Skeptoid’s Dunning: The Story of a Man Who Hoodwinks Unskeptical Skeptics*

It’s a very good thing other folks have written things about Brian Dunning’s wire fraud shenanigans, because you won’t find anything about it on his site. Not even his it’s-my-fault-only-kinda-not-and-everybody-was-doing-it-and-it-didn’t-really-make-me-any-money-and-who-cares-about-eBay-never-mind-the-other-affiliates-I-probably-ripped-off-and-anyway-I-once-helped-some-people-who-got-stuck-and-hey-listen-to-my-podcast-while-I’m-in-prison! letter. In fact, if you’re only a Skeptoid fan, you may not really know anything about what’s going on, especially since he or someone in his organization has set up the Twitter feed to neverever let on that anyone’s talking about him being a big fat fucking fraudster:

This lovely little screenshot our own Jason Thibeault got shows that the Twitter feed widget's set to exclude words like -cookie -ebay -fraud -cookies -criminal -jail -prison - y'know, all mentions of Brian Dunning's fraudulent ways. Can't have the rubes - I mean, skeptics - finding out!

This lovely little screenshot our own Jason Thibeault got at shows that the Twitter feed widget’s set to exclude words like -cookie -ebay -fraud -cookies -criminal -jail -prison – y’know, all mentions of Brian Dunning’s fraudulent ways. Can’t have the rubes – I mean, skeptics – finding out!

I’ve not paid much attention. Brian Dunning means jack diddly shit to me – I never even knew his podcast existed before it came out that he’d been defrauding eBay out of a lot of money. Clever people doing stupid things to rake in illicit dollars doesn’t surprise me a bit. And the brigade of screaming howler monkeys constantly attacking some of my favorite atheists, combined with a bunch of Big Names turning out to be horrible people, has given me a certain immunity to crushing disappointment. Skeptics can be just as bad as the rest of humanity, news at 11. Brian Dunning’s story is an old, tired one: making his way in the world by hook, but mostly by crook, and not owning his crimes in the end.

But due to the fact that people I like are being trodden on by self-declared Skeptics™ who cannot believe their own Hero is a criminal jackass, I figured I’d go ahead and signal boost. And hey, one or two of you may have missed the news that Brian Dunning is a big fucking fraudster, someone you cannot trust, because he is willing to lie to your face, even in his supposed mea culpa. Skeptics deserve better. Skeptics should be better. So read up on this ratfucker, so that when he returns after his 15 or so months in the Big House, he doesn’t sucker you in.

Fraudster skeptic Brian Dunning’s shell game

The Worst Thing Brian Dunning Has Done for Skepticism

Brian Dunning Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud

A Critical Analysis of Brian Dunning’s Explanation

The virtual radio silence on Brian Dunning’s fraud

Why won’t you “skeptics” let Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning put his misdeeds into the memory hole!?

The sophistry and revisionist history in Skeptoid Brian Dunning’s statement 

And, as a reminder that even as a skeptic (minus the fraud) he fails, just one example of Brian Dunning doing it rong:

Brian Dunning’s DDT Fail

Surely the skeptic community is not so hard-up for skeptic entertainers that we can’t boot fraudsters out.

Brian Dunning, wire fraudster. Image courtesy DarylNickerson via Wikimedia Commons.

Brian Dunning, wire fraudster. Image courtesy DarylNickerson via Wikimedia Commons.

*I don’t mean you, if you liked his podcast but, when news broke of his perfidy, carefully considered the evidence against him, and waited to see how the trial shook out before coming to a conclusion, and are not, now he’s convicted and sentenced, trying to tell yourself he’s a really great guy who just happens to have maybe done some shady things to a big rich company, so no big. You’re not unskeptical if you didn’t catch on from the very first podcast. You’re only unskeptical if you’re now trying to spin the facts in this con artist’s favor.

