Skepticism

Apologizing for a Thing I Wasn’t Wrong About & Didn’t Know or Care About

A kind Tweeter has just brought several things to my attention simultaneously:

– That Ben Radford and Karen Stollznow have, according to Radford, signed a joint statement saying that “it would be wrong for anyone to believe that Ben Radford stalked, sexually harassed, or physically or sexually assaulted Karen Stollznow.”

– That Hemant Mehta believes I owe Radford an apology for reporting on the fact that Stollznow had accused him of those things

– That it is irresponsible of me to have not corrected the record

Hemant, to his credit, does briefly admit that it’s possible we here at Skepchick hadn’t seen the big news, and that he hoped that we would happen across his blog post and then correct the record (which is exactly what has happened). It’s strange, though: if it’s so important that the record be corrected, why not just use the contact form on our website to let us know, rather than hoping that one of us subscribes to his blog?

As it so happens, I don’t subscribe to his blog, and I either block or don’t follow Ben Radford and Karen Stollznow on social media. After the initial reporting of Stollznow’s allegations (which I don’t apologize for in the least, for the record – she made the claims, I found them newsworthy, and I made it clear that her allegations were just that: allegations, which neatly fit in with the horrible things I already know to be true about Radford), Radford’s response was to post intimate photos of the two of them in bed together, along with other allegations like claiming Stollznow doctored email timestamps. I found the former disgusting and reached out to Stollznow to get her proof against the latter. When she couldn’t provide it I dropped the issue entirely, figuring it was beyond my abilities to determine exactly how sexually inappropriate Radford might be or how dishonest Stollznow might be.

I ended up unfollowing and unfriending Stollznow when she buddied up with a person she knew had spent many years stalking and harassing me. She got angry that I had unfollowed her, then lied to me when I pointed out that she knew about my harasser’s past behavior, then told me I was burning bridges by not continuing to follow her. At that point, I figured she was out solely for her own interests, and I officially stopped giving a shit about what she was up to. The Stollznow/Radford debacle became just another footnote in the Official History of How Fucked Up and Gross Organized Skepticism Is.

Until today, when organized skepticism can once again rest easy knowing that one terrible person sued another one and got them to admit that they weren’t as terrible as the second person claimed. Congratulations, everyone! The record is set straight.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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30 Comments

  1. June 2, 2015 at 3:29 pm —

    Perhaps I’m overly cynical. I suspect if there had been a statement confirming the initial accusations Mehta would have conveniently never noticed it. I think Radford is an asshole, but hey at least he’s not a stalkery sexually assaulting asshole. So that’s something.

  2. June 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm —

    Demanding an apology is a bit much, but I see where Hemant’s coming from. He seems personally to lay on the other side of things, but I myself heard about it when the trolls came after anybody who said anything on twitter ever (like how Rebecca found out).

    But it is important that this story get followed-up on. The narrative that places like Skepchick and FTB accept the victim’s story and ignore the false claims is pretty horrible, and everyone being flat out silent just felt so ugly. Thankfully, it’s because you guys didn’t know and maybe folks like me didn’t think we could say anything without sounding like one of those trolls.

    The big thing that bugs me about this is that this joint statement came only from Radford. The last time it happened, we were lead to believe by Stollznow that it was faked or misrepresented. The reason nobody knows is because Stollznow’s been absolutely, completely silent on the whole issue. Yeah, she’s a new mom, but she also does owe an explanation to the people who donated to her legal fees because there’s a good chance she betrayed their trust.

    And that’s where this issue stands, at least as far as I’m concerned. Stollznow owes her backers an explanation/apology, all the the social justice bloggers, like FTB and Skepchick, owe nobody anything except to follow up on the fact that this pretty divisive event in the skeptical community happened. We shouldn’t just accept that the statement asked people to let the matter drop. SHE involved the public of her own volition, she can’t expect the public to just let it go.

    • June 2, 2015 at 9:23 pm —

      I contributed to Stollznow’s defense fund. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I don’t feel like she owes me anything. I donated to a fund to defend Stollznow from Radford’s malicious lawsuit. There was a lawsuit, Radford’s repeated lies and dumps of sensitive documents demonstrated malice. That the matter has been settled out of court doesn’t change the fact that there was a court case (two, actually), and that there were costs associated with said cases. That Radford has released (another) statement about the issue, this time with a signature instead of just a false claim of there being a signature, doesn’t really change anything, especially since it doesn’t actually say what Hemant and others are reading into it.

