Richard Dawkins deplatformed at a book talk in Berkeley for “abusive speech” about Islam on Twitter

July 21, 2017 • 7:15 am

Richard Dawkins was supposed to speak at this event in Berkeley on August 9: a talk about his new book, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate AtheistAs you see, the talk has been canceled.

But why? You can guess. The talk was to be sponsored by a Berkeley radio station, KPFA, and they made this announcement—but didn’t even inform Richard before deep-sixing the event. Through the ticketing agency, Brown Paper Tickets, KPFA sent out this email with the “reasons”:

From: Brown Paper Tickets 
Date: July 20, 2017 at 2:04:53 PM PDT
Subject: Notification for Richard Dawkins: Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist

Dear Richard Dawkins event ticket buyers,
We regret to inform you that KPFA has canceled our event with Richard Dawkins. We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t 
know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people. 
KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier.  We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation. Your ticket purchases will automatically be refunded by Brown Paper Tickets.

KPFA Radio 94.1 FM

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the termites have spread to Berkeley, and have dined well on the wooden heads of the Deciders. Although there are undoubtedly a few authoritarian Dawkins-bashing atheists who will be pleased at this, it’s a terrible blow for free speech, and likely a big disappointment for those who hoped to see Richard. I’m sure that some of the Perpetually Offended, with perhaps Muslims among them, complained to the radio station, and KPFA caved.

I asked Richard about what happened, and what KPFA was. He emailed his response, which I reproduce with permission:

KPFA is a liberal radio station in Berkeley. When I lived there, they were the good guys and I listened to their station almost every day. They were scrupulous in their fact-checking in those days – how sad that they have come to this: if they had done any fact-checking at all, they couldn’t possibly have come to the conclusion that I used “abusive speech” against Islam. The only only one of my tweets I can find this year, which could possibly be called abusive, is nothing to do with Islam. As follows:
“Ashamed to be American?” Don’t be. The majority of you voted against this narcissistic, xenophobic, vainglorious, ignorant 2-year-old. [JAC: This was of course about Trump.]
Not only did KPFA fail to fact-check.  They didn’t even tell me before cancelling the event and refunding tickets.

KPFA, like so many, is guilty of confusing free speech with “abusive speech”, banning a talk, and thus depriving people of the chance to hear Richard–and probably ask him questions or even criticize him. Here’s the station’s inevitable “but”:

While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech.

Give me a break! Criticism of ideas is not criticism of people, nor is it “abuse.” Shame on KPFA for not realizing this, and for their craven behavior in canceling the talk.

If you wish to write to KPFA, their website is here, and their contact information is here. I’ll be writing them for sure.

Dawkins is not Milo Yianopoulos; his “abusive speech” is simply criticism of religion in general, including Islam. I guess believers can’t bear to hear that criticism, and they didn’t have to go to that talk. But what right do they have to prevent others from hearing it?

Berkeley was, you’ll recall, the home of the Free Speech Movement. How low the city has fallen!


UPDATE: Here’s an email I sent to the station:

Dear KPFA,

Your cancellation of Dawkins’s talk was unconscionable. His speech has not been abusive towards Islam, but has involved criticism of religious dogma–and of all faiths. That is free speech, not “abusive” speech. All meaningful speech hurts some people’s feelings, but in this case there was no “abuse.” Can you point to any?

Your craven behavior towards this talk, and caving in to those who want to prevent others from hearing it, is unconscionable. How dare a radio station commit such a blatant violation of the First Amendment?

Shame on you.

Jerry Coyne

267 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins deplatformed at a book talk in Berkeley for “abusive speech” about Islam on Twitter

    1. I’m a little surprised at how many people seem to be, well, surprised by these events. If you find this surprising, you’ve not been paying close attention.

      But here’s the thing to keep in mind. Hostility to free speech begins with an aggressive demeaning of those with differing opinions. (Othering, our leftist friends might say.) The more such people are vilified, the easier it becomes to rationalize suppressing their speech. That’s why they call Charles Murray a Nazi.

      But frankly that’s exactly what Dawkins did to Leave supporters after the Brexit vote and trump supporters after the U.S. election. Rather than try to enter dialogue with them in the hope of understanding why they’d voted in a way he found incomprehensible, he dismissed them as bigots and nitwits. Look through his Twitter account from those periods if you doubt me.

      The fact is Dawkins has contributed to the politically intolerant zeitgeist of which he is currently a victim. Don’t get me wrong. Pointing out that fact brings me no satisfaction. It is though a fact that some commentators to this blog post, and many others in the skeptic community, maybe need to face up to.

      1. When did Dawkins shut down a brexit supporter or a Trump supporter? It seems to me he just gave an opinion.

      2. I’m a little surprised at how you’re surprised at how many people are surprised over such flagrant authoritarianism in the obstruction of speech. It really isn’t all that surprising.

        Nothing is surprising until you try to fix it.

      3. Unfortunately, it’s true that leading atheists, like, Dawkins, Harris, Maher are blatantly Islamophobic. Allowing their politics to harm their great work for atheism. Politically-motivated Islamophobia coincided precisely with the so-called war-on-terror. It was easier to get public support to invade Muslim countries by demonising Muslims. Bush even called it ‘a crusade’.

        1. Well, their’s reasonable Islamophobia and unreasonable Islamophobia. Liberals and atheists in Turkey and Indonesia have a justified fear of Islam. Wherever Islam has a grip on power, there is justified fear. I don’t think Dawkins supported any invasion of Muslim countries.

        2. SO when Iraq invaded Iran, it had nothing to do with Islam.

          When Iraq invaded Kuwait, it had nothing to do with Islam.

          When Iraq gassed Kurdish villages, it had nothing to do with Islam.

          When Gaddaffi supplied the IRA with Semtex and rocket-propelled grenades, it had nothing to do with Islam.

          When Gadaffi bombed a disco in Germany, it had nothing to do with Islam?

          How we we supposed to know that Iraq and Libya were Muslim countries, when we had been repeatedly told they had nothing to do with Islam?

        3. How do you distinguish justified criticism from phobia?

          How do you explain that most terrorist attacks today are committed by so-called islamists (a western term neither I nor these terrorists share)? How do you explain the many openly religious killings among muslims?

          Did you read the Qur’an? If so, can you understand people’s fears of a religion whose holy book that is seen as the “uncreated” eternal word of their god is full of barbarous, violent commands for dealing with unbelievers?

          As for demonizing muslims, Richard Dawkins wrote a whole book about a “God Delusion”, comparing religion to a mental illness or meme that replicates itself very much like a virus. If anything, he pictures religious people as suffering from religion rather than being “evil” themselves.

          Finally, rulers who call for crusades are among the very things that said atheists warn about and fight against. So you’ll excuse me if I can’t follow your reasoning at all. You’re welcome to explain it further in the light of my and others’ replies.

        4. “Islamophobia” is a nonsense term created by the Muslim Brotherhood to stigmatize critics of Islam. Re-phrase your comments with proper English and your argument looks ridiculous. Thus the complaint becomes that these guys are all scathingly critical of Islam. So? So what? It deserves it.

        5. There is no such word as ‘islamophobic’, it’s a non-word!

          There is no such concept as ‘islamophobia’, no-one is phobic of islam, although many are rightfully, justifiably and rationally concerned, if not deeply troubled, over islamists, islamistic terror etc.

          The term ‘islamophobia’ was invented by the ‘muslim brotherhood’ for exactly this one purpose: To stifle criticism of the fascistoid idiology of islam, to further and maintain offerhood!!

          They appear to have been somewhat successful!!

        6. The primary victims of Islam are Muslims and especially Muslim women. Dawkins criticizes the stupid, backward, demeaning, and truly evil parts of a religion called Islam, just as he does to all religions. People call him racist. He stands up for Muslims, but points out the bad parts about all religions. No racism.

          1. His critics are morons, given that islam is neither a race or a country, thus racism is not part of the equation.

            Just like the faux word ‘islamophobia’, such fake accusations are merely tools to suppress justifiable anxiety, fear, suspicion, and criticism of a violent and intolerant ideology

        7. For the Regressive Left, criticism of Christianity is ‘atheism’ but criticism of Islam is ‘Islamophobia’. Why is there no such thing as ‘Christianophoia’? If there answer is that Islam is a race, that is patently wrong, because Muslims are as racially diverse as Christians.

        8. For the Regressive Left, criticism of Christianity is ‘atheism’ but criticism of Islam is ‘Islamophobia’. Why is there no such thing as ‘Christianophoia’? If there answer is that Islam is a race, that is patently wrong, because Muslims are as racially diverse as Christians.

        9. Isn’t it time that the term Islamophobia is retired? Islamophobia is such slippery term that it can encompass whatever the person who utters that accusation against another chooses it to mean. If they mean prejudice against persons then call it that. However the terms Islamophobia and Islamophobic are so often extended to apply to those who quite legitimately are calling a set of beliefs into question.

