Last year a group of atheists and skeptics decided that the only correct mode of thought was far left humanism and militant, man-hating feminism. They created the A+ movement as a response to those who dared to push-back against their nonsense. Their occasionally interesting blogs were transformed into cesspools of self-righteous name calling. They drove their most interesting writers away, leaving behind a relativity small group of miscreants who spend most of their time searching, searching, searching for something they can whine about. In nearly every case they misrepresent what the author actually said. Context doesn’t matter. Intent doesn’t matter. The author’s history and record and previous writings don’t mater. The only thing that matters is that someone feeds their desperate need for attention.
The most prominent among them are Rebecca Watson and PZ Meyers. In the past they occasionally provided insights and interesting takes on things, but these days they and their cronies spend most of their time desperately looking for something to be offended by and pissed off about.
The rift they created is now being discussed in the mainstream press, making the entire atheist movement look bad.
There are two ways to feel good about yourself. The first is to actually accomplish something. It can be something great or something trivial, but as long as it’s something you can be proud of, you can point to it, say, “I did that,” and feel good about yourself.
The second way is to look down on other people. We all do it to some extent, but some people use it as their primary source of self-esteem. They convince themselves they are morally superior to anyone who disagrees with them. They often season their disdain with a persecution complex.
The A-plusers have mastered the second technique. They carefully examine everything said or written by any atheist or skeptic outside of their self-important clique. The moment someone says anything they don’t like (and they don’t like much), they go into attack mode. They call out the offender by name, twisting their words out of context to present them in the worst possible light.
The natural response by those attacked is to defend themselves. They spend a great deal of time and effort explaining what they really meant, often inducing a detailed personal history that counters the accusations. This is the natural, obvious response to this kind of attack, but I’d like to suggest a different approach.
Every time you address their spurious arguments and deeply dishonest accusations, they get the attention they crave. You’re training them that they can remain the center of their own universe simply by string up shit wherever the attention starts to fade.
Ignoring them very, very difficult to do. Our natural response, especially to potentially reputation-damaging accusations, is to defend ourselves. But every time we do it, we’re training them to keep flinging poo in our direction.
I made this suggestion to someone they’d targeted, and she replied that it was important to defend herself. She does a lot of freelance work, and was concerned that a potential client or employer would run a search on her name and see the accusation. If she didn’t respond she might lose the gig.
This is a legitimate concern. A friend lost two paying gigs because someone Googled his name and was offended by a conversation the two of us had on this very blog. (I made a change that removed it from Google’s radar.) I’m sure I’ve missed being hired once or twice because someone Googled my name and was offended by some opinion I’ve expressed here or elsewhere on the web. The only sure way to avoid that is to keep quiet on the net, which isn’t in our nature.
But in the long run defending yourself against these bogus accusations from the A-plussers is counter-productive. It inspires them to repeat their dishonest behavior. Linking back to their accusations improves their search engine ranking, making it more likely their nonsense will come up when someone searches for your name.
Some of the people pulling this crap achieved their original prominence by offering insights and worthwhile conversations, but now they’re like poorly mannered children at an adult party. They are jumping up and down in the living room, waving their arms and shouting nonsense in a desperate attempt to get the grownups to abandon their conversations with each other and pay attention to them.
Don’t feed the beast. Dismiss them as you would a any other tiresome troll. It’s not easy, especially when they mention you by name, but it’s the only way to get rid of them.
“Oh, it’s just Rebecca Watson. Pffft. Did you like the latest Bond movie?”
“Oh, it’s just PZ Meyers. Ho hum, what’s for dinner?”
“Oh, it’s an A-Plusser making noise? Not now, I’m having a conversation with the grown-ups.”