When a Policeman Asks you For a Correct Philosophy of Time, You Give It

by Belle Waring on September 21, 2015

Sometimes it seems as if Richard Dawkins is on a crusade to prove that atheists can be just as narrow-minded as religious people. He’s winning. He’s a hyuuuge, classy winner at this crusade. (Of crusades generally, the Children’s Crusade is at the bottom, because it was a loser crusade. For LOSERS! Barely any of those kids even made it back. Ask Donald Trump about whether POWs can be heroes. TIP: THEY CAN’T.)

As you assuredly know, a young man in Texas was recently arrested for a “bomb hoax.” Some people think it’s hoaxes all the way down. Dawkins and his compadres are making extraordinary claims, which require…well, any evidence at all, one feels. Let us imagine Ahmed Mohamed’s family has engineered a stunt. Ahmed makes (for some value of make which includes tinkering with maker modules or disassembling and reassembling old electronics. I mean, if you call that making. Which, tbh, I do.) Wait, that wasn’t a sentence. Anyway, he makes a ‘looks-like-a-bomb-on-purpose-but-is-a-clock.’ This thing, note, is in fact: a clock. Although the young man claims deep insight into the nature of time, he is obviously just aping Heidegger in a juvenile fashion, but so be it—so long as it be noted that I have noted he didn’t provide the police a fully satisfactory answer about what the passage of time really entails, I mean, what does the clock tell you when it tells you that another minute has passed and that now, it is now. My rigorous honesty compels me to denigrate his “clock,” simply because I am devoted to The Truth. It’s like this asshole some guy says:

Because, is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way? That the media then ran with, and everyone else got carried away? Maybe there wasn’t even any racial or religious bias on the parts of the teachers and police.

I don’t know any of these things. But I’m intellectually mature enough to admit I don’t know, and to also be OK with that. I don’t feel a need to take the first exit to conclusionville. But I do like to find facts where I can, and prefer to let them lead me to conclusions, rather than a knee jerk judgement based on a headline or sound bite.

Wow. Much openminded. So scientific. OK, sorry, I keep getting off-track for some reason. Right, this hoax is designed to get Ahmed Mohamed reprimanded at school, then arrested, and then become an internet cause celébrè, and then get invited to the White House. First of all, Ahmed and his family have to have judged the over/under for “young brown man thought armed with deadly weapon getting shot by the police” vs. “grievance-mongerer fêted by liberal elitists” a safe bet. I, like, would not take those odds at all. Secondly, for this plan to work, the teachers and police officers have to act like morons all up and down the line. There’s no other way. Really, it has to be a Confederacy of Dunces down there. Do these Clock Truthers realize their grim vision of Texan society is far, far more cynical than mine? Dawkins’ zealotry has obviously clouded his judgment, something which often befalls fundamentalists. To be undeservedly fair, Dawkins has perhaps been walking this back but, you know how it is. You’re a well-respected biologist—but ONE pig. It happens to, like everyone. It’s an experimental phase!

OK for real this is maybe the best thing in a newspaper ever: “David Cameron will not ‘dignify’ allegations that he once ‘inserted a private part of his anatomy’ into a dead pig’s mouth with a response, Downing Street has said.”

Also, this is why I could never be elected to higher office. If I had a wang I would so totally have stuck it in a roast suckling pig by now.

{ 228 comments }

1

Tabasco 09.21.15 at 12:41 pm

In fairness to Dawkins … actually in this case there is no in fairness to give. What has happened to him? It’s a crying shame.

2

AcademicLurker 09.21.15 at 12:54 pm

The emergence of Ahmed “truthers” has been just so weird and depressing. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but still…

3

Sumana Harihareswara 09.21.15 at 1:07 pm

The Pig And The Clock: A Children’s Book About September 2015

4

Sumana Harihareswara 09.21.15 at 1:09 pm

Actually “The Pig And The Clock” could be a children’s book about a pig noticing how shadows fall differently at different times of day and making a primitive sundial. That sounds nice.

5

Lynne 09.21.15 at 1:09 pm

What does the David Cameron thing have to do with the Ahmed Mohamed clock thing?

6

J— 09.21.15 at 1:12 pm

Half bombs everywhere around us.

7

afeman 09.21.15 at 1:15 pm

Ahmed, no doubt, possesses an exacting prescience of people’s reactions to rival that of Danny Ocean’s.

8

Belle Waring 09.21.15 at 1:16 pm

Nothing. It’s just a humorous non-sequitur, because how could I post anything and not mention it?

9

Plume 09.21.15 at 1:32 pm

Has Alex Jones stepped into the breach yet? My guess is he would say the whole hoax is a meta hoax in disguise, inside a false flag operation, set up by Obama to make it easier to bring in actual bombs to school. So that would provoke small, local gun displays, and local guns would be confiscated, and this would spread across the land like fire, and Obama would establish Sharia law which specifically says, “Thou shalt not own guns if thou ist a redneck!”

10

NomadUK 09.21.15 at 1:36 pm

‘… if thou art a redneck.’

11

Michael Mouse 09.21.15 at 1:46 pm

My inner voice of political rectitude is profoundly disturbed by a billionaire seeking to undermine an elected official, apparently out of spite for being refused a political appointment in return for donations.

My inner 13-year-old is hugging himself with joy that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has refused to deny that he had sex with a dead pig.

12

faustusnotes 09.21.15 at 2:08 pm

I don’t believe a member of the BULLingdon club would settle for mere dead pigs.

13

rootlesscosmo 09.21.15 at 2:23 pm

Lovely post–thank you, Belle. A question re “ONE pig”: did you learn this anecdote from Malcolm Braly’s prison novel “On the Yard”?

14

Bill Benzon 09.21.15 at 2:28 pm

@ Belle, OP: “If I had a wang…”

Would that be an ordinary wang, or a wang dang doodle?

Anyhow, there’s a song somewhere in that, to be sung to the tune of “If I had a hammer”.

15

J— 09.21.15 at 2:38 pm

“Wang Dang Doodle”

There’s a Howlin’ Wolf song right there.

16

Paul Gottlieb 09.21.15 at 2:52 pm

Independent of one’s political philosophy or religious beliefs, there is a personal quality called “being an asshole,” that can be found in people of all races, genders, or creeds. It has been obvious for many years now that Richard Dawkins has this quality in spades

17

phosphorious 09.21.15 at 2:56 pm

Is it just me, or is a full three quarters of the most prominent New Atheists. . . the so-called “4 Horsemen”. . . assholes?

Dennett is the only sane one. . . and actually I haven’t heard much from him lately.

18

AcademicLurker 09.21.15 at 3:00 pm

Meyers, Dawkins, Dennett…who’s the 4th?

19

MPAVictoria 09.21.15 at 3:08 pm

Hitchens I believe…

20

Belle Waring 09.21.15 at 3:11 pm

rootlesscosmo: I think it’s just a thing people say? Like, “but you f#*k ONE sheep, and they never…” etc. Or I heard it third-hand from your source.

The song “Wang Dang Doodle” is awesome because of all the specific names called out to come to the party, my favorite being “Abyssinian Ned.” More people should have nicknames like that.

21

phosphorious 09.21.15 at 3:26 pm

I thought it was Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett. . . but I suppose Meyers is the fifth Beatle of Impiety.

Atheism has had better spokespersons.

22

dubusadus 09.21.15 at 3:55 pm

Well, with the celebrity false prophets of Penn & Teller, Scott MacFarlane, Trey Parker, and Ricky Gervais acting as spokespeople, it seems like popular atheism isn’t going to separate itself from embarrassing manchildren with persecution complexes any time soon.

23

Marc 09.21.15 at 3:59 pm

@13: There was a hilarious parody skit that I saw years ago on precisely that theme. Yes, it’s a song about love between our brothers and sisters (and p*** envy…)

24

Marc 09.21.15 at 4:00 pm

@20: Meyers came onto the scene after the name was coined, and he has a far lower profile offline than any of the others. He certainly does equal or surpass them in sheer abrasiveness, however.

25

magistra 09.21.15 at 4:01 pm

I didn’t expect much of Dawkins, so I’m not disappointed in him. I’m more disappointed about the UK reactions to the Cameron pig allegations. A number of UK left-wingers and liberals seem happy to abandon two important principles: a) that what matters in sexual encounters isn’t whether other people think it’s yucky or funny, but the issue of consent and b) that what matters about newspaper stories is their truth rather than how startling/entertaining they are. That seems an awful lot of moral high ground to give up for the sake of a few pig jokes.

26

Bill Benzon 09.21.15 at 4:02 pm

Tell Automatic Slim, tell Razor Totin’ Jim
Tell Butcher Knife Totin’ Annie, tell Fast Talking Fanny
A we gonna pitch a ball, a down to that union hall
We gonna romp and tromp till midnight
We gonna fuss and fight till daylight
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long
All night long
All night long
All night long

Tell Kudu-Crawlin’ Red, tell Abyssinian Ned
Tell ol’ Pistol Pete, everybody gonna meet
Tonight we need no rest, we really gonna throw a mess
We gonna to break out all of the windows, we gonna kick down all the doors
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long
All night long
All night long
All night long

Tell Fats and Washboard Sam, that everybody gonna to jam
Tell Shaky and Boxcar Joe, we got sawdust on the floor
Tell Peg and Caroline Dye, we gonna have a heck of a time.
When the fish scent fill the air, there’ll be snuff juice everywhere
We gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long
All night long
All night long
All night long
All night long
All night long
All night long
All night long

Someone ought to code up a web page where you can cough up some information and get a Wang Dang Doodle name. Heck, for all I know, the page has already been coded up.

Maybe you could use your Secret Service code name (there’s a page for that) as your Wang Dang Doodle name.

27

bexley 09.21.15 at 4:07 pm

I haven’t really followed any of them in years but I thought it was Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins who have/had a consistent record of assholery.

Myers and Dennett don’t seem to have advocated invading Iraq, nuking Iran or being loudmouthedly racist/misogynist as far as I know.

28

ffrancis 09.21.15 at 4:08 pm

Who is this “Meyers” of whom you speak?

29

Plume 09.21.15 at 4:11 pm

I think they’re referring to PZ Myers.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/

30

Theophylact 09.21.15 at 4:12 pm

Opportunity for Obama to prove he’s not a Muslim: Do a Cameron on live TV! (Perhaps while singing “Follow the Band“.)

31

Theophylact 09.21.15 at 4:16 pm

phosphorious, PZ Myers has denounced Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens for their disgraceful Islamophobia.

32

Guy Harris 09.21.15 at 4:47 pm

Anyhow, there’s a song somewhere in that…

Well, there’s “Penis Envy”, by Uncle Bonsai….

33

rootlesscosmo 09.21.15 at 4:52 pm

Belle: I first heard a version in 1966, in the Southern Pacific railroad yard office at Indio CA. A crew had just arrived from LA and one of the brakeman was joking with his conductor, mock- complaining about “This old cocksucker.” The conductor shook his head sadly and said “God damn, you work here thirty years and they won’t call you a railroad man, but you suck ONE COCK…” Pretty radical for the time and context.

Re: wang dang doodle names, the railroad had some creative monikers including Box Head, Turd Head, Bedsores, Pecker Neck, Face Down, Sanitary Jake, and The Lost Dog.

34

Matthew Ernest 09.21.15 at 5:09 pm

Worst hoax ever. The kid completely forgot the part where you claim that it is something else.

35

marcel proust 09.21.15 at 5:10 pm

“If I had a wang I would so totally have stuck it in a roast suckling pig by now.”

If you’re willing to forego the “roast”, there’s always this possibility available to you. Not quite the same, but given the American eroticization of other, secondary sex characteristics, esp. female ones, it’s the best I can come up with at the moment, at least for a family oriented blog.

Bexley: I think Hitchens stopped his assholery about 4 years ago.

36

Sandwichman 09.21.15 at 5:13 pm

What would Leibniz say?

37

The Temporary Name 09.21.15 at 5:26 pm

38

Placeholder 09.21.15 at 5:35 pm

whatever happened to the Oklahoma Glitter Hoax Two? I never saw a follow up on that. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/12/tar-sands-keystone-protesters-arrested-terrorism-glitter

39

Sandwichman 09.21.15 at 5:37 pm

“Sir Isaac Newton and his followers have also a very odd opinion concerning the Work of God. According to their doctrine, God Almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time, otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion. Nay, the machine of God’s making is so imperfect according to these gentlemen, that he is obliged to clean it now and then by an extraordinary concourse, and even to mend it as a clockmaker mends his work; who must consequently be so much the more unskilful a workman, as he is oftener obliged to mend his work, and to set it right. According to my opinion the same force and vigour remains always in the world, and only passes from one part of matter to another, agreeably to the laws of nature and the beautiful pre-established order. And I hold that when God works miracles, he does not do it in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace. Whoever thinks otherwise, must needs have a very mean notion of the wisdom and power of God.”

40

praisegod barebones 09.21.15 at 5:58 pm

Magistra @ 23

You raise two issues:

a) that what matters in sexual encounters isn’t whether other people think it’s yucky or funny, but the issue of consent and

You’re right to be cautious, of course, but I’m pretty sure the pig didn’t.

b) that what matters about newspaper stories is their truth rather than how startling/entertaining they are.

In defense of the notoriously humorless left, I’d imagine that after a week of stories about the Corbyn helping IRA bombers get away from the police in the 1980’s, stealing veterans sandwiches, telling his driver to run over journalists, Chairman Mao bicycles, and the non-stories about the national anthem and working with constituents rather than supporting England in the rugby, it’s reasonable for them to think it’s someone else’s turn to speak up for ethics in journalism this week.