          1. I noticed one or two comments about “islamophobia”…there is no such thing! As others have observed, a phobia is an irrational fear of something, but since there is nothing irrational about fearing or hating islam, and the intolerance, bile, hate, and violence it incites,it is not a phobia.

            1. I’ve come to think the term islamophobia means, to those who use it often, a violent desecration of a mosque or beating of a Muslim woman with a hijab. Something violent and reactionary. Not just thoughtful criticism of Islam. That’s probably a reasonable epithet to apply in such cases. But, unfortunately, it is quite often broadened to include thoughtful critics like Dawkins. I think there are those who feel they profit from the confusion.

          2. I noticed one or two comments about “islamophobia”…there is no such thing! As others have observed, a phobia is an irrational fear of something, but since there is nothing irrational about fearing or hating islam, and the intolerance, bile, hate, and violence it incites,it is not a phobia.

            1. It is name calling, plain and simple, to demonize a person’s thoughtful discussion, to shut down debate. As an unproven accusation, it seeks to accuse, demonize, thereby absolving the accuser of wrongdoing and deflecting the accuser’s own hatred. People should recall histories of the Salem witch hunts.

        1. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Dawkins has NEVER said God cannot exist; he’s said it’s improbable, and his certainty is about 6.9 on a 7 point scale. Point me to where he says God cannot exist. If you can’t, go spread this stuff on a religious website.

          1. I heard him with my own two ears!
            His very insistence was what determined me to reconsider the matter. I used to be a ‘God denier’ myself. Now, thanks to Dawkins, I reached the conclusion that God closely resembles Schroedinger’s cat. We won’t be able to determine his existence unless we open the box.
            Meanwhile the belief some have in said God – all of them gods – is the only thing that makes them real.
            Want to help them?
            Stop making fun of their beliefs and point out that it is their responsibility to behave like humane human beings.

            1. Evidence for Dawkins saying that? I guess you don’t have any.
              Please stop telling me how to behave. Mocking beliefs has proven effectiveness in drawing people away from religion. Read Dawkins’s “Converts Corner,” where hundreds of people wrote in thanking him for helping them leave religion behind. THAT is documentation.

            2. Sorry, but your claim to have heard him say that isn’t enough, especially since it’s very unlike him to say something like that. Usually he goes a great length to clarify that he doesn’t dismiss the possibility of a god, but that he considers it extremely unlikely.

              Your comparison of god with Schrödinger’s cat lacks the proper definition which of the thousands of gods in the history of mankind you mean, millions if you consider that practically every religion is split into many sects whose individual members also have different ideas of the nature and character of their god. Include polytheism, pantheism, deism and the many different nature religions and your god(s) dissolve into a vagueness Schrödinger could never dream of.

              You’re making the same mistake that Blaise Pascal did in his infamous wager: Considering only the (prominent) god of your own culture or peer group while disregarding the countless other gods humans believe(d) in.

            3. When and where did Dawkins say he knows god(s) cannot exist? I’ve never heard him say that. ON the contrary, I’ve heard him say he is, like many atheists, an agnostic atheist. On his own scale of religious belief, he has counted himself a 6. You are suggesting he is a 7.

              1 – Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
              2 – De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
              3 – Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
              4 – Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
              5 – Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
              6 – De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
              7 – Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

        2. “insistence that God cannot exist is a form of intolerance”

          As a Christian i can say to this:

          He11 no, Dawkins is voicing an opinion.

          Get over yourself!

      4. You are wrong. KPFA’s motivation for cancelling Dawkins is his tweets about islam that has hurt some people’s feeling. I asure you critic of Trump supporter’s feeling would only please KPFA. Another set of rules apply for those KPFA agree with.

        1. That’s not his claim. His claim is that Dawkins directly contributed to creating the kind of intellectual environment where refusing to engage is seen as normal or admirable.

        2. It realy doesn’t matter if Dawkins had, or has, offended the whole world (and parts og Canada)!

          Any kind of criticism is bound to offand somebody.

          Nobody has the right to never be offended!!

      5. That Dawkins is imperfect on this issue seems irrelevant. The notion of “abusive” speech is dangerous insofar as the category is intrinsically vague and tending to be overly broad.

    1. Should also have said, radio use to be a place for Chicken man, however at KPFA it has evolved to chicken shit.

  1. I normally don’t write letters like this, but this one really grinds my gears for some reason. I suppose that the fact that he is there to speak only about science, and yet because he has written or said something in the past that has dared offend someone, the entire talk has to be cancelled…well that is just beyond the pale.

    This is my comment to this doormat of a station:


    As a liberal, I am extremely disappointed that a media outlet that represents itself as supporting free speech has seen fit to cancel an already scheduled event due to concerns about the speaker’s views. In the case of Richard Dawkins, you are extremely misinformed if you think that anything that he has ever written or said can be considered “hate speech”. To be sure, he has vociferously criticized the doctrines of Islam, but that is completely different from attacking Muslims personally. Can we not criticize Christian doctrines that we find odious and harmful? Would you de-platform a scientist who in the past had criticized fundamentalist Christian views concerning creationism? I think not, and I am very concerned about the double standards here.

    Please understand that many, many liberals feel the same way as I do. We want to hear people speak, even if they say things that might “offend” us or make us uncomfortable, or (God forbid) make us THINK. Let Dawkins speak and let his detractors engage with him in civil conversation – that’s how a free society works.



    1. This is very good. I think it valuable to bring up the angles that you did — that this is a message from a liberal, and that this is equivilant to de-platforming a wide range of speakers who would likely not be de-platformed.

      1. The page announcing the cancellation has been removed, along with all the (mostly negative) comments associated with it.

  2. The Regressive Left strikes again. Islam is the only religion which cannot be criticized in allegedly progressive venues.

    Never mind that the message of the Qu’ran is incredibly sexist, homophobic, hateful, and violent. Never mind that muslim theocracies apply this message to enforce sexist, homophobic, illiberal and violent regimes.

    Never mind that conservative muslim preachers call for a takeover of liberal democracies to install a muslim theocracy, and for the execution or (at best) for the legal prosecution of apostates, adulterers, LGBT people and “heretics” (i.e. all muslims who aren’t as fanatically religious as they are).

    Never mind that muslim theocracies finance violent groups which wish to create, and in some cases succeed in creating, other muslim theocracies elsewhere.

    Never mind that liberal muslims or ex-muslims are persecuted, killed, imprisoned for the “crime” of criticising islam or even simply to wear clothes or express ideas that aren’t supported by muslim theocrats.

    No, the real evil is criticism of islam, because it’s a “religion of peace”, a “feminist religion”, because imposing rules on veils for women is oh-so-progressive and oh-so-feminist (unlike the vile, consumeristic America where those poor women aren’t protected by the paternal imposition to cover themselves up).

    The Progressive Left is losing its mind and betraying its own principles to appease to a reactionary, bigoted religion, just because most (but far from all) the believe who believe in that religion aren’t “white”.

    1. Agree, apart from this bit.

      “The Progressive Left is losing its mind and betraying its own principles to appease to a reactionary, bigoted religion, just because most (but far from all) the believe who believe in that religion aren’t “white””

      Surely the underlying reason for the collaboration is that Islamists are anti-Western. The Postmodernist underpinnings of the cultural revolution are more about hating ‘the Man’ than about concern with any so-called oppressed group. These nuts are too coddled and ignorant to understand the flawed miracle of the civilization they live in or how bad life can otherwise be. Unfortunately history is still ongoing, contrary to the delusions of some, and the civilisation bequeathed to us by the enlightenment is busy dismantling itself. A significant proportion of modern youth seem unable to tolerate imperfection and lack the perspective to understand that Utopia is impossible and that attempts to reach it necessarily involve authoritarian systems and always end in blood and tears. As Jordan Peterson is wont to point out, any of us who think that we are fit to be benevolent dictator are dangerous.

      1. Very well written summation of the cancer that is eating away at our society, and, civilization. People are blind to history and fail to realize that the past is littered with the carcasses of civilizations which rose and fell. They seem to think this way of life that has been built up the last 2000 years,will continue on indefinitely. Alas I fear that western civilization may be on the road to collapse.

        1. Excellent point! I’d change only the last sentence to read: I think that Progressivism aka Communism aka Fascism aka Socialism aka Marxism, all whose philosophical root is authoritarian collectivism, may be on the road to collapse. To that, I can only say, good riddance.
          The same philosophical root supports Islam which is why trendy Leftists find themselves resonating so deeply with Islam.
          I’d add that it is hysterically funny to see one of the Left’s bigoted darlings, Dawkins, get axed for intolerance. Dawkins thinks himself morally superior to and absolutely correct in thinking Trump is a “..narcissistic, xenophobic, vainglorious, ignorant 2-year-old.”
          That’s not an argument…it’s simply the prattling of a two yr old throwing ad hominem around like cereal from his high chair.
          And I find his take on Christianity to be adolescent and simplistic. I was born an atheist and at 70 have never found any reason to change what I discovered at 11 – that I was an epistemological atheist. But I’m not a self-aggrandizing Leftist who thinks he can chop the heart out of Western Civilisation without a cost. Nietzche thought the same as did the author of The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who gave us a detailed study of how authoritarian collectivism is born, spread and cultivated. Welcome to identity politics, politically correct speech, victimhood, equality of outcome and all the other intellectual trash that the Left serves up under the maudlin banner of caring, of feelings and unthinking submission to the simplest of emotions.

