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Aug 07 2013

More names are named.

Ed Cara at Heresy Club has shared a story that a number of us might have heard before, but this time with a name attached:

And on that trip in 2011, everyone had a great time, I’m told. Well, there was this one moment that was…off. See, one of these very special guests of the CFI was a bit rambunctious the whole time, there with a female guest he brought along. At some point during the trip, this very special guest of the CFI propositioned a female Friend of the Center to join him and his guest in his hotel room, an offer the woman turned down.

Sometime later, this woman mentioned the encounter to another friend who then mentioned it to one of the CFI staff members onboard at the time. No official report of the event was made at that point, or at any point. For accuracy’s sake, it’s worth noting that the woman’s (and her friend’s) reaction was not one of outrage, but annoyance, and she never expressed the desire to file a report. For more accuracy’s sake, it was a very special guest invited by the CFI to act in the capacity of a speaker sexually propositioning an attendee of a CFI event. Is that harassment? Legally, maybe not. Is it creepy and inappropriate? Undoubtedly.
[...]
I am told of other incidents where the speaker in question – while functioning as a speaker – made people uncomfortable with his sexual advances, including a specific case six years back. I am told by CFI members that there will be a followup with that specific case and that if only Lindsay had been aware of it at the time, this situation might have ended differently. I am told there had been and will be substantial steps taken. I choose to hold back on discussing any of this publicly at the time, believing things should be given the chance to work out. I now feel stupid for believing that.
[...]
By the way, that very special guest’s name was Lawrence Krauss, and he’ll be attending the CFI’s travel expedition to the Galapagos Islands in 2014.

I had heard this story a dozen times over the past few years, and Krauss’ name also comes up every time I’m privy to the informal network of information about who-to-avoid. I am glad a primary source came out.

Update: Heresy Club took down the post, citing lack of evidence. Krauss has further threatened to sue Jen McCreight for stating she knows two people who’d been personally harassed by him, and so she is no longer naming him explicitly at her blog, referring to him as Famous Skeptic instead. I feel moderately secure in reporting on these events insofar as I am aware that there are some people slavering at the bit for a lawsuit against Jen and Ed Cara, and all the evidence has already been gathered via Freezepages so even if every mention was scrubbed from our servers, the damage is already done. Any such lawsuit by Krauss, additionally, would certainly make Krauss’ name known by far and away more than this blog post reporting on these actions, and furthermore, I am not speculating on whether or not the stories are TRUE. My motto with regard to victims coming forward is, “trust, but verify”. That’s all I’ve ever advocated, and all I ever will.

But another story I had heard long ago, directly from Sasha Pixlee, creeps me out even more. He shared his encounter with DJ Grothe on More Than Men:

We encountered one another at a Skepchick party (one that had to be moved to the lobby because of noise complaints as soon as it started). He was drunk, but it was a social occasion and I’d had a couple cocktails as well. No big deal. I was fairly surprised though, when DJ turned to me and said that the reason everyone loved the Skepchicks was because they “want pussy”. That seemed to be a rather dismissive and insultingly sexist way to dismiss the work of your professional colleagues (not to mention the people whose booze you were at that moment drinking.

I’m embarrassed to say that at the time I was still a bit fame-struck and too shocked to really process it. I didn’t do what I should have done, and told him how rude, insulting, and unprofessional it was to say something like that, even while drunk. Even in a casual social setting. But then it got more bizarre and incredible. I’m a tall guy, chubby (fat, honestly) and bearded. If I were gay I would definitely be a bear. This was discussed and DJ then made an hilarious horrendous “joke” about how I should pay him a visit down in Los Angeles so that he could drug me and let some of his friends have some fun with me. You know, in other words so that I could be gang raped.

I never felt like he was serious when he made that joke about having me raped. I never felt like I was in actual danger. I am a straight cis man. I’m not as likely to have to worry about those things as someone else. I know he was drunk. I also know that those two stories from the night I met DJ Grothe have put into context every unprofessional, sneaky, sexist, callous, victim-blaming, self serving, and morally ambiguous thing I’ve seen him do since. Whenever I read or hear someone hopeful for something approaching sensitivity or progress on issues of sexism, sexual harassment, or even assault coming out of Mr. Grothe’s JREF, I just think of the first time I met him and wait for the inevitable horrendous actions that will follow.

Understand that every time I’ve talked about DJ Grothe in the past two years, I’ve thought about Sasha’s story as well. With Sasha’s permission, I even alluded to it once when I was at peak rage. I was speaking in that blog post directly to DJ. I really wanted him to recognize the analogy I used. I really wanted him to understand what kind of a hypocritical, self-serving and offensive jackass he was being by acting the way he was at the time.

