• Deleting Dawkins

    Once again, we find ourselves faced with a chorus of voices hoping to silence Dr. Richard Dawkins, to shuffle him off a platform, to keep him well away from a medium or a podium.

    People are bound to say silly and regrettable (or at least easily misconstrued) things on Twitter, that is basically the nature of the beast. I’m no longer surprised to see offensive imperatives blurted out, such as “Insert this porcupine,” “Die in a fire,” and even “Delete your account!” No way to know how many of these folks really mean it, and as to Salon.com, well, it is what it is. What has apparently changed this time around is that virtue-signaling no-platforming efforts have gone beyond angry tweeters trying to safe up their digital space. Real world platforms are now in play.

    At this point it would not be any great exaggeration to say that the skeptic community can be roughly divided in twain with a simple binary classification test: Do you believe NECSS was right to disinvite Dawkins? If so, please regress to the left. Everyone else is right.

    Why exactly was Dawkins taken off the NECSS platform? A single tweet, now deleted.

    Personally, I have no compunctions about linking to the video. Here you go:

    The video is crude in at least two senses of the term, it paints two different ideologies with a very broad brush, drawing a number of comparisons between certain Islamic apologists and certain feminist activists which would be difficult to support. Of course, we have seen the confluence of Islamic repression and feminist activism at least once before, on the heels of recent lamentable events at Goldsmiths University.

    As you may recall, a handful of Muslim thugs tried to bully an ex-Muslim woman around at her own talk and the response of university feminists was to side with the bullies rather than stand in solidarity with an outspoken critic of religion like Maryam Namazie. So perhaps this crudely satirical song isn’t terribly wide of the mark—at least some of the time—when it suggests a strange bedfellow arrangement between the supporters of intersectional feminism and the apologists for Islam.

    Even if the video had no clearly redeeming qualities, it would still be a piece of satire directed pointedly against two sets of ideas. I would have thought that sort of thing fair game in any community that claims to value freethought. Perhaps I am quite mistaken, both in my general distaste for no-platforming (in lieu of reasoned debate) and in my estimation of the particular circumstances in play here. If so, I’d be quite happy to hear another perspective. Your thoughts?

    Category: Atheism PlusFree SpeechSlymePit

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.

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    • It’s sad to see Steven Novella jumping in the PC-bullshit band wagon.

      So much for a being a ‘skeptic’ and having a ‘skeptic’ guide to the universe, huh?

      • Clare45

        I can understand debating Islamism or Islam at a skeptics conference, but what is there to be skeptical about regarding feminism? Is anyone suggesting that feminism is imaginary?

      • allan

        It’s not classical feminism that’s the issue. It’s the crazed, ideologically based, 3rd wave feminism that has split the skeptic community. The whole point of scepticism is to reject “ideologies”.

      • My litmus test is basically whether someone who calls themselves feminist is down to debate in favor of their position. If so, they are ready to do skepticism. If not, they are probably just being dogmatic.

      • It depends on your definition of feminism. It’s actually quite ridiculous.

        If you think feminism means men and women deserve the same rights and opportunities, that abortion is a right always, and that no one should get special treatment (privilege or ‘affirmative’ action) based on biological traits, then you’re a feminist like me. A *liberal* feminist, if you like.

        On the other hand, if you think feminism means that there’s something calle patriarchy, and that an explanation is right or wrong depending on the sex of whoever says it (“mansplain”), or that promoting skewed statistics about a gender pay gap or bathing in men’s tears are worthy goals, then you’d be an intersectional feminist.

        And those of us who value reason and free-thought have a problem with such an authoritarian stance. Not because it claims to be feminism, but because the ends doesn’t justify the means.

      • allan

        It’s desperately sad. Steven Novella was one of my heroes. The last person I would have expected to become involved in the craziness. A phrase he’s used a lot is “doubling down”. Usually referring to a creationist or quack. What we are seeing is Steven “doubling down” after making a catastrophic blunder. I really hope Richard Wiseman calls off his guest appearance at this event.

      • Me too. I didn’t see that coming.

    • If I was the NECSS organizer, I might keep his invitation for a talk, and then also invite someone to debate Dawkins on whether or not he is, indeed, a shitlord. I mean, if we value inquiry and freethought, let’s promote such things, eh?

      • Oxford-style debating on American shores!

        Resolved: Richard Dawkins is an unregenerate shitlord.

        Speaking for the motion: Lindy West

      • I had to look up who Lindy West was, and then was surprised to discover that there is such a thing as a “fat rights activist.”

        As a large man from large stock, I’m not saying that negatively. It’s just surprising.

    • I disagreed with some of Dawkins’ tweets regarding Clock Boy. I don’t think that makes him unqualified to speak at NECSS, and I certainly don’t think tweeting a link to that video was a reason to disinvite him.

      Heck, I dislike some of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweets but he’s a perfectly great speaker to have at a skeptic and science conference.

      • Agreed. I’ve never seen any skeptic speaker that I don’t disagree with on some points, nor have I seen one that I would endeavor to no-platform rather than refute.

      • Now D, you know you agree with everything I have to say 😛

      • Respectfully, I must disagree.

      • Aratina Cage

        I like having the choice to not attend a speech by someone I find really distasteful, too. Why not let people decide to not show up on their own?

        It’s their conference, but inviting someone and then telling them to go away is rude. Likewise, it’s his Twitter account, but saying your a feminist and then making fun of feminists is rude. All these things do is alienate more atheists from any sense of being part of a larger community of like-minded people.

