Mother Jones today published an article about “Elevatorgate”. No, not the backlash Rebecca Watson has been receiving for more than two years now. Reporter Dana Liebelson wrote about the pseudonymous fellow with that Twitter handle (now, apparently, permanently suspended by Twitter after the publicity it’s been receiving) and former blog title who has been trying to inflict harm on Rebecca Watson for more than two years now. The part of the backlash who named himself after the whole.
The occasion of the article is Elevatorgate’s recent forays into “documenting” feminists outside the skeptical and secular movements through Storify. With more people (and more high-profile people) complaining, Storify’s president has had to take notice. He hasn’t done it well (Voltaire! Ergo there are no limits to free speech!), but he is maybe, possibly getting better.
What sets apart Liebelson’s article, however, is that Elevatorgate reached out through an “intermediary” who says they “work with elevatorgate” to give his take on what he’s doing. The only person I know of who works with Elevatorgate is Edie Kendel, a Florida woman who goes by AmbrosiaX on Twitter.
If the person who contacted Liebelson wasn’t AmbrosiaX, it might even have been Elevatorgate himself. Either way, the document provided (briefly) to Liebelson is from Elevatorgate’s point of view. From the Mother Jones article:
In response to questions from Mother Jones, a person claiming to “work with elevatorgate” provided access to a Google document in which elevatorgate addressed allegations that he has harassed women through Storify and other social networks—before later revoking access to the document. ”We’ve decided this story isn’t for us,” the intermediary emailed. “If you would like a villain for your piece, I would recommend finding somebody who is actually guilty of something. There are far worse people out there than a man who Storifies people’s tweets.”
In the Google doc briefly viewed by Mother Jones, elevatorgate wrote that he does not use his real name on social media because doing so could make him a target of harassment.
Yes, the fellow with now approximately 7,400 Storify “stories” on that account is worried about being targeted for harassment. Yes, I know.
Where this gets interesting, however, is that the Google doc that was only temporarily available to Liebelson is still public, or another copy of it is (pdf in case it gets locked down). Some other choice bits:
Q: What do you use Storify for?
A: To collate public tweets. Particularly to collate evidence of wrong doings, for example, violent rhetoric.
This, of course, is why he does things like Storifying people talking about vegan food. It’s not harassment. Vegan food is a known deadly toxin.
Q: Is it true that you collect hundreds of Tweets from women involved in atheist and feminist communities? Why do you focus on them?
A: I collect tweets from a wide variety of people, including people who I follow, and follow me back on twitter. Funny conversations. Interesting conversations etc. There is no focused effort to “taunt” specific women. Some may appear in more stories than others, but that’s because they tweet a lot and are central figures in the communities they represent. They are publishing their views publicly. Just like any other medium, they can’t expect not to be commented on in a public space.
That’s why he calls Surly Amy “Lamey” and Melody Hensley “Smellody”. That’s why he talks about “madfems” and “fadfems”. But there’s no intent to taunt.
It’s why he does this having called himself at various times “Brave Hero” and “The Saviour of JREF”. But there’s no focus.
There’s more, about how he can’t be stalking people because he’s just monitoring what they do in public, as though stalkers didn’t get obsessive about that until their targets start hiding, as though Elevatorgate laid off of Jen when she went quiet or Melody when she made her account private. But there’s something more interesting to note here.
This is Elevatorgate’s Storify account (“BH” for “Brave Hero”), though it isn’t his Elevatorgate Storify account. I can tell because the website listed there (http://bit.ly/elevatorgate-storify) links to the Google doc I’ve just been quoting from (pdf in case this changes). So we now know that self-styled “journalist”, Elevatorgate is the person behind the @wiscfi “parody” Twitter feed. That was the feed that was directing people away from the HashSpamKiller during CFI’s Women in Secularism 2 conference. I’m not sure how interfering with a conference is supposed to be journalism. The account has since been suspended based on complaints, just like Elevatorgate’s main account is.
Then there’s this account.
Yes, having one Twitter account pretending to be the Center for Inquiry wasn’t enough. He needed two, both of them Storifying. This one is connected to the @Centre4Inquiry Twitter account. This one was also active during the conference. If you scroll back on the Storify to May, you’ll see that this account was using CFI’s actual logo during the conference, when it tweeted that those trying to follow the conference should use this blog to catch up.
That is not the Women in Secularism website. It’s a site that, like the Storify accounts, is used to post pictures and ugly commentary about the women Elevatorgate targets and the (not-so-incidentally feminist) men who work with them. That site, at its old address, revealed one detail that will no longer surprise anyone. The blog is authored by Elevatorgate.
Then there’s his @GraniteBench Twitter account (named after the American Atheists installation in Florida), which was suspended until today. That leads to another Storify account, which links back to the Elevatorgate blog and another Twitter account that is apparently being held in reserve.
So, if you thought one hashtag-camping, name-calling, obsessively Storifying account was bad–well, you’re right about that, but it isn’t anywhere near the whole story. The bits I’ve shown here aren’t likely close to the whole story either. If you’re a reporter looking to cover Elevatorgate properly, there’s some digging to be done. The results aren’t going to be pretty either.