Are Social Justice Atheists Systematically Deplatforming Lawrence Krauss?

It sure looks like the “Friendly Atheist” is going after New Atheist Lawrence Krauss.  When his blog originally linked to the Buzzfeed story, Hemant Mehta did more than simply draw attention to it.  He clearly chooses sides and implements an advocacy stance:

There will inevitably be people who dismiss the accusers, defend Krauss’ behavior, say everything was always mutual all the time, and argue that these incidents are nothing more than flirtation or jokes that have been taken out of context or misinterpreted in the worst possible light. But how many similar stories does it take before those people accept that this behavior is completely inappropriate, especially from someone in a position of power and influence?

Even more significant is that he also advocates a course of action:

No one’s suggesting Krauss shouldn’t be writing books about science or speaking out against the harms of religion. If there’s any simple takeaway from this, though, it’s that people who organize events and invite someone like Krauss as a way to draw a like-minded crowd should consider looking elsewhere. There are plenty of people who can advocate for a scientific, rational outlook who don’t have any of these incidents on their resume.

Mehta is arguing that Krauss should be deplatformed from future atheist events and even ends with something of a veiled threat:

I’m sure there’s a metaphor to be made about the Doomsday Clock. Whenever the minute hand moves forward because of the impending threat of nuclear war, Krauss is one of the people delivering the message because of his work with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Now, after hovering around 12 for several years, it seems like Krauss’ own clock is inching closer to midnight.

It turns out Mehta must have some significant pull in the atheist activist community, because the very next day after advocating deplatforming Krauss,  Mehta announced a sudden development in an upcoming “Celebration of Reason and Science” show that Krauss and Sam Harris are doing – Krauss was not going to appear.

Elsewhere, the American Humanist Association issued a press release about Krauss, someone they previously celebrated as “Humanist of the Year.”  They wrote:

The AHA works actively for gender equality and against harassment through its advocacy programs and with a special emphasis from the AHA’s Feminist Humanist Alliance. “Men benefit from a patriarchal culture that encourages male entitlement and predatory behavior,” said Sincere Kirabo, social justice coordinator at AHA. “Atheists aren’t exempt. It’s our job to work against this programming, to divest from it, and to actively challenge it.”

The AHA also used Twitter to draw attention to their statement.

And here’s where Mehta comes in.  He quotes from the AHA press release and writes:

What does that mean? Presumably that they won’t be inviting Krauss to future conferences or publishing his essays in their magazine (though they didn’t specify that).

Note how he is “suggesting” the appropiate response.  He then gets on twitter and replies to the AHA tweet with a link to his blog article

The AHA then replies:

100% guarantee he will not be speaking for us or writing for us in the future!

It looks to me like Mehta is working to get Krauss deplatformed at atheist events.

But is Mehta standing on principle?  I doubt it.  Note carefully his response to the AHA’s new promise to no longer associate with Krauss:

It may not seem like a big deal, but for a national organization of the AHA’s size to get out in front of this is an important change from the silence we’ve often seen from several atheist organizations in the past.

Translation – Given that all these atheists leaders are being accused of various forms of sexual misconduct, it’s time for atheist organizations to dissociate themselves from the leaders in order to get out in front of this.

In other words, PR…..damage control…..spin.

Activist PZ Myers then piles on:

Lawrence Krauss was scheduled to speak at an event with Harris and Dillahunty tonight: Krauss has withdrawn from it, which is rather interesting. This is part of a series of events assembled by this impresario I never heard of before named Travis Pangburn, who mainly seems to be focused on pandering to the old guard regressive atheists, pushing Sam Harris at every opportunity, so you’d think this would have been the friendliest possible venue for Krauss to push back. I guess he doesn’t think he can.

It is nice to see someone lose status within the atheist movement for being an asshole to women.

And then cites yet another example where Krauss has been deplatformed.

In the meantime, activists like Dawkins, Harris, and Coyne have been silent and have not come to Krauss’s defense.

