A major public face of the secular movement


Oh gee, the things you find when you glance at the site stats, which show links from other sites. Like this time a bunch from the JREF forum, which surprised me enough that I went to see why. The why? It’s Damion Reinhardt gloating over the fact that Michael Shermer is still popular in skepto-atheo land.

I know that we mostly talk about the accusations levelled against Radford (so much publicly available data to comb through!) but I’d like to pause to consider a hypothesis about the accusations levelled at Shermer.

Ho: Anonymously accusing someone of serious sex crimes (at a rageblog website) will make it difficult for the accused to continue as a major public face of the secular movement, in the company of high profile luminaries such as Dawkins, Tavris, Harris, Goldstein, Pinker, etc.

Ha: Such accusations, in the absence of some corroboration and investigation, carry little weight outside of the social justice wing of the secularist movement.

I’m going to say that there seems to be some preliminary evidence in favour of rejecting the null hypothesis: http://www.secularcouncil.org/team/

http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/files/2014/05/global.png

Naturally, some of the folks over at FtB are rage vomiting about their collective inability to take Michael Shermer down for good.

It’s strange, isn’t it, that he doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that it’s actually true that Shermer is a dedicated serial harasser, and the related possibility that that could eventually start to make skepto-atheo land look bad. He doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that it’s actually a bad idea to keep making a point of inviting Shermer to things despite the several allegations, including one that cites sworn testimony in court.

He’s right of course that we’ve clearly failed to convince the Secular Coalition of America and its offspring the Global Secular Council that they shouldn’t make Michael Shermer one of their poster guys. He’s right that we think that’s a bad thing. But is he right that the SCA and skepto-atheism in general will permanently be better off as Team Harassment than it would be as Team No Harassment?

I don’t know. He might be. Smug assholism is very popular, there’s no getting around it. But at the same time it’s also very unpopular. So I don’t know.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Why should we “take down” Michael Shermer from his involvement in the Global Secular Council? We don’t even take it seriously! And as long as we’re talking seriously, these various reshufflings of the same few mostly rich white dudes doesn’t mean that they’re of any more import or influence than if they’d just use one inaccurate name like JREF and leave it at that. Forming 17 different clubs with pretentious names and the same few dozen faces with the goal of collecting cash from clueless gits isn’t actually doing anything worth bragging about.

  2. says

    “…he doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that it’s actually true that Shermer is a dedicated serial harasser, and the related possibility that that could eventually start to make skepto-atheo land look bad.”

    It is certainly a possibility worth considering, but it *should* take a fair bit more than anonymous accusations to make anyone act as if it is true and ostracize him accordingly.

  3. Al Dente says

    As Improbable Joe notes, many of us here at completely underwhelmed with the Global Secular Council, with or without Shermer. They’re like Voltaire’s description of the Holy Roman Empire except the people involved probably are all secular (one out of three ain’t good).

  4. Al Dente says

    Damion Reinhardt @3

    There’s a bit more involved that anonymous accusations against Shermer. For instance DJ Grothe publicly admitted witnessing Shermer grope a woman.

  5. says

    Al Dente @5

    I was talking about the accusations (published here at freethoughtblogs) that he is a serial rapist. Do you think that he should be ostracized on that basis?

  6. Kevin Kehres says

    Seriously, Damon? You’re that misinformed?

    You’re about 2 years’ worth of posts behind. Please read everything and catch up before you embarrass yourself further.

  7. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    This is such a good example of how Team Harassment rewrites the narrative to suit the needs of the moment.

    The original Shermer “Grenade” thread consisted largely of Shermer defenders squealing about the horrible, terrible, utterly irreparable damage that this accusation was inflicting upon Shermer accompanied by Pharyngula regulars registering their doubt that he would suffer any damage at all. Now we’re apparently “rage vomiting” that things worked out exactly as we predicted they would all along.

  8. Al Dente says

    The whole point of the “Grenade” thread was to warn women to be careful around Shermer.

  9. aziraphale says

    If I were planning to damage the secular movement I don’t think I would go for Shermer. His recent books have struck me as lightweight and poorly written.

