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Jun 21 2012

Closing the file

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.

The end.

172 comments

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  1. 1
    Kes

    Both those emails sent my eyebrows shooting further and further up my forehead. And these are from someone you’ve never personally met? Receiving something like this would have flipped me the hell out too! Dealing with one’s own innate paranoia (especially, I imagine, as a high-profile atheist woman in the current climate) must be taxing enough without anonymous others dumping their own paranoid recommendations upon you. Nothing else to say except I’m sorry you keep having to deal with this shit.

  2. 2
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    With everything that’s been going on, those emails are beyond creepy. “I’m just trying to help you not get shot.”

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    Kes – thank you. And yes. There had been a couple of emails before, but I didn’t remember them and couldn’t find them.

  4. 4
    BubbaRich

    Over-the-top warnings about TAM are a bad thing?

    I can’t keep up.

  5. 5
    MyaR

    Yep, that’s pretty creepy. Even more unsettling because it can be read as a paranoid person trying to be helpful, or as a real threat, or as an attempt at gaslighting — designed to make you question yourself and your own reactions to all the shit going around.

    I’m also glad to know that you did all the things I suspected you were doing — getting good advice from people you trust.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    Exactly, Mya. The third seemed the most likely – oooooh be afraid. But it was like a dang duck/rabbit, flipping back and forth between possibilities.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    What’s your point, Rich? That I’ve been saying all along that women are likely to be killed at TAM? Can you find any examples of that?

    Thanks for the friendly overture.

  8. 8
    caseygaspari

    A warning, yes. Creepy, (likely more then not if you weren’t a public figure), but sure. Threat? NO.

    “Please do not respond to this message.” Message will self destruct in 30 seconds.

  9. 9
    Eric MacDonald

    Wow, those really were over the top emails! Indeed, having that kind of detail about safty precautions almost suggests, as you thought, that this was a person who actually meant you harm. I find it hard to understand why anyone would take things to this extreme. What a very strange (creepy strange) experience it must have been for you. I look forward to hearing your news!

  10. 10
    Lyanna

    The “Green Room” and the “escape taxi” and the “forget any philosophical nuances” and the “star performer” bit and the “Schrodinger’s rapists”…

    …well, they all sound like mockery, to be honest. Mockery that is creepy, threatening, and deeply unpleasant.

    It all sounds like an ERVite taking the piss by impersonating a straw-feminist…except with an added dose of creepiness by the focus on how you need to take such extreme measures to avoid getting shot.

    I read it as a combination of mockery and gaslighting. A deeply unpleasant email to receive, all in all.

  11. 11
    MyaR

    Hey, one morbidly positive note (for me, anyway) — I now know some names to stay far, far away from while at TAM, from perusing various comment threads and forums.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    caseygaspari – thanks for your input, but how do you know that with such emphatic certainty?

    Have you never heard of veiled threats in the form of “warnings”?

  13. 13
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    But what about the response form the JREF that you characterized as a dismissive “kthxbye”? I still think it’s important that you also give out what they actual, literal response was since you were essentially accusing them of doing nothing to fix the problem.

  14. 14
    hyperdeath

    That second email definitely has a strong “Nice shop you have here; shame if something happened to it” feel to it.

  15. 15
    Ophelia Benson

    Lyanna – yes! I should have said that in the post, really – much of it did sound like mockery, and I did think ERVite. One bit especially…

    Yes, this one -

    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!)

    SARCASM.

    I actually replied to the second message by asking if he was Victor Ivanoff. No reply. Well naturally, he’d told me not to reply.

    Dear oh dear.

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Cory Albrecht – it’s actually not in DJ’s interest for me to reveal what he said.

  17. 17
    Willow

    Good for Tim!

    I hope you can go to a future TAM and we can all hear what you have to say. I’ve enjoyed your writing, and was looking forward to what seemed to be a powerful group of women speakers. I was hoping the line up, more strongly female then ever before, was a good example for other conferences to have more females speak.

    Sadly, it did not work out that way.

    Hope this doesn’t mean we’re back to white men only… or the token women thrown in. But you must be comfortable before you can go.

  18. 18
    Alyson Miers

    Yeah, those are some creepy messages. Arguably not intended as threats, but the effect is threatening.

    One might get the impression that this person wants you to be too scared to attend TAM.

  19. 19
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    Ophelia @ #16: But then if that is so, then you have actual evidence that the JREF is acting wrongly, not just unsupported assertions that they are doing so. That needs to be brought out into the light of day, otherwise why believe the assertion?

  20. 20
    julian

    I get this guy has said he didn’t mean for it to be threatening but… Jesus. The most generous reading I can come up with was the strawfeminist one suggested by Lyanna. And even that turns creepy with the amount of detail put into every scenario.

    I actually replied to the second message by asking if he was Victor Ivanoff.

    That’s where my mind jumped too.

  21. 21
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    After all the accusations of D.J. gas-lighting or him being a rape apologist, and demanding he be removed or step down, and NOW a sudden concern of his interest? Pardon my skepticism.

  22. 22
    julian

    #Cory Albrecth

    Those would still be private communications and I don’t know if Ophelia is ok with just posting that stuff without permission.

  23. 23
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    Yes Ophelia, you must IMMEDIATELY present us with ALL the evidence. Or we won’t BELIEVE you. We nned MORE evidence than would be required to verify the efficacy of HOMEOPATHY and the existence of BIGFOOT, RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT!!11!

  24. 24
    julian

    After all the accusations of D.J. gas-lighting or him being a rape apologist, and demanding he be removed or step down

    Don’t think Ophelia has made any of these…

  25. 25
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    My impressions are no doubt colored by my having watched too much true crime TV, like about predatory highway patrol officers being interviewed about what women can do to keep safe on the roads.

    I also thought some of it could be read as sarcasm (took me a moment to figure out what an “uppants camera” was), as well as at turns obsessive stalkerish, extremely paranoid, or threatening.

  26. 26
    Martha

    @Cory Albrecht: Why should it be at all important to Ophelia that you believe her assertion? If she chooses to withhold information that would only serve to fan the flames, and the cost of that is that someone who was probably never going to listen in the first place fails to believe her, I can’t see what is lost. Hopefully, a quicker return to civility is gained. I admire Ophelia for her wisdom and restraint in this instance and in many others.

  27. 27
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    …or, of course, trying to drive you away by planting those seeds and making you suspect they had knowledge you didn’t.

    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.

  28. 28
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    After all the accusations of D.J. gas-lighting or him being a rape apologist, and demanding he be removed or step down, and NOW a sudden concern of his interest? Pardon my skepticism.

    *facepalm* LOL its like they don’t even try to read or listen before posting. Just say whatever you feel like. it’ll be true because you said it!

  29. 29
    Egbert

    Definitely strange controlling messages. I’m not surprised you felt the way you did.

  30. 30
    caseygaspari

    OB- Of course I have. I’ve heard a lot of things over the last few days from both sides of the spectrum on various topics surrounding TAM.

    Sadly, the immediate publicizing of a threat (not specified initially that they were directly about TAM), followed by immediate withdrawal from the conference itself, refusal to show the actual emails, distaste for contacting proper authorities, further followed by statements and retractions, and then a final statement (thus far) that said threats weren’t REALLY threats, make me question the validity of you IMMEDIATELY deciding to drop speaking at TAM. Why not say something to the effect of “I’ve received threats about my safety at TAM, so I’m backing out of the conference until further notice” or, “I’ve received threats about my safety at TAM, this is a prime example of why we need a policy, If JREF doesn’t agree to ensure my safety to the best of their abilities, I will not be speaking at TAM this year.” Etc.

    You put up such a fight to stay with TAM because of the commitment you made prior to all of this, said that you would not back out of TAM because surly, you’d be harassed if you did, and then it’s just, “I’m out.”

    I can understand over reacting to a situation that is unexpected and uncomfortable. But you said it wasn’t an over reaction. (It was a very quick, short, blunt post. Much like over reacting). So if it wasn’t you over reacting, then it was certainty that you were being threatened… but you’re confirming that they were, in your opinion, not really threats. So was this just a normal, well thought out reaction? Or was it just “fuck it, i’ve had enough, i’m out.” Which is still over reacting in light of your final opinion.

    I just can’t seem to decode all of the foreign content i’m intaking from some of these more recent blogs on your side of the community. I do appreciate that your blog and/or commenters are not as flat-out repugnant as the shit show over at PZ’s Party Palace, but honestly, where does the shit stop and the velcro start?

  31. 31
    Tom Foss

    @Cory Albrecht: The accusation of “gaslighting” was in response to the actual things he said to Ashley Miller, and his continued inability/unwillingness to get her story right. The demands that he be removed or step down were in response to his false claims (‘no reports of harassment at TAM’), his unsupported claims (‘TAM female attendance is down because of women bloggers’ irresponsible messaging that TAM is unsafe’), his dismissiveness regarding actual problems (“locker room banter,” etc.) and his general inability to take any responsibility for problems, handle this situation with any kind of leadership acumen, or even recognize that there may actually be a problem with the policy and/or its implementation.

    As far as “rape apologist” goes, I haven’t seen that accusation made. But given his misunderstanding of what constitutes harassment and his attempt to dismiss the concerns as “rumor and distasteful locker room banter, often pretty mean-spirited, especially when it is from just one or a few women recounting sexual exploits they’ve had with speakers who are eventually deemed as ‘skeezy,’” I don’t think it’s completely without reason.

