Response to 'Surly Amy' and 'Lousy Canuck'

Blogger Jason Thibeault, writing for the blog 'Lousy Canuck,' has recently authored a post titled “The campaign against Amy Davis Roth” in which he authors a very passionate defense of 'Surly Amy' who has -- on his account -- been “under concerted attack.” His post is largely an emotional appeal which fails because he misrepresents many things and seems to consider everyone who merely disagrees with 'Surly Amy' to be a nasty bully. Within the post, he heaps abuse at me, distorts many things, and references the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) complaint I received which may have been from 'Surly Amy.' I go unnamed, but am obviously referred to as 'Entity.'

Here's my response - as long as it needs to be without going overboard:

Jason begins his post discussing how much he likes 'Surly Amy.' He notes that he had a good experience with her and recently his “already favorable impression of Amy was redoubled when [he] has found out that she'd nearly singlehandledly sent dozens of women to TAMover the years, organizing and running fundraisers and committing resources from her Surlys to that end.” So be it. I appreciate that she has launched fundraising efforts to send women to TAM and am happy that an associate of mine whom I also met in-person and have a favorable impression of was part of that group. 'Surly Amy' has done great things...that is not a matter I am contesting. ...but it's not all happy trails as Jason makes it out to be.

In Jason's post, I am unfairly lumped in with a group of people whom he describes as engaging in a “concerted attack” against 'Surly Amy.' Among these people and this “concerted attack,” he notes people upset about the Skepchick network and mentions D.J. Grothe - the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

It was because of what I saw as, contrary to what Jason might believe, the “concerted attack” against D.J. Grothe, the James Randi Educational Foundation, and The Amazing Meeting which had led me to speak up [back in the beginning of June] and, if you will, 'get involved in the drama' (although I would have really liked to – and would like to – exclusively focus on church/state activism, debates, speaking, etc...). Jason was a person who had usedthe word 'douchebag' in reference to D.J. Grothe. Additionally, many persons from the Skepchick network and Freethought Blogs (Jason included) had some really nasty things to say about the JREF, D.J., and The Amazing Meeting. [...but that's a story for another day. Gee, I wonder why people would be upset the Skepchick network and Freethought Blogs?]

Jason also mentions Dr. Harriet Hall, who had worn a t-shirt -- presumably in response to all of the “concerted attacks” from Skepchick (mainly from Rebecca Watson) and the Freethought Blogs network concerning The JREF, The Amazing Meeting, and the James Randi Educational Foundation – which had said Hall was “not a skepchick” and that she feels “safe and welcome at TAM” (oh, the horror!). Some persons also wore 'fake jewelry' (I'll get to that later) and sung a satirical song about how Skephicks, on Jason's account, have sticks up their asses. Jason also mentions more. 'Surly Amy,' after all of this, left the conference a day early after crying. Jason then mentions a letter from Paula Kirby with the language of 'feminazi' and 'femistasi,' forum trolling, Twitter trolling, and criticism from Thunderf00t.

While I might not have worn 'fake jewelry,' a t-shirt which Amy didn't like, or sung a song about Skepchicks having sticks up their asses, used the word 'feminazi,' it is no surprise that there was such a reaction. When particular bloggers on Skepchick and Freethought Blogs dedicate so much time, so much effort, and so many posts talking about how horrible D.J. Grothe, The Amazing Meeting, and the JREF is [and that's just the tip of the grievances...nevermind the attacks on Chris Stedman, Penn Jilette, Richard Dawkins, Staks Rosch and so many more...], a response in this manner seems plausible.

'Surly Amy' has befriended and associated herself with with people like myself (and I am not alone in this by any means) see nastiness, vitriol, and a complete waste of time that could have been handled much better. The message is quite clear. People don't like 'Surly Amy.' People don't like particular writers on Freethought Blogs. People don't like particular writers on the Skepchick network.

(Some commenters on Freethought Blogs aren't too charitable...)

Some of what 'Surly Amy' has faced may be considered outright bullying (and it's something I certainly didn't engage in), but nonetheless Jason lumps me into the group. Jason – and many others -- seem to unjustly lump all critics into one group as a bunch of nasty misogynist sexist privileged douchebag gender-traitor/dudebro thugs while failing to realize -- as many fundamentalist theists I have encountered – that many who disagreearen't disrespectful and honest civil criticism can be had.

