D. J. Grothe, Psychopath?


A funny thing happened nearly two and a half years ago. When I say “funny”, I mean the kind of thing where the principals get together years later, look each other in the eye, and laugh because what the hell else are they going to do?

In early January 2012, after months of hesitation, I wrote a post about three incidents involving JREF president D. J. Grothe’s reactions to pseudoscientific rape apologia, child sex trafficking, and misogynist, threatening comments aimed at a feminist blogger. I pointed out that Grothe, in each case, had stepped in to defend the anti-feminist actions in question and suggested he needed to take a look at that trend.

The response from him at the time was the now-infamous chant of “Doin’ it for the pageviews!”. The response a few months down the road was to blame me, among others, for the decline in female attendance at The Amazing Meeting, an assertion that was contradicted in the very thread where his comments were left. The ongoing response has mostly been futilely derogatory, vague comments on Facebook and Twitter and blocking anyone who might have an interest in discussing those comments skeptically in public.

The responses from people other than Grothe, however, were enlightening. There was the usual back-and-forth of “Thank you for speaking up publicly” versus “How dare you say bad things about a public figure?”, but I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the people who have known Grothe personally.

I’m talking about people who have worked with him or for him. I’m talking about people who considered him a friend or an ally. I’m talking about some people who have since said these things publicly and others who will probably never be able to afford to speak up. I’m talking about an awful lot of people, enough that I wondered why no one had been in a position to warn me when I set out to write about Grothe.

Photo of D. J. Grothe speaking at TAM 2011.

Photo by Sciguy881. In the public domain.

Their stories were enlightening in that they almost always contained two elements, along with the story of whatever specific way Grothe had been horrible. They almost all involve a warning–“D. J. is a bad guy; don’t trust him”–that was overlooked on a temporary basis because Grothe was charming and plausible in person, and they almost all involve the word “psychopath” being applied to Grothe.

Several people brought the word up spontaneously. Others reached a point in the conversation where they dithered and fretted over being believed when discussing the blatancy of his misbehavior. When I told one of them that “psychopath” had come up in previous conversations, the response was (I paraphrase), “Yes! That sounds so melodramatic, but that’s really the kind of behavior I’m talking about here.” So I started mentioning that to people when these conversations hit that point. The response has frequently been grateful. When it has been something other than entirely positive, it’s been hesitation to diagnose as a non-professional.

Nor can I diagnose Grothe as a psychopath, a person with antisocial personality disorder. I don’t have the training, the licensing or the access to Grothe it would require. If I did, I’d be bound by confidentiality standards to not talk to you about it.

I do, however, understand the impulse to put a name to the dichotomy that is Grothe. It’s an easy thing, particularly for people who haven’t been victimized this way before, to let yourself be led into the circle of charm. It’s hard to feel all that warmth–the focused attention, the soothing voice, the little intimate-but-not-too-intimate touches on the shoulder or the arm–and not feel he thinks you’re special. It is confusing when someone you believe thinks you’re special, someone you believe is your friend, starts to act against you while still acting like your friend. It’s very, very difficult to believe that someone will tell you lies, or tell lies about you in public, that are easily contradicted by the documents you have in hand–while still acting like your friend.

Grothe still does all that, though. There’s no polite way to say it. He lies, publicly and privately, boldly and blatantly, in the face of evidence, to and about people who trust him. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Most recently, we have the lie that Grothe didn’t know who had run the clinics at TAM and didn’t have their contact information. This was seven months after he’d been forced by bad publicity to release the report that came from the the same organization that sponsored those clinics, Women Thinking, Inc. According to Jamie, the author of the report:

The guy who was trying to get in touch with us actually found a business card I gave him a couple years ago and called me up today and I talked to him for awhile giving advice for the vaccine clinic he wants to do.

He told me he had spoken with DJ Grothe but DJ told him he had no idea who was involved with the past TAM vax clinics and had no idea how to get ahold of us. Luckily he found my business card and also made his way to Skepchick where he sent us a message via the contact form.

I wonder how many other people may have asked DJ the same question and then given up when he said he has no idea who we are.

Then, when Jamie tweeted about the incident, the JREF Twitter account responded:

JREF: @UAJamie @dELYSEious Bizarrely untrue. A Doctor contacted JREF after unsuccessfully trying repeatedly to reach your org Women Thinking.

JREF: @UAJamie @dELYSEious We had no other info for you than he did. No one pretended not knowing who you were. Bonkers for you to say that.

JREF: @UAJamie @dELYSEious The doctor is just as confused by the utter nonsense you’re saying as we are. But glad he finally got through to you.

It seems he knows exactly how to contact members of Women Thinking, including Jamie, who ran the vaccination clinics, since JREF did exactly that when it suited him. Yet he still went on to claim otherwise to Liz Ditz.

Subsequently I received a private Facebook message from DJ Grothe, in which he claimed not to have contact information for either Elyse Anders or Jamie Bernstein, despite the years of close contact between JREF and both women. He also accused them of “lying” and misrepresented other matters of fact.

It’s seeing that kind of lying in the face of clear evidence to the contrary that makes people go back and check that their facts are straight. And it persists in the face of people pointing out that it’s self-contradictory.

MistressOfFrog@jref @UAJamie @dELYSEious You mean, like this twitter address? Or Skepchick.org? or Google?

JREF: @MistressOfFrog He had that (the Skepchick form is something he apparently tried). Such bizarre commitment to seeing villainy. @UAJamie

Because if you pretend that no one has mentioned the communication channel on which you’re communicating, it magically evaporates. Or something.

Then there’s the tweet right after that with the claim that Jamie said Elyse was running a “fake” Twitter account.

Remember the Women Thinking, Inc. report on their vaccination survey? Remember how Grothe tried to hold it hostage to Sasha Pixlee retracting his harassment allegation against Grothe? One of the things that came out at the time was that Grothe had a history of lying about having sent the things that needed to come from him to keep the project moving.

I happen to have a copy of the correspondence, sent to me when people who had put effort into the report didn’t know how much bad publicity it would take to shake the report loose from JREF. It backs up Jamie Bernstein’s account, though checks are the clearest culprit, dated several days to a week after Grothe claimed they were sent. But, hey, everybody lies about checks and then doesn’t bother to backdate them, right? The checks aren’t the interesting part of that folder.

That “fake” Twitter account accusation? Funny thing about that. It came up in the Women Thinking correspondence that I have. It was one of those things Grothe was apparently holding the report hostage to. It went like this:

On April 2, 2012, Grothe sent an email to the Women Thinking board; Jamie; Brian Thompson (working for JREF at the time); three Skepchicks, including Rebecca; and the TAM mailing list. I assume the last was a mailing list for those involved in planning TAM. He was forwarding an accusation from his partner, Thomas (who, for some reason, has a JREF email account even though he’s not listed as staff anywhere), that he’d “caught” Elyse and Sasha Pixlee creating (“or at least involved with them somehow”) a new Twitter account. Grothe’s suggestion was that if anyone with Women Thinking were involved, it would be bad for working together. The implication was also that it would be ingratitude on the part of Women Thinking. The word “divisive”, which we’ve all come to hear at the topmost range of our hearing, was used.

The exchange that followed involved a lot of “Why are you telling me this?” The best answer Grothe had was that someone had told him Elyse and Sasha were involved with another Twitter account, and saying things about TAM was bad for their working relationship.

However, there is also a side email exchange just between Grothe and Jamie. It comes after they’ve had a call to discuss his accusations about Twitter accounts. Not only has Jamie not told Grothe that Elyse ran the Angry Skeptic Man accounts, but she talks about being concerned that rumors to that effect were “being taken so seriously”. Grothe references “a number of folks” who had told him Elyse and Sasha were behind the account. After talking to Jamie, he was worried about retweets from Elyse and Sasha, not tweets.

Not only did Jamie not tell Grothe Elyse was running that account, she appears to have reassured him otherwise. Saying anything else later is just one more flat-out lie in the face of contrary evidence.

Of course, we have Grothe’s best-known public lie. Remember those “on [no] reports of such harassment the last two TAMs while I’ve been at the JREF“? Remember Lee deLay and their friend, who each reported “over a full page of incidents” at the prior TAM, who spoke to Grothe directly, and who couldn’t get a response from JREF after their report was filed? Another lie, easily contradicted. The only difference with this one is that it happened to be very public.

Speaking of lies that are already public, there’s also:

There are more, I’m sure, but that’s off the top of my head.

So why am I beating on this drum? Why lay out the little lies? Why bring the big ones up again?

Grothe is threatening to lie again. This time, he’s threatening to lie about Pamela Gay* in a way that carries the very strong possibility of destroying her career in science.

Today I received the following threat from the person I thought was my friend, the person who intervened for me, person B. It was in the context of trying to get me to say nothing ever happened. He wrote, “I will also publicly speak about this as necessary, providing all documentation as necessary, including photos, emails, etc., and contact all relevant employers, as well.”

Gay doesn’t use Grothe’s name, but other people have made enough details of what happened public that there is no doubt about who she’s talking about. Some of these were details they heard from Grothe himself about the incident Gay wrote about last year. Some of those Gay probably doesn’t even know we know, like the presence the two recordings, because the discussion of them happened in a friends-only Facebook conversation that has only been quoted publicly in part.

