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Richard Dawkins Blackballed Rebecca Watson From Speaking at the Reason Rally.

I’ve been hearing these stories behind the scenes for a while now, but it was always told to me in confidence, so I couldn’t say anything publicly. But now the story is being told publicly. On the Skepchick blog, Sarah Moglia reports that Richard Dawkins blackballed Rebecca Watson from speaking at the Reason Rally.

At this time (September of 2011), Dave Silverman was heading up the Reason Rally Committee. There was still quite a bit of planning and promotion that needed to be done, so Dave asked Richard, Elizabeth, and Sean to make videos to promote the Reason Rally. (The video Richard ended up making is still viewable.) Richard was standing behind the podium, and he asked Dave something along the lines of, “What exactly is the Reason Rally?” Dave started explaining it, and as he did, someone who was waiting in the line outside opened the door to peek inside and we could all hear a lot of noise. I rushed up the aisle and made frantic “shut the door” gestures at the people peeking inside, and they did. As I walked the ten feet back, I couldn’t hear everything Dave was saying, but I heard the name “Rebecca Watson.” Richard suddenly had a very angry look on his face and I heard him almost shout, “No, absolutely not! If she’s going to be there, I won’t be there. I don’t want her speaking.” and then Dave immediately replied, “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.” Richard huffed for a moment, Dave continued to placate him, and then he made the video.

I’ll have more to say about this in the next day or two. For now, I want to echo PZ Myers’ pledge: I will not blackball other speakers. I’ll decline to speak at conferences that have almost-all-white or almost-all-male lineups. And I’ll add a caveat that PZ didn’t: I’ll decline to be at a conference with someone I consider to be unsafe — someone with a well-documented or credibly-reported history of harassment, threats, assault, or other unsafe behavior, towards myself or others. But I will not refuse to attend a conference, or demand/ request that another speaker be removed from a conference, simply because of personal or ideological differences.

Comments

  1. says

    Yeah but Rebecca is out to destroy Richard Dawkins’ career and blacklisting somebody is the worst thing ever.
    Only I’m waiting for the usual suspects to ralley behind Dawkins telling us why it is exactly OK if a pretty famous and rich guy usues his status to get a young and not that rich woman kicked out…

  2. dezn_98 says

    At this point no one should be surprised at Dawkins sexist and racist behavior. He is a straight up example of what happens when you challenge the white straight male power structure.. they pay all the lip service they want towards “equality” but when push comes to shoves… as soon as women or people of color or gays or transgender folk try to make them share their power – in this case the power of the podium – they will flat out refuse to let minorities have their say. They only want the kind of minority that they can “classify” and fit into a box.. as soon as any minority challenges their power directly and does not placate their egos’ instead demands rights.. then.. then their bigotry will come out.. then you will see their true faces. That is the face of the modern “egalitarian” white straight male… they do not want real equality where minorities can speak to power in a direct strong fashion.. they want “equality” in the sense that minorities remain quite and complacent while the power structure of privilege still remains. Make no mistake.. people like Dawkins.. do not want to lose power.. and his actions towards minorities in general proves that he does not stand for actual equality… instead he wants this misogynistic racist version of events where straight white males get all the say… and minorities remains in the background quite and complacent.

  3. says

    Quite frankly, Giliell, I can’t see why anyone in his right mind would defend this guy at all. This incident shows he’s too babyish to even act the part of a grown-ass man, let alone the wise professor at an elite English university. What kind of smart, well-spoken leader loses his temper in public at the mere mention of Rebecca Watson’s name, and then explicitly demands that she not be allowed to speak at someone else’s event?

  4. says

    As a matter of curiosity, would you consider declining to be a conference if, say, the following were scheduled to speak/attend:

    1. Richard Dawkins
    2. Michael Shermer
    3. Thunderf00t
    4. Al Stefanelli
    5. Bryan Fischer

  5. ceesays says

    what dezn_98 said. every word.

    And I know it’s only going to get worse, because there are people at the top of the skepticism crowd who are just awful, and they only get worse every time another story about them comes out, and if that’s what mainstream atheism wants, well, carry on supporting your despicable white men.

  6. seraphymcrash says

    #4

    Well that’s an all white all male list, so it certainly fails the diversity test. Also, what would the topic or theme be, and why would they want Greta on it (unless it was just as a target)?

  7. says

    #6

    Yes, but the question was not whether she’d accept being on a panel. Nor was it a suggestion that they were the only people on the panel, or that they were all on the panel.

