Elevatorgate

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Elevatorgate is a term commonly used to describe a scandal involving atheist Richard Dawkins' 2011 comments made to fellow atheist Rebecca Watson which are perceived to have been inappropriate by a sizable portion of the atheist community and the public at large.

Specifically, in July of 2011, Richard Dawkins was widely criticized within the atheist community and in various press outlets for his insensitive comments made to atheist Rebecca Watson about an incident which occurred in an elevator (see: Richard Dawkins' Elevatorgate comments).[1] Specifically, Watson was invited for coffee and a conversation late at night by a man who was a fellow atheist. Watson was upset by this and subsequently blogged about it. Following this, Richard Dawkins wrote an open letter to a fictitious Muslim woman, satirically equating Rebecca's plight with that of abused Muslim women. Watson has written about perceived widespread misogny within the atheist community and she has received threats of rape (see also: Atheism and women and Atheism and rape).[2].

According to Rebecca Watson atheist women are often punished for being outspoken - particularly when they speak about feminism.[3] In August of 2013, Watson said the harassment she received from male atheists skyrocketed after Elevatorgate. [4] Furthermore, she said she still receives harassment from male fans of Richard Dawkins.[5] The atheist feminist Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson concurs with Watson and says that sexual harassment has been institutionalized within the atheist movement and that atheist men have an investment in censoring, controlling and policing women and also have an investment in "male privilege".[6]

The New Statesman reporter and fellow skeptic David Allen Green said he believed Dawkins was a mysoginist and a racist.[7] In addition, Green wrote: "Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach? In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before."[8]

Contents

Rebecca Watson and Elevatorgate

As a result of Elevatorgate, atheist Rebecca Watson wrote concerning Richard Dawkins:

This person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experience as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. 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."[9]

Atheist Rebecca Watson and post Elevatorgate claim concerning harassment

See also: Atheism and women and Atheism and anger and New Atheism

Post Elevatorgate controversy, at an atheist convention, Rebecca Watson claimed:

Hundreds of atheists have informed me that either they wanted to rape me, someone should rape me so that I will loosen up or that no one would ever rape me because I am so ugly".[10]

In July of 2012, Watson declared: "It get regular rape threats. I get regular rape and murder threats".[11] Furthermore, in August of 2013, Rebecca Watson said that post Elevatorgate she received a flood of rape threats and she continues to receive rape threats (see: Atheism and rape).[12]

See also:

Charge of unrestrained attacks on Dawkins by Rebecca Watson and her supporters

In a July 2012, article entitled One year after Elevatorgate the skeptic Chris Willett wrote:

Rebecca Watson and her supporters began waging unrestrained warfare on Richard Dawkins...

Certainly I can understand the outrage of Watson and others – no one relishes the idea of having Richard Dawkins sarcastically shout the equivalent of “first world problem!” at your dilemma, especially when a woman has good reason to feel discomfort in the confined space of an elevator – but they lost all of my sympathy when they reacted in a manner far disproportionate to Dawkins’ remarks:

Watson herself referred derisively to Dawkins as a “stinking rich” “wealthy old heterosexual white man,” thus immediately undercutting her own complaint about being perceived and treated according to her own sex and appearance. This was not a good start. Skepchick’s Mindy, who used the terms “misogyny” and “racist” to describe Dawkins’ comments, was more severe: “I look forward to watching your legacy crash and burn,” she wrote, and “you don’t get a second chance,” revealing as hypocrites the very same people who just finished criticizing Dawkins for his tone. And one wonders if any of the people then writing vicious letters had stopped to consider that Dawkins himself was inappropriately fondled as a child, which made it all the more absurd to claim that he is unfamiliar with and unconcerned about harassment and sexual assault.[13][14]

Allegation that Rebecca Watson was behaving hypocritically

Amanda Read wrote in the Washington Times that she believed Watson was behaving hypocritically and declared:

The point is that because the issue is sexism in the atheist movement, perceptions of sexism are not based on absolute principle, but on relative emotion.

Watson speaks out against the sexual objectification of women, but she apparently sees nothing wrong with the pinup calendars that she and her female atheist friends publish. Myers defended her views on his blog, but only last year he linked to an interesting interview with Nina Hartley, a feminist atheist who sees nothing wrong with women performing as sex workers.

