On Saturday, Dennis Overbye, The New York Times' most prominent writer about fundamental enough physics, wrote a story about the sexual harassment investigations of a top astronomer:
In the new story about the harassment, we learn that in several incidents, Marcy has clearly violated some strict rules of the professional behavior. While it is obvious that his behavior wasn't kosher and he must have found himself in trouble, the most "damning" stories are still amusing.
Already ten years ago, he gave a ride to his new undergraduate friend. He shared his opinions on whether she should leave her boyfriend and started to give her neck message. She didn't protest. Now, she says that it wasn't because she liked it. Instead, it was because she needed a recommendation letter. It's obviously hard to prove that her feelings and reasoning were one way or another. It's not surprising that his behavior raises some eyebrows but I would still insist on the presumption of innocence.
He has touched some other female astronomers and physicists in inappropriate ways. The verbs Overbye offers are kissing, groping, touching, massaging. Great. Unsurprisingly, he got into some problems. We hear some boring stuff about some particular regulations of these verbs. He wasn't fired but suffered some disadvantages at work.
After all, a story in The New York Times that describes some intimate details about whom you have touched or kissed or groped or massaged is pretty embarrassing, too. Overbye quotes Marcy's wife Susan Kegley who says that the reaction has been excessive. She especially means the "semi-formal" consequences for Marcy – he's been disinvited from some conferences etc.
The very fact that a story about the short neck massage of a young astronomer gets to the New York Times is a bit bizarre. When a huge smelly black American brutally raped Peter W*it's former girlfriend with his big pr*ck, W*it (whose ancestor co-directed the murder of 40,000 Jews in Riga in the 1940s) refused to accompany the girlfriend to the police or help her in any way, and dumped her, the New York Times were silent. But when a student is found to have received a neck message 10 years ago, it's a top story, isn't it?
At any rate, this topic is a sensitive one and people have mixed opinions on whether such non-events should be talked about at all, whether they deserve a place in the New York Times. Assuming that you answer Yes, Dennis Overbye's article is just another example of a balanced and sensible text that Overbye usually offers as his products.
However, what is not sane is a reaction of 245 astronomers and physicists to the article:
The authors of this letter are all professional astronomers and physicists, from across the world. Women are dramatically underrepresented in our field and other sciences, in part because of the sexism and misogyny that this article reinforced.First, when they praised themselves, they forgot to say that they only represented a fringe minority of the physics and astronomy community – a fringe that finds extremist left-wing ideologies much more important than the science.
I've read Overbye's article carefully and I can guarantee that it has done nothing to "reinforce" sexism or misogyny. It was an article about an astronomer's unprofessional behavior and his confession that he has acted unprofessionally.
This article by Overbye is not another demagogic article about the causes of the "underrepresentation of women". Women are underrepresented in those fields because ultimately due to biological differences, one can find a much smaller percentage of women who are extremely interested in and extremely good at those fields.
Incidentally, every sane person knows that if touching, kissing, groping, or massaging changes the number of women in such fields, it is increasing them. It's how some women – in these fields and many other fields – get to the places where they wouldn't get otherwise.
This article epitomizes the culture that champions the voices of predators and minimizes the experiences of survivors.Holy cow. Survivors of a short neck massage? Survivors of a soft contact between a hand and a thigh? Such acts may feel unpleasant unless the active subject is the "right one" but is that so hard to survive such experiences? Predators who have kissed students a few times? Does anyone fail to see that the vocabulary chosen by these 245 annoying authors is exaggerated by many orders of magnitude?
Mr. Overbye's piece repeatedly sympathizes with Marcy, portraying him as a misunderstood, empathetic educator.What a crime to sympathize with an astronomer who gets grilled because of these things.
This viewpoint is captured in the title of the article, and it is reinforced by quotes from Marcy and his wife that Marcy was "condemned without knowing all of the facts" and "the punishment Geoff is receiving here in the court of hysterical public opinion is far out of proportion to what he did".Overbye surely had the duty to inform the readers about the view of Marcy's wife, a pesticide researcher (also a woman in sciences!) who thinks, just like any reasonable person does, that the witch hunts against her husband and similar witch hunts are organized by fanatical brainwashed ideologues such as the 245 authors of the letter who never know all the important facts and who always react disproportionately.
Her opinion is much more important for Overbye's "story" than the opinion of those 245 loud, dirty, and obnoxious PC fascists because she's a woman who has spent many years with Dr Marcy and this whole article is about Marcy's behavior towards women. Overbye could have quoted many other women who actually know Marcy. For example:
Kathleen Collins:Such opinions are more important than the anger of 245 brainwashed permanent activists who were ordered to be "instantly angry" again by a mob on Twitter.
As a long-time colleague and friend of Geoff Marcy, I know that he has diligently promoted the careers of female students. He is also a hug-giving kind of guy. I have great warmth for my students, and I hug them not infrequently. I tell them details about my personal life. It seems to me that part of being a mentor is being real, excited, enthusiastic, supportive, generous with time and attention. Without personal warmth, I would be a less effective mentor, teacher, research group leader, colleague and advocate for science. If my students were to misinterpret my warmth, I hope that there would be constructive informed discourse rather than a rush to judgment.
