Quantcast

«

»

Jan 02 2014

How does one make amends on the internet?

Bora Zivkovic is back, and he’s tweeting and blogging as if nothing happened…which rankles. I have to wonder what he has done or better yet, could do to make amends for the violations of trust, but a few months’ hiatus doesn’t quite seem adequate. I’m not a judge to levy a penalty, either, so I don’t know what to say, and it seems to me we lack any means of determining what is a sufficient price to pay.

Loss of widespread respect and of a good job does seem to be a substantial cost, but you’d think he’d come back with a little more humility

23 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Inaji

    PZ:

    you’d think he’d come back with a little more humility

    Some people don’t seem to know the meaning of the word. I rather expect he doesn’t really think he did anything wrong.

  2. 2
    seraphymcrash

    Some people’s egos seem immune to injury. They can be contrite and apologetic for a moment, and then the ego reasserts itself and they are once again confident that they can do no wrong.

    As to what should be done when someone screws up? I’m not sure. I do expect rather more scrutiny on his behavior though, and a harsher response if anything suspect is found.

    It is sad how easy it is for him to bounce back though. It seems some kind of effor should be required.

  3. 3
    neurobio

    So – I’m on your side in this fight, PZ. However, one thing needs to be pointed out.

    If we want to make progress, we must provide a mechanism through which people who make a mistake can “return to the fold.” For illustration, consider the US incarceration system; its central failing is that it keeps punishing people for their crime – once you have a felony, you can’t vote, can’t get a decent job anywhere, can’t progress in life. And them people wonder why so many end up right back in prison, after re-offending. Why so many become lifelong criminals.

    Furthermore, not all wrongs are the same. Rape is not the same as a sustained campaign of harassment, which again is not the same as isolated instances of harassment. All of these are wrong, and none should be tolerated, but we can’t require all to be punished with equal severity.

    In this case, Bora made several women uncomfortable with unwanted advances. He accepted responsibility, apologized, resigned from a good job, had all kinds of relationship problems, and has been thoroughly humiliated with detailed descriptions of his words and behavior. That is as it should be – but is it not enough? If it isn’t, what is? What should be his punishment?

    Again, on your side here. I’m just a bit worried that “one strike you’re out, and keep up the self-flagellation” approach is not going to be the winning strategy in the long run.

  4. 4
    Inaji

    neurobio:

    He accepted responsibility, apologized, resigned from a good job, had all kinds of relationship problems, and has been thoroughly humiliated with detailed descriptions of his words and behavior.

    You make it seem as though he’s almost had his head nailed to the floor, which is not the case. You’re also skirting the larger issue here – there’s little evidence that Bora will change his behaviour towards women, given his long history of sexual harassment.

    It’s a difficult situation to be sure, however, I imagine a great many women would feel a tad better if he seemed to show some self-awareness in regard to his bad behaviour.

  5. 5
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    neurobio,

    Your points aren’t bad, they just don’t seem to apply to this situation.

    Bora
    a) suffered virtually no ill effects after what happened (his well known blog just moved)
    and b) completely ignored the happenings in his recounting of the last year.

    So, no “one strike you’re out” since he’s very much still in and it’s hardly asking for self-flagellation to acknowledge some serious accusations against him, while mentioning a decision he made as a result of it.

  6. 6
    ChasCPeterson

    Bora…suffered virtually no ill effects after what happened

    I think that’s not true: he lost his job, maybe his career.
    For what it’s worth, Mr. Z. has added an addendum to his year-in-review post since Ophelia Benson wrote the linked post, in which he at least attempts contrition.

  7. 7
    David Marjanović

    completely ignored the happenings in his recounting of the last year

    *facepalm*

  8. 8
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    ChasCPeterson,

    Um,I thought he just moved his blog. Sorry, will shut up when I don’t know the facts.

  9. 9
    neurobio

    Hm. To me, it seemed like a normal, human thing of trying to put something painful behind. His apologies, given at the time everything went public seemed genuine – as did his promise to learn from it.

    And I would certainly not think that the public airing of his attempts at seduction fall under “virtually no ill effects.” That was thoroughly humiliating.

    His addendum to his newest post seems to support this. Go and check it out.

    http://blog.coturnix.org/2014/01/01/2013-year-in-review/

    Again, I might be wrong, and perhaps he’ll relapse. But again, if this is not sufficient for us to give him another chance – a resignation, repeated apologies, acceptance of responsibility, promises to do better – then what is?