You see, sexism and the exploitation of women are not immoral to godless women as long as such things are on their terms.[15]

Previous incident of Richard Dawkins being unkind to a woman

In September of 2010, Richard Dawkins became nasty towards a woman in an audience he spoke before.[16]

For more information please see: Women's views of Richard Dawkins

Aftermath of Elevatorgate

Survey data and website tracking data of prominent atheist websites indicate that in the Western World, atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women. According to the website tracking firms Alexa and Quantcast women frequent the website of richarddawkins.net significantly less than men.[17][18]

(Flickr photo, see license agreement)

Although major press outlets have covered Elevatorgate[19], most of the commentary surrounding the events of Elevatorgate has been in the atheist blogosphere.

Concerning post Elevatorgate events one atheist blogger wrote:

There was then lots and lots and lots of argybargy, and now it's being said gallons of misogynist men over the net are trying to shout down Rebecca Watson; that is explicitly so presented in this very recent broadcast on Citizen Radio featuring an interview of Watson (the part with Watson starts only a bit after 20 minutes into the recording, so skip the first 20 minutes).[20]

Subsequent to Elevatorgate there was 3 weeks of infighting within the atheist community.[21]

Uphill battle of Rebecca Watkins and female atheists combatting atheist misogyny

See also: Atheism and rape and Atheism and women

Another atheist blogger wrote about Rebecca and her fellow female bloggers at the website Skepchick:

The fatal decision was to extend the fight to tackle the greatest problem remaining in modern skepticism – socially awkward male nerds.

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak - Sun Tzu

The skepchick army, marshalling their forces, decided to attack the nerds [at] their presumed weakest point – on the internet.

Unfortunately, and apparently a surprise for some, the internet is the perfect natural environment of the socially awkward nerd.[22]

Conflict at TAM 9

At "The Amazing Meeting 9", organised by skeptic and homosexual atheist James Randi, Dawkins and Watson walked out of each other's talks in protest at each other's behaviour during the incident. Dawkins also announced that in future he would pay for childcare at Amazing Meetings, probably as a dig at Watson.

Thunderf00t and Greg Laden's removal from freethoughtblogs.com

The atheist Thunderf00t is the most popular evolutionist at YouTube.

On July 1, 2012, atheist Ed Brayton declared:

As many of you are no doubt aware, there’s been a lot of strife in this community lately. Some of it has been in public, some of it was in private and some of it may well go from being private to public as a result of all of this. So let me give you the news and clear the air:

We are parting company with two of our bloggers: Thunderf00t and Greg Laden. We wish them both the best but, unfortunately, their behavior towards other members of the community has made it impossible to keep them as part of our network. This is not a matter of a disagreement or difference of opinion, but of behavior that we cannot condone or support.

None of this is a reflection on the worth of the many contributions that both of these people have made to the atheist cause. I hope and am confident that they will both continue to offer a lot of good things to this community.[23]

The matter which appeared to spark the contention was how to properly deal with the significant amount of misogny within the atheist community (see: Atheism and women and Atheism and rape and Elevatorgate and Women's views of Richard Dawkins and Atheist leaders and immoral relationships).[24][25][26][27]

Vox Day wrote that Thunderf00t's removal from Freethoughtblogs exemplified PZ Myers's unwillingness to intellectually engage his opponents and his lack of integrity.[28]

Rebecca Watson response to Thunderf00t and his fans

See also: Rebecca Watson and Thunderf00t factions of atheism

On July 1, 2012 Rebecca Watson wrote post Elevatorgate controversy:

Skepchick has been exposed for what it is: a totalitarian Nazi clique who created an anti-harassment policy specifically so that men could harass women in bars and Muslim could force us to wear burqas. I know it’s true because noted atheist intellectuals Paula Kirby and Thunderf00t said so!

I debated whether or not to write about this because the recent insults about Skepchick have been so self-evidently ignorant and wrong that I felt it would look like we were picking on tiny, angry babies. And no one likes to see that. I’m relenting only because the sheer amount and absurdity of the insults have reached a level that cannot be ignored, like a large mob of angry babies brandishing pacifiers and blankies as weapons.[29]

Post Elevatorgate comment about atheist conferences

Rebecca Watson post Elevatorgate wrote at Slate about atheist conferences:

[W]omen started telling me stories about sexism at skeptic events, experiences that made them uncomfortable enough to never return. At first, I wasn’t able to fully understand their feelings as I had never had a problem existing in male-dominated spaces. But after a few years of blogging, podcasting, and speaking at skeptics’ conferences, I began to get emails from strangers who detailed their sexual fantasies about me. I was occasionally grabbed and groped without consent at events.