Professor Kathleen Collins, Molecular and Cell Biology, UC Berkeley
Not only are these statements false (see the next paragraph), but they employ the damaging tactic of painting female targets and their supporters as overly sensitive trouble-makers.Nothing is false about Overbye's article – except for the name of an organization that was misstated (and then corrected), much like one date – and the authors of the letter are not just overly sensitive trouble-makers. They're nasty unhinged wild animals.
And we do know the facts. Berkeley undertook a formal investigation and found Marcy guilty of repeated harassment over almost a decade. Marcy abused his position of power, betrayed his responsibilities as an educator, and sexually assaulted students. Despite these truths, Marcy was not punished.Overbye didn't contradict any of these things. He just realizes that those things – results of an investigation at the university soil – aren't the most important "facts" that one should care about. What matters is what he actually did, how serious it is according to an unbiased person, and what to do to prevent acts that are undesirable from being repeated in the future.
This article downplays Marcy's criminal behaviors and the profound damage that he has caused to countless individuals.Marcy hasn't been convicted of a criminal behavior. You would need genuine courts – and not just a pack of angry university feminists – for that. He's violated some internal habits that are internally codified at a university – the University of California sexual harassment policies. It's exactly like a child who fails to vacuum the carpet on Wednesday. The mother may scream at the kid but the kid hasn't behaved criminally. The enforcers of the UC's PC policies are too small puppets to legitimately use big words such as "criminal".
It overlooks the continued trauma that Marcy inflicts to this day as a Berkeley professor, and it implicitly condones his predatory acts. In doing so, it discourages women from speaking out when they have been violated, and it undermines the safety and learning environment of all students.The text makes it clear that these writers are eager to completely destroy the top astronomer because of the kiss.
It's centrifugal motion. This kiss, this kiss is criminal.
If I haven't spent some years in the U.S. university environment where I have witnessed the reality of batšit crazy people like that, I would surely believe that these people must be totally joking. Just the root "predator" appears five times in their short letter. Do they realize that everyone else knows that it is a sign of a serious mental disease to consider a short neck message or a kiss or a contact with a thigh "predatory"?
How did Overbye's article discourage women from speaking out when 245 angry ones were free enough to send a totally indefensible hysterical letter against Overbye?
Mr. Overbye has a serious conflict of interest in reporting this story as Overbye has a longterm collegial relationship with Marcy and has championed Marcy's work in previous NY Times articles. Overbye's bias is evident when Overbye refers to this situation as "Dr. Marcy's troubles" and when devoting three paragraphs at the top of the story on Marcy's wife's opinions of the crimes.It's really cute to paint it as a "conflict of interest".
Overbye has previously written about Marcy's work on exoplanets because this work has been important. It was important regardless of the number of women Dr Marcy has kissed, groped, touched, or massaged. These feminazis seem to openly state that they would happily and quickly rob researchers of the credit if the researchers were ideologically inconvenient. My part of Europe has gone through several similar regimes that have raped science in similar ways. It's absolutely indefensible for someone to try to turn science into a servant of an ideology.
A 70-minute January 2015 talk by Marcy about the exoplanets. He really is a big shot in his field. He's been mentioned as a potential Nobel prize nominee, too. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether she would be pleased or not if he touched, groped, kissed, or massaged them. But I am sure that many would say "Yes" to a charismatic grandfather keeping himself in good shape. ;-)
The fact that a top exoplanet finder turned out to be also an interesting guy who touches women is an interesting coincidence. There is absolutely no reason why different authors should be writing about these two stories. Can't the same journalist write both positive and negative stories about a person? In other words, should every journalist always write positive stuff only or negative stuff only about a given topic? Why? And if the scientific community, journalists, or the society happened to be more tolerant towards small sins of such a researcher (and Overbye wasn't – similar sins would be relative non-events regardless of the identity of the "perpetrator"), it would be understandable because the society wants exoplanets to be found, not hysterical demagogic letters to be written.
It is also bizarre that they consider the word "trouble" (and Overbye's sentence "he is in trouble") to be too soft. Crackpot Lee Sm*lin's book "The Trouble With Physics" was one of the most aggressive rants against modern physics that have ever been published and the authors of the letter to the New York Times themselves found it too harsh for them to be considered trouble-makers – although this word is a huge understatement in their case.
Moreover, Overbye omits several relevant details of the case. Specifically, the investigation found Marcy violated sexual harassment policies over a decade (2001-2010), a fact never mentioned in this article.Overbye discusses some incidents going back to 2005 but why should he quote a particular date from a particular report by some already irrelevant, biased, and detached self-appointed investigators? There is nothing important about that particular sentence in the report which is why there wasn't any reason for Overbye to parrot it. And there was almost certainly nothing special about the year 2001. I am sure that Dr Marcy loved to touch women before 2001, too. The quoted sentence above suggests that the authors of the letter love their committees and every figure they write down to be worshiped but there is no good reason for such an attitude.
