Defending Deveny

The stereotyping of atheists as ‘militant’ has now become so common it’s even used as a perjorative by atheists against other atheists.

“No, I don’t believe the state should fund religious schools,” I said at a recent meeting of the Sunshine Coast Atheists.

“Oh, so you’re a militant atheist, then?” responded one of our more elderly members as I sat before him with my fluffy blonde hair and blingy earrings, sipping mildly on a glass of white wine.

Militant? Moi?

As my friend Warren Bonett notes in The Australian Book of Atheism (Bonnett, ed. 2010, p. 328), think of a religious militant and you’ll most likely picture someone wielding a gun. Think of a militant atheist and you’re likely to conjure up an image of Richard Dawkins with a bit of colour in his cheeks.

Yet, Dawkins’ critics routinely accuse him of being ‘militant’, ‘shrill’ and ‘strident’. Anyone who has heard Dawkins speak should be able confirm that his calm, mellifluous tones and reasoned arguments are anything but strident. At worst, he may sometimes throw in a cheeky one-liner. But strident? Militant? Loud? Aggressive? No.

So, why this misperception? Why do people project these kinds of negative attributes onto others? Of course, some people actually are militant, shrill and strident. But could it be that, in some cases, there’s a kind of auditory illusion in play? Could it be that because Dawkins says things that make people uncomfortable; breaks the social taboo which says that religious beliefs must be ‘respected’; and, refuses to ‘stay in his place’ as a tweedy, bookish, Oxford don, he is perceived to be something which, viewed dispassionately, he clearly is not?

Here’s Dawkins defending himself against the charges:

This kind of misperception can also arise out of the cultural bias of gender stereotyping. Even in today’s enlightened society, powerful females are routinely castigated for failing to conform to social expectations. Sadly – even amongst the liberal intelligentsia – there’s a deeply ingrained, perhaps even subconscious, belief that ‘mouthy’ or assertive females with strong opinions should just ‘shut the fuck up’.

For example, when ABC journalist, Leigh Sales held Tony Abbott’s feet to the fire on ABC’s 7.30 program, recently, she was branded as shrill and aggressive. For some, a woman publicly holding a man to account is deeply discomfiting. Perhaps that’s why Liberal Party strategist, Grahame Morris, carped, “… Leigh can be a real cow sometimes …”

In similar vein, I’m reminded of Alan Jones’ suggestion that Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, should be ‘put in a chaff bag and dumped at sea’.

As the recipient of this kind of criticism, myself, I should not have been surprised at the fall-out from Catherine Deveny’s appearance on ABC’s Q&A this week. Deveny’s opposition to Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, resulted in an onslaught of vitriolic criticism and abuse – even from those who claim to support her positions on asylum seekers, same-sex marriage and women’s equality.

Even the Australian weighed in with an editorial reprimanding Deveny and the ABC for failing to show the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney ‘proper regard’ and ‘respect’.

While the Australian characterises (or more accurately, caricatures) Deveny as mocking, crude, crass and intolerant, Jensen is ‘frank, concerned and conciliatory on homosexual health issues’. Deveny, we are told, was guilty of ‘shouting down’ the Archbishop.

The criticism on Twitter went into overdrive. According to comments on the #qanda Twitter stream Deveny is: an ugly, extremist, stupid, unintelligent, idiotic, thoughtless, self-righteous, self-centred, self-absorbed, nasty, confused, frustrated, bitter, twisted, humourless, un-funny, unreasonable, unrespectable, disrespectful, sarcastic, mocking, catty, hateful, boorish, blustering, bullying bitch.

What’s more, she is: combative, vicious, shouty, loud-mouthed, arrogant, aggressive, angry, abrasive, childish, silly, garbled, inarticulate, intolerant, hypocritical, pathetic, disgraceful, disgusting, rude, condescending, bigoted, preachy, patronising, dogmatic, offensive, immoral, discriminatory and ‘up herself’.

Deveny, her critics tell us, is not only irritating, but fucking annoying, embarrassing and cringe-making. Lathamesque, she is a useless, satanistic, psycho, nutter, hysterical, raving lunatic, bogan, dickhead, troll and PC thug who acted like an absolute tit and brought down the tone of the whole program with her tiresome schtick.

Her own worst enemy, Deveny was, apparently: ridiculous, a graceless, uncouth pundit – mutton dressed as lamb – and her awful, outraged, rehearsed ranting turned into a train-wreck as (loving the sound of her own voice) she yelled everyone down while spouting only t-shirt slogans. This ‘showboating #%^*+•’€|£ ‘ should, according to the Twitterverse, learn to debate without yelling, shut her pie-hole, shut the fuck up, be gagged, have a sock put in her mouth, have a burqa thrown over her and go to hell.

Some critics decided that abusing Deveny on Twitter was ‘a step not far enough’. Eager that she should not miss their valuable opinions on her Q&A performance Dev’s been receiving email:

“You lack manners and the ability to listen to others showing no decorum or any social graces,” writes NJ (male) in an email headed ‘Motormouth’.

“Didn’t you hear us all yelling at you to just shut up?” writes AR (female). “You are not clever – you’re just plain rude and you continue to set back the cause of women every time your very loud voice trumps those of others we would all like to hear.”

“Why does it come as no surprise to me (and many others) that you are not married,” writes Jason of Brisbane who doesn’t have the testicles to give a last name.

Jason’s tirade, entitled “Arrogant annoying shifty bitchiness” includes the following gems:

“I doubt you can find one man that could bare [sic] to even sit down to dinner with you for 30 minutes.”

“Can’t wait for the revolution where we shoot all the extremists on the left and right who just get off on grandstanding on issues in which they will never make a dent in anyone’s opinion.”

Then, tellingly:

“… my mother was just like you, she was full of just as much deflective shit, living her own lies and never able to hold her tongue, never wrong. I don’t even talk to her anymore for the same reasons I can’t stand listening to anything you have to say, even when I agree with you, actually especially when I agree, it makes me question those beliefs when they align with crazed bitches like yourself.”

“Don’t bother replying,” Jason signs off, “I am [an] evil white male who couldn’t give a fuck what you have to say, but thanks for reading what I had to say bitch.”

TH (an agricultural specialist, apparently) was more succinct: “What a great display your listening skills, tolerance of peoples [sic] beliefs and your sense of humour you fat disgusting loud slag.”

Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? How could so many people be wrong? It’s very clear from the criticisms directed against her that Deveny rudely talked over her fellow panellists, shouted, yelled and dominated the conversation.

Or did she?

Yesterday, I spent a very long, boring day undertaking a forensic examination of the transcript of Monday’s night’s episode of Q&A. It yielded some fascinating results.

Curiously, as this was one of the rare Q&A’s where the women (Catherine Deveny, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Anna Krien) outnumbered the men, the male guests (Peter Jensen and Chris Evans) still managed to dominate the conversation 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Far from being drowned out by Deveny’s aggressive interruptions, Archbishop Peter Jensen actually racked up a word count double that of Deveny’s – more, even, than Deveny and the equally loquacious Concetta Fierravanti-Wells combined.

No wonder when Q&A host, Tony Jones, silenced Deveny to give the final word to Jensen, she snapped in frustration, “Yeah, I think he said plenty of words!”

Indeed! In terms of word count, Jensen even spoke more than the host, Tony Jones!

Here’s the word count score card:

Peter Jensen: 2,592 words

Tony Jones (host): 1877 words

Chris Evans: 1,397 words

Catherine Deveny: 1,259 words

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells: 1,242 words

Anna Krien: 775 words

(Anna Krien, interrupted three times by Jones (but not once by Deveny), was effectively sidelined for the evening. She must have been silently fuming at the affront.)

The average number of words spoken by the panellists on Monday night’s Q&A was 1,450 words. Deveny’s contribution of 1,259 words was 13 per cent below the average. Jensen’s, on the other hand, was 78 per cent above the average. Please stop a moment and let that sink in.

Fact: Deveny did not dominate the Q&A panel, nor did she manage to drown out Jensen or any of the other panellists.

So, what about interruptions? Did Deveny really ruin the program by rudely talking over everyone? I checked. The answer is, “No, she didn’t.”

In examining the transcript, I considered an ‘interruption’ as any interjection which stopped the previous speaker from completing their sentence (usually marked by ellipses in the transcript). In some cases, Jones interrupts by his own admission, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but …” and I counted these as well.

Here’s the interruption score card:

Archbishop Jensen (supposedly the most polite panellist) interrupted the host three times. He also interrupted Deveny once. Jensen scores four interruptions.

Deveny was far more ‘submissive’ to Jones’s authority than the Archbishop; she interrupted the Q&A host only once. In addition, Deveny interrupted Jensen twice and Evans once, making her ‘interruption quotient’ exactly the same as Jensen’s.

Considering the transcript dispassionately, Deveny was no more or less disruptive* than the Archbishop.

Well, maybe Jensen did manage to speak quite a bit, but, by God, he had to struggle against Deveny’s constant interruptions, didn’t he?

Well, “No”.

It’s true that Jensen was interrupted six times, but don’t blame Deveny! She only interrupted Jensen twice while host, Tony Jones, interrupted him four times. Deveny, herself, was interrupted three times during the course of the program (by Evans, Jones and Jensen).

Perhaps Deveny was allowed to dominate the conversation some other way? Did Jones, for example, displaying his ‘well-known left-wing bias’, call on her to speak more often than the other panellists?

Not at all. In fact, Deveny was only asked to speak four times during the program (and once more by an audience member). Further, despite having been far less verbose than Jensen, Deveny was twice requested to ‘keep it brief’. In contrast, Jones asked Jensen to comment eight times (Krien and Wells, six and Evans, four).

So, of all the panellists, Deveny (along with Evans) was given the least opportunity to speak by the host.

The fact is, criticism of Deveny is based on a biased misperception of her performance.

  • She is accused of rudely dominating Q&A on Monday night, yet she spoke only half as much as Jensen.
  • She was invited to speak fewer times than all the guests except Evans, and only half as many times as Jensen.
  • In addition, she interrupted no more than Jensen did and interrupted the host considerably less.

So, maybe it was just because Deveny was so damn shouty and loud that everyone thought she was taking over the program, eh?


I asked a professional sound engineer to listen to the audio of the program to ascertain whether Deveny’s voice was routinely raised above the volume of the other guests.

His response, after examining the audio, was to say that, as he expected, Q&A’s audio director ensures the sound is compressed and filtered so that all voices come through at a consistent level ‘within tolerances below which pretty much any normal person could detect.’

In other words, even if Deveny had been shouting (and there is no evidence that she was), there is no way a viewer could tell that from watching the program online or on television.

The sound technician explained:

“All radio and TV audio is heavily processed in the desk in the first place and then again via a finalizer before being broadcast – there’s very little variance in volume. With what was broadcast, there’s no way for a non-physical audience member to prove Catherine Deveny shouted or even noticeably raised her voice.”

So, did Deveny yell, shout or raise her voice on Q&A? Certainly not so as any armchair critic could notice. If they thought she was ‘shouting’ it was because of their own biases, not because the volume increased when Deveny spoke.

Presciently, Deveny noted the tendency to portray women negatively in a recent article about the cyber-bullying which saw, celebrity, Charlotte Dawson admitted to hospital.

“Men speak, women are outspoken. Men have opinions, women are opinionated. Men are passionate, women rant. Men have mouths. Women are mouthy,” Deveny observes.

“Having the misfortune of being born with an opinion and a vagina, I am no stranger to these trolls who try to get my attention on an hourly basis. Women who colour outside the lines cop a hundred times more vitriol than men and it’s a thousand times more vicious.”

It is interesting that, according to Deveny, Peter Jensen specifically asked to be seated next to her on Q&A. Was it strategic? Did Jensen intentionally pitch his delivery to contrast favourably with hers? If so, it seemed to work – although not all viewers were taken in.

As Ruth Liston (@ruthieboots) commented on Twitter:

“The gross violence of Jensen’s soft-spoken misogyny and homophobia is infinitely more harmful than Deveny’s well-meaning brashness.”

Similarly, @bijayci ** noted:

“… [Jensen] gave out more jibes and insults than loud deveny but in [a] smoothe [sic] smarmy voice to fool all.”

@DavidW2035 agreed, tweeting:

“Just because you are sexist and homophobic in a genteel way does not make your words less aggressive.”

So, what was Deveny’s crime?

She went on to Q&A and argued eloquently for the plight of asylum seekers.

“It is extraordinary that we’re not doing our basic obligations as signatories to the UN Refugee Convention. We shouldn’t just be doing what the UN suggests we should be doing, we should be doing so much more. We have so much to give,” she said.

“Detention centres are well known to be factories for mental illness. It’s just not good enough.”

“Do you know how many terrorists have arrived on boats into our country? Zero.”

“This is not about stopping the boats, this is about starting the planes.”

Then, she argued for the right of same-sex couples to marry – even though she doesn’t believe in marriage herself:

“For me rights are rights. It doesn’t need an argument. People are people and nobody should be able to stand in the way of how people want to celebrate their love.”


No. In fact, she told Jensen, “I do support your right to discriminate within your religion”.

And, (quite rightly, in my view), she warned the Archbishop that advancing the antediluvian view that wives should be submissive to their husbands is hardly likely to improve the alarming decline in church attendance.

Why should that be sugar-coated; especially in light of the argument from audience member, Bronwyn Fraser, who said:

“I work with Christian cultures – women in Christian cultures overseas who do have this biblical wife submission approach to marriage and they also report some of the highest levels of domestic violence and sexually-based violence.”

No matter how softly phrased, how gently put, Jensen’s views, combined with the power inherent in his position, do real harm to real people.

I cannot for the life of me understand why Deveny should have been required to pander to his passive-aggressive proselytising.

When the Archbishop failed to denounce the smear-campaign and fear-mongering of the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace (please refer to my blog post on this shameful propaganda), Deveny responded, not with propaganda, but with the view shared by the overwhelming majority of peak mental health bodies:

“… homosexuality is not a health risk. Homophobia is a health risk. Hate kills. Hate causes suicide. Hate causes self-harm and hate causes depression. It’s not homosexuality, it’s homophobia.”

After the program I had two phone calls. The first, was from from Gregory, a gay male friend – a mature, professional man in a stable same-sex relationship. He said that, despite having long since come to terms with his sexuality, Jensen’s words had shaken him badly.

He said:

“I’ve gotta say that Peter Jensen’s words on Q&A Monday night were very cutting, I was yelling at the TV and was more than impressed to have Catherine in her quiet, direct way, taking him to task. It’s so disheartening to listen to someone like Jensen say he wants to talk about the facts then make an outrageous suggestion that gay people have a shortened life span. And I mean disheartening. It’s been one hell of a week. Religious type people make false claims and then reinforce their own mistakes as if they’re right. The impact on my well-being is quite astounding. I can certainly see how it could have a huge negative impact on a young gay person who may not have built up a life-time of resilience.”

His outrage, he went on, “was further compounded by people [being] so critical of Catherine Deveny. It was distressing to have people saying that she was out of order, but somehow it was acceptable to let Jensen say those things unchallenged.”

The second call I received was from Carol, the mother of a gay teen.

“I can’t tell you how much it meant to Nathan and me to have Catherine Deveny stand up and defend gay people so passionately!” she said.

