Timeline of harassment and sexual assault allegations against Michael Shermer

Today’s a big news cycle in movement skepticism and movement atheism. My old timeline is woefully incomplete and drastically altered by new revelations, now, thanks to Mark Oppenheimer’s article on the state of misogyny in the atheist and skeptic movements over on Buzzfeed.

So, I’m pulling out the relevant links and pullquotes and revamping this timeline. It’s going to be largely intact from the old one, only maybe expanded to provide more context to each individual point. As with previous timelines this will be a living document — it’s as likely new links will be added or intermixed as I have time, but you’re more than welcome to contribute links in the comments.

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The curious case of a man named James who thinks the secular community should be in bloody civil war

A few nights ago, a post hit my moderation queue on movement cohesion, wherein I speculate that there is no single unified movement, and that as long as the introduction of other values into particular communities continues, “rifts” will only solidify where people have fewer common traits. In my post I further fretted regarding the requests frequently made of feminists, anti-racist activists, gays and trans folk, to swallow their other causes; to put their causes outside of atheism aside in order to cohabitate in a “big tent” with anti-feminists and anti-social-justice folks — who are themselves never asked to stop with their targeted harassment, their bullying, their hate speech.

Richard Dawkins and Ophelia Benson just released a joint statement that amounts to a request of our communities: stop doing all of that. Included in that request is a statement by Dawkins that he does not, even tacitly, support the people engaging in such tactics.

I’m certain that James In The West, who left this lengthy screed on my earlier post, has since seen Dawkins’ statement and wishes he could recant on his strange fan-fiction.
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Movement cohesion

Movement atheism is not a cohesive entity. Heads of orgs like American Atheists, in full-throated promotion of people like Jaclyn Glenn — especially those videos that attack movement feminists for being too firebrandey and poisoning movement atheism with all their “social justice warrior” stuff — they’ve evidently chosen sides. Let’s not mistake that there are, in fact, sides to choose in what amounts to a fundamental division between feminists and antifeminists within atheism. AA has chosen, expressly, the side of the antifeminists, and they’ve framed the issue such that the antifeminists are the ones demanding we stop talking about feminist ideas and the toxic anti-woman environment that these antifeminists inculcate in our movement.

Feminists are told to stop fighting. Antifeminists are asked absolutely nothing — they’re the “reasonable” ones for demanding that the status quo be maintained.

Fuck that.

The surest way to earn my enmity, my directed criticism, is to ask us to stop other fights so we can pretend we’re all one big happy big-tent family. It’s what bugged the hell out of me about courting secular pro-lifers at CPAC, it’s what bugged the hell out of me about the ongoing, constant, concerted attacks of big atheist vloggers like Thunderf00t and The Amazing Atheist against feminists despite the absolute hash they make of logic and reason and empathy in doing so. It’s what continues to bug me about basically every organization demanding that we go big-tent and allow every atheist in so we can all talk about how much God don’t real, but don’t you dare talk about the social impact of how we treat half the human fucking race. Not to mention every other issue that gets derided under the umbrella of “Social Justice Warrior”, like trans rights, gay rights, race issues, and every other aspect of humanism that involves having a shred of empathy for your fellow human being.

The necessity of feminism is evidenced by the comments everyplace it’s mentioned in anything but a negative, straw-feminist casting (take Laci Green’s recent video’s comments, for example). Especially so any time it’s mentioned in atheist settings, because there are precious few that aren’t expressly antifeminist and expressly anti-any-social-justice-but-secularism in bent, thanks to the vociferous libertarian quadrant of our “community” demographics.

There is no one single community. This inter-atheist fighting is necessary because we have coalesced communities around shared ideals, and there’s a shit-ton of you atheists out there who share almost no ideals in common with me outside of “god don’t real”.

I will not throw my other principles under the bus to be part of your hideous granfaloon.

“It’s sad I can’t take my kid”

Someone sent me an email with regard to the timeline I had put together of harassment reports in the secular / skeptical / atheist communities, and it came at a very good moment for me. Just when I was feeling the strain of the sisyphean task of combatting harassment in a community that would rather we have a “big tent” that includes the harassers, this email came to bolster my spirits.

