With friends like these…

I've written a couple of posts decrying the tactics of Elizabeth Dole — who uses the act of talking to atheists as a smear — and favoring her opponent, Kay Hagan. It seems Ms. Hagan doesn't like us very much, though.

Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan angrily demanded Wednesday that incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole take down a new ad that questions the challenger's ties to an atheist political group, calling the spot a slanderous and pathetic attempt to maintain political power.

Hagan's attorneys sent a cease-and-desist order to Dole's campaign, saying the "libelous" ad should come down within 24 hours. The order promised legal action if the ad stays on the air.

So…being called an atheist is "slanderous" and "libelous", huh? Oh, well, then. Never mind, North Carolina, it doesn't matter who you vote for in that election, you're getting a loser. I suppose you should still vote for Hagan, but only for her party and not because she's on our side.

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Politico reports (via Benen): Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s latest advertisement suggests her Democratic opponent, Kay Hagan, is a godless heathen. “A leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fundraiser for Kay Hagan,” the 30-second spot says, showing footage of the group’s members…
Every time I see the disregard the Democratic party shows for secular values — which is painfully frequent — I wonder why the heck I'm even voting for these addled con artists. But then the Republicans remind me by showing up and being even worse. The latest is from the Elizabeth Dole campaign in…
Elizabeth Dole is continuing her campaign in North Carolina of smearing her opponent, Kay Hagan, for simply associating with atheists. We atheists are the "most vile, radical liberals in America," out to wage war on Christmas and stock boy scout troops with homosexuals, and we actively support…
As far as I can tell, North Carolina's no different from the rest of America when it comes to religion. About a tenth of the population is free of religious conviction. That's not a big slice, but it could, in theory, be big enough to cost Sen. Elizabeth Dole her re-election this November, if…

Well technically it is slander, it would be like Obama being called a muslim. It's not true, it's an outrageous statement designed to play on people's fears and misconceptions.

*sigh* i guess all we get is baby-steps. Hayes may resent being called one, but she seems ok with "palling around" with atheists. one of those days it might even be ok to invite them over for dinner to your house...

Agree with Kel. She's not an atheist. It's slander.

By Mark Mattern (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

<scorn>Would that be a house atheist or a field atheist, I wonder? I hear those atheists are mostly nice people and very good with money, though.</scorn>

No surprise really. Shrug!

"So... being called an atheist is 'slanderous' and 'libelous', huh?"
She's not being called an atheist. The accusation of slander/libel is about whether or not she knowingly associated with people who would dare promote rational ideas (e.g., "taking 'under God' out of the Pledge of Allegiance and removing 'In God We Trust' from money").

kel and mark, that's the whole point: that "atheist" (or "muslim", for that matter) can be perceived as a slanderous statement is a problem.

if I were called "an american", that would be incorrect, but it would only be slanderous if i and many others percieved being an american as something bad.

Careful, them atheists'll go for your women next and I hear tell they's all hung like horses.

She's not being called an atheist.

They put some audio at the end to make it seem like Hagan says "There is no God." They're trying to trick people into thinking she's an atheist.

re alex:
actually i thought the accusation was about the ad that has a voiceover of some woman saying "there is no god" while her picture is shown... making it look as if that was her saying it (yes, it's only an implication. still...)

I think it's almost time, PZ, for you to record a YouTube endorsement of John McCain. Then Elizabeth Dole would denounce him for cozying up to unbelievers and the fun would begin.

Please do not be a WATB. Did you think she was an atheist? She isn't. But she seems perfectly comfortable associating with atheists, which still puts her a cut above most god-botherers. The fact that, as a Christian, she resents being called an atheist should not cause you to head for the fainting couch.

Olbermann tonight called Elizabeth Dole the second on his list of "worst persons in the world", for that ad, specifically for the voice over saying "there is no god", implying that is her opponent. On that point, it seems to me, it is slanderous. I am still quite disturbed by the ad, showing once more that we are everyone's favorite punching bag.

By Insightful Ape (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

No big deal.
Having ties to atheists is essentially a no-no in your country,and not socially acceptable.
And the ad pandered to that fact,doesnt say anything about Hagan tho.And even if it did,she seems still the lesser evil compared to that Dole thing.

Jadehawk, regardless, it's technically correct.

By Mark Mattern (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

kel and mark, that's the whole point: that "atheist" (or "muslim", for that matter) can be perceived as a slanderous statement is a problem.

I agree, it is the whole problem. They shouldn't be slanderous terms but they are, and they play a part in gutter politics. The real concern is the moral panic around atheism.

Some of you aren't quite getting it.

I support full civil rights for gays, including gay marriage. I am, however, heterosexual. If I were accused by someone of being gay (which actually happens all the time), I would not consider it libel or slander, and I wouldn't get all huffy about being called a 'bad name' -- it's inaccurate, and I might be very peeved if I saw that someone was using the term to stir up homophobic opposition, but I wouldn't react as Hagan did.

I did not think Hagan was an atheist at all. I assumed she was a Christian who had no problem working with atheists. I see now that that last clause was also inaccurate.

I'm raising children in North Carolina, and we are atheists. This attack by Dole is just plain awful, and creates a horrific environment for everyone, especially my children.

What's wrong with meeting with an atheist lobby? I think it's great that Kay Hagan actually is open to meeting with anyone, including an atheist political lobby. Good for her. But to turn her acceptance and tolerance as a character flaw? I'm outraged.

You know what's worse than Dole's ad? The one created by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It's not just a 30 second ad, it's over 2 1/2 minutes long. When I watch it as an atheist, I don't see a problem with anything the atheists are saying, but viewed with distorted Republican eyeballs, the video is appalling in its fear mongering.

I disagree with you P.Z. She isn't saying it's slanderous to call attention to the meeting with atheists, but because the advert tried to make her look like she was one. If she isn't an atheist, then she has good reason to be upset. As far as I am aware though, all her adverts so far have defending meetings with people of other beliefs, and saying that people need to come together.

I just posted this over at Alonzo's blog, he and PZ had a similar take on the Hagan reaction:
I see your point to a degree, but I think the issue isn't so much about Hagan "palling around" with atheists, rather, it's the last few seconds of the ad where the voiceover and text say "What did Hagan promise in return?" with a picture of Hagan in the background, then a female voice says "there is no god". The voice isn't Hagan, but it is clearly implied that it is.
I can understand why Hagan is upset about this ad. But keep in mind she did not react the same way when the Dole campaign sent out the mailer about her going to Boston to pal around with the "Godless American PAC". Hagan is a person of faith (obviously) and I think she took offense to the suggestion that she isn't, not so much because atheists are horrible, but that it implies that she is a phony and living a lie (Sunday school, church elder, etc...).
I am a North Carolina atheist and have received several propaganda mailers from the Dole campaign. I wrote her a letter to let her know that there are actual atheists in NC and if she ever spent any time here, she might know that. I've already cast my vote for Hagan.
Dave

If someone were to say that PZ was gay, I think whether or not the statement was slanderous could be determined independent of PZ's own opinion.

In the case of the Dole ad, the attack is (1) untrue and (2) injures voter's opinion of her, like it or not. How she feels about it is secondary, I would think.

By Matt the heathen (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

BTW, the DailyKos site had a recommended diary today about the Dole ad. There have been over 562 comments. It's one of the most talked about diaries today at DailyKos. It's not just atheists who are outraged at the ad.

Another diary on this subject has over 100 comments.

thanksforallthefish writes:

It is no surprise that after being treated as the most craven, degenerate, and despicable humans imaginable for the better part of 2 millennia, that there are still lots of folks around that have a very low opinion of us.

Well, this Atheist is a Veteran, a patriot, a parent, a homeowner, a self-employed small business owner, an early Obama voter, and a fully enfranchised citizen of the United States.

We are your friends and your neighbors, your relatives, and your IT guys. The last thing we are, is deserving of blanket contempt merely for our inability to believe the ridiculous.

To split a few hairs, Dole is attempting to slander her. Whether or not she's personally affected by it, the ad itself is a slanderous thing, with the intent to make people believe something that isn't true and to think that's bad.

PZ,
You're the one who isn't getting it.

The fact that Hagan correctly calls an accusation that she is an atheist libelous is perfectly proper and correct, and in no way should be taken as a sign of contempt for atheists.

You're becoming as intolerant as the Christianists whom you condemn for their intolerance.

John, Carlie et alia: I suggest you PZ's comment @17.

Regardless of whether PZ "gets it" (which I consider he does), you're certainly not getting his point.

By John Morales (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

So, if someone calls me a Christian, rather than being amused by the error, I should be outraged...and that would mark me as a more tolerant person?

Yes John but did you not see the quotes around the words slanderous and libelous?

I doubt she is outraged - but - she IS running for office in a very "Christian" state. I think it's just all about politics.

PZ, I wish all politicians could adopt the personna of Lori Lipman Brown, director of the Secular Coalition for America. I heard her talk at Dragon*Con in August, and she talked about how she deliberately refers to her husband as her "partner", so that people don't know if she's gay or straight because it doesn't make any difference. She offered up a bunch of examples.

One of the questions asked of Lori was if she ever has trouble meeting with politicians, because of her affiliation, and she said not at all, she meets regularly with all the politicians, even Republicans! I think her answer surprised most of us in the audience. She's not a pariah in DC.

I have happily already early voted for Kay Hagan. And, even with the news about how she and her attornies worded her "cease and desist", I'm still not troubled. To know that Kay could be the next Senator from NC gives me hope.

Well, it is true that Hagan, in what looks like a craven attempt at covering her own arse, has gone into full-on godbot mode: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/29/dole-ad-fabricates-audio_n_138…

Skip down to the beige box on the bottom of the page with her prepared statement for a press conference. Quote:

At their core, Americans aren't Democrat or Republican, red or blue - they're Americans, plain and simple. We ALL love our country, and we all value the role of faith in American life. Shame on anyone who says differently.

Basically, she sidesteps the whole "atheists are people too" issue in order to present herself as the most piously Christian woman she can be.

By BonSequitur (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

Hey PZ, if you don't mind I'd like to spout unwarranted conspiracy theories and make up plausible excuses in a way that I would never do Elizabeth Dole:

So here's what i'd be thinking if I was running for office in one of the generally less enlightened states of the union -- like North Carolina for instance. Now lets just say that someone accused me of being an atheist, and that such an accusation could cost me the election that I would like to win because I think I could do a better job than my opponent and I really would have my constituents best interest in mind when I make decisions. Now, as much as I hold "honesty" as a sort of ideal, I don't have anything against lying if it's for a good cause.

And so, were I put in such a situation I would happily lie through my teeth about being an atheist, cause a bit of a stir, and maybe - I don't really know how far I would go to win - even slander the non-believing portion of the population myself.

And in the end, if I took the position and was able to work as a force of good, then I wouldn't have any regrets either.
----
Not that i'm saying that this is the case...just that it could happen, and if I knew that it was happening I wouldn't be bothered by the tactic.

PZ, you are wrong on this one. Calling something slander or libel connotes only the making of false statements that damage a person's reputation, both legally as well as in a standard English dictionary. If you were running for school board in a conservative enclave in MN and someone called you a bi-sexual swinger, you would be well within your rights to vigorously pursue a PR and legal response that rebutted the claim as well as called out the liar on their slander and libel. You could probably win a court case on the issue. I'm assuming you have nothing against non-monogamous people or bi-sexual people. If that were the case, suing for slander and libel would still be appropriate, even if you aren't personally offended. The only thing that matters is if your reputation would suffer as a result of false statements by another, which would certainly be the case in a conservative enclave in MN. Come on PZ, stop being a wuss.

Unless of course you think that being called bi-sexual, a swinter, or an atheist won't damage a person's reputation in the conservative parts of this country? I'll bet I could find a few posts of you railing on those very issues.

I would vote for an albino retarded Pine Vole (Disclaimer: No disrespect to albinos or the mentally handicapped)before I'd vote for Dole. That given, Hagan is still a better vote by light years. I voted for her yesterday. Got to love the new early voting in NC :)

By Another Primate (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

Here is my two cents on this. Whether or not calling some an atheist is libelous is moot. The ad is clearly meant to be slanderous of that there is no doubt.

P.Z.your reaction to someone calling you gay may be dependent on the context it happens in. Someone writes you an email, and you laugh it off. Someone calls you gay in an attempt to get you fired (if you worked in that sort of environment) you might not take it so lightly. The ad in question is being presented as a reason not to vote for Ms. Hagan in this case I believe that it is slanderous.

I don't claim to know Ms. Hagan's beliefs about atheists, but she has shown herself willing to publicly consort with us. This goes a far bit farther than most politician.

Regardless of her opinion of atheists, she is clearly the lesser of two evils. Not voting for the lesser of two evils just makes it easier for the greater of two evils to win.

Wow. First off, fuck Dole. Secondly, fuck Hagan. Thirdly, fuck everyone who ahs ever said, "who cares about atheist issues?" ... remember the CNN Puala Zahn about atheists discrimination in america and all three guests dismissing it as non existent? Fuck them all. *Karen Hunter*...nd no I never forget!

By debaser71 (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

And fuck Logitech for making a fancy $150 gaming keyboard sucky for typing!

By debaser71 (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

PZ, while I agree with much of what you say, you are very wrong here. Hagan is being called an atheist. She is not, and as an atheist I am fine with that.

But she is a person who is open to a wide range of views. This is the kind of politician that we need.

There is more reason than ever to vote for Hagan. She is open minded and progressive. Dole is a backwards bigot.

To expand on what LwPhD @ #35 said, it wouldn't necessarily make sense to be outraged at being called a Christian because that doesn't damage your reputation (in general). Now, if the DI sent a mailer around to biology faculties claiming that you'd confided in them that you were deeply religious and a faithful creationist, they'd be attempting to damage your reputation and you'd have a case (and a strong right to be outraged).

In Hagan's case, the clear implication of the claim that she's an atheist is that she's an awful human being. First, one has to realize that, for a certain sort of Christian, the term 'atheist' is an insult. When a teenager calls you 'gay', you understand that you've been insulted; they mean much more than "you're a homosexual", and it's a bit silly to insist on interpreting their statement as meaning exactly what you would mean by the word. Second, definitions aside, Dole's claim is a lie and it makes people less likely to vote for Hagan. Outrage is justified on that alone.

Yeah, we have some prejudicial people here in NC. Kind of like the Republican Senate candidate (a minority himself) a couple years back who played mariachi music while dissing his opponent for meeting with an Hispanic group.

We still have Research Triangle Park, though, and could even swing Democratic this year, helping out with getting the Hawaiian and 60 (Senators, that is).

There is a distinction between "false light" and defamation, and between defamation per se and per quod.

False light is when you damage someone by saying something that is not true, it hurts them but does not "defame character." An example would be if a newspaper reporter falsely and deliberately reported that you were giving away free World Series tickets at ___________ number, and your business got damaged because your customers couldn't reach you. There are probably better examples; maybe if you said that Madonna not only felt "like a virgin" but was one, you might damage her "rep" (if anyone would believe such a thing.)

Defamation per se is defamatory in itself (lying, cheating, stealing); you need not know other facts to get the impacy. Defamation per quod is when a statement combined with other extra-contextual statements damages character or repute.

A person who believes there is no God (or does not believe a God exists) who is a Presbyterian elder and mission leader is engaged in a serious breach of intellectual integrity. That's what Hagan was implicitly accused of being - from that context. Accordingly, it's not only false light but defamation per quod. Hagan has the right not only to be pissed but to claim damages for slander; she was called not just an atheist (certainly not objectionable if true) but a liar.

The same arguments apply to the Obama Muslim smear.

The Dole ad has now made the front page of Daily Kos.

Why is this important? Because it means that politically active Democrats from around the US are now donating thousands of dollars to Kay Hagan's campaign through the ActBlue website. You can donate to Kay here.

Kay has two of the top five fundraising spots for the day, all thanks to Elizabeth Dole's "Godless Americans" ad. Thank you, Lizzie.

Listen to yourselves.

Being called a Christian doesn't damage your reputation.

Being called an atheist does damage your reputation, and you're just accepting that.

Don't you realize that that is the whole problem?

Bruce @43, thanks. That was an illuminating comment.

PS "impacy" is not in my dictionary, but I take it means impaction.

By John Morales (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

This was a bad reaction for Hagan to make. She should have turned it around on them, saying that she is dedicated to giving a voice to all her constituents, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, faith or lack there-of etc. But this basically ostracizes an entire group of people, a group that is growing larger each year.

Being called an atheist does damage your reputation, and you're just accepting that.

