- A Research Fellow for a U.S. think-tank who is also deputy editor of a national magazine, and author of numerous books
- A Consultant for Educational Programs for a U.S. national non-profit
- A long-time volunteer for the same national non-profit
- An organizer for a state-level skeptic group in the US
- A past president of a state-level humanist group in the US
- A former director of a state-level atheist group in the US
- An Emmy and Golden Globe award winning comedian
- A TED Fellow
- Co-founder of a well known magazine of philosophy and author of several books
- A philosopher, writer and critic who has authored several books
Tom Foss has already done a thorough job on the idea of creating such a list, but I’ve found value in providing specific details. Don’t worry. This won’t be as epic as the last one, in part because I’ve already visited Travis Roy’s online behavior once.
Travis Roy is the co-founder and organizer for the Granite State Skeptics. He is also, under his Twitter handle of @Sc00ter, listed in Level 3 (“annoying”) of The Block Bot. I think the behavior shown in my prior post is plenty to have him be classed as annoying, but there was a conversation that happened earlier today on Facebook that demonstrated why anyone might be wary of interacting with Roy.
For background, you’ll want to know that Melody Hensley, director of Center for Inquiry’s Washington D.C. branch, was recently diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She had previously been diagnosed in December with Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) after being harassed online in various places including YouTube and Twitter. When her symptoms didn’t resolve in a brief period of time with medication and therapy, the diagnosis was changed to reflect that.
Melody continues to deal with the disorder with medication and therapy, and she continues to work after a brief leave to deal with the start of treatment (some of these medications have rough adjustment periods) and to allow her to avoid the source of the stress completely for a time. She coordinated this year’s Women in Secularism in the middle of a medication change, and none of the issues at the conference were issues of organization.
Following the lead of several people in the secular movement, Melody’s been open about having a mental illness and treating it. What she hasn’t said to more than friends (and yes, I’m saying this with her express permission) is that she has a history of traumatic events in her life. She came through physical, sexual, and emotional abuse in some of her closest relationships with a resilience that surprised mental health professionals. She came through foster care to become executive director of a CFI branch. She was not just surviving, but thriving. Then she was targeted personally and professionally online. Now she has a mental illness that she is actively coping with.
Part of Melody’s openness about this mental illness has been commentary on how important The Block Bot has been to her in shielding her from additional harassment. That openness led to this:
Travis Roy: How does somebody that a director of an activist organization, that battles nasty people on a regular basis, get PTSD from twitter..
Text from picture of tweets:
@krelnik: NEW POST: Skeptools blog reviews The Block Bot and finds it somewhat lacking in its current form. http://wp.me/pgBak-1Ai #ReportAbuse
@MelodyHensley: @krelnik Some “well respected ppl” have harassed me. Relieved to have the BB. There are reasons why so many ppl want those accounts blocked.
@AtheistFeline: @MelodyHensley @krelnik The prob is the bot is now public and being exposed to people that have nothing to do with the in-fighting atheists
@MelodyHensley: @AtheistFeline @krelnik This isn’t about infighting. It’s about harassment. I have PTSD because of this. My life isn’t the same.
Claus Larsen: Diagnosed and all?
Now, *that* is something we need to see evidence of.
Linley Kissick: Twatter is a war zone.
So, upthread I linked to information about both ASD and PTSD. If you’re one of the people who think you have to have been in battle to have have acquired PTSD, it’s time to study up. PTSD (not even just ASD) affects about 2.5% of the U.S. population. Any strong perceived threat–to you or to a loved one–can trigger it, and one of the major risk factors is not receiving social support after the trauma. [Update: And yes, although I shouldn't have to single this out as being a strong perceived threat, there is plenty of scientific evidence that harassment can lead to PTSD.] Do you think anything about this conversation even just so far, looks like social support?
Travis Roy: Claus – Asking for that is a bit much, only because that would be medical records.. But, I wonder what CFI thinks of this, because social media is sort of a big chunk of her job.
Jordan Stanley: yes im skeptical of it
Richard Murray: PTSD. I wonder what else she’s self-diagnosed in herself.
Richard Murray: Travis – well, she’s forced to use twitter by the patriarchal elite in CFI…
Claus Larsen: Travis,
It would not just be up to CFI, her employer, but also herself. If she doesn’t feel she is capable of doing her job, she should step down, and leave it to someone else.
