There has been an appalling amount of nonsense spewing out of the Center for Inquiry (CFI)/ Committee For Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) since some inner turmoil saw the less than amicable departure of founder Paul Kurtz.
The full story will probably never be public knowledge, but the popular reasoning seems to focus on Kurtz’s known attitudes of accommodationism as regards to religion clashing with those of successor Ronald A. Lindsay1 – who, allegedly, has definite anti-theistic attitudes and fondness for superficial irrelevancies such as the Blasphemy Challenge2.
The problem with this “official” version is that it doesn’t really have any reflection in reality. Ever since this changing of the guard, CFI / CSI have been churning out a pretty steady stream of accommodationist nonsense, far in excess of anything that preceded it. Perhaps the pinnacle of this idiocy was from CSI fellow Gollum and his now incurably pathogenic don’t be a dick sermon-on-the-mount3, but it is far from the only example. Other notable outbursts include one from Michael De Dora on the CFI site itself –
– pretty much updating Gollum’s sermon and branding all atheists dicks. Followed up by this gem published today –
This time branding atheists stupid for dissing “belief” by cataloguing his list of definitions for the word whilst proving he hasn’t ever talked to any actual atheists about their reasoning before damning them as a bloc. But the nonsense crème de la crème, where accommodationism morphs into appeasement, can be found from CFI director of education John Shook with this effort published at HuffPo –
Atheists are getting a reputation for being a bunch of know-nothings. They know nothing of God, and not much more about religion, and they seem proud of their ignorance.
Sensational, eye catching opening – ideally suited for consumption on the Deepak Chopra-ised clone of Faux News – but actually a fair summary of his opinions and probably the only line in the article where Shook is speaking with genuine sincerity. I am 99% certain this article was reproduced on CFI, but it no longer appears there. But a quick perusal of Shook’s other, often self-contradictory, output shows readily enough that it is not an unusual piece for him.
These blogs are far from alone and are probably the best visible evidence there is of how seriously CFI / CSI has skidded of the rails in the 18 months since Kurtz filed for divorce. Hardly a hotbed of rabid anti-theism is it? So the “official” reason for the discontent just adds to the nonsense.
The toxin though, as my Canadian correspondents repeatedly stress, appears to be confined at this stage to the US, with the other affiliate branches outside the US still making the effort to maintain their charters and integrity.
So what is it with this sudden desire to tar-n-feather atheists? Or more broadly, those that insist on stating their cases about reality as they see it unapologetically and without compromise? Why are they suddenly being branded dicks, assholes, contrarians, antagonists and far worse? Being accused essentially of vandalism and bringing disrepute to the world of secularism and black-marked for others to see? Hitchens has long been derided and slandered by certain segments of the secular movement, but now we are seeing similar contempt being mobilised against Richard Dawkins4 and many, many lesser players that similarly refuse to play the accommodationism and appeasement game.
And where it ceases to be a discomforting observation, and becomes a genuinely disturbing cause of greater concern, is that mapped alongside of this and covering the exact same period of time is the sudden emergence, relentless propagation and entrenchment into our reality space of the atheist misogyny meme… Not just dicks now, but woman hating rape apologists to boot. Mere coincidence or work o’ the devil?
What. The. Fuck. Is. Going. On?
This is no longer an incident here or an incident there… This is a wholesale social cleansing operation to marginalise and disenfranchise all voices that are deemed unacceptable. Or in old school language, a purge or a pogrom. Suddenly, some of the odd statements made by Kurtz about his resignation from CFI to the New York Times are not so strange –
By MARK OPPENHEIMER, Published: October 1, 2010
…We are meeting in his home, not at the center, minutes away in this Buffalo suburb. In 2008, looking to spend less time running the center, he supported his board’s decision to hire Ronald A. Lindsay, a corporate lawyer from Washington, as chief executive. He soon regretted the decision. Mr. Lindsay “became very authoritarian and dictatorial,” Mr. Kurtz told me.
In June 2009, at odds with Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Kurtz was voted out as the center’s chairman. In May, he resigned from the board altogether.
According to Mr. Kurtz, there were two areas of conflict. First, he says, Mr. Lindsay changed the work culture. Whereas Mr. Kurtz had managed “in the spirit of a think tank,” Mr. Lindsay brought his legal background to bear.
“I am used to the academic life, where we don’t impose rules on employees,” Mr. Kurtz said, sitting in his living room. But Mr. Lindsay, he said, “set up a command system, said these are the rules and laws, and anyone who deviates from that will be investigated.”
