Point of Inquiry Team Resigns, Launches New Show with Mother Jones
On Friday, Point of Inquiry’s two co-hosts—Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney—resigned from their positions at the Center for Inquiry. On Monday, Point of Inquiry producer Adam Isaak followed suit. This note is to explain our reasons for departing CFI and our future plans.
In May of 2013, when the Women in Secularism II conference took place in Washington, D.C., Point of Inquiry—the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry—was more successful that it has ever been. Following a format change in 2010, our audience has increased by 60 percent and our growth rate has doubled in the last year and a half. We’d recently done a highly successful live show featuring Steven Pinker before a packed room at the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, and interviewed guests like Oliver Sacks, Jared Diamond, Paul Krugman, and Mary Roach. We had started to incorporate new, successful video content. 2013 featured our most listened-to show ever and we were averaging well over 2 million total downloads per year.
Then came the events at that conference—including a widely criticized speech by Center for Inquiry President & CEO Ronald Lindsay. Lindsay then went further, writing a blog post which referred to a post by one of his critics—Rebecca Watson—as follows: “It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.”
In response to public criticism of Lindsay’s speech and blog post, CFI’s Board of Directors issued an ambiguous statement regretting the controversy, but going no further than that.
These actions have generated much discussion, criticism and polarization within our community. In addition, they created an environment at CFI that made it very difficult for our producer, Adam Isaak, to continue working there.
We, like others, welcome Lindsay’s recent apology. That apology, however, was not followed by any direct effort to retain Chris or Indre, nor did it make up for the very real toll this controversy has taken upon our podcast and our ability to produce it.
The actions of Lindsay and the Board have made it overwhelmingly difficult for us to continue in our goal to provide thoughtful and compelling content, including coverage of feminist issues, as in past interviews with guests like Amanda Marcotte, Katha Pollitt, MG Lord, and Carol Tavris.
The Center for Inquiry has supported us in the past and has asked Chris and Indre to speak at many of its conferences. We are thankful for that. But we’re a team and we do this together. We believe that this controversy has impaired our ability to produce the highest quality podcast under the auspices of CFI and that our talents will be put to better use elsewhere.
To that end, we are in the process of formalizing a new podcast that will allow us to continue to provide the in-depth interviews with leading intellectuals that made Point of Inquiry such a success. We’ll announce the name and more details about the new podcast shortly but as of right now, we can already announce something we’re all incredibly excited about: the new show will be produced in collaboration with the nonprofit news organization Mother Jones. You can follow @MotherJones on Twitter to get the latest updates on the show’s official launch. We all look forward to turning our attention to the work at hand, and leaving this controversy behind.
Adam Isaak, Indre Viskontas, and Chris Mooney
For more information or to schedule an interview with Chris Mooney or Indre Viskontas, please contact Adam Isaak at [redacted]
How these "podcasters" want you to read this "press release":
Generally the conclusion they want you to arrive at is that they were flying high only to run into a wall after something impolitic Ron Lindsay said which overnight ruined everything they worked hard to build.
Apparently Ron's words basically made it impossible to do their jobs, for reasons left unstated. Either the listeners weren't turning in, or the podcasters themselves were shackled in some moral dilemma.
The podcasters have taken a principled stand and left CFI, the organization that is slowly sliding into darkness.
Some commenters at Skepchick have bought this narrative -
What a relief! I loved Point of Inquiry, and its hosts, but had stopped listening due to its association with CFI and the too little too late on the apology Mr. Lindsay."Scott Wood" adds:
I was conflicted about continuing to listen to the podcast, so I’m glad they’re leaving CFI. Keep us posted when more info about their new podcast is available?"dephiote" claims:
See CFI? This is how you take ACTION. When you care, you don’t just talk, you DO. Way to stick up for your convictions, Indre, Adam, and Chris!
What these three progressive pontiffs have left out:
What CFI was to do to "retain Chris and Indre"
Did they want cash? A more personal apology from Ron? A hug perhaps? First class tickets to Tacoma?
Keep in mind that characters like Ophelia Benson are going to CSICON and speaking. Did she get special treatment from CFI?
Just what is the "very real toll" on the show keeping them from talking about "feminist issues"
Apparently Ron's misogyny was keeping them booking feminist interviewees.
Interviewees like Amanda Marcotte, who was called out by name as one having an issue with the CFI.
Except she doesn't seem to have a problem with CFI anymore:
http://t.co/N9OplAcJhL I'm accepting Ron Lindsay's apology, dropping my demand that he resign, and chalking this one up to experience.
— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) June 24, 2013
Sounds like things are patched up between CFI and one of its most vocal critics.
Yet the podcasters have packed it up anyways.
Mother Jones is trading up, isn't it?
The sting of an employee's departure is somehow lessened when you learn that they're leaving for the major leagues.
As far as "progressive" politics go, Mother Jones is a step up from Center For Inquiry.
By every measure, Mother Jones is bigger. Page views. Twitter followers. Potential listeners. And yes, most likely the dollar figures.
It's like receiving a strongly worded letter about how you manage your t-ball league, from someone who was just picked up by the New York Yankees.
In the words of PZ Myers:
"Mother Jones is not at all a bad place to land."No shit?
Think of it this way - you could quietly depart and switch to your new employer, or you could shove it in their face and poach listeners from them.
It would be novel, if it didn't happen in the entertainment business all the time.
Just who are we sleeping with?
One may be wondering why these prideful podcasters are getting so much promotion from FTB, a group that has supposedly reconciled with CFI to some degree.
As it turns out, Adam Isaak (one of the podcasters) may be dating Rebecca Watson, the one person that went as far as to call for a boycott of the organization.
Suddenly, a few things make sense:
- The promotion of this press release among a tight group of friends
- The specific call out of the treatment of Watson in the letter
- The blissful ignorance of Marcotte's rather rosy statements regarding CFI
- The need to flame CFI on the way out - it buttresses Watson's profile just as much as the podcasters
It is admittedly not the most noble thing to take the supermarket tabloid approach to this story.
However it also not recommended to not disclose your relationship with people that you happen to be speaking about.
If one were to solely get their news from the Atheism+ crowd, one's view of the godless world would be that there is a general revolt happening within the secular movement.
In reality, the game we are playing is "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon".
Except in this case, only two degrees are necessary.
And Kevin Bacon just happens to be a self-appointed 30-something spokesperson for secular women, living in New York.