The campaign against Amy Davis Roth

I met Amy Davis Roth, also known as Surly Amy, two years ago at CONvergence 2010 – SkepchickCON 2. Jodi and I were on our honeymoon — yes, we spent our honeymoon at a geek convention. Couldn’t have picked a better venue. Amy had a table in the dealer’s room, selling her ceramic Surly necklaces, and I picked up a green atom necklace so I could wear science iconography where so many others wear their religious iconography. Her partner Surly Johnny was a bad influence on me and I drank too many Buzzed Aldrins. The experience was a bit of a whirlwind one, but I got a sense from everyone working the Skepchick party room that they were passionate, committed, and principled, even when they were doing their damnedest to make sure everyone had a good time.

My already favorable impression of Amy was redoubled when I found out that she’d nearly singlehandedly sent dozens of women to TAM over the years, organizing and running fundraisers and committing resources from her Surlys to that end. She had a great deal of help, but she was almost certainly the lynchpin. And she writes timely and important rallying cries when the movement needs them the most — and that’s what a leader does, even if they don’t necessarily want or accept that mantle.

I met her again at SkepchickCON 4 a month and a half ago, and her enthusiasm and pink Darth Vader costume put her over the top for me — I have a ton of respect for the lady. If we ever disagree, it’ll be on good terms. She’s earned quite a bit of goodwill with me.

So I guess it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that a mainstay of the skepto-atheistic blogosphere, who’s done so much to promote skepticism and atheism, and to foster inclusiveness of women in our communities, is under concerted attack.

I’m guessing this all started when, despite her monumental efforts toward bringing women to TAM who otherwise couldn’t afford it, she was targeted by a number of individuals because she’s a member of Skepchick, and Skepchick as a network had recently pissed off a lot of people because… because… DJ Grothe blamed them and others for TAM’s lower attendance. Yes, Skepchick pissed people off because DJ accused them of something they didn’t do. All because they support harassment policies, and Grothe — and his fans, apparently — think that the demand for harassment policies is an attack on TAM.

Rebecca Watson kinda took offense and withdrew from the conference. But Amy had already committed to going to TAM this year, with the women she’d given grants to. So she went anyway.

Harriet Hall wore a shirt saying she was “not a skepchick” and that she feels “safe and welcome at TAM”; some people wore obvious imitation Surly jewellery saying “you should be embarassed” or “that’s not funny” (referencing something she said about rape jokes and the Angry Skepchick Twitter account once! So clever!); the #TAM2012 live-tweeting hashtag was at some points inundated with more vitriol about Amy and Skepchick and the anti-harassment campaign than it was actual live-tweeting the convention; the Satiristas did a song about how the feminists have a stick up their asses about coffee and elevators; one of the grant recipients proclaimed herself “not a Watsonista” and apparently snubbed Amy and the other grant winners; people loudly and roundly proclaimed that Amy was part of an “axis out to destroy TAM”.

Amy rightly sensed her pariah status and cried in the speaker’s lounge. And that was her next big sin, which later became the focus of a new dozen lies about her.

Hall walked in on Amy crying, and there was a brief confrontation where Amy told Hall how uncomfortable it was to be explicitly targeted as a member of the Skepchick brand. Hall continued to wear the anti-skepchick shirt for three days (eww) despite this confrontation. Then secret harassment police swooped in out of nowhere, because Amy had evidently told someone about the ongoing anti-Amy sentiment at some point who knew the secret harassment police. Said secret police told Amy and her mother that she would be secretly taped and monitored for the rest of the conference, even though Amy herself never reported any of this harassment because it was to that point all stupid bullshit and nobody had yet crossed any lines that merited talking to officials about.

The surveillance was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back, but she says she did not leave primarily because of it. Not primarily because of the t-shirt. Not primarily because of the parody Surlys. Not primarily because of the song. Not primarily because of the accusations of being part of a vast conspiracy. Not primarily because of the anti-Skepchick sentiment on the Twitter hashtag. Not primarily because of the backstabbing by a grant recipient. No, she left because of all of it put together.

