Goodbye #TimHunt discussion

0
Lenny Teytelman Jul 28, 2015

We have clearly reached the end of any productive conversation around the Tim Hunt remarks. The whole discussion is now in GamerGate land. We have good journalists being accused of a conspiracy. A former politician Louise Mensch is on a campaign against those who were offended by Tim Hunt's remarks, pretending to be an unbiased journalist.

My personal rule of thumb - once a topic on Twitter is mostly GamerGaters, it's time to leave that thread. Once I start seeing this, it's obvious further discussion is a waste of time.

I wasn't at the event. I have absolutely nothing new to say. So I will end this final post on Tim Hunt with something Natalia Demina said about that lunch, shortly after the conference. Natalia Demina is now consistently quoted as evidence that Tim Hunt's remarks were a harmless joke, everyone laughed, no one was offended, and just crazy political-correctness-obsessed journalists decided to make a story where there isn't one. I don't know what Natalia Demina thinks today, but her words in this article make it clear that the day after the lunch, most of those attending thought that Tim Hunt's toast was unfortunate*. 

[Update 7/29/2015: Cathy Young correctly points out that Demina's remark timing is ambigous. The "most thought inappropriate" remark could have been the next day or sometime within the first week after the conference].

*[Uptade 7/30/2015: Natalia Demina said that her remark was mis-transcribed in the original article. The journalist Sergey Dobrynin just corrected "inappropriate" to "unfortuante".]

[My translation from the article "Tim Hunt's Mistake"]

According to Demina, most of those present interpreted the words of Hunt exactly as a joke: “The lunch took place in a large hall, for about 200 people, and it seemed to me, that everyone was laughing and applauding. But then it turned out that part of those present, first and foremost representatives of UK and USA, were on the contrary shocked and speechless. But no one said anything about this at the lunch itself”, she said.

 

“I talked to journalists from Spain and China who were at this lunch, and they interpreted the words of Hunt just as I did, as a harmless joke. There were those who did not think the joke was harmless, but everyone more or less converged on that Hunt allowed himself an unfortunate* remark at an unfortunate time – at a lunch that was essentially devoted to women in science. At the same time, practically everyone converged on that Tim Hunt was punished too severely, no one expected that he would be forced to leave his position. It seem to me there was enough public scolding. And now you can see in twitter recommendation to expel Hunt from London’s Royal Society, to strip him of is Nobel prize. This reminds more and more of a witch-hunt”, - noted Demina.

I hope people can pause, look over Hilda Bastian's thorough report on the events and discussions surrounding the Tim Hunt controversy, and stop with agenda-driven and truth-bending campaigns.

*[Uptade 7/30/2015: Natalia Demina said that her remark was mis-transcribed in the original article. The journalist Sergey Dobrynin just corrected "inappropriate remark" to "unfortunate remark".]

--------------------------------------------

[Update, July 29, 2015]

Not surprisingly, it turns out that Louis Mensch is a vocal GamerGate supporter (see Now even Louise Mensch has waded into #GamerGate). Not only is she a supporter, it appears she has actively encouraged the GamerGaters to join in her pro-Tim Hunt attacks.

Another leading voice in attacking the journalists who reported on Tim Hunt is Cathy Young. And no surprise - she is another GamerGate-supporter (The Gender Games, Part 2: Videogames Meet Feminism).

And what does Debbie Kennett think about GamerGate? Apparently it's "complicated" and she referred me to articles of Cathy Young.

So, as I said yesterday, this whole buzz around Tim Hunt is now firmly in GamerGate hands with nothing productive. It's a viscious campaign against journalists. It's not helping science, women or Tim Hunt. Just fun and self-serving interests of GamerGaters. 

[Update 7/30/2015: Debbie Kennett has asked me to make it clear that she is not associated with GamerGate. Please see my detailed discussion with Debbie Kennett in the comments below.]

