Here we go again

From Here

On the evening of Saturday, April 7, 2018, the American Atheists Board of Directors received a complaint regarding David Silverman, the President of American Atheists. The Board takes very seriously the concerns expressed and, in accordance with organization policies, the Board has placed Mr. Silverman on leave while an independent investigation is conducted. Mr. Silverman has pledged his full cooperation with the investigation.

Sounds like ol’ Firebrand is in trouble.

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18 Responses to Here we go again

  1. Doug says:

    Perhaps we need to “keep score” — that is, what are atheist societies really up to?
    Perhaps they are funding decent scientific research somewhere? (if anyone knows of any, please respond?)
    Of course, they are “empowering atheists” (whatever that means).
    But it seems that they are much more about “empowering specific atheists” — who then proceed to exploit that power for personal gain, often exploiting others to do so.
    It would seem that the spirit of Madalyn Murray O’Hair is alive and well.

  2. RobertM says:

    I wonder what they will be willing to consider as “evidence” during their independent investigation.

  3. nsr says:

    Will this prove to be yet another high-profile example that hardcore atheism provides neither principles nor motivation for virtuous living? Socio-cultural influences and empathy are great until your base animal desires are stronger.

  4. In all fairness to Mr. Silverman, who knows what he could be accused of or if such accusations have a shred of merit. That said, doesn’t look like a good year r organized atheists. They’re still winning in one sense, which is the sustained attack on conscience

  5. Michael says:

    Y’gotta figure it’s about either money or sex. Myers claims:

    I know what’s going on, and it’s been building for a while. It’s not just AA that’s investigating some allegations, but another organization as well, and the atheist movement is about to get another well-deserved battering.

    If he does indeed know what’s going on, I’d figure it’s about sex, as Myers seems somewhat plugged into the atheist whisper network.

  6. Dhay says:

    itsonlyphotos > In all fairness to Mr. Silverman, who knows what he could be accused of …

    Indeed, it’s all speculation at the moment. We can deduce that the allegation is not a trivial one, it’s serious enough that he’s on “leave” pending investigation.

    I found this:

    The Christian Post contacted American Atheists for more information and received an email on Wednesday from Nick Fish, national program director of American Atheists, stating:

    “The allegations relate to alleged violations of the American Atheists employee code of conduct and staff handbook.”

    https://www.christianpost.com/news/american-atheists-president-david-silverman-suspended-after-complaint-investigation-launched-222795/

    But note it tells us nothing new: we already know that for a disciplinary charge to be brought and succeed, the alleged offence has to be an offence against clear and clearly communicated instructions regarding what constitutes an offence.

    I wait with interest to see whether or not American Atheists will prove to be open and transparent.

    *

    At some time or other the focus will move from those “rock stars” who were alleged active abusers to those at the top who knew all about it, should have intervened to prevent it, but didn’t. Perhaps that is already starting to happen.

    That is, it might be that David Silverman is not being accused of some specific action, but of inaction, of failure to do his spelled out duty.

  7. TFBW says:

    @Michael: “I’d figure it’s about sex, as Myers seems somewhat plugged into the atheist whisper network.”

    I, too, firmly expect it to be a matter of sexual conduct, because PZ has ensconced himself in feminist allyship. (“Allyship” is a thing in modern feminist or “intersectionality” circles.) I also suspect that he has enough skeletons in his closet that calling out other people as loudly and with as much outrage as he can summon is partly a self-defence mechanism to keep attention centred elsewhere. That’s not to say I think he’s a sexual predator — just run-of-the-mill libertine. The chickens are coming home to roost for the male half of sexual liberation culture.

  8. Dhay says:

    itsonlyphotos > In all fairness to Mr. Silverman, who knows what he could be accused of …

    Financial improprieties, apparently:

    Those allegations [of sexual misconduct] came just days after other allegations including financial conflicts of interest were reported. An independent investigation of those claims was completed over the summer, according to the organization, but it won’t be made public on the advice of their attorney. However, they told members that “the results corroborated the board’s decision” to fire Silverman.

    http://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/08/23/after-hiatus-american-atheists-david-silverman-issues-response-to-allegations/

    If I read it right, the investigation found Silverman guilty of those, too, but they’re not going to add those to the disciplinary charge sheet — he’s fired already, they don’t need to — because Silverman will put up a legal fight if they do.

