Talk:Michael Shermer

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Allegations of sexual harassment and misogyny[edit]

See these sources:

I feel this warrants a brief mention of the allegations and surrounding controversy.--The Devil's Advocate tlk. cntrb. 06:32, 9 October 2014 (UTC)

I don't think these are anywhere near the kind of RS needed for this sort of material in a BLP. - - MrBill3 (talk) 07:43, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, I have to agree there. I'll note that the salon article is aggregated from Alternet (which I've never heard of - maybe it's a reliable source in itself). Definitely seems like there could be some WP:WEIGHT concerns to include something like that based entirely on a few editorials on what may or may not be RS. 0x0077BE [talk/contrib] 12:02, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
Buzzfeed does not appear to be considered a reliable source by the notice boards. Though, the question has not been directly brought to the board. Perhaps this Mark Oppenheimer article could be brought to the Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard for a review. He's a NYT contributor and his article is not "aggregated" from another source (the key complaint against buzzfeed not being reliable). Dkriegls (talk to me!) 18:27, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
Altnet on the other hand is most definitely not a reliable source. Dkriegls (talk to me!) 18:27, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
Almost all the other sources I found were from the skeptical communities own blogging (which were very convincing). But I don't think we can include such a damning BLP claim with only a single Buzzfeed article to support it. This may be the result of systematic discrimination against women, in that a seemingly respected author (Oppenheimer) can't get his well written article about sexism published anywhere but on a news aggregator, or it may be that editors of more respected news sources couldn't corroborate Oppenheimer's story. Either way, Wikipedia needs a more reliable source for the claim. Dkriegls (talk to me!) 18:27, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
I do not see where there was a consensus that Alternet or Buzzfeed were unreliable, the latter especially. The Daily Dot seems to be completely overlooked by you for some reason. All of the authors of these three pieces are professional journalists.--The Devil's Advocate tlk. cntrb. 19:34, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure what "consensus" you're looking for. WP:Consensus comes in many forms. The most basic is uncontested editing. The links I provided above show a consensus of editors over at the reliable source msg boards treating these sources as not-reliable. Have there been lengthy discussions where everyone's voice was heard before consensus was reached? No, because apparently no one saw a need to debate the subject. If you so care to defend the editorial honor of these news sources, that would be the place to do so, not here. As for here, it serves us best to follow their lead on what is a reliable source as they commit way too much time already to debating the subject. If we find ourselves in disagreement with those editors, that msg board is the place to debate it. Reliability is not a matter of whether a professional journalist wrote it or not, it's also about the professionalism of the editorial staff and reputable history of the publisher. The Daily Dot is just three years old. I have no clue how reliable its editorial staff is, as I've never seen it cited on Wikipedia before. If you are convinced it is a source reliable enough to meet the conservative criterion of WP:BLP, then I suggest you take it to the Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Noticeboard and then come back here with the opinion of those editors to support you. Like I said, I believe the accusations against him, but Wikipedia doesn't opperate based on whether I believe bloggers, it operates on whether editors at reliable news agencies believe the bloggers, and I think Oppenheimer's article not being carried by one of the more respected news agencies he works for is telling (or possibly just sexist). Dkriegls (talk to me!) 07:19, 21 October 2014 (UTC)


Not reliable.

daily dot

Not reliable. --Harizotoh9 (talk) 20:19, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
Why do you think these sources are not reliable?--The Devil's Advocate tlk. cntrb. 21:49, 9 October 2014 (UTC)

It seems several allegations of sexual assault, harassment and rape have been made against Michael Shermer: -- (talk) 10:22, 9 October 2014 (UTC)

See WP:BLOGS. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 20:30, 9 October 2014 (UTC)
For this kind of content on a BLP very reliable sources with substantial due weight would be required. None of the sources given rises to the level needed to support such content. If you have any questions I'm sure BLPNB would provide clear guidance. Seriously you are talking about allegations of felony crimes, the kind of source needed is much more than what has been provided. - - MrBill3 (talk) 04:39, 10 October 2014 (UTC)

I don't see why a one sentence mention would be bad. -- (talk) 08:49, 11 October 2014 (UTC)

