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May 30 2013

He Treated Us With Contempt: The Context of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk

UPDATE: Ron Lindsay has apologized for his remarks. I have accepted his apology.

He treated us with contempt.

For me, that’s what it boils down to.

I’ve already addressed some of the specific problems with much of the specific content of Ron Lindsay’s opening talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, and with the responses he wrote to criticisms of said talk. As have many other bloggers besides me. This isn’t about that. This is about the context. And as bad as the content was, the context is what made it far, far worse.

Here is that context. This was not just some random talk midway through some random conference. This was not just some random series of blog posts written on some random date. This was the opening talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference.

The opening talk for a conference sets the tone.

And as far as I know, it is unprecedented for the leader of an organization hosting a conference to use the opening talk of that conference to issue a patronizing scold to its attendees and speakers and financial supporters. I’ve certainly never heard of it happening before this. Opening talks welcome attendees and speakers, get people excited about what’s coming, take care of schedule changes and other logistical matters, let people know what else the hosting organization is up to, hustle for donations. They do not lecture the attendees and speakers and financial supporters on everything that they’re doing wrong. They don’t openly decline to welcome the attendees, in the name of supporting “substance not rhetoric.” I have been to a whole lot of conferences in my time as a public speaker… and I have never, ever, ever seen an organization leader open a conference by scolding and insulting the attendees and speakers and financial supporters… in the name of fostering “conversation.”

In this context, the message of this talk was clear. The message was not simply an ill-informed, baffling, patronizing, insulting concoction of straw-feminist rhetoric taken directly from the mouths of hostile anti-feminists (as I’ve discussed in my post on the content of this talk).

The message was clear: This is not your space. You have this space by my whim. I can take it away at my whim. This is not a conference for women in the secular movement to talk with one another, and with men and non-gender-binary people, about issues that concern you. This is not your space. It is mine. And if I want to use this space to scold you, to patronize you, to read you a lecture about how you should and should not speak about feminism and sexism and privilege, I will do so.

The content of Lindsay’s talk was… well, an ill-informed, baffling, patronizing, insulting concoction of straw-feminist rhetoric taken directly from the mouths of hostile anti-feminists. It was pretty damn bad.

The context of the talk was dripping with contempt.

And the talk — with this context — set the tone for the entire rest of the conference. This was a truly magnificent conference, one of the best I’ve been to — and I’ve been to a lot. The speakers and panelists and moderators, and indeed the conference attendees, seem mostly to have cared deeply about making this conference incredible, and they overwhelmingly brought their A-game. Important ideas were raised; difficult topics were explored; calls to specific action were issued; strategies were hashed out and moved forward.

But a huge, disproportionate amount of the conversation — over meals, over drinks, during breaks, in the halls before and after talks, in the rooms after events were over — focused on Lindsay’s talk. A huge, disproportionate amount of the conversation focused on, “What the hell was that?”, and, “Did he really say that?”, and, “What on earth was he thinking?”, and “What are we going to do about that?”

If Ron Lindsay didn’t know that this would happen, then he’s an idiot. And I don’t think he’s an idiot. I think he knew exactly what would happen. I think he knew perfectly well that giving this particular talk — as the opening talk of this particular conference, with these particular speakers and attendees and financial supporters — would be dropping a rhetorical bomb. I think he knew that giving this talk would turn a huge amount of the attention — at the Women in Secularism 2 conference — to Ron Lindsay, and to his opinions about feminism and feminists in the secular movement. And I think he was totally fine with that. I don’t think that was necessarily the point… but I think he knew it would happen, and went ahead anyway.

He was perfectly happy to turn the focus of the Women in Secularism 2 conference onto himself, and his patronizing, ill-informed, straw-feminist opinions of feminists in the secular movement.

What’s more: As far as I know, it is unprecedented for the leader of an organization hosting a conference to write a hostile, mean-spirited, personally vituperous diatribe against one of the conference’s speakers… while that conference is still going on. I’ve certainly never heard of it happening before this. It would have been bad enough for Lindsay to write what he did about Rebecca Watson, and about her very measured response to his talk, under any other circumstances. For him to do this while the conference was still going on — for him to bail on the fundraising dinner and post this piece while that fundraiser was happening — showed an appalling level of contempt: not just for Rebecca Watson, but for everyone at that conference who respects her and came to hear her speak.

And all of this unfolded while one of the primary anti-feminist harassers was sitting there in the audience. All of this unfolded while a person who has been invading and disrupting the Twitter feeds of conferences he thinks are too feminist, a person who has defended the misogynistic online harassment and the use of hate speech against feminist women in the atheist movement, a person who has written for, and done a recent interview with, a misogynist, rape apologist website that’s being monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center (the organization that monitors hate groups), a person who has said, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning the belief that women exist to serve men,” a person who dealt with a dispute by posting someone’s home address on the Internet, was sitting in the room. The fact that Justin Vacula was attending this conference had many people on edge: nobody knew if he was planning in-person confrontations, or continued online harassment, or what. Many of the people Vacula has personally targeted with harassment were in that room with him. For Lindsay to give that particular opening talk in that loaded environment — and for him to then make a point of going up to Vacula and personally welcoming him to the conference — showed a level of contempt for the speakers and attendees of that conference that is shocking… and that is entirely unacceptable.

I will make this very clear: I don’t think Ron Lindsay consciously intended to treat the attendees and speakers at Women in Secularism 2 with contempt. I just think he didn’t particularly care. And that, in itself, is a serious form of contempt. He treated the very people the conference was being held for as trivial, far less important than him getting to use our platform to spout his opinions. He treated the women at that conference — and the men and non-gender-binary people — as if the patronizing insult he had to know we would take from his talk, and the derailment of one of the few events we have that’s specifically devoted to our concerns, was obviously of less concern than his own personal opinions about our work. He took the space that was set aside for us, and he used it against us. And he did this with no apparent concern for how this might affect us.

He treated us with contempt.

If Ron Lindsay had chosen to simply post this talk on his blog, totally separate from the Women in Secularism 2 conference, I don’t think there would be this level of fury, disappointment, and sheer “What the hell was that?” shock. I think a lot of people would have been angry and upset: but I don’t think the conversation about it would have been eating the Internet.

But that wasn’t the context in which this happened.

And the context in which this did happen was reprehensible.

He treated us with contempt.

And it is absolutely unacceptable.

Ron Lindsay owes every person at that conference, and every feminist in the secularist movement, an apology. And it needs to be a real apology. It cannot be a bullshit, half-assed, “I’m sorry you were upset by my entirely reasonable actions,” “I’m going to spend one sentence apologizing with ten paragraphs on defenses and excuses and counter-accusations” not-pology. It needs to be a real apology. It needs to demonstrate an understanding of what exactly was wrong with his actions, and a promise to not act like this in the future. If he doesn’t, I think it will be very hard for feminists in the secular movement to trust and support CFI again.

The other piece in this two-part series:
A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk

If you have something to say about Ron Lindsay’s talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, and/or about his follow-up posts responding to the controversy… say it to the CFI Board of Directors.

Don’t just say it on Twitter, or on Facebook, or on blog comments, or even on your own blog. Say it to the people who can do something about it. If you’ve already said something on some other forum, please copy and paste it, edit as appropriate, and send it to the CFI Board of Directors.