It seems clear to me that Mehta is angling for total capitulation, as he tries to show Krauss the way out:

The incidents may have occurred a long time ago, but it shouldn’t take #MeToo or recent articles about men behaving badly to realize that this kind of behavior is wrong.

That’s where an honest apology could go a long way for Krauss.

Mehta wants Krauss to admit that he has been a sexual creep and honestly apologize (and, I suppose, promise he will change and no longer treat women like meat).  If Krauss does apologize, Mehta will put a feather in his cap, increase his influence, and claim there is nothing more to see here and try to move on.

But will the other social justice atheists agree do likewise?  They typically see apologies as admissions of guilt and good reason to dig deeper.

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17 Responses to Are Social Justice Atheists Systematically Deplatforming Lawrence Krauss?

  1. Dhay says:

    PZ Myers is another seeking and celebrating Lawrence Krauss’ deplatforming.

    Lawrence Krauss was scheduled to speak at an event with Harris and Dillahunty tonight: Krauss has withdrawn from it, which is rather interesting. This is part of a series of events assembled by this impresario I never heard of before named Travis Pangburn, who mainly seems to be focused on pandering to the old guard regressive atheists, pushing Sam Harris at every opportunity, so you’d think this would have been the friendliest possible venue for Krauss to push back. I guess he doesn’t think he can.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2018/02/23/doing-the-right-thing-2/

    Well, Michael’s already announced that, above. What prompted my response was that “pushing Sam Harris at every opportunity” remark: the events are not a series of talks between small groups of people, they are a traveling Sam Harris show, a variation on the podcast format, with guest appearances by others.

    *

    I assume that anyone responding to the evidently obscure event organiser’s Facebook posts on the event would be people attending or likely to; in response to Pangburn’s …

    PHOENIX! This Friday (Feb 23rd) come & join us for a Celebration of Science & Reason featuring Sam Harris, Lawrence M. Krauss & Matt Dillahunty! What should they speak about?

    http://www.facebook.com/pangburnphilosophy/posts/2009726042614654

    … there’s links to the Buzzfeed article, and I see “I think they should talk about Krauss and his history of sexual assault and harassment” and ” Perhaps they should discuss holding community leaders responsible for sexual misconduct and assault”.

    Looks like the agenda was not predetermined but intended to be topical — else why ask (presumably of ticket holders) what the three should talk about — so it would be difficult for them to ignore such a topical issue as this. Even if they tried, the Q&A would be very pointed.

    The cynic in me says that, probably, it’s not that Krauss didn’t want the opportunity to “push back” in what “would have been the friendliest possible venue”, it’s that whether Krauss did or didn’t want to, the other two didn’t want to be in a position of having to attack Krauss, defend Krauss, or (awkwardly and conspicuously) say nothing; I guess it’s not a question of whether Krauss doesn’t think he can, the other two have reputations to defend (and in Harris’ case a history of misogynistic remarks and attitudes to live down); so — like MIT — they won’t want their names associated with or entangled with Krauss’.

  2. TFBW says:

    If Krauss does apologize, Mehta will put a feather in his cap, increase his influence, and claim there is nothing more to see here and try to move on. But will the other social justice atheists agree do likewise? They typically see apologies as admissions of guilt and good reason to dig deeper.

    I’m not prepared to assume that Mehta is distinct from those “other” atheists in this regard. Maybe he is, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mehta meets an admission of guilt with some loud crowing about how right he was, and a decree that Krauss should be cast out from the community permanently. Richard Dawkins will support Krauss, because he’s been grooming him as a protégé of sorts, but Dawkins has no feminist cred (he burned it with “dear Muslima”), and won’t be able to help.

    I’m all for this witch-hunting and purity-testing. They do a far better job of eating themselves than any outside agent could hope to achieve. Krauss won’t be the last. Those who virtue signal the most conspicuously usually have the most sin to cover, so I’m thinking that PZ probably will find the cross-hairs on him sooner or later.