Employees were interrogated for minor infractions, Mr. Kurtz said, and several were let go. “That is like Stalinism or the Inquisition,” Mr. Kurtz said…
[It needs to be noted that the above are Kurtz’s recollections of prior to his resignation on May 18, 2010 – and well before the much discussed CFI firings a month later. The implied attitude of Stalinism was about matters unrelated to the how and why of the job losses.]
Kurtz’s comments which initially may have seemed alarmist, or even bordering on hysterical, are now not so odd in light of the behaviour of all involved in the Watsonista side of the recent Elevatorgate morality crusade. If anything, they now come across as measured and restrained.
CFI have not only ignored all of the antics of Watson to date, they continue to feed her oxygen to continue pumping out her poison. As they did recently by sponsoring her speaking at the CFI Leadership Conference 2011 where she took full opportunity of the event to, again, grind out her misandrist sermonising. Amongst the choice nuggets she injected into a defenseless audience –
You know, since starting Skepchick, I’ve heard from a lot of women who don’t attend events like this because of those of you who have this attitude. They’re tired of being objectified, and some of them have actually been raped; quite a number of them have been raped, or otherwise sexually assaulted.
– which to any uncritical ear sounds like skeptic and atheist conferences without a healthy number rapes of defenseless women simply don’t happen. Great way to promote the movement. That it is outright bullshit is irrelevant – the only thing that matters is delivering the right emotional punch for the faithful. Is this good value for an organisation that is as cash strapped as CFI? Must be. They keep throwing funding at her. After all, they have a common goal – hatred of atheists, specifically the white and male ones with big, opinionated mouths and/or wealth.
You’d think Watson was the Lady Gaga of the skeptic set. What is the foundation for this fawning? An actual Watson curriculum vitae is proving to be an elusive, almost mythical beast. There simply isn’t one to be found – which is more than slightly unusual for a celebrity skeptic of her stature. The Naked Emperor contemptuously scoffed at requests from cynics to see one, and with a straight face referred folks to an alleged copy of one on Myspace (!) – where I am unable to find anything. So in lieu of the real thing, let’s attempt to make one from available information –
Qualifications: None that anyone can find other than references to working as magician / juggler to get through some college somewhere. Either Philadelphia or Baltimore, depending where you dig. Fine, but if it was a qualification of any relevance, what purpose would it serve to conceal it? Not a biggie, I am always a proponent of vocational / life learning as opposed to formal education anyway.
Vocational / Life Experience: Big fat blank of nothing. Not here one day, darkening our doorway the next. No
hisherstory, no one knows. Nada. Zilch. She’s just here and we had better get used to it.
- Randi.org – permanently banned. Exploiting inadvertent elevation of personal account privileges for grubby revenge against other members by unauthorised account tampering and deletions. Interesting to compare to the case of David Kernell, currently in a Kentucky prison for activities not too dissimilar to Watson’s after he hacked5 Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email account using primarily social engineering to obtain false trust. The main differences are that Kernell’s motives were to expose the corruption endemic to the Palin political machine, while Watson’s were more banal – common spite and malice.
- Amanda Marcotte – who Watson promotes on Skepchick. Another cog in the misandrist blog industry machine, Marcotte naturally returns the favour. Very appropriate then that Watson frames her pictured in the same row as The Naked Emperor and Greg Laden –
One of Marcotte’s main claims to fame, and attraction to Watsonistas everywhere, was proclaiming –
“the real crime of the ‘independent feminists’ is helping preserve the idea that the presumption of innocence applies even in cases of rape and sexual assault.” [more]
Well blow me down. I always assumed basics like presumption of innocence for all, without prejudice, was a principle firmly grounded in skepticism and reasoning, but what the hell would I know? Marcotte also labels anyone that even thinks of defending any male accused of sexual crimes (against women of course, men and kids don’t count) as “rape-loving scum”6. What a hot babe.
- The entire atheist and skeptic communities – It’s just plain wrong for any community to exist as an egalitarian, self-governing collective. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Watsonistas, we all have pigeon holes we can be crammed into – Vestal virgins; conscious men (toilet slaves); misogynists / rapists; and gender traitors. Wonderful. Life is simpler and more enjoyable now. We are eternally indebted to Watson for this fragmentation.
- Religious conservative bloggers – last but not least, they are there gloating and guffawing to themselves, all of their dreams coming true, watching their worst assumptions about secularists coming to life before their eyes. Their gratitude can’t even be expressed in words.