The CFI Board of Directors can be emailed via the Corporate Secretary, Tom Flynn, at [email protected] They can also be reached by snail mail, at:

Center for Inquiry Board of Directors
PO Box 741
Amherst, NY 14226-0741

54 comments

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  1. 1
    Timid Atheist

    Thank you for this, Greta. I took your advice and sent a letter. I’ll reproduce it below.

    Dear Tom Flynn,

    I am writing as a concerned member of the secular community. I’m a closeted atheist due to where I live and certain custody issues. Despite being closeted, I hope that you’ll be willing to read what I have to say.

    As the subject of this e-mail states, I’m writing to address the talk Ron Lindsey gave at the Women in Secularism 2 conference. Being a poor, single parent I was unable to gather the funds to attend, but I read everything I could from those that did attend. I’ve also read the transcript of Ron Lindsey’s talk and critiques of his talk.

    I am disappointed that Ron Lindsey delivered such a patronizing scold as an introduction to a conference that otherwise seemed to empower and lift up the conversation for women in secularism.

    Though I regret not being able to attend the conference, in a way I am glad I did not give my money to an organization that allows its leader to do such a thing, followed by several blog posts defending his actions, without redress.

    I hope to see, going forward, CFI address Ron Lindsey and his actions and take appropriate actions as well. If I see a change going forward within CFI I might consider donating or something similar. For now, you’ve lost whatever potential interest I might have had.

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,

  2. 2
    LeftSidePositive

    I saw these two articles come up on the “Recent Posts” sidebar and I thought “Oooooohhhh, this is gonna be gooood!!!”

    You did not disappoint.

    I have, of course, emailed CFI and strongly encourage others to do the same. I expect the June meeting thing is a way to hope this will all blow over, and we need to keep the pressure on that this sort of thing is NOT acceptable.

    And, frankly, I don’t care how good his apology is. He needs to be relieved of his duties as the CEO of CFI, at least long enough for him to do some meaningful soul-searching and actually learn why what he did was wrong (and not just morally wrong–but an incredibly stupid way for a CEO of a non-profit to behave!). No matter how abject, no matter how well-phrased, I simply cannot trust an apology when the speaker has everything to lose from not making one and everything to gain from making one. Accountability is necessary, and Ron Lindsay has a long way to go before he can earn anyone’s trust back.

  3. 3
    zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait

    Tremendous, Greta!

    I have sent my letter to CFI as well, calling for Ron to be fired. Obviously I don’t expect everyone to agree with that, but he has shown himself to be utterly incompetent, and has led me to reconsider heavily all of my secular donations and volunteer efforts. There are a very few organizations I might support at this point, but a very very few- namely those that show they actively fight sexism.

    As of now that list is:

    Secular Woman
    Foundation Beyond Belief(not to foundation itself, though, as I am suspicious at best)
    American Atheists(maybe)

  4. 4
    maidao-horton

    I was just coming back to your prior post to check that I had the correct address to mail my snail letter to.CFI and found this – thanks for affirming my letter.

    I had to throw away two envelopes though, because I kept on addressing it the CFI Bored of Directors.

  5. 5
    Eristae

    I’m still trying to decide if my letter (which I posted elsewhere, may post here, and am still poking at in regards to content) is something I feel that I can send under my real name. If I do, it’ll be the first time that my online activities directly overlap with my personally identifiable activities. Given the current attitude towards women in the secular community, that’s actually rather scary. But I also feel that sending the letter under a pseudonym makes less of an impact. So, you know, poking at it.

  6. 6
    seraphymcrash

    So I’ve seen some mention of Ron welcoming Justin Vacula, but haven’t read a detailed account of it yet. It sounds like you are saying directly after his speech in which very pointedly didn’t welcome anyone, he then went and personally welcomed Vacula?

    That right there is absolutely unacceptable. That is sending a pretty clear message as to who’s side he is on.

  7. 7
    Ubi Dubium

    He treated us as if we didn’t matter. As if his opinion on our own issues mattered more than ours, because of his position as head of CFI. He welcomes an open harasser, but snubs the rest of us. He skips out on a fundraiser to attack an invited speaker. This was at the very least completely unprofessional, and that’s as generous as I can be about it.

    One of the reasons I’m so mad a Ron is that this is taking away from the attention that should have been going to the very important ideas that Rebecca Goldstein talked about, ideas I’m going to be thinking about for a very long time.

    I’m also mulling over the right thing to write to CFI about this. I’m not sure yet, but since I was there at the speech, I think my voice should be heard about this. We all need to be heard. Because we matter.

  8. 8
    R Johnston

    He welcomes an open harasser

    While Vacula is certainly an open harasser, I think it’s about time that people start referring to him as a male supremacist. It’s a term that accurately characterizes his views of women and the people he chooses to associate with, and it’s a term that makes absolutely clear how objectionable he is and how objectionable is anyone who supports or welcomes him. A Voice for Men is the equivalent of Stormfront, and Vacula’s association with AVfM has all the implications that open support for Stormfront would have.

  9. 9
    John Kruger

    A conference on evolution introduced by Ray Comfort, peppered with “just a theory” and “irreducible complexity” tropes, could not have fucked up more spectacularly. Any chance I had for supporting the CFI has dropped to zero until they can display a much better understanding of feminism than their CEO. The window for a timely, and perhaps still meaningful, apology is also closing rapidly.

  10. 10
    Kevin

    I agree with John @9.

    My wallet is firmly shut and will remain so until the board repairs the damage done. And the longer they remain silent — collectively or individually — the less likely I am to regard the remedial action (if any) as being sufficient.

  11. 11
    smhll

    Great posts, Greta.

    I will make this very clear: I don’t think Ron Lindsay consciously intended to treat the attendees and speakers at Women in Secularism 2 with contempt. I just think he didn’t particularly care. And that, in itself, is a serious form of contempt.

    My belief is that he thinks his thoughts about feminism are better, deeper, more objective and more informed than mine are, yours are, or the average person that he was speaking to’s thoughts are. I think he severely under-rates that knowledge and thinking abilities of the people that disagree with him. (Which may or may not be contempt, but is the opposite of respect.) I think you did a great takedown on his points that were based on straw. (And, oh my dog, it’s hard to believe he dredged up sister-punisher. It’s really unskeptical of him to quote the Slymepit version of events so uncritically.)

    I suspect that he knew that he would cause a flap, but that ultimately it would be a good and refreshing thing because of the truthiness of his views. (Eep!)

  12. 12
    Ant (@antallan)

    R @8

    Yes! Very apt, in exactly the same way that feminazi isn’t.

    /@

  13. 13
    perplexed

    Random thoughts…
    It has been my experience that speeches as this are not conceived in a vacuum so…Did the board review and/or approve his speech? If so appealing to the board would not be productive. And if they did that would lead to additional questions but I think the key question for many based on the board’s knowledge and participation would be is this the correct venue for Skeptical Women?
    Whether you agree or disagree the board and Ron are certainly entitled to their opinions. As many have written they will vote with their wallets and withhold donations but howling at the moon with the expectation they will change is not a strong position if the board in fact knew or approved this speech. If you are correct and Ron is not an idiot and he had the board’s blessing then they have demonstrated through word and deed philosophically where they are.
    That leaves the option of trying to change the CFI collective position or hope that next year this does not repeat itself though there is no guarantee of that so take those dollars everyone is withholding, send them to you or PZ or Rebecca or whomever and have your own convention without the CFI participation. That way you won’t be disappointed but it is no longer reasonable to expect a different result than what occurred based on the way Ron has continued to dig in.