Attention Brian Dunning’s Loyal Fan Club: Yes, he committed a serious crime. Yes, he deserves to go to jail. Yes, you really are a rotten skeptic if you think his actions are defensible, but a psychic’s claims they can talk to your-dead-relative-whose-name-begins-with-j-no-wait-maybe-a-w are not. Yes, you are a sucker if you read that “explanation” of his and didn’t have every this-asshole’s-got-a-thick-wool-sack-and-is-coming-at-my-eyes-with-it-whilst-preparing-to-reach-for-my-wallet alarm. And yes, it is a fact that you won’t be allowed to whine all over the comments here. Go elsewhere.

Some Helpful Illustrations for the Willfully Obtuse

It seems that despite many patient and helpful explanations over the years, some fanchildren in our community (and others) are still quite confused. They keep mistaking our social media spaces for  courtrooms and discussions for trials. Since reading comprehension would appear to be absent from their Skeptical Toolkit, perhaps some illustrations may be of assistance.

This is a courthouse:

Graham County Courthouse, Safford, Arizona. Image and caption by Ken Lund via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Graham County Courthouse, Safford, Arizona. Image and caption by Ken Lund via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this building, you will find things like judges, juries, and lawyers. This is where people go when they are suing or prosecuting someone.

These are social media spaces:

Social media logos for Twitter, G+, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, and WordPress.

Social media logos for Twitter, G+, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Pinterest, and WordPress.

These are places where people go to informally discuss things. You may find judges, jurors, and lawyers talking within them, but they are not there in their official capacity. People are having conversations, not giving sworn testimony.

This is a judge:

Image is a baliff handing a judge some papers.

Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux, 1980. Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.

A judge has to remain impartial because they are presiding over a legal proceeding.

This is an ordinary person:

Image is a young man smiling at the camera, leaning against something that rather looks like the inside of a wooden ship.

Sunlight stripes @ Henderson Wave Bridge. Image by Jason D’ Great via Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Ordinary people can be judgmental, but they are not actual judges. They don’t have to remain impartial because they are not presiding over a legal proceeding, and cannot sentence someone to prison if they think that person is guilty.

This is a trial:

Image is a lawyer and witness on the witness stand. The witness is looking at some papers she is showing him.

An attorney impeaching a witness during a mock trial competition. Photo and caption by Eric Chan via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

There are legal rules to follow because it is a legal proceeding. In a trial, there are things like rules of evidence and admissibility and stuff, because it is the power of the state against a person.

This is a conversation or discussion:

Image is a silhouette of many people talking.

Conversation by OUTography via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Conversations and discussions are informal and do not have the force of testimony. Legal rules such as rules of evidence do not have to be followed because the people talking are not representing the state, and are not making determinations that will have the force of law.

Perhaps the above illustrations will help the terminally obtuse figure out where and when legal rules should be followed, and where and when less formal standards are expected.

Additionally, for those who still haven’t figured out the difference between a convention and a courtroom, allow me to add the following:

This is a hotel:

Image is a courtyard at the Hotel Miramar.

Hotel Miramar by Son of Groucho via Flickr.

This is where people go to attend conventions. Most people who go to conventions don’t want to be creeped on, and thus have a tendency to avoid creeps. This is called “freedom of association.” It is a right that everyone has. Calling someone a creep and telling other people who want to avoid creeps whom they may wish to avoid is not the same as going to a courthouse and prosecuting someone.

These are police officers:

Image shows several police officers standing around the open back of a police van.

Police officers making an arrest. Photo by Andrew Feinberg via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

These are the people who will arrest you if you are suspected of doing something illegal and are going to be put in jail. They will do things like read you your rights, because they are law enforcement officials.

This is a security guard:

Image is a man in a uniform with a neon vest that says Security.

Goddard Security Guard. Photo by NASA/GSFC/Mark T. Hubbard via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This is who will throw your ass out of the hotel if you are violating the convention policies and upsetting other guests. They won’t read you your rights, because they are not law enforcement officers who are taking you to jail.


Superheroes and the Law

Okay, all you geeks, here’s a little something a damned good friend at work turned me on to:

Law and the Multiverse. Read it. Love it. Image filched from their blog for promotional purposes.

Law and the Multiverse. Read it. Love it. Image filched from their blog for promotional purposes.

