Hey guys, and welcome to 2018’s first chapter of the Smear Campaign Against Vocal Atheists saga. Today, they’re targetting theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss.
So what happened? According to a tabloid article by some Peter Aldhous, Azeen Ghorayshi, and Virginia Hughes, Mr. Krauss incurred in sexual misconducts.
Now, before lighting up your torch and go complain about “sexism within the atheist community, bruh!“, you might want to consider some facts:
• The article draws largely from all the previous smear campaigns against the atheist/skeptic community, and goes on and on for paragraphs “firing off clichés, like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition”. The Sam Harris and ‘Islamophobia’ canard? Check! Michael Shermer being part of the alt-right just because he happened to agree on a single point with the poster-boy of that movement (or whatever it is)? Check! The “atheism is male-dominated” claim? Check! Demonizing Richard Dawkins for daring to ponder that being asked out is not a traumatic experience? Check! And for good measure, they even threw in some new lies to tar us with, like linking us to Gamergate —the movement to bring ethics to gaming journalism— and portraying that movement as sexist and approving of rape and death threats. (Turns out, the score on that account is not at all like that, but I digress.)
• Pseudo-skeptic and science-denialist Rebecca Watson and her buddy, Melody Hensley, are heavily featured in the article. They both have had an ax to grind with Krauss ever since he stood by his colleague Jeffrey Epstein.
• To prove the “rape and death threats” claim, the article links back to Watson’s Page o’ Hate, a page where she parades what she claims are nasty comments she gets. The page has been known to post Watson’s own words attacking someone else but just replacing her own name for her target’s. The Victim Factory in action!
• The tabloid posting this hatchet job also posted the smear campaign chapter against Michael Shermer, back in 2014. Again, no evidence whatsoever. Again, Watson and Hensley featured prominently as sources.
• The article mentions another familiar name, pseudo-skeptic Jen McCreight, and the whisper network she once talked about, with a supposed list of male speakers that would be dangerous to be around. As a matter of fact, we actually know what took place in this whisper network; apostates have told us so: it was/is a cultish gossip network to draw names through the mud, with no patience for people who disagrees or asks for evidence.
• Krauss’ accusers are said to be multiple women, but the only one to actually come forward was Melody Hensley, who happens to be a serial liar, very well-known to the skeptic community for her temper tantrum while being Executive Director of CFI’s Washington DC branch, when the organization refused to give in any more to her post-modernist shenanigans. She had previously claimed she had got PTSD from a website where everyone shares their opinions and are generally mean to other people (and, apparently, getting PTSD like that is technically possible). So, totally mature person who does not tend to blow things out of proportion. But no worries, the piece states that Hensley’s husband confirmed her story. I mean: why would anyone confirm the claims of their significant other, people with whom they share household, income, maybe kids, goals, dreams, the rest of their lives?
• The authors seem to be very mad about the existence of people who rejects all kinds of faith, they also seem to believe in gender theory, and that it is OK for movements like #MeToo to turn into life-destroying mobs. Here comes the irony, though — Aldhous and Ghorayshi are ‘science’ reporters for the publication, and Hughes is it’s ‘science’ editor. Yes, three people make their living by reporting about science and the evidence-based world, just think it is awful for other people to hold a naturalistic understanding of the world, to reject group-think, or to think that outrage doesn’t trump individual rights. Given that Krauss has stated his opinion on these matters, the article reads like someone settling a score.
So what we have here is a rag that does not care about getting it right, three people —science ‘journalists’!— who work for it who got wrong each and every account of the episodes that I am familiar with, whose two most prominent sources are two systematic liars who have been holding a grudge against Krauss (and many others) for years, and are or have been part of a gossiping machine for who knows how much time with the express purpose of going after whoever they label “raging misogynists” of the community. Yet, we’re supposed to believe these three ‘journalists’ got everything else right? How do we know they did not spin or played with the anonymous alleged victims’ accounts? I’m sorry, I can’t do that — they blew up their credibility. After taking so many jabs at our community with false information, how does their account of what other people said does not amount to hearsay? As a journalist, if I wasn’t able to get the basic facts right, I would certainly not be suited to report accurately about what other people said. But that’s just me, I’m weird like that, asking for evidence and rejecting gossip as sources of news.
I don’t know if Krauss or any other prominent skeptic has gone too far or even crossed the line of what is legal. I do know, though, that these kinds of publications only do a disservice to any real victims there might be: the best way to help the victims is to not instrumentalize their tragedy; and from the looks of it, Aldhous, Ghorayshi, and Hughes did exactly that.
Prominent skeptics have been on the receiving end of a smear campaign for years now; so when you’re writing an article about allegations against anyone who has been in that position, you have to make sure you have an air-tight case. This latter part involves having good sources and making sure you are keeping all your biases in check. That was simply not the case.