A case study in lying: Part Two [Update Sept 24, 2020: The liar and the lies are clearly identified]

 



I really wish I didn't have to do this.


The lies about my #MeToo reporting began nearly three years ago. Soon I will be preparing a report about the origins of those lies, in detail, although the names will be left out. It will be in the context of a broader piece about #MeToo reporting which I hope will be of use to journalism students and even experienced journalists.

The lies flare up from time to time, almost always when I publish a new investigation. They have been in full force since I reported on misconduct by Peruvian archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, and they flared up again this week when I began posting about Mark Siddall, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History who was just fired for sexual harassment and other more serious behavior.

As they did this week, the lies almost always take the same form. A group of individuals begin claiming, which no evidence, that I harass survivors and badger and threaten them into talking to me, or I try to do that; that I "center" myself and privilege myself over the needs of the survivors, even though survivors come to me constantly and ask for help telling their stories; and that I am doing this all for self-aggrandizement, maybe for money (even though my blog has no ads), or to advance my "career."

That last one always makes me laugh, since I am an older man with a journalism career spreading 42 years, writing for major publications, and I am on Social Security and Medicare. Nowhere to go but up, career-wise, I guess.

The "centering" trope is the evidence that these accusations against me are really a collection of memes that were launched three years ago, as I said, and connected with a particular episode in my #MeToo reporting. The phrase was used by one individual, but has since spread to hundreds, who pass it down faithfully in the best fashions of cumulative culture and the old fashioned telephone game. But that does not make the memes true, any more than many others are.

A key contention is that even by complaining about the lies, I am proving that I am centering myself over survivors. But really, no one wants to be lied about, even the liars, especially if the lies have consequences. In the case of my #MeToo reporting, the lies do much more than damage my personal reputation. They also damage the reputations of those survivors who have chosen, of their own accord, to entrust me with their stories, as a journalist who has the skills to investigate them and get them published. Even more, they damage the #MeToo movement itself, because they drive a wedge between survivors and a reporter who has a proven track record of helping to remove sexual predators and bullies from positions of power.

Not everyone likes my "methods," which I admit are aggressive towards the villains; and some don't like the fact that I don't pick and choose which abusers to investigate, depending on how much power they have and how much some people like them, or whether they are famous or the victims are well known. The whisper network endures because, to put it bluntly, some colleagues do not want to upset the power structure too much, especially since everyone, from undergrad student to scientific titan, has to negotiate it--or find the courage to change it.

Now please look at the redacted Tweet at the top of this page. This particular survivor has posted similar things at least twice that I know about, once last July and once just a few days ago. And some others have merrily RTd these Tweets, so ready to believe the worst about someone, without questioning the veracity of such very serious accusations. If someone actually did what she claims in that Tweet, they are horrible and deserve all the condemnation anyone can muster.

But the problem is that not one word in that Tweet is true, except maybe that I followed her abuser, and the survivor knew exactly why I did--in fact she guessed it herself. In redacted form, at the following link, I am posting the entire conversation between us. (Since I find Blogger hard to work with when manipulating files, I have linked to a downloadable WordPress URL, but I hope to be able to display the entire thing on this page later on.)

The one thing I have left out is an email from her husband, dated April 28, in which he sent me some emails and other material related to what was happening to her.

Any honest person can see that the statements made in the Tweet at the top are untrue. She approached me; I tried to help her; she understood why I followed her abuser even if she was briefly confused about it; she offered the documents referred to, and I certainly did not say I needed them to prove she was telling the truth (I generally believe survivors); and I did not break my promise to try and help. The way we left the conversation, she was going to check with her lawyer about the documents, and I did not pester her about it further.

Should I have checked with her when I didn't heard from her after a while? Perhaps so. I was busy on several other investigations, we were in the middle of a pandemic, and I figured she had perhaps worked it out on her own. But none of what she says now is true. Nevertheless, this survivor, and those who believe these lies, are frantic on Twitter as I write now, condemning me for posting this before they even read it.

If this does not separate the honest from the dishonest, I don't know what will.

The question remains, why is this survivor lying now? I don't know. I can make some guesses, but I am not going to do so here. Perhaps others would like to comment on that, even those who know her. Their comments here would be welcome. 

I will save further discussion for the broader piece I plan to write about the origins of the falsehoods about me, and how they relate to the broader issues of reporting on #MeToo investigations.

But I would ask those piling on, if they have any sense of decency, to ask themselves those questions, and look into their own motivations--including why some are so quick to believe the worst about a reporter who has worked hard for five years, taking lots of very serious risks, to help survivors tell their stories.


Addendum: In the comments section, I have waived my normal rule (and that of most moderated blogs) against comments that engage in personal attacks on me and others. That's because the comments illustrate my point, which is that situations like this clearly separate the honest from the dishonest. For one thing, I redacted the name of this survivor, and I will continue to do so, even though the survivor has outed herself on social media--thus making her the main person who is sharing her story with the world, all in the interests of perpetuating the lies she told about my interactions with her (see again the Tweets at the top of this page and below.) What is remarkable is that none of the virulent critics here can even acknowledge the clear evidence that she did lie. So there is no, "Yes, it is clear she lied, but Balter you should not have done this anyway." That might at least be a defensible position. But admitting that she lies disrupts the dishonest narrative that so many here are wedded to. Thanks to those, here and privately, who understand what is really going on here, and the sickness that has infected academia.


Update: Okay, with the help of a more tech savvy friend, I can now post the screenshots of this Twitter DM exchange:


Add caption














Update September 18, 2020: The morning after.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on this blog post up to now.

I posted a comment of  my own this morning, which I am  pulling up here for emphasis:


"It is now just after 5 am East Coast time, the morning after I first posted this report. There are 54 comments at the moment. I have not censored any comment, but allowed them all through, even gratuitous personal attacks (fortunately those died down after a while and somewhat more serious comments dominated.)

I said at the outset that this blog post would separate the honest from the dishonest. I still maintain that.

I'd like everyone to look again at the Tweets from July and September by this survivor that led me to respond to her with this blog post (see above.) They are not redacted. The survivor used her real identity to tell very clear and blatant lies about my conversations with her. She referred to her having been raped and stalked.

Those Tweets from July and September were liked and RTd widely, including by at least one well known person in the #MeTooSTEM movement who has also lied repeatedly about me.

Yesterday, when I DM'd the survivor to tell her what I planned to do, and asked her to retract her lies, she went public again with what she said were my "threats."


Despite the fact that this person has gone public and identified herself for the express purpose of telling lies about our interactions [emphasis added], which waives any right to anonymity she might have originally had, I have protected her identity on my end. I redacted her name throughout, and other identifying information (if the name of her rapist can be detected, as one commenter said above, then that is just too bad for her rapist, who is not owed anonymity, as is standard journalistic practice.)

This means that all of the accusations above, and on Twitter, are off base, because they refuse to discuss or engage with this basic fact of the matter. I won't be deleting this blog post and I stand by my actions, which were intended to protect not just my reputation but that of the many survivors who have put their trust in me and whose stories were told either on this blog, in Science, or in The Verge."


I would just add one thing, which I have repeatedly said to people who have been attacking me on  Twitter. Why did the survivor lie? Few have expressed much interest in this question, even though it  seems obviously a very important one. I have asked  critics to ask the survivor this question, because I think we cannot have an honest conversation about these issues unless they do either  do that  themselves or at least express some interest in the question.


Update September 20: Why did a prominent #MeToo/#STEMToo advocate publicly identify the survivor?

It has been interesting to follow the debate in the comments section of this blog the past 24 hours. The trend has begun to turn, from those very critical of what I did to those supportive and understanding of my actions. Early this morning (East Coast time) I approved a comment pointing out that a prominent #MeTooSTEM advocate, someone with about 18K followers on Twitter and who has tried unsuccessfully to stop my #MeToo reporting for nearly three years now, outed the identity of the survivor to the world, something I have not done and would not do despite her blatant lies about me. Here is that comment, and my response to it:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sad irony is that one of the prominent advocates of #MeTooSTEM outed the survivor to the world on the same day that Balter published this piece. I had no clue who the survivor was till I came across the advocate’s tweet, where she feigns being incredibly sorry for what happened to her. It’s still there, so for the sake of the survivor’s privacy I hope she’ll delete it soon.

September 20, 2020 at 4:03 AM

 Delete
Blogger Michael Balter said...

Re the last comment:

Yes, I am aware of the advocate’s Tweet, in which she identifies the survivor to her very large Twitter following. This advocate, who has done important work in the #MeToo area as I have always acknowledged despite her three years of attacks on me, expressed in another Tweet how “frustrating” it was that she and others have not been able to stop my #MeToo reporting.

To recap what has happened here, and which the outraged Twitter mob still refuses to see:

The survivor outed herself publicly in a Tweet last July, saying that she had been raped and stalked, using her real name, and then telling blatant lies about my conversation with her. This month, just the other day, the survivor outed herself again, using very similar phrasing, and telling exactly the same lies (those redacted Tweets are reproduced above.)

Not only the advocate referred to above but many other “advocates” repeatedly amplified the survivor’s Tweets, thus ensuring the Twitterverse knew who she was. Of course, the survivor not only did not try to hide her identity and what happened to her, but actively participated in her publicization.

If my DM conversation with the survivor had included intimate details of the rape or other things that happened to her, I would never have published it. I would have found some other, albeit much less effective, way to expose the lies. But since the conversation did not include such details, waiving confidentiality in this case (justified because of the survivor’s blatant lies) did not reveal anything essential beyond what she had revealed herself of her own volition.

This is why so much of the response to what has happened is so hypocritical. And readers should think about whether the long campaign of lies about my reporting might sit on similarly bogus claims. The advocate obviously was much more concerned about hitting at me than protecting the identity of the survivor. As for the survivor, I don’t know her motives, but my guess is that she saw a chance to insert herself into conversations that were going on and to draw attention to herself. She certainly did that.

And yet I have still not named her, nor would I, even though I would be justified in doing so, while the Twitter mob has outed her repeatedly.


Update Sept 24, 2020: Yesterday a colleague on Twitter who appropriately calls herself "Cassandra of Academia" (no, not my sockpuppet, but a woman of color and a survivor herself) posted a long Twitter thread which exposed the lies that have been told about my interactions with this individual, with full receipts in the form of screenshots. She is now identified, which is not an ethical problem since she and her friends outed her publicly many times over (I seem to be one of the few people involved in this controversy who has not yet named her in some way.) You can access it in an easy Twitter thread reader here. Thanks also to everyone who has commented below.

Another thought or two for today: Why all the lies? I often wonder that myself, but I have some ideas. I will have more to say about it soon. Suffice to say for now: In late 2017, a leading #MeToo advocate, together with a survivor who was ambivalent about telling her story, more or less teamed up to create a false narrative about my reporting and how I went about it. They are telling the same story today. That false narrative is the "origins story" for the very skewed and biased interpretations of what I have done, which at times break into outright lies like the ones discussed here. I will tell that origins story soon, in the context of the "(Mis)Adventures of a #MeToo Reporter" piece I have long planned. I also plan to put it into the overall context of the marked ambivalence with which many colleagues in anthropology, and academia more broadly, view exposing abusers. That ambivalence, I believe, is linked to the disruptions that upsetting established power relations and networks of prestige and patronage (linked as well to the patriarchal structure of academia) and the reluctance--or in some cases outright hostility--that some colleagues have towards allowing those (necessary) disruptions. More to come.




Post a Comment

153 Comments

Anonymous said…
Michael, I've avidly followed you for a long time, but I'm absolutely confused by this recent turn. Although you've now moved on to other (I'd say perhaps even more problematic) stuff in this article, I'm still confused where this has all come from. It seems like so much of this has been spurred by Student L, and by her apparent lies that you've been harassing her. It seems to me like everything has escalated from that, and to be honest I haven't actually seen any proof in your last posts that she even has been saying things about you. You quote LJC as saying you harassed her, but wouldn't we expect him to say that given the circumstances? He's desperately trying to paint you in any terrible light to take away from the suspicion around him. And by buying into it, you're now proving him right. You haven't given any other evidence that she's talking about you at all. If she wasn't, she doesn't deserve the spotlight you've thrown upon her.

The escalation again to this, to sending out private communication of a survivor you've worked with, is beyond the pale. How can you expect vulnerable people to continue trusting you and the rest of us to believe in your work if this is the path you're choosing? To instantly go on the attack against seemingly unsubstantiated claims of lies about you, and to automatically take the absolute nuclear path following a direct critique against you are worrying precedents, especially when in the past you have appeared to be so wonderful.
Anonymous said…
I don't know why she would say something so untrue so publicly multiple times. It really makes the Metoo movement look bad. Maybe trauma affects people's memories, but why double down on it when you can just check the DM conversation again? Why not just say "Sorry, I misinterpreted"?We are all on the same side here. Those lies hurt the survivors who have worked with Balter and are working with him, because they feel gaslit and don't know what to believe even though they've had good experiences with him. They also delegitimize Balter unfairly. Criticism is good if it's based on truth (not just what you feel is true). But if it's based on a fundamental lie, it's super dangerous. Look at Krug, Dolezal, McLaughlin. They told people what they wanted to hear and look how far she got on lies.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for posting this to clear the record. You have supporters, but we are afraid of the Twitter mob. I wish this survivor well and I hope they will back off of trying to drag you down for no good reason.
Anonymous said…
...did you just publicly share the specific details of someone's rape in order to support your contention that you are the only true supporter of rape/assault victims?
Anonymous said…
This is beyond sleazy. You posted details of her assault for everyone to see! What the actual fuck is wrong with you.
Anonymous said…
To the commenters above about posting details of her assault, she publicly stated everything that she stated to Balter (including using the word rape), so nothing new was revealed. Balter isn't even posting her identity, whereas she admitted all this under her real name publicly on Twitter. Where's the outrage about the egregious lie that hurts survivors who have worked with Michael and found him to be a sensitive and sympathetic person? With the only negative being how people pile on him and gaslight everyone? And suggest that we chose wrong when there are supposedly so many options (there aren't)? We went to those journalists people keep suggesting; they are constrained by legal and by what editors decide is newsworthy. Only Balter takes on stories without these constraints.
bug_girl said…
I am sitting at my desk trying not to throw up. This is DISGUSTING.
What is wrong with you.

