Something odd happened a couple of days ago. Atheist Alliance International tweeted a link to a post that purports to explain harassment–by limiting its definition to criminal harassment and applying tests that don’t exist within that definition to say that what we’ve been experiencing isn’t harassment. Ophelia has an excellent guest post by Tom Foss explaining how the original post goes wrong.
I call the tweet odd because AAI was proactive on the question of anti-harassment policies. Someone from the organization contacted me, rather than the other way around, when the policies were suggested and asked for information on how other organizations were handling the issue. They told me when they put a policy in place. So I was surprised to see their link.
I wasn’t the only one. There was some reaction from a few of us who saw the tweet:
As you can see, most of it wasn’t even about AAI. In addition to the reaction on Twitter, Ophelia showed the tweet in a post that was about the original blog post, not about the tweet. A few people in the comments mentioned AAI. To the best of my knowledge, that was the extent of the reaction.
Then AAI deleted the tweet and president Carlos Diaz issued an apology, saying:
Hi everyone, tweeting that link was a mistake, a big one. One of our Social Media collaborators twitted the link from what looked to him as a sensible source with a title that seemed on the same page as we are. He wasn´t aware of the fact that the article is far off from our stance on harassment: we don´t condone it, we don´t defend it and we certainly will not accept it in our community, end of story. We are completely committed to promoting women feeling safer in our community (something we should all strive for) and to stopping this senseless harassment that plagues us.
We have an anti-harassment policy that is mandatory for all conventions we help organize or give funding to and we are always open to receiving suggestions or requests for help regarding this, and any other issue (email: president [at] atheistalliance [dot] org).
I personally apologize for the slip up and hope you understand we, in no way, share any view other than the fact that we all must work together against harassment in our community, we must all feel safe discussing ideas among ourselves and not blame the victims in order to hide the shortcomings our community has.
I was curious what the reaction to this would be, so I searched on Twitter for AAI’s handle. The reaction this time wasn’t confusion. Among a bunch of thanks for the apology was this:
The differences are striking. None of the people who originally tweeted about the post said anything about being offended. They (we) described the post as wrong or bad, not “offensive”. We note that the content of the post has relevance for our situations. But when the time comes to characterize our response, we’re “offended” or “sensitive” and demanding that everything be submitted for our approval. We are, of course, engaging in a “witch hunt” by disagreeing with the post.
We say that we’re confused by the behavior of an organization we admire. The response to the apology says it’s time to abandon the organization.
Rather than ask or wonder what happened, as we did, the assumption is made that AAI originally endorsed the sentiments in the harassment post. Then, terrified by slightly over a dozen tweets about the post and a couple of comments, they “rolled over and pissed their bellies like submissive, frightened dogs”. The possibility that the apology is a straightforward description of what happened doesn’t seem to be considered.
That’s too bad, because a further comment by Diaz suggested that was exactly the case:
Hi all, thanks for being so understanding. You shouldn´t be thanking AAI for doing what´s right, you should be proud for bringing this to our attention.
As I said before, we´re always open to suggestions or for requests of supports, you can always shoot me an email at email@example.com or simply talk to us on Twitter or Facebook.
Then he and Ophelia went on to talk about support for “heretics” in other countries. You know, like you do when you’re conducting the business of organized secularist activism.
Or when you’re under terrible pressure and strain. Either one.