Stating the way things are is not an indicator of the way we think things should be. If a teacher says 2+2=5, no matter how much you object that 2+2=4 it won't change the fact that the person marking the test will mark it wrong.

Thus spake PZ:

Being called an atheist does damage your reputation, and you're just accepting that.

Yes, being called an atheist does damage your reputation. Acknowledging that it is true is not laying down and accepting it. Lies must be combated first and foremost. Dole not only lied about Hagan, she also implied that Hagan was herself lying about her faith. A full rebuttal of such a libelous attack is completely appropriate. And why should Hagan pick this moment of all moments to muddy the waters?

On the facts, Dole is guilty of libel. Respect for objective reality alone should temper your passion on this issue. Hagan is fully within her rights to re-emphasize her difference with us; she is religious. She never represented otherwise, and now that that fact is being lied about in order to hurt her candidacy, she is justified in reiterating that to everyone else. Or did you think she was some Atheist Manchurian Candidate? Quite frankly, I don't know what you expected. It isn't as if she's reversed her position or anything or actually expressed disdain for atheists or distrust of the godless.

What was Hagan's crime exactly?

Being called an atheist does damage your reputation, and you're just accepting that.

Don't you realize that that is the whole problem?

damages your reputation with a segment of society that is quickly diminishing and deserves the marginalization that they are now and will experience more of in the foreseeable future.

we'll never get them all, PZed, but we are moving in the right direction. I've noticed a shift. Things are looking up.

sometimes we take three steps forward and take two steps back. sometimes it's three forward, and one back, and sometimes, it could be six forward.... and a good rest for a number of generations.

we are becoming more clever apes all the time and despite it all, we keep moving forward.

If a teacher says 2+2=5, no matter how much you object that 2+2=4 it won't change the fact that the person marking the test will mark it wrong.

that's really a horrible argument. i thought we were all passionately against the teaching of falsehoods in schools...?

anyway, i still think it's pretty sad that she felt it was necessary to react so strongly (that goes both for the cease-and-desist and for the sweeping generalization of value of faith), rather than fighting back by saying she was Christian, but she believes in representing all her constituents regardless of THEIR belief.

Being called a Christian doesn't damage your reputation.

Well, it does as far as I'm concerned, since it means one is delusional. But yeah.

By John Morales (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

Right on PZ. Hagan deserves neither our money nor our endorsement. In fact, the Godless Americans PAC need to ask for their money back, this one's a lemon.

Zero is right, she should have turned it around on them. Her response was cowardly and bigoted and she is unfit for office, as is Dole.

By Kilted Dad (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

PZ @ 45: no doubt that IS the problem, but that's not something that's going to change overnight. Hagan's the best opportunity for changing the culture in the long haul.

LwPhD @49,

What was Hagan's crime exactly?

I realise that's rhetorical, but I make it that PZ considers Hagan should've made it clear that the reason she considered it defamatory was because it was false rather than because it was opprobrious. This would've been a more egalitarian and inclusive approach, and that this was not done can be considered cynical realpolitik.

By John Morales (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

that's really a horrible argument. i thought we were all passionately against the teaching of falsehoods in schools...?

I am well against teh teaching of passionate falsehoods in schools. The fact is that the election is on in a week and her test is a population that for the most part distrusts and fears the atheist. Of course there's no reason to fear the atheist and it's a tragedy that it can even be used as a politcal attack. With that I am in total agreement with PZ, I also agree that her language was very forceful and could be seen in a negative light against atheists. I just don't agree that she has much of a choice in this matter, that the population while being wrong has the decision on the outcome.

There obviously is an issue of moral panic over atheism in the wider community and only scientologists are disliked more. Playing on that communal fear on an opponent is slander, that's all I'm saying.

@Kilted Dad

Awesome strategy, recalling the funds from Hagan. I'm sure this will do loads to speed the rate at which we gain political influence and break the chains of areligious intolerance in the U.S.

@John Morales #55

I completely agree with you. I think that is the most principled stance, and Hagan didn't take it. It is decisions like these that make being a politician so distasteful. She can take an electoral risk to do the right thing by making the appropriate distinctions with a nuanced argument (my preferred option, ideologically) or she can take the safe electoral approach and simply condemn Dole categorically and risk upsetting the atheists (my preferred option, practically). Unless you are as skilled an orator as someone like Clinton, Reagan, or Obama, you probably won't get away with the first option risk-free, so you have to make a tough decision with trade-offs.

And we're participating actively in one aspect of the tradeoff Hagan faces.

The ad says "She hid from cameras. Took godless money. What did Kay Hagan promise in return?" That's slanderous in more ways than just calling her godless.

Do atheists have their own anti-defamation league? Is anyone getting on these shows to represent atheists to put our defense out there? I mean atheist get good ratings and make for some of the best television. We draw in viewers and we can use this to alter some views and perhaps (gasp) get people thinking.

As someone who lives in another state where this same kind of thing would happen I have to say I disagree with you PZ. Is it wrong that being linked to or called an atheist is libelous? Absolutely and we need to change that. Does the fact its morally wrong make it any less true? Nope. If Hagan had reacted in anything other then completely fighting back she would have forfeited her election, even the hint of having an atheist world view in states like NC or VA is enough to make you unelectable. If I was running for office in Virginia, where I live, announcing my non-belief would be as good as giving away the election. What we need to do is start tearing down the politicians who promote this "Atheists are evil" viewpoint in our society so that people like Hagan don't have to feel like being linked with Atheists is libel. Its the same reason Obama has to so vehemently deny hes a Muslim, even tough as Powell said the real question should be "So what if he is?" Politics is about working in the world we have to change it to the world we think it should be.

By Elvish Pirate … (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

PZ:

I've been beaten to the gist of this, but you're arguing that it's wrong to acknowledge that being called an atheist damages a politician's reputation because you don't think that things should be that way. Part of the problem with some religious logic is precisely that - they argue that it's wrong to be an atheist because, if atheism is true, there's no morality, heaven, etc (that is, they don't want atheism to be true). It's just not a sensible way to argue against a claim.

Yes, we all acknowledge that, in an ideal world, being called an atheist wouldn't damage a politician's reputation. But we deal with facts here, and the facts are that this isn't an ideal world and that many people mean and interpret the word 'atheist' pejoratively. To accept that this is true is not to accept that it's a good thing.

Uh, no, you people are not getting it.

The correct move here isn't to hide behind slander/libel laws that reinforce the message that atheists are to be loathed and feared. If Hagan wants to not join in with the bigotry himself, he needs to decry the ad as bigoted and let it stand.

The analogy PZ already gave with homosexuality is appropriate. There is nothing about this situation that is a win for us. Like Palin showing up to SNL, all this did was reinforce a negative stereotype.

Btw, it's sad to see Atheists again not even bothering to stand up for themselves.

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

Bruce @43:
Thanks for the interesting clarification. However, regards your speculation that Hagan is only claiming 'Defamation per quod', the cease and desist letter sent by her lawyer can be seen here and I quote (italics as in the original):

These false statements, when viewed through the eyes of an average person and in the context of the advertisement as a whole, are defamatory per se. The statements directly malign Kay Hagan in her personal life and are not ambiguous. It is clear to us that you intended for these statements to be defamatory and that the average person can only interpret the advertisement in a derogatory fashion.

If the average person, with presumably no prior knowledge of Hagan's claims of religiousness "can only interpret the advertisement in a derogatory fashion", the implication quite clearly is that an allegation of Atheism is derogatory per se.
Regarding Godless Americans PAC's contributions to Hagan's campaign and the possibility of them asking for a refund, the letter clarifies:

Despite your assertions to the contrary, Kay Hagan has never taken any contributions from the Godless Americans PAC. A simple review of Ms. Hagan's Federal Election Commission report reveals her campaign has never taken money from the Godless Americans PAC.
Your advertisement features two members of the Godless Americans PAC: Ellen Johnson and David Silverman. However, Kay Hagan has not received any campaign contributions from these individuals. By using them in your footage, you falsely imply that Kay Hagan has a relationship with them, shares their view and has accepted their donations. All of this you said knowing that such statements and implications were as far from the truth as possible.

The letter also includes a whole bunch of claims asserting Hagan's religious bona fides. I guess that makes Kay Hagan one more politician that Atheists have to vote for while holding their noses, on the principle of harm reduction. Because clearly, we can do no more as she don't want our money or presumably our time, unless perhaps if we stay in the closet.

After the election of course, we'll have to use all available public fora as well as the courts to block any and all 'faith based initiatives' of the religulous to the extent possible.

By Stagyar zil Doggo (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

Sorry to double post, but I'm still pissed. ;)

What's with Atheists not having a political bone in their body? Did we suddenly forget that words have meaning?

Yes, Dole is showing herself to be a bigot. Yes, it'd be great to see someone stick it to her. But the price we're paying here with Hagan is only slightly better. How easy would it be to decry her remarks as false and bigoted? Instead, Hagan is cutting his embarrassing ties with us.

People, when politicians refuse to acknowledge us out of fear, that doesn't strengthen our position. It makes it much, much worse. It's endorsing the idea that the non-religious are unamerican. In the long run, that'll hurt is more than any scare ad.

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

Kay Hagan has a web page with contact links. I sent a polite message. I state that it's Kay Hagan to pull a Colin Powell when Colin Powell defended the idea of a Muslim president. I thought that was a great part of Powells endorsement of Obama. So what if Obama weer a Muslim. So what if Kay Hagan were an atheist.

By debaser71 (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

@Jess, Dallas #63

What would you propose instead? How should an atheist stand up for himself in this situation? What would you have done and how would those actions have aided rational thinking?

If we don't fight lies, we do everyone a disservice. I think some atheists are most disappointed that Hagan embraces her faith. Well, duh. She embraced her faith before this fiasco, and she sure as hell is going to embrace it now. And it is a good reminder of two things. First, the overwhelming majority, tolerant (Hagan) or not (Dole) believe in sky fairies who read our thoughts and (capriciously) fulfill our wishes. Hagan's reiteration of her faith is a reminder of this obvious fact, and does not materially change what we knew about her last week. Second, everyone has to work with people that have irrational unjustified wacko beliefs. Not to say we shouldn't work to reduce this in(s)anity in our society, but we don't live in a dream world. Chances are, most people you vote for will be proud of their faith heritage, no matter how ridiculous it is.

I for one demand rational decision making of our public servants in the arena of public policy. I'm not particularly interested in how well they can pander to me.

And I still challenge anyone to deny that Dole's actions didn't fit the colloquial or legal definitions of the words "libel" or "slander".

I'm not thrilled with Hagin's reaction to this latest ridiculous smear campaign either, but I do think the full force of any thinking person's wrath needs to be focused on Dole. A friend of mine pointed out that the ideal reaction of Hagin - or anyone else - to this smear campaign would be much along the lines of Colin Powell's to the accusations that Obama is a Muslim: "So what if he were a Muslim? Would he be any less of an American? Fuck that noise!" (Okay, so I'm paraphrasing Powell just a little.)

Yes, but there's even more to say than that.

Kay Hagin is running for office to represent ALL of the citizens of North Carolina. Not just the Presbyterians (among whom she is numbered), or the Baptists, or the Episcopalians, or the Ba'hai, or the Muslims, or the atheists/pagans/agnostics/whatevers, or the Zoroastrian (I'm guessing a state as populous as NC has at least one) - she is running for office to represent everyone who lives in the state of North Carolina. More generally, she is running to represent citizens of our nation (because the Senate is a pretty big fucking deal, in case you didn't know), and her oath of office will no doubt include some passing mention of the Constitution of the United States of America, which guarantees religious freedom and forbids religious tests for office precisely to prevent religious bigotry from infecting our government.

If Kay Hagin met with atheists - or Presbyterians, or Baptists, or Ba'hai, or Pastafarians, or Rastafarians, or whomever - that in no way implies that she seeks political office to represent their interests exclusively with regard to their religious ideologies or lack thereof. Rather, it implies that she recognizes that these people are CITIZENS WHOM SHE IS SEEKING TO - and, if elected, is obligated to - REPRESENT!

Which beats the fuck out of that fear-mongering, smear-spreading, political hack and right wing ideologue Libby Dole, who is criticizing her opponent for daring to meet with a group of citizens whom both Dole and Hagin are seeking to represent!

Those who seek to divide us from one another cannot be trusted to represent any of us. By their divisive words and actions, they reveal very clearly that they always put their own interests before our collective interests as citizens. Shame on Dole, and shame on them all.

Gotta agree with some of the other commentators. I can understand Kay Hagan saying she's been libeled and slandered by the insinuation that she's an atheist if she, as a matter of fact, isn't. And I don't think this implies she has anything against atheists.

#55 got it right.
The slander here was calling Hagan a liar. As she is an active Presbyterian (I think) the same thing would apply if she was called a Roman Catholic, Jehovahs Witness or Scientologist.
That stupid Faith statement she put out doesn't exactly endear her to me, though.

The tolerance of Kay Hagan appears to be somewhat exaggerated. Her vehemence in refuting claims that she took donations from Godles Americans/Ellen Johnson/David Silverman appears to indicate that she would not welcome contributions from any open Atheists, or at least from Atheist political organizations.

She's basically telling us to go sit outside with the Racists, the Skinheads and the Muslims.

PS: Lest people take this the wrong way, let me clarify that I don't have any problem sitting with Muslims, so long as they zip it about allah.

By Stagyar zil Doggo (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

"Being called an atheist does damage your reputation, and you're just accepting that.

Don't you realize that that is the whole problem?" - PZM
Not to too-quickly dismiss your point, but getting rid of the incumbent probably goes a little ways to solving some other problems that exist too.

And can you really think of any good ways to fight back against that ad that hordes of Christians from NC would really have understood?

I've spent time in parts of North Carolina where the locals would revile *any* non-Christian. It's not the frame of mind we would hope for our neighbors, but right now and today in the U.S., that's how it is.

What shocked me with regard to this story was a throwaway comment made by a national teeveenews personality as he introduced this story on tonight's broadcast. He was dismissive about the ad's merits; he clearly thought the Dole campaign was off its rocker to accuse a known Sunday school teacher of being a godless American. In the next breath, he said "I didn't know there *was* such a thing as a godless American."

My jaw dropped. Seriously?!? A national figure clearly oblivious to the presence of FIFTEEN FRIGGIN' PERCENT of us?!? Now this wasn't one of the better teeveenews hosts, and I wouldn't put it past him to snipe at an atheist if given the chance. But the context made it clear that's not what was happening. He was saying that it's ridiculous to think that *any* American might be godless.

Sorry, but I'm just not used to being invisible.

[sighs, shakes head, moves on]

By Steve in MI, Sfs/PZM (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

LwPhD #76

Like I said, the right move here is to decry the bigotry, not the slander. Do you see Barack Obama threatening lawsuits against McCain for calling him a Muslim terrorist Communist Antichrist? No.

I think everyone here is far to eager to jump on Hagan's side, just for being on the receiving end of Dole's ad. Hagan is allowing us to be demonized for a political point. I don't see how he deserves anything but our contempt.

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

@Steve in #74:

Who was it?

PZ wrote,
"So, if someone calls me a Christian, rather than being amused by the error, I should be outraged."

If you're running for elective office to represent a 90% atheist electorate, you should be and you undoubtably would be.

Would it be appropriate for that atheist group in question to sue for damages over the implication that they are undesirable people. They could use the money, if they won, to fund an atheist lobby group in Washington, or adverts to raise public awareness of atheists as people instead of scary evil demons.

By Katkinkate (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

John @77, what about 80%? 51%?

You're advocating that, if a large majority of an electorate is prejudiced, then if one of the political candidates is pandering to that prejudice, so must any others - even if it's not a truthful stance. You do realise that, given that approach, in such electorates only those candidates who are liars or prejudiced will reach office. Nice.

By John Morales (not verified) on 29 Oct 2008 #permalink

Some of you here are getting it. Most of you (including PZ) aren't. If Dole says Hagan is an atheist and Hagan sues on a defamation claim, that doesn't mean Hagan thinks there's anything wrong with atheism. She might, she might not; it's irrelevant. (From what little evidence I can see, though, it looks like she has a faith that is important to her but isn't much bothered by what other people believe, or don't believe.)

The theory behind a defamation claim isn't that the plaintiff is personally offended (they might be, but that doesn't matter). The theory is that the false statement would, if believed, cause the average person to see the victim in a light sufficiently bad as to damage the victim. (Depending on the statement, you might or might not have to show actual damage to succeed.) And I think we can take it as read that, in Outer Carolina or wherever the hell it is that Hagan is from, the population contains a critical mass of rubes, klansmen and Chick-tract readers1: in other words, in that environment it would be reasonable to assert that Dole's statement is defamatory.