But let there be no mistake. “Person B” is D. J. Grothe. He has privately contacted Pamela Gay to coerce her to make a public statement that Michael Shermer did not “lunge” at her breasts at Dragon*Con in 2008. He has threatened that if she doesn’t, he will start contradicting her in public, providing “documentation”, and contacting the employer who already made her life hell for simply discussing the fact that women face harassment.

Grothe has threatened this in the face of recordings that are in the hands of people who used to like him until they found out he won’t treat harassment seriously. He has threatened to do this despite the fact that his photographic “evidence” has already been seen, having been dug up by the slime pit and passed around by a “helpful idiot”, and is entirely consistent with Gay’s tale of making the best of bad things because it is dangerous to object. He has threatened to do this despite his own employee (yes, Drescher is still employed by JREF) talking about how Shermer’s assault was common knowledge. He has threatened to do this in the face of possible perjury charges.

And he’s threatened Gay privately while claiming in public that her story had already been discredited, then refusing to answer someone who asked about it.

iamcuriousblue: Rage bloggers now claiming is covering up evidence of Shermer harassment

DJGrothe: Typical discredited insanity. But TAM is coming up, so it’s predictable as clockwork.

MistressOfFrog: Discredited? You deny Shermer ever tried to grope a speaker?

MistressOfFrog: [the next day] Your answer would make a world of difference, here.

There is still no answer. The closest he’s come to an answer, a suggestion to iamcuriousblue that Carrie Poppy isn’t to be believed because she claimed to have resigned from the JREF over something that happened after she left, is easily disconfirmed by following the source link in the post he links to as proof of his claim. Poppy said, “Yet, it was very clear by the time I left that my continuing to work there was being complicit in unethical behavior, including the kind of behavior of which Dr. Stollznow is now on the receiving end.” Emphasis mine. One more lie easily dismissed by checking the–public–source material.

Yet still Grothe makes the claim. Still he threatens the woman who spoke out about being harassed.**

The fact that his words are so easily refuted each time only does so much good in keeping his lies from spreading. There is an audience for what he has to say that isn’t interested in following his links back to real information. They aren’t interested in questioning why he linked a secondary account instead of the primary source. They aren’t interested in anything more than grabbing a quick hit of confirmation and dropping the topic the moment someone questions him.

Of course, Grothe wouldn’t even have had to convince these people if he could have intimidated Gay into changing her story. But he couldn’t. He can’t even stop her from making the story public before he could.

So now maybe he lies about her, publicly and to her employer. Maybe he points at pictures and project plans and uses the Radford defense, saying Shermer couldn’t have assaulted Gay because she was nice to Shermer afterward. Grothe’s willing dupes would certainly take up the story and do his smear work from there. Whether that’s what happens next, one more person ends up with a Grothe “psychopath” story like the ones people have been telling me for more than two years.

I won’t try to tell you that D. J. Grothe is a psychopath. Lots of people can and will be charming on demand, including many stage performers like Grothe. Lots of people lie in the face of evidence, including many if not most of the people who are too scared to take responsibility for their actions. However disturbing those behaviors are to deal with, they don’t necessarily rise to the level of a personality disorder.

On the other hand, I’m not going to try to take that word away from the people he’s injured either. Nor am I going to sit back and pretend he hasn’t established a long pattern of lying to and about people who thought he was on their side, even when those lies are worse for him in the long run. Whether Grothe is diagnosable or not, he’s left a trail of dishonesty in his wake, much of it causing damage.

He’s still using that dishonesty to hurt people. And he’s using it to help people with their own histories of hurting people. He’s helping Shermer pretend that there isn’t a string of people who have creditably claimed to at least have been harassed by Shermer. He’s trying to help Shermer make some of the most credible evidence go away, while simultaneously solving a nearly year-old problem that he and the JREF haven’t even begun to address.

Right now, he has the ability to do that, or at least to try. There are plenty of people who don’t have the integrity and willingness to take risks that Gay has. But Grothe has the ability to threaten her because we don’t talk about this pattern of his behavior in public.

I’m done with that. I’m not telling other people’s tales unless they give me permission, but I’m done with letting the lies pile up in a corner as though they were individual events instead of Grothe’s go-to method for solving his problems. I’m done looking away from that fact that, pathological or not, his behavior is continually abusive and unacceptable. I’m done with keeping quiet about the fact that one word, whether strictly accurate or not, seems to be the only thing that makes sense of people’s interactions with Grothe. I can’t tell you whether Grothe is a psychopath, but I’m telling anyone who’s ready to listen that he lies like one.

 

Comment moderation note: Don’t play armchair psychiatrist in the comments. Focus on behavior. It’s not like there’s a shortage of it.

* Full disclosure: I get along very well with Pamela Gay and have for several years. In fact, lunch with her was one of the things that made me feel welcome at my first and only TAM.

** In fact, he threatened her almost two years to the day after blaming me, Rebecca Watson, and others for the downtick in TAM registration, when he said people were blaming his bad behavior for not wanting to come to TAM. Were I the betting sort, I would put money on registration being down sharply again this year, with people citing Shermer’s presence as a factor dissuading them from attending.

 

Update: A reader contacted me privately about doing something to fix the problem. I think it’s pretty safe to say after years and years of this behavior that nothing is going to change Grothe. If you still give a damn about the JREF, however, you can try contacting their board. They’ve demonstrated they’re not going to make a change on their own, but they might if they understand how other people feel about this and how that affects how they feel about the JREF.

  • Chip Denman: cdenman@gmail.com
  • Rick Adams: Rick.Adams@cello.net
  • James Randi: astonishing@randi.org

Comments

  1. Corvus Whiteneck says

    It is extremely helpful to have a summary of all the inter-related incidents and linked references when discussing new developments. Thank you.

    As for Mr. Grothe’s behavior, whatever formal label it merits (if any), it’s inappropriate, disturbing, and absolutely unacceptable. And that is a far more polite and restrained description of it than he seems to deserve.

  2. says

    A few years ago I was actually interested in attending TAM. That sentiment has turned around 180 degrees, due in large part to Grothe’s behavior.

  3. frogmistress says

    I am sad that he didn’t answer my last set of tweets. Really, him telling me flat out on Twitter that he never witnessed Shermer lunge at this woman’s breasts would have been priceless in many ways.

    This is a great compilation of a not so great history. Sad that so much work had to be done to try to protect one of your friends. We could be getting so much done if douchebags quit being douchebags while trying to protect the other douchebags that have been awful to women.

  4. says

    The first I saw of Grothe was when he was blaming TAM attendance dropping on “hysterical bloggers” or whatever. My opinion of him has gone down from there, based on his behavior.

    I’m sure his defenders will be around shortly, but how can they defend him against his own words and behavior?

  5. says

    In the past my facebook feed has been full of people posting about how excited they are to attend TAM or wish they going. This year? None. Not a single person I interact with is going to TAM and it’s not like I’ve dumped a whole lot of friends, this silence is from people I’ve know years and have attended in the past. The JREF has managed to pretty much destroy their credibility with me and many others which sucks because they got me into skepticism in the first place and I still admire Randi.

  6. Al Dente says

    I started wondering about Grothe when he complained about women not signing up for TAM and blamed almost everyone in sight except for JREF and himself. When people pointed out various “inconsistencies” like DJ claiming there were no reports of sexual harassment at TAM and Ashley Miller saying that Grothe himself had intervened in an incident for which a report had been made then DJ was hand-waving and tap dancing and “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

    Later it became apparent that DJ Grothe wasn’t concerned about making TAM safe for women. DJ was interested in having the well-off, male, generally libertarian, official skeptics coming to TAM and any fallout was just one of those unpleasant things that happen.

    The Women Thinking vaccination fiasco where DJ held the report hostage did not put Grothe or JREF in a good light. I didn’t know the report had been released but I’m not surprised. Someone probably told Grothe about the Streisand Effect.

    When PZ made the infamous “Grenade” post about Michael Shermer I noticed that Shermer had been a speaker at TAM for years. Now that Pamela Gay has made her accusations we saw that Person B had publicly and repeatedly said that Shermer had sexually assaulted Dr. Gay. It was brought to my attention that Pamela Gay has not been a speaker at TAM for the past few years but Shermer is a permanent fixture there. That confirmed where Grothe’s priorities were.

    I’ve read little good about DJ Grothe and a whole lot of bad. He appears to be a malicious, vindictive, narcissistic jerk concerned solely about DJ Grothe.

  7. cubist says

    You’d think that an organization whose raison d’être is distinguishing truth from error would want to distance themselves from a person who clearly has a “just friends” relationship with such things as, you know, basic honesty…

  8. says

    It’s rather unsettling that I’m seriously not surprised by anything new I hear about DJ Grothe. What a sorry excuse for a person made worse by the fact that he is someone who is supposed to stand for truth and honesty. Knowing about his track record and personally not forgetting his transphobic tweets with myself being a trans woman who doesn’t exactly “pass” I wouldn’t even consider going to TAM is someone offered me free tickets and airfare.

  9. says

    Yes. There are a lot of things I left out of here because they either weren’t lies per se or because they weren’t easily refuted. This is just what I get when I think about that limited set of behavior.

  10. whiskeyjack says

    I was actually in Vegas last year — but in the weeks before my departure, I got a Bad Feeling about the whole thing. It’s like going to a seedy bar — it’s not that you deserve to have anything happen, but the whole, “you ought to know better” thing kicks in and you go down the street to a cleaner establishment.

