The Evolution of Sara Mayhew's Latest Lie

Once upon a time, that time being March of this year, Rebecca Watson participated in a panel discussion of Reddit at SXSW with Gawker’s Adrian Chen and Slate’s Farhad Manjoo. The panel is best known for Imgur founder Alan Schaaf’s apparent inability to understand that Q&A time is for questions, but it also garnered a certain amount of the standard Rebecca/woman-ha-opinion-a hatred. This time, it involved Wikipedia vandalism in addition to the standard Twitter mob.

Rebecca tweeted about the Wiki vandalism: “I point out bigotry on Reddit at SXSW. Redditors vandalize my wiki page, send me insults, and attack other women w a similar name. They mad”. Many responses called Rebecca a liar, denying that making a small (incorrect) change to a quote, like a small graffiti tag, constituted vandalism.

One person went a different route. Someone who goes by the Twitter handle @SUICIDEBOMBS, who claims to be Australian, tweeted instead to Sara Mayhew. The original tweet is gone, and Mayhew’s Twitter account has been suspended for several days, because “bullies” reported her for something unspecified, because The Block Bot has somehow automated the mass reporting of tweets for something unspecified, or because she bought 25,000 followers, depending on who is talking when. (Whatever it was for, she had apparently been warned.) However, her retweet was captured earlier.

Tweet from Sara Mayhew. Text provided in the post.

Are you kidding? RT @SUICIDEBOMBS: “Pfft, she IS a Jew though.” – Rebecca Watson overheard at Pineapple Bar, Austin, TX. Talking about you?

@SUICIDEBOMBS srsly, this is a joke and not something actually overheard, right?

Ref to this? @SUICIDEBOMBS “Pfft, she IS a Jew though.” – @RebeccaWatson, OH at Pineapple Bar, Talking about you?

The picture was a reference to someone having vandalized Mayhew’s Wikipedia page in order to call her “an ugly Jew”. That vandalism happened a month before Rebecca’s page was vandalized.

At the time I looked in March, there was no answer to Mayhew’s question. There was, however, plenty to indicate that Mayhew knew Rebecca had said the allegations were false. (Update: Rebecca noted on Facebook that the bar in which she was alleged to have said this doesn’t even exist.)

Tweet from Sara Mayhew. Text provided in the post.

A @skepchicks post makes accusations about me. Banned if I wanted to defend myself. Remember that next time they talk about bullying. [That should be this post.]

Tweet from Sara Mayhew. Text provided in the post.

Rebecca Watson continues to falsely accuse me of libellous comments. Shameful intimidation tactic. #fauxskeptic

So if Rebecca Watson keeps falsely accusing me of libel, is THAT libel? Do I need a meta lawyer for libel libel?! #saylibelagain#libel

If you look at the @SUICIDEBOMBS account now, most of it has been deleted, but this is part of what remains.

Screen cap of tweets. Text provided in the post.

@TheRealRoseanne: I’m so over atheist ignorance of Judaism. It can b proved scientifically” wildly ignorant Jew cunt.

Months away from twitter and people still can’t spell #atheist and #atheismplus is still a thing. Kill yourselves, fucktards.

So, what we have is an allegation that Rebecca said that someone was a Jew. This allegation comes from someone who was blogging long posts on their Tumblr during SXSW, who lives in Australia, who has a hate on for a particular faction within organized atheism, and who uses Jew as an insult. We have Mayhew’s disbelief at the time she was told and Rebecca’s denial when she saw the allegation.

Flash forward to a few days ago, when Mayhew’s account was suspended.

Screen capture of tweet from Rich Sandersen. Text provided in post.

Want to know why the #FTBullies don’t like Sara Mayhew and Michael Shermer? Well, from cultural background do they both hail from?

That tweet, from the person who made up a walkout at SkepchickCon and cited the infamous email to Justin Griffiths to support calling Greg Laden a “woman abuser”, was apparently enough to make it all true–or true enough for Mayhew to repeat. From the account she used to promote her short-lived video series, which she revived to protest her suspension:

Screen cap of tweets from @sciencysadie. Text provided in post.

Richard Dawkins is SO clueless w/ #honeygate. Such privilege checking needed. Worse then when Rebecca Watson called Sara Mayhew “ugly Jew”.

Um, Rebecca Watson, you can’t call Sara Mayhew an “ugly Jew”, you’re not Jewish! You only have ugly privilege, duh.

