Playing at the park, getting banned from BoingBoing

The day started well and then got rockier. The pictures below are from earlier in the day, when we went to the park and decorated the cement with chalks and played and I worked on my laptop while Nefarious and her friends chased the pigeons. They’d splash water from the fountain, which the birds seemed to think was food and flock around, and then the girls would toss their jackets like a net to try and catch them. Unsuccessful, but tons of fun.

In later day news I got banned from BoingBoing today after posting in a series of conversations in my typical strongly-worded fashion about the burqa, which I said was a symbol of oppression and shouldn’t be held up as something “wonderful”. One of the Egyptian Muslims who posted explained that when men are exposed to an uncovered woman that they are unable to control themselves and rape is inevitable, and that since it’s harder for a man to control himself than it is for a woman to cover up, that a good woman covers up. No wonder we end up with societies than punish women who get raped. Another Muslim, who was actually featured by BoingBoing in a dedicated post holder her up wrote, with obvious arrogance, that she “chooses” to wear a head scarf before God says she has to, although she would not wear it if it weren’t for that. Doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me.

Oppressed people defending their oppressors is common — how many women have defended FGM, another example of a cultural institution that is problematic? How many abused wives are the most ardent defenders of their abusive husbands? Thankfully, here in Canada we have many groups that work to “rescue” immigrant women from abusive homes, a great many of them from homes that espouse the burqa — so don’t think this is some situation that’s isolated to places like Saudi Arabia. We have far too many honor killings, punishments for rape (for the one who was raped, not the rapist), and general inequality and repression of women in the name of Allah in Western nations… Not to say it doesn’t happen in Jesus’s name as well, but thankfully to a much lesser extent these days. But Christianity certainly has lots of blood on its hands as well.

Anyway, I took the stance that these things should not be held up as wonderful, and that we make a serious mistake when we blindly accept people’s religions in the name of avoiding being ethnocentric. Because BB tends to be supportive of things like the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which points out that all religion is an equal fallacy, and being “old” or having a lot of followers doesn’t give one validity), makes fun of Christians and Scientologists and other “uncool” religions constantly, and takes a strong atheist stance most of the time — I just picked up Sense and Goodness Without God based on their recommendation — I expected support. To my surprise there were a lot of people defending Muslim culture — even full-on burqa wearing — and I and others who took the same stance as me were attacked with strawmen arguments, mischaracterization, personal attacks. That said, a solid half of the posters — more than it appears since a number of posts were deleted — were not buying the “we need to accept and embrace people’s religions” meme.

It’s funny as well, because BoingBoing certainly takes the stance that you can’t torture, you can’t coerce people with threats of violence, and so on, yet that’s exactly what religions with a concept of hell — Islam and Christianity most obviously — do. How can you really have the free will to do something that’s opposed to your religion if you genuinely believe that you’ll suffer for all of eternity for it? I think as atheists we forget that, and we forget how hard it is for people to tear free of religion that they’re born into. In any case, religion by definition is coercive, and is the foundation for almost all of the inequality that history has seen, and for an awful lot of the violence as well. And to my thinking, once someone says “because God told me”, there’s no point in talking any more. It’s no more valid than “I know I need to wear this tinfoil hat because the voices in my head told me.”

Some of the BB staff was posting as well, attacking with strawman arguments and calling the atheist posters “very dull people”, “bores” and telling us to “put a sock in it” and even told me that “people like you are the reason the rest of the world sometimes wonders whether anyone in America ever opens a book or watches the news” which I thought a little off-base — although this person has a problematic track record; it’s actually quite amazing that Theresa Nielsen Hayden (who was a part of the run-in with Violet Blue, discussed to death on MeFi), the moderator in question hasn’t been banned herself given what a bad name she gives the site (not that Antinous is much better). BB would be doing themselves a big favor to fire them. Not only was I surprised to see BB staff take that view, but I was surprised to see them be so rude and closed-minded. Eventually Xeni stepped in and called people saying that all evil done in the name of religion needs to be pointed out racists and bigots (I don’t know if she meant me), which is funny coming from someone who’s been arguably cruel to American Christians (to say nothing of Scientologists) — but I think among white folks who seek out a “worldly” outlook that there’s a sort of self-loathing that combines an ass-kicking for things that are part of their own culture and a “noble savage” idolation of the rest of the world. I greatly enjoy Xeni’s posts and there is much we agree on, but I think she suffers from a sort of reverse racism that’s common among leftist intellectuals… And the sad truth is that this stance does a great deal of harm to women around the world by sustaining these cultures longer than they should be. I really feel strongly that we need to stand up against ignorance and take that huge evolutionary step away from the primitive fears and superstitions that have plagued us for too long.

Anyway, I was quite surprised to see BoingBoing, which has also argued strongly for free speech and a rational view of the future — a religion free view — actually censor me and lock or boot my account. I think more than being surprised I was disappointed. I’ve seen a lot of other people write that BoingBoing more and more is becoming a site that has heavy-handed moderators that are happy to push their own politics but censor those with other views, but this is the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of it. Hopefully my ban is temporary and I have not been martyred permanently. If you don’t want to live with just my one-sided view of what happened you can go read the lengthy discussions for yourself — although like I said some posts have been removed that change the flow and context a little.

Now I’m gonna watch Family Guy make fun of religion and feel validated.

