PC gone mad I tell you »« The ways of love

Asking a question

So anyway, on Friday, I wrote again to the press contact person at the Global Secular Council to ask the question the GSC’s Twitter account never did answer, and first insulted me and then blocked me for asking.

Why did the Global Secular Council launch before inviting more “global” people to be on its panel of Experts?

She replied that she wanted to be sure I would not “not misconstrue or “twist” [her] text reply, and perhaps repopulate that misconception publicly.”

I couldn’t quite fathom how I would be able to do that as long as I quoted her exactly, which obviously I would do; I said as much, and with that she answered my question. Here is her answer:

What I will say to you is that most of my answer was dictated by me to the Social Media Team (at their request) and, as I understand it, sent back to you in snippets (or “tweets”).  I looked over what actually was sent back to your questions and it seems, though loaded with a little too much “internet personality”, to be congruent with the reply I intended; although, perhaps because of the forced brevity of those responses, those remarks were not received by you as actual answers.  So far, those answers seem to have been missed, “twisted”, or at least, misconstrued, consistently by you and your loyal followers.  But, I’m happy to recap here, and you can perhaps help me to fill in the blanks in my answer.  This is my personal understanding of the situation, and by no means represents every single member of our organization:

The Global Secular Council “launched” only its website and social media at the behest of many involved, mainly donors, and not without concern from many others involved, similar to yours.  I speak for myself, but echo others, when I say many agreed that on the face of it, we did not yet display enough racial, gender, and national diversity in our Council Members.  However, since we were by no means at the close of some finite process, but rather, at the beginning of a far-reaching project, we did not determine there would be any actual harm done announcing that the Council was being formed, while further “human resources” continued to gather and make commitments.  Taslima Nasreen, for instance, has agreed to join, but we have not yet solidified.  We were and are excited!  To that end, from the start, the name “Global” was a statement of purpose, as well as an indication of what we were already doing–gathering resources such as surveys, articles, and academic papers from around the world in support of a secular cause.

So the answer to my question is: they “did not determine there would be any actual harm done announcing that the Council was being formed, while further “human resources” continued to gather and make commitments.”

As you see, she had also said “you can perhaps help me to fill in the blanks in my answer” so I basically asked my question all over again:

Since you suggest I help fill in the blanks, I’ll ask again about why you launched before getting more global people on board. You say you (plural) did not determine there would be any actual harm done, so I would ask why not? It’s the same question all over again, really. It seems to be an obviously bad idea to launch a global project with no one “global” on the roster.

I know you’ve invited Taslima; she’s a good friend of mine. But you invited her after you invited other people, people with less experience and knowledge of matters outside North America and the UK. That seems like a slight. I would think you (plural) would want to avoid giving that impression.

I hope she doesn’t see that as me misconstruing or twisting her reply, much less repopulating that misconception publicly. I see it as just pressing the question, which wasn’t very satisfactorily answered. Why didn’t they think there would be any harm done?

Why did they think it would be a good idea to set up a panel of people they dubbed “Experts” for a council to deal with global issues when the experts have no obvious expertise at all in the global issues in question? American and British physicists, biologists, zoologists – how are they experts in global issues? I see of course how they are “Experts” tout court, but what does that have to do with anything? Having a PhD in field X doesn’t make you a universal seer. Given the completely random qualifications of the people on that list, it certainly would have helped to have had at least a broader geographical reach.

In one way it’s obviously none of my business, but then again they certainly sent out press releases asking us all to spread the word about their new council, plus there are all these people who seem to expect our infinite loyalty, so from that point of view it is my business, it’s all of our business. And then, I know a lot of people they should have asked to be on that panel but didn’t, and it annoys me. (No, I emphatically don’t mean me. I mean people from other parts of the world.)

Then again, the description of their planned activity that she ends with perhaps indicates that none of this matters after all:

…the name “Global” was a statement of purpose, as well as an indication of what we were already doing–gathering resources such as surveys, articles, and academic papers from around the world in support of a secular cause.

