Thursday, 27 June 2013

Shivver Me Timbers!!1!

Avast Ye Swabs!

Shiver me Timbers, and Hoist the MainBrace!

There be trouble and storms ahead on the High Seas, landlubbers.

Click to embiggen
Poor old Capt. Blackbeard has lost his moral compass, and our #BraveHero Capt. Pogsurf intends to get it back.

Using the treasure map on the left, try to work out how Capt. Blackbeard will get from the land of morris men to the land of black gold.

Will he find his lost moral compass along the way, or will Pogsurf have to hand it to him on a party plate like a giant foam pie? We just don't know, and half the fun is just joining in and trying something new out.

Happy Sailing to all travellers worldwide. And watch out for pirates!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Interesting conversation from the internet's biggest coward

Another abusive e-mail

Regular readers of Pogsurf will know that we do not treat abusive e-mailers very kindly here. The most recent abusive e-mail comes from David Pollock who is Regional Coordinator, Europe for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. His e-mail address is .

Between 10th and 25th June 2013 I sent a total of five e-mails on the subject of rape jokes and threats made by PZ Myers. Pollock says that the subject I refer to is "a crude but not uncommon trope". Pollock feels he is entitled to comment upon my psychological state, a common silencing tactic, and labels me "obsessive". For the record Mr David "Wanker" Pollock, the correct word is 'tenacious'.

Pollock's malicious communication has been forwarded to Hertfordshire Constabulary. The IHEU have been warned that any further abusive e-mails they send to Pogsurf will be published in full.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Conference resource

Updated 24 June 2013
The competition is now closed and all panelists have been contacted directly.

Click here to download the answers

If you would like to see how rape culture on a blog can lead to threats to others being treated as normal click here.

Original post (as amended) follows:
I have a resource which I am aiming to distribute to the skeptical, feminist and non-feminist and atheist communities by 29th June 2013, in time for the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference which is being held in Dublin.

Click here to download the resource

If you would like a clue to questions 1 to 3 click here

If you would like to see some background research click here and scroll down to 'Rape culture'

Distribution list

Conference panelists

Other named individuals
  • Christine Shellska 
  • Jeremy Shepperd 
  • Justin Vacula 
  • Sara E. Mayhew 
  • Stuart Bechman 
  • Tim Larmour 
  • Tim Skellett 
  • Victor Franco


  • Ateistisk Selskab
  • Atheism UK
  • Atheist Association of Finland
  • Atheist Foundation of Australia
  • Atheïstisch Verbond
  • BC Humanist Association
  • Centar za građansku hrabrost
  • Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
  • Free Society Institute
  • Freedom From Religion Foundation
  • Freethought Lebanon
  • Gambia Secular Assembly
  • IBKA-Vorstandssekretariat
  • Iniciativa Atea
  • Malta Humanist Association
  • Minnesota Atheists
  • Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society
  • Progressive Atheists Inc.
If you would like to add more names or organisations to my distribution list please feel free to do so, then comment below, or to get in touch with me personally to let me know.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

I have now found the thread on Michael Nuggent's blog which details the worst excesses of the Slymepit. It can be found here, under the title "Examples of ‘nasty pushback’ against some atheist/skeptic feminists on the Internet". The items are numbered 1 to 50. I can find no threats amongst them.

Looking back at "Cataloguing threats" I can see I need to make a correction. The list of publishers of threats should read:

  1. PZ Myers
A table of threats for the #FtBullies v. Slymepit blog war can now be drawn up thus:

Threat Publisher Nym Redaction status
1. PZ Myers Janine redacted
2. PZ Myers J redacted
3. PZ Myers Janine redacted
4. PZ Myers Wowbagger redacted
5. PZ Myers stogoe redacted
6. PZ Myers Blake redacted
7. PZ Myers RickrOll unredacted
8. PZ Myers Ward S. Denker unredacted
9. PZ Myers Janine unredacted
10. PZ Myers Cath the Canberra Cook redacted
11. PZ Myers Jeff Eyges redacted
12. PZ Myers Janine redacted
13. PZ Myers phantomreader42 redacted
14. PZ Myers Shplane unredacted
15. PZ Myers ambullcetus redacted
16. PZ Myers AJ Milne unredacted
17. PZ Myers Janine unredacted

