Sunday, October 14, 2012

PZ Myers: a lesson in lazy blogging


¨A lesson in Lazy Blogging¨


Paul Zachary Myers slammed The Amazing Atheist for posting the following image on his Tumblr.
After carefully reading PZ´s blog and dozens of comments posted about TJ´s image, and I realized this topic warrants a discussion. Remember that old expression: a picture paints a thousand words. The expression literally means that a picture tells us just as much of a story as any elaborate text. When we consider TJ´s image, one should see a greater meaning behind it. Thinking is a skill and some are better at it than others. I only ask people to see past the jerk holding the paper, but instead look deeper into the meaning of this image. In doing so, one will find PZ Myers argument to be both superficial and lazy. TJ is certainly no saint, but he deserves to be understood just as much as we all deserve to be understood. 

What other messages can you find in this?



Background

Amanda Todd, an attractive upper middle-class white female commit suicide after some relentless bullying by a bunch of assholes at her school. In the last five years there have been many suicide by bullying cases reported in the news. All of these cases involve middle class white females who used poor judgement, in a foolish moment of indiscretion,  lifting their shirt on a webcam or photographing themselves with a cell phone. It is often the case that they sleep with some boy who decided to tell everybody in school. ( Note to boys: if you are intimate with a girl, she would usually prefer that you do not tell all your friends.) ...


My History With TJ goes back to 2006

Before responding to Myers, I am going to give a little background about my relationship with TJ. I followed TJ back in the good-ole-days of YouTube, when having 2000 subscribers meant that you were a big deal. TJ subscribed to my channel and commented frequently on my videos. Most of the comments were positive until I made one video he really did not like.

There was one instance of Drama between me and TJ. He called me a francophile bitch and I called him a fat lard who enjoys sticking a dildo up his rectum. But, that was a long time ago and I feel that our relationship has been mended. We did communicate with each other briefly when Kevin (captainawsome ) posted that sex video with Fakesagan´s girlfriend. Anyway, that is old news. Years ago.


Amanda Todd´s Impact on Me

The Amanda Todd case hit me just as much as all the others do. Phoebe Prince, a fifteen year old Irish girl killed herself after relentless bullying at her school. Jessica Logan commit suicide after her boyfriend sent naked pictures of her to other kids at school, which of course, led to humiliation and bullying. Megan Meir commit suicide over Myspace bullying. These cases hit me very hard because I remember what it was like being vulnerable fourteen years old. They hit close to home because I have a daughter. 


Each time I hear about one of these suicides, I want to hug my beautiful daughter. I want to sit her down and tell her, ¨Never allow yourself to be photographed topless by a webcam or cell phone.¨ Also, ¨If you are intimate with a boy, presume he will tell all his friends the next day.¨ Nobody can be trusted. When it comes to boys, girls must be cautious. Adult women can usually handle this sort of humiliation while girls do not have the life experience or emotional maturity to deal with it. Humiliation can, and does, lead girls to suicide. They do not have the maturity to realize this is only temporary.

When I decided to write this blog, I wanted it to be about the PZ Meyers v. TJ fiasco. Putting my own feelings aside for the moment, lets move on to the point.


Myers wrote the following about TJ´s image:

¨We could, for instance, search the world for that one person who is in the worst circumstances of anyone; the person who is suffering the very most right now. We can do this while turning up our nose at each other afflicted individual who isn’t hurting enough for our standards; why, you’re a quadriplegic dying in a ditch? But you don’t have shingles! And both your eyes are intact! I’m sure we can find someone worse off than you. And then when we find that ultimate person in pain, we can promise to do everything we can to help them.


But I’ve noticed that people who make that kind of argument aren’t actually offering to help anyone. Their perversely inverted, demanding standards are really an excuse to turn away from the miserable they consider undeserving, to justify refusing to help…because that ultimate sufferer will never be foundLINK



The 411 on TJ :

In the years that I have known him, interacted with him, and watched his videos I know TJ to be a very blunt person. His life philosophy is be who you are, even if who you are is an asshole. He can be low brow, and will never sugar coat what he thinks to spare anyone's feelings. Comparing TJ to myself, I can say our thought process takes entirely different routes, yet we tend to come to the same conclusions. For example, if TJ and I had to climb a mountain, I might take the nice route, ordained with lovely flowers that I can stop and smell on the way to the top. TJ will take the route that has the weeds, caves, swamp and mosquitoes. Maybe he will smell a rose or suck a lolly-pop on the way, but eventually we arrive at the same spot.