Then the trolls came along and reframed the entire thing, saying that Amy was trying to censor the free speech of the t-shirt or of the imitation Surlys. That Amy wanted to run a campaign to keep people from being offensive to her. And that was apparently enough to induce every single cockroach that the skeptical and atheist movements have collected over the years — every single person who’s ever said “elevatorgate? Dude was just flirting! So coffee doesn’t mean coffee?” to pile onto this newest conflagration, to create a new target to be drummed out of the movement. Not Rebecca Watson, but her ally and friend and co-blogger Surly Amy. I mean, doing as much splash damage to the previous targets as possible in the meantime, but certainly the target for the mortars had shifted.

People now ask if it’s immoral to rape a Skepchick because they’re annoying. They call Skepchick and Freethought Blogs ‘feminazi’ and ‘femistasi’ because we point out when people in our movements are horrid to one another and take them to task over it. They tell Amy to self-immolate because there’s no policy against it at TAM (“The Other Atheist” is one of Franc Hoggle / Victor Ivanoff‘s pseudonyms, by the way.)

But Amy weathers those storms. She keeps on plugging away at improving the movement, both through her art and through her activism.

Then the trolls get the bright idea to wreck her art at the same time as going after her personally.

First Thunderf00t posts a copyrighted image of hers in order to make fun of her, and the very idea of harassment policies. Amy tells him he does not have permission to use the image, and asks that he takes it down. He does, but replaces it with an image mocking her.

Then a certain disingenuous and argumentationally-vacuous entity in our community, who claims both to be a leader and to represent the moral high ground of attacking people’s arguments instead of their person, posts a copyrighted image of Amy’s in order to try to cut her down. This entity — henceforth known as Entity (who will go unlinked, so I’m not accused of trying to ruin their reputation in a bullying fashion by pointing out their trollish actions!) — wrote the post to say that Amy is divisive and damaging to the community because she wants conferences to ban the parody jewellery, rather than what she actually suggested, that harassment policies would provide frameworks for complaining about being targeted for harassment like she had been. The entire post was a straw dummy, as is Entity’s modus operandi, but the post stood unopposed, unmentioned and unloved, until Blogger’s automatic DMCA takedown process reverted the post to draft status until the blogger in question could remove the offending image.

So people now have a rhetorical club to beat Amy with. Despite there being no evidence that Amy herself posted the DMCA takedown notice, it’s very probably her because she’s the copyright owner. But the action recommended in the takedown notice was to remove the offending content and the rest could be republished.

Did Entity simply do that and walk away? Of course not. Instead, Entity replaced the image with a sneering ‘shopped Surly that accuses Amy of censorship and trying to censor his entire post, then filed a DMCA counter-claim, which means that the original claimant either takes Entity to court within ten days, or Entity can put back up the copyrighted work. Counterclaims are rare, because most people don’t know about them and don’t know how to tell what’s “fair use” and what isn’t. Counterclaimants are usually advised to do so on advice of a lawyer, because the whole process is nebulous and a total crapshoot, no matter who’s obviously in the right. On the internet, fair use for images is a bit weird, but it’s well possible that Entity could even win such a case, assuming it was even Amy who filed it in the first place. What gets me is the sneering intentionality of the counterclaim — that sense of “I’ll use your work then hurt you for trying to stop me”.

All while this is happening, bullies who hang out on the #FTBullies tag, who spend all day every day on Twitter telling everyone about how horrible Freethought Blogs and Skepchick are, have been commenting on this case, demanding that it go to the Feds, that Amy be tried for perjury if her image wasn’t copyrighted. (Remember that the Berne Convention makes copyright automatic, though America limits statutory damages and lawyers’ fees as available only for registered works. She’s in no risk of being hauled before a Federal court.)

And those same actual bullies are spamming offensive non-Surly jewellery at people who are discussing the works, apparently in a dual attempt at drying up her revenue stream and hurting her personally. And then to top it all off, these exact same people pretend like Amy is just playing victim, and needs a thicker skin. After all of this targeted nonsense. After this obsessive hatred.

Why are these people like this?

Is this an extinction burst, the dying breaths of the most odious parts of our movement as they shrivel and fade away in the sunlight? Well, I suspect it will keep happening for quite some time. The haters will gain traction, there will be give and take, and some big names will rally in support of the people who really, really hate the idea of social justice merging with atheism and skepticism into a larger philosophy of humanism.

The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that while folks are being terrible to Amy for no apparent or rational reason, everyone taking them to task for it would absolutely defend their freedom to say or do those things. Otherwise, there are no actions to take them to task over! Really, pointing out their bad behaviour is a far cry from telling them they’re not allowed to behave badly. And most of the community agrees — the fight for harassment policies at atheist and skeptic conventions is already won.

