I have a dilemma. Long-term readers will know that here at WhyNotSmile, there is a morbid fascination with all things Richard Dawkins. The enthusiasm has waned of late, because there's only so long you can listen to him, let's face it, but it has been piqued again with the news that it's all gone a bit, as we might say, 'tits up' over at richarddawkins.net.
First of all, a few months ago, there was a Whole Big Thing when the website forum got shut down all unexpected-like, and people's accounts got deleted and posts were removed and all sorts of things which you wouldn't have entirely expected from a 'free-thinking oasis'. There were all kinds of outrage, which seemed to surprise The Prof no end, as he had presumably not heard of 'the internet' and didn't know that it's basic raison d'etre is to allow all the twits and psychos of the day to come aboard and spout abuse at anyone who's fool enough to pay attention, and at many who aren't.
Now it has been announced that Dawkins is taking his web guy to court because web guy has been embezzelling funds from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
So the dilemma is this: on the one hand, since the internet seems not to have picked up on it yet, I have a reasonable chance of getting Quite High On Google if I blog about it, and I could use the publicity. On the other hand, it is bad to steal things and it seems a tad spiteful to take the rip out of it.
Hang on, he basically called us all terrorists in his book. Sod it. Let the rip-taking commence.
First of all, the story is rather odd. The basic facts are that web guy Josh Timonen was hired in 2007 by Richard Dawkins to build and maintain his website; for this he was paid $278,750 (approximately £177,000) in 3.5 years. The website involved a shop, from which one could buy t-shirts with big 'A's on them, and some DVDs of Dawkins spouting off; the money from this was to go to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (introduced here). Then there was the thing about the forum, which appears to be incidental, and then in May they had a big row and fell out and now Dawkins is trying to sue ole Josh because he has allegedly fiddled the books and slipped 90% of takings into his own pocket. Josh, of course, denies this.
This raises various questions:
1. Why on this earth was Josh being paid £50,000 per year to run what is an embarrasment of a website? I'm not even referring to the content, which comes from Dawkins, and is what it is - you have to work with what you're given, let's face it. I refer to everything else, which gives the site an aura of 'built by a colourblind 12-year-old with little time, patience or skill'.
2. Why did no one notice that they seemed to be selling an awful lot of t-shirts for the $30,000 dollars the site was bringing in? I mean, if you have a heap of t-shirts in the office, and then it disappears, and the bloke who sold them is handing you some magic beans and telling you the site's 'just scraping by', you would think you'd start to wonder.
Naturally, atheists are in a (very earnest) frenzy over it all (see here, for instance), mainly in a gloating kind of way because they'd all fallen out with him over the forum thing, but also in a slightly alarmist 'think of the ammunition the theists will think they have now' kind of way. One commenter was betting that the Vatican are peeing themselves laughing, which I think rather over-estimates the Vatican's interest in Richard Dawkins and his doings. But if you live in a world where everyone believes that every theist believes that every theist is morally superior to every atheist, you can see why they'd be concerned.
In any case, you have to have a certain amount of sympathy for all sides. Dawkins, for clearly not taking enough interest in how things were going, and Josh, for having the stupidity to get caught when he'd only embezzled about half a million dollars. He should take some tips from these guys; say what you like about Christians, but when they go all immoral, they do it in style.