  3. Michael says:

    Now the APS has deplatformed him:

    The leadership of the American Physical Society has withdrawn its invitation to Prof. Lawrence Krauss to give a talk and to participate in its 2018 April Meeting. This action was taken following reports of allegations of sexual misconduct against Prof. Krauss. The APS deplores harassment in all its forms and remains committed to ensuring a respectful and safe environment at its meetings. Code of Conduct for APS Meetings

    So it’s not just atheist events, but also mainstream scientific events. Krauss’s career is under attack. Because of this, and because they have been so close to him, Dawkins and Harris’s silence will become meaningful.

  4. Michael says:

    I’m not prepared to assume that Mehta is distinct from those “other” atheists in this regard. Maybe he is, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mehta meets an admission of guilt with some loud crowing about how right he was, and a decree that Krauss should be cast out from the community permanently.

    Mehta seeks power and influence, so he has to be careful not to follow in PZ Myers footsteps. To keep a large following, he has to keep the atheists focused on unknown televangelists and rural religionists. That’s his bread and butter. I think he himself felt the need to “get out in front” of this story and would love to go back to business as usual.

    But given that he seems to be among those leading the charge to deplatform Krauss, you may be right. He could see this sexual issue as the main thing holding back the atheist activists and wants to play the role of savior.

  5. Michael says:

    The cynic in me says that, probably, it’s not that Krauss didn’t want the opportunity to “push back” in what “would have been the friendliest possible venue”, it’s that whether Krauss did or didn’t want to, the other two didn’t want to be in a position of having to attack Krauss, defend Krauss, or (awkwardly and conspicuously) say nothing; I guess it’s not a question of whether Krauss doesn’t think he can, the other two have reputations to defend (and in Harris’ case a history of misogynistic remarks and attitudes to live down); so — like MIT — they won’t want their names associated with or entangled with Krauss’.

    I agree. But now that it has become clear Krauss’s career is under attack, Harris and Dawkins can no longer remain silent without hurting their own credibility. In fact, if Krauss admits guilt and begs for forgiveness, that might be the very leverage the social justice atheists use to go after Harris and Dawkins. They certainly knew of the whispering, and if Krauss admits the whispers were valid, they why did they promote him? Why didn’t they intervene?

  6. stcordova says:

    “Now the APS has deplatformed him:”

    That could be serious to be barred from a professional society. That could be telling Krauss’ university that it’s ok to fire him. And given there is fierce competition to move up in the university, someone may take the opportunity to push him out, not because they really care about the women, but to advance themselves.

  7. nsr says:

    If you want to see what judgement without hope of forgiveness looks like, you need look no further than the New Atheist community

  8. Dhay says:

    On 09 March 2018, another American Humanist Association press release: “AHA Board Takes Decisive Action Regarding Lawrence Krauss Allegations”:

    In response to the AHA’s recent promise not to ignore these allegations, the AHA Board of Directors has taken decisive action in terms of its future relationship with Krauss.

    The AHA Board has voted to:

    * Remove Lawrence Krauss from the AHA pool of potential speakers, writers, or presenters
    * Place Lawrence Krauss’s 2015 Humanist of the Year Award in an administrative review status (during this time references and recognition will be removed until a formal process for consideration is developed and a determination is made)
    * Improve the AHA Humanist of the Year awardee selection process to have a more in-depth inquiry into potential candidates’ personal ethics, reputations, and actions to ensure they are in accordance with humanist values as AHA states them
    * Create a new addendum policy that stipulates those circumstances under which awards already given may be revoked

    “It’s deeply disappointing when someone we’ve honored, and who regularly speaks to the world representing humanists everywhere, fails to meet our expectations. When a prominent humanist’s commitment to reason, compassion, and egalitarianism appears to be fundamentally compromised by his or her behavior, we must act on our disappointment to ensure that the world understands humanists at large don’t condone such misconduct,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA. “There was a time when nontheist organizations wouldn’t appropriately address unethical conduct of their leaders, seeming to prioritize outspoken secularism over all else. But …

    https://americanhumanist.org/press-releases/aha-cuts-ties-with-lawrence-krauss/

    The AHA has not just de-platformed Krauss, they’ve also stripped him temporarily (and subject to policy change and process, permanently) of his 2015 Humanist of the Year Award.

