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Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in Feminism, Secularism, Support | 83 comments

Reasons to Support Ron Lindsay

There is little that I can add here that hasn’t already been better said elsewhere, but nevertheless I feel compelled to publicly extend my support for Ron Lindsay, for three reasons.

1) He challenged people to think critically about their own beliefs. 

The primary reason that Ron has been taking so much flak from certain quarters is that he dared to suggest that there are some memes (e.g. “shut up and listen”) that are quite popular in the online social justice crowd that don’t mix well with CFI’s historical dedication to discussion, debate, and critical inquiry. If you support CFI’s mission statement, as I do, then you must believe that “[n]o topic should be placed off limits to scrutiny,” especially those “which have an enormous influence on beliefs and conduct” within our own communities. I believe that feminists and various other -ists should feel  welcome within the humanist and skeptic tents, but they should not expect to be exempt from the same standard of scrutiny as everyone else when they propagate bad ideas or try to stifle discussion using the tools of callout culture. When you bring any -ism into the skeptic tent, you should expect to encounter some skepticism from those residing therein.

 2) Vitriolic attacks on Lindsay are massively disproportionate to his offense

Even if you do believe that his opening talk was ill-timed or somewhat over the line, it is difficult to imagine that he deserves to be mocked with intemperate language like this:

You assholes make me sick. It’s time for you to extract your heads from your laps, stop performing your self-congratulatory self-fellatio, spend a few minutes thinking clearly about what sort of man gets that rabid over women calling them on sexist bullshit, and decide if this is really the kind of man you want to be.

Or like this:

…we should stop dealing with them, because they’re awful, misogynistic people who are actively undermining the secular cause by excluding 50% of the population.

Or like this:

CFI … and other organizations like them are a huge, huge joke to me, full of patriarchal filth that just harasses minorities in order to continue their societal oppression of us. I stay far, far away from freethinker movements offline for these reasons. These people are not interested in inhabiting statistical reality and are nothing but a bunch of manchildren that need to grow the fuck up.

Or like this:

How do you know Lindsay isn’t a member of “the hardcore misogynist fringe,” just sophisticated enough to know you have to throw in a few sops toward the center?

Or like this:

His clear misogyny derangement syndrome is about way more than just Ms.Watson. But, she’s a convenient target of his hatred, malice, lies and hypocrisy, because she’s the fashionable target.

Or like this, or this, this, this, this, this, and of course this.

I could go on and on here, with ever more examples of how Lindsay is just an old white misogynist guy who should shut up, step down and listen, but you get the idea. A whipped-up mob in a frenzied rage should be feared, but they surely cannot be reasoned with and ought not be placated.

3) Your favorite secular organization might well be next 

As I pointed out earlier on Storify, this latest round of attacks on a secular leader for failing to be properly deferential to the norms propagated by social justice bloggers is nothing remotely new, it is just the next in a series of targeted attacks on high-profile skeptics and humanists. Should Lindsay be able to weather this round of attacks, he will join the ranks of Dawkins, Grothe, Shermer, and a few others who have withstood similar barrages of nasty accusations and hyperbolic attacks. Should CFI choose to throw him under the bus, they will not only lose support from those of us who truly believe that no topic should be placed off limits to critical inquiry, but they will have handed the online mob their first major victory. What better way to encourage them to go after anyone and everyone who dares to disagree?

 

  • ool0n

    Do you not find it pretty pathetic that he produced no examples of men being silenced? As per his “warning”. Said he would, then wrote a blog post about some other blog posts proposing men shut up. No actual examples of even attempted silencing. Rebecca Watson outdid him there in finding a real example of a feminist trying to silence a man by using privilege and she even gave an example of where they have probably succeeded at times -> TERFs. I would have said being out-thought by Rebecca Watson would be more than enough justification your side for hanging him out to dry.

    Little “thought experiment” for you, given people were angry with him how would things proceed in Damions glorious post-FTB movement? Generally when the “other side” does something wrong you get Hoggle, Tuvok etc making hyperbolic statements attacking the “FfTB’ers” as “psychopathic ideologues” etc etc… So lets say you “win” and the Slymepit take over skepticism (As often predicted by Tuvoks) what then? You’ll get people criticising behaviour and badly thought out blog posts and the usual “emos” at the pit will go ballistic. Or will they somehow not? … I’m sceptical of that personally and don’t see how you can take the high ground apart from by the very nature of your underdog status. Remove that status and you and pals are the new #FTBullies. No?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      What would a complete or even partial silencing look like on the web? Would it look like a online campaign to get people like Grothe or Lindsay to step down from positions which give them significant authority and a large audience? Would it look like the ‘check your fucking privilege’ brigade over at the A+ forums? Like the Horde pile-ons which result in disemvowelment and endungeonation? Since no one can be effectively silenced online, I’m honestly not sure what you’re looking for here, unless we are talking about real life conversations wherein people can indeed be shamed into silence (for a time) by being made to believe that some of their real world privileges deny them important epistemic privileges.

