege of interviewing such distinct intellectuals as Rachel Maddow, Bad Religion, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill, Rise Against, Robin Williams, Janeane Garofalo, Moby, Sarah Silverman, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Regina Spektor and more. They have also been the recipient of batshit crazy threatening letters by the hate group God Hates Fags. Good stuff. You can Pre-Order #NEWSFAIL at AmazonBarnes & NobleSimon & Schuster, or at your local bookstore and subscribe to Citizen Radio at

    • Citizen Radio and Skepchick? Progressive skeptical voices linking up. More of this, please!

    • Courtneycaldwell,

      At this point I’d be willing to bet Dawkins Wishes he could wave a magic wand and make Elevatorgate go away. He may not empathize with Rebbecca Watson, but I have a feeling he knows it doesn’t look good.

    • Very very Coool!

    • Oh, there are so many examples.

      How about reporting on refugee children as if they were plague-ridden terrorist drug mules, or not covering the extensive eroding of voting rights since the SCOTUS dismantled the voting rights act, or freaking the fuck out about a single ebola case in Texas and giving the fear monger exactly what they wanted?

      Wait, I know. My “favorite” is how we are pretending that what Isreal is doing in Gaza is anything short of war crimes because they are seen as untouchable. Yes, that’s it, that’s the one. I wouldn’t suggest that the Palestinians are perfect little cherubs but I don’t know how you “forget” to cover massacres in the name of not offending.

      I guess they can only spend so much time on countries stepping on the necks of their citizens, probably why they haven’t covered Brazil much, or Hong Kong, or Mexico, et cetera.

      • 10,000 ebola cases in West Africa = no big deal.
        1 in the US = the end of the world

        The only upside is that now there will be a vaccine in 6 months.

    • Oh, so many newsfails to choose from! I always love the super basic ones like mislabeling countries on a map, because how can we trust your analysis of Middle Eastern politics and wars if you don’t even know which country is which? Even though logically I know that the graphics department is entirely separate from the writers and talking heads, it drives me up the wall when they don’t bother to check that shit.

      Though, what really pisses me off is terrible science reporting in the media. Like, the other day one of my friends was freaking out about the headline that claimed your baby could carry some traits of your first lover, but the study was about fruit flies. Or ANYTHING where evolutionary psychologists try to explain women’s behaviors by how they affected men.

      Also, thank you guys so much for this interview! I’m sick of Dawkins and Harris and their army of bros, so I will definitely have to check out more by these two.

    • “We need better media. Independent media is really important. ”

      So true, in fact I think this is the key to it all.
      This is great!

    • If you haven’t read #Newsfail yet, I don’t think it’s possible for me to recommend it enough. I’m loving every character of it.

    • I read this post Friday, downloaded a few Citizen Radio episodes, bought the book on Saturday and read half of it last night. Thanks!

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    You literally said, “We could debate whether she was irresponsible in getting into that situation.” That is a direct quote. Stop lying.

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    This is still textbook victim-blaming. “It’s not justified, but she sure was irresponsible to get herself into that situation.” THAT is blaming the victim. Saying that she in some way “got herself into” a situation is saying that the onus is on victims to avoid rape when it the onus should be on rapists not to rape.

    BTW, alcohol is every bit as…[Read more]

    • “It’s not justified, but she sure was irresponsible to get herself into that situation.” THAT is blaming the victim.

      Agreed, but that’s not what I said. She didn’t get herself into the situation. I certainly did not mean to imply that she got herself into the situation either.

    • You called her incredibly stupid, yet you’re claiming you didn’t say she got her into the situation? What the fuck? Are you aware we can read what you’ve written? You are putting the blame on the victim. You are victim blaming. You called her stupid!

    • “You literally said, “We could debate whether she was irresponsible in getting into that situation.” That is a direct quote. Stop lying.”

      I see the confusion now. Hopefully this clears it up.

      If you make a claim, and I respond with “It is debatable…” I’m not actually supporting your claim. Nor am I denying it. All I’m doing is ack…[Read more]

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    Not at all. Please go look at his feed, or any of the surrounding comments before attempting to defend him. He posted more tweets last night defending this idea, and there’s also the now-deleted gem from yesterday, screencapped here:

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 8 months ago

    Trying to decide which analogy is more of a stretch….

    • Well at least in mine I’ve got the criminal and the victim on different sides. Dawkins seems to think that rape happens without a rapist and is something that the victim does to themselves.

      • I think there is a blurry line where “too drunk to consent to sex” occurs. I think this is where much of the misrepresentation and misunderstanding of remarks made by others occurs on this topic.

        • How is it blurry? “Hey, do you wanna have sex?” If they can’t answer or seem unwilling and aren’t *************enthusiastically consenting**************, don’t have sex (or rape) them. Easy-peasy.

        • “How is it blurry? “Hey, do you wanna have sex?” If they can’t answer or seem unwilling and aren’t *************enthusiastically consenting**************, don’t have sex (or rape) them. Easy-peasy.”

          I agree with you on where the line is drawn for the record. Do you think everyone is drawing it in the same place?

        • Why does that matter? Communicating to your partner is NOT HARD. If they can’t say yes, then you don’t have sex (rape) them. Period. It’s not that fucking hard. The fact that you think it is is really, really concerning.

        • “If they can’t say yes, then you don’t have sex (rape) them. Period. It’s not that fucking hard. The fact that you think it is is really, really concerning.”

          You are arguing with a shadow. We agree. Truly.

          I have heard the claim that “if someone says “yes” and indicates “yes” but their judgement is impaired by alcohol, then the “yes” doesn…[Read more]

  • Last night, Mark Oppenheimer posted an article on Buzzfeed about misogyny in the atheist/skeptic movements, and specifically about how men like Michael Shermer have ruined the movement for women. The article does a great job of laying bare one of organized skepticism’s biggest secrets: how Michael Shermer allegedly used alcohol to inebriate and then rape Alison Smith at TAM 2008. Like clockwork, our embarrassing Twitter uncle Richard Dawkins had this to say on the matter:

    That’s right, folks. If a predator uses alcohol to get you drunk, that’s your fault. In fact, it’s a crime parallel to drunk driving! Does Richard Dawkins also think we should criminally charge people who are raped when drunk, just like we charge drunk drivers? After all, think of the damage they could do!*

    *To Michael Shermer’s reputation

    Nevermind that being the victim of a rape is more analogous to being a person hit by a drunk driver (though I wouldn’t even use that analogy, since drunk driving doesn’t predominately target a specific gender, there differences in the way society treats victims of drunk driving vs. rape, etc.). Regardless, it’s certainly not at all accurate to compare a rape victim to a drunk driver. In the interest of clarity, I would like to offer five more things Richard Dawkins thinks you should be criminally liable for whilst drunk:

    Bad “Journey” Karaoke

    Bad karaoke is an assault on everyone’s senses, but Journey karaoke is particularly awful. Join Richard Dawkins in the fight to criminalize bad Journey karaoke! Getting Robbed

    We have long been told that rape and robbery are analogous, so I suppose Richard Dawkin’s latest revelation proves that being Robbed While Drunk should also leave the robbee criminally responsible. Didn’t want to get robbed? Shouldn’t have gotten so drunk that you didn’t hear that intruder! Nevermind that sexual assault isn’t at all comparable to getting robbed. Anything goes in Richard Dawkins Analogy Land! Crimes Against Honey

    We all know Richard Dawkins loves his honey. If you’re drunk and you drop a jar of precious honey, you should be held criminally responsible. Credit Card Fraud

    If your identity is stolen because you drunk-purchased 20 different Hello Kitty snuggies, you should be held liable. Don’t want to have your bank information stolen? Don’t shop online! Being a Woman

    Richard Dawkins’ only use for women is when he can trot out behavior against them as proof of why religion is bad. All other acts by women should be criminalized. Featured Image by Kimery Davis

    • I guess the closest drunk and driving comparison would be if someone gets you drunk, takes your car keys, and then intentionally runs you over when you start walking home? And then Dawkins blames you for not being sober enough to dodge the car properly?

      • Trying to decide which analogy is more of a stretch….

