Blogging Medicine Science Skepticism/critical thinking

On “Orac,” Isis, pseudonymity, and anonymity

And now for something completely different.

There was a time when, as a blogger, I would have been instantly aware of an incident like the one I’m about to discuss, instantly aware of it and all over it within a day. That it’s been a few days since this happened, and I remained blissfully unaware of it until yesterday tells me how much I’ve changed as a blogger since my early days. Sure, some things haven’t changed much, as anyone who reads my first post cum manifesto can see if he goes back and reads it, such as the subject matter of this blog and my commitment to science and science-based medicine. However, other things have changed. For one thing, believe it or not, I’ve mellowed. When I go back and read some of my earlier posts, I’m surprised at the level of…Insolence. There’s another change, besides my increasing specialization in writing about science-based medicine more and about other sciences, such as evolution, less. Back in the day, I used to relish a blog fight. Sure, sometimes I’ll occasionally let loose on idiots like Vox Day, but not with anywhere the frequency or intensity as in the old days. Whether this represents a maturing or mellowing (or both), I don’t know, but I do know, as I sit here and gaze at my navel, that I’m not the same blogger I was nine years ago.

Still, there must be something of my old self left, because when I heard about this incident it grabbed my interest to the point where I couldn’t blog about anything else today. I’m referring to pseudonymity. I’m referring to anonymity. I’m referring to the outing of the blogger known as Isis the Scientist by an editor of a major scientific journal in a petty act of revenge. It brought back memories of the days when maintaining my pseudonym meant a lot more to me than it does now, and the issue of remaining pseudonymous versus starting to blog under my own name was a big deal to me, a question that came up every now and then that I sometimes agonized over, when I genuinely feared being outed. Those days are long past, and I thought I knew exactly how Isis feels.

Isis, long time readers might remember, used to be part of the ScienceBlogs collective, where we rubbed elbows, blosopherically speaking, for around three or four years. Then Pepsigate happened, and lots of ScienceBloggers departed. Eventually Isis left about a year after the debacle. Whether the decimation of our ranks over that year had anything to do with it, I really don’t remember, but it’s quite likely that the takeover of the running of ScienceBlogs by National Geographic did. Whatever the reason for her departure, because I don’t read very many blogs anymore except in a targeted way (i.e., Google search-directed), I lost track of her, and I have no idea whether she read my blog anymore. Be that as it may, here’s what happened several days ago:

A couple days ago Henry Gee tweeted what he believes to be my real life identity. To address the elephant in the room, if such things are important to you, he was correct in his identification of me. But, really, what Henry did required only high school level sleuthing. Any amateur with a Cracker Jack decoder ring could have figured it out, largely because my pseud has eroded as you all have become a more important part of my life.

Who is Henry Gee? He’s only the the editor of one of the two highest impact science journals in the world, Nature. Apparently Gee and Isis had been having a bit of a feud. I knew nothing about this, and still know relatively little, having only pieced it together reading other blog posts on the incident. It doesn’t really matter, really. It justifies nothing, although apparently Gee thought it did. This is the Tweet in which he outed Isis:


Clearly, Henry Gee is a major douche. Not only did he intentionally out Isis, but he dismissed her as an “inconsequential sports physiologist.” Moreover, as Michael Eisen notes, this was not a casual attack. It was a deliberate move designed to silence her. It most likely won’t work, but the intent was very, very clear. I’ve been at the receiving end of people with such intent on multiple occasions; so I recognized it right away. Virtually the only—I repeat, only—reason people “out” pseudonymous bloggers is to try to intimidate them into silence. Sure, they’ll make up all sorts of justifications. Some will even sound noble on the surface. However, at the heart of any outing is a desire to intimidate, and this one is no exception. However, when it comes to Henry Gee, there’s no way for him to pretend that his outing Isis was about nothing more than guaranteeing that misogynist hordes would descend upon her.

All of this goes to the heart of pseudonymity on the Internet. Lots of people on blogs and Twitter post what they post under a pseudonym. It’s important here to distinguish between pseudonymous posting and anonymous posting. I post under a pseudonym, but my real identity is arguably the worst kept secret in the blogosphere. It’s so poorly kept that you can find my real name right here on this very blog if you so desire and know where to look, and only the most incompetent Googler would fail to identify me if he put even the ost minimum effort into the task. However, it was not always thus. When I first started out, I was both pseudonymous (in that I wrote under a name not my own) and anonymous in that no one knew who I really was.

I had several reasons to start out anonymously. At the time, I was an assistant professor without much experience. True, I was a breast cancer surgeon and a scientist, which accorded me some status, but I really didn’t know whether my then bosses would understand or accept my blogging. At the time, there were relatively few physicians blogging, and, to the best of my knowledge, no surgeon-scientists blogging, much less as prolifically as I did. So I chose to try to remain anonymous.

That phase of my blogging career didn’t last very long. Within six months of my starting the original incarnation of my blog, a cancer quack by the name of William P. O’Neill, incensed that I had linked to Australian skeptic Peter Bowditch’s Anus Maximus Award, dug into my identity. Part of this was my fault in that I didn’t really select the most “bulletproof” pseudonym. It was an alias I had used on Usenet (look it up, kids) in the past, and there existed some very early posts in my Usenet tenure (from the late 1990s!) that linked the pseudonym to the real name. So O’Neill must have found one of those posts. He tracked me down to my job and, consistent with the purpose of “outing” any pseudonymous blogger, immediately put the information to use to try to intimidate me to silence, sending threats to me, my cancer center director, my department chair (who, alas, died suddenly a couple of years ago), and my division chief. I was terrified. I really was. Fortunately, I learned that none of them really cared, and, in fact, my department chair out and out called O’Neill a cowardly bully in a conversation we had at a departmental function.

A few months later, an antivaccine-sympathetic businessman named Pat Sullivan posted the first post outing me. Again, I was really disturbed by this development. Again, nothing bad happened. Things were fairly quiet on the pseudonym/outing front for the next couple of years, at least until the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism came into existence. Bloggers there made it a point to launch broadsides at me every so often, almost always with my real name in the title, the better to try to poison my Google reputation. Even our old friend Dr. Jay Gordon joined in, and, in fact, used to bemoan my use of a pseudonym. Yes, I was the Emily Willingham and Dorit Reiss of my day, Professor Reiss being the most popular target these days of the antivaccine movement, an accomplishment for which I offer my most sincere congratulations to her. It means she’s effective.

