The aim of this annual competition is quite simple and twofold -
The grand prize is a kick in the genitals of your choice.
You have to love how atheism has evolved in the 21st century to now be indistinguishable from the Westboro Baptist Church.
Names have been modified in this version to prevent unrelated 3rd parties getting the TamTamPamela treatment (i.e. feces in the mail, photos of people's houses posted online, people's employer's being contacted etc.), which was the last time the new, new atheist lynch mob got fully mobilised. The original can be viewed in the links provided.
“He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster” - Nietzsche
One of the great things about the atheist community is that it tolerates a fair degree of robust disagreement. That is good. That is healthy.
Personally, I don’t agree with personal epithets being hurled but I do understand that, in the heat of the moment, it’s human nature to lash out and call someone an idiot, a dick, or even a fuckwit. Not pleasant, but no particular harm done.
I’ve always said that if you’re going to post on the internet, you’d better grow a thick skin and begin to realise that not everyone is going to agree with you – and some people are going to be more than direct in attacking you. That’s the nature of the beast.
But, there is a point at which disagreement goes beyond being reasonable and becomes abusive. And then there’s a point at which abuse goes beyond objectionable and becomes stalking.
An Australian atheist, Keyser Söze (aka Felch Grogan and Franc Hoggle of the Grey Lining blog) has just advanced to level three.
The trouble began when Söze disagreed with PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson (and some others) over the Rebecca Watson ‘elevator gate’ issue. I tried to stay out of the whole thing. It was a storm in a teacup as far as I was concerned and people from both sides went way overboard on what was, ultimately, a casual comment from Watson saying, “Hey guys, if I’m in a hotel lift, by myself at 3am in the morning, don’t try picking me up – it’s creepy and just a wee bit scary.”
A comment from Richard Dawkins on PZ Myers’ Pharyngula escalated the affair and soon everyone was in boots and all, including Söze, posting (mostly) as Franc Hoggle (an anagram of his other alias, Felch Grogan).
But Söze was not content to argue the case on its merits. He did not stick to rational arguments. In fact, he went completely off the rails. He launched a months’ long series of vicious, personal, misogynist and vitriolic attacks on Ophelia Benson. He variously referred to her as: a ‘baboon’, a ‘bitter old cunt’, the ‘Talking Prune’ and ’having a face like a fucking prune’, among other insults. He once said that if he was a woman he’d kick her in the cunt. I am sorry to be so graphic, but I want to make it very clear we are nottalking about your normal, garden variety of internet insults here.
PZ Myers has been similarly attacked. He is, apparently, ‘the Baboon King’ and the ‘Naked Emperor’ . A recent blog about PZ is prefaced with the key words: ” great idiots of the world,hyperreality, misandry, new new atheism, nihilism,nonsense, pseudo-skepticism, puritanism, shrieking hysteria, toilet slaves, Uncategorized, yellow journalism | Tags: bullshit, slave morality,PZ Myers, Naked Emperor, freethoughtblogs, veronika moser, baboon board, baboons, victim feminism, career victims, malice, threats,intimidation, hypocrisy, maniacs, derangement, Myers’ Law, imbeciles,gibbering droolers| “
Once quite a good and serious writer, Söze’s writing has deteriorated over the past 12 months into a series of increasingly hysterical rants, chiefly about PZ and Ophelia. In November he said:
“ I am now at the point where I cannot think of a more reprehensible specimen of humanity [than PZ Myers], and that includes folks like Kim Jong-il and Idi Amin. Myers doesn’t walk in their shoes only through lack of opportunity – but he’d be there in a second given an amenable environment. He has no principles left he can sell.”
Really? PZ Myers, a mild-mannered biology professor from small-town America is more reprehensible than Kim Jong-il and Idi Amin? It seemed that Söze - once a poster boy for rationality – was losing his grip on reality. His obsession with PZ had been blown so out of proportion he saw him as being on par as some of the worst mass-murderers of all time.
PZ and Ophelia were rightly concerned. It was evident from the tenor of Söze’s blogs that he was losing the plot. This had gone beyond mere disagreement to blind, raging, hatred. It was known that he was an Australian and PZ is scheduled to speak at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne. Söze even boasted he’d had his photo taken with PZ at the 2010 convention. What might such a person do if he really thought PZ was worse than a mass murderer? What kind of actions might be rationalised?
PZ began drawing analogies between Söze and the infamous atheist stalker, Dennis Markuze (aka Dave Mabus) – now out of a psychiatric ward and safely ensconced in court-ordered rehab. PZ had watched the deterioration of Markuze over many years and was noting the same kind of decline in Söze. Ironically, Söze once fought against trolls like Markuze – even selling derisive Mabus t-shirts at one point.
I was also noticing that something was wrong. I’ve known Keyser Söze (first as Felch Grogan and later as Franc Hoggle) for about five years – since Atheist Nexus was launched. I liked him. He was always an agitator with a foul mouth, but at the time he was an agitator for good, not evil. I often had to defend him when he had pushed it too hard with a homophobe, a pro-lifer or a theist who had infiltrated Atheist Nexus and my defence was always – he’s harsh, but he’s fair. For the most part, the management agreed and Felch became a bit like the site’s mascot. It always seemed to me that ‘Felch’ was a caricature of the real person. It seems I was mistaken.