        • Well at least in mine I’ve got the criminal and the victim on different sides. Dawkins seems to think that rape happens without a rapist and is something that the victim does to themselves.

          • I think there is a blurry line where “too drunk to consent to sex” occurs. I think this is where much of the misrepresentation and misunderstanding of remarks made by others occurs on this topic.

            • How is it blurry? “Hey, do you wanna have sex?” If they can’t answer or seem unwilling and aren’t *************enthusiastically consenting**************, don’t have sex (or rape) them. Easy-peasy.

            • “How is it blurry? “Hey, do you wanna have sex?” If they can’t answer or seem unwilling and aren’t *************enthusiastically consenting**************, don’t have sex (or rape) them. Easy-peasy.”

              I agree with you on where the line is drawn for the record. Do you think everyone is drawing it in the same place?

            • Why does that matter? Communicating to your partner is NOT HARD. If they can’t say yes, then you don’t have sex (rape) them. Period. It’s not that fucking hard. The fact that you think it is is really, really concerning.

            • “If they can’t say yes, then you don’t have sex (rape) them. Period. It’s not that fucking hard. The fact that you think it is is really, really concerning.”

              You are arguing with a shadow. We agree. Truly.

              I have heard the claim that “if someone says “yes” and indicates “yes” but their judgement is impaired by alcohol, then the “yes” doesn’t count”

              If this is your claim, we could have a debate, but it isn’t, so instead can we just agree to agree?

              Me: “Some people debate whether 2+2=4”
              you: “What are you saying? 2+2 equals FOUR!”
              Me: “Yes, we agree, 2+2=4”
              You: “I’m extremely concerned that you don’t think 2+2=4!!”

              We agree. Really.

    • But this is the obvious thing about his “Joke.” (Yes, he’s now saying it’s a joke and people are saying that he’s a poor victim of feminism again.)

      It isn’t your fault if you are drunk driving if someone is FORCING you to DRIVE!

      • It’s funny, because someone mentioned that to me on Twitter, and I was like “Never see the classic film North by Northwest? People got Cary Grant drunk in an attempt to get him to die and make it look like an accident.”

    • Alcohol is as much, or more, a ‘date rape drug’ as rohypnol is. Dawkins’ idiotic victim-blaming is matched by the insistence on normalizing drinking around sexuality. It seems that half the journalists writing out there have never had sex without getting legless first. Hence pouring alcohol into very young, or carefully scouted, victims is brushed aside as Youthful High-jinks, or ‘experimentation.’

      Sexual predators use alcohol deliberately and consciously. The report on Shermer is classic. But, another unpopular fact is, that most people do not suffer black-outs from alcohol unless some other drug is involved.

      A true black-out, during which the victim may drive a car, go out for more drinks, elope to Vegas with a stranger etc. etc. Is not something a ‘normal’ drinker will ever experience. ‘Normal’ people will lose consciousness, or vomit before reaching that strange balance where memory is washed out.

      Most diagnostic questionnaires for alcoholism ask if the reader has EVER had a black-out. A ‘yes’ answer is pretty definitive. Almost half of diagnosed alcoholics haven’t had black-outs. It is a ‘late stage’ symptom like morning drinking, the ‘shakes,’ or hallucinations.

      Be sure that if your drinking takes you places you don’t want to go; or leads you into black-outs, there are likely to be predators marking you out as prey.

    • I have to take a middle of the road response here, I think suggesting Dawkins is suggesting that a rape victim is guilty of a crime because they were drunk at the time is not an accurate reflection of his statement. I think he was suggesting that someone who is drunk is capable of making their own decisions.

      That said, his statement, if it’s reference to the allegations of Allison Smith, are ridiculous. Let me fix it for you Richard:

      “Officer, I wasn’t drunk driving. This guy beside me fed me drinks until I was drunk, promised to put me in a cab but instead put me in the drivers seat where he got in beside me, put the keys in the ignition and pressed his foot to the accelerator and reached over and steered the car while I sat here practically unconscious.”

      There, a more accurate analogy.

      • “…fed me drinks until I was drunk…”

        Forcibly, or could you have said no in this hypothetical situation?

        “…promised to put me in a cab…”

        Even if you trust this person, how is this justification for letting yourself get excessively drunk? You know that your behavior will be altered and you could do something that you’d regret. Even if this person follows through with his promise, isn’t it still stupid to let yourself get drunk? Couldn’t you do something else incredibly stupid?

        We are still responsible for what we do while drunk, and in particular, we are responsible for not being drunk. If the guy in question spikes a drink, I believe you are not responsible.

        If he doesn’t and you still drink to excess, you still aren’t responsible for the ultimate act. But you are responsible for not putting yourself in an ambiguous situation where the law will have a much greater challenge in prosecuting your alleged attacker, since it will be hard to determine if it’s just two people being stupid or one. That’s just common sense.

        • No it isn’t “common sense”. It is victim blaming, through and through.

          So basically what you are saying is that men can’t handle themselves around drunk women. What fucking bullshit. Men aren’t animals. Hie is this line of thinking NOT offensive to men???????

        • I think we agree that you are responsible for the decisions you make when you are drunk.

          I think we also agree that getting drunk is a choice (assuming no foul play like “spiking a drink” as you point out)

          I think we also agree that getting drunk can be an irresponsible choice, and can also be a stupid choice. (and often is)

          If someone is drunk, I believe they can still consent to sex, just as you can make any other decision. However, if you are so drunk you cannot convey to the person you are with that you want to engage in sex with them, then you are too drunk to consent. If you are too drunk to continue to convey to your partner that you wish to continue during sex, then you are too drunk to consent.

          Alison Smith alleges that she was drunk to the point where she could not consent to sex. At this point, having sex was not a decision she got to make, yet it was made for her. We could debate whether she was irresponsible in getting into that situation, what I don’t think is debatable is that whatever got her in that situation, (assuming her allegations are factual), she was then victimized.

          Getting drunk can be irresponsible and even stupid, but that doesn’t mean committing a crime against someone drunk is justified, or tolerable. Alison Smith’s story is a warning about getting drunk around a certain prominent skeptic. I would totally agree that getting drunk around him after that warning would be incredibly stupid.

          • By calling someone “incredibly stupid” YOU ARE PUTTING THE BLAME ON THEM FOR BEING RAPED, if they get raped while drunk around Michael Shermer.

            He has a name. Why are you so reluctant to use it?

            Interesting that you call Michael Shermer a “certain prominent skeptic” but are sharing the victim’s name freely. Very interesting, indeed.

            • “By calling someone “incredibly stupid” YOU ARE PUTTING THE BLAME ON THEM FOR BEING RAPED”

              Are you joking?

              “Very interesting, indeed.”

              I am very interesting, but it’s nice to hear it now and again…we are purposely interpreting each other’s posts falsely right?

            • “You called her incredibly stupid”

              Read what I said again. I said IGNORING HER WARNING would be incredibly stupid.

              “Alison Smith’s story is a warning about getting drunk around a certain prominent skeptic. I would totally agree that getting drunk around him after that warning would be incredibly stupid.”

          • This is still textbook victim-blaming. “It’s not justified, but she sure was irresponsible to get herself into that situation.” THAT is blaming the victim. Saying that she in some way “got herself into” a situation is saying that the onus is on victims to avoid rape when it the onus should be on rapists not to rape.

            BTW, alcohol is every bit as much a date rape drug as something like rohypnol. It’s not hard to disguise how much alcohol is in a drink to make it seem like you aren’t drinking much. It’s not hard to, once someone has had a couple of drinks, pressure them into having more (especially when the rapist commands the power differential – as Shermer would). To try to debate otherwise is nothing more than an attempt to blame victims for a crime against them.

            • “It’s not justified, but she sure was irresponsible to get herself into that situation.” THAT is blaming the victim.

              Agreed, but that’s not what I said. She didn’t get herself into the situation. I certainly did not mean to imply that she got herself into the situation either.

            • You called her incredibly stupid, yet you’re claiming you didn’t say she got her into the situation? What the fuck? Are you aware we can read what you’ve written? You are putting the blame on the victim. You are victim blaming. You called her stupid!

