NECSS should reconsider Dawkins decision, made in haste without full information

by Michael Nugent on February 1, 2016

Why did the New York City Skeptics and New England Skeptical Society withdraw their invitation to Richard Dawkins to speak at their NorthEast Conference on Science and Skepticism? Steven Novella says the reason “was ultimately about the character of NECSS and the statement we wish to make (or not make) to our community.”

But as well as their intended statement, they have also made an unintended statement about their character. That is: “You cannot trust us to honour our commitments. We and you may have agreed that you will speak at our event, and have publicised that. However, we might unilaterally, selectively and arbitrarily renege on our agreement, and publicise that without even telling you, based on our subjective opinion of what you write on Twitter.”

This is the fourth recent controversy involving activists having speaking invitations withdrawn. Warwick University Students Union and Trinity College Dublin both withdrew invitations to Maryam Namazie, citing fears of incitement to hatred of Muslims. And Saint Dominic’s College in Dublin withdrew an invitation to me, citing fears that my talk would undermine its Catholic ethos.

After being asked to reconsider, each of these three institutions reinstated the invitations, with Warwick Students Union publicly apologising to Maryam. All three talks have since gone ahead successfully. I hope this article will help to persuade NECSS to follow the example of these other bodies, and revisit their decision based on the skepticism that they promote.

The responsibilities of making an agreement

I agree with most of this assessment by Steven Novella:

“The issue here is not free speech. People have a right to speech, but they don’t have a right to access a private venue for their speech. In fact, whom we invite or uninvite to our conference is the primary mechanism of our free speech. Obviously where one sets the threshold for not inviting, or uninviting, a guest is subjective and there is room for reasonable disagreement here.”

However, I make a major distinction between a decision to invite someone, and a decision to ‘uninvite’ someone. Nobody would have had any problem if NECSS had decided not to invite Richard. But once you invite somebody, and they agree, then ethically you have entered into an agreement. And here, ‘uninvite’ is a euphemism for unilaterally breaking that agreement.

Of course, in any agreement, one party may behave so unpredictably outrageously as to warrant the other party unilaterally breaking the agreement. The question is, has this happened here? I suggest that such reasons do not exist here, and that NECSS acted hastily, disproportionately, and (as Steven Novella has since acknowledged) without full information about the issue.

Steven has clarified that the five person NECSS Committee that made the decisions, and who in the first instance I am hoping will reconsider that decision, is composed of Michael Feldman, Jamy Ian Swiss and Benny Pollak of the New York City Skeptics, and Steven Novella and Jay Novella of the New England Skeptical Society.

The decisions and their announcements

On 21 January NECSS tweeted:

“Registration is now open! See @RichardDawkins @richardwiseman @SkepticsGuide @CaraSantaMaria & more this May! http://www.necss.org.”

On 28 January NECSS published the following statement:

“The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016. We have taken this action in response to Dr. Dawkins’ approving re-tweet of a highly offensive video. We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views. However, unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful speech runs contrary to our mission and the environment we wish to foster at NECSS. The sentiments expressed in the video do not represent the values of NECSS or its sponsoring organizations.”

I agree that almost everything in this is true. The part I don’t agree is true is the phrase “Dr. Dawkins’ approving re-tweet.” It would be more accurate to say it was a qualified retweet, with the qualification being that he himself is a feminist and he says that obviously the video message does not apply to the vast majority of feminists.

However, I do not believe that it follows from the content of the NECSS statement being true, that it was correct to withdraw the invitation to Richard to speak.

Divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful?

Using the NECSS criteria, the video that Richard retweeted is certainly divisive (ironically, so is the decision to withdraw the speaking invitation). Whether it is counterproductive depends on what its aim is. But neither of these should be reasons to unilaterally break an already-publicised agreement with a speaker.

I suggest that, to bring the retweet into a range of behaviour that would justify NECSS breaking their agreement, they would have to be relying on the third of their criteria: that Richard is in some way culpable of promoting hateful speech.

Promoting hateful speech is quite an allegation to make, and one that should not be made casually. I have seen no evidence that Richard has ever promoted hateful speech, and considerable evidence that he actively opposes it.

What will happen if NECSS apply their stated criteria to their other invited speakers? What tweets and other public comments do the current speakers have to avoid between now and May? What will happen if NECSS retrospectively checks things they have already said?

This year’s conference host Jamy Ian Swiss is on the Committee that uninvited Richard. I don’t know how he voted on the decision. But in 2013 he retweeted a video on Twitter with the commentary:

“Russell Brand casually reduces TV anchors to the useless, talentless, brainless, purposeless fools they truly are. https://youtu.be/lY43fycbNPA”

In the retweeted video, comedian Russell Brand describes the NBC newsroom as a hotbed of neuroses and psychoses, and he says to a woman host who is holding a water bottle: “What do you think that gesture means, the way you’re touching that bottle? What’s the subtext of that? Lose that ring, because it don’t mean nothing to you. She’s grasping for the shaft. She’s a shaft grasper.”

I could continue in this vein, and even more pointedly, with regard to some previous speakers at NECSS. And I hope that I don’t have to clarify that I am not suggesting that any other speakers should be ‘uninvited.’ Policing the Twitter feeds and other public comments of invited speakers is not the best way to prepare for a conference. You invite somebody knowing who they are and what they stand for. Unless they change significantly from that, you should honour your agreement.

Decision made in haste without complete information

On 30 January Steven Novella published his personal analysis of the decision. This is not the official reason given by the organisation, and Steven acknowledges that it does not reflect the views of the (either one or two out of five) committee members who did not agree with the decision. But it gives us the views of those who wanted to ‘uninvite’ Richard.

It is clear from Steven’s analysis that NECSS made its decision in haste and without full information.

“Dawkins retweeted a video…This, of course, set off another round of controversy over Dawkins’ social media activity and the attitudes they reflect… Since we had just opened registration this created an urgency, because we did not want to “bait and switch” our attendees if we would ultimately decide to reverse our decision to have him at the conference. We felt it was important to make a decision quickly.

To his credit, Dawkins removed his tweet in which he linked to the video. He did this prior to learning about our decision. Likewise, we made and executed our decision prior to learning that Dawkins deleted the tweet. I don’t know if this would have changed our decision. On the one hand removing the tweet is recognition that it was a mistake in the first place. On the other hand, it shows he is willing to admit error and make changes.”

Richard made the following response to being ‘uninvited':

“I woke up this morning to see a public announcement that my invitation to speak at NECSS 2016 had been withdrawn by the executive committee. I do not write this out of concern about my appearance or non-appearance at NECSS, but I wish there had been a friendly conversation before such unilateral action was taken. It is possible I could have allayed the committee members’ concerns, or, if not, at least we could have talked through their objections to my tweet. If our community is about anything it is that reasoned discussion is the best way to work through disagreements.

I might mention that, before receiving any word from NECSS, I had already deleted the tweet to which they objected. I did it purely because I was told that the video referenced a real woman, who had been threatened on earlier occasions because of YouTube videos in which she appeared to her disadvantage. I have no knowledge of the authenticity of the alleged death and rape threats. But to delete my tweet seemed the safest and most humane course of action. I have always condemned violence and threats of violence, for example in this tweet, which I also posted the day before the NECSS decision: ‘PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t EVER threaten anyone with violence. We should be free to use comedy/ridicule without fear it may inspire violence.’

I wish the NECSS every success at their conference. The science and scepticism community is too small and too important to let disagreements divide us and divert us from our mission of promoting a more critical and scientifically literate world.”

Steven acknowledged this response from Richard, praised him for his polite and collegial response to their move to uninvite him from NECSS, and for deleting the tweet for the right reasons, and wrote:

“Dawkins himself also raises the point that another option would have been to privately express our concerns to him. This was actually discussed as an option, as were other options. We were faced with a complex set of trade-offs and in the end did what we felt was best for attendees of our conference. But again this is an entirely fair point.”

I agree with Steven that this is a fair criticism of the decision. However, there are ethical consequences to Steven acknowledging that it is a fair criticism. If this criticism is fair, then NECSS should park their decision, discuss the issue with Richard, and then revisit their decision based on the outcome of that discussion.

What criteria do NECSS use for initial invites?

I agree with Steven’s assessment that:

“In inviting Richard Dawkins, we decided that we would be having a brilliant science communicator communicate about science. We felt we could do this without endorsing his controversial statements and positions on social media.”

I also agree with Steven that the following is a fair criticism of the decision to ‘uninvite’ him:

“First, many have pointed out that if we had such reservations about Dawkins we should not have invited him in the first place. This is a fair point. I only have an explanation (given above) not an excuse. Sometimes the decision-making process fails. But keep in mind hindsight is 20-20 and it is easy to criticize from the sidelines.”

To be clear, I disagree that ‘being a polarising figure’ is a good criteria for not inviting someone to a conference on science and skepticism. However, if NECSS believes that this criticism is fair, then they should not hide behind the tweet issue. They should simply say that they think they made a mistake in inviting Richard because they already thought that he was a polarising figure.

However, if that is the criteria they are actually using, behind the stated reason of the retweeted video, then they should publish guidelines so that current and potential speakers can be aware of the conditions for NECSS invitations being made and being honoured.

Also, they should recognise that speakers and attendees may have been unaware of these criteria, given that NECSS have in the past invited speakers who are polarising, and who are now publicly commenting on the ‘uninviting’ in ways that NECSS may find unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive or even hateful.

Former NECSS speaker PZ Myers on his blog, after NECSS ‘uninvited’ Richard:

“So while I can understand Novella’s efforts to be more diplomatic. I think the better response to Dawkins would have been a one-line post. GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.”

This is the same PZ Myers who previously did not challenge his commenters when they said that Richard is a ‘racist misogynist piece of shit who thinks child molestation doesn’t count unless there’s rape or murder’, that ‘if he’s not actually a child molester he’s dangerously close to wearing the uniform of one’, and that ‘Dawkins and his rape cheerleaders can fuck a power socket’. But PZ did ban a commenter who defended Richard, telling him: “Goodbye. We don’t need your petty resistance to any dissent from the sacred position of your great heroes around here. Fuck off.”

Former NECSS speaker Rebecca Watson on Twitter, after NECSS ‘uninvited’ Richard:

“Well done @necss for taking a stand & dumping the toxic sludge that is Richard Dawkins! Your move, @center4inquiry”

For further context, Rebecca wrote on Skepchick, immediately after NECSS invited Richard:

“for the many years I performed at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS), which began as a live show on my former podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, the organizers could never quite convince Dawkins to attend. Well, I quit SGU and now NECSS has announced that the first conference they’ve planned since my exit will feature Richard Dawkins as the keynote. In conclusion, the skeptic/atheist sphere is an embarrassing shitshow and the organizations will continue polishing Richard Dawkins’ knob until he dies, at which point he will be sainted and his image will be put on candles and prayed to in times when logic is needed.”

If NECSS had no problems in the past inviting speakers who are as polarising as PZ and Rebecca, how could Richard have known that they would have such a problem with the idea of him being polarising? And again, to be clear, I disagree that ‘being a polarising figure’ is a good criteria for not inviting someone to a conference on science and skepticism.

Steven Novella’s conclusion

This my summary of Steven’s conclusion in his analysis of the NECSS decision. Please read his original post for the full version.

  • The point is that this video, and the discussion that surrounded it, was not constructive. It was hateful and divisive.
  • Further (as Dawkins later acknowledged) the video targeted a woman who is allegedly already the target of threats and harassment.
  • When Dawkins retweets a link to a video, even with a caveat, that has a tremendous impact. It lends legitimacy to the video and the ideas expressed in it.
  • He could be a force that is helping unite our very small and critically important rationalist movement. Instead, I fear, he is helping to divide us, 140 characters at a time, and helping to lower the level of the discussion.

I disagree with Steven about the video and the discussion that surrounded it. I’ve written here about why I believe hate speech is bad, offensive satire about bad ideas is good, and Richard was right to retweet the video along with his caveat. I will address Steven’s conclusion in another post, in which I will also examine whether the facts bear out the opinion that some people casually suggest that Richard does not understand Twitter and how to use it. But I will make two quick points here.

Firstly, the phrase “as Dawkins later acknowledged” is misleading. It would be more accurate to say “as Dawkins was later told.” When he made the tweet, he was not aware that the animated character was based on a caricature of a real person who had previously been threatened, and when he was made aware of that he removed the tweet. Incidentally, nobody seems concerned that the Islamist character is also based on a caricature of a real person.

Secondly, the analysis: “When Dawkins retweets a link to a video, even with a caveat, that has a tremendous impact. It lends legitimacy to the video and the ideas expressed in it,” could just as easily be interpreted the other way around. You could also say “When Dawkins makes a caveat about a retweeted video, that has tremendous impact. It removes legitimacy from the video and the ideas expressed in it.” Perhaps it would be more constructive to interpret it that way.

Summary

There is a major difference between inviting a speaker, and ‘uninviting’ a speaker after publicising that they will be speaking. The first is taking a decision, the second is breaking an agreement. Several institutions have recently invited and ‘uninvited’ secular speakers, then reinstated the invitations after reconsidering. It is clear from Steven’s analysis that NECSS made this decision in haste and without full information. NECSS should park the decision, discuss the issue with Richard, and then revisit the decision based on the outcome of that discussion.

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{ 148 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard "The King" Sanderson February 1, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Won’t happen, Michael.

Steven Novella has doubled-down in the comments at Neurologica. It is clear he is in thrall to the SJWs and radfems, most notable Rebecca Watson. He is terrified of upsetting them, so is prepared to throw his own reputation down the drain in order to avoid the usual accusations of “rapist”, “misogynist” and “racist” that always follow when you oppose the SJW radfems.

Steven and NECSS’s reputation now lies in tatters. When you have the support of PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson, you are persona non grata.

2 Dave Gamble February 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Good posting … I’ve been mulling over all this myself, but this spells it all out very well. Thanks for taking the time to go into such detail.