      Also, who ever said that I wanted the SlymePit to take over anything? So far as I can tell, they’ve got no one down there who aspires to leadership of skeptical groups, a slot on the speaker’s circuit, or even much of a broader audience beyond the dedicated circle who are already on side. Well, I suppose there is always Vacula. I must admit that I would like to see him “take the high ground” and shed the “underdog status” that he carries around, but then he is sort of a special case.

      To be clear, I don’t want the mainstream of the movement taking advice on who gets hired or fired from either the A+ forums and affiliated bloggers or the SlymePit and affiliated bloggers. If either of those factions is screaming for someone to step down from what they are doing to further skepticism, I sincerely hope that the mainstream of the movement turns a deaf ear.

    • ool0n

      Silencing, what might it look like online… I dunno something like this orchestrated by the “special case” Justin Vacula and cheered on by the Slymepit.
      http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/01/22/drama-is-not-disagreement/
      “welch: GIVE UP! GIVE UP!GIVE UP!GIVE UP!”

      Or ElevatorGate who latches onto anyone expressing interest in feminism and A+ by storyfying, blogging and creating “parody” accounts of members of the community. Not even high profile members just pretty much anyone that takes his fancy like Justin did for a sometime commenter on FTBs.

      Or Jen McCreight actually silenced by a barrage from haters online, again cheered on by Justin who really wants to make the movement welcoming to all!

      Anyone looking at the above would not want to put their heads above the parapet. Not because their arguments or ideas will be attacked as is the case with Ron, Grothe, Shermer etc. They will be personally attacked.

      Its this context that makes people particularly annoyed with Ron giving succour to people who make personal attacks and harass. What do you suggest people do when they are seriously annoyed by Ron? Just a little rap on the knuckles then carry on. You personally might not be annoyed but clearly plenty are. This is not silencing using his straw version of privilege checking (Which you seem to have caught in regard to the A+ forum**) but a perfectly legitimate expression of disgust at his actions. If people think he should step down then its within their rights to call for it. When “the mainstream of the movement” calls for someone to go then they need to go. As Justin found out with the petition with 1000 supporters on it, since then he has managed to become even less popular. Or Adam Lees petition with 2.2K on it… How many on the “skepticwomen” petition to keep Ron again?

      Having high standards for leadership of groups like CFI is essential for a healthy movement. If he has lost the confidence of thousands of members of the community how can he continue?

      ** 5 results for people “barking” check your fucking privilege on the A+ forum… One banned (2 instances), two agreed they were wrong, one pointed out no such privilege was theirs. (Amusingly 189,000 results for “check your privilege” on the Slymepit vs 220 on the A+ forum … Guess who talks about it… A LOT :D)
      FYI Being silenced on Pharyngula is not being silenced online as they do not pursue the “trolls” banned there all over Twitter, Facebook, their blogs for years afterwards unlike a certain forum…

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      “If he has lost the confidence of thousands of members of the community how can he continue?”

      Where did you get that estimate? I’ve seen a few high profile bloggers and a handful of angry tweeters.

      I must concede that Jen McCreight was “actually silenced by a barrage from haters online” to the point where she stopped blogging about certain topics. I do not condone the hate that has been directed at her. Her case is similar to that of Paula Kirby, who has also retreated from the atheist and skeptic movements, for some reason.

      As to Justin’s dramatic reading, to you actually listen to it? If so, did you catch the part where EEB openly fantasizes about forcing people to “shut the fuck up” who don’t agree with their views? You picked a particularly unfortunate example if you were hoping to show that silencing is something that just one side (the side you oppose) would like to achieve.

    • ool0n

      Its an “If” … I’ve not seen as much criticism across the board as this. Pretty much only a few Slymers writing posts in support and a lot against him. Good summary here – http://dissentofawoman.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/women-in-secularism-2-breaking-news-even-at-wis-we-have-to-defend-the-purpose-of-wis/

      One post from a bloke at the conference who supports Ron, that’s it. So given Adam Lees petition had problems, attack on Thunderf00t. Vacula petition would have most people saying “who?”. I’d guess more would sign than those two petitions – you don’t?

      Yes I remember all those hateful tweets day in day out to Paula and the constant photoshopping and parodies of her… Oh wait, no I don’t. It was non-anonymous open bloggers (I assume u lot have worked out Stephanie isn’t using a nym by now!) criticising in the open to which she can reply. This is apparently much worse than a horde of anonymous children throwing poo for years on end.

      So Justins gold standard of leadership is to single out one commenter who is not a high profile person or whatever justifications he uses for Ophelia. Whip up the Slymepit against her and end up with them attacking over at her blog and personal Facebook, which incidentally shook her up as she didn’t realise it was so easily found. This is a “bad” example because she bemoans the impossibility of stopping assholes being assholes and even adds the disclaimer “Don’t take this out of context”… Not worth asking when it comes to the Slymepit, their modus operandi.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      “So Justin’s gold standard of leadership is to single out one commenter who is not a high profile person…”

      “Whip up the Slymepit against her…”

      Not that this has anything to do with the OP, but I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. I stopped reading the Pit around the time that Tim invited me to join the Hub.

