#MythCon Disagreement And Thomas Smith’s Online Abuse

image

I truly believe Mythcon IV has been a huge embarrassment this year—not for its organisers and attendees mind you, but for its screeching critics. Many an authoritarian ideologue has been exposed by a mere desire to fill a room with people and have a few conversations. Attendance optional.

This small conference in Milwaukee had gone off without a hitch in previous years, but their decision to invite some popular YouTube personalities this year culminated in a sustained campaign of harassment and threats against the organisers.

The venue owners were phoned and fed lies about an incoming ’Nazi rally’, organisers were personally threatened with being ‘blackballed’ from atheism (whatever that means), an organiser’s wife was reduced to tears after receiving constant harassing phone calls, and the organisation itself was threatened with financial ruin. As a result of pressure from the mob, two prominent speakers dropped out of the event.

This behaviour meant that the organisers were forced to fork out an additional $12,000 for increased security. This is especially absurd when you consider that security was only called into action on one occassion—to remove a person associated with the de-platforming mob for confronting Sargon Of Akkad.

Despite the bulk of the event comprising of people like Melissa Chen, Asra Nomani, Matt Dillahunty, Faisal Al Mutar and Ron Miscavige, the main point of controversy appears to be the invitation of YouTube personality Carl Benjamin, AKA Sargon Of Akkad.

Regardless of what you think of Carl, he is clearly an opinion former and has a substantial online following, and as such it does not surprise me that he would be invited to make public appearances. He spoke on the much bigger platform of the Joe Rogan show earlier this year for example.

I’m not so terrified about what he might say that I think it should be my mission to prevent him from saying it publicly.

Nothing about this means I have to endorse or even like him. I’m sure there are things we agree on, and things we do not. Also, his primary trade is speech, not violence or any other form of criminality. It is my opinion that people have the right to invite him to an event and others have the right to go hear him speak if they so wish.

Most of the objection seems to stem from a tweet Sargon sent to a British MP several years ago for which context is provided below:

This is not something I would do and it clearly crosses the line of taste and decency for me. However, I’m not here to police the lines of taste and decency for everyone else and their conferences.

The other man on stage in the above video is Thomas Smith who is a podcaster (‘Serious Inquiries Only Podcast’, formerly ‘Atheistically Speaking’). I didn’t even know who Thomas was until he begin swiping at me online and on his podcast. He seemed to be annoyed with my views, but couldn’t quite articulate what it was he was annoyed about specifically. But this would all be sorted out if I just gave up my time to come on his podcast apparently. Despite politely declining, this entitled badgering to come on his show continued for over a year with the occasional accusation of ‘coward’ levelled my way.

I’ve heard from others who were put off from speaking to Smith due to this way of operating. Why would this sort of behaviour make anyone want to give him their time?

Thomas Smith was also invited to MythCon this year to interview and challenge Sargon on stage. It’s worth noting Smith was offered a platform all to himself at the same event last year, completely unchallenged.

There were a number of ways you could approach this conversation in order to take Sargon to task for his transgressions, however Smith opted for hostility and emotion, even calling the audience “deplorables” and the conference “a fucking embarrassment”. He also insulted the conference organisers directly—from the very stage they had afforded him to make his case against Sargon and boost his profile.

Smith eventually stormed off stage during the Q&A section. It did not go well for him. In short, he blew it.

Despite having opinions to the contrary explained to him, Smith continues to propagate the wildly unsupported claim that the crowd at the event “cheered for sexual harassment”.

This refers to an incident around the 5 minute mark of the ‘debate’, where Smith, assuming the role of inquisitor asks “…you saw fit to tweet at her [Jess Phillips] ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’”. Sargon facetiously responds with “yup” to which the crowd reacted with cheers.

Rather than being sensible and recognising the possibility that the crowd cheered in support of Sargon’s defiance in the face of moral outrage, it was spread far and wide as an example of the crowd cheering actual sexual harassment.

It’s become a mantra at this point: “the crowd were cheering for sexual harassment”. This viewpoint relies on two gigantic assumptions. 1. that sending a tweet with “I wouldn’t even rape you” constitutes sexual harassment in the first place and 2. that you were able to read the minds of those cheering.

I can completely understand why this may have made people feel uncomfortable, or how it may have been misinterpreted. However, I’ve yet to hear a single person come forward from the event to affirm their support of sexual harassment.

Critics of the conference are clearly fighting their own uncharitable interpretation—one which is not supported by what the crowd did say when the organisers questioned a number of them, or the interpretation of those disagreeing with Smith et al’s approximation.