Because it's unsubstantiated accusations of a felony crime with insufficiently reliable sources to indicate that it is given due weight. The standard for inclusion of potentially libelous materials in biographies of living persons is very high. Anything else would be irresponsible. 0x0077BE [talk/contrib] 14:37, 11 October 2014 (UTC)
No one has clearly established that the sources are not reliable.--The Devil's Advocate tlk. cntrb. 17:14, 11 October 2014 (UTC)
Well the point is that this is the sort of thing that we're very careful with. Honestly, even if these were reliable sources in terms of checking facts, I'm still not sure that it would be due weight to include these claims at this point; the sources you cite are all op-eds from his critics, not simple factual reporting about the event (not that that's a full disqualifier, but op-eds are generally held to lower standards in terms of noteworthiness and factual accuracy than factual accounts. I don't really see how op-eds from Buzzfeed - a "viral lab"/content aggregator, Alternet - an activist website, and Daily Dot - a 3-year-old internet magazine, can really justify including potentially libelous accusations of particularly heinous crimes on here. 0x0077BE [talk/contrib] 20:53, 11 October 2014 (UTC)
Read WP:BLP carefully. Then consider the criteria in WP:RS. Note this from BLP, "Biographies of living persons ("BLP"s) must be written conservatively and with regard for the subject's privacy. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a tabloid: it is not Wikipedia's job to be sensationalist, or to be the primary vehicle for the spread of titillating claims about people's lives; the possibility of harm to living subjects must always be considered when exercising editorial judgment." Felony acusations without charges/indictments/official actions seem to clearly be sensationalist, spreading of titillating claims. Also from BLP, "Remove immediately any contentious material about a living person that is unsourced or poorly sourced; that is a conjectural interpretation of a source (see No original research); that relies on self-published sources, unless written by the subject of the BLP (see below); or that relies on sources that fail in some other way to meet Verifiability standards." The sources offered are poor quality sources from WP:V, "The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. The best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing facts, legal issues, evidence, and arguments. The greater the degree of scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source. Be especially careful when sourcing content related to living people or medicine." Clearly the professional structure for fact checking and degree of scrutiny for these sources is not at the level needed for the context of unsubstantiated felony acusations. This is sensationalist, tittilating allegations against a living person with no legal action or mainstream reporting much less academic discussion. Content which voices acusations of serious crimes against a living person requires extremely high quality sourcing, if you have any further questions on the matter BLP NB is a good place to ask. - - MrBill3 (talk) 07:38, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

Can it not at least be mentioned that such allegations exist? I mean it's not as if it's just one or two people claiming Shermer sexually harassed them. Ianbrettcooper (talk) 00:42, 29 November 2015 (UTC)

Absolutely no. We dont spread rumors. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 03:24, 29 November 2015 (UTC)
Ianbrettcooper you can't see why that might be a problem? Seriously? Can we add that reptilians have infiltrated the White House? I mean more than a couple people have claimed its true. When noteworthy secondary sources start reporting the reptilians and the accusers file police reports and are then picked up by the news media, THEN we should have something to add to the page.Sgerbic (talk) 05:22, 29 November 2015 (UTC)

I added the following:
Mark Oppenheimer, PZ Myers and Richard Carrier have all reported complaints about Shermer's alleged sexual behavior by many different people.[1][2][3]

I feel the large number of complaints by witnesses who apppear reliable strengthen the evidence. Proxima Centauri (talk) 17:29, 26 February 2016 (UTC)

Those sources all appear to be blogs; that's not good enough, per WP:BLP, which requires use of high-quality sources with a reputation for fact checking - especially where controversial or damaging claims like this are concerned. When or if sources more reliable than blogs begin to report such claims, then perhaps something should be added. FreeKnowledgeCreator (talk) 21:12, 26 February 2016 (UTC)
I found a reliable source so I added the sexual harassment allegations to the article. In 2018, Kimberly Winston wrote in the Washington Post, "Michael Shermer, who has denied allegations of sexual harassment and assault from several women, remains editor of Skeptic magazine and a top speaker at secularist events."[1] (talk) 01:03, 19 January 2020 (UTC)
NPR from Illinois State University reported: "Illinois Wesleyan University has canceled author Michael Shermer’s visit for the President’s Convocation after the university discovered sexual assault allegations against him."[2] Knox490 (talk) 04:26, 20 January 2020 (UTC)

March 2018 emails Santa Barbara College, sexism and sexual harassment allegations against Shermer[edit]

I see that the allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Shermer have been discussed at some length above. One of the issues raised was the question of reliability of sources that have discussed these allegations.