The holdouts are complaining primarily that we’re impinging on their freedom, but on the contrary — they’re absolutely free to be complete shitheels to people they don’t even know. How else would the rest of us know that these people are unworthy of our time and attention? It’s a self-correcting problem, really — they’ll naturally make themselves unwelcome in all but the most offensiveness-reifying communities, BECAUSE they’ve got the freedom of speech to prove exactly how terrible of human beings they really are.

And good riddance. The sooner they expose their true colors and the community realizes exactly what kinds of people they are, the better.

If you’re sick of this nonsense, if you’d like to support someone who’s supported our community even while the cockroaches targeted her, go buy some of her lovely Surlyramics.

Surly necklaces, © Amy Davis Roth. Used with permission

I asked for her permission to include this image. See? That wasn’t so hard.

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The campaign against Amy Davis Roth
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376 thoughts on “The campaign against Amy Davis Roth

  1. 301

    Steve Williamson: your false equivalency is noted. Please bear in mind that “fuck you” might be emotive, but it’s certainly not a targeted hate campaign designed to do chipping damage against a goddamn pillar of our community.

  2. 303

    As a father who doesn’t want his son to grow up to be a douchebag, I see a certain narrow value to being able to point to people like Steve Williamson, male voice, or pilot and say, “Son, don’t be that guy.”

  3. 305

    This is why one should not try to make a movement out of negative views, views that are contrary to some other views. Inevitably the movement becomes about position and status, and defending those positions and statuses against perceived threats. Skeptical movements around the world, and most certainly here in Australia, tend to have a small circle of those who run them who are concerned that newcomers don’t get too strong.

    Since most such movements were set up either in societies that are male dominated (including, I am afraid to say, many scientifically oriented subcultures) they tend towards the standard male chauvinism of the eras in which they began individually. It’s not surprising that they treat skeptical women like this: they treat all women like this.

    There are other sidelined and marginalised groups too; ethnic, social, and personality types are also treated like this. The result is that the movements will start well in a cultural context but then slowly denature like molecules left in a test tube over time.

    For a movement to be both a positive force and adapt to changing cultural values such as egalitarianism for different or new groups than the ones that started it, the movement must have a positive set of values. Humanisms of various stripes do, but basically we demonstrate in this the fact about religion that we cannot emulate and which explains its successes: to be really successful, you have to exploit some primate cognitive biases, and set up arbitrary totems around which to dance to establish loyalties. If you can’t do that (and from principle skeptical and atheist movements cannot consistently do that), then your target audience (the human primates) will not stay true to the aims of the movement.

    IMHO

  4. 306

    Believe it or not, there are a hell of alot more like me out here in fly-over country that are going to want a good reason to give up any of what little time we have to spare from making a living. It’s your choice, movement or fad. No reply neccesary, just think about it.

    Believe it or not, there are a hell of a lot more like other women who are sick and tired of being harangued and harassed out of the movement, and need a damned good reason to give up what little they have. You’re not the only one who counts here.

  5. 311

    Sorry, that should read, what if part of Amy’s story isn’t accurate?

    That still not effect the POINT, which is that people deliberately mocking and targeting a fellow attendee at a conference (which there is evidence of and even admission of without needing Amy’s testimony) should not be tolerated. Regardless of what the person targeted says or does afterward.

    You’re not supposed to claim immunity from criticism for a social transgression you’ve done based on events that occur afterward.

    (I swear, if these spend any more time “being skeptical” about minutiae we’re going to find ourselves having to explain object permanence. As it is we’re stuck at explaining kindergarten-level morality.)

  6. 312

    I’m not seeing any good reason to give up an afternoon of fishing or kayaking to participate.

    Perfect demonstration of armchair-decent people.
    He really doesn’t care, good bhubba. It doesn’t affect him, he can simply walk away, so he does at the least sight of troubles (although it should be noted that he’s been doing that routine for months). And he’ll blame us for chasing away the fish

  7. 313

    15. Arakiba says:
    August 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm ADT
    “When men feel their privilege is threatened, they get angry. Some get violent. If I was a woman who was thinking of going to TAM, I wouldn’t feel safe; especially not after what was described in this post.”