Time to stop again. Having PTSD or any mental illness does not mean that a person isn’t capable of doing a high-profile or even high-stress job. Someone like Melody, who developed coping mechanisms that allowed her to withstand appalling abuse, is used to functioning under stress. Don’t ever assume a person with a mental illness isn’t capable of something just because you don’t know how you’d handle it.
Joseph Swam: If only people would stop disagreeing with her…
Maria Maltseva: Why was she ever hired? Aside from anything else, she’s completely incompetent.
Oh, really? Have you accomplished this much?
Richard Murray: Maria: maybe CFI has a quota system to ensure a certain level o drama?
Travis Roy: Should I tag CFI leadership here?
Claus Larsen: She may not have been incompetent when she was hired. People change.
Shane Greenup: What I don’t understand here is why she is so keen on blocking people now that it will block for many people, but couldn’t block the people who were harrassing her when it would only affect her? Twitter does have a block feature already doesn’t it?
Or for that matter, if it is PTSD level – stop using Twitter? I don’t think Twitter is worth serious mental issues….
Maria Maltseva: She’s also, petty, catty, and divisive. A woman like that wouldn’t last a day in a law firm or any other professional field. I’m thinking there was a quota, but I’m not sure it was for drama. (Not that I object to affirmative action necessarily, but if this is the result?)
When people change, in today’s economy, they get fired. But she can’t be. CFI is absolutely stuck with her, despite at-will employment.
Torkel Ødegård: I’m no psychological expert but to get PTSD don’t you have to have had some SERIOUSLY bad trauma happening? Isn’t that why most sufferers are war vets? I sincerely doubt Twitter is as bad as a real life war zone. And if you think it is, you need professional help.
Maria Maltseva: @Shane — She did block everyone who followed certain people before the blockbot and made a fuss about whom some of her friends were following. I was blocked by her at that time despite never communicating with her or talking about her in any way.
Claus Larsen: Yes, tag it. It is crucial that they know one of their employees have gotten PTSD from doing their job.
In fact, this is a case for the government body that handles occupational diseases.
Richard Murray: @shane – she claims that twitters block doesn’t work for her, perhaps because it’s a misogynist.
Or, you know, the platform on which she was using Twitter was buggy. I’ve blocked people before only to get another message, showing that Twitter hadn’t accepted the call properly. This is the company whose “oops” icon became an instantly recognizable internet meme.
Joseph Swam: I was called a cunt on Twitter just last night. I thought I was coming down with a case of PTSD, but then I realized she was from London. I’m better now.
Richard Murray: Maria imagine if CFI DID fire her… The Skepchick petitions would cripple the entire CFI organization!
Maria Maltseva: The problem I’ve noticed lately is that there’s plenty of real misogyny that goes on in the groups that are against A+ and similar. It makes me wonder where the rational people are — the ones who realize that people of different genders need to get along and live together. And that no two people are the same, though we should all be of equal worth and have equal rights.
So Maria knows this is a problem, even among the people who like her, but she can’t accept that it caused any problems for Melody. Okay.
Claus Larsen: Maria,
It’s not a question of firing her: If she has gotten PTSD from doing her job, she cannot fulfill her obligations. She is probably entitled to compensation from CFI.
Richard Murray: I allege she had pre-existing PTSD from being born a drama queen
@xinit0, Block Bot Level 3. May be due for an upgrade.
Torkel Ødegård: Hensley blocked me because I followed Elevatorgate. Only reason I started following Elevatorgate was because she said she was blocking anybody who followed him. She blocked me, I unfollowed Elevatorgate the next day!
Maria Maltseva: I did the exact same thing! Although I never unfollowed. Whom I follow is not an endorsement of their views.
Joseph Swam: @Maria – That’s a difficult concept for people to grasp. I don’t know why. Many of us like hearing different POVs.
Here’s a link to @ElevatorGATE, Block Bot, Level 1, “worst of the worst”, currently calling himself “Smellody Schwyzer”. Take a look. Figure out how long you’d want to see that point of view.
Torkel Ødegård: Well I unfollowed because I don’t really care all that much what the guy has to say.
Maria Maltseva: And my follow list is not gonna be determined by some ridiculous and irrelevant drama queen at CFI. If that sounds a bit harsh, then so be it.