  10. 10
    stripeycat

    Neurobio, the bit people always seem to forget is measures to reduce recidivism. For harrassment, I guess some sort of talk therapy to establish why he does it, and help him learn to head off harmful behaviours – kind of like anger management CBT, but for sex’n’status stuff – would be appropriate. After successfully completing a period of treatment, he’d be on figurative probation with public opinion. It’ll need years of “clean” behaviour to get right along to forgive and forget. So no punishment per se, but a long time and a lot of work with his wrongful actions somewhere near the front of his mind: pretending it didn’t happen is not an acceptable option

  11. 11
    PZ Myers

    #3, neurobio:

    That’s exactly my question. It doesn’t seem right that there is no way to come back from the errors Bora made. Shouldn’t there be at least a path to redemption?

    I don’t think people feel yet that he’s accomplished that.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    It’s not just that “Bora made several women uncomfortable with unwanted advances.” It’s that he changed the subject from the women’s work. It’s that he fucked up their confidence in their work.

  13. 13
    Louis

    I think Bora should have a path to redemption. I’m enough of a hopelessly hopeful optimist that I think people generally (obvious exceptions aside) are capable of change and learning. Doubt me? Well you probably need to change your nappy and have a nap about now. ;-)

    That said, this is not the best start from Bora. It lacks a certain something. The right tenor, the right tone. I would like Bora to be able to get to a position where the mea culpas are over, or background features, and he is doing some genuine reparative good.

    I don’t think this because he’s a man, or what he did wasn’t serious (it was), or because hey it’s just boys being boys (it wasn’t), but because I genuinely think that people, in general, can fuck up badly, can act in terribly inappropriate and damaging ways and then, with appropriate guidance etc, learn not to. I think the claim to the contrary is directly in opposition to the available facts.

    Another caveat, one I think we’d all do well to keep in mind. What Bora did was act in a sexually inappropriate manner to several women over a period of time. He repeatedly harassed women, and used his position to act in a sexually inappropriate manner towards women. These women cannot be forgotten in this, and their “rehabilitation” (in a totally different sense of the word) is at least as important. More so in my view. Whilst I think the conversation about rehabilitation post mistake/misdeed is a very good one, and one we have all too infrequently, losing sight of the other end of the equation makes us complicit in his marginalising of these women. So whilst we consider what miscreants can do to be rehabilitated, I don’t think it’s a bad idea if we also consider what we can do/can be done to help out the victims of miscreants.

    I am, however, a bit fed up of choruses of apologists and critics. It’s beyond the point of doubt about what Bora did, the time for castigation or mitigation has passed. Never forget, nor allow to be forgotten, the things he did, but a practical, practicable route from where he is now to a more useful position is what needs to be focused on. For me, a lot more humility in return would be nice, a blunt, clear, prominently waved flag of “I fucked up”. Not an addendum. It would be a good start.

    From there? I not sure I’m the best person to decide, but I’d be focussing on a lot of science if it were me and keeping a low profile.

    Louis

  14. 14
    Inaji

    PZ:

    It doesn’t seem right that there is no way to come back from the errors Bora made. Shouldn’t there be at least a path to redemption?

    There is a way. We see it all the time here, when people have had very screwed up views, and done things which had caused harm, and then the lightbulb pops on. I’ve read Bora’s addendum, and I think he is sincerely trying to make amends, and change harmful behaviour, per:

    I had plenty of time to think and I am still learning. I am in therapy and am dealing with all these issues

    That’s a good move, one which recognizes there is a definite problem. I do think it’s a bit problematic that he didn’t write about it all on his own, but felt obligated after Ophelia wrote, however, he may have difficulty in trying to process everything right now. I’m willing to extend the benefit of doubt for now. As for whether or not all this will stick and Bora will behave differently from now on, we’ll all have to wait and see.

  15. 15
    carlie

    “Path to redemption” doesn’t mean “find the right thing to say to make everyone trust me again and now it’s all ok”. It’s not a single-step process. I don’t think anyone has said that there’s no way to come back – just that he can’t take a shortcut.

  16. 16
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Something I see frequently is a phenomenon whereby someone hurts someone who is lower-ranked than them, gets caught, accepts some form of punishment, and then apologizes to their victim.

    Who is then expected to accept said apology and offer forgiveness in return. At which point the person who did the hurting is given back all (or most) of their previous authority, rank, etc.

    The failure of the victim to accept the apology and offer forgiveness makes them the aggressor and transforms the person they’re refusing to forgive into the victim.

  17. 17
    Travis

    I think people that people that have lost the trust of others have to do more than appologise, they have to demonstrate they know what they did was wrong, and also demonstrate they are taking steps to be better. What that actually entails, well, I am not sure it is all that clear. Once you violate someone’s trust you also have to accept that you may never gain it again.

    Who is then expected to accept said apology and offer forgiveness in return. At which point the person who did the hurting is given back all (or most) of their previous authority, rank, etc.