    • ool0n

      Oh right, well that’s good news… I assumed you still hung out there as I don’t read it either.

      OK, on topic, the lack of any examples from Ron, given he saw it as an issue worth raising you’d think he’d have evidence? CFI is all about “Inquiry” and having evidence for an issue serious enough to risk the bad faith of your audience. You accept that it is hard to actually silence anyone online so does that mean you think that point was badly made? It really looked like he scrambled for a couple of examples when he was challenged rather than actually researched it for his talk. Almost like he swallowed some straw-feminist assertions and never bothered to look them up. (Which fits in with Stephanie Zvans point about Louise Pennington being unknown then pops up in his talk)

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      “You accept that it is hard to actually silence anyone online so does that mean you think that point was badly made?”

      If Ron was trying to argue that people are actually being silenced online, then of course he should provide examples. If, however, he was making the point that telling people to shut up will often hamper conversation in any given medium, I’d say that’s pretty much self-evident.

    • ool0n

      Telling people to shut up would hamper conversation, shame the meme is shut up and *listen* … Since when has listening to anyone been a barrier to conversation? Not shutting up means you never get to learn when the topic is someones lived experience.

      I’ve never experienced sexual harassment, when I asked my wife about it she hadn’t either. Until we discussed it some more and I discovered her “not” experiencing it included regular groping at nightclubs, just “normal” to her. I really cannot remember ever seeing it happen when I went clubbing. But I wouldn’t I suppose, remember it that is, maybe I saw it. You learn something new everyday, as long as you listen.

      If I’d been one of the gang that likes to assume sexual harassment is a myth or not endemic in society I’d probably have taken the short answer and not listened to her further. Had a rant about damn feminists blowing everything out of proportion. Basically my confirmation bias would have taken over as I’ve never seen it while being at many clubs as a student (In my defence I was always intoxicated in some way). Maybe I should have taken the pit approach and demanded documented police reports** or she’s lying ;-)
      [** I didn't and we are still married]

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      You keep arguing against the SlymePit, for some reason, but the OP was about Ron Lindsay. He made it quite clear that he is in favor of the pro-listening part of said meme.

    • ool0n

      You keep missing the point that listening clearly doesn’t happen when someone won’t shut up first. The confirmation bias part of this is where people don’t want to hear what others have to say as they already “know” the answer. Or know what answer they want to hear.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Surely it is true that when we are having voice interactions in real time, rather than asynchronous text-based conversations, only one speaker can talk at a time and one must stop talking in order to listen. If the phrase in question was limited to such interactions, then it still be a bit rude, but at least it would make some sense. As it stands, however, I’ve seen this phrase used primarily by people communicating just as we are now, using keyboards at a great distance.

    • qbsmd

      “You accept that it is hard to actually silence anyone online so does that mean you think that point was badly made?”

      Lindsay: “misused as a way to try to silence critics”

      If something is hard to do, that makes lack of examples of success unconvincing as evidence that no one has tried.

    • qbsmd

      Reading someone’s comment or storing tweets so people can read them is the exact opposite of silencing; it’s spreading those people’s ideas. It’s allowing an open market of ideas to sort the good and bad ones.

      Silencing would look more like letter writing campaigns to get someone fired for what they said, trying to get blogs taken down (you remember the events leading to the creation of the current slymepit?), DMCA actions against videos or websites, or threatening to post the IP addresses of people who won’t stop disagreeing with you, as PZ has done recently.

      Those are all actions with the goal of preventing the spread of ideas either by preventing people from being exposed to them or by punishing those who spread them.

  • Pogsurf

    The most baffling part of all this to me is that some people think that ‘shut up’ is a part of civil discourse. I’ve seen whole posts discussing different ways to say ‘shut up’. Are these people really so lacking in manners that they think this is a correct way to talk to someone during a rational argument?

    The lesson we should all take away from this is that discussions should be inclusive, no more us and them. This is pretty basis stuff in the social justice world. How did it all get so perverted on the atheist blogosphere?

    I am going off to find three Pharungulites and three Pitters to try and start some dialouge. I respectfully suggest others who read this try similar initiatives.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      If you can find three Pharyngulites willing to talk with Pitters, please let me know. Tim has a forum at the Hub where we encourage that sort of thing.

    • Pogsurf

      Thanks Damion, that’s half the job done. I’ll set to it now.

  • Laurence

    Don’t you think that there is a time and place to be “skeptical” or to “challenged people to think critically about their own beliefs” and a time to simply welcome people to a conference without a lecture about what they may or may not be doing wrong. For instance, if I were at a funeral with my mildly to very religious family and they were making comments about how they were glad that my grandma in a better place, it seems like a highly inappropriate time to “challenged [my family] to think critically about their own beliefs.” I think it is not the time and place to do that at the funeral just like I don’t think it was the time and place for Lindsey to that when he is supposed to be welcoming the conference attendees and speakers. Maybe he should write a blog post about it when he got back from the conference or before he got back to the conference and not when he had a captive and silenced audience who was simply expecting a warm welcome and instead felt like they got a cold shoulder and lecture.