      In terms of people who owe their backers an explanation/apology, I suppose Karen Stollznow can get in a long line that has Brian Dunning at the front of it.

      • June 2, 2015 at 10:02 pm —

        “In terms of people who owe their backers an explanation/apology, I suppose Karen Stollznow can get in a long line that has Brian Dunning at the front of it.”

        QFT.

        I also contributed to Stollznow’s defense fund, and I don’t believe I am owed anything. I don’t know her personally. I hope she, her husband, and their new baby can have some peace.

        • June 3, 2015 at 10:04 am —

          Thank you both for your response… my opinion has been altered by your perspectives. I still think she should make a statement on her own since she started it publicly, but I appreciate that the fundraiser was more to combat someone being a skeezy litigious asshole instead of to defend her claims of rape.

          Thank you, again :-)

          • June 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm

            She shouldn’t have to make any sort of statement even if she started it out publicly. I suppose whenever a woman starts something, they MUST finish it, right? Can’t say no once you’ve started.

            Fucking hell.

            And not to mention she maybe CAN’T say anything due to court orders.

            But most likely she just wants to drop this shit and move on and she owes no one anything.

          • June 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

            And she was raped. I 100% believe her. And you should, too. You certainly shouldn’t NOT believe her and you certainly shouldn’t question her all because of some vague notion of false claims that you read about that one time so now you think it’s a thing that actually happens with any sort of notable regularity.

            She was raped. I believe her.

          • June 6, 2015 at 8:59 am

            Marilove.

            Without putting too fine a point on it.

            “Karen Stollznow never accused Ben Radford of rape.”

            She accused him of blocking her exit from a room and (separately) asking for sex ( he claims this to be a a follow up from a prev. encounter in San Franscico a couple of months before).

            I appreciate your sentiment – but facts matter.

    • June 3, 2015 at 3:10 pm —

      The narrative that places like Skepchick and FTB accept the victim’s story and ignore the false claims is pretty horrible,

      What false claims? Be specific.

      Victims don’t tend to lie about being victims. False rape and sexually assault claims are INCREDIBLY rare. No one seems to give any fucks about rare and often hypothetical false claims until women are victims of sexual assault. Then everyone suddenly cares.

      She is not lying.

      And why should she talk about it? Maybe she CAN’T. Maybe a court order came along with the judgement. Or maybe she just doesn’t feel like talking about it any more because she has other things to worry about.

      Also, because no matter how much she talks about it, she’ll still get questioned about her honestly. And, because talking about sexual assault is hard. It’s damaging. Christ, VICTIMS DO NOT OWE ANYONE THEIR STORY.

      Maybe women don’t talk about their sexual assaults because every time they do, people bring up those rare and vague “false claims”. Maybe they don’t talk openly about sexual assault because it SUCKS and it HURTS and it’s HARD, and when you do talk about it, you’re shat upon. You’re not believed. Your integrity and livelihood is attacked.

      Not to mention the likely death and rape threats she’s received and has been receiving since this began, and all the other harassment being thrown her way.

      BUT SURE. She *must* talk about her sexual assault because some guy on the internet demands her to.

      IT IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

  3. June 2, 2015 at 7:32 pm —

    Awesome response.

  4. June 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm —

    None of the people from whom Mehta demanded an apology — me, you, Stephanie, Greta, PZ — owe Radford a damn thing. The posts he linked prove it.

  5. June 3, 2015 at 3:02 am —

    This is a more insightful description of events than I’ve seen elsewhere. I do find it hard to believe that Mehta’s post was the first time that you have heard of the settlement. Really Rebecca? Really?

    • June 3, 2015 at 3:40 am —

      So it’s more credible to you that Rebecca really spends her days obsessively refreshing Hemant’s blog and running google searches for “Karen Stollznow signed apology” and is now lying about not caring? Really Unhiddenness? Really?

      • June 5, 2015 at 9:59 am —

        The idea that Watson (or Myers et al. at FtB) didn’t know about this stuff is kinda hard to believe. Myers has been overseas (and unwell), but it was something like TWELVE DAYS between this statement being made public and Mehta’s post.

