Only a Sith…

“You’re with me or you’re against me”

Recently, I’ve been contemplating speaking my mind on this subject. Actually for a long time. It’s rather upsetting in a community that is supposed to adhere to the values of skeptical inquiry, scientific analysis, and rational questioning that we are required as a matter of principle to abandon the aforementioned principles in favor of mindlessly following the ravings of PZ Myers and Co. It’s something I’ve never quite understood or grasped and could never fully get behind.

I’ve only been in the movement a short time and I really don’t care about the infighting. But there is a divide and it’s so infuriating because it started out as something that could have blossomed into a great movement for social justice and equality but has transformed itself as nothing more than a witch-hunt based upon unverifiable accusations that we are demanded….nay ordered…to take at face value. While I can understand the seriousness of the situation I cannot for a moment stop utilizing my rational skepticism for a moment in order to acquiesce to the demands of a blogger whom I’ve never met. I didn’t give up my religious dogma in order to take on a secular one. That would be accepting one cognitive dissonance in place of another.

PZ Myers has been demanding that we go after these alleged sexual deviants in our community and take them to task. I agree. I do not agree, however, with the manner in which he is and has been doing it. The basis of his most recent claim, which is leading him into a lawsuit, is that we should merely trust him based upon the merit of his character. And yet his character is what I call into question. PZ has never been the ultimate giant in my eyes. Truly, I came into the movement quite late in the game and I had heard PZ referred to as “an asshole, but he’s OUR asshole”. He was supposed to be this guy that went after the creationists debunking their claims, showing them real science, and helping those who were unsure to see that science is a self-correcting, self-checking methodology that inherently finds the truth by never accepting a single claim and continually testing previously proved claims in order to assess whether or not they were actually true. Science did not need a checks-and-balances as do many other systems that man has created because it quite simply checks itself. But that’s not what I saw from him.

Instead what I witnessed, time and again, were his verbal assaults upon the individuals who wished to question the veracity of the unsubstantiated claims of alleged victims. The individuals that I saw questioning that were merely applying their scientific reasoning into all aspects of life. Just as they questioned what happened, like any good investigator does, they were also questioning the veracity of the “I didn’t do it” claims from the alleged perpetrators. It seems entirely rational and just to me. There were, of course, people on the defensive end attempting to uphold the status quo of “victim blaming” and those are not the individuals I’m talking about. I’m speaking about those of us that merely don’t know enough about any given situation between two people who want to inquire as to what actually happened without making a preconceived judgment call.

So PZ and Co. have labeled anyone who does not immediately fall into their trapping as a “rape apologist” or a “chill girl” or a “misogynist”. It’s that ‘with me or against me’ attitude. And quite frankly it’s disheartening. That’s not how a civilized society works. You must give everyone a fair shake or you, yourself, are anathema to the concept of liberty itself. People are being attacked for not making a snap judgment call. I liken it to the American mentality immediately following 9/11. Suddenly all Muslims were looked at with suspicion. The PATRIOT Act was passed with many parts violating the Constitution we hold (or perhaps held) so dear. I remember watching a video of a Congress getting together in front of the steps of the House singing “God Bless America” . Profiling began, near-censorship of art and music, and a hive mentality that it was America vs. The World. Hell….we had that whole “freedom fry” debacle because France didn’t support the invasion of Iraq.

I equate the current situation that PZ Myers is attempting to wrangle people into as the same Bushism’s we were under as a nation from the early 2000′s. Many of us in the movement (including a vast number of women) don’t want to join your “war on anyone that doesn’t agree with you” because of the alleged “Weapons of Ass Destruction” (WAD’s) that you claim every man except you and your ilk have. Well, I want verification of this against each and every individual that you claim is an assailant, a sexual deviant, or an alleged rapist. Until we have sent in the  inspection teams to find these WAD’s that you, Commander-in-Chief Myers, claim to have knowledge from your vast secret intelligence community disclosing to you, then I cannot and will not jump on board to assassinate the character of the alleged perpetrators.

PZ Myers, Mr. President, what have the UN Inspection teams found? I will side with France on this. I don’t like your authoritarian approach to the atheist community much like France did not like President Bush’s international approach to war. I fear that you don’t wish to be President much the same way Bush did not. He wanted to be the Emperor…and he did just that as an Imperial President. His word HAD to be trusted without verification…and so must yours be? Were you not critical of his behavior at the beginning of this century? Then how can you not justify my (or anyone) questioning you with that same approach?

Your authoritarian attitude that “I must choose a side” and that I’m either “with you or against you” reminds me of someone else.

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About Paul Loebe
  • DaveDodo007

    For someone new to skepticism you are very good at it.

    • Paul Loebe

      Thank you.

  • iamcuriousblue

    It’s rather upsetting in a community that is supposed to adhere to the values of skeptical inquiry, scientific analysis, and rational questioning that we are required as a matter of principle to abandon the aforementioned principles in favor of mindlessly following the ravings of PZ Myers and Co.

    Precisely, and that’s why I broke with these people very early in the “deep rifts” process. And it started over small differences, too – basically, I got shouted down and banned by Greta Christina and the piling-on commentariat for disagreeing about some aspects of proposed conference anti-harassment codes. And by “some aspects”, I mean that I didn’t object to them per se, but did think that the proposed versions contained overly broad language, tended to be rather prudish in the way they were worded, especially as concerned loaded language about “sexualization” and so on. (Objections, I might add, that proved well-founded in the light of this incident some months later.) But apparently, having that level of disagreement was “trolling”, “misogynistic”, and so on. It was pretty clear that this segment of the atheist/skeptical/etc community had fallen into an incredibly dogmatic version of feminist/social justice ideology and just weren’t people worth working or allying with unless you agreed with their set of ideas pretty much 100%. And by definition, I don’t want to have anything to do with any group with a mentality like that, even if I happen to agree with them on much else.

    Pretty ironic that the group demanding lockstep agreement uses the term “Freethought” as part of their title. Yeah, and War is Peace.

  • Lee Moore

    You sir are a scholar and a gentleman Paul. What I wouldn’t do to have a thousand more like you in our movement.

  • Jerome Haltom

    See, that’s what confuses me. And if anything it’s what kind of annoys me, and I suspect the rest of us.

    Most of the stuff you just said about PZ… about how you’re expected to follow him, are being forced to make snap judgements, all of that…. I don’t actually see where anybody is expecting you to actually do that.

    I don’t actually see anybody with serious questions being called a rape apologist, or a chill girl, or that sort of stuff. *I* don’t accept the Shermer accusation on face value. Of course I don’t. I don’t know the person he got the information from. PZ seems to. And he said as much.

    I mean, was this paragraph missing in the version of PZ’s post you read: “I will again emphasize, though, that I have no personal, direct evidence that the event occurred as described; all I can say is that the author is known to me, and she has also been vouched for by one other person I trust. The author is not threatening her putative assailant with any action, but is solely concerned that other women be aware of his behavior. ”

    You see where it admits that he has no personal direct evidence? Where it admits he’s relaying what somebody he trusts says? Exactly where in all of that couching of language does it say “You must accept what I say! Right now! Muhaha!” Or anything of that nature at all. It’s saying *HE* has reason to trust this person, it’s not saying that *I* must now trust him.

    This is the same kind of stuff I’ve been seeing for months now, with the various “Gosh, PZ is really off the deep end now!” posts.

    And it’s what somewhat makes people think there is some other motivation at play here. Hmm.

    In short, nobody is asking anybody, as far as *I* can tell, to make snap judgement. Or to even follow anybody. I think the only thing being asked is to read properly.

    • Paul Loebe

      I’m not just referring to the Shermer incident. He’s done it countless times in the last couple years. It’s not an isolated incident and THAT is scientific.

      • Jerome Haltom

        Okay, then. I clearly must not be paying attention. Even though I read Pharyngula every morning after grabbing my coffee…

        • Paul Loebe

          The problem is that I stated in my last post that PZ put at risk the identity of the alleged victim and I was suddenly referred to as a rape apologist. That’s the mindset that is wrong with this movement.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Is that the one where the guy denied calling you a rape apologist, or is there another one? Ahh, there’s the other one.

          • Paul Loebe

            Yup, there’s the other one. Straight up called it…I don’t see how they could jump to that conclusion. Maybe if I were calling for the opposite then all of a sudden I would be the good guy?

            Hmmm…so if I demand the victim be publicly identified does that make me not a rape apologist?

          • Jerome Haltom

            Right, well, technicality: align with rape apologist mentality does not equal rape apologist. That’s hardly much of a difference though..

            Yeah. So. I can’t actually quite disagree with this person: Ananomass, on the criticisms. I can disagree with the style, though. It does seem odd to criticize PZ for putting a victim’s name at risk when it should probably be expected that PZ and the victim did actually consider all of this as a possibility. I mean, whatever anybody thinks of him, he’s not dumb. You did after all just say, right above: “I’m speaking about those of us that merely don’t know enough about any given situation between two people who want to inquire as to what actually happened without making a preconceived judgment call.” Right-o. This person on your last post actually seems to just be calling you out for making a preconceived judgement call regarding two people in a given situation…

            But the language, the hyperbole. This stuff, like that PZ is now similar to Bush? The people who agree with him are now his Company? That PZ thinks that every man other than him and his group are armed with rape? Do you REALLY think PZ thinks that? Realllly? I am imagining you don’t. Hyperbole? Right.

            And yet, why should I not assume the other side, the one’s hurling “rape apologist” around, are not doing the same? Picking expensive offensive language where plainer could suit, in order to inject their words with the emotions they feel they should have?

            If so, at least, yours are more creative. Heh.

          • Jerome Haltom

            I have the distinct fear that not a single one of you folks is communicating using language understood by the other, and that there’s not actually a whole lot of anything most of you disagree on, and yet the community will implode anyways due to translation errors. Certainly not a first in the history of humanity.

        • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

          Then you missed a few things. Like his posts justifying watson’s treatment of Stef McGraw, and how McGraw was wrong for feeling how she felt about the incident. Not that he disagreed with McGraw, but that she was wrong for not seeing it as some great honor.

          This was after his posts going after people for “mansplaining” to Watson how she was wrong for feeling how she did about the EG incident, and that she had a right to those feelings. If Watson did, why didn’t McGraw? If it was wrong to tell watson how to feel, (and I agree with that), then how was it not wrong for HIM to tell McGraw how to feel?

          Of course, the answer is simple. Watson is on his side, McGraw was not.

          Or how, after Greg Laden made threats of physical violence against Justin Griffith, PZ was more angry that Justin had gone public with those threats. What happened to ALWAYS NAME NAMES?

          The answer is simple: Laden is on his side, Justin is not.

          Or how even recently, when Zvan and Lousy Canuck write what, anniversary paens to how Laden was misunderstood, and he didn’t REALLY threaten Griffith, PZ does? Nothing. Doesn’t even SAY anything. Because again, threatening violence is okay if it’s one of the Clear doing it.

          When creationists try to tar atheists with Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, Myers is terribly, terribly angry about that. But, when he tars anyone not sharing his views of feminism as cowardly versions of Marc Lepine, oh, well that’s okay.

          When Bill Donohue tried to force UMinn to silence or fire him over “Crackergate” that was just wrong, and cowardly and how dare he.

          But, when Zvan and Laden tried to force Abbie Smith’s employer to silence her and force her to take down blog posts he disliked, well, he doesn’t say shit about it.

          Of course, we know why: Laden and Zvan are on his side, Abbie is not.

          Over and over and over, you see this kind of Scientology thinking from him and the core FTB lot. Anyone speaking against them is to be attacked and shut down, even if it means using the same tactics they decry when used against *them*.

          “Fair Game” is what it’s called when Scientology does it against “SPs” or “Supressive Persons”.

          The other version of course is “It’s okay when we do it.”

          • Richard Sanderson

            Yesterday, one of FTB’s most pitiful trolls (ool0n) tried to deny that Laden made contact with Abbie’s employer. After much wriggling, I did get the slimy turd to admit he was wrong (lying).

    • iamcuriousblue

      I think you can’t look at his post in isolation – if you look at related followups on the part of Jason Thibault, Greta Christina, Amanda Marcotte, and so forth, they quite clearly label people that reject the allegations against Shermer (without further proof, anyway) as “denialists” and, basically, enablers of an generalized atmosphere of anti-woman harassment in the atheist/etc community. So, yes, I think those people are very much calling for a strong affirmative judgement as to the truthfulness of such claims.

      • Jerome Haltom

        Okay. Mind linking to one? I just went over all of Greta’s, and I’m not seeing it. I’m also kind of curious why, even if say, Greta, or somebody, HAD made that link it reflects automatically on PZ until he endorses such a statement himself.

        • iamcuriousblue

          Considering that she posted this in the last few days, it’s pretty easy to find, but here’s the link:

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/08/12/harassment-rape-skepticism-denialism/

          • Jerome Haltom

            Yeah. That’s not what she said. She lists a whole butt load of reasons for when she thinks skepticism transitions into denialism. And not a one of those is simply “not agreeing.”

            I mean, it’s all right there. She spends a huge amount of time talking about the type of evidence one should expect from these types of accusations, how it compares with other claims, and all that. The entire post is about cautioning people to not use different standards of evidence for these types of claims than they would for others.

            I’m sorry. I really don’t know what the big deal is.

            Disagreeing with the standards she proposes is fine. Disagreeing with the statistics she proposes is fine. But… saying she’s saying something she’s clearly not? Why???

            You said this: “they quite clearly label people that reject the allegations against Shermer (without further proof, anyway) as “denialists” ”

            It does not appear to be so.

          • iamcuriousblue

            GC does not demonstrate *at all* that any of us are applying different standards to sexual assault allegations.

            For my part, I find the fact that a group of bloggers has accused at least three notable individuals they happen to have long-standing animus toward of serious misconduct or outright crimes. (One one of which, the accusation of harassment within CFI (I’m not going to repeat names here), seems to have any confirmatory evidence at all.) In any other context, it looks like a garden-variety smear campaign, but I’m asked to overlook that, because to be skeptical of it’s “rape culture” to do so, or some such crap.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Why not just “not believe them” and then also, at the same time “not condemn them for it?”

            I mean, disagreeing doesn’t seem out of the question, depending on the nature of the claim, of course. I can’t accept PZ’s claim as true. But I also can’t rule it out. I haven’t the faintest clue what he knows that I don’t: and he’s made sure of that. I can’t even judge whether him making sure of that is appropriate, without access to information I don’t have. Seems as if I’ve got to say “Eh. Oh well. Hope he knows what he’s doing” and go on my way. If he gets sued into oblivion, well, bad move dude. If not, great.

            The people who comment on his blog, I do however have enough evidence to believe are an irrational pack of dogs.

            But good lord. I just spent 4 hours arguing on Facebook with a group of about 10 atheists who were trying to prove that ID was false to some Christian who was trying to argue for it. Said atheists spent most of the time calling me very bad names for the modest proposal that ID was unfalsifiable, and thus could not be proven false, and that that…. sort of is the point.

            People are not rational. People in groups are less rational. And as far as I can tell, atheists are more rational than everybody else on one position and one position alone: the existence of God.

            … which to be fair makes me question my entire involvement in the enterprise. Blah. If only it wasn’t for the damned Christian’s trying to pass Christian laws, I’d just ignore you folks and go about my life.

            [EDIT]

            Upon further thought, I just realized that by given a shit about how you deal with your reaction to PZ, I am falling into my own trap. Thoughts left above for posterity, but otherwise, peace out folks. Good luck with the schism! Hope to see ya’ll on my side next time some dumb religious law or something needs dealing with.

          • iamcuriousblue

            I’ll be on the “side” of those fighting said dumb religious laws. But the “social justice” secularists aren’t exactly being helpful by doing that damnedest to be the embodiment of some caricature of the loony left – that makes the secularist movement *less* credible.

      • Jerome Haltom

        Well, been over Jason’s stuff now… don’t see where he says I must make a snap judgement. Don’t see where he says you must. He seems to quite reasonably explain why he accepts PZ’s accusation as likely. And that all seems reasonable to me, if I read it from his perspective.

        Nothing in there seems to come close to suggesting that people who don’t accept it are denialists.

        • iamcuriousblue

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2013/08/14/is-the-skeptic-empire-dying/

          “We call ourselves rationalists but we devolve into hyperskepticism and denialism about real, demonstrable problems in our community.”

          And if you look at his definition of “hyperskepticism” and “denialism”, it pretty much comes down to those of us who don’t accept his “web of trust” as evidence. I find his “web of trust” to include some extremely untrustworthy individuals, starting with PZ Myers, not to mention Thibault himself.

          And in these various pieces, there’s some very sleazy bait-and-switch between the rhetoric of “trust people claiming victimization”, and “trust bloggers claiming victimization on the behalf of unnamed third parties”.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Do you consider harassment, death threats, and rape threats as simply ‘trolling’?

