Is this the most awful man in Ireland?
This is Michael Nugent. Is he the most awful man in Ireland? Well if we were to believe recent comments on social media the answer would appear to be ‘yes’.
Michael has, in the past, documented a litany of defamatory smears made against him including being called a racist for pointing out that the Catholic Church now has most of its power base in the Southern hemisphere, being associated with a fascist group from 1930's Ireland, defending and providing a haven for harassers, misogynists and rapists and of being a champion of horrible people, a monster, actually crazy, and a weird obsessive crazy person. These are just some the smears that Michael has documented himself on his blog, there have been many more which have gone undocumented and uncommented upon on twitter, in the comments section of his blog and on both his own Facebook page and on that of Atheist Ireland.
It has almost become par for the course for Michael to be at the receiving end of defamatory smears. Certainly I’d imagine he is not alone is receiving such smears as this would seem to be the price one must pay for speaking out publicly on certain issues. Michael deals with these smears in his own way, by bring them to our attention and asking that we be more ethical in our dealings with each other on social media.
However, over the past number of weeks it has become apparent that there has been an intensifying of the smears directed towards Michael and by proxy Atheist Ireland. So I find myself in the absurd position of having to defend a friend (and an organisation I am a committee member of) from the truly absurd.
This is a flavour of some of the accusations made across various social media:
That Michael is a Fascist/Nazi/Neo-Nazi/Nazi sympathiser:
On Saturday 6th February an anti-Pegida protest was held in Dublin. The Atheist Ireland information table was set up at the GPO on O'Connell Street so both myself and Michael along with other members of Atheist Ireland were there to witness much of the protest. A large number of people turned out to protest and the event was colourful, vocal and largely good-natured. However, as was widely reported in the media both here and abroad, towards the end of the protest a number of the demonstrators confronted individuals they identified as members of Pegida. You can watch the ensuing melee here:
The following day Michael tweeted:
I assume the thugs who attacked people in Dublin yesterday, while chanting "Nazi scum, off our streets," were referring to themselves.— Michael Nugent (@micknugent) February 7, 2016
and later wrote this blog criticising street thuggery and calling for us to "strive to protect democracy and human rights, through a mix of civil society advocacy, public meetings, public rallies, political lobbying, direct involvement in politics, and legal challenges, while both respecting the role of the police in upholding the law, and opposing miscarriages of justice. We should do so peacefully, while respecting the rights of others to hold beliefs contrary to ours, as long as they do not take actions that infringe on others’ rights, and while we robustly criticise the content of their beliefs".
Reason, skepticism . . . and of course, nazi-sympathising. https://t.co/6jk0uGDfTO— Gaythoven (@Gaythoven) February 9, 2016
The New Atheists consider all Muslims as savages incompatible with 'Western Civilisation'. What's difference between Nugent and O'Loughlin?— An Modh Conghaileach (@AnCamcheachta) February 9, 2016
@micknugent no way would your reaction have been the same if Islamists were attacked similarly. Your sympathy for neo-Nazis says a lot— An Modh Conghaileach (@AnCamcheachta) February 7, 2016
@micknugent I'm an atheist, but I avoid openly identifying as such because the atheist movement is infested with racist apologists.— Shukri Adams (@shukriadams) February 7, 2016
It didn't take long for Michael and Atheist Ireland (and me as a committee member) to become conflated and similarly smeared:
Which orgs push the deceptive 'Islam is not a race' canard the most? Pegida and Atheist Ireland. Nothing different between them on this.— An Modh Conghaileach (@AnCamcheachta) February 9, 2016
*checks Twitter*— Ciarán O'Brien (@Sarklor) February 7, 2016
[Atheist Ireland still making it look like they love fascists and racism]
*goes back to video games*
Atheist Ireland appear to oppose all forms of totalitarianism the way Tommy Robinson does- in practice by attacking Muslims and the far-left— Subpri.me (@sbprme) February 7, 2016
Thank God for Atheist Ireland coming along to point out that the people marching against Islamophobia, racism and fascism are in fact Nazis.— Subpri.me (@sbprme) February 7, 2016
So let's recap. Michael dared to suggest that violence on our streets, even against those whose views we hold to be reprehensible and anathema to our own, should be avoided and is not in keeping with the ethical and democratic society we should all be working towards. And for that he is smeared as a racist, fascist, Nazi sympathiser. But that's not all. This last exchange took the biscuit, when Michael is likened to PIE, that's right the Paedophile Information Exchange.