Why did she get suspended again? From a friends-only post on Facebook (link will show, “Content not currently available”, if you’re not friends with her):

Screen cap of Sara Mayhew Facebook post and first comment. Text provided in post.

Sara Mayhew: Skepchicks are so quick to twist people’s comments into HORRIBLE bigotry. But what about when Rebecca Watson called me an “ugly Jew”?

Don’t need to twist that, ya stupid jerk face!

Derek Soulliere: Oh man, do you have a screenshot?

I’m told she did not provide a screenshot, not even the pic of the Wikipedia page she used back when she was questioning whether Rebecca had said anything that had been overhead in an Austin bar. Instead of just repeating a tweet made in the middle of a Twitter firestorm and asking whether it was connected to a northern California IP calling her “an ugly Jew”, Mayhew is now conflating the two events and repeating them as fact.

Nor is this going unnoticed. The usual suspects on the #FtBullies hashtag are running with the idea and citing Mayhew when asked to provide proof.

If Mayhew was flirting with libel before, now she’s diving in (as seems to be a trend). I don’t know what her game is here, what she thinks she has to gain, but it’s an ugly one. And she can only lose.

Update: See Sara Mayhew’s response.

The Evolution of Sara Mayhew's Latest Lie
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37 thoughts on “The Evolution of Sara Mayhew's Latest Lie

  1. 2

    Best explanation is that she’s desperate to remain relevant; the setback of getting booted off Twitter (for whichever of the reasons that might have happened: her bullying or her follower-buying) has obviously pushed her into a corner and she’s sunk even further into a state where she doesn’t think comments through before she publishes them – and that’s saying something, since she was never that great at contemplation to begin with.

  2. 3

    So a guy who used the phrase “Jew cunt” as an insult once told Sara Mayhew that he overheard Rebecca Watson, a person he despises, use the word “Jew” in a conversation, with no idea what she was talking about or who she was referring to, and now Mayhew has inflated this into “Watson called me an ugly Jew!”, and this is taken as dogma now?

    Skepticism. How does that work again?

    I also don’t know what cultural background Mayhew or Shermer hail from. No idea at all. The implication seems to be that they’re Jewish, but I’ve never heard either of them say that. So what is Sanderson trying to imply?

  3. 6

    I’d prefer we not speculate about why Mayhew is doing this. We’re not in any position to know. Also, she’s talking about having issues with depression in the past, but almost no one with depression acts like this. Trying to find a reason to pin this on is far too much like trying to find a reason our behavior couldn’t ever rise to this level of crappy, when the actual reason is that we work at being decent to each other.

  4. 7

    almost no one with depression acts like this

    Please don’t discount the importance of peer group reinforcement on people suffering from depression. It’s certainly been a powerful motivator for behavior in my past, when in the grips of major depressive episodes. It’s caused me to look aside from questionable behavior by friends and colleagues, even to the point of actively condoning harmful behavior because I desperately wanted validation/support in my darkest hours.

    I have no idea if this is what’s motivating Mayhew, but from my viewpoint, it’s quite possible. People liking you can mean quite a bit when suffering from depression, and she’s certainly not lacking in approving feedback with this behavior.

  5. 8

    I’m genuinely concerned because whatever her motivations or reasons, Mayhew’s behaviour is not that of a happy or healthy person. That being said I’ll refrain from speculating.

    The supporters of and apologists for Mayhew’s venom are also a worry. If I saw a friend or someone I respected behaving like this I think I’d be voicing my concerns or at least not supporting the behaviour – I especially wouldn’t be cheering them on and adding fuel to the fire. Supporting someone is one thing but thoughtlessly cheering them on no matter what toxic foolishness and lies they engage in is exactly the opposite of helpful or rational. Mayhew’s cheer squad might just be doing more damage to their hero than to their declared enemies-for-life.

  6. 9

    Re-reading, I in no way mean to imply that depression is a pre-condition for this type of behavior. As you note, we don’t have to seek special excuses. This is quite normal human behavior.

    But depression can certainly provide motivation for this kind of behavior, in some circumstances.

  7. 11

    I know you probably know this, but just a small defense of The Block Bot app:

    Mayhew’s Twitter account has been suspended for several days, because “bullies” reported her for something unspecified, because The Block Bot has somehow automated the mass reporting of tweets for something unspecified, or because she bought 25,000 followers, depending on who is talking when.

