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Jun 23 2013

Apologies Are Hard: Stephanie Zvan

I urge everyone who cares about the Ron Lindsay/ CFI thing to read Stephanie Zvan’s piece about it. It has some actual facts and information that may help you make a decision about how to respond, as well as some very good analysis. Here’s a brief excerpt to give you an idea of where she’s going:

Apologies Are Hard

They’re almost never ideal, for lots of reasons. Emotions are high. Full understanding rarely happens with the immediacy of a cartoon light bulb over someone’s head. The harm that has been done can rarely be undone simply with words. It is easy to view words as trivial.

When apologies are really, really good, people hold them up as shining examples, but this is the sort of thing that happens in the English-speaking world maybe once a year. Most apologies have the kind of faults we expect and deal with in any other communication.

With that said, I want to thank Ron Lindsay for his remarks yesterday evening on the CFI blog. They give me hope for moving forward on this, and they help me resolve the dilemma of wanting to support the good work of my friends at CFI while being unable to support the management.

I’m still processing my own response — again, I’m at a conference today, and then I’m traveling — but as of this writing, I’m leaning towards a response that pretty much agrees with her.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    This is good news, especially if it’s accompanied by listening and learning.

    I look forward to an announcement of what comes out of the branch leader’s meeting: agreements, policies, actions?

  2. 2
    muggleinconverse

    I hope that she is right and this is the beginning of a better CFI and a more aware Ron Lindsay, but I doubt it. The apology itself still skirted around the issue. To me, it seemed like it was only given because their last statement only exacerbated the problem. The fact that they closed the comments also makes me doubt that anything has been learned.

  3. 3
    echidna

    muggleinconverse, I’m not worried about the closed comments; the statement needs to be given time to absorb, and comments would detract from that. However, given the mindset Ron Lindsay displayed at WISC2, and the slipperiness of the board statement, even if one were to grant Ron good intentions and an epiphany in reading the letters, it would be too much too soon to imagine that he now fully gets it. Not enough time has elapsed, nor has he indicated a fuller understanding in the apology. Time will tell.
    At least it isn’t a weasel apology.

  4. 4
    Greta Christina

    Re the closed comments: I would like to point out that, unless a blogger (or an organization hosting a blog) is willing to very closely moderate that blog, especially in a blog post about feminism in an atheist blog, the comments will soon be overrun by the Slymepit. They will overrun any blog in the atheosphere that lets them. And unless you’re more or less a full-time blogger, you may simply not have time to moderate a contentious comment thread as much as it will need to be moderated. I don’t love it when blogs close comments… but sometimes, it’s the smart and responsible thing to do.

  5. 5
    dezn_98

    I read the post and the apology… I am not convinced. It really sounded like a “not apology.” I more or less read it as “I am sorry I hurt my organization and I am sorry I offended some people”…. and vague language like that can mean anything. It could mean that “I still think what I said was right.. but I am going to be smarter about where I voice my opinion.” Which is better than nothing, but still not someone I would be comfortable around.

    The only reason, I suspect anyone would accept this apology is because of the post you linked to. Where Zvan said that to the best of her knowledge this seems like a sincere apology. Yet it is still really vague. It is only because someone trusts Zvan’s opinion that someone would accept the apology.

    What I like to do with apologies is not accept them until I see some action on that persons part. An apology, at least for me, opens the door into letting someone in again – whether or not they make it inside depends on how they act after the apology. I would just wait till I see something more concrete, but leave the door open because this may be a good first step. I am very skeptical though, peoples minds do not change easy… especially when it comes to feminism.

    That is just me though…

  6. 6
    jamessweet

    My opinion, it was a partial not-pology (lots of “I’m sorry people were offended” type of stuff), but there was enough of a core of a real apology (particularly the bit about “From the letters sent to me and the board, I have a better understanding of the objections to the talk.”) that I think people are right to see progress.

    As Zvan says, this is not a “shining example”, but it shows Lindsay has shifted his thinking at least a little, and is taking the pushback seriously. That’s a good thing.

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