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Aug 12 2013

Are we having fun yet?

The issue of sexual harassment in skeptical organizations is one chaotic uproar right now, but remember back to last week when the floodgates were opened by one person, Karen Stollznow, reporting systemic harassment by Ben Radford and neglect by CFI — well, surprise, surprise, Karen Stollznow’s post has been taken down.

My ed at Scientific American Mind just told me that CFI issued a “legal challenge” for them to take down my article about sexual harassment

Ron Lindsay replies:

There have been suggestions that CFI asked SciAm to remove the Stollznow blog piece. Incorrect. I did write, asking for 3 corrections.

Who do you trust? The fact is, the post is down.

Lindsay’s requests (which read more like demands) are now online.

I request that ScientificAmerican.com issue an immediate apology and a correction which clearly states that:

1. The Center for Inquiry has had a policy prohibiting sexual harassment since at least 2003, and its current policy has been in place since 2007;

2. The employee referenced in Ms. Stollznow’s blog post did not serve his suspension during his vacation; and

3. The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims, nor is there any evidence to support the allegation that it has a track record of disciplining harassers lightly.

CFI is proving to be a real flop when it comes to diplomacy.

Not having access to the full history of CFI’s engagement with this problem, I can accept the claim that it does not have an “extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims”. But the fact still remains that they did deal with Radford very lightly, to the point that they lost a significant contributor thanks to their attitude, and that they’re reduced to nitpicking over dates and phrases that are of little relevance to subject of concern.

In related news, Richard Carrier explains a New York law that may be stifling the conversation, and also reveals that he’s been blacklisted by CFI. Wait, I thought Ron Lindsay didn’t accept blacklists?

And now Chris Clarke spurns CFI-LA. The informal offer he mentions was the result of a conversation I had with CFI-LA; they were considering bringing me out for a Darwin Day event, and also snagging Chris to share the stage, which would have been excellent.

It may all be moot now, anyway. I suspect I’m on the CFI blacklist along with a few other speakers whose names you can probably guess…but they won’t be the well-known men who have reputations for womanizing. Funny how that works.

The shit keeps flying!

93 comments

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  1. 1
    PZ Myers

    You know what’s really funny? Lindsay complains that Stollznow’s discussion of problems at CFI has cost them members and could cost them donors. But what convinces me I want nothing to do with them is what Lindsay says every time he decides to weigh in in his ponderously lawyerly way.

  2. 2
    Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu

    No Fucking Way.

    *Stunned Silence*

  3. 3
    raven

    Stollznow’s discussion of problems at CFI has cost them members and could cost them donors.

    I’m neither a member or donor of CFI.

    And will never be one. CFI who and who cares these days.

    Far as I’m concerned, they can find jesus and join a church. (Hey CFI, try aisle 2, frozen foods section.)

  4. 4
    Tom Foss

    But PZ, what about all the consequences faced by the heroic men who have been so unjustly tarred by these spurious accusations? Some anonymous people who may not exist at all, and a couple of women who are probably just regretful and petty, have led to the indictment, kangaroo trial, and summary execution of people who’ve done so much for the skeptical movement, and all because of the fascist femistasi witch mob lynch hunters who are just as religious as fundamentalists! And of course you ignore their plight, because you’re a white knight fellowpian-tube who probably made this all up for the hits in the first place.

    I mean, Ben Radford got suspended! And Michael Shermer…well, he probably lost some Twitter followers. Twitter followers! But you’ll never hear about that from the feminist-controlled media echo chamber!

    Why won’t anybody think of the poor menz?

  5. 5
    seraphymcrash

    What?! Does the CFI have a guidebook for the way to respond to an issue that is most likely to piss me off? Their response hardly shows a commitment to reducing sexual harassment or taking women’s claims seriously.

    If I was running an organization accused of sexual harassment and I thought my org was not guilty, I would respond with something like “We cannot comment on ongoing investigations or personal matters of employment, but we are committed to a safe and productive work environment that rests on the dignity and integrity of all our employees. To help drive this message home, we will be [INSERT ACTION HERE]”

    The action would be something like donating to a respected women’s charity, or hosting a series of TED style talks / discussions regarding harassment and effective ways to counter it.

    Karen is driving people and donors away? No, I think Ron’s got that totally covered. What an idiot.

  6. 6
    Kristjan Wager

    X-posting from the CFI post

    CFI depends heavily on donations for its income. Ms. Stollznow’s false claims can be expected to have an adverse impact on our ability to raise funds. Indeed, following the appearance of Ms. Stollznow’s blog post, I have already received two e-mails indicating that individuals would not support CFI. Ms. Stollznow’s allegations also will have an adverse effect on our ability to recruit staff.

    You know what else have had an adverse impact on your ability to raise funds? You. You personally. Yet, I don’t see you take any actions to correct this problem.

    Also, you know what might affect your ability to hire people? Not firing people who you yourself says have been harassing other people. Why would anyone trust him not to do so again, and you to not give him another light slap over the wrist (which suspending him certainly counts for in my book).

  7. 7
    Kristjan Wager

    And the fucking pitters have begun to show up at CFI to support Lindsay

  8. 8
    Pteryxx

    Indeed, following the appearance of Ms. Stollznow’s blog post, I have already received two e-mails indicating that individuals would not support CFI. Ms. Stollznow’s allegations also will have an adverse effect on our ability to recruit staff.

    …I didn’t realize “irresponsible locker-room gossip” was an official organizational position.

  9. 9
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Lindsay made sure that I knew that the corporate cover-up “investigator” he hired was a woman… because clearly hiring a woman means he did everything right?

  10. 10
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    I hope it costs them members and donors. CFI cannot see fit to adequately follow up on claims of sexual harassment, nor can they punish one of their employees for sexual harassment (wrist slapping is not punishment, IMO). That, plus the lukewarm response following Rons insensitive, patronizing, mansplaining opening speech at WIS2 leaves me wanting a change in leadership at CFI going up to the board.

