Exposing Adam Lee’s lies about Richard Dawkins

While I was gone Daylight Atheism‘s Adam Lee wrote a piece at Comment is free. Originally called ‘Richard Dawkins has officially lost it: he’s now a sexist pig giving atheists a bad name’, the article has since been renamed ‘Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant sexism gives atheists a bad name‘. Perhaps someone wanted more brevity; perhaps Lee didn’t like editors’ choice of title; perhaps Dawkins fired off an email rant, as he did last year when a colleague tweeted my criticisms.

Since that Buzzfeed article went up and Sam Harris mouthed off about ladybrains, Dawkins has railed nonstop about bloggers like me and Lee ‘faking outrage‘ for money. (Far be it from the author of The God Delusion, worth $135m according to the Sunday Times, to engineer controversy for profit.) Backstroking through my own pools of cash, I have to tell him £17.50 – from seventeen different posts – is the most I’ve ever made from a month’s ad hits.

If outrage posts do well, it’s only because normally they’re topical. The biggest factor in the traffic something gets is how ‘current’ it is: while I’m sure Lee’s article has done well, I’d put money on Scotland’s referendum being the Guardian‘s biggest pull this week; I imagine a Cif piece defending Dawkins would do similarly well and posts about a five- or -ten-year-old controversy would flop. At least in my case, calling him out doesn’t get half the traffic now it got a year ago because readers are used to it – that Richard Dawkins’ Twitter feed is awful is old news. I’m expecting Adam Lee name’s will do more than his, in fact, to draw attention to this piece.

Most of Dawkins’ critics aren’t even paid bloggers. That he can’t imagine atheists rebuking him without ulterior motives – that he doesn’t think a rational person could sincerely object to him – speaks to his greatest and best-established flaws: the man has an out-of-control ego and no grasp that there’s more than one point of view.

In case you still need more evidence of that, see what he said about Lee’s article:

This seems to be the main objection, but to date no one has said which sentence in particular contains a lie. I’ve decided to look for it myself.

We can rule out first the parts that are unfalsifiable, i.e. that would be called opinion in court or claim entirely personal knowledge. Isolating them looks like this.

I became an atheist on my own, but it was Richard Dawkins who strengthened and confirmed my decision. For a long time, I admired his insightful science writing, his fierce polemics, his uncompromising passion for the truth.

So, I’m not saying this is easy, but I have to say it: Richard Dawkins, I’m just not that into you anymore.

On Twitter these last few days, Dawkins has reverted to his old, sexist ways and then some.

Remarks like these make him a liability at best, a punchline at worst. He may have convinced himself that he’s the Most Rational Man Alive, but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job.

What’s so frustrating, from the standpoint of the large and growing non-religious demographic, is that Dawkins is failing badly to live up to his own standards. As both an atheist and a scientist, he should be the first to defend the principle that no one is above criticism, and that any idea can be challenged, especially an idea in accord with popular prejudices.

[W]hen it comes to feminism, he’s steadfastly refused to let his own consciousness be raised. Instead, he clings to his insular and privileged viewpoint – and, worse, he’s creating the impression that ‘true’ atheists all share his retrograde attitudes.

Like many scientists who accomplished great things earlier in their careers, Richard Dawkins has succumbed to the delusion that he’s infallible on any topic he chooses to address, and in so doing, has wandered off the edge and plummeted into belligerent crankery

Whatever he may say, it’s up to the wider atheist community to make it clear that this one public intellectual doesn’t speak for all of us. If the atheist movement is going to thrive and make a difference in our society, it needs to grow beyond its largely older, largely male, largely white roots.

Dawkins . . . is harming the cause he himself claims to care about.

In the long run, however, the reputation Dawkins will damage the most is his own.

