Reason Rally 2016: 71% “Minority” and 89% White

I sent a web form message to Reason Rally expressing concern about the people who were speaking and their ability to appeal to a broad base of non-believers. I thought, especially with both Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins in the line up, that they might need a nudge to understand that they were turning off a lot of potential attendees. They should consider finding more women and people of color to speak. I submitted it via web form quite a while ago, so I don’t remember the wording exactly, but that was the gist — be more inclusive, add diversity, get a bigger audience.

This is the email I got back.

Thank you for your interest in Reason Really. We appreciate your concerns regarding minority speakers. Please visit the website to view the 7 confirmed speakers thus far.

You mention James Randi, who is homosexual. Of the remaining 6 confirmed speakers, 3 are women, and Lawrence Krauss was raised Jewish. At this moment, the 7 speakers are 71% minority and 42% female.

Of course, we are always striving to improve and hope to bring a diverse and interesting variety of personalities together in an effort to appeal to a very wide audience.

I commend them on having nearly as many women as men on their roster. It took me a minute to figure out who the 5 minority speakers were. It’s 71% minority AND 42% female.

The Reason Rally Speakers: James Randi, Cara Santa Maria, SciBabe, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Paul Provenza, and Eugenie Scott

James_Randi
Cara_Santa_Maria
Science_Babe1
Lawrence_Krauss-1
Richard-Dawkins1
Paul_Provenza
Eugenie_Scott

 

OK, so, Cara Santa Maria is part Puerto Rican, everyone else is white, so minority in this case must mean something like, “Any possibly marginalized population.” They told me Lawrence Krauss was “raised Jewish” and James Randi “is homosexual,” so that’s two more by their definition of minority. And I guess all the women are “minorities” as well. Paul Provenza and Richard Dawkins must be the odd straight white non-Jewish men out.

I could certainly spill a lot of ink here about Richard Dawkins, James Randi, and Lawrence Krauss’s unfortunate behavior. It’s enough to know that Dawkins says ridiculous things on Twitter about women all the time and blackballed a woman from speaking at the previous Reason Rally, Randi, according to himself, knew of sexual misconduct by a male speaker and did nothing about it, and Lawrence Krauss supports his close friend who went to prison for sexually abusing many underage girls.

So that’s Reason Rally 2016 for you. Way to be a leader on diversity and inclusion!

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Reason Rally 2016: 71% “Minority” and 89% White

52 thoughts on “Reason Rally 2016: 71% “Minority” and 89% White

  1. 1

    Eugene Scott & Cara Santa Maria are excellent choices; I don’t know anything about SciBabe. Krauss, Dawkins, and Randi do represent a certain element in atheism, so I think it’s appropriate that they’re there.

    What I find troubling is how tiny the lineup is, and how sluggishly developments have emerged. This is supposed to be the big, nationwide, unifying event for atheism, and they’ve got seven speakers? Skepticon was bigger, and brought in new voices. I’m finding it hard to justify an expensive trip to DC for such lean pickings, and I suspect I’m not the only one…and this event has one goal, to be bigger than the first one. I don’t see it succeeding at this rate.

  2. 2

    I find that extremely troubling as well. It’s one thing to try to pull the wool over my eyes regarding representation issues, but to try to do that when there’s only 7 people in the first place. It’s like, “You’re doing percentages like I’m not just looking at 7 individuals. Where are your speakers?”

    I don’t understand why they’d bother to email me back with this malarkey when they’ve clearly got a lot of work to do, even if they don’t think that some of that work is bringing in people of color. And, while I don’t want to go see Dawkins, Krauss, and Randi, I totally get why they’re there. I just don’t understand why they’re basically half of what’s there.

  3. 3

    Yeah…just for comparison, look at the Paradigm Symposium, a weird collection of New Agey wackaloons holding a conference in Minnesota a few weeks before the Reason Rally. They’ve already got something over 20 speakers lined up! If it’s not that difficult to find 20 people willing to talk about psychic teleporters and ley lines and ghosts, how come we’re seeing so few people representing atheism at our premier event?

