“Believe that narrative, brah”

So, regarding the most recent development in the Stollznow/Radford harassment situation, Adam Lee noted how Hemant Mehta hadn’t contacted him (or, near as I can tell, any of the bloggers he mentions) before writing a post about the most recent developments in said situation, wherein he says those bloggers have an obligation to correct the record, make apologies, and blahdey blah.

I’ve been keeping up with the case on and off in my spare time, downloading court documents from PACER and mostly not having time to read through anything, but even a brief refresher on the matter showed that Mehta had gotten several things wrong in his post, not least of which was making insinuations and bloviating about journalistic responsibility when not actually bothering to talk to any of the people involved, though nearly all of them have publicly-available e-mail addresses, before insinuating that they’re being dishonest and have an agenda. Once again, we see that standards like “apply the principle of charity” and “pick up the phone” only go one way. So I said this:

@DaylightAtheism It’s okay, he didn’t bother to read Radford’s signed statement or look into the actual history of the matter either.

To which one of the atheoskeptic movement’s gaggle of assholes responded, a day later:

@Doubting_Tom Believe that narrative, brah. Believe until it becomes true.

So the SIWOTI syndrome hit, and now I’m writing this post instead of doing work. Thankfully, I’ve already hit most of the salient points in comments at various places. So, I’m pulling it all together here.

First, Hemant said:

Stollznow now says the allegations weren’t true.

We’ll leave aside the issue of believing wholeheartedly a statement released by one party in a case, especially when that party previously released a similar statement last year, falsely claiming it was signed and agreed upon by both parties. That event from last year is important, because despite linking to it in his post, Mehta seems to be unaware of what it said, and the key difference that makes that quote above such an egregious misrepresentation. To wit:

Karen Stollznow does not say the allegations weren’t true. An accurate description of what has happened is that Ben Radford released a statement that Karen Stollznow allegedly signed, and does not deny signing.

That statement does not say the allegations weren’t true. This is where it’s important to read things carefully, and especially important to consider what’s come before. The statement says “it would be wrong for anyone to believe” the allegations. This is weaselly wording, likely there as a result of a legal compromise. It would be much clearer, and would take far fewer words, to simply flat-out state that the allegations were untrue and are now retracted, which the statement from 2014 actually does:

These accusations and complaints against Benjamin Radford were false and Karen Stollznow retracts them. Radford was disciplined by the Center for Inquiry on the basis of them. One of Stollznow’s minor complaints (that Radford briefly stood in front of her during an argument when she wanted to walk past him) was the result of miscommunication during their relationship, but the accusations of sexual harassment, stalking, sexual assault, unwanted emails and the like were and are categorically false.

Emphasis mine. That’s a key difference between the statement that Stollznow did not sign and openly disavowed, and the new statement. It seems like a pretty relevant difference, too. There is no recanting, there is no retraction, there is no admission of dishonesty (or really, of anything, other than an acrimonious breakup and various unspecified misunderstandings) in the current signed statement. Mehta’s summary is a mischaracterization of what the statement says, especially in light of what has happened previously.

Mehta goes on to say this:

Radford has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

And this is false in nearly every possible way.

First, Radford hasn’t actually been cleared of any wrongdoing; CFI found sufficient cause to punish him for wrongdoing when the complaint was first made privately, and hasn’t (to my knowledge) since recanted or apologized or said they were wrong to do so.

Second, the court did not clear Radford of any wrongdoing, because the case was dismissed by consent of both parties. The court makes no statement regarding Radford’s wrongdoing, because the matter was settled out of court.

Third, no matter what the outcome of this case was, it couldn’t possibly clear Radford of any wrongdoing, because he was the plaintiff. The one accused of wrongdoing in this case was Karen Stollznow. At best, you could say that Karen Stollznow has been cleared of libel, assault, and slander1, but even that would be an overstatement since, again, they settled out of court.

So yes, I will continue to believe this narrative, brah, because it actually is true that Mehta has misrepresented various aspects of this case, whether through ignorance, incompetence, bias, or some combination of the three. The question remains, though: if you characterize a situation in a way that turns out to be false, don’t you have an obligation to correct it?


1. I took that phrasing of the parameters of the complaint from an earlier version, I think from the dismissed New Mexico case. Having looked through the more current documents, a more accurate version would be “defamation, fraud, and interference with beneficial contractual relations.” Either way, the point and outcome are the same. No matter what the actual complaint was, it was made against Stollznow and dismissed.