“As far as I’m concerned, she was incredibly restrained. As the mother of a gay child, and knowing what he’s been through, I wanted to punch Jensen!”

“People – interviewers –” she explained, “let Jensen’s kind of homophobic remarks go through to the keeper all the time. I find it infuriating! Catherine didn’t let it go through to the keeper. That’s the difference between kids committing suicide and not committing suicide and Jensen didn’t even seem to care!”

It is true that Deveny was outspoken in her views on religion. But she didn’t simply launch, uninvited into a rant about the Bible. She spoke only after an audience member specifically asked for her view. In Deveny’s opinion (and, having written and performed in a one-woman stage show on religion, she has done her research), the Bible is, “… basically social engineering embedded in fairytales and horror stories which is just chock full of homophobia, misogyny, discrimination and division.”

You may not agree, but it is her opinion and why shouldn’t she express it? Did anyone object when Jensen launched into a virtual sermon towards the end of the show?

Deveny believes that, despite thousands of different interpretations of the Bible, the only thing they can all agree on is homophobia, misogyny, discrimination and division. That seems pretty accurate given the preoccupations of Jensen and the ACL. Should Deveny have been too polite to point that out? If so, what the hell was she there for?

So why is Deveny being so heavily criticised?

What if Jensen had been spouting racist propaganda? Would it have been deemed appropriate for her to respond to that with a soft voice dripping with demure, feminine reserve? Is it because Jensen was only misogynistic and homophobic that she is being targeted?

Any way you approach it, the outrageous criticism of Deveny only make sense if we understand that her performance was viewed through the filters of cultural, gender and religious bias.

Deveny’s sin is to be an outspoken woman, fearlessly breaking the taboo that says the religious beliefs of others are sacred and should not be publicly attacked. This is a taboo which has kept the religious perpetuation of domestic violence, child rape, child stealing, third-world poverty and the evasion of taxes under the radar for centuries. I think it’s a taboo that has done way more harm than good.

Catherine Deveny did nothing wrong.

She did nothing more than stand up to a passive-aggressive religious bully who consistently abuses his elevated position in society to impose his religious views on others, argue against equal rights for his fellow Australians, support the status quo and disseminate shameful propaganda which does real harm to real people.

I only wish there were more men with balls the size of Catherine’s.

Chrys Stevenson

*(To be fair, my analysis shows Deveny might be said to have interjected twice (as opposed to interrupting). The distinction is that Deveny started speaking after the previous speaker had finished their sentence. She did not speak over them or cut them off mid-sentence. Neither of Deveny’s interjections were to Jensen. Fierravanti-Wells made a similar interjection to Krien.)

Need to check my stats? Here is my working document: Q&A Working Document – Transcript

** A reader has noted that I wrongly attributed this tweet to @stephjudd. I apologise for the error. I expect I misread a reply from Judd, but I should have been more careful. Steph Judd does not share the view expressed in @BiJayCi’s tweet. Apologies to both Steph Judd and @BiJayCi.

Related Article:  The Blokeyness Index: blokes win the gender war in Australia’s 4th Estate – Chrys Stevenson in the King’s Tribune

(A substantial part of this article is available free. The whole article can be accessed for a small charge.)

264 thoughts on “Defending Deveny

  1. matt peake says:

    i love you Gladly~ thanks Chrys xxx

  2. Leftymatt says:

    I’m not sure why we shy away from “militant”. I regularly describe myself as a “militant atheist”. Own the fucker, sez I.

  3. Your talent is amazing Chrys, in a very Chateaubriand sort of way.

  4. The trouble with you, Chrys, is that you challenge the feigned outrage by quoting facts!
    Call yourself a journalist? That is no longer de rigueur for journalists in Australia …

    • Allan, I’m not a journalist and don’t pretend to be. I’m just a no-frills writer and blogger.

      • AAC. says:

        And that is why you write so damn honestly. I abhor journalism, I don’t watch tv (except I did catch this episode at my mum’s house) and I refuse to read newspapers or tabloid mags. Though I do sneak a peek at the doctors and the dentists just to reaffirm that they are full of lies and pooh. I was the first person to denounce the Kristen Stewart/Rob Pattinson break up/cheating scandal as a hoax to improve careers of all involved, and it worked too! As for the treatment of Deveny, who I have once had the pleasure of working for, I was disgusted. Not dissimilar to the treatment that one of our finest thinkers, Germaine Greer cops. These are amazing people, people who stand up to the status quo, and get smashed for it. I am behind them 100% and it will continue to be the realists who recognise them. Thanks for writing a proper analysis. I have of course shared it all over fb. Cheers!

  5. Chrys your forensic abilities and clarity of prose amaze me. Thank you for taking the time to do this. Militant is like the way republicans use “liberal” as a slur i the US. The reality is however it is the churches that are militant in the struggle to control everyone else. It is in their nature.

    • Abbie Noiraude says:

      I agree…your forensic ability, your clarity, and your ability to pare down the facts to pure truth makes me sigh with relief. Wish Journalism students could read and study you…you are the zenith!
      Thank you for all this work…astounding.

  6. I agree with Lefty Matt, that atheists should own, “militant” – the model for this is Mickey Wienstein

    but if they are going to be militant they ought to pick their battles and their battle field much more thoughtfully.

    The problem is that atheists like Catherine often use polemic when they should debate – and this is what Catherine did on Q&A – and it was a mistake – she did not debate with Jensen or the audience, she used polemic – which has a place, just not the place she used it.

    It does no one any good to say she did nothing wrong – because she clearly DID come across in the way Jensen wanted her, and perhaps provoked her – but he did nothing wrong – he came on that show to win, and he walked off a winner – by controlling himself and exploiting his opposition’s weaknesses.

    He came prepared to get Catherine to say she didn’t support marriage, but he got way more as a gift when Catherine chose to say extreme things that are not true.

    Catherine could have, and should have, brought her compassionate side – she had, as you note, many questioners to make her points – the gay young man, the woman who talked of violence in societies where women submit,

    Catherine didn’t do anything wrong, but she made a category error – and there is nothing wrong with saying, so – it does her no good to fuel some persecution complex – she wants a fight with these clerics, she has it. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, and don’t perform “God in Bullshit” DURING a conversation with someone trying to act concerned with the issues.

    Chrys, you’ve done a very kind thing in making this argument – everything you say is true, but the rest of the world is not wrong – this was a mistake, and we must accept it and move on.

    Deveny has “been there” for the growing numbers of people in OZ who fly the flag of atheism – its a young an interesting group, but just like gay people, if they wish to be taken seriously, they have to start acting serious.

    So, Jensen won his round – everyone should learn from this. To quote MLK, the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward Justice. Catherine is on the side of this justice of which we speak … but no Jedi mind tricks are going to deal with the fact that Jensen got to act the martyr, and lets face it – he couldn’t be happier in than being in that passion play.

    • Jayel says:

      Have to agree with this assessment.

      • KYM HAMMOND says:

        Indeed. To most of it and especially the polemics cross. I also think Jenson clearly had an end game much larger than than Deveney’s intention to entertain. Great debate from all. Thanks.

    • Di Pearton says:

      I can’t agree that atheists and gays ‘have to start acting serious’. There is no need to play the game by ‘the suits’ rules. Where Catherine Deveney may have been tactically wrong was to show passion in the face of bigotry. Better to ask ourselves why, as a society, do we shrink from passionately expressed argument? I am not a militant atheist but I am a passionate atheist.

      • T says:

        “Passionate atheism” is an incoherent concept. You can be passionately anti-religious or just passionately evangelical about atheism, but I don’t see how you can have a passionate lack of belief in God any more than a passionate disbelief in ghosts, or a passionate indifference to (NEITHER like nor dislike of) tennis.

      • Craig says:

        T, you can have a passionate belief in science though.
        And science has a strong athiest bias.

      • Try “passionate secularist” then, because the issue for a lot of people who don’t believe in God is reducing or eliminating the influence of certain ideas, namely religious ideas which are only justified by reference to God, upon broader society.

        There is no non-religious reason to prohibit same-sex marriage, or to prohibit the teaching of evolution in schools, or to spend everyone’s money on church-run schools.

      • m0g says:

        @T, nice observation, although you can certainly respond passionately to those who seek to take the argument from reason to superstition and trounce the rights of individuals in the process. Lack of passion for a skyfairy is not the issue here, humans rights is. And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of passion for that.

    • tradrmum says:

      This is very close to the point I tried to make in discussing Catherine Deveny’s performance (with Chrys), on Twitter. I make very firmly the distinction that criticising Deveny on matters of tone is ridiculous. Tone doesn’t actually really hurt people, content does (& the actions derived from that content, of course), and in that sense Jensen is clearly a FAAAAAARRRRR greater offense to anybody than Deveny is.

      My issue, as her profile as an ‘outspoken atheist’ continues to rise, is that her content needs to tighten up in an intellectual (academic, fact presentation – not say that she isn’t smart; she clearly is) sense*. I think the days of Deveny being asked on these shows in her capacity as a comedian are done, even though she is actually, a comedian. It does her, nor the very serious issues about which she is passionate, empathic & motivated to champion, any good if she employs witty polemics as her tool. It is in exactly this respect that I’d love to see her improve. That isn’t to say, don’t give ‘em hell, rather use the ample material against people like Jensen, the ACL & the respective sides of politics against them without distracting hyperbole or making the audience feel like you’re road-testing a new routine. Goodness knows that material is damning enough & speaks such loud volumes that there is no need to try to make it look worse than it is.

      I genuinely hope that Deveny can break the shackles that I think her comedic style has put her in & which I think the media are exploiting when they bring her in as a ‘go to atheist’ (rather than comedian), because it seems to me, a waste of a really strong female voice in the ‘atheist landscape’ (if you will) if she is slotted as a polemicist.

      *I also have a minor quibble with her (& Leslie Canold!) about the atheist/agnostic distinction, which is so easily explained, but somehow when questioned in that kind of setting always ends up wibbly. Agnosticism is not the half way point between theism & atheism. But this is just me being equivocal ;-)

      • Neil says:

        I think the problem you are circling around is the that Deveny isn’t a debater but a comedian. Some comedians might be wonderfully disciplined debaters but that doesn’t mean they all are. Comedians have to get used to hecklers and abuse very early on, which tends to reinforce the polemic aspects rather than trying to engage with your opponent and get them to crap in their own bed.

        If atheists in Australia want to improve the way they are treated in public, they are going to need people more suited to the task, and as much as I love and respect Catherine, she is probably too passionate and too eager to soapbox to do the job. I’m not sure she even *wants* the job of the public face of atheists in Australia. In fact I’m sure she doesn’t.

        So who is the person who should have been there instead of her? Who is the Australian Christopher Hitchens we obviously badly need?

      • I’m not circling around anything. Who ever said Catherine was on Q&A as the public face of Australian atheism??? Certainly not me and certainly not Catherine! Catherine was there as an independent commentator and media personality. As far as I know she represents nobody but herself. If the organised atheist community want to groom some media spokespeople and schlepp them to the media (e.g. Jason Ball) I’d heartily support that, but that should not mean that people who just happen to be atheists, like Catherine, should not be allowed to speak on the subject in their own way without the whole damn atheist community having a conniption! Before you start criticizing Catherine (who does NOT represent the atheist community), take a look at WHO currently heads and is the major media spokesperson for the peak body of atheists in Australia (NOT Jason Ball who is fabulous). Then tell me what message THAT sends to the community about atheists. My advice to the the atheist community is: physician, heal thyself!

      • Di Pearton says:

        70% of marriages in Australia are performed outside of churches. I think that is a telling statistic. For one of the most traditional and important events of their lives people do not choose a church ceremony. The influence of religion is decreasing, without a Hitchens. But a possible candidate might be Phillip Adams, thoughts anyone?

    • What did Catherine say that was extreme and not true? I must have missed that bit.

    • rachthefish says:

      Ironic, because MLKII was on Jensen’s side as a conservative Baptist preacher.

    • TheBabelFish says:

      Sorry, but despite that lengthy, reasoned comment, I have to disagree completely. Jensen, you say, “came on that show to win, and he walked off a winner – by controlling himself and exploiting his opposition’s weaknesses.”

      No, he didn’t. What he did was to use an old showman’s trick (trust me, I’m an old showman) to give feeble-minded people the impression that he had done so. He didn’t fool me, or Chrys, or anyone who understands the principles of rhetoric. In this respect it was oddly reminiscent of the Dawkins v. Pell ‘debate.’ Pell’s fan club in the audience jeered and laughed at anything they didn’t understand, and clearly much of the TV audience was complicit in calling him ‘militant,’ and ‘shrill,’ and ‘strident,’ when he admonished them for doing so and pointed out the intellectual paucity they displayed. Most people probably think Pell ‘won’ that debate, but I incline to the scientific view of the world, which means I do think there is such a thing as objective truth. To anyone with the wit to understand what was actually being said, and to understand the tactics that Pell (much like Jensen last week) was employing, Dawkins wiped the floor with him, as he invariably does when he debates such deluded religious types.

      I was participating in the twitter conversation last Monday, and I was surprised at having to admonish people whom I’d have expected to know better, for contrasting Deveney as a ‘pundit for hire’ with Jensen as a ‘serious theologian,’ and suggesting she should show him more ‘respect’ due to his years of study. I was obliged to remind them that theology is NOT a real subject, and that spending ten years on an in-depth study of one’s own delusions does NOT constitute an education. Why on Earth do we still privilege religious leaders’ opinions as though they were authorities on anything other than their own prejudice and bigotry? Why should we, in short, consider them as anything other than pundits for hire?

      I do agree with your first point – don’t be afraid to own the word ‘mlitant.’ Or ‘opinionated,’ or even ‘loud.’ I am all of these things, and proud of it. I’m militant because when I see something that is wrong, I speak up and I don’t back down. Ever. I’m opinionated because I’m intelligent, so my opinions hold water and carry weight and are thus worthy of being shared. I’m loud because it is so frigging hard to be heard above the hectoring, whinging, whining insults and special pleadings of the bigots, racists, misogynists, homophobes and all the proselytising religious pseudo-intellectuals, who have to be loud because they know their arguments contain not a single fact nor shred of evidence. Jensen demonstrated last Monday just how ‘loud’ it is possible to be in a quiet voice. I don’t think his performance calls for a change of tack on our part, rather we should educate people to recognise his cheap parlour trick the next time they see it.

      • Excellent insight and clarity. Thank you. (And how does one connect with you beyond this forum?)

      • TheBabelFish says:

        Thank you. And an apology – I’m a bit new to this, I thought I’d ticked the box to be notified of responses to my post, but I’ve been getting an e-mail every time anyone made a comment. Having ploughed through them I’ve finally found the one which was addressed to me.
        I have been talked into publishing my own blog, which should be up shortly. In the meantime you can find me on twitter as ‘@TheBabelFishDSM’ and if you DM me an e-mail, facebook or whatever I’ll add you.