    None of this has anything to do with the mocking threat made to Ophelia, except inasmuch as DJ’s conduct makes it appear that he is unlikely to take complaints and concerns seriously and be an advocate, ally, and enthusiastic supporter of harassment victims, and this whole situation has shown that reasonable concerns and actual complaints are apparently more likely to be swept under the rug and ignored than investigated and acted upon.

  32. 32
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    Instead of getting sucked into the petty madness of the “not enough evidence!eleventy!” crowd, I’ll just reiterate my first thought from days ago – Ophelia, this is terrible. You have my support and empathy.

  33. 33
    Josh Slocum

    God you’re wretched, Casey. How much more punishing of the victim (yeah, victim) are you going to dole out? All of it, continually, I’m sure.

  34. 34
    BubbaRich

    @Martha:

    Saying it “wouldn’t be in DJ’s interest” is ALREADY fanning the flames. You don’t get credit for withholding a log from the fire while you’re pouring gas on it.

  35. 35
    hyperdeath

    Ophelia, do you now take back your accusations that D.J. Grothe is a Nazi war criminal, a predatory paedophile, and the de facto leader of Al Qaeda? Do you also regret claiming that all female attendees of TAM are ritualistically dowsed in nitric acid, and then crucified?

  36. 36
    hyperdeath

    Your Name’s not Bruce? says:

    Yes Ophelia, you must IMMEDIATELY present us with ALL the evidence. Or we won’t BELIEVE you. We nned MORE evidence than would be required to verify the efficacy of HOMEOPATHY and the existence of BIGFOOT, RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT!!11!

    That’s a pretty good impression, but you’re using too many lower-case letters.

  37. 37
    caseygaspari

    @ Josh

    Yes, i’m incredibly wretched and punishing O.B. for being a victim of “warning” emails.

    All I said was that i’m not sure I agree with simply “i’m out” in light of the way things were carried out. Had she been as seriously committed to TAM as previously thought, I’m just wondering why there wasn’t a little more thought put into it….Or why she might have declined a phone conversation with JREF about the issue.

  38. 38
    EllenBeth Wachs

    Oh for crying out loud. I got the willies reading the first one. The second one was just outright meant to get you upset while attempting to appear benign.

    These were written by someone very skilled at using nuance and misdirection.

    You did the right thing. It was the right thing if for only one reason- you will now have some sense of security and peace of mind.

    Do not start second-guessing yourself. I hope you didn’t post these because you felt pressured to from the other side.

  39. 39
    Rasmus

    It seems to me that the emails are from a person with an overzealous paranoid/catastrophic pattern of thought who legitimately cares about Ophelia. But it’s really hard to tell.

    I would also have been concerned if I got emails like those.

  40. 40
    Josh Slocum

    You’re a liar Casey. You know damned well how hard it is to get an answer out of JREF on this issue. You know it. Yet you continue to invent ways that it was Ophelia’s/Rebecca’s/Greta’s/Whoever’s fault. They didn’t persist enough in being asked to be taken seriously. They weren’t “committed” enough.

    You have no goddamned empathy if you can’t conceive of snapping and saying “fuck it” after just one more provocation.

  41. 41
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    DJ Grothe is perfectly free at any time, himself or through Carrie Poppy, to challenge Ophelia’s characterization of the email. He’s also free to respond to the comments on his public statements and the general questions that have been put to him, especially by those who’ve been actively involved in promoting TAM for years.

  42. 42
    jenniferphillips

    These emails definitely have a threatening vibe to them. Absent any prior relationship with the sender, I would have been unnerved and worried to receive them as well. You did the right thing, Ophelia.

  43. 43
    maureen.brian

    Ophelia, before I was just concerned for you – the stress as much as anything – but now I am thoroughly pissed off and stamping my feet.

    I don’t care if he’s got affidavits from 4,000 psychiatrists on 5 continents, someone who has fantasies of that complexity about someone he claims to admire is worrying. I think the give-away is that he expects you to organise or pre-plan your way out of every trap.

    I just hope this person is not writing operational manuals for the CIA. We (rest of the world) have enough trouble with them already.

  44. 44
    davidmc

    CREEPY!definately, and not suprising it creeped you out. I agree with SC@27 “…or, of course, trying to drive you away by planting those seeds and making you suspect they had knowledge you didn’t”

    Normally just David,(from Manchester) had to log in, Zingularity is trying to lead folk astray

  45. 45
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    How much more punishing of the victim (yeah, victim) are you going to dole out? All of it, continually, I’m sure.

    Well, she didn’t do exactly what he would have done, exactly how and when he would have done it, ergo she’s a liar. Or an attention whore. or just making it up. or “over reacting” becauase – hey, after weeks of getting piled on by unhinged bigots, it’s over reacting to decide creepy ass e-mails, that scream threatening to everyone with more than four brain cells, is the straw the broke the camel’s back.

    OB is a chick. She has to qualify everything she does, says, thinks and feels to be reviewed by the logical and rational people who know so much more about this whole thing than she does.

  46. 46
    Amphigorey

    The emails read as mocking, especially with the repeats of Ophelia’s name and the weird, totally off-base reference to Schrodinger’s Rapist.

    They are super creepy, whatever the writer intended. Ophelia, I’m sorry you’re going through this. I can’t get over the fact that this started over what is basically an HR policy discussion. It shouldn’t even be controversial!

  47. 47
    caseygaspari

    @josh

    OK, then i’m a liar. Who cares? It doesn’t change my point. An email threat sent to her is a PRIME OPPORTUNITY to make a “final attempt” at putting SERIOUS pressure on JREF (especially since she has a “threat” in writing sent directly to her via emails) to address the issue and prove for the last time whether or not they are committed to solving the issue. She could’ve then backed out if the JREF didn’t respond properly and it would’ve proven the whole drama-filled misogynist accusations that your side has been making. The “battle” could’ve been significantly turned in one direction or the other. But sadly, thats not what happened. So the shit storm continues.

    Respond if you like and i’ll comment later. But right now, this is the last i’m saying as I will be AFK for a bit. –

  48. 48
    Zengaze

    @rasmus 39

    Well that’s not surprising is it, when “he looked at me from across the room” turns into ” fucking creep was undressing me in his mind and planning his attack so I checked my purse for my mace,this is not a fucking safe space and it’s because of assholes like that”

    With replys being “you are so right, it’s the rape culture, chances are he was an attacker and nobody gives a fuck except us victims”

    And you expect rational/non paranoid discourse and or emails?!

  49. 49
    Carlie

    make me question the validity of you IMMEDIATELY deciding to drop speaking at TAM.

    Why the hell should she care what you think of the validity of her decisions?????

  50. 50
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    She could’ve then backed out if the JREF didn’t respond properly…The “battle” could’ve been significantly turned in one direction or the other.

    Even better, she could have gone to TAM and goaded some inept tool of feminism into shooting her! Then, when Grothe didn’t wait in the emergency room while the doctors tried to remove the bullet from her brain, our misandric point would have been proven for all the world! And TAM’s reputation would be utterly destroyed, just as we’ve been plotting! Then we’d celebrate!

  51. 51
    Ophelia Benson

    Rich @ 34 -

    Saying it “wouldn’t be in DJ’s interest” is ALREADY fanning the flames. You don’t get credit for withholding a log from the fire while you’re pouring gas on it.

    Absolutely classic you cannot fucking win.

    I was shouted at for not saying what the JREF said. I explained why I wasn’t saying. I get shouted at for that.

    All you ashholes are why I’m delighted not to be going to TAM.

  52. 52
    Josh Slocum

    Respond if you like and i’ll comment later.

    Don’t bother.

  53. 53
    Lyanna

    Zengaze, either provide a substantiating link, or go away.

    An example of what I was talking about, with regard to the email being an attempt at parodying straw-feminists, can be found at this comment (and the subsequent ones following it) from a commenter with no name or pseudonym.

    The email and the comment look, to me, like they have similar verbal choices, similar grammatical patterns, and a similar tone and posture adopted by the writer. By tone and posture, I mean the emphatic and over-the-top faux-agreement with a straw-feminist position.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if the emailer and the commenter posted on the same blogs and comment threads, or even if they were the same person (though I don’t assume they are).

  54. 54
    Ophelia Benson

    On the other hand all the non-asshole comments are making me laugh like a drain.

    Really: I’m in a very good mood. I have a big prezzy.

  55. 55
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    And you expect rational/non paranoid discourse and or emails?!

    Wait…You’re not seriously suggesting (assuming for the moment that it is simply paranoid) that Ophelia is responsible for driving this person to send her a paranoid email. Or that the women talking about sexual harassment are. Right?

  56. 56
    Ophelia Benson

    EllenBeth, no, I didn’t feel pressured to post these. Some of the asshole types did demand them in the usual bossy way, but lots of people were curious, and the sender told me from the outset to feel free to share the contents (god knows why, but he did), and anyway I wanted to show what I was talking about. I got Tim’s permission to mention his role, so it was simple. Before today it wasn’t simple.

  57. 57
    Nurse Ingrid

    Ophelia, this situation is a perfect illustration of why it is absurd for anyone to dismiss threatening statements made online as “just a joke,” or “they didn’t really mean it,” etc.

