My obligations.

Recently, Hemant Mehta has implied that I have an obligation to apologize to Ben Radford because with the settlement of the lawsuit he brought against Karen Stollznow, her original claims — which I’d detailed and scrupulously withheld judgment on the merits of, going so far as to expressly forbid “playing the villain ball” to explain any aspect of the case even in the comments — have been proven false. That I have an obligation that, because I’d given “near-daily updates” on the case when it broke, I should have been up to date on it as soon as the news broke and should have immediately posted and decried Karen’s lying liar-ness as far and wide as I’d discussed her original allegations.

I have no such obligation.

(Here’s Rebecca Watson’s excellently titled response, since she, like me, has nothing to apologize for either. Here’s also Stephanie Zvan’s devastatingly succinct point form reply to Mehta’s demands. They are both far better reads than this post, or Mehta’s.)

I don’t even, as Mehta proffers as an alternative, need to give a reason why we should continue to believe that Ben Radford is a bad guy, because I, again, avoided suggesting he’s the villain in the original timeline. I allowed plenty of room for Stollznow to be imperfect, to even have villainous qualities of her own, without her necessarily lying about the whole deal, and without Radford being pre-judged to be guilty. The implication that I might have to provide an alternative reason why people should believe a thing that I never suggested is borderline delusional.

It could be that he’s simply erroneously conflating everyone that he’s excoriated in his post as one single gestalt entity — Thor knows people like to mistake FtB and Skepchick for some sort of colluding conspiracy with a singular mastermind pulling all the strings and all toward a single unified endgoal of groupthink and misandry and something-something kill all white men. It could be that he’s mistaken my early frequent updates as part of PZ’s support of Stollznow as part of Greta’s single post as part of Rebecca Watson’s measured reporting on the existence of the harassment claim and decided it was all one big anti-Radford bash-fest. The evidence doesn’t bear that hypothesis out, of course, but the “skeptic” movement being what it is right now, basically anything that implies that feminists are out to get you will gain traction sans evidence.

It could also be that he read the timeline that I wrote, didn’t see anything wrong with it whatsoever as far as the claims that were made, and isn’t including me among the people he’s bashing despite phrasing it very poorly as to include me accidentally (and is drastically misremembering how often other people ever posted about it). That would be something of a surprise, but it’s possible.

I likewise don’t have an obligation to have been on top of the most current happenings, or even on top of posting about it immediately after it was brought to my attention by Doubting Tom on May 26th. I added it to my stack of to-dos, but frankly, “blog” had not yet risen to the top of that stack until Mehta decided to take us to task for our “silence” and to imply that we nasty rage bloggers are trying to make Radford a bad guy.

More generally though, I’m quite annoyed that Mehta is taking the second statement at absolute face value despite prior evidence of a willingness to settle, and worse, that Mehta is extrapolating beyond its stated purpose — to put the episode behind Stollznow and Radford — using it to suggest that Radford didn’t actually do any of those things. Even a cursory and generous read expressly does not speak to that truth or falsity — only that it would be “wrong for anyone to believe” these things, and that it was all just a series of misunderstandings. “He didn’t do it” reads a hell of a lot less circumspectly, so why not say that, since surely that’s the implication, the “why” of why it is wrong to believe these things? Because the wording was likely negotiated, like the first, so it is an absolutely rational position to take that because Stollznow wanted to settle once, she still wanted to settle, and was ultimately willing to pay the price that Radford demanded, regardless of the truth of the situation — the suit debacle had gone on for almost two years, and surely that’s enough.

It is also annoying that Mehta is considered the reasonable middle ground for demanding that the bloggers who’ve covered this topic apologize to Radford now that it’s “false” as though signing this settlement actually proves (or even implies) that Stollznow lied. Didn’t Galileo have to recant his support of Copernicus in the face of a fight he couldn’t win, and yet we don’t think that proved the Copernican model untrue? Doesn’t that lesson from skeptical history give us a clue that settling doesn’t show truth or falsity? Would Simon Singh hypothetically settling his libel suit have somehow therefore magically caused homeopathy to become true? (In which case, thank goodness he didn’t settle!) Shouldn’t Mehta be more measured in his demi-throated support of Radford and damning of Stollznow by implication, considering what the statement actually proves — that Stollznow was willing to settle, and apparently on the day of her C-Section?