Seriously. Law and comic book worlds. Law as it pertains to superheroes, supervillains  and other comic denizens. This is awesome. I’m a huge advocate of using stories and story worlds to teach other things. I learned a lot of my science and developed a burning passion for it partly through people who wrote books discussing the science of Star Trek. I learned to appreciate philosophy by reading essays by philosophers exploring the philosophy of Middle Earth and Batman. So why not learn a little law by reading what lawyers have to say about how laws would work in comic book universes?

Click the banner if you’re with me on that.

This is bloody brilliant, and I hope they turn it in to a book.

Why Gun Control Laws Need to Change

A powerful message:

Amanda Knief shared this on Facebook. It really drives the point home: the Second Amendment was written in a time when one person couldn’t so easily unleash catastrophic destruction. We need to have serious conversations about this, not this kabuki theater where politicians posture and ultimately can’t even pass the slightest control measures because they’re pants-pissing scared of the NRA.

Consider this (h/t):

If only Americans reacted the same way to the actual threats that exist in their country. There’s something quite fitting and ironic about the fact that the Boston freak-out happened in the same week the Senate blocked consideration of a gun control bill that would have strengthened background checks for potential buyers. Even though this reform is supported by more than 90% of Americans, and even though 56 out of 100 senators voted in favour of it, the Republican minority prevented even a vote from being held on the bill because it would have allegedly violated the second amendment rights of “law-abiding Americans”.

So for those of you keeping score at home – locking down an American city: a proper reaction to the threat from one terrorist. A background check to prevent criminals or those with mental illness from purchasing guns: a dastardly attack on civil liberties. All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks).


The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns. The pregnant Breshauna Jackson was killed in Dallas, allegedly by her boyfriend. In Richmond, California, James Tucker III was shot and killed while riding his bicycle – assailants unknown. Nigel Hardy, a 13-year-old boy in Palmdale, California, who was being bullied in school, took his own life. He used the gun that his father kept at home. And in Brooklyn, New York, an off-duty police officer used her department-issued Glock 9mm handgun to kill herself, her boyfriend and her one-year old child.

At the same time that investigators were in the midst of a high-profile manhunt for the marathon bombers that ended on Friday evening, 38 more Americans – with little fanfare – died from gun violence. One was a 22-year old resident of Boston. They are a tiny percentage of the 3,531 Americans killed by guns in the past four months – a total that surpasses the number of Americans who died on 9/11 and is one fewer than the number of US soldiers who lost their lives in combat operations in Iraq. Yet, none of this daily violence was considered urgent enough to motivate Congress to impose a mild, commonsense restriction on gun purchasers.

We need to think more clearly, people. Priorities. Straighten them.

And for fuck’s sake, give a nineteen year-old American kid his civil rights. We’re better than this. We should be far better than those two dumbfucks. Yet here we are, wanting to strip a kid who was probably brainwashed by his brother and is now more than likely shit-scared of his constitutional rights. We’ll give those rights to white Christian terrorists, no problem. But white Muslim American immigrant bombers? Nope. Because too many of us are so easily talked out of our principles. Because too many of us completely lose our shit when it comes to Muslims committing crimes. And our President is far too willing to go along.

The assholes who bombed the Boston marathon were despicable cowards. The worst thing is, in many respects, we’re not that much better. Those of us who have courage need to be holding our politicians’ feet to the fire.

And we need to expect better of them (h/t).

We need to demand better of us.

And we need to reassess our relationship with guns. Now.

Think about this, folks. Image courtesy Mike Licht,

Think about this, folks. Image courtesy Mike Licht,

Interesting Times II

Here’s the news we’ve all been waiting for: the results of the investigation. Huzzah! After running their cherry-picked* interview statements past Legal and HR, the most that management could manage was a counseling notice for insubordination. As far as punishments go, it’s like a slap on the back of the hand and a giggled, “You naughty girl, stahp!” I’m wondering if that’s because Legal said something like, “WTF? Are you trying to get sued for millions?”

I’m vastly amused. Disappointed, but amused.