I am disgusted by the culture we apparently have created where people committing actions like these are defended regularly. Why are we skeptics so evidently prone to the Halo Effect? I am further disgusted that these actions were covered up instead of loudly decried, and further disgusted by the inevitable cries that those of us shining light on these actions are just trying to “ruin” the organizations that helped minimize and enable them.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    Anthony K

    Why are we skeptics so evidently prone to the Halo Effect?

    Skepticism poisons everything.

  2. 2
    CJO

    Fuck skeptics. I’m a humanist and a planetary citizen, and so on. I want nothing to do with the sooper-genius chupacabra debunking brigade, and it’s high time that the humanist atheist wing makes a clean break.

  3. 3
    SallyStrange

    Proof that straight, cis man do get sexually harassed. And guess what: it’s DJ Grothe doing it.

  4. 4
    maudell

    It is difficult for me to view the Lawrence Krauss thing as worthy of outrage (of course, it is noted that the woman was just annoyed, I am not referring to her reaction)… I’m not saying that it’s not, but rather that I can’t see it. Maybe because they were stuck together as a group afterwards? It seems to me to be of quite a different nature than what many women have denounced lately.

  5. 5
    Stephanie Zvan

    maudell, if there’s an incident known from six years ago that would cause them to make a different decision about putting Krauss in a small, enclosed environment with women if Lindsay had known about it at the time he invited Krauss, but they’re still going to have him on their cruise, CFI and Lindsay are very directly responsible for anything that happens on that cruise.

  6. 6
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    maudell:

    Someone who is an invited speaker for an event should not be using it as an opportunity to scout for attractive strangers among the paid attendees to proposition. It’s highly unprofessional. In addition, i8t’s especially troublesome on a cruise where the person can’t leave if they feel uncomfortable and want to avoid contact with that speaker, keeping in mind that a stranger who propositions you for sex might just not want to take no for an answer. It’s a very similar vibe as the original elevator incident.

  7. 7
    Loqi

    Maudell – It’s part of a pattern for Krauss. He’s had quite a few incidents where he ventured into “creepy” territory and has earned a reputation for this sort of thing. If he ever does anything prosecutable, nobody will be able to say the signs weren’t there.

    As for the Grothe story, I’m so very surprised Sasha was uncomfortable. I’ve been assured by numerous MRAs that a man would take that sort of thing as a compliment and nearly burst at the seams in manly pride over it. It’s almost as if creepy is creepy no matter what gender you are…

  8. 8
    Tom Foss

    Moreover, most anti-harassment policies have provisions about speakers/invitees propositioning guests, since (however large or small) there’s a power imbalance involved that could be coercive. The Godless Bitches did a decent episode exploring the reasons for and problems with that kind of clause last summer (I think), and it’s seeming more and more like a good idea.

  9. 9
    gwen

    I may be wrong, but wasn’t Kraus the one making excuses for his ephebophile friend?

  10. 10
    maudell

    @everybody who answered me:

    Thanks for your response. I was not aware of the repeated claims, and your responses and Jen’s post add context that was not available to me. It’s so hard to decrypt messages in this environment of secrecy.

  11. 11
    rorschach

    I may be wrong, but wasn’t Kraus the one making excuses for his ephebophile friend?

    Why, yes.

  12. 12
    MrFancyPants

    It’s so hard to decrypt messages in this environment of secrecy.

    Yes. This. Let’s get it all out and into the open. Thankfully we are!

  13. 13
    A Hermit

    Krauss and the Epstein defense

    Ugh….

    I notice DJ Grothe was there in the comments sticking up for Krauss…http://skepchick.org/2011/04/lawrence-krauss-defends-a-sex-offender-embarrasses-scientists-everywhere/#comment-121838

    And these people are supposed to be leaders in skepticism?

  14. 14
    whiskeyjack

    The post at the Heresy Club has been removed. I don’t suppose anyone got a copy of it before it vanished, did they?

  15. 15
    LykeX

    It was cached, luckily.

  16. 16
    Vicki

    The link @15 is to a google cache page in Cyrillic.

  17. 17
    LykeX

    It isn’t on my screen.

  18. 18
    Stephanie Zvan

    Since the pit does this to a bunch of my posts, I figured they might have done it to Ed’s. Sure enough, they’ve managed to ensure that everyone can still read about Krauss: http://www.freezepage.com/1375980400UVXMESSPBC

  19. 19
    Tom Foss

    I also happened to have a copy open on my screen from last night, so I saved it, just in case.

