Dear John Loftus (Update)


Your recent post on the allegation of rape against Michael Shermer that was posted on PZ’s blog is everything I’ve come to expect from you–self-important, disingenuous about being “forced” to come to the conclusion that people you don’t like are bad people, containing the conclusion that “important” people should be granted deference, self-contradicting–except for one thing.

In a personal email to me Shermer categorically denies these accusations. If what he said about his accuser gets out, it will be apparent to most all reasonable people that PZ Myers published a bold-faced lie. He recklessly tried to destroy another person’s reputation without regard for fact-checking.

When did you decide that there was something someone could tell you about a woman that would make that woman unrapeable?

Update: First, Loftus walked back the claim that this information was so stunning everyone would be convinced. From his comment section:

I have read Shermer’s response, as I said. Had PZ asked Shermer like I did he would not have published this unevidenced accusation. Shermer knows the accuser and presents a more likely scenario than hers in my opinion.

Then he told us Shermer didn’t know who this was after all:

Initially he didn’t. Then he thought about it and thought he did. Now he tells me he doesn’t. Don’t make too much of this. He’s trying to guess, that’s all, just as anyone would.

For the record, I tend to agree with Jason on the question of whether “anyone would”.

Comments

  1. Jacob Schmidt says

    In a personal email to me Shermer categorically denies these accusations.[1] If what he said about his accuser gets out, it will be apparent to most all reasonable people that PZ Myers published a bold-faced lie.[2] He recklessly tried to destroy another person’s reputation without regard for fact-checking.[3]

    1) ‘Cause no guilty party would ever deny guilt.

    2) Soo… Shermer knows who his accuser is despite her anonymity?
    $10 says Shermer played up a variation of “Bitches be lyin’.”

    3) Luftus is psychic now? Doesn’t he have something against reading in to the motivations of others, or am I confusing him with almost every other accomodationist blowhard?

  2. says

    Hmm. This sounds vaguely like Shermer knows who the accuser is. How? (maybe the conference told him? Or, gasp, it happened.)
    Secondly, “If what he said about his accuser gets out, ” sounds like a bit of a threat by proxy.

    If it weren’t for the potential trauma to the victim, I’d LOVE to see Shermer go to trial. So many of his apologists are so confident he can and should sue. If he doesn’t, how will they explain that? (and granted, even if something is libelous, that doesn’t make the legal bar you have to meet easy or worthwhile.)

  3. Robert B. says

    Did… wait, I don’t understand. Did Loftus try to claim that Shermer’s denial would be a slam-dunk disproof of the accusations? Or was it the “if you had the secret data that I have but I’m not going to show you, you would totally be convinced” trick? Because neither of those are convincing. At all.

    If Shermer had something to say that would make it clear to all reasonable people that he didn’t rape anyone, why wouldn’t he just publish it?

  4. Jacob Schmidt says

    If what he said about his accuser gets out…

    Notice how we’re supposed to take Shermer at his word, but not the victim?

  5. Vicki says

    I suspect this is some variation of “I know who it is, and she is an unreliable witness because $reasons” where the knowledge and/or the alleged reasons why the woman’s testimony is unreliable are from Shermer.

    It clearly isn’t “because he said the accusations were about an encounter at this event, and I was with him all evening, so I know it didn’t happen.” That wouldn’t be “what Shermer said about the accuser,” it would be offering himself as a witness for Shermer.

    Note also “second-hand source” and “date rape accusation that was never reported to the police.” The “second-hand source” claim has been demolished repeatedly, and I think this is the first time anyone has claimed that Shermer was on a “date” with the victim. I don’t think we need to go through the “date rape is rape” or reasons for not reporting to the police” parts again, but I hope PZ and/or his lawyers are keeping track of Shermer’s claims here, because any inconsistencies might be relevant if the defamation claim does go to court.

  6. carlie says

    Notice how we’re supposed to take Shermer at his word, but not the victim?

    And we’re supposed to think that the victim has an agenda and a bias in making the accusation, but that Shermer has no agenda or bias in declaring his own innocence. *headdesk*

  7. maudell says

    It’s an amazing exercise in projection. As always, taking the concerns of an underrepresented group seriously is divisiveness! And the words ‘sexism’ and ‘racism’ are chilling the free speech of the white man.

    In this case, the said man (Shermer) is using the legal system to chill the free speech of others, but hey, that’s cool apparently. In fact, wealthy famous skeptic is so oppressed by multiple independent sources who have come forward to describe his sleaziness (euphemism), that his legal threats are heroic. That’s how ‘unifying atheism’ works.

  8. yazikus says

    If what he said about his accuser gets out…

    This, to me, comes across as a blatant threat. If Jane Doe is following what is going on, and read that, what do you think her reaction would be? If it were me it would make me scared, wondering what exactly Shermer was going to say to ruin my reputation. And that is despicable. Shame on Loftus.