    I’d also like to know something about the financials. Who’s paying for this? Are the speakers all waiving any fees, or are they at least all getting fixed honoraria (it would be really annoying if some were getting lecture fees much greater than others; I know that at the first one at least some of us got $0 for our contributions).

    Somebody needs to light a fire under some asses, I think.

  4. 4

    Well, this is the response I got when I attempted to light fires, so, I’m not sure how receptive they are. I also know that there have been some internal difficulties. But at the end of the day, this event is supposedly to demonstrate that atheists are an important segment of the vote and it, frankly, looks like a giant fizzling nothing. Embarrassing to the movement and counterproductive to our political aims. I’d rather an event not happen than see us all be humiliated by this current effort.

  5. 5

    Watching the 2016 Reason Rally come together has been…discouraging, at the very least. I’m not entirely sure why it’s being repeated this year in the first place: I would have given it more time and made it a once-per-decade thing to concentrate impact and save on expenses, but oh well. There’s also been very little buzz or information about it online or off, which gives me doubts about transparency, attendance, and the certainty about whether or not the rally will even exist.

    The speaker selection at the original Reason Rally wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of diversity either…but there WAS a full slate with dozens of participants; there was a general air of optimism and historicity about it, and I was willing to cut the organizers some slack due to the logistical difficulties of putting on a brand-new event of this magnitude. Now, none of those points are true. The organizers seem to have learned nothing about building upward and outward from the last rally, learned nothing from the the last four years of discourse and division within the movement; much less healing those burned by it…and have instead regressed into a bubble.

  6. 6

    I’m still not sure if I should go or not. I want to because my friends and fellow trans atheists will be there. But I also don’t want people to think I support Dawkins etc.

  7. 8

    Apparently diversity doesn’t have to be achieved by inviting new speakers, you can just resort the the old ones. So why not shoot for 100% diversity?

    Dawkins wears eyeglasses. Bad vision is a kind of handicap. Therefore Dawkins can claim minority status as a handicapped person. BOOM! Done.

  8. 10

    I’m not sure that the 2016 Reason Rally will be successful our is even needed. A lot has changed in the US in just 4 years-the culture has shifted dramatically. Atheists aren’t really a small minority anymore, especially among young people. There is becoming less and less that atheists need to fight for. I really don’t see why anyone would bother travelling to an atheist conference outside their local area anymore.

    All that being said, if they want to have any chance of success, they need to only go with interesting, knowledgeable, and accomplished speakers. They need to stay away from the standard atheist conference formula of bringing 1-2 good speakers along with a bunch of second tier nobody bloggers.

    The calls for greater diversity in speakers strike me as highly insincere. It would be great if conferences would bring in actual diverse voices from accomplished people like Ayaam Hirsi Ali. Ali Rizvi, or maybe even Neil DeGrasse Tyson. There are,also some slightly lesser known but still very good speakers with diverse backgrounds that can be found here on FTB, like Taslima Nasreen, Maryam Namazie, or Hiba Krisht. Once in a while, some of these people will speak at atheist conferences. However, when people call for more diversity at conferences, these are not.the type of speakers They seek out.

    Instead, they seek out a small clique of second rate bloggers who continually speak the atheist conference circuit. It is a small group of mostly white, middle/upper class American women who have achieved little in life beyond blogging. These include people like:
    The liiterary erotica author.
    The former podcast sidekick.
    The ceramic trinket maker.
    The ec-Muslim from Orange County who raised $10k on kickstarter for a book that she vnever wrote.
    The analyst from MN who writes verbose and mostly incomprehensible blog posts and short stories.
    The mentally ill drug addict who likes to party (thankfully she has left the atheist/skeptic scene).

    Most of those people are horrible public speakers. Many give talks where they appear that they did not even bother to prepare. The few that are decent public speakers (like the literary erotica writer) Are mediocre intellects. And it is the same core group that inserts almost every conference.

    It is very telling that a lineup that does not include any of this group of second stringers elicits complaints about a ” lack of diversity” if the organizers of the Reason Rally want to succeed, they would well advised to only add speakers if they are accomplished. They definitely should stay away from the failing formula used by most atheist conferences these days.