*** Edit/update 1: Some posters at BB are saying “why can’t you just live and let live, they’re not hurting anyone” — a typical liberal response, that admittedly works for a great many differences in self-expression, but fails when it comes to religion. Outside of a general responsibility that we have to raise everyone up to a maximum level of civil rights and quality of life and so on (it’s not as if we don’t argue for freeing the slaves if their owner is kind), the issue is that the cultures are not just about the people involved currently as adults. They also force their children into the same problematic views (not that many don’t escape, but they escape primarily because we provide a safe alternative), sustaining this worldview that blocks progress. But more importantly, Christianity and Islam are proselytizing religions that have a deep desire to convert the world to their views — they want everyone to be Islamic or Christian, often by force and threat of death or violence. Even worse, for these religions, there is no distinction between politics and religion, and both faiths want to see the government and laws of the land be dictated by what their so-called “god” says. And that’s a big problem — look at Saudi Arabia, or even Kansas and other parts of America where Christianity has seeped into the law (anti-evolution and anti-gay laws being obvious US examples). So no, you can’t just “let them be”.

*** Edit/update 2: I’ve written BB staff asking if this is a permanent ban. Their moderator told me that I could only come back if I told him that I agreed that I didn’t think about my posts before writing them and [with the implication] that if I had thought about them I’d write something different [presumably something more in line with his opinions]… As I told him, I did think about my posts, I did read them over several times before writing them, and stand behind them. I think it’s more than a little insulting that I’d be expected to bow before him and “say uncle” to return.

Because I’ve seen folks like Hitchens and the FSM folks posted regularly enough on BB, I know that at least some of the BB staff must agree in general with me. For me to be banned from the site for repeating what’s often been held up on BB — and I have bought some of the books that push these same ideas on BB’s recommendation after they were featured — I think that’s quite surprising. I found it even more surprising when Xeni Jardin jumped in with low blow personal attacks, especially since I never resorted to personal attacks. I may have a strong atheist stance, but frankly that’s been a stance that BB has promoted quite often, and I was far from the only person saying it, and I see people continuing to say the same things. And as I said, BB has regularly said far worse things — deeply personally insulting things — about people of other faiths, most obviously Christianity and Scientology. When suddenly Islam is handled radically differently than other faiths, by those who as far as I know are not Muslims, I have to wonder who the real bigots are and what is driving the out of character behavior in these threads by the BB staff.

What makes the whole thing even sadder is that I was removed from the conversation without a warning, and without public comment stating I’d been banned or any sort of transparency. People have continued to respond to me, write about my posts, and ask me for follow-up, which I am unable to give, or even explain that I am unable to give. This type of heavy handed behavior is the sort of thing that BB has regularly spoken out against, and now, seeing it happen on BB, I have to wonder if it’s all just a game, a set of sham beliefs that aren’t really held but are simply marketing. I really hope that they write me back and tell me it’s not the case. I’ve been featured on the site numerous times, and up until now have been a big fan of the site, so it’s all very unfortunate…

*** Edit/update 3: I’ve still received no reply from anyone at BB (other than a brief letter from David, which I appreciated, letting me know he was traveling and that Teresa was not a BB employee, even though she says so on her website). The comment forum continues to be updated with direct replies to me and I have no way to reply and people have no ways of knowing I’m not able — real nice transparency from a site that so regularly criticizes other sites that do this. I am glad to see that there are a great many people saying the same thing I did, but it also makes me wonder more why I was singled out for banning. I’ve also been watching the discussion closely, and it’s been interesting to see comments getting deleted that take too strong an atheist stance, or more interestingly, object to the censorship and manipulation on the part of BB. I really continue to be surprised that a site with BB’s presumed politics would so aggressive engage in what’s essentially a psyop, trying to trick the public into thinking that the readership has a view that’s skewed to the particular pro-Muslim views of Xeni and the moderators and that there are less dissenting voices than there actually are. What an apparent fall from grace.




  1. Em wrote:

    Not surprised to hear that from BoingBoing. I’ve never had any overt problems with them but I’ve noticed they’re very much a popularity contest and don’t so much work within the realms of wonderful things as they do to promote people they like these days. But you could say that for a lot of groups.

    I just didn’t even want to touch the Burqa thing. I see it similarly to you, but all this umbrage at it is only further cementing it as a symbol of faith which I think is equally as repellent.

    If progress has shown us nothing, it’s that the tide comes, and the extreme women’s lib that led to burnt bras will eventually unfold upon the burqa.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  2. Brandon wrote:

    I agree with you that this kind of oppression shouldn’t be accepted only because it’s ‘culture’. The less tolerant we are of these kinds of religious injustices the faster they will go away. It might not do much good for women who already accept the borqini as necessary, but it will be harder for them to share their ‘fundamentalist’ principles with their children. One of my favorite ironies is seeing a women on campus wearing western style jeans, a t-shirt, and a matching head scarf. They are probably the second or third generation in America with each generation wearing less and less of the traditional clothing. Hopefully, their children won’t have to wear any at all.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink
  3. MajikMan wrote:

    Amen, Shannon!