  11. 11
    Pteryxx

    And the fucking pitters have begun to show up at CFI to support Lindsay

    Y’know, after what happened with the abortion law debates in Texas and North Carolina, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that some pitters have an inside line on what major skeptical organizations are planning. (I’m referencing anti-abortion protest orgs being told of votes and debates before the public, or the abortion rights side, was informed… even to members of their own legislatures.)

  12. 12
    melaniemallon

    Hey, let’s be fair here. CFI spent $40,000 to cover their ass take harassment and assault seriously.

  13. 13
    Lofty

    The anti-bigfoot blatherers can get stuffed with their hunger for secular power.

  14. 14
    melaniemallon

    And another HTML fail.

    That should have been

    cover their ass take harassment and assault seriously.

  15. 15
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Indeed, following the appearance of Ms. Stollznow’s blog post, I have already received two e-mails indicating that individuals would not support CFI. Ms. Stollznow’s allegations also will have an adverse effect on our ability to recruit staff.

    [Heavy Sarcasm Ahead]

    Yes, this is Ms. Stollznow’s doing. This is not the result of anything CFI has done or failed to do. This is not the result of people having little faith in CFI due to the words that have come directly out of Lindsay’s mouth, or experience with Radford that they can use to make their own decisions, or the veracity of what Stollznow wrote.

    No. None of that. It’s never misogyny that’s the problem. It’s these bitchez talkin’ about it instead of shutting up.

    *spits*

  16. 16
    carlie

    I have seen firsthand how that particular law can keep people who need to know from finding out information they really ought to have. Can’t give any more detail than that, but it’s an awful law.

  17. 17
    Anthony K

    But what convinces me I want nothing to do with them is what Lindsay says every time he decides to weigh in in his ponderously lawyerly way.

    Not on that twitter. He’s perfected the bleep-blorp that causes all the wannabe Vulcans still insisting they liked Star Trek before it was ‘cool’ to sticky up their Spidey Underoos.

    @chriscaple @karenstollznow make 3 specific corrections

    There have been suggestions that CFI asked SciAm to remove the Stollznow blog piece. Incorrect. I did write, asking for 3 corrections.

    @karenstollznow no, sorry, again you’re mistaken; investigator reviewed everything you gave her; she gave us her findings; we accepted them

    But that’s enough of flat affect; now’s time for some good ol’ fashioned talkin’ down to the uppity minority:

    @ImprobableJoe @karenstollznow I know I’m SO bad for making sure Stollznow had an experienced, impartial (female) investigator

    Organized skepticism and the GOP in a nutshell: ‘We just have no idea why all the lessers hate us. Is it because we’re so hardworking and smart? It must be because we’re so hardworking and smart. Also, is that Rand Paul? Squeeeeeee!”

  18. 18
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    It was an honor to be mentioned by the great Ron Limbaugh…

  19. 19
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    @7: do they ever support women in anything? It seems like they will defend any man, but a
    women?

  20. 20
    Al Dente

    I stopped being a CFI donor after Ron Lindsay lectured a group of feminists on what he doesn’t like about feminism. This decision was reinforced when Lindsay sneered at Rebecca Watson’s reasonable criticism of his speech. More reinforcement came when the CFI board issued their non-statement regretting something obviously not including Lindsay’s speech. I saw Lindsay’s rather mealy-mouthed apology but it wasn’t enough for me to reconsider dropping CFI from my donations list. Now Lindsay is whining that Stollznow isn’t appreciative of the finger-wagging CFI gave to Radford.

    Sorry, Ron, but it isn’t PZ Myers, Chris Clarke or Karen Stollznow who stopped me from supporting CFI. There’s only one person who did that and you see him in the mirror every morning.

    I’m sending an email to Lindsay quoting the above. I doubt it’ll have much effect on his massive ego.

  21. 21
    melaniemallon

    Indeed, following the appearance of Ms. Dr. Stollznow’s blog post

    Fixed that for ya, Ron.

  22. 22
    Stacy

    Cached version of Dr. Stollznow’s SciAm article here.

  23. 23
    sharkjack

    I thought the opposing side was all for Freeze Peach? This seems like a pretty clear breach of that ideal to me. Yeah sure Ron didn’t want the post taken down and just wants to change 3 specific points but given the takedown CFI must’ve shown some legal muscle. That’s like a maffiaboss saying I don’t want to break your legs but you gotta give me that money you owe me or I won’t have a choice. As long as Ron Lindsay is part of CFI that organisation won’t get a cent of my money. They have nobody but him to blame for that.

  24. 24
    Inaji

    Aaaaarggggh! At this point, I feel like just banging my head into a wall would be a more productive use of my time. This is reaching ‘a bad farce’ point, rapidly.

  25. 25
    Pteryxx

    3. The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims, nor is there any evidence to support the allegation that it has a track record of disciplining harassers lightly.

    again, as if we can’t all say this often enough: No wonder certain folks lost their shit when the community started publicly discussing sexual harassment policies. Saying “there’s no evidence” is the only thing keeping their Emperor’s clothing on.

  26. 26
    Anthony K

    Indeed, following the appearance of Ms. Stollznow’s blog post, I have already received two e-mails indicating that individuals would not support CFI. Ms. Stollznow’s allegations also will have an adverse effect on our ability to recruit staff.

    Man, everything that happens to skeptics’ organizations is the result of irresponsible blogging. They just have the worst luck, don’t they?

  27. 27
    urbster1

    Man this is gross shit. I used to love my “Support Science & Reason” CFI license plate frame that I got the first time I met Richard Carrier. But now I am thinking of ripping it off and putting “In God We Trust” back on there. Ok, well not really. But almost.

  28. 28
    Rob Grigjanis

    Pteryxx @8:

    “irresponsible locker-room” = “official organization”

    for the last few thousand years, on the whole.

  29. 29
    w00dview

    Richard Carrier explains a New York law that may be stifling the conversation, and also reveals that he’s been blacklisted by CFI.

    Why, I’m sure those valiant defenders of FREEZE PEACH will be shouting from the rooftops about the injustice of Ron Lindsay silencing Carrier like the Vatican punishes whistleblowers. Yep, as soon as they hear about this they are sure to raise hell….