3 Dave Gamble February 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm

As an aside, just to illustrate how disconnected some have become, one of the comments in Steve’s blog reads …

“Now, I love Rebecca very much but when I read the extent of her anger at Dawkins’ asking her back to his hotel room, I was more shocked by her behaviour.”

But luckily that was corrected in subsequent comments.

I would also like to add that I have always liked Steven Novella and also the other SGU folks and have always supported their various endeavours, and I still do, this has not changed my position on that. Does that mean that I support this specific decision? No, I am convinced that they made a huge mistake here and reached the wrong decision, and by doing so created a bit of a PR mess.

4 tina February 1, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Mr Novella can spin it how he likes. At least we know where Necss stands now. If they’ve chosen compliance to the delusional demands of the SJW lobby, so be it. We’re way beyond where they get to lay claim to be the gatekeepers of what feminism is, of what harassment is, what a threat is, what the ludicrous notion of ‘punching up’ is, or what makes that, and other intellectually facile notions legitimate To pretend to understand and justify the condemnation of the totality of RD’s moral thinking on the basis of some tweets demonstrates deep rooted confirmation bias, sloppy thinking, deliberate misinterpretation and outright vindictiveness. The entryist SJW’s who have targeted the a/s movement have pretty much sucked the life out of it, particularly in the States, and spinning RD’s disinvitation as something other than pure capitulation to the boilerplate authoritarianism of SJW dogma is just a thoroughly transparent exercise in denial.

5 Brive1987 February 1, 2016 at 2:05 pm

NECSS and Novella smeared (“hate speech”) Dawkins and set-out to damage his reputation with their condescending posts . This was not a simple “uninvite” – it was something far more sinister and out of character with SGU’s usual studious neutrality.

Looks like the SJ usual suspects spooked the committee who then felt attack was the best way to defend an obviously suspect decision.

6 Dianne Howell February 1, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Having met most of the protagonists in this twisted tale, at conferences, I had trouble figuring out who was mad at whom, and why. I am better informed thanks to this well thought out article. This saddens me.

I am disappointed that all my skeptics champions have come to this. Naively, I thought highly educated, rational, articulate people were above petty bickering and would have thoughtful dialogue to hammer out difference of opinion.

I don’t want to pick sides but I tend toward the side that can admit to a mistake, admit to possible over reaction, exaggeration, or error of judgement, and does not resort to schoolyard name calling.

7 Submariner February 1, 2016 at 2:29 pm

So it seems one may be as polarizing (and as foul) as one likes and still be invited to NECSS events provided one’s views fall on one side of the ideological divide in the community. Step ever so slightly across that divide and be “no-platformed’.

Ideology is a helluva drug.

8 Shatterface February 1, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Well, I quit SGU and now NECSS has announced that the first conference they’ve planned since my exit will feature Richard Dawkins as the keynote. In conclusion, the skeptic/atheist sphere is an embarrassing shitshow and the organizations will continue polishing Richard Dawkins’ knob

Amazing how quickly some feminists fall back on homophobic language these days.

9 Shatterface February 1, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Also, what a massive ego to think that Dawkins only got an invite in the first place because Watson had left SGU. It’s like the world orbits around her.

10 tina February 1, 2016 at 2:55 pm

@7…Well, that was specifically what Richard Carrier, (the intellectual artillery of A+), called for, and got. Difficult, if not impossible, for them to pull back now.

11 Carrie February 1, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Thanks, Michael, for the excellent analysis of the situation.

In my opinion, NECSS can of course invite or uninvite anyone, but they do themselves a huge disservice by uninviting someone in such an impolite and unprofessional manner. It would have done their image no harm, and possibly some good, if they had waited the short amount of time required to speak to Richard Dawkins before coming to their decision. At the least it would have shown them to have good manners.

I had not heard of NECSS before. I now have an impression of it as an organisation run along ill-mannered and unprofessional lines and am unlikely to regard it as a serious organisation.

I find it strange that those who vilified the video in question did so on the basis that it featured a caricature of a real woman, a fact of which Dawkins was unaware, and yet they did not care that it also featured a caricature of a real man. They were also unable to appreciate humour directed against hyper-radical nonsense.

12 Karmakin February 1, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Speaking for myself, I’m in this weird area where personally I don’t really care what the rules are…as long as it’s the same rules for everybody. It’s the hypocrisy and double standards that really get me here. Maybe there’s something about being critical of a person who is “middling” on the public/private chart who was caught on tape being sexist and abusive who has received abuse for those things as being a bad thing. Maybe that’s true.

But doesn’t that mean much of the online social justice structure is guilty of that as well?

It’s simply not realistic or fair to be able to say, well X situation is right and Y situation is wrong. If your goal is to FIX the issue in terms of online abuse/harassment that DOESN’T do it. Why? Different people are going to think that Y situation is right and X situation is wrong. That’s just the way it’s going to be.

I’d actually support Novella if he said this, or something to this effect outright that he was also condemning similar actions when they came from the other side.

13 Shatterface February 1, 2016 at 3:23 pm

There are polarising ssues and polarising figures.

Islam is a polarising issue, particularly its intersection with feminism. There are those who think Muslims should be held to the same standards of behaviour as everyone else and there are those who think they are childlike exotics who’s whims should be pandered to. Dawkins is taking flack for holding a position consistent with liberal views he has always held.

Then there are the polarising figures for whom issues are simply sticks to beat others with. We know who they are because their only claim to notoriety is shit-stirring.

I think it’s wrong to disinvite – it fail to invite in the first place – people who hold opinions which are polarising (especially when those opinions shouldn’t, for skeptical, even be controversial); but it’s not wrong not to extend an invitation to people who contribute nothing but smears and personal abuse.

Incidentally, if polarising opinions are enough to get someone disinvited I hope the audience asks Novella if he still believes transwomen should not compete in sport against cis-women.

14 Aleksandar V. February 1, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Thank you very much for the insightful post.

Have to be skeptical about people that profess the belief in freedom of speech and practice censorship at the same time.
It seems like a straightforward explanation, but here it goes: RD re-tweeted a video in no way connected to NECSS. Under pressure by SJW, mostly neofeminist lobbies the committee decided unilaterally to uninvited RD. After being pressured to give a more detailed statement, they gave a subjective view full of well masked excuses.
History repeats itself: M. Namazie, M. Taylor, Sir Tim Hunt, and now RD. The full extent of the injustice of S. JusticeWarriors is shown in the case of Sir T. Hunt, who got fired and consequently had to move to Japan because of a joke that got unfairly and incorrectly reported, in ill fate, by a neofeminist, and blow out of proportion from there.
Seems like neofeminists and SJW can’t really stand cartoons, scientists and critique [insert analogy].
The point is that if we always back down like cowards this kind of behaviour becomes acceptable and we basically start endorsing it and encouraging it. My message therefore is to speak up for our right to express ourself and to criticize ideas. It is much easier to speak now, than to protest later.

@Brive1987: I note that you invited PZ Myers to NECSS after he endorsed a song promoting the gang rape of Christians. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/12/04/i-love-this-song/

i would also add R. Watson video about Sir Tim Hunt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAF_Me9857w

You make your mind up.

15 citizen_wolf February 1, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Steven Novella does sterling work in science outreach and public education. He puts in a lot of time and effort for no financial gain. He has always shown himself to be fair and open to changing his mind.

That’s why I’m so disappointed with this decision by NECSS. Dawkins has stood in the feminist camp for many years. He has always spoken out against hate speech. He may well have made blunders in the past on social media which have rubbed people up the wrong way (including me) but so what! I personally wouldn’t have retweeted the video in question, but again, so what. Just because I might disagree with him on a tweet doesn’t mean that I’d disinvite him from speaking at a conference without at least talking to him about it first.

Dear Steven Novella, I really admire all the work you’re done over the years, but what you did here was really quite crass. You should have at least spoken to the man first. As Michael Nugent points out, you did, in effect, have an agreement with Dawkins. An agreement which you unilaterally broke.

Also, to be honest, even aside from the issue of not informing Dawkins about his disinvite, I really don’t see a reason in your explanation on Neurologica for why Dawkins was uninvited. You say he’s a polarising figure – but his retweet of this video is no more polarising (if you’re of that view) than lots of other comments and tweets he’s made in the past. What is it exactly about him saying that some people who describe themselves as feminists are silly, should be cause for him to be disinvited? I’m sure you’ve seen the movie ‘The life of Brian’. Isn’t that polarising to some? Would referring to that movie get someone disinvited from speaking at NECSS? I honestly doubt it.

You say that this latest retweet is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Honestly, from your explanation, I don’t see why.

16 Jet Lagg February 1, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Well-reasoned as always, but the lunatics have taken over the asylum. The definition of “hate speech” as floated by the increasingly illiberal left is so disconnected from the common understanding that there can be no compromise, no agreement as to what constitutes it.

The only path forward is to catalogue every instance of them breaking their own rules until the hypocrisy is too self-evident for casual observers to ignore.

17 citizen_wolf February 1, 2016 at 4:20 pm

I’d just like to add that everything I’ve seen Steven Novella do in the past paints him as a man of integrity who tries to do the right thing. In this case, I think he’s made an error. As everyone agrees, the NECSS can invite and uninvite whomever they wish, but to uninvite Dawkins in this manner before all the facts were known is very poor form. Even more so as this is a conference about critical thinking.

I hope the NECSS will reconsider their decision.

18 Glen Davidson February 1, 2016 at 4:40 pm

“Here’s something interesting.” Then a link to a video, with a major caveat.

Yes, having a bit of fun, even at the expense of the sacred faction, is counterproductive and even hateful. No loss of perspective there, nuh-uh. While I think one might question Dawkins’ taste over the link, I think it’s pretty clear that what’s gone missing is any ability of the SJWs to take criticism. Anything is “hateful,” or some such thing, and automatically requires exile and absolute condemnation.

They jump to wholly unwarranted conclusions, I’d add, like this one:

On the one hand removing the tweet is recognition that it was a mistake in the first place.

No it isn’t recognition or any signal of such a recognition. It reflects recognition that there were aspects that he didn’t know about when he linked to it. Unless one claims omniscience, such things happen.

This is mostly true, though:

On the other hand, it shows he is willing to admit error and make changes.”

Yes, quite. Certainly better than the SJW faction, and, so far, better than the NECSS. I don’t think I’ll wait around to see if they’ll acknowledge their acceptance of the labeling done by the SJWs to try to erase those who disagree with them, like Dawkins, or acknowledge the fact that they didn’t even bother to check to watch for changes and/or deletion of the “offensive video,” or that they are unable to understand a bit of fun at the expense of the righteous ones, however crude.

Sense of perspective. Get one, NECSS.

19 john welch February 1, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Novella’s dancing around people he invited who say rude things to people Novella also dislikes can be simplified to this:

It’s okay when we do it.

Novella has zero problems with people being rude and nasty and ill-tempred and foul-mouthed and all the other things he’s so very put out with Dawkins for doing as long as he approves of the target selection.

It’s only when the target becomes inconvenient that suddenly “oh my, look at that, just look at that horrible, horrible stuff!”

20 Brian AH February 1, 2016 at 5:07 pm

I am so profoundly disappointed in NECSS and Dr. Novella. Having said that I greatly admire Dr. Novella and hope for more great things from him in the future. What disturbs me is the sudden, reflexive reaction and capitulation to pressure. P.Z. Myers and Rebecca Watson used the be excellent and even important science communicators. Now they have descended to the level of professional internet thugs. Myers sems to aspire to some kind of Chomskyesque demagoguery.

Welcome to the age of what Marc Maron (in a different but similar context ) called the “Hate Nerds”.

21 Skamil February 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm

A few years ago, at the peak of my interest in scepticism, one of the popular discussion topics was about how to get more women involved in the movement as well as in attendance at conferences. It wouldn’t surprise me if that is still a going concern and the deciding factor in why NECSS hastened to throw Dawkins under the bus.

It would be nice to have someone with a little journalistic nous dig further and question NECSS on how they came to deliberate over the tweet. Was it something they undertook on their own or was there mounting pressure from outside? Were they reacting to rumblings of a boycott in the twitter sphere, on blogs, in personal emails? It matters because it would reveal a great deal about factors weighing on the deliberation process and why the decision to “un-invite” was ultimately made in such haste. I could see how NECSS might have found themselves between a rock and a hard place if they were under pressure from feminist agitants. You don’t want to undo years of hard work encouraging more women to attend by giving “some feminists” an excuse to carpet bomb the internet with vitriol and label you a misogynistic hate group. Not everyone has the time to keep up to speed on what’s happening in feminism, atheism, and scepticism so we could assume a large contingent of those who were planning on attending the conference might, under such uneasy circumstances, be dissuaded from doing so, even if it’s only to play it safe and steer clear of the controversy.

So if my best guess is correct, NECSS was faced with a tough one. Risk dividing their community, in which case they would be forced to salvage what they could by trying to explain the intricate state of current affairs regarding feminism, Islamism, atheism (all subjects the sceptics try to keep from leeching into their domain), as well as how satire and twitter works – and at this point it’s all too much to expect some poor attendee to take in who’s only interested in straight scepticism; or sacrifice Dawkins, hand the feminists their victory, and try to keep the peace. One could see this as being an entirely self-serving business decision, but I’d like to be generous and think they decided it would be more beneficial to pass the tools of critical thinking on to a greater number of attendees in the hopes that more people may then be better equipped to neutralize the toxins seeping in from the peripheries. Then again, some part of me thinks that’s probably being far too kind.

22 citizen_wolf February 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm

@Skamil
In the comments section on his blog (Neurologica) Steven Novella said there were no external pressures involved in coming to their decision.

