Follow up post from Ron Lindsay

With some further remarks on his talk at WiS2.

It’s not a warm document. I wouldn’t call it friendly. But…it might make conversation possible.

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk.  I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk.  From the letters sent to me and the board, I have a better understanding of the objections to the talk.

I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.

Please accept my apologies.

Ok it’s downright stiff. But it still might make conversation possible. I think that would be better than permanent war.



  1. PatrickG says

    It’s something, but he still doesn’t seem to actually get it. It’s hard to tell though. He may have a “better understanding” of the objections, but it’s a long way from that to “acknowledge the validity of” said objections. I daresay everybody has a “better understanding” of the ‘Pitters.

    That said, at least it’s not entirely in the passive voice. “I caused offense” is step up from “people were offended”!

    But this sentence…

    I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.

    This sentence caused one part of my brain to desire chucking grade-school primers across the room, while another just checked out and went looking for bourbon.

  2. says

    The apology is a start, and I agree it is better to work with CFI than to fight against them. I hope it leads to a productive conversation and Ron will have a better understanding of secular feminism.

  3. says

    Holy cow, did someone force him to write that post at gunpoint? I have a hard time detecting much sincerity out of that, other than the “I have a better understanding” line – and even then, the fact that he doesn’t mention much more specifically than that (aside from making people feel unwelcome, which is still pretty damned vague) doesn’t inspire confidence in me that he does understand. But you’re right that this is something, and reconciliation would be nice if it’s possible.

  4. besomyka says

    @1 Someone is going to have to reiterate what is point was, because it came across to me as ‘don’t silence men’s voices’ combined with some missed-class “I googled it” level understanding of the subject matter.

    The more coherent and positive points he could have been making have been said by people other than him as hopeful explanations, but those are rather dubious well-wishing.

  5. says

    @ 7 (and @ 1) – well quite. I’ve said that much myself. Sure, there are feminists who use “privilege” as a conversation-stopper, and very boring they are too. But he had zero reason to think any of us are that kind of feminist, and even less reason to talk to us as if he did.

  6. bastionofsass says

    Sounds like the kind of apology I’d give when I was young and my mommy made me apologize for something and I really didn’t want to do it.

  7. says

    Well it’s no twitter apology but it’s a start. Maybe some progress can be made moving forward if some discussion can get started.

  8. Kels says

    This has got such a quality of “Well fuck, if I have to, here’s an apology. Now can we forget all this?” tone about it. It’s better than nothing, but only marginally so.

  9. elyss says

    I don’t know about the gun to the head but it does read exactly like the sort of apology my son would occasionally be made to make when he’d transgressed to the point of embarrassing me. It would often take many days or weeks of patient explaining afterwards for him to understand what he was apologising for, why it was necessary and what needed changing so that he wouldn’t find himself in that position again.

    I get the sense that for Lindsay, as for my ten year old son (he’s rather older than that now!), this grudging apology, wrung from him against his will (so it reads), containing no recognition of what he actually did that was wrong and consequently no plan for change going forward, is only the very first baby step towards reconciliation.

    The ball is still in his court and I hope the community he has so deeply hurt will not clutch at this and give him more credit than he deserves.

  10. says

    If he’d listened to why people objected to his talk a month ago instead of when they started withdrawing from CFI en masse, so much trouble could have been avoided.

  11. says

    Patrick Link left a comment on CFI’s Facebook page –

    Totally unneeded, Dr. Lindsay’s speech was perfectly appropriate and the shrill backlash from some in the community just served to prove one of his points.

    Uh huh.

  12. Robert B. says

    It does sound like they made him do it… except, mediocre as this apology is, it’s much, much better than the board’s statement. I can’t understand what the board would be after, to drag a halfhearted apology out of Lindsay but not bother to even put content, let alone apology, in what they said themselves.

  13. Claire Ramsey says

    oh my yes, a serious person will always insist on using the term shrill to modify backlash to make a compelling argument. . .

    Indeed the apology reads as stiff. Is it possible that RL is not used to composing apologies, and/or not quite sure yet what he is apologizing about?

  14. Claire Ramsey says

    PS, I don’t think what he wrote after he wrote “remarks” really counts as remarks.

  15. says

    Claire – hmm – he’s a lawyer. I’m sure he phrased it very carefully. (A lot more carefully than he phrased his unfortunate talk, in my view.) The stiffness is intentional. He’s pissed off and wants us to know it.

