Dear Professor Dawkins, congratulations on your new intellectual peer group–the slime pit.
For those of you not yet in the loop, on Tuesday, Dawkins suggested that “Shakespeare Schubert Darwin Einstein” should be the people chosen to represent humanity to hypothetical alien intelligences. At the time, he did suggest that other people would have other opinions and even suggested he would be interested in hearing them. On Thursday, however, when someone tweeted at him that they didn’t want humanity represented by “only old white guys”, Dawkins turned around and asked “”Old white guys”? Who then would you choose as a better poet than Shakespeare, better scientist than Einstein . . . etc ?”
After Dawkins moved his recommendations up the ladder from personal choices to “the best”, the following conversation occurred.
Heina Dadabhoy: Just so I’m sure I’m reading this right, are you intending to say that old white men are the best at everything?
Richard Dawkins: No of course not. But do you know a better poet / composer / scientist than Shakespeare / Schubert / Einstein?
No, but they are! Yeah.
That went on for a while, but someone else interjected themself at that point.
FuperSuck: @RichardDawkins @heinousdealings Pls stop responding to social justice warriors. You’re wasting everyone’s time. #CosmicTombstone
Richard Dawkins: Sorry, I thought only the SJW would see it. I certainly had no wish to waste anybody else’s time. I’ve now blocked the worst one.
And today, Dawkins tweeted, “Learned a useful new phrase this week: Social Justice Warrior. SJWs can’t forgive Shakespeare for having the temerity to be white and male.”
There are a number of problems with that statement, of course. First of all, we don’t know enough about Shakespeare to know that he was white. It’s probably, but not anything like a given in Elizabethan England. Secondly, no one’s upset with Shakespeare. People are upset that Dawkins chose all white men to represent humanity, then defended his choice as being based on merit. Thirdly, several people suggested other poets, such as Omar Khayyam or Maya Angelou as better. They’re not making their choices because they’re unable to forgive Shakespeare anymore than atheists are atheists because they’re mad at God.
The big problem with that tweet, however, is that Dawkins is proud of picking up new, demeaning terms for the people who critique him as a cultural influence, and he’s using that terms to dismiss those critiques instead of engaging with them.
Oh, yes. Also that he’s forging direct alliances with the people who use harassment to try to shut down his fellow atheist activists when they speak up about sexism and racism. FuperSuck there? He hangs out at the Slyme Pit, where he calls himself TiBo. In fact, he went there to brag about having scored Dawkins’ approval for his tweet.
Dawkins has decided that it’s appropriate to conduct discussion of cultural issues on the level of our harassers (make no mistake; the pit exists to track our movements and provide social support for harassing us) and to engage approvingly with them as he does so. In fact, he apologized to one of them for talking to us, despite the fact that they see our tweets because they monitor us and share the results with each other.
He cannot characterize our arguments honestly, but he can accommodate the delicate feelings of someone named “FuperSuck” whose Twitter icon is a Photoshopped distortion of Rebecca Watson.
Still and all, there’s something to be said for transparency. Dawkins has been headed this way for about three years. It’s about time we stop having to point out how he’s obliquely encouraging our harassers and can point to him cozying up to them and speaking our language instead. If he really wants to starting calling us “baboons” or “Peezus”, “Ophie”, “Regretta”, “Thimbledick”, and “InZvanity”, the sooner it happens, the better.
Let him take the gloves off and show us where he really stands. Maybe next he can get them to teach him Photoshop. (Don’t click on that link unless you’re either Richard Dawkins or prepared for ugliness.)
Also, my vote’s for Edna St. Vincent Millay, but I’m honest enough to say that “best poet” is a ridiculously subjective topic and that I’d want her to represent humanity because she represents me.