I got permission to republish excerpts in hopes that it helps you too.

I wanted to say thank you for the work you’re doing, because no matter what I say, I will never be taken seriously when I talk about sexual harassment in geek space- because I’m a woman. It’s doubly hard for me now, because my daughter is old enough to start being interested in going to various conventions in geek culture.

The second I say anything, no matter how mild, I’m instantly going to be viciously attacked. I’m moderately used to the nastyness, but I’m completely unwilling to subject my 13 year old child to that sort of crap.

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Carrie Poppy and the Nay-Sayers

In observing the way the skeptical and secular communities have melted down lately over the merest hint that some of its top members might have occasionally behaved in manners that are not beyond reproach, I’ve come to the realization that certain members of our community think that all this “rage blogging” about “drama” is about trying to steal power from other people; that the communities upper echelons are populated entirely by people who think they’re reliving a secular Game of Thrones. The political machinations, the people who are willing to sell out their principles, the people who have no such principles to begin with who rise to power, and all the toadies… toadies everywhere… who will swarm on anyone who dares scandalize someone’s scandalous behaviour. It’s all very tiresome to watch, especially when some players are willing to excuse every bad behaviour even while they’re admitting that behaviour actually happened as stated.

Carrie Poppy has been extraordinarily well-placed in some of the bigger scandals regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault recently, in having been employed as communications director for JREF and having resigned after six months due to, let’s say, philosophical differences with DJ Grothe, president of the organization. Well, if you can classify her stating her reasons for leaving as mere philosophy, being his “constant duplicity, dishonesty, and manipulation”.

So people rushed then to attack Carrie Poppy, to destroy her as an irrational harpy with a bone to grind and an axe to pick against Grothe. So when she recently decided to suggest that women should generally stay away from TAM because the JREF was unlikely to treat any incidents with any level of seriousness, people naturally resorted to the same trope — that she was trying to destroy TAM and JREF.

Only the strange thing is, the corroboration of her claims came from those very people that you’d least expect. The ones who have been trying to naysay the whole thing all along.

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Is the Skeptic Empire dying?

A new employee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has already started receiving death threats and harassment just for mentioning feminism.

A quote from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that’s relevant to what we’re seeing right now. We call ourselves rationalists but we devolve into hyperskepticism and denialism about real, demonstrable problems in our community. Problems like irrational hatred of feminism to the point of excusing harassment, death threats, rape threats et cetera as “trolling”. To the point of being unable to criticize our leaders for their well-evidenced transgressions.

Ezri Dax: I think that the situation with Gowron is a symptom of a bigger problem. The Klingon Empire is dying; and I think it deserves to die. I tend to look at the Empire with a little more skepticism than Curzon and Jadzia did. I see a society that is in deep denial about itself. We’re talking about a warrior culture that prides itself on maintaining centuries-old traditions of honor and integrity. But in reality, it’s willing to accept corruption at the highest levels.

Worf: You are overstating your case.

Dax: Am I? Who was the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told that it was for the good of the Empire? I… I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is, you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt. Gowron’s just the latest example. Worf, you are the most honorable and decent man that I’ve ever met. And if *you* are willing to tolerate men like Gowron, then what hope is there for the Empire?

What kinds of rationalists are we? What claim do we have to being decent human beings without our dogmas if we act like this?How can anyone take us as a movement seriously if we can’t clean our houses? How the hell do we even drain this swamp?

#FtBCon: The panels I’ve facilitated, and the panels I will facilitate

Day three of FtBConscience, and it’s been a hell of a lot of work so far. I don’t have as many panels as PZ has had, but I’ve had a lot of last-second stress swinging in to help troubleshoot someone’s connection problems or dealing with sudden changes of plan. The tensest moment thus far was Kate Donovan’s presentation which started ~15 mins late, due to the university deciding to close up the building she was using several hours earlier than usual — so she sprinted home and set up as quickly as possible, and somehow seemed genuinely unruffled through her talk and still gave a bang-up presentation. My already immense respect for her has only redoubled.

I’ll include all the panels I ran / moderated / facilitated so far below, but I’ll also create a special thread for commenting that I’ll link the titles to below.
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