Let me say these things, because they are important. Bora was wrong. Scientific American was wrong. Ofek was wrong, Wrong, WRONG.
If you follow science blogs beyond this one, you have no doubt run across the gigantic debacle that erupted this past weekend; if not the first few paragraphs of this Slate piece give a reasonably compact summary. The shorter short form is: an editor at a blog network called Danielle Lee a whore (which was wrong), she wrote a blog post about it (emphatically not wrong), and the responses to that splattered a gigantic festering mess of Wrong all over everything.
So, let’s be clear on three things:
1) What “Ofek,” the editor at Biology Online did was utterly and completely outrageous, and he richly deserved to be fired. That would be unacceptable behavior from a lone castaway on a deserted island, let alone anyone with a position of power in a civilized company.
2) Scientific American was wrong to pull Lee’s blog post, and utterly bungled the handling of that decision. They deserved to be called out for that.
3) Bora Zivkovic was wrong to have unwarranted sexual discussions with women who had approached him in a professional context. If you doubt that, read this highly personal account of some of the incidents. That was unprofessional, unacceptable behavior for a person in his position.
I have avoided commenting previously because there are aspects of the way these situations have unfolded about which I am deeply conflicted. I think these are important, but at the present moment it’s not possible for me to discuss them in a way that would be productive. And I thought it would be better to say nothing at all until I had time to explain those issues properly than to try to rush a comment out and end up saying something that would actively make things worse.
As discussions on Twitter and elsewhere have made it clear that silence is being taken as unwarranted support for general wrongness, though, I think it’s important to say these things. Bora was wrong, Scientific American was wrong, and Ofek was staggeringly, stupefyingly wrong. I do not accept or endorse any of the things that they did, and my lack of statement should not be taken as any hint of agreement with them.
There are, as I said, other issues raised by this that bother me, and I may come back to those later. Or I may never have the time to do justice to them. It’s not a set of topics I’m going to enjoy writing about.
But make no mistake, Bora, Scientific American, and Ofek were all wrong, wrong, wrong. We should all be able to agree on that.