The Melby Foundation publicly dissociates itself from the harmful and hateful rhetoric of Nugent’s comments section.
The Melby Foundation is publicly dissociating itself from the hurtful and dehumanizing, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric of Nugent’s comments section. The final of many, many straws was its latest smear that if PZ Myers and Alex Gabriel were given power that they would send people to “re-education gulags”, and its subsequent description of the out-group as “a community of personality disordered individuals with high degrees of narcissism”. We are also asking all ethical organizations and individuals to consider how you can help to reverse Nugent’s comments section’s harmful impact on the individuals it targets and the atheist movement generally.
The Melby Foundation promotes atheism, reason and ethical secularism. We fight on twitter a lot. I mean – a lot. This work is really not directly affected by Nugent’s blog comments but such rhetoric is unjust and annoying to the individual people who it targets.
Some examples of rhetoric from the comments section of ONE of Nugent’s posts:
Nugent’s comments section said the out-group is a “little clique” engaging in a “pattern of lies, slander, misdirection, & general childish nastiness” that has done much to “discredit secular activism online” who aren’t “fooling [anyone] besides themselves” and are “despicable”. The out-group are called “Social Justice Warriors” who are a “negative and destructive [force]” that “won’t forgive [other’s] accomplishments, because these make them feel inferior” therefor other’s accomplishments are “the greatest sin you could have committed in their eyes”. They are described as “like minded bloggers and sycophants” who simply “blog for beer money” that represent a “toxic element” of “desperate liars” who are “inexcusable” and “spin so hard you could hook them up to a few dynamos and power a small city”. It also implied that the out-group accuses people of “internalized misogyny and deep xenophobia” for not “[promoting] speaking gigs”. It proclaimed that if someone continued to associate with the out-group they would “have choked on [their] own vomit” and accused the out-group of “kicking the corpses at Charlie Hebdo.”
The out-group is accused of “knee-jerk wagon circling” with “the near complete failure of skepticism and the inability to engage in good faith” and exhibiting “cultish behavior”. The out-group is said to “blow hot air from their protected spaces”, “need demons to fight” and “contort facts and abuse words to find them”. The out-group is said to fit the “definition of cults…in particular Scientology with the concept of ‘othering’ and mental control through emotional and verbal manipulation” who “should have been dealt with years ago when there was a chance of nipping it in the bud” but the “US AS [atheist secular] community” have “proven themselves cowards”. It proclaims that the out-group are “silly nits” who “given a leader saying the right things, they’ll agree to pretty much anything” who “love doubletalk escape hatches” to “[ensure] they won’t do much beyond squab imitations.” It asserts that the out-group are “authoritarian leftists” who “glorified their own psychological issues.” The out-group is called “identitarians [who] positively revel in being sociopathic victims” “to raise their victim-hood points” “with outright lying about themselves” and “ramping it up to insouciant criminal defamation of others”. Nugent’s comments section asserts that the out-group is “highly totalitarian”, “rewrite[s] history” and exhibits “inherent narcissism”
Nugent’s comment section is surprised that PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson’s “hate supporters even DARE to open their mouths anymore”. It insists that they should be “apologizing and groveling on their knees” and they are collectively “like a wounded animal thrashing out” that “need to be sidelined” because “a healthy secular, atheist, liberal movement SIMPLY CAN’T have” them involved.
Nugent’s comment’s section claimed that Alex Gabriel “is part of a group which believes that they’re always right” who follows “the Only Moral Way” and believes that “everyone who disagrees is either a monster or a brainwashed idiot”. It claims that Gabriel “denied that hate could lead to atrocious acts” and claims he “[does] not truly understand how dangerous hatred can be”. It accused Gabriel of being “an Islamist-enabler” (due to defending the “odious Sarah Jones”) “pseudo-liberal” who “has no future in the atheist, secular liberal movements” and then Nugent’s comment’s section referred to “puncturing life jackets”. Gabriel is called “disturbing” and a “product of the current education system which is more a system of indoctrination than one of knowledge accumulation and critical thinking” and part of a movement that has “created this entire madhouse we live in…as if the Enlightenment never happened.” He is accused of desiring “a Year Zero, a la Pol Pot”.