    By what means are these people suggesting that you determine, based on text on a screen from someone you have never met and know nothing about, which threats are credible and which are not?

    I am a health care provider with a lot of experience in mental health. I can tell you that there is no agreed upon set of reliable criteria by which mental health professionals can predict which patients who threaten harm to others — or suicide — will go on to act on those statements. Most of them don’t, but there is no way to be sure if the patient in front of you is one of the very small number who really are serious. So we take all threatening statements as potentially serious and act accordingly.

    It’s the same reason that airport security doesn’t allow you to joke about having a bomb. The stakes are too high if they dismiss someone as “just joking” and they’re wrong.

  58. 58
    Rasmus

    @Zengaze: You’re going to have to restate your point or question a more direct and less passive way if you want me to respond. Alternatively, you could address your concerns directly at those who you are concerned about.

    My, again humble, opinion is that Ophelia has made the relevant facts available in a very timely manner. I think that a person who receives creepy messages is wise to take time to ponder the implications of those messages, and time to wait for reactions and advice from people who she trusts before she decides whether or not to make the messages public.

  59. 59
    Ophelia Benson

    Thank you, Ingrid. That’s basically what I was thinking. The likelihood seemed minuscule, but one doesn’t know. And with everything else I just suddenly lost the will to struggle.

    AND I AM NOT SORRY.

    casey I do hope that clears everything up for you, and that you will go away now.

  60. 60
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    Yep, whatever you do Ophelia, it will be wrong. If you had gone and “something” had “happened”, they would have said “BUT SHE WAS WARNED! SHE GOT THREATS!! WHY DID SHE INSIST ON GOING?!!!

    When you decide not to go it’s “WHY DID SHE GIVE UP SO EASILY?! IT WASN’T REALLY A THREAT!! YOU”RE LETTING THE BULLIES WIN!!! YOU MUSTN’T HAVE BEEN SERIOUS ABOUT GOING IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!”

    I dunno, I guess you’ll just have to let these other people run your life for you.

  61. 61
    Ophelia Benson

    maureen – well he isn’t as far away from the CIA as one might wish. :- )

  62. 62
    raymoscow

    Hmmm … I don’t think these were threats, but they would have made me uncomfortable to say the least.

    And yes, several elements seemed to be OTT sarcasm, and if so the messages were intended to creep you out.

  63. 63
    julian

    Respond if you like and i’ll comment later. But right now, this is the last i’m saying as I will be AFK for a bit.

    I can’t express how much contempt I feel for people who try to make people on the receiving end of harassment out to be the villains.

    Ophelia gets creepy email. Creepy email makes several allusions to her safety and things that could go wrong. Creepy email is last straw in long line of bullshit she’s been getting because of a critical position she’s taken towards Grothe. Ophelia decides she won’t be speaking at TAM.

    And you need to chastise her for- what?- not using this as a political springboard to attack JREF with? Fuck off.

  64. 64
    Zengaze

    @55 sc

    No it was quite obviously TAM and DJ

  65. 65
    julian

    @Zengaze

    Or the people shielding this kind behavior from the start.

  66. 66
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    Illuminata @ #28: What, you missed what Jason Thibeault said in http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/02/the-further-hyper-skepticism-stalling-our-conversation/ ? Gaslighting is a pretty serious charge. IOW, I’m not making that up so it’s not a case if “I said it’s so therefore it’s true”. Try to actually do your homework next time before you try to belittle somebody – you only come off a looking bad yourself.

  67. 67
    Ophelia Benson

    Cory Albrecht – so you’re saying that because Jason once said X therefore I’m lying in this post.

    Fuck you.

  68. 68
    hyperdeath

    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor) says:

    Illuminata @ #28: What, you missed what Jason Thibeault said in http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2012/06/02/the-further-hyper-skepticism-stalling-our-conversation/ ? Gaslighting is a pretty serious charge. IOW, I’m not making that up so it’s not a case if “I said it’s so therefore it’s true”. Try to actually do your homework next time before you try to belittle somebody – you only come off a looking bad yourself.

    Following on in that vein of logic, I’d like to point out hedgehogs are not indigenous to Antarctica, thus revealing that you are planning to assassinate the Prime Minister of Sweden. Try to actually do your homework next time before plotting to murder Scandinavian politicians – you only come off as looking bad yourself.

  69. 69
    Stacy

    Try to actually do your homework next time before you try to belittle somebody – you only come off a looking bad yourself

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    http://faqsmedia.ign.com/faqs/image/article/110/1109799/bender_laugh_moar.jpg

  70. 70
    Mriana

    The sender’s messages seem weird. Paranoia? Maybe. Fact. I don’t know. I sort of doubt it all fact and could be mixed with paranoia. Then again, we don’t know what the sender heard, but I can certainly see how it would cause you to feel uncomfortable and maybe concerned about your own well-being. I don’t know if you overreacted and can’t say you did. It’s hard to say, but I don’t see anything in there that you can report. It is creepy though, very creepy.

    I only met James Randi once and I don’t know what he’d do if you needed help, but he didn’t seem like a man who has no compassion. I can’t imagine DJ not caring either. I don’t know and beyond that, I don’t know what to say, but maybe you’ll come to a Skepticon in the near future.

    I do have one question… Why would it be safer to get a “secret hotel room” that no one knows about? That doesn’t seem right. None of it seem right. I think it would be safer to stay in the public eye and where people expect you to be. Seems like a bunch of BS safety precautions. I agree, I don’t think it was a threat, but meant to scare you, which it did. The messages make no sense at all.

  71. 71
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Again, Cory, since you are incapable of reading:

    Jason != Ophelia.

    Email was a private communication.

    The only evidence you need for TAM refusing to address the problem is this entire freakout over a simple policy they refuse to create and post.

  72. 72
    julian

    Not to mention low low intelligence for not being able to detect when someone is blatantly ridiculing you.

    Oh, Grothe. But you did embrace a callous group of defenders, didn’t you?

  73. 73
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    Ophelia: I’m sorry if I came across that way. I’m not that good at expressing my thoughts in words and that is not what I meant to say, implicitly or explicitly. I didn’t mean to diminish and feelings you have about having been threatened and I apologize for coming across like that. I was just trying to show Illuminata that she was wrong in her apparent claim that I was lying about people calling D.J. Grothe a gaslighter and a rape apologist.

    I’m just say that there has been a lot of vitriol in the blogosphere about this topic from all sides and that if the JREF truly was dismissive of you, that deserves to be shown openly. We all have our biases and those can tend to creep in when we paraphrase what others have said, and a debate like this it’s better if we try for openness and transparency in light of comments like Jason’s that have been taken up across comment threads instead of adding to the vitriol.

  74. 74
    Stacy

    This was so obviously a joke…blah blah blah…low low intelligence for not being able to detect when someone is blatantly ridiculing you

    Read the post you’re responding to. People have spoken with the sender. He didn’t intend it as a joke.

    I do wish those who can’t read for comprehension would stop projecting their dumbassery onto those of us whose IQs are above room temperature.

  75. 75
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    @55 sc

    No it was quite obviously TAM and DJ

    So you were actually suggesting that. Sinvergüenza.

  76. 76
    NanceConfer

    Yes, I think you’re right. The threats weren’t really threats.

    Good that you had a couple of people you could confide in who could help sort it out privately and make that phone call.

  77. 77
    Mriana

    EllenBeth Wachs says:
    June 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm
    These were written by someone very skilled at using nuance and misdirection.

    Now that is probably the best description I’ve read yet and probably what I was reaching for with my first post in this thread, because, as I said, something isn’t right about it.

  78. 78
    Stacy

    @Mriana, hard to tell. Given that Tim Farley spoke with the sender, I read them as probably well-meant, from somebody who’s hypervigilant or given to a kinda paranoid view of the world.

    But without more knowledge of the sender, they could’ve been anything, including a threat intended to warn Ophelia off while retaining plausible deniability that was the intent.

  79. 79
    Ophelia Benson

    Cory Albrecht, that’s not very convincing given what you said @ 21. In fact it’s not convincing at all.

    I’m really tired of people accusing me of lying about this.

  80. 80
    hyperdeath

    Wow. This was so obviously a joke.

    Then why, you stupid little man, was it framed in terms of her personal safety? Do you find setting off fire alarms funny?

    The reaction here just shows that you people are either dumb, paranoid or have self-delusions of grandeur.

    Actually, you stupid little man, the reaction here is one of uncertainty as to the message’s meaning.

    Not to mention low low intelligence for not being able to detect when someone is blatantly ridiculing you.

    It obviously hasn’t occurred to you, you stupid little man, that it’s possible for an email to be ridiculing and threatening.

  81. 81
    skeptifem

    @8

    A warning, yes. Creepy, (likely more then not if you weren’t a public figure), but sure. Threat? NO.

    I could just picture you, as a shop owner somewhere, thanking a mafia goon for the speculation while assuring him that you do in fact have *plenty* of insurance.

    think for a minute before you type.

  82. 82
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    F @ #71: No, I’ve never made that mistake. I may have not expressed myself clearly, but I was talking about releasing JREF’s response in light of all the vitriol this debate has generated all over FTB and many other blogs. It’s unfair to the organization to have something like that said and then not show why. Just as it was unfair of me to not take more care about what I wrote a look like I was accusing Ophelia of lying.