    I’ve been feeling disappointed with boingboing for a couple of years now, for many the same reasons you point out. They still post some great things, but the quality of the site as a whole has really dropped off.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 12:45 am | Permalink
  4. Maarten wrote:

    It’s true we need to take that huge step but there are enough people that keep us in this position of ignorance, racism, bigotry the problem is that as long as people want to stay in that place there can never be a evolutionary step because we as humans are one organism and like Carl Sagan once said: “A new consciousness is developing which sees the Earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed.” but as long as we don’t all see it we stay doomed.

    and its not only on BB that you see moderators do what they thing is right in some socials networks you see it to

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 2:04 am | Permalink
  5. Maarten wrote:

    pressed the wrong button
    for example they delete images that are racist, pornographic….
    so a picture of buddha with a swastika is racist because its a nazi symbol even if its in there original content but a 14/15y old girl that poses half naked they leave. personally i hate they try to censor the swastika even in its nazi content (not that i support it but the swastika is so more then just a racist symbol) because younger people don’t know anymore, a friend told me in her class when the teacher asked what the holocaust was somebody answered a pill and i live in belgium. ok ranted out :p

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 2:14 am | Permalink
  6. Elizabeth wrote:

    Extreme left is almost as bad as extreme right and probably gets on my nerves equally. Hurrah for common sense. And purpletude.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 6:53 am | Permalink
  7. Elk wrote:

    Arguing on the internet

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 7:24 am | Permalink
  8. MissJanet wrote:

    Elizabeth, I must disagree. ere in germany I see both and while my left wing friends are sometimes total pains in the ass, they would never even think of beating homeosexual, foreign or plain different looking people. There IS a huge difference.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  9. peteD3 wrote:

    thanks for this Shannon.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  10. starbadger wrote:

    it seems for thr main the internet has become somewhere we can get all puffed up about matters 3-4 orders away – it’s too remove.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  11. rmx256 wrote:

    It surprises me consistently to deal with people who can use eloquent logic and converse with a clear and rational basis in fact, yet continue to espouse their ‘faith,’ which they can neither justify nor logically and rationally describe, as a guiding factor in their lives. My daughter has a friend whose father does not want her playing with my daughter because my daughter ‘does not know what she believes in.’ That seems really petty to me. This is a man that I could otherwise speak to in innocent and normal varieties of conversation passing on an undefined bigotry onto his child… Burqas, head scarves: these are choices being made by adults in this context, adults who are justifying their choices to other adults, but pressing beliefs onto children is an abomination.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  12. DC wrote:

    You’re on Cuteoverload!!

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  13. SK wrote:

    I’ve learned that for every opinion [or factual stance]I have, someone, somewhere has one exactly the opposite.

    The energy I’ve wasted… I could finish my plane and finish my lessons…..finish all kinds of crap.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Permalink
  14. Tom wrote:

    The problem I have with your definition of religion as oppressive is that it’s based on your belief that religions are all wrong. And that’s exactly what it is, a belief.

    To enforce that belief would be as oppressive (if not more so) than the religions you disagree with.

    I think the best policy is education and informed choice. People should know that there are other systems of belief available to them, including atheism.

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink
  15. choice wrote:

    ah, you win DC. i came here to post that. 6hourslater…

    Monday, September 28, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  16. Shannon wrote:

    There’s a big difference between a “belief” based on NOTHING, and a “belief” based on a RATIONAL ANALYSIS OF THE AVAILABLE DATA.

    Tom, I think that in order for someone to enter the debate as to how we live as a society, they have to be able to enter a RATIONAL debate on the matter. When someone’s reasoning amounts to “I want it this way because my invisible friend told me”, they lose their spot at the table. Especially when they’re arguing not about their own behavior, but about the behavior and rights (or lack thereof) they want to force onto others. That’s why stuff like FGM gets banned.

    And Tom, you also need to understand that these religions fight very hard to stop informed choice. So you can’t coddle them, because they’ll take everything you give them, and more. Thus many of the political problems both in America and in the Middle East.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 5:46 am | Permalink
  17. starbadger wrote:

    I think Tom as a performance artist devoting a year’s work to a black book where each page is painted BLACK knows the abstraction.

    Remember when you are downrating the crazy or irrational – that a handful of crazy – wanted to kill every jew and were almost successful as a working majority of average or normal germans (who were not crazy) went along with it – aside from that madness enjoyed an near crime-free civil society and built systems that required rational thinking etc.

    The great danger to getting thru this century is nearer to home. As pogo said – it is us. We’ve built a future that does not need us. But you can’t write about it and well yes you can but what can you say with the technical depth of the handful of million and billionaires who are talking – have said it and are ignored.

    Go sailing. Take up woodwork. The rest of you. And if not
    well then

    God Bless the Pusher Man.


    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 6:44 am | Permalink
  18. starbadger wrote:

    Maybe this is too near the bone but I saw it all in the decline and fall of bme. In the final play in the collective it played out just like the larger politics and beliefs we mock.

    As a collective a handful sang for their supper – betrayal – it’s always cheap –

    The problem too be solved and I am hopeful we will solve it

    there have always been a few who saw what more recently more of us have been able to see

    that there is no “them and us”

    we are all in this together and we all sink or swim together

    so long as few crazies think they can survive in the salt mines – does everyone know that Roman P. has been caught – have their supply of 13-year olds to ply with drugs and Bill Joy know in their sleep – but enough already – I’ve got a boat to get ready for sailing SOuth.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 6:54 am | Permalink
  19. Tom wrote:

    I don’t think it’s fair to characterise all religious people as irrational, but I agree that in many ways it’s not productive to enforce rules on people based on a religious or ideological position. In the same way that fundamentalist Christians shouldn’t be dictating sexual education policy, if someone wants to wear the hijab then that’s up to them, why should we deprive them of that choice? Are you suggesting we remove their freedom of choice to stop them from being oppressed?!

    I also understand that many religions and ideologies are oppressive, but I think that’s what should be focused on. We should speak out against the oppression not against the specific manifestations of it which may, in other contexts, be chosen or refused freely.

