Search Results For jennifer hecht

And because it’s very contingent on convenience, suicide can be easily prevented in many circumstances:

A reader writes:

Regarding this video from Jennifer Michael Hecht, it’s the most useful encouragement I’ve heard to keep your life. I have mild depression, and I think about dying or going away fairly constantly. I haven’t attempted suicide, but the idea of not wanting to live is compelling. So thanks for continuing this thread.

Another reader was in a much darker place:

I suffered from soul-crushing clinical depression that started in my mid-teens and only lifted in my mid-30s. Twenty years of suicidal ideation literally every day.  I would lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to summon the energy to do anything, just utterly overwhelmed by the sick, pulsing pit of anxiety I felt in my belly, the pit that just sucked all of my life force and left me spent.  I would fantasise about getting a shotgun, laying it next to me on the bed, pointing it at my stomach, and blasting my stomach away, just to replace that awful psychological pain with something real and physical.

I even fantasised about taking out some others with me.

No-one in particular, but maybe some of those smug rugby playing jocks who were so dumbly happy and fun-loving and got all the girls.  I’ll show you what real pain feels like before I take myself out, motherfuckers.

So yeah, when I was feeling that way, I wasn’t thinking about what I would leave behind when I went. My life was so dark and full of pain, so if my death dished out some of that pain to other people, well good.  They could share in some of the darkness that I had to deal with every fucking day.

Most people had no clue.  I was clever enough to get a degree without ever opening a book, and this dark intensity I had going attracted some girls like moths to a flame.  I was dissociated enough to be able to talk to people like nothing was wrong. I was very good at hiding this inner devastation.  You know, out of consideration for those around me.  So no-one really knew.

So I agree with the idea that suicide is selfish – of course it is!  You are ending your own life: what could be more selfish?  But I also cannot in any way endorse the folks who generate moral outrage out of this – “how can this person have not thought of the people they left behind?”  People who think this way have never experienced real depression.  They have no idea of the utter nihilism that drives the act.  If they were granted one day of staring into that abyss, I do believe their moral outrage would vanish and be replaced with a profound sadness and sorrow for the suffering that those people had to endure, day in a day out, before they made the choice to just fucking end it once and for all.

For the record, I made it through.  I was lucky.  A chance prescription to an anti-depressant 10 years ago (one of the few I had never tried before) actually worked, and lifted the darkness for the first time in decades.  After a few weeks, I started seeing colours brighter, seeing the good in people, not the ugly.  I used this new energy to get into therapy, where I stayed for years, after I had dropped the prescription and worked to understand what the hell had happened to me.

I’m still on that road – I’m not immune to feeling low and anxious – but I have a pretty good marriage, two wonderful kids and a business of my own. I do community work and employ people whom I treat well.  I never suffer suicidal ideation anymore; I fear death now, sometimes with more anxiety that is healthy I guess. But man, this is a life I never expect to be able to live.  And it is good.

Jennifer’s previous Ask Anything videos here. Update from a reader:

As much as I applaud your in-depth look at suicide, I wish you would mention Friends for Survival, who, for more than three decades, provide support for those who have lost a friend or relative to suicide. They have scores of materials to help people through what is often the darkest time of their life. They even have crisis counseling for those for whom the event is recent (and I greatly admire those counselors – I accidentally picked up one of those calls when volunteering there and spoke to a women who had three hours earlier found her 16-year-old son hanging from a belt in his closet; I was simply devastated). They also have a lending library, skill forums, and host of other tools to help make a difference. For anyone who is feeling the pain of a suicide death, these are THE folks to go to.

Update from that reader on 4/10:

I’ve heard from the phone counselors and they’ve already sent out five new family packets of materials to callers who saw the item on The Dish. God bless you, thank you. 

(Archive)

The author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It addresses the question:

A reader responds to our first video from JMH:

Thanks for your brief video of Hecht talking about suicide contagion. Many years ago I went through a period of serious depression and came quite close to killing myself. With the help of several people (and one friend in particular) I pulled through, and now I lead a regular life with episodes of normal misery but nothing like what I once experienced.

When I was at my lowest ebb, I definitely knew that if I ended my life I would hurt others around me – my family, my friends. But in the two or so years I struggled with those feelings, I can tell you it never once occurred to me that killing myself might lead someone else to end their life. Such a thought would have been abhorrent to me, and I couldn’t help wondering after I wanted Hecht’s video whether suicide prevention counsellors make that point to those at risk of harming themselves. I think if they did, some of those people would step back from the brink. It’s one thing to hurt yourself and rationalize that your pain is greater than the pain you’ll cause others through your death; it’s quite another to think you might be compelling some of those who knew you to step into that abyss themselves.