  14. 14
    ildi

    This was the opening talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference.

    If I understand correctly, he was not invited to give an opening talk but rather a simple welcome, going way over his allotted time in the process. If this is true, I find it even more egregious.

  15. 15
    yazikus

    Wonderful post!
    I just dropped my letter in the mail.

  16. 16
    Suido

    Brilliant post.

  17. 17
    miserlyoldman

    Thank you for getting me off my hump.

    Mr. Flynn,

    I am writing because I have been interested in volunteering for and donating to CFI. I have in the last year become more and more involved in secularism and humanism, and I had heard of a great many things CFI has done for the fair treatment of atheists all over. I have been working only in local capacities, but I was excited at the prospect of helping an organization which has a stronger national voice, and which can hopefully create change more quickly than those with which I’m currently working.

    And then the Women in Secularism conference was treated poorly by your CEO. And then he flagrantly derided a conference speaker during the conference using CFI’s resources.

    There was nothing humanist about his remarks nor what I’ve seen of his actions since. I cannot conscionably join or support an organization providing such a platform, let alone such a distinctly prominent platform, to someone who professes humanism and is supposed to spearhead humanism but who works actively, loudly, and apparently uncompromisingly to ruin the idea of fair treatment for human beings. Human beings whose conference was centered on the idea of promoting fairness for all people.

    I will spend my time and my money elsewhere. I will spend it with organizations that are actually working to support their members. I will spend it with organizations trying to improve the justice of everyone.

    Until the Center for Inquiry can demonstrate its commitment to its stated goals, I cannot support it. If the CEO can’t demonstrate that, I have no expectation that the organization would. I am excited to be interested in a group that has made wonderful gains. But It’s going to take work before I think CFI is that group again.

    Thank you.

  18. 18
    hypatiasdaughter

    I will make this very clear: I don’t think Ron Lindsay consciously intended to treat the attendees and speakers at Women in Secularism 2 with contempt. I just think he didn’t particularly care.

    Actually, I don’t think RL intended to be contemptuous and didn’t care. He pulled a “Dear Muslima”.
    He thought, like Dawkins, that as a big name in the A/S movement, he could stand up there and lecture the little ladies about what they were doing wrong. And the little ladies would shrink in their seats into embarrassed balls of shame about how their aggressive and strident behavior was not nice and was mean to important guys and hurt their feelings. And all the little ladies would slink away after his talk, so abashed that they never said nasty things about “privelege” again.
    It’s a version of the Rambo fantasy – the stalwart hero sweeps in, lays down the law and everyone is so awed by his keen insight and powerful personality that they fall into line.
    I have an ex-friend, a real Authoritarian personality who pulled this shit. Didn’t work for him. Didn’t work for RL.
    And it is a contemptuous way to treat people.

  19. 19
    xenologer

    I went ahead and wrote to them, too. I tried to emphasize as much as I could that the conference was a wonderful thing that a lot of us are looking forward to doing again, since I have fears that they’ll say, “The last WiS was a PR nightmare so we will NEVER DO IT AGAIN.”

    What I want the board to understand is that the reason we were so upset with Lindsay is not that he ruined the conference. He could not have done that, because the conference has already had positive impacts that can’t be undone no matter how carelessly CFI’s CEO risks wasting the immense investment that went into WiS2. Lindsay was just an example of why we still need these conferences, not an example of why we ought to stop having them.

    Thank you, Greta, for posting the contact information where so many of us were sure to find it. I just sent them an email and hopefully we can have Women in Secularism 3 next year with less goofy and preventable drama.

  20. 20
    chrisdevries

    The thing that leaves me most confused about this appalling start to the WIS2 conference is that nobody (at least as far as I know, and this includes myself) was aware of Lindsay’s astonishingly ill-founded opinions, or any significant instances of similarly ignorant, arrogant, patronising behavior before this conference. In fact, while I am familiar with a few leaders in local chapters of CFI, I’d never even heard of the guy before his misogynist-sympathiser coming-out speech. Is he new to the freethought-”leadership” community, and if so, what were the (presumably positive) traits he demonstrated to get hired? And if he’s not new, where has he been since “Elevatorgate” (or any of the other massive misogynist feeding-frenzies since then)? Has he stayed out of the fray until now?

    I only ask because people seem so surprised that the leader of CFI happens to be completely ignorant of the real happenings in his “own” community. People like Lindsay, even when they’re trying to keep their true selves under-the-radar, typically slip up and share opinions or act in ways that clue people in to the fact that they are either seething with hatred and indignation at other peoples’ voices being heard and issues being considered, despite their calm facade, or totally unaware of their own privilege (being so wrapped up in self-important lecturing that people start to hope that they really will “shut up” for the rest of their miserable lives).

    I think we are all just trying to ascertain whether the rot in CFI starts and ends with Lindsay, or whether the very characteristics he’s displayed, with which we are all deeply (and rightly) offended, were ignored by the people who hired him (which is bad) or considered to be, if not in step with CFI’s goals, at least not in opposition to them (which is very bad). I suppose we can wait and see how CFI handles the scandal. Ditching Lindsay is not necessarily proof positive that the organisation is on board with the goals of Atheism Plus (they might just realise that his screw-up is hurting the organisation), but it would be a good start to redeeming their name in the eyes of people for whom social justice activism goes hand-in-hand with atheism. And it needs to happen now, not in mid-June. The longer they take to deal with this, the less confidence people will have that CFI is an organisation that truly believes in expanding the purview of atheism to areas that are of secondary importance to straight, cis, white males.

  21. 21
    Dave W

    chrisdevries @20:

    And if he’s not new, where has he been since “Elevatorgate” (or any of the other massive misogynist feeding-frenzies since then)? Has he stayed out of the fray until now?

    Ron Lindsay spoke out against the hate directed at women last July:

    Members of the secular and skeptical communities should be distinguished by their respect for others, including those with whom they may disagree. Those who are incapable of treating others with decency and respect do not belong in our communities. To such individuals we should say with one voice: take your hate elsewhere.

  22. 22
    dogfightwithdogma

    It has been my experience that speeches as this are not conceived in a vacuum so…Did the board review and/or approve his speech?

    I seriously doubt this. It is true that speeches are not conceived in a vacuum. But I am very doubtful that it is standard practice for the CFI board to review and approve the speeches of the CEO. I think Lindsay managed to foul this one up entirely on his own. In fact, I’d say that he fouled this up, in part, because he went it alone. I suspect that had he bounced these ill-conceived thoughts off others in the organization such as members of his staff, or even some members of the board, someone might have clued him in to just how much of a dunderheaded move he was about to make. Instead, he did wall himself off, in a manner of speaking, in a vacuum: a vacuum of his own design inside his own mind that isolated him from the context of his message and the stupidity of its content.

    That leaves the option of trying to change the CFI collective position….

