And another interview

This time Greta talked to Roy Speckhardt, who is Executive Director of the American Humanist Association and on the SCA board, about the hiring of Edwina Rogers and what she’s been saying and how it’s all panning out.

He said she had a particular combination of skills and experience that no other candidate had. I can easily believe that (and see it as a compelling reason to hire her, and so on). Skills and experience matter; no question.

But. There is a problem, nevertheless. Greta sums it up in one question:

…were there any concerns raised during the hiring process having to do with the fact that, you know, frankly, for several years, she’s been working for a party that has been working very much against the values of most people in the secular and atheist movement, you know, not just in terms of the separation of church and state, but on issues such as gay rights, issues such as, you know, abortion rights, birth control rights, etc.?

That is the problem. Good that she has skills and experience, but on the other hand, she’s been using them for the benefit of a political party that is the energetic enemy of secularism and many of its values. That’s a problem.

And a secondary problem that has been developing since she began answering questions is that she’s denying that. Instead of saying (for instance, “Yes, you’re right, but the reality is that I disagree with them on all the core secular issues, so don’t you think I’m exactly the right kind of person to change their minds?” she’s been saying no it’s not, no they don’t, no I didn’t. That’s not working for us.

Greta explained why.

…frankly, during the interview she was extremely evasive, there were several questions, she dodged direct questions, I would repeat questions several times and she didn’t answer them. And these were questions that are serious questions, they’re pertinent questions, these are questions that people in the community have been asking about her and that are very much relevant to her position as Executive Director of the SCA. And I think, obviously, one of the things that this community values is honesty and directness and caring about evidence and reality. Do you have any issues with this evasiveness? Do you have  a sense of how she’s going to be with the press and the media, [garbled] people within her own movement?

I think that’s a key question. We care about honesty and directness and paying attention to evidence and reality. That seems to be not very negotiable.

I found Speckhardt’s answer quite startling.

I don’t take your characterization as accurate that she was being evasive. I listened to her interview, and actually, the first thing I thought of was, “Gosh, you know, I’ve done a lot of media interviews, and if you do media interviews, you learn how to get your talking points across and not worry, necessarily, all the time about the questions being asked. If you want to get your own message across, this is a technique that you’ve got to learn, to get out there and put across your viewpoint.” And I felt like she was being very careful and even reiterating over and over and over again, if necessary, to address the questions that you kept asking and re-asking her. And, so I don’t, I don’t think she was being evasive at all, In fact, I think, in some ways, she could have gone on to more talking points, not sticking to the questions that were being asked as much.

That looks as if he’s saying she did a good job of ignoring the questions and just sticking to her talking points. He said that’s not what he meant, he meant the opposite, and that can be made to fit – you can take “being very careful” and “reiterating over and over and over again” to mean “to be responsive” as opposed to “in her efforts to stick to her talking points.” But then it doesn’t describe what happened. What happened fits much better the interpretation that she did a good job of just saying what she had planned to say while ignoring the questions.

We’re a testy bunch, we secular atheist infidels.


  1. evilDoug says

    I seems pretty clear to me that she is a dismal failure as a lobbyist, in view of her failure to convince large numbers of the people she is supposed to represent that she has anything to offer. And here is someone with the “if you say it loud often enough you’ll always sound precocious” defense. But then, he is doing exactly what she did – ignoring what is put to him and getting his “talking points across”. Kinda like preachers and theists, Hams and Craigs. (Is there such a thing as a Gish plod?)
    My prediction is that she will cost the SCA quite dearly. It looks to me like they will have to decide which will cost them less – dumping her and paying the penalties, or keeping her and facing a potential dramatic drop in contributions (though I have no idea how dependent the SCA is on private donations). I wonder how many people are already thinking “the SCA is finished, what do we do now?”

  2. Woo_Monster says

    We’re a testy bunch, we secular atheist infidels.

    Hear, hear!

    We tend to get testy when people are deliberately distorting evidence and history.

  3. Zengaze says

    Very nice breakdown.

    I’m finding it astonishing, at what point Of the totem pole for an organisation grounded in reason and honesty does someone step forward and take responsibility. Are they too far gone in the Washington soup they don’t know what the problem is anymore?

  4. jamessweet says

    So, regarding the whole “was she evasive” thing, my opinion is that Speckhardt said exactly what he later said he meant to say (i.e. that Rogers could have stuck to talking points and ignored questions, but she didn’t, and instead answered Greta’s questions directly — and that Rogers almost wished she had stuck to talking points more, but that the fact she didn’t showed that the charge of her being evasive was empty), and I think he just didn’t articulate it well and that’s why people got confused or thought he contradicted himself. I understood what he meant, he just stated it in a somewhat confusing way.

    However, my reaction to that is: Did he listen to the same interview I did?!??

    That said… Frankly, I think Speckhardt did an alright job here. I know from reading the comments that that puts me in the minority, but I really do feel like he did okay given what he has to work with at this point. He was a little strawmanny here and there, and his response on Rogers’ evasiveness was not believable — but he successfully made some of the points that Rogers should have made, while at the same time not throwing her under the bus or doing anything to exacerbate the situation.

    Problem is, Rogers told some fibs in her Greta interview, and she needs to do some ‘splaining about that. I don’t think there’s much Speckhardt could have said to erase that. It needs to come from Rogers, and it needs to start with an acknowledgment about the current state of the GOP mainstream.

  5. Ken Pidcock says

    We care about honesty and directness and paying attention to evidence and reality.

    Well, with all due respect…Then stay the fuck out of Washington. As I understand it, Edwina Rogers is, essentially, hired to be a lobbyist. And a lobbyist ain’t supposed to speak truth to power. This is the kind of thing that Sean Faircloth addresses in Attack of the Theocrats. Influencing public policy is kind of a dirty business, and I don’t expect the people who engage in that business to be intellectual allies of mine.

  6. says

    Yes but she isn’t just a lobbyist. I asked about that yesterday (asked people who know, which I don’t). The job is more than lobbying.

    But apart from that – you bet; I do stay the fuck out of Washington. I hate all kinds of marketing and image management and PR and all the rest of it. I’m allergic to it. (Which is ironic, given that many of my relatives were engaged in it one way and another.)

  7. astrosmash says

    Well apparently the SSA is separate enough of an organization that funds flow in neither direction. Let’s those of us who financially supported the SCA jettison that detritus and give to those who can do the most with it. Young folk.

  8. astrosmash says

    Addendum: The SSA is a many headed hydra that cannot be killed in a single stroke like the SCA. The SCA is the smug result of amassing too much power in one place.

  9. Zengaze says

    I’m with astromash on this one. If something doesn’t represent you then don’t feed it. Simples. Plus if people want to regain any influence over where the sca goes it has become apparent that choking them is better than dissent, because they aren’t listening. Our dissent was expected and planned for, actually they expected it to be worse, that in one stroke tells you the regard in which they hold the opinions of this community. Those pesky people that pay us, what do they know.

    I say smash the sca the only way we can, withdraw financial and moral support.

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