41

The Temporary Name 09.21.15 at 6:01 pm

it’s reasonable for them to think it’s someone else’s turn to speak up for ethics in journalism this week.

It’s also reasonable to giggle when Tory morality never holds for Tories.

42

CJColucci 09.21.15 at 6:06 pm

Whatever the actual motives of the parties, it would not have been unreasonable to check into the clock. But there plenty of places where sane people would have gotten off the train before it rammed full speed into the Stupidville station, and the people who could have done it didn’t.

43

The Temporary Name 09.21.15 at 6:17 pm

Whatever the actual motives of the parties, it would not have been unreasonable to check into the clock.

The jerky article has a high-res image of the clock. Checking into the clock requires eyeballs attached to a reasonable person. No such eyeballs were available that day.

http://blogs.artvoice.com/techvoice/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/clock1.jpg

44

magistra 09.21.15 at 6:33 pm

Praisegodbarebones@38: it’s reasonable for them to think it’s someone else’s turn to speak up for ethics in journalism this week.

I’m not requiring people to speak up for ethics in journalism. I’m requiring them not to assume that something is true just because they want to it to be true, ignoring the lack of substantial evidence. There’s been a lot of high-mindedness going round by some supporters of Corbyn about the importance of politics, not personalities, and how we shouldn’t pay attention to the mainstream media and its lies. And now it turns out that actually all that’s fine if it benefits their team. Just as Dawkins is fine berating religious people for mistreating women, but an apologist for atheist abusers.

45

bexley 09.21.15 at 6:33 pm

Marcel Prost – thats why I said “have/had a record of assholery”

46

afeman 09.21.15 at 6:47 pm

47

MPAVictoria 09.21.15 at 6:48 pm

” I’m requiring them not to assume that something is true just because they want to it to be true, ignoring the lack of substantial evidence.”

What about those of us who don’t care if it is true we just find this whole thing endlessly amusing because it is happening to a Tory Prick?

48

afeman 09.21.15 at 6:50 pm

From the above:

Thing is: did Cameron really do this? Exhibit A: Lord Ashcroft is an exceptional example of a billionaire who has very publicly soured on Cameron since he failed to give him a significant government job after rising to power. Now, if I were a billionaire with a grudge – and here’s hoping I will be one day, having just this morning put my penis in the mouth of a severed pig’s head and taken a shiny photo of it in line with a pact I made with the devil – if I were a billionaire with a grudge, capable of batting off even the most expensive libel legal bills, would I as a joke say the prime minister once fucked a pig’s head? I absolutely would do that thing. Because there is no way Cameron can wiggle out of #piggate without publicly calling a press conference and saying, “I, David Cameron, never put my penis in a pig.” If he doesn’t do that, we will forever have him down as a pigfucker. History will have him down as a pigfucker. Jeremy Corbyn will breeze into the next prime minister’s questions and lean close to the microphone and whisper, “But David, you put your dick in a pig.” And here’s the best thing: Cameron can’t even resign his way out of this, because then he would forever be the prime minister who fucked a pig so hard he had to quit. Burn your copies of Catch-22 and buy Lord Ashcroft’s book about pigfucking instead. This is better.

49

engels 09.21.15 at 6:55 pm

“what matters in sexual encounters is not whether other people find yucky or funny but when issue of consent’

I don’t think this is as uncontroversial as you think. Should consensual cannibalism be legak? (But as PGBB seems pretty clear the pig didn’t.)

50

politicalfootball 09.21.15 at 7:07 pm

That seems an awful lot of moral high ground to give up for the sake of a few pig jokes.

I think what really tips the scale here is that it’s a dead pig. Necrophiliac pigfucker jokes the expense of a rightwing political prig are worth any amount of moral high ground.*

*This is a corollary to the Faulkner principle regarding old ladies and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” It is only the most pedestrian of workaday drones who fails to appreciate the demands of Art.

51

F. Foundling 09.21.15 at 7:21 pm

@magistra 09.21.15 at 4:01 pm

>A number of UK left-wingers and liberals seem happy to abandon two important principles: a) that what matters in sexual encounters isn’t whether other people think it’s yucky or funny, but the issue of consent

As people have already pointed out, if, hypothetically, such a incident did occur, the pig could not possibly have given its consent. That’s because it was: a) a non-sentient life form; b) dead. This sounds humorous, but, seriously, I think these are the most obvious reasons why zoophilia and necrophilia in general are questionable from a liberal point of view. Admittedly, necrophiliac zoophilia is less easy to denounce than each of its components; the whole is less than the sum of its parts, because, in a way, the two cancel each other out. You cannot harm the pig by abusing your power over it (as in ordinary zoophilia), because it’s dead; and you cannot upset its relatives or violate its right to the posthumous symbolic autonomy of its body (as in ordinary necrophilia), because it’s a pig.

Still, in spite of our widely accepted practice of eating animals’ corpses, I think many people would agree that symbolically ‘violating’ even an animal’s corpse for amusement is bad – it expresses disrespect of life and sadism. The perpetrator may not be truly harming anyone, but the act still indicates a personal desire to do so and constitutes indulging in that desire. This indulging in fantasy, in turn, may be followed by its indulging in reality, against a living animal or a human. All of this is theoretical and has no relevance for Cameron; my opinion of him certainly wouldn’t change because of this incident even if it were true, and I assume that it isn’t.

In general, I disagree with what seems to be the current liberal orthodoxy that limits the moral judgement of sexual matters solely to the issue of consent. First, if you have a reason to believe that having sex with someone will result in serious harm for them or a third party, then it’s clearly immoral to choose to do it even if the other participant consents for some reason. Harming people is immoral even if they consent to it, whether it’s out of foolishness or because they are somehow forced by the overall circumstances (and as for a third party, it has not even consented). Second, some things may be done for sexual gratification which do not directly harm anyone, but you could still argue that they are immoral just because they are too evil to enjoy or embrace in any context whatsoever – say, reenacting the Holocaust or fantasising about torturing and gruesomely murdering people serial killer-style. Again, accepting and embracing something in fantasy or ‘play’ is a step towards accepting and embracing it in reality. I’m sorry if such heretical views make some people feel less sure of their freedom to enjoy themselves, but the new liberal Vulgate dogma of ‘solo consensu’ simply isn’t satisfactory.

52

magistra 09.21.15 at 7:25 pm

MPAVictoria@46: What about those of us who don’t care if it is true we just find this whole thing endlessly amusing because it is happening to a Tory Prick?

Because next time a left-wing politician gets smeared by the tabloid press, you can’t complain. So they’re not telling the truth: well, who cares, if it’s a story that appeals to people? Once you’ve decided that treating humans fairly doesn’t matter if they’re people you despise or because it’s just a laugh, then you’ve already accepted right-wing values: you’re just quibbling about the details.

53

b9n10nt 09.21.15 at 7:25 pm

I think Clock-gate and Pig-gate are related: they both provide evidence of progress towards a new singularity: the point at which observable reality becomes indistinguishable from _Black Mirror_ episodes.

54

TM 09.21.15 at 7:33 pm

Provided that the pig story is true, wouldn’t it be at least a bit revealing about a person who voluntarily does that kind of thing? Btw I don’t think what happened was a sexual act (at least that’s not what has been alleged). To me it sounds more like some bizarre hazing ritual.

55

TM 09.21.15 at 7:37 pm

Vox summarizes it well:

“But university booze clubs like Piers Gav aren’t just a bunch of 19-year-olds behaving like drunken idiots, they are the future governing elite of the United Kingdom. They are an institution of the British upper-class, and thus any story about them is in at least some sense a story about the British upper-class itself, and thus a story about that most British of social issues: the class system.”
http://www.vox.com/2015/9/21/9365507/piggate-david-cameron-piers-galverston

56

The Temporary Name 09.21.15 at 7:42 pm

Because next time a left-wing politician gets smeared by the tabloid press, you can’t complain.

The person who will stop my complaint is…

57

MPAVictoria 09.21.15 at 7:50 pm

“Because next time a left-wing politician gets smeared by the tabloid press, you can’t complain.”

If I did complain would anyone listen? They haven’t in the past.

“Once you’ve decided that treating humans fairly doesn’t matter if they’re people you despise or because it’s just a laugh, then you’ve already accepted right-wing values: you’re just quibbling about the details.”

This is just so much pearl clutching. Ridiculing a powerful man for having oral relations with a swine is nothing compared to taking food out of the mouths children.

58

LWA 09.21.15 at 8:07 pm

@54
That’s a very good take on it.

As with any of the Ivy League frats, its not the 19 year olds who are actually running the show.
Most of these are really controlled by the alumni, and it is this august elite group of people who could, if they wanted to, police the behavior of the boys.

So when we hear horror stories about hazing or rapes or whatever, its a reflection of the adults who wink and nod, and encourage the moral hazard of consequence-free behavior.

59

Sandwichman 09.21.15 at 8:11 pm

“This is just so much pearl clutching. Ridiculing a powerful man for having oral relations with a swine is nothing compared to taking food out of the mouths children.”

Got it. Pearls before swine.

60

Sandwichman 09.21.15 at 8:13 pm

My question is: can Cameron make a silk purse out of it?

61

afeman 09.21.15 at 8:26 pm

My question is: can Cameron make a silk purse out of it?

And what would he do with the purse?

62

Cian 09.21.15 at 8:35 pm

If it did happen it was a drunken joke. This is what 19 year old yobbish boys do (at least in UK)? Dumb, stupid stuff to make their mates laugh. By the standards of Rugby players I’ve known over the years this wouldn’t even be in the top ten of dumb stuff.

I suspect it didn’t for the simple reason we would have heard about it by now. I mean he’d have been legendary at Cambridge. The pig fucker?! Seriously.

“Because next time a left-wing politician gets smeared by the tabloid press, you can’t complain.”

Oh bollocks. Cameron made a deal with a nutty billionaire that went sour. Now he’s reaping the effects of that. If this makes future politicians think twice about such things it’s all good – meanwhile we get to watch Cameron squirm. And the reason the story works is that it seems like exactly the kind of thing Bullingdon Cameron would have done.

63

The Temporary Name 09.21.15 at 8:37 pm

If it did happen it was a drunken joke. This is what 19 year old yobbish boys do (at least in UK)? Dumb, stupid stuff to make their mates laugh. By the standards of Rugby players I’ve known over the years this wouldn’t even be in the top ten of dumb stuff.

Please write a much longer comment.

64

Kiwanda 09.21.15 at 8:43 pm

Just as Dawkins is fine berating religious people for mistreating women, but an apologist for atheist abusers.

I would be interested to see substantial evidence for the latter.

65

Lyle 09.21.15 at 8:53 pm

“If it did happen it was a drunken joke. This is what 19 year old yobbish boys do (at least in UK)? Dumb, stupid stuff to make their mates laugh. By the standards of Rugby players I’ve known over the years this wouldn’t even be in the top ten of dumb stuff.”

I could actually see someone like Corbyn or Trump getting away (at least with most voters on their side) with just admitting it happened, but I was younger and wilder back then, etc. A big part of what makes this story so good is that a stuffed shirt like Cameron won’t do that, and will instead hope the story just fades away. And so, it won’t.

66

magistra 09.21.15 at 9:04 pm

On Richard Dawkins’ defence of Michael Shermer: see http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/09/closing-ranks/.

67

christian_h 09.21.15 at 9:07 pm

The importance of the pig story – besides it being hilarious – is what it tells us about how elites are formed in the UK and how they are self-policed. Elite dinner clubs at Oxford engage in this behavior precisely because it is transgressive. And no btw, this isn’t “boys will be boys”. Because most boys don’t trash restaurants, don’t mock homeless people, don’t do coke until out of their minds then trash the place because hey, somebody else will be cleaning up.

68

JanieM 09.21.15 at 9:25 pm

Dawkins seems to make something of a habit of it.

69

Barry 09.21.15 at 9:37 pm

Belle: “If I had a wang I would so totally have stuck it in a roast suckling pig by now.”

I never used a Wang, just a Laneer word processor, but I don’t think that either would fit in a suckling pig. Maybe a full-grown hog.

70

CJColucci 09.21.15 at 9:53 pm

But the point of zero tolerance is to ram full speed into the Stupidville station. It’s an official abandonment of judgement, after all; Stated policy is that they won’t be reasonable.

I completely agree with this.

71

Ben 09.21.15 at 9:53 pm

christian_h has it. These hazing rituals exist partly to enforce group loyalty and provide theoretical blackmail material to ensure cooperation among its members once they reach positions of power.

This is like Watergate: different parts of the power structure are warring against each other, using the public exposure (heh) of the normal practices of the elite as tactical maneuvers. (This also maps as the British Watergate in that everything in UK politics has to be much more interesting and fun than its American counterpart.)

This story should absolutely be treated on its face. A refusal to do so is to willfully ignore how structures of power operate. It could still turn out to be false, but it is immensely plausible, and it is squarely in the public interest to investigate how elite institutional practices condition the behavior of their members.

Also, because there have been far too few puns in this thread Imma just list a few, cheerfully stolen from others without attribution:

– Hameron
– Bae of pigs
– Gotterhamerung
– And, most glorious of all, from here on out no Tory can possibly criticize Corbyn for being too enthusiastic for Hamass

72

engels 09.21.15 at 10:14 pm

By the standards of Rugby players I’ve known over the years this wouldn’t even be in the top ten of dumb stuff

So there are ten items or more above ‘fucking a dead pig’ on your list? You’re going to have to tell us what they are now, I’m afraid.