            [EDIT] Not trying to be flippant, but on that link you said, he kind of does list the problems he’s referring to. I don’t see why you should take his words to be targeted towards you if you don’t actually fall under that…

          • iamcuriousblue

            Oh, that rhetoric again, eh? I’ve seen simple trolling conflated with “harassment” and “rape and death threats” time and again. In fact, very often the same behavior that the internet feminists and social justice warriors engage in (relentlessly bashing political opponents on their Twitter and Tumblr feeds, often using “@” tags to make sure the target sees it, chronically and mocking opponents via Storify captures, etc) suddenly become “misogynistic harassment”, “stalking”, and “monitoring” when an opponent does it.

            I call *bullshit* on double standards and rhetoric inflation of that sort.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Again?

            I’m not sure I’ve met you before….. I’ve certainly never spoken with anybody about this blog before… as I just read it for the first time.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Actually, I don’t understand your reply at all. Are you saying you’re cool with trolling when it involves death threats and rape threats? And who are you complaining about exactly? I can’t say I even really use Twitter. Whomever these folks you’re talking about are, they’re not me.

          • iamcuriousblue

            I’m not sure where I’m being unclear, but let me break it down:

            1) No I’m not OK with *actual* rape and death threats – that’s not OK behavior from any side for any reason. I’m also not OK with unsubstantiated and downright false accusations of rape and death threats, which there are quite a few of. “Rape and death threats” are a stock accusation for practically anybody who wants to play the “I’m being persecuted by trolls!” card – people cry “rapeanddeathrreats!” without providing any evidence they’ve received anything of the kind. And the accusations comes from across the board. To the point where trasnsphobic radical feminists accuse “liberal feminists” (by which they generally mean third-wave “intersectional” feminists) and trans activists of – you guessed it – “rapeanddeathtrhreats!” Should that be taken seriously? And if not, you might grant that other people might be similarly crying wolf.

            2) Even in cases where somebody has received threats, it is absolutely not OK to say that your critics/opponents are collectively responsible for such threats, and to conflate all critics with those making threats.

            3) The definition of “harassment” and “stalking” is similarly being abused. People criticizing you and your position, even in large numbers and in a seemingly obsessive manner, does not even remotely amount to “harassment”. This is doubly egregious when people refer to as “harassment”, “stalking”, “monitoring”, etc behavior which they themselves engage in. (And see my previous reply where I’ve detailed what such actions are.)

            If that’s harassment, we should ban people from engaging in public demonstrations against other groups they don’t like. If you think that would be an egregious violation of free speech, then maybe you shouldn’t be demonizing the internet equivalent.

          • RowanVT
          • Pitchguest

            Did you miss the part where it has to be systematic in order for it to count as harassment?

            Joining the discussion on a certain blog, from a certain blogger, from various posts they’ve made, where you happen to criticise things they’ve written, no more constitutes as harassment as a food critic giving bad grades to the same restaurant twice. If the discussion is open to everyone, and not just friends or relatives, and you’ve just written a post detailing, for example, rules for men managing their willies, then are you going to be surprised when some stragglers arrive to glare?

            Are you going to be surprised if some more stragglers arrive to glare when you write something equally as discourteous and if it happens to be the same stragglers?

            By the way, you would have to make it perfectly clear that you don’t want these people to contact you again for it to count as harassment if they should. And I don’t mean once or twice, I mean systematically. Not just on your blog, but on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or whereever you make “port” (so to speak). Preferably to avoid further harassment, it would be wise if you didn’t mention them publicly on your blog again – especially if you want to avoid looking like a hypocrite. But if you do, it’s fine. However, should they happen to write something unseemly about you on other places that is NOT your blog, Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr, etc, that would NOT be harassment. Because it has to be “in your face.”

            It would also not be stalking if they freezepage and/or save your blog post for later, nor is it stalking to Storify your tweets. That’s just documentation and doesn’t fall into the stalking category. Remember, this isn’t like rummaging around in your trashcan in meatspace, or taking pictures of you; this is saving what you have made public yourself. If you want to claim they’re stalking you, then you would have to provide sufficient proof or it’s subject to libel/slander.

            Clear?

          • iamcuriousblue

            Exactly. It’s a bit like saying people who publicize every gaffe made by Rush Limbaugh are “harassing” him.

          • iamcuriousblue

            I’m not sure if you’re floating that as a counterargument. It just proves my point that the majority of sustained criticism via the internet or even outright trolling doesn’t come anywhere near the legal definition of harassment.

          • iamcuriousblue

            The aggregate “Again” – I’ve heard that rhetoric from people on the “feminist/social justice” end of secularism, not you in particular.

          • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

            PZ and FTB consider threats of violence totally okay when done by their in group. It’s only when people they don’t like do it that it’s bad.

          • Richard Sanderson

            Yep, and Stephanie Zvan thinks somebody sending a fellow blogger threats of violence is perfectly OK. Heck, she even gave a toast to the scumbag who sent the threats, and then attempted to victim blame. That man, was of course, GREG LADEN. The SAME man various Skepchicks and FTBullies get to write anti-harassment policies for one of their conferences.

            That is the very definition of how two-faced they are.

          • Paul Loebe

            I do recall that. In fact Laden threatened a co-blogger here and the founder of Rock Beyond Belief

          • see.the.galaxy

            Now you’re making an accusation against Zvan and you aren’t providing a citation. I’m not talking about the Laden thing, but the claim that Zvan thought the threats were acceptable. The only way we’re ever going to quash all this folderol on all sides is for everyone to insist on data and evidence.

          • Richard Sanderson

            You can find the evidence if you search her own site. Firstly she held a toast to him on the VERY NIGHT he was fired from FfTB, and then put up a post about a guy called JEFF, which was a pathetic analogy to Greg Laden, and made up a load of excuses for Laden, and blamed Justin. That is what I believe is called VICTIM BLAMING.

            Zvan is an odious bully, and I make NO apologies for saying so.

          • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

            She’s had no less than two posts up about it. One when it happened, and one about a year later.

          • see.the.galaxy

            Do you have the citation or link?

          • Pitchguest

            For a long time, there was a running joke on Pharyngula were the commenters there would make “jokes” about forcibly shoving a rotten porcupine up people’s rectum. That’s a rape threat, but in their eyes it was “just a joke.” They discontinued it when they realised themselves how hypocritical it made them look, however that doesn’t stop them from making the occasional “die in a fire” or “fuck you sideways with a rusty knife” quip.

            Most threats I’ve seen online can easily be dismissed as mere trolling, just by the parsing of their words and how they clearly go out of their way to be controversial. That would include 99.99999% of Rebecca Watson’s “threats” she’s documented on her “Page ‘o Hate” – and she knows it. We know it, she knows it; it’s only a facade to keep the victim narrative going.

            Going back to Pharyngula, when a user, Tethys, told another user, abear, “I WILL cut you, abear, you stupid fucking troll” while brandishing the metaphorical jagged necks of two broken bottles,

            And this is THUNDERDOME!!

            *Breaks two liquor bottles and brandishes the jagged necks.*

            I WILL cut you abear, you stupid fucking troll.

            …that clearly carries with it a threatening demeanor, and could be seen as someone making a violent threat, was almost immediately dismissed as a joke by other Pharyngulites and Chris Clarke himself,

            It was clearly a joke. It was the kind of joke I’d have chided a person for in a moderated thread, because there’s always a chance a person would either be a) triggered by references to violence or b) too dimwitted (or acting in insufficient good faith) to comprehend that it’s a joke. And then those people a) get hurt or b) create work for the moderator.

            But unless you have the kind of Internet connection where people can stick their arms through your monitor and brandish things, which either do not really exist or someone owes me a backlog of tentacle hugs, then I’d suggest you take it as possibly ill-advised hyperbole.

            Notice the subtle condescension. If you don’t comprehend that it was “clearly a joke”, you’re either too triggered, too stupid or “acting in insufficient good faith.” Whether it counts as trolling or not, you’d have to ask Chris about that.

        • EllenBeth Wachs

          ” So it’s disappointing to see people who would have no problems
          accepting stories about abuse coming from a figure like Markuze,
          suddenly becoming unskeptical denialists – and in some cases, rape
          apologists – when it comes to a figure such as a Famous Skeptic. (Or
          two. Or three. Or …)”
          http://creatinganxiety.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/so-i-have-arrived/

          • jjramsey

            What’s amazing is how dumb that comparison is. We see the abuse coming from Markuze. Those comments with all that half-coherent ranting about Nostradamus, apostasy, the Randi million-dollar prize, and so on, are right on our monitors. Of course, the comments get deleted sooner or later, but several of us have witnessed them first-hand. Plus we have a wide range of bloggers, many of whom share little but a lack of belief in God, all seeing the same thing. Many of these bloggers aren’t even anonymous.

            How does that compare with a case where, to quote the Buffalo Beast cheekily quoting Shermer, “An anonymous woman told another anonymous woman to tell PZ Myers
            that I raped her at some unspecified time in the past at some unspecified conference which was alleged reported to unspecified persons who allegedly covered up whatever it is I allegedly did.” It’s like these defenders of PZ are grasping at straws to justify his recklessness, even if they have to resort to bizarro logic to do it.

  • Maude

    I agree with Jerome. I am open to see evidence of these claims, it could change my mind. I agree that PZ was out of line towards Justin, and that was completely wrong. I don’t get why some people are still not convinced that Laden is a complete toad (we have substantial evidence for that…) But, as far as I know, the Shermer thing was the extension of what atheist women in the know have been relaying to each other for a long time. The solution was not blog publication, it was for the organizations to deal with, but they don’t. PZ is not stupid enough to believe that publishing this account would do him any good. The woman asked him to publish it to warn other women since she had no recourse. I have no idea whether her story is true or not. It’s not an either/or. There’s a problem. The problem is not sex. This story has brought up *a lot* of misogyny, and very few actual questions.

    I don’t think we should have an ‘either your with us or against us’ attitude about this. However, I cannot hold hands with people who believe that I am inferior strictly due to my gender. I’m sorry to say, but there are a lot of movement atheists who believe that. They are in no way the majority, but they are very active online (good with sockpuppets, too).

    I would also be interested in seeing the repeated ‘chill girl’ accusations, because I only read this from people complaining about FtB writers. I think I remember Svan writing that once. But I’m not sure. It just seem odd to me (but it may be true… ‘gender traitor’ is the accusation I find harder to believe).

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      No sooner did I mildly disagree with a premise on FTB than that “chill girl” accusation was hurled in my direction and much much worse.
      http://mycatsaremygods.com/2013/03/31/yes-im-going-there-dongles-disagreement-and-disproportianate-derision/

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        I read Pharyngula for several years until I saw how you were treated there. They made things up about you and acted with deranged anger. Having seen the in-crowd there in action before, it was obvious why: many of them come for a daily dose of outrage, and if they aren’t given a target, they make one up.

        I’d forgotten the connection between your name and your being treated illegally, so all I had to go on were your posts and the responses. I read the full page through a couple of times, going back a lot to keep the comments straight. Then I looked at PZ’s followup post, where, even while talking about his in-crowd making up things about your comments (that couldn’t even be considered logical consequences of them), he somehow managed to not mention that they were making things up about your comments. And I was done with him and them.

      • Richard Sanderson

        Indeed. Some of PZ’s closest and most hardcore posters are complete scumbags. They have had some of their abhorrent behaviour reigned in only after the Slyme Pit pointed out how vile it was.

        Pharyngula is not a safe space for women, hence the reason PZ is on the highest level of my WomenAbusers Anti-FTB List.

      • Jerome Haltom

        Right. Despite my best efforts, other than a brief attempt at inventing some random ass make believe story that the contents of the link are invented, I’ve got to admit, that’s some pretty righteous idiocy.

      • Bart Meltzer

        To be frank EllenBeth, I’m glad they gave you the boot. When I first saw you in there I was disappointed because I have a lot of respect for a lot of the things you’ve accomplished. You’re a statistical outlier in the Atheist community because of the sacrifices you’ve made. That is, very few Atheists have, or will go to the lengths you have for Atheist civil rights. So I was a little bummed when I saw you in there.

        Your accomplishments rise well above anything any of the blog heads at FTB have ever done, including PZ. You have merits. They have bullshit. Someone with real accomplishment can’t survive in a sea of bullshit. It was just a matter of time before they kicked you out. And that’s a good thing in my view.

        They really treated you like shit and even though I wasn’t surprised, it still burned my ass. They have no idea what real activism is and no respect for anyone who has made significant accomplishments.

        In my view what FTB is doing is so egregious that I have to really consider if some of the people there are really are theists bent on derailing our movement. Like I’ve speculated on previously.

        All I know of that is there are theists that are bent on destroying our movement. Some of us who have run or helped run the larger national organizations have been waiting for that to happen. We’re just waiting on the details, how, when, where, who. It’s probably already happened and we just don’t know about it.

        Anyway, I’m glad they kicked you out, but I don’t think you could have stayed anyway. The bullshit was too deep.

  • Bart Meltzer

    “I’ve only been in the movement a short time and I really don’t care about the infighting.”

    I’ve been in the movement for a awhile. Fourteen years. This is one of the bigger rifts I’ve seen in that time but there have been bigger ones. When Madalyn Murray O’Hair closed all the chapters of American Atheists that was pretty bad.

    That created several new organizations, some of them significant. Atheists United was one organization born of that rift.

    This rift seems to be much more about over inflated ego trips than anything meaningful or it could be something more which I’ll discuss below. FTB has created a cult like atmosphere that accepts no dissent, disagreement, or differing views. Anyone who dissents in any way is fed into the so called “meat grinder” as PZ puts it. That’s where all his followers dog pile on those who dissent before they are permanently banned.

    They make no bones about being venomous to those who disagree with them and they have stated several times that if an Atheist does not agree with them than that Atheist is low life scum of the earth douche bags, misogynistic dick bags, and what ever other childish rant they can come up with.

    Sounds like a religion to me, or if you want to define it by the number of people, certainly a cult.

    Okay, well they may be very successful in isolating themselves from the rest of the community and may eventually fade away. Before that happens though, they will probably cause a lot more shit. They’ve been pretty good at it so far.

    There are legitimate cases of rape and harassment, but not to the degree FTB makes it out to be. What’s sad is that anyone who has a legitimate issue that tries to handle it through FTB will have it exploited for the purposes of narcissism and/or division and nothing will get resolved.

    If theists wanted to infiltrate the Atheist movement in order to derail it, this is likely what they would do. Attack prominent figures with accusations designed to divide the community. Divide and conquer. An old tactic. Who’s next? We could probably take bets.

    That little conspiracy would be speculation on my part, but as director of state and regional operations for American Atheists for six years I received numerous applications for state director positions. I appointed less than 1% and that was after a long screening process.

    Even still, I had a director quit two months in and come out as a Christian after that. Another director that was in place when I got the job starting acting very erratic and I wound up firing him. He wound up joining some white supremacist organization, got kicked out of that, ran for a significant public office position in a southern state and got 40% of the vote, and then came out as a born again Christian at some point later after that. He was one of the more active directors of American Atheists at the time.

    Those of us who run, or have run, the larger organizations know that there are people who are out to hurt us as much as they could. Some of them will stop at nothing. Think of all the whacked out acts committed in the name of religion and then think how whacked out it would be for one or more of them to act as an Atheist to get into our movement and then derail it from the inside. That’s really not that whacked out. It’s not an impossible task nor would it even be that hard. What would it take to do that? Dedication? Motivation? Incentive? A little studying to figure out what an Atheist really is and they don’t even have to get that part right. They don’t need much else. And they’re not stupid either. Not like some Atheists like to think. Never underestimate your enemy.

    No one would really know. Until the shit hit the fan of course. And even then, would anyone ever be able to figure it out?

    Well the shit has hit the fan. At least in some respects it has. Accusing prominent activists of rape, misogyny, harassment, and other gender bias issues is a great way to divide us and distract us from what we are trying to accomplish. Has ti worked?

    Is that what’s going on over at FTB? I don’t know. But that is THEE problem. I DON’T know. It may actually just be blog head ego trips out of control or it may be something more.

    So I’ll play devils’ advocate to my little conspiracy theory, although I’m pretty sure there are theists working in the Atheist community somewhere, it would be very difficult to detect them. Should we really care though? I mean really. Does it matter if theists have infiltrated or created FTB and are causing this rift? Or should we just focus on the the results? I don’t know that it matters if theists have infiltrated us and are trying to hurt us. We Atheists do enough to hurt ourselves with all of our infighting. Theists got nothing on us like we got on ourselves. But still, I’m sure they’re out there somewhere…

    I think what matters the most is that the rift IS occurring and it needs to be dealt with by focusing on the actions themselves. Which is the effort to divide Atheists with a new secular dogma: “their way or the highway.” “With us or against us.” However you want to put it. They are trying to become the new face of Atheism and they aren’t doing it with their own merits but by stepping on prominent Atheists who do have significant merits in our community.

    I think one of the ways to counter them is to talk about their actions, attitudes, and dogma as much as possible and in as many venues as possible. Let our fellow Atheist see the critical and rational discussion of their actions and attitudes.