  7. Renee Barbour says:

    An excellent analysis, Chris! Watching the programme I was acutely aware that while Catherine spoke with passion, she behaved with decorum and considerable restraint. It is interesting to learn that the Arch. Bish. specifically asked to sit beside her as I had wondered about the seating arrangement. Could he have been hoping to intimidate her or was it to provide a sharp contrast to an expected strident performance from her, or even perhaps hoping to exert a ‘calmimg’ influence on her? One can only wonder. In any event, it was the contemptuous attitude displayed towards Catherine Deveny by Fierravanti-Wells that I found particularly affronting. Mention of what she calls “the chattering classes” while casting a sideways glance towards Deveny really got up my nose. Clearly irritated, she could not sit still as she embarked on a rambling rant about ….??? ( Nothing of consequence that I can remember!)
    Anyway, thank you for this fantastic article.

    • Also notable that after Anna said she was happily agnostic, Fieravanti-Wells spat at her, “Fence sitter.”

      • I disliked Fieravanti-Wells on the night – I don’t feel she brought anything much at all that was good, or interesting to the discussion. I hope they don’t bother with her as a guest again.
        Krien, on the other hand, was excellent, and I would have liked to have heard more from her on the night.

      • tradrmum says:

        Which goes back to my quibble above, that nobody seems to actually understand that being an agnostic doesn’t mean you are a fence sitter. It speaks NOTHING about what you believe, only what you think it’s possible to know. Although Fieravanti-Wells has a point, in that to say you are agnostic is an avoidance of any question about whether you are a theist or atheist. I mean, is it even possible to neither believe, nor disbelieve? Surely if you don’t believe, then……..O_O Siiiiighhh.

    • Trav says:

      Fierravanti- Wells was the only other panelist who said anything at all supportive of Jensen’s views in the discussions on gay issues and submission. She provided a contrast. That wouldn’t be anything to do with your disdain for her, would it? That wouldn’t be why you can’t remember ahything she said, would it?

      And yes, she was contemptuous towards Deveny. But Deveny actually made her look polite in comparison, so I find it hilarious that you found Wells “Affronting”, but you think Deveny “behaved with decorum”. The only response that can be given here is this: Please watch the program again, this time without blinkers on.

      And unlike Deveny, Fierravanti-Wells did actually lay out clear arguments and tried to answer the questions without being controversial and rude, for the sake of being controversial and rude. Q and A has no place for people who are more suited to middle school playgrounds.

      • So Wells’ sneering dismissal of Deveny as one of the ‘chattering classes’ and her dig at Krien for being a fence sitter weren’t appallingly rude? Not to mention referring to asylum seekers as queue jumpers. Suggest you take your own advice and remove your blinkers.

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Trav says:

        Yes Chrys, Wells was rude on one or two occasions. But she made an attempt to engage the issues at all times. That’s what I’m concerned with. Wells made a snide remark and THEN went into her own views, and actually responded.

        Deveny, on the other hand, laced her statements with mockery and left the next person with nowhere to go. As Jensen said..(Paraphrase) “How do I respond to that? Where do I start? I’m looking for a rational discussion and we get comments about Dinosaurs and Elvis”. Big difference between the two.

      • lurker says:

        Why, exactly, should statements that other groups of people are somehow deserving of less than full human rights be treated seriously? They deserve ridicule.

  8. dyoll09 says:

    Reblogged this on AZIAZONE.

  9. Renee Barbour says:

    I would like to add I was not a fan of Catherine Deveny until I viewed the recent asylum seeker programme. Anyone who is prepared to go to one of these hell-holes to experience things for themselves gets my tick of approval.

  10. Johnnyringo says:

    Jensen handed Deveny the shovel, and she dug furiously.

  11. Jane says:

    I haven’t seen the Q&A event, but the comments do npt surprise me. Dale Spender wrote a book (I think it was entitled “Invisible Women”, from memory) in the 1980’s in which she documented, among other things the fact that girls in school were seen to be pushy and loud if they took up 25% of the conversation, against boys 75%.
    In the 1990’s, I was a mature aged student and attended seminars in which even the student who delivered the material (a young woman) was interrupted and not allowed to speak by the men in the class. I walked out and when I explained to the professor involved, he was surprised, but agreed that this was what had occurred.
    The more htings change, the more they stay the same.

  12. Glen Coulton says:

    All the forensic analysis of who interrupted whom and how often changes not a jot of the perception of the admittedly small sample of onside friends of mine who rang me on subsequent days (I did not see the program) to say they found Catherine Deveny shrill and unable to construct a reasoned debating riposte to Jensen. Without exception, they used the word “rant”. They were sadly resigned to the view that her performance set back the cause. It might not be fair but it is true that the way you point out the weaknesses in the position of an establishment figure is at least as important as the pointedness of the barbs you release. It’s tragic when you have the best material but still manage to lose the debate.

    • If women like Dev are considered to be ‘shrill’ maybe instead of telling them to tone it down we should continue to do as I’ve done and challenge the perception. After all, it was once considered shocking and ‘mannish’ for a woman to ride a horse astride. The only way to break down conventions and stereotypes is to challenge them, not give in to the critics.

    • Sarah McM says:

      Maybe instead of dismissing it as “unfair”, you should challenge your friends when they make misinformed and sexist statements? It’s better to be part of the solution than part of the problem.

      • Glen Coulton says:

        Sarah, only just noticed this. In fact, I do when they indisputably are, but their statements do not magically become misinformed and sexist just because someone who doesn’t like them deems them to be. And your deeming me to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution on the basis of nothing more than my even handed reporting of comments freely offered by friends I know to be balanced and intelligent does not inspire confidence in your views on this, or indeed, any related issue.

  13. samquigley says:

    Like Dawkins, Dev just gets a bit shouty and flustered when she’s annoyed. Sure, it’s the normal human response, but it doesn’t serve either of them well in a public debate. There was a reason Christopher Hitchens routinely wiped the floor with creationists, and it’s not because he knew more about evolutionary biology than Dawkins; it’s because he was calm and in control at all times. Of course, he spent much of his life as a professional debater and was driven more by the thrill of the argument than by any real desire to educate.

      • Al James says:

        Actually what your research showed was that no one at home watching could tell if she was shouting. but I actually think there is something in people’s perception that she did shout. No matter what your research tells us about *volume* I think we can all tell when someone raises there voice even if there is no discernable difference in volume. Tone matters, body language matters. Its a bit cheeky of you to make the kind of assertions you’ve made based on just decibel levels ;-)

        I was wandering actually, can you make any comments about the length of the interruptions made by each of the panelists. And just for arguments sake, lets pretend that “interjections” are the same as “interuptions”



      • Glenn Watson says:

        Al, just to reiterate what I’ve posted but which is easily missed in this ever-growing commentary: I was there, she didn’t seem louder than anyone else – it’s just her animated, machine gun delivery.

      • naught101 says:

        This is an excellent article. Only one gripe: You need to get a better ‘sound engineer': “With what was broadcast, there’s no way for a non-physical audience member to prove Catherine Deveny shouted or even noticeably raised her voice”

        This is based *solely*, from what I can see, on the volume of the broadcast. Of course the volume is the same – it’s compressed. There’s nothing surprising about that. But perception of “shoutiness” on TV has almost nothing to do with volume. It has everything to do with tone of voice (pitch goes up when shouting), vocal strain (which is separate from volume), body language, and facial expressions (Is your sound engineer friend from radio?).

        It’s the same on TV sitcoms – voices are all compressed, and volume is relatively constant, but you can still tell the difference between angry shouting, soft, sad whispering, and normal speech.

        I haven’t seen this episode from Q&A, so I’m not trying to say that Deveny *was* shouty – I don’t know. Nor am I saying that shoutiness is bad (and I agree that quiet passive aggressiveness from a pastor [or what ever] is crafty and nasty). But claiming that other people’s perception of Deveny’s delivery is wrong, based solely on volume output from a TV is just plain stupid, and makes you look like you’re taking sides, rather than being impartial (which you seem to be elsewhere in the article).

      • I appreciate your comment but the fact is that many people who watched Deveny, as I did, had no perception at all of her ‘shouting’. Also, an audience member has told us that she wasn’t shouting or raising her voice. The fact remains that people who *thought* Deveny was shouting and castigated her for it were basing this on a misperception. I’ll grant that tone and body language might influence perception, but it seems to me this would only be true if she were, actually, shouting. I believe we have confirmed that she wasn’t, so those who *thought* they either heard or *deduced* that Dev was raising her voice were wrong and it’s fair to assume that there were other factors at play that led to them drawing the wrong conclusion.

      • andre what says:

        > “so those who *thought* they either heard or *deduced* that Dev was raising her voice were wrong”

        That’s all fine – but it would probably be good to amend the stuff about sound engineers, compression and filtering – it’s a bit wrong technically.

      • andre w says:


        But you might you might find it illuminating to talk to a speech scientist rather than a sound engineer.

      • m0g says:

        @naught101, that’s a mighty long post to just say ‘methodology!’

  14. Caroline says:

    Great article, excellent research. My only comment is that Jensen also received many, many negative comments on twitter. I’m not sure if it was more or less than what Deveny received but I know my own contribution was considerable, and I saw many others. Vile, ignorant, clueless, sanctimonious, hatemongering, irrelevant, medieval… wait there I go again.

  15. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Well researched, well written. Great job.

  16. Nice work, Chrys. Agree with every word. I love the Dev’s courage and committment.

    Sadly, though, as the program progressed, I could feel the combined “harrumph”-ing of the mysogynists building to the point where they can now all shout, “The Rev won the debate on style.” Totally ignoring the fact that Jensen’s softly-spoken lies are still lies.

  17. Jude Burns says:

    I’m speaking as an atheist (a militant one) and a Greens voter. I happen to agree with Deveny on many, if not most, issues. I think, however, that Deveny mistakes rudeness and discourtesy for militancy and intellectual rigour. I think she’s thoughtless about how she makes her argument, and there is a tendency to go for the controversial rather than aim for something more contextually meaningful.
    There are better ways of postulating arguments against the likes of Jensen than what Deveny offered up last Monday night. Deveny’s approach merely provides those she’s attacking with an “out.” She personalises the issue rather than tackling the issue. There is a difference.
    Deveny often mocks religious folks as uneducated “dinosaurs.” My encouragement to her is that perhaps she’d make more sense to a broader audience were she to adopt a “smarter” approach in addressing problems that she so clearly finds important enough to address.

    • lurker says:

      “I think, however, that Deveny mistakes rudeness and discourtesy for militancy and intellectual rigour.”

      I think, however, you’re a tone troll and a concern troll.

    • m0g says:

      My encouragement to you @jude, as a militant atheist and a Greens voter, is to get behind this idea that perceptions of tone are exactly the strawman your political opponents want everyone to focus on: “those opinions don’t hold water because they’re expressed in a a shrill, female voice”. You can play the tone game until you win or it goes away, but then you’ll just find yourself playing a new game (ie what’s an agnostic), no more relevant to the core argument. Criticising a participant’s delivery is not getting us any closer to achieving a rational outcome.

  18. Reblogged this on meinthe21stcentury and commented:
    Yet another well written blog by Gladly

  19. Stacie Mayer says:

    I don’t know anyone who attends church of any religion, and I believe the number of people who still regularly attend church has diminished significantly in past decades, yet if you say anything against religion people won’t hesitate in jumping down your throat. Because someone holds a high position in a church does not automatically mean that they deserve respect. Respect is earned, it’s not a given.

    • Jude Burns says:

      I agree entirely about respect and how it’s to be earned. Courtesy, however, is a different thing. Each of us owes courtesy to other members of our society.

      • Glenn Watson says:

        Just before that show, Tony Jones briefed the audience that we were all to be very respectful to each other, but the panelists were people who were used to the cut and thrust of debate and that if we engaged we should say exactly what we think. Deveny is a regular on Q&A because, I suspect, she fulfils the panelists’ brief of providing colourful television.

        And she does make you laugh – but only if you agree with her. She obviously focuses on the incisive coalescence of issues for other atheists and progressives rather than trying to convert bigots. Her problem may be that everyone expects her to do the latter as well.

  20. Paul says:

    The most intellectually rigorous part of this blog post was where you claim that sound compression means nobody can tell if people are shouting on TV. But that excellent point would be obvious for anyone who’s listened to Heavy Metal music.

    • Phil says:

      Sarcasm aside, yes, there are many more elements to communication than sound level, particularly when you can see the person. I felt Deveney’s posture, speaking direction, pacing etc. distracted from the importance of what she was saying. It’s not in any way fair or a reflection of the content, but it did create a false impression of the ‘reasonable and measured’ Jensen versus the ‘bellicose and rash’ Deveney. Which is a damn tragedy considering the poison Jensen was spewing.

      I’ve been trying to come to terms with whether I found Deveney offputting because I’m a man. I don’t doubt that’s a factor for many (and possibly for myself), but I think there’s more to it. ‘Frustrated and disappointed’ are probably my strongest reactions to Deveney.

      I appreciate this column, but the ‘sound levels’ part are a bit of a misdirection.

  21. Chrys — You attributed this tweet to @stephjudd:

    “… [Jensen] gave out more jibes and insults than loud deveny but in [a] smoothe [sic] smarmy voice to fool all.”

    But it was tweeted by @bijayciI. It was @bijayci who accused the Archbishop of being ‘smoothe’ and ‘smarmy’, not @stephjudd.

    Check your facts: . See her comments on Sept 9. It will take you 2 minutes.

    You have prided yourself on getting the facts straight. Please get your attributions right too. I would suggest you amend this. It would also be fair to provide an apology on your page. It’s what honest media do.

  22. Robyn says:

    Is this meant to be science? You’ve chosen the data that you wish to compare.
    Its a bit like a dot matrix fallacy- up close just lots of dots but the big picture is very different

  23. Dear Chrys. I’m confused; you’ve quoted me as tweeting “… [Jensen] gave out more jibes and insults than loud deveny but in [a] smoothe [sic] smarmy voice to fool all.”

    I certainly replied to that tweet, but I’m afraid I was not its author; @BiJayCi was. I’m curious as to how you came to the conclusion that I wrote it?

    To clarify:

    I tweeted this: Jensen didn’t descend into a feud w Deveny b/c he follows a God who turned the other cheek & bore insults & abuse from His enemies. #qanda.

    To which @BiJayCi replied from the depths of the Twittersphere (i.e. I have know idea who she is): ‘@stephjudd oh no how twee #growup’.

    To which I replied: Steph Judd ‏@stephjudd
    “@BiJayCi Hi BiJayCi. I don’t think we’ve met, but why is my remark twee and in what way would you like me to grow up? Thanks.”

    To which she replied: “@stephjudd because he gave out more jibes and insults than loud deveny but in smoothe smarmy voice to fool all”

    I politely disagreed with @BiJayCi’s comment: ‘@BiJayCi Sure, I understand how you might interpret his responses in that way. I don’t think it was smarm, but each to their own.’

    It seems that you might have accidentally mistaken @BiJayCi’s reply to my @ handle as an original tweet from @stephjudd.

    I’d appreciate it if you could perhaps correct this, as I do not think Jensen is full of smarm and certainly did not think he gave out insults and jibes.

    Cheers :)

  24. Thanks Chrys! Yeah, it was a reply, not a retweet. Cheers for the correction.

  25. Freya says:

    So glad you wrote this, and so brilliantly!
    Deveny was magnificent on QandA. I was so deeply offended by Jensen I could barely speak!
    The rage at Deveny was just plain misogyny. Women who speak directly and unapologetically trigger some kind of apoplectic reaction that seems to suspend the ability to listen or to think rationally. The exact same response was given to Gail Dines – whether you agree with her views on porn, she is a rational non-attacking speaker and was accused of shouting, dominating the discussion and being abusive – I read the transcript too – nothing like! Freakish! And don’t forget Greer – she has never been accepted in this country.
    The final sad fact is, that those who speak powerfully will always be attacked, precisely because they are so articulate and powerful – I hope Deveny knows that

  26. Ylf Rackham says:

    That was fucking awesome!

