Guest Post: Missteps on the road back.

This is a guest post from Martin Robbins, who writes about science and other interesting things for The Guardian, Vice and New Statesman.

* * * * *

The first time I ever met Bora Zivkovic, we talked about sexual harassment. We were in Dublin to take part in a panel at ESOF 2012, and I found him beforehand catching some air outside. The issue of harassment policies at TAM and other conferences was high on the agenda, and he explained to me that he felt a similar policy was unnecessary at ScienceOnline, though they’d probably stick one in to ‘keep people happy’. Bora argued that maintaining a high proportion of women at events was more likely to lead to a safe environment than any policy. It seemed like reasonable logic at the time.

During the panel, I took this photograph. As you can see from the comments, the #IHuggedBora meme was in full swing. If I’m honest I found his fixation on hugging everybody – even showing us pictures of previous hugs on his phone - a little odd in person, but nobody seemed to mind. It was July 2012, the same month that Bora told Kathleen Raven that he wanted to have sex with her, a few weeks before he told Monica Byrne that he was a ‘very sexual person’, and two years after he began his pursuit of Hannah Waters.

In October, these stories and others came to light. Bora was forced to resign from his positions at Scientific American and ScienceOnline, and he removed himself from public discourse. On January 1st he returned to the blogosphere - supported by his friend and ScienceOnline cofounder Anton Zuiker – with the intention of rebuilding his reputation and career.

In the rest of this post I intend to explain why I’m deeply unhappy with the manner of Bora’s departure and return. Along the way I will fisk Zuiker and Bora’s posts, and Bora’s later addendum, and explain why Bora’s apology is not just insufficient, but concerning to me. Then I’m going to try to answer Bora’s question, about what he needs to do next.

I’m going to do all of this without any personal anecdotes about brewing with root vegetables, and in considerably less than 5,500 words.

- - - - - -

Bora Zivkovic was an outstandingly talented science blogging expert. A fundamentally good man, he made some terrible mistakes that affected three women he worked with, although ultimately nobody was really harmed. Those mistakes cost him his friends, reputation and career. Now, he’s paid the price, and hopefully we can forgive him and welcome him back into the community he’s done so much for.
 
It’s a pleasing, comfortable narrative that many of us would love to subscribe to. It’s also toxic and wrong, and an acknowledgment of this from Bora (and his supporters) would be a welcome step on the road to genuine redemption.

The first problem is that by any objective, clear-headed assessment, Bora was incompetent. He didn’t lose his positions at ScienceOnline and Scientific American as a punishment for doing bad things, or to somehow ‘pay’ a ‘price’ – as if these jobs were his to give away – he lost them because it became apparent that he wasn’t fit to do them, and in fact never had been.

A lot of people will object to this, pointing to all the good work he did, all the projects he took part in, the legacy written into the very fabric of the science blogging community. He did many good things, and of course we shouldn’t ignore them.

But this isn’t a set of scales we're balancing. We’re not weighing good against bad here, because the things that Bora fucked up are not optional. ‘Not sexually harassing women’ is not a ‘bonus extra’ in the job description. He harassed professional contacts for sex, brought his employers into very public disrepute, seriously damaged the reputation of a major conference, and undermined relations in the communities in which he worked.  Bora was one of the community’s key gatekeepers, and months later men and women are left wondering if the course of their career was altered for better or worse by one man’s sex drive.

When it came to fundamental aspects of his professional life, Bora was a walking disaster. He was incompetent, and he was lucky that he lasted as long as he did. Any attempt to rebuild his career has to start by honestly confronting that.

The second problem is the nature of sexual harassment, and how that fits in with the stories of Monica Byrne, Hannah Waters and Kathleen Raven – three names entirely absent from Anton Zuiker’s grueling 5,000 word ode to rare vegetables, incidentally.

A key thing to understand about harassment is that it’s usually part of a long-term pattern of recidivist behaviour, often by people who are not obviously ‘villains’, who rely heavily on psychological manipulation and the abuse of power structures within their communities or institutions.

The evidence we have here, in the form of testimony and e-mails, shows a clear pattern of deliberate behaviour repeated on many occasions over at least two years. The women were identified, targeted, isolated, manipulated, and their boundaries repeatedly tested, often in professional contexts, over a sustained period of time. The methodologies of these incidents are so uncannily alike that even the same pick-up lines are used.

In her own account of Bora’s behaviour, Raven writes: “I’ve never been taken advantage of by a male off the street. All of the men who have sexually harassed me in professional settings have been smart, accomplished, eloquent, driven. But ultimately, and this is key, they have been and are predators.”

What makes things worse is Bora’s continued deceit and manipulation when these stories began to emerge, and the damaging impact this had. His first mea-not-so-culpa, in response to Byrne’s original allegations, claimed: “It is not behavior that I have engaged in before or since.” People were embarrassingly desperate to believe this, and Byrne found her story met with indifference or even outright hostility by large sections of the online science community. It was only when Hannah Waters stepped forward, and then Kathleen Raven, that this was exposed as a lie and the house of cards finally toppled.  A curt tweet -“I was wrong. I am sorry.  I am learning.” – contained the sum total of Bora’s public apology and contrition, and he was gone.

That leads to more a serious question about Bora’s place in the community. In person, he was a man of strange contradictions. He presented himself as weak, harmless, shy, bumbling, quirkily European; and yet he was clearly confident, incisive, intelligent, ambitious, and wielded considerable power. He was also happy to lie to us. In hindsight, it leaves one with a nagging doubt; that uncomfortable feeling you get when a street magician shows you your watch. How could I be this clueless, and how on Earth do I know what else he’s taken? How can I trust this man?

 - - - - - - -

That brings me to Bora’s return to world of online science on January 1st, accompanied by his friend and ScienceOnline co-founder Anton Zuiker’s epic meditation on friendship and something called ‘Piper Methysticum roots’. Zuiker begins his post with what he believes is a sparkling and colourful anecdote about some sort of vegetable brewing, but that isn’t his most serious mistake. Indeed, it probably isn’t even in the top five.

“It’s good that Bora offered his apology, and I believe he did so contritely and humbly,” he writes, failing to link to this apology because at the time of writing it simply did not exist. He mentions the need to be “sensitive to the women who spoke out,” yet in 5,500 words that include two substantial diatribes on the apparently substantial difficulties he experiences procuring root vegetables, he fails to mention any of them (though links were later added).

Perhaps he was unfamiliar with their testimonies. That would explain his repeated misrepresentation of the allegations against Bora, described as “a conversation, a situation and a relationship that [the women] identified as harassment.” Later, Zuiker suggests, “he said things to others that would have been better shared with a best friend or a therapist, women called him on it, he apologized, he disappeared in shame and regret.” Both statements are demonstrably inaccurate; both minimize the substantial testimony - and lengthy e-mail records - provided by Waters, Raven and Byrne.

Zuiker’s worst mistake though was publishing this self-absorbed, history-rewriting, pseudo-intellectual clusterfuck when he sits on the board of one of the organizations still trying to deal with the fallout from Bora’s actions, ScienceOnline. They were forced to issue a statement on Friday in response to Zuiker’s post: “given the close personal and professional history between Bora Zivkovic and Anton Zuiker – and their connection with ScienceOnline – we’ve asked Anton to refrain from any public communication about Bora and that all official communications from ScienceOnline come from the entire board or its Executive Director, Karyn Traphagen.” Nonetheless, this casts a shadow over the upcoming conference.

So what about the man himself? Bora reappeared with a blog post summarizing his year which omitted any mention of the scandal. “In October I moved my blog from its spot at Scientific American back to its home here,” he mentioned, without further explanation. The post concluded with a link to Zuiker’s post. No acknowledgement, no apology, no contrition, not a good start.

Meanwhile, Bora’s behaviour on Twitter was almost triumphant. “Happy to see so many people (with just a couple of exceptions) deeply moved by this morning's  [Anton Zuiker] post.” It was a crass thing to say given the huge discomfort at this return, once again seeming to rewrite history and minimize the voices of those who suffered at his hands. The comments beneath speak for themselves.
 
