If You Can’t Print The Truth, Print Something

It is becoming more and more a circus.

Let me see if I have this right. In the last week, four prominent men in the atheist/skeptic community have been accused of sexual improprieties that range from inappropriate comments, to sexual assault and rape.
None of the allegations that have been published at this site, have contained one shred of proof. This doesn’t mean that the stories are untrue, it just means that there has been no evidence presented that anything ever occurred.
The latest concerns a well known skeptic and not only accuses him of rape, but of being a serial rapist. You’ve got to be kidding me.
Now I realize that rapes go unreported. It’s a fact. It’s a tragedy that women don’t feel safe, don’t want to endure the shame (even though it’s never the victim’s fault), or the scrutiny and the publicity of trial.
In this case though, all it appears to be at first glance is a whisper campaign to smear a persons reputation. If that’s true, it’s libel. If I were the one in the spotlight, especially knowing that the allegations are untrue, I’d be speed-dialing an attorney.
Do these people believe they are providing a service to the secular community, warning us that there are some very bad actors out there that also happen to be prominent? Do the people that are making these accusations believe they are whistleblowers? If so, well, that’s not how whistle blowing works.
Let’s say you’re an employee of a company and discover that your company is dumping dangerous chemicals that would seep into the groundwater in you community, causing a hazard for everyone. You have actual evidence(at least some) for this and decide to go to your local newspaper. What do you think happens next? Do you wake up the next morning and read the headline on the front page of your newspaper that reads Company Endangers Community, Poisons Groundwater? No.
The newspaper investigates your claims. The newspaper takes your evidence (documents, etc.) and efforts to validate that these are legitimate company documents and not forgeries. They even attempt to get at least one other source. If they can’t validate your story, they don’t publish. Why? They could be sued.
In all the recent cases though, none of this has been done. Of course, the excuse might be, “We aren’t journalists and have no responsibility to validate these accusations”. Ouch. All that seems to happen is a kind-of-sort-of disclaimer.
The author of the post cited above, right before he drops his metaphorical grenade, says “I will again emphasize, though, that I have no personal, direct evidence that the event occurred as described;”. So why publish something that is entirely unprovable? What is the agenda here? I think it’s more than what I’ve said before about this, getting at those that are perceived as enemies. I now am going to add to that after a period of contemplation about all of these allegations suddenly flooding out concerning prominent people in such a short time.
Let’s look at the last couple of years where there was an intimidation campaign for a organizations, and especially those that host conferences, to repudiate sexual harassment and to even have written polices concerning consequences for conference attendees concerning the same.
I don’t actually believe that’s necessarily a bad thing, but the reason this started at all was another back-door, undercover, whisper campaign, that basically indicted all organizations by intimating that sexual harassment was rampant at conferences. Not one shred of proof was ever given. In the intervening two years, there haven’t been reports that any of these conferences were “unsafe for women”. If there was evidence, wouldn’t the Usual Suspects have published the numbers and types of incidences? And these are people that regularly attend some of the events, as speakers or panel members. So I would think that some of them might have first hand knowledge. Nope.
Two years of silence. Makes some people appear to be pretty foolish doesn’t it?
I’m not saying that sexual harassment does occur at conferences. I actually don’t have evidence one way or the other since I’ve never attended one of these events. But is it rampant?
So now, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, starts a series of allegations about prominent people who are harassers at work, sexually assault women at work and conferences, and at least one being a serial rapist. Wow. Just. Wow.
I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever hear an outcome of any of these allegations because unless something actually ends up in a court of law, these kinds of things seem to stay quiet. I would like to know though, and if there are bad actors out there, they should suffer whatever the consequences might be.
In the meantime, though, can’t we stop a campaign that does nothing but tarnish reputations without any proof?
I remember a saying, I can’t give it attribution, but it goes like this:”If you can’t print the truth, print something.”.

2 comments on “If You Can’t Print The Truth, Print Something

  1. This whole mess, from the post accusing Lawrence Krauss of rape on Blag Hag to the one accusing Shermer of rape on Pharyngula to the now missing in action Tumblr page “More Will Be Named” which accused Sean Faircloth, Bill Nye and David Silverman of varying degrees of harassment and intimidation, reeks of agendas and bad tabloid-esque attempts at “journalism”.

    Except there’s nothing journalistic about it. They just toss their accusations out there, based solely on “I got an email from someone who I think is trustworthy”, and then the trial by WordPress commentary begins. As I’ve stated elsewhere, this is reckless, has too much potential for abuse by the accusing parties (if that hasn’t already happened) and has so much potential to not only harm the people being accused, but also those making the claims, especially if someone’s claims are factual and getting mixed in with ones that are lies or misrepresentations.

    If someone gave me info telling me that someone had committed a violent criminal assault against them, I’d probably not use that as an opportunity to advance my blog hits by simply tossing the info out into the public sphere, without any verification, and then washing my hands of the aftermath by attempting to maintain an image of being above the shitstorm. I wouldn’t then try to cover my own ass b saying that I was compelled to post the article because law enforcement won’t do anything about it anyways (even though I didn’t bother to find out). This is vigilante “justice” gone horribly wrong.

  2. That’s excatly what this is, vigilante justice and notice that it’s against people perceived by them as enemies. I wonder what they would say if, let’s say, someone came forward and accused one of their supporters of any one of these crimes. I wonder if FtB would go silent all of a sudden.

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