--------------------------------------------

[Below is my quick translation of the first two thirds of the Radio Svoboda article.]

http://www.svoboda.org/content/article/27077602.html

 

Tim Hunt’s Mistake

(Nobel laureate had to resign from his institute after remarks about women)

by Sergey Dobrynin

---------------

British biochemist Tim Hunt, 2001 Nobel laureate, was forced to leave the position of honorary professor of UCL due to his remarks about the “difficulties” that women create in research laboratories. Is such extreme reaction justified to the words of a renown researcher, which he himself considers a “harmless joke”, even if it’s unfortunate?

 

Speaking at an official reception which took place June 9 as part of a conference of science journalists in Seoul, Hunt said,

 

“Let me explain my problem with girls. When they are in your lab, three things happen. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry”.

 

In any case, in this form his words were quoted in her twitter by one of the participants of the conference, director of science journalist program at London City University, Connie St. Louis.

 

[Connie St. Louis's tweet image here]

 

“Does the Nobel laureate thing we are still living in a Victoria era?” added St. Louis.

 

Literally in one day around this remarks of Tim Hunt, a scandal was ignited. A hashtag was created on twitter #distractinglysexy, under which women-scientists started to share their photos, in which they were captured in lab coast, protective suits, respirators, and so on.

 

[Emily Remnant tweet/pic]

 

London’s Royal Society (can be compared to Russian Academy of Science), of which Hunt is a member, rushed to distance itself from the scientist, leaving a note in its official twitter: “The remarks of Tim Hunt do not reflect our views.” In press, one sharply critical article after another began to appear. For example – the column of Emily Willingam under the title “Nobel laureate Tim Hunt thins, just like you” in Frobes, in which the author noted with indignation that jokes are typically formed around core beliefs, and “apparently Tim Hunt beliefs that women in science laboratories – barrier, mostly due to their female appeal and tears”.

 

In response, Tim Hunt resigned from the position of honorary professor from the department of Life Science at UCL. He apologized for his words on BBC Radio 4 and said that his remarks were a joke. In an interview with the Guardian, the 72-year-old Hunt admitted that his science is finished:

 

“I hoped to still do more for the progress of science in this country and in Europe, but now do not see how that can happen. [..] It is as if I am spreading a disease. Academic institutions that did not even see it necessary to reach out for my interpretation of this story, simply sacrificed me.”

 

Russian science journalist Natalia Demina who was at the Seoul conference and attended the infamous reception told Radio Svoboda that Hunt was invited to the conference as a keynote speaker, and it was precisely his lecture which opened the event. The lunch during which Hunt made his remarks was organized by the Korean science-technology institute KISTER. During the reception spoke the institute’s Junga Park.

 

“After the presentation there were several short speeches – essentially toasts. Almost all of them were about how wonderful it is that there are more and more women in science. Then the microphone was given to Tim Hunt, he didn’t volunteer to speak. It seemed to me, he simply decided to joke: everyone is talking about women in science, let me say something unusual. His speech was self-deprecating ironic [Lenny’s note – Russian word here is “self-ironic”] “- notes Demina.

 

According to Demina, most of those present interpreted the words of Hunt exactly as a joke: “The lunch took place in a large hall, for about 200 people, and it seemed to me, that everyone was laughing and applauding. But then it turned out that part of those present, first and foremost represantatives of UK and USA, were on the contrary shocked and speechless. But no one said anything about this at the lunch itself”, she said.

 

“I talked to journalists from Spain and China who were at this lunch, and they interpreted the words of Hunt just as I did, as a harmless joke. There were those who did not think the joke was harmless, but everyone more or less converged on that Hunt allowed himself an unfortunate* remark at an unfortunate time – at a lunch that was essentially devoted to women in science. At the same time, practically everyone converged on that Tim Hunt was punished too severely, no one expected that he would be forced to leave his position. It seem to me there was enough public scolding. And now you can see in twitter recommendation to expel Hunt from London’s Royal Society, to strip him of is Nobel prize. This reminds more and more of a witchhunt”, - noted Demina.

[The article continues with a discussion of Matt Taylor’s shirtgate, but I don't have any more time to devote to this and stop the translation here.]

*[Uptade 7/30/2015: Natalia Demina said that her remark was mis-transcribed in the original article. The journalist Sergey Dobrynin just corrected "inappropriate" to "unfortuante".]

ALL COMMENTS (16)