Sunday, January 09, 2011

Us and them

Allen Small fires off a salvo in our ongoing contretemps. Let me first deal with the substance of Allen's remarks.

Hmmm... Let me read it again...

Whaddayaknow... nothing of substance. Quelle surprise.

My issue with Allen has little to with communism or Libertarianism; it has everything to do with atheism. The only reason I pay Allen even the smallest attention is because he appears on Planet Atheism, an online "community", such as it is, of atheists. There are a lot of Libertarian bloggers on the internet, but I typically don't engage with them: As I mentioned in my earlier post, there's a lot of stupidity in the world, and I'm only one blogger.

Whether there should be an "us" and a "them" is beyond the scope of this post. I can note only that by creating a space called "Planet Atheism", Pedro Timóteo has created an "us"; by participating, the members of Planet Atheism, myself included, have consented to the division. The question becomes: who precisely is "us"?

I maintain that we are more than just people who happen to not believe in the existence of any deity, for any old reason. What makes us atheists, I think, is that we believe no deities exist because we are skeptics, because we value rationality, critical thought, and honesty. I don't think that atheists should all agree on some complex and detailed "line", but I do think we have and should maintain core values that go beyond simple disbelief. And I do not believe that Allen holds those core values.

I haven't brought up this aspect of the discussion before. People of good will and honest can disagree, sometimes sharply, on matters of substance. The post that started the contretemps discussed — at some length — the the substantive failings of Rev. William John Henry Boetcker Ten "Cannots", a particularly sloppy form of political-economic ignorance. It it skepticism 101 that criticism is not censorship: Everyone has the "right" to be wrong, and everyone has the right to criticize the wrongness without affecting the original author's standing to publish. Allen has every right to present and defend his political philosophy, and I have every right to criticize it, and criticize it without discussing his standing to publish it in the first place. But now I do want to discuss his standing to publish it in — and with the legitimacy of — our little community of atheist bloggers.

It is important to note that in a comment and two posts, Allen has yet to address the substance of the original list or the substance of my criticism of it. His sole "substantive" response has been to chant Stalin Stalin Stalin Stalin Stalin Stalin STALIN Kim Jong-il STALIN!!!!11!!1eleventy-one!!11!!. Indeed, as far as I can tell, Allen has never offered anything of substance about anything (but as noted before, I don't follow Allen's blog rigorously, so I could well have missed something); not only does he fail to offer anything of substance in response to his critics, he fails to offer a substantive defense of Libertarianism.

Allen doesn't ever write about atheism or any topic of special interest to atheists. He doesn't offer any kind of critical, skeptical examination of any topic. His posts consists of nothing but links, strident declarations of Libertarian dogma, blatant trolling (evidenced by his apparent relish at "rattling my cage"), and the occasional cartoon bear (apparently his exclusive source of economic "education"). Even on a broad definition of "us", Allen is just not one of us.

That being said, I am explicitly not asking, much less demanding, that Pedro Timóteo expel Allen from Planet Atheism. Quite the contrary: I want nothing but that Allen leave only of his own volition. (If, of course, Allen were to break the prosaic rules of PA, such as posting spam or pr0n, Pedro must act as he sees fit.) All I will do is keep the "heat" on Allen as a private individual with no authority over the content of PA. I will point out his dogmatism, trollishness, superficiality, lack of substance, and abhorrence of critical, skeptical thought.


  1. I agree. Allen Small is the absolute worst thing about Planet Atheism, and I'm getting tired of seeing his claptrap splattered over an otherwise great little site.

    My vote is for expelling him. He's a bad fit for the site: he seldom (if ever) writes about skepticism or atheism, and, like you said, he's not even a very skeptical thinker.

  2. My vote is for expelling him.

    As far as I know, Pedro does not decide inclusion on the basis of votes. And I think the Allen Small situation calls for a community response: We should do what we can — within the bounds of reason, good taste and civilized behavior — to make his continued presence here uncomfortable and unrewarding.


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