Where do we go from here? Well, my two ethics complaints (one for my manager’s legally questionable termination, and one for my legally-questionable suspension) are still in play. They have a counseling notice I refused to sign (politely! Wouldn’t want them to think I was being insubordinate or anything!). I have a disciplinary action against me that gets the union’s foot in the door for a grievance. What they seem to be doing to me is trying to stretch a tripwire across my path, since shutting me up has proved to be such a spectacular failure. What I’m doing is hopping right over it with a grin and a whistle. What do they have? A very weak sauce. What do I have? A heaping helping of wasabi – a documented pattern of behavior that looks for all the world like retaliation. Oh, honey.

I have also got a hostile work environment. I feel ganged up on and targeted. I have coworkers who are either terrified or despairing – but after what happened to me and my manager, the terror and despair have begun to turn into a righteous outrage. People are tired of living in fear. They’re uniting to make things better. And it is beautiful.

Still. It should never have come to this.

Under the microscope, I shall continue on my quest to improve working conditions, with my union and my co-workers at my side. We won’t be stopped.

Meanwhile, my manager has only just begun to sue.

Stay tuned.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

*I say this because witnesses who were standing right there who happened to be my peers were, oddly enough, never interviewed. One of them is my friend and a union steward, and lo, she was never called upon. Interesting coinky-dink, that, and leads to the strong impression that this investigation may have failed to meet the minimal qualifications for totally unbiased. Color me shocked.

Interesting Times

So Friday was a bit of a strange day. It started with management splitting up my former manager’s team and parceling us out other managers. It continued with me filing an ethics complaint because of my concerns over the legality of his firing. It concluded with them suspending me with pay “pending investigation.” Investigating what? They wouldn’t say. Not to me, and not to the union steward. Why did they suspend me, then? They said they were investigating to find that out. True fucking story. What they appeared to be doing is getting me out of the way while they attempted to find something they could use to intimidate me into silence. That’s certainly how it seemed.

That impression intensified Monday, when they tried to intimidate me with some pretty weak tea. Alas for them, witnesses witnessed, and they have nothing. They ended up returning me to duty after a brief attempt at silencing me about the whole affair, which I nixed by pointing out that such attempt is very possibly illegal and I would have to seek advice, after which the request changed from silence to “discretion” with a quickness. They’re still “investigating.” I have no way to be certain, but it looks very much like a spirited attempt at retaliation, boys and girls. This appearance is creating what we in the business call “a hostile work environment.” This could lead to Very Interesting Times, indeed. I’m certainly finding them fascinating so far.

I’m not ready to tell the whole story just yet. I have certain avenues I’m pursuing, and shall hold my tongue publicly until I have professional legal advice. I will, however, make the observation that both my manager and myself found our jobs threatened or ended just after filing ethics complaints. I believe that fact will prove to be of some interest to various parties going forward.

Thank you, those of you who forwarded the names of attorneys. That will be very helpful to both my former manager and myself, and possibly others.

A few things I want to make sure are crystal clear:

1. I don’t want you to worry about me (this means you, Mom and Dad!).

2. Please don’t die of curiosity. I know this is all rather vague, but depending on certain outcomes, it may not be vague for long.

3. I’m fine. Seriously, fine. I was prepared for this eventuality, and I have time now to prepare even further. So see #1

I may at some point need to hold out the tip jar. You’re under no obligation to fill it if so, but anyone who can help when that time comes will have my undying gratitude and possibly swag. I’ll do me best to make it worth your while. And I beg your patience in advance, because there may be some days when I have to neglect the blog in favor of working on this stuff. Hopefully, it won’t last long.

Wish me luck, my darlings.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

Attention Washington Peeps: Lawyer Recommendations Needed

Some of you may be aware that all is not happy families at my place of business. Now the family is broken, because they decided to fire my manager. Yes, the one who stood by his employees. Yes, the one who had just filed an ethics complaint. And yes, they did it for a reason that is very close to blatantly illegal, if not right over the line.

My manager is, shall we say, exploring options in pursuing legal remedies . He’d like your assistance in finding the right person for the job. Let me know if you’re an employment attorney licensed to practice in the state of Washington, and enjoy the challenge of taking on well-known multinational companies. If you’re not an attorney but have recommendations, we’re all ears. Send your info to dhunterauthor at yahoo.

