Friday, May 24, 2013

Ron Lindsay's non-apology apology over his non-welcome welcome

It's my theory that Ronald A. Lindsay wanted to make the big important atheist men of the skeptical movement who have been criticized by feminists - especially Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins - know whose side he's on when he delivered his opening speech for the Women in Secularism conference sponsored by the Center for Scientific Inquiry - Lindsay is the current CEO.

Here is his speech. Now remember, this is the opening speech - typically opening speeches at conferences are given to welcome attendees.

Here's how Ron Lindsay welcomes women in secularism:
One thing you may have noticed already is that I did not give you a formal welcome to Women in Secularism 2. Of course you are welcome here. We're very happy to have you with us, but this is something you know already, and, although I don’t want to appear ungracious, why take up time to state the obvious, because the reality is we have much work to do, and presumably you came here for substance not rhetoric.
What a weird thing to say. He takes a whole paragraph to explain why he isn't giving the conference attendees a formal welcome, when all he had to say was: "welcome to Women in Secularism 2" like every other opening address to conference attendees that has ever been delivered.

Instead he says "Of course you are welcome here."

Because there was some doubt? Ron Lindsay's organization was sponsoring this thing.

I'd say that what comes next is a pretty big clue to Ron Lindsay's true state of mind in delivering a non-welcome welcome. It's about having someone like Rebecca Watson, one of the invited speakers at the conference, in his territory.

First he introduces a nameless, unidentifiable entity:
I’ve had some conversations in which the claim has been made there is no significant division among true feminists.
Presumably these conversations took place with human beings outside of Ron Lindsay's head, but other than that we know nothing about the source of these conversations. He then takes two paragraphs to argue with the mystery opponent(s) before moving on to what he's really after: the concept of privilege. He acknowledges that of course women have been dominated by men through millennia but then he says:
But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.
So the main point of Ron Lindsay's opening statement on women in secularism is that the concept of privilege is being misused by women in secularism to silence men.

Now there is plenty of disagreement among feminists about the proper uses of the concept of privilege. And a discussion of the issue would have been a useful session in the conference. But Lindsay made this point, in the opening statement of a Women in Secularism conference right after he gave the group a non-welcome welcome.

It must be remembered that Rebecca Watson's response to Dawkins' infamous Muslima attack was a blog posted entitled The Privilege Delusion.

I think that Lindsay wanted to signal to Shermer and Dawkins that regardless of the CFI capitulation to these hysterical bitches, he, Ron Lindsay, was certainly not pussy-whipped. And like Dawkins two years ago, Lindsay responds to mild criticism of his inappropriate "welcome" by making things much worse. And by making things much worse I mean showing his true colors.

Watson responded to this non-welcome welcome with a tweet:

But in her defense, perhaps Watson was too busy tweeting about how “strange” it was to have a “white man” open the conference to pay attention to what I was actually saying.  (I’m just glad Watson didn’t notify security: “white man loose on stage, white man loose on stage!”)
Please note the sub-text - as CEO of CFI, the stage of the CFI-sponsored event is indisputably Ron Lindsay's territory. Lindsay jokes about a scenario in which Watson attempts to push Ron Lindsay out of his own territory. 

Lindsay is not arguing in good faith because what this is all about is not an honest disagreement - Lindsay's response attacking Watson by name on the CFI web site is his trophy to put on display for Dawkins and Shermer and their legions of vicious anti-feminist fanboys.

And as Watson rightly points out, it is strange - not only that Lindsay opens a conference on women in skepticism by complaining about the way that somebody, somewhere has misused the concept of privilege - with the underlying message that men are being silenced by women in skepticism - but also his complete failure to address the actual very real silencing of women in skepticism through a relentless barrage of terroristic threats:
...In his talk, Lindsay didn’t give any examples of men who have been silenced, though he has promised to provide some. In the meanwhile, the audience is forced to examine the only example provided: Lindsay himself, a white male who is CEO of one of the largest skeptic organizations in the world and who delivered the 30-minute introductory lecture at a women’s conference. There doesn’t seem to be much danger of his voice being silenced, though of course I may not be aware of some behind-the-scenes campaign to drive him into obscurity. 
Meanwhile, nowhere in Lindsay’s speech did he mention feminists like Jen McCreight, who has been so bullied and harassed that she did in fact quit attending conferences and she quit blogging and being active on social media in the hopes the anti-feminists would finally leave her alone. They didn’t. That is silencing. Nowhere did Lindsay mention that every day I and other feminists get slurs, rape jokes, and death threats from fellow skeptics and secularists. That is an attempt at silencing, though it is an attempt that will not work until the day one person follows through on the threat.
And it must be noted that Richard Dawkins has never spoken out against his rabid fans who took his Muslima attack as a signal to turn vicious against Watson and anybody else who dared to speak up against Dawkins.

This controversy reminds me of the shitstorm that ensued after Larry Summers suggested at a conference on Women and Science that women's lesser careers in math and science were due, foremost, to women's innate inferior abilities compared to men. Like Summers, Lindsay gave lip service to discrimination and social conditions - but what they really think is made clear - the real problem is women themselves.

The most important similarity is that Summers and Lindsay delivered these statements in an address to assemblies that were dedicated to promoting women, and they delivered their statements in their capacity as representatives of the organization that was sponsoring the assembly.

Their speeches would have been controversial anyway, but could have been seen as one person's opinion. Instead they gave their opinion while serving as the organization head.

And like Summers' case, anti-feminists - in their disguise as champions of free speech and foes of political correctness - hailed Ron Lindsay as a hero. And like Summers' fans, they are in for a disappointment. Because both Summers and Lindsay like the perks of being the head of an organization, even if CEO of CFI isn't quite as prestigious as being the president of Harvard University. And so Summers and Lindsay did what any politician does when caught saying something that offends their constituents - they apologized.

Although Lindsay, predictably, offered a non-apology apology:
...In my blog post of May 18, I complained about Ms. Rebecca Watson’s characterization of my May 17 talk. In doing so, I expressed my points in intemperate language, e.g., the comparison of her blog post to a press communication from North Korea, and for that I unqualifiedly apologize. This apology has been conveyed to Ms. Watson. 
To be clear, I still firmly believe Ms. Watson’s blog post mischaracterizes my talk, specifically by characterizing my abbreviated discussion of the phrase “shut up and listen” as the “crux” of my talk. 
As to my May 17 talk, I have nothing to say. The CFI board will decide whether my talk was contemptuous of women, as some have alleged, misrepresented CFI’s commitment to women’s rights, or in some way committed CFI to a course of action inconsistent with CFI’s mission.

As I've demonstrated here, if anybody was guilty of mis-characterization it was Ron Lindsay.

I'm guessing the CFI board is going to make him issue a proper apology, and he'll do it rather than lose the prestige of being CEO.

Now will all his fanboys who considered him a hero start calling him a "mangina?" We shall see.