    And the fucking pitters have begun to show up at CFI to support Lindsay

    Oh. Never mind.

  30. 30
    screechymonkey

    The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims

    Just, you know, a normal history. The usual stuff.

    (Reminds me of all the demands that we prove that harassment is more frequent in the skeptical community than the general population, otherwise no action need be taken.)

  31. 31
    Marcus Ranum

    issue an immediate apology

    That’s an editorial suggestion for a correction? As in, “we’re sorry we published this.”

  32. 32
    carlie

    Wait, he went to actual sarcasm at ijoe on twitter? Way to be professional there, Ron.

  33. 33
    geekoid

    Someone made inaccurate statements. The group they were made about want them corrected.
    And..people attack them for wanting correct information.

    So, skeptics no longer want incorrect facts corrected? is that the deal now?
    These are legal issues, so yeah lawyers are involved. It’s a serious issue, so yeah lawyers are involved.

    I have a skeptical daughter, this is a very serious issue to me, but that doesn’t mean we leave our critically thinking brains at the door.

    This article is horrid. It opens with pure speculation.
    There are other reasons it was pulled. Their lawyer may have advised them to based on the discussion over what some people are saying are inaccuracies. Maybe she pulled it? maybe He do request to be pulled. we don’t know and speculating is just throwing water on this raging grease fire.

    “But the fact still remains that they did deal with Radford very lightly,”
    that opinion, not fact. Appalling

    and a person claims to be blacklisted, and those all the evidences you need? a claim? Again, appalling.

    Hey, if it meets you emotional reaction, then facts don’t matter right? just like creationist and global warming deniers.

  34. 34
    Jacob Schmidt

    And..people attack them for wanting correct information.

    Being the totally awesome skeptical skeptic you are, you can produce quotes of this happening, right?

  35. 35
    imthegenieicandoanything

    What I hear, pretty damn clearly, is a bunch of guys saying “Hey! STFU! Why make such a fuss over nothing when we got such a real good thing goin’ here!”

  36. 36
    Pteryxx

    Someone made inaccurate statements.

    And you’re taking Lindsay’s word for that? Hearsay! Libel! Slander!

  37. 37
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    and a person claims to be blacklisted, and those all the evidences you need? a claim? Again, appalling.

    Not a claim, but TESTIMONY FROM THE INVOLVED PARTY. That is evidence in a court of law. Funny how some folks can’t grasp that concept….

  38. 38
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Seriously, Ron Lindsay acts like he’s running a local social club with a dozen members rather than a national, professional organization. It is all about his ego and defending his buddies, and in ways that indicate that he’s on an emotional/intellectual level only slightly higher than a teenager defending his YouTube videos. It is a terrible combination of too much power and nothing near the maturity or professionalism to handle the responsibilities that come with that sort of power.

  39. 39
    Anthony K

    I have a skeptical daughter, this is a very serious issue to me, but that doesn’t mean we leave our critically thinking brains at the door.

    Okay. Let’s see:

    Someone made inaccurate statements.

    You know this is true? Because you certainly treat it as true for the remainder of your comment.

    But hey, if it meets you emotional reaction, then facts don’t matter right? just like creationist and global warming deniers.

  40. 40
    Tom Foss

    If someone who hires a male stripper gets fired immediately, but someone who engages in a year-long harassment campaign complete with sexual assault only gets suspended, then yeah, I think that’s evidence that the latter got off lightly.

    Still waiting to hear from Ron Lindsay what the gender of the stripper-hiring employee was, and if it had been Ben Radford, would they still have been immediately terminated.

  41. 41
    robertwilson

    @40 That point about the male stripper is so amazingly rich in what it tells us about the culture isn’t it?

    CFI’s investigation concluded that Radnow did engage in improper behavior, harassment in fact, but he’s still employed.

    Meanwhile someone is immediately fired for hiring a male stripper even though in Lindsay’s own words this is viewed as gross misconduct, not harassment.

    And he thinks this shows they don’t take harassment lightly?

    Wow.

  42. 42
    Jacob Schmidt

    If someone who hires a male stripper gets fired immediately…

    Wait, what? Where was I when this happened?

  43. 43
    imthegenieicandoanything

    #33 geekoid,

    You do seem to be either off the track or willingly twisting the facts.

    Sure, they asked for corrections, but of the kind that might as well have come labeled as “Defensive & Distracting Nit-picking! ” If the corrections had been their real concern, they should have emphasized the fact rather than working to have it removed.

    A comparison to creationists? Why not include anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers as well? Not throwing any mud oneself, are we?

    Read what you posted again and see why you’re going to get harshly criticized for it. ( It * also wasn’t proofread very well – definitely something better to do. *when going against the current.)

    Further, this isn’t an “article” but a personal update about the case on a blog. I’d shake Louis Gohmert’s hand (and, no, I’m not at all into such things) if PZ doesn’t instantly revise and apologize should he be shown to be in the wrong.

    That very, very clearly cannot be said of those YOU are defending. Which is kind of the point.

    Impress me and many by re-stating your position in a more peruasive manner.

  44. 44
    w00dview

    Hey, if it meets you emotional reaction, then facts don’t matter right? just like creationist and global warming deniers.

    I know it is a long read but you really should read the first hundred or so comments on the michael shermer thread here. There is a commenter called Jimashby who insists that victims of rape/sexual harassment just need to report sexual harassment to the police and justice will be served. Many commenters correctly pointed out that is far from the case for many victims. They produced ample evidence to support this claim. Actual victims told him that the police often belittled, dismissed or ignored their experiences. In short, jimashby’s assertion was incorrect. How did jimmy boy react? By repeating IN ALL CAPS that all victims need to do is to report the abuse and the justice system will arrest the abuser and everything will be all right. More evidence and testimonies were offered. Jimashby ignored their rebuttals completely and repeated his original assertion whilst offering zero evidence in support of that claim. This was a man determined to cling onto his belief that the police take claims of sexual harassment/rape seriously. His behaviour was identical to Ken Ham or Christopher Monckton. Just block out that annoying inconvenient evidence and repeat your zombie talking point again and again.