Someone in the crowd at the event even shouts out “that’s not what they are cheering!” when Smith makes this accusation of cheering for “sexual assault”:

 

We hear a lot about ‘lack of empathy’ from these circles, yet they refuse to recognise others simply do not feel the same way about this tweet or perceive the crowd reaction in the way the do.

But of course, if I don’t agree with the deeply uncharitable interpretation that a crowd was cheering in favour of sexual harassment, I must therefore be on the side of pro-sexual harassment. This is how easy they make this game for themselves:

image

Smith has since had to apologise for the way he behaved in a number of interactions with attendees during the event too—including shouting at a female photographer who approached him.

The behaviour after the event has not been much better either. The following demand was made by Smith (emphasis mine):

“This happened, we’ve got some options: We can put it behind us, you [Mythycon] can issue an apology. As an organisation you can realise whoever is currently making the decisions, you can recognise that you fucked up, you made a bad decision, you got exactly the conference that we thought you were going to get and this can never happen again. If there’s an apology, if there’s a recognition of what happened, if there’s a clear change in direction and a change in leadership I will be happy to work with you again”

“If there is a change in leadership and good people take over and try to atone for what’s happened I’m more than happy to try and forgive and forget and heal this wound…

if that doesn’t happen I’m going to be doing everything in my power to make sure that this conference and this group are not successful in the future. I’m going to try convince people not to go. I’m going to try to convince people not to speak there in the first place. What you did was not acceptable.”

So, just to recap this authoritarian ultimatum: Thomas is demanding an apology from the conference organisers (for what?) and that a person, or persons at the organisation lose their jobs. And if the organisation refuse to bend the knee, he will do everything in his power to shut them down. Just imagine what things would look like if people with Smith’s mind-set commanded any actual power in society.

I reached out to the organisers after this whole debacle to try and get their side of the story on record. I wanted to find out what type of people they were and what principles they valued, so I spoke to Brian and Sean from Mythicist Milwaukee on my podcast:

It turns out they are some of the most reasonable and fair-minded people you could hope to speak to. Despite the treatment they have endured, they still managed to acknowledge some mistakes and take on-board some of the sensible feedback they received. These are precisely the type of people I would want to be running a conference.

A little while later Brian (with Dimitry of Mythicist Milwaukee this time), also had another podcast conversation with Thomas Smith and Eli Bosnick to work through their disagreements.

Just listen and compare the tone, rhetoric and arrogance between the two parties:

It’s like Bosnick and Smith think they are calling the naughty children into the principle’s office for a telling off. Eli, someone who had absolutely nothing to do with the conference whatsoever, says he is “appalled” on behalf of the organisers and goes so far as to apologise for them like a sort of atheist Jesus dying for their sins. Listen to the clip below. Does this sound like a reasonable response in contrast to the way the organisers conduct themselves?

At one point Smith shouts “You fucking idiot!” in anger to a calmly stated claim made by the organisers that he believes to be inaccurate—a point Brian and Dimitry have the patience and class to concede, despite this abuse.

Well, my critical, yet non-abusive tweet commentary of this conversation seems to have been a trigger for Thomas who then unleashed a stream of abusive tweets my way in response:

image

image

image

image

Whilst referring to me as an ‘awful douchebag’ and ‘fucking coward’ Thomas himself confirms that he has sent me ‘DOZENS’ of ‘requests’ (that entitlement again) to come on his show over a period spanning ‘years’, despite my having already said I wasn’t interested. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to suspect people within his social justice circle would consider this sort of behaviour to constitute online abuse and harassment were it coming from someone else, or aimed at a woman:

image

Eli, who spends his time panning bad movies, seemingly took offence to a bad review of his own output, labelling me a ‘cock’.

image

(UPDATE 24 Oct 2017—Eli says says that his comment wasn’t aimed at me, but rather a summary of how he felt I felt towards him. Happy to take his word for that) 1

Keep in mind, I’m receiving all this abuse because I tweeted some civil objections on my own timeline to the way they conduct themselves and the views they hold. That’s it.

It’s amazing that those who espouse moral virtue and claim to fight for justice behave this way the moment their viewpoint meets some disagreement.

Unsolicited, abusive tweets of this kind actually violate Twitter’s terms and conditions regarding abuse. Luckily, I won’t allow myself to be harassed or upset by some tweets. Instead, I reproduce them here to serve as an example of the hypocrisy of those that espouse moral virtue about online abuse and harassment, but violate the very standards they demand of everyone else when it suits.

Their campaign of harassment and abuse in response to a conference they did not even have to attend has been an utter embarrassment for them.