  16. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    It’s better than nothing, I suppose. The real test is going to be where CFI goes from here, though.

  17. hjhornbeck says

    It’s progress, but not much. When he can explain why what he said was inappropriate (or alternatively, rebut a significant chunk of the arguments against what he said), I’ll take more notice.

  18. says

    My response to Lindsay: Meh.
    My response to CFI: Too little, too late.
    My response to Patrick Link: Your defence of Lindsay’s mansplaining & support of the pro-sexual harassment contingent is boring. “Shrill”? Really? You forgot “strident” and “hysterical”. Also, the whining about censorship and free speech.

  19. hjhornbeck says

    Patrick Link @31:

    Sorry, but Amanda Marcotte’s “LOOK HOW MANY TWITTER FOLLOWERS WE HAVE!!!” was pretty shrill.

    Let’s suppose it was. How does that defend Lindsay or CFI in any way?

  20. rowanvt says

    Patrick, when attempting to converse in the future please attempt to avoid using what is really a very blatant “LOOK! A topic change!” It will result in people being more likely to actually listen to what you have to say… plus you will be more likely to be saying something actually relevant.

  21. brianpansky says

    “what sexism? stop being shrill, woman!”

    oh dear…it’s so perfect. in its own way.

  22. says

    Link must be a ‘pitter. All he’s got is the tu quoque.

    Also, not impressed with Lindsay’s grudging ‘apology’. It’s the response of a guy under political pressure who really doesn’t want to back down.

  23. tonyinbatavia says

    That apology is weak sauce. It’s stiff, reluctant, and not at all heartfelt. Sure, it’s a small step in the right direction, but he really needs to go a lot further to make any conversation truly productive.

  24. jackal says

    RL’s remarks could almost be read as an apology to CfI exclusively rather than to those involved with WIS2. However, I think it meets the minimum criteria for reopening of dialog. Others will rightly have their own opinions on this.

  25. chrisho-stuart says

    My engagement of this has been on the periphery, as an observer. I’m not a woman; I wasn’t at the conference. So it really isn’t my place to accept or reject the apology.

    With the thin excuse that I have been reading about it, and commenting on it at other people’s blogs, and have expressed the view that an apology was needed… here’s my response.

    OK…. that’s an apology. It’s not the old “sorry if you were offended” faux apology, and it’s a lot better than the board managed (setting the bar so low it had to be buried!). I’ll take it for my part as good enough and that means I’m inclined to move on. What’s going to count now, as far as I am concerned, are the events and interactions and engagements going into the future. This may involved more discussion of how to open a conference, or it might not.

    My acceptance lacks a certain enthusiasm; but it’s real. I expect reactions will vary and my own acceptance is not in any sense an implicit criticism of those who consider it too little too late and worth nothing. But for what it is worth, I’d accept it.

    I would have posted this in the comments to Ron’s apology; but comments there are closed. Probably a good move. So Ophelia, you get to host my reaction!

  26. says

    hmm I didn’t notice till I clicked through that theres actually a couple of introductory lines preceding this about how he didn’t feel right talking about it before the board issued a statement.

    Kind of a shame cause this probably would have gone over a better 2-3 weeks ago.

  27. theobromine says

    I’m inclined to be charitable, and attribute the stiffness to the fact that 1) the guy is a lawyer, and 2) it’s a formal statement. I was impressed by the fact that (as others have noted) he did not say that he was “sorry that people were offended” (classic not-pology), he said “I’m sorry that I caused offense”.

    I’m also inclined to be pragmatic: If it was done as a result of political pressure, that at least means that there are people in CFI who are successfully applying that pressure. That’s a start, anyway.

  28. iamsorrybut says

    “I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk” sounds a bit like “I wasn’t necessarily wrong, you guys just got offended.” I don’t think it should ever be used in apologies, at least if you’re trying to sound sincere.

    He should have left that out. He is probably being sincere (the second sentence is a major step up) and doesn’t realize how that might sound to some people. Perhaps I’m reading too much into the phrase because it’s used at the start of every insincere apology ever.

    It doesn’t matter anyway if the paying attendees of WIS2 appreciate it and are made to feel more welcome in WIS3.

  29. PatrickG says

    Cynical me thinks someone had a look at CFIs donations.

