Moving past the skeptical community era of constant offense and victimization

main-qimg-e50fc45a8a973c846fed73eb98a42039-cAn interesting piece appeared on the Center for Inquiry website exploring opinions about taking offense over others’ speech or actions, faux outrage, and being offended on others’ behalf: Offense by Proxy and the Moral Right to Indignation

This piece explains pretty well why I also do not agree with the views of frequently outraged social justice “warriors” and some outspoken feminist writers.

Ironically, several people who subscribed to these views caused considerable trouble and tarnished the reputation of CFI a few years back. I’m pleased that this discussion which provides rational objections to such out-of-proportion objections is published on the site and that those several people no longer have considerable voices at CFI.

I’ve spoken to and against those who played the victim card, a few of whom were caught lying or outrageously exaggerating their conditions. One contributor to the piece said,

This is a mental disorder. There seems to be this need to be a victim that dwells deep within a lot of people. When I was a kid my parents used to say “stop being a martyr” and over my ensuing years on this planet, I realized how many people seem to derive more pleasure or satisfaction out of being pitied (for whatever it is they claim to be a victim of) than they would if they were to solve the problem and rid their lives of that problem. The need for constant drama and the perpetual verbal patting on the back that comes along with it seems to make some people more “happy” than just being happy!

I agree that is probably right. Exaggerating victimization is a ploy that will eventually backfire. I saw a distinct lack of critical thinking in these cases as emotion, tribalism and ego got the better of too many people. I hope we remember and learn from that. (I can only speak for myself.)img_7560

I’ll say again as I have before that my wish is for CFI and the entire skeptical community to reboot and embrace 21st century technology and attitudes, innovate, and diversify. We must plan ahead to meet the challenge of promoting a critical thinking society. It will do no good to bemoan how terrible everything is if we undertake no worthwhile action to fix it. My opinion piece is in the most recent edition of Skeptical Inquirer – the 40th anniversary issue (Part 1 of 2). Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

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Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news.

16 thoughts on “Moving past the skeptical community era of constant offense and victimization

  1. Great piece – Media has become competition for societal groups to out-victim one another and al lithe petty cries of victimisation just undermine actual cases of misogyny, racism etc

  2. A very good piece. By a strange co-incidence the League of Nerds podcast covered something similar. One of the hosts, Myles Power, critiqued a talk given by Rebecca Watson and found himself on the receiving end of ‘social justice’. (The episode is linked below).

    It seems to me that all to often the reaction of SJWs is not that far removed from conspiracy theorists, if something ‘offends them’ it has to be made to ‘go away’ and that is not right. I think I know how and when these ideas first started, but I have no idea how to undo the mess, this article is a start, but how many people will end up reading it and how many will simply respond “Too long, didn’t read”.

    League of Nerds 140: P Z Myers & Evolutionary Psychology

    1. Unsurprising. RW was one of the people I did not mention by name but mean specifically. PZ Myers is a hypocrite and a poor excuse for a critical thinker.

      1. Exactly, but one thing that does give me hope is that people (& not just white people) seem to be realizing that ‘offence/outrage culture’ is actually counterproductive and destructive to inter-racial/inter-personal relations.

        This case from Australia is a perfect example. An Australian Aboriginal, was sitting in a cafe when two people indulged in a conversation that he found offputting. Rather than get in their faces about it, he sent them a polite note and a pot of tea.

  3. There has to be a better term for this than ‘Social Justice’ since that’s not actually what the people are after. My encounters with people like that made me think that they were more interested in approval by their peers and seeing how far they could rile people up, seeing how many people they could get to join their boycott, or whatever it was they were calling for. I’ve seen them act more like an on-line lynch mob than anything else.

  4. Hear! Hear! Good job, Sharon! I think most of us, at some point, have allowed our friendships and loyalties lead us astray in one or another of these “controversies.” But it’s high time we stop allowing anyone with a keyboard and a blog to destroy reputations and careers. Thanks for being a voice of reason in this matter.

  5. I honestly have to question why you hedge your words regarding social justice warriors and feminist writers. You put “warriors” in quotation marks and said “some” feminist writers. I have to confess that, really, how could you not link the majority of feminist output with outrage culture? How could you not see that the pejorative “social justice warrior” and “third wave feminist” are practically the same thing? Behind nearly every university campus protest over the last decade, we have heard nothing but claims of “rape culture,” “microaggressions,” the need for “safe spaces.” The idea that those who commit wrongthink by disagreeing should be sacked has gained so much traction that yes, people have lost jobs over it already!

    No. Outrage culture and the need to be a victim is *entirely* linked to third wave, or modern, feminism. The majority of feminist writers are responsible for this, not a loud and obnoxious minority. The majority of feminists are supporting the articles written by those employed by Jezebel, or those who are part of the “Atheism +” movement – a movement specifically designed to incorporate the ideals of third wave feminism into atheism.

    And why is this a problem? I’ll explain: modern feminism has as its cornerstone tenet, the concept of “intersectionality” and “oppression” versus “oppressed.” They literally rank people based on how much “oppression” they experience. And this oppression is not measured in actual data, court cases, or real sources of problems; it’s measured according to skin colour and genitalia. The vast majority of faux outrage comes from feminists complaining that “straight white males” – the villain, because of all those privilege points – committing wrongthink or daring to step out of line, or just even exist. That you cannot see this is a painful oversight in this otherwise brilliant and spot on article.