Thank you for your help!

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

“Rape is not a recreational activity.” Steubenville Rape Verdict Roundup

A near-miracle has happened: two rapists have been convicted of sexual assault. Excuse me, found “delinquent” in a juvenile court. At their ages, had they stolen something more than an intoxicated girl’s bodily integrity, they would have likely been charged as adults – but hey, it’s just rape. Not like they stole a car or murdered somebody, amirite? And, hey, if they learn the appropriate sorry-won’t-do-it-again words, they may not even have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Pretty sweet, huh? That’s actually amazing, considering how few rapists ever get convicted at all.

United States rape statistics. Those numbers should horrify every decent human being. Image courtesy RAINN.

United States rape statistics. Those numbers should horrify every decent human being. Image courtesy RAINN.

And you know what America’s future rapists are learning from this rare semi-functioning of the justice system? Don’t rape? Don’t make me laugh. No, what they’re learning is simple: don’t do your raping in front of dozens of witnesses, and don’t upload pictures and video of your raping to social media. That’s what the judge warned them about:

Judge Lipps described much of the evidence as “profane and ugly.” In sentencing the boys, he said rape was among the gravest of crimes and noted that they could have been tried as adults with far harsher punishments. He also said the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers conduct themselves when alcohol is present and in “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.”

Folks, this is rape culture. The message isn’t, “Don’t rape. Full stop.” No, it’s more of, “Try not to, and if you can’t help yourself, don’t make it so inescapably obvious. Because rape is just awful (wink, wink), but being forced to punish popular people is ever so much worse.”

And calling out rape culture and its apologists? Horrible.

And victims reporting their rapes and seeking a conviction? Obviously the worst thing of all, worthy of death threats and additional threats of rape, because how dare victims think they deserve justice?

One of the reasons I’m proud to blog at Freethought Blogs is because the bloggers and readers here don’t tolerate this shit. And maybe, just maybe, if we fight back against rape culture over and over and over and over again, we can begin to change it. If we refuse to be silenced, maybe, just maybe, this rape culture will no longer be studiously ignored. If we speak out forcefully, loudly, repeatedly, maybe there won’t be another person who doesn’t know what rape is:

One of the three, when asked why he did not try to stop what was happening, testified that he did not realize it was rape. “It wasn’t violent,” he said. “I didn’t know exactly what rape was.”

Following is a selection of links and comments from around FtB, with some from our allies. We’re not fighting this fight alone.

Butterflies and Wheels:

Steubenville: Richmond and Mays found guilty.

They didn’t realize?

If you don’t want to be treated like one…


Steubenville rapists found guilty.

Do you deny that rape culture exists?

I’m not usually a fan of dog-piling…

Brute Reason:

More About Justice and Less About Revenge: On Reading the Steubenville Coverage Too Early in the Goddamn Day. (If you only have time for one, make it this one. I mean it.)


Talking About Rape


Steubenville Trial: Two Found Guilty.

An Observation.

The Raw Story:

CNN grieves that guilty verdict ruined ‘promising’ lives of Steubenville rapists.

The top 5 rape apologist reactions to the Steubenville rape verdict.


Some comments from our community:

tigtog on ignoring “trolls”:

One doesn’t have to be consciously/deliberately pro-rape to be an actively harmful participant in rape culture. Most rape culture involves trivialising and minimising the experience of rape, not promoting the practice of it.

Many people feel that the rigorous calling out of toxic victim-blaming and rape apologetics is a hugely important process contributiong towards the goal of dismantling rape culture. When you tell them to stop doing it just because you think that this one particular person’s statements are less important than Some V.V. Important Thing Which Is Gained By Ignoring Him, then you trivialising and minimising the experience of rape, by framing the naming and shaming of rape apologia as less important than the satisfaction you gain by ignoring this guy.

I absolutely believe that you are not personally/deliberately pro-rape. Telling others to ignore somebody who clearly is pro-rape doesn’t help you look like an effective anti-rape ally though.