        Let’s remember that both FtB and Watson’s blog are opinion sites, not news organizations — they didn’t have to make any admissions, or declare Radford to be an awesome human being — they just had to update their posts. Not good enough.

    • June 3, 2015 at 8:22 am —

      I’d never heard about it until I read it on Hemant’s blog, and Rebecca’s response was the second place I saw anything about it. I guess you find my reality hard to believe, too.

      Don’t assume that everyone follows the same sources you do.

    • June 3, 2015 at 3:16 pm —

      I hadn’t heard about the settlement, either, until this Skepchick post, and I know people who know her…

      Why would she lie about that? Really, Unhiddenness, really? Seems an odd thing to give a shit about.

    • June 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm —

      I only learned about it because my girlfriend, who has no connection to this “community” (quotes should be read heavily) happened to see a mutual friend comment on a thread about it and asked me what I knew. I didn’t know anything before that, and I’ve seen nothing about it since outside of me ACTIVELY searching out information and having to dig quite a bit further than I expected. I then asked a close friend of mine, someone who is regularly accused of being directly involved in these matters and assumed to be at the forefront of this issue, and they had also heard nothing until I brought it up, at which point they found a tweet demanding some sort of apology from a stranger.

      So I don’t find it remotely odd that Rebecca didn’t hear this, especially as she’s not friends with the two people involved.

  6. June 3, 2015 at 3:27 am —

    Why do you find it hard? Any particular sites you think Rebecca follows where she should have noticed this, any particular reason you find it incredible after reading this that, even if it had been brought up on one of these sites Rebecca wouldn’t just, based on what she described in this post, see “Radford”, “Stollznow” or the combination and just skipped by without registering any context?

    • June 3, 2015 at 3:34 am —

      I meant that as a reply to Unhidden. I keep forgetting that “Log in to reply” doesn’t link the reply to the post where I clicked the link.

      • June 3, 2015 at 3:37 am —

        “Unhiddenness”. I should know better than to rely on memory when refering to a username.

  7. June 3, 2015 at 3:41 am —

    I never liked Stollznow for various personal reasons.

    But I gave money to Stollznow’s fund on general principle: Radford sued instead of providing evidence. That is not what skeptics should do.

    And then of course, when Radford provided his “legalinfo” evidence site, it turned out he was creepy as shit.

    So money well spent I guess.

    • June 7, 2015 at 7:03 pm —

      I too found the publishing of private emails and (albeit non explicit) photos creepy.

      But it also convinced me that Karen’s claims made in her original post were not based on fact.

      Surely Radford could have found a less intrusive way to communicate his defence. I guess tempers on all sides were running hot back then.

  8. June 3, 2015 at 5:04 pm —

    You should have told ’em to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

  9. June 3, 2015 at 10:24 pm —

    And now that I re-read the post more closely this second time around, Rebecca… do you think Karen is lying?? Because that is pretty shitty, if you do.

    • June 4, 2015 at 1:38 am —

      As I wrote in the post, I don’t know if she’s lying, and at this point I don’t care.

  10. June 4, 2015 at 12:28 am —

    i suspect Karen can’t say anything beyond the statement

  11. June 4, 2015 at 12:33 am —

    I suspect that she can’t say anything beyond the joint statement for legal reasons. It also means Ben will leave her alone in exchange for her silence. So we won’t get a definitive answer, but Karen can get some peace and focus on her new family.

  12. June 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm —

    There seems to be a lot of divide and conquer going on, especially over on Facebook. Victim A and victim B don’t like each other. Therefore supporters and friends of A can’t also support and be friends with B and vice versa. Who wins here? Certainly neither A nor B nor their friends and allies, and especially not the millions of C, D, E, F …

    This doesn’t mean A and B have to be friends or even pay any attention to each other in their day-to-day lives, but they should recognize when the other has been wronged and support them.

  13. June 4, 2015 at 8:52 pm —

    Rebecca:

    Thanks for this simple, clear, note….Except I still have to use time I’ll never get back to find out who these clowns actually ARE.

    The Skepto-Atheo-Sphere carries on imploding while 7 billion people have never heard of them.

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