@Kalista63 @micknugent @atheistie @hopenothate PIE = Pedophiles? Right?— johnny spooner (@theflowerthrowe) February 7, 2016
They're zealots. Who see themselves as generals in a zero-sum war.
That Michael is a homophobe and a misogynist:
On 6th February Michael wrote a short blog recounting a conversation he had at the Atheist Ireland information table. Michael recounted a conversation he had with a man who approached the table. The man, who had identified himself as gay, left the table in an abrupt way, I was there and I witnessed his departure. Michael used the words 'flounced away' to describe this action. I will admit I flinched when I had read what he wrote, not because it wasn't an accurate descriptor, it was, I was there, but because I knew exactly how it would be interpreted.
I hadn't planned on naming this individual as the post was shared on her own Facebook page, but while I was in the process of writing this Michael had decided to make this defamatory smear public (a decision I fully support). Aoife wrote the following when sharing the link to his blog:
"Gotta love a straight dude using the term 'flounced away' to refer to a gay man leaving a conversation with him. Especially when the straight dude just denied Dawkins misogyny. Then again, nothing surprising about someone using dog-whistle homophobia to defend someone who does the same thing to women, right?"
The following comments were left on this post on Aoife's page.Some left by people who have met Michael in person, have had conversations with him, have marched in Dublin Pride with him and know him and his history of social activism well:
"This blog reads like a rage comic"
"My feelings for Michael Nugent are similar to my feelings for Ted Nugent. Both of them make me sprain my eyes, they roll so hard. Hell of a trigger to my gag reflex as well. It's just one of them should know better"
"Hey, Mick Nugent misrepresenting a conversation or written text to make himself look eminently reasonable and his opponent combative, then denying what the victims of abuse claim is abuse! Must be Sunday"
"I think that atheist Ireland is needed but I feel Nugent is pushing his own agendas and making them atheist Ireland's. My question is how do you stop that? He is the chair person, was he voted in or just assigned? As it is atheist Ireland are doing a fantastic job trying to rid irish schools of there Catholic issue. However after reading numerous posts on his blog he is clearly more focused on america than Ireland specifically the mysoginistic prick that is dumbass Dawkins and his looney twitter feed. Are there any irish atheist groups that actually like woman and feminists because the feeling I get when looking at them is that women can be an atheist sure but speak about anything related to women's rights and issues and you labeled a rad fem who deserves abuse. Like the logical thing to do would be to try distance yourself from what atheist ireland is becoming which is ironically an organised religion"
"This doesn't surprise me at all - and it gets worse"
This last comment, while appearing innocuous is, to me the most damaging of them all. The comment was made by Michael Barron. Michael is the Executive Director of Equate Ireland, a newly formed group set up to campaign against religious-based discrimination against children in Irish schools. This is, of course a campaign that Atheist Ireland have been involved in for years and members of the Atheist Ireland committee, including Michael have met with Micheal Barron her ein Ireland and have worked along side him in the UN. Michael Barron has since apologised to Michael and Atheist Ireland for commenting on this thread:
While accepting that is apology is sincere, I have asked him to explain why he wrote what he wrote and what he meant by it. At the time of writing this I have received no response, I hope he will take the time to clarify exactly what he meant by his comments.. @JaneBDonnelly @micknugent @JohnHamill151 @atheistie I called Michael to apologise I shouldn't have commented on thread, I am sorry for it— Michael Barron (@MichaelNBarron) February 15, 2016
@MichaelNBarron @JaneBDonnelly @micknugent @JohnHamill151 @atheistie can u explain why u said what u said & what u meant by it?— Ashling O'Brien (@AshlingOBrien2) February 15, 2016
