…here’s my 2c on the current PZ vs. Rationalia mud-flinging debacle that has even dragged in Michael Nugent, who really only just wants us all to get along while we further the true causes of the atheist/skeptic movement.
Rape is not a joke. I personally don’t find jokes with rape as the subject matter funny, nor do a lot of other people. Intellectually I understand the irony of the Nirvana song “Rape Me” but the subject matter leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. This is ok. Some people find those kind of jokes funny, and that’s ok too.
For anyone who’s out of touch with these slightly-on-the-fringe events, a guy called Pappa on Rationalia.com forums created a thread asking “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?” Then PZ Myers picked up on the thread, and posted a crude condemnation of not just Pappa but the forum as a whole on the back of this thread.
It is clear to anyone who peruses the thread in question that Pappa is neither endorsing nor condoning such actions and in fact is merely pushing the boundaries of comedy for his own personal enjoyment and he even specifically clarifies this further in the thread. The question is simply “would it be immoral to do something to a member of a large group that dedicates a lot of it’s time to condemning the practice in question”
Now, rape is a hot-button topic, this is something I understand very well, but for some reason it appears that no one else understood this in the ensuing firefight both in the comments section on PZ Myers’ thread and in Rationalia itself. The fact that the thread Pappa started was simply a bit of dark, off-colour humour seemed to escape most people.
The community that follows PZ regularly and comments vigorously on his threads does not appear to particularly forgiving and the sheer volume of the comments allows people to very easily lump all those commenters into a cohesive unit with one unwavering voice. This is palpably incorrect, but it doesn’t stop people doing it nonetheless. Attacking either PZ’s community, the Rationalia community or even the Skepchicks as a whole and not attacking individual opinions or ideas is the total antithesis of what the atheist/skeptic community ordinarily holds dear. We attack the ideas, not the people. Or, at least, that’s what we should do, but most people on both sides of this debate seem to have forgotten that.
In this instance a lot of people have a certain level of culpability, PZ condemned the forum as a whole, when he should have singled out the member(s) whose idea(s) he disagreed with, and this lead to certain of the Rationalia group attacking PZ’s ‘followers’ as opposed to the individual opinions expressed on PZ’s thread and then ‘cormac’ attacked the Skepchicks along with PZ on Michael Nugent’s post which only in-passing discussed the PZ vs. Rationalia debacle and was primarily aimed at all the sniping that has been going back and forth between various communities over the last year.
I don’t want us all to get along, some of ‘us’ are assholes and don’t play well with others and have abhorrent ideas about a lot of things despite the core things we may share but what I do want, nay, DEMAND from my community is a retreat from this bullshit mud-flinging personal attack mode so many of us seem to have switched into back towards doing only what we do best: attacking ideas, not people.
That being said, I would like to say that I think it is ridiculous to try to censor Pappa’s joke on the basis that rape jokes may bolster a so-called ‘rape culture’. This so-called ‘rape culture’ is far more bolstered by the crass and unambiguous objectification of women in society and the insane Men’s Rights movement than an off-colour joke made by someone who finds rape abhorrent. Free Speech means free speech, especially on a small, close-knit forum, even if people disagree with the joke or think it in poor taste. Personally I don’t like the joke (though I have more problem with the “they’re so annoying” comment) but I will defend Pappa’s right to make the joke regardless. If someone finds the joke as a vindication of his ‘right’ to go around raping people then we will have to attack his ideas, not pre-emptively silence someone exploring the boundaries of comedy in his own litte community.