  10. says

    Do you think that he should be ostracized on that basis?

    That he sexually assaulted someone, at a conference? Err, yes… He should never be invited to a conference again. If he did that in a professional setting that is exactly what would happen, job loss and never invited to his professions conferences. That you think this is nothing and he deserves no censure … In fact people are RAGING TEARS, while you channel Rich Sanderson… actually amazes me, is this really your position?

    That’s even ignoring the other allegations about him.

  11. Sili says

    never invited to his professions conferences

    Shermer has a profession? I thought he was a professional smarmy arsehole. In which case his behaviour is probably mandatory in order to get invited to conferences.

  12. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Damion—stop lying. Everyone knows you’re willfully misrepresenting the situation. So you don’t care about rape-y dudes. That’s not important to you. So own it. Liar.

  13. says

    Hoo-boy, where to begin.

    Damion.

    1. This isn’t “here at freethought blogs” – this is here at my blog. The network is not a blog with many contributors; it’s a network, with many blogs. The meaningful “here” for this discussion is this blog.

    2. It’s not “ostracism” to not invite someone to speak at a conference or to not stick someone’s photo at the top of the homepage of a new “Global” sub-organization. Shermer isn’t entitled to speak at all conferences any more than Elliot Rodger was entitled to fuck any woman he wanted to.

    3. Not all the accusations are anonymous.

  14. karmacat says

    If Shermer groped one woman in public you can bet he has done that to other women. No one just sexually assaults once especially by the time one gets to Shermer’s age. He should be denounced for that alone. He should have male guard to make sure he doesn’t assault any other women

  15. says

    Why should we “take down” Michael Shermer from his involvement in the Global Secular Council? We don’t even take it seriously! And as long as we’re talking seriously, these various reshufflings of the same few mostly rich white dudes doesn’t mean that they’re of any more import or influence than if they’d just use one inaccurate name like JREF and leave it at that. Forming 17 different clubs with pretentious names and the same few dozen faces with the goal of collecting cash from clueless gits isn’t actually doing anything worth bragging about.

    Additionally, there appears to be no moral compass here. Nothing about what the movement should stand for and against – the values on which it should be based. Just cheering those who are (perceived to be) powerful in this very moment. The Tea Party has been successful despite the opposition of social justice movements, so everyone should just get behind their success and gloat,* according to this perspective. The worst thing would be to be among the “losers.”

    *And later abandon them if they’re unsuccessful, naturally.

  16. says

    Fascinating. Rebecca Watson says “guys, don’t do that”, and over a long game of misogyny telephone, it becomes a tale of a shrill harridan shouting rape at a shy, friendly fellow. I post a woman’s account of her encounter with a well-known skeptic with an unpleasant reputation after getting corroboration of the account from three witnesses, and now it has been transformed into an anonymous (sorry, guy, but MY NAME is on it, I have the identity of the accuser, and so do her lawyers) accusation that everyone is ‘rage-vomiting’ over.

    When I posted that account, I had no delusions that it would do anything to the attacker’s career — he has a long reputation for that sort of thing, and it’s never slowed him down before. I did know that the only person who was going to get slammed was me, and my prediction of a redoubling of the hate mail came true.

    It’s also a myth that I had some grudge against the guy, and my whole intent was to do harm to him: not so. I know what the skeptical community is like, and that casual sexism and entitlement are the name of the game. If I really wanted to do him damage, I would have made up a story about him being an avowed feminist with a deep commitment to greater equality and diversity in the movement. Except, of course, no one would have believed that. That he was a serial harasser…well, pretty darned plausible, especially after even more people stepped forward to tell their story.

    The real reason I posted it was that a woman asked me to tell her story — that it had been kept quiet for so long by a great many people high in the movement who wanted it silenced. After verifying the details, I could do nothing else, because unlike some people, I’m not going to be an enabler for famous assholes.

    Mr Reinhardt apparently thinks sucking up to the so-called “leaders” is his mission. His hypothesis is actually rather sad — that a long-running reputation for taking advantage of young women with alcohol will have no effect on a man’s reputation outside the “social justice wing of the secularist movement”. I would have made the same prediction, out of pure cynicism.

