August 5, 2014

Purging the Atheist Community of Content We Don't Like

Let's get hypothetical for a moment. Suppose that there's an atheist out there somewhere making YouTube videos. This video blogger has been at it for several years, and he's put together roughly 500 videos so far. As would be true of anyone producing content of any kind, we have to expect variable quality. But in this case, we are going to assume much more variability than usual. If we were to take the time to watch every one of the 500 videos, we might conclude the following:
  • 25 of the videos are outstanding, genuinely good atheist content most of us would enjoy.
  • 25 of them are truly vile, containing a mixture of hurtful rape jokes and blatant misogyny.
  • The rest are what we might consider average atheist videos, some better than others but none awful or outstanding.
This is all hypothetical so far. The description of the content is hypothetical, and all these numbers are completely made up.

There are a couple of interesting questions we might consider at this point:
  1. Should the presence of the 25 vile videos obliterate the value of the 25 really good ones?
  2. Should one should condemn the video blogger's entire body of work on the basis of the 25 vile videos?
Now we'll move on to something a little bit less hypothetical.

Suppose that another blogger receives an email from a reader in which a link to one of the video blogger's 25 outstanding videos is included. The second blogger is not at all familiar with the work of the video blogger but watches the video and agrees with the reader that it is a good one. This blogger then writes a post in which he shares the video with his readers.

This blogger's comment section explodes with angry comments from people who are outraged that the work of this video blogger is being promoted. The blogger who shared the video explains that he's not sharing or promoting any videos from this video blogger except for the one he selected to share in this post. This is not good enough for the angry mob. They don't care whether the blogger who shared the video had no idea of the awful videos the video blogger made. To them, sharing one good video is still promoting the person who made it, and that is all that matters.

Even when our blogger explains that he or she would not have posted the video if he or she had known about the bad videos, this isn't good enough for the mob. The video blogger must be shunned, and everyone is expected to participate in this process. Shame on our second blogger for not immediately removing the good video and all mention of it!

As some of you will recognize, something similar to what I just described happened recently. The video blogger in question was The Amazing Atheist, and the blogger who shared one of his videos was Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist). Here's the post where this happened.

I'd like to note the following for the sake of accuracy:
  • I'm not at all familiar with The Amazing Atheist. I can remember watching only two of his videos. One was the video Hemant shared in the post above. I thought it was decent and worth sharing. The only other video I can recall watching was the response to Greta Christina's recent post about him. I was not impressed with this one. I have no idea how many videos he's made, how many are good, or how many are bad.
  • I have no idea how this particular video came to Hemant's attention. What I said above about it being emailed by a reader was made up.
I find myself shaking my head in wonder. Is this really where the atheist/humanist/skeptic/secular community has ended up? Are we so threatened by shitty ideas and hateful speech that we're going to attempt to purge it by any means necessary? We'll attempt to suppress good content if it comes from someone who has said things we don't like previously. And we're no longer satisfied with not viewing the content ourselves and/or to speaking out against it; we now need to shun whoever created it. But even that isn't enough, for it seems that we must now unload our outrage on anyone who dares not to participate in our shunning.

I cannot think of very many well-known atheist producers of content who haven't said things I considered objectionable. To be sure, there are some extreme and stomach-turning examples. And in these cases, I am inclined to stop reading, listening to, or watching their content. I might even criticize it from time-to-time. Isn't that is enough? Do we really have nothing better to do than scolding someone like Hemant for posting a video from someone who has made other videos we don't like?

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...