Such a betrayal of trust. As a survivor, and as someone that works with survivors, I am just so upset. And now I have to be afraid of you too. Did I ever share details of my rape with you? I can't remember. But if I did, I criticized you too. Will you also share my experiences? Will you tear open my wounds to feed your ego too?
Anonymous said…
Are you replying anonymously to your own posts, you sick fuck?
Michael Balter said…
Answer to the last question: No, there are some people out there who don’t approve of lying, no matter what the excuse. What’s the excuse in this case? This person clearly lied about our interactions, but that does not bother some people. As I said, this kind of situation separates the honest from the dishonest, that is for sure.
Anonymous said…
In response to: Anonymous said...Are you replying anonymously to your own posts, you sick fuck? September 17, 2020 at 3:41 PM. I assume you meant my post pointing out where the outrage is on the egregious lie. I am NOT Balter. I am a survivor. The vitriol against Balter is astounding. None seem to value truth in the slightest. These lies aren't white lies. They really hurt the cause.
Anonymous said…
Reading her Tweets about this and your entire DM exchange with her, it is clear who is lying and who is telling the truth.
Anonymous said…
What's your excuse for sharing the details of her assault, you arrogant tiny-pricked gasbag? Is your ego really so fragile?
Anonymous said…
Yeah, this is Balter making up someone to show he has more support than he actually does.
Anonymous said…
Enjoy your death spiral, White Savior Pervert.
Anonymous said…
Balter, what the hell is wrong with you? You somehow claim to be supporting victims, but all I see from you is self-aggrandizement, you're focused on yourself and not the targets of harassment, and now what you're doing is perpetuating the harm of someone who was unwise enough to trust you? You're a danger to the scientific community.
Michael Balter said…
I've added this addendum above, but I will put it down here too for those who have already read the blog post:


Addendum: In the comments section, I have waived my normal rule (and that of most moderated blogs) against comments that engage in personal attacks on me and others. That's because the comments illustrate my point, which is that situations like this clearly separate the honest from the dishonest. For one thing, I redacted the name of this survivor, and I will continue to do so, even though the survivor has outed herself on social media--thus making her the main person who is sharing her story with the world, all in the interests of perpetuating the lies she told about my interactions with her (see again the Tweets at the top of this page and below.) What is remarkable is that none of the virulent critics here can even acknowledge the clear evidence that she did lie. So there is no, "Yes, it is clear she lied, but Balter you should not have done this anyway." That might at least be a defensible position. But admitting that she lies disrupts the dishonest narrative that so many here are wedded to. Thanks to those, here and privately, who understand what is really going on here, and the sickness that has infected academia.
Anonymous said…
It's astounding the amount of gaslighting done on Twitter and in these comments, and no, it's not by Balter. By definition, gaslighting is based on lies, not the truth. If you feel uncomfortable with this post, it's because you've been gaslit by lies that fit the narratives you have been fed. The dastardly comments saying that Balter must be responsible for the comments that say "wow she did not tell the truth" shows the level of gaslighting and how it's been so effective in academia. We like to think we are better than Trump supporters, but this case shows we are not. There are survivors who were hurt and severely traumatized by these lies and the Twitter storm that followed. No one is saying Balter is beyond reproach. BUT IT'S IMPERATIVE THAT THE CRITICISM BE BASED ON VERIFIABLE FACTS. And no, Balter defending himself aggressively from these lies is not "proof" of "bullying." I would like to link a recent Insidehighered article on this very phenomenon, Toxic Hypocrisy: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/struggling-exercise-upward-toxicity-try-toxic-hypocrisy
Anonymous said…
Sigh… here we go again. A person lies. The lie is exposed. And you bunch of righteous academics are leaping to the rescue without doing what all good academics should do: read the evidence, evaluate, and reach the logical conclusion. Worse still, you prefer to side with the liar rather than with other honest survivors who were tremendously helped by the reporting in this blog. You blame Balter, without acknowledging or understanding that he is merely our messenger. You are the ones who are causing real damage to survivors. If nothing else, please reflect on that before you post any more harming comments.
Rock boi said…
So, you say all criticisms, and the whisper network surrounding you and your process are baseless "memes" that evolved through the mysterious forces of cumulative culture.

To prove to the greater public that these criticisms of your process are baseless, and that a whisper network warning people about you is unjustified, you sent a survivor a threatening message when you were criticized. Then, wrote a public blog post and related tweets in which you made it extraordinarily easy to identify the survivor (but patted yourself on the back for redacting *only* the name?). In this blog post you posted a tweet verbatim which is easily searchable, and shared very private information about a sexual assault entrusted to you. You then encouraged people who know the survivor to come forward to give you dirt on them.

Seems like the memes might be accurate!



Michael Balter said…
Okay, responding to the last comment.

Have you seen the message I sent to the survivor?

I did not threaten her. I told her I was going to post our conversation and I asked her to retract the lies she told about me. Amazing that academics, including scientists, so often ignore evidence to pursue the narratives that are most convenient to them.
Anonymous said…
Amazing how many of the "Anonymous"posts supporting Balter use a writing style remarkably similar to his own...
Anonymous said…
Dear Archaeology Colleagues,
How easily you publicly shout about Balter's judgement in handling egregious liars yet so many of you SAY NOTHING AND DO NOTHING about the Castillos and the Kurins of our field. I am (and others who are survivors and their allies are) taking notes about who is theatrically outraged on Twitter and Facebook and who is actually doing the tough work behind the scenes to ensure justice in our field. It is easy and publicly popular to hate on the old white dude. I don't think Balter always makes the best choices but I also know he is kind and generous to a fault and deeply concerned with the wellbeing of survivors and those who look out for those survivors. He never pressures anyone to do anything they don't want to (READ THESE SCREENSHOTS and you can see they lied about him) and he puts his entire livelihood on the line for survivors. This is no exaggeration and to suggest it is is just another lie.

Michael has been lied about repeatedly in recent days and anyone would wish to clear their name in this situation. In fact, in private conversations and in public tweets he has repeatedly stated that he is attempting to demonstrate his own credibility in service to survivors for whom his credibility is the only thing ensuring they get the help they cannot get anywhere else (anyone suggesting that there are other journalists obviously has not contacted those journalists for help with the Castillos and the Kurins of the world -- they are not able to help. WE HAVE TRIED.). I am not happy that he took these routes of outing the liars, but that is only because of the disgusting performance some of you are putting on on social media about it. I do think he has the right to try to maintain his credibility, which is essential to effectively following through with those whose stories he tells (because they asked him to tell those stories, do not forget).

-An ECR who is sickened by the self-righteousness of her colleagues
Anonymous said…
I am another victim who has been following this blog for a while now. I guess it is easy for critics to suspect that I am Balter, for the very same reason I could suspect that they are no other than one of the many sexual harassers that Balter exposed and who are now abusing this platform to try and take him down. It is just impossible to know when everyone is anonymous, with one important caveat. I have all the reasons to post here anonymously- my abuser is extremely vindictive and will retaliate if my name is exposed. What about the critics? If they are merely concerned citizens who are outraged by violation of trust and privacy, why the anonymity? If you have nothing to hide, please state your credentials and then we’ll know for sure that you are not Rathjen, Kurin, Boytner, Castillo, Siddall, or any of those other horrible human beings that you are now supporting.
Rock boi said…
It read like you threatened to post details of a sexual assault entrusted to you in confidence unless the survivor retracted her critique of you. As you describe it here, it also reads as a threat. Now that I read it again, its worse, you insinuate the survivor's critique is a result of mental illness. These are all very reasonable interpretations of your unsolicited message to the survivor.


Of course, you didn't address other parts of the comment. You included more than enough information to easily identify the name of the survivor here. You also made it possible to connect many of the private details of a sexual assault case to that individual.
Anonymous said…
Reading these comments and seeing the Twitter outrage, I notice that some of the most self-righteous and loud critics are not very nice people in person. A few are downright bullies, harassers, or even rapists themselves. I can't help but think of the motto "To be rather than to seem" is turned on its head for these people. Their motto that they live by is "To seem rather than to be." When is the last time any of them bucked what the people around them believed to do something that puts their jobs and lives at real risk?
Anonymous said…
To Anonymous at 4:46 pm -- Look, we wouldn't have to write anonymously if people were actually doing critical thinking and research before condemning Michael. Hate him if you want, but at least base it in reality. There are facts and then there are wild inventions. I'm basing my opinion on the former, but you people are making it unsafe to put my name behind it. - ECR
Michael Balter said…
Re the last comment, because I have little tolerance for falsehoods: The survivor outed herself on social media even before I posted this blog.
Anonymous said…
Rock boi - the survivor wasn't critiquing Balter. She was fabricating lies about him. And doing so during a pile-on intended to discredit his reporting. There's a vast difference and we all know it.
Rock boi said…
Your intolerance of lying as a justification for 1. sharing private details about a sexual assault entrusted to you, and 2. providing enough information to readily identify the name the survivor, would not even make sense if the screenshots falsified this particular individuals complaint against you. But they don't exonerate you at all. So why even do this beyond retribution for critiques against you?
Anonymous said…
You're done as a reporter with what little credibility you had. Now you're just a troll attacking people in ways Fox News would find impressive.
Michael Balter said…
I'm done as a reporter? That's funny, I am in the middle of two major stories right now. Guess someone didn't get the memo.

I hate to be snide but let's have some honest discussion. Go ask this person why she lied, for no good reason, and then we can move forward.
Anonymous said…
Hey people, no need to argue when the solution is so obvious and simple! First: shut down Balter’s blog and twitter account. Second: next time that anyone has been sexually harassed and want to expose their abusers, tell them to send their detailed complaints to all of Balter’s faultfinders (don’t forget to make a list of their accounts before they delete those tweets). Finally: simply wait for them to help you!
Anonymous said…
I actually can't stand this reporter, however that woman clearly lied to her twitter audience regarding their interaction in order to damage him. That's not okay.
Anonymous said…
"Anonymous Rock boi said...
Your intolerance of lying as a justification for 1. sharing private details about a sexual assault entrusted to you, and 2. providing enough information to readily identify the name the survivor, would not even make sense if the screenshots falsified this particular individuals complaint against you. But they don't exonerate you at all. So why even do this beyond retribution for critiques against you?"

Uh what? Did we read the same transcript? Either you are gaslighting or are gaslit. The screenshots definitely exonerated Balter from the person's claims. First, he never asked her for her medical documents. She OFFERED it. Second, he never said she had to prove her credibility to him. In fact he was sympathetic and believed her 100%. Third, he never pushed her to give him anything, even the things she promised like the lawyers' documents. He actually never even followed up when she did not give him the documents.
I hope people who value truth can read the screenshots for themselves. There seems to be very little regard for the truth on all sides these days. And for the nth time, these lies absolutely hurt survivors! They were told to jump on the discrediting and character assassination bandwagon. Guess who suffers, the survivors who went to Balter as a last resort and found him to be sympathetic and hard working. If no one wants to talk to Balter, that hurts the survivors. If people think Balter is abusive to the survivors who go to him, that helps the predators who use this narrative to try and get off scott-free. If people think Balter is lying, then the survivors' tales are lies. Still don't get it?

Balter redacted much more than just her name. It's clear from the screenshots. He's done more to hide her identity than she herself. She outed herself several times before this, and even outed herself on the fact that Balter gave her a chance to retract her lies before publishing the truth. I, a survivor who has worked with Balter, for one am very relieved that what she said was not true. I can continue to trust him.
Anonymous said…
You and your supporters are worse than abusers.
Michael Balter said…
I have not censored a single comment yet, but please do try to do better that just calling names, can you? (re the last comment.) I do take pride in the intellectual quality of this blog.
Anonymous said…
I am a survivor who followed you a while ago, with the intention of coming forward with my story regarding multiple assaults committed against me while I was an undergraduate student by one of my professors. However, having seen how you have conducted yourself against survivors, I am going to be finding someone else to work with. Your conduct is terrifying. The idea that getting under your skin would result in all of our private conversations being leaked is violating, and would cause distress so intense that I honestly wouldn't know what to do with myself. So many survivors are telling you that you are causing harm. If you genuinely see yourself as an ally, please, please listen, and take a step back.

You have said on multiple occasions that they are harming your credibility, but I formed my opinion based on your continued lashing out, disregard for good-faith critique, and now this - sharing details of someones assault. I don't care how wronged you've been, you made the active choice to share that with others without her consent. One transgression doesn't mean she gives up the right to privacy regarding a deeply personal, traumatic event.

I was so impressed by your past work, and I'm really disappointed with the turn you've taken. I don't know if you will believe me, because i'm just one anonymous comment, but I am genuinely sorry to say I'm going to have to be unfollowing and disengaging with your work, as your conduct has, quite frankly, been incredibly triggering.
PiedPauper said…
This is a question in the spirit of the "honest discussion" you requested. Isn't it possible that this obviously frightened woman made an error in recollection rather than "lying"? E.g., maybe she saw others complaining about you, remembered that you had requested "some documentation" (your words), knew that she had sent medical records to you and that little had happened since then, and just got mixed up?

And isn't it possible that she was upset that her husband went to some trouble to collect that documentation and email it to you on on April 28 (when you promised to "give all this some thought" and "look carefully at the emails by tomorrow"), but apart from a brief exchange on May 1 she still hadn't heard from you by July 20? (From the last page of the DM thread I don't think it's at all clear that the ball was now in her court.)

Given her state of mind, isn't it reasonable that when others started complaining about you (whether lying or not), she felt that you had abandoned her and then sided with the others? If so, is that really "lying?"

Finally, rather than your extremely agressive threats, wouldn't it have made more sense to calmly admit that you were busy and had let her down a bit, understood why she was mad, and offered to try and make it up to her rather than viciously attack her publicly? You apparently did have access to her DM, and clearly you could have chosen a less belligerent approach.
Michael Balter said…
This last comment demonstrates a significant lack of knowledge of the timeline of her lies and the background to them. But I let it through anyway.
PiedPauper said…
Can't you at least explain the error(s)? I thought you asked for "honest discussion".
Michael Balter said…
What I would do first is go back over this person's Twitter timeline, at least as far back as July, to see when she first started telling these lies, who she told them to, and who amplified them. Oh, and don't forget to ask them why they lied, because your theory could be wrong but you will never know if you don't ask her. So far no one I have suggested that to has done it. As I said, this is a situation that separates the honest from the dishonest.
Anonymous said…
Amazing how many of the "Anonymous"posts supporting Balter use a writing style remarkably similar to his own...

Equally amazing how many have the same writing style as this nutcase. Like we say in Texas... the smeller's the feller.

I understand exactly what Balter is doing because I have been in situations in which I have been told not to respond or to "rise above it" as if an explanation makes one appear low or demeaning. However, everytime I have let it go, it has come right back around and blind sided me and then continued to be shuffled around the rumour mill.

Balter is doing the right thing in explaining this. The only way to counter this kind of weird behavior is to put people who are lying right in a spot light. If they are telling the truth they will explain themselves. If they are not they shuffle off into the shadows.

I am glad to read this material and I am shocked at what kind of garbage Balter has to deal with in these responses. Many of the negative responses read like they were written by teenagers.
It's actually quite abusive to falsely accuse a journalist of coercive behavior on a public platform.
Anonymous said…
I am not any of the "anonymous" persons above. I am not Michael Balter. I am not in academia. I would normally post under my real name, but like a lot of other people have said, above, I am posting anonymously because I don't have time anymore to deal with the twitter mobbing, sub-tweeting, spying, virtue signalling and doxing that so many in academia are using to elevate their profiles.

The assertions in this recent tweet that Michael has posted above, of a person saying they unfollowed Michael Balter on twitter, are:

1. Michael Balter lied to her about helping her
2. Michael Balter followed her "former rapist & stalker on twitter"
3. Michael Balter sent messages asking for confidential paperwork and hospital reports in order to prove she wasn't lying

Regarding these statements:

1. is clearly false. As anyone who has every tried to file a harassment or assault report knows, it can take years to fully investigate a harassment claim of this nature. And it takes a lot of evidence to get anywhere. Sounds like, after her initial DM communication with Balter on April 26th and 27th, 2020, she dropped the communication and did not forward sufficient evidence to Balter for him to report the story. So Balter had nothing to move forward with.