  9. says

    If Shermer has such convincing arguments that they could sway a mighty pillar of skepticism like Loftus, why on earth is he keeping them under wraps? If he came out with them, it would be more likely that anyone able and willing to corroborate them would support him. Which, strangely, is the opposite of what’s been happening.

  10. maudell says

    @Vicki
    Funny how they always forget to mention there were witnesses (right after the fact) and multiple independent accounts, some before PZs post, mentioning Shermer’s behaviour.

    Somehow, this means a single second-hand source in Tru Skepix language.

  11. smhll says

    IMO, Loftus’ long list of things that people do that create polarization are done by almost everyone on both (all) sides of the discussions in the atheist blogosphere. (Some people do them more or more flagrantly.)

  12. says

    I just spent a minute or two on Loftus’ tripe, noting a few points:
    I have been told from someone I trust who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions that PZ Myers was granted an advance for his book in the tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps approaching a hundred thousand dollars.

    That would be par for the course. The last book I did was 2001, and advances were in the $25,000 range; a publisher would expect PZ’s book to sell fairly well. So I don’t know why Loftus’ secret squirrel source is so concerned about repercussions for discussing what is almost certainly a fairly typical arrangement.

    What did he do to earn that amount of money? As far I could determine he merely copied almost word for word several of his blog posts as chapters.

    It’s also entirely normal to publish assemblages of other work. Even hacks like Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, and others too numerous to list have been known to do that. Sometimes it makes for a pretty good book (see Twain).

    That book is solid evidence PZ Myers is at least an opportunist.

    Well, yeah!! If saying “yes” when a publisher approaches you makes one an “opportunist” then what does that make Loftus? A “serial opportunist”?

    Nah, probably just a “crank”…

  13. carlie says

    As far I could determine he merely copied almost word for word several of his blog posts as chapters.

    Really? Wow, what a charge. As if he hadn’t written those blog posts in the first place. As if compilations aren’t a thing. As if dozens of blogs hadn’t done exactly that, making books out of what they’d done. Talk about sounding like sour grapes.

  14. Jacob Schmidt says

    Before publishing it PZ Myers should have contacted Shermer for his side to the story.

    Did Loftus contact PZ before publishing this to get PZ’s side? I doubt it.

  15. yazikus says

    From Loftus in the comments:

    I have read Shermer’s response, as I said. Had PZ asked Shermer like I did he would not have published this unevidenced accusation. Shermer knows the accuser and presents a more likely scenario than hers in my opinion.

    (bolding mine)
    What would a ‘more likely scenario’ look like, I wonder?

  16. didgen says

    @Marcus, that was my first experience with Loftus, can’t say I was really impressed with his lack of argument. Probably won’t go back. I just thought his complaints about PZ’s book came across as jealousy.

  17. says

    I have been told from someone I trust who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions that PZ Myers was granted an advance for his book in the tens of thousands of dollars

    Mocking the very real fears of reprisal of someone reporting a rape is utterly despicable. I mean what “repercussions” is he positing might be faced by someone releasing info on PZ’s advance? Death threats? Rape threats? Years of harassment? Someone with power, money, and connections blackballing them and making their life a misery?

    Even if I had reason to doubt Jane Doe (and I don’t–I’ve already voiced my support of her and belief in her account), I would never stoop as low as Loftus is doing. I would think–well I should probably keep my mouth shut in public. Because, you know, it’s been known to happen for someone to actually *be* a rapist and the victim wasn’t believed. Why would you go on record as someone so cruel and unsympathetic and vile as to mock even a possibly real victim? It shows sheer callousness and remarkable lack of judgement.

  18. Portia says

    That’s…creepy. I both want to know and don’t want to know what he has to say for himself.

  19. says

    I guess the good news here is that Shermer remembers who the person was that he got drunk at that conference.

    I don’t really know what to say about Loftus and his clownshoe blog network.

  20. CaitieCat says

    Meh. I don’t need to know what he’d say for himself. There are plenty of good thinkers in the world who aren’t sexist douche-container-ships who might be rapists. Why should I continue to waste time on people who are (sexist douche-container-ships et c.)?

  21. freemage says

    The whole bit about the book advance just reads like so much painful envy. It’s certainly an astoundingly clueless grasp of how publishing works, and about the tradition of essayists republishing their work in a collected format goes.

    The ‘work’ is in the initial essays. There’s also a bit of effort in selecting the best bits, ordering them and perhaps editing them in some fashion to make a more cohesive whole; I suspect the latter is less of an issue with most bloggers who publish collections, because they tend to have their particular issues front-and-center, and usually make some effort at continuity in the original pieces.

  22. Pteryxx says

    Why would you go on record as someone so cruel and unsympathetic and vile as to mock even a possibly real victim? It shows sheer callousness and remarkable lack of judgement.

    a) well-poisoning against the very concept that rape victims might have justifiable reasons to stay unnamed;

    b) unsubtle reminder to all the other probable victims out there of how they WILL get treated if they dare come forward to support Jane Doe and the others, if they don’t have ironclad anonymity, or make the mistake of coming forward to someone who’s intentionally or maliciously careless with their privacy.

    c) scoring callous-shit points with the bros.

