Richard Dawkins was supposed to speak at this event in Berkeley on August 9: a talk about his new book, As you see, the talk has been canceled.
But why? You can guess. The talk was to be sponsored by a Berkeley radio station, KPFA, and they made this announcement—but didn’t even inform Richard before deep-sixing the event. Through the ticketing agency, Brown Paper Tickets, KPFA sent out this email with the “reasons”:
From: Brown Paper Tickets
Date: July 20, 2017 at 2:04:53 PM PDT
To: [NAME REDACTED]
Subject: Notification for Richard Dawkins: Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist
Dear Richard Dawkins event ticket buyers,
We regret to inform you that KPFA has canceled our event with Richard Dawkins. We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t
know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people.
KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier. We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation. Your ticket purchases will automatically be refunded by Brown Paper Tickets.
KPFA Radio 94.1 FM
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the termites have spread to Berkeley, and have dined well on the wooden heads of the Deciders. Although there are undoubtedly a few authoritarian Dawkins-bashing atheists who will be pleased at this, it’s a terrible blow for free speech, and likely a big disappointment for those who hoped to see Richard. I’m sure that some of the Perpetually Offended, with perhaps Muslims among them, complained to the radio station, and KPFA caved.
I asked Richard about what happened, and what KPFA was. He emailed his response, which I reproduce with permission:
KPFA, like so many, is guilty of confusing free speech with “abusive speech”, banning a talk, and thus depriving people of the chance to hear Richard–and probably ask him questions or even criticize him. Here’s the station’s inevitable “but”:
While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech.
Give me a break! Criticism of ideas is not criticism of people, nor is it “abuse.” Shame on KPFA for not realizing this, and for their craven behavior in canceling the talk.
If you wish to write to KPFA, their website is here, and their contact information is . I’ll be writing them for sure.
Dawkins is not Milo Yianopoulos; his “abusive speech” is simply criticism of religion in general, including Islam. I guess believers can’t bear to hear that criticism, and they didn’t have to go to that talk. But what right do they have to prevent others from hearing it?
Berkeley was, you’ll recall, the home of the Free Speech Movement. How low the city has fallen!
UPDATE: Here’s an email I sent to the station:
Your cancellation of Dawkins’s talk was unconscionable. His speech has not been abusive towards Islam, but has involved criticism of religious dogma–and of all faiths. That is free speech, not “abusive” speech. All meaningful speech hurts some people’s feelings, but in this case there was no “abuse.” Can you point to any?
Your craven behavior towards this talk, and caving in to those who want to prevent others from hearing it, is unconscionable. How dare a radio station commit such a blatant violation of the First Amendment?
Shame on you.