Quantcast

«

»

Sep 05 2013

If she’s going to be there

So there’s this now – Sarah Moglia got a job as an Event Specialist with the Secular Student Alliance right after she graduated from college. Her first task was to help plan a tour for Richard Dawkins’ children’s book, The Magic of Reality. The first stop of the tour was in Miami.

Hours before the first event, there were people lining up outside the doors. As a member of the team, I was allowed in the auditorium before the event began. It was me, Dave Silverman (President of American Atheists), Elizabeth Cornwell (Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation), Sean Faircloth (then newly-hired Director of Strategy and Policy for RDF), and Richard Dawkins himself.

At this time (September of 2011), Dave Silverman was heading up the Reason Rally Committee. There was still quite a bit of planning and promotion that needed to be done, so Dave asked Richard, Elizabeth, and Sean to make videos to promote the Reason Rally. (The video Richard ended up making is still viewable.) Richard was standing behind the podium, and he asked Dave something along the lines of, “What exactly is the Reason Rally?” Dave started explaining it, and as he did, someone who was waiting in the line outside opened the door to peek inside and we could all hear a lot of noise. I rushed up the aisle and made frantic “shut the door” gestures at the people peeking inside, and they did. As I walked the ten feet back, I couldn’t hear everything Dave was saying, but I heard the name “Rebecca Watson.” Richard suddenly had a very angry look on his face and I heard him almost shout, “No, absolutely not! If she’s going to be there, I won’t be there. I don’t want her speaking.” and then Dave immediately replied, “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.” Richard huffed for a moment, Dave continued to placate him, and then he made the video.

I was crushed. I couldn’t believe it. Richard Dawkins was my hero. I looked up to him as a beacon of truth and reason in a world of irrationality. I couldn’t believe he would act this way toward Rebecca.

Read the rest.

The point is, it’s crappy. It’s an abuse of fame and status and the kind of (intangible) power they confer.

35 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Dave Empey

    I don’t seem to see a link to “the rest”?

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Blargh, I do that at least 10% of the time. Sorry. Fixed.

  3. 3
    deepak shetty

    Conflicted. Dawkins can choose to never speak with Rebecca and I dont think that counts as an abuse of fame and status – though I do wish the response was “Absolutely – You are off the roster now”

  4. 4
    Raging Bee

    Yeah, there’s our shining example of Dawkins being a catalyst for atheists to get together and take action.

    What a worthless, cowardly, babyish piece of filth. Doesn’t he even have enough self-respect to try to act the part of the well-mannered, civilized professor at a prestigious English university, magnamously letting all and sundry bask in the glow of his avuncular presence? Seriously, this guy can’t even do egotism right.

    And what the FUCK did Watson to do him to make him so vindictive and eager to be apart from her? She wasn’t the one who wrote that “Dear Muslima” letter, y’know.

  5. 5
    Ace of Sevens

    IIRC, not much had happened between Dawkins and Watson at the time. She hadn’t called for a boycott of his org or anything. Dependign what day in July this was, she’d said this at worst.

  6. 6
    Raging Bee

    Dawkins can choose to never speak with Rebecca and I dont think that counts as an abuse of fame and status…

    If it results in her being kicked off the roster, merely because he threatened to stay home, then yes, it’s a VERY CLEAR abuse of fame and status.

  7. 7
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Richard Dawkins is arguably the most unpleasant character in all non-fiction.

  8. 8
    deepak shetty

    @Raging Bee
    That is Dave’s fault as far as I can tell.
    If PZ for e.g. decides never to share stage with for e.g. Justin Vacula its not an abuse of his fame or status.

  9. 9
    Raging Bee

    No, it’s not entirely Dave’s fault — if losing Dawkins would result in a serious drop in attendance because Dawks’ fanboys no longer have a reason to go to Dave’s event, then Dave is under a lot of pressure to cave to the more famous guy just to protect his event. So it’s partly dave’s fault, but it’s mostly Dawkins’ fault for choosing (under no pressure of necessity) to use his fame to bully Dave into suppressing a disenting voice.

