NECSS Dumps Richard Dawkins Over Hate Tweet

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:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.39.27 PM

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):

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.38.43 PM

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:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.40.20 PM

NECSS organizers found Dawkins’ behavior distasteful enough that they rescinded their speaking invitation, making an announcement and sending attendees emails saying the following: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The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016.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.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. It’s now a moral imperative that I attend NECSS soon. (Can’t make it this year because of other plans.) But now I HAVE to go!

    1. The all-male leadership NEcSS invited the alpha male into their lair, fully aware of his vulnerabilities. When an opportunity arose, NEcSS exploited it, making a colorful display defending their feminists, chasing away the aging male. Predictably, feminists now feel the urge to nest with NEcSS. How encouraging it is to see skeptics get down to basics.

  2. Second Feminist-Related Good Thing From Unexpected Source that has happened this week. Did you listen to Marc Maron’s podcast intro on Monday? I thought the “unfuckable” in “unfuckable hate nerds” was a bit much, but the rest was a thing of beauty in a way only Maron can do. Some of it is written in the linked post, but the audio is better. He even references gamergate.

  3. As you point out, NECSS could have avoided this mess by not inviting him in the first place. Now they are going to have to deal with Dawkins apologists attacking the organization and its leadership and/or funding. I expect it will start with an angry post on the Friendly Atheist blog in 3… 2… 1…

    1. Walter, that’s part of what makes this such a positive development. NECSS was willing to stand up to a celebrity within the skeptical/atheist movement where other conferences and organizations have been hesitant. Dealing with Dawkins’ fanatics may cause headaches, but if they would rather defend Dawkins than support the larger movement I say it’s no big deal losing them. If this does cause a major rift in the movement I’m fine with that too. I want to associate with the skeptics and atheists who reject bigotry, misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia. It’s nice to know at least with respect to Dawkins NECSS is willing to agree with me.

      1. I would agree with you except this isn’t the first time he has said something bigoted and misogynic. Hell, I would even argue that re-tweet wasn’t even the dumbest thing he has said (which is saying a lot)*. I’m just curious how this recent re-tweet crossed the line when all the other stupid shit coming out of his mouth (and Twitter feed) didn’t.

        * For the record, I would argue Dawkins’ low point was implying in a tweet that women shouldn’t complain they were raped if they were drunk at the time — something said to defend Michael Shermer against allegations he may have taken advantage of a woman at a skeptics conference.

        1. No question, given his history I was troubled by his inclusion at NECSS in the first place. Still it can be difficult for an organization to stand up to an ego as big as his. I am unaware of any group that has seen fit to ban him, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time he’s ever seen his invitation to speak at a skeptical/atheist conference rescinded. If NECSS is willing to be the trendsetter that took some gumption.

          1. Apparently Steve Novella is going to blog tomorrow about the reason Dawkins was disinvited, as well as address it in the upcoming SGU podcast. So we will find out.

            And Dawkins is playing “they should have talked to me first” card.

          2. And Dawkins is playing “they should have talked to me first” card.

            Well of course he is. It’s much less seemly to threaten and cajole people out in the open.

    2. This IMO this is a positive move for the NECSS, and hopefully for Dawkins he can learn something from these events. There is only so much room you can allow before personal behaviour can affect your academic standing. Perhaps Dawkins may begin to realise that he does actually have a bit of a problem (hope its not some sort of medical thing, and that he is just a bit clueless).

      1. I think a big part of the problem is that, no matter how many times he sticks his foot in his mouth, he still has a million people telling him he’s brilliant. It’s never pleasant to be told that you’re wrong and it’s very tempting to just listen to the positive voices. That makes it easy to lose perspective.

  4. Oh good. Dawkins now officially getting buddy-buddy with the “Dark Enlightenment” neonazis. He even already uses the term “Cultural Christian,” he’ll fit right in.

  5. That poor, poor man.

    It’s getting to the point in this country where a man can’t state his personal opinion without being labeled a bigot or a monster. Take Donald Trump, I mean he just said that… *uhu*

    Sorry, I made myself throw up in my mouth. I can’t even get through that shit in jest.

    Someone pass me the Scope.

  6. An update on the deleted tweets.

    “I deleted it because I was momentarily persuaded, probably wrongly, that a human life (however vile) might be threatened.”

    Dawkins is the worst.

