David Silverman fired from American Atheists


I told you this was coming down. Buzzfeed just published the news that Silverman has been fired for financial malfeasance and sexual assault. The personal accounts from several women are sordid, to say the least — you can go read the article for the terrible details, but it sounds like this was a case where there was no doubt about what needed to be done.

It’s terrible news for organized atheism. David was a friend, and was an aggressive, effective promoter of fierce atheism. He was also imperfect — he antagonized some people, and American Atheists made some bad decisions under his leadership, trying to court conservatives at CPAC, and supported some questionable billboards.

None of it matters. The documented behavior is intolerable. I heard some of the stories from the whisper network, but nothing I heard was as horrible as the truth.

Comments

  1. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    At the time of the alleged incidents, he [Silverman’s lawyer] added, Silverman and his wife were in an open marriage.

    That’s supposed to be a defense?

  2. blf says

    That’s supposed to be a defense?

    It’s more usually put as The dog ate my defense.

  3. doubtthat says

    Saw the link from Greta’s twitter feed. Left a similar comment there, but my guess is that she understandably only sees comments from people she follows. So, I’ll say something similar:

    Thinking about all the shit that happened in the skeptic/atheist community during the Elevator Gate period, reading these articles now just fills me with anger and sadness. I think about the people like Greta and Ashley Miller and Rebecca Watson and PZ who were pushing for better conference rules, better accountability – really sensible, uncontroversial things. At every turn they were harassed, dismissed, taunted, no instance of abuse was ever serious enough, “Oh come on, stop being a buzzkill.” Or, “YOU HAVE NO PROOF NO PROOF BLAH BLAH.”

    And the whole time, almost all these folks were just sitting on a fucking trash heap of incredibly serious shit that they couldn’t talk about.

    It just…I’m glad there is some accountability now, but I just can’t imagine trying to participate in this scummy community, dealing with the onslaught of shitty dismissiveness, knowing what you knew.

    I’m impressed, sorry, amazed at your perseverance. It was frustrating for me to live through that and I had one millionth the abuse and exactly zero knowledge of the serious stuff.

  4. says

    I’m disappointed and a little surprised. I had hoped that Silverman wasn’t one of the sexual assaulters/creeps, but I guess he is. I’m glad he’s at least facing consequences now and I hope his victims find some solace. It’s pretty damning to the Atheist community that it took so long, but what else is new I guess.

  5. says

    @4, Mikkel Nif Rasmussen

    Uhm, how do you come to have a “safe word” if you haven’t done “something” together before? That’s extremely strange.

    I think you are misinterpreting. They didn’t have a safe word together. That’s why she said “no” first. She said “red” because anyone who knows even the 101 level of basics about BDSM knows that it is the most common safeword that people use.

    Precisely the kind of safeword you would try using if you had NOT negotiated a different one previously. Right?

  6. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I think you are misinterpreting. They didn’t have a safe word together. That’s why she said “no” first. She said “red” because anyone who knows even the 101 level of basics about BDSM knows that it is the most common safeword that people use.

    Yeah, I’m not sure I’ve been *anywhere* that didn’t treat “RED” as an automatic scene-ender and request for staff intervention.

  7. jack16 says

    Now I know that “red” is a universal “safe” word. Better post it at conferences! ;-)

    jack16

  8. blgmnts says

    How the fuck would you initiate a first BDSM session without negotiating first?!

  9. says

    sez blgmnts @15: “How the fuck would you initiate a first BDSM session without negotiating first?!”

    Ask David Silverman—he seems to have figured it out.

  10. Matrim says

    @15, blgmnts

    I mean, it happens, but it’s a really, really bad idea for obvious reasons.

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    Mikkel Nif Rasmussen #4: Uhm, how do you come to have a “safe word” if you haven’t done “something” together before? That’s extremely strange.

    For the sake of argument, suppose they had done “something” together before. So what? Does that entitle him to sexually assault someone without consent?

    bethpresswood #6: For those confused, RED is a universal safeword in at least the American BDSM subculture.

    Did not know. Thanks for the info.

  12. says

    For the sake of argument, suppose they had done “something” together before. So what?

    Then they could have had some sort of arrangement where his behavior was desired. Some people are crazy and have crazy sex.
    Now, from the clarifications (“red” being a universal safe-word) given by others that is clearly not the case in this situation, so what he did was sexual assault.

    Does that entitle him to sexually assault someone without consent?

    Of course not. Nothing entitles anyone to sexually assault anything other than inanimate objects in the privacy of their own homes.

  13. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I didn’t know about the universal safe word either, but it makes sense. But really, unless you’ve negotiated something ahead of time, “No” or “Stop” ought to work just as well.

  14. says

    I think you are misinterpreting. They didn’t have a safe word together. That’s why she said “no” first.

    If they had previously had some sort of BDSM relationship that involved safewords, then clearly those safewords were intended to have some function equal to how “no” functions under more “normal” circumstances. But there are, apparently, possible physical arrangements between contenting adults where something other than “no” (or “stop”) is required, otherwise such safewords wouldn’t need to exist in the first place.