Many thanks for that video. I will now read her book.

[Updated with reader-submitted questions that you can vote on below]

From her bio:

Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, philosopher, historian and commentator. She is the author of the bestseller Doubt: A History, a history of religious and philosophical doubt all over the world, throughout history. Her new book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, out from Yale University Press. Her The Happiness Myth brings a historical eye to modern wisdom about how to lead a good life.  Hecht’s The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology won Phi Beta Kappa’s 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award “For scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.”

The Dish featured the arguments of Stay here and Hecht’s ideas about atheism here and here, part of a thread asking, “Where are all the female atheists?” Let us know what you think we should ask Jennifer via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):


[SURVEY NOW CLOSED]

Popova loved Stay, insisting that the book is “more than a must-read — it’s a cultural necessity”:

Hecht argues that, historically, our ideologies around suicide have set us up for “an unwinnable battle”: First, the moralistic doctrines of the major Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam condemned suicide as a sin that “God” forbids, one more offensive than even murder because you were stealing directly from divinity with no time left for repentance — a strategy based on negative reinforcement, which modern psychology has demonstrated time and again is largely ineffective. Then came The Enlightenment, whose secular philosophy championed individual agency and, in rebelling against the blind religiosity of the past, framed suicide as some sort of moral freedom — a toxic proposition Hecht decries as a cultural wrong turn. Reflecting on such attitudes — take, for instance, Patti Smith’s beautiful yet heartbreaking tribute to Virginia Woolf’s suicide — Hecht makes the case, instead, for two of history’s relatively unknown but potent arguments against suicide: That we owe it to society and to our personal communities to stay alive, and that we owe it to our future selves …

From her bio:

Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, philosopher, historian and commentator. She is the author of the bestseller Doubt: A History, a history of religious and philosophical doubt all over the world, throughout history. Her new book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, out from Yale University Press. Her The Happiness Myth brings a historical eye to modern wisdom about how to lead a good life.  Hecht’s The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology won Phi Beta Kappa’s 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award “For scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.”

Popova loved Stay, insisting that the book is “more than a must-read — it’s a cultural necessity”:

Hecht argues that, historically, our ideologies around suicide have set us up for “an unwinnable battle”: First, the moralistic doctrines of the major Western religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam condemned suicide as a sin that “God” forbids, one more offensive than even murder because you were stealing directly from divinity with no time left for repentance — a strategy based on negative reinforcement, which modern psychology has demonstrated time and again is largely ineffective. Then came The Enlightenment, whose secular philosophy championed individual agency and, in rebelling against the blind religiosity of the past, framed suicide as some sort of moral freedom — a toxic proposition Hecht decries as a cultural wrong turn. Reflecting on such attitudes — take, for instance, Patti Smith’s beautiful yet heartbreaking tribute to Virginia Woolf’s suicide — Hecht makes the case, instead, for two of history’s relatively unknown but potent arguments against suicide: That we owe it to society and to our personal communities to stay alive, and that we owe it to our future selves …

The Dish featured the arguments of Stay here and Hecht’s ideas about atheism here and here, part of a thread asking, “Where are all the female atheists?” Let us know what you think we should ask Jennifer via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):


[SURVEY NOW CLOSED]

In a really terrific post during my vacation, Freddie DeBoer nailed something to the cross:

It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can’t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing, or if someone decides to misrepresent what you said as saying the wrong thing. There are so many ways to step on a landmine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them.

Freddie’s concern was with online hazing of the politically incorrect. Writers are not just condemned any more for being wrong or dumb or rigid. They are condemned as sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, blah blah blah – almost as a reflex in trying to discredit their work. That’s particularly true when it comes to fascinating issues like race or gender or sexual orientation, where liberalism today seems to insist that there are absolutely no aggregate differences between genders, races, ethnicities, or sexual orientations, except those created by oppression and discrimination and bigotry. Anyone even daring to bring up these topics is subjected to intense pressure, profound disapproval and ostracism. This illiberal liberalism is not new, of course. But it’s still depressingly common.

