Sunday, December 30, 2012

David Quinn, Politeness and the One-Sided Conversation

David Quinn has written recently on the need to move away from insults in online discourse. It's one of those likely rare topics on which we agree - I find insults lazy, tawdry and generally counterproductive. If your strongest argument is your belief that your opponent is a 'toerag' you have little in the ways of convincing material and your efforts will most likely weaken the cause you support.

He's published a Twitter 'code of conduct' which I read with interest:
"Twitter Code of Conduct needed. 1; no abusive language. 2; address arguments 3; assume the good faith of the other person"
I'm not in a position to promulgate how Twitter is best used, but I was heartened a little to see that these three rules match neatly how I tend to interact online. I slip from time to time; I'm human after all, but I find my most popular posts and most interesting conversations flow from a beginning of engaging with someone of different views using evidence, reason and polite language.

I've written about David Quinn's work with vaccine denial groups before, and the fact that his message is unpopular with women. I've also wondered aloud why the Iona Institute benefits from charitable tax status but I've neither insulted him personally nor used foul language. It came as some surprise to me to find out I was blocked:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tax Breaks, Vaccine Denial and Irish Pro Lifers

It's a time of hardship for a lot of us. Tax is up, the carer's allowance has been decreased and most of us are making do with less. Still, it comes as small consolation to remember that as a nation we provide tax breaks for many worthy charities who do important, vital work. However, amongst the dedicated, effective and admirable groups there are a few interlopers perhaps undeserving of tax payers' assistance.

I've mentioned before that the Iona Institute is freed from the shackles of many tax obligations. You can see their company, Lolek Limited, is listed on the Revenue's list of authorised charities. (Compare the charity number there to that listed on Iona's website.) I pop back to this Revenue list from time to time when investigating various groups and have found many names gratifyingly absent. I should also add that I bear the Revenue no ill will in this matter; they merely enforce the rules and are not the body who decided the criteria for charitable status. (Late addendum: this means donors can either write off some of their tax bill against the donation, or get the Revenue to add to their donation, depending on their tax status.)

Recently a video made by the American group EWTN has been excitedly shared through Facebook and Twitter. (Bebo was not checked.) It was designed to solicit prayers and donations for Irish anti abortion groups. Perhaps surprisingly, it has been promoted most heavily by those of us on the pro choice side, largely due to one ridiculous hat:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé and Cameroon's Criminal Incarceration

Early last year Roger Mbédé sent a text to another man. It read "I'm very much in love w/u". For this apparently heinous crime he was sentenced to three years in prison, his infraction earning the official title of "homosexuality and attempted homosexuality".

He's already served a year in penance for this private expression of love, and faces two more in harsh conditions if he is not pardoned. The excellent is calling for Roger to be pardoned, and for Cameroon to fulfill their obligations under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Please sign their petition. If you can, consider a small donation.

I made the below image from the Twitter profile pictures of's followers. Zoom in to see some of the thousands of faces of those who support him and want Cameroon's unjust law repealed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Live Action, Youth Defence, and the Return to the Magdalene Laundries

"... back in the olden days of yore, when there was a standard – and when if you got caught having sex before marriage, you would get your butt beat and get sent off to Ye Olde Forbidding Nunnery & School For Wayward Girls – there were a lot fewer teenagers having sex." -Kristen Walker Hatten,
I greeted news that Youth Defence is now open about their US-based financing with mixed delight. True, the myth that they are the voice of the silent Irish majority can only be damaged by this approach. But I worry that their true colours may show more clearly when they drop the pretense of being strangers to the worst excesses of anti abortion activism in the USA.

Take the opening quote. It hankers back to a simpler time, where Magdalene laundries prevented abortions by incarcerating those women who dared be raped, judged lascivious by village elders, or - horror of horrors - choose their sex partners without church approval.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

@ProLifeAtheists and the Damascene Conversion

"By sticking steadfastly to religious arguments, the prochoice advocates who organised this march have shown they are out of touch with the modern debate – a debate which includes people of all faiths and no faith. Just look at @secularprolife, @prolifeatheists and many others for examples." - Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chair of, via 
"The Church is entitled to contribute just like any other group in society but the fact remains that abortion concerns human rights, not religion. The Journal readers can see this from groups like @secularprolife, @ProLifeAtheists, PLAGAL and of course the writings of secularists Nat Hentoff and the late Christopher Hitchens." - Cora Sherlock, Deputy Chair of, via
Sad that you don't respect beliefs of others & feel need to make abortion a religious discusion. It is not. See @secularprolife or @ProLifeAtheists for eg. U must know argument will be list on human rts grounds

Atheism is the absence of belief in gods, nothing more, nothing less. Being both an atheist and opposed to legal access to abortion is not an incoherent position, though it would be inconsistent for an atheist to advance a religious argument against abortion.

Still, I was a mite curious about this @ProLifeAtheists group. Who were they? Could they be what I was looking for - a majority Irish group?