Are all reports of sexual predation false?

Another ploy is to say it’s all just smears. Never mind the several people reporting their own experiences, never mind the fact that Randi corroborated that there have been several reports, never mind that sexual predation isn’t actually as rare or astonishing as Bigfoot or Nessie – never mind all that, just say it’s smears.


EllenBeth Wachs ‏@BlameEllenBeth
@sjzara @michaelshermer I am so disgusted and fed up with smear campaigns. The only people that should be shunned are them.

@SIN_Notung @toxicpath @sjzara They just want MS shunned, period. I pick him over the #FTBullies

So the same applies to all those people – a lot more men than women, I believe – who have reported they were raped or groped or otherwise sexually abused as children by Catholic priests? That’s just a smear campaign, is it? The bishops would certainly like to think so, and some of them sometimes claim that it is. Are they right? Is it just automatically the case that reports of sexually predatory behavior are untrue, and are just smear campaigns? That would save a lot of trouble and money.


  1. arthur says

    “They just want MS shunned, period. ”

    OK let’s look at this skeptically.

    1. People have just picked on Michael Shermer out of the blue, and the whole thing is a fabrication, in order to ‘shun’ him?

    Or, 2. people are unhappy at Shermer because there have multiple, credible accounts of sexual harrassment by him, that are corroborated by even his closest allies.

    Now run Shermer’s own Baloney Dectection kit over these two theories and see which one “fit with the way the world works?”

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    I’m involved in anti-cult activism, and I hate to say it, but this response is *precisely* the response you get from cult members if you criticize their cult. The immediate knee-jerk reference to “shunning” as well – this is as Cult 101 as it gets.

    Although religions appear most likely to foster cult characteristics, we see it in other places as well. Any time dissent is not allowed, criticism is condemned, and an “us vs. them” mentality is promoted, you tend to get other cult symptoms as well. I recently ran across a comment online somewhere where someone was saying that he’d had to split from the Tea Party group he’d been interacting with, because of these exact reasons – it had started feeling overly demanding and coercive to him.

    I hate to see such behavior within the freethought community – we atheists are already one of the most hated and maligned minorities within society (the rankings don’t tend to include the homeless, and they’ve got us trumped on all counts of societal difficulty), and I would so like to think we could do better than fall into the typical traps that seem to await any group of people who organize in order to accomplish something they feel is important.

  3. says

    I know they’re just shitty people, but they’re also being shitty skeptics. They’re taking the position that it is 100% impossible for Michael Shermer to be in the wrong, and absolutely certain that there’s a massive conspiracy against him. There’s no actual critical thinking being done: EllenBeth Wachs is an asshole with an axe to grind, so she would rather support a likely rapist than admit that the people who she hates might be telling the truth about anything ever.

  4. eddiejones says

    WHY??? What’s the endgame? Not to mention why would the “smear campaign” start in the first place. MS is/was a very well respected and very important part of the skeptic community… evidenced by the number of other prominent people who’re defending him now. So, if I’m reading this correctly, one person has a problem with him (personal problem… remember, this is just a smear campaign), they make an accusation of predation, then a whole raft of other people also make up allegations of predation??? Does THAT seem likely? Occam’s razor, people!

  5. Tom Phoenix says

    These people never tell us why, exactly, we are supposedly so angry that we would resort to a smear campaign. What could we be so mad at him about, if it isn’t it the way that he (allegedly) treats women?

    If the claim is that he hasn’t done anything wrong, do they think that we are merely consumed with jealousy over his awesome professional and sexual successes?

  6. leni says

    I don’t want Michael Shermer shunned. Why People Believe Weird Things was my introduction to skepticism. I never considered myself a skeptic because it seemed tangential to my atheism, but I really liked that book. I respected him and appreciated his work and public outreach. I thought he was a great advocate. I knew Dawkins could invite trouble , and I liked that about him, but Michael Shermer always seemed on the up and up in a Suitable NPR Guest kind of way.

    Anyway, for the record, I laughed in my sleeve like a smug idiot when Dawkins took heat for saying his daughter was “much too intelligent” (paraphrase) to ever be Christian. And by “in my sleeve” I mean literally in my sleeve, but also snidely and on the internet where pages probably still exist of me doing this. I regret that now. It was a red flag I should have paid attention instead of giggling like a mean, idiot child at it.