73

engels 09.21.15 at 10:18 pm

74

engels 09.21.15 at 10:18 pm

In case anyone hasn’t seen that

75

Ronan(rf) 09.21.15 at 10:36 pm

there but for the grace of god….

76

engels 09.21.15 at 11:16 pm

77

Kiwanda 09.22.15 at 12:10 am

Some anti-anti-Dawkins, within a detailed chronology of PZ Myers’s downward spiral.

I’m surprised to see a link to Ophelia Benson: she’s been kicked off the island, after all.

78

maidhc 09.22.15 at 12:23 am

Brings to mind the old Don Redman song “How can you call me a two-time man when I only two-timed one time?”

79

The Temporary Name 09.22.15 at 12:24 am

Some anti-anti-Dawkins

The problem is that Dawkins produces anti-Dawkins without a whole lot of help. It’s embarrassing.

80

Henry (not the famous one) 09.22.15 at 12:50 am

A friend asked Yogi Berra what time it was. He replied “You mean now?”

81

Val 09.22.15 at 1:01 am

Magistra @ 23
I agree with your basic point, but let’s face it – weird Tory sex scandals are to England as leadership spills are to Australia https://twitter.com/alistairjhogg/status/643363696270422016

82

Witt 09.22.15 at 1:31 am

wouldn’t it be at least a bit revealing about a person who voluntarily does that kind of thing?

Bingo. If Cameron were an entirely different person, he could call a news conference and say, “I’m appalled that anyone could think I was ever insecure enough to do such a stupid thing to try to fit in, and even more appalled that people could think I go around acting with such contempt.”

But he can’t. Because he isn’t that person. And THAT tells me — an American who barely follows UK politics, but is all too familiar with the effects of insecure, contemptuous bullies in politics — everything I need to know.

83

Belle Waring 09.22.15 at 1:36 am

It’s a legit scandal because it seems very like the kind of thing one would do while drunk and being hazed at an exclusive club/frat analogue. No one thinks it’s sexual, it sounds like a dumbass prank designed to shock. And Cameron is eminently the type of person who was part of this college elite. I’m sure they make you do humiliating stuff at skull and bones, at Yale. But also, tbh, it’s just the funniest thing ever. I can think of only one thing I personally ever did that was this cray. I ain’t telling.
Kiwanda: that “Dear Muslima” letter in the wake of Watson’s making a mild anonymous comment about a dude in an elevator aggravating her was the for-all-time deal-sealer on Dawkins’ sexist bullshit.

84

Collin Street 09.22.15 at 1:51 am

> But he can’t. Because he isn’t that person.

Even if he did do it it’s not that hard: “Yeah, sure I did. It’s no secret that I did a lot of stupid things at uni, and that was one of them.”

But like you say he can’t do that.

85

Sandwichman 09.22.15 at 1:56 am

Matthew 7:6

King James Bible

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Context: Do Not Judge

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5″You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6″Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

86

Belle Waring 09.22.15 at 2:02 am

I don’t know that I’m buying the implicit ‘Cameron is a pearl of great price’ analogy here.

87

Sandwichman 09.22.15 at 2:10 am

“Pearls” could just be a short form euphemism for the “family jewels” euphemism.

88

Belle Waring 09.22.15 at 2:16 am

The ZZ Top song “Pearl Necklace” is relevant. I had what must have been the most super-embarassing conversation with my dad about this song. I was like “but what’s it about? It’s some sex thing, just tell me!” My dad did not come through with the info.

89

rootlesscosmo 09.22.15 at 2:19 am

See Belle, that’s ’cause he didn’t know Pecker Neck. (He was a real guy who had the bad fortune to have a wrinkly pink neck. A nice guy and a first-rate freight brakeman, in spite of the embarrassing nickname; Bedsores on the other hand was useless on the job.)

90

Sandwichman 09.22.15 at 2:30 am

Yes! Twitterable.

91

lurker 09.22.15 at 3:18 am

Ahmed makes (for some value of make which includes tinkering with maker modules or disassembling and reassembling old electronics. I mean, if you call that making. Which, tbh, I do.)

No. Ahmed did not make a clock. He took an old clock that had already been made by not Ahmed out of its housing, and remounted it in a pencil box. When that became apparent against a backdrop of endless hagiographic accounts of a young Thomas Edison/precocious little spirit of scientific curiosity, people started going, “hey, wait a minute, if he was actually going around showing a clock that he didn’t make as a clock that he did make, what was he doing there?” If you look at Dawkins’ tweets, that’s exactly the point where he gets confused and the paranoia starts leaking in, bolstered, no doubt, by other real but deprecated features of the thing, like the dad’s apparent interest in celebrity. Dawkins and others declaring a “family conspiracy,” are clearly fools for that, but that foolishness is in some small way assisted by the way the the thing was immediately and relentlessly squeezed into a perfect little template of misused glorious wonder child inventor, rather than, say, misused normal, kinda awkward kid who was maybe kinda trying to bullshit his friends and teachers about this clock he “invented,” and also whose dad maybe kinda keeps an eye out for spotlight opportunities. Everyone might do better to acknowledge some of the mundaneness in this episode.

92

F. Foundling 09.22.15 at 4:02 am

As for Dawkins, he often seems to be carried away and overstates his points, but I don’t think he is malevolent or a total neocon hack like the late Hitchens. In the case of the clock, he seems to have rushed to judgement, which was admittedly somewhat thoughtless and unkind towards the 14-year-old boy, but I can imagine how the ‘revisionist’ technical claims about the clock could have impressed him. Twitter seems to be unhealthy for him, as others have noted. And Elevatorgate really was a storm in a teacup, or should I say in a cup of coffee.

93

Belle Waring 09.22.15 at 5:30 am

I did know a guy from West Virginia named “Hard Hat,” because he always wore a yellow hard hat around. Even at home. I was working on my friend’s farm for summer money and the rest of the employees were temporarily in Virginia from WVa. Then men were all working laying pipe (you know we had some jokes about that!) while the women and boys pruned trees with me. They were staying 24 people in a single house, patriarch and matriarch in one of the bedrooms, and the one 17-year-old girl in the other, and everybody else just laid out on the floor. Hard Hat was “a little bit simple.” And so we were told that one night while everyone was drinking at the picnic tables outside under the pin oak, somebody snatched off his hard hat and passed it around where he couldn’t reach it. Result? “He just set there, cryin like a baby.”

94

bad Jim 09.22.15 at 7:16 am

Some of the reactions to clock kid, including the contribution from Dawkins, leave me shaking my head. So, instead of assembling a circuit from a kit, he repackaged parts from an existing clock. It’s okay that he was hauled off in handcuffs because he didn’t solder the circuit boards himself?

As for Cameron, who among us at a certain age hasn’t eyed a freshly-baked pie, a roast pig or even a liver and thought “I could do that”? (Pretty much everybody.)

95

kidneystones 09.22.15 at 8:16 am

The best evidence that Ashcroft has well and truly planted the dagger can be found in today’s Telegraph. Catherine Snow claims Cameron was the ‘straightest’ man she knew at Oxford, and other similar testimonials.

Mounting the pig’s head squarely upon the Prime Minister, however, opens up much richer veins of real-life gore: namely that Cameron led the charge to create the failed state of Libya and had to have the his own army chiefs explain to him that sending special services in to ‘take out’ Assad wasn’t an option. Call me Dave is being fitted out as Dubya’s posh comrade in dumb-ass arms, only this time with a Monty Pythonesque upper-class twit motif – riding to hounds and quaffing bubbly whilst the masses rage.

Another week or two of this and we may see a Conservative bloodletting, or Dave resigning for ‘personal’ reasons.

96

magistra 09.22.15 at 8:50 am

It’s interesting: Kiwanda@63 wanted evidence for my claim about Dawkins and @76 wasn’t happy with the answer I gave. Which is fair enough, because s/he doesn’t know me and s/he wasn’t convinced of the reliability of my sources, because they have a known poor relationship to Dawkins.

The Cameron end of the thread, meanwhile, is saying things like “it seems very like the kind of thing one would do while drunk and being hazed at an exclusive club/frat analogue”. No need to worry about sources or their reliability here. Ashcroft’s out to humiliate and harm Cameron, but as long as his claims make people laugh, that’s all that matters.

97

Sam Dodsworth 09.22.15 at 9:24 am

Magistra:

It’s always a bad idea to try to explain a joke, but this wider take on #baeofpigs explains how “it seems very like the kind of thing one would do” relates to the schadenfreude from all the rest of us who really wouldn’t:
What the British are really laughing about

98

Sam Dodsworth 09.22.15 at 9:26 am

Botheration. Here’s the link that was supposed to be in my previous post:

http://theleveller.org/2015/09/british-really-laughing/

99

Lee A. Arnold 09.22.15 at 9:34 am

Interesting article!

Next up, Richard Dawkins will tell us that boffing a dead pig is not a SCIENTIFIC way to become part of an old-boy network

100

chistian_h 09.22.15 at 10:39 am

magistra, we do know – and nobody denies – that Cameron was part of a dinner club whose whole shtick was humiliating people not as exalted as they were. Initiation into the club included, for example, burning money in front of a homeless person. Ashcroft isn’t stupid: he knows that practically nobody will stand up to defend a vicious bully like Cameron against an accusation that is a symbolic stand-in for all the despicable things he definitely did do. It is of course too bad that the acts Cameron admits and laughed off successfully as youthful indescretions didn’t disqualify him from prime ministership – sad it takes this story of him with the pig (very likely a true story imo whatever certain defenders of the elite want us to believe) to create any fuss at all. But it is in no way an outrageous invention even if it is false – it is he kind of story that within the old boys club Cameron might tell as a slight exaggeration, to general approval. So no, I don’t feel like being overly careful.

101

kidneystones 09.22.15 at 12:28 pm

Great chart of the Yougov poll at the Independent confirming 89% of conservatives are just fine with Dave and the pig. It’s Lab and the ‘Liberals’ who feel the story is an issue.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/5-charts-that-show-what-the-public-really-thinks-about-the-david-cameron-debauchery-claims-10511955.html
The fact is that by British standards interfering of this sort isn’t likely to raise many eyebrows, except of course, aesthetically.

102

Nikhil VJ 09.22.15 at 12:35 pm

Richard Dawkins is infamous for having written a book criticizing Islam, posing as an expert, without having even read the Quran or any similar texts or philosophies. All his opinions were derived from what the mainstream media was feeding him alongwith everyone else.. he didn’t do any real research before making his accusations. His actions have led to large swathes of proud-to-mimick-atheists that are otherwise well-educated and holding influential positions in society, to also hate Islam and muslims for no real reason. He’s also been invasive regarding anything that challenges the western orthodox materialist philosophy. This man isn’t an atheist.. he’s a materialism-worshipper and a fundamentalist muslim-hater. http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org/investigating-skeptics/whos-who-of-media-skeptics/media-skeptics-a-l/dawkins-richard/

103

engels 09.22.15 at 1:11 pm

“89% of conservatives are just fine with Dave and the pig”

Can’t say I’m surprised. Would like to see a poll on whether they’re fine with burning the £50 note in front of the homeless guy though.

104

Bill Stapleton 09.22.15 at 2:26 pm

Interviewer: “Richard, did you produce an evidence free theory that a 14 year old Muslim boy took a clock into school, knowing that his moronic teachers would have him arrested, and that his aim was to get an invite to the White House?”
Dawkins: “I will not ‘dignify’ such allegations with a response, but I will say I once screwed a dead pig in the mouth.”

105

seedeevee 09.22.15 at 3:15 pm

106

Fuzzy Dunlop 09.22.15 at 4:24 pm

Meanwhile–lurker, phosphorios, Marc–here’s PZ Meyers on the subject of the OP (not the pig subject–although, lol…): http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/09/20/the-evolution-of-the-ahmed-mohamed-story/

I wouldn’t lump him with Dawkins and Hitchens AT ALL. He’s even on to the fact that the school authorities clearly never actually thought the clock was a bomb, and the whole thing was purely a stunt to humiliate this kid–‘know your place’. Contra Marc @24, I wouldn’t say Meyers is particularly abrasive, though he can be sometimes.

107

Origami Isopod 09.22.15 at 4:40 pm

No need to worry about sources or their reliability here. Ashcroft’s out to humiliate and harm Cameron, but as long as his claims make people laugh, that’s all that matters.

Yes, of course, must be better than they are! Politics is just a self-improvement exercise. And, also, it’s not like there are special rules for conservatives regardless!

108

Malaclypse 09.22.15 at 4:54 pm

I only wish Hunter Thompson were still alive:

(I)n both the Ohio and Nebraska primaries, back to back, McGovern was confronted for the first time with the politics of the rabbit-punch and the groin shot, and in both states he found himself dangerously vulnerable to this kind of thing. Dirty politics confused him. He was not ready for it….

This is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in politics. Every hack in the business has used it in times of trouble, and it has even been elevated to the level of political mythology in a story about one of Lyndon Johnson’s early campaigns in Texas. The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows.

“Christ, we can’t get a way calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.”

“I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”

109

Malaclypse 09.22.15 at 4:54 pm

I also wish my tags were formatted correctly…

110

The Temporary Name 09.22.15 at 5:36 pm

This is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in politics.