So, what have I said about Amy? I authored two posts (before the DMCA complaint I received which I will get to later in this post) concerning 'Surly Amy' rebuking oneskeptical blogger Sharon Hill for following a parody account onTwitter saying, to Hill, “you should be embarrassed” (which curiously appeared on the 'fake jewelry' 'Surly Amy' spoke of. I had a lengthy Twitter discussion with 'Surly Amy' about how people have different tastes in humor and how it is inappropriate to place demands on people for a matter of subjective differences. 

Within my conversation and within the blog post that followed, I offered criticism free of name-calling, personal attacks, abuse, etc. - as this is something I aspire to steer clear of in my work for very good reasons. I even recently gave a speech about the importance of civility in discussion and hosted a podcast episode where this was discussed (to just name two things). You can look for yourself at the blog post about 'Surly Amy' and see that.

My second post -- "Surly Amy: Conference should ban 'fake jewelry'" concerned criticism of what 'Surly Amy' said on a podcast with host Amanda Marcotte. 'Surly Amy' said, and I quote,

There was this group of, again, very vocal angry troll-like people that did some really awful things to me in real life - that sort of thing that you usually only see online I was actually face to face with. I had people wearing t-shirts saying that they were not a skepchick, people making fake jewelry that I make that said things on it like 'you should be embarrassed.' There's this really crazy undercurrent of othering that I had never experienced before and it was really upsetting and I ended up leaving the event a day early.” 
We're not asking for anything crazy - just basic rules so that we can say the sort of thing like making fake jewelry and intentionally offending people is not okay nor is grabbing someone's ass. That's it, that's all we're asking for.”

I offered criticism of these ideas 'Surly Amy' had while arguing that it's unreasonable for conference organizers to ban 'fake jewelry' and t-shirts on the grounds of someone merely claiming offense. If 'Surly Amy's' ideas would come to fruition, censorship would be the result – and that's something the atheist/skeptic community should be against. I wrote that because 'Surly Amy' held this attitude, she should be disqualified from the ongoing conversation concerning anti-harassment polices at conferences. I wrote,
If 'Surly Amy' and others had their way -- according to what 'Surly Amy' said in this podcast and logical conclusions which seem to follow -- conferences would ban others' freedom of expression and speech on grounds of a person claiming offense. I hope this day never comes, but it might just be on its way if people continue to consider 'Surly Amy' as a valid participant in the discussion concerning anti-harassment policies at conferences. Her wanting to restrict which jewelry people wear at conferences, though, should hopefully disqualify her from this discussion. Is this the sort of feminism that is worth wanting? 'Surly Amy,' after all, is not some 'rogue voice' or 'extremist' who has little clout; she is a well-respected and listened to voice within in the feminist atheist community. 
Are you, reader, in agreement with 'Surly Amy?' 
Should jewelry which leads people to claim offense be banned from conferences?
Despite this very fair post which offered criticism of ideas in a very civil fashion – much unlike other examples Jason refers to such as outright making fun of 'Surly Amy' -- Jason has put me in a group of a concerted campaign against 'Surly Amy.'

Enter, then, the recent DMCA complaint which I received directed my blog post offering criticism of 'Surly Amy' comments concerning how conference organizers should ban 'fake jewelry.' Included in the post, with a caption noting the image was a Surly-Ramic, was an image of Surly Amy's “This is what a feminist looks like” jewelry. I used this because this provided a criticism of Surly Amy's ideas and was relevant to the post considering that 'Surly Amy' identifies as a feminist. As is usually the case, I provide images with my blog posts that are relevant to the post in question. I have never had any legal problems because of this. All sorts of people do this under fair use.

Once, though, I used a picture of me from a local newspaper and was asked, by e-mail, by the photographer, to caption the picture indicating its source. I did that with no problem and there were no further issues. Everyone was happy. This, though, was not the case with 'Surly Amy' or whomever filed this DMCA complaint; I received no request to take down the picture, but instead, before anything else, received an e-mail containing a legal complaint which forced the image offline. Apparently, though, 'Surly Amy' asked blogger thunderf00t to remove an image she had the copyright of and he complied.

Returning to Jason's post, Jason refers to me as a troll (this is no new news because he, along with his blogger compatriot PZ Myers, called me a “vacuous shitbag troll”) and writes, referring to 'Surly Amy,' “Then the trolls get the bright idea to wreck her art at the same time as going after her personally.” 

