I’ve been catching up on YouTube videos, and this interview with John Iacoletti and Chelsea Rodriguez really hit me. It’s bad enough that some jerks threw transgender people under the bus to protect a bigoted YouTuber, but think about what else these people have done:
- Downplayed the impact of Rationality Rules to the Atheist Community of Austin Board of Directors, even though all their volunteer moderators had quit in protest,
- Misrepresented the views of the board in public statements,
- Intimidated the board into voting the way they wanted,
- Held a witch trial during the elections to punish any board member who disagreed with them,
- Forced out board members who disagreed with their views, effectively taking full control of the ACA,
- Broke ACA rules to get one of their own, Drew McCoy, elected to the board,
- Forced or drove out most of the people who knew how to run the ACA,
- Broke ACA rules to get Matt Dillahunty in the president’s chair,
- Blamed the old board for problems the new board could easily fix,
- Take credit for the work of others,
- Pushed out volunteers they suspected wouldn’t agree with their views,
- Turned a blind eye to hatred and bigotry in ACA spaces, unless it generated bad PR,
- Ignore emails when it is convenient for them,
- Delete the comments of anyone, including former volunteers and board members, who has anything to say about the current board of the ACA, even when they don’t know what they will say.
Almost every organization runs on trust. The exceptions, like the US Department of Defense and Facebook, can only get away with it because their “customers” have no alternative. People in need of a medium-sized atheist/skeptic non-profit have a number of good alternatives to pick from, in contrast.
At this point, would you trust the ACA enough to collaborate with them instead of another organization? Would you donate money to help keep them afloat?
That last one isn’t just idle speculation. I see occasional comments about the ACA temporarily losing their non-profit status. I’m plenty skeptical of the claim, but at the same time if the current board said the problem was resolved, or was never a problem to begin with, would I take their word for it? Jumping back into speculation-land, suppose this culture of rule-breaking allows a board member to start embezzling funds. Are the rest of the board capable of detecting and dealing with the problem, or will they deny and downplay the problem until they cannot?
Kill off trust, and you put a severe dent in your cash flow. Kill off the cash flow of any organization, and you kill that organization. And while I can’t speak for you, I certainly don’t trust the ACA’s current board of directors at all. They only have two ways to avoid death by lack of trust: as Rodriguez suggests, resign and turn over control of the board to a group willing to deal openly and honestly with the problem, or hope that a combination of silence, lies, and deceit will keep the general public ignorant of the situation. Several months on, I think it’s safe to say they’ve rejected the first option, and that second one isn’t doing so hot.
This isn’t a matter of just feeling unwelcome. This is a matter of life and death. We are literally seeing transgender people being killed in record numbers for just being who they are. Yet the ACA is allowing guest hosts who promote transphobic ideas and allow their followers to harass transgender content creators. And the ACA allows hate speech on their social media, including questioning whether or not transgender people actually exist.
After the whole Stephen Woodford thing, I spent my last few days in the ACA Facebook group trying to educate people on the realities of HRT, trans women, and sports. The response was basically a whole lot of racism, misogyny, transmisogyny, and ableism. My last post was a call for atheists who focus on climate change, social justice, and economic justice based on the values of secular humanism, and I was hit with a litany of dictionary trolling (and a few people defending Sam Harris’ platforming of Charles Murray and race realism itself). It is now a cesspool of alt-right BS as far as I’m concerned.
It was not an easy decision to leave, but I could not be associated with people who would alienate the marginalized in favor of YouTube views, revenue, and fame. Those I considered peers and friends have shown themselves to be the antithesis of what the ACA stood for. The current board of directors are ignoring their own bylaws and turning the ACA into the boys club of their dreams.
If you are hearing my words and are looking for community, do yourself a favor and look past the ACA.
And now we’re here. Why? Because a transphobic youtuber posted a video, and some of the ACA’s hosts (at that time) supported him. They pretended not to do so, of course, to the public at large, for a brief time. But they did. How do I know all of this? How can I back up my claims? I have receipts. I have screenshots of conversations I’ve had with various officers in the ACA during that time frame. I worked for the ACA, both prior to and during that time frame, as an author for their newsletter and in the organization itself.
Consequently, after seeing that the majority of local people who cared enough to show up at an election as well as the vast majority of the online fans valued the feelings of their privileged misguided buddy over the rights of marginalized people, valued YouTube clicks over inclusion and equality, valued hate speech over empathy and compassion, valued Internet fame over reaching out to the most vulnerable among us, and valued aggression over positive community for all, I realized that I could also no longer act as a defacto spokesperson for the organization by appearing as a volunteer host on its media productions. So, after 13 years of working as a crew member on the Atheist Experience and 6 years and 51 episodes of being a rotating cohost, with a great deal of sorrow I resigned from the show as well.
I felt ashamed that I had promoted the ACA to such great lengths, ashamed that I had been taken in by flowery words without any substance, and ashamed that people could not stand up for the human and civil rights of so many of their members or volunteers.
A while back, Essence of Thought released a video called “The Death of the Atheist Community of Austin.” That wasn’t hyperbole. The masterminds behind the ACA take-over (possibly Matt Dillahunty and Eric Murphy) may have killed off the ACA, all because they wanted to protect the fee-fees of a transphobic bigot.
[2018-08-14 HJH] I stand corrected! The ACA did lose their non-profit status for at least a couple of weeks. Looks like that was squarely the old board’s fault, too. I don’t think any argument I’ve made changes due to this info, but it’s worth bringing to readers’ attention if only because I could be wrong. Thanks, CompulsoryAccount7746!