    Furthermore, don’t think that if you are going to lecture people and “critically challenge their beliefs”, it is necessary for you to be well-versed and well-informed about the subject matter that you are supposed to be “critically challenging them about.” I mean, isn’t that why so many people got upset about Rebecca Watson’s evolutionary psychology talk? It’s clear from reading Lindsey’s speech and consulting with a sociologist friend of mine who specializes in the sociology of inequalities that Lindsey did not understand that idea of privilege at all. It is also clear to me that he did not understand what people mean when they actually say “shut up and listen.” Shouldn’t have Lindsey done more research to make sure that his speech was as accurate as possible instead of giving a poorly timed speech with poor content. If the leader of a national organization cannot get these simple things right, then doesn’t it make sense to be skeptical about his ability to lead that organization? I mean, we are supposed to be skeptical of everything, right?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      What specific factual claims do you feel Lindsay got wrong that he could have got right if only he had been well-informed? I don’t want a link back to Skepchick here, I want you to try to make an argument which supports your claim that Ron was factually incorrect.

      Take “shut up an listen” for example. You seem to think that it is a term of art, and that people who are new to social justice have a sort of phrasebook they can consult to discover the special meaning that it conveys in that context. You are apparently faulting people for interpreting the phrase in the sense that ordinary native speakers of English would usually interpret it, instead of using the specialized meaning that the phrase carries only on social justice websites. Furthermore, you seem to be faulting Ron for failing to fault people who interpret the phrase in the ordinary way, people who read websites without first consulting the social justice phrasebook. That strikes me as utterly bizarre. If the rhetoricians for social justice want to be persuasive to the unconverted, they need to realize that their interlocutors have not necessarily been read in on the phrasebook, and that some of the language used is far more effective at reaffirming in-group members than persuading out-group members. Telling people to shut up is a good example of this, as is telling them to check their privilege.

    • Copyleft

      The attitude that “anyone who disagrees with X must not understand X” is common among zealots–who are exactly the people that skeptics -should- be skewering (or at least challenging, at minimum).

    • qbsmd

      Yes, there is a time and a place to be respectful and let things go. A funeral is such a place. If there’s anywhere where it’s okay to be critical of everything without worrying about people’s feelings, it’s a skeptics conference. Which, not coincidentally, is one of the primary points made by everyone supporting Ron Lindsey.

  • ool0n

    Yeah Eshto, I hear you apologised for that meltdown with Greta? Or at least you told Ellen-Beth Wachs you apologised… Seems I owe you one if true?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      If you two want to pick an off-topic fight about events long past, please, take it to Twitter.

  • ool0n

    BTW Setar is not a mod, has never been one afaik… This is what you are talking about? http://manboobz.com/2012/09/11/posters-getting-torn-down-a-crime-against-humanity-includes-video-footage-of-johntheothers-epic-confrontation-with-alleged-box-cutter-wielding-gang/
    So not quite “literally criminal” … Where have I ever said the Slymepit should magically or through any other means disappear? They have a right to exist and do and say what they want, same as I do to criticise.

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    You cannot simply state that Lindsay’s understanding of privilege is defective to a skeptic, you have to say where he went wrong and how. Quote the part that you consider “pretty poor” and show why you consider it thus. Otherwise, you are just pontificating.

    If someone used the word “theory” in the wrong way, I would show them the two definitions and patiently explain that scientists mean this one rather than that one. You have get to do this for Lindsay’s alleged misuse of any of the social justice terms of art. Where is the SJW dictionary which Lindsay and other secular leaders can reference so as to avoid these recurring campaigns calling for them to step down?

  • sezit

    1. Lindsay is bad at his job if he thought this was the venue for a scold. He is bad at his job when he uses his org’s front page for a personal attack. His top job is supposed to be attracting members and donors. Massive fail.
    2. Sorry, the anger you list includes no death or rape wishes that I see from the other side. It is anger only.
    3. So, for organizations to be aware that their message is evaluated for professionalism and equality is bad?
    You guys might like his message, but he is still bad at his job.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Are we reading the same speech? If you thought that was a scolding, well, I have to wonder what your childhood must have been like. In my experience, a scolding is when someone is severely dressed down for something specific that they did wrong. A scolding should be readily distinguishable from an invitation to think critically on any given topic, which is CFI’s core mission.

    • sezit

      Damion, I was THERE for the speech, and it pissed me off so much I walked out in the middle of it. It felt very disrespectful. It should have been a happy and excited welcome speech. His tone was scolding. There was no sense of welcome from him. It was way off the topic of a welcome. I have NEVER experienced any other con starting this way. I don’t even remember Lindsay smiling at us. And then he got into a public attack of one of his org’s speakers… DURING the event… on the orgs FRONT page! Any leader who is this politically tone deaf and pushes away this many members or event attendees is not good at his job. He has apologized to her, but he hasn’t apologized to attendees/members for hijacking the event and the website. This is a multi-national organization. We deserve a very savvy leader who is ALWAYS working to grow the org. I don’t see how anyone would think this action would invite growth or donations..