Nothing there, as far as I can see, could be a lie. Then there are opinions quoted from other people:

‘I’m surprised and, frankly, shocked by Richard’s belligerent remarks about feminist bloggers over the past couple of days,’ [Ophelia Benson] told me. ‘Part of what made The God Delusion so popular was, surely, its indignant bluntness about religion. It was a best-seller; does that mean he ‘faked’ his outrage?’

(It is, of course, a claim of fact that TGD was a bestseller. I assume no one’s challenging that.)

Blogger and author Greta Christina told me, ‘I can’t tell you how many women, people of colour, other marginalised people I’ve talked with who’ve told me, “I’m an atheist, but I don’t want anything to do with organised atheism if these guys are the leaders.”

[A]uthor and blogger PZ Myers told me, ‘At a time when our movement needs to expand its reach, it’s a tragedy that our most eminent spokesman has so enthusiastically expressed such a regressive attitude.’

As [Amy Roth] told me this week: [‘]The men and women in this community have a right to speak up about it, and if the best argument you have against us is that we are the “thought police” or we are writing for “clickbait” or that the weight of our words is equivalent to an actual “witch hunt”, then perhaps it’s time to retire to your study and calmly reevaluate the actual topics at hand.[‘]

Nothing falsifiable there either: you might not share any of these opinions, but you’d be hard-pressed to call them lies. That’s half the article out of the way. Now to the bits that do make factual claims.

[When] something I’d written got a (brief) mention in The God Delusion[, it was one of the high points of my life].

It did. This thing, specifically.

The atheist movement – a loosely-knit community of conference-goers, advocacy organizations, writers and activists – has been wracked by infighting the last few years over its persistent gender imbalance and the causes of it.

It has. It really has. No one doubts that.

Many female atheists have explained that they don’t get more involved because of the casual sexism endemic to the movement:

They have – here, here and here, for a start.

parts of it see nothing problematic about hosting conferences with all-male speakers or having all-male leadership[…]

Quite so.

and that’s before you get to the vitriolic and dangerous sexual harassment, online and off, that’s designed to intimidate women into silence.

There’s some room for debate on how sexual harassment is defined, and its purpose is a matter of opinion. To begin with, though.

Richard Dawkins has involved himself in some of these controversies, and rarely for the better – as with his infamous ‘Dear Muslima’ letter in 2011[.]

He has.

But over the last few months, Dawkins showed signs of détente with his feminist critics – even progress. He signed a joint letter with the writer Ophelia Benson, denouncing and rejecting harassment; he even apologized for the ‘Dear Muslima’ letter. On stage at a conference in Oxford in August, Dawkins claimed to be a feminist and said that everyone else should be, too.

Links are right there. (Tangentially I think Lee gives Dawkins too much credit on the last point: he’s always called himself a feminist, just not the ‘radical‘, ‘conformist‘ or counting-white-sexism-too sort.)

Then another prominent male atheist, Sam Harris, crammed his foot in his mouth and said that atheist activism lacks an ‘estrogen vibe’ and was ‘to some degree intrinsically male‘. And, just like that, the brief Dawkins Spring was over.

Again I assume no one doubts this happened.

There’s no denying that Dawkins played a formative role in the atheist movement, but it’s grown beyond just him.

Or this. (Either half.)

It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days[.]

Or this. (Hello.)

[Roth] recently debuted an exhibit in which she literally wallpapered a room with the misogynist messages that she and other feminists have received[.]

She did. Three quarters of the article and still no lies. Apart from stray words I’ve cut to preserve grammar, all that remains are summaries and representations of other people’s statements. Lee on ‘Dear Muslima‘:

[H]e essentially argued that, because women in Muslim countries suffer more from sexist mistreatment, women in the west shouldn’t speak up about sexual harassment or physical intimidation.

Here’s what Dawkins said. Here is his own recent summary of what he said:

There should be no rivalry in victimhood, I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison.

Sounds pretty similar to me. Lee on Dawkins’ comments about Skepchick’s ‘Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated’ campaign (the quote links to a full dissection):

There was also his sneer at women who advocate anti-sexual harassment policies.