    They’d like to avoid a Krauss Mark II debacle by screening before awarding; I am inclined to wonder what screening would have screened out the apparently litigious and intimidating Krauss.

    *

    That …

    “When a prominent humanist’s commitment to reason, compassion, and egalitarianism appears to be fundamentally compromised by his or her behavior”

    … might be read as saying Krauss talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, otherwise read as calling Krauss a hypocrite.

    *

    There’s a much more serious problem than Krauss, there’s a more serious problem than Krauss almost certainly not being the only miscreant, and it’s highighted by the revealing line …

    “… nontheist organizations wouldn’t appropriately address unethical conduct of their leaders, seeming to prioritize outspoken secularism over all else.”

    … which tells us that finally the atheist organisation leadership — this one corner of the atheist organisation leadership, anyway — has finally acknowledged what the atheist blogosphere has been saying for years: the atheist organisation leadership has long been protecting these miscreants; the rot starts at the top.

    Note that the last quote actually starts, “There was a time when … wouldn’t …”, implying it’s now already all past — in this one corner of it, anyway — and that a wonderful changed world has now opened up where the nasty old practices have already been — “There was a time when”, that’s distancing language — swept away.

    For the AHA this might be or become true. Yet the AHA is but one corner of the atheist organisation leadership, and it’s not their spokes-organisation declaring change in all and a cessation of the general rot.

    Call me a cynic regarding whether these few words represent actual change.

    *

    An honourable mention for Skepticon, who identified and banned Richard Carrier a while back.

    *

    A dishonourable mention for those seeking to bring back Michael Shermer into the speaker fold.

  9. TFBW says:

    I’m not going to praise or condemn atheist organisations for their decisions regarding who to decorate and who to strip of their decorations and erase from history. I’m happy to let them make their own moral decisions based on their own moral framework, whatever that is on any given day, and let the example of atheistic goodness be what they choose it to be.

  10. stcordova says:

    Dhay:
    “A dishonourable mention for those seeking to bring back Michael Shermer into the speaker fold.”

    Was Shermer really a bad guy? I liked him. I had a chance to meet him after a debate with Dembski. Crying shame if he’s a bad guy. I thought he was innocent. Was that not the case?

  11. Dhay says:

    stcordova > I thought he was innocent. Was that not the case?

    Innocent in a court of law? I don’t think anything got that far; I didn’t even hear of charges being brought, which is not surprising with the accusations I read of being of the ‘she said he raped her after deliberately getting her drunk and pretending to be drunk himself’ versus ‘he says he didn’t’ unwitnessed type that never seems to progress to court even if a victim takes the famously futile step of reporting it to the police. If he’s innocent until and unless found guilty in a court of law, he’s obviously innocent.

  12. Dhay says:

    I came across this post by PZ Myers, quoting former JREF Outreach Coordinator Brian Thompson:

    I no longer identify with this community of benevolent know-it-alls, because not all of them are the best folks in the world. In fact, a good percentage of the top ten worst humans I’ve ever met are prominent members of the skeptics’ club. They’re dishonest, mean-spirited, narcissistic, misogynistic. Pick a personality flaw, and I can probably point you to someone who epitomizes it. And that person has probably had a speaking slot at a major skeptical conference.

    I grew particularly disgusted with the boys’ club attitude I saw among skeptical leaders and luminaries. The kind of attitude that’s dismissive of women, sexually predatory, and downright gross. When I first started going to skeptical conferences as a fresh-faced know-it-all, I started hearing things about people I once admired. Then I started seeing things myself. Then I got a job with the JREF, and the pattern continued.

