Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
–Williams Shakespeare, Henry V
It was by a woman’s treacherous hand
That I was condemned tae dee
Aboon a ledge at a windae she stood
And a blanket she threw o’er me
–MacPherson’s Rant, Compiled by Robert Burns
I sometimes wonder why I do it. I really do. I say to myself, “SA (that’s what I call myself in these moments, just plain old SA), you are never going to read Freethought Blogs anymore. Never again. Especially don’t go and read Greta Christina’s Blog. You will just get worked up.” But then, well, I succumb to morbid curiosity and find myself wandering over to the Wretched Hive Of Scum And Villainy. Which I did today. And what did I see? Another inane screed trying to stick it to DJ Grothe, TAM, and the JREF.
I know. Same old, same old. Broken Record. Been there, done that. But again, morbid curiosity took me. Call it a character flaw.
The latest fauxtroversy concerns an incident that allegedly occurred at TAM 9 last July. Greta links to this facebook post which contains the following description of what occurred, apparently at the Del Mar Lounge:
Two women approach me and another conferee. They are pale and trembling. A man with a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod has been attempting to surreptitiously take photos up their skirts. Yes, he was attending TAM. They had taken concerns to conference organizers and got little satisfaction. Hotel security confiscated the camera. I later learned the individual was well-known and had been complained about in previous years, and yet there he was again.
What really set Greta off was this Comment from that post:
Though I was less traumatized and more seriously angry I am one of the people to report the upskirt photo thing along with multiple other incidents by the same person the last day at tam last year. We spoke to dj about it during the event, he said we would hear back on what was going to be done and never did. We followed up on it for a number of months and nothing happened so we gave up. Its part of what has very much frustrated me about tam and other such events is that even when we reported harassment we only got lip service on something actually being done. I know DJ is busy and I don’t expect him to be the one to take care of things but I do expect there to be some response from the jref more than vacuous head patting.
Fair enough. This appears to be some first hand information, at least. But note, we don’t have anyone actually saying that this person actually took any up-skirt photos. Nobody apparently claims to have been victimized personally, just that they sort of had a glimpse of a guy with a camera on a stick. If he did so, he would have violated the law. He should have been arrested. He wasn’t. Which leads me to think he didn’t. And if he did, he should have the opportunity to show that in a court a law, not a court located in the bowels of the Wretched Hive. Indeed, a person on Facebook who apparently believes he is the individual described with said camera and stick (I will not name him here, I don’t know for sure he is the guy, and I don’t want to wrongly accuse anyone, so let’s just call him “Mr. X”) claimed in the comments to the post that he did not use this device to look up skirts, but that it was designed to allow him to take photographs of himself and celebs. According to him, he was contacted by hotel security, and the following took place:
They did not remove the camera, actually. They came up to me and asked what I was doing. I said I was using a camera and they told me they had a policy of not allowing cameras on the casino floor. I protested that I had seen others with cameras. They basically said something akin to (and I’m prarphrasing) “Yes, we turn a blind eye to it all the time, but it’s kind of obvious when you have that thing, so please put it away.”
DJ Grothe, President of TAM, has not, as far as I have been able to see, made a statement about this. Still, that has not stopped Greta from going batshit crazy, to wit:
There is so much I could say. After I scream and curse and throw things at the wall, that is
After the little bit of property destruction had passed, Greta graced us with this calm-headed observation:
D.J. Grothe, president of JREF and organizer of TAM, was told about these incidents.
D.J. Grothe was told that a male attendee of TAM had been using a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod to surreptitiously take photos up women’s skirts.
And he nevertheless made this statement:
It should be said that there has never been a report filed of sexual harassment at TAM to my knowledge and there have been zero reports of harassment at the TAMs we’ve put on while I’ve been at JREF.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
How eloquent. What, exactly was the report? What exactly was said to DJ? We don’t know. As far as I can see, the only information we have from Facebook and from Greta (who apparently can’t be bothered to do any investigation on her own other than looking at Facebook, not even an email to DJ, it would seem) is that something happened with a camera on a stick, or at least a guy had a camera with a stick, that nobody was arrested, and that someone said something, we don’t know exactly what, to DJ.
At any rate, back to Greta’s first class analysis, where she confines the Universe to four (count ‘em) possibilities:
1: Grothe was told that a male attendee of TAM had been using a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod to surreptitiously take photos up women’s skirts — but thinks this incident wasn’t “reported,” because he is defining “report” in the extremely narrow, weaselly, goalpost-moving way described above.
2: Grothe was told that a male attendee of TAM had been using a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod to surreptitiously take photos up women’s skirts — but he didn’t think this qualified as sexual harassment.
3: Grothe was told that a male attendee of TAM had been using a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod to surreptitiously take photos up women’s skirts — and lied about having been told this.