    Me, I just spent my time getting drunk poolside. It was a good trip, even without TAM.

  11. says

    TAM is a weird meeting. I used to praise it as the most successfully diverse skeptic/atheist meeting around, and they were really good about bringing in fresh people and supporting women. And then under Grothe it turned into a horror show.

    They still also get really good speakers — Patricia Churchland will be there this year. But then they’ve got their poisonous regulars like Shermer and Mayhew, and a few others whose main claim to fame seems to be their defense of assholes.

    It’s a mess. They really need to dump DJ as a net detriment, but that’s not going to happen with all the like-minded jerks on the JREF board. It’s really a shame. It could have been the meeting for exciting and progressive skepticism, but instead it’s been tainted with the Libertarian and sexist contingent.

  12. Lee deLay says

    As the bs with DJ is the reason why I don’t attend tam anymore I am not surprised that the female attendance numbers are dropping. Personally I didn’t want to support an organization with a leader that would lie so blatantly about something I told him in person but even had that not been the case I would still be thinking twice about attending after all the other bs that has come out. This list of crap makes it even grosser that DJ is still president of the JREF. Nearly any other organization the leader it’s with this level of bad publicity would have been forced to resign. Not here though, we still have the liar in place for all to see. I wonder how low female attendance at tam will have to get before someone admits the real reason it’s dropping.

  13. psanity says

    It seems like the “skeptic” orgs attract, and are attracted to, people who are basically con artists. It stands to reason, since much of skepticism lore is about con men using their powers for good, as it were. The individuals in leadership, though, don’t seem able to distinguish good eggs from bad eggs, and that seems ingrained in the fabric of their org management. Remember, for example, how Dawkins stuck up for that disastrous webmaster in the face of obvious malfeasance? Hm. Probably some kind of psychology. Somebody ought to do a study.

    Also, and I know I just harp on this stuff all the time, but how come the JREF board puts up with DJ shouting out to all the world how incompetent he is, and in fact, claiming that his org is incompetent? I mean, seriously, a vendor/guest/presenter/whatever operates a service at his conference for several years, and he has no contact information? Don’t these people have records of correspondence, booth assignment info, proof of insurance, etc., etc.? Answer: Of course they do. DJ wished to gratuitously lie to Jamie’s correspondent, in support of his trumped-up feud, even at the expense of making his org look bad. It’s just another in a long string of things that should have caused a competent board to fire his ass a long time ago.

  14. Corvus Whiteneck says

    In regards to the JREF and it’s Board of Directors, their opinion of DJ Grothe, his influence/power, etc…. It might be useful to remember how small of an organization the JREF is, and therefore how insular it may be. Also, given the small size of the organization, it is possible a few strong personalities and/or deep pockets may have a seemingly-oversized influence on it’s actions, or inactions.

    Most people posting on this page, if they are fortunate enough to be employed, work for a larger organization/company than the JREF. It is actually quite small. Someone else may have more direct/up-to-date knowledge, but here is what is available from a quick perusal of the web:

    As of this writing, the Wikipedia entry (last edited in April ’14) puts the number of employees at 3. THREE. Now, the same Wikipedia entry gives financials for 2009, while 990 forms from 2012 are accessible with a simple Google search. So maybe the “3” is out of date and off by one or two. Whatever, still tiny. Under “Key People” the article lists:
    James Randi, Chairman, Board of Directors
    DJ Grothe, President and CEO
    Rick Adams, Secretary, Board of Directors
    Daniel “Chip” Denman, Board of Directors
    Barb Drescher, Educational Programs Consultant
    And a section on “research fellows” includes: Steven Novella, Karen Stollznow, Tim Farley, Ray Hall, Kyle Hill, & Leo Igwe.

    The JREF website, Randi-dot-org, has an “Our Team”/”Staff” page, which lists the following:
    Randi, Grothe, Drescher, w/ almost the same titles as above plus Maria Myrback (“Managing Editor of Randi-dot-org”). The fellows page lists the same as above plus Jamy Ian Swiss.

    Google “JREF 990″ and you’ll find the tax forms from 2012. Daniel Denman is listed there as “Secretary” & Adams as “Treasurer” but otherwise the titles are again similar, listing only Randi, Grothe, Adams, and Denman, as they are the reported “Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees.” For the curious, Randi’s compensation is ~$250K, Grothe ~$100K (both for 40 hrs/wk), while Adams & Denman get zero (for 2 hrs/wk). I think the former two salaries are fairly irrelevant, but the latter two may be of interest to those thinking the Board is somehow motivated by some self-interest — that may be true, but it isn’t an obvious pecuniary one. For a wider perspective, Rick Adams has a Wikipedia page which says he’s the founder of the USA’s first ISP and the source of Randi’s million dollars for the famous challenge.

    Someone more experienced in examining 990 forms may wish to take a look. As far as I could see with a quick browse, the JREF reported ~$700K revenue from “LECTURES AND SEMINARS” & this was down 10% from the corresponding 2011 number. I’m inclined to assume this number more or less reflects TAM revenues, but maybe there are other lectures or seminars which contribute significantly. The JREF also reported $400+K in donations in both 2011 and 2012, and I don’t know how much of that is related to TAM.

    If you want to influence DJ from above, you’ve got a heavy lift, b/c there are only 3 relevant people, apparently.

  15. Hj Hornbeck says

    Corvus Whiteneck @16:

    If you want to influence DJ from above, you’ve got a heavy lift, b/c there are only 3 relevant people, apparently.

    Carrie Poppy already tried talking to the board about Grothe, and despite some initial positive overtures they wound up doing nothing.

    In my time at the JREF, I witnessed continuous unethical behavior, much of which I reported to the Board of Directors. I was assured on more than one occasion by James Randi that D.J. Grothe would be fired (I hear Randi denies this now, though he repeatedly promised it to another staff member as well, and that staff member and I represented the entirety of JREF full-time staff other than D.J. and his husband, Thomas), but after several months of waiting and being asked to wait, it became clear that D.J. was not going to be fired. The list of problems that I sent to the board was so long that my pasting it here would be comical at best

    I have serious doubts the board will do anything about the current situation, unless something near-ironclad like those recordings gets released to the public. I reckon It’s more likely the JREF will implode as their primary money-maker (TAM) dries up.

  16. says

    @HJ Hornbeck, I doubt TAM will dry up, SGU support them as do many other skeptical podcasts. So people will either not know or not care about the issues with DJ … At least until there is a high profile transgression that cannot be denied and lied about. In the thread on B&W Damion, who is a “helpful idiot”, but not totally without the ability to change his mind, like most of the pitters, is still stonewalling. Until there is something so blatant that people like him say its enough, then I think they’ll carry on raking in the money.

  17. says

    PZ Myers:

    They still also get really good speakers.

    But under Grothe, their line-up lacks the preeminence it once had. As you say, they get really good speakers, but they’re no longer the biggest show in town. For example, where they once had Alan Moore, they now have Sara Mayhew.

  18. says

    This has got to be one of thee most libelous, slanderous, axe grinding, hatchet jobs to ever appear on the internet. I hope he sues the pants off of you

  19. says

    “Libelous” requires that it be untrue. Kindly point to which part of it is untrue.

    “Slanderous” also requires that it be untrue, but combines that with being spoken rather than being written.

    “Axe grinding” is saying I have a point to make. So?

    “Hatchet job” implies malice rather than the protective motivation that’s stated plainly in the post. Are you signing up for Randi’s Million-Dollar Challenge?

    If Grothe manages to find a lawyer who would take a case like that, he’s welcome to try, but I’ll keep my pants. California also has an anti-SLAPP law.

  20. says

    Huh, well I thought it was a quite thorough concatenation of bits and pieces we already know for certain, and one speculation ( (technically) which seems obvious to everyone who isn’t critically-thinking-impaired.

    <snort> @ punk-ass nerd.

  21. Silentbob says

    @ 20 Todd Alexander

    You obviously have no problem with expressing disgust at another individual via the internet. If you believe there are factual inaccuracies, state them. (I won’t hold my breath.)

  22. says

    I went to TAM ’08 and was pretty underwhelmed. I go to a lot of conferences (you could say honestly that I am a professional conference-goer) and one of the things I immediately didn’t like was the overall cliquishness of the affair. It sort of makes sense – it’s a conference by self-elected experts about self-elected experts, so it’s very personality-driven. Most of the breakouts consisted of small crowds standing around the “names” … well, yeah, Adam Savage is a great raconteur and fun to listen to so… oh, ok. I took Banachek’s class on mnemonics and thought it was awesome. I even hung out at lunch with satan’s evangelist, PZ Myers, who looked a bit tired and cornered by fans. I went to the Penn and Teller show in the evening and was underwhelmed. It was worth going to, once, to see the skeptics on display in all their fancy plumage but they’re just humans, all too human.

  23. says

    @hyperdeath:
    where they once had Alan Moore, they now have Sara Mayhew.

    That’s a case study in “damning with faint praises” if I ever saw one.

  24. Kevin Kehres says

    Someone apparently doesn’t know the distinction between libel and slander…

    And also apparently is a time traveler from the 16th century.

    Get thee behind me. Goest thou elsewhere.

  25. ToddyTodd says

    Disclosure: I am male.

