Not in attendance

So that’s another no-show.

A comment by Carol on He promised to do so:

I know that DJ also didn’t appear at CSICON 2011, even though he was scheduled to present there.

Yes, he was scheduled to present there. He was scheduled to present at the Houdini Seance, along with Randi and Massimo Polidoro and Ray Hyman.

DC in Detroit did a long, detailed post covering the whole conference, and she reports that he did not appear.

12pm-1.30pm: Houdini Seance

CFI has been doing a Houdini seance every Halloween for… well, I don’t know how long, but I’ve heard several of them on Point of Inquiry. Because of circumstances, two of the people scheduled to be involved in the seance, DJ Grothe and James Randi, were not in attendance. Therefore, someone got the great idea to just give Joe Nickell the mic and see what happened. Talk about people who enjoy storytelling!

Ray Hyman also performed a few “tricks” for us, and Massimo Polidoro gave a sort of book report on Houdini specifically.

After all that, Houdini had the audacity to not appear.

Joe Nickell wasn’t originally scheduled for that session, and Grothe was.

And I still know of other, similar items that are not public knowledge yet.

(It’s not very cool, this business of not turning up. It’s bait and switch. People decide to go to things based on who is going to be there. Emergencies obviously can’t be helped, but repeatedly not turning up – that’s not cool.)


  1. quixote says

    If there’s a theme to this guy not showing up, it’s that his replacements were better. Maybe conferences should stop booking the goofie and go straight to the better people?

  2. Kevin Kehres says

    Well, at this point the question has to be asked.

    Where did he show up? And was the presentation worthwhile?

    Seriously, how old is this guy? 14? And what in the world can he expect to have as an employment opportunity in the future, given the fact that the entire world now knows about this behavior “quirk”?

    Someone who doesn’t fulfill his obligations this routinely isn’t a candidate for a job at the Taco Bell drive-thru.

    Troubled times ahead for him.

  3. says

    I get it, repeatedly not showing up isn’t cool, but what is going on? I don’t see how you get to be DJ Grothe by being a total flake. So if he’s become a flake, why? Mental illness and substance abuse come to mind. Which, to me, would be reasons to withhold judgment and tentatively offer some compassion. I’d like to get a fuller picture before piling on. His dependably odious behavior when he is doing his job should disqualify him from running any skeptical organizations, of course.

  4. LicoriceAllsort says

    If there’s a theme to this guy not showing up, it’s that his replacements were better.

    Yes, this is a recurring theme in the reports of him not showing. It could just be that conference organizers are reluctant to speak poorly of someone who helped them out in a pinch. But it seems likely that this is just more evidence that conferences rely too heavily on these big names when other speakers may be just as—or more—interesting and reliable. We hear that from bloggers here plenty, but hopefully organizers of the big conferences are listening now, too.

  5. Brony says

    @ quixote
    There is more than one theme. But that one may be relevant as well, but I can’t speak to the quality of DJ Grothe’s talks.

    @ Peter N

    Mental illness and substance abuse come to mind. Which, to me, would be reasons to withhold judgment and tentatively offer some compassion.

    There is a problem with that way of approaching things though.

    Assuming mental illness and substance abuse is wrong on both sides. We can only take that into account if DJ Grothe shows us that it is an issue. Until then it is reasonable to hammer him on the behavior harder. If he shows us that he has a problem then we can give him the chance to show us that it’s an explanation and not an excuse* by working on it, and previously critical members of the skeptic/atheist community such as me will be temporary on notice to allow the time and effort to show that he understands the difference.

    It’s a difficult thing admitting that one has a flaw, acquired, innate or otherwise, for people used to hiding flaws at all costs. There is the very real worry that it will be used against them unfairly. But the opposite behavior can make one stronger. Admitting that one has a particular flaw openly creates a state of emotional immediacy in ones mind about one’s flaws if one talks about them as explanations and not excuses. They become priorities to functionally deal with so one does not become vulnerable to having them used against them. If deal with properly flaws can become strengths as you learn to deal with them, make up for the problems they create, and even give advice to others who have the same flaw (which is admittedly a part of what I like to do here).

    *The difference being that excuses are used to remove personal responsibility, and explanations are data that can be constructively used.

  6. says

    It’s not the not showing up on its own, though, it’s also the claiming to have informed the hosts beforehand, and promising to find the email that backs up the claim, and promising to refund the hotel costs…and not doing any of that.

    But sure, maybe he can’t help himself. Clearly there are good reasons to make the information public though.

  7. latsot says

    I’m super really not diagnosing from the armchair but this pattern of behaviour looks to me a lot more like depression than it does substance abuse. Doubt in oneself can be crippling; it can prevent any one of us from being effective and cause us to lie to ourselves about our motives and our reasons for not fulfilling our obligations. It can make us create an exaggerated version of ourselves for the sole purpose of our not living up to it. See? I *told* you I was shit.

    As I said, I’m not diagnosing Grothe. I’m offering a different perspective to the hur-hur hangover kneejerk.

    I despise many things Grothe has said and done. I’ve talked with people who have worked with him and were exasperated by his management style. And let’s not forget his jaw-dropping contributions to the rancid pit of victim blaming and pretending that certain people’s feelings don’t count.

    But lets not speculate. For every just-so story anyone can come up with, I can invent one too, I just did, in fact. Isn’t it enough to enjoy the fact that someone who seems to be the opposite of what we want is no longer in charge of the organisation many of us older people cut our teeth on? That’s a win in my book.

    I’ll stop preaching now. Sorry, this sort of speculation just annoys me. But let me be clear: I’m delighted that Grothe is no longer in charge of the JREF.

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