Perhaps realizing that his comeback was veering into the rocks, Bora finally added an apology, but this too was problematic. “I didn’t think I needed to offer a new public apology in my first post, ” he explained, linking to his original response to Byrne (since shown to be misleading) and two terse tweets of “I’m sorry.” It’s hard to understand why anyone would feel that this was enough.
 
What concerned me most though were his references to the women involved. “Only the women affected by my actions can decide what they want to do, and what, where, when and how they want to ask me to do. […] I am more than willing and happy to do whatever the women I harmed ask me to do. I don’t know whether it is appropriate for me to do this all in public, though. I have to pay attention to the actual needs and wants of people I harmed, rather than the popular public opinion.”

Taken in combination with Bora’s other public statements since his return, this comes across to me as manipulative. The three women who spoke out suddenly find themselves thrust by Bora into the unwanted position of public judge, jury and executioner, dragged into the middle of his personal redemption drama, and put under enormous public pressure by someone who remains a key community figure with 20,000+ Twitter followers.  He is making demands of them here, albeit obliquely, and that needs to stop.  It also sidesteps the fact that Bora’s behaviour didn’t just affect the women who came forward, but the wider community, as beautifully documented by Karen James’s ‘Ripples of Doubt’ project . Ultimately, it isn’t up to any individuals to rehabilitate Bora; if it happens it will be a community process driven largely by how Bora chooses to conduct himself.

My fear - and I accept your mileage may very - is that there has been no real change, and that the same pattern of manipulation that we saw in the past is continuing here. I could be wrong, but as the old saying goes: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Whatever you or I believe though, the onus now is on Bora to regain people’s trust, and the high profile manner in which he chose to return to the online world – on the back of what felt almost like a mini PR campaign - was not the right way to go about that.

- - - - - - - - - -

So how would I answer the question Bora poses at the end of his statement? “What kinds of changes do you expect to see from me, how can I make amends, what kind of actions will persuade you I’ve changed for real, what kind of changes you’d require to let me back into your circle of people you trust?”

I have some sympathy for this. I suffered from depression in my 20s - to the extent of taking an overdose - and lost friends because of it. I spent sleepless nights wondering how to make things right, but what I learned in the end is: you can’t. It’s not about fixing things or persuading people. It’s not about making extravagant gestures to make up for what you’ve done. It’s not about doing the right set of things to get back into a circle of friends.

Because ultimately, getting your friends and your career back shouldn’t be the goal at all. The goal should be to fix yourself, and to do everything in your power to ensure that you never find yourself back here again. That means acknowledging everything that happened – not just the stuff people have found out about so far. It means accepting that there may be situations that you need to avoid in future. It means admitting just how bad things got, and beginning a process of real, honest change to make them better.

It isn’t easy, and it may not relaunch your career or win your friends back or repair your damaged reputation. It may mean sacrifice – changing career, moving cities, accepting that you’ll never regain certain friendships - but eventually you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you’ve grown and improved; that you’ve made genuine progress toward a better and healthier future; that you can be proud of your achievements in the months or years since you made the decision to change. 

In my experience, that’s when people start to trust you again. And then, when you’re not looking for it and you least expect it, you might just find some old faces stopping by to see how you’re getting along. 

127 responses so far

  • You write: "he lost them because it became apparent that he wasn’t fit to do them, and in fact never had been."

    Can you give examples of that? I was unaware that people felt he was unqualified for his job.

    • Janet D. Stemwedel says:

      Martin has indicated (on Twitter) that it's bedtime where he is, but I think he answers this in paragraph 11: sexually harassing people he's supervising (as a blog editor) or people trying to pitch him stories or posts is an instance of professional incompetence.

      • I really am going to bed now, as it's 3am here! But yes, the examples are in the following paragraphs: "He harassed professional contacts for sex, brought his employers into very public disrepute, seriously damaged the reputation of a major conference, and undermined relations in the communities in which he worked. Bora was one of the community’s key gatekeepers, and months later men and women are left wondering if the course of their career was altered for better or worse by one man’s sex drive."

        *falls asleep*

        • As others have noted, Bora did a lot. This behavior was a poor reflection on his work but it does not negate the positive things he did. Therefore, your stating that he was not fit to do them is not accurate. It suggests he was incompetant. He wasn't.

          • Greg Smith says:

            Of COURSE he was unfit to do them! He was unable to let reasonable merit-based judgement guide his professional decision making in at least many cases that we know about over an extended period of time; that is a pretty damn major example of gross incompetence for a person in his position!

            Who knows the full extent of the damage from his disgusting and damaging pathological behavior? Besides the direct and long-term career effects that his direct victims (both known and unknown) of his harassment suffered, how many excellent writings have we, the end consumers of the writings, been deprived of because of his decision to directly use his position to try to satisfy his libido? Clearly he was very unable to do his job properly.

          • I can't really add much more than has already been said multiple times. Just above, I listed a number of ways in which Bora was incompetent. As I write in the article, it's not a question of some mythical balance of good and bad. To be competent at a job you have to be capable of performing all parts of that job. Bora was not capable of performing all parts of his job.

            Specifically, he was not capable of being an editor, he was not capable of the social networking aspects of the job, he was not capable of effective community engagement, he brought his employers into serious disrepute. These aren't optional parts of the job, or things that you can weigh against other things. Either you can do all of the functions of your job, or your cannot. The fact that he did some good things as well is true, but irrelevant - he was not capable of doing the jobs he was given. Ergo, he was incompetent.

          • In fact, let me return to the dictionary definition of 'incompetent': "not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully."

            Bora did not have or show the necessary skills to perform his roles successfully. He lacked basic skills, like professionalism, the ability to engage effectively with the wider community, the ability to act as an effective editor, the ability to maintain good interpersonal relationships with colleagues. As a result, he damaged community relations, failed to act in a professional manner, harmed the reputations of a major magazine and international conference. This is literally the textbook definition of someone being incompetent. If you were going to write a textbook called "Incompetence for Dummies", you could use this case study as one of those cute little side-panel anecdotes they think readers like.

    • Nell Webbish says:

      A careful reading of the paragraphs above including the sentence "We’re not weighing good against bad here, because the things that Bora fucked up are not optional." answer your question.

      Now I suppose you can make an argument that not sexually harassing employees/contributors isn't actually a requirement of the position Bora held or attempting to exchange professional consideration for sex acts can be excused if you are really good at promoting conferences ... it might be interesting to see the attempt.

      But acting like arguments for incompetency were not clearly stated above seems rather silly.

  • Chrisj says:

    I didn't initially see Anton Zuiker's post until after Bora's had been updated with the afterthought (sorry, "addendum") section. My response to Bora's initial post was "this is bad"; the update was "probably better, but still rather problematic". But then I went and read Zuiker's post, because various other people had commented on it, and my opinion shifted radically.

    If I were in Bora's position, and genuinely remorseful and trying to change, I wouldn't be telling everyone how "beautiful" Zuiker's post was; I'd be putting as much clear air as possible between me and it. There's so much victim-blaming language and creepy insinuation in it (all that "never went to court" and "Bora's side was never heard" stuff), I don't feel able to trust anyone who wants to be associated with it. If you strip it of the irrelevant anecdotes about root vegetables, it's one of the most concentrated veins of rape-apologist language that I've seen outside MRA fora. Nothing about it suggests change, sympathy or acceptance of being wrong, at least not to me.

    • Sam Juno says:

      So a personal post that reveals the just so relationship between two life friends doesn't serve your almost rapist meme of Bora? It was a beautiful post and as an herbalist I was very interested in their use of Gentian and Angelica. Not everything in life revolve around you women. Sorry that Bora isn't you perfect bogey man. I am also interested in Bitters. And leave these three women alone less we examine their imperfect lives available reading their blogs. Bora was honorable enoughto tell his defenders to leave them alone and step aside.

      • Just to be clear, here: Are you telling me that if people talk about the bad things Bora has done, you think it's appropriate to turn the spotlight on the women he harassed and look for any signs they're imperfect? Do they have to have been perfect in order to escape harassment or to have their harassment "count"?

        Also, don't make too much of that tweet where Bora told people not to defend him. It wasn't his idea.

  • amy charles says:

    Probably a woman has to do this part anyway.