            • “You literally said, “We could debate whether she was irresponsible in getting into that situation.” That is a direct quote. Stop lying.”

              I see the confusion now. Hopefully this clears it up.

              If you make a claim, and I respond with “It is debatable…” I’m not actually supporting your claim. Nor am I denying it. All I’m doing is acknowledging it and moving on.

    • I think he was just talking about drunk drivers. He’s not known for his clearly understandable tweets.

    • Aren’t the people who serve the alcohol considered partly liable for the drunk driving too?

    • *gags*
      Wow, this is a new low for Dawkins.

      And now I finally understand what happened with Michael Shermer, too.

    • After watching the buttock-clenchingly hagiographic “The Unbelievers” on Netflix this week I now get a mental image of Dawkins composing his stupid tweets as part of a travel montage with 90s REM playing in the background.

    • The phrase “gets you drunk” implies a kind of passivity. Anyone is free not to put those drinks into their own body. The only person that can get you drunk is you.

      • And what does that have to do with rape?

      • Did you think someone was claiming that getting drunk isn’t a choice? I didn’t get that at all.

        I think the claim is that someone being drunk isn’t justification for committing a crime against them.

        • Except you said that if someone gets drunk around someone, they are being incredibly stupid. And why are they being incredibly stupid? Please explain in full why you believe they are being incredibly stupid.

          • I need you to specify which claim you are referring to, then I’ll do my best to answer.

            My original claim was “getting drunk can be an irresponsible choice, and can be a stupid choice.” Do you think getting drunk is never irresponsible or stupid? If so, I can give some examples if you like. Note that this claim never specified anything about being “around someone”. Getting drunk by yourself can also be stupid and irresponsible. (and dangerous)

            Unless you are talking about my suggestion that getting drunk around someone after specifically getting warned that they are a rapist who rapes drunk people is incredibly stupid. Is that what you thought unfair?

            • You are talking about getting drunk as being “irresponsible” or “stupid” in a subject about rape, therefore it appears to me that you think getting drunk around “certain people” is irresponsible, and if you get raped, you were getting drunk irresponsibly, therefore it is your fault. That is what it appears you are saying.

            • There seems to be this belief that you can’t believe these two things at the same time:

              1) People sometimes do irresponsible, stupid or dangerous things

              2) When these same people are victimized by someone who took advantage of their vulnerable state, it is the fault of the one who victimized them, it is only the fault of the person who victimized them. Blame is not shared.

              I assure you that I am capable of believing both things to be true.

              “If you get raped, you were getting drunk irresponsibly, therefore it is your fault.” This is nonsense reasoning. I assure you I would make no such ridiculous connection.

    • Is this post satire, or does Ms. Caldwell actually believe Dawkins is equating drunk driving with getting raped? It seems to me he is using irony (badly, perhaps) to illustrate that doing something you regret after drinking, then blaming someone else for your drunkenness is fundamentally dishonest.

      Ms. Smith used the word “coerced” in her claims, but she doesn’t say she was coerced to drink, only that she was coerced “into a position where [she] could not consent.” But was she really? Coercion implies the use of threats or force. Does Ms. Smith claim elsewhere Shermer forced her to drink? I certainly didn’t read that in the article at Buzzfeed.

      In the opening paragraph of this post Courtney wrote:

      [blockquote]The [article at Buzzfeed] does a great job of laying bare one of organized skepticism’s biggest secrets: how Michael Shermer allegedly used alcohol to inebriate and then rape Alison Smith at TAM 2008.[/blockquote]

      From the article at Buzzfeed:

      [blockquote]At the party, [Shermer and Smith] began downing drinks. “At some point,” Smith said, “I realized he wasn’t drinking them; he was hiding them underneath the table and pretending to drink them. I was drunk. After that, it all gets kind of blurry.”[/blockquote]

      Nowhere in that statement does it say Shermer threatened her or otherwise used force to “inebriated” Smith. Indeed, she acknowledges she knew Shermer wasn’t drinking while she was.

      Five years later she claimed:

      [blockquote]At a conference, Mr. Shermer coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me…[/blockquote]

      How did Shermer coerce her? Where was the threat? What force did he use?

      We can argue about the morality of Shermer’s sexual tactics (despicable in my opinion), but none of the facts presented in the article at Buzzfeed support the claim he coerced Ms. Smith to do anything. To claim Shermer coerced Ms. Smith is to say he did something criminal which is a very serious accusation. I suspect this is why the word “allegedly” figures prominently in Courtney’s opening description of the incident.

      • Regardless of whether Smith’s drinking was voluntary, if she was too drunk to consent, it was rape.
        She seems to be under the impression that Shermer overserved her deliberately to set her up to be raped.
        It’s not ‘sexual tactics’, it’s sexual predation.

        • I don’t disagree with the description of Shermer’s behavior as predatory. That’s part of the reason I deplore it. I also deplore taking advantage of a person’s emotional vulnerability, say following the breakup of a relationship, as a means to initiate a sexual encounter. But is it a crime?

          Ms. Smith said:

          “Mr. Shermer coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me.”

          This is an accusation of criminal activity; Shermer had sex with her without her consent. I realize the comment section of this blog isn’t a court of law, but if you’re gonna believe someone committed a crime you should at least examine the evidence.

          I think we can all agree that everyone’s response to alcohol is different, which is to say an individual’s response to alcohol is largely unpredictable. I’ve been drunk. Very drunk. So drunk, in fact, I don’t remember my actions. On at least one of those occasions I’ve been told by those who were around me that though they could tell I’d been drinking, they could not tell that I was blackout drunk. I’ve witnessed similar phenomena in others. A California Highway Patrolman briefing my military unit on traffic safety told us of a driver detained for a broken tail light who passed all the roadside sobriety tests–except the portable breathalyzer. The device indicated a BAC over .5%. They thought the portable breathalyzer was malfunctioning until they tried one from another patrol car. That guy should’ve been comatose, but was driving completely normally, at night!

          Engaging in sexual contact with a person who cannot exercise consent is wrong, but at what point after imbibing does a person become incapable of exercising consent? Can an individual–perhaps someone who has also been drinking–reliably tell when another is too inebriated to exercise consent (assuming they are not passed out)? Are we saying that having sex after drinking *any amount* constitutes non-consensual (criminal) sex? If not, at what point does it?

          Clearly, Shermer has a well-deserved reputation for what most would consider immoral sexual behavior, but if we’re gonna consider past behavior, then I think we shouldn’t forget he’s never been charged with nor convicted of a sexual crime (to my knowledge).

          As a skeptic I strongly believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty. I say a bad reputation isn’t evidence. For Ms. Smith’s claim to stand up to scrutiny she must prove Shermer knew she was unable to consent. Is it possible that Ms. Smith, despite having been drinking, behaved in a way that Shermer could reasonably believe she could consent? He says they walked long enough to sober up, and she remembers a lot of fine details (being lied to about which room they were walking to, for example) for someone too impaired to realize what was happening. Unless Ms. Smith was unconscious–which doesn’t fit her account since she says she remembers having sex–I don’t see how she can prove she was too drunk to consent, much less prove Shermer knew she was too drunk to consent.

          • See, to my mind, it is far more likely that Shermer raped Smith than that Smith is fabricating or mistaken.
            Far, far, far more likely, from all I know about how sexual assault happens, how often it happens, and how unlikely false accusations are.
            Most rapists are never charged or convicted, so that means next to nothing to my calculations.
            Add to that, my personal experiences with sexual assaults, and those of my friends, and my calculation of likelihoods comes down resoundingly in favor of Smith’s allegations being true. Especially when you add Randi’s comments and the comments of the people who were apprised of the situation at the time.

            • I didn’t claim Ms. Smith fabricated her story. It’s certainly possible that she honestly believes she was too drunk to consent AND that Shermer honestly believes she was not. In this specific instance how do you prove who is right?

              It sounds as though you are saying you are a sexual assault victim. If so, you have my deepest sympathies. This comes from a man whose sister, wife and daughter have all experienced sexual assault. For varying reasons, none of their perpetrators ever faced criminal charges, so I have an inkling of your anger and frustration.

