CFI disappoints me again, as expected

William had to go and remind me that CFI still exists. I used to have to roll my eyes at Ron Lindsay’s editorials, but now that Robyn Blumner is in charge, they’ve gotten even worse. Take a look at their latest: Identitarianism is incompatible with humanism. I agree with the title! But we immediately run into some problems. She starts by defining her terms (good), but her definition is insane.

Identitarian: A person or ideology that espouses that group identity is the most important thing about a person, and that justice and power must be viewed primarily on the basis of group identity rather than individual merit. (Source: Urban Dictionary)

Wait, what? Her source is Urban Dictionary? That might be find for some obscure slang, but not for a topic that a presumable rationalist is about to jump headlong into with an op-ed. Who are the people she’s addressing here? I’m confused already.

If we take a small step upwards and look at the definition on Wikipedia, it’s radically different.

The Identitarian movement or Identitarianism is a pan-European nationalist, far-right political ideology asserting the right of European ethnic groups and white peoples to Western culture and territories claimed to belong exclusively to them. Originating in France as Les Identitaires (“The Identitarians”), with its youth wing Generation Identity, the movement expanded to other European countries during the early 21st century. Building on ontological ideas of the German Conservative Revolution, its ideology was formulated from the 1960s onward by essayists such as Alain de Benoist, Dominique Venner, Guillaume Faye and Renaud Camus, who are considered the main ideological sources of the movement.

Identitarians promote concepts such as pan-European nationalism, localism, ethnopluralism, remigration, or the Great Replacement, and they are generally opposed to globalisation, multiculturalism, Islamization and extra-European immigration. Influenced by New Right metapolitics, they do not seek direct electoral results, but rather to provoke long-term social transformations and eventually achieve cultural hegemony and popular adhesion to their ideas.

Some Identitarians explicitly espouse ideas of xenophobia and racialism, but most limit their public statements to more docile language. Strongly opposed to cultural mixing, they promote the preservation of homogeneous ethno-cultural entities, generally to the exclusion of extra-European migrants and descendants of immigrants. In 2019, the Identitarian Movement was classified by the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution as right-wing extremist.

By the way, it begins with an important note: “Not to be confused with Identity politics.”

Anyway, that’s what I associate with the word Identitarian, far right nationalism and ethnocentrism. Not whatever she found on Urban Dictionary. And then she starts writing, and it’s clear what she’s really targeting: it’s those danged Wokeists again, who are not Identitarians, who oppose Identitarianism, who think Identitarians are racists and fascists.

Here’s who she’s whining about.

Today, there is a subpart of humanists, identitarians, who are suspicious of individuals and their freedoms. They do not want a free society if it means some people will use their freedom to express ideas with which they disagree. They see everything through a narrow affiliative lens of race, gender, ethnicity, or other demographic category and seek to shield groups that they see as marginalized by ostensible psychic harms inflicted by the speech of others.

This has given rise to a corrosive cultural environment awash in controversial speakers being shouted down on college campuses; even liberal professors and newspaper editors losing their jobs for tiny, one-off slights; the cancellation of great historical figures for being men of their time; and a range of outlandish claims of microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and other crimes against current orthodoxy.

Oh. You know, these people who hate freedom (and are probably also ugly and smell bad) don’t exist. There are people who object when some people promote objectionable ideas. The humanists I know with ‘radical’ ideas about justice, for instance, don’t see simple discrete categories that deserve special protection, they see everyone as unique, with variations that ought to be respected and not judged through the lens of “good” and “bad” or “superior” and “inferior”, and insist that no one deserves to be singled out with a simplistic label. Everything about culture and experience and biology contributes to identity, and you don’t get to erase it. Blumner is taking the familiar “I don’t see color” claim of the privileged and trying to white every variation out.

Humanism should not reduce everyone to generic plastic people. It should recognize the variety of social forces that shape us all and make us each different. That’s not identitarianism, it’s a basic recognition of the diversity of human experience. She should have ended the essay with this:

There are a couple of tells in her complaint. losing their jobs for tiny, one-off slights; who is she to decide what is a tiny slight? Some of those slights are long historical slanders that have deeply harmed people! men of their time; there’s a poisonous phrase, suggesting that it was OK for slavers, for instance, to oppress and torture other human beings because, well, everyone else was doing it. There are humanist principles that are the next best thing to universal, and ‘treat others as you would want to be treated’ is one of them, and once, I would have thought, central to humanist thinking. And then, current orthodoxy. Is the status quo and orthodoxy something atheists and humanists necessarily support?

Then, who are the victims of this corrosive cultural environment? Name them. Give specific examples. As it stands, this is just bad essay writing, showing that she’s afraid if she did get specific, someone might track down the examples and find that the slights weren’t so tiny, that other men and women of their time were quite vocal about the wrongs they were doing, or that the microaggressions were severe enough that everyone should know better. And she’s right to be afraid, because she does name one person, and her motivations are clear.