    There's such a thing as a pity date, or, later in life, a pity fuck. Martin, this was a beautiful piece, and then at the end you threw him a pity fuck so you didn't look like an asshole. Girls learn (or should learn) early on: don't do this. We learn this because there's no shortage of predatory and manipulative men, nor of unstable men who'll completely misread your kindness and decide you're the key to their [fill in blank]. It goes against all other training, but in the end we learn: go ahead and look like a bitch. So here I am to be the bitch.

    All that "what did I do, tell me what to do, let me in" stuff is as creepy and wrong as you're suggesting. It's also the sign of something really fucked up and not at all friendly. Reading the coturnix addendum said to me, for the first time: Holy shit, have nothing more to do with this fellow. Might be terrific in all kinds of ways, but stay away. Just stay away. It will not be good for you, and if you try to be nice about this, you're asking for trouble.

    What you've just done here is to set conditions and promise the tooth fairy, which any DV/rape advocacy person will warn you against. So now he can go off and therapize himself and come back and stand on your sidewalk at 11 pm waking up the neighbors by throwing gravel at the window and yelling that he's changed, he really understands himself and oh what a *** he was and now he's different, can he come in now, come on, don't be a bitch.

    Not a good idea. You can do as you please, and the Christian-mythos inclined can ruminate on themes of forgiveness however much they like, but when it comes to that guy, I'm out. And not because I'm anti-forgiveness, though that's an essay for another day on women's looking after themselves.

    Come to think of it, this whole thing's been an exercise in watching a community behave like a nice girl with trouble on her hands.

    • Patti says:

      So this. *NOBODY* with a pattern of manipulative, sneaky, predatory behavior "changes for real" in a few months. I've seen enough of this kind of behavior from men who put themselves in positions of power that I don't think people like this can "change for real" at all. Yes, and the addendum with the plea to be told what it is that people need to hear so he can say it - just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. This is not a person who is participating in therapy in good faith.

      • Isabel says:

        Exactly! Therapy for sociopaths can backfire for this very reason. It gives them guidelines for more manipulation. In my opinion this is exactly why he is requesting this information.

        I am still mystified about his contributions. They are never detailed in any concrete fashion. What did he actually teach people about blogging? I am curious, I think it would reveal more about his character.

    • I don't disagree Amy, and to be honest I'm about a 9.5 here to your 10 on this. I have to believe on some level that it's possible for people to change, but I'm as skeptical as you are that this has happened to date, and it would take a very high standard of evidence to convince me otherwise. There's also a point that I could have elaborated on further, which is that the safety of women (and writers generally) in the community is far more important than one man's rehabilitation, and the latter should never, ever put the former at risk.

  • Jay says:

    I only learned of Bora's name when this thing blew up.

    My understanding, especially with the ihuggedbora thing was that he was considered some sort of mentor to up and coming science writers whose blogs he could publish at SciAm (on his say so?) Is that accurate?

    In trying to understand the depth of the issues, I am curious, are there demographics available regarding who his bloggers or mentees were?

    Rough ages, sex, experience as writer, experience in science?

    What percentage of his mentees or hired bloggers were women? What percentage men?

    • Janet D. Stemwedel says:

      You can check out Scientific American Blogs for a sense of the current gender balance of the bloggers there, as well as the SciAm Guest Blog and SA Incubator, whose contributions Bora played a large part in overseeing.

      But he mentored many, many others, and I doubt that that mentorship was generally documented in a way that's clearly accessible to onlookers.

      • Alex Wild (@Myrmecos) says:

        I owe my blog at Sci Am to Bora, and I remain grateful to him for that. The harassment revelations surprised the hell out of me, as did the dishonest way the Bora handled it.

        But what a glaring example of male privilege that I don't have to worry about why I was contracted.

    • amy charles says:

      Bora did a lot. I first became aware of him when I was on the Lablit staff (Jenny Rohn judged one of the Open Lab anthologies) and reading sci blogs around 2006 or so. He was early in on PLoS, which is a bigger deal every year, and he was instrumental, I think, in building a sci blogging community that remained, or felt, genuinely open. Which is rare, even before you get to the part where sciblogging turned into sci media of all sorts, and melded with professional sci comm. It's rare because what you usually get is people playing king of the mountain, with attendant pissing matches and cliques. I've never felt this rather loopy world of sci comm to be anything but open -- stroll right in, and do weird things if you're so inclined, and who cares if it's commercial or what -- and Bora had a lot to do with that. I think he was also important in sustaining that endangered species, the attention span. Science blogging is one of the only media forms I know of where writers aren't terrified of losing the reader's attention after five words.

      There's a generation of sci writers who found him to be an important professional mentor, I think, and that influence seems to run, timewise, with the development of university sciwriting programs. Right time, right circus tent. I was never there physically, so my experience is very different from what you'd get if you lived in NYC or DC or Boston. Or London. I don't doubt there was a much stronger flavor of career there. But things were, in a sense, not allowed to professionalize, which I remain very pleased by. I don't expect it to last long now, but if it does, that'll be awfully nice.

      I have no idea how the demographics run, but my guess is you could get some feel for it at the scio14 "who's coming" page. I've always felt -- or had, before October -- totally welcome, which is decidedly not the experience of so many women in science (as opposed to sciwriting).

      After the October Surprise I concluded -- eventually -- that a lot of this will probably continue, whether as SciO or something else, or as smaller, looser aggregations. It comes down to the people, who are as interesting as they ever were. The rest is a matter of organization, and as the hackers used to say, TIMTOWTDI.

      • amy charles says:

        Oh - I just realized some might not be aware of the Open Lab series. It seemed to me an important thing (though of course I'm coming from the world of literary writing, which is poxy with "best of" anthologies -- and they're important). I thought it was important because in a sense the series legitimized and recognized longform general-educated-reader writing about science, including highly essaysistic writing, which had been in decline for a long time simply because newspapers couldn't justify it beyond health-related "news you can use". (You can read about it some of that in my 20-year stroll through NYT's Science Times section here: http://www.lablit.com/article/350 .) And, importantly, it recognized *online* writing, which was a big deal at the time: we were still in battles about the legitimacy of whatever showed up on blogs and whether it was as serious, real, whatever as august-journal stuff that'd been through battalions of editors.

        So yeah, it was a big deal. I thought so, anyway. It coincided with the beginnings of POD, too, so mediawise it was interesting and exciting.

        • amy charles says:

          I have to say, though, I've had this nagging doubt since I wrote this: Karyn Traphagen seems a thoughtful and interesting person -- I've never met her -- and far more interested in making things work than in anything else. I can't help wondering how much of the work was done by someone, or someones, who weren't very interested in credit. Which is not to kick Bora -- promotion's a serious job, and he was there and doing it and reading and teaching and encouraging -- but perhaps there's room in the apps dock for more people, when we talk about these things.

  • Tim says:

    I admire the women who brought the problem to light in the first place. Their story should the central story: this should be the time when a traditionally patriarchal community newly rallied around its female members in a fashion that helped encourage professionalism.

    Yet the latest chapter distracts from this powerful narrative. In the latest chapter, a flawed man made a flawed apology and then the pundits pounced, decrying the flawed man, refusing his apology, and conducting rather a merciless written public vivisection of his many flaws.

    This piety saddens me. We should focus on the original story, and its core lessons. We should demonstrate compassion, not for any one person's sake, but because it is how a community should behave.

    • Janet D. Stemwedel says:

      In the process, we need to have compassion for the people Bora harmed. Since that's the step so often skipped in these grand redemption narratives, I'm inclined to start there.

      • Tim says:

        Entirely agree. Their story, and the community's support for them, should be the first story, the central story, and the last story.

        The nice thing about compassion is it need not stop at the most sympathetic characters. In fact, the exhibition of compassion aligns with how the women who spoke out behaved themselves. This demonstration of adult, profession behavior is itself the good I suggest, for itself and not for its recipient.

        I am not suggesting a return to days of open-armed embrace of the perpetrator, nor forgive and forget. Rather, as one commenter suggested, wary distance seems entirely appropriate.

        But a simple "okay, glad you apologized, now move on" would be more compassionate response from pundits, and as a result a better way to keep the focus on the dignified way the women who were harmed comported themselves.