    Dawkins isn’t just “unpleasant.” There are plenty of people who are unpleasant without being overtly evil. Dawkins is evil.

  10. 10
    tonyinbatavia

    Cripes, Bjarte Foshaug @7, do you suppose that the next time I’m in the middle of reading a most depressing blog post and follow-up comments that you could give me a little warning that you are about to say the funniest thing I’ve read on the Internet in months? I surprise-laughed so loudly that my dog ran out of the room.

  11. 11
    ceesays

    Surprise laughs are the best, though! I think you get an extra dose of delighted when it’s a surprise.

  12. 12
    Bjarte Foshaug

    @tonyinbatavia #10
    ZOMG! #FTBullies promoting cruelty to animals!!! :-P

    I had the same reaction to this.
    https://twitter.com/dELYSEious/status/375649131865190400

  13. 13
    screechymonkey

    As deepak suggests @8, it’s not necessarily wrong for a speaker to say “I don’t want to be at an event that is giving a platform to X.” But that really ought to be reserved for extreme cases.

    (On the other hand, I think a speaker can be quite aggressive in deciding who he or she is willing to debate/sit on a panel/ or otherwise simultaneously share a stage with.)

  14. 14
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    See, what gets me is that I feel like, if the roles were reversed, Rebecca would just shrug and be like “Dawkins’ too? Meh… all right. That’s cool” and then just avoid him. But Dawkins’ is holding this pathetic, childish grudge. In this case, I have to wonder if Dawkins’ s an adult or a child…

  15. 15
    resident_alien

    Even up ’till now, I had expected better of Dawkins. He should be embarrassed. He is acting like the Hollywood version of an atheist: Petty, mean, vain and egotistical. Way to challenge the stereotypes, Professor!
    Assdrip.

  16. 16
    Pieter B, FCD

    The first time I saw Dawkins was at TAM 3. I was amazed; he was gracious, somewhat self-effacing and even stuck around for the volunteer presentations on Sunday; in a couple of cases he asked questions that added value to those “minor” talks.

    I wonder what happened between then and the second time I saw him, also at TAM, where he said he was perfectly comfortable with Bill Maher being given an award named after him, despite Maher’s publicly proclaimed alt-med wackaloonery.

  17. 17
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    I wonder what happened between then and the second time I saw him, also at TAM, where he said he was perfectly comfortable with Bill Maher being given an award named after him, despite Maher’s publicly proclaimed alt-med wackaloonery.

    Fame, probably. And not the one with Irene Cara, either.

  18. 18
    deepak shetty

    @Raging Bee
    Dawkins isn’t just “unpleasant.” There are plenty of people who are unpleasant without being overtly evil. Dawkins is evil.
    Separate discussion though I agree with the sentiment that Dawkins has gone beyond unpleasantness and stupidity awhile ago.

    but it’s mostly Dawkins’ fault for choosing (under no pressure of necessity) to use his fame to bully Dave into suppressing a disenting voice.
    But then no one famous would ever be able to boycott something. You cannot say if you agree with the cause , the boycott is fine and if you don’t that’s abuse of fame and bullying.

  19. 19
    hyperdeath

    Pieter B, FCD:

    The first time I saw Dawkins was at TAM 3. I was amazed; he was gracious, somewhat self-effacing and even stuck around for the volunteer presentations on Sunday; in a couple of cases he asked questions that added value to those “minor” talks.

    I wonder what happened between then and the second time I saw him, also at TAM…

    At TAM 3, he was only famous in skeptical and scientific circles. Afterwards, he was properly famous. That may have something to do with it.

  20. 20
    screechymonkey

    deepak shetty @18:

    You cannot say if you agree with the cause , the boycott is fine and if you don’t that’s abuse of fame and bullying.

    I disagree. That’s why the word “abuse” is there, as opposed to just “use.” Fame can be used for good purposes or ill.

    I can approve of Celebrity A using his fame to accomplish a goal I deem worthy, and disapprove of Celebrity B using her fame to accomplish a goal I deem unworthy.

