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Last night’s episode of Dogma Debate included myself and Neil Carter.

Last night’s episode of Dogma Debate included myself and Neil Carter. May 19, 2016

Last night’s Dogma Debate contained a recorded conversation between host David Smalley and Neil Carter:

Neil’s conversation with Smalley begins at 86:35.

The short of it: Neil recorded the phone conversation with Eliott which lead to his post Nice Reputation, Be A Shame If Something Happened To It.  He made that recording available to host David Smalley with the stipulation that Smalley would listen to it to make his own judgment but not release that recording to the public.

David Smalley appears to reach the conclusion that Neil’s description of that phone call does not line up with what he heard.  He also concluded that some of the things Neil said about his documented emails with RfR’s Executive Director were not in those emails.  Smalley also concludes that the way Neil described many aspects of the call seemed unrealistic (a few times Smalley uses the word “misleading”).

While I think it is pertinent to know the conclusions of the one person who has gotten to hear it, to be fair though, I’ve not heard that recording, so I cannot make a judgment on it.  There is an easy remedy for this: Neil could release the recording.  Clearly Neil has been ok making the assertion that RfR was attempting to strong-arm him into free labor, so making that claim is ok.  The phone call is a major part of that claim.  If the recording shows that then I want to hear it, you want to hear it, we all want to hear it.  I know members of the RfR board also want Neil to release the tape.  This would be in line with the transparency Neil has written about wanting.  I’m not sure why it is acceptable to make the claim, but not acceptable to release the proof.

During the conversation Neil consistently tells the host that missing context to which Neil is privy would alter Smalley’s assessment of the call.  So it seems to me that for everybody trying to reach a proper conclusion about what transpired (which seems to be a lot of people) that context is important.  This underscores the need for evidence, rather than hearsay, about the context.

Later in the show (at 141:50) I called in to set the record straight on some of the things I’ve discovered in the course of looking into this dispute.  I also discuss something I discovered that may have significant legal implications.  The full documentation of this will go in my final article, at which point it will be left to the reader to decide if the evidence I provide is sufficient.

[NOTE: I’ve been informed that while Neil’s “Nice Reputation” post remains up on Patheos, after the Dogma Debate episode it (and all of the comments on it) has been removed from Neil’s facebook page]
[ANOTHER NOTE: It’s back up now]

Regarding Yesterday’s Post, Public Apology to Neil

First, the people who say I should’ve first asked Neil’s permission to post those threads are right.  That was 100% my bad and I’ll take my lumps for it.  I was under time pressure then, had just been accused of trying to mislead the public, and wanted to get ahead of that accusation and show that my interactions with Neil establish that I’ve made every effort to be above board with him (just in case it became a blog post that may or may not include relevant bits).  But still, circumstances don’t excuse judgmental lapses.  The intent was good, but the execution lacked asking Neil’s permission to post those threads for which I owe Neil a public apology.

I will also say that I think Neil’s part of those conversations is 100% understandable and innocent.  I drew no negative conclusions from them.  There seems to be an idea that it was about what Neil said, rather than about what *I* said.  The implication from Neil was that those threads would reveal that I was deceiving the public.  I wanted to make it clear that they do not to, well, the public.

Neil had accused me of trying to deceive the public. I can’t have that idea floating around, so I wanted to get ahead of it.  For those making the demands for transparency (and this includes Neil), the intent of this should be understandable, even if I did fail in that particular way.  If anybody should understand the compunction to defend one’s self from such accusations, I would imagine it would be Neil.

Answering Questions

Now, I’ve had some conversations this morning that I think capture what a lot of people are asking.  I’m going to post them here along with my responses, and that will be the last I attempt to defend my credibility.  I want the focus of my work here to be what evidence I can provide to clear up this dispute.  At that point any readers will be able to decide if the evidence I provide supports what I say it supports.  But right now I’ve wound up spending more time defending myself than talking about what can be shown about which publicly made claims by RfR and Neil can be confirmed true or untrue.  That should not be the focus, and I lament that it’s been permitted to become the focus.  I don’t want this to be about me, I want it to be about the situation I’ve decided to cover.

