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A Black Atheist On Being Blocked By Greta Christina While Discussing Ferguson

Updated on April 23, 2016
Greta Christina
Greta Christina

Preliminary Remarks

Before you read, four items:
1. My primary focus here is Ferguson. Most of the post concerns that, although I did find it helpful to model my approach against that of Greta Christina at its midpoint.

2. Yes, Greta Christina has the right to instill the comment policy she has on her page. However, I also have the right to critique it -- and, considering her prominence, possibly even the responsibility to critique it -- if it is detrimental to actual progress in working with this issue.

3. I'm not asking individuals to feel sorry for me, nor am I feeling sorry for myself. There really is no reason for anyone to; I obviously have a voice and I'm using it. My primary concern, again, is the best way I can impact this situation.

4. My partial disagreement with Greta Christina is in no way, shape, or form a statement providing blanket support to the actions of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson court, the grand jury trial, and several other items. In fact, my disagreement with Christina is based on my passion for correcting what went wrong in the situation; I would hate for anything in this post to be used to say I think that impartial justice is regularly served in Ferguson, and I doubt that it was served in the Darren Wilson incident, in spite of the questions I have here.

My Thoughts

I was hoping that Darren Wilson would be indicted, just like several of you, I’m sure, were, as well.

But when the prosecutor spoke last night, I underwent a change in a few places within my mind (though not really of heart). I mean, there were still things that bothered me. I thought, for example, that the prosecutor probably shouldn’t have made up his mind (as he appeared to have done) before the trial was over. I thought that the Ferguson police methods of crowd control was (and is) appalling. I thought that the prosecutor should have argued the case to the grand jury. I thought that he should have been more respectful of the situation and of the witnesses. I thought he should have spoken earlier. I thought that a lot of things about the situation were a bit off.

However, as a black man who thinks that there is, indeed, police injustice on a massive scale against black individuals in this country, who thinks that arguments need to be made so that the police can be surveilled, who knows that the demands of many black individuals aren’t heard...I think that some convincing needs to be done here to actually change things. And to do that, I have to have some fairly watertight, or at least plausible, positions to argue from.

And as the prosecutor spoke, I realized I didn’t really have plausible counterarguments to the gist of what he said. I realized that I kinda had to admit that no, Darren Wilson probably couldn’t be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence (although there may still have been enough evidence to indict him, and there certainly would be if the prosecutor had been more insistent). Especially if Michael Brown charged at the cop.

I also think Michael Brown may have distrusted cops because of the nature of Ferguson, and that may have played into the charge. I think that’s a rational argument -- but I have to gain credibility to say that, and I’m honestly not sure I can gain credibility if I insist, against the available evidence, that Darren Wilson was guilty.

I’ve always respected Greta Christina immensely as a social justice warrior. I’ve never met her, but I’ve asked her for advice on a couple occasions and have generally liked what she had to say, although I haven’t always been sure about her apparent “my way or the highway” approach to social justice issues. I would like to think I believe in protecting the marginalized, but I also would like to be convinced, because I think that convincing arguments go further than mere shame, oftentimes, in making change happen (shame can be a useful tool, true, but I think convincing arguments need to be made, as well).

So when Greta Christina stated:
"There are some debates I am willing to have. The question of whether police should be able to shoot unarmed black men with their hands in the air, and not even get fucking indicted, is not one of them. If you want to have a calm, civil debate about this, save us all some time and stop following me right now. I don't want to have to say "Go fuck yourself, blocked" to every one of you."

I was a bit taken aback. Blind acceptance was not healthy, I thought -- it would hurt, rather than help, the rational argument that there were other very real, substantiated problems, and make it seem as if those that wanted these problems discussed were irrational ignorers of evidence. So I said something briefly -- and, in spite of the prior statement (and partly because no black individuals from the United States had yet seemed to comment on the situation), I thought there was a chance to make a difference with a relevant statement. I was sorely disappointed:

And in spite of the earlier warning, the suddenness of it was stunning. No discussion. No exchange. No examination. No honest inquiry. Just a cold block and an outright refusal, it seemed, to consider the issue further. What bothered me was not just the block on me, but also the message it was sending -- that evidence and facts were unimportant. Emotions could judge the situation, and if someone was struggling with facts in the face of emotions, emotions could get rid of facts. I thought this was unhealthy -- that's really why I'm writing about it.