    But it’s a mystery to me how people can gloat about their contempt for social justice, or think it’s a good thing that justice will not be done.

  17. Al Dente says

    SC @17

    I thought the Globular Secular Council’s stood for “look how awesome we are, send us money so we can continue to be awesome.”

  18. says

    #1 by Improbable Joe is exactly right. No one is trying to get anyone kicked out of the Global Secular Council. What would be the point? It seems to be a PR effort that fronted a whole gang of figureheads to make themselves look important with no serious effort made to put policy at the center of their efforts. Juggling figureheads around to get a different set in place would just be silly.

  19. says

    PZ @21 – exactly. I’m unsurprised that people are still treating Shermer like a little tinpot god – but gloating about it is a whole other step.

  20. says

    Hang on. I just took a look at what Damion linked to as “rage vomiting about their collective inability to take Michael Shermer down for good”. It’s a comment by Ophelia, and it’s actually mild.

    Actually, RJW, it’s pretty obviously a group of self-appointed Celebrity Public Intellectuals, and what is the point of calling yourselves “global” when you’re so conspicuously no such thing? It’s sick-making in quite a few ways, and we peasants are allowed to say so.

    It says nothing about any individuals on the GSC, let alone about trying to take anyone down. It’s all about the collective failure of the group in representing anything global.

    This Damion twit is a patent liar.

  21. says

    Well, yes – Damion is the guy (along with that other guy) who posed smirking under an “Elevator” sign and posted the photo on Twitter but then pretended the “Elevator” sign just happened to be there and they didn’t mean anything by it and and and

  22. Edward Gemmer says

    I know almost nothing of Shermer except for the anonymous rape accusation. Still, it is interesting to see how people respond to it.

  23. says

    Gee, Gemmer, if you weren’t avoiding knowing things about him, you could follow the links in comment 11. Then you’d learn something. Of course, after that, you’d be expected to have thoughts about what you know, and that takes all the fun out of the game of being a “neutral” scold.

    You’ll see that Damion’s abandoned the thread. It doesn’t suit his “third way” plan to get roped into admitting he knows Shermer groped a respected scientist and Grothe has continued to put him in the position to do that sort of thing again and again and again. If he knew, either he’d have to agree with us that it’s wrong and a problem that needs to be dealt with, or he’d have to agree with the slimey crew that, naw, sexual assault is just fine and dandy. He’d much rather continue to take pokes at both sides while sucking up to those powerful folks who don’t like criticism. He doesn’t understand that it takes more than that to be useful to them, but oh, well. It’ll probably dawn on him someday.

  24. michealplanck says

    The last time I saw Shermer was in Melbourne, where he essentially tricked an entire audience into meditating. At the time I felt it was fundamentally dishonest, the kind of approach skepticism should be eschewing even for a gag. I don’t object to jokes gone flat; comedy is hard and you’re going to miss a few. But this seemed inappropriate.

    In light of these no-longer-anonymous accusations, that kind of disregard for other people’s dignity takes on a different flavor.

    P.S. PZ Myers was on fire at that conference. Dawkins just seemed worn out and exhausted.

  25. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Not to be all WATM, but I kind of feel obligated to remind y’all that at least one rape accusation against Shermer is neither anonymous nor “name withheld”: the accusation made by Dallas Haugh.
    (confirmed by Haugh here and here after the suicide attempt)

    So now Edward Gemmer can know two things about Michael Shermer.

  26. Edward Gemmer says

    Gee, Gemmer, if you weren’t avoiding knowing things about him, you could follow the links in comment 11.

    Well I read that too. I meant that, unlike say Bill Nye or Richard Dawkins, I had never heard of Michael Shermer before discovering these blogs. I’m not really clear what he does (don’t bother trying to tell me, because I don’t really care, either).

  27. says

    Michael that sounds exceptionally obnoxious. I’m fortunate in that I’ve never admired or liked him (or his books), so I’m not disillusioned, but every new thing I do hear or see is on that side of the ledger.

  28. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I thought Sam Harris did the meditating thing at the GAC?