    I see no reason to assume this to be the case. It seems inconceivable to me that Ron’s remarks represent the collective position of CFI as an organization. I don’t mean to offend or create controversy, but it seems irresponsible to me to speculate that this might be the case, when not a shred of evidence is offered to warrant such a potential indictment of an entire organization on the basis of the remarks of one individual, even though that individual is the ranking member of its leadership team. Ron Lindsay displayed an enormous lack of judgement here. The criticism Greta and others have thus far issued are without question warranted. But to assume Ron’s remarks represent an institutional position are, I think, going beyond what the evidence thus far supports.

  23. 23
    echidna

    But to assume Ron’s remarks represent an institutional position are, I think, going beyond what the evidence thus far supports.

    I would almost agree with you, except that for every day that the board stays silent, the board is signalling that it does not see his speech as problematic.

  24. 24
    SallyStrange

    Echidna, apparently CFI is not going to take action until their next meeting, which is mid-June.

  25. 25
    jackjesberger

    I have only one qualm.
    Which I will preface by saying Ron Lindsay’s speech was every bit the chocolate covered nut-filled chewy cluster of fuck, surpassed only by the clustery fuckness of his subsequent not-pology. A flood of complaints to the CFI Board, and to Ron Lindsay is a wholly appropriate response.

    But I would change the last line to read:

    If he doesn’t, I think it will be very hard for feminists in the secular movement to trust and support Ron Lindsay and his leadership of CFI again.

    My reasons (Expressed in categorical language, but strictly my humble opinion)

    I think it’s important not to shrink the entire CFI down to Ron Lindsay, or even Ron Lindsay and the CFI Board.

    I also think its important not to shrink the CFI down to what Ron Lindsay said or what the Board does about it.

    I don’t think it makes sense to fully trust (or fully mistrust) any sufficiently large organization to be wholly on the right side of these issues. The general population is too saturated with biases, contempts, and privileges in the other direction for any sufficiently large sample selected by other criteria to be free of them. Again, this is not to justify or excuse what happened, nor to tell anyone not to be furious an put off. Be as furious as one normally would be about bullshit of this kind, but only that furious.

    Finally, the original wording that focuses on the CFI in a way the suggests that if they want to be rid of you the have but to ignore your demand to “deal with Lindsay”. I realize this is not intentional, but its the flip side of soft ultimatums of this kind. The problem is this; you should not be that easy to get out of their hair. As the gay rights people finally figured out, the critical communication is that you’re not going anywhere. (We’re queer, we’re here. Adjust motherfuckers). Full stop. Ron Lindsay’s talk was a demand for you and your comrades to “Behave this way, or go elsewhere”. Why not just respond with a “We’re not going anywhere and we expect to do lots of work in secularism within the CFI and elsewhere, both feminist oriented and generally AND we expect the level of anti-woman bullshit to decrease. We are not taking our ball and going home now or any time within the foreseeable future. We are here to become part of your new normal brothers and sisters. You’ll adjust, however long it takes, because we’re not giving you any other alternative”.

    I wouldn’t tie this reply to Ron Lindsay’s fortunes in any way. It distracts from the essential point.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  26. 26
    Greta Christina

    It seems inconceivable to me that Ron’s remarks represent the collective position of CFI as an organization. (snip) But to assume Ron’s remarks represent an institutional position are, I think, going beyond what the evidence thus far supports.

    dogfightwithdogma @ #22: We’ll know whether that’s true when we see how the CFI board of directors decides to respond to this. If they demand an apology or otherwise discipline him in a serious way, we’ll know that his comments do not represent an institutional position. If they double down and back him, it will be reasonable to conclude that it does. Which is why we need to be contacting the board about this matter.

    I don’t think it makes sense to fully trust (or fully mistrust) any sufficiently large organization to be wholly on the right side of these issues.

    jackjesberger @ #25: I see what you’re saying. But how else are we to hold large organizations accountable for what their leadership does? The Susan G. Komen foundation would never have taken action on their appalling withdrawal of support from Planned Parenthood, if it hadn’t been for huge public outcry and withdrawal of support from the organization as a whole.

    As the gay rights people finally figured out, the critical communication is that you’re not going anywhere.

    jackjesberger @ #25 again: Oh, believe me, I’m not going anywhere. I can keep pressure on an organization without lending them my support.

    …for every day that the board stays silent, the board is signalling that it does not see his speech as problematic.

    echidna @ #23: Actually, I don’t have a problem with the board taking a couple of weeks to make a decision about this. Disciplining the CEO of an organization is not a small matter, and should not be taken lightly.

    Ron Lindsay spoke out against the hate directed at women last July:

    Members of the secular and skeptical communities should be distinguished by their respect for others, including those with whom they may disagree. Those who are incapable of treating others with decency and respect do not belong in our communities. To such individuals we should say with one voice: take your hate elsewhere.

    Dave W @ #21: Oy. Apparently, “take your hate elsewhere” somehow means, “but if you show up at one of our conferences, I will make a point of personally welcoming you.”. m-/

  27. 27
    screechymonkey

    hypatiasdaughter@18:

    It’s a version of the Rambo fantasy – the stalwart hero sweeps in, lays down the law and everyone is so awed by his keen insight and powerful personality that they fall into line.

    Actually, I’d say it was more like the Stan Marsh fantasy, where the voice of insight and wisdom and moderation explains how everybody is wrong, usually by lashing out at strawmen on both sides.

    For those unaware: a lot of episodes of South Park involved setting up straw men on both sides of an issue. Then at the end, the Stan Marsh character (one of the four main characters) would give some speech about how “I’ve learned something today. It’s bad to do [X] because [reasons]. But doing [the exact opposite of X] is just as bad, because [more reasons].” It’s a classic “both sides are wrong” golden mean fallacy.

  28. 28
    Dave W

    Greta Christina @26:

    Oy. Apparently, “take your hate elsewhere” somehow means, “but if you show up at one of our conferences, I will make a point of personally welcoming you.”. m-/

    I still haven’t seen any first-hand accounts of that personal welcome. It’s not in the blog version of Lindsay’s lecture, at least not by name.

  29. 29
    jackjesberger

    Christina. I appreciate your replies. I think the Komen example has some false equivalencies though. The term large applies to Komen in ways that differ from it’s application to CFI by several orders of magnitude. One is a tyrannosaurus the other merely an ostrich. So I’m not sure that the rationale of “its the only way to move something that large” applies to both equally. Also, the Komen case was an orchestrated con by Karen Handel to force her Komen Tyrannosaur to bite the PP Tyrannosaur, conspiring with Sen. Cliff Stearns to use Komen to do a little extramural ratfucking. The dinosaurs brawled. Komen got the worst of it. The conspiracy blew up in Handel’s face (to our endless Shadenfreude) and instead of pumping up her RWNJ street cred with a free hit on PP, she looked like a ham-handed idiot and got fired. The scale of the reaction had as much to do with the massive sizes of the agencies as anything else. My point is, I don’t see Lindsay’s speech and defensiveness as equivalent to the kind of amoral quasi-criminal hatchet job Handel pulled. Given the differences in the sizes of the organizations and the different natures of the offenses, is there really as much need for “full pound of flesh” accountability here. Handel underhandedly inflicted financial and political harm on an enemy she wanted to destroy, treating Komen as nothing but a means to her own ends. Lindsay just made a patronizing contemptuous ass of himself.