I still have respect for Greta Christina, and I do think that the block was well intentioned in order to shield people (including herself) that may have been scarred from this incident. So, on a personal level, I think I get it.

But when I look at Christina’s attitude as a representative of the social justice arm of the atheist movement, I have to admit that I don’t think the attitude she exhibited is going to move us forward in convincing culture and being confident, over the long term, in the solidity of our own position. I think that, in building up a more formidable position that inspires a change with positive consequences, we need sourced, fact based, reasoned arguments that attempt to be fair, instead of just blocks to anyone who is willing to think outside the lines. Because if we aren’t allowed to question and think about these issues, we become like religion in ensuring that faith in truisms, as opposed to the facts, matter. And that’s a dangerous road, because when we don’t deal in facts, but in truisms, we ultimately can do things that run counter to our goals (including accidentally hurting people) because we’re acting in the world we think exists rather than the one that actually does. We can fail to bring about change that is based on the facts on the ground as opposed to what we prefer to believe.

To Conclude...

To be clear: I think Ferguson has a problem, I think the grand jury had problems, I think the police had problems, I think FOXNEWS had problems, I think the prosecutor had problems, and that a lot of this whole case was bungled and is indicative of institutionalized injustice in our society. But I think that in solving the problems that are there, it is vital for us atheists, as we fight for the marginalized in our midst and in our culture, to fight individuals with reasoned arguments, to engage individuals in thoughtful rebuttals, and to not enforce creedences that we hold to automatically, regardless of the facts.

Because the thing is -- this case is bigger than Michael Brown. It’s about seeking justice for people of all colors, and looking into the things that have gone wrong in law enforcement so we can change them to benefit the disenfranchised. If we focus too much on whether Darren Wilson was guilty or not (especially if he wasn’t), we might miss the forest for the trees. We need to look at the facts we do know -- the clear statistics right in front of us that show inequality -- and deal with those.

Do you think Darren Wilson should have been indicted?

See results

Do you think that the United States has a significant problem in law enforcement with racism towards blacks?

See results

Comments

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    • profile image

      Alonzo Fyfe 2 years ago

      With respect to your first poll, there should be a third option - particularly in light of the very position you were arguing in your post.

      "I was not a member of the Grand Jury, I do not have access to all available evidence, therefore I am not qualified to judge whether Darren Wilson should be indicted."

    • profile image

      anubis2814 2 years ago

      Yes because everyone is always rational and never does things out of emotion. I have found myself doing this to people on facebook in the heat of the moment, so I don't keep arguing with them cause I take the troll bait.. The problem with our system is that there was so much cop cover up and such little oversight that there was no evidence either way. And that person's comments did sound like something a troll would say. Something she has probably been putting up with on her feed all night from actual racists. PS A+ is pretty much dead because it was attacked from day 1 by people who should have supported it because it somehow threatened them and ensured more crazies than normal joined it. The "social justice arm" as he puts it is under constant cyber and troll attacks, at a certain point you just have to do mass deletes anytime you see a red flag. The guy fails to see how he may have been perceived and instead paints an entire group of people with a broad brush because he was inconvenienced and not allowed to share is ideas through that particular medium, one which has such limited characters he wasn't able to preface himself to ensure he didn't come off as a troll.

    • profile image

      GBJames 2 years ago

      I was once a regular reader of Greta Christina's blog and books. But I, too, am dismayed by her "my way or the highway" attitude. Sufficiently so that I rarely read her anymore.