If it wasn’t for folks on the internet highlighting their vileness relentlessly for years and years, there probably wouldn’t be a cadre of volunteers to act as a buffer zone between the mourners at funerals and the WBC pickets, and the WBC would be spouting their vileness without opposing voices.

Clear strong opposing voices are much more comforting to the targeted than a dignified silence which opposes nothing.


The Mellow Monkey on silence in the face of rape apologia:

You know, I’ve been surrounded by people who go uncomfortably silent or just try to ignore nasty rape apologia for years. That silence has been every bit as damaging and hurtful as anything nasty someone could say, because either they are silently supporting the bad stuff or they just don’t care to provide support and defense to victims.

So when you say “Don’t Feed the Trolls”, you’re not just suggesting that you should deny a troll attention (and people seem to think anybody who disagrees with them is a “troll” only seeking attention instead of a genuinely hateful asshat, of which there are millions on this planet). You’re also suggesting that you should deny all of the survivors support. You’re suggesting that you should ignore the pain people are being caused. You’re suggesting that because you are lucky enough to not be hurt by those words, it’s the fault of a rape survivor for being upset by them.

Fuck that. I will continue calling it out every chance I get. Will it change the mind of the one spouting it? Probably not. But it might change the minds of all those assholes who sit around quietly refusing to take a stance. And–most important of all–it will make other survivors feel a little less alone and marginalized.

And that last one is a fucking hell lot more important than “oh no, some troll got attention.” That last one saves lives.


Pteryxx on rape culture:


No rape culture, eh?


*warning for victim-blaming within the trial, specifically re testifying, and photos – Og, brace yourself*

The alleged victim is not expected to testify when the trial begins in Jefferson County juvenile court — before outside judge Tom Lipps took over for a recused judge with ties to the famed Steubenville High football teach, a West Virginia judge blocked a subpoena of the girl and two other witnesses called by the defense. But that hasn’t stopped Richmond’s attorney from using Jane Doe’s so-called “silence” against her: “The person who is the accuser here is silent just as she was that night, and that’s because there was consent,” Madison said.

There it is. Directly claiming the silence of an unconscious victim equals consent. And using that claim to shame her for not testifying up to that point.

More coverage of her testimony:

“Honestly, I was praying that everything I heard wasn’t true,” she testified. She didn’t want to be the center of drama, especially in a small town, everybody-knows-everybody atmosphere. “I thought everybody would blame me.”

And she was right.

On Aug. 14, after taking the teen to a medical center in her hometown of Weirton, her parents decided to go to police. She testified that she sat in the car.

“You never wanted to go to court on charges did you,” asked Marianne Hemmeter, a special prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“No,” the girl said, who has the 28th witness to testify during the trial, which began Wednesday.

And while CNN and almost all the coverage focuses on the poor promising rapists:

In the most outwardly emotional moment of the testimony, Hemmeter showed the 16-year-old a photo of herself that she had not seen. In the photo, she is lying on the tan carpet of a basement floor, naked and on her stomach. Her arms are underneath her body.

The girl began to cry, as did some of her family members, many of whom were wearing teal ribbons and the color teal, which is identified with supporting survivors of sexual assault.

“Do you remember that photo?” Hemmeter asked.

“No,” the teen replied.

“How’s that make you feel?” Hemmeter said softly.

“Not good,” she answered.

Even more here:

She also testified that she did not want to go to police. She said it was her parents’ idea. She sent a text to one defendant, 17, saying, “We know you didn’t rape me.”

Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter asked her that when she sent the text, did she know that digital penetration was also rape. The girl said she didn’t know that. She also said she didn’t know she had been digitally penetrated.

Like most victims, like most people, she didn’t know what counted as rape. But she did know coming forward would make her a target, and would make her friends turn on her; because they already had, that very night.

Hemmeter read from three of the texts: “Reno (football coach Reno Saccoccia) just called my house and said I raped you,” one said.

Another said, “You know what happened, there’s no video, so nothing happened.”

The third said, “This is the most pointless thing I’m going to get in trouble for. I should be thanked for taking care of you.”

The girl testified that she was interested in him and left a party with him because she trusted him.