23 SkepticOto February 1, 2016 at 6:18 pm

This whole episode is very disappointing and I, too, fault Novella and co. for the way they handled this. That said, I think many have seen this sort of debacle coming for a long time. The Regressive Left has become an increasingly large and influential subgroup of the skeptic/atheist movement. RW’s years-long involvement with the SGU helped incubate that and protect it from scrutiny. The things that PZ routinely says and cajoles over on his blog are appalling and yet I don’t ever recall them being called out in the way Dawkins’ speech was.
This movement will likely continue to fracture and lose credibility unless those in leadership positions shed this illiberal B.S.

24 Seymour February 1, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Coming late to this but I suspect this was a set up by the NECSS people.

They gets lots of publicity by inviting Dawkins, with the intention of disinviting him as soon as they could, any excuse would have done.

This keeps their rabids on side and shows them as true warriors of righteousness and as small people always do they think they have taken Dawkins down a peg (he is after all only a white cis-het colonial representative of the patriarchy, so not due any consideration)

This may grant the people in NECSS with more malevolence than is due however, Novella wrote they already thought him problematic due to earlier comments he had made that upset the rabids in the USA. so why invite him in the first place.

25 Aheydis Vaakenjab February 1, 2016 at 6:31 pm

When I first heard of Dawkins’ invitation being retracted, I immediately guessed it was due to him angering someone on twitter. When I saw what it was that he tweeted and was what got him dis-invited, my eyes rolled so far back and to the right that I thought it was a reenactment of the Kennedy assassination.

We have public intellectuals who are incapable of having an intellectual debate. We have people who may do some good in the skeptical community and take it on the chin financially for doing so — and that’s great, but what we are witnessing is the loss of any sort of backbone when it comes to our new sacred cows in the A/S community. You can rip to shreds Christianity and Judaism… but when it comes to Islamism and the ills that it brings to a society, you’d better not go too far lest you be labelled a racist, a la Ben Affleck. If you even dare to satirize radical feminism, you are no-platformed.

When did a community that prided itself on being intellectual, decide that only certain satire is acceptable and only certain strains of thought are acceptable?

Doubleplusgood NECSS! Next thing you’ll tell me is that PZ Myers was a speaker at NECSS even after he called for people to be “F*cked into the ground”…. (sarcasm)

26 Carrie February 1, 2016 at 6:51 pm

@ Seymour
“This keeps their rabids on side and shows them as true warriors of righteousness and as small people always do they think they have taken Dawkins down a peg ”

Well, I would be surprised if it actually affected Dawkins at all except as regards disappointment in the sheer bad manners of event organisers in today’s Twitter-centric world.

He probably has enough to do without giving a talk at some obscure American event at which he would apparently be one of very few science speakers.

27 Seymour February 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm

@ Carrie

I agree it will not affect Dawkins, apart from wasting his time as he tries to reason with the unreasonable. His opponents may think it does because they are small minded and believe they are of the elect.

28 Citizen Wolf February 1, 2016 at 7:14 pm

@Seymour
Having listened to the SGU podcast for many years I seriously doubt it was a setup as you speculate above. There has never been anything in the behavior of the Novella brothers to even hint at that scenario. That’s guy-on-a-grassy-knoll thinking.

29 Carrie February 1, 2016 at 7:25 pm

@ Seymour
Ah yes, that makes sense. They are so used to being sizeable fish in a small pond that they don’t understand that there is a whole ocean out there.

This might be NECSS’ problem — the board members may actually believe that the too-voluble Twitterati Offence League are more important to science, reason and communication of interesting ideas than they really are.

30 Shatterface February 1, 2016 at 8:11 pm

The reason skeptics are stereotyped as being obsessed with debunking UFOs and Big Foot is that they steer clear of difficult subjects like feminism and Islam. I can’t help thinking if aliens were probing PoC they’d fall silent on that subject too.

31 Guestus Aurelius February 1, 2016 at 8:13 pm

@17 Glen Davidson:

They jump to wholly unwarranted conclusions, I’d add, like this one:

On the one hand removing the tweet is recognition that it was a mistake in the first place. [On the other hand, it shows he is willing to admit error and make changes.]

No it isn’t recognition or any signal of such a recognition. It reflects recognition that there were aspects that he didn’t know about when he linked to it. Unless one claims omniscience, such things happen.

Yes, thank you for touching on this!

It’s a minor point, perhaps, but that bit really irked me: it implies that Dawkins deleted the tweet because he mulled it over and came to agree with Novella et al. that the video’s content or message was out of bounds. It paints Dawkins’s decision to delete the tweet as somehow parallel to the decision to disinvite him over it, as if everybody is now on the same wavelength about the video’s (de)merits.

The sentence that follows (I added it in brackets above) adds insult to injury by being incredibly condescending.

32 Guestus Aurelius February 1, 2016 at 8:19 pm

To clarify my last point there: yes, Novella is right that Dawkins is perfectly capable of admitting error and acting accordingly, but in context this comes off (to me, at least) as a condescending backhanded compliment, a pat on the head for coming around to see things NECSS’s way, even though that’s not what happened.

33 Seymour February 1, 2016 at 8:21 pm

@ Citizen Wolf

Would you just put it down to stupidity or something else?

The reason given makes no sense, especially given the speed and impoliteness of the response.

34 Citizen Wolf February 1, 2016 at 8:31 pm

@Seymour
Without actually sitting in on the conversation they had when they came to their decision, I’m at a loss to explain it.

Steven Novella’s explanation on his blog doesn’t explain it to me. But, whatever the reason was, I really really doubt it would have been preplanned. That just would be at odds with everything the man stands for.

35 Aneris February 1, 2016 at 8:55 pm

I think, Michael, you are a bit too harsh with Steven Novella and his faction. After all, these people still believe Elevatorgate was about “Dear Muslima”, “guys don’t do that” and “Don’t take this the wrong way, I find you very interesting… coffee” (all of these are conspicuously meme-like). They astonishingly overlooked how – in the very same context – Rebecca Watson brought up how people in the audience would find it normal that men can sexually assault women (wow!) or that they would “laugh down” rape victims (what the heck!)

How could anyone overlook this and sank their teeth into comment section snark about a fictional person instead, or disagreements over the level of awkwardness of double entendrés in confined spaces? Time and time again, these people have shown that they neither have a basic moral compass, nor basic intellectual honesty, nor some basic scepticism. They are indeed big foot sceptics only and if their critical thinking was a body of water, only a fly could drown in its depth.

How could it happen that this severe context is conspicuously absent from any mainstream documentation? The Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, nor does the Rational Wiki. The media reporting didn’t mention it, either. Mainstream media focused on Richard Dawkins and cut away the context, which we know by now is a favourite tactic. PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson have of course swept this context under the carpet, too. There is some solid evidence that PZ Myers didn’t even knew the situation, and was a blow hard who hastily took sides and carved lines into stone without any idea what the situation was. Sounds all familiar. But where’s is this context or do I imagine things?

Of course not. It’s right here.

Rebecca Watson said: Because there are people in this audience right now, who believe this, that [Slide] “A women’s reasonable expectation to feel safe from sexual objectification and assault at a skeptic and atheist events is outweighed by a man’s right to sexually objectify her.” That’s basically what these people have been telling me, and it’s not true [applause …] Since starting SkepChick, I’ve heard from a lot of women who don’t attend events like this because of those of you who have this attitude. [massive non-sequitur alert] They’re tired of being objectified and some of them actually have been raped. Quite a number have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. And situations like the one I was in, in an elevator, would have triggered a panic attack. They’re scared because they know that you won’t stand up for them and if they stand up for themselves, you’re going to laugh them [rape victims!!!] back down. — Rebecca Watson, “The Religious Right vs. Every Woman on Earth”, CFI Leadership Conference, 2011

As everyone from any side recognizes, the situation with the lift became only widely known due to that very same talk and in particular due to the on-stage trashing of McGraw (which makes it even more damning). But this nested structure – a talk which references a video, which references a situation in an elevator – was obviously too difficult for our US “skeptic” intelligentsia master-class to keep track of. Michael, you are asking too much of Novella. I wonder how can we treat the measles when we stare at one red spot.

They have entirely convinced themselves, through relentless propaganda that some off-hand remarks and awkward proposals (really unimportant in the grand scheme of things) were the divisive matter, and somehow managed to forget how we got from an awkward coffee invite to “laugh down rape victims” (paraphrase), which is – I stress – from the exact same context.

I can make sense of this only as a form of postmodernism: discussing two or three things under the same umbrella and disingenuous switching around the meanings: one time it’s awkwardness in lifts (downplaying of everyday sexism). Another time it’s merely an offhand “guys don’t do that” remark (to accuse detractors of making a mountain range from a molehill), and then again it’s about laughing down rape victims, or alleging that people seriously think women can be freely assaulted (to paint critics in a particular damning way) or outright “rape culture”. Our US master-class thinkers are apparently over-challenged by this, and have only demonstrated how easily they can be fooled.

Is it just a freakish coincidence that this old dispute revolved around “Dear Muslima”, that is, “islam vs feminism” and this new dispute does as well? Is this a coincidence that this parody video essentially is a reflection of the very same situation? Isn’t the Chanty Binx character in the video essentially a Rebecca Watson, representative for the Steven Novellas, the PZ Myers and all the others from the US secular movement? We cannot even say they have a point or that one issue was really important, since they undermined whatever they meant to say with their postmodernist thimblerig.

Richard Dawkins stressed women under Islam and on the face of it suggested an area where atheism and feminism would go well together. This offer was rejected. The story took a different turn, and we know in retrospect what wasn’t known at the time: a “regressive left” or “social justice warrior” zeitgeist exists, and it isn’t islamophile by mere accident. Sure, some general accommodationism might mix into this. But that isn’t it. We can say today that their violent gut reaction to Richard’s comment and years of whining about it are not because Richard Dawkins (or indeed anyone worth taking seriously) did object to feminism. The rejection was about postmodernist ideology, falsehoods, smearing and a fatal lack of scepticism and basic critical thinking from a number of people.

It’ll take maybe some more years until scholars have produced solid referenceable material about the ideology of the Novellas, Myers and Watsons and the costume-fearing students of this world. I suspect the brew will contain mostly postmodernism with ingredients of critical race theory, standpoint theory, cultural relativism, identity politics, intersectionality and much more. It explains very well what we see, and it’s coherent (as much as you can say this about postmodernism) since it has a couple of central characters, like Kimberlé Crenshaw who advanced both the central Intersectionality idea as well as Critical Race Theory – which in turn is postmodernistic, and contains ideas about racial segregation, privilege, racial essentialism, “narratives”, lived experience and much more which bring about safe spaces (so that people can be separated by shared conciousnesses), cultural appropriation (a violation of that principle) and so forth.

Islamophobia is after all, merely another aspect next to fatphobia, transphobia and whatnotphobia. Punching down only makes sense when humans are seen as members of distinct groups, disregarding the individuals, the Jihadi John and his machete on someone’s neck. He’s oppressed, because the group of humans is deemed oppressed.

And it’s rendered as a form of racism, because the ideology of these people is itself fundamentally racist, leaving them no way how to separate ideas from people (hence you also have stuff like “mansplaining”). You can google “social justice warrior or stromfront” for some eye opening (and grimly comical) quizzes.

Conflicts about postmodernism of course don’t end there. There is the whole science war” in there, too. Again, you find Richard Dawkins “by sheer coincidence” on exactly the side you would expect, and his detractors also “by sheer coincidence” on the other side. Dawkins held Sokal in high regard and recall the argument over evo psychology, where Coyne and Pinker – despite being critical of some aspects – defended the discipline against the “science denialists” Watson and Myers. Surprise surprise. This conflict ran “strangely” along virtually identical Deep Rift fault lines.

the Science War [are] a second front opened up by conservatives cheered by their successes o their legions in the holy Culture Wars. Seeking explanations for their loss of standing in the public eye and the decline in funding from the public purse, conservatives in science have joined the backlash against the (new) usual suspects — pinkos, feminists, multiculturalists — Andrew Ross, Social Text (the magazine pranked by the Sokal Hoax)

To a degree, even the kind of word and language games we all know about; the Orwellian nature of this conflict can be explained somewhat by this. Notice how Ross smears his opponents as The Other and how he renders his postmodernist side as “The Default” (on the left). Sokal and Bricmont spent quite some time to point out how these people trick their audience with a certain attitude as if nothing they do needs justification or explanation. It’s just The Default. Dawkins is found wanting, and hence is no platformed. If some problem exists, it’s YOU who is stepping over the lines. Disagree, and you are of course a right winger or a reactionary. Criticize them and SWAPPP!!! its you in the spotlight, and the shirt with the scarlet letter on.

Sokal and Bricmont even pointed out how postmodernism destroyed social justice activism. Noam Chomsky brings it up several times as well (all of these are bona fide leftists). I’m sorry for going over the line again for a comment, but why can’t we up the game and talk about the issue. Why do we follow the script they dictate, submit to their hegemony of interpretations, accept their terms? Why should they reinvite Dawkins? Why does he has to apologize? All of these assumptions are false. We are again at risk of arguing over awkward proposals in lifts, as if that mattered, and ignore the greater situation – at our peril.

36 Seymour February 1, 2016 at 9:22 pm

@ Citizen Wolf

Assuming he is as pure as you write he is, that leaves stupidity or something else?

At the very least he should hand in his skeptic badge and apologise, to Dawkins, for his rude conduct and dismissive no platforming.

37 Rob February 1, 2016 at 9:35 pm

Didn’t I just hear one of the SGU fellows gushing over Richard Feynman…that sexual harrasser?

38 Citizen Wolf February 1, 2016 at 9:52 pm

@Seymour
I’m not painting him as ‘pure’ and infallible. I was just responding to your comment where you suggested that the whole affair was pre-planned. As I explained above, I don’t know what influenced their decision, but I would be dumbfounded to hear that it was pre-planned. It would be like hearing that Michael Nugent was secretly a neo-nazi. From what I know, it would be really really unlikely.

