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Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in Culture, Debate | 13 comments

Melissa Thompson and Flavia Dzodan on call-out culture

Melissa Thompson has a very good post about the brutality and irrationality of call-out culture. See also this older post by Flavia Dzodan.

Call-out culture – in which people who’d expect to be treated as colleagues, allies, or even friends are held up for public shaming over trivial or imaginary wrongdoings – has become a cancer on the atheist/skeptic movement. Good people have been hurt and/or had their reputations harmed, friendships have been destroyed, time and energy that could been used in opposing the real enemies have been wasted, the movement has been divided, and (let’s be clear about this) the backlash against call-out culture and its leading practitioners has often been vulgar and unnecessarily destructive in its own right.

In this environment, many of us remain silent either because we feel intimidated or because we fear that anything we say will simply make matters worse. I’ve often kept my silence out of one or other feeling, or a combination, but I now wish I’d shown more courage and clarity from the beginning in opposing call-out culture. Wishing it would go away doesn’t help. In my own partial defence, and that of others, I don’t think we knew what hit us when the whole thing began – when some individuals associated with the atheist and skeptic movements began using their public platforms to “call out” colleagues and allies for public shaming and excoriation. This was something very alien to the rational spirit of organised atheism and secularism.

In the environment that has been created, some topics cannot be discussed reasonably. We all feel as if we’re constantly walking on eggshells, and the spirit of honest, open, mutually charitable inquiry is lost.

What I didn’t realise until recently was how far this call-out culture has become prevalent in other corners of the blogosphere and the general culture, especially in forums of people who perceive themselves as fighting for social justice. Nor did I know how much critique call-out culture was receiving around the internet. That’s something to be grateful for. Posts such as those by Dzodan and (most recently) Thompson are very valuable and deserve wide reading.