  83. 83
    hyperdeath

    Cory Albrecht, that’s not very convincing given what you said @ 21. In fact it’s not convincing at all.

    Not only that, he’s planning to murder the Prime Minister of Sweden.

  84. 84
    Mriana

    Stacy says:
    June 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm
    @Mriana, hard to tell. Given that Tim Farley spoke with the sender, I read them as probably well-meant, from somebody who’s hypervigilant or given to a kinda paranoid view of the world.

    But without more knowledge of the sender, they could’ve been anything, including a threat intended to warn Ophelia off while retaining plausible deniability that was the intent.

    Exactly. Paranoia was one of my first thoughts when I read it, but of course we’ll never know. I think Ophelia chose the right option for herself and at the very least, not attending and speaking will relieve her of more stress because of these emails, but I think the sender recommendations are problematic, if not even paranoid.

  85. 85
    julian

    It’s unfair to the organization to have something like that said and then not show why.

    The problem I think you’re having with other commentors is that because Ophelia never made those accusations, she’s really not in a position to provide evidence for them. You may want them for the larger discussion but this is still a private conversation between two people.

  86. 86
    Ophelia Benson

    Cory Albrecht, stop blaming me for what’s been said about JREF everywhere. I’m not responsible for everywhere.

    I don’t know that JREF has done anything in particular to me; it’s DJ who has. He stuck a target on me; he never did anything to remedy that; he gave a pretty insulting response to my message about the threats the other day and has not replied since. I think this is not the right way to treat an invited speaker, no matter how irritated you are. Clearly he made a mistake in inviting me, but that’s hardly my fault.

    So just shut the fuck up about unfairness to JREF. Take it somewhere else.

  87. 87
    skeptifem

    @47 casey (and well, you in general)

    You are incredibly immature. Maturity requires understanding that the perspectives of others do in fact have some merit, even if the perspective is totally different from yours. Ophelia is under no obligation to fix tam or do any of the shit you are saying she should, and even if she were obligated she could go about it any way she damn well pleases. She has been through something that you haven’t, and you seem to derive great pleasure from showing up and telling her how wrong she is for not doing it the way you *imagine* you would if you were her, like a fucking snotty child. She isn’t you, but she is another person who is exactly as important as anyone else, and who therefore deserves some fucking consideration. Most children get this figured out eventually, I don’t care how smart you think you are about strategy or being “tough” or anything else, you are way the fuck behind the rest of us in terms of compassion and empathy for other human beings. Try to actually imagine what other people might think or feel for a fucking second and you might understand why so many people at FTB are sick of your shit.

    Whenever I hear someone say something like your posts, something like “well *I* would have handled _____(incredibly stressful situation) so much better than you did!” I am reminded of something I saw long ago. I was hanging out with a bunch of dudebros in a video game store, making conversation, and the friend I was with said something like “ever worry you’ll get robbed?” All the dudes tried to out-man each other in their responses of what they would do if they did get robbed. Some dudes proposed being too clever to let them get away with it, others too strong, etc. The same four guys were working there all the time. In a weird coincidence they did get robbed that shortly after our visit, at gunpoint, and none of them did any of the shit that they said they would have in case of robbery. Some of em peed their pants. That is because when you are looking in from the outside, speculating on what it is like to be in some terribly shitty situation instead of actually being in one, its easy to say what the best thing to do was. When you are actually in it things are very different.

  88. 88
    onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork

    I wish I could say this was unbelievable; unfortunately, it’s not.

    I think you made the right call.

    But that doesn’t matter at all. What’s important is that you made the right call for you. You have the absolute right to make whatever decisions you need to in order to keep yourself physically and emotionally safe. You have the absolute right to discuss or not discuss the situation with your friends and colleagues as you wish. You are under no obligation to justify or defend your choices and actions, or to disclose any correspondence to or from people regarding this situation.

    But you know all that.

    I just feel so helpless when so many intelligent, passionate, and dedicated people are being harassed for the heinous crime of trying to help other intelligent, passionate and dedicated people.

    And all I can do to help is write supportive comments on a blog. *sigh*

    Or organize another Project Postcard? Rally a flood of letters and postcards in support of you, Greta, Stephanie, Rebecca, Ashley, Jason, PZ, and everyone else in this fight? Organize a letter writing campaign to…someone? Organize a fundraiser for some worthy charity (RAINN, SSA, FFRF?) in the name of anyone who has experienced harassment? …I can make jewelry! (I’m only half-joking–do you wear earrings? Name your favorite color or gemstones and I’ll whip up a ‘sexists suck’/'beat the bullies’ present. :) )

    I wish there was some more tangible way I could help, but the only real resources I have at my disposal are a decade & change of treating trauma & working with children & families, and the basic social worker toolkit–advocacy, organization, case management (and making jewelry, but I have no idea how one would parlay that into a weapon against sexual harassment ;)). If you can think of anyone way to put those skills to use, name it and I will be happy to help in anyway I can.

    Failing that–please know that, for whatever it’s worth, you have my support. *hugs* if you want them!

  89. 89
    Haggart

    Wow, that is just straight up bizarre. I’m glad this has been sorted and I hope its not too late to reconsider going to TAM.

    I doubt we will see however, any retraction from the shit stirrers, about how “the bullies have won” and the throwing out of blame to individuals such as Sara Mayhew for being somehow responsible for this, or DJ himself being responsible for this.

    This was clearly just someone with good intentions for her safety, who might be just a bit out of touch, and who’s bizarre email could certainly be interpreted as organized crime style threatening.

  90. 90
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes! I want many many many postcards!!!

  91. 91
    julian

    I’m glad this has been sorted and I hope its not too late to reconsider going to TAM.

    Why?

    So you can drag through more bullshit?

  92. 92
    Jason Demetrius

    Kinda funny how continuous comments/blog posts/talk/etc. for a year about how conferences aren’t a safe place, and that harassment/sexism is at every turn is DEFINITELY NOT WHY WOMEN AREN’T GOING TO TAM but a single email with a slightly exaggerated version of that same rhetoric picked up from here is enough to stop a woman speaker from going to TAM.

  93. 93
    Tim Harris

    Well done, Ophelia. You did absolutely the right thing.

  94. 94
    Martha

    @Haggard 89: Take a look at Ingrid’s excellent comment [57]. She’s absolutely right. It’s not reasonable to take the risk. Whether or not he *meant* those notes to be threats, they’re deeply unsettling.

  95. 95
    Ophelia Benson

    onion girl – but seriously – you think you need a more tangible way of helping than treating trauma? I call that helping! You’re doing it already!

  96. 96
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh god the stupid…

  97. 97
    Musical Atheist

    It seems inconsistent for the sender to give Ophelia such detailed advice on concealment/security and also give permission to share the email.

  98. 98
    Stacy

    @Jason Demetrius @92:

    Kinda funny how continuous comments/blog posts/talk/etc. for a year about how conferences aren’t a safe place…is DEFINITELY NOT WHY WOMEN AREN’T GOING TO TAM (Italics added)

    Yeah, no.

    The blog posts discussing the fact that women have talked behind the scenes about harassment at conferences were posted 10 days before DJ Grothe made his non-evidenced remarks about how “omg! women bloggers are scaring women away from TAM!!!11!”

    But thanks for playing “Throw Out Some Ignorant Shit and Hope It Sticks To the Walls.” Pick up your home version of the game on your way out.

  99. 99
    soiejfoijsef

    Wow!

    I can’t comprehend how those messages can possible balance so precisely on the edge extremely creepy death threat well-meaning advice from and extremely scared and paranoid guy. I’m so relieved it turned out to be the latter. I would have been shocked to the core to receive such a message.

  100. 100
    'Tis Himself

    I think Ophelia did the right thing. Nurse Ingrid explained the situation well, you never know which threats are real and which aren’t, so you deal with all of them as being real.

  101. 101
    echidna

    I would say exactly the same as Nurse Ingrid and ‘Tis Himself, except not quite as well as they did. I am looking forward to finding out what the “prezzie” is.

  102. 102
    Jason Dametrius

    “Yeah, no.

    The blog posts discussing the fact that women have talked behind the scenes about harassment at conferences were posted 10 days before DJ Grothe made his non-evidenced remarks about how “omg! women bloggers are scaring women away from TAM!!!11!”

    But thanks for playing “Throw Out Some Ignorant Shit and Hope It Sticks To the Walls.” Pick up your home version of the game on your way out.”

    Keep up, this has been going on for about a year now. Yes the specific comments were recent, but look back through the archives of FTB, its pretty extensive.

  103. 103
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Imagine for the sake of argument that it was intended as satire or ridicule. What would it have been satirizing or ridiculing? Itself? Ophelia hasn’t said she was reconsidering going to TAM because she feared she would be assaulted, and neither she nor the other prominent women fighting sexism, misogyny, discrimination, and harassment have said that skeptical-atheist conferences – and particularly not TAM, only discussing this specifically when Grothe made it the topic and made claims about it – are places women can expect to be harassed or assaulted at some highly atypical rate. In fact, they’ve said the contrary. I think Ophelia’s been suggesting all along that in the climate that’s developed and with Grothe’s demonstrated lack of interest in and even hostility towards women’s concerns, she didn’t know if it would be comfortable, pleasant, or worth it if she’d possibly have to deal with the misogynistic crowd, especially when the conference organizers don’t seem to have women’s backs. And it’s a lot to go speak at a fundraising event for an organization whose leadership has disrepected you and other women in that way.