Yeah, he really did that. He tagged Melody’s boss and, essentially, CFI’s #2 honcho to tell them that their employee has a mental illness. They know this, of course. Melody had a leave of absence for the ASD. She’s told them she has PTSD. She’s talked about it on social media they see. But in case they hadn’t known, Travis Roy decided it was his job to tell them about Melody’s medical information.
Richard Murray: Maybe they need a Follow Bot that tells them who to follow. Then an RT bot to tell them which petitions to retweet…
Torkel Ødegård: Richard Murray, I don’t think a Skepchick petition against CFI would do much harm to them. Remember last time Watson called for a boycott of CFI where she encouraged CFI employees to quit their job? Not even Hensley herself followed Watson’s career advice! Greta Christina called out support for the boycott and immediately went back to CFI the instant they even hinted at some kind of apology.
Richard Murray: Torkel – that’s my point – that Skepchick doesn’t have the power they think they do to direct…
Torkel Ødegård: Oh, you were being ironic… My bad!
Maria Maltseva: Freethought — it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Buy your ThoughtBot here.
And in case any of you, like Maria, haven’t figured out what “freethought” means yet, here.
Katie Graham: Wow!! That’s bold. A symptom of PTSD is avoiding situations or places related to the traumatic event. The fuck is she doing on twitter if twitter gave her a mental illness?
Avoidance is a symptom of PTSD, yes. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone who has PTSD has exactly the same symptoms. It also doesn’t mean that everyone defines what is related to their trauma the same way. For anyone who hasn’t given much thought to the topic that Melody was discussing in her tweets, Twitter using The Block Bot is a very different experience from Twitter without it. There have been more than 50 ugly tweets aimed at Melody since she made it public that she has PTSD (many of which would be right at home in Roy’s Facebook conversation). She’s seen almost none of them.
Maria Maltseva: I’m not sure Ronald A. Lindsay should have to deal with this nonsense. As far as I can see, his hands are tied, and I feel he’s already been put through too much for simply saying it like it is. How was he supposed to know that some people require special treatment? Until I encountered the new & improved Skepchicks, I wasn’t aware of this. And this reminds me, I still haven’t bought my membership to the CFI, and I need to do so. Overall, it’s a good organization and I support its work. Including its work for women’s rights.
Joseph Swam: I think that’s one of those “chicken or egg” questions.
Richard Murray: If she were relieved of duty, I can just see the way that would be framed.
Maria Maltseva: Exactly.
Maria Maltseva: In reality, she has been called some horrible things that I would also be very hurt by. But sadly, I would expect those things to be said about me if I held a public position. Which I don’t and which I’ve never sought. But in this drama I’ve been called all the same things anyway. Everything from my looks to my mental health has been commented on after the doxxing.
Maria is the person who made her mental health a topic of discussion, before her address was dropped into a thread on the old XBlog then deleted by Greg once he knew it was there. Her appearance may have been discussed there; her tendency to take post lots of portraits of herself definitely was. The people who were discussing that were told it was not appropriate. That’s one thread, more than a year ago. People, including Maria, are still saying ugly things about Melody as of today. The difference in volume, duration, and social support is important.
Claus Larsen: CFI has to act on this, regardless, and swiftly. There is no way CFI can have an employee diagnosed with PTSD she has acquired doing her job, at least not in the capacity she has now.
They could not only face serious charges (neglect, etc), it is a Public Relations disaster waiting to go off. When the media picks up on this – as they should – CFI better have a solution ready.
Maria Maltseva: They can’t fire her; they can provide her with counseling (and they very well may be doing so now), and they can change her duties if that’s what she desires. That seems to me like the best course of action. Or, alternatively, she can just install the super-effective BlockBot and all will be well.
As long as she never mentions that she’s using it or why. Then this happens.
Claus Larsen: They have to change her duties, whether she likes it or not. If she has a break-down due to her PTSD, while doing her duties, it will be CFIs responsibility, since they know about it, and how it happened.
Maria Maltseva: But she was hired to interface with the public and organize events. It seems she either had a preexisting condition that prevented her from doing so effectively or she’s simply incapable of doing her job. Was she aware of her condition before she was hired? (Apparently not.) Were the potential risks and harms associated with the job explained to her before she was hired? In a legal sense, these things may matter. In a public relations sense, I think I see the next drama explosion coming. Unless the issue is just dropped and left to the CFI, which perhaps it should be.
Melody was diagnosed with ASD in December. She’s been working for CFI for years. That is not a pre-existing condition.