Sam Harris is one of its latest victims. There sure is plenty to disagree with Sam about – and we have had several such arguments and debates. But the idea that he is a sexist – and now forced to defend himself at length from the charge after a book-signing discussion – is really pathetic. His account of the episode is well worth-reading for the insight it gives into the Puritanical wing of the left. Michelle Boornstein decided to play the sexist card after a contentious interview, and then tweet it out thus:

Here’s what she was referring to (in her words):

I also asked Harris at the event why the vast majority of atheists—and many of those who buy his books—are male, a topic which has prompted some to raise questions of sexism in the atheist community. Harris’ answer was both silly and then provocative. It can only be attributed to my “overwhelming lack of sex appeal,” he said to huge laughter.

“I think it may have to do with my person[al] slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people… People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this—it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

This is impermissibly sexist because it assumes that there are some essential biological and psychological differences between men and women, and for a certain kind of leftist, this is an intolerable heresy. If that truth cannot be suppressed or rebutted in a free society, its adherents must be stigmatized as bigots. It’s a lazy form of non-argument – and may have been payback from Boorstein after Harris and she differed quite strongly on the power of fundamentalism in American culture.

But Boorstein’s premise – that because many more men than women seem to buy and read his books, there must be some sexism at work – is preposterous.

Anyone can buy a book on Amazon. There are no gender barriers whatever. The free flow of ideas will often lead to different audiences for different authors. That some books by white Americans are read disproportionately by whites doesn’t mean they’re racist. And, yes, style of writing – especially the combative, testosteroned debates that occur online or typify the slash-and-burn atheist conversation – can lead to a disproportionately male-skewed audience for that kind of thing. But all that is a function of free choice in a free market of ideas – not some kind of institutional sexism – let alone personal sexism. Why we cannot revel in these differences and embrace them as part of what makes being human so fascinating and variable is beyond me. But clearly it threatens people. Reality can.

Then Sam was subjected to a public dressing down by a person in the book-signing line:

She: What you said about women in the atheist community was totally denigrating to women and irresponsible. Women can think just as critically as men. And men can be just as nurturing as women.

Me: Of course they can! But if you think there are no differences, in the aggregate, between people who have Y chromosomes and people who don’t; if you think testosterone has no psychological effects on human minds in general; if you think we can’t say anything about the differences between two bell curves that describe whole populations of men and women, whether these differences come from biology or from culture, we’re not going to get very far in this conversation.

But the conversation is not the point. Even an individual writer’s personality and style is not the point. The point is the enforcement of an ideology by the weapon of stigma and social ostracism. Some favorite lines from the p.c. war:

You should just know that what you said was incredibly sexist and very damaging, and you should apologize … You’re just totally unaware of how sexist you are.

It’s that last line that really gives the game away. It means essentially that a writer cannot win. Or rather: that a writer somehow has to represent all of humanity or risk being regarded and demonized as hostile to whole sections of it. This should be called out for what it is: a full-scale assault on the integrity and freedom of writers in the name of social liberalism. Writers need to stand up to this cant – and not capitulate to it.

For more on the subject of women and atheism, check out the Dish discussion thread, “Where Are All The Female Atheists?” One of those readers brought to our attention the work of the brilliant female atheist Jennifer Michael Hecht, whom we subsequently invited to join our Ask Anything feature to discuss the subject of suicide, explored in her book Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

Suicide Breeds Suicide

Dish Staff —  Aug 18 2014 @ 9:03am
by Dish Staff

Earlier this year, Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, spelled out how killing yourself makes it more likely that others will take their own lives:

In the wake of Robin Williams’ death, Steven Stack reviews research on suicide contagion:

[T]here have been more than 100 empirical investigations of copycat suicide. A review of 419 findings from the first 55 investigations showed that only 35.8 per cent documented an increase in suicide after media coverage. Given that most evidence is not consistent with a copycat effect, a search for the conditions under which a story may elicit imitative suicides has been a key theme in this work.

The most important factor distinguishing studies that report a copycat effect from the ones that do not is whether or not a celebrity is involved. In particular, copycat effects are most likely to be reported in work focused on two distinct types of celebrities: those in politics and entertainment. The analysis of those 419 findings found that studies based on either or both of these subtypes were 5.27 times more likely to report an increase in suicides following coverage.

