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By Shachar Haad
Last Wednesday (27 January), Richard Dawkins, an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and writer, retweeted a satirical video that made parallels between the Feminist Movement and the Islamic culture. As a result, Dawkins was uninvited from speaking at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, as the event planners believed the video was in made in poor taste and reflected poorly on the conference itself and what the intended audience might make of it.
The video shows an Islamist and a Feminist, both based on real people, making a small musical number in which the video creator draws a parallel between the two groups. Other than agreeing or disagreeing with the message or the execution, there was no real threat made and is a topic that can interest skeptics in addressing, as the references to issues raised in that video, can be easily found and discusses.
The conference organizers could have contacted Dawkins, considered the matter with him and explained why they have an issue with the tweet. Perhaps by doing so, they could have found a way for him to explain his motivation for retweeting said video and maybe even post a retraction. Instead, Dawkins was presented with the notice of being uninvited and the conference planners declaring him “persona non grata”.
The organisers were choosing the easier route for resolution of the matter while going against critical thinking and the acceptance that he might have a point of view, not supported by consensus. Most of the negative accusations made by various individuals construct a narrative in which he is promoting rape and paint him to be a misogynist (which is the de-facto insult levied to all those who disagree with the vocal minority in the feminist movement). The narrative didn’t change, even after explaining the parallel and how everything in that video is a valid criticism presented in the form of satire.
It seems that this issue was more about moderating thoughts and silencing him for showing the movement in a negative light, rather than the video presenting something vile that need censoring – in which case, reporting it to YouTube would have removed that video altogether, preventing this issue. Perhaps the real reason behind de-platforming Dawkins was because the video affronted people’s sensibilities, and in our age of political correctness, there is no place to assault the feelings of the so-called “oppressed” and the easily offended.
Looking back into history reminds us that brilliant men and women were barred from speaking in public about science because it went against what was established and accepted at the time, sometimes with the threat of violence or death to the speaker. Although no one, in this case, threatens Dawkins with such severity, denying him the platform – when that platform is not even about the offensive topic – is telling him and the rest of the attendees that what he had done or the thoughts he possesses are heresy that the conference can in no way tolerate.
They have placed a black mark upon him without caring for the implication of such an act.
I sincerely hope that that decision will not reflect poorly on the community as a whole because society needs the community of skeptics and of scientists that continuously challenge accepted beliefs and criticize the elements that need change.by