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16 Responses to “Believe that narrative, brah”

  1. Pingback: Rifts just can’t get deep enough - Atheist Boutique

  2. Pingback: Rifts just can’t get deep enough

  3. gworroll says:

    Some of the crap Radford openly pulled, even *if* this case had gone in a way that actually cleared him of the original allegations(and it chlearly didn’t), for instance, the pictures he posted? He’s still an ass. There’s really no way Radford could pull himself out of this mess and actually look like a decent person.

    A groveling apology and perfect behavior might salvage him in the future, but he’s not ever going to look good in this situation.

  4. FunknJunk says:

    Thanks for the post. Very specific, and I couldn’t agree more. Yet more support for my leaving Mehta off my blogroll ….dayum, he reminds me of Michael Nugent. Sanctimonious and smug in his requiring a certain civility and tone, and yet shown again and again that his thinking is downright embarrassing… when does utter incompetence in being a good skeptical thinker overcome the ability to be superficially civil and all nice and such?

  5. ash says:

    Stollznow signs a piece of paper saying it would be wrong for you to believe what she previous had stated was true. You produce a lot of logic explaining how that validates your belief what she previously said was true was true.

    This is wonderful stuff. [Insipid insult redacted]

  6. All you’ve got left now is some semantic awkward footwork of the Clinton type, trying to parse what “you would be wrong” means. What does anything actually mean, using those standards? For all intents and purposes Radford has been vindicated, Stollznow has been proven a liar. One camp is trying to save face and licking their wounds. The world moves on. After this Stollznow will live in infamy, no matter what lipstick you try to apply.

  7. Tony says:

    Tom:

    Third, no matter what the outcome of this case was, it couldn’t possibly clear Radford of any wrongdoing, because he was the plaintiff. The one accused of wrongdoing in this case was Karen Stollznow. At best, you could say that Karen Stollznow has been cleared of libel, assault, and slander1, but even that would be an overstatement since, again, they settled out of court

    Thanks for pointing this out. I’d completely forgotten it when I read Hemant’s post.

  8. allison kirkpatrick says:

    gworroll wrote:

    Some of the crap Radford openly pulled, even *if* this case had gone in a way that actually cleared him of the original allegations(and it chlearly didn’t), for instance, the pictures he posted?

    Radford posted those photos precisely because they demonstrably falsified Stollznow’s claimed timeline.

    The nerve of him, trying to clear his good name!

  9. asjkhsi says:

    Atheists are literally the worst, because of their narcissism and pretentiousness.

  10. Doubting Tom says:

    @Ash:

    Stollznow signs a piece of paper saying it would be wrong for you to believe what she previous had stated was true. You produce a lot of logic explaining how that validates your belief what she previously said was true was true.

    No, I produce a rather small amount of logic explaining A) we have reason to be skeptical of this statement and B) it doesn’t amount to a retraction of the claims or an admission of dishonesty, as the 2014 statement Radford lied about did.

    @birricforcella:

    All you’ve got left now is some semantic awkward footwork of the Clinton type, trying to parse what “you would be wrong” means.

    Oh yes, you’re right. “These accusations and complaints against Benjamin Radford were false and Karen Stollznow retracts them” is exactly the same as “it would be wrong for anyone to believe that Ben Radford stalked, sexually harassed, or physically and sexually assaulted Karen Stollznow.”

    Of course, if they did mean the same thing, then why bother to change the wording?

    I do appreciate that neither of you has bothered to defend Mehta’s statement that “Stollznow now says the allegations weren’t true.” I’ll apply your standards of reading comprehension and assume that means you both recognize the indefensibility of the statement.

    For all intents and purposes Radford has been vindicated, Stollznow has been proven a liar.

    Yes, that is an example of what we might be able to say if the court had rendered their judgment against Stollznow. In the real world, however, this is merely a statement about how you weigh evidence. In your mind, a statement signed as part of an out-of-court settlement, by a woman who’s been fighting a legal battle for the better part of two years, even during a high-risk pregnancy, who had tried to negotiate a settlement a year ago only to have Radford alter the statement and lie about it being signed, and produced by the same guy who lied about having a signed statement previously, is weighted far more heavily than the CFI investigation, the various corroborating witnesses, and Radford’s own conduct since filing the suit.

    @alison kirkpatrick:

    Radford posted those photos precisely because they demonstrably falsified Stollznow’s claimed timeline.

    You mean the photo where the EXIF data omitted the timestamp?

  11. pitchguest says:

    Wow. Stollznow signs a paper saying it would be wrong to say Ben Radford sexually assaulted her and you conclude that to mean he wasn’t actually cleared of those charges because they settled it out of court.