            • Oh, please. He knew. He fucking knew.

            • No shit he knew. I mean, duh.
              It’s so disingenuous.
              What Shermer did is so common, so typical, his behavior for years so well-known… you have to be either incredibly naive or willfully ignorant to deny, dismiss, or doubt that a sexual assault occurred.

              It shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially in light of the Rice video. People were falling all over themselves to believe there was some mutual combat involved. It took a fucking video of the assault for the public to believe she wasn’t at fault. She was knocked the fuck out by a linebacker who didn’t have a scratch. But ‘benefit of the doubt’ and ‘innocent until found guilty in a criminal court’. What the good goddamn did people think happened?
              That’s the world we’re living in, though. It’s all part of the same big ball of bullshit dumped on women.

              Shermer gets the benefit of the doubt. Smith doesn’t. Regardless of the big pile of evidence pointing to her version of events. We know this song by heart.

            • @marilove, I know how someone who can see so clearly into the mind of another can win $1 million dollars, easy-peasy.

              This attitude is the reason I so strongly argue the innocent-until-proven-guilty point. Neither the writer of this blog post nor anyone commenting on it knows for sure what happened that night. Anyone who claims otherwise is selling something.

            • @punchdrunk, I’ll be the first to agree with anyone who says our criminal justice system sucks, but I believe in the principles on which it is supposed to operate.

              So what’s your solution? Do we modify due process protections for the accused? How do we enhance the rights of those who claim to be victims without taking away from the rights of those we are supposed to assume innocent?

            • There’s no right to speak at conventions. There’s not right to have powerful people defend you. There’s no right to have your actions swept under the rug by a community. There’s no right to saving public face. There’s no right to selling books or speaking in front of audiences or being invited to parties or having your work promoted.
              None of those things are human rights.
              Nobody’s rights are being violated.
              There are eyewitness accounts of the demeanor of both parties on the night in question. There is Shermer’s reputation, including reports of sexually inappropriate behavior going way back before this night. There are the accounts of the friends Smith called right after the assault. I think there would be enough evidence to at least call a Grand Jury, if we were living in a less fucked up civilization.
              I’m not sure what *you* need to weigh the scales. I think that the evidence is incredibly damning. I honestly don’t know what evidence would be enough. Video? Witnesses in the room during the rape? A confession from the rapist?

            • Also, you can stuff your ‘deepest sympathies’, since you would have been right there defending the people who raped me. My word about what happened wouldn’t have been good enough. My telling my story would have violated the people who raped me.
              Get bent and keep your pity to yourself.

            • @punchdrunk, my entire line of argument revolves around the fact that Shermer has been accused with a criminal act, and that I believe if you’re gonna accuse someone of criminality you are morally bound to follow some rules to be sure you’re right. “Rights” in that regard refer to the rights of the accused in a criminal matter, which seem like a good starting point for developing rules to make sure you are making a fair accusation of criminality.

              “Also, you can stuff your ‘deepest sympathies’, since you would have been right there defending the people who raped me.”

              It makes me profoundly sad to think you may truly believe that. I would ask sincerely that you try not to confuse defending a principle with defending criminals.


            • “It makes me profoundly sad to think you may truly believe that. I would ask sincerely that you try not to confuse defending a principle with defending criminals.”

              “me me me, I I I!” How fucking self-involved do you have to be to seriously tell a VICTIM that her not wanting your bullshit sympathy makes YOU sad? You are making this about YOU and her reaction to YOUR reaction about HER RAPE.

              That is beyond not okay. Your sympathies are not the fucking point.

            • Seriously this just pisses me the fuck off. “Oh, I am so sad that a victim doesn’t appreciate my empty sympathy. Poor me. I am so abused. Poor, poor, poor me. 🙁 🙁 :(”

              Fuck off, dude.

            • @marilove, comprehend much? I didn’t say I was sad she didn’t accept my sympathy, I said I was sad she believed I would stand up for a criminal.

              If you’re gonna speak for someone at least pay attention.

    • As a skeptic, a bad reputation should actually count for something, if for no other reason than a Bayesian analysis. Prior evidence is not admissible in a court of law, but it sure is any other place. We have prior evidence that Dawkins is an intentionally tone-deaf dog-whistler for the anti-SJW boys’ club. We have prior evidence that Shermer is a creep, possibly a rapist, certainly a harasser. The article is about Dawkins taking a shitty position with regard to women being mistreated among secular/skeptic/atheist crowds, not about whether Shermer could get acquitted. Far as I know, no charges have ever been filed against him, so the whole “innocent until proven guilty” posturing is off-topic.

      I know it’s a bad analogy, rape and robbery, but let’s just play this quick little thought experiment. Something always goes missing at your house, every time a certain friend visits, and it’s always at the end of the month, right before his rent is due. Or he always borrows a few quid. He invariably brings a bottle of vodka. You get shitfaced, he actually doesn’t, and the next day when you remember loaning him $200, he says you were too drunk to remember, you just lent him $100. Okay, you hear that he actually does this around other houses in the neighborhood, the 30th of every month, like clockwork. And then you hear a neighbor claim that he thinks this guy might have slipped him something more than vodka, and then actually stolen thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.

      The past reputation is completely worth examining here. It’s not a court of law. It sounds pretty feasible. And the woman claiming he wiped out her jewelry box is pretty credible, as have been all the other neighbors who say, yeah, he got me drunk and conned me too.

      So now it’s your time to post on the Neighborhood Bulletin Board, where this behavior is becoming a focus of discussion. And your first instinct is to say: “y’all accepted his vodka, so shut the fuck up!”???

      This has nothing to do with innocent until proven guilty, it’s about missing the fucking point.

      • “As a skeptic, a bad reputation should actually count for something, if for no other reason than a Bayesian analysis.”

        Ok, what has happened since Ms. Smith made her allegations? Have any other women accused him of coercion? Did any other women accuse him of coercion before Ms. Smith made her allegation?

        Again, I’m not condoning how the man conducts himself around women (assuming what I’ve read in this post and at Buzzfeed is true).

        “And then you hear a neighbor claim that he thinks this guy might have slipped him something more than vodka, and then actually stolen thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.”

        Are you suggesting Shermer drugged and raped someone? If so please share the evidence.

        “This has nothing to do with innocent until proven guilty, it’s about missing the fucking point.”

        Bullshit. Your analogy is based on the assumption I had a previous experience with the person on which to base suspicions. I don’t. I’m basing my analysis on what I’m reading here and at Buzzfeed. I have no personal knowledge of Michael Shermer other than reading his books and watching some videos on Youtube. If you have personal knowledge he’s engaged in criminal activity then I encourage you to share it with law enforcement.

      • So, everything must be provable in a court of law? Is that how you conduct your life? Would you take the creepy reputation of someone you were considering to babysit into account?

        Would it have been okay if Ms. Smith had kept her allegations to the back channels where Mr. Shermer’s reputation was already well known? Or was it fair to warn the general public as to his tactics so as to make his future success less likely?

        It seems to me that Mr. Shermer is doing just fucking fine since his reputation was “besmirched”, and yet Ms. Smith’s motives are questioned ever single time someone dares bring this up. I wonder why that is?

        • It looks like Boomer requires independent witnesses in the room during the assault to accept the claim. That seems to be the evidentiary bar here. He needs extraordinary evidence, evidence that almost never exists, because all those witnesses and all the prior bad behavior and all the women who have come forward, now and in the past, just aren’t enough for him.
          The testimonies, the written reports, the common knowledge among Shermer’s peers – all of that combined are given far less weight than Shermer’s account of what happened. An account that has changed more than once as new facts surface.

          He pretty much embodies rape culture. Abusers, rapists, and predators would be a lot less successful hurting people without the Boomers of the world providing cover for them and protecting them from consequences.

          • @punchdrunk, You’re battling a strawman. There’ve been many sexual assault cases involving the inability to consent that’ve resulted in conviction absent witnesses in the room. Although I don’t think our criminal justice system is perfect (see below), I have to assume a jury probably gets things right most of the time. Are there testimonies and written reports of any prior or subsequent charges or convictions for criminal activity on the part of Shermer? If there are please share links.