If my objectivity is compromised, then I will make unsupported claims and, if that happens, people shouldn’t accept them.  Of course, that sword cuts both ways.  If anybody else makes claims they don’t support with evidence in this dispute, those claims should be met with reserved judgment.


First conversation the other party is in blue:

[In posting your discussions with Neil] you happened to undermine your own [credibility].

That would be unfortunate. Hopefully when I publish my final article there will be sufficient evidence included that whatever conclusions I draw are undeniable.

That, of course, will be left up to the reader.

It has nothing to do with whatever conclusion you come up with. I wouldn’t trust it now anyway.

Well, if there’s no amount of evidence that could sway you one way or the other, there’s not much I can do. :\

You seem to be missing the point. You wrote the entry for one purpose, to save your own credibility but in doing so exposed the fact that you deceived everyone. That is a separate issue from the underlying problem.

How did I deceive anybody? Everything I’ve said so far has been 100% true.

In fact, the threads I posted show that Neil knows when I started looking into this though he feigned ignorance to try and imply that I’m working as the hand of RfR. :\  I don’t understand how it’s not clear that my goal was to inoculate *myself* against untruths.

The greater point is that none of us want to be deceived, not you, not me, not anybody. If RfR wronged Neil and is trying to deceive people, we want to know. If Neil has said things that weren’t true, we want to know.

So many people are drawing these conclusions without evidence. Don’t we want to know what’s going on with facts to support it? I mean, Neil himself has called for transparency.

Really? Where was the disclosure on the first blog post that it was written by Elliot Cantor? When did you tell your readers that you were giving him a platform? I’m aware of who this man is having dealt with him.

Had me allowing him a guest post come to fruition, they would’ve known.

I did immediately inform Neil to seek his feedback. Isn’t that transparent? I provided all the details and my justification to Neil immediately.

And where is the disclosure? Right in this very post, by my own hand. You literally know about it because I made it public.

I’m not insisting you like Eliott, that’s not the point. But you seem to be sold that I’m somehow trying to deceive anybody, and I just don’t see the justification.

^^ I hope that doesn’t sound combative, I’m really listening and trying to give you a fair shake.

This just confirms to me how fucked this whole community is. This shouldn’t be litigated by blog or podcast. This is serious business.

I agree, and have said this many times myself. [NOTE: I wish I had pointed out here that reporting is not the same as litigation]

However, I did not make this public. I got onto it (as my thread with Neil confirms) after his prominent “Nice Reputation” post. By then there were already public consequences for this spat: RfR seeing a drop in donations, Neil’s reputation getting stained.

And there were gobs of people, like with the Sarah Morehead drama, reaching conclusions with no evidence. Who wants that?

So while I wish this had gone straight to arbitration, since it hasn’t, I believe it serves the public interest for somebody to try and dig up all the evidence possible to keep rumors, harmful rumors (for all parties), from spiraling out of control and so people can integrate evidence (though people can lie, documents do not) into their decision-making.

Sadly, in some cases, people have insisted that no amount of evidence will change their minds. I can’t help those people, but I can help myself (who wants to make conclusions based on evidence rather than hearsay), and those like me.

Right, so you just had to help them along. smh

Why are you convinced I’m helping “them” along? Or, I guess I should ask, who is “them” in this case?

And if you’re referring to people who don’t have sufficient evidence to draw conclusions…yes, I do want to help them along. I’ve said this the entire time.

As for:

“Tell me how that works out for you when you get dragged into the litigation as a witness, or worse, a defendant.”

There is a saying among lawyers: the best defense in a defamation suit is the truth.

If I get dragged into litigation as a witness, ok. I’ll testify truthfully to what I’ve uncovered, just like I plan to do on my blog.

If as a defendant, ok. I’ve not said a single thing that’s untrue.

I honestly wouldn’t be troubled by either outcome.