Oh. That’s their plan? To gather papers?

Oh. Oh well, never mind then.

 

Comments

  1. says

    The whole thing just seems unprofessional and poorly implemented, almost as if the goal is soliciting donations instead of a well thought-out launch. How are we “misconstruing” getting blocked for asking questions, or the GSC twitter account slamming Rebecca Watson (albeit poorly, only the pitters seemed to be in on the joke initially)?

  2. says

    Besides their need for some expert PR person, they need an expert librarian for their resource gathering – where is that person? (Disclosure: I have always highly valued, indeed loved, expert librarians.) Their initial roster was basically some really super-duper World class expert self-promoters.

  3. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    What a depressingly typical passive-aggressive non-answer. “We plan to eventually actually be what we say we are, we just haven’t gotten around to it yet.” *slow clap*

  4. Jackie the wacky says

    She accused you (and your entire readership) of being untrustworthy, of being purposefully devious?

    Fuck me, that’s rich.

    Well, never let it be said that atheists don’t have a sense of humor.
    That is absolutely too funny to parody.

  5. Menyambal says

    Yeah, that “loyal followers” bit sounds snarky to me, too. As does the worried assumption that you will twist their reply.

    By the way, I follow this blog, but I am in no way loyal. ;)

  6. Menyambal says

    In my previous comment, I had written something about passive-aggressive, but then took it out. I see someone else went there, and I concur. Yeesh.

  7. Jackie the wacky says

    It’s a bunch of well off white, sexist conservatives. (But then, I repeat myself)

    Of course they know what’s best for us. Of course they’re sure they are authorities on everything. They will whitesplain it to us in time. Hush now. Do not question them, mere peons. If they say they’ll get around to being global, they damn well will!

    They’ve shown us how serious they are about including “thought leaders” outside of their dynamic by being openly sexist and rude to feminist atheists involved in the “community” and thanking harassers for their support.

    They’re proudly backing a rapist. What did anyone expect?

    This is what they think “Good without God” looks like.
    This is the secular world they stand for.

    No wonder people think atheists are degenerate assholes.
    Many of our most outspoken self appointed “leaders” are exactly that.

  8. chigau (your display name can be anything you want) says

    I could be a loyal follower.
    What’ll you give me?
    (I don’t loyal for mere cookies.)

  9. says

    • This person can’t even write clearly and professionally and she is the official PR person?
    • “missed, twisted, misconstrued” etc? nice to blame you for their lack of response
    • “loyal followers”? More condescension and insulting smarm.
    • scare quotes around “launched” as though the launch is all in our minds and not an actual thing
    • and they can’t even take responsibility; no it was as the behest, nay, insistence of Donors that this happened
    • “I speak for myself when I say many agreed…”? Holy fuck can someone take a professional writing class?
    • “while ‘human resources’ continued to gather” No. Seriously. A fucking writing class. Or something.
    • Taslima’s agreed but yet not agreed (i.e. solidified). I mean either she was invited and said yes, she was invited and said no, she was invited and said maybe, or she wasn’t invited at all. [For the record, my advice is, Taslima, stay as far away as you can unless and until they get themselves on a more professional footing.]
    • And when did this invitation to Taslima (the only “global” person they can name??) go out? If it was before the launch, sorry, “launch,” then they ought to have waited for her answer. If after, then mentioning her is a deflection from Ophelia’s question/implied criticism.
    • It doesn’t show much commitment to their purpose to call themselves Global but appear as the same old collection of problematic US/UK non-policy experts as the mainstream media likes to highlight as thought leaders representatives of secularism.
    • “gather papers”? What a pathetic joke. Haven’t they heard of the Internet? Or a library?

    [forgive the inconsistent capitalization & punctuation. Can’t be bothered to go clean it up.]

  10. hoary puccoon says

    Dear Global Secular Council Press Contact Person,

    “Repopulate” is what St. Pierre, Martinique, had to do after a nearby volcano exploded. The word you needed was disseminate.

