As many of you will have heard, Atheist Ireland has distanced itself from P.Z. Myers.
My colleagues have weighed in too:
- PZ is not the problem
- Confessions of a tone troll redux
- I support Atheist Ireland against Paul Zachary Myers’ behavior
- Why Atheist Ireland’s disassociation from PZ Myers is important
- The other part of the problem (or what Phil Plait got wrong)
To revisit – again – this tiresome business, let me begin with the lesser of the two perils. There is nothing like a former addict to warn about addictions, so let me say that – as wretched as PZ’s behavior is – there is no point getting permanently furious at him, or his ilk.
There is no point for the following reason: a) no matter how much you might wish otherwise, he’s not going to keel over from a blog post, b) there is no chance, none, that PZ is likely to change his behavior, and c) this is exactly what people like him feed on. There is also a serious danger – Nietzsche’s dictum about “wrestling with monsters”:
“As you stare into the Abyss, the Abyss stares also into you.” If you are focused on negating negatives, rather than building something positive, you can start imitating that which you despise. In my time, I’ve seen people who follow the menace of Islam’s jihad begin to talk in ways that are decidedly illiberal. I have heard similar things of groups that obsessively monitor racist and fascist organisations, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. Crudely put, you get angry at the dishonesty and bad faith being used by a group, it gets tiring to constantly have to take the high road, the temptation of giving them a taste of their own tactics rises, after all you’re the one in the right…
There is no point here. PZ is what he is, and nothing will change that. Hermant Mehta and JT and Michael Nugent others seem too generous for their own good; they seem to hope that, for all his misdemeanors, PZ will come around, will mend his ways. I simply do not see that happening. There’s the famous tale of the scorpion and the frog:
The scorpion asks the frog to ferry him across the river.
The frog says “Do you think I’m stupid? I know you’ll just sting me halfway across.”
The scorpion answers: “Why would I do that? I’d immediately drown after you died”.
So the frog complies and begins ferrying the scorpion across the river. Halfway across the scorpion stings the frog.
“Why did you do that?” cried the dying frog. “Now we’ll both die”.
“I couldn’t help it.” answered the scorpion. “It is in my nature.”
As I’ve gone over in considerable depth, this is PZ’s nature. When he was as rabidly pro-Dawkins as he is now rabidly anti-, his rhetoric and MO were exactly the same. There is no point in hoping for a change, whether it is the generous hope extended by Mehta et al, or the considerably less generous hope extended by me.
The only thing one can do is not get close. The scorpion always stings; it is in its nature.
Radicalization of the Godless
Some personal history. Here we go back a long way, about nine years, to the reason I got involved in the whole atheist/skeptic scene, namely the Mohammed cartoon riots. That was the trigger, when I started investigating the sheer extent of Islamic fanaticism and cruelty, and the sheer extent of what I found still horrifies me to this day.
So, trying to find some group of support, some likeminded types who might be interested in a pushback against Islamic fanaticism. So I found Pharyngula.
And then I discovered that, rather than standing up to Islamic aggression, PZ caved at the first sign of trouble and smeared those that actually took the risk he was too gutless to do, and that any attempt to raise my concerns just got me called an evil racist Nazi hater who just didn’t like brown people.
Now, oddly enough, this sort of approach didn’t exactly convince me, nor did it make me particularly well disposed to this brand of atheism. Funnily enough, being called a Nazi for being worried about people promising the next Holocaust really tends to piss people off.
That brings me to the bit where I think that PZ – rather, the type of which he is representative – is profoundly dangerous.
I’ve swiped the title of this section from Scott Alexander’s Radicalizing the Romanceless. (It’s a fine piece, well worth the read, and if you are not reading SSC, you should start.) Bluntly, Alexander’s thesis is that the Manopshere is in many ways a responsive to the spiteful nonsense that many feminists, in particular online, spew out, especially at the shy and the awkward. The result is that a significant proportion of these chaps decide to just go “Stuff it. If that’s the way they’ll treat me no matter what, then I’ll embrace that identity!”. So you end up with things like “Fat Shaming Week” and posts like “5 Reasons to date a girl with an eating disorder”
The situation is much, much worse when it comes to those of us who have faced the reality of Islam and jihad. The worst someone alienated by feminism does is write some mean posts. The worst someone alienated by dhimmi atheism may do is…
Okay, let’s think this through logically. Imagine an average western liberal atheist, who is more or less committed to all the things that we value: free speech, women’s emancipation, gay rights, all that stuff. Then he is suddenly made aware of the fact that Islam rejects all of that, and does not hesitate to use violence to do so. Maybe he finds out about the fifteen hundred girls raped in Rotherham, and how it was covered up out of fears of racism. Maybe he sees the cartoon riots, as I did. Maybe it’s another terror attack, or maybe he makes friends with Yezidi, or perhaps sees something about the Islamic slave trade… Or whatever.