    Regarding “Oh, believe me, I’m not going anywhere. I can keep pressure on an organization without lending them my support.”

    I have come to have less respect for this stance than I once did, although I understand how it feels necessary in cases like this. It comes down to Kantian ethics in a way; to what degree do you care about CFI as an end in itself, and to what degree do you merely care about it as a means to your own ends? I’ve been asking the same questions of my friends of liberal and progressive persuasion who make similar statements about the Boy Scouts viz. their anti-gay policies. In truth most of the left abandoned support for scouting during the time of resistance to the Viet Nam war. The military style uniforms, the species of naked patriotic demonstration practiced, and their traditional support for America’s military actions just didn’t set well anymore. The people remaining in support and control of the organization ended up being far more rightist and heavily influenced by right wing institutional catholicism and the LDS, making the organization even less appealing to the left. Fast forward to the last decade, and the BSA is getting boatloads of grief and job-lots of no support for it’s exclusionary practices. Well deserved IMHO. Still how many of these people have the slightest real interest in supporting scouting otherwise? How much of their decision to make an issue of the BSA rests on a feeling that that’s the only use they have for it? A lot, in my experience. For this reason, I think we should be suspicious of our own willingness to be an agitating non-supporter. Such a stance only makes sense when the entire raison d’etre of the targeted organization is also the target of our anger (e.g. the KKK or a drug cartel). Otherwise if you’re going to use an organization as an opportunity to prosecute some issues of importance to you, then I think there’s an obligation to support it also; to treat it as a valuable end in itself. I think maybe the CFI, and even Ron Lindsay still qualify in this fashion, in spite of their recent cluster-fuckwittery.

  30. 30
    zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait

    I have come to have less respect for this stance than I once did, although I understand how it feels necessary in cases like this. It comes down to Kantian ethics in a way; to what degree do you care about CFI as an end in itself, and to what degree do you merely care about it as a means to your own ends? I’ve been asking the same questions of my friends of liberal and progressive persuasion who make similar statements about the Boy Scouts viz. their anti-gay policies. In truth most of the left abandoned support for scouting during the time of resistance to the Viet Nam war. The military style uniforms, the species of naked patriotic demonstration practiced, and their traditional support for America’s military actions just didn’t set well anymore. The people remaining in support and control of the organization ended up being far more rightist and heavily influenced by right wing institutional catholicism and the LDS, making the organization even less appealing to the left. Fast forward to the last decade, and the BSA is getting boatloads of grief and job-lots of no support for it’s exclusionary practices. Well deserved IMHO. Still how many of these people have the slightest real interest in supporting scouting otherwise? How much of their decision to make an issue of the BSA rests on a feeling that that’s the only use they have for it? A lot, in my experience. For this reason, I think we should be suspicious of our own willingness to be an agitating non-supporter. Such a stance only makes sense when the entire raison d’etre of the targeted organization is also the target of our anger (e.g. the KKK or a drug cartel). Otherwise if you’re going to use an organization as an opportunity to prosecute some issues of importance to you, then I think there’s an obligation to support it also; to treat it as a valuable end in itself. I think maybe the CFI, and even Ron Lindsay still qualify in this fashion, in spite of their recent cluster-fuckwittery.

    What the hell are you talking about? I can criticize the lack of minority outreach in the Republican party without supporting the Republicans. I can criticize the lack of gay representation in comic books without reading comic books. I surely criticize the Catholic church and small fundamentalist churches for not allowing women priests. Because, shit, these things still affect people and the culture at large, even if they aren’t people I am allied with or know personally.

    I have a little money and a short amount of time on this earth. I can express: “this is why I am not supporting you” and move to work on something else. I don’t need to hang on to “change an organization from within” when there are other organizations doing the same thing that don’t need changing. If the CFI dies but AA takes its place and, you know, isn’t headed by a sexist fool, well, so be it. I don’t need to be wedded to everything I criticize and it is straight up a silencing tactic to suggest otherwise.

    Your bizzare rant on the BSA is just offensive. Liberals aren’t trying to push a “pet issue”, we’re trying to MAKE THE WORLD BETTER FOR LGBT people/MINORITY/WOMEN/ATHEISTS. God damn.

  31. 31
    zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait

    to what degree do you care about CFI as an end in itself, and to what degree do you merely care about it as a means to your own ends?

    Also, to be clear, I give literally zero fucks about CFI, Freethoughtblogs, the Democratic Party, the United States of America, and the concept of humanity except as a means to my own ends: namely, the happiness of all people. If you care more about the CFI as an organization than the people that it affects, you are seriously in the wrong.

    Obviously I can’t speak for Greta, but come on.

  32. 32
    athyco

    Dave W @28:

    I still haven’t seen any first-hand accounts of that personal welcome. It’s not in the blog version of Lindsay’s lecture, at least not by name.

    Justin Vacula (with his @NEPAPodcast handle) tweeted it at 9:40 on the morning of Saturday, May 18:

    @RALindsay a class act – Asks me if I feel welcome, says “Officially CFI welcomes you.” – #WIScfi

  33. 33
    perplexed

    @22… I have and currently do sit on boards and regardless of who is presenting someone typically always reviews a speech. Perhaps not in this case but that has not been my experience.
    When a shitstorm like this occurs it has again been my experience that a board would call a session immediately to try and diffuse the situation even with a brief forward looking statement as fast as possible. The longer an issue remains unchecked, the harder it is to reverse course particularly when one is building momentum like this.
    I think the board’s silence to this point is deafening and as to bringing pressure on them if that’s the case well good luck.

  34. 34
    Eristae
    Justin Vacula (with his @NEPAPodcast handle) tweeted it at 9:40 on the morning of Saturday, May 18:

    @RALindsay a class act – Asks me if I feel welcome, says “Officially CFI welcomes you.” – #WIScfi

    So . . .
    To the attendees in general . . .

    One thing you may have noticed already is that I did not give you a formal welcome to Women in Secularism 2. Of course you are welcome here. We’re very happy to have you with us, but this is something you know already, and, although I don’t want to appear ungracious, why take up time to state the obvious, because the reality is we have much work to do, and presumably you came here for substance not rhetoric.

    To Vacula in particular . . .

    Officially CFI welcomes you.

    I explicitly won’t give you a formal welcome, but I’ll give him an official welcome.
    . . .
    . . .
    . . .
    . . . uh . . .
    . . . there aren’t even . . .
    . . . I don’t even know what to . . .
    . . . wow . . .
    *boggles*

  35. 35
    Silentbob

    @ 33 eliott1

    I have and currently do sit on boards and regardless of who is presenting someone typically always reviews a speech. Perhaps not in this case but that has not been my experience.

    On the other hand, in the preamble to his post of the text of his talk Lindsay says, “it was intended for my eyes only”. It certainly seems to have come as a surprise to the CFI staff at the conference, including Melody Hensley the CFI-DC Executive Director and organizer of the conference who commented:

    I’m completely embarrassed. I feel betrayed that that my allies are upset and the people that wish me ill will are cheering this on. I wish we could go back in time and delete this PR disaster.

