The de-idolization process


American Atheists posted a statement on Facebook a few hours ago in response to Sarah Moglia’s post at Skepchick.

A recent blog post by Sarah Moglia alleges that American Atheists President Dave Silverman acquiesced to a demand by Richard Dawkins in September 2011 that he choose between Rebecca Watson and Dr. Dawkins as speakers at the Reason Rally in March 2012.

American Atheists and Mr. Silverman do not condone, support, or participate in the practice of allowing potential convention speakers, or convention supporters, sponsors, or attendees, to blacklist or attempt to blacklist other potential speakers and attendees.

While Mr. Silverman does not dispute that an exchange with Dr. Dawkins took place in Miami in September of 2011, there was no acquiescence on Mr. Silverman’s part. At the time the exchange took place, Ms. Watson had not in fact been invited to speak at the Reason Rally, and that decision had already been made. The Reason Rally had many more requests from prominent atheists to speak than speaking slots to offer.

There’s more, but that’s the essence of it.

Fair enough. That’s consistent with what Sarah wrote, and it makes sense. Anyway, frankly – I probably would have done the same thing if I’d been in that position. I don’t feel like getting all judgey about it (and neither did Sarah, in the post). The point is that Dawkins shouldn’t have put him in that position, just as he shouldn’t have said “zero harm” and he shouldn’t have said “Dear Muslima.” It’s also that it’s a mistake to have idols. Fortunately the idols themselves are doing a bang-up job of convincing us of that.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s also that it’s a mistake to have idols. Fortunately the idols themselves are doing a bang-up job of convincing us of that.

    That’s so true Ophelia, which is why I’ll admire you, but you’ll never be my idol, which is how it should be. It’s good you have this perspective.

    Also, it’s sickening to me, but sadly, not surprising, that Dawkins did this to Watson. Rebecca Watson is like a lightening rod for mysog assholes, Dawkins or any of the rest of them. The fact he singled her out as he did is pretty disgusting.

  2. left0ver1under says

    Even if Dawkins didn’t push his weight around and to have Watson thrown out, what’s to fear about being in the same place at the same time? If his position is right, there’s nothing to worry about, and if he’s wrong, he doesn’t have to talk about it.

    He should show some spine, or even try fence mending. Watson’s presence doesn’t have to mean a confrontation will happen unless one of them goes looking for it. And if others try to instigate something (e.g. asking questions about “elevatorgate”) it’s easy enough to say, “I’m not going to detract from the conference by talking about it here. Contact my website.” Disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean one can’t act civilly in their presence.

  3. says

    I believe I agree with Benson. I don’t feel too critical of Silverman since Reason Rally had a political goal and it was important to maximize attendance. Which requires trying to get the biggest names, unfortunately. It does make it a bit better that he only had to not invite someone he was already not inviting for time issues. And it didn’t seem Moglia was too critical of him either.
    I do actually think it’s a good thing that Silverman and AA generally is pretty responsive to most any blog post that pops up.

    I also still have no idea why Dawkins would have been so petty regarding Watson. It’s pretty disappointing, among other disappointing things Dawkins has said/done.

  4. R Johnston says

    left)ver1under @1:

    Even if Dawkins didn’t push his weight around and to have Watson thrown out, what’s to fear about being in the same place at the same time?

    Waston is a constant reminder that Dawkins isn’t nearly as smart or skeptical as he’d like to consider himself to be and that he he can only “win” an “argument” with her by making false appeals to his popularity and “authority.” Dawkin’s ego would cry itself to death if he had to spend any time in her presence.

  5. Steve Caldwell says

    If Hannah Arendt were alive today, perhaps she would use the phrase “banality of pettiness” to describe Richard Dawkins’ over-reaction to the possibility that he might share a stage with Rebecca Watson.

  6. Silentbob says

    @ 5 Stephanie Zvan

    Ha! Pedantic fucker that I am, I was going to make the same correction.

    But I disagree that it doesn’t change anything. It makes it worse. “Zero harm” can mean it was bad, but no real harm done. “Zero bad” means nothing to complain about at all.

  7. says

    John-Henry Beck,

    I also still have no idea why Dawkins would have been so petty regarding Watson.

    I have a working hypothesis (this comment hints at it), but it doesn’t do credit to him; it involves an ugly pettiness and meanness of character, and of his close associates.

  8. says

    NO GREEN M AND Ms!!!!! AND NO REBECCA WATSON!!!!

    That’s how I read Dawkins in this instance.
    And he put David in a horrible position.
    In short – for an Oxford Don…he lacks class.

  9. Deepak Shetty says

    Dave immediately replied, “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.”
    Unless this is a misquote I don’t see how this is consistent with whats being stated.

  10. Alex alt says

    Am I missing something? English is a second language for me, but in what universe is the exchange that Ms Moglia quotes consistent with the story that RW was not invited to speak anyhow?!

  11. penn says

    Alex alt, maybe it’d be easier if you explained where they are inconsistent.

    The point of the story is that Dawkins tried to blackball Watson from the event, which the statement from AA does not deny. There may be a slight inconsistency with Moglia saying that Silverman said “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.”” But it’s not that relevant because this isn’t about Silverman. He could have said “You’re absolutely right, she won’t be on the roster. It’s done.” and Moglia mis-remembered the exact quote since it’s been a couple of years.

  12. Minnow says

    They stories are inconsistent for the reason you say. Moglia misremembered or Silverman is deliberately misleading.

  13. freemage says

    Rebecca could clear up that discrepancy. If she was already on the roster, she would’ve been invited to speak prior to that convo, and then disinvited (however diplomatically) afterwards. If she never received an invite, then it’s more likely that her name came up as a possible additional speaker, and Dawkins pitched his little fit.

