Author Topic: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?  (Read 19111 times)

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Offline Bill K

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #225 on: January 15, 2019, 08:29:53 AM »
I'm sure you did. I am just saying, I've read some distrustful reactions to his appearance on the show based mostly on what I said earlier. I think that's why folks were concerned or angry.

I agree with how you're handling this. I apologise for being rude. I think the many other similar situations to this this concerning people in the skeptical movement is getting under my skin, is all. I understand there is not much more you can do right now with there being really no evidence to prove either way what did or didn't happen or separate interpretations, as you say.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 08:34:26 AM by Bill K »
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #226 on: January 15, 2019, 11:36:58 AM »
Steve, I understand that there may be no way of determining the facts in this particular case, but it is clear that the report of sexual harassment was not handled adequately. What I would definitely like to see from the SGU going forward is the establishment of clear policies on sexual harassment; the establishment of a reporting procedure for sexual harassment by employees, guests and volunteers; and a commitment to third-party investigation of future incidents. I don't think that you, Steve, can be responsible for investigating potential allegations against your own brothers or long-time friends, and I feel that requiring potential victims to report misconduct to you might have a stifling affect on reporting.  I would also like to see you institute a sexual harassment policy and reporting procedure for NECSS. To me, these are the kinds of responses that we can reasonably expect and which could help you to become leaders on this issue in the skeptical community.  And leadership is what I want and believe we should expect from the SGU.
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Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #227 on: January 15, 2019, 11:40:30 AM »
The accuser did contact me about a year ago, and I did respond immediately to them. My failing was is not following up adequately with them. I thought I had given them proper assurances. The reason I had not addressed it since is because I was simply not aware of this thread. I usually monitor the show threads, but not other threads here unless they are brought to my attention. As soon as this one was brought to my attention, I responded.
I have now also e-mailed the accuser, apologized for not following up adequately before, and gave them an update. I also opened a dialogue with them to explore what else can and should be done given the situation. I am open to suggestions here as well.

Sorry if I was unclear, I in no way expected you would have ever been aware of this thread.  It wasn't made as an open letter to you or anything and I've been around here long enough to know that your presence outside of the episode threads is rare and usually brief so I had no expectations that you'd respond to anything said here.  My sole concern was with your response to 6EQUJ5.  This situation is awkward for me because I'm not directly involved and as such have no direct and specific knowledge of any of this.  It's further complicated because it seems 6EQUJ5 is willing to let it be.  Since I want to respect her presumed wishes I will not be asking for any details of the assaults or Evan's denials of them and I will consider the matter now closed to her satisfaction unless otherwise specified by her.  If she's good to move on, then what right have I not to be?  I will say this though about misunderstandings and two people having to different perceptions of an event while neither is lying: if I were ever told by a friend of mine that I'd done anything akin to groping them on multiple occasions and that they, in none of those occasions wanted it and I had no reason to believe they were insincere, I would be apologizing profusely, no matter the situation or how confused I might be that they perceived something that way.  It may not have ever been my intention to take advantage, but that doesn't change that a wrong was committed that I would need to apologize for. 

With regards to the delay in response however, I feel I really need a clearer idea of what was communicated (in general terms) by you.  You say you responded immediately; was that a simple "I'll look into it," and then silence, was it a response where you talked to Evan and told her what he said and what your position was, or was it something in between? 