    Regarding your “analysis of the available data”, just how many religions have you investigated? I’m not suggesting you’ll be convinced by any of them, you sound like a zealous atheist. But unless you’ve lived a very long life and been incredibly thorough, it seems a little premature to claim you have covered the full spectrum of human spirituality.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  20. Tom wrote:

    Meanwhile, chuckling at your google ads:

    “Jesus All About Life”

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink
  21. Shannon wrote:

    Tom, I do have religious friends and I agree that lots are very nice people who would never force their views, and believe in the separation of church and state. I addressed some of the points you’re talking about in more detail on BB. They have been removing posts (wow, how very un-BB) to make it look like the pro-burqa stance has more support, but I believe my posts are still there.

    However, I do disagree that religious folks are not irrational. If they are really religious — rather than symbolically religious, as I think many Western Christians and even Muslims are — and actually lead their life based on what they believe “god” says, then they’re irrational by definition. Good people perhaps, but not rational.

    I AM a zealous atheist, yes, in the style of Hitchens (and I accept that makes us both jerks on a lot of levels) but I am pretty informed about the world’s customs and religions… My biggest problem is with Christianity and Islam because they are authoritarian theist religions that proselytize and seek to institute their beliefs as law for everyone. Buddhists and Jews on the other hand I’m largely happy to “life and let life” with.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  22. Jared wrote:

    Hey Shannon – I just read through both threads and I can’t believe how upset and irrational the BB staff got at your generally pleasant, well thought and articulate posts!

    I agree wholeheartedly that one cannot make a “free” choice about whether to obey a particular point of a religion while under the belief that you will be punished for not obeying. No more than you can make the “free” choice to either stand or sit, after being told that if you choose wrong, you will then be tortured.

    You presented your arguments rationally and without any real vitriol. If BB staff and commenters can’t handle the logic that follows naturally from your beliefs they should at least have the courtesy not to be dicks about it.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink
  23. Tom wrote:

    Without expecting you to have all the answers to the universe, I would like to ask you a question that I expect you can solve using logic and reason. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I’ve yet to hear a satisfactory answer:

    Everything that exists has a cause. And that cause has a cause of its own. This string of causality leads all the way back to the beginning of the universe. What was the first cause? How could it exist without something having caused it?

    God is one possible answer, if you’re willing to accept that as an infinite being outside the chain of causality he does not have a cause (some are not). But even if you don’t accept God as the answer, you’re still left with a conundrum.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  24. Defekter wrote:

    Firstly, I want to admit that I agree with Shannon 100% on his views.

    Secondly, I would like to make it known that I find it very disrespectful that people not only capitalize the word “god” but also expect you to understand what it is their believed higher power is, without definition.

    Thirdly, it is for this very censorship-type attitude that I avoid coming into contact with current humanity with all the passion of a thousand burning fires. I am constantly disgusted with the state of society, and it only shows itself to me in harsher light. There are no more redeeming features when somebody can censor people on a website that is supposed to be open to opinion. Fuck them all.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  25. rmx256 wrote:

    “Everything that exists has a cause. And that cause has a cause of its own. This string of causality leads all the way back to the beginning of the universe. What was the first cause? How could it exist without something having caused it?”

    But the difference here is that religious points of view give their followers their answer to that question and brook no disagreement, while a more scientific point of view not only lets people ask that question, but almost makes it mandatory. I talk to a lot of people who just don’t want to know the ‘why’ behind the things in their life. They don’t care how things work, and in fact are often overwhelmed by that information when I explain what I can to them. Many of these people are religious. Many of them are more willing to believe a mythological origins tale, rather than admit that they don’t know the proper prerequisites (math, physics, etc) that would let them find out for themselves how the world works. Not everything ‘needs’ a maker. Just because we don’t understand where the universe came from or if there is a ‘why’ does not mean that we have to ascribe that to a mythological deity. However, believing in that deity almost precludes attempting to find out any further truth- you can’t simultaneously believe a ‘truth’ and seek to discover if it is in fact true. That is where religion makes itself incompatible with the scientific world view. If god says that the world was created in six days, and modern science says it was some three hundred thousand years until there were atoms to begin with the act of ‘creation’ then someone is clearly wrong, and frankly I am going to put more trust into the words of professional scientists who are educated the whole of their lives to work on problems such as these rather than a ‘doctor’ of divinity who, at the end of the day, has to go on the words of a three thousand or so year old book stuffed full of mythological ‘explanations.’ If I was sick and needed medical treatment, I would most certainly go to a professional doctor who had studied for years to learn how the body works and how to attempt to fix it safely, rather than a shaman, who might mean well, and really really believe, but is much less likely to heal me.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  26. Audrey wrote:

    WOW. I can’t get past the comment that an uncovered woman is asking to be raped. No wonder some of the Muslim world wants to destroy the US where women are free and equal… I guess we should also be burned with acid since we let our girls go to school. Almost makes me want to vote Republican…

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  27. starbadger wrote:

    If it is necessary to point some of you at what you are doing, 23, 25, it is mixing rhetoric and science I suggest you wander off to youtube and listen to some of what Richard Feynman has to say about what science is.

    As to what rhetoric is you might look to Wittgenstein – but in a few words – it’s just playing with words.

    The question posed to Shannon – is there a cause for everything – is there a first cause -

    is that rhetoric

    is that science

    actually it is demonstration that six pounds of head cheese has not idea the ans.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  28. starbadger wrote:

    what was the cause of the big bang

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink
  29. rmx256 wrote:

    I am not highly educated enough to even guess an answer to that question. However, I am thankful to live in a world where I can ask it, as opposed to one where the answer is handed down to me from on high.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 3:22 am | Permalink
  30. DMcCunney wrote:

    Shannon, I’m no fan of burqas, but it helps to understand *why* they exist. It’s really not religion – it’s culture, and there’s a difference. Your religion states what you believe. Your culture influences how you *express* the belief. For instance, if Mohammed has been born a Teuton in what is now Germany, do you think Islam would look anything like it does? I doubt it.