She trusted him, and he said “there’s no video, so nothing happened.” She trusted him, and her friends (now former friends) yelled at her and blamed her the next morning, before she even knew what had been done to her and before she even knew the word “rape” applied to it. Though judging by the video, her attackers knew perfectly well that’s what it was.

And that’s the story, her story, and basically all of our stories in one form or another, that’s being erased when all the sympathy’s given to her rapists. That’s rape culture in action.

There’s far more from excellent people. If you have time, read the threads on the FtB and allies posts linked above. Speak out. Change the culture. And let’s never forget what Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said as he promised to take this case further: “Rape is not a recreational activity.”

Oh, Yes. Very Frivolous reprise: Susan Saladoff Smacks Tort Reform on the Colbert Report

A long time ago in a blogoverse far away, before I was ever a member of Freethought Blogs, I wrote up a post on a documentary called Hot Coffee, which had taught me that what appears frivolous on the surface (ooo she burned herself with coffee and now wants to sue!) is often not (life-threatening burns requiring surgery to repair).

I became upset. I’ve written angry posts before and since, but that was one of the angriest.

Susan Saladoff, who directed Hot Coffee, appeared on the Colbert Report recently, and it’s well worth taking a few moments to watch her rip apart the notion that tort reform is any good to anyone except those causing grievous harm.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Susan Saladoff
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Blaming the Victims (Yet Again)

This sickens me so much I’m at a loss for words:

Fifteen year-old Larry King (no relation to the CNN interviewer) was shot twice in the back of the head by his classmate Brandon McInerney while sitting in school in Oxnard, California. Now that McInerney is on trial, the boy’s legal team and the school administration are using the tried and true “he was asking for it” defense. This is totally disgusting.

According to a story in the L.A. Times today, “McInerney’s defense attorneys… acknowledge that the boy pulled the trigger but say that he was pushed to the breaking point by King’s taunts.” Yes, it’s the tried and true “gay panic defense” that preys on juries’ homophobia to get confessed killers cleared for murdering gay people. It was even used against Matthew Shepard, when one of his killers said he was driven to kill the gay college student because he hit on him.

It only gets worse from there.

I know that defense attorneys have very few avenues they can take with an obviously guilty client. But this tactic is beyond reprehensible. What they’re basically trying to argue is that, should you suffer an unwanted advance, it is perfectly right and fine to shoot a person in the head. You should be able to murder a human being and walk free just because you were briefly inconvenienced and made to feel a bit icky.

I don’t imagine they’d be arguing that women have that blanket right to murder men who come on to them. But, y’know, gays. Ew. Of course it’s all right for a straight guy to shoot a transsexual or a gay dude, because that’s a threat to manhood. Kinda like when your wife sleeps with some other dude. It’s okay to shoot ‘em in the heat of passion – why not be able to shoot queers, too?

One can only hope that the jury is not so morally bereft as to buy this argument. But we need to have a conversation, a very long and unflinching conversation, about the kind of society in which arguments of this sort can even be entertained. We’re supposedly a first-world nation, and yet there are not insubstantial numbers of people who don’t see much wrong with demonizing and victimizing gays, lesbians, and transsexuals. When a little girl gets raped, an entire town rallies round the rapists, because, y’know, she wore makeup and was obviously asking for it. How dare those sorts of people lure nice, upstanding young men into performing savage acts?

Some folks, otherwise decent, may claim that the defense attorneys are only doing their job. Sure, they have to blame the victim – how else can they defend their client? I don’t know the answer to that. I know this, though: that sort of tactic is devastating to victims, survivors, and the culture at large. There’s probably nothing we can do to prevent defense attorneys from using such tactics, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept them. We can speak out against them. We can tell our society that murdering a person because they made the mistake of flirting with a homophobic sociopath, that raping a girl because she wore makeup in the presence of men, is not justifiable. There are certain things you just do not do in a civilized society. There are some actions that cannot be excused on the grounds that the victim wasn’t a perfect, straight, chaste person.

This dehumanizing bullshit may be a tactic defense attorneys feel comfortable using, but society at large never should. Victims have shouldered too much of the blame. Time to pass that blame to those who have earned it: the victimizers.