May 19, 2013

Ron Lindsay Stands His Ground

The Women in Secularism 2 conference wraps up in Washington DC today, but I have a feeling that many in the secular community will be talking and writing about it for some time. While I hope to move on after this post, there is no telling what might happen today.

The controversy that erupted on Friday in response to Ron Lindsay's opening remarks at the Women in Secularism 2 conference intensified yesterday. From what I saw, Lindsay received quite a bit of criticism on Twitter in response to what he said about the concept of privilege sometimes being used to silence people (i.e., "shut up and listen").

After some complained that he did not provide any specific examples of what he was talking about during his remarks at the conference, Lindsay wrote a post in which he provided some clear examples, including a quote from PZ Myers that seems to illustrate the manner in which the "shut up and listen" approach to privilege can interfere with productive discourse:
When a member of a marginalized group tells a member of a privileged group that their efforts, no matter how well-meaning, are wrong, there is one reasonable response: Shut up and listen. You might learn something. There is also a terrible response: arguing back. It always makes it worse. It’s not that they are infallible and we are totally stupid. It’s that THEY are the experts and the subject of the discussion.
Not surprisingly, this post did not help. Those of us who have been following the Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ group for some time could see what was coming a mile away. It has taken some of us awhile, but we are learning how this game is played:
  1. Someone provides a fair and reasoned criticism of - or expresses respectful disagreement with - some aspect of something one of them has put forth.
  2. This individual is met with angry criticism, including gross distortions of what he or she said, snark and dismissal, and plenty of ad hominem attacks.
  3. Some Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ supporter, temporarily donning the guise of a reasonable person, requests examples of something the critic said. The trap is set.
  4. The critic, incorrectly assuming he or she has received a good faith request, provides examples.
  5. The trap is sprung. The examples the critic has provided now become the main issue, masking the initial criticism or disagreement. The critic is accused of harassment and abuse, as the act of providing the requested examples is interpreted through the threat narrative.
  6. At this point, one of two things will happen: (1) either the critic will back down and grovel before the Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ mob, or (2) the critic stands his or her ground and becomes the next "witch of the week."
It seems to me that a trap was set for Ron Lindsay, and he walked right into it. Based on the second post he wrote yesterday, one I strongly encourage you to read, it does not look as though he is planning on backing down.
Rebecca Watson inhabits an alternate universe. At least that is the most charitable explanation I can provide for her recent smear…It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.
If there was any doubt that Lindsay would be the next "witch of the week," I believe this post erased it. And I thought it would be Justin Vacula!

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