I supported KPFA in cancelling the Richard Dawkins event. I have been a listener/supporter of KPFA for decades. I demonstrated outside the station when Pacifica tried to oust local programmers. My support for KPFA is not based on it being an equal platform for all speech. In fact, I listen to KPFA because I don’t want to hear the right-wing’s point of view, which I can hear any time I want (or don’t want) on CBS, NBC, or other mainstream media.
I believe KPFA should provide a broad platform for progressives. And by progressives, I mean people who are not racist, anti-immigrant, pro-war, sexist, homophobic, anti-queer, etc. And that’s why I think KPFA was right in cancelling Dawkins’ event last summer.
Dawkins is a well known evolutionary biologist, who has published several popular science books including “The Selfish Gene.” He is also a public atheist.
Unfortunately, like the beloved trump, Dawkins has used twitter to spread hate. For example, he was disinvited from being a keynote speaker at the 2016 Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism for promoting the [incredibly awful] video “Feminists Love Islamists,” on his twitter feed. Some of Dawkins statements include, “I think Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today. I’ve
said so, often and loudly.”
I am a secularist and atheist, and I agree with the statements Tinku has made, both in his current and previous articles, that it is important to support Muslims against state repression, discrimination, and violence. And that supporting Muslims does not mean supporting Islam as a religion, or the interpretation of Islam given by anti-woman, anti-queer and sometimes genocidal ruling cliques or militias. I agree that the left often gives a pass to forces we have no business supporting, such as the recent assertions that opposition to Putin/Russia is a new “red scare”, or “McCarthyism,” somehow ignoring that Putin and Russia are neither red, nor communist, and they have, with the Russian Orthodox Church physically attacked, jailed, and persecuted feminists ant queers. Slobodan Malosevic (of the former Yugoslavia) was not the “peoples’ hero,” and the ayatollah Khomeini regime killed thousands of secular Iranian radicals, who had risked their lives organizing against the Shah.
Some long time UV readers will remember LAGAI’s long dispute with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) which until 2001 had an explicitly anti-gay program, typified by statements such as, the RCP considers “homosexuality, especially male homosexuality, to be a product of bourgeois decadence.” It was for this reason that LAGAI refused to participate in any coalitions with the RCP, including the 500 Years is Enough Coalition against the planned anniversary celebrations of the 1492 Spanish imperialist expedition to the Americas. Our position has always been that any progressive organization has to oppose homophobia and all forms of oppression. If there is an organization that supports the oppression of LGBTQIA people, we are not in coalition with them. In fact, it is only coincidence when we happen to have similar positions on, for example, the imperialist conquest.
There are other times when we have coincidentally ended up with similar positions to other groups, but that doesn’t mean they are our allies. For example, there are many white anti-Semites who oppose Israel. One such man came to a QUIT! meeting. We told him that we oppose Israel, we oppose anti-semitism, and he was not welcome to join QUIT!
Richard Dawkins is not in our secularist progressive movement. When he tweets out anti-feminist, and anti-Muslim statements and videos, or when he claims that Islam is somehow worse than militant xtianity, he is not being a progressive, he’s being a sexist and a racist. Who is the greatest evil, or even who is the greatest evil religion probably depends on who is persecuting you at a given moment. The gays being killed in Uganda might nominate the xtians, the Rohingya in Myanmar (Burma) might nominate the Buddhists, the Muslims in India the current militant Hindu regime, and the Palestinians might vote for the Zionists claiming to represent Jews.
QUIT! and LAGAI have a long history of challenging the misogynist, imperialist, and anti-queer statements and actions of all religions. We have taken action against the Catholic Church which has, in our short life-times in SF, opposed domestic partners, gay marriage (coincidental agreement?) abortion rights, and birth control, and recently canonized the murderous Junipero Serra. In the Central America movement, we tried to have events held in places other than Catholic Churches. We have opposed attempts by Zionists to link the dispossession and genocide of Palestinians to the Jewish religion. We have protested against the oppression of LGBTQIA people in many countries, and more recently against the Putin/Russian Orthodox attacks on queers and women.
The right to free speech is a right against government restrictions of speech. Newspapers, TV, radio, internet sites, etc. put on whoever they choose. As radical secularists, some of us atheists, we also have a right to choose who speaks in our name. And for me, it isn’t the anti-woman, anti-Muslim Richard Dawkins.