    • profile image

      Annynomous 2 years ago

      Greta established a clear boundary, based on her emotions toward a situation. You chose to violate that boundary. I am surprised that you feel you should be able to do this without consequence. You too have become very emotional over a situation and have expected people to trend lightly around you while you dealt with these emotions.

      After reading a lot of the transcript and evidence that was uploaded last night from the case, it is very clear to me that Wilson should have been indicted. I believe he wasn't because the biased prosecution influenced the jury. Fore me, this once again feels like a silencing of the voice Ferguson is trying to have. Black lives matter. They matter enough to go to trial.

    • profile image
      Author

      barrierbreaker 2 years ago

      I think Greta Christina is free to have the block policy she prefers. I am free to criticize it, as I did here, if I think it is detrimental to the issue.

    • profile image

      lorimakesquilts 2 years ago

      FtB ceased being worth reading about three years ago. They no longer tolerate dissent or even discussion of nuance within the same general view. It's their dogmatic views or get piled on and blocked. Sorry you had to find out on such an important issue. Their best writers have left. Some to Patheos

    • profile image

      Peter Zachos 2 years ago

      Barrierbreaker...thank you for writing this and bringing up some not-enjoyable but important issues about the atheist movement. I think you're right and Greta is wrong, in spite of the fact that I share equally strong emotions with her on the Feguson decision and I fully support her right to moderate her site/page/threads as she sees fit.

      Too many atheists these days seem to have acquired a "Hulk" mentality towards discussion of issues, i.e. "Of course I am more skeptical and open-minded to discussion than religious dogmatists....but if your words REALLY make me angry......oooooo, you don't want to see me when I'm angry." And the problem is that everyone has a line that can be crossed; a line they drew from their standards of decency, of taste, of morality or whatever they are delineating. Certainly I have lines, and will react if they're crossed. But should never go out the window is one's sense of reason and assessment; whether the person you're reacting to really did cross your line or whether you are, in fact, being obtuse and letting anger or other emotions take over.

      People seem to give themselves license to act irrationally when their emotions are heightened; ironically one of the worst conditions in which one could act irrationally.

      I think in this case, Greta was expressing(without explicitly using this language) that at this point in time, her strong emotions on this issue was absolutely going to preclude any rational assessment of differing opinions, and so she did not want to hear them, and presented a punishment (blocking) as a deterrent against those that may disagree with her.

      Blogs are funny structures in our society. They are private realms, but can be very visible and appear to be a public forum. In a sense, a blog can seem like a person with a bullhorn, standing in a public square or in a public building, but people are let in or thrown out not due to their behavior but due to their opinions. Ultimately, I think that's damaging.

    • profile image

      Pzachos 2 years ago

      (p.s. Jumpin' pogo-stick jesus, forgive all the typos and bad grammar in my previous post. I woke up and your blog entry was the first thing I read, and I responded to it bleary-eyed, still in bed, with stumbly thumbs on an iPhone with an autocorrect of downright sinister mentality.

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      Jeff 2 years ago

      Greta pulled the same stunt in response to Trayvon Martin. She put up a false choice between caring about black teenagers and disagreeing with the Zimmerman verdict. In doing so she is actually marginalizing black voices as often as she is empowering them. For instance, Ta-nehisi Coates, whose advocacy for contemporary black issues is unparalleled, would be included in the group of people who she charged do not care about to black people like she cares about black people.

      She seizes a false moral high-ground and walls herself off with strawmen. She deigns to engage in the facts of the case, but fails to be an ally for black activists who do not have that privilege.

    • profile image

      RickU 2 years ago

      Great article. Seems like a rational perspective. The blocking trend may be a liberal one and is not conducive to a well reasoned argument.

    • russinserra profile image

      Russ Inserra 2 years ago from Indianapolis, In

      Who is Greta Christina? What does you being an atheist have anything to do with this? I also do not understand why it is important that BLACK witnesses testified in favor of Wilson. It seemed that the prosecutor came out trying, from the very beginning, to defend or justify the no indictment return (not a verdict, by the way).