    There are several reasons why the part I highlighted isn’t true. Some of the more obsessed haters have recently been mistaking the #Report hashtag we use to command the bot to record pertinent tweets as a kind of malicious attempt to get the bot’s followers to report the tweets or accounts behind the reported tweets to Twitter. Whether anyone seeing those tweets to the bot cares about them and also misunderstands them enough to take the time to report them to Twitter is doubtful. If you click the #Report hashtag, you can see that people use it to tag news stories with all the time, so our haters’ reading of it that way is not the norm on Twitter.
    We also have a restriction on the number of blocks that can be applied to any one account by the bot within a certain timeframe. One or more of Twitter’s policy enforcers has vetted that part of the bot and approved continued use of the bot for blocking as long as that restriction is in place to prevent a mass-blocking scenario.
    And, needless to say, but The Block Bot cannot and does not do any mass reporting of anything to anyone.

    Besides all of that, thank you for writing this up and doing the research on it. I hope the haters read it and feel as ashamed as they ought to for being so damn gullible.

  8. 13

    While not technically on the SlymePit, I think Mayhew represents one of the extremes you’ll find there. She’s found a community that will shower her with praise and look up to her, provided she hates on SkepChick or FreethoughtBlogs. They don’t care much about accuracy, though, and some of her self-esteem is now in the hands of others; this encourages a race to the bottom, with the allegations getting increasingly outrageous in order to bring validation.

    She does have a brain, or at least did. Anyone remember when she confronted Deepak Chopra during his debate with Shermer? Hell, she’s even approvingly referenced Rebecca Watson in a piece arguing New Age beliefs are bad for feminism.

    It’s not hard to argue how oppressive the Abrahamic religions are towards women. If you take a close look at most Eastern Asian religions as well, avoiding the cherry-picking found in the cliché “California-style” hodgepodge of Dharmic and Taoic practices, you’ll find an equally strong tradition of misogyny-inspiring credulity. I imagine most skeptics and humanists will find the word “secretly” a bit too strong of a word to describe how bad New Age beliefs are for women, but what makes it stand out from other forms of superstition and supernaturalism is that it most often promotes itself as a worldview which empowers women. New Age beliefs are deceptively bad for feminism. […]

    I recently watched Skepchick Rebecca Watson’s CFI talk on the myth of Women’s Intuition and realized just how dangerous these stereotypes are when applied in the real world. The idea that women have a special inner power which grants them privileged knowledge about reality is damaging to the female image. It’s a giant step backward from the reality that men and women are equal in ability to the absurdity that women need supernatural power in order to bring themselves to the same level as ordinary men.

    That carries on through to her comments (using the dreaded F word brought in a number of MRAs and sympathizers, shock surprise).

    Where is the evidence to back up the claim that women and men aren’t equal in ability? Why should there be a difference between men and women’s abilities to empathize or multi-task? You make these claims and offer no evidence, yet accuse me of being biased despite the fact that I linked to a talk with information supporting my claims. You, instead, present your personal opinions as facts and dismiss my arguments as biased while freely admitting that you didn’t bother to click the reference I gave. […]

    Intuition, like any other ability, is based on practice and experience. And yes, [Watson’s] talk covers the fact that stereotypes have an impact on performance when testing abilities. Women are just as good at math as men, but their scores plummet if they are told that men are better at math. Their scores go up if they are exposed to a positive female role model beforehand.

    It’s a far cry from the self-refuting tweets she’s currently famous for. However, when you hang out in a community that values skepticism only as an identity, and when you are rewarded for being outrageous, this sort of slide is expected.

  9. 15

    According to Wikipedia at least Shermer’s cultural background is Christian – he went to Sunday school as a kid, heck he even majored in Christian theology before switching over to psychology.

    Where’s the idea that he’s Jewish come from?

  10. 16

    Zvan @OP:

    I don’t know what her game is here, what she thinks she has to gain, but it’s an ugly one.

    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS… apparently… @14:

    And… I’m still lost. I keep think there’s an end game, here, but… what?

    What’s the end game of eating a chocolate bar? The short-term pleasure and temporary nutrition, nothing more. Looking for a grand plan beyond the immediate consequences of that act is a waste of time.

    Addictions do not have an end game.

  11. 17

    #14: Nate

    I think she seriously thinks of Rebecca Watson as a villain in need of defeating – thus her end game is to defeat that villain – even if that comes at the expense of cherished ideas she may hold in common.

    Her end game is to destroy what she thinks is the ‘baddie’ – without really examining why.

