Update on Dawkins forum closure

Since posting the previous blog entry, there have been further developments. Also, I would like to take this moment to stress that the big issue isn’t over the website changing. Yes, I think the forum was worth keeping. Richard Dawkins believes otherwise. We’ll know who is right once the new website is up and running. I can accept the possibility that I’m wrong. This kind of thing is subjective. It’s an important matter for all the users of the forum, so I was simply sharing my opinion that the forum should be kept. But it is Richard’s website and obviously it is his decision.

The primary purpose of the previous blog entry was simply to provide the real story since the site admins at RD.Net had censored it and provided the public with lies. The secondary purpose was to help ex-members locate each other, since communications were blocked on the forum. Discussions over the best direction for the website to take are interesting, and I encourage them, but what I really aim to highlight is the dishonest tactics that have been put in place. Also, at no point have I accused Richard Dawkins of being behind these tactics. Based on all of the evidence, I believe that Dawkins has been duped by Andrew Chalkley and Josh Timonen. It is certainly Richard’s idea to try and improve the website by removing the forum, and his team are simply following orders, but there is also evidence that his team has lied to Richard as well as the public.

As you will know if you read the original entry, Josh and Andrew received a lot of criticism after the announcement. This thread was mild. Us moderators were thought to be behind the decision at first, so we made it clear that we had been sacked and knew nothing about what was happening. Josh and Andrew then locked the forum, deleted the accounts of mods explaining what happened, and deleted accounts of regular members trying to tell others of the censorship. The whole criticism thread was deleted. They locked the forum, stifled communications, then reopened the forum in a read-only state. They then made an announcement claiming that the forum was locked due to the bad behaviour of mods and regular members, which isn’t true.

Now for the new information. Although unable to do anything on the forum, we were able to watch the admin logs and keep track of what changes were happening. This is how we know which threads and members were deleted etc. By this point, the forum was never to be used properly again, and nobody would ever see the admin log ever again. In fact, the only person that could possibly ask to see it now would be Dawkins himself. With this in mind, it is interesting that Josh and Andrew began wiping the admin logs after their actions. They deleted threads, then wiped the admin logs. They deleted members, then wiped the admin logs. Surely there would be no point in doing this, other than to hide the actions from Dawkins himself, the only other person who would still be able to access such information. This was the first evidence that caused me to consider the possibility that Dawkins was being duped rather than being personally involved in the censorship and lies. I started to see the Professor as a victim in all this.

Next, Dawkins made an announcement himself, quoting some very aggressive insults made against the team. It has been claimed these were made by mods and regular members of the forum, and serve as an example of the terrible behaviour that Josh and Andrew claim got the forum locked. So once again, we look like the bad guys. However, it should be noted that the criticism thread was deleted before Dawkins saw it. So where did he get these quotes? He must have been given them by Josh or Andrew, and this is now the main reason I believe Dawkins is innocent and being lied to by his own staff. The same staff who have been hiding their actions in the admin logs.

Please take note:

- Although the criticism thread was deleted, many mods and regular members saved the contents before it was lost.

- The quoted insults are not found anywhere in that thread.

- Indeed, the quotes have been traced to an entirely different forum, and weren’t posted by the sacked moderators.

- These quotes were posted after the forum was locked, despite being used as reasons for locking the forum.

Quotes weren’t used from the original thread, for various reasons. Firstly, the thread was fairly mild. Honest quotes wouldn’t have been as interesting. After all, we impose strict moderation rules regarding personal insults and attacks on the forum. Secondly, the thread was completely deleted by Josh and Andrew, so they no longer had any quotes to provide (unless they too saved the thread to their own computers). It seems that Josh and Andrew not only lied to the public by shifting blame onto members and mods while deleting the evidence, but it seems they have worked hard to cover up their mess from Dawkins too. They have further given us a bad name by posting quotes which weren’t even made by us, weren’t even made on the forum they claim they were, and are claimed to have come from a thread that just happens to have been deleted, which is very convenient. Fortunately, we have a lot of friends who copied the thread. Causing Dawkins to believe that loyal moderators were throwing these types of insults at his team on his own forum, it seems they’ve given him these quotes without bothering to tell their boss that they come from somewhere else and were posted after the events. If I insult Richard right now, here on this blog, could it be used as a reason for having to lock the forum? I can’t condone the insults, but it is important to note that the quoted ones were made in response to what happened at the forum, not the other way round.

Of course, it is a possibility that Dawkins knows this and is lying to us all. You never know. But my personal opinion is that he isn’t. Richard may be saying awful things about us that aren’t true, but that doesn’t stop me from being on his side. I may be wrong (I sincerely hope not), but I personally believe that Richard isn’t aware of all this and that his team have successfully kept him in the dark as to what really happened. It almost seems too ideal that all of this kicked off while he was traveling.

Some have accused me of being an enemy of Dawkins. This is not the case. He has been as much of an inspiration in my life as the community we helped create, and he still is. I support his cause, and everything he helps us do by promoting critical thinking and attacking the idea of ignorance being taught as a virtue. I give to his charity, I buy his products, and I dedicated my time not only to his website, but to coordinate volunteers who similarly wished to help Dawkins promote science and reason. Although my respect for his works will probably never change, I admit my respect for him as a person may dip if it turns out he is aware of the sabotage of the forum, the censorship of innocent people, the covering up of events and the lies to the public. But he strikes me as far too intelligent a man to allow something like that to happen in a way that would make him or his organisation look bad. The sacked staff members (myself included) have now written letters to Dawkins, providing all the evidence that has been hidden from him by his team, and highlight the fact that he has been fed quote mined attacks and lied to about where they came from. The letters may make no difference, but as a supporter of Dawkins, I hope he reads them with an open mind and seriously considers the evidence we provide. If anything, I’d simply like him to know that I hugely support what he is doing for us all, and I wouldn’t want him to think our thanks for his efforts come down to insults and causing trouble. I’d rather he knew what really happened. So as I said, the evidence has been sent to him.

I can’t control how people use the information on my blog. Some are starting debates, arguments, attacks… Some against the behaviour of the site admins, some against myself, the other sacked moderators, and the regular ex-members. But again, I wish to make the purpose of these posts absolutely clear. I wish to preserve a record of what happened. Us mods are attempting to clear our name and expose the dishonest tactics used by the people who wish to use us as scapegoats for their own mess. I also hope that I can help many lost and confused ex-members of the forum find old friends and new homes. Especially members from Iraq, Iran, Turkey etc who used the forum as a safe haven.

By all means, continue discussing whether a traditional forum system is good or bad. But I’ve moved on, as there’s nothing we can do to change Richard’s mind. It’s his site. My only interest now is sticking up for ourselves, clearing our name, and perhaps helping others see that Dawkins was most likely duped, and that he may be as much a victim of these dishonest tactics as we all were. Those who are upset by what has happened, I urge you to be calm, and not too quick to attack Richard Dawkins when there isn’t any evidence that he was behind such heavy-handed and dishonest behaviour.

About Peter Harrison

Evo lab rat, student (again), stand-up comedian, magic consultant, writer, skeptic, gamer. Reality is my religion. http://peter-harrison.com Follow @Harrison_Peter for English. Follow @kaigishin for 日本語.

Posted on February 25, 2010, in Atheism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 87 Comments.

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