  29. chasstewart says

    Look, Ophelia, PZ can attest to that sign’s immense proportions. We were unable to escape its gravity.

  30. says

    #29, michealplanck:

    That wasn’t Shermer. It was Sam Harris who had most of the audience sitting there with their eyes closed, meditating. It reminded me of church — especially because I was sitting there with my eyes wide open looking around the room at everyone being so silly.

    chasstewart: You’re a disingenuous phony. I’m not going to attest to anything on your behalf — is that your new excuse, “gravity”? What an idiot.

  31. says

    No one bothered to ask Tasa and Rhonda whether the massive “ELEVATOR” sign just happened to dominate the only uncluttered wall in the main foyer at Skepticon. Talk about erasing women, yo.

  32. says

    Shermer has (or had, at least, a few years back) for reading his speeches off the PowerPoint slides. I’m told that one of his TAM presentations was made more lively by the distribution to the audience of “SHINGO” cards, poking fun at Shermer’s repetitive idiosyncrasies.

  33. Hj Hornbeck says

    Edward Gemmer @31:

    I’m not really clear what he does (don’t bother trying to tell me, because I don’t really care, either).

    I can vouch for that, as I’ve run up against your well-practiced ignorance before and found it extends to the very thread you’re commenting on.

    Forbidden Snowflake @30:

    So now Edward Gemmer can know two things about Michael Shermer.

    Bah, why stop at two? In the thread I linked to previously, I posted this handy summary of claims:

    “Miriamne:” Claims Shermer made her “a sexual victim,” and the details would override what else she was known for if made public. Suggests this is a repeated pattern.
    Brian Thompson: Claims Shermer harassed multiple women and groped one.
    PZ Myers: Posts a claim that Shermer sexually assaulted someone via alcohol. Posts a second claim that backs up the first. Posts a third that suggests this is a repeated pattern.
    “delphi_ote:” Claims to know the person in Myers’ first claim, or another person with an identical experience.
    Carrie Poppy: Confirms she was contacted by the person in Myers’ claim, and got them in contact with Myers. Was convinced it was a probable claim.
    “rikzilla:” Claims Shermer tried to seduce his wife, after he and his wife had introduced themselves.
    Dallas Haugh: Claims Shermer sexually assaulted him.
    Carrie Poppy: Claims Shermer sexually assaulted someone, and that DJ Groethe not only witnessed it but testified about it in court.
    Brian Thompson: Concurs with Poppy, and states Groethe told him the same story.
    Barbera Drescher: Claims she knew of Groethe’s story, and that in anonymous form it was common knowledge in the skeptical community.
    Pamela Gay: Claims she was groped by a big-name skeptic that was being currently discussed, at the time Poppy and Thompson came forward. Shermer is the only plausible candidate.

    Which puts Reinhardt’s ignorance in perspective. I appreciate your ability to go against the flow, Reinhardt, and your willingness to challenge people within the ‘Pit even as they punish you for not towing the party line. But part of being a skeptic is following the balance of evidence; multiple, independent witnesses support the claim that Shermer has engaged in serial sexual harassment, at minimum, so claiming the only source of information is Atheist Satan PZ Myers is pure denialism.

    Frequently, sitting on the fence is the same as picking a side. And your desperation to balance atop those posts means you’ve picked Skepticism over skepticism.

    …. Also:

    I know that we mostly talk about the accusations levelled against Radford (so much publicly available data to comb through!)

    Hmmmmmmmmmm….. [clicks link, finds the thread, does a quick skim]

    …..

    [bookmarks it]

  34. Hj Hornbeck says

    chasstewart @39:

    I hate to be a stickler but Pamela Gay said that Shermer attempted to grope her

    Er…

    During the event in question, a man in power who I’d previously never met made a lunge at my breasts. This is one of the events that weighed on me when I wrote my TAM talk. It weighed on me when I said, “As an astronomer, at conferences, I’ve randomly had my tits and ass grabbed and slapped by men in positions of power and by creeps who drank too much. This is part of what it means to be a woman in science and skepticism.”