    So congratulations! Your writing is an excellent rebuttal to Ophelia’s claim that the Global Secular Council is composed of English speakers.

  11. carlie says

    However, since we were by no means at the close of some finite process, but rather, at the beginning of a far-reaching project, we did not determine there would be any actual harm done announcing that the Council was being formed, while further “human resources” continued to gather and make commitments.

    1. They should “get” diversity well enough by now to know that having zero diversity in the founding members is a really bad way to start. Any decent human who’s been paying attention should know that.

    2. In the absence of even that, if they realized they had a diversity and geography problem and had a plan to address it, maybe it would have been a really good idea to prominently say that on their website so as to avoid such criticism.

  12. carlie says

    Taslima Nasreen, for instance, has agreed to join, but we have not yet solidified.

    I didn’t know they were changelings.

    But seriously. I try not to pick on anyone’s grammar/style etc. any more, given how much I’ve had to be schooled in the many reasons someone might be bad at it and there’s no reason for me to pick on it. But when you’re the press contact person? When you’re the face of the PR of the organization? You’d better damned well be able to communicate. I do a lot of written communication (far more than I ever thought I would in my job), and I spend a lot of time constructing my emails to be clear and say what I mean to. I have spent upwards of two hours on a single email, just to make sure nothing can be misconstrued, to make sure that the sentences read easily and the flow is good, and to make sure I’m being properly diplomatic and yet getting my point across. And my job has nothing to do with PR. So, I’m actually offended by her shitty word choices and writing style, because it shows that either she is incompetent at her job and yet has it (when someone with better skills ought to), or that she cares so little about this exchange that she can’t even be bothered to do a once-over read before hitting “send”. How contemptible.

  13. says

    So far, those answers seem to have been missed, “twisted”, or at least, misconstrued, consistently by you and your loyal followers.

    Please correct your terminology. It’s not “loyal follower”, it’s “Minion”, as I have been called all these many years at Pharyngula and which applies here at B&W as well.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  14. AsqJames says

    As I understand it, the GSC is strongly linked with the Secular Coalition of America and share many of the same goals. As such when the idea for this new group was floated, I wonder if they looked back at how the SCA was set up to see if they could learn any lessons? The SCA website says:

    In February of 2000, at the urging of a South Carolina activist named Herb Silverman, a number of national organizations representing the interests of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other freethinkers began meeting to explore ways to collaborate for the greater good of the whole nontheistic community.

    That’s interesting. “a number of national organizations“, not a number of thought leaders.

    There are already a number of international organizations “representing the interests of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other freethinkers”. For example the IHEU, the AAI and the International League of Humanists, as well as the European humanist Federation. There are also a number of specifically secular regional groups which look like promising foundation material for a new global alliance – Secular Europe, Secular Africa and Secular Asia (the first two have websites with contact details, and the third a facebook page).

    Just out of common courtesy I’d have expected the newly formed Global Secular Council to have been in touch with a good proportion these international organizations, and if they have any aspirations to real activism on a global scale I’d have thought getting their “buy-in” would have been critical. I’m probably wrong though, otherwise I’d be a thought leader and get invited to important dinners followed by photo shoots.

  15. says

    [forgive the inconsistent capitalization & punctuation. Can’t be bothered to go clean it up.]

    You have an exciting future waiting for you as a press contact person for a global (honest, Global!) organization. However, if you really want the job, your syntax, general sentence structure, and clarity and directness could stand to be worse. Far worse.

  16. says

    You mean to tell me that their big goal is to set up a Feedly account, and clip articles for some sort of scrapbook? Wow, color me impressed!!

    Also, we don’t have to twist or misrepresent them in order to make them worthy of mockery. Their combination of arrogance and incompetence do quite nicely for that purpose. I’m sure they’ve got the cash-bits already set up for maximum exploitation though.

  17. chrisho-stuart says

    I think a fair paraphrase of the answer is: “global is a statement of purpose, not yet achieved”.

    I’m inclined to accept that answer; but it does follow that the council is somewhat incompetent, because it isn’t that hard to get a little bit global right from the start.