    Hate when controlled and examined, when tended with care and cooled with reason and compassion, can be a magnificent force for good. This on the other hand, is what happens when hate is fed carelessly and allowed to grow out of control.

  12. 18

    I said this already on Pharyngula. Sara Mayhew seems to be stuck in adolescent egocentrism, that horrible phase when you think that everybody is constantly talking and thinking about you.
    By now I just consider her sad and pathetic.
    Yes, she’s a hater, but the only things I manage to come up with are a sad headshake and sympathy.
    Look at her. She bought followers on Twitter, she uses an old account of hers, doesn’t bother to remove the evidence that clearly shows that this is her and then talks about herself in third person.
    That’s deperate and self-destructive and all I have left is pity.

  13. 19

    I actually seriously doubt it is the 25K followers she bought that got her suspended. This was some time ago and if anyone reported her for it then she would have gone a long while ago. Just before she went there was a lot of libellous activity on her account – not just aimed at Rebecca but the whole of the SGU and others. In fact she’s written a rant about the SGU on her Facebook page, where she also blames the bot for getting her suspended. ( … I may have some comments on there assuming she hasn’t deleted them instantly!

    Hopefully she can get over this obsession with Rebecca and the Skepchicks as it is hurting her a lot more than it is hurting them atm.

  14. 20

    Her skeptic allies seem to have abandoned her. You’d expect people like Grothe and Drescher to have at least mentioned her ban, but there’s nothing. The only ones complaining seem to be the low-functioning weirdos.

    Notably, shortly before her ban, she started going after the Novella brothers in public. Some will be aware of the squalid back story to this. Perhaps Grothe et al. don’t want to be associated with her when the truth eventually comes out.

  15. 22

    At some point Mahew was certainly chummy with the SGU gang. My husband and I first encountered her in 2011 at TAM 9 (the only TAM we have attended or will attend), then at Dragon Con that same year. She appeared on an episode of SGU taped at the latter event. When the 24-hour live stream of SGU was having technical difficulties getting started, she hosted a Google+ hangout for people who were waiting to watch. If she hated Rebecca all that time, she never showed it.

  16. 23

    @ Giliell 18

    Sara Mayhew seems to be stuck in adolescent egocentrism, that horrible phase when you think that everybody is constantly talking and thinking about you.

    I tend towards optimism but maybe she regresses to adolescent egocentrism instead of being stuck in it? When people fight over things they simplify their thinking out of necessity.Past habits become more likely to become engaged. If she has examples of being less like she is now, maybe this is a regression.

    Unless the regression has become the new norm and become a heuristic she depends on more and more.

  17. 24

    DJ Grothe has consistently rewarded Sara Mayhew’s behavior by asking her to speak at TAM, not in spite of, but I think because of, her vindictive, dishonest attacks on feminists. If Phil Plait were still president of the JREF, Sara would absolutely not be rewarded in this manner. There’s at least some plausibility that Sara would be in a more healthy place mentally right now if Plait, or someone with his level of integrity, were JREF president.

    Grothe’s desire to punish his enemies by rewarding abusive behavior is literally hurting the abuser herself. Sara is doing her online reputation no favors. Her unrelenting hatred is causing her to act obsessively and unethically, which simply cannot be good for her.

    James Randi must be so proud for the part the JREF has in using a young woman as a tool in an attempt to smear the perceived enemies of the JREF.

  18. 25

    Many responses called Rebecca a liar, denying that making a small (incorrect) change to a quote, like a small graffiti tag, constituted vandalism.

    People were arguing over this? I’m sorry, but that’s just ignorant — literally ignorant. “Vandalism” is a term of art on Wikipedia. Any intentionally incorrect change to a Wikipedia article qualifies as “vandalism”, end of sentence. If Banksy were to replace the Wikipedia article for “Donuts” with a digitally-scanned version of an original mural, we might debate whether that qualified as “vandalism” from an artistic sense, but in the Wikipedia sense of “vandalism”, there is no debate: That’s just what you call it.

    It would be like debating the extent to which a piece of unsolicited commercial e-mail resembled a can of processed meat. “Spam” may mean one thing out there away from the screen, but it has a very specific meaning in regards to e-mail. Same with “vandalism”.