Good people with humanist hearts have been pilloried if they don’t subscribe to every jot and tittle of the identitarian gospel. A prime example is the decision last year by the American Humanist Association (AHA) to retract its 1996 award to Richard Dawkins as Humanist of the Year. The man who has done more than anyone alive to advance evolutionary biology and the public’s understanding of that science, who has brought the light of atheism to millions of people, and whose vociferous opposition to Donald Trump and Brexit certainly must have burnished his liberal cred became radioactive because of one tweet on transgender issues that the AHA didn’t like.

Oh, yes, keep in mind that Robyn Blumner was appointed to her position by Richard Dawkins, and that she is the executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Conflict of interest much?

It was more than one tweet, and it exposed that he had a bigoted perspective on those transgender issues. It is correct that the American Humanist Association didn’t like the idea of having given a distinguished award to a bigot, and one who has gone on to consistently take the wrong side in every matter of trans rights. He just recently got together with Jordan Peterson in a mutual back-patting session to say that he “totally agrees” with him that those transgenders are oppressing good wealthy white cis-het men like themselves. That wasn’t some trivial slip of the tongue, it’s what Dawkins actively believes and promotes, so why should AHA ignore an ethical violation like that?

But then, Blumner, and by association, CFI, have a crude and biased understanding of gender issues themselves. The clue is in the image they chose to illustrate the essay.

Get it? It would be unnatural to plug your VGA port and a USB cable together. Used to illustrate an article defending the primitive and simplistic views of a man on gender issues. The subtext is not very sub.

She might as well have illustrated it with this.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    I don’t see how there could be enough transgendered people around to “oppress” anyone? How many are there? 1% ??

  2. hemidactylus says

    Movement atheism is an identity politics as much as any other.

    The upside of this issue is that “woke” Hemant Mehta went and pissed off anti-woke Jerry Coyne again (kudos). And the comments section on that WEIT thread made my week when snowflake Dawkins made an appearance because what a commenter said about him and Coyne showed he’s a thin skinned snowflake too in reaction to the commenter.

  3. says

    It wasn’t just that one article, it was a whole special section of similarly shallow and self-contradictory crap. There was also a lot of sophomoric amateur philosophy. I’m trying to summon the energy to write a letter, but it will need to be razor sharp.

  4. PaulBC says

    [Urban dictionary] might be find for some obscure slang, but not for a topic that a presumable rationalist is about to jump headlong into with an op-ed.

    I wouldn’t even use it for that. The definitions I have seen usually take a phrase with an established meaning and interpret as some sexual practice originating entirely in the writer’s imagination (well, real or not, they have no evidence). They get up-voted based on alleged humor value. It doesn’t have the crowd-sourcing standards of, say, Wikipedia. It is useless even as a starting point in my experience.

    If I wanted to understand the usage of obscure slang, I would Google it and actually see how people are using it.

  5. Hj Hornbeck says

    The computer scientist in me can’t help but point out you can plug a VGA cable into a USB port, with a little help from technology. These are social constructs, after all, so we’re free to shape and define them as we wish. We thought it would be a good idea if you could carry a video signal over a USB port, for instance, so we added that feature. The analogy effectively refutes the point of the article, which shows just how little thought went into the latter.

  6. wzrd1 says

    What I see is the old Nazi propaganda playbook. First, redefine common terms to what advantages their propaganda, then double and triple down with bullshit.
    Unfortunately, it’s far too a herculean task to immediately rehabilitate Hitler, so they chip away from the sides, while trying to undermine all rationality, reason, common definition or well, notion of reality.

    Urban dictionary, pretty much the most useless thing on the net. Why, did you know that cyanide smells like almonds? Odd, as real dictionaries state it’s bitter almonds, which is not the culinary delightful edible almonds. But, apparently suburban housewives keep cyanide salts in stock, per the urban dictionary.
    Trust me, you don’t want to look up the word fire there, save if you have expendable IQ points.

  7. consciousness razor says

    A good reminder that “humanist” has never meant much either, like any personal label that people attach to themselves. A few years back, I remember quite a few acting like “atheist” had been contaminated by some kind of special baggage and that there was an easy relabeling maneuver that they could make to somehow correct the problem. But there was not, and that was silly.

  8. davebot says

    They accidentally-on-purpose avoid mentioning this pattern:

    Identitarian: You are Identity X! Identity X is bad, shameful and destructive. * proceeds to oppress Identity X *
    Identity Xer: * after years of oppression * I reject your characterization of me. I am proud to be Identity X!
    Identitarian: * more labels, more oppression *
    Indentity Xer: * Speaks out against the oppression of Identity X *
    Dipshit So-called Humanist: Why would you want to put yourself in the tiny box of such a narrow identity? Why must you make everything about identity? Why, when I do a racism against your identity must I be criticized? * proceeds to do more racism coupled with claims of “cancelling” *

    They’re either too clueless, or too evil, to admit that the identity politics they hate exists only as a reaction to the Identitarianism they practice.