    I’ve had a number of interactions, discussions, and even a couple of meals with DJ – he’s always struck me as honest, sincere, and passionate about skepticism. And perhaps most importantly, he really, really cares about Randi. A lot. Protecting Randi as a person, and also Randi’s message, and his public image. You might say, “Randi’s a grown man who doesn’t need protection!” but you’re wrong. I’ve spent time with Randi as well – he’s as sharp and hale as any 85 year-old that I know, but he’s still 85. He needs a little help. He can have no better person in his life than DJ.

    I find it sad that no-one mentions any of this.

  26. MyaR says

    My husband and I went to TAM 2012. The two people I met there that I most enjoyed talking to were Pamela Gay and Chris Stedman. I actually missed most of Sara Mayhew’s talk because I realized pretty quickly it was going to be a painful train wreck, which is when I met Chris. The best talk was sadly light on attendance — Leo Igwe. In the workshop section, which you had to pay extra for, and not very well-promoted, plus they paired him with an Australian guy, who didn’t seem to understand why, either — his issues were, while important, not life or death, like Leo’s.

  27. says

    One person’s “hatchet job” is another’s “exposée”. The difference is in ideological bent, moreso than documentation. But it’s really difficult to make the case that something so well-documented and well-evidenced is merely a “hatchet job”… and the burden of that is on you, Todd Alexander.

  28. says

    @PZ “It could have been the meeting for exciting and progressive skepticism, but instead it’s been tainted with the Libertarian and sexist contingent.” Sexists exist in both the libertarian and the socialist skeptics. Why does Tam have to choose. Can’t it focus on the tings both the Libertarian and the Socialist skeptics agree on? Big tent skepticism.

  29. drken says

    Why does DJ Grothe do these things? Because he can. Near as I can tell, nobody has yet to lose a job at JREF over issues of how they deal (or don’t) with sexual harassment/assault and he’s in no danger to be the first.

    From what I can tell, (not being privy to JREF board meetings) JREF doesn’t consider themselves to have a sexual harassment problem, but a feminist one. All whipped up with MRA straw-men about how feminists think regretted sex is rape and sexual harassment is when an ugly guy tries to talk to (or even look at) a woman, they close ranks against what is (to them) a very easy target. They figured that if they could frame the fight as JREF vs Feminists, they’d win. Everybody hates feminists, right? So, now that less people are going to TAM, I have no sympathy for them. They could of dealt with the problem when it first began to show it’s ugly head (like pretty much everybody else), but decided to stand their ground.

  30. Michael Cassidy says

    Sorry to read about this; sorry no one punched Shermer when he lunged at Gay. TAM should be boycotted until it deals with these issues.

  31. kellym says

    If James Randi shares the dishonesty and vindictiveness of DJ Grothe, then I would think that keeping that hidden from the public would be one of the duties of the president of the JREF. For decades, I admired Randi, in part, because of his seeming honesty,graciousness, and his fearlessness in defending those who were being unfairly preyed upon. Everything changed when DJ Grothe became JREF president. For over two years, when I think of my former support of Randi, I’m mortified. If Phil Plait had somehow remained JREF president, this would not be the case.

    DJ should be fired for rank incompetence, if nothing else.

  32. Ken Davey says

    One of Grothe’s targets has been Rebecca Watson, who is part of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and a co-cast member with Steven Novella, who is apparently listed as a research fellow on a JREF 990, and SGU is promoting TAM and hosting a session at it…..can someone explain?

  33. says

    I think they will get the message when their attendance drops. James Randi is the only reason the JREF was successful, and it was because of his integrity and ability to organize people. JREF is going to go down the tubes bc of grothe, he lacks integrity and is extremely divisive. I don’t know if randi can be replaced, honestly. The JREF might have just been a one-off that we were all lucky to witness.

  34. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I think Skeptifem is right about this being a blip, not a stable organization.

    Also, it’s highly likely at his advanced age that Randi is suffering mental degradation. That’s not a slam, it’s a fact. I see this all the time working in an organization with lots of elderly folks. It’s extremely easy to commandeer an organization to one’s own ends by being the darling boy of an elder, hand picked as a successor. Ingratiate yourself, then begin the fuckery. As the mentor declines mentally, he remembers only that his golden boy is golden, and can’t/won’t see what’s really going on.

    There are really only two possibilities I can see:

    1. Randi is the same kind of person as DJ, and has no problem at all with what he’s doing.

    2. Randi’s lost too many of his mental faculties to be effective, and much of this is lost on him.

  35. says

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Randi, and he’s as sharp as ever. He will openly admit, however, that he’s lost a lot of the dexterity he once had, and I think he’s been coasting on the lecture circuit with very little new material.

    There have been stories, though, that even before Grothe the JREF was not exactly a woman-friendly environment. But under Randi, I think (and women who experienced it would know far better than I) it was a sort of benign neglect by a gay man who wasn’t interested in women, to a somewhat sneakier and nastier neglect under Grothe. I think Grothe only favors anti-feminist women like Drescher or Mayhew.

  36. says

    Also, I don’t think the JREF can survive without Randi, and he’s definitely frail. But I hope he lives a long, long time, because it’s only his influence that gives the JREF a flicker of integrity anymore.

  37. says

    Correction to the comment that mentions my name above: that page on randi.org has not been updated in quite some time. I am no longer a Research Fellow for JREF, that ended some months ago. I think at least one other person listed is also no longer a Fellow, but I speak only for myself.

  38. kellym says

    Randi’s love of Richard Dawkins is probably also, unfortunately, a factor. A month or two before Dear Muslima, Randi said in a Skeptics Guide to the Universe interview that if the atheist movement had a pope, it would be Dawkins. When listing Dawkins’ many virtues, Randi mentioned that he had never seen Dawkins truly lose his temper. A few weeks later, we learned that a woman politely asking not to be propositioned for sex by a stranger in a confined space was all that was needed for Dawkins to express sneering contempt. And that being criticized for his callous poor reasoning was enough to drive him into an unreasoning rage.

    So if Randi is indeed in possession of most of his faculties. The “feminists aren’t welcome” at the JREF may be intentional, and DJ is doing exactly what Randi wants by supporting the harassment of feminists and threatening attempted assault targets.

  39. says

    My guess is that Randi just isn’t in the loop on a lot of this stuff, and probably doesn’t do a whole lot of the day-to-day work of the JREF. I kind of hope this is the case, if only because I’d like to see “A Magician in the Laboratory” finished before Randi is.

    Also, I recall back during one of the previous Grothe flare-ups, the claim was made that Randi may have wanted to get rid of Grothe, but was outnumbered in terms of board members who wanted Grothe to stay right where he is.

  40. says

    He can have no better person in his life than DJ.

    D.J. may be a great friend and assistant to Randi. He is not, however, a competent or appropriate steward for Randi’s professional organization, which bears his name. Perhaps it would be better for everyone involved if D.J. became Randi’s full-time personal assistant, and the reins of the organization passed on to someone who was as concerned with keeping Randi’s name, reputation, and legacy in good standing as they were with helping Randi in his day-to-day life.

  41. funknjunk says

    myeah, I was never a “joiner” really, but had just begun to consider going to skeptic/atheist/agnostic type meetings when the Elevator gate situation exploded. When anti-feminism became – apparently – an integral part of the skeptical movement. Well! They saved me a bunch of time and effort .. time I would never be able to get back. I’m so glad that these folks showed who they are so I didn’t have to find out by paying money and going to these events. yay! So thank you dudebros! I can continue to lurk and learn and not feel utterly, completely, inexorably betrayed as I would have had I actually invested my time and money. my 2 cents…. also… people pay money to hear Mayhew speak? huh.

  42. says

    I find it sad that no-one mentions any of this.

    We don’t mention any of that for the same reason we don’t mention hedgehogs: it does nothing to explain or excuse Grothe’s observed behavior toward people other than you and Randi.

  43. cubist says

    sez toddytodd@27: “I’ve had a number of interactions, discussions, and even a couple of meals with DJ… he really, really cares about Randi. A lot. Protecting Randi as a person, and also Randi’s message, and his public image. You might say, “Randi’s a grown man who doesn’t need protection!” but you’re wrong. I’ve spent time with Randi as well – he’s as sharp and hale as any 85 year-old that I know, but he’s still 85. He needs a little help. He can have no better person in his life than DJ.

    I find it sad that no-one mentions any of this.”
    Okay, DJ Grothe helps Randi in many ways every day. Great.

    How many women-being-harrassed-and-otherwise-shat-upon should we excuse Grothe for each day-of-helping-Randi that Grothe engages in?

  44. militantagnostic says

    I think DJ blocked Shermer’s lunge to protect Shermer from the consequences of his drunken assholery, not to protect Pamela Gay. If DJ is willing to ignore major problems in the JREF and at TAM even if it requires contradicting himself and telling obvious lies he is not much of a friend to James Randi.

  45. says

    toddytodd @27:

    Disclosure: I am male.

    I’ve had a number of interactions, discussions, and even a couple of meals with DJ – he’s always struck me as honest, sincere, and passionate about skepticism. And perhaps most importantly, he really, really cares about Randi. A lot. Protecting Randi as a person, and also Randi’s message, and his public image. You might say, “Randi’s a grown man who doesn’t need protection!” but you’re wrong. I’ve spent time with Randi as well – he’s as sharp and hale as any 85 year-old that I know, but he’s still 85. He needs a little help. He can have no better person in his life than DJ.