    Uncharacteristically optimistic me thinks this is how out-of-touch people can get a bit of real-world feedback. 🙂

  30. Stacy says

    As a volunteer with an ear to the ground, I happen to know that donations did not go down. It’s possible that they would have (and that people were planning to let memberships lapse,) but that’s NOT the explanation for Lindsay’s apology.

    There is a “Heads” meeting happening in Amherst this weekend, so CFI folks are together, and talking about this.

    The apology is stiff, but from what I’m hearing it is sincere. I don’t think it was easy for RL to make it. I think it’s a good idea to accept it. It’s a first step; the dialogue can continue.

    I contend we should welcome this, because:

    1) No person or organization is perfect. We should be looking for flexibility and willingness to learn, not perfect agreement. Ron was willing to listen and change

    2) CFI has a solid infrastructure we can use to advance our humanist/atheist agenda FOR WORLD DOMINATION for a more rational world, one responsive to human needs

    3) Make no mistake: this was a political victory. We’ve applied the stick, and had some success. Time to offer a carrot

    4) The anti-feminists expect us to demand Ron’s head on a stick. Confounding their expectations would be both fun and strategic

    Speaking of which–

    5) I hear Russell Blackford is having a hissy fit on Twitter. If Ron’s apology upsets Blackford and Stangroom, I call that evidence of progress, and I’m counting it as a victory. 🙂

  31. A Demonic Duck Of Some Sort says

    If CFI’s donations didn’t go down, AND they no longer have to sponsor Skepticon, I’d say they made a nice little profit from this whole affair.

  32. PatrickG says

    @ Stacy:

    From my perspective*, that seems like a good summation. Well, mostly good. It’s very difficult to accept your statement here:

    Ron was willing to listen and change

    I’ve seen zero evidence for the first, and only inferential evidence for the second. Lindsay shows every sign (as far as I can tell) as being pressured into a very brief statement, and, well, actions matter more than words. I’ll definitely be watching, however, and nothing’s written in stone!

    As to your fourth point… while it’s fun to occasionally bat them around in forums, I have no desire to weigh their reaction to what I think I, personally, should do with my money and time. I know I’m not alone in recognizing that CFI has done some extremely good work (i.e. your #2), and tub/baby situations rarely work out for anyone, but it’s going to take a lot more from CFI to win back my trust.

    I appreciated CFI’s work very much during my 2-year stay in Kentucky. They did a great deal of support work at the local level there. However, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this was primarily a locally volunteer-driven effort with some support from the national organization. And, of course, the national organization has not been covering itself in glory lately.

    I don’t know if this feedback is helpful, but since you’re “in”, as a volunteer, take from it what you will.

    * Merely as a prospective donor to/volunteer for CFI, withheld at this time in favor of other causes within my limited means.

  33. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    5) I hear Russell Blackford is having a hissy fit on Twitter.

    In other news, water is wet.

    If Ron’s apology upsets Blackford and Stangroom, I call that evidence of progress, and I’m counting it as a victory.

    I’m now picturing Blackford and Stangroom as Statler and Waldorf, those two muppets who complain about how awful everything this. Only Blackford and Stangroom don’t have the redeeming comedy value.

  34. Martha says

    I’m with Stacy and Theobromine on this.

    For the Ron Lindsay I saw at WiS2 to make this statement is rather extraordinary.

    I haven’t been around all that long, but I don’t think we’ve seen previous examples of a willingness to apologize from many other leaders of secular organizations. Can anyone imagine Richard Dawkins apologizing over his Dear Muslima comment? Or Michael Shermer admitting that perhaps he overreacted to Ophelia’s comment? In a world of big, fragile egos– and Lindsay’s behavior at WiS2 suggests that his is indeed both– this is clearly a meaningful move. I think he understands that secularism without women will fail, but he just doesn’t like his new understanding of what it will take to keep women involved. That would account for the stiffness.

  35. John Phillips, FCD says

    It’s a begrudging step in the right direction, but at least it is in the right direction. All we have to do know is watch what happens in the future to gauge how sincere it is. Also, while the reaction of the pitters or their supporters is not really that relevant, it is rather amusing to see some of them having conniptions over his apology.

  36. ludicrous says

    I haven’t read all the comments but what does this mean:?

    “I have a better understanding of the objections to my talk”

    What exactly is your understanding now, Mr Lindsay?

    “Better” than your prior understanding is a low bar indeed.