This is quite an odd assertion considering that my post did nothing more than criticize the ideas, in quite a fair and civil manner, 'Surly Amy' presented. The post had nothing to do with her business or, as Jason says, “wrecking her art.” I did not say something like, “People should boycott Surly-Ramics because she is a no-good x, y, and z who is a very bad artist.” Nothing of the sort was said. I offered criticism of ideas just like Jason (and many others did) in reference to D.J. Grothe.

Jason, continuing, writes, without using my name and heaping abuse at me,
Then a certain disingenuous and argumentationally-vacuous entity in our community, who claims both to be a leader and to represent the moral high ground of attacking people’s arguments instead of their person, posts a copyrighted image of Amy’s in order to try to cut her down. This entity — henceforth known as Entity (who will go unlinked, so I’m not accused of trying to ruin their reputation in a bullying fashion by pointing out their trollish actions!) — wrote the post to say that Amy is divisive and damaging to the community because she wants conferences to ban the parody jewellery, rather than what she actually suggested, that harassment policies would provide frameworks for complaining about being targeted for harassment like she had been. The entire post was a straw dummy, as is Entity’s modus operandi, but the post stood unopposed, unmentioned and unloved, until Blogger’s automatic DMCA takedown process reverted the post to draft status until the blogger in question could remove the offending image.
It's quite odd that Jason says that I claim to be a leader since I actually am a leader of a local secular community group and have – and continue to have – high regard within secular organizations,groups, etc. perhaps as a direct result of my church/state activism (which was curiously enough lauded by many on the Freethought Blogs network including most notably PZ Myers and 'Blag Hag' concerning the rejected "Atheists." bus ads), writing, speakingpodcasting, etc. I even was recently invited tospeak at the Secular Student Alliance's 2012 Leadership Conference and received a thank-you card following that. Nevermind any of that, though, continue on with the personal attacks...

(Freethought Blogs blogger Greta Christina mentions rejected "Atheists." bus ad 

around the 4:44 mark in this Reason Rally clip.)

Jason considers my post to be a 'strawdummy' as is allegedly my modus operandi (that's news to me - I would like to see other examples of me doing this!) Jason says that 'Surly Amy' really said “that harassment policies should provide frameworks for complaining about harassment like she had been.”  It is, though, quite clear that 'Surly Amy' said she and others are “not asking for anything crazy – just basic rules so that we can say the sort of thing like making fake jewelry and intentionally offending people is not okay not is grabbing someone's ass. That's it, that's all we're asking for.” 

I don't see how much clearer it can get than that.

Here's the thing – filing a DMCA request against someone, especially without asking said person to remove the image in question which is supposedly the problem – is bullying behavior which should be, regardless of the claimant or the person being DMCA'd, outright condemned by the atheist/skeptic community. It seems to be nothing more than censorship and an admission that one simply can't handle the criticism (odd, being that the recipient is a public figure who, by being on the internet and making convtroversial statements, should expect criticism and be able to handle it). Unlike many others Jason mentioned as part of an alleged “concerted attack,” I was extremely charitable and authored a post free from personal attacks. It is such a shame that nowhere in Jason's post did he condemn this DMCA bullying.

Jason continues,
So people now have a rhetorical club to beat Amy with. Despite there being no evidence that Amy herself posted the DMCA takedown notice, it’s very probably her because she’s the copyright owner. But the action recommended in the takedown notice was to remove the offending content and the rest could be republished. Did Entity do that? Of course not. Instead, Entity filed a DMCA counter-claim...
This alleged “rhetorical club to beat Amy with” was something handed down by 'Surly Amy' and given to me and others if it really is the case that she filed the DMCA. (...and what a weapon it is!) The DMCA is unacceptable and should be something that leads people, if it is indeed 'Surly Amy' who filed the DMCA, to arrive at a conclusion with which they lose respect for 'Surly Amy' even if she makes nice jewelry and sends people to conventions as per fundraisers. After all, many were willing to do this (and perhaps have) because of Richard Dawkins' “dear Muslima” comments. (although Rebecca Watson totally didn't call for a boycott!) /sarcasm

'Surly Amy,' though, has suspiciously – as far as I know – remained quiet on this DMCA issue. She's blocked people on Twitter who have asked her about it. She's told me to leave her alone and has totally distanced herself from this. She hasn't confirmed or denied whether she filed the DMCA. One would think that if she didn't file the DMCA, she would want to absolve herself from guilt. At least that is what I would think rational people would do...but perhaps that is 'my privilege speaking.'

