DJ Grothe is right, part 1: what DJ said

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.

[snip]

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.

[snip]

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.

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7 Comments.

  1. No flame here, but DJ is being an idiot. There’s a right time and a wrong time for making general philosophical complaints and DJ chose a very wrong time and a very wrong way.

  2. I agree with you, and I do see way too much polarization in society as it is. I hate the millions of false dichotomies being pushed into every rhetoric pondering being made, I simply can’t stand the general want for black and white contrast in everything. People are complex, and the world is complex, yet somehow society crave a simplicity of statements from its inhabitants that render them useless and dumbed down. Minor flaws in reasoning or character should not dismiss the whole complex being!

    It is especially hard sometimes to find out people you respect have blemishes, that your hero have also done normal things, or sometimes even disagreeable things. But over the years I’ve come to celebrate these blemishes, reminding me that we’re all human beings, complex and full of colour. And what is worse is that when faults are found in some person, “fault” is defined through bias, and that bias often points right back at you.

    I don’t know the cure for this – as I think it is a deep human trait – except, perhaps, doing what you just did; talk about it in an honest and open fashion. Thanks!

  3. Btw, after reading those blog posts, I don’t really know what to think about any of them. Greta seems a bit too loaded (even though I emphatize with her issues), and DJ seems too political (but I still think I understand what he’s trying to say), and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. I don’t think DJ comes across as an idiot, and certainly not in his main comment reply. All other comments are referred to out of context (as there is a limit to just how much context I’m going to bother gather … I’d rather meh the issue than sift through tons of black, white and emotional comments to get it all right), so it’s hard to pin it down, and this blurring of the moment that happens in online interactions can get in the way of reasonable debates.

  4. So Evangelicals have to deal with Licona vs Geisler while Atheists have to deal with Greta Vs DJ…

  5. @Andy: lol

  6. Sweet Zeus, this lynch mob needs to try skepticism

    After having read a few of Greta’s pieces, it’s not clear why she has such high accolades though I guess I can see why there’s something about the way that she writes that gives the people the impression that there’s more there than there really is. When I read Greta’s pieces, I know I can’t expect to learn anything new, to reconsider some conclusion I’ve come to. She introduces no tools to use in how I think about matters.
    Unfortunately, she write about why one should feel the same way she does about a matter. They’re more political tracts.
    She started showing extremely poor character when she said that men should listen to her so that they could get laid. There have been too many articles arguing for a cause – specifically Watson et al where she reiterates one side of the argument and says that nothing else is relevant.
    Greta continues to attempt to shape this debate in a way that is beneficial to one POV while telling people to dismiss their own held POV. She keeps telling people to shut up who disagree, so I’m left wondering why anyone should see her as a leader.
    Now with these latest antics of doing the same thing with this Ryan guy and attempting to attack DJ as some type of accessory, it’s become essential to question her integrity.
    She writes in a very particular style that while she’s not boycotting him, she is boycotting him, and she suggests horribly that any event where DJ is an organizer, she is under some type of physical threat. She even says at the bottom of her second part that she just doesn’t know if this Ryan guy will really kick her in the c***. So, why hold DJ up to such a standard that he should have to prove himself that he cares about her safety.

    She got to the point where she had her commenters parroting her that DJ doesn’t really care about Greta because she did a word count. He didn’t sufficiently condemn Ryan, even though he did. The real problem is that Greta is upset that DJ had anything else to say on the subject other than what was acceptable to her. We can’t as members be strongarmed by threats of boycotts for disagreement. It saddens many many people that DJ is the latest sacrificial lamb or the “witch of the week.”