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May 19 2013

Sunday morning

I can’t begin to say how weird everything has become.

If you’ve been following the right blogs or perhaps Twitter you already know, but otherwise you don’t.

Oy.

Nevertheless – this conference has been FABULOUS. Just really brilliant. It’s way too late to do anything about that. Sorreeeeeeeee.

Some relevant posts.

Rebecca replies to Ron’s opening talk.

Ron replies to Rebecca.

Opening paragraph.

Rebecca Watson inhabits an alternate universe.  At least that is the most charitable explanation I can provide for her recent smear.  Watson has posted comments on my opening talk at Women in Secularism 2.  It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.

PZ comments on the resulting situation.

42 comments

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  1. 1
    Argle Bargle

    Reading the comments on the CFI blog, the only people who seem happy with Ron are the pitters.

  2. 2
    smhll

    And people think Evo Psych means that women have been programmed to be the over-reacting gender. North Korea? Wow. That much hyperbole sounds pretty silly.

  3. 3
    Martha

    Cross-posted from Pharyngula:

    I’m far too saddened by it to summon up much anger. Mostly, I feel an overwhelming sympathy for CFI employees like Melody, Lauren, and Simon. Thanks for all your hard work during the conference, and I’m so very sorry that your boss has made the weekend so tough for you.

    On Friday night, when I sought out Simon at the reception to ask for a donation sheet, I was uncertain whether or not I wanted to support CFI after Lindsay’s rather hostile opening remarks. Now, I’m certain that I don’t– at least not before Lindsay offers an apology.

    It’s been a great conference, and I leave with renewed conviction that secularism is a more powerful force when combined with feminism– and vice versa. Unfortunately, I’m much less convinced that current secular institutions are capable of feminist secular activity.

    Thank you, Freethought Blogs, for dusting off and donning Robert Ingersoll’s and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s secular feminist capes.

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    So you’re saying that as outreach and fundraising it’s not so good. I can’t disagree with you there.

  5. 5
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Was lindsay there for the entire conference? Or did he just take a big shit on it a the start and then run away?

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    I saw him in the audience yesterday, but he was deep in Twitter. I haven’t seen him today – and I don’t think he’s here.

  7. 7
    Bruce Everett

    Mind boggling. Whatever happened to just disagreeing with people instead of accusing them of intellectual dishonesty when they point out your accusations are poorly made/aimed/founded?

  8. 8
    Suido

    Cross post from Pharyngula – Who’s getting silenced?

    I don’t get it. I just don’t understand his motives. Even if he had given the best, most heartfelt, empathetic welcoming speech ever, he would still be a man introducing a conference that is supposed to be for and about women. That imagery, of a man giving the opening speech of the conference, is entirely too like he’s giving his blessing or approval for the women to have their little conference, and isn’t that cute.

    No. Just no. If I was in his position, my instinct would have been to say, ‘No, the fact that I’m male means I don’t get to make opening or closing speeches. As CEO of CFI, perhaps I should be mentioned and acknowledged in such speeches, but if we don’t set the right tone by having women make those speeches, what the fucking hell kind of message are we sending?’

    So even if he’d fucking nailed the speech content, I’d still not be impressed that he said it. But what do I know? I’m just a non-CEO dude who doesn’t assume that job titles and responsibilities give inalienable rights to speak whenever and wherever I want.

    And then he went ahead and flubbed it. And doubled/tripled down on the flub. I don’t get it.

  9. 9
    Suido

    Gah, didn’t catch it on first posting or review prior to second posting.

    *If I were in his position…

  10. 10
    Peggy

    He’s here. I just saw him talking to a circle of men in the 2nd floor lobby area during mid morning break.

  11. 11
    Natasha

    Lindsay’s opening speach should really come as no surprise to any one. He has given tacit support to the slymepit crowd along the lines of let’s dialog and be polite remarks directed at the targets of harassment.

  12. 12
    Sili

    So you’re saying that as outreach and fundraising it’s not so good. I can’t disagree with you there.

    Don’t be silly. CFI must be drowning in donations right now.

    Isn’t that how the Free Market works? Cater to those with the biggest wallets? Lindsay couldn’t conceivably take this tack if he didn’t think it was in the best interest of the CFI, could he?