    No, it could only be satirizing the incessant repetition of the misrepresentations of what feminists are saying by the misogynists. And if the guy who wrote it really is paranoid specifically about this, it wouldn’t be due to anything Ophelia has said, but to the past year‘s constant barrage of misogynistic slurs and jokes, sexually violent language, people writing things in the comments like that which was quoted in the email, threats, and so on. We, including Ophelia, have seen some or all of this directed at other women (and young girls) and at ourselves, and also seen people we thought would condemn it instead ignore it, play it down, blame us for it, and even defend it. It’s a wonder Ophelia wasn’t more worried about her safety.

  104. 104
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Keep up, this has been going on for about a year now. Yes the specific comments were recent, but look back through the archives of FTB, its pretty extensive.

    Actually, you’d have to look back through the archives of Scienceblogs, because women have been talking about their conference experiences and offering suggestions for how to address problems for a few years at least, especially at Pharyngula. So there goes your little speculation. Run along, now.

  105. 105
    Ophelia Benson

    Yup, that’s what I’ve been suggesting all along! And I’m still suggesting it. I told DJ that yesterday. No reply (apart from Carrie’s suggestion that I phone them).

  106. 106
    Ophelia Benson

    Here’s most of what I said (after a bit about the “threats” or whatever they were):

    I think it’s pretty obvious that some attendees are primed to despise me, and not because of posts at FTB so much as because of what you said about that group of women that includes me. (For the record, I hadn’t said anything about a scary atmosphere for women at TAM when you said what you did, not least because I had no opinions on the subject.)

    I’ve felt, ever since you made those comments, that you’d put a (metaphorical) target on me. You haven’t done anything to take it off. That makes the event incredibly uncomfortable for me. The addition of threats or weird creepy threat-like “advice” just makes it impossible. I don’t feel welcome, and I don’t think I would have a good time. I don’t feel like being anxious about my safety on top of that.

    It’s nice that Dawkins, Krauss and Jillette were treated respectfully at TAM, but I can’t help noticing some differences between them and me. They’re men. They’re Names. They don’t piss off angry misogynists.

  107. 107
    davidmc

    Ophelia, in the voice of roy schieder ” think your gonna need a bigger FILE”
    On the positive side, you have loads of support, readers and folk prepared to comment to that effect, and there have been some brilliant comments. I’m sure im not the only one, following this particular part of the shit storm, thats learning a lot of stuff, it may even be sinking into some of the members on the wrong side too. Its inspiring to see so many strong and articulate individuals standing up for whats right.

    kindest regards
    David

  108. 108
    Stacy

    @Jason Dametrius #102

    Keep up, this has been going on for about a year now. Yes the specific comments were recent, but look back through the archives of FTB, its pretty extensive

    Oh, you mean the discussion of all the hateful things that have been said to women bloggers, particularly Rebecca Watson and Ophelia, over the past year? Yeah, we’ve discussed that pretty extensively.

    Don’t recall much talk about conferences in that discussion, though, or of TAM specifically, and women turned out in good numbers for the Reason Rally, so–

    What was your point, again?

  109. 109
    Stacy

    Furthermore, Jason Dametrius, the shit being responded to in those discussions is real. Blog comments–a whole slimepit full of them–emails containing hateful rhetoric and fantasies about Rebecca getting raped and Ophelia getting kicked in the cunt. All real, all documented.

    So even in the highly unlikely event you’re correct about the discussion leading to lower female enrollment at TAM–even though (I repeat) the discussion wasn’t about TAM and women turned out in very good numbers to the Reason Rally–you might want to reexamine who’s to blame there.

  110. 110
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Oh, and another furthermore: Those discussions at Scienceblogs and elsewhere (including B&W) were a significant part of the reason women’s participation has been increasing overall over the past few years. We repeatedly raised the issue of overwhelmingly or all male speaker lists (knowing that virtually every time we did, we’d end up dealing with the same stupid pushback), we made lists of prominent women who could be invited to speak and encouraged organizers to ask them, people talked about the barriers to their attendance and suggested improvements, we cheered the conferences doing it right,… And TAM specifically has been promoted by people like PZ and the Skepchicks (who raised money for women to attend). If people hadn’t been doing all of that, the preregistration numbers for women at this year’s TAM wouldn’t have been down, because they probably never would have been up. It would just be business as usual.

    The idea of blaming women for lower registration by women is just dumb and derailing in so many ways. The people serving it up no doubt know this, and don’t care, because they couldn’t care less about women’s concerns – it’s about opposing feminists.

  111. 111
    Masakari2012

    “I’ve felt, ever since you made those comments, that you’d put a (metaphorical) target on me.”

    No. You and your FTB bully-friends put a target on D.J. Grothe. He didn’t attack any of you with blogs, and only politely pointed out facts in responses. You FTB bullies only looked for things in D.J.’s responses to disagree with, and are horrible at communicating with others.

    “It’s nice that Dawkins, Krauss and Jillette were treated respectfully at TAM, but I can’t help noticing some differences between them and me. They’re men. They’re Names. They don’t piss off angry misogynists.”

    They’re treated respectfully at TAM because of their hard work, not because they are men. They don’t bully other atheists and/or support other FTB bullies on blogs. They made their names honorably, not like you did with your notorious ignorance. You pissed off a lot of people who are allies against sexism towards women, which you are labeling as “misogynists”, since this term is used to define anyone who disagrees with you. Other female speakers are treated with the same respect as these “men”. You may not get that respect because of your own personal flaws, not because you’re a woman.

    You shouldn’t have even blogged about the “threats” until you were certain that they were threats. Those types of claims cause harm. So now you blogged about it not being threats (I’m glad you’re honest about that), and you’ve lost more credibility for your future blogs. What about your fans who sent those e-mails? They may have had poor choice in words, but now they may feel bad for causing this unintended drama.

  112. 112
    Carlie

    He didn’t attack any of you with blogs, and only politely pointed out facts in responses.

    FOR FUCK’S SAKE. Do you have any idea what you’re talking about? DJ started it. He started it on facebook, and then he took it to, guess what, a blog.

  113. 113
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Oh, you mean the discussion of all the hateful things that have been said to women bloggers, particularly Rebecca Watson and Ophelia, over the past year? Yeah, we’ve discussed that pretty extensively.

    Don’t recall much talk about conferences in that discussion, though,

    My impression is that until recently people talked about conference issues far less this past year than in previous. The online misogynistic viciousness has just been such a serious problem that it moved to the center, the events seemed to be going fairly well, and there was the WiS meeting.

  114. 114
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    FOR FUCK’S SAKE. Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

    I don’t think they care. They’re happy to repeat the same lies and bullshit claims over and over, and to keep inventing new ones with which to go after feminists. I don’t think they read the responses – just scan them for something to use as ammunition.

  115. 115
    julian

    I see everything Ophelia has ever written about secularism, atheism and religion never really happened. It’s true. My copies of Does God Hate Women? and Why Truth Matters just dematerialized. I’m kinda shocked by this turn of events.

  116. 116
    julian

    You shouldn’t have even blogged about the “threats” until you were certain that they were threats. Those types of claims cause harm. So now you blogged about it not being threats (I’m glad you’re honest about that), and you’ve lost more credibility for your future blogs. What about your fans who sent those e-mails? They may have had poor choice in words, but now they may feel bad for causing this unintended drama.

    If this isn’t an example of “You just can’t win” I don’t know what is.

    I’m just glad Ophelia’s getting away from these creeps and the people who’ve been back them all this time.

  117. 117
    Utakata

    (Forgive me for what I am about to say on your blog, Ophelia…)

    @ MasakariTroll 111

    …for the sake of all of those who have been over your concerns a billion times, please go fuck yourself. No…seriously, go fuck yourself…you trolling lying denialist piece of shit! I don’t need to explain myself…or give account to what I say, because evidence is already clearly on my side when I say this. So again, go away and go fuck yourself. And don’t ever come back here with your ignorant shit again.

    Note: I think it was Dawkins who once said to James Randi, that sometimes you need to call an ignorant bigot an ignorant bigot. I know this is contrary to Hitchen’s idea when making an ad hominem against the person, you know they’ve won. But Masakari2012 is clearly an exception to this, so I’ll go with Dawkins instead. My apolgies for this again though, I do like to keep it clean when I can…I just can’t in this instance. Sorry.

    …back to lurking.

  118. 118
    caseygaspari

    Oh no worries O.B. – i’m not going anywhere.

  119. 119
    Stacy

    @Masakari #111

    He didn’t attack any of you with blogs, and only politely pointed out facts in responses

    You mean the “fact” that female registration at TAM is supposedly down because 10 days prior to his making that claim a couple of bloggers mentioned sexual harassment at conferences, without specifying TAM?

    So is it a “fact” that 10 days is enough time to effect the registration at TAM? Is it a “fact” that Grothe had evidence of correlation, let alone causation, between those blogs and the alleged lower registration among women?

    And how do you account for the excellent number of women attendees at the Reason Rally? Hmmm?

    Your “facts” aren’t. And you’re doin skepticism rong.

  120. 120
    julian

    And how do you account for the excellent number of women attendees at the Reason Rally?