But he theorizes that “Williams’s gender could conceivably prevent a record number of copycat deaths”:

The more Williams’s suicide is discussed, if all else is equal, the greater the odds of a copycat effect. It is, however, doubtful that the impact will be as great as that of Monroe or Choi. They killed themselves at the peaks of their careers and popularity. In addition, the review of 419 findings in 55 studies determined that research that focuses on female suicide rates was 4.89 times more likely to find a copycat effect than other research.

Margot Sanger-Katz explains how to ethically cover suicides:

Few of the experts’ recommendations make much sense in the case of Mr. Williams. Studies suggest avoiding repetitive or prominent coverage; keeping the word suicide out of news headlines; and remaining silent about the means of suicide. “How can it not be prominent?” [professor Madelyn] Gould said.

Experts also say articles should include information about how suicide can be avoided (for instance, noting that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255).

They also recommend avoiding coverage that describes death as an escape for a troubled person.

Bill Gardner adds:

So how should journalists report on suicides? The public interest is best served by simply reporting that a person has died by suicide, with no additional details provided. If that’s too much to ask, then at least such details should not be placed in headlines or featured in a way that calls attention to them. This guidance is found in many ethical standards for journalists.

Williams’ suicide has also prompted a lot of constructive journalism about suicide prevention. I am all for that: suicide prevention is one of my research areas. But the most important thing to do is to find more effective treatments for the cause of many suicides: depression. And to find these treatments we need to be conducting more mental health research.

A reader response to Hecht’s video is here. More Dish on suicide contagion here.

Robin Williams, RIP, Ctd

Dish Staff —  Aug 12 2014 @ 7:12am
by Dish Staff

Some immediate reaction from Twitter, including many clips of Williams’ greatest moments, here. Several more clips after the jump. A reader writes a moving eulogy:

I’m sure that I’m just one of many Dishheads writing in about the horribly sad death of Robin Williams. I’m a child of the ’90s, and he was a constant fixture of my cultural world through childhood and into adulthood. Not only was he a genuine comedic genius – his bit on the invention of golf [seen above] was legendary long before today, as was his 2001 appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, to name a few drops in the bucket. But his joy, sincerity and warmth of personality left a mark that I am now surprised to find was so deep.

He was consistently open about his struggles with depression, addiction and alcoholism, and it sucks that some combination of those demons managed to overpower him, despite all the effort he put into fighting his battles and helping the rest of us fight our own. His approach to humor was so unusual among comics of this era: it was never based on cynicism or complaint, but rather, predominantly, on sharing the things that made him irrepressibly happy. He was such a transparently compassionate person that if he’d had any inkling of the outpouring of collective mourning that took place [last night], things might have gone another way.

I’ve never seen a larger or more visceral mass response to a celebrity death.

On Twitter alone, I follow close to 200 accounts, from a wide range of countries, cultures and sub-cultures, and I swear almost every single one came out of the woodwork, some of whom had been silent for years before tonight. And Twitter’s “trending” topics were completely dominated by subjects related to his life, career and death. It occurred to me that this might have to do with the fact that Robin Williams, whose filmography spans from Mork & Mindy (1978) to Night at the Museum (latest installment in post-production), is one of the few figures who looms just as large for my parents’ generation as he does for mine.

It’s really odd – I didn’t even consider myself a great fan of his, but he was a part of my life all the same, and this gutted emotional state I’m in is clear proof of that. I’ll miss him. Fuck depression.

Another points out:

If you weren’t already aware of it, I thought I would link to a WHO document [pdf] about responsible media coverage of suicide.  I learned about it through this podcast.  It’s being reported that Robin Williams killed himself, and celebrity suicides can cause a string of copycat suicides.  How the suicide is reported can influence how many copycat suicides occur and this is true for famous and not famous alike.  This is known as the Werther Effect. I’m not being critical of your coverage, but thought that you should be made aware of the WHO document.

Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, discussed the Werther Effect and much more in her “Ask Anything” videos for the Dish. Meanwhile, as another reader notes, Robin Williams’ performance in Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” music video has a dark irony this week:

A happier ending:

If you’ve never seen the standup bit of Robin Williams simulating cunnilingus, then you haven’t seen the full range of his comic genius.  It makes my cheeks hurt from laughter every time I seen it (and might have a good tie-in with your recent coverage of hirsute men):

Another reader ties in another recent thread:

Last week I was going to send Williams’ and McFerrin’s version of “Come Together”, since it is one of my fave covers, but it didn’t seem quite outre enough. Now it’s a no brainer. No video, but it does have nice pictures of Robin:

And another touches upon another Dish theme:

You covered Robin Williams’ tragic, untimely death, but I think you failed to include a video that has him mentioning a number of favorite Dish topics, including Catholicism and gay marriage:

Atheists

A reader shares the above image via GSpellchecker, adding, “I think this just about sums it up.” Another reader would agree:

The problem is that atheism by its nature is silent. You tend not to talk about something you don’t believe in unless it specifically comes up as a topic. If you’re in a group of friends and you want to indicate you’re a Christian, you can mention something about church. How do I casually indicate my status as an atheist? Mention that I’d like to go mountain climbing but I don’t want to risk death because I don’t believe in an afterlife?

The joy of Dawkins is that he comes out and tells us we’re not the only ones, that there are lots of other really smart and sane people out there who realize that the entire religion thing is completely ridiculous.

Another:

In the discussion of atheists “coming out,” I’m surprised no one has mentioned The Out Campaign promoted by – wait for it – The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. (There is a similar project for closeted atheist clergy.) In my opinion, the New Atheists are trailblazing in the culture wars, pushing the so-called Overton window for religious opinions. They are also alerting closeted atheists that there are more like-minded people out there than they may realize. This all makes it possible for mild-mannered atheists to simply come out in their own boring way.

Another argues that militancy is more than justified:

The accusation of the strident atheist is similar to the “angry black man” trope in that it is designed to get people to shut up and disenfranchise people who are saying things that the accuser does not like.

The irony is that the worst Dawkins, Dennett, Maher, and Hitchens say about religion is quite mild in comparison to what the religious say about atheists. The core belief of Christianity and Islam is that atheists will be tortured in hell for eternity. This is not some Old Testament throwaway line but is integral to belief itself.

I would remind the reader who wrote about their grandmother who lost a son and uses the promise of heaven as a coping mechanism that she is saying in the same sentence that you (an atheist) are going to hell to be tortured for all eternity. You can’t have the kingdom of heaven without the damnation of hell; that’s an implicit bargain.

But a few readers suggest that strategy might backfire:

I’m as secular-lefty as they come (hell, I’m a professor of social theory; it’s practically a professional requirement), but the tone-deaf pompousness, the lack of regard for nuance, and the circular arguments that the New Atheists sometimes display have pushed me towards a much more sympathetic regard for religion – what it does for societies, and what it does for individuals. From someone who was unthinkingly a little scornful by default of religious belief, I’ve found myself becoming more understanding of the meaning it can have in people’s lives. And in large part that was due to dismay at some of those New Atheist writings – they served as a kind of reductio ad absurdum of my original position, and so forced me to move away from it.

Another:

While I’m a fan of Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and of course, The Hitch, it always bothered me that the most prominent and vocal representatives of atheism were these bright, oratorial, privileged, condescending, caustic, and sarcastic middle-aged white men who have publicly (and quite literally) sneered at people with the audacity to believe in God. I don’t think they realize how poorly they actually represent their cause, or the majority of moderate, more inclusive non-believers out there. They certainly don’t appeal to most women or minorities. It’s as though their target demographic is a Redditor.

Where’s the Ellen Degeneres of atheism? Where’s the easy-going, non-threatening, relentlessly charming atheist who realizes that atheism isn’t a very big deal at all? Where’s the happy-go-lucky personality on TV that casually confirms, “Yes, I’m an atheist. Now, tell me what you’ve been up to lately …”

Well, as far as minorities like African-Americans, they simply “outrank every other group where piety and religiosity are concerned,” so of course there are fewer outspoken black atheists – a subject the Dish has covered quite a bit. Regarding female atheists, there’s a thread for that, and the Dish has also given an Ask Anything platform to one of the most prominent female atheists, Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. Of the three “doubters” she praises in the following video, two are women:

Previous Dish on the need for atheists to come out hereherehere and here.

Email Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan —  May 2 2014 @ 8:32pm

collage

A reader writes:

I just read your “The Best of The Dish Today” with all its great news about the Dish’s relative financial health and wellbeing. Congratulations, mazel tov, salud, and all those great good wishes.

