Shake up at Freethought blogs

So yesterday there was a big shake up at Freethought Blogs. A number of their long-standing bloggers have moved to a new blog network called “The Orbit”, a network that describes itself thusly:

The Orbit is a diverse collective of atheist and nonreligious bloggers committed to social justice, within and outside the secular community. We provide a platform for writing, discussion, activism, collaboration, and community.

At the same time, Freethought Blogs has recruited a number of new bloggers. In his recruitment drive, Myers said that what he was looking for was this:

Our requirements are simple: we want godless Social Justice Warriors.

Now, Myers himself has been promoting the new network, and all of those who left FtB said nice and kind farewells, and many have reacted to suggestions that this split means something — such as the Friendly Atheist — with scorn and mockery. The problem is that if you look at the descriptions of their overall purpose and goals … well, they seen to be pretty much identical. The bulk of the bloggers on “The Orbit” are former FtB, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they couldn’t do what they want to do on “The Orbit” on FtB, even by their own words. So there must be some reason they left FtB to form this new one. Did they find that the reputation of FtB hurt them in dealing with some people or organizations, as Ed Brayton suggested when he left? Do they think they can make more money with this new network than they could on FtB, which is the other reason Brayton left? Were they unhappy with how things went when people like Ophelia Benson left? Or what is the driving force behind this?

We know that there has to be one, because they are moving from one blog network to another with very similar if not identical goals. If one blog network wanted to focus more on atheistic discussions and less on social justice, the move would make sense. Or if one wanted to include religious blogs that work for social justice and remove the atheistic/godless criteria, that would also make sense. Or if one wanted to be more open and include a wider variety of topics, or even a narrower one — including more direct science or philosophy, for example — that would make sense, too. None of that happened. So assuming that these people are all rational — which, of course, they all would want us to think they are — then there must be a reason.

I’ve read in the comments that some people are using the happy-happy-joy-joy posts to show that no such reasons exist, but it’s clear that given the criticisms of FtB from multiple corners that was the last thing they’d do. After all, at least for now they’re all on the same side of the “Deep Rifts”, and they wouldn’t give their enemies the satisfaction of seeing them split. Yet, there is at least a split here, and it seems likely that the reason for this is either something about FtB, or something about the people on FtB. But there’s no way they’ll ever tell us which.

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