    Silverman has made what seems to be a ‘non-apology’ in “An open letter to the broad atheist community” on FaceBook, which includes a “wholehearted apology” to “anyone I may have made uncomfortable in those early years” — he’s not guilty of sexual harassment, he’s merely caused some discomfort, he thinks; indeed, it wasn’t even that, they gave “unpressured, enthusiastic consent.”

    Although he admits to getting into situations where, “on the surface, my behavior could appear inappropriate” — only apparently, that is, it wasn’t really — he is “very disappointed that I was not allowed to defend myself or provide any explanation of the mitigating circumstances” ie to say the incidents didn’t happen at all, or that they did but either he shouldn’t be punished so hard or perhaps not punished at all.

    I expect that a Parole Board hearing something similar from a paedophile wouldn’t hesitate to consider them totally unrepentant and unreformed.

    Gosh, Silverman addresses that, he says he is already a reformed character; further on, Silverman says:

    I am also very proud of the work I’ve been doing on myself over the past three years in cognitive therapy, in which I enrolled toward the end of 2015, to work on my self awareness. In therapy, I started addressing my own behavioral issues and I continue to work on my personal growth. Since then, I’ve changed substantially (many of my friends have noticed) and am proud that I see sexuality, love, power, integrity, and personal responsibility in a new, more enlightened light.

    He’s so much better now than he was; so what was he like before those two and a half years of CBT with a counselor/therapist which have effected such substantial changes.

    Now that he’s (he says) “substantially” lost those obnoxious earlier character traits, he shouldn’t be punished, should he, should he, should he.

    And I ask myself, why did he start the course? People who go on Anger Management courses often do so because it’s either reform or divorce, or reform or prison, or similar. What I read here is that somebody back in 2015 — possibly it was Silverman himself — spotted that Silverman had behavioral issues which needed addressing, that he viewed sexuality, love, power, integrity, and personal responsibility in an old, unenlightened light, spotted that Silverman needed to get himself on a time-consuming and expensive lengthy course of therapy. What, I ask myself, happened back in 2015 to encourage Silverman to choose the option of CBT (and was there a less agreeable option on the table.)

    Which raises a further question: did American Atheists really not know of the sexual misconduct allegations against Silverman until 2018? I strongly suspect they knew back in 2015.

  9. Dhay says:

    Looks like The Satanic Temple (TST) leadership is also very much part of the atheist misogyny, sexual harassment and ignore complaints scene; this is snipped from a long Medium article by Jex Blackmore, who from 2014 until recently “was intimately connected to the majority of the organization’s most notable actions as a consultant and public representative for the better half of the Temple’s life”; she writes:

    As one of the few visible and prominent female voices in TST, I endured countless threats, harassment, and violations.

    She doesn’t actually say who inflicted the “countless threats, harassment, and violations”, but later she adds:

    Over the years, members and chapter heads have requested and proposed the implementation of a gender, sexual, and racial diversity policy to ensure equity within TST leadership and alignment to the mission. The demand was not simply ignored but completely dismissed. The demand was not hollow; there was a clear and pressing need for this policy. While I was part of the organization, I witnessed male members of the organization exploit their position and influence to behave inappropriately and disrespectfully towards women. I myself experienced harassment and abuse from members who have now left the organization. I was not supported by leadership during these times, but was asked to let it all “blow over.” I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but I know that my experience is one of many examples of systematic gaslighting, degradation, and bullying that many women have experienced within TST over the years.

    https://medium.com/@JexBlackmore/the-struggle-for-justice-is-ongoing-6df38f8893db

    But it’s plainly “male members of the organization [with] position and influence” and she “was not supported by leadership”, a leadership who, in classic ‘ignore it and cover up’ tactics wanted her to “let it all “blow over.””

    It sounds very familiar, it seems to be member and leader behaviour which is commonplace in atheist circles.

