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In Which I Harass Someone Off the Internet

Or, How Stories Change

Yesterday, someone pointed me to a tweet aimed at Elyse Anders of Skepchick. To put the tweet in context, Ben Radford posted a picture on his Facebook wall Saturday night, claiming it was a retraction from Karen Stollznow of her sexual harassment and assault allegations against him. Elyse made some angry comments on his wall and some angry tweets because the statement was unsigned and uncorroborated by Stollznow, yet people were taking it at face value. (You can read how all that played out here.)

The next morning, Elyse found a bunch of the ugly messages in her Twitter replies that many female skeptics receive if they suggest that accused harassers shouldn’t immediately and automatically be believed. To quote a few:

@dELYSEious is really ANGRY and RAGING TEARS. Watch her timeline for #lulz. #FTBullies #thecrazee

@dELYSEious Hey nutjob: Have another wine box. Won’t make your Radford pain go away, but the walking into shit will distract you. #ftbullies

@SpongyPissFlap Anything but more nude photos of @dELYSEious. Looked like a used condom draped over an ugly stick. #ftbullies

Yes @dELYSEious, Westboro Baptist Church just lost its leader, but I think it’s too soon for you to apply. via @Mykeru

Hey, @dELYSEious are you going to have those pendulous folds of skin tucked up, or just toss it nonchalantly over your shoulder?

@pzmyers @dELYSEious The moral of the story is that you both are miserable and should focus on yourselves & not guessing about other lives.

@dELYSEious Like seeing you naked, for example?

@dELYSEious Yeah, this really ain’t the time to be making potentially costly accusations with hubby on the dole and a wine habit like yours.

.@dELYSEious What the hell is wrong with you? It’s time for you to get off twitter and get some help @AmandaDevaus

@davidgaliel That’s no excuse. @dELYSEious has waged a vicious defamatory campaign against @BTRadford She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t sue her.

Those last two are from EllenBeth Wachs. The two before that, about the torture of seeing Elyse naked and about the fact that she drinks wine and is married to someone who was recently laid off, are from people Elyse hadn’t previously blocked, so she saw those. She addressed them on Twitter, then tweeted about receiving these messages being exhausting. I can verify that, by the way. I find them tiring, and I’m not raising kids while coping with them. Elyse has my sympathy, and she knows that.

Wachs*, however, reacted to Elyse’s observation differently.

Picture of tweet that contains a picture of another tweet. Text of both tweets included in the post.

Elyse Anders: Skipping my celebration of my accomplishments because the emotional demands of being a woman on the internet left me physically ill/injured.

EllenBeth Wachs: Someone (@dELYSEious) forgets that it was her women friends that bullied me off the internet last year #ftbullies pic.twitter.com/E2oVSFajw8

Setting aside Wachs’ suggestion that Elyse deserves to be injured for something her friends do, because what can you say to that but “Ugh!”, I find it fascinating that Wachs suggests that Elyse forgot that. I say, “fascinating”, because not only did never happen, but Wachs has previously told this story. What she said then doesn’t even come close to what she says now.

So let’s compare the stories. Once upon a time, Wachs wrote a rather jumbled post that was nominally about resigning from Secular Woman (which managed to mislead a number of people on that score) but included complaints about an unrelated Facebook support group she, I, and Elyse had all been a part of. The relevant text:

My second mistake was thinking that these people actually cared for me. The longer I stayed in the group, the more it became obvious that most of them only cared for themselves. I don’t begrudge a bit of narcissism. I think we all need to have selfish, self-centered tendencies to survive. When the self takes over to the point that you ignore the needs of those around you, it’s a rather ugly picture.

[...]

When I was viciously attacked on the Pharyngula thread, I posted in the support group asking for help. With that knowledge, Stephanie Zvan, shut me down cold stating in no uncertain terms that I was not to bring that issue to that group. In other words, the group was only for support for when OTHERS i.e slymepitters attacked. I abided by her request but another member opened the thread up for discussion. Stephanie also came onto the Pharyngula thread and tried to shut me down there.

After the emotional damage was done and I flounced from the thread, I left all social media. Well, more accurately, I didn’t respond. I monitored it.