39 Rob February 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm

I’m wondering…has James Randi ever been de-platformed for his alleged involvment in identity theft?

40 SkepticOto February 1, 2016 at 10:05 pm

@Citizen Wolf and Seymour
It just doesn’t add up, does it? It’s not like Dawkins was an unknown variable to them. Why invite him in the first place given how his persona already made them so nervous? I suspect that they were looking for a marquee name for their conference but then nearly wet themselves when envisioning the deluge a SJW anger tirade being brought down upon them. I’d be curious to know how they rationalized (to themselves) Dawkins’ invitation in the first place.

41 Laconic Hedonist February 1, 2016 at 10:29 pm

It wasn’t that his tweet was simply “divisive.” It was considered “unnecessarily divisive.”

I’d be curious to know what examples of divisiveness would be considered acceptable or even necessary.

42 Rob February 1, 2016 at 10:37 pm

If Dawkin’s tweet was the reason, why not a private conversation, and a public saving-face announcement that Dawkins wouldn’t be attending? The whole thing has the feel of a bit of retribution with a good dose of humiliation. And, a bit puritanical.

And, how about context? Recent event of a women’s group supporting beligerent abusive muslim group. Isn’t that what is firing up this current response to radical feminists? Sure, some responses are over the top. But, it is the issue of the moment. Let’s have at it, hammer it out, react, respond, moderate…it’s all part of the process of reacting to flagrant stupidity (women endorsing male-dominated, religious inspired abuse). It’s a heated conversation that will mellow as the issues are dissected.

43 SkepticOto February 1, 2016 at 10:50 pm

@Laconic Hedonist
Of all the things skeptics discuss and stand up for, the issue that Dawkins was commenting on was arguably more “necessary” than all others. We should indeed aim our criticism at Islamists, Islam and the ways women (and others) are oppressed in the name of Islam. These are the more pressing threats to freedom and secular society. So the tweet was divisive (in the sense that it made some people uncomfortable and challenged their thinking; to purposely say nothing of the ‘taste’ question) and wholly necessary. “Unnecessarily divise” = “I want us to hide from such issues”

44 Aleksandar V. February 1, 2016 at 11:15 pm

@SkepticOto
““Unnecessarily divise” = “I want us to hide from such issues””

Well put. A comment made by Steve Cross on Novellas post http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/necss-and-richard-dawkins/ states: “But the thing is, I think the reason that so many of us feel uncomfortable in the first place is that we don’t actually WANT to be rude or offend someone unnecessarily. Most of us have enough empathy to realize that any interpersonal relationship is likely to be more pleasant and productive if both sides are polite and honest with each other.” (hope I’m not misrepresenting his views here)
What they do effectively is enforcing this safe space echo chamber of bad ideas, for the very fear of being unnecessarily rude or offensive.
And that’s exactly why we need more Richard Dawkins.

45 chill chick February 1, 2016 at 11:26 pm

Michael, you should be aware that the Bill Nye quote is fake. The Daily Currant is a satirical site.

46 SkepticOto February 2, 2016 at 12:04 am

@Aleksandar V.

And being polite is a good thing — I agree with that notion and it should be a consideration. But it’s lower on the list — and shouldn’t trump — getting the important sh*t done. This reasonable desire of not offending has become hijacked and perverted by the easily offended (indeed, those seeking to be offended).

47 dogfightwithdogma February 2, 2016 at 1:31 am

“What is it exactly about him saying that some people who describe themselves as feminists are silly…”

This is not an accurate statement of what Dawkins was saying in retweeting the particular video that has prompted all of this. That video does not portray any feminists as simply silly.

48 Chris Corbett February 2, 2016 at 1:54 am

@Laconic Hedonist
I would have thought that divisiveness was not only necessary but inevitable in a truly sceptical society. What sort of sceptical society is it that demands conformity of thought?

49 citizen_wolf February 2, 2016 at 6:59 am

@Dogfightwithdogma
I presume that was directed at one of the things I said.

What description would you prefer to use? I choose ‘silly’ but I’m not wedded to the description. Feel free to give your interpretation.

50 LindaRosaRN February 2, 2016 at 7:09 am

I would like to point out that when an atheist organization decided some years ago to give an award to anti-vaccinationist Bill Maher for promoting science — the Richard Dawkins Award — the award was not withdrawn, though there was a perfectly good reason to do so. While Dawkins apparently didn’t have a hand in picking Maher for this honor (or perhaps he didn’t know about all of Maher’s opinions), Dawkins did give Maher a good-natured ribbing about his short-coming at the ceremony.

I have known plenty of organization that have clearly invited the wrong person, and they invariably never dis-invite. Perhaps it has to do with the repercussions of canceling a contract.

Mind you, I’m no fan of Dawkins; I resent NECSS making Dawkins sympathetic. I suspect there’s more politics behind this and that taking care of the “safety” concerns of convention-goers may be a cover story. A bit of speculation here: Novella is a “Fellow” of CFI which just merged with the Richard Dawkins Foundation, installing a Dawkins person as CEO. Is not Novella sending a message to CFI by jumping at the first opportunity to dump CFI’s newest friend from NECSS line up?

51 Douglas Kinney February 2, 2016 at 7:50 am

Excellent summary. I canceled my plans to attend NECSS as a result of their absurd decision. I am truly surprised that these highly intelligent people that I respected so highly stooped so low.
It is my choice, too, to not attend any conference where the hate filled Rebecca Watson is invited to speak.

52 John fabiani February 2, 2016 at 7:56 am

Dawkins is not owed a platform. You cannot call your boss an asshole, or otherwise piss off your boss and still expect to have a job. Special cupcakes should move on instead of whining harder.

53 A/B February 2, 2016 at 8:55 am

When will you and Dawkins finally realize that the biggest enemy of science and reason is not creationism, but feminism, i.e. fascism.

54 tina February 2, 2016 at 9:46 am

@52 On the other hand, the 74 yr old author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Weaving The Rainbow, The Magic of Reality, could give the finger to his ’employer’ (lol) Steven Novella while simultaneously providing evidence that his ’employer’, (bigger LOL), is just enslaved to the moronic, self-serving control freakery of SJW ideology. Job done.

55 citizen_wolf February 2, 2016 at 11:35 am

@John Fabiani
Wow, that is very odd thinking.

The Necss isn’t Dawkins’ boss. They don’t employ him.

Even aside from not being his boss, Dawkins didn’t call the Necss a bunch of asshole. His re-tweet was absolutely nothing to do with them. They never even said that they were offended by his re-tweet; they said that they were worried that his opinions were unnecessarily divisive.

As regards Dawkins not being owed a platform. Yes; just about everyone agrees with that. The Necss can invite and uninvite whomever they please; it’s their show. However, their reasons are not clear to many people. This is a concern as it’s a conference on critical thinking and they uninvited Dawkins before they had all the facts (eg Dawkins didn’t know the figure in the cartoon referred to a real person, and he deleted his tweet when he became aware of that).

BTW, I’m not in any way a spokesperson for Dawkins, but your comment was so poor that it needed a reply in much the same way as the ‘someone is wrong on the internet’ meme. :)

56 tina February 2, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Clearly, the best solution now is for Necss to invite Chanty Binx to replace Mr Dawkins on the speakers podium..

57 Jan Steen February 2, 2016 at 12:40 pm

If the Novella brothers were to reconsider, and re-invited Dawkins, I would be highly surprised if Dawkins accepted.

It would look good on their CV, but not on his.

He doesn’t need people who pander to the grudges of non-entities who call Dawkins “toxic sludge”.

58 Shatterface February 2, 2016 at 12:49 pm

A former Centre for Inquiry employee, who became a bigger internet meme than Big Red, has been posting in favour of the disinvitation.

She has also posted that she wishes Dawkins was dead.

Does the fact she is already an international laughing stock mean that she gets a free pass?

Is past victimhood, real or imagined, enough to shield someone from criticism?

There are people like Dawkins who may, on occasion, be too blunt. But there are also those motivated by pure hatred. It is those who need to be stood up to.

59 Gary February 2, 2016 at 3:16 pm

The whole thing is laughable. Why on earth does everything Dawkins posts on twitter have to be contstructive? They seem to have forgot the point of twitter.
I wonder if they would equally find the crap coming out of the modern feminist movement equally divisive by their standards? Cos it sure as hell is with the public.

60 A Hermit February 2, 2016 at 3:36 pm

I wonder Michael, if Dawkins had been linking approvingly, even with qualifications, to a Stormfront video or anti-semitic cartoons from Der Sturmer would we still be OK with that?

If you think not then you need to ask yourself why bashing women in the same way is acceptable…

61 Harrison February 2, 2016 at 3:50 pm

What a pathetic “what-if” scenario.

Here’s an idea: “What if” you focused on what actually happened rather than bringing in your deluded fantasies to try to justify your pre-determined conclusion?

62 tina February 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Note immediately the strawman, rapidly followed by the assumed premise and implied moral conclusion and finger wag at Michael who is a very naughty boy. Tut tut.

63 Guestus Aurelius February 2, 2016 at 4:01 pm

@A Hermit:

Mocking some feminists—hell, even mocking all feminists—is not the same as bashing women.

It’s like saying that mocking communists equates to bashing the working class.

Communism ≠ proletariat.

Feminism ≠ womanhood.

64 racismisbaddude February 2, 2016 at 4:02 pm

John @ 52:

Thank you so much for acknowledging that Dawkins badmouthed his boss and therefore had no expectation of avoiding punishment. Let this be a warning to anyone who thinks feminism won’t find out what they said about it.

A hermit @60:

I am not sure what you mean. Are you saying that fundamentalist Islam and third wave feminism can be fairly compared to Nazism? I find that comparison extremely offensive to women and Muslims.

65 Shatterface February 2, 2016 at 4:06 pm

I wonder Michael, if Dawkins had been linking approvingly, even with qualifications, to a Stormfront video or anti-semitic cartoons from Der Sturmer would we still be OK with that?

I wonder if Michael would have been quite as supportive of Dawkins if Dawkins had been vapourising puppies with his laser beam eyes?

66 Gertrude Perkins February 2, 2016 at 5:04 pm

I heard about this yesterday and it deeply irritated me!

Coincidentally, the video in question is actually very funny and no worse than say an episode of South Park mocking the same topic, or say South Park satirising a similar person or subject.



67 RStanley February 2, 2016 at 5:28 pm

The irony of all this is that the video Richard linked to was crudely highlighting the tactics of two groups who use similar tactics to claim victim hood, brook no discussion or criticism of their ideas without labeling you misogynist/racist, and actively work to curtail free speech and rational discussion.

And in response to his tweet, team #SJW has demonstrated all of the same behavior and tactics shown in the video to censure Richard.

68 A Hermit February 2, 2016 at 5:30 pm

@ Guestus Aurelius “Mocking some feminists—hell, even mocking all feminists—is not the same as bashing women.”

If you linked approvingly to a white supremacist mocking some civil rights supporters the effect would be the same. The problem with that video is 1) It’s full of false generalizations about feminism and 2) It’s produced by a raving anti-feminist loon.

@ racismisbaddude “Are you saying that fundamentalist Islam and third wave feminism can be fairly compared to Nazism? “

No, I’m saying that linking to a hatemonger like Sargon is like linking to other hatemongers.

Have you visited Sargon’s Youtube channel? the man is a raving

69 Aleksandar V. February 2, 2016 at 5:41 pm

racismisbaddude @64:

I think John @52 was trying to make an analogy there, but not a very good one in my opinion, for NESS is not his boss, and RD was not being offensive to them.
Your view on what A Hermit @60 said is also flawed given the fact that:
fundamentalist Islam ≠ Muslims
third wave feminism ≠ all feminism ≠ women
A Hermit @60 merits a response on his “reasonable” hypothetical question.
Good things can come out of the darkest of places. Specifically the first jet engine, Fanta or the Bergius process were all invented during Nazism in Germany. Any argument, or video for that matter must be analyzed based on its content, not on his origin.
We must all agree at some point in time that ideas (ideologies) cannot be offended.
Offense can only be taken in that case, not given. And to gamble, freedom of expression for someones emotional fragility is simply insanity.

70 Carrie February 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm

@ A Hermit
“I wonder Michael, if Dawkins had been linking approvingly, even with qualifications, to a Stormfront video or anti-semitic cartoons from Der Sturmer would we still be OK with that?”

The personal views of a speaker on certain subjects are irrelevant when it comes to giving talks or debates on totally different subjects. Dawkins was, as I understand it, invited to talk at a science event, although the profiles of the other speakers listed makes me wonder about that.

A bonus of not disinviting a speaker who holds controversial views is that they can be challenged on those views in the Q and A sessions.

There is nothing wrong with inviting or disinviting whomever a group wishes. What they did wrong here, in many people’s eyes, is the shoddy, ill-mannered and unprofessional way in which the NECSS went about it.

71 Tigzy February 2, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Said A Hermit: ‘No, I’m saying that linking to a hatemonger like Sargon is like linking to other hatemongers.

Have you visited Sargon’s Youtube channel? the man is a raving’

I’ve seen one or two Sarg videos – never seen anything particularly hatey.

Some examples would be appreciated.

72 Guestus Aurelius February 2, 2016 at 6:05 pm

@68 A Hermit:

@ Guestus Aurelius “Mocking some feminists—hell, even mocking all feminists—is not the same as bashing women.”

If you linked approvingly to a white supremacist mocking some civil rights supporters the effect would be the same.

First of all, that’s an ad hominem fallacy: whether the person doing the mocking is a white supremacist has no bearing on the legitimacy or merit of the mockery.

And second, civil rights supporters ≠ people of color (I assume you had POC in mind, but you didn’t state it explicitly)

Do you honestly believe that anyone who claims to speak for Group X ipso facto becomes Group X?

The problem with that video is 1) It’s full of false generalizations about feminism and 2) It’s produced by a raving anti-feminist loon.

