Saturday, September 29, 2012

Open Letter to Patheos

Dear Patheos:

In the past year  and some time, as I'm sure you're aware, there has been a growing rift in the atheist community between  a small contingent of radical feminist bloggers, primarily from Freethoughtblogs and Skepchick, and the greater atheist community, primarily because of the practice of this group of bloggers to attempt to silence dissent. It seems today that one of these bloggers (JT Eberhard) has made it onto Patheos (for what reason(s), I care not to speculate), and quite frankly, it seems a bit out of place, since Patheos to date has managed to keep itself out of this particular fray for the most part.

However, at the  present time, it seems that the good fortune to remain out of that fray has come to an end. It appears quite clear that Eberhard is busily positioning Patheos as a radical feminist outlet. Now, the coterie of bloggers and their followers to which I refer have established ground rules, not I, and I am well aware that you at Patheos haven't, either, which is to your credit, and is perhaps something which you might have some interest in addressing, given the fact that Eberhard's fellow bloggers have recently been taken to task for such egregious behavior as debating whether or not to pay one of their own bloggers money he was due; shaming, silencing, and attempting to intimidate bloggers and other members of the community for raising intellectual property questions (relating to the so-called Aplus Scribe project), as well as dismissing outright, some legitimate concerns that atheists who happen to also be activists for men's rights; among many other egregious examples of behavior evincing a lack of intellectual rigor (such as refusing to answer valid tweets/questions/video and blog responses), honesty, and acumen.

Now, lest I be accused of tarring and feathering Eberhard, or attempting to slime him through association, rest assured, that is neither my intent, nor is it my desired outcome in writing this letter. Moreover, I do not, and will not assert, that Eberhard has participated or endorses any of the aforementioned examples of rather unskeptical and unethical behavior. I did though, come across the enclosed screencap, which is what has aroused my concern presently, and I hope it will lead you, at Patheos, to perform your own investigation, with an eye toward addressing my (and other's) concerns that your site may eventually come to harbor this type of pernicious influence-if you find  my concerns baseless, fine. I would only ask of you the same I would ask of any atheist: do the homework, check the facts, and only then arrive at a conclusion, and based on the facts, rather than raw emotive content alone.

The reasons I am bringing this to your attention are many, and I'll address a few presently. One reason is the demise of the often enough mentioned phenomena of 'pharyngulation', wherein no less an atheist luminary than PZ Myers could, upon posting to his followers instructions to visit some hapless dissenter's blog or site, crash said site from the sheer volume of such visits, (this barely a year ago), contrasted with today, where even relatively unknown bloggers can weather such attacks with relative ease-which would seem to indicate a loss of popularity, and therefore traffic (this because I'm well aware of the need for site traffic and revenue, and not, as I'm sure some will inveigh, as a veiled threat, since I myself do not command, nor wish to, the ability to "pharyngulate" anyone's website, let alone Patheos, which I am quite fond of). In fact, I champion free speech as often as I champion atheism, and dislike the thought of censoring even unpalatable thoughts, ideas, and speech--which is another reason I'm writing to you now.

Other reasons include the possible alienation of a significant portion of the male demographic, which, if FTB bloggers are to be believed, represents a significant portion of the atheist community, and not merely a group of supposedly disgruntled, disaffected "men's rights activists" who also happen to be atheists--these men and women are atheists, too. These individuals, oft maligned as misogynists for raising what are, to their minds, valid concerns, have been vilified, 'dogpiled', maligned through association, and a great many more things--one instance in particular comes to mind: Greg Laden, late of Freethoughtblogs, actually, verifiably, threatened physical harm, and subsequently stalked in real life, one Abbie Smith--(though to their credit, Freethoughtblogs disavowed his actions and removed him from their lineup of bloggers). Still, even though Freethoughtblogs acted appropriately in the instant case, where does a man like Laden go? Without your having access to these relevant facts, perhaps Patheos? I would hope not, but again, such are my concerns, especially in light of the fact that at least one other FTB blogger has also been admonished for making veiled threats of violence, and at least one commenter has openly expressed the desire that another commenter "die burning in a fire (link-scroll to comment  #56)"--and hasn't been banned, though anyone expressing a legal concern, an objection, or any other of a number of innocuous comments has been attacked.

One last reason, and to my mind, perhaps  the most important, is reputation. Patheos has to date, served as a haven for atheists tired of the censorship, lack of accountability, and general atmosphere of sites like Skepchick and Freethoughtblogs. these sites have suffered from association with people like Rebecca Watson, "Surly" Amy Roth, and Jen Mccreight, among others, including Eberhard. Not only in real world terms of traffic, revenue, and the like (it's been reported that at the time of his ousting, thunderf00t was generating more income/traffic for Freethoughtblogs than the top ten next bloggers combined), but more importantly, in terms of reputation. I am not the only blogger/commentator who has arrived at the conclusion that these blogs have become infested with an agenda quite outside the purview of atheism qua atheism, or if you prefer, an agenda attached with 'spit and baling wire'--to wit, radical feminism--a dogmatic, quasi-religious movement that has never quite enjoyed the respect of its peers in the religious community.

I could deluge you with links to the on and offline behavior of more Atheism Plus adherents, but at present, I rely on your ability to investigate thoroughly for yourselves (which I know isn't always possible), and reiterate that Eberhard may not be involved in any of the aforementioned instances of harassment, bullying, lying, theft, and etc... I do, however, urge you to consider your position on the usefulness of a blogger that carries with him as much baggage as Eberhard does--even if it isn't baggage of his own. Also, I would remind you that though not rational, guilt by association is a major reason sites lose followers.


  1. While I know nothing of Eberhard specifically, and while don't mind feminist thought being discussed and debated, the silencing of dissent (which has included real life consequences for many people -- quite frequently professional women -- like me), is utterly unacceptable. Please don't let it happen here.

    1. for my part it's not about silencing dissent (as i imagine it is for most rational people). if patheos likes him, and wants to keep him, i say go ahead. this post is more because they've managed to stay above the shitstorm post rebeccagate, and i wonder how much they really know about who they hired. after all, ftb hired tf00t and didn't have even an inkling they'd be on the outs a week later, and patheos doesn't have the minions fftb used to command, so's i was unsure if they know what all stink this everhard guy has on him (whether it's all his own or not, like i say, is an open question).

      moreover, these ppl (particularly stefunny svan) have targeted justin vacula (unrelated to eberhard at patheos), and they're after torpedoing his career-so if nothing else, at least i'm playing by fftb rules, except for the lying and smearing.