  37. Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters says

    It’s not remotely gracious, and it’s way too late, but it makes me hopeful that I can support the CFI staff who do such excellent work. If Lindsay can manage not to micromanage his staff about that work, that is…

  38. Steve Caldwell says

    Stacy wrote:

    I hear Russell Blackford is having a hissy fit on Twitter. If Ron’s apology upsets Blackford and Stangroom, I call that evidence of progress, and I’m counting it as a victory.

    It’s worth checking out Stangroom’s and Blackford’s Tweets in the past 12 hours:

    Stangroom —

    Blackford —

    Stangroom has 2 comments disapproving of Ron’s apology in the past 12 hours. Blackford has 5 comments disaproving of the apology in the past 13 hours.

  39. Graculus says

    Ron had to wait until the board issued a statement to say anything, but he didn’t have to wait to throw a testerical fit about criticism of the speech all over the CFI’s site. Yeah, right.

    Well, at least he stopped digging.

  40. Kelseigh says

    Stacey @ 48:

    This bit jumps out at me (emphasis mine):

    The apology is stiff, but from what I’m hearing it is sincere. I don’t think it was easy for RL to make it.

    If this is true, and I have no reason to believe it’s not, then it suggests a man who really doesn’t get that the backlash is over something serious, and that he’s a man who puts his own pride in front of actually shutting up and listening when people tell him he’s wrong. It also suggests that he still doesn’t understand why he needs to apologize for his frankly unprofessional behaviour and doesn’t exactly give a lot of assurance that he won’t do it again.

    Are these the hallmarks of someone suited to be leader of a skeptical organization that sees women as equal partners and promotes diversity? Personally, I think he’s got a lot of work to do before I could see him in that role again.

  41. says

    Patrick Link is not a pitter afaik, he is friends with a few Slymey Twits though and is in the block bot as a result of retweets etc 🙂 I actually follow him as he tweets some interesting stuff and is usually far from a foaming anti-FTB’er.

    Having said that I don’t detect much of a reasonable point on here. “Shrill” is not a good choice of words… I assume in his edited comment he picked out the chunk about privilege…?

    Please Patrick do look up some examples of men being silenced on B&W’s through use of “check your privilege” or similar and post them. I’d be surprised if you could find anything like Rebeccas example of silencing.

  42. shawn says

    I’ll try to be hopeful. I think a lot of damage needs to be undone though. I’m sure there are plenty others like me who after all the disgusting behaviour in the atheoskeptisphere have pretty much moved on from the movement in general. The world has a lot of problems and there are other good movements out there that need attention too.

  43. ipsofacto says

    Ron should NOT have offered any sort of apology. It’s telling that all you get is a half-hearted explanation (not really an apology) after a several weeks of bullying. Personally, I’d simply tell you to go fuck yourselves. The apologies need to be forthcoming from the other direction – starting with Ophelia Benson. Then PZ. Then Rebecca Watson. Then Stephanie Zvan. Then Amanda Marcotte. Then Melody Hensley. Then Greta Christina. Plus many others, including commentators at various FfTB blogs.

    Get on your knees and apologise to the atheist and secular movements. We demand it. If not, we will continue to isolate you from our movement. Expose your lies and bullying. Continue to humiliate and own you.

    Anyway, the last week or so has been another disaster for the Baboons. PZ and Rebecca’s reputations are thoroughly ruined (ha ha) and the resistance has added more and more members, including EllenBeth Wachs.

    We’re winning. We’re getting stronger. You’re losing. You’re getting weaker.

  44. says

    A Demonic Duck Of Some Sort @50:

    If CFI’s donations didn’t go down, AND they no longer have to sponsor Skepticon, I’d say they made a nice little profit from this whole affair.

    I made the same connection, but things are not nearly so simple.

  45. thetalkingstove says

    Ipso is Commander Tuvok, right? He always posts vehemently about how the brave pitters are winning, and every time it’s cringe-worthy. Dear oh dear.

  46. PatrickG says

    Great to see that background in Stephanie Zvan’s post, particularly about the branch leader meeting and the apology to staff. Hopefully this continues.

    But mainly commenting to laugh at Ipso. The resistance? Lol. Somebody’s been watching the barricade scene in Les Mis a few too many times.

  47. arbor says

    His behavior was utterly over the line. I don’t give people like him second chances.

    I don’t think he has changed in any real way – I think he’s merely being expedient.

    I won’t have anything to do with him or any organization that he is involved in.

