Richard Dawkins is at the center of yet another controversy after promoting a controversial video comparing feminists to Islamists.
Dawkins shared a link to the anti-feminist video “Feminists Love Islamists” on his Twitter account earlier this week. However, Dawkins deleted the tweet after he found out the female cartoon character in the comedy video was actually a caricature of a real person who has been the target of harassment and bullying from anti-feminist, men’s rights activists.
Yet despite the fact that Dawkins deleted the tweet, The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016.
Making the announcement, conference organizers issued the following statement:
The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016.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
After learning about the conference pulling their invitation to speak, Dawkins issued his own statement via the Friendly Atheist:
I woke up this morning to see a public announcement that my invitation to speak at NECSS 2016 had been withdrawn by the executive committee. I do not write this out of concern about my appearance or non-appearance at NECSS, but I wish there had been a friendly conversation before such unilateral action was taken. It is possible I could have allayed the committee members’ concerns, or, if not, at least we could have talked through their objections to my tweet. If our community is about anything it is that reasoned discussion is the best way to work through disagreements.
I might mention that, before receiving any word from NECSS, I had already deleted the tweet to which they objected. 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. But to delete my tweet seemed the safest and most humane course of action. I have always condemned violence and threats of violence, for example in this tweet, which I also posted the day before the NECSS decision.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t EVER threaten anyone with violence. We should be free to use comedy/ridicule without fear it may inspire violence
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) January 27, 2016
I wish the NECSS every success at their conference. The science and scepticism community is too small and too important to let disagreements divide us and divert us from our mission of promoting a more critical and scientifically literate world.
NECSS is of course free to invite or disinvite anyone they like. However, it does seem odd that they would invite Dawkins in the first place, and then disinvite him over this particular incident, given his well documented record of sexist Twitter faux paus.
Make no mistake, the video contains disgusting attempts at humor, with lines like:
It’s not Rape If a Muslim does it.
Yet the NECSS seems disingenuous when, in the same statement they announce they are dis-inviting Dawkins for sharing a link to an offensive video, they also have the gall to state:
We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views.
Claiming to “believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views” while dis-inviting Dawkins for sharing a link to a video expressing unpopular, offensive views seems insincere if not dishonest.
In the end, the whole debacle is indicative of a profound failure to communicate.
(Curious readers can watch the video here – and please note that sharing a link to the video is not an endorsement of the video.)