    The people acting like creationists and global warming deniers in this whole debate are the ones who are insisting that skeptism does not have a misogyny problem. The anti-harassment folks have the evidence and data. Skeptical organisations and their leaders need to practise what they preach and actually follow the evidence and not cover shit up like they are Vatican 2.0.

  45. 45
    changerofbits

    1. The Center for Inquiry has had a policy prohibiting sexual harassment since at least 2003, and its current policy has been in place since 2007;

    Given that CFI is a donor driven organization, those documents could be produced for review by the donors, correct? Is there a law against making a corporation’s policies public? Also, how did Karen not know about this, given that she filed a complaint for a violation of the policy? Her article talked about convention policies, correct?

    2. The employee referenced in Ms. Stollznow’s blog post did not serve his suspension during his vacation; and

    This seems like a direct violation of the NY employee discipline non-disclosure law (tsk tsk). It confirms that the original sexual harassment account took place, that the employee was suspended and even that it was not served while on paid vacation. Sure, Karen’s story is public, but Lindsay, acting in his official capacity as president of CFI, publicly disclosed that at least part of Karen’s story is true and accurate.

    3. The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims, nor is there any evidence to support the allegation that it has a track record of disciplining harassers lightly.

    What does this have to do with anything? Karen’s report was about warning others about Radford’s past, not making testable claims about the CFI. Sure, she didn’t make the CFI look good, but I wouldn’t either if I were in her shoes.

    Anyway, given that #2 seems illegal in NY, I wonder how long it stays up on Lindsay’s blog.

  46. 46
    skeptianthro

    Someone made inaccurate statements. The group they were made about want them corrected.
    And..people attack them for wanting correct information.

    I have a feeling that its only inaccurate if you don’t agree with it.

  47. 47
    sharkjack

    well Geekoid, if you actually looked at the claims, you’d have known that we’re not talking about mistakes as much as ‘stuff that doesn’t put CFI in the most positive light possible’

    The first point of contention for example is on the existence of a harassment policy in CFI before elevatorgate. It is technically true that they had one, but it’s only for EMPLOYEES. Since all the fuss after elevatorgate was about harassment policies at conventions, this is really a non issue.

    The second point is contention over if suspending someone during their vacation = overlapping suspension with vacation. Getting suspended while on vacation and having a suspension overlap a planned vacation aren’t the same thing. Lindsay may very well be right but that doesn’t mean the original article was wrong. The bigger point to me is that they appearantly didn’t punish the harasser face to face, which is something I would’ve expected in a case like this. Either way at best the meaning is implied and not outright stated.

    The third point is Lindsay saying the text implies CFI is being singled out for being extraordinarily bad at handling sexism in the atheo/skeptic community. That assertion is just plain absurd to me.This piece is about CFI and no direct comparisons are drawn to other organisations. Furthermore if we place this article in a wider context, we already know and acknowledge that the same holds true for other organisations and that CFI doesn’t stand out. There is nothing in the phrasing that suggests CFI is particularly bad at handling harassment claims.

    But all of that is irrelevant. Lindsay could have written a post on how he disagrees with what Stollznow wrote and that could’ve been adressed by Stollznow or anyone else. Instead he went behind her back and demanded things be changed in the original article, which has since gotten taken down.

  48. 48
    Pteryxx

    But one strict rule they had; oh yes, the strictest. No one must ever ask where another rabbit was and anyone who asked ‘Where? -except in a song or a poem-must be silenced. To say ‘Where? was bad enough, but to speak openly of the wires-that was intolerable. For that they would scratch and kill.”

    Watership Down ch. 17 “The Shining Wire”

  49. 49
    b. - Order of Lagomorpha

    Bravo to Ron Lindsay and CFI! Really. The CFISummit is going to be here in Washington and I was looking at finances to see if I could go. Then ol’ Ronno opened his mouth and stuck both feet firmly into it up to his kneecaps at WiS2. I was fence-sitting, thinking but…but…Eugenie Scott! Joe Nickell! Ophelia! A whole bunch of others! I waffled, I’m ashamed to say. Then came this. So, bravo Ron and CFI! You’ve saved our family a whack of money and saved me from dealing with traffic for several days. Thanks so much for making sure I didn’t waste my money. I’ll just continue to hope that the above-named folks will show up at something within driving distance that is sponsored by an organization that has a clue. (Big hint to Ron: this is your and your organization’s fault. Don’t blame the people that spread the word. Any blame is firmly on your and CFI’s shoulders.)

  50. 50
    bcmystery

    @48 Pteryxx

    So much win.

  51. 51
    carlie

    Pteryxx – you have all my loves forever.

    Seriously, Ron Lindsay acts like he’s running a local social club with a dozen members rather than a national, professional organization.

    This is the same charge that was levied against TAM – that they just hadn’t adjusted to being such a large organization yet, not just their own little in-group. There has been plenty of time for these organizations to level up.

  52. 52
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    #48 Pteryxx

    But one strict rule they had; oh yes, the strictest. No one must ever ask where another rabbit was and anyone who asked ‘Where? -except in a song or a poem-must be silenced. To say ‘Where? was bad enough, but to speak openly of the wires-that was intolerable. For that they would scratch and kill.”

    Watership Down ch. 17 “The Shining Wire”

    Goddamn I love that book. Read it when I was WAY too young to really get it, but growing up certain things “clicked” later. I’ve been meaning to back and re-read it for the longest time. I think I just might do that soon. (Still finishing up Robbin Hobb’s series. It’s taking longer because I don’t want the goodness to end too quickly.)

    And also, FUCK CFI and Ron Lindsey!

  53. 53
    Onamission5

    3. The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims

    What little I know about CFI’s history of sexual harassment seems perfectly ordinary. See that’s the whole problem in a nutshell right there. That’s what people are so pissed off about. The problem of sexual harassment isn’t extraordinary, it doesn’t have to be extraordinary to fuck up people’s lives, it can do that all while being perfectly fucking ordinary. The problem is that sexual harassment is ordinary! Price of admission, slap on the wrist, blame the victim, because it might lose *us* members so once we’ve decided if you have a case or not you need to shaddup about it.