Over the years, like Isis, my anonymity degraded to the point where my pseudonym felt more like a pen name or a stage name, where everyone knew my real identity, than it did like any sort of actual protection. I cared less and less about the linking of Orac to my real name. Many were the times that I considered dropping the pseudonym altogether. I think I kept it out of sheer cussedness and Insolence, more than anything else. That, and I love the persona of Orac and being known by the name of a supercomputer featured on an obscure (in this country) British science fiction show popular over 30 years ago. So the ‘nym Orac stands, much like Gallifrey. Besides, I think it provides an air of mystery for antivaccinationists, cranks, and quacks to penetrate and then feel good about themselves when they do, amusing me in the process whenever a new one appears in the comments or in another blog trumpeting to the world my identity.

So why do I care about this enough to do all this uncharacteristic navel gazing after so long not visiting such topics? I think it’s because of the change in my attitudes towards certain aspects of pseudonymity. First, however, I should point out that I do understand the problems with pseudonymity and anonymity. People say things they wouldn’t normally say. They make attacks, thinking themselves immune to retaliation. They behave in ways that they would never behave in real life facing the person they’re attacking. Anonymous commenters can can infest comment threads and turn them into cesspits of nastiness, misogyny, and racism. Even here, periodically anonymous trolls will wander through and cause a comment thread to degenerate, mainly because I really dislike moderating and use only the lightest touch in doing so. On the other hand, there are several legitimate reasons a blogger might want to try to maintain anonymity, including one’s workplace frowning on blogging (the reason I chose at first to remain anonymous, not knowing at the time that I was mistaken about my workplace, which, while not supportive, was not hostile to blogging); you want to keep your blog distinct from your work (another reason I chose); you want to be judged on what you say, not who you are (another reason I chose); or you’re blogging about something that could bring attacks on you (a common reason).

There’s also another reason, described by Michael Eisen, after first noting that he’s also tangled with Isis:

If our conflicts had existed in the “real world” where I’m a reasonably well known, male tenured UC Berkeley professor and HHMI Investigator and she’s a young, female, Latina woman at the beginning of her research career, the deck is stacked against her. Whatever the forum, odds are I’m going to come out ahead, not because I’m right, but because that’s just the way this world works. And I think we can all agree that this is a very bad thing. This kind of power imbalance is toxic and distorting. It infuses every interaction. The worst part of it is obvious – it serves to keep people who start down, down. But it also gives people on the other side the false sense that they are right. It prevents them from learning and growing.

But when my interlocutor is anonymous, the balance of power shifts. Not completely. But it does shift. And it was enough, I think, to fundamentally change the way the conversations ended. And that was a good thing. I know I’m not going to convince many people that they should embrace this feeling of discomfort – this loss of power. But I hope, at least, people can appreciate why some amongst us feel so strongly about protecting this tool in their arsenal, and why what Gee did is more fundamental and reprehensible than the settling of a grudge.

That’s why Larry Moran is so clueless in his rejection of anonymity, dismissing it as toxic and attacking people who try to explain to him why his attitude is hopelessly out of touch, blithely dismissing pseudonymous bloggers by saying he doesn’t think he follows any blogger whose identity isn’t known to him, while pontificating on how he feels uneasy about not knowing a blogger’s name. One wonders if he follows me. Probably not. Be that as it may, he says he is “well aware of the fact that it’s a lot easier for a tenured professor to say this than for someone who is in a much more vulnerable position,” but then says he’s uncomfortable living in a society that “accepts the idea that you will be punished for your opinion and sets up ways of permitting people to say whatever they want without having to face any consequences.” Of course, this utterly misses the point. It’s not about not facing “any consequences.” It’s about not facing really bad consequences far out of proportion to the controversy of what they say. Meanwhile, Moran retreats to the excuse that he thinks that the contribution of pseudonymous bloggers is “being exaggerated and the downside of anonymity (pseudo-anonymity) is being ignored” without citing any evidence or examples, just his unsupported opinion while asking pseudonymous commenters, “Why do you hide behind a pseudonym?”

Moran also seems blissfully unaware of (or in denial about) one thing that I’ve only just come to realize over the last couple of years. There’s a significant difference between being a woman expressing her opinion and a man doing the same. Don’t get me wrong; being a man doesn’t somehow magically inoculate me from abuse. I have attacks published about me on a fairly regular basis. I’ve even had, on a couple of occasions, random death threats. Back in 2010, antivaccinationists tried to get me fired from my job through an e-mail and letter campaign to my university’s leadership and board of governors over a nonexistent “conflict of interest.” Fans of Stanislaw Burzynski have called my cancer center director to complain about me and one even called my state medical board to lodge a formal complaint against me. (It was promptly investigated and dismissed.)

However, as nasty as the attacks get against me, they pale in comparison to the sorts of misogynistic attacks that female bloggers suffer on a regular basis, the kinds of attacks Isis and others receive. I should have been more aware of this, given that I’ve blogged about such attacks before; for example, when Amy Wallace wrote an article critical of the antivaccine movement, and J.B. Handley implied that Paul Offit had slipped her a date rape drug. Indeed, Amy Wallace recently discussed these sorts of attacks against female journalists in the New York Times opinion piece. Amanda Hess wrote a similar article in which she described the experience of harassment directed at female journalists:

I dragged myself out of bed and opened my laptop. A few hours earlier, someone going by the username “headlessfemalepig” had sent me seven tweets. “I see you are physically not very attractive. Figured,” the first said. Then: “You suck a lot of drunk and drug fucked guys cocks.” As a female journalist who writes about sex (among other things), none of this feedback was particularly out of the ordinary. But this guy took it to another level: “I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks.” And then: “Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head.” There was more, but the final tweet summed it up: “You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

I’ve suffered a lot of harassment because of my nine year mission to try to counter pseudoscience and misinformation. Like PZ, I’ve even “earned” a blog and a Facebook page whose sole purpose seems to be to attack me. Unfortunately, I remain disappointed that the cranks at AoA didn’t see fit to Photoshop me into the picture of the Thanksgiving celebration with Paul Offit, Amy Wallace, and others who oppose the antivaccine movement preparing to feast on a baby. I’ve never had rape threats or speculation about my genitals (for example) directed at me, and the couple of death threats I received were not the least bit credible They were more along the lines of “I’m going to kill you,” without that level of detail and implied planning or harassment at my job. Female bloggers and journalists deal with what I deal with. They get the harassment at work, the personal attacks, the intentional poisoning of their Google reputations, all of which seem to increase exponentially with a blogger’s effectiveness in combatting pseudoscience and quackery. However, they also endure the added “bonus” of nasty sexualized verbal assaults day in and day out in addition to the usual run-of-the-mill attacks and harassment that cranks dish out.