The idea that I have to correct myself where I’ve gone wrong is laudable. I absolutely do hold myself to that standard. I don’t, however, see where I’ve gone wrong here except in not being on top of things lately and being incapable of posting on someone else’s timetable, which is not so much “wrong” as it is an unfair expectation of me. Nothing I’ve said — that Stollznow accused Radford of harassment, that Radford sued Stollznow for it — is false. I haven’t made any judgment on the truth or falsity of Stollznow’s claims, unlike Mehta and others. Nothing that’s happened since, with the settlement and statement, impacts the truth or falsity of the original claim and since I never made a claim to know the truth, I’ve got nothing special to say on that front.

Beyond all that, the only time I have impugned Radford’s character is when he posted on his document-dump website a bunch of non-pertinent and possibly illegally obtained and/or illegally posted character assassination of Stollznow, including what amounts to revenge porn to prove they were in a relationship once (which was never in question). If I have judged Radford, it is in the manner of his self-defense, which has been utterly galling. I will not apologize for judging him to be a terrible human being solely on the evidence he helpfully presented us with.

With all of that out of the way, I have been remiss in my actual obligations. They are not what Mehta thinks they are, though.

My obligations are as follows:

1. I have a workplace wherein I am significantly short-handed and swimming against a tide of issues that have basically not stemmed themselves for over a year. Sure, I’ve made progress, but against a massive technical debt that has cost me a lot to pay down.

2. I have done this over the past year at personal expense, and I have been trying to take care of myself in the face of that as best as I can.

3. I have to do this while also supporting and caring for people that I love, who have their own problems and lives and need my time and support.

This blog is not an obligation. Period.

This blog, while an outlet for my writing impulses, for arguing for and against things that I truly believe in and for reporting on the internecene warfare we see in our supposedly skeptical communities, is absolutely not an obligation. Keeping my posts up to date and keeping on top of breaking news when commenters on said posts have added all that needed to be said about the settlement before I chimed in — that is not an obligation.

Even if I absolutely do correct myself when I’ve gone wrong wherever possible and whenever I discover it, I do it at my own pace, as my own time allows, because I don’t make enough from it — in “clicks”, or actual dollars, or plaudits, or whatever currency you think blogging makes you, because it’s plainly not making ME any of that! — to take time away from my other obligations. My blog can, and will, as you can see, suffer when I have actual obligations that take precedence. Over the last year, those other obligations have absolutely taken precedence, and my output reflects that. I simply don’t have time for long-form essays about the ways the communities I once truly wanted to be a part of have been toxic practically by design.

One of my only obligations with respect to this blog is to tell you, my now-scant readership, the unvarnished truth as I see it. And that is this: I am an atheist, I am a skeptic, I am not going anywhere, and I have friends here. The “greater community” is not my community, though, and I find such big tents to be granfalloons and to be therefore repugnant. The people I adore already consider me part of theirs, and that community is enough to me. I don’t need to fix “movement skepticism” or “movement atheism” because people like Mehta, who would excoriate only those who dare report on the harassment and toxicity of our movements, are considered the rational middle ground. Because that is the status quo, I don’t need these movements. I have made every case and every stand that I’ve actually taken in these communities with all the evidence I can bring to bear, and I get ridiculous and unevidenced assertions in response from the so-called skeptics, and so I cannot be bothered to care. Physicians, heal thyselves.

I am obliged only to myself and my loved ones, and I will use this blog how, and when, I see fit. I will not blog on someone else’s schedule because they believe that I am obliged to do what they say, because they are flat wrong.

With that, I’m changing how I blog. Until now, I’ve felt bad about blogging because I’ve felt that if it isn’t a long-form essay, it’s not worth posting. I will instead use this place as a place to post short things. Reblogging others, posting videos. I used to do that, when I was but a wee blogging tyke, but lately I’ve felt like if I wasn’t posting original content, it wasn’t worth it. But since that got me little recognition or thanks, there’s so little return on investment that it hardly mattered.