It is a now a very simple step to see that PZ Myers has unashamedly used his position as a blog publisher to enable others to make threats. I think my entire case that Myers is an unworthy recipient of the 2011 award by the IHEU is made, and I shall be e-mailling them shortly.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Abusive calls

Today was a busy day on the telephone here at Pogsurf Towers. The phone never stopped ringing. A chart detailing the number of abusive calls is shown below:

Calls to Pogsurf Towers 18th June 2013*

All calls are now being auto-diverted to Scotland Yard's Anti-Harassment Unit, logged and monitored. Suspects are being interview by local police forces where appropriate.

* One caller was a receptionist working for Pogsurf's dentist. She has now been released from custody after her immigration papers were shown to be genuine. Pogsurf offers his profuse apologies for the amount of police time that she has wasted.

Cataloguing threats

Greta Christina makes a real world claim which should be possible to verify by examining the evidence:
It expressed the intent to work with “all elements of the secular community,” without any acknowledgement of the “elements” in this community who have been engaging in a persistent campaign of hatred, harassment, abuse, and threats of violence, rape, and death towards feminist women in this movement. 
Without wishing to minimise the suffering of anyone, it must be acknowledged that hatred, harassment and abuse are highly subjective, and so are going to prove much more difficult to catalogue. Threats of violence, rape or death are in themselves much more serious issues, and should in theory be simpler to catalogue.

I propose a template thus. Establish a list of publishers who have allowed threats to be made. I am unsure of who the publisher is at the Slymepit, or whether individual commentators should be identified as publishers, so for the time being the list of publishers is:

  1. Unknown
  2. PZ Myers
  3. ... (add other publishers here)
It has been claimed that a list of Slymepit threats have been published on Michael Nugent's blog, although I have not yet seen this for myself. When this is located I will add the relevant data.

Establish a list of nyms who issue threats. From the #FtBullies side I am going to use the numbered list published at Aratina's "Skepsheik: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?" post thus:

  1. Janine
  2. J
  3. Janine
  4. Wowbagger
  5. stogoe
  6. Blake
  7. RickrOll
  8. Ward S. Denker
  9. Janine
  10. Cath the Canberra Cook
  11. Jeff Eyges
  12. Janine
  13. phantomreader42
  14. Shplane
  15. ambullcetus
  16. AJ Milne
  17. Janine
  18. ... (add Slymepit and other relevant threats here)
Take the same list of threats, and note if the threat has been redacted:
  1. redacted
  2. redacted
  3. redacted
  4. redacted
  5. redacted
  6. redacted
  7. unredacted
  8. unredacted
  9. unredacted
  10. redacted
  11. redacted
  12. redacted
  13. redacted
  14. unredacted
  15. redacted
  16. unredacted
  17. unredacted
  18. ... (add Slymepit and other redactions here)
Obviously the above is a work in progress, and may appear quite one-sided at this time. Commenters are welcome to link to other published lists of threats and similar material below.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Catching up with some paperwork

Pogsurf's Statcounter gizmo has gone a bit bonkers tonight. (ProTip: click on the beer bottle to see who is visiting Pogsurf tonight). Tomorrow he will rise at about 8.30 BST and has to go and pick a neighbour's child up from school, leaving at about 2pm. He will mostly be sorting out his paperwork, so if you'd like to phone him at home, or on his mobile, during daylight hours, please feel free to do so.

PZ Myers is far to chicken to call himself, which is why he is trying to motivate his horde to harass Pogsurf.