  9. 11

    I’m really puzzled by what the organizers’ strategy is, or if they even have one.

    We’re a little over four months out at this point. If the people in charge are serious about this, the promotional machine ought to be kicking into high gear. Instead, the website looks like it’s still under development – no recent news, no press releases, no signs of activity, and as Ashley pointed out, a meager list of just seven speakers. And as if all that wasn’t worrisome enough, giving the brush-off to concerns about diversity the way they did is a bad look. It makes me fear that something is seriously wrong behind the scenes.

    If there’s a problem, the organizers owe it to us to say so. It would be only fair to the people who are trying to make travel plans, and it would be better for the atheist community to have no Reason Rally than to have one that fizzles out in public.

  10. 12

    They really need to invite only one speaker: Dr Richard Carrier, PhD.

    He will be able to speak with authority on every topic under the sun, on behalf of every minority you can think of — and many you can’t even think of.

  11. 13

    I have some sympathy for the organizers here, they are in much the same position as scriptwriters writing a sequel, so they are basically on a hiding to nothing. They have to produce something that seems fresh, but has to have some sort of connection to the original event.

    Dawk & Randi are obvious picks, as they are box office. Cara & SciBabe are the sexy element. The other three are for the more mature, serious audience.

    There are plenty of people who could add diversity to this event: Arien Foster (black, ex-Muslim, sportsman) would be an excellent choice, and I would prefer to see Sarah Silverman rather than Bill Maher. Organizers would be well advised to invite Rebecca Watson, and telling Dawk to go forth and multiply if he doesn’t like it.

  12. 15

    @Snapfingers,

    Indeed, he said so himself, so it must be true.

    @polishsalami,

    I agree with your last sentence. Not only would it be a good thing if Dawkins spread his genes far and wide; to increase diversity we also need to invite someone to represent the incompetent.

  13. 16

    Where I have to disagree with polishsalami is when they said this:

    Cara & SciBabe are the sexy element.

    You’re not saying they are only eye-candy, are you? That’s something I would expect to read on an MRA site, not here.

  14. 17

    I see the slymepit has discovered this thread. Gosh, maybe the Reason Rally needs representation from the masturbatory, obsessed MRA and troll atheist contingent, too? Too bad that, while you’re happy to snipe at the qualifications of others, you’ve made no positive contributions to the atheist movement yourself.

  15. 18

    PZ,
    You sound rather bitter and disappointed about not getting invited to speak at the Reason Rally. You have been smearing and lying about other prominent atheists for years.

    What did you think would eventually happen?

  16. 19

    “…maybe the Reason Rally needs representation from the masturbatory, obsessed MRA and troll atheist contingent, too?”

    I hereby nominate John Welch.

    I would nominate Mykeru, but the cowskull mask would probably freak people out.

  17. 20

    @PZ Myers,

    I see the slymepit has discovered this thread. Gosh, maybe the Reason Rally needs representation from the masturbatory, obsessed MRA and troll atheist contingent, too?

    Says the guy who churns out four blog posts a day, which he calls “random biological ejaculations.” Projection much?

    Too bad that, while you’re happy to snipe at the qualifications of others, you’ve made no positive contributions to the atheist movement yourself.

    Helping kick the entryists of Atheism Plus to the curb; exposing plagiarists, liars and frauds in the atheist movement. That’s what I would call a positive contribution.

  18. 21

    I think Jamila Bey would be a great addition for just the reasons you say, Damion. And also the people you list, Javier. I do not understand, though, why so many of the slime pitters absolutely refuse to engage with what was written rather than with their hate fantasy. I’m not calling for them to include anyone from this site nor is PZ. Is it just impossible for you to contribute productively to a discussion instead of using it to hatesterbate over ftb? Like either criticize the need for diversity as an idea or nominate some people you’d like to see and knock it off with the catty shitshow.

    Furthermore, Polish Salami, Cara Santa Maria and SciBabe are actually interesting smart people who would probably find your description of them shallow and uninformed.

  19. 22

    To dismiss Reinhardt, Steinpilz, Diaz, Snapfingers as hatesturbation is to not understand what you wrote in your post Ashley or acknowledge how reasonable people who otherwise disagree with you will interpret it, and you.

