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Richard Dawkins, Lindy West, and the Cartoon Video of Great Hatefulness

Is Richard Dawkins using his bully pulpit to bully feminists?
Is Richard Dawkins using his bully pulpit to bully feminists?

Almost three years ago, a feminist activist committed what many not-so-impartial observers apparently see as an unpardonable sin: she was less than polite to a small squad of Men’s Rights activists at a demonstration in Toronto. At least one of these gentlemen caught her outburst on video, and uploaded it to YouTube.

You know the rest: the video went viral, and the activist, a red-headed woman known as Chanty Binx (or “Big Red,” to the douchebag army), found herself suddenly transformed into “The Posterchild of Everything Wrong with Feminism,” as one of her haters put it. Her face has become ubiquitous in antifeminist memes, and she’s endured nearly three years of harassment.

Earlier this month, antifeminist YouTuber Sargon of Akkad — who makes his living pandering to some of the internet’s worst lady haters — posted an animated video by another antifeminist YouTuber in which an angry Islamist and an angry feminist sing a song explaining that they pretty much believe all the same things. (For some reason, this nonsensical theory is something that a lot of antifeminists have convinced themselves is true.)

The angry Islamist in the video is a familiar racist stereotype, complete with “funny” accent. [Correction: He’s evidently supposed to be a parody of this guy, known as Dawah Man, a legitimately terrible person you wouldn’t think atheists would have to strawman in order to criticize..]

The angry feminist, meanwhile, isn’t a generic figure; she’s an especially crude caricature of Binx, spouting nonsense that neither Binx nor any other feminist actually believes: the video ends with her encouraging the Islamist to rape her, because it’s not really rape if a Muslim does it, dontchaknow.

It’s a vicious, hateful little cartoon made worse by the fact that these words are being put in the mouth of a real woman who’s been the target of a vast harassment campaign for years.

Yesterday, Richard Dawkins, apparently seeing this horrendous video as a clever takedown of some brand of feminism that he must think actually exists, shared it with his 1.3 million Twitter followers:

Dawkins-tweet

Dawkins, a well-respected scientist-turned-embarrassing-atheist-ideologue, has become notorious for his endless Twitter gaffes. But this is plainly worse than, say, his famously pathetic lament about airport security “dundridges” taking his jar of honey; his Tweet contributed to the demonization of a real woman who’s already the target of harassment and threats.

The awesome Lindy West pointed this out to him in a series of Tweets and linked to one of my posts cataloging some of the abuse Binx got after the video of her went viral.

In a series of eloquent and angry Tweets, she made clear to Dawkins how and why he was misusing his huge platform and contributing to an atmosphere of hate online. Dawkins, alternately indignant and defensive, ultimately took down the offending Tweet, but not before making other Tweets that were nearly as bad. Dawkins can’t even do the right thing without being a dick about it.

Let’s watch Lindy at work:

 

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest like literally what is wrong with you @RichardDawkins RETWEETS 47 LIKES 337 Lamentation Smythethank god it's overMargaret PlessAllison ElaineRachyAlice Pinegabs ❁GORILLA SUITNINA 5:19 PM - 26 Jan 2016 Reply Retweet Liked More Tweet text Reply to @thelindywest @RichardDawkins Who's in these photos? Lindy West ‏@thelindywest Jan 26 the complete ideological horror show aside, that is a caricature of an actual real woman and you are feeding her harassment @RichardDawkins

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest I didn't know that. Who is the real woman? 1 retweet 5 likes Reply Retweet 1 Like 5 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Here: https://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2013/04/15/canadian-feminist-activist-receives-death-threats-and-other-abuse-after-being-targeted-by-mens-rights-activists/ … @RichardDawkins View summary 16 retweets 55 likes Reply Retweet 16 Liked 55 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago It would serve you well to research the people & movements whose support you accept & whose propaganda you disseminate. @RichardDawkins