I started checking out the social media profiles of the people sending me these messages, and learned that they were often adults who were active in the skeptic and atheist communities. They were reading the same blogs as I was and attending the same events. These were “my people,” and they were the worst.[30]

Abundance of vitriol and a lack of calm and reasoned discussion post Elevatorgate

The blog Freethought Kampala described the aftermath of Elevergate thusly:

Elevatorgate is the unprecedented INTERNET WAR that erupted after Rebecca Watson (above) posted a video in which she discussed an ordeal she experienced in an elevator while attending the World Atheist Convention which took place in Dublin, Ireland, from June 3rd to June 5th, 2011.

During the months of July and August 2011, the atheist-skeptic blogosphere was ablaze with accusations, counter-accusations, verbal fights, moral declarations and insults as hundreds of bloggers and millions of their readers tried to determine whose assessment of the events narrated by Watson best represented the facts at hand.[31]

Subsequently the blog Freethought Kampala wrote in a blog post entitled Elevatorgate – Part 2 – The Failure of Skepticism:

You would think that being skeptics, whatever disagreements arising from how the events surrounding and following from Elevatorgate were to be interpreted would be done calmly, rationally, and above all, skeptically.

But this is not what happened at all.

My concern is not so much about whether someone takes one view or another with regards to Elevatorgate. Indeed, even among the members of Freethought Kampala, there are different opinions on various aspects of the matter. My concern is about how the matter has been handled, the poor quality of arguments that have been advanced, the astounding amounts of hypocrisy on display, and above all the intolerant attitude towards viewpoints that don’t tow the radical gender feminist line – all this, among people that call themselves skeptics.[32]

The day Elevatorgate occurred has been called the day the atheist movement died

See also: Atheist movement

Richard Dawkins is still widely criticized for igniting deep fractures in the atheist movement through his Elevatorgate scandal. For example, on November 26, 2013, the atheist activist and blogger Jen McCreight posted at Twitter the message: "Did anyone on Dawkins AMA ask how he feels about singlehandedly destroying the atheist movement with the Dear Muslima yet?"[33] In December of 2013, atheist Jack Vance at Atheist Revolution called July 2, 2011, which is the day that Elevatorgate occurred, "The day the atheist movement died."[34]

See also: Atheism and the internet

Richard Dawkins apologizes three years later for Elevatorgate comment

On August 6, 2014, three years after Elevatorgate, without mentioning Rebecca Watson's name, Richard Dawkins issued a one sentence apology for his Elevatorgate comments. He posted the apology near the bottom of one of his blog posts.[35] In response, Rebecca Watson wrote in Twitter post: "Richard Dawkins did the blog-equivalent of coughing into his hand while mumbling "sorry" to me. Eh I'll take it."[36]

PZ Myers' prediction that the atheism movement will stagnate or shrink unless atheists change

PZ Myers

(photo obtained from Flickr, see license agreement)

See also: Atheist movement and Atheism and social intelligence and Atheism and emotional intelligence and Atheism and morality and Atheism and uncharitableness

On September 27, 2014 in a blog post entitled The Atheist Disillusionment, the prominent atheist PZ Myers declared:

I will make a prediction, right here and now.... The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people...

Unless we change.

I don’t know that we can.[37]

Please see: Atheist movement and Atheism and social intelligence and Atheism and emotional intelligence and Atheism and morality and Atheism and uncharitableness

Thunderf00t on the impact of Freethoughtblogs and Rebecca Watson

In October of 2014, the popular YouTube atheist Thunderf00t indicated that the bloggers at Freethoughtblogs accidentally put him on their email list and that they spend a considerable amount of time emailing each other engaging in petty matters. In fact, he indicated that they spent more time emailing each other than engaged in actual blogging. He also questioned the impact of the bloggers of Freethoughtblogs on social justice.[38] Furthermore, he indicated that their attempt to make him a pariah within the atheist community had virtually no impact.[39]

He also indicated that the accomplishments of Rebecca Watson are very thin and that she promotes feminism in an offensive manner.[40]

In addition, Thunderf00t commented on how Jen McCreight, the founder of the atheist feminist movement Atheism plus abandoned her movement within two weeks. And how Richard Carrier "the intellectual artillery" of the movement, quit promoting the movement within a month.[41]

Atheist community double standards: Muslim men misogyny vs. atheist men misogyny

See also: Atheist hypocrisy

In recent times, atheists have put in a lot of effort and focus into decrying the deplorable treatment of many Muslim women by Muslim men, yet the same degree of attention about the high amount of physical abuse atheist women endure at the hands of atheist men via domestic abuse and the other forms of abuse is not given nearly the same amount of import by many in the atheist community. See: Irreligion and domestic violence and Secular Europe and domestic violence.