  36. 36
    Greta Christina

    jackjesberger @ #29: The question of whether to stay in an organization/ group/ political party/ movement/ etc. and try to effect change from within, or whether to leave because they have crossed an unacceptable line and you can no longer support it, is not a cut-and-dried issue. The line is different for different people; different people have different dealbreakers. But I can say two things just about unequivocally:

    If you don’t have any dealbreakers, if you will never be willing to say “I can’t tolerate this or support this, I have to leave,” you pretty much have no power.

    And if you don’t have any dealbreakers, if you will never be willing to say “I can’t tolerate this or support this, I have to leave,” you’ve pretty much abdicated your morality.

    To take an extreme example: Think about the people who won’t leave the Catholic Church, despite the child rape and child-rapist-defense-and-coverup scandals. Many of those people say, “The Catholic Church does good things, too, I want to work for change from within.” To which I say, “If you stick with them even after this, and continue supporting them financially even after this, they’ve obviously got you for life no matter what. What possible motivation do they have to change?” And to which I also say, “Is there no moral line they could cross that could get you to leave? Surely, if there were such a line, wouldn’t this be it? How bad do they have to get before you’re no longer willing to support them and be a part of them?”

    If you want to debate whether this particular issue regarding CFI should or should not be a dealbreaker, that’s a reasonable conversation to have. (Although my bottom line is probably going to be, “You don’t get to decide for other people what their dealbreakers should be.”) But if you’re going to argue that there should be no dealbreakers, ever… I don’t think that’s a tenable position. And i any case, that’s not a debate I’m particularly interested in spending my time on.

  37. 37
    perplexed

    @35 Silentbob…you very well may be right but my interpretation of where he says it was “for his eyes only” meant his notes were not going to be seen by the general public, not that they wouldn’t be reviewed by the board.
    He obviously did not share it with staff but that wouldn’t be a surprise to me. In that sense he has no obligation to.
    CEOs rarely operate in a vacuum, that’s how they got to be CEOs and they never want to surprise their board however, I am just speculating based on my experience. The bigger issue is if the board knew and vetted the speech then they approved the message and no additional action. It will be interesting if an apology is offered or a note of reconciliation. I doubt it. I would be really surprised if he was terminated. I think the chances of that are extremely remote.

  38. 38
    xof999

    As someone outside of the community, I have to ask: What does CFI bring to the party here? Because based on published reports, I see no actual benefit to having a CFI association with these events.

  39. 39
    melaniemallon

    It bothers me that the board has been silent. At the very least, right away, they should have had a clear message up front on the CFI website telling people they take it seriously and need time to discuss it. Instead they tweeted this after days had passed and people complained about no response. Tweeted but no companion post clearly on the site.

    Even then, I’m willing to overlook that if they make the right decision because I do not want to walk away from CFI.

    The reason I don’t want to is that I know so many wonderful people who work or volunteer for CFI, and the branches all over are already in place and doing good work. I can’t even fathom a scenario when I don’t want to help Debbie Goddard do ALL THE THINGS. Thinking about them and how hard they’ve worked just makes what Ron did even worse.

    But if the board does not condemn what he did–all of it–and not using weasel words, I can’t support the org.

  40. 40
    nualle

    After your first posting of the CFI’s contact info, I sent this:

    Sent by email to tflynnATcenterforinquiryDOTnet at 5:57 PM CST, 24 May 2013:
    Subject: To the CFI’s Board of Directors
    As President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, Ron Lindsay had one responsibility at the Center’s Women In Secularism conference, to be a gracious host. That was his only qualification to share the presenters’ stage and the only justification for his remarks to precede theirs. He had one duty. He abrogated it.
    Instead of welcoming the participants and speakers, he aired misgivings about the conference’s topic that would have been appropriate in private conversation but were wildly inappropriate in the context in which he spoke. Having harbored such misgivings, he ought to have allowed someone else to offer the opening welcome. Having harbored such misgivings, he should have invested the time and effort before the event to educate himself, clarify the use of the phrase, “shut up and listen,” research the conference’s own history to understand why people so value a gathering with these organizing themes.
    Instead of showing gratitude and hospitality to the feminist, secularist women and men who paid to attend the conference—a duty he later scorned as too obvious to warrant overt statement—he explicitly offered CFI’s hand of welcome to a blogger named Justin Vacula, whose antipathy toward feminism and toward some of the conference’s presenters is well documented. This is the first time I have ever heard of a conference organizer endorsing the undermining of his own conference’s presenters. The most generous possible interpretation of Mr. Lindsay’s actions is that, given a year and more of opportunity, he simply neglected to do his due diligence on Mr. Vacula, on feminism in general, and on the experiences of feminist skeptics and atheists online. As a result of failing to inquire when the situation demanded it, Mr. Lindsay embarrassed himself and the CFI when he stood at that podium. His actions through the rest of the conference and since its end show that his pique has overwhelmed his commitment to inquiry. He goes on embarrassing himself and the CFI.
    The CFI does wonderful work. It deserves to be led by someone who remembers that inquiry demands a certain amount of personal humility. Mr. Lindsay appears to have forgotten that principle, or is unwilling to apply it. He is therefore unsuited to the post he currently holds.

    I realized before I sent it that I fell into a rhetorical trap, sticking with the most generous possible interpretation, but decided for brevity’s sake to let it ride.

    Dave W @ 21: Thanks for that quote and link. Given it, I’m truly puzzled by RL’s welcome to JV. If RL had been entirely unaware of JV’s activities, he could not have known of him to explicitly find and welcome him. But having become aware of him, how could RL consider JV someone it was appropriate to welcome? My best guess is that RL is genuinely fooled by this civility dodge. JV himself rarely uses impolite language. RL mistakes that for respect, more fool he.

  41. 41
    Silentbob

    @ 40 nualle

    Lindsay was well aware of concerns about Vacula’s attendance. Here’s an excerpt from a post by Stephanie Zvan who was both a panellist and a panel moderator at the conference:

    On January 22, I sent a four-and-a-half-page letter to Ron Lindsay. Four pages of that letter (plus an additional 11 pdfs) documented the parts of the policy on hostile conduct that Vacula had already declared open contempt for, both with respect to speakers at the conference, potential attendees, the conference itself, and secular conferences in general.
    [... ]
    Here’s the last half page of my letter:
    That is what I think you need to know about Justin Vacula potentially attending one of your conferences. What am I asking you to do with this information? I’m not asking for any particular action. Among other reasons, there is no upside for me in this situation. Once Vacula decided he wanted to attend this conference, all my options were bad. If CFI decides he should not attend based on the information I’ve provided, I will be blamed for excluding him from the free exchange of ideas. You will be accused of cowardice in caving to my demands, but the responsibility assigned by Vacula and the others who “criticize” me will be mine.

    On the other hand, if he attends, I will have a much less productive conference. Everything I do or say will be observed and reported on by a hostile party. Sarcasm and even obvious jokes will be off the table. So will unguarded exchanges about challenges, which was one of the most productive parts of last year’s conference. Additionally, there is a not insubstantial chance that I will have to engage in the reporting process for hostile behavior, resulting in a loss of productive time for me (as this letter has).
    Still, if that is the case, you will have this documentation as a starting point. So I leave you with this information and the unenviable task of deciding how you wish to resolve the situation.

    Thank you for taking the time to consider this fully.

    [... ]
    I received a response to the letter I sent Ron. I won’t share the text because I haven’t asked for permission, but long story short: Vacula was communicated with about appropriate behavior at the conference shortly after I sent that letter. He knew how he would have to behave before he finished raising funds to attend Women in Secularism.