  20. 20
    wtfwhateverd00d

    @Stephanie,

    freezepage was created, and is used correctly by the pitters there, to ensure that Cara’s post isn’t memory holed.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_hole

    the memory hole is a slot into which government officials deposit politically inconvenient documents and records to be destroyed. Nineteen Eighty-Four’s protagonist Winston Smith, who works in the Ministry of Truth, is routinely assigned the task of revising old newspaper articles in order to serve the propaganda interests of the government.

    It is inaccurate and a misrepresentation, and I am positive you understand this, for you to claim that somehow it is used by the pit so people can still read about Krauss.

    It is used by the pit so people can still read about Cara. And used by the pit so people can still read about you.

    As an analyst, are you usually this intentionally dishonest to your clients, or do you see FTB allies as somehow a special case of gullible and deserving of your bogosity and fraud?

  21. 21
    Flewellyn

    It’s interesting that Krauss has not showed up here to threaten suit against Jason, just over at Jen’s place.

  22. 22
    colnago80

    Re Flewellyn @ #20

    True. In light of this threat by the Famous Skeptic, Jason might want to carefully consider whether he should delete references to him by name.

  23. 23
    colnago80

    Re 15 & 18

    Unfortunately, it was cached before there were any comments. I left a comment there this morning and there were a number of comments that were not favorable to the Famous Skeptic.

  24. 24
    Jason Thibeault

    I have updated the post to note that Heresy Club took it down, and so did Jen.

    No, I’m not removing his name. If he sues anyone over this, his name will be all over every blog and forum.

    Plus, there’s this: PZ Myers, at Pharyngula:

    I have now heard directly from someone I trust that she was sexually assaulted by Lawrence Krauss.

    Shit.

    Shit indeed. It’s about time we empty the chamber pot.

  25. 25
    whiskeyjack

    Thank you, LykeX. It worked for me.

    Anyway, I’m appalled. I was just watching a documentary with him the other day.

  26. 26
    Flewellyn

    Flush it down to go join the fatberg.

  27. 27
    cityzenjane

    @CJO

    ” the sooper-genius chupacabra debunking brigade”

    Thaaaaaat’s a keeper.

  28. 28
    Glenn

    I’m trying to work my way back through the tangled web of he said/she said complaints of sexual assault at Skeptic conferences and finally found this as a supposed substantive account of what passes for sexual harassment at the core of the uproar. Wow, so making a sexual advance is sexual harassment? Making an off color comment – while both parties were drunk – is sexual harassment? Listen, we are paranoid about this stuff in corporate America where I work, but even there this would not even pass the sniff test in most corporations. First off, most sexual harassment claims have to be about someone in a position of power to have any meat. Those complaints that do not involve someone holding direct power over you have to meet a very high standard of creating a “hostile environment” or actually being criminally harassing or assault (a much higher standard than on offer here). An off color remark or dirty joke do not rise to the level of a hostile environment standard, it has to be much more intense than that, and the behavior as described is nowhere near the legal standard for assault or harassment. You folks do realize this, yes? That sexual harassment isn’t a subjective standard but rather is a definable action that someone takes, as is sexual assault.

    I’m afraid that the standard being used here is whether a person finds another’s conduct simply offensive or not. People do rude and offensive things all the time – I choose not to associate with such people in social settings, like cocktail parties at conferences (have been at hundreds of conferences in my job). It seems time and time again these complaints are stemming from incidents at cocktail parties or at 4 in the morning after drinking all night. I’ve seriously not heard one that stemmed from an actual official event or non-social context. To me, at those types of things, we are being social, not professional. The standard of behavior I expect is that of what I’d expect of anyone at a bar. I don’t expect to not hear a dirty joke or not to be hit on. While working or attending conference sessions, I would find such behavior by conferences staff (not attendees) an issue for the conf sponsor to deal with, but that’s it.

    I truly wanted to give all this stuff a fair consideration but every story I hear is so weak on the actual evidence of harassment that I just now have to doubt them all. It makes me wonder how much of this is intentional, as it stems from people who were social justice “warriors” in the first place and is landing on those not so friendly to AtheismPlus.

  1. 29
    Atheism’s Misogyny Problem | Atheism, Music, and More…

    […] I should say this… Jason Thibeault has named that name (I could be wrong, but I think Jason has more legal protection in Canada than Jen has here in the […]

  2. 30
    ‘Science Falsely So Called’: How Can You Prove Your Innocence, Professor Krauss? : The Other McCain

    […] Center for Inquiry (CFI) during which Professor Krauss reportedly brought along a female companion. Professor Krauss “was a bit rambunctious the whole time” and at some point, “propositioned” a woman on the cruise “to join him and his […]

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    My response to the controversy in the secular movement | Gravity's Wings

    […] internet then proceeded to explode. Several other people came forward naming harassers, and, predictably, the same people who don’t understand […]

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