Here’s some background information. Here are Dawkins’ tweets about it (see also the immediate replies):

Sounds pretty sneery to me.

Lee on Dawkins’ tweets this last week:

He’s been very busy snarling about how feminists are shrill harridans who just want an excuse to take offense, and how Harris’s critics (and his own) are not unlike thought police witch-hunter lynch mobs. Dawkins claimed that his critics are engaged in ‘clickbait for profit’, that they ‘fake outrage’, and that he wished there were some way to penalise them.

Follow the links. Re-read the introduction here.

Lee:

For good measure, Dawkins argued that rape victims shouldn’t be considered trustworthy if they were drinking.

Here’s what Dawkins tweeted:

Sounds pretty similar to me.

Lee:

Benson, with whom Dawkins had signed the anti-harassment letter just weeks earlier, was not impressed.

I assume again that this isn’t in doubt.

[W]ith no discernible sense of irony, Dawkins is publicly recycling the bad arguments so often used against him as an atheist: accusing his critics of being ‘outrage junkies’ who are only picking fights for the sake of notoriety;

roaring about ‘thought police’ as though it were a bad thing to argue that someone is mistaken and attempt to change their mind;

scoffing that they’re ‘looking for excuses to be angry’ as though the tone of the argument, rather than its factual merits, were the most important thing; encouraging those who are targets of criticism to ignore it rather than respond.

000
Lower tweet retweeted by Dawkins.

Lee:

[Roth] finds the systemic sexism incredibly frustrating.

I assume this isn’t in doubt.

On other occasions, Dawkins himself has emphasised the importance of awakening people to injustice and mistreatment they may have overlooked.

Here he is, doing so. Note he immediately models his argument on feminism.

And I assume- no. I conclude this final bit isn’t in doubt:

Dawkins [shows] very public hostility toward the people who emphasize the importance of diversity, who want to make the community broader and more welcoming, and who oppose sexual harassment and sexist language[.]

That’s it. That’s the whole article.

Now all the facts are in front of you: where was the dishonesty here, exactly? Who and what was misrepresented?

It’s time Adam Lee’s lies were exposed – because I sure as fuck can’t find them.

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Exposing Adam Lee’s lies about Richard Dawkins

44 thoughts on “Exposing Adam Lee’s lies about Richard Dawkins

  1. 2

    Hmmm. Got me. I can’t figure out any lies.

    Wait. Maybe it’s when he said that Sam Harris crammed his foot in his mouth? I mean, he didn’t literally cram it down his mouth, so I guess technically that’s a lie.

    Outside of that, I got nothin’.

    Great takedown, Alex.

  2. 3

    If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don’t get drunk.

    I know a lot of hardcore, fire-breathing feminists. The only ones to have such aspirations have been cops, prosecution attorneys, or witnesses/victims in court cases; none, in filling such roles, drank anything stronger than grapefruit juice. At parties, even the most militant start out with no more misandric a goal than protecting other women from potential troublemakers.

    Where did Dawkins meet women with such aims, and what did they do to him?

  3. 4

    @Pierce R. Butler (#3)

    I’ve been thinking recently about the assumption, almost always by men, that every woman who says she was raped wants her attacked jailed. I think it reflects how a lot of men primarily think about rape: as a crime men are accused of, rather than an act men perform against women.

  4. 5

    Well done to Dawkins for demonstrating with almost his every tweet (and subsequent spam-fisted apologetic) that atheism no more guarantees you a high-functioning moral compass or keen social awareness any more than being a Christian does.

    Yes, well fucking done indeed; I award him the slowest of claps.

  5. 13

    “‘The atheist movement – a loosely-knit community of conference-goers, advocacy organizations, writers and activists – has been wracked by infighting the last few years over its persistent gender imbalance and the causes of it.’

    It has. It really has. No one doubts that.”

