Saturday, August 10, 2013

PZ Myers Has Become Unquestionable and Infallible To His Fans And That Has Made Him Reckless

The temptation in the accusation of serial rape that PZ Myers made against Michael Shermer is to assume you know what happened when you have no evidence to base that on.   But you don't.  I don't, neither does Myers, which is  why accusations of rape belong in the hands of the police and prosecutors or, those failing, RESPONSIBLE investigative reporters who are answerable to their publishers.  Other than the very vague and oddly phrased passage that Myers presents as a rape victim's account, several years after the rape may have happened, and lots of assertions of rumors about Shermer's behavior towards women, literally everything said in this is an expression of opinions and attitudes where facts and evidence should be required.   A charge of a crime depends only and completely on the facts of that particular incident, it doesn't depend on any or even every other possible case or assertion presented as similar, though that is the practice of the "skeptics" discussing this at Myers' blog.  If that were not the case then an accusation of rape against Myers could be determined to be true based on the kind of thing he presented on his blog and brought to his comment thread by his fan club.  It is the standard that anyone could be up against based on the whim of any popular blogger without so much as an editor to hold them back.

I've read through a good part of the comments at PZ's  and, aside from a very few people who don't figure they already know what happened in the complete absence of facts, it's  about 2000 comments of some of the most wildly irresponsible blog babble I've ever seen anywhere.   None of them more irresponsible than Myers' own comments.  Here's what he said BEFORE any discussion happened, at comment #1.

PZ Myers
8 August 2013 at 11:14 pm (UTC -5) Link to this comment
Oh, hey, look — the explosion to also took out my career within this community!

Fuck.

Given his title and this first comment, it's clear that Myers figured on setting off an "explosion".  Which is what he did.  He's done that before, his Great Desecration a well known example,  it's a well established part of his act.   But when he makes an accusation of serial rape against a named person, that turns what might be merely irresponsible into epic irresponsibility.   That is true if the accusation is true, possibly damaging any future prosecution of perpetrators at "skeptical" conferences.  I bet that by the end of next week, virtually every person who might attend those will have read PZ's post and or the blog chatter about it, polluting the pool of witnesses.  Of course, if the charge is false, then its irresponsibly is magnified many times.

One thing that I think Myers counted on was that his explosion was going to be an IED, not a suicide bomb. Despite his peremptory self-pity, short of a successful suit for libel, PZ will probably come out of this more famous, more the adored hero of a large number of "skeptics" who unquestioningly accept what he said, no evidence required.

It also exposes how PZ Myers has become a problem through his assumption of prosecutorial powers to himself,  influencing a large number of internet fans.

At #53 he shows just how little in the way of checking his story he figures he's required to do before making such a serious accusation.

PZ Myers
9 August 2013 at 12:06 am (UTC -5) Link to this comment
"Personally, I think I would have first taken it up with Shermer before coming out with this."

Yeah? And what do you think he would have said if he were guilty?

Apparently Myers didn't ask himself if maybe he should have done more than assume he already knew what happened.   Which is rather odd for someone who bills himself as a skeptic, or at least it should be.  I've had this kind of experience with professional "skeptics" before.   Would you believe me if I said that there are few groups I've encountered who are more certain of their beliefs than skeptics?   Would you just take my word for that assertion involving no accusations of committing serous felonies which, from my brief look at possible penalties, could send someone to prison for the rest of his life or, in the absence of any finding of guilt, destroy his life?  Will Myers and his fan club be willing to live with this standard of "evidence" having it applied to them?   Of course not.  I've never yet encountered a professional or avocational "skeptic" who was willing to live by their own standards of evidence, including, to be fair, Michael Shermer.

What if I said that Myers was looking for an easy way to get a lot of hits on his blog and he knew from past experience that this post was a sure way to do that?   Would I have to do more research than he did before launching an accusation of serial rape against a named individual?    Would  it be demanded that I talk to Myers and see what he could present as evidence that he hadn't made the whole thing up including the two women he claims sent him e-mails?  Not by his fans who believe, on the basis of what he's presented is entirely real and accurate and they've been proposing punishments for Shermer and even the unnamed "organization" that they assume is guilty of sweeping true and well evidenced accusations under the rug. . That is, not if they aren't going to hold themselves to the more favorable side of a double standard.  Which is exactly what they do.

But, as I said last night, I'm not insisting that Myers publish the names of the women along with their entire e-mails on his blog, I'm insisting that this is an extremely serious accusation of an extremely serious crime, which may or may not be true and that it belongs in the hands of the legal authorities who can prosecute that. Or, if the women are unwilling to go to them, then their evidence should be given to a responsible and professional investigative reporter such as those who broke the pedophile priest scandal.   Responsible and professional reporters who will do what Myers has not, find supporting evidence and making a logical and evidence based accusation.  Or, failing to find that, not publish what are accusations they couldn't support with evidence.