    I find it sad that no-one mentions any of this.

    1. Why did you feel the need to tell everyone you’re a guy?
    2. I’m glad that DJ cares deeply for James Randi.
    3. Have you noticed that a lot of the problems people have with DJ center around his treatment or attitude toward women? I have. Did you expect people to be kinder towards DJ bc he’s a good friend to James Randi? Why should anyone do that? Does his niceness to Randi negate his crappy treatment of women? That last one is rhetorical. The answer is NO.

  46. georgebean says

    The world is seriously disappointing me lately. It’s like we’ve become more hard wired to DEFER to the Bullies, the Shit-For-Brains and the Shameless Bootlickers. And I’m old–I mean, I’ve witnessed some times where some serious bullshit was being played out. Vietnam. The Civil Rights Movement. “Women’s Liberation” – yes, seriously – I watched (I wasn’t at the front lines or anything) as society seriously (?!?) “debated” whether equal rights for women was or wasn’t a real social “benefit”. But shee-it, none of it was as dispiriting to me as today’s bush league bullshit. For sure, it’s not just the skeptics community’s lameness that hurts me so hard, but for sure it’s the skeptic’s community’s lameness that cuts deepest because their success with the same-same “good ole boy” bullshit is a total mockery of the epistemology of skepticism.

    What in the *hell* is going on that Grothe wasn’t fired or “fixed” 2 years ago? The WORST crisis management style ever, amirite? OBVIOUS to any grownups watching it play out, so where the hell were the JREF grownups? Where the hell were the grownups during the WTF over at CFI? Like I said, I’m old so I’ve witnessed all kinds of social back-and-forth and can’t for the life of me comprehend why these skeptics orgs act like so much like “he brought the beer so lick his *****.”

    But I digress. Because I want to talk about Naming Names. Which I don’t like. But I like. Which I wish I had resources to help me understand better whether or not it is better to name names. Skeptics orgs, unfortunately, have disqualified themselves. Because they’re the “he brought the beer so lick his ****” sellouts.

    Skepticism is an excellent tool. I think JREF and CFI may need to die in a fire to prove it.

  47. says

    I’ve had a number of interactions, discussions, and even a couple of meals with DJ – he’s always struck me as honest, sincere, and passionate about skepticism.

    BTK killer lived as a happily married father and active member of his community for years.

    He can have no better person in his life than DJ

    Maybe, but we’ll never know unless we try a new one out right?

  48. Corvus Whiteneck says

    If Mr. Farley was bothered enough by an accurate description of the contents of JREF’s website and Wikipedia’s JREF entry to leave a “correction” to my comment, then he’s going to be really sad when he reads the 3rd sentence of the Wikipedia entry on himself:

    “He is a Research Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation.”

  49. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I wish people would stop making excuses for Randi, as if DJ “No Reports” Grothe had somehow hoodwinked him. He’s not too naive or reduced by old age to know what’s been going on for the last ~3 years. If Randi really didn’t approve of the anti-feminist baggage his foundation has acquired, there would be ways for him to make it known. By not doing so he has made it quite clear to me just exactly where he stands.

    I also suspect that Oolon #18 is right that this is not going to significantly harm TAM financially. If the last 2-3 years has shown us anything it’s that there’s no shortage of Skeptics™ for whom misogyny and assholism don’t count negatively at all, quite the opposite. After everything that has happened, if you would still touch the JREF with a ten-lightyear-pole, fighting misogyny cannot rank very high on your list of priorities.

  50. says

    TAM will be around for a while, but it will no longer be the event that brings all factions of the skeptical movement together. Unfortunately, the real test will be what happens after Randi dies. I’m sure many attendees are there just for the chance to meet him. I don’t see DJ having that kind of draw.

    If the board did remove DJ, it would be because he offended major fundraisers for the JREF. His replacement, I suspect, would be much worse. I don’t see him being removed from the JREF, however.

  51. says

    I’m going to third @cethis and @Bjarte, I understand some people have a lot of affection for Randi, but truth most likely is (Assuming “bitchez be lying” is not your codex) Carrie told him personally about the issues and was given many assurances something will be done. PZ had made it clear he is as sharp as ever, so there is no excuse for that sort of stonewalling. He obviously only cared about it enough to lie to Carrie in the hope she’d shut up about it and/or go away. I see no reason to think he’ll do anything now but carry on ignoring it and hoping it goes away. None of which reflects well on his character.

  52. says

    I’m having a hard enough time getting myself to try to be active with any social group. This makes it even harder because I don’t want to be associated with anything that ignores, excuses, or hides behavior and people like this. I will be avoiding considering organizations, even local, that have ties to the JREF, DJ Grothe, and Michael Shermer.

    @ ToddyTodd 27

    I’ve had a number of interactions, discussions, and even a couple of meals with DJ – he’s always struck me as honest, sincere, and passionate about skepticism. And perhaps most importantly, he really, really cares about Randi. A lot. Protecting Randi as a person, and also Randi’s message, and his public image. You might say, “Randi’s a grown man who doesn’t need protection!” but you’re wrong. I’ve spent time with Randi as well – he’s as sharp and hale as any 85 year-old that I know, but he’s still 85. He needs a little help. He can have no better person in his life than DJ.

    I find it sad that no-one mentions any of this.

    That would be because it’s irrelevant to consideration of terrible things that he has done. People do wonderful and terrible things all the time. The only time that the good things come into play is in considering consequences (on the individual and social level) if they make an effort to make up for the terrible things. Since DJ appears to be not just avoiding responsibility for the terrible things, but actively sowing deception, misinformation and suppression of them, we are entitled to ignore the good he has done in this situation.

  53. Ann says

    @34 – Ken Davey

    One of Grothe’s targets has been Rebecca Watson, who is part of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and a co-cast member with Steven Novella, who is apparently listed as a research fellow on a JREF 990, and SGU is promoting TAM and hosting a session at it…..can someone explain?

    Rebecca recently suggested via Twitter that people write to the SGU about just that…

  54. naomibaker says

    No surprises anywhere. A few years ago I wrote an email to Randi and then-fund-raiser Bart Farkas, stopping my monthly automatic contributions to JREF and asking for an accounting of the educational, outreach, and support for local groups that was supposed to be the mainstay of their mission. I got back a long email from DJ (who I’ve been told by more than one former JREF staffer, reads all of Randi’s randi.org email) accusing me, in essence, of being a kindergartener who was taking her toys home because I didn’t like the sandbox. He listed former employees and volunteers BY NAME and told me either why he had fired them, or why they had quit, or why they hated him. And therefore I must hate him too, see, because I can’t make my own decisions.

    As an executive in a corporation, I know that you NEVER mention an employee’s present or past history, or reasons for leaving/termination. And, I personally know almost every one he mentioned, and are friends several of them. I responded with – you don’t blame staff for the problems of an organization. As a manager, the buck stops with you. I told him it was unprofessional. I got back ANOTHER response from him, with more personal attacks – very passive-aggressive. I declined to correspond further, but I noticed that any time I made a comment about TAM (which I continued to attend and financially help others to attend), the JREF twitter account would make comments. In one rather nasty case, when I mentioned on twitter and hash-tagged TAM, that I was sad to have to choose between two events, the response was “next time we plan a conference for 1400, we’ll ask you for your schedule first”. DJ claimed a staff member did that, and he instructed them to delete it and never do that again” (RIGHT), but later he commented on it again in the forum. My forum comments were often replied to him by him. It felt stalker-ish so I eventually blocked anything to do with JREF from all of my online areas. I kept the emails, of course. I just know too many people that were at one time very closely associated with DJ, whose stories all are similar, to not lend credence to these stories here and elsewhere. I went to TAM for a couple of years after this happened, but between Shermer continuing to be invited, and most of my friends no longer attending, it lost appeal and I have not attended since 2012.

    Note: Several people have seen these emails and can verify, but I have no wish to share them because he discussed inviduals by name.

  55. says

    Rebecca recently suggested via Twitter that people write to the SGU about just that…

    Do you have a link? Rebecca tweets a lot, so it’s a bit hard to dig through it all when I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for.

  56. Corvus Whiteneck says

    LykeX, it appeared in a reply stream to one of Rebecca’s tweets

    It was yesterday (Jun 2),
    @RebeccaWatson: “FTR I’m one of the many people who, after working w/ him & being lied to, believes DJ Grothe is a psychopath” and then a link to this article.
    Someone (@aradia53) replied,
    “when I 1st heard about TAM, I wanted to go so bad! Now, not. What a shame.” and a 2nd reply “also, I’m torn. I enjoy the SGU podcast, but their support of TAM/JREF at this time makes me itch to unsubscribe.”
    To which Rebecca replied to that user: “I’d recommend writing in and letting them know.”

  57. says

    Thanks Corvus. Here’s a link for anyone else interested. I’ve been rather conflicted about the SGU’s association with JREF for a while. Part of what’s held me off commenting was the impression that Rebecca preferred keeping the SGU out of that (a result of the consistent lack of comment on the show). I may have to reconsider now.

  58. bcmystery says

    I don’t really expect much, but this is what I just sent through the SGU contact form, right after unsubscribing from the podcast.