For those fed up of so-called ‘in-fighting’, you will be pleased to know this does not qualify. I am not ‘in’ anyone’s group and I don’t want to be. I will not be told what I should or shouldn’t say, or what I can or can’t hear by a bunch of ideologues who have the self-importance to claim they represent ‘the atheist movement’ whilst behaving like the church.

Do not bow to their standards. Instead, just sit back and watch them be undone by the revolving door of their own purity tests.

Be truthful to your principles, rather than group-think, and you won’t lose a single night’s sleep to cognitive dissonance.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

19 comments

  • Ohh, Smith went full Arel again!!

    I think we have their creep MO right here: to beg you to shine some fame their way, and when you refuse, then you’re a vile creature. That Bosnick guy is a piece of work as well.

    Cheers Stephen, and keep up the good job. Don’t let the creeps and thugs get your eyes off the ball.

  • Hilarious. You say you don’t want to police what is decent when it comes to Sargon’s comments yet you have no problem issuing moral proclamations on Smith’s behaviour which is nowhere near as bad. Could you be more of a moral coward?

    • Stephen Knight

      Thanks for the non-point. I’m highlighting Smith’s behaviour to demonstrate his moral hypocrisy.

      I’ve not issued a single moral proclamation. He’s free to behave this way. No attempts to shut him down, de-platform or report him to Twitter have been made

      • Um, you call tweets abusive. That’s a moral judgement. Yet you make no such condemnation of Sargon’s tweet. In fact, you make excuses to avoid doing so. That is moral hypocrisy.

        • Stephen Knight

          Um, they are abusive. How is saying that in anyway ‘policing’? Again. He’s free to tweet what he wants at me. I haven’t even asked him to stop, so again – non-point. And I say that Sargon’s tweet ‘clearly crosses the line of taste and decency’. But sure. ‘no such condemnation’.

          • What is it with these people?

            You keep on pointing out where you have condemned something, attacked something, criticised something, and so forth, and they STILL lie about you. This is after you provide past tweets, screen-caps, audio, etc. They will be wanting fingerprints and DNA, next, and they will still yap and cry that you haven’t condemned something.

            Ironic, is that the latest accuser (you should see some of the other people on this scummy list of accusers, including the usual suspects – Arel, Sacha, Johnny “Israel Lobby” Spooner, Winters, et al and probably CJ (haven’t checked,, but he’s always lying in this same manner)), really tries hard not to condemn certain individuals who are far more abusive than Sargon.

            Some of these trollish accusers actually believe they are liberals, skeptics, humanists, etc. They are anything but.

            PS – Deepen the rifts between these regressives, with genuine liberals and progressives. We could do without their authoritarianism and abuse in the movement.

    • Just for your information, Peter has a track record of enabling and kow-towing to abusive regressive trolls and bullies (and even racists) such as Dan Arel, and now thuggish goons such as Thomas Smith. At the same time, he holds everybody else (especially what he dubs “centrists” or “free speech warriors”) to an incredibly high standard. A few months ago, Peter congratulated Smith on exposing the Evergreen incident as a “hoax”! That’s the kind of revisionist BS we see from Mike Cernovich. We have the incident on tape. We can see what happened. Also, remember a few months ago when Peter moaned at Stephen “using Islamist terror attacks” to attack Muslims (I”m paraphrasing), a bogus statement of course, only for Peter to then use the death of Otto Warmbier to attack some politician. He’s a complete hypocrite, and he only ever enables regressive attacks on liberals.

      Ferguson gets worked up about Sargon, but is A-OK with racism and pro-violence from the likes of Dan Arel, and threatening behaviour.from Smith and Winters. I have stated this many times, Ferguson is NOT a liberal. He’s a regressive anti-liberal, who has a Dan Arel type worldview where liberals and “centrists” are Nazis, or somehow enabling Nazis.

      I’ve had dozens of regressive goons crying at me over the last 24 hrs, over the repeated lie that Stephen doesn’t ever point out or attack far right terrorism. Every time you point them to an example, they repeat the same lie. Over and over again it happens. The last one I discovered is chummy with Johnny “Israel Lobby” Spooner. These lying scumbags and creeps are all the fecking same. They have their narrative that those liberals to the right of them, of those that, get this, believe in the concept of free speech, are far right fascists and Nazis, etc. They then start crying when you expose them. The creeps.

  • Can any of you–Stephen, or his followers–point me to a place where I could engage in a civilised discourse with someone(s) on that side of skepticism’s quasi-divide this MM event has seemed to elucidate? I’m not here to ad hominem anyone, nor is it a hostile endeavor (there’s been far too much of that already). I’m just genuinely interested in understanding better. Can anyone point me in the direction of willing participants? Should I just ask some questions here? What’s my best course of action?