            “He pretty much embodies rape culture. Abusers, rapists, and predators would be a lot less successful hurting people without the Boomers of the world providing cover for them and protecting them from consequence.”

            Bullshit. There is merit on both sides of this debate whether you choose to admit it or not. Principles–like innocent until proven guilty–don’t mean shit unless we apply them in those instances when we least want to. In the past 40 years 146 death row inmates have been exonerated.


            How many of these people were convicted based on some preconceived notion, some *prejudice* harbored by those who accused them?

            • This in not a court of law, this is the court of public opinion.

              In the court of public opinion there is no presumption of innocence.

              This is the strawman you keep whacking at, stop it.

        • I didn’t question Ms. Smith’s motives, I questioned the legality morality of accusing someone of a crime without providing evidence.

          No, I don’t think everything must be provable in court. Yes, I would take reputation into account when selecting a baby sitter. And certainly any woman should consider Shermer’s reputation before accepting a date invitation.

          That’s different from an accusation of criminality. A criminal conviction results in criminal penalties which can mean the loss of freedom and a lifetime of opprobrium that goes along with a criminal record.

          • She provided evidence, her personal testimony, but you have decided it is not sufficient even though she is asking for no legal reprisal. You say that women should take Shermer’s reputation into account, except how are those women supposed to take his reputation into account unless they were lucky enough to be privy to the back channels to know about that reputation? Do you feel the women in the general skeptical public are not worthy of that information? Are only prominent woman skeptics important enough to protect from assault? Because your insistence that only criminally provable allegations be allowed leads in that direction.

            This wasn’t about criminality as there was no criminal conviction or even formal charges, this was about a warning to avoid Shermer in certain situations and the only freedom he has lost is his access to victims. And maybe not even as much as it should be since there are some who refuse to believe it because it wasn’t proved in a court. And that says nothing to your motives, but there is a huge pile of unintended consequences hiding under your “let’s be reasonable” argument.

    • See, Richard? This is why you’re losing followers. Now I’ll go over this slowly: The difference between being raped and driving drunk is who is in danger. Last I checked, if you drive drunk, you endanger, um, I’ll go for “everyone in your path”. On the other hand, when you’re raped, you’re the one in danger.

      Or, as you might say, drinking so much that you compromise your judgment is bad. Drinking so much that you compromise your judgment and getting behind the wheel is worse. What can’t you understand about that?

  • When I was a newbie atheist, fresh from my first reading of The God Delusion, The End of Faith, and every amateur Xanga blog I could find, I had a firm belief that no good could possibly exist within religion. “At […]

    • I think it’s nice that the New Atheist movement is finally re-discovering the basic same controversy that Marx got into when he started to mature from the Hegelian philosophy to his brand of Dialectical Materialism:

      “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

      He started differing from previous “idealist” philosophers that saw religion as a mere artifact of an older, less sophisticated era, to start seeing it as a reflection of the day-to-day material struggles. To end religion must be, then, to end all exploitation and oppression that make religion seem such a pleasant alternative.

    • Yeah, pretty much. My view is that it is one of many things whose net effect **tends** to be negative, but kind of like nationalism, or patriotism, or the like, directed at regimes that are themselves oppressive, or inequitable, etc., most people see only the benefit they gain by being “in” the winning group, than the end result of perpetuating the problems that result from the philosophies. Its the whole, “Ok, I know you are one of the nice ones, but how can you not get that your support of the institution emboldens, strengthens, and one some level, defends, the worse ones?” So, so, so many of us ask that of people who insist on calling themselves Catholic, every time the church they are members of does something horrible, again. The answer being, sadly, that for someone far enough away from the center, its valuable, and they can pretend that membership doesn’t mean they, how ever indirectly, support all the horrible things being done there. Same with being a “moderate” or “progressive” Christian, fighting the good fight against all the bad stuff, while failing, very badly, to recognize that the bad people get elected, often, purely on the claim that they are, “nice Christians, just like you”, when they are anything but that.

      You can’t “reclaim” something that a huge percentage of the people in it are just dead wrong about huge swaths of reality, and *they* are the ones who actually get the source material more or less right, instead of glossing over the bits that tell them that its reality that is wrong. Of course good people flock to the only game in town. That doesn’t mean that the game isn’t still rigged, in precisely the manner the firebrand/faithiests types say it is.

      But, it means that *our* side needs to pull its head out of its backside and stop acting like the problem is the existence of “faith”, and not the fact that it successfully co-opts anything and everything it can get its hands on, precisely because it **does** badly, and with a disinterest in actually comprehending the problems in the world, try to actively help people solve the same, while “atheism” has had a bad habit, and still has, sadly, in some of its core, or just standing around saying, “Your philosophy is bad. Abandon that, and somehow all the problems will just disappear.” That *part* of the core sounds like the damn gun lobby, talking about its own theory about how to reduce gun violence, by simply adding more guns. All the other issues need not be addressed, they are merely some sort of “by product” of not enough guns. Just replace the last word in that sentence with atheism, and you have the argument of every bloody fool out there claiming that atheism+, and or “actual dealing with social issues”, etc., is a “distraction”.

    • “faith” doesn’t co-opt anything, because it’s not an autonomous being.

      What happens is that the people who elbow their way to the levers of power in society at large are also the people who control most religious organizations (especially the dominant ones.) Naturally, those religious organizations are going to support and extend whatever oppressions are in society at large, because it’s the same kind of people who shape them in both cases. Southern (USA) churches supported slavery because their members supported slavery. Etc. And in many cases, to the extent you fight the oppressions, you also undermine those same religous power structures.

      There’s also the phenomenon that for certain oppressed groups, their church (or other religious organization) is where they can gather to deal with and oppose their oppression. Atheists who attack these religions are rightly seen as supporting their oppression, especially since atheist groups don’t offer any other institution that can serve as a focus for resistance. Obviously, if the oppression weren’t there, they wouldn’t need a religious organization to provide a place to oppose it.

      It may be that fighting social ills (e.g., misogyny, racism, etc) without criticizing religion per se may do more to support and advance atheism than explicitly fighting religion.

    • With respect, you are right in a sense, but for such a strategy to be successful for those who use religions to do such a thing it requires two things – 1) People willing to believe, without evidence, that the religion has the truth, and/or, their best interest in mind, i.e. “faith”, and 2) promotion of the idea that ignorance of alternative views are dangerous, which could be described in terms of, “lacking enough faith, if you listen to those other views, or consider them”.

      Ideas may be inactive in the sense that they are not living breathing things, but they dang well play an active role in undermining people’s ability to see reality. Its unfortunate that the same term gets applied when someone have factual, accurate, assessments of the chance that something is true, and is willing to take that on faith, as well as when they have no accurate facts, their assessments are based on prejudice, and possibly fear, and there is no verifiable truth to the claim they opt to have faith in. The latter is the bread and butter of religion, even the nice, friendly, ones, who insist that some special category of ideas, which exist in an “untouchable” area, where there are “special conditions”, which somehow only apply to those ideas, and require only popularity, or good feelings them, or even a disbelief that other answers are possible (or preferable).

      I realize the fact that the word is used to describe “both” of these things is confusing as all heck, but there is a clear and important difference in the outcome of which sort you pick, when looking for answers. Religion, pretty much by definition, always picks “some” things to be in the, “I like this answer, because it gives me an answer, a lot of other people also like the answer, and none of us like the other answers, or lack of one.”, box. It makes in really dang easy for some charismatic loon to fill such a box with things that lead to very scary places, even when those places start out looking like nice ones.

    • This is a great piece, I agree wholeheartedly.

    • “Atheists who attack these religions are rightly seen as supporting their oppression, especially since atheist groups don’t offer any other institution that can serve as a focus for resistance. Obviously, if the oppression weren’t there, they wouldn’t need a religious organization to provide a place to oppose it.”

      If I may, I venture that the “firebrand” atheists are a bit like the anti-monarchy republicans of 18th/19th-century Europe, seeking for a replacement of inheritance-based governance with a more democratic, limited-span and limited-power leadership.

