Michael Shermer’s Harassment

A piece has just been published about misogyny in skepticism and atheism, and particularly about Michael Shermer, that includes me as a named source who has experienced inappropriate behavior from Mr. Shermer.  It’s worth pointing out that my story is merely a supporting story to the larger overall story of Mr. Shermer’s behavior, and not nearly as awful as some others.  I have never told it in public, though many people have heard it in private, because of a fear of litigious reprisals and hate mail; it never seemed worth it until I was asked to comment on this story.  To the extent that it’s useful and people would like to have full details on what happened, this is my full story.

In 2010, I went to the Orange County Freethought Association Conference after reading about it on PZ’s blog.  You could pay $50 to eat dinner with PZ, which struck me as a good deal.  I was in LA and didn’t have a lot of friends and I was a big fan of PZ’s blog.  I was, at the time, an atheist but not really aware of the larger skeptic and atheist communities.  Which was a shame.  As I later learned, if you were part of the movement before you went to events, you’d get warnings on who to avoid.  The number one person I was told to avoid was Shermer, but I didn’t hear that until months after I met him.

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20 Random Things Friday

1. The threat of 30 has been looming over my head, but Hank Green has cheered me a bit with the concept of Logarithmic Aging.  “So that you have more birthdays when you’re younger, when you like birthdays, and fewer birthdays when you’re older, when you don’t wanna think about em!”  Brilliant.

2. He is, incidentally, also right about the eating less meat thing — that we need to stop dividing people into meat-eaters and vegetarians, but instead encourage people to be thoughtful about their meat eating and do it much less.

I was a vegetarian for a couple years and my cholesterol got so low that it was bad for me.  Because even though we’re all “Cholesterol is bad” it turns out your body, you know, actually uses it.  Too low cholesterol is associated with depression, anxiety, and higher rates of mortality!  It also makes you bad at making vitamin D — and I don’t go in the sun much, so my vitamin D also got quite low.  So now I eat meat occasionally and feel better and categorizing me as a terrible meat eater isn’t useful.

3. Christina Hendricks is almost always wearing a wig or a hair piece.  I can’t believe I never noticed it, it’s super obvious.  Beyonce as well.  I feel so lied to.

christinahair

4. I had this thought today: “My flowery galoshes are almost perfect, except that no one can see my dinosaur socks.”  I’m a grown-up.

Galoshasaur

5. Also on hair, I’m trying to re-train my part to be further from the center, partially because I’m not entirely convinced one can train their part and the internet doesn’t have any authoritative claims on that front that I can find.

6. Photos from meeting Annie Leibovitz: https://www.facebook.com/mgafm/media_set?set=a.10100422213881817.1073741832.2605101&type=3

7. Photos from my trip to New Orleans: https://www.facebook.com/mgafm/media_set?set=a.10100422226162207.1073741833.2605101&type=3

8. Video of a real rescued baby sea turtle: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10100422239111257

9. Video of koi murdering a butterfly: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10100422242968527

10. Occasionally South Carolina does something amusing in a positive way.

sclawnmower

 

11. I thought I’d try this whole mindful meditation stuff that Greta is doing but I feel totally incapable of teaching myself to do it and the internet seems mostly filled with hippie dippy woo crap.  Thoughts on where to start?

12. Number one on this list so hard.

13. How many of the world’s 197 countries can you name in 15 minutes? I got to 120. I can place all the country names in the middle east in 1:45.  BAM.  I wonder if there’s a world map where you can place names instead of having to remember them off the top of your head?

14. DRUNK DIAL CONGRESS: http://drunkdialcongress.org/

15. Our prison system is just the worst.

16. Once again when a woman says “Guys, don’t do that,” atheist dudes are there to blow the whole thing up and call her irrational and oversensitive.

17. I really miss google maps Wikipedia plugin.  How am I supposed to learn random stuff about Western China?

18. Rebecca wrote a wonderful article about how useless the police are when it comes to online harassment.  It reminds me of my experience with Eddie Kritzer.  First comment? Go to the police.  I did.  And they told me they wouldn’t file a restraining order unless I changed my email and phone number and he kept harassing me.

19. ARGH ANTONIN SCALIA BOOO

20. Me repeatedly today:

jonwhat

 

mugatu

Michael Shermer Legal Fund

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 10.43.01 AMSomeone has set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to help pay for Michael Shermer’s response to the unnamed first hand accuser at PZ’s site.

I actually don’t have a problem with people deciding they want to help raise money to pay for the legal fees someone else is incurring.  I think the justice system is such that that is entirely reasonable, especially if you’re a fan of the guy and think he’s being falsely accused.  It’s really no different from OJ or Michael Jackson fans wanting to financially support “their guy” through their legal troubles.  I happen to find myself on the opposite side, having heard and experienced too much behind the scenes to believe in Shermer’s innocence, but I don’t begrudge those without that knowledge for wanting fair legal representation of Shermer.

I do, however, begrudge them their inability to believe in the good intentions of others with a demonstrable history of trying to do something positive with the movement.  It seems that, to some skeptics, merely offering criticism of problems you see in the organizations, conferences, celebrities, or overall movement is tantamount to wishing to destroy skepticism, rather than an attempt to make skepticism better.

“PZ Myers and the FtB feminists have set their sights on skepticism and atheism in general. They clearly want to do harm to the institutions.”

You hear this argument a lot from Republicans, that criticizing America is anti-America or trying to destroy America, when in fact it’s trying to make America better and fix the problems within, rather than turn a blind eye.  Yes, a lot of “FTB feminists” have set their sights on skepticism and atheism in general, because we’re part of those movements and care deeply about making them better.

And, of course, it’s difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re just trying to make sure justice is served when there’s this:

A show of support will send the message that we as a community will no longer tolerate illogical attacks on people who do not condone nor support sexual harassment, sexual predation, or rape any more than we support defamation of our community members from anonymous allegations.

Ah, so donating to this is not, in fact, an attempt to help Shermer get decent representation, but rather a way to condemn unnamed victims who come forward with their stories.  Got it.  Out of curiosity, what is the appropriate way for a reporter to deal with a story from an unnamed source who is known and trusted, whose story and reputation is vouched for by multiple others?

The point of the TAM harassment posts

I read the comment threads on a lot of these TAM harassment posts and many readers seem to miss the fundamental point:

DJ said women were not attending TAM because other women were posting about harassment at skeptic events. He justified this by saying no reports of harassment were made at TAM last year.

These “feminazi” posts are actually just a skeptical examination of his claim.  And since there’s a lot of evidence in favor of reports of harassment having been made, his conclusion, that women should stop talking about it, is without any evidence or argument to justify it.

At this point, it seems the more reasonable claim is that DJ needs to stop posting comments in blogs blaming women for low female attendance as that has directly led to several women deciding not to go.

Obviously, this is an emotional issue for a lot of the people involved, but we have to remember that emotions are valid and exist on all sides of the debate.  The point stands regardless: women are leaving TAM because of DJ.