    Or the other conferences this year (like Women in Seularism) that probably ate up a lot of the funds some women would have otherwise spent on TAM.

    But, I’m sure that like with his defense of Ryan Long (He studies feminism. How can he say or hold sexist ideas?!) none of his supporters are going to be doing too much thinking over how legitimate a leap he made.

  121. 121
    Stacy

    Oh no worries O.B. – i’m not going anywhere

    That’s kinda up to Ophelia, innit.

    Of course, if she tires of your idiocy and makes you fuck on out of here, you’ll still have your vast and discriminating readership.

  122. 122
    F. Bacon

    There have always been concerns for the safety of both attendees and speakers at atheist, freethought and secular humanist and even right-wing gatherings. No one is certain of exactly where the threats come from-from inside or outside the gathering. I suggested extra precautions after I became aware of threats against Ibn Warraq. Safety concerns constantly surround the appearances by Taslima Nasrin.

    I have been in attendance where Jewish terrorist groups have targeted the functions held by authors of Holocaust literature, causing the author to barricade themselves behind doors while the audience members were left to engage in combat against the intruders.

    Never forget the murder of Madalyn O’Hair and her family. Safety and discretion are of the utmost importance.

  123. 123
    Simon

    Ophelia, I hope you are correct that this was not intended as a threat as this would be a relief. Better to err on the side of caution and have fewer worries. No conference is worth your peace of mind. You made the right call.

  124. 124
    sk

    WTH is wrong with people? Either you’re concerned and you just send a nice happy ‘You’re awesome, make sure you stay safe over there’ message direct and to the point,

    Otherwise if its a threat at least have the guts to make it clear and then post their IP and have this idiot hunted down.

  125. 125
    Ace of Sevens

    Even if I were sure it weren’t a threat, I’d be concerned the letter writer may try to protect me.

  126. 126
    machintelligence

    F. Bacon @ 1222

    Never forget the murder of Madalyn O’Hair and her family. Safety and discretion are of the utmost importance.

    And the creepiness continues — is this good advice or a veiled threat? How do you tell the difference? In the current context it could be either. People, think before you post.

  127. 127
    latsot

    At the very best, this person seems like a creepy, obsessive fan, which is itself a threat. The idea that someone like that thought he was in the self-appointed business of looking after me would be enough to creep me ALL THE WAY OUT.

    We can pull apart the emails and say they were or were not overt or veiled threats, but that’s irrelevant: Ophelia felt uncomfortable and decided not to go to a conference. That’s perfectly cool, isn’t it?

  128. 128
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    @Masakari2012

    They’re treated respectfully at TAM because of their hard work, not because they are men. They don’t bully other atheists and/or support other FTB bullies on blogs.

    The ‘Dear Muslima’ post indicates otherwise.

    You pissed off a lot of people who are allies against sexism towards women, which you are labeling as “misogynists”, since this term is used to define anyone who disagrees with you

    Ophelia, Rebecca and company have pissed off a lot of people who self-identify as allies against sexism. However, what the last year has revealed is that these are poor allies, prone to thoughtless sexism themselves and the diminishment of women’s concerns and complaints.

    They need to improve their game and seem incredibly resistant to doing so. Some of them are really quite furious about the suggestion that they still harbour some sexist attitudes and may need to change their ways. Apparently sexism is something done by Other People and they don’t take kindly to finding themselves in the outgroup.

  129. 129
    ibbica

    Some of the responses here are just unbelievable.

    FWIW, Ophelia: I would have done the same.

    In the context of a close friend saying the things in that email? No, I don’t expect I’d see it as a threat.

    In the context of the past days/weeks/months/years, coming unsolicited from some unidentified stranger? Yeah, reading those emails made my skin crawl.

  130. 130
    Masakari2012

    #128 leebrimmicombe-wood

    The dear Muslima post wasn’t Richard bullying anyone. He only voiced his disagreement on that issue, and hasn’t said anything about it since that time. Also, he didn’t make a name for himself by bullying other atheists, starting controversies and drama, like the FTB bloggers.

    Ophelia, Rebecca and company have pissed off a lot of people by being sexist themselves. Since we’re talking about Dawkins, take that “dear Dick” letter for example. They get to call him “Dick”, but when someone call RW, “Twatson”, they blow a gasket. If one is wrong, then the other should also be wrong. You don’t combat sexism by being sexist. Or how about the many times these FTB bloggers dismiss contrary opinions by calling men misogynists, MRA, rape-supporters, rape-apologists, and other fallacious bullshit? It’s fucking disgusting! Or that time where Greta wrote that sexist blog, saying that she’s trying to get men laid, as if by saying that, it would make men listen. That’s very insulting, and also disgusting. How about the camera guy? Just because someone has a camera on a extender, doesn’t mean anything more than that, but FTB sycophants were quick to believe the rumor because it was a man, and called him “creepy” without even knowing the guy. The camera thing was also shown to be false. How many more lies when these stupid bloggers tell?

    What Ophelia, Rebecca and company have done so far is to go around and manufacture things to be pissed off about (I have a long list of people in mind). Rumors bounce around in their echo chamber, perhaps they delude themselves into believing it, and then take actions against someone. Once they choose a target, they look for things to disagree with, and bully the person with blog after blog. That has been their theme for the last year. It’s a witch hunt, and the dogma keeps their followers in line. Once again D.J. Grothe was a target, and fortunately, things are working out well. Most of the atheist community outside of this blogosphere sees through the bullshit and dogma.

  131. 131
    mehitabel, never marries, dies with cats

    Ophelia, I am so sorry you had to go through with that, but glad to see that things have been checked out and look safe. And that you had a good mood.

    Apropos of absolutely nothing: ahem. Neville Chamberlain.
    Of course, when people already have names, maybe it’s different. Less drama and controversy or something.

  132. 132
    hyperdeath

    They’re treated respectfully at TAM because of their hard work, not because they are men. They don’t bully other atheists and/or support other FTB bullies on blogs. They made their names honorably, not like you did with your notorious ignorance.

    You repulsive little liar. Moreover, you stupid little liar. Do you realize how utterly ridiculous it is, to imply that Ophelia hasn’t put “hard work” into the skeptic movement?

    And what is this “notorious ignorance”? Do you have any examples, or are you just parroting the unsubstantiated insults of your fellow inadequates?

  133. 133
    hyperdeath

    How about the camera guy? Just because someone has a camera on a extender, doesn’t mean anything more than that, but FTB sycophants were quick to believe the rumor because it was a man, and called him “creepy” without even knowing the guy. The camera thing was also shown to be false. How many more lies when these stupid bloggers tell?

    And what about the people who have had the deep misfortune to meet Steve Packard? What about the stories from multiple women, about him sexually harassing them, and ignoring their requests to stop?

    Where was the camera thing “shown to be false”? Are you really so stupid as to believe, that just because Steve also used the camera for a legitimate purpose, that he wasn’t also using it to take upskirt photos? Are you really so stupid as to believe that someone is going to wave an expensive piece of equipment around on the floor, except at the moment of aiming for a photo? It’s not a great leap of logic to assume that a repellent little sex pest is going to behave like a repellent little sex pest.

    How many more ridiculous excuses will you obnoxious little misfits come up with?

  134. 134
    hyperdeath

    Ooh ooh ooh… Do I get to be called a bully now? Will the victims of real bullying have their experiences trivialized on my behalf? I can’t wait!

  135. 135
    Stacy

    Masakari, you’re doing the Gish Gallop. Your claims are easily refuted, but you ignore the refutations and just spew a bunch more.

    You could at least have the courtesy to respond to those who’ve addressed you before vomiting another round of smoke and mirrors.

  136. 136
    Stacy

    [Meta: vomiting smoke and mirrors?

    Metaphors are hard.]

  137. 137
    mehitabel, never marries, dies with cats

    [Meta: vomiting smoke and mirrors?

    Metaphors are hard.]

    I rather like that. It evokes a poor sad dragon that has something wrong with it.

  138. 138
    f.

    That email is some scary shit. I can’t blame Ophelia for deciding to bail on the conference because things are getting too weird, and I can’t blame her for deciding that email was the last straw. Best wishes and don’t let the assholes get you down!!!

  139. 139
    joel

    Sorry haven’t read all the comments. What stands out is that this person EITHER gave no thought whatsoever about how you or anyone might react to his comments. OR he intended to scare.

    Apparently the former was the case here BUT giving NO THOUGHT to how someone might react is itself THE BIG PROBLEM.

    Another thing that stands out is this is an example of uninvited MEN ADVISING WOMEN. If we could just give that a break….

    Please pardon the caps.

  140. 140
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I have been in attendance where Jewish terrorist groups have targeted the functions held by authors of Holocaust literature, causing the author to barricade themselves behind doors while the audience members were left to engage in combat against the intruders.

    Go crawl back under your rock.

  141. 141
    latsot

    “Metaphors are hard.”

    A good analogy is as hard to find as….. as…..

  142. 142
    mehitabel, never marries, dies with cats

    That is irresponsible messaging, not what FTBloggers are doing. Quite different things. A rock awaits me. I spoke without thought and am seemingly incapable of doing good with my life.
    Everyone else is far more helpful. I am sorry. Total asshole. Going now.

  143. 143
    machintelligence

    Don’t torture analogies, it’s easier to mix metaphors.