    As a long time listener and, when able, a financial supporter of SGU, I appreciate not only your work overall but in particular those moments when you’ve explicitly stated support for women in science and skepticism. Earlier this year, when you responded to a listener complaining about Rebecca highlighting women during This Day in Science, I was impressed by your willingness to not only support Rebecca’s efforts but state unequivocally why her contributions were important.

    So its with some confusion that I continue to hear week after week about your plans to once again attend TAM and participate as a significant part of the program. I have no doubt you know the source of my concerns, as DJ Grothe’s egregious and unrepentent attacks on women, including Rebecca, are no secret. His latest threats against Pamela Gay has only made an awful situation even worse.

    And yet the SGU continues to remain a part of TAM. To me, this sends a message that your words in support on Rebecca and women in science are mere lip service, while your active participation in TAM suggests tacit support of the blatant misogyny of DJ Grothe and the well-documented sexual harassment commited by the TAM-beloved Michael Shermer.

    I am but one listener, and the few dollars I’m able to spare once or twice a year will no doubt be an insignificant loss, but in light of your ongoing silence and active participation in TAM, I can only assume the likes of me is a loss you’re more than willing to bear. I will miss SGU each week, but actions really do speak louder than words, and what your actions tell me is women in general and your own co-host in particular are less important than a party in Las Vegas.

    Realistically, I don’t expect them to cancel at this late date, but both my ears and my modest dollars could be earned back with an unequivocal statement that the SGU will no longer participate in TAM or support JREF so long as Grothe and his cast of misogynist sycophants remain at the helm.

    But, honestly, I don’t expect that either. They’ve had plenty of time to show what really matters to them.

  59. Hj Hornbeck says

    oolon @18:

    I doubt TAM will dry up, SGU support them as do many other skeptical podcasts. […] Until there is something so blatant that people like him say its enough, then I think they’ll carry on raking in the money.

    When I last looked at the JREF’s 990, almost all their revenue came from TAM. At the same time, attendance has consistently dropped over the last three years; if I recall correctly, they were down to 1,100 last year, quite the drop from 1,600 just two years prior. This latest controversy also comes as a fair number of people are buying their tickets, and I see a lot of repeat speakers from last year.

    And a financial shortfall will only snowball. Less revenue means a smaller pool to pay your speaker’s fees, which means less attendance and less revenue and a smaller pool and… It’ll take an ouster of Grothe to break that downward spiral, and the longer they wait, the less a change of management will improve the situation.

    This controversy has the potential to be pretty big, and the only things that could prevent it from exploding are the litigious and trigger-happy “A” deciding to play it cool, Grothe recanting his threat to turn on Gay and tossing “A” to the wind, the friend of Gay deciding not to help her out by releasing the tapes, or the mostly-unpaid-and-part-time board suddenly deciding to oust Grothe in order to protect the JREF’s revenues.

    I’m fairly sure TAM will dry up, podcasts be damned.

  60. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    This entire mess taken together with the other sustained attacks on feminism and feminists creates the impression that capital S Skepticism = assholes all the way down.

  61. rorschach says

    Was there anything in particular to bring out this “a funny thing happened 2 years ago” post now? It seemed pretty obvious to me from anything I ever read or heard from this guy Grothe that he has a disregard for feminist women, and thought himself to be some really important bigwig who could hide behind Randi while being an asshole towards his employees and the general public.

    In other words, a privileged clueless arrogant jerk, like the large majority of the skeptic/atheist movement.

    As to the psychopath claim, there is only one thing I hate more than slapping popular science disability tags on to people, and that is slapping them on to people with a view to add to some kind of criticism about the person.

    I think DJ has shown himself to be enough of a jerk without people having to slap him with an armchair DSM diagnosis. His internet history alone is witness to his assholery. Probably too late for JREF to recover should Randi die, if all that’s left is Grothe and the likes of Mayhew. People might rather join the Catholic Church.

  62. fmcp says

    @ Ted, 64 – I rarely comment on blogs (and this may be my first time commenting on Almost Diamonds – I can’t remember) but I couldn’t ignore your post. He lied to protect the man he loves from persecution in Venezuela. The homophobic laws of the US prevented Dayvi Pena from seeking asylum despite the violence he faced, and at the same time prevented him from obtaining US citizenship through marriage. Randi did what I would do, “honesty” be damned. When we value a strict adherence to laws that are demonstrably bigoted, and value some truths above others (such as the truth of violence against sexual minorities) we allow that bigotry to continue. I find that disgusting. I hope there are other people on this board who agree.

    It is awful what happened to the real Jose Alvarez, and I hope Dayvi Pena is being sincere when he says that he believed he was buying the identity of a dead man. I absolutely understand that identity theft is not a victimless crime. It doesn’t change the fact that Randi was doing something out of love, not dishonesty.

    I’m shaken at the thought that Randi seems to be turning a blind eye (or is actively on board) with the attacks against feminists that are happening in the skeptic movement. I’m not sure how to process it, and I’m sick at heart. But it has nothing, nothing at all to do withe the identity theft. I think that implying it does is an ugly attack.

  63. rorschach says

    that would be the part of the post that starts, “So why am I beating on this drum?”

    No worries, just thought I missed some recent fuckup…..I hadn’t been following closely.

  64. Jackie the wacky says

    Can’t it focus on the tings both the Libertarian and the Socialist skeptics agree on? Big tent skepticism.

    Is this a joke?
    No.

    The SGU podcast lost it’s luster for me some time ago. After the incident that shall not be named their website’s forum was full of anti-feminist douchebros bashing Rebecca. It was not a welcoming space for women. People complained and were ignored due to frozen peaches. That the guys on the show still do TAM without Rebecca is so shitty. The show was great when I was just getting into 101 level skepticism. I was a huge fan. I binge listened to their archives and thought very highly of everyone involved.
    Now, it’s just not that interesting.

    There are better podcasts that do not turn a blind eye to misogyny or throw women under the bus so they can run off to play at the Good “Ol Boy’s Club. I’ll be listening to those instead from now on.

  65. says

    Jackie:

    There are better podcasts that do not turn a blind eye to misogyny or throw women under the bus so they can run off to play at the Good “Ol Boy’s Club. I’ll be listening to those instead from now on.

    Slight tangent, but could you give some recommendations. I’m always on the lookout for interesting podcasts.

  66. Jackie the wacky says

    LykeX,

    What kind are you looking for?

    Here are some of my favoites:
    Welcome to Night Vale – the most perfect thing on the intrawebs
    Risk! – daring stories told live
    The Moth – similar to Risk!
    Citizen Radio – humor and news
    Caustic Soda – hard science for soft people and all the things that make you squirm uncomfortably presented with humor
    Geeks without God – you probably know that one
    The Nerdist Channel also has a variety of podcasts. I have not checked any out in a while, but the one’s I remember were good.

  67. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I unsubscribed from the SGU after they did that awful interview with Jamy Ian Swiss from TAM 2012. Since Grothe’s attack on Rebecca happened shorty before that year’s TAM, I could kind of understand why they didn’t want to back out at the last moment, but in the light of everything that had happened at the time that interview couldn’t have made it much clearer where the guys on the show all stand.

  68. says

    Ted Eng: Your cite was to a blog run (IIRC) by a tiresome and dishonest troll named Anthony McCarthy. One good look at his archive-list in the left column of that page shows a major hate-on for Randi, and for atheists in general and (his own words here) “the psychotic ideology of materialism that is prepared to destroy the only redeeming features of humanity, the only good things about us, on behalf of a pretty stupid belief, out of their personal preferences and theophobia.” This guy has proven time and again that he cannot be trusted.

    If you want to accuse Randi of something, then at least be civil enough to cite a more reliable source for your accusations.

  69. Ted Eng says

    @fmcp, 68 – I used to be a big fan of Randi. When I was little, my mother would allow me stay up late (on a school night) to see him on the Johnny Carson Show.
    .
    But I am appalled at his behavior regarding this situation. For example, this is a quote from one of the newspaper articles about the identity theft situation:

    Randi told the judge. “This was a crime of desperation in which no one was hurt.”

    I’ve known of people committing suicide after being audited by the IRS. The ID theft victim in this case has been “dunned” (as the articles called it) by the IRS for possibly 20 years or more.
    .
    Let’s imagine Randi exposed a fortune teller for being a fraud. What if she had taken it up after losing her job and did it out of desperation to feed her children. Similar to this ID theft situation where you say, that Randi did it “…out of love, not dishonesty.” Would Randi have excused her fraud for that reason?
    .
    I doubt it.
    .
    Some may not find this issue relevant here. But comments have been made that Randi misled people about firing his abusive associates when their behavior was brought to his attention.
    .
    Randi has made a career of exposing hoaxes, charlatans and fraudsters. But it would seem that we can no longer count on Randi to do the right thing when the perpetrator is a member of his inner circle.

  70. Ted Eng says

  71. says

    Ted Eng: those are some pretty serious allegations, so I’ll ask you again: please try to back them up with a more credible source than the ONE you’ve cited so far.

  72. Stacy says

    As to the psychopath claim, there is only one thing I hate more than slapping popular science disability tags on to people, and that is slapping them on to people with a view to add to some kind of criticism about the person

    Rorschach #67, that tag hasn’t been slapped on in order add to criticism about DJ. It’s been suggested as a possibility by people who’ve dealt with him personally and wound up baffled by his combination of great charm, passive-aggressive malice, and dishonesty.