1) I don’t think the generalizations are too wide of the mark, but even if they are, so what? Why should feminism, among all the ideologies out there, be treated with kid gloves?

2) That’s your opinion, but again, ad hominem.

73 Deborah Hitchens February 2, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Anyone who claims males are more logical than females is a male supremacyst.
Anyone who claims science is male is a male supremacyst.
Untenable
is the idea you can support a male supremacyst ideology whilst saying you believe in equality for women!
Untenable!
This is what Muslim women are finding out now who claim they are feminists, they can be one or the other but not both!

If you believe in equality then you cannot then also hold a belief their is something or someone above you or below you, not a god or a woman or a man. Untenable!

It is easy for Mr Dawkins to point his finger to the men over there and point out their misogyny, which is glaringly obvious for us all to see, and whilst he does that he can shift all focus off himself and his like minded bro’s over here!
What is not easy for Mr Dawkins to do or the Muslim women who think themselves feminists, is to point their fingers at themselves and accept that they themselves are no different to the men over there and that they are consciously or subconsciously just supporting the same male supremacyst ideology and they are all in reality just one of the same.

74 Tigzy February 2, 2016 at 7:59 pm

I’m probably gonna regret asking this, but – why the ‘y’ and not the ‘i’ in ‘supremacyst’?

75 allison February 2, 2016 at 8:28 pm

We wrote to NECSS and informed them that we would not be attending the 2016 conference particularly because of the Dawkins ‘uninvitation’. I was pretty disappointed since this was going to be my first opportunity to see Dr Dawkins.

76 tina February 2, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Regarding the decision to disinvite RD, Steven Novella said at his blog…..

“Other than our normal engagement with the community, there was no outside input on this decision.

In fact, I suggest virtue-signalling to ‘the community’ was a major part of the Necss decision. That was why it was announced online without any discussion with Richard. It is a way of drawing attention to the cultural sin of criticising feminists, or muslims, or women, or any other group that is chosen and portrayed as ‘the oppressed.’ With SJW’s it is forever about their status as victims and signalling that to third parties.

Responsibility must be firmly lodged as the feet of the alleged oppressor..the intention being to damage the moral reputation of the individual or group so portrayed, preferably an old white male, the west, men in general, a chill girl…anybody who questions their oppression narrative and fails to perceive and acknowledge the obvious moral superiority of their victimhood.

To achieve this it’s necessary to ratchet up the seriousness of the offence and the culpability of the offender at every available opportunity or even make it up whole cloth.

The aim is authoritarian social control, heavily disguised as progressive social justice.

It would be illuminating if Mr Novella would tell us exactly what he means by ‘normal engagement with the community.’ But I can guess.

77 Aleksandar V. February 2, 2016 at 9:01 pm

@Deborah Hitchens 73

Some context would be nice to understand your comment.

“Anyone who claims males are more logical than females is a male supremacyst.” – wrong, because if a female claims that males are more logical than females she may believe in male supremacy, but still can’t be a male supremacist.
follows that claie 2 is Tenable, same as claim 3.

“This is what Muslim women are finding out now who claim they are feminists, they can be one or the other but not both!” – this is a very interesting point, and a debatable one, but same goes for Christian women then.

“If you believe in equality then you cannot then also hold a belief their is something or someone above you or below you, not a god or a woman or a man. Untenable!” – equality is a very broad term in this statement. What kind of equality? I suppose gender equality, and if that is the case god is out of the picture.

78 Aheydis Vaakenjab February 2, 2016 at 9:10 pm

@ahermit #60

I wonder Michael, if Dawkins had been linking approvingly, even with qualifications, to a Stormfront video or anti-semitic cartoons from Der Sturmer would we still be OK with that?

If you think not then you need to ask yourself why bashing women in the same way is acceptable…

Very interesting observation AHermit. What say you if someone was notorious for spreading hearsay as fact, bashing Islam, laughing at the untimely death of the religious, derailing important discussions about mental health for one-upmanship, supporting and encouraging violent rhetoric by his followers, and calls for apologetic people to be fucked into the ground, would we still be OK with that?

79 Aleksandar V. February 2, 2016 at 9:16 pm

@Deborah Hitchens 73

“It is easy for Mr Dawkins to point his finger to the men over there and point out their misogyny, which is glaringly obvious for us all to see, and whilst he does that he can shift all focus off himself and his like minded bro’s over here!
What is not easy for Mr Dawkins to do or the Muslim women who think themselves feminists, is to point their fingers at themselves and accept that they themselves are no different to the men over there and that they are consciously or subconsciously just supporting the same male supremacyst ideology and they are all in reality just one of the same..”

Again, some context would be nice. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you are trying to depict RD and Muslim women (perhaps Maryam Namazie? ) as being misogynist. From claiming they are not feminist to claiming they are misogynist is quite a leap, and one that needs to be supported by some evidence. Evidence you do not provide.

Where do you stand on the withdrowing of the invitation to Mr. Dawkins from speaking at NECSS?

80 racismisbaddude February 2, 2016 at 9:18 pm

A Hermit @68

Yes, I am well aware that Sargon has not yet accepted the love of intersectional feminism to his heart. It is so hard to know what to do with people like him. Can he be recovered? Or is he, like so many others, doomed to languish in the misery of his blindered world, a place in which he is forever disconnected from diversity, the force that gives us life and a reason for being?

81 Matt Cavanaugh February 2, 2016 at 9:19 pm

Some things can’t be undone. Novella has revealed his true colors — someone who places fidelity to SJW dogma above skepticism.

A/S activism in the US is a shambles, thanks to ideologues like Novella, who can’t resist injecting their sociopolitical agenda into the mix.

Let the obscure NESS impose its PC purity test on its insignificant little conference. Let them rot. We can and should keep moving on without them.

82 Pete Attkins February 2, 2016 at 10:19 pm

Matt Cavanaugh @81,

I agree with you. I don’t like posting links to articles so I shall just quote something that I think is very important:
“Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a harsh critic of Islam’s treatment of women, said Wednesday that modern American feminism is focused on ‘trivial bullshit’ and needs to be reclaimed…” — Hirsi Ali slams feminism’s ‘trivial BS’, The Washington Examiner, 2014-11-20.

83 Henry Fitzgerald February 2, 2016 at 10:21 pm

The “divisive” non-argument reminds me of something: it’s exactly the reason the French clergy gave for not legalising gay marriage.

And the parallel with this case is not so much in the thing being justified with this poor argument, but in what the people who use the argument are sneakily doing. They’re manufacturing their own evidence.

They’re telling their followers: “This is bad, because it’s divisive. Because it’s so devisive, please object to it as strenuously and stridently as you can.”

And then, if people do this, the clergy can say: “See! We were right! It WAS divisive!”

84 Seymour February 2, 2016 at 10:22 pm
85 Dogberry February 2, 2016 at 10:51 pm

The feverish dissection of the possible reasons for the disinvitation may lead to some invidious and undoubtedly false theories. For example, might the NECSS committee have felt undue pressure to cave in to the demands of a certain siren who threatened to release her photographs of their joint after hours activities at the many events they have attended together? (AKA ‘The Bunnyboiler Conspiracy Theory’.) That some people might come to believe such nonsense, well, you might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.
For myself, I find the Conspiracy Theory of Life is generally less useful than the Screw-Up Theory of Life. This looks much more like the latter.

86 Aleksandar V. February 2, 2016 at 11:34 pm

@Dogberry 85

let me point you to what Steve Novella said in his blog:
“For further background, over the last 5-6 years the skeptical movement has been rocked by intermittent controversy over sexism and racism in the movement. This is a complex topic I am not going to tackle or resolve here. Suffice it to say this controversy has caused many in the movement to form various camps, some championing free speech, others social justice. Others have tried to chart a course down the middle, while still others left the movement.”

I tend to agree with you when you say: “the Conspiracy Theory of Life is generally less useful than the Screw-Up Theory of Life.” (nicely put), however the double standard applied by NESS in the case of RD compared to those of PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson, and “case studies” with a similar Modus operandi (Shirtgate, Sir T. Hunt…) suggest there is something more behind it. Novellas words point out that there is in fact a history of unpleasant affairs that we can’t ignore.

Whichever the case, the decision to withdraw the invitation, and the manner in which it happened, was a bad one from an outside objective point of view.

87 Deborah Hitchens February 3, 2016 at 12:57 am

@Tigzy No.74

I’m probably gonna regret asking this, but – why the ‘y’ and not the ‘i’ in ‘supremacyst’?

Basically, a cyst is a cluster of cells that have grouped together to form a sac (not unlike the manner in which water molecules group together, forming a bubble); however, the distinguishing aspect of a cyst is the cells forming the “shell” of such a sac, are distinctly abnormal (in both appearance and behaviour) when compared to all surrounding cells for that given location. It may contain air, fluids, or semi-solid material.
Once formed, a cyst may sometimes resolve on its own. Whether a cyst that fails to resolve may need to be removed by surgery will depend on what type of cyst it is and where in the body it has formed.

Hence the association of words “Supremacyst”

88 Jan Steen February 3, 2016 at 1:38 am

@Deborah Hitchens,

Are you comparing men to cysts? That’s a new one for me. You sound like a charming person.

89 racismisbaddude February 3, 2016 at 1:56 am

Jan @88:

I hate to be the one to introduce some facts to your worldview, but cismen are responsible for virtually every PIV rape of cis and trans*women.

90 Deborah Hitchens February 3, 2016 at 1:56 am

No.77 Aleksandar V.

You haven’t explained why a female who supports male supremacy can’t be a male supremacyst?
Perhaps it may be considered not quite linguistically correct but language changes all the time!
When you say that the description of the female as a male supremacysts is not quite linguistically correct, the intent of the description is not changed.
A Nazi by any other name is still a Nazi!
A person may say they are not a Nazi but they support all they do and say, well the second they reveal that revelation they ARE IT!

If it quacks like a duck!

Regarding Muslim women who say they are feminists and believe in equality, they will find it very difficult to realise equality whilst being Muslims, in fact it will be impossible for them to achieve it.

If Muslim men are indoctrinated with the idea they are the head of the household and we know they are and they believe women are there to wait on them hand and foot and always there to serve them, and to do all their washing and cleaning and if those women fail to comply then men have a right to beat them until they do, then what chance of equality for those women?
No chance, not any!

Lastly, Equality is quite an exact term here and I never mentioned gender!.
“If you believe in equality then you cannot also hold a belief their is something or someone above you or below you, not a god or a woman or a man. Untenable!”

91 racismisbaddude February 3, 2016 at 2:07 am

Deborah @90

I am sorry to say that I find your comments slightly problematic. Saying that a woman cannot follow the proscriptions of her Prophet erases her agency. Do you believe all of the hundreds of millions of women who wear the hijab of their own free will are enslaved? Believing that a woman cannot follow her chosen religion kills her dignity and undies her honor.

92 Deborah Hitchens February 3, 2016 at 2:11 am

No.88 Jan Steen
“Are you comparing men to cysts?”
Only male supremacysts.
That is ok isn’t it? I also call them MisogynastyNazi’s!
Are you upset at that?
Male supremacyst
An individual belonging to the male species who incorrectly believes he is superior to females and consequently takes actions to suppress his female counterpart. Such individuals live in a fantasy world because if it wasn’t for the female gender, they would not exist.
Male and females are equals.
It is absurd how some males live in a delusional world believing they are a superior sex, whilst females are just as capable and worthy.
By suppressing, controlling and engaging in sexist behaviors, these small populations of male supremacysts are proving just the opposite truth. They are going against the notion of universal equality and are thus not the lower sex but the lower form of human.

93 Deborah Hitchens February 3, 2016 at 2:28 am

No91 @ racismisbaddude
I am all for free will and you tell us Muslim women freely choose to wear the hijab but what you don’t tell us is, what will happen to those women if they freely choose not to wear it?

What will be the outcome of that free choice of hers?
If the outcome is she will be physically attacked, verbally abused and chastied by her Muslim community for not following Islamic traditions in wearing the Hihab, then this free choice you mention is an anathema where there is no free choice at all!

And these Islamic traditions are actually nothing but a millstone around a woman’s neck and also I ask you where is the free will when a child is indoctrinated, brainwashed by their parents to believe in a thing that does not exist.

Re religion ~ Brainwashing children to believe in scary monsters that do not exist is child abuse by any other name!

94 Deborah Hitchens February 3, 2016 at 3:02 am

No.82 @Pete Attkins

Re Ayaan Hirsi Ali quote, one thing we should bear in mind in this culture is everything is relative where abuse of the female exists in this anti female culture!

We can all be one of the guys but as yet we aren’t all one of the girls.. cos as far as a heterosexual male is concerned, being called a girl is a step down in his eyes, in his perceived reality!

95 racismisbaddude February 3, 2016 at 3:59 am

Deborah @ 93:

I am sorry to say that you have been corrupted by slick Islamophobic propaganda that is rooted in racism and colonialism. A good source for information that is pro equality/feminism that avoids Islamophobia is Freethought Blogs. (Except for Maryam Namazie…don’t even bother with that one.)

Whatever few crimes can be blamed on Muslim men, far fewer than in the rape culture West, can easily be explained as cultural misunderstandings.

96 Silentbob February 3, 2016 at 7:37 am

@ 95 racismisbaddude

It’s one thing to be troll. It’s another thing to be so tediously bad at it.

FFS, lift your game “dude”. You make “Sye Ten Atheist” look like a satirical genius.

97 Jan Steen February 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm

@racismisbaddude,

I hate to be the one to introduce some facts to your worldview, but cismen are responsible for virtually every PIV rape of cis and trans*women.

Don’t you mean cystmen?

98 Jan Steen February 3, 2016 at 1:48 pm

@Deborah Hitchens,

Re religion ~ Brainwashing children to believe in scary monsters that do not exist is child abuse by any other name!