  13. 13
    Martha

    Sili, you greatly underestimate the role of ego over logic in Ron’s response. My reading is that he honestly can’t tell the difference between the virulent campaign of antifeminist harassment that has been launched against Jen McCreight, Rebecca Watson, Ophelia, Stephanie Svan, and others. Until he takes the time to do that, I don’t think he can be an effective leader in a diverse movement. And, as the panelists pointed out this morning, the movement will not survive unless it becomes more diverse.

  14. 14
    Martha

    Lindsay was here today. I walked right past him as I left Cornwell’s talk.

  15. 15
    Thomas Hobbes

    I’m glad to hear that the conference has been fabulous. I wish I could be there. But I look forward to seeing the talks online at some point in the future.

    I did read Lindsay’s speech online. (The one he posted).

    To be honest, I didn’t think it was that bad.

    I think the biggest problem is his latest response.

    He’s making things worse.

  16. 16
    oolon

    @Thomas Hobbes, of course it will be Rebecca Watson’s fault he over-reacted as well as her fault that he was criticised in the first place… The strange eldritch power she possesses, if only it could be turned to good rather than evil ;-)

    BTW I’m feeling for the CFI employees like Melody, Simon. Paul and Alice (Ones I can think of) who support women in secularism and have just seen their CEO blow his top at some criticism from a woman. During a conference to promote women in secularism where he should have taken a back seat. Using his official blog and position as head of CFI to attack her with ridiculous ad hominems. Jeez…

  17. 17
    sueinnm

    Cross-posted from Pharyngula:

    I haven’t heard one word about the V-who-shall-not-be-named. I know he was there. Did anyone encounter him at all, or did he hide himself the whole time? Or perhaps commiserated with Lindsay?

  18. 18
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    I can only imagine that Lindsay has been bottling this up inside for a long time. After all, this wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark made while in his cups, but a prepared speech.

    It beggars belief.

  19. 19
    smhll

    It seems to me that the more dimensions one is privileged in, the less experience one (typically) has in apologizing and accomodating the POV of others.

    But I could be seeing a pattern that isn’t there. (‘Cause the human brain does that.)

  20. 20
    Mr. X (Not Homer Simpson)

    @16:

    In Jason’s liveblogs, he (Jason) mentioned that Vacula asked a question during Amanda Marcotte’s talk, along the lines of “why do you call these issues ‘feminist issues’ and exclude men?”

  21. 21
    R Johnston

    @14

    The speech I read was pretty fucking awful. However, even if you don’t think Lindsey’s speech was substantively that bad, he still turned a five minute intro speech into a half hour lecture that stole time away from the scheduled speakers and panels for the day. He told all the attendees that listening to his lecture was more important than listening to what the scheduled conference participants had to say. That’s not just because of substance of his speech but mostly because of our inability to time travel.

  22. 22
    doubtthat

    I mean this question seriously for folks who are there, do you think Lindsay is surprised by the reaction to his talk?

    I ask because it sounds like he was there for a while, then skipped out to write angry nonsense on the internet and his participation has been sporadic since.

    I know that’s not an important question with respect to the serious substantive issues that he has stirred up, but I find his behavior fascinating in the same way I always end up watching documentaries about the Manson family.

    He had to know that his nonsense would piss people off, yet his replies seem to indicate that he’s shocked people would interpret his words the way they have.

    I can’t decide if he’s just completely dense or is just a total asshole. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but it’s so bizarrely baffling.

  23. 23
    Claire Ramsey

    A person can be both dense and a total asshole. The speech I read seems very off pitch. And his response to Rebecca’s report is ridiculous – he’s doing that silly defensive thing some people do, intentionally not grasping her obvious points and instead finding details to be miffed and mean about. And the tone of his writing is very off putting. I imagine it was quite difficult to listen to that speech text spoken aloud, both for content and for structures. It looks to me as if he made a huge and discourteous miscalculation about the conference – introductions/welcomes from the sponsoring organization are supposed to be about five minutes, so the “real” speakers can get to it.

    It is a very peculiar business. Do admit.

