I’ve got some stuff to get off my chest. It’s related to things I’ve written here and here, but includes a lot of other stuff as well. It’s stuff I’ve avoided writing about because I feel like I have better things to do, but now it’s escalated to Greta Christina accusing DJ Grothe of sexism and announcing she’s not going to TAM anymore because of some things DJ said in a discussion thread where, I’m convinced, DJ was mostly right and was saying some important things.
However, while there’s a whole lot I have to say about this, I don’t want this to consume my life for any length of time, even on the scale of days. So I’m going to say what I have to say a little bit at a time, starting with just quoting the stuff DJ said that I think is especially important:
I do believe that much atheist and skeptic blogging engages in far too much in-group/out-group categorizing, us vs. them thinking. If the consequence of sharing these opinions means that you or others do not want to attend TAM under my leadership, I’d be baffled. People of good will should be able to disagree about things without such a reaction.
I have to say I find this whole discussion of how horrible it is to some that I commented in disagreement on blog posts or liked FB statuses (of CFI Michigan regarding their defense of a speaker on their program, etc.) to be unsettling. I debate ideas professionally, and often they concern central beliefs that are controversial. Unfortunately, nothing in this blog post approaches debating an idea, nor is there much actual criticism of ideas. Instead, there is deceptive and dishonest tarring-and-feathering. I reserve the right to express my opinions, even if I am the ceo and president of a nonprofit foundation, and I hope that others can disagree with them in emotionally and intellectually mature ways. You may think I’m wrong in my view that Christina behaved unfairly. But that is a far cry from saying that I am a misogynist or that women should boycott TAM or that “D.J. Grothe has a problem and that problem is him.” Such overwrought rhetoric isn’t how the good guys debate issues honestly.
I think as skeptics, it behooves us to be a bit more generous with others in disagreement, to be slower to vilify, and to engage in less scorched-earthing. I know it may be good for blog hits, but it is bad for skepticism and in my view, is antithetical to our values.
Having quoted this, a whole bunch of caveats. First, there is one thing I’ve just quoted that I don’t agree with. I think DJ correctly identifies a problem with in-group/out-group categorizing, us vs. them thinking, and vilification. However, I don’t think this is the result of people trying to generate “blog hits.” The problems he identifies also exist on internet forums where no one is worrying about generating traffic.
Second, I haven’t given any context for things I’ve just quoted, and I want to be up-front about that. My goal is not to have people read those quotes and think Greta must be wrong because what DJ said was so obviously reasonable. If you want to get into this fiasco without waiting for my other posts, go have a look at the two discussion threads I’ve linked to, both the criticisms that have been made of DJ and his responses.
Third, part of the reason I care about this is because Greta is a strong candidate for my favorite writer on the planet. Seriously, she’s the only person where I’ll automatically read just about anything she writes, just based on the byline. In future posts I’ll be talking about things Greta has said that are, in my opinion, extremely foolish, but I’m suppressing the tiny, childish part of me that wants to react to this by saying, “nooo now I can’t like Greta any more.” The current draft of the book I’m working on quotes and recommends some extremely awesome things she’s written, and it’s not like I’ll be cutting any of that out.
Fourth, I recognize that so far I’m just saying what I think in very vague terms, and not explaining exactly what I think or why. I’m posting anyway because I have too much to say for one blog post, even a very long blog post, and I have to start somewhere. But if you want to flame me over this, I won’t think less of you, because hey, you don’t yet know why I’m writing this crap.