Anatomy of another apology

So, Ron Lindsay apologized. That’s good. Not superlative good, but it’s not bad, in any respect.

Someone pointed out privately the timing between my post on Friday dissecting the Kickstarter apology, and this apology. I chuckled, and said that I only wish I had that level of influence. But this does put me in a position where I have to parse the apology in light of what I wrote on Friday, and despite the fact that I do find this apology somewhat wanting, I also know how difficult it must have been to do, and that wins from me a lot of (provisional) goodwill.

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Anatomy of an apology

People are talking a lot lately about what qualities a genuine apology might take — what sort of apology, for instance, Ron Lindsay might be expected to make if many of the feminists he’s so undercut with his opening speech are going to actually accept it and thereafter find it in their hearts to resume their support of CFI, given that most of us have explicitly ASKED for such an apology.

Kickstarter gave us a great example that we can dissect, even where it has a few rough edges yet. They even did it in exactly the right order.

The backstory: a really horrid pick-up artist manual with first draft material including passages like:

Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.

In the context of a relationship where you’re not particularly familiar with a person, there’s good reason why there was an outcry against this rape-culture-steeped, utterly empathy-free, deep-fried nonsense, and why Kickstarter has apologized for not acting in time to shut it down. The Kickstarter was fully funded, and they were made aware with only two hours left before it closed. They were not able to stop the automated processes from finishing, and so this pick-up artist’s manual on how to input Konami codes into women to unlock Sex Mode will probably come into being.

(Then again, it probably would anyway — I have no idea what the kickstarter would actually fund, short of vanity press publishing.)

So, despite the damage that was done, why does Kickstarter’s apology work?
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Two takes on CFI’s non-statement you should read

Kaoru Nigisa at Reasonable Conversation discusses the non-statement made by CFI, including this about the mythologizing that the antifeminist quarters have included in their “Skeptic Women” petition in support of Ron Lindsay’s strawmanning and lack of comprehension about the conference and conversations he was hosting:

We are aware of a campaign, headed by Amanda Marcotte and others, to remove Ronald A. Lindsay from his position as CEO of the Center for Inquiry. We do not support this effort.

Where? Where has anybody, Amanda Marcotte or otherwise, lead a “campaign” for Ron Lindsay to be fired? Everybody I have read has asked for an apology, either from him or on his behalf. And who is calling to interfere with the careers of people? This is completely made up nonsense, a collection of hyperbolic ghost stories told by anti-feminists to justify their harassment tactics. The point of this letter is just to tell the world that the undersigned don’t have any problems with people treating others horribly. They’re fine, so why should they give a shit about anybody else?

Basically, this is weapons grade projection.

And at CFI On Campus, Seth Kurtenbach channels his inner fifth grader to explain why the statement by CFI is less than adequate:

In the second paragraph, we learn that the CFI Board has a wish. A wish is a want, or a desire. Some people believe wishes come true under certain circumstances. For instance, some people believe a genie can make a wish come true. Other people believe wishing upon a star makes your wishes come true. I don’t believe in those things, but maybe the Board does.

The CFI Board’s wish is to express unhappiness. Unhappiness is a lot like sadness. This is a very sad wish. Why is the Board sad? Because of a controversy about their women’s conference. I wonder who did this to them? Whoever did controversy to them must be pretty mean, because it makes the Board wish to express unhappiness. The people who made this controversy must have a problem with women. I hope the Board’s wish comes true, so that they can express this unhappiness, and the people behind this controversy can feel ashamed! Maybe I will wish upon a star that their wish will come true.

People are rightfully upset that the CEO of CFI, Ron Lindsay, brought the feminism conversation’s equivalent of a creationist accusation that evolution is undercut by Piltdown Man to a convention where everyone damn well knew it was a fallacious argument on a number of grounds. They are upset that Lindsay had the temerity to bring up falsehoods and straw dummies in the opening speech for a convention he was holding, in order to chastise the participants over things that are patently wrong. They are upset that he left a fundraising dinner to call one of the speakers comparable to a totalitarian fascist country. They are upset that his lack of professionalism, not to mention his lack of knowledge on the topic, overshadowed the speakers that everyone was there to hear. They are upset that the CFI board’s statement threw the conference itself under the bus by saying that there was controversy surrounding the conference, rather than surrounding their CEO’s actions.

If it takes a fifth grader’s explanation to make that plainer than everyone has made it so far, I more than welcome this contribution to the dialogue.

CFI’s board statement re Women In Secularism 2 #wiscfi

I’m pretty super-busy right now, and can’t really fully respond myself, but I wanted you all to know that CFI has released a statement about Women In Secularism 2 and the controversy surrounding Ron Lindsay’s complete lack of understanding of the movement, feminism, or the place where the actual conversation was at. It’s here, and since they’ve disabled comments (as is their undeniable right), I’m copying it here so you can feel free to weigh in on what you think about it.

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

That’s it.

No mention of any sort of disapprobation for said CEO’s actions in creating the controversy ex nihilo. Just unhappiness.

We’re unhappy too. That’s why we’d like an apology that acknowledges what exactly was done, by whom, and to whom, to cause this “controversy”. That’s what we asked for — an apology, and assurance that WiS3 will happen. That’s it. That’s not too fucking difficult is it?

(I can hear the howls from the haters now: “GOD, THEY SAID THEY WERE UNHAPPY, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM THEM? YOU FEMINISTS ARE NEVER HAPPY WITH ANYTHING!!”)

Miri posts longer “in brief” thoughts here.

My letter to CFI re Women In Secularism #wiscfi

I have sent the following letter to Tom Flynn, who is receiving letters for Center For Inquiry to be shown to the board members when they meet about Ron Lindsay this Friday. It is structured off of a letter that Miriam wrote intending to collect signatures and deliver with multiple names attached. I sponsor her letter in full, but I absolutely had to expand on much of what was said.

To the Board of Directors of the Center for Inquiry:

As an attendee of the recent Women in Secularism conference, I write to register my disappointment and sense of betrayal with regard to Dr. Ron Lindsay’s opening remarks and his subsequent behavior. I support the recent letter written and signed by thirteen of the conference speakers and would like to add my voice to theirs.

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