The take home message from TJ´s image is that tens of thousands of children die every day. Maybe their suffering is worse that Todd, maybe less but the media does not report on these deaths. .

PZ Myers wrote:

¨And some people wonder why there is a growing rift in the atheist movement. All you have to do is look at people like the Amazing Atheist to see that some atheists, people who are convinced that there is nothing beyond ourselves, that we are dependent entirely on our fellow human beings and nothing more, lack that humanity that is our only source of unity and our only true reason for living.¨

Myers went on to call TJ a misogynist and a sociopath. TJ supports equality for women and men. He thinks that women should be held to the same standards as men in their behavior, and I agree with him on that. TJ most certainly is not a sociopath. A sociopath, by definition is a person who is completely incapable of empathizing with another person. TJ has made many videos, and posted many comments in support of the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgender people. TJ is neither gay nor lesbian, therefore he is supporting the rights of someone who shares only one thing with him which is their common humanity. As Myers puts it, ¨humanity is our only source of unity and our only true reason for living.¨ Therefore, Myers assessment of TJ is very unfair. TJ can certainly be a blunt ass, but being a jerk does not make a person a sociopath.


There was something about Myers syntax that seem a bit...off. ¨people who are convinced that there is nothing beyond ourselves, that we are dependent entirely on our fellow human beings and nothing more.¨  The dependent clause appears to be calling TJ selfish man who cannot see anything beyond himself, while the independent clause continues the thought that it is wrong to suggest we are dependent on our fellow human beings and nothing more. When he writes, nothing 'more', what is that 'more' referring to exactly? For a minute there, it sounds like the 'more' is referring to something spiritual or supernatural. 


 I could be wrong about this, but when I think carefully about these two clauses, it appear to me that the only thing ¨beyond ourselves, beyond fellow human beings¨ is,....yeah. I think Myers really needs to sit down and reconsider whether or not he really is an atheist. 

As a courtesy to Myers, I am going to link the Wikipedia definition for proper use of the comma. It is important to understand that the comma should not be used to contrast two opposing concepts. If that is what you want to do with the comma, that is fine, just read over your sentences and make sure that they are clear. Try writing shorter sentences. 



The Image Speaks of What?


TJ's image did not say anything bad about Todd. It did not say that she was not entitled to compassion. At least, that is not what I saw. What I read in TJ's image is Thousands of People who died today. Some died from suicide, like Todd. Some died quickly and painlessly, some were killed by famine, AIDS, or maybe a bomb fell on their house. The image speaks of all those people. 


While Myers speaks for only one, TJ spoke for many. I read many of the comments posted by the sheep on Myers very short, poorly thought blog. To sum it up, they all write that TJ is an evil human being, incapable of empathizing with another person. They slander him, calling him all sorts of ugly names. They even wrote hateful misogynist intent on deflecting the hateful misogynist behavior which lead this poor girl to suicide.I do not think one needs to have a psychology degree hanging on their wall to find someone is a sociopath, but I do expect adults to make some attempt at fairness. A sociopath has frequent run-ins with the law, cannot hold down a job or maintain stable relationships. TJ is married and to my knowledge, has never been arrested. One cannot diagnose him as a sociopath just because they do not like what that person says. 

Myers wrote, ¨people who make that kind of argument aren’t actually offering to help anyone.¨ This leads me to wonder, what on earth does Meyers expect from TJ? What was he suppose to do? Fly to Canada to help some girl that he did not know even existed? That sounds just a bit unreasonable to me. If we do not know these people, we cannot help them. We can only help the people that we do know about. I do not know Todd, but if I did know her I certainly would have helped her. I think that if TJ knew her, and knew what was going through her mind, he would have helped her.


The fact is, we empathize more with this girl because her case hits close to home. We are not empathizing with the little boy in Afghanistan who instantly died from a drone hitting his house at 2.am. Humanity is the common theme that unites us and makes life worth living. Humanity is our reason for living. But humans can only empathize so much. We cannot feel for every person. That would be sensory overload. 