    –Yeah, that’s not sexist. You should be shouted out of the community for that comment.

  8. 317

    […] for or correctness of the criticism itself, we receive undue levels of vitriol and opprobrium, as Surly Amy has learned, for the mere crime of suggesting that we’re not taking harassment in our communities […]

  9. 318

    Steve Williams said:

    You do not actually know which “camp” I am in though, do you? I have yet to state anything which would indicate such. Apologies for claiming you had claimed as I had stated (oh look – there is some integrity there n’est pas?), but that was the impression that was given.

    How very clever of you.

    I know you’re not in my camp – you are unworthy.

    Ooze on somewhere else.

  10. 320

    mraandproudofit: if it was “women are human beings, full stop” you’d still not have read it. You’re in moderation now. Wail at me privately if you must, but you’ll spew such uselessness on these pages no further.

  11. 323

    You do not actually know which “camp” I am in though, do you? I have yet to state anything which would indicate such.

    Bwahahaha! Because, you know, all the stuff you’ve said anywhere but this precise comment thread disappears when you comment here. FFS.

  12. 324

    “Said secret police told Amy and her mother that she would be secretly taped and monitored for the rest of the conference, even though Amy herself never reported any of this harassment…”

    Wait. Didn’t we just go through a huge argument because DJ Grothe didn’t respond appropriately to Chinese whispers of a harassment report from Ashley Miller? So, not paying attention to indirect reports of harassment is wrong, but paying attention to indirect reports of harassment is also wrong?

  13. 325

    You’re in moderation now. Wail at me privately if you must

    I for one welcome our Canuck Overlord’s willingness to protect us by throwing his body onto the wailing.

  14. 326

    Jesse B

    Wait. Didn’t we just go through a huge argument because DJ Grothe didn’t respond appropriately to Chinese whispers of a harassment report from Ashley Miller? So, not paying attention to indirect reports of harassment is wrong, but paying attention to indirect reports of harassment is also wrong?
    A) No, we didn’t. We went through a huge argument because after everybody thought that DJ had handled the harassment of Ashley well he then claimed there was no harassment report. NOt to forget the other harassment reports he didn’t mention
    B) Not every action is good action. You know, if there’s a problem with racists harassing the children on their way to school, then to accompany schoolchildren by police as if they were criminals going to a trial instead of stopping the racists is action, but not appropriate action.

  15. 327

    addressing #54. Forbidden Snowflake.

    Re: the ‘defined Atheist’ acronym Surlyramic. If Ms Amy adopts the A+ idea, all she’d need to do is add the + beside the A on the pendant and she’s good to go.

    The A+ seems such a simple chime of a concept enhancer. It’s still just a symbol without the concerted goodwill of people pressing hard to include and not exclude but it’s really interesting to watch the declarations of ‘fair play’ get firmer and more definitive.

    Evidentiary fair play is another simple concept that seems so hard for adults to express when they’re comfortable with the obfuscation we all get wrapped up in. It’s exciting to see it hammering for more air.

  16. 328

    I may have completely missed it, but has Dr. Hall spoken or written publicly on why she wore that shirt in the first place, and/or why she continued to wear the shirt after Surly Amy spoke with her about it? This is way, way, way down here, so it may be missed, but I thought I would ask. Cheers.

    Oh, and: A+.

  17. 329

    [email protected], not to be confused with the Borg
    Wait. Didn’t we just go through a huge argument because DJ Grothe didn’t respond appropriately to Chinese whispers of a harassment report from Ashley Miller? So, not paying attention to indirect reports of harassment is wrong, but paying attention to indirect reports of harassment is also wrong?
    A) No, we didn’t. We went through a huge argument because after everybody thought that DJ had handled the harassment of Ashley well he then claimed there was no harassment report. NOt to forget the other harassment reports he didn’t mention
    B) Not every action is good action. You know, if there’s a problem with racists harassing the children on their way to school, then to accompany schoolchildren by police as if they were criminals going to a trial instead of stopping the racists is action, but not appropriate action.

    I assume based on your reponse in B your perspective is the action taken with Amy was incorrect. Just curious what action should have been taken once a report of harrassing behavior has been reported and triggers an interview, not an interrogation, where a highly agitated person expresses concerns for her safety and feels threatened because of inappropriate tweets and irl issues and t shirt messaging?