    (TW for sarcasm that’s all too realistic)

    “Cough up those details and then we’ll believe youuuu! Of course harassment and retaliation aren’t real! You want us to believe you, don’t you?”

    I guess the good news here is that Shermer remembers who the person was that he got drunk at that conference.

    I doubt he narrowed it down after demanding to know who it was and/or details that would either ID the person or narrow the field. More likely other witnesses who want to assist him came forward privately to him. Jane Doe of the Grenade thread says she reported to an organization which brushed her off and did nothing. The most likely “leak” would be whoever did the brushing off. Also, while accounts suggest a long line of victims, relatively few of those victims would have even attempted to report, just by the usual pattern of things. That narrows the field even further from the general victim pool.

    Word is Jane Doe already has legal representation. I hope they’re watching.

  23. says

    What did he do to earn that amount of money? As far I could determine he merely copied almost word for word several of his blog posts as chapters.

    Wait. I’ve seen this before. I have a book sitting there over on my shelf called Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown. It’s described by Booklist as “a dozen of his articles from other sources”. It’s by some guy named Michael Shermer.

  24. shari says

    odd. very.

    For PZ Meyers to get an advance…..for a book of his writings…..that he himself, you know, wrote…..is controversial how? Wasn’t one of Gaiman’s books a collection of his blog posts? i might have to do a re-read, but, there is no smoke here and less fire.

    For the unnamed accuser, I wish you well. Shermer seems to not grasp the gravity of this situation, or else he’d advise well-wishers to stop.talking. This just sounds horribly like a ‘well, if she won’t back down….’ kind of a threat and I am sorry she has to endure this vicious crap just to tell the truth about her experience.

    Does Loftus question his motivation for causing her even more pain?

  25. says

    I notice Shermer has changed his story. In his email to Ian Murphy, he made out that he had no idea who the accuser was:

    I haven’t been charged with anything. An anonymous woman told another anonymous woman to tell PZ Myers that I raped her at some unspecified time in the past at some unspecified conference which was alleged reported to unspecified persons who allegedly covered up whatever it is I allegedly did.

    Now he claims to be sure of who his accuser is. Of course, it’s possible that he’s acquired new information in the meantime, but the difference seems very suspicious.

  26. Martha says

    What yazikus said @ 8. That thing Loftus said – “If what he said about his accuser gets out” – is a blatant, thuggish, vulgar threat.

    Yes. Well put, Ophelia. Shermer’s behavior towards you when you called him on making a sexist comment– something we all do from time to time– makes me believe that Shermer may have actually said something like this, even though Loftus is hardly a trustworthy source.

    I shall remain strong against the temptation to click the Loftus link. After all, I just ate.

  27. Sili says

    The whole bit about the book advance just reads like so much painful envy. It’s certainly an astoundingly clueless grasp of how publishing works, and about the tradition of essayists republishing their work in a collected format goes.

    The ‘work’ is in the initial essays. There’s also a bit of effort in selecting the best bits, ordering them and perhaps editing them in some fashion to make a more cohesive whole; I suspect the latter is less of an issue with most bloggers who publish collections, because they tend to have their particular issues front-and-center, and usually make some effort at continuity in the original pieces.

    There’s also the underlying assumption that that was not what PZed was asked to and promised to do. They assume that he was meant to write a new book rather than collate his essays.

  28. Donnie says

    Has this point been raised? Mr. Loftus has a higher opinion of importance Big Skeptic than I feel is justified. I mean, Mr. Loftus argues, or asserts, that PZ Myers repeated the assertion that Mr. Shermer had an inappropriate encounter of a sexual nature with a female and that PZ did this only to increase PZ’s book sales?

    Really, I would have thought that PZ would have done something grandeur like put a nail through a communion wafer, put a crucifix in his zebra fish tanks, or go on the O’Reilly factor and tell Bill that he was a big poopyhead. You know, something to get the masses of the U.S. up-in-arms.

    Seriously, John Loftus is flailing. And I agree, the edit made on behalf of Big Skeptic is a threat to Jane Doe…point. end of discussion. I hope PZ’s lawyers are now drafting subpoenas for all of John Loftus’ emails dealing with email communications with Big Skeptic.

    Who was that famous person who raped and murdered a person in Texas in 1991?

  29. hjhornbeck says

    Pteryxx @23:

    Word is Jane Doe already has legal representation.

    Ironically, I’ve resisted the temptation to call her “Jane Doe” because it suggests she’s made an accusation via legal means. Sounds like that may not be the case for much longer.

    I somehow missed that detail, too; have a link? If not, no worries.

  30. Pteryxx says

    hjhornbeck: PZ commented to that effect in one of the threads, somewhere around the time that he contacted Popehat for his own legal advice. I don’t recall if it was the deleted thread or one of those still up.