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      How does the leader of an organization hijack it’s event and website?

    • sezit

      He hijacked it with an inappropriate personal flame. I don’t think that anywhere in his job description is Goal # 27: Personally attack CFI speakers using the CFI website. He does not personally own the website.

    • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

      He devoted a small portion of opening remarks to mentioning the increasingly vehement and dishonest call-out culture being abused by some people who erroneously call themselves “skeptics”. This has directly to do with some of the attendees’ own repeated behavior, yet he was polite enough to not get personal with it. And what was the immediate and pathetic reaction? Claims of victimhood, obvious lies about “contempt”, and calls for his job by a tiny number of bossy, lying shitheads who will lie about anyone for blog hits and maintaining relevance.

      You realize most everybody here has read the remarks and heard the immediate chorus of insane wailing and witch-hunting, right? How stupid do you think people are?

      His” public attack” as you dishonestly phrase it, was a response to a direct attack and obvious misrepresentation of his words.

    • Clare45

      Exactly. He didn’t start the fight. It was the woman who tweeted first with negative stuff about his talk. His blog post was a reply to her, so why should he not name her and defend himself? Also it was in his blog-not the main CFI page, where as others have pointed out, he has a perfect right to any opinion.

    • ool0n

      Rebecca Watson did not tweet criticism first, PZ, Adam Lee, Miri all beat her to it. For some reason its all Rebecca Watson’s fault though…

    • Clare45

      Thank you for sharing that information with us.

    • Clare45

      I don’t know Ron Lindsay personally, and I don’t belong to the CFI, but I understand from other conferences and organizations that it is the president’s privilege to make a speech about anything he or she chooses. In this case, the topic was skepticism and he addressed that as it applied (in his opinion) to the current controversies regarding feminism. Maybe he should have used the words “Welcome to the conference”, but as he stated in a later communication, he thought that was obvious and understood. He is a lawyer and I am sure his speech was carefully thought out along legal lines with regard to any possible repercussions. If he is no longer welcome in the CFI, then it is up to their members or executive to vote him out or fail to re-elect him at the end of his term of office. An online petition is not the way to go. It only indicates childish spite and payback.

    • sezit

      Nice that HE thought his welcome was understood. I certainly didn’t. He didn’t mingle, he didn’t welcome us personally (except for maybe one person), and he engaged in an on-line attack of one of the speakers during the conference, when he could have walked up to her and asked for a 5 min chat. I have learned to pay attention to what a person does. His words don’t match his actions. And none of his actions at or since the event has helped to grow membership or donations. He is bad at his job.

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      “And none of his actions at or since the event has helped to grow membership or donations.”

      How do you know this? Have you asked what donations have come in since the event? Have you asked if new people have joined?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Well if this is going to be about donations, I may as well share where I’m coming from on that issue as well. I’ve donated a fair bit to CFI in the past (my “Friend of the Center” card says “LIFETIME” on it) and I intend to donate much more in the future. If, however, they throw Lindsay under the bus for daring to apply skepticism to callout culture, I will wash my hands of them completely and send the money to JREF instead, since they have already shown themselves willing to stand up to outside pressure and remain focused on their stated mission.

    • sezit

      What if they hold him accountable for his lack of welcome and then a personal attack on a CFI speaker during a conference (instead of choosing to speak to her in person)? I don’t agree with his speech, but I would not be saying that he is bad at his job if not for those two derailling actions.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Are there any personal attacks for which has he not already apologized?

    • sezit

      Damion, you don’t get my point. I’m glad he apologized. But, it’s not good enough for the Pres/CEO of an org to just publically apologize to one person when his actions have created such a furor. If he was so hot on these topics, he should have been politically savvy enough to have someone else champion his argument so his position could be seen as above the fray. More importantly, in his job, he should always be positioning the org for growth. Those are the issues that I want him held accountable for. Why would we want a leader who creates divisiveness and drives away allies?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      …it’s not good enough for the Pres/CEO of an org to just publically apologize to one person when his actions have created such a furor.

      Furors are a dime a dozen these days. The social justice warriors have gone after the head of the RDF, JREF, CFI, and the Skeptics Society, and those are just the major organizations that come immediately to mind.

      That said, what would be good enough for you?