Nugent’s comments section claims that Alex Gabriel is worse than Pol Pot because “as evil as he was, Pol Pot actually did something besides write about how hurty he was at the world.” It asserts that “if you make Alex Gabriel et al walk a mile on a mildly sunny day, they’d be begging for death a quarter way through.” It characterizes Gabriel as a “classic Young Zealot” with “a burning sense of wide-ranging injustice” who has “found The Way and The Truth” and believes that “anyone who utters the slightest hint of criticism” is “deserving of the righteous fire of holy hatred.” It compares Alex Gabriel to ISIS recruits saying, “Groups like ISIS pull in a lot of similarly righteous young men.”
Nugent’s comments section accuses Ashley F. Miller of “parroting the party line untruths”. It holds her as an example “that cognitive ability does not by itself lead to rationality” because she is not “invested enough in expending the mental effort to do so” and instead finds “a thousand ways to deflect and shift focus than honestly evaluate the evidence.” It then implies that she will consider “every single scenario from brain parasites and…mind control techniques by a reptilian lookalike clone” before entertaining the truth. It said she required “help…to see things clearly” but expecting her to do so was “a little too optimistic”.
Nugent’s comment section ridiculed Ashley F. Miller for crying due to feeling betrayed by her friend, comparing her to “a devout religious person [who] reads about facts, science, evolution, et al” who “can’t handle the truth” and is not “the type of person the atheist, liberal, secular movement should welcome.” Then Nugent’s comment section suggested (as with Alex Gabriel) it was “time to puncture those life-jackets.”
Oddly, Nugent’s comment section says the out-group “happily attribute behaviors and motives to people without bothering to find out or know one thing about them” while engaging in similar conjecture. For example, proclaiming that Rebecca Watson is a “raging tool” who “[hyped] up a relatively trivial incident to distract attention from her obnoxious treatment of Stef McGraw” four years ago.
Nugent’s comments section praised a forum known for ridiculing a small number of targets for years on end, including jokes about kicking Ophelia Benson in the “cunt” and gifs of animals having sex labeled with people’s names, as “a fairly no-holds-barred but fun site” with “robust debate and a daft-laugh” where “humour takes some getting used to not simply because it appears tasteless” but because “there’s layer upon layer [of meaning] and you’ll probably have tears in your eyes long before you reach the center of them”. It was described as “practically the only opposition to the poison being spread amongst us” and “if you like irreverent, bawdy company and have a sense of humour, you will do absolutely find there.”
Nugent’s comment section went on to describe this forum as “rough & tumble” where “mentally adding a winkie or a [/sarcasm] tag to the end of every 3rd post … can enhance the … viewing experience for those who find themselves becoming concerned about what they read.” It is described as “an open, freewheeling and occasionally very crude and/or rude place” “sophomoric and brilliant” “hysterically funny” and the photoshop work is described as “satirically and artistically fantastic”. Nugent’s comments section explains that the forum provides “top-notch analysis of the failings of [named individuals]” and the “best way of keeping yourself up to date with [their] antics” and that the forum “deserve[s] our gratitude”. Nugent’s comment section says, “It [does] not matter…if the [forum] was sometimes offensive or sometimes angry.”
Nugent’s blog comments suggest that the “point of the [forum] is to see how far Myers has fallen” but that such information can now be found on Nugent’s blog.
These are only some examples of Nugent’s comments section’s harmful rhetoric.
It might be possible to interpret any one example of this unrelenting character assassination charitably, and certainly Nugent’s comments section can hide behind a wall of unkind, hyperbolic or polemic words written by PZ Myers over several YEARS; pretend that issues of civility were never addressed and continue to use Myers’ incivility to justify an obsessive harassment campaign against a number of targets.
Ironically, the sheer quantity of this obsessive rhetoric can seem to minimize the harm of each example. It is easy for us to become desensitized to the reality of four years of related ridicule and harassment framed as reasonable discourse. In fact, it might be really easy to just ignore it if you aren’t personally a target. Otherwise, it kind of sucks.