From now on, expect me to post things I enjoy. Things I see elsewhere that need signal boost. Long-form essays will be as few and far between as they have been lately I’m sure, but I’m going to do better about very short posts. I’ve been letting off steam on Twitter, so surely some of that can be expanded very slightly to be mini-rants.

My obligations are to me and my loved ones. You know who you are. Everyone else be damned.

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My obligations.

18 thoughts on “My obligations.

  1. 1

    Hear hear, Jason! I think anyone who’s been blogging for any length of time without making it their full-time vocation runs into either real life or apathy (or both) getting in the way. I hesitate to even look at the date stamps on the most recent posts on my blogs.

  2. 2

    I saw Rebecca Watson’s response to this matter earlier today, which led me to Hemant Mehta’s post. After reading it, I absolutely did not get the impression that he was implying that *you* should apologize. I thought that he linked to your blog post because as a place where readers could find more of the many “details” that he wasn’t going “to go into.”

    My impression was that he linked to your post precisely because it did so scrupulously and objectively document the details.

    I also got the impression that you might have included yourself among those Mehta is criticizing because you so closely identify with them in the first place.

    But I know I could be wrong. (I’m wrong all the time, and I hate it). With that in mind I reread Mehta’s post and now realize that it is quite reasonable to think that he was implying you should apologize. The key sentence is: “And yet every single one of the bloggers I linked to above has been silent about this matter… They owe him an apology.” And you were a blogger that he “linked to above”.

    But… his link to your blog is not in his most link-filled sentence which reads: “But several bloggers were quick to condemn him (or at least perpetuate the story) based on what Stollznow said.”

    So I still think that it is plausible to argue for my original impression (that Mehta referred to your blog as a valuable source of information not as something that should be apologized for).

    Wow. I’m annoying myself with my hair-splitting. Why am I doing this?

    Well, this might be my way of saying that, even though I hope you will “post things that you enjoy”, the work you’ve done here is appreciated (by me at least, but surely many more). I can’t offer much in the way of “recognition or thanks” but… I obviously have recognized it and… thank you!

  3. 3

    First: bravo, excellent post, thank you. I have become increasingly frustrated with Hemant Mehta, for reasons very much in line with what you’ve described here. Your thoroughness and detail are much appreciated.

    I am one of your “scant few” readers, and I greatly enjoy your work. I am glad you intend to continue blogging, at whatever length you choose to employ. Thanks for everything.

  4. 4

    Plausible, anon1152, and why I suggested maybe he didn’t mean me. But, I’m THE blogger, the only one of the bunch, with the frequent daily updates when the story first broke. I’m the one who kept updating. Everyone else, one, two, maybe three posts total. That’s not exactly daily except for a very short definition of the word.

  5. 5

    Even had you been wrong you would have not owed an apology, you would have owed a correction.

    However a settlement is so so far from the depths of admitting that Karen was *wrong* and so so so much more in the realm of “Ben hounded her into silence” that far from owing and apology I would be busy dashing out a few thousand words about how victims are continually revictimized and silenced and that seems to be okay with everyone.

    Hemet has become quiet unfriendly and I haven’t read him in a long while. He seems to following the paths of the Dawk and his ilk and this cements it. An apology? An apology? To further rub Karen’s humiliation in her face. To deepen her loss at having to just give up just to get on with her life? It’s particularly vile and cruel.

    And as long as Ben Redford is connected to CFI I will have nothing to do with that organization.

  6. 6

    From now on, expect me to post things I enjoy.

    Damn skippy.

    I really have nothing to add or say in reply to this post, except: I hear you, and agree, and support.

  7. 8

    From now on, expect me to post things I enjoy.

    Short reply: Good.