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago One might even argue that it's a basic responsibility concomitant with wielding such a large and powerful platform. @RichardDawkins 21 retweets 114 likes Reply Retweet 21 Liked 114 More View other replies Show more Zoë “Shitpost” Quinn ‏@UnburntWitch 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest @RichardDawkins oh good he's promoting a guy who built a career off of stalking and harassing me and my family 19 retweets 86 likes Reply Retweet 19 Like 86 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Richard, this is not a thought experiment for us. It's not an ideological pissing match. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago It is a constant, violent, unprovoked, psychologically damaging barrier to full engagement with the world. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins 21 retweets 83 likes Reply Retweet 21 Liked 83 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago You make yourself complicit in that system by validating and amplifying the voices of our harassers. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins 22 retweets 100 likes Reply Retweet 22 Liked 100 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Please stop, or at least do so with full knowledge of the scope, history, and implications of your actions. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins

After what was apparently an unsatisfactory response from Dawkins — I couldn’t find his Tweet, if there was one — West repeated and expanded upon her basic points. [EDIT: The unsastisfactory respose, West tells me, was that Dawkins posted a link to one of the videos of Chanty Binx at the Toronto demonstration.]

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest If this is your response, please go on record, explicitly, that you believe women you dislike deserve rape & death threats. @RichardDawkins

Well, that got his attention:

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest What the hell are you talking about. When have I ever said any such thing? 7 retweets 34 likes Reply Retweet 7 Like 34 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Did you read the link that I sent? Posting this video implies an endorsement of her abuse (and will definitely amplify it). @RichardDawkins 9 retweets 71 likes Reply Retweet 9 Liked 71 More View other replies Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest No. What link? Somebody told me who she was. I was about to delete my original tweet. Then I looked up the Toronto vid . . .

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago I sent you a series of tweets. Feel free to read them in my TL. Here is the link again: https://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2013/04/15/canadian-feminist-activist-receives-death-threats-and-other-abuse-after-being-targeted-by-mens-rights-activists/ … @RichardDawkins View summary 16 retweets 67 likes Reply Retweet 16 Liked 67 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Then you looked up the Toronto vid and...felt like that woman deserved what she got? That's exactlly what I'm talking about. @RichardDawkins 7 retweets 77 likes Reply Retweet 7 Liked 77 More View other replies Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest I think she deserves nothing more than ridicule. I would never shriek "Fuckface" at her. But I would laugh at her. Ridicule.

So there you have it: when informed that a tweet of his will almost certainly worsen the vicious harassment faced by a young woman whose only “crime” was being rude to a couple of MRAs in public, Richard Dawkins, a one-time winner of  the American Humanist Association’s Humanist of the Year Award, replies by saying that “she deserves nothing more than ridicule.”

West replied:

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest Please don't insult me by pretending you don't comprehend the gravity and scope of this conversation and your complicity. @RichardDawkins

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Great. Good job. If you leave those links up you are fomenting further abuse, and that's a choice you should own. @RichardDawkins

Dawkins then decided to suggest that perhaps Binx was, you know, crazy:

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @FulcrumAmber @thelindywest Perhaps mentally ill, to be charitable. Anyway it's disgraceful that she's apparently received violent threats. 1 retweet 8 likes Reply Retweet 1 Like 8 More Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago First of all, mentally ill people are fully capable of holding and expressing valid, well-considered, justified opinions. @RichardDawkins 48 retweets 214 likes Reply Retweet 48 Like 214 More Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago 2nd of all, you know nothing of this woman's mental state but her anger. Armchair diagnoses are presumptuous and insulting. @RichardDawkins 37 retweets 159 likes Reply Retweet 37 Like 159 More Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago And thirdly, it's exactly this spectrum of misogyny--dismissiveness to outright abuse--that feminists are angry about. @RichardDawkins

Dawkins ultimately agreed to take down his Tweet linking to the execrable video. But he offered no apology. And he went on to suggest that just maybe Binx had … threatened herself.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago Having learned that the woman in the joke song is a real person who has been disgracefully threatened with violence, I'm deleting my tweets. 65 retweets 436 likes Reply Retweet 65 Like 436 More Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 5h5 hours ago Maybe I'm naive. Can't believe anyone's as nasty as her. Nor that anyone would threaten her. Nor that anyone'd lie about being threatened.

User Actions Follow Richard DawkinsVerified account ‏@RichardDawkins Richard Dawkins Retweeted Boltzmann Is this really true? How depressing. But it would explain a lot. Richard Dawkins added, Boltzmann @NameIsBoltzmann @RichardDawkins People lie about being threatened all the time these days. Some have gotten caught threatening themselves.

