Some of you may have already heard, but there’s a new atheist blog network on the block: The Orbit.
The Orbit purports to be the
first atheist media site founded explicitly to work on all forms of social justice and already boasts over 20 blogs (though at the time of writing, not all of them have made posts on the new network). Most of the blogs are already well-established – the majority of them moved over from Freethought Blogs – and some of them have been publishing for several years.
The blog is still brand new, and I don’t have any contact with the founders, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but as I understand it The Orbit will have basically the same policies as Freethought Blogs: each of the blogs will be entirely independent, not subject to any editorializing or censorship. The main difference will be likely only be one of focus.
Given this community’s love of drama, it should come as no surprise that there are already rumours floating around about the quote-unquote “real” motivation for forming a new blogging network. The current #1 pet theory is that it is a bunch of disgruntled Freethought Blogs contributors trying to get out from under PZ Myers’s dictatorial thumb and/or oppressive shadow. (Depressingly, even Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist is a fan of this conspiracy theory.)
The rumours don’t really stand up to any serious scrutiny, though. Even if you can seriously entertain the idea of Myers as a dictator, it’s hard to imagine many of the personalities alleged to have quietly toiled under his regime doing so without being loudly critical of it. And if you want to make the conspiracy theory argument that they “couldn’t” because they were afraid Myers would take away their blogs or… I don’t even know – seriously what the fuck would dictator-Myers threaten that would scare them?… well, now that they’re at their new home they should be loudly and freely ranting about how bad it was at FtB. But they’re not – in fact, everything I’ve read seem quite thankful for their time at FtB. So, what now, rumourmongers? Think they’re holding back the criticism because they’re don’t want to hurt Myers’s feelings? These writers? Ha ha ha.
No, the reason for the new blog network’s existence seems quite clearly spelled out in its mission statement:
The Orbit is a diverse collective of atheist and nonreligious bloggers committed to social justice, within and outside the secular community.
Heina Dadabhoy actually wrote up a very nice summary in her introductory post. She explains that while existing blog networks (such as FtB and Skepchick) have
evolved into places where certain social justice issues are advocated for and discussed, that is not how they started out: they
were initially founded without a complete intersectional social justice focus. That’s true; as Dadabhoy reminds, FtB was originally a splinter group branching out from ScienceBlogs after that network was purchased by National Geographic and the bloggers felt their policy and technical concerns were not being taken seriously. In other words, FtB started out as a science blogging network – or at least a blogging network focusing primarily on science and primarily inhabited by scientists.
By contrast, The Orbit is starting out, right off the bat, as an atheist blogging network focusing primarily on social justice issues. Its interests are all about intersectionality, and that’s reflected in opening lineup of blogs.
Another thing that I suspect (again, without direct evidence, and without having any contact with the people involved), and that Dadabhoy seems to hint at, is that the people behind The Orbit have a second goal in mind: They want to explore and exploit new technological possibilities, and extend the boundaries of traditional blogging. Or in other words, they want to find ways to be more “Web 2.0” (or possibly “Web 3.0”?), to work better with mobile technologies, integrate better with social networking, and so on. This is all just a hunch based on comments I’ve seen made by some of the writers, and particularly Jason Thibeault of Lousy Canuck, who I believe is the primary tech geek of the network. Obviously they’re still shaking out the bugs from a fresh rollout (at the moment, for example, I couldn’t use any secure links because of a problem with static assets not being served properly), but it should be interesting to see where they go.
So welcome to The Orbit – it’s always good to have another platform in the secular/humanist/atheist/freethought (or as I like to write it: SHAFT) community. I encourage people to check out the current blogs, which are mostly all long-running blogs with seasoned writers. And I look forward to seeing what new writers, and other new surprises, they bring us in the future.