  24. 24
    R Johnston

    @20

    It all makes sense if you assume Lindsay is a libertarian. He really believed he was right, he really has trouble understanding how anyone could believe he’s wrong, and he’s really incapable of ever admitting that he was wrong. Anyone claiming he’s wrong is, in Lindsay’s mind ipso facto victimizing him and trying to silence him. He has the libertarian method and the substance to go with it.

    If you stop thinking of him as a skeptic and start thinking of him as a rabidly faith based non-theist then he’s not hard to understand at all.

  25. 25
    Ophelia Benson

    Ok I’m at DFW and I finally found an outlet and got online.

    Sarah Moglia and I talked to Ron this morning. We tried to explain why his talk wasn’t a great move or well received. He didn’t think there was much merit to what we said, but he did at least listen. (You could even say he shut up and listened! A bit too much perhaps – it only now occurs to me to wonder if that was a bit of satire.)

    I don’t yet know if we did any good. He commended us for having the nerve to do it though!

    I’m still at a loss. sigh

    By the way, Sarah is as great as I knew she would be.

  26. 26
    docfreeride

    We tried to explain why his talk wasn’t a great move or well received. He didn’t think there was much merit to what we said

    I’m trying to wrap my head around sensible ways he could reject the merit of what you were telling him.

    “It was so well received! Look at all the approving comments on my blog telling me so!”

    “It surely doesn’t come across as dismissing the actual experiences of women in the skeptical and atheist communities that I explain from first principles that privilege is a bad concept to keep mentioning, or that men should get to speak whenever they want to! And I know this … from first principles!”

    Now, maybe there’s some other way his talk wasn’t a great move, distinct from the ways you pointed out to him, that is, in his mind, even worse … but there really hasn’t been any sign, from his posts, of even the awareness that his remarks did not sit well with a significant number of people who ponied up the registration fee for the conference, not to mention with a significant number of people (let’s call them “potential donors”) who might otherwise have been favorably disposed toward CFI.

    You’re patiently trying to help him see the problem. He’s nonetheless really not getting it.

    If only we could get the Bigfoot investigation teams to get to the bottom of this mystery!

  27. 27
    Martha

    R Johnston, I have very little sympathy for the librarian wing of the atheist community, but it’s way too easy to blame them for every meltdown. It’s possible to behave like a petulant child without being a libertarian.

  28. 28
    Dave W

    Ophelia Benson @23:

    He commended us for having the nerve to do it though!

    Seriously? He patted you on the head for being brave little women? Isn’t that almost exactly like commending a black guy for being articulate?

  29. 29
    R Johnston

    Martha, true, but when a man is a secular Republican–Elisabeth Cornwall referred to him quite definitively as a Republican and I have no reason to doubt that–spouting nonsense about gender roles and petulantly whining that he’s being victimized by people merely claiming that white and male privilege exist, he is identifying himself as libertarian or at least as so close as to make no difference.

  30. 30
    R Johnston

    Blown cite in 27, Sorry. Here’s the link I tried to add: http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2013/05/19/wiscfi-who-speaks-for-feminism/

  31. 31
    Sili

    Martha,

    You’re not suggesting that Dr Lindsay is reäcting in a less than rational manner, are you? For shame!

    Of course thus line of action is entirely calculated. The menz have more money than the wimminfolk, so it makes no sense to try to cater to such poor bastards.

  32. 32
    Silentbob

    @ 19 R Johnston

    … he still turned a five minute intro speech into a half hour lecture that stole time away from the scheduled speakers and panels for the day.

    @ 21 Claire Ramsey

    … introductions/welcomes from the sponsoring organization are supposed to be about five minutes, so the “real” speakers can get to it.

    To be fair, he was scheduled to speak for twenty minutes. From what I’ve heard he went about ten minutes over time.

  33. 33
    Claire Ramsey

    Ah I see, 20 minutes. OK then. Going ten minutes over is impolite to the rest. I’ve been last on programs, when I didn’t get much more than 1 minute because the three before me sucked up all of the time and no one had the cojones to stop them.

    Maybe he wasn’t meant to do an intro from our sponsors type of talk, either. My comment reflected my residual resentment of speakers taking more than their fair time, and my assumptions about what the first speech of a conference ought to say and do.

  34. 34
    Tom Foss

    I can’t help but feeling some déjà vu over all this.