Isn’t that exactly what Dawkins always says (much to the chagrin of his opponents, who claim that he downplays child abuse)? So what is your problem with Dawkins?

99 racismisbaddude February 3, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Silentbob @ 96:

Think what you will of my intentions, there is nothing I can do to change your mind, it seems. I will ask you on a personal level not to misgender me. I am not a dude, I am a trans*woman.

100 Tigzy February 3, 2016 at 11:35 pm

@Deborah Hitchens #87

Riiight.

Well I for one think ‘Supremacyst’ is pretty fetch!

101 Silentbob February 4, 2016 at 3:39 am

@ 99 racismisbaddude

I abbreviated your nym, doofus. That’s what the quotes were for. Yeah, I know, don’t tell me; you find that “problematic”.

102 Deborah Hitchens February 4, 2016 at 5:02 am

No. 100 @Tigzy
‘Supremacyst’ is pretty fetch!
Thank you, I cannot disagree with that!
The description is tight and befits it’s purpose aptly!
I would encourage everyone to employ it and
you never know maybe one day it will even make it’s way into the dictionary!

103 mike February 4, 2016 at 6:03 am

Dawkins has been treated quite unfairly, and uninviting him was a poor choice of action.

Despite being slandered, misunderstood, and misrepresented, Dawkins has handled this dissinvitation, as well as the tweet removal, with proper good taste.

It is important to point out that Dawkins didn’t remove the tweet because he thought it was offensive, but rather because he learned it included a caricature of a real person, who may have suffered from having her identity circulated.

I’m glad this article shown a light on the politics behind the makings of such a fiasco. Shame on those responsible for this debacle.

104 Richard February 4, 2016 at 6:15 am

Maybe NESS shouldn’t have invited him in the first place or lived with their initial decision to invite him and written a disclaimer later. But I’m sick of Richard Dawkins and his Twitter-trolling, just as I’m sick of PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson. I think they all ruin the reputation of the a/s movement.

105 Deborah Hitchens February 4, 2016 at 7:03 am

N0.98 @Jan Steen
“So what is your problem with Dawkins?”
We take it for granted that Mr Dawkins is a very intelligent chap, so are we to believe then he is so ignorant he would unwittingly link to and promote a video created by an infamous misogynist and anti feminist, and in this video this misogynist created, he targets a woman who has suffered for the past two years a brutal sexual and verbal harassment by him and his like minded ilk and all because they asked her why feminists had a problem with them and she tried to reply whilst they continued to shout her down and she said to them if you stfu for a moment and let me speak I will tell you!
And from that day they have never stopped shouting her down, never stopped harassing her and Mr Dawkins has now happily joined them on their bandwagon of hate, much to their delight!

If men demolish the image of the female to elevate the significance of their own is that a hatred for the female and are they in awe of themselves?

When you hear men repeat the same endless male propaganda such as “Men are more logical than women, men are more rational than women!”
then that is an anti female rhetoric that destroys and demolishes the image of women in the minds of all those in their culture who hear this constant drip of the annihilation of the image of women, even women themselves can be persuaded by this constant message, constant drip of brainwashing them into believing this is true.

Women are men’s intellectual equals and we no longer allow whites to say they are more logical or rational than black people , that type of propaganda is no longer politically correct and few will dare to express such ideas now!
But whether men are black or white or yellow they are all united in their idea that elevates the significance of themselves by claiming, “You know what guys we Men are more logical and rational than women!”

So why should women accept their image be annihilated in their culture so men can elevate the significance of their own?

Mr Dawkins may well point his finger at men over their and focus on their misogyny, but Mr Dawkins will have to take note we Feminists are pointing our finger at him over here and his misogyny and if he wouldn’t mind we don’t wish to wait to long before he decides to do something about it to end it.

106 Aneris February 4, 2016 at 10:07 am

Deborah Hitchens wrote: We take it for granted that Mr Dawkins is a very intelligent chap, so are we to believe then he is so ignorant he would unwittingly link to and promote a video created by an infamous misogynist and anti feminist, and in this video this misogynist created, he targets a woman who has suffered for the past two years a brutal sexual and verbal harassment by him and his like minded ilk and all because they asked her why feminists had a problem with them and she tried to reply whilst they continued to shout her down and she said to them if you stfu for a moment and let me speak I will tell you!

I don’t know SyeTenAtheist (the video creator) and what you claim could be true, but I doubt it at this point.

From where I sit, I see a social justice movemen convinced the Status Quo is evil. It has given itself permission to violate whatever conventions and rules govern the online space if found inconvenient. They feel disadvantaged by civil discussions, so they do away with it. That’s called “justified anger” and rationalisations are found why civility is overrated anyway. There is the convention that people get together in comment sections to discuss matters. They found the best way to preserve their ideology was by removing it from scrutiny. The result is called “safe space”.

Conversations on the internet entail that people also ask questions, look for pointers and demand answers. Such answers and explanations are a problem for the social justice movement, because it’s held together not by shared convicitions but by the vague notion that social justice is very important indeed for the world is unfair. The ideology consists of buzzwords lifted from academia most social justice warriors don’t understand. It’s also mostly a form of postmodernism. They have deprived themselves from ever interrogating these concepts and live in fear that they could make a mistake in explaining things falsely.

Meme-like phrases are available from the “War on Evolution” which were to shut down Creationists who used “just asking question” as a way to insert their talking points. But now this could be deployed against anyone not well versed with the new, unwritten rules of the “safe space”, and inquiry from outside could be construed as a siege.

Another element of the internet are the trolls. They are background noise few people take seriously. They mostly don’t exist as individuals, but are rather collections of comments that violate social rules. Where conventional wisdom say “don’t feed the trolls”, the social justice movement formed an abusive relationship with this bad commentary. For one, it’s a run area for people who have caged themselves in safe spaces. The conflict with trolls allows them to show their correct convictions and their online comment section prowess to their safe space flock. It’s where the virtue signalling aspect comes about. Troll comments also tend to adapt to what people want to hear the least. This provides the social justice movement with avatars of sexism, chauvinism, racism and so on and finally gives their slacktivism a purpose – something to do. They can get involved in symbolical “fighting the good fight”.

Importantly, troll comments are intrusive. Fighting the troll is visible to the safe space congregation. For the same reason, the social justice movement is concerned with people who are otherwise very much like them. Richard Dawkins probably shares most convictions as does the vast majority of people in the secular movement. You have to look really hard to find someone opposed to gay marriage and other LGBTX converns – yet the social justice movement is most active in policing people who are similar in many ways to them, and artificially make it seem as if the people they combat were The Other. The reason seems to be entirely about overcomeing what is called cheap signalling in biology. Saying you are in favour of these things and against racism is an easy thing to do. We can share clips from Upworthy and pretty much always hit the right tone for a certain audience of self-identified “Good People”, because even opinions are a commercialized commodity. But this doesn’t make you seem elevated anymore or social-justicer-than-thou. Hence, to overcome these cheap signalling, more costly “burning bridges” becomes fashionable.

Apparently, all and many more of these elements form a highly stable and successful form of community – for a while. Unfortunately, it is at odds with other forms of community. If you imagine them as a physical systems, you also see what kind of resources they need. At some point trolls lose interest and all bridges are burned. This is when social justice movement communities collapse.

This is the reason why I am doubtful of the Sarkeesians, Watsons, Binx’, Quinns of this world. They tap into the mechanism that power the social justice movement and try to use its design as yet another defense mechanism against scrutiny and for their own personal gain. We have here a powerful illustration that not even satire is allowed, and we hear yet again the victim narrative that hinges on nothing but non-sequiturs and authoritarian thinking (i.e. Dawkins as a puppeteer of trolls).

In short, for social justice movement advocates there is always something to evade discussion of matters, and there is always a reason, however forced, to approach any subject via the hegemony or prerogative of interpretation. Before they ever even step into an argument they will declare that their opponent is anyway an evil opporessor and that’s all there is to say.

107 Jan Steen February 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm

@Deborah Hitchens,

he targets a woman who has suffered for the past two years a brutal sexual and verbal harassment by him and his like minded ilk and all because they asked her why feminists had a problem with them and she tried to reply whilst they continued to shout her down and she said to them if you stfu for a moment and let me speak I will tell you!

Do you have any evidence for “brutal sexual and verbal harassment” of Chanty Binx by Richard Dawkins? No? Thought so. You fling wild accusations over our heads, and then you wonder why people don’t take you seriously.

The rest of what you write in this paragraph also bears almost no relationship to what actually happened. You clearly live in a fantasy world where women can do no wrong and are the eternal victim, while men are misogynists merely for protesting against the weirdness and dishonesty of a certain kind of feminists.

That all feminists are man-haters is a stereotype, but you seem to live up to it pretty well.

108 Aneris February 4, 2016 at 2:24 pm

That’s another fantastic irony, as typical for SJWs: PZ et al first revoke the feminist card of everyone not exactly like him, and then — actually — only the islamophobia-shouting type remains as “true feminists”. But when Richard is nicely saying that most feminists are not like that (where he is generous in this context), the faction accuses him of painting all feminists with a broad brush in exactly the opposite kind of way. In other words, had he said all feminists are like in the video, PZ and gang would have to say, if they were consistent, that this was true — and be mad at Richard for disliking this attitude. After all, people who are critical of islam Islam aren’t doing intersectionality right, and thus are No True Feminists and that would be the criticism. But Richard was generous and said it was only a minority who act that way, yet now PZ et all want to occupy the exact oppposite stance — as allegedly Islam critical. This type of hypocrisy is pretty much unique to the SJWs and their bizarre postmodern antics.

109 Shatterface February 4, 2016 at 2:48 pm

When you hear men repeat the same endless male propaganda such as “Men are more logical than women, men are more rational than women!”

I’m not seeing that argument from Dawkins.

I am seeing it from feminists who attack Dawkins for being too logical and ignoring their feelz, which amounts to the same thing.

It’s not Dawkins who is pushing horseshit about ‘other ways of knowing’. That’s coming entirely from the feminist side.

110 tina February 4, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Victim culture movements always fragment and ultimately self-destruct. A+, feminists, heinz57 lefties, occupy etc etc. See it time and time again. It’s very psychologically damaging for the SJW’s who internalise their victim status to the point it becomes a large part of their identity, not only online, but IRL too, usually with horrible consequences. It’s not that unusual to encounter individuals who’ve become completely unhinged by it all. Although atheists have been and are still discriminated against, I don’t see many that adopted this sort of mentality and it’s disappointing that the SJW entryists have imported it and set a/s goals back somewhat.

Gee, as if life wasn’t short enough ffs!

111 Citizen Wolf February 4, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Classic Harry Enfield

What would the NECSS have done if Dawkins had tweeted a link to a classic Harry Enfield skit?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS37SNYjg8w

112 Kyle February 4, 2016 at 6:14 pm

“When Dawkins makes a caveat about a retweeted video, that has tremendous impact. It removes legitimacy from the video and the ideas expressed in it.”

That’s very faulty logic. You could say if Dawkins condemned the video then that would carry a lot of weight against the video. But he didn’t. His caveat implied that he at least somewhat agreed with the video. He perpetuated the stereotype of the overzealous radical feminist, thus solidifying people’s behavior of associating feminism with extremism and referring to feminist extremism as though it’s some kind of special case, somehow worse than extremism in any other group.

113 Pete Attkins February 4, 2016 at 7:17 pm

When I hear someone repeat ‘the same endless propaganda’ I usually inform them of the facts — not for their sake, but for the sake of other listeners/readers who have just been misinformed by the repetition. This tends to establish who is, and who is not, capable of being logical and rational. I have little time for, and zero tolerance of, agenda-driven irrational people who’s public discourse is based on misrepresenting their opponents position then attacking it: this “straw man” argument is an informal fallacy. Dawkins has been on the receiving end of it countless times over the years and it’s pitiful to see a self-proclaimed skeptical organisation resort to it.

The lesson that is yet to be learnt is extremely simple: throwing rotten eggs at a public figure will temporarily make that figure look silly, but the long-term effect is to make the egg throwers look like a bunch of unruly nincompoops, who are in dire need of learning etiquette, modern manners, and debating skills.

114 John Greg February 4, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Kyle said:

“He perpetuated the stereotype of the overzealous radical feminist, thus solidifying people’s behavior of associating feminism with extremism and referring to feminist extremism as though it’s some kind of special case, somehow worse than extremism in any other group.”

Well, that right there is a blatant misrepresentation. Dawkins did not perpetuate the stereotype of the overzealous radical feminist as representing ALL feminists. He, quite accurately and quite specifically perpetuated the stereotype of the overzealous radical feminist as representative of a very small number of feminists. Which it does, and which exist, and which is quite true.

“… feminist extremism as though it’s some kind of special case, somehow worse than extremism in any other group”

That is pure invention.

115 Kyle February 4, 2016 at 9:30 pm

“That is pure invention.”

Oh? It is? Please elaborate. You can demonstrate your point by showing equivalent cases of calling out extremism in other groups. People persistently view this kind of draconian hypersensitivity as a feminist thing, and Dawkins is reinforcing that view.

116 John Greg February 4, 2016 at 10:10 pm

Dawkins, in particular, and many, many onilne bliggers, et al., have certainly called out extremism of many types, particularily religious.

And, if there is any truth to what you claim, which I dispute, it is that feminists generally tend claim a sort of angelic perfection, which, in my opinion, would lead to stronger reactions in regard their extremism/draconian hypersensitivity.

117 John Greg February 4, 2016 at 10:31 pm

bliggers = bloggers

118 tina February 4, 2016 at 11:20 pm

onilne = onedin line *ducks*

119 Pete Attkins February 4, 2016 at 11:51 pm

I feel better about my missing apostrophe. I really must place an order for another box of them.

