Bros protecting bros

Adam Lee has a post on the wall of silence around Lawrence Krauss. We like to pounce on churchy sexual predators, he observes, but then we back away in panic if it’s one of the bros.

When serious allegations of sexual assault were made against Michael Shermer, several high-profile atheist individuals and groups circled the wagons around him and tried to build a wall of silence – either dismissing the accusations as unimportant, outright refusing to mention them, or trying to dissuade others from doing so. To this day, Shermer hasn’t faced any personal or career consequences that I’m aware of.

And now the same thing appears to be happening with Krauss.

There’s a group of people calling themselves Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, whose original mission was to inject an appropriately balanced and skeptical viewpoint into articles on supernatural and paranormal topics. That’s a mission I’d be all in favor of. However, as Hayley Stevens points out, they’ve apparently adopted a new purpose: making sure the allegations against Krauss are kept off his biography page on Wikipedia.

You can see this for yourself: as of today, March 5, Krauss’ Wikipedia page has no mention of any recent developments – not the allegations themselves, not Krauss being barred from multiple college campuses, not several of his upcoming talks being canceled. If you look at the talk page, you can see several contributors deleting edits by other users that mention these things, and insisting that the Buzzfeed article is just “gossip” and that “Buzzfeed isn’t usually considered a reliable source”, and that this merits totally excluding any mention of it.

While Buzzfeed does publish its share of silly clickbait, their investigative unit employs 20 journalists and engages in serious, important reporting. One of their reporters was a Pulitzer finalist in 2017; another won a Pulitzer prior to being hired there. Ironically, BuzzFeed’s own Wikipedia page has categories for “Notable stories” (significantly, including the sexual-misconduct accusations against Kevin Spacey) and “Awards and recognition”.

As for the journalists who wrote the Krauss story, one of them, Peter Aldhous, has reported for the journals Nature and Science and teaches investigative and policy reporting at UC Santa Cruz. The other reporter, Azeen Gorayshi, has written for the Guardian, New Scientist, Newsweek, and Wired, among others. The editor, Virginia Hughes, has written for the Atlantic, the New York Times, National Geographic, and Slate.

Well they have a defense for that: notice the wording: “Buzzfeed isn’t usually considered a reliable source” – it’s a sibling of Trump’s constant “everybody is saying” and “people are saying.” It’s also self-fulfilling – enough people go “Buzzfeed isn’t usually considered a reliable source” and it becomes ever more true. Some “skepticism.”

And then, Adam goes on, there’s Matt Dillahunty. He knows Matt slightly, and considers him a generally good guy and an egalitarian. But. There was that inconvenient evening with Matt and Sam Harris and Lawrence Krauss that was scheduled for two days after the BuzzFeed story dropped. Oh dear. I wrote a post about that, and about the irritating bro smugness of the conversation between Harris and Dillahunty, and how comfortable these guys are defending Krauss amongst themselves while the women are never there. Just never never never fucking there. The atheist movement gets a zero on the Bechdel test yet again, or more like a minus 500 because they used their all-bro event to explain why bitches be lyin about Krauss and isn’t that just a terrible thing now. And then they get huffy!

Afterward, Matt wrote this post on Facebook, in which he wrote angrily that Buzzfeed’s Virginia Hughes contacted him on his personal cell phone to ask about a followup she’s writing, presumably related to Krauss. He considered this an unforgivable breach of his privacy.

I left a comment on this thread. I don’t have a screenshot of it – more on that in a second – but I said that, whether Matt thinks of himself this way or not, he’s a public figure with regards to this story; that getting public figures to comment on stories they’re connected to is literally a journalist’s job; and that in my opinion, nothing she did constitutes harassment.

How did Matt respond? He deleted the comment and blocked Adam without a word. He did the same thing to anyone else who didn’t kiss his bum and say he was correct on all points. He did it to Amanda Marcotte.

And then, there’s this.

It’s worth mentioning in this context that Matt Dillahunty was planning to introduce Michael Shermer at a conference as recently as February 19. He’s said that he no longer is, but hasn’t explained what prompted the change.

The link is to a Twitter thread.

Matt replied to say he won’t be introducing Shermer.

Matt replied to say that is no longer the case.

How fascinating, but I have to wonder why it was ever the case, given the allegations about Shermer, which include one of flat-out rape of the “get her too drunk to say no or yes” variety. Matt knows that perfectly well, yet until recently he was on the schedule as introducing Shermer. I guess now he’s just sharing a stage with him.

Amanda Marcotte pointed out in her Facebook post on this that it’s not really fair to upbraid people for sharing stages with baddies, because it amounts to expecting them to damage their careers when they’re not the ones who did anything wrong. I saw her point, and think she’s right – it’s not fair at all. But…

But it still riles me when they go right on doing the bro-fests anyway, and talk over our heads when they do them, and solemnly agree with each other that we must not listen to women talking about a bro who is obnoxiously handsy and sexist around women.

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