KPFA explains Dawkins’s de-platforming

July 25, 2017 • 1:15 pm

Several readers in this morning’s “Jeff Tayler/Godless Spellchecker” piece called to our attention the posting of an “explanation” by radio station KPFA in Berkeley about Dawkins’s de-platforming—their cancellation of a scheduled book talk. Here it is:

There are also three links to the station’s reporting on the event and two to newspaper stories. KPFA’s excuse for “giving Islam a pass,” as Richard put it, is that in the “current political context,” Muslims are “living under the threat of persecution and violence.” Well that goes double for Jews—literally, since the per capita rate of hate crime for Jews is twice that of Muslims. Has KPFA de-platformed any Palestinians or proponents of the BDS movement? No, the station is lying here, either catering to Muslims because the station feels threatened, or catering to the Regressive Left that sees Muslims as underdogs because they’re “people of color.”

Surprisingly (if you listen to the positive comments on the Philip Maldari show), nearly all the readers’ comments following the announcement are critical of the station. (Go ahead–join the fray! I have!). I think they may be realizing they made a mistake.

Here are a few of those comments:

This comment shows that the “most evil” quote of Dawkins was presented by KPFA out of its context, and that there was no “Islamophobia”:

I’ve read tons of comments and found only two in favor of KPFA’s decision. Their tuchas must be smarting!

I see they’ve invited Richard to appear on the show, and I’ve written him urging him to do so. He’d put up a good defense.


27 thoughts on “KPFA explains Dawkins’s de-platforming

  1. Richard always does very well in formats like a radio show. He’ll set them straight. I hope he does the show.

    All that said, I’m sure he’d rather just talk about his new book, for crying out loud, which, I’m sure (I’ve pre-ordered it) has nothing to do with Islam.

    1. I think Richard should go on KQED to discuss the issue of de-platforming and censorship of free speech.

  2. You highlighted some terrific comments, thanks. I’m also glad you urged Dr. Dawkins to accept KPFA’s offer; he would put up a good defense, and now he has a much larger platform.

  3. I’m getting sick of Muslim extremists constantly getting their way because they make threats of extreme violence. Around the world so many terrorist acts are committed by IslamISTs, that these threats cause genuine fear.

    I’d like to see such threats reported to the police or FBI to see whether the threat-makers have the means to carry them out. If so, they should be dealt with appropriately. Their threats shouldn’t impact on normal acts in society, such as book talks.

        1. Banning someone, yes. But what about banning a couple of millions? I’d wish a sober discussion in Europe about what percentage of Muslims is considered OK and how should Muslim immigration be controlled not to exceed that percentage. You see from the disinvitation of Dawkins that when the proportion of Muslims in a country reaches the tiny 1-2%, it already becomes difficult to criticize Islam publicly.

  4. I hope he goes on the air. Some good would come of it.

    Minor point: last stats I read indicated the hate crime rate had become close to even for Jews and Muslims in the US in 2016. Also, the rate of increase of hate crimes was largest for Muslims in the same period (e.g.,

    I bring this up not contest PCC’s claim (and I agree that antisemitism is too often lost in the conversation), but rather to make sure observations are up to date so as to not give purchase to those trying to attack his/our credibility.

    1. From the FBI report; in 2015 there were 664 hate crimes with 731 victims reported against Jews and 257 hate crimes with 307 victims reported against Muslims.

      The FBI says nothing about rates per se, but in 2014 there were 609 reported hate crimes with 648 Jewish victims and 154 hate crimes with 184 victims who were Muslims.

      Just filling in some details…..

  5. I too hope that Dawkins accepts KPFA’s offer, on the condition that the person or people responsible for de-platforming him are present and expected to defend their decision.

  6. I think Dawkins shouldn’t do this radio appearance. Pacifica has pretty much admitted defeat here, by essentially retracting their retraction. Now he could drive the knife in by saying “no thanks, you’ve revealed yourself to be unserious, so there is no need for me to engage with you.”

    If he goes on, the message could be that the far-left can grandstand yet still be part of the conversation. If he doesn’t, the message is that the far-left is out of bounds, and this time more people are paying attention.

    Pacifica radio has a tiny audience of die-hard far-left Bay Area throwbacks, so this would be like debating creationists. I don’t think that audience can be reached with reason by Dawkins or anyone else. To the extent that Dawkins does this interview, it would boost Pacifica’s ratings for the hour because many normals would tune in.

    1. I don’t agree. I think if he appears on the show much good can come of this, not only for Dr. Dawkins. KPFA and (some) of their listeners could be come out better for it, too. Redemption IS possible.

      1. Are you familiar with KPFA? It is irredeemable, as is anyone who listens to it in a non-ironic manner.

        The last time I tuned in to see what was up they played a recording of an entire ~45 minute pro-Hamas Max Blumenthal speech, and hyped it up as some amazing exclusive.

  7. I don’t think there is anything I could say to equal what these folks have already said. This radio station is getting it’s clock cleaned.

  8. There’s an enormous difference between intermittently mean language and being abusive.

    Dawkins IMO is intermittently (though NOT really gratuitously) mean, and has been a quintessential British gentleman the two times I have engaged him in conversation. (He was less so with my father on a separate occasion.)