120 Deborah Hitchens February 5, 2016 at 2:07 am

No.107 Jan Steen
“Do you have any evidence for “brutal sexual and verbal harassment” of Chanty Binx by Richard Dawkins?”
Richard Dawkins, a one-time winner of the American Humanist Association’s Humanist of the Year Award, said this woman who’s only crime was to tell a crowd of MRA’s to shut up to give her a chance to speak said
“she deserves nothing more than ridicule.”
and he merrily joined in with the band wagon of hate.
He condones it, embraces it and fully endorses it!
and he added “Yes, she deserves abundant mockery, the more the merrier” he told his 1.4 million followers!

“The More The Merrier!”.
“Oh but gawsh, I would never encourage my followers to harass anyone, well not anyone who matters that is and I am a great advocate for treating women with respect except those women who have the audacity to tell men, to shut up for a minute to give them a chance to speak, no, I have no time for them, except to harass them and encourage others to do so, so they never will be heard”
and the damage that an army of sycophants can do to the human spirit is immeasurable!

They say if triangles had gods they would be three sided, but in man’s case they are just two faced!

121 Silentbob February 5, 2016 at 2:53 am

@ 120 Deborah Hitchens

Y’know the funny thing. The ‘pitters claim the Original Sin of Rebecca Watson in The Gospel According to the ‘Pit had nothing to with “elevatorgate”, it was because she used her “bully pulpit” when she was giving a talk to call out one of the students in the audience. That inspired a blog post called “Bad Form, Rebecca Watson” (or something like that), and the ‘pit had its genesis as a bunch of Watson haters who congregated at that blog.

Their supposed problem was that it was unfair for someone with a speaker’s platform to call out someone in audience who had no way to respond. It was all about power dynamics.

Now suddenly when it comes to Dawkins, with orders of magnitude more of a platform than Watson, calling out someone with no platform whatsoever it’s, “Power dynamics? What power dynamics? We don’t know nothin’ about no power dynamics. Anyone can criticize anyone. That’s free speech!”.

It gives the lie to their claim that their problem with Watson was that she used her platform to bully. They don’t give a fuck about bullying. Their real problem with her was the same as their problem with Binx. The crime of daring to speak feminism while female.

122 Pete Attkins February 5, 2016 at 4:03 am

“and the damage that an army of sycophants can do to the human spirit is immeasurable!”

In your dreams.

123 Jan Steen February 5, 2016 at 7:17 am

@Deborah Hitchens,

Mockery is not “brutal sexual and verbal harassment”. Thanks for proving that you were just making things up.

124 The Sceptical Poet February 5, 2016 at 9:44 am
125 Deborah Hitchens February 5, 2016 at 11:04 am

No.123 @ Jan Steen
Tell us, what crime has this woman committed, that she should deserve to continually receive death and rape threats from the bro’s for the past 3 years?

Dawkins thinks she’s a vile person, and other men have tried to silence her with an avalanche of rape and death threats. The threat of rape in this case is being used as a silencing tactic, what a great prop for men!
How ever would men survive if they didn’t have fists and cocks to rely on to use as weapons, they appear to be very useful props for cowards!

Of course these are exactly the same kind of tactics Muslims use against women in their culture and against the people who mock or criticise their religion.
Death and rape threats from the Islamists are often not idle threats either!

Historically a woman must walk with a male escort or she’ll be raped. Don’t wear this or that or you’re begging to be raped. Don’t get too drunk, or you deserve to be raped. And because this historical mindset has made it the woman’s responsibility to not get raped, it’s of course her fault if someone does rape her, not men’s.. not men’s, men are responsible for nothing!

John Lennon said
“Woman is the nigger of the world!
and its a very apt description of the way men have treated women!

Mr Dawkins says he believes in EQYALITY but Mr Dawkins still wants the right under that umbrella to continue to dismiss women’s experiences and refer to them as bitches and tell them they are less logical than men.
Well you can tell Mr Dawkins from me, that is not how Equality works!

126 Deborah Hitchens February 5, 2016 at 11:28 am

N0. 124 @The Sceptical Poet

Dawkins undoing is his own misogyny that he could no longer disguise or hide!

http://www.exulanten.com/humanloot.html

This is women’s history at the hands of men, of course you will play it down for damage control!
https://twitter.com/ISIS_Brobaganda/status/686972252580122624

You all want to continue to sit on your pedestals and look down on and sneer at women!
Well equality don’t work like that!
and apparently Equality is a step down too far for vain self glorious men who will always regard themselves superior beings!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3272079/The-dangerous-place-woman-hell-Honduras.html

127 tina February 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Feminists in academia and the media normalised misandry and made it (almost) acceptable in our culture. Most feminists will not acknowledge being man-haters even though a substantial proportion of them are. It expresses itself in casual denigration of a male stereotype and excuses itself with a false narrative of victimhood which justifes open hostility to men as a class. It buys into such patently facile ideas: all men are rapists, misogynists, oppressors, hold all the power etc etc. The ideas become as entrenched as any religious fervour and simply pointing to facts or evidence that counter the ideology engender the response that merely doing so proves their point. It is very like arguing with the religious. I’d argue that RD is very much an egalitarian feminist though it’s got to the point where the label feminist is so corrupted by the extremists that I, and probably the majority of thoughtful women, will no longer use it.

128 Aneris February 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Silent Bob asserts: It gives the lie to their claim that their problem with Watson was that she used her platform to bully. They don’t give a fuck about bullying. Their real problem with her was the same as their problem with Binx. The crime of daring to speak feminism while female.

Except that this isn’t true. Scoll up to #35. Already at the time Richard Dawkins wrote his “Dear Muslima” comment, where he was supposedly the even bigger name who used his “privilege”. Do you think people haven’t thought about this?

However, then as now, Richard Dawkins commented on ideas and a situation, not on people. He also didn’t quote-mine someone else and placed them into a situation others could not check (and numerous other things, but let’s face it, the SJ movement has swept this entire thing under the carpet, as obvious from all mainstream documentation, again I refer to #35 above).

He didn’t accuse fellow atheists of extreme things. He didn’t use such accusations to push a postmodernist, fascist ideology on everyone – featuring gender and race essentialist ideas, racial separatism, ahistorical conceptions of society, history revisionist approaches, an emphasis on the subjective and “lived experience”, and so forth, see e.g. Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality and he didn’t made it defacto unassailable with bully tactics and propaganda from a dozen of blogs.

Critical Race Theory: Key Elements (selection)
*A critique of liberalism […]
* Storytelling/counterstorytelling and “naming one’s own reality” […]
* The intersections theory [central and invented by the same group and called “intersectionality … ]
* Essentialism philosophy —reducing the experience of a category (gender or race) to the experience of one sub-group (white women or African-Americans). Basically, all oppressed people share the commonality of oppression. However, that oppression varies by gender, class, race, etc., so the aims and strategies will differ for each of these groups […]
* Non-white cultural nationalism/separatism, Black nationalism—exploring more radical views arguing for separation and reparations as a form of foreign aid [leading to such things as Cultural Appropriation, a form of racial purity]
* The concept of structural determinism […] Usually this occurs without conscious knowledge and because of this, our system cannot redress certain kinds of wrongs [unconcious wrongs, sounds totally scientific!]
* White privilege, Microaggression etc.

Critical Race Theory is but one building block. There are of course more but it’s pretty central for PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson’s worldview. I’m familiar with a certain kind of denialism that seems to be standard among postmodernists: i.e. “non-boycott”, “non-blacklist” etc. and then pretending that all didn’t happen. But we are marinaded in trigger warnings, white privilege, people as representatives of categories (neglecting their individuality), safe spaces and cultural appropriation that it would be ludicrous now to deny this ideological foundation. But I expect denialism the next stage, as I see it already in contours around the social justice faction.

Richard Dawkins didn’t libel, defame and smear individuals who were critical of ideas. He also was never a hypocrite extraordinaire in too many ways to recount now. Richard Dawkins never showed an inclination towards intersectionally superimposed double standards so that whatever his friends do, it’s always exactly right, and whatever people disliked do, it’s always the worst thing ever.

Richard Dawkins isn’t an right wing authoritarian, unlike the social justice movement characters. I cite again the review of Altemeyer’s book.

The inventories focus on what he terms “Right Wing Authoritarianism” and “Social Dominance”. He uses “right” initially as “correct”, rather than “politically right wing”, but it becomes obvious during his studies that the politically right-wing subjects see themselves, to a highly dogmatic level, as correct in their beliefs, even when evidence stands in contradiction.
Altemeyer describes the personality traits of high RWAs as submissiveness, fear, self-righteousness, hostility, lack of critical thinking, compartmentalized thinking, double standards, and feeling most empowered when in groups. He describes the lack of logic in their thinking; when they like the conclusion, how that conclusion was arrived at is irrelevant. When they like the behaver, the behavior is acceptable; when they dislike the behaver, the behavior is not.
He then goes on to describe high Social Dominators. These people want power, and they don’t much care how they get it. “The end justifies the means” is their guiding principle.

Richard Dawkins didn’t operate the internet’s nastiest comment section, and then proclaimed from his perch a new political correctness code in line with such authoritarian convictions. And so on…

129 Jan Steen February 5, 2016 at 1:35 pm

@Deborah Hitchens,

You assume that those who have no problem with making fun of that woman also have no problem with rape and death threats. How do you know? Is collective guilt a thing now?

You keep using the fact that she apparently received such threats as a way to deflect well-deserved criticism, and to treat all men as brutes and potential rapists. Consider what you would look like if you ranted about black people the way you rant about men.

130 Carrie February 5, 2016 at 1:54 pm

@ Deborah Hitchens I think you misunderstand.

“Tell us, what crime has this woman committed, that she should deserve to continually receive death and rape threats from the bro’s for the past 3 years?”

As far as I can tell, she has not received any such continually over the past 3 years. If she received threats, they will have happened at the time, as instant response to her disgusting behaviour. Of course, as Dawkins says, threats are never justified no matter how nasty the person they are aimed at. What HAS occurred over the “past 3 years” is that she has become a meme, as has the Dawah guy who is the male caricature in the cartoon video. Her “crime”, or the reason why Dawkins described her as vile once he had done some research about her, was probably that she cheered and jeered as a male suicide was explained to her. The rest of her behaviour in public was pretty awful but that was particularly nasty.

Men are not the only ones to offer repulsive threats to other people online, and women are not the only ones to receive horrible threats either. Threats that are perceived as believable should be reported to the police, and those which are just nasty should be mocked or ignored.

131 Shatterface February 5, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Mr Dawkins says he believes in EQYALITY but Mr Dawkins still wants the right under that umbrella to continue to dismiss women’s experiences and refer to them as bitches and tell them they are less logical than men.

Can you give us any examples of Dawkins calling women illogical bitches because it looks like you and SilentBob are just making shit up.

132 Aneris February 5, 2016 at 4:51 pm

I remember one more thing …

“[…] an audience on the left frightens me nearly as much as an audience of Islamists does […]” – Sarah Haider, co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America __https://youtu.be/0plC24YuoJk?t=9m18s

But there is no such thing as parodied in the video… nothing to see here. There are no American troops approaching baghdad.

133 Guestus Aurelius February 5, 2016 at 7:22 pm

@121 Silentbob

Y’know the funny thing. The ‘pitters claim the Original Sin of Rebecca Watson in The Gospel According to the ‘Pit had nothing to with “elevatorgate”, it was because she used her “bully pulpit” when she was giving a talk to call out one of the students in the audience. That inspired a blog post called “Bad Form, Rebecca Watson” (or something like that), and the ‘pit had its genesis as a bunch of Watson haters who congregated at that blog.

Their supposed problem was that it was unfair for someone with a speaker’s platform to call out someone in audience who had no way to respond. It was all about power dynamics.

Now suddenly when it comes to Dawkins, with orders of magnitude more of a platform than Watson, calling out someone with no platform whatsoever it’s, “Power dynamics? What power dynamics? We don’t know nothin’ about no power dynamics. Anyone can criticize anyone. That’s free speech!”.

I assume that when you speak of the denial of “power dynamics,” you have in mind our exchange on MN’s previous post. Interested lurkers, see comments 63, 74, 82, and 90: http://www.michaelnugent.com/2016/01/29/offensive-satire/#comment-2383736

To recap:

In your comment 82 over there, you asked me, “Do you concede that … years of mockery of a powerless person by thousands of strangers online does indeed constitute harassment?” As part of my reply (90), I claimed that by slipping in the ambiguous qualifier “powerless,” you were “trying to redefine harassment so that it casts as wide a net as possible but only for targets whose politics and identity you’re sympathetic to.”

To support my claim that this is a classic SJW move, I listed several people who were publicly shamed online (Chanty Binx, Melissa Click, Mireille Miller-Young, Justine Sacco, Matt Taylor, Tim Hunt) but treated differently by your side on the basis of their politics and identity, rather than their actions and intent.

In terms of action and intent, Binx, Click, and Miller-Young are clearly the worst offenders. They went out of their way to be horrible in public, and they even crossed the line into criminal behavior: assault, thievery, destruction of property, and pulling a fire alarm when there was no emergency (not sure if Binx herself did that or someone else in her group, but she was in on it). Yet you folks deemed them off limits, precisely because they’re powerless members of “marginalized” groups and did what they did in the name of Social Justice.

But when it came to Sacco, Taylor, and Hunt, all of whom only committed faux pas and didn’t mean to hurt anybody at all, the SJWs invoked “privilege” to justify the cyber mob. Tellingly, it didn’t matter that Sacco was a woman. Her self-deprecating joke was interpreted as racist, and therefore her white privilege negated her marginalization as a woman.

You never responded, but I read your present comment as something of a tu quoque.

Just as I accused your side of using “power” as a moving goalpost to justify double standards based on identity politics, you’re now accusing our side of hypocrisy by selectively appealing to power dynamics only when convenient.

Your charge—and please correct me if I’m mistaken—is that, on the one hand, we’re minimizing the importance of the power differential between Dawkins and Binx, but on the other hand, we invoked the power differential between Watson and McGraw.