    I know it’s uncomfortable to question the dominant narrative about feminism. After all, “it’s about equality”, so how dare you question it! But as a skeptic and a humanitarian, I’m baffled. I have to challenge this. I have to say to you… why not? And why aren’t you?

    1. Robin: I hedge my language because am not qualified to talk about those larger points of feminism culture. I can only speak to what I saw in my own circles. I don’t follow a lot of what “third wave feminists” write and have other interests that occupy me. But I also won’t paint feminists with a broad brush. There are several respectable people I know that are glad to adopt the SJW label and can get a little outraged. I don’t think they are bad people. To me, your generalization sounds like that of religious extremism — most people are moderate, not extreme. I’m not sure I agree that this current branch of feminism is “the dominant narrative,” it’s the one with the most attention though.

  6. It’s comforting to hear the skeptics community finally addressing the rot that has permeated over the last few years.

    My only gripe is, where were these voices of reason when this first started?

    Where were these voices when the feminists were inserting themselves into powerful positions and ousting anyone who didn’t play along?

    Where were these voices when good people were being attacked?

    Where were these voices when legions of us nobodies were saying “something is wrong”?

    It seems to me this is all a day late and a dollar short. The atheist community is in freefall and have moved on from religion to fighting against SJWs. Now that us nobodies have done the hard work and mounted an uprising against them it seems the “pop stars” of skepticism smell the changing wind and feel it’s safe to join in and pretend they were with us all along.

    1. Endsville, you are assuming that people weren’t voicing their concern? I disagree entirely with that. If you think people weren’t speaking up, you really missed a lot. How long have you been following the drama and who have you been listening to?

      I’ve always been here but I don’t make many waves so I don’t get the attention that pot stirrers did. I was here before the new wave of skepticism and continued standing after the destruction passed. The problem was that these younger people (under 30) were considered “good” for skepticism, bringing in new blood and interest. They were funny and smart, they were well-supported and given carte blanche to say whatever they wanted without criticism. Criticism was considered harassment by some. When it was clear to some of us that they were bullies, cliquey, nasty and vindictive, many of us were vocal about it. It was rather like railing against Trump. My comments towards Skepchicks and their buddies were often met with ridicule, derision, out right hatred, or views were twisted or ignored. It was a strange and disturbing thing. I repeatedly commented in public and private to CFI to change course. I received a few nice replies that were brushoffs, and nothing changed. After a while, I just gave up and stopped contributing to what I felt was a lost cause. I intend to continue to promote practical skepticism for the public good on my own terms and with the help of a few of us who still share common goals.

      One additional clarification: You say the “atheist community is in freefall.” It’s a mistake to conflate atheism activism and skeptical advocacy. I have zero interest in the former. So many hypocrites in that camp, they can sleep in the bed they made for all I care.

  7. I’ve always admired you and your work, Sharon, and this is just one of many reasons why. I feel like I was discouraged out of skepticism by groups who create high-school type drama, and people old enough to act with more emotional intelligence than they did. I wish I was still part of the scene, now that I’m not so much of a silly twenty-something.

  8. Excellent piece. I’m a little amazed at the institutionalize approach to what you called “Offense by proxy – and the moral right to indignation”… in other words writing law (or to a lesser extent HR corporate policies) to make it illegal to upset anybody. I’m wondering how far that CAN go. I’ve already seen people lose jobs over a (ridiculous) faux pas like wearing a religious symbol, or an image of a flag.

  9. We stopped subscribing to “Skeptical Inquirer” and “Skeptic” Magazine because we got tired of the skeptic community’s lack of ability to resolve internal struggles with reason and evidence. There was way too much jockeying for positions of prominence in the community without the wisdom to see who deserved our support and who should be dismissed as self-centered, self-agrandizers who had no real interest in promoting critical thinking.

    Sharon, as you are one of the few who we have continued to support through this debacle, we bought a copy of the “40th Anniversary Issue of Skeptical Inquirer” so that we could read your article. It’s very good! But for Matt and I there was also a great deal of sadness that we had been involved in the promotion of critical thinking for so many years and had every issue of Skeptical Inquirer until we couldn’t take the nonsense anymore. To be honest, as much as we appreciate your reflections on what went wrong and how we need to improve, Matt and I are no longer willing to support any skeptical organizations. There are too few people that show the wisdom which skeptics should acquire through the self-reflection that living a life based on skeptical principles requires. It’s the lack of wisdom that Matt and I have found the most disheartening. We don’t think that the the community will recognize the next batch of self-centered, self-promoters for what they are, therefore, the same type of nonsense that has happened will happen again.

    1. I don’t follow. Which article? This one!? I am the author. How is that not obvious? It’s my site.

      The article I refer to in the piece is linked. If you are confused about that, click to read it.

  10. A very wonderful little essay. What is it about the relative anonymity (I don’t have to look you in the eye) of the Internet that brings out the troll in people? Why is everyone so willing to see the worst angels of our nature? The recent march-in-lock-step, riot now investigate later, pattern we have seen with the recent police shootings is a perfect example. Who cares about facts when an agenda is at stake? The political correctness police? Some people just walk through life looking for an opportunity to take umbrage. This is not helpful. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It is not knowing the difference between reasoned argument and just being argumentative.

    The subject is well covered in Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” which, unfortunately, I find too long-winded to dedicate the hours to; but even browsing it has been helpful. In this hectic issue driven news cycle 300+ pages is asking a lot of most readers. I find your brevity more helpful in simply stating the danger to be guarded against. It’s the biggest problem with our lack of civil discourse.

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