    I just used the term “Jane Doe” to emphasize this particular individual out of all those that have come forward, and because IMHO she deserves to be called by a proper name and not just “the person”, that’s all.

  31. hjhornbeck says

    hyperdeath @26:

    Now he claims to be sure of who his accuser is. Of course, it’s possible that he’s acquired new information in the meantime, but the difference seems very suspicious.

    I’m much more squicked out than suspicious. The unnamed accuser said she didn’t come forward because of fear of reprisal. What did Shermer do? Threaten to sue everyone who published the allegations, intimidate and lash out at the victim, and go out of his way to track her down. He could have had a stronger case if he sat back and walked into that courtroom ignorant; now, he’s almost forced to dragging her through the mud to prove his innocence.

    And has anyone else noticed this odd double-standard:

    PZ Myers publishes allegations from an unnamed woman: fire, brimstone, and lawsuits.
    Dallas Haugh publishes a direct accusation that he was raped by Shermer: silence.

  32. hjhornbeck says

    Pteryxx @31:

    Ah, “Jane Doe” does make sense. I might begin using it. Thanks for the tip, too; I’ll see if I can dig it up, when I get a free moment, it may be worth adding to the timeline.

  33. says

    And has anyone else noticed this odd double-standard:

    PZ Myers publishes allegations from an unnamed woman: fire, brimstone, and lawsuits.
    Dallas Haugh publishes a direct accusation that he was raped by Shermer: silence.

    Well, we haven’t seen any lawsuits yet. We’ve only seen legal posturing including “leaks” that no attorney would want if a suit were actually being filed.

    More to the point, however, I have seen people saying Haugh should be left alone to get the help he needs to recover from a suicide attempt. That seems to be the line that is making the difference. Speaking just for myself, it’s nice to know there are at least some limits in these movements.

  34. imnotandrei says

    Dallas Haugh publishes a direct accusation that he was raped by Shermer: silence.

    I’d noticed that, but figured that the circumstances in which the accusation arose (a suicide note, IIRC; if I am wrong, please let me know) were causing people to be very careful around it.

  35. Randomfactor says

    “If what he said about his accuser gets out”

    …and if it’s true. A BIG “if.”

  36. Pteryxx says

    hjhornbeck: I haven’t been able to find PZ’s comment that I referenced in the threads that are still up. Now I’m fairly sure it would have been in the deleted thread about Shermer’s legal threats, because we started talking about the risk of Jane Doe being forced to testify and whether we needed to be ready to fundraise for her, too. I remember PZ saying something very basic, like ‘Yes, Jane Doe has legal counsel already’ and that was the end of it.

    Again, she’s not known to all of us, but she IS known to PZ. If there’s anything we can do to help her, I’m sure PZ will get her word out.

  37. pneumo says

    Good to see that he is focussing on his target audience.

    “One of the factors in leaving is that my target audience is Christians. It seems as though they don’t visit me here very much at all. I don’t like debating atheists, and that’s what has happened on my blog posts from time to time. So I must focus my efforts on the site where they visit the most, Debunking Christianity.”

    http://www.skepticink.com/debunkingchristianity/2013/07/21/ive-decided-to-leave-sin/

  38. says

    There goes the “anonymous accusation” rhetoric. So it turns out that Shermer knows…

    The thuggish threats should answer the question of why the accuser didn’t want to be named.

  39. says

    If I understand the legal situation here, Shermer may rattle a bit, but doesn’t want to name his accuser.

    * The main thing he has going for him in a defamation suit against PZ is it’s hard for PZ to prove his story is true while protecting his source’s identity. Prove that someone really did tell PZ that Shermer raped her and the case won’t survive summary judgment. He could sue her instead, but she’s probably not famous and he’d have less to gain.
    * To add to the above, Shermer seems to be admitting that he knows someone really did accuse him and PZ didn’t just make it up. That goes against the narrative in his cease-and-desist letters and that most of Shermer’s defenders are using. If he admits PZ was repeating an accusation that was was actually made and acted in good faith, his whole case falls apart without PZ naming anyone. I hope PZ’s lawyer is aware of this communication.
    * If the accuser is identified, he loses the main thing holding her back from giving more details, which will probably only serve to make Shermer look worse. Right now, he can pass this off as a vague, anonymous accusation and he’s better off if it stays that way. Outing her would be a Pyrrhic victory at best.
    * Plus he could get sued for defamation himself if he tries publicly humiliating her. He’s a public figure and she probably isn’t, so he’d be in more legal danger.
    * My suspicion is that Shermer doesn’t know who the accuser is, but has a strong suspicion. This is an attempt to intimidate her by making her think that’s he’s identified her and keep her from coming forward with any more to avoid reprisal. His slimy insinuation that he could cause serious damage is correct, but it wouldn’t work out well for him either, so this is hopefully just a bluff.