Rather than scolding Hagan, one should really be trying to bring about a society in which almost all people who do have a religion are like her: they have their own beliefs, but don't think you are a two-headed minion of Satan if you don't share them. In such a society, a false claim of atheism wouldn't be defamatory; in such a society, Hagan's lawsuit would be tossed out just as if she'd alleged Dole had called her left-handed, or tall, or an amateur golfer.

1) What's that you say? You're a Carolinian who isn't a rube, klansman or Chick-tract reader? Sue me.

Being called a Christian doesn't damage your reputation.

Being called a fundie moron xian with a brain the size of a walnut does. Barna, an evangelical polling organization found recently that 49% of the US population is sick and tired of wingnut xian kooks trying to force their crackpot ideas on us. Of course, 78% of that 49% are other xians.

It is a matter of 2 millenia of long, bloody history that xians are very, very good at hating and killing each other. To this day, humanoid toads like Hagee and the Wisconsin lutherans (Michelle Bachman's church) claim that the Pope is the antichrist. The Pope claims that the protestants are fake churches in return.

They both hate the Mormons who call them fake xians back.

The fundies had a lot of influence on the government for 8 years, owning the Theothuglican party and Bushco. They nearly wrecked the country and eventually, all but destroyed the GOP. Payback time is in 6 days and the polls say they will lose.

PS The Dole ad is famous because it is party fabricated. The voice over audio isn't in the original tape, it was dubbed in later. In other words, Dole lied and got caught.

Hagan: "I have people all over here. I have Christian people, people who I don't know what their faiths might be," Hagan said when asked by WXII reporter Cathy Cheek whether she took money from people who supported the group. "I don't ask what church people go to and I doubt Elizabeth Dole does either."

From http://www.wxii12.com/politics/17841197/detail.html

"My question is, does Elizabeth Dole vet her supporters based on religious beliefs?" Hagan said.

From http://www.dailyadvance.com/news/state/hagan-demands-dole-take-down-ad-…

---

I'm not fully disagreeing with PZ, but this doesn't sound like the words of a bigot, unlike Dole.

By akari_house (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Mrs Tilton #80,
Word.

Sometimes, PZ ...

A statement is libelous if it's defamatory -- false and harmful to one's image. That calling Hagan an atheist is harmful to her image is a fact -- regardless of how we may regret that fact.

Fucking moron loser.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Most of you (including PZ) aren't.

When it comes to this sort of thing, PZ is a blithering idiot, the same way he was over that Obama speech about religion, which he first attacked Obama for and later praised him for, not even realizing that it was the same speech.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I'm not fully disagreeing with PZ

Your mistake. There's nothing in his link that shows that "Hagan doesn't like us very much". His piece is utterly idiotic and factually wrong.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

You're advocating that, if a large majority of an electorate is prejudiced, then if one of the political candidates is pandering to that prejudice, so must any others

He's advocating no such thing, Moronales, he's stating an obvious fact. One should be outraged at being mislabeled if it is intentional and meant to do you harm.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Would it be appropriate for that atheist group in question to sue for damages over the implication that they are undesirable people.

Hardly. Notably, it's not false -- they are undesirable, as a matter of the electorate's desires.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Like I said, the right move here is to decry the bigotry, not the slander. Do you see Barack Obama threatening lawsuits against McCain for calling him a Muslim terrorist Communist Antichrist? No.

There sure are a lot of idiots here. Barack Obama doesn't threaten lawsuits against McCain because it wouldn't be a good move politically. The Hagan campaign has apparently made a different calculation.

I think everyone here is far to eager to jump on Hagan's side, just for being on the receiving end of Dole's ad.

No, her side is being taken because PZ's attack on her is wrong, moron.

Hagan is allowing us to be demonized for a political point. I don't see how he deserves anything but our contempt.

It's a fact that we are demonized, cretin. Hagan's suing for defamation is completely neutral in that regard -- it's addressed solely to the fact that Dole intentionally did her harm with a false charge.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Your mistake. There's nothing in his link that shows that "Hagan doesn't like us very much". His piece is utterly idiotic and factually wrong.

Here's some words from http://www.kayhagan.com/press/kay-on-dole-ad-attacking-her-christian-fa…

• At their core, Americans aren't Democrat or Republican, red or blue - they're Americans, plain and simple. We ALL love our country, and we all value the role of faith in American life.
• Shame on anyone who says differently.

A national figure clearly oblivious to the presence of FIFTEEN FRIGGIN' PERCENT of us?!? ... Sorry, but I'm just not used to being invisible.

It's funny that you can write that and not see the glaring irony/hypocrisy. It's not you who are invisible, it's your disbelief in God -- just as this national figure's disbelief in people like us was invisible to you. There are many many things that most people are unaware of, the percentage of the population who are atheists being just one of them. It's rather foolish to be shocked by this, when your shock simply indicates your own lack of awareness.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Here's some words from http://www.kayhagan.com/press/kay-on-dole-ad-attacking-her-christian-fa…

Fine, you have a point, but PZ didn't offer that link, so he doesn't have a point. And her statement, as blinkered as it is, doesn't say that Hagan doesn't like us very much -- that's an inference from her campaign strategy, of suing Dole, in a nasty and close-fought race -- a foolish inference. Many people here seem to be incapable of understanding the pragmatics of political campaigns, and take things said by politicians literally -- while at the same time not taking anything a politician says seriously when that's suitable.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

tm:

He's advocating no such thing, Moronales, he's stating an obvious fact.

The quote is "If you're running for elective office to represent a 90% atheist electorate, you should be and you undoubtably would be [outraged]."
I read that as both advocating an action and stating a fact.
As to whether it's an obvious fact, surely that's so only if not being outraged is likely to lose the election?

PS I'm more accustomed to being insulted by being called Moral-less.

By John Morales (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

P.S. Neither part of Hagan's statement is true of me -- I don't love any abstractions or group nouns like "our country".

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I'm astonished that so many are taking Hagan's side here, particularly given her statement:
"We ALL love our country, and we all value the role of faith in American life. • Shame on anyone who says differently.",
which is a barefaced lie. I think a lot of you American atheists have "internalised your oppression".

The ad may well be libellous - that does not mean the right response is a "cease and desist" order. A counter-ad, pointing out the deception involved in the voiceover, and making clear, without the bullshit quoted above, that atheism and associating with atheists are nothing to be ashamed of, would have been morally right, and quite likely politically better.

Bunch of self-hating atheists

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Sorry - the last sentence in my comment was supposed to have been deleted, replaced by "internalised your oppression".

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I read that as both advocating an action and stating a fact.

Being outraged is a state of mind, not an action.

As to whether it's an obvious fact, surely that's so only if not being outraged is likely to lose the election?

As I already said, the outrage is over someone intentionally doing you harm -- or attempting to. It's still outrageous even if they fail to harm you.

But I'll be charitable and consider this as a discussion about the political consequences of acting outraged, which surely is going on in Hagan's case. And in her case, she's doing so as part of a political calculation in a close-fought election -- a calculation that she should act outraged. If that's what you mean by "candidates who are liars", well, that's not a matter of approach, that's a matter of conditions. Even Obama, who has presented an unusually forthright campaign without any pretense of outrage, misrepresents some of his own and McCain's policies and positions as part of his political calculations.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I'm curious as to what the whole reaction would be, on the part of Hagen, African-Americans, the media, and the general public, if the ad had implied that Hagen is part African-American.

"She's meeting with African-American groups! She's taking their money!" And then a picture of Hagen, with a voiceover of a woman saying, "I may not look it, but I'm black and I'm proud".

Why is this truth machine persona, who seems to just be spouting the word "moron" repeatedly, even in here? Throw it a ban until it learns to write in a decent and respectful way.

The ad may well be libellous - that does not mean the right response is a "cease and desist" order.

So maybe Hagan's campaign hasn't made the best possible political calculation. What the fuck does that have to do with whether she likes us or should be favored over Dole or is a loser or is on our side, which are the points of PZ's idiotic piece?

Bunch of self-hating atheists

You're better than such a stupid and misdirected ad hominem, Nick.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Gustav,
"Decent and respectful" doesn't really cut in round here! TM's OK most of the time, occasionally the boils on his bum play him up and he starts calling anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him liars and morons. Either ignore it or respond in kind as you feel inclined.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Why is this truth machine persona, who seems to just be spouting the word "moron" repeatedly, even in here?

Because, unlike you, I have intelligent things to say. If you have trouble seeing that, just edit out "moron" and the other words that have so captured you and try reading the rest.

Throw it a ban until it learns to write in a decent and respectful way.

Being disrespectful is not a criterion for banning, moron -- see http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/plonk.php

And while you're at it, see http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/molly.php

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

he starts calling anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him liars and morons

Wrong. It's my reaction to bad faith.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I'm curious as to what the whole reaction would be, on the part of Hagen, African-Americans, the media, and the general public, if the ad had implied that Hagen is part African-American.

I do think there's an arguable difference. Don't get me wrong - Dole's ad was ridiculous, and blaming atheists for all the world's problems is simply childish, ignorant and empirically wrong. If I were a North Carolina resident, I would vote Hagan purely in protest against the ad campaign.

But one's religious beliefs or lack thereof - unlike one's race, gender, sexual orientation etc. - are a conscious choice, and they do tell you something about a person's character and capacity for rational thought. I would have serious misgivings about voting for a KJV-only young-earth fundamentalist, for instance, even if they agreed entirely with my political and economic standpoint - because their beliefs tell me something about their ability to reason and about their outlook on life. Similarly, I would probably not vote for a candidate for any office who was a Satanist, regardless of their political standpoint. (Don't get me wrong, I'm fully aware that LaVeyan Satanism bears no relationship to the Judeo-Christian concept of "Satan". But it does reject conventional altruistic ethics in favour of hedonism and self-fulfillment, adding in some ritualistic nonsense to give it an air of legitimacy; I wouldn't be comfortable with anyone who was willing to subscribe to such a viewpoint.)

I would be perfectly happy to vote for an atheist candidate, if I agreed with his or her political and economic viewpoint (indeed I may already have done so without knowing it; a candidate's religious beliefs are not usually a public issue in the UK, and in any case I always vote Conservative in national and local elections regardless of the identity of the candidate, since our system is much more party-centred than yours). But I can understand that a religious fundamentalist would not wish to vote for an atheist, and, considering their beliefs, I wouldn't condemn them for that.

truth machine@100,
See my #96.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Here's the problem:

"Oh sure, it'd be OK if atheists lived on my block, but I'd never let my daughter marry one."

It's pandering to an accepted bigotry. Gays and atheists are some of the last subsets that it's "OK" to talk negatively about without code words.

truth machine@103,
What you perceive to be bad faith. You are, believe it or not, fallible - and I think the state of the boils on your bum (figuratively speaking) influence your judgement.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I'm curious as to what the whole reaction would be, on the part of Hagen, African-Americans, the media, and the general public, if the ad had implied that Hagen is part African-American.

"She's meeting with African-American groups! She's taking their money!" And then a picture of Hagen, with a voiceover of a woman saying, "I may not look it, but I'm black and I'm proud".

Consider that situation pre civil war. The level of prejudice against atheists now is somewhat comparable to the level of prejudice against blacks then. If, say, Abraham Lincoln had been subject to fabricated evidence that he had black blood, his suing those who mad the charge would not imply that he was not the friend of blacks.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

tm:

Being outraged is a state of mind, not an action.

Yes, but acting outraged is an action, and as you charitably conceded, that was to what I referred.

---

Gustav, truth machine routinely hurls insults to indicate vehemence, but they should only hurt when they hit the target - not that I'm defending this. The substance of tm's comments is (generally) of high quality.
Note the OM after his name (refer to the link "commenters" at the top of the page if you need clarification).

By John Morales (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

IANAL but assuming English and American law haven't diverged too far on such things it might be defamatory. Calling someone who presents themselves as a theist an atheist is defamatory because it implies dishonesty. In Englan and Wales case-law decided at some point that calling someone gay was no longer damaging in itself but you can still win libel if you are falsely called gay when you have been presenting yourself as straight.

What you perceive to be bad faith.

Duh. Whenever we make a statement of fact, it's implied that we perceive it to be fact -- or we're dissembling. But now you're acting in bad faith, because if you admit that my criterion is my perception of bad faith, then your charge about "the temerity to disagree with him" is BS, but rather than retract it, you go off on this nonsense of fallibility. Of course I believe I'm fallible, and have even on occasion pointed out my own errors before others have.

I think the state of the boils on your bum (figuratively speaking) influence your judgement.

No doubt my mood affects my judgments ... the same is true of every human being. But I have never called anyone an idiot or a liar for merely disagreeing with me.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

you can still win libel if you are falsely called gay when you have been presenting yourself as straight.

And suing for libel in such a case does not imply you're homophobic, contrary to the implication of PZ's idiotic post. It does, however, strongly suggest that you live in a homophobic society where being perceived as gay can do you harm.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

tm - Where is the line, as you see it, between political pragmatism and unprincipled pandering? Is there any behavior by a candidate in a closely-fought race (beyond illegality and violating official rules of campaigning) that you wouldn't find excusable on grounds of pragmatism? At what point would you say a candidate is no longer a "friend" to your group or cause, whatever that may be?

Bloody hell truth machine, but you're a pompous, self-important ass (in the British sense) sometimes. I was needling you of course, in response to what I perceive to be your excessive confidence in your own ability to perceive bad faith. The "anyone who has the temerity to disagree" was not meant literally, any more than the "boils on his bum".

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Where is the line, as you see it, between political pragmatism and unprincipled pandering?

There's no such dichotomy. Suing for libel over a false charge that harms one's chances of winning an election doesn't pander to anyone, AFAICS.

Is there any behavior by a candidate in a closely-fought race (beyond illegality and violating official rules of campaigning) that you wouldn't find excusable on grounds of pragmatism?

Of course; I find the question ridiculous. For instance, I don't excuse John McCain or Sarah Palin.

And I'm not "excusing" anything -- what I did was note that people are taking one thing to be another thing; Hagan is suing because a) being painted as an atheist will hurt her in the polling booth and b) she calculated that as the best way to respond -- by counterattacking Dole as a liar, and a criminal one at that. She may well not be a friend to atheists, but not on those grounds.

At what point would you say a candidate is no longer a "friend" to your group or cause, whatever that may be?

When I'm able to present evidence to that effect ... which PZ did not.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Walton @104

I agree that there's a difference between race and religious beliefs (or lack of). But I'm not comparing the two with each other, just wondering aloud what people's reaction would be if the ad had implied that she was part African-American, that being part African-American was a bad thing, and that she had tried to hide it.

What if Hagen had responded to that by saying, "At their core, Americans aren't Democrat or Republican, red or blue - they're Americans, plain and simple. We ALL love our country, and we all value the role of being white in American life. Shame on anyone who says differently."

And if that was her response, how then, would African-American groups, and the racially diverse general public, respond? I'm just taking a guess here, but I imagine there would be outrage, and justifiably so. And that outrage would not be limited to African-Americans. People would be lambasting both candidates; Dole, for her implication that being part African-American was a terrible, shameful thing, and Hagen for responding by implying that she considered being called African-American insulting. (And I do think that she was personally insulted by the implication that she's an atheist/pals around with atheists. At the very least, she wants her electorate to believe she was insulted by such a thing). I think that the fact that Dole's ad implied that Hagen was dishonest (which is the only real insult in all of this, IMO), would be mostly lost in all the outrage that would take place if both candidates openly said that being African-American was a bad thing.

Bloody hell truth machine, but you're a pompous, self-important ass (in the British sense) sometimes.

An interesting reaction to my needling you.

I perceive to be your excessive confidence in your own ability to perceive bad faith.

I perceive you to have excessive confidence in that perception of yours.

The "anyone who has the temerity to disagree" was not meant literally

Then it wasn't meant honestly.

any more than the "boils on his bum"

Ah, but "boils on your bum (figuratively speaking)" was meant literally -- you said it was a metaphor, and you meant exactly that.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Just jumping on the pile. The repeated implications that this is terrible because *gasp* it called Hagan an atheist are absolutely despicable. It's almost completely analogous to the muslim-baiting with Obama, but just imagine what would happen with a more sensitive viewpoint. What if she were being called a Jew? The history of persecution and prejudice combined with the modern general reversal of those positions would make it offensive to a huge number of people and it would be deemed antisemitic and likely racist, Dole would be out of politics altogether and shunned + ridiculed endlessly.

Oh, but she just implied that it's a terrible, vile thing to be someone who doesn't believe in God. Well then no harm, that's just... a higher percentage of people than Jews in the U.S. you've maligned. But it doesn't matter because attitudes haven't changed about them: they're still pesky, pessimistic nonbelievers.