    I was curious if she found these individuals to be unsafe. Examples help understand the nature of:

    I’ll decline to be at a conference with someone I consider to be unsafe — someone with a well-documented or credibly-reported history of harassment, threats, assault, or other unsafe behavior, towards myself or others.

  8. says

    @4: At the very least, you’d have to explain what either of those people had to offer that would compensate for the embarrassment of having their name(s) near mine on any list. And my demand for such explanation would NOT be quiet or through private channels.

  9. says

    #8

    Huh? I am simply asking if those people meet the conditions of the additional caveat Greta added to PZ’s pledge. I am not demanding that she should attend or not attend, just asking whether she will.

  10. dezn_98 says

    @ shripathikamath

    Are you serious? My pattern recognition software practically exploded reading your first post. I mean that list… Bryan fischer? Are you serious?

    You come in here and name the most vocally racist homophobic sexist people in the movement – the leaders that function in a way that tries to force the movement to remain straight white old and male… and people who straight up reach harassment levels of oppression when it comes to minorities… and you expect people to take it on “good faith” that you are “just asking questions” with no motive?

    I men, I basically read your post and saw it as someone trying to win points with a bad argument. I actually could not read it as someone acting “in good faith” and just was “curious.” I kind of would have to deny the reality I live in to do that!

    So either you are being extremely obtuse due to ignorance or childishly coy… My instinct says.. you are being coy.

    However, I could be wrong… ignorance is a pretty common phenomenon. So let me just ask you a question.. what do you think is wrong with that list? I told you what I think – that this list is basically filled with huge privileged bigots. What do you think? Cause.. now, despite my preconceived notions, and ignoring my BS radar… now.. I am curious to what you think.

  11. Greta Christina says

    As a matter of curiosity, would you consider declining to be a conference if, say, the following were scheduled to speak/attend:

    1. Richard Dawkins
    2. Michael Shermer
    3. Thunderf00t
    4. Al Stefanelli
    5. Bryan Fischer

    shripathikamath @ #4: As of this writing, I would decline to speak at a conference if Michael Shermer or Thunderf00t were scheduled to speak, as I do not consider them safe. I would attend a conference if Richard Dawkins or Al Stefanelli were scheduled to speak, since I haven’t heard any reports of unsafe behavior on their parts — but I might participate in protests against their ideas.

    I’m finding it hard to imagine a situation where both Bryan Fischer and I would be invited to speak at the same conference. Any conference he would speak at would almost certainly be one organized around ideas I passionately oppose. So I can’t really answer that one.

    And if these five were the only speakers other than myself, I would definitely decline, on the grounds that it was an entirely white and overwhelmingly male roster.

  12. doublereed says

    I wanna play the game too. What if the lineup was:

    1. Ayn Rand
    2. Andrea Dworkin
    3. PZ Myers
    4. EW Jackson
    5. God

  13. says

    Isn’t your promise to not attend a conference with a mostly male list self-defeating? Surely conference attendee conduct policies and positive protections would be of greater concern.

  14. thinkfree83 says

    I concluded long ago that Richard Dawkins is the CS Lewis of atheists, as both seem to occupy the same niche in the minds of their respective followers. Their backgrounds are almost identical. Both were/are members of the lower English gentry who were born outside of Britain proper (Lewis in Ireland, Dawkins in colonial Kenya). Both went to boarding schools that fed into the Oxbridge system. Both men later became Oxbridge professors. Both became public apologists for their respective philosophical positions. Maybe what this shows is that Americans just want an Oxbridge professor of their very own to tell them what to do.

    From what I gather, CS Lewis died before issues of race, class, and gender became pressing concerns. Dawkins, however, has no such excuse. It would be one thing if he acknowledged that he, as a Oxbridge professor and public intellectual, has the kind of privilege that most of us can only dream about. Yet he seems oblivious to all of this, preferring to blame social ills on religious others rather than examine how he benefits from and supports, whether consciously or not, institutionalized racism and sexism. The problem with Dawkins is part of a larger problem with the atheist movement, namely that it lacks a grand vision. That is, for atheist leaders like Dawkins, the ideal world would essentially be the status quo, except nobody goes to church/temple/mosque. They are only interested in confronting sexism and racism as long as they can blame religious people/organizations. When it comes time to examine their own attitudes and actions, they fail spectacularly every time.

  15. Greta Christina says

    Isn’t your promise to not attend a conference with a mostly male list self-defeating?

    Icaarus @ #15: How is it self-defeating? I’ve been arguing for years that having more diverse speaker lineups at conferences promotes more diverse attendance and participation. I want to put my money where my mouth is. How is it self-defeating to tell organizers, “I don’t want to be the only woman in your lineup, or one of only two — if you want me at your conference, you need greater representation of women”?