  14. smhll says

    Even if Dawkins didn’t push his weight around and to have Watson thrown out, what’s to fear about being in the same place at the same time? If his position is right, there’s nothing to worry about, and if he’s wrong, he doesn’t have to talk about it.

    He should show some spine, or even try fence mending. Watson’s presence doesn’t have to mean a confrontation will happen unless one of them goes looking for it.

    My imagination is a strange place, but I imagine that he slightly dreads the possibility of people coming up to him at the event and asking “So, what did you think of Rebecca Watson’s speech?” Because atheists (and skeptics) love to ask shit-stirring questions. And sometimes, some people will ask questions just to annoy people, and not because they want to hear the answer. (Although, in this hypothetical case, the answer might be entertaining.)

  15. H2s says

    Wasn’t Dawkins probably worried that:
    * He’d be accused of being a sexist/misogynist in an unrelated panel ( when an audience member brought it up)
    * He’d be unable to effectively defend himself and “win” – ie get Rebecca to agree that he wasn’t one… at least it would be inconclusive
    * This criticism may then spread to become a mainstream criticism of him / trope about him ?

    Probably overblown damage control…

  16. screechymonkey says

    H2s, I don’t know how many Dawkins speeches you’ve attended/watched, but in my experience there’s always at least one oddball, accusatory question in the Q&A session. (That’s not really unique to Dawkins, mind you — any mildly controversial speaker will get them.) Questions with false premises (“what about Darwin’s deathbed recantation?”), inflammatory, when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife questions (blah blah Nietzsche blah blah without God anything is permitted blah blah evolution caused the Holocaust blah blah why do atheists eat babies?), or questions that aren’t necessarily out of line but that he’s just tired of answering or that take up too much time in a Q&A session (the child abuse line, various ID “gotcha” questions about “information” in the genome, etc.)

    My point is, he’s well-equipped for, and well-experienced at, dismissing or deflecting or politely declining or just plain mocking (as he deems appropriate) questions that he doesn’t think merit a serious full response. Not to mention, if an audience member is determined to bring up the subject, then he or she can do so whether Watson is present at the event or not.

    So I doubt that was his rationale. I think he just plain doesn’t like or respect her, and I suspect that predates Elevatorgate. I mean, think of how odd it was to begin with that Dawkins waded into the Pharyngula comments section to discuss a YouTube video that had nothing to do with him or his usual topics. I gather that he was annoyed at Watson contradicting Paula Kirby during that same Dublin event, but even that seems like a weak motivation.

  17. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Can someone help me? I was reading some blog posts yesterday here and at Almost Diamonds and Pharyngula and can’t find the comments by AJ Milne (?) that I wanted to compliment him on. He made some very important points. It was regarding how people just smart enough to figure out there are no gods can’t seem to make the connection to religious authoritarianism and other forms of authoritarianism. Something like that. ;) I have been looking over what I read yesterday and the comments and I can’t seem to remember where I saw it.
    He or she articulated it so much better than I ever could, and it’s been something that has baffled me for a long time, especially since feminism is what actually helped me question my religious upbringing and gave me the courage to finally discard the harmful ideas I was taught and see them from a broader political perspective.

    I think it would make a great topic to discuss further and analyze further.

    Thank you! TG (I’ve also gone by ‘callistacat’ here)

  18. MrFancyPants says

    That document (if what it says is true) explains a lot of things

    Wow, yeah. If true, and combined with Xanthe’s hypothesis, it completely explains why Dawkins has been acting so weird towards RW, at least in my mind. Petty and sad.

  19. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    Yeah, I never did really get the idol/hero/role model thing. It may make it “easier” for me to like so-and-so’s work, but be disappointed about other negative features they display. Or maybe I just find it easier to expect bad and be surprised by good. I don’t know if I’m more realistic, or just less well-disposed towards humanity. It may be a failure in the opposite direction on my part.

    callistacat!

    (I remember. :) )

    Try this. The search covers all of FTB for “milne” for the last week.
    https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&as_q=milne&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&lr=&cr=&as_qdr=w&as_sitesearch=http%3A%2F%2Ffreethoughtblogs.com%2F&as_occt=any&safe=images&tbs=&as_filetype=&as_rights=

  20. says

    (This may be OT–if so, I’m sorry, and please feel free to delete it, Ophelia.)

    Another question: How does Josh Timonen fit into this?

    Echoing the question. Not really because of any prurient curiosity in salacious details, but just because I keep hearing the name and mentions of huge drama surrounding the website, and I have no idea what y’all are talking about. It was either before my time or it took place while I was in the hospital, and since I was out for about 7 months, that’s not uncommon–hell, I missed the Japanese tsunami and the Egyptian Revolution, so I’m sure I missed a lot of Internet Drama, too. (I get a lot of “What, do you live on Mars?” when people reference well-known events, and especially pop culture, that took place from late ’10 through mid ’11. I’m trying to catch up.)

    Anyway, if someone can catch me up or link me to an explanation of who, what, and where (as it appears why and/or how are still unknowns, generally), I’d really appreciate it. :)

  21. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    theoreticalgrrrl

    I hope it helped.

    Erin

    Sometimes, hospital is further away from Earth-life than Mars could ever hope to be.

  22. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    NO GREEN M AND Ms!!!!! AND NO REBECCA WATSON!!!!

    The sad part of that is, the whole Van Halen brown M&Ms thing actually had a purpose beyond childish douchiness. If they got in the dressing room and saw that the brown M&Ms weren’t removed, they would be suspicious that other parts of the contract hadn’t been read and would have everything double-checked to make sure nothing on stage was wrong/dangerous.

    No Rebecca Watson, on the other hand, is just some bullshit. :)

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