Rifts getting riftier: naming and shaming the harassers

Well, this got interesting fast. The floodgates appear to be opening in the atheoskeptosphere with regard to people deciding that keeping names out of the we-need-anti-harassment-policies discussion wasn’t doing much good for effecting change.

While we’re talking about workplace and convention harassment incidents (particularly amongst the groups for which conventions are also workplaces), I’ve been meaning to link to this excellent post from last month about why conventions are harassment hotspots (which is why they particularly need specific anti-harassment policies) – when humans gather in large numbers for special events outside of our normal social circles, we behave differently than we do within our normal social circles with regard to potentially problematic behaviours from others (there’s Science! on this), and these different behaviour patterns allow assorted malfeasants (pickpockets, con artists, harassers and other predators of various kinds and degrees) to more easily fly under the Well Nobody Else Seems Bothered (So I Shouldn’t Make A Fuss), the That Disturbing Thing I’m Seeing Must Just Be Some Joke I’m Not In On and the Somebody Else Will Handle This Problem radar fields.

That‘s why conventions are magnets for malfeasants: not because any particular community is necessarily any worse than others with regard to the proportion of social predators in their midst, but simply because it’s easier for the inevitable subset of social predators to get away with their exploits in the middle of crowds of excited people who mostly don’t really know each other all that well but know that they’re among fellow enthusiasts, and who therefore are conditioned to give said enthusiasts benefits of various doubts in those convention settings that they wouldn’t be quite so willing to do for essentially-strangers in their ordinary spaces.

Categories: crisis, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, skepticism, social justice

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9 replies

  1. I am just agog at all this. Agog.

    • Me too, angharad. It’s quite extraordinary, isn’t it?
      I’m hoping this is a tipping point regarding anti-harassment policies generally, and I do think it noteworthy that many of the male “big names” in skepticism who have been scoffing at anti-harassment policy activism seem to be well known as names on the list of those best to be avoided by women who do not care to be confronted by the sexually-entitled-expectations of those who want to keep cons etc as their own private playgrounds.
      No wonder they didn’t want well-documented robust anti-harassment policies to become commonplace, n’est-ce pas?

      • And now one particular Famous Skeptic has made SLAPPtastic grumblings on Jen McCreight’s blog (just fancy, he chose to intimidate the penniless grad student who’s already been bullied away from blogging once, rather than any of the older more financially secure people blogging about it!), and she’s redacted her post accordingly, BUT she’s also talking to Ken at Popehat about her legal options.
        As is usual in these posturings, he confused libel with slander and described an alleged civil tort as being potentially “illegal”. Dunning-Kruger strikes again. Arsehat.
        If it wouldn’t bring Jen any more grief, I’d love to see him Streisand Effect himself on this, but I doubt Ken will actually need to send a Popehat Signal on Jen’s behalf – Famous Skeptic will surely realise that this is unlikely to end up with people NOT talking about him in unflattering ways.

  2. Well that sucks.

  3. This has been a smouldering issue just waiting for a spark, which the report of Ben Radford’s harassment and assault of Karen Stollznow provided. That said, when the conference anti-harassment policy issue was being vigorously pushed last year, it was an ill-concealed secret that there was a shared list consisting of abusers amongst the atheist/skeptical speakers clique, whom women warned each other to avoid. My understanding (not that I attend many of these conferences!) was that it was a short list of three names, and two of those names have been loudly made public in the last day – Lawrence Krauss and Michael Shermer. The latest account concerning Shermer is on PZ Myers’ blog and it is damning, but anonymous; if PZ says he trusts his source, then I am prepared to trust him (having met PZ at each of the GAC conferences here in Melbourne). The third name is an illusionist who is one half of a well-known magic act. We may not be finished with exposing abusers just yet, and it certainly won’t help for attempts to be made to shove this shit back under the carpet. It’s toxic – not only the deeds, but the denialism of rape culture and victim shaming that is rampant – and needs to be cleaned up.

    • The third name is an illusionist who is one half of a well-known magic act.

      If that’s who I think it is, I won’t be one tiny little bit surprised.

  4. Quite. I wouldn’t predict any surprise on your part.
    PZ’s blog post is already infested with some horrible people denying rape culture and I anticipate the social media and atheist/skeptic blogs are likely to become quite horrible for the next few weeks.

  5. I do think it noteworthy that many of the male “big names” in skepticism who have been scoffing at anti-harassment policy activism seem to be well known as names on the list
    A corrolation that should be thrown good and hard at those trying to stay on the fence.

  6. I’m very much a lurker at FTB, and I’ve been following this whole story more-or-less since words were said in an elevator. I’ve been gobsmacked by what’s come out in the last few days too. And that illusory third name surprises me not at all, given a program of theirs I saw not too recently.

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