My response is that there is no inconsistency here, because, as I’ll explain in the following paragraphs, these two situations simply aren’t analogous in the way you’re suggesting, and power dynamics don’t play the same role in them. To insist otherwise is to ignore the relevant details, and, again, to use “power” as a moving goalpost to justify your double standards.

First, what McGraw did and what Binx did aren’t comparable. McGraw’s crime was leaving a comment online mildly critical of Watson’s video. Binx and her posse, by contrast, attended a public event and behaved appallingly, including pulling the fire alarm and mocking male suicide.

Second, what Watson did and what Dawkins did aren’t comparable. Watson, an invited speaker, “named and shamed” McGraw in response to that mild online comment, accusing her of “parroting … misogynistic thought” in front of her student peers, in a setting where everybody is expected to sit in silence for the duration of the talk. This was a planned leveraging of her status and position at the lectern—disproportionate, petty, vindictive, and entirely unnecessary.

Dawkins, by contrast, reacted to the malevolent and attention-seeking Binx quite appropriately: he condemned her behavior while decrying the harassment he was told she’s received. There was nothing premeditated, disproportionate, or vindictive about this. She was the topic of conversation already—hell, Lindy West brought her to his attention! Yes, he’s more famous than Binx, but it’s not like she’s some poor nobody getting picked on for minding her own business. She was literally shouting from the street corner at a public event with a camera rolling, spewing hatred. No, Dawkins was not leveraging his “power” in the same way that Watson was.

And finally, what Watson’s critics did and what Dawkins’s critics did aren’t comparable. Watson’s critics mainly said “Bad form.” They didn’t overstate the importance of the power differential between Watson and McGraw; they simply pointed to it as a relevant factor, which, given the circumstances, it certainly was. And they didn’t call for her to be ostracized.

But Dawkins’s critics are overstating the importance of the power differential between him and Binx. They’re ignoring the attention-seeking and bilious nature of her ridiculous behavior, and they’re ignoring that she was already the topic of conversation when he mocked her. To them, all that matters is that he’s more famous, he’s a man, and he doesn’t have the correct politics, whereas she’s less famous, she’s a woman, and she’s fighting the good fight. By focusing on politics and identity rather than actions and intent, they depict her as a hapless marginalized victim and him as an oppressor wielding his power against her. And they’re calling for him to be ostracized.

tl;dr version:

No, it’s still your side that uses “power” as a shape-shifting abstraction to justify your double standards. When you look at the details and consider actions and intent (rather than politics and identity), it’s clear that power dynamics don’t play the same role in the Watson/McGraw and Dawkins/Binx situations.

134 Silentbob February 6, 2016 at 4:28 am

@ 133 Guestus Aurelius

Watson’s critics mainly said “Bad form.” [… ] they didn’t call for her to be ostracized.

Is that so?

Thunderf00t’s new video of personal attacks on named atheist feminists is inflammatory, misleading and unhelpful to the international atheist and secular communities. As he is now making this a formal campaign, aimed at conference organizers and leaders in secular groups, I have decided to respond to it.

TF is asking us as conference organizers to ostracize named atheist feminists who he describes as toxic parasites who are dripping poison, as well as spanners and muppets, and he is asking his viewers to forward the video to leaders of secular groups to help to make this happen.

I know that TF is criticizing behavior that he sincerely believes is harming the atheist and secular communities, but his personal attacks are disproportionate to his concerns, they are unfair to those who he is attacking, and they are not helping to resolve the issues that they address.

[The “named atheist feminists” are later identified as including Amy Davis Roth, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, and Melody Hensley.]

Can you guess who wrote that?

Go on, guess.

You’ll never believe it…

… It was this guy.

135 Linda Rosa February 6, 2016 at 4:54 am

Aneris wrote: ” …then as now, Richard Dawkins commented on ideas and a situation, not on people.”

He has been known to go after individuals. Children. He lambasted the the boy with the clock science project, little understanding kids and science projects. And he took aside my 16yo daughter just to chew her out for having gum in her mouth when she was given a surprise award.

136 Guestus Aurelius February 6, 2016 at 5:28 am

@Silentbob 134:

I was comparing two narrow situations that you compared first: Watson naming-and-shaming McGraw, and Dawkins mocking Binx. I wasn’t talking about Elevatorgate or Watson in general, and I wasn’t talking about the satirical video or Dawkins in general.

So when I wrote that “Watson’s critics mainly said ‘Bad form’ … [and] didn’t call for her to be ostracized,” I meant specifically in reaction to her naming-and-shaming McGraw. If TF or anyone else called for her to be ostracized years later, that’s irrelevant to my point.

(And anyway, I did use the word “mainly.”)

Care to address any of my actual points about identity politics, double standards, and shifty use of the “power” abstraction?

137 Silentbob February 6, 2016 at 5:58 am

@ 137 Guestus Aurelius

I did use the word “mainly.”

Yes, I wasn’t unaware of the weasel words. Of course, given that, as far as I’m aware, Dawkins has been disinvited from one event ever in history, it is equally true that he has not been “mainly” ostracized.

Care to address any of my actual points about identity politics, double standards, and shifty use of the “power” abstraction?

Points? You had some points? All I saw was the typical paranoid unevidenced assertions.

138 Guestus Aurelius February 6, 2016 at 7:06 am

@Silentbob 137

Several times now I have given you examples of SJW types using “power” as a shifting goalpost to justify their double standards based on politics and identity: Binx, Click, and Miller-Young were regarded as off limits for their malevolent and even criminal transgressions, because they’re women and their crimes were done in the name of Social Justice; whereas it was open season on Taylor, Hunt, and Sacco for their malice-free faux pas, because “privilege” (in Sacco’s case, her white privilege apparently negated the oppression she experiences as a woman, the same oppression that made Binx, Click, and Miller-Young off limits).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that, because your own statements defending Binx from Dawkins suggest that you place great importance on identity when making such judgments. At the very least, you sure give her gender special emphasis:

Oh, FFS. “Chanty Binx” (not a real name) was just some random woman who, to her great misfortune, happened to be videoed losing her shit at a protest years ago.

Another:

Y’know the weird thing. I remember when there used to be a decent Michael Nugent. A decent bloke. He used to care about the harassment of women online. …

2016 Michael Nugent sees nothing wrong with an atheist celebrity siccing his 1.3 million followers on a woman with no power whatsoever. A woman who’s only crime was being a bit shouty and sweary years ago at a protest. He sees no problem with the famous atheist saying, “she deserves abundant mockery, the more the merrier”, “She most certainly deserved mockery. In spades.”. Presumably knowing that if just 1% of Dawkins’ followers were to take his advice, that would be, not 5 thousand, but 13 thousand mockers descending on the same woman, years after her supposed “crime” (of being a bit rude).

All I can say is, “Michael, I liked your old stuff better than your new stuff”. What the hell happened to you? Was being true to your principles too much hard work? Was it easier just to shrug your shoulders and join the nutty anti-feminist brigade?

And again:

If Dawkins doesn’t realise that encouraging his followers to ridicule a powerless woman who’s already been subject to more ridicule than I would ever want to experience in a lifetime — and has been shown evidence that it is so — is an inhumane thing to do, then he’s more clueless than I can possibly imagine him being.

The bits in quotation marks after the blockquote @63 were direct quotations of Dawkins’ tweets. If you don’t see an implicit encouragement to mock the woman than what can I say? Practise reading comprehension?

Link: http://www.michaelnugent.com/2016/01/29/offensive-satire

The funny thing is, you seem to think that we’re the ones who factor in a person’s identity and politics when judging whether they’ve been treated fairly. From 121 above:

Their real problem with her was the same as their problem with Binx. The crime of daring to speak feminism while female.

But my problem with Binx has nothing to do with her politics or her gender, and everything to do with her behavior.

Is it possible that your reflexive sympathy for her gender and politics has rendered you unable to judge her behavior objectively?

139 Brive1987 February 6, 2016 at 7:07 am

Linda #135

Gum in her mouth? Bwaaaha. Dawkins’s pet peeve.

140 LindaSays February 7, 2016 at 5:59 am

Id like to draw the attention of the SGU inhabitants of the Ivory Towers Basement over at the NECSS to this video by Gad Saad.
The Sadd Truth 149 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5-oG0L6ZnU

The Pale Horse is now stabled at the NECSS and its piteous rider is Steven Novella.

141 Silentbob February 7, 2016 at 6:25 am

@ 139 Guestus Aurelius

Jesus Christ, have you been taking sealioning lessons from someone? :-)

I’ll give you one more response, after this we’re done. I’m not a walking Monty Python sketch.

Is it possible that your reflexive sympathy for her gender and politics has rendered you unable to judge her behavior objectively?

It’s not only possible, but inevitable, that I am prone to cognitive biases. However, I am unable, in good conscience, to accept that “her behavior” justifies a barrage of abuse on various platforms of the following type:

Fair warning, reddit and 9gag are doxing you. As in gathering all of your personal information. We’ve get all links to your face book, okcupid, names, practically everything. Ball is in our court. Since there is nothing you can do about it, how do you feel we are mere minutes from your address and/or phone number?

9gag are getting close my dear, enjoy being anally defiled.

You are a fucking tool. I sincerely hope you jump off a bridge you arrogant, uneducated, angry whore. I despise you and all women like you…

I’d recommend men to contact her through one of the below methods and ask her why she hates men to much, and why she is such and evil, heartless monster, that she could care less about young boys committing suicide.

Here are her full details.

Name:
Facebook page:
Her Tumblr blog:
Her YouTube account:
Her physical address:

Ah yes, the true face of feminism showing its ugly head… in more ways than one.

Someone please feed that bitch a bullet.

She needs a good ol’ cock up the arse…

That Fella Should Of Just Fucking Punched That Slut In The Head.

The redhead should show her tits. That would be far more interesting than her feminist nagging.

i would love to punch this annoying cunt directly in the face.

punch her in the fucking face.

This bitch will be the first to get raped and then beheaded.

i want to rip her jaw off.

Ship her to Saudi Arabia.

she’s hysterical… she needs double penetration to calm her down

wow i want to punch this pig nose bitch in the fucking nose CUNT!

I hope you get raped

I want to punch her.

Someone needs to shove a dick down her throat and show her freedom of speech.

Feminists deserve rape as punishment.

Redhead could put her mouth to better use – around a big black penis

(This is a selection of a selection of screenshots from here, doubtless just the tip of the iceberg.)

Nor can I accept that it is appropriate, in this environment, for perhaps the most prominent person in the atheist/skeptic community to say of the recipient of this barrage of abuse, “she deserves abundant mockery, the more the merrier”.

Nor can I accept that it is inappropriate for the organizers of a conference to say that they would really rather not have such a callous individual as their keynote speaker, when they’re trying to make their conference welcoming to women.

Clear?

Okay, then.

Thanks for playing.

142 dogfightwithdogma February 7, 2016 at 8:37 am

Citizen_wolf @49
“What description would you prefer to use?”

It is not about what description I would use. It is what Dawkins intended. In his tweet he specifically said that some feminists were “pernicious.” Thus he obviously thought that the tweeted video represented feminists whom he considers pernicious. Silly and permicious are descriptions that are not even remotely similar.

143 Guestus Aurelius February 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm

@141 Silentbob:

I know you said that you’re done engaging, so this is mainly for the lurkers:

Of course we’re in agreement that Binx doesn’t deserve threats or harassment. But you already know this, since we agreed on it several days ago on the previous thread. I couldn’t have been clearer about it:

I’m sorry, but threats and harassment are unacceptable regardless of the target.

Link: http://www.michaelnugent.com/2016/01/29/offensive-satire/#comment-2385413

Once again, you’ve simply dodged my main point: when the target is someone whose identity and politics you’re sympathetic to (Binx, Click, Miller-Young), you folks insist that even well-earned mockery is off limits and tantamount to harassment; but when the target doesn’t have enough “oppression” points or isn’t toeing the SJW line (Sacco, Taylor, Hunt), suddenly a mere faux pas justifies open season, and your concerns about threats and harassment are nowhere to be found.

144 Jan Steen February 7, 2016 at 8:01 pm

@Guestus Aurelius,

You should by now have learned from Silentbob that when a powerless woman like Chanty Binx recites the hallowed writings of Lindy West, there is only one appropriate response: shut up and listen. Anything else would be equivalent to blasphemy. You should also have learned that someone who has received threats, credible or not, can never be the object of mockery. That is Feminism 101.

As for the men you keep trying to insert into this narrative; if you were to plot their position on the axes of oppression you would see that they are incredibly privileged. The exact science of Critical Theory tells us that the likes of Connie St Louis were punching up, and therefore the truthfulness of their assertions does not enter into the equation.

And if you disagree with any of this, you are undoubtedly a misogynist.

145 racismisbaddude February 7, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Silent Bob 141

What a terrifying dossier. Is that hosted on Dawkins’ site?

Some slimers would, no doubt, compare the terrible messages women receive to the ones Dawkins receives, but they are totally different because Dawkins is white and male.

146 Jan Steen February 7, 2016 at 8:34 pm

@racismisbaddude,

Dawkins even has a fire-place in his house; he has the incredible privilege of being able to make fun of the threats he receives by reciting them by the fireside. I doubt that Chanty Binx owns a house with a fire-place; she can’t afford the luxury (luxury I tell you!) to dismiss the similarly vile and serious threats while sitting in a comfy chair near a cosy fire.

147 Jan Steen February 7, 2016 at 8:37 pm

Sarcasm aside; reciting the writings of Lindy West should be classified as a crime against humanity. It’s torture, pure and simple.

148 Bowlerhatbill February 24, 2016 at 5:24 am

Some atheists seem to be doing a fantastic job of destroying the ‘movement’ before it even gets a steady footing. Are we quite sure PZ and Watson aren’t religious spies amongst the ranks to hasten this demise?

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