Skepticism

Richard Carrier Turns to Libel Bullying to Fight Creep Charges

Hey, remember last year when Ben Radford tried to use legal threats to bury a woman’s accusations about his behavior, and how that didn’t work very well? Apparently, Richard Carrier saw that and thought it looked like a great idea, because he has had a lawyer send a threatening letter to Amy Frank, a woman who posted a Facebook message last month warning other people that Carrier was creepy to her at a post-lecture party last year.

And yes, I’m not understating her accusations, here. She didn’t accuse him of raping her, or hurting her in any way. She merely pointed out that he was way too sexually forward with her and it made her uncomfortable enough that she immediately made a complaint to the Secular Student Alliance’s speaker’s bureau, and she doesn’t want to attend his talks or be near him again.

Carrier responded by saying that he had been sexually aggressive with a student around that time but it wasn’t Frank, and that his conversation with her was much more benign. He then hired a lawyer to send threats of a defamation lawsuit to Frank as well as to Skepticon, who banned him from speaking at their conference due to allegations of his creepy behavior, and PZ Myers and Stephanie Zvan, who reported on these allegations.

While reading up on all of this, I noticed a trend of people stepping up to support Carrier by reporting that he was never creepy toward them. With that in mind, I’ll add my voice to the choir: I’ve hung out with Carrier at many events and never felt uncomfortable or pressured in any way by him at all. I’ll also point out that that’s a completely ridiculous response to these accusations. “Well John Wilkes Booth never assassinated me so I’m not sure where this is coming from.” It’s normal to want to support your friends but seriously: think before you speak.

It’s also fair to point out that we don’t know what the actual conversation was like between Frank and Carrier that night. Maybe Carrier was a perfect gentleman! Maybe Frank was overly sensitive. But it doesn’t matter: Frank is allowed to feel like Carrier was a creep, and she’s also allowed to say as much on her Facebook page. Carrier is allowed to feel like not-a-creep, and he’s allowed to say as much on his blog.

But dear lord is it disgusting and ridiculous (in my opinion — call off your legal dogs, Carrier!) that the skeptical community has yet another prominent man who resorts to legal threats to silence a woman from voicing her concerns.

I know firsthand how expensive it can be to retain legal counsel just to respond to a letter from a lawyer, and that’s why I’m going to donate some money to Frank’s legal fund and I hope you can, too, if you have some cash to spare. Here’s hoping Carrier reads up on the Streisand effect and drops this nonsense before it goes any further.

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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14 Comments

  1. August 1, 2016 at 3:47 pm —

    He may not have been a creep then, but he sure proved he’s a creep now.

  2. August 1, 2016 at 3:50 pm —

    Didn’t Carrier criticize Radford when Radford did this? Pretty sure he did.

  3. August 1, 2016 at 4:37 pm —

    This whole thing is quite depressing to me because I always saw Richard as a “sex-positive/anti-harrasment” type who could counter the straw harassment policies used by the pro harassment crowd in atheism. So, I kind of feel suckered by him.

    I believe his interaction with Amy Frank was at a symposium where the speakers were specifically prohibited from propositioning students. Although, that might be a different incident. Personally, I’m not big on zero-tolerance policies. But, since he responded to her questions about Polyamory by assuming she was hitting on him, I can see how such a policy would allow people to ask questions about different sexual lifestyles without the speaker assuming she wants to be part of his.

  4. August 1, 2016 at 6:20 pm —

    And yes, I’m not understating her accusations, here. She didn’t accuse him of raping her, or hurting her in any way. She merely pointed out that he was way too sexually forward with her and it made her uncomfortable […] Frank is allowed to feel like Carrier was a creep, and she’s also allowed to say as much on her Facebook page. […] yet another prominent man who resorts to legal threats to silence a woman from voicing her concerns”

    The cease and desist letter (seen on her GoFundMe page) is specifically for voicing:

    very serious charges that include sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and corruption

  5. August 1, 2016 at 6:26 pm —

    She merely pointed out that he was way too sexually forward with her and it made her uncomfortable

    She said:

    Richard Carrier, the man who sexually harassed me and touched me […] I’m not even close to being his only victim

  6. August 1, 2016 at 7:22 pm —

    When I started reading this article I thought “is he the guy who gave a lecture at an event and creeped on my friend?”, so I looked up his name and yes, he is. Only a matter of time before someone called him on his appalling behaviour.

  7. August 2, 2016 at 12:55 am —

    Richard Carrier was one of the people whose writings helped me when I realized that I was an atheist and was trying to deal with those identity issues. I am disappointed at his litigiousness, and will be more so if these concerns about his actions are justified.

  8. August 2, 2016 at 11:28 am —

    Why is the scandal that demands action in skeptic circles always that a woman dares to speak up when harassed, never the harassment itself?

  9. August 3, 2016 at 7:07 am —

    Hey, folks. You are Skeptics, are you not? Skeptics embrace reason, do we not?

    I don’t want to weigh in on the issue. But I do want to weigh in on the process. I don’t see anyone applying the tools of logic to their arguments here.

    For instance, comparing Radford to Carrier. By doing that, you are putting them in the same reference class. “People who stalk and harass their exes over a period of years” You would have to use this definition to put the two men in the same class. But clearly, this is not the narrowest class we can find for Carrier. “People who are alleged to make sexual advances to other people, involving sexually suggestive language and light touching (without necessarily obtaining consent).” Something like that.

    You could argue that the proper class is “People who are accused of sexual harassment, and who sue their accusers for defamation.” Of course, this class is full of innocent as well as guilty people. I don’t know if people in this class are more or less likely to be guilty of the offense. That’s something to look into, for those interested in truth and not gossip. But I think we can all agree, they are definitely not all guilty.

    Saying, “Carrier filed a lawsuit,” therefore, “Carrier is litigious,” is silly on the face of it. Trump is litigious! Carrier is, to my knowledge, not. Furthermore, saying that filing a lawsuit makes him a creep presumes he is guilty. One files a lawsuit to prove one’s innocence. If he loses, then you can call him a creep.

    Of course, you can decide what you think for yourself, based on a reasoned appraisal of the evidence. However, I don’t see anyone here engaging in that process.

    I could be wrong. But if I’m not, don’t shoot the messenger!

    • August 4, 2016 at 9:01 am —

      Oh look, an uberskeptic.

      How’s this? Instead of a creep, how about I find that a supposed good-guy skeptic who has been around (and commented even) during the previous discussions within the skeptical community has decided that one person saying that they felt he was handsy and inappropriate on her personal Facebook page was reason for a cease-and-desist order is either not very bright or has never heard of the Streisand effect?

      Or maybe I can shorten that to creep and overly litigious?

      Does that pass muster with your highness?

      No? Tough.

  10. August 4, 2016 at 4:32 am —

    Well that sucks.
    It’s a shame – I’ve met Carrier and had some really good conversations with him.

    If we were being extremely generous to him, we could say that he’s deeply hurt by false accusations – but if that were the case, why issue a libel suit? Respond to the accusations in your own space and move on.

    • August 4, 2016 at 9:07 am —

      Because, people who are inappropriate around others usually realize that they are, and he is concerned that others with follow this accusation with more accusations (which has already happened).

      Funny how a loud “be quiet” rarely works the way they think it will.

      Maybe he will, in future, be less “forward” with people he barely knows. I guess we’ll see.

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