  27. […] a media beating after her appearance on QandA.  The Cross-Eyed Bear writes a damn good Defending Deveny article with very detailed research to back the argument presented.  Check it out.  If you […]

  28. helenbalcony says:

    Fantastic post, Chrys.

  29. Seems to me there are a few different issues here: the unwarranted vitriol against a person speaking their opinions on a show that asks for opinions; the overly-sensitive debate of religion bleeding into social issues that religion has nothing to do with; and a show that has a tendency to stack the deck on every religious debate it hosts. I really appreciate the effort you have gone to for this blog post – it is very detailed and extremely well-written. Personally, however, I find Q&A shows on religion to be a bit of a troll-fest in general. They are always presented in the most shallow way possible to merely raise a few bites from the digital followers. I have no problem with religion and faith and spirituality. I have a problem with someone telling me how to believe in my inherent faith.

  30. Trav says:

    The statistics were fascinating, but unfortunatly this post was simply an exercise in missing the point. No one was criticising Deveny for talking too much. The criticisms were based on the fact that whenever she did open her mouth, what came out was inevitably rude, brash and made no attempt to thoughtfully engage with whatever it was that she was supposed to be responding to.

    The best example I can think of is her deliberate attempt at sidelining Jensen by waving off his theological explanation of submission with a “Because of all your mumbo jumbo”. Making an attempt to understand your opponent and actually engage their comments is something that, whether you agree with her views or not, Deveny simply did not do. THAT was the problem with Deveny. At least, that was my problem. Word counts, whilst interesting, are almost irrelevant.

    • Di Pearton says:

      The format of Q&A does not allow for understanding or engaging debate, and I don’t think that, of all the many guests, we should single out Catherine Deveney for failing to debate effectively. Discussion is inherently difficult between religious leaders and atheists, partly because the very foundations of their arguments are diametrically opposed, as evidenced in the dismal Q&A ‘debate’ with Richard Dawkins and Cardinal Pell.

      • Trav says:

        There are definitely problems with the structure of the show. I think many people, including myself obviously, would agree with you there. My suggested solution is to reduce the number of panellists to either 3 or 4.

        But even so, Deveny still made little attempt to engage constructively. It’s definitely possible and it’s really not that difficult. If everyone talked past each other by choosing to mock instead as Deveny did (Dinosaurs! Medieval, Mumbo jumbo) then the show would become a farce. My impression was that Deveny was in fact trying to turn it into a farce.

      • Di Pearton says:

        I would really like to see Jenny Brocke conduct Q&A. I think Tony Jones is not an effective host.

    • lurker says:

      I have to wonder if you criticise men who have Deveny’s rhetorical style.

  31. badblood says:

    This is just so many different kinds of brilliant. I’m sharing it with everyone I know. Thanks for spending all that time on it!

  32. Di Pearton says:

    “Passionate atheism” is an incoherent concept. You can be passionately anti-religious or just passionately evangelical about atheism, but I don’t see how you can have a passionate lack of belief in God’- I guess I am passionate about my right to not believe in God, and for my lifestyle not to be influenced by those who do believe in God. This is not necessarily anti-religious. I don’t care what people believe in unless they impact on society in a negative way, such as suggesting that being gay makes a person any less a person in any way shape or form.

    • Neil says:

      It is only ‘incoherent’ in the sense that the two words together are being used in a sense that is different that their individual dictionary meanings would suggest. You show that you understand exactly what people *mean* because you mention being passionately anti-religious or passionately evangelical about atheism. This is exactly what people mean when they say ‘passionate atheist’, and you damn well know it.

      Your desire that people use words with surgical precision might warrant respect if it was even possible, but all language is an exercise in imprecision. The meanings of words change according to the needs of users, as do the meanings of pairs of words. it’s not even remotely unusual for a pair of words to be used in a sense that doesn’t exactly match their individual meanings.

      Sorry if this seems like a rant but your objection is utter nonsense. You actually have to make an effort to pretend to not understand what was meant.

      • Di Pearton says:

        Some confusion. My reply to ‘T’, see above, re passionate atheism followed the inverted comma. I would describe myself as a passionate atheist/agnostic, becoming more passionate as church ‘leaders’ step outside their churches to instruct the wider community.

  33. Sue Bell says:

    Clearly to some people, Catherine Deveney seemed very different from others on the panel. I think there are a couple of reasons for this:

    1. Whether it was a deliberate strategy of Peter Jensen’s I don’t know, but Peter Jensen and Tony Jones were dressed like, and acted like, twin ‘silver foxes’. This marked the gesticulating Catherine out as different from the beginning. It is a fact of life that people take visual image into account when they listen to what people say. I happen to agree with Catherine, but in image terms she was at a disadvantage from the beginning.

    2. It is also seems that Catherine was predominately negative / critical in her comments – where Peter Jensen talked positively on a number of points. It is possible that Catherine seemed strident not because of her vocal pitch but because she didn’t mix her critical comments with positive ones.

    Overall, because of how he looked and acted, Peter Jensen did appear to be more reasoned and reasonable than Catherine, but in truth, smooth-talking powerful religious people give me the creeps.

  34. jane says:

    Nice article and valid points

    I dont like Catherines style at all as it puts people off her completely

    Emma Albericci is smart ,aggressive in a more sophisticated manner
    Christine Ammanpour is one of the best female
    journalists in the world

    Leigh Sales should learn from both of them including Waleed Aly

    Journalists who atagonise their guests are ridiculed by many at Universities o.s

    Its foolish and silly


    • Except that Dev isn’t a journalist. She’s a comedian and social commentator. That’s what she’s paid for. There is an expectation that she will not only give social commentary but give it in an entertaining and controversial way. That is her talent and that’s why SHE gets invited on to Q&A (5 times) and you (and I) don’t. You are expecting Dev to be something she isn’t and something I expect that she doesn’t aspire to be.

      • jane says:

        Fair point

        I have seen Catherine at The Wheeler Centre and it shes a smart lady but people laughed at her not with her

        Its tiresome and there are many factual errors in her commentary

        P J O Rourke is controversial yet smart and respected by the left

      • Glen Coulton says:

        Being entertaining and controversial does not preclude being coherent, reasoned and well mannered. Being entertaining, controversial, coherent, reasoned and well mannered gives you a great chance of winning the waverers to your point of view. It seems that Catherine might have confirmed the views of those who already agreed with her but without adding to their number.

  35. jane says:

    Error in previous comment

    Leigh Sales should have been Catherine Denevy

    My mobile makes silly errors

    • jane says:

      Yes i get the point but its not entertaining but stupid and reinforces the wanker Australian in a female form that diminishes our reputation as bogans

      Catherine appeals to the dregs of the middle class

      Bolt is controversial and he got sued.-

      • jane says:

        Helen Razer would be a better replacement next time

        How far do these controversial women intend to go to outrage??

        Show their female parts within the media??

        Sleaze and controversy is a fine distinction


      • lurker says:

        “The dregs of the middle class”? That’s rather classist, don’t you think?

    • Neil says:

      There is no ‘reply’ button on your other comment, so I will reply to it here. You ended your comment with this:

      “P J O Rourke is controversial yet smart and respected by the left”

      That might have been true in 1990 but he has turned into an utter fool. Have you seen his performances on Maher or Stewart’s shows in the last 2 years? Utterly cringeworthy. I was a great fan of his writing for many years but he has taken a very steep path to the bottom.

      Unfortunately this means that your opinion on people laughing *at* deveney can’t be taken even remotely seriously. I suspect you just didn’t get whatever the joke was.

      • jane says:


        Thanks for the reply

        The sneering elitists laugh at her

        I agree PJ O Rourke has lost it with age

        Howard Stern on Letterman still has it!!

        Maybe Catherine falls somewhere inbetween

    • m0g says:

      > How far do these controversial women intend to go to outrage??
      > Show their female parts within the media??

      Instantly thought that you were trolling, but scrolling through it seems like you’ve just had a few.

  36. gwynncompton says:

    Absolutely loved your rational analysis, not only because of your conclusions, but because it was based on verifiable evidence! Of course, the problem with a number of people who criticised Deveny is that their world view is shaped by a view that is devoid of rational analysis of verifiable evidence.

    The types of comments we saw during the Twitter feed (which was the only way I kept up with the show, I was very sad not to be able to see it being over in London), have, unfortunately, become the norm in modern online conduct. I engage in any number of debates on Facebook with people from varying political backgrounds and find the same sentiments we saw displayed towards Deveny.

    In particular, I’ve noticed that such comments generally do come from people who’s opinion is shaped by non-rational, non-evidence based (or evidence of very dubious quality) information, and when called on the thinking and evidence of their opinions, have to resort to vile name calling or threats of violence.

  37. glbray says:

    Perhaps Peter Jensen said more than anyone else because he had more to say. The others were not very articulate, apart from Ms Deveny, who was more into soundbites than reasoned argument.

    I think the trouble with atheism is that it is both negative and parasitic. It is negative because it is against something – and not much else. Atheists come across like a group of the disgruntled who know what they don’t like, but not what they want to put in its place. It is relatively easy to dismiss the convictions of others, but what do you have to offre instead? And can you agree on it?

    Atheism is also parasitic, because if there really were no God, it would not exist. Why do rational, busy people spend so much time arguing against something they insist isn’t there? I do not believe in leprechauns, but when i meet people who do I ignore them. I am certainly not going to spend time trying to refute them, nor would I dream of calling myself an ‘aleprechaunist’. What for? I have better things to do. The fact that so many atheists spend so much time defending their position (or at least stating it as loudly as they can) is really an argument FOR the existence of God, not against it.

    • I think that atheism’s bigger issue is a lack of political objectives

      Both left and right have atheist factions

      But advocating a negative is not politically useful on its own

      Jensen actually has to explain why others should not have same rights and politically this is where the issues lie.

      Deveny also could have found common ground with him on her support for asylum seekers

      Instead she called him a dinosaur – these are blunt instruments, and the boomerang can’t be argued away via forensic analysis. The Australian has run this for three days, the Age called it nuking the fridge.

    • Di Pearton says:

      As an atheist/agnostic (theoretically I do acknowledge that I can’t know what I can’t know) I am deeply offended that you call me a parasite. I don’t care that anyone believes in anything except that the religionists claim a moral high ground, and try to make others conform to their mode of behaviour, in this case producing flawed ‘studies’ to assert that the gay lifestyle is a greater health risk than smoking.

    • Phil says:

      If leprechaunism had been a dominant political institution for thousands of years with incredible influence on people’s lives and society in general, and was still trying to exert that influence in ways that people considered hurtful, it would probably have a stronger objection.

    • “Ms Deveny, who was more into soundbites than reasoned argument.”

      Actually, if you read the transcript, Deveny made some excellent reasoned arguments. But, the Q&A format is not idea for making in-depth arguments. Note that Tony Jones interrupted his guests 18 times during the program. That’s not much opportunity to get your point across. The savvy media performer has some ‘sound bites’ and memorable phrases available to counteract this. Anyone with any media experience knows that, to a certain extent, you HAVE to talk in sound-bites or you’re just going to get cut off.

      Deveny was only given half the time that Jensen was. Her strategy was a good one and would have been exactly what I would have advised given my background in PR and media. What she did was to come prepared and work with the format like a professional media performer.

    • Glenn Watson says:

      “I think the trouble with atheism is that it is both negative and parasitic. It is negative because it is against something – and not much else. Atheists [don’t know] what they want to put in its place.”

      There *is* something in its place. Think about it this way … religion organises itself into churches. Atheism organises itself into secular entities such as the Australian nation, which is not founded on a particular religious conviction. Unlike say Israel, or the US. We also have State governments, local councils, public schools, the ABC, the public hospital system. In other words, the non-religious system is all around us – it’s COMMUNITY. Not that religious organisations don’t or shouldn’t participate – all participation towards the public good by anyone, based on common humanity and compassion, should be welcomed. There are faith-based charities and secular ones. You can have humanity and compassion and community without religious belief – and if that was acknowledged by all religious people we’d be a lot closer to concluding the argument.

      To those who say that these are in fact agnostic institutions, not atheistic – I say that the differences are philosophical, not practical. The difference between living compassionately and humanely without a god, or in active denial of all gods, isn’t much once you remove the religious argy-bargy from it all.

      • Jayel says:

        Nicely said, Glen (although the US actually has constitutional separation of church and state, hard to believe as that is sometimes). The only thing I would say with regard to the opinion that atheism is parasitic is that there has to be a ‘host’ (theism) for there to be a ‘parasite’.

    • lurker says:

      “Why do rational, busy people spend so much time arguing against something they insist isn’t there?” Because theists spend so much time trying to push laws based on THEIR beliefs down our throats. Next question?

    • Sarah McM says:

      Kind of misses the point that people who believe in leprechauns are not an established group with power and money in our society, unlike those who believe in god. There’s no need to be an aleprechaunist, because there’s no group of people with money, power and influence setting themselves up as leprechaunists and trying to deny rights to people who disagree with their views.

  38. Glen Coulton says:

    glbray says, “Atheism is also parasitic, because if there really were no God it would not exist”

    Pardon? But there is almost certainly no god and atheism has to exist simply because religious activists refuse to accept this overwhelming probability. It exists because believers (in all their mind boggling variety) try to force others to share their untenable beliefs and live according to their frequently baseless and illogical rules. Atheists do not seek to be activists but they do have to fend off irrational assaults on their freedom.

    The reason that aleprechaunists do not abound is that leprechauns pose no dire threat to peaceful co-existence. If only religionists were so well behaved…

  39. Luke says:

    Nicely done.

  40. just jay says:

    I prefer the term angry athiest when describing myself – but I’m a big fan of alliteration.

    I didn’t watch the episode but did hear of the fall out around Deveny. I think I might have to go watch the episode myself.

  41. I still find it bizarrely offensive, ignoring the vast majority of the content of this post and the comments, that as a white, middle class male my voice is less valuable. Surely we can move past the idea that a man can’t criticise what a woman says without being inherently sexist, or the idea that us white guys can say (“conservative” “non liberal” or “not entirely left wing”) stuff without it being patriarchal and entitled…

    I’d be interested to know what the gender breakdown of tweeters in Australia is, and whether the number of negative replies to Deveny is proportionate or not.

    • No-one is saying your voice is less valuable, Nathan. By all means criticise women – but criticise them for sins you have some evidence for. The whole point of this post is that Deveny was been lambasted for crimes she clearly didn’t commit. Nobody requires that you have to like her, approve of her approach, or agree with her arguments. What should be required is that her critics address real issues. There is a great deal of gender bias within our culture and I think a lot of it is unconscious. I don’t necessarily think all of it is deliberate – we become used to cultural mores and until someone calls us out on it, we don’t even realise that what we see as ‘normal’ actually isn’t – or shouldn’t be.