Overbye also failed to capture the gravity of the crimes. For example, one complainant said, "Marcy placed his hand on her leg, slid his hand up her thigh, and grabbed her crotch” (http://www.buzzfeed.com/azeenghorayshi/famous-astronomer-allegedly-sexually-harassed-students). In another instance, Marcy was observed "giving an undergraduate a back massage, with his hand underneath her shirt, alone and after hours in the lab."The New York Times is a more prestigious source of information than "Buzzfeed" which is partly due to the fact that it doesn't instantly copy every intimate accusation that appears somewhere on "Buzzfeed" or another random place of the Internet. The 245-headed scum would surely love every journalist in America to parrot every piece of crap that reinforces their sick ideology but they should get used to the fact that not everyone is as sick as they are yet.
In omitting this information and focusing on Marcy and his wife's feelings, Overbye fosters sympathy for a sexual predator and exacerbates the culture which allowed him to prey on unsuspecting students.Such information is omitted partly because the New York Times isn't a porn magazine. (Even Playboy stopped printing nude women!) Its readers are not reading the newspaper in order to read about similar details. And the students are surely not unsuspecting; this adjective has become totally ludicrous. By now, tens of millions of people in America – and surely almost everyone at Berkeley – knows that Dr Marcy likes to touch women more than other professors do. It surely makes numerous people – including female students – interested in that guy.
A reason why Dr Marcy's wife is quoted more often than random students is that she knows much more about the problem – in this case, Dr Marcy's relationship to women; and she's much more achieved and trustworthy than random authors of various accusations, too.
Marcy's story deserves national coverage because it demonstrates an extreme yet persistent problem that occurs on many college campuses and in many fields.What is extreme is the hysteria into which similar non-events such as a kiss are being inflated by the feminist movement that has contaminated big portions of the U.S. Academia. In the rest of the paragraph, the 245 authors correct a date about Walter Lewin's story at MIT – and Overbye has added a correction of the date beneath his article.
We request that you retract this article based on its false information, the clear bias of the author, the omission of relevant details, and the harm it is doing to your readers. Furthermore, we ask you in the future to consider that sympathy and support should be given to the survivors, not to the perpetrator.The letter didn't contain any evidence whatsoever that there has been something inaccurate about the essence of the story, let alone "false information". The request to censor the story is incredible.
Additionally, we have authored a brief Letter to the Editor to be considered for publication in the NY Times summarizing the short-comings of Overbye's article:It's amazing. Not even the communist apparatchiks wanted to have this direct control over what the other people were writing and not even the communist apparatchiks wanted the official story to be this incredibly distorted and black-and-white.
Re "Astronomer Apologizes for Behavior", October 11: By emphasizing Geoff Marcy's apology and his wife's opinions, this article champions the voice of a sexual predator and minimizes the continued trauma of his targets. Overbye's piece repeatedly sympathizes with Marcy, portraying him as a misunderstood, empathetic educator who was "condemned without knowing the facts" and given punishment "in the court of hysterical public opinion". Furthermore, given Overbye's long history of sourcing Marcy, the piece lacks the objectivity it deserves.
We do know the facts of this case. Berkeley undertook a formal investigation and found Marcy guilty of repeated harassment and sexual assault of students spanning almost a decade. Marcy abused his position of power, betrayed his responsibilities as an educator, and caused profound damage with his criminal acts. By overlooking the gravity of Marcy's predatory behavior, this article discourages women from
speaking out and undermines the safety of students.
This story deserves national coverage because it demonstrates an extreme yet persistent problem on college campuses. However, sympathy and support should be given to the survivors, not the perpetrator.
People like these 245 authors of the letter are dangerous. If they acquired some political power, their regime would be at least as brutal as Nazism was. If you meet one of them and will be tempted to kiss, grope, touch, or massage them, please massage them with a heavy metallic bar, not your soft hand.
These trouble-makers represent a minority but the effectiveness of their organization is scary. For example, they must be incredibly tightly connected through the Internet if it takes hours or a day for them to collect 245 signatures of professional physicists and astronomers under such a letter.
Yesterday, Dennis Overbye wrote another story about the fascists at Berkeley who want Marcy to be dismissed. It's kind of amazing how emotionally detached Overbye seems to be given the fact that these jerks have pretty much attacked Overbye as well. The new article by Overbye is mostly ignited by the letter by 20 Berkeley astronomy professors who want Marcy to be dismissed, too. (There is a similar tirade by the grad students and postdocs, too, not to mention a petition of 2,000+ people across the U.S. Academia.) They talk about "perpetrators" and "survivors", too – it has probably become common in these circles. I know some 5% of the names from these petitions from the Internet, 5% from their papers (Uroš Seljak, WTF), and several individuals in person – including Joshua Bloom (from the Society of Fellows). Very disappointing. These mobs are clearly imposing a regime at those schools that makes Auschwitz look like an oasis of peace, kisses, hugs, and tolerance in comparison.
Update: Overbye added a new article today, on October 14th, that unsurprisingly announced Marcy's resignation. The co-existence with all these nasty people would probably be impossible for him.