An Garda Síochána have already advised that should PZ attend Dublin 2013 he will be arrested under a EU-wide arrest warrant for 'inciting or coercing others to commit a felony'. Enjoy you conference from behind bars, PZ!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Pogsurf is off to Dublin

Pogsurf is appearing in a show at Watford Palace Theatre on the 29th June, then he is off Dublin the very next day for a conference, and to drink some Guiness. Why not comment below if you to are off to somewhere nice?

Another bully spotted in the wild: BLS Nelson

Pogsurf has spotted another bully out in the wild, this time it's a 'Philosopher'.

Look here where Pogsurf posts as Pogsurf, but BLS (Big Lazy Slob) Nelson replies in the following comment as 'Pog'. For the record, Pogsurf, has many, many friends in real-life (i.e. offline) who refer to him as Pog. Why should it matter if the Slobster uses that particular nym in the short form?

The reason is is that BLS is making a 'calculated insult'. This is a very slight form of insult, but one which the recipient will notice, and one that is very hard* for others to detect. Pogsurf is being bullied by belittling, and ignored in that BLS refuses to address the philosophical content** of Pogsurf' two comments. Philosophy has a strong ethos of tackling the ball and not the player, so this sort of thing should be frowned upon by any owners of a philosophical blog.

What does Pogsurf do when he is bullied? First he gets angry. Then he lets his emotions settle down a bit. Then he gets even. The last time Pogsurf got abused by an idiot, he threatened to feast on the beating heart of the abuser, and to doxx all the abusers' loose acquaintances to family and friends.

Since BLS thinks he is being 'funny' by belittling someone who comments on his blog, Pogsurf intends to complain to the highest power he can in order to deal with the little squirt. More soon when we have a copy of the letter to the Editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine.

Remember: ignoring plus belittling equals bullying.

* The Slobster is creating a false aire of bonhomie.
** No True Sctosman fallacy, Is/ought not being a dichotomy, comments about 'labelling'.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Definition: Shunning

Shunning is a behaviour where someone is turned away from from some person or some place that they would like to go. There must be at least two parties for shunning to occur.

Don't worry over-much when shunning occurs. The best thing to do is to take some time out, reflect upon your own actions, and query whether your intent was good or bad. Because humans have many prejudices, and often feel guilt or shame from past actions, you may find a range of emotions will occur open discovering you have been shunned. Take a little bit of time to let your emotions settle, and see how you feel about it later.

Don't forget that the people or person who are on the other side of the shunning wall may be feeling strong emotions too. Giving them time to reflect upon their own actions may lead to a more satisfactory resolution of the shunning incident in the long term.

When shunnig occurs, there are three possible outcomes:
  1. You let the matter rest and go someplace else
  2. You feel aggreived and seek sort of redress from the shunner
  3. You come to understand that your own actions were disruptive or wrong 
In time you will come to understand better where you lie on the 123 ladder. Don't forget for any particular incident you may hit any particular rung of the ladder.

When shunning is combined with taint you have bullying.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Thought for the day: this is not Islam #hastag

St George slaying the Dragon that is named Mohammed
#thisisnotIslam #Recovery #Insight
Created in 2013, here Wiesner draws upon a number of intertwined motives; such as Bulgarian Orthodox iconography, the legend of St George, the oppression of the Welsh by their near neighbour the English and the killing of animals for meat*; yet still retaining his overall naïve style. The piece, formerly titled 'this is not Islam #hashtag', when is first was first published worldwide on a now long extinct blog** on 13th June 2013***.

The narrative of the art clearly is from right to left, unlike most art within the contemporaneous western European period, but retains a top to bottom direction. Does the lance, or more formerly the 'lancicle' graze the dragon's neck, or does it draw the observer's eye to the leading letter of the piece's caption? We may never know, and counties have gone to war over less.