    Surely conference attendee conduct policies and positive protections would be of greater concern.

    Both are important. Why is that an either/or choice? Why can’t we promote both?

  16. A. Noyd says

    Icaarus (#15)

    Isn’t your promise to not attend a conference with a mostly male list self-defeating?

    Accepting tokenism in the place of diversity is what’s self-defeating.

  17. says

    Cripes. And I display the fact that I often have to read things several times before they sink in, because now, on my THIRD reading of this post, I actually see that my assumption was plainly mentioned in the post.

    Sorry.

    I’m doing very poorly at processing lately.

  18. says

    I’ve tried to write a response. I can’t. The fact that I can’t must mean that the premises for my original question were flawed. I yield the floor.

    I will, in the future, use your (and others with similar pledges and histories of supporting them) attendance as a benchmark to see whether I should be supporting a specific conference.

  19. hjhornbeck says

    Forgive me for being slightly OT and sit-stirring, but this one’s been bugging me. What would you do about this speaker lineup, Christina?

    1. Jim Alcock
    2. Ophelia Benson
    3. Greta Christina
    4. Bill Cooke
    […]
    25. Benjamin Radford

    Because it’s gonna happen in two months: that’s part of the speaker lineup for the upcoming CFI Summit.

    Even taking CFI at their word, they’ve been hypocritical about their Code of Conduct. Ron Lindsay claims it is zero-tolerance, but admits that Radford was found to have done wrong. Stollznow goes much further, claiming Radford is a serial sexual harasser and has committed sexual assault. She also claims that, as part of the settlement process, CFI agreed she and Radford cannot be at the same conference.

    In short, Radford may be someone unsafe to hang around, and CFI may have effectively blacklisted Stollznow and violated their own harassment policies.

    I would consider that good reason to drop out of CFI Summit, but then again I’m not getting my living from the speaker’s circuit, nor am I as connected as you. I could be missing something here.

  20. says

    I read this on Skepchick and I just … sighed. Sad, shameful behaviour of course, but unfortunately not at all unexpected or revelatory in the least, given the general recent atmosphere of (“famous white atheist guy turns out to be petty/creepy/plain unsafe bastard – who knew?”). Obviously RD already had a massive problem with Rebecca’s habit of not deferring to his overwhelming greatness and his unapologetic sexism was already common knowledge, but to more or less have her Expelled™ via blackmailing Dave Silverman, more or less shutting the door in her face … sheesh. That’s the behaviour of a pampered rockstar douche.

    Of course, the Whine-Pit is already in overdrive, dissembling, deploying their boilerplate apologetics and displaying their “free speech” double-standard proudly – they who shriek when blocked on twitter or banned from a blog for “dissent” are practically queueing up to tell us all, in excruciating detail, how this wasn’t simply a case of someone in a position of power nakedly abusing it to shut down someone he didn’t like, someone who dared critcised him.

  21. Holms says

    @ 3 Raging Bee
    Quite frankly, Giliell, I can’t see why anyone in his right mind would defend this guy at all.

    And yet, I guarantee that they will.

    @ 19 Jafafa Hots
    Now I think (unless I’m wrong, which I often am) I see some context for PZ’s pledge post.

    Cripes. And I display the fact that I often have to read things several times before they sink in, because now, on my THIRD reading of this post, I actually see that my assumption was plainly mentioned in the post.

    You uh could also have seen the context simply by checking out the link he put in the first line of his pledge post…
    :)

  22. Steve Caldwell says

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

  23. Mark R says

    I don’t know if you saw the AA response:

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

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

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

    American Atheists and Mr. Silverman appreciate Ms. Moglia’s effort to bring attention to the issue of blacklisting speakers despite that in this particular instance she was not in possession of all the facts. Like many other organizations, American Atheists has faced occasional criticism and threats of boycott for its choice of speakers, but maintains the stance that the growing atheist community is big enough, diverse enough, and reasonable enough to understand the value in diverse perspectives.

    American Atheists believes this is an opportunity for consciousness-raising and growth, and continues to encourage and support reasonable and open discourse about controversies for the wider benefit of the long-term goals of atheism activism.

  24. terrellk70 says

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

    That’s the lamest excuse American Atheists could come up with, it’s like saying, “Yea I robbed the bank, but I didn’t keep the money.” This is really hard for me, first I find Dawkins and Silverman have feet of clay. Then I find out they have dog shit on the bottom of their clay feet. Greta I like your version of pledge, I’m going to use it in deciding the conferences I’ll attend. I hope more speakers will get on board with it.