    But burqas stem from the same root causes as the Latin American custom of the duenna. Latin American culture has changed in more recent years, but back when, males were told they were hot-blooded and passionate and left alone with a nubile female would attempt to have their way with her. Females were told they were weak and passive and feminine, and would be unable to rest the male. The culture got around the obvious problems by making sure young unmarried women weren’t *left* alone with young men. They were always accompanied by their duennas – older married relatives or friends who served as chaperons. That idea got brought to Latin America by the Spaniards, and they probably got it from the Moorish Arabs in the days when the Moors ruled a good chunk of southern Spain.

    The burqa stems from similar roots. Our culture assumes a man knows how to behave and can control himself in the presence of an attractive women. Older Latin American culture and middle eastern Muslim culture assumes he *can’t*, and the control must be provided from outside. The control will exist, and the question is where it comes from.

    We aren’t all that far removed from the burqa. Consider Victorian women’s dress, where showing a well turned ankle was cause for scandal. The assumption was that men couldn’t control themselves, and women must avoid provocation.

    And what you grow up in will be “normal” for you. So no surprise many women in Islamic countries defend the burqa and don’t see it as oppressive. They were raised from infancy in a culture where that was how women dressed, and not doing so would be an unthinkable breach of propriety (not to mention potentially dangerous.)

    FGM also has cultural roots, and is not simply a matter of male oppression. In cultures that practice it, the family is the most important unit. Families aggregate into clans, and clans into tribes, and everything depends upon what family you are part of. Descent is reckoned from the male, so “Who is their father?” is the most important thing to know about someone from that sort of culture. In a setup like that, bastardy is a badly destabilizing factor. The culture evolved a draconian method of cutting down on it, making extra-martial affairs less likely by reducing the pleasure a woman could take in sex.

    The key point here is that all such practices originate to assist the survival of the *society* that practices them. The effect on the *individual* is irrelevant.

    Unless you understand how such thing come about and why they persist, you’ll get nowhere in opposing them.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 5:20 am | Permalink
  31. Tom wrote:

    @RMX256 – You say you are not even able to guess at the answer but you are thankful to live in a world where you can ask.

    I don’t know if there is a god or gods but I am thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to pursue that question and come to my own conclusions.

    Why should what you or anyone else believes about science, logic and rationality play any part in my private spiritual life?

    @Defekter – Suck it up.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 7:06 am | Permalink
  32. starbadger wrote:

    Defekter – with all respect and an acceptance that you are in pain – I very much doubt that you are 100% in agreement with my Son, Shannon. How could you be. He is not 100% in agreement with himself.

    There is a strong “them and thou” to your post as if there is something craven about mankind.

    Aren’t you a member?

    In particular and it is a hard point to make to one who has a lot going against them – which may be your case – I don’t know you or your circumstance – but suffice to say that when Shannon speaks to what he believes is “abuse of power” suffice to say that he knows how it works as part of his privilege was to see how indeed the rich and famous (the elite) are and how they remain rich and famous.

    Sadly a lot of people just don’t know. That is the real issue of “class” and brings me to the closing pt.

    We’ve got to get “all together now” and soon.

    I’ll leave it to my Son to explain why discussion of the cosmic priniciple is something we do – well his mother and father – at breakfast – and we were as opposite as heads and tails – inside and outside and as joined –

    that there is a danger of miss-direction – of wasting your time on things you cannot effect – I mean no more or less than that yes you have every right to your opinions on matters imperfectly understood such as causality but
    never doubt for a moment that the Internet which still be the instrument that lets enough of us see we are all together is also the instrument that has us off in arguments about burkas while in plain sight

    we don’t seem to notice that all together now despoil the fisheries and a lot more we all got to get our collective will to survive around.

    Bear Witness. That’s where to start.

    It’s cleaning up the carribean but that’s not even a fraction of the ocean.

    It’s all about awareness.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  33. peteD3 wrote:

    fuck religion
    they all seek to brainwash children, and that is abuse.
    fuck each and every one of them.

    if some person wants to be sheep, so be it. but leave the kids alone and stay out of my business, government, etc.
    unfortunately none of them can do that.

    just my 2cents

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink
  34. rmx256 wrote:

    I have beliefs that I cannot rationally justify, just like religious people. I believe that all people are born with equal potential. I believe that all people should be treated equally regardless of anything period (unless convicted beyond a reasonable doubt of a crime etc). I believe that all people are entitled to the rights of life and freedom and the right to do with their bodies exactly what they please. I believe that what people do behind closed doors with consenting individuals is their business and theirs alone.

    As you can easily see, my beliefs are inimicable to those of the common religious cannon, where people can be killed for ‘deviant’ sex practices, for not doing what their parents tell them or for working on one particular day a week.

    While I may try to convince a religious person that they are wrong, by my own beliefs, I would never attempt to do them any harm because of them. I wouldn’t treat them any differently for their views. I wouldn’t forbid my daughter from playing with a child of religious parents for fear of some kind of contamination.