Jason claims I did not take down the image for whatever reason (I took the image down almost within seconds of seeing the takedown notice) and, from the looks of his post, that I filed a DMCA counter-claim to keep the image up. This accounting is false.

I pondered whether or not I would file the counter-claim (after taking down the image) and decided to do so after some advice from friends with what might be my foolhardy sense of courage, pride, integrity, and honor. I absolutely refuse to be bullied by people using legal measures to shut me down and will not tolerate it. I didn't tolerate it back in 2011 when I received threats from a chiropractor's fiancee' and will not now. I don't intend to take 'Surly Amy' to court (what a waste of money and time that would be which should not be something the atheist/skeptic community engages in!) like Jason seems to allude to.

I have, following this DMCA claim, adopted a 'fake jewelry' avatar created by Reap Paden on my posts (reading “Don't censor me Amy") and on my online profiles to show that I will not stand for this sort of bullying. Filing a DMCA which leads to takedown of criticism is repugnant behavior. Again, I received no e-mail from 'Surly Amy' asking me to take the image down or better attribute it (although it seems like it was fair use, which I argued in my DMCA counter-claim).

While there are some people indeed bullying 'Surly Amy,' I am not one of them. It seems though, as an odd turn of events, that 'Surly Amy' [if she indeed filed the DMCA] is the real bully here. Against possibly everything 'the movement' which prides itself on free speech and honest criticism stands for (note: not 'Surly Amy's ideas of feminism which, according to Amanda Marcotte, are “consistent” with atheism along withpro-choice positions), 'Surly Amy' – instead of sending me an e-mail asking for the image to be removed [if it is the case that she filed the DMCA].

For that, and just for that (regardless of Jason's long emotional appeal post), the atheist/skeptic community should distance themselves from 'Surly Amy.' This is no bullying, “concerted attack,” or 'an attack on her art.' This is an appropriate response. ...and this is the same response many should have and have had concerning DMCA complaints targeting people criticial of creationist claims.

People are sick of all the nonsense stemming from the Skepchick and Freethought Blogs networks (although, admittedly, there are still some good people there). ...and it's not only me. It's also Paula Kirby, Sam Harris, Russell Blackford, D.J. Grothe, Jeremy Stangroom, Richard Dawkins, Mallorie Nasrallah, John Loftus, Thunderfoot, and so so so many more (including all of those who are silent!). Of the 'so so so many more,' people have contacted me in confidence showing their support and rebuking Freethought Blogs bloggers and Skepchick writers but are afraid to go public because of the consequences which may follow.

(Ridicule from PZ Myers directed at me)

While the previously mentioned names don't necessarily agree with me on everything (or have the same feelings about everything concerning Freethought Blogs and Skepchick), it is likely that they are sick of the constant needless drama and in-fighting which could be avoided and/or handled in a more civil manner. We aren't sexist misogynist dudebros/gender-traitors for this. Hell, we can even be labeled as feminists although we have a different take on feminism when compared to 'Surly Amy' and company.

(More hate from PZ Myers directed at me)

Jason ended his post with an appeal for people who are “sick of the nonsense” to “support someone who's supported out community even while the cockroaches targeted her.” In the same light, feel free, if you are “sick of the nonsense” to support me. Perhaps this is less shameless than Jason's asking people to donate money to 'Surly Amy?' You be the judge of that...

After all, I would wager that I do much more (or at least a considerable comparable amount) for the community than certain bloggers...and don't work to divide this movement by levying constant personal attacks at people, heaping abuse at those whom I disagree, or filing legal complaints to take down posts I might happen to not like. I write for almost no money, incur expenses when travelling to events which I have been invited to speak at, and volunteer my services to my local freethought group while producing the podcast for no money. A donation would be much appreciated.

You can also purchase from the NEPA Freethought Society store.

Thank you.

- Justin “vacuous shitbag troll" "Fucking” Vacula

Update: Three more DMCAs have been filed against people using Surly-Ramics images in their posts. Is this really about images or is it something else? I'm inclined to believe the latter. More bullying. Look, even if you don't like the criticism -- whether it be fair or not -- resorting to DMCA tactics is unacceptable. Youtuber and blogger 'GirlWritesWhat' has also received DMCAs.