        I do not see how being petty to him honors them. Accept the apology, remember the core lesson the women brought forward, move forward.

        • Janet D. Stemwedel says:

          Tim,

          It would be a mistake to think that Bora hurt exactly three people here. Or that he has apologized to all the people he harmed.

          I say this as someone he harmed, someone he has not apologized to as yet.

          Please don't instruct me on appropriate compassion here.

          • Tim says:

            *Very* sorry to hear you have been harmed. I imagine many have been harmed in this way and I sympathize without presuming to know the pain. I wish you well and hope healing comes soon.

        • This isn't a question of pettiness, it's an issue of safety. Bora made professional environments unsafe and uncomfortable for a number of women - considerably more than the three who spoke out, as Janet points out. He cannot be allowed back in if it's going to put others in the community at emotional or professional risk.

          It isn't possible to 'move on' if the fundamental problem hasn't been addressed, and Bora's rehabilitation cannot take priority over the need to maintain a safe professional environment.

    • amy charles says:

      Tim, please read my reply to Anton's piece on his blog. I think it may help you understand why this isn't a matter of "I'm so sorry I broke your State Fair plate, I know it meant a lot to you, and I hope I can make it up."

      • Tim says:

        The harassment described by multiple parties sounds really serious to me. And indicative of a wider problem not solely confined to one perpetrator. Science often occurs in misogynistic places in misogynistic ways. This must change. I believe this point, and healing, should be the main message. I hope I understood this to be part of what you wrote.

        Lately the discussion has been about the perpetrator and the adequacy or inadequacy of his apologies. This misses the point. I suspect the most effective way to learn and heal is not vengeance but rather to demonstrate compassionate adult behavior, to accept from a distance, and then return to the core work of figuring out how the community can evolve toward the better in the future.

        Sorry to have written so much. I'm just one voice, and not one who was harmed, so I understand I have a limited right to contribute, and from here will listen.

        Best,
        Tim

        • DrugMonkey says:

          If you missed #ripplesofdoubt I highly recommend it for a fuller understanding of the harms, Tim.

        • amy charles says:

          Hi Tim -

          On my way to bed & will reply later -- largely agree, esp. w/general tone, but with reservations -- but just wanted to say this about the "limited right to contribute": i think it's important that people come to understand that this is a community issue, not just a women's issue. and not a community issue in the sense of "must protect the women", but in the sense of thinking about what kind of places we want to live & work in.

          are most men likely to know what living in an environment of everyday sexual harassment's like, I'm guessing no. it sounds like no. i'm also aware of the long-employed feminist rhetoric that says men have no right to speak on such issues -- I disagree, though i wonder how much of that has to do stories in which men came in and talked over women, dominated and disrupted a give/take. Anyway. longwinded way of saying I think you've every right.

          amy

          • Tim says:

            Thanks for the inclusivity Amy.

          • Isabel says:

            I don't think this was *everyday* sexual harassment. And plenty of men have been victims of both male and female sociopaths. Bora pretended even to his friends to be something he was not, and as we see on this thread many people are still under his charismatic spell. This lying and manipulation and long term deceitful pattern is what distinctly separates this from everyday harassment (say, getting "compliments" on the street or the first female in a work environment being mobbed by angry male workers and so on). The effects may be the same, but the intention is not.

    • I agree that the central issue here is the harmful behavior to women and its consequences for them. As with several of the women who have written here, I found both men's posts disturbing.

      None of it suggested that deep insight into totally unacceptable behavior had yet been reached - by either.

      While I find some of what's being said from all sorts of directions distasteful too, Tim, I think describing the situation as apology offered but not taken with grace disregards the accompanying behavior.

      Trivialization and innuendo about the women who came forward by the one man, with approval and gratitude for it expressed by the other, added insult to injury. What's more, there was an immediate resumption of the cyber part of the behavior complained about. For any shadow of the behavior to resume whatsoever speaks far more loudly than words of apology.

      It could not have been made clearer that the constant favoriting and re-tweeting was one of the boundary issues: he would not stop it when asked, we were told. Only a few weeks passed, and now we all got to see it happen in real time in our own Twitter streams. Yes, any who wants to can block someone. But what weight should be put on apologies that are accompanied by a resumption of pushing into space where a woman has said "stop"?

      I'm one of the people who valued the friendship and talent. This has caused me grief. But…. what part of the word "no" is so hard to understand?

      • Is that Bora doing the favouriting and RTing? I wasn't aware of this at the time but it's pretty concerning. When did this happen? Who did you speak to about it?

        • I'm not talking about me. I was referring to suddenly seeing BZ favorite/retweet KR. Many may think that's trivial, and blocking can stop it (as long as Twitter continues to allow that). Yet, it's no big hardship generally to not favorite/RT someone's work - certainly not in the case of a blog post that has nothing to do with you (as good as KR's post was). It requires "only" an understanding of the boundaries and impulse control.

          I am one of those who thinks that is by no means trivial. It made the lioness part of me want to growl to ensure distance was kept and then roar if the growl were not enough. However the stuff then went into the void - whatever that means (deletion or blocking?). I'm glad it's gone, however it was disappeared. That it was done at all suggested, to me, though, that the boundary issue was either still not understood or was not respected. Which did not bode well.

          It's normal to encounter reactions from someone else that don't fit with our own idea of what is an appropriate reaction. But if our behavior really upsets someone, and it's not much to ask of us to stop it, then it's a foundation of propriety and courtesy to respect that at any time, surely - never mind in a situation like this.

          That's so much sanctimonious ridiculously "PC" twaddle to some, I guess. No one can never put a foot wrong in social interaction - it's certainly not my forte. This, though, went to the heart of the issue: respecting it when someone says something is creeping them out. It's what you do that counts - not what you claim about yourself. Could the request to cease and desist have been any louder?

          I do not want to pile on or fuel piling on. It would be good to once again some day feel ok at seeing tweets from BZ pop up. However, for me at least, that RT made that horizon shift further into the distance.

    • Elizabeth Moon says:

      "How a community should behave" will be seen differently by different people, and how it actually behaves will determine who is comfortable and welcome in it.

      In this case, the science journalism community should "demonstrate compassion" first for the victims of sexual harassment, since they are traditionally and in many communities ignored or vilified. Indeed, the first to comment publicly was ignored and disbelieved until others spoke up. The "original story" is that a man used his position of power to identify, pursue, and harass women. *That* is the original story.

      It is not "pundits" who pounced, but members of the community themselves, people who accurately saw the danger in permitting the predator to return to the community where he might return to his former behavior and continue to wreak harm on it and its reputation. It is not "piety" but the practical desire to protect the community from further harm by someone whose own "apology" and whose friend's testament on his behalf, demonstrate the lack of understanding and will to change that might make it safe to be around the predator.

      Pointing out what is wrong with the original actions, the apology-that-isn't-really, and the testamony of his friends is absolutely necessary for any possibility of change in the culture that nurtures, in too many men, the idea that sexual harassment isn't that bad really, and women are too sensitive really and all you have to do to have your bad behavior disappear is say "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, tell me what to do." What you're suggesting as "compassion" isn't, really, compassion--it's cheap grace. There's a big difference.

      One can have compassion for a man who has allowed himself to grow into the kind of behavior Bora demonstrated without losing the awareness of its implications for the community. One can regret whatever influences in his previous life led him to think what he did was OK, that his excuses to himself and others were adequate...but one must not--for the good of the community and indeed the world--give up at that point and let bygones be bygones. He has become an object lesson through his own actions. He still wants to crawl back into the same bed he made before--that's obvious from what he's said. He doesn't get it. His friend doesn't get it. And maybe you don't get it.

      • Tim says:

        Quick responses to direct address:

        We agree that a "man used his position of power to identify, pursue, and harass women."

        Savvy members of a scientific community who comment in public *are* pundits (although I agree there are unmeant other ways the word can be used) - so I think we're talking about the same people.

        We agree too - and I wrote already - that keeping distance from potential predators makes sense.

        Where we disagree is how I characterized compassion. The stuff you wrote above the phrase "What you're suggesting as 'compassion'" does indeed sound like balderdash and is not what I suggested. I do not defend the adequacy of Zivkovic's apology.

