The following is a backup of a note I originally posted a few days ago. It was originally removed by a family member (to not utterly freak out other friends and family). Its import, however, leads me to repost it. Formatting has been removed as a result of information degradation, but the text is otherwise the same. (Several links originally went to a video of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s keynote speech at TAM 6, previous allegations against Michael Shermer, and awful things said by the user “gwern” on the #lesswrong FreeNode IRC channel)
The following note may possess several triggering statements, including rape, suicide, and awkward heartfelt personal confessions.
I AM SAFE NOW. THIS IS AN EVENT WHICH HAPPENED IN THE PAST. THIS IS NOT A NOTE ABOUT A CURRENT SUICIDE. IT HAS BEEN POSTED PURELY FOR REFERENCE AND IS NOT A STATEMENT ABOUT MY CURRENT INTENTIONS.
Also, this is a bona-fide public accusation, for all of those keeping track of these things and may think it is some sort of conspiracy.
My first impression of Michael Shermer was that he was charismatic. I saw him at TAM 6, (the same one that had an awesome talk by Neil DeGrasse Tyson), and he gave an amazing lecture on something. I don’t actually quite remember what, but it was captivating enough that I immediately went out and bought The Mind of the Market.
And it was thought-provoking. Rarely have I seen such a smartly-written treatise on something political that wasn’t inherently tribalist or outright obnoxious. He had honest suggestions on doing good things.
Of course, if you’ve been following the skeptic blogosphere, you are probably aware that Michael Shermer is a rapist.
Note the lack of elaborate conditionals there. This is because 1) the prior probabilities are not in his favor, and 2) I am fairly certain that Michael Shermer had nonconsensual sex with me. I don’t really wish to elaborate on the details (I am already feeling pretty sick writing this, and yet again, the evidence wouldn’t be enough), but I can confirm it involved the tactics already stated.
I didn’t do anything about it, and I feel quite horrible for that.
Why? Because there are literal lives at stake. Jenny McCarthy is getting a spot on network television where she can cause harm on a level beyond any of the people involved, people are stoned for being witches, doctors in Britain can treat you with taxpayer-fucking-subsidized water instead of medicine, etc. You probably all know this.
So what was one rape compared to the possibility of the collapse of one of the few organized movements fighting for the sake of epistemological correctness?
But then, there was more sexual abuse. And the leadership proved utterly incompetent at actually doing its job.
As far as I can recall, TAM 6 or 7 was the peak of attendance for the events. This is roughly 2008-2009. A lot of people have been blaming the whole “Atheism Plus” crowd for “splintering” the skeptic movement, but the seeds were planted far earlier.
My hypothesis is that the movement was riding on the surge of anti-George W. Bush sentiment, and when that popped, in parallel with the housing market, a common enemy vanished. This wouldn’t be a problem if we had, say, effectively communicated the difference between epistemic and normative claims, but now we are left with the mess that we are in today, with the perception of the difference between believing something to be true, having a certain political opinion and being or not being a horrible rape-monster are blurred.
We have on one end, the insufferable P.Z. Meyers proclaiming the movement to be inseparable from the One True Form of blogosphere- consensus leftism (though I can’t stay too mad at an evo-devo guy; they’re too awesome), and Rebecca Watson receiving death threats because she briefly communicated her discomfort at getting hit on at three in the morning.
On the other end, we have a nightmarish conclave of misogynists and the old guard, one thinking itself entitled to sexual favors and the other finding it merely impossible to imagine a world where people aren’t raped. They might actually even do good, but every action they make is tainted by the specter of possible ulterior motives. Nobody can take evo-psych seriously, even though it is obviously true if one posits a materialistic universe, simply because half the population fears (rightfully) that it will be exploited to justify reactionary “biotruths” (again, the argument from nature remains A Thing; what the hell have you been doing all this time?).
On a completely different end, we have some people who just might be on to something approaching good methodology, if it weren’t for the fact that they are a transphobia tolerating cult… I’m sorry, “phyg”, that is probably going on a fool’s errand to build a “friendly” AI despite their utter inability to figure out what value system to use. Also, they apparently don’t understand why saying that their organization generates the most utility-per-dollar might just offend the guy who went on a half-decade long sabbatical to advocate for asylum seekers in Australia.