          Dawkins is a progenitor of this along with Sam Harris who, when turning to politics, checks his brain at the door and sounds like the most ardent Communist condemning everyone in sight that doesn’t buy into his world view as morally unfit, vile and deserving of…well, Sam hasn’t worked that out yet but I fear it’s much like Islam. Cloaked in the finery of Sheepdom when powerless and raging wolves when they gain power.

          Consider the depth of ignorance in Dawkins assertion that teaching children to believe in God is tantamount to child abuse. That level of absolutism is worthy of the most barbaric Imam.

          It’s rather sad that Harris, Dawkins and their ilk, who have benefitted greatly from Western Civilisation (and the struggles within Christendom and Judaism that contributed over 2000 years worth of insights) can dismiss these religions in toto without a second thought. I should think gratitude would be a hallmark of adulthood but neither Harris nor Dawkins brings any gratitude or appreciation for the contributions of either religion. They justifiably criticise both but that is not the whole story and we ignore the whole story to our peril. And being blind to authoritarian collectivism as the root to all the isms listed above is catastrophic.

          1. So we shouldn’t denounce what we think outdated and dangerous today if it may have had benefits for our ancestors?

            Which insights and contributions you see that couldn’t have arisen without religion or at least without its martial parts?

            If I misunderstood your position, please correct me.

    2. There are some great comments here, and this is one of them.

      I’d make the additional point that terror is far more effective than is generally acknowledged, and that flowers and candleight vigils are not going to address this.-‘If you hurt our “religious feelings” we’ll kill you just as soon as we can get around to it. You want to live with that? We didn’t think so.”

  3. I think what really boils my blood about this one, is the bit about how they “emphatically support serious free speech”, while announcing they canceled an event because they heard the speaker offended some people.

    Never mind the weaselly qualifier they slipped in there – “SERIOUS free speech”.

  4. I have emailed the radio station to remind them of the importance of punishing anybody who criticises Islam.

    America is the Land of the Free but it is also the Land of devout believers who are deeply offended when their perfect religion is criticised.

  5. It looks like the bar has been lowered from “hate speech” to “hurtful speech”, and yet they “emphatically” support free speech. Yeah, right!

    1. When you look back at the loony left’s activities over the last six decades, at first everyone laughed at things they proposed but within a decade our apathy allowed them to become main stream. One wonders what the next stage of ‘free speech’ will become, ‘Hate speech’ to ‘Hurtful speech’, to ‘Opinion speech’. All opinions must be banned as they are bound to offend someone.

      1. Late to the party, here is a hot-off-the-press update on ‘Opinion Speech’ from doughty little Finland, which, during the Winter War of 1939-40, fought the Red Army to a standstill to preserve its freedoms. But that’s all in the past.

        Now in 2023, and prosecuting a prominent politician and devout believer in ‘god’ for her published views on sex and marriage, the State Prosecutor comes right out with it: “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.”

        By the way, Räsänen was charged with “agitation against a minority group” – therefore under the section of the Finnish Criminal Code titled “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.” Have an ‘unpleasant’ opinion you wish to share? They’re coming for you.

  6. I wrote to them as well. Essentially, I told them they were acting like little children and needed to grow up and learn how to engage in critical thinking. I added that actions like their’s is feuling the Right and turning off many liberals.

  7. Not as beautifully written as several of the letters above, but here is what I sent to the radio station:

    I find it hard to believe that the talk by Richard Dawkins has been cancelled due to what some people purport to be “abusive” tweets. Prove it! This from the home of “free speech”? As a former Bay Area resident, I have felt that Berkeley maintained a higher standard of openness of discourse than many other parts of our country. I’m sorry to learn that this is either untrue or has degraded. I have read most of Richard Dawkins’ books and have gone to hear him speak. Everyone who has the opportunity should do likewise. He is well worth reading and/or listening to.

  8. Thank you Jerry for bringing this to our attention. It’s deeply worrying. It’s not long before what happens across the pond arrives here in the UK. No doubt the people behind this will be encouraged by their success and pursue their agenda with more rigerous intensity.

    1. The situation in the UK is worse. Lack of constitution and all that. I’m baffled at the seeming lack of outrage over Rotherham and the many similar horrors. The police effectively condemned 10s of thousands of youngsters to ongoing rape by Muslim gangs in order to avoid being seen as bigoted. The police were aware of what was happening in many instances, yet the fear of political fallout was of more concern. Whatever you think of Tommy Robinson, it is quite clear that the state has abused its power to try to silence him.

      The smug condescension of UK politicians explaining to the plebs why a foreigner was being denied entry to the UK always used to leave me steamed. The attitude was always that British society is too mature to be limited by a rigid principle of free speech and that all reasonable people could agree that we didn’t need to hear the hateful words of Barred Person. This rationale denies the obvious fact that freedom of speech is not needed to protect the consensus, but is vital to the protection of the rights of the holders of minority opinions from the tyranny of the majority.

      1. “The situation in the UK is worse. Lack of constitution and all that.”

        Actually, the UK HAS a constitution, “unwritten” though it is. Of course, it is quite different than the USA’s, or (being Canadian) Canada’s since it does not contain anything like the Bill of Rights or Charter of Right’s and Freedom’s that provide for judicial review of laws passed by Parliament. But it most definitely has a constitution, i.e. the rules on which the political and legal system are based.

  9. I wrote in to the each of the three people listed–

    I am writing to you from Germany to express my profound opposition to the dangerous, cowardly and appallingly ignorant decision by KPFA to cancel a public talk by the world renowned biologist Richard Dawkins.

    I have been an avid reader of Professor Dawkins’ work since the 1980s — his books have not only made biology accessible to a vast public audience but have also made important contributions to the way biology (in particular evolutionary biology) is conceptualized. (His book, The Selfish Gene encapsulated what soon became the standard way of presenting evolution in science text books.)

    It was only after decades of systematic and vitriolic attacks upon biology from religious fanatics that Prof. Dawkins decided to speak out and present a scientific perspective on the unlikelihood of the existence of God. The views he presented are the direct and more or less inevitable implications of well established and entirely uncontroversial science.

    This is only upsetting to those who have insulated themselves against science, and who experience the expression of simple facts as an affront to their dignity. The respond not with counter arguments, nor by simply ignoring the facts and relying on their inalienable human and civil right to religious freedom; rather, they react with political measures to close down one who they perceive as a political enemy.

    You have simply taken their word that Professor Dawkins practices “abusive speech” , declared this to the world, using your own name and corporate identity, as fact. And you have done this without providing details or clues as to what on Professor Dawkins has said that is so heinous that it warrants such treatment.

    You have declared yourselves to be the willing tool of religious fanatics against science and free speech.

    I ask you to reverse this atrocious decision.

    I also suggest you familiarize your Professor Dawkins’ style of communication. Here are links to two interviews where he is–

    a) calmly attempting to explain evolution to creationist Wendy Wright
    b) calmly and very kindly discussing science and God with a Christian who is trying to convert him

    It is clear from Dr Dawkins’ kind manner and generous dedication of his time that he does not see his disagreements as a political battle to be waged against an opponent — which is in fact exactly how you and those who have managed to de-platform him have treated him.

    Have any — *any* of those who have accused Dr Dawkins of hate speech spent even this much time engaging with those with whom they disagree?


    Deva Yakaru

    Berlin, Germany

  10. Good email, Jerry – and well done to the other commenters who have contacted the radio station to express disapproval. This whole affair illustrates why it is so important to reject the idea that people have a right not to be offended. You cannot give them that right because offence is purely subjective so can have no meaningful parameters. So it will be always be misused as a way of silencing debate. As Stephen Fry put it, “I find that very offensive” is just a whine and should be treated as such. It also underlines why it’s so important to distinguish between physical violence and ‘hurt’ caused by an opinion you don’t agree with. BTW, objecting to people voicing opinions you don’t like is not the preserve of any one strand in politics; all sides do it to some extent.

  11. A sad situation indeed, though I think Dr. Dawkins is being a bit naive if he really thinks the charge against him must be related to something he has written recently . Reproducing a tweet he knows damn well will show common ground with his critics isn’t much of a response — though if he’d selected an earlier tweet which was more problematic he’d have to have written a lot more than he did. Or cut n pasted an earlier response.

    The increasingly divisive nature of discourse makes it easier and easier for us to hear a few “dog whistles” and immediately toss the speaker into the doghouse with the rest of the curs. We know what he must have meant because we’ve heard it all before. And thus we can scream before we are bitten.

    And muzzle a mongrel which bites if we don’t.

    1. This I agree with. I don’t know about recently, but Dawkins knows full well that he has tweeted all sorts of things that are construed as “offensive”, by the same people who no doubt protested holding this event.

