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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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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Ben Radford and CFI: A point of contention

Center For Inquiry’s Ben Radford, whom you might remember as the skeptic who took on a four year old over evolutionary reasons little girls might like pink, among numerous other terrible bits of skepticism and anti-science, has been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting Karen Stollznow serially over a period of four years. The story was told anonymously, but a number of independent sources on Twitter and elsewhere blew the whistle and named Radford. PZ received many emails to that effect. And Stollznow has since given her blessing to the people naming him.

An investigation was apparently undertaken by CFI, hiring a third party contractor; the investigators may or may not have found him guilty. That appears to be a point of contention presently in the narrative. From Stollznow’s post:

Five months after I lodged my complaint I received a letter that was riddled with legalese but acknowledged the guilt of this individual. They had found evidence of “inappropriate communications” and “inappropriate” conduct at conferences. However, they greatly reduced the severity of my claims. When I asked for clarification and a copy of the report they treated me like a nuisance. In response to my unanswered phone calls they sent a second letter that refused to allow me to view the report because they couldn’t release it to “the public”. They assured me they were disciplining the harasser but this turned out to be a mere slap on the wrist. He was suspended, while he was on vacation overseas. They offered no apology, that would be an admission of guilt, but they thanked me for bringing this serious matter to their attention. Then they asked me to not discuss this with anyone. This confidentiality served me at first; I wanted to retain my dignity and remain professional. Then I realized that they are trying to silence me, and this silence only keeps up appearances for them and protects the harasser.

Emphasis mine.

They had enough evidence that he was serially harassing someone in order to “suspend” him — while he was already on vacation overseas. When it would have no impact on his job, and would serve as nothing but a note in his file.
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TAM’s harassment policy was secret. Why?

One of the biggest victories I was really, truly hoping for in the harassment policies campaign came to pass. But rather than crowing about it like I did with the American Atheists and CFI policies, I can barely fathom what’s going on and can’t bring myself to celebrate at all. TAM’s harassment policy appears to have come to pass in one of those strange “but you won’t like it” sort of ways, like we’d all been wishing on a Monkey’s Paw instead of making cogent arguments for these policies.

I honestly hoped that DJ Grothe and/or other powers-that-be at JREF would realize that the people DJ claimed are trying to hurt The Amazing Meeting by discussing the harassment they’d experienced, and proposing countermeasures, were instead trying to help TAM, and him, rectify the situation. I had hoped that DJ et al would come to understand that it was not about painting his specific convention as an “unsafe space“, but rather as a place that SHOULD be better than background levels of harassment but WASN’T.

But, until now, nobody has shown any indication that harassment was being taken seriously. In fact, it looked quite a bit like they’d decided harassment policies themselves were the problem, when they removed all mention of the weak-tea and toothless policy that had existed the year prior.

Then a tweet tipped us off.
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Doug Stanhope: more irresponsible messaging for DJ to rebuke

In his interview with Russia Times, Doug Stanhope, who will be part of The Amazing Meeting’s entertainment at 9pm Friday night, gives full-throated defense of Daniel Tosh’s right to make rape jokes — which right nobody has actually denied.

But not just rape jokes — also the right to suggest that it would be humorous if five men suddenly started raping an audience member who dared to say that rape jokes aren’t actually funny.


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HUGE news from American Atheists re harassment (now with link to press release)

David Silverman, Amanda Knief, and the rest of the crew at American Atheists have put together what I feel exceedingly comfortable in saying is absolutely the strongest anti-harassment policy implemented in this entire campaign. AA just closed a conference call (to which I was invited, though my day job impeded my participation). They have gone above and beyond my wildest expectations for delineating what actions are objectionable, and what might happen if you engage in those actions regardless. The policy hasn’t yet gone live but here’s what was apparently sent around to the conference bridge participants. In the event that this policy is significantly altered after I’ve posted this, I’ll amend.
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The further hyper-skepticism stalling our conversation

Last year, when the bugs crawling out from under the rock that had been overturned several months prior by Rebecca Watson continued unabated, and pretty much everyone was shocked that that many creepie-crawlies resided in our vaunted skeptical community, I wrote a series of posts on the whole ordeal called The Problem with Privilege. One of those posts dealt with the rampant and repeated demands for evidence regarding the incident that Rebecca had called creepy — as though recounting a story and saying “guys, don’t do that, it’s creepy” was some kind of misandrist clarion call, which must be rebuffed lest it result in fewer pick-up artists getting their dicks wet.

So these trolls, being part of the skeptical community (apparently), used our strengths against us by attacking the claim on its merits, since the claim “I was tipsy in an elevator at 4am and a guy followed me in and asked me to his room” doesn’t meet the high standards of evidence we use in the skeptical community when it comes to extraordinary claims. Never mind that it was a perfectly ordinary claim about someone’s experience with a slightly-offputting person that did not result in any physical harm. Specifically, I characterized this compulsion as hyper-skepticism, along the same lines as 9/11 truthers, birthers, and other conspiracy theorists.

We’re now seeing the exact same tactic being used again in the wake of a conflagration that Jen McCreight accidentally set off when she casually mentioned at the Women In Secularism CFI conference that female speakers occasionally warn one another of potentially creepy male speakers.
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