Maria Maltseva: The worst interpretation, of course, is that women are incapable of doing such a job, which is what MRA-types take away from this. Which is why I see the Skepchicks and drama-bloggers as such a huge liability.
Richard Murray: OR she’s minimizing what PTSD is for people who’ve actually encountered hardships… not some First World version of PTSD where the barista made your drink with SKIM instead of 2% milk…
Maria Maltseva: A million times what you just said, Richard.
Maria Maltseva: Also, I prefer skim.
Richard Murray: Maria then, imagine they used FULL FAT! OMG!
See that part back up at the top of this post that describes everything Melody developed the skills and resources to deal with just fine. If you want to live through even some significant fraction of that, maybe then you can make a case for why it’s appropriate to sneer about milk fat.
Claus Larsen: I have a hard time seeing a person working with public relations, if she needs trigger warnings, before people can communicate with her.
When you work in public relations, you have to have rhino skin.
Torkel Ødegård: Claus, is that a fat joke?
Claus Larsen: *Skin*. Besides, rhinos aren’t fat.
Richard Murray: I think Claus is saying that only ugly women with leathery skin can be taken seriously…
Richard Murray: “big boned”
Maria Maltseva: Oh, do stop! I’m going to faint from all this raging misogyny.
Maria Maltseva: Full fat milk is obscene. I prefer to get my fat from ice cream.
Mary Ellen Sikes: Because of public shaming like this, simply for sharing personal information.
Now is the time to place any bets you’d like on how someone entering the conversation to stand up for Melody will be treated.
Richard Murray: Public shaming?
Maria Maltseva: Non-sequitur?
Maria Maltseva: I bet I can translate, though. I think Mary Ellen Sikes is referring to the existence of threads like this one, which make Hensley’s job even more traumatic, just because Hensley decided to share private information about her PTSD. That’s my guess, anyway. This line of argument overlooks the fact that someone involved in public relations and conference organization should be capable of performing the tasks related to public relations without making an embarrassing spectacle of herself.
Richard Murray: Oh please… Hensley has all of us blocked by now, no?
Mary Ellen Sikes: Graciously enduring threats, harassment, and public ridicule on a personal level (as opposed to criticism related to an organization’s mission) are not part of the job description for public relations, event organizing, or any other duty of a nonprofit employee.
Richard Murray: Yes, because A) Melody has PTSD due to people tweeting her and B) PTSD is something of a minor inconvenience, not a traumatic disorder.
Maria Maltseva: Is making fun of a fellow skeptic for being shoe-obsessed gracious? Is asking people to falsely flag videos on YouTube gracious? Is blocking people at random gracious? In my opinion, it is not. And if you’re doing your job poorly, you will be criticized. I am not defending the sexist and otherwise horrid comments that have been lobbed Melody’s way, but I will say that similar comments have also been thrown my way by her friends and supporters. And my job is not dealing with the public. In fact, before this incident, I didn’t even know who Hensley was or that prominent people within the skeptic movement would specifically search out my name to publicly shame me and try to destroy my career.
Melody didn’t make fun of anyone for being shoe-obsessed. She did ask people to report this video for bullying. Go ahead. Watch it. Decide whether labeling it bullying is false or not. Blocking people who want to see what ElevatorGATE is tweeting is hardly “at random”. I will assume that this thread documenting that Maria’s was spreading damaging lies about someone else is what she means by “try to destroy my career”. For the record, she’s still been telling those lies, even knowing that the documentation and her admission that what she said is wrong exist.
Mary Ellen Sikes: I see that you haven’t answered my response to your statement about the legitimate duties of a nonprofit leader, Maria Maltseva
Richard Murray: I think one of the, albeit unstated, duties of a nonprofit ‘leader’ is to not moan publicly about how one is mentally unfit to accomplish the stated duties of the role.
This is fascinating, because not once in this whole thread, in which Melody’s employers were told she had a mental illness, did anyone name any duty at which Melody had failed. This is pure assumption, based on the fact that she has a mental illness.
Katie Graham: Her twitter is her personal twitter which she doesn’t use in any professional manner (though it can be debated whether her behavior on social media reflects on her job, it would be a mistake for CFI to take that position). This question about the perimeters of her job not including the exchanges she’s had on twitter is completely irrelevant, Sikes.
