Michael Nugent on the de-platforming of Richard Dawkins

July 26, 2017 • 11:30 am

Michael Nugent is the head of Atheist Ireland (and a playwright), and works tirelessly for secularism in Europe. He’s also known for always wearing a red polo shirt, even when meeting heads of state. (I once emailed him why but got no reply.) But in a more serious vein, he’s just written a long email to Berkeley station KPFA that he’s posted publicly on his website, “Why KPFA radio should reconsider breaking its agreement with Richard Dawkins“. It’s a long article, as is customary for Michael, but it’s thorough, and even has a preliminary outline (Michael’s words are indented throughout):

In this letter I will address:

  1. The problem with your current approac
  2. Why your original decision was unjustifie
  3. Your profiting from Chris Hedges and Christopher Hitchen
  4. The word Islamophobia and the demonising of Richard Dawkins
  5. Summary of what I am requesting

It’s a good letter, but there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that KPFA will respond, and I think Michael knows that. It’s more an attempt to provide a centralized resource for rebutting this species of criticism of Richard. For instance, there are many links to articles Michael has written about why we should discard the word “Islamophobia”, and articles about why Dawkins has been demonized and mischaracterized for his views on religion.

Since KPFA has now invited Richard back to clarify and explain his views (I doubt that will happen unless, as Richard has requested, KPFA first apologizes for the de-platforming), Nugent asks the central question:

But if you are prepared to host Richard talking about Islam on your station, why can you not honour your agreement to host him talking about science at the originally planned event?

You can read the rest of the piece, but I want to point out two instances of KPFA’s hypocrisy about de-platforming invited speakers. This shows, more than anything, that it’s Islam, not free speech or everyone’s feelings, that it’s protecting, perhaps out of fear of reprisal or of giving offense to particular “people of color” who adhere to an oppressive faith. And it has no desire at all to protect the feelings of Jews! But that’s what we expect of Regressive Leftists.

Hypocrisy #1

In a news item justifying your behaviour, you interviewed Lara Kiswani, Executive director of the Bay Area based Arab Resource and Organizing Center. She said that she had contacted ‘her partners in the station’ when she heard of the event. You also allowed her to make unchallenged defamatory allegations on air, including that Richard is ‘a well-known Islamophobe’.

But Lara herself, at an event in UC Berkely, is reported here as saying that ‘bringing down Israel will really benefit everyone in the world and everyone in society,’ and she told a student who questioned her that ‘as long as you choose to be on that side, I’m going to continue to hate you.’ She has also expressed other controversial views.

How could you consider whatever Richard has said about Islam to be so hurtful that you could not even sponsor him talking about science, while justifying that decision by interviewing somebody who has explicitly said that she hates people because of their beliefs?

To be clear, I fully support your right to interview Lara Kiswani about her views, within the limits of defamation law. However, based on the criteria that you used to break your agreement to host Richard, and assuming that you have the same concern for Jews as you do for Muslims, you should not agree with your station hosting Lara.


Hypocrisy #2

3. Your profiting from Chris Hedges and Christopher Hitchens

Can I ask you to compare and contrast your approach to this problem with your approach last October to the launch of Chris Hedges’ book Unspeakable, and to your profiting from $300 pledges for a media archive that includes a debate with Christopher Hitchens?

Chris Hedges is also a controversial author whose writing can hurt people. Indeed, he was disinvited from a peace conference in the University of Pennsylvania in 2014, because he published a column comparing ISIS to Israel.

Despite this, you (rightly) hosted a similar book talk last October for him. Ironically, you hosted it in conjunction with Project Censored, and the full book title was ‘Unspeakable: on the most forbidden topics in America.’

You also currently advertise an offer on your station whereby, for a pledge of $300, listeners can get a Chris Hedges media archive collection, which includes a debate between Chris and the late Christopher Hitchens.

Here is a link to an article by Christopher Hitchens titled ‘God fearing people: why are we so scared of offending Muslims?’

Here is a link to an article in which he said ‘But at the moment, it’s very clear to me the most toxic form that religion takes is the Islamic form… The whole idea of wanting to end up with Sharia with a religion-governed state — a state of religious law — and the best means of getting there is Jihad, Holy War, that Muslims have a special right to feel aggrieved enough to demand this is absolute obscene wickedness and I think their religion is nonsense, in its entirety.’

Why are you happy to host and profit from a book event for Chris Hedges, and to profit to the extent of $300 a pledge for a media archive that includes a debate between Chris Hedges and Christopher Hitchens, but not happy to host and profit from a book event about science by Richard Dawkins?

By your own criteria for breaking your agreement on this event, it just doesn’t make sense. You should either reconsider your decision regarding Richard, or else remove this pledge offer from your website.

KPFA’s hypocrisy, then, is twofold: it allows speech that is equivalent to genuine hate speech, so long as it’s directed against Jews and Israel (I reiterate that I don’t think such speech should be banned); and in the past it’s sponsored and profited from criticism of religion that’s just as strong as Richard’s.

But there’s much more in Nugent’s “J’Accuse” letter, so go have a look.

(Left to right): Richard Dawkins, Jane Donnelly (of Atheist Ireland), and Michael Nugent in his quotidian getup.