This week the Santa Barbara Independent, a local print weekly, published a full page article about the reaction at Santa Barbara City College to Shermer speaking on campus. Notable parts of the story were the legal threats that Shermer made towards the professors who emailed the campus referencing the allegations made by Mark Openheimer in his September 2014 Buzzfeed article[3]:

Shermer claimed he could prove damages in lost book sales the night of his lecture. He promised Napoleon and Wallace: “You will pay for it.” Shermer demanded a full retraction of the article from Wallace and a public apology from Napoleon by 6 p.m. the next day or he would take personal legal action against them. His demands were echoed by Professor McIntire, who said while Napoleon had tried to cancel the colloquium, “She succeeded only in fingering herself as a calumniator of the very worst stamp.” Shermer, a Santa Barbara resident, concluded his message with a “final warning” to Napoleon that he would file a restraining order against her if she continued “her defamatory actions going forward by following me around this small community where I live and work and play with my young son.”
The 6 p.m. deadline came and went without Napoleon apologizing or The Channels capitulating. On March 26, in the middle of SBCC’s spring break, Napoleon and The Channels received cease-and-desist letters from Shermer’s Los Angeles attorney. They got a second round of letters on April 4. Napoleon retained her own lawyer after her teachers’ union declined to represent her, and a number of colleagues rallied to her side, creating a GoFundMe page to cover her legal fees. It raised more than $8,000 in a matter of days. Wallace and The Channels consulted with SBCC attorney Joe Sholder, who assured them the article wasn’t libelous. But even if it was, Sholder said, the paper and Wallace were on their own — The Channels’ content is the legal liability of the The Channels Editorial Board, not the college.

The article places the incident at SBCC in the context of the wider Me Too Movement. The full article is here: Santa Barbara City College Has Its #MeToo Moment: Professor Faces Backlash After Raising Concerns About Guest Lecturer

Here is the article published in the SBCC student newspaper, The Channels that is referenced above from March 19, 2018: Michael Shermer to speak despite harassment allegations. Many of those involved in inviting Shermer to campus assert that they had not heard about the allegations before inviting him. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mennonot (talkcontribs) 05:35, 13 May 2018 (UTC)

