So… I have arrived [Content warning: stalking, rape]

When I say ‘I have arrived’, it’s by way of indicating that I really must be a de jure Internet atheist if my lowly little blog is a target for abuse from the notorious Canadian stalker, Dennis Markuze (under the cut):

Comment submitted by opsangel / / on 2013/08/15 at 9:42 AM:

for the mental case called “tim farley”

yes, you have made “REAL ENEMIES”


all brains no balls

homo = atheist?


how we won the James Randi Million Dollar Paranormal Prize

Not much to go on, is there? I could be making that story up entirely, couldn’t I? Oughtn’t we be sceptical that this is actually part of an abusive pattern of behaviour?

In this case, sadly there is ample evidence of past misdemeanours and abusive behaviour. By way of mentioning Tim Farley, Markuze mentions one of the main figures who was responsible for drawing his stalking activities to the attention of the local authorities, the @SPVM. His attempts at bullying, intimidating, and violently threatening atheists has been traced back to the mid-1990s on the old Usenet newsgroup system. In other words there is a history of anti-social activity spanning nearly twenty years.

When his death threats escalated to include residents of Montréal, the police there were finally motivated to act and Markuze was arrested. Following an initial court appearance he was referred for psychiatric assessment, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder exacerbated by substance abuse. He subsequently redoubled his obsessive Internet stalking and harassment, while in the meantime he:

pled guilty to eight counts of “uttering threats”, and was given a suspended 18-month sentence as a result. He was ordered to “abstain from participating in a social network, blog and discussion forum” as part of the sentence. [Tim Farley, op. cit.]

So at the moment, with an upswing in his previously proscribed behaviour, Markuze is obviously in direct violation of the conditions of his suspended sentence. As I haven’t posted in a while, visitors to my site are few and far between at the moment, so when I saw the notification of a new comment, I looked at my stats. All but one of today’s hits are from one IP address in Australia, presumably by way of an open web proxy on a local network (located in Surry Hills, Sydney), and the particular post where the comment was left was refreshed two more times – in vain, since I will not let his comments through automatically, except at my editorial leisure.

So this blog post was merely going to be used as a lint trap to catalogue any further evidence of his obsessive stalking and harassment, to help with any attempt to ensure Markuze gets treatment which he obviously needs.

However, I thought it was worth saying something about anonymous and pseudonymous comments, webs of trust, and threats. I’m active on social media and I like to use it for things that I find are worthwhile. I don’t generally find discussions with tedious, obnoxious, abusive, or toxic people worthwhile, so I heavily filter my on-line involvement with groups to avoid them. Apparently this means I’m in violation of the First Amendment, by viciously censoring people’s free speech:


Image description: a peach mostly encased in a slightly melted ice block, with the text, ‘Freeze Peach! Not Sure What It Is, But It’s Mine!’
Image courtesy of Stephanie Zvan (of the Almost Diamonds blog), used with permission. (Click on the image to visit Stephanie’s Zazzle store.)

Free speech, freeze peach, et cetera, et cetera. Forget that the First Amendment bears little relevance to non-US citizens, forget that it describes the act of a government proscribing certain types of speech (the actual meaning of censorship), the point here is that I am not stopping Markuze (or anyone else, for that matter) from pasting their comments elsewhere – I’m only drawing the line here. That’s editorial policy, not censorship. As for whether I pay attention to anyone or not – a right to free speech does not oblige me to listen, and there is no convincing argument that will prevent me from sticking my thumbs in my ears if I deem a point of view as simply not worth hearing and wasting my time on.

The argument then moves on to detail how by blocking certain people on the Internet, I must have no independent opinions or thoughts of my own, and I’m buying into self-reinforcing, lockstep, group-think, echo-chamber, chanting of mantras and repetitious delusional dogma by the tribal baboon hive mind… or something. No thanks, I’m quite happy searching out a diverse range of views on my own without your help, and just because I don’t want to listen to narcissistic, racist, sexist, homophobic dipshits doesn’t mean I’m unaware that those voices are out there.

There’s been a whole lot of shit going on in the atheist and skeptic world recently, and it makes the place look like a pretty scummy establishment that no one would want to have anything to do with. Allegations of sexual misconduct have been brought against Famous Skeptics, from both anonymous sources and also from people who bravely published their accounts under their own names. The allegations have ranged from comments of dubious sexual innuendo, through harassment and assault, to rape. So not surprisingly – particularly where the anonymous allegations are concerned – these events have brought out the hyperskeptical denialists and rape apologists, en masse.

What is particularly disgusting about the way that those threads metastasise (and that one ended with 4,112 comments!) is that there’s always a breed of commenters attempting to excuse the accused, usually digging down with increasingly frantic effort. Rape is unfortunately not uncommon; it’s estimated between 4% and 8% of men are serial rapists, and will even volunteer that fact if the questions about their predatory activity are phrased to deliberately avoid using the word ‘rape’.

The rape allegation is a depressingly familiar one: a woman was coerced into a position where she was unable to consent to having sex with her assailant. This account strikes very close to home, as when I was much younger, I found myself staggering homewards from an evening’s merry drinking, rather too intoxicated to consent to anything, and was ‘assisted’ on my return by a friend whom I’d known for a couple of years. He however took me back to his lodgings, and then proceeded to have penetrative sex with me over my rather ineffectual protests.