However, the reason I moused over to your page moments ago was a more somber one, but one that left me feeling deeply grateful to you and your intrepid crew for the work you do creating a space on the web – the fucking web of all places! – that is enriching, thoughtful, and never cynical in that particularly despicable, webby way. Earlier today I received the troubling news that a college student from the tight-knit community I grew up in attempted suicide late last night. He’s a bright, sweet guy, and my dad’s been something of a mentor to him, so the story sent me reeling. A dear friend lost his father to suicide last summer, and if I’m honest, I’ve had depressions that I stubbornly wouldn’t treat that probably brought me closer to thinking about it than I ever care to be again. So the issue’s close to me (as it is for so many).

I thought back a month or so to Jennifer Michael Hecht’s incredible first Ask Anything video and needed to find and re-watch it. Andrew, I wept. As she offered her gratitude to those who choose to stay with us despite their pain, I wept for joy over Jennifer’s compassion, brilliance, and fierce moral intelligence. And I wept for joy that we have in you a man with both the pugnacity to make it in the rough-and-tumble world of media and the sensitivity to recognize the importance of conversations like that one; you’re a rare breed, Sully.

And as I sat there weeping and pondering the mystery of intrinsic, immutable human worthiness (which, to bring in another thread, if Jesus had any point it surely was that), I felt more grateful than ever for the community that you’ve made with the Dish, since, as Hecht’s work on suicide has taught us, community is the whole point, in the end.

Have you ever noticed that for all that the web’s social media networks and listservs and affinity groups and message boards claim to be “virtual communities,” they always fall short? That the web – but not the Dish – is actually terrible at community? I think what others miss and that you haven’t is that you can’t form a real community just by sticking together a bunch of people who like the same stuff or think the same way or have the same friends. Real community isn’t a place at all, but something more like thecomposite-staff phenomenon of people experiencing respect and love and admiration for others they might not share much with, or might not even particularly like. Being forced in with people unlike you is a necessary condition. Real community needs dissent and diversity.

And, my god, is that the Dish. When you’re taking a big, clear stand against the hypocrisy of our Church or teaching the tao of meep meep, I could kiss you on your beautiful, bearded mouth. When you’re prattling on about The Bell Curve or getting weirdly defensive about some untenable position you’ve staked out while readers kick your rhetorical ass, I could whack you on your shiny, bald pate. But either way I’m so glad that you’re here and that I get to read your work. That you’ve made a place for so many of us to share in this together is even more amazing. I’d bet a whole lot that the community you’ve made is the one that some readers most want to “stay” for. And I hope you’re damn proud of that.

So all of that’s to say please keep doing what you do. Please keep talking about suicide and the other impossible questions. And more importantly: thank you. For all of it.

(Top photos of Dish readers used with their permission. Bottom photos of Dish staff, clockwise from top-left: Matthew Sitman, Patrick Appel, Chris Bodenner, Katie Zavadski, Brian Senecal, Chas Danner, Alice Quinn, Jessie Roberts (inset), Tracy Walsh, and Jonah Shepp in the center square. Read a bit about each of them here.)

The Best Of The Dish Today

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 9 2014 @ 9:30pm

After all the rancor of the last few days, it’s great to focus on something positive in the gay world. That interview above is, to me at least, deeply, deeply moving. It’s really worth watching in full. How much better to advance understanding this way than by getting people fired.

Alas, the discourse police have been busy again. My friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now the latest casualty of the culture war in which elements of the hard left seem far less interested in a free exchange of ideas, than in the rigid imposition of a new orthodoxy. She just had her honorary degree from Brandeis withdrawn after the usual complaints about “sensitivity”. Yes, she’s controversial. She has said some tough, tough things about Islam. But if she hasn’t earned the right to say those things, who has? She made a statement today about it, which you can find here. Money quote:

What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The “spirit of free expression” referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.

I regret it every time someone is silenced by intimidation.

Speaking of shaming, the most trafficked post of the day was my take on a chance to end HIV among gay men, “Why Aren’t Gay Men On The Pill?” – and how hideous shaming of men protecting themselves from HIV may be perpetuating the epidemic. Next up: the final roundup of reader emails in the thread, “A Nation Defined By White Supremacy?” Other popular posts included a depressing look at how prisons have replaced psychiatric hospitals, followed by hathos-filled trailer about a guy infatuated with attractive female bloggers.

You can comment on the posts at our Facebook page. See what people are saying about @sullydish here. Posts with reader updates you might have missed: The Impulsivity Of Suicide and Beer-Soaked Meat Is Good For You – which is now surging on Facebook.

22 31 more readers became subscribers today; you can join them here.

See you in the morning.