US radio station slammed for cancelling Dawkins event

US radio station slammed for cancelling Dawkins event July 22, 2017

A radio station in Berkeley, California, has pulled the plug on a talk scheduled to be given by Professor Richard Dawkins in August, much to the fury of free speech advocates.
KPFA, organisers of the talk, said it had cancelled the event because of Dawkins’ “abusive” comments about Islam. A statement from KPFA said:

We regret to inform you that KPFA has canceled our event with Richard Dawkins. We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people.
KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier. We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation. Your ticket purchases will automatically be refunded by Brown Paper Tickets.

This is what KPFA tweeted yesterday:

The Center for Inquiry reacted with alarm, saying in a statement that it was “stunned and deeply dismayed” by the cancellation:

The station alleged without evidence that the world renowned evolutionary biologist had engaged in ‘abusive speech’, against Islam, a justification that CFI considers absurd. Prof Dawkins is a renowned, responsible, and thoughtful critic of all religions, who KPFA had previously hosted in 2015, apparently undisturbed by Prof Dawkins’ criticism of some of the tenets and ideas of Islam, Christianity, and other faiths.

Said Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry:

Richard Dawkins is one of the greatest intellects of our time, with a wealth of wisdom and insight that he looked forward to sharing with his Berkeley audience. For KPFA to suddenly break its commitment to Richard and the hundreds of people who were so looking forward to seeing and hearing him is unconscionable, and the baseless accusation that Richard has engaged in ‘abusive speech’ is a betrayal of the values KPFA has, until now, been known for.
Prof Dawkins—whose landmark book The Selfish Gene was just voted the most influential science book of all time in a poll by the Royal Society – was scheduled to speak on August 9 about his newest book, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, which KPFA itself called ‘excellent’.

Dawkins said:

The idea that I have engaged in abusive speech against Islam is preposterous, which even the most rudimentary fact-checking by KPFA would have made clear. I have indeed strongly condemned the misogyny, homophobia, and violence of Islamism, of which Muslims – particularly Muslim women – are the prime victims. I make no apologies for denouncing those oppressive cruelties, and I will continue to do so.

Last year, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science merged with the Center for Inquiry, and Prof. Dawkins joined the CFI board of directors.
Blummer added:

In its forty-one-year history, the Center for Inquiry has fought proudly for human and civil rights, and Richard Dawkins is an invaluable ally for our cause. We (including Richard Dawkins himself) strongly opposed President Trump’s misguided and discriminatory Muslim ban. We have been at the forefront of the major civil justice causes of our time, and we have devoted ourselves to countering the outmoded, dogmatic prejudices and misinformation aimed at marginalized groups …
We understand the difference between a people and the beliefs they may hold. All of us must be free to debate and criticize ideas, and harmful ideas must be exposed. It is incredibly disappointing that KPFA does not understand this.

Hat tip: Antony Niall & BarrieJohn

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  • porko

    Religion poisons everything.
    There is more to this than meets the eye. Could it be that someone, say a fundamentalist creationist evangelist bible thumping hardline christian apologist put the spanner in the works because they objected to programming such as this:-
    The Christian Right’s War on Reality | KPFA
    Today host Mitch Jeserich interviews Sociology Professor Antony Alumkalabout his new book “Paranoid Science: The Christian Right’s War on Reality.” The book explains how and why Christian leaders came to see scientific truths as hostile.
    And there are other examples of KPFA programming that would upset the christian lobby.
    And isn’t it just what a fundamentalist creationist evangelist bible thumping hardline christian apologist would do … get Richard pulled off air on the pretext of muslim hurt.

  • Paul

    With luck the fact the radio station has done this will allow people to search for the facts and establish themselves if he is a hate mongerer, and the publicity will show the station for what it is, and listeners reduce in numbers perhaps, and Richard for what he is, which can’t be doubted – a towering intellect. Importantly research too what is Islam, an evil religion and that stopping, by any and every form and opportunity, debate about it, is damaging. That this damages free speech is axiomatic.
    Islam deserves no protection – it is puerile to call it a religion of peace, it must be called out for what it is, and it is wrong to consistently give Islam special protection because of its stupid idiotic claims and to stifle and stop debate. It has ridiculous claims and it is in parts evil. These are easily ascertainable facts. These have to be aired and told to the public at large. Richard is exceptional at this.
    Moreover, it doesn’t matter that those who’s minds are closed won’t bother because to check and research what he said and conclude openly, as they don’t count. One cannot convince a plank to become a tree, it has become that object and cannot change as a plank is a plank.