So, can you solve this mess? Probably not. Even if you make one big happy family “again”, I’m betting it’s far too late for you to become powerful enough to mitigate a serious existential risk. My bets (in order of most likely to least): nuclear war, resource depletion, pandemic, Accelerando-style econopocalypse, grey goo (or perhaps more likely, its macroscopic equivalent), runaway environmental catastrophe.
In any case, I won’t be around to watch the results.
Do I have any regrets? Sure.
I won’t get to see the conclusion of a bunch of things. I invested so much damn time in Homestuck, too! Well, the internet zeitgeist is probably correct about it going nowhere.
I won’t ever finish my Apocalypse World hack for the contest on Something Awful. It seems silly, but I’ve always been trying to find a way to express myself and my experiences.
I won’t get to play in Thomas’ awesome Hong Kong monster hunters game.
I didn’t ever have a sexual experience with another person that wasn’t being raped. (By the way, I’m bi. Sorry for coming out so late, but… it would have just been sort of awkward.)
I didn’t get around to creating anything of artistic significance.
I mostly lost contact with one of the few social networks that I had.
I never really got on even footing with my dad, nor did I get my life organized.
But that’s all in the past. My stomach quivers now in disgust. It reminds me of the concept of etor as expressed in the Iliad as hypothesized by Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Is it the horrible situation that everything is in, or is it some instinctual reaction to the prospect of killing myself? I don’t know.
I guess what’s left are the goodbyes.
The players of ‘A Matter of Prestige’ and ‘Infinite Worlds: Infinite Affairs’: I apologize for the abrupt end. Thank you for playing.
#bop/NationSim people: Alpha Centauri died and some others were snuffed out, but I had a lot of fun doing them. Give Brissot a fitting end, if the new FranceSim ever picks back up.
Retribution Games and co.: May the world once again be up for grabs in internet Risk. Have a reasonable tech pace next time!
eccotheraven and the rest of the SA Mafia community: Sorry for being bad at mafia. Don’t blame yourselves for this; this is completely unrelated.
The rest of the goons: You’ve definitely changed my life for the better. Thank you for the memories.
Kristine: GMOs are actually good for you. If it gets too crazy, run!
Brandon & everyone from the old merkey.net community: You really helped me get through some crappy times. If there’s anyone here who has the chance to save the world, it’s probably you. Keep up the good work, and think big.
Anthony: Use that charisma of yours for the power of good!
Josh: Study the real world; you can count on Thomas not doing so! Also, if you do build a time machine… well, first, contemplate the implications of what is probably a universe where the Church-Turing thesis isn’t true, but after that, kill Hitler. Don’t listen to all that SF that suggests otherwise; it’s all sour grapes. I recommend one of the Nuremberg rallies; you can take out any successors that way too. :)
Elijah: The road you are walking down leads to the Dark Side. Seriously, an MRA Brony with a taste for clopfic? You are becoming the epitome of bad things on the internet!
Evan: Don’t be a dick.
Pam: Hang in there; I don’t think everyone will be able to take much more after this.
Grandma: Thank you for your wisdom and your kindness. I would not nearly have had as interesting a variety of experiences without you.
Dad: I know that depression is difficult to comprehend; I was in the dark for the first two years or so. You can’t really talk someone into suddenly doing something any more than you can get a calculator with faulty wiring to add 2+2 by kicking it. It is often spontaneous, and perhaps that’s the worst thing. The situations you put me in were quite emotionally draining.
That being said, I’m sorry I sort of reneged on the apartment pretty soon after the initial investment; I really felt hurt. Take care of everyone, and please try to have a nice life.
Thomas: You actually know how to handle yourself pretty well, so I really only have some advice: try to believe in the goodness of people. I know that it is hard for you to stay in a good mood, but I need you to, for Mom, if not yourself. I don’t think I have to tell you to pursue your dreams.
Mom: I’m really, really sorry about this. I am suffering, though.
People may say some very horrible things about me; this is kind of a big deal within the community. Stay strong, and make sure people hear about this.
Thank you for everything.
I love you all.
- Dallas J. Haugh
(Ps. Internet detectives! There is another person who apparently goes by the handle ‘Cardinal Ximenez’ out there, specifically on RPG.net. This is not me, and from what I’ve heard, he’s quite the horrible person.)