On the topic of suggestions for what you should do, I would not want you to do anything on this specific accusation without 6EQUJ5's consent, but I'm left unsettled by the fact that most listeners and admirers of your's and Evan's will never even be aware of this.  If she is OK with it, I'd suggest making a public statement akin to what you've said here; that a person you know but wishes to remain anonymous made an accusation that Evan groped her multiple times, that Evan has categorically denied doing anything wrong, and that the accuser is not seeking any further action.  I get that it has the potential to be unfair to Evan given the complexity of the situation, but in the interest of transparency and to give others an opportunity to come forward and show a pattern of behavior you might not be aware of, I think it would be appropriate.  You mentioned good and bad people and mistakes versus patterns of behavior and in large part I very much agree.  I have a few friends with whom, were I in your position I would have to distance myself professionally, but will not abandon them personally.  Long-term friendships are not things to be easily discarded and I get that so whatever you decide to do publicly, I'll respect whatever you chose to do personally.  That said, long-term friendships also are prone to a positive bias and an incomplete selection of knowledge about a person.  As much as you may know a person well, you can never truly know what's going on in their heads and what they do when you are not around.  For instance, I had no idea that one of my closest friends was a sex addict who had been sleeping with prostitutes for years until his girlfriend found out and he confessed everything to me.  Also, my parents didn't tell me until I was in my 20s that my mother was married before she was with my father; no big secret, just never told me.  People are surprisingly good at keeping the things they are ashamed of a secret from even their closest friends.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 11:43:15 AM by Eternally Learning »

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #228 on: January 15, 2019, 12:24:16 PM »
I am starting a separate reply for the Joshie Berger question.

This is more complicated than many here may realize. What Joshie did was wrong, and we unequivocally condemn it. We did not know about it before Joshie appeared on the show. That is simply untrue, and we have already clarified that. As soon as these allegations were made we made a statement here on the forums that Joshie will no longer be appearing on the SGU.

The nuance here is that Joshie is also a victim of an extreme cult, and people in his situation have a massive risk of alcoholism. Joshie is an alcoholic, something which is absolutely not an excuse but is a factor in his behavior. Our approach to Joshie has been - you need to admit what you have done, make whatever ammends you can, admit your problem with alcohol, and seek appropriate help. We will support Joshie, as friends and colleagues, on this path. We believe firmly in redemption and giving people an opportunity to make things right. It's easy to simply condemn people without trying to understand the nuances of their situation or thinking carefully about what response serves all ethical considerations the best.

Joshie has not really done this, and instead has taken some time away to reflect. Meanwhile, we have severed our professional relationship with him.

With regards to Joshie, I'm not in a position to evaluate who is correct here about who knew what when.  I believe the person's complaint didn't mention you and was only about one or both of your brothers and maybe their wives knowing about it before having him back on.  It may be that you, personally didn't know about it until it was made public.  It may also be that there is some misunderstanding or confusion on their part, thinking something was made clear when it was not.  I don't know them, I don't know you and your brothers, and I don't have any inside information on who was told what when so in light of two competing claims, I don't really see a way of sorting it out unless there is some sort of email trail showing someone was told.  Again though, I was left concerned after you dropped in the thread to say that you were shocked and were not going to have him back on the show, but failed to address or even acknowledge the concern that it appeared to be the case your brother(s) sat on this until it could no longer be ignored and knowingly invited him back on the show.  I still acknowledge that you have no obligation to read the entire thread or have an in depth conversation here because we want it, but it left me in a very uncomfortable place having it seem like you side-stepped a very serious allegation. 

The situation is similar with Brian Dunning. He is a friend and a colleague, but he was convicted of a crime. My approach to him has always been - we are happy to support you on the road to redemption, but you have to come clean, admit your mistakes and own them. We would not minimize or ignore the situation. After Brian paid his debt to society, which was substantial, he has tried to simply do good skeptical work and forge ahead. He has admitted what he has done, although the situation is admittedly complex (and to this day I don't fully understand the legal nuances).

Honestly, of the three situations we're discussing here, this one seems the clearest to me.  He's a long-time friend and colleague, the fraud charges weren't anything like stealing or misusing money from donations, but more of a grey technical area where it seemed fairly easy to fool yourself into thinking you were doing no harm, he's been punished by the courts, and is now trying to get back into the community you are so prominent in.  I get it, you wanted to help a friend out.  One major problem I have though is that even here you say you still don't fully understand the legal nuances.  Don't you owe it to your listeners and members to do your due diligence on the matter before literally asking them to give him money?  Beyond that though is the frustrating fact that on the episode you said very clearly that you and Brian would be on hand on Facebook to address any listeners concerns over the fraud charges (or something to that effect, I don't remember the exact wording) and afterwards you were completely absent and Brian did little more than berate and dismiss off-hand anyone expressing concerns. 