      That immediate justification attempt by the prosecutor was very, very telling, and I believe, led to much of the anger.

    • profile image

      Ann 2 years ago

      I've followed Greta for a while and have seen her do this more often than not. To me, it's very cult-like behavior on her part. "Appease me and please me or I will banish you in a very humiliating and public display for daring to displease The Mistress!"

    • profile image

      Chas 2 years ago

      I think your poll results prove your point in that the participants were divided on whether Wilson should have been divided but nearly unanimously agreed that law enforcement is racist towards black people.

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      JT Eberhard 2 years ago

      I was once very good friends with Greta. It kills me to see what she has become. So many at Freethoughtblogs (I used to write there myself) do this regularly: blocking out contrary opinions and convicting them of being terrible people without any interest in conversation.

      They do this under the guise of holding the moral high ground and stopping harassment, but they do it to perfectly kind people - many of whom share the same ultimate goals.

      It's just sad. :(

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 2 years ago from Michigan, USA

      I haven't been following the Ferguson case very closely -- for the very same reason that gave you problems: people on both sides reflexively picking an ideological position before knowing all the facts. It makes me sick, and I'm tired of it.

      That aside, don't feel too bad about being blocked from Greta's blog. From what I've heard from numerous sources (including the comments above), FreeThoughtBlogs has become anything BUT "free thought." I must admit, I don't visit them, but the reports I've seen match your "my way or the highway" characterization to a tee. It seems that it's just as dominated by groupthink as any creationist or apologist blog site.

    • profile image

      Fustian 2 years ago

      Author,

      Serious typo in the paragraph immediately above "To conclude".

    • profile image

      big daddy oreo 2 years ago

      If darren wilson was black we would not be having this conversation.

      If I was in charge I would have white policeman go undercover as black cops much more often to avoid racial tension

    • profile image

      brian 2 years ago

      If I was a cop I would prefer to have black skin. Black skin would be like a security guard for a security guard.

    • profile image

      Emery Emery 2 years ago

      Having your mind changed by the prosecutor may not stick after you watch this: http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word

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      Arick 2 years ago

      I was blocked for saying that she was using special pleading for defending abortion rights via an argument of self-ownership while denying libertarian arguments as "bullshit" for insisting that physical force wasn't a violation of self ownership, although I agreed with her stance on abortion. She could have said any number of things. Such as "Yes, but we have to decide what is for the greater good" or "so what", or "I disagree because ....", or "I don't want to have that discussion now" or she could have just ignored the comment. Instead she said "fuck you [...] blocked".

      There were two previous occasions where I commented on her posts in the form of being contrary that also were met with unprofessional and unsophisticated childishness. On Columbus Day, I called her out when she implied Columbus used smallpox blankets against natives, which she conflated with an unrelated centuries later incident. She also made fallacious ad hominems against Peter Boghossian, which I politely pointed out.

      She doesn't have to agree with me, but I do expect her to honestly defend her positions instead of blocking those that oppose her or those that calmly point out errors.

      I find her intellectually dishonest and I do not respect her as an ambassador for reason.

    • profile image

      Lester Ballard 2 years ago

      Free Thought Blogs is just an echo chamber. People like Meyers and Christina are just fundies without the Christianity.

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      Some Guy Who's Been On The Internet For A Looooong Time. 2 years ago

      Welcome to 2011. That's just the reason they're called "Social Justice Warriors" or SJWs- the term was coined on a play of "White Knight", to describe people who fight for Social Justice in an extreme or irrational manner.

      And boy, have I been blocked by people, these "Warriors", even for the most idiotic and irrational reason. One even being for pointing out that John F. Kennedy would be considered quite conservative by today's standards because of his values and even the fact he was a devout Catholic.