        Rather I question the utility of focusing on it. I suggest focusing instead on the main story as you describe it. If we can agree that a perfect apology is unlikely from a man who recurrently harassed women, then it should not be a big leap to conclude there is little value to endlessly talking about whether he did or did not apologize properly. This makes the perpetrator the story and is what I suggested we should not do.

        In addition, I fear it harms the community to refuse to demonstrate simple forgiveness to a deeply flawed individual. Ruminating on his flaws, disparaging him, etc. is unlikely to lead to healing completely independent of how it might make him feel (which was not my goal to discuss).

        We agree too about Zivkovic's potential motivations. I do not (did not) defend them.

        I came to this forum in good faith and wrote in professional terms with sympathy for those harmed by Zivkovic. We agree about much. Therefore, please do not lump me - as you did in the final two lines of your post - with people who harass women or who defend their harassers. I get it, and do not understand what is to be gained by implying otherwise.

        Many thanks for the commentary on this site. I'm reminded of my mother's stories of sexual harassment when she was a young partner in an all-male law firm. At that time, such allegations were met with conspiratorial silence and even ostracism. As a culture we have come far. There is still work to be done, I believe through focus on the core story and how reruns thereof can be prevented.

    • Nell Webbish says:

      If Bora can't manage to come up with an apology for his sexual harassment that is not flawed, why should anyone think that he actually grasps that his actions were wrong?

      Bora needs to apologize. He doesn't get to pass off a "flawed apology" that continues to distance him from his actions by diminishing what they were ... predatory sexual harassment with the intent to exchange professional promotion for sex acts.

      Excusing him from doing so demonstrates either a lack of understanding of what an apology is or is just another plea to excuse the harasser because after all, he's just a poor, poor flawed man.

      • drugmonkey says:

        One also might conclude that Anton's remarks, if he is Bora's best buddy and all, might reflect Bora's mindset as much as any apology Bora writes.

        • Nell Webbish says:

          No, no one rational concludes that the half-baked apologetic comments of one person are an acceptable stand-in for the actual acceptance of responsibility and apology of the person who did the wrong of using his position as an avenue to sexual harass other people.

  • Dave says:

    This was an excellent and much needed piece.

    I only want to add that the narrative of Bora's "mistakes" is baffling and infuriating. Sexual harassment is not a mistake. It's not an unfortunate misunderstanding, a misplaced word or a overly enthusiastic compliment.

    It is intentional and manipulative.

    My stomach turned when I read Zuiker's misrepresentation of the harassment.

    No one living in the Research Triangle in 2013 suddenly learns that repeatedly trying to coerce sex from people who report to you is wrong. And sexual predators don't reform themselves in a few short months.

  • Michael says:

    I originally read Bora's January 1st blog post without the addendum. Being aware of most of the events of last October, I noted that Bora went out of his way not to discuss his sexual harassment even in a general way. He gave the impression that he dropped out of SciAm and ScienceOnline for mundane reasons, possibly he wanted a vacation or possibly he was resuscitating his old blog. He certainly did not give any idea that he personally had become so toxic he had to leave. This left a sour taste in my mouth.

    Later I read his addendum. "Oh by the way, I'm really sorry if I upset some people because of my past behavior. But I'm in therapy now and I'm getting all better. Thanks Anton for liking me. Since I realize I screwed up not just in the past but in this blog post, tell me how I can kiss ass to become your friend again." Again not impressed.

    Bora is ignoring the first rule of forgiveness: Don't make it worse. Don't first say nothing about a major scandal you initiated and then make a self-serving mea culpa when people object to your original silence.

  • David Waldock says:

    I feel that this article would be improved by cocktail-making anecdotes.

  • John Platt says:

    Bora engages in misdirection in his "I have returned" post. Beyond ignoring the scandal and the people it hurt, he claims to be the #2 author at SciAm blogs. But the truth is that the vast majority of his popular posts were merely reblogs of others' work: mostly "image of the week" and "video of the week" posts that did little to serve his fellow authors.

  • Dave Fernig says:

    One should not confuse forgiveness, which is a one-to-one relation with redemption, which relates to the relationship of an individual with a community.

    One aspect that shines through this excellent post and events since the autumn is the confusion that arises between those listing elements of his contribution and those cataloguing his behaviour. Sure he mentored lots of people, many well. Sure he energised scientific blogging, etc., etc. But why did he do these things? I think that those who see the positive, should consider motive, above and beyond any question of talent and achievement. I would venture that, as a manipulative person (he didn't suddenly become manipulative 24 months ago, this is integral to his character), he engaged deliberately in this way to build up a powerbase of networks and supporters and a ready made supply of victims. This allowed him to selectively and in his mind, safely, strike at victims who were at the time weak.

    Despicable.

    As Martin states, he has only one way forward to gain redemption, to tear down those elements of his character that led to his power seeking and manipulation of others and re-build.

    It is medically inadvisable to hold your breath during this process, as it takes 5-10 years.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    DF-

    Are you really suggesting that the *entire* basis for Bora's long history of science blogging was to get some? People are a bit more complex than this, in my estimation. Martin's charge of incompetence is misplaced. It suggests no areas of competence exist, to my reading. I agree that Bora's behavior was disqualifying for the job, and I agree with Martin's larger point that this is not some minor job quibble. But there must be a more accurate concept.

    • Janet D. Stemwedel says:

      Drugmonkey,

      My reading of "incompetent" in Martin's post was very much in the HR context of partaking-of-activities-incompatible-with-continued-employment regardless of how well he did the assigned tasks. In the same way that it only takes a dab of bacon to render the otherwise kosher cheese-dip treyf.

      It would be convenient if we had a word that conveyed that without making people think the claim is "he couldn't do ANYTHING right!" perhaps that would keep these discussions from derailing. Then again, I've heard enough from the "getting harassy is no big deal" crowd that I suspect we'd continue to hear assertions that the competence Bora brought to his jobs was surely enough to outweigh whatever (probably totally negligible) harm he did to a few women.

      • DrugMonkey says:

        I am in no way suggesting that Bora's other contributions out way the serial harasser stuff. Perhaps I am bothered b/c this trends toward revisionist history of the "he did a bad act therefore he must be entirely TehEvuls" variety. This has many bad implications for vigilance in future situations. ...I could swear I read a respectable ethics blogger on this topic somewhere or other..

        • John Logan says:

          How many acts of harrassment does it take to become more than “a” bad act?

        • Nell Webbish says:

          Would you be making the same argument if the bad act was using his position to smuggle a kilo of heroin into the country? Embezzle some funds? Physical assault a single employee?

          Funny how predatory sexual harassment with the intent to exchange professional promotion for sex acts doesn't rate as a reason for permanent dismissal and an evaluation of incompetent at one's job as easily as other crimes.

    • Bora had some talents, he achieved some good things, I pointed that out in the piece above and nobody really denies this. But he held two key roles at SciAm and ScienceOnline, and he proved himself to lack the basic skills required as well as the professionalism to handle the responsibilities he was given.

      Bora was catastrophically bad at networking, interpersonal relationships, and community engagement. He lacked professionalism. He lost the trust of his writers. We thought he was brilliant at these things largely because we were oblivious to what was going on behind the scenes. I can't think of anything to call this other than incompetence.

      Whatever you call it though, I think the substantive point here - and we probably agree on this unless I'm misreading you - is that any attempt by Bora to rebuild his career has to begin with the acceptance and acknowledgement of the fact that he wasn't capable of performing the jobs he originally held.

      • DrugMonkey says:

        Lord knows I am no innocent when it comes to inflammatory hyperbole to stimulate discussion. But "incompetent" really reads as "in all aspects" to me. I'm searching for alternative phrasing that really captures the point a bit more pointedly than "inappropriate".....

        • Michael says:

          Just because someone is good at certain aspects of their job doesn't mean they are necessarily competent at the job. Most jobs are multifaceted and competence in several aspects doesn't ensure competency in other aspects. Similarly if someone is incompetent in certain aspects of their job doesn't say they're incompetent in all aspects.

          When I was in the Navy I worked for a Chief Petty Officer who was technically highly proficient. He knew all sorts of minutiae about the job and could do things in ten minutes which other people might spend 20 or 30 minutes doing. However he was an incompetent Chief because he wasn't a leader or a manager.