  40. says

    Could also be a bald-faced lie on Shermer’s part.

    In other words, Shermer’s defending himself by doing what he is known to do — attack. Whether or not he knows the identity of this victim (I assume she’s one of several), he could be making a broad “bitches be lyin'” claim. In the hopes that he’ll be able to find out who the victim is, and then dig up some dirt on her. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Of course, in the case of rape, anything other than a saintly virgin who goes to church 5 times a day is a whore. There’s bound to be something. Hell, being at a party and accepting wine from Michael Shermer now qualifies as something that can be used against a person.

  41. says

    Dallas Haugh publishes a direct accusation that he was raped by Shermer: silence.

    Dallas himself asked people to make a big deal of it… So I’ve been trying to, but the antis usually ignore and come back to the “anonymous” accusation which is nothing of the sort. Dallas has said he intends to pursue it as far as he can … So I assume legally. We really should be supporting him more as I cannot imagine how shitty it is seeing his community raise thousands of dollars for the rich person who he is accusing.

    I’m not anonymous. I’ve made a very public claim about this and am willing to pursue it to the fullest extent possible.

    http://creativepooping.tumblr.com/post/59070456996/ardent-atheist-a-statement-from-michael-shermer

    I apologize for being a bit blunt, but I was in a bad mood (obviously), and wanted to emphasize that this wasn’t some bizarre ideological conspiracy, but an actual thing that was (and is) happening. Please make a big deal out of it.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/13/do-you-know-the-person-behind-the-tumblr-creative-pooping-who-goes-by-the-name-dallas-haugh/comment-page-1/#comment-671302

    I would happily contribute to a victims fund to take on Shermer in a legal action. What else can we do to “make a big deal” out of Dallas’s case?

  42. says

    He is making a shit-load of money from his blog, speaking appearances and his recent book.

    Where does this come from? I took a major cut moving from scienceblogs to our own network; for the same amount of traffic, I’m bringing in a quarter of what I was doing before…and I willingly chose to take that reduction in income. I don’t get paid for speaking appearances. I got an advance on the book, but when you divide that by the number of years it took to get that to press, it was not a living wage. They love to disparage my position as a professor at a small liberal arts university, but that is my primary source of income — I’m solidly at the lower end of the middle class. My main advantage here is job security and work I enjoy (which are pretty good benefits), not a “shit-load of money”.

    They like to simultaneously claim I’m some inconsequential peon of no particular worth, and a filthy rich profiteer. Their inconsistency is painful to behold.

  43. imnotandrei says

    They like to simultaneously claim I’m some inconsequential peon of no particular worth, and a filthy rich profiteer. Their inconsistency is painful to behold.

    Well, this fits in with your position as Mighty Influential Voice Before Whom All Reputations Must Crumble and Utter Liar That No One Should Ever Believe, at the same time, don’t you know?

  44. Kevin Schelley says

    I wish that they would just switch to calling PZ a poopyhead and be done with it. They don’t like him and they don’t have a cogent argument to back up their assertions, so they might as well just stick to kindergarten name-calling.

  45. Pteryxx says

    I would happily contribute to a victims fund to take on Shermer in a legal action. What else can we do to “make a big deal” out of Dallas’s case?

    A bunch of us would. Dallas mentioned being concerned for his family, though, and personally I hesitate to do more than mentioning him and the others who have come forward in case Shermer decides to go after him too. I would GUESS (emphasis on guess) that the various victims and witnesses probably are in touch with one another right now, some through lawyers, some through trusted intermediaries such as PZ, to coordinate any direct legal action. Dallas would have the best potential case if he can find other victims willing to come forward alongside him.

    The closest comparison I know of is former editor Frenkel at Tor Books, and that was with Tor’s people being receptive and proactive to the formal complaint, AND public naming and community pressure AND complaints of ‘only’ sexual harassment and not assault or rape. (Rape and sexual assault can in fact BE sexual harassment, but sexual harassment can also mean lots of other behaviors less serious than assault or rape.) Background here, here and here.

    But Shermer’s accusers (and Radford’s) have no organizational support at all. No orgs are even following up on any of this that we know of – in fact they’re publicly closing ranks. No lawyers or police are investigating (again, that we know of – it’s only been a couple of weeks and an investigation with no immediate public safety risk or organizational push wouldn’t move THAT fast). And no other organizations or prominent reps have even come forward to make a public statement reiterating their commitment to the safety of their attendees – except possibly for Dave Silverman. (see comment and discussion here.) Scientific American took down Stollznow’s post, ostensibly to make very minor corrections, and AFAICT it still hasn’t gone back up, “corrected” or not.

    But definitely the next step needs to be public, very public, whether it’s support of the next victim (new or not) to make a statement, legal action manifesting, or a wider spread of this story outside the local blogosphere. (I’m sure someone at Salon or Rawstory would probably go for it.) I’d contact Dallas but he’s got no reason to trust me, and he’s recovering.