      • Fair. *shrugs* Sorry. I was embarrassed on his behalf and wanted him to stop making a fool out of himself. I wasn’t interested in engaging with your argument, ad hominem or otherwise. Afterward I simply clicked through the thread to see exactly what had transpired, made it to your timeline, and decided I’d read your blog post to further my understanding of your position on the matter.

        Anyway.. I hope the public discourse hasn’t so far disintegrated that that single intellectually irresponsible tweet forever bars me from engaging with opposing ideas? Cross my heart, I’m only interested in clarifying some things I don’t understand. So, are you willing to direct me? Or should I just go searching for random laypersons espousing the pro free speech/anti regressive left viewpoint on Twitter. (I will.. but God help me it’s hard to have a dialogue like that).

  • Called you a cock did he? Imagine you were a woman and he called you a cunt….

    • Imagine if you were a Jew who lost family at Auschwitz, only to have some goon call you a “Nazi”. Not very nice, and antisemitic in my books. And yet, Smith, Winters, Shives, Ferguson, and the rest of the mob attacking MM, are fine with this.

  • Great summary Stephen. I have genuinely never encountered such an obnoxious, sanctimonious and entitled approach to hosting a podcast than that of this pair, and that’s going some…

    However I do think it’s worth clarifying that Eli didn’t label you a “cock”… he was lamenting what he saw as *you* thinking *he* was a cock, from the point of view of someone who respects your output. That was how I read his original tweet and he’s since stated the same on Twitter. As far as I can see, while behaving pretty awfully in other ways, Eli hasn’t been explicitly abusive in the way that Thomas Smith has.

  • This creepy authoritarian attitude seems to come from an inability to just ignore things you don’t like.
    Why would you actively try and damage the conference?
    Why not just say you’re not going back and ignore it.

  • I can’t do anything but laugh at Thomas and his behaviour. His self awareness is negative googlplex and he doesn’t even notice how much he is projecting his own flaws to be the flaws of dissenters.

  • It seems like the explanation for the cheers for Sargon is something along the lines of, “They weren’t cheering for sexual harassment, they were cheering at his defiance in the face of moral outrage.” I hope I’ve got that right. If so, then it seems like a very poor excuse.

    Firstly, Sargon’s tweet does warrant moral outrage, it was a despicable thing to say. Imagine saying to victim of physical abuse: “I wouldn’t even beat you”, or to a holocaust survivor: “I wouldn’t even gas you.” I don’t give these examples to say they are of equivalent cruelty, but in the hopes that you’ll see the similarity.

    Secondly, if people were cheering as a push back against what they felt was an obnoxious and hostile questioning by Thomas, then the outrage they felt at Thomas’ attitude must have outweighed what they felt about Sargon’s sexual harassment. If anyone heard the details of what Sargon did, then they cheered despite the knowledge of his cruel and pathetic comments. That’s not something I would dismiss. (I guess they may have misheard what was said, only catching the manner in which it was said instead of the actual content (not their fault I suppose but not Thomas’ either)).

    Do people care less about the substance of what was said than the style with which it was delivered? I suppose that’s Sargon of Akkad in a nutshell though. Doesn’t matter what you say, just make sure you’re relaxed whilst saying it, otherwise you lose. I agree that it would have been better if Thomas had kept his composure, but I can’t blame him him too much for losing his cool, public speaking is stressful. I can hope that I would stay calm in that situation, but I couldn’t guarantee it.

    • I don’t think the tweet was all that bad. It was a non-threat, given as an example that the tolerance for what constitutes a threat is too low.

      If you have some preacher grandstanding about how people are constantly telling him about their abortions, and some antagonist tweets “I wouldn’t even have an abortion if I knew it was yours” at him, it comes completely within the domain of the conversation. If that preacher has a past of someone aborting a fetus he fathered, that is hardly relevant to the conversation being had.

      Pulling the whole “she was groped once, so you can’t ever mention rape towards her,” is utter nonsense when the context of the conversation has been “I receive all these rape threats.”

      Honestly, after all the moral outrage over a stated non-intent of malice, I probably would have cheered the absolute dismissal of Thomas’s outrage as well. I’m willing to bet the vast majority who were cheering were informed of the context, and the content of that tweet, and the ensuing fallout.

      Now, the tweet wasn’t great, it’s utterly obvious provocation, and poking the bear. But it’s neither a threat, nor mocking someone’s (alleged) victimhood. It is mocking someone’s extremely oversensitive sensibilities. And in doing that, the hypersensitivity was demonstrated.

      It could have been good to see Thomas contain his fury, but I think it turned out way more fun the way it went down.

What do you think? Leave some comments!