You may have heard the legend that Lyndon B Johnson spread a rumour that an election rival fucked pigs. When challenged that he knew it wasn’t true, LBJ supposedly replied, ‘Of course it’s not true, but I want to make him deny it.’
Today Ophelia Benson tweeted to me: ‘I really wish you would address why you think we should shut up about sexual harassment reports,’ and asked me ‘Why are you telling us to keep sexual harassment secret?’
I told Ophelia this was untrue and defamatory, but she declined to withdraw the tweet. She claimed I had said this in my recent post, and also in an email that I sent to PZ Myers in August.
So we are firmly into LBJ territory, with the impression being created that an email exists in which I told people to keep sexual harassment secret.
This is the email that I sent to PZ in August, just after he had described the suicide of Robin Williams as the death of a wealthy white man dragging us away from news about brown people.
I will leave it up to you to judge the level of porcine fornication involved.
My email to PZ Myers in August
You have just published a sensitive account of your first kiss as a teenager. You have written some science-based posts in response to Richard Dawkins’ recent tweets. And you recently published a post arguing that people are complex, rather than good or bad. I hope that while you are in this more positive psychological space, you can think anew about the harm and hurt and injustice that you have caused to other people through your blog.
As you know, whenever we have met in recent years, I have raised concerns about this. Some of the content of your blog is hurtful and unjust in itself, it also undermines the effectiveness of attempts to promote compassion and empathy and social justice, and it is additionally harmful because of your prominence as a perceived spokesperson for organised atheism. I am copying Ophelia and Richard as this is relevant to their recent joint statement.
Each time that we have discussed these concerns, you have responded that you will tone it down, which to some extent you have. You no longer encourage your commenters to tell people to shove a rotting porcupine up their ass, and they no longer tell people to die in a fire or fuck themselves with a rusty chainsaw. But ceasing such vitriol, while obviously welcome, is a very low hurdle for a blog that aims to promote compassion and empathy and social justice.
In the last year or so, you have publicly accused Michael Shermer of multiple unreported serious crimes, Richard Dawkins of seeming to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children, and Russell Blackford of being a lying fuckhead. Less seriously, but still setting a metaphorical tone for your blog, you have joked about Rebecca Watson shanking Phil Mason in the kidneys, and about you stabbing Christians and throwing people off a pier.
Last week you described Robin Williams’ suicide as the death of a wealthy white man dragging us away from news about brown people, said that a white lady who made racist comments looks like the kind of person who would have laughed at nanu-nanu, and responded to criticism by saying that you should have been more rude, because asking you to have been nicer about the dead famous guy is missing the point. While that seems to have been the final straw for some people, it remains part of a pattern of behaviour that is fast becoming your legacy.
PZ, is this really how you want to be remembered? Having defended you against unjust attacks from others, I am now asking you to take a long hard look at what you are doing, consider apologising to people who you have unjustly hurt and defamed, and start focusing on actually promoting compassion and empathy and social justice if those ideas are important to you. You cannot credibly promote such values in what I have paraphrased as the ethos of “You must be more compassionate, you fuckbrained asshole!”
I am happy to discuss this further if you want to.