PZ's right. This is *exactly* the problem with how atheism is treated in America and everyone should be pointing it out and making noise. It didn't just end with Dole or Hagan, I've seen 10+ videos on this and not a single one points out that it's even more ridiculous that being an atheist would be used as such a tool of vilification.

By Shirakawasuna (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

truth machine routinely hurls insults to indicate vehemence, but they should only hurt when they hit the target - not that I'm defending this.

9 times out of 10, TM's comments are well worth reading, but sometimes I think his motto is: never deliver by mail any message that can be wrapped around a brick and hurled through a window.

There's no such dichotomy. Suing for libel over a false charge that harms one's chances of winning an election doesn't pander to anyone, AFAICS.

When I'm able to present evidence to that effect ... which PZ did not.

This seems a bit evasive. If you're simply arguing that PZ jumped to conclusions about Kagan based merely on evidence that suggested she was no friend to atheists (on the assumption, which is reasonable, that if he had seen that other link with her statements he would have included it in his post), that's one thing. (On the other hand, I agree with Nick @ #95 about alternative responses she could have made, and it's also reasonable to assume that PZ was thinking in those terms, too.) But in any case we now have more evidence from the other link on which to base our own conclusions.

She may well not be a friend to atheists, but not on those grounds.

But leaving the OP aside, I'm asking for your views. Do you see her as a friend to atheists? On what grounds do you base your conclusions?

I'm sorry, but how is it not slander? And how is it not pathetic for a sitting US senator to resort to slander in the last week of a campaign?

Hagan isn't an atheist. Just like Obama isn't a muslim. It's slanderous to say otherwise. Can we be grown-ups for a second and actually recognize the stigmas that exist against atheists and muslims in the US? These are meant to be attacks for a reason. They are not neutral terms in the eyes of many in this country. Hagan couldn't have offered more of a defense of the rights of atheists, but calling the ads slanderous and pathetic is dead on.

If she knew I wasn't from North Carolina, she might be at least a little saddened, but I e-mailed her media director:

I am happy that you have effectively and concisely defined Kay Hagan's position. I understand now that I am nothing but a vile, un-American, worthless heathen of an atheist with a leprous appeal, and Ms. Hagan is distraught to have been so unfairly posited as having an interest in my rights. I hope to show you the same support in the future.

Oh, but she just implied that it's a terrible, vile thing to be someone who doesn't believe in God.

Indeed Dole did that.

PZ's right.

It's odd how people will say so-and-so is right when they aren't addressing the actual claims that so-and-so made. You are right that "This is *exactly* the problem with how atheism is treated in America and everyone should be pointing it out and making noise", but that's not what PZ's piece is actually about.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

BTW, for the record: I think that she's the least of 2 evils in this case; I also think that the majority of voters are assholes who won't vote for an atheist, and that implying that she is an atheist could very well hurt her politically, and she's doing the politically smart thing by attempting to refute Dole's ad. She's pandering to the majority, and in doing so, she not only denied being an atheist, and denied being dishonest, but also took the step of apparently suggesting that being an atheist is a terrible thing. That last step is the part I'm personally insulted by. I would have had more respect for her if she would have clearly said that atheists are people too, and she will represent all of her constituents, regardless of their religious beliefs. And told people to stop with all the atheist-bashing while she was at it.

That last step is the part I'm personally insulted by. I would have had more respect for her if she would have clearly said that atheists are people too, and she will represent all of her constituents, regardless of their religious beliefs. And told people to stop with all the atheist-bashing while she was at it.

Exactly.

Some of you aren't quite getting it.

I support full civil rights for gays, including gay marriage. I am, however, heterosexual. If I were accused by someone of being gay (which actually happens all the time), I would not consider it libel or slander, and I wouldn't get all huffy about being called a 'bad name' -- it's inaccurate, and I might be very peeved if I saw that someone was using the term to stir up homophobic opposition, but I wouldn't react as Hagan did.

That's not quite an accurate comparison, PZ. Here's a better one:

Say you were running for public office, and you attended a fundraiser at the house of a friend who happens to be gay. The next week, your opponent puts up an ad saying that you're sneaking around in the gay community, taking "gay money", and insinuating that your marriage to your wife is really just a front to cover for your secret gay lifestyle and your desire to destroy all heterosexual marriages. The ad then closed with a picture of your face with a voiceover of a man saying, "I love men with big dicks!".

Can you honestly say you wouldn't find that insulting and slanderous? Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, the insult here is the accusation of duplicity and conspiracy -- and the denigration of your marriage, which is obviously very important to you.

I don't know anything about Hagan's views, but I wouldn't draw any negative conclusions about her reaction to this ad. I think she's absolutely right to call it slander.

All I want to know is, is that "Godless Americans PAC" for real, and do they have their shit together enough
to be worth sending them a little money?

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

This seems a bit evasive.

I have no idea why you think so. You presented what to me was a sequence of non sequiturs, and then asked "at what point ...", as if there were some sort of progression. The point at which I conclude something is the point at which the evidence for it is conclusive -- that seems rather straightforward to me.

If you're simply arguing that PZ jumped to conclusions about Kagan

I thought I was clear about PZ offering bad arguments -- an invalid inference from the fact that Hagan is suing for libel. That's what this is about.

about Kagan based merely on evidence that suggested she was no friend to atheists (on the assumption, which is reasonable, that if he had seen that other link with her statements he would have included it in his post)

I can't make heads or tails of that. If it's reasonable to assume that he didn't see some evidence, how could he have jumped to a conclusion based on it? Maybe I'm just too tired to parse you correctly.

Do you see her as a friend to atheists? On what grounds do you base your conclusions?

I don't have enough evidence, and it's not black and white. As I said, clearly she has a blinkered view. OTOH, someone else said that she doesn't seem like a bigot -- I can't really tell, although such blinkering tends to go with some mild bigotry. But remember that Lincoln didn't think that blacks were the mental peers of whites, but argued for their freedom. Hagan is certainly more of a friend to us, and more conducive to our policy concerns, than Dole, just as Obama, while no anarchist and -- in absolute terms, not a friend to anarchists -- is certainly more a friend to your policy concerns in that area than is McCain.

Sorry I can't chat more, but I'm supposed to have lunch with someone in 8 hours and haven't slept yet.

P.S. I hope you'll still email me.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I think some people aren't appreciating that calling it slander in no way precluded her from making other statements. She could both have recognized it as slanderous and defended atheists and secularism. We have evidence not only of what she said and did but, also of importance, of what she did not say or do.

Just a little more:

exactly

I would have more respect for her if she didn't believe in a sky daddy, so it doesn't seem very exact to me to talk about various alternative actions she might have taken that would have been more respectable.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

so, pz, did you over react to Bill Donahue? you didn't just laugh that off, dispite being fairly secure in a tenured position.

it is a shame that being called an atheist has the effect it does for those running for office, and Hagan should have addressed the issue of human rights and religious freedom.

As has been pointed out multiple times, there would be ways to respond to such a slander that don't reinforce the negativity of the comparison. Hagan could have taken action against the inaccuracies of the ad by making it clear that she is not an atheist while also making it clear that she thinks they are a legitimate part of her constituency -- but no. She chose to distance herself, legitimizing the bigotry of her opponent and some of the voters in North Carolina.

If I were the target of such an ad, the first thing I would do is get together with the leadership of the gay community and put together a response that included them -- that got across the message that the attack ad was false, that I was in a heterosexual and monogamous relationship, and that it was playing on a false, divisive bigotry...that gay people are members of everyone's community, and that they have no interest in destroying marriages, and that these people have as much right to be represented as anyone else.

Hagan did not do that. She's basically rushing to join in the bigotry herself.

I think some people aren't appreciating that calling it slander in no way precluded her from making other statements. She could both have recognized it as slanderous and defended atheists and secularism. We have evidence not only of what she said and did but, also of importance, of what she did not say or do.

See above. She could have done lots of things, including renouncing Jesus Christ. You conclusion about what people aren't appreciating is simply not well founded.

g'night. (Or whatever is appropriate when it's 5:40am here -- which means I've got less than 7 1/2 hours until lunch.)

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

She's basically rushing to join in the bigotry herself.

As factually false as a claim that not calling someone out on a racist joke is "rushing to join in the racism".

Ok, I must quit ... hit close, tm, hit close ...

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Hagen could have used the ad as a way to raise awareness that atheists and secularists aren't immoral or out to persecute the religious. She had the opportunity to rise above and denounce the obvious religious test for public office. Instead, her response reinforces the blatant prejudice that Dole is exploiting. In politics, it's always difficult to impossible to determine exactly how a candidate feels. It may be that her response was pure political calculus and that she doesn't hold non-believers in contempt at all. In which case, her response was understandable, but not particularly moral or brave. Or she could really feel that atheists are immoral in which case she's only better on the matter than Dole is because she didn't try to find a way to exploit it to get herself elected.

We need some brave politicians to use chapters like this as ways of changing perception. Unfortunately, Ms. Hagen missed a golden opportunity.

it's 5:40am here - truth machine

So, the "boils on your bum" are actually sleep deprivation! Seriously, I hope you don't do this often - it is really bad for your health.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I am coming out of the woodwork to agree with the position by Mrs Tilton and truth machine. Please understand how long that Kay Hagan's campaign essentially absorbed the attacks by Dole and the Republican Senatorial Campaign (I forget the acronym). I live in southern Georgia myself and have lived in western North Carolina; atheism is anathema to a significant proportion of people in both regions. I think an analogy from above is apt: if a Senator in a close election claimed to support acceptance of interracial marriage in 1956 or gay rights in 1974, in nearly every state they would be blown out by their opponent, and similarly for a person advocating acceptance of atheism in 2008 in all but a handful of places in the US.

Getting a feel for who a non-incumbent candidate for office actually is is certainly difficult, but Elizabeth Dole has an amazingly noxious track record. It's very hard to believe that, given the campaign so far, a Senator Hagan could be any worse than Elizabeth Dole definitely would be. I hate voting the lesser of evils as much as anyone -- I have a pathetic excuse for a Democratic congressman now, but he's still leagues better than the repulsive Republican running against him -- but Hagan does show some interest in listening to atheists unlike, for example, the other choice.

By Taxorgian (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Good "night," tm. You won't be readong this, immediately at least, but I'll respond.

The point at which I conclude something is the point at which the evidence for it is conclusive -- that seems rather straightforward to me.

But my question is - what evidence do you consider relevant, and how are you interpreting it?

I can't make heads or tails of that. If it's reasonable to assume that he didn't see some evidence, how could he have jumped to a conclusion based on it? Maybe I'm just too tired to parse you correctly.

I wasn't saying he didn't see some evidence. He didn't see evidence that you - apparently, though it's still hard for me to tell - would consider conclusive. As I said above, I find this questionable.

You seem to think that the people concluding that she's no friend to atheists are failing to recognize that her public statements are based on political calculations and not to be taken at face value. I think this is true of few people. What people are recognizing is that these public statements are important because they demonstrate her intention or lack thereof to recognize atheists equally as constituents and to fight for secularism in practice, her personal views aside. What I was asking you is what is the point at which you cease to find the political-calculations rationale acceptable.

I indict the entire system of electoral "democracy" to begin with, and trust no politicians ever. But within this system I can seek to determine which candidates are going to provide environments more friendly to the forces of democracy, justice, and reason. Of course she's to be preferred to Dole. I don't think anyone's questioning that, and I didn't read PZ as suggesting the NCans don't vote for her or at all. But I've seen this enough in the context of the labor movement to recognize the signs. For example, there are politicians, like Obama, who are clear supporters of the EFCA; there are others, like McCain, who are clear opponents. But there are others whose support has been expressed but is still dubious. It's wise to ask how far their support extends, or will when they're in office. I keep my eye on these people and am highly attuned to signs that they're ready to throw workers to the wolves. Perhaps at times my conclusion that someone is no friend to labor might superficially appear premature, but given the history of electoral politics and the tendency of these conclusions to be correct, I'm sticking with "better safe than sorry" and avoid attempts to explain away statements or actions on the basis of political pragmatism. I would say that in a parallel case to this one involving a strike or some such in which I had the same knowledge available to me as PZ did, I would conclude that the candidate is no friend to labor. Preferable to the alternative, sure, but by no means to be trusted. And an unprincipled jerk.

P.S. I hope you'll still email me.

Silly man. :)

I would consider it slander to call me, an atheist, a fundi so why shouldn't a Sunday school teacher consider it slander to label her an godless heathen?

Some of you people are sad. That Hagan's response is LEGAL doesn't mean it's right, moral, or isn't a passive endorsement of bigotry.

Really, people. This is why they say getting atheists together is like herding cats. If you aren't going to stand up for yourselves in the light of blatant bigotry, who the fuck is going to?

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I would have more respect for her if she didn't believe in a sky daddy, so it doesn't seem very exact to me to talk about various alternative actions she might have taken that would have been more respectable.

See above. She could have done lots of things, including renouncing Jesus Christ. You conclusion about what people aren't appreciating is simply not well founded.

Oh, come on. A person running for political office expresses support for troops firing on nonviolent strikers or leftist demonstrators, or simply for officials calling leftists "scum." I'm supposed to refuse to condemn those statements because he or she could theoretically have become a leftist?

I mostly lurk here, and posted above out of disbelief more than anything else. But my reasoning is thus:

It is likely that there are a lot of people out there with reasoning similar to that of TM. Why anyone should choose to read/listen to his specific points in a discussion, when he comes off as an asshole, is beyond me. Being respectful and coherent is a way to get one's point across in a discussion and still keep one's stature. Spouting insults and snide remarks is a way to show that one is nothing more than a worthless waste of space, whose points could easily be made by someone else, hopefully one with a better attitude.

And in this case perhaps it shows that the person should go to bed. :P

It's slanderous because she's also taught sunday school.

She obviously has not problems with atheists. She's gone further than most and actually spoken to some.

I'd be pissed if someone called me a Baptist.

TN @115,

counterattacking Dole as a liar, and a criminal one at that

Liar yes, criminal no. If Hagan goes ahead with her suit and succeeds in establishing that Dole is liable, that liability will be civil, not criminal.

(BTW, those of you here who have always been nonbelievers might have missed the really amusingly stupid thing Hagan said in the article: that she's "proud to be a Christian". I myself was one recently enough to know that the party line is: one may properly have many feelings about being a Christian -- gratitude, for example -- but pride is absolutely not one of them. And the woman is a presbyterian of all things!)

Actually, Gustav, your comments show that you aren't familiar enough with this blog to make the assertions you're making. And there's no connection between respectfulness and coherence. For evidence of the strength of truth machine's reasoning, read back through the past several hundred comment threads (and pay little attention to this one :P).

If I were the target of such an ad, the first thing I would do is get together with the leadership of the gay community and put together a response that included them -- that got across the message that the attack ad was false, that I was in a heterosexual and monogamous relationship, and that it was playing on a false, divisive bigotry...that gay people are members of everyone's community, and that they have no interest in destroying marriages, and that these people have as much right to be represented as anyone else.

OK, fair enough. That would be a better response in my eyes.

Then again, I'm not running for a Senate seat in NC, and I have the luxury of not thinking about all of the political realities involved in such a campaign.

I think you're reading a lot into the empty spaces here, PZ.

@Jesse, Dallas 140

I sure as hell stand up for myself when it is called for. You and PZ are acting the part of Chicken Little and calling for a snap judgment based on absolutely nothing. Let me repeat:

The negative connotation of "slander" is directed at the person making false and damaging comments. To say Obama is a muslim, Arab, non-native born, socialist, into gay limo sex with pathetic chubby dudes with criminal records, etc. are all slander, though none of the accusations is inherently bad.

You, and those who agree with you, fall prey to political correctness born of vanity. Get over yourself and realize that the response to:

A) "You're a faggot! I'm gonna tell everyone about it!"

isn't:

B) "Saying 'faggot' is impolite. Besides, I'm heterosexual. Not that there is anything wrong with being homosexual, mind you, it doesn't matter. But I am straight. I have gay friends! But I'm not gay... And you're rude and wrong."

No, the appropriate response is:

C) "Your lie is an obvious attempt to paint a false picture about me, and I won't stand for such nonsense. Lawyer up bitch, I'm going to fuck you."

Oh, well, then. Never mind, North Carolina, it doesn't matter who you vote for in that election

Hate to say it, PZ, but that's the stupidest statement you've ever made on this blog. Just supremely idiotic.

Are you really saying that if someone doesn't say the right things about atheism, then there's simply no difference between the candidates? Nothing else matters? Grow up, for God's sake (pardon the reference).