  18. 330

    Chinese whispers

    What the fuck are Chinese whispers? Whispers that are nasty and evil like Chinese people are nasty and evil? Indirect like Chinese people indirect?

    Racist motherfucker.

  19. 331

    Sally Strange: it’s also a tell that this goober likely swallowed Thunderf00t’s lines of argumentation on harassment and the “rift” whole. The F00t is the first person I’ve heard in any of this series of arguments to use the phrase, excised as it’s been from most people’s vocabulary for being racist and useless when “telephone game” is just as serviceable.

  20. 332

    Entrained

    I assume based on your reponse in B your perspective is the action taken with Amy was incorrect. Just curious what action should have been taken once a report of harrassing behavior has been reported and triggers an interview, not an interrogation, where a highly agitated person expresses concerns for her safety and feels threatened because of inappropriate tweets and irl issues and t shirt messaging?

    1) The whole fucking setup was wrong. They should have a clearly written, broadly communicated harassment policy that’s part of ToS. It should have been wildly known and announced that the “ambassadors” would be there for you if any problem occured.
    2) Now, as things were as they were. Other options would have included talking to Harriet Hall that her conduct was seriously hostile towards another attendee, a sponsor nonetheless, checking Twitter names and comparing them with the names of attendees and if they could be identified talking to them that this is unacceptable and so on.
    You make a clear statement towards the harassers that this conduct is not tolerated and don’t make the victim bear the burden

  21. 333

    What the fuck are Chinese whispers?

    …it’s also a tell…

    Chinese Whispers is still the rather unfortunate name used in the UK (and possibly elsewhere). To the best of my knowledge it isn’t considered racist over here, and is actually quite likely to be employed in the mainstream media without the slightest hesitation.

    The (folk?) etymology seems to be based on the confusion between native European- and Chinese- language speakers during early meetings, rather than being a racist slur on the Chinese.

    I don’t necessarily buy into that, but my point is that a majority of UK English-speakers probably wouldn’t even consider the possibility that the phrase might be racist.

    Telephone Game I would suggest is virtually unknown in the UK.

  22. 334

    By the way, I don’t endorse anything Entrained has said – all of those words just boil down to the same tired dismissal of Amy as emotionally unhinged due to a t-shirt.

  23. 335

    Richard Dawkins used the term “Chinese Whispers,” meaning the game known stateside as “Telephone,” in writing about evolution, I don’t remember where. I remember being puzzled and affronted, however, so I looked it up and found the meaning. Yeah, it’s the name of that game, and intended as metaphor, but geez.

  24. 336

    Giliell, not to be confused with the Borg,
    1) The whole fucking setup was wrong. They should have a clearly written, broadly communicated harassment policy that’s part of ToS. It should have been wildly known and announced that the “ambassadors” would be there for you if any problem occured.
    2) Now, as things were as they were. Other options would have included talking to Harriet Hall that her conduct was seriously hostile towards another attendee, a sponsor nonetheless, checking Twitter names and comparing them with the names of attendees and if they could be identified talking to them that this is unacceptable and so on.
    You make a clear statement towards the harassers that this conduct is not tolerated and don’t make the victim bear the burden

    1) Interesting response but not the point. Amy never looked to make a report, a volunteer from TAM notified the consultant so regardless of the policy, it was in fact a volunteer that drove the activity. And, Amy made the point that she never read the FAQ which identified how to find help with issues. We are in agreement it should have been more widely known but again the issue occurred and action was taken that you said was wrong.
    2) As to this issue, Harriet Hall has every right to wear a t shirt she made. Harriet was voicing a non threatening opinion. Amy has every right to be upset. Seriously hostile, I guess it depends on perspective. But Amy has made ambiguous statements about the impact of the t shirt and it should make zero difference whether Amy was a sponsor and should bear no weight in an investigation.
    Now you have no way to know if there was a conversation with Harriet or not but regardless she has every right to wear the t shirt whether you agree with it or not.
    A volunteer did in fact talk to some of the people in attendance at TAM that were part of the Twitter issue and they did stop.
    You didn’t mention the irl issue.
    Regardless, because of the hostility and threats, surveillance with Amy’s full knowledge was enacted. She could have declined the surveillance but if she felt so threatened why would she? Regardless, she did not.
    So, let’s say you talked to Harriet but she still chose to wear the shirt and stopped the tweets, then what would have been your course since you believe surveillance was incorrect.