      In my previous post I wrote about how it had never occurred to me that not one person in the sporting culture I inhabited for 15 years was openly gay. At the time, it never occurred to me that was unusual. Was I ‘homophobic’ because I didn’t notice the anamoly? No. I was just accustomed to a world in which everyone was heterosexual and really didn’t give it much thought.

      Just so, people often don’t give much thought to the cultural indoctrination which colours their judgements and perceptions. I don’t think men should be crucified for showing gender bias, but I think they should be called out on it and I think, when shown evidence of its existence, they might have the grace to say, “Yeah, that particular criticism was unfair.”

      • Deveny tweeted, in the aftermath, about the number of responses from men. Making gender an issue. The responses were wrong because they were hateful. They weren’t necessarily any more or less hateful because they came from men. References to the gender of hateful people, though some may well be misogynist, are a shortcut to proving a point.

        I’d like to think if a man went on Q&A and said exactly the same stuff as Deveny, in exactly the same way, the response would be more or less exactly the same.

        Abbott cops as much criticism for his stupid and aggressive demeanour as Gillard does for her apparent incompetence – I don’t think it’s necessarily about gender (though certainly in some cases it is for both of them), and it shouldn’t be.

        Maybe it’s just because I’m relatively young – like the boys in South Park’s hate crime episode – and I’ve just been brought up in a society where it’s expected that you’ll insult everybody on the basis of their performance, not their person.

        We should call out misogyny for misogyny’s sake – but the gender balance of panelists, or of words spoken in a show is, to my mind, largely irrelevant. Especially when one of the controls is who is being asked what, by whom. I would have to rewatch – but I suspect the balance of time spent on questions would favour questions asked by women – certainly the most substantial questions were… but this shouldn’t be a factor in assessing whether Deveny is being unfairly treated. Most of the vitriol you’ve neatly captured here is gender neutral and relates to attitude and approach… I’d say three of the adjectives you’ve collated (catty, bitchy, and “mutton dressed as lamb”) were gender based.

      • I hear and see Nathan’s argument a lot.. wonderful reply. wonderful post

      • Sarah McM says:

        “and I’ve just been brought up in a society where it’s expected that you’ll insult everybody on the basis of their performance, not their person. ”

        No, you actually haven’t been brought up in a society where that is the case – despite what you might have seen on South Park.

    • lurker says:

      Nathan, you poor thing, you’re so *marginalised*.

    • m0g says:

      @nathan, as a ‘a white, middle class male’, you’re the status quo. So yes, there’s less value to your perspective, because overlooking it changes nothing. In other words, this isn’t about you. For our society to progress, our responsibility is to spread the privileges you enjoy to people who don’t currently enjoy them (i.e. turn them from priveleges into norms). Your self-interested comments (i.e., your position puts you in a conflict of interest), just slows down the process.

  42. Deveny noted that the vast majority were from men. She also got some very vicious, sexist personal emails (mostly from men) which she shared with me.

  43. Billy says:

    Beautifully said. We were cheering her on. Jensen got owned and he deserved it.

  44. Jane Jenkins says:

    I’m am absolutely astounded (and frankly, a bit creeped out) by the time and effort you’ve put in to your defence of Deveny, particularly when, by publishing it on this website, you are mainly preaching to the converted (if you’ll pardon the pun). Besides which, the number of words she spoke has no bearing on anything really, As the old adage goes, it’s quality (or lack thereof) not quantity. During my examination of the debate, I saw many, many eloquent non-abusive tweets full of valid criticisms that neither of you have the courage to acknowledge.

    Further, I can’t believe that someone who denigrates other women for choosing a particular parentng style can hide behind accusations of misogyny. I’m sure these women would describe her comments as hateful. Why does this not make her a “hater”. Why aren’t you “calling her out on it and asking her to have the grace to say, “Yeah, that particular criticism was unfair.”

    Also, regarding her tweets during the 2010 Logies, I look forward to your lengthy essay on why those comments do not make her a hater or misogynist (or as some people suggested, an advocator of paedophilia or rape)
    (And please don’t try to use the defence of humour because I’ve done a survey of all of my friends and – unlike the tweets of Wil Anderson and others – no one thought they were funny, I can send you a pie chart if you want.)

    PS For what it’s worth I’m female athiest who votes Green and works at a health service for immigrant women.

    • m0g says:

      > I’ve done a survey of all of my friends

      Humour may indeed be a rationale, even if sardonic satire is not to your taste, self-selecting survey population aside. And just to further undermine the currency of your universal standard measure for humour, Wil Anderson is considered by many to be the opposite of funny. What ^is^ universally funny is how subjective we all are, but how little we take that into account.

      Don’t freak out if someone calls your parenting style into question and possible ridicule, it’s ok. We can all stand to laugh at ourselves.

  45. Jane Jenkins says:

    I am absolutely astounded (and frankly, a bit creeped out) by the time and effort you’ve put in to your defence of Deveny, particularly when, by publishing it on this website, you are mainly preaching to the converted (if you’ll pardon the pun). Besides which, the number of words she spoke has no bearing on anything really, As the old adage goes, it’s quality (or lack thereof) not quantity. During my examination of the debate, I saw many, many eloquent non-abusive tweets full of valid criticisms that neither of you have the courage to acknowledge.

    Further, I can’t believe that someone who denigrates other women for choosing a particular parentng style can hide behind accusations of misogyny. I’m sure these women would describe her comments as hateful. Why does this not make her a “hater”. Why aren’t you “calling her out on it and asking her to have the grace to say, “Yeah, that particular criticism was unfair.”

    Also, regarding her tweets during the 2010 Logies, I look forward to your lengthy essay on why those comments do not make her a hater or misogynist (or as some people suggested, an advocator of paedophilia or rape)
    (And please don’t try to use the defence of humour because I’ve done a survey of all of my friends and – unlike the tweets of Wil Anderson and others – no one thought they were funny, I can send you a pie chart if you want.)

    PS For what it’s worth I’m female athiest who votes Green and works at a health service for immigrant women.

  46. Jodie Olde says:

    Thank you Chrys- What a fabulous and insightful article. I’m so relieved to have found you.
    Having someone like Catherine on our side means the world to me. Despite all of the criticism on her particular ‘Style’ – I think she’s brilliant. It is this ‘style’ that makes her all the more endearing to me. Keep up the good work.

  47. Catherine Deveny says:

    Nathan, the messages I received were through twitter, facebook and personal emails. Approx 85% male. The worst, which came to my personal email were all male apart from one woman. There were over a hundred.

    • Hi Catherine,

      Thanks. You have my sincerest (vicarious) apologies on behalf of all those people who wrote hateful stuff to you claiming to be Christian.

      The email stuff is perhaps the most damning of the gender data – because that’s completely opt in, it’s not just “I have Twitter open”…

      Like I said to you on Twitter – I’d love to get copies of some of the emails for a project I’m working on on the disparity between how Christians should be speaking (say, truth with love) vs how they do (personal attacks with bile), particularly on the Internet.

      If there are any particularly bad ones from people claiming to be Christians (in the text) – I’d love to see them.

    • Paul Coffey says:

      My mother used to tell me to ‘just kill them with smiles and compliments’ (WARNING: she is cathiolic)

  48. Damn, I missed the show! Now do I dare watch iView knowing I am going to be infuriated by somebody…? [And if I am judging from Chrys’s analysis alone, probably by not the female panellists.] Good on you Catherine for trying to keep things honest. My 11 and 8 year old kids have been asking me whether the homosexual lifespan comment was accurate as it was mentioned on the news and on the radio, so there has been quite a bit of discussion about it in the last few days. It’s bad enough trying to curb the homophobic language that comes from the school playground without so-called respectable people misrepresenting the facts.

    • Di Pearton says:

      I guess that is what infuriates me the most, that these church ‘leaders’ are abusing their supposed positions of trust and authority (albeit based on mythology) to promote bigotry and bile, and yet Deveney is accused of being SHRILL??
      She should have shown some respect to Jensen?? Why should any of us show respect to someone who promotes intolerance and discrimination? These are snake oil salesmen in nice suits.
      SHRILL? We are none of us shrill enough in the face of this absurd debate.

  49. Glenn Watson says:

    I’m the gay man in the Q&A audience who addressed Peter Jensen (and made the MORTIFYING mistake of talking long enough to be moderated – albeit politely – by Tony Jones). I didn’t know much about this man before I had to sit bristling through his thinly veiled insults to all gay people as if they didn’t matter. Jensen demonstrates the same wilful ignorance of the real facts behind these important contemporary debates as Cardinal Pell – but his ostensibly fatherly, caring manner is a much better disguise for the hatred and vitriol carried in his every syllable.

    I was surprised when his comment to Jones about me was something like “Well he showed me some respect”, but when the look on my face showed that clearly I had very little for him at all – and why would I, after what he’d just said about me and mine? – he made an arrogant, showy little dismissive gesture. The man showed his true colours the very instant I disallowed his charade of politeness and civility.

    I even made the Letters section of the SMH – my “sneer” did my cause no justice, I’m told, because poor Jensen was only asking for an “informed discussion” where people “don’t shout at each other”. Well, Mr Jensen, we’ve all had these discussions ten, twenty, thirty years ago – and you weren’t listening. And you’re not listening now either.

    Tony Jones addressed Jensen as a “leader” – but he is not a leader at all, he’s simply the head of a church. The difference needs to be drawn emphatically.

    By contrast, since personally witnessing Catherine Deveny in full flight, I have a new hero(ine). Her eloquence, succinctness, wit and passion were jaw-dropping. Her defence of others whom she perceives as unfairly treated was for no gain to herself and, it appears, at some personal cost. But it is very much appreciated.

    And thank you Chrys for taking the time to defend Catherine so beautifully. I look forward to reading a lot more of your work.

    • Ah Glenn! Thanks so much for commenting. Tell us, as you were in the studio audience and in a much better position to judge – did Cathering ‘shout’ or ‘yell’ at anyone?

    • Ah! Glenn! Thanks so much for your comment! As you were in the studio audience you are in the perfect position to tell us – did Catherine ‘shout’ or ‘yell’ at anyone?

      • Glenn Watson says:

        No, she just spoke really quickly and passionately. It might be worthwhile counting the words per minute of Deveny and Jensen. He seemed to take forever to say very little, which means he not only occupied more word count but also more screen time. A double whammy!

        By comparison Catherine’s standard delivery is machine gun-like. And she’s so entertaining and animated while Jensen moves like a rod puppet.

      • Actually, he spoke slowly and still got in twice as many words as Catherine. If someone was to put a stop watch on their performances, I’m almost certain that Jensen’s on air time was considerably more than double that of Catherine’s who had to cram her few words into less air time!

    • Di Pearton says:

      ‘Her defence of others….was no gain to herself’,
      “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”Malcolm Forbes
      I think that we can judge Catherine Deveney VERY highly in this regard!

    • Peter says:

      I saw your treatment by Peter Jensen, Glenn, and concur. His demeanor was used to stifle debate and give his bigoted views prominence.

    • Louella says:

      Glenn, I thought your sneer was priceless. It was truly a picture that said a thousand words. It left Jensen speechless – a great achievement – and my impression was the rest of the audience was on your side.

    • tamlyn123 says:

      (Cushla Geary)
      Thanks for your comment, Glen. Of all that happened during that programme, I thought your treatment by both Jones and Jensen the most unpleasant. Jensen was (purportedly) asking for clarification and discussion. You provided it, but were quashed, first by Jones, then by Jensen, which confirmed for me my earlier impression that Jensen has no intention, and no wish, to discuss the subject – he has made up his mind, but by claiming he wants discussion, thinks to make himself appear more open-minded.
      In fact, it beggars belief that ANYONE is still having this “discussion” – had it not been dragged out from under its rock by Jim Wallace, most of us would have thought it long since over.

    • Al James says:

      Hi Glenn,
      However much you may despise and disagree with the words coming from the mouth of Jensen, the tone of your question (come commentary – thanks Tony) *was* respectful despite your anger and passion.

      I’m inclined to believe that Jensen picked this up to exemplify his desire for precisely that kind of discussion. Everyone watching knew you disagreed but the way you engaged with Jensen was markedly different to Deveny.

      I’m sure he’d prefer to have a conversation with you than the woman on his right, and I’m quite sure he’d be more likely to listen. Sorry if that news is not welcome.

  50. Eric Glare says:

    Great analysis and I think a lot of people are automatically defensive of that mirror effect that comes from comedians and commentators like Devany.

    From a very nerdy perspective, your statistics on word count come out more favourably for Jensen than is statistically correct. As the median and the average are not the same, the data are not normally distributed and therefore median is the correct measure to use because the average is distorted by Jensen’s excess. Deveny was the median and so Jensen had more than double the words of the median. Clearly Jensen’s excess was at the expense of Krien whilst the remaining panelists (and the host) had similar word counts.

  51. Julian X Smith says:

    I can’t say that I appreciated Deveny’s participation in Q&A this week. Her condescion was very off-putting, and the statistics belie the true nature of her contribution.

    That said, the most offensive panelist was Jensen, without doubt. It was pure dog-whistle politics, communicating a crystal clear message, without stating exactly what he thought. He said:
    (1) statistics show gay people live shorter; and, separately when challenged by Tony Jones as to whether the Anglican church should change its view on gay people if science proved gay people were created that way…
    (2) gay people should not act on their sexual urges (heterosexual? go ahead).

    He was saying that he thinks gay people live shorter because of their lifestyle (what they choose to do). But:

    (1) he did not have the courage to say this; and
    (2) by not saying it (but whistling it) the point that inherent discrimination such as his contributes to depression, marginalisation and loss of opportunity, with their consequential effect on life expectancy, could not be clearly stated in opposition.

    To genuinely lead the community in a fact-based debate – as he said he wanted to – he would need to show that courage. He won’t.

    Jensen was the truly dangerous contributor.

  52. Esther Hurschile says:

    You’ll be defending her for awhile, she just told a young man to “suck my d*ck”

    I dont think she likes debating much

  53. andyroz says:

    Why was Deveny deemed to be noisy,interrupting and dominating? While I’ll agree there is a ‘she is a woman’ aspect to it, but there is another aspect, and that is possibly because she was saying things we all know to be true and fair, but it’s not the ‘party line’ so it makes people uncomfortable.

    Religious people and politicians use the ‘if you say it often enough, it becomes the truth’ and ‘truthiness’ fundamentals of human psychology. If someone comes along and challenges their ‘truths’ with things like ‘facts’, the person will be seen as an evil influence and a deviant, no matter how obvious the facts may be.

    What Deveny needed to do was turn up with some pictures – preferably photos – that support her arguments. People will believe almost anything you tell them if you have a supporting photo – oddly, even if the photo does not actually back up what you’re telling them. Refer back to the ‘children overboard’ affair for proof. A truly embarrassing and sickening moment for intelligent Australians.

  54. Craig says:

    After seeing all the vitriol in the comments section of The Age website and reading this article, I decided I needed to see what all the kerfuffle was about. So I listened to Q&A on iView.

    I thought Catherine did an awesome job of taking that old dinosaur to task.
    I can also see why she got up the nose of all the right-wing, religious nut-jobs though.

  55. Paul Coffey says:

    Reads like the cry of the fallen. Trying in vain to post-justify some claim to righteousness or ‘victory’.
    Whatever your belief, it’s not that relevant here.
    What is relevant, is that Deveny picked a fight with jensen and lost. The ‘dinosaur’ clearly handled the debate much more professionally. This column, for Deveny followers, is the fall out.

