Ok, it's been a busy last week and weekend. Lots of meatspace stuff going on, so I didn't get much chance to write much, but I'm back! (Hey! Stop that! That tomato was rotten! Make it fresher next time...)
One of the things online this weekend that caught my attention was a couple of posts on Facebook. I am not going to put names out there on this, I don't want to start a flame war or be seen as calling someone out.
But the posts were links to copies of tweets that a female atheist figure put out there - a fair amount of time ago, from what I saw. The tweets had to do with members of the military who were harassing her online. The poster was accusing her of (and one of the tweets mentioned this) contacting the Commanding Officer of a service member she said was harassing her.
I got involved because I just HATE seeing comment threads in posts like that (and this one was rife with some really nasty stuff) calling the female atheists involved some pretty bad names, telling them that they deserved to be raped, anally and elsewhere, and other pretty terrible things.
Shades, in other words, of Elevatorgate.
You remember Elevatorgate, where Rebecca Watson mentioned in passing (five minutes worth of mention) in a speech she was giving at a major atheism convention that guys shouldn't corner women in elevators in the wee hours of the morning, asking if they want to come up to their rooms. That such situations (where a woman has no retreat) make them uncomfortable and isn't likely to get you laid for that reason. A pretty minor aside, really.
Shortly thereafter, Dawkins made a reference belittling her comments, and the blogosphere exploded with some of the nastiest, vilest and most disgusting comments about Rebecca along the lines of what I mentioned above - only worse.
She has been followed around the web ever since by some of those dogs ... er ...trolls, and the abuse just doesn't stop.
The worse part of it is that the campaign has spread to include just about any other major atheist figure that dares to speak up about it in support of those being abused.
This weekend was a continuation of that, and to illustrate how bad it is, the woman involved (diagnosed with PTSD as a result of online bullying and harassment) has signed up with a group who is fundraising for the treatment of civilian victims of PTSD, and the harassment has followed her to her fundraising page!
Let me make my position clear.
In any situation where a person finds him/herself stopping on a webpage of any kind and disagreeing with the positions, attitudes or conclusions expressed by the writer of that page/post, it is incumbent upon the commenter to keep the comments he/she makes on point, germane to the issue, and civil. At no time is it proper (or productive) to engage in an ad hominem attack on the writer based on his/her sex, perceived sexual orientation, race, age, nationality, religious belief, or for that matter, any other personal characteristic that isn't involved in or part of the written subject being commented on.
In particular, it is reprehensible, inhumane, disgusting, improper, anti-social, despicable, heinous, repellent, (ain't thesauruses wonderful?) unacceptable, and just plain mean to use threats, declarations of a person's "needing" to be raped, or any other violently descriptive comment in an effort to harass or bully that person into shutting up.
If you can't successfully argue your point, and the other person has brought your argument to a halt due to a lack of enough evidence to prove your point - you lose. At this point, go home. Quit, give up. You don't have to do it gracefully (although that IS something that shows better character), but you should at least stop at that point.
Continuing on to a personal attack because you cannot bring the discussion to a personally satisfying conclusion is not the way to win an argument.
Beyond that, commenting on a page for the SOLE PURPOSE of harassing, attacking, and bullying is just anti-social behavior that sucks big time. It is wrong, bad and just plain mean.
It means that you are a troll, and the worst kind at that.
To the rest of you out there who are not such trolls, don't look away. Don't shudder at the profanity and click on by. Stop, read and comment, even if it is only to tell the trolls to shut up. The more of us do that, the fewer trolls will exhibit this behavior. They do it because it is rewarding, and it is rewarding because they are encouraged by others who either join in or encourage it by REPOSTING comment threads containing that kind of harassment!
Let's all work together to help make as many online places as we can unfriendly to harassment and bullying. Call it out! Make them see that it is a disgusting and disliked behavior.
Then, maybe we can all have a better online experience. Plus, the trolls won't be making the rest of the atheist movement look like a bunch of hypocrites. If we are going to criticize religions for misogynistic attitudes and practices, we should not tolerate such behavior among those we call allies.
...and I don't!