    Your vacuous comment re Bey marks you as either 1000% out of touch or 1000% dishonest regarding what happened to her by FTB.

    I am confident when you want to have an honest discussion, you will get an honest discussion.

  20. 23

    To engage with the OP — Ashley Miller wrote:

    I sent a web form message to Reason Rally expressing concern about the people who were speaking and their ability to appeal to a broad base of non-believers.

    I read this as: “I smeared some of the invited speakers, and am deluded enough to believe that best-selling authors do not appeal to a broad base of non-believers.”

    Look, nobody in the atheist movement is against diversity. Really. Who cares if a good idea is expressed by a cishet white dudebro or a genderfluid person of color? It’s the ideas that matter. But a conference like Reason Rally is not the place to disparage the atheist movement for not doing enough for the cause of genderfluid PoC, which is what might happen if you aim for diversity for diversity’s sake.

  21. 24

    Actually, I think Damion has very much been constructively participating. And Javier certainly has, at least in part.

    Jamila Bey is one of my great friends and one of the few people in this movement and in the world who I could call on a phone at any moment for help and she’d go out of her way to make it happen. She’s a compelling speaker even when I disagree with what she’s saying, which is rare but happens, and she’s a delightful person. There’s more to people than blog addresses.

  22. 25

    Hermann, I actually sent a message expressing my concern for the success of the event and said I felt like the event would be more successful in drawing a wider range of people if those on stage reflected a broader range of people they’d like in the audience. I’d like the event to be a success, and I think it would be more successful if it was more diverse. People like to participate in events where they see that people like them are welcome and included.

    I did disparage this email though, because it’s terrible.

  23. 26

    > Jamila Bey is one of my great friends and one of the few people in this movement and in the world who I could call on a phone at any moment for help and she’d go out of her way to make it happen. She’s a compelling speaker even when I disagree with what she’s saying, which is rare but happens, and she’s a delightful person. There’s more to people than blog addresses.

    does not address this:

    > Your vacuous comment re Bey marks you as either 1000% out of touch or 1000% dishonest regarding what happened to her by FTB.

    You have this habit of ignoring the elephant you sit atop, it’s terrible.

  24. 27

    Ashley, There’s nothing wrong with hoping the event to be a success and making helpful suggestions. But why did you have to express “concern” about some of the people who were invited? We are not talking about genocidal maniacs here.

    Yes, that email was a bit snarky, but maybe that was provoked by the tone of your own email. It’s a pity that you can’t show it here.

  25. 28

    The myths should eventually find their place in the proper fantasy book, and not in writing about events that happened. Rebecca Watson herself declared she would not want to have anything to do with Richard Dawkins, which is the uncontroversial part of her “Privilege Delusion” post.

    Rebecca Watson wrote {1}: I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer.

    What was disputed was whether her personal refusal to engage with anything Dawkins was also a call to a boycott. Especially PZ Myers – then still in good terms with Richard – was shocked about it, and went into a straight denial and ludicrously pretended that this interpretation of her writing was unreasonable. But was it? Of course not. If you are a public person and opinion leader and you write “this person is mean. I don’t support him” it’s generally understood as an appeal to do the same. This is called the conative or appelative function in communication. What’s more, the Privilege Delusion mentions the term “boycott” over 50 times in comments, and the media reported about boycotts, too. PZ Myers denied it, because it went too far for him at the time.

    PZ Myers wrote {2}: [boycott] Which did not happen. The only pattern here is that every event in this affair gets inflated into absurdity by the misogynists.

    He was still hopeful that this episode would go away quickly – little did he know about the new postmodernist wave of “social justice” that would carry him away, too. Again, the other people, denounced here already as “misogynists” were right about things. The hatred on Richard Dawkins only increased, thanks to such myth-making and uncharitable twitter exegesis.

    But that’s still only half the story. As grimly comical things typical are: The first person to publically blackball a female skeptic was none other than PZ Myers himself. He choked off Abbie Smith’s appearance with his much higher privilege status, when he announced:

    PZ Myers wrote {3}: I will not participate in any conference in which Abbie Smith is a speaker. If I’m invited, and later discover that she is also invited, I will politely turn down the offer.