    There’s a particular guy popular with the skeptical crowd who writes books, gives talks, and wears bicycle shorts. What’s not to love? Well, a female friend of mine told me she didn’t like it very much when he locked eyes with her from across a room and pointed to his dick. When I started working for the JREF, my boss described this same guy as an “old school misogynist”. Then a friend told me this same skeptical celebrity had groped another speaker at a conference. Grabbed her breast without invitation. Sexually assaulted her. Then my boss told me that not only did this assault happen, but that he witnessed it and intervened. The woman who was assaulted won’t name names for fear of being dragged through the mud. Another woman I know has told me that this same guy assaulted her. Others have confirmed her story to me. I believe her. But she’s remained anonymous for much the same reasons.

    I’m tired of this. I’m tired of hearing about sexual predators like Mr. Bicycle Shorts, who has yet again been invited to speak at the JREF’s annual conference.
    [Quote linked from Myers’ post]

    As long as atheism is about nothing but disbelieving in gods, and as long as skepticism is about nothing but demanding evidence, as long as there is no human heart behind the goals of these organizations, this behavior will continue.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/03/31/when-will-this-situation-improve/

    This has been going on for years, known about by all, openly acknowledged in blogs and social media, denied and naming silenced by litigious rich celebrities. Harvey Weinstein comes to mind as a parallel.

    Myers’ post’s title back in 2014 nearly says it all: When will this situation improve?

    But will it, even now that a corner of the rug has been lifted? If this had happened in industry and commerce, or in a charity like OxFam (Haiti, anyone?) the direct offenders and the enablers who turned a blind eye would be sacked.

    They’ll hang on, of course. The little I hear from the “boys’ club” of speakers and organisers seems to be (in general) “Oops”, not repentance; repentance requires bearing forth the fruits of repentance.

  13. Dhay says:

    Looks like, back in 2015, the American Humanist Association blocked Ann M Altman PhD because she tried to warn them against Lawrence Krauss prior to the AHA giving Krauss the 2015 Humanist of the Year Award.

    http://www.twitter.com/AnnMAltmanPhD/status/968468053712429057
    Full here:
    http://www.twitter.com/AnnMAltmanPhD/status/968468053712429057

    She’s still blocked, she says. Well, the AHA’s newly discovered need to vet before awarding won’t turn up any adverse comments from her.

    Or from how many others? About how many others?

  14. Dhay says:

    “Dawkins is a clown”, tweets Rebecca Watson

    Tracey King adds, “He’s worse than a clown but I’m waiting for him to die before I Tell All”:
    http://www.twitter.com/tkingdot/status/966725553926656000

  15. TFBW says:

    “I’m waiting for him to die before I Tell All”

    That’s one way to get around the he said/she said problem. Pro: demonstrates some lack of malicious intent. Con: if it’s serious enough to air in public at all, it probably shouldn’t be kept under wraps.

  16. Dhay says:

    Former JREF Outreach Coordinator Brian Thompson > Then a friend told me this same skeptical celebrity had groped another speaker at a conference. Grabbed her breast without invitation. Sexually assaulted her.

    I suppose that’s what happens when faith, hope and charity are replaced by celebrity.

  17. Dhay says:

    > Are Social Justice Atheists Systematically Deplatforming Lawrence Krauss?

    In his 23 March 2018 blog post entitled “Listen while you still can” PZ Myers tells us:

    … She’s leaving the atheist movement [and podcasting] for reasons that are all too common.

    I will no longer be interviewing women who have left religion, since I cannot in good conscience refer them to the atheist community, where they could find support. … All the resources are tainted with connections to the top tier of misogynist, sexist men.

    This is where we are now. I don’t see how atheism, as any kind of movement, will recover.

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2018/03/23/listen-while-you-still-can/

    Looks like some Social Justice Atheists are systematically deplatforming the atheist establishment.

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