Now Carrie’s gone public. Carrie Poppy, former head of communications for JREF.
I knew about most of what she says. I knew about it while people were trashing me, photoshopping me, calling me names, threatening me, lying about me – partly for being a big meany to DJ Grothe.
Carrie was still at JREF when I got the two bizarre emails and decided not to speak at TAM after all. She was there when DJ replied to my email about this by blaming me for blogging about his nasty comments about women who object to harassment. She knew what a crock of shit that was but she couldn’t tell me so – not until later, not until she quit.
Some of what she said on PZ’s blog:
Most of these details have to do with my former employer, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). I left the JREF in November 2012, after only six months there. I quit in protest of a number of ethical issues; foremost was what I perceived as the president, D.J. Grothe’s constant duplicity, dishonesty, and manipulation. I did not believe he had the best interests of the organization or community he “served” at heart. This was difficult for me, as Mr. Grothe and I had been friends prior to my joining the staff. Yet, it was very clear by the time I left that my continuing to work there was being complicit in unethical behavior, including the kind of behavior of which Dr. Stollznow is now on the receiving end. I have not spoken very publicly about my experience at the JREF, for various personal reasons, but one of them was cowardice. I simply didn’t want to have to defend myself, relive the six months of misery I’d already endured, or be branded as on one “side” or another of an ongoing debate. I simply wanted to move on. But as Dr. Stollznow’s story, and others, came to light, I knew I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. Dr. Stollznow’s experience is too much like so many women’s in skepticism.
Then she details his dealings with Karen Stollznow. They are not good dealings.
In my time at the JREF, I witnessed continuous unethical behavior, much of which I reported to the Board of Directors. I was assured on more than one occasion by James Randi that D.J. Grothe would be fired (I hear Randi denies this now, though he repeatedly promised it to another staff member as well, and that staff member and I represented the entirety of JREF full-time staff other than D.J. and his husband, Thomas), but after several months of waiting and being asked to wait, it became clear that D.J. was not going to be fired. The list of problems that I sent to the board was so long that my pasting it here would be comical at best, but it is relevant to note that although I didn’t list it, Mr. Grothe’s prejudice toward women was one undeniable factor. My predecessor, Sadie Crabtree, had warned me about D.J.’s misogyny and disrespect for women coworkers (she even advised me not to take the position, due to this issue), but I thought myself strong enough to endure it. I underestimated the degree to which such constant mistreatment can beat a person down. As I mentioned, I only lasted six months.
The final straw, for me, was that Mr. Grothe attempted to remove me as a speaker from the Women in Secularism 2 conference, going above my head (and Melody Hensley’s head) to her male boss, Ron Lindsay, and telling him that it would be bad for the JREF’s image if I attended a “feminist conference.” In defending his actions to me, D.J. told me he didn’t trust me to handle the event, saying I would be asked if he was a sexist (an unanswerable question in his mind, apparently) and that I might break down in tears crying about my own sexual assault, if the issue of rape arose. I was given no credit for the fact that I am a professional spokesperson with almost a decade of experience, that I have a successful skeptical podcast, am a published author, and that my personal assault experience makes my opinions on assault more relevant, not less. To him, I was a hysterical woman, nothing more.
So now you know.
The lid’s not just off, it’s been blown into orbit: people are coming forward about Lawrence Krauss now, too.
In case someone hasn’t seen this: http://www.morethanmen.org/2013/08/07/dj-and-me/
As if you needed any more of a reason to despise DJ Grothe.
Ophelia Benson says
Yeah, see – I’ve read the one in 1 but haven’t posted about it yet, and I’ve seen that the one in 2 exists but haven’t read it yet. I can’t keep up.
I’d venture to say that this is a good problem to have…
Bjarte Foshaug says
As I said on Twitter, I wish people would stop making excuses for Randi as if he had simply been hoodwinked by Grothe and his thugs. He’s not so weak or clueless that there’s absolutely nothing he could have done to signal which side he is on even if he wanted to. With his deafening silence I think he has made it quite clear where his heart lies.