  25. 337

    Bernard Bumner
    By the way, I don’t endorse anything Entrained has said – all of those words just boil down to the same tired dismissal of Amy as emotionally unhinged due to a t-shirt.

    I’m not dismissing Amy or anyone else. Harriet has the right to wear a t shirt with a message, Amy has the right to get upset at that message though she has been ambiguous regarding the effect the t shirt had on her. I never said she was unhinged but she was emotionally overwrought. People can make their own judgements if it was an over reaction. All those words as you so eloquently put it have consequences for everyone. For Harriet it’s been vilification, for Amy well I’m not sure what it’s been for Amy.

  26. 339

    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer
    All those words as you so eloquently put it have consequences for everyone. For Harriet it’s been vilification, for Amy well I’m not sure what it’s been for Amy

    The post made very clear what the consequences for Amy have been.

    From a particular perspective which I’m not sure I share.

  27. 340

    1) Interesting response but not the point. Amy never looked to make a report, a volunteer from TAM notified the consultant so regardless of the policy, it was in fact a volunteer that drove the activity. And, Amy made the point that she never read the FAQ which identified how to find help with issues. We are in agreement it should have been more widely known but again the issue occurred and action was taken that you said was wrong.

    How convenient to blame Amy. You know before that point everybody was actually thinking that in spite of having had an anti-harassment policy the year before they didn’t have one. And no, having a harassment-policy burried somewhere in the FAQ isn’t a policy that gives people confidence. Not to forget all the things that happened prior, the fact that harassment-complaints had become “forgotten” about. And yes, I say that things were handled badly.

    2) As to this issue, Harriet Hall has every right to wear a t shirt she made.

    Under the constitution, yes. But private events aren’t like that and with a proper policy (which would apply to all such shirts, not only the ones targeting the Skepchicks), this looks different. If I have a policy that says “racist propaganda and behaviour is not tolerated” I’m perfectly within my rights to tell somebody with a KKK t-shirt to change or leave (no, I’m not saying that Harriet Hall’s t-shirt was like a KKK one. I just want the example to be very clear cut)
    And yes, she’s been told by Amy herself, under tears, how hurtfull and unsetteling that shirt was for her. If you go on to wear it after that your intent can only be described as malicious since now you’re deliberately hurting somebody.

    A volunteer did in fact talk to some of the people in attendance at TAM that were part of the Twitter issue and they did stop.

    Good, that’s appropriate action.

    Regardless, because of the hostility and threats, surveillance with Amy’s full knowledge was enacted. She could have declined the surveillance but if she felt so threatened why would she? Regardless, she did not.

    Seriously, what were her options at that point?
    1) Decline, thereby declare that things weren’t as bad as they actually were and go on fearing for her safety
    2) Accept. Gain ersonal safety, lose personal freedom. Be the one who’s watched as if she were the potential worngdoer.

    In the end she chose
    3) Leave the place never to come back again.
    So, do you think that if somebody who stood at your side, worked for your event, sponsored dozens of women to attend leaves early and doesn’t plan to come back because of the harassment that your handling of the issue was well done?
    No, the stage for this was set long before, when Grothe blamed the people talking about harassment, when he lied about there never having been reports and thereby giving everybody the message that they didn’t take harassment serious, when they flat out refused to have a well-written and public harassment-policy (I’m still wondering about that expert of them. If he really was an expert, wouldn’t that have been the first thing he told them?). And Grothe continues to this day by treating everything “we” say with hyperskepticism and gives enormous amounts of benefit of doubt to every hateful asshole out there.

  28. 341

    Not blaming Amy, the facts are the facts. She didn’t read it.
    I absolutely agree with your last comment that some of this was self fulfilling.
    Seriously, the surveillance wasn’t just to protect Amy but to play it safe and ensure an extra layer of safety for all the attendees who were innocent bystanders.
    By the way, Amy said she was going to leave before the surveillance conversation took place.

  29. 342

    What’s wrong with the whole scenario is focusing security’s efforts and attention on the person who was targeted by harassers rather than focusing them on the harassers themselves. By doing that they empowered the harassers to keep harassing. You know, so long as they toed the line and refrained from outright physical assault, but just kept up a steady, muted drumbeat of verbal and emotional abuse.