2. is irrelevant. When asked about why Michael was following the twitter account of her "former rapist&stalker" Balter responded within ten minutes and said "I'm keeping an eye on him." If she didn't like that, she could have said that she would prefer that Balter not follow this person. But she didn't.

3. is false. The person volunteered emails to Balter. Balter looked at the emails and asked for further "documentation" to provide context for the original assault that the person was reporting. (note: Balter is a reporter, so he does actually have to report based on evidence.) The person said there was a police report and medical records. Michael did not pressure her for this information. He said he would look further at the emails that she had voluntarily sent him. She then volunteered, unprompted, to share her "file" with Balter, but then said that she had to talk to her lawyer about sharing her "file". Balter said "no problem". So Balter never asked for medical records, never used the words "prove to", and was supportive and kind to this person throughout.

So, basically, the accusation of this person against Balter are totally false. She is a pathological liar. There is no ambiguity here. I think Balter has a clear cut case of defamation against this person, were he to chose to pursue that.

The pile on in the above comments and the continuous lying, mobbing and bullshit on twitter is really shocking. What for? So people can find an unwitting victim to elevate their twitter profile? Pathethic.

Don't be surprise when no one wants to report on harassment anymore.
Anonymous said…
To anonymous September 17, 2020 at 6:31 PM:
I am truly sorry to read about the assaults by your professor, and hope you are at least still following this blog to read about my experience. I came to Balter after no one else would listen or help. Not in my department, not in the administration, not in the press. Michael’s conduct in our exchange was similar to the one posted above: patient, supportive, helpful. You may also notice that he was careful not to share the details of the survivor, not even when she had already shared those details herself on twitter (I actually happen to know who she is for some time now.) I also feel that by defending his credibility, he is also defending mine. For these reasons and others, I believe him when he starts this post with “I really wish I didn't have to do this.” But then again, he helped me so I am biased.
With or without Balter, I wish you best of luck in finding justice. We have to make sure that those who try to silence victims won’t win.
PiedPauper said…
To Anonymous 17 Sep at 8.48pm:

I think it is entirely possible that your evaluation of points 1-3 is correct. However, based on conversations I've had with others who are are directly involved, I think it's entirely possible that things are much more complicated than you say, and even possible that you're wrong.

It's important to explore this further, as I do appreciate the hard work Balter has done in his efforts to expose some really bad people. I also think the decision to go after the person we're talking about in the way he did was a mistake. Both can be true, and it's hard for me to see why Balter can't continue to do important work without intentionally harming people who disagree with his methods.

But why do you feel the need to call her a "pathological liar?" Maybe she just got caught up in the moment and made a mistake, as I suggested might be possible in my comment above. Both Balter and she believe the DM thread supports their positions. I think the right take on this for others is that it's indeed ambiguous. "Pathological lying" describes behavior that is chronic or habitual. You have no evidence that this is the case, and your accusation discredits your objectivity.

So does your claim that people "piling on" are just trying to "elevate their twitter profile." What basis do you have for this? These people are passionate and believe that Balter has gone too far, but I don't see that as a reason to impugn their motives.

Your last sentence is perplexing. If anything, the support these victims are receiving on Twitter and here should encourage, rather than discourage, their willingness to report. Heated, unnecessary reactions from journalists who are angry at them (legitimately or otherwise) will only dishearten them.
Anonymous said…
From my #MeTooAcademia experience, criticizers of this and other investigative journalists typically share these four characteristic faults:

1) They zero in on the actions of reporters, and are silent on those of the abusers and predators. Academia is a small and retaliatory world, so this is a safer strategy to promote oneself as defender of injustice.
2) They habitually ignore the (obvious) fact that it is not the journalist who report the abuse, but rather the survivors. Attacking the journalists simply translate to attacking the survivors.
3) When survivors do appear on criticizers’ radars, it is typically those who had negative experiences with reporters rather than those who had positive ones. In Balter’s case, I believe that the latter significantly outnumber the former.
4) Even if certain qualms may be justified, carpers almost never offer better alternatives to fill the reporting vacuum they are trying to create. They surely never offer themselves as an outlet, and they certainly won’t offer their institutions because they know full well that most survivors will be ignored or humiliated. They just know that they want the journalists to stop reporting.

The result? Less reporting outlets for survivors; victims are discouraged to report to those few who would still listen; and predators are free to move on to their next target.
Anonymous said…
@anonymous September 17, 2020 at 9:45 PM

I am @anonymous September 17, 2020 at 8:48 PM

So . . .

Let's talk about your circuitous comments (September 17, 2020 at 9:45 PM).

You say "based on conversations I've had with others who are directly involved, I think it's entirely possible that things are much more complicated than you say, and even possible that you're wrong."

If there is some other piece of information relevant to Michael's communication with this person, then by all means, provide that information. But you can't go around saying that things are "more complicated" and that I'm "wrong" base on some private DM whisper network you're involved with.

"Balter can't continue to do important work without intentionally harming people who disagree with his methods."

Anyone who didn't like Michael's request for evidence could have told him that they weren't prepared to fully provide evidence. This happens all the time. In fact, by far, this is what happens with harassment cases. They is not enough evidence and they don't get reported. There is no money in reporting harassment cases for news organizations. And as anyone knows who does report occasionally on harassment, news organizations and reporters take on huge risk when they do report these stories. So why, in particular, is Michael Balter being tarred and feathered here, when so many other organizations won't even touch harassment stories?

"But why do you feel the need to call her a "pathological liar?" Maybe she just got caught up in the moment and made a mistake"

Nobody goes around saying that a reporter "lied" or forced a person to provide evidence to "prove" a rape, when, in fact, that never happened. You are intentionally trying to create confusion here. If you are in academia, or responsible for anyone, you should just remove yourself. To me, what you are doing here is intentionally misleading and harmful.

"These people are passionate and believe that Balter has gone too far, but I don't see that as a reason to impugn their motives."

Impugn: did you learn that when you were studying for the SAT?

It's one thing to be passionate. It's another thing to deliberately avoid the facts and hurt someone, based on likely selfish motives, collusion and a network of self protection and dishonesty.

"Your last sentence is perplexing. If anything, the support these victims are receiving on Twitter and here should encourage, rather than discourage, their willingness to report. Heated, unnecessary reactions from journalists who are angry at them (legitimately or otherwise) will only dishearten them."

Victims of harassment and not supported by liars, even if some of the liars are also victims of harassment. Liars and liars.

Michael Balter doesn't seem particularly angry to me. There is no obligation on the part of any journalist who is being libeled to defend the person who is committing libel. A journalist is entitled to defend themselves against libel. The evidence above is clear: the DMs above indicate that the woman who contacted Michael Balter and communicated with him by DMs in the week of April 26th is committing libel. If there is other evidence, as is implied in your comments, that other evidence would be disclosed in a legal discovery process. Keep that in mind. Courts don't deal with hearsay. They only consider properly introduced and accepted evidence. So if there is other evidence that would indicate that the situation is "much more complicated" than is indicated in the above DMs, then please disclose it. But do not ruminate in your private DM twitter network and then come here and cry about it.
None of this is good said…
I had a whole long comment written initially. Because I also read through the messages at first and found the student to have been mischaracterizing things uncharitably (based on what we know now and this portion of their message thread) and understood a bit of Balter's point even though we've disagreed before. But it really bothered me that he released her private messages to him.

And then I took a closer look at the specifics in those messages. And thought about the little details in there that probably she hasn't shared publicly yet. And I realized that I could find out the identity of her rapist because Balter hadn't redacted enough stuff in those messages.

This was a terrible call. You should not have exposed these messages. At all, but especially not with this shitty redaction. There's a separate conversation to be had, about why some people on #scicomm/archaeology twitter seem to thrive on intentionally misrepresenting people and looking for windmills to tilt at. I agree with a lot of what's said here in this conversation about Twitter allegations and mischaracterizations. This conversation should not be happening on a pile of personal communications about a situation we should not have these insights into. And I cosign what PiedPauper says in their comments.
Anonymous said…
@September 17, 2020 at 10:44 PM

Balter never promised this person that he would maintain confidentiality on the DMs, only on the email. And Balter has maintained confidentiality on the email. He probably would have maintained confidentiality on the DMs as well, but that agreement was likely contravened once the false accusations occured.

As to the so called shitty redaction of the DMs, I did look at this briefly, and was not able to figure out the identity of anyone.

So, perhaps those in the #scicomm/archaeology twitter whisper network can figure this out, but the rest of us probably cannot.
Anonymous said…
1) A few twitter mob types attack Balter personally.
2) Balter defends himself.
3) The few twitter mob types attack Balter for making things about himself!

The twitter mob should be ashamed of themselves. By attacking Balter you are directly aiding those who commit sexual assaults. Keep up the good fight Michael. Don't let the twitter mob put you off.
Anonymous said…
This is not Balter writing. He has a proven track record of doing the most complex job properly. No need to pick on him. By doing so, you are disadvantaging future suffers who will benefit from his support. He does all the work for free and some people still try to stuff things up. Others like @tinysapiens are just unreasonable people - just ignore them.
None of this is good said…
The Anonymous comment at 10:44pm said..."As to the so called shitty redaction of the DMs, I did look at this briefly, and was not able to figure out the identity of anyone. So, perhaps those in the #scicomm/archaeology twitter whisper network can figure this out, but the rest of us probably cannot."

I am someone without any special knowledge of the situation, who was not aware of this allegation via Twitter at all, and I am not privy to any details other than what is in the screenshots. I am fairly adept at Googling. I was able to find the name of the student's rapist based on what is in those screenshots in less than five minutes. I then was able to confirm I was right by doing a bit more online searching. I'm not going to get more specific because I'd rather not make it easier for other people to find it. Balter is approving comments like yours and mine, but hasn't removed the screenshots to (at a bare minimum) redact all the information that is in them. I think that is a mistake.
Anonymous said…
Michael,

You should delete your conversation with this survivor.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

Even if you were lied about publicly, you should not be disclosing a private conversation with a survivor. Even if many of the details of the conversation were made public elsewhere, you should not be disclosing the conversation.

Step back and think about this situation from the point of view of a future survivor or witness.

You publishing the private conversation shows that you are willing, under various circumstances, to publish a private conversation told to you in confidence. That alone means if I was a survivor or witness or advising such an individual, I would not come to you. I would prefer to trust someone who will not reveal details given in confidence, even if I changed my mind later or our relationship soured into a public feud.

Maybe people did lie about you in public. But TWO WRONGS DOES NOT MAKE A RIGHT.

My advice is that you should delete the published conversation and sit on this event for some time. If you truly want to continue reporting on #MeToo in archaeology you should think about how to rebuild trust.

Sincerely,
An Anonymous Archaeologist
Anonymous said…
dear god it is so clear that most of these anon posts are BM himself. the choice of words, the style of writing, it's incredibly recognizable. i have never seen any other journalists who report on these issues behave in this way. i've always been grossed out that MB has self-styled himself as a "me too reporter." that should be the first red flag. if i were reporting on a community that repeatedly told me "please stop, you're doing more harm than good" i would really reevaluate my place in this realm! not double down and tell women that they're confused and crazy. this is all so sad.
Michael Balter said…
It is now just after 5 am East Coast time, the morning after I first posted this report. There are 54 comments at the moment. I have not censored any comment, but allowed them all through, even gratuitous personal attacks (fortunately those died down after a while and somewhat more serious comments dominated.)

I said at the outset that this blog post would separate the honest from the dishonest. I still maintain that.

I'd like everyone to look again at the Tweets from July and September by this survivor that led me to respond to her with this blog post (see above.) They are not redacted. The survivor used her real identity to tell very clear and blatant lies about my conversations with her. She referred to her having been raped and stalked.

Those Tweets from July and September were liked and RTd widely, including by at least one well known person in the #MeTooSTEM movement who has also lied repeatedly about me.

Yesterday, when I DM'd the survivor to tell her what I planned to do, and asked her to retract her lies, she went public again with what she said were my "threats."


Despite the fact that this person has gone public and identified herself for the express purpose of telling lies about our interactions, which waives any right to anonymity she might have originally had, I have protected her identity of on my end. I redacted her name throughout, and other identifying information (if the name of her rapist can be detected, as one commenter said above, then that is just too bad for her rapist, who is not owed anonymity, as is standard journalistic practice.)

This means that all of the accusations above, and on Twitter, are off base, because they refuse to discuss or engage with this basic fact of the matter. I won't be deleting this blog post and I stand by my actions, which were intended to protect not just my reputation but that of the many survivors who have put their trust in me and whose stories were told either on this blog, in Science, or in The Verge.
Anonymous said…
It’s sad when Balter’s critics have nothing but name calling, calling for mobbing, saying supportive or even just pointing out she obviously lied comments as Balter himself, and demonstrations of willfully bad reading comprehension. Even though the person who lied never asked for confidentiality nor was granted confidentiality on the DMs, Balter still graciously granted her confidentiality by redacting her name and other identifying details. If you can figure out her rapist, why are you bashing Balter? She was telling people to report the rapists’ twitter account back in April and May! She also shared his private DM and framed it as a threat so that people would react to her white woman tears ploy and refuse to consider the evidence when it did come out. He was clearly giving her a chance to clear the record before putting up proof of her fundamental and severely damaging untruths. What I see is a very Trumpian disregard for truth. Because Balter is your sworn enemy, somehow it’s ok to lie about him, assassinate his character publicly and privately, mobbing him for him daring to defend himself, accusing of him of DARVO when you are the ones doing it, and running roughshod over the trauma of the survivors who have put their trust in him. Disgusting and I am taking notes on whom to trust or not trust for the future.
Anonymous said…
I am deeply disturbed that Balter has revealed this private conversation. It is horrifying.

I agree that the other person involved in the posted coversation did indeed later mischaracterize Balter in a potentially damaging way in a tweet.

BUT I would suggest that this (risk of mischaracterization of action and motives) is a professional journalistic risk incumbent in reporting on vulnerable people who have experienced trauma and assault. Yes, someone tweeted something untrue about him and his approaches as a journalist. Balter needs to have a hard enough shell to shrug it off, and correctly explain that it is not true and he has the receipts, but he can't show them because he is not going to reveal sensitive comments by a survivor seeking his help in pain and confidence. Similar to how a doctor or lawyer or manager might havd to weather public comments that aren't true without revealing sensitive information that might exonerate them, at least until it reaches the formal confines of a legal or other administrative matter, where it is resolved with appropriate protections to the parties involved.

Balter should take down the sensitive DMs, apologize to all of us, even the people that have lied about him and caused him such pain online, and be the hardened reporter he aspires to be-- protecting all sexual assault informants who come to him whether they make problematic or damaging tweets or not. The principal that you are always entitled to defend yourself was taken too far by Balter in this case. Twitter daily is wracked by millions of false comments that can't show receipts-- it is one of the costs of being on the platform.
Anonymous said…
Seriously you people, arguing it’s ok to be lied about even when it affects your job and the trust you have with sources? You are not allowed to defend yourself just because you are an unpopular old white man? He kept confidentiality, she did not and outed to the whole world this post is about her.
Michael Balter said…
In response to the last comment.