    1. Oh, it get’s better. In his response on his site (link below) he actually said this.

      I did it purely because I was told that the video referenced a real woman, who had been threatened on earlier occasions because of YouTube videos in which she appeared to her disadvantage. I have no knowledge of the authenticity of the alleged death and rape threats.

      So, that is the only reason he deleted the tweet? Not because it was vile or because it made him look like a raging bell-end, no it was purely out of some paternalistic concern for the welfare or the woman that he clearly doesn’t even believe was actually threatened in the first place? Sure Dick Dastardly, we believe you.

      We clearly need a new word that means “once-respected person who shows themselves to be a cock-knob without and editor.” Any ideas?

  7. If our community is about anything it is that reasoned discussion is the best way to work through disagreements.

    BWAAAAH Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!!!!!!!!111

    Sorry, that extremely thick piece of shit-filled irony is from Dicky’s pity-filled response on his website.

    Someone needs to get grampa away from the typewiter/tv-machine before he hurts himself.

  8. I find it amazing (but not surprising) that Dawkins thinks of himself as a feminist, yet never posts anything positive about feminism. If the only time you talk about feminism is to attack feminists, you’re not actually a feminist.

    1. Hey, no, if a religious minority has a bad record on women’s rights, he’s MORE than happy to attack them.

      1. Yeah, I realized that after I posted it. He loves feminists that attack sexism in places with pretty horrifying treatment of women justified by religion, just so long as they don’t think there’s any sexism in the (atheist) western world and attack anybody who says differently. Remember kids, sexism only occurs in other places by religious people and Atheist leaders are perfect people, free of all bias.

        1. Well, it’s also that there are KINDS of feminism. His is the right kind. It leaves males comfortable and still on top, but with a warm glow that the women are actually as equal as they can be.

  9. And… Friendly Atheist apparently thinks they should have let him come to tell his side of the story… Because I guess there isn’t any kind of broad platform available for him to explain himself other than being paid to feature at conferences and nothing better anyone might do with their time than listen to him explain why he’s linking to that video, calling people vile for being rude to MRAs, etc.
    Please Dawkins let me pay you to tell me what real feminism is.

    1. And that is why I stopped reading Friendly Atheist a long time ago. I view Hemant the same way I view Catholics who refuse to acknowledge the pope did anything wrong even after the full extent of the child abuse scandal was made public. Actually, in a way he is even worse: He has gone out of his way to court the very people who are harassing women online (mostly the Slymepit). That’s like a Catholic seeking out the child abusers and defending them.

      And he isn’t the only one. One of the other atheist bloggers over there (memory escapes me which one) said he worked with Dawkins and therefore knows Dawkins can’t be sexist in anyway — even after everything Dawkins has said in public. I remember Jerry Coyne’s defense of Dawkins as the latter was disparaging women who alleged sexual harassment by Shermer. And I am so fucking tired of commenters on atheist blogs claiming Dawkins is simply being “rational” or “provoking discussion” whenever he makes a simplistic attack on Muslims (or just people with brown skin) and women. Atheism may not be a religion, but its adherents can sure act like religious followers when it comes to idol worship.

  10. Novella has responded here:

    I expected, but still find mildly annoying the “there is obviously lots of legitimate disagreement” waffling.

    My other initial thought is that I don’t personally value skeptical/atheist community unity, or the rock star status of anyone in it very much at all relative to pretty much any of the issues under discussion. Which many of the atheists/skeptics I follow (as well as many who have dropped off the scene and I miss tremendously) appear to have in common with me.

    1. Yeah. I left a comment and haven’t gone back, knowing the comment section will soon be filled with Dawkins fanboys.

      And yes, I too am a bit upset that Novella doesn’t get it. I think he has done a lot to advance the role of women among skeptics, but he has never been brave enough to call out problems in the community, fearing it may hurt his public image as a neutral observer. The big problem with Dawkins isn’t that he simply says controversial things, but that he has belittled women who try to speak out about sexual harassment from other skeptics/atheists, and he gives a very public platform to individuals who harass women online. Maybe had Dawkins been allowed to speak at the conference he would have been challenged on these things, but given SGU’s recent fawning interview with Michael Shermer, I highly doubt that.

      1. Indeed, while his reply here is fair I am disturbed by the dichotomy he sets up between championing free speech and social justice.

        A truly false dichotomy if ever there was one.

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