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.