4: Grothe was told that a male attendee of TAM had been using a camera on the end of a telescoping monopod to surreptitiously take photos up women’s skirts — but he didn’t remember it.
Did you catch that? Subtle, no? Either DJ has a bad memory or he is lying or obfuscating. Yep. Call DJ a liar and do it in a way that allows you to say, “I didn’t call him a liar! Far from it.” Wonderful. Maybe Greta should run for Congress. The possibility that the report she received might have been inaccurate is apparently not even a glimmer of a thought in Greta’s brain. The possibility that DJ was told something vague or something like “Mr X. has a camera on a stick” is not even contemplated for a nanosecond, apparently. Indeed, there is no effort to get DJ’s side of the story. Or even to contact Mr. X and see what he has to say. To call this yellow journalism would be to insult yellow journalists everywhere.
But do not fret, gentle reader. I took it upon myself to contact Mr. X–just sent him an email–and got his side of the story. And I will now share some of it with you, slightly edited to take out information that could easily identify Mr. X.
I write a blog called the Skeptical Abyss. I would like to ask you some questions for a post I am working on. I
would really like to get your point of view before that post goes up. Here are the questions:
1. Mr. X., were you an attendee of The Amazing Meeting 9 in Las Vegas in July 2011?
Yes. I have been to every tam since TAM-5__ including TAM ___. TAM is the highlight of my year and I credit it with motivating me to really work to be more of an activist in my life. I find it really inspiring that people like RS Lancaster and Rebecca Watson managed to make a pretty big impact on the world by sheer hard work and chipping away at false beliefs.
2. Have you ever been banned from TAM?
No, of course not. What would make you think I was?
3. [Question not about TAM or the camera and disclosing personal information–deleted]
4. Were you contacted at any TAM about having a camera on a stick/pole?
5. If so, who contacted you?
6. Were you kicked out of the conference or the hotel?
7. Was any of your property confiscated? If so, by whom?
Nope. Of course not.
8. Did DJ Grothe or anyone else from the JREF ever speak to you about the incident with the camera!
Um… not directly, no. I’ve seen DJ and spoken to him a couple of times since then. He did mention, indirectly, the fact that he has been disheartened by the amount of rumor and BS that can be spread at something like TAM. I don’t know if that was an indirect reference to the camera thing.
9. What impact do you think this will have on your [your life]?
That is the most absurd question I have heard in a long long time. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
OR at least it shouldn’t.
I had not even heard of this issue until VERY RECENTLY. Let me reiterate: This all started when I took out the X-shot (which is for self-photography) and [a person whom I have known for some time] immediately said “I can’t believe you brought a stick to take shots upskirts” and then turned it into a running gag because he knew it annoyed me.
I’m absolutely shocked that anyone is clinging to that like it is serious. And where the hell does this thing about me being kicked out of the hotel come from? What is next? Are you going to ask if I was arrested? Convicted? Targeted by a drone as a national security threat. The absurdity of this is striking.
That said, because some people seem to not be able to let this go and continue to bring it up, I don’t think I have much choice but to go on the offensive here. I have a . . . lawyer . . . . We’re trying to figure out what to do, because this is a very small issue, but it is not impossible that someone could blow it into a big one. We absolutely don’t want to start throwing out lawsuits for no reason, but sometimes you have to make a point in order to show you are not ignoring it. Let me restate, I do not want to do that, because I don’t like it when people get all trigger happy with lawsuits. However, I just can’t let it seem like I’m letting this be said without disputing it.
And really, I don’t want to amplify this situation. I’m going to leave it alone unless some idiot decides they want to actually try to disseminate this false information. If they do, well, we won’t stand for that.
. . . What matters is I don’t want to be known as “That guy who is associated with upskirt photography.”
See how easy it is actually getting first hand information? It’s just an email away. After reading all of this, I think that the whole situation with Mr. X has been blown out of proportion, and that there is absolutely no evidence that Mr. X harassed anyone with his camera or that he violated any law or policy of TAM. There is likewise a lack of evidence that DJ Grothe did anything wrong. Indeed, I will put the following imagined conversation between DJ and a witness out there as a likely scenario:
Witness: See Mr. X over there?
DJ: I know Mr. X.
Witness: He has a camera on a stick!
DJ: A camera on a stick!
Witness: Yes! He’s using it to look up women’s skirts.
DJ: Did he do this to you?
DJ: Did you see him doing this to anyone?
Witness: Well, actually . . .
DJ: Thanks for letting me know. We’ll call security and keep an eye on him.
Speculation? Absolutely. Just as good as Greta’s speculation? Of course. Plausible? I think so.
Based on the evidence at hand, I stand with Mr. X (at least on this one issue and one accusation) and I stand with DJ. Hopefully this is my last foray into this particular breach.