    Yeah, sounds like an awesome party.

  30. 343

    Sally [email protected]#342
    Wrong, and not a little wrong, completely and dangerously wrong. No one was empowered. Period. If the harassers could have been pointed out they would have been talked to and measures taken. Except the harassers went unidentified and/ or anonymous. So short of winning the million dollar challenge and lacking omnicsience, in the interim, protect to the highest extent possible, the person being targeted and ensure other attendees are also protected. Any person that believes Any’s threats weren’t taken seriously with significant action taken to protect her and those that were around her defies logic and critical thought.

  31. 344

    [email protected]#343
    How exactly is placing the person being harassed under video surveillance protecting anyone other than the organizers? Did they make a public announcement to all attendees about what consititues inappropriate behavior and that any and all ongoing harassment needs to stop (does not even require making specific references to Amy or Skepchick)? Did they announce the surveillance/”protection” to anyone other than Amy so as to discourage further harassment? Did they make any attempt to discuss the shirt issue with Harriet Hall? Did anyone call out the Satiristas at TAM for the douchebaggery of their song?

    Wrong, and not a little wrong, completely and dangerously wrong. No one was empowered. Period.

    If a person or organization does not clearly and publicly proclaim disapproval or condemnation of inapproriate behavior when clearly informed of its occurrence at an event organized by that entity, then that entity is providing implicit approval of the behavior. PERIOD. FULL. FUCKING. STOP. When those engaging in inappropriate/harmful behavior face little to no negative consequences (either social or legal) for their actions, they have no incentive to stop and will likely be emboldened/empowered to further escalate their inappropriate behavior.

    Here’s a question that will hopefully illustrate this point in a manner you might actually be able to wrap your head around: Would you deny, that by not openly and vocally condemning (and producing for legal prosecution) the priests who abuse(d) children in their churches, that the Vatican provides implicit approval for the continued abuse of children?

  32. 345

    I never said she was unhinged but she was emotionally overwrought. People can make their own judgements if it was an over reaction.

    Innuendo, then?

    All those words as you so eloquently put it have consequences for everyone. For Harriet it’s been vilification, for Amy well I’m not sure what it’s been for Amy.

    Harriet Hall has not been vilified, but criticised and made unwelcome by certain people who would once have been allies. It would be hard to argue that she handled the situation with any sensitivity or sensibility. (Rights are one thing, but responsibilty is another.)

    Amy certainly has been vilified and attacked, personally and professionally, and her substantial personal contribution to making TAM a success has been ignored and twisted.

    If the harassers could have been pointed out they would have been talked to and measures taken.

    Pointed out? As in, there is Harriet Hall, you may recognise her as one of your speakers? (I know there were others, but as a very visible example, there was one.)

    But no, the organisers of TAM didn’t proportionately react to the specific complaint; the put up a wall of steel that (by accident or purpose) served to isolate the victim. Their anti-harassment measures amount to little more than effectively quarantining the problem; they were badly conceived and poorly implemented, and it still remains unclear as to why this was the case (whether it was pride, malice, or incompetence).

    At best, the situation was mismanaged, since it can be to no-one’s satisfaction that it happened as it did. Grothe’s reputation has been shredded, Harriet Hall’s has certainly suffered, Amy has been left feeling victimised, and I would say that this could be the beginning of the end for TAM as a flagship skeptic’s event.

  33. 346

    @344
    I understand your arguments and they are all valid in my view.
    I don’t philosophically agree with your remedy.
    When someone says they are threatened you protect them and the only argument germaine to the discussion is if she had been harmed and no action to protect her had been taken, then this would be a very different discussion about the failure of TAM to physically protect an attendee. The analogy perfectly illustrates my point. There are laws in place to protect children from this type of harm and it did nothing. These crimes happened in neighborhoods that are self policeing and nothing prevented it. And even after folks in these tough neighborhoods found out, it continued. And yes I agree that people in the Vatican were responsible, it still happens. Paper and rules sure didn’t help any of those kids. By the way, a judge ruled this week the Vatican in not the employer of the priests so the Vatican is not financially responsible.