Wiesner never spoke of the meaning of the phrase 'St. George slaying the dragon named Mohammed', and the Mohammed reference itself is highly obscure. Probably an early English King or similar. The handle of the lancicle extends beyond the borders of the frame, seeking viewers to question the very existence of frames of reference themselves, and to go yonder and to seek a wider view from themselves.

Overall Pogsurf verdict: 4¾ out of 10, a bit naff, and it will never catch on.

Media:        felt pen and watercolour on stock white 90gsm laserjet paper
Dimensions: "A4" which is 8.3" x  11.7" or as was then 210mm**** x 297 mm

*       This practice was still legal but mostly frowned upon by decent people in 2013
**     Believed to be called 'Plogslurf', from the German roots of  'plog' and 'slurfing'
***   Opinions still differ when and where the piece was first exhibited, but what is known is that this took place within the three months after 13/6/2013, was in the south-west Herts area, and on that day it was definitely raining.
**** mm: obsolete measuring terminology, which was abandoned after the fall of the EU in 2016.

Freethought Blogs admits link to far right nationalism

Humpty Dumpty is cross

LOOK children, Humpty Dumpty woke up with a sore head to day. That's because he bumped it when he fell off his wall:
So yes, I’m fed up and I’ll be taking stronger action against these trolls and other assholes. But that does not in any way imply that I’m silencing disagreement…but that’s the message the trolls and assholes want to send out, to foment more harassment. [source]
Humpty Dumpty is a biologist, so he should know that all human zygotes start growing from the asshole outward as the embryo starts to develop. There's no shame in being called an asshole because we've all got one and we should try use it ever day. 'Arsehole' is an entirely different matter. You'll get a punch in the face if you say that to someone in little ole Engerland. Best not to go round upsetting people unnecessarily, isn't it?

Over at Scented Nectar we can see that Humpty Dumpty and one of the King's Horses have been busily re-writing history by deleting one or two awkward tweets. That's what people with guilty consciences do, they try to destroy the evidence. Confabulation should only be conducted only by the most skilled of self-anti-autodidoxxers, and then only when the children are asleep.

Children I have got a bit of a surprise for you, Humpty Dumpty has got a new friend! I won't tell you his name yet, just keep your eyes out for new posts on Pogsurf, I'm sure he'll be here soon...

Logicians: if 'fed up' = E and 'stronger action' = SA and 'silencing disagreement' is SD; is it necessarily true that E + SA =/> SD? Please show your workings. As ever a good idea is worth £5.
Ethicists: further to the above, if 'harrassment' = H and 'messaging' = m does  /SD.m = H? Or indeed SD.m = H?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Don't judge a book by it's cover

Casual liar

In this tweet, Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle and columnist/blogger with the Daily Express auto-didoxxes himself as a casual liar. This is strange for a journalist/editor to not understand the importance of never straying far from the path of truth. Beware ye who dare to take him up on it because a casual liar who is also Jewish will surely label you an anti-semite. Other casual liars are Nick Griffin of the BNP, and Sam Harris of new atheist fame.

auto-didoxxes - present singular tense of the verb auto-didoxx, meaning to out oneself via the medium of the internet.

Whose afraid of the big bad wolf, the big bad wolf ...

Big brave girl:

Big girl's blouse:

A dictionary auto-didoxxer in action

Have you got anything to hide? An exercise in changing one's perspective

Three blokes who know nothing about feminism
Before we start this essay, we all need to do a little warm up exercise, in order to loosen up the brain muscles. Let's call the guy on the left A, the one in the middle B, and the one on the right C. Now let's change our perspective and imagine we are standing behind these three guys. That means as we see them C is now on the left, B is on the right, and A is on the right. Now ask B to stand to the right of C, and then for C and A to swap places. It's fairly obvious that the new order is BCA or CBA, according whether you are standing in front or behind them.

Now we have to ask that instead of this picture being about three men, that the sexes are swapped and the picture is showing three women. Remember where you were last standing and swap from front to back if A is to the left, of back to front if C is in the middle. Simple. Remember where you are standing, because this will be important later on.