    • sezit

      Now THAT is a very good question, and thank you for asking it. I guess I am looking for someone, anyone at all – on this site to acknowledge that Lindsay did some dumb things (I’m not addressing whether or not his ideas were right or wrong), and we should expect better. I don’t know why that is so hard. He’s not perfect. I guess I want CFI to address the issue. It hasn’t at all. I want Ron Lindsay to promise to focus on building up the org, and to apologize to the org for acting in poor judgment.
      On the larger scale, I want to know that people really think that poor treatment of anyone in our movement is unacceptable, and that my atheist peers will call it out, and not just let the person who is being mistreated have to do their own battles alone. Whenever I have been poorly treated by atheists in a meeting, I was standing up for myself, by myself. Even when a leader once admitted he was trying to bully me into shutting up, the other guys just sat there dumb. IMO, that is not cool. So, do you think my desires are reasonable? If not, why not?

    • Clare45

      This is looking more and more like a power play for control of the CFI and its “old white male privileged leader”. I see what Damion means.You just seem to want him to grovel and resign. He has apologised, although I am not sure that he needed to. I don’t really think it would have mattered what he said or whether he attended the whole conference or not- someone would have still found fault. It was simply a no win situation for him. I am guessing that he realised that and hence the disappearance and subsequent blog post. Would you stick around a conference if people had made mincemeat out of your opening remarks?

    • sezit

      Clare45, really? you got “grovel and resign” out of “address the issue”, “apologize” and “promise to focus on building the org”? If I were him in that situation, I would have gone into damage control. I would have asked my staff to support me while I immediately made the rounds saying something like “I’m so sorry that I didn’t welcome you all properly. I want you to know that CFI and I are thrilled to be hosting this event, and I look forward to learning about our areas of disagreement.” Y’know, schmooze. Professionals and mature people address problems quickly to defuse them. Children and immature people go hide or continue to create more damage .
      Apparently, it really is impossible for anyone on this site to admit that Lindsay is not perfect. Why can’t we hold an atheist leader to high professional standards? If we can’t address our mistakes, how can we improve?

    • Clare45

      ” I would have asked my staff to support me while I immediately made the
      rounds saying something like “I’m so sorry that I didn’t welcome you all
      properly.”
      That sounds a lot like grovelling to me, but maybe there are some cultural differences between us.

    • sezit

      Clare45 – I say “address the issue … promise to focus on building up the org… apologize”, and you get “grovel and resign”?
      You ask what I would have done – I would have taken the bit between my teeth, pasted a smile on my face and schmoozed around the room with an apology something like “I’m so sorry that I didn’t welcome you all properly. I want to assure you that CFI and I are THRILLED to host this. I look forward to hearing more of your ideas that might enlighten me. ” Then sail on to the next group, while asking my staff to similarly smooth over troubled waters. It’s called damage control. Every leader needs to know how to do it. The worst thing is to run away and hide while continuing the argument on-line. Lindsay’s position is a political one, and he has shown very little political finesse.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I agree that “poor treatment of anyone in our movement is unacceptable” but if you look back at the OP, you’ll see more than a bit of that poor treatment directed at Ron himself. He is called several terrible things, by the very people who are now demanding an apology. I’m sorry, but this puts the whole campaign against him on incredibly shaky ground. He never said or did anything to warrant that level of vitriol, sexism, and racism, and now he is supposed to apologize to them?

    • sezit

      Yes, he should apologize. He showed disrespect to many, including me. He is in a political position, an employee of a multi-national organization. You cannot compare his actions to actions of individuals. He needs to be bigger than that. Can I ask you to answer one question – do you think he did ANYTHING wrong, or is he perfect?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Nobody’s perfect, of course, and I do not doubt that he could have done significantly better at following the civility guidelines that he himself signed here: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/news/an_open_letter_to_the_secular_community/

      That said, his interlocutors have been vastly more uncivil in their critiques. I cannot take seriously the idea that he owes an apology to the people who have been heaping on abuse.

    • sezit

      Damion, I don’t agree that I have been uncivil or abusive in my challenge of Lindsay, and I think there are many others who have challenged him in a respectful way. I do not support uncivil behavior. Why do you think he should lump everyone responding to him all together, and equate their behavior to some arbitrary low denominator?

      Anyway, I’m getting the idea that many people here think that an apology is somehow degrading. Clare45 suggests that an apology is equivalent to groveling. You seem to believe that he should close communications with those who have criticized his actions. I don’t agree. To me, groveling is debasing oneself. Apologizing is an uplifting act of equality and respect, a recognition of the value of the other party(s), an act which shows the desire to reconcile and reestablish good relations. It is an honorable action. If I find that I was in the wrong, an apology is the least I could do. (Unless there is threats or danger involved, of course.) If he is unwilling to acknowledge that his actions were outside of the usual welcome, and made many of us feel disrespected, how can that stubborn stance be repositioned into a position of open inquiry?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Why do you think he should lump everyone responding to him all together, and equate their behavior to some arbitrary low denominator?

      Well, I could be wrong here, but it looks like a coordinated effort to rapidly whip up righteous indignation in pursuit of particular political goals. Means and ends may be differentiated here, but they both matter in the moral calculus.

    • sezit

      I hope Lindsay will bring himself to apologize. An apology does not equate to him “losing the argument”. It does not place him in a weak position. He can continue to argue his ideas just a strongly as previously. I just can’t pay attention to anyone who argues with me and at the same time shows disrespect for me. I think he has to apologize for his behavior, not for his ideas.

