When I was a child one year, before our annual large holiday gathering at my grandmother’s house, I was told – in my mom’s serious voice – not to kill my uncle.

One of my uncles (by marriage) was a liberal.  He was a staunch liberal.  As far as my father was concerned, this uncle believed that JFK was the second coming.  Every year, all the men would sit at the table by the stairwell, while the women stayed in the kitchen, and people like me sat by one of the windows at the kid-table – in earshot of the men.  Every year, the men would talk politics, and that liberal uncle would be red in the face, stand up, raise his voice – and the rest would make a joke to break the tension, have a good laugh, and the uncle would sit back down.

Being a Minnesota girl, this was my only exposure to conflict (I’m not even exaggerating) and I got a big kick out of it (even though I barely understood what the heck they were talking about at the time).

Well, this year, my aunt called all the families and told them, “Don’t bring up politics.  The doctor said that he needs to avoid stress, or it might trigger a heart attack.”

So, I was told not to say something stupid to get a rise out of him, so he didn’t die.  Perhaps, this is another reason the idea that “words have no power” seems sort of silly to me.

We still got together.  We still talked.  We laughed.  We had fun.  We did NOT talk about Jane Fonda.

My uncle lived a good number of years after this, possibly because we were nice enough to put his wife’s wishes, his comfort, and his very life above our want or need to talk to him about Jane Fonda.

Sure, I know this is a pretty extreme situation.  Not many people are actually in a position to literally drop dead due to speech that upsets them.

But, in what universe, is it okay to shame those who are simply not up for a particular conversation for whatever reason?  Why is it okay to socially enforce a norm where someone MUST be subjected to an annoying stimuli before being allowed to reject it?

Should I be forced to first have intense pain before taking a pill?

It reminds me of the entitled notion that a person must first be touched and say “no” before suggesting that anything inappropriate has happened.

Although a few criticisms of the Block Bot do resonate with me – concerns of public shaming and the worry that accounts might be suspended (though that is addressed in the FAQ) – other criticisms are downright spooky.

Let’s be clear.  There are levels.  The 1st level is composed of accounts that appear to be created specifically to impersonate or attack and harass people.  The 2nd level are composed of accounts that are “unpleasant”.  The 3rd level are composed of accounts that are “annoying”.

It is completely opt-in.  There is no social pressure to use it.  A user can decide who else they might want to block or if they wish to follow anyone on the block list.  They can decide what level to use.  Most users only block level 1 accounts.

Criticisms I have heard in the last couple days:

C1: My friend is on level #3 and he is not a misogynist.

A1: “Annoying” doesn’t mean the same thing as “misogynist”.

C2: They are silencing dissent.

A2: You have a right to speak.  You don’t have a right to an unwilling audience.

C3: If anyone uses this block bot, they are not a true freethinker!!

A3: Desiring to interact on twitter with a group of people you might find to be harassing and dangerous or “unpleasant” or “annoying” is not written in the non-existent “essentialist freethinker” manifesto.

C4: Just set your account to private and be done with it!

A4: No.

C5: Using the Block Bot is letting other people think for you.  It is disturbing and should be abolished.

A5: I would appreciate you respecting my right to make personal decisions that directly affect my life.

That’s really the crux for me.

I don’t use the block bot.  I have the phrase, “online debate monkey” on my twitter profile.  I’m one of those obnoxious people who go around on the internet looking for arguments about climate change, vaccinations and abortion when I’m bored.

I had an extremely long, convoluted, conversation with someone who happens to be on the #3 list last night where he repeatedly insulted me (such as saying I didn’t have a brain in my head), after noticing my breast-feeding pic he said, “Look, the milk’s gone bad”, and claimed I was “a totally dishonest asshole or COMPLETELY naïve”.  His “arguments” included “all of FtB worships PZ”, that PZ fabricated the very existence of a person sharing the story of her rape in order to garner blog-hits and book sales, and accused the FtB/A+ horde of false flagging campaigns on YouTube.  He asserted that “real skeptics” figured out the blog’s “real agenda”.  All the buzz-words were there – “echo chamber” “elevatorgate” etc.

I finally lost my temper with him when he said (among others things) concerning a sensitive issue, “Let’s say they were true. And it was actually rape, not a drunk girl who fucked some dude and regretted it later.”

At some point he said, “I hope you see that the ‘abuse’ and ‘insult’ are all in good fun (to some degree for my own amusement).”

He ended the conversation with this most-special type of sexualization, “Well, I gotta go! Enjoy your baby’s sweet sweet lips caressing your nipple as you take a picture of him.”

So, apparently that’s the important free market place of ideas stuff – that all REAL skeptics should subject themselves to or get their card revoked.  We, and every other person who identifies as a movement atheist, freethought folk, or skeptic that uses twitter and isn’t willing to put their twitter account to “private”, needs to hear that.  Not just once, or twice, but over and over and over again – for each person.  NO CHEATING.  Everyone needs to be open to those people (not just in SOME spaces, but in ALL spaces); regardless if others have had poor experiences interacting with them

LOOK, if you really care about “Skeptic cred” or “Freethought cred” or even “Movement atheist cred” – READ A FUCKING BOOK OR A JOURNAL ARTICLE.  Do some goddamn research.  This idea that having brawls online about the controversy or conspiracy theory of the month; and listening willingly and powerlessly to the SAME OLD bullshit vomited onto a keyboard pretending to be “debate” – again and again and again; is the essentialist freethought or skeptic obligation is SO MUCH ENTITLED MYOPIC BULLSHIT it’s physically painful!

It would make more sense for y’all to compile a “necessary reading list” including Bertrand and Voltaire and Sagan than forcing people to listen to Mr. PZ-is-your-god-and-Thunderf00t-is-awesome-sauce-and-you’re-a-fucking-moron long enough to realize they want to block him.

I spent HOURS having a fit with Mr. #3 and being insulted for his pleasure.  Think of how better I could have spent my time.  Do you really think that listening to someone, yet again, hyperbolically pontificate on how PZ is my priest and I am a member of his flock because I happen to comment on FtB makes me a better skeptic or a more admirable member of the freethought community?

This is a conversation a chose to take part in.  I’m pretty sure this is a negative comment on my character and not a positive one.

You do NOT have the right to tell other people how to live their life or how they should protect themselves or avoid THAT WHICH THEY WISH TO AVOID for whatever reason.

You are not entitled to that.  Sorry not sorry.

My uncle needs to hear about how Jane Fonda is a traitor and should be hung, right?  How else could we ever have productive conversations about anything?  Who the FUCK cares about his individual needs for reducing stress in his life.  He should be MADE to listen to “dissenting opinions” in his own space.  Em right?

Go have a conversation you actually want to have about something that matters, and I’ll avoid judging you for it.