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Skepticon makes a principled sacrifice

What, somebody is turning down money because it’s a tainted source? That’s standing up for what you believe. Skepticon is turning down a sponsorship from CFI.

Dear Internet,

We here at Skepticon HQ love our movement. We love that we don’t always agree, are wicked smart and have a penchant for awesome hats. Skepticon has always worked hard to cultivate a conference that celebrates such diversity and awesomeness, doing our best to ensure that any and all know that they are welcome and safe at our event.

However, after witnessing the actions of one of our years long sponsors, the Center for Inquiry (CFI), it has come to our attention that, in order to uphold the values that we have come to embody and endorse, we will no longer accept their sponsorship.

So what does this mean for Skepticon? Well, losing a large sponsor is going to hurt a little bit (we’re probably going to have to sell some of those awesome hats were were talking about) but it has made even determined than ever to make a conference that we can be proud of.

Love,

Skepticon

P.S.-Want to help us keep our awesome hats? Donate today and help us make your conference even better.

Yikes. I guess you can’t even buy friends anymore.

See that donation link up there? Let’s ease their pain, and try to send them a few pennies, if you can afford it.

Comments

  1. fmitchell says

    On the one hand I admire Skepticon’s principled stand. They can choose the sponsors they want, and refusing CFIs support emphasizes the point that CFI fails to support skeptics of both (all?) sexes.

    On the other hand I wonder why I admire their stand, and how this differs from Christian Children’s Fund refusing a donation from Gencon in 2008. Is it that CCF’s decision put the perceptions of ignorant prospective donors over the welfare of children (not exclusively Christian, one hopes)? One could consider that a legitimate business decision, however distasteful. Or is it that the final recipients — children — had no say in the decision? Arguably they’re not capable of making that choice. Or that children desperately need food and shelter while skeptics can live without a big party? Maybe that’s it.

    Sorry if NOBODY ELSE sees the comparison. I just strive for consistent ethics that yield the same results no matter who’s on each side.

  2. bargearse says

    I don’t know, have the pitters already been howling about people choosing what to do with their own money yet?

    I thought you only needed their permission before buying shoes.

    Also done

  3. says

    #2: It’s more like if CCF refused a donation from McDonald’s because of their crappy kids’ meals.

    Also, another difference: Skepticon has a concrete goal that can be achieved with a targeted investment. They don’t need an infinite flow of dollars (although I’m sure that would be nice), they need a few tens of thousands of dollars, and then they can stop. They made the decision to ditch CFI after considering their options and coming to the conclusion that they could raise the neccesary funds in other ways.

  4. jerthebarbarian says

    On the other hand I wonder why I admire their stand, and how this differs from Christian Children’s Fund refusing a donation from Gencon in 2008.

    Perhaps because the reason that the CCF rejected the donation from Gencon in ’08 was a bald-faced stupid one that you don’t respect, whereas the reason that Skepticon is rejecting sponsorship from CFI is a principled one that you do respect?

    The underlying reason for the rejection matters. CCF turned down free money on the appearance that they would be associated with Dungeons and Dragons. Skepticon turned down free money on the appearance that they would be associated with telling skeptical women that their input isn’t wanted at their conference. If you respect one stance and not the other, it’s pretty easy to see why you would respect one action and not the other.

  5. says

    On the other hand I wonder why I admire their stand, and how this differs from Christian Children’s Fund refusing a donation from Gencon in 2008.

    Skepticon’s decision affects no one but themselves. It results in an inconvenience for them that means they will have to work harder to raise the money elsewhere. The CCF’s decision, by contrast, inconveniences the organization not at all. The only people affected by the CCF’s decision are the children the CCF was allegedly founded to help.

    If your principled stand requires a sacrifice from you to make, it is actually a principled stand. If your “principled stand” only requires that others do without while not affecting you at all, it is not a principled stand. It is just grandstanding.

  6. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I don’t know, have the pitters already been howling about people choosing what to do with their own money yet?

