October 13, 2012

The Company One Keeps

Al Stefanelli makes some great points in this post about a number of the controversies related to "atheism plus" and Freethought Blogs. Here's an example:
Skepticism should be the prime directive of any freethinker, and simply asking a question about anything, even those subjects that are controversial, should not elicit anything other than conversation. It is my hope that those involved with Atheism + come to understand this, and embrace an environment that is more conducive to critical thinking.
Al is fully aware that some atheists are beginning to distance themselves from a few of the more toxic bloggers who belong to the Freethought Blogs (FtB) network. It makes sense that he would want to set himself apart, and this post is a good example of how he does so.
It was my hope that judgments regarding any of us here on Freethought Blogs would be based on the actions or writing of the individual writer, and not on the entire network. That goes for my blog, as well. Even when a group of individuals here share in an action that might be disagreeable to anyone, I would have hoped that the disagreement would still be based on the issue, even if it is spread across several writers, and still not the entire network. I hope that makes some sense. In short, if you absolutely refuse to read a blog here because you abhor the author, all I ask is that you please not discount the overall talent of writers that make up this network.
TheCompanyWeKeepAl is absolutely right to point out that not every single one of the FtB authors agrees with one another, and I understand his point about how each blogger should be evaluated on his or her own merits. The problem, and I have heard this from quite a few people now, is that blog networks are designed so that each individual blog links to all others in the network. Not only that, but they do not generally link to anyone outside the network. Thus, when we visit Al's blog, we see only links to other FtB blogs. This conveys the impression, even if it is an incorrect impression, that Al approves of these other blogs. FtB is hardly unique in this model, as it is one of the downsides of a blog network. What makes it more important in the case of FtB is just how polarizing a few of these authors have become.

I respect Al's work, and he's not the only FtB author about whom I feel that way. And yet, I do find myself thinking twice about linking to him these days because of some of the others on his network. This probably isn't fair, especially since his courageous post demonstrates that he should not be lumped in with them. Now that he's left FtB, I guess we don't have to worry about this.


Here's what happened and what is going on with that last sentence. I wrote this post before Al left FtB. I decided I'd post it anyway because I suspect there are others writing there who would be better off it they left and because...well...I hate to waste a post. I think it is great that Al departed, and I wish him luck at his new home (to which I will be linking).