Yet it’s a Tory spat over insufficient patronage. What could be sweeter than the pigs fucking each other?

111

JBL 09.22.15 at 5:37 pm

I would just like to note that the title of this post is really, truly wonderful.

112

Austin Loomis 09.22.15 at 5:56 pm

How are you going to take free spirited kids, and turn them into drones suitable for a police state, if you don’t beat into them at an early age that the Man doesn’t have to be reasonable? You want the little darlings to be so afraid of accidentally brushing up against the rules, that they’ll police themselves to stay far, far away from an[y]thing that might even be near to rule breaking.

Quoted for truth.

113

Kiwanda 09.22.15 at 9:07 pm

Kiwanda: that “Dear Muslima” letter in the wake of Watson’s making a mild anonymous comment about a dude in an elevator aggravating her was the for-all-time deal-sealer on Dawkins’ sexist bullshit.

Good grief. Elevatorgate? Really? That’s it? Game over, man?

I wouldn’t lump him with Dawkins and Hitchens AT ALL.

On this, everyone can agree.

I wouldn’t say Meyers is particularly abrasive, though he can be sometimes.

Please do have a look at Michael Nugent’s post(s).

114

F. Foundling 09.22.15 at 11:39 pm

@magistra 09.21.15 at 9:04 pm

> On Richard Dawkins’ defence of Michael Shermer: see http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/09/closing-ranks/.

I hadn’t been following this. The tweets, one may debate; his alleged exchange with Benson, IF what she reports about it is true, would mean a *huge* downgrade. Still, I would reserve judgement until the same level of idiocy is displayed in an online or printed statement that I can actually verify. Speaking of his twitter feed, he is still right to point at the pending literal crucifixion of a teen protester in Dear Ally Saudi Arabia that may happen at any moment now (!), which definitely should be more of a ’cause célèbre’ than it currently is. Most of the current Anglosphere ‘scandals’ pale by comparison, and it’s not as if the US and UK governments couldn’t do anything about it, if they were forced by their citizenry.

@Fuzzy Dunlop 09.22.15 at 4:24 pm

> I wouldn’t lump him with Dawkins and Hitchens AT ALL.

I wouldn’t exactly lump Dawkins and Hitchens together either. Hitchens supported the Iraq war, Dawkins didn’t. Hichens enthusiastically jumped on the neocon bandwagon and embraced Bushite militarism and imperialism as a long-term programme; Dawkins sort of flirted with some of the Islamophobic tendencies of the post-9/11 years. They did have some things in common, both were excessively keen to sell their intellectual products by adapting to the prevalent forces of their time, and the commonalities with Hitchens are also among the chief reasons why I’ve never really been an admirer of Dawkins, but Hitchens is/was just incomparably worse.

115

TM 09.23.15 at 12:55 am

It’s long been a mystery to me why Dawkins is supposed to be a liberal figurehead. Just because the right-wingnuts deny evolution doesn’t mean liberals necessarily have much in common with Dawkins. His Sociobiology covered a lot of rather reactionary material, and he was called out for it forcefully by the likes of Gould and Lewontin many decades ago. Dawkins hasn’t changed that much, apparently the liberal mainstream has.

When Dolly the sheep got cloned, Dawkins told everybody how he himself would love to be cloned. That’s typical Dawkins for me. Not somebody whom I would consider an interesting thinker.

116

novakant 09.23.15 at 1:15 am

Bad Jim, I will readily confess to all kinds of adolescent urges and fantasies, but this attraction to soft warm inanimate orifices really weirds me out, though apparently it is widespread, cf eg American Pie (maybe it’s an Anglo-Saxon thing?)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A7Z79puCIbY

Magistra, you are of course right in a general sense, but I think it’s worth noting that this slander, if it is slander, only works because of the rich context of privilege and debauchery – had this been an engineering student at the university of Wolverhampton, I don’t think half the country would have a ball with it – it’s very much in the Tory caught in the broom closet wearing nothing but SM gear tradition.

117

Helen 09.23.15 at 1:16 am

Dawkins on Twitter:
@RichardDawkins Sep 17
If a person says bad/silly things, expose them by quoting them. That should suffice to make your case. Inventing falsehoods is not the way.

OK then.

118

max 09.23.15 at 2:10 am

Dear Belle,
I think the whole clock episode was ridiculous. Now that that’s out the way…

Secondly, for this plan to work, the teachers and police officers have to act like morons all up and down the line. There’s no other way. Really, it has to be a Confederacy of Dunces down there.

Have you ever been to Irving? And I don’t mean ‘passed through DFW’.

Do these Clock Truthers realize their grim vision of Texan society is far, far more cynical than mine?

On that point alone, they have the right of it, I’m afraid.

I heard the story, and I was like, ‘What?’ and then I heard ‘Irving’ and I said, ‘OOH! Well, damn, no wonder.’

max
[‘That’s like hearing a story about a meth addict and his threesome with a pig and his girlfriend – oh, it’s Fayetteville. Or two teenagers killing each other over a Prada handbag – OH! It’s Highland Park. Texas.’]

119

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 2:25 am

@Belle Waring 09.22.15 at 1:36 am
>that “Dear Muslima” letter in the wake of Watson’s making a mild anonymous comment about a dude in an elevator aggravating her was the for-all-time deal-sealer on Dawkins’ sexist bullshit.

Apart from the issue of proposals inevitably feeling threatening when made in an elevator, Watson appeared to suggest that proposing consensual sex to women (and in a very veiled and cautious manner, too) was misogynistic because it ‘sexualises’ them. I can see why Dawkins might have felt that a comparison with indisputably real instances of misogyny in Muslim countries was rhetorically useful and hence appropriate; of course, the problem is that the same type of argument can also be used to dismiss completely legitimate grievances.

@TM 09.23.15 at 12:55 am
I’d never got the impression that anybody viewed Dawkins as a major liberal (as opposed to atheist) figurehead; but neither does he come across as being particularly reactionary; even if you’re right that his scientific positions somehow have reactionary implications (frankly, I don’t remember them well enough to judge), at least he doesn’t seem to be keen on publicising and advocating for those implications, whereas there are plenty of truly vociferous reactionaries of the geneticist variety. The whole evo-psych and sociobiological tendency, which he has been endorsing, does seem to be developing in highly pernicious directions, of course, but I don’t know to what extent he is responsible for that. In any case, I don’t see why he shouldn’t clone himself, if that makes him happy.

@novakant 09.23.15 at 1:15 am
>Bad Jim, I will readily confess to all kinds of adolescent urges and fantasies, but this attraction to soft warm inanimate orifices really weirds me out, though apparently it is widespread, cf eg American Pie (maybe it’s an Anglo-Saxon thing?)

When I first read Bad Jim’s comment, I was worried that I was apparently even weirder than I had previously thought, since I had never shared normal people’s sexual attraction to victuals, but I eventually opted for interpreting his statement as a joke. :)

120

The Temporary Name 09.23.15 at 2:59 am

121

Manju 09.23.15 at 3:46 am

“Clock Truthers”. Ha Ha.

122

Belle Waring 09.23.15 at 3:56 am

F. Foundling: Apart from the issue of proposals inevitably feeling threatening when made in an elevator, Watson appeared to suggest that proposing consensual sex to women (and in a very veiled and cautious manner, too) was misogynistic because it ‘sexualises’ them. I can see why Dawkins might have felt that a comparison with indisputably real instances of misogyny in Muslim countries was rhetorically useful and hence appropriate; of course, the problem is that the same type of argument can also be used to dismiss completely legitimate grievances.
No. Just, no, tho. This is a terrible attempt to play the “feminists don’t approve of consensual heterosexual sex” card. (Why do people think this? Consequence-free consensual sex like our WHOLE deal!) Watson made a comment in which she did not name the person at all, and pointed out that many women feel threatened when alone in an elevator with someone who is much stronger than they, and that this was particularly tedious because this guy had attended a talk she had just given in which she explained that approaching women with sexual propositions in an inappropriate social context, such as a work meeting or conference, DOES sexualize them. The atheist internet exploded with cries that Watson had cruelly “shamed” this poor man, when in fact no one could know who it was. Then Dawkins said, “whiny feminists think they have problems when people do sexist bullshit, BUT WHERE ARE THEY WHEN IT COMES TO NEEDING TO BOMB MUSLIM COUNTRIES THAT ARE A BILLION TIMES WORSE?” The answer to which is always, they are protesting it a lot, and not only when it’s a good excuse to go to war And separately it’s an embarrassing fallacy to claim that women in first-world countries have to wait until every other woman in the world has the same rights as they do before making any further social progress. People in America can agitate for a $15 an hour minimum wage, and it would be no good rebuttal to say, triumphally, “PEOPLE IN BANGLADESH ARE MAKING 60 CENTS AN HOUR WHY DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT THAT?! YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL YOU HAVE A JOB!” In closing, fuck Dawkins.

123

adam.smith 09.23.15 at 4:23 am

I think the most plausible explanation for Dawkins’s statements is that he *wants* to sound like a sexist & islamophobic prick to expose sexism&racism in the atheist “movement.”
Surely he can’t actually think that “BUT SAUDI ARABIA” is an acceptable argument in a discussion of sexual harassment.

124

bad Jim 09.23.15 at 4:30 am

I meant my assertion “who wouldn’t? (nearly everybody)” to be read logically, as saying that few fantasize about copulating with comestibles, which is why such scenes in “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “American Pie” are so famous.

125

Belle Waring 09.23.15 at 4:32 am

mmmm, Occam’s Razor says he just a sexist jerk.

126

adam.smith 09.23.15 at 4:51 am

yeah, but Occam’s Razor would also say that Ahmed just wanted to bring a clock to school to show around and that’s apparently not good enough for Dawkins…

127

magistra 09.23.15 at 6:36 am

The story about David Cameron is almost certainly a lie. It was Dan Davis who pointed out that “Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.” Cameron is supposed to have done this to the pig as an initiation ceremony for the Piers Gaveston club. If this was a story that was meant to be plausible, it would therefore have included proof (or at least some plausible evidence) that a) Cameron was a member of the club and b) that the normal initiation ceremony for this club involved such an act. If you give neither, that suggests that there isn’t evidence for either, both of which ought separately to be easier to discover than this alleged photo.

Christian_h@101: you’re right that Ashcroft can probably get away with the story because Cameron wouldn’t sue for libel. But there’s also another effect. As the article linked to by Sam Dodsworth@99 shows, there are an awful lot of supposedly serious commentators on the left (some whom I normally respect) who start off with the “allegedly” about the act and then go on by the end of their piece to assume it’s true. In other words, fuck evidence if it makes our opponent seem bad. Too many left-wingers have just shown themselves as prone to gullibility and motivated reasoning as any Tory. I can’t see that as a big win.

128

Helen 09.23.15 at 9:04 am

Like P Z Myers, I was kind of shocked that Dawkins got his “alternative explanation” of the clock incident from Breitbart. That is NOT a reliable source of factual information and I would not be preening myself on my superior sceptical intellect if I accepted stories from there.
http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/09/21/my-brain-just-exploded/

129

Z 09.23.15 at 9:58 am

All the writings of PZ Myers I have read (including some of the links by Nugent above) suggest is a decent, intelligent person with a strong commitment towards social progress. In particular, he has been (as far as I know) impeccable in criticizing Dawkins as he descended in Islamophobia and sexism.

130

James Wimberley 09.23.15 at 10:41 am

Typo alert: it’s cause célèbre, not celèbré. New Labour wouldn’t have got the accents wrong. The country is going to the pigs.

131

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 11:53 am

@bad Jim 09.22.15 at 7:16 am

>Some of the reactions to clock kid, including the contribution from Dawkins, leave me shaking my head. So, instead of assembling a circuit from a kit, he repackaged parts from an existing clock. It’s okay that he was hauled off in handcuffs because he didn’t solder the circuit boards himself?

I think one should distinguish between two parts of the revisionist argument. The first one is that the clock doesn’t deserve to be called an ‘invention’; the second one is that it looked so much like a suitcase bomb that it must have been deliberately designed for that purpose in order to provoke a reaction, *even though* Ahmed never said it was a suitcase bomb. It is the second claim, not the first one, that some particularly idiotic commentators have used to justify the ‘hauling off in handcuffs’. Finally, the claim that the clock was designed to provoke does not *necessarily* entail justifying the specific reaction of the police – Dawkins has been very careful to say that handcuffing and arresting the boy was wrong in any case, which is obvious, since, whatever the object may have looked like, all accounts agree that he never *claimed* it was a bomb. Now, I’m not sure just how similar to a bomb the clock was, but I think that the fact that he never claimed it to be a bomb is decisive and makes the provocation story too complicated to be plausible. In such a case, the decent thing to do is to assume innocence and not accuse a 14-year-old who has clearly been a victim of police idiocy of *also* being a provocateur based on highly flimsy evidence.

132

Sam Dodsworth 09.23.15 at 12:42 pm

Or maybe, right, maybe the school officials and the police were really terrorists in disguise? Makes you think.

133

Lyle 09.23.15 at 12:46 pm

“That his father might have been, and the boy was just his tool in the matter? That I find somewhat plausible.”

You’ve said that twice now. Why?

134

garymar 09.23.15 at 1:34 pm

I have Dawkins’ book The Ancestor’s Tale by my bedside. I’ve read it twice. I will read it again. In his field of expertise, zoology, Dawkins is superb.

I don’t pay attention to what he says on other matters. He has become the William Shockley of this generation.