    I doubt it will be long before they’re calling those who are commifascististasinazifembots or something equally inane – and dishonestly claiming it’s ‘satire’.

  7. dutchdelight says

    #2

    Sorry if NOBODY ELSE sees the comparison. I just strive for consistent ethics that yield the same results no matter who’s on each side.

    You’re not sorry for anything, you’re just happy you got to prance around bathing in the glory your self appointed ethical superiority.

  8. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    I wonder if the whole fam damily would like to go? I know I do.

  9. says

    Sorry if NOBODY ELSE sees the comparison. I just strive for consistent ethics that yield the same results no matter who’s on each side.

    You forgot to add “flame away” or “feel free to ban me now”.

  10. The Mellow Monkey says

    On the other hand I wonder why I admire their stand, and how this differs from Christian Children’s Fund refusing a donation from Gencon in 2008.

    Because there is more to an action than the generic description of “refused funding on principle.”

    Let’s say there are two groups of people protesting publicly. One group is protesting in favor of basic human rights. The other group is protesting in favor of denying those basic human rights. Both are taking a stand on their principles! Must you support both equally? Are they ethically equivalent?

    In this case, we have a conference that doesn’t want to be associated with a group whose public leadership is being dismissive and hostile towards feminists. Refusing funding from that group causes no measurable harm, but it shows solidarity with those who are harmed by the marginalization of women’s voices.

    In your example, we have a charity that doesn’t want to be associated with a group founded in memory of the creator of Dungeons and Dragons. Refusing funding from that group denies money to those who might be aided by the charity and accomplishes absolutely nothing.

    We can accept that both the charity and the conference have a right to make these decisions without applauding both of them. They both have the freedom to make these decisions, but the reasons for their decisions and the consequences of their decisions are different. Reasons and consequences matter.

    When judging a “principled stand”, you need to actually consider the fucking principles involved.

  11. ChasCPeterson says

    However, after witnessing the actions of one of our years long sponsors, the Center for Inquiry (CFI), it has come to our attention that, in order to uphold the values that we have come to embody and endorse, we will no longer accept their sponsorship.

    *clenched-tentacle salute* for Skeptican’s ethical action.

    but omg, that sentence!
    wow, it’s bad.

  12. says

    I just strive for consistent ethics that yield the same results no matter who’s on each side.

    I am not sure I understand the concept here. Is is just a matter of not looking hypocritical for the sake of not looking hypocritical?

    My ethics are primarily outcome-based (which has to include unintented consequences), which sometimes means looking hypocritical, i.e. condemning [action X] when done in a way that bad things result, but supporting it when good things will result (where [action X] can be anything, like boycotting*, protesting, etc.); pretty much the only situations I can think of to avoid such appearance of hypocrisy seems to be a)if the popularization of a particular tactic is going to do more harm in the long run, should your opponents decide it’s ok to use it on everything now; and b)if you wish to retain a certain authority on ethics among people who believe that such perceived hypocrisy weakens your authority on that topic.

    – – – – – – – – –
    *for example:
    Montgomery Bus Boycott = good
    every fundie boycott of anything over gay rights = bad

  13. says

    @Chas
    True, that sentence is quite poorly phrased. If you remove the interposed sections, you get:
    “…it has come to our attention that … we will no longer accept their sponsorship.”

    I doubt that’s what they really meant.

  14. ChasCPeterson says

    sentence meiosis

    ha!

    [although the biopedantry part of my brain thinks it’s more like sentence syngamy]

  15. David Marjanović says

    it’s sentence meiosis

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    Day saved! :-)

    although the biopedantry part of my brain thinks it’s more like sentence syngamy

    I think it’s a crossing-over much like the one illustrated here.

  16. elind says

    I read some of these links and fail to understand the issue. Nothing concrete, just a hissy fit of personalities, and the fit sounds like it is mostly on one side.

  17. says

    ha!

