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Julia Burke at Skepchick considers the Silencing of Richard Dawkins.

From his twitter account alone, Dawkins has drawn fire over comments widely believed to be sexist, racist, Islamophobic, ableist, rape apologia, and downright douchey. This account had 1,060,435 followers as I wrote this. One million people sign up for his daily musings––and that’s after what he’s said so far.

So, not very silenced. Not very muzzled. He gets hostile responses, but with more than a million followers on Twitter it’s probably pretty easy to think of those as the ravings of a warped minority.

Dawkins has his own site and foundation, giving him a pedestal for longer-form discussion whenever he wants and the finances to back up a campaign promoting that discussion. He also has the support of the mainstream humanist movement despite statements that alienate much of its population: Dawkins has been a featured speaker at two humanist cons in the last year and will be featured at a CFI conference in 2015. When I called the organizers of these cons to ask whether Dawkins’s inflammatory comments had influenced their decisions to use him as a featured speaker, the World Humanist Con and American Humanist Association both declined to comment on anything concerning Dawkins himself. Ron Lindsay of CFI, to his credit, did grace me with a thoughtful reply:

“We humanists, as a whole, define the direction of humanism… For this reason, I don’t hang on every utterance that Richard Dawkins makes or pay close attention to every tweet that he transmits. Dawkins is undoubtedly someone who is entitled to much respect and honor for all the contributions he’s made to advancing atheism and humanism. Without doubt, he is the person most responsible for bringing awareness of atheism to popular culture. He may also be the best advocate for evolutionary biology, again in terms of bringing this awareness to the non-scientific community. These are important achievements. But despite his formidable intellect, he, like anyone else, may make mistakes and misjudgments from time to time. This does not detract materially from the value of his overall contributions.”

Hmm. I can’t help thinking that last sentence is more likely to be true if you’re not the kind of person Dawkins belittles while he’s making mistakes and misjudgments. In other words I don’t agree that his making misjudgments – like calling feminists who objected to Matt Taylor’s shirt “pompous idiots” – does not detract materially from the value of his overall contributions. I think it does detract materially from the value of his overall contributions, at least the first one Ron mentioned – bringing awareness of atheism to popular culture. I’m not as pleased about that as I once was, for the very reason that that awareness is now far more likely to be of obnoxious mind-blind anti-feminist assholes. I don’t want atheism to be seen that way, and I  think Dawkins has done a lot to ensure that it is seen that way by many.

There’s more to Julia’s article, but I gotta go.

Comments

  1. says

    For a long while after the Dublin Coffee Party I unfollowed Dawkins as no longer worth reading, especially with his recurrent failing of inserting his feet in his mouth. I’ve recently refollowed him but it’s more of a hate follow in order to screen cap the notorious things he says and then deletes later, when people point out to him how awful they are. (See for instance, Carolyn Porco, who has received many days’ worth of fools jumping into her mentions to revive the #shirtstorm discussion.)

  2. johnw says

    I interpreted his “i’m being bullied and silenced” comments as “I’m toning it down, because I’m scared to tell you what I really think about feminism.” Lest the monstrous regiment of women show up in their dungarees and Doc Martens, cut off his goolies, and make him do the ironing.

  3. anbheal says

    If you had to give a percentage guess, where would you estimate the proportions of (measured in Dawkins behavior these past couple of years):

    1) I’m a slightly doddering old fart who hasn’t quite figured out Twitter, nor what on God’s Green Earth women under the age of me Mumsie, 92 or so, are thinking. Where is there decorum? Mumsie haddecorum, she bloody well did. I should probably stick to speaking condescendingly toward auditoriums of awed undergrads, and leave the Twittering to my betters, but still, Mumsie would speak as a lady of proper breeding, what is WRONG with these co-eds nowadays???;

    and,

    2) I l know exactly what I’m doing, I haven’t been comfortable with the advent of those, em, “Female Persuasion” types since they started accepting co-eds in 1971. I know I can get tons of web hits and make a few quid if I toss red meat to the young stallions who still bear that same burden of females on campus, and I enjoy taking my over-privileged pokes at the hoi polloi, particularly you uppity women. Fuck y’all. I’m gonna pig out at this gravy train until I’ve got a sufficient retirement fund to head of to Cyprus with the missus and live in high style for the next 20.

    I’m thinking 35 percent 1, 65 percent 2. The guy MUST know that he’s steadily increasing the Asswipe denominator of his Q-rating. But he doesn’t really mind being thought of as a guy who looks down on women, that’s worked out fine in Science and Academia and Society In General for his whole life, so if his Golden Years can be made more comfortable by commericalizing his contempt for women, why the heck not.

    He will never be friendless or broke if he can successfully monetize a stiff-upper-lip Oxbridgian Lord’s conviction that yes, women are all very well and fine, but we’ve got some work to do here, so off, off with you, to the scullery, you wenches, the 6th form boys and I want to discuss things above your comprehension.

  4. says

    I don’t know what, if anything, Dawkins has done for humanism at all. I certainly know what he has done contrary to it.

    Ron may have provided a thoughtful reply, not sure about the actual thinking behind it.

  5. arthur says

    But despite his formidable intellect, he, like anyone else, may make mistakes and misjudgments from time to time. This does not detract materially from the value of his overall contributions.