    Hey, CFI. Having any history of sexual harassment should be extraordinary. Even one case ought to be the exception, not the rule. That’s what we’re going for, here. You going to get on board?

  54. 54
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    @carlie

    This is the same charge that was levied against TAM – that they just hadn’t adjusted to being such a large organization yet, not just their own little in-group. There has been plenty of time for these organizations to level up.

    Absolutely. And even though that charge was one that I made two years ago, I never used it as an EXCUSE for the terrible bullshit they allow to happen, make excuses for, and help to enable. They treat it like a social club… and like a “meat market”, a way to “get chicks” and that starts right at the top and works its way down. They KNOW, the way we all now know, that cons are a way for these predators to meet women in new/unfamiliar locations, wear them down with celebrity and alcohol, and take advantage of the situation to rape and sexually assault these women.

  55. 55
    notsont

    3. The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims

    Yeah….we know asshole, that’s the fucking problem, Jesus this guy is clueless.

  56. 56
    tyroneslothrop

    Will no one rid me of these turbulent women?–imagined quote from Ron Lindsay

  57. 57
    buddhabuck

    The original article did not mention the harasser nor the organization the harassment took place at. Yet CFI demands an apology from SciAm over the article? And SciAm took down the article over that demand? What a load of hooey.

    When I think of Michael Shermer, I think of SciAm, as that’s where I first became aware of him. He seemed to have a bigger role in the magazine than “columnist”, but that’s what he’s listed as so I may be over-remembering his role. He still has a cozy relationship with SciAm, and is now running into his own sexual harassment/assault heat, partially as a result of this article. Perhaps he put some pressure to take it down as well.

    Either way, I suspect SciAm, Shermer, or CFI don’t understand the Streisand Effect.

  58. 58
    LykeX

    Getting suspended while on vacation and having a suspension overlap a planned vacation aren’t the same thing. Lindsay may very well be right but that doesn’t mean the original article was wrong.

    And the fact that they have to nitpick like that to find something to criticize doesn’t look good. Out of three corrections, not one of them deals with the central point of the article: They didn’t properly deal with the harasser.

    The sad thing is, I really though he was getting it after the WiS2 apology. Sure, it took him a while, but he did get around to it and I thought he’d really learned something. I thought that was the turning point.

  59. 59
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    Pteryxx @#48, damn.

    every single thing that’s happened fits like a bee in a foxglove

    I re-read that book a couple of years ago. Apparently I need to re-re-(some more res here)-read it.

    That said.

    KS: My ed at Scientific American Mind just told me that CFI issued a “legal challenge”

    RL: Incorrect. I did write, asking for 3 corrections.

    PZ: Who do you trust? The fact is, the post is down.

    This seems 50:50 to me. Isn’t this sort of thing SOP? (“You wrote what?! There’ll be a lawsuit; take it down!”)

    And the first claim is at least third-hand; lawyer to editor to author. I don’t know. Time will tell?

  60. 60
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    3. The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims

    Is this even relevant? I thought the issue at hand was their response to the claims they do get.

  61. 61
    Nepenthe

    @Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Is this even relevant? I thought the issue at hand was their response to the claims they do get.

    Oh, perhaps you weren’t aware, but there’s a threshold for sexual assaults by non-profit employees. Kind of like how chocolate can contain 59 insect parts per 100 grams.

    Fewer than [redacted] sexual assaults and it’s totally okay.

  62. 62
    Gregory Greenwood

    3. The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims claims of grievous bodily harm/kidnapping/gun violence.

    It strikes me as unlikely that we would hear such a formulation with regard to any other comparably serious form of personal assault – this kind of whining excuse is only ever wheeled out in cases of rape. It makes it abundantly clear that the author does not view rape as something that is utterly unnacceptable in all cases. As Nepenthe observes @ 60, this sentence seems to imply the monstrous notion that there is such a thing as an ‘acceptable’ or ‘normal’ incidence of rape that should be simply accepted as part of the background noise of day to day life.

  63. 63
    Gregory Greenwood

    That should be Nepenthe @ 61 in my last post.

  64. 64
    Jadehawk

    Cached version of Dr. Stollznow’s SciAm article here.

    thank you!

    It occurs to me that all such articles/blog posts need to be archived, since it’s likely they’ll be made to disappear like Dr. Stollznow’s article. Can’t have teh ebil wimminz tarnishing the good name of organizations that tolerate harassment, can we.

  65. 65
    Jadehawk

    Someone made inaccurate statements. The group they were made about want them corrected.
    And..people attack them for wanting correct information.

    evidence that CFI’s demands would actually be more accurate than the original statement.
    don’t have the evidence?
    then shut the fuck up.

  66. 66
    Jadehawk

    The Center for Inquiry does not have an extraordinary history of sexual harassment claims

    I like this one best, I think. It seems cribbed directly from the Vatican’s “we don’t have an extraordinary problem with child abuse” statements.

  67. 67
    smhll

    They KNOW, the way we all now know, that cons are a way for these predators to meet women in new/unfamiliar locations, wear them down with celebrity and alcohol, and take advantage of the situation to rape and sexually assault these women.

    There are a couple of factors that can work to promote sexual assault or very aggressive pickup attempts at conventions.

    One is that women (and men) who are staying at the hotel then don’t need to stay sober enough to drive or make arrangements to have a designated driver hanging around somewhere (if they are staying in the hotel and thus don’t need to drive or find a driver). This can potentially lead to choosing to drink a lot or to drinking about the same around but not staying somewhat grouped up with a sober person.

    Two is that when people travel some distance to attend a convention, an abuser can expect to pay a lower social cost if he crosses the boundary with a person who lives in a different town/state than he does. I think not travelling in the same social circles for the rest of the year might be beneficial to a pushy, boundary crosser. (But, I’m naive, and I gather that particularly in college, boundary crossers get almost no pushback from their friend.)