As I said at the beginning, Michael has dealt with the smears he has been on the receiving end of by bringing them out in the open and challenging those who have made them, and us to do better. The past number of weeks have seen, not only an escalation in these smears, but an increase in smears coming from within the social activist movement in Ireland, home-grown smears if you will. I have come to the conclusion that there is a campaign not just against Michael, but against Atheist Ireland. In the past few weeks Michael has been smeared as an Islamophobe, a misogynist, a homophobe, a racist, a fascist, a Nazi, a Neo-Nazi and likened to a pro-paedophile rights movement.@MichaelNBarron @JaneBDonnelly @micknugent @JohnHamill151 @atheistie "This doesn't surprise me at all - and it gets worse" plz explain— Ashling O'Brien (@AshlingOBrien2) February 15, 2016
And while all this was going on what was Michael and Atheist Ireland doing?
This is some of what they were doing:
- They published an article criticising the Northern Standard for refusing to publish material written by Atheist Ireland that they considered to be blasphemous.
- They hosted the first historic meeting of three minority groups (atheists, Evangelicals and Ahmadiyya Muslims) coming together to call for secular education.
- They published an article outlining how the UN vindicated Atheist Ireland's school policy
- They wrote an article drawing attention to how the Irish State misled the UN about religious discrimination in Irish schools
- They travelled to Geneva to advocate for children in Irish schools, as the UN questioned Ireland about its human rights record under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- They carried out a secular litmus test on the Renua election manifesto
- They hosted brunches in Dublin, Kerry, Athlone, Galway, Donegal, Cork and Sligo.
- They set up Atheist Ireland information table in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kerry.
- They hosted pre-election public meetings in Galway and Kerry.
- Michael debated 'Islam is not a religion of peace' in UCD
- Michael debated 'Is Theism Reasonable?' with Peter Hitchens in TCD
- Michael debated 'Do atheists need the Catholic Church?' with Joe Humphreys
- Michael debated the right to die on Newstalk
Frankly, I'm amazed Michael found the time for all his fascism, racism, misogyny, Nazism and homophobia.
Look, this is the way it is, you may not like Michael Nugent, you may not agree with his views or his ideas. You may not like Atheist Ireland, grand, that is your prerogative. I am not for one moment suggesting that either Michael, Atheist Ireland (or myself for that matter) are in anyway above criticism. But the smears have reached the point were they are becoming a narrative and one that is damaging and dangerous. People who don't know about Michael's decades of activism or the work being carried out by Atheist Ireland are getting caught up in this narrative, they are assuming, based on this narrative that they know who Michael is. They are not hearing about the work that I've outlined above, they are hearing the smears. I said already that I am in the absurd position of having to defend a friend against the absurd. It is absurd to suggest that Michael Nugent is a fascist, a racist, a misogynist, a Nazi/Neo-Nazi or a homophobe. If he is all those things (or even some portion of them) then he is truly the most awful man in Ireland. This is absurd.
We are a long, long way off of achieving a fair, equal and ethical society in Ireland. We must start to recognise that we are working towards the same goals. We may not always agree on the methods to achieve them, but bringing down our allies through smear campaigns is definitely not the way to go about achieving these goals.
In conclusion, you are not always going to agree with Michael Nugent (I know I don't). That's OK. When you don't agree with him criticise him, challenge him, call him out on it, but please enough with the smears already.
Update: Michael Barron has contacted Michael to apologise for commenting on Aoife's post. Michael has accepted and thanked him for his apology. I hope that other commenters, and Aoife herself will hav ethe ethical fortitude to follow suit.