  • Angela_K

    Stating uncomfortable facts about Islam is abusive? How spineless of this radio to cancel this event, they’ve let Islam stifle free speech again.

  • porko

    Whats wrong with ‘abusive speech’, against Islam anyway. Islam is essentially facism dressed up as religious dogma. And is therfore extremely dangerous to democracy, free speech and secular freedom. Facism, Nazism, Communism all failed because their leaders were human who overreached themselves. Islam has a mythical but much more powerful ‘god’ leader that has immense power over the minds of hundreds of millions of fanatical adherents. Islam represents a very real and present danger to humanity and every opportunity must be seized to mock it, criticise it and to reveal its hideously dangerous threat. To accuse RD of hate speech against islam is a specious claim. Accuse him of objective critique of all religions is fair … but hate speech … no.

  • porko

    And by its actions KPFA has unleased a huge global wave of awareness of this story, much more than would have resulted from airing the programme in the first place. A bright light is once again shone on the nefarious behaviour of the pious. A bit of an own goal by KPFA and by those who pressurised KPFA to drop the broadcast be they muslim or christian.

  • John

    I hope humanists and secularists in Berkeley California put on the event themselves without the radio station KPFA.
    They will be coming in on the back of some very useful publicity and should easily sell out the “show”.
    Go California Humanists !!!!

  • barriejohn

    This sort of thing is par for the course nowadays. Does anyone even understand what freedom of speech is now?

  • John

    President Trump understands freedom of speech.
    He’s signed a bill guaranteeing it — and religion.
    Not worth the paper it is written on, you say?
    What a cynic you must be !!!!

  • Broga

    A characteristic of Richard Dawkins is his restraint. What the religious don’t like are the uncomfortable facts he presents when he identifies the absurdities of so much belief.

  • barriejohn

    Broga? Is this a wicked impostor, or the genuine article? I think we should be told!

  • Broga

    @barriejohn: It’s the real deal. I got tired of reading without commenting. And I am a fan of Richard Dawkins.
    Kind of you to enquire.

  • Peter Sykes

    “Prof Dawkins—whose landmark book The Selfish Gene was just voted the most influential science book of all time in a poll by the Royal Society…”
    A brilliant book, but more influential than On the Origin of Species?
    Broga: great to hear from you again.

  • barriejohn

    Peter Sykes: I agree.
    Broga: Brilliant news. I shall look forward to reading your pertinent comments once more!

  • Broga

    barriejohn: Many thanks. The great thing about this site, for me anyway, is that it provides opinions on religion that are uncompromising, informative and certainly accord with my mindset.

  • L.Long

    The decision in any way you wish to think of it, was still their decision. Hopefully others may learn from this and some opinions may change.

  • Dianne Leonard

    I listen to KPFA in Berkeley. Last night on the Evening News, the reporter commented that this cancellation was due to a Muslim group in San Francisco contacting the station to complain. They said that “about half” of the comments on the cancellation were pro and 1/2 con. Considering that I had just heard the news that morning, that’s pretty good. They did mention that scientists from all over the country are emailing to defend Dawkins (which I did as soon as I heard.) I also think the community of scientists here should sponsor Dawkins and fuck the radio station. The interesting thing is that they will be beginning their summer fundraising period starting next Tuesday. So many people are mad at them now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that period will fall short. (I stopped supporting them several years ago due to actions like this, including the lack of fact-checking, which they used to be very good at.)

  • Barry Duke

    Welcome back, Broga! I can honestly say that I’ve missed you, and in particular your heartwarming sentiments about animals and the joy you’ve derived from their company. I thought we had lost you both as a robust commenter and reader. Your “resurrection” has truly made my day.

  • Paul

    Hey Broga!
    Welcome back.
    Hope all is well.