    The atheist/skeptical community is not worse than the world at large (except for the empathy fails of the hyperskeptical!). However, conferences may be worse than lectures or board game nights or protests or walk-a-thons or volleyball games or stuff that doesn’t include travel, bars, leaving the spouse at home, and hotel beds.

  68. 68
    Jacob Schmidt

    Cached version of Dr. Stollznow’s SciAm article here.

    Wait, why was that ever taken down in the first place? It names no one. There cannot be any defamation and libel there.

  69. 69
    carlie

    Greta did a good post about the nature of evidence in sexual harassment situations here.

  70. 70
    Jacob Schmidt

    Eh, it does mention some dates; presumably one could deduce which org from her working history.

  71. 71
    David Marjanović

    LOL. It’s on the Internet, and then it’s taken down several days later? After half the world has read it and Google has cached it?

    “The Internet is unknown territory for us all…”
    – Angela Merkel
    #Neuland

    Anyway, given that #2 seems illegal in NY, I wonder how long it stays up on Lindsay’s blog.

    A few more days, till half the world has read it and Google has cached it…? Just saying. :-)

  72. 72
    believerskeptic

    We just posted Stollznow’s entire article as a respone to Lindsay. And hell, we’ll keep posting it too.

    Here it is, beneath a link to our video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cy5xEipjKQc

    * * *

    “I was sexually harassed for four years,” I admitted to a colleague recently. “That’s awful!” he bellowed in outrage and genuine concern, before he promptly changed the subject. Sexual harassment is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with colleagues, especially when you’re the victim. You’re sharing personal details that they feel they shouldn’t know, and would rather not know. When your usual conversation consists of what you watched on TV last night or what you ate for lunch, it’s TMI to hear about your workmate’s sex life.

    On the other hand, we’re so swamped with stories of sexism and sexual harassment that some people have become indifferent to them. Take for example the recent “Twitter shaming”. Adria Richards was at a conference when she overheard two guys making jokes she found to be sexist. She took a photo of the men and tweeted it, along with the conference’s code of conduct that prohibits making “sexist, racist or exclusory jokes.” This incident raised awareness about sexism in the tech world but it also resulted in one of the men and Richards being fired by their respective employers. It seemed to many that the whole issue had gone too far.

    Sexual harassment is often trivialized. In a three-part story of The Drew Carey Show, Drew receives a fax with an illustration of a near-sighted caterpillar that tries to have sex with a crinkle cut fry. Tickled by the joke, he attaches it to a staff memo with the innocent intention of giving his workmates a laugh. To his surprise, he is soon reprimanded for offending a female colleague. Drew is insensitive to her reaction, and in defiance he tapes the image to his cubicle wall. He is then sued for creating a hostile work environment. The court is sympathetic to the alleged victim but the overall message is clear: she made a big deal over a simple joke. Moreover, she is a prude.

    Sometimes we don’t even know how to identify sexual harassment because its methods are changing. Today, sexual harassment is not always as bold, brazen and blatant as the boss who slaps his secretary’s ass. It doesn’t have to involve leering or groping. It happens in a virtual work environment as much as it happens around the water cooler. More people are telecommuting although physical distance doesn’t prevent staff from being targeted by a harasser. Harassment from afar can include sending unwanted communication of a sexual nature, including emails, texts, instant messages, mail, tweets, phone calls, images, Facebook “pokes”, and stalking on networking sites. Unlike an attempted kiss in the copy room, it can take a long time to establish a record of this kind of sexual harassment. (Just be sure to collect all forms of contact, and never move, update your phone, or experience a hardware crash.)

    Confronted with these stereotypes and influenced by the various forces of social conditioning, we often don’t know how to react to sexual harassment anymore. Here are some of the attitudes and opinions expressed to me, both directly and indirectly, when I began speaking out about my situation.

    When they didn’t know the details, some people reacted with concern that was tempered with cautiousness. “Could you be overreacting?” or “Maybe you misread him?” There was suspicion over the delay in reporting the incidents, “Why didn’t you say something sooner?” and, “Why did you continue to work with him for so long?” Not observing the harassment was a cause for doubt. “I couldn’t tell there was anything wrong!” Some were prejudiced by their positive personal experiences with the harasser, “I know him. He’s a good guy. He wouldn’t do that!” My claims were also dismissed with the old adage that boys will be boys. “It’s a guy thing,” and, “That’s just how men behave.” One man offered a backhanded compliment, “Hey, what guy wouldn’t be interested in you!?”

    As often happens in these situations, the blame is shifted to the victim. Like the woman in The Drew Carey Show, the victim may be labeled a prude or “uptight”. She lacks a sense of humor. She’s crazy. She may be portrayed as a troublemaker by the accused and his supporters. To undermine her claims, she might be branded a serial complainer, where sexism and sexual harassment are often confused, “You know, she’s accused other men of sexism before.”

    The case may be demonized as a witch-hunt, and become a cautionary tale told by those who fear that they too could be branded a “harasser” over the slightest comment or glance. “Watch out, or she’ll accuse you too!” I was held up to scrutiny in this way too. According to gossip about me, I gave him mixed-signals, I led him on, I’m flirtatious, and I’m a dirty little slut.

    Alternatively, both the accused and accuser are blamed for the situation. Those who didn’t know the extent of the harassment reacted as though we simply don’t play well together in the sandbox. “Why don’t you two just get over it and move on!” The matter was misconstrued as a lover’s tiff, or that we were a couple in an on again, off again relationship. Others didn’t have time for my problems, “I have my own worries.” One person was surprised that I confided in him, saying, “It’s none of my business.” A number of people commiserated but then moaned, “I’m sick of talking about sexual harassment!”

    Some were sympathetic, but from a safe distance. They chose to stay out of it, because they “hate drama.” I didn’t ask to become involved in a real-life soap either. I feel stigmatized by those who feel too awkward to face the situation, or me. I had a mutual friend who barely contacts me anymore, as he is unable to take a “side”. Some people didn’t say what they think until they knew what others think. They waited for an outcome so they could align themselves with the “victor”, but there are no winners in cases of sexual harassment.