Many within the atheist movement have been concerned about Nugent’s comments section for months. Some have responded by publicly ignoring it, either to avoid giving Nugent’s blog comments or the forum it describes the credibility of a response, or to avoid becoming their next target. For example, the last person who strongly called out Nugent’s comment section endured an unprecedented number of blog posts dedicated to scolding him and subsequently the public spectacle of an atheist organization officially disassociating from him.
So The Melby Foundation is now publicly dissociating ourselves from the well-poisoning and dehumanizing, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric of Nugent’s blog comments. We are asking all ethical organizations and individuals to consider how you can help to reverse its harmful impact.
The Melby Foundation
14 April 2015
[Large portions of this post have been copied from a document publicly presented by Atheist Ireland. It has been modified and used for the purposes of political commentary. Don’t DMCA me bro.]
PS: Okay – I’ve had my fun. However, serious time:
I have no doubt that Michael Nugent and his organization are absolutely sincere and do great work. I don’t doubt one bit that they are flabbergasted at how angry some people are about what they see as a common sense call for civility but, in reality, consists of a loud and clumsy butting-in to a complex situation.
I already know that Atheist Ireland will interpret impatience caused by emotional exhaustion, irritability caused by being embattled for years and cynicism caused by chronic disappointment as evidence that those upset are part of the “hateful” horde of “cultists” that supposedly worship PZ Myers.
I’m pretty sure almost everyone, including PZ Myers, understands that he has a caustic style and that he is not some sinless innocent that has never said something unfair. If anyone feels the need to pass judgment on his style or any of his words – go right ahead. Though I encourage you to do so in context.
It is clear that PZ Myers’ post making public an account of rape is not the only problem Nugent and Atheist Ireland have with Myers. However, it is also clear that Atheist Ireland fails to grasp the implications of including that issue within a call for civility. Including the fact that Myers helped someone make public her rape in the same statement as complaining that he called someone a “wanker” is beyond the pale insulting. The often-repeated insistence that there is some magical perfect way to make public your rape and Myers should have followed that hypothetical protocol when considering Alison Smith’s request, is off-focus of the more serious issue of the rape itself and how that situation was handled by organizational leaders at the time. Atheist Ireland shows a profound naivete concerning details surrounding that situation as well as the U.S. justice system. It is a classic case of blaming the messenger and it absolutely gives more support to the accused than to those coming forward.
Focusing on Myers, especially exclusive of calling out the obsessive and abusive behavior of others can be excused to some degree since Atheist Ireland is likely not as familiar with those personalities as their targets are. However, allowing smears, insults, exaggerations, and hatred in Nugent’s own blog comments to remain completely unchallenged while preaching civility in platitudinous prolixity within his posts is just plain comedy.
[PS: Clarification: The phrase “exclusive of” refers to Atheist Ireland not acting as an organization in a similar manner regarding others. Nugent has addressed “the Pit” to some extent. Also, to be clear, I do not think that words like “endorsement” accurately describe Nugent’s or Atheist Ireland’s relationship with “the Pit”.]
Realize I went through ONE set of blog comments that were written over the course of three days. I went through ONE set.
I would like Atheist Ireland to consider how absurd their statement must appear to some of us. That, even though Atheist Ireland had expressed unease with PZ Myers’ tone previous to their statement – that the statement only came after Nugent fixated on something PZ Myers said about Nugent personally. After which, Nugent incessantly asked for an apology from Myers.
At the same time, Nugent was (and still is) being praised by members of an online forum that may very well (as Nugent’s comment section indicates) include great “skeptic” conversation, but none the less, has been largely dedicated to ridiculing a specific group of people for several years, including (but certainly not limited to) photos manipulated to show their favorite targets judging rapes at a rape competition and cartoons of Melody Hensley that spread half-truths concerning the cause of her mental illness.
I do not want to risk committing the fallacy of relative privation, but maybe you should read the comments?
If you want to set yourselves up as the atheist civility police – do your job.