Anonymous agents behaving underminingly


The stories about prominent harassers in the field of astronomy have been coming out a lot lately, and kudos to the field for taking steps to end a severe and chronic problem that impairs the advancement of half the members of the human race. But of course you knew the counter-reaction was coming. It’s inevitable. Pointing out that prominent men have been doing bad things always leads to defensive shrieks of witch hunt!.

So here it comes: a “group” called Underground Astronomy is very concerned about the well-being of harassing astronomers. The women they’ve chased out of the discipline, not so much.

Is there a backlash to the backlash against sexual harassment in astronomy? A group calling itself the Astronomy Underground sent an open letter to leaders of the American Astronomical Society on Tuesday alleging inappropriate, vigilante-style attempts to root out harassers in the discipline.

“We ask [the American Astronomical Society] Council and the [society’s Astronomy Education Board] to publicly explain how these actions have been allowed to occur for so long, and with what license [the society] has acted to investigate its members, damaging their careers, their personal lives and the health of the society in the process,” reads the letter.

The Astronomy Underground alleges that the society is somehow involved in such inquiries, and demands that it publicly explain how it intends to “1) repair the damage done to those who have been ‘investigated’ under the [society’s] name, 2) redirect the astronomy experience for our youngest members who have now spent their entire careers focused on these matters rather than on the science and 3) repair the reputation of astronomy on the national landscape, for the purposes of future recruitment and funding.”

You may notice that I put “group” in quotes. I’m not sure it’s the right word to use. I found the Underground Astronomy page on Facebook, and it currently has precisely 5 “likes”, and it sounds like all the articles are written by one person, someone going by the pseudonym “Evelyn Beatrice Hall” (I’m pretty sure the real Evelyn Beatrice Hall is dead). A particularly nasty person.

They really don’t like Alice Omstead, who has publicly said that we need to “take a stand” against harassment.

Breaking news: Outed on The Astronomy Underground for doubling down on her participation in the #‎AstroWitchHunt Alice Olmstead deletes her post on the Center for Astronomy Education. Too bad we took a picture of it first. Scroll down to view what it looks like when not-very-good-researchers attempt to build a career through social activism. News flash Alice Olmstead: if you had any research chops, youʻd be working with Slater, not his second-rate post-doc.#‎AstroTraSH Astronomy Magazine

Oh, yeah, cheap shots and petty sniping. That’s persuasive.

This same person reposted this comment:

Don’t expect to be able to stay in the astronomy field after graduation. I’m watching the field on Twitter and Facebook, and will not hire anyone who has showed out as an SJW. It’s not “silencing” people, it’s not wanting to hire someone who is going to be nothing but problems. Think about the future.

For some reason — perhaps the tone — whoever created this “group” sounds a hell of a lot like Louise Mensch, and that makes me doubt that they have much influence in hiring astronomers.

So I don’t think it counts as a group. More like a lone crank.

Comments

  1. komarov says

    News flash Alice Olmstead: if you had any research chops, youʻd be working with Slater, not his second-rate post-doc.#‎AstroTraSH Astronomy Magazine

    Yes, swallow your pride, bury your dignity in the desert, wave any hope of ever being taken seriously in your chosen field goodbye and work for BIG NAME (TM). That sounds like fantastic career advice. Me, I’d have trouble getting out of bed in the morning and falling asleep at night*, if I had to work under those conditions. My standards are way too high, I guess.
    Thinking back to the report on Slater, my blood starts boiling even now. I’d have fired him just a few sentences in. I might even consider suing the clueless git on behalf of everyone he’s been harrassing and for ruining the reputation of my university / department. “You are hereby charged with utterly failing as a decent human being, a responsible adult, a teacher and a mentor.”

    Luckily, there will never be a shortage of people willing to defend people like Slater the status quo. Maybe this ‘group’ is just one person, but no doubt there are plenty more. There always are.

    *I can never fall asleep when I’m seething with barely-contained rage.

  2. ShowMetheData says

    “not hire anyone who has showed out as an SJW”

    Anyone using SJW so casually is likely an MRA in all the worst meanings.

  3. says

    I’m watching the field on Twitter and Facebook, and will not hire anyone who has showed out as an SJW. It’s not “silencing” people…

    It’s amazing how pro-harassers let their definitions change when it suits their agenda. Blocking someone on Twitter? WHAT ABOUT MY FREEZE PEACH?!?!?! Not hiring someone who has been a vocal SJW? No, it’s not “silencing” people…

  4. says

    I’m watching the field on Twitter and Facebook, and will not hire anyone who has showed out as an SJW.

    Now that’s a threat to make your blood run cold.

    Uh, no. I don’t understand why someone would mind being ‘outed’ as an SJW. It beats the hell out of outing oneself as a reactionary/misogynist. Wow. And (while I very much doubt that a jerk like that is in a position to hire anyone) it’s wonderful lawsuit fodder. Can you imagine if there was a mapping between the person who posted that and a member of a hiring committee that was getting sued for employment discrimination? It’d double the settlement.

  5. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    How long before The Dawk tweets his support to this “movement”?

  6. brucej says

    Shouldn’t it really be called a ‘Warlock hunt’? After all they’re not outing women as harassers….

  7. JohnnieCanuck says

    I always like it when I learn something new here. Turns out that misogamy is a “hatred of marriage”.

  8. says

    There’s an old zen buddhist koan, “If you love, love openly.” (Excuse me for referencing religion to make a point.) In this case, the clowns are afraid to hate openly.

    If they are so worried, why aren’t they speaking out with their own names? Why hide behind pseudonyms and sock puppets? Most likely, it’s because they’re low fliers in the astronomy field with not much of a career behind or ahead of them.

  9. dianne says

    If they are so worried, why aren’t they speaking out with their own names? Why hide behind pseudonyms and sock puppets?

    Would you hire this person if you knew who (most likely) he really was? I wouldn’t. Quite a number of astronomers I know who make hiring decisions wouldn’t. He wants to hurt the careers of women who speak out against harassment without endangering his own career and that’s about it for motivation.

  10. DLC says

    Ah yes. Stalwart Defenders of Ethics in Astronomy! Uh, except they’re defending men accused of being creepers.
    Anonymous trolls is more like it.