    If they call us “misogynistic dick bags” then we should just ignore it, but note it. Don’t respond, but keep a record of what was said. Let that irrational statement stand on it’s own and speak for itself. Statements like that are meaningless to the person they are directed to. Those statements are always about the person making them and they usually always means the person has no rational argument.

    There’s already plenty of statements made by several of the FTB blog heads captured on Freeze Page to draw up a pretty good picture of what’s going on over there. It would behoove us to continue to accumulate more of what is said and keep it as record.

    Everything they’ve done to set themselves apart by stepping on everyone else will come back to haunt them. It’s just a matter of time.

    • iamcuriousblue

      O’Hair won some important victories in court for freedom from religion, but her leadership left a lot to be desired, and conducted more than her share of infighting. (Not to mention, she didn’t exactly conduct her personal affairs in an above-board way, ultimately coming to a Jimmy Hoffa-like end.) In that regard, O’Hair represents a legacy the atheist movement should be moving away from.

      • Bart Meltzer

        No, she didn’t conduct herself that way however that was what the rumor was. There were a group of Atheists who spoke of Madalyn in that manner. She didn’t always make friends and there were a lot of stories fabricated about her. When she pissed off David Waters with her published article about what a scum he was, David acted on those rumors he heard and concocted his plan to abduct her, John, and Robyn.

        The rumors were that Madalyn had millions but none of that was true. They had about $600K in New Zealand and that was it. David listened to the rumors though and wound up killing the three of them. He got the $600K but only momentarily. Some kids stole it from him.

        Madalyn did not do a back ground check on waters before she hired him as the print setter for the AA press. A fatal mistake.

        Beyond that, I think Madalyn had more guts and balls than most any other Atheists since her time. She made deep personal sacrifices for the cause of Atheism beyond anything I’ve ever seen anyone else do since. The shit that that woman went through would make most tough men cry and quit but she never did. She kept going through all the crap she ever got. I don’t blame her for being hardened and calloused to some people.

        Her list of accomplishments are longer than most other well known activist Atheists combined.

        Of course she wasn’t perfect but she was one of the most gutsy persons I’ve ever known of in the Atheist movement.

        • iamcuriousblue

          My apologies. I was just going on what I’d “heard” about O’Hair, but considering that’s just hearsay from an earlier round of infighting, and considering how unreliable hearsay from current atheist infighting is, I shouldn’t have treated it as fact.

          • Bart Meltzer

            :) No apologies needed. Those rumors are still around about MMOH. There are still a considerable number of Atheists and other non-theists who don’t like her and think she hurt the cause of Atheism. I’ve never been able to reason with any of her critics I’ve run into. Many of them hate her adamantly.

            I’ve known very few of her critics that ever did anything for the cause of Atheism. And none of them ever sacrificed for the cause like she did. Not even close. Madalyn paid for her efforts in blood. Literally. There are very few Atheists who will do that.

          • Paul Loebe

            Deep, bro. Deep.

      • see.the.galaxy

        O’Hair can hardly be blamed for her own murder. I mean really. The comments sections of all these blogs are so full of insinuation, bilge, name calling, disinformation, demonization, that one really wonders if there’s a cointelpro-bot at work.

    • Kate Vasey

      That’s fkn depressing, my friend. I am new to atheist activism (though old in disbelief), and i had honestly hoped to find that we were, on the whole, more reasonable than theists. From reading the blog post and scouting around, I see more evidence of the dismal tradition of men telling women how they should feel and act. My instinct, when anyone says “For me or against me” is to be decidedly against.

      • Bart Meltzer

        Being new to the movement you may wish to take some reassurance that you’ve come to this realization early on and not later. It took me a awhile to figure it out when I first became active.

        Atheists are not devoid of delusion, ignorance, superstition, bigotry, prejudice, animosity, misogyny, misandry, or any other negative human element that anyone else is subject to. We’re all human.

        When I was new I kind of thought Atheists were above all of that to at least a small degree. I found out that a lot of Atheists are not above any of that. In fact, some of them are worse. Much worse in some cases.

        One of the reasons we are Atheists in large part is because of our need to question that which is handed to us or that which is established. Atheists can question everything and anything and it’s not limited to religion. In my opinion we question and scrutinize each other more than anything else. Why? Why is that?

        Again, in my opinion it’s because we hold ourselves to a certain standard and think those who are like us should meet that same standard. If they don’t meet that same standard, we think there’s something wrong with them.

        Well, that’s the delusion some of us have. The standard that I’m talking about is much more than can just just be measured by high and low. High and low is two dimensional with some zero reference. Our standards go in every conceivable direction and there is no zero reference point.

        I’ve seen several devout Atheists quit the movement because an organization to which they belong would not address their particular pet peeve issue. Somehow, they’ve managed to tie in the Atheist civil rights cause with their own personal pet peeve. I doesn’t matter what it is, and it always varies widely.

        Beyond being an Atheist, Atheists are all over the spectrum when it comes to social, political, or any other issues. And even on the definition of being an Atheist, we don’t agree.

        Madalyn Murray O’Hair founded American Atheists in 1963. That organization became huge. I am proud to have been a part of it for the time I was there.

        One of the quotes Madalyn was famous for is “Organizing Atheists is like herding cats.”Atheists want to go in their own direction and it’s hard to align them. Few people knew that better than Madalyn. If you want to see what real sacrifice is, research Madalyn Murray O’Hair and read about her.

        You’ll find a documentary called “Godless in America.” It’s highly biased against Madalyn. The person who made that documentary intended to portray her in a very negative way. Look for additional sources.

        All of that being said, I would have to say that the Atheist community is overall a very good place to be. It’s just not perfect. If you come in to it with a realistic awareness that there are going to be faults and imperfections, then I think you will find that it’s a very good experience overall. And that makes our community very much like most other diverse communities.

        Realize that we are one of the most diverse groups of people out there. The last Atheist convention I attended I had a great conversation with a known scientist/author/professor who introduced me to a former rock star from a very popular 80′s band. The three of us talked for about an hour over a few drinks and I had a great time. On a side note the rock star did not try to seduce me, or the scientist either for that matter. That might have been flattering but oh well.

        In any given community there will be political issues created out of ego, biases, prejudices, or any number of human elements. They may or may not be significant. This latest bullshit with FTB is only the latest in a long line of bullshit. It will probably fade away and be replaced by something else with new characters.

        I think with a realistic and aware attitude you’ll find that the Atheist community is a pretty cool place. Avoid getting sucked in to the bullshit unless that’s what you want.

        As far as your statement “I see more evidence of the dismal tradition of men telling women how they should feel and act.”

        Sure there’s that, but it’s not limited to men telling women what to do by any means. There will be many people trying to tell others how to act and think and believe. That isn’t a gender issue, it’s an ego issue. And in the end, no one can change anyone unless that person lets them. One either agrees with them or they don’t. If they agree then they can decide to make any changes. If not, then they probably forget about it. You are your own person. No one owns you unless you let them.

        Welcome to the community. I hope you find enjoyment within.

        • see.the.galaxy

          People are going to be human and there’s going to be a little drama every now and then. People are going to disagree on a number of things. It makes no difference at all if some atheists are libertarians, and others are leftists; some are feminists and some not, etc. I do think we need to find a way to treat each other with a little more respect, and that is as true for those of you who demonize FreethoughtBlogs and PZ Myers as it is for them.

          • Paul Loebe

            The problem lies in the internal war machine that PZ and Co. have fed. It’s left many many individuals in the community with no choice but to react or have their reputations forever tarnished.

          • Bart Meltzer

            There’s no comparing the civil discourse and disagreements we have here and what goes on over at the FTB cult. They have the “meat grinder” and “dungeon” as PZ has designed it. After all of that they ban you. Anyone who expresses mild disagreement finds out what those things are pretty quick. PZ is the leader of a cult he created. A secular cult with a secular dogma to go with it.

            I think it’s sad.

          • Paul Loebe

            I completely agree. I like how civil this entire discussion has been. I am very much against moderating comments and have only ever banned one person. If it’s not spam I encourage everyone to discuss and disagree on my blog. I don’t like to censor people and encourage dissent. It helps us understand each other better.

          • see.the.galaxy

            I don’t think the word ‘cult’ is accurate. Also, the discourse here (by ‘here’, I mean the Patheos atheist forums) is not very civil.

    • Stev84

      A big problem is the echo chamber effect on FTB, but also the wider atheist community. Because it’s still only a relatively small number of blogs and the big bloggers read all the other big bloggers. So when one these controversies erupts and someone makes a blog post, the other bloggers immediately respond to that and then respond to that response, etc. That just ratchets up the reactions into a frenzy.

  • Edward Gemmer

    Well, the bottom line is that if you can’t give someone dignity and respect because they are a human being, then you are not a very good person. Too many seem to take pride in treating other people like garbage, then defending it because they think they are doing some good. It’s a lame excuse and always has been for the thousands of years it has been in existence.

  • RowanVT

    I have an unsubstantiated claim. I was stalked when I was 17. Somewhere there may be a record that I called the police when the guy tried to break in. There may also be a record that I called them 3 hours after the attempted break in.

    The cop ” wished to question the veracity of the unsubstantiated claims” I was making. After all, I didn’t have photos. I was home alone. I had been asleep when he began attempting to break in. I didn’t call the cops right away.

    So he said he wasn’t going to do anything because how was he to know whether or not I had simply had an argument with my boyfriend. He effectively called me a liar to my face.

    The end result is that guy went free, and has probably raped other women. The end result is that it takes me months to feel safe around a man, and can be years before I’m willing to be alone with him for an extended time. The end result is panic attacks when I’m alone with a man I don’t know.

    But, you know, unsubstantiated. I have no proof.

    So the question is, do you treat me like someone who HAS been stalked? Or do you decide that I’m a liar, like that cop?

    • jjramsey

      So the question is, do you treat me like someone who HAS been stalked? Or do you decide that I’m a liar, like that cop?

      Who says that one has to take either option?

      • RowanVT

        So you take option 3, waffling about it.

        Here’s the problem with that. A lot of people use option 3 to mask option 2. The cop “waffled” about it. I waited so long, so he couldn’t know for sure if someone actually tried to break in or if it was just an argument.

        It’s also an excuse for inaction without the honesty of disbelief.

        • jjramsey

          So you take option 3, waffling about it. … The cop ‘waffled’ about it.

          I am not a cop. The cop that you described had options that options that I don’t. He could have interviewed your parents, presuming that you lived with them at the time because you were still a minor. He could have taken the name and contact information of your stalker, presuming that you had that to offer. You didn’t say if he was an ex-boyfriend or acquaintance or near-total stranger, so I don’t know what information you could have volunteered. Perhaps he could have taken some sort of statement that would at least put your testimony on file, even if there wasn’t anything else he could do at the time. As for me, I can do none of these things. For me, there’s no “excuse for inaction” because there’s no action that I can take.

          As for the “honesty of disbelief”? Seriously, that looks like another false dilemma. The honest thing to do when presented with a situation that has ambiguities, opportunities for honest error, etc., is to acknowledge them and proceed accordingly.

          • Paul Loebe

            That’s the point I’m making. None of use are in that position of being an investigator. Hand it to a professional and let them do what they have been trained to do. That cop in this instance was the problem. Not me nor jjramsey. We weren’t there. We can’t make that call and we are not the professional investigator.

          • OhioAtheist

            Exactly. In this case, PZ has appointed himself the judge and jury. It’s not his position to do so. There are professionals trained in how to handle these things, and making possibly defamatory accusations on a blog is not the way to do it. Not even close.

          • Richard Sanderson

            I’m quite happy to see his idiotic posters continuing to defame on his site. They are helping his upcoming downfall.

          • see.the.galaxy

            I think this is exactly right.

          • see.the.galaxy

            Though for clarity I should say that I don’t consider PZ Myers’ writings to be “ravings”; the voltage is too high on that rhetoric. PZ Myers does some very good, very valuable work, just as many others do. There is nothing to demonize except demonization itself.

          • just somebody

            This RowanVT subthread is about her disclosing to a friend about a stalker who attempted to break-in to her home. (although your post is about PZ Myers recent blog).

            The question on this subthread is ‘How would you react if a friend told you a story like this?’

          • Christopher Becker

            Of course there’s an action you could take. You could assume that the man is guilty by default. That’s completely reasonable. [/PZ]

          • RowanVT

            Except that this is not an exercise in a vacuum. Rape and sexual assault and stalking are all too common. This is not an occurrence that I put out there for shiggles.

            The guy who stalked me was the guy who registered me to vote. I got two creepy, completely inappropriate phone calls from him, and then a bunch of calls between midnight and 3 am over the span of a couple weeks. I was living with my mother, who was out getting groceries when the break-in happened. I had to go to school under a SSN number of the sort they use for people that are not from this country because he had ALL my information.

            So, usually when I tell this story to someone, they’re someone I’m becoming friends with… or when I’m trying to illustrate a point. But let’s take this from the friend angle for a moment.

            If i told you this story and you expressed that you weren’t certain you believed me or not… I would never be able to trust you fully. I would never come to you for help if something happened. I would not confide in you.

            Assume for a moment that I really truly am telling the truth. Think about how the indecision option appears to those of us who WERE raped/assaulted/stalked. Imagine that YOU were raped, and everyone you told it to said “I dunno, there’s not enough evidence either way.” If you think it doesn’t hurt, especially on top of the “Were you drinking? What were you wearing? Were you leading him on? Are you sure you don’t just regret having sex?” then you are completely lacking in empathy.

            False allegations are at about a maximum of 10% (2 to 8% based on the studies I’ve found) so 9 out of every 10 women who tell you such a story are statistically telling you the truth. But you tell them you can’t believe them, because you can’t know. Word like that gets around as well. “Don’t tell so-and-so about this. S/he won’t believe you anyway.” Because that is what your indecision looks like, and acts like. It is *effectively* disbelief.

            So I know that if I was ever at a con you were attending, and something happened to me… I wouldn’t come to you. Because you wouldn’t be willing to help.

          • jjramsey

            If i told you this story and you expressed that you weren’t certain you believed me or not… I would never be able to trust you fully.

            You shouldn’t trust me fully, anyway! I’m some guy on the Internet. To the best of my knowledge, neither of us has seen each other face to face. We’re strangers, and you should expect a level of mutual trust befitting of that.

            False allegations are at about a maximum of 10% (2 to 8% based on the studies I’ve found …

            … for cases where the allegations are made to a party in a position of verifying the accusations, e.g. the police.

            So I know that if I was ever at a con you were attending, and something happened to me… I wouldn’t come to you.

            Good. Hotel security or the cops would be far more useful.

            That said, given that I expect others to be a hardass about evidence, especially with regard to a serious allegation, if for some strange reason, you were to come to me, then (aside from me telling you to go to hotel or con security, ASAP) I’d try to make sure that I’d be available to security and the cops should they need to contact me. I don’t need to make a judgment on whether you were truthful or not; that’s the job of investigators. The investigators may need my testimony about names and places and times, but they do not need my likely ill-informed opinion about your state of mind. What they need to do is document, document, document. The better they can do that, the more ammunition they have to go after any guilty parties.

          • RowanVT

            You apparently missed the part where I mentioned that I usually tell this to people I’m becoming friends with.

            “But let’s take this from the friend angle for a moment.”

            That was the sentence directly before the paragraph about trust. It is the lead-in to it.

          • jjramsey

            Fair point, but I think my point is demonstrated, too. Since I’m not your friend, you shouldn’t expect me to believe what you say as wholeheartedly as someone who’s known you for a while. I can certainly say that, offhand, it doesn’t seem too likely that you’re lying, but that’s about it. That goes both ways, too.

          • RowanVT

            I am actually *not* expecting *you* to believe me. What I’m trying to do is see how you would react if a friend did tell you this. Would you waffle about it? Would you not believe your friend. And if you don’t, would you be hurt or surprised if suddenly… they weren’t quite as close a friend anymore.

    • C Tran

      The problem with us atheists is our sense of skepticism has become hyperactive. We ask for evidence of things that we already know is a matter of one person’s words against another’s. There is no scientific proof to be had to prove that one particular incident occurred, but there is scientific proof that such incidents can and do occur.

      Thus the skepticism is disproportional to the claim. And women are disproportionately affected by this skepticism because men are more commonly in the power position, whether by status or by strength.

      Now, I’m no fan of PZ Meyers. But I do understand why he fights back so viciously against people who ask for proof of sexual assaults and harassment: it’s because (1) there often isn’t any– because it’s one word against another, and (2) he personally knows many of the women making claims.

      Is PZ Myers’ attitude troubling? Yes. But so is hyperskepticism about sexual harassment/assault. This is not to say that we must reverse the scales of justice (guilty until proven innocent), but it is to say that we must do a better job relating to claimants and reframe how we talk about skepticism as these matters are concerned.

      RowanVT, I understand and I have your back.

      • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

        however, it’s funny how “hyperskepticism” works. it seems to only be applicable to people they don’t like.

      • Kareem Jordan

        Asking for evidence before acting on a claim, one that will have consequences for either party, isn’t hyper-skepticism; it’s skepticism.
        While rape victims are affected by the skepticism they face, an innocent person, especially a person disenfranchised class or sexuality or race, is also affected the lack of skepticism they face. While skepticism won’t always give us justice, it does help to make the best decision with the limited information we have.
        This does not mean we call the person making the claim a liar; it means that we simply don’t have enough evidence to take a specific action. That’s why criminal cases that don’t meet their burden of proof are ruled “not guilty” as opposed to “innocent.”

      • Christopher Becker

        > But so is hyperskepticism about sexual harassment/assault.

        Asking for evidence is not hyperskepticism.

        • RowanVT

          What evidence could I possibly provide to you? I don’t know if they even still have the record of the fact that a cop was called to my house those 13 years ago.

          • Christopher Becker

            “What evidence could I possibly provide to you?”

            Not my problem. The standards of evidence don’t disappear in your scenario just because it’s really really hard to meet them.

          • RowanVT

            Do you also repeat every scientific experiment performed before accepting their conclusions? Because if you didn’t see it they could be making it up. Even if the video taped it, they could fake that.

            Do you actually believe that Obama was elected? We can’t prove that people actually voted for him. Some people might say they did, but they could be lying. The records could be falsified.

            If your mother/sister/daughter told you she was raped, would you also go “meh, can’t do anything without proof”?

          • Christopher Becker

            “Do you also repeat every scientific experiment performed before accepting their conclusions? Because if you didn’t see it they could be making it up. Even if the video taped it, they could fake that.”

            Which is why I don’t blindly believe every bit of found footage on Youtube. As for science, I get my information from peer reviewed journals. Papers are not published in said journals until they meet the rigorous standards set for them. And even then, I can critically evaluate said papers, to see if there are problems that slipped through.

            “Do you actually believe that Obama was elected?”

            Yes, because there is ample evidence to suggest he was.

            “We can’t prove that people actually voted for him. Some people might say they did, but they could be lying. The records could be falsified.”

            And you are free to provide evidence for those claims, if you wish.

            “If your mother/sister/daughter told you she was raped, would you also go “meh, can’t do anything without proof”?”

            I would support them, but as a non-law-enforcement-officer, I would not be able to legally or responsibly do anything about the accused. I would have no legal authority to take action against him, and I’m not in the business of vigilante justice – especially when there are instances of vigilantes targeting suspected rapists who, oops, turned out to be innocent.

          • just somebody

             

             

             

            But would you believe her?

             

             

             

          • Christopher Becker

            Would I believe that she was raped? Yes.

            Would I make any actions against the person she accused? No, because I have absolutely no basis for doing so. And I would have no basis for getting mad when total strangers, unrelated to the incident, express skepticism if I were to name the accused publicly.

            THAT is the issue with what PZ is doing.

          • just somebody

            Thank you.

            And I agree that that Myers’ blogpost was inappropriate.

            And I agree with you about being against vigilante justice and for the legal presumption of innocence.

            Apart from that blogpost, the challenge is finding the right way(s) to behave when the one who says s/he was harassed or assaulted is someone you know — so you believe hir, and the one s/he says did it is also someone you know — so you presume hir innocence.

      • Richard Sanderson

        Your point about hyperskepticism would be more valuable if it wasn’t for the fact that FTBullies are often very eager to ask for evidence when there is a claim they don’t like.

        • C Tran

          Okay, so you see the value of my point when removed from the context of FTB, is that correct? If that’s true then you should be able to lend your moral support to a victim, claims unsubstantiated or not. Let’s not let antagonism prevent us from learning from the conflict.

          • Richard Sanderson

            Victims ALWAYS have my support. However, that does not excuse PZ and his berserkers. PZ will throw victims under the bus as soon as it suits him.

            You watch.

          • C Tran

            Okay, I’m sorry if I insinuated you don’t. I don’t know you, it wasn’t on purpose.

            Maybe I overreached in my original reply but I am not writing to defend PZ Myers. The man isn’t a terribly big fan of -me- either, if he remembers me. I only want to express my support for a victim and point out the valuable lessons we may miss in this shit storm.

          • Paul Loebe

            That was the whole point of my last blog.

          • corpsepants

            And we don’t know who the victim IS, let alone IF she is. It’s asking too much.

      • see.the.galaxy

        I would apply Jesus’ Golden Rule in this case. I think if anyone were accused of what amounts to a crime, we would want to be considered innocent until proven guilty. I understand that we are not talking about a court proceeding, but the American justice system embodies ethical concepts that are more broadly applicable. I think if PZ Myers were himself so accused, he would want the same consideration. This isn’t to dismiss the allegation or concerns women have, but an insistence that all have rights and all deserve ethical consideration.

        • RowanVT

          Here’s an amazing thing. If someone accused me of sexual assault… I would apologise. I would not admit guilt; that’s not required to apologise. But something along the lines of “I am so sorry that some aspect of my behaviour unintentionally caused you to feel that way. While it cannot make up for the harm you feel you have endured, I will endeavor to not repeat that behaviour so as to not do so to anyone else again.” And the reason for that is that if someone told me they felt assaulted by something I did, I would feel *horrible*.

          • Facepalm

            Funny thing about apologizing, though – legally, if you apologize, you’ve just admitted guilt, and it can be used against you in court.

    • Christopher Becker

      “The end result is that guy went free, and has probably raped other women.”

      Stalking = rape, apparently. TIL.

      “So the question is, do you treat me like someone who HAS been stalked? Or do you decide that I’m a liar, like that cop?”

      Neither. I decide that I don’t have enough to go on, so I reserve judgment. If there are avenues of investigation open to me, I take them (like the police officer should have) – if not, there’s really nothing I can do.

      • RowanVT

        So you really believe that a guy who would stalk and attempt to break into the home of a 17 year old… would never do it again? Did you also miss the lovely qualifier of “probably” which doesn’t mean “absolutely”?

        And nothing you can do? You can’t say “Wow, that really sucks and I hope it never happens to you again”?

        Oh, that’s right… because then you’d have to believe me, at least a little.

        • Christopher Becker

          “So you really believe that a guy who would stalk and attempt to break into the home of a 17 year old… would never do it again?”

          No, never said anything like that. I was pointing out that the “he stalked me, therefor it’s probable that he’s raped someone else” is a gigantic leap.

          “Did you also miss the lovely qualifier of “probably” which doesn’t mean “absolutely”?”

          No, it just means “probably”, which you still can’t justify. Unless you’ve got some stats you’d like to share with the rest of the class.

          “And nothing you can do? You can’t say “Wow, that really sucks and I hope it never happens to you again”?”

          Nothing I can do re: the suspect. I can certainly support you, but if you were to say “Publicly shame and/or shun Mr. Person because he’s the one who did this to me”, I would have no basis for doing so. Your say-so is enough for me to believe that something happened, but it is not enough for me to be certain that the person you accuse is guilty.

          • RowanVT

            Why do you think he was trying to break into my house? To give me cookies? To chat about The Lord of the Rings and how awesome the book is? To plant daisies with me in the backyard?

            You are honestly saying that you think he wasn’t trying to get in to rape me?

          • Christopher Becker

            No, what I said was:

            “He stalked me, therefor it’s probable that he’s raped someone else” is a gigantic leap.

            Try reading what I’m actually writing.

          • just somebody

            Try reading what RowanVT actually wrote before replying.

            “I was stalked when I was 17. … I called the police when the guy tried to break in.”

            What was inappropriate in what you wrote was your discarding of the *attempted break-in* after a pattern of stalking. In this case, the stalker was likely aware that the mother had left before attempting to break in, which means it was likely with intention of rape.

            When one target is removed from access, stalkers often acquire other targets, and their process of stalking escalates faster.

            What she wrote was not a gigantic leap.

          • Christopher Becker

            This is what she wrote:

            “The end result is that guy went free, and has probably raped other women.”

            That is a gigantic leap. Unless you’re cool with me saying “Bob pointed a gun at me and went free, and has probably murdered other people.”

          • just somebody

            The situation is more like, “Bob had been acting and speaking very threatening toward me for a while, even though I told him to leave me alone, so I had been trying to avoid him. He came to my home and pointed a gun at me and pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed so he ran away when I pulled out my phone to call the cops.”

            There is a much smaller leap from this to, “He has probably gone on to shoot other people.”

          • Christopher Becker

            Much smaller? Sure. Still unjustifiably large.

          • just somebody

            Thank you for the acknowledgment. These are tough things to discuss, and important, and IMHO the conversation is more fruitful if we are each careful in our comments.

            I agree that it’s a leap. But I think it’s a more modest leap than you do.

            What would you do if Bob had tried to shoot you, in my scenario above, and you report it to the police and they don’t believe your story and refuse to take a report.

            Would you be concerned that Bob might go on to shoot someone else? Would you warn someone if you found out s/he was dating Bob?

          • Christopher Becker

            “What would you do if Bob had tried to shoot you, in my scenario above, and you report it to the police and they don’t believe your story and refuse to take a report.”

            I’d ask for the officer’s badge number, then head down to the precinct and file a complaint for not being taken seriously. The difference being that the police have the authority, the protocol, and the responsibility, for following up on these kinds of accusations – regular citizens don’t.

            “Would you be concerned that Bob might go on to shoot someone else?”

            That would depend mostly on why I thought Bob was going to shoot me.

          • just somebody

            Welcome to the real world, especially for women, in trying to report a crime without evidence. So you go to the precinct and file a complaint. Then the desk sergeant has to call the officer (or assign another officer) and direct the officer to take a complaint.

            You say Bob had been acting threateningly, as in my scenario. But there are no witnesses. You say you told Bob to stay away, but he kept showing up where you were, but only when you were alone. You say he pointed a gun at you, but you were the only one there. So they take the report.

            And they interview Bob, who is pleasant, calm, and very surprised when told of your report. To the officer’s various questions, he says, convincingly: “I’ve only ever been cordial toward her/him when we happen to meet.” “S/he’s never said anything negative to me about me or my behavior.” “I don’t even own a gun. I wouldn’t want to.” “I wasn’t even in town on the day s/he claims this gun incident took place, but no, I don’t have any witnesses to my being there. No, I don’t keep receipts.” “I can’t imagine where all this hostility on her/his part is coming from, officer.”

            And the officer tells you that there’s nothing they can do, but they’ll keep your report on file. And they’ll suggest you start documenting all future encounters. And that you limit your life by not traveling alone and only being in places with someone else for a while.

            So imagine all that happened and then consider my follow-up question.

            —–

            I wrote: “Would you be concerned that Bob might go on to shoot someone else?”

            You wrote: That would depend mostly on why I thought Bob was going to shoot me.

            In my scenario, there is no reason that you know of. He repeatedly showed up and threatened you, for no reason. And he tried to shoot you for no reason, and you would be dead if the gun hadn’t jammed.

            Would you be concerned that Bob might go on to shoot someone else?

          • Christopher Becker

            That *still* depends on why I thought Bob was going to shoot me. Even if I don’t ‘know’, I likely have suspicions, based on other relevant information. Do I get the sense that he is in love with me? Do I owe him a gambling debt? Is this someone I know from work? A friend of a friend? A total stranger whose first interaction with me was pointing a gun in my face? Was he raving about martians beaming signals into his brains when he pointed the gun at me? Do I get the sense that this is personal, business related, or that he is batshit loco? All of this is relevant in determining whether or not I think he’s likely to hurt someone else.

            All we know from Rowan’s original claim is that she alleges she was stalked, and that the stalker tried to break in. We have no more information than that. Without any more information, we have to make assumption after assumption after assumption in order to contort this into “He has probably raped other people since.”

          • just somebody

            Please read what I wrote? It was intended to be analogous to Rowan VT’s story, so the implication was you didn’t know him before. (In her case, he had taken her voter registration and stole her private information from it.) I’m asking you to answer regarding a particular scenario I proposed:

            “Bob had been acting and speaking very threatening toward me for a while, even though I told him to leave me alone, so I had been trying to avoid him. He came to my home and pointed a gun at me and pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed so he ran away when I pulled out my phone to call the cops.”

            I gave you *all* the in information you had about Bob. You have no idea why he was threatening you.

            You can assume that you are somewhat familiar with forensic research and criminal psychology — or at least became somewhat familiar with it after Bob started threatening you and then tried to kill you. The statistics show that the majority of the people who have outbursts of violently threatening behavior toward a stranger and then actually attempt a violent act against said stranger go on to commit threatening behavior and violent acts against other people.

            I repeat the question: Would you be concerned that Bob might go on to shoot someone else?

          • Christopher Becker

            “It was intended to be analogous to Rowan VT’s story”

            Rowan’s story was that she was stalked, and there was an attempted break-in. All of the additional details you conjured up are not analogous to her story, without making more assumptions about her story. People can be stalked for various reasons – rape is only one of them.

            “Would you be concerned that Bob might go on to shoot someone else?”

            Concerned that he might? Sure. Would I assume that he already had? No.

          • just somebody

            You wrote: “Concerned that he might? Sure. Would I assume that he already had? No.”

            Now your just diddling with semantics here.

            Rowan VT wrote, in some detail, regarding this situation a number of years ago, and finished with: “The end result is that guy went free, and has probably raped other women.”

            First, you said she was making “a gigantic leap.”

            Then, when I asked you to actually read what she wrote, you acknowledged the leap was, “Much smaller? Sure. Still unjustifiably large.”

            Now, with the circumstances paired to a similar analogy, you acknowledged that you would, in fact, be concerned that he might [successfully reoffend], but even, years later, you wouldn’t assume that he had.

            Rowan VT use the word “probably”. That means she didn’t “assume” it. She was expressing a likelihood. Just like you, being ‘concerned that he might.’

            Thank you for acknowledging the reasonableness of the concern that Rowan VT expressed.

          • Christopher Becker

            “Now your just diddling with semantics here.”

            The last refuge of the lost: accuse of parsing semantics.

            “I am worried he might” =/= “It is probable that he already has.” There is no amount of twisting or contorting you can do to make those statements similar.

          • markb

            If we assume that he tried to break into her house in order to rape her (which, apart from murder, is the most likely reason why a man would break into a woman’s house) and if we consider that most rapists are repeat offenders, then it is a reasonable supposition.

          • Christopher Becker

            “If we assume” immediately casts the explanation into suspect light. For all we know, he DID break in to murder her. Or to cut off a lock of her hair and stuff it into his creepy Rowan Doll that he keeps in his closet.

            Rowan may have more information about this scenario that makes it obvious that he’s raped other people, but based solely on what she’s told us so far (she alleges she was stalked, and that he tried to break in once), “he has probably raped other people” is an unjustified leap.

    • corpsepants

      Treating you as though something happened to you is very different from arresting/ruining someone else for something you claim to have happened to you.

      If you are someone in my life and you ask me to tread carefully in an area of sensitivity to you, I probably will. If you are an anonymous person asking me to believe a named person is a rapist, I’m going to need more.

      • RowanVT

        The person is only anonymous to *us*. But granted.

        Now, assume that I remembered the name of my stalker (I don’t. I didn’t want to think it about it much, after all) and I told that name to you and asked you to warn your family, or any other female friends so that on the complete off-chance they encountered him they could be aware.

        Have I ruined his life forever? Have I arrested him? Or, having been failed by the cops, am I trying to protect other women the best way I can?

        • corpsepants

          There is an enormous difference between telling people in your life that this terrible thing happened, and even telling them his name with honest intent to warn them, and you telling someone who tells someone else, who tells me, at which point I climb atop my house with a bullhorn to broadcast that person’s name.

          It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to you. It means I am out of my jurisdiction, and my neighbors should rightly pull me the hell off the roof.

          • RowanVT

            A more accurate analogy is that I tell you… and then you get on the roof, while refusing to say who told you his name.

          • corpsepants

            You’re right; I misremembered a detail and reread the post.

            It still makes my actions inappropriate.

          • corpsepants

            I have a question: How would you feel about me doing this? In this hypothetical, we aren’t close friends or relations; I am, say, in your book club.

          • RowanVT

            I would think you were silly for climbing onto a roof with a bullhorn. But… say you were part of another club and you told them about your acquaintance in your book club who told you about this guy. That is okay. That is fine.

            A blog is not a bullhorn on the street. It’s more of a club. Yes, sometimes this ‘club’ involves thousands of people. But it wasn’t on TV. It wasn’t on the radio. It wasn’t someone standing up before a movie starts and yelling.

            No pretend that this other club you’ve just told turns out to have people who are friends with the guy who stalked me, or at least who admire him. You have now ignited a shitstorm. Would you tell these irate people my name, *knowing* how people react?

          • corpsepants

            I would never have announced it to begin with, “knowing” how people react. A witch hunt is a witch hunt.