    For speech to qualify as abuse, it has to be threatening, an attempt to gain power, and an attempt to inflict pain. RD is however simply expressing outrage (often justified), and this simply does not meaningfully qualify as abuse.

    1. Not that this is an advocate for a ban on her speech, but the following remarks by Ann Coulter definitely qualify as abusive

      “We need to execute people like John Walker [Lindh] in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors”.

      So also does this remark by Milo Yiannopoulos,
      “The way you know he’s failed [at being a woman] is I can still bang him,”

      Dawkins does not even come close.

  9. The worst part about all this is that at the root of it it has absolutely nothing to do with the protection of oppressed groups.

    If it did, these same people would be equally concerned about, for example, the future fate of Coptic Christians in Egypt, what has been happening to various non-Islamic religious minorities in Syria and Iraq, the Shia in Saudi Arabia, etc. etc. etc.

    But they seem completely oblivious to the suffering of those people, it is all about Muslims in the West.

    Which brings us to the question of how their concern about Muslims arose, and if we go back in history, we will see that it developed after the rise of Islamic terrorism in the late 20th century and the reaction to it on the Right.

    It wasn’t that the “Left” was particularly concerned about Muslims on their own, it was that the “Right” was perceived (“perceived” being a key word, it’s not even that clear whether it really did to the extent it is thought to have) to have demonized the Muslims.

    And so, because in the minds of people completely obsessed with partisan tribalism, whatever the other side is hating, we have to love and defend, the Left adopted Muslims as an “oppressed” class to be “protected”. And once that happens, such an oppressed/protected class can do no wrong.

    Of course, none of this has anything to do with the reality of the situation of the oppressed/protected group in question, it is all part of the tribalist fight between the Left and the Right. And this is why no objective assessment of that group is allowed.

  10. The scholar tweet: That KPFA does not allow a scientist like Dawkins to criticize the quality of scholars is very telling. And it does not pass the smell test since you could easily have replaced with Christian “scholars”.

    All they reacted on was that the topic was *Islamic* religious scholars.

  11. What I don’t get is that if Dawkins has said anything in error or that sounds provocative over substance, isn’t the best counter to use more speech to repudiate and refute those statements? I thought the left wad against blacklisting for espousing an unacceptable view. McCarthyist wannabes!

  12. KPFA should note that even the authors of the Koran allowed some voices of criticism. Skeptics Annotated Quran has it: Surah 8:31 “And when Our revelations are recited unto them they say: Lol, this is naught but fables of the men of old.”

    answering islam dot org /Quran/Sources/Legends/introduction

    There are some Muslims who readily admit that the Quran narrates myths and fables. For instance, the late renowned Muslim scholar and translator Muhammad Asad states throughout his Quranic translation and commentary that the Quran includes legends and stories of mythical characters.

    Regarding the Quranic story of Solomon and the talking ants and birds (S. 27:18-19) Asad stated:

    In this instance, Solomon evidently refers to his own understanding and admiration of nature (cf. 38:31-33 and the corresponding notes) as well as to his loving compassion for the humblest of God’s creatures, as a great divine blessing: and this is the Qur’anic moral of the LEGENDARY story of the ant. (Asad, The Message of the Qur’an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993], p. 578, fn. 17)

    Muhammad Asad also stated in reference to some of the other Quranic legends regarding Solomon:

    In this as well as in several other passages relating to Solomon, the Qur’an alludes to many POETIC LEGENDS which were associated with his name since early antiquity and had become part and parcel of Judeo-Christian and Arabian lore long before the advent of Islam. Although it is undoubtedly possible to interpret such passages in a “rationalistic” manner, I do not think that this is really necessary. Because they were so deeply ingrained in the imagination of the people to whom the Qur’an addressed itself in the first instance, these legendary accounts of Solomon’s wisdom and magic powers had acquired a cultural reality of their own and were, therefore, eminently suited to serve as a medium for the parabolic exposition of certain ethical truths with which this book is concerned: and so, without denying or confirming their MYTHICAL character, the Qur’an uses them as a foil for the idea that God is the ultimate source of all human power and glory, and that all achievements of human ingenuity, even though they may sometimes border on the miraculous, are but an expression of His transcendental creativity. (Asad, p. 498, fn. 77)

    Another Quranic legend is the Story of the Sleepers in the Cave found in S. 18:9-23,25-26. According to this tale, several youths and their dog fled to a cave where according to one version of the story they slept for 309 years. Asad says regarding this story:

    We may, therefore, safely assume that the LEGEND of the Men of the Cave- stripped of its Christian garb and the superimposed Christian background- is, substantially, of Jewish origin… But whatever the source of this LEGEND, and irrespective of whether it is of Jewish or Christian origin, the fact remains that it is used in the Qur’an IN A PURELY PARABOLIC SENSE: namely, as an illustration of God’s power to bring about death (or “sleep”) and resurrection (or “awakening”); and, secondly, as an ALLEGORY of the piety that induces men to abandon a wicked or frivolous world in order to keep their faith unsullied, and of God’s recognition of that faith by His bestowal of a spiritual awakening which transcends time and death. (Ibid., p. 439, fn. 7;)

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