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Two points relating to my last post regarding the principles that ought to govern ‘freethought blogs’.

Was I talking about FTB?

Freethought blogger Kylie Sturgess of Token Skeptic comments:

From the comments here and elsewhere, it’s very clear everyone reads this as about Freethought blogs. Vagueness isn’t much help and detracts from your overall message, I think.

Kylie is right; I had FTB in mind while writing the piece, and I do think that, in general, FTB would benefit from my advice (although I don’t think her blog has any of the problems I mentioned).

Here’s why I did not make my article about the network ‘Freethought Blogs’. Firstly, I think that the principles I outlined should apply to any blog that considers itself a ‘freethought’ blog, and not just those on the FTB network. Secondly, I don’t think that the problematic blogs are all on FTB. Thirdly, if I was to make the claim that FTB doesn’t follow what I called the Principle of Rational Discussion (PRD), then commenters may justly expect evidence for that claim. This was a tricky one for me. I could provide one or two instances, or show vast amounts (and there really are vast amounts) of evidence. The former might not convince people that there was a widespread problem, and the latter would be very long and time-consuming.

I therefore preferred the constructive approach, thinking about how bloggers interested in promoting freethought might wish to police their blogs. If someone wishes to see the dirt on FTB (and the other blogs I had in mind), then the evidence has been documented all over the place. My advice would be to go there and look. Look at a contentious issue (especially involving social justice), and watch what happens when someone posts a reasonable disagreement. Better still, disagree yourself and see what happens. Follow the PRD, and see if they follow suit.

Dealing with disagreement

Anyway, here’s one example that dissent is treated less than favourably by one of the FTB leaders. Today PZ Myers posted a YouTube video about former FTBer thunderf00t‘s dismissal from the network. I commented:

I don’t recall thunderf00t saying anywhere that he didn’t support the idea of gender equality. I read him as disagreeing about the idea of extra harassment policies at conferences. You may disagree with him on that point (I do), but his position is quite compatible with a belief in gender equality.

I don't recall thunderf00t saying anywhere that he didn't support the idea of gender equality. I read him as disagreeing about the idea of extra harassment policies at conferences. You may disagree with him on that point (I do), but his position is quite compatible with a belief in gender equality.

The offending comment

I thought that was reasonable enough. Anyway, I tried to respond to another comment a few minutes later and I had been blocked from commenting by the channel owner, PZ Myers. The comment above was my only comment. Worse still, I notice commenters who say things like:

PZ IS ruining the image of atheism dude. He’s allowing the stupid dogmatic ultra feminist viewpoint to take over and divide us.

…have not been banned, and are still arguing hours later. It seems clear to me that PZ allows commenters who make the ‘other side’ look bad, and bans those who argue calmly and reasonably. This creates the illusion that one side is calm and rational (his side) and the other side is ranting and raving, and I say that is dishonest of him to do so.

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