135

TM 09.23.15 at 2:01 pm

This scenario is ridiculously far-fetched. Even if it were not, remember that it only works on the assumption that the school leaders and police act like dumb jerks. Even under your ridiculously far-fetched scenario, it would still be their own fault of they did act like dumb jerks.

136

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 2:07 pm

@Belle Waring 09.23.15 at 3:56 am

>Watson made a comment in which she did not name the person at all, and pointed out that many women feel threatened when alone in an elevator with someone who is much stronger than they, and that this was particularly tedious because this guy had attended a talk she had just given in which she explained that approaching women with sexual propositions in an inappropriate social context, such as a work meeting or conference, DOES sexualize them.

Flirting, courtship and sexual propositions, especially in the highly cautious form in question, are in fact made in *all* sorts of social contexts; they certainly are made during the inofficial, mingling phases of conferences, conventions, summer courses, before and after school/work, etc. Newsflash: people do *also* have sex on their minds in *many*, *many* contexts that are not officially devoted primarily to sex. Condemning all of this as ‘sexualisation’ does come across as being, well, anti-sex to me. One may be so little interested in sex (in general or in certain contexts) as to find all of this annoying, but that doesn’t mean it’s morally wrong. One can always say ‘no’. Now, I don’t know if Watson had gone so far as to condemn explicitly *all* sex during and after conferences and conventions as wrong in her talk on harassment; certainly, if she had, it would have been very foolish of elevator guy to propose. Even then, his optimistic assumption that her official pronouncements and private practice differ does not *need* to be misogynistically motivated – after all, people’s theory and practice often do differ in all sorts of contexts.

About the elevator – well, our Casanova obviously did make a mistake. Elevators are probably not a good place for this. Now, it’s a fact that proposals *are* often made in contexts where people are separated from the rest of the group, possibly in a separate room. The exact reaction is likely to depend on how attracted the two are to each other, how comfortable they are together and, in general, how likely the proposal is to be accepted – and that, in turn, can be misjudged, as it obviously was in this case. A certain level of inadequacy in courtship can, indeed, be uncomfortable and even alarming to the other side. And yes, people should try not to scare others, and they shouldn’t forget that no matter how harmless they feel and how little they can imagine using violence, they can still seem threatening to strangers. However, it can be very thin line, especially to someone awkward and inexperienced, and it’s difficult to specify hard and fast rules; the one certain way to avoid any ‘fail’ like this is to never even try. Misjudging this and failing at courtship is not harassment or a sexist act.

>Then Dawkins said, “whiny feminists think they have problems when people do sexist bullshit

The point is that this hinges on the question whether what elevator guy did *was* sexist bullshit.

137

Abbe Faria 09.23.15 at 2:25 pm

“Then Dawkins said, “whiny feminists think they have problems when people do sexist bullshit, BUT WHERE ARE THEY WHEN IT COMES TO NEEDING TO BOMB MUSLIM COUNTRIES THAT ARE A BILLION TIMES WORSE?” The answer to which is always, they are protesting it a lot…”

Not they’re not. Mainstream feminist is intersectional and ideologically opposed to “white feminists” (read anyone who isn’t Muslim) criticising Islam and silencing Muslim voices, not only don’t they protest they will actively oppose and try and shut down protests. Last week, FEMEN disrupted a debate between two Imams on whether or not men should beat their wives – go to any feminist blog you like and voice your support for this action, see what happens.

138

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 2:25 pm

@Brett Bellmore 09.23.15 at 12:18 pm

>They never thought it was a bomb. That kind of ruins any narative based on it looking like a bomb.

Well, a bomb *hoax* is what they claimed it was. As far as I remember, at least the English teacher who originally raised the alarm said that it looked like one. How reasonable that was, I can’t judge; I’m pretty bad at technology, as the teacher probably was. Still, you’re right that since they didn’t evacuate the school, they must have thought not that it looked like a *bomb*, but that it looked like a *bomb hoax*. So, it allegedly looked like something that’s *supposed* to look like something else except that it doesn’t really look like that something else all that much. This does make the whole thing downright Kafkaesque.

139

kidneystones 09.23.15 at 2:37 pm

133 This is very sensible. People with no expertise risk nothing when spewing on topics about which they (we) no little. Dawkins knows a lot about his field. Unfortunately, he seems to feel his analytical skills are fully transferable. They’re not. Like many academics, he’s tone-deaf. I suspect he’s not the slightest bit more hostile towards the religious in the Middle East than he is any other religious community. Where Dawkins stands apart from many in the west is in correctly identifying the damage done by the widespread teaching of creationism in the Middle East, an incomparably more destructive force than Christianity today, one used to justify a whole swath of horrifying practices ranging from legally depriving one half of population of the full rights of citizenship to hanging gay people from cranes. Westerners have much more to say about religious cranks close to home, and Dawkins certainly fit that profile for most of his early career. He’s since recognized that anti-abortion activists are a manageable minority compared with large communities of people keen to blow themselves up, along with as many innocents as possible all in the name of creating a holier world. Dawkins is speaking up where far too many remain silent. We all need protection from religious cranks everywhere.

140

Lynne 09.23.15 at 3:03 pm

F. Foundling: “Flirting, courtship and sexual propositions, especially in the highly cautious form in question, are in fact made in *all* sorts of social contexts; they certainly are made during the inofficial, mingling phases of conferences, conventions, summer courses, before and after school/work, etc.”

And sometimes this is a problem for women, is what I understand Rebecca Watson to have been saying in her talk at this conference (I haven’t heard the talk itself). This is a fair point to make, that one might want to be at a conference (even the socializing part) and not get hit on.

You seem to be bending over backward to defend elevator guy’s behaviour, as though the fact that it occurred in an elevator (in a hotel in the middle of the night at a conference) is a detail. I doubt Watson would have even mentioned it in the mild way she did had it _not_ happened in the elevator.

141

afeman 09.23.15 at 3:32 pm

He doesn’t support Christian missionaries in Africa, but he thought it was “worth raising the question.”

http://www.leninology.co.uk/2011/05/unmitigated-evil.html

142

Kiwanda 09.23.15 at 4:44 pm

Belle@119: while your version gives everyone on the Correct Side a good shot of sinus-clearing righteous contempt, this account has the advantage of discussing what the various people actually said, and when they actually said it. I realize that’s not important because, as you say, “fuck Dawkins”, but FYI.

Much of the treatment of Dawkins (if not his unfortunate Elevatorgate or Clock Truthing comments) is well expressed by Ophelia Benson:

Imagine for a second what it would be like to have total strangers cross-examining every trivial remark you’ve ever made in an effort to find things you said that could be seen as politically suspect in some way.

Of course, she happily participated in such “cross-examinations” for many years, and only noticed their unfairness when they were applied to her, but better late than never.

143

The Temporary Name 09.23.15 at 4:46 pm

Dawkins DEMANDS to be considered. It’s not some unfortunate business hung on a nobody somewhere.

144

afeman 09.23.15 at 5:30 pm

He just tweets things to his 1.25M followers. Give the man some space!

145

Theophylact 09.23.15 at 7:01 pm

The list of eminent scientists blathering offensively on subjects outside their area of expertise is long indeed (William Shockley, Brian Josephson, James D. Watson, Johannes Stark, Kary Mullis, just to name a few Nobelists) . It’s an issue only because we imagine that rationality applies globally, and we’re disappointed when scientists don’t come up to expectations. Somehow we’re more forgiving of religious leaders, politicians, and celebrities, for whom rationality is not a professional prerequisite.

146

Longitudinally Enabled 09.23.15 at 8:50 pm

I’d like to meet some of these people who confuse “suitcase” with “pencil case.” It seems like they’d be incredibly efficient packers.

147

adam.smith 09.23.15 at 8:58 pm

@Kiwanda — not sure what endless thread is supposed to tell me, but even that clearly partisan account contains nothing that would excuse Dawkins in any way. Even if Watson had been entirely off base in her complaints, the “Dear Muslima” remains such a perfect example of dismissing feminist issues while throwing in some good ol’ orientalism that the only “context” I can think of in which it wasn’t sexist & racist would be had Dawkins preceded it by “Let me give you an example of a textbook sexist&racist response. It may go something like this: Dear Muslima…”

148

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 9:14 pm

Lynne 09.23.15 at 3:03 pm

>And sometimes this is a problem for women, is what I understand Rebecca Watson to have been saying in her talk at this conference (I haven’t heard the talk itself). This is a fair point to make, that one might want to be at a conference (even the socializing part) and not get hit on.

Well, perhaps I need to remind you that some women (and some men) don’t mind being hit on, and if one doesn’t want to be hit on, one just says no. Certainly, the advances shouldn’t be impolite and aggressive, and if someone doesn’t like them – and that generally shows immediately in a rather obvious way – then continuing to make them is wrong. *That* is what should be discouraged, not making advances in general – and it should be discouraged not just at conferences, but everywhere. But condemning/banning *all* flirting by *everyone* by default just because some don’t even want to have to bother to say no or to show they dislike it is completely unreasonable. Again, calling for that *is* being anti-sex.

>You seem to be bending over backward to defend elevator guy’s behaviour, as though the fact that it occurred in an elevator (in a hotel in the middle of the night at a conference) is a detail.

Well, frankly, while the elevator was probably the worst possible place at an emotional level, I think it might have been easy to fail to realise that at the moment; the difference between the lobby, the corridor if there was one, the elevator, the next floor etc. is gradient. The line between the degree of seclusion desirable to make a proposition at all and the degree of seclusion that can feel threatening can be blurry. Especially in view of the proposition’s being as veiled, shy and careful as it was, I don’t think it had to be obvious to him that she would still freak out and suspect him of being a violent rapist bastard. Really, I think the default expectation should be that people are *not* violent rapist bastards! If they had been communicating for a little longer, if she had liked him a little more, she might have not felt threatened at all despite the elevator. And conversely, if they had been communicating even less and she had disliked him even more, she could have felt threatened even outside an elevator. He misjudged it. That stuff happens. Bottomline should be – he proposed consensual sex, she refused. That’s the way it should be. Move on.

149

lurker 09.23.15 at 9:32 pm

at least the English teacher who originally raised the alarm said that it looked like one.

The english teacher has been much maligned in the commentary of both right and left elucidators–“…of course it was the benighted english teacher who, uncomprehendingly fearing Ahmed’s invention and aura of scientific creative-tastic-ness, reactively islamaphobed all over him…” And it’s clear that shortly after the english teacher’s intervention was when things went def-con 1, but some of the specific factual accounts just have the english teacher sending Ahmed to the principal after failing to get him to put the clock in his backpack and keep it from beeping.

150

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 9:33 pm

@adam.smith 09.23.15 at 8:58 pm

If Watson’s complaints were groundless, then pointing at well-grounded complaints to show the difference was not unacceptable. If Watson’s complaints were well-grounded, then pointing at graver complaints in order to dismiss hers was an unfair rhetorical move. The difference is relevant. Naturally, Watson’s complaints are just one example of, well, debatable stuff.

151

TM 09.23.15 at 9:37 pm

150, I haven’t heard the part about beeping, where’d you get that from?

152

Lynne 09.23.15 at 9:43 pm

“I don’t think it had to be obvious to him that she would still freak out and suspect him of being a violent rapist bastard.”

She didn’t freak out. She didn’t suspect him of that. She _had_ said in her speech that she didn’t like to be hit on at conferences, etc. And it was an elevator. That you are so clueless about the importance of this fact is rather astonishing.

153

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 9:47 pm

@lurker 09.23.15 at 9:32 pm

Sorry, didn’t mean to malign the English teacher either; the truth is I’m not sure who originally raised the issue of a bomb / bomb hoax. Someone did, obviously.

154

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 9:52 pm

Lynne 09.23.15 at 9:43 pm

>She didn’t freak out. She didn’t suspect him of that. She _had_ said in her speech that she didn’t like to be hit on at conferences, etc. And it was an elevator. That you are so clueless about the importance of this fact is rather astonishing.

I’m starting to think that I really am far more clueless than I thought I was. Please explain – if he wasn’t a violent rapist bastard, how could it matter that it was an elevator?

155

Abbe Faria 09.23.15 at 9:55 pm

““Dear Muslima” remains such a perfect example of dismissing feminist issues while throwing in some good ol’ orientalism…”

Not really, the things he mentioned were all actually happening back in 2011; FMG, travel restrictions, wife beating, and execution for adultery. He wasn’t dipping into ancient history and orientalist fantasy to accuse them of stuff like crucifixions, taking odaliques, putting sorcerers to death, and so on.

156

christian_h 09.23.15 at 9:58 pm

Do we really have to point out that at a conference attended by many many more men than women (it might pay to think about why this is, by the way) the few women will have a choice between (a) not socializing and (b) having their socializing misinterpreted by a bunch of the many men as an invitation to proposition them sexually? And how this is a HUGE problem possibly – just maybe – suggesting to men at such a conference that they should err waaaay on the side of assuming whatever woman they feel attracted to is not interested? Dawkins’ defenders always plead context (you gotta read all the tweets on the internets AND understand Dawkins’ way of discourse first) but this whole going off on Watson was a study in ignoring (social) context.

157

TM 09.23.15 at 10:04 pm

What is most telling is that a relatively mild criticism of a certain behavior gets interpreted as “freaking out” and what not. It is telling that a woman’s mildly negative reaction is always interpreted as somehow hysterical, often in a truly hysterical tone.

