When Will It End?

This image depicts quite well the topic and context of this article and what may happen if we continue along this path of ruin

I‘m breaking the rule I set for myself, that I would no longer contribute to this madness, started with a tabloid story that ruined the career of a world renowned astronomer and possible Nobel Laureate (see my previous 6 articles, listed at the foot of this article, if you want some context – I’m not linking to the original Buzzfeed story here because, quite frankly, it’s not worth my time doing so). Dr. Geoff Marcy was convicted in the court of public opinion and his career ruined by lies, hearsay, exaggerations and distortions.

If aliens were to land here today and observe what is being discussed under the banner “Topical Discussions in Science”, they would shrug their shoulders and leave – and they would be right in doing so. Even a discussion of careers in science is now synonymous with “Sexual Harassment”. That this is at the focus of everything that is science at this moment is quite telling of the character of those who find this so important. Are we going to have to hear about all the sordid details of every misdeed ever perpetrated by one human being on another? Another story appeared in the Tuesday (2/2/2016) edition of the New York Times (and, again, I’m not linking to it – there’s Google and the NY Times website if you’re interested). It’s almost another story every day; when will it end? Quite frankly, I thought highly educated professionals would have better things to do with their time rather than engaging in what amounts to the sharing of gossip, debates about who did what, where and how long it went on. When are we going to get back to the business of doing science or is this what’s going to define this new generation of scientists? Ground breaking new discoveries in our chosen fields aren’t going to come from social justice campaigns.

There will come a day when we’ll all start to look over our shoulders, wondering if we’re next in the crosshairs of some aggrieved millennial who has carried a grudge for something that happened to them more than 10 years ago or, at the most, 20 years ago for the older millennials, and that now is the right time to exact their revenge. Any reasonable person would admit that waiting 10 or 20 years to report an incident is suspect, regardless of its veracity or the validity of the claim. In some cases, with such a stretch of time, many could have even retired and moved on. Given the character of such a person, it is remarkable that they have actually mustered the intestinal fortitude to complete the degree program in the field of their choosing. The presumption here is that this individual is internally disposed towards their career choice, that they hold some affinity for it rather than it just being the “best career choice” among many. You see, if this is even remotely true, nothing or no one will prevent them from completing the program, nothing! I speak from personal experience. This complaint, therefore, raised as a prominent issue in Geoff Marcy’s case, is a Red Herring designed to evoke a specific visceral reaction based on the inherent sensibilities most people have in these matters. Such subjectivity would be wholly inadmissible in a real court but is perfectly fine in the court of public opinion. The claim that they left the field because of Geoff Marcy’s supposed indiscretions speaks to their commitment, or lack thereof, to astronomy.

How do you suppose they would react if you disagree with them and advocate for a reasoned, objective assessment of the facts in the appropriate forum (such as a court of law instead of tabloid rags or one-off pieces in the NY Times or Forbes)? They behave as anyone would expect a spoiled child to behave who didn’t get their way. For starters, you’re blocked or blacklisted in social media such as Facebook or Twitter as if what they think really matters. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what they think, nor do I have any interest in their opinion. You’re labeled as a miscreant, a bad person, a misogynist, a sexual harasser or protector of same. The latest addition to their litany of descriptions is “predator”; anyone who advocates for Due Process to be applied equally, with fairness, reason and blind objectivity is now a protector of sexual predators! What’s more, the object of their derision, the next victim of their social justice crusade, is forever stigmatized as a “sexual predator”, whether warranted or not.

If a serious crime of a sexual nature is successfully prosecuted in a court of law, the person so convicted deserves to be punished in accordance with the law and Due Process. There are remedies already in place, including protections against reprisals. We don’t need any additional laws, policies or regulations in this regard. Claiming that “I had to protect my career and didn’t report them” or “my career will be cut short if I report them”, etc, or any other variations on this theme, is intellectually dishonest, disingenuous and inconsistent with existing law.

