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.