    To some people the news didn’t come as much of a surprise. They “knew” there was something wrong, especially with the benefit of hindsight. “I thought something was up when you two stopped working together.” Others felt they could finally admit to me what they think about him. “I never liked him.” “I’ve always thought he was a creepy guy!”, “He’s a weirdo!” and, “I unfriended him on Facebook because of the sexist shit he says and the perverted stuff he posts.” One woman confessed, “No wonder my female friends roll their eyes at me when I tell them he’s single!” Fortunately, I had the support of friends and family who witnessed the harassment over the years, and saw the distress, frustration, fear, and anger that it caused me.

    This man is a predator who collects girls of a certain “type”. His targets are chubby, shy, lonely, and insecure, just like I used to be. In the early days I looked up to him and was flattered that he seemed to respect my work. I quickly spotted some red flags but I disregarded them. These became too big to ignore, so I called it all off. The rejection was ego shattering to him at first, and then met with disbelief. This was followed by incessant communication of a sexual nature, including gifts, calls, emails, letters, postcards, and invites to vacation with him in exotic places so we could “get to know each other again”. He wouldn’t leave me alone. This wasn’t love. It was obsession. His desperation only increased when I met another man. He continued his harassment as though my boyfriend (who is now my husband) didn’t even exist.

    From late 2009 onwards I made repeated requests for his personal communication to cease but these were ignored. He began manipulating the boundaries by contacting me on the pretext of it being work-related. Then came the quid pro quo harassment. He would find opportunities for me within the company and recommend me to television producers, but only if I was nicer to him. One day the company offered me an honorary position that I’d worked hard for, but he warned me that he had the power to thwart that offer. I threatened to complain to his employer, but he bragged that another woman had accused him of sexual harassment previously and her complaints were ignored. According to him, she had been declared “batshit crazy”. Then, he saw me at conferences and took every opportunity to place me in a vulnerable position. This is where the psychological abuse turned physical and he sexually assaulted me on several occasions.

    There is an increasing awareness of sexual harassment in some domains. For example, safety at conferences is becoming a concern for organizers. This seems to have been incited by the so-called “Elevatorgate” incident. In 2011, skeptic Rebecca Watson attended an atheist conference as a speaker where she discussed sexism and sexual harassment. In the early hours of the morning a stranger approached her alone in an elevator and invited her back to his hotel room for coffee. She declined. During a YouTube video Watson mentioned this in passing as an example of how not to behave at conferences if you want women to feel safe and comfortable, advising, “Guys, don’t do that.” This resulted unexpectedly in an extreme backlash against her, involving threats, abuse and insults from those who thought she was overreacting, seeking attention, or a man-hater.

    However, conference organizers don’t always know how to act when they find sexual harassment. They may panic and overreact, especially when they think they discover an incident. A friend confided a story to me that happened at a conference last year. She was talking to a fellow attendee at a bar when she noticed his eyes drop briefly to her cleavage. “Hey, my eyes are up here!” she joked to him. Little did anyone know that a plain-clothes security officer had been enlisted to keep an eye on the attendees and he had overheard this tête-à-tête. My friend was taken to a room where the officer grilled her. What happened? Was she okay? They could remove the brute from the conference if it would make her feel safer.

    This melodramatic response affected her far more than the alleged “harassment” and for the rest of the conference she felt like she was being watched. This is not to downplay real incidents of harassment and assault that are far more common than we’d like to think.

    Another friend came forward with her story of sexual assault at this same conference. I asked if her attacker was the same as mine and she replied, “No, but the depressing thing is that you’re not the only woman who has asked me this same question, and given yet another name.”

    Sometimes an organization under-reacts to the claims. This was my experience. Following “Elevatorgate”, the company introduced a “zero tolerance policy for hostile and harassing conduct”. When I approached them with my accusations they appeared to be compassionate initially. I spent many hours explaining my story over the phone and days submitting evidence. Then they hired an attorney to collect the facts and I had to repeat the process. I provided access to my email account. I also devoted two days to face-to-face discussions about my ordeal. This “fact collector” also collected a lot of hearsay from my harasser, about how I’m a slut and “batshit crazy”. This tactic of the accused is so common it’s known as the “nut and slut” strategy. I soon learned that the attorney was there to protect them, not me.

    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.

    The situation has disadvantaged me greatly. I have lost a project I once worked on, I have had to disclose highly personal information to colleagues, and I don’t think that I’ll be offered work anymore from this company. Perhaps that’s for the best considering the way they have treated me. I have since discovered that this company has a history of sexual harassment claims. They also have a track record of disciplining these harassers lightly, and then closing ranks like good ol’ boys. Another colleague assured me this was better than their previous custom of simply ignoring claims of sexual harassment.

    To avoid becoming sick of talking about sexual harassment we need to feel some empathy for the victims. It may be harder to empathize with a colleague or an acquaintance, so think about how you would feel if this harassment was happening to your wife, husband, daughter, son, brother, sister, mother or father? Then we need to remember our broader responsibility to protect people in our workplace, communities and society. Underestimating the dangers of sexual harassment, and downplaying or ignoring claims, only serves to embolden the harassers. If they get away with sexual harassment, or they don’t even recognize their behavior, they are at risk of doing it again. Let’s not be sick of talking about sexual harassment, but be sick of being silent about it.

  73. 73
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    believerskeptic:
    The worlds biggest truckload of hugs should be delivered your way any moment now…

  74. 74
    believerskeptic

    [quote]The atheist/skeptical community is not worse than the world at large (except for the empathy fails of the hyperskeptical!)[/quote]

    I think it probably is, because of self-selection bias. The movement attracts a lot of lonely, formatively misogynist comic-collecting, Ayn Rand-reading fanboys who are looking for a socially acceptable excuse to be smug and intellectually superior, and find it in atheism.

  75. 75
    arthurtree

    Delurking…

    Thank you to Dr. Karen Stollznow, Jane Doe, PZ, and those who have written to provide corroboration. You have my support and well wishes.

  76. 76
    Al Dente

    believerskeptic @70

    Thank you for posting Stollznow’s article. Nowhere in it is anyone mentioned by name, not Radford, not Lindsay, not CFI. Stollznow is talking about sexual harassment. Lindsay obviously doesn’t want sexual harassment discussed. That tells me which side of the Great Rift™ he’s on.