For example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was chosen to be the keynote speaker of the American Atheists convention in 2014 and in 2005 the secular left leaning Time magazine named her one of the most 100 influential people in the world.[42] Yet, the women who point out misogyny in Western World atheism receive torrents of abuse (see: Atheism and sexism) and are not highly lauded by the atheist community to nearly the same degree.

For more information, please see: Atheist hypocrisy

Disharmony, factionalism and global decline of atheism

Hong Kong Christians at Gateway Camp. In 2005, there were four times as many non-Western World Christians as there were Western World Christians.[43] See: Global Christianity

(photo obtained from Flickr, see license agreement)

See also: Atheist factions

Jacques Rousseau wrote in the Daily Maverick concerning Elevatorgate, "Some might observe that we indulge in these squabbles fairly frequently."[44] An ex-atheist wrote: "As an Atheist for 40 years, I noticed that there is not just a wide variety of Atheist positions, but there exists an actual battle between certain Atheist factions.[45]

Decline of atheism and the explosive growth of global Christianity

See also: Global atheism and Desecularization and Global Christianity

In 2011, the American Spectator declared concerning research published in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research:

The report estimates about 80,000 new Christians every day, 79,000 new Muslims every day, and 300 fewer atheists every day. These atheists are presumably disproportionately represented in the West, while religion is thriving in the Global South, where charismatic Christianity is exploding."[46]

See also

Comedy and satire:

Essays:

External links

Elevatorgate timeline:

References

  1. The Privilege Delusion by Rebecca Watson - Skepchick
  2. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  3. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  4. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  5. Calling All Female Atheists - Huffington Post - video
  6. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  7. Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins by David Allen Green - New Stateman - 06 July 2011
  8. Richard Dawkins Gets into a Comments War with Feminists by Caitlin Dickson - The Atlantic Wire, Jul 06, 2011
  9. PZ Myers and the Art of Shameless Dishonesty
  10. FreeThoughtBlogs and PZ Myers
  11. Sikivu, Ophelia, and Rebecca — who says atheism lacks women stars?
  12. One year after Elevatorgate
  13. One year after Elevatorgate
  14. Of sexism and atheism: Richard Dawkins gets in trouble with feminists, Washington Times, July 16, 2011
  15. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/richard-dawkins-i-never-meet-people-who-disagree-with-me-2080451.html
  16. http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/richarddawkins.net
  17. http://www.quantcast.com/richarddawkins.net#demographics
  18. imb—By Atheists - Gawker]
  19. ElevatorGate: Rebecca Watson & Richard Dawkins are not the droids you're looking for - Heathen Hub
  20. Elevatorgate - the power of words
  21. Elevatorgate: Dawkins strikes back
  22. Major changes at freethoughtblogs - Ed Brayton
  23. Thunderf00t, check your email - PZ Myers
  24. Thunderf00t on how to handle misogny in the atheist community
  25. SkepchickCON and the Harassment LOL-icy
  26. Is it ‘Freethoughtblogs’ or ‘Group-think-blogs’?
  27. [http://voxday.blogspot.com/2012/07/free-fascistthoughtblogs.html Vox Fay on Freethoughtblogs
  28. Hot Gossip: We’re All Burqa-wearing Nazis
  29. Sexism and the New Atheism
  30. Elevatorgate - Freethought Kampala
  31. Elevatorgate – Part 2 – The Failure of Skepticism
  32. Jennifer McCreight on the Twitter about the Elevatorgate scandal
  33. The Day the Atheist Movement Died by Jack Vance at Atheist Revolution
  34. Who is “belittling” what? by Richard Dawkins
  35. Rebecca Watson's Twitter post about Dawkins' apology
  36. The Atheist Disillusionment - PZ Myers]], September 27, 2014
  37. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  38. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  39. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  40. Atheism+ Stream: How SJWs pushed their way into Atheism
  41. Is Christianity taking over the planet?
  42. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can rip my soul
  43. http://www.atheism-analyzed.net/The%20Reasoning%20Atheist.htm Atheism Analyzed
  44. Thriving Christianity
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