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Audubon Society accused of racism

November 19, 2020

President and CEO of the National Audubon Society David Yarnold addresses an audience. | Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for The National Audubon Society

I like adages and idioms. I’ve even created a few myself.

Here’s a real old one:

Qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent. “
He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.”

The Latin phrase has been attributed to Seneca the Younger (4 BCE – 65 CE), and to Miguel de Cervantes; an early English usage to John Webster in his 1612 play, “The White Devil.”

Here’s a similar take from George Bernard Shaw:

“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

You get the idea. Be careful who you hang out with, they can drag you down. I’m sure your mother warned you of bad influences. Mine did. I wish now that I had been listening then; I could have saved myself much grief. People often resent and reject warnings from the wise. Here’s a similar take from the last verse of a song. You’ll probably recognize it.

“Now I saved you,” cried the woman
And you’ve bit me, even why?
And you know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”
“Ah shut up, silly woman,” said that reptile with a grin
“Now you knew darn well I was a snake before you brought me in”

“The Snake” was written in 1963 by Oscar Brown, civil rights activist. Al Wilson had a hit single with it in 1968. The snake, so innocent and weakened in the beginning proves to be a very cold-hearted reptile by the end. Here’s an older, less lethal version:

“Beware of the camel’s nose.”

This supposedly originated in an Arabian tale. The camel pleaded and begged the kind-hearted tent-owner until it received permission to insert his nose into the desert tent. The camel’s neck and body quickly followed and soon the camel dominated the tent, refusing to leave.

Which brings us to the National Audubon Society (NAS), notorious snakepit of racism. (Not.)

The staff of the National Audubon Society, well-meaning and good-hearted people to a fault, most of whom like nothing better than getting outdoors with binoculars and hat and spotting a Bohemian Waxwing, Gyrfalcon or House Sparrow, thought it would be a Very Good Idea to make sure they were inclusive and diversified, and hired not one but two diversity and inclusion officials. Big mistake. (See The Snake song above.) They wound up with a couple of Social Justice Missionaries. And seriously, is there anyone these days who applies for a Diversity Officer position who will not be a Social Justice Missionary? Like missionaries everywhere, they specialize at finding fault among the innocent and treating them to the taste of the hellfire to come.

And one could see this coming. NAS felt the need to slam the artist-naturalist whose name they took over a century ago, John James Audubon. They lent support to the changing of the name of McCown’s Longspur, a burr in the saddle to the terminally unsafe and peevish victims of microaggression and their defenders with too much time on their hands. They’re doing the same for the effort to change the additional 150 or so eponymous bird names, under the banner of “remove the Stench of Colonialism.” They are now learning that enough is never enough for Social Justice Missionaries.

Numerous studies have proven that when myths, lies and propaganda are presented and discussed, they should always be preceded by a warning such as “The following statement is a big fat lie.” When the pre-warning is absent and the myth is followed by the truth, the reader misremembers the lie as being the truth. The pre-warning acts as an inoculation, putting the reader’s skeptical antennae on alert.

With that little-known fact in mind, I recommend you first read the Spectator article immediately below. It will inoculate you against the inherent bias of the Politico article.

Is your birdwatching society racist?
The passion of the Audubon Society has come  |  Cockburn  |  11/18/2020

[Note: I suspect that Cockburn uses “passion” in the same sense as “The Passion of the Christ.” Someone is about to be unjustly crucified. Guess who.]

Cockburn can imagine many things he might regard as racist: prison gangs, the Nation of Islam, Harvard University’s admissions policy, all two dozen remaining members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The National Audubon Society is not one of those things. A birdwatching group concerned with banning pesticides and preventing drilling on federal lands has, in Cockburn’s estimation, a zero percent chance of being filled with crypto-racists.

But 2020 is a time where all are called to ‘reckon’ with racism, and often it seems that the more innocuous the institution, the more turbulent the ‘reckoning’. And so the passion of the Audubon Society has come. Per Politico, it began with ‘a botched diversity meeting’, which sounds like the setup for an episode of The Office. From there, things spiraled out of control…  More…

I particularly like this paragraph:

Nope. Noooooooope. Cockburn isn’t going any further here. He isn’t even going to engage with the evidence. Cockburn does not believe, for even one fraction of a second, that a Manhattan-based environmental group for birdwatching enthusiasts is a hotbed of racism, heterosexism and all-around evilism.

And this:

Of course, in reality it is precisely the non-racism of the Audubon Society that is causing it to implode so dramatically. The fact that the group had two ‘top diversity and inclusion officials’ capable of dramatically resigning is proof enough of that. Much like top universities, city governments and tech companies, the Audubon Society has used its prodigious resources to endow many lucrative ‘diversity’ make-work gigs. Someday, the world will stop being surprised when people hired as anti-racism police keep finding sinister racism to justify their existence. But that day is not today. [Emphasis added.]

When you hire someone, especially two someones to root out racism, you’d better believe they’ll find racists, and they’ll be you. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is known as confirmation bias.

Now it’s safe to read the Politico article.

Audubon Society hit by claims of ‘intimidation and threats’
The departures of two staffers working on diversity and inclusion issues come amid contentions the group devalues contributions by people of color and women.  |  Zack Coleman  |  11/12/2020

Following a botched diversity meeting, a highly critical employee survey and the resignations of two top diversity and inclusion officials, the 600,000-member National Audubon Society is confronting allegations that it maintains a culture of retaliation, fear and antagonism toward women and people of color, according to interviews with 13 current and former staff members.

Senior leaders, including President and CEO David Yarnold, deny the claims. But the discord has cast a pall over the storied environmental organization, just a year after the leaders of The Nature Conservancy, another prominent environmental group, were brought down for allegedly turning a blind eye to a culture of sexual harassment.  More…

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