First, this individual outed herself repeatedly, using her real name and referring to a rape and stalking, for the sole purpose of lying about the reporter who tried to help her. So she waived any confidentiality rights by doing that. An inconvenient truth that does not fit the narratives many want to fashion out of this sad episode.

If this was just about me, I might suck it up as the commenter suggested, say she was lying (which many here would not believe), and move on. But it’s not about me, It’s about the many survivors who have put their trust in me over the past five years, and the many survivors who might want to do so in the future. Very few publications and reporters publish allegations of abuse that have not first been investigated and found to be true by the institutions involved. I don’t follow that rule, which means I have something to offer to survivors that Is difficult to find elsewhere. That is why so many ask for my help. And that is why I fight ferociously against any lies that might disrupt that trust.
Michael Balter said…
By the way, for those just joining the conversation:

I have asked repeatedly for someone to ask this person why she lied about her interactions with me and then report back. None of the critics seem to want to do that, or even think it is important why she lied. That’s disingenuous, in my view, because it fails to engage with the points I am trying to make, which I have a perfect right to make in my defense. It’s just basic fairness.
Margaret Beck said…
I am Margaret Beck, obviously writing in a personal capacity, but I am an archaeologist at the University of Iowa (and former Director of Undergraduate Studies in Anthropology). I have previously appreciated your reporting as I mentor undergraduates interested in graduate school and graduate students interested in jobs.

You absolutely should not have published this private correspondence. This is not an ugly celebrity divorce--you are working with survivors. This was morally wrong. I cannot imagine a survivor contacting you in the future after this.

Anonymous said…
Replying to Anonymous at 8:10 am who said this: "Balter needs to have a hard enough shell to shrug it off, and correctly explain that it is not true and he has the receipts, but he can't show them because he is not going to reveal sensitive comments by a survivor seeking his help in pain and confidence."

Balter did explain it wasn't true and he has the receipts. He tweeted that anyone could DM him for more information or to ask him questions. I don't know what kind of DMs he might have gotten (maybe he could comment here), but as someone who observes these conversations on Twitter what I did see was people stating--without proof--that he was lying about having receipts.

Balter usually waits a long while to out major lies about him. He sat on his hands about Ilana's lies for months. He doesn't react emotionally to these campaigns to discredit his reporting. He only acts when he has no other option. And when he does act, it's out of protection for those survivors he is helping.
Anonymous said…
Pretty disturbing how many people think it's okay to lie and that someone doesn't have the right to correct a lie. This is basic human decency.
Michael Balter said…
In response to the last comment: I did get a few DMs, and tried to explain the situation. Not sure how much it helped with understanding.

To the colleague from the University of Iowa, I can only repeat what I keep saying:

This individual outed herself repeatedly, using her real name for the SOLE purpose of lying about her interactions with the reporter who tried to help her. I can't put it any clearer than that.

Since no one has taken up my request to ask her why she lied, perhaps soon I will offer some speculations about it myself.
Michael Balter said…
While we are talking about survivors.

At some point something needs to be said about the way that survivors are regarded in the academic community. They are crowned with a certain kind of sainthood, and treated as delicate flowers, rather than as people who are capable of fighting for their own justice and that of others. And it's just when they see the chance to do this that "victims" transition to becoming "survivors" and even fighters. The mob often wants to keep the survivors in a subdued, hidden, and overly protected position so they can be exploited for cookies and virtue signaling. We are seeing a lot of that with this particular episode.
PiedPauper said…
To Anonymous 17 Sep 10:44 PM:

You asked:
"Impugn: did you learn that when you were studying for the SAT?"

I guess it's possible, but I don't remember, because I took my SAT 48 years ago.

"Impugn" is a pretty commonly used word. It's clear you don't want to have a meaningful discussion, so I won't bother responding to the rest of your comment.
Michael Balter said…
Up to now I have not censored or deleted a single comment, but I will probably start doing so soon with comments I don't think are contributing to the discussion, like this last one. That does not mean I will censor comments that are critical of me, and believe me there are plenty above. So please try to be relevant, to the point, and thoughtful, with no name calling, because I don't want to try the patience of this blog's followers. Thank you.
Anonymous said…
“Anonymous said...
Amazing how many of the "Anonymous"posts [sic] supporting Balter use a writing style remarkably similar to his own...”

“Anonymous said...
dear [sic] god [sic] it is so clear that most of these anon posts are BM [sic] himself. the [sic] choice of words, the style of writing, it's incredibly recognizable.”

Similar writing style – as in – both Balter and the supporting commenters know how to punctuate, use spaces between words, and capitalize at start of sentence? Then by all means yes, it is similar. The fact that all of us took English grammar in elementary school doesn’t make us the same person.
More to the point, I am still shocked that some would find it hard to believe that there are dozens of real people out there who were helped by Balter, and therefore have first-hand knowledge of how he really treats survivors. That some, or perhaps even most of us would comment here anonymously is only to be expected. If you dismiss me and all others as fakes, then you are really no better than our abusers.
Anonymous said…
I've tried a few times to post unsuccessfully to posts on this blog despite fairly positive comments. I'm trying again but more elaborate!

I am not an archaeologist but a STEM ECR, who has suffered from numerous wrongdoings in academia. I agree with Balter's statement that academics provide some sort of sainthoods to victims and pile on ‘attackers'. I often confront academics for some of the most egregious (illegal) behaviours and academic misconduct. I'm constantly surprised as how 'warped' their views are, it’s like they live in a warped sense of reality. Some even use the excuse, well that women has been 'wronged' by a toxic advisor (so have I), therefore I should not report them for they disgusting misconduct.

The woman above did 'out herself’ and is easily identifiable on twitter. I'm in the process of legal action with an organisation who think they are above the law, but I can't imagine what good would come of screaming online 'look how they screwed me over'. There's due process. Sometimes it fails, but due process should be attempted first. I really hate whisper networks. Senior academics throw sticks in junior wheels with their posse, and the junior do it too. I’ve been screwed over by trainees who blatantly lied and played victim, and the other way around. This is why, I prefer the proof and formal channel first approach via a 3rd party (not tied to the university).

Now, what I see:
1. Speculate: A woman is unhappy/disgruntled about how a journalist has handled (i.e. did nothing?) with the personal/vulnerable info she confided (willingly) to him.
* Judging: I personally would have called the police had I been harassed by a known rapist. That’s what I’ve done in the past. Not sure why academics need to run to advocacy groups run by STEM researchers (e.g. BA) and journalists BEFORE the police (FBI).
2. She shared information with Balter, and he kept it to himself for a few months(?) as he pursued other stories(?). She started lying for reasons only she knows, and she’ll never explain herself. She's blown out Balter’s confrontation out of the water by using the victim shield — upsets me really. The confrontation could have been done much differently (see below).
3. Balter confronted her, and threaten to release the information shared to prove she’s lying because as a journalist he didn’t promise confidentiality. Perhaps academics should research journalism practices and their code of ethics.

Unfortunately, I would have not taken Balter’s approach in posting their exchanges online even IF the mob are spreading rumours. It’s damaging what they are doing, I know from experience. But lies do eventually blow up in the liars face.

I would (a) have confronted said woman with a PDF of their exchanges. Asked where exactly did Balter demand confidential information and harassed her, etc. Put the onerous on her. Then I would have reminded her (in private) of defamation laws, journalistic practices (no confidentiality), and perhaps stated that now he may well have to share those messages in his current lawsuit to counter-act the reputation attack. Let her wallow in her frustrations while protecting yourself legally.

What Balter is doing now damages his reputation and trust. As hard as it may be to endure people’s lies, these can be counter-acted by doing really good work i.e, getting the scum bags what they deserve. I’d focus on that at the moment, and let the mob make noises. Going on the ‘you lied’ witch hunts when you have the information that proves should suffice for a humble man who wants to do good. You cannot control other’s action, and if it’s actionable by law.. then try that first. Then post it online...
Michael Balter said…
I’m sorry the previous commenter had problems posting to this blog. This one is definitely there
None of this is good said…
The last time I'll comment on this post which makes my skin crawl at this point.

1. I think Balter is behaving in really concerning ways here by providing these comments. I've discussed why in my previous comments.

2. Assuming there’s not other context (we only have Balter's perspective here), the student is uncharitable about him not helping. I don't see anything in here where she's asking him for something concrete and he's saying yes and then not doing it. Her allegations that he's lying could be because he's bragged to someone else that he was helping her and she felt all that had happened was that she gave him info and nothing happened. I can totally see Balter exaggerating his role.

3. Assuming there are no other places where Balter exerted pressure or asked things of the student, the student also mischaracterized him as being pushy and requesting things unwanted, when she offered first. She may well have regretted sending them to him after she did. I imagine they are an exposing set of documents to give up control over. But that to me is still a problem.

4. Twitter is a very low informational quality environment where it’s very hard to accurately assess the credibility of lying allegations like this. Some accounts are fake, and some people are real but spinning up arguments, screenshotting, blocking, and then selectively sharing where the other person can’t see it. There are reputational and social benefits (often temporary a la BethAnn) to becoming a lightning rod for controversy and to express outrage and pain at something. And unfortunately that's also what makes Twitter a really important place for survivors to be able to share their stories. Because they can get the word out quickly, and then there can often be a realization that a person has a pattern of abuse.

5. Twitter is also a place where conversations can devolve into complete shit because there are characters where the most outraged person is automatically the most right, and who won't stop arguing in a thread until the person whose comment they jumped on has put their hands in the air and admitted that they are hugely problematic, privileged, racist, sexist, wrong, whatever. And this is regardless of political persuasion -- many of the people who are jumping on things are not inherently more radical or more progressive than the people getting piled on. To be frank in a way I can't be on Twitter, some of the people who act like this are people who seem to me to have either significant morality issues or have personality disorders to an extent that it makes me concerned about engaging with them. A few of the people involved in this brouhaha (not the person who is the subject of this post) are a bit like that. I'm sure Balter is a really excellent punching bag for them, because both sides are escalating this and keeping this in the feed.

6. You can believe both that Balter may have been mischaracterized and believe that he's lost any credibility or trust as a #MeToo journalist. I wouldn't disclose anything to him if I had a story. Not only because of this example of exposing text messages the person hadn't agreed to, but also for his unwillingness to do much introspection and personal work around what acceptable amounts of damage he feels free to cause the reputations of survivors, and for his general approach to critics, and for his responses to this situation which frankly verge on paranoia. However, having seen some of the interactions at play previously, I do also have a sense for how crazymaking some of this stuff is.

Again, none of this is good, and Balter should reconsider whatever big piece he's planning on "the origin of these lies," pull the screenshots, apologize, reconsider how/if he engages on Twitter, and do some personal therapy on these topics and whether he should be telling these stories given his decisions here. And if he does continue, focus on stories that he's less personally involved in.
Michael Balter said…
So I have approved this last comment which at least show some thought processes, even if it’s critical of me. I deleted a comment inviting people to dox and harass my lawyers in the Kurin case.
Anonymous said…
Dear archeologist Margaret Beck-
I appreciate you writing here under your name. As a survivor I don’t have this luxury, so will remain anonymous. As a survivor, I also resent your discouragement of others from contacting Balter, yet without offering a viable alternative. As a University of Iowa employee, you are probably aware of UI’s long history of ignoring, blindsiding, and victim-blaming survivors of sexual harassment and assault on campus. Some victims only recently settled their cases years after the events, while others are still waiting:
https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/higher-education/lawsuits-allege-university-of-iowa-mishandled-sexual-assault-harassment-complaints-20171017
https://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/2019/11/06/former-ui-student-settles-university-over-sexual-harassment-claim/2507619001/
https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/university-of-iowa-graduate-student-ruth-bryant-who-said-state-botched-her-sexual-harassment-claim-to-receive-payment-20191104

This is precisely why we go to Balter. It may not be perfect or works for everyone, but at least it works. If you are still in a capacity to advise students, then I really hope you at least present them with a better option than to approach UI’s title IX office. Thanks for reading.
Re: the above comment from Mr. Balter, “While we are talking about survivors.”

First, I agree that many outspoken academics need to reconsider how they regard #MeToo survivors. Speaking as a survivor and anonymous source in a different context (ex: https://www.thedailybeast.com/homeschooled-kids-now-grown-blog-against-the-past; https://prospect.org/civil-rights/homeschool-apostates-d2/), survivors do carry power and, as a result, do have responsibilities when they work with reporters or speak on public platforms.

Yes, survivors of trauma can be re-traumatized by direct (threatening) or indirect (triggering) events. Fielding questions from a reporter - or, perhaps in the case of Mr. Balter’s complainants, experiencing regret of reaching out or disappointment with the reporter’s response, lack of response, or characterization of specific aspects of the story - can indirectly trigger re-traumatization. This is the unfortunate reality of suffering from PTSD or other trauma-based stress disorders, and learning how to cope with triggers - which can include sights, sounds, and interpersonal conflicts routinely encountered in daily life - is for survivors essential to regaining daily function. It’s not fair, but it’s the hand of cards we’ve been dealt.

However, the vulnerability to be re-traumatized does not mean survivors are delicate flowers lacking agency, as Mr. Balter points out. The silver lining of trauma survivorship is that we can emerge from the necessary self-work with more resilience, empathy, confidence, and creativity in approach to life problems and relationships. Working to have our stories told - anonymously or not, whether or not the story leads to desired retribution - can be an empowering process. My own therapist of 12 years notes that my participating in an online survivor support group and working with reporters to tell our stories was a key turning point in my own recovery from a substantial trauma that was causing chronic disability.

Survivors can perform this necessary self-work in private and in public. When working with a therapist or other trusted confidential support, in private, the survivor has no responsibility to others. However, when working with reporters, leading to a public product, survivors have responsibility to maintain good faith honesty and transparency about facts and ability to recall facts. These responsibilities are particularly important when direct personal injury is involved and specific individuals are implicated. Acting in accordance with these responsibilities is key to maintaining integrity of the cause for justice.

This survivor clearly lied in bad faith about her interactions with this reporter. That is irresponsible, unethical, and can lead - fairly or unfairly - to others questioning this survivor’s or others survivors’ accounts. The survivor’s behavior is abusive and disturbing.

Second, I see in this scenario an interesting contrast in how anthropologists versus reporters view and work with sources. As anthropologists and archaeologists continue to work with journalists on #MeToo - and I hope they do, as academia is clearly unfit to internally handle these issues - academics need to acquire a solid understanding of basic journalistic practices. Neither ethnographic fieldwork nor journalism is my specialty; perhaps experts in each area could collaborate with advocacy organizations (e.g., The Fieldwork Initiative) on documentation that guides survivors in working with reporters. Such materials should particularly emphasize the differences between anthropological and journalistic sources, as in each context there seem to be distinct functional, ethical, and legal differences in how the source’s claims are considered and represented in the final writing project. Confusion about the role of sources will only serve to obfuscate the #MeToo movement in academia. Resolving this confusion could be one way to productively move this conversation forward and onward to better serve survivors’ needs and achieve the common goal of reducing abuse in higher education.
Anonymous said…
" Her allegations that he's lying could be because he's bragged to someone else that he was helping her and she felt all that had happened was that she gave him info and nothing happened. I can totally see Balter exaggerating his role." I don't see any evidence of this. Could you clarify? Did you hear it from someone? Can Balter say anything to this?