    Right. They settled it out of court, *where Stollznow signed a paper saying that Radford didn’t do (or it would be wrong to say he did) the things she accused him of doing.*

    Why am I not surprised that this is the narrative that’s now being pushed by Myers and co.? It’s unbelievable. If Stollznow instead had gotten a signed paper from Radford saying he absolutely did the things he was accused of doing (or it would be wrong to say he didn’t), you’d be screaming it from the rooftops. But she wasn’t. Rather than being glad that a woman wasn’t actually sexually assaulted, you’re going to stick with your rhetoric even though there’s less evidence supporting it now than ever, and you’re going to keep at it despite the wishes of both parties. You fucking vultures.

  12. pitchguest says:

    Some of the crap Radford openly pulled, even *if* this case had gone in a way that actually cleared him of the original allegations(and it chlearly didn’t), for instance, the pictures he posted? He’s still an ass. There’s really no way Radford could pull himself out of this mess and actually look like a decent person.

    A groveling apology and perfect behavior might salvage him in the future, but he’s not ever going to look good in this situation.

    So he’s an ass. What does that have to do with the case, gworroll? Does that prove he sexually assaulted Stollznow or is the jury still out on that?

  13. Doubting Tom says:

    @Pitchguest:

    Wow. Stollznow signs a paper saying it would be wrong to say Ben Radford sexually assaulted her and you conclude that to mean he wasn’t actually cleared of those charges because they settled it out of court.

    Let’s put it differently then, Pitchguest: would you say that Karen Stollznow has been cleared of the charges of defamation, fraud, and interference with beneficial contractual relations?

    Rather than being glad that a woman wasn’t actually sexually assaulted, you’re going to stick with your rhetoric even though there’s less evidence supporting it now than ever, and you’re going to keep at it despite the wishes of both parties.

    It’s distressing that someone who runs in skeptical circles has such a poor understanding of how evidence works. This statement is not, somehow, negative evidence. It does not cause evidence that we had before to stop existing. At best, it is another piece of evidence that we must consider when evaluating the truth of the matter. You and Hemant and others are waving this piece of paper around like it’s the only piece of evidence, or the only evidence that matters, and you say as much here. All the corroborating statements, certainly all the statements of the victim, all the information that Radford himself dumped that supported Stollznow’s version of events at least as much as it did his, all that doesn’t count because now Karen Stollznow signed a paper that says we shouldn’t believe it.

    So he’s an ass. What does that have to do with the case, gworroll? Does that prove he sexually assaulted Stollznow or is the jury still out on that?

    He’s an ass who obsessively e-mailed an ex and released sensitive pictures taken of her clearly without her consent, and threatened to do more. An ass, at the very least, who has issues recognizing boundaries and letting things go. There’s this thing we call a pattern of behavior, you may want to look into it.

  14. Doubting Tom says:

    Also, I appreciate your newfound respect for the wishes of others when it comes to what people say about them. Presumably this means you & your like-minded pals will stop tweeting at people who’ve blocked you and smearing them on forums and blog comment threads. Presumably this isn’t just a disingenuous attempt for you to play at moral indignation.

  15. GregB says:

    Lots of loose verbiage in the above. Occam’s Razor pretty much demands that this means the allegations are false.

    Can we accuse *you* of lying for characterizing Radford’s comments about the prior statement as lies? Because, surely you know the back story involving her husband, and his apparent acknowledgement that an agreement had been reached.

    I mean, it’s not an unreasonable position to think he, a person who thinks he’s been terribly wronged, posted his presumed vindication a bit early after you look at those publicly posted comments by Baxter etc. Which if true would mean he’s not a liar (and if possible would mean those insisiting he is are a best showing pretty poor logic and comprehension skills).

    You also seem to be selective in your recogniztion of presumed “patterns of behavior”–there is of course KS’ police record to consider, and comments from others who have had unfortunate interactions with her historonics (the former at the very least you should be well aware of). I hope “this isn’t just a disingenous attempt for you to play at moral indignation”.

    As for the rest…you apparently are now asserting that Stollznow went before a court of law and made a false declaration? What possible meaning other meaning can one derive from “it would be wrong to believe” something?

  16. Doubting Tom says:

    Occam’s Razor pretty much demands that this means the allegations are false.