Now, there are a number of inaccuracies there. Wachs received plenty of support in that group and from me on issues that she mentions in the post, issues that have nothing to do with the slime pit. Someone she described as her stalker, who definitely evinced an unhealthy hatred of her and nursed a grudge against her, made contact with a magazine editor. Wachs was terrified that he would tell convincing but false stories about her, so I wrote an email to the editor encouraging skepticism and pointed them to places online where the guy’s extremism was easily visible. I’ve also deleted comments he’s left about her here on this blog.

Additionally, my comment at Pharyngula happened before Wachs commented in the support group. Here is the damning comment:

EllenBeth, stop. You’re defending the politically powerful (the conference organization) from the politically powerless (the attendee) here. You’re in the position of demanding something you can only, rightfully, ask for because of the rest of the context of the situation. This is a very bad time and place for that.

(More information about demanding instead of asking.) If you look at the thread, you can see why it was a bad time and place. A fellow by the ‘nym of Matthew Best was doing his damnedest to rile up the place and succeeding. By the time I made that comment, people were already referring to him as emotionally abusive. In that emotional atmosphere, no one was going to have a quiet and thoughtful discussion over Wachs’ defense of the good name of conferences, even if she wasn’t being her natural, abrasive self. But she was, and nothing good was going to come of it, so I tried to warn her off. Instead, she defended Best.

She didn’t respond to or acknowledge my comment there. Instead, she went to the support group and posted something along the lines of “Those folks at Pharyngula really can’t stand to be disagreed with, can they?” If you’ve been following along for any period of time, you’ll recognize that comment as a standard slime pit meme.

My reaction to a slimepit meme being introduced to a group set up to support some of the people targeted with their memes? I admit, it creeped me out. Still, to the best of my recollection, my response was “Don’t do that here.” Then there was a discussion in which others sympathized with the fact that she wasn’t being heard in the Pharyngula thread. I was coping with other things, including being creeped out, on my own where she didn’t have to deal with them too. Then she sat back and watched social media for a few days.

This, boys and girls, is how I bullied EllenBeth Wachs off the internet.

You can see an abbreviated discussion about both the editor letter and the exchange in the support group in the comments on Wachs’ post from almost a year ago. In the months since then, I have apparently multiplied in Wachs’ mind to become “friends” of Elyse rather than one friend. Me saying a discussion was impossible to have and me telling her not to post a slime pit meme in a support group have become bullying.

And it’s totes okay to punish Elyse for that.

No.

*At one time, I would have called her “EllenBeth”, but I don’t recognize the person I thought I knew in this behavior.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    How long until somebody posts somewhere

    I bullied EllenBeth Wachs off the internet. – Stephanie Zvan

    ?

    I give it until midnight, max.

  2. rnilsson says

    Your success in chasing her off the internet seems to be limited.
    I just don’t get this kind of behaviour. I think that’s a good thing.

  3. says

    Not for nothing, but ideas like “bullied off the Internet” along with “silenced” and “censored” don’t see to mean remotely like what the words would mean to an outside, objective observer. *shrugs* I guess that’s professional/organized skepticism for you: lying/making things up to excuse abusive behavior towards people you dislike.

  4. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I’ve got to say, of all the bizarre occurrences throughout this schism, what happened with EllenBeth is amongst the strangest – to go from being on the receiving end of some truly vile (even by their standards) treatment by the slymepit to joining their ranks after what amounts to little more than harsh words at Pharyngula is something I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend.

    But this illustrates she’s certainly gotten her head around their first principle, that of false equivalence.

  5. says

    What the blazing fuck. And I thought that renowned manga-tracer was a train wreck of narcissistic persecution fantasies.

    So, being told “hey, don’t talk like (A) in context (B)” is being bullied off the internet … but years of hatred, sexualised abuse, unapologetic harassment, stalking and threats of violence (and attendant defence and enthusiastic cheerleading of same from the sidelines) is just something that happens in the course of robust debate and if you can’t take it you shouldn’t say anything at all that people might disagree with – and don’t feed the trolls because you know what will happen – and you’ll bring it on yourself – and what were you wearing at the time of the tweet in question? Or something?

    These people display less self-awareness and introspection than – and about as much rank hypocrisy as – creationists and presuppositionalists.

  6. Rational Feminist says

    Wachs is a pustule on the ass of humanity. Many know her to be a liar and more. Yet, there is complete silence regarding her, her abusive nature, and her wrongdoings. She was like that before her most recent incarnation, she is like that now, and she will continue to be that way in the future.

  7. Sassafras says

    Hank_Says @5 –

    And I thought that renowned manga-tracer was a train wreck of narcissistic persecution fantasies.