      Pointing to a tweet critical of Trump and shrugging your shoulders seems like a weird, unnecessary dodge.

      1. A dodge you say. What does he have to dodge from these troubled people who understand nothing about freedom of speech but are easily intimidated.

      2. To be fair to RD, it didn’t read to me as “nothing this year, therefore nothing”, it read as “well, I can’t find anything recent anyway”.

        Tw*tter isn’t conducive to clear enunciation.

        1. A great many jimmies were rustled knickers and even more knickers were twisted over the retweeting of the Feminist love Islamists vid:

          1. One of the main reasons this video was reviled was because the feminist depicted was modeled on a real person who had been caught on an iPhone video behaving rudely … and name and address outed. As a result of her sudden rise to infamy, she wasn’t just criticized, mocked, and taken to task; she received a lot of truly vile, disgusting insults, as well as graphic threats of violence, rape, and murder. Much was made of her appearance. For being pushy and ideological, her life became a nightmare.

            In light of this, reposting the video wasn’t a good idea. And to his credit, when Dr. Dawkins discovered that the cartoon represented a real person who may have deserved some reaction, but not what happened, he apologized and withdrew it.

        2. That wasn’t scottoest’s point as I understood it. He was pointing out that Dawkins’s very uncharitable critics will have no trouble finding something they can construe as “abuse of Muslims” even if a normal person wouldn’t.

        3. I don’t think he has – I’m saying he knows full well that he has tweeted things in the past, that have upset the sort of people who would be protesting this event.

    2. You state this with some authority, as if you know of them. Can you give an example of a tweet by Dawkins that these people might find problematic?

      1. I’m not in a position to research this right now for specific examples, but I would think we’ve all been around long enough to have seen a few hot takes in places like Salon, on some of his tweets.

      2. Dear Islam
        If you want to fulfil your arrogant boast that you’ll rule the world, you might start by learning some science. You’ll need it.

        @ToddKincannon I think Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today. I’ve said so, often and loudly.What are you talking about?

        All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.

        Of course you can have an opinion about Islam without having read Qur’an. You don’t have to read Mein Kampf to have an opinion about nazism.

        Suggest always put Islamic “scholar” in quotes, to avoid insulting true scholars. True scholars have read more than one book.

        It’s been suggested that, if Muhammad were alive today, he would be a member of ISIS. Interesting to hear Islamic scholars’ take on this.

        I’m not arguing that these tweets are Islamophobic, but at least some of them are probably what set some people off.
        (I didn’t have them handy; I googled.)

        1. Thank you. That was an honest request of mine and I feel I owe you an explanation; I didn’t mean to sound confrontational. I don’t do twitter at all and I usually try to ignore this kind of nonsense in general so I really didn’t know of any actual tweets by Dr Dawkins. I’ve learned that sometimes, despite the confidence of those making claims of bad behavior, it turns out there is little support for it.

          I remember when Sam Harris was accused of advocating a nuclear attack on muslims. It was, if you believed people’s comments on it, accepted as a matter of course that Harris had advocated such a strike. I had read “Letter to a Christian Nation” and other things by Harris and was surprised and a bit skeptical when I saw those comments. Of course he said no such thing, but the surety in the claims against him was surprising at first until I realized the reason he was being slandered. Harris and Dawkins are both hated for Wrong Think by many of the same people, so I wasn’t going to just accept claims on someone’s say-so.


          1. Oh, I never thought you were confrontational or hostile. I took it as an honest question in part because I was curious myself. I remembered a few, but vaguely.

  12. In your letter I think you should have written “has not been abusive towards Muslims” rather than “towards Islam”. Given that ideas (unlike people) can’t actually suffer, in what sense can they be abused?

  13. What’s “serious free speech”? Is that where the speaker says “I may say something some of you may not like so I’m dishing out balls of cotton wool so at the first indication of any such ideas you can rapidly position the balls in your ears. Enjoy the remainder of the lecture.”.

  14. Plesse forgive my ignorance as a Brit but I thought the first amendment only applied to the government not to private entities like a radio station which is free to behave as stupidly as it likes (and it has behaved stupidly).

    1. I was wondering the same thing. I don’t believe they receive public funding, so although their action goes against the spirit of free and open debate, I don’t think it violates the first amendment per se.

      Here’s what wikipedia says about the station:
      “KPFA (94.1 FM) is a listener-funded progressive talk radio and music radio station located in Berkeley, California, U.S., broadcasting to the San Francisco Bay Area. KPFA airs public news, public affairs, talk, and music programming. The station signed on-the-air April 15, 1949, as the first Pacifica station and remains the flagship station of the Pacifica Radio Network. The aims of the station are to promote cultural diversity, promote pluralistic cultural expression, contribute to a lasting understanding between individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colours. It also promotes freedom of the press and acts as a forum for various viewpoints.”

      1. They are public radio in the sense that get most of their funding from listeners rather than sales of commercials. They are not like NPR however, they do air some programs that are paid for, in part, by government funds.

        Not sure what that means legally wrt the 1st.

    2. No, you’re correct.

      However given the history of the city in the fight against censorship, and for free speech it is…disturbing.

    3. Free speech as a legal protection and free speech as an Enlightenment value are often conflated. And this works to the benefit of those who are hostile to both. Free speech advocates should be more careful to distinguish the two.

    4. The first amendment only makes it illegal for the US government to infringe your right to free speech. However, the law and what is right are not the same thing.

      I’ve seen members of the ctrl-left use this exact same argument to justify no-platforming various people they don’t like, which is crazy. The principle of free speech is necessary to allow the free exchange of ideas in a healthy society. The idea that only the government is a danger to free speech is absurd. If you’re silenced, it doesn’t matter whether the government did it, some large corporation or a bunch of left wing political fundamentalists.

  15. Beep. Repetition of “unconscionable”.

    Grania, you have 37 seconds on Richard Dawkins being de-platformed starting now.

  16. I’ve been a fan of Dawkin’s twitter for some time.

    After awhile, you get to know how a person communicates, what their thought process is, etc. Personally, I love Dawkin’s style.

    The radio station admits they weren’t familiar with Dawkins comments. Perhaps they should have taken a bit of time to actually acquaint themselves with his tweets, videos, etc., before running off the rails with such a half-baked claim of abuse.

  17. This is 1984 or from a totalitarian nightmare. What sickens me is the tone of their message. « we didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people. » and « We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier. » I have this image of someone on his knees face to the ground begging for forgiveness.

    1. Very Similar to the apology given to Anita Sarkeesian by Vidcon for allowing people she didn’t like to attend a panel she was on. She insulted a member of the audience, Carl Benjamin, from the stage and the Green’s (who run the conference) apologised to Sarkeesian for being unaware of her history with Benjamin. They basically admitted to not knowing what was going on and responding to a word in the ear from Sarkeesian. The absurdity is that Benjamin has told his youtube audience not to harass Sarkeesian because it is both immoral and plays into Sarkeesian’s victim narrative. Sarkeesian, on the other hand has nothing to say about the way her fans go after others.

      1. What a ridiculously disingenuous comparison.

        An organizer apologizing to a panelist for allowing a venue to be packed with anti-feminist trolls, inluding the disgusting little man Sargon of Akkad, and other basement dwellers who have their knickers in a bunch about someone desconstructiing the messages sent in video games is absolutely nothing like this situation.

        Knickers in a bunch? More like a group staging an organized and brutal campaign of harrassment against Sarkeesian for years now.

        As Dave Cullen, a fellow s???tlord and attendant, said about the Vidcon panel : “We carefully organized this so that on one side of the audience we(the s???lords) would all make up the top three rows, We would all be sitting there filming it” and “Anita spoke. And they were asking about why is it important to still have women talking about sexism or some victim bullshit in video games”

        That you think the situation with Dawkins is remotely similar shows how intellectually challenged and bankrupt the group of trolls at Vidcon and their followers truly are.

  18. It is a problem, this charge that “so many people” have been “offended and hurt” by so-and-so’s speech, because it’s surely true of anyone who is active in the political sphere, which Dawkins surely is. The current POTUS has been exponentially more offensive than Dawkins, but maybe KPFA would not invite him either.

    After all, Dick Gregory (who is slated for another KPFA sponsored event in October – has also offended and hurt reactionary right-wingers.

    Of course, I doubt the extent of the offence and hurt suffered by right-wingers because of Dick Gregory’s speech, but so do I doubt the offence and hurt caused by Richard Dawkins’s speech.

    I guess it’s possible for people to become excessively hateful in their speech (one can imagine the use of certain racist epithets, for example), but neither Dawkins nor Gregory have been that excessive. So, best to suck it up, folks, and let a thousand flowers bloom.