    Due to his missives on Twitter, and his elaborations elsewhere, Dawkins’s position as most respected public atheist, invited to speak anywhere at anytime, is over. His reputation has been permanently damaged.

    This seems obvious to me, reading about his career in the mainstream media.

  6. Hazelwood says

    The Australian Atheist Foundation are bringing him out to speak in December so it will be interesting to see how popular he is. They are asking for question on twitter #cannoldaskdawkins.

  7. Blanche Quizno says

    Here’s the thing, sigurd@8. Unlike other organized things like religion, the fact that people aren’t interested in the organization actually has no effect on the growth of the phenomenon! People are outgrowing religion and avoiding churches and gravitating toward nonbelief without needing any encouragement or “selling” on it – people aren’t deconverting from religion because of atheist missionaries, after all. So the organized atheism is kind of an after-thought of sorts – “See here, now, look at all these atheists and how fast their share of the population is growing. We’d better get together to take advantage of this demographic!”

    Atheists are notoriously independent and individualistic – trying to even get them together somewhere is like herding cats. So while there are those who are in the organized aspect of atheism, there are far more of us in the unorganized atheist free-for-all – with more people jumping into the mosh pit every month.

    Oh, and anbheal@3? LOL!! But we’ve certainly seen plenty of instances where young idealism yields to older pragmatism, if not outright graft. More and more, one must look out for oneself and one’s own prospects, especially here in the US. So, yeah. A little from column 1, a little from column 2.

  8. Jackie the social justice WIZZARD!!! says

    sigurd jorsalfar says,
    Today on Citizen Radio, Allison Kilkenney joked that she would never attend and event where more than two white male atheists gathered together and she counted her husband as one.

    I second that emotion.

  9. says

    Methinks Lindsay is trying to keep both sides happy. Maybe it will work, maybe not.

    Take comfort, Ophelia: if it was just that English toff coming to Buffalo next spring, we’d stay home. We’re coming to hang with you. And Goldstein* is worth hearing from, too.

    *I was tempted to make a joke about “the other Rebecca” but decided it wouldn’t make sense in context.

  10. Radioactive Elephant says

    I wish I could draw. When I first read his statement about being muzzled, I imagined his whole quote in a comic with him in the center of this huge amphitheater with all the seats filled,, and additional panels with people at home around the world watching him on TV (with the text “Richard Dawkins Feels Muzzled” at the bottom of the screen).

    I am a little curious what he would say if he felt free to truly speak his mind.

  11. chigau (違う) says

    Radioactive Elephant

    I am a little curious what he would say if he felt free to truly speak his mind.

    Just think it’s worth repeating.

  12. rorschach says

    They are asking for question on twitter #cannoldaskdawkins.

    I think Dawkins considers Leslie Cannold safe to do debates with for a reason. I have been trying to inform her and Chrys Stevenson about his blunders, and the fact that he has become a liability for anyone but the staunchest rightwing anti-feminist dictionary atheists. See how we go.

  13. Ysanne says

    @johnw,

    “I’m toning it down, because I’m scared to tell you what I really think about feminism.”

    Exactly this. Because those evil evil feminists dare to say that they don’t like what he’s saying and make all those long guilt-inducing arguments and that makes poor Richard have a sad and he doesn’t like to feel that way so now he’s scared to speak up. Those pompous idiot feminists who can’t deal with a simple shirt should really have more consideration for this poor controversial thinker’s sensitive feels! After all, he’s the one who gets to insult everyone by calling them various variations of being stupid. Not the one who has to endure the pain of others disagreeing.

  14. Al Dente says

    F [i’m not here, i’m gone] @4

    I don’t know what, if anything, Dawkins has done for humanism at all.

    Dawkins keeps making noises that Islamist misogyny is the greatest threat to women in the world. I’ve been trying, without success, to find anything that he’s done to combat Islamist misogyny other than complain about it.

  15. says

    F [i’m not here, i’m gone] @4

    I don’t know what, if anything, Dawkins has done for humanism at all. I certainly know what he has done contrary to it.

    Same here. The only humans he gives a shit about are white atheist superior dudes like himself – and only as long as they echo his opinions. He makes it all too obvious that he despises (at best) all other people. I couldn’t give a stuff about his science writing: what I see is his active effect in harming women.


    Hazelwood
    @7

    The Australian Atheist Foundation are bringing him out to speak in December so it will be interesting to see how popular he is. They are asking for question on twitter #cannoldaskdawkins.

    Oh shit, are they? If only he could be banned like that PUA turdbro Julien Blanc we just got booted out …

    Jackie the social justice WIZZARD!!! @10

    sigurd jorsalfar says,
    Today on Citizen Radio, Allison Kilkenney joked that she would never attend and event where more than two white male atheists gathered together and she counted her husband as one.

    I second that emotion.

    Well, unless they were Mammotheers or Pharyngulites, maybe! :)

    Al Dente
    @16

    Dawkins keeps making noises that Islamist misogyny is the greatest threat to women in the world. I’ve been trying, without success, to find anything that he’s done to combat Islamist misogyny other than complain about it.

    And of course when it isn’t Islamist misogyny, he doesn’t give a flying fuck about it. I’m amazed he had it in him to praise (however patronisingly) Malala Yousafzai; she’s Muslim and feminist, and you’d think that would send his ragemeter into meltdown.

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