WilloNyx covered most of this in the last post but I need to add some of my own thoughts.
So last night didn’t quite work out as I expected. I was trying to finish catching up on Twitter. I said a few thank you’s on Facebook. I was minutes away from the comfort of a warm bed. I saw a link from Thunderfoot. I saw the title “MISOGYNIST!” and I just knew it had to be good. I began to watch the video. A sharp, critical mind that had taken the time to read up on all the sexual harassment arguments could bring a new perspective. I watched some more. Ahhh, smart move I thought. Act like one of the asshats on the other side to help bring things into focus. Show them a refection of themselves and the ridiculousness of their position. I knew this was going to be good. The turn around was going to come any minute. Suddenly I realized his time was running out. Then it did. Did I miss something? Below the video was a link to a post at his FTB page. “There it was” I said to myself. Only it wasn’t.
The blog post was worse yet I still expected a gotcha moment. These were the same lame strawmen that people had been schooled over time and again in blog after blog, comment section after comment section. At this point there was no doubt that he was laying out these weak misrepresentations so he could plow them all down in one fell swoop at the end. (I never said I couldn’t be naïve.) My heart sank just a little when I got to the comment section. I was never what you would call a Thunderfoot superfan but I had watched many of his videos. This was a guy who obviously spent countless hours examining the arguments of creationists, watching their videos, understanding their positions before tearing them down. Yet he couldn’t be bothered to read any of the many discussions that had been taking place over the past year on a subject that he now took a hard stance on. And to top it off the stance he took was that of an dismissive, tone trolling douchenozzle. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell WilloNyx for a while. She hadn’t ever heard of Thunderfoot prior to him joining FTB. I advocated for the guy, told her that from what I had seen he was a badass, a skeptical heavy weight. I eventually had to tell her though because she asked why I was sitting in the kitchen saying “fuck” a bunch.
I agree with Willo. Things like sasquatch and crop circles and homeopathy are easy for skeptics. Those of us who advocate for skepticism are constantly asking others to suspend their sincere, sometimes zealous beliefs and opinions long enough to consider how they might be deluding themselves. Sure, most of us have done this ourselves at some point. Most of us have believed in some version of god. Many of us have believed very strongly in obviously ridiculous things. Telling others to overcome the ridiculous notions they cling to is easy. Overcoming belief in something that is obviously factually absurd is only slightly more difficult. Unfortunately it seems that we skeptics very rarely do that which we ask of others. We don’t turn that deep, critical light inward, to the parts of ourselves that are vulnerable. The parts that maybe define things about us. We pride ourselves on what we have overcome and maybe some of that was difficult. Yet here was an icon of modern skepticism that couldn’t be bothered to fucking understand the subject he was attacking at even the most basic level. It was as if he had scoured the comment sections of all the relevant blog posts since elevatorgate, collected only the misrepresentations and misunderstandings, intentional or otherwise, and distilled it all into a potent tincture.
This is the rift as I see it. Some of us continue to question our beliefs and opinions and some of us reach comfortable plateaus. When I see someone accusing those advocating harassment policies of not listening or not understanding the other side it reminds me of all those times I have been accused of not really understanding the Christianity I have argued against for so long. No amount of explaining would make my opponents realize that I understood it because I lived it for years. I dug myself out of it step by step. I understood it from the inside but, unlike them, I also understood it from the outside too and it was that deeper understanding, having both perspectives that allowed me to be objective and sympathetic at the same time. That’s what these so-called skeptics fail to grasp. We have all lived inside the culture that promotes misogyny and harassment. Most of us came of age amidst the attitudes and opinions we now argue against. Some of us even held the same opinions that those we argue against now hold. We have seen from the inside. We took the steps to question ourselves and we found those positions and opinions lacking in merit. Some still struggle with with moments of conflicting thoughts but we are honest enough skeptics to expose those thoughts to criticism, however uncomfortable. It isn’t unfair to ask people who would claim the label of skeptic to go that far. That is the bare fucking minimum one can do to claim that label with any amount of pride. Anything short of that and you’re just part of a club where everyone is congratulating each other for not believing in the fucking Loch Ness monster.