  77. 77
    notsont

    I’m having a hard time understanding this, Lindsay admits they punished Radford for sexual harassment, at the same time she made the complaints of harassment which were found to be true, she complained of sexual assaults at TAM by Radford. So instead of believing her about those when she had already proven harassment he decided she was lying about the more serious parts and then proceeded to dole out practically no punishment at all for the harassment.

    Is that fairly accurate?

  78. 78
    believerskeptic

    Yes.

  79. 79
    Jen

    Curious how Dr. Stollznow became Ms. Stollznow…

  80. 80
    believerskeptic

    A lot of the cree— er, I mean, guys from the slymepit (e.g., mykeru, pitchguest) have shown up on Lindsay’s thread to back him up. If you want to see Atheist Misogyny Central, that’s the place. According to them, poor Radford (not to mention poor, poor Shermer) is being sunk by mere “rumors.”

    It’s amazing what brave little boys they can be, hiding behind internet nom-de-plumes. We (Ken and I of BL) sign our real names to whatever we do.

    My wife (Rob here) says that she won’t read, much less post, to any atheist boards except for the expressly feminist ones. I don’t blame her. It is my firm conviction that a *lot* of men who feel put upon by life, intellectually bright but picked last for kickball, develop seething anger toward the women who wouldn’t date them, and *then* go on to find atheism/skepticism, a place where they can feel smugly superior (to religious people and woo purveyors, that is) without nearly as much social rebuke. Because, why, they’re part of a “progressive movement”!

    But they’re still sad little boys, and that’s a big part of the problem in the atheist/skeptic movement. If you think I’m generalizing a tad too dangerously, go spend some time at the slymepit and let their own words speak for themselves.

    Robert Gross of Blind Labyrinth

  81. 81
    DLC

    Are we even sure that there is a Ron Lindsey ? and how do we know that this putative “president of CFI” actually made such a colossal ass of himself ? I know, I know, I’m being hyperskeptical. I guess I’ll just take Ron Lindsey’s word for it that he’s a complete ass.

  82. 82
    Ingdigo Jump

    But they’re still sad little boys

    As much as I pull this when talking to them intentionally to tweak them, no they’re not boys, they’re grown ass men

  83. 83
    triamacleod

    Gheez, he got two whole letters stating that due to the treatment of Dr Stollznow people are withdrawing their support/donations from CFI. Wonder how many of those letters he got after his comments at WiS. I’m to the point that MSF is the only organization I’ll even donate to anymore. I don’t even have subscriptions to these organizations anymore. If they can’t behave themselves and act like decent human beings, then the organizations they helm and feed off of will have to wither away.

  84. 84
    believerskeptic

    “As much as I pull this when talking to them intentionally to tweak them, no they’re not boys, they’re grown ass men”

    More’s the pity.

  85. 85
    psanity

    Re-reading that article (thanks, believerskeptic!), SciAm should have laughed and left it up, perhaps posting CFI’s request. How odd, that CFI would write to SciAm, insisting that it was CFI that was so wildly irresponsible, except a couple of details were off.

    Hubris makes for such entertaining cautionary tales.

  86. 86
    oaksterdam

    Jen

    Curious how Dr. Stollznow became Ms. Stollznow…

    That. The defending of it over in the comments at
    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/what_i_wrote_to_scientific_american/
    set me off a bit too. Couldn’t even own up to it with a “My bad, Sorry, Dr.”. Defends it.

  87. 87
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    This. This is why we wanted Lindsay removed from CFI, and why it was such an insult when he was left there. As soon as I found out that Lindsay made that speech, I thought to myself “we’re going to hear more about this unless he gets fired (and then we’ll hear more about how he was fired unfairly)”. And when the board took no action, I thought to myself “ah, now Lindsay being a misogynist nitwit is official policy, and we’re going to hear a lot more about it”. Color me surprised that it’s happening.

    Never been a sponsor, never so much as flipped a penny into a CFI-labelled hat, but they’ve now guaranteed that I never will, and will be happy to explain to anyone else who might happen to ask why that is.

  88. 88
    lochaber

    holy shit.

    I’m not exactly active in the skeptic/atheist communities and such, and in general, know very little about most of the major organizations and such.

    Except for CFI, it seems like over the past few months or so, they keep popping up and being incredibly clueless/offensive crusaders for sexist denialism. I really shouldn’t be surprised at this latest bit, but at the very least, lawyering up and nitpicking doesn’t seem like the actions of a group that takes sexism and/or harassment seriously.

    Don’t really know if I’ll ever do any meat-space interaction with any of this stuff, but if I do, I’ll be certain it’s not with anything involving CFI or their close allies.

    On another note, maybe CFI can sorta become the MRA-magnet organization of the skeptical community, making it easier for the decent folk to avoid slymetrolls at other events.

  89. 89
    cityzenjane

    Jen….I suppose we should be grateful it’s not “Miss”…. two steps forward….

  90. 90
    John Phillips, FCD

    So who created the annual worst CEO of a skeptic organisation competition that Ron Lindsay is hell bent on winning.

  91. 91
    tiberiusbeauregard

    @PZ Myers

    “I suspect I’m on the CFI blacklist along with a few other speakers whose names you can probably guess”
    ^
    Well, aren’t you happy now ? Doesn’t sound like it, although you’ve worked so long and hard to get onto it.

    Sarcasm aside, you HAD to know that your destructive attitude wouldn’t be without consequences in the long run.

  92. 92
    Nick Gotts

    you HAD to know that your destructive attitude wouldn’t be without consequences in the long run. – well-known arsehole

    Yup, trying to wrench atheism from the grasp of the privileged and thus broaden its appeal is just so destructive.

  93. 93
    po8crg

    Under British Employment law (which I believe to be an implementation of an EU directive, but I’m not expert enough to say), your policies are not that which you have written down, but that which you enforce.

    If your policy says “people will be punished for X” and they aren’t, then your actual policy is “people will not be punished for X”.

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