158

lurker 09.23.15 at 10:16 pm

152, you can google the beeping. Nearly all the accounts mention that part. Many accounts sounding like paraphrases of the same source say that the clock beeped inside the backpack in class whereupon the english teacher said it looked like a bomb, confiscated it, and reported Ahmed to the principal. Wikipedia has slightly different language linking to a report that has the english teacher also saying “don’t show it to anyone,” although sometimes that saying is attributed to the engineering teacher also/only. I didn’t immediately turn up what I read that painted it specifically as distraction in class, but I didn’t google it that hard either, and I’ve glanced at a million things at this point.

159

F. Foundling 09.23.15 at 10:42 pm

@TM 09.23.15 at 10:04 pm
>What is most telling is that a relatively mild criticism of a certain behavior gets interpreted as “freaking out” and what not. It is telling that a woman’s mildly negative reaction is always interpreted as somehow hysterical, often in a truly hysterical tone.

Yes, the tone of her message was mild, but the substance was that she was afraid of him and thought he might be a rapist. ‘I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4 am, in a hotel elevator with you’. The only reason I can imagine why any of these circumstances could matter is because she thought he might abuse her vulnerable situation in order to rape her. If *I* suspected the person beside me in the elevator was going to attack me physically, *I* would describe my own emotional condition as being ‘freaked out’, so I assumed she was, too. But OK, I admit that I’m much more nervous and cowardly than most people, so perhaps I shouldn’t have extrapolated and believed that to be an accurate description of *her* emotional condition.

160

engels 09.23.15 at 10:51 pm

The only reason I can imagine why any of these circumstances could matter is because she thought he might abuse her vulnerable situation in order to rape her

I agree with a lot of what you’ve written but I think this wrong. She could easily find the situation uncomfortable or intimidating for those reasons even if she was consciously aware there no risk of being attacked.

161

engels 09.23.15 at 10:55 pm

(I wouldn’t like to be stuck in an elevator with a big spider even if I knew it was harmless.)

162

js. 09.23.15 at 11:39 pm

Certainly, the advances shouldn’t be impolite and aggressive, and if someone doesn’t like them – and that generally shows immediately in a rather obvious way – then continuing to make them is wrong. *That* is what should be discouraged, not making advances in general

Considered entirely in the abstract, this isn’t wrong. But you’re missing some context here. See e.g. christian_h’s point (@157) about the relative imbalance of men vs. women at these conferences, consider the related fact that the activity of hitting on tends to be really quite asymmetrical in not unproblematic ways, that such uncomfortable-making incidents are in fact common, and consider that Rebecca Watson had just publicly noted that she doesn’t want to be hit on at conferences (reasonably, given the above). Considering all of that, deciding to hit on Rebecca Watson, at this conference, in an elevator seems like a less than wonderful idea. More generally, it makes a whole lot of sense for men in particular to err on the side of caution.

163

F. Foundling 09.24.15 at 12:05 am

@engels 09.23.15 at 10:51 pm
> She could easily find the situation uncomfortable or intimidating for those reasons even if she was consciously aware there no risk of being attacked.

OK, I see your point. There is some disconnect between rationality and emotion, and people ought to be considerate enough to try to accommodate others’ irrational reactions into account – even though it’s not always easy to predict them (hey, understanding other people’s *rational* thought processes is difficult enough!). Elevator Guy failed to do that, of course. I should cross out ‘thought’ in the relevant part of my post and replace it with ‘subconsciously feared’ or something like that. This doesn’t change much in rest of the argumentation.

@christian_h 09.23.15 at 9:58 pm
>… having their socializing misinterpreted by a bunch of the many men as an invitation to proposition them sexually? … they should err waaaay on the side of assuming whatever woman they feel attracted to is not interested?

I’m not sure I’ve got the reasoning here. Since, at such a conference, there are *some* men who are so incredibly stupid that they can’t tell whether a woman is interested or not, *all* men should virtually *always* assume that a woman will not be interested? And they should do so based on some kind of statistical analysis of the gender participation at the conference? It’s very likely that I have missed something that makes all of this more sensible, for which I beg to be excused, but my brain is not in its best shape at the moment.

@Lynne 09.23.15 at 9:43 pm
>She _had_ said in her speech that she didn’t like to be hit on at conferences, etc.
@js. 09.23.15 at 11:39 pm
>consider that Rebecca Watson had just publicly noted that she doesn’t want to be hit on at conferences

I definitely agree that if she had said explicitly that she personally didn’t to be hit on at conferences, for whatever reason, and if Elevator Guy had heard her when she said it, then trying to hit on her anyway was surreally idiotic. Of course it’s her right not to be hit on if she has made it clear. However, I’m not sure that’s the case; her talk was about misogyny at conferences in general (of which there are uncontroversial types such as ‘men touching me without permission’ etc), and she has mentioned herself that she had not minded being hit on earlier. Furthermore, even in that case, in which EG is an almost unimaginable idiot, Watson’s pre- and post-EG condemnation of hitting on as such as ‘sexualisation’ is still idiotic as well.

@js. 09.23.15 at 11:39 pm
>More generally, it makes a whole lot of sense for men in particular to err on the side of caution.
Caution is a good thing. You’ll never catch me saying otherwise.

OK, that’s enough sexual politics for me, for this month at least. Or maybe year.

164

TM 09.24.15 at 2:05 am

160: “the substance was that she was afraid of him and thought he might be a rapist.”

But he might be a rapist. What is surprising about a woman alone with a stranger in an elevator at night thinking, he might be a rapist? It’s a fact that he might be a rapist and women have to contend with that possibility. Just like, say, when a woman walking at night hears steps behind her coming closer, the thought “he might be a rapist” crosses her mind. It’s not too much to ask of men to consider how a woman might experience these kinds of situations, and that seems to be exactly what Watson was talking about.

165

TM 09.24.15 at 2:10 am

To be clear: “no risk of being attacked” is a very unrealistic assumption – there objectively was a risk. In retrospect, we know that she wasn’t attacked but she couldn’t be certain of that at the time. That’s an objective fact you are weirdly overlooking.

166

adam.smith 09.24.15 at 2:19 am

If Watson’s complaints were groundless, then pointing at well-grounded complaints to show the difference was not unacceptable. If Watson’s complaints were well-grounded, then pointing at graver complaints in order to dismiss hers was an unfair rhetorical move.

nope. Bringing up persecution of women in the Middle East in response to a complaint about sexual harassment that has nothing at all to do with the Middle East is never “acceptable.”
It’s sexist because it implies that sexual harassment isn’t a real problem (regardless of whether a specific incident did or didn’t constitute sexual harassment. Dawkins didn’t point to a well-grounded complaint of the same thing. He brought up something that’s completely unrelated and measure sexual harassment against it.)
It’s racist because it reduces very real issues experienced by real people to what you rightly call a “rhetorical move.”

167

Ben Vernia 09.24.15 at 2:20 am

For god’s sake, I’m a lawyer, not even a scientist, and I know that what the kid made looks an awful lot like a clock. No, Bill Maher, and no, Richard Dawkins, not like a bomb – like a clock. Ignorance of basic electronics is not something that one should so proudly display.

168

TM 09.24.15 at 2:22 am

lurker 159: CNN reports that “Later, Ahmed’s clock beeped during an English class, and after he revealed the device to the teacher, school officials notified the police, and Ahmed was interrogated by officers.”
http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/16/us/texas-student-ahmed-muslim-clock-bomb/

At 150 you wrote: “some of the specific factual accounts just have the english teacher sending Ahmed to the principal after failing to get him to put the clock in his backpack and keep it from beeping.”

That account is quite different from the above. If you have a source, please give.

169

TM 09.24.15 at 2:38 am

Bill Maher: “Because for the last 30 years, it’s been one culture who has been blowing shit up over and over again.”

Hmmm, that’s a hard one – which “culture” has detonated the most explosives during the last 30 years? That would of course be ours, hands down.

It’s truly scary how even normally reasonable people can become unhinged as soon as somebody named Ahmed comes into the story.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/09/21/bill_maher_on_ahmed_mohameds_clock_young_muslims_are_blowing_shit_up_all_over_the_world.html.

170

Kiwanda 09.24.15 at 3:09 am

Ben Vernia: “No, Bill Maher, and no, Richard Dawkins, not like a bomb – like a clock. “

I don’t think Dawkins ever thought it looked like a bomb: a couple of his tweets:

“I don’t give two hoots if the boy is Muslim or Druid, brown or skybluepink. He was victim of same dopey zero tolerance security as everyone.”

‘If the authorities really thought it might be a bomb, why did they not evacuate the building? Casts doubt on their motive for arresting him.”

I *think* his issues were: that it wasn’t much of a project, and the over-reaction was more due to zero-tolerance than ethnicity. Which are irrelevant and dubious, but not a claim that it looked like a bomb.

171

Kiwanda 09.24.15 at 3:35 am

adam.smith: “Bringing up persecution of women in the Middle East in response to a complaint about sexual harassment that has nothing at all to do with the Middle East is never “acceptable.””

The incident was: someone asks her back to his room for coffee. She declines, he takes no for an answer without pushback (that anybody ever mentioned, anyway). OK, not smooth, but not exactly an ordeal, nor does she describe it that way. (Although there’s also (roughly) “it’s creepy to be sexually objectified…”, which is a bit surprising coming from someone who organized, modeled for, and sold naughty calendars for several years.)

A couple female undergraduates disagree with her re objectification. She gives a talk, criticizes one of the undergraduates by name, lumps her in with misogynists, suggests more-or-less that she’s indifferent to rape victims. Watson has another blogpost about this minor incident, PZ Myers bloviates about it as well, more back and forth, a female graduate student criticizes Watson re the undergraduate, etc. etc. Then, after all this, Dawkins calls first-world problems on it, in a harsh way, in a blogpost comment. Now the incident is about Dawkins, and four or five of the usual suspects weigh in on that bad, bad man Richard Dawkins. So, yeah, shame on Dawkins, shame, shame, shame!

172

Lyle 09.24.15 at 3:38 am

F. Founding: “But condemning/banning *all* flirting by *everyone* by default just because some don’t even want to have to bother to say no or to show they dislike it is completely unreasonable. Again, calling for that *is* being anti-sex.”

Yeah but no one here is saying that. I think you’re confusing anti-sex and anti-sexism.

“I’m starting to think that I really am far more clueless than I thought I was.”

Good! That’s a start.

173

js. 09.24.15 at 3:49 am

Although there’s also (roughly) “it’s creepy to be sexually objectified…”, which is a bit surprising coming from someone who organized, modeled for, and sold naughty calendars for several years.

Jesus fucking christ! Also too: if you’ve ever had sex, you can’t be raped!

174

adam.smith 09.24.15 at 4:53 am

Then, after all this, Dawkins calls first-world problems on it, in a harsh way, in a blogpost comment.

Exactly. Dawkins called “first-world” problems on a discussion of sexual harassment. That’s really all that’s relevant for an assessment of Dawkins, which was the question here.

I don’t care if there are other horrible people in the “atheist/skeptic” movement, too. I’m sure there are. Doesn’t make Dawkins any better.

175

adam.smith 09.24.15 at 4:55 am

yeah, and what js. says. JFC. It’s unreal that we still have to explain that shit.

176

bad Jim 09.24.15 at 5:25 am

Schrödinger’s Rapist is essential reading.

With respect to elevatorgate (I still can’t believe that people could lose their shit over “Guys, don’t do that”), I think I got something across to one of my nephews by pointing out that going to a man’s room in the middle of the night would in many jurisdictions be taken as evidence of consent.

177

Z 09.24.15 at 8:14 am

but is this conflict between a strong commitment towards social progress, and ‘Islamophobia’, contingent? Might be worth discussing.

That’s easy. My idea of social progress (and PZ Myers’s, for that matter) rests on a rational approach to social issues. A phobia is, by definition, an irrational fear of something. Hence, any social stance based on a phobia is incompatible with my (and PZ Myers’s) notion of social progress. Rational criticism of any social phenomenon, including organized religions, is of course compatible with (in fact, a crucial pre-requisite of) social progress. Anyone vaguely familiar with PZ Myers writings knows that he cannot be accused of holding his punch in that respect.

178

kidneystones 09.24.15 at 10:02 am

The right has unpacked the clock story and it reeks. There are several issues. First, this act of ‘genius’ involved no more than removing the workings of a functioning alarm clock from its casing, and then repacking it in a pencil case. Read this: http://blogs.artvoice.com/techvoice/2015/09/17/reverse-engineering-ahmed-mohameds-clock-and-ourselves/

Second, The elder sister of the genius was evidently suspended from school herself for three days for ‘threatening to blow the school up.’ She owns to this (not to her culpability) and sees her younger brother’s ‘success’ as a kind of vindication.

Now, as someone who never won a prize at the science fair I feel extremely uncomfortable raining on the parade of any enterprising teenager. I wonder, however, how all this pans out if it turns out that the boy genius does not have what it takes to success at MIT, Twitter, FB, and the sundry institutions falling all over themselves to exploit the boy for a little positive free press.

Bringing a beeping package to school in these paranoid times is a lot like asking to be singled out for extra scrutiny when boarding an airplane. As others have pointed out, this sort of behavior would win most kids a suspension. I live and teach in an extremely secure environment and I have to confess I’d be extremely perturbed to find any of my own students concealing a homemade device with wires sticking out of it that suddenly started beeping, that when opened appeared to have a flashing clock ticking off seconds and that couldn’t be shut off, if that’s actually what occurred.