    It struck me more than once that there’s already a very good loose global coalition being developed. It’s here; at free thought blogs. There’s a lot of diversity and global input here. Special props to one of my faves — Avicenna at A Million Gods. And of course, Black Skeptics; Nirmukta, Maryam, Kaveh Mousavi, and lots more. It’s not just people of diverse backgrounds living in the USA. You really have people from other nations as well.

    Many of your bloggers are really busy and don’t blog with high frequency; they’re out doing other things and that’s good. You don’t actually treat it as a structured organization with some official mouthpiece for the group; long may it continue thus. You’ve been much more active in actually reaching out to diverse bloggers and building a global input than in promoting the group to readers or the public at large for establishing yourselves as leaders.

    Global secular coalition…. FTB, you’re doing it right.

  18. Al Dente says

    I looked at the gang of Global thought leaders experts. Giving several of them the benefit of the doubt, I determined at out of 25 thought leaders experts ten are social scientists, five are philosophers, Shermer is a professional skeptic, and the rest are scientists of various flavors. Strikeleather and Paul are the closest to being economists, Rich is sorta-kinda a political scientist, Gragun is a genuine sociologist, Price is a theologian and there are several psychologists. All of them are white, most of them are male and none of them appear to be under 40.

  19. Stacy says

    But seriously. I try not to pick on anyone’s grammar/style etc. any more, given how much I’ve had to be schooled in the many reasons someone might be bad at it and there’s no reason for me to pick on it.

    For the record, the person who wrote this is an American, English is her first language, and she’s a Tuft’s graduate.

    She just can’t words do good.

    I wonder if she, like the embezzlers, was one of Edwina Rogers’ hires.

  20. karma says

    Their expert lineup is first rate. You’re jealous that your FTB friends (mostly angry college kids and ideologues) weren’t invited to the party.

    The blogosphere is a cesspit because blogging is a terrible medium. It has the worst of both worlds between in-person dialogue and academic papers/books. I don’t think you people are idiots, but I think you’ve been ill-served by the whole medium of blogging.
    * No editorial process
    * No gatekeepers
    * No peer review
    * Short attention span
    * On the internet one seeks out others with the same axe to grind, and identical biases, which reinforce one’s own biases in a positive feedback loop, producing radicalization and a wildly exaggerated worldview, no matter the particular topic of the blog-clique.
    * Can’t be interrupted with questions like in-person dialogue
    * Plenty of lag time for elaborate post-hoc rationalizations and making things more complicated than necessary

  21. Silentbob says

    @ 23 Giliell

    ???

    Now I’m a confused ‘loyal follower’. Do you think the GSC needs to remedy it’s lack of “racial, gender, and national diversity”, or not?

  22. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Silentbob @ 24

    Giliell can correct me if I’m misinterpreting her but it’s not rocket surgery. Given that Taslima Nasreen is the only really “global” person whose name is even in the offing, it’d be pretty obvious tokenism, a fact which I doubt would be lost on Taslima and that I doubt she’d be down for.

  23. says

    Silentbob
    By now the GSC has aptly demonstrated that
    -they don’t actually care about diversity but about looks
    -they do not actually stand for the values Taslima Nasreen stands for, especially with regards to sexual assault and harassment.
    Therefore Taslima wouuld only serve as a gender and ethnicity fig-leaf and would lend them undue credibility.
    I would be disappointed when somebody like Taslima Nasreen gave up her credibility when talking about women’s rights for the sake of a place in the spotlight

  24. anne mariehovgaard says

    an indication of what we were already doing–gathering resources such as surveys, articles, and academic papers from around the world in support of a secular cause

    My local library is a lot more global – they’ve even got books in weird furrin languages!

  25. says

    chrisho @ 19 – thank you. That’s something we’re keen on doing, and we’re happy about the results. There are more “global” people joining in the very near future, and we would have even more than that if some people weren’t so tiresome as to have their own websites and blogs they prefer to remain on which. (No no, mustn’t be bitter, that’s their right, it’s just that I would so love to have them as colleagues and neighbors.)