Misery Undeserved


¨I’m sure we can find someone worse off than you. And then when we find that ultimate person in pain, we can promise to do everything we can to help them.¨  This is the part of his  blog that bothered me the most. The take home message from TJ´s photo was not that only the worst of the worst suffering deserves our empathy. He never said or implied that Todd was undeserving of empathy because she did not suffer as much as Starvin-Marvin, a fly infested little boy residing in a mud hole. You know, the type that looks up at us with those great big eyes, and one little tear gently running down a lone dirty cheek. The take home message is that thousands of people die every day. PZ Meyers completely strawmanned TJ. There was nothing TJ said or did to indicate he thinks that people should suffer more to deserve his compassion. His take home message is that tens of thousands of people die every day and we do not hear about them. Simple. Easy. Not hard to understand. 


Angry Layered Hair Cut Missing White Girl Hour



Also known as the Nancy Grace phenomena. .We hear about Todd because she was a sweet, middle class white girl who killed herself because she made a bad mistake and lifted her shirt on a webcam. She was the victim of horrible harassment and humiliation. But you know what, there are plenty of black and Hispanic girls that also commit suicide for the exact same reasons. This is not to say that they suffered more or less than the Canadian girl. This only says that we are hearing about Todd more.


There is a disproportionate degree of media coverage reporting a missing or dead, usually and attractive white, upper-middle class female. The number of missing males, or missing females from other ethnicities, attractiveness, or social economic classes are exponentially low. The case of missing Kyron Horman from Portland Oregon is a rare case where a missing little boy received National News. I think that one of the reasons Kyron´s case was reported is because the suspect is his step-mother. If the suspect was his father, we probably would not have heard about it. 

There are currently 7 billion people on earth. By my calculations a total of 6647 people die every day. According to the CDC, most successful suicides are middle aged white men. The Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular suicide destination in the world. There is an average of one jumper every two weeks. Most of the jumpers are men. Many of these suicides have been caught on tape. LINK

In Japan, Aokigahara (青木ヶ原?) forest is the second largest suicide destination in the world. Approximately 200 bodies are pulled out of the forest every year. The parking lot is full of dusty cars that have been sitting there for months. Many bodies are not found, only shoes and clothing. Do these people suffer any more or less than Amanda Todd? I do not know, but what I can say is that we do not hear about them. But then again, TJ said NOTHING about who deserves what empathy or how much suffering is required to deserve compassion. That argument is an example of argumentum ex culo, or as we would say in English, an argument that PZ Meyers pulled out of his bajingo. 



Reasonable Expectations

PZ Meyers went on to write, ¨But I’ve noticed that people who make that kind of argument aren’t actually offering to help anyone. Their perversely inverted, demanding standards are really an excuse to turn away from the miserable they consider undeserving, to justify refusing to help…because that ultimate sufferer will never be found.¨

One cannot expect TJ to do anything that the rest of us would not do. We cannot expect more from him than we would expect from any other person. On that note, Myers cannot expect TJ to do anything that he is unwilling to do. Since Myers expects TJ should have done something for Todd, then I think Myers needs to take every penny he earns from that blog and send it to this girls family. If Myers is unwilling to do it, then he has no place expecting TJ to do it. 

It is unfair to expect TJ to feel for every person who kills themselves. It is unfair to expect TJ to offer help to anyone. He is free to choose who he will help and who he will not help. He is free to decide that for himself. When we think about it, every day that we buy that $5.00 Starbucks Latte, we are indulging in something we do not need while someone, somewhere could really use that $5. TJ just so happens to focus on the people who are ignored and there is nothing dishonorable about that. 


SUMMARY

PZ Myers blog concerns only one dimension of TJ´s tumblr image, that is, TJ is a blunt jerk. When writing is concerned with the obvious and apparent, we have a word for it - superficial. Like an iceberg, he see´s only what is on the surface - the jerk - and misses the body and substance of TJ´s message. Therefore, it is fair to say that Myers blog was both simplistic, poorly thought and concerns itself with only the appearance of things rather than with ideas.

 I have a tendency of giving people more credit that what they deserve. I think that Myers knows that he did not make an argument against the Tumblr image. The only argument I could see is that ¨TJ is a jerk, and a sociopath. Jerks and sociopaths are always wrong, therefore TJ is wrong.¨ Unless there is something derriere sa tete, that has got to be one of the shallowest arguments I have heard from Myers.