I met Söze at the Global Atheist Convention in 2010. I didn’t see a lot of him – he seemed to spend most of the time at the pub, or outside smoking. But, it would be fair to say I considered him ‘a friend’.
I even encouraged his writing and thought his Grey Lining blog was a great chance for him to show he was more than just a grouchy caricature; that he was a serious thinker and writer. But the blog barely got off the ground before the decline began.
With my encouragement (and an introduction from me), he submitted a serious article to an online journal and had it refused – not on the basis of its quality, I think, but because he had earlier commented obsessively on one of the journal’s articles. It wasn’t enough for him to disagree – he just posted and posted and wouldn’t let it go. He’d shot himself in the foot. No matter how good his writing was, he’d set himself up as ‘trouble’ and no-one was going to touch him. I think the decline started from there.
Soon after, he started aiming barbs at meon my Facebook page. I was puzzled. I’d always been happy for him to disagree with me and took no offence, but these were become personal and hurtful. When I had a small nervous breakdown earlier this year and said I would have to leave the internet for a time, he posted that I was doing it to call attention to myself. I blocked him and decided to completely ignore him. I get enough shit from my opponents without having to take it from people I considered my friends.
It wasn’t until recently that I caught up with just how far the decline had gone. I was shocked when I read his blog – the language, the abuse, the obsession, the raw, bitter hatred for people he’d never even met and who could have no impact on his life if he’d only ignore them. As a woman, I was appalled at his attacks on Ophelia Benson – someone I didn’t actually know – but I could still feel how painful such remarks are, even when they come from someone so obviously overtaken by irrationalism.
Rational argument does not require personal abuse. It’s like power. When you hold a gun at someone’s head and demand that they do, or say, something, you have power. When you shoot them dead you concede that you had none. It’s the same with debate. When you hold someone’s feet to the fire with calm, lucid, rational debate, you have the power of reason behind you. When your argument declines into filthy epithets, you concede you have lost the battle and are now just wallowing in your own defeat (or defecation in the case of Söze).
Today, I see on Pharyngulathat Söze has moved to the next stage in his decline – threatening to stalk and physically assault PZ Myers at the forthcoming Global Atheist Convention. He says:
“Alas, if I am to accomplish any stalking, it would be foolish to make myself so readily identifiable. I will seek to surreptitiously besmirch as many baboons as possible by sitting next to them without them realising anything is amiss and then silently wandering off after a happy snap is taken.
It would be a grave disservice on my behalf to not feed their collective derangements and paranoias. They are martyrs remember? They have turned me into a hairshirt. I have obligations to live up to. PZ should keep checking his pockets too. I will deposit a strange, yet entirely innocuous and harmless, token of my affection for him in there. It’s up to him to catch me.
Doo-doo-doo-doo, they are entering the Twilight Zone… If they choose to make themselves insane, it’s entirely none of my concern.”
Apparently, PZ has known of Söze’s real identity for some time, but has not released it. Today, it seems, was the last straw. It’s true, Söze hasn’t threatened to hit PZ or put a bomb in his pocket, but unwanted physical contact (especially when combined with stalking and months of previous abusive diatribes) isassault. And can we really rely on Söze’s assurance that the object will be benign? Remember, this is the man whose own writing shows a rapid decline into obsession and who has stated publicly that his target is worse for humanity than Kim Jong-Il or Idi Amin.
In a way I feel sorry for Keyser Söze. I once considered him a friend. I once thought he had the potential to be a very good writer and make a positive contribution towards the causes we both felt were important. Now, he has made himself an international laughing-stock – a figure of derision, but also of fear. He has isolated himself with his deranged rants. No editor would touch him with a 10′ barge pole now – and it is a pity, because he didhave talent and very high intelligence. In short, whether deliberately or because of some psychological problem, Keyser Söze has become the monster he was fighting.
NB: Comments for this post will be closely moderated. Dissent is fine, but abuse, foul language and personal attacks will be deleted. And yes, I am concerned that in writing this I have also made myself a target. But sometimes, things need to be said and you have to have the courage to say them, whatever it might cost.
Predictably, perhaps, questions are beginning to be raised about whether the man in the picture is really the person known by the ‘nyms’ of Felch Grogan and Franc Hoggle.
1 - "I’m sick of forums where people who find themselves without a decent rebuttal or any evidence to hold up their case revert to personal attacks. Aaaaaargh!", Chrys Stevenson on her Myspace page.
NB to the NB: as with all kangaroo courts, the defendents are denied a right of reply. An attempt was made to post a reply, it was denied and the usual excuse was offered - too "threatening" and "abusive", par for the course for those in the professional victim game. You can judge for yourself - the original is posted here.
This article is an outstanding example of -
Myers’ Law– In its simplest form Myers’ Law states a baboon has no capacity to either receive or transmit information without corrupting that information. In practical terms this equates to there being no realistic relation between what you communicate to a baboon and what that baboon actually hears. This communication loses even more of its original meaning in the event that baboon then communicates a response back to you. Further, when information enters the baboon echo chamber it loses all relation to reality altogether in a very short time via baboon to baboon retransmission. See c*nt kick.