  26. says

    Others have already said much that I would have about the content and attitude of this missive, but I found this remark the most concerning:

    The Global Secular Council “launched” only its website and social media at the behest of many involved, mainly donors,

    As I mentioned previously, many of these organizations seem to have a real transparency problem concerning donations and finances. It was a big issue at RDF, Rogers’ recent firing appears to have something to do with embezzlement at SCA, I can’t get anyone from the Harvard Humanists to give any information about donors,* and the course of the JREF looks at this point to be determined by one guy.

    To the extent that an organization or sub-organization is dominated by one or a handful of donors with outsized influence, it tends to reflect their politics, priorities, and personal animosities and agendas rather than those of the community. Now this new project appears, founded and advised by the “Bella & Stella Foundation.” Who is this? Is it a vanity project of one or more of the “Experts,” several of whom are also on the SCA’s advisory board? Do the donors, important enough to push through the GSC’s launch, have their own political goals?

    This changes the whole situation for people who are questioning or criticizing an organization’s actions, because they’re (reasonably) expecting the organization to be responsive to its supporters and to the community it claims to represent, when it largely won’t be because it’s beholden to a small number of individuals. People will tend to attribute to incompetence what’s really an intentional course of action.

    * I’m not asking them to name people, just to say whether the large bulk of donations come from small donations or one or a handful of individual rich people or organizations.

  27. carlie says

    I think a fair paraphrase of the answer is: “global is a statement of purpose, not yet achieved”.

    I’m inclined to accept that answer; but it does follow that the council is somewhat incompetent, because it isn’t that hard to get a little bit global right from the start.

    And incompetent because even if they couldn’t manage to get global before launching, they could have said they realize it’s a problem. Your paraphrase is a good one, but the problem is that it’s a paraphrase of an answer to a question, not something they said from the start. If their “about” page had “‘Global’ is a statement of purpose. We understand that our initial expert group is not globally diverse, but we are striving towards it by doing (x)”, then there wouldn’t have been that complaint in the first place.

  28. says

    I think a fair paraphrase of the answer is: “global is a statement of purpose, not yet achieved”.

    I’m inclined to accept that answer; but it does follow that the council is somewhat incompetent, because it isn’t that hard to get a little bit global right from the start.

    I can think of approximately one situation in which such an answer would be acceptable: Had the organization been formed in 1914 as the Imperial Secular Council and reflected the perspectives captured by that name, and later decided to get with the times and move toward a global rather than imperialistic project, then it might be OK to change the name as they began working on bring in global personnel and perspectives (including those critical of imperialism), as long as they explicitly stated that the name change was just an indication of the ongoing transformation and made the concrete changes a priority. In this case, they’ve started an Imperial Secular Council in 2014 and called it global.

  29. chrisho-stuart says

    Thanks for comment on your diverse global community here Ophelia — and I am delighted to hear that this will be continuing to grow. Looking forward to it.

    Ophelia adds (slightly tongue in cheek, I suspect!) : “No no, mustn’t be bitter, that’s their right, it’s just that I would so love to have them as colleagues and neighbors.”

    But you do. They are your neighbours on the internet. They can be blog rolled and linked and engaged. I am delighted to hear you say you are looking to add to the diversity and global flavor of FTB, but the main reason for being pleased about that is that it is helping diverse voices get a larger audience and more readers. Not so much because it’s good for FTB. I don’t want all the diverse voices to concentrate here, and I’m pretty sure you don’t really want that either. You do help bloggers get access to a potentially large readership and it’s great that more will be taking advantage of that. And hopefully, with more diverse FTB bloggers there will also be more links out and contact with a range of bloggers in other nations and communities, helping them to build as well.

    Cheers — Chris

  30. says

    Well that’s true. On the other hand there is some utility to the one-stop-shopping aspect. And of course we couldn’t have all the diverse voices even if we wanted to, but…I’m greedy.

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