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

    Woah, the fuck. I remember the old forum debacle. That email is just- the fuck- i don’t even know what to say on that.

  26. gingerbaker says

    Yeah but Rebecca is out to destroy Richard Dawkins’ career and blacklisting somebody is the worst thing ever.
    Only I’m waiting for the usual suspects to ralley behind Dawkins telling us why it is exactly OK if a pretty famous and rich guy usues his status to get a young and not that rich woman kicked out…

    Let me be the first, then. I’m not going to defend Dawkins’ pettiness here, although it is understandable. But the behavior by Rebecca Watson or Stephanie Zahn or whoever it was that called for a boycott and blackballing of Dawkins after his Muslima letter ( or stood by while their blog was overrun with more than a hundred (?) hysterical comments calloing for same, was, yeah, even worse.

    The economic status of Dawkins relative to Watson is irrelevant.

    At this point no one should be surprised at Dawkins sexist and racist behavior. He is a straight up example of what happens when you challenge the white straight male power structure.. they pay all the lip service they want towards “equality” but when push comes to shoves… as soon as women or people of color or gays or transgender folk try to make them share their power – in this case the power of the podium – they will flat out refuse to let minorities have their say. T

    That no one here has yet to call you out for such a ridiculously hyperbolic statement is a marker ignored at your own peril, folks. FFS, Dr Dawkins hasn’t paid his KKK dues in years.

  27. says

    @gingerbaker:

    You don’t seem to be aware of what you’re arguing cause you’re not even remotely on track with what you’re saying.

    After the Dear Muslima comment, Rebecca Watson said she wasn’t (personally) going to listen to Dawkin’s speeches or buy his books. She never called for a boycott, this is the culmination of what she said in response:

    That’s where you come in. You, dear reader, have been incredible. You posted in response to Dawkins on the Pharyngula thread, bravely battling both him and the hoards of clueless privileged people who didn’t get it. You emailed me to tell me to keep talking. You introduced yourself at SkepchickCon and told me how much you loved Skepchick and SGU. You wrote blog posts and made videos and were kick ass, and you made me realize that Dawkins is not the present. He is the past.

    So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer.

    Despite the fact that I’ve seen hundreds of comments from those of you who plan to do the same, I’m sure Dawkins will continue to be stinking rich until the end of his days. But those of us who are humanists and feminists will find new, better voices to promote and inspire, and Dawkins will be left alone to fight the terrible injustice of standing in elevators with gum-chewers.

    She’s talking about a personal decision not to recommend his books or attend his lectures. She’s seen others do the same. She’s not calling for a boycott and it keeps getting reproduced as such. In the final paragraph she even says he’ll be stinking rich til the end of his days.

    And you clearly misread Dezn’s post since they were not talking about Dakwins in the latter half of the quote, but the white straight male power structure. Dawkins is being called racist and sexist cause he’s a raging homophobe and clearly doesn’t understand the issues regarding systemic sexism.

  28. ohiofreethinker says

    @14:

    1. Ayn Rand
    2. Andrea Dworkin
    3. PZ Myers
    4. EW Jackson
    5. God

    I would love to see the Q&A session for that one.

  29. says

    #12

    Are you serious? My pattern recognition software practically exploded reading your first post. I mean that list… Bryan fischer? Are you serious?

    Yes. Now, you may fuck yourself. After fucking your pattern recognizer. Or before.

    I do not care for the order.

  30. Greta Christina says

    shripathikamath @ #40: Do not tell other commenters in this blog to fuck themselves. Doing so is a violation of my comment policy. It is fine to criticize and even insult ideas and behavior: it is not okay to personally insult people. Do it again, and you will be banned from this blog. Thank you.

  31. says

    Greta, please go ahead and ban me right now. I intend to do it again when people who do not use the “banned” words but are the banned words personified. Except, I’d suffix their title with -wits.

    Seriously, do you think that their comments are warranted based on what I asked on this post, let alone what I ever said on your blog?

    You really think that the asshole who I asked to fuck him/herself was being respectful of what I said? S/he fucking failed the first commandment of your comment policy.

    Then after you ban me, please read #12, and rationalize how that fuckwit reached that conclusion based on anything I said.

    I wish you all the best and regret that I would not be able to express it again.

    One last request: please leave this post intact when you ban me.

  32. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Seriously, do you think that their comments are warranted based on what I asked on this post, let alone what I ever said on your blog?