    But when it was Richard Dawkins time, and there was a bandwagon rolling, PZ Myers wrote:

    PZ Myers wrote {4}: Dawkins’ choice limited everyone else’s options. That you fail to see this suggests that you have some serious biases.

    PZ Myers managed to jump onto the Dawkins-Hate bandwagon over this matter, and in mid air remembered his own policy and dropped it like an old hat as he landed with both feet on the hate train. What an impressive feat!

    And there’s yet another bit. American Atheists reported that Rebecca Watson was not scheduled for Reason Rally at the time, anyway. Whether you believe this or not, we already have plenty of evidence to bust this “mean Dawkins” myth once and for all. Rebecca Watson said herself she would not want to have anything to do with Richard Dawkins. She wasn’t invited anyway. And then, comically, the problem is (once again) located in the complete wrong corner.

    Welcome to Reality, Ashley. You were gone for a while, and there’s work to do. There will be the day when you have to go back and revise what you think is true.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    {1}_http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/
    {2}_http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2011/09/what-misogynists-call-outspoken-women/#comment-10098
    {3} _http://bit.ly/MyersVSAbbie
    {4} _http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/09/05/time-to-make-a-promise/

  26. 29

    “She’s a compelling speaker even when I disagree with what she’s saying, which is rare but happens, and she’s a delightful person. There’s more to people than blog addresses.”

    Amen to all that. Jamila is also a formidable opponent in Two Dots.

    In all honesty, I do think the Reason Rally lineup really could stand a bit of deliberate diversification. I see nothing wrong with trying to persuade them to move in that direction, so long as we aren’t imposing any litmus tests.

    It would be very nice to hear about the problems with religion from a Latino perspective, such as that of Hector Avalos. Or an international perspective, such as that of Mick Nugent.

    An apostate from a non-Christian background would be cool, too. Hemant Mehta comes to mind here, along with any number of well-qualified ex-Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

  27. 32

    I do so enjoy getting a gold medal over Jamila, she seems to have so many of them. I think the limited lives on Two Dots is the only thing keeping me productive in life.

    Jamila Bey disagreed with PZ’s portrayal of one of her posts and his wording that implied she needed to defend her speech. That’s her beef. It’s not with FreethoughtBlogs, it’s with PZ over a single matter. She’s still around — she doesn’t post but she’s still around. PZ != FreethoughtBlogs.

    @Hermann I point out those “concerns” to highlight the need for counterbalance if they are interested in getting a wider range of attendees. These issues are going to be problematic for some, so make sure there is something to draw at least some of the people who find these three problematic. And I wish I could reproduce the email or even remember it better, I sent it so long ago and so much has happened since that I forgot I even sent it until I got this email.

  28. 33

    @Ashely, You are conflating two separate issues. (1) People might not want to attend an event where Dawkins, Krauss, or Randi, whom they find ‘problematic’, are speakers. (2) There are not enough speakers from ethnic minorities.

    The second is a legitimate issue. The first isn’t, in my opinion. How many people would actually have visited the event, if it weren’t for the presence of those Suppressive Persons? A handful of petty, nagging SJWs? You wouldn’t want to have those people at your event anyway (if it were up to me). Let them stick to their their safe spaces.

    You have harmed your case for (2) by mixing it with (1), and that probably explains the reply you got.

  29. 35

    I understand how you think they are separate issues, but I think they are different faces of the same issue: appeal to a broader base. Obviously that’s not going to speak to you if you actively don’t want part of the potential audience there.

  30. 36

    @Ashley, It’s good to have untangled this anyway. Striving for a broader base is fine; you have my support there. You lose me where you ask for a purity test for individual speakers, which is effectively what you are doing. That is the attitude that leads to purges. You should leave those to Dr Richard Carrier, PhD; and that only because nobody will listen to him.

  31. 37

    I see the unhappy angry bitter atheist has discovered this thread. Gosh, maybe the Reason Rally needs representation from the masturbatory, obsessed ersatz feminist-for-life and troll atheist contingent, too? Too bad that, while he’s happy to snipe and throw myriad accusations of misconduct at anyone more successful or better known than himself, he has most certainly made mostly negative contributions to the atheist movement.