All of this brings me back to my original point, with a twist. Cranks focus on the person more than the facts and science. Their first reaction to criticism is to attack the person. That’s why pseudonymous bloggers posting science-based deconstructions of their quackery drive them crazy. Because they can’t defend themselves based on science and facts, their first defense is to attack the person, often at work, in order to intimidate their critics into silence. Pseudonymity is an imperfect, but not ineffective, defense mechanism to make such attacks more difficult. Look, I get it. Isis could be kind of a jerk at times. So could I, and, to a lesser extent than in the past, I still can. So what? What Henry Gee did was not about what Isis wrote. Rather, it was about putting an “uppity” woman in her place by intimidating her into silence. The same sort of behavior is directed at men. I’ve experienced it. What I appreciate now that I didn’t appreciate then, even as recently as a year or two ago, is how much worse it is for women. Henry Gee was either oblivious or quite aware of the consequences of his action: Opening up Isis’ “meatspace” life to all the vicious misogynistic trolls that infest the Internet.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

158 replies on “On “Orac,” Isis, pseudonymity, and anonymity”

Orac, I think I can speak for the RI Ladies to thank you for this excellent, sensitive post about “outing” a female blogger, by a man in a position of power. It is a vicious spiteful tactic designed to qwell any dissent and to put a younger less powerful woman in her place.

Your personal stalker who posts on his blog as “gambolputty”, has employed the same libelous tactics against me on his own blog and has used another pseudonym (“Caro”) to post nasty libelous comments at me on the Ho-Po and on Seth Mnookin’s blog:

It’s downright disconcerting and threatening for any blogger to resort to “outing”…doubly so, when the victim of the outing is a woman.

“inconsequential sports physiologist.”
Snobbery and status anxiety, oh my!

That’s why Larry Moran is so clueless in his rejection of anonymity, dismissing it as toxic
How does he feel about anonymous peer reviewing?


I think you summed up what I’m thinking very well.

It’s often extremely hard to make men realise just WHY some comment/remark etc is sexist. Which is probably why I find Michael Eisen’s comments very interesting.

Honestly, there were other ways Gee could have responded to Isis’ tweet. He chose to act in a way that would open her to further attack from others. Seems a cowardly move to me.

Yes, as usual, I agree wholeheartedly with Orac.

When I first started blogging, I was well aware that I didn’t know what I was getting into and felt very uneasy about posting personal information online. I would not have had the confidence to put myself out there. Although initially nobody was reading my blog or following my tweets, I am quite shy and quite cautious.

As time went on, I became well aware of what I was getting into. Skeptical bloggers routinely receive intimidating threats (whether of lawsuits or of violence), abuse, complaints to employers, personal slurs and so on. Female bloggers routinely receive upsetting misogynistic abuse and personal insults.

And it seems the more of an impact you have against quacks and their kind, the more likely you are to get attacked in this way. I have been accused of defamation while also being called fictitious – the implication being that if my identity were known, I would be sued. I’ve been called a pharmaceutical street walker and a whore and (don’t laugh, please) likened to Jimmy Savile, the Nazis and the KKK.

The more information about us that is out there, the more ways there are to be attacked. When the whole Marc Stephens/Burzynski Streisand effect thing happened, I was acutely aware that in blogging Burzynski, I was opening myself up to vexatious libel threats by someone prepared to snoop into your private life and find out where you live in order to intimidate you.

In my view, there are some problems with being pseudonymous – I want to be open with people, I don’t want to mislead or confuse anyone, I want people (quacks and cranks excepted, perhaps) to recognise me when we meet. I expect that for me, any anonymity I still have will gradually erode over time – unless someone wishing to intimidate me manages to do a bit of amateur detective work. It wouldn’t take much but it has eluded them so far. But ultimately, I feel that anyone maliciously outing a pseudonymous blogger makes themselves look worse for it.

I remember Isis from the Scienceblog days. I followed just a few names over there and sampled many others, including hers.

I am sorry Gee sank so low professionally. In a just world this might lead to personal rebirth for him (not holding my breath) or a reduction in his status due to this and possibly other incidents yet to be uncovered. Bullies are often serial abusers. When the attack on a victim becomes less rewarding, they move to another. If they exist and come forward, the weight of those other’s testimony may justifiably sink Gee.

The editor of Nature makes public pronouncements on who in medicine is “inconsequential”? Never mind the blog pseudonym thing, that should be enough right there to lose him his job.

Anonymity allows the message to be judged and it’s the antithesis of a big arena rock show. I also wonder how many careers Gee has tubed by injecting his juvenile view of justice over those who’ve submitted to his journal over the years. I’ve seen how politics plays out at conferences when a rep from a big journal rolls through and knowing that people like Gee are in such positions of power is disconcerting.

Anonymity in the debate of common assertions and knowledge is fine. Anonymity for the purpose of threats, insults and unverifiable allegations is not at all ok–which is the heart of any crank’s basis for “debate”.

The Isis/Gee thing has been going on a very long time. What was public was petty and pathetic (eg “Somewhere on the Nature Network, someone just fucked his 50000th goat “). Thats not educating the public. Thats not whistle blowing. This looked like two people who flat-out didnt like one another coming to a predictable conclusion.

“There’s a significant difference between being a woman expressing her opinion and a man doing the same.”

*shrug* We cover similar topics, youve certainly been attacked more than I have (because I havent been). Ive had to ban a grand total of one commentor for threatening me (commentor was a female). I get email from people– questions about HIV and viruses and ‘Did you see this story on the news??’ People argue about vaccines or the existence of god on my YouTube vids.

Bruce Alberts didnt ignore me when I contacted him about potential fraud in Science. That accusation that ended up taking down a Godfather in my field, and had no negative impact on my career whatsoever.

That being said, there have been people who have gone after my job (self proclaimed feminists, actually), and my Epic Takedown was utterly ignored by mainstream skeptics, while they made time to coddle damsels in distress.


There are reasons for being pseudo on the internet. I dont disagree, and I cannot fathom outing anyone. But a valid reason isnt as simple as ‘vagina’.

ORAC and ERV are two of my favorite bloggers on scienceblogs. ERV’s comment above is one reason why.

Intimidation is a form of domination: an attempt to impose one’s will upon another person and treat them as an object. If there’s anything a rationalist could consider a major “sin,” it’s the deliberate mean-spirited violation of a core empirical and moral category, of treating a person as a thing.

About “real names.” This phrase is often used as a stand-in for “_legal_ name,” the name you use when executing legal documents such as signing contracts. Is that more or less “real” than the names your partner, family members, and close friends call you? The nicknames people pick up in the military often sound goofy but are often associated with service in combat: life-and-death close at hand, as real as it gets. Is a military nickname not a “real” name?

