The famous biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins has offended tens of people with an astonishing tirade of offensive tweets on the social media platform Twitter.
Dawkins, a proponent of the ‘new Atheism’ – a term invented by people bored with plain old Atheism (not to be confused with Atheism Plus, a term invented by people bored with life) – has caused a Twitter storm on several occasions with his tweets, defended by his fans as simply ‘clumsy’.
This latest chapter in the drama began when Dawkins went to speak at a conference early in the morning and had to skip breakfast. He tweeted:
“Fuck me, I’m starving.”
Stephanie Flotsam of skeptical website SkepTit immediately published a ten page blog responding to Dawkins’ appalling comments:
“I find it astonishing that in this day and age we still allow old, rich white men to get away with their disgusting misogyny and lack of knowledge of their own privilege,” she wrote on a computer made with materials mined from land that used to belong to a tribe in a rainforest before they got moved or murdered. “Does he not realise that by saying the word ‘starving’ that he is demeaning the plight of the real starving people in the world? Do we care that he’s hungry? As a biologist, he should know better about looking after his body. Have a packet of crisps! And ‘fuck me’? Seriously, Dawkins, WTF?! As a person who has worked with rape victims, I find a man making fun of the idea of consent the most offensive thing I have read in a long time.”
Later that day, Dawkins tweeted again from the lobby of the conference hotel:
“There’s nothing worse than conference sandwiches. Ugh.”
The skeptical/feminist blogosphere (not be confused with real world skepticism or feminism) reacted with apoplectic fury, with blog posts appearing at a rate of approximately five per minute. Within half an hour, Dawkins was held personally responsible for rape, war, celebrity big brother, the murder of Theresa Halbach, the banking crisis, and fridge raiders. On Twitter, skeptics and feminists who had not read the original tweets and had only skimmed the blog posts because they were in work and aren’t really allowed to use their phones, started attacking Dawkins directly:
“So @RichardDawkins thinks conference sandwiches are one of the worst things in the world? Maybe he should go on holiday to Syria!” @smugskep
“Apparently @RichardDawkins has ran over a Muslim with a trolley of sandwiches. That’s how the leader of Atheism acts? Disgusting!” @scepticpoet
“Not everyone can afford fancy expensive sandwiches. @RichardDawkins needs to check his privilege!” @AtheistFem
Dawkins, apparently unaware of the offense he was causing, later tweeted:
“Back home from the conference. My beautiful wife has made me a wonderful cup of tea.”
Julian Loveme from FreeFall Blogs called this ‘the final straw’ and ‘the ultimate example of CIS white male privilege’. In his 27-page essay on the debacle that is effectively just a list of indignant questions, he repeatedly writes about his confusion and disgust:
“Why is Dawkins’ wife only talked about in terms of her beauty? As if she just exists to please Richard Dawkins’ libido? Why is she not named? Does he not allow her to use her name in the home, where presumably she is kept prisoner? And why does she have to make the tea? Why couldn’t he make it? Does he think because he’s been talking science to other white haired old men that he deserves to be waited on by his mute wife? And why tea? The most CIS of drinks. I’ve been a feminist campaigner since I discovered it at university last year, and this is just the latest example of the worst kind of ciswhitemiddleclassvanillamale privilege that makes life for people like me looking for a fight on the internet really, really, really hard.
I am starting up an online fund so I can afford to talk about this issue endlessly and uninformatively at British universities. Please donate, or I shall be watching you.”
Julian’s online essays Revenge of the Keyboard Warriors and Attack of the Strawmen are available now from his website.
Dawkins has tried to backpedal and minimise the drama since realising the effect his tweets were having, saying that he only meant ‘some’ conference sandwiches, and that he also occasionally drinks coffee. The internet awaits the next round of articulate yet somehow incoherent and empty blogs.
The drama is unlikely to stop any time soon as it is created and nurtured in order to sustain the life force of the many keyboard warriors sitting alone at their computers right now.
Think about their feelings as you check your privilege.
Breaking News: the drama continues here…