PZ Myers paints himself as a super-sensitive guy who will always be there for you, enjoys poetry and cries when the sunsets. He is a sensitive guy, in touch with his feelings, and is not ashamed of his tears. He wears his tears with pride, as they are little salty droplets of pure emotional truth. Myers cares about all of us. Sometimes, he cares so much that his heart over flows with tears of love and joy. If you are ever feeling down in the dumps, Myers will be right at your doorstep with some of his famous cucumber sandwiches made of course...with Dauphin safe Tuna and a steamy side dish of warm, chicken noodle rainbow soup. If you need comforting on any level, by George, he is your guy!

In all seriousness, what bothered me most about Myers blog was not that it was a shallow, name-dropping attempt at getting attention. We are all allowed to bring promote our blogs. What pissed me off was when he wrote TJ is no different from the boys that bullied this girl to death. I have say that THAT is very ... a very low blow for which PZ Myers should apologize. If Myers thinks he has nothing to apologize for, or that comment was not out of line...he can take those dauphin safe cucumber sandwiches of his and shove them right up his bajingo.  

Naomi


12 comments:

  1. To be honest, I agree with your points, especially with the fact that other ethnicities, or even genders don't get the same coverage (all the examples you mentioned about suicide after bullying were girls, for example), but the first part sounded too much like Schrodinger's loudmouth for my taste.

    I would have preferred if the article could have expressed the same ideas without painting all boys as sadistic loudmouths who don't think or care about girls, and without the pity party about "whore, slut or cunt".

    Calling a girl those words is not ok, but somehow saying "¨If you are intimate with a boy, presume he is a stupid loud mouth who will tell all his friends the next day.¨ Nobody can be trusted. When it comes to boys, girls must be cautious" about all boys is peachy.

    I've read other articles you wrote, and I think you dropped the ball here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I understand your point, but TAA comes across as a douchebag, while PZ typically does not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PZ Myers doesn't come across as a douchebag? Ha! Are you kidding??

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    2. Sorry. Myers hides his douche-baggery. But it's there for all the world to see in his rigid, moralistic condemnation of anyone who doesn't toe his line.

      I read his blog, on-and-off for years. Quit it after I realized his game.

      Delete
  3. Well said and I completely agree. I have found PZ's blog increasingly sensational and confrontational to anyone he wants to publicly sling mud at for the attention. If anyone is divisive to the atheist community it is PZ Myers.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, I just found your comment on YouTube. Who is Sarah Moglia? Is she a FTB'er too?

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  4. TAA and PZ come across equally nasty. The only difference is that I think underneath it all, TAA is a decent human being. I have my doubts about PZ.

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  5. Your Global Death rate figure of 6647 seems way off.

    crude global death rate 8.37 per 1000 people per year
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortality_rate

    Giving Annual Global Deaths of 58,590,000

    or 160,520 daily.

    A shocking figure is the WHO's estimate of global suicide deaths - of 2,700 PER DAY.
    http://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting me know. I was not sure about that one. I think that I will double check my facts and do an edit of this blog.

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  6. I think PZ allowed his previous experience to colour his interpretation of this one. Which given the experience he blogged on it is not totally surprising...
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/02/08/the-not-so-amazing-atheist-self-immolates/

    The only way TJs image could be interpreted kindly is as a comment on how the media like to focus on rich white girls in cases of bullying / sexual predation etc. They tend to ignore the poor and non-white cases... One being in the UK where Megan Stammers abduction is widely reported but the group of teenage girls being prostituted and ignored by the police in Rochdale gets no where near the coverage. Having said that I cannot think of a less sensitive way to get that across than the image he posted to Tumblr. So congrats on that to TJ!

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  7. As most of us are aware of PZ's superficiality and narcissism, Allow me to ask ... what was the basis of the francophile quip? Foucault? Lacan? Deleuze?

    Wil
    eupraxis@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was living in France at the time of our argument. I speak French, and did my BA in French Studies. Based on that information he thought I was a francophile. TJ did not know that I studied languages other than French. My more popular blog, The Polyglot Experience, is a blog I maintain to inspire others to learn languages. http://thepolyglotexperience.blogspot.com

      Delete

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