So yesterday, I’m fishing around Facebook, minding my own business, and I come across a new post by Matt Dillahunty. It was bizarre. . .
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a fan of Matt’s. For those of you who don’t know of him, he’s the host of The Atheist Experience (AE), an atheist cable access show out of Texas. In fact, when I first became an outspoken advocate of atheism, Matt and the AE was probably my first and best resource for good information for debate (and a few laughs at the expense of uninformed Christians). Matt is very good at his craft. He’s knows a lot, and is pretty good at debate. Matt also recently married a feminist, and has proclaimed himself one, as well. I just want you to know that, as it sets up his position, as will become obvious later in the post.
But when I read this post, I was completely dumbfounded. But let me premise the situation with what I know. Last year, a woman name Rebecca Watson, who is both a feminist and atheist, posted a YouTube video, in which she stated that she was propositioned on an elevator, at 4AM, at a conference in Ireland. Her comments were brief, but simple. She entered the elevator, so did a man. He asked her to join him in his room for coffee and to talk, and she declined. That’s it. I’m sure I’m forgetting some minor details, but that’s pretty much what happened. In her video, she outlined the series of events, and stated that this was not an appropriate way to talk to a woman. Period.
Well, after this, the situation went completely insane. Richard Dawkins, Thunderf00t, PZ Myers, and Matt Dillahunty all got involved somehow. Everybody took their sides. Dawkins and Thuerf00t said that event was blown out of proportion, and PZ and Matt sided with Rebecca. Why this ever turned into anything is beyond any logic. Also keep in mind that this event took place over a year ago.
Fast forward to yesterday. I’m checking out Matt’s page when I see this crazy post, basically baiting people into to disagreeing with him, so he can block them. Unfortunately, Matt deleted the post about a half hour later, so I can only paraphrase what he said, and the ensuing madness. Here’s my attempt at a paraphrase –
If you believe that “elevatorgate” was blown out of proportion, comment “yes.” If you disagree, do not post anything. Mass blocking to ensue.”
So even if Matt did not explicitly state it, his implication was that those who disagree with him will be blocked. Of course, lots of people commented “yes,” including me. Some of us added some commentary as to why we think it was overblown. Others called Matt out for his behavior. I also asked Matt if he planned on blocking all of us, and if so, why. He did not respond to my question. Apparently, many people were blocked, which Matt later admitted in a subsequent post. To my knowledge, I was not.
What the hell, Matt? It seems to me that someone really pissed Matt off, and he felt like blowing up everyone who disagreed with him. That is not OK, especially from a so-called leader in the atheist community, especially considering that the original issue has nothing to do with atheism. He denied this, but I don’t see it being any other way. At one point, Matt tried to defend his actions by excusing himself through a hyper-technicality in his original post. He’s good at that, and it is sometimes useful, but in this case, he was trying to cover his own mistake. He also called some people “idiots” for not understanding that he would block anyone who disagreed. He also used some other derogatory comments, but unfortunately I cannot recall exactly what they were, because post was deleted.
He later posted a follow-up, not to apologize for his erratic, rude, judgmental, condescending words, but to inform people that they have been unblocked (a “correction” but no apology). Then he went on a tirade, calling more people idiots. Nice job of treating your “fans” with respect. Needless to say, Matt alienated a huge part of his fan base.
Although several people called Matt out on his actions in the second post, I chose a more peaceful route, as follows –
I am very troubled by this series of events. We’re (presumably) all atheists. That’s it. There is nothing else we share in common. We’re not all feminists, liberals, or democrats. We all don’t have the same views on abortion, gun control, or for whom to vote for President. We are a diverse group. Now, we have a situation involving an atheist, who also happens to be a feminist; a situation that has nothing to do with atheism. Over time, through YouTube, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, an all-out war has enraged over this incident. Some atheists take one side, some another. Now, it’s Richard Dawkins vs. Rebecca Watson vs. THunderf00t vs. Matt Dillahunty vs. PZ Myers. Next thing you know, an already fragmented community is torn in half over an issue that has nothing to do with atheism. Why is this? How does this help achieve the goals of positive atheism (or feminism) and the advancement of equality; rational, evidence-based thought; and the true separation of church and state? Personally, I’ve been an atheist for over 20 years, and thanks to people like Matt Dillahunty and the AE show, AronRa, and Seth Andrews, I’m really looking to take an active role in this community. But what kind of community has this been reduced to? The theists (especially Christians) are already winning the battle, in numbers, dollars, and exposure. How is all of this petty bickering, name-calling, ass-kissing, and user-blocking helping? And I’m not putting this on any one person. It’s a lot of people, and I’m appalled. How are we to accomplish anything good, whether it be in atheism or feminism, if things boil down to this?