Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Stink at Skeptic Ink

[UPDATE: Justin Vacula has posted that he was blindsided by the public announcement of his departure from Skeptic Ink Network (SIN). This is very troubling. I still say that Loftus as co-owner of SIN gets to decide who does or doesn't blog on his network, but his handling of the affair - and his unseemly gallop towards the atheism-plus side since then - definitely make me re-evaluate my opinion of him.]

The news that Justin Vacula is leaving Skeptic Ink Network has set off a Category F-5 shitstorm. Some of the most prominent Slymepitters are throwing around conspiracy theories and demanding the release of confidential communications on Skeptic Ink's "back channel", and of course that little twat @ool0n is gloating. It's all very predictable in a sad and yet amusing way.

I'm going to be the contrarian here. Yes, the situation could have been handled better. Instead of giving the impression that Justin was fired while somewhere over the Atlantic returning from the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin, John Loftus and Ed Clint (it seems to me) should have given him the chance to put up a farewell post confirming that the split is amicable.

However, at the end of the day, the blog network belongs to Loftus and Clint, and they have the right to set the tone for it, invite who they like to join, and then invite them to leave if the individual's blog is not in keeping with the overall tone they want to set. Let me add though that I have the greatest respect for Justin's activism for church-state separation, and I will continue to follow him on his own site and on Twitter.

This is not another Thunderf00t situation as some are implying. PZ Myers, as the owner of "Freethought Blogs", had the right to terminate his association with Thunderf00t. Nobody has an absolute right to be on someone else's blog network. What was noteworthy about the Thunderf00t situation though was that Myers promised Thunderf00t complete freedom to write about anything he liked, and then quickly went back on that promise while also exposing the hollow lie that FTB is not a hive mind and is open to more than one point of view.

By contrast, Loftus has made it clear all along that he doesn't want to brand SIN as the anti-FTB. He sees Atheism-plus as a passing fad that is already in its death-throes, and he wants to look beyond the end of A+ and deal with wider issues. Indeed, I've always seen SIN as a sanctuary from the endless drama that is roiling the rest of the atheosphere, with more substantial, ideas-driven posts from the likes of Jonathan Pearce, Notung and many others including of course Loftus himself.

Anyway, I will continue to read SIN while those who think Vacula was the only reason to read it can follow him wherever else he goes. Hopefully the dust will settle soon, and while it's a pity to see the online atheist community fracturing further, I'm getting tired of the way the drama has to be injected into everything. Follow who you want to follow, and let others do the same!


  1. No drama, no wild speculation. How do you expect to generate MOAR BLOG HITS?

    Seriously, though, good post.

  2. I'm with you on this. I expressed to John in his post that I think both he and Vacula are making a mistake not being more clear while stating a conflict of interest. If both parties wanted that post to be the final word, it should have been a farewell post without the conflict mwntioned at all. Now it's up to wild speculation.

  3. It is very sad to see Justin, an activist who's honesty and integrity shines through, again treated so badly because he once again 'points out that the emperor has no clothes'.

    "Loftus has made it clear all along that he doesn't want to brand SIN as the anti-FTB".

    If this is true then Loftus is guilty of one of the following: he is naive if he underestimates the schism and the long term implications of not calling out bullshit now, or he is lazy, wanting only to be a bystander while others do the dirty work, or he is weak bowing to political or monetary pressures, or he has taken sides but covertly wishes to appear the calm voice of reason.
    I really hope that Silverman's 'the shit' rant had no bearing on this sad chapter in atheist/skeptic history.