Julia Burke at Skepchick considers the Silencing of Richard Dawkins.
From his twitter account alone, Dawkins has drawn fire over comments widely believed to be sexist, racist, Islamophobic, ableist, rape apologia, and downright douchey. This account had 1,060,435 followers as I wrote this. One million people sign up for his daily musings––and that’s after what he’s said so far.
So, not very silenced. Not very muzzled. He gets hostile responses, but with more than a million followers on Twitter it’s probably pretty easy to think of those as the ravings of a warped minority.
Dawkins has his own site and foundation, giving him a pedestal for longer-form discussion whenever he wants and the finances to back up a campaign promoting that discussion. He also has the support of the mainstream humanist movement despite statements that alienate much of its population: Dawkins has been a featured speaker at two humanist cons in the last year and will be featured at a CFI conference in 2015. When I called the organizers of these cons to ask whether Dawkins’s inflammatory comments had influenced their decisions to use him as a featured speaker, the World Humanist Con and American Humanist Association both declined to comment on anything concerning Dawkins himself. Ron Lindsay of CFI, to his credit, did grace me with a thoughtful reply:
“We humanists, as a whole, define the direction of humanism… For this reason, I don’t hang on every utterance that Richard Dawkins makes or pay close attention to every tweet that he transmits. Dawkins is undoubtedly someone who is entitled to much respect and honor for all the contributions he’s made to advancing atheism and humanism. Without doubt, he is the person most responsible for bringing awareness of atheism to popular culture. He may also be the best advocate for evolutionary biology, again in terms of bringing this awareness to the non-scientific community. These are important achievements. But despite his formidable intellect, he, like anyone else, may make mistakes and misjudgments from time to time. This does not detract materially from the value of his overall contributions.”
Hmm. I can’t help thinking that last sentence is more likely to be true if you’re not the kind of person Dawkins belittles while he’s making mistakes and misjudgments. In other words I don’t agree that his making misjudgments – like calling feminists who objected to Matt Taylor’s shirt “pompous idiots” – does not detract materially from the value of his overall contributions. I think it does detract materially from the value of his overall contributions, at least the first one Ron mentioned – bringing awareness of atheism to popular culture. I’m not as pleased about that as I once was, for the very reason that that awareness is now far more likely to be of obnoxious mind-blind anti-feminist assholes. I don’t want atheism to be seen that way, and I think Dawkins has done a lot to ensure that it is seen that way by many.
There’s more to Julia’s article, but I gotta go.