“Social media savvy”

Jerry Coyne posted about Dawkins and the Tweets this morning. I had a column to write for the Freethinker yesterday and I decided to write about Dawkins and the Tweets. I sent it yesterday, proofed it this morning.

The subject isn’t as trivial as it might sound to a visitor from Mars. (Ok not Mars. We can’t use Mars that way any more, not now that we’re rummaging around up out there ourselves, making ourselves at home, taking snapshots. Ok Neptune. A visitor from Neptune.) There’s something interesting about the way Twitter can act as a kind of Id for some people, and about Dawkins’s failure or refusal to see that it’s not a good idea to use it that way.

From the WEIT post:

Yet If I could have a second wish, I’d ask that Richard Dawkins refrain from using Twitter.  Not only does he try to make complicated points in the too-small space of 140 characters, but many people are gunning for him anyway, hoping to make hay out of his missteps. That’s a recipe for internet meltdown.

The first wish was the abolition of Twitter. That thing about trying to make complicated points in the too-small space – that’s what I’ve said several times over the past whatever weeks. I think I’ve said it once or twice directly to Dawkins on Twitter. I wouldn’t expect him to listen to me, but I doubt I’m the only one who’s said it before today, so it is a little surprising that he forges ahead regardless.

The RDF put out a press statement today, announcing a partnership with the SCA.

Washington, DC-The Secular Coalition for America today announced a strategic partnership between the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science U.S. and top leadership of the Secular Coalition for America, through the remainder of 2013.

The partnership aims to maximize the strengths of both organizations-drawing on the Secular Coalition’s strong nonprofit and strategic planning experience and the Dawkins Foundation’s strong web and social media savvy, scientific expertise, and broad outreach.

Strong social media savvy?? No. That, the Dawkins Foundation ain’t got.


  1. tuibguy says

    I think someone needs to tell Richard about Tumblr. It’s like Twitter with run-on sentences.

  2. great1american1satan says

    Tumblr has even more loud and proud social justice types gunning for ignorant old white guys than twitter, and they are more likely to use animated gifs and shiny graphics in their mockery. Dawkins would need a fainting couch for realz if he was fool enough to step up in there.

  3. Sili says

    Again I’ll have to wonder what’ll happen to the RDF once Dawkypoo is dead.

    This press statement at least points toward evolving into something like The Secular Coalition of Britain – but they already have that in The Secular Society, don’t they?

    I’ll have to ask again though: Is this a sign of mental deterioration in Dawkins – dementia or a bloodclot – or has he always been unrestrained like this?

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    A “strategic partnership” of about 4 months?

    That’ll change the world, for sure!

  5. Silentbob says

    I think Dawkins thrives on controversy. I’m afraid telling him his tweets could lead to an “internet meltdown” will have the opposite effect to that intended.

  6. great1american1satan says

    Sili – I can understand the impulse to say stuff like that, but it is ageist and ableist. Take that or leave it, this ain’t A+.

  7. medivh says

    I’m just sitting here wondering if Dawkins is going to be producing/directing the next Feminism vs. Facts video. I mean, all I’m seeing is Tfoot with more money and more fans.

  8. Andy Groves says

    I’m with Jerry Coyne on this one – with the possible exception of live-tweeting important events like revolutions and disasters, I really don’t see the benefits of Twitter outweigh the disadvantages of giving the abusive and terminally superficial another platform to vent.

    But I’m an old curmudgeon too. Can’t get my head around them young peoples these days…..

  9. says

    great1american1satan @2-

    Tumblr does have the army of social justice types that wold love to eat Dawkins alive. But he’d be able to explain himself much better. Which, if his positions are as reasonable as he seems to think they are, should lead to a much reduced backlash against him.

    Or he’ll prove himself to be just as or even more unreasonable, in which case his defenders get shut out of the “well he had to summarize he’s not that bad” defense.

    I think the community as a whole would benefit from either. Dawkins will either strengthen his position and be able to do more good, or he’ll torpedo himself and it will be clear he should be disregarded.

  10. MissinPost says

    A bigot who says “I’m not racist… they’re not a race LOL” is a pedant and a moron equivalent to the bigot who says “I’m not a homophobe… I’m not *scared* of them”

    Homophobe never meant that. Racist is often used as a catch all for “bigotry against ‘the foreign’, that’s not its technical definition, but everyone knows what I mean if I say “He’s a racist who hates the fucking French”.