  144. 144
    jules

    It’s super creepy and annoying for someone to keep saying, or writing, the adressee’s name in a conversation/message. Blech.

  145. 145
    dirigible

    “They get to call him “Dick”, but when someone call RW, “Twatson”, they blow a gasket.”

    Yes I remember when people used to call Richard Nixon “Richard Fuckson”.

    I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

    “Tricky Dicky” on the other hand was clearly a phallic allusion, so I used to get really mad about that.

    Totally with you on this one, bro.

  146. 146
    Bernard Bumner

    (Leaving aside more derailing by the noise-makers of the oh-so-skeptical brigade.)

    If an invited speaker to TAM receives threatening/sinister correspondence, then the organisers have a duty of care to address that. Even if Ophelia has decided not to go, then shouldn’t a threat still constitute a safety concern to the rest of the event?

    So even if you just pathologically despise Ophelia, don’t you find the underwhelming reaction of TAM organisers disappointing?

    If one of my speakers was required to pull out of a conference for such reasons, as the organiser you can be sure that I would issue a statement. That statement would express my dissappointment, but also my support and understanding, and also a warning that any threat would not be tolerated (and would be fully dealt with according to the official harassment policy – to be found in such a specified place – in conjunction with the appropriate authorities).

    I would do all of that, not just for the benefit of the individual who withdrew, but also as a matter of principle, and to reassure other conference attendees.

  147. 147
    Vall

    Instead of specific advice like the first e-mail suggests, I’d point out a resource for speakers concerning general safety. If you know a military member, or spouse of one, there are tips for traveling overseas. Most of the info does not apply, but a few points are worth noting.

    Knowing who to ask, and where to find info can be useful. There may be an element of paranoia involved, but a little knowledge can help prevent some situations.

    So instead of an e-mail from a random stranger, look into this yourself. There are good sources right here on the FTB network. You have active duty and veterans blogging right here.

  148. 148
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    @Masakari2012

    The dear Muslima post wasn’t Richard bullying anyone.

    I disagree. This was a curt dismissal by one of the most prominent figures in the movement. It was an attempt by a privileged and powerful person to kill the harassment controversy dead by slapping the women into line. I’m sorry, but I’m putting that into the bullying bracket until someone persuades me otherwise.

    Ophelia, Rebecca and company have pissed off a lot of people by being sexist themselves.

    Oh, the old lawyer’s trick of ‘deny, traverse and counterclaim’. How Jesuitical of you to make an issue about ‘Dick’ as if this was anything like proportionate to the pile-ons and threats to Rebecca and company. Sorry, I’m not giving you this point.

    Or how about the many times these FTB bloggers dismiss contrary opinions by calling men misogynists, MRA, rape-supporters, rape-apologists, and other fallacious bullshit?

    Yes, they do this, and I’ll agree there are occasions when it has been unwarranted. Such is the temper of our times that I feel some FTB bloggers and commentators have said things they should not have said.

    And yet there are many occasions when, in my view, the language has been warranted. There have been some vicious volleys launched against the anti-harassment crowd, dismissive of real concerns of real women dealing with real harassment and worse. There’s also been a lot of foolishness with unschooled commentators who sound off, not realising that their supposedly well-reasoned arguments (most memorably Willow’s defence of reporting) are triggers for fearful women.

    Unravelling the right from wrong here is problematic when there has been some actual beastliness towards women and there are people who are plainly not learning or even listening. The fear and loathing provoked by the attacks on Ophelia, Rebecca, Stephanie and Co. are tangible, to the extent of making some of them want to drop out of TAM.

    How about the camera guy? Just because someone has a camera on a extender, doesn’t mean anything more than that, but FTB sycophants were quick to believe the rumor because it was a man, and called him “creepy” without even knowing the guy.

    Because it seemed creepy to people who were there and had to deal with him. Creepy behaviour does not require criminal levels of evidence. Someone merely has to feel uneasy, that’s all. However, the ‘punishments’ for being creepy are incredibly mild–the perpetrators are told to keep away from the victim and to modify their behaviour slightly.

    And this is the nub of the problem in this argument. The attackers are only willing to countenance discussion of harassment if it is actual criminal assault. Anything less than this seems to be regarded as larks and nothing to concern oneself about. And they see attempts to create anti-harassment policies as a threat that might lead to criminal action and expulsion, when what all the folks here really want is a means to report obnoxious, anti-social, stalkery, inappropriate behaviours and have perpetrators warned off doing them.

    What Ophelia, Rebecca and company have done so far is to go around and manufacture things to be pissed off about (I have a long list of people in mind).

    And now the dismissal of their concerns. It’s all invented hysteria, is it? Are there really no genuine fears that may be animating them?

    Rumors bounce around in their echo chamber, perhaps they delude themselves into believing it, and then take actions against someone. Once they choose a target, they look for things to disagree with, and bully the person with blog after blog.

    There’s always a danger of rumour and echo chamberism, particularly in a community under siege, as this one has been. But that’s no reason to deny or dismiss real fears, which have been explained first patiently, and then when people like yourself don’t get it, impatiently.

    It’s a witch hunt, and the dogma keeps their followers in line.

    Sorry, but that’s patent nonsense. DJ has made himself a subject for ire by his own thoughtlessness. He’s been given plenty of opportunities to walk things back and save face and has pointedly not taken those paths.

    Most of the atheist community outside of this blogosphere sees through the bullshit and dogma.

    I don’t know what most of the atheist community thinks or sees. But I call bullshit on you.

  149. 149
    Utakata

    @Masakari2012

    “Most of the atheist community outside of this blogosphere sees through the bullshit and dogma.”

    Citation needed.

    …although, I feel bad what I said about you, but I see you are contnuing to provid me evidence that you are indeed the things I’ve claimed you to be. As for he rest of your nonsense, I think it it is suffice to say others here of better character are seeing through your bullhit as well. Just saying.

  150. 150
    onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork

    onion girl – but seriously – you think you need a more tangible way of helping than treating trauma? I call that helping! You’re doing it already!

    :) Yeah, but it doesn’t do anything to minimize the bullying that you and the others are being subjected to. But I do get the point–and I was just reading Greta’s post about hope, and it reminded me that words are powerful on their own. So I’ll just reiterate my message of support for you, and go back to trying to fight sexism and its casualties for the families I work with.

    Heh. You know what? Maybe I’ll make a bracelet or hang something on my cubicle with the names of all of you guys in the fight–so I can do my work in your name for a while. :)

    (Though seriously, if you or any of the others can think of something that would help–fund-raiser, letter campaign, anything like that–seriously, please let me know. I want to help and I’m pretty damn good at organizing–my Master’s in Social Work was a concentration in management and community organizing–I’ve done quite a lot of work on the social justice front in organizing conferences, job fairs, developing community centers, campaigns, lobbying etc. :) )

  151. 151
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    Ophelia, I’m not blaming you for anything the JREF has done – that is twisting what I have said. I’ve never said anything against your right to be worried about the threat. All I have said is that in light of the vitriol it’s in everybody’s best interest to be open and honest about communications, especially if one of the people involved are going to mention them.

    I don’t understand why asking you to reveal what the JREF actually said to you is so bad, for if it actually was dismissive it does nothing but support the point you (and others) are trying to make about the JREF being unwilling to do what is necessary. But if it isn’t, again, what is so bad about releasing it?

  152. 152
    doubtthat

    To avoid future confusion: the degree of threat that a person is willing to endure is theirs alone. No one knows the context and history of the emails Ophelia has received over this issue. Standing alone and being read by people (especially men, like me) the messages might not seem overly threatening (though there was the following implication: “you better take these precautions…or I’m going to do something horrible”), but it isn’t our skin on the line. There really should be no controversy over Ophelia’s reaction to a threat she received.

    I’m more curious about the following (and if these questions have been answered, please direct me to the source–there’s a lot going on involving this issue and I can’t keep everything straight):

    What can JREF and TAM be expected to do and what did they do?

    The initial posts and comments implied that they didn’t take the threat seriously or somehow refused to provide support. If this is true, they should be criticized, but on a certain level I don’t know what a conference can do about a threat like that. If someone wants to do something dangerous and criminal, they’re probably going to be able to do it–same is true of going to the movies, a sporting event, or just walking down the street.

    Obviously a specific threat provides something to investigate, but short of turning it over to the authorities, I’m not certain what JREF and TAM can do to make the conference safer (note that this is a different discussion than adopting a harassment policy).

  153. 153
    julian

    note that this is a different discussion than adopting a harassment policy

    Not entirely. A conference could still ban that sort of threatening behavior and ban members found to be making those threats. They could also offer some sort of protection (bodyguard or similar) and do more to have staff personnel aware of what’s going on (so they can better respond to potentially bad situations).

  154. 154
    Ophelia Benson

    Cory Albrecht – I told you yesterday. That’s not “all” you’ve said. There was your comment @ 21 – basically calling me a liar. I’m not having that.

  155. 155
    Cory Albrecht (@Bytor)

    Then release it and prove me wrong and I will make any rectifcation that you deem necessary. I also promise never to comment here on your blog ever again unless you explicitly give me permission to do so, regardless of whether you release it or not.

  156. 156
    Ophelia Benson

    No. You’re not understanding. You don’t get to tell me what to do, and by calling me a liar you made yourself persona non grata. No, I’m not going to obey your orders, and you’re not going to comment here any more in any case.