Thank you for a critical, but thoughtful, post. I don't agree with you, being someone who has seen how ethically consistent (too consistent for a lot of people) Balter has been, but I appreciate that you show more thought in your critique than 99% of his detractors who just have knee-jerk slogans.

If you think he's lost any credibility as a MeToo journalist for outing serious lies and trying to clear the record on the reputational damage that has happened for three years and is building to a crescendo, you are entitled to that opinion and to recommend to others that they don't go to Balter. I would ask everyone to refrain from shaming and judging people who have chosen to go to him and have had a positive experience. I see a lot of this on Twitter and Facebook, lots of playground bully type of thing, and it drives survivors who have gone to Balter nuts seeing their colleagues and sometimes even close friends engage in these asinine high school behaviors.
Anonymous said…
1) Balter is currently in the discovery phase of a crucial lawsuit. The only comments/advice on his actions in this particular case he should be considering are those of his lawyers. I hope he has sought their advice on how to respond to this sudden twitter attack.
2) The original post about unfollowing Balter is interestingly timed. Months went by between messages (if the DMs posted are the extent of the correspondence). The tweet seems out of the blue. What happened to make her so upset at BALTER and so vocal about her past? Recall that she used the words "rape"
3) I have been in touch with Balter about my own experience with academic sexual harassment. He did not ask for personal/sexual details about my experience nor did I provide them. Instead, he did the job of an investigative journalist and pursued documentation/evidence before reporting anything. The woman willingly gave him details unsolicited. By the way, much of the sexual/personal content of those details he shares in the DMs are no different than what she shared in her tweets (words like "rape" "stalker", etc.). What the exposure of the DMs DOES show is that Balter repeatedly pushed her to go to the authorities. If she had actually reported the stalking to the FBI or police then there would be an actionable record that would be useful to both her and to Balter. Instead, Balter published a correspondence that allows the public to identify the rapist/stalker and does nothing but upset people, including the potentially dangerous rapist/stalker. The victim/survivor is easily identifiable without the printing of the DMs. If she didn't want to draw attention to her rape, why suddenly post those tweets?
4) As a victim/survivor of rape, academic sexual harassment, academic bullying, and the everyday harassment that women face, I understand the #MeToo movement to be one of standing up and proclaiming how common this is. I am not ashamed, because none of that was/is my fault. So if I stand up and say "Me Too, I was raped, harassed, etc." and then someone quotes me on that, well I shouldn't be embarrassed or offended or outraged. Remember, SHE asked for help. SHE publicized her pain. It is her right to do so, and it is her power to do so, because #MeToo is about no longer hiding, it's about solidarity, it's about strength. So why the sudden redirection of blame?
Michael Balter said…
Thanks to the previous commenter.

I’ve been asking people to ask the survivor why she lied about her interactions with me. No one has done it as far as I know, and I doubt that anyone will. I have my own hunches about it, which of course are just guesses, but there is some evidence for them.

I think the survivor saw that there was Twitter mobbing of me going on, and she wanted to be part of it. After all, that is why Twitter mobbing works in the first place, for the same reason that in the old days (and sometimes even today) townspeople used to set off after accused witches with torches and the like. Members of Twitter mobs, especially academics, often think they are acting as clearly thinking individuals, but actually they are participating in a mass action which is much more emotional than cerebral. And of course there has to be a designated scapegoat.

So in this hunch, the survivor saw the mob in action, realized that she had her own experience with me, and perhaps even quickly forgot what that experience had actually been. I find it hard to believe that she was actually harboring resentment that I had not been able to help her further, because it was actually her next move to get in touch with documents from her lawyer.

But, if someone talks to the survivor and asks her why she lied, perhaps they can prove me wrong. I am most interested in knowing the truth.

Several colleagues from my past career in archaeology have written to me, as someone who has publicly voiced support for Mr. Balter’s work, asking my opinion whether or not Mr. Balter should have posted this redacted private exchange. It does appear to cross a line for some, and everyone is allowed to their own opinion. I’ll provide my answer here, publicly, rather than just in back-and-forth private messages.

I don’t have a problem with it. I personally would not take the approach of engaging so extensively on Twitter, and I don’t see myself posting a private exchange in effort to defend my reputation - but, then again, I am not journalist, I do not have a particularly outward-facing career, and I am not a senior professional with a lengthy career under my belt, currently performing pro bono work for which social media and a solid reputation is essential to performing the work. Absent any outstanding ethical issues, I can’t really be the judge of what he should or shouldn’t do.

I do not see any outstanding ethical issues with Mr. Balter posting this redacted exchange, and noting the false accusations, because (1) he did not appear to guarantee confidentiality to the survivor (nor did she request it?), (2) the survivor already made their trauma public, indeed a part of their professional persona, (3) the survivor first breached their relationship trust with these public false accusations, and (4) the incident is of interest beyond merely clearing his reputation.

Mr. Balter is a reporter, reporting on #MeToo issues in academia, and this falls within that scope. His work often includes issues broader than isolated incidents of sexual misconduct - his reporting frequently points to systemic cover-ups, inaction, and retaliation. In other words, a deeply embedded culture of indifference toward sexual misconduct and even hostility towards vocal survivors of sexual misconduct - and toward supporters of these survivors. Part of this culture is clearly enacted by academics on Twitter, in the form of gatekeeping around who is allowed to participate in #MeToo activism, and what exactly that activism should look like.

In this case, a survivor who reached out to Mr. Balter for help is now airing very serious allegations on a public platform. His redacted screen caps provide evidence that these allegations are false. It is completely fair, as a reporter, for him to show that this incident has happened, and to question or even speculate the motives of the survivor, and how these motives may relate to broader systemic issues in academia. Indeed, I am following this story as someone who ponders how structural change could be enacted to reduce abuse in higher education. This is of interest to me, and, as always, I appreciate the reporting.
Anonymous said…
I’d like to support the previous commentator on Dr. Beck’s truncated response. I was surprised to read that as a calculated academic, she was all too willing to entirely drop her earlier support of Balter based on a very partial understanding of this one case (read the whole thread…). Worse still, as a public servant it is utterly irresponsible if not dangerous of her to widely denounce this vital resource for victims. I invite Dr. Beck to repost here with an advice to the many students who follow this blog on where they should report to instead.
Anonymous said…
I've learned so much in the past week about how to be a hero on social media! First, look for something everyone is suddenly outraged about. In this case, it's Balter again acting "like a bully and the worst of the worst" meme. Then if I have ever had any interaction with him, throw my hat in the ring and also a few lies, and the more outrageous, the more people will believe them! For example, "Balter victimized me too! He made me feel unsafe when he threatened to report on my abusive treatment of my kittens, whom I dearly love, if I did not speak to him about an alleged abuser! How could he defame me and use the kittens, not the kittens!" Everybody is then indignant on my behalf and retweets the hell out of my tweet. I also DM and tweet at well-known people and organizations asking for moral support because I am TERRIFIED of this bogeyman Balter. He really is the WORST. Riffraff! Street rat! Scoundrel!

I don't have to worry about Balter coming out with receipts to prove I did not tell the truth, of course, because I know that people rarely go back on their original voicing of support. That would make these proud academics look like fools; can't have that! If Balter says, "What are you talking about? I never threatened your kittens or coerced you into giving any information!" All I have to do is promote the narrative that my feelings are the truth, not the truth itself. If I felt threatened, that's all that matters, even if he did not threaten my kittens or blackmail me. The narrative is true, even if the facts aren't, and that's all that matters, amirite?

If Balter has the audacity to actually produce the said receipts, I keep crying that I'm Balter's victim and because people hate Balter so much, they will support me and maybe even help me get a job in this tough market. They think any enemy of Balter is their friend, and must be protected and promoted at all costs, even if it makes the movement look like it's being run by dishonest narcissists.

It's so convenient that someone published a how-to recently to do exactly how to achieve success in academia in such a tight job market! https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/struggling-exercise-upward-toxicity-try-toxic-hypocrisy
Anonymous said…
I have had extensive dealings with Michael Balter over another case, and while I don't always care for his approach or his journalistic tone, overall I have the deepest respect for his meticulous work exposing horrific behavior in academia by serial offenders.

The impact of his work is felt around the world, because he provides an outlet for those of us who otherwise feel powerless to tell truths that others want to suppress.

I've seen the Twitter mobbing behavior for myself about this particular case, and for a while just observed and thought there was probably two sides to the story. But the pile-on seemed to be the same few people saying the same few things and just talking to themselves. I have not engaged with it on Twitter because I don't want to get sucked into that vortex myself. But I now feel the need to defend and support Michael here (sorry it's anonymous support, but I don't need any trolls in my life - I know you can block them, but that doesn't stop them from continuing to talk about you and damaging your reputation).

Really cannot blame a person for defending their professional reputation when they are being piled on based on inaccurate information, and the conversation thread shared above shows just how divorced from the truth the Twitter narrative is. Whatever anybody thinks about posting a DM thread with a victim of sexual assault, what would any of us do in the same situation, if we are honest with ourselves?

A word to anyone thinking of approaching Michael or any other journalist - trust is a two-way street, so tell the truth. Be clear in advance about whether you are talking on or off the record, and realise that you're dealing with a human being who is as flawed as you are and that you are not in control of. I trusted Michael, and deeply appreciate that he believed me about events where nobody else did (and lots still don't, because one of the perpetrators is a Nice Person). Michael isn't perfect, none of us are. But he has done more for victims of academic abuse than probably anybody else. Most of his vocal critics have nothing to show for their hot air.

--A grateful survivor
Anonymous said…
The oozing hypocrisy of several anthropologists who joined the last Twitter mob did not go unnoticed. These are university professors who know very well some of the predators/enablers that feature frequently on the pages of this blog, yet not even a single tweet back when their abuses were publicly exposed.
You know who you are. If you truly stand for survivors’ rights, then at least have the decency to also support those who were hurt by your colleagues.
Unknown said…
There is some STRONG cognitive dissonance here. Did you even read the messages between them?
She tweeted the information he shared. He redacted her name.
I am myself a victim of rape, domestic violence, and childhood abuse. I also act as an advocate for those still struggling. She shared all of that openly. The only new information is how he responded when she told him.

The truth has you upset; not his behavior.


I’ll go ahead and not post anonymously, since some of you actually think the posts defending him are really him pretending to be other people....
Anonymous said…
Oh you silly, bored PhDs with twitter accounts.
All these years spent in higher education was supposed to make you smarter. So why is it so easy for you to only acknowledge those few who were caught lying to us all, and not see the rest of us victims who work so hard on bringing the real culprits to justice?
Did you consider the possibility that you fell right into the hands of naysayers and abusers who have manipulated you to gang against the one person who ever listened to us?
Do you realize that by doing so you may have f#cked up our only chance to ever get a meaningful closure?
If Balter is “finished”, as some of you now rejoice on social media, so are our arduous efforts to expose the truth. And for what; so you can boast that you stood behind a couple of misguided individuals?
With every tweet and retweet, you are personally making academia an even more treacherous place than it is now.
One day you may wake up and realize the damage that you have done, but by then it will be too late for the rest of us.
Anon said…
I’m very sorry for what you have been through and respect that you need to decide for yourself. If a student discloses to me, I refer them to resources but the next step is entirely their choice. They should understand when information will be confidential and when it will not. —MEB
Anonymous said…
Fascinating how all of this is erupting while Michael Balter is in the thick of exposing so many rapists, harassers, and abusers. It can’t possibly be that people who would rape and abuse others would also LIE, can it? To those of you condemning Balter, know that you’re automatically empowering the ACTUAL ABUSERS he has exposed, as well as disempowering all those to whom he’s given voice. And no, I’m not Michael. I’m a survivor he has HELPED. Unless you are someone with whom he has actually worked to receive attention and justice against your abuser, your opinion here is meaningless. I stand with Michael, and with the many others who have been helped by him.
Lara Wilkinson said…
I’m the ‘Lara’ of Michael’s previous reporting on the abuses of Danielle Kurin at UCSB. I am the one who suffered suicidal thoughts, the one who engaged in self-harm, the one who dropped out of school and saw my dreams shattered because of her bullying and harassment. Until I contacted him, I suffered alone, believing no one would ever hear or care about my story, and that yet another institutional abuser would get away with the destruction of myriad lives. I contacted lawyers; I contacted the press; no one listened to me until I reached out to Michael and he helped me. Even though my academic hopes were dashed by Kurin’s cruelty, I feel, for the first time in years, vindicated and empowered because of his advocacy on my behalf. I too stand with him, and I am sharing my name here because I no longer fear Kurin or her sick and evil attempts at retribution. You all may come at me as you wish: I stand in my truth. To Kurin’s colleagues at UCSB who sat by silently as years of abuse and endangerment of students rolled by, I hope you are ashamed of yourselves. You are cowards who enabled a predator because you clearly only care about your own careers and have no interest in doing what is plainly right. To all the anonymous posters who are slandering Michael, you are doing a tremendous disservice to all those whom Michael has helped. If you disagree, show yourself to me, reply with your name, and we will have this conversation in the full light of day. As I said, I’m no longer afraid. Michael: when I said in our discussions that you had given me strength, you told me that you only helped to emerge that which was always within me. You were right. Thank you, from me, and from the other victims and survivors you have worked so tirelessly to help.
Michael Balter said…
For those who want to read Lara's story, see this blog post:

http://michael-balter.blogspot.com/2020/08/university-of-california-santa-barbara.html

When Lara saw on social media that Danielle Kurin had sued me, she got in touch to tell me what had happened to her. Her bravery in coming forward now eclipses the cowardice of the Twitter mob that, even though I have proved beyond a doubt that this individual blatantly lied, has shown no curiosity about why she did it. They prefer the convenient lie to the inconvenient truth.

I have been feeling pretty glum the last 24 hours, seeing some friends and others I once respected turning into gullible fools. But now that Lara has come forward, I can face the bullshit head on. I have more stories to tell, more abusers to expose, and a bogus, dishonest lawsuit to win. And we all need to fight to make sure Trump never gets another Supreme Court nominee. That fight will take courage too.
Anonymous said…
I am another one Michael has helped. He has every right to defend his reputation, particularly at the height of the infamous Kurin lawsuit. Michael has done a fantastic job with exposing abusers and helping victims.

Michael, we believe in you. There are many who believe in you. You cannot please idiots and you just have to ignore them.

Well done to Lara for speaking out. Kurin is nothing. The best response that you can give bullies is to stand up tall.
PiedPauper said…
I promise this will be my last post about this matter. I have said that Balter has helped a lot of victims get their stories out, and I'm glad he has helped those people. It's also clear that some of his behavior has hurt others, and that's a real shame.