  11. says

    I can honestly say that while I happily identify as a gnu, and really think we do need to normalize mockery of religions, and that doing so is probably working against a current of some magnitude, I do find the bumper sticker stuff grating and tedious, too, much of the time.

    I tried a while ago doing a few Twitter ‘aphorisms’ broadly working from that perspective. They were… What they were. I dunno. I’ve never found the medium real promising, either. But go fig. Guy who can’t write a blog comment less than 1,000 words has trouble with Twitter, too. Who knew.

    I’m honestly nervous giving any ground to people muttering about annoying atheists, too, though, because I think there’s a well-rehearsed and very healthy muscle out there that tries regularly to cloak theologies in this hushed respectful ‘oh you mustn’t make fun’ thing that winds up in quite short steps in a kind of intellectual suffocation. And that any proper and deserved horselaugh will happily be ruled out as terribly rude, terribly jejune, on pretty much any excuse given half a chance. And most of us (I sure do) still have this sorta internalized twitch in which we self-censor all the time on that stuff out of reflex, anyway. And ‘oh, your bumper sticker slogans are inane’ will quickly go to ‘shut up entirely, all of you’. What had been without question not long ago was even saying publicly you regard a given religion’s theology as nonsense was simply not acceptable. Couldn’t give ‘disrespect’, couldn’t say boo unless it was banal platitudes about how I’m sure it’s important to them, where them is someone other than you… And that’s a hugely patronizing attitude too, I might add, done wrong…

    It’s very easy to be dangerously naive about racism, around Islam, too, though. No question there. And anyone playing footsie with xenophobes, well, listen, don’t. That, to borrow a phrase, really isn’t helping. You find yourself saying some of the the same things as them, no, that’s not necessarily any reason to panic; stopped clocks are right twice, and people can get the right answer for the wrong reasons, too, and no one should be able to smear you as racist for saying, umm, no, I’m pretty sure Mohammed didn’t actually talk to any angels, just because Joey Skinhead happened to say that, too… But saying listen, these guys are worth listening to, just because they happened to agree with you on that one let’s face it kinda banal point, umm, also no. You don’t want to be lending that kind of operator credibility. And Islam’s a minefield that way. There’s absolutely such a thing as taking the easy absurdity of theology as just one more excuse for saying ‘LOL stupid brown people…’ And people absolutely do.

    I think the best you can do, beyond that, anyway, really, is try to keep your sympathy, keep your humanity, in whatever you’re doing. Remind yourself you have and probably still do believe some pretty stupid things, too, and you probably don’t even quite know why it is whichever belief it is you’re rubbishing isn’t one of them, at present. Speak up, be brave, be honest, say look, I think this is just wrong and silly, but recognize too that why people still do believe it or say they do can be very, very complicated. It doesn’t necessarily make anyone stupid, not at all. That could be you on the prayer mat, right now, had you merely been born elsewhere, or lived a slightly different life; so try to identify even as you say no, I don’t buy it at all, and listen, I need to tell you, honestly, it does look pretty damned silly from here. Because I think it’s in everyone’s best interest that you get used to hearing that, that you get that there are people like me, too, who do see it that way, and we’re not monsters, either.

    I don’t know if sometimes unbelievers insulated enough from it forget that, but remember that: there is that message out there, too. You are evil, you are trouble, if you don’t believe, you’re just beyond the pall, however public about it you are or are not. So believers need to see you, get it through their heads, against that message: no, you’re not. Somehow, you have to get that right. Wish I had better advice about how. Be a good person? Outspoken but good? I think that’s good advice anyway.

    And Twain’s dictum about how one blows to bits colossal humbugs is still pretty good, I think. But remember you want people laughing with you, in the end. Not at you. Or just cringing, and hoping never to be seen with you in public, for that matter.

    I do find for me looking at more religions has tended to impress upon me their commonalities. Granted, this too is unpleasant ground for some unbelievers; there’s some really don’t want to hear how much they have in common. But it gives you perspective, anyway. And should at least impress upon you: madrassas are hardly the only way around to mess up a child’s education.


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