“There is a saying among lawyers: the best defense in a defamation suit is the truth.”

That is not a saying, JT Eberhard, that is an actual defense. I would know as I am actually a lawyer, albeit retired but currently suing for defamation.

Good Luck to you.

Thanks for the clarification, but it doesn’t change my worry about either.

Good luck to you too — and I say that genuinely and with no animosity. I realize emotions are high. Mine have been too at times. I hope by the end we can find some common ground in our conclusions about what took place here.

My emotions are not high in this. I have no stake in the outcome. I don’t know Neil or Sarah. I don’t like character assassinations or swiftboating.

Ok, that’s fair.

But what in the threads with Neil amounted to character assassination? I thought everything he said in them was perfectly tame. Had he said anything I felt was incriminating I certainly wouldn’t have posted them.

It wasn’t about what Neil said, it was about what *I* said. Neil said I was deceiving the public, hinting about me considering letting Eliott write a guest post as evidence for this. Those threads show, to my satisfaction, that I was being above board with that the entire time.

They also showed that I’ve been forthright about what I’ve been doing with investigating this with Neil from the beginning. Neil earlier had asked when I started looking into this — those threads show when I did, and that I communicated it.

I have already stated that this should not be litigated by blog or podcast. What makes you think I want to litigate it on facebook? I’m going to work and unfollowing this thread.

Now, I should also add something to that: the truth as confirmed by any evidence may not flatter Neil. It may not flatter RfR. But there should be a separation in those cases from the evidence casting a negative light and me personally doing it.

This is not litigation, this is two people discussing what happened. Not every discussion is a litigation. :\


Second conversation the other party is in red:

Was Neil invited to be on the Dogma Debate show LIVE last night, or just pre-record something?

He pre-recorded his conversation with David Smalley about the phone call he had with Eliott. I’m not sure how that arrangement came to be.

Except, JT, you’re in the position of needing to defend yourself because you inserted yourself into this and started making unwise and sometimes unethical journalistic decisions. It’s pretty different than Neil’s character being maligned by an organization that hides behind NDAs and uses an enforcer who won’t go on the record anywhere.

In any case RFR says in their official published statements that they enlisted you. So to insinuate that Neil is being dishonest is…well, dishonest. Why not include a screen cap of all your correspondence with Darrell Ray or Elliott–oh wait, he doesn’t leave a paper trail.

[EDIT: Eliott sent me a message in response to this:]

There seems to be this ongoing issue about me not putting stuff on documents and talking on the phone so I’m going to make a confession… I can’t type for shit. I type with 1 finger and sometimes I get really crazy and use 2 fingers. It’s painful to watch. When I’m on the phone it’s so much more fluid and easier for me. That’s my big secret.

[So…there’s that.]

“Except, JT, you’re in the position of needing to defend yourself because you inserted yourself into this and started making unwise and sometimes unethical journalistic decisions.”

Fair. While I don’t’ agree with many of the criticisms levied at me, I do agree that I should’ve first asked Neil for permission to post those threads. I’m actually writing a post right now, part of which includes a public apology to Neil about that.

Beyond that though (a mistake I admit, since mistakes do happen) I’m very happy with the work I’ve done so far and I think the evidence I provide will support whatever conclusions I draw.

“It’s pretty different than Neil’s character being maligned by an organization that hides behind NDAs and uses an enforcer who won’t go on the record anywhere.”

If you listen to the Dogma Debate podcast from last night, the characterization of “enforcer”, based on the evidence Neil provided, may not hold up (I want to hear the tape, if you do as well you could encourage Neil to release it). So I think it may be too early to conclude that.

And, if so, then the maligning runs both ways. The heart of the matter is what negative things are rooted in truth, which is what I wish to uncover. You want to draw conclusions too. Like me, I can only assume you want evidence to make certain you make the right ones.

As for hiding behind NDAs, like Neil, I also think NDAs can obscure the truth, though I’m not convinced they’re entirely useless in some cases (jury’s still out for me on a lot of that).