    • Bolan Meek

      Having read through this thread, Rowan, it seems like you are not understanding the skeptical position that the law enforcement process must take. Accusations, even if true, must be substantiated. There is not to be enforcement of punishments or sanctions if there is reasonable doubt.

      You might think that doubt is unreasonable, since this is your experience, but, to fairly evaluate this, you must judge it objectively, not as being in your position, but as being the police officer, investigator, prosecuting attorney, jury and/or judge. Even as a reader of your post, I can not evaluate the behavior of the officer since there are many questions that arise, the answers to which are not already in here.

      As corpsepants replied, my reaction to you is to take your word at face value. I feel for you, and regret this trauma to your psyche. Are you getting counseling to help with the lasting anxiety?

      As for this man trying to break into your home, we must let him go, with out more evidence, even if that results in harm to others. It seems like the most that could be prosecuted is attempted burglary. We can’t tell from your post why this was not pursued.

  • Paul Loebe

    Now I really want to watch Star Wars…

    • Kareem Jordan

      Not the prequels.

      • Paul Loebe

        Unfortunately, I probably still will.

        • Ted Thompson

          If you have kids you will. Repeatedly. And then you’ll have to play Lego Star Wars with that ridiculous podrace… But the kids love it, so that’s what they get.

          • Paul Loebe

            Eff that stupid little Anakin! Lucas is horrible at casting. That kid is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen. At least he got Obi-wan right…

            They call me Loebe-wan. The Force is strong with me.

    • real horrorshow

      BTW Paul, I’m assuming that you’re use of the term ‘Sith’ to describe PZ Myers is an anagram?

  • Matt Facciani

    Excellent post! It’s terrible when those who agree on so much resort to name calling and worse because a slight difference of perspective. It’s counterproductive to what we are all aiming to achieve.

    I do neuroscience and psychology stuff for a career and for fun I actually wrote an article on the psychology behind why people deal in absolutes if anyone is interested :)

    http://facciani.weebly.com/1/post/2013/06/only-a-sith-deals-in-absolutes-a-psychological-perspective.html

  • dagobarbz

    First of all, who the hell is PZ Meyers…

    • Paul Loebe

      lulz

    • OhioAtheist

      NOBODY.

  • digitalatheist

    PZ is one of the reasons I’ve labeled the whole “Atheist+” thing as a “with me or against me” scheme. You either suck his cock or you are not worthy to be in his sphere.

    • Richard Sanderson

      Funnily enough, even PZ has distanced himself from Atheism+. Even he can see that it’s a pile of steaming crud.

      • see.the.galaxy

        As far as I can tell it’s little more than some progressives who want to combine their activism in other causes with atheist activism, because they see the two as linked. It is harmless as long as we can work together when it counts.

        • OhioAtheist

          Well, two things -
          1) It is not harmless. See the “block bot” fiasco and the indirect defamation and warrant-less labeling of quite a few people, courtesy of Oolon and the BBC.

          2) We can’t work together, because the Plussers are obsessed with non-atheistic views. They are not compatible with the general atheist population. You can’t be when you are labeling everyone who doesn’t agree with you as a misogynist.

    • Stev84

      Not just him. Richard Carrier has literally said that people are either for A+ or they are the enemy.

      • corpsepants

        Yes, and then denied he said it, repeatedly, as though it wasn’t quoted in a hundred places.

      • see.the.galaxy

        He also took this back and apologized if memory serves me rightly.

        • corpsepants

          Unless you can give us a link, I’m going to say no, your memory does not serve you correctly. What he said at American Atheists con a few months ago was a disingenuous “people called me a fascist for saying women are people!” knowing full well that was NOT what people were responding to, without ever acknowledging — let alone retracting — his CHUD bullshit.

        • see.the.galaxy

          There were a few intemperate comments made in the threads of this article http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2207

          that were referenced in this article

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/2289

          However, Carrier was very clear from the first sentence of the first article the sort of person he was angry with. He cited the infamous reddit thread where a young girl, enthusiastic about Carl Sagan, was greeted with vulgar abuse.

          In point of fact Carrier is very reasonable and clear on these issues. Stev84′s piece is an obvious caricature, designed to induce an emotional dislike of Carrier and of A+. I would recommend reading the above posts and following a few links.

    • see.the.galaxy

      Why not quit worrying about PZ Myers and make your own contribution? Atheists are not all going to agree on everything. There’s room for all of us. That said, I don’t like this latest development–it’s one thing to call somebody a cad or a heel, and another to report an anonymous accusation of what may have been a crime for all we know. I think we owe each other more respect than that.

  • Hunt

    As you’re setting your Bayesian priors, remember that FtB has been gunning for Shermer for quite a while.

  • just somebody

    There are no good solutions for women to talk about sexual impropriety, as illustrated by this image, from Jim C. Hines entitled “Sexual Harassment Conversations, in Comic Form.”

    • just somebody

      Here is the image:

      • Christopher Becker

        Where’s the option where she goes to the police?

        • real horrorshow

          She can’t do that because Patriarchy. Sexual assault/rape victims are *never* believed. Cops call them lying whores and defence counsel ‘re-rape’ them on the witness stand.

          No, the thing to do is ‘take all the time you need to heal’. Then, when all physical evidence is gone, and any witnesses’ memories have faded, get a friend of a friend to blog about it. That’s how you help victims and stop rapists. PeeZus Christ!

          Also, why are SJW cartoons never funny? Say what you like about the Slymepit, at least we have a laugh.

        • just somebody

          For someone groping her breasts? (as depicted in the cartoon)

          Yeah, technically, legally, it is an assault.

          But most police will not arrest for minor assault even if someone slapped you, unless there are other witnesses who don’t know you or unless you have visible injuries and the other person doesn’t.

          Further, very few people want to have someone arrested for groping them, because the consequences of a violent arrest record are significant. Even though getting groped is significantly distressing.

          In the context of a convention, if there is a clear non-harassment policy, such a situation can be handled.

          • Christopher Becker

            “But most police will not arrest for minor assault even if someone slapped you, unless there are other witnesses who don’t know you”

            Is that the scenario here? Was the hypothetical woman groped in a conference room crowded with other people? Surely then there would be witnesses, and possibly security camera footage, to verify her story.

            If it happened in a private room or an elevator, without witnesses, then it has all the credibility of my saying that PZ Myers offered to blow me in the bathroom last year. There is simply not enough there to take any sort of action, even if that action is simply public shaming and shunning.

            “Further, very few people want to have someone arrested for groping them”

            Sadly, we don’t live in a happy magical wonderland where we get to dictate how people are punished for breaking the law. That’s the job of the justice system. If you don’t appeal to them when someone breaks the law, you don’t really have a leg to stand on when complaining that your aggressor went unpunished.

            “In the context of a convention, if there is a clear non-harassment policy, such a situation can be handled.”

            If it can be substantiated, then absolutely, by all means, handle it. But “An anonymous person said so” is a far cry from substantiated.

          • just somebody

            You keep going back to the PZ Myers bit. This cartoon is not about the PZ Myers bit. This cartoon is about a woman who is groped at a convention. So your “An anonymous person said so” is not relevant to this subthread.

            If she is the woman groped at a convention and no one else saw it, it can’t be substantiated. But it still happened.

            Shouldn’t a woman be able to go to the appropriate con staff and report the incident and be believed?

          • Christopher Becker

            “You keep going back to the PZ Myers bit.”

            I threw his name out offhand in this example. Feel free to replace it with The Friendly Atheist or Thunderf00t – the result is the same. “He offered to give me a blowjob in a bathroom” is just as substantial a claim.

            “If she is the woman groped at a convention and no one else saw it, it can’t be substantiated. But it still happened.”

            If PZ Myers offered to give me a blowjob at a convention and nobody was around to hear it, it can’t be substantiated. But it still happened.

            “Shouldn’t a woman be able to go to the appropriate con staff and report the incident and be believed?”

            That depends. Can I go to the Skepticon convention staff and report my incident and be believed?

          • just somebody

            Yes, you should.

            The con staff should take both incident reports seriously and proceed along the lines of the conference anti-harassment policy.

            However, just an offer of a blowjob is not usually considered sufficiently inappropriate for more than a con staff warning — unless he had hit on you first in some other way and you had asked him to back off or told him you weren’t interested.

            OTOH, physical sexual groping goes far beyond a verbal offer, so the con policy would likely treat this more seriously. As they should if he had groped your junk out of the blue in an elevator.

          • Christopher Becker

            “The con staff should take both incident reports seriously and proceed along the lines of the conference anti-harassment policy.”

            Would proceeding along these lines involve assuming that the accused is guilty, and punishing him as a result?

          • just somebody

            I don’t know about the specific policy at any specific con.

            If you reported Myers offered you a blowjob out of the blue, as with any someone making a sexual suggestion out of the blue to any someone, then IMHO that shouldn’t be grounds for ejection from the conference. But it should be grounds for a meeting with con staff with Myers with a warning, and a documentation of the report.

            If you reported Myers offered you a blowjob after he had been flirting with you and you had told him you weren’t interested and if your story seems plausible (you recall the place, the time, who was there, why and when you arrived, etc.), then an interview with Myers should be held. If he claims innocence and can prove he was in some other place at the time you said the incident happened, then you should be ejected from the conference. If he claims innocence but has no provable alibi and you have no witnesses, and this is a first reported offense and he has attended several other cons with no adverse reports, then the consequence could be asking him to remain in his hotel room while at the hotel except to attend official conference sessions and, if he is seen anywhere else in the hotel except on the way to and from sessions or exiting the hotel, he should be ejected. Plus the incident should be documented.

            But I’m just making this up because I don’t know con policies or how they are developed.

            What do you suggest should happen?

          • Christopher Becker

            “If he claims innocence but has no provable alibi and you have no witnesses, and this is a first reported offense and he has attended several other cons with no adverse reports, then the consequence could be asking him to remain in his hotel room while at the hotel except to attend official conference sessions and, if he is seen anywhere else in the hotel except on the way to and from sessions or exiting the hotel, he should be ejected.”

            In case of stalemate, punish the suspect. That’s the mentality I refuse to accept. I’m fine with your other suggestions – if it can be proven one way, act accordingly. If it can be proven the other way, act accordingly. If it cannot be proven either way, then I cannot justify taking any action against either party.

          • just somebody

            What I proposed doesn’t seem like such a harsh punishment for a first offense.

            Statistics indicate that false reports are far in the minority. And much more harassment goes on than is reported — for exactly the response you express.

            It is a difficult problem, I agree.

            But should ninety-five women have to put up with on-going harassment by guys who are smart enough to do it surreptitiously, so that the five women who lie about it don’t succeed?

            We’re not talking about jail time and an arrest record. We’re talking about a stern talking-to by con staff, if accused of a minor offense and first offense. We’re talking about going home early if minor-and-second or bigger-and-first.

            Under your view, if there is never ‘evidence’, should the harassment be allowed to continue for con after con after con to person after person after person?

            If Myers kept propositioning you at every con you attended, even though you ask him to stop every time, wouldn’t you want it to stop?

            Wouldn’t you want to have something done about it, even if he were clever enough to never have witnesses?

            Wouldn’t you feel annoyed if you felt all you could about it do was to go with a buddy everywhere, even the john, during cons, so you’ll have a witness next time or so he’ll not do it?

          • Christopher Becker

            “What I proposed doesn’t seem like such a harsh punishment for a first offense.”

            First ALLEGED offense. In this scenario, there is no evidence that the offense took place. Given that, any punishment is too much punishment. “We don’t know what happened, but all things being equal, we’re going to assume you’re the aggressor, so you must remain confined to your room under conditions we set for you.”

            “Statistics indicate that false reports are far in the minority. And much more harassment goes on than is reported — for exactly the response you express.”

            I don’t doubt they’re in the minority – that would only matter if we were limited to two options (assume the majority outcome, assume the minority outcome). There is a third option that assumes neither – that is the only option that’s fair to both parties.

            “But should ninety-five women have to put up with on-going harassment by guys who are smart enough to do it surreptitiously, so that the five women who lie about it don’t succeed?

            No one should ever have to “put up with” harassment of any kind. But as I said in a different thread on here, the standards of evidence don’t disappear just because this is a case where it’s really really hard to meet them. Those women can go to the police if they have witnesses, or evidence, or if they want the police to question the suspect. If they have none of these, then they have no reasonable expectation that anyone (outside of friends/family/confidants) must believe them.

            “Under your view, if there is never ‘evidence’, should the harassment be allowed to continue for con after con after con to person after person after person?”

            “Allowed” is loaded language in this case, since it implies that the people in a position to do something about it know about it. If there is no evidence, then we DON’T know about it. We know about allegations and accusations, but again, those accusations carry no more weight than my accusation that P-Zed shoved his hand down my pants at Skepticon.

            The tricky nature of nailing a harasser is not justification for suspending the standards of evidence and burden of proof. We don’t say “Personal testimony is the least credible form of evidence, except when it comes to sexual harassment, then it’s super reliable.” No magical line is crossed that suddenly makes the absence of evidence anything more than what it is.

          • just somebody

            Thank you for your clearly worded and thoughtful reply.

            You wrote: “No one should ever have to “put up with” harassment of any kind.”

            And you also wrote: “If they
            have none of these [forms of evidence], then they have no reasonable expectation that anyone
            (outside of friends/family/confidants) must believe them.”

            Here is the problem, Christopher. In most of these situations, there is no evidence.

            And, therefore, these people getting harassed and groped and such “have to put up with” the harassment.

            That is the consequence of what you said. There’s nothing these ninety-five harassed folks can do because there are probably a few liars. Nothing. Nothing. Without ‘evidence’, you say, nothing.

            If Myers hassles you and propositions you at every con you attend, every day, as long as he does it away from witnesses and security cameras, he can get away with it and you “have to put up with it”. Nothing you can do.

            You are saying that they “have to put up with it.”

            —-

            There is no ‘win-win’ solution in this scenario. That would be ideal. But it can’t happen.

            I think the goal should be trying for as many ‘win-for-harassed, lose-for-harasser’ solutions, recognizing there will be the occasional ‘win-for-liar, lose-for-non-harasser’ situations.

            The standard of evidence at a con need not be as high as in a court of law, especially when the harassment situation is as much of a problem as it is for so many women attendees.

          • Christopher Becker

            “Here is the problem, Christopher. In most of these situations, there is no evidence.”

            Which is why my position is that without evidence, you cannot justify taking action against either party. If, in the absence of evidence, you by default assume that the woman is telling the truth, you are essentially saying “Based on absolutely zero evidence, and with zero justification, we are going to assume that the woman is right and the man is wrong.” Do we really want to play that game? There’s a black suspect and a white accuser – we don’t have any evidence, but statistically, black suspects are found guilty in this scenario, so let’s just assume guilt. It’s mathematically safe.

            “That is the consequence of what you said. There’s nothing these ninety-five harassed folks can do because there are probably a few liars. Nothing. Nothing. Without ‘evidence’, you say, nothing.”

            Which is no different than Treyvon Martin’s family can do now. Nothing. Without evidence that Zimmerman was guilty, there is nothing they can do. They just have to put up with it.

            Ideal? No. But better than the alternative.

            “I think the goal should be trying for as many ‘win-for-harassed, lose-for-harasser’ solutions, recognizing there will be the occasional ‘win-for-liar, lose-for-non-harasser’ situations.”

            You are again assuming that the woman is the harassed, and the man is the harasser, because mathematically that’s the most likely situation. All things being equal, with no evidence at all, assume the woman is telling the truth and the man is lying. Just because 9/10 times this is true, that doesn’t mean the best option is to assume 10/10 times that it is and, oops, I guess a few innocent people get swept along for the ride.

            “The standard of evidence at a con need not be as high as in a court of law, especially when the harassment situation is as much of a problem as it is for so many women attendees.”

            There’s no legal obligation for the standard of evidence to be as high, but when punishing someone at a con can have far reaching professional implications for them (blacklisted from future cons, backstage rumors that damage them professionally, withdrawal of professional relationships, publishers distancing themselves from the accused, etc), then yes, I am going to insist that you have something more solid to go on than just “She said so.”

          • just somebody

            Christopher, please stop going back to the generalities and please focus on the specifics of what we are discussing.

            I get that you think there should be no consequence if there is no evidence. In a court of law, that makes sense. At a conference, that does not necessarily need to hold.

            I wrote: “I think the goal should be trying for as many ‘win-for-harassed, lose-for-harasser’ solutions, recognizing there will be the occasional ‘win-for-liar, lose-for-non-harasser’ situations.”

            You replied: “You are again assuming that the woman is the harassed, and the man is the harasser, because mathematically that’s the most likely situation.”

            Please reread. I didn’t assume that. I specifically didn’t assume that. And I also used the analogy you proposed of Myers asking for a blow job or Myers putting his hand inside your pants and fondling your junk.

            I also wrote: “If Myers hassles you and propositions you at every con you attend, every day, as long as he does it away from witnesses and security cameras, he can get away with it and you ‘have to put up with it’. Nothing you can do.”

