I shot the clerk?

An entire comedy movie, My Cousin Vinnie, is built on a police officer asking an innocent person when he shot a clerk. He responds in surprise ‘I shot the clerk?’, and the police officer later reads the statement to the court deadpan as ‘I shot the clerk’. There was a similar level of misrepresentation at a recent zoom meeting at which somebody quoted, in melodramatic terms, an obvious joke that that I had tweeted, as evidence I have a mission to destroy Atheist Alliance International.

This was the second time in recent months that people associated with AAI have misrepresented me in order to further their political agenda. In response, I sent a letter a week ago to the people who claim, without any valid authority, to be the board of AAI. I then travelled to Geneva where the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child was questioning Ireland. Having returned, they have not even given me the courtesy of acknowledging receipt of my letter, so I am publishing it here today.

Dear Colleagues,

Please do me the courtesy of reading and responding to this letter on the basis of my ongoing communication with you in recent years, which has always been civil and constructive, and not on the basis of your interaction with any other people. I am writing today about three issues.

  1. False prejudicial allegations made about me at your recent zoom meeting, based on an absurd misrepresentation of a tweet.
  2. Your failure to inform people to whom you sent your ‘disclosure document’ that it repeatedly and knowing misrepresents me.
  3. The need to address the underlying issue that AAI has not had a legitimate board, or a legitimate way of appointing one, since 2018.

1. False prejudicial allegations made about me at your zoom meeting

I have received several reports of your recent zoom meeting. To me, it reflects poorly on the values we have tried to foster in atheist advocacy. Instead of addressing issues rationally based on their merits, it fostered the type of ‘in-group good, out-group bad’ hostile tribalism too common on social media. That’s fine for creating unity among the already-converted, but not great for actually resolving issues where good people sincerely disagree.

This included a false prejudicial allegation that I have a mission to destroy AAI, that became an established fact within the discourse of the meeting despite being based on an absurd misrepresentation of a tweet. The speaker compared me to a barking dog that should be ignored, and described me as a troll and a ‘so-called Irish writer and activist’. He then melodramatically read a tweet to the meeting saying, ‘I will be okay when AAI collapses’, and began his next sentence about me with ‘when a person has a mission to collapse AAI…’

The meeting then treated this tweet as evidence that I have a mission to collapse AAI. In reality it was part of a humorous exchange (see appendix 1 below) in which I posted a photo of a large batch of soya beans I had cooked and I wrote, ‘That’s me stocked up on soya beans for the foreseeable future.’ John Hamill replied, ‘Prepper’, a reference to eccentric people who stock up on food in preparation for an apocalypse. I replied, ‘I’ll be okay when AAI collapses’, John replied ‘I hope you have enough for the rest of us’, and I replied with a video clip from the comedy movie Blazing Saddles in which the pastor says ‘Son, you’re on your own.’

As a comedy writer, I frequently make jokes on Twitter, a fact that Bill Flavell will confirm for you. Unless you believe I was actually stocking up on soya beans so that I could survive the collapse of AAI while leaving John Hamill to starve, the allegation made to your meeting was an outrageous misrepresentation of an obvious joke. Also, calling me a troll with a mission to collapse AAI prejudiced people against my views who were not aware of my record as a longtime advocate for atheist rights who helped lead the rescue and survival of AAI over a decade ago.

To make things worse, the person who made the allegation did not even have speaking rights at the meeting, he disrespectfully interrupted the facilitator Lawrence Krauss in order to make the allegation, and he was prompted to name me by the person whose behaviour when president of AAI triggered the ongoing crisis that AAI has been experiencing since 2017.

2. My letter about how your ‘disclosure document’ misrepresents me

This is the second time you collectively have misrepresented my views to people involved in atheist advocacy. I wrote to you on 6 January (see appendix 2 below) about how your recent ‘disclosure document’ repeatedly and knowingly misrepresents me, in a way that creates the impression that I endorsed the false analysis of AAI that you have been promoting.

I asked you to to please forward that letter to everyone to whom you had sent your ‘disclosure document’, and to please also respond to me about the points I made in it. You did neither of these things.

I understand Brian Kernick told the zoom meeting that my letter was not relevant as I am a third party not an affiliate, and I was not at the meeting. But you (collectively) made my views relevant to your meeting, by including a misrepresentation of my views in the ‘disclosure document’ that the meeting was convened to discuss.

3. The underlying problem of lack of legitimacy

Finally, can I remind you that even your own ‘disclosure document’ shows that you have no authority to convene an EGM on behalf of AAI. It shows that the so-called AGM in 2018 was not properly convened, it excluded member groups who had votes, it gave votes to groups who did not qualify for votes, it invalidly passed a new set of bylaws, and it failed to elect a legitimate board, or provide a legitimate way of appointing one.

I understand Brian told the recent zoom meeting that you had legal advice that the board has legitimacy. If that legal advice was based on the false content in your ‘disclosure document’, then I am not surprised you could get such advice. All you have done is misled somebody else into unwittingly assisting you to create a false impression of legitimacy.

Finally, even if the 2018 meeting had been validly convened, which it was not, and even if the new bylaws were valid, which they are not, your recent zoom meeting did not even meet the requirements of a validly convened EGM under these new bylaws. Anything arising from that meeting has no validity as being conducted on behalf of AAI.

I have always accepted you all got involved in AAI with good intentions, and you are mostly addressing problems that you did not cause. But your responses have intensified the problems, and have made them current problems. They will not go away by convening a meeting of people who already accept your legitimacy, conducting that meeting in an ‘in-group good, out-group bad’ atmosphere, then acting as if the outcome of that meeting is the final word.

Can you please do the following?

  • Respond to me about the points made in this and my previous letter
  • Forward this letter (which includes my previous letter as an appendix) to everyone who attended your recent zoom meeting and/or to whom you sent your ‘disclosure document’
  • Confirm to them that you agree my views were misrepresented at the meeting and in your ‘disclosure document’

Appendix 1: I shot the Clerk?

This is the joke that was misrepresented as me having a mission to destroy AAI.

Appendix 2: My letter about previous misrepresentations

This is my letter from 6 January about how the recent AAI ‘disclosure document’ repeatedly and knowingly misrepresents me.

I shot the clerk?

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