Last year at TAM2012, I did a workshop on Coalition Building for the Skeptical Activist. Yes, that sounds a touch boring. I lobbied for changing the title, to no avail. The focus was to bring members into a coalition that were NOT self-identified skeptics but can help your cause. It turned out not to be boring but really successful.
But, coalition building could be seen another way. It could be internal. In this case, it was a bit of that. The panel included three prominent leaders of the atheist community who differ entirely across the spectrum. From what I have perceived, Chris Stedman and Dave Silverman are on opposite ends and David Niose is in the middle. I’m happy to have cordial relationships with them all despite differences and, in one case, outright disagreement. But I don’t find the need to get nasty over disagreements. I just choose not to participate in that circle. No big deal.
As I wrote right after the event:
You may go away thinking so-and-so is a real jerk but the goal is not to have the most blog hits or twitter followers, it’s to Get r’ done. That means stop getting personal and start being respectable.
At the time of TAM last year, there were internal disputes going on beyond the atheist dustups. There were very personal skeptical squabbles, much name calling going on, petty sniping, and a whole lot of avoidance which continues even now. It’s uncomfortable.
So maybe there is a lesson in coalition building here among ourselves. I’ve long been a big tent Skepticism person. But I’ve been told it’s wrong to assume that all capital S Skeptics have the same goals as me. Maybe I’m wrong to think that the primary purpose of our blogs and speaking and projects are to advance critical thinking and a reason-based, science-based worldview.
Certain groups are getting further isolated and individuals are burning bridges instead of building them. Your network of support and contacts is everything. To sabatage it is unwise.
I hope to see some new projects spring up where diverse voices can participate and make progress. And I hope that we can get past the pettiness and start supporting each others work in skepticism.