@Gustav: Truthmachine has record of often saying things that are true, or if not true then interesting and clearly argued. If people didn't know that they probably would just see the abrasiveness and ignore him. But they do know, so they pay attention.

Oh, well, then. Never mind, North Carolina, it doesn't matter who you vote for in that election

Hate to say it, PZ, but that's the stupidest statement you've ever made on this blog. Just supremely idiotic.

Quotemining. Slide 1, please.

Then again, I'm not running for a Senate seat in NC, and I have the luxury of not thinking about all of the political realities involved in such a campaign.

And at what point does appreciation of the "political realities" make condemnation of a candidate's actions or statements illegitimate?

Hagan should have just tacked on the words "not that there's anything wrong with that." :)

PZed is right, IMO. Hagen may be the better choice in terms of voting, but it is outrageous that being called an atheist, or friendly to atheists, can be used against a person in a political contest. It is outrageous that being called an atheist would be an over-riding issue in regard to casting a vote. And it is outrageous that a politician would approach the issue in this way, calling it defamation. The correct thing to do would have been to point out that it isn't true, but that even if it was true, it does not make any difference in terms of the person's fitness to govern.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that" keeps coming to mind...

***

I should note that it's facile to keep pointing to the alleged political realities of NC. I don't live there and never have, but I have enough contact with people at UNC to know that a characterization of North Carolians as hypertheistic antisecularists for whom Dole's attacks would have been convincing may be assuming too much. In addition to unprincipled, Kagan's response may well have been a political miscalculation (I believe tm might have noted this above).

Damn you, Blondin! :)

To be more clear:

A person running for political office expresses support for or does not publicly and explicitly oppose troops firing on nonviolent strikers or leftist demonstrators, or simply for officials calling leftists "scum."

I should note that it's facile to keep pointing to the alleged political realities of NC. I don't live there and never have, but I have enough contact with people at UNC to know that a characterization of North Carolians as hypertheistic antisecularists for whom Dole's attacks would have been convincing may be assuming too much. In addition to unprincipled, Kagan's response may well have been a political miscalculation (I believe tm might have noted this above).

I was raised in Winston-Salem and my parents, brother and sister still live in NC. It may be true that a large portion of N. Carolinians are "hypertheistic antisecularists" but it is far from the truth to use that generalization for all. As is the case anywhere there are cultural trends that represent the base political groups of a geographic area. This does not represent the whole case. NC has a strong progressive population that while it does not out number the conservatives in the state is nothing to dismiss. My mother is actually on a first name basis with Mrs. Hagan and I sent her a copy of an email I sent to the Hagan campaign this morning. She is in agreement that it was mishandled by the Hagan campaign.

But you are correct, I think Hagan floundered this opportunity but she is by far a better choice for the position than Mrs. Dole.

I think you all are really expecting too much. Hagan is a politician, not a saint.

When Obama is attacked for being a muslim, he says that's a lie and that he isn't and leaves it at that. As Powell rightly said, the real correct answer is, that it shouldn't matter if he's a muslim or not.

But let's face the truth - if Obama had said that, as opposed to simply denying it like he does, it would be a problem for him politically. It would be twisted and used against him.

Now does that really mean that Obama is anti-muslim? I don't think so, anymore then I think this implies that Hagan is anti-atheist. They are just politicians, who recognize the reality of the situation. Blaming them, as opposed to the fucking idiots who make these charges in the first place isn't just stupid, it's counterproductive.

But you are correct,

Huh? Weren't you agreeing with me in the previous paragraph?

I've only had time to scan this thread, and given the level of rhetorical heat I should probably stay out of it, but...

If I were accused by someone of being gay (which actually happens all the time), I would not consider it libel or slander, and I wouldn't get all huffy about being called a 'bad name'

I think one aspect of this that's getting lost is that elections are, in some sense, job interviews. If someone were publicly "accusing" (loaded term, eh?) you of being gay specifically because that person knew the people in charge of hiring you for an important job were homophobes, you might well "get all huffy," not because you were subconsciously validating the homophobia but because your hopes of getting the job were being sabotaged.

Now, you'd also face a dilemma: As a matter of principle, you'd probably want to say, "As a point of fact, I'm not gay... but so what if I were? There's nothing wrong with being gay, and anyone who says otherwise is a bigot."[1] As a practical matter, though, doing that would amount to calling the people in charge of hiring you bigots, thus costing you any chance of getting the job.

The resolution of this dilemma depends entirely on the relative moral worth of getting the job. If (to switch scenarios) you're a pro-evolution (which is to say, real) science teacher interviewing for a job under a creationist superintendent, you might well judge (and correctly, IMHO) that it's better to get the job and educate students than to lose the job in the process of trying (perhaps futilely) to educate the idiot superintendent.

I think something similar obtains in the Kay Hagan case: I believe there's far greater value (and to a far greater number of people) in having one more Democrat (and one fewer Dole) in the Senate than in having Kay Hagan flame out and concede the seat for the sake of trying (almost certainly futilely) to educate a bunch of North Carolina peckerheads[2] about atheism.

Y'all's MMV, of course.

[1] Note that Obama said something very like this (and actually apologized for not saying it sooner) regarding the Muslim "smears"... but the dynamics of the Muslim issue in the presidential race are entirely different from the dynamics of "She's an atheist!!" in Nawth Cah'lina.

[2] I'm not calling all North Carolinians "peckerheads"; just saying it's the peckerheads (who undeniably exist) to whom this whole line of argument is pitched.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

PZ, I've got to respectfully disagree with you and instead agree with other posters here. The woman is trying to get elected in NC. The ad is obviously meant to defame her in such a way that she loses the election. It is geared towards the prejudices (I mean that in all senses of the word) of the local populace. Hagan is more qualified than you are to know those local prejudices and how they affect voting.

Once she is in office, she can effect change. Until then, she's got to toe the line.

This has nothing to do with how she personally feels about atheists. It doesn't even given any indication of how she will govern with regard to religious issues once elected.

Bottom line: she needs to get elected, or else Dole wins. And by "wins", I mean NC loses.

But you are correct,

Huh? Weren't you agreeing with me in the previous paragraph?

Yes. I suck at English. Unfortunately its the only language I know.

Not sure why I typed it that way.

I don't think Hagan calling for the cease and desist, or calling Dole's ad libelous/slanderous is at all beyond the pale. Dole's ad is false, and is intended to take advantage of ingrained prejudice, period. It's pure demogaguery. (sp?)

Hagan's response saying "[W]e all value the role of faith in American life. Shame on anyone who says differently." is the part that deserves to be thrown back at her.

It would not at all be unreasonable, to ask that she apologize for that statement, and give her a chance to express an opinion that she feels we all deserve a voice in the government, and she will represent all, regardless of religious, sexual, or other preferences.

It doesn't even given any indication of how she will govern with regard to religious issues once elected.

Because people's actual actions are no guide to their future actions. Right.

"Being an atheist is a shameful thing, and how dare you accuse me of such a hideous moral deformity? Those people are nowhere near as good as we, the faithful. I indignantly reject any association you're trying to make between myself and those sinners. But when elected, I'll show them as much respect as my theistic comrades and support secularism."

She may, but her current behavior and public statements should give any reasonable person pause and cause for condemnation. Those criticizing her are being accused of naivete? Good lord. Who are the realists here? What's your response to the questions and points in my previous comments?

It's pure demogaguery. (sp?)

demagoguery

Here's another look, with links to more, whose author agrees with PZ - http://bligbi.com/2008/10/30/shorter-hagan-i-am-not-a-devil/

The punchline (you have to read it all, I didn't want to reproduce everything needed - it is short): "Hagan could've chosen that path. She didn't though. She chose to go for the sympathy vote of bigots."

I can see the legalist arguments, but I see that whole idea falls under the anti-creationism vs anti-ignorance arguments (is it better to simply suck up to religious believers to defend science in the short term or is it better to try to counter all silly and dangerous superstition for the long run). If we condone her actions we may get her elected, but I have no confidence that she will actually follow through on what she says - she apparently has no problem saying what it takes to get elected, so is there any reason to believe her now?

It's pure demogaguery. (sp?)

demagoguery

It's better as Dagon Augury.

SC @ #163:

She may, but her current behavior and public statements should give any reasonable person pause and cause for condemnation. Those criticizing her are being accused of naivete? Good lord. Who are the realists here? What's your response to the questions and points in my previous comments?

I think that contacting her office to educate her for the future is a worthwhile expenditure of time and effort.

But here's the reality: it's either Dole or Hagan. Period. That's the only choice. So whatever her offenses (prior, future, real, imagined) against us, I see no legitimate argument that Hagan would be WORSE for atheists than Dole.

Only once she is in office would she have the opportunity to change public perception about atheism on a policy level. We can help her understand how important that is, and how best to do it. Until then, arguing that a politician's platform has to be all or nothing in our favor guarantees that we'll get bupkis yet again.

There is not supposed to be any "religious test" for holding office in America. Yet Dole's ad clearly implies that there is a test, and Hagan has failed the test.

What a sad and desperate ploy.

I think that contacting her office to educate her for the future is a worthwhile expenditure of time and effort.

But nothing public, of course.

But here's the reality: it's either Dole or Hagan. Period. That's the only choice. So whatever her offenses (prior, future, real, imagined) against us, I see no legitimate argument that Hagan would be WORSE for atheists than Dole.

And who is making that argument? Certainly I'm not, as you would know if you had read my previous comments. Neither was PZ in his post.

Only once she is in office would she have the opportunity to change public perception about atheism on a policy level. We can help her understand how important that is, and how best to do it. Until then, arguing that a politician's platform has to be all or nothing in our favor guarantees that we'll get bupkis yet again.

You've still responded to none of my previous remarks. Even if she were in office to act as a "friend" to atheists or secularists, which she's giving indications she will not (though Rev. BDC's information gives me some small hope), it is atheists in NC, across the US and around the world who will make the difference - not politicians. This "shut up and go along during the campaign" attitude would be bad/ignorant enough if it simply reflected a tactical perspective, but to the extent that it reflects a belief that politicians will be anything better than what they indicate they are, it is hopelessly ignorant of history.

Wombat @135,

Unfortunately, Ms. Hagen missed a golden opportunity

That's as may be. But your statement quoted above is of precisely zero relevance to the point I made upthread, and irrelevant to what TM has been arguing.

Here is the fact pattern:

  1. Hagan is not an atheist.
  2. The average Carolinian would regard atheism as substantially negative.
  3. Dole, acting knowingly or recklessly, released an ad insinuating that Hagan is an atheist.
  4. Hagan says she might sue for defamation.

Here is what you can fairly infer from that fact pattern:

  1. Hagan thinks a suit (or at least the credible threat of a suit) would be an effective countermeasure.

And that's it. (And I am not specifying any value of "effective". The goal of a lawsuit is usually to win, but in this case I imagine Hagan less interested in prevailing in court than, in the short term, in getting Dole to backpedal and, in the (slightly longer) term, in seeing her go down to defeat.)

Here's what you can't fairly infer:

  1. Hagan dislikes atheists.
  2. Hagan herself thinks "atheist" a negative label.
  3. Anything else, really

Those first two might be true, but if so, they are not true because she's suing for defamation.

Now, as for that missed golden opportunity. Maybe so. I can think of a number of alternative countermeasures that, in an ideal world, Hagan could have taken. (Of course, in an ideal world, she'd not have needed a countermeasure, and no court could conclude that the label "atheist" is defamatory.) But I'm not saying, and TM isn't saying, that Hagan's chosen course of action is the best she could have taken, or that it is wise at all, or even that it really will be effective. We are simply saying that you can't infer from the threat of a defamation suit anything about Hagan other that she thinks it would be effective.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/597/story/286120.html

Take a look at the ad. Dole is, aside from her pernicious, slanderous tactics, a crappy, ineffectual Senator. The story is Hagan's justifiably irritable response. Dole apparently dug up Jesse Helms to advise her on the delightful nuances of politics down here.

By Gareth in NC (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Dole apparently dug up Jesse Helms to advise her on the delightful nuances of politics down here.

Are you sure he's actually dead? Seems that kind of evil is beyond the earthly bounds of life and death.

Are you sure he's actually dead? Seems that kind of evil is beyond the earthly bounds of life and death.

I understand they nailed his corpse down with a wooden stake through the heart.

But I'm not saying, and TM isn't saying, that Hagan's chosen course of action is the best she could have taken, or that it is wise at all, or even that it really will be effective. We are simply saying that you can't infer from the threat of a defamation suit anything about Hagan other that she thinks it would be effective.

You can infer plenty from the threat of a defamation suit in the absence of any other actions or statements about atheism or secularism and from her choice of this path instead of others that would be principled or reasonable in even less/other than an "ideal world." (Will someone making these claims please respond to my question @ #150?) This would be true even in the absence of further explicit public statements on Hagan's part, which we have, for fuck's sake.

To clarify: When I say you can infer plenty I don't mean about her personal thoughts or beliefs but about how she will approach atheists and secularist issues in public practice.

Yeah PZ, the latest ad IS definitely outrageous, it shows Hagan's face with a voiceover of a completely different woman screaming (and sounding fanatic): "THERE IS NO GOD!!!!!" It never says they are two different people.

SC @176,

you can infer plenty ... about how she will approach atheists and secularist issues in public practice

Of course you can infer that. A lot of people in this very thread are doing so.

You just can't infer it fairly from the fact that she might file a defamation suit. If that's the fact from which you draw your inference, your inference isn't fairly drawn even if it later proves to have been right.

Yes. I suck at English. Unfortunately its the only language I know.

A) No, you don't.

B) Is not. And you speak photography beautifully (last group was particularly gorgeous, btw).

You just can't infer it fairly from the fact that she might file a defamation suit. If that's the fact from which you draw your inference, your inference isn't fairly drawn even if it later proves to have been right.

It's one fact, which must be interpreted in the context of others, as I thought I and others had made pretty clear. Ghhhhh.

This sure sounds a lot like 'either you're with us or you're agin us.

I wonder, if she isn't publicly and actively for us does that mean she is necessarily against us?

Let's render this down a bit.

The whole question seems to be whether Hagan's legal action gives us information about how she feels about atheists. We have one side saying certainly it does, if she gives us no direct support she is obviously against us, while the other side is saying, her reaction, given the circumstances, is appropriate and can be divorced from her opinion of atheists, therefore, it tells us nothing about her attitude towards atheists.

So what kind of information does her actions actually give us? Is there enough information in her comments surrounding this episode to decide one way or another?

I suggest that no there isn't enough information and I use as evidence this very argument. If the answer was obvious there would be no argument so, obviously, we need more information.

OK, my final question - is there evidence elsewhere that ties her taking legal action to her attitude? To put it another way - has she shown in the past abhorrence at being connected in any way to atheists? If we don't have such information then by claiming she is no longer worth supporting we are jumping to the unfounded conclusion that because she does not actively support atheists, she is actively against them.

If we wait till a politician actively supports us before we return that support we're going to have to wait a long time for political equality.

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

@ 182

Thank you so much, I was trying to think of an eloquent way to say this.

If she isn't actively with us, it doesn't mean she is actively against us.

Let's render this down a bit.

Yes, let's render it down to the most ridiculously simplistic and inaccurate terms, misinterpret statements, and draw unwarranted conclusions. In the process, let's ignore every substantive argument that's been made in this thread.

@ 182

Thank you so much, I was trying to think of an eloquent way to say this.

If she isn't actively with us, it doesn't mean she is actively against us.

I'm close to giving up here. Perhaps I should. I've had my say, anyway.

Seriously, she met with Godless Americans in an apparently friendly way. I've not heard of many other American pols offering such olive branches to atheists. She is as pro-godless rights as you could reasonably hope. This is really making the best the enemy of the good.

And she loves her Jesus. And if you say she doesn't she gets upset. And that doesn't mean she thinks she thinks those who don't love Jesus are bad. I'd get upset if people said I didn't love my wife (even though I don't think others are bad if they don't love my wife - many of them haven't met her). I'd get upset if people said I didn't care about mathematics (and I REALLY don't expect all others to love it).

She said everyone thinks faith is important and that was wrong but at least she is willing to listen to the people who might tell why she is wrong.

You can infer plenty from the threat of a defamation suit in the absence of any other actions or statements about atheism or secularism and from her choice of this path instead of others that would be principled or reasonable in even less/other than an "ideal world."

Only if you ignore the context of her political reality. Pragmatism sometimes supersedes full disclosure. She can only be a benefit to others, including atheists, if she gets in. If vocal support of atheists prevents her from being elected then she can be of little help to anyone. I suspect she based her decision in part on this realization.