  157. 157
    Brian

    Let’s face it, Ophelia is too uppity and needs to be put back in her place. It’s not like she’s a man and her word is her vow. She’s a hysterical, conniving, treacherous, illogical woman, without testicles and penis! I repeat without testicles and penis! It’s self-evident that we need to be hyper-critical of anything she says, need to see all communication, need statutory declarations in triplicate and need to view this from the men’s viewpoint of logical reaonables and non hysteria only testicles and penis can assuredly provide.
    In short, we cannot take anything she says on face value, need to minimize her experiences and/or suggest mendacity on her part. After all, she’s not one of us, not like those level-headed, logical types with testicles and penis. Now let us contemplate how lovely it is to be hung with our sacred hymn to man’s inherent superiority of sex. Pope Benedict, if you’d be kind enough to stop scratching your balls, and lead us with the first refrain:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGRPFUYUUdQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    [warning: comment may contain poorly thought out attempts at irony and satire]

  158. 158
    doubtthat

    “Not entirely. A conference could still ban that sort of threatening behavior and ban members found to be making those threats. They could also offer some sort of protection (bodyguard or similar) and do more to have staff personnel aware of what’s going on (so they can better respond to potentially bad situations).”

    Yeah, I didn’t say that well. What I meant was that regardless of whether they’re capable of doing much about this specific threat, the harassment policy should be adopted.

    All of those steps seem reasonable, which is why I was curious what JREF actually tried to do. And as awful as it sounds to say, unless that bodyguard is a secret service agent willing to take a bullet (that guy did start talking about shooting, however indirect his specific involvement), I’m not sure that would help much in the event someone went nuts.

    But yes, escorts to and from the venue, all staff, hotel and conference altered, that should all be done. If it wasn’t they’re fools or worse, if it was, I’m not sure how much more than can do.

  159. 159
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Ophelia @156: Rock on, amazing woman.

  160. 160
    LykeX

    But what about the response form the JREF that you characterized as a dismissive “kthxbye”?

    What’s wrong? Can’t find anything to criticize in the mail, so you’re hoping for something else? I’m sure if you work hard, you can find an excuse for why Ophelia totally overreacted to those mails.

    Come on. I believe in you!

  161. 161
    Matt

    I’d certainly feel threatened by those letters. You may not feel threatened right now, but don’t think your previous feelings are somehow invalid. That’s scary as hell.

    It’s unfortunate the amount of “prove it!” backlash you got from all the idiots. Some people don’t know the difference between “skeptic” and “raging asshole.”

    Apologies for the language.

  162. 162
    SallyStrange

    Some people don’t know the difference between “skeptic” and “raging asshole.”

    Funny, these tend to be the exact same people who think “man” is a synonym for “raging asshole,” who thus interpret every call for less assholish behavior at conferences as a call for mass castration or something.

  163. 163
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    @Brian, yes indeed, quite funny. But as you suspected a bit poorly thought through – a penis and testicles aren’t the sole requirement for credibility, as many a trans woman could tell you.

  164. 164
    Stacy

    Funny, these tend to be the exact same people who think “man” is a synonym for “raging asshole,” who thus interpret every call for less assholish behavior at conferences as a call for mass castration or something

    QFT, SallyStrange.

  165. 165
    Brian

    alethea:

    a penis and testicles aren’t the sole requirement for credibility, as many a trans woman could tell you.

    All very true, and I did think of that, but men’s rights types seem to think that anyone who isn’t a hetro man out on the prowl has lost his balls in any case, and as that was what I was poorly parodying, I left it at that. Anyhoo, posting a 4am when sleeper deprived it was a good as could be expected.

    P.s. Ophela rocks!

  166. 166
    KG

    It’s very hard to credit that anyone able to read them would not be creeped out, at the least, by those emails; any such over-solicitous concern from a stranger or acquaintance should ring warning bells. Even if the intentions behind them were entirely innocent, the emails were glaringly inappropriate; I hope the writer has come to understand this.

  167. 167
    ben

    Huh? Reading those, I got the strong impression that the intended effect is to make you scared enough to take serious precautions. That is–the sender wants you to take serious precautions, and thinks that scaring you is the most likely way to ensure that you adequately protect yourself. Why would someone threatening you include so much sincere-looking material about how much they [singular] likes your work? A veiled threat would make the compliments far more cursory or absent altogether, I’d think, or hint at how you could be “better”.

    Given how specific all that was, it reads sort of like someone with multiple personalities or someone whose sibling/spouse/liege lord intends you harm. But no matter how I read it I can’t see “threat”. Warning? Yes. Warning from someone more paranoid than you are? Sure. Threat? I don’t see it.

    What this says to me is that if you and so many people reading your blog read this as a threat then we as a culture are awfully scared. If the statistics bear out such extreme fear, then I guess the country is indeed in a sad state. If the statistics don’t bear it out, then perhaps we need, as a culture, to stop watching so many mafia movies. There are data around here somewhere, right?

  168. 168
    Ophelia Benson

    That’s what I thought, on balance, about the first one. Some of the flattery looked like mockery, which is one reason I wasn’t sure what to think – but I thought your version was the most likely. But – as I said – the last two paras of the second one looked more threat-like.

    You don’t think so. But you didn’t get them, so you’re not reading them as someone who really has to figure out what they are.

  169. 169
    Nick

    At worst, these would be seen as sarcasm towards someone that takes things too seriously, certainly not as actual threats. So, you think that it is over the top and therefore couldn’t be serious advice, yet it appears now that it actually was genuine? Well, to many people, that is exactly how some of your own concerns appear.

  170. 170
    Ophelia Benson

    Is that so. “Certainly not” – then why did Tim Farley think it was worth his time to call the guy on the phone? Why did friends I consulted tell me to take it seriously?

    I take it you didn’t bother to read what I said in the post – or, if you did, you simply ignored it. That is what I thought about the first email: either sarcasm or exaggerated worry. The end of the second one, however, creeped me out.

    It’s easy for you to think it’s not creepy, because you don’t have to decide which it is. I did.

  171. 171
    Nick

    You would have to ask Tim Farley that, but I imagine it would have something to do with allaying your own concerns, and even if he took it as a real and serious threat, it wouldn’t change my mind on what I can see and judge for myself. I don’t see the particular relevance of what he thinks, honestly. You’ve published the posts and everyone is free to make their own assessments. Similarly, I don’t see why what your friends advised should be so persuasive to me. I suppose they may have thought it is better to be safe than sorry, or are similar enough to you to make what is (IMO) the same mistaken assessment. Hell, it could even have just been lip service for some of them for all I know; some people are prone to that sort of thing. Again, not very relevant to my own opinion.

    I read the post in full. If the point of his communication had been to convey a threat I have trouble understanding why he would include the only really “creepy” lines at end of his response to you rather than in the original message itself.

    Yes, you had to make that decision and I did not, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take the position I have. It’s up to you, of course, how you react, but don’t expect others to be in total agreement just because something spooked you. I could just as easily turn that around and say that your position is likely to err on the side of being overly cautious because if anyone is at risk, it is you, and that only an outside observer could be objective, and on that basis attempt to dismiss your position, but I simply wouldn’t do that.

  172. 172
    Ophelia Benson

    Notice however that everything you say in this reply is much less dogmatic than what you said in 174.

    I think it’s pretty rude to be aggressively dogmatic about something that can be viewed as a threat to someone else. I got and still get a lot of that, and I think it’s pretty rude and also callous. As for not dismissing my view – that’s exactly what you did do. You said “At worst, these would be seen as sarcasm towards someone that takes things too seriously, certainly not as actual threats.” That’s very dismissive.

    Tim thought what I thought: that it was impossible to tell what the hell it meant, but a veiled threat was enough of a possibility to be unnerving. If he had thought it was just obviously nothing, he would have said so.

    It’s not that I thought it was hugely likely that it was a threat – it was that worrying about it on top of all the other ongoing crap about TAM was just too damn much. I was already dreading it, and the emails just turned it into a nightmare.

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    [...] I said in Closing the file, I went back and forth, and I asked friends what they thought. I didn’t say omg it’s [...]

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    [...] speaking at TAM) becomes a headache just not worth undertaking. It doesn’t matter that the last straw — the incident that caused the equation to flip from “worth it” to [...]

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    [...] When we receive communications which, given their context, may be reasonably construed as potentially threatening, we are facing Schroedinger’s Threat. We are also facing a gamble, and the stakes are high. The probability of this Schroedinger’s Threat being a genuine one that will be acted upon may be low. But it’s not zero. Any psychiatric nurse can tell you that a threat, whether baldly stated or merely hinted at, must be…. [...]

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    [...] When we receive communications which, given their context, may be reasonably construed as potentially threatening, we are facing Schroedinger’s Threat. We are also facing a gamble, and the stakes are high. The probability of this Schroedinger’s Threat being a genuine one that will be acted upon may be low. But it’s not zero. Any psychiatric nurse Nurse Practitioner can tell you that a threat, whether baldly stated or merely…. [...]

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    [...] 21: Butterflies & Wheels: Closing the file – I helped investigate an email threat to a TAM speaker. Also mentioned [...]

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    [...] silence women online. Unfortunately, sometimes, in Schrodinger’s Rapist fashion, it gets real results off-line. I don’t know many women engaged publically, certainly not those advocating for [...]

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