Yes, I’m going there. Dongles, Disagreement and Disproportionate Derision
I have been hesitating to write this blog post for various reasons. Amazingly enough, there are still a few people not familiar with Donglegate. Which means in the secular community, many won’t be familiar with an incident arising out out Donglegate. I have read that I am being referred to as a casualty of friendly fire. The impetus of my finally writing about this was a comment PZ Myers made on a blog post Jason Thibeault wrote yesterday. More on that later. First the background. For those of you familiar with the story, you won’t need the following summary.
Adria Richards, a self-described developer evangelist, was at a tech conference sitting in the audience for a presentation. Two men were seated behind her and talking using technical language (dongles and forking) that allegedly morphed into a juvenile sexual joke overheard by Richards. She stood up, turned around and took three pictures of them. She then tweeted the pictures to her thirteen thousand followers with the conference hashtag. She made a second tweet then asking for conference organizers to do something. Conference organizers removed the men, talked to them, one denied that some comments were sexual, admitted one was and apologized profusely. They were allowed back into the conference and that would have been the end of it BUT THE INTERNET EXPLODED.
Adria Richard’s company was besieged by DDOS attacks by Anonymous. One of the men was fired. Adria began receiving horrid rape and death threats. Adria got fired. And I commented on a blog post PZ Myers did about this titled, “Adria Richards did everything exactly right” and I disagreed with him. And got vilified, insulted, abused and disabused of the notion that what you think you know sometimes just isn’t quite what it seems.
I, of course, knew that the blog had a certain reputation for not suffering fools lightly. I know PZ, himself, promotes it as a “rude blog.” I wasn’t aware of how abusive it gets. I have been an avid supporter and defender of the so-called FTBullies and have paid a high price in the form of vicious ridicule and mockery by members of the slymepit. I cannot claim innocence as I have certainly thrown my own share of knives without knowing the full story some of the time, hell, maybe all the time. I don’t know anymore. I am doing what I need to in order to make myself right.
Full disclosure. I have met PZ several times. He actually spoke for me at the Humanists of Florida conference last September. I consider him a friend and an ally. So, imagine my shock and dismay upon voicing what seemed to be a mild disagreement on this thread of already close to three hundred comments the nasty reception I received.
So, let me start by saying, I never heard of Adria Richards prior to this incident. I am aware of the reputation the tech industry has for rampant sexism. I consider myself a feminist. I am also a retired attorney. When I was practicing, I actually handled a sexual harassment lawsuit. I represented a plaintiff in a claim against Circuit City in a sexual harassment case claiming a hostile environment and was successful in obtaining a settlement for her. I was a sole practitioner two years out of law school facing one of the best law firms in Philadelphia. I have also been falsely accused of a crimes and had it plastered all over the internet and been shamed for something I didn’t do. I commented about this coming from a mindset of maybe knowing a thing or two about sexual harassment AND that people have the right to the presumption of innocence. We should not turn them over to the people with the pitchforks and torches.
I didn’t find Adria Richards’ tweeting the event a proper method of reporting. Neither did a lot of people. PZ obviously did. That is his right. His commenters agreed with him That is their right. Chris Clarke explained that I got it “catastrophically wrong” As I am a woman, a feminist and a retired lawyer, couldn’t this be described as “mansplaining?” Meh, not important to me, or this post. I like Chris a lot. I happen to disagree with him. What this post is about is the manner in which my disagreement was handled. I come into the thread after the commenters have tangled with someone named Matthew Best. He also does not agree that Adria did everything exactly right. He faced a blistering attack of insults and his positions were grossly misrepresented. I am not going to post all of his comments and responses. I recognize the mistakes I made commenting though some were naivete and some were simply my style misinterpreted in a thread I wasn’t known. This thread is closing in on two thousand comments. It may be hard to follow simply due to the massive volume of comments and the fact that I am leaving a great many out. If you want to wade through the miasma, feel free. I suggest you take a valium or a swig of scotch first. It’s not for delicate sensibilities. What is, or should be, apparent is the abuse that was heaped upon me and the blatant misrepresentation of my character that got casually thrown at me as easily as a used tissue gets tossed.
Let’s get to the most pertinent point of his blog post – PZ states on his blog regarding Adria Richards tweeting the picture of the two men-
This was a measured response. It wasn’t a blast of anger, it was a request that the conference enforce its code of conduct. It disrupted the meeting less than a couple of chattering smart-asses did. This is exactly what we should want people to do: polite confrontation through appropriate channels.
