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.