The Lawrence Krauss fallout continues

I read over at PZ Myers’s place that the repercussions from the BuzzFeed news article about Lawrence Krauss continue to reverberate. Apart from the earlier organizations that have cut ties with Krauss or have disinvited him from speaking engagements, the latest ones hit closer to home. He has resigned from the boards of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and from his most loyal allies, the Center of Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation. His home institution of Arizona State University has put him on paid leave pending investigations into the allegation of misconduct.

PZ links to a blog post by Adam Lee about the ‘wall of silence’ that some members of the skeptic community try to build around their most prominent members and says that it has disturbing similarities with the way that churches try to protect clergy accused of abuse. Lee then turns his attention to Matt Dillahunty, co-host of The Atheist Experience blog and radio show based in Austin, Texas that is part of this FtB network.

Lee says that Dillahunty has reacted very defensively to requests from reporters to comment on the Krauss affair and from other members of the skeptic community to speak out about where he stands. Lee argues that that since Dillahunty is a public figure and someone who has moved in the same circles as Krauss for some time and indeed was scheduled to speak with him and Sam Harris on a panel just before the BuzzFeed story broke and Krauss was removed from the panel, such requests for comment are perfectly legitimate and he was disturbed by Dillahunty’s responses.

Afterward, Matt wrote this post on Facebook, in which he wrote angrily that Buzzfeed’s Virginia Hughes contacted him on his personal cell phone to ask about a followup she’s writing, presumably related to Krauss. He considered this an unforgivable breach of his privacy.

I left a comment on this thread. I don’t have a screenshot of it – more on that in a second – but I said that, whether Matt thinks of himself this way or not, he’s a public figure with regards to this story; that getting public figures to comment on stories they’re connected to is literally a journalist’s job; and that in my opinion, nothing she did constitutes harassment.

He deleted that comment and blocked me, without a word of reply. [EDIT: see below]

And it wasn’t just me. Based on comments in that thread and elsewhere, Dillahunty went on a blocking spree, cursing out and banning anyone who said anything even mildly critical of him. It seems he refuses to tolerate any criticism or disagreement with his behavior regarding this story, even from people who consider him a colleague or a friend.

Amanda Marcotte also commented to offer Matt some friendly, good-faith advice, explaining that Hughes was trying to do him a favor by making sure he had a chance to comment on whatever story she was writing. He blocked her.

Although I do not know Dillahunty personally (I met him briefly a year or so ago just before he spoke at a CFI meeting in the Cleveland area), he has a good reputation both personally and as a prominent member of the skeptic community. What is happening here is an example of how the negative fallout from sexual abuse and harassment allegations can spread well beyond the alleged perpetrators and affect all those who were reasonably closely associated with them.


  1. Steve Cameron says

    Although not nearly as public a figure, another prominent atheist-skeptic I’m surprised/not surprised hasn’t commented is Jerry Coyne from Why Evolution is True. He’s always ready to grouse on his website about the wrongs of the “Authoritarian Left” and chastise other atheists like PZ for perceived slights. But Lawrence Krauss, someone he has praised and respects, is accused of harassement? Not a word about it. Meanwhile, a couple of days before the Buzzfeed article he reviewed admiringly the Krauss-Harris event when it stopped in Chicago. I can understand that maybe he has nothing he wants to say about these accusations, but given how freely he offers his opinion on all range of subjects, his silence is saying something for him.

  2. Matt G says

    I used to be a regular at Coyne’s website until 3-4 years when he fully committed to the anti- “Authoritarian Left” view which Steve Cameron describes. Another telling omission is when many universities were going after the people who were boycotting Isreal. This should have aroused Coyne’s pro-free speech ire, but not a peep from him. He is a staunch defender of Shermer.

  3. jaxkayaker says

    I don’t know why it matters whether Coyne comments on this issue or not, but unsurprisingly, given Coyne’s general practice, he says he was withholding judgement until he’d had opportunity to consider the matter carefully. Personally, I find that preferable, rather than jumping on a bandwagon. He now says he dissociates himself from Krauss.

    If you really needed Coyne to weigh in, you could have asked his opinion instead of making inferences and insinuations.

  4. Mano Singham says

    I don’t think that people who are not politicians should feel pressured to comment on everything that might be related to them. The fact that Coyne maybe knows Krauss personally is not a sufficient reason. Now if Coyne were organizing an event and he invited Krauss to be part of it, then it would be appropriate to ask him what his stance is.

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