Had the scientifically-minded bothered to, you know, actually look at a photograph of the ‘hoax bomb that is actually a clock’ they would notice one striking feature about the little innocent’s redesigned clock – the device that used to tell time clearly has been reconfigured (improved) so that it in no way resembles a clock: Our intrepid ‘inventor’ removed the one basic flaw common to all a clocks: the clearly visible face that indicates the passage of time by concealing this distraction within the protective covering of a black and silver case secured by a cable. All that was left for our hero to do was set the timer, secure the cable, pack the device in his bag, take his place in a crowded classroom, and wait for his ‘invention’ to go beep-beep-beep.

Where’s the harm in that?

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casmilus 09.24.15 at 10:32 am

I didn’t realise the kid was supposed to be a “genius”. I thought it was just that he had a go, did something worth a few words of approval, but instead got a ludicrous overreaction.

180

casmilus 09.24.15 at 10:33 am

Sticking someone else’s idea inside a shiny new wrapper = the basis of most modern “tech”.

This kid will make a fortune running a start-up within 5 years, you’ll see.

181

Belle Waring 09.24.15 at 10:45 am

Thanks James Wimberley I will fix the bouleversement.
Kidneystones: I linked to the blog post you mention in my post above, so I obviously don’t consider it to be compelling. You may see, at the top of the page, where I state that I think disassembling (even partially) and reassembling (howso’er modestly) old electronics such that they work again counts as “make” for 14-year-old kids. He would also have made it if someone bought him microbots or whatever and then he followed a youtube tutorial.
Kiwanda: “(Although there’s also (roughly) “it’s creepy to be sexually objectified…”, which is a bit surprising coming from someone who organized, modeled for, and sold naughty calendars for several years.)”
What the fuck is this? What. The. Fuck. ? Please tell me you don’t think that having had sex with a person in the past gives them the right to have sex with you forever. Because it doesn’t! And having posed for pin-up pictures intentionally and controlled the means of distribution yourself, does it mean that other people can take creepshots of you at their leisure? Hey guess what let’s dial n00-0000 and listen to the message! IT’S NO. And no, it’s never OK to bring up FGM out of the blue when a woman explains an experience she found troubling. That’s just literally saying, “you don’t have the right to complain about anything that happens in your life unless someone hacked your clitoris out with a broken Sprite bottle.” It actually means that actual thing. Do you think that thing? That’s a duuumb thing to think, yo. I hope you don’t think that.

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kidneystones 09.24.15 at 10:58 am

Hi Belle, Thanks for the reply. I’m a big fan of your writing, btw. You’re reasoning, not so much, but I know you’re not likely to crumple at that discovery. I’m curious, as a parent, what you’d think of a kid bringing a device like this into your kid’s classroom. I’d be a whole lot less than amused. Nor can I see the Secret Service patting the inventive young chap on the back for bringing the device to class, had he been a classmate of one of O’s kids and wearing, oh I don’t know, maybe a confederate cap and t-shirt the same day.

Where we may agree is that I see no reason to hand-cuff and arrest any fourteen-year old short for any reason short of extreme aggravated assault and such violence. Pretty much every middle school kid builds who takes an electronics class builds much more complex devices from the parts.

The story stinks, the kid is a victim of his crazy old man and twisted sister, and I fear the only going to pay the price is the boy.

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christian_h 09.24.15 at 11:04 am

I admit to being confounded. Why ever should I care if that kid “made” the clock or cheated and just modified an existing clock? Is being a show-off now an offense that requires calling the cops on children? Seriously what the hell is wrong with people.

184

christian_h 09.24.15 at 11:09 am

Sorry kidneystones but what you are promulgating here is a blatant conspiracy theory. The idea that this kid was somehow manipulated into manipulating school authorities into overreacting in order to stir up some national story is beyond absurd. As Belle points out in the OP this would be about the least reliable plan ever.

185

kidneystones 09.24.15 at 11:11 am

Sorry about the typos, but that’s so me. Just want to add (like I need to) that I think; Belle, you’re quite wrong re: the skill sets of fourteen-year old kids. As an utterly unremarkable fourteen-year old, we build electric motors from parts (with switches that worked), circuit testers, and learned a fair amount of theory. No tests, please! My mother used to build stereos from scratch and an uncle built his own computer. Taking the parts out of one package (184 nowithstanding) and putting in them into another package don’t count for squat, even among those younger. Removing the parts and placing them in a casing that makes the device more difficult to use, and incidentally can be mistaken for an exploding device isn’t inventive in any positive meaning of the term I understand. But that’s me.

I don’t want my kids to assemble devices that can be mistaken for bombs and bring them to school. Go figure.

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kidneystones 09.24.15 at 11:24 am

@ 189 Last time I checked you were defending real people planting real bombs against real civilian targets as acts of patriotism. So, I can see how simply building a device that looked like a bomb might seem like the act of an innocent. That’s the point, I’m afraid. I say there’s an implied threat in the construction of that device and the kid carrying it into a classroom. I wouldn’t my own kids within a country mile of any family that sanctioned that kind of behavior.

187

afeman 09.24.15 at 11:26 am

The story stinks, the kid is a victim of his crazy old man and twisted sister, and I fear the only going to pay the price is the boy. – kidneystones

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? – Sherlock Holmes

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christian_h 09.24.15 at 11:31 am

It. Was. A. Clock. If it looks like a bomb to you it is because you have let the project fear brigade get to you. (By the way kidneystones yeah, you are blatantly lying about what I posted regarding the IRA but who is counting…)

189

kidneystones 09.24.15 at 12:26 pm

@193 I fear I’ve touched a nerve. Defending terrorist attacks against civilian targets must get tiring. What you fail to understand is that most people are aware that a few deeply disturbed people have convinced themselves that attacking completely innocent individuals is both necessary and moral. That’s the world we share.

Re: my uncontrollable fear of clocks. I know what a clock looks like, actually. I’m surrounded by them, as we all are. In all cases, they look like – wait for it now – clocks. I don’t run out of my classroom when the bell goes off, fearing a firestorm. I don’t worry when a cellphone goes off. Nor do I stare fearfully at clocks in train stations concerned that any one of them might explode at any moment.

I certainly would not be worried should I hear a beeping go off in the bag of one of my students. In fact, I often do. I would begin to become curious and concerned if the student removed from the bag a black and silver case emitting this insistent noise and bound by a cable. I would definitely move from concerned to slightly alarmed once the case was opened to reveal a home-made bundle consisting of a flashing timer, a circuit board, wires, all crudely bound together. I suspect a rush of adrenaline and fear would propel me towards determining as quickly as possible if this device actually represented a threat to the students in my care, and others.

I would not, however, feel the slightest relief to discover that the device was ‘only a clock.’ On the contrary, once I realized that the ‘clock that looked like a bomb’ exercise had been conceived and mapped out by one or more malevolent individuals long before class began, I’d begin to feel a flood of intense frustration, bordering on hostility, and a sense of being violated. I’d probably then be relieved that the kid is not nuts enough (yet) to actually bring an actual device into a school.

Ahmed (and perhaps his family) planned and executed an act of terror theater that goes well beyond any teenage stunt – one that involved every student, every teacher, and every family in that school. For that, he’s being feted. The upside is that he might be too dense to understand yet his role in this mess.

On that note, I’ll say good-night.

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Belle Waring 09.24.15 at 1:31 pm

Hi kidneystones. I agree that 14-year-olds can and do make quite complicated things, but I don’t think that makes it the case that nothing but the best can qualify as being a tech-inclined person. I’ve looked at it and would be ok with it at my kids school–there’s no explosive material. But I have made actual bombs, so ymmv.

191

Lyle 09.24.15 at 1:49 pm

I have a distinct feeling that kidneystones is also the kind of parent who makes a big stink about the “white privilege” poster display at the high school diversity fair.

192

Popeye 09.24.15 at 3:33 pm

For that, he’s being feted.

Wrong. He’s being supported because he is a 14-year-old boy who was marched out in handcuffs because of a hypothetical adrenaline rush in some adult. No handcuffs, no one cares.

193

TM 09.24.15 at 3:34 pm

The right-wing hysteria about Ahmed’s clock is bizarre even by Fox News standards. Fox News “expert” Napolitano has “warned” the family that they “could be facing a fraud case if the incident is proven to be a publicity stunt”. One can picture the judge scratching his head: what is the fraudulent act supposed to be? Claiming that a clock is just a clock? But he must have known that the police wouldn’t believe him so he really had intent to deceive – by telling the truth? It all sounds hilarious until one remembers that there might be judges out there willing torture logic enough to make a case out of it. Maybe they will invent the new offense of “intentionally getting arrested on false pretenses”.

If Ahmed’s family really somehow improbably staged this incident in order to embarrass the school, the police, and the right wing echo chamber (not to mention Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins), they must be very very smart. Maybe they are aliens of superior intelligence brought to Earth to conduct a field experiment on human gullibility. (Now I’m giving the right wingers ideas).

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TM 09.24.15 at 3:47 pm

Dawkins defends his comments:

“The atheist [sic!] writer suggested Ahmed might have “wanted to be arrested” in order to be seen as a victim of discrimination and later defended his comments on Twitter as a manifestation of his passion for seeking out the “truth”. …
[Dawkins quote:] “You have to ask the question: Why would a boy take a screwdriver to a clock, take the works out, and put it in a box?”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-defends-ahmed-mohamed-comments-and-dismisses-islamophobia-as-a-non-word-10515389.html

Why indeed? Because he wanted to get arrested – that’s the result of impeccable scientific logic, the only rational answer imaginable.

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CJColucci 09.24.15 at 4:40 pm

Ahmed (and perhaps his family) planned and executed an act of terror theater that goes well beyond any teenage stunt – one that involved every student, every teacher, and every family in that school. For that, he’s being feted. The upside is that he might be too dense to understand yet his role in this mess.

A plot worthy of Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius. The whole elaborate plan falls apart if one person, one, acts rationally at any moment before the arrest. There would never have been a stink about this if people merely checked out the clock to see what it was — even if a bunch of schoolteachers and administrators needed the cops to check it to be sure. It had to go all the way to an arrest to be a story, and, for no good reason, it did. But the conspirators couldn’t have counted on that.

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ragweed 09.24.15 at 4:42 pm

It strikes me that the whole “stop whining, you’re not in Saudi Arabia” thing is more than just dismissive – it’s an implied threat. It’s like Vinny shaking you down for protection money because there’s some criminals out there who will do some baaad things if you don’t pay up. Or “if all you feminists don’t stop whining and give out a little, we’ll show you what real sexism is…”

Which is also part of the hidden meaning of all of the “all he did was hit on her in an elevator, he didn’t try to rape her…” stuff. It carries the implicit reminder that he could have raped her, if he wanted to.

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ragweed 09.24.15 at 4:47 pm

The boys parents obviously meant for this to be a publicity stunt. Why else would they have given their son a name like Mohammed?

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Kiwanda 09.24.15 at 5:06 pm

Belle:

What the fuck is this? What. The. Fuck. ? Please tell me you don’t think….

Belle:

If I had a wang I would so totally have stuck it in a roast suckling pig by now.

What the fuck is this? What. The. Fuck. ? Belle, don’t tell me you agree with trans-phobes that women with wangs want to stick said wang in roast pigs. Just because a wang-wielder is a woman doesn’t mean that she wants sex with pigs, or for that matter horses, or cows, or ducks. Belle, for God’s sake, there are basic concepts of consent, and I can easily conclude, based on your statement alone, that you just don’t understand them at all. And frankly, I’m shocked that you would write in favor of sex with ducks by wang-wielding women. But finally, it comes down to this: why do you hate America?

199

ragweed 09.24.15 at 5:09 pm

I also like kidneystones with this ” and wearing, oh I don’t know, maybe a confederate cap and t-shirt the same day.”

The real kid was wearing a STAR TREK t-shirt. Which is majorly threatening, like maybe he was planning on going off to a terrorist training camp to make jihad against the Klingons or something.

Seriously though, the whole argument that this is just a publicity stunt really sticks in my craw. Because things like this happen all the time – maybe not quite as blatant and obviously stupid, but similar over-reaction and disproportionate punishment of black, Latino and Native kids. It starts in pre-school, for gods sake, and it is incredibly well documented. And most of the time, either the kids just take it, internalize it that they are bad kids, or get a juvi record which screws up their future, or whatever, and parents may make a stink to the school, and get dismissed and ignored, but it rarely gets beyond that.

Except when you have some parents who are activists and advocates form their kids, and have the knowledge and resources to actually make a stink and get it heard. Then, suddenly its all a publicity stunt, because there is nothing worse than an African-American Muslim kid named Mohammed actually getting listened to for once.

200

Layman 09.24.15 at 5:12 pm

Shorter kidneystones: The kid was asking for it.

This has the benefit of reusability, when the next unarmed man is shot by a cop, or the next young woman is raped, or the next country of Others is bombed or invaded.

201

The Temporary Name 09.24.15 at 5:26 pm

The right has unpacked the clock story and it reeks.

The right and the unpacking anyway. I don’t think you need more proof than kidneystones pointing to the Shiny New Evidence mocked in the original post. Kiwanda and Foundling will similarly never let go of any assertion they’ve made in this thread, a property they share with creationists.

202

lurker 09.24.15 at 6:06 pm

[Dawkins quote:] “You have to ask the question: Why would a boy take a screwdriver to a clock, take the works out, and put it in a box?”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-defends-ahmed-mohamed-comments-and-dismisses-islamophobia-as-a-non-word-10515389.html

Why indeed? Because he wanted to get arrested – that’s the result of impeccable scientific logic, the only rational answer imaginable.