  56. Wow! Wow! Wow! I’ve just read the draft on an article on the dynamics between Jensen and Deveny, written from the perspective of someone whose background is that of fundamentalist Christian and submissive wife. It will blow your socks off. Should be online in the next day or so, so may I suggest you subscribe to my blog or follow me on twitter (@Chrys_Stevenson) so you don’t miss it. I’ll be promoting it like crazy because it’s THAT good. (You can always unsubscribe/unfollow after if you like.) It’s amazing what someone with this unique ‘insiders’ perspective of the religious mindset saw in the confrontation between Jensen and Deveny that the rest of us didn’t. Wow! Wow! Wow! …. Did I say, “Wow” enough?

  57. Esther Hurschile says:

    yea i wont be subscribing based on the fact u just censored me, I dont tolerate limits to free speech

    • As you can see, I have published plenty of comments criticising both me and Deveny. Your comment was unnecessarily harsh and inappropriate. This is not a forum for trashing Deveny and I will not allow those kinds of low comments here. You are perfectly free to spew your hatred elsewhere.

      My approach to moderating this blog is that I will tolerate the kind of conversation I would tolerate around my own dinner table. I encourage debate but within certain levels of decorum. When someone like you posts, I ask myself, “Would I be asking this person to leave my house?” If the answer is, “Yes” the comment is often deleted (or sometimes I publish it and ridicule it).

      Either way – your freedom of speech has not been violated. This is a private space. You have the whole internet to carp about Deveny. Why don’t you do it on your own blog?

      And, thank you, Esther, but I’d really rather you didn’t subscribe to my blog so we can agree on that, at least.

  58. Peter says:

    Your analysis is correct but Catherine is paying for past indiscretions. Isn’t she just as bad as Jensen is, for mocking religion?

    Anna seems nice.

    • Why the fuck shouldn’t religion be mocked? If Jensen, a grown man, presumably in full command of his faculties, had got up on Q&A and waxed lyrical about his belief in Thor, the god of thunder or the Rainbow Unicorn or Prince Phillip (who according to a tribe in Vanuatu is the incarnation of a volcano god), everyone would be falling about laughing hysterically! How could a grown man believe such utter crap? But because he calls himself an Archbishop and believes in Yahweh we have to nod sagely while he waxes lyrical about his insane beliefs? Absolutely not. If religious people (and I’m not talking about grandma who goes to church on Sunday here) don’t want to be mocked maybe they should take a good hard look at the ridiculous nonsense they believe, the lack of evidence for those beliefs, and the harm those beliefs cause to others. Give no quarter, I say. Why should we feign respect for an institution which is overwhelmingly harmful in our society and based, as Deveny rightly points out, on myths and misogyny.

      Deveny was not arguing for anyone to be denied their rights. She was not arguing for any kind of inequality between those of different sexes, or between those of different sexualities. She was arguing for inclusion and love and equality. Her argument was doing harm to no-one except the inflated ego of a pompous man who lives off the delusions of others.

      • Peter says:

        I think you proved my point.

      • Glenn Watson says:

        It’s clear that in such an emotive arena – and we are talking about *beliefs* here, which are by very definition not necessarily rational – it’s *very* easy to be seen as mocking all believers when it’s what they believe in that is being challenged.

        After all, people are complex and amount to much more than just their beliefs. I’d imagine that there are many Anglicans who are more genuinely Christian (i.e. compassionate, humane) than Jensen but who translate a mocking stance against the head of their church as aggression towards them personally. So if you are to make religious people re-examine their attitudes – which are often different to their religious beliefs – courtesy and respect is a must. Even when they’re being horrible to you, it’s important to keep calm. After all, if atheists are bastions of reason, we’re not going to look consistent with our own positions if we’re ranting. However justifiably in our own minds.

        That’s why I was pleased to see Richard Dawkins, who has been disrespectful to others on Q&A before, so measured in his recent appearance on that program with George Pell, because Pell’s arrogant, scoffing dismissiveness was shown up for what it was. I do wish Dawkins hadn’t been so humourless but there you go.

        The moral of this post is: if you are out to confirm your opinions to those who agree – go for your life with the mockery and the wit. But if you do want to reach those with a half-open mind, don’t make them slam the lid shut.

      • Peter says:

        Thanks Glenn. I’ll concede Peter Jensen did need a serve.

      • m0g says:

        @Glenn Watson > if atheists are bastions of reason > look consistent with our own positions

        You’re addressing atheists as if they’re on some sort of spectrum with the religious at one end and agnostics somewhere in the middle. They’re not. Not anti-religious. Not a movement, group, club or even shared belief system. They’re just wildly diverse people in whose lives religion plays no role. People for whom religion is an irrelevant, unproductive abstraction. ^Some^ atheists may also take a position on religion, sure, or even just express puzzlement, but for many it’s just a complete non-issue.

        There’s no such thing as capital-A Atheism.

    • lurker says:

      “Both sides are **just as bad**!!!”

      Uh, no. One side is using imaginary beings as an excuse to oppress people; the other is arguing against it.

      And your subsequent reply to Chrys reveals that you value tone over substance.

  59. This was glorious.

    • The Guru says:

      A sloppy and dishonest piece.

      The usual outcome of these “debates” between someone of religion and an athiest (eg Dawkins/Pell) from earlier in the year is that everyone has their views re-inforced:
      – Catholics thought Pell handled Dawkins
      – Atheists thought Dawkins ironed out Pell
      – Those not on either side generally wonder what all the fuss was about

      In this instance
      – Christians thought Jensen was polite
      – Some athiests cheered on Deveny
      – yet some athiests and non-affiliated have been vocal in their condemnation of Deveny’s boorish behaviour.

      That in itself is instructive.

      Counting words and interjections is not required and smacks of desperation. None of the criticisms I’ve seen talk about speaking more or louder – just ruder and without respect. The comments from Deveny and others since Monday night suggest that this is worn as a badge of honour rather than denying it took place.

      If Jensen had addressed Deveny in the same manner, then I imagine there would have been people frothing at the mouth.

      I would suspect that Jensen was the main speaker and called on more as he was the one that issues to “defend” (his marriage article, ACL controversy) and was the one being challenged.

      Deveny says that “I don’t give a f*** what you think. even if you agree with me”. Firstly that’s not true as she seems to love people that agree with her and was particularly excited about this blog that attempted to defend her. Secondly, it’s that attitude that makes people not give a stuff about what she says.

      If you want someone to listen to you or respect what you say, then you need to have the ability to listen and show respect to others. If Deveny does not want to be listened to, then why accept the invitation – let someone else take the spot to put the athiest’s case.

      I repeat, a sloppy and dishonest piece.

      • I’ve let this through but next time you want to give a long, boring sermon do it on your own blog, not mine. Your uninformed criticism shows you didn’t even take the time to read this post properly. Sigh!

      • dandare2050 says:

        {Deveny says that “I don’t give a f*** what you think. even if you agree with me”. }
        Nice one, Guru (how pretentious, must be a Deepak Chopra fan), you pulled in a quote from Deveny that did not appear in the show. Sloppy and dishonest? I think I know where that label best fits.

        And guess what? Deveny was respectful and was not rude. Unless you think it is rude to openly disagree with Jensen?

        Here, I’ll show you what rude looks like: “Fuck off Guru”.

      • The Guru says:

        “you pulled in a quote from Deveny that did not appear in the show…”
        Deveny quote comes from her column on her website under the note “A note on QandA.”.

        This tweet confirms that she does seem to care quite a bit what people think, and suggests she would welcome it if more people came to her way of thinking.

        “And guess what? Deveny was respectful….”

        Both Deveny and Stevenson beg to differ:

      • I don’t resile from that comment. My argument all the way through this debate has been that homophobes and misogynists deserve no more respect than racists. Anyone who puts their efforts into denying equality to their fellow citizens – especially when that has such negative consequences as depression, suicide and domestic violence – deserves no respect, and no quarter.

      • The Guru says:

        - Does the athiest PM also effectively murder homosexuals by being opposed to gay marriage ? And therefore basically a racist who deserves no respect ?

        – If gay marriage is enacted, will homosexual suicides magically end ?

        – Are all “poofter bashings” and other bullying of homosexuals carried out by Christians ?

      • lurker says:

        “The Guru”? Why do so many wankers give themselves such pretentious handles? Or is that a self-answering question?

        Also, dear, it’s “atheist,” not “athiest.” It’s a noun, not a superlative adjective. If you’re going to lecture silly wimminz on being more “polite” (i.e., more deferential to the menfolk), improve your spelling a bit; it makes you look smarter.

      • m0g says:

        @The Guru

        > Does the athiest PM also effectively murder homosexuals by being opposed to gay marriage ? And therefore basically a racist who deserves no respect ?

        The PM contributes to a hostile environment to gay and lesbian people by not affording them the same consideration the other 90% receive; this marginalisation in turn contributes to high rates of suicide and ill health.

        > If gay marriage is enacted, will homosexual suicides magically end ?

        Magic is an illusion. Gay marriage is, however, a necessary and humane step toward full acceptance and legal support of gay and lesbian couples, and will probably contribute to lower rates of depression and suicide. Not to say this is the sole reason for legalising gay marriage …

        > Are all “poofter bashings” and other bullying of homosexuals carried out by Christians ?

        Christianity doesn’t have the monopoly on closed-minded, lazy, bigotted, violent evolutionary throwbacks.

        I’ve played your questions with a straight bat because I really can’t tell if you’re trolling, too lazy to think this through for yourself or just not equipped to do so.

      • The Guru says:

        >> I’ve played your questions with a straight bat because I really can’t tell if you’re trolling

        Nice pun.

        Not trolling but probably off on a tangent. Jensen is demonised for his stance of gay marriage, is basically accused of having blood on his hands and therefore doesn’t deserve any basic respects and gets what he has coming to him. I haven’t noticed similar sentiments towards the PM for her views on gay marriage (not to say she doesn’t get hammered for everything else), and just wondering why that was.

        Deveny’s appearance on Q&A was an epic failure and dodgy pieces like this are camouflage. The chance to go into a million people’s living rooms basically unedited is a fantastic opportunity to press an agenda and present your side of the debate, and she completely blew it, even managing to turn off many people that agree with her!

        The conversation since the show hasn’t been on the issues, it’s been taken up with how she conducted herself. Her appearance ended up being a great advertisement for Deveny and her future prospects of being invited to shows that are interested in generating conflict (Go Back to Where You Came From, Q&A etc), but did nothing to advance the cause of her political agenda or world view.

        Desperate pieces that attempt to blame *everyone else* for not being able to handle a strong woman’s opinion and coming to the conclusion that Deveny was rude and disrespectful, then wearing her disrespect as a badge of honour and somehow the right thing to do are camouflage for a wasted opportunity.

  60. Louella says:

    Brilliant, as always. xx

  61. dandare2050 says:

    5 stars was not enough dear bear.

    Q&A only allows delivery of short, emotive rebuttals. There is no room for meaningful engagement. It is biased towards polemics so polemics you get.

    Chrys’ fantastic analysis merely shows that the angry criticisms of Deveny cannot be correct when suggesting she dominated or interrupted or said more or was deferred to. All that is left is to criticise her tone and style and to dismiss the fact that she was the underdog in the show format.

    Useless pedantry about “Passionate Atheism” being an incoherent concept is useless pedantry, and obtuse to boot.

    • dandare2050 says:

      You know, I have just gone and read the transcript. Actually Catherine gives pretty clear and concise answers to most things. For example:

      CHRIS EVANS: ….These are people seeking a better life fleeing persecution but the reality is there are 14 million or so of those around the world and probably 40 million displaced and there’s no way we’re going to deal with that whole problem.

      CATHERINE DEVENY: No one expects us to, just to do our bit.

      CHRIS EVANS: No, well, we are actually, per capita, probably the largest contributor to refugee settlement in the world but your sort of grand statements don’t deal with the…

      CATHERINE DEVENY: Not according to – no, not according to the – we, per capita, we are on the 32nd point for asylum seekers and 72 for refugees.

      CHRIS EVANS: No, I don’t think that’s right.

      then Catherine begins to reply and is shut down by Terry Jones.

      • Team Oyeniyi says:

        Correct. Evans was correct using the measure DIAC choose to use: one small specific resettlement program. It is misleading. Catherine was right on the ball with her numbers.

      • dandare2050 says:

        The more I focus on just Catherine’s comments the less I can agree with the argument that she was a poor debater or used the wrong tone. The commenters above suggesting this must be in a different universe. I love this:

        CATHERINE DEVENY: I’m sorry I really need to say homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice. Religion is. Keep that in mind.

  62. Beth says:

    I passionately agree with everything you’ve said. Between Deveny and Jensen, she was the person who was arguing from the compassionate position. I went to bed so angry after that episode that I couldn’t sleep. As you said, Jensen’s words cause real harm. I found his whole manner so disingenuous – acting as though he cares about the facts, chastising people for showing “passion”. To him I’d say; how dare you smile and act superior when you’re dealing in pure hate.

    I’ve met Deveny at a marriage equality rally. She fucking cares about doing the right thing. The world is upside down when someone like her is demonised.

    When that was finished all I could think was that I was really grateful for her. Not to be melodramatic but we need her to be part of the discourse. There’s too much at stake to not have her fighting for us.

  63. […] of Chrys Stevenson and, because I follow Chrys’ writing, I’ve been aware of some of the furore that has erupted since your appearance on Q&A on Monday night […]

  64. andre w says:

    Regarding the shouting / loudness – there are other speech characteristics (besides volume) that allow us to hear speech as a shout or not – eg. see

    • Picking up on body language? Perhaps, but we’ve already had someone who was in the audience on the night confirm that Deveny didn’t yell, shout or noticeably raise her voice above the level of the other panellists. Good try, but no cigar. The fact is, she didn’t shout and there is no way anyone who was not in the studio could have heard a difference in volume – even if it was there (and it wasn’t) – because it would have been compressed/filtered out. So, the fact remains, if you thought Deveny was loud/shouting/yelling on Monday’s program, it was your perception only – and not an accurate one.

      • andre w says:

        Thanks for the reply. Actually I wasn’t concerned either way about content or behaviour, I’m just into speech and sound and wanted to make a comment about what effect compression and volume control will have.
        The volume is usually kept level on TV, but we can still hear the difference between normal and raised voices due to other signal features like fundamental frequency and maybe relative formant levels.

        Whether this was seen on Q&A, I’ll leave to other people. I’m more into sound.

  65. […] Q&A on Monday night ignited some pretty unpleasant memories for Jane and, after reading my blog post,  she felt compelled to write to Catherine Deveny.  Jane CC’d me in on her email to Dev […]

  66. This incredible open letter to Catherine Deveny from my friend Jane Douglas is a must read. Jane’s experience as a submissive wife in a fundamentalist Christian sect gives her a unique perspective on the dynamics between Deveny and Archbishop Jensen on Monday night. Go straight to Jane’s blog “Putting Her Oar In” here:

    Or, if you want a little background briefing from me before skipping over to her brilliant post, you can click here:

    Whichever route you take to Jane’s Open Letter to Deveny you will be left agape at her observation.