      European republicans wanted less of a system which was determined by birth and family prestige, and less “life-term” offices like that of a monarch or life senator/lord.

      Similarly, I think that atheists (or naturalists? or maybe just me) want a similar shakeup of the whole idea of a deity or anthropomorphic moral compass. No “eternal reign”, no “unquestionable Word of God”, no “omnipotence/omnipresence”, no “power over life and death/good and evil”, no declaration of “who goes to Heaven or Hell”, none of those claims.

      Many of us want a less-absolute, less-monarchistic moral compass as has been presented in Abrahamic religions, among others.

    • Late to this, but here’s one way I formulate this kind of thing. May atheists in the blogosphere rant about the evils of religion, but most of the time they are talking about the religion that has a privileged status in their local sphere. That is Islam or Christianity, depending on the country you are in.

      But what would atheists say to a Lakota, whose religion has been the locus of resistance and identity to oppression? That it’s just a bunch of superstitious nonsense? Fine and dandy, but don’t complain when the Native person says you are an insensitive dick who is taking an active part in the oppression of his or her people.

      Part of the deep, deep problem with atheism as a movement is that it just doesn’t offer any social benefits in the way most religions do (Sikivu Hutchison’s point is relevant here). Being right is all very well but if you are a hermit as a result then for most people that’s not a sell.

      And in many places religious communities are more than the faith, and in fact I’d argue that the finer theological points are about the least important thing to most of the people in them. Ask yourself if you have ever, ever heard a theological discussion among religious people when you all get together for the pot luck or go to Seder or get together for the meal at the end of Ramadan. I’ve been around two of the three, and I can tell you that I never heard a word abut theology. Something tells me that the third is similar for most folks.

      Right now atheists for the most part just don’t offer anything that comes close. If I ask you “what do I get for being an atheist” and your answer is “you get to be right” — well, that’s just not enough for most normal humans who like to do things like socialize. It’s a similar issue that crops up in social justice circles — you have to offer something people get here, now, in this world, not a zillion years after we are all dead. Because functionally the latter is not a whit different from saying you will go to heaven and at least in church I get to hang out with people I like and my aunt makes a pretty rad potato salad, you know?

    • Right now atheists for the most part just don’t offer anything that comes close.

      See, the conclusion this leads to is a horrifying one. Where old world insane asylums “good”, because they where the only form of psychiatric care at the time? Is a witch doctor better than no doctor? I could go on.

      Yeah, atheism doesn’t supply some of the stuff that religion does, but there are a few critically important reasons for this: 1) As an actual movement, instead of just a few disconnected individuals, its unbelievably new. As an idea, it may not be, but as a movement… 2) religions have tended to be even more aggressive (and still are) at disparaging people that disbelieve all gods as the ones that just disbelieve their own gods. Finally, 3) there is a bloody stupid argument going on right now *in* atheism as to whether or not its somehow a waste of time to do anything other than challenge religion.

      This last one is total idiocy, in my opinion, and many others, we do recognize the things that are lacking, we would like to see sane replacements for them that lead to reason, not unreason, and no, its not a waste of time.

      But, yeah, they have had thousands of years to prefect giving people just enough help to convince people that their is value not just in the help they give, but the absurdities they claim are behind them offering it. Some of them even honestly believe, and the refusal of atheism+, and other sub-movements, by some in the over all movement, only strengthens such arguments, that *all* good things come only via those absurdities.

      And, yeah, the Lakota are not exactly out to convert the world, or demand that even non-Lakota do what ever they insist you must do to be properly religious, etc. Who cares what they believe, or do, its not impacting anyone else, and it may be helping them salvage something they find valuable about themselves. Good for them. When they start insisting that every school child has to go through the seven sacred rights, how ever often they do that, as part of everyone’s school education, and make up lame methods to “opt out”, which disadvantage, or even harm, the students that do so, how ever unintentionally, then we can talk about whether or not its even worth telling them how silly we find some of it. Last I checked, we are neither there yet, nor are they likely to demand such a thing.

    • @kagehi— let me put it another way. Alex Gabriel brought it up at FtB. When a disaster happens, the churches are all over it. They provide real concrete stuff. Food. Shelter. Money.

      Where is the Humanist association? (Or the like?) Where the hell were us atheists? Nowhere. Crickets.

      Many churches provide very real things. It isn’t just about nonsense or being just helpful enough. Ask a black churchgoer about it sometime.

      Where are the atheists providing help? Few and far between, and then we complain that people turn to churches when they need something. Well, where the hell were we? Oh, right, we were telling people their superstitions were silly. Way to go, you know?

      • “Where are the atheists providing help? Few and far between,”

        Please distinguish between “atheists” and “atheist groups”. Atheists were providing lots of help. It’s just that they were in general doing so through secular groups such as the Red Cross rather than explicitly atheist ones. Why? Because for most of us there’s no reason to brand the help you’re giving with the name of your faith or lack thereof.

      • Yeah, what Lamuella said, but.. its more than that. I for one don’t give a frack if my atheism is plastered on some bloody charity. I might even donate to some non-secular ones, but it galls me to do so, or to show up to lend help some place, where the main groups are all theist, because even if its doesn’t matter that *I* get the credit, or that atheists do, it does bloody matter that they will take all of the credit. The press won’t report anyone else helping, and the religious organizations sure as heck won’t either.

        What really frosts me is that they get credit even when its blindingly obvious that all they want **is** the credit, like the cases where they push religion as part of the effort, or cherry pick who to help. Sure, not all of them are doing this, but enough of them show up at every effort for the express purpose of “only” helping the people they think deserve it, or serve there goals, and leave what ever other relief is needed to anyone else that shows up.. Even if they do give to everyone, they explicitly show their true colors by only trotting people in front of the cameras that emphasize how wonderful *they* where for being there, as a church, instead of fellow humans.

        And, then, again, its back to the press. Asside from the Red Cross, there is Humanist Crisis Response, SHARE, various charities with the American Humanist Association, etc. All of them are out there, and rarely do they even get a mention by the press, who are so much more interested in what the religious based ones are doing (not even betting on anything short of a total failure being mentioned on say, FOX, for example), or how many churches showed up. And, given that in some towns you can find so many bloody churches built that its a wonder they ever have more than two people per building, this is almost as meaningless a statement about how “useful” or “helpful” churches are as saying, “Look at how many locals showed up to help.”, or, “People with dogs”, or, “people with bathing suits at a beach disaster”. Some people seem to lap this up, and give it high praise. I am much more interested in the dude that hates beaches, loves cats, or was just passing through town, or didn’t have dozen other people telling them, “God will love you for this.”, and stopped to do something about the situation, who stayed to help. I also expect the press, the papers, and especially the churches themselves, to be about as honest about this as the guy running a Three Card Monte table. Because, the only mention any of them are likely to get is, “Ah, well, and they where there too, sort of…”, if even that.

    • Shouldn’t the ideal be for religion/atheism to be kept separate from charities? Creating a charity based on religion/atheism seems like a very bad idea. Those who don’t share the organization’s metaphysical ideas may not be able to help it. Those who receive aid risk being subjected to uninvited metaphysical propaganda.

      I’m a member of a number of organizations, for example Animal Rights Sweden, Amnesty, Médecins Sans Frontières and Feminist Initiative. All of these specifically state that they are neutral/impartial with regard to religion (in other words, they are secular). Everyone who share their core values are welcome as members and any aid given (in the case of the charities) is given unconditionally.

      Coming from this perspective…
      1. I don’t think atheist charities are a good idea (unless they are directly related to religion/secularism/etc.)
      2. I don’t believe in inter-faith cooperation as a way to create better charities

      1. The atheist/humanist movements should keep pushing social justice issues and encourage support for charities. But let secular organizations handle the actual aid.
      2. Work together with people in secular organizations. You don’t need to think in terms of people’s motivations (religion/atheism/empathy/whatever), you simply work with the people around you towards your common goals.