  19. 26

    Mayhew’s all over the map, contradicting herself, in that FB post Oolon mentions. She’s slamming SGU because “They have the audacity to support the JREF bashing self-interested opportunist Watson”, but DJ Grothe pops in to say “Of course, I disagree with your kvetching about SGU. Big fan of many aspects of that show..”, and suddenly Mayhew says “Of course, you’re right DJ, their show is good.”

    Then a few hours later it’s: “Their show is good, but they act like entitled jerks off-air, behind people’s backs.”
    “Their best moments are rare when they actually talk naturally, but most of it is them reading off a page and quoting.”

    Two days later it’s”The point is SGU: stop feeding the hand that bites you, TAM.”
    (Ok, if you read this, it’s kind of odd, having reversed feed/bite. She’s echoing a point made earlier by Mallorie Nasrallah “SGU is nothing without the JREF, how they continue to bite the hand that feeds them so brazenly is beyond me”)

    And then a leap to: “I think they should apologise to me. They should be encouraging young women who bring skepticism to manga fans, TEDsters, and San Diego Comic-con goers, not participating in making me out to be a hysterical girl.”

    And on getting suspended by Twitter, she’s also scattered:
    “I think my twitter was suspended because of block bot.”
    “I mean that the number of auto-blocks makes my account vulnerable to this.”

    Then same day, (today):
    “You can see above I said block bot didn’t suspend me.
    The “Ugly Jew” remark from Rebecca about me has nothing to do with it either.”

    And repeats the libel.

    Public FB Post

    I’m with those who think Mayhew’s being really self-destructive here. She knows why she was suspended by Twitter, but wants to lash out at Rebecca Watson (always Rebecca) and the blockbot, regardless of facts she herself describes. There’s something wrong with her, and her “friends” are making it worse.

    Does anyone know where/when SGU has been criticizing Mayhew, or acting like a jerk to her? She wants an apology, but for what? Or is it just that Rebecca was mean to her, and therefor SGU is responsible?

  20. 27

    I hope the haters read it and feel as ashamed as they ought to for being so damn gullible.

    HAHAHA! Good one!

    We’ve seen this a hundred times before. What will happen is that the story will be repeated so often until it’s just ‘one of those things’, and any request for evidence will be met with ‘it’s common knowledge’ or ‘everyone knows about it.’

  21. 28

    No, Mayhew is specifically upset with the Novellas. My understanding is that she had a brief dalliance with one of them, then got upset when he went on to date someone else. And by upset, I mean there is apparently some correspondence that would raise your eyebrows, even after seeing her in action.

  22. 30

    Speaking of in action, Mayhew’s twitter account is back online. Browsing through her recent tweets, I no longer feel sorry for her. Worse than I’d remembered. She’s poisonous.

  23. 31

    Possibly worth including as an update to the post: Over on Facebook, Rebecca Watson had this to say:

    One thing Stephanie doesn’t mention is that the original “accusation” from the troll referenced a bar that doesn’t exist. It’s probably the stupidest attempt at a smear ever, which just once again solidifies Sara Mayhew’s title as Dumbest Person on Twitter (she’s been banned from Twitter for harassment but she has two sock puppet accounts she uses now, so I think the title should remain hers).

    Sure enough, a quick search for “pineapple bar austin tx” doesn’t turn up anything. That’s some skepticism right there, Sara. Maybe you’d be better off reading from articles you’ve Googled instead.

  24. 33

    I’d like to say something real quick… I’m not down with armchair psychology. I know Sara’s mentioned issues with Depression in the past, but can we leave that to her, please?

    I go back to not understanding the endgame because I’m not comfortable diagnosing Sara with anything other than being an asshole with a strange hate-on for Rebecca Watson and FTB that makes no sense…

  25. 34

    Stephanie @28

    Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was afraid of. She was openly discussing her attraction to said Novella at TAM, according to my husband.

    Funny how she turned being spurned by a man into such women-hatred. No armchair diagnoses from me, but yikes…

  26. 35

    I meant to add, she’s not just taking it out on Rebecca, but on Stephanie and Ophelia and all the women who have reported sexual harassment and assault at TAM. Projection, much?

  27. 36

    Thanks Nate. I agree. It’s difficult not to be puzzled and to speculate about why a person would behave like this, but we really shouldn’t speculate about her mental health as it pertains to this or anything else. I’m comfortable just knowing she’s a raging asshole and leaving it there.

  28. 37

    My understanding is that she had a brief dalliance with one of them, then got upset when he went on to date someone else.

    Really? Aren’t all the Novellas practically ancient compared to Mayhew?

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