      • Chas Stewart

        Some feminists need to figure out how to take a joke (even extremely distasteful jokes) because that’s never going to be stopped.

        I just wish we could learn to be proportional. It’s his twitter account so if you have a problem with the tweets, tweet him! Otherwise you look silly citing tweets when making serious decisions.

      • It would seem unfair if the Dawkbro was the only one expected to take a crude joke in stride.


    • Brive1987

      I’m not sure how to interpret this. On the one hand SGU survives by remaining beige skeptic. I can remember when they got tied up in knots after lightly mocking religion while Pam Gay was present. OMG. Their firewall was robust enough to contain Rebecca Watson – whose presence was a weird confluence of circumstance.

      So I could see the Dawkins knock back as a defensive tactic – with the nature of the *-gate largely irrelevant.

      On the other-hand the wording was explicit – hate speech, not NECSS values etc etc. This appears to categorically align SGU with the safe space crowd and injects righteous passion. Which is also tactically odd.

      I would have expected more nuanced text – “not currently appropriate” etc.

      So while from my perspective I think it was a dumb move, I’m also going to have to process this more. It will be interesting to see if it makes editorial on next SGU and in what context.

      • I could see the Dawkins knock back as a defensive tactic – with the nature of the *-gate largely irrelevant.

        So far as I can tell, there is only one worldview the mockery of which can endanger one’s status in the skeptic community. When PZ Myers announced his intention to boycott skeptic or freethought events featuring Abbie Smith, it was on account of her criticism of a particular ideology. When Skepticon pointedly distanced itself from the Center for Inquiry, it was on account of someone at CFI criticizing a particular ideology. This week, Dawkins got kicked to the curb by NECSS for his brazen willingness to make fun of a particular ideology.

        I can come up with more examples, but probably the nature of the gate is not irrelevant.

      • Brive1987

        TBH I’m surprised Novella publicly reacted to anything smacking of ideology.

        I think the committee was stampeded by fear, timelines and agent provocateurs. They only started thinking posthoc. You can see this in Novella’s Neurologica post which acknowledges their failed response and recognises that the decision was based on a subjective appeal to good taste.

        The more they thought about it the less the committee could defend their actions.

        The proposed panel is more Mr Mcgoo – given Novella has previously stated that NECSS was not the forum for this topic of debate / discussion.

      • I’m excited about the panel. Indeed, it may be the main reason I choose to attend. The outcome is not in doubt in the other talks: science always wins.

    • An Ardent Skeptic

      Does anyone bother to wonder why Richard Dawkins found that video momentarily amusing but deleted the tweet when he realized it was a parody of a real person who receives very nasty abuse online. The type of nasty abuse she receives is something Dawkins does not approve of even if he doesn’t agree with her.

      I would imagine that Dawkins receives plenty of e-mails from angry, vocal people expressing the types of views that that video is lampooning. Dawkins’s tweet makes it very clear that he doesn’t think the video is representative of most feminists including himself. But, he does think there are some feminists who are very wrong-headed. Why shoot the messenger because we’re uncomfortable with the fact there may be a kernel truth in that video?

      Satire and farce take kernels of truth and push them to extremes. The take away from the video is that extremes make interesting but unfortunate bedfellows. (And, now, I suppose I will have to include a disclaim stating that I didn’t find the video even momentarily amusing or I will be decried as an anti-feminist shitlady. I didn’t find the video amusing because I haven’t been paying enough attention to get the joke if there is one but, I also don’t understand what all the brouhaha is about because Dawkins got a joke I didn’t.)

    • Jack Rawlinson

      This is almost enough to persuade me to open a Twitter account, just to piss people like this off, even though I really hate Twitter.

    • mofa

      Selective attacking of political parody?
      Feminism = socio political movement
      The Video in question = parody of feminist ideas (socio political ideology)

      Since when has political parody not been okay?

      Why is it taboo to parody feminism?

      NECSS are not doing what they are meant to be doing very well…pandering to feminist sensibilities while tempering the exchange of ideas…pathetic NECSS…you fall short when it comes to the art of Skepticism.

      • “Why is it taboo to parody feminism?”

        Because if you do, some real life feminists will suffer abuse.


        At least I think that is the reason.

      • LindaL

        Hey, have any Islamists come out and castigated Dawkins for tweeting the video, or just feminists?
        Are the feminists who came after him also offended by the parody of Islamists, or just the parody of how several prominent feminists have sided with Islam to avoid being called racist in many kerfuffles?

      • Honestly, I don’t think the people coming after Dawkins are tuned in enough to know about why the “offensive” video was created in the first place. They have to be spoon-fed:


      • Hey, have any Islamists come out and castigated Dawkins for tweeting the video, or just feminists?

        Someone needs to contact Dawah Man. ?

      • Glebs Litvjaks

        Painting Big Red as a victim is the most absurd thing I’ve witnessed lately

      • One of the risks of being an outspoken activist is that people may well make crude and biting cartoon parodies about you. Just ask this guy:


      • mofa

        We better stop parody altogether then! Parody leads to abuse…according to some…we should archive Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ away for none ever to see again as there is a definite chance that some Christian will suffer abuse…according to some…

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    • TheEdgeLord

      How in the fuck is it anyone’s business what Dawkins tweets ? He’s not public property.

      • I think people tend to see him as the Pope of Atheism or something like that, instead of just one (admittedly loud) voice among a general secular cacophony.