    However, these are exactly kinds of behaviours that I can expect from a religious person. I was a christian most of my life, and in my youth I read a bit about judaism and islam. All three of those major Western religions espouse an in-group philosophy- you’re either one of us or you are not. Each of those religions specify different treatment for the in-group and the out-group, not to mention specifying differing treatment for the genders within their own. Both of those ideas conflict greatly not only with my own beliefs, but with the more general idea that all people are created equal and endowed by their creator- either some god or their mothers as far as I am concerned- with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A group which subjugates it’s out-group to an eternity of suffering, whether or not such a thing exists, by it’s very definition cannot treat all people equally (despite the fact that I am vaguely citing the Declaration of Independence, I am aware that it’s authors were chauvinists and slave-owners: I am citing a more general idea rather than a document).

    A religion requires it’s adherents to believe and espouse it’s ideas. If it tacitly permits those ideas to be questioned and interpreted, it does so in the context that it may be interpreted in the light that the religion itself is infallible. There can be no doubt in the religion itself or it looses validity. When doubt and questioning is allowed to persist it leads to schism- when a religion looses adherents. That is the antithesis of what a religion wants: The religion is the only path, the only true way to some vague salvation, and when it looses it’s members it reveals to the remaining members a doubt— a doubt which can fester. What if we are wrong, and all of them are right? When there is doubt, those in charge loose much of their mandate. A priest with unwavering faith, with a flock convinced that the priest represents the one true god, has power beyond what he or she can have alone. When the flock does not have that unquestioning belief, the priest does not have that total power. Without that power the religion fails.

    I am not going to say that there is no god. I can’t find any real evidence in either direction. I believe that there is not one for my own reasons, most of them derived from logic. I also do not possess an unwavering belief in the scientific method as the end-all and be-all of rational thought. I think that there are possibly, and probably, things outside of normal human experience that we in all likelihood will never be able to explain. Wether or not explainable, however, I find a great comfort in the idea that I can ask the questions. I am comforted by the idea that there are clear and established procedures for not only me, but anyone, of any background and ability level, of any educational history, of any dogmatic belief or not, to use to ask that question in a manner that anyone who asks it can come to similar conclusions based on evidence and proof. I am comforted by the idea that my life is special, not only because it was terribly unlikely to occur to begin with, but because it can only happen once and for a finite time. If I had an eternity to play with, what matter would one minute be? What matter would one relationship with one person be? What would it matter what I thought? I would have an eternity to change my mind.

    Starbadger- perhaps I cannot answer the deep questions that science lets me ask. I’ve read books that deal with the evolutionary history of the universe, but I can’t claim to really be able to understand it. I wanted to talk about vacuum tunneling when you asked about the big bang, or the idea that the universe oscillates through iterations, but I’d rather not talk about things that I really have no idea as to the math or validity of.

    Tom- What I believe, granted, does not have to affect you. However, the presumption of the religious person is that what he or she believes does have to affect me, wether in this life or some vague ‘next’ one. That idea alone, in my opinion, says terrible things. What is the point of me being equal to you if, in your opinion, I’m going to hell anyway? A religious person in the western context that I use here (I don’t know a lot about Eastern religions) is required to spread ‘the good news.’ The god of the Hebrews authorized many populations to be categorically annihilated. Wether or not allah required the early muslims to spread the faith by the sword, it was done, and done in his name, much like the enforced spread of christianity through pagan areas. A religion which proselytizes the good news makes a difference between the believer and the non-believer which in my view is abhorrent to the idea that all people are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. You say why should my beliefs about science and logic play any part of your spiritual life? I say why should anyone believe in something that condemns people to an eternity of torment and a real life as some kind of lesser being, simply because they don’t agree, or even if they broadly agree, because they doubt? How is that right? How is that fair? How can people be equal like that?

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  35. Tom wrote:

    “I say why should anyone believe in something that condemns people to an eternity of torment”

    Because it might be true, I guess. To them it is. As far as they are concerned not believing it won’t make it not true, no matter how distasteful it might seem to you or me.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 7:37 pm | Permalink
  36. starbadger wrote:

    The Unforgiven, the movie, builds to a powerful climax.

    Although largely predictable, it moves along at the right pace, pulling the right strings at the right time.

    My favourite line is when Little Bill (Gene Hackman) says

    ‘it isn’t fair’ and ‘I wasn’t supposed to die like this’,

    ‘I am building a house’

    just before Clint Eastwood says

    ‘fair has nothing to do with it’

    and blows his teeth through the back of his head at point blank range.

    This is a very graphic statement about the nature of life. As much as we try to rationalise life, it isn’t fair and death does not share our sensibilities.


    Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  37. Shannon wrote:

    Faith means not wanting to know what is true. – Nietzsche

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink
  38. Tom wrote:

    Without any proof that God does not exist, you still believe that he does not. You are an atheist by virtue of your faith in the non-existence of God.

    Your zealous atheism is just as close-minded as the people you are criticising.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  39. KJ wrote:

    intolerant, yes, but when was the last time and atheist killed someone for believing in god?

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink
  40. Tom wrote:

    If people didn’t have religion to fight over they would find other things to kill and die for. It seems to be human nature…

    After all Stalin and Mao were both atheists right?

    Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  41. rmx256 wrote:

    To quote myself here, Tom:

    “I am not going to say that there is no god. I can’t find any real evidence in either direction. I believe that there is not one for my own reasons, most of them derived from logic.”


    “I have beliefs that I cannot rationally justify, just like religious people.”

    I don’t consider my atheism close minded. Quite the opposite: show me god and I’ll show you a believer. However, no matter how many times I show you no god, I can’t change your mind. There lies the difference.

    “After all Stalin and Mao were both atheists right?”