The purpose of a name is to enable first-person communication, and to refer to someone in the third person in a way that others understand. One doesn’t need one’s “legal” name for that: any consistent name will do. Acts of free speech are not “legal acts,” they are our birthright in every civilized society, and any attempt to link them to our “legal” names is nothing more than a thinly-veiled effort to control others’ speech. (Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin, I’m speaking to you too.)

Re. threats: Anyone who receives serious death threats should immediately call their local police and fill out a police report. Make it clear that you are in fear of your life, and that if you call to report a suspicious person near your house, it should be taken as a potential threat to your life (this is the value of the report: it should be read by your local patrol officers, along with other reports of criminal activity in their areas). Print out the threats and submit them as evidence. Any decent police department will take this seriously, and may also be able to engage the feds or otherwise get a court order for the ISP or social network to reveal the identity of the suspect so they can be prosecuted.

Lastly, as for Henry Gee, with that petty, vindictive, and potentially dangerous attack on another person, he has proven himself an unworthy spokesperson for science. He should be dismissed as an editor of Nature. Freedom of speech, morally if not necessarily legally, does not include the right to expose others to danger. And Dr.Isis’ or anyone else’s posting under a pseudo does not constitute becoming a “public person.”

“a valid reason isnt as simple as ‘vagina’”
That statement alone reveals you to be a white, middle-class male, totally ignorant of what he’s talking about but determined to slap down his opinion as fact nonetheless. Having seen on numerous occasions the sort of threats and bullying women receive simply because they are women, your statement is wrong.

It is unethical to dox anybody, male or female, black or white, for the reasons Orac has outlined. If, in addition, the person is *not* a straight, white male, the risk of violence, both verbal and physical, increases greatly. While in this particular case relatively little harm seems to have been done, except to Gee’s already appalling reputation, in other cases of doxing people have lost jobs, careers, even their lives.

Doxing is dangerous, and the outer is always fully aware of this. It is a malicious act, with intent to cause suffering and humiliation.

@anarchic_teapot – You might look at ERV’s blog and see if you want to reconsider your first paragraph.

It appears Mr Gee has deleted his Twitter account.


The editor of Nature resorts to deleting his Twitter account? That’s pretty serious.

I have a Twitter account that I use in RealLife, and while I don’t use it solely for business, I am very careful in what I say in personal encounters, because through it, I am still representing my employer.

Public pissing matches never turn out well.

@ anarchic teapot, MOB: Ironically, ERV’s comment here confirms what Michael Eisen was saying about pseudonymous blogging making readers judge the message, not the person…

I also remember Isis from her SB days. IIRC she and Mike the Mad Biologist left about the same time, for similar reasons (this was about the time National Geographic took over SB; it had something to do with policy changes). Isis had good reasons for wanting to remain pseudonymous.

Forcibly outing a pseudonymous blogger almost always has the intent or the effect (if not both) of causing severe damage to the target. The feud between Isis and Henry Gee was specifically between them (and Gee’s employer), and AFAICT did not endanger third parties. So it’s irrelevant whether the sample ERV quoted was typical of the arguments Isis was making; Gee was wrong to identify her as Fulana de Tal. (I didn’t see her actual name, and it’s of no importance to me, so I’m using the Spanish equivalent of Jane Doe.) That’s different from the case where a misogynistic Reddit troglodyte was outed a couple of years ago: he was doing stuff that injured, or threatened to injure, other people.

I think that Gee has “lost” it. I highly recommend this article by Coyne. It explains a lot.

As I understand it, Gee is projecting. He is imputing to all scientists his own psychological state, not trying to understand where actual scientists are actually coming from.

Having an anti-science demagogue as a Senior Editor of Nature has to have a big impact on their quality. Now I understand their emphasis on hype and fad science over quality.

Sad, really.

Gee outing Isis will be thought of as one of the triggers for the end of for-profit science journals. What I hope is that it will be an end to people trying to monetize or derive social power from the practice of science, that is convert “science” or a “scientific reputation” into things of value, and in particular into social power. In any Kyriarchy (system of top-down social power), power over individuals is what is most valuable. In the Patriarchy, (and the patriarchal religions) it is power over women (because women are the mothers of the next generation).

Doing science is a human activity. If the way that science is done means that scientists can’t be parents and have families, then we are doing science wrong.


I think that people will latch onto whatever they think will be the easiest way to injure someone. Unfortunately, gender is one of the easiest things to comment upon, as your own comment proves.

I know you weren’t trying to injure ERV, but the point stands. You immediately made an assumption as to the demographic ERV belonged to and tailored a snippy response accordingly. I honestly found it no different from an alt-med parent of an autistic child going “You don’t know anything about this! You don’t have an autistic child! You know nothing!!! Stupid pharma shill!”

TL;DR I don’t think that it’s necessarily that people are super misogynistic, though there are definitely those that still are. I just think that people are dicks in the easiest way they can be, and “because gender stereotype here” has been historically successful, they use it. Path of least resistance, and all that. If Isis were a talking cat, the trolls would be saying “if only they had put you down at the shelter”, or something to that effect.

I’m reminded of a comic author Jim Hines posted on threats women* receive on the Internet. The chilling part is that he footnotes all of threats in the second panel with the blog where someone reports getting them.

After seeing all that, it’s no wonder that many people, especially women or those who have anything remotely ‘controversial’** to say, among other groups, blog under a psuedonym.

* Since Mr. Hines is a SF writer and many of his friends are as well, a blog is often considered part of the job so cannot be done anonymously.
** ‘Controversial’ in quotes, because things like ‘it is rude to harass women at conventions’ or ‘I would like more female characters in video games’ shouldn’t be.

Originally when I started commenting about Woo-topia(tm), I was going to use a variant of my last nameS- which are both masculine personal names- so I’d be ‘Walter’, *Howard*, whatever
BECAUSE I knew that some of the objections would probably NOT be to what I said but to my gender.

Thus, it would be easier that way BUT it’s also hiding. Having a female ‘nym invites all manner of attention- as I’ve learned. Scoffers imagine interesting things about me. Heh.

I think that it is important for us to protect ourselves. We get a lot of people angry because we discuss their dodgy businesses, raging egos and PR machines. Do I think that women are MORE at risk? Possibly because they make certain types more angry
BUT I DO know of several men who have been attacked viciously- Lee, a physicist was sued by a woo-meister; Todd, an hiv’aids realist was harassed at home and work ( now I learned also sued); an epi had recupcussions at work; Orac has had a variety of problems from his critics.