    Long reply: I enjoy reading your blog. I really don’t think my enjoyment of your content is predicated on the frequency of posting or length of said content. In fact, as my blog reading time is limited (and frequently interrupted… Sheesh, kids, amirite?) sometimes shorter is better. In fact, one of other favorite blogs is Dispatches. Honestly, I don’t consider his writing to be particularly “good”. But!! I thoroughly enjoy reading his point of view. I find him to be interesting and thought provoking. His short posts are also easily consumed in one trip to the bathroom. 🙂 Bottom line is I like reading your stuff regardless of length or frequency. From my perspective, neither are issues for your concern. IRL comes first, then, if opportunity and desire allows, blog.

    /ramble
    set lurk = true

  8. 9

    Hey Jason! Just wanted to chime in and say I greatly enjoy your writing, and to thank you for it. I’m looking forward to more, whether short or long!

  9. 10

    First: bravo, excellent post, thank you. I have become increasingly frustrated with Hemant Mehta, for reasons very much in line with what you’ve described here. Your thoroughness and detail are much appreciated.
    I am one of your “scant few” readers, and I greatly enjoy your work. I am glad you intend to continue blogging, at whatever length you choose to employ. Thanks for everything.

    Seconded. I appreciate greatly what you and others do, that I have the opportunity to share in reading smart people’s takes on things via blogs, and that I’m allowed to join in on the conversation. That is all benefit; there is zero obligation to me or any other reader to dictate what you do and how.

  10. 11

    Bah, and here I thought the first rule of blogging was that you do so exactly how and when I want! 😛

    Take care, Jason; we like hearing from you when we do, and I (and I suspect most of your other readers) certainly don’t want your blog to be an additional source of bad-stress, but rather an outlet to help avoid some of the same. We know where to find you if/when you want us as an audience.

  11. 12

    Jason wrote: “But, I’m THE blogger, the only one of the bunch, with the frequent daily updates when the story first broke. I’m the one who kept updating.”

    Exactly. And that’s why I think you aren’t criticized (and certainly don’t deserve to be criticized) in Mehta’s blog post. You’ve continued to update your blog post–a post which doesn’t “promote a story” so much as follow a story. And I appreciate it. (I found your blog to be the most comprehensive and trustworthy source of information on the story. And I greatly appreciate extensive documentation in general. But I might be weird).

  12. 14

    It looks like the signed statement (if it’s authentic) is just part of making the civil case go away. Here’s what the judge’s order said (text copied from the justia.com web site):

    Motion to Dismiss. This case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE, the parties to bear their own costs and attorney fees, by Judge John L. Kane on 05/20/2015.

    Source — https://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/colorado/codce/1:2014cv02620/151101/34

    I had to look up “dismissed with prejudice” — this means the plaintiff (Radford) cannot bring this case back for a future lawsuit.

    The judge’s order references a joint motion to dismiss with prejudice but that document isn’t available to the general public online.

  13. 16

    Chiming in to say that I enjoy your writing. If you posted shorter posts more frequently, I’d be thrilled. You’d be posting more! And on those occasional days when you felt like, you’d write the lengthy, detailed posts I enjoy so much. 🙂

    Seriously though, your timeline posts are an invaluable resource, and I applaud you for assembling them. It’s obviously a lot of work.

  14. 17

    Your blog, your rules, your choice Lousy Canuck. No worries.

    I check in and read here and most other FTB blogs every now and then. When I check yours I usually find what you have to say interesting, reasonable and well-researched. I don’t always agree with everything and some topics and posts I have more interest in than others in which I’m like pretty much all humans I think but well, that.

    Oh & I don’t think Mehta is right to demand an apology of you for this Radford carp.

  15. 18

    PS. Long blog posts and short each have their advantages and disadvantages and I’m happy for either or ideally a mix of both. Its nice to see new posts and more although too many can get a bit overwhelming and its good to have a few longer and more in depth items too. Again, your blog, your rules and choices although its nice if we can do the old DJ thing and put in requests from time to time – without obligation that you’ll agree to “play” them.

    (How do you feel about doing an equivalent here of the ‘Butterflies and Wheels’ and ‘Pharyngula’‘s open threads Withdrawing room / Lounge / Thunderdome type thingummy?)

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