    Yes, but were the Conquistadors? How about the Hebrews of the bible who killed every man and woman and child and animal in conquered cities, which were populated by nonbelievers? I may be wrong here, but weren’t there forced conversions in muslim-occupied Spain? Or in many other parts of the muslim world, where people can still be executed if they decide that they don’t want to be muslim anymore? Along those lines, from what I can recall, Hitler was catholic.

    Human nature tells us to do lots of things. I presume that it’s human nature that makes me think about fucking every female that I meet or vaguely lay eyes on. Presumably it’s more hardwired human behavior that tells me to keep eating salty and sugary stuff, despite the fact that I know that too much of it can cause me health problems in the long run. I think that it’s human nature to come to my childrens defense when there is some kind of issue at school, even if I know that my children are as likely as not just as guilty as the other child involved. Human nature, given the wrong circumstances, would make me kill my neighbor to steal his food. Human nature would see me take more than my share of a finite resource should shit hit the fan. I think that the most important part of human nature is the part that makes me second guess all of these kinds of things. Human nature does not necessarily give us empathy, but I try to keep this in mind.

    Not that I am some kind of noble atheist. I’ve done my share of real shitty stuff too.

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 12:26 am | Permalink
  42. Shannon wrote:

    Tom, that argument — that “atheism is just another religion” — is tiresome. Atheism is the condition supported by the evidence and rational analysis thereof.

    Theism and various sorts of superstition — Scientology, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Christianity, Islam, whatever — have ZERO basis in fact. Zero. Literally NONE. There is not a single shred of evidence supporting them in any way.

    Suggesting that the two are the same shows a fundamental lack of critical thought on the matter.

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 6:08 am | Permalink
  43. Kyle wrote:

    Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  44. Tom wrote:

    Did I say atheism was a religion? I believe I said it was a matter of faith.

    And I believe the scientific position would be to disprove a hypothesis before stating that it’s unequivocally false. Therefore the only rational position given the lack of evidence would be agnosticism…

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  45. Shannon wrote:

    Tom, that’s only true if you take it to extremes. Like I said, Flying Spaghetti Monster. The logical conclusion to results is the logical conclusion, and you don’t say “2+2=4, but it could be 5 if [insert magical exception here]“

    Friday, October 2, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  46. Defekter wrote:

    Yes, I am a human being. I am constantly disgusted by that fact.
    Secondly, you need to take everything in it’s context rather than blow a statement out of proportion, but just for you, dear, I will tell you that I meant that I agree with Shannon on his viewpoints relative to THIS blog post.
    Thirdly, I am not alone in my cynical attitude toward humanity, and all that needs to be done is a quick glance around in public to know for sure in your own heart that humans are disgusting, and something needs to be done now.

    Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 5:14 am | Permalink
  47. Defekter wrote:

    Yes, I am a human being. I am constantly disgusted by that fact.
    Secondly, you need to take everything in it’s context rather than blow a statement out of proportion, but just for you, dear, I will tell you that I meant that I agree with Shannon on his viewpoints relative to THIS blog post. We live in a very instantaneous culture here in North America, and that applies to everything, even responses to blog posts.
    Thirdly, I am not alone in my cynical attitude toward humanity, and all that needs to be done is a quick glance around in public to know for sure in your own heart that humans are disgusting, and something needs to be done now.

    Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 5:16 am | Permalink
  48. starbadger wrote:

    okay we’re all humans.

    I have read that if we consider the creature that what we were (the animal, the primate) a quarter of million years ago that there have been 90,000,000 million of us with about 7 billion alive right now.

    There have been times when I have had the thoughts you’ve had as no doubt have at least billions of the 90 illion at some time or another.

    On reflection I take us (we humans) and myself less seriously than earlier.

    Something I would encourage you or others to consider is whether or not a belief in god or at least a sense of something larger than ourselves is one of the things that makes us human.

    A Shark lives in the moment. Its momment.

    Is a Shark an atheist?

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 6:57 am | Permalink
  49. Herbert wrote:

    You see, the problem with christians like yourself, TOM (aka Shitface), is that you won’t think for yourself. You throw all your problems to your imaginary friend that is in yoiur tiny mind.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  50. Tom wrote:

    So Shannon, let me get this straight. All theists, even the intelligent and compassionate ones, ‘lose their spot at the table’, but would-be champions of atheism like Herbert are still welcome?

    Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 7:08 am | Permalink
  51. Shannon wrote:

    Tom, if your argument in terms of why things should be the way they should be boils down to superstition and unverifiable fantasy, then yes, your argument can not be validly considered in matters of the real world.

    Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 7:11 am | Permalink
  52. Tom wrote:


    Setting aside the fact that I completely disagree with that sentiment, your position assumes that theism is the only factor in my decision making process. There are factors just as dangerous or delusional as, if not more so than, theism. Should they be discriminating factors as well?

    I consider myself lucky that the majority of people, even atheists, don’t hold views as extreme as yours.


    Congratulations on being brave enough to hide behind your anonymity just long enough to make snide insults and uneducated generalisations.

    Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 7:35 am | Permalink
  53. Lady G wrote:

    Your experiences at BoingBoing do not surprise me in the least. BB was founded by “hipsters” and like any hipster, they are completely intolerant of any beliefs that contradict their own world image.

    Furthermore they are a huge bunch of hypocrites who make a big noise about censorship yet actively practice the harshest form of it to anyone who dares point out the hypocrisy. Then they come back with idiotic smug references cum in-jokes to cake and ice-cream that would make any Scientologist word smith proud.