  73. says

    Ted Eng: Thanks for the better citations — but I’ve just read all three articles, and I have yet to see any indication that Randi knew anything about “Carlos’s” crimes before his arrest. If I’ve missed something — it’s late and I just got back from the pub, so that’s a good possibility — I’d appreciate your quoting it here.

  74. says

    And a financial shortfall will only snowball. Less revenue means a smaller pool to pay your speaker’s fees, which means less attendance and less revenue and a smaller pool and… It’ll take an ouster of Grothe to break that downward spiral, and the longer they wait, the less a change of management will improve the situation.

    TAM doesn’t pay its speakers, not even a nominal honorarium. Of course, travel expenses are non-trivial, but speaking on the skeptic/atheist circuit is not the path to riches. That would be the political lecture circuit, which is why SE Cupp is smarter than all of us.

  75. ToddyTodd says

    I feel I need to address some of the follow-ups to my comment. A handful of people felt that my comments about the positive things DJ does are irrelevant (47 @Raging Bee, and others). When the title of the piece is “DJ Grothe, Psychopath?” and Wikipedia defines a psychopath as “…traditionally defined as a personality disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse…” then it is, in fact, necessary and relevant to show aspects of his personality that are not anti-social or diminished in empathy, such as his obvious care and passion for Randi, and for advancing critical / rational thinking. I am presenting evidence that he is not, in fact, a psychopath, the (specific and defined) label that Zvan has slapped on him (based on her years of experience as a therapist or psychologist, no doubt).

    43 @Stephanie Zvan – “I did, in fact, mention that Grothe comes across as quite charming and plausible in person.”

    “Plausible”? So, you believed that he could, in fact, be a human being?

    Look, I have no problem with people detailing the facts of their experiences with him (as I did). But making assumptions and guesses about his motivation, or in general painting him as a black-hearted scoundrel is both unfair and untrue. We’re supposed to be critical and rational thinkers. Stick to the facts, folks.

    48 @cubist

    “How many women-being-harrassed-and-otherwise-shat-upon should we excuse Grothe for each day-of-helping-Randi that Grothe engages in?”

    It’s a good question. No organization leader (or politician) is perfect. There are always tradeoffs. That’s the point of this discussion.

    Two other comments:

    52 @Ing – “BTK killer lived as a happily married father and active member of his community for years.”

    Hitler ate food. Do you eat food?

    57 @Brony – “Since DJ appears to be not just avoiding responsibility for the terrible things, but actively sowing deception, misinformation and suppression of them, we are entitled to ignore the good he has done in this situation.”

    And since DJ has done some good, we are entitled to ignore the bad he’s done. It’s a two-way street.

    Here’s my point: first, while DJ may be a bad person, he is more likely a person who does bad things. And unless there are any among you who have the background and training to say so, his obvious love for Randi (and DJ’s partner, Thomas) indicates that the label of “psychopath” is inappropriate.

    Second: apparently DJ has done some bad things. Great, let’s talk about those without tossing labels around.

    Third, and perhaps most importantly: what can be done? JREF is a private organization – if you don’t like what they’re doing, stop supporting them. If you don’t like what’s going on at TAM!, don’t go. If you don’t think others should support the JREF or TAM! for whatever reason, state those reasons, but show your work. Back up your facts. Or state them clearly as your personal opinions and experiences (as I’ve tried to).

    Keep thinking critically, folks.

  76. says

    When the title of the piece is “DJ Grothe, Psychopath?” and Wikipedia defines a psychopath as “…traditionally defined as a personality disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse…” then it is, in fact, necessary and relevant to show aspects of his personality that are not anti-social or diminished in empathy…

    That wouldn’t change the diagnosis, since a psychopath can treat a few people nicely while being consistently unkind to much larger numbers of people, over a long period of time.

    I am presenting evidence that he is not, in fact, a psychopath…

    No, you’re only presenting evidence that you care more about his treatment of a few people, then his much worse treatment of many others.

    But making assumptions and guesses about his motivation, or in general painting him as a black-hearted scoundrel is both unfair and untrue.

    We’re not making “assumptions” or “guesses,” we’re drawing CONCLUSIONS based on observed behavior. Do you not know what those words mean, or are you trying to lie to us?

    We’re supposed to be critical and rational thinkers. Stick to the facts, folks.

    Read the OP — the observed behaviors are FACTS, whether or not you care about them.

    No organization leader (or politician) is perfect. There are always tradeoffs.

    Seriously? That’s your defense of someone who routinely treats women like shit? What kind of fucked-up world do you live in, where no manager in any organization behaves any better than Grothe?

    And since DJ has done some good, we are entitled to ignore the bad he’s done. It’s a two-way street.

    You’re actually saying you’re “entitled” to ignore blatantly harmful behavior? That says a lot about your character, ToddyTodd.

    And unless there are any among you who have the background and training to say so, his obvious love for Randi (and DJ’s partner, Thomas) indicates that the label of “psychopath” is inappropriate.

    What’s YOUR background and training, boy? Enough to overrule ours? So far all you’ve shown us is your ability to look up a word in Wikipedia.

    Second: apparently DJ has done some bad things. Great, let’s talk about those without tossing labels around.

    What gives you any right to tell us how to talk about anyone or anything? The labels being used here seem to work pretty well, and your attempts to dispute them come off as laughably lame.

    Third, and perhaps most importantly: what can be done?

    Exposing bad behavior so others can avoid being hurt seems like a good idea. You got a problem with that?

  77. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I am presenting evidence that he is not, in fact, a psychopath, the (specific and defined) label that Zvan has slapped on him (based on her years of experience as a therapist or psychologist, no doubt).

    No, Stephanie commented on the fact that other people who know Grothe personally have applied the word to him, and presented reasons why she finds their reaction understandable. She went out of her way to specify that…

    Nor can I diagnose Grothe as a psychopath, a person with antisocial personality disorder. I don’t have the training, the licensing or the access to Grothe it would require […] I won’t try to tell you that D. J. Grothe is a psychopath. […] However disturbing those behaviors are to deal with, they don’t necessarily rise to the level of a personality disorder.[…] I can’t tell you whether Grothe is a psychopath, but I’m telling anyone who’s ready to listen that he lies like one. […] Comment moderation note: Don’t play armchair psychiatrist in the comments. Focus on behavior. It’s not like there’s a shortage of it.

  78. Ted Eng says

    @Raging Bee, 81 – For the sake of discussion, let’s say Randi did not know anything about “Carlos’s” crimes before his arrest.
    .
    I think it’s fair to say that Randi has made a life, career and public persona based on his efforts to expose fraud and deception. I recall seeing him quoted as saying similar things.
    .
    If Randi was indeed unaware of the ID theft, that means he was unable to detect a form of fraud committed within 10 feet of him for more than 20 years.

  79. ToddyTodd says

    Ah, Raging Bee – taking quotes out of context. Still, I’ll play along.

    I have no specific medical training, so I’m not able to call him a psychopath. I’m not trained as a mechanic, either, so I won’t diagnose a given car’s problems. But if you’re also not a trained mechanic, then I can certainly say that you’re not a mechanic, and as such that your opinion of the car’s problems are both as valid and as worthless as mine.

    > So far all you’ve shown us is your ability to look up a word in Wikipedia.

    Which is beyond any ability to use the word that anyone else so far has shown. If you’ve got a better source than Wikipedia, let’s have it.

    If you don’t have the training, don’t use the word “psychopath”. I can absolutely (and will continue) to over-rule your right to use that word, in addition to any other names of conditions (medical or otherwise) that you haven’t been trained to diagnose. Why not just say that DJ has cancer, while you’re at it?

    As for me, I’ll give you another source:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindmelding/201301/what-is-psychopath-0

    DJ does not exhibit total uncaring, nor does there seem to be evidence of violence. I’m not defending his behaviour in regards to women nor arguing about what happened, with this chunk of writing I’m stating that the label “psychopath” is apparently unfair, based on the definitions from the sources I’ve found. If you’ve got good reason to defend the label “psychopath”, either based on sources you’ve found or your training, let’s hear it.

    > What kind of fucked-up world do you live in, where no manager in any
    > organization behaves any better than Grothe?

    I live in Toronto, where my mayor is Rob Ford , whom I did not vote for, and do not want back. But who has done some good things for the city, in spite of his obvious flaws as a mayor.

    > What gives you any right to tell us how to talk about anyone or anything?

    Okay, talk about him however you like. As will I – frankly, it’s clear to me DJ is also a cannibal, and an alien, and a Dick Cheney worshipper. What the hell, say anything you like, that will clearly make for a constructive conversation.

    > The labels being used here seem to work pretty well,

    No, they don’t. They’re inaccurate. As I’ve shown, backed up with sources.

    > and your attempts to dispute them come off as laughably lame.

    You’re right – no-one should back up their comments with sources. Rather, they should slap labels on things to color them – labels like “laughably lame” – and then just move on.

    > Exposing bad behavior so others can avoid being hurt seems like a good idea.
    > You got a problem with that?

    Nope – it’s exactly what I suggested be done. I’m glad you agree with my suggestion.

  80. ToddyTodd says

    @86 Ted Eng

    Perhaps you’re right, we shouldn’t be arguing about the label, but rather, the behaviour. But if that’s the case, the label should be in the *title* of the piece.

