Monday, January 2, 2012

Building a community: atheism isn't enough

Jason has a particularly long post on dissent. Stephanie Zvan concurs, and elaborates. But I think it all comes down to what Maryam Namazie said regarding this issue:
After all just because someone’s an atheist doesn’t necessarily mean they are pro-equality, anti-war, socialist, secularist, and so on...when we only focus on atheism or ex-Muslim or Muslim or … we miss the class, political and social dimensions that are most crucial in determining our allies and our enemies.
Here's what I think: I think that as atheists, we have a choice what sort of community to build. Do we want to build a community around a place like Freethought Blogs, where a significant amount of the bloggers there have come out in support of Rebecca Watson's original point: that a 15 year old girl shouldn't be subjected to rape threats and jokes simply because she is a girl on the internet? Or do we want to build a community like, akin, or on reddit, where it's pretty cool for all that to happen, apparently?

I like what commentator jalyth said on Stephanie's blog about this:
I am also the internet and I don’t want to see that shit.
This is the 100% appropriate reaction. When I explained this controversy to a friend of mine, who is also an atheist, she said that, "Well, it's the Internet. What do you expect to happen?" At the time I nodded, and said it was wrong, but I didn't really have a response to that.

Now I know. Fuck that. I'm the goddamn Internet too, and I don't want to see that bullshit either.

So, let's look at it this way: we can build our own community, not just centred around one wide aspect (atheism), but also around others: equality, liberalism, humanism. I think that's what's already starting to happen. I like the response. So when it comes to reddit, or other places, we have every right to stand up and say, it's our Internet too. If we downvote assholes, so be it. If they outvote us, we'll talk about it elsewhere.

Like Stephanie says, social disapproval is our most powerful weapon on the anonymous Internet. It doesn't take much to say "Back off, that's not cool". Enough people do it, and those who want to chip in on this nonsense might just shut up. Changing behaviour is the first step to changing hearts and minds.

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