  • ThumbnailAs marginalized and minority voices in the United States seek to bring attention to social justice-oriented causes, one of many groups joining that fight are humanists & atheists. But despite a continued push for […]

    • This is so very important

    • “People have tried to argue that issues such as the school to prison pipeline aren’t explicitly humanist issues …”

      I know there are people who think this way, but reading this was just such a WTF moment. How can the systemic destruction of human beings _not_ be a humanist issue? Is it because the people in the pipeline aren’t human? Or because humanism is about not caring about humans?

      If this sort of thing _isn’t_ a “humanist issue”, what is? Does something have to be fully devoid (or sterilized) of all human content before it becomes a proper subject for “humanism” to consider? If so, as far as I’m concerned, “humanism” is worse than Catholicism. At least Catholics _say_ they’re concerned about what happens to people.

  • As police forces escalate their paramilitary forces in Ferguson, MO, it has been confirmed that two journalists have been arrested in a McDonald’s. Wesley Lowery (Washington Post) and Ryan Reilly (Huffington Post) were both arrested and subsequently let go with no charges or explanation of why they were detained:

    Both reporters spoke with MSNBC regarding their arrests this evening. Reilly states that the arresting officer “slammed my head against the glass purposefully… and then sarcastically apologized for it.” Lowery told Rachel Maddow that his press Washington Post press credentials were visible throughout the entire exchange, prompting Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron to issue a statement stating,  “We are appalled by the conduct of police officers involved.” Later in the evening, another Huffington Post reporter was hit with tear gas:

    This Week In Blackness’ Elon James reports that police were prepared to shoot him:

    While both CNN & MSNBC are finally covering the events in Ferguson, the most up to date information is coming from social media. If you’d like to stay  up to date with events as they transpire, Garance Franke-Ruta has created a Twitter list of reporters on the ground in Ferguson and a Live Stream is currently being broadcast (Update: There is another stream here).

    You can take action by donating to Michael Brown’s family’s legal defense fund, participating in a National Moment of Silence protest in your area, or contacting Missouri Governor Jay Nixon at 573-751-3222. Know of other resources or ways to help? Leave them in the comments.

    • Tumblr is alight with coverage as well.

      I hate white people, and fuck the police.

    • They tear gassed a child and charged a 12 year old for assaulting a police officer!

      • Sorry, pepper sprayed. That makes it better?

        • The sad thing is, there was no rioting, only peaceful protests, until the cops showed up looking like they were cos-playing G.I. Joe.

          If I was gathering with a group of rightly pissed people and the Gestapo decided to tear-gas me I might be inclined to throw shit too.

          And your link on the other page is eyeopening and really says it all, they are better armed then soldiers on patrol.

          I live in small town that is actually bigger then Furgeson (though it’s not a suburb), maybe I need to make a trek down to police HQ and ask them what sort of goodies they have in store “just in case”. No, better not put myself at the top of the shot-him-first list.

          • Somebody suggested going to your local council meeting and asking about the goodies (and how the cops intend to use them). On a weekly basis. Until you get a satisfactory response.

            About throwing shit, if it’s the one I’m thinking of, it was a protestor throwing BACK a teargas canister.

            I’d love to know what a real soldier like Greenstone thinks of this…over and above the immediate human tragedy, there are times when one fool with a gun can change the course of history.

    • It’s officially a no-fly zone now. Do whatever to keep journalists out, I guess.

      I just wonder where the teabaggers are. Here is actual proof of an oppressive government.

  • In the wake of Eric Garner’s death at the hands of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, as well as today’s police shooting in an Ohio Wal-mart, it seems not a day goes by without another story of tragedy at the hands of […]

  • Courtney Caldwell posted a new activity comment 5 years, 10 months ago

    Ummm, you do realize that nobody actually thinks the song has anything to do with our movement right? And that this post is a play on Rebecca’s Elevatorgate?

  • The queen of rap, Nicki Minaj, slayed it with Queen B in Beyonce’s Flawless remix, where the icons teamed up to address organized atheism’s biggest controversy: Elevatorgate. In the song, they talk about all the sweet blog money Rebecca has gained through her years in the lucrative feminist atheist business:

    “Of course sometimes shit goes down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator.”

    I’m glad that Beyonce and Nicki Minaj have taken some time to address an important moment in our movement. I look forward to Richard Dawkins’ response, and Beyonce’s subsequent counter-response:


    • The question is, was elevator guy really Solange in disguise?

    • Because it’s funny when women hit men and they should just take it (because he probably deserves it). Still waiting for Solange to get any negative press for this.

      • No, it’s not funny when women hit men in elevators, and you’re absolutely right on this whoever you are. You’re absolutely right that the blows thrown by Solange in the elevator cam were treated in the press as reality TV giggles and gossip rather than attempted criminal assault (bodyguard earned his pay that night cutting that mess short quick).

        A young mom in my family is facing criminal charges and potential loss of custody because she lost her temper and assaulted her immature, self-absorbed, unreliable, obstructive, demanding, and borderline child neglectful baby’s daddy. Like I told her brother, she can’t react like that, no matter how frustrating it may be dealing with him. Duh. Right? Should be, but it’s obviously not Duh to everybody, like some in my own family, and celebrity media’s tabloidy teehee titterati’s do bear responsibility for sowing confusion on this. Take the interminable Housewives from WhoWhatWhereville, for example, which trivializes assaults ‘titterati style.

        Not funny. And because I haven’t heard “the media” say so, I will. Solange? Outside of self-defense to protect yourself physically? Kicks and punches are criminal assault, girlfriend. Defense being the exception, it is otherwise it’s almost never okay to whale on someone regardless of how much they piss you off.

    • Seriously? I’m the only one who has a problem with this? Abused men suffer in silence because they think people will laugh at them. Sarcastically calling it a “important moment in our movement” doesn’t sound like you take it seriously.

      • Just because no one has yet to reply doesn’t mean you’re the only one who has a problem with it…

        Honestly, though, I don’t think Jay Z needs anyone to defend him. He seems completely fine with whatever transpired in the elevator.

        • Jay-Z isn’t going to complain because it would make him look weak. If Jay-Z don’t have a problem with it, then good for him, but other men aren’t so lucky.

          • This sort of thing isn’t happening in a vacuum and t’s not just that people don’t take this problem seriously enough, they think it’s funny.

          • Did you see Jay Z’s posture in the videos of the event? He wasn’t at all worried. He was laughing and completely relaxed.

            No, I don’t think glorification of violence is okay, but Jay Z was in no danger whatsoever and I very much doubt he feels threatened in any way. In fact, the reason he was so relaxed is because he’s probably very aware of the fact that he’s bigger, stronger, and more powerful (not just in the physical sense) than Solange.

      • Ummm, you do realize that nobody actually thinks the song has anything to do with our movement right? And that this post is a play on Rebecca’s Elevatorgate?

      • See? Most people would wait a week before concluding you were ‘the only one who has a problem with this’. Some would wait a day. Some would wait five hours.

        You…can’t even manage that.

        Oh, and FYI, one thing men who actually have been physically or sexually abused by women absolutely hate is being turned into MRA icons. And I doubt you have Jay-Z’s consent to make him into an MRA icon. Stay classy.

        • Meeeh, I don’t think drken was trying to turn him into an MRA icon. I think drken has some solid points, but I also think they are ignoring the obvious (to everyone INCLUDING Jay-Z) power differences.

          Jay Z was and is no danger whatsoever, and he knew and knows it. His posture in that video is very telling.

    • I get the reference to “Elevatorgate” and I’m sorry I jumped the gun on the “nobody else cares”, but I’m not trying to be a MRA icon and I don’t really care about Jay-Z. If was trying to be a MRA icon, I would have called for him to be able to hit her back, calling it “true equality”. I also would have brought it up while trying to highjack a conversation about abused women while ranting about Erin Pizzy. I did none of those things. All I’m saying is that women hitting men shouldn’t be treated like a joke. If he had hit her, anybody who tried to make light of the situation would rightfully be raked over the coals. But since she hit him, it’s a joke. I don’t think calling somebody out for doing so makes me some sort of MRA troll.

      • I think you’re right, and I think you could have waited a minute before deciding that you were the only one who had a problem with jokes about Solange assaulting Jay Z.
        I don’t think there’s any MRAing going on, either. You could slow your roll a little, though.

