March 27, 2013

My Reaction to the Atheist Alliance International's Apology

Misunderstood (Photo credit: Howard Dickins)
It was just brought to my attention that the president of Atheist Alliance International (AAI) issued a public apology for linking to my recent post on harassment. I have been asked by a few readers for my reaction to this news, so I offer it now.

I was surprised to see the AAI claim that what I wrote "trivialised harassment of women in the atheist community." I do not believe that my post said anything specific to women. I recognize that harassment can and does occur between women, between men, and in both directions between women and men. Moreover, I most certainly did not attempt to trivialize anything in this post. To the contrary, I think that harassment is a serious issue and that we should exercise some caution and good judgment in labeling behavior as "harassment" when it may fall short of the definition.

In my post, I attempted to find common themes which appeared in legal definitions of harassment and explore their implications for the accusations of harassment I see today in the atheist community. I noted that many of the behaviors commonly characterized as harassment in our community fall short of what appear to be the central components of many legal definitions. I also noted that some of the behavior occurring in our community clearly does appear to meet these legal standards.

I'm not quite sure what the AAI found so objectionable about the contents of this post. When I read the statement of apology and re-read what I had written, I do not see an accurate characterization. I did not and do not condone harassment, defend harassment, or think we should be accepting of harassment. I believe I have been quite clear on these points.

Nevertheless, I recognize that the AAI is a large organization with a diverse membership to whom they must be accountable. If they received several complaints about promoting my post, it makes sense that they would remove the links and apologize. I do not fault them for doing so.