  19. Dear Mr. McCoy, Ms. Prives, and KPFA Board Members,

    It is with immense disappointment that I write you today, having seen that your station de-platformed the esteemed writer and scientist, Dr. Richard Dawkins. The provided reason, that Dr. Dawkins’s words have been deemed “hurtful,” not only betrays shamefully poor judgment on your part and reflects abysmally on your station, as Dr. Dawkins’s words, whilst critical of religion, are well within the bounds of what’s permitted under the First Amendment, but your action promotes the invalid belief that one being offended is tantamount to one being hated, which is not only untrue, but weakens academic debate. It it unconscionable for a radio station of your ilk to censor ideas, especially based on the flimsy and dangerous notion that a speaker hurts people’s feelings. You have misstepped in the case of Dr. Dawkins’s, and I hope you issue both a personal and public apology, including a reversal of the imprudent decision and a rethink of your current understanding of the role of dissent in society.

    Charleen Adams

    Charleen Adams, PhD, MPH, MA
    Research Associate, CRUK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme
    MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit
    School of Social and Community Medicine
    University of Bristol
    Oakfield House
    Oakfield Grove
    BS8 2BN


    1. Bristol? My alma mater University of Washington will miss you. Good luck to you across the pond.

      Great letter too.

    2. Well put. I’m having a hard time seeing how the management at KPFA can go to bed comfortable with themselves as decent human beings after reading your comment. When they wake in the morning perhaps they will have second thoughts. I hope. Unfortunately people do not like to admit they’ve made a terrible mistake so I doubt your message will have such a salubrious effect. Sad.

  20. As a ticket-holder, terribly disappointed by this. Dawkins helped ignite my love of science and I’ve been hoping to attend one of his events for a number of years. I just moved to Berkeley from Texas and the irony is I thought I would have more luck seeing and hearing from interesting people, but alas. Here’s hoping (I’m sure a slim chance) that he will consider reorganizing with another venue in town. I’ll be sending KPFA a letter as well and hope others continue to do so.

    1. My letter:

      Dear KPFA,

      I am not a perpetual angry-letter writer. In fact, this may be my first. I’ve never even left a bad Yelp review. But you’ve really stepped in it, so here it is.

      What on earth are you thinking de-platforming one of the greatest living science educators, Richard Dawkins? And de-platforming a talk explicitly about science? Have you lost your minds?

      I just moved to Berkeley from conservative Texas, and the irony is, I thought I would have more luck hearing and seeing interesting people here than there. But alas, the regressive, “we can never associate with anyone who has ever offended anyone” attitude (somehow both self-righteous and cowardly at the same time) now taken by many on the Left is becoming just as restrictive and censoring as many on the religious Right.

      Additional grievances:
      Your charge of “abusive” speech, included no examples or evidence. I suspect because you couldn’t find any clear-cut enough to qualify?
      Anyone “offended” by the idea of a Dawkins event could simply have, well, not attended. Case closed.
      As a matter of taste and decency, you might have considered, as the host who made the self-described mistake in the first place, to inform Dawkins of your cancellation prior to announcing publicly.
      In making this call, you’ve essentially privileged religious belief over science and free speech. That’s your right to do, but it’s certainly surprising in an intellectual city and for a station that seems to have been pretty thoughtful at least at some points in the past.

      And since you seem more amenable to emotion, I’ll let you know, sincerely, that I was looking forward to this event. It meant quite a lot to me actually. Dawkins’ writings helped ignite my love of science in the first place, and my life has been materially improved because of that. The first bookstore I walked into in Berkeley, I saw the poster for this event, and thought – wow, I’m in the right place.

      But I can see I was mistaken.

      In disappointment,

      1. “I am not a perpetual angry-letter writer.” Traditionally, such people write in green ink on lavender notepaper, and sign off as “Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells” (a nowhereville dormitory town within a mega tonne of London).
        What us the American equivalent? Peeved of Peroria.
        (Incidentally, Tonbridge Wells is not far from Worthing, which H.G.Wells annihilated with his Martians. I believe an American comic treated Peroria similarly.)

        1. It’s Peoria, not Peroria. (Hair successfully split).

          To split another, I assume you’re not labelling UncertaintyBlog as a green-ink writer? At least I hope not.


    2. I too had been rather hoping that this tawdry affair would lead to an alternative venue being found, with the original event’s tickets being honoured.

  21. Another one suffers for talking about Islam as well as Islamist fanaticism.

    Recently Douglas Murray and Maajid Nawaz have suffered this in being called “hate preachers” by a few guests on BBC TV, and were not challenged by the presenters. The BBC apologised to both.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali has previously received this treatment.

    Islam is becoming untouchable in the Western World before our very eyes.
    I wonder how historians will write about it in 300 years time? That it was a bad thing, and people overcame it? Or it was a good thing, which led to Islamic victory?
    At the moment, it is so hard to tell.

  22. I whole-heartedly support the notion that we should not elevate the worthiness of speech solely on whether it has offended some people.

    However, we really have to stop leaning so heavily on the 1st amendment. The 1st amendment is about limiting the power of the government to stifle speech (among other things). A radio station is a private organization with full editorial control over their platform. No persons legal rights are diminished when a privately held corporation chooses to not extend a privilege (not their core public service — the general public is not invite to be a guest) to an individual.

    By all means, let’s make the argument that Dawkins views are worthy of being heard. Let’s also push back against their claim of “abusive language” when the plain issue here is that, regardless of the truth of Dawkins’ views, he is a controversial figure and the station doesn’t want to deal with the PR implications. Let’s shed light on the fact that offense is by definition taken not given; that offense is taken is not a clear signal that the offending speech is objectively hateful, ignorant, etc.

    But please, please, please let’s get off the “but muh 1st amendment rights” train.

    1. The cancellation of Dawkins doesn’t seem any more a first amendment violation than is the boycott of Chick-a-Fil (spelling??) after the owner’s anti-gay statements. (Please, let us not make a mirror-reflection of Sarah Palin’s mistakes.!!!)

      However, a promise is a promise. If a radio station hasn’t done due diligence on the public impact of RD’s tweets, that’s just too phuquing bad. Breach of contract??

      Vanessa Redgrave sued the Boston Symphony in the 1980s when they cancelled her appearance due to protests by the Jewish community in Boston (she was going to narrate Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex.) To his credit, Alan Dershowitz defended her right to perform even while saying he would never attend her performance.
      She also claimed her First Amendment rights were being violated, which IMO is false, but she was correct to sue for breach of contract. (Dershowitz also noted she was a hypocrite, since she had publicly called for blackballing Israeli artists. He talks about the case in his autobiography “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law”.)

      The Berkeley station simply should not cave into offense culture, period!!

    2. The First Amendment is a recognition of the Enlightenment value of freedom of expression. It is that value that KPFA and too many on the authoritarian left reject. It is not only entirely appropriate but vitally important for those of us who do support that value to call them out on it.

      1. The 1st Amendment is a legal clause attached to the U.S. Constitution which specifies some things the government can’t do, including censoring speech. So one can only appeal to it in instances where the government is violating it. It’s related to but not the same as freedom of expression, which is indeed a value but not a matter of law. I think the point Rick was making is in these situations one shouldn’t confuse the two. This is not a 1st Amendment issue.

    3. If the radio station wants to retain effective 1A protection for its own speech it ought to not put so severe restrictions on its invited speakers. It is normalizing the canard “Hate Speech isn’t Free Speech” which lets an authoritarian judiciary (Gorsuch et al) declare they “know hate speech when they see it” and shut down criticism of the junta.

  23. Another one suffers for talking about Islam as well as Islamist fanaticism.

    Recently Douglas Murray and Maajid Nawaz have suffered this in being called “hate preachers” by a few guests on BBC TV, and were not challenged by the presenters. The BBC apologised to both.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali has previously received this treatment.

    Islam is becoming untouchable in the Western World before our very eyes.
    I wonder how historians will write about it in 300 years time? That it was a bad thing, and people overcame it? Or it was a good thing, which led to Islamic victory?
    At the moment, it is so hard to tell.

  24. “We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation.”

    In fact they’ve inconvenienced the 1st Amendment.

  25. I wonder if Dan Arel or PZ Myers have spoken about this, because I’ve got a couple of examples of quotes from these two that would probably get than “deplatformed” by the standards of this anti-liberal radio station.

  26. This is the problem with pushing for all speech all the time, including hate speech, without taking the responsibility of defining and establish boundaries.

    If you don’t make an objective distinction between the hateful con artists like Anne Coulter and Milo, and accomplished scientists like Dawkins, you open yourself to dishonest characterizations.

    The approach should be to denounce, and support deplatforming of the objectively odious, while contrasting them with the meritorious. It won’t be easy, but this will give you capital to denounce the unfair deplatformings, like that of Dawkins.

    1. Who’s to decide who is a hateful con artist and who is accomplished? Will there be a committee to decide who I’m allowed to listen to and who I’m not allowed to hear?

  27. ‘…Criticism of ideas is not criticism of people…’

    And there is nothing wrong with the criticizing people. KPFA should be apologizing to the civilized world in general. With people like these who needs mufti’s and their fatwas?