What you have done is - in the absence of contrary information, come to an interpretation of her actions without considering other available information such as context. You have in effect cherry-picked your information.

All the rest of us have said is that there is another possibility*, one that includes all information and in light of that increased information is a more likely interpretation, but you and PZ (and others) are dismissing it out of hand. You have taken a reactionary position. One that is, so far, unfounded.

Should the reactionary or the considered position be the default?

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

She is as pro-godless rights as you could reasonably hope.

Your idea of "reasonable" is tragic.

This is really making the best the enemy of the good.

Bullshit. It's criticizing a politician for being an unprincipled scumbag and/or severely mishandling a situation.

What you have done is - in the absence of contrary information, come to an interpretation of her actions without considering other available information such as context. You have in effect cherry-picked your information.

No, that's what you have done. Frankly, if no one's going to respond to any of my earlier comments/questions I'm not inclined to continue this conversation.

But I'll leave you with a question: What would convince you that a politician is your "friend," politically speaking? It seems that for many the tiniest wink is enough to send them into fits of freakin' rapture, while the clearest expressions of hostility are ignored or brushed off. Lame as all get out.

And the default shoud be not to trust any politician, ever.

Oh, well, then. Never mind, North Carolina, it doesn't matter who you vote for in that election

Hate to say it, PZ, but that's the stupidest statement you've ever made on this blog. Just supremely idiotic.

Quotemining. Slide 1, please.

Much as I disagree with the OP about PZ's statement, care to show the full context of the quote showing that it's a quotemine?

And at what point does appreciation of the "political realities" make condemnation of a candidate's actions or statements illegitimate?

'Political realities' is simply the context surrounding the action. In this case, condemnation of a candidate's action is shown to be illegitimate when the information from the context shows the condemnation to be based on incomplete information. In other words, any time the context affects the interpretation. Pretty much like a quotemine.

Mind you this isn't simply a case of condemning an action but an assignation of motive where the action itself gives us too little information to determine motive.

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Much as I disagree with the OP about PZ's statement,

? PZ is the OP.

care to show the full context of the quote showing that it's a quotemine?

Sure:

Never mind, North Carolina, it doesn't matter who you vote for in that election, you're getting a loser. I suppose you should still vote for Hagan, but only for her party and not because she's on our side.

***

'Political realities' is simply the context surrounding the action. In this case, condemnation of a candidate's action is shown to be illegitimate when the information from the context shows the condemnation to be based on incomplete information. In other words, any time the context affects the interpretation. Pretty much like a quotemine.

Gobbledygook. You've failed utterly to address my previous questions/comments. And motive is entirely irrelevant.

This is getting ridiculous. I guess my previous post was too detailed so let me boil down my analogy for those of you claiming she's anti-atheist:

When Obama is accused of being muslim, he denies it, without pointing out that even if he was muslim that should not be a problem. When Colin Powell denies that Obama isn't muslim, he does give the better answer, that it shouldn't matter even if he was.

Now from this, do you conclude that Obama is anti-muslim and Colin Powell is pro-muslim? Or that Obama is facing a political reality whereas Colin Powell is free to speak his mind?

I think it's pretty damn clear.

The way you've all judged this woman to be anti-atheist is pathetic. She may be, she may not be, but up to now her actions are better than the majority of politicians I know of and it's certainly far from clear what her views are. There are plenty of real anti-atheists who are completely direct in their views (i.e. like this dole idiot), without having to go against the people who are at worst on the sidelines in this fight, and more likely on our side. It's like complaining about people who are somewhat uncomfortable around blacks in a society where plenty of other people go to lynchings. Let's go after the real assholes first.

This is getting ridiculous. I guess my previous post was too detailed so let me boil down my analogy for those of you claiming she's anti-atheist...

I think it's pretty damn clear.

The way you've all judged this woman to be anti-atheist is pathetic. She may be, she may not be, but up to now her actions are better than the majority of politicians I know of and it's certainly far from clear what her views are.

No, Coriolis, your previous post was perfectly simple, and I mean that in multiple senses of the word. Perhaps you'd like to contribute to the actual discussion rather than jousting with strawmen?

She reminds me of the woman character in Blazing Saddles, who came around to the Sherrif Bart's office with a gift pie. "Sorry about the 'Up yours, ni**er'" and leaves. Then she comes back shortly to say something like "Of course, you will have the grace to not tell anyone that I visited, won't you?"

Atheists entrance in the rear.

It's one fact, which must be interpreted in the context of others

What others? There was no other fact from which PZ drew his inferences that Hagan doesn't like us very much, is a loser, isn't on our side, and that it doesn't matter who you vote for in NC. I'm really quite surprised that you would in any way try to defend such obviously idiotic overreaching.

And I've noted what other sorts of inferences can be rationally be drawn from Hagan's "we all value the role of faith in American life" comment. No doubt there are other relevant facts about Hagan, but if they've been brought out here, I've missed them.

I only caught a few hours of sleep. Maybe I'll come back here some other time when my head is clear to address your other posts, although I suspect it would be better to just let this die.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Yes, let's render it down to the most ridiculously simplistic and inaccurate terms, misinterpret statements, and draw unwarranted conclusions. In the process, let's ignore every substantive argument that's been made in this thread.

Do you mean every substantive argument you've made or every substantive argument made by those who disagree with you?

PZ: It seems Ms. Hagan doesn't like us very much, though.
PZ:I suppose you should still vote for Hagan, but only for her party and not because she's on our side.

Seems to me that PZ very much did state that its a case of 'either you're with me or you're against me'. But I could be wrong. Surely you could show me where it is more sophisticated than that.

But I'll leave you with a question: What would convince you that a politician is your "friend," politically speaking?

What would it take to convince you that a politician is not your enemy?

Personally it would take more than just a legal action against an idiot opponent, especially when there is another equally likely explanation. Show me an instance (an independent line of evidence, so to speak) where she indicated she thinks atheists are no good. I'm certainly open to changing my mind.

It seems that for many the tiniest wink is enough to send them into fits of freakin' rapture, while the clearest expressions of hostility are ignored or brushed off. Lame as all get out.

Jeez, talk about over simplifying. Where have you seen, in this entire thread any one of your debate opponents go into 'freakin' rapture'?

I question your ability to recognize clear expression of hostility.

I'm going to toss in a little anecdotal evidence for my ability, take it for what it's worth. I'm as white as you can get. My wife of 32 years is NA aboriginal, First Nations we call them here. During that 32 years, and even before come to think of it, I have witnessed bigotry and hate towards my wife and my kids. I have personaly experienced the hate that comes from being in a mixed marriage. (It is far worse than any against atheists) Over that time I have developed a 'fairly accurate' ability to differentiate between hate and (my) misinterpretation. Sometimes when 'racism' is yelled it is truly racism, but sometimes, depending on other information it isn't. Sometimes when racism is denied it is indeed racism other times it is not. The ability to see the difference is based on considering more than just the moment and looking for supported alternative explanations. Both previous and subsequent actions heavily affect my interpretation but it all comes down to how much information I have handy.

That is what I and many others are saying here, your side of the debate simply does not have enough information to reject an alternative explanation. What I see you and others doing is jumping to a conclusion based on an valid emotional response. That response may very well be accurate, but I don't believe so without extra evidence because there is another logical possible explanation. One that I feel at this time is more likely.

And the default shoud be not to trust any politician, ever.

I don't. But I also don't make universal snap judgments about their motives without justification. Neither do I assume everyone hates me because I'm an atheist, and I've been more than an atheist, an anti-theist, for a very long time (although I seem to be mellowing).

If I have been too simplistic that is unfortunate, but, as you can see, I am a very simple man.

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

P.S. I was recently at a meeting with Lori Lipman Brown, the Washington lobbyist for the Secular Values Coalition. She spoke about (among other things) how important it is to support Hagan. Perhaps PZ should have a chat with her so he can learn a few, um, contextual facts.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

And motive is entirely irrelevant.

Motive is irrelevant? Huh?
Motive is what the entire debate is about.

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

No, Coriolis, your previous post was perfectly simple, and I mean that in multiple senses of the word. Perhaps you'd like to contribute to the actual discussion rather than jousting with strawmen?

Perhaps if more than one person is oversimplifying/'making a strawman of' your position your position hasn't been made clear?

What about Hagan's legal action has convinced you that she dislikes atheists and has no intention of recognizing us and is scum (in your words) in light of the possibility her action has nothing to do with her like or dislike of atheists?

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Perhaps you'd like to give a substantive reason why my analogy is a "strawman" as opposed to endlessly harping that people aren't arguing in good faith SC? Since that seems to be your only contribution from somewhere around #150 on.

The only point I've seen people make here, from PZ on down, is that instead of basically saying "I'm not an atheist and it's slanderous to claim that", she should have said "I'm not an atheist but it's ok to be an atheist". If you have a different point, go ahead and make it.

If that is the point, than the situation is entirely analogous to what obama did with regards to being accused of being a muslim and yet I don't see some huge fuss made by people claiming that Obama is suddenly anti-muslim. Because most ppl have enough brains to understand that even though that is the correct answer, there's plenty of anti-muslim sentiment out there, and the sane political move is to strongly deny being muslim.

What others?

1) That she didn't do what Nick suggested @ #whatever or what abeja suggested @ #whatever. Why is her total unwillingness to publicly, explictly come out in support of atheists or secularism not considered evidence here? And why are assumptions about the political character of people in North Carolina taken at face value?

2) That the history of electoral politics in the US and around the world has shown that politicians are not to be considered "friends" by default, and when they are it is only in the very short term. Why on earth should they be considered allies on the basis of the thinnest of evidence even when they appear to be publicly explicit in their hostility? I honestly don't understand why public statements and actions are being dismissed while assumptions about the goodwill she'll allegedly show towards atheists and secularism are being made on the flimsiest of bases, and used to object to the condemnation of antiatheist bigotry.

There was no other fact from which PZ drew his inferences that Hagan doesn't like us very much, is a loser, isn't on our side, and that it doesn't matter who you vote for in NC. I'm really quite surprised that you would in any way try to defend such obviously idiotic overreaching.

Because I don't see it as idiotic or overreaching, as I explained in some detail above.

I only caught a few hours of sleep. Maybe I'll come back here some other time when my head is clear to address your other posts,...

I welcome that. In the meantime, you haven't.

Correction - sorry.

No, Coriolis, your previous post was perfectly simple, and I mean that in multiple senses of the word. Perhaps you'd like to contribute to the actual discussion rather than jousting with strawmen?

Perhaps if more than one person is oversimplifying/'making a strawman of' your position, your position hasn't been made clear?

What about Hagan's legal action has convinced you that she dislikes atheists and has no intention of recognizing us and is scum (in your words) in light of the possibility her action has nothing to do with her like or dislike of atheists?

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Do y'all remember when the "Beware the Believers" rap came out, and Atheists were all excited; so excited, in fact, that they missed the entire point of the clip, which was to defame Atheists?

Yeah. Same deal here. You all are missing the boat completely. Like it or not, there IS a political world out there and we ARE getting thrown under the bus. The technicalities of tort law are immaterial to the fact that we are being used as a slur by BOTH SIDES of this fight.

If Atheists won't even stand up for themselves, you can hardly blame Hagan for not sticking up for us.

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Do you mean every substantive argument you've made or every substantive argument made by those who disagree with you?

I mean every substantive argument I've made, obviously. Please address them. If you feel you or others have also made substantive arguments, point them out in the process.

But I could be wrong. Surely you could show me where it is more sophisticated than that.

If you need me to show you that, you're not of an intellectual caliber adequate to this discussion.

Jeez, talk about over simplifying. Where have you seen, in this entire thread any one of your debate opponents go into 'freakin' rapture'?

That the fact that she met with atheists is seen as putting her on our side and worthy of several supportive blog posts.

Jeez, talk about over simplifying. Where have you seen, in this entire thread any one of your debate opponents go into 'freakin' rapture'?

Again, I'm talking about her willingness to support and defend atheists and secularism in office, in practice, and not her personal views. I don't know what it will take to make that more clear.

Show me an instance (an independent line of evidence, so to speak) where she indicated she thinks atheists are no good. I'm certainly open to changing my mind.

You're joking, right?

http://www.kayhagan.com/press/kay-on-dole-ad-attacking-her-christian-fa…

If I have been too simplistic that is unfortunate, but, as you can see, I am a very simple man.

Indeed.

tm:

P.S. I was recently at a meeting with Lori Lipman Brown, the Washington lobbyist for the Secular Values Coalition. She spoke about (among other things) how important it is to support Hagan. Perhaps PZ should have a chat with her so he can learn a few, um, contextual facts.

Was there a substantive argument in there somewhere? If so, I missed it.

The only point I've seen people make here, from PZ on down, is that instead of basically saying "I'm not an atheist and it's slanderous to claim that", she should have said "I'm not an atheist but it's ok to be an atheist".

Way to dimiss an important point out of hand ("The only argument I've seen people make is that there's no evidence for a deity..."). And if that's all you've read, you're not reading very carefully.

from PZ on down

WTF?

Ok, so you want to actually point out what this mythical other substantive point of yours actually is? Copy and paste is fine.

Up to now the one I listed (and various variations thereof) is the only one I see. They can basically be summarized as in "she should've said that being an atheist is fine, not that it's a smear", or "She hasn't provided a statement that is pro-atheist, therefore, she's anti-atheist, and you're all morons for not realizing this" . How very Bushian of you. If there's something more to it, let's hear it.

If not I've already pointed out why that's BS - the Obama response to the muslim thing is essentially the same, and yet no sane person really thinks that Obama is anti-muslim. Just that he's a politician, facing a public that hates muslims. And if you're dumb enough to think that atheists aren't hated as much as muslims I can refer you to some polls (it's actually even worse for us).

Yes, politicians aren't either saints or your buddies - duh. Still, we're forced to choose between the best we can get, and in this case, it's not even close, unlike alot of comments and the OP suggest.

I think this is going to have to be my last post on this thread.

1) That she didn't do what Nick suggested @ #whatever or what abeja suggested @ #whatever. Why is her total unwillingness to publicly, explictly come out in support of atheists or secularism not considered evidence here?

It has been considered and in fact most of the arguments against your stance have been focused on reasons she did it that way. This is what the whole 'political reality' argument is all about.

And why are assumptions about the political character of people in North Carolina taken at face value?

Should we assume that all political characters in NC are liars and anti-atheists? Why?

2) That the history of electoral politics in the US and around the world has shown that politicians are not to be considered "friends" by default, and when they are it is only in the very short term.

Why are you so bigoted against politicians? Politicians are no different than any other group of people in their (dis)honesty and self service.

Why on earth should they be considered allies on the basis of the thinnest of evidence even when they appear to be publicly explicit in their hostility?

They aren't. The question here is whether Hagan has shown hostility to us. I don't believe she has.

I honestly don't understand why public statements and actions are being dismissed while assumptions...

Who has dismissed them? The problem is that the statements and actions in themselves, in this case, are not enough to conclude what you have concluded.

...about the goodwill she'll allegedly show towards atheists and secularism are being made on the flimsiest of bases, and used to object to the condemnation of antiatheist bigotry.

I condemn anti-atheist bigotry all the time, but I'm simply not convinced this is a case of anti-atheist bigotry. Without knowing the person, I need more statements or actions from her not connected to this instance to convince me she is an anti-atheist bigot. If you can show me unequivocal statements like that I will change my mind.

If you want to claim that she isn't best buddies with atheists and tends to think of herself before she does atheists, then I would agree with you, but I'm not about to call her an anti-atheist on such equivocal evidence.

By Gary Bohn (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Apparently she did NOT meet with the Godless Americans.
She met with a different group and one of the people in that group that she met with happens to be a member of he Godless Americans.

the Obama response to the muslim thing is essentially the same

Actually, no. Obama's response to "the muslim thing" was (eventually) essentially the same as what Powell said, although Obama didn't phrase it quite as directly, and expressed some regret that he hadn't called out the inherent racism of the Muslim "smear" earlier on.

That said, Obama's in a different situation than Hagan, who is in a very close race (and coming from behind, at that), so it's not surprising (or necessarily telling) that their approaches are different.

I must say, I've been a little surprised at the amount of heat generated in this comments thread: Even though I (mildly, modestly) disagree with it, PZ's original position didn't strike me as particularly extreme. It's not as if he said people should vote for Dole!

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Do y'all remember when the "Beware the Believers" rap came out, and Atheists were all excited; so excited, in fact, that they missed the entire point of the clip, which was to defame Atheists?

It wasn't, but nice analogy fail anyway.

Ok, so you want to actually point out what this mythical other substantive point of yours actually is? Copy and paste is fine.