Considering the body of his published claims about what is required before you are allowed to believe even a neutral idea, considering he's supposed to be a scientist, Myers' failure to live up to the requirement to rely on evidence completely discredits his position.   Given his influence, it is just a matter of time before he produces real victims in the way Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh can,  real victims whose lives are destroyed and who can not get relief or redress.  And I'm not going anywhere near as far as Myers' has in making these accusations.  No one is going to bring a criminal prosecution against Myers for being entirely irresponsible.   "Free Thought" Blogs shares some of the blame for this.  They provide Myers a platform from which to throw his bombs.

30 comments:

  1. Thank you. I've been disappointed by this whole thing. PZ`s voice was unethical and irresponsible. His followers have given it no deep thought. The response by those upbeat by this has generally been, "PZ is lying. Shermer it's awesome. " Granted, it's still early in the scandal but the lack of real thought and meaningful discussion is troubling.

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  2. As of today, right now, I'm entirely neutral on who did what because there is no evidence provided. The only thing I'm sure of, rape is a serious crime and it should always be reported and prosecuted and rapists should be imprisoned. But only those guilty of rape should be. Well, I'm also certain that blog posts like Myers' isn't the way to determine that. He should have handed it to an investigative reporter if he couldn't convince the women to talk to the police.

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  3. Other than the very vague and oddly phrased passage that Myers presents as a rape victim's account, several years after the rape may have happened, and lots of assertions of rumors about Shermer's behavior towards women, literally everything said in this is an expression of opinions and attitudes where facts and evidence should be required.

    There is a statute of limitations issue, but I can't say precisely what it is without knowing where it allegedly occurred (they vary from state to state). That is, any chance Shermer could be charged with rape is dimmed by the passage of time.

    Shermer also has grounds for a libel per se case, which would not require a showing of injury. If, for example, I tell a lie about you, and you can prove monetary damages came from that (you lost your job, you lost your clients, you lost a business deal, etc.), you can recover damages for libel. Libel per se is more serious. It usually involves an allegation of immorality, such as a crime involving moral turpitude (if I recall my 2nd Restatement of Torts correctly; really should have held on to those books....). An accusation of rape would certainly allow for a libel per se case.

    Then the problem is jurisdiction and forum, and recovery of a judgment. So it might not be worth it, in the end. Still, Myers is way out on a limb and sawing it off behind him with both hands.

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    1. Is it possible the original accuser was attempting to shield herself using the phrase "coerced me into a position where I could not consent"? In other words, she could later claim she never said she didn't consent, or that shermer force himself on her, by pointing out that she originally said she "could not consent", not that she "DID not consent", and that he just "had sex with me". Or am I just inventing a distinction without a difference?

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  4. Have I ever said how much I appreciate having someone with a knowledge of the law, which I don't have, point things like that out. I remember long ago on another blog far away, Tena explained the legal definition of rape to me. I'd held a rather naive folk understanding of the issue and was rather surprised, I looked it up afterwards and saw she was right.

    I would have gotten into the odd way she put the accusation, that he'd coerced her into a position where she couldn't give consent. Something that I couldn't make sense of and, apparently, neither could a lot of other people. I was left wondering if the use of a phrase like that one might have had something to do with why the "organization" she informed couldn't do anything for her. But it's my experience that when it's a question of rape - it was an allegation of a gay man coming onto a straight man the last time - the level of irrationality that any question gets rises exponentially in inverse proportion to the reasonableness of the question. It was another "skeptic" then too, Lindsay Beyerstein.

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    1. Make that, rises exponentially in proportion to the reasonableness of the question. It was the reason I stopped writing for the blog I used to write for.

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  5. The truth is an absolute defense.

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    1. No one knows what the truth in this is. If PZ's post is a true account even he doesn't know that. Apparently the entire description of what Shermer is being accused of is contained in this:

      At a conference, Mr. Shermer coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me. I can’t give more details than that, as it would reveal my identity, and I am very scared that he will come after me in some way.

      Apparently even Myers doesn't know more than that, none of us do because that's as much as he posted. What does it mean to be coerced into a position where she could not give consent? It sounds like she's saying he forced drugs or liquor down her throat or something like that. But no one can know unless she says more.

      And until she identifies herself no one even knows if she exists or ever even met the guy. PZ certainly didn't do her any good by writing this into another massive attention-getting post of the kind he specializes in. He was irresponsible to not give it to either the police or a real reporter who would do a responsible investigation BEFORE publishing.