  32. 38

    Not just “an appeal to a broader base”

    You said: “I thought, especially with both Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins in the line up, that they might need a nudge to understand that they were turning off a lot of potential attendees.”

    The “especially” wasn’t simply because these two were ‘extra’ non-minority.

    Certainly PZ in the first comment read a need to defend these celebs from any personal based criticism.

  33. 39

    Let’s say you’ve got three audiences you want to attend: A, B, and C. You got Big Name Speaker X that appeals hugely to Audience A, Audience B is indifferent, and Audience C doesn’t like at all. Your options are to get rid of Speaker X to gain interest from Audience C, but lose interest from Audience A or, more realistically and more effectively, add Speakers Y and Z who appeal to Audiences B and C. If Speaker X is a negative factor for Audience C, you need to make sure you’re overcoming that to the necessary extent to get Audience C to buy in. If you don’t want Audience C to participate, you’re fine doing whatever.

  34. 40

    And I’m not necessarily criticizing having the people I called out be speakers there. You’d be foolish not to take advantage of an interest from Randi and Dawkins. There aren’t many people in this movement who people outside the movement have heard of and even fewer with foundations that can bankroll projects. The reality of organized atheism is that there are essentially two places to get real big money and Dawkins is the only person famous for being atheist who is anything like A list recognizable AND willing to do these things frequently.

  35. 41

    I suspect you have nailed it here. Conceptually.

    But note in he wider atheist community, category C – those who are turned off by RD and LK for their identitiy category, non atheist views and/or alleged behaviour – amount to a smear on the pie chart.

    To bring in fringe views via Y and Z to offset these SJ troubling thought-misdemeanors is a risk to category A and most of the unengaged category B and with little compensatory return.

    A mix of relevant diverse views would be useful and the names in the above comments represent this ensemble. Just stay clear of the Z and Y pushback to the white cis-het old harrassers and rape apologists made implicit in your choice of “especially”.

  36. 42

    I would like data and quantification supporting and specifying your claims regarding “smear on the pie chart” and “fringe views.”

    I think you are thinking uncreatively in regards to appealing to groups b and c.

  37. 43

    “Jamila Bey disagreed with PZ’s portrayal of one of her posts and his wording that implied she needed to defend her speech. That’s her beef. It’s not with FreethoughtBlogs, it’s with PZ over a single matter. She’s still around — she doesn’t post but she’s still around. PZ != FreethoughtBlogs.”

    The issue with Jamila Bey isn’t simply what PZ Myers wrote about her. Simply because she dared she dared to talk at CPAC, people wrote in the comment to her post that she “didn’t give a damn about poor people” and that people like her “delight in exploiting the poor and vulnerable”.

    She was asked “Whose convention are AA sending you to next, Ms. Bey? The Ku Klux Klan? The League of the South? The Constitution Party? The American Nazi Party?” [1]

    The comments on her blog included this: “Having just seen your revolting performance at CPAC, schmoozing the bigots and corporate shills of the rabid right, I take back the greetings I extended on your first post here. I hope your stay at FtB will be a very short one.” [2]

    These are all personal remarks, that go way beyond espressing dislike of Ms.Bey’s political ideas. What is questioned is her character, her integrity and her morality.

    Nobody told the people who wrote those words that they were needlessly polemical, that it was fine to criticize Ms. Bey’s political ideas but that comparing her speech to appeasing to the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan was unneeded and absurd. (Especially considering Ms. Bey’s ethnicity).

    It’s no wonder that Ms.Bey has stopped posting on FTB. She was treated as if she was a horrible person just because she’s fiscally conservative and has ties to the Republican Party. Why would she keep posting at a place where some people consider her almost as bad as a Nazi sympathizer?

    [1]http://freethoughtblogs.com/jamila/2015/03/03/cpac-was-awesome/

    [2]http://freethoughtblogs.com/jamila/2015/02/14/all-in-with-chris-hayes-appearence/

  38. 44

    @ 43 KirbmarcNew

    people wrote in the comment to her post…

    I notice all your quotations — except one (people like her “delight in exploiting the poor and vulnerable”) — come from a single individual commenter.