No. Do a search for "Posted by: SC" and read my previous comments. I'm not responsible for rectifying your ignorance.

Up to now the one I listed (and various variations thereof) is the only one I see. They can basically be summarized as in "she should've said that being an atheist is fine, not that it's a smear", or "She hasn't provided a statement that is pro-atheist, therefore, she's anti-atheist, and you're all morons for not realizing this" . How very Bushian of you. If there's something more to it, let's hear it.

"Pro-" or "anti-" atheist are irrelevant to the question of her real and probable/possible support for atheists(' rights) or secularism. She's given very real indications of this. Please see my analogy to labor above.

Yes, politicians aren't either saints or your buddies - duh. Still, we're forced to choose between the best we can get, and in this case, it's not even close, unlike alot of comments and the OP suggest.

When people are being this dumb, why even bother?

It has been considered and in fact most of the arguments against your stance have been focused on reasons she did it that way. This is what the whole 'political reality' argument is all about.

Again, total failure to address any of my previous posts. Annoying beyond measure.

Should we assume that all political characters in NC are liars and anti-atheists? Why?

What the fuck are you talking about? Are my previous comments invisible to you?

Why are you so bigoted against politicians? Politicians are no different than any other group of people in their (dis)honesty and self service.

You're an idiot.

They aren't. The question here is whether Hagan has shown hostility to us. I don't believe she has.

And you'll ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Without knowing the person, I need more statements or actions from her not connected to this instance to convince me she is an anti-atheist bigot. If you can show me unequivocal statements like that I will change my mind.

If the statements she's made (and hasn't made) haven't convinced you, and aren't enough for you to condemn, I can't imagine the statements that she would have to make to change your mind. AGAIN, what would those be?

"Slander" and "libel" are legal terms, technically correct in this instance, and oh, by the way, the entire basis for her case. You can't file a C&D against someone just for being a dick.

Sheesh, give her a break. What's she supposed to do, take a dive just to avoid hurting your feelings? She's running in North fucking Carolina.

Oh, man-- I just realized that a married-with-children science teacher in the midwest is more hardcore than me. Time to start covering up the tats.

Ok Bill, I'm sure you're correct although I don't recall seeing Obama himself make that point. Still, it took some time, and I doubt he made a big fuss about (else I probably would've heard it). As a liberal it's rather embarrassing to me that it took Powell to make that point forcefully on the national stage.

As for why I'm hard on PZ: he's a professor, I'm a graduate student. We have high expectations of them, it's not like he's some idiot writing for a major paper.

Sheesh, give her a break. What's she supposed to do, take a dive just to avoid hurting your feelings? She's running in North fucking Carolina.

I suppose we can expect the next several dozen comments to be of similar intellectual quality, in which case there's little point in continuing. I really want to assume people are lazy rather than stupid, but sometimes its hard.

Wow SC. So you think your labor-movement analogy is somehow a substantive point? All that amounts to is that you assume the worst about politicians unless there's ample reason not to. Fine. I'm sure Bush would agree with your "if they're not with us, they're against us" attitude, but don't expect everyone else to go along. Yes, her actions up to now do not tag her as either pro-atheist or anti-atheist. So she's unknown. I'd rather direct my outrage against those who clearly, plainly, and repeatedly display their anti-atheist sentiments.

In any case, you've made it quite clear that you're more interested in whining about bitching about people supposedly not reading what you're saying than saying anything, so I guess I'll cut it off here, as far as you're concerned.

>It wasn't, but nice analogy fail anyway.

no u lol (just trying to respond in kind)

As for North Carolina being too tough, well, fuck that. I live in Texas where the Midwest meets the Bible Belt. Maybe some of y'all just don't live in a place where you pay the price for having politics mixed with religion in Hagan's style of "all Americans value faith" BS.

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I think a problem several people seem to be having is in distinguing between "pro-atheist" and "friend to atheists/secularists." This is an important distinction.

Wow SC. So you think your labor-movement analogy is somehow a substantive point? All that amounts to is that you assume the worst about politicians unless there's ample reason not to. Fine. I'm sure Bush would agree with your "if they're not with us, they're against us" attitude, but don't expect everyone else to go along.

Is comparing me to Bush repeatedly supposed to be an argument? You're not up to addressing my points. Fine.

(And note that my analogy concerned primarily tm's arguments about PZ's post. As I've noted several times, we now have more evidence.)

Yes, her actions up to now do not tag her as either pro-atheist or anti-atheist. So she's unknown.

Wrong. First, again, pro- or anti-atheist is a stupid red herring. On what basis people are suggesting that she has shown herself to be either a real or potential friend to atheists in practical political terms I can't imagine.

I'd rather direct my outrage against those who clearly, plainly, and repeatedly display their anti-atheist sentiments.

OK. No criticism of those who've acted in any minimal way to support us, regardless of their hostile actions. Got it. Live for the Party. Good luck with that.

In any case, you've made it quite clear that you're more interested in whining about bitching about people supposedly not reading what you're saying than saying anything, so I guess I'll cut it off here, as far as you're concerned.

Ludicrous.

I really want to assume people are lazy rather than stupid

Me? Both. Not stupid enough to actually expect a Southern Democrat to defend my nonbelieving honor in the waning days of a close election, though, so I'm ahead of you there.

Too lazy to go through your entire commentography, but from what I've seen I gather you'd rather she make a big show out of being a friend to the community? That would be politically risky in fucking Jersey. You'll pardon me for being more interested in a filibuster-proof majority than your bruised ego.

Damn, SC, if you can't brush off the passive insults and revel in your hated-minority status, you're totally missing out on the best part of the American atheist experience. But hey, have fun with that whole expecting-politicians-to-do-right-by-you thing; that's a recipe for happiness, right there.

I'm not giving up. I'll rephrase:

I don't need to be convinced unequivocally that a politician is anti-atheist in some personal, philosophical way to call that person out or condemn her for statements and actions that cave in to anti-atheist bigotry or suggest that she is or will be (at the least) weak in practice in her support of atheists or secularism. Tactical considerations are another matter, but I've dealt with these above.

Me? Both. Not intelligent or self-respecting enough to actually expect a Southern Democrat to defend my nonbelieving status as a human being and civil rights in the waning days of a close election, though, so I'm ahead of you there.

There. Fixed that for you.

But hey, have fun with that whole expecting-politicians-to-do-right-by-you thing; that's a recipe for happiness, right there.

Yes, obviously you haven't read my previous posts, on this thread or any other. I'm an anarchist. I expect nothing from politicians. I do, however, have a problem with my fellows in a minority brushing aside their openly hostile statements and actions on the basis of an alleged political pragmatism. Excusing this behavior (including in the form of not openly criticizing it) on the grounds of political pragmatism is harmful to atheists and the secularist cause. I do not expect politicians (qua politicians) to have integrity or principles, but I do want atheists and secularists to be vocal in defending our rights, and this includes publicly stating that politicians have failed to support us.

Too lazy to go through your entire commentography

And yet your comment is addressed to me. How very obnoxious.

Was there a substantive argument in there somewhere? If so, I missed it.

It was a comment about "contextual facts", not all of which are known or being addressed by everyone (including myself) here. Brown has some that are relevant to the best possible inference, whatever that may be. And when she -- who is not only atheist-friendly but the epitome of pro-atheist -- takes a position on a candidate, I think it's worth some weight. That may sound like an argument from authority, but not all such arguments are fallacious.

Excusing this behavior (including in the form of not openly criticizing it) on the grounds of political pragmatism is harmful to atheists and the secularist cause.

I suggest that an overreaching attack on Hagan for failing to be as good as she could be (by a long shot) is an exercise in making the perfect the enemy of the good and is harmful to atheists and the secular cause.

I do not expect politicians (qua politicians) to have integrity or principles, but I do want atheists and secularists to be vocal in defending our rights, and this includes publicly stating that politicians have failed to support us.

False dichotomy. I'm vocal in defending our rights, and I will publicly state that Hagan has failed us in numerous ways. That still doesn't make any of PZ's charges valid, certainly not on the flimsy grounds of her treating a charge that she is an atheist as libel -- it is, in fact, libel, and to say so is not an attack on atheists but rather on the anti-atheist culture in this country and specifically in NC.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

And yet your comment is addressed to me. How very obnoxious

Well, I scrolled up to see the most recent four or five you laid down; enough to get the gist of your argument. Didn't realize I had to pour over the entire ouvre of the guy who called me stupid and/or lazy* before responding. My apologies.

Anyway, glad you're back to being an officious prick. Your 5:58 had a suspicious amount of substance and thoughtfulness to it.

*just a lucky guess on your part, by the way.

gil mann,

You're winning me over with your self-deprecating sense of humor. I'm a woman, by the way.

An hour ago I saw Bill Bennett on CNN, and he said something to the effect of "I don't know why she would associate with these people (the Godless) in the first place."
Are we lepers? I'm Canadian, but I sometimes think that atheists in the USA are very close to being the Jews of Germany in the 30's....except for a ruler that would actually look to rid the world of atheists....as yet.

There. Fixed that for you.

To expect a Southern Democrat to defend our nonbelieving status as human beings and our civil rights in the sense of "expect" as making a moral judgment is self-respecting, but I think it's clear that the person you responded to was using it in the sense of empirical prediction, and in that sense expecting it is not particularly intelligent. And I don't think Hagan's failure -- an absence of behavior -- to stand up and say, a la Powell, "so what if I were an atheist?" says a whole lot about her, as opposed to if she had said "I'm not one of those awful atheists" (which her talk of libel is not equivalent to). You want to know where I draw the line on pragmatism -- well, I draw it somewhere between those two, and somewhere between Hagan and Dole.

Another data point: at that same meeting with Lori Lipman Brown, I mentioned to another board member of our humanist society the instance of McCain's response to the woman who said Obama is an Arab. The board member said she thought McCain handled it very well, but when I said no, it was awful, since he implied that an Arab can't be a decent family man, and referred to Powell's statement, she said she hadn't thought of it that way, but immediately got it. Does her thinking that McCain handled it very well, and failing to realize the racist implications, make her unfriendly to Arabs? That would be an unwarranted inference.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I do, however, have a problem with my fellows in a minority brushing aside their openly hostile statements and actions on the basis of an alleged political pragmatism.

The openly hostile comments by people like Dole and Bennett have not been brushed aside. Not even Hagan's statement about "all Americans value faith", which I think is stupid and blinkered but not openly hostile, has not been brushed aside. And her calling "libel" Dole's false and politically harmful claim that the Sunday-school-teaching Hagan is an atheist is not openly hostile and it has not been brushed aside; an attempt has been made to explain its factual and legal validity and its political purpose -- which is an attempt not to lose the vote game. It's certainly not pandering -- she really isn't an atheist, as opposed to the 21 members of Congress (according to Lori Lipman Brown) who are non-believers but claim otherwise in public.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

It was a comment about "contextual facts", not all of which are known or being addressed by everyone (including myself) here. Brown has some that are relevant to the best possible inference, whatever that may be.

I can't conceive of any contextual facts that would lead me to hesitate in calling her out on her public statements.

And when she -- who is not only atheist-friendly but the epitome of pro-atheist -- takes a position on a candidate, I think it's worth some weight. That may sound like an argument from authority, but not all such arguments are fallacious.

They are unless they're not really arguments from authority. In order for me to give her position more weight than my own here I would have to accept, first, that she is more of an expert on politics and/or social movements than I am. I don't believe she is (you have - almost - enough knowledge to judge my qualifications in this area; poor Ichthyic has more :P). Second, I would have to reject, or at least sideline, principle as a guiding force in my political judgment.

I suggest that an overreaching attack on Hagan for failing to be as good as she could be (by a long shot) is an exercise in making the perfect the enemy of the good and is harmful to atheists and the secular cause.

And I ask you again: When would you condemn a politician's actions and not rationalize them on alleged pragmatic grounds? In this case specifically, what would Hagan have to say or do to earn your vocal condemnation?

False dichotomy. I'm vocal in defending our rights, and I will publicly state that Hagan has failed us in numerous ways.

Oh, OK. :)

That still doesn't make any of PZ's charges valid, certainly not on the flimsy grounds of her treating a charge that she is an atheist as libel -- it is, in fact, libel, and to say so is not an attack on atheists but rather on the anti-atheist culture in this country and specifically in NC.

You keep treating the charge of libel as if it were the only fact in evidence here. It certainly isn't now, and it wasn't when PZ posted either. If you're just arguing that PZ didn't have enough evidence to make the charge of "no friend to atheists" when he posted, we disagree on that, but fine. Are you saying that's not in evidence now? I really am unsure of your position at this point.

your self-deprecating sense of humor

I call it clear-eyed self-assessment, but yeah, let's go with yours.

I'm a woman, by the way.

D'oh. Sorry 'bout that. From this distance, brass is indistinguishable from flesh-tone.

but I think it's clear that the person you responded to was using it in the sense of empirical prediction

Possibly. I don't think that's clear in the context of his comments - seemed to me he was using it both ways (and there's actually some overlap there). Minor issue, anyway.

You want to know where I draw the line on pragmatism -- well, I draw it somewhere between those two, and somewhere between Hagan and Dole.

Well, I draw it somewhere else. We differ on this.

Does her thinking that McCain handled it very well, and failing to realize the racist implications, make her unfriendly to Arabs? That would be an unwarranted inference.

I don't see the two situations as analogous.

Not even Hagan's statement about "all Americans value faith", which I think is stupid and blinkered but not openly hostile

For the record: "...Shame on anyone who says differently."

If you think she's "failed us in numerous ways," I simply don't understand the vehemence of your attack on PZ and others for calling attention to that fact.

PZ@132:
"If I were the target of such an ad, the first thing I would do is get together with the leadership of the gay community and put together a response that included them -- that got across the message that the attack ad was false, that I was in a heterosexual and monogamous relationship, and that it was playing on a false, divisive bigotry...that gay people are members of everyone's community, and that they have no interest in destroying marriages, and that these people have as much right to be represented as anyone else."

With 5 days before the election? You'd lose. You'd lose if this happened 50 or 500 days before the election, but your suggestion is preposterous.

"Hagan did not do that. She's basically rushing to join in the bigotry herself."

There's no bigotry in her response. I would hope that, unlike you, she sees a better chance of reducing divisiveness by replacing Liddy Dole in the Senate.

I'm sorry but I find this whole debate bizarre and pointless. If you view the Dole ads in their entirety, it's clear that Dole isn't just calling Hagan an "atheist" -- rather, she's insinuating that Hagan is an active supporter of the agenda of a specific political action group, the regrettably-named Godless American PAC. I say regrettably-named because no matter how cute the PAC's founders may think themselves for that name, the word "godless" has a double meaning:

1. atheistic, believing in no god, and
2. wicked or sinful.

Figures suggest that 15% or so of Americans may be atheists, but I doubt the percentage who give a shit about taking "In God We Trust" off our currency or canceling Christmas is anywhere near that, and the atheists who do advocate for such things are, like or not, generally portrayed as intolerant radical leftists who actively hate the religious views of most of the American people.

In other words, the subtext of the ads weren't just that Hagan is an atheist, but that she's an immoral person who, if elected, will actively try to punish Christians for their beliefs. THAT is the slander that Hagan is complaining about and, IMO, she is justified in complaining.

PZ, you say you would be amused rather than offended to be accused by a political rival of being gay. Fair enough, I would feel the same. But imagine the following scenario:

You are running for the office of Mayor of Berkley, California, a famous bastion of liberal free-thinking, a place where your open atheism is probably a plus rather than a political minus. Now imagine that your opponent puts up an ad with grainy footage of you attending a fundraiser partially sponsored by a guy who graduated from Bob Jones U. And based solely on that, your opponent insinuates that, all appearances to the contrary, you are NOT an atheist, that you've been pretending to be an atheist your whole career, and that if elected, you will do the bidding of the radical fundamentalist Christians with whom you secretly sympathize. Oh, and due to the demographics of Berkley, a significant percentage of the voters might be persuaded that these accusations are true if the background music of the ad is sufficiently creepy.

Still see no reason to complain?

Why is her total unwillingness to publicly, explictly come out in support of atheists or secularism not considered evidence here?

This is what you call "intellectual caliber"? An absence of action doesn't even prove unwillingness, let alone "total" unwillingness. The evidence we have is that she didn't do the sort of thing that Powell did, and but that is rather weak evidence. You say "you can infer plenty", and I say (per Mrs. Tilton) that you can infer plenty too much.

I've seen strong and persuasive arguments from you, but the ones (more accurately, some) you offer here don't strike me as such (and apparently you think the same of mine). I can entertain the possibility of that being my failing, but that still doesn't get me past it, so I'm going to drop this.