      People accused of crimes are still innocent until they are found guilty, that the accusation is rape doesn't change that though it brings out lots of people who refuse to accept that. Would you accept the standard of accusation and assertion of guilt being made at PZ's in a case were a mother is accused of abusing her child?

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    2. Clearly you didn't bother to read any more than what supports your own prejudice because the person in question DOES explain later what she means by coerced. If you can't be bothered to read things in full it doesn't say much for your credibility.

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    3. jfwlucy, I don't know if you read my blog but if you look at my archive under PZ Myers you will see that I didn't go there with any expectation of seeing anything that would support anything I think. When I go to Myers' place I expect to see what I won't agree with. I couldn't have written these posts if what you say is true.

      If you searched for Michael Shermer you'd find a post where I said:

      Rupert Sheldrake has documented similar instances in which Michael Shermer, James Randi, and other big name "Skeptics" have made statements out of demonstrated ignorance of what he's actually said. Sheldrake has shown in several instances that they have publicly lied about it.

      I'm no fan of Michael Shermer, I'm a fan of responsible journalism and an opponent of irresponsible blogging.

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    4. "She" is anonymous. By her own account, she speaks several years after the fact. She gives few facts upon which to make an assessment of the situation, and accuses a man of rape when the question of consent is never examined. Did she say "Yes" and then decide in the morning she meant "no"? Did she say "yes" until they were alone, and then she said "no"?

      And this "later" explains nothing, as the "victim" here is anonymous. How are we to prove her comments (I presume they were comments; or there's another post I'm unaware of) are by the same person? Faith? Trust? Blind belief?

      We don't know that there's a victim at all. We just have the word of P.Z. Meyers for all of this. Which may work great in the court of public opinion, but then again, that's why we have libel laws. Because unless Meyers can prove his allegations by a preponderance of the evidence (of which none is presented so far), he's a liar.

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    5. I'm sorry, but you really don't seem to understand that proving libel would mean proving that PZ knew the statements to be false AND that he published them with malicious intent.

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    6. While I should let him speak for himself RMJ was a lawyer.

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    7. Lawyers are not infallible.

      And it still is not clear that you actually read the original post in its entirety before you started interrogating it. Did you?

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    8. Of course I did. It wasn't very long.

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    9. I'm sorry, but you really don't seem to understand that proving libel would mean proving that PZ knew the statements to be false AND that he published them with malicious intent.

      NYT v. Sullivan doesn't apply here, so no, that's not the applicable standard. Even if it was, this is a case of libel per se, which already presumes falsity and malice in the statements. So those things don't have to be proven again as elements of the tort.

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  6. That's it? That vague statement is less than nothing. It doesn't deserve further publication

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  7. I know. I went back to look at PZ's further comments and it looks to me as if he's trying to cover for what I still think is the most irresponsible blog post I've ever seen. An accusation of serial rape based on that and what he claims is someone she told about it after it happened. And his fan club is still going strongly and wrongly on after about 2500 comments.

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  8. My wife works for a school district. Her office is the one that receives complaints about district employees. If a complaint is anonymous, the policy is simple: discard it. If the complainant only wishes to remain anonymous, the complaint is investigate.

    But it isn't put on the district website.

    I read the original post, which goes from an anonymous allegation of rape, with no supporting details whatsoever, to an assertion that flirting is the same as rape, so anyone who flirts is undoubtedly a rapist as well.

    It's disgusting. And libel per se, just on the face of it. Myers' admits he has no facts to support the allegation, but he makes it anyway. Pretty slim evidence of skepticism or the need for proof, it seems to me.

    Of course, most people are very good at limiting their professional skills to their professional interests. Still, there's no excuse for that post. And no justification for it, either.

    Truth may be an absolute defense to a libel case, but it would be up to Meyer's to prove Shermer is a rapist. And by his own account, he can't do that, and the accuser herself doesn't want to.

    That's simply venal. And, as I say, inexcusable.

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  9. When I was on the board of a non-profit we had to adopt the policy that any complaint made about a named person had to be signed by the person making the complaint or we couldn't act on it. As soon as people found out they had to own up to their complaint, it didn't happen. While I can understand the reluctance of someone making a complaint of rape there is no way to treat the accused fairly unless they're willing to come forward. How can anyone defend themselves against a charge that they attacked an unnamed person?

    If you want to see really disgusting, try stomaching the comments. It is appalling how ready they are to convict someone on the basis of what Myers wrote. I don't know if the claim that Myers and Shermer had previous history and that the always irrational Ophilia Benson, Myers' "Free Thought" colleague has it in for him too.