I think what we say is important- it is in the public interest yet we are not protected- we have to do it ourselves. I personally write about a creature who has an army of lawyers ,a ton of money and a history of suing critics and revolting mothers/ a rebel grad student who would perhaps take aim at me if they had my full name and location. I have my own business, residence and am reasonably well-off.
In other words, a target.

But women are especially vulnerable to a certain kind of attack – their intelligence and success make particular critics very angry leading to obnoxious retorts that focus on their (imagined) lack of morals and attractiveness. There is research form the 1970s that shows that a female success is often associated with negative stereotypes. It’s a way to deny women’s value: she may be a scientist but she’s “lonely, slutty, weird, ugly, gay” ( choose one).

Of course, men are not entirely invulnerable to this nonsense.
Then, there is always the physical stuff.

@bLArg: Wow! that was some serious harassment /snark. Isis was, and has been pointing out instances of sexism by Gee. He reacted by not shutting up and listening, but being a sexist, reactionary jerk.

But whateva’s…sexist assholes seem to flame together

@BLARG – wow, that is so horrible, how could she possibly live with herself……(sarcasm is dripping)

The typical troll we get here is 100x worse than that…..seriously.

“The editor of Nature makes public pronouncements on who in medicine is “inconsequential”?”

Yeah, that’s sort of comical.

@Liz – that’s so benign I can’t even believe that anyone would consider it “crossing the line.”

@Irène Delse –

Ironically, ERV’s comment here confirms what Michael Eisen was saying about pseudonymous blogging making readers judge the message, not the person…

I was thinking that anarchic teapot’s response was potentially an example of Larry Moran’s point.


Even if you think Gee was justified in outing Isis (I personally think that however you slice it, it was a dick move that was obviously done to harm Isis and her personal life, but I acknowledge that some might see it otherwise) Gee acted completely unprofessionally on his twitter, given the fact that his twitter seemed to be publicly connected with his job.

At the very least, he is wrong for responding the way he did in a professional context.

I reserve judgement. First, I’m never ok with the outing of someone, period. Second, having read the statement by Henry Gee, he did have a period of time where he was suffering from clinical depression and I have to say we never fully recover from that. What I’d like to have more data is in the exchange between Isis and Gee (on twitter and anywhere else) to determine how much of a causal link can lead to clinical depression and I may be biased because I’ve been at the receiving end of daily harassment in real life which lead me to a severe anxiety problem leading to a major depressive disorder but I’ll try to check that (bias) at the door when I examine their exchange.

About the only lesson worth remembering for the moment is that Gee should have posted that statement before outing Isis. And then, he should have disappeared from twitter at the very least.



I totally agree. Honestly I think both parties owe each other an apology for both acting like immature jerks. The person who looks the worst here is obviously Gee and he’ll have to live with those consequences.

I read Dr Isis a lot and I agree with her point of view far often than not but her she crossed a line and it is UNDERSTANDABLE that Gee could make this very public mistake out of anger (esp. considering his medical issues).

That’s one thing that bothers me about many of the Sci-bloggers out there. NO one is allowed to make a mistake and apologize for it. Objectively, ‘outing’ isis was harmless, everyone who wanted to know who she was already knew. He apologized unreservedly and said he knew what he did was wrong and provided context of why he made a bad choice.

The level of vengeance and immediacy that people on twitter demand of others is frankly astonishing. Most of the serious scientist that I know are moving away from twitter for this exact reason – is it worth it? Many believe no.

Blarg, which of those comments by Dr Isis do you feel crossed whatever arbitrary line you’re imagining? I don’t see how any of them justify publicly revealing her identity.

Lets add some context to why Henry was so pissed. Isis crossed the line on numerous occasions.

If those are the best examples that can be found of Isis supposedly “crossing the line” and “harassing” Gee then Gee is even less fit to hold his position than this affair already suggests. You can’t build yourself special shoes with toes that extend out ten yards in front of you and then claim a right to take revenge on those who are so cruel as to step on your toes. And if you are so thin-skinned that someone merely suggesting that you are “crazy” is, in your mind, a terrible “harassment” for which you have to out them to try to silence them, then you have no business trying to be an editor at a major scientific journal.

BLARG trying to put up a defense of Gee’s cowardly actions reminds me of an incident that happened years ago to me at Wikipedia. A particularly unhinged editor (let’s call him Gossage) started making death threats to me, because whenever he tried to insert his erroneous solution to a particular math puzzle into the article for that puzzle, someone who recognized that it was fallacious would revert his changes, and that someone was frequently me.

Eventually Gossage got banned for his death threats to me. At which point a new editor showed up, let’s call him Vardebedian, and started talking about how Gossage had been so unfairly treated, because he hadn’t made death threats at all, no! No, Gossage had merely made the common-sense observation that, if I was going to oppose all truth and progress by NOT letting Gossage put what he wanted into the article, then obviously I should be put to death for that offense – not the same thing as a death threat at all, no, who could possibly think that?

Needless to say, no one was inclined to believe Vardebedian’s claims that he was someone different from Gossage who just happened to see things according to Gossage’s intensely Gossage-centric view of the world. BLARG’s peculiar skewed views, on what’s all right for Gee to do to Isis vs. what’s “crossing the line” for Isis to opine about Gee, leads me to wonder what the G in BLARG stands for.

read Dr Isis a lot and I agree with her point of view far often than not but her she crossed a line and it is UNDERSTANDABLE that Gee could make this very public mistake out of anger (esp. considering his medical issues).

Again, what line did she cross with those comments? Was simply criticizing his decisions as editor (e.g., accepting Rybicki’s Womanspace for publication)? Was it the humorous way she expressed her points (in which case your argument reduces to tone trolling)?

I’m really baffledhere–what exactly do you think she did wrong?

Lurker: Re. threats: Anyone who receives serious death threats should immediately call their local police and fill out a police report. Make it clear that you are in fear of your life, and that if you call to report a suspicious person near your house, it should be taken as a potential threat to your life (this is the value of the report: it should be read by your local patrol officers, along with other reports of criminal activity in their areas). Print out the threats and submit them as evidence. Any decent police department will take this seriously..

Yeah, pardon me if I have a hard time believing that. Police departments tend to put complaints from women in the circular file.

Becca Stareyes: Since Mr. Hines is a SF writer and many of his friends are as well, a blog is often considered part of the job so cannot be done anonymously.
** ‘Controversial’ in quotes, because things like ‘it is rude to harass women at conventions’ or ‘I would like more female characters in video games’ shouldn’t be.

Sadly, ’twill always be so.

I don’t get the “I don’t speak for Nature” defense. I don’t think anyone has suggested that his comments are the official position of the Journal. What they are saying is that as the editor of a prestigious journal such as Nature, his actions reflect on him, and his suitability for that job.