            Please respond to this scenario as I requested, which is the logical consequence of what you are saying.

            You wrote: “No one should ever have to “put up with” harassment of any kind.”

            And then you wrote: “Without evidence …, there is nothing they can do. They just have to put up with it.

            Would you accept that Myers should be allowed to get away with harassing or assaulting you repeatedly, as long as there is no evidence, and ninety-four other people (many known to you) being continually harassed or assaulted at cons, because in some small percentage of cases, there is a false report?

            What do you propose?

          • Christopher Becker

            > Please reread. I didn’t assume that. I specifically didn’t assume that. And I also used the analogy you proposed of Myers asking for a blow job or Myers putting his hand inside your pants and fondling your junk.

            Yes, you did. Reread:

            > “I think the goal should be trying for as many ‘win-for-harassed, lose-for-harasser’ solutions, recognizing there will be the occasional ‘win-for-liar, lose-for-non-harasser’ situations.”mathematically that’s the most likely situation.”

            You are assuming that, in the absence of evidence, believing the woman and punishing the man is a win-for-harassed, lose-for-harasser situation, and that it will be so the majority of the time.

            > And then you wrote: “Without evidence …, there is nothing they can do. They just have to put up with it.

            To be clear, I wrote that about Treyvon Martin’s family having to put up with the fact that they can’t do anything about Zimmerman.

            > Would you accept that Myers should be allowed to get away with harassing or assaulting you repeatedly, as long as there is no evidence, and ninety-four other people (many known to you) being continually harassed or assaulted at cons, because in some small percentage of cases, there is a false report?

            Once again, “allowed” is loaded language. We’ve already been over this. “Allowed” implies we know it’s happening and we are allowing it, when in fact, if there is no evidence, we don’t know it’s happening.

            I’ve already told you what I propose – if there is evidence that harassment occurred, punish the harasser. If there is evidence that it did not occur, punish the accuser. If there is no evidence either way, punish no one. Under no circumstances should guilt be assumed in the absence of evidence, for either party.

          • just somebody

            I’m stating a situation for you, Christopher.

            Consider how you would feel if Myers actually is harassing or assaulting you. You know that he is doing it. He is doing it to you. Repeatedly, whenever he finds you alone at a con.

            Would you want the con staff to say, to your repeated reports, “Sorry, it’s just ‘she-said, he-said’.Nothing we can do.”

            What would you want the conference staff to do?

          • Christopher Becker

            Would I want them to say “We can’t do anything based on he-said-she-said?” Of course not. But what I want has no bearing on what is fair, or what should reasonably be expected of con staff. Just as I don’t see any reason to act on the Shermer accusations without evidence, I could not reasonably expect them to act on my accusations without evidence, regardless of whether or not I *want* them to.

          • just somebody

            You wrote: “No one should ever have to ‘put up with’ harassment of any kind.”

            You wrote: “But what I want has no bearing on what is fair, or what should reasonably be expected of con staff. … I could not reasonably expect them to act on my accusations without evidence, regardless of whether or not I *want* them to.”

            Are you saying that…

            …given that a large majority of such reports are true, and “if Myers actually is harassing or assaulting you. You know that he is doing it. He is doing it to you. Repeatedly, whenever he finds you alone at a con.” …

            …you think there is nothing the con staff can or should do to stop the abuse, even after repeated offenses and reports, if he denies it?

            …and you think you should have to continue to put up with the harassment?

          • Christopher Becker

            “…given that a large majority of such reports are true,”

            Based on what evidence?

            “…you think there is nothing the con staff can or should do to stop the abuse,”

            ALLEGED abuse, until there is evidence to suggest it is anything more.

            You are still assuming that the abuse is occurring. If there is no evidence that it occurred, then you cannot speak from a position of “Well these women are just going to keep being abused” – if there is no evidence, then we do not know if any abuse has occurred.

            “…and you think you should have to continue to put up with the harassment?”

            “Continue” implies they’ve had to put up with it at least once. Do you have any evidence that they’ve been harassed?

            You are still approaching this from the position of “It happened.” Without evidence to support that, that position is unjustifiable.

          • just somebody

            Let me try this again:

            Christopher, I’m talking about you. I’m asking you to put yourself in that situation, of being the person that actually is harassed or assaulted.

            You. The harassment, I’m positing, is actually happening to you, Christopher. Imagine that Myers is actually propositioning you and/or feeling up your junk or making lewd remarks, but always in a way that no one else is there or can see. Imagine it is actually happening to you.

            Visualize that you are the victim of repeated, unwanted harassment and unwanted touching of a sexual nature by him.

            Visualize that you, Christopher, are an actual victim. There’s no ‘alleged’ about it with respect to you. You are getting groped and you are getting verbal sexual offers, even though you, Christopher, have asked him to stop.

            Visualize that he has been doing this to you, Christopher, at several cons. You. He’s messing with you.

            Now, given that you, Christopher, are an actual victim of actual sexual harassment and unwanted touching of a sexual nature…

            …and you, Christopher, have reported it to con staff every time, and they have talked to him every time, and he denies it every time, and there is no evidence every time because he is careful…

            Do you think there is nothing the con staff can or should do to stop the actual, real abuse against you, the real fondling of your basket, the real requests for a blowjob, Christopher, even after repeated offenses and reports, if he denies it?

            Do you think you, Christopher, should have to continue to put up with the real, actual harassment, con after con, with no consequences for him?

          • Christopher Becker

            “Do you think there is nothing the con staff can or should do to stop the actual, real abuse against you, the realfondling of your basket, the real requests for a blowjob, Christopher, even after repeated offenses and reports, if he denies it?”

            If there is no evidence for or against, then yes, I think there is nothing that the con staff can or should do.

            I believe widespread harassment occurs. I am certain it occurs. You seem to believe it and be certain of it as well, and I imagine most sane people are. But what we believe is irrelevant. What matters is what we can prove. I do not believe governing bodies, be they the justice system or the guys running Skepticon, or anyone in between, should be making decisions based solely on what they believe happened in a given event. When you are deciding whether or not a person should face consequences – potentially career-or-life-threatening-consequences – I don’t want those decisions made based on “Well, here’s what I believe happened.” I want those decisions based on facts. In EVERYONE’s case. Including mine. The fact that I might be on the losing end because I don’t have the facts to back me up doesn’t change that. I think innocent until proven guilty is a valid principle regardless of whether or not it ends up favoring me, as long as it is applied fairly.

            “Do you think you, Christopher, should have to continue to put up with the real, actual harassment, con after con, with no consequences for him?”

            No, but as I said before, “should not have to” is wishful thinking. Parents should not have to bury their children – they still do, on occasion. Good people shouldn’t have to die young – they still do, on occasion. No one should have to put up with sustained harassment – they still do, on occasion.

          • just somebody

            Thank you. I sincerely appreciate your clarity and perseverance. I understand your position more clearly now, with regard to harassment/abuse that occurs at cons without corroborating evidence.

            (I think we may be in greater agreement regarding situations with a witness or security camera data or a confession.)

            —-

            You wrote: “I believe widespread harassment occurs. I am certain it occurs. … What matters is what we can prove.”

            In a court of law, of course, proof is essential, because it involves incarceration and a legal record for life.

            But at cons, where we know widespread harassment occurs, we can’t let the same creeps molest people event after event just because they’re clever enough to avoid witnesses. We can’t allow this abuse to continue because of the slight chance someone might lie.

            We can’t stop people from dying young, as you say. But we are not as powerless against harassment.

            The consequence for a single uncorroborated report must be mild. But multiple reports should be taken seriously and have increasing consequences, even in the absence of evidence.

            —–

            You wrote: “No one should have to put up with sustained harassment – they still do, on occasion.”

            What you’re saying here, in effect, is: No one should have to put up with sustained harassment. But they will have to keep putting up with it, year after year, as they have been putting up with it. Frequently, at every con, often by the same offenders.

            —–

            I believe that there should be, at cons, a bias toward believing women, especially for repeated allegations despite lack of corroborating evidence (given that the reports are considered credible, e.g., the accuser can state time, place, clear description of events, etc.).

            I believe that the consequences should be graduated, in the case of reports without corroborating evidence, for example, exile from the bar, must return to room by 10pm and stay, only in room or in conference sessions while at hotel, request to leave this con (but not a lifetime ban), etc.

            —-

            Why? We want more women to come to cons, to feel comfortable and safe at cons.

            Since conferences are when bad guys are on their worst behavior and the ratio of men to women is very high, the harassment situation for women is even worse than at home.

            Statistics and surveys that show that many more women are harassed than report it, for many reasons including absolute thinking like yours, and vastly more women report actual abuse than make false allegations.

            I don’t believe that ninety-five women (and some men!) should have to put up with on-going harassment and abuse just because a few people might make false accusations.

            I understand that some few may suffer unfairly due to false reports. But it’s time that five people suffer unfairly rather than ninety-five people.

          • Christopher Becker

            “But at cons, where we know widespread harassment occurs, we can’t let the same creeps molest people event after event just because they’re clever enough to avoid witnesses. We can’t allow this abuse to continue because of the slight chance someone might lie.”

            This seems to be the fundamental disagreeing point between us. I am not comfortable with the idea of saying “We know Trend X occurs at a macro level, so we must assume it’s occurring at the micro level.” Women are often harassed by men at conferences, THEREFOR, Susie was harassed by Bob at the conference. The former is not, in any way shape or form, evidence of the latter. This is no different than “72% of bikes stolen in East Baton Rouge Parish are stolen by blacks, THEREFOR, Jamal (black) stole Tommy’s (white) bike.”

            “The consequence for a single uncorroborated report must be mild.”

            The consequence given by the ruling body is not the only consequence that can occur. Men have been beaten to death for being falsely accused of sexual assault.

            Even if we don’t go that far, imagine if Bob McBoberton is called into a room by Skepticon staff and told “There’s been a report that you made an inappropriate comment to a female guest; as a result, we are going to ask that you please remain in your room when you’re not attending a conference event.” Then imagine that people are hanging around at the hotel bar, or the pool, or the workout room. “Hey, where’s Bob McBoberton?” “What, you didn’t hear? He’s been blacklisted from the con for sexual harassment.” Damage to his reputation, and his career, ensues. Without any indication that he actually did anything wrong, his professional life is in jeopardy, to say nothing of his personal life if this got back to his wife.

            When those kinds of consequences are possible, governing bodies have a responsibility to make sure that they are leveled accurately and fairly. Hearsay is not enough to justify putting someone’s personal and professional life in jeopardy.

            “What you’re saying here, in effect, is: No one should have to put up with sustained harassment. But they will have to keep putting up with it, year after year, as they have been putting up with it. Frequently, at every con, often by the same offenders.”

            Technically, they won’t have to. They could stop going entirely, they could ask hotel staff for an escort, they could travel with their own social group, they could carry a tazer or pepper spray. A wide variety of options are available to them. But when the governing body finds your claim wanting, you have to live with that, regardless of whether or not you think it’s fair.

            “I don’t believe that ninety-five women (and some men!) should have to put up with on-going harassment and abuse just because a few people might make false accusations.”

            That’s because you’re not considering the damage that said false accusations might cause. Either that, or you don’t care about the damage, I’m just hoping it’s the former.

            I’m all for finding ways to improve the conference environment for women. I’m all for educating men on sexual harassment policies (not to mention common decency). I’m all for enacting new policies and encouraging strict enforcement to lower the harassment rates.

            But I am not, and will never be, OK with a plan that (1) willfully sacrifices some innocents when there is an option not to, and (2) assumes guilt and innocence based on what the accuser/accused are packing between their legs.

          • just somebody

            I hear what you’re saying. I really do. At least, I’m listening as hard as I can.

            You wrote: “This seems to be the fundamental disagreeing point between us.”

            I agree. I sympathize with those few that might get falsely accused. But the solution cannot be for the vast majority of the truly harassed to continue being abused.

            —-

            You write: “Damage to his reputation, and his career, ensues. Without any indication that he actually did anything wrong, his professional life is in jeopardy, to say nothing of his personal life if this got back to his wife.”

            I acknowledge these potential consequences. I do. They can happen. As you said, these things shouldn’t happen, but they can. However, I believe they are very unlikely in this case.

            If, at two conventions, a man has gotten two reports of harassment, both without corroborating evidence, that is not likely to affect one’s professional life or one’s marriage. (Remember, I agreed with you there should be no consequence for one such report, and modest consequences for two.)

            If a man’s marriage is weak enough that hearing that two women have accused him of inappropriate behavior, without evidence, would significantly harm the marriage, then he’s got bigger problems.

            But that assumes that word gets back to them. The con policy shouldn’t publicly announce even a second uncorroborated offense, so the rumor would have to come through others.

            So on the unlikely chance that one man’s boss or wife might hear through the grapevine but not officially about two such reports, and the further unlikely chance that such rumors, known to be uncorroborated, might possibly get one man in some hot water with his job or his wife…

            …you are willing to allow twenty women at cons to be repeatedly fondled and harassed and never be able to do anything to stop it, to not feel safe at cons, to be more limited than the men in enjoying the con in full.

            —-

            You wrote: “Men have been beaten to death for being falsely accused of sexual assault.”

            With regard to deaths, the number of women who have been raped or killed because their sexual harassment report was ignored is much, much, much larger than the number of men who have been killed for alleged sexual
            harassment. Thousands of times larger.

            In any case, we’re not talking about an assault that would merit calling the police because that’s easy. The con policy should be “Call the police.”

            So let’s all just step back from the ledge.

            —–

            You wrote: “I am not, and will never be, OK with a plan that willfully sacrifices some innocents when there is an option not to.”

            But, Christopher, the women who you acknowledge are being harassed and abused are also innocents.

            You are sacrificing the many of them to continued harassment and abuse, without hope, if you have an absolute policy regarding uncorroborated accusations, on the chance that a few people might be falsely accused.

            —-

            You wrote: “I am not, and will never be, OK with a plan that assumes guilt and innocence based on what the accuser/accused are packing between their legs.”

            I am completely with you on this. No qualifications.

            —-

            So let’s talk about Bob McBoberton. Let’s say Bob has not done anything wrong, but Lucy for some reason has it in for him.

            Let’s say the con staff with anti-harassment responsibility have received training on how to interview and how to document, and they have a policy manual and forms to use, and numbers to call for advice.

            Let’s say Lucy falsely reports Bob to con staff for, say, groping her breasts in an elevator, with no cameras and no witnesses.

            Let’s also say that Lucy was sneaky enough to notice when Bob once got on an elevator alone, with no one seeing him go on, and made note of that time, place, elevator, and what he was wearing. She also makes up a coherent story about why she would have been on that elevator then and where she could have been going. (Most folks giving a false report do not do these things, btw, so they get tripped up by the interviewer.)

            The con staff should take her report neutrally. That is, they should acknowledging her (apparent) upset and not express disbelief. But also, in the absence of evidence, they should not siding with her over him, such as by saying, “We’ll get him” or the like.

            After recording everything Lucy says about what she is reporting, they ask her whether she knows Bob, and how she knows him, and about the nature of their acquaintance. They may note that Lucy seems to struggle for words to describe her prior situation with Bob.

            To get more of a read on her, they may have some additional questions that are suggested for them to ask. They may notice, for example, that was acting upset when she first came in, but since has been completely calm.

            They should also include, during the interview, something along the lines of, “Please know that we do not doubt your story. But some people have filed false reports, so we need to say this. We want you to know how significant the consequences are for Bob such as ____, _____, and _____. In addition, other possible things that could happen beyond this con are _____ and ____. People who did such things, of course, should have consequences, but not people who didn’t. Please consider these and if, upon reflection, you’d like to talk to us again, please do so as soon as possible.”

            They might provide Lucy with the number of a 24-hour hotline number if she wants to talk to a peer counselor, and if she is severely distraught, they could offer her access to a licensed therapist, and may provide pamphlets of information and/or useful web links.

            They explain to Lucy that, because there is no corroborating evidence, and because the event is not of a nature serious enough to involve the police, they cannot take any action until they have talked with Bob, and have considered all the information carefully. Also, even after they talk to Bob, they will need some time to evaluate the situation, and they ask for her understanding of the process that is trying for the best result.

            Because their process may take some time, they ask if Lucy would like a security escort with her at all times for the duration of the con, in case she should run into Bob again.

            Then they insist that, because of the lack of other evidence, that she not talk to anyone else about the situation (except perhaps with her family back home or a counselor back home or the 24-hour hotline), but no one at the con) nor in any form of social media until after they talk to Bob and then talk to her again. If they find out she has spoken or posted about the situation before they conclude their investigation, they tell her, she will be asked to leave the con. They note that, in case she were being falsely accused, she would want silence during the investigation.

            Let’s say the con staff check their own database. And the one authorized con staff person contacts a lawyer who keeps a secure database for several cons, and no prior reports on Bob McBoberton are found.