      • Isabel says:

        The word everyone is continuing to side step around is "sociopath". I've said this from the beginning. The very first account had all the hallmarks- alarm bells went off right away. The unbelievably offensive posts by Anton and Bora also agree with this 100% and are no surprise to me. And we know sociopaths are often good at many things.

        Anton's post was the most bizarre. Fascinating how he talks about Bora's private nature, how Bora never discussed anything personal with his best friend, ever, and then hints Bora "confided in the wrong person". Ha! Last fall some were saying Bora blabbed to everyone, so just accidentally spilled those details to the women.

        Why is there any need at all to qualify condemnation of his character?

        • drugmonkey says:

          You are advancing the Good Person / Bad Person dichotomy, Isabel. In which all that one needs to do is identify the Bad People and shun them. No halfway measures, just us and them.

          Perhaps you are right but my experience suggests the world is more complex. Particularly when a sustained pattern doesn't yet exist. Awareness of Bora's pattern developed slowly. Sadly, the worst suspicions were validated.

          Is this so in *every* case? I tend to think not.

          Is it better or worse to constantly view everything as a dichotomy of Good and Bad? Which is ultimately more harmful?

          • Isabel says:

            I saw the pattern immediately, and said so right here on this blog, thanks to my experiences and research. I knew who Bora was, what everyone thought him to be, this wonderful feminist blogfather, and I believed the first account of his sleezy actions that I read. It was obvious that it was not the first time he had done it from the story itself. The contrast to his reputation revealed the lying pattern. It was all there from the beginning. This is exactly what I am talking about, why it is helpful to have some awareness that not everyone is the same, they are not all motivated by the same things we are.

            "Is it better or worse to constantly view everything as a dichotomy of Good and Bad? "

            I wouldn't view every case this way, these cases are rare. I am actually trying to advance that idea- that this isn't like most cases of sexist behavior which is why I was trying to avoid the male vs female narrative. And rather than dichotomizing, my hypothesis is the only one that unites all of Bora's behaviors, both "good" and "bad" in one convincing narrative.

          • Isabel says:

            Just for an example of how this can be helpful, I knew he would portray himself as a victim- this is the classic defense of sociopaths.

            And sure, I can see how this could get out of hand, but controlling the twitterverse or blogospere is not my forte. I just get impatient with all the endless hand wringing and naivete.

            Sociopaths do exist on a spectrum supposedly but the awareness is crucial nonetheless, why run from it?

    • I agree with this also, it's what I was alluding to in the first comment.

      • Isabel says:

        So what is your choice of word to describe him? Can you come up with anything stronger than "acts inappropriately in some situation"? You can't imagine a situation where someone who screwed up only a portion of their responsibilities is called incompetent? They have to screw up every last aspect before you would venture to call them incompetent?

        • Isabel may be correct. I've detected dramatically increased sociopaths levels in the biomedical sciences; I can only imagine what the popular media must be like.

          There's a bit of it in physics, but modern physics needs commitment even from genius level intellects. I've learned to avoid them socially and academically by picking obscure fields that require a bit of commitment to learn. (Many sociopaths tend to get bored really easily. It's why they are so good at "communications"- always something new to distract them.)

          I say this will all due respect to the White Males who trained me, who are pretty froody dudes. Not all of them are bad. But, they do need to reign in their more predatory members.

  • bob says:

    DF-

    That is a ludicrous, despicable and libellous comment.

    Anyway, glad all of you here have a sense of perspective.

  • Jim Woodgett says:

    I don't personally know any of the people involved but have followed this situation since the initial accusations. There have been many careful and thoughtful words said including much that has obviously been difficult, embarrassing and painful to relate. It seems from my distant view that here is someone who clearly still does not understand boundaries, ignores negative responses, accentuates the positive, and seeks reassurance and forgiveness without understanding why he needs to ask. He has, through his authority, earned loyalty from many of those he's helped and may make it more difficult for some within the circle to reconcile his actions to others. But trust has to be earned not assumed. By trying to rewrite or erase your past (as he attempted here with the relaunch blog), you destine yourself to relive it. I sincerely hope that the swift reaction will cause him to rethink the next steps. The injured people here are not male.

    P.S. To those directly involved, particularly the three brave victims, please know that you've made a lot of people think about how they might be perceived and how it's so easy to inadvertently promote bad behavior in others by making excuses for them.

  • Reflecting says:

    It's been a while since I've read a piece so eloquent, so irreverent, and personal ‒ I know I'm going to be thinking about this for some time to come.

    I'm likewise recovering from depression in my 20s, and though that common experience was a little shocking to be faced with out of the blue, I value the advice and feel a need to give my thanks. The exegesis is appreciated, making mental health visible is quietly invaluable #ripplesofsad

    Flicking between various posts on this topic and those of Bora himself, it's intuitive and pretty glaring that he's been (and is being) a manipulative slimeball, and speaking out (rather than leaving this task solely to victims) is honorable of you.

    His non-apologies, his selective timidity/terseness, and his silence on the actual acts he was repenting for in his blog post all ought be called out; else we accept them by default. In allowing people to shape the conversation as best suits them, we enable their behaviour.

    Arguably by holding onto his huge throng of Twitter followers, he exerts some degree of ongoing propaganda over tens of thousands of people, establishing himself over time as a worthy source of news when a lot of his (current) tweets are simply reposting (already popular) science pieces. An insidious node in the network, "hub" by virtue of factors other than merit.

    As John Platt points out above, this reposting of his does little to serve fellow authors, and just makes for a more hegemonic online community.

    If he's really brave, or sincere, he could relinquish this undeserved sway and recreate an account for those few so enamoured with his posts to follow him. Otherwise, he continues to project his voice to a wider audience than those he supposedly asks for comment.

    The many "thank you!" tweets in reply to those welcoming him back seem immodest at best where these days a favourite will do, and overall give the impression when scanning his Twitter feed that this is an acclaimed return, making it easy for those without the time to catch up on the full details of this case (or simply the gullible) to buy into the narrative he's set out for himself. As you point out, a pernicious and subtle PR exercise. I see no retweets of any opposing opinions, or this piece for that matter.

    Reframing this whole "debacle" as a "PR exercise" and a "marketplace of ideas" (as Kathleen Raven has) rather than a narrative of repentance is important, and I hope others will observe the reactions these frames are biased towards producing in readers at large.

    Feminism talks of dismantling power structures, and it can seem a little abstract until you stumble on a self-confessed predator with 26,375 followers carrying out his business as usual. Here is a power structure, and we should hold whomever enables it (that is, whomever enables him to act as a respected behemoth of the online science community) to account, if only to assert the values we hold dear.

    Retweeters of his (mundane, regurgitative) posts - question them on why do they not simply repost without attributing to him (as he so often does with respect to the Twitter accounts of the sites he scrapes content from).

    Passive support of figures like this can be just as undermining as actively erasing the experiences of the sexually harassed through rewriting their stories as you've highlighted.

    Happy new year Martin, hope all goes well for you and me both.

  • Ms. Daisy Cutter says:

    "I suffered from depression in my 20s - to the extent of taking an overdose - and lost friends because of it. I spent sleepless nights wondering how to make things right…"

    I'm sorry, but this situation isn't remotely comparable. Depression is an illness. If your friends abandoned you because you were so ill that you attempted suicide, you lost nothing. You didn't have to "make things right." They did.

    • Reflecting says:

      Knowing nothing of the specifics to Martin's case and without wishing to speculate, I think it's worth noting he doesn't say it was his fault, just that it was the outcome of his depression. Cause/effect, not claiming any blame.

      I see both sides of it - no, people aren't open-minded enough to tolerate what are symptoms of illness, but equally such an illness promotes introversion, self- isolation - relationships wither without it being anyone's fault.

      Sure, blaming the other parties helps while the wounds are fresh, but it's those antidepressant-fuelled sleepless nights when you reconsider your position until you realise there's nothing productive coming of that displaced resentment.

      Obviously his situation isn't comparable to Bora's, he was just comparing to that *feeling* of being lost, wondering how to recover from a crisis which disrupted your social standing.