  28. It is essential that the progressive Left distinguish itself from the regressive Right by not allowing extremists to take over the platform, as republicans have allowed the Tea Party and the Alt Right to do. And the repressive Leftists are the extremists who threaten to delegitimize any resistance to the current administration.

    It’s essential that we not let that happen, and I’m encouraged to see so many voices of reason here willing to speak up. I’ll be sending my own email to the station, and publicizing this debacle.

    1. My message:

      I write to you as a progressive supporter of Left causes and former Bay Area resident who regularly listened to your station. I am dismayed that you would cancel a talk by the esteemed Dr. Dawkins based on the spurious claim that he has engaged in hateful or bigoted speech. I have not yet seen any evidence of that, and I am familiar with most of what Dr. Dawkins discusses and writes about.

      I’m sure that you are being flooded with criticism of your decision. It is now up to you to provide evidence to support your claim or to apologize and reschedule the talk. Otherwise your station’s reputation will rightly suffer.

  29. This is exceedingly squirrely to me because KPFA should know full well about Dawkins’s stand on such matters. Frankly, I’m surprised he was invited in the first place precisely because he is an atheist and KPFA is very deep into all kinds of spiritual woo,m especially New Age and ethnic spiritual woo. Furthermore, he’s given KPFA-sponsored lectures in the past, and I think Philip Maldari (an atheist) was also the host of those previous talks (as he was slated to be this time) so why are they getting upset now? Is Philip Maldari in agreement or just going along with the what was decided by others? I can’t believe that Philip would be completely ignorant of Dawkins views on Islam.

    I have my suspicions as to those who might be behind this, but they are just suspicions. I used to know people who were actively involved at the station, but no more. However, if I can find out anything, I will report to PCCE.

    I urge those interested to listen to Philip’s show this coming Sunday. It airs on KPFA from 10-12 a.m. You can also listen online Each hour a different topic. He opens the lines for call-ins sometime during the second half-hour. I see that there are topics already slated for this Sunday, but I suspect that he might have a few words to say about the cancelled talk. (I’m certainly going to email him and request that he make a statement, perhaps even devote some time to a discussion of this, if not this Sunday, then next.
    *** And I urge readers of this site to email Philip directly to ask that he have an hour (or at least a half-hour) discussion of this appalling decision. If KPFA is really an example of “free speech” radio, then at least they should do this — and even have Dawkins on his show to talk about it.

  30. I wrote them a note as many here did.

    Does anyone here really believe that writing to these people will have any impact whatsoever? Is anyone’s minds (in cases like this) ever changed by emailed opposition?

    I am not being rhetorical nor am I challenging the idea of writing in; I’m serious – does anyone have an example where an organization like this has reversed course based on emailed objections?

    It seems so much like the email I sent will have as much effect on the station as a fart in the wind.

    1. Well for one it’s highly probable that the disinvitation was the result of a bombardment of complaints. So complaining can work.

      And while it might be very unlikely they’d be willing to reverse their decision a second time, getting a larger volume of counter-complaints would send the message that they messed up, which would inform future decisions.

      The main point is to make it clear that regressives are a loud but small group. We’re bigger and we should try to be louder.

      1. I suspect it wasn’t a “bombardment of complaints” at all. This kind of response could only come from True Believers. One or a few people with authority at the station would be all it takes.

        I think it likely that management ideologues at the station weren’t aware that Dr. Dawkins had been scheduled. The de-platforming is the reaction.

      1. Thanks for the link. My comment:

        I see that your station logo depicts the silhouette of a person stamping his/her foot and yelling through a mega-phone. Your cancellation of Dawkins’ appearance suggests you should turn the silhouette into a cowering infant. ..or maybe a snowflake.

  31. For what it is worth, I sent the following protest to the station. Thanks for informing us of the situation at KPFA.

    “You have deprived a large number of people from hearing his arguments. This violates the spirit and meaning of freedom of speech. I think that you caved into what is known as the “heckler’s veto.” You owe him and your listeners an apology for your cowardly and despicable actions. To criticize Islam is perfectly acceptable in this modern age. If it “offends” a bunch of ignoramuses, so be it.”

    John J. Fitzgerald

  32. I have often wondered where all the money the Gulf states get from oil is spent. Of course NOT that I think that part of it is spent to put pressure on academia and the media to suppress criticism of Dar al-Islam that would be going too far…….
    After all when it comes to the choice between Oil and Arms Sales or Richard Dawkins who wouldn’t choose Richard?

  33. Hi,
    I also sent an email to the radio station.

    I asked them for examples of Dawkins abusive speech. I do not know Dawkins; I have never met him. Every time I have heard him speak, he comes across as courteous, well-mannered, and far from abusive. I’ve never understood that criticism of him.

    I also asked for examples of acceptable, serious speech critical of Islam, which they say they support, as opposed to abusive speech regarding Islam. I would be interested in knowing their criteria — where and how do they draw the line between the two.

    What really needs to be done here, in my opinion, is for a group to figure out how to bring Dawkins to Berkeley to give his intended talk. I’d support such an effort. Heck, I’d get off my lazy butt, buy a ticket and drive to Berkeley to hear him in person.

  34. I’m very glad that you’re standing up for Dawkins’ right to speak.

    But unless I’m misunderstanding something about what you’re saying about Milo, it sounds like you’d support banning his speech and have really knee-capped what moral authority you might have in this case.

    Unless I’ve misunderstood something, it seems there’s no qualitative difference between you and KPFA. Your only difference is that you disagree slightly about which thoughts are offensive enough to be banned.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re both two sides on the same free-speech banning coin.

    1. No, what I mean is that neither should be de-platformed, but that Milo does say stuff that’s deliberately provocative and meant to arouse people rather than enlighten them. His style and Richard’s are quite different. But if you’ve read this site, you’ll know that I’ve often said that Milo should NOT be deplatformed once he’s invited to speak.

      1. >> Dawkins is not Milo Yianopoulos; his “abusive speech” is simply criticism of religion in general, including Islam.

        We desperately need people like Milo to speak the outrageous and controversial. The milder you force “legitimate” speakers, the less they can say and the narrower the Overton Window gets.

        If his speech is abusive – ask him the tough questions, dispel his claims and show him for what you claim him to be.

        I appreciate your not wanting to deplatform him but that is no longer enough. He must be on-ramped. He is the trickster that’s needed to dispel the dark charm that is slowly dismantling our free speech.

  35. Is anyone surprised?

    Dawkins could have (and probably would have) insulted the Pope and been applauded for it. Only Islam is considered off-limits for criticism on the Left.

    The reason is obvious: whatever our faults, we Catholics don’t issue fatwas!

    Ironically, the talk was supposed to take place at a (nominally, at least) Christian Church. Its Christian congregants were capable of listening politely to an anti-religious speech. Are Muslims incapable of doing the sme?

  36. This goes even farther (not that it hasn’t gone this far many times before) into censoring those who could act as educators of science and other fields for students. But I guess the only fields you’re allowed to educate people on now are gender studies, racial studies, and “the problem of whiteness.” And even then you’re not safe (like second wave feminists Germaine Greer and Judith Butler being shouted down and deplatformed for not being feminist *enough*).

  37. Berkley is pathetic. Trump should withhold funding. I wouldn’t send my kid there for all the tea in China! As Jordan B Peterson says, it’s time to starve the humanities! They are infested with post-modernist quacks!

  38. KPFA was always a leftie station, and I had a friend who used to DJ there. They’ve obviously gone full regressive-left.

  39. “When people say, ‘I believe in free speech, but …,’ then they don’t believe in free speech,” [Rushdie] said. “The whole point about free speech is that it upsets people.

    “It’s very easy to defend the right of people whom you agree with — or that you are indifferent to. The defense (of free speech) begins when someone says something that you don’t like.”

    (Taken from this post on WEIT.)

  40. Here’s my share of the protest, sent to KPFA moments ago:

    I was very distressed to hear that you cancelled the Richard Dawkins event because of allegedly offensive tweets from him.

    Did you review those tweets? Did they target people or rather ideas? Should certain ideas be off-limits to criticism? What if some of your statements offended some of your audience, would you just fall silent? Is this what journalism should be?

    If you avoid every speaker whose views may offend people or may have done so in the past, you won’t have many speakers left to choose from.

    Your cancellation notice said that you “emphatically support serious free speech”, but if you “do not support abusive speech”, then
    you don’t support free speech, emphatically or ancillary. Uncontroversial speech doesn’t need to be protected.

    “KPFA – Vigilant As Always”, your main webpage reads. But cancelling the Dawkins event is not vigilant, it is compliable – to people who want to oppress any speech they find upsetting. There simply is no right to not be upset, and rightfully so, because it would mean the end of free speech.

    I hope you realize what disservice you do to the principles you proclaim to support.

  41. Immediate reaction: I suppose being de-platformed isn’t as bad as being defenestrated (which is what the religious weirdos whose feelz KPFA is so solicitous of, do to people they don’t like).

    Oooh, now I’ve just stereotyped an entire religion based on the actions of a few True Believers. And while I’m at it, I’ve just worked out what the F……A…… in KPFA stands for. No prizes for guessing.