Ok, we are ready to begin.


Now that we have shown that it is a simple matter to change perspective, we are ready to start thinking like the opposite sex. Which of the three women above A, B, or C will have the most to say? Which one is questioning another's motives? (This exercise is easier if you image that the thought bubbles have not moved, even though the women in the picture have). Does the hat, which A has now handed to B, suit the new wearer? If so pass it to the women directly to the left, or to the women on the other side if there is no one directly to their left. Which one of these women is most attractive? Which one aspires to be a crane driver?

In order to solve the problem of feminism, we need to put ourselves into another person's shoes. This can be quite painful if the shoes have four inch heals. If you are male and reading this, imagine you are female, and vice-versa for the fairer sex. Those of a neutral gender may like look away now.

Person A probably looks much stronger than person B to most readers (we have backed this up with research), but strength is not a feminine virtue, so this can be disregarded. It is also quite interesting that none of the women pictured are holding a handbag. An alligator skin one would suit the person in the middle (women B if you are not managing to keep up).

It would be quite wrong of me to leave you dazed and confused by this essay. So I am going to ask you to reverse all the previous instructions, and put everything back as it was. Remember to reverse your own sex too, unless you feel more comfortable in your new skin.

Remember that feminism is a movement aimed at breaking down sexual stereo-typing, and to increase opportunities and the dignity of women all around the world. Feminism has no membership list and no elected leaders. Because feminists understand that it is important to respect the lives of girls and women, feminists are also able to empathise with the plight of men and boys. Feminists lead the fight to counter prejudice and bullying everywhere.

Try a new perspective today, or maybe just a cool pair of shades and a matching chiffon scarf. If you don't you'll never know how rich you life can be, even if the heels really are killing you.

Picture reproduced by the kind permission of :

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Another winner!

Pogsurf's recent feminist quiz posed an epistemological, metaphysical and sociological nightmare of a bonus question thus:
Which branch of feminism endorses rape culture?
This proved too difficult for many of the world's top feminists, including those meeting soon in Dublin, and other top thinkers who are members of Atheist Alliance International. Skep tickle skillfully provides the correct answer by combining an enquiring mind with a commitment to mentored background research:

Well done Skep tickle! A Scottish ten pound note (£10) will be in the post to you, if you would like to get in touch.

For use in emergencies

Please print out the above card and keep it safe for emergencies. When the card is shown to a prison guard he is required to release you under the terms of the Geneva Convention, and other Human Rights legislation.

Pogsurf will pay £5 for sound evidence of a card being used in this way, and will link appropriately below.

No comment

Humpty Dumpty

For some unknown reason, I was reminded of a beautiful English nursery rhyme today, Humpty Dumpty. Here are the lyrics I learnt as a child:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

Shhh... everyone, Humpty Dumpty is very busy today..... he has got a dictionary to re-write. Please don't bother him. Let's all tip-toe off and find somewhere else to play!

Thank you to Shepsheik for the dictionary link

Monday, 10 June 2013

The winner is announced!

The winner* of the Short Quiz for Feminists is hereby announced:


Derek is a concern troll who is new to satire. He can't spot an insult or understand what a swearword is. He likes to stick his nose into other peoples business, particularily he enjoys theorising about what 'agenda'** is being pursued. He doesn't know jack shit about manners, so he tends to wander in and out of other peoples blogs spouting his own foolish nonsense. He can't understand why he doesn't make very good company. He likes to fantasise about anal rape culture, and how he would do it differently.

Derek correctly identified that the three correct answers are:
  1. Professor PZ Myers
  2. Professor PZ Myers
  3. Professor PZ Myers
Derek declined to answer the bonus question, but he is still the winner.

We done Derek! I hope you will feel very welcome around here in future.

*   Actually the first person to respond was a panellist at the Dublin 2013 conference, but they generously offered to put their prize back into the pool.
** Even Derek should know the singular form is agendum.