  10. unclesporkums says:

    Aren’t members of the “Satanic Temple” supposed to be bad?

  11. TFBW says:

    @unclesporkums: I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be “bad”, as such, but I doubt that there’s anything in the tenets of TST which dictate appropriate behaviour towards women. I mean, they say (in their FAQ), “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone,” so presumably that rules out rape, but I doubt that “respectful” behaviour (for whatever that entails in the mind of the author) is required. In fact, they have potentially conflicting tenets in, “one should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason,” and, “the freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend.” If you wanted to appeal to a mandate to be respectful, you’d rely on the former; if you wanted to appeal to a “respect is earned” stance, you’d rely on the latter. Certainly, in their day-to-day actions, they seem to be more keen to exercise their freedom to offend members of other religions than they are to act with compassion and empathy towards them.

    That tension aside, they also say, “The Satanic Temple holds to the basic premise that undue suffering is bad, and that which reduces suffering is good.” The problem with a platitude like this is who gets to decide what actions are causing “undue suffering?” A typical feminist will perceive that the feminist agenda aligns perfectly with this mandate, and insist that everyone follow feminist dictates accordingly. A typical SJW nut-job thinks that refusing to refer to someone by arbitrary noises which they declare to be “their pronouns” causes harm and suffering. Note that, ten years ago, that would have been a straw-man argument, so goodness knows what “harm” is going to look like in another ten years if SJW trends continue.

  12. Dhay says:

    David Silverman has now been interviewed, “America’s leading atheist, accused of sexual misconduct, speaks out”, by the Washington Post’s Kimberly Winston. Silverman’s definitely in total denial about any sexual impropriety:

    Silverman denies the women’s allegations that their relations were nonconsensual, and American Atheists say he was not fired due to sexual relationships.

    So what was Silverman fired for? Not because he was found guilty of any of the “allegations of financial and sexual misconduct” — not at the time, anyway — but because he lost the confidence of the American Atheists Board:

    Nick Fish, a spokesman for American Atheists, said the sexual allegations were not the reason that Silverman was terminated. “The board was able to review a lot of [documents] that allowed them to conclude Silverman violated its internal policy,” including staff management, conflicts of interest and violations of its general code of conduct, Fish said. “He lost the confidence of the board, and his contract allowed the board to terminate him for any reason. And loss of confidence is more than enough.”

    How convenient for American Atheists (or farsighted) to have given Silverman an employment contract enabling them to fire him for any reason whatsoever, including something so ill-defined as the Board members’ emotional state, here ‘loss of confidence’; because the reason(s) didn’t have to be specific, substantial or substantiated Silverman had no legal grounds to fight the dismissal.

    I don’t really doubt that had that ‘get out of employing him free card’ not been available to the Board, Silverman would have said “I deny the alleged sexual offences, prove them, and the alleged financial improprieties were with the Board’s knowledge and tacit approval”; and he and his lawyers would still be saying that today, and he would today still be President of American Atheists.

    Silverman did say:

    “I certainly behaved sometimes in a manner that was unworthy of the office of president of American Atheists,” Silverman, 52, said in a phone interview this week

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/09/06/americas-leading-atheist-accused-of-sexual-misconduct-speaks-out

    But in view of his denial of, apparently, everything but being a “different person” before his three years of cognitive therapy, a person who “was in a very adolescent place back then,” a person who “objectified women” and his total denial of the truth of the specific allegations, one wonders just what “unworthy” behaviour he is admitting to. It seems to boil down to, “I am very sorry [unspecific] other women may have been made to feel uncomfortable by me”, he admits only to making some women (but not those who actually accused him) feel uncomfortable … that’s just feel, that’s just uncomfortable.

    But he’s had three years of cognitive therapy, so he won’t make any woman, er, feel uncomfortable ever again.

    That’s all past tense. He’s soooo very different after three years of CBT therapy. I suspect he thinks it’s soooo unfair on the changed person that “(many of my friends have noticed)”, that he says he now is. He won’t make any woman, er, even “feel uncomfortable” henceforth.