  46. says

    Several people and groups have expressed interest in helping set up a legal defense fund to help those who report and have legal action taken against them for it. I expect we’ll see one shortly. The situation has got to be trickier for this sort of thing than for benefiting one named individual, like Shermer.

  47. says

    @Jacob Schmidt #1:

    2) Soo… Shermer knows who his accuser is despite her anonymity?
    $10 says Shermer played up a variation of “Bitches be lyin’.”

    Yeah, someone suggested that the “nut-and-slut” defense was in play, and I suspect that’s the most likely scenario.

    This hits a point that I’ve been trying to put into words since the accusation came out, which is the claim by various people on our side that Shermer not knowing who it is suggests that there are a lot of people that it could be. The other alternative is that it suggests that Shermer can’t think of anyone who fits that bill, so you can’t draw much information from that alone.

    But there’s also the option that the victim (and I don’t think this is the case at all–unlike some, I trust PZ and Carrie to vet their friends’ claims) is some stalker or compulsive liar or something. In which case Shermer’s defense could easily have been “Oh, damn, there’s this person who’s been saying stuff like that about me for years, all of it untrue. Here’s a substantiated history of that obsessive/dishonest behavior.”

    For instance, if a Skeptic Ink blogger were to write a post about an anonymous informant who claims Greg Laden published her address as an implicit threat, we’d see a lot of that defense, and for good reason.

    Of course, the problems with that defense are 1) Unless there’s a paper/electron trail, it’s easy to lie about; 2) If you claim it’s Unreliable Person A and it instead turns out to be Person B, that suggests that maybe Person A wasn’t so unreliable and that it’s instead a pattern of behavior; and C) It doesn’t actually mean that the claim is untrue. It may, in fact, suggest that that person made a good target because it would be easy to cast doubt on their future claims by using their past unreliability.

    To the substance of Loftus’s post:
    1) It’s “bald-faced.” This is a bold-faced lie: That was an interesting article and I totally thought it worthwhile to read the whole thing.
    2) A newsroom rookie might know to get both sides of the story. A newsroom rookie might also know that getting a denial from an accused party doesn’t mean you can’t publish the accusations.
    3) As I said previously, Shermer’s response would likely be the same whether he were guilty or innocent: denial. Thus, we can derive no information from that response. To suggest that we must take him at his word, and not take the victim at hers, ignores the statistical reality and stinks of fallacious reasoning and the good ol’ boy network.
    4) What fact-checking has Loftus done on Shermer’s claims? Has he e-mailed PZ to ask for his side of the story before claiming that PZ “recklessly tried to destroy another person’s reputation without regard for fact-checking”?

    The charge against PZ collecting (and editing and tweaking) his blog posts into a book, when the book deal came because of his popularity as a blogger is hilarious both in its desperation and out-of-touch-ness. How is it different from, say, Christopher Hitchens collecting his previously-published essays into a book? I suppose the big difference is that PZ’s only getting paid once for writing them. Just off the top of my head, I know Keith Olbermann, Carl Sagan, Neil Gaiman, Dan Savage, Stephen Jay Gould, Phil Plait, Bill Maher, George Carlin, Martin Gardner, and David Letterman have all released books that were mostly compilations of previous material, and I suspect I’d find lots more on my bookshelves.

    As apfergus notes, Shermer’s on that list too, though I quickly scanned my copy of Science Friction and didn’t see a “portions of this book previously published in” note, not that there necessarily would be one.

    But then, Loftus is the guy who thinks you need specific credentials to blog, that there’s something wrong with wanting a diverse network, and thinks there’s a witch hunt on that will only end when people like Ophelia are “kicked to the curb.” Not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, that one.

  48. says

    @Imnotandrei #46:

    Well, this fits in with your position as Mighty Influential Voice Before Whom All Reputations Must Crumble and Utter Liar That No One Should Ever Believe, at the same time, don’t you know?

    Right, and also “FTBullies must be stopped because they are Nazicommiestasi lynch hunters who are ruining skepticism and forcing their beliefs down our throats and we are Brave Heroes standing up to them” vs. “FTB is dying and in shambles and soon we will walk by all of you laughing at your cardboard blog houses because no one likes or listens to you.”

  49. jenBPhillips says

    John Loftus in a comment re: whether Shermer knows the identity of his accuser:

    ” Initially he didn’t. Then he thought about it and thought he did. Now he tells me he doesn’t. Don’t make too much of this. He’s trying to guess, that’s all, just as anyone would.”

    So, is he just ‘trying to guess’ what kind of explosive dirt he might have on this person, too?
    What???

    Original here:
    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/08/is-pz-myers-demagogue-opportunist-or.html#comment-1017709239

  50. says

    Presumably, out of all the women Shermer got drunk and raped at cons, he only knows of one who made a big fuss about it to the organizers. There are more charitable ways to interpret this, but his reaction to this whole thing hasn’t made him particularly charitable.