Emboldened by their seeming victories in social media and the press, empty victories largely obtained through the ignorance of pliant interlopers who really know very little about the issues but who have very strong opinions, and appealing to any person’s sensibilities in these areas, certain senior members of the CSWA, as I discuss in this piece, are attempting an end-run around the very carefully crafted by-laws of the AAS. They are attempting to implement a Blacklist of “serial harassers”, in a manner similar to Senator Joseph McCarthy during his demagogic reign as one of this country’s worst elected officials of the 20th century. Any first-year history student knows far too well how it all worked out for Senator McCarthy (he was ultimately censured by the US Senate – Rep. Jackie Speier should take note). Although he was largely discredited in the end, the damage he did and the lives he ruined along the way were a testament to what happens when misguided zeal runs amok, unchecked by reason, jurisprudence, temperance, Due Process and adherence to existing laws and policies. As in the tragic erosion of basic liberties and constitutional protections following the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, imposed on this country ostensibly in the name of “security” by the “Patriot Act”, we don’t need any new laws or regulations that target actions or behaviors specifically arising from a gender difference in an academic context; we have more than enough and they are quite clear in their spirit and intent, many of them already in place since the 1965 Civil Rights Act as amended under Title IX of the Education Amendments to that Act: 1972, 20 U.S.C.:

Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices. Title IX applies, with a few specific exceptions, to all aspects of federally funded education programs or activities. In addition to traditional educational institutions such as colleges, universities, and elementary and secondary schools, Title IX also applies to any education or training program operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance.

If Due Process isn’t exercised in even measure, for even the worst offenders, then our entire legal system, the implementation of our government as a Representative Democracy, loses all claim to moral legitimacy. We will have descended into a morass of conflicting notions of morality, mob rule will have been realized and the notion of “might makes right” will have taken on a whole new meaning.

In closing, meditation on the first stanza of The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats is quite fitting (emphasis: this author):

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

The full context of this article can be obtained by reading the previous articles on this topic. In chronological order they are:

  1. Humiliated, World Renown Astronomer Resigns , October 18, 2015
  2. Amid Sexual Harassment Probe, Prestigious University Lowers Legal Standard , January 14, 2016
  3. Update to High Profile Astro Cases of SH , January 17, 2016
  4. Clarification of Position on SH , January 21, 2016
  5. We Stand Against Public Shaming , January 21, 2016
  6. Redefining Harassment , January 23, 2016

Update: In act of blatant censorship, an Independent Petition opposing the public shaming of Professional Scientists has been disabled by the petition site administrator.

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One thought on “When Will It End?

  1. I agree and disagree with this. I think new laws are needed because RIGHT NOW UNIVS JUST COVER THEIR OWN BACKSIDES. If covering themselves means protecting actual harassers and passing them on to other places if they are a problem then they do that. IF covering themselves means trashing someone to end or head off a social media backlash they will. In either case the victims of sexual harassment and the accused both get mistreated by a broken system. What I agree with and you know I’ve said from the start these matters need to be heard in courts. They are allegations and accusations until they are subject to a successful lawsuit, or possibly a criminal verdict of guilty. (Criminal in cases where “harassment” really is sexual assault. Unwanted under the clothes touching, or rubbing of errogenous zones at all, being the common sense threshold for sexual assault.)

    There are real problems but they are being burried under other unrelated agendas.

    The agenda that says ban all dating between lab workers. Nevermind that many many scientist meet their match at work just like everyone else does. Not banning it means that women get asked out, and the gender imbalance means we can have 10 women being asked out by 200 thirsty men. That is annoying, but not sexual harassment. One interesting solution for that is what is known as a “romanic interest escrow” . Some workplaces and prisons give the option of letting HR know the names of people you are interested in. If the interest is mutual they make the introduction.

    Then there is an agenda that is anti any and all biologicaly male people without regard to gender identity or lived experience. Such people are just Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist of another hue. “You were born male so even anything up to and including a full sex change is an act of patriarchy”. Oh yes,…there are femisist who think that way http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelsie-brynn-jones/transexclusionary-radical-terf_b_5632332.html GENTELMEN YOU CAN NEVER MAKE TERFS HAPPY, so don’t try.

    Then there are people who will use their feminine wilds to get to the top. If that means flirting to get favors then when the man pursues claiming harassment they’ll do it. A system where accusation = guilt and that the person is blacklisted and must, as another blog put it step down in favor of the one who accused them, …is just rife for abuse.

    I may sound harsh but I live in a world where the kind of woman I am pays a high price. Things like this… 48 transgender women were killed in January in Brazil, that is a big fraction of the number killed world wide all last year. http://feministing.com/2016/02/03/at-least-48-transgender-women-killed-in-brazil-in-january/ Real feminist have a broader perspective than most of those on #astroSH. I swear I now know what Sojourner Truth was up against when she gave her “Aint I a woman” speech in 1851.

    Liked by 1 person

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