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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
My Atheist B*tchslap and the Internet
Most of my regular readers (hello new people and welcome) will know that I've been a fairly frequent guest on BBC One's religious debate show The Big Questions. My most recent appearance culminated in me calling religious people "idiots". At the time unsurprisingly the assembled religious leaders who were on the show reacted as if I'd defecated on the studio floor. But I wasn't really expecting the general public to have that much of a reaction to the clip. I mean "idiots" is hardly the harshest insult. At very least it's the sort of insult that goes out on BBC One on a Sunday morning.
However recently when looking for the clip to show to a friend I noticed something: it's gone a bit viral. Well actually a lot viral. It's on YouTube several times and now it's on ebaumsworld which is a very high traffic site. There are various versions of the clip - this is a fairly extended version, showing the debate before and after my "idiots" comment:
This clip also has a fairly generic title. Most places have titled it "Atheist B*tchslap". I generally think the term "b*tch" is an unpleasant one, but in this case it seems to be being used positively so I don't mind.
Anyway here's the thing. Between all the various places it's been put up, it's had over 250,000 views. Yes - quarter of a million views and counting. I rather wish whoever has been posting it up would put my name, twitter tag and blog site in the title so people can find me and follow me and come to my comedy shows. But hey, I guess I'll just get a T-Shirt printed up with "Atheist B*tchslap" on it and that should jog people's memories!
And here's the other thing. As you may know I moderate comment on here and on my YouTube channel. I didn't for a long time but there were some particularly nasty internet trolls who would repeatedly post up the most horrible things and I just wanted my readers to feel they could read my site safely. I still approve comments from those who disagree with me, just not those who are creepy and threatening and all that sort of thing.
Of course on the wider Internet I don't get to moderate these things. In particular ebaumsworld clearly has no policy for moderation and doesn't even have a "report this comment" or a function that allows a comment to be hidden if a large number of people have "dislike"-d it. And it's getting pretty ugly. Trigger warning - I'm going to quote some of the comments (asterisks are mine, mostly to stop my page being blocked for anyone with a half decent Internet firewall).
"IF THIS TRASH TALKING K*NT HAD HER F*CKNG
TONGUE RIPPED OUT OF HER SUCK-HOLE, I BET THE VERY FIRST WORDS TO LEAVE HER FACE WOULD BE
Mmm, that was from the reassuringly-named ebaumsworld commenter "pygmiesrfun". And here's "southernguy3030" to remind us how kind and compassionate religious people are:
"She will remember those words when she faced
God. Have fun burning in Hell."
And this one:
"she looks like a lesbian b*tch anyways"
Ah yes that age-old insult "looking like a lesbian". I'm hoping that user "Montreal" means like a cross between Amber Heard and Tegen and Sara. That would be AWESOME! And someone else who spent a long time choosing a username: "sh*tpuppet" wants to be clear it's not just lesbians he has the problem with:
"No you're a woman right? Therefore by
induction, you're an idiot."
The fact that his sentence doesn't even make sense (induction?) really backs up his point too... But just cos you're educated enough to be pedantic about language doesn't make you a very nice person either. Look here's "jteague" with his/her insightful spelling advice:
"atheist not athiest. tard"
I think "tard" is actually short for "retard"!!? Seriously - that'a apparently a hip insult now and not in the least bit insulting to people with learning difficulties. Someone call Ricky Gervais... On the subject of spelling mistakes lets get back to the threats of violence. This one is from "canadianbeer":
"She needs to be gang reaped."
And atheists can be horrifically sexist too remember, thanks "mrcronic":
"so from now on when a make a chick have an
abortion ill just tell her the babys going to
And guess what peacemakers like "Skab" want to do to end fighting between atheists and religious people:
"Here's a solution that can unite all the
religious f*cks. Gang-b*ng her in a rainbow
unity and problem solved."
I'm only about a third of the way through the comments, and even then there's loads more I could post up, but I think that's enough to show I'm presenting a general trend, not just a couple of isolated idiots.
I guess three points:
(1) The anonymity and freedom of speech afforded by the Internet certainly have their benefits, as we've seen with the Arab Spring and reaction to suppression of news about human rights abuses in China, etc. But in general, my advice is, if you've got a site - moderate it... You can just glance at stuff and approve everything that isn't overtly horrid (note: there is also some nasty racism on the comments, aimed at the black people shown and at the Muslim guy). With a smart phone you can do it on-the-go so as not to stifle debate too much. Or failing that leave up a way for people to highlight comments they think should be removed and have a check through. I'm sure these guys didn't mean for their site to become a haven for hate speech.
(2) Interesting to see how a lot of people actually feel. I know almost no-one would say these horrid things to my face. So in a sense it's good that the Internet lets women and other groups see how much some people really hate us.
(3) Interesting and horrifying how quickly it all comes back to rape time after time. There are also a fair few people complaining that the clip doesn't show the "b*tch" actually getting slapped and posted by people who were clearly looking for pornography. If anyone ever tells you we don't live in a "rape culture" world - show them this. It's frightening but it does highlight the need for action to bring about dramatic change.
And let me add one very important thing about the clip. The show has tagged me as "National Secular Society" IN ERROR. I am a member, which clearly they have in their notes somewhere, but I'm not in any way a spokesperson for them... I'm just a spokesperson for me in the clip.
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