            Bob is invited to talk privately to the con staff. They inform him, respectfully, of the report and Lucy’s name. No anonymous report would ever be accepted.

            He is surprised. He denies it. He may tell them that he knows Lucy and that she doesn’t seem fond of him recently or perhaps that her friend back home is his ex-girlfriend, etc. He seems to smoothly describe the nature of their prior acquaintance.

            The con staff ask about his activities over the past few hours. The time frame matches up for his use of the elevator, and he has a valid reason for going up that elevator then, and he says he was alone in the elevator, and he hasn’t talked with her at all since the con started.

            They ask about whether there may have been some kind of an encounter in which she may have misunderstood his intentions, etc.

            To get more of a read on him, they may have some additional questions that are suggested in the manual for them to ask. The con staff may note that he is not showing the signs, from their training, more typical of a guilty person. But this is just part of the whole picture.

            The con staff ask Bob to please keep quiet about the situation to anyone at the con, but he can talk to his family back home or a counselor. The also ask Bob to avoid any encounters with Lucy, to sit far away from her at sessions, etc.

            They note to Bob that harassment is serious, and also they acknowledge that, at this time, there is no other evidence against Bob than Lucy’s report. Therefore, they will not take any action at the moment, but will investigate further.

            (If possible, the con staff might make a call to the president of their local atheist/secular/skeptical group to which they both belong, and s/he might tell them info that matches his description rather than hers, etc.)

            (If possible, if both Lucy and Bob have attended cons in the past, they might talk to one of the con’s old hands to ask if they recall anything about Lucy or Bob.)

            Then the con staff talk among themselves (likely two people) with the policy manual and consider all the information and their impressions. The con admin may have arranged for the person who gave them harassment training to be available for a consultation in tough situations like this one.

            The con staff, after consideration, find his case a bit more persuasive. Her room isn’t accessed by that elevator while his is. Her manner didn’t seem to match one of the usual profiles. She seemed to volunteer facts before they were asked for, but her story was coherent. She struggled when describing their acquaintance and the story didn’t seem to jive. She declined the escort and didn’t seem concerned about running into him. He didn’t seem evasive during their discussion and was fully cooperative, although understandably anxious. Their impressions will be recorded in the database.

            But their tendency does not change the consequences. For a first report, with no corroborating evidence, and no confession, Bob will stay at the con.

            They will put a note in the secure con anti-harassment database about both Lucy and Bob, with their impressions.

            They first bring Lucy in again. They tell her that they do not doubt her report. But based on their investigation, they have decided not to take any action at this time. They assure her that a record has been made, and that a pattern of abuse reports, even without other evidence, will lead to action. They suggest that she hang around people as much as possible at this con, and avoid Bob. They suggest to her, since she reaffirms her complaint, that she document in detail all future encounters with Bob. She is free now to talk about the incident, although they advise against it, but she is requested to use a particular wording regarding the con’s decision.

            They then inform Bob. They suggest to Bob that he might want to not party too hard at this con, and especially to continue avoiding Lucy. They tell him that this report will stay in the file, but would only be used in case of future reports against him. They suggest to him, since he claims innocence, that he document in detail all future encounters with Lucy. He is free now to talk about the incident, if he wishes, although they advise against it, but he is requested to use a particular wording regarding the con’s decision.

            The con staff do not make a public statement, and they refuse to comment on the situation.

            If there had been a prior report on Bob, but still without corroborating evidence, Bob would be confined to his hotel room while at the hotel except during sessions. If there had been two prior reports on Bob, both without corroborating evidence, Bob would be asked to leave the con, but could return next year.

            The women who make uncorroborated reports should also be tracked. Some attractive and outgoing women might be much more subject to unwanted behavior, but a number of uncorroborated reports by one person might suggest at least a conversation is in order.

            With regard to being confined to his room or sessions, Bob can claim that he is catching up on work or that he is feeling under the weather.

            His friends can think whatever they want. But his friends know, also, because of the con’s zero-tolerance policy, that if there were evidence, he would already be headed home and permanently banned from this con.

            If his friends ask him directly, he can say:

            “There are two uncorroborated reports from two different women from two different cons two years apart. One was a long ago misunderstanding, and I apologized that she misunderstood me, but she stuck to her report. This one is just a false report; Lucy’s got it in for me. So yeah, I’m pissed that they put me ‘under house arrest’ and especially pissed at those two women.”

            Then, hopefully, Bob would continue, “I’ve got the worst luck, with two strikes against me that I don’t deserve. The odds are way out there. But I notice that there are more women coming to these cons, and they seem more comfortable since the new anti-harassment policy. Plus, my mom was harassed by her boss for a long time, and it was so awful for her that she could never do anything about it, because he never had witnesses. There are so many women who have had to put up with so much bad behavior from men, at cons and elsewhere, because a few bad women made false reports. So if I have to put up with confinement despite my innocence, I’ll accept it so that many women at cons don’t have to suffer that way anymore.”

          • Christopher Becker

            “But that assumes that word gets back to them. The con policy shouldn’t publicly announce even a second uncorroborated offense, so the rumor would have to come through others.”

            Whether or not it’s con policy won’t change the nature of how rumors work. Only one person needs to see Lucy talking to event staff. Lucy needs only tell one confidant what allegedly happened. Only one person needs to see con staff say “Excuse me Bob, will you come with me for a moment please?” Only one person needs to see Bob being led into a room by staff.

            The rumors may go nowhere, or they may catch fire, or anywhere in between. The amount of damage they can do is unpredictable.

            —-

            “With regard to deaths, the number of women who have been raped or killed because their sexual harassment report was ignored is much, much, much larger than the number of men who have been killed for alleged sexual
            harassment. Thousands of times larger.

            In any case, we’re not talking about an assault that would merit calling the police because that’s easy. The con policy should be “Call the police.””

            I’m sure the number of women is larger. But this is not an either/or scenario. We are not limited to “Side with the woman, or side with the man.” I am saying once the alleged offense is reported, there are a number of ways it can be addressed, and “Assume the Man is Guilty” is a terrible way to address it.

            “But, Christopher, the women who you acknowledge are being harassed and abused are also innocents.”

            I acknowledge that the women who are (allegedly) harassed, assaulted, and/or raped are innocent, and they far outnumber the men who are falsely accused. I am all for taking whatever action is necessary (and reasonable) to PREVENT harassment, assault, and rape.

            But ONCE THE INCIDENT ALLEGEDLY OCCURS, there are a number of possible responses. “Assume the man is guilty” is an unacceptable response, for the reasons I outlined in my previous post.

            Your scenario is fine about for the first 80% or so. I still do not accept that ANY consequence for the man when there is no evidence against him is acceptable. Along with the reasons mentioned (I think you’re underselling the power of rumors), it is also furthering the idea to all women that Men. Are. Guilty. This is the kind of mindset that many bloggers were pushing post-Elevatorgate – one went so far as to suggest that if a man is walking down a sidewalk, and a woman is walking towards him, he should immediately cross the street [even without a crosswalk] as a way of showing the woman “HAVE NO FEAR, I WILL NOT RAPE YOU.” That if a man is about to get into an elevator, and he sees that there is a lone woman inside, he should say “You know what, I’ll catch the next one”, as a non-threatening way of showing the woman “DON’T WORRY, I’M NOT A RAPIST.”

            Crossing the street (assuming it’s safe) and taking the stairs are not big deals. But the mindset that it is acceptable for women, at large, to assume men are harassers and predators until they prove themselves innocent, is absurd. Punishing an accused man without evidence does nothing but fuel that mindset.

            We should be pushing for a world where men and women are equals – where, for all intents and purposes, there aren’t men and women, there are only ‘people’. Assuming guilt – or even “We are not assuming guilt, but we’re punishing you anyway just to be safe” – does nothing but further the “Men are predators until they prove otherwise” mindset, which is only going to make gender relations worse, not better.

          • just somebody

            Thank you, Christopher, for taking the time to read through that enormously long scenario of mine and to reply. And also for continuing this difficult and painful and, frankly, scary discussion.

            Scary because so much figurative blood has been split in our communities over this issue, and tensions are so high. Might I just make it worse and who am I to think I have something to contribute? I’m just somebody.

            Scary because I’m trying so hard to understand you, Christopher, but I still think I fall short, because your posts seem to indicate, because of some repeating, that you don’t think I’ve really heard what you were trying to say.

            Scary because I’m trying so hard to express myself in ways that you can understand — and that are respectful and tentative — but I still might trip over a hidden landmine and this so-far fruitful discussion could derail.

            This whole area of gender relations is a huge minefield. The issue is serious and complex. How do we work out how to handle such challenges in a post-Christian, sex-positive world in a way that truly values women and men equally?

            The set of solutions that our communities eventually reach will not likely be able to guarantee complete justice for everyone every time. And that is so so very sad. But I think it’s fair to say that we both want to find something that is better than what we have now.

            I’m going to post just this meta-response now. Then I’ll take some time today to respond thoughtfully to your latest post.

          • Christopher Becker

            ” because your posts seem to indicate, because of some repeating, that you don’t think I’ve really heard what you were trying to say.”

            Don’t worry about that. :P When I was young, my dad taught me that when writing, I should:

            (1) Say what I’m going to to say.
            (2) Say it.
            (3) Say what I’ve said.

            It’s always stuck with me, so I’m always in the habit of repeating myself. :P

          • just somebody

            NOTE: This is a repost of a comment because I realized I put my previous post in the wrong place. If Christopher is willing to move his response to below this one, then I’ll remove the other in-wrong-place one. If he is not willing, then I’ll remove this copy.

             

            The first point I’d like to make here is that, in the scenario above, as in any such investigation, the information in each of the interviews is evidence.

            That is, the investigation would involve considerably more than just Person A saying, “Person B did X,” and Person B saying, “No, I didn’t.”

            That’s why I went into such detail in my scenario about the interviews.

            In our discussion, we’re talking about situations where there is no other corroborating evidence. That’s why I tried to always say ‘corroborating evidence.’

            But the accuser’s report/interview is evidence. The accused’s interview is evidence.

            If the accuser’s story is full of holes, that’s evidence – and that potential false report will not be filed. If the accuser’s story is thorough and coherent, that’s also evidence.

            (1) Do you agree with this?

             

            The second point I’d like to make is for us both to remember that we are taking into account both a number of people who do get harassed or messed
            with without corroboration and far smaller number of people who are falsely accused.

            Any policy you and I could both agree on, Christopher, must not completely discount the rights of either of these groups.

            A policy of “the con can do nothing in the case
            of an uncorroborated report, not even in the case of 100 uncorroborated reports against one person violates the rights of the many harassed people.

            A policy of “the con should always believe the accuser, even absent corroboration” violates the rights of those falsely accused.

            An ideal solution would try to protect the rights of both people as far as possible, while recognizing that it may not be possible to completely protect everyone in both groups.

            (2) Do you agree with this?

             

            As I described in my scenario above, there is a lot of information taken into account. I designed the scenario to be a kind of ‘worst case’ for Bob:

            * that Lucy plans her plot with detail and follows Bob in a way that Bob doesn’t notice, nor anyone else, in order to find him alone so that she has a place and time for her false report,

            * that once Lucy has a place and a time, she knows enough to develop a logical story for why she would have also been there at that time,

            * that Lucy knows how to act/appear like someone who is actually making a true report.

            I believe that these are not all likely to be present most false reports, and therefore many false reports will fail. In addition, if the consequence for filing a report that is proven to be false is significant, this would serve to deter false reports.

            (3) Do you agree with this?

             

            “The rumors may go nowhere, or they may catch fire, or anywhere in between. The amount of damage they can do is unpredictable.”

            This is true.

            But, in my scenario, there would be no consequence for a first uncorroborated report, so no rumors. Only after a second false report would an innocent accused have a modest consequence, and the likelihood of one person getting two credible false reports is low.

            And the damage done to people who are harassed and molested is predictable, is actual, especially if there is never recourse: Anger, stress, embarrassment, violation, fear, loss of trust, despair – and loss of enjoyment of the con.

            There are potential consequences for the first set of victims, and only after two false reports. There are known consequences for the second set of victims.

            (4) Do you agree with this?

             

            “[T]his is not an either/or scenario. We are not limited to ‘Side with the woman, or side with the man.’ I am saying once the alleged offense is reported, there are a number of ways it can be addressed, and “Assume the Man is Guilty” is a terrible way to address it.

            I agree with you, Christopher. I have repeatedly agreed with you on this, Christopher. And I will continue to agree with you on this, Christopher.

            Do you hear me this time, Christopher? I agree with you.

            This is one of those points that you don’t have to keep repeating. I think our conversation has moved beyond this starting point. I think we are moving toward a more nuanced approach. One in which the innocent men don’t
            always lose, and also one in which the innocent women don’t always lose.

            We’re not there yet, obviously. We may not get there. But I think that is where we are headed.

            (5) Do you agree with this?

             

            I wrote: “But, Christopher, the women who you acknowledge are being harassed and abused are also innocents.”

            You wrote: “I acknowledge that the women who are (allegedly) harassed, assaulted, and/or raped are innocent, and they far outnumber the men who are falsely accused. I am all for taking whatever action is necessary (and reasonable) to PREVENT harassment, assault, and rape. But ONCE THE INCIDENT ALLEGEDLY OCCURS, there are a number of possible responses. ‘Assume the man is guilty’ is an unacceptable response, for the reasons I outlined in my previous post.”

            I agree that, just because 80% of dancers have a slender body type, that doesn’t mean that the next dancer I encounter will be slender.

            “Your scenario is fine about for the first 80% or so. I still do not accept that ANY consequence for the man when there is no evidence against him is acceptable.”

            I appreciate your acknowledgement of the innocence of the people actually harassed and assaulted.

            I really appreciate that you acknowledge that the innocent ones far outnumber the false accusers.

            And I am with you on taking necessary and reasonable action to prevent incidents, and am glad to hear you support this. Please note that one of the proven successful ways to reduce harassment and assault is to have the threat of consequences for it.

            Again, I agree that it is wrong to have a blanket assumption that the accused is guilty any time an uncorroborated report is made. I agree. I agree. I agree. I agree. No blanket assumption.

            But here is our tough nut: How
            to best protect those few people who are falsely accused while also have consequences for those who do harass/assault, in situations without corroboration?

            (6) Do you agree that this is the challenge you and I are wrestling with?

             

            Just a bit of math for our next discussion round:

            You wrote: “[the women who are actually harassed, assaulted, and/or raped] far outnumber the men who are falsely accused.”

            So, for our harassment/assault reports without corroboration at cons discussion, we could perhaps use 95% and 5%.

            (Why 5%. These ratios are close to the percent of false sexual assault reports (most stats are 2%-8%). Note, though, that this figure is actually high, because many of these are reports about some unnamed acquaintance or a stranger; the number of false named accusations are smaller.)

            So we might say Person X, for a first report, has a 5% chance of being falsely accused, or 1 in 20. Or we could say, of any 20 reports, statistically, one person is falsely accused and 19 people are actually harassed/assaulted.

            The same Person X, for a second report, has a 0.25% chance of being falsely accused both times, or 1 in 400. Or we could say, of any 400 reports, statistically, 1 person is falsely accused twice, 19 are falsely accused once,
            and 380 people are actually harassed/assaulted.

            The same Person X, for a third report, has a 0.0125% chance of being falsely accused, or 1 in 8000. Or we could say, of any 8000 reports, statistically, 1 person is falsely accused three times, 19 are falsely accused twice, 380 are falsely accused once, and 7600 people are actually assaulted.

            Let’s also estimate that only 5% of people who know they have a valid first report on record go on to harass/assault a second time, and only 5% of people who know they have two valid reports on record go on to harass/assault a third time.

            (Why 5%? It is likely a low estimate. A person who has the mindset to commit moderate level harassment or groping once is likely of the mindset that it’s not really a problem and thus, I would estimate, likely to do it more than
            once. This is also borne out by several reports from women at cons of several serial offenders. Also, someone convicted of ‘lewd behavior’ has about a 26% chance of getting rearrested for same within two years – and taking into account that lewd behavior is often not reported or the person gets away before police arrive, so the actual reoffend rate is likely higher. OTOH, if there are
            consequences for repeated offenses, if uncorroborated, and ejection for one corroborated offense, then some may be less likely to reoffend.)

            Given these numbers, if, as in my scenario, there is no consequence on a first uncorroborated report, and room/session confinement for a second uncorroborated report, and leaving this con for a third uncorroborated report…

            … then out of 8,000 uncorroborated reports, 19 people would unfairly get room/session confinement, 380 people would fairly get room/session confinement, 1 person would be unfairly asked to leave the
            con, and 19 people would be fairly asked to leave the con. The 380 folks with false first reports and the 7200 folks with true first reports would have no consequences except a report on file.

            And, on the other hand, only 400 out of 7,600 actual victims (about 5%) would see their harasser get consequences, so 95% of actual victims will be denied justice, while out of 8000 reports, only 20 (0.25%) will be folks falsely accused twice or three times and thus have unfair consequences.