    The failure of the victim to accept the apology and offer forgiveness makes them the aggressor and transforms the person they’re refusing to forgive into the victim.

    One definitely sees this a lot and I utterly reject it. People turn transgressions and appologies into a little dance with specific footwork that everyone has to follow to be correct. The idea that one has to simply accept an appology and forgive is such an insidious idea.

  18. 18
    neurobio

    Ok. I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt, and give him a second chance. Some are less willing, and I won’t judge. Let’s see what happens, and how it works out, and then re-visit the topic.

    I do have one additional thing, though, regarding what Ophelia wrote above.

    It’s not just that “Bora made several women uncomfortable with unwanted advances.” It’s that he changed the subject from the women’s work. It’s that he fucked up their confidence in their work.

    I would say this does a huge disservice to the women involved (in general, independent of the specific incident we are discussing).

    Yes, you are correct that switching the topic from work into an unwanted advance is disrespectful (and ho boy, so awkwardly done). But I would be very surprised if their confidence was so fragile, it would get fucked up by awkward sexual innuendo. This presents women as pure victims, whose very opinion of themselves is so tenuous, it has to be protected from… awkwardness.

    Let me be clear: I am *not* defending the conduct *at all*. But I equally dislike the “spun glass” theory of femininity. “He was disrespectful towards their work,” yes. “He fucked up their confidence,” no.

  19. 19
    mothra

    @Neurobio 18, I believe that you have oversimplified a complex point made by Ophelia (@12). Undermining someone’s confidence has many dimensions. For example the sexual harresment issue. You’ve approached one of the more respected science bloggers and, instead of a boost to your career, you find his interest in your work is at least partly a front for his personal desires. How can this not affect your dealing with others? Next, opportunity cost, had Bora acted as he should have in a professional situation, what would be the career trajectories of those he victimized? There is also the bigger picture, this incident and others paint an ugly picture of both Science and non-theist ‘cultures.’ How many are discouraged from pursuing careers or taking part in meetings upon seeing outcomes in which abusers still seem to win. It is not that ‘egos are spun glass’ it IS that actions have many and varied and not easily measured or catalogued, consequences.

  20. 20
    neurobio

    @mothra 19

    Your points are valid ones in terms of the greater picture. If such things are generally permissible, then we indeed end up with an ugly picture of science and atheism cultures. Worse, we end up with an ugly *reality* of science and atheism.

    Which is why all of this happened: we are trying to change things. If you act in such an unprofessional manner, you will be publicly humiliated and probably end up losing your job, and having to work very hard if you wish to reestablish your career.

    My point, however, is that there is a line here we should not cross. Our goal is not to say (or appear to be saying) that women are delicate creatures, easily scarred and broken by any stray word. Establishing a new culture on that principle would (at least in my opinion) be as bad as what we have now.

    There are things that can be devastating to confidence. For example, I am in awe of how so many female bloggers are keeping themselves together under the constant, horrendous assaults of the misogynist horde.

    But approaching a well known blogger and getting propositioned? Unprofessional and disrespectful, and should be punished as it was. But not devastating.

    Using such language (“he switched topics to sexual innuendo, and her confidence in her work was fucked up”) works against the better culture we are trying to make (or, at least, one I think we are trying to make; I might be wrong). Adding insult to injury, it gives rhetorical ammunition to the misogynists (“see, they are so flimsy that you can devastate them by simply propositioning them at a conference”).

  21. 21
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    But not devastating.

    Why? It seems to me to be a vile act…..

  22. 22
    carlie

    I like Dr. Isis’ take on it. It’s more about Anton’s bizarre apologia, but about Bora also.

    The issue is that, as soon as Bora started taking money for his internet activities, he became an professional. As soon as he began to be able to influence who could join a network, he became a person with authority. I don’t know if Bora is a good man or a bad man and I have no interest in discerning this. What I do know is that professional people in positions of authority can’t talk about their penises (or lady parts) with people they do or could have power over. The more your career advances, the less you can conflate the professional and personal. Should Bora have friends? Sure. Should Bora be involved in hiring decisions and influencing the structure of organizations? No. Not when you try to fuck where you eat.

  23. 23
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @neurobio:

    Adding insult to injury, it gives rhetorical ammunition to the misogynists (“see, they are so flimsy that you can devastate them by simply propositioning them at a conference”).

    And they would be wrong. What people are saying is not that individuals are devastated, but that when it becomes impossible to know if someone wants your participation for the value of your work or the value of that someone’s boner, if someone wants to solicit your work or solicit sex, then the whole knowledge-exchange enterprise is undermined.

    That is devastating to an event like a conference where the entire purpose is knowledge exchange.

Comments have been disabled.