  48. says

    The pitters are pretty delusional at this point… great fun can be had amid all the nastiness. “We’re winning, you’re destroying atheism and skepticism but we’re winning! No one is doing what we want them to do, but we’re winning! We’re stronger every day that you keep having successful conferences and we do nothing but snipe at you on Twitter, WE’RE FUCKING WINNING GODDAMMIT STOP LAUGHING AT US!!!!”

  49. says

    Well, arbor, frankly that sounds as dogmatic and absolutist as the straw image of us pesky feminists so many people are memeing all over the place.

  50. opposablethumbs says

    Lemme see, ipsofacto … first you ignored us, then you laughed at us, now you’re fighting us. Hmm.

    Oh, and “you” can read as the machists specifically in atheism or in society at large – fits just as well.

  51. says

    @ 68 actually came in yesterday evening at 7, but I wouldn’t want people to miss it.

    It’s like someone who took a class in psychological warfare taught at the kindergarten level.

  52. echidna says

    Well, arbor, frankly that sounds as dogmatic and absolutist as the straw image of us pesky feminists so many people are memeing all over the place.

    Arbor’s comment is not prescriptive in any way: it is a statement of what arbor will and will not accept. There are range of factors that play into that, including past experience as well as ideology. If arbor’s statement was purely ideological, I would agree with you, but I would read it as coming from the experience that apologies are cheap, and behaviour is *everything*.

    Accepting sincere-sounding apologies on their face is down-right dangerous in abusive environments (at work or home). I don’t know arbor’s background, but where arbor draws a protective line is entirely arbor’s call.

    Stacy suggests that the apology was not cheap; I will wait to see how it plays out.

  53. says

    I didn’t say it was prescriptive. I said it was dogmatic and absolutist, which I think it is.

    Also, arbor said similarly dogmatic things on two other threads at the same time, so the cumulative effect was more so. Of course where arbor draws a protective line is entirely arbor’s call, but I didn’t say it wasn’t.

  54. echidna says

    I didn’t say that you said arbor’s comment was prescriptive. But, without a background in arbor’s previous comments into account, the actual comment seemed wary to me, rather than dogmatic or absolutist. Since the comment didn’t speak about anybody other than the writer, your criticism seemed harsh. But previous experiences, including past comments, would make all the difference to how any comment is perceived.

  55. kosk11348 says

    Last time Lindsay posted an apology on this matter, he was eager to let it be known he was doing it of his own free will:

    The decision to issue the following statement is my own decision, and is not the result of any instruction or pressure, direct or indirect, from anyone, including, but not limited to members of the CFI board of directors.

    No such statement this time, so I guess we should all assume this apology was written and posted under duress. Probably pressure from the board. So that’s why it doesn’t sound sincere, because it isn’t.

  56. says

    Lukewarm, grudging, stiff, and annoyingly vague—but a start. Lindsay still hasn’t addressed this unprofessional act: in Ron Lindsay’s non-welcome to WIS 2, he used his ‘pulpit’ to pick a bone with PZ Myers. This is from his “Rebecca Watson lives in an alternate universe and is like North Korea” post.

    “By contrast, the position against which I was arguing, as articulated by PZ Myers, is as follows:

    “When a member of a marginalized group tells a member of a privileged group that their efforts, no matter how well-meaning, are wrong, there is one reasonable response: Shut up and listen. You might learn something.

    There is also a terrible response: arguing back. It always makes it worse.

    It’s not that they are infallible and we are totally stupid. It’s that THEY are the experts and the subject of the discussion.””

    That totally explains it—not. And then he went on to demonstrate that PZ was right.

  57. says

    The crowd here and at Skepchick spent days and days demanding an apology. You got one. Now it’s not good enough? Too “stiff” you say? Too “forced” maybe? Why don’t you appreciate what you’ve achieved? CFI has been damaged by the negative backlash and its CEO has backed down. Isn’t that what you wanted? To continue to whine because Lindsay hasn’t completely prostrated himself before you makes you look seriously entitled.

  58. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Maybe you should read more than a single comment, Chris Willett. Seems that’d be the intellectually honest thing to do.

  59. F [is for fluvial] says

    We’re winning. We’re getting stronger. You’re losing. You’re getting weaker.

    When ipsofacto grows up, they want to be just like Anonymous. Unfortunately, not everyone is cut out to follow such dreams, even after full K-12 psyops matriculation.


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