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.
The AHA will not ignore the concerning allegations of sexual misconduct against Lawrence Krauss, past Humanist of the Year, featured in the Humanist Mag & https://t.co/TaGKJWIX51. We stand behind the brave women who speak out against sexual misconduct. https://t.co/QwuJW0lhFt
— American Humanist (@americnhumanist) 23 February 2018
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.