  42. I sent the following message to KPFA (undoubtedly another in my series of exercises in futility).
    The subject cancellation by KPFA is shocking.

    Dawkins is a brilliant scientist, academician, writer and commentator. He has led an eminently and admirably fruitful life. He is also a courageous and kind human being.

    I challenge KPFA to cite examples of what you call his “hurtful” and “abusive” speech. Surely they must be readily at hand, having being discovered from careful KPFA research, upon which this undeserved and precipitous action is surely based.

    The manner in which this matter has been handled by KPFA is despicable (also, hurtful and abusive). It brings great discredit upon the KPFA organization.

  43. Shameful as usual, but why would you even want to speak at an institution which by now has a proven record of squelching free speech? In fact the best thing that Dawkins could have done is to actively boycott Berkeley, categorically saying that he would refuse to ever give a talk there until this nonsense subsides.

    1. I’m sorry, but I disagree. I think that Richard Dawkins should speak anywhere he chooses upon being asked, and especially “at an institution which by now has a proven record of squelching free speech”. He is one of a limited number of brave beings who can and will face the opposition with facts, dignity and grace under fire. He is remaining true to his calling to educate. Any time Richard Dawkins is giving a talk within driving distance (however many hundred miles)of where I live, I’ll show up. Ditto for Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne.

      1. I second that. It’s in line with many outspoken atheists who prefer to lecture or debate before a objecting but maybe yet-teachable audience instead of preaching to the choir. They’re needed there more than elsewhere.

  44. The most important issue in this episode is missing in this report. EVEN if Richard Dawkins did abuse Islam, that ought to be fine. FOE does include. That religion, like any other religion, IS A LIE. Truth does not depend on the number of believers.

  45. Believers? Let’s be specific. We’re talking about Muslims.

    As far as I’m concerned, as a Christian, Richard Dawkins is welcome to speak anywhere he likes and people wish to hear him. And if he blasts my faith in the process, so much the better: solid claims about reality can stand to be challenged from all quarters, and sometimes it does us all good to hear criticism from the other side.

  46. Richard Dawkins should spread his contribution on Souncloud, simply by registring and oploading his “KPFA contribution” and in this way we can enjoy his works wihout the need of the polical correct KPFA.

  47. There is something strange going on here.
    Freedom of expression is not a ‘whim’. Societies which use it in a consistent manner fare a lot better than those which gaggle their constituents.
    On the other hand, freedom of expression relies on mutual respect between those who are trying to communicate. You have something to say, I will let you speak, listen – if it’s of any interest for me – and reply only after I’ve given at least some consideration to what you’ve just said. And something else. I expect that if your position is different from mine you’ll try to elaborate on your position and be open to my arguments. Your attempt to demonstrate that I’m an idiot doesn’t fit this bill.
    I’m afraid that Dawkins’s behavior is a rare combination of mild manners coupled with a very ‘intransigent intolerance’.
    Still… canceling this event is yet another proof of the growing mutual intolerance that is going to stifle all of us, if we continue down this path.

  48. I can’t think why people talk about Islamophobia in negative terms, because it plays into the Islamist agenda of victimhood. If you see Islam as essentially a fascistic ideology, it would make as much sense to talk about ‘Naziphobia’. If you have democratic principles, why wouldn’t you have a phobia towards Nazism? The same should apply to Islam for democratic secularists.

  49. I agree with you 100%. But why the gratuitous slap at Milo? Apparantly you don’t believe he has the same free speech rights as yourself and Richard Dawkins? Shsme – this is exactly how enemies of free speech win, one small, shrugging concession at a time

    1. I explaind this in the comments; of course he has the same free speech rights as Milo; he’s just not OUT to anger or offend people the way Milo does. And you haven’t read my many defenses of Milo’s freedom of speech. Do your homework.

  50. This is getting to the point of being rediculous a select few deciding what will or will not be heard for what ever reason deemed fit i am a staunch conservitive with my views on many subjects but i want to hear all views wheather they be liberal conservitive Radical and then have a debate about to agree or disagree on those views it is not the right for anyone to stifle free speech and in most cases the courts agree free speech is one of our most important rights many different views from many different people has made this country what it is FREE !!!

  51. How could this radio station be caught off guard by Dawkins critical view of all religion? Everyone knows this about him.

  52. Here’s my email to KPFA:

    The Berkley campus has clearly become a a dangerous place for free speech. You are creating a culture of oppression that damages the basic fabric of our society.

    Your cancellation of the Richard Dawkins interview for August 9 is a disgrace. I’ve followed Richard for many years and have never known him to speak in a way that deserves censorship. His discussion of religious belief and its impact on humanity is direct but honest. If you are unwilling to allow this kind of open discussion, you should tear down your radio tower and go home.

    You have completely lost track of your most important goal and no longer have a reason to exist.

  53. Abusive speech? Haha what a joke. There’s no such thing as abusive speech. Your feelings towards my speech is not abuse.

  54. J-MacJuly 21, 2017 at 5:13 pm
    ““The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”-Richard Dawkins
    I guess this doesn’t qualify as hurtful speech? But why? I guess because hurting Christians is not a hot topic and they are sure not to bomb your radio station even if they are hurt…
    Now I get it…

    1. What Dawkins says about the biblical God is largely true. Take one adjective for example.

      vindictive == the flood

      Dawkins says he was, to some degree, being facetious in this passage. But it’s not hard to find these attitudes in the text. If it surprises and upsets some people it’s probably because they don’t know the bible very well. They are steeped in a tradition of selective readings. Well, if they are made to feel upset by these remarks it might persuade them to get in closer touch with their own religion. In the end they may come to give it up for beliefs more in line with reality.

  55. I somehow think that if it weren’t for Dawkins criticizing 3rd wave feminist rhetoric every now and then, he’d be in the clear with these people.

    Once they realize you don’t buy into their paradigm, you’re an enemy and a [insert ___ist and ___phobic].

    Dawkins’ obsession with the truth over partisan ideological purity confirms he’s a witch worth burning at the stake.

  56. Curious! Dawkins have been criticizing Christian religion for decades, sometimes rather harshly, and he’s a rationalist, a brilliant scientist. However, when Islam is included -logically, as he considers religions as a whole harmful and negative-, he’s suddenly a hater and a speech abuser….
    It makes you wonder. Or should do.

    1. Nothing to wonder about. Believers who respond with bombs to criticism of their favorite prophet figure and his imaginary friend are thousands of times more likely to be Muslims than Christians.

  57. Good for you in speaking out to not just defend Richard Dawkins, but to defend free speech.

  58. This was very disappointing. Have written to KPFA. Hard to credit that one of the great teachers and science communicators of my generation could be ‘deplatformed’ in this manner by a self-avowed liberal radio station.

  59. Its curious and indicative that only followers of Islam take offence, when Richard Dawkins criticizes all religious dogma.

    1. I’m sure there are plenty of Christians who do not like Dawkins’ views, but it’s OK to offend Christians.

      Now Muslims OTOH, well you cannot criticize them. They have more rights than you do, or so it seems so at places like Berkeley.

  60. It’s true that Dawkins is not Yiannopoulos. They’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but when it comes to being “abusive” there’s not much difference between them. For example, Dawkins’ description of American evangelical Christians as the “American Taliban,” people who “live in the sticks,” etc., in “The God Delusion” is comparable to anything Yiannopoulos wrote in “Dangerous” when it comes to being “abusive.” As it happens, there are some excellent insights into such things as the nexus between Islamists and the Regressive Left, the difference between globalist and populist Republicans, identity politics, etc., in “Dangerous,” and the book is well worth reading. See in particular Yiannopoulos’ quotes of other leftists whose statements are a great deal more “abusive” than anything he’s said. It’s not a good idea to slam your mind shut whenever you encounter ideas from someone who happens to belong to one of your outgroups. It amounts to an act of self-brainwashing. I am against denying a public forum to Dawkins, and the same goes for Yiannopoulos.

  61. “If you’re not interested in free speech for people you abhor then you’re not interested in it at all.” – Noah Chomskey

    1. Did you quote from memory? Because I couldn’t find this quote on the net, but a similiar one multiple times including

      Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.

  62. You would do well to read your New Testament: cast not your pearl before swine! Dawkins was raised a Christian. Within the tolerant frame of Western Christianity freedom of speech and atheism thrive. Throwing the baby out with the bath water is certainly at play in RD’s work- I say this as an admirer of his great contribution to modern thought and as an atheist who knows that there are only two types of people in the world: those who defend feedom jealously, and authoritarian scum. Pick a side!

  63. The actions of the intolerant wing of the liberals in the East Bay have been bad for months, but if we are now at the point where Dawkins is not allowed to speak this is getting completely out of hand. There is no way the liberal/left is going to form an effective opposition when so many young liberals suffer from this demented form of “safe space” political correctness. Here’s the letter I sent.

