lost in space

the adventures of an activist who is scared of people

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moving the conversation forward

so Stephanie Zvan has put up a wonderful deconstruction of some bile from Justin “Vacuous” Vacula. Ophelia Benson has also provided some thoughts. feminist and otherwise pro-social justice skeptics posting amazing rebuttals to regressive assholes engaged in baseless smear campaigns has become a somewhat regular occurrence over the past year and a half…almost two years now.

I think we’ve started to lose sight of the forest for the trees. from my perspective, the prominent pro-SJ skeptics have gotten themselves scarily close to a war of attrition with the smear campaigners, with little effort to take a step back and unpack the campaign itself. we can learn things from this, but that won’t happen if we confine ourselves to just rebutting the smear campaign.

at this point, I would like to observe that the political Right engages in such campaigns with regularity. Fox News and worse radical-right outlets such as Drudge are the slymepit writ large, engaging in nothing but smear campaigns against any policies merely associated with their liberal target du jour. right-wing hate campaigns against liberal anything, from abortion doctors to campaign offices to the Left itself should not be a secret to anyone who has taken a good, hard look at the Right. I will also reference my previous post on the overlap between anti-SJ skeptics’ thinking and that of radical right-wing libertarians.

not only that, but the Right is notorious for astroturfing or creating the illusion of widespread support where little exists. the tactics take many forms, including simply appealing to invisible moderates who — in an amazingly convenient confluence of events — stand exactly between the Left and the Right, provide a crucial pillar of support for the Left to attain its goals, and apparently get scared and run away unless the Left concedes something or other to the Right (apparently, this doesn’t apply to the Right’s refusal to concede anything to the Left).

which brings me back to Vacuous, giving advice to victims of slymepit harassment. ostensibly, if followed this advice would make our cause more appealing, and we would then convince more people of our stance’s rightness. but do we really need to do that?

well, let’s see. from my very biased perspective it appears that the pro-SJ skeptics get a lot of speaking engagements, and for that matter enjoy their time. since TAM there have been no major fights with conventions over harassment policies or anything like that; it seems like most conventions have moved in the direction recommended by the pro-SJ skeptics with slymepitters nowhere to be found. TAM stands as an outlier, alone amongst all the atheist conventions in its embracing of privilege, and I don’t know of any slymepitters with speaking gigs — certainly not Vacuous.

so I wonder: do we have a trend here? I don’t know if I have enough experience with the skeptical community to say, but I think we do. and if we focused less on just rebutting the slymepitters, and instead started to unpack their tactics, we can learn a lot. where else do we see these tactics? what responses have other groups found appropriate? what parts of our movement embrace these tactics? do some ideologies get associated with these tactics, and if so, why would excluding such ideologies pose a problem? do these invisible moderates even exist, or do we just have a tiny core of regressives making noise?

Stephanie, Ophelia, other pro-SJ skeptic bloggers, you do an awesome job…but I think you need to start moving the conversation beyond mere responses to the slymepit, and start talking about the slymepit as it relates to skepticism at large =/