I feel I need to say this so you can get a fuller picture of where I am coming from, but while I've never been one to hero worship anyone, you have been the public person I've admired most in my life for the way you methodically and dispassionately approach topics yes, but mainly for the way you've seemed so good at controlling for your biases, especially on topics where you might be naturally inclined to do what most people do and generalize, dismiss, and ignore.  It's not lightly that I say you have been the closest thing to a hero I've ever had and were it not for that fact, and the impact your show has had on my life, I would not be here and would not feel the way I do.  I would probably just walk away and be silent.  The reason I started this thread was that I was starting to notice what appeared to be a pattern of behavior from you of avoiding anything that someone you know well has done something bad.  I couldn't say for sure that it was you trying to sweep these things under the rug and hoping we don't notice or forget about them, but the fact I couldn't rule it out really hit me hard. 

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #229 on: January 15, 2019, 01:34:29 PM »
The nuance here is that Joshie is also a victim of an extreme cult, and people in his situation have a massive risk of alcoholism. Joshie is an alcoholic, something which is absolutely not an excuse but is a factor in his behavior. Our approach to Joshie has been - you need to admit what you have done, make whatever ammends you can, admit your problem with alcohol, and seek appropriate help. We will support Joshie, as friends and colleagues, on this path. We believe firmly in redemption and giving people an opportunity to make things right. It's easy to simply condemn people without trying to understand the nuances of their situation or thinking carefully about what response serves all ethical considerations the best.

Joshie has not really done this, and instead has taken some time away to reflect. Meanwhile, we have severed our professional relationship with him.

Perhaps I am bad at comprehension, but what does this mean? Has Joshie not sought appropriate help, but the SGU supports his path to better himself, but Joshie has not really done what you supported him doing to go forward? ???

Please, someone, help me understand this.

I will keep following this thread with interest. And I think the SGU approach in dealing with ethical concerns makes a lot of sense.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #230 on: January 15, 2019, 03:11:35 PM »
Perhaps I am bad at comprehension, but what does this mean? Has Joshie not sought appropriate help, but the SGU supports his path to better himself, but Joshie has not really done what you supported him doing to go forward? ???

Please, someone, help me understand this.

I will keep following this thread with interest. And I think the SGU approach in dealing with ethical concerns makes a lot of sense.

It's not really clear what exactly Steve is saying Joshie hasn't done.  We know that he has not taken accountability for his actions but has instead withdrawn entirely from public life.  I have not heard that he has made any attempt to make amends, either, though I'm not sure that there's anything he can really do at this point. What is unclear is whether Steve is implying that Joshie hasn't sought help for his alcohol addiction or not.
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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #231 on: January 15, 2019, 03:52:58 PM »
My reading is Joshie has not sought help nor sought to make amends but has withdrawn from at least public life but that Steve et al, support whatever attempt Joshie makes at improving, though they seem to have reservations regarding his current path.

To be fair, its possible that Steve does not feel he as the right to be more explicit regarding what ever Joshie has chosen to do. 

I am fairly satisfied with the Steve's statments in this thread though.  I would still appreciate a similar statement on the podcast though.

Offline Steven Novella

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #232 on: January 15, 2019, 05:40:37 PM »
Regarding Joshie - to clarify, we gave Joshie our advice, and we told him what we would need to publicly support him. He chose not to do that, and instead withdrew. I understand the need to get away from such a toxic situation, and we are here for him if he ever wants to return to our community, with the same criteria.
And to be clear, no one on the SGU knew of these allegations prior to Joshie being on the show. Mars told Jay's wife, who then assumed that Jay must already know and never spoke of it. Jay and Bob only knew that Joshie and Mars fought, but had no knowledge of physical abuse. I knew nothing.

Regarding Evan's accuser, I am waiting for them to respond to may latest attempt to contact them to see where we are. Again, I am open to further remedy if they feel it is necessary.