    *

    The new President, appointed 01 September 2018, is the aforementioned Nick Fish.

  13. Dhay says:

    PZ Myers, who has contacts in atheist circles, tells his readers that “David Silverman is failing Redemption 101″. Ah, so what’s happened? ” Myers tells us Silverman got involved (with others) in a “new enterprise called Transformative Humanists of America … that seems to have vanished off the internet”. Nowadays, Silverman is selling insurance … and begging; he’s set up a site dedicated to me, Me, ME, the ‘Support and Subscribe’ page of which says:

    Right now I’m selling insurance to earn a living, and that’s what I have to do when I’m not being an activist. Your support buys you activism.

    Elsewhere on his site he has a ‘My Story’/ ‘Extended Bio’ which is rather brief, saving his writing powers for his ‘My Story’/ ‘MeToo’ page … where he doubles down at length: his message then of (paraphrasing) ‘I was a slight sinner once who is now thoroughly reformed’ has morphed into an aggressive ‘liars, Liars, LIARS got it in for me’.

    https://firebrandforgood.com/metoo/

    If you want to know my views on his sacking, and the circumstances and issues around his history and his sacking, they are laid out at length above – there’s also a next thread to this.

    What’s plain to me (and Myers) is that Silverman is totally unreformed, quite unrepentant. Which strengthens my already strong suspicion that Silverman took his long, expensive and time-consuming CBT remedial behaviour course not because he’s a nice guy who voluntarily wanted to become nicer but because it was forced upon him after previous misbehaviour, it’s CBT or fired. And that he was fired when subsequent behaviour showed he remained unreformed and unrepentent. As he still evidently is, doubled-down.

    *

    The speed with which Silverman was sacked indicates to me he had serious previous history, the latest misconduct the last straw.

    Silverman is evidently in denial, not guilty in his own mind; but he’s very proactive, a truly active activist, “ol’ Firebrand” as Michael put in the OP above and as his website name has it, not one to go quietly and without a fight; so if he went quietly at the time without a legal fight against unfair dismissal or suing for damages, chances are he was fired bang to rights, not a leg to stand on, no opportunity to mount a possibly successful legal action.

    *

    Silverman crows he has taken a polygraph test, and that the acknowledged imperfect results [Silverman – “Yes, I know polygraphs are imperfect, so please view this with the same seriousness as you gave the one used by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford vs Bret Kavanaugh.”] were:

    EXAMINATION RESULTS: NO SIGNIFICANT RESPONSE, (also referred to as NO DECEPTION INDICATED): No inconsistent or significant physiological responses were noted during the examination, which indicates that Mr. Silverman was likely providing truthful answers to the test questions.

    Hmmm, let’s see, Silverman showed no increased stress when asked four questions of (presumably – there’s no counter-indication) his own choosing, his own wording; anyone with a child will know the dubious value of carefully phrased incomplete truthfullness; I wonder whether differently phrased ‘awkward’ questions might not have got a different result.

    There’s also that Silverman throughout his ‘MeToo’ — which appears to function as a ‘snarl word’ attack on #MeToo – never claims that the polygraph test exonerates him: that is left as an insinuation for the readers’ minds to fill in with the, er, correct answer.

    And it is something which his readers’ minds will fill in: his example, the Ford vs Kavanaugh polygraph test, of those with an opinion, it will have been taken seriously by the X% of people who are Democrat-leaning, dismissed by the Y% of people who are Republican-leaning, and I suspect similar biases will operate for and against Siverman. I reflect that although the test will no doubt convince only his most ardent supporters, and the gullible, stupid or unreflective, these are the only people likely to be convinced he’s worthy of a donation, so it’s a worthwhile gambit financially.

    I also reflect that there’s plenty of convicted paedophiles absolutely convinced they did nothing wrong (likewise Anders Brevik?), and I suspect that they each would fly through a polygraph test (especially if they got to choose the exact form of the questions) with a NO DECEPTION INDICATED simply because of that inner certainty of having done nothing wrong. Silverman is convinced he did nothing wrong, or did but the slightest triviality of wrong, it doesn’t really count, they’re liars, Liars, LIARS.