We’ve seen this, er, argument before.

sharkethics

Does Dawkins have any conception of just how much abuse women like Chanty Binx get? If she were sending herself all the threatening and harassing messages she gets, she wouldn’t have time to eat or sleep.

And I wonder if Dawkins thinks she drew the caricature of herself that was used in the video he retweeted.

Thoughtful as ever, Dawkins made sure to remind his 1.3 million followers that Binx still deserved all the mockery they could deliver. Just not the death threats please!

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8h8 hours ago @YourSluttyGF Yes, she deserves abundant mockery, the more the merrier. But she doesn't deserve violent threats. Nobody does.Richard DawkinsVerified account ‏@RichardDawkins @cleanpulse @YourSluttyGF I don't feel the smallest bit guilty. She deserves mockery. But if there's a risk of inspiring violence, NO NO NO!And he begged his readers to think about the real victims here — those people, like him, who might have to curtail their mockery somewhat because their terrible, terrible fans might be inspired to hurt someone.

Richard DawkinsVerified account ‏@RichardDawkins PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't EVER threaten anyone with violence. We should be free to use comedy/ridicule without fear it may inspire violence

RIP, Richard Dawkins’ comedy career.

Is Dawkins actually unaware that by punching down at a woman who’s already been the target of a three year harassment campaign he almost certainly is contributing to the threats he claims to deplore? It’s hard for me to believe that he could be so naive. But the alternative explanation — that he knows full well that he’s encouraging the harassers — is even more disquieting.

One good thing has come out of this ugly episode today: The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has un-invited Dawkins from its event this year. A post on the group’s website today explains:

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

Good for them. The atheist movement needs to stand up to the haters and harassers in its midst, including those like Dawkins, who may not directly harass or threaten but who use their huge platforms to amplify and embolden this hatred and harassment.

It would be nice if Dawkins were to actually learn something — a little humanity, a little humility? — from this incident, but when it comes to the subject of feminism Dawkins seems incapable of taking in new information, much less learning anything from it.

EDITED TO ADD: And now, as if to prov what I just said in that previous paragraph, Dawkins is now second-guessing his decision to take down his tweet linking to the video, because GamerGaters are telling him that Chanty and I made up the evidence of the abuse she got.

dawktakeback

NOTE: Lindy West has a book coming out soon. Pre-order it below!

CORRECTION: I added  a bit noting that the Islamist in the cartoon video is supposed to be a parody of a real person.

EDIT: I added a line about Dawkins tweeting a link to a video of Chanty Binx at the Toronto demonstration.

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History Nerd
History Nerd
6 years ago

I looked up Cathy Brennan. Even other TERFs disassociated themselves from her.

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ pandapool

I don’t quite understand your ambivalence on male circumcision.

Yeah, I know. It’s obviously not equivalent to FGM, but I can see how I’m applying a double standard.

Maybe it’s because my Jewish mates (the guys anyway) don’t seem to mind. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t seem to actually affect the person’s life (although even that’s a subject of debate). Maybe it’s because it’s not treating the person as an objectionable and to be ‘fixed’ in some way?

But those ‘justifications’ may not stand up to much scrutiny. I honestly don’t know. (My default position on many things)

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ David n-t

I don’t want to bog the thread down with legal guff, so just to say its interesting to look at legal concepts like “incitement” and “counselling, procuring, aiding and abetting” when considering peoples’ responsibility for the actions of others.

David N-T
David N-T
6 years ago

@Alan,

Yeah, that’s why I don’t argue these things from a legal perspective, but from an ethical one. It would be hard to hold someone like Ann Coulter or the good folks at the Daily Mail legally responsible of anything, but I have no doubt at all that their body of work has helped make this world more intolerant, factional, and violent.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his, she/her pronouns)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his, she/her pronouns)
6 years ago

@Alan

In my opinion about circumcised in the context of Judaism is that Abraham was an adult when he circumcised himself and it doesn’t make much sense to do it on an infant since they can’t grasp the religious connotations behind being circumcised like an adult can. I also don’t think religion should overtake bodily autonomy so yeah. Someone who was raised Jewish and anti-circumcision would probably make a better point. Someone who actually knows anything about Judaism probably could.

But I wouldn’t say it’s up to debate. If some people have problems with their circumcisions, they have every right to upset with it, because regardless if it hurt them or not because it was most likely a procedure done without their consent.