I will say that, as self-respecting atheists, we should point out to Hagan that her statement about everyone valuing faith is factually false, and we should demand of Hagan that she defend the rights of non-believers and acknowledge them as legitimate participants in the political process, and if she refuses to do so, there is a very legitimate sense in which she is not our friend.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

This is what you call "intellectual caliber"? An absence of action doesn't even prove unwillingness, let alone "total" unwillingness.

She didn't do it. From that I infer that she's totally unwilling to do it (at least when the heat is on). This suggests something to me about her future actions.

I will say that, as self-respecting atheists, we should point out to Hagan that her statement about everyone valuing faith is factually false, and we should demand of Hagan that she defend the rights of non-believers and acknowledge them as legitimate participants in the political process, and if she refuses to do so, there is a very legitimate sense in which she is not our friend.

To me, demanding that she do this includes calling her out when she doesn't. She has, thus far, refused to do so in this case. I hope she changes her tune. Again, I don't expect anything of politicians other than they will alter their public actions and statements in response to public pressure. If that pressure isn't applied, they won't.

I'm not sure that we are strongly in disagreement here over anything other than tactics. I'm happy to let it rest, too.

For the record: "...Shame on anyone who says differently."

That comment is much like Obama or Biden saying shame on those who say that not all Americans love their country. Well, I don't love my country, but I'm not within their frame of reference and they aren't talking about me -- they are talking about all those people who do love the U.S. that Palin is dissing by implying they don't. Even as a self-respecting anti-nationalist, I just can't get too upset about that. Similarly, Hagan is saying shame on Dole for implying that Hagan -- and other liberals -- don't value faith. But she's really only talking about the ones who do (she seems blind to all of us who don't) who are being falsely accused.

If you think she's "failed us in numerous ways," I simply don't understand the vehemence of your attack on PZ and others for calling attention to that fact.

I've explained this: my attack is on bad arguments, specifically PZ's inference of all sorts of conclusions merely from Hagan calling Dole's charge "libelous" (it is). And none of his claims -- doesn't like us much, loser, not on our side -- is equivalent to "failed us in numerous ways", so you're mischaracterizing his post in at least two ways. I've read over my posts, and I do not see where I attacked anyone for calling attention to the fact that Hagan has failed us in numerous ways; I do however see, in #92, where I said "you have a point" when 386sx did such calling to attention.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

She didn't do it. From that I infer that she's totally unwilling to do it (at least when the heat is on).

You disappoint me. Oh well.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

In contrast, I think that Wombat's #135 is an excellent post that makes the proper distinctions and provides the proper conditionals on our inferences.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

I still don't see what actions or statements on the part of politicians you otherwise support would lead to your clear and explicit, public condemnation or calls for the person to behave differently. Can you offer an example?

I've explained this: my attack is on bad arguments

I've stated numerous times that if you're simply haggling over "what PZ knew and when he knew it" or over the semantics of "failed us in numerous ways" vs. "no friend of ours" or "a loser" we disagree about that, and it appears to be a personal attack that serves no purpose. What I was interested in was your view on her statements/actions (and lack thereof) and the appropriate response to them. And I'm still unclear on that.

PZ's inference of all sorts of conclusions merely from Hagan calling Dole's charge "libelous"

I still think this is disingenuous. I don't understand why you continue to ignore what she did not say or the fact that she rejected alternative courses of action.

You disappoint me. Oh well.

Rather condescending, don't you think?

In contrast, I think that Wombat's #135 is an excellent post that makes the proper distinctions and provides the proper conditionals on our inferences.

In contrast to what? What conditionals? I've never suggested that her actions haven't been understandable on the basis of a presumed political calculus. I've argued that they are worthy of public condemnation and that rather than excuse them away we should speak out and put the pressure on, as PZ has done. I couldn't care less about how Hagan really "feels." And I don't think we need braver politicians (*rolls eyes*). We need to be braver ourfuckingselves.

And I'm amazed that wombat's suggestion that she could or should have acted differently meets with your approval, while mine and that of others elicts the responses that I quoted in #141 (to which you haven't yet responded).

To be absolutely clear here: When I'm agreeing that Hagan is demonstrating that she's no friend of ours in action, I'm making no inferences whatsoever about her personal attitudes or feelings concerning atheism, atheists, or secularism. The question of her "friendship" for me relates only to her public behavior and her future participation in policy-making. I don't care a whit about her feelings, and I don't understand why anyone else would.

I still don't see what actions or statements on the part of politicians you otherwise support would lead to your clear and explicit, public condemnation or calls for the person to behave differently. Can you offer an example?

Your talk of a line, and your odd formulation here, seems to be asking for a formula of some sort, but I don't have one, other than that I condemn what I find condemnable and call for people to behave differently when I think they should be behave differently. Sometimes I do that privately rather than publicly when I think that pointing out a friend's bad behavior aids an enemy -- that's a matter of pragmatism. As for an example, sure ... I have repeatedly condemned Obama, here and elsewhere, for reneging on his promise to filibuster telecom immunity. And I've condemned his belligerence toward Iran and false or misleading statements about their nuclear program, and I find his statements about defeating Al Qaeda quite alarming. I even recently criticized his misrepresentative comments about what McCain's advisor said about McCain's health plan -- the advisor didn't say that their employer plan is better than what they would have under McCain, he said that their plan is better than what they would have if they took the credit, so why should they switch. It would be worse under McCain if they lose their employer health plan, but that requires additional argument and isn't the position of McCain's advisor.

I still think this is disingenuous. I don't understand why you continue to ignore what she did not say or the fact that she rejected alternative courses of action.

First, the latter is non sequitur; PZ's post said nothing about her not saying things or rejecting courses of action, so it doesn't pertain to my statement that you bizarrely (to me) find disingenuous. Second, it's simply false that I have ignored it -- I have referred to it several times, commenting on it being weak evidence; an absence of action can have many causes, and inferring a single cause is a lapse of logic.

put the pressure on, as PZ has done

I don't see dismissing her out of hand as a loser and enemy puts the pressure on.

I'm quite tired, and not having any fun here, so I hope you'll excuse me for trying again to disengage, even though we have serious disagreements, and without responding to each of your points. Bye.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

And I'm amazed that wombat's suggestion that she could or should have acted differently meets with your approval, while mine and that of others elicts the responses that I quoted in #141 (to which you haven't yet responded).

Your #141 talks about condemning despicable statements, but in Hagan's case you're condemning her for failing to not to make commendable statements. I would find your whole line of argument disingenuous if I had the slightest belief that you aren't sincere, but I don't. Instead I just find it baffling, but again that may well be my failure, especially in my current condition.

Peace. Out.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

"failing to not to make" -> "failing to make"

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Promise? Please?

That pettiness says so much about you.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

"I have enough contact with people at UNC to know that a characterization of North Carolians as hypertheistic antisecularists for whom Dole's attacks would have been convincing may be assuming too much."

Umm, you *really* can't judge all of NC by UNC. I live in a small western NC town, and believe me, this is the population this ad is meant to appeal to. As a professional in this small town, I have to be very careful who I even reveal my more liberal political views to, let alone the fact that I'm an atheist. It would be disastrous. That's why I can't condemn Hagan too much for her response. I know the NC electorate, and *she had no choice*. Yes, it would have been lovely for her to give a more nuanced response that emphasized the fact that, although she is a Christian, she doesn't believe atheists are evil sociopaths out to destroy America, but in parts of NC, the fact is you have to make the public think you do believe that to get elected. I'm not saying that's a good thing, I'm just stating it as fact. Colin Powell had the luxury of responding the way he did about Obama because he wasn't trying to get elected to anything himself. A defamation suit in and of itself doesn't imply that Hagan herself believes there's anything bad about being an atheist, or even that there *is* anything bad about being an atheist, just that 1)it's not true about her and 2) the reality is enough people will *believe* it's bad that it will harm her. The bottom line is, we have two choices, Dole or Hagan, and the fact that Hagan is not the *perfect* candidate and her response may not have been everything we would have liked it to be in an ideal world does not mean she isn't still the much better choice between the two.

First, the latter is non sequitur; PZ's post said nothing about her not saying things or rejecting courses of action, so it doesn't pertain to my statement that you bizarrely (to me) find disingenuous.

It could be implied in his original post without being explicitly said - this seems obvious. Also, he did in subsequent posts in the thread say what he would have done in her place, which makes clear that he thought there were other ways she could have handled it.

Second, it's simply false that I have ignored it -- I have referred to it several times, commenting on it being weak evidence; an absence of action can have many causes, and inferring a single cause is a lapse of logic.

I don't know if we've been talking about evidence for the same thing. I was using it as evidence that she was not standing up for the rights of atheists or for secularism and that it suggested that she could not be counted on to do so in the future. To the extent that she's offered evidence in the past that she was willing to stand with us, I also see it as evidence that she's unwilling or unable to stand on principle. I was never concerned with causes.

I don't see dismissing her out of hand as a loser and enemy puts the pressure on.

Well, I might agree with you to some extent there, but it's a question of tactics.

Your #141 talks about condemning despicable statements, but in Hagan's case you're condemning her for failing to not to make commendable statements.

But see my #155. :)

I'm quite tired, and not having any fun here, so I hope you'll excuse me for trying again to disengage, even though we have serious disagreements, and without responding to each of your points. Bye.

Understood. I'm not enjoying this at all, either. I do hope, though, that at this point we can disagree over something like this without it affecting our friendship.

Posted by: DB in NC | October 30, 2008 9:09 PM

It's like fucking Groundhog Day.

Umm, you *really* can't judge all of NC by UNC.

Nor did I ever suggest that you could.

*she had no choice*

Bullshit.

does not mean she isn't still the much better choice between the two

No shit. Do try to fucking keep up, will you?

Promise? Please?

Wow, that was a really cheap shot.

My ranking of the relative degree of insult
in todays political climate

neo-nazi/child molester >
athiest >
muslim >
racist/sexist >
homosexual >
socialist

but maybe socialist should be higher...

By Michael B (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

SC @ #229:

In order for me to give her position more weight than my own here I would have to accept, first, that she is more of an expert on politics and/or social movements than I am. I don't believe she is (you have - almost - enough knowledge to judge my qualifications in this area; poor Ichthyic has more :P). Second, I would have to reject, or at least sideline, principle as a guiding force in my political judgment.

That statement actually proves you don't have the professional qualifications to judge this political situation: principle as a guiding force in political judgment...and this from a self-confessed anarchist...what turnip wagon did you fall off of?

I spent over 20 years working in politics at all levels (local, national, international). No question, both Dole and Hagan are more "expert on politics" than you are. That's not a compliment to them, by any means.

There's this place called reality where some of us live. We look at what our political options are in a particular campaign and work from there, instead of imagining how much better it could be if only one of the candidates represented each and every one of our causes perfectly.

If you're looking for a saint, I'm sure there's a church in your neighborhood.

That statement actually proves you don't have the professional qualifications to judge this political situation: principle as a guiding force in political judgment...and this from a self-confessed anarchist...what turnip wagon did you fall off of?

I was talking about my own political judgment, jackass, in deciding whether or not to make a public condemnation. I was saying that politics is not a technical field, and that regardless of what my or others' expertise in the subject suggests to me about their probable consequences, my actions in this realm (again - my choice to state publicly that Hagan's not acting like she's on our side as opposed to publicly showing full support while privately expressing concern, in case you're still not getting it) are also based on principles.

I spent over 20 years working in politics at all levels (local, national, international). No question, both Dole and Hagan are more "expert on politics" than you are. That's not a compliment to them, by any means.

I wasn't referring to either Dole or Hagan, but to Lori Lipman Brown. I was responding to tm's argument from authority.

There's this place called reality where some of us live.

Evidently reading comprehension is in short supply in those parts.

my choice to state publicly that Hagan's not acting like she's on our side...

That should probably read "my choice to support PZ's public condemnation...," since my own carries no weight here.

principle as a guiding force in political judgment...and this from a self-confessed anarchist...what turnip wagon did you fall off of?

There one carrying anarchists whose difficult political choices - whether or not to vote; to join reform movements; to seek aid from politicians; to support a military action; to, as David Graeber suggests, "throw a brick";... - have been guided by principle.

Wow, that was a really cheap shot.

Um, not that it was entirely unwarranted in this case. :)Still,...

Well, seriously, in the end, does any of this really matter?

By The Cheerful N… (not verified) on 30 Oct 2008 #permalink

Unfortunately, I think Elvish (#61) has it right:

"Politics is about working in the world we have, to change it to the world we think it should be."

~

Never ever underestimate how deep stupid can go.

Especially when it is fashionable.

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

I've returned to catch up on this thread, and what really stands out to me is the acrimony.

I consider Stagyar zil Doggo's @64 is the most notable post, and feel that if more people had taken note of it and followed the link a lot of disputation would've been avoided.

If nothing else, we can in future point this thread out to those who accuse Pharyngula of being a media echo chamber, or who accuse regulars here of being minions of PZ. :)

By John Morales (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

>>Promise? Please?

>That pettiness says so much about you.

>Wow, that was a really cheap shot.

I don't know. The two of you just trolled each other in pages of flames on his blog. *shrug* I'd hope you'd leave, too.

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

I don't know. The two of you just trolled each other in pages of flames on his blog. *shrug* I'd hope you'd leave, too.

No, you don't know. We had a disagreement, which you were perfectly free to ignore. And I don't believe PZ's comment was aimed at me (I could be wrong). And no one asked you what you'd hope, and no one cares.

Jeez, now I'm wondering. Was that comment addressed to me as well?

Wow! SC! It seems that you rubbed some people the wrong way the past few days. Though it is funny that the people demanding that you leave are not people I recognize.

Funny thing about internet social interactions. But then, I am a dinosaur; socialized before the dawning of the age of the intertubes

By Janine ID AKA … (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

Wow! SC! It seems that you rubbed some people the wrong way the past few days. Though it is funny that the people demanding that you leave are not people I recognize.

I know! I meant it this morning when I said it's been a contentious - and fairly draining - week. I've been called a "humorless twat" (Hey! No one calls me humorless!) and a "trashy piece of work" (quite liked that one), and now taken some abuse from tm, whom I consider a friend, and been attacked by some random people I recognize barely or not at all. On the other hand, others I do know and respect have said some very nice things and even come to my defense (thanks again), and the first exchange gave me the opportunity to meet some cool new people (hi, French people! I hope you're still around!) and even to receive an Alphonse Allais verse. And I enjoyed the pun thread. So I'll focus on the positives.

Oh well, I never claimed to be uncontroversial. I really am sugar and spice - just very heavy on the spice. :)

and this from a self-confessed anarchist - chgo_liz, my emboldening

Whenever I see this phrase (or of course, "self-confessed atheist"), I know I'm dealing with an ignoramus.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

*ducks*

You'd better duck, geekboy. :)

I'm leaving in a few minutes for New York for a Halloween party / visit with friends, and may not have a chance to post again till Monday. HAPPY HALLOWEEN, everyone (even you, nitwits), and enjoy the weekend!

"So...being called an atheist is "slanderous" and "libelous", huh?"

Mr. PZ Myers needs some basic training in law. It is libel to claim something about a person, intending to do that person harm, when you know that your claim is false. It would be libelous to claim that Mr. Myers is a devout believer if so claiming would tend to alienate the affections of the atheists who form his avid cult of personality on this blog. The issue is not atheism; it is lying to harm another person.

Me, you haven't read the comments here, have you? You've just raised a point that's been thoroughly discussed already.

By John Morales (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

John Morales, life is MUCH too short to read the preceding 268 posts--especially on this blog--before I add mine. You must have an enormous amount of free time on your hands. Lucky you!

Thanks, Me.*

Though I do have a lot of free time, that's not particularly relevant.
Both to be considerate, and to avoid looking like - well, like you - I don't comment to raise a point without at least scanning previous posts to see if it's superannuated.

Note that, if you want to read the responses to your comment, and the response to those responses, it's all there.

*Yeah, that reads oddly.

By John Morales (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

>And no one asked you what you'd hope, and no one cares.

The irony of this is amazing.

By Jesse, Dallas (not verified) on 31 Oct 2008 #permalink

The irony of this is amazing.

Only a peabrain incapable of appreciating the difference between a having a legitimate debate on the (politically-significant) substantive topic of the thread and providing unsolicited commentary on the conduct of that debate would see irony there.

ya I agree with this because it proves that don't have the professional qualifications to judge this political situation.
I hope that you to show the same support in the future.
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johnpetersen
dating

By johpetersen (not verified) on 13 Nov 2008 #permalink