Without taking a position on whether this particular victim has been truthful, I think he is failing to understand that like him, victims are not always perfect. They have been traumatized and are easily triggered. They need emotional support and might find it in the "Twitter mobs" he has condemned and decide to join in, whether fairly or otherwise.

I know people will say "well why did she write that first post in April?" I don't know. Maybe we haven't heard the full story, maybe she was just wrong. Only the two of them know what really happened, and the memories of at least one of them may be clouded.

Whatever happened, I really don't see why he can't just acknowledge that in this incident he overreacted, and harmed a victim in the process. I realize that for many, this is a cancelable offense. But I found out about Mark Siddall by happening on one of his tweets, and I'm glad I did. I'm willing to forgive him if he apologized, and followed up on this apology with a real change in behavior.
Michael Balter said…
Much as I appreciate the last commenter’s efforts to be fair, which I do not question, the answer is clear. As I screenshotted in the blog, this individual told blatant, unambiguous lies in July and again in September, using her real name, lies that were very damaging to me and my reputation. There is absolutely nothing for me to apologize for. If this had happened to any of you—eg, someone trashed your academic reputation and tried to destroy your whole research project—you would call it out too. You would not apologize to the person who had done that to you. Can we please not use a double standard for this kind of thing?

As for why she did it, my guess is that she saw others were trashing me and wanted to be part of the in crowd, by offering a very distorted version of her own experience. Did she think I would not see her Tweets? Probably so. And then she was shocked when I called her out, and now she is doubling down on the lies. She is counting on the Twitter mob not caring what the facts are, and in the case of many over the past 24 hours her calculation was right. But she overreached and I think today more people are seeing what really happened her.

Thanks.
Anonymous said…
Pied Piper and other detractors get a lot of basic facts like timelines and what was actually said wrong. It shows why we need professional investigators or careful historians. Trial by innuendo and Twitter is not the way to go. There is a difference between mass calling out of proven abusers like Urton, Castillo, McLaughlin, Rathjen, Siddall, and Kurin (as in professional journalists or outside investigative bodies confirming allegations are substantially true) and Twitter trials (disregarding evidence and elevating popular sentiment). The latter is dangerous and is mob mentality, which has led to many injustices and even atrocities in history.
Anonymous said…
An urgent message to the Balter’s-Bashers Club:
Me in a nutshell: I was a victim of harassment and bullying by a senior faculty; the administration ignored mine and peers’ repeated complaints; we reached out to Balter; he went public with the story; admin could no longer ignore it; abuser got fired and can no longer torture young women.
You in a nutshell: “Dr.” …. “Postdoc” ….. “Phd Candidate” …. “Scientist” …. “Anthropologist” … “Archaeologist” … “Philosopher” …
You may have your credentials, but I don’t need you to speak on my behalf. I don’t need you to represent me. We did just fine before you came along. And there is still much work to be done.
If you are looking for something to do, I hear some dolphins need saving.
Anonymous said…
I see that many, if not the majority of the Twitter critics are archaeologists. So while you are all paying close attention to Balter’s blog, perhaps you can also comment on the abuser archaeologists and their enablers that were exposed through it? Don’t see it as helping Balter, see it as helping the victims of these abusive individuals and institutions. See it as helping your archaeological community. It will be particularly interesting to hear from those Twittering who still collaborate with those individuals and institutions. Anything less will just paint you as a hypocrite.
Anonymous said…
I actually didn’t who was the above-mentioned survivor when I first read the redacted tweet exchange. But then I browsed through some of mob members’ tweets, and at least three of them link this story directly to her twitter account. Now I know, thanks to them. WTF, gals?!?
Anonymous said…
These hypocrites are just like Trump supporters. They don’t care whom they hurt, even themselves and their discipline’s reputation, as long as it “owns” Balter. Reading the comment that someone tried to doxx his lawyers so that people can convince them to abandon him during a critical case, they really are sick. Kurin, I am sure, loves this, as does Scher. Not content with just Twitter they are now centering him frantically in private Facebook archaeology groups, pulling ever more well-meaning people who can’t be bothered to read primary sources down into their dishonest vortex. I am not too bothered because just like the BethAnn thing with these people cursing out skeptical people about Sciencing Bi, they will have eggs on their faces in a few weeks time when the manufactured outrage subsides and people start looking more closely at the facts of the situation.

Nevertheless, it’s still distressing to see, especially as a survivor, nearly your whole discipline (or the most vocal ones anyway) being either dishonest, hypocritical, or gullible (sometimes all three at once). So much for evidence-based claims in archaeology. Give them an alarming narrative that tugs at people’s fears and they will see even the facts through those lenses. Add a few ad-hominems and people will fall for it even more.
Anonymous said…
Some of the archeologists who have been attacking Balter make me sick. Yes, it is a problem that some of these idiots could be seen as being leaders in the discipline. Clearly archaeology is a backward discipline in many ways and shame on those people for bringing the discipline to disrepute. Those people are probably hurt and angry by their "abuser friends" being exposed by Balter and now they want to get back at him. Those idiots share the same personality traits as the abusers whom Balter has exposed.
Anonymous said…
The first we heard the lie that Balter writes his own anonymous comments came from the Kurin/Boytner duo. Then it was amplified by Wendrich and De Leon. And now, right in the midst of a major investigation against all of the above, here is this shit floating back again. Bravo, you four! Didn’t think you were crafty enough, but you actually managed to convince even your otherwise intelligent and unsuspected colleagues that we are all sock puppets.
But guess what? Balter got the evidence for your multiple transgressions from us, not the other way around. Even if you are now hoping to silence him, we are still here. And regardless of whatever happens next, you are done.
Michael Balter said…
Re the last comment: Yes, a lot of us watched the UCLA Town Hall (asked for by the grad students who wanted Willeke et al. to respond to my reporting) and heard allegations that I used sock puppets and made up many of the anonymous comments on my blog (neither of which I have ever done.) They were trying to discredit my reporting which has shown that Wendrich and many of the others were totally aware of Kurin's Title IX soon after it happened. Boytner knew about it, and lied to everyone and said that Kurin had been exonerated. Kurin did the same thing in some cases. Now there is a $10 million lawsuit against me, filed by Kurin, in which all of these issues play an important role. I don't need to spell out the implications of that.
Anonymous said…
For the last day or so, I have been reading the tweets of people who have recently been commenting negatively about Michael Balter. What I noticed is that a number of the people making comments negatively are prominent academics that are purported protectors of junior women in academia from harassment.

These senior academics are mostly in archaeology, ecology, anthropology, biology, astronomy and medicine. These fields have a high percentage of women compared to other STEM fields such as computer science and engineering. Yet, it is known that harassment is highest in fields with the lowest numbers of women.

Last year, I spoke with one of these people who, at the time, was closely associated with BethAnn. This was when the #MeTooSTEM movement was still trying to raise funding on their GoFundMe page.

In my case, I had contacted the #MeTooSTEM movement because I had worked at a federal agency and thought I could help them to better understand how politics and policies at federal agencies might be contributing to an unlevel playing field for women in STEM.

I had also contacted #MeTooSTEM because I have experienced gender harassment in my field for decades, which has included pay discrimination, not being credited for my work, and having bosses that shouted me down in front of other people, not because I wasn't doing a great job for them, but because they felt challenged by a technically competent women. Over many years, I've been expected to work until late into the evening quite frequently while my male co-workers went home to their families at 6pm. More often than not, important contributions I've made at work have either been ignored or credited to others. I've been frequently bullied by people who were more junior to me. I've been verbally threatened with gun violence at work. I've had male coworkers deliberately tamper with my lab set up (multiple times). I've seen how the hiring process works in my field where men are often hired based on a friendship with someone while women are almost always run through a bed of nails test when being considered for a job. I was also physically assaulted by a professor many years ago.

Given all of this, when I contacted #MeTooSTEM last years, no one seemed very interested in talking to me. The problem wasn't just one with BethAnn. Some of the others were also quite hostile. It was a perplexing experience for me. I found their behavior confusing and had a hard time understanding why this hostile behavior was coming from a group that purported to be advocates for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM).

Someone mentioned in one of the above comments that they think the #MeTooSTEM group, or those formerly associated with it, are policing who can be viewed as a legitimate "victim." Many of the group that had been part of the #MeTooSTEM group are now among the most vociferous critics of Michael Balter. (It's easy to see who they are by searching on twitter and google.) They seem very self righteous and not aware of their own biases in how they have failed to act to protect the vast majority of women in STEM.

I'm sure if they saw this they would give the "we did our best defense". I would disagree.

They really have no business slamming a journalist because he doesn't follow exactly their arbitrarily made up rules about how he is supposed to interact with their chosen victims. They live in their own world where libel is OK so long as the libeler is one of their chosen "victims."
Anonymous said…
The sad irony is that one of the prominent advocates of #MeTooSTEM outed the survivor to the world on the same day that Balter published this piece. I had no clue who the survivor was till I came across the advocate’s tweet, where she feigns being incredibly sorry for what happened to her. It’s still there, so for the sake of the survivor’s privacy I hope she’ll delete it soon.
Michael Balter said…
Re the last comment:

Yes, I am aware of the advocate’s Tweet, in which she identifies the survivor to her very large Twitter following. This advocate, who has done important work in the #MeToo area as I have always acknowledged despite her three years of attacks on me, expressed in another Tweet how “frustrating” it was that she and others have not been able to stop my #MeToo reporting.

To recap what has happened here, and which the outraged Twitter mob still refuses to see:

The survivor outed herself publicly in a Tweet last July, saying that she had been raped and stalked, using her real name, and then telling blatant lies about my conversation with her. This month, just the other day, the survivor outed herself again, using very similar phrasing, and telling exactly the same lies (those redacted Tweets are reproduced above.)

Not only the advocate referred to above but many other “advocates” repeatedly amplified the survivor’s Tweets, thus ensuring the Twitterverse knew who she was. Of course, the survivor not only did not try to hide her identity and what happened to her, but actively participated in her publicization.

If my DM conversation with the survivor had included intimate details of the rape or other things that happened to her, I would never have published it. I would have found some other, albeit much less effective, way to expose the lies. But since the conversation did not include such details, waiving confidentiality in this case (justified because of the survivor’s blatant lies) did not reveal anything essential beyond what she had revealed herself of her own volition.

This is why so much of the response to what has happened is so hypocritical. And readers should think about whether the long campaign of lies about my reporting might sit on similarly bogus claims. The advocate obviously was much more concerned about hitting at me than protecting the identity of the survivor. As for the survivor, I don’t know her motives, but my guess is that she saw a chance to insert herself into conversations that were going on and to draw attention to herself. She certainly did that.

And yet I have still not named her, nor would I, even though I would be justified in doing so, while the Twitter mob has outed her repeatedly.
Michael Balter said…
I deleted a comment which failed completely to engage with the issues I have raised here. That will be a requirement for posting from here on out. Criticisms of me are still welcome, as long as they do this engagement and don't simply repeat unthinking comments from higher up.
Michael Balter said…
The moderation rules also apply to attempts to bait me or just simply stupid comments
Anonymous said…
Actually the first instance I saw the blog post AND the survivor’s twitter account mentioned in the same context was in a tweet by a young and vocal archaeologist who claims to be her “friend”. According to the time stamp, that was about 30 m before the #MeToo advocate first started tweeting about it. She should definitely not have done that. The archaeological community is small enough, but if you don’t follow certain people you won’t necessarily know. The fact that the “friend” started blasting everywhere reached my feed soon enough, and I immediately realized who she is tweeting about. Reading the blog, I never would have guessed that in a million years.
As of today that “friend” is still blasting uncontrollably to the world about “survivor's confidentiality” while disrespectfully denigrating other survivors and questioning their trauma. In the meanwhile it seems that her actual survivor friend, the one she outed, had to resort to protect her account to only approved followers (which I am not one). Can’t really blame the poor thing … with such friends who really needs enemies.
Anonymous said…
Just want to point out the obvious to those whose hate for Balter blinds them to it. Liars, bullies, and manipulators rise to prominence in mobbing scenarios. Anyone should see that because most of us have read Animal Farm. Sexual harassers and others whom Balter have reported on with extensive corroboration are feeling brave enough to come out of the woodwork and say they were victims all along of this supposedly unscrupulous journalist. The most recent worm to come out of the woodwork: Michael Westaway, who took advantage of the anti-Balter mobbing sentiment to defend himself to a group of nearly 6000 members of the archaeological community on Facebook from which Balter was just booted out in an undemocratic and mobbing fashion. Akshay Sarathi tried to get Balter to write damaging things about members of his doctoral department, and sometimes without enough evidence. An unhappy customer, he threw Balter under the bus and lied about him multiple times. He got what he wanted; the esteemed position in the community as a “Balter victim.” Watching from the sidelines seeing this saga unfold has been horrific. The gullibility and sanctimonious outrage rivals Trump supporters. THANKS archaeologists! So much for a just future. The future is bleak when manipulative and dishonest people rise to the top, as they usually do in movements where people don’t care about what’s true, only about “owning” people they hate. I am so disgusted and shaken by the mobbing I witnessed in real time last night. The democratic thing to do would have been an anonymous vote, but as many screamed at Balter, this is our group! No due process for the scapegoat! You would rather protect malicious liars and abusers in your midst than actually do the unpopular thing of calling out dishonest members of our community that sabotage the real work of outing abusers in our community. Thanks for nothing. You did nothing for years and now you are kicking out the outsider who has done a lot for us. Enjoy your dishonest bedfellows and our long decline into obscurity and irrelevance because honest people and outsiders are watching with disgust. I see archaeology’s motto has always been “Our discipline’s members, right or wrong!” The only good thing to come out of all this is that I now know whom to not trust. Such a long list but it will save me heartache in the future.
Anonymous said…
I want to make a plea to my colleagues in the two Facebook groups where Balter is being mobbed: do not assume that no one is defending Balter. And do not assume that because you see posters and tweeps condemning Balter that they actually understand the situation. The loudest condemners either haven't stopped to see the full picture or they are arguing in bad faith. We are watching and we are aware of the full story. We're taking your names down as people who lack critical thinking skills and will sign on for the easy and popular position rather than take the time to understand the full situation.

Maybe you hate Balter because he posts his blogs too often on FB groups, like some of you have said in the last few days. Have you stopped to think why he does that? His role and his passion is to advocate for change. Yes, he self-publishes. Because he is doing something that is risky and big outlets don't want to take that on with him. He believes survivors. So, okay, look down your nose at his self-published blogs and get on your high horse that he sends his blogs out to FB groups where he thinks people might be interested. But know that he only wants readers so that people become aware of the predators and can avoid them and help their students avoid them. He makes zero dollars off this work -- in fact it costs him to do it! He's working pro bono to improve safety for all of us. If you've never interacted with Balter, maybe you should actually talk to him and bring him your concerns. He's a fair listener and willing to even change his mind when you explain to him why you disagree.

