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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dawkins-tweet

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

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

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

Let’s watch Lindy at work:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that got his attention:

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

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

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

West replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve seen this, er, argument before.

sharkethics

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

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

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

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

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

RIP, Richard Dawkins’ comedy career.

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

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

The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016. We have taken this action in response to Dr. Dawkins’ approving re-tweet of a highly offensive video.

We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views. However, unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful speech runs contrary to our mission and the environment we wish to foster at NECSS. The sentiments expressed in the video do not represent the values of NECSS or its sponsoring organizations.

We will issue a full refund to any NECSS attendee who wishes to cancel their registration due to this announcement.

The NECSS Team

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

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

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

dawktakeback

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

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

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

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Petra Pumpkineater
Petra Pumpkineater
3 years ago

What luck that you didn’t fall for her lies!

You misunderstand me. Please think harder. She didn’t lie during the discussion with the fundies at the gay pride rally. What she said there was right, and her tone was reasonable. What turned my sympathy into ironic disbelief was the collision between what she said in my link above, vs what she said in her infamous suppression of the MRAs.

Kat: Are you one of those one-trick ponies whose only response is to distort what someone said in order to set yourself up for a half-witted motive inference? Please, show us you know another way to make an argument.

Exile from what? You are the establishment. Own it.

Petra Pumpkineater
Petra Pumpkineater
3 years ago

Kat (exile from what? You are the establishment)

Do you understand the difference between sympathy and acknowledging that someone is right in one particular instance? What Red says to the fundies is true. I just don’t sympathize because Red doesn’t live by the decencies that she recommends to the fundies.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
3 years ago

Let’s just ban this troll. It’s already tedious from the start.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

The obsession with Chanty Binx is a tad creepy.

Viscaria the Cheese Hog
Viscaria the Cheese Hog
3 years ago

Definitely agreed on the call for a ban. I hate this faux-feminist Christina Hoff Summers shit.

Rhuu
Rhuu
3 years ago

…. @Petra

I sure do wish I had the ability to post things that were filmed during my time in hiding before I was harrassed and needed to be in hiding!

Look at the date on your gotcha video. It’s from 2012. Look at the date that the video of her yelling at someone went up online. (Hint: 2013.)

So, once again, you are taking information and trying to twist it to prove your point, without realising that we all have eyes and can read dates.

PeeVee the (Timber-Rattling Booger Slut, But Noice) Sarcastic
PeeVee the (Timber-Rattling Booger Slut, But Noice) Sarcastic
3 years ago

Petra, holy shit, Chanty was in fucking hiding from the blowout of her being stalked and harrassed from a video of her FOUR YEARS AGO, and you’re defending her being stalked and harrassed by her goddamned stalkers and harrassers AGAIN once she came OUT of hiding!

Stop this. Just stop it.

LindsayIrene, Rioting Werebonobo
LindsayIrene, Rioting Werebonobo
3 years ago

Necromoronomicon.

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.

But necrotrolls are forever.

Ia Ia Cthulhu Ftagn!

dlouwe
dlouwe
3 years ago

Red’s vicious assault on the MRA’s freedom of speech and assembly

her and the rest of her thugs that block the MRAs from even being able to meet and talk behind closed doors.

It’s been a while since I’ve watched the video – can someone refresh my memory: did Chanty at any point physically bar people from entering the building? Or is Petra making her responsible for the actions of everyone at the protest because she was meeeean?

PeeVee the (Timber-Rattling Booger Slut, But Noice) Sarcastic
PeeVee the (Timber-Rattling Booger Slut, But Noice) Sarcastic
3 years ago

LindsayIrene, Petra is going to do this with all of the tagged articles of the people Petra is intetested in. Expect more.

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

The Dawkins post of all things. That cartoon was horrible. I started a post where I looked at the video in light of explanations for what humor is and what it does and got depressed about it. The whole thing was about tarring all feminists with social annoyances, and and the worst was trying to tie feminists and feminism to the feeling of criticizing Muslims (because they are terrified of criticism of rape, they think Muslims are shields and something to treated as a contagion ). The creator addressed nothing Chanty Binx actually said.

Humor and social conflict are intimately related. There are no “just jokes”. I won’t pretend that was anything but a massive bigoted insult with no substance whatsoever. It was people acting shitty, sexist, misogynist, and other bigotries group-bonding.

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