    Isn't it hilarious that they call them "Free Thought" blogs, considering everything, including the suppression of doubt at Myers' post. I've toyed with the idea of seeing how many of the "Free Though" bloggers, materialists all, have expressed the idea that free thought isn't possible, if not consciousness itself.

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    1. FWIW, I am a materialist as well, and I do not condone anything Myers has done with respect to this case. In fact, I find the entire vermin nest of FTB disgusting and reprehensible. So, I doubt Myers' post is a consequence of his materialism. Rather, I expect it is a consequence of his hypocritical refusal to live by its methodology consistently. Namely, empiricism.

      He has chosen instead, to act in opposition to his own stated values, and is quick to accuse others of the same, when they attempt to point it out to him. That is known as psychological projection.

      As such, I think an explanation for what is going on over there, is much more likely to be found in the realm of Psychology, than in the realm of Law.

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  10. I read a few comments. "Disgusting" sums it up nicely.

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  11. the best treatment of this i've seen. thanks to you.

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  12. PZ is not a skeptic, he will believe anything if it suits his feminist agenda. FTB are not skeptical, they will accept whatever PZ tells them or posts. The 'fans' are not skeptical either as the diarrhea of comments shows. You have an echo chamber indulging in a circle jerk of epic proportions.

    From what has been seen so far Shermer should take PZ to court for everything he can get and expose this nasty little group for what they really are. Myers has encouraged witch hunts against people not 'feminist' enough for his tastes for the most trivial 'transgressions' too, so it is time this unpleasant pustulous boil is lanced once and for all!

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  13. The August 9 comment by PZ Myers is in many ways the most appalling thing I've read about this entire controversy. That's the sort of circular logic I'd expect from a young earth creationist or anti-vaxxer, not an alleged practitioner of "free thought."

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  14. I believe what you said made a bunch of sense.
    However, what about this? suppose you were to create a killer title?

    I ain't suggesting your information is not solid., however suppose you added a post title to possibly get folk's attention?

    I mean "PZ Myers Has Become Unquestionable and Infallible To His Fans And That Has Made Him Reckless"
    is kinda boring. You might look at Yahoo's front page and see how they create post titles to grab people to open the links. You might add a video or a related picture or two to get people excited about everything've written.
    Just my opinion, it could make your blog a little bit more interesting.

    more twitter followers

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  15. The bottom line is that PZ crossed the line by making an allegation of a serious crime in a blog post, no matter how good his intentions may be. It may be true that our justice system is messed up for rape victims, but we don't make things better by developing an alternative system based on vigilante justice. If we do, we go down the road of social chaos. We must work within the justice system to improve it, no matter how difficult that may be. That's my 2 cents.

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  16. The thing that I find disturbing is that he's being effectively prosecuted online, but any word of caution is branded as rape apologetics. The FTB commentariat have condemned Shermer outright as a 'serial rapist', and it's not unusual now on PZs blog to read comments where Shermer is described as "a proven rapist", or as a seedy and malicious sexual predator. I really hope those people know what they're doing.

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    1. It is one of the more disturbing thing about this issue as it's developed. Any questioning of the accusation is labeled as excusing a possible crime. I ran up against it when I said I didn't find Sugar Ray Leonard's story of being groped by a middle-aged Olympic coach, within days before he won the gold medal in boxing at the Montreal Olympics believable. I even gave ways in which he could make it more believable by including more information and I got blasted off the blog I used to write for over it. Interestingly, one of the people who lied about what I said was the semi-professional "skeptic" Lindsay Beyerstein, who was a "The Big Think" Blogger. Most ironic, though was that her late father Barry Beyerstein, whose position in "skepticism" she trades on, was a psychologist who wrote on the necessity of being extremely careful about accepting false accusations of sexual abuse. For reasons I have never been able to understand, it was deemed unacceptable for me to point that out. But I did anyway because I thought it was important.

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    2. It is one of the more disturbing thing about this issue as it's developed. Any questioning of the accusation is labeled as excusing a possible crime. I ran up against it when I said I didn't find Sugar Ray Leonard's story of being groped by a middle-aged Olympic coach, within days before he won the gold medal in boxing at the Montreal Olympics believable. I even gave ways in which he could make it more believable by including more information and I got blasted off the blog I used to write for over it. Interestingly, one of the people who lied about what I said was the semi-professional "skeptic" Lindsay Beyerstein, who was a "The Big Think" Blogger. Most ironic, though was that her late father Barry Beyerstein, whose position in "skepticism" she trades on, was a psychologist who wrote on the necessity of being extremely careful about accepting false accusations of sexual abuse. For reasons I have never been able to understand, it was deemed unacceptable for me to point that out. But I did anyway because I thought it was important.

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