Or maybe you hate Balter because he outed you or one of your people. Maybe stop and reflect on that. From where I sit, I see a lot of enablers, people who can't think critically, and self-interested actors clinging to the status quo. And btw, the way you're behaving in the Facebook comments makes me think twice about trusting your research integrity.
Anonymous said…
What concerns me personally in this recent development is the large number of students and junior scholars who joined in. Emboldened by the more senior and established scholars who hold a personal grudge, many of them now amplify the cry that Balter is not the only one who can represent them. And no, he is not. But I can assure them that he is definitely one of the most effective representatives I have seen in a long time. Those young scholars will do well to listen to the numerous survivors/victims who were chewed and spit by their institutions for reporting. Those survivors don’t have time for glacial structural change. When people face sexual predators on a daily basis, the answer is not in debating another peer-review article or creating after-the-fact internet lists. The answer is not through whisper networks. And most definitely, the answer is never ever with your jaded Ph.D. advisors, senior scholars, department chairs etc. Some of them may know the culprits professionally or personally, while others may be complicit in the cover up. But most of them simply realize that defending students or junior scholars in their department is not worth the risk of a negative exposure. Those who do speak their mind, often do so anonymously and in the wake of a journalistic exposure a-la Balter. Just read the hundreds of comments left by insiders on the Rathjen and Kurin pages (and no, I can sure you these are not Balter himself writing). Just like my own comment here, this often cowardly tactic does not really help to protect anyone. It is our sad reality, but those young PhDs who believe that this type of academic accountability is “the work of a community” had clearly never tried to work with her community on a real sexual harassment and assault case. In my experience and that of many, many others, only an aggressive journalistic exposure of the corrupt individuals and enabling institutions does the dirty job. And so far, I have not seen anyone else better suited to the task than the investigative journalism of Michael Balter.
Those young scholars may think that what they’re doing today is well-intentioned, but I fear that their support and actions will result in much damage to themselves and others in the long run.
Anonymous said…
I second the above. I see calls on social media that suggest alternative journalists to Balter. No offense, but following one of them for a while and carefully looking at the others’ profiles, I can’t imagine how any of these can compare with his efficacy in taking down the Harvey Weinsteins of academia (if in fact they ever intended to become a practical substitute). The National Sexual Assault Hotline or LeanIn.org, despite the important work they do, are not really equipped to deal with academic harassment, bullying and discrimination. And everyone knows that title ix is a dead end, if not even dangerous to the health of survivors. You have to report in order to establish a record of events, but don’t really expect any fair due process against your abusers. We don’t just need to “tell our story”. We need action and accountability.
Anonymous said…
Which Facebook groups is this happening in? Perhaps some of us can join and post in Balter's defense.
Anonymous said…
Archaeologists for a Just Future is the one he got booted from last night. Alternative Annual Archaeological Conference 2020-Resistarch 2020 is the other (Akshay booted him out a couple months ago). They are closed groups though, and now are safe spaces for abusers and enablers to spout off.
Re: the Facebook Group "Alternative Annual Archaeological Conference 2020-Resistarch 2020," the moderators removed and banned me about a day ago. I had never even commented on nor "liked" any posts in the Group - it is impossible that I violated any stated rules. I never mentioned Mr. Balter on any personal Facebook page or Group, either.

I joined the Group earlier in the year out of genuine interest, as a PhD who had to move on to a job outside of the field, thinking about becoming re-involved in archaeology if a platform emerged more appealing and inclusive than SAAs. I was an avid lurker.

I can only assume the moderators banned me from the Group after they saw my words of support for Mr. Balter published on other internet platforms - here on Blogger, and on Twitter. None of my words were abusive nor hyperbolic; simply stating my opinion that I have reviewed available evidence and see no unethical acts committed by Mr. Balter.

It's fascinating that these academics banned from their Group a fellow (if a bit latent) academic, with a PhD in anthropological archaeology from UCLA, and an active research administrator and peer-reviewed author (www.lanamartinphd.com). The action suggests these academics do not support nor value free speech, critical thinking, or conflicting discourse.

As it stands, Mr. Balter is supporting substantially more divergent perspectives via comments on his Blogger site than these academics are allowing in their Group - which purports to exist exclusively to brainstorm new mechanisms for a more inclusive archaeology community.
Anonymous said…
~ “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” (Mark Twain) ~
When snippets on this story started to appear on my screen last night, my first reaction was to subscribe to the old-white-man-predatory-journalist violating the privacy of the young-innocent-woman-survivor narrative. Unlike many of my esteemed colleagues who joined the crusade two seconds after receiving the call (literally, as their timeline clearly shows), I actually bothered to read this original blog post. I have no stake in this, but I certainly see some very valid concerns raised by this veteran journalist. He did not “out” this informant (she and her colleagues did that), and he certainly has every right to defend his professional integrity against fabrications, regardless of who is doing the lying and why. I know I would, if any student or colleague would ever attempt that. For similar reasons I also know that I cannot post these thoughts on social media, because the mob will mob and I have to think of my job. I can only encourage others not to fall into sexists/racist/ageist tropes, consider both sides carefully, and don’t follow Twain’s advice.
Michael Balter said…
This comment was posted on the Westaway blog post but pulling it over here too:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Bullying, racism, unethical behavior: The long and...":

As a student from UQ archaeology, I would like to refute Alexander Alderson’s account. Westaway is widely known to be problematic, along with another UQ male faculty member. He has bullied people, been out of control at conferences, and been told not to return to work in certain areas.

And sorry Alex, it is literally his job as a professor to acknowledge you as an undergraduate. If he didn’t want that interaction, he shouldn’t be at a university. The man gets no kudos for doing what he’s paid to do, and the fact that you use this as evidence for how amazing he is says a lot about the climate at UQ.
Anonymous said…
Yep, certainly another archaeological clique at work here. No worries, Balter, I know many of the posters and you’re simply their flavor of the month. You never know where their misguided rage will take them next. Next month it may well be the same survivor who lied. Someone should really write an ethnography on this.
Anonymous said…
Chelsea Blackmore should really reflect on her today’s tweet “Just because [someone] has helped people, doesn’t mean [they haven’t] harmed others. These are not mutually exclusive.” Many of those who are now siding with the above survivor and the “anti-Balter” camp, are also tweeting horrible things about other survivors who disagree with them. This has nothing to with Balter, so I ask you to reflect on the damage you are perpetuating on all sides.
Anonymous said…
I am LIVID and don't know what to do. I'm an archaeologist and have just seen comments on the Alt-Arch and Just Future FB page making two extremely dangerous FALSE claims:
1. ML musing that "How many of his anonymous victims might not even be real? Does this mean he might be pursuing innocent people?"
2. Various claiming that Balter has sockpuppets.

I have personal knowledge of the identities of some of the accused "sockpuppet" accounts. They are not Balter. No offense to Balter but I don't even think he would know how to switch between Twitter accounts. The UNFOUNDED accusation that anonymous victims aren't real is a generous favor to the actual bullies and abusers Balter exposes.

PLEASE STOP THIS LYING. DO NOT ENABLE IT. The Alt-Arch and Just Future pages are unsafe for those of us who understand what's happening here. We're afraid of being mobbed and can't post as ourselves on FB. Oh, and of course the first person to like ML's comment is one of the biggest liars in all this - Akshay.

- A colleague who is desperate for some semblance of justice in our field and sees the dishonest virtue signalers undoing every shred of gains we thought we had toward justice and safety
Michael Balter said…
Accidentally hit the delete button instead of the publish button for this comment:


Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "A case study in lying: Part Two":

1. American Museum of Natural History
2. Duke University
3. University of the Witwatersrand
4. University of Bath
5. Georgia National Museum
6. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
7. University of Alaska Anchorage
8. Ohio State University
9. University of Florida
10. University of Queensland
11. University of Adelaide
12. Texas A&M
13. University of California Santa Barbara
14. University of California Los Angeles
15. Institute for Field Research
16. Pontifical Catholic University of Peru
17. Istanbul University

If you are faculty affiliated with any the above institutions and are now subscribed to closed Facebook groups that aim to silence Michael Balter, please prepare an answer for when your students will soon ask you: “Why were you so outraged when this anonymous survivor’s story about her anonymous abuser were posted on this blog, and yet you said nothing when Balter posted the stories of our peers and many other survivors who exposed your colleagues as sexual harassers/predators/bullies/enablers?”
Anonymous said…
Ilana Johnson, another person who had defamed Balter, just joined "Archaeologists for a Just Future" to further defame and character assassinate Balter. She is an ally of Castillo and his group. She had also gone to Scher, Kurin's attorney, willing to be a witness against Balter for Kurin! Many of the recent invites to the group are people connected with Castillo's institution. They officially deemed the group a safe place for Castillo and Kurin allies. Westaway even felt brave enough to defend himself. Archaeologists for a just future? Nah. More like "Archaeologists for a Bust Future." The gullibility of people with PhDs can be astounding. None of them are asking why the survivor of this blog post had egregiously lied. They actually say that it's just a matter of interpretation! What interpretation??!! It's clear as day. I have a feeling they will have another huge egg on their faces as they did when their bestie sockpuppet Sciencing_Bi "died."
Anonymous said…
“Why were you so outraged when this anonymous survivor’s story about her anonymous abuser were posted on this blog, and yet you said nothing when Balter posted the stories of our peers and many other survivors who exposed your colleagues as sexual harassers/predators/bullies/enablers?”

Excellent question!
Tip for guilty faculty: in your answer, try your best to avoid false statements and evasive phrases like

1) “errr… errrr…”

2) “This is confidential”

3) “Ask Title IX rep”

4) “Balter invents survivors and commenters”

5) “I really hardly knew Brian/Miguel/Bob/Bill/Ron/Steve/Rob/Nick/Dave/Rod/Steph/Luiz/JJ/Dave/Fethi/Deanna/Randall/Kev/Mike/Alan/Dick/Jim/Faye/Sharon/Bruce/Wayne/Darryl/Mike/Dicky/Danielle/Menny/Art/Alan/Ran/Pete/Pier/Sam/Luis/Geoff/Nacmi/Mark/__________ (insert name of colleague)”

6) “I didn’t do it” (especially if you did it)

7) “You just failed my class”
Anonymous said…
I agree with Lana S. Martin. This comment section is the safest platform for nonconforming voices, independent thinkers, and now survivors who are not being believed.
So, addressing here all those who agonize about a journalist “centering” and “promoting” himself… really? While he was busy uncovering all the dirt that your universities ignored and covered up, you were busy on social media promoting your latest book or big grant. I know, because I follow many of you. And you know something else… If someone, ANYONE, could help me get rid of that harassing monster in my life, I really couldn’t care less if they “centered” themselves. I would only consider it payment for services rendered.
Anonymous said…
I would like to copy and paste a comment I made on an earlier post about Clancy et al.'s work. I have a feeling that some of her animosity stems from her frustration that she has not been successful in gatekeeping Balter out of the MeToo movement for the past three years. As I noted, we can't trust people inside academia to root out the abusers. There are just too many agendas at play that will result in miscarriages of justice. They also suck at investigations, I'm not gonna lie. We need more independent outside investigative bodies that are not afraid of being sued or are not only looking for "newsworthy" stories. Just look at the disconnect between truth and the mob's narratives now. I would definitely not want them to investigate and decide on any cases!

"I am pretty tired of these studies that just always end with recommendations that won’t be followed because no one has the incentive to do so. No way will most, if any, department chairs rock the boat by chastising and withholding perks from the abusers unless there is publicity. People take the path of least resistance and got to tenure and power by being complacent about their peers’ bad behavior. They are also afraid of the litigiousness of these abusers, as Klancy et al point out in their article. That is not going to change. We don’t need more expertise; we need more action and accountability. Many of the recommendations that Klancy et al. suggest can also easily be abused to mob scapegoats and people who rock the boat. I would never trust a department to not use these recommendations to actually retaliate against people who speak up. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. This is why there is always a need for reporters like Balter to do investigations or outside investigative bodies like the EEOC. Unfortunately there is not enough capacity (or resources) for outside investigations. If more money can go toward those instead of yet another study, we might finally see some accountability and change."
Michael E Smith said…
Michael, you should know that you have a lot of supporters for the good and important work you do. Its too bad you have to waste time with this twitter and facebook nonsense, which I'm sure keeps you from spending time on the real work you do as a journalist. Keep up the good work, and don't let the haters get you down.
Michael Balter said…
Michael, many thanks for the supportive comment, and for the integrity you have always shown, sometimes in the face of considerable mobbing.

The disinformation campaign this time around (there have been many since I began this work five years ago) is particularly dishonest, because the survivor referred to above actually went public with her story in late April, at the exact time she contacted me. Then in June, July, and September (that I know about) she went public again, this time lying blatantly about her conversation with me. Only after all of this did I reveal that conversation, but not using her name! In short, she has outed herself, her friends have outed her, a leading #MeToo advocate with 18K followers has outed her--everyone, it seems, but me!

Many journalists agree that if a source lies, the confidentiality agreement can be waived at the reporter's discretion. In this case the lies were so serious and such a severe attack on my reputation and credibility that it was kind of a no-brainer to prove she was indeed lying. This is what the Twitter mob still can't understand, or does not want to understand, preferring to pursue a completely false narrative.

The work goes on. Soon I will publish the very sad story of a physics grad student who took her own life due to betrayal by her institution. Her friends and family have asked me to do it.
Unknown said…
So, my comment generated a couple of DMs. One thanked me for my comment, the other asked if the comment was really me, or someone masquerading as me! I thought my icon and such would be posted, but I wasn't signed in to the Google account that links to my blogs. So, maybe now my photo will be included with the comment. I am not anonymous, and I am not one of the many other Michael Smith's out there on the internet (see https://www.worldcat.org/profiles/mesmitih9@asu.edu/lists/86163). And I DO appreciate and support Michael Balter's work on #metoo in academia.
Anonymous said…
BOOM!!I So @newlithicage has just confirmed in a detailed Twitter thread that the survivor’s story was all a web of lies. Who could have guessed??? Oh yea, anyone else with a Twitter account and a tiny bit of critical thinking.
The comment by Anonymous, above, is referencing this Twitter thread, which presents evidence that the survivor lied about Mr. Balter's communications with her:

https://twitter.com/newlithicage/status/1308813243025166336
For those unfamiliar with Twitter threads, here is a more user-friendly presentation of the tweets:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1308813243025166336.html
Anonymous said…
It's a day later and I know you all have seen the exposure of the lies in full form. I'm still waiting for an acknowledgment of your gullibility and a public apology for the way you bashed a reporter in order to promote yourselves as allies. Most of you are performing your allyship to get cheap twitter likes and Facebook claps. Some of you didn't know better and now you do. Please acknowledgment that you believed an untruth and you amplified these lies.

Here's a reminder for why it matters that you are lying about Mr. Balter (in addition to the fact that Mr. Balter is a person and he has dedicated his life to outing bullies and abusers).