But as for hiding behind them, if you recall I asked the RfR board to rescind the NDA against Sarah if she’d do likewise. I posted that publicly and emailed Sarah, who has implied very strongly multiple times that the truth would vindicate her if only those NDAs were not in place. There has been nothing but silence from Sarah. What’s more, even though Neil posted about his disgust with NDAs, he’s been uncommitted, at best, about the one with Sarah. This is unfortunate as having Sarah’s NDA lifted would make my (and anybody else’s) efforts to get to the truth easier.

But it’s hard for me to conclude that it’s RfR that is hiding behind NDAs when they’re willing to let it go. Does that make sense?

Yes, I can understand that, and have clarified it multiple times that I think it betrays some confusion and bad wording.

My thread with Neil shows how I began looking into this, replete with dates and everything. So while I can understand the initial confusion, the evidence should clear it up (hence why I elected to post it).

Around the 9th, RfR told me that they wanted me doing the investigation and gave me the document dump. They insisted that if I found anything negative about RfR to post it. That was our interaction.

And yes, Eliott does like to do things over the phone which does not leave a paper trail. I have voiced my displeasure with this. However, we do have a recording of Eliott over the phone. Neil has it, and that recording will either confirm what Neil wrote about it or refute it. I want him to release it. The RfR board wants him to release it. I want this information out in the open for the transparency that Neil talked about.

The other thing to say is that there are plenty of emails in which Eliott is involved. I have them in my info dump and will make many of them public in my final article. [NOTE: The implication here is that the reader should reserve judgment until then.  I’ve not made many public claims about this situation, and I don’t want or expect people to make conclusions about them until I provide evidence]

Yeah, it does. I would just add that 1) Neil has his hands full looking out for Neil and it isn’t his job to convince Sarah. And 2) it seems likely that Sarah is being advised by her legal counsel to keep her mouth shut. That’s 100% a guess, but it’s plausible. If that’s true then nothing you or Neil say to her will make her talk. If I were in her shoes I don’t think I’d give any blogger sensitive legal evidence. The courts can handle it from here.

I understand about Neil looking out for Neil. I really do.

But as much as I’ve liked Neil up until this point (admittedly, the accusation that I would intentionally deceive the public colors my feelings), my job here is to find the truth, whatever it may be.

But yes, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t blame Neil for not wanting to send me anything if he doesn’t trust me. He does have to look out for himself. I really do get that. However, in the course of looking out for himself Neil found the time to disparage less strict NDAs that are of lesser relevance to this case. I think it’s unfortunate that his time doesn’t permit the same for an NDA that could help people get to truth. :\

As for Sarah, yeah, I see your point. That doesn’t alter the fact that RfR doesn’t appear to want to hide behind NDAs, which was the claim you made.

(I know these conversations are public, but would you mind if I included them in my post? I think your questions are questions a fair number of people want to see answered)

They have been using a lot of NDAs, which now, under pressure, they’re releasing to achieve the transparency they claim they want. That’s good.

I’ve been in Neil’s shoes in another organization. A church denomination, as it happens. This is worse, but it reminds me so much of my experience. Going up against a system of whatever size that has marshaled a lot of power is intimidating.

I get that.

But look at it the other way — if I find the truth supports Neil, I’ll go to bat for him.

I mean, that’s what people want, right? If Neil has been wronged, people want to defend him. I’m no different.

But that sword cuts both ways. If I find out that Neil is wrong about certain things, I want to know. So should everybody. If the truth supports RfR, then I want to go to bat for them just as much.

But the only way we do know is if somebody collects the evidence and puts it all together. The problem is that people seem eager to reach conclusions based on hearsay, but aghast at somebody reserving judgment and trying to accumulate facts before making those judgments. That is what is baffling to me.

[EDIT: Hey gang, I’ve been answering comments all morning, but I can’t dedicate the whole day to it.  Any questions I answer on this post henceforth will need to be about the contents of the Dogma Debate episode above, which I hope everybody is listening to.]

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