Abusive e-mail

Pogsurf has one simple rule: no asshats!

Unfortunately asshats do pop in from time to time so we have to learn to deal with them. One recently sent me an e-mail which said:
No. Fuck off and never bother me again.
Clearly this is an abusive e-mail sent from an asshat, or assclown as we call asshats which we find funny. Many blogs will simply doxx people who send abuse. Not Pogsurf. We have higher standards than that. We will pursue whomsoever sent the e-mail day and night, three hundred and sixty five days on a normal year, three hundred and sixty six on a leap, to the four corners of the earth, and until the end of time.

We will not doxx the sender. Alone. We will doxx the sender, the sender's trophy wife, the sender's children, the sender's colleagues at work, the sender's friends and acquaintances, the sender's neighbours, casual acquaintances and anyone who has the slightest connection to the sender.

We will use fair means and foul. We shall seek a terrible revenge until the sender's pulsing heart is torn from the chest cavity and Pogsurf feasts upon the living flesh. If the sender were to lay naked and prone, head shorn and beg for mercy we would laugh with a roaring laugh and cry tears of streaming joy.

This is an amended blog moderation policy which supersedes all previous versions.

Open Letter to the International Humanist and Ethical Union

from:     Martin Wiesner
Sonja Eggerickx ,
Babu Gogineni ,
Matt Cherry ,
Roar Johnsen ,
David Pollock ,
Robbi Robson ,
Deo Ssekitooleko ,
Colin Divens ,
Bob Churchill

Dear Humanists,

In 2011 Professor PZ Myers was awarded the International Humanist Award.

From your website:

"The first awardee’s blog Pharyngula is a global phenomenon and in 2006 was named by 'Nature' magazine as the top-ranked blog by a scientist. His deep commitment to science and science communication is embodied by his blog and his continuing work in encouraging other scientists to use the internet to spread reason and scientific understanding."

The article goes on to say he is a "controversialist by temperament". But just how controversial would you like him to be?

One thing I find beyond the pale is rape jokes. Minimising the suffering of victims, and silencing their voices must be entirely inconsistent with the aims of humanism. Yet for a period of at least a year anal rape jokes were part of the official moderation policy of the 'global phenomenon' which you praised. Where is the consistency?

Anal rape jokes are so repulsive to many that I was given three moderator's warnings in order to make this post at Atheism Plus:
"Don’t waste time whining at anyone that they’re not nice, because this gang will take pride in that and rhetorically hand you a rotting porcupine and tell you to stuff it up your nether orifice." - official moderation policy of the blog.
"Where’s my rusty porcupine?" - clearly the same porcupine meme - a veiled threat made to Martin Rees


I have been an atheist since age 11, I have a degree in Maths & Philosophy and I am committed to rational discourse. I am a recent convert to humanism, but I cannot join an organisation whose umbrella body chooses to honour a man who makes such perverted statements. Rape is not a joke, and simply should not be treated as one.

To be fair to Professor Myers, he has changed his moderation policy within the last year. He now is clear that his blog should not be used to make threats.However what he has not done is retract the statements, make an apology for them and for the culture of violent threats that it engendered within the comment section of his blog, and take ownership of his stupid behaviour.

Thank you for taking the time to read my statement. Please make sure you honour the work of humanists and not ideologues in future.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Wiesner

Apologies everyone

Dear Blog Readers,

Today I inadvertently placed a humorous post containing a photograph of a Professor Myers next to a post about an anal rape apologist quiz winner which is to be announced shortly. There is no connection between the two, and the quiz answers are still to be published.

Just to clarify:

  • when I added the photograph I had no idea it was Professor Myers as I don't know what he looks like
  • I was just looking for grumpy looking professor type to add a funny caption to
  • the quote beneath the photograph is all my own work
If Professor Myers is offended I will remove the photograph when he gets in touch. If I have offended anyone else I am truly sorry,

Martin Wiesner
Proprietor of Pogsurf

Professor soon to return humanist award

"Everyone who disagrees with me is a fucking liar."

