• Allegations against Krauss — how not to report

    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.

    (image: zooterkin)

    Category: AtheismSkepticism and Science


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Activist | Journalist

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    • Matt Cavanaugh

      Dig past the bluster of these Buzzfeed hit pieces, follow the linked ‘evidence’, and you find the same half dozen harpies spewing the same old lies.

      Hensley’s original ‘trauma’ occurred because someone was storifying her tweets, which she claimed constituted “harassment”. Let that sink in for a moment.

      Now, just questioning Hensley’s credibility is deemed sexual harassment as well.

      • We might even get our own article!

        • ThePrussian


          • I know, but given how batshit crazy this crowd is, it is not far-fetched to think to the lengths they’re willing to go to keep people from hearing a differing opinion.

    • abear

      Good article. It would be good to see this get more attention to counter the slanderous crap that the Myers/Watson types are flinging around.

    • JohannaCrow

      I just came across this blog and I already love it!
      Thank you, this post really well sums up all problems I have with said Buzzfeed article.
      I didn`t expect anything better from Buzzfeed, but I`m quite surprised by reactions of some people who happily joined an angry mob just because they have read one poorly written article.
      “- I`m not ready to pass judgement. I need more information.
      – So you are saying all those women lied? Are you defending a sexual predator? How much more evidence do you need?”
      They see what they want to see.

      • Hi @johannacrow:disqus, welcome to Avant-Garde. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog! Make yourself at home (:

        Yes, I have tried to set the record straight for much of the smears they’ve directed at, and used to destroy what once was the Athetist/Skeptic community. To my dismay, the post-modernist hijacking of our community has been welcomed by a lot of people who were supposed to know better and to ask for evidence.

        It’s mostly a lonely battle, with the occasional post from prominent skeptic Jerry Coyne calling out this BS. Anyways, the battle should be fought to set the record straight, regardless of any fighting chance we might still have, if any.

        Stay tuned. If the post-modernist fascists keep behaving like they have for the last eight or so years, I’m guessing this won’t be my last post on 2018.



      • ThePrussian

        Hey Johanna, welcome! My colleague David over here is an excellent blog to follow – he’s not been as broken down by the world as some of us. 🙂

        • JohannaCrow

          Thank you! I read your blog too, by the way:)

        • Hehe, I just type on a keyboard!

    • We can probably discount accusations from a serial hyperbolist like Hensley, who confuses polite disagreement with harassment and conflates angry tweeting with “gender terrorism,” but we cannot so easily dismiss institutional responses to Krauss’ professional behaviour.


      • Ahh, yes, but then again, they are citing and quoting the BF article. So fruit of the poisonous tree.

        Lacking credibility not only impacts journalists’ claims about human individual sources, but also their accounts of “institutional responses”.

        I’m sorry, if anyone wants me to believe them about *anything* within the atheist community, I’ll ask for evidence.

        Absent of that, and/or in the case of jouranlists, I’ll ask them to get factually right the episodes I am familiar with.

        That was simply not the case here.

      • clauslarsen

        Let’s take a look at what the responses have been – and how the Buzzfeed article presented them.

        Regarding the College of Arts and Sciences, it is not correct that he was banned from the premises:

        “I raised concern that in a situation like this, if it doesn’t get reported, then there’s the potential for future victims later,” Taylor told BuzzFeed News. He also wrote a letter to the school paper urging all students to report harassment.

        Later, the university’s associate vice president for student affairs wrote to Nora, informing her that Krauss had been told that, “This type of behavior could constitute sexual harassment in violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy.”


        “The school told Nora that Krauss was prohibited from making contact with her as long as she remained a student and that he had to get approval before setting foot on campus again. (Krauss was permitted to return for a colloquium in 2009.)”

        I know that the authors of the article refer to that as a ban, but that does not make it so.

        In the case of the Perimeter Institute, Krauss claims to have been invited back later numerous times.

        The three other institutions mentioned, neither the New College of the Humanities, Arizona State, or the Australian National University found any wrongdoings of Krauss’, and have not banned him.

        CFI has not banned Krauss either.

        • And, once again, we would have to take the BF authors as accurate reporters to take the “institutional responses” as that. Again: no credibility to do that

          • clauslarsen

            Which institutional responses to Krauss’ professional behaviour were you referring to, then?

          • Presumably the Perimeter Institute has some good reason for scrubbing Krauss from their old web pages. Care to speculate?

            • No. Filling in the blanks is how we end up with conspiracy theories in the first place. I rather the much more honest approach: “I don’t know; you’d have to ask them”.

            • Buzzfeed didn’t ask them?

            • This is getting tiresome, @D4M10N:disqus. I don’t care whether BF asked them or not.

              For the umpteenth time: their reporting is shit and they got no credibility whatsoever, so unless we can point to Lawrence Krauss and accuse him of sexual misconduct, backing that up with enough supporting evidence that doesn’t go even near BF as a source, I don’t think there is a valid claim to be made against him.

              Do you?

              If you’re willing to believe people that is so hell-bent on destroying the atheist community that they can’t keep their biases in check, and keep on repeating demonstrably false claims and citing known liars, that is your choice.

              I choose to stick with skepticism where it matters most: when it comes to people trying to trash our movement, by instrumentalizing the complete disgust and revolt we have for sex assault and other crimes related to sex.

            • For our purposes here, it really matters whether the Perimeter Institute have disassociated themselves from Krauss and why they did so. Can we agree on that much?

            • Yes, we can agree on that much. Can we also agree that there is no use to the BuzzFeed article as source?

        • “In the case of the Perimeter Institute, Krauss claims to have been invited back later numerous times.”

          And yet no record of such invites appears to exist.

    • Keulan

      This is the most reasonable blog post I’ve read so far on this whole Lawrence Krauss sexual harassment allegations thing.

    • Keulan

      By the way, Krauss has posted his own response to the allegations now.

      • JohannaCrow

        I thanked him for his response on Twitter and said that I don’t trust Buzzfeed. According to some people who replied to me, that means I’m accusing women of slander and probably hate women in general. I don’t know what’s wrong with them.

        • A friendly albeit unsolicited advice: acquaintance yourself more with the block button (:

          There’s no reason why one should waste time on trolls and ideologues who’re not interested in either dialogue or upholding Enlightenment values.

      • Thank you. I read it, and it’s pretty much a call for people to not jump to conclusions. Too late for that, IMO.

    • ThePrussian


      I had thought I’d seen more named accusers (lost the damn article) but you make a very good case that this is more of the same shit. Anyone remember the Shermer allegations that went exactly nowhere? But they are still treated as gospel.

      I do hope that, if this all falls apart, Krauss sues Buzzfeed and bankrupts them.

      • They don’t name anyone else, but Hensley and Watson. The others are less than five women out of “50 sources they consulted with” (which makes readers think Krauss might have assaulted 50 people.)

        Using wordsmithery to further a libel. That gets my blood boiling: I hope it too that he sues them and bankrupts them.

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    • Terrymac

      Both Watson and Hensley are lying sociopaths who between them make a good case for bringing back the Ducking Stool.