I get email

I had no idea that Rich Sanderson still existed, but gosh, he was turning up on Twitter a lot this week. You may recall Sanderson from about 5 years ago, when his thing was repetitively harassing women and feminists: he called himself Atheist, skeptic, aka THE KING! Coiner of the term #FTBullies. I guess he still does. That’s his grand claim to immortality, that he coined the hashtag #FTBullies. That’s kind of…it. It’s rather sad, really. I’m picturing his poor mother getting together with her girlfriends, and they’re all bragging about their childrens’ accomplishments, and all she’s got is that her little Richie has a hashtag that only he uses in his obsessive campaign against Rebecca Watson and PZ Myers, still, and he thinks he’s a KING.

Anyway, his name keeps popping up in this twitter thread, where he’s babbling about the time I was threatened with a rape accusation. Let it go, little Richie. Let it go.

Then this morning I got some email. I suspect it’s from him. It sure sounds like him, and contains his predictable hobby horse.

Dear PZ,

Don’t “dear” me, you demented wackaloon.

If you are sincere about your support for #MeToo campaign, if you’re sincere in statements like “You screwed yourself while trying to screw others, and no one feels any particular reason to redeem you.” If you really believe that, why have you not even discussed the time an adult woman sexually harassed you by threatening to accuse you of rape?

Hey, you disingenuous goober, the only reason you know about that incident is because I openly discussed it. I wasn’t sexually harassed; a student tried to extort a better grade out of me by threatening to lie. It was handled quickly and appropriately.

If you are sincere, you will name and shame her, or you will at least discuss the issue in relation to this latest movement to end sexual harassment. If you don’t want to or are afraid to, can you explain why that is?

Sincerely yours,

Critically Thinking

You want me to torment a student who made a mistake 25 years ago? No.

But wait. I can make a contribution to the #MeToo campaign! I can tell everyone how to handle that rare circumstance in which a man is unjustly accused of sexual misbehavior! I have experience! Unfortunately, it’s not very useful experience, because it doesn’t happen very often. But I can tell you exactly how to cope.

So imagine a woman accuses you of improper behavior towards her at work. What do you do?

  • First and most importantly, be innocent. That means that you must treat all women fairly and not take advantage of your position to take liberties with her, or to belittle her. I know that seems to be surprisingly difficult for way too many men, but it’s a necessary prerequisite for this technique to work. If you aren’t innocent…well, bugger off, you horrible little man. You’re deservedly screwed.

  • Next, you need to acknowledge that this person is trying to do you harm. What should you do? Get out of that situation. Leave. Don’t try to argue, and for jebus sake, don’t try to dominate and suppress them — that’s playing into their hands and creating a situation they can use as evidence that you’re abusing them.

  • Report. Go to human resources, your supervisor, anyone with any authority. Describe the situation honestly — if you can’t describe it honestly, you shouldn’t bother following this script. You’re screwed. But if you’re innocent, you should be completely open and transparent and document the event to a third party.

  • Step back and wait. You’re done. Any further interaction will involve other people looking deeper into the matter (and you’re innocent, remember? So they’re not going to find anything inappropriate, right?) In my case, another faculty member, a woman, was delegated to hear the student’s side of the story. It fell apart immediately, she was contrite, and the situation was over.

  • It is possible that a determinedly vindictive woman could push it further. But again, you’re innocent — there isn’t any evidence of misbehavior, right? She doesn’t have dick pics on her phone, there aren’t witnesses to you slapping her butt, you didn’t get drunk and proposition her at a party, you aren’t on record with unwarranted punishments or promises? Right? If there are, fuck you, go away, you’re going to get what you deserved. Otherwise, if your behavior has been spotless, back off, be impersonal, get a lawyer, let it be handled by professionals.