We have a winner!

One of the panellists at the Dublin 2013 conference has correctly identified the disgusting pervert on the panel who uses anal rape jokes to silence debate. The competition is now closed.

I shall be circulating the correct answers shortly...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Monitoring the monitors

I have been asked by Metalogic42 or to monitor the Slymepit for instances of Slymers harassing FtBers:

Metalogic42's challenge

Since I had made it fairly clear earlier in the thread that I couldn't make head nor tale of the Slymepit, I'm not quite sure how I am expected to monitor them. Also one small detail that hasn't been yet been covered in Michael Nugent's excellent thread is whether people posting things on the internet constitutes a deliberate attempt to harass someone.

Not withstanding my own reservations, I enjoy tackling practical tasks, particularly where they can lead to greater understanding of philosophical concepts, so I agreed to give it a try. In order to protect myself from the charge of spreading harassment, I have decided to take two precautions. One is that I have disabled comments on this thread. Two is that I will only refer to examples of harassment where it is certain that they have already been identified by the victim. To do this I will use the filter of the victim's own hate diary. Three were identified on Nugent's thread, of which two were FtBers. If I become aware of other FtBers who are keeping a public hate diary, I will add them to this post. This will ensure that the person concerned does indeed identify the item concerned is harassment, and that are not made aware of any new harassment via this post.

I have no intention of changing any names, as Metalogic42 suggests, since all my examples (if any) will be already available on the hate diaries.
FtB Hate Diaries
Stephanie Zvan
Ophelia Benson

Instances of harassment by Slymers



Not long after I created this post, Metalogic42 got in touch to tell me I had done it all wrong. Unfortunately he (it's always a he) proved to be certifiably insane and I have had to call for the men in white coats.

Friday, 7 June 2013

More lying

I saw this tweet from Sam Harris today:

I read the article and replied:

Sam Harris is another who is from the unsophisticated school of lying (I'm not accusing him of lying here - see following post for examples of the two schools). I first spotted this when he took glee at the thought that one day neuroscience will produce an infallible lie-detector. I don't think this will ever happen, as technology like this advances we will just devise more sophisticated ways to tell lies. I have also read the introduction to his book on lying (I'm too tight to buy the whole book).

Aside from the fact that I point out that the linked article contains no mention of sock-puppetry, implying he may be conducting a vendetta, I think Harris would be disinclined to ever reply to my comment, because he holds a different view to me on the ethics of sock-puppeting. Because of this and because Harris is from the unsophisticated school he will shun me.

I personally believe that sock-puppeting is just the internet's own peculiar form of lying. As with lying it can be for perfectly benign reasons: a white lie for social purposes, or because others don't need to know the truth, or because withholding the truth shields some greater purpose. Clearly also the lying that is sock-puppeting can also be for reasons which are wrong: to massage one's ego, to damage other peoples reputations, such as Johann Hari was found to be doing, or for some other malicious or criminal purpose.

I realise I am unusual in tolerating sock-puppetry. I urge others to have a go, but just for fun of course. The best bit is when you get found out, that's when you find out if your motives were up to scratch. Just like any lying in fact. Thought I'd clear that one up before I get on with my day.

On lying and taint

There are two schools of thought on lying. One, which I shall call the unsophisticated (or unrealistic) school, goes like this:

  • I am an honest person, and all my friends are honest people, we don't lie and we don't need to lie. There are other people who are dishonest, and they tell lies. Avoid them.
It is the straight forward, common sense view that if you are honest then you don't need to lie.