It sounds like someone dredged up the same allegations and source(s) mentioned above, and put them in an email as part of their objection to having Shermer as a guest speaker, in an attempt to have him cancelled or uninvited. Then a local paper and student rag ran stories about it. Has there been any change or development of those old allegations, or do these articles you've linked just point (again) to the old sources? I guess I'm not sure what encyclopedic information you are proposing for the biographical article. Regards, Xenophrenic (talk) 22:56, 13 May 2018 (UTC)
First, given the discussion of reliable sources above, it is important to catalog continued coverage of these allegations in publications. Second, Shermer's threats to Napoleon and Wallace themselves seem notable in and of themselves. That's why I added as its own section below separate from the Sexual Assault allegations. These legal threats and actions by Shermer are part of a wider pattern of behavior by Shermer that is itself part of a wider conversation in the skeptical movement in which Shermer is a leader. See for example:
- Salon (website): Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?
- Quartz (publication): Brazen sexism is pushing women out of America’s atheism movement
- ...and Shermer's own contribution to the conversation: Feminism Disconnected: A Response to Ophelia Benson and a Caution on Tribalism in Secularism.
It seems to me to be appropriate to include in this article a section on this wider conversation about sexism in the skeptical movement that Shumer is part of. The allegations against him and his strong response are not isolated, but part of that wider conversation. Finally, thanks Xenophrenic for adding my signature on the comment above. mennonot (talk) 21:54, 14 May 2018 (UTC)
I guess I'm still not sure what encyclopedic information you are proposing for this biographical article about a living person (Shermer). As far as I can tell, there haven't been any different developments or any new allegations, so your comment about "it is important to catalog continued coverage of these allegations" is lost on me. What, exactly, is the "importance" in your opinion? Equally strange and confusing is your comment about "legal threats and actions by Shermer" as part of some sort of "wider pattern of behavior". To my understanding, responding to false or defamatory allegations with legal cease-and-desist demands (and promises of further legal action) is rather routine and commonplace, and in no way "notable". I see you have now linked to two more opinion pieces by people with very strong opinions about feminism and politics, and they are welcome to their opinions about what they perceive about the supposed intersections between non-belief in supernatural beings (atheism), rational thinking (skepticism) and politics and the female gender, but they don't add anything about the understanding of the topical subject of this specific subject of this article: Michael Sherman.
I must strongly disagree with your assumption that we can "include in this article a section on this wider conversation about sexism in the skeptical movement". That is the purest example of coatracking imaginable, and isn't condoned by Wikipedia policy. If you wish to add reliably sourced, encyclopedic, information about the "skeptical movement" in that article, you are encouraged to do so. It would be inappropriate here in this article. (Just a personal observation: I caught your mis-identification of Shermer as Shumer above, which is a completely different target altogether.) May I ask you to concisely explain, in your own words, what additional encyclopedic information you wish to convey to our readers about the subject of this biographical article? Regards, Xenophrenic (talk) 00:27, 16 May 2018 (UTC)
Xenophrenic, your claim that my comments are text book coatracking is dependent on the idea that there's no connection between the allegations of sexual assault and wider patterns of sexist behavior by Shermer as exemplified by his threats and behavior towards Napoleon and Wallace at Santa Barbara City College. I disagree strongly that these topics are not related to each other. In US society, sexism, threats and sexual harassment are deeply intertwined. For example, powerful serial harassers and abusers often develop a series of techniques to keep stories from those they have abused from becoming widely known. They often have overtly objectify survivors (often women) and seek to control them. These are related actions. Harvey Weinstein allegedly hired to staff at a security and intelligence firm “stop the publication of the abuse allegations.”[4].
For these reasons, I am restoring this thread to its own section of the talk page where I had originally put it before you moved it. I assert that this incident, as covered by the Santa Barbara Independent, relates to the conversation on "Allegations of sexual harassment and misogyny", but is distinct enough to merit it's own section on this page.
Finally, in reference to whether the original allegations published in Buzzfeed are a credible enough source to cite for this article, note that both the Bill Cosby sexual assault cases and Weinstein effect articles cite Buzzfeed as a source. mennonot (talk) 07:17, 21 May 2018 (UTC)
(Copied from above, apparently you missed it.) I guess I'm still not sure what encyclopedic information you are proposing for this biographical article about a living person (Shermer). As far as I can tell, there haven't been any different developments or any new allegations. (re:Coatracking - no, this article subject is 'Shermer' and not the 'wider conversation about sexism in the skeptical movement', which should be handled elsewhere - re: Buzzfeed, I never mentioned it - re: your link to the New Yorker article, a word search for "Shermer" came up empty, so I didn't read it. Regards, Xenophrenic (talk) 20:25, 4 June 2018 (UTC)
Update: According to the Santa Barbara Independent, Professors at SBCC have filed multiple Title IX complaints against Mark McIntire as a fallout from the Shermer incident and McIntire's contract with the college was not renewed. McIntire was the professor who invited Shermer. More details here: SBCC Philosophy Professor Let Go Amid #MeToo Fallout, May 30, 2018. mennonot (talk) 16:29, 4 June 2018 (UTC)
(Copied from above, apparently you missed it.) I guess I'm still not sure what encyclopedic information you are proposing for this biographical article about a living person (Shermer). As far as I can tell, there haven't been any different developments or any new allegations. Your "Update" is about an entirely different person, not Shermer, and conveys zero encyclopedic information about the subject of this article. Perhaps consider creating a Wikipedia article about that person, if warranted? Regards, Xenophrenic (talk) 20:25, 4 June 2018 (UTC)