Notice that you, a man, have advantages here, and this plan takes advantage of them. Women ought to be able to follow the same plan too, when faced with a nefarious male with bad intentions, but the good deal for you is a) you won’t be automatically disbelieved, b) you won’t be immediately labeled a disruptive influence, and c) you won’t be fired as a shortcut to silencing a complaint. We can get our concerns addressed. In a perfect world, when a Matt Lauer or a Harvey Weinstein importunes a woman, she ought to also be able to immediately walk away, report the situation, and get a third party to look into the matter objectively, and take appropriate action against the guilty party, whoever it may be.

We know that doesn’t happen often enough. It’s grossly unfair. That’s why women are using the “#MeToo” hashtag, to publicize the frequency of this injustice. Because we men have made justice our privilege, and made the world a hell for those who do not recieve what ought to be universal rights. There’s even a song about it now.

You don’t get to use my example of an innocent man who got a swift and fair response as a reason to further trivialize the right of women to also be treated equitably.

You fucking dishonest wanker.

By the way, this twit emailed me using a throw-away email account, “criticallythinking@protonmail.com”. It’s blocked now, along with all the other accounts he’s used to pester me with in email.


  1. John Morales says

    Heh. I recently perused your “talk” section on Wikipedia (it was incidental, but I have a lot of free time) and was vastly amused by it. Specifically, the to-and-from relating to someone who wanted to take you to task for your approbation of bestiality.

    (In the process, I was rather impressed by the system Wikipedia has put into place and the integrity of its editors)

  2. John Morales says

    PS the video to which you have linked is “not available” here in Oz. Obs, there are other versions one can watch.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    On top of everything else, “protonmail” is a malapropism for email. Electrons have the opposite charge.
    But he has -apparently by mistake- picked a perfect synonym for “opposite of factual truth”.

    I am reminded of when Family Guy neighbor Fritz Gutentag turned out to be war criminal Franz Schlectnact.

  4. F.O. says

    @birgerjohansson #3 Protonmail is one of the best provider of secure email, and keeps its servers out of US reach. Anonymous troll wants to stay anonymous.

  5. latsot says

    I doubt the email is from Richard. I don’t think it would be physically possible to relate the story that way. His version, which he has repeated at least 100 times, many of them to me, is that PZ was accused of rape by a student, therefore by his own standards the accusation must be true. Then PZ used his position of power to silence the ‘accuser’.

    It’s a perfect carbon copy every time, no matter how many times anyone explains the actual situation or points to the places where PZ has related the story. I gave up trying long ago.

    I genuinely doubt he is capable of switching to this new oh-so-sly ‘tactic’. Plus, from his past behaviour, I think he’d be all-too keen to identify himself as The King.

    But it does read kind of like him.

  6. rietpluim says

    In one or two years, you’ll have to repeat the story again, PZ. And again, and again, ad infinitum. Once the vultures think they have something to catch you with, they won’t back down.

  7. Mak, acolyte to Farore says

    If you are sincere, you will name and shame her

    You disgusting wanksteak, I hope your poison ivy itch never goes away.

  8. zetopan says


    Morons like that do *everything* backwards, including misinterpreting what words mean. “Uncritical” becomes “critical”, “creationism” becomes “scientific”, and “science” becomes a “religion”, etc. Religious Right loons are now claiming that prayer is a “super rational” activity – you know, like magic really works. The list is essentially endless.

  9. redwood says

    Noroms like projecting too. Whatever they accuse you of is probably what they’re doing (“you’re the puppet!”).

  10. birgerjohansson says

    latsot, maybe we can train an AI to recognize individual trolls.
    Then we can go about our business while the trolls get automatically blocked.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    ….sometimes I wonder if it would be healthier if they just concentrated on blaming ze joos instead. Or just get them interested in the Flat Earth Society. This obsessive behaviour is creepy.

  12. Mak, acolyte to Farore says


    ….sometimes I wonder if it would be healthier if they just concentrated on blaming ze joos instead. Or just get them interested in the Flat Earth Society.

    Jewish people don’t deserve that shit either.