    • roro80 says:

      I think it's clear in context that the author probably did some very hurtful things in the context of his depression. It's very common for sufferers of depression to actively push away their friends and loved ones, often in ways that truly hurt those other people. Those other people also have the right to protect themselves against toxic relationships, even if that toxicity is due to an illness like depression. In any case, if the author says (as he does) that he was desperate to make up for whatever he did to push away his friends, it seems like a better idea to believe his story on face value rather than trying to rewrite his former friends as callous jerks turning away from a friend in need.

      • Ms. Daisy Cutter says:

        I didn't find the context "clear" at all, given how many people do in fact cut their "friends" and even relatives loose in their times of need. But thanks for your reply! :)

  • Anne says:

    I only took up blogging & tweeting about my research on my way out of academia, around 2010, but it didn't take long to notice Bora's ubiquitous presence on Twitter. I remember thinking how great it was to see someone using this new platform so effectively to break down the old barriers in scientific communication that would have led to the same old people being heard and the newer, less established scientists working unnoticed. Frustrated as I was by the old boys' networks that were one of many reasons I decided to leave science, I saw hope for future generations.

    Now it's like he's pissed in the pool at his own pool party.

    There will be a large group of people who will never trust him again (including me). There will be a large group of people whose opinion of him will barely change. Either way, a huge opportunity has been wasted. I'm disgusted by his defenders but I'm more sad for the setback this represents for all the young scientists and scientific communicators, both male and female, who benefited from the visibility he granted. It will take time for another such personality to emerge, to build up the type of platform he built.

  • Alycia Ramirez says:

    Ms. Daisy Cutter has it right, Martin. You don't have to make things right, and if you lost friends over your depression and overdose then they weren't very good friends at all, and you are better off without them. And I say this as a mid-20s woman who is just beginning to see the light of "normal" after nearly a decade of severe ups and downs, mostly downs, where I didn't think I'd make it through another day, and really didn't care if I did or not.

    I never followed Bora, but my professor/supervisor did, and I remember when the first revelation came out as I had heard about the "blogfather" many times (in the back of my mind was an idea that I'd start a blog and maybe Bora could help). My prof was shocked, but said very seldom is this a first time thing at Bora's age; If it is true, there will be a past pattern of such behaviour and other people will come forward.

    To us, his thesis students, he was fairly blunt in his comments about Bora and the misuse of trust.

    The really sad thing is that even though I've never had any interaction with Bora, I find the affair casts shadows on my current interactions with male mentors/supervisors. I hate that it has done that. They've acted professionally to all of us, male and female, yet now I have that tiny doubt in the back of my mind and wonder if I'm where I am because of my gender, not my abilities both realized and latent. Some have even been outspoken about sexism, gender biases, yet I still have that tiny doubt; after all Bora was outspoken too

    I hate it. I really do. Maybe it's not fair to blame Bora for that doubt (if not him, then maybe it would have been someone else), but I am angry that it was him who seeded that doubt against people who have treated me professionally in all respects.

    • Isabel says:

      yes, it is unfair, especially to your mentors who sound like good people. I really wish this conversation could move away from men vs women to sociopaths and their targets (preferred word to victims). Trust me things will make a lot more sense.

  • DrWorms says:

    I think this was an excellent response to the Zuiker post. However, I feel it hasn't sufficiently been addressed what that post really was. It was an assault on the women who had the courage to stand up to Bora in the first place. As Chrisj points out, it's full of rape-apologist language, but it is also so much more. It is a detestable and shameful act by someone who may still be in a position to mentor people, although I hope not for much longer. I encourage you to re-read that post (if you can), if not here are some of the points that angered me.

    First, the central theme is making bitters. Really, that's what he chose to build his redemption of Bora around. Making bitters. Let that sink in. But if you didn't get that, he goes further. He (we) gets a rare fruit, a gift from Bora's mother (from her womb?), something that can only come from far away, and must be allowed to mature properly. But here we have chosen to extract from it only what we need to make the bitters. We then store them until we can properly harvest the resentment...er precious bitters to flavor our drinks. So the people that brought Bora down, really just didn't appreciate his uniqueness. According to Zuiker, they took what they needed from him and then just used it to their own satisfaction. Later, they harvested the bitterness and brought down this good man.

    Second, we are told that he and Bora never discussed sex. So obviously, if this shy introvert (now with new and improved Asperger's!) can't discuss sex, when drinking with a friend, how could he ever just blurt it out to a junior colleague? So it's likely that rather than have dealt with the whole exotic root/fruit/whatever, these people probably just took what they wanted from those conversations.

    Finally, interspersed with the chaotic bits about the bitters and fruit, there is Bora, calmly interacting with his friend while the DNLee issue is breaking. This little oasis in the story to prove that, yes, he's truly concerned with the issue, it's keeping him from being his normal loquacious self. We should totally believe he was more concerned with this distant woman, rather than enjoying the intimacy he normally prefers. God, I feel so ashamed I ever doubted that he was concerned.

    If Zuiker really didn't intend all of that symbolism, I hope he gets the therapy he wants his friend to get. But, he's a serious and astute writer, so I'm guessing he did. And, if he did, he should be barred from any and all Science Online activities until he personally apologizes for the horribleness of his post.

    It is one thing to defend a friend. I get that, people can do horrible things, and there can be redemption. As has been pointed out, redemption is not just "hey, it's 1 year later can things go back to normal now?" True change requires contrition and the acceptance that people, no matter how close they were to you at one point, have no obligation to welcome you back into their lives.

    • Isabel says:

      Excellent analysis. best comment on the thread. In my opinion he came off as just as sociopathic as Bora in that post. What sociopaths are best at is manipulation. That is what they are all about, actually. I am personally shocked at the innocence of so many people here - sheltered lives I guess.

  • been there says:

    Zivkovic's new blog: Coturnix.org How appropos! Bad things can happen from consuming quail. It's a very stable toxin....

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coturnism

    The careers and lives of the women who outed him will never be the same. This is a fold in the fabric of their existence. But, they have demonstrated that they are strong. They will survive and finally thrive. Ganbatte kudasai!

  • Greg Smith says:

    I placed the following comment on Bora's blog, and I'll repeat it here because I am doubtful it will survive moderation there. It starts with a quote from his blog addendum:

    “I understand I harmed not just individuals, but also the community. I want your feedback as well – what kinds of changes do you expect to see from me, how can I make amends, what kind of actions will persuade you I’ve changed for real, what kind of changes you’d require to let me back into your circle of people you trust? You can contact me publicly or privately. I am listening.”

    How about a full apology and explanation that dives into real depth about how you understand how extremely unfair and damaging your behavior was to the people you harassed. One that explores the pervasive and toxic effects of this type of behavior, and why it is so horribly wrong. The people you harassed, and readers and people who trusted you over the years deserve at least that, not some glib brief comments that you are sorry. You have not done this anywhere. You are a brilliant writer, yet you have certainly not ever chosen to address the meat of your very damaging behavior in any meaningful way.

    “While it is weird that so many people who loved me so much for years are now terrified of accidentally seeing me.”

    And little bits of passive-aggressiveness like that gem above that you placed in a comment suggest you are STILL not really in a place where you understand the real consequences of your behavior or are accepting of the fact that you have caused a lot of damage ang that you have nobody, NOBODY, to blame for your actions and their consequences but yourself. Sad.

  • Isabel says:

    Is the designation of sociopath considered pseudoscience or something around here? I am at a loss to understand why it is so difficult for people to recognize a textbook case. Or is it the lingering effects of his charisma?

    He lied to everyone. He is not what he claimed to be (a feminist supporter etc). He manipulated many people. He is a total sleeze. He isn't sorry. He is asking for instructions for what to say and do from his victims/targets.

    I disagree with Tim. Analyzing this situation from a rational perspective would be instructive, and help people to avoid such people in the future. The story isn't over. Try to observe the continued unfolding from this perspective.

    • Tim says:

      Analyzing why someone armchair-diagnosed as a sociopath did not offer a adequate apology would help people avoid... what? Inadequate apologies? I agree with Jinx, below: who cares? Along those lines, I agree with half of your "sociopaths vs targets" formulation, Isabel: let's focus on protecting the targets for sociopathy (if that is what this is, I don't claim to have enough clinical info or expertise) is not often amenable to substantive change and thus continued evidence thereof should be approached with a yawn.