            In addition, perhaps more importantly, because of the potential consequences (for multiple uncorroborated reports) and expulsion (for one corroborated reports), it is likely that more men who otherwise would harass folks won’t.

            Please think about these numbers.

             

            At the end of your post, you brought up several very valid points about the general context of gender issues in our communities in which our discussion is taking place, and the history and current situation in the wider society. It’s tough on women. It’s tough on men.

            I hear your deep concern that some women believe, or seem to act as if they believe, that “Men. Are. Guilty.” And I also hear your deep respect for reasonable fear or caution on the part of women.

            I hear your strong concern that ‘assuming guilt’ or potential false punishment could worsen gender relations. That is, your concern is not just specific but also in a larger context.

            I share your goal of moving toward a world of true equality for women and men.

          • just somebody

            The first point I’d like to make here is that, in the scenario above, as in any such investigation, the information in each of the interviews is evidence.

            That is, the investigation would involve considerably more than just Person A saying, “Person B did X,” and Person B saying, “No, I didn’t.”

            That’s why I went into such detail in my scenario about the interviews.

            In our discussion, we’re talking about situations where there is no other corroborating evidence. That’s why I tried to always say ‘corroborating evidence.’

            But the accuser’s report/interview is evidence. The accused’s interview is evidence.

            If the accuser’s story is full of holes, that’s evidence – and that potential false report will not be filed. If the accuser’s story is thorough and coherent, that’s also evidence.

            (1) Do you agree with this?

             

            The second point I’d like to make is for us both to remember that we are taking into account both a number of people who do get harassed or messed
            with without corroboration and far smaller number of people who are falsely accused.

            Any policy you and I could both agree on, Christopher, must not completely discount the rights of either of these groups.

            A policy of “the con can do nothing in the case
            of an uncorroborated report, not even in the case of 100 uncorroborated reports against one person violates the rights of the many harassed people.

            A policy of “the con should always believe the accuser, even absent corroboration” violates the rights of those falsely accused.

            An ideal solution would try to protect the rights of both people as far as possible, while recognizing that it may not be possible to completely protect everyone in both groups.

            (2) Do you agree with this?

             

            As I described in my scenario above, there is a lot of information taken into account. I designed the scenario to be a kind of ‘worst case’ for Bob:

            * that Lucy plans her plot with detail and follows Bob in a way that Bob doesn’t notice, nor anyone else, in order to find him alone so that she has a place and time for her false report,

            * that once Lucy has a place and a time, she knows enough to develop a logical story for why she would have also been there at that time,

            * that Lucy knows how to act/appear like someone who is actually making a true report.

            I believe that these are not all likely to be present most false reports, and therefore many false reports will fail. In addition, if the consequence for filing a report that is proven to be false is significant, this would serve to deter false reports.

            (3) Do you agree with this?

             

            “The rumors may go nowhere, or they may catch fire, or anywhere in between. The amount of damage they can do is unpredictable.”

            This is true.

            But, in my scenario, there would be no consequence for a first uncorroborated report, so no rumors. Only after a second false report would an innocent accused have a modest consequence, and the likelihood of one person getting two credible false reports is low.

            And the damage done to people who are harassed and molested is predictable, is actual, especially if there is never recourse: Anger, stress, embarrassment, violation, fear, loss of trust, despair – and loss of enjoyment of the con.

            There are potential consequences for the first set of victims, and only after two false reports. There are known consequences for the second set of victims.

            (4) Do you agree with this?

             

            “[T]his is not an either/or scenario. We are not limited to ‘Side with the woman, or side with the man.’ I am saying once the alleged offense is reported, there are a number of ways it can be addressed, and “Assume the Man is Guilty” is a terrible way to address it.

            I agree with you, Christopher. I have repeatedly agreed with you on this, Christopher. And I will continue to agree with you on this, Christopher.

            Do you hear me this time, Christopher? I agree with you.

            This is one of those points that you don’t have to keep repeating. I think our conversation has moved beyond this starting point. I think we are moving toward a more nuanced approach. One in which the innocent men don’t
            always lose, and also one in which the innocent women don’t always lose.

            We’re not there yet, obviously. We may not get there. But I think that is where we are headed.

            (5) Do you agree with this?

             

            I wrote: “But, Christopher, the women who you acknowledge are being harassed and abused are also innocents.”

            You wrote: “I acknowledge that the women who are (allegedly) harassed, assaulted, and/or raped are innocent, and they far outnumber the men who are falsely accused. I am all for taking whatever action is necessary (and reasonable) to PREVENT harassment, assault, and rape. But ONCE THE INCIDENT ALLEGEDLY OCCURS, there are a number of possible responses. ‘Assume the man is guilty’ is an unacceptable response, for the reasons I outlined in my previous post.”

            I agree that, just because 80% of dancers have a slender body type, that doesn’t mean that the next dancer I encounter will be slender.

            “Your scenario is fine about for the first 80% or so. I still do not accept that ANY consequence for the man when there is no evidence against him is acceptable.”

            I appreciate your acknowledgement of the innocence of the people actually harassed and assaulted.

            I really appreciate that you acknowledge that the innocent ones far outnumber the false accusers.

            And I am with you on taking necessary and reasonable action to prevent incidents, and am glad to hear you support this. Please note that one of the proven successful ways to reduce harassment and assault is to have the threat of consequences for it.

            Again, I agree that it is wrong to have a blanket assumption that the accused is guilty any time an uncorroborated report is made. I agree. I agree. I agree. I agree. No blanket assumption.

            But here is our tough nut: How
            to best protect those few people who are falsely accused while also have consequences for those who do harass/assault, in situations without corroboration?

            (6) Do you agree that this is the challenge you and I are wrestling with?

             

            Just a bit of math for our next discussion round:

            You wrote: “[the women who are actually harassed, assaulted, and/or raped] far outnumber the men who are falsely accused.”

            So, for our harassment/assault reports without corroboration at cons discussion, we could perhaps use 95% and 5%.

            (Why 5%. These ratios are close to the percent of false sexual assault reports (most stats are 2%-8%). Note, though, that this figure is actually high, because many of these are reports about some unnamed acquaintance or a stranger; the number of false named accusations are smaller.)

            So we might say Person X, for a first report, has a 5% chance of being falsely accused, or 1 in 20. Or we could say, of any 20 reports, statistically, one person is falsely accused and 19 people are actually harassed/assaulted.

            The same Person X, for a second report, has a 0.25% chance of being falsely accused both times, or 1 in 400. Or we could say, of any 400 reports, statistically, 1 person is falsely accused twice, 19 are falsely accused once,
            and 380 people are actually harassed/assaulted.

            The same Person X, for a third report, has a 0.0125% chance of being falsely accused, or 1 in 8000. Or we could say, of any 8000 reports, statistically, 1 person is falsely accused three times, 19 are falsely accused twice, 380 are falsely accused once, and 7600 people are actually assaulted.

            Let’s also estimate that only 5% of people who know they have a valid first report on record go on to harass/assault a second time, and only 5% of people who know they have two valid reports on record go on to harass/assault a third time.

            (Why 5%? It is likely a low estimate. A person who has the mindset to commit moderate level harassment or groping once is likely of the mindset that it’s not really a problem and thus, I would estimate, likely to do it more than
            once. This is also borne out by several reports from women at cons of several serial offenders. Also, someone convicted of ‘lewd behavior’ has about a 26% chance of getting rearrested for same within two years – and taking into account that lewd behavior is often not reported or the person gets away before police arrive, so the actual reoffend rate is likely higher. OTOH, if there are
            consequences for repeated offenses, if uncorroborated, and ejection for one corroborated offense, then some may be less likely to reoffend.)

            Given these numbers, if, as in my scenario, there is no consequence on a first uncorroborated report, and room/session confinement for a second uncorroborated report, and leaving this con for a third uncorroborated report…

            … then out of 8,000 uncorroborated reports, 19 people would unfairly get room/session confinement, 380 people would fairly get room/session confinement, 1 person would be unfairly asked to leave the
            con, and 19 people would be fairly asked to leave the con. The 380 folks with false first reports and the 7200 folks with true first reports would have no consequences except a report on file.

            And, on the other hand, only 400 out of 7,600 actual victims (about 5%) would see their harasser get consequences, so 95% of actual victims will be denied justice, while out of 8000 reports, only 20 (0.25%) will be folks falsely accused twice or three times and thus have unfair consequences.

            In addition, perhaps more importantly, because of the potential consequences (for multiple uncorroborated reports) and expulsion (for one corroborated reports), it is likely that more men who otherwise would harass folks won’t.

            Please think about these numbers.

             

            At the end of your post, you brought up several very valid points about the general context of gender issues in our communities in which our discussion is taking place, and the history and current situation in the wider society. It’s tough on women. It’s tough on men.

            I hear your deep concern that some women believe, or seem to act as if they believe, that “Men. Are. Guilty.” And I also hear your deep respect for reasonable fear or caution on the part of women.

            I hear your strong concern that ‘assuming guilt’ or potential false punishment could worsen gender relations. That is, your concern is not just specific but also in a larger context.

            I share your goal of moving toward a world of true equality for women and men.

          • Christopher Becker

            “(1) Do you agree with this?”

            To an extent. Personal testimony is evidence, but it is the least credible form of evidence and, in a vacuum, becomes less and less believable based on the severity of the claim.

            For example, “I ate eggs for breakfast.” Even if there is no corroborating evidence (no egg shells in the garbage), this personal testimony is a form of evidence. And given how mundane the claim is, it’s fairly believable.

            What about “I ate dragon eggs for breakfast”? Suddenly, personal testimony doesn’t cut it.

            This is where the point I made earlier about macro/micro comes in. “A man harassed a woman at a con” is not, on it’s face, an unbelievable claim, because we know this happens. But “Larry groped Susie’s breasts at a con” is a much more severe claim.

            One way to determine the severity of a claim is to look at the consequences. There are no real consequences to being right or wrong about eating eggs for breakfast. There are *severe* consequences if I’m right about eating dragon eggs for breakfast (if I’m right, then we must accept that dragons exist, they lay eggs, and I just ate their babies so they might be mad at us and come burn down our house).

            The consequences for “Larry gropes Susie’s breasts at a con” – that is, the consequences for both parties – are MUCH more severe than “a man harassed a woman at a con”. As such, personal testimony is not as strong on its own. The more severe the consequences, the more necessary it is to find corroborating evidence.

            —–

            “(2) Do you agree with this?”

            In principle, yes, but I have a bone to pick here:

            “A policy of “the con can do nothing in the caseof an uncorroborated report, not even in the case of 100 uncorroborated reports against one person violates the rights of the many harassed people.”

            What rights of the allegedly harassed have been violated by saying “We can do nothing in the case of an uncorroborated report?” Specifically, which rights?

            The reason I say that no action should be taken is because, in my mind, the hands off approach deliberately, by design, violates no rights, and trespasses on neither party. It is an entirely neutral decision that shows no favor towards either party, and no punishment toward either party. That is the very definition of fair.

            —-

            “(3) Do you agree with this?”

            Mostly, but two small bones to pick:

            “if the consequence for filing a report that is proven to be false is significant, this would serve to deter false reports.”

            1: Deterrence is a nice idea, but it doesn’t always work. If it did, no one would ever commit a crime that carried the possibility of the death penalty.

            2: This outline still only considers the ‘official’ sanctions. Which arguably are the only sanctions that the con staff should care about, given that their job descriptions to not extend into protecting the reputations of their patrons, but I happen to think that unless you’re going to the actual body responsible for dispensing justice (the justice system – police, courts, etc), then you have a responsibility to think about the larger ramifications of your actions.

            —–

            “(4) Do you agree with this?”

            Bone to pick:

            “But, in my scenario, there would be no consequence for a first uncorroborated report, so no rumors.”

            You don’t know that. All it takes is one person seeing the con staff pull Bob aside for the quick interview. All it takes is Susie telling a friend that she just reported Bob.

            —–

            “(5) Do you agree with this?”

            I don’t, because based on what you’ve said here and elsewhere, I don’t think you DO agree with me. Later on in this post, you argue the numbers, as if to say “It’s better to side with the women than with the men, because the amount of women who will be served far outweighs the number of men who will be negatively impacted.”

            [If I'm putting words on your mouth, by all means, call me on it, as that is not my intent]

            That absolutely goes against the argument I am making, which is that a solution that requires you to throw the minority under the bus in favor of the majority is a bad solution, and should not be taken *unless there is no alternative*.

            —-

            “(6) Do you agree that this is the challenge you and I are wrestling with?”

            Yes. But unless I am misunderstanding you (and if I am, please correct me), you are still leaning in the direction of “Neither solution is ideal, but one serves the greater good better than the other.” That is what I disagree with. If those were the only two options available, I would agree with you 100%. But there is a third option that shows absolute equality and fairness to both parties, and I would argue that that solution is what serves the greater good.

            It does not prevent future victimizations on either side, but it is not supposed to, any more than the theory of evolution is meant to explain gravity. What it does is say “All claims, and counter claims, will be regarded equally and fairly, regardless of who makes them”, and it establishes equality in the eyes of the ‘law’ (for lack of a better term re: con staff). That does far more for the greater good than the other options presented.

          • just somebody

            Christopher,

            I have a small technical favor to ask. I just realized that I posted my previous post (beginning “The first point I’d like to make here…”) in the wrong place. I should have posted it after your penultimate post (beginning “Don’t worry about that.”

            To preserve the flow for future possible readers of this thread –(Aren’t I acting the super-optimist?)– I copied my previous post and put it in its chronological position.

            If you are willing to copy your current post to below my copied post. Then we can each delete our out-of-place post and this one. Then ‘the paradox will be removed and the proper timeline order will be restored to the universe.’

          • just somebody

            I realized that I didn’t include that….

            …there should be no consequences and no record of a point against the accused

            …for reports that are proven to be false (e.g., the person was giving a talk at the time of the alleged offense) or reports that are not credible (the accuser doesn’t have clear time or place or description of the event or the story keeps changing or doesn’t seem coherent etc.)

            EDIT: Christopher and I both posted at almost the same moment. I got his post right after posting this. I will reply to Christopher’s post separately, and I will know, of course, that he had not read this note.

  • Madison Blane

    Thank You.

  • Bolan Meek

    You have a few links in your post, but none to examples of PZ saying the things you claim that he is. “… leading him into a lawsuit”? Are you party to any lawyer-client consultations that can corroborate this claim?

    I haven’t seen the subject of this article post such bullying material, nor have I seen any such speech in a video featuring him, so I am skeptical about your own claims. How about some evidence?

    • Marc Petrick

      He may be referring to the cease and desist letter sent to PZ Myers by the solicitors of one of the people mentioned in Mr. Myers’ article

      • Bolan Meek

        Thank you for the clue, Marc, about that detail in this article. It prompted me to dig back a little and find out what I had missed, http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/15/this-is-not-an-update/ , which is hardly the “my way or the highway” exaggeration as posed in this article. But perhaps I’m still missing something. Too bad the author didn’t link to any of them, only to what he is using in order to, in my current view, caricaturize PZ

        • Paul Loebe

          PZ and his friends have a long history of “my way or the highway”. It’s been specifically stated and is obvious if you attempt to disagree with them on Freethoughtblogs. They accuse you of the same “rape apologetics” I mentioned earlier. It’s a hive mentality.
          I have no links at the moment and, quite frankly, don’t have the inclination to give them. Anyone that has encountered PZ and disagreed with him has felt the ire of his response and that of his followers.

          The sad thing is that there is no room for rational discourse. I am very appreciative of the people on this blog who have maintained a certain level of that on this post.

  • mike behrent

    As I see it, the skeptic “movement” really isn’t a movement at all. It’s a reflection of the fragmentation and hostility of American society in general, a bunch of cliques essentially more at war with each other than involved in real causes. It’s disgusted me enough that I have nothing to do with conferences, conventions or events put on in its name. While I watch this thing self destruct I can only think “go lemmings, go”.

  • neroden

    Let’s see. In the case of Shermer, the evidence that he deliberately gets people drunk and then assaults them has just *piled* up. It’s coming from a dozen different sources.

    The evidence that DJ Grothe has been assaulting and harassing people is sufficient that I wouldn’t go anywhere near him.

    The evidence in the case of Ashley Paramore’s assault at TAM (with two witnesses!) is overwhelming, although everyone has been terribly polite about not naming the assaulter (!!)

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2013/08/12/sexual-harassment-accusations-in-the-skeptical-and-secular-communities-a-timeline-of-major-events/

    Anyway, for anyone curious about the actual evidence, there’s the precis. Now you know.

    There’s a nice long set of discussions about standards of evidence over at about a dozen different blogs on FTB, which you should read if you are considering digging yourself in deeper. Or you could just recognize that assertions have been verified by extensive corroborating evidence, and stop talking nonsense about “unverifiable assertions”.

    • drewbles

      Go look up “empirical evidence” and then shut your cake hole.


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