  51. says

    So John Loftus says now that Shermer doesn’t know who his accuser is, and thus can’t possibly have anything to say about his accuser, which might cause damage if it gets out? Meaning Loftus didn’t bother to do any fact-checking before publishing an accusation that turns out to be false?

    Quelle surprise.

    One other thing, as someone who edited a college newspaper–a place for newsroom rookies if ever there was one–I instructed my opinion columnists that argument from dictionary definition was generally boring and irrelevant, with few exceptions. Any article that started with “According to Webster’s dictionary” got snipped hard with the editing shears. You know, as long as we’re talking about things a newsroom rookie should know.

  52. Stacy says

    Initially he didn’t. Then he thought about it and thought he did. Now he tells me he doesn’t. Don’t make too much of this. He’s trying to guess, that’s all, just as anyone would.

    In other words, he tried the “nut and slut” gambit, then belatedly realized that, as Ace of Sevens put it:

    …[If] Shermer seems to be admitting that he knows someone really did accuse him and PZ didn’t just make it up. That goes against the narrative in his cease-and-desist letters and that most of Shermer’s defenders are using. If he admits PZ was repeating an accusation that was was actually made and acted in good faith, his whole case falls apart without PZ naming anyone.

    –so now he’s walking back his claim to know who it is.

    What a jackass. I’ll bet his lawyers adore him.

  53. tomh says

    After Shermer’s stupidity was brought to light in that Murphy interview, nothing he says would surprise me.

  54. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Wait, Loftus left the network he helped set up? Says a great deal about both him and them.

  55. thascius says

    @41-Ace of Sevens said “* The main thing he has going for him in a defamation suit against PZ is it’s hard for PZ to prove his story is true while protecting his source’s identity. ” Actually, under the US system PZ doesn’t have to prove anything. If a libel suit goes forward Shermer will have to prove the allegations are false and that PZ either knew they were false or at least strongly suspected it before publishing them. Shermer’s lawyers probably would be entitled to find out her identity in that scenario (of course from what he supposedly told Loftus he already knows who she is.) And with all his public statements I bet his lawyers are tearing their hair out.

  56. tiberiusbeauregard says

    a particular name has been circulating since yesterday morning and if that’s true, it’s going to become a slaughterfest…

  57. says

    a particular name has been circulating since yesterday morning and if that’s true, it’s going to become a slaughterfest…

    You seem happy about that. You might want to check the updates to this post, by the way. Additionally, a name has been circulating since day one. That one is decidedly not correct, no matter how much some people would be thrilled to see that face-off.

  58. says

    @61: The standard in civil cases is preponderance of the evidence. There is precedent that you can’t attribute defamatory statements to unnamed sources and then disclaim any responsibility for the information, so trying to get PZ to prove he actually had a source wouldn’t be a complete legal dead end. I don’t know enough about court procedure to know how likely they’d be to succeed, though. When I took journalism law a few years ago, there were a lot of unclear areas in the law when it came to journalists protecting sources.

  59. Randomfactor says

    a particular name has been circulating since yesterday morning

    Much longer than that. It’s “Shermer.”

  60. hjhornbeck says

    Zvan @63:

    You might want to check the updates to this post, by the way. Additionally, a name has been circulating since day one. That one is decidedly not correct, no matter how much some people would be thrilled to see that face-off.

    Aww, you should have let the SlymePit keep repeating that name. I wager that’s where Shermer got it from.

  61. jenBPhillips says

    Gee, is anyone still unclear about why an assault or harassment victim might not choose to come forward?

  62. spike13 says

    Jen #67
    Exactly,
    Everyone should be judged by their actions and words, not their reputations

  63. says

    I think Thunderf00t did a good job in the video, so judge it by the merits of his arguments, not whether you dislike him.

    Is Thunderf00t providing some special investigation or analysis not available elsewhere? Because if he’s not offering some unique insight but you’re choosing him as your go-to reference anyway, you’re unnecessarily tarring yourself with his reputation.
    Is it ad hominem to dismiss Thunderf00t’s commentary out of hand based on his history? Perhaps… but a given history can sure make for a reliable predictor as to the likely merits of future commentary. (Ad hominem isn’t always fallacious.)

    To be fair, as unpleasant as I found it, I give the video a quick go. Within 30 seconds he’d declared PZ Myers had posted a rape accusation for blog hits. (Not “might have”; blog hits was the reason.) Like the shitstorm that results from doing so (for PZ personally, and others) would be in any way worth the brief bump in page hits it generates. I stopped there.

    This part tells us a lot:

    I think Michael Shermer is too important of an ally

    Whereas PZ is

    a loose cannon on deck and should be further and further marginalized, even if the anonymous rumor turns out to be true

    And what should happen with Shermer, “even if the anonymous rumor turns out to be true”? Or is he “too important an ally” for it to matter either way?

    If what he said about his accuser gets out

    Oh really? What could Shermer possibly have to say about his unknown, anonymous accuser that could be of any import? Unless the woman is not in fact unknown to him, which undermines his arguments so far.