  34. 347

    @345
    Innuendo? Ah, you are a mind reader.
    In my view Harriet had been vilified but she made a decision and now bears the consequence. She felt responsible to make a statement. She did. People chose to interpret her actions and have rightly or wrongly.
    Harriet didn’t harass anyone in my view. The shrt was not a threat or harassing, it was her personal point of view which she gets to do. Amy gets to be upset if she chooses and you get to be however you choose. But harassment, nope. This is the genius of the constitution, we get to speak openly about our feelings and if toes get squeezed, well too bad. And by the way, I wasn’t crazy about the t shirt but she gets to do it.
    When someone says they feel threatened you protect them to the extent you can. Harriet was not going to physically assault Amy, how can you be sure about those sending the tweets? As I just mentioned in a previous note, if no remedial help had been taken and someone was hurt, this would be a whole different conversation.

  35. 348

    This is the genius of the constitution, we get to speak openly about our feelings and if toes get squeezed, well too bad.

    If you need to resort to referencing the Constitution to defend someone’s behaviour, it is a fair bet that their behaviour went beyond the pale for a normal social context.

    Anyway, as I said, rights are one thing, responsibility another. Her right to wear the shirt? Fine. But continuing to wear it, knowing that you have upset a notional ally who is also helping to sponsor the event at which you’re speaking? That makes you look like a shitty human being, it should have been dealt with.

    We know that the t-shirt was only part of the problem, but what significant cost was there to Harriet Hall to not continue wearing it? (Did she really only pack that one shirt?) On the other hand, what was the cost to Amy?

    Most people don’t find that to be much of a dilemma.

    And by the way, I wasn’t crazy about the t shirt but she gets to do it.

    Sure. But not at an event with an effective harassment policy.

    When someone says they feel threatened you protect them to the extent you can.

    Most effectively, by nullifying the threat.

    Harriet was not going to physically assault Amy,…

    What? Anything short of physical assault is fair game?

    Anyway, you feel free to wrestle with the definition of harassment. Don’t be surprised if you struggle to find agreement here.

  36. 349

    I read all this with interest. As an onlooker from the UK, it’s saddening to see the sceptics group fracturing in this way; it’s a bit reminiscent of how religious groups split. Ironic, I guess.

    As ever, there is a lot of hot air and passion here, and perhaps too much scrutiny of exactly who said and did what to whom. I’m an occasional reader of these blogs, and I’m not familiar with who everyone is; however, the following is quite clear to me:

    1) Harriet Hall should not have worn the T-Shirt at the event. She publicly ridiculed a sponsor of the event, to Amy’s obvious distress. Perhaps she didn’t think about the consequences? Or perhaps she wanted to ridicule and cause offence? I cannot say as I do not know her. If Harriet has any compassion, she should apologise to Amy.

    2) Conferences are not free-for-alls where everyone can say anything to anyone no matter how offensive! Surely this is obvious? Codes of conduct should be agreed and in place – mocking sponsors would seem like a pretty good one to avoid! The organisers should have asked Harriet to remove the T-Shirt, or leave.

    3) Asking someone to remove your photo from their web-page is not an affront to free-speech. If you’ve taken the photo, you own the copywrite, pure and simple.

    The Atheism+ idea is new to me. I’m not convinced. Why not describe yourselves as humanists? Or am I missing the point? Both “sides” in this spat are atheists and so the base meaning is not going to change. Do we really want the sectarian divisions so ubiquitous within the religious community? Is this not the best way to polarise views and entrench our positions? I would hope that the humanist point of view is one that can be argued for – and would it not be better to have a freethinking debate in an open forum, rather than hurling vitriol at the other camp?

    Keep thinking freely,

    Sqrl

  37. 350

    #348
    It’s not a defense for behavior as much as their right to behave that way if they choose. If you don’t like it, then don’t do it but don’t presume to manage someone else’s choices.
    It doesn’t make anyone a shitty human being except in your opinion, for what that’s worth to Harriet. Probably not much.
    In all candor Harriet has spent her life earning the right to wear that shirt by being pretty tough and pretty brave so if someone doesn’t like her wearing it, tough shit. An effective harassment policy would not have prevented Harriet from wearing that shirt.
    Most effectively by nullifying the threat..that’s great.when you can determine what the threat is. Amy said she felt threatened and couldn’t identify where thevthreats came from which led to her being protected which you conveniently continue to ignore.
    If past performance is an indicator of future behavior then I agree that no one here will agree on what harassment means, which is causing this race to the basement.

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