    Nobody told the people who wrote those words that they were needlessly polemical, that it was fine to criticize Ms. Bey’s political ideas but that comparing her speech to appeasing to the Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan was unneeded and absurd.

    Nobody used those exact words. Jason Thibeault, an actual FtB blogger, while disagreeing with Bey’s politics, defended her character in the thread.

    It’s no wonder that Ms.Bey has stopped posting on FTB. [… ] Why would she keep posting at a place where some people consider her almost as bad as a Nazi sympathizer?

    By “some people” you are referring to a single individual.

    (Is their any blog on FtB that has never had a single insulting belligerent commenter?)

  39. 45

    Ashley, you are the one who suggested that Category Cers – those offended by the “especially” problematic RD and LK – were a worthwhile demographic to pursue to broaden the attendee pool.

    Category Cers are defined by the nature of their objections which boil down to identity politics and being anti big skeptic harasser.

    I have yet to find a meaure which suggests this category is a meaningful part of the Atheist community.

    Dr Richard Carrier PhD definitively proved in his recent (mistake corrected) post that FtB’s traffic (a bell weather for SJ interest) has been steadily declining over 2012-2016 even as the rest of the internet experienced a rising tide.

    This is confirmed by every other metric you can use – Alexia, google trends, skepticon attendance, FtB new blogger takeup vs exits, anecdotal evidence of tiny or non existent blogger income, declining comment rates.

    Compare that to the traffic of non identity-politics aligned bloggers, to the massive interest extended to mainstream atheist books, to the utter disinterest of the wider community to SJ themes and to the influence of the Nugents and Beys …

    By all means, find me metric to suggest the Reason Rally would reap benefit from pandering to Class C?

  40. 46

    There are too many other factors in FtB losing traffic to attribute it to decline of interest — bloggers with large amounts of traffic have left, either in response to ongoing harassment, disagreements with one another, or to the greener pastures of Patheos, where one can actually make some money and many of the people who blog here have other projects going on now, meaning they’re not blogging as often or consistently. Greta’s working on her third atheist book. That said, there are several bloggers for whom 2015 was their best year in terms of traffic. It was on par with my 2013.

    Furthermore, you’re speaking to change over time, not to the underlying size of the audience. If the number of unique visitors to the people who are still blogging on FtB would have been as high as 3 million/month when FtB started (impossible to tell since many of us weren’t here) and say it has as much as halved since then, that’s still 1.5 million unique visitors/m. And say 1/3 of that is inflation, that’s still ~1 million unique visitors coming to FtB per month. And that’s just FtB and not Skepchick or people on Patheos or all the news articles that have been written. And even from that you can’t extrapolate that the entire audience is 1. atheist and 2. on the side of the writers, but you can guess that there are many hundreds of thousands who are. Given that the attendance of the previous reason rally was somewhere between 6-20k, depending on whose numbers you think are accurate, a pool of several hundred thousand is one worth pursuing.

    As for evidence that Class C is worth pandering to, you’ll see that people already are, so they must already think it’s a good idea. If you look at organizations, you’ll see an increase in interest in social justice and diversity issues and see cons adopting policies of providing childcare and codes of conduct. You’ve seen the death of the JREF and the birth of cons dedicated to diversity issues. SSA, CFI, AHA, and RDF are all doing things in this vein, and I’m sure there are more that I’m just not thinking of off the top of my head.

    None of that is to say that Audience C is the biggest or most important part of the atheist movement, it’s just not small either

    And if I look at ranking on Alexa:
    ftb 40k
    skeptic ink 225k
    skepchick 225k
    Nugent 1.5mill
    slymepit 2.2 mill

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    As for evidence that Class C is worth pandering to, you’ll see that people already are, so they must already think it’s a good idea. If you look at organizations, you’ll see an increase in interest in social justice and diversity issues…

    With the exceptions of SkepTech, Skepticon and SkepchickCon at CONvergence, I have not noticed a lot of skeptic conferences focused on social justice over the last five years or so. Where else has this been playing out? To my knowledge the humanist groups are pretty much doing what they have always done, while the big skeptic cons (TAM, CSICON) are doing mostly skepticism. I suppose one could make the case that American Atheists have been adding more social justice topics to the lineup, but not by all that much. Whoops, I almost left out Women in Secularism. That was sort of a big deal. Any idea if it is coming back this year?