    Before publishing it PZ Myers should have contacted Shermer for his side to the story.

    Why? What possible response could be expected apart from denial or silence?

    Initially he didn’t. Then he thought about it and thought he did. Now he tells me he doesn’t.

    Soooo… “what he said about his accuser” was just made up bullshit then, was it? Given he doesn’t actually know who it is after all, it must be.

    Don’t make too much of this.

    You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

  64. sawells says

    It’s increasingly, painfully clear that the reaction over the “It’s a guy thing” issue was a honking great red flag for how Shermer really thinks about women. We should have paid more attention.

    It’s like if you tell someone they have ketchup on their tie and they respond “IT’S NOT BLOOD! WHY WOULD I HAVE BLOOD ON MY TIE?!” Well, I didn’t think it _was_ blood, but _now_ I expect to see the police excavating your backyard pretty soon.

    So here, when he was told “That thing you said was a bit sexist” and the response was “I AM NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM A MISOGYNIST”… well, here we are.

  65. francesc says

    @51
    “If you claim it’s Unreliable Person A and it instead turns out to be Person B, that suggests that maybe Person A wasn’t so unreliable and that it’s instead a pattern of behavior”
    I was thinking the same. Imagine the situation:
    – You know, Sarah and I had a date and she was furious when I didn’t call back the next day
    -Uhm… it wasn’t Sarah
    – Must be Helen then, she was tipsy and didn’t remember letting me in in her room
    -…
    – Joanne? Definitely Joanne, that bitch said she would get revenge when I forced her to try a different position

  66. sawells says

    @72: I’m wondering how an actual court case would go under their rules. Every time a witness took the stand and gave testimony, the defence would claim that, since their client hadn’t been found guilty yet, the witness was committing libel.

  67. says

    @Kagato: Ad hominem is always fallacious, but what you’re saying isn’t ad hominem. Ad hominem is saying “[aspect of person’s character], therefore they’re wrong.” There’s a big difference between that and saying “[aspect of person’s character], so I don’t trust them.” The latter is ethos, and is why no skeptic’s going to take advice from Mike Adams or Kevin Trudeau without some significant corroboration.

  68. says

    Initially he didn’t. Then he thought about it and thought he did. Now he tells me he doesn’t. Don’t make too much of this. He’s trying to guess, that’s all, just as anyone would.

    Shorter version: Loftus is starting to realize that he and his buddy Shermer don’t have jack shit.

  69. says

    Might have been brought up in the comments in Jason’s post, but if you’re reading this Loftus, you should know that publishing someone else’s personal email to you on a blog post, unless you have explicit permission to do so, and particularly when it pertains to legal matters such as, say, (potential) defamation litigation, is almost certainly a very bad idea.

  70. John Phillips, FCD says

    Well I thought I would read Loftus’ piece, just to be fair to him after all the comments here about it. But oh boy. He really, and I mean really, really, really doesn’t like PZ any more and his obvious envy over ‘rolling in it PZ’ just oozes out of the page. How sad.

  71. says

    But seriously – I think that’s what sawells meant by ‘the reaction over the “It’s a guy thing” issue’ – Shermer’s reaction to my criticism of that in a column for Free Inquiry.

    And, also seriously, I think his reaction in fact was a honking great red flag for a lot of people. It was surprising. It surprised me, it surprised a lot of people.

  72. sawells says

    @79 , @81 – Exactly, it was his massive over-reaction to being called out that was weird. It becomes more understandable now, if he actually thinks of women mostly as trophies but was trying not to let that slip in public.

  73. says

    Jacob Schmidt

    1) ‘Cause no guilty party would ever deny guilt.

    It actually reminds me of when Anthony Weiner came on the Rachel Maddow show, denying up and down that he did anything wrong. This was a guy whom I favorably regarded, and couldn’t believe would do stuff like that.

    Denials have less effect on me nowadays.

  74. says

    Wow, Shermer doesn’t know how to shut up. His high priced lawyers must be pleased. He’s giving the prosecution a lot of cross examination fodder should he take the stand in a criminal trial.

    Also, the inconsistency of the story is precious. It almost like Loftus has checked his brain at the front desk and is using his Shermer seeing stone to read from the truth tablets. Did the angel Moroni say that Shermer just put her in bed to sleep it off and somebody came into the room and raped her while he went to get some ice?

  75. Sean Morgan says

    Loftus has a long history of smearing women…in his books! In WIBA he blames his ex wife or his affair with a co worker because his ex wife “lacked passion”.

    Imagine saying that about the mother of your children in a book like that.

    And he blames the woman he had the affair with for tempting him with her “ex stripper body” and for being a slut.

    Later, Loftus himself was accused of rape.

    He thinks he looks innocent because no charges were ever brought.

    This is all in the First Chapter of Why I Became An Atheist…and he must be being truthful about that, too.

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