    The lead speaker starts off a conference with a condescending speech intended to marginalize and pre-emptively dismiss certain viewpoints? Yeah, Hal Bidlack did that at a TAM some years ago, basically telling atheists to go easy on the theist skeptics and to not be the big irrational meanie-pants that they were known to be.

    A prominent leader of a skeptical organization gives a passive-aggressive speech that clearly targets certain people and uses hyperbolic language to describe situations that (when pressed for specific examples) don’t meet the stated criteria and are actually really tame? I think Phil Plait could say a thing or two about that–remember his dickish atheist who screamed in people’s faces and called them stupid? I imagine that person was about as real as the man silenced by the word “privilege.”

    A skeptical leader goes into absolute histrionics when others suggest that he might not know what he’s talking about regarding social justice and feminism, comparing those who disagree to dictators, accusing them of all manner of persecutory acts, and refusing to stop digging that hole? Paging Michael Shermer.

    Gosh, Ron Lindsay could have avoided looking as foolish and obnoxious as all those people before him did. If only he’d paid attention to what has gone on with these deep rifts for the last several years. If only he’d been willing to learn from the experiences of those who have been in similar circumstances before giving his speech. It’s amazing how much better he could have come out of this if he would have just shut up and listened.

  35. 35
    ck

    If I was in his position, my instinct would have been to say, ‘No, the fact that I’m male means I don’t get to make opening or closing speeches. As CEO of CFI, perhaps I should be mentioned and acknowledged in such speeches, but if we don’t set the right tone by having women make those speeches, what the fucking hell kind of message are we sending?’

    I have to disagree with this. The CEO of CFI should be giving brief opening remarks for an event like this, regardless of sex. It shows that the organization takes the event seriously, and gives the CEO the opportunity to publicly introduce and recognize the efforts of those who made the event possible. This is the only only role he needed to perform at such an event, and he failed at it miserably.

    A five or ten minute speech is all that is required for achieving that, not the 30 minute lecture he felt compelled to give.

  36. 36
    Martha

    R Johnston, you may well be right, but I didn’t hear Cornwell the same way you did. She was talking directly about Ingersoll (see Lousy Canuck for a discussion of that), but it seemed to me that she was defending Richard Dawkins more than she was defending Lindsay.

    That said, I would also assume that any secular Republican is a libertarian. But Lindsay could just as easily be tone-deaf white man with a bruised ego. Which is a problem for the president of a major secular group, whatever his political allegiances.

  37. 37
    Numenaster

    Tom Foss said: “

    remember his dickish atheist who screamed in people’s faces and called them stupid? I imagine that person was about as real as the man silenced by the word “privilege.””

    Actually, he’s real: his name is Penn Jillette. But he’s not representative, and the mistake lies in people acting as though he is.

  38. 38
    smhll

    A prominent leader of a skeptical organization gives a passive-aggressive speech that clearly targets certain people and uses hyperbolic language to describe situations that (when pressed for specific examples) don’t meet the stated criteria and are actually really tame?

    Can someone kindly point me in the direction of Lindsay’s examples? I didn’t spot them in his speech transcript or in his ‘North Korea’ writing back at Rebecca. Does he have new post up, or are the examples somewhere in his comment thread? (I didn’t get far reading through that before I bailed out.)

  39. 39
    Pierce R. Butler

    Does Rebecca Watson have nuclear weapons now?

    Should I ever meet her, I had planned on treating her with respect, but now I may just have run and hide keep running.

  40. 40
    Pierce R. Butler

    re my @ 39 – (ahem!) … I may just have to run …

  41. 41
    Tom Foss

    @Numenaster:

    Actually, he’s real: his name is Penn Jillette. But he’s not representative, and the mistake lies in people acting as though he is.

    The thing about Penn is that he was the clear and obvious rebuttal to Phil’s claim that being a dick never changed anyone’s mind.

    @Smhill:

    Can someone kindly point me in the direction of Lindsay’s examples?

    I just saw the thing where he said that PZ/Paul Fidalgo telling men to shut up and listen constituted “silencing.”

  42. 42
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    R Johnston, I have very little sympathy for the librarian wing of the atheist community

    Hey, what’s wrong with us librarians? ;)

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