Blogger Ed Brayton died last week, and atheist organizations and prominent activists all came together to say their goodbyes and claim the atheist community lost someone who did great many things for us. I beg to differ.
Every single time I had the displeasure of finding Brayton online, he was up to no good. This was not a good man, and he certainly did a great disservice to the atheist community.
I am so utterly disgusted by atheist organizations pretending that an enabler of harassment and bullying was a good person, that I will do what any decent sensible person should have done — care for his victims, and try to give them closure. So here is something to remember Ed Brayton by!
Back in 2006, there was a petition in the UK to have the government protect kids from being indoctrinated by their parents before they were 16. Richard Dawkins signed the perfectly reasonable petition, which prompted Brayton to start today’s all too common dragging Dawkins through the mud fad for saying anything (really, anything!) — this time, Dawkins was accused of being noxious and totalitarian. A little bit of context: Brayton was a self portrayed “civil libertarian”, so it’s kind of weird when he is in favor of parents being able to poison kids’ minds with fairy tales in the name of their religious freedom. I mean: what about the religious freedom of the kids, who don’t have the critical thinking skills to question or challenge the superstition of their elders? The only difference between this and missionaries taking advantage of starving and illiterate populations is that parents have a legal duty to take care of their kids, while missionaries are just there to seize the opportunity. And no, there’s no such things as parental rights, just responsibilities.
So the guy that every single atheist organization is now claiming helped advance our cause a lot, was not really into the whole free minds thing, and thought respecting children’s human right to grow up superstition-free was “totalitarian”. Go figure.
A few years later, Brayton went on to create the truly obnoxious Freethought Blogs network, where he turned a blind eye to all the harassment and bullying coming from said network. In all fairness, I don’t remember him bullying anyone directly; however, when people stood up to the bullies in his network, he would call for them (the bullied) to be ostracized — that’s what he did to Paula Kirby, when she stated that a few cherry-picked dubious episodes did not constitute widespread misogyny in the atheist movement (boy, was she onto something); Brayton just dismissed the whole thing on the basis that she had dared use the words “feminazi” and “femistasi“, and called for her to be shunned.
Later, FreeThought Blogs added a sane voice to their network: Phil Mason —aka Thunderf00t—, who upon reading the utter BS in the backchannel blew the whistle on Brayton’s network. Brayton’s response? Make him a pariah of the atheist movement:
I want to do whatever it takes to make sure that he is essentially drummed out of this movement, never invited to speak anywhere again and is forever a pariah
LOL! Brayton wanted to build a not-so-free thought movement one ex-communication decree at a time. He even considered not paying Mason for the revenue his short-lived blog generated in Freethought Blogs, due to Mason’s ‘wrong’ opinions (I don’t know if he eventually paid, or donated the money to Doctors Without Borders, as per Mason’s request). Is this the guy everyone is missing today — someone who entertained the idea to withhold payment due to ideological differences? Yikes!
One of the nastiest tactics woke atheism has come up with is falsely accusing everyone they dislike of being sex offenders of some sort. Freethought Blogs blogger PZ Myers did that to Atheist Ireland founder and president Michael Nugent, accusing Nugent of using the latter’s blog to provide a safe haven for rapists —the anatomy of how that would work has never been explained—. Nugent reached out to Brayton at least three times, to inquire what the protocol was to investigate bloggers’ misconduct and defamation, and (as far as I am aware) Brayton never replied. I am not sure whether ignoring the demonstrable claims that someone is weaponizing false sex offense accusations to advance a personal disagreement is the #MeToo thing to do, even though everyone can see how that is a slap on the face of actual rape victims.
Eventually, Brayton left Freethought Blogs and went to be the umpteenth woke atheist blogger at Patheos, where he could peddle his own bullshit, instead of just enabling somebody else’s.
For instance, in March 2019, a Christian zealot carried out a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, targeting Muslims. Just like mainstream media, American Atheists also seized the opportunity to blame the attack on atheists (!). Who needs enemies with friends like this? At any rate, podcast host Seth Andrews took issue with the blame-the-atheist game that the media and American Atheists were playing. Brayton, replying to Andrews, pulled a motte-and-bailey and claimed that atheists were in fact to blame for the Christchurch attack, helping further stigmatize atheists and stereotype us in a really bad light.
So no, I do not think the atheist movement lost a valuable member. A mean spirited critic, and a lousy-ass one at that, died. Let me illustrate the point. In his last post, Brayton said people like Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer shouldn’t be the face of humanism — however, what we actually could use a lot less of is atheists who think it’s OK for children to be brainwashed before they know how to spell their name, so-called humanists who turn a blind eye to bullying and harassment, who think the atheist movement can be built by shunning out heretics, people who ignore false sex crime allegations being weaponized as a way to settle personal disputes or furthering the myth that atheists are bigoted.
As far as I can tell, Dawkins and Shermer have never done anything remotely like that, so I’ll stick with them. Brayton also mentioned Dale McGowan and Matt Dillahunty as prime examples of humanism — if I was either one of them, I would be doing damage control, trying to distance myself from any such endorsement from Brayton.
Last but not least, I am not happy that Brayton died, neither am I dancing on his grave, nor laughing at his friends and relatives while they mourn him. I think Brayton was a victim of bad ideas and never recovered, and in the (apparently lucrative) process of inflicting his shitty-ass ideas upon the world, reason and an evidence-based worldview could never make a dent in his beliefs.
Maybe we should have tried harder. Maybe some more kids would have grown up free of superstition, maybe someone would not have been bullied and harassed. Or maybe not — we will never know now.
(pic: The Rachel Maddow Show)