Maria Maltseva: Mary Ellen Sikes: One of the duties of a leader in a politically charged non-profit organization is dealing effectively with the public, and it does, in fact, require having a thick skin. Imagine, for example, if Hillary Clinton behaved the way Hensley does. Would she still be qualified for her job? Of course not, and no one would vote for her. Hensley does not come across as a professional in any way, and she is an embarrassment to her organization. As a counterexample, I believe that Debbie Goddard (a Skepchick!) does her job well.
Behave how? Again, aside from the false charges above, nothing about Melody’s actual performance has been cited.
Mary Ellen Sikes: It may in fact be irrelevant – it is simply a point someone made, to which I responded. [And seriously Katie Graham: "Sikes?" Nice way to address someone you don't know. I go by Mary Ellen generally, FWIW, even though IRL most young people call me Ms. Sikes until I suggest they use my first name.]
Maria Maltseva: Referring to people you don’t know by last name only is common in the legal profession, FWIW. That said, it probably wouldn’t be my choice when addressing someone directly. Do you consider the use of your last name to address you to be harassment? If not, is it worth mentioning? Why?
Mary Ellen Sikes: Sorry, Maria Maltseva – having a “thick skin” with regard to being personally threatened and harassed (again, as opposed to criticism related to the organization’s work) is not part of any job requirement, stated or unstated. I find your comparison of a nonprofit employee with Hillary Clinton, however, amusing.
Katie Graham: I don’t think I need lessons in civility from a person who’s organization rejected an online civility pledge. LOL
Mary Ellen Sikes: Gosh, Maria, I’m glad you had time to explain the use of last names to me. I hadn’t noticed that. (Is this a legal thread? I thought it was Facebook.)
Mary Ellen Sikes: I see Katie Graham that you prefer to divert the topic when you’re challenged.
Katie Graham: Everything is harassment, Maria. She’s descibing Melody being personally threatened and harassed. You know what I said that was “threatening and harassing” to Melody Hensley? Basically I said, “You know, what you said to Sara was pretty sexist itself.”
I quote, “Melody Hensley, professional twitter victim”; “I couldn’t make this shit up. Hensley has become a parody of herself. This is who CFI puts in executive positions?”; “I decided to tweet Melody Hensley to see if she had any idea that what she was doing is sexual harassment.”; “I’d just like to let you know that I am shocked and appalled that the Director of CFI-DC would participate in the sexual harassment of a woman on twitter…I hope you treat this situation with as much seriousness as it deserves.”
Maria Maltseva: Right, and I saw nothing uncivil in the way Katie addressed you, Ms. Sikes. If this is the type of thing you find harassing, then yes, it’s part of Hensley’s job to deal with it. Also, do you consider the government to be a for-profit organization?
Katie Graham: I see that you take one comment and generalize it to be some kind of indicator of my behavior as a whole, everywhere. No wonder the Secular Census was such a joke.
Mary Ellen Sikes: Where did I describe being called by my last name as harassment? Some of you make incredible generalizations here.
Katie Graham: That’s neither here nor there, anyway. Melody Hensley, as a person, is a jerk, plain and simple and when she got called out for being a “Mean Girl,” she feigned harassment.
Or, you know, in the midst of watching her friends deal with a deluge of harassment and enabling of that deluge by people in prominent position, she said something stupid, then thought better of it and deleted it. Then she didn’t do it again, even as the harassers turned to her personally.
Maria Maltseva: Asking a question is not making a generalization. I was simply wondering why you thought it worthy of bringing up.
Mary Ellen Sikes: That’s a different argument than the others being made. Lots of diversion happening here, all in answer to one question of Travis’s. When one point is too difficult to answer, some apparently feel the need to resort to personal attacks or changing the subject. OK, I get it now.
Richard Murray: …and when feigned harassment doesn’t return the expected sympathy, feign mental illness.
It’s “feigned harassment”, huh? Try looking at the records “investigative journalist” ElevatorGATE has kept of things people said to her on Twitter. Look at what comes up when you search for her name on YouTube. Look at the “parody” account set up on Twitter. Then explain why that doesn’t count as harassment. Explain why it doesn’t create a threatening environment.
And that’s quite enough of that. There was more nonsense about Hillary Clinton, and Mary Ellen left the discussion. Sara Mayhew showed up. More crap was said.
So, back to The Block Bot. Aside from Mary Ellen, is there anyone in this conversation you’d want to see on Twitter, much less the person who started and hosted it and made sure to contact Ron Lindsay and Barry Karr?