    Just for the sake of completeness, Michael Nugent doesn’t just doubt this, he actively contests it:

    “That is simply not true. Most of the atheist movement around the world is not involved in this infighting, and many activists are either unaware of it or think it is a distraction of focus.”

    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2014/09/19/the-atheist-movement-is-global-it-is-not-defined-by-the-mostly-american-deep-rifts-disagreements/#more-9493

  6. 15

    Maybe Dawkins means “hypothetical” lies or “explicit” lies or some other word he uses to explain to people why his tweets were misunderstood. Of course when he uses these excuses it doesn’t make sense or help either and only cause more confusion. Not to mention “thought police” or “witch hunt”, I’m not sure Dawkins understands any words anymore. Perhaps we should send him a dictionary for his birthday.

  7. 20

    WOW…..to criticize religion – noble upstanding…. heroic even.
    To criticize self appointed atheist “leadship”…..jackbooted thugs…

    WELP.

    Best of luck without us douchebros! So long!

    or do I mean

    Auf Weidershein!???!!!!

  8. 22

    Alex:
    Thanks for this. I’ve been wondering what lies Adam Lee told, and you make it clear: there weren’t any.
    Be nice if the Dawkins supporters-or Dawkins himself-would make note of that.
    Be nicer still if the Dawkins supporters-or Dawkins himself-would apologize. Pipe dream, I know.

    I’d settle for Richard Dawkins or Ron Lindsay addressing the criticisms about Sam Harris, rather than sweeping them under the rug, but I guess I won’t get that either.
    Darnit.

  9. 23

    martha #13
    Seems to me that that’s more a matter of disagreement about the scope of the discussion. It’s beyond dispute that the situation as described does apply to American atheism (with waves going out to other places, obviously) and since Lee doesn’t specify global atheism, it hardly qualifies as a lie. You could certainly argue that we shouldn’t just focus on America, but that doesn’t turn claims about America into lies.

    On a different note: Great post, Alex. You’ve had several good ones lately. I need to come by here more often.

  10. rq
    25

    2kittehs
    No, actually, it’s for suggesting that women are involved in the atheist movement as something more than servants and worshipping lackeys. All of those women quoted? They’re probably fake sockpuppet women created by the verbally jackbooted Militant Feminists who survive on outrage and the clickbaited tears of self-proclaimed atheist thought-leaders.

  11. 26

    A commenter on JCs blog thought he found this one:

    metaburbia, Posted September 20, 2014 at 5:49 pm
    Adam, here’s one of your direct lies. I have tweeted it at you so to say you haven’t been presented with any is…another lie. Anyway, here you are:
    (1) ‘ Dawkins argued that rape victims shouldn’t be considered trustworthy if they were drinking.’
    What he actually said was:
    (2) ‘If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don’t get drunk.’
    The second is talking about someone who was *drunk*, not ‘who had been drinking’. It’s an observation about the fact of the matter in courts and not a gleeful endorsement. And it was in the context of a woman who says she was too drunk to remember what had happened.
    Your turning that into (1) is a barefaced, straight out lie.

    I rebutted that with this comment, but it is in moderation and I’m not going to hold my breath…

    Those two quotes are equivalent.
    1) someone who has sex with a person who is too drunk to remember afterwards what happened is considered rape in both the US and UK.
    2) If Dawkins considers someone who was that drunk to be unable to provide testimony, then he considers him/her untrustworthy.
    3) While the victim might not remember the actual rape he/she will remember for instance waking up in a bed that’s not their own.
    4) Denying that someone can figure out that a rape has occurred from such evidence is similar to creationists saying “were you there?!?!” when denying the evidence for evolution.
    5) Denying that a rapist can be held accountable for a rape even if the victim was unable to remember that afterward is making rape apologies. (as in: maybe a rape has occurred, but we cannot give that consequences because the victim cannot remember anything)
    6) Using the shorthand ‘were drinking’ in stead of ‘drinking too much’ is all you can really point to. Until you consider the following Dawkins tweet:
    Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Sep 19
    Yes, I believe you. Why would I not? Unlike the hypothetical case of my tweets, you have clear & convincing memories.