It shouldn’t matter if it “doesn’t affect anything”, it was something done without their consent.

Kat
Kat
6 years ago

@TinyAntsGoingToEatMe

Gavan, I’ve lived through WWIII and the Ant Uprising, (yes I’m a time traveler, get over it you sook) and I can tell you that your opinion is worthless in the face of my future war experience. Have you ever had to pry the antennae off an aggressive giant radioactive ant? No? Then shut up.

Finally–finally!–the Voice of Reason.

This commenter uses facts, not speculation, to make a cogent, well-reasoned argument. No fluff, no drama, no hyperbole. No sookism.

Personal note to TinyAnts: You’re going to go through some major trauma. Take deep breaths, eat good food, get your exercise, and stay positive. Or maybe you’ve already done that?

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ pandapool

Yeah, if I’d never heard of the concept and somebody said ‘We’re going to snip of this baby’s foreskin’, ‘Why on earth would you do that?’, ‘Oh, for religious reasons’, I’d have to make a comment that breached the policy here. But for some reason, my real world view is ambivalence. If it was banned I wouldn’t be manning the barricades trying to stop ‘an interference with religious freedom’, but I’m not going to actively campaign for a ban. Although, if people come forward and there’s a movement amongst Jewish males to stop it then I’d probably shift my view. Obviously anything short of medical treatment carried out on a child that can’t consent should automatically be abhorrent, so I don’t know why I’m so ambivalent, just that I am. Weird isn’t it?

Kat
Kat
6 years ago

@Auntie Alias, @rugbyyogi

I’m sorry that you got dogpiled. It doesn’t feel good.

My own observation is that a regular commenter was attacked a while ago and that person never returned. I feel bad about that. Also, I enjoyed reading what that individual had to say.

Kat
Kat
6 years ago

I wonder whether Richard Dawkins, who’s really good at getting attention, has had a lot of help on his books. Did an editor at his publishing house say, “Dick, you know I love you. And I love the way you insult your ideological opponents. But readers need you to be polite. Humor them”?

Did that editor then go through his manuscripts with a fine-tooth comb and edit out all the insults?

Were scholarly consultants called upon to bolster his (weak, thin, contradictory) arguments in text?

I vote yes, yes, and yes.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his, she/her pronouns)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his, she/her pronouns)
6 years ago

@Alan

I think it’s because it’s been around for so long and it doesn’t have that many notable complications that we just forget that the concept really is messed up.

And I think just banning it on infants wouldn’t deter it from being used in religion, it should just be done on those old enough to consent to body modification and decide to do it in a religious context. I know people who convert to Judaism and get circumcise sometimes, so, yeah.

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ pandapool

I suspect it’s one of those things where in a generation or so it will be left to adult choice and people will look back and wonder what on earth we were thinking.

dhag85
6 years ago

Just speculating here, but is it possible that Richard Dawkins’ books were actually written by someone who isn’t a complete moron?

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ dhag

It’s perfectly possible for a person to be a genius in one field and an idiot in another. Isaac Newton actually spent more time on alchemy and the like than he did on the stuff he’s famous for.

Dawkins is brilliant on evolution; you just have to hear him speak off the cuff to know that. That doesn’t stop him having a huge blind spot in other areas.

One thing that occurs to me is that I know one of his hobbies is reading out stuff written about him on social media. The more ‘anti’ him the bigger the laugh he gets. That might be relevant here. He may actually get a kick out of being criticised so perhaps that’s why he deliberately trolls?

katz
6 years ago

Just speculating here, but is it possible that Richard Dawkins’ books were actually written by someone who isn’t a complete moron?

I doubt it. They seem like they’re on the same spectrum. Like what he says today is what you might predict if you took the person who wrote those books and spent 20 years telling him he’s the most brilliant man who ever lived and surrounding him with adoring fans who hang on his every word and shut down anyone who questions him.

dhag85
6 years ago

@Alan

I would add it’s also possible to be good at biology and still be a moron. Being good at something doesn’t automatically make you a genious.

@katz

I didn’t actually read his books. But that sounds plausible to me.

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ dhag

Yeah, that was my first point (Ha, weird that I’ll happily use ‘idiot’ but balk at the other word:-) )

dhag85
6 years ago

@Alan

I think there’s a slight distinction between what you said and what I said. Very slight.