    If you go to EllenBeth’s tweet that Stephanie linked to, you get to see them make the claim that people are trying to bully the manga-tracer off the internet, too. Apparently quoting someone’s attacks and insults is bullying them now.

  8. says

    An alternative explanation I guess could be that she’s just folded all of pharyngula and Secular Woman into “Elyse’s friends”, based on the entirely sensible logic that SOME people at Skepchick are friends with SOME people at Pharyngula and also with SOME people at SW and therefore the people who were mean to her are friends with Elyse.

  9. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Sassafras wrote:

    Apparently quoting someone’s attacks and insults is bullying them now.

    They’re using the Christian homophobe definition of bullying, which is “Anyone criticising me for being a bigoted asshole.” And it comes with the same stench of pathetic, whining pissantry.

  10. carlie says

    The sheer volume of revisionist history being engaged in by that whole group is getting to be quite frightening.

  11. R Johnston says

    @10: Alas, Wachs has both had her shit called and been the victim of harassment. If her experience hasn’t taught her the difference then she’s not likely to ever be able to learn it.

  12. says

    Sassafras @7:

    Apparently quoting someone’s attacks and insults is bullying them now.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if these idiots walked up to mirrors and smashed them, saying “How dare you accurately display my behaviour!”

  13. says

    Related to Improbable Joe @ 3, I think part of the problem is that when they start from the position that claims of harassment, silencing, and etc are ridiculous, it’s a short stretch to then using those same terms flippantly. Like a form of (attempted) mockery, mostly based on misunderstanding terms. It happens on plenty of other topics too.

  14. carlie says

    What does that even mean?! Usually making someone blink means you made them back down. You explained all the ways she was wrong – how is that any form of backing down?

  15. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    carlie wrote:

    You explained all the ways she was wrong – how is that any form of backing down?

    Who the heck knows? These assclowns consider any acknowledgement of their existence to be a ‘win’, whether it be to try and claim some kind of moral/intellectual superiority or, alternatively, evidence of their being ‘bullied’. Perhaps one day they’ll realise how transparent (and transparently dishonest) it is.

    It’s probably be the same day when EllenBeth realises just how little Mykeru and his scumbag friends actually think of her beyond her value as a tool.

  16. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    And yet there she still is, posting on the internet. You’re a piss poor and inefficient bully, Stephanie XD

  17. thetalkingstove says

    Does she often pal around with Mykeru? That guy is seriously, relentlessly cruel and sadistic. But I guess he never committed the ultimate crime of disagreeing with her on Pharyngula, so it’s all good?

  18. says

    Her hanging around with Mykeru is bizarre, the guy was part of the pit-clique who spread around her stalkers lies and even the fundamentalist christian sheriffs bollocks about her “sex noises” in front of children. All clearly manufactured to discredit her, but taken as most likely true by the pitters when she was criticising them!

    Anyway I recommend people don’t say anything hyperbolic or rude about her here (Up to you if you are angry with her, just my 2 cents). She obviously had a serious issue with the “pile-on” at Pharyngula and her narrative has changed to an FTBullies one after a couple of commenters were nasty to her. Anything new will just reinforce that victim narrative. To be clear she is a victim of a nasty interaction with a few commenters, one of which apologised. But now every mention of her, even if it’s to correct her clearly false statements, is a continuation of that victimisation in her eyes.

    I have my own experience where I was apparently so abusive she had to block me on Twitter. I guess this is a get-back or her argument against the block bot, irony that the person who created it is the most abusive person on Twitter, gasp! I personally don’t see it, but I documented all our interactions here -> http://storify.com/ool0n/i-m-an-abuser-this-time

    Interesting going right back to when the Slymetwits were spreading the lies from the xtian fundie sheriff, calling her a “Wacho” drunk, a racist who calls PoC “Darkies” etc etc etc. All rubbish manufactured by the pit to discredit her when she was criticising them. But that is nothing compared to the abuse of being rudely called out on her inaccurate statements, apparently. I guess it was the usual obvious bullshit from the harassers at the pit so maybe easier to deal with on some level. But I remain amazed by her volte face.

  19. says

    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk, I know that’s meant to just be funny, but, for example, Rebecca Watson’s still around. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t been seriously harassed.

  20. says

    Damn, I love your calm, fact-based refutations of these people. You’d think after a while they’d figure out that you’re not going to let them get away with these shenanigans.

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