Pretty much only one thing here – in the space of around two years, in concert with Greta Christina and the rest of the Skepchick posse, has managed to increase the incidence of atheist misogyny in Google by well in excess of a 1000% and managed to flood search results to such an extent that it is no longer possible to search for women and atheism or skepticism without being overwhelmed by sexism and misogyny horror stories (other staggering statistics have been detailed here). Thanks to their efforts, it is now evident that, outside of the middle east, the worst misogynists, sexists and rape apologists can all be found concentrated in our secularist communities. More even than in the Nascar or pro-sports communities, apparently. Titanic effort. Well done! Manufacturing reality 101.
Other than that, what has Watson done? Not a whole lot actually. When Watson is not crying wolf about sexism or misogyny, she’s whining about her next favourite word (even more favourite than “creepy”) – that hoary old nugget objectification. And when not whining about objectification, she objectifies others, or objectifies herself7 with designer cheesecake smut designed to entice precisely the right supporters. Shocking isn’t it? Selling yourself with sex… cheap titillation purely with the intent of leading mindless chumps around by their balls.
And this is who CFI, so often teetering on the brink of insolvency, consider to be an outstanding ambassador for secularism, and keep throwing funds at. Go figure.
Yes Becky. There is a lot of privilege at work here. An awful lot. And it’s the diametric opposite of what you claim it is. Privilege still needs to be white. But it also has to have a pussy.
As tempting as it may be to imply conspiracy here, it is not a trap I wish to fall into. No, what I think we are witnessing instead is two distinct microcosms with an inherent slave mentality that have evolved in parallel in two separate petri dishes. They then discovered each other and lo! found they had remarkably common interests – namely an intense dislike of up front, direct and no nonsense atheists and skeptics, specifically male ones and especially those that are white and successful. A natural marriage was consumated. They then proceeded to claim the mantle of Freethinkers for themselves, despite being nothing of the sort, and in a pincer movement that we are currently in the throes of, are attempting to route out and exterminate the remaining genuine Freethinkers using slander, misrepresentation and guilt by association. The situation as it stands is more reminiscent of HUAC than a movement that claims reason and enlightenment as its goal.
Our existing communities are being purged. The evidence has been there for anyone who chooses to see it for some years now. The current attacks against Dawkins4 are stunning in their audacity – and show the full extent of the arrogance the Watsonista camp now feel entitled to after their years of manipulation and insinuation into CFI.
It is now a misnomer for any of these parties to use the term inquiry in there names. It should be ideology. This is very much an effort to subvert and destroy the old guard of the atheist and skeptic communities and replace the values of freethought and actual liberalism with a vile authoritarian brand of crypto-fascist gender feminism, neo-puritanism and genuinely Stalinist command structures based on slave morality groupthink where all dissent can be silenced and exterminated on sight.
It is also a mistake to look at events such as Elevatorgate, the “don’t be a dick” sermon, the purges of the unwanted from SensitiveLand and ThinkAtheist or the TamTamPamela lynching as standalone problems in their own right. These are all mere symptoms of the much larger disease. This is the new, new atheism. And it is a disease ignored at our peril.
We have effectively been hijacked and it is very close to game over. I don’t know what else to say.
1 – The most remarkable fact about Lindsay is the complete lack of information about him online. Apparently he’s a lawyer. A corporate lawyer. Probably has good reason to be shy.
2 – Just one question – why? It looks kind of stupid to secularists outside the US. Kind of like having a site devoted to people who renounce garlic, or existentialism. What is the point? Very juvenile. Very pointless.
3 – Made at TAM 8 and, ironically, subsidised by “dick-in-chief” James Randi (in the Gollum sense of the word and otherwise innocent of this dumbness. Randi is a scholar. a gentleman and certainly above all this slave mentality). This talk, a masterpiece of wedge politicking, has now been embraced as the most effective tool ever for silencing dissent within the godless and skeptic communities and saw collective IQs at the major godless social sites halve as the most interesting members abandoned them in disgust.
4 – See especially the demands from Rebecca Watson / Skepchick that call for a Dawkins boycott that falls just short of demanding a public book burning.
5 – I hate the wanton misuse of the term “hack”, but this is how the cesspit of lies has written it up. He didn’t “hack” anything.
6 – Some background on the target of Marcotte’s outrage –
7 – Odd. Much higher resolution of this image have been purged from previous locations in community threads. Anyone know of intervention to facilate this? Here is some more Becky smut. Make up your mind Becky – you either are a sexual being or you’re not. You can’t have it both ways.