    Occam’s razor says that given two explanations that fit the evidence equally, we should accept the one with the fewest unknowns. So, considering all the evidence, it seems you think we have two options:

    1) Ben Radford and Karen Stollznow had a tumultuous relationship that ended badly. Radford had difficulty letting go of this relationship, and so engaged in a campaign of harassment that culminated in a protracted legal battle. This harassment has been corroborated by multiple independent parties, and CFI found sufficient grounds in their investigation to punish Radford for it. Radford himself released huge amounts of correspondence and at least one sensitive photo (and threatened to release more) that also corroborated Stollznow’s accounts, and seemed to be an attempt to further smear Stollznow or cow her into settling. After one failed attempt to settle previously, the parties settled the case out of court. The settlement included a signed statement which was worded broadly enough to avoid admitting any wrongdoing on the part of either party in the suit.

    2) Ben Radford and Karen Stollznow had a tumultuous relationship that ended badly. Stollznow, for whatever reason, decided to completely fabricate Radford’s campaign of harassment against her. She convinced Radford to engage in long e-mail conversations where he refused to accept the breakup, and hoodwinked multiple professional skeptics including the organization which employs Radford, which was so thoroughly bamboozled that they said publicly that there was a specific finding of sexual harassment in that case. She also convinced Radford to release huge amounts of their personal correspondence which happened to corroborate (and at worst, not contradict) her accounts and at least one sensitive photo which looked like it was taken nonconsensually (but that’s probably just because she’s a very good actress who had been planning this for a very long time), and also to release a settlement statement last year claiming she had been lying and that all the allegations were false. Realizing this could scuttle her entire masterplan, she lied about having signed the previous statement, and Radford cooperated by never providing any evidence that the statement had actually been signed. After another year in the courts, they settled again with another signed statement that admitted no fault on either party’s behalf, and agreed to pay their own court costs.

    Yes, those are two truly equal options, and one is definitely not more ludicrous than the other.

    Can we accuse *you* of lying for characterizing Radford’s comments about the prior statement as lies? Because, surely you know the back story involving her husband, and his apparent acknowledgement that an agreement had been reached.

    Yes, and his subsequent statement that Radford had altered the language of said agreement. Radford could have put that whole mess to bed by providing a picture of his version of the statement with the appropriate signatures on it, but he didn’t. Since you’re such a deft user of Occam’s razor, what’s more likely:

    1) Radford got Stollznow to agree to a statement wherein she accepted all blame and admitted to being a liar and retracting all her prior statements, and that this was a part of the settlement. But before she signed it, and before there was any actual legal movement to settle the case, she realized what a bad idea it was. Radford went ahead and posted the statement without her signature and without it having any legal weight behind it, for some reason (despite knowing as per his e-mail exchange with Baxter that it wouldn’t have any legal weight until it was signed and notarized), but Stollznow publicly renounced it. This led to the lengthiest part of the legal battle, wherein Radford ultimately settled for her signing a much less conciliatory joint statement.

    2) Baxter and Stollznow offered a statement similar to the one that was eventually signed. Radford made changes to make himself look better and assign more blame to Stollznow. With the understanding that an agreement had been reached, Radford posted the altered statement to Twitter as though it were a done deal, even though his e-mail exchange with Baxter showed he knew it had no legal weight. Stollznow denied writing or signing that statement, Baxter explained that he offered a statement but Radford “morphed it into an apology.” Radford never offered any evidence to specifically contradict this; the released e-mail exchanges between him and Baxter are not specific enough to lend credence to either version. Ultimately, Stollznow held out until Radford would agree to settle with a less conciliatory statement.

    So you’re right, it’s possible that Radford wasn’t lying when he posted the statement. It’s possible that he’s just really, really dumb.

    You also seem to be selective in your recogniztion of presumed “patterns of behavior”–there is of course KS’ police record to consider, and comments from others who have had unfortunate interactions with her historonics (the former at the very least you should be well aware of).

    I am aware of it; I’m not sure how it relates. Did Radford accuse Stollznow of assaulting him? Or are you merely suggesting that Stollznow went nuts and made false accusations at Radford the same way she did with Baxter: by approaching his superior and causing them to begin an investigation, convincing various independent witnesses, and eventually writing an article in which she didn’t name the individual she was making accusations against.

    That is what the police record says she did to Baxter, right? It’s been awhile since I looked at it, but I can see how those would be totes analogous situation. Meanwhile, obtaining someone’s sealed police records (which may have actually been illegal) and posting them online doesn’t demonstrate any kind of lack of respect for boundaries or attempt to engage in a smear campaign.

    As for the rest…you apparently are now asserting that Stollznow went before a court of law and made a false declaration?

    Why are Radford’s defenders so singularly unclear about which party was the defendant in this case?

    What possible meaning other meaning can one derive from “it would be wrong to believe” something?

    I actually outlined this in the OP. So, you know, reading is fundamental.

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