How to pick a team to support

I never really got into following sport. As a child I could see that it was clearly important to many people: adults would talk about the local football (soccer!) team; other children would talk about national football teams; and Saturday afternoon’s television scheduling was devoted to Dickie Davis and Des Lynam discussing scores, performance, tactics, division standings, and so on.

I tried to get into football, as that seemed to be the most popular sport among young boys. At the age of 7 I decided that I should support a team. I picked Liverpool, as they seemed to be (a) very popular, and (b) doing well at the time. I think I asked my mum to buy me a Liverpool holdall for my school bag. My little brother, in contrast, was much taken with the young Gary Lineker and became an Everton follower. This gave us both someone to argue with about who was best – another key aspect of being a sports fan. In keeping with my status as a Liverpool supporter I decided that I really ought to watch a match on TV. So one Saturday afternoon, at 3 o’clock (or whenever it was that kick-off typically occurred), I sat down in front of our wood-veneered TV to watch the beautiful game. Within about 30 minutes I realized that I was utterly bored. I think the next time I watched a game was some 30 years later, when Chelsea played Bayern Munich last May. I watched this match in Maggie Miley’s, together with a couple of friends and my dad; it was really about spending time in a pub with people I like, not the game. Plus it was one of those farcical matches that ends on penalties.

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Congratulations, trolls and misogynists

…for your work here is done. You have managed to chase away an excellent young blogger with your unrelenting harassment. Jen McCreight quit last night:

I love writing, I love sharing my ideas, and I love listening to the ideas of my readers. But I simply no longer love blogging. Instead of feeling gleeful anticipation when writing up a post, I feel nothing but dread. There’s a group of people out there (google the ironic term FtBullies to find them) devoted to hating me, my friends, and even people I’m just vaguely associated with. I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.

I just can’t take it anymore.

I don’t want to let them win, but I’m human. The stress is getting to me. I’ve dealt with chronic depression since elementary school, and receiving a daily flood of hatred triggers it. I’ve been miserable. And this toxic behavior is affecting all parts of my life. With this cloud of hate hanging over my head, I can’t focus or enjoy my hobbies or work. It has me constantly on edge with frayed nerves, which causes me to take it out on the ones I love. I spend most of my precious free time angry, on the verge of tears, or sobbing as I have to moderate comments or read what new terrible things people have said about me. And the only solution I see is to unplug.

So, vile scum, do you feel happy now? Have you got a glowing sense of accomplishment? Are you virtually high-fiving each other? What’s next? Are you going to put your feet up and retire, or will you shift your attention to other champions of equality and social justice?

I have a suggestion. Go away and don’t come back. Enjoy your freedom of speech, but do it in a place where people who are full of awesomeness do not have to attend to it. This is exactly why Jen proposed the idea that became Atheism+: to define a space you do not get to destroy. Though Jen may have stopped writing about atheism and feminism, she has started something new, and the idea will continue to grow, even if she takes a less active role.

Jen: I am sorry to see you go. I have been reading blag hag for years now and know that you are an important part of the freethought/atheist/skeptic movement. I hope you come back. More importantly, I hope that you can cope with all the hate and move on, knowing that you have the support of thousands of people who have enjoyed reading what you have written, and have been inspired by your words and ideas.