  15. billyjoe says

    Maroon,

    Article: At the time of the alleged incidents, he [Silverman’s lawyer] added, Silverman and his wife were in an open marriage.
    Maroon: That’s supposed to be a defense?

    It could be used as a defence against an accusation that he harmed his wife as well. However, that’s not a legal matter, so I’m as puzzled as you are why he brought it up.

  16. billyjoe says

    Akira,

    No heroes.

    Good policy. I decided “no more heroes” many years ago just after elevatorgate when a few of my “heroes” said some gawdawfully stupid things, and it’s even truer today than it was back then. The impulse is always still there, however, and requires constant vigilance.

  17. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Brian Pansky has the right of it:

    Although “red” might be rarely or commonly used privately (by definition it’s impossible to tell for sure), when playing at parties or other public venues where some of the people there are not people you know, saying “Red” is treated as a safeword by the hosts and by the people within earshot of the scene who may or may not know the players.

    usually that’s respected by the top (in fact, I’m not experienced enough in BDSM circles to have ever seen anything different, having only gone to a couplefew events). If it’s not, that attracts immediate attention. It’s like an extra safe word in addition to any specific safe word that you might actively negotiate that will get bystander attention and host intervention. Using “red” in organized, semi-/public BDSM spaces is a really, really bad idea unless you actively want someone to intervene to help you end a scene.

  18. Raucous Indignation says

    You can have a BDSM encounter without negotiating. All you need is for one person to not know that you should negotiate.

  19. billyjoe says

    I’m feeling so left out. I’ve only ever had one sexual partner and I’m married to her (that thing with Jenny in grade three, and that fantasy with a Bjork lookalike at uni don’t really count).

  20. says

    The whole safe word thing is pretty well explained in the article, but thanks to those who tried to find the fault with the person making the accusation.
    Apparently Silverman thought that “this woman is into BDSM, therefore it is ok if I do sexual things to her without having any indication that she would like me to do so, because she had men do that to her (with her consent) before.

    It’s the good old “but she had sex before” rape apologia, only with the added BDSM.

  21. says

    Honestly, the whole courting people at CPAC was a huge red flag for me, particularly when I engaged him in a brief Twitter conversation last year and he said something along the lines about there being many good people there (and, yeah, I could most definitely be conflating his remarks with Trump’s regarding Charlottesville). My concern was that he was more than just a bad judge of character but has some serious character flaws himself. So this news was not terribly surprising.

  22. kellym says

    Honestly, the whole courting people at CPAC was a huge red flag for me, particularly when I engaged him in a brief Twitter conversation last year and he said something along the lines about there being many good people there (and, yeah, I could most definitely be conflating his remarks with Trump’s regarding Charlottesville). My concern was that he was more than just a bad judge of character but has some serious character flaws himself. So this news was not terribly surprising.

  23. kellym says

    @30 above is quoting Leo Buzalsky @29: Sorry about that.

    Yes, Silverman outed himself as an anti-humanist when he declared himself a CPAC Republican. It was unfathomable to me that any humanist would ever respect the man again. Being a CPAC Republican means that, at best, you are tolerant of misogyny and racism, that you oppose gun-safety legislation (something Silverman specifically made clear), oppose environmental regulations, oppose worker protections, and oppose affordable healthcare, among other important issues.

    Silverman’s misogyny-tolerance makes it no leap of faith to believe that he sexually assaulted at least one woman, and that he had sex with a young woman who was not in a position to give consent. I don’t know what any investigation will ultimately find. I’m simply not surprised in the slightest at the accusation.

    There were no “good” people attending CPAC. I wounder how well Silverman succeeded in his implied goal of increasing the number of anti-humanists like him at American Atheists?

  24. billyjoe says

    KellyM,

    I had no idea he held those views. But it reinforces my decision to pay more attention to a person’s humanism, than their atheism. Because being an atheist actually says only one thing about them – that they do not believe in gods. It doesn’t actually define them.

  25. DanDare says

    Which brings us back to the problem of trying to build something on top of dictionary atheism.

  26. billyjoe says

    Or we could just have humanist blogs, books, videos, and meetings.

    And we could invite everyone to join who is interested in humanism. This would include most deists, some theists, and some atheists. It would exclude some atheists like those who are “just atheists” (the one’s you despise), and pretty all atheists who are also nihilists, white supremacist, or Nazis.

    The atheist movement is a negative movement and a sinking ship.
    The humanist movement is a positive movement. Jump on board.

    (Sorry, too much coffee, but yeah, those are my sentiments!)

  27. says

    Take it to court.

    IF he did it, he needs to be punished.
    and as imperfect as the court system is, it’s better than the ‘court’ of public opinion.

  28. KG says

    The humanist movement is a positive movement. Jump on board. – billyjoe@34

    Not if it’s full of numpties like you.

  29. KG says

    Azirahael@35,

    Silverman has not been punished by “the court of public opinion”. He has been punished by his former employer. And your “We can’t take any action unlkess we have a legal conviction” is exactly what has enabled numerous serial sexual predators to contin ue their activities for decades. Clearly, that’s just fine with you.

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