Holy shit indeed. The exact thing I thought when I read about this was Holy Shit.
I fell out with the JREF a few years ago and decided to give my money to other organisations. I had some history with the editor of the Swift blog and I thought we were friends, so I was sad when she deleted some of my posts because they were vaguely anti-accommodationist, but kept lots of posts by other people accusing me of being an alcoholic and an otherwise terrible person and other nasty stuff. When I contacted her about this she made it clear that it was unacceptable to criticize religion, but totally cool to mount sustained personal attacks against individuals.
Yeah, it’s a personal anecdote but things seem to have gone downhill since. Holy shit.
deepak shetty says
Its going to be interesting to see what the reactions from the pit will be. I predict “she said no, he accepted it, where is the problem?” It feels like Barney ( not the purple dinosaur) is their role model.
Something like this was a long time in reckoning – it had to come out and I for one, am very glad it has, despite the utter ugliness of it all. Props to all the women who suffered in silence and are now speaking out; props to the right-thinking people like Ophelia , PZ, other FTB bloggers who refused to be intimidated into silence.
There will be the mother of all backlashes as the harassers and abusers go into bullshitting/fighting mode. It will get even uglier in the next few months, expect big names like Dawkins to maintain a conspicuous silence (at his best) or come out swinging for the harassers (more likely outcome in my opinion). I am very removed from the battle site but I really, really wish you awesome women and men fighting all this hatred, the very best.
miraxpath, more thoughts along those same lines:
Ophelia, I had no idea that you knew about all this long beforehand until you tweeted it earlier tonight. That you maintained a firm silence while the pitters attacked you, in order to protect the women who did not feel safe to come forward, speaks volumes.
Re: Dawkins, I really don’t expect anything from him except silence. He’s made it clear that he just doesn’t care about this topic.
AJ Milne says
It’s a mad world, that asks such honour as this. You’re the best kind of mad, that you had it.
I really hope it gets better from here. For you, for everyone.
Rutee Katreya says
Well, fuck, this shit is even more omnipresent than I thought.
I expect he’ll try to cover his own ass, to say the least.
Bjarte Foshaug says
I wouldn’t describe his attitude as “indifferent” so much as actively hostile. I think it’s pretty clear that he does care about the topic, but supports the other side.
I am sure, though I have no evidence, that you are completely to blame for all of this, Ophelia. Because reasons. Obviously you were so mean to all these guys that your meanness went back in time and caused sexism and harassment in the atheo-skeptical universe. You and peezers and Watson and Zavanarama (how do it get spelled anyway?)
Sorry. I know you didn’t want to hear it, but it had to be said.
In a less disgustedly snarky comment (as in I am digusted at some people’s behaviors and I used snark instead of angrily ranting), it has felt like the pressure was building for awhile now and the cork was going to blow any time. That once someone was named, more would follow. I’d like to thank and support those who are coming forward and making it easier for others to do the same.
Its been a deep malaise within the community and so under the surface. The reactions have seemed so out of context we all have known there was more there. What happens now? What’s the way forward?
Oh and there are more tales about “big names” out there. Some related directly to me in confidence. Perhaps the prime source may share if she reads this?
>>I wouldn’t describe his attitude as “indifferent” so much as actively hostile. I think it’s pretty clear that he does care about the topic, but supports the other side.<<
I concur. I rarely use twitter but even I noticed the kind of people he was retweeting and seemed to be giving a nod to. He is not on our side. Never was.
Moreover, he has a personal history of (childhood) sexual abuse at the hands of a clergyman, and–at least in the minds of some of his supporters–this exempts him from criticism re: his responses to the harassment/abuse of others. Feh.
It seems to me that we kind of knew before. In a spooky kind of way. Unnatural.
Naah, that’s what he has his wimmin for, innit? I mean, he’s so not gay (even if a clergy tried to touch’im up). Ammirite, yeh course I am.
Disappointment, not so much surprise. Are all these heroes gunning for a Templeton award? Can they not eke out a decent living by other means? Delivering papers, selling shoe laces?