It matters that as soon as you took away Mr. Balter's platform and credibility, the allies and enablers of Luis Jaime Castillo, Danielle Kurin, and Ran Boytner jumped at the opportunity to cast themselves as victims of Mr. Balter. You enabled that and you knew that that's what you were doing. Now please do your part to undo the damage you have caused.
Anonymous said…
Reading the Twitter thread, I am curious as to the timing of the survivor’s initial attacks on Balter. If June 10, this was soon after the UCLA graduate students demanded their meeting with the IFR representatives to talk about the Kurin/Boytner allegations, and just the day before that eventful townhall meeting. I didn’t think much of it, except that now I realize she tweeted her complaint/lies to a UARK colleague of Fred Limp, also an IFR board member. Coincidence, or another attempt to bury this ongoing investigation by discrediting the reporter?
Anonymous said…
To Anonymous at 11:17 am - yes, this is a good point. And if you look carefully at the connections between her loudest defenders you find two main types: 1. there are some disconnected people who are showing off their "woke" cards but then 2. there are people loudly asserting on both twitter and fb that she is Balter's victim who are connected to either UCLA or Castillo or both. The more people Balter investigates and publishes on, the more people's agendas he has stepped on. If he had stopped after Brian Richmond, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. But it's the fact that he has now interrupted the power networks so many in archaeology (and the sciences more broadly) rely on that he is being falsely accused and mischaracterized in these ways.
Anonymous said…
In the wake of these recent revelations, I am already noticing a gradual shift in the informal conversations from “he violated survivors’ confidentiality” (back?) to “he’s an arrogant white man”. Maybe it’s because more people are now realizing that this story is more complex than they initially thought, especially since the survivor in question openly shared the details well before many of us became aware of it through this blog post. As for being an “arrogant white man”, I don’t think Michael Balter can do much about these last two denominations (nobody’s perfect you know), but maybe he and everyone else can also turn the dial down on the “I told you so” tweets. He may have been right all along, but I don’t see how this helps his or the survivors’ cause to fight harassment in academia.
Anonymous said…
"but maybe he and everyone else can also turn the dial down on the “I told you so” tweets. He may have been right all along, but I don’t see how this helps his or the survivors’ cause to fight harassment in academia."

There are no "I told you so" tweets outside of a small handful of people, mostly survivors themselves. They also don't say "I told you so" or even have that implication or tone. Maybe the gullible feel embarrassed and don't want to be reminded of how easily they fall for stuff on the internet that feeds into their pre-existing biases? We are going to keep shouting from the rooftops until our message has as wide distribution as the original lies to try and undo some of the damage. It won't even be completely undone, of course. People are forever tainted by accusations even if they are exonerated. Exposing lies that aimed to destroy a journalist who does effective pro bono reporting definitely helps his and survivors' cause to fight harassment. We survivors who have gone to and trust Balter don't need to be told once again by the naysayers what we should or should not do.
-Cassandra
Anonymous said…
I watched in fascination as this saga unfolded on social media, but so far didn’t see any comments on this bizarre tweet that surfaced two days before Balter went public with his side of the story:

Dr. Kisha Supernant
@ArchaeoMapper
Sep 15
If you are a survivor looking to tell your story about #MeToo in academia, know you have options of journalists to approach who will support you. These include Lizzie Wade (@lizzie_wade), Colleen Flaherty (@ColleenFlahert1) and Nell Gluckman (@nellgluckman).

In the last ten days some prominent anti-Balter archaeologists retweeted and amplified, alongside others who were named for alleged harassment/enabling/coverup on Balter’s Blog. First, as of today none of the three named journalists even as much as acknowledged on Twitter that they are willing to be contacted by survivors, let along investigate, report, follow up, and face the consequences. In fact, the lack of sexual harassment stories on their feeds makes me think that they prefer not to touch this stuff. But perhaps the most staggering implication is this: our colleagues, many of them faculty at top universities, are openly acknowledging that the best way (or perhaps the only way) to effectively deal with sexual violence in academia is to contact a journalist. This is the point when you realize that something is really, REALLY fucked up with the system.
Michael Balter said…
Re the last comment, I talked about this somewhere else, maybe on Twitter or maybe in another thread, so please forgive cross posting about it.

There are some excellent journalists doing #MeToo reporting, especially at BuzzFeed (Peter Aldhous most recently, before him Azeen Ghorayshi who was the real pioneer in this area), Science (Lizzie Wade who is mentioned and Meredith Wadman), and others.

I would encourage anyone who doesn’t want me to report their stories to go to them. However, colleagues should be aware of certain things. First, with few exceptions, mainstream publications do not cover stories unless an institution has already investigated allegations and there is a paper trail that protects them from lawsuits. Thus often whether a story gets published depends on how safe the publication feels from being sued—sad to say, but this is true and I experienced that both at Science and at The Verge. Also, mainstream publications use other criteria that I do not agree with, eg, the prominence of the abuser and in some cases the prominence of the accusers.

As pretty much the only freelance writer doing #MeToo reporting, I am free to choose the stories i want to do. And in fact, I have rarely turned anyone away who asks for my help. That’s why I tried to help Hilary, for example, even though in the end she has done much to harm my reputation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not soliciting business. I am being sued for $10 million because the above policies for my own reporting are very risky; even though I am sure to win that bogus suit, it is costing a lot of time and effort to defend it. But that was my choice. It is not a choice many other reporters or publications will make.

Finally, I have to agree with the commenter’s remark that the system is fucked up if the only way to deal with abuse is to contact a journalist. Once academics have found better and more effective ways to self-police that won’t be as necessary. But for that to happen, everyone has to be much braver than they have been. Even many tenured, senior faculty members are very reluctant to go to bat for survivors, as I have sadly learned.
Anonymous said…
Not sure if that who was referred to in the previous comment, but i noticed that the former #metoo champion Jason de Leon also RTd. Maybe it’s because he knows that title ix in the UC system is a sad joke, hence the Kurin and Boytner lawsuits. De Leon even admitted that he only learned about Boytner’s sexual harassment case from this blog. But he also holds a grudge against Balter for exposing the IFR, calling him a liar and mocking his website. And now he is trying to draw the attention somewhere else.
Anonymous said…
Dr. Chelsea Blackmore (formerly UCSC) was also pushing aggressively against Balter on twitter and the fb group. Even if she previously claimed to sympathize with our plight surrounding harassment/discrimination reporting and culture of denial at UCSC, her negative response now is not all too surprising. In 2018 she didn’t even have the decency to sign the petition demanding transparency and accountability in Gopal Balakrishnan’s case (which incidentally blew wide open by a Buzzfeed journalist) and I don’t remember her tweeting anything about it either. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd3ZIvtT0flOsWbILzktwOTuAdYvaGTpT1HLd2hNvb0-n30tQ/viewform?c=0&w=1
Frankly I’m just fed up with all the proclaimed "MeToo protagonists" who protect their colleagues but keep attacking those who report. UC students and staff deserve better.

Anonymous said…
Last night had a long zoom meeting with a group of colleagues. Not so much a ‘secret society’ like those we now see forming in the dark corners of cyberspace, but more of a free speech aficionados’ happy hour. We all agree that this ‘archaeologists vs. journalists’ situation would have been utterly ridiculous, if it wasn’t for the real and potential damages for survivors out there (even those who perjured themselves.) We also agreed that the best thing that came out of this collective outcry was a renewed attention to this blog. It gave me and others an opportunity to refresh ourselves on the latest developments and catch up on new cases. And man, did we learn some ugly things about several colleagues! THIS should be the crux of our efforts, reporters and academics, working together with our respective skillsets to clean the system.
Anonymous said…
Things I have learned this week:
I hope I will never have to use the services of a journalist in a sexual harassment case. But if I do, this is why I would go to Michael Balter:
1. I really don’t care that he is an old white man. My mother taught me not to discriminate.
2. I really don’t care if he chooses to center or promote himself. As someone else commented here, we all deserve some reward for our hard efforts.
3. I really don’t care if he chooses NOT to center himself. If he helps me, I will make sure to personally endorse and recommend him to others.
4. I really don’t care if he aggressively and publicly goes after the bad guys. That’s precisely why I’ll choose a journalist over an academic.
5. I really don’t care if he also goes after those who lie to damage his reputation. I just won’t lie to damage his reputation.
6. I really don’t care if he is the only #MeToo reporter in the world, or not. His track record of exposing abusers speaks for itself and has convinced me that he knows what he’s doing.
Anonymous said…
With their main argument now evaporated into thin air, the last survivors of the Balter’s-Bashers Club now sound like a bunch of parrots rehearsing for a parody of Highlander … “He’s not the only one” … “He is not the only one” …
Anonymous said…
LOL to the above comment. Hopefully all us comments section “sockpuppets” can get together after this pandemic is over. I really want to know who these clever and humorous alter-egos of Balter are!
Michael Balter said…
Yes, they won’t even give me credit for how clever my sockpuppets are!
Unknown said…
Just replying because Margaret Beck's concern-trolling reaalllllly rubbed me the wrong way.

I'm a sexual harassment victim (sorry, I can't stand using the word "survivor" to describe myself, since I don't feel like one at all) and this would not put me off of working with Balter. (Although, I do worry that all the drama will put other victims off of working with him -- because the #MeToo movement needs all the journalists that we can get, warts and all).

My trauma does not exempt me from normal rules of social behaviour (or the law of defamation) nor does it permit me to lie about other people with impunity. And frankly, I find the suggestion that a victim be given special consideration in this regard to be highly insulting.

As for PiedPauper's "lying is all relative" school of thought -- I take your point. The truth is certainly a discretionary construct for far too many people. However, as any sexual harassment victim knows, we must double check our facts before we speak (or tweet), because our credibility is constantly under scrutiny by those who would seek to undermine it. Just like many would have cause to undermine Balter's credibility -- and by extension, the credibility of the victims whose stories he has reported.

Finally, it seems to me that the majority of the academics weighing in about journalistic etiquette have never actually worked with a journalist before. Cause let me tell you, there's nobody ruder than a reporter rushing to corroborate a story before deadline.
Anonymous said…
The new focus of the mob narrative: "He is an unstable and dangerous middle-aged white man who is lashing out in his death spiral. If you've ever annoyed or critiqued him, he will out you and summon his roving horde of brainwashed supporters to attack you! He is making up conspiracy theories. He's crazy and don't listen to a word he or his defenders are saying!" These narratives are straight out of gaslighting 101. If they can paint you as some crazy unpopular maverick making up conspiracy theories in his basement, then people won't take seriously any evidence that it's actually this mob that invents tall tales and maliciously untrue narratives.
Anonymous said…
I guess there’s not much we can do about those misguided colleagues who spin those narratives ad nauseam. What we can offer is another reminder to all the harassers, abusers, and bullies who were exposed in these posts, and their many enablers who now fan these defamatory flames in the hope that their slate will be wiped clean. This will never happen. The evidence that is brought forth for your transgressions came directly from harassed survivors, bullied victims, traumatised students, alarmed witnesses, and colleagues concerned about the well-being of their community. These voices are not going anywhere. We will keep broadcast the stories and share the evidence with more journalists, more colleagues, and more students, until everyone knows what you did.
Now we are the ones who have the power over you, and it’s not over till we say it’s over.
Anonymous said…
Here’s an interesting exercise. Compare the response of the affected academic community in the above comments and corollary tweets, with those in this blog’s other coverage of disgraced Australian Peter Rathjen (links below).
There, a healthy discussion on how harassment, bullying and institutional betrayal could have been avoided, who should be held responsible, and what are the next steps for a healthier and safer academia. Here, amplifying the lies of one victim while altogether ignoring the acts of her harasser and many others.
There, most commenters clearly support Balter’s reporting and many explicitly thank him for exposing these offences in their own back yard. Here, attacking the reporter and calling for his downfall without offering real solutions or alternatives.
US-based scholars clearly have a thing or two to learn from their Australian counterparts.

http://michael-balter.blogspot.com/2020/08/the-truth-at-last-or-at-least-some-of.html
http://michael-balter.blogspot.com/2020/05/peter-rathjen-serial-sexual-predator.html
Unknown said…
Yes, indeed, that is a fascinating comparison. Perhaps some of the relevant factors are: harrassment at field sites in foreign countries (less visible, easier to deny or delay about); the power dynamics within Andean archaeology, a small and relatively insular field where many junior scholars feel vulnerable; and accusations that include multiple abusers and multiple victims, across multiple universities and contexts. These factors probably multiply what might be basic differences in procedures and attitudes between Australia and the US. Just thinking out loud here.
Anonymous said…
Michael E. Smith makes a good point- it’s often the national context that drives the response. Much of the reporting and discussion in the Rathjen’s blog posts was propelled by South Australia’s ICAC (Independent Commissioner Against Corruption) inquiry into this case, which in turn was triggered by a multi-university staff survey. The sexual harassment stuff simply became part and parcel of the broader misconduct investigation. I don’t believe the U.S. has anything equivalent on the supra-institutional level. Title IX offices implement internal reporting obligations for university employees, but most prefer to keep their mouth shut for fear of retaliation, collegial loyalty, or even exposure of their direct complicity. Reporting to journalists may do the trick in some cases, but I suspect that an official and independent reporting mechanism, one which is external to university’s scrutiny, will make a huge difference.
Anonymous said…
The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA offers a prime example of the above and of the typical reaction in our circles to sexual harassers and enablers. Many in the Cotsen community already knew in 2009 about Ran Boytner’s sexual harassment case, but preferred not to stir the pot since the then-director Charles Stanish was Boytner’s friend and directly involved in the coverup and following lawsuit. Fast forward to today, where the current director Willeke Wendrich is clearly still covering for Boytner’s past misconduct at UCLA and the IFR, and for her own complicity and lies in the Kurin-Gomez sexual harassment cases.
Even if many of the Cotsen faculty, staff and students who care to evaluate the evidence are well aware of all that, no one dares to speak up lest they will be ostracized, get sued or even lose their funding and jobs. Nobody wants to risk it especially in this economy, and now that people don’t have to face each other in the corridors it’s even easier to claim they didn’t know any this was happening. Some even justify this attitude by arguing that replacing Wendrich now will be bad for the institute. Worse still, Wendrich’s students, collaborators and supporters show their loyalty by jumping on the blame-the-reporter train and poisoning others’ minds. This impunity and despicable selective blindness on all sides only helps to perpetuate abuse in archaeology and puts more students at risk.
Anonymous said…
To Michael Smith: Yes Andean archaeology has a MeToo problem. But the person who is the subject of this thread works in Mexico, as do many of the people critiquing Balter. Perhaps you could properly place this controversy within the dynamics of Mesoamerican archaeology where you work, and where folks like Arthur Demarest were able to reign for quite some time.
Michael E Smith said…
@Anonymous - I don't think I can be of much help here. Mesoamerican archaeology is a much larger and more diverse field. I know very little about how things operate on field projects, and the nature of interactions of students with project directors, grad students, and others. I'm not an active part of most gossip networks. We aren't allowed to run field schools in Mexico, and Guatemala is similar, so there are many fieldschools in Belize. Some of these have questionable training - they are more interested in the labor and fees of U.S. students, who pay for the privilege yet learn very little. As a result, some of these field sites are settings for much drunken partying. But I have no idea if sexual abuse or harassment are involved. I know how I run my projects, but I have little idea how my colleagues run theirs. I have no idea if there are other "folks like Arthur Demarest" in Mesoamerican archaeology. His case is the only one I learned about informally. So, any information or insights about MeToo issues in Mesoamericanist archaeology will require someone better connected to formal and informal networks than I am.