  67. Brendan says:

    Great blog and analysis. I totally agree with you about this mis-use of the term militant atheism. In terms of ‘militant believers’, I have experienced:
    – strangers approach to me on the street to convert me – ie with the inference that I am somehow lacking;
    – ‘believers’ shout at a whole carriage on public transport telling us we are going to hell unless we believe in Jesus;
    – believers label others (of other faiths, gays, etc) as evil;

    And of course I have seen on the news people kill others in parts of the world in the name of religion.

    I have never once seen an atheist exhibit any of these behaviours.

    Worst example in recent times of militant believers in God? 9/11.

    Can you point of ‘militant atheism’ similar to any of the types of behaviour above?

  68. Matt says:

    Hey GCEB,

    I was struck by an interesting observation when you were listing the traits of Deveny – to demonstrate how irrational and biased the criticism. Here’s a laugh for you. I did the same with Dawkins “The God Delusion”. He lists the traits of those who agree with him as follows: Convincing
    Strongly recommended
    Far above

    Those he disagrees with:

    Wear dirty hobnail boots
    Fight dirty
    Ignoble motives
    Tactless (!?!)
    Politically expedient

    Not shrill or militant at all.

  69. Sam Ryan says:

    I’ll say straight up that I struggle often with Catherine Deveny because of how she engages in debate. I think she goes way too much on the attack which puts the opponent on the defence, rather than engaging people with different views and it’s entirely counter-productive.

    Mostly it makes me cringe because I agree with her points and want them taken seriously.

    I didn’t see QandA but that is a fascinating dissection and the comparison to Jensen’s apparent passive aggression is an interesting point, and one I’ve no reason to dismiss!

    Basically he seems to me a horrible person and she is probably not, but the way she argues will never convince anyone to open their mind to her views, so it’s a waste of time. (again I focus on her because I care more about those views – Jensen’s argument is a waste because his views are socially destructive).

    I don’t think either are particularly open-minded, which doesn’t lend itself to productive discussion anyway.

    Shame Anna Krien got so little time to speak as the panels intellectual.

    As for ‘militant atheist’ – perhaps its tied to being viewed as having a strident belief in ‘nothing’ rather than a lack of belief? No idea, just spitballing (declaration: catholic-raised-turned-agnostic)

    Thought provoking post though.

  70. JM says:

    FYI Jensen is the head of a quaint minority Anglican sect which does not represent either the mainstream of the Anglican Church, the mainstream of evangelicals nor I gather the mainstream Protestant denominations.

    Therefore I am somewhat amazed that he gets any TV time at all unless he is meant to be Aunt Sally of the week.

    “Smarmy” is the word that comes to mind. Wonder how his bums-on-church-seats campaign is going now he has alienated the majority of the population?

    Concetta Ferrevanti-Wells comes across as none too bright. Where on earth do the Libs get these limited women? I am not fond of the Liberals anyway but Pru Goward is a much better representative of her party in terms of intelligence.

    Catherine of course is a human Hadron Collider. We need more like her.

  71. dave says:

    In addressing the word count correct me if I am wrong but there is no mention of the number of questions from the audience and to whom.

    Does this not have a bearing on the word count?

    Has someone analysed this?

    Does word count also have to do with topic or question asked also? Some questions require longer answers?

    • The word count is the word count. You can see the working document linked to in my post. I took ALL the words spoken by each panelists (and by Tony Jones) and counted them. It may well be that some questions require longer answers but there should be a balance across the 5 panellists. In this case, one panelist completely dominated and it wasn’t Deveny.

      • dave says:

        that ignores my question
        who was asked the most questions by the audiience or asked for comment the most?
        everything else has been analysed probably including who drank the most water or coughed the most.
        If you are asked the most questions, and don’t know at any given time how many more maybe asked, wouldn’t you speak the most?
        I understand the analysis is done to support Devenythat’s blatantly apparent but surely a THOROUGH analysis should be performed?

  72. The transcript and my working paper are there for you to read. It’s not possible to analyse it from every single aspect – I could be working on it into next month. I did not approach it from a biased perspective. In fact, I have been critical of Deveny in the past when I thought it was warranted. I simply set out to see if the discrepancy between my perspective of the debate at the perspective that was coming from the Twitterverse was due to a misperception from my point of view or theirs. I would have been happy to have been proven wrong. In my view, I wasn’t. I spent a great deal of time on what I did and made it a lot easier for others. If you want more information, YOU do it.

  73. Phil Browne says:

    WOW – This is everything I was thinking and feeling at the time. People like Jensen do great psychological harm and to see this challenged is great.

  74. Elisabeth says:

    Bravo to this extraordinary post. Thanks, Chrys.

  75. […] shock horror rudely interrupted the bishop and dominated a conversation. Except she didn’t. Glady the Cross-Eyed Bear has the stats. Also, “Gladly the cross-eyed bear”…. say it out […]

  76. […] which one got all the negative press? …I should not have been surprised at the fall-out from Catherine Deveny’s appearance on […]

  77. Aratina Cage says:

    “So, why this misperception? ”

    I think I got it. Since God does not exist, being militant toward him doesn’t have to exist either!

    And thank you for the clear analysis. I am sick to death of these bigots getting in the first word, the middle words, the last word, and the final thought all the time on TV. Shameful that they are considered respected figures by so many people.

  78. PeterD. says:

    Wow. Impressive.

  79. Laurence James says:

    I was yelling at the television like a football match – Deveny was the only one calling people’s shit. Thank you!

  80. […] I’ve been focused on Catherine Deveny all week so the Sydney riots kinda slipped past me. I’m just now catching up with the […]

  81. naught101 says:

    Bear: sorry, I don’t seem to be able to reply to you comment up there^

    “the fact is that many people who watched Deveny, as I did, had no perception at all of her ‘shouting’. … so those who *thought* they either heard or *deduced* that Dev was raising her voice were wrong and it’s fair to assume that there were other factors at play that led to them drawing the wrong conclusion.”

    Of course that’s a fair assumption, but that argument cuts both ways. Because people like us agree with her point, we are much more likely to view her delivery favourably, and see flaws in her opponent’s delivery.

  82. Brendan Barber says:

    A comment on Deveny and her views on “Offence”

    To her credit she does not cry legal when faced with on-line communication feedback that is sometimes offensive and insensitive and clearly is not deserved of a dignified response. To her discredit she states on her website “I don’t give a fuck what you think. even if you agree with me, I simply stand up for what I believe in.”. This is another way of saying “I am never wrong on anything, even though I am not prepared to listen to opposing views and cannot articulate objective arguments in support of my beliefs”.

    Deveny carries on further on her web site stating “Offence is a mode of social control. And just because you are offended does not mean you are right. More damage is done by taking offence than giving it. Offence is taken. NOT given.” I tend to agree with Deveny on the whole in relation to offence although I believe the “offence is social control” statement wrong. Clearly it was a poor attempt at defending her manner on Q&A. A forum for public discourse and discussion on which offence is a valuable mechanism for ensuring a good balance between the subjective and objective and identifying common boundaries for civil discussion and argument.

    If Deveny wanted to take her stance on offence as a means of social control to the logical finality, then what would occur is a break down in the political process and in the use of discourse as a means of conflict resolution. The end result would be “physical might would win”. This at its brutal core is a use/abuse of power and is what radicalised elements of “feminism” ultimately fear. An exaggerated fear (for political power) that is re-enforced by the same distortion of social reality that also fails to acknowledge the vast majority of good men that prevent the abuse of such powers.

    So in summary Deveny’s stance on offence as a means of social control I would argue is ultimately dis-empowering for women. It would be great to hear a feminist argue such.

  83. Labels are so divisive (I guess that’s their purpose) but when it comes to religious beliefs (or beliefs to do with religious phenomena) they are particularly so, with the unfortunate consequence of being inflammatory. At such times, some of the sage advice from those who have made a splash in such arenas in history, is best kept in mind. I am thinking in particular of that advice which suggests one to look at the deeds of those who claim particular authority, and not their words. That will catch out quite a lot of atheists and theists alike.

    • There is a very big difference between a person who brings harm to others and is, incidentally, an atheist, and one who does the same thing because of their religion. As Steve Weinberg said: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

      • If I impugn another on the basis of their belief, despite no other evidence for making such a judgement, I am guilty of prejudice and promoting immoderate behaviour. Such a deed is not one which can be justified by words, and thus a deed which others might be justified in making prejudiced acts towards me, with my implicit approval.

        Quoting physicists in matters spiritual is like asking Buddha how to use the TV remote control.

      • TheBabelFish says:

        “If I impugn another on the basis of their belief, despite no other evidence for making such a judgement, I am guilty of prejudice…”
        Yes, bit this misses the point, there is plenty of solid evidence for the religious basis for wars, genocides, crimes against humanity, etc. There is no such evidence against atheism. Why would there be? Nobody would kill or die for a non-belief. In effect, for nothing.
        “Quoting physicists in matters spiritual is like asking Buddha how to use the TV remote control.”
        So to whom should we defer on matters of the non-existant? I don’t accept your premise anyway, it’s not a spiritual matter, it’s a moral and ethical matter. We should all have opinions on those, even physicists.

      • Glen Coulton says:

        I wish those who immediately and always trot out Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot as “proof” of their contention that atheists kill more people than Christians would realise the truth of this.

  84. Hey Gladly, it would be great if you could set some of those graphs free as infographics we could retweet. Possible?

  85. Brendan Barber says:


    “Nobody would kill or die for a non-belief. In effect, for nothing.” – Huh? If you are arguing atheism believes in nothing then I would assert this is clearly incorrect It specifically holds the position or belief that there are no deities. How does it justify this position? Empiricism.

    Within empiricism truth is not dependent on belief alone BUT on a belief that can be verified through examination and observation of an external reality – this assumption is why “Quoting physicists in matters spiritual is like asking Buddha how to use the TV remote control.” is an accurate metaphor of the absurdity of using empirical methods to prove the existence of concepts and ideas not part of the natural sciences.

    It appears you confuse the concept of something being empirically observable and something that is non-existent. Is the number 8 existent as are your feelings? I would challenge you in attempting to empirically prove the existence of such as I never have seen the number 8 flying past or it being studied under a microscope?

    • Glen Coulton says:

      Responding to TheBabelFish, Brendan Barber wrote: “If you are arguing atheism believes in nothing then I would assert this is clearly incorrect It specifically holds the position or belief that there are no deities. How does it justify this position? Empiricism.”

      Not necessarily. There is no universally accepted definition of atheism. Most atheists stop short of saying they are 100% sure there is no god because they accept that it is logically impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist. The way to know about a thing is to appraise the evidence of itself that it leaves about the place, such as the fossils that establish biological evolution. If something (god, say) doesn’t exist, it cannot leave evidence to be appraised. All most atheists say is that it’s almost certain there is no god because there is neither a need to posit one nor evidence that one exists. There are no god fossils.

      It’s not atheists but (most) believers who make the 100% claim. Of course, they can’t be 100% sure that god exists, but this doesn’t stop them from believing they are, and, sadly, coercing their innocent children to believe the same thing.

      BB went on, “It appears you confused something being empirically observable and something that is non-existent. Is the number 8 existent as are your feelings? I would challenge you in attempting to empirically prove the existence of such as I never have seen the number 8 flying past or it being studied under a microscope?”

      The syntax suggests that this is asserting that the number 8 is not real but that feelings are. If so, it would be appropriate to ask what feelings look like in flight. But perhaps the contrasting of numbers and feelings was not intended.

      But regardless, perhaps gods are just as unreal as numbers and exist only as mental constructs in the minds of people disposed to form them. But there’s a difference. A number like 8 is a useful construct, one we can put to work to improve the quality of our existence. We can see tangible evidence of 8 any time we choose to apprehend a set of 8 objects. And we can replicate sets of things that possess eightness as often as we like. There is no obvious way of tangibly representing the god construct and, except for people who have a psychological need that belief in god meets, no way of putting the construct to practical use.

      • Eric Glare says:

        8 isn’t just a construct – it’s a real property. Many millions of years before humans turned, up spiders had 8 legs. And many trillions of years before that, oxygen atoms still had 8 protons. Humans blinded by their ego think they invented everything.

      • TheBabelFish says:

        Yes, it’s the same sort of egocentrism that led us (perhaps) to invent gods to put us at the centre of the universe. Numbers, as opposed to any particvular numbering system, sort of fall into the category of gravity – not a real invention, it was there to be discovered. Someone was bound to notice it sooner or later, they even leave it on on the weekends.

      • Brendan Barber says:

        Glen, I can appreciate that people have differing views on what it means to be an atheist and I certainly do not take generalist negative positions on the character or morality against people who classify themselves as atheist.

        “It’s not atheists but (most) believers who make the 100% claim. Of course, they can’t be 100% sure that god exists, but this doesn’t stop them from believing they are, and, sadly, coercing their innocent children to believe the same thing.” This is a fair statement. However those that are atheists that hold this position I would argue are confusing atheism with agnosticism and identifying with atheism is more to do with the political than the rational.

        What I do take argument against is the general approach of atheists to use concepts such as empiricism and positivism to argue against the existence of god. A God not of the natural sciences and this is a fundamental category error. Like or not using the methods of one epistemological approach to invalidate another is just methodological monism and I would argue fails to understand the complexities of the world we inhibit.

        “There are no god fossils” This is not any evidence to support the belief God does not exist but rather in argument this is due to a reification fallacy.

        I see many in the atheist world claim to not 100% refute the existence of God. I would have to agree with BabelFish in that I “fundamentally misunderstand atheism” but only in the context of that I am baffled as why some consider it acceptable to hold the position of agnosticism yet still claim to be atheist – a confusion of ideas.

        To assert they do not 100% rule out the existence of god yet still claim to be “CONVINCED that there is no god, which is a totally different stance” is logically absurd. It is logically absurd because assigning a metric to atheist belief to justify someone being more atheist than agnostic (a’la Dawkins) is purely subjective, he made it up, and assumes that one can measure what one does not know.

        Furthermore atheism is not an objective belief system. It is value-laden and starts with the premise of not believing in the existence of deities. This assumption underpins all further approach and argument and is not congruent with objective positivist methodology, an approach often used in argument to defend certain positions. I would argue already it was assumed the God I am referring to is one of the religious God.

        The use of the number 8 was an example of highlighting how mathematics is an accepted valid approach used in science yet is not empirically provable or verifiable using positivist approaches. Logic is another example as is the use of the language. “This statement is false” clearly shows the limitations of attempting to empirically verify the logic of this statement. Many atheists through the use of positivism assert God does not exist as it does not satisfy the verification that God is not empirically valid. However positivism has been shown to be contradictory as the requirement that the requirement for a statement to be considered genuine that is must be empirically valid, is itself not empirically verifiable – an inconvenient truth.

        @BabelFish “Now, you see, what you’ve done there is to fundamentally misunderstand atheism. Or belief. Or possibly both” I disagree. “Belief” as a knowledge claim, is value free in terms of the subject matter. In this pure definition atheism certainly does have beliefs it adheres to. To not classify atheism as a belief-system is incorrect I would argue. Although there is no agreed definition of atheism there is a general consensus in the belief that our reality is observable and measurable and exists independently of human agent.

        Since it seems to the cool thing to do I will quote Carl Sagan on extremes.

