John Oliver on online harassment

This is an experience that I’ve been steeped in and have been actively fighting for almost a decade now. I’m exhausted. It’s why I really just want to blog about things I like right now.

Being in possession of a white penis as John Oliver says (and/or being perceived to be same when I was anonymous so many years ago; see comments for nuance with regard to trans folk), I received a tenth the harassment I saw others receive. I only drew people’s ire when I pointed this out, and only attracted haters and slime pitters to swarm me and attack me when I dared defend their targets or interrogated their questionable logic. They are entirely disinterested in me as long as I turn a blind eye to the damage they do. It’s a built-in defense mechanism, I think. And it’s a winning strategy — a decade of seeing the dregs of humanity tear down everything you try to build does, in fact, wear at you.

You wonder why I am tired? This is why. Because there’s a cadre of people who act as a katamari of awful, rolling from one community to another, genuinely believing in their campaign to push interlopers off of the internet, picking targets and slowly eroding their confidence and destroying their lives, pushing them out of the public sphere. It is censorship of a creeping and insidious sort, and a far more insidious censorship than “waah, someone said that thing I said is objectively harmful even though I’m free to say it, they shouldn’t be free to say otherwise because free speech”. Rape threats and death threats and defense of same as “criticism” is shameful, attacking legitimate criticism as “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs” is shameful, and it’s shameful that anyone with a shred of intellect (*coughdawkins*) might be suckered into that narrative just because they themselves are criticized for saying sexist, racist or otherwise societally harmful things.

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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Radford / Stollznow defamation case: What we know and what we can infer or extrapolate reasonably

I’ve noticed a trend in amongst the so-called “skeptics” who have, from the get-go, denied every single claim of harassment in the community. That trend is denialism masquerading as skepticism, and a willingness to lie about who said what, when. That’s why I’ve been fighting that trend by building timelines. Someone needs to document what was actually said, and what can be reasonably inferred from these events. It also helps to document the attacks launched by certain people against certain other people, because it helps define the tribal lines against which these denialists are aligning.

[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”30%”]”I didn’t write it, I never agreed to it, I never signed it, and I’m not the liar here.”
–Karen Stollznow, Twitter, March 25th, 2014[/pullquote]

One of these big accusations of harassment has resurfaced in the past few weeks, with new movements occurring for the first time in months. As a refresher, here’s all the points from my sexual harassment accusations timeline.

I don’t claim to know for certain that these allegations are true, but I can certainly develop a narrative that, I think, accounts for all the actual points we apparently do know, as well as what we could reasonably extrapolate.
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“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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FtBCon2: Sexual Harassment Law and You, with full transcript! #ftbcon

Ken White of Popehat gave a great presentation at FtBConscience 2 about sexual harassment law and anti-harassment policies at conventions. Surprise surprise, the troll narrative about sexual harassment is about as far from the legalities of the situation as you can get!

Here’s some of his supplementary material he originally posted here:

Some related links:

Here’s the link to where the conference will be.

Here’s a short quiz in preparation for the talk.

Here’s a great resource about the recent history of calls for anti-harassment policies in the skeptic, open-source, and science fiction and fantasy communities.

Here’s the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s publications on discrimination issues.

I’ve written before about how complaints about harassment provoke disproportionate outrage and further harassment; those posts are hereand here.

The full transcript, graciously provided by Josiah BibleName (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr), is below the fold. It was provided without paragraph breaks; for readability, I’ll be editing them in as time allows.
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Twitter: Fixed it for you

Dear Twitter,

I noticed you’re having a hard time balancing user issues with dealing with harassment and dealing with privacy. I further noticed you had a good idea for a change to a function that solves one class of issues, but that had side-effects that made another class of issues dramatically worse.

I think I have found a reasonable solution for your problem.

Do both.

Oh, and there are some more tweaks I can offer to help fix other outstanding problems, if you’ll listen.

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Trouble in Riverdale

Co-CEO of Archie Comics, Nancy Silberkleit, is under fire over allegedly stalking, mocking and sexually harassing male employees. While an erratic CEO taking advantage of their underlings is not generally unheard-of, what’s most interesting about this case is that her lawyer is defending her from the charges by claiming that these employees could not possibly be harmed or be discriminated against, because they’re white men.

In papers filed in Westchester Supreme Court, Nancy Silberkleit’s lawyer says a gender discrimination lawsuit filed against her earlier this year by a group of Archie Comics employees should be tossed in part because white guys aren’t members of “a protected class.”

The embattled co-CEO’s filing also mocked the five employees’ claim that she’d used her “gender as a weapon” by yelling “Penis! Penis! Penis!” during a business meeting.

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On not being completely free to curate

I just attended Skepticon 6, and had a number of excellent and thought-provoking conversations with some people I’ve admired, some people I’ve long since befriended, and some people I’d never met before but am glad to have met now. It was a great experience, a few issues aside which I’ll, naturally, have to talk more about soon.

On Wednesday night, immediately after work, Stephanie, Brianne and I piled into the car and undertook a ten-hour car ride south. We arrived at 5 am, and promptly hit our beds and crashed. The first night we were in Springfield, Missouri, folks were still filtering into town, and as we skeptics are wont to do, we sought one another out for the first of what promised to be many of those thought-provoking conversations. This conversation became the genesis for this post, which will hopefully serve as a follow-up to my recent post about curating your internet experience.
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The Truth Hurts

I’ve been feeling somewhat inured to the constant grind on the soul of people coming forward with tales of their having been sexually assaulted of late. Then along comes Pamela Gay, one of the kindest, smartest, funniest people I’ve had the pleasure to work with, however briefly, and her story has such a ring of familiarity and timeliness that people are speculating that she’s the one DJ Grothe and Barbara Drescher were talking about.

And to make matters worse, Dr. Gay is the one feeling guilty here, despite having personally done nothing wrong. She’s the one facing repercussions within the community for having spoken up last year about harassment. She’s the one being targeted for further harassment and abuse, and she’s the one whose career is on the line. Because she’s the one who has breasts. Because she’s the one who spoke up.

I am just fucking GUTTED now.

With ever increasing difficulty I’ve been dealing with issues of gender related to my career. Right now, I am struggling with hearing that an event I categorized as “A drunk ass tried to grab my boobs,” is now being discussed by witnesses as, “He tried to sexually assault her in a bar while intoxicated.” I had created a euphemism for myself, and having that euphemism striped away is making me realize that I have been hiding from myself the true degree to which I have been harmed.

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Elsewhere, another community handles similar events differently.

It’s no surprise the science blogging community, even the “mainstream media” parts of it like Scientific American, intersects heavily with the community of atheists and freethinkers that make up the skeptical and atheist communities. Not all the members of the science blogging community, though, have any inclination toward being part of the atheist/skeptical communities. In fact, a surprising number of people who are out as atheists couldn’t give half a damn about these secular online communities, what with our acrimony, our pockets of outright hatred and our various unevidenced delusions. A large number of them have given up on our communities over the very same fights that FtB features heavily in — fights in which vocal minorities claim that we, the people who try to hold others’ feet to fires for believing in and for saying and for doing objectively harmful and antisocial things to one another, are the ones who are truly evil, with their cries of “witch hunts” and “political correctness” and “fascism” and their cries that they’re defending “free speech”, as though they even knew what the term meant.

The result of this divergence in community makeup is palpable this past week.
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