This is the first I have heard of this kerfluffle, but personally, I would be very worried about editors who carry personal vendettas so publicly.

Not because I think it is the policy of the journal, but because I wouldn’t trust their ability to adhere to the policy of the journal.

I started writing, also pseudonymously, some months ago, and the attempts to figure out who I was started almost immediately. Jake Crosby, of anti-vax fame, sent an email to the department of health in Maryland, stating that I was Ren. He continued this attempt at outing in other fora as well.

Lately, it’s been John Stone of Age of Autism that has been trying to figure out my humble origins. Instead of responding to any of my criticisms on his fixation obsession with Dorit Reiss, he asks me to prove to him that I exist. Well, I’m writing the comments, so I must exist. I’m not a bot.

Or am I a bot and don’t know it? Anyway, someone with a foreign (perhaps British) accent called over and over again to another health department to complain that someone (me) was impersonating an epidemiologist working there. The person taking the call knew of my blogging, so they just pretty much told the caller to get a life. Or was it me that told the caller to get a life?

No, it wasn’t me.

Pseudonymity can be fun, but it can have some unforeseen consequences, as stated above. On the other hand, we all remember what happened when Ren did not hide behind a pseudonym to do his blogging. So it goes both ways, I reckon.

And exactly how does a person like Mr Gee become so powerful?

PS, changing my ‘nym, if that is okay, I am not scared any more. The people on this blog have given me renewed hope for the future of my children. (the lurker formerly known as ‘Scared Momma’)

Denise, I think I owe you a $1.50, I used ‘woo-topia’ on another comment. 😉

I have to admit that as I read this and then delved more into it, I agree – since his Twitter was in some way associated with his professional life, he should have taken the high road for reasons of professionalism alone.

This brings a fascinating thing. Since Isis was, instead pseudonymous, she was not bound by that same professionalism, which did, unfortunately, give her an opportunity to be a little less professional in her treatment of him.

When I first began my own interaction with the internet (back in the days when it was mostly institutional), I was warned that anything outside of work should be done under a pseudonym to reduce the possibility of being “tracked down by a crazy person.” Most of my email IDs, except for one personal one, do not have a valid location to this day because I still cringe a little to worry about the internet boogeyman. I have to laugh at myself more than just a little bit. Even here it is obvious I am “no one of importance.” Someone taking the effort to threaten or find me is incredibly remote.

Yet still I cling to the little bit of anonymity. I guess it makes me feel that I would be blameless should someone choose to threaten me and attempt to do so.

Orac is absolutely on target here. I too blog under a pseudonym but not anonymously, and I too have had regular hate mail, threats of litigation, and outraged calls to my employer. Last week a reader, with no apparent understanding of the concept of irony, began a hateful screed with the question, “Why don’t you publish your phone number?” Complaints about pseudonyms and anonymoity are almost always an attempt to suppress a message rather than respond substantively to its content. Pure intimidation. So long as the proportion of [email protected]#$oles and wackos remains as high as it it, anonymity and pseudonymity will remian necessary tools allowing safe public discourse on controversial topics.

@ Denice Walters

[Women] intelligence and success make particular critics very angry leading to obnoxious retorts that focus on their (imagined) lack of morals and attractiveness.

It doesn’t even take intelligence or success. The critic only needs to feel threatened. And judging a woman’s worth by her degree of attractiveness is so embedded in our supposed egalitarian societies that it’s pervasive to the point of being automatic, yet invisible.

I hasten to add that feeling threatened is no reason to act on it. It’s like all temptations and sins and bad behaviors. You have to learn to recognize the impulse and resist it.
Talking from personal experience, to my shame.

Re: Henry Gee’s tweets.
Answering something on the line of “you and which army” is understandable.
Belittling your opponent’s job; some may say it’s going beyond fair retribution.
Ripping out the mask protecting the identity of your opponent… Do I detect a desire to harm?

Of course, it could be just me. I have a tendency to see damsels in distress everywhere.
Either way, this over-reaction of him is in itself unwarranted and despicable.

Any one person stating they have or have not experienced gender-targeted harassment is anecdote, I’m afraid. Actual research and data does bear out the fact that women do tend to get harassed more and more severely.

Anecdote: I have been harassed about my gender, and not just by men–by women as well. It was actually the woman who freaked me out the most by noting where my parents lived. However, either could have been the one who vandalized my car, as they both knew my real-life name, where I worked and also lived only a few blocks away in the same town.

Second Anecdote: I have also heard, anecdotally, that it is usually the women in a church congregation (of denominations that allow women to be pastors) who have a problem with having a female pastor, not the men.

I am not aware of any studies done on the subject, though, so I would certainly be open to data. But to me that’s suggestive that the hatred of women can certainly come from women as well as men. I would be cautious about assuming all the threats and gender-based hatefulness are coming from men.

I have to admit that as I read this and then delved more into it, I agree – since his Twitter was in some way associated with his professional life, he should have taken the high road for reasons of professionalism alone.

That reminds me, I also have a non-work related twitter account that is under a (poorly hidden) pseudonym. I act very differently there than I do on the one with my name on it.

To be fair, even with that one, I do have a certain reputation to maintain, so avoid being nasty, but in that case it is maintaining personal cred than about professionalism.

My roommate happens to be a feminist/atheist/skeptic blogger. I’ve seen firsthand the absolutely disgusting vitriol that gets thrown her way.

Things came to a head when a nutso with a major axe to grind against feminists (who used to hang out at ERV’s place, go figure) made a youtube video showing exactly where we live and where we work, with some seriously disturbing implications about how easy it would be to stalk and follow her. The police became involved, unfortunately to no avail as the guy was completely anonymous, despite showing his face in the video.

This is a real problem that our society is going to have to do some serious grappling with in the next few years. I always give the same recommendation to doubters: live on the internet as a woman for a week. Make a twitter account with some obvious feminine signifiers, start tweeting about atheism/feminism/skepticism and see what kind of responses you get. I tried it, and now I’ll never be a skeptic on this issue again.

Just when I thought I couldn’t love your blog any more than I already do, you surprise me yet again!

I am a woman with a first name that is nominally unisex but mostly considered a man’s name. Indeed, based on my name, people often express surprise at my gender when I meet them in person for the first time.

If I use my birth name in a username, my experience has been that people assume I am male unless I specifically correct someone or discuss something that is directly relevant to gender. I can’t even express how many times I have been in a fairly respectful debate with someone online only to have it suddenly devolve into misogyny once my gender is revealed. I use a more feminine username only in spaces where being a woman isn’t stigmatized: mostly in spaces where women, queer people, and liberal academics congregate.