The sophisticated (or realistic) school goes like this:
  • Although I am mostly an honest person, there are times when it is necessary to tell lies. Lying is a sophisticated social skill which helps to aid everyday interactions between people, and is justifiable on other occasions. Everyone tells lies to some degree or another; it is what they tell lies about, and for what reason that truly explains someones character.
I was reminded of the sophisticated version recently when talking to Ben, my neighbour's four year old son, who I occasionally walk home from school. We had been given some sandwiches by my wife, but Ben didn't want them because they were cheese and tomato, and he didn't like tomato. I took the tomato out, but he still didn't like them because as he said they had "sauce" in them. In fact it was pickle. After I had eaten them I said: "When Alison comes in, we must say we loved the sandwiches". We were conspiring to tell a lie, so that she continued to make us sandwiches. "We'll tell her that we ate them all up, but that our favourite sandwiches are ...". I was explaining to Ben how to tell a white lie, to keep my wife's feelings happy, and to ensure a future supply of sandwiches. I think the point was lost on Ben, who is as I said before is only four years old.

I have fleshed out sophisticated lying, mostly because that is the school of thought where I firmly belong. You might believe that no adult believes in the unsophisticated school. However, consider this recently from PZ Myers:
I’ve had the displeasure of encountering Gurdur on many a forum for at least 15 years. He’s always been a smug shit-stirring liar. Back when I was exploring various other atheist forums after iidb fractured, one of my criteria was no Gurdur…and when he inevitably showed up to levy smarmy “advice” on how to run things to the forum organizers, I knew they were about to die in acrimony and noise. Nasty little character.
Myers labels Gurdur as a liar but offers no other reader the opportunity to check whether Gurdur has ever lied or not. Notice how Myers also uses the language of shunning. Gurdur is a "smug shit-stirring liar", he's "smarmy" and a "nasty little character". This is typical of those who believe in the unsophisticated school of lying, Myers is saying Gurdur is not like himself and should be avoided.

Russell Blackford is a Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle in Australia, but Myers calls him "a lying fuckhead". So again Myers use of lying falls into the unsophisticated, in this case highly unrealistic, school. Could Blackford have risen to work as a university lecturer if his only quality is that he is a lying fuckhead? Unlikely, but from Myers' viewpoint this appears to make sense.

I believe that Myers' use of shunning language is also connected to the concept of taint. Taint is often found in religious circles, where one sect encourages the shunning of another sect because the credo or practices are tainted. Taint is an irrational behaviour, because it holds that once something is tainted, it will magically always stay tainted. Myers doesn't quote evidence and instances of lying, he says that the person is a liar, and loads abusive swearwords onto them in order to increase the taint. To use taint in such an open and unsophisticated way is a surprising thing to be found in one who claims to be a font of rationalism and skepticism.

Further evidence of Myers use of taint can be seen in related behaviours. Labelling of those that visit certain websites as 'MRAs' or 'pitters' and thus needing to be shunned. Labelling those who do not believe in Myers' own definition of atheism as 'mysoginistic', again a crime worthy of shunning. With Myers the tactic is always to produce an us and them.

Myers' unsophisticated and unrealistic views on lying are not sustainable. He really does live in the bubble or echo chamber which many of his critics accuse him of, because his shunning tactics isolate him from his harshest critics. If you believe in the sophisticated view of lying, then you must accept that Myers has decent and honest people around him. However they see him first as a friend and are prepared to overlook the holes in his arguments and his appalling behaviour. For instance, Myers' blog is famed for his endorsement of the "rotting porcupine and tell you to stuff it up your nether orifice" meme - anal rape culture in other words, which I find beyond the pale. How wrong this is was not clear to me until I read a blogpost by Skepsheik, cataloguing how Myers has encouraged a culture of sexual threats. Reading some feminist literature recently it struck me how his promotion of rape culture is utterly inconsistent with feminist ideology. Knowing that Myers surrounds himself with many active feminists, I felt I had to act to expose the hypocrisy. The only real question left is how does one get those around Myers to see sense, to question his irrational, unproductive and disgusting behaviours, and to join the real world. To me, Myers is tainted until he recants his former endorsement of sexual threats and violence.