  42. 42
    sezit

    a snip of my letter to CFI Board:

    1. Did Dr. Lindsay consider that his talk and subsequent actions were targeted to growing the organization, or promoting it’s stature on the world-wide stage? If not, why were these not his top motivations?

    2. Based on his behavior in WIS-2, how can future convention speakers trust him to behave respectfully and resolve issues in a professional and private manner if disagreements arise?

    3. Do you think he understands why I and others doubt his respect for us?

    4. Can I or any other member feel confident that he has the political capability, focus and self-control to represent us and our best interests without future derailment from him on personal rants and personal attacks?
    ___________________

    I have not seen any CFI speaker call into question their trust for him to behave professionally towards them in the future, but I shit-sure wouldn’t. My biggest complaint about him is not disrespect, but incompetence. He can’t carry water for a organization of this stature.

  43. 43
    echidna

    echidna @ #23: Actually, I don’t have a problem with the board taking a couple of weeks to make a decision about this. Disciplining the CEO of an organization is not a small matter, and should not be taken lightly.

    Sure, but there are several layers to this. The outermost layer is external to CFI: the speech which is meant to welcome delegates did no such thing, and there is an outcry. There is no apology or other sign from CFI that they have even heard the message: they are taking way too long to acknowledge that there even is an issue. The potential issue of discipline of the CEO is internal to CFI: I agree that they probably need time to figure out the appropriate response. CFI are failing to signal externally that they are listening.

  44. 44
    kellym

    Dave W @ 20:

    Members of the secular and skeptical communities should be distinguished by their respect for others, including those with whom they may disagree. Those who are incapable of treating others with decency and respect do not belong in our communities. To such individuals we should say with one voice: take your hate elsewhere.

    I used that exact quote in the letter I paper mailed to the CFI board last weekend. Such a great quote. At the time, I believed Lindsay’s words because I had no reason to be cynical about his motivations. But I wrote that now I feel duped. With his personal attack, Lindsay has given the imprimatur of CFI to some unrelentingly vicious behavior. I hope that CFI decides to withdraw its support of the Slymepit and to begin supporting those who are targeted for misogynist harassment. No matter how much Ron Lindsay personally dislikes Rebecca Watson, those who harass her and other feminists should not be welcome at CFI.

  45. 45
    jackjesberger

    Greta,
    Again, I very much appreciate your response.
    I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the statements about power and morality. They’re awfully categorical.
    I mean you lead with an acknowledgment of the gray complexity but immediately try to wipe it out with two big black and white statements, giving with one hand then taking with the other. I cry foul.

    I also respectfully point out that you’re still trying to get me to understand your position by citing another extreme example, this time the Catholic Church, a case where thousands of officials committed heinous crimes facilitated and shielded by the entire hierarchy for decade after decade.

    Well, again, this is exactly my point.

    Your reasoning seems to be this

    A threshold of intolerability is reachable. This threshold is ultimately subjective and personal. You can’t tell someone their threshold is wrong. Everyone has to be free to do as they see fit.

    I have serious reservations about this. I laughingly point out that if we deleted telling people how they’re wrong from FTB it would be one tenth it’s current size. I mean we can and should do this, right? Also, I’m not sure it’s true that there aren’t good objective criteria to weigh against the subjective and personal. They’re not necessarily trump, but there are genuine objective differences between Bernard (fuckhead) Law in exile over shielding rapists and Ron (tone-deaf) Lindsay….aren’t there? I think they’re hard to see when one is furious at Lindsay.

  46. 46
    Greta Christina

    jackjesberger @ #45: Let me clarify. I think it’s worth debating where the threshold of intolerability is. (After all, I try to persuade Catholics to leave the Catholic Church.) My point is that, in this discussion, you have not been making that case. You seem to have been making a generic case for “staying and working for change from within,” in all instances. My point in using the extreme example is to show that this is obviously not always the right thing to do — and that therefore, if you’re going to make a case for why people should stay and work from change from within, you need to make it about that situation — not generically. (And my point with the categorical is that, if “leave,” is never going to be an option, it abdicates both your power and your morality.)

    I’ll retract what I said about not telling other people what their dealbreakers should be. After all, I tell Catholics that they should leave the Catholic Church, and that “protecting child molesters” should bloody well be a dealbreaker. But I would be very freaking careful about telling marginalized people that they should stay in a group/ organization that is openly treating them with contempt. And I would be careful to make a specific case for why this instance is one in which they should stay — not a generic case for “staying and working for change from within.”

  47. 47
    Great American Satan

    Screechy @27 – Ya goddamn right. :)

  48. 48
    dogfightwithdogma

    I would almost agree with you, except that for every day that the board stays silent, the board is signalling that it does not see his speech as problematic.

    @23echidna
    You and I have different approaches to evaluating silence. I see silence as just that. Nothing more. Silence does not to me constitute evidence upon which to speculate about what the board thinks. They will meet later this month. I will assume that this matter will be on their agenda. It certainly should be. I choose to hold my judgement about the silence of the board until after they have met. If the silence continues then I think it appropriate to read something into it.

  49. 49
    sleepingwytch(inactive)

    But I would be very freaking careful about telling marginalized people that they should stay in a group/ organization that is openly treating them with contempt. And I would be careful to make a specific case for why this instance is one in which they should stay — not a generic case for “staying and working for change from within.”

    This is why, traditionally speaking, the secular movements have been irrelevant to the needs of the transgender/GQ communities in this nation who have people who are atheists/skeptics within them: because the men running the freethought communities, going right back to Ingersoll have been, regardless of whatever merits they have in other areas, patriarchal assholes who are very much so on the same side (first and foremost) of other men in their society who are also patriarchal assholes, as well as other men in freethinker movements who are also patriarchal assholes. They’re not interested in who people really are, they’re interested in imperialistically imposing their ideas of who they think other people are on other people (like trans/gq). Trans/gq/intersex have been around since humanity began, and, traditionally, in freethinker circles, going back hundreds of years in this country, trans/gq/intersex have been quite unwelcome. Patriarchal assholes are skeptical up only to the point they have to examine the culture they’ve gulped down whole that enables them to suck up to everyone else in their “brotherhood of men”. People like Ron Lindsay and Richard Dawkins are merely the norm, nothing less nor more. They are people that want patriarchal society to continue and are very much invested and interested in it continuing. Until such people are dethroned from power in freethinker movements or reform their views so that they’re not huge assholes anymore, the freethinker community will continue to largely be purely irrelevant to transsexual women like me. Patriarchal assholes don’t protect the weak, they say they protect the weak to get your “location” (where you live, where you work, how you dress, what your habits are) and then they hunt the weak: they hunt you down and murder you or throw you in jail for being “different” in a way that doesn’t conform to their patriarchal ideology of how things should be.

    I’m onto their game, and it’s why I take everything said by any man in new atheist or new humanist movements with a huge, huge grain of salt and stay far, far away from movement atheism, only rarely interacting with it in real life. If the goal of organisms is to survive, I’ll survive and not have community if having community means being murdered by some patriarchal asshole that thinks I “trapped” him or some bullshit, or that I live my life to deceive people or am making a “lifestyle choice” or something.