I’ve been in a quandary for decades as to whether or not I actually had been raped. Most of that evening was a hazy blur after a certain point, so I remember for example, leaving the venue where most of the epic quantities of alcohol had been consumed. My friend and I were walking in the same direction so I initially put my arm around him to steady myself, and he moved his hand directly to my buttocks. I could have put up resistance at that point, or at any of numerous later moments, but I felt totally out of control of my reactions to anything, or why I was going along with anything that was being done to me.

The actual sex act was unsurprisingly, a totally dismal affair. I don’t want to go into detail, but essentially it consisted of the guy masturbating into my unresponsive body, as I was pretty much beyond being able to do anything, certainly either putting up a resistance or exerting any effort to make it easier or pleasurable. I very much doubt he can have enjoyed it, but hey, it was another notch for his belt, so all’s good?

So I vaguely remember coming to, some time in the early morning, gathering my discarded clothes and putting them on, finding my way back to my own bed, and trying to forget what had happened until morning. I didn’t go to a hospital. I didn’t go to the police. I wasn’t sure if there would be a point in making any kind of report, since I would presumably be viewed as complicit in my own intoxication, and to have consented to my own mistreatment by not taking any of the opportunities I had to get away from the guy – but like I said, I had no idea (and still don’t) why I was doing (or not doing) basically anything I did that night, after having become drunk.

I’m not describing everything here; there are two especially good reasons I could give why it would have been extraordinarily unwise for me to make a report to the police. Anyway, a few observations: I believe the story of the anonymous victim in the recent skeptical case of alleged rape, not only because a person whom I personally trust knows her identity, and various other known people have corroborated different aspects surrounding the account, but because the aspect of being coerced into having sexual intercourse is hardly novel from my own experience.

It is not a story requiring the level of scrutiny as reports of the Loch Ness Monster. Rape by anonymous strangers, (also known as ‘rape rape’) is the exception, not the rule: most rapists are known to their victims, and most sexual predators are highly opportunistic in selecting vulnerable people, by virtue of time, place, or circumstances, to exploit.

The identity of the assailant was not unexpected either. He has had a reputation for predatory or creepy behaviour by virtue of his name being on a short list of people to avoid, which has been circulating for years amongst women who attend skeptic or atheist conferences. In short, there is a web of trust that has been established to pass along information about people who are not worthy of trust. So when hearing the story of the anonymous victim, I have multiple lines of corroborating information from trusted sources – even if I am unwilling (not unable!) to share them. So it’s disappointing to see people who would have no problems accepting stories about abuse coming from a figure like Markuze, suddenly becoming unskeptical denialists – and in some cases, rape apologists – when it comes to a figure such as a Famous Skeptic. (Or two. Or three. Or …)

In fact one might almost be forgiven for thinking that the people who are so determined to find excuses for rape are themselves, sexual predators with an obvious motive of self-interest for maximising the ‘grey areas’ that are often purported to exist in rape cases. On a thread that contained over 400 different commenters, it would be a huge surprise if some of those people weren’t in fact rapists, not merely rape apologists. At any rate, as I expect this post to get a little bit of attention, to finish I’ll lay down the law: the blog has one major rule, which is: don’t piss me off. It’s a rule I’ll be only too happy to enforce at the moment, because I am extremely pissed off with the current situation. I don’t have a problem with pseudonymous posting, but I do have an issue with trust and good faith – if I have the slightest indication you’re mistrustfully abusing it, then you’re gone.

7 thoughts on “So… I have arrived [Content warning: stalking, rape]

  1. Well said. I love this part,

    So it’s disappointing to see people who would have no problems accepting stories about abuse coming from a figure like Markuze, suddenly becoming unskeptical denialists – and in some cases, rape apologists – when it comes to a figure such as a Famous Skeptic. (Or two. Or three. Or …)

    It fits into my theory that Denialism is a problem in all walks of life and being a “Skeptic” doesn’t protect one from acting as bad as young earthers or anti-vaxxers when it’s our own cherished icons being investigated.

  2. Really good post. Personally, I believe the accusers.

    I also was quite pleased when I got Mabus spam on my blog recently, he must be working his way through people who comment there. We are part of the elite 5K whining atheists now!

  3. FYI EBW is linking to this post as an example of how irrational the awful FTBullies are. So you may get a couple of trolls. Apparently comparing to Mabus is daft as you can *see* the abuse from him! Seemingly when the abuse is coming from the people you are standing shoulder to shoulder with its invisible… Very true, but not the point Ellen wanted to make.

    • I’d noticed EllenBeth had been kind enough to link to my post from the unexpected referrers from Rock Rot Beyond Belief that turned up in my stats, but I really don’t see what is so controversial about my post. Take a thousand people at random from any community, how many stalkers or rapists will there be? Denialism is denialism, whether it’s applied to an unproblematic case like Markuze, or misapplied in a more interesting case like that of the Famous Skeptic and his friends. I’m not worried about trolls given that Markuze was unable to post here, and the riot act has already been read.

      People are entitled to be skeptical about my own personal account given above, however if I had gone public with it twenty or so years ago, it would almost certainly have played out in a manner similar to the current dynamics: a story with some corroboration by friends of the victim and observations regarding the accused’s predatory behaviour in similar social situations, and very probably a silencing legal threat (again, I am unwilling to disclose precisely why I am prepared to put a strong probability on that). People who think rape stories of this nature are ‘extraordinary’ need a reality check.

  4. Pingback: Lessons from #AtheismPlus | Reality Enthusiast

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