    Okay, so at least four skeptic/secular conferences are largely focused on social justice issues. Have they been booming or have we reached something like market saturation? Have they been bringing in well-known speakers who would ensure a big draw? (I’m not saying that massive audience appeal should be a major desideratum for all cons, but the Reason Rally is intended in part as a show of demographic force.)

    You’ve seen the death of the JREF and the birth of cons dedicated to diversity issues.

    To be clear, are you suggesting that the social justice wing of atheism should take credit for the apparent morbidity of JREF? If so, what would you say is the probable etiology here? The 2013 and 2014 versions of TAM were pretty hopping, despite getting loads of flak from the usual quarters.

    SSA, CFI, AHA, and RDF are all doing things in this vein, and I’m sure there are more that I’m just not thinking of off the top of my head.

    Bit surprised to see RDF on that list. That place is run by a misogynist monster, judging by what I’ve seen on Twitter.

    Anyhow, suppose we were all convinced the Reason Rally needs to appeal to Audience C, the folks who think atheism needs a stronger focus on selected social justice issues. Can we come up with a couple of speakers who would appeal to that audience and haven’t attacked the character of any of the confirmed speakers in print? For example, one very popular freethought blogger once wrote “I have now heard directly from someone I trust that she was sexually assaulted by [named speaker].” It might be a bit awkward to try to put those two on the same stage, yeah? For a somewhat less explosive example, a popular atheist speaker on social justice topics once wrote “…if you’re a reasonably progressive person who cares about sexism and racism, and you’ve read about Dawkins or Harris, there’s an excellent chance that the top of your head came off.” It might be awkward to invite someone to speak who has publicly tarred fellow speakers with accusations of sexism and racism.

    As an probable audience member, I sort of relish the idea of an ideologically diverse lineup and a highly charged speaker’s lounge chock full of tension and intrigue. (Livestream Pay-Per-View!) Probably, though, conference organizers will never see it that way. The risk of a speaker cancellation and public recrimination is too much.

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    I would very much support social justice issues being at the forefront of the atheist movement. Unfortunately, atheists tend to skew young, white, and middle to upper class. Not exactly a grand recipe for social justice wisdom. Consequently, the voices there tend to be shrill and insecure. Perhaps a reason no one seems to like anyone else.

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    Meanwhile, PZ Myers has completed his transformation into a ranting halfwit, who is making sure that no-one with a modicum of common sense will ever invite him to speak at an event like Reason Rally. I refer to what he wrote today:

    We have an atheism where it is acceptable to rail against feminism, because feminists should be raped and killed.

    The drooling clown may have read something about ISIS, and in his deranged mind, or what’s left of it, believed that it was about the atheist/skeptic movement. One can speculate, right?

    Maybe he is becoming senile. That at least would be a valid excuse. The alternative explanation would be that he is reduced to being a bottom-feeding liar, pandering to the dumbest segment of his “Horde”, or what’s left of it. Either way, it’s a sad spectacle.

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    It is sad to see how the aggressive implementation social justice politics at the reason rally has set out to kill the reason rally just like they did with the atheist+ movent. Pushing social justice dogma over free discussion and rationality pushes alies away disgusted over the lack of freedom of thought. This is one of the reasons I myself did not financially supported this reason rally. Next time more atheism and reason and less social justice, and i might financially support.

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    Thank you for this article Ashley. You are the reason we got Trump into power, and, hopefully, will remain there for eight years.

    I just hope the rabid liberals like you and your readers continue with your victim searching diversity crowd. It has already almost destroyed Europe. We had Brexit, Trump, and soon the far right Maríne le Pen will be president of France.

    Thanks again for your articles and rabid liberalism. Just a few more pushes and the pendulum will swing the other way, and when it does.. You all are in for a BIG surprise.

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