    By canceling Dawkins you are damaging liberal interests

    It is the era of Trump. I am sure that you all agree that we need intelligent opposition more than ever. Richard Dawkins is on your side; he has publicly described Trump as a “narcissistic, xenophobic, vainglorious, ignorant 2-year-old”. I think that if you look again you will realize that your decision was a mistake. Liberal politics today has many strands; as a radio station promoting an intelligent and humane society you should be encouraging the full range of intelligent debate within liberal politics, and certainly not capitulating to the extreme wing of intolerant modern liberals that wish to prevent anyone from speaking who doesn’t agree with their rules for what is and what isn’t permissible thought.

    In 2015 KPFA hosted Dawkins (with Brian Edwards-Tiekert) in Berkeley. I was in the audience. It was an extremely interesting, funny and memorable 2 hours, completely devoid of any unpleasant or hurtful content.

    Even if some of you, the recipients of this email, do personally subscribe to the extreme wing of modern liberal politics that I described as intolerant above, I think that you would nevertheless agree that in your professional capacity you should be open-minded and inclusive when putting together your program of events.

    Please do read some of what Dawkins has said over the years in his own words, not just google hits resulting from people seeking traffic by manufacturing controversy. You might also read Jerry Coyne’s blog post on your decision:

    Coyne and Dawkins _are_ liberals. Canceling a talk is a very strong gesture. Are you absolutely sure that you want to be stating publicly that KPFA distances itself from the area of liberal thought occupied by people like Coyne and Dawkins? I would think that, on the contrary, in order to form an effective opposition to Trump and all the rest of it, the liberal / left-wing should be holding together and combining the strengths it has in all its different areas.

    Thanks for listening,

    Dan Davison

  64. Since liberals do not object when conservatives are censored, I do not care if Dawkins was shut down.

    1. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Even on this website I regularly defend conservatives who are shut down or attacked. And I’m not the only one. Have you heard Sam Harris, Dave Rubin, Nick Cohen, or Ken White? I guess not. Go do your homework.

  65. It would be helpful if KPFA cited what they considered as evidence for their claim that Dawkins has used abusive language about Islam specifically or religious belief generally.

  66. Memo to Atheists, you can criticize the concept of religion but must qualify the criticism with the notice that you are NOT criticizing Islam in any way!

    Carry on.

  67. Only reason Coyne has a problem with this is because he agrees with Dawkins. Doubt Coyne has any objection when the college leftists shut down the speeches of those with whom he disagrees (Charles Murray, Ann Coulter, etc.)

    1. All right, I’m losing patience with know-nothings like you. You come barging over here with no knowledge of what I’ve written, and proceed to make stupid and untrue statements about my not defending conservatives’ right to speak. I have, in fact, defended both Charles Murray and Ann Coulter’s right to speak, among other conservatives:


      Did you check before you spouted off here? I didn’t think so. You are ignorant and uncivil, and I’m sorry to say that this is the last comment you’ll make on this site.

      Bye, Wes!

  68. Well, from one old-fashioned liberal here, free speech certainly can be abusive speech.

    That’s why it’s free.

    As soon as you start restricting yourself to “free-but-not-abusive” speech then you open the door to censure on the grounds of hurt feelings. Protesting “But we were so polite!” is a fool’s errand and distracts from the principle.

    The enemy doesn’t distinguish between polite or abusive disagreement; they care about having absolute power over every word and thought.

  69. I’m a Trump supporter. I voted for Trump last November.

    Dawkins is an outspoken critic of Trump and Trump supporters.

    I am also a Richard Dawkins fan. I read The Selfish Gene when I was 13 and taking my first university classes, in this case Introduction to Biosocial Anthropology. The Selfish Gene has had a profound influence on my mental operating system, so to speak, and has helped shape a lot of my thinking over the years.

    I can handle a little rough talk from someone and still be a fan of them and their work. In fact, I shrug it off. I think if Dawkins got to know some of us Trump supporters he might realize we are not all the Deplorables that the media would like to portray us to be.

    It’s a rather sad testament to the over sensitivity of some people – Muslims and their white knights in this case – that they can’t handle criticism of any kind and instead lash out with calls for censorship.

    We must all learn to elevate ourselves beyond our immediate emotional reactions.


    A Fan of Trump AND Dawkins

    1. It seems to me you must be suffering some degree of cognitive dissonance in admiring both Trump and Dawkins. They represent such divergent attitudes toward life. Dawkins is a man of science, valuing truth above all values. Trump is a con artist of the first order and values only self advancement.

      But, now that I have a real Trump supporters attention, can I ask you what are the attributes that you admire in Trump – specifically attributes that make you think he would make a good or even an adequate president?

      1. Rickflick Trump is not either Obama the traitor and racist, or Clinton, the habitual liar and criminal, and the epitome of self advancement. Neither is he a trained politician, which results in more openness and honesty than one can find in most politicians…whether one likes that honesty or not.

        As a successful businessman, employing thousands of people, he brings business acumen and common sense to the role, whereas Obama was clueless, and Clinton had spent thirty years in Washington politics, achieving nothing but the acquisition of serious amounts of cash collected from Wall St banks and islamic states.

        When the left stop whining and stamping their collective, misguided feet, and put the wellbeing of their country first, Trump might actually get the chance to continue making America great again. Instead, they behave like sulky traitors, attacking him at every turn, whatever he says or does, through a heavily and blatantly biased msm

          1. To be honest Diane, admiring some or all of what anybody does or believes, does not mean I take on their likes or dislikes of others, because I am sufficiently wise and informed enough to arrive at my own conclusions, quite independently of the views of others. Unlike so many on the political left, I do not need the approval of others in order to reach any conclusions, simple facts and reason will do.

        1. A searched your comment in vain for a single sentence, or idea that I could agree with. Otherwise, nice try.

          1. I’m sure you meant to write ‘I’, not ‘A’. Also, I fully understand that since you lack the knowledge, facts, or capacity to provide any kind of reasoned counter argument, you would find it difficult to agree or disagree. Nice try at appearing to be reasonable.

              1. There it is, that’s the ignorance I’m talking about! Unlike his corrupt predecessors, Trump kept every promise he made wherever possible, in the face of constant attacks, lies, treachery, and the weight of the entire mainstream media (and social media), he got N.Korea to the negotiating table, not once, but twice! He got a large chunk of the promised border wall built, despite the vile hate, conspiracies, lies, and relentless obstruction of the dimocrat majority in Congress, and the bitter bile of Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff, et al. He successfully renegotiated NAFTA, and the China trade deal, neither of which had benefitted America under Obama’s incompetence. His Administration also achieved record black, female, and Hispanic employment, and historic numbers at the Dow. For good measure, he also rebuilt the armed services, so badly depleted under corrupt Obama, and mediated middle eastern peace negotiations between Israel and 3 of her Arab neighbours. Do yourself a favour and contrast that one term record with Obama’s two, and either way, point out the “disastrous term in office.” Of course, if you’re alluding to the relentless looting, riots, and murders etc of ‘black lies matter’, antifa and the left’s constant attacks on free speech and opposition voices, you can place the blame where it belongs, with Washington dimocrats like mad, race baiting Maxine Waters, calling for and supporting confrontation, and refusing to condemn leftist violence and hate. You can also blame Marxist college faculties, and dimocrat Mayors, permitting anarchic violence from the left, not forgetting of course, Obama’s disgraceful race-baiting, as well as his encouragement for illegals to vote.

                President Trump was America’s hope…and still is!

              2. I love how Trump built the wall and got Mexico to pay for it. That was the first of the many promises he kept.

              3. I don’t think he actually completed the wall. He added only about 80 miles of new wall and some patchwork on old barriers. But, it wasn’t his fault because…Obama.

  70. Some realize too late that KPFA’s “Free Speech Radio” motto has always been a fraud.
    The Koran is a coarse version of the Bible, a retrograde ideology, under which banner murderous empires were built in Asia, North Africa and Europe. It’s time to uproot all the religions.
    Berkeley, is the most intolerant place in California, it’s the cradle of political correctness.

  71. I am wondering what exactly was the remark “Dawkins is not Milo Yianopoulos” meant to say?
    Did I misunderstand it to mean that the difference between your position and the KPFA is not the stand on freedom of speech in principle, merely in WHERE it is that YOU draw the line in comparison to where THEY draw it?
    If I paraphrase a famous line:
    First they come for Milo and I was OK with that …

    1. Did you even read the comments? If you did, you’d see I answered this after comment #44, and no, I don’t draw a line between Dawkins and Milo for protection of speech; I was talking about their styles and seriousness.

      Your comment, by the way, is aggressive and rude; I gather you haven’t read the commenting rules, either. Now think: “How could I have made this point in a civil manner?”

  72. The fascists of the left, both on the media and on college campuses, love to say “We are all for free speech…but”, and they do so without any apparent sense of irony.

  73. The left doesn’t even realise it is being played in this bromance with Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood that is taking over America, is actually a CIA front. See Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, Ian Johnson’s history in A Mosque in Munich.

    1. Went and read it, and like it very much

      I hope that you keep up good work.

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