    Does Homeopathy Cure Cancer? Click for the answer! [click] No, no, it doesn’t. But I gotcha to click, didn’t I?

  81. says

    Hey, look. Two people playing armchair psychologists after being told not to. Do it again, either of you, and you’re out of this thread.

    Ted, whether Grothe is a psychopath is an open question. You’re no more qualified to rule it out, based on your use of Wikipedia, than Raging Bee is to make the claim. Nor is using a question mark to denote an open question the same thing as using it to denote a question answered in the negative. It is a reasonable question, based on Grothe’s behavior. I discussed it as a question. The title accurately reflects the contents of the post.

  82. says

    @ToddyTodd #83:

    When the title of the piece is “DJ Grothe, Psychopath?” and Wikipedia defines a psychopath as “…traditionally defined as a personality disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse…” then it is, in fact, necessary and relevant to show aspects of his personality that are not anti-social or diminished in empathy,

    So you read the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page, which makes you an expert. Perhaps if you’d read further down, you wouldn’t look so foolish. From the very same page, Cleckley’s list of common qualities of psychopaths, which bears considerable resemblance to the PCL-R that’s currently used to diagnose psychopathy:

    Superficial charm and good “intelligence”
    Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
    Absence of “nervousness” or psychoneurotic manifestations
    Unreliability
    Untruthfulness and insincerity
    Lack of remorse and shame

    Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
    Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
    Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
    General poverty in major affective reactions
    Specific loss of insight
    Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
    Fantastic and uninviting behavior with drink and sometimes without
    Suicide threats rarely carried out
    Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
    Failure to follow any life plan.

    I’ve bolded the ones that particularly apply to DJ, from my experience. The PCL-R provides more fodder:

    glib and superficial charm,
    grandiosity
    need for stimulation
    pathological lying
    cunning and manipulating,
    lack of remorse
    callousness

    poor behavioral controls
    impulsiveness
    irresponsibility
    denial

    parasitic lifestyle
    sexual promiscuity
    early behavior problems
    lack of realistic long-term goals
    failure to accept responsibility for own actions
    many short-term marital relationships
    juvenile delinquency
    revocation of conditional release
    criminal versatility

    Is that enough boxes ticked to diagnose him? I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist. Is that enough boxes ticked to understand why people think he might have a problem? Pretty clearly it is.

    Is his love for Randi & Thomas genuine? Or is it manipulation, feeding into that sense of grandiosity and need for instant gratification? Is there a citation you can find that says psychopaths cannot seem, to outside observers, to be in normal, healthy relationships? Don’t abusive or unhealthy relationships often look totally normal to outside observers?

    And since DJ has done some good, we are entitled to ignore the bad he’s done. It’s a two-way street.

    No, it really isn’t. Doing good things does not buy you a pass to do bad things without consequence or criticism. But doing bad things does taint the good you otherwise do, because it means that those good things came with strings attached, that you abused your power.

    Or to put it differently*, let’s say I give you a sundae. All your favorite toppings, plus freshly-whipped cream and a cherry on top. And then, right at the end, I take a piece of sun-dried dogshit and grate it over the whole thing. How big and delicious does the rest of the sundae have to be for you to overlook the dogshit sprinkles?

  83. says

    * I know I’ve read the shit-sprinkled sundae metaphor elsewhere, but can’t remember where. If anyone knows, I’ll gladly give credit.

  84. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Perhaps you’re right, we shouldn’t be arguing about the label, but rather, the behaviour. But if that’s the case, the label should be in the *title* of the piece.

    Perhaps because the behaviors we have seen from mister “No Reports” for the last few years are indeed disturbing enough to make it a perfectly reasonable question to ask?

  85. says

    If I see someone coughing, sneezing, sniffling and showing other signs of having a bad cold or flu, I don’t have to be a doctor to decide, and advise others, to stay away from him to reduce their risk of getting sick. That’s what those familiar with Grothe’s behavior are doing, and they have every fucking right to do so. And stop pretending this is some new and unheard-of phenomenon — people make such judgements about each other every day. Often we have no choice.

    I live in Toronto, where my mayor is Rob Ford , whom I did not vote for, and do not want back. But who has done some good things for the city, in spite of his obvious flaws as a mayor.

    You couldn’t even find ONE person who could do “some [unspecified] good things for the city” without being a total undisciplined crackhead? Is Rob Ford really the ONLY person capable of doing “some good things for the city?” That doesn’t speak well of your city.

  86. says

    I think it’s fair to say that Randi has made a life, career and public persona based on his efforts to expose fraud and deception. I recall seeing him quoted as saying similar things. If Randi was indeed unaware of the ID theft, that means he was unable to detect a form of fraud committed within 10 feet of him for more than 20 years.

    He was unable to detect a totally different kind of fraud from the kind he made a career of exposing. Financial fraud is really a different animal from psychic/spiritual/religious fraud, and the two require very different skills and tools to combat.

    Your case against Randi for participation in ID theft is still pretty weak. No wonder you had to cite Anthony McCarthy — he’s the only one low enough to go there.

  87. says

    Martha stout said in her book that the closest thing regular people get to a sociopath test is if a person repeatedly (like more than 3 times) hurts you and then tries to get your pity afterwards. Dunno if that applies to any of these situations, but I thought I would throw it out there for interested people. Its hard to navigate life knowing people like that are out there and so hard to detect.

  88. says

    Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether some person fits a certain clinical definition or not. Psychopath or just plain asshole; who cares? What matters is this: What kind of behavior can you expect from that person in the future.

  89. cubist says

    sez me: “How many women-being-harrassed-and-otherwise-shat-upon should we excuse Grothe for each day-of-helping-Randi that Grothe engages in?”

    sez toddytodd: “It’s a good question. No organization leader (or politician) is perfect. There are always tradeoffs. That’s the point of this discussion.”

    Cool. So, just to be clear on this: Do you, or do you not, think that one day of Grothe-helping-Randi is enough to excuse some number of Grothe-harrassing-and/or-shitting-upon-women? If your answer to that question is “yes”, please accompany that “yes” with some indication of how many women-being-harrassed-or-otherwise-shat-upon Grothe should be excused for each day of helping-Randi.

  90. Plan says

    This is 3,300 words of complaint about apparent private conversations and tweets. It’s so far beyond what anyone would look for on a skeptic site, so full of inside baseball and drama, that I doubt more than a few dozen people can really place it in context. I gave up a few hundred words in.

    As far as Grothe and TAM giving a platform to lunatics like Sara Mayhew, I’m with you 100%. THAT is the kind of concrete thing you should be focusing on in your criticism of Grothe — that he gladly provides a stage for people with no science or skepticism backgrounds, people who are “known” (I use that term lightly) for being Twitter trolls, not for any contribution to skepticism.

    Mayhew is a great example because she has absolutely no connection to skepticism or rationale thought. Every time she’s mentioned it’s in the context of her being some sort of skeptical manga artist, but has anyone actually read her book? It’s a poorly written mess that has nothing to do with science, skepticism or rational thought. Likewise with her embarrassing talks where she rambles about Sailor Moon. Why is this person on stage and why is this person considered a leader in the skeptic movement?

    I have to wonder what people think when they discover the skeptic movement, stumble on the community’s blogs, and are greeted with an endless flamewar and drama instead of actual content about rational thought. We sure could use more people calling out the John Edwards and Theresa Caputos of the world, but everyone’s too busy with the drama. the Twitter trolling, and the endless fracturing. The few people who do keep their eyes on the prize are just drowned out by the noise. Not cool.

  91. Nathan Grange says

    I’ve sent my email to the board…

    Has there been any sort of response from DJ or the JREF yet?

  92. says

    Oh, hey, Plan, this post from Ophelia reminded me I hadn’t approved your comment yet. Congratulations, though, on being too busy writing 300 words to read 3,000. I’m sure all those people just discovering the skeptic movement will be totes impressed that you couldn’t be bothered with evidence but think Sara Mayhew gives TAM girl cooties.

  93. says

    “He’s trying to help Shermer make some of the most credible evidence go away”

    If the claim that Shermer was possibly reaching for someone’s tits is “the most credible evidence” against Shermer, then the whole thing is a joke. A laughing stock.

  94. Max says

    Kevin, I think they’re saying that Grothe witnessed and even intervened to stop the attempted groping and now denies that it happened, so if there are recordings or emails where he corroborated Pamela Gay’s account, then they would not only prove that his denials are false but also add one more witness to the attempted groping.

  95. Nathan Grange says

    ^

    “DJ Grothe is no longer with the JREF. James Randi has taken over as acting President.”

  96. Bart Farkas says

    I worked with Grothe for a couple of years at the JREF. I believe that his behavior is consistent with lack of conscience conditions based on my experience working in Psychiatry as a registered nurse. Whatever the case, in my experience (more importantly in my admittedly biased opinion) he is someone who lies, manipulates, and does insanely shitty things to people to further himself. I know of only one former JREF employee that doesn’t actively wish he’d go away, and that guy likes DJ because DJ actively gives him work. In fact a large group of former JREF employees got together to sign a letter to the board outlining a litany of Grothe’s actions over the last few years. It’s sad and I feel sorry for Randi because DJ was thrust upon him by other board members. Thank goodness Grothe is gone and let’s hope he stays away.

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