    Does she say explicitly say “a man in power” groped her? No. But then again, she’s not even mentioning who made than lunge; some CYA is to be expected when your A could land you in legal hot water, threaten your career, and have Skeptics tossing death/rape threats your way.

  35. says

    @Chasstewart, Hmm someone makes a lunge for a woman’s breasts, did she deftly side step it and propel him through the nearest plate glass window (I can dream!) or did he connect? She doesn’t say that explicitly, but it’s pretty clear as HJH quotes above.

    “…a man in power…made a lunge at my breasts. As an astronomer, at conferences, I’ve randomly had my tits…grabbed…by men in positions of power”

    Sounds like someone who doesn’t want to name names saying quite clearly they were sexually harassed at TAM by a big name skeptic. You seem to acknowledge this was Shermer … But equivocate by saying it was “attempted”, with no evidence of such. Why?

  36. Axxyaan says

    @michealplanck

    I watched the video and my judgment is that Sam Harris didn’t trick his audience into meditating. He had just explained about experiencing life without an obvious frame, and paying closely attention to moment and then follows up with saying there are techniques for this and then inviting his audience to do a number of things, so they could explore this technique.

    If this is tricking his audience then every time a speaker suggests the audience to do something with the expectation that the audience will be surprised somehow and thus learn something from that surprise, is trickery.

  37. Edward Gemmer says

    I can vouch for that, as I’ve run up against your well-practiced ignorance before and found it extends to the very thread you’re commenting on.

    It is a frustrating thing, isn’t it? Admitting you don’t know all the facts is difficult, but necessary. It is somewhat of a buzzkill when you are trying to make zingers against people on the internet.

  38. Edward Gemmer says

    No one bothered to ask Tasa and Rhonda whether the massive “ELEVATOR” sign just happened to dominate the only uncluttered wall in the main foyer at Skepticon. Talk about erasing women, yo.

    This injustice shall not stand.

  39. says

    No one bothered to ask Tasa and Rhonda whether the massive “ELEVATOR” sign just happened to dominate the only uncluttered wall in the main foyer at Skepticon. Talk about erasing women, yo.

    Right, and no one bothered to ask the photographer whether they always try, when photographing friends, to center them directly under the sign on the only uncluttered wall in the main foyer rather than just to the left or right, and to stand way back to ensure that the friends’ entire bodies and a good three feet of wall space above their heads was caught in the shot. Talk about erasing shitty photographers, yo.

  40. Hj Hornbeck says

    Edward Gemmer @43:

    Admitting you don’t know all the facts is difficult, but necessary.

    And where did I say I don’t know all the facts? I presented a rather large smorgasbord of them back in comment 38, I thought.

    Or did I misunderstand, and this is an admission you don’t know all the facts? I believe I said something about well-practiced ignorance earlier on; if this understanding is correct, I’d like to thank you for providing evidence that was indeed the case.

    SallyStrange @46:

    Talk about cargo cult feminism.

    Yep. It can’t be sexist, a woman said it wasn’t!

  41. throwaway says

    Sally Strange:

    Talk about cargo cult feminism. Yo.

    Nailed it!

    Damian is avoiding the clarification on the ‘anonymous’ accusations and the multiple confirmed reports of an instance of groping to pull a ‘tu quoque’. Modus operandi for the slymers and those who cover for them for years now. Just so everyone is clear on what is happening.

  42. michealplanck says

    Axxyaan, I interpreted it as a trick because I remember him saying something to the effect of “See? That was meditation, and it wasn’t so bad.”

    On the other hand I think we have empirical evidence that my memory is not worth beans.

  43. michealplanck says

    Er… one of my messages got posted and the other apparently went into moderation. Just in case it got lost, the other post was me recognizing that I can’t recognize the difference between Shermer and Harris by sight.

  44. lippard says

    Pamela Gay has added further clarity. She describes the Shermer incident (still without naming him) as a prevented attempt (still very bad, but contrary to how many have been describing it) that was stopped by the head of a skeptical group (Grothe? again person not named), and which did not occur at TAM but at another conference (not named, but evidence is that it was DragonCon).

    http://www.starstryder.com/2014/05/31/my-mistake-of-silence/

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