We seem to be at an impasse. I see this developing incident at Santa Barbara Community College as directly related to Shermer because it all stems from an invitation to have him on campus, concerns from faculty and students about the visit and his threats (legal and otherwise) in response. I understand you don't see the connection. I will continue to post news stories here related to that continuing story. Here's the latest from a local television station: Ousted SBCC professor fights for his job back amidst harassment claims from female colleagues. Again Shermer's visit to campus and the resulting controversy are front and center in the coverage. The fired professor is quoted as saying: "“They objected to me defending Michael Shermer, number one and number two, they objected to certain words that I used in my defense." Shermer spends a good deal of his time as a speaker on campus's and the fact that this visit cause so much newsworth controversy and fallout seems to me to be relevant to this article. If you don't see that, I'm not sure what else to say. mennonot (talk) 23:31, 4 June 2018 (UTC)
You are writing about this guy, correct? He's not the subject of this article. Each of the last several links you've provided fail to provide (or even mention at all, in a couple cases) any new information about the subject of this article. I've already recommended above that you consider creating a Wikipedia article about McIntire, if warranted.
I will continue to post news stories here related to that continuing story. --Mennonot
That is inappropriate here, and not what this Talk page is for. Please see WP:NOTAFORUM (and the banners at the top of this Talk page.) This isn't the place to discuss Shermer, McIntire, etc. It is becoming evident that you apparently have no intention of proposing actual encyclopedic additions to this article, despite having been asked three times now. Xenophrenic (talk) 18:39, 5 June 2018 (UTC)
You seem to be deliberately ignoring or misunderstanding my assertion that the protests around Shermer's visit to SBCC and response are relevant to this article. I've done my best to answer your question about why its encyclopedic and you insinuate that its not encyclopedic by repeating the same question. I have attempted to answer it in different ways above and you've refused to engage with my response and repeated the question. Here are four examples of other Wikipedia articles that have covered specific campus visits by the subject of the article and resulting newsworthy controversies around said visits:
- Milo Yiannopoulos, multiple campus visits in Dangerous Faggot Tour section
- Ben Shapiro, multiple mentions under campus lecture section
- Charles Murray (political scientist)#Incident at Middlebury College
- Heather_Mac_Donald#Opposition
My specific proposal for an addition to this article is a paragraph similar to what has been added to these four pieces above: A few sentences about Shermer's visit to SBCC, the protests from faculty and staff about the visit, Shermer's response and the resulting fallout. McCintire is a minor character in it, but not the center. Here's the latest coverage of the incident from the Inside Higher Ed: Rebel or Reject? How sexual harassment allegations against a guest speaker rocked Santa Barbara City College last semester -- and, one professor says, cost him his job. Note that Shermer is referenced in the headline as the guest speaker that "rocked Santa Barbara City College]]. mennonot (talk) 05:11, 6 June 2018 (UTC)
There is no "ignoring" or "misunderstanding" going on at this end. Your assertion that "the protests around Shermer's visit to SBCC and response are relevant to this article" is meaningless to me in the context of this discussion. I get that it is important to you, personally, that a few faculty members protested Shermer's speaking engagement at SBCC. What you aren't telling me is WHAT ENCYCLOPEDIC INFORMATION ABOUT THE SUBJECT OF THIS ARTICLE (SHERMAN) YOU ARE TRYING TO CONVEY TO OUR READERS. I'll remind you that this isn't the National Enquirer, or other tabloid magazine. Public speakers in the subjects of religion or politics are understandably going to have detractors and face vocal objections, but the reporting of that isn't what Wikipedia is about. Biographies of living persons ("BLPs") must be written conservatively and with regard for the subject's privacy. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a tabloid: it is not Wikipedia's job to be sensationalist, or to be the primary vehicle for the spread of titillating claims about people's lives; the possibility of harm to living subjects must always be considered when exercising editorial judgment. You've mentioned a few other Wikipedia articles you wish to emulate, and my first inclination is to remind you that the fact that "other crap exists" is not justification to produce even more crap. In addition, the examples you provided were covered far more extensively by higher quality sources (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, FOX News, TIME Magazine, etc.) than this appearance at SBCC with which you are concerned. So let's move this discussion forward, shall we?
Please submit your proposal here of the exact wording, and location in our article, and the "High quality reliable sources" (required by WP:BLP) sources cited in support of it, to this article of the encyclopedic information you wish to convey to our readers, and we can evaluate it from there. Fair enough? Xenophrenic (talk) 06:43, 6 June 2018 (UTC)
Here's my proposal with exact wording, location in the article and "High Quality Reliable sources." I'm open to further discussion: mennonot (talk) 20:11, 15 August 2019 (UTC)

Looks like it's mostly about McIntyre, and about sexual allegations that are apparently not reliably enough sourced to even mention in the article. Add that to the fact that not much apparently came of this, and it seems like an obvious WP:BLP/WP:UNDUE/WP:COATRACK issue. Jayjg (talk) 20:19, 15 August 2019 (UTC)

Minor Suggestion on Quote[edit]

This is a pretty minor point, but a quote attributed to Shermer appears to be incorrect. The quote states, in paraphrase, "this is the greatest collection of minds ever assembled in the White House with the exception of the times Thomas Jefferson dined alone"; this was said back in the sixties. Still, maybe people already know that, and take it into account that Shermer did not originate the quote, just repeated it. I can make a change easily enough, but seems like those who actually care about this guy might be better suited to doing it. The text is as follows:

'He says of Jefferson, "When he dined alone at the White House there was more intelligence in that room than when John F. Kennedy hosted a dinner there for a roomful of Nobel laureates."' — Preceding unsigned comment added by Sychonic (talkcontribs) 17:21, 23 July 2020 (UTC)

The passage doesn't quote the saying from the 60s. It quotes Shermer's paraphrase of it from his book, which it explicitly indicates. Nightscream (talk) 01:59, 24 July 2020 (UTC)