  9. Akira MacKenzie says


    Well, if the “offended” party is right about the doll, they should be able to easily triumph using facts and logic in The Free Market of Ideas™️. in stead, they unleashed the woke mob and the PC thought police up this poor mother and child rather than engage them in civil, rational debate?

    Curious… /s

  10. otranreg says

    Putting a Schuko plug into a Europlug socket? You sicko perverts disgust me to no end!

  11. wzrd1 says

    I dunno, I think that they’d be perfectly welcome to debate the matter – right after they’ve been tarred and feathered and before they’re rode out of town on the most splinter filled rail to be found.

  12. anxionnat says

    I got that issue of Free Inquiry a few days ago, and the cover and initial essay felt like an assault. The writing in that publication have frankly been uneven for years, but I felt like I could read the good stuff and ignore the idiocy. But now? I’m not so sure there is much good left. I figure if the next issue is equally as bad as this one (the whole issue went into the recycling bin without reading further), I really don’t want that trash in my home. Got better things to occupy my brain cells with that this sort of white privileged BS.

  13. unclefrogy says

    all I ever get out of arguments like that is that they are incensed that other people disagree with them and express that disagreement out loud and in public. While they are perfectly justified in making some subjects and points of view taboo to the extent that they are criminal offenses.
    just bigots crying about human rights with the hubris to advocate a very narrow definition of what constitutes who are humans

  14. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Well, that’s why Dawkins bought CFI and installed his lackey as CEO… so that at least one “respected ” secular organization would continue to tolerate his bullshit.

  15. says

    And gender-changers? TOTALLY HARAM!! Every Micro-Center and Best Buy that sells ’em should be burned to the ground forthwith!!!

    Identitarian: A person or ideology that espouses that group identity is the most important thing about a person…

    Does ANYONE really believe that? Most of us certainly believe our group identities (both conferred and chosen) are large parts of who we are…but THE MOST IMPORTANT thing? That is, at best, and extremely vague phrase. Then again, so is “group identity”…

  16. birgerjohansson says

    Off topic
    Other douchebag news.
    I read that the speculations that Putin has been treated for cancer have been confirmed.
    So – for those who have seen The X File in the 90s- Putin is now officially the Cancer Guy.

  17. John Morales says


    Thanks to commenters, I found that CFI’s Free Inquiry has a whole issue titled “Humanism and Wokism”. Yikes.

    Should be ‘Wokeism’. Sheesh!

    (not to be confused with ‘wok hei’)

    It vaguely amuses me that ‘red-pilling’ is much more like their imagined ‘wokism’ than the actual reality.

    So, CFI is being woke about being woke.

    (So very reflexive!)

  18. birgerjohansson says

    Moar OT but fun.
    When going back to find the link I found this gem:
    4Chan has made an obvious doctored image made to look like a story from CNN about one of the Kelloggs Rice Crispie mascots being a trans woman!

    This forced a spokesperson for Kellogs to go out and deny it after the usual christofascists fell for it and spread the hoax widely. Even a Newsmax host believed it and made an angry rant about something that did not exist.
    Jeez, are these people able to tie their own shoes?
    I love how they make Homer Simpson look like a genius.

  19. Ada Christine says

    i will continue to happily pillory any so-called self-styled “humanist” that speaks bigotries of any nasty flavor. here’s your transgendered oppressor, nerds.

  20. says

    This claim about Dawkins stood out to me:

    and whose vociferous opposition to Donald Trump and Brexit

    I suppose there are two things to say to that: (1) I don’t know if that is actually true. But then I stopped paying attention to Dawkins a long time ago. (2) That is a very low bar. Sure, it’s good to be above that bar, but it’s also nothing special.

  21. abb3w says

    The capricious definition selection at the outset did seem a sort of skeevy equivocation I’d more expect from a Christian zealot than from the leader of a secular humanist organization. However, there was another line from the piece that stood out to me as the most basic and highly disputable foundation of the BS:

    The individual is the most important unit in humanism.

    Furthermore, it seems this was an understatement of the thesis actually required for some of the inferences:

    The individual is the only important unit in humanism.

    Either version of this premise seems more Randite Objectivist than Secular Humanist in character.

    Quoth PZ:

    It would be unnatural to plug your VGA port and a USB cable together.

    At least, it would seem an unusual design choice.
    I feel obliged to add that plugging Randite premises into Secular Humanism also seems a quite peculiar design choice.

  22. Aoife_b says

    Fucking hell I’m tired. I literally just wanted to stop hating myself, now I have to oppress Dawkins and Gervais? That’s a lot of work fam