    Do you really think your comments were made in a vacuum, that we haven’t dealt with months and months and months of smug trolls popping in to play “gotcha,” or that you could have made your question look any more leading if you were trying to?

  33. Greta Christina says

    Greta, please go ahead and ban me right now.

    shripathikamath @ #42: Done.

    I have, as it happens, already asked dezn_98 to back off from making personal insults in this blog. So far, since making my request, they have respected my wishes in this area. Thus showing that they understand the last and possibly most important part of my comment policy: Respect my right to moderate my blog. You, evidently, do not. I am willing to cut people slack and give second chances when they make mistakes. I am not, however, willing to cut slack when people openly declare their lack of respect for my blog and my right to moderate the conversations in it, and openly state their intention to defy my policy. Goodbye.

  34. poop johnson says

    so disappointed at these comments, GOOD IM GLAD RD put his foot down when he realized that atheism was on a path to be hijacked. Rebecca cries and cries and attacks all elements of men. Ive watched all her videos, heard most lectures and so never says anything constructive about feminism. its just complaints and insults. There is nothing intelligent about her arguments or metaphors. Dont get me wront though, Rebecca is a smart woman, i dont deny that but she has dropped off the deep end. Especially making such a scene with the Elevator man, who clearly broke laws and should be hung for what he did right? How about you people grow the fuck up, and quit being such fucking bigots. We have bigger fish to fry as atheists, we are all human, we live we die. Lets focus on the important things.

  35. (name redacted) says

    ’m nt srprsd h rfsd t spk f sh ws thr. wldn’t wnt t g t th sm cnvntn s hr.
    Rbcc Wtsn s dply nplsnt prsn wth stggrng prsctn cmplx. Sh pssd fmnsm lng g, skppd sxsm nd jmpd strght nt msndry.
    nybdy wh thnks tht Wtsn s n ny wy rsnbl shld wtch sm f hr vds, lk th n whr sh clms f ml thsts dn’t cll fml thsts cnts ngh, thr blls shrvl p nsd thm nd frm ‘mngns’.
    Th clnchr?
    Ths ws th frst 16 scnds f vd t rs mny fr chldrn’s cncr.
    Rbcc Wtsn s n ggrssv scpth wh jst wnts t whn nd cmpln bt trvl mttrs s lng s sh gts ttntn.

    (Generic MRA rant against Rebecca Watson has been disemvoweled, and the commenter has been banned. -GC)

  36. says

    “ wll nt blckbll thr spkrs… wll nt rfs t ttnd cnfrnc, r dmnd/ rqst tht nthr spkr b rmvd frm cnfrnc, smply bcs f prsnl r dlgcl dffrncs.”
    Ths s knd f ndrmnd whn y bn ppl fr dsgrng wth y (lthgh fnd th d f bng ‘dsmvwlld’ hlrs). gr wth mst f K R’s sttmnt, nd thnk Rbcc Wtsn s vry rd ndvdl. Whn wtchd hr vds sh cm crss s dply nplsnt, nd wldn’t g t cnfrnc wth hr thr.
    Dn’t gt m wrng, m ll fr gndr qlty, bt thnk tht Rbcc Wtsn s th wrst prsn t rprsnt fmnsm. thnk pp jhnsn ws rght whn h sd sh hs gn ff th dp nd.
    Prsnlly, Dwkns nvr cm crss s sxst t m, s ’m nt sr why vryn’s wrkd p bt hs nvlvmnt n ths.

    (Comment from generic MRA/ Rebecca Watson hater has been disemvoweled, and the commenter has been banned – GC)

  37. specduckular says

    In general, and on principle, Prof’ Dawkins doesn’t lend his considerable imprimatur to creationists… and I don’t see why he should lend it to Watson either.

Trackbacks

  1. […] A case in point: the backlash against atheist blogger and activist Rebecca Watson when she dared to tell her story about being sexually harassed by a man (an atheist man) at a conference. Many male atheists, including one of the self-important “patron saints” of the “New” Atheism, Dr. Richard Dawkins, attacked her as essentially a whiner and  other claimed she was undermining the Atheist cause (whatever that may be) by DARING to suggest that any freethinker could be a misogynist. Dawkins even suggested it was NATURAL that women will be constantly harassed, propositioned and given unwanted physical attention in public, even at a place where the participants declare their moral superiority to Religious misogynists. Skepchick blogger Sarah Moglia even reported that Dawkins threw a temper tantrum and blacked-balled Watson from speaking at the popular Atheist conference The Reason Rally! ( http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/09/05/richard-dawkins-blackballed-rebecca-watson%EF%BB%BF-fro…) […]

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