A few days ago, I wrote about two disappointing developments: that the Center for Inquiry had merged with the Richard Dawkins Foundation (with Dawkins joining their Board of Directors), and that the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS) had booked Dawkins as a speaker. Dawkins has long been known for his bizarre, inappropriate, and sometimes downright hateful posts on social media, so it was embarrassing that the atheist and skeptic communities continued to give him a platform.
Dawkins, to his credit, didn’t put on an act once he was a prominent part of CFI — he has continued Tweeting anti-feminist garbage, reaching a new low today by linking approvingly to the anti-woman bigot (and longtime harasser of me and many other women) Sargon of Akkad:
When many, many people (including Lindy West) pointed out that the woman Sargon lambasts in the video is a real person who has been hounded by threats of violence, Dawkins dug in, posting a link to a video of the actual woman cursing at someone at a rally in Toronto (which was the start of the harassment campaign against her):
When West again asked Dawkins how he could continue to heap abuse on this woman and send his many rabid followers after her, Dawkins stated that he was going to take down his first link until he saw his second link, which ostensibly changed his mind to the point that he felt she deserved the abuse:
NECSS organizers found Dawkins’ behavior distasteful enough that they rescinded their speaking invitation, making an announcement and sending attendees emails saying the following:
A Statement Concerning Richard Dawkins
The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016. We have taken this action in response to Dr. Dawkins’ approving re-tweet of a highly offensive video.
We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views. However, unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful speech runs contrary to our mission and the environment we wish to foster at NECSS. The sentiments expressed in the video do not represent the values of NECSS or its sponsoring organizations.
We will issue a full refund to any NECSS attendee who wishes to cancel their registration due to this announcement.
The NECSS Team
While it remains disappointing that they felt it right to invite Dawkins in the first place (as today’s behavior is hardly anything new), it’s incredibly refreshing to see them correct their mistake now. Let’s hope that Center for Inquiry and other organizations take similar steps to distance themselves from Dawkins’ hateful rhetoric.
As for Dawkins, the backlash apparently convinced him to delete his Tweets. Whether or not that will be accompanied by introspection or just add fuel to many of his fanboys’ belief that he is the victim of evil feminazi censorship remains to be seen.