      I can see that you, and others here, disagree with me vehemently. I can’t understand why you all think an apology for behavior weakens a person’s position on his ideas, but I see that you do. Why? Behavior and ideas are not integrally linked. Not all good people have good ideas, not all good ideas come from good people. I want a leader who thinks deeply and respects reason, and who also has interpersonal skills/political savvy. That is called competence. I don’t want to choose one strength without the other, and I don’t think I have to.
      My political goal here is to have an effective leader who champions all of his membership.

    • mikmik

      I think that if he expressed dismay at the way he came across, at least, and said he was open to criticism for his remarks and willing to continue a discussion, that that would do better for communication than anything he could have said in his opening statement.
      Nothing like showing a touch of humility and showing interest in what others have to say to open the gates of communication.
      Whether or not I agree with what he had to say, or even if I thought he did nothing wrong(which I don’t), it would serve well to lead by example and put communication ahead of ego. Just acknowledge that he is part of controversial situation and show willingness, that’s all it takes.
      I know many, if not most, of us in the community have egos and arrogance, but effin turn it off once in a while!
      I agree with you, sezit, about this.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I think we may be able to agree that by this time, an apology is not going to help: http://storify.com/D4M10N/prepare-yourself

    • sezit

      I agree, after issuing a statement that essentially says “we wish people weren’t unhappy”, an apology is of little value. Prior to this statement, an apology would have been of value.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt
    • sezit

      ok, EllenBeth, you got me there. I don’t know if more people have joined or donated. I only know that 4 people I have talked to are withholding donations, and there are lots of angry on-line promises to withhold. In general, I don’t think leadership controversies tend to grow a group. A skilled leader does not embroil him or herself in unnecessary controversy. He is bad at his job.

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      Hmm, and suppose he and, they by extension, decided beforehand that it was a necessary and good controversy? Suppose they knew exactly what reaction this would provoke?

      You can keep repeating the phrase that he is bad at his job. It doesn’t make it true just because you think so.

    • sezit

      I have heard that Lindsay did not run any of this (his speech or response) by CFI staff. If that is true, he is bad at his job. Also, I know from experience and observation that controversial issues should be raised by people away from the top rung of an org, so that those leaders can be seen as more impartial and can help explore areas of agreement to bring factions together. Do you think he can do that now? He essentially cut himself off from what should be a main focus of his job. Now who is going to do that? I want CFI to explore areas of disagreement, but in a way that does not factionalize, or alienate members and potential members. The President/CEO role to be effective, cannot champion controversial issues or publically attack his own conference’s speaker. That is a recipe for factionalizing. If he does not understand that, he is bad at his job. I’m not just repeating that statement, I’m pointing out the reasons for my evaluation.

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

    • sezit

      I gave you reasons and asked you questions, and this is your response? Right back atcha.

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      Copycat. You just keep repeating your opinion and think that will convince others.

    • sezit

      Actually, I don’t know if it will convince others. But I do notice that you are not addressing the questions I posted, or if you think my assessment of a Pres/CEO’s requirement for political savvy is valid.

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      If the group is founded on the principle that all ideas are subject to scrutiny, then one stands to lose lifetime supporters (like me) if one fails to stand up to those who sincerely believe their own ideology is beyond scrutiny.

    • sezit

      Yes! Let’s have discussion on those issues. But HOW we have discussion is important, isn’t it? Do you think that Lindsay went about introducing/moderating this the right way? If so, I don’t think we have much more to talk about, because I think he was very un-presidential in his approach, and I think that approach created division in the movement that the slightest forethought could have predicted. He could have been far more politic by doing an happy welcome, or even saying that there are areas of disagreement (that could have been discussed at a later panel) without his embroiling himself in that disagreement. I’m not sure what the fix is, but please, please tell me you don’t admire him for his methodology!

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I think we just disagree here on whether it is worthwhile to challenge memes like “shut up and listen” which are propagated throughout the social justice internets. I think challenging such bad ideas is fundamental to critical inquiry, you think it is unpresidential and divisive. If it’s divisive to think critically about the movement, then I’ve no problem with being divisive.

      If the president of an organization dedicated to pursuing critical thinking introduced every single conference by pointing out the worst thinking to be found within the conceptual domain covered by that conference, I’d applaud and send more money. For that matter, if David Silverman kicked off an atheist conference with a slide show of bad memes that atheists pass around which are neither logically sound or evidentially supportable, I’d applaud and send more money. Critical self-examination is at the very foundation of skepticism. It’s what skeptics are supposed to do.

    • sezit

      Damion, I cannot imagine Dave Silverman, or any other atheist leader opening a con with that unsmiling non-welcome, then personally attacking one of the speakers during the con. I have not argued against the content of Lindsay’s talk, just his behavior. I keep talking about behavior, you all keep responding about his ideas. Do you not think professional behavior matters?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I’m not in a good position to judge anything other than the content of the talk and the subsequent public posts. If you saw him behaving in a particular way, in person, I just sort of have to take your word for it.

