There’s a subculture with a healthy Internet presence, centered around passionate advocacy for a particular ideological cause. It has several popular male leaders. These men enjoy comfortable jobs, speaking engagements and publishing credits. That places them in a position of power in this subculture, and they’ve got the dedicated followers to prove it.
And then these leaders are accused of abuse: sustained sexual harassment, even rape, all directed at women, an under-represented demographic in this community. Rather than treat these allegations with respect and serious inquiry, there is backlash. These women, people say, are sluts. They are liars. They exaggerate. They can’t take a joke. They shouldn’t have been drinking. Their allies are traitors. They should be sued.
The subculture in question is the mainstream atheist/skeptic movement, as it exists in the United States. I’m referring, specifically, to the backlash now facing Karen Stollznow, Carrie Poppy, and other survivors, in addition to their allies, like PZ Myers.
I didn’t accuse Shermer or anyone else of rape. I said, simply, that I was disturbed by Stefanelli’s post for the reasons I described above.
Cue the abuse. I got immediately swarmed by atheist anti-feminist men and the situation escalated until one of them threatened to kill me. Several times, in fact. Al’s since deleted the threats, but as far as I know, he still acknowledges that the threats were made. The person making the threats is possibly unwell; he also told me he’s a genetically engineered soldier. But that doesn’t make me feel any better about the fact that someone repeatedly threatened to kill me.
Which seems reasonable–unless you’re EllenBeth Wachs. Wachs, who identifies herself as the past president of the Florida Humanists Association, told me I’d brought the death threats upon myself for being so easy to troll. She repeated those statements on Twitter. I’m not sure why Wachs is so convinced the person was joking; there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that’s the case. I have no idea if I was being trolled or not, but ultimately this doesn’t matter: making death threats crosses a line. It’s never funny. It’s totally inappropriate behavior and if Wachs was in the least bit invested in actual rationality, rather than the fevered defense of Michael Shermer, she would have acknowledged that.
But she hasn’t. She still thinks it’s hilarious that someone threatened to kill me and the abuse didn’t end there. Shocked that I called her behavior sociopathic, she demanded an apology–for obvious reasons, she didn’t get it. And that’s when she name-dropped my boss and threatened to call him.
Summary: she laughed at me for getting threats, told me I deserved it, then threatened my job.
Y’know, when atheist activists used/use tactics like these against religious people, they high five each other. But when they use them against each other, then there is a problem.