I’m as bored with the subject as you are now, but there were some questions outstanding and I can answer some of them now, so I’ll do that.
To put the conclusion first: I think the threats weren’t really threats. They were advice about my safety at TAM, but they were so over the top that they read more like veiled threats than like advice. But I now think they weren’t.
Jason checked out the headers for me on Tuesday, and found nothing sinister. Tim Farley, with my permission, investigated further yesterday and today. Tim did useful investigating of Dennis Markuze last year, so I was very glad to have his help. He phoned the guy who sent me the “advice” this morning, and what he told me was enough.
But I’ll show you the substance of the emails, so that you can see for yourselves. The sender told me to feel free to share anything from them when he first sent them. I’m not going to give any personal details about him.
The relevant part of the first one:
Please honor (and that word is chosen sincerely) your commitment to TAM by appearing there for your scheduled talk.
I share your concern that for you, things will not simply be as bad as they ever were for a female at any previous TAM, but may even//will likely be worse now that you are somehow associated with those who are said to “have it in for TAM.”
BUT, if you attend, Ophelia plan seriously, and seriously plan, for your own safety. That is, forget any philosophical nuances between “safe places,” “feeling safe,” and places that may be “unsafe.” Ophelia, please plan to actually BE safe wherever and whenever you are at TAM.
(a) Please plan to take a “secret” hotel room far away from the TAM venue, without giving up your assigned TAM room. Insist that JREF reimburse you for that room, and that JREF *not* know, during TAM, the whereabouts of that secret hotel room. In addition, take, for the week, a cell phone with a number hitherto unassociated with you.
(b) Please don’t show up at TAM one second before you must be on stage.
(c) Don’t stay at TAM one second after you have finished your talk and left the stage.
(d) INSIST that you have access to a secure “Green Room” immediately before your talk, and that you have access to that secure “Green Room immediately after your talk, while you await your escape taxi. (This is, Ophelia, nothing more than a star performer would expect, and you are certainly a star performer for JREF!) If JREF cannot accommodate you in this respect, then PLEASE decline, even at this last minute, to attend TAM. Then blog about it.
Ophelia: It is absolutely none of my business except to have one of my favorite bloggers continue blogging and one of my favorite callers of bullshit continue to call bullshit, but things have changed since you agreed back in the early spring to speak at TAM. You now know that you, and only you, will be responsible for your own safety at TAM and for your own sense of safety. You cannot count on JREF and/or on DJ Grothe and/or (unfortunately) on James Randi … to give you any comfort, or any reassurance, or any protection, or any hearing, fair or otherwise, or any redress (or even any address!) if anything untoward happens. Any of these (comfort…address) MAY be proferred, but you cannot count on any of them!
Ophelia, Schroedinger’s rapists are real and they inhabit spaces other than elevators. You, especially you, have no RATIONAL reason to feel safe anywhere at TAM or anywhere in TAM’s conventional hotel. In light of the past two or three weeks, you, of all persons, have every reason *not* to feel safe. Go into TAM space seldom, go there sparsely, and when you do go there, Ophelia, go with the utmost caution.
But go. If you get the minimalist security you need, the security I’ve adumbrated above, then go to TAM. Go because you promised to do so. Go because you can deal with assholes, because you can deal with misogyny, because you can deal with cluelessness. I know all of this is true because I’ve seen you do it over and over again, and I’ve seen you do it extraordinarily well.
Go, above all, because you have something to say — something important to say to the TAM audience — something that might wake up Randi — something that might finally get through to D.J. Grothe. But above all, go because you have something to say that almost certainly will both instruct and inspire those who have come to hear you.
I thought that was way over the top. Kind, in many ways (and I feel mean revealing it, but I think I kind of have to), but way way way over the top. I was dreading TAM because I did think it likely that I would get very overt in-my-face hostility, but that’s all.
I replied to that effect:
I really don’t think things will be as bad as that. I’ll have some friends there. I think it could be extremely awkward at times, and I’m dreading that, but I don’t think I’ll be torn limb from limb or anything. PZ went to the GAC and we know there were people there who hate him, but nothing happened.
The second message was the one that made me get nervous, and ask others what they thought.
Ophelia, it really, really, really may well be “as bad as” all that. This stuff has gotten nasty in the past several weeks, including a message today or yesterday about “we don’t want you (Ophelia) at TAM.” The past several weeks’ nastiness changes the equation IMHO, from when you agreed to be there.
Please consider, at least, staying at a non-conference hotel and going back and forth in taxis or limos.
I’m happy that PZ was not shot (gun or uppants camera) at GAC, but that gives me scant reassurance that you will *not* be shot either way in Las Vegas.
Please do not respond to this message. If you adopt safety measures, whether I’ve suggested them or not. DO NOT TELL ANYONE, including me.
The last two paragraphs, especially.
It just creeped me out. I went back and forth for a few hours, and then I decided I just couldn’t stand it any more. That’s all.
So that’s it. No, I’m not going to report it to the cops. No, I don’t think I over-reacted.
Meanwhile, I’ve had a much nicer invitation today (TBA), so my mood is improved beyond all recognition.