Wow. That’s some seriously thin skin and victim blaming, there. Orac’s translation of the post: “I support people’s using pseudonyms and shouldn’t have done what I did, but bitch made me do it by being mean to me and calling me sexist. Pity me.”

That someone with the stature of Henry Gee in the scientific world would accuse a postdoc of “cyberbullying” is so ludicrous that I laughed when I read that part of his post. I mean, if the examples that BLARG posted upstream in this comment thread were characteristic of the sorts of “vicious attacks” and “cyberbullying” that Isis allegedly engaged in against Henry Gee, Gee really doesn’t belong on the Internet. I’m quite serious. He’s obviously far too sensitive a soul for the rough-and-tumble world of Twitter or blogs and would clearly be better served by avoiding social media in favor of the much more genteel world of old school scientific publishing.

@Orac – quite frankly, I was shocked that those “posts” were considered to be anything more than what they appeared to be at face value…nothing more than public criticism.

We’ve seen far, far worse…..

I have my reasons to post under the same ‘nym here, on other science blogs and other “safe” blogs and mainstream media internet sites. Those reasons are well known to the individuals who posts comments alongside my comments on Respectful Insolence and other websites.

Long before I ever posted comments on the internet, I experience threats and my young daughter was threatened, because of my advocacy activities on behalf of developmentally disabled individuals. I’ve continued those advocacy activities, now posting under “lilady” which have precipitated many vile and libelous comments from the “journalists” and their groupies at Age of Autism.

I’ve seen first hand how Orac has been cyber-stalked and physically stalked by one of those AoA “journalists”, whose sole talent was cyber-stalking and physically stalking respected scientists, doctors, researchers, journalists and science bloggers and blogging about his exploits on AoA. Two epidemiologists who are science bloggers have had their livelihoods threatened by cyber-stalkers and most recently law school Professor Dorit Rubinstein-Reiss has been threatened with multiple harassing calls to her supervisors at the law school where she teaches.

For those reasons, I do not post on Facebook and I assumed that I had protected myself from the vicious attacks that seem to be so prevalent now, on social networking sites. Even my cautious approach has not protected me from those attacks.

ERV, you made these comments about women who have been threatened on the internet…

That being said, there have been people who have gone after my job (self proclaimed feminists, actually), and my Epic Takedown was utterly ignored by mainstream skeptics, while they made time to coddle damsels in distress.


There are reasons for being pseudo on the internet. I dont disagree, and I cannot fathom outing anyone. But a valid reason isnt as simple as ‘vagina’.

ERV, do you think I or any of the posters on RI should have not been upset by a creepy poster who linked to porn sites, before he posted this remark at me. (Thanks Orac, for not taking down these posts)

October 19, 2013


Now you are calling me a liar? You can take your ignorant raging idiocy and fuck yourself in your your senile, menopausal cunt. I just wish I this was in person so I look you right in the eyes and smirk in your rhytidal face when I tell you to suck my potent dick.

I might be an asshole, but I am not a liar.”

How about you grow up a bit before you make insensitive comments about “damsels in distress” and “vaginas”, ERV?

Bruce Alberts didnt ignore me when I contacted him about potential fraud in Science. That accusation that ended up taking down a Godfather in my field, and had no negative impact on my career whatsoever.

That being said, there have been people who have gone after my job (self proclaimed feminists, actually), and my Epic Takedown was utterly ignored by mainstream skeptics, while they made time to coddle damsels in distress.

No one is claiming that every person with a vagina is belittled all the time, so your anecdote doesn’t prove anything except that your experience is your experience. Certainly it doesn’t invalidate the other experiences that other women have had. Just because I have experienced sexism that doesn’t mean that you have and, likewise, just because you haven’t experinced sexism doesn’t mean that others haven’t.

Rather, it sounds more like you’ve decided that your experience is universal and that any acknowledgement that others’ experiences are not like your own is akin to “coddling damsels in distress”. And, I have to say, it is pretty rich to throw in a misogynistic trope like that while simultaneously implying that sexism doesn’t exist.

Comment in moderation….because I cut and pasted a filthy comment directed at me on Respectful Insolence.

Orac, please get my comment out of the moderation hopper.



Great post Orac. Don’t come around as much as I used to but you haven’t mellowed out *that* much.

Just so I can understand, does this mean that stating someone’s actual name in the comments section of Respectful Insolence, mentioning their ham radio call sign, and disparaging their degree would be wrong if they have chosen to use a ‘nym?

coco: “I can’t even express how many times I have been in a fairly respectful debate with someone online only to have it suddenly devolve into misogyny once my gender is revealed.”

It is amusing. If you search this blog for one particular troll, Augustine, you will find his reaction when he could not wrap his brain that I was both a mother and an engineer. He tried to get me to answer stupid questions about <a href=""transgendered persons like: “Do you believe a transgender cross dressing transexual is sane?”

That obviously is not the level of misogyny most have encountered, possibly because it was more amusing due to its complete idiocy.

After reading this article by Gee, I entirely understand why Isis has been attacking Gee on Twitter. I too am alarmed that an editor of Nature could express such ignorant opinions of science.

However, I do wonder if Gee’s British sense of irony has been misunderstood at times. For example in that article, he wrote:

And all this because scientists weren’t honest enough, or quick enough, to say that science wasn’t about Truth, handed down on tablets of stone from above, and even then, only to the elect; but Doubt, which anyone (even girls) could grasp, provided they had a modicum of wit and concentration.

Leaving aside the thrust of his argument, with which I disagree i.e. that science is to blame for woo by not being up-front about inherent uncertainty, his reference to “even girls” being able to grasp ‘Doubt’ is clearly ironic, and echoes his earlier observation:

It’s always a “he”, by the way – received wisdom finds no place for female scientists, unless they also happen to be young, photogenic and, preferably, present television programmes.

I don’t see any sexism there, looking through my own British cultural lens, it’s more of a snipe at institutional sexism in the media, but perhaps he has displayed a sexist attitude elsewhere. I don’t think it is fair to compare Gee’s behavior with some of the really unpleasant misogynist stalking and threats some have related. Did he enable such abuse by outing Isis? If her true identity really was a secret, perhaps, but it isn’t.

Gee’s ‘outing tweet’ seems more like a somewhat irritable, petulant and pompous knee-jerk reaction, the sort of thing one might regret seconds after posting (haven’t we all done that?). I think a public apology is sufficient penance, and a bit of time away from Twitter and other social media is wise.

Gee’s attitude to science given his position troubles me far more than a moment of irritable nastiness.