        “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed”

    • TheBabelFish says:

      @Glen Coulton – Thanks. You seem to have saved me quite a bit of time. Which is nice as I’ve just spent a good 30 or 40 minutes nursing my computer through some sort of identity crisis. I suspect it’s unsure if it exists or not.

      @Brendan Barbour

      “Huh? If you are arguing atheism believes in nothing then I would assert this is clearly incorrect It specifically holds the position or belief that there are no deities. How does it justify this position? Empiricism.”

      Now, you see, what you’ve done there is to fundamentally misunderstand atheism. Or belief. Or possibly both. A position is not the same as a belief, and the clue is in the title: a-theism. A non-belief is not a belief. An absense of belief is not the same as a belief of absense.

      I’m going to sit back and do the typing while Douglas Adams explains it.

      “Other people will ask how I can possibly claim to know. Isn’t belief-that-there-is-not-a-god as irrational, arrogant, etc., as belief-that-there-is-a-god? To which I say NO for several reasons. First of all I do not believe-there-is-not-a-god. I don’t see what belief has got to do with it. I believe or don’t believe my four-year-old daughter when she tells me that she didn’t make that mess on the floor. I believe in justice and fair play (though I don’t know exactly how we achieve them, other than by continually trying against all possible odds of success). These seem to me to be legitimate uses for the word believe As a carapace for the protection of irrational notions from legitimate questions, however, I think that the word has a great deal of mischief to answer for. So, I do not believe-that-there-is-no-god. I am, however, CONVINCED that there is no god, which is a totally different stance.”

      You say, “It appears you confuse the concept of something being empirically observable and something that is non-existent.”

      No, you’ve confused something which is abstract with something which does not exist. Money is another abstract construct, it has no existence outside of our own, and we know it’s not supernatural, we invented it. If we vanished overnight it would cease to exist. If it vanished overnight though, that would cause us quite a few problems. That’s what makes it different from god. Glen Coulton has explained this in more detail, I need do no more than refer you to his post (elegant bit about the number eight by the way, very neat).

      • Glen Coulton says:

        Brendan, I’m not sure we should be having this argument on Gladly’s post about Catherine Deveny’s performance on Q&A. I think she would be entitled to ask us leave her lounge room and continue our irrelevant discussion outside so that those wanting to talk about CD could get on with it in peace. So this will be my last response and I’ll try to be brief.
        Brendan: “Furthermore atheism is not an objective belief system. It is value-laden and starts with the premise of not believing in the existence of deities.”

        GC: No it doesn’t. It starts when rational people, being suddenly assailed by others claiming that they’ve just realised that there is a god and that, as a consequence, to avoid offending him we must all behave in some particular way which they will teach us, respond with, “you’re kidding!” And atheism becomes active (or militant if you insist), when those others, so convinced of their rightness, leave no doubt that they are prepared to take extreme measures to force everyone else to agree with them in spite of there being neither need for their beliefs and fears nor evidence to support them.

        Brendan: “This [that it’s wrong for adults to tell children that it’s certain there is a god] is a fair statement. However those that are atheists that hold this position I would argue are confusing atheism with agnosticism and identifying with atheism is more to do with the political than the rational.”

        GC: The difference between atheism and agnosticism is not terribly profound or difficult to grasp. Like believers, neither atheists nor agnostics can prove whether or not gods exist but if asked how much they’d bet that none does, atheists would wager all they owned whereas agnostics would probably keep a little something back just in case ….

        BB: “It is logically absurd because assigning a metric to atheist belief to justify someone being more atheist than agnostic (a ’la Dawkins) is purely subjective, he made it up, and assumes that one can measure what one does not know.”

        GC: Is assigning a metric logically absurd as you say? I suggest that I just made a fairly useful start and can even see how to finish calibrating the scale.

        BB: “What I do take argument against is the general approach of atheists to use concepts such as empiricism and positivism to argue against the existence of god. A God [is] not of the natural sciences and this is a fundamental category error. Like or not using the methods of one epistemological approach to invalidate another is just methodological monism and I would argue fails to understand the complexities of the world we inhibit (sic). … This [There are no god fossils] is not any evidence to support the belief God does not exist but rather in argument this is due to a reification fallacy.”

        GC: I think what you are saying here is that I’m limited in that I can’t operate outside a (concrete?) universe in which nothing exists except things that are perceivable and conclusions about those things that I can work out by thinking rationally. If so, you’ve got me; I can’t!

        If you persist with your view that god exists in some other kind or universe/dimension/space in which the limited kinds of doubts about him that I can imagine cannot lay a glove on him, but that fortunately you are not limited as I am and you are able to perceive things in god’s dimension sufficient unto making you certain of his existence in that other space, then I yield. So, I suspect, will everybody else you might seek to engage with.

  86. D .Pawloska says:

    I am a atheist. I don’t care what others believe. I am not trying to teach anybody my anybody my philosophy,but i resent when anybody knocks on my door and tries to save my soul,and yes I dont like that my taxes are used to indoctrinate children

  87. Tarwin Stroh-Spijer says:

    I read your article from end to end and think it is very well written and researched, and I agree there is a bias in society which leads to people (both male and female) putting women down more than men.

    Alas, I just started listening to the Q+A episode in question (listening because I’m working at the same time) and as soon as Deveny started speaking I switched back to the video to see who it was who had the “annoying” voice. I’m not disagreeing with you about your ideas, but I think it should be noted that she probably has a subjectively annoying (not good for radio) voice, which probably colors what people think about what she is saying. Even the tone of her voice started out frustrated, and even the first time she had a chance to speak the way she spoke it sounded like a diatribe even if the content was not.

    It might even be harder for women to come across with a “strong” voice simply because of the general higher tone?

    I’m sorry if this seems inflammatory. I don’t disagree that there is a society “problem”, but the “why” of it I don’t think was discussed fully in your article.

    • The point is, of course, Tarwin – and I’m not being critical here – Deveny’s voice *seems* annoying to you. That is your *perception*. Granted, that may be other people’s perception as well, but for many, it is not the case. So, one needs to ask, “What is it that makes some people think her voice/tone/mannerisms are annoying/loud/strident while others have watched the video and described her as ‘restrained’?” This is what is at the nub of this post. I think we all have to interrogate our own perceptions and prejudices and ask, “Why do I have this particular reaction to this person? Is there some expectation I have of how women should sound and behave? Is it because I don’t like what she’s saying? Or is it because I’ve been conditioned to believe that the correct response to religion is respectful discourse rather than ridicule?” All these are conditioned responses. All I’m asking is that before leaping to judge Dev, we consider that the negative response to her was not universal therefore there must be something underlying it.

      • Tarwin Stroh-Spijer says:

        I completely agree that these responses are likely conditioned. I think the comment from the man who then brought up how much Dev reminded him of his annoying mother highlights this very well.

        I was simply saying that I think that some of the response to her was not because of what she was saying at all, or even that she was a woman, it was simply that people hear a certain voice and instinctively react to it. Twitter is probably one of the worse places for this to happen because people are simply going to write things without thinking, as generally they are anonymous and can just throw stream of conscious thoughts out.

        Another example of people’s reaction to how someone speaks would be Kevin Rudd, who had a way of speaking, slowly, and delicately, which made some people feel as if they were being talked down to (I had no problem with it but instead this is what peers of mine said).

      • Elisabeth says:

        I’m one of those who found CD’s response mild. I heard about the kerfuffle before I watched the program and went to it expecting to be shocked by her behaviour, but I was not. Like others I found Catherine’s response mildly restrained and appropriate in the circumstance. I suspect I might have come across as even more shrill had I been talking to such a brick wall, but never so witty and clever as she. And that of course reveals my bias. Lapsed Catholic and woman.

      • Brendan Barber says:

        ” Or is it because I’ve been conditioned to believe that the correct response to religion is respectful discourse rather than ridicule?”

        The argument that some make is that “Or is it because I’ve been conditioned to believe that the correct response to discourse is respectful discourse rather than ridicule?” as it should be value free. This position is a protection against the perceptive bias that you highlight.

        Perceptive bias is a very real concern however I fear such bias also underpins a lot of radicalised positions. Positions that are very valid and true via personal experience at an individual level, however are not an accurate means of extrapolation to wider societal attitudes and social norms and patterns.

  88. Glen Coulton says:

    Gladly: “All I’m asking is that before leaping to judge Dev, we consider that the negative response to her was not universal therefore there must be something underlying it.”

    That sounds very much as if you are suggesting that people’s discomfort with CD’s voice is evidence of some conspiracy That is,their discomfort was neither justified nor real..

    Chris, are you having difficulty accepting that the reason some people found her presentation grating is that her presentation was, in some respects, grating?

  89. Dale McCabe says:

    I have just been reading about priests fiddling with boys which is less disturbing than the church leaders covering up this activity and protecting the guilty. Peter Jensen thinks he has the mopral autority to tell me what is right or wrong. I am a straight male lapsed catholic and agree with everything Catherine Deveny said. If she interupted Jensen he deserved it.

  90. Sarah McM says:

    This really is an exceptionally awesome post, and I’m very glad I found it.

  91. Very interesting post and very true–a lot of people can’t listen to someone they disagree with without instinctively considering that person aggressive, annoying, overbearing, shrill, etc. Except for me. People I disagree with just happen to actually be all of those things….

  92. david says:

    are we done yet with this stream?
    she was on last week.
    hopefully this forum has stroked her insufferable ego enough

  93. Oh, I’m sorry David, I hadn’t realised we had you hog-tied and hand-cuffed to this blog! Oh … you’re not? Then, if you don’t like the conversation, you are free to leave.

  94. Alison Irving says:

    I didn’t see Q and A, but I did see Deveny on ‘Go Back to Where You Came From’. As a Quaker, I am in sympathy with much of what she says (not the atheist bit, but quite definitely the people part). However, on Go Back, I was frustrated by the number of times she attacked the Liberal guy (haven’t been long in Australia, still getting to know the identities). I wanted to see if he changed based on what he saw and experienced, rather than being forced on the back foot and into a defensive position by a fellow traveller. Of course, that may have been the editing, but it did come across as insensitive interrupting.

  95. Johnnyringo says:

    Why is the moral outrage always reserved for soft targets? Right now Jensen’s spiritual peers in Iran are plotting a war that could turn nuclear and kill millions. Now that’s something worth a bit of selective outrage.

  96. Brendan Barber says:

    @Glen Coulton Thanks for the response. Just a final comment on

    “If you persist with your view that god exists in some other kind or universe/dimension/space…able to perceive things in god’s dimension sufficient unto making you certain of his existence in that other space, then I yield. So, I suspect, will everybody else you might seek to engage with.”

    To clarify I never asserted certainty in the existence of God. I attempted to give arguments that highlighted some of the assumptions and contradictions that underpin empiricism. These are not my arguments. They have been around for a long time in various areas of philosophy and recognition and acceptance of these assumptions is partly why some agnostics are able to add some rigour to their argument. An assertion that that some truth claims from Atheists and Theists alike are not universally valid.

    To comment on the below;

    “GC: I think what you are saying here is that I’m limited in that I can’t operate outside a (concrete?) universe in which nothing exists except things that are perceivable and conclusions about those things that I can work out by thinking rationally. If so, you’ve got me; I can’t!”

    No I never said this. I was attempting to argue that the Universe is comprised of “things” that are an accepted part of reality yet are essentially empirically not verifiable. I used the example of mathematics, logic, and language. These symbolic representations of human thought underpin what we call science. The whole of physicist is based on and relies on human thought experiments for progress.

    Often I see comments presented that criticise the concept of God using arguments that argue if God is outside the “universe” than such a God is unverifiable. If such a God was outside of the universe than why are we discussing this concept? Is not by the very act of conceptualising God this has to mean that God exists in the universe in a strict sense?

    This argument is sometimes made by the same that then attempt to put forward an argument that is is possible we live in a “multiverse” consisting of an infinite number of universes. So if we are in one universe how do we verify the existence of another universe? Using the verification tools and methods of our universe? This makes the assumption all universes are consistent in physical laws etc. This does not follow.

    There are so many things that Science has achieved however what Science is now discovering is just how much of the universe it does not understand. The fundamental assumption that humans can be independent observers in a deterministic universe has shown to not hold true at the quantum level. The act of observation changes the experiment or brings particles into existence. Particles can exist in multiple states. What this infers is that our reality is an illusion although one as Einstein quipped “albeit a very persistent one”.

    We live in a very very very Big universe. We also live in a very very very Small universe and one that appears to exist via the very nature of consciousness itself. If there is a statement I completely agree with that is used by Science to describe a non-understanding of the nature of reality than it would have to be “strange”.

    Nanoo Nanoo

    • babelfishproject says:

      Ok, I can see this has been done to death in my absence, so I’ll be brief. It’s not a category error if your category is just made up. Not by you in particular obviously, but by theists in general. All we have is their unsupported assertions that any such category exists. Well, they are ‘supported’ by some reasonably ancient (though not as ancient as usually claimed) writers, some of whom clearly had extremely vivid imaginations. This is just NOMA again, and I’m not buying it. As Dawkins said, “A universe with a supernaturally intelligent creator is a very different kind of universe than one without.”That’s clearly a scientific matter. As are all claims of miracles. Did Jesus really have no father, did he rise from the dead, etc? These are scientific questions. If we could lay our hands on some forensic evidence we could answer them. I see no credible evidence for the existence of any sort of of spiritual or theological category at all. And there’s no future in it. For thousands of years the realm of the ineffable has been shrinking as our knowledge grows. Yet despite these millenia of progress there are those who would have us abandon much of what we have learned about the universe through, yes, empiricism, and take on ‘faith’ the idea that some writers, thousands of years ago, whose identities we don’t even know, had somehow managed to gain some ultimate insight into the nature of the universe whilst wandering in the desert! I’m sorry, I just don’t have words for how ridiculous an idea I find that.

  97. Brendan Matthey says:

    Love cCatherine Deveny, she is awesome. All those complaing should also be made to state their religion (or other) because I bet they are ALL from the loony religious right.

  98. […] have just ‘done a Deveny’. Like Melbourne comedian, Catherine Deveny,  in her famous face-off against Archbishop Phillip Jensen on ABC’s Q&A, I have refused to be ‘nice’ in response to […]

  99. […] am no fan of  being ‘nice’ or polite in the face of liars, cheats or frauds. I completely accept […]

  100. […] readers will remember that this is a device I used following the misogynistic remarks made about Catherine Deveny’s recent Q&A […]

  101. […] to see the real Catherine Deveny. After watching her on Q and A, reading Chrys Stevenson’s article, watching some of Catherine’s tweets and hearing both praise and criticism from various […]

  102. […] didn’t think it was fair when Catherine Deveny was attacked for ‘taking over’ Q and A recently. Fortunately, the transcript backed me […]

  103. […] women in 2012 for Fairfax newspaper’s Daily Life website. And there, at No. 18 is the article I wrote about Catherine Deveny’s appearance on Q&A on this very […]

  104. […] what fun ‘Defending Deveny’ again. She certainly keeps me busy! Buzz me Deveny, this is turning into a full time job! We […]

  105. […] I wrote an article, Defending Deveny, about the Twitter storm that erupted after Deveny’s appearance on Q&A with Archbishop […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s