    BoingBoing is well past it’s prime and it’s time. There’s nothing sadder than a broken hipster.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink
  54. Tom wrote:

    How funny that you actually have the gall to criticise someone else’s intolerance of your intolerance.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 6:53 am | Permalink
  55. Nurse Gracer wrote:

    My husband and I used to read BB with great regularity, but both of us have let it go due to the increasing frequency of fnords. It used to be a site of truly wonderful things but it now suffers from such reactivism that we can no longer stand it.

    By the way, my husband (Formerly iam:Netzapper) says hi and wishes you well.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 12:23 am | Permalink
  56. Herbert wrote:


    Ok, let me make myself a bit more clear. How often have you had a problem, and you then ask “god” for some answers and he either ignores you, or tells you what you already know. Thats what I mean when I say your “tiny” mind. There is no god, my superstitous friend.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 5:03 am | Permalink
  57. Stuart wrote:

    “Arguing on the internet is like competing in the special Olympics, even if you win, you’re still retarded.”

    Saying that, though, I still agree with you and love you Shannon.


    Friday, July 9, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  58. BBSucks wrote:

    I’ve noticed a trend that BB responds to criticism of censorship and abusive moderation by claiming “technical problems with the comment system”, or “problems sorting out IP addresses”.

    They also deflect any accountability to journalistic integrity and deflect justified criticism by claiming that WAJAB (We Are Just A Blog) defense.

    As a site valued at over $100 million, I’m pretty sure they could afford a better commenting system, and allow real community interaction. So, yeah, your WAJAB defense is very weak sauce indeed fellas.

    Boing Boing: An internet outpost of Group Think and Payola, dedicated to all its reader-serfs who have yet to learn anything from abusive media practices.

    Friday, June 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  59. XeniDislikesFreedom wrote:

    Howdy! I was recently banned from BoingBoing. After years of occasional readership, I decided to create an account in the past year to participate with the community. Commenting is great for sure and it lead to the (somewhat obvious) outcome that I visited my often. From more frequent reading, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the posts of two contributors (Cory, but mostly those from Xeni Jardin). I found them encouraging Anti-Christian comments, treating Arab countries as “stupid”, and attempting to mold opinion with dirty tricks that would make Hearst proud.

    They are bullies. Any dissent quickly leads to banning. And even community interaction is discouraged.

    In essence, BoingBoing is “forced group think”. To participate, you must not indicate an opposition to our agenda. An Agenda you say? Yes, of course, they participate in an agenda. Their “public agenda” is for all to see, but their “secret agenda” can easily be inferred as well.

    After being banned (like you, with no explanation, notice), it really ticked me off. This is a site that valued at over $100 million. Yet, when they are confronted with serious lack of journalistic or ethical integrity, they continue to claim to be “Just A Blog”,

    Thank you Al for giving me a venue to air my dissent.

    Friday, June 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  60. Shannon wrote:

    I have been thinking about writing a bot that watches their comment forums and keeps automatically tracks some of the censorship by watching their moderators delete and edit posts they disagree with. Of course it wouldn’t catch the massive pile that doesn’t make it through the initial censorship screen. Their moderators are sycophants and completely devoid of journalistic ethics.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Permalink
  61. XeniDislikesFreedom wrote:

    I agree that their initial moderator ban is the largest hurdle for any dissent to filter through and get posted (initially). Note though they apply several layers of comment censorship.
    Layer 1: Group think Certification – If the post is BB-group think certified, it is posted with very little delay (~5 minutes).
    Layer 2: Dissenting Comment with potential to Infect other readers. Here the post comment is deeeelayed. The comment appears perhaps 24 hours later (or more), long after most daily readers have read it, made their comment (if desired), and moved on.
    Layer 3: Banned post. The post is never published. The comment in question is such an affront to their collective view, that it is quarantined and never seen the light of day. If confronted, BB censorship apologists attribute it to overworked moderators and or technical incompetence, not censorship!
    Layer 4: Banned account. Here, the evidence of independent thought is too much to bear and the account is shadow-banned. They do not send you a notice, or give you an indication of banning when logging on to their site. In place of an explicit message that you’re no longer invited to the “No Homers” club, various error codes such as “Invalid Entry” are returned when you attempt to post comments. Again, if confronted the BB cowards maintain plausible deniability.

    For your comment scrapping, you might want to start with something like this. Courtesy of Yahoo Pipes.

    Here is the story on Digg.

    Direct link:

    Good luck!

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Shannon Larratt is Zentastic › Unstealable laptop… maybe… on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 5:43 am

    [...] someone said, from BoingBoing pariah to CuteOverload star in six hours. That was fun. I’m still banned, and have gotten no reply [...]

  2. benefits, accessories and scenes « Aniareads Weblog on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 9:59 am

    [...] accessories and scenes Just a few days ago I’ve read an interesting post on burkas on Shannon Larratt’s blog and here this topic appears in the news from Netherlands – the proposal can also affect visibly [...]

  3. Shannon Larratt is Zentastic › I agree completely, Amazon! on Friday, January 22, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    [...] very much and very aggressively in the “God is NOT Great” camp — enough so as to get me banned from the surprisingly pro-superstition and Muslim-fearing BoingBoing, maybe the first time I’ve been dumped by an online girlblogfriend — so I totally [...]

  4. Shannon Larratt is Zentastic › Oh, moderators… on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    [...] you may remember, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with BoingBoing, that’s currently more on the [...]

  5. [...] BoingBoing (you’ll recall I got banned ages ago), a site which regularly criticizes other sites, corporations, and entities for censorship and [...]

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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