  14. TFBW says:

    “Yes, I know polygraphs are imperfect, so please view this with the same seriousness as you gave the one used by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford vs Bret Kavanaugh.”

    Silverman is clueless. He seems to think that his audience believes that men and women should be treated as equals. The mere insinuation that his testimony is equal to that of a woman is going to earn him a scorching.

  15. Dhay says:

    In my last response I opined that “so if he went quietly at the time without a legal fight against unfair dismissal or suing for damages, chances are he was fired bang to rights, not a leg to stand on, no opportunity to mount a possibly successful legal action.”

    Interestingly, and belatedly, Silverman has now started legal action against American Atheists — also against several others — over the firing and the circumstances thereof:

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2019/09/14/the-desperate-plea-of-a-defeated-man/

  16. unclesporkums says:

    Because you can’t say ‘no’ to him..

  17. Dhay says:

    Continuing the saga: David Silverman has now been given employment as Executive Director of Atheist Alliance International. Hemant Mehta tells us:

    It’s a paid position. As far as I can tell, he’s the first person to hold this title for the group and possibly the first salaried staffer they’ve ever had. (His salary is not public information.)

    https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2019/10/11/despite-misconduct-allegations-david-silverman-is-now-running-an-atheist-group/

    Mehta telephoned Silverman:

    “They knew I was available and I could deliver the growth,” Silverman told me, adding, “I don’t believe there was anybody else in consideration.”

    And:

    … he told me he was officially hired earlier this week, though it’s been in the works for roughly two months. He didn’t apply for the job, nor was there some formal announcement that AAI was looking for a paid director.

    Gosh, they appointed Silverman without advertising the post — surely there’s lots of others who are capable of doing the job, should have been given the chance to submit their CV, and should have been judged on their merits; for example, I recall the young but obviously up-and-coming Amanda Brown, and I’m sure there will be more experienced versions of her around:

    Was Brown an usually capable high-flying student destined for a PhD and the academic tenure track? No, she moved on, says her Linkedin profile, to “Nonprofit Organization Management”. Which nonprofit organisations does she now manage? She’s manager, president and co-founder of “We Are Atheism” and she’s ‘lead fundraiser and co-founder’ of “Atheists Giving Aid”; for the last year or so of her course she was ‘director of philanthropy’ for Kansas City Atheist Coalition, and starting in January 2011 she was ‘lead event organiser’ for the “Reasonfest” atheist conference. No, she was a committed and highly active atheist activist at the time of the survey, and she’s moved on to a career as a wholetime professional atheist activist.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/new-atheism-embraced-pseudoscience/#comment-22666

    In Britain the AAI would be in great danger of being sued by ignored (hence unfairly discriminated against) potential applicants; while I do not expect US laws are the same as UK laws, I judge the AAI to have failed to meet appropriate hiring standards. To my eyes they already look like a cowboy outfit.

    *

    I found this interesting:

    But while AAI is giving Silverman the benefit of the doubt, Sean Hannity wouldn’t do that. …

    “If Hannity wants to bring me on to ambush me,” Silverman said, he would welcome it, adding that the reception he’s found in the comment sections under those YouTube interviews [“he’s been doing interviews with just about any YouTuber willing to speak with him” – Mehta] suggests he has plenty of support.

    I don’t buy that. Think about whose videos those people are watching… It’s a lot of empty calories to me. Silverman might feel “extremely validated,” but getting validation from people who enjoy hearing right-wing talking points hardly seems like a win.

    Evidently Mehta expects that some of those right-wing atheists are readers of his blog posts, he provides a convenient link they can use to donate to Silverman’s “defamation lawsuit against the women who accused him of misconduct, BuzzFeed, and American Atheists.”

    American Atheists must be reflecting with that notional “allies” like AAI Executive Director Silverman and atheist blogger Mehta, who needs enemies.

  18. unclesporkums says:

    I wonder how this will go among Mehta’s SJW buddies. Or is it that they “Don’t get to say no to” him.

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