Shermer will slide out from under this — it’s like slime on a slug’s back

Here we go again, another exposé of Michael Shermer’s deplorable behavior. He’ll just shrug this one off, too, and no one will care and no one will abandon Shermer. But it does have some interesting points.

If you want to make Shermer cry, hit his pocketbook.

That evening, Shermer told me, he noticed his talk was poorly attended. At dinner afterward, his faculty host told him about Napoleon’s message. Upset, Shermer responded by sending a long email to the SBCC all-campus list in which he accused Napoleon of defamation, said that both Wallace and Napoleon had aimed “to personally harm me,” demanded that The Channels retract its “libelous article,” and told both the school and the student newspaper that they “will pay” for any book sales affected by the coverage unless they pulled the piece.

Carol Tavris disappoints, deeply.

Napoleon says that this was not her intention, and while she did hire a lawyer, she was unimpressed by the threats from Shermer and his legal team. “If they specialize in libel and defamation,” she told me, “they should know that me sharing public articles about you from 2014 is neither libel nor defamation.” Napoleon says she was also surprised to receive an email from Carol Tavris, a prominent psychologist and a writer for Shermer’s magazine, asking her, “in the spirit of feminism and fair play,” to consider that Shermer had been falsely accused, and to apologize for her email.

In the spirit of feminism and fair play, how dare you try to silence women who complain about Shermer’s sexism.

And surprise! Shermer claims not to be litigious, and to have never sued anyone!

“Shermer is notoriously litigious,” said PZ Myers, who received legal notice from Shermer after originally posting the allegations in 2013. “You know that as soon as you say something, he’s going to come down on you with his lawyers.” (In an email, Shermer responded to Myers’ claim by defining litigious as “prone to engage in lawsuits,” and adding: “I have never sued anyone.”)

Right. He just threatens people with lawsuits to bully them into silence. I wonder how many times he has done this and succeeded? Does it outnumber the times he has tried and failed, as he did with me? It’s also ironic that he’s making this claim in an article about the time he tried to threaten a school paper with a lawsuit.

Still, good to know for other people he blusters at: by his own admission, he has never followed through on his threats.

Also interesting that the faculty member who invited Shermer and angrily defended him was, at the time, already under Title IX investigation.

What everyone seems to agree on is that events quickly veered in unexpected directions, and the interaction set off campus-wide discussions at SBCC. Prolonging the controversy, the school recently chose not to rehire the professor who hosted Shermer on campus, Mark McIntire, an adjunct philosophy instructor who taught at SBCC for more than 20 years. The college, McIntire says, told him that he was not being rehired because of deficiencies in teaching. McIntire was also under a Title IX investigation at the time for personal emails he sent to female faculty members after the Shermer incident, which some women reported as threatening. Shermer and McIntire have characterized it as political retaliation.

Birds of a feather. Although McIntire was eventually cleared, sort of.

The Title IX investigation, which was completed in June, cleared McIntire of wrongdoing in his emails to faculty members, but did reprimand him for unethical behavior.

I wonder if he learned his ethical behavior from reading Shermer’s books?

The paper tiger, though, once again admits to his impotence.

Meanwhile, Shermer says he has racked up $3,000 in legal fees. “From where I sit now, I wouldn’t have done anything,” he said, expressing concern over McIntire’s situation.

I also have to sympathize with Raeanne Napoleon, the chair of the chemistry department at SBCC, who posted the letter that got Shermer so upset.

“I didn’t think twice about sending that email,” Napoleon said, adding that she now feels naïve. “I sent that email thinking this is the right thing to do. This is what you do. I watched the #MeToo movement happen!” Napoleon said. “I thought you spoke out against this stuff. I didn’t realize that speaking out would be so hard.”

Yeah, I spoke out. It’s been 5 years since, watching everyone let an accused rapist slide right on by, with no repercussions on his career at all.


  1. says

    “In the spirit of feminism and fair play, have you considered that women are liars?”

    (My original comment used a more colloquial version and understandably went into moderation. It’s fine if it stays there.)

  2. says

    He might not gain as many new followers, but his core group of Skeptics won’t abandon him any time soon. That enough to keep him well off and have a platform.

  3. whheydt says

    Perhaps…the most effective tactic would be to compile the data on his history and present it to the editors of Scientific American.

  4. wzrd1 says

    Does it outnumber the times he has tried and failed, as he did with me?

    Unfortunately, no. Far too many lack the intestinal fortitude to risk a nuisance, groundless litigation that is fully recoverable from by one’s own cross litigation to recover damages from a vexatious litigation.
    I’ve gotten a few cease and desist letters over the years, threatening all manner of dire litigation. I sent them to my attorney, who laughed with me over them, as those were letters over mostly political matters. They’re paper only, usually, a threat with either no standing to actually initiate litigation or in instances like yours, a case of “how dare you tell the truth while I am busy lying! I’m going to sue for my right to lie about my felonies”, which courts tend to not be very generous toward.
    Then, there is the third type, we know of that one via the Streisand Effect. Pure backfire.

    Good night and excuse me. I have to set up some tape traps for a suspected mite infestation. A fair number of bites I’m getting are typical A. Aegypti bites, a species I’m quite familiar with. Others behave like one of a half dozen of mites that I have a more significant reaction to, but being suspected mites, need confirmation in order to address a potential infestation of our temporary domicile (and prevent potential transmission to our permanent one).

  5. clevehicks says

    Here is a particularly loathsome comment from the elitist skeptic: ‘In the end, Shermer decided in April not to pursue legal action. “I thought, forget it, who are these people?” he said. “Nobodies.”

  6. Dunc says

    In an email, Shermer responded to Myers’ claim by defining litigious as “prone to engage in lawsuits,” and adding: “I have never sued anyone.”

    I am not a violent man. I have never hit anybody. I just threaten people with violence until they do what I want. Totally different.

  7. DLC says

    Shermer is a relative nobody, headed toward nothingness at breakneck speed. I will not be sorry to see him go. I will be sorry to see the skeptic movement muddied by his presence in it. In the end, Shermer will wind up walking along the waterfront muttering “I coulda been somebody” to himself. It cannot happen too soon.

  8. says

    Remember that time that Napoleon said Shermer was not investigated by the police, and Shermer complained that this was a lie, because he was not investigated by the police? The article finally solves the mystery! Napoleon said police didn’t bring formal charges against Shermer, and Shermer thinks this statement implies that police were involved but did not bring charges.

    LOL, this coming from the same guy who quotes the definition of litigious to argue that he is technically not litigious.

  9. davidrichardson says

    I wonder if people in the USA are aware of the famous Arkell vs Pressdram response. Pressdram Ltd publish Private Eye, a long-running British satirical magazine. They’ve been sued plenty of times … and here is the famous response they gave to one of the many ‘cease and desist’ letters they’ve received:

    Maybe this should be the standard response to people like Michael Shermer …

  10. Ed Peters says

    #7. Yes, Shermer calling them “nobodies” was loathsome, and projecting. It’s also worth noting that being a relative nobody is a prerequisite for Shermer to threaten you (pace PZ). He hasn’t the nerve to threaten anyone he thinks could easily absorb the legal costs needed for a real fight. Funny then that he never actually sues even the “nobodies”. Just cease and desist letters at $3K a pop. Could it be he fears the discovery phase? He fairly reeks of calculated bullying, with $3K being the most he’s willing to spend to suppress accusations. His sour grapes whining when his threats don’t work and he is forced to leave the field, tail tucked, is the only funny thing about the whole episode.

    “Nobodies”, huh? Not very humanistic or philosophical for a self-described “advocate for humanist philosophy” (from his Wikipedia page.)