      • I don’t think you’re wrong, exactly, not in a broad sense, but I also don’t think Jay Z was in any danger and he KNEW it, and I think that’s an important part of the equation. His posture and his reaction make it clear that he thinks the whole thing was rather silly, and that he believes Solange ultimately doesn’t have any power against him.

        • Come on…JayZ wasn’t “in danger” because he’s freaking rich and has hired a (thank gawd) mellowyellow bodyguard that’s Extraordinarily Great snuffing out physical bullshit instead of exacerbating it Police departments in New York, Chicago, hello ?!?!?! ALBUQUERQUE etc should be asking JayZ to put them in touch with *his* guy who Knows How To Pick ‘Em.

          • I’m honestly having a hard time parsing this comment.

            It wasn’t just the bodyguard. It’s also because, as you mentioned, he’s rich and more powerful in other senses than Solange (he’s a producer and has a lot of clout in the business). But ALSO because Jay Z is a giant, strong man, especially compared to Solange, who can clearly hold her own, but who is still much smaller and weaker than Jay Z. And it’s not like she was beating him to a bloody pulp — she didn’t hit him hard AT ALL.

            If the bodyguards weren’t there and Solange attempted to attack Jay Z, there would be no way she’d win, not without a weapon.

            I’m a pretty strong woman, and I can be a bit of a bulldog, but even I know Jay Z could kick my ass if I prompted a fight with him.

          • And I think the bodyguard being there was also good for SOLANGE, as it kept the situation from escalating. What if this was a different man and a different woman, not in an elevator being monitored by cameras and bodyguards? He could have beaten her to a bloody pulp, and some men might have if put in such a situation as that. And then he could have used the “Well, you antagonized me and forced me to beat you up!” excuse that so many men do, rather than being the bigger person (as it were) and stepping away from the situation, or calling the cops. Does that make sense? It’s late so I’m having difficulty articulating myself fully and most of this is just speculation and thinking out loud, and creating a bit of a hypothetical situation. But what if this was a private house without bodyguards? Do you honestly think Jay Z would have been in “danger” of being beat up by Solange? I think, more likely, Solange’s loss of temper would have ultimately put her in danger (if it were a slightly different situation with a different sort of man).

            Meaning that Solange initiating the violence is NOT OKAY, but the man continuing the violence would also be NOT OKAY. There’s something to be said about self-defense, of course, but there’s also something to be said for restraint, and only defending yourself so much as you need to. Not all men would stop.

      • Again, I agree. The incident was trivialized in the media overall, (where lameness is S.O.P), but also in progressive media. It worried me at the time (and I said as much in comments at the time) that it wasn’t dealt with more seriously by anyone in any of my feeds.

        I also admit I don’t completely get this Skepchick blogpost calling back to Rebecca’s elevator thing and wondering it is just Deeper-than-my-realm, Deep-DEEP-Insider-baseball irony or what. Even though I haven’t the faintest idea who you are, I know who I am. I’m now a grandma who’s first identified herself as a “women’s libber” in the 60’s (meme-of-the-day in my small town universe) and immediately identified as “feminist” when that term came to my consciousness.

        In other words, I’m giving the benefit of the doubt for awhile here that it’s me, (last to know), that I don’t get this callback. Skepchicks, pls, help me understand what you’re really saying here?!

        • I think it was just supposed to be a joke that missed the mark. No one is perfect, and I personally think Courtney, the author of this post, just didn’t really think things through. But, it did spark quite an interesting conversation, so I don’t think it was for nothing!

          I DO think it is important, however, when discussing Solange (a woman) hitting Jay Z (a very powerful man, both physically and otherwise), the power differences, though. There is just no way, in my opinion, that Jay Z ever felt threatened, and I think the video pretty much proves that. He was clearly highly amused. And I think that’s an interesting point — women being violent or abusive toward men for reasons other than self-defense isn’t a good thing, but It’s just NOT on the same level as most violence against women. It’s just not. You can’t ignore the power differences between Jay Z and Solange. They also don’t exist in a vacuum, and I think it’s pretty disingenuous of drken to imply that Jay Z felt threatened and didn’t say anything only because he didn’t want to seem like less of a man. That’s ridiculous in this context and I think dkren is aware of that.

          And you know, as someone who has a bit of a temper, I’ve been where Solange has been. Sometimes you just don’t give a fuck about right or wrong, and I’m ALSO pretty certain that Solange knew there was no way she was going to harm Jay Z in any way, and therefore felt “safe” giving him a few hits. Again, I’m not saying it’s right, and I have learned, as I’ve gotten older, to keep my temper in check, but boy sometimes it’s hard.

          • I totally get this. Jay Z not only “never felt threatened”, he was bodyguarded which enabled him to never feel threatened, and allowed him this bemused detachment. I’m not begrudging him Any Of That.

            From my seat,What a Wonderful World It Would Be if everybody was equipped with Jay Z’s bodyguard. That guy was
            AWESOME! The fire putter-outer-guy, instead of the fan-the-fire-guy.

            • I doubt he’d feel threatened if the bodyguard wasn’t there. That’s also part of my point.

              The bodyguard did his job, the job he is paid to do. I’m not sure why this makes him awesome.

              TBH, I find the need for bodyguards to be, in most cases, pretty ridiculous and unnecessary. It appears, to me at least, to be more of a status symbol than anything else. But that’s another topic altogether.

          • I think your kind of missing the point making it about Jay-Z. I hope he’s OK, because I wouldn’t want anybody to suffer from abuse. My problem is with the MSM/interwebs complexes reaction to it, which is a much larger problem. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine (which sort of explains me being impatient with everybody). Don’t get me started about Miss Piggy (at least the Muppet Show version, I haven’t seen the new movies). By making light of it, you demean women by saying physically, they’re not to be taken seriously, which excuses otherwise inexcusable behavior. You also contribute to the humiliation of the abused, who’s reminded of his emasculation even more because “Jay-Z doesn’t have a problem with it, because he’s physically larger, rich, and has street cred (or whatever the kids call it these days)”, all signifiers of masculinity in our culture. You can also compare it to Dawkins’ (it always comes back to him) tweet about “mild pedophelia”. Just because one person doesn’t have a problem with it, doesn’t mean other people are so lucky.

            • You hope he’s okay? I’m sure he’s perfectly fine.

            • And I wasn’t demeaning her or not taking her seriously. I am only laying out what I believe to be pretty obvious facts. I also said nothing about street cred, so if you could please refrain from literally making shit up, that would be swell.

          • “And you know, as someone who has a bit of a temper, I’ve been where Solange has been. Sometimes you just don’t give a fuck about right or wrong, and I’m ALSO pretty certain that Solange knew there was no way she was going to harm Jay Z in any way, and therefore felt “safe” giving him a few hits. Again, I’m not saying it’s right, and I have learned, as I’ve gotten older, to keep my temper in check, but boy sometimes it’s hard.”

            Girls will be girls, amirite?

            • No. Me and my sisters are fighters, that’s all. My twin sister once put a guy in the hospital, I’m not even joking. But they were both, uh, not sober. I have gotten myself into some gnarly situations where my smaller and weaker statue could have put me in danger. Them’s just the facts. I just don’t always give a fuck because I have a bit of a … switch and no longer care if I do get hurt or not (which actually makes me pretty dangerous). Thankfully I’ve (mostly) grown out of that.

      • It was more your tone than anything, and the not even waiting five hours.

        I don’t really think Jay-Z was in any danger, and he certainly didn’t think so.

    • I must say that I actually agree with @drken‘s point, the media does tend to make a joke of domestic violence against men. I’m just not sure that this is the best case to cite to make that point. From what I’ve seen (with few a exceptions) the humor, or rather bemusement, at this incident comes mainly in the celebrity voyeur “even rich people have family problem” variety. And I most definitely don’t see it as being the point of the funny in this song (which I am sure Beyonce wouldn’t do without Hova or Solange being at least okay with it) or, by extension, this post.

      It is a good point that needs to be covered but right here, right now may not be the best place and time to broach it.

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