      All I would have to say is to stay FAAR away from these people.Don't even bother arguing with them. They will never budge from their dogmatic worldview. From just a second's observance you can be able to tell that they don't like nor do they care about opposing views or opinions, as they "know" their views are on the "right side of history" and are thus "fact". Their only weapon is emotional gaslighting which usually includes such fallacies such as 'tu quo-que', 'strawmanning', 'ad hominem', 'loaded questions', and of course, their all-time favorite, 'cherry-picking'.

      Best of luck,

      Anon

    • ginosblog profile image

      ginosblog 2 years ago from Florida

      I am not Black so I am not going to convict the Officer because he is White, but it does look as if the Young Man was charging him from the evidence and being Black or White, or any color, when an Officer of the Law says get on the ground or move to the curb, or whatever, that is what you are going to do! Do not provoke the Officer. There is to much stress in America because of Obama's policies, number 1 and number 2, gangs of illegals, bloods, MS13, skinheads, and the like. I could go on but I feel this will give you something to think about. Force should not be needed but sometimes they have no choice and the juces are flowing.

    • profile image

      big daddy oreo 2 years ago

      I hear that darren wilson is going to change his skin color to black and live as a black man. That way he will be safer.

    • profile image

      atldirtybird 2 years ago

      Black skin would make me look like a legit badass!

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      MosesZD 2 years ago

      12 men and women representing the racial and gender demographics of St. Louis County found, after reviewing ALL the evidence there was no basis to charge officer Wilson pretty much decided it for me.

      Until then, unlike the SJWs who demanded an immediate lynching without the facts, besides some liars on TV, I was neutral. Not because I don't care, but because I recognize the lynch mob and have learned, over the years, that these kinds of media-driven stories tend to be overwrought and overblown and fall apart.

      This, sadly, doesn't seem to lead to people recognizing the media is close worthless and predjudiced in its own way (liberal or conservative). But, rather, makes people distrust honest and competent people who, doing their jobs, find the media-driven narrative to be just so much BS.

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      Helen Pluckrose 2 years ago

      I'm English and don't know enough about the case for my opinion to be worth much. Before reading this, I'd thought it had been established that Michael Brown had his hands up and was offering no resistance. I do admire the thoughtful and reasonable way you have considered all the information you have access to and I would do even if I had come to a different conclusion.

      Greta Christina blocked me for suggesting that if she had the time & energy to swear at and abuse people asking her polite questions, she might as well actually address the questions. I'm a feminist concerned about racial discrimination & homophobia so I too am concerned about well-intentioned people having knee jerk reactions, shutting down discussion and becoming furious with any disagreement or even questions. We simply can't make any progress if we don't stay calm and retain our respect for evidence and reason.

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      delariva 2 years ago

      I too was banned from Greta's blog (long-time reader, first time commenting), back when she was attacking Sam Harris over some comments he made about a lack of female readership. Pattern was the same: A pious display of moral superiority backed by false dichotomy. Either you agreed with her opinion in full or you supported misogyny, the harassment of women and whatever other ridiculous claims that only served as a silencing tactic. When Plan A fails to hush dissent, resort to profanity and blocking. Edit comments of others to keep in line with narrative, as seen fit. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      What's most frustrating about all this is that the fervor of her attacks seem directly proportional to the competence of opposition (and again, I say this as a former longtime reader). The more reasonable and articulate a point of disagreement, the quicker she is to morph into this hysterical caricature of a human; arms flailing, feet stomping, "...THEN GET THE HELL OFF MY BLOG!" You sure showed them, Greta. :/

      Anyway, my point is someone who repeatedly acts this way lacks a fundamental respect of other like-minded humans and is therefor not worthy of your continued respect/support. I would advise you to find less toxic people who advocate whatever causes lured you to FTB in the first place.

    • profile image

      Schmoey 9 months ago

      Agree with your article 100%. There is an epidemic of unjustified violence by the police against African Americans in this country. I simply wasn't convinced that the shooting of Michael Brown was a clear cut example of it (I speak of the shooting, not the handling of protests or anything else that happened). I saw a great many people whom I considered otherwise good skeptics, abandon their skepticism because emotions ran high.

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