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Three years ago, I wrote over on Skepchick about Richard Carrier. You may know him as the guy who you may have seen at atheist conferences talking about how there was no historical Jesus, even though most historians disagree with him. I mean, that’s how he used to be known. Nowadays he’s known as “the guy who went bonkers and started suing people for millions of dollars for saying he’s creepy and for not inviting him to their conferences, so now his only fans are men’s rights activists who are half-rooting for him and half-laughing at him.”
So yeah, it was three years ago that Carrier decided to sue everyone into shutting up — Amy Frank, the woman who posted on her own Facebook page that he had been creepy toward her, Lauren Lane (who runs Skepticon) who decided not to invite him back to their free student-run conference in part because of accusations of him being creepy, and bloggers like PZ Myers for, well, reporting all of that I guess, or maybe because Freethought Blogs tried to investigate his creepy behavior but he removed his blog before they could finish, so that’s…discrimination I guess. It’s creepist.
Carrier used to live here in California, but he moved to Ohio just prior to launching his lawsuits. It’s interesting, because as an aside I’ve recently been doing some reading and California has pretty strict anti-SLAPP laws. SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” and it’s a convenient way to say “a lawsuit that’s main purpose is to silence and scare a critic.” Lawsuits are expensive, and if you were, I don’t know, a group of college students running a free conference for atheists who can’t afford most other conferences, and if a speaker you didn’t invite said he was going to sue you for literally more than $2 million, you might be willing to just remove whatever post he wanted removed, and apologize, and pay his legal fees. But if someone tried that kind of intimidation in California, they’d have their lawsuit thrown out before the defendant incurs particularly great costs. But while 28 states, Washington DC, and Guam all have anti-SLAPP laws, Ohio does not.
So anyway, Carrier filed his lawsuit (which I am not educated enough to say whether it would qualify as SLAPP or not) in Ohio, despite the fact that none of the defendants lived or worked or interacted with him there. Because of that, two years later the lawsuits were thrown out and Carrier was informed he would have to sue each party in their home state.
The reason I’m talking about all of this now is because Richard Carrier has in fact just filed lawsuits against everyone for the second time, in their home states. He’s suing Amy Frank in Arizona, PZ Myers in Minnesota, and Lauren Lane and Skepticon in Missouri. (All of those states have anti-SLAPP laws in place.) When I first heard this news I was shocked, because I happen to know that the defendants have spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees dealing with Carrier’s litigation, and I have no idea how he can possibly afford to keep doing this. And additionally, what 1-800-LAWYER is going to take these ridiculous cases?
But then I double-checked and oh, he’s representing himself. You know what they say about the man who represents himself? He has a creep for a client. Oh, also a fool. A foolish creep. A creepy fool. Oh, like Jared Leto’s Joker. Is Richard Carrier the Jared Leto of atheism? It’s not for me to say. That would be libelous, probably, in Richard Carrier’s legal opinion.
So Carrier is headed back to court, and I’m no lawyer but I have had quite a bit of experience with libel law, so I know the battle ahead of him: he has to prove that the defendants said something untrue, that they knew to be untrue, for malicious purposes. He’s really going all out to prove that it’s untrue he’s a creepy fuck who doesn’t recognize boundaries. Let’s check out some of the evidence he submitted in his previous (dismissed) lawsuits!
First up, let’s see, looks like this is a sworn affidavit of…some lady…who says that Lauren Lane once hugged her boyfriend and flirted with Richard Carrier. Huh. And…that’s about it. Okay, well he’s also got a sworn affidavit from David Fitzgerald — hey, I know him! He lives around here in the Bay Area. Seems like a nice guy. OH and according to his affidavit he’s married to the previous lady. Okay. David testifies to the court before a California notary public that he, let’s see, fucked a girl in a bed next to Richard Carrier, who was fucking Lauren Lane at the time. Wow. Wow. Yikes. Sir, this is a Wendy’s!
David also mentions that Lauren “seduced” Carrier, who by the way is 16 years older than her, and that after they had sex Carrier said Lauren was “clingy.” Also that Carrier ended the relationship and several months later told his wife about it. Cool, cool.
Well that’s pretty open and shut, isn’t it? I don’t know how anyone could argue that Richard Carrier is creepy after learning that he, hold on, let me check my notes again, ah yes after he cheated on his wife to fuck a girl 16 years younger than him while he was speaking at her student conference while another old dude was fucking another girl in the bed next to them. Nothing to see here folks, that about wraps it up.
Oh hold on, there’s one other piece of evidence here and it’s an entire email correspondence with former Skepchick-blogger Heina Dadabhoy, and, well, I know we’ve already decided Richard Carrier is definitely not creepy but let’s give this a read just to put that nail in the coffin, shall we?
(reading all emails)
Yep, not creepy at all. Definitely very into boundaries. Definitely not at all into continuing a correspondence long past the point where it’s appropriate. Definitely able to take hints, and by “hints” I mean “direct statements.”
Look, I love cringey stuff so this is like catnip to me. Cringe catnip. As much as I hate that the defendants are going to keep paying through the nose for this idiocy, I am hoping for more quality cringe from the discovery. Let’s get Carrier’s full text exchanges. Can’t wait!
I’m just going to wrap up by postulating, “What if Richard Carrier is right?” What if this is all smoke, no fire. Despite the emails and sworn affidavits that he himself submitted to the public record, what if he really does understand boundaries and has never, ever made someone feel uncomfortable? What if his number one named accuser is lying when she says that she felt sexually harassed?
Many years ago I was regularly harassed by a batty woman named Sara Mayhew. She did a lot of truly shitty things to both me and the other Skepchick writers, and her usual MO was to lie about, well, everything. For instance she claimed that I once made anti-semitic jokes about her, saying someone overheard me at a bar in Austin, Texas. A bar that I was never in, because it doesn’t actually exist. Also I had no idea she was Jewish. Despite that, she managed to get a Jewish anti-bullying organization to offer to help her.
She said a lot of things over the years that could definitely fall under the category of “defamatory,” and by the time the Jewish stuff came up I finally spoke with a lawyer. And the lawyer wisely pointed out that, essentially, she’s clearly a moron, and legal action would not get her to shut up. In fact, it might make her even more annoying. Ultimately, I had to accept that the court system is not there to be my parent, and to send someone to her room for being a little shit. Ignoring her was the only path, and sure enough it’s been several years now and this is honestly the first I’ve thought about her since that time. Everything she tried to do to libel me, including starting a knock-off Skepchick site, failed miserably.
My point here is that if Carrier had done this, he wouldn’t currently be known as a litigious creep. A woman posted something on Facebook that he didn’t agree with. A few other women agreed. Richard Carrier himself agreed that he had violated the Secular Student Alliance’s contract that prohibited speakers having sex with students. A student conference that didn’t even pay honorariums disinvited him. A blogging network asked for his side of the story.
He could have privately offered his side, or moved to an independent blogging platform. He could have apologized for mixed up communication and moved on. Skepticon stopped inviting me to their conference every year, too, but it didn’t affect my tax returns. Go to different conferences — there are plenty out there with no rules about speakers having sex with audience members.
But instead he chose the nuclear option. Suing half-a-dozen bloggers and student activists for $2 million, all because some women felt uncomfortable and had the temerity to say as much.