    Freethinker movements are hugely transphobic, womanphobic, GQ-phobic, intersexphobic cultural seawrecks where people who’ve loudly proclaimed they no longer believe in stupid mirages like god or creationism, wallow down whole, unskeptically, cultural artifacts of the very same christianity they’ve rejected, as if it didn’t depend on religion, and then try to pan their unskeptical gulping down of patriarchal nonsense as “women need to know their place” and “evil transpeople should be punished” or w/e the fuck goes on in the heads of these assholes.

    I’ll stay far, far away from freethinker movements, I am not welcome there, and every time I interact with people there I am risking my life. I rarely go into freethinker movements for very good reason. Ron Lindsey is just proving that, if I want to survive and continue to exist long term (and oftentimes I don’t actually, but in the short term due to suicidality), then I need to stay far, far away from freethinkers offline and even online, keep a very good distance and rarely engage.

    Ron Lindsey and his ilk are why none of these freethinker movements are relevant to my life in the slightest, and will continue to not be relevant to my life.

  50. 50
    sleepingwytch(inactive)

    I hope that CFI decides to withdraw its support of the Slymepit and to begin supporting those who are targeted for misogynist harassment. No matter how much Ron Lindsay personally dislikes Rebecca Watson, those who harass her and other feminists should not be welcome at CFI.

    CFI and Slymepit and other organizations like them are a huge, huge joke to me, full of patriarchal filth that just harasses minorities in order to continue their societal oppression of us. I stay far, far away from freethinker movements offline for these reasons. These people are not interested in inhabiting statistical reality and are nothing but a bunch of manchildren that need to grow the fuck up.

    I’m not interested in inhabiting the same space as them, online or offline, and am very interested in staying far away from them. As well I’m actually interested in going into religious spaces, lying and saying I am religious, and then socially turning religious men who are less patriarchal than the assholes in skeptical movements, against the assholes in skeptical movements, if possible. The people in these movements engaging in mysog and transmysog harassment, Slympit, etc, are not people who will inhabit my life willingly, ever in fact.

  51. 51
    echidna

    dogfightwithdogma@48

    @23echidna
    You and I have different approaches to evaluating silence. I see silence as just that. Nothing more. Silence does not to me constitute evidence upon which to speculate about what the board thinks. They will meet later this month. I will assume that this matter will be on their agenda. It certainly should be. I choose to hold my judgement about the silence of the board until after they have met. If the silence continues then I think it appropriate to read something into it.

    I’m not speculating about what the board thinks. I am observing that the CFI as an organisation, whether it be via the board or the CEO or a post on the official website, has not made any moves to indicate that the speech was problematic in anyway. I’m making a distinction between urgent and important. The silence means that the CFI has not deemed the issue of the upset caused by an unwelcoming welcome speech worthy of timely communication – in other words it is not seen as an urgent issue. The board may see the issue as important enough to deal with at the upcoming board meeting, or not. We don’t know, as you point out.

  52. 52
    Silentbob

    (Crossposted at Almost Diamonds)

    Hmmm.

    Following Stephanie’s link and reading the old comment thread I came across an earlier bit of controversy from nine months ago involving Ron Lindsay that I must have missed at the time. It’s interesting because it’s kind of a harbinger of recent events.

    Here’s a link if anyone’s interested.

  53. 53
    athyco

    Hard copy–page and a half with one inch margins, dropped in the box today to go out first thing in the morning. TL;DR: My thought was to focus on what a Board would expect from a representative with the evidence of his own prior stands and the stands of his intended–and paying–audience.

    To the Center for Inquiry Board of Directors:

    I’d like to take this opportunity to express my concerns regarding CFI President and CEO Ron Lindsay’s talk at WiS2.

    The pool of feminists interested in a conference sponsored by a humanist organization like CFI are not the ones who use the concept of privilege to employ “shut up and listen” as a silencing tactic. Their being unlikely to object to a white male speaking to them is evidenced by a lack of objection with his welcome to speakers and attendees at the reception of the first WiS con.

    Further evidencing the statement above, if they were likely to silence men, Ron Lindsay would have seen the concept of privilege discussed for that purpose in the first Women in Secularism conference. If they were, Ron Lindsay would have had 12 months to react to it or respond to examples of the tactic developing in the blog posts, articles, and talks given by men and women in this pool of feminists (especially as, in his talk, he described the intervening year’s “vigorous debate”). If, through his (public or private) responses, he’d seen no explanation of a goal other than silencing or an affirmation that “shut up and listen” was meant for silencing, he’d have a point for the speakers/donors/attendees of WiS2.

    He did not. He still does not. His audience was made up of men and women who’d done no “silencing” beyond anything that is done on his own blog or the CFI site: posting without opening a comment section, closing an active comment section, deleting objectionable comments, editing comments, blocking some writers after multiple objectionable comments. There is evidence of the first three of these actions on Ron Lindsay’s blog in the latest two posts alone.

    Ron Lindsay said this within his (and I disagree with this number) “200 words”: “I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.”

    Although he said that the concept of privilege is “valid and useful,” he set up a straw feminist speaker misusing it in these remarks. And, I remind you, he did so to a group of secular women and men who identified–attendees, by their willingness to spend hundreds of dollars and speakers, by their time and effort as speakers at this particular conference–as both feminists and humanists. (The speakers performed brilliantly, from all accounts.)

    Even if I agreed with his numbers, it would take an exceptionally good 90% to offset the objectionable 10%. Unfortunately, the other 90% was mediocre: a non-welcome that could have been a welcome in the same number of words, a Bible reading, a superficial history, rhetorical questions for non-issues, a tale of his being “frankly lukewarm” about a new activist group, then becoming “more sanguine,” unidentified yet troubling “I’ve had some conversations,” and anticipation without resolution: “Seems to me the roots of the suppression of women are much deeper [than religion], and that they have affected and may continue to affect the attitudes and conduct even of nonreligious individuals. I’ll return to these points later.”

    Unfortunately, he never delivered.

    As a Board, for what in the “90%” of Ron Lindsay’s talk and subsequent blog posts are you proud to have said to represent your organization at WiS2? What do you consider new, evidently descriptive of its intended audience, empowering, or welcoming? How do you assess this talk in encouraging this group of obviously interested women and men to consider CFI an organization to support because their interests and ideas are compatible and welcome at CFI?

    Finally, do you find that Ron Lindsay differentiated the speakers and attendees at WiS2 from those who employ the concept of privilege and “shut up and listen” as a silencing tactic? Did he uphold this section of the Open Letter to the Secular Community to which he was a signatory and which was published on the CFI website April 2, 2013?

    “There is a tendency to stop listening and treat everyone associated with an opposing position as a monolithic group. People can be painted with views that aren’t their own just because they may disagree with some aspects of your own position. We should listen more so we can see distinctions among those with opposing views and start to move toward a more accurate understanding of the issues rather than being deadlocked into two entrenched camps.”

    No matter the problems with that document that may have kept others from signing it, Dr. Lindsay did sign it. I do find evidence that he did not uphold other provisions in that Open Letter any more than he did the one I quoted above. I see no humanistic approach in “Do as I say, not as I do.”

    Sincerely,

  54. 54
    Martha

    These two posts are just terrific, Greta. I do hope Lindsay and the CFI board read them.

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