Background Probability

The Agnostic Popular Front has moved to its new home at Skeptic Ink, and will henceforth be known as Background Probability. Despite the relocation and rebranding, we will continue to spew the same low-fidelity high-quality bullshit that you've come to expect.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

#FtBullies — Too broad a brush?

Some of my favourite Twitter interlocutors have been pointing out that just by using the #FtBullies hash unironically, I'm somehow implying that all of Freethought Blogs has a serious bullying problem, and aligning myself with every single dipshit who attacks the FtB, however spitefully and irrationally. Such broad brush interpretations may be inevitable, because it is not possible to clearly disclaim the intended scope of a 10-character hashtag in less than 130 characters. I'd much rather we had converged on a hashtag which would be most readily interpreted as meaning "Can we please discuss specific abuses of power by the most widely read and respected leaders in the freethought movement, regardless of who they are and how they disseminate their ideas to the public" but even now I cannot think of what that hashtag could have been. Forced brevity can be a harsh mistress.

Let me be abundantly clear about this, most of #FtBloggers aren't #FtBullies, and no one over there has been acting like a bully most of the time. Everyone with power abuses it on occasion, often without meaning to do so, and those with massive audience privilege advantage can be unaware of how much harm they are doing when they publicly shame lower status members of the community or when they encourage or allow various forms of cyberbullying to run rampant in their comment threads.

It has to be noted that while some popular freethought bloggers allow and even encourage piling-on, abusive language, and other bullying tactics, others have taken on the onerous burden of actively preventing their own blogs from hosting that sort of content. Here are a few top-notch examples of bloggers who generally refuse to allow cyberbullies to hijack the discourse on their turf: Daniel Fincke, Kylie Sturgess, Richard CarrierGreta Christina, Chris Hallquist. I do not read everyone else on the network, but I'm confident there are several others who also work hard to prevent substantive discourse from being sidelined by personal attacks, and I can only imagine what a timesuck that must be like for a high volume blog.

The essence of freethought is to be able to judge each proposition for itself, after looking at all sides of the argument. The argument over bullying in the freethought community is multifaceted and should never be oversimplified to the reactionary tribalism of us vs. them. However, if it came to that, I'd have to stand with any blogger who makes a good faith effort to avoid becoming a haven for hatred, regardless of their chosen affiliations or domain name.

This will be my last post on the subject of FtB. I've got other plans for August.

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