    • Clare45

      We are only speculating on Ron Lindsay’s reasons for not mingling and not attending the dinner. Maybe he had a prior engagement. Who knows? You would need to ask him before jumping to conclusions.

    • sezit

      Clare45, apparently, one of his prior engagements was to write a divisive blog post during the event at which he should have been mingling. Sorry, this doesn’t pass the sniff test.
      For a leader in a representative role who was on-site for a conference, he was almost invisible for the entire event. It was more than weird. To me, this continues in the line of “bad at his job”.

  • ool0n

    Ellen that’s rubbish, first it was your assertion that Ryan apologised that raked up the whole thing on Twitter. Second bit it was your mistake about Ryan making an apology, he didn’t. I’ll happily discuss with you my convo with Greta on email if you like. oolon@btinternet.com
    Otherwise don’t repeat that assertion about Ryan apologising or I’ll be happy to call it a lie rather than the milder “mistake”.

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      After all this time, you can’t even get my name right. How about re-reading what I said?

    • ool0n

      Sorry… EllenBeth… Wut? I Re-read. You maybe need to re-read mine. Damion has already said no raking things up on his blog which is why I suggested email.

  • KacyRay

    Good post Damion. Thumbs up.

  • sezit

    Yes, I am a member. EllenBeth, if you don’t care what I want or think, why are you responding to me? Also, I am having a hard time understanding if YOU care that he created or at least inflamed division in his organization. If he was interested to have these issues (that he has admitted he knew were controversial) addressed, wouldn’t it have been much better for him to do a traditional happy welcome, then have someone else to address the issues in a talk or panel so that Ron, and by extension the org, was not the focus of such anger? Do you think that holding himself apart from the fight would have positioned him to better mediate the problem between disagreeing members? Couldn’t that have left him some free time to solicit donations and schmooze members? Wouldn’t those have been the actions of a politically savvy leader, ie. someone who was good at his job? It appears to me that commenters on this site have a hard time entertaining the thought that Lindsay made any mistakes at all. Is that your stance?

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      Are you kidding me? First you berate me for not answering you and now you berate me for responding. Fuck off

    • sezit

      Actually, I politely questioned your response. But, since you invite me to stop polite discourse with you (so to speak), I can see that we no longer can hope to influence each other.

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      That’s pretty funny. WHO is it that I am supposedly influencing? Some anonymous person claiming an authority role? You certainly weren’t influencing me. Get over yourself.

  • sezit

    Wow. Speaking out against hate is controversial?

  • ahermit

    It’s a bit dishonest of you to cherry pick random blog comments to make your case while refusing to read the actual criticisms being made of Lindsey’s speech. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2013/06/in-support-of-ron-lindsay-and-against-richard-carriers-disingenuous-attack/#comment-929888282

    And frankly, the criticism he’s receiving is nothing compared to the sexist harassment you and your associates dismiss as unimportant.

    Women in this movement who get called fat cunts and bitches are told they are over-reacting, but Lindsey gets some well deserved criticism and now you’re complaining about “vitriol?” Why the double standard?

    • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      It’s a bit dishonest of you to cherry pick random blog comments to make your case while refusing to read the actual criticisms being made of Lindsey’s speech.

      Sorry, but I cannot be bothered to read blogs where I’m blocked from commenting. When I am craving one-way communication, I’ll pick up a book. If you don’t like that, feel free to make the arguments yourself, in your own words.

      And frankly, the criticism he’s receiving is nothing compared to the sexist harassment you and your associates dismiss as unimportant.

      If you think I’ve never complained about the vitriol in the pit then you haven’t been paying any attention at all. I’ve been quite consistently against such tactics, and if you’d care to look up my name in the Pit, you’ll see that some of them don’t exactly take criticism with grace and aplomb.

    • ahermit

      Sorry, but I cannot be bothered to read blogs where I’m blocked from commenting.

      But you’re not above cherry picking the comments of those same blogs looking for tidbits to support your predetermined conclusions…you lifted a comment from below one of Greta’s posts which you say you refuse to read…
      http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/05/30/contempt-ron-lindsay-context/#comment-102974

      so what were you doing there
      And why ignore Greta’s thoughtful, well reasoned post in favour of the worst comment you could find below it?

      If you think I’ve never complained about the vitriol in the pit then you haven’t been paying any attention at all.

      I’ve seen you dismissing the concerns of people like Great and Ophelia Benson; yet you call Reap Paden’s vicious attacks on Stephanie Zvan merely “uncivil” (and that was his podcast, not a random blog comment).

      You ignore the substantive criticisms of Lindsey’s speech and cherry pick a few rude blog comments to create a false narrative about the “vitriol” being directed at Lindsey. There’s no equivalence here between the anger at Lindsey’s insensitive speech and clumsy handling of criticism and the harassment those others have endured, and continue to endure.

      Dishonest is a good description of that behaviour I think…