NECSS already has a harassment policy and procedure (which I, incidentally, wrote)
The SGU has 1 employee. Everyone else is an independent contractor. We do have a harassment policy, which is don't fucking do it or I will kick you in the ass. To be serious - everyone knows what is expected, what is acceptable, and what isn't, and we have had many long conversations about it. The spirit and details are essentially the NECSS policy. This applies at any time any of the rogues are on SGU time - at conferences, etc. Anything outside that, frankly, is personal. I don't control what they do in their personal life.

That does not mean they are not responsible for what they do, and the SGU basically has a ethical policy, that everyone who is professionally associated with the SGU needs to act legally and ethically or we will respond appropriately on a case-by-base basis. I don't see how a role for an independent third party would even work. The alleged events took place completely outside anything to do with the SGU. The SGU has no legal standing at all. This was not at an event or anything where I have any authority. The accuser came to me simply for my information.

It's not like a university where alleged events happen on campus, or a company where harassment happens in the work place.

So there is no way around that I will have to decide for the SGU how the rogue's behavior affects their standing with the SGU. That is the only scope here.
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #233 on: January 15, 2019, 07:09:59 PM »
Steve: Your response regarding the issue with Evan and his accuser leaves me very confused concerning Evan’s denial. The term “groping” can encompass a wide variety of actions. I can’t help but wonder if Evan is denying that a specific action took place, or if he is denying that a specific action constituted groping. I do not want to know what specific action is alleged, since the accuser seems not to have specified, and it’s none of my business. But it seems material to the issue as far as we’re discussing it here whether specific actions are being denied, or merely whether admitted actions constitute groping.

Regarding Joshie Berger, it seems clear he is guilty of assault. That is inexcusable. If I learned that a friend of mine had done what he did, I do not think I could remain friends with him. Maybe if they paid the penalties for their actions, and truly changed their life, and the victim was satisfied, but even then probably not.

Brian Dunning stole money. Period. He stole it from the people who should have gotten credit for the advertising clicks, and the revenue. IMO this is a far lesser crime than assault. He served time and had to give back the money. He does his own reputation no good by trying to couch the issue as other people’s fault. He says “I broke the law and I accept responsibility,” and in the same breath he says it wasn’t really his fault. But this just doesn’t anger me the way assault does, or even unwelcome groping. I’m not going to trust him, but I can’t really get angry at him.
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Offline Steven Novella

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #234 on: January 15, 2019, 07:35:42 PM »
The alleged groping was ambiguous but that is how they interpreted it.
Evan denies any memory of anything at all, no unwanted touching.
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Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #235 on: January 15, 2019, 08:55:19 PM »
Thanks for the explanation regarding Joshie, that makes sense and seems very plausible given what Marz had said.  I'm satisfied on the matter.

I still want to know about Evan's complaint; did you originally respond to her in a "I'll look into it" sort of way and then not do anything for months or even a year, or did you actually look into it when she first complained, got back to her and thought it was resolved, but did not realize she was left unsatisfied?

Offline brilligtove

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #236 on: January 15, 2019, 11:57:23 PM »
Steve, community - as a part of this fractious, contentious, combative, demanding group, I appreciate that you are all having a fairly reasonable discussion about a fundamentally unreasonable topic.

As an aside, having a policy of "don't fucking do it" is completely reasonable to me. When I ran a social media group for a not-for-profit our entire policy was, "Don't be an asshole." It worked quite well for years.
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #237 on: January 16, 2019, 09:19:15 AM »
The alleged groping was ambiguous but that is how they interpreted it.
Evan denies any memory of anything at all, no unwanted touching.

Thanks for the clarification.
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Offline xenu

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #238 on: January 16, 2019, 10:13:14 AM »
Thanks for joining this thread Steve. Your input is good for this discussion.
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Offline Bill K

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Re: What would it take for you to stop listening to and/or supporting the SGU?
« Reply #239 on: January 16, 2019, 12:30:47 PM »
Hypothetically, how many accusers coming forward would it take to believe Evan committed inappropriate sexual behavior? Also, would you it affect your conclusion if this particular accuser, alone, came forward with explicit details, as opposed to the rather vague understanding of events we currently have? I'm only curious in a serious way.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2019, 12:38:23 PM by Bill K »
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