    Flat earthers, though…

  13. brucegee1962 says

    One more bit of advice for rising professors: Whenever a student (male or female) knocks on the door to my office, I immediately prop the door open with my handy door-propper, and keep it open until the student leaves. That’s one really easy way to make sure these accusations won’t appear or won’t stick.

    Sorry about the unjust accusation, PZ.

  14. David Marjanović says

    Noroms like projecting too. Whatever they accuse you of is probably what they’re doing (“you’re the puppet!”).


  15. birgerjohansson says

    Mak, I apologize.
    I meant that for a rare species of
    kooks, becoming a nazi might actually be a step up.

  16. says

    #18: I do the same thing. I also like to prop open the door to my lab when I’m working with students…or at least have multiple students present.

  17. says

    Then there’s the not-all-that-common-but-any-instances-are-too-many problem with both “sides” being guilty, such as one instance I investigated on active duty lo those many years ago: A military academy graduate who actively disdained women and treated them like chattel (even though some of them were also commissioned officers!) accused of sexual harassment after a mandated-to-be-private-by-the-UCMJ-and-officers’-ethical-standards counselling session that at least on the paper record concerned financial irresponsibility by someone with a high-level security clearance.

    No winners here. You can guess what the 1970s-and-80s-academy-grad dudebros thought of it… and probably still do… and it only takes ONE such circumstance to poison the well against EVERYONE. So few people understand “proof” (believing that the higher power position accused should always get something like “beyond a reasonable doubt” presumption of innocence, while the reporting person should have to prove her — or his — rectitude “beyond a reasonable doubt” before one will listen to an accusation against an individual in a higher power position and accept it as true absent actual refutation). It’s the same trick as is used by the Discovery Institute: Misascribing and misstating the effects of burdens of proof/persuasion. And THAT comparison should raise a few eyebrows for a moment around here, followed by “Yeah, that’s pretty obvious now that I think about it” lowering of said eyebrows.

  18. melonpie says

    Not to derail from the ongoing conversation of teh menz’ long overdue comeuppance for our fucked up culture vis-a-vis sexual harrassment, I do have one little quibble:

    From the Matt Lauer post,

    Vanish, little man. Your deflation has only just begun.

    and again from the OP,

    Let it go, little Richie. Let it go.

    If you aren’t innocent…well, bugger off, you horrible little man.

    I have noticed that you seem to use “little man” and assorted synonyms as a go to insult PZ. For those of us who aren’t average or above average size, that pricks sometimes? And given the prevalence of heightism in our culture(another lovely gift from the patriarchy) I would rather you wouldn’t do that. Otherwise, keep up the good work!

  19. chigau (違う) says

    melonpie #25
    “little” is not about physical height.
    It is about the size of their “spirit” or “humanity” or such like.
    but, I expect you actually know that.

  20. melonpie says


    but, I expect you actually know that.

    If you’re implying that I’m just trolling you are wrong. I just wanted to make a note of something that irked me a bit that’s all.
        I would agree that using little as an adjective of “spirit” or “humanity” or whatever other quality’s lack in a person you want to point to is fine, but “little man” does not have that clarity and too often is used because someone is physically small. (See also “dark” although it’d be vastly more worse than little given the history of race.) Anyway I don’t want to derail from the topic of OP i.e. sexual harassment and I’ll let this be my last word w.r.t “little man” on this thread.

  21. John Morales says

    melonpie, It’s obvious to me that the “little man” in that paragraph is juxtaposed against “THE KING”. It really does have that clarity, if you read it contextually.

  22. Owlmirror says

    Given that Mano just recently posted about actual Little People, I think I have to side with melonpie. The term “little” or “small” or similar as an insult is a slur that buys into assumptions about height correlating with positive qualities, and lack of height correlating with negative qualities — regardless of the context.

    It’s the unconscious bigotries that can be expressed by even the most egalitarian-minded.