So he goes online and tries to find out more. And, believe you me, there are sites that provide more than enough evidence of Islamic cruelty and evil. TheReligionOfPeace, just to take one example, has a continually tally of Islamic terror attacks:
If you haven’t gone through it, it is hard to describe the sheer blank panic that induces – the feeling of the bottom dropping out of your world. On the now defunct ShireNetworkNews it was explained with the quote from the Michael Collins film: “Jesus Christ! They’re trying to bloody kill me.”
So, armed with this knowledge, our atheist makes the mistake of raising his concerns online, on the likes of FtB. And he gets the same treatment I did – get’s called a evil racist fascist monster who doesn’t deserve anything but vitriol.
So he goes looking elsewhere for people who are willing to support him. And, sooner or later, he finds them. Someone says something like: “You see the way you get treated by the liberal establishment? For nothing more than the best of intentions? I know exactly how you feel; that’s the way they’ve been treating us for all this time. Yeah, I know we get called ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’ and all that, but you’ve seen yourself how little that all means. Why don’t you come over, pull up a chair, get comfy and listen to all these answers we’ve worked out, that will also explain so much else that is wrong with the modern world.”
And people wonder why explicitly anti-immigration parties are on the rise everywhere, and why Marine LePen may well be the next president of France.
I never walked that path – I saw where it lead. But I am fortunate – I saw where it lead because I have the enormous strength of the teachings of Ayn Rand and Nietzsche to keep me clear. I don’t like to think how things may have gone otherwise – had the only answers I found been, say, a very positive review of Guillaume Faye’s Acheofuturism.
The thing you have to understand about modern day neofascism is that the people spreading it are absolutely not stupid. People like Jared Taylor and Gullaume Faye are exceptionally intelligent and well spoke, calm and precise, and show considerable more personal decency in their rhetoric than, to take an example at random, PZ. Faye in particular scares me in a way that’s hard to describe.
To return to PZ’s ilk, you have to be clear about how thoroughly useless and counterproductive cowardice is, especially when it is coupled with a big mouth and a bully’s pretension. There’s a point about the famous “Dear Muslima… ” comment that isn’t stressed enough. Part of the reason all the faux feminism of FtB is so tiresome is that I know that it is utterly dependent on my own decency. If I were to run across them – e.g. due to my defense of Shermer – I’m likely to get called a rapist, rapist defender, misogynist, oh, and a rapist too .
But there is one thing I could do to cause all of those accusations to go away: convert to Islam. I’m not saying that I will, I’m saying that all I’d need to do is pop down to the local mosque, recite the Shahada, and then I could explicitly say that women were inherently inferior, deserved subjection, that the man’s place is to rule – and I would be completely assured of having Myers, Benson et al not just shut up and say nothing, but most likely defend me, grovel and lick my boots. What the Myers tendency announces, loudly, is that he will be maximally mean to anyone who is inoffensive. But anyone who really decides to earn his stripes, to be a real menace – well, he can be assured of complete indeminity.
Do you see how dangerous this is?
(Incidentally, that is the reason behind so many people calling western feminists on their double standards. It isn’t about defending this or that comment of Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins; it is about thinking that feminists should not be focusing orders of magnitude more hatred on Harris and Dawkins than on the Islamic State. Which is the situation at the moment.)
Alexander quotes the following story to illustrate the rise of the manosphere:
Chen Sheng was an officer serving the Qin Dynasty, famous for their draconian punishments. He was supposed to lead his army to a rendezvous point, but he got delayed by heavy rains and it became clear he was going to arrive late. The way I always hear the story told is this:
Chen turns to his friend Wu Guang and asks “What’s the penalty for being late?”
“Death,” says Wu.
“And what’s the penalty for rebellion?”
“Death,” says Wu.
“Well then…” says Chen Sheng.
And thus began the famous Dazexiang Uprising, which caused thousands of deaths and helped usher in a period of instability and chaos that resulted in the fall of the Qin Dynasty three years later.
But the situation is actually WAY worse here. It’s closer to a situation that the penalty for being late is death and the penalty for rebellion is – at least being left alone, and most likely being established as a power.
When you start making excuses for violence and cruelty, you have to expect that other people decide to get in on that action. Breivik is the obvious example, but look at this:
That’s HoGeSA – Hooligans Against Salafists, described as the biggest far-right gathering in Germany since the ‘thirties. Do you think anyone in that group is discombobulated, even slightly, by the sort of antics PZ’s become famous for?
In conclusion – what I’m here for
This is the big, the main reason that I blog. I see a lot of people who are on a slow burn about these issues. They are looking for answers, and I just hope that I can get some of them some answers that do not lead them down a very dark path. That is the best that can be hoped for, and it is something made immeasurably more difficult by the FtB crowd.