  • Broga

    Wow! I’m touched by all your kind comments. I had no idea.
    I departed when I was having a bit of a bad spell with my health. Nothing serious but weeks of a hacking cough which continued through the night so I couldn’t sleep. So it left me feeling a bit ratty during the day.
    My GP couldn’t do anything about it but said others in her practice had something similar. She tried antibiotics. Eventually it just disappeared. I sustained myself by reading the contributors here so you are due thanks from me.
    I didn’t pray. My wife said, “If you had been a Christian and prayed you would have thought God had answered your prayers when you recovered.”

  • StephenJP

    KPFA has come in for a lot of heavy flak from Jerry Coyne’s website among others. In return, I understand that they have taken down all their original postings relating to this event, and are refusing to respond to emails or comments, including Richard’s own email (now an open posting).
    What a lot of pusillanimous chicken-shit cowards! They haven’t even got the guts to defend their decision against all the criticism it is attracting. I think they will live to regret this unconscionable piece of censorship.

  • RussellW

    “KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech”
    Translation–“KPFA does not endorse free speech”,”community relations”are more important.
    Just another capitulation to Islam and its demented followers.

  • John the Drunkard

    KPFA was an extraordinary Berkeley institution from the 50s on. A venue for jazz and classical music in the radio wilderness, a source for reporting NOT dominated by big media outlets etc. etc. Aldous Huxley wrote an essay about his delight in finding KPFA while he spent a few days in Berkeley.
    BUT. KPFA has also suffered from internal struggles and takeovers, has always had an uncomfortable Stalinist/Maoist ‘Red Diaper’ strain, and is certainly part of the lock-step anti Israel fury that eats so much of the American pseudo-lefts energy and imagination.
    I am not surprised at all to hear that the Professional Offended could command obedience from KPFA without even having to kill anyone.

  • Gui

    It’s never let to amuse me how these kind of people can be so vocal to criticize Christianism, but when is about Islam, acts like be stepping in eggs, to use a expression used in Brazil.

  • John

    Did Gui actually read the article – the bit that reported Dawkins as saying ‘I have indeed strongly condemned the misogyny, homophobia, and violence of Islamism, of which Muslims – particularly Muslim women – are the prime victims. I make no apologies for denouncing those oppressive cruelties, and I will continue to do so.’?
    The amusement belongs to all of the rest of us – not Gui.
    His fixed mind-set cannot separate fact from fiction.

  • barriejohn

    John: I read Gui’s comment the other way. I had assumed that he was criticising those who had banned Professor Dawkins, as the Left, while critical of Christians, seem to have a blind spot where Muslim bigotry and oppression are concerned. Maybe he should have avoided reference to “these kind of people”!

  • Broga

    I see that Richard Dawkins’ “Science in the Soul” has been reviewed on Amazon. There is the usual Christian whine, at length which is typical, including the statement that Dawkins’ comments make the Christian more certain of the existence of God.
    I chucked in my opinion which the Christian did not like. I am not alone in my pro Dawkins anti Christian comments.

  • tonye

    Welcome back, you were much missed.

  • Cali Ron

    Broga: Welcome back old friend. I’ve missed your voice.

  • Cali Ron

    The KPFA is not the same station it was in the 60’s and 70’s, just like Berkeley isn’t the same city. The hippies and radicals dropped in and sold out, no longer radicals, they are now PTA moms and soccer coaches more concerned with their IRA accounts than social injustice. Revolution and liberalism is the stuff of youth and today’s youth don’t listen to KFPA or the radio. KFPA has evolved into irrelevance.

  • Broga

    tonye, Cali Ron: Thanks. The only other time I have got a welcome like this is from my Labrador.

  • The Pacifica Foundation has spent decades under the thrall of lunatic so-called left wingers. Here in LA, they so thoroughly polluted KPFK, that what should be one of the loudest voices for progressive views in the country has a laughably small listenership, and has totally abrogated its responsibility to speak out on important issues, in favor of pandering to whoever shows the greatest outrage. It is a shame that there is not a way to take these eight stations away from the Pacifica Foundation and still have them represent a left leaning viewpoint, but unfortunately if they are stripped of their licenses , the stations will just end up in the hands of malignant right wingers like Sinclair Broadcasting. A sad situation, which does no one any good, except for the few people who get to use this potentially invaluable community resource to stoke their own egos.

  • Gui

    Barriejohn: spot on! That was the purpose of my preview comment, to criticise the actitude of the ones like KPFA, not Dawkins.
    But observing better, I see that my preview comment is really ambiguous.

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