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

I had no idea that the word “own” would be so problematic, but I appreciate the perspectives that I read here and largely agree with what I read from littleknown (I’m flattered, thank you!), Tessa and the characterization of my meaning from weirwoodtreehugger. I’ll say more tomorrow though because I just got done analyzing the “humor” in the video over at Pharyngula and alcohol was useful in that regard.

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ dhag

Ha, too subtle for me; it is very late here though and I’m knackered 🙂

(Due to my inability to remember that 2.5 million is more than 10 thousand I had to spend an unexpected long day in work instead of my planned skive. Dork)

kupo
kupo
6 years ago

Wow, this thread. I have to say, Zelda’s flounce was spectacular. I saw that nym and that first post and immediately thought GamerGater. Looks like I wasn’t wrong.

I’m an athiest who has given up the label. I call myself a secular humanist now, mostly because it’s a better description of my beliefs, but a good part because of the toxic community. I used to hang out at the Friendly Athiest blog and at first I really liked the discussion there, minus a few jerks, but then I really started to notice the misogyny and racism and religious intolerance. I stopped visiting the comments after one woman was complaining about how people were being racist against her and everyone dog piled her saying that she was taking it (a blackface reference) out of context and that she needed to grow thicker skin. I defended her, told her it was terrible people were treating her that way, and told the jerks that they don’t get to decide whether the statements are racist. I also got dog piled on, so I left. I doubt any of that would have happened if she wasn’t a vocal Christian. I stopped following Hement not long after that because he posted some pretty vile shit and I pretty much only read PZ’s blog now for my Athiest fix.

It’s perfectly possible for a person to be a genius in one field and an idiot in another. Isaac Newton actually spent more time on alchemy and the like than he did on the stuff he’s famous for.

It’s also perfectly possible that he had a ghost writer.

Dalillama
6 years ago

Alan Robertshaw

Is there ever a justification for “protecting people from themselves” or is that horribly patronising and denying peoples’ agency

As Pandapool noted, infant genital mutilation (regardless of the perceived gender of the infant in question ) is never an example of this, because the people making the decision aren’t the people getting bits cut off.
Pandapool

I know people who convert to Judaism and get circumcise sometimes, so, yeah.

Islam too. Of course, in the States, infant circumcision has no (direct) connection to religion, and is common to ubiquitous all over.

Snowberry
Snowberry
6 years ago

In the US, male circumcision became common because it was supposed to prevent masturbation. Given how much social and political pressure the Temperance Movement was putting on “protecting women’s virtues” and the often indirect ways they went about it, I suspect that it was partly an anti-rape thing. No masturbation = no thinking about sex = no rape, or something like that being the logic. Just speculation on my part, though.

Not that it ever worked, anyhow. Even after finally getting around to studying it a few generations later… and finding that there were no meaningful benefits to the procedure… it was kept up on the grounds that a boy might see daddy’s penis and wonder out loud why it looked different, and that’s a totally uncomfortable situation that no parent should ever have to face. Also it’s slightly easier to clean and there’s slightly less chance of getting HIV. (The last one’s kinda weird because it gained currency during the era of “dumb f****ts brought it on themselves”.) You know, trivial, idiotic excuses to preserve the status quo.

Maybe we could end it overnight by saying that it’s all a Jewish and/or Muslim plot…

marinerachel
marinerachel
6 years ago

I’ve read contradictory statistics, some indicating routine infant circumcision is on the decline in a huge way in the US, others saying it’s every bit as prevalent as ever, just being performed in private practices and not hospitals. I hope that’s not the case. It’s such a needless thing to do to an infant. We know so much better than we did in the eighties when we were still convinced the benefits outweighed the risks.

TinyAntsGoingToEatMe
TinyAntsGoingToEatMe
6 years ago

Personal note to TinyAnts: You’re going to go through some major trauma. Take deep breaths, eat good food, get your exercise, and stay positive. Or maybe you’ve already done that?

Thanks, Kat. As a time traveler, I’ve already going to done that. It’s confusing.

LG.
LG.
6 years ago

Guy I knew in high school who was stubbornly pro-circumcision had an argument that came down to pure toxic masculinity: “It’s man labia!”

Since then, it’s been hard for me not to notice that yeah, you know, it’s definitely removing the penis’s yonnic aspect to make it more “pure phallus.”

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