Gee, I thought only the bad old Spaghetti-Monster-and-Skydaddy faith-heads were into censorship, insults, and manipulation:
All members of the community have been treated like garbage, especially the hard-working moderators who were kept out of the loop and shoved aside in a rude and offensive way with no warning. The moderators and the regular members were explaining how they felt, and that it was a bad idea letting the number 1 atheist community on the internet be killed. Regular members were also angered by the fact that Josh had used and lied to the moderating team. Many members had come to the forum to speak freely, and were upset that they would need to seek approval to discuss very specific topics on the new system.
Now then, the New Atheist paradigm is supposed to be that all religious belief leads to immoral behavior since it is not loyal to Truth, and that all atheistic scientific knowledge leads to perfect behavior because it is loyal to Truth. This is quite ridiculous, but that is the worldview in a nutshell.
Not coincidentally, my sarcastic summary above is precisely the converse of how the Brights describe their strawman god-followers. You may complain that I have also constructed a strawman, but then you would miss the point. The point is that the New Atheists and their opponents are locked in a fake fight. They are arguing over who has the best access to Truth, and neither will admit that their own understanding and behavior are flawed.
Josh and Andrew have ruined the reputation of the Richard Dawkins website to a point that I honestly believe is beyond repair. People took pride in being part of a community that promoted freedom of speech and the tackling of issues without censorship. Now the community is lost forever, and if you are unhappy then you are expected to be quiet, behave, and don’t tell Professor Dawkins. I’m not sure what is worse… Showing such disrespect to the mods who helped make the forum what it was, or using censorship and lies in such a way that makes it seem there was no criticism and that the staff were causing trouble!
The reasons I have provided for keeping the forum all focus on the community spirit. But even if you ignore that, Josh’s decision is terrible. It’s a bad idea in every possible way. Even forgetting the relationships and friendships that have been destroyed, the forum provides services and opportunities that are close to the heart of what Dawkins himself stands for, a place where people suffering from religious abuse can find support, and rational thinkers can engage with each other in what was supposedly a “clear-thinking oasis”.
The “heart of what Dawkins himself stands for”?! Don’t tell me there isn’t some idolatry going on here, a little bit of a personality cult, maybe even the start of–dare we say it–a religion.
The only thing that distinguishes this dust-up from the many bitter disputes among co-religionists is that the founding principle of a religious group is for everyone to agree on a fixed, transcendent, nonhuman ideal. The ideal of a secular humanist group is to be human, which means being inconstant, deceptive, irrational, sentimental, arrogant, fawning, angry, and stupid as a matter of principle.
One more note on a rhetorical aspect of this situation: It is obvious that the webmaster is an “old school” techie, if not actually rather old. He showed a pronounced bias toward the idea that the purpose of a website is to provide a one-way channel for promoting The One Really Important Guy Whose Opinions Actually Matter (TORIGWOAM). He was apparently very condescending toward the masses of low-IQ forum participants and their unpaid cowherds, as well as being very resentful of using his website’s resources to encourage their unprofitable chattering. His ignorance was further shown by his demands that all the data and the participants be kept “contained” even though he wasn’t going to accommodate them.
His prolix critic that I linked to, on the other hand, goes on and on about the importance of “the community.” He truly saw the importance of forming a social network with TORIGWOAM as the nucleus and spiritual guide. He was committed to the vision and the interactivity and the “webbiness” of the whole project, which ultimately would have generated much more goodwill and money, along with priceless loyalty, for TORIGWOAM. This just emphasizes what a hopelessly hidebound dolt the webmaster is, and does not speak well for Dawkins’ ability to recognize the significance of new media technology.