Can we distinguish between there being something wrong with the question and something wrong with the answer? If Ahmed had taken a store bought cake out of its box, put it in a cake pan, and showed it around as his own, some of us might say, “hey, he didn’t really make that cake.” If he had traced some comic book art, some of us might say he didn’t actually “draw” it, if, for some tendentious value of “draw” we could say he did.

Why does it matter? Because, if Ahmed is seen less crisply as a junior woodchuck, if, for instance, we consider the possibility of a (mild and totally benign and normal) deception on his part, then the whole fable becomes more permeable, and it’s easier to imagine, for instance, the real and serious mistakes of the teachers and administrators as having potentially more complex and less alien etiologies than islamaphobia and wickedness. The whole thing is allowed to become somewhat fuzzier and messier. Dawkins is right to smell a pretense. And people doing the evasive and inflationary junior woodchuck-ifying stuff about “tinkering” and “reassembling” smell it too, and that they might lose the full homily as a psychological (if not logical) consequence of it becoming record that Ahmed did not make the clock.

For that matter, this is probably how Truther movements get going in general. Some people are dissembling about inconsequential cosmetic things to guard against what they (possibly rightly) predict about the consequences of a subtler picture, and other generally paranoid people correctly smelling the deception, but incorrectly flagging it in terms of their own a priori global paranoia.

203

TM 09.24.15 at 7:00 pm

“Can we distinguish between there being something wrong with the question and something wrong with the answer?”

What is wrong is the logic that connects the thoughts. It’s a classical non sequitur.

204

lurker 09.24.15 at 7:35 pm

Or, just a failure to imagine a fuller spectrum of ways that people are and things that motivate them.

205

Bill Benzon 09.24.15 at 7:39 pm

@ Belle #195: “But I have made actual bombs, so ymmv.”

Can’t say that i have. But if i could have, I would have, back when I was 14 plus or minus, and I’d have taken it out in the woods and set it off. Closest my friends and I ever came was making black powder, stuffing it in a soda bottle, and setting that off in the woods. It wasn’t all that loud, but it was satisfying enough.

What I really enjoyed was putting various colorless chemicals into pure clear water (from the tap) and watching it turn colors because of the interaction among the chemicals. Thought that was cool. Something from nothing. Can’t get deeper than that.

@kiwando, #202: “…sex with ducks by wang-wielding women.” There’s a song there. Better copyright it, NOW!

206

Bill Benzon 09.24.15 at 7:43 pm

BTW, this thread is beginning to approach the best of Michael Bérubé’s blog for risibility and lunacy. And that’s saying something, because back in the day, it was wild and crazy. Nothing like a good show trial for fun and games.

207

christian_h 09.24.15 at 7:48 pm

A kid gets arrested for bringing a clock to school. So obviously the question to ask, urgently, is: did he really make that clock?

A kid gets shot dead by a cop for walking in the middle of a road. So obviously what we really need to know, urgently, is: did that kid do something criminal at some other point in time?

A kid gets stalked then shot and killed by some self-appointed neighborhood superhero. So obviously we must know, urgently: did that kid smoke weed?

The first kid maybe didn’t make the clock. So we are forced to conclude he (perhaps as an unwitting pawn of his family) perpetrated a heinous act of terrorism. He deserved to be arrested.

The second kid possibly stole something from a convenience store. Hence we must conclude he was physically so intimidating the cop couldn’t do anything but furs his gun, repeatedly. The kid deserved to die.

The third kid had smoked weed. Clearly we therefore can see the kid assaulted the much bigger man who had to fire his gun in self-defense. The kid was asking for it.

208

TM 09.24.15 at 7:54 pm

What the boy did or didn’t do – as long as he didn’t do anything illegal, and nobody has offered evidence that he did – is not nearly as interesting as the response he received, first from the school and the police and then from the media and self-appointed electronics experts. People like Maher and Dawkins (who, one would hope, hold themselves to higher standards than Fox News does) don’t need to examine any pictures of circuit boards – they need to examine what’s going on in their own heads. That would be the rational, and also brave, thing to do.

And what christian_h said.

209

AcademicLurker 09.24.15 at 8:32 pm

The school’s idiotic response doesn’t surprise me, because school administrators being authoritarian in mind bendingly stupid ways and then getting mocked nationally for it is an old tradition. Back in the pre-web days when people still watched the nightly news, stories similar to this one would occasionally show up.

The reactions after the story broke, though, have been amazing. I’m surprised at how many people have eagerly jumped on the crazy train. I suppose I shouldn’t be.

210

adam.smith 09.24.15 at 9:03 pm

I’ve gotta say though, I’m rather impressed by the long-con, viral marketing genius, method actor Ahmed of Maher/Dawkins invention. Real Ahmed seems smart enough, but that kid who knows how to orchestrate a perfect viral marketing campaign, puts a couple of years of faked interest in technology into it, predicts where and how police are going to arrest him to position peope for the perfect social-media-ready snapshot (and look at how he’s even managed to immitate that awkward-nerd look!)–now, that’s truly remarkable. Him, the White House should _definitely_ invite.

211

F. Foundling 09.24.15 at 9:58 pm

Addendum 1: Dawkins himself on what he meant with ‘Dear Muslima’:

‘Somebody made the worthwhile point (reiterated here by PZ) that it is no defence of something slightly bad to point to something worse. We should fight all bad things, the slightly bad as well as the very bad. Fair enough. But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.’

212

F. Foundling 09.24.15 at 10:00 pm

Addendum 2:

Conservative: Obama is a socialist tyrant.

Liberal: Jesus Christ, man, have you forgotten what an actual socialist tyrant is? *Stalin* was a socialist tyrant. He sent people to the gulag, shot people, didn’t let anyone operate his own business. How is Obama doing that?

Conservative: How dare you belittle my very legitimate complaints about Obama’s socialist tyrannical actions by bringing in something even worse that’s completely unrelated? That’s just literally saying, “you don’t have the right to complain about anything that happens in your country unless someone has sent you to the gulag, shot you or naionalized your business.” It actually means that actual thing. It’s *never* OK to bring out Stalin out of the blue when tyrannical tendencies are being discussed. In fact, now that I think about it, it’s an implied threat! It carries an implicit reminder that you libs could send us to the gulag, shoot us and nationalize our businesses, if you wanted to. Or, “If all you conservatives don’t stop whining and pay up a little, we’ll show you what real socialism is…”

Disclaimer destined to be ignored: Of course, frequently this really *is* an unfair rhetorical move!!! And of course there *are* a lot of legitimate Western feminist complaints!!!

213

F. Foundling 09.24.15 at 10:03 pm

Addendum 3:

Classical Elevatorgate quotes to memorise by heart (from Ye Moft Excellent & Lamentable Tragedie of Rebecca Watfon & Ye Elevatour Guido):

1. Gui.: ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more; would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?’

2. Wat: ‘… it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.’

214

F. Foundling 09.24.15 at 10:11 pm

Re whether the clock looks like a bomb – after kidneystones’ comment, this is beginning to seem like the new #thedress, except along political lines. I’ve no idea what it looks like to me on the single photo they keep showing – a, hm, Wire Thingie? Perhaps it can depend on what mood one is in? A Rorschach test? As for the reason why revisionists/truthers discuss just how *impressive* Ahmed’s work was – well, obviously, they want to prove that his intention wasn’t to impress his teacher, as he has claimed, but was, instead, to make a bomb hoax. I’ve already said why, while having no particularly fixed opinion on the appearance and relative creative merits of the Wire Thingie, I find this difficult to believe.

215

Helen 09.25.15 at 1:53 am

Kidneystones to Belle: “I’m not sure about you’re (sic) reasoning.
Now let me tell you about this unlikely conspiracy theory I cribbed from a smalltime online news site featuring Bill Maher.”
KS, I’m not too sure about you’re reasoning.

216

adam.smith 09.25.15 at 3:15 am

@Foundling’s “Addendum 2”: Did you notice how it’s the crazy person who is introducing “socialist tyrant” into your example? That’s the key difference here. Had Watson said “There, in the elevator, I felt like a Muslim woman about to be circumcised,” the “Dear Muslima” letter would have been an appropriate response (an unnecessary one, because no one would have taken her seriously). So if you insist turning this into a liberal/conservative example, maybe this much closer analogy will help you appreciate this:

Conservative: Because of Obamacare, my health care costs have gone up! We actually have to think about whether we can go to the doctor now, with deductibles high as they are.
Liberal: What are you complaining about? People in Somalia would be happy if they had _any_ healthcare!
Conservative: ???

I hope we can agree that the “liberal” argument here would be quite offensive–both in its dismissal of the voiced concerns and in using some stand-in for a “bad” place as a rhetorical club–even if it turns out that (as is often the case) the conservative’s complaint was baseless and their actual household hc expenditures had staid about the same.
Except that what Dawkins did was even worse, because conservative critiques of HC laws don’t have a history of being dismissed.

217

bad Jim 09.25.15 at 6:32 am

christian_h @ 212: beautiful.

218

Hidari 09.25.15 at 7:24 am

Apparently when Richard Dawkins stayed with Robert Trivers for a few weeks in the 1980s, after he left, Trivers’ wife snorted, speaking of Dawkins, ‘They should call him Selfish Gene!’.

Make of that what you will.

219

Yama 09.25.15 at 1:23 pm

220

F. Foundling 09.25.15 at 4:16 pm

In retrospect, and having spoken to people with similar experiences, I think I really must apologise for having treated the whole elevator thing lightly than I should have. In this, I was wrong and foolish.

Yes, in the real world, men should NEVER, EVER, EVER proposition women, no matter how politely, in elevators and similar closed solitary spaces, unless they already know each other *extremely* well. Propositions in such spaces will almost ALWAYS be scary. This SHOULD be a rule known to everybody. It IS very important, and Watson was abosutely right to raise the issue. *This* should be the most important takeaway from this particular incident, and the rest is just a distraction.

It is very unfortunate that this rule of thumb simply isn’t intuitively obvious to many men (if not most, then to those who are less naturally empathetic), that it doesn’t follow in an immediate and obvious way from acceptance of the most general abstract principles such as consent, and that it is not codified in some well-known handbook that we could all study at school (such as the Schrödinger’s Rapist text that Bad Jim linked to). As a result, it was not obvious to 70-year-old Dawkins, it was not obvious to Elevator Guy, and I, too, while criticising it, have spoken of it with some frivolity and lenience that is objectively noxious. Elevator Guy may have been merely ignorant, but this decisive aspect of his behaviour must be condemned by everybody very clearly, for everybody’s sake.

I still insist that this is ignorance, not sexism. You can care about justice and ethics without without always managing to put yourself in the shoes of people in different life situations – and no, just trusting everything that everybody says is not a solution either – and without having a very empathetic disposition. Still, I think that everyone is guilty of this to some extent in one respect or another. Generally speaking, Dawkins sucks, as do I, as I have clearly shown in this thread, but everything is relative, and, on balance, I still consider Dawkins (and myself) to be among the less harmful representatives of the human species. Obviously, that’s not an objective opinion; I don’t find Dawkins’ reactions completely unforgivable, since that would be very close to finding my own reactions completely unforgivable, and I am understandably reluctant to do so – but everyone else may feel free not to be swayed by this particular argument.

It is unfortunate that Watson herself chose to frame her very valid experience by using buzzwords and concepts like ‘sexualisation’ and ‘sexual objectification’, which are used frequently and controversially to condemn *all* expression of sexual interest outside of the bedroom and perhaps the bar, and that she happened to talk about it in the context of sexual *harassment*, which, of all things, it arguably wasn’t. This seemed to conflate the issue of A) the permissibility of polite sexual propositions at such gatherings in general, and the issue of B) the intimidating context in which this one was made. As a result, many in her audience, including some women who gave some of the first negative responses, thought that the central issue was A and began to argue about A. Thus, what could and should have been only an opportunity for men to learn something important about B, turned into a controversy. As for A, I remain of the opinions that I have expressed so far, and I do think they need to be defended. As for B – once again, I’m sorry.

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F. Foundling 09.25.15 at 4:19 pm

That should be ‘*more* lightly than I should have’, of course.

222

CJColucci 09.25.15 at 5:15 pm

Well, something constructive has been accomplished over the last few days.

223

The Temporary Name 09.25.15 at 5:55 pm

I did laundry!

224

Jim Buck 09.25.15 at 5:58 pm

What if it had been Paley’s watch that the lad took to school?

225

js. 09.25.15 at 8:56 pm

Wow! This never happens on a blog thread. Cheers, F. Foundling!

226

Belle Waring 09.26.15 at 4:23 am

Yay F. Foundling! I think that saying it’s a failure of empathy is accurate, but that it also makes sense to talk about sexism in that context. Having white male person be your default lens through which you view the world can be a mere failure of imagination in a single individual, but when many people in a society use this same lens to the exclusion of other people it becomes a societal problem and not simply a personal issue. But I’m not trying to fault you over it particularly, and thanks for cordially changing (at least in part) your mind!

227

Lynne 09.26.15 at 10:07 am

And once again a woman blogs in CT and the comment thread turns into an exercise in Sexism 101.

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Procopius 09.28.15 at 3:57 am

J– #15 “Wang Dang Doodle” Howlin’ Wolf song.
I’ve got a version by Koko Taylor, too. I don’t think the tune is, “If I had a hammer.”

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