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:
@ Brilliant RT. Photoshopping isn't harassment, constant sniping isn't harassment - nothing is harassment! What a relief.
@ This is not the first time @ has linked to this site.
@ @ @ Who even wrote this? :S
@ @ @ I assume "vjack"...
@ @ @ Correct. It's at the bottom of the post.
@ @ @ Im not sure that answers my question - who IS that? :S
@ @ @ Heh, yes, I've been wondering that for some time.
@ @ It's weird: @ is often quite a good organization.
@ @ @ That's what I thought. I'm a bit staggered by this.
@ What an unbelievably shitty article to link to. How disappointing.
@ @ seems supporting links are all 1-sided. Sad, biased look @ harrassment @ best. just comes across as WATBs
@ Got 2 b kidding. You accept that "understanding" of harassment & wonder why ppl say atheist movement is hostile to women?
@ Do you endorse the things you tweet? Asking re. the harassment post, which picks ‘sides’ rather unambiguously.
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:
.@ How utterly ridiculous. There was *no* need to apologize & doing so set a dangerous precedent http://t.co/87VnGbDSBi
.@: I assume you'll now be deleting & apologizing for any post that offends any atheist? http://t.co/87VnGbDSBi
@ @ Miranda, something about what you wrote offended me in some unspecified way and I demand a deletion & apology
@ @ Anything anyone is ever offended by for any reason should be memory-holed & apologized for, of course!
@ wow @ Really jumped the shark on that. I would like an apology from them for their cowardice
@ @ They've definitely jumped the shark and set a dangerous precedent.
@ @ @ The word "alliance" offends me. Sounds scary. Time for them to change their organization's name!
@ @ re:"One of our Social Media collaborators". Can always fall back on the mysterious intern. lol #drunktweeting
@ What a bunch of clowns @ are. @ 's post was well written concise &to the point #ftbullies
@ @ What was the link that was so horrible?
@ @ @ I don't agree with everything in that post, but I see no reason to apologise to linking to it... /1
@ @ @ ... unless AAI is will also apologise each time it links to something that I, for example, dislike. /2
@ @ @ The apology is itself rather offensive to vjack, who has written a thoughtful piece in good faith. /3
@ @ @ It sets a v. problematic precedent. Will they now apologize anytime an atheist is offended by a RT?
@ @ @ @ They're going to have to hire more "Social Media collaborators."
@ @ @ @ It seems like the "Social Media Collaborator" is always the fall guy in these things
@ @ oh dear. Deleting based on moral outrage and pressure.
@ pathetic. Completely, totally, 100% pathetic. Ultrasensitivity prevails over rationalism. For shame!
@ @ Surely the right response to something one disagrees with is to criticise it, not suppress mentioning it.
@ @ what never ceases to amaze me is the grandiose names these muppets call their clubs
.@ Really too bad you got pressured to censor yourself and removed a link to this sensible article: http://t.co/wJCvxVOKVe
.@ Do you want to explain how providing a legally recognized definition of harassment is condoning harassment of women?
If you don't toe the line and agree to the Newspeak of Becky and her cohorts, you'll be silenced. Message is clear. @
.@ Did you think ALL men would tolerate decades of #feminist demonization and destruction? Welcome to the backlash #ftbullies
Shame on the @ for giving into bullying and pleasing #FTBullies. Freethinking? I don't think so!
Did @ actually read the tactful article about what is/isn't harassment or pulled link b/c of FtB Skepchick pressure?
@ @ They rolled over and pissed their bellies like submissive, frightened dogs #FTBullies
Does @ believe all forms of criticism are harassment? http://t.co/oyqVRx815n why does their apology have 0 to do w/ link?
I support @. He is very fair-minded and thoughtful commentator and doesn't deserve witch-hunt. Shame on cowardly @.
@ @ @ Seriously. And no one has yet checked to see if he weighs as much as a duck.
.@ This is an approved tweet. You may leave it up.
.@ NO. TAKE THIS DOWN. The Amazing Atheist is a notorious opponent of feminism and social justice. Withdraw your support.
.@ This tweet is ok, I guess.
.@ Please concentrate more on Western feminist issues. Nevertheless, I'll permit you to leave this tweet up.
.@ Take this one down. It's Lawrence Krauss. You know what he did? No? Don't you read Skepchick?
@ They owe another apology to @ for implying that the article supports harassment of women.
@ apology for linking an anti-over-sensitive-professional-victims-self-proclaimed-feminist-sexists article? pathetic.
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 protected] 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.