I stumble into the thread at comment 284. Now, I have skimmed over the comments and seen what has transpired thus far and it has been heated but not overly outrageous. David Porter calls into question the need to eviscerate people and whether the abuse wrought outweighs the benefit gained. I am now going to have some comments out of order simply so that you can see which comment the person is responding to. I am utterly confused by this as I haven’t made that many comments and certainly haven’t stated any intentions. My response- And, going the glass house path didn’t work because apparently these expert troll bashers know exactly when and where to draw the line and never slip up. Except when they do. And then I really step in it.I defend Matthew. I immediately get called a “chill girl.” I n response to my glass house question PZ comes in and says I asked the wrong question. Then I get two comments (well 3 actually but the third is just trying to prove to me how terrible Matthew is) in a row slamming me. And here is where I become an apologist for misogynist behavior. and now we have Caine rewriting history and totally distorting and misrepresenting what I said about what occurred at my conference. JAL then comes in to back Caine up despite the fact that she has the facts wrong and knows nothing about me but I want the presumption of innocence to attach to people. How awful. I then get asked if Pharyngula looks like a courtroom. Well of course not. This was an angry lynch mob. Enough with the screencapping- I am simply going to copy and paste.
Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls
FFS, now I’m an apologist for misogynist behavior? Are you fucking kidding? And I’m getting called a “dumbfuck
Yep, that’s what comes when you essentially keep blaming the victim. How you would have handled it is irrelevant; a non-sequitur. So, quit telling us about how you work. Or rather, don’t for the women.489
I really don’t think you’re in any position to tell ANYONE how to act “properly”. I am familiar with your version of “proper” and it’s fucking gross. I don’t think any woman here would want to have anything to do with any conference where you were in charge of anything, even if it were just hiring the caterer. You’re just plain ol’ icky.
JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness
#484 EllenBeth Wachs
So Nerd, do you think being abusive to me is helpful to the discussion? You’re the one derailing the discussion to complain about how Adria reported the incident. And you clearly don’t know what the word in bold means. How dare you, especially after that triggering shit Best pulled to us that word against us when we’ve treated you fairly based on the crap you posted. Do you think misrepresenting who I am and what I stand for is appropriate? Didn’t happen. We only have your words to go on, the proof is in the pudding as they say.
Fuck right the fuck off you fucking fuck. Go organize a “d00dbro” friendly conference somewhere far away, would you? I’m sure there’s thousands of douchecanoes who would welcome your toxic brand of “rationality”.
I don’t even want to go on posting more of these. There’s really no point. I am looking at this thread and forgot just how many vicious, angry comments there were and I am not even close to getting through them. They continued to savage me for hours after I left the thread. I have already taken all day to write this. What was my point in doing so? I wanted to point out how easy it is to get misrepresented and misquoted and mischaracterized over minor points of disagreement. IS IT WORTH IT?? I don’t understand the feeling of glory one could get from being that abusive to another person. I got called their enemy. Why? Because I said she should not have tweeted the picture? And yes, I also came at this from the perspective of a conference organizer. You see, I can look at this from many angles, not just one. I think the key is, can you put yourselves in her shoes AND the shoes of the men? I did. Matthew Best did. A lot of others in the general community did. That is what was lacking from most of the commenters in that thread. They had tunnel-vision. SUPPOSE THEY WERE INNOCENT?? What if she got it wrong? We know she didn’t, but that is irrelevant. The poignant question is, what if she had gotten it wrong? And THAT is why her tweeting this is a mistake. Just because I think so does not make me a rape- apologist, misogynistic, victim-blaming, chill girl and if you think so there is something deeply flawed in your logic. I left that thread bewildered, raw and with my head spinning. I was caught between the Scylla and Charybdis. So, I left the internet for a week. Well, that’s not accurate. I didn’t interact publicly on the internet. I didn’t tweet nor facebook for the most part except to extend some apologies I felt were due. I read history; not American history, but deeeep rifts history. My reaction to all of this is basically the same as when I left that thread, “What the actual fuck?” So back to the reason for this post. I was planning on writing it. I didn’t know what would spur me on. As I stated earlier, it was this comment from PZ yesterday on Jason’s blog post about defamation not being dissent.
I’ve been threatened with a false rape accusation, one that could have totally destroyed my career. I took it very seriously and moved quickly to provide evidence that it was false.
PZ was very fortunate he was able to do that. But it isn’t actually his responsibility to prove his innocence. As I brought up on the Adria Richard’s thread. We work from a presumption of innocence and THAT is where I came from. I have been falsely accused myself. I wasn’t accused of rape but it was equally, if not more, horrific in the public’s perception. It came across that I was being accused of being a pedophile. How does one go about proving you haven’t made sexual noises in your own bedroom? I have a lunatic stalker running around the internet calling me a “kid fucker” because a rogue sheriff used his clout to publicly shame me into silence.
Yes, the slymepitters have done some terrible things. I’m pretty sure they know that and own that. Photoshopping people is not legitimate criticism. It’s just mockery and mean. Spreading false stories and misinformation, that’s damaging. I saw it happen to me within minutes by overzealous commenters. So if they were that wrong about me, who else are they wrong about? Who are you wrong about? I left that thread hitting the reset button pretty much on everybody. If you haven’t personally wronged me, consider yourself safe. Even if you have, I have looked at what my role might have been. Multiple people have received apologies already.
Does the sheer magnitude of the awfulness overwhelm the benefit?
Oh and there always has to be a t-shirt
Edit 4/2/2013 PZ has posted a response to this blog. I am disappointed, to say the least, that one of the commenters is “Doubling Down” and continuing to misrepresent me and my positions.