    I find this whole Shermer thing profoundly disappointing and I would like nothing better than for him to just go get the help he clearly needs. I don’t know what his problem is, but it is and has been hurting other people and just needs to stop. And that is his responsibility. If he doesn’t take it, then the people around him should.

    Most people probably know a troubled person that they’ve had to cut ties with. I know I have. It didn’t feel good. I didn’t get to go home and pat myself on the back for what an upstanding person I was. It hurt, and it felt like what it was: an amputation bouquet with distinct notes of betrayal and self-preservation. No one does that for fun or as a first resort. You do it when it’s so bad you don’t have another choice. I have also been the betrayed and amputated limb, so I know what that’s like too. Neither are particularly fun.

    It’s not about shunning, it’s about harm reduction. The harm that person will inflict on others and the harm they will inflict on themselves. What could possibly be worth that? A tan skeptic with a bad reputation? I don’t think so. Randi already said Shermer was warned and they can’t go back on that. Well, they can, but they might as well sign the death certificate now. Even sympathizers are going to be skeeved out, but a lot of them already were so I guess in some ways nothing has changed except possibly the future speaker line-up. Maybe :/

  7. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Tom Phoenix at 6:

    These people never tell us why, exactly, we are supposedly so angry that we would resort to a smear campaign.

    Obviously we’re jealous of his success, right? That’s what always comes down to.

    I mean, if Shermer were as bad as a guy as people are making him out to be how could he have gotten so successful because only good, deserving people get to be successful, right?

    I mean, it only stands to reason, right?


  8. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Blanche Quizno at 3:

    Although religions appear most likely to foster cult characteristics, we see it in other places as well.

    Which is funny as Shermer himself makes this very point in his book Why People Believe Weird Things using the Randians as just such an example. Granted, he refrains from calling them a cult but he does point out the cult-like behavior of their members.

  9. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    The thing is, the people on the “other side” of this rift don’t actually care about being decent human beings. They just want to feel superior to everybody else. So nothing will change their minds. Cause they’re too smart to ever be wrong in the first place.

  10. Jackie says

    Tom Phoenix,
    Because that’s what uppity women do, doncha know? That’s why you gotta keep us in our place. We can’t be trusted, ever. If several of us come forward to accuse a man of rape, it’s because we’re just all in it together. It is far more likely that there is a secret cabal of feminists engineering a campaign to shun a prominent and (once) respected member of our community than it is that women (and one man) are telling the truth about being raped. That’s just skepticism! We women make up rapes that happen to us all the time. We do it for attention (because apparently we’re incapable of getting attention by doing anything awesome. Only men do that.) or shame and inability to stand by our sexual choices or out of jealousy and spite. We do it because we’re too stupid to know when we’ve been raped. We do it for the sweet, sweet power of victimhood. We do it so that we can make all men look bad, because we hate them so, so much and being emotional and often hysterical, we just do awful things regardless of their moral implications all the time. We’d stop and think about our actions, but we can’t because of our ovaries. Rape culture isn’t really a thing. This isn’t about misogyny. That’s what women are like. It has to do with estrogen and innate poor reasoning, public speaking, leadership and spacial relation skills.

    I don’t really understand how all of that makes sense. but since I’m a woman and can’t do thinky right, that’s probably because of my menstrual cycle and love of nurturing.


  11. Jackie says

    Gosh, was I being critical? I don’t know how I managed that, what with all of the estrogen making me so turned off by strong criticism. I must have a faulty ladybrain.

  12. Jackie says

    I mean, if Shermer were as bad as a guy as people are making him out to be how could he have gotten so successful because only good, deserving people get to be successful, right?

    It’s almost like there is no god to reward the virtuous and punish the wicked, isn’t it?
    Oh, I forgot. We’re talking about Glibertarians. The free market is their god.

  13. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Johnthedrunkard at 12- Thanks for the correction. It’s been years since I’ve read WPBWT and I had remembered it as him not going so far as to call it that. Again, thanks.

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