“Nothing wrong with witty satire”

The Tim Hunt War continues. It could have been over in 24 hours, but now it’s become the site where the issue of sexism in STEM is getting a thorough airing, so I’m just going to keep on reporting on it.

Dawkins is still digging that hole deeper and deeper.

1.2 million followers on Twitter, remember. Gets his letters published in the Times. Large megaphone; conspicuous platform. Influencer.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8 hours ago
Am I naive to be disconcerted by a lack of kindness, of empathy, on Twitter? There’s so much unforgiving, merciless, even cruel condemnation

Isn’t it interesting that he’s saying that now? After responding to a tweet that called Tim Hunt “a shitty person”? Isn’t it interesting that he didn’t say that in 2011 or 2012 or 2013 or 2014? Isn’t it interesting that he’s ignored the relentless harassment and bullying of women on Twitter, much of it by his fans defending his every word, but is upset when it’s addressed to someone like him? I think it’s interesting.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8 hours ago
Yes, of course it’s easy to be cruel when you are anonymous. But why should anyone WANT to be cruel, whether anonymous or not?

Yes of course there are many kind people on Twitter. I’m not saying cruel ones are a majority. Just puzzled why anyone WANTS to be cruel.

Nothing wrong with witty satire. Well-aimed ridicule has a point: to change minds /raise consciousness. But what’s the point of cruel abuse?

It’s embarrassingly easy to tell what he’s thinking there – that he does witty satire and well-aimed ridicule, that changes minds for the better and has no harmful side effects, while people who are angry at Tim Hunt do cruel abuse, period. Sadly, his “witty satire” often isn’t.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8 hours ago
Tweet today called a Nobelist, whose work could 1 day save her life, a “shitty person” because he told a joke. So DISPROPORTIONATELY vicious

You know what else is DISPROPORTIONATELY vicious? Accusations of “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs.”

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8 hours ago
If you think somebody is wrong, say so and say why. Don’t just call them a shitty fucking douchebag, it’s not a convincing argument.

See above. Don’t call them witch hunts and lynch mobs, either. It’s not a convincing argument.

Why do I care? Because our circles overlap. Because he is perhaps the most conspicuous face of atheism in the anglophone world. Because he also speaks out for secularism and humanism. Because I don’t want atheism and secularism and humanism to be bastions of entitled anti-feminist bullies, and because I don’t want feminist women to be bullied out of atheism and secularism and humanism. Because I want him to stop doing damage. I have little or no hope that he ever will, but that’s what I want.


  1. says

    Witty satire? No, what Tim Hunt did was basically fart in an elevator. And Richard is making it a priority to defend the fart over the folks who don’t find it funny, yet are still stuck with the stink.

  2. Morgan says

    If you think somebody is wrong, say so and say why. Don’t just call them a shitty fucking douchebag, it’s not a convincing argument.

    The standard pretense, that if you can find a curse word then anything else from the same source actually geared towards convincing or explaining becomes invisible. A more honet phrasing would be “If you think somebody is wrong, say so and say why. Don’t ever call them a shitty fucking douchebag, because then we’ll ignore your convincing arguments.”

  3. says

    If you think somebody is wrong, say so and say why.

    We already did that, Dawkie-poo. You responded by accusing us of going on a witch-hunt.

    Don’t just call them a shitty fucking douchebag, it’s not a convincing argument.

    It goes both ways. If you refuse to engage with our rational arguments and instead favor overblown hyperbole, don’t be surprised if we start giving up on having a serious conversation with you.

  4. says

    Yes, of course it’s easy to be cruel when you are anonymous

    And, if you’re insulated so that you don’t have to read the replies to your comments, you may as well be anonymous. If Dawkins actually had to read and think about the feedback he’s getting, it might sink in. But, just like an anonymous troll, he can throw his comments out, with no fear of repercussions….

    The only repercussions Dawkins seems to fear are, you know, the horrible witch-hunty comments like someone saying “Guys, don’t do that.” The really painful ones, in other words.

  5. says

    I just realized what’s going on!!! Dawkins thinks he’s providing “witty satire”!

    Once again he’s patting himself on the back. Too bad he’s wrong.

  6. says

    Ha, that was slow, Marcus – yes, he is of course talking about himself. He’s always saying things like that, describing his rudeness on Twitter as “good-natured ridicule” and similar. That’s how he sees himself. Still.

  7. sambarge says

    All the butthurt on that thread! It’s overwhelming.

    Also, all this talk about a “mob” who “destroyed” a career and won’t let the subject go… Who the fuck is still talking about Tim Hunt? No one other than Dawkins and his circle-jerk Twitter followers. Trust me. Hunt is a blip and I bet he wishes everyone would just stop talking about it already.

  8. rietpluim says

    @LykeX #3 hit the nail on the head. Too bad Dawkins is never going to read it.

  9. Al says

    Dawkins considered the anti-Muslim account Jihadist Joe to be hilarious, biting satire. Says it all really.

    Of course, there are limits to Dawkins’ taste in satire, as he felt the South Park depiction of him wasn’t remotely satirical or funny. Good for him to let everyone know that making fun of him is taking things too far.

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