By the way, am I the only one who finds Jay Gordon’s insistence on always referring to our host by his first name in comments here a bit creepy? There is this sort of implication that as a fellow a physician, he doesn’t need to play this silly pseudonym game, along with a darker reminder that “I know who you are”, typical of JG’s passive-aggressive style.

@ Helianthus:

Sure. I hasten to add that it’s not just women but men also. I can name a few SB bloggers/ writers whose looks are criticised as a way of striking out at their critiques. “He’s FAT!” Or unattractive or losing his hair. It’s childish because it focuses on physical attributes rather than on ideas ( or the topic being discussed). In the case of the above: also not really true. So is that all they’ve got? Apparently.

And women are not immune from being wankerish. ( I’m trying to create a new specific idiom for ‘female wanker’…
so far, ‘rubber’? and ‘poker’?)
Yeah right, I am mean.

@ Beana:
The fee is three euros but it’s always waived.

@lilday, I don’t know how you do it. I think about you a lot, when people are rude, nasty, insensitive. You are the silent, mental hero I call upon when I get upset at ignorance.

@ M’OB:

“Just so I can understand, does this mean that stating someone’s actual name in the comments section of Respectful Insolence, mentioning their ham radio call sign, and disparaging their degree would be wrong if they have chosen to use a ‘nym?”

You seem to be defending a misogynist, racist individual who posted his vile comments under many ‘nyms (sock puppets) and who targeted a woman who posts on RI, frequently, M’OB.

This individual also posted under another frequent commenter’s name, with a totally made-up persona, desperately pleading for advice from that same woman he had targeted, to deal with women who had taken advantage of him and left him in despair and close to suicide.

Chris, I can top your story about my own personal stalking troll:

August 19, 2011


You are a new poster here, but us regulars always look forward to Orac’s blogs around “grant writing time” because he exquisitely details the onerous task of writing a complicated grant to fund his breast cancer researchSuch is the life of our esteemed Orac who has two “day jobs” (breast cancer surgeon and breast cancer researcher).

You are a grade A First Class Ass Kisser and Jock sniffer. Can you make it more obvious?”

Augustine hung in for more than a year, after he posted that remark; Orac did not wield the ban hammer//sigh.

IIRC, it was a particularly vicious racist remark directed at a Latino poster, which finally got Augustine banned.

@ Krebiozen: Ah, the oh so proper Dr. Jay Gordon who is the arbiter of good taste…and who would NEVER, EVER “out” a poster here. Jay seemed to forget his manners when he “outed” a poster and it was only a fortunate happenstance that Orac was viewing the posts and was able to remove Jay’s post quickly.

I’ve been in touch with that poster and that “outing” shook her to the core of her being.

I believe that Dr. Jay would love to “out me”, because I’ve called him out repeatedly for the advice her provides to parents about childhood vaccines and his blatant lies about having access to Varicella vaccine under a “compassionate use” protocol for children with solid cancer tumors…before it was licensed by the FDA and while the vaccine was undergoing clinical trials in Japan.

If you recall, Jay pulled all his personal recommendations for childhood vaccines from his website and linked to articles on his website. Now, after I called him out on those links, his website provides no links to the CDC or to California Department of Public Health websites, for parents to get reliable information about childhood vaccines.

Remember how Dr. Jay put me “on probation” on Respectful Insolence? Did you know that Dr. Jay “banned me” a short time after that, when I engaged him on Orac’s friend’s post on the SBM website?

Lilady – I am not defending anyone. I am asking whether it is OK to “out” someone you don’t like while vigorously criticizing someone who does the same to someone you do. It doesn’t feel right to me, but I’m a bit vague on the basis for ethics.

Re. Dr. Jay Gordon:

When I started reading this blog, Orac’s “true” identity was already said to be “the worst-kept secret on the internet”, but I wasn’t willing to expend even a mouse click finding it out, because A) I was sure his real name would mean just as much to me as his pseudonym*, and 2) It was none of my business.

The only way I know it now is because Jay Gordon shoved it right in my face in one of his comments. So, yeah..if Orac were really interested in maintaining his pseudonymity, that would have been damaging, and I’m sure Dr. Jay wouldn’t care.

*No offense, Orac: You could have won a Nobel in Medicine, and there’s at least a 90% chance that wouldn’t ring a bell with me,either.

M’OB: I was not the individual who “outed” that person.

I will take “credit” for “outing” the Pothead Troll and his hundreds of sock puppets. I was libeled repeatedly by the Pothead Troll and his sockies; who called me a drug pusher.

If you have an unblemished record and are licensed as a Registered Nurse, referring to that nurse as a “drug pusher” is a libelous and actionable. It took months for me to locate him in the U.K. He backed off when I told him that my husband was U.S. attorney for an international company and had colleagues in the U.K. who would sue him for his libelous defamatory remarks.

I think he knew I would follow through…I don’t make idle threats.

Lilady, what about gergle who call us drug pusher? Can we (or I) do something?


Lilady – I am not defending anyone. I am asking whether it is OK to “out” someone you don’t like while vigorously criticizing someone who does the same to someone you do. It doesn’t feel right to me, but I’m a bit vague on the basis for ethics.


I think you’re framing the question incorrectly, by taking for granted that the only difference between Isis and “Medicien Man” is that we (for vague values of ‘we’) like Isis and don’t like Medicien Man.

I do not think that is the case. BLARG, above, claimed that he supported Gee’s “right to name his harasser.” I am on a vehicle that interferes with data reception at the moment, and can’t seem to pull up Medicien Man’s greatest hits, but I’d have no hesitation in calling it harassment, especially when he gets onto his scatological fixations. Isis, as BLARG inadvertantly demonstrated, has done nothing that a reasonable person would deem harassment.

There might be questions of “where is the line? what’s the precise distinction between a) someone who’s perhaps being snarky or even mean, but not harassing in any reasonable sense, and b) someone who’s truly breaking the social contract by committing harassment, and may as a result lose privileges they might otherwise enjoy under that contract, such as pseudonymity?”

To which I say that there almost certainly must be difficult cases that fall into a gray area but these ain’t them. If Isis had, say, repeatedly made scatological suggestions to Gee and his readers on Gee’s blog – but if that were so, BLARG wouldn’t have had to stretch so badly to try and find examples of Isis “crossing the line”.

@lilady, “I’ve been in touch with that poster and that “outing” shook her to the core of her being.”

have you been in touch with her lately? She hasn’t been commenting and, given her fragile health, I am concerned. Others have expressed concern as well.

LW: Yes I have been in touch with her and I posted a small comment about her on RI around Christmas time. Her health is stable and we have been sharing some girl stuff. She is a delightful person and I feel privileged to have her as my long distance friend.

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