  12. 27

    @Konradius, metaburbia is ridiculous. Good comment rebutting his usual bloviating.

    That is three people banned from his blog for civil comments by my count and presumably a lot more I haven’t noticed … “FfTB” is looking pretty good in comparison!

  13. 32

    Thanks for this thorough piece of work. Tiny point: the two tweets about “Hug Me, I’m Vaccinated” don’t necessarily sound that sneery without more context. Maybe with it, they would – for that matter, I’m not doubting your assertion there. I’m not on Twitter and I don’t myself care to go digging – my own tolerance for digging through Dawkins’ years-long meltdown is nearly nil – but if you wanted to make this strong case even stronger, fleshing out that context would help do that.

  14. 33

    Alex Gabriel @ # 4: … the assumption, almost always by men, that every woman who says she was raped wants her attacked jailed.

    Well, in many cases they do – though often stating they want this to protect other women, rather than for personal revenge.

    … how a lot of men primarily think about rape: as a crime men are accused of, rather than an act men perform against women.

    Indicating that such men either have gotten to know very few women, or have just never paid attention to what those women say. I’m reminded of what a leading local feminist once said to me after I recounted a minor relationship difficulty: “Oh god, you guys who ‘get it’ have to spend all your time doing damage control, don’t you?”

  15. 34

    Excellent post, Alex.

    On the subject of this being an American problem, it bears remembering that Dawkins is not, in fact, American, and that the Elevator Incident that kicked so much of this off happened in Dublin, Michael Nugent’s backyard. I’m reasonably certain that no nation has overcome sexism, despite Nugent’s desperate attempts to blame the continent on the other side of the tracks.

  16. 35

    Has anyone tried to link this argument to Coyne’s site? I’d do it, but he banned me for arguing against his views on Israel and trying to post links to EVIDENCE that backed up my points.

  17. 37

    Oh Adam Lee certainly did LIE. He implies that Dawkins only started pulling anti-feminist shit fits on Twitter after Sam Harris’s asinine comments in the last week. As if Sam Harris was the impetus that caused his truce with Ophelia Benson to unravel. But Dawkins pretty much started being a massive shithead within the very fucking week. He had caused a clusterbomb of Twitter controversies throughout July and August, beginning within days of that anti-harassment statement.

    LYING ABOUT THE LIES!!!!

  18. 38

    It’s beyond dispute that the situation as described does apply to American atheism

    yes, but not only. It’s SUCH a pile of bullshit (and often bullshit that comes really fucking close to simply being anti-American bigotry) to claim this is “US-parochial infighting”. I say as I, a non-USAmerican, comment on the blog of a non-USAmerican living not in the US. :-p

    (I don’t know if Canadians count as Americans or as non-Americans for the purpose of this argument)

  19. 39

    @Jadehawk
    Certainly. These problems are everywhere. Perhaps they’re a bit more extreme in America, but anyone who pretends that sexism is over and done with in Europe is either delusional or full of shit. The discussion is often centered on America, but it has relevance far beyond that.

  20. 41

    These problems are everywhere. Perhaps they’re a bit more extreme in America

    THAT they certainly are not. I’d like to remind you that Elevatorgate happened in Dublin, and that for months afterwards every European douchebro tried a variation of “you weird Americans, over here in Europe, invitations for coffee don’t mean sex at all!”, which is patent nonsense; and sexist.

    Also, e.g. RD isn’t any kind of American, and Hitchens didn’t start out as one.

  21. 42

    “Clickbait for profit” is a classical ad hominen argument. Ad hominens are fallacies not because they are lies or offensive, but because even if true they have no bearing on the argument. “Richard Dawkins is mean to small children and animals” is irrelevant to the truth of evolution even if true.

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