18 thoughts on “Michael Nugent on the de-platforming of Richard Dawkins

        1. Thanks. I’ll read into it when I get a chance and if I have the to mach for it.

          As an explanation; a long time ago I read Pharyngula occasionally but, like so many others, was appalled by some of the things said there. I know there have been lots of contretemps regarding PZ Myers and many others (including our host) with Dr Myers being, well, an asshole. As a consequence I’ve actively ignored anything to do with Pharyngula and Dr Myers ever since.

          Thanks again.

  1. I suspect Richard Dawkins will do well enough without KPFA. If they choose not to be a forum for the advancement of science, screw ’em. Their loss.

    I have to say that i’m becoming a little alarmed about the use of the term “Regressive Left”….as if it’s actually an organized movement rather than just separate people with dumb ideas. I realize that P.C. (actually S.C.[socially correct]) goes over the top sometimes, but maybe the most useful way to combat that would be to just mention it and move on? Isn’t repeatedly smacking down entire liberal publications and establishments because of a few transgressions giving aid to the enemy?

    As we text, Donald Trump is actually campaigning for the 2020 election. Meanwhile, Progressives are beating each other up over who is and isn’t genuinely Progressive.

    I watched it happen in 2016; The Bernies and Hillarys at each other’s throats whilst Republicans were silently fueling the fire with bogus email innuendos and anti-Hillary talking points. Democrats actually managed to snatch defeat from victory in their rancorous divisiveness.

    …and i see it continues! If the Extreme Left and the Centrist Left don’t come to terms soon, we are guaranteed 8 years of Trump, a Republican led Congress and almost certainly a Republican leaning Supreme Court. I guarantee you that will be worse than denying Richard a spot on a radio station hardly anyone listens to.

    1. Ain’t gonna happen. The extreme left is more ideologically akin to the extreme right than the centrist or moderate left.

      The regressive left and their Kulturkampf are poison, and must be disavowed by liberals and moderates.

      1. +1 just whereas once they simply allied with stalinist russia now they are more sophisticated and well meaning, but in the end just or almost as harmful.

    2. Are you suggesting that we stay quiet? Shut our mouths? Give the unreasonably extreme free reign? Neither left side extremists or right side extremists are going to be a reasonable decent person’s friend. And given the chance to do so neither would create a society any reasonably decent person would want to settle for. Being quiet isn’t going to fix things.

      1. There is no “coming to terms” with the radicals — either you unconditionally accept their terms, or you are the enemy to them.

  2. KPFA has been steadily sinking for at least the past decade. Nevertheless, it financially props up the rest of the moribund Pacifica network. It is beholden to its very narrow supporter base of regressive leftists, so must virtue signal on issues like ‘islamophobia’ to keep the contributions coming in.

    It’s a death spiral of a feedback loop, of course, but the sooner KPFA dies, the better.

  3. Mr. Nugent has really done his homework!!!

    That said,
    My overall impressions over time of P.Z. Myers and Christopher Hitchens have travelled in opposite directions.

    For PZM, an initially positive impression, and then overtime a decline in my respect for him.

    Hitchens- the exact opposite- an initially negative impression which has enormously improved over the years.

    I first encountered him in precisely the debate with Hedges mentioned above.
    I have limited sympathy for Hedges, but CHitn kept putting words into the mouth of CHeg that the latter didn’t say, and CHitn arrived at the debate visibly inebriated. I had almost no familiarity with him before than.

    I’m very happy to have given Hitchens a second chance. He has more than redeemed himself.

  4. Michael is as attentive and striving for consistency as always.

    It’s astonishing how the world of feelings is such different from reality. In the Feelings Universe, Muslims need special protection at all times, and therefore their religion must never be criticized. This goes as far that nothing can be said even as the pile of corpses from Islam-inspired terror is growing (there is no such thing as “Islamism”). Nobody is allowed to discuss this even while another truck of peace plows through yet another crowd.

    Meanwhile in reality, Jews — people — are the ethnic group that is leading the sad list targetted by hate crime, and leading it for years (probably ever since such stats where created, or simply ever). Jews are apparently hated by every other ideology and religion if orthodox enough. Muslims, being generally very orthodox, are but one persistent source of anti-semitism. Jews are key to conspiracy theories from both extreme fringes, such that we could introduce the linguistic convention that whenever the ominous “They” are mentioned, we could write (((They))). This is horseshoe theory in action.

    Lara Kiswani proposes a path to the Judenfrage (if you follow Michael’s link) to shift “the cultural framework […] how we see Israel and isolating it and making it feel unwelcome anywhere and everywhere” together with “bringing it down” altogether. Since Jews are individually also, according to hate crime stats unwelcome, and would trigger a major humanitarian crisis if millions would have to leave a dissolving state, I am curious how she and KFPA conceives the next steps, perhaps a Final Solution then?

    I think KFPA have demonstrated to the world that they vet their guests carefully, and that only those who espouse acceptable opinions to them are allowed to be associated with their name. They have made clear that Richard Dawkins’ views on religion in the special case of Islam are beyond the pale, and at once, by setting the example, that they are fine with the talk about the Judenfrage as advocated by another guest.

    I do not see hypocrisy, and do not consider it an oversight that they missed Ms Kiswani’s talking points. It’s all consistent with Feelings Universe where (((They))) are in charge of everything, while poor Muslims are oppressed, also by (((Them))).

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