Richard Dawkins seems to think his critics are suppressing and bullying him. During a recent speaking tour in San Francisco, he gave an interview in support of his new memoir and invited a reporter to sit down with him:
Bottom line: He stands by everything he has said — including comments that one form of rape or pedophilia is “worse” than another, and that a drunken woman who is raped might be responsible for her fate.
“I don’t take back anything that I’ve said,” Dawkins said from a shady spot in the leafy backyard of one of his Bay Area supporters. “I would not say it again, however, because I am now accustomed to being misunderstood and so I will … ”
He trailed off momentarily, gazing at his hands resting on a patio table.
“I feel muzzled, and a lot of other people do as well,” he continued. “There is a climate of bullying, a climate of intransigent thought police which is highly influential in the sense that it suppresses people like me.”
Oh dear. He won’t take back anything he’s said and stands by everything he’s said (so much for his apology for Dear Muslima earlier this year), he thinks he is misunderstood, and he thinks he has been bullied and muzzled (oh and he thinks the thought police are after him). Is that true? Let’s take a look at some of his past comments. When he made his ‘Dear Muslima‘ comment:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so …
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
he was criticized by many for minimizing the sexism and misogyny that women in the Western world face. People told him that the horrible misogyny women deal with in one part of the world doesn’t erase the misogyny other women in the world face. Those critics read ‘Dear Muslima’ and came away thinking that was Dawkins’ way of saying “you can’t complain about sexism and misogyny unless you have it this bad”.
When he made his comments about aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome, he was criticized by many.
“If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”
He later said that he wasn’t trying to boss women around:
“Those who thought I was bossily telling a woman what to do rather than let her choose, of course this was absolutely not my intention and I apologise if brevity made it look that way. My true intention was, as stated at length above, simply to say what I personally would do, based upon my own assessment of the pragmatics of the case, and my own moral philosophy which in turn is based on a desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.”
It’s clear to my eyes why people would criticize Richard Dawkins here. The words he wrote have subtext. They insinuate that if you don’t make the choice that he, Richard Dawkins would make…if you choose to have a child diagnosed with Down’s, then you’ve made an immoral choice (either that or you don’t share in Dawkins’ morality which is essentially the same thing). He is offering his opinion of women who decide to have a Down’s child. He is telling those women that he is better than them and that their choice is wrong. He also doesn’t seem to realize that people with Down Syndrome can and do live fulfilling lives.
When he said this:
Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 29, 2014
he was criticized by many people for ranking rape and pedophilia. They are both horrible. Both are violations of the bodily autonomy of an individual. It serves no purpose to rank rape or pedophilia (a rapist or a pedophile may face a harsher sentence for their crimes, but that’s a courtroom assessment. It doesn’t mean that one bodily autonomy violating act is worse than another).
Looking back on some of the things he’s said, I can see quite clearly that Richard Dawkins has been the victim of the thought police…that he has been prevented from sharing his thoughts…that he has been bullied into…oh fuck this.
Richard Dawkins is not the victim of anything. All that happened was people criticized him. And that, I think, is one of his problems. He doesn’t like being criticized. He can dole it out to religious leaders and lay believers. He can criticize Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and every other religion out there but he can’t take criticism leveled at him. Especially when it comes from other atheists. Does he really think he should be immune to criticism? Does he think himself the Atheist Pope (there is no such thing)? Does he think he can do no wrong?
If so, he’s wrong. And people have called him out on the things he has said. People have explained why his comments are problematic. To him though, the people criticizing him (like PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson) are thought police engaging in witch hunts using online lynch mobs to suppress and bully him (I desperately want someone to shove a dictionary in his face and so he can learn what “thought police”, “witch hunts”, and “lynch mobs” actually mean, bc the way he’s using the phrases? He hasn’t a fucking clue what they mean). When I look at the responses Dawkins has received, none of them call for violence against him. None of them say he doesn’t have a right to think what he wants. None of them call for criminally punishing him for having these thoughts. Nope. All that has happened is that he has been criticized. And I find it laughable that he’s complaining about being suppressed while in an interview in the midst of a speaking tour.
Dude, you’re not being suppressed or muzzled. You won’t shut up! No one has kept you from talking, though many people have wished that you’d get the fuck off Twitter (not like that would stop the sexism from flowing from your lips). I know of no one with the power to affect your speaking engagements, so you’re not being hurt there. When the media wants to talk to an atheist, your name always comes up. FFS, you have your own blog where you can share your thoughts to the world. In what way have you been suppressed?
As for the bullying accusation, I find I can’t take that seriously when the worst that has happened to Dawkins is that he’s been criticized for saying things. Last I checked, that’s not psychological bullying. It’s not emotional bullying. It’s not physical bullying. Verbal bullying? Maybe that’s what he means, but again, he has only been criticized. If he thinks that the criticism he’s faced is the same thing as bullying…he has to explain how, and he hasn’t done that. To me, Dawkins comes off as someone who thinks his right to free speech means “the right to say what I want without criticism”.
Here’s my advice to Dawkins: stay off social media. If you don’t want your words criticized, then don’t fucking express them. As long as you continue to publicly do so, and as long as you make the insensitive, sexist, misogynistic, Rape Culture enabling comments that you’ve become known for, you’re going to get criticism. And rightly so.