    [although the biopedantry part of my brain thinks it’s more like sentence syngamy]

    i guess I was thinking specifically of homologous recombination/chromosomal crossover, not so much the rest. :-p

  18. roro80 says

    @fmitchell #2 — that’s some muddy ethics though. Donations are not all created equal, size matters, and there are most certainly some situations where the donor’s identity must be examined in order to uphold ethical standards. For example, a political donation of a small amount almost always implies simple support of a candidate and hir positions. A huge donation may indicate the same thing from a wealthier person, but it may also indicate a desire on the part of the donor to get something in return, or a straight-up bribe. I fund your campaign, you vote for subsidies or tax breaks or lax regulations for my industry. In short, people or groups who rely on other people’s money to meet their objectives not only can be ethical while considering the largest sources of funds, but ethically they must look at whether their big donors are looking for something in return, and whether that something helps or harms the reputation or the values of the group or person.

    From this perspective, the differences between CCF situation and the sponsorship of Skepticon is quite clear. As Mellow Monkey #13 indicates, not only would CCF taking the money not hurt the CCF, but in fact it would help their cause, and the donating D&D group wasn’t looking for anything in return; it was a straight-up donation just to help the children in honor of the man who died. The sponsorship of Skepticon, on the other hand, would come with all sorts of stuff expected in return, likely including a show of solidarity between Skepticon folks and CFI, some input on the content and/or speakers, CFI conference swag, advertising, etc. Skepticon would be in many ways beholden to these conditions if they took the sponsorship. The CCF is one extreme case showing one type of donation, so let’s imagine the extreme case of the other: imagine a Christian group were to offer to pay for everything at Skepticon in order to be allowed to try to pass out Bibles and preach on the sidelines between speakers. This is an obvious case where the values and demands of the donating group are not only not in line with the values of the conference, but would fundamentally harm the conference’s purpose. Although not nearly as extreme, Skepticon obviously felt that the values of CFI are such that their name splashed all over the conference would signal the lack of Skepticon’s support for humanist skeptics. Showing support of the feminists and humanists within the movement was more important to them than accepting the money. There’s nothing unethical at all about that.

  19. says

    Just thought I’d give you all a heads-up on the latest lie coming from the ‘Pitters, which I saw making the rounds over at Hemant’s blog yesterday: Rebecca is boycotting CFI because they refused her demands to fire Lindsay and put her in charge of the organization instead.

    Yep, that’s what’s being said, so if you see it spreading, be ready. Naturally, it’s the sort of thing that the ‘Pitters — those gloriously rational skeptics — believe the instant they hear it with no source backing it up.

  20. says

    I applaud Skepticon for taking this stance, and will certainly throw a donation their way when I come back to a non-shared internet connection. I will also try to make it to the conference this year, if at all possible.

  21. Jacob Schmidt says

    Yep, that’s what’s being said, so if you see it spreading, be ready.

    I think your sarcasm detector is on the fritz, Martin.

  22. throwaway, extra beefy super queasy says

    What indicators are you using, Jacob, to conclude that the comment Martin linked to is sarcasm?

  23. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    @Fmitchel

    You are woefully and possibly intentionally misapplying Kant

    This seems to be a varient on the “Hitler ate sugar” arguement.

  24. says

    Martin:
    Wow, that is pathetic.

    ****
    I see Edward Gemmer has such wonderful insight in that thread:
    ” Well if I have to sacrifice some credibility, I’m all for it. My biggest frustration with this community is that it seems constantly in these battles over nothing and has little to offer people with bigger problems”

    “…battles over nothing…” , “…bigger problems…”. ???!!!

    Does he ever wonder why various blogs have banned him?

  25. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Sorry if NOBODY ELSE sees the comparison. I just strive for consistent ethics that yield the same results no matter who’s on each side.

    So you deliberately set out to ignore ethically relevant differences and then are confused when your resulting ethical overgeneralizations are a confusing mess?