  21. 21
    Ace of Sevens

    I don’t think refusing to appear at a conference where another person is speaking is prima facie unreasonable. However, in this case, Dawkins picked a fight with her over the “guys, don’t do that,” which was fairly innocuous and had nothing to do with him. In turn, she said that she wasn’t interested in seeing him speak or buy his books anymore and that he was trivializing her experience. That’s all that happened when this story took place. He looks like a petty, egotistical asshole if he tried to use his celebrity to use his celebrity to crowd her out of gigs over that.

  22. 22
    deepak shetty

    @screechymonkey
    I can approve of Celebrity A using his fame to accomplish a goal I deem worthy, and disapprove of Celebrity B using her fame to accomplish a goal I deem unworthy.
    In which case argue that Dawkins’ cause is unworthy (which it undoubtedly is and many people have already done it).

  23. 23
    blondeintokyo

    AA has posted a statement on their Facebook page. Apparently Dawkins did say that, but since Rebecca wasn’t actually invited to speak so it made no difference.

    Very disappointed with Dawkins. Still love his books, but do not think much of him personally.

  24. 24
    screechymonkey

    deepak, I already did. You’re the one who seems to be insisting on an all-or-nothing, “you must approve of all boycotts or else oppose them all” position. If I’m wrong about that, and you’re saying something else, please clarify for me.

  25. 25
    Chuck Jones

    Sounds like Silverman did the right thing. Dawkins has built a huge fan base, which obviously gives him considerable leverage. Of course he’s going to use it to his advantage when he sees fit. Anyone that doesn’t like it should build a bigger fan base. But this doesn’t say anything about the atheist movement. That’s just the way the world is.

  26. 26
    gworroll

    Chuck Jones @25 -

    That may be how the world is now, but shouldn’t we try for better going forward?

  27. 27
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Ace of Sevens,

    However, in this case, Dawkins picked a fight with her over the “guys, don’t do that,

    I don’t think so. I believe it is far more likely that the thing which turned RD against Watson was at the panel on Communicating Atheism they shared at the Dublin conference in which she rebutted the views of Paula Kirby which she summarised as an ‘argument from ignorance’ — in short, because Kirby hadn’t personally experienced sexism in the atheist movement, she was content to minimise and erase the experiences of other women who had.

  28. 28
    see_the_galaxy

    No, Dawkins is not evil, or the most unpleasant character, etc. Are we all so foxfried we can’t disagree even on important things without demonization?

  29. 29
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    FWIW, I agree with see_the_galaxy that Bjarte’s joke, while genuinely funny, isn’t really accurate, especially taking a longer quote from that paragraph from TGD. However, Dawkins of late (especially on Twitter, sheesh) has been displaying a cantankerous ugliness of meanness of character, which will certainly interfere with his legacy as an intellectual. No idols, no demons please.

  30. 30
    see_the_galaxy

    He’s not evil–just deeply wrong, and owes Rebecca Watson an apology!

  31. 31
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    see_the_galaxy… Dawkins is not evil. But he is certainly childish and petty, rather pathetic, and immature.

  32. 32
    Deepak Shetty

    you must approve of all boycotts or else oppose them all”
    Nah. You must either approve the principle of boycotting or reject the principle of boycotting.

  33. 33
    Chuck Jones

    I don’t see anything wrong with what Dawkins did here. He obviously doesn’t like her, and that’s his right, just as surely as others have the right to think he’s being petty. Maybe he is being petty. Maybe he doesn’t like the way she parts her hair. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. He has that right and he asserted it, end of story. He’s not under any obligation to hold hands with the world and sing Kumbaya around the campfire.

  34. 34
    Great American Satan

    Chucky boy, if you’re gonna troll, try to sound slightly less droning than Ben Stein. You’re puttin’ us to sleep here.

  35. 35
    Martha

    See_the_galaxy, yes, he’s wrong. He’s also complacent, patronizing, and shockingly arrogant. That may not translate into malice, but he certainly doesn’t seem at all concerned about minimizing the harm he can cause through his stature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>