      Let me be clearer by stating positively the other side of the coin I've been approaching negatively: rather than suggesting the story not be about Bora and his inadequate apologies, I'm suggesting the story should focus on how he was able to perpetrate for so long, what power dynamics allowed it, why some were targeted and not others, how best those at risk can stay safe, how reporting can be most effective, how to squelch blowback against whistleblowers, how those he harmed can best be supported by colleagues, how mentors can avoid impropriety by better recognizing personal-professional boundaries, how professional organizations can best respond when such problems at a leadership level, etc. These seem worthy topics that could promote healing and prevention. While they are sometimes alluded to they have been less prominently on display than a pile-on discussion of why he and his friend are (to paraphrase the popular sentiment) dirtbags.

      Not sure how reflecting on dirtbagginess of an individual is such a popular activity to defend, and surprised suggesting more helpful topics is controversial. I get the sense there's an us v them dynamic afoot, a "you're against Mr. Evil and everything he represents in my way and every way or you're a part of the problem" kind of mentality going on. "Call him names or you don't 'get it,'" right?

      Probably I should just observe silently in hopes the popular conversation unfolds in a better direction in time without being impatient with the us-vs-them-ness of some of it. Perhaps it is the non-victim's "privilege" to suggest compassion and a victim-centric conversation - this seeming rationality belies a suspicious lack of anger, huh? Perhaps anger at an individual and the name-calling that goes with it is the understandable if arguably necessary prelude to the more productive process to follow.

      In regards the latter, I hope so, I really do.

      Best wishes,
      Tim

      • Isabel says:

        Tim,

        We can have more than one conversation, no? Discussing the pattern (including the non-apologies) would definitely be helpful. I wish I had figured it all out sooner (in terms of sociopathy) myself. In my own situation it was extremely helpful. I was also able to understand those who defended the sociopath to the end, for example. And to stop trying to understand his behavior and to make things right and so on.

        Not sure I really get your desire to focus on the victims, focus on their narrative etc. There were hundreds of "victims" if you are going to include at base level people he lied to (that knew him in real life).

      • Isabel says:

        "Not sure how reflecting on dirtbagginess of an individual is such a popular activity to defend, and surprised suggesting more helpful topics is controversial. "

        btw you are being disingenuous here- no one is saying don't discuss those things. You are the one arguing that trying to get at the full pattern is wrong and that is the discussion that is controversial here. We can have both conversations.

        I remember this resistance from my own situation. He was too charming, his lies were too good, nobody is "all bad". I was finally silenced, pretended to forgive or at least forget, and went through the truly healing research alone, thanks to the internet, years later.

        • Tim says:

          "btw you are being disingenuous here- no one is saying don't discuss those things"

          Disingenuous: Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating.

          Ironic, since that is in fact not what I wrote.

          I suggested emphasizing more productive topics, and compassion. Bad ideas. Message not received.

          Go ahead: Bora is a dirtbag. Discuss.

          Bye.

          • Isabel says:

            You were not being straightforward. No one said we shouldn't ever discuss your topics. Whether to discuss Bora's continued behavior is what is controversial here. So you did in fact twist things around. And you are the only one who (repeatedly) used the term dirtbag.

            You never explained why we can't have this separate discussion about this major event that has affected 100's of people.

            Oh well, I guess we will never know.

      • Nell Webbish says:

        He was able to perpetrate for so long because many people don't believe it when harassment is reported.

        When those people can no longer deny that the harassment happened they believe it was a one time thing and should be forgiven.

        When it's clear that the harassment occurred multiple times these people come up with excuses for the harassment.

        When they run out of excuses they start arguing that everyone should stop being bitter haters who talk about the harassment being the responsibility of the harasser.

        Then they insist that everyone discuss "power dynamics" and how people "at risk" should take responsibility for not making themselves targets for harassment.

        Then there are lectures about having compassion for the harasser because after all the harasser is just a flawed human being who has suffered enough.

        That's how it happens.

  • Jinx says:

    I know nothing about Bora and have only learned about this whole blow up today. That puts me in the unique position of having no dogs in this race. (Or rare vegetables in this salad?)

    However, I've seen, heard, been part of these kinds of conversations before and it's all so familiar. Too many get caught up in arguing about what the guilty/maligned individual can do to prove he has changed.

    Here's the thing: I don't care if he's changed! I don't even care all that much whether he is guilty as charged. He has no right to be in the position of fame, fortune and influence that he was, for the simple reason that no one has the RIGHT to be in such a position! If he's changed or was never guilty, great - he can go off and lead a good life. I will send him all my good wishes.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us can mix it up and encourage all the other wonderful people who can make great contributions if we let them.

    Kudos to the commenter who said, sarcastically, "The people that brought Bora down, really just didn't appreciate his uniqueness".

  • Ben says:

    With due respect, some of this post sounds very troublingly like a witch hunt and an attempt to reinterpret history that reminds one of the Orwellian machinations of totalitarian regimes. To insinuate that Bora had sex on his mind every time he hired a talented female blogger is unhinged speculation at best and an attempt to rewrite history at worst; you might as well say that he also wanted to sleep with every male blogger who he hired. It's much more rational to take what he did at face value (his behavior with the three women) and criticize him for it rather than look at all his past actions through the lens of suspicion and try to tar his entire history and background. At the very least that's deeply scientific.

    • Imagine John works on a check-out in a supermarket. Over the course of two years, three customers make independent accusations to the manager of the store that John has overcharged them, and pocketed the change, and that this has occurred on multiple occasions with each of them over a long period of time.

      Do you assume:
      a) That these were all one-off instances, and John can be trusted most of the time?

      or:

      b) That this is a pattern of untrustworthy behaviour, that there are likely further instances you're not aware of, and that John has no place dealing with customers?

      • Bob says:

        Legally, it would have to be a). For all practical purposes, I suppose most would would plump for b).

        It still doesn't mean you need to go shouting off all the rooftops that John has issues giving back the correct change. But I guess that's where this analogy breaks down.

        • Nell Webbish says:

          The analogy works just fine:

          After a brief hiatus, John is given his position back as a cashier without any signs that 1) John acknowledges that what he did previously was stealing and 2) that John has changed his attitude about stealing.

          Do you,

          a) say nothing to your neighbor who is about to take his cart through John's line, or

          b) warn your neighbor to watch John carefully because he is incompetent at being a reliable, honest check out person.

          • Bob says:

            If I were you I would

            c) Move to North Korea. I like that warm fuzzy feeling of people watching my back.

        • Nell Webbish says:

          Ahhh Bob, how easy it was to reduce you down to the level of referencing the specter of evil dictatorships in lieu of a cogent response. You really could have just called me a poopy head ... it would have been quicker and as rhetorically effective.

      • Ben says:

        I think the two questions are different. I agree that John cannot be trusted *right now and in the future* (and therefore I believe that Sci Am and SciO both were absolutely right in their decision to let Bora go), but I would also not automatically retroactively correlate John's past behavior with his recent tendency to pocket change.

        What I am saying is that seeing every previous action by a person through the lens of his current crimes is akin to post-rationalizing every little incident in a mass shooter's life history as somehow connected to his current crime spree. I know it's tempting to do this, but we all also know how fraught with false leads and ambiguity this kind of analysis is. Even at best it remains highly speculative.

        In case of Bora, there's also one piece of evidence that strongly argues against the hypothesis that he picked female bloggers primarily for their pliability - the fact that several of these female bloggers are in fact very good writers. I guess my point is that we can speculate all we want why he picked this or that blogger, but what we are really trying to do here is gauge intentions and we all know how hard it is to do that.

  • John Wasson says:

    The evidence cited in this case supports the suggestion of long term systemic problems.

    Anecdotal references suggest the sociopathic behavior is deep seated in male psychology illustrated, for example, by episodes in the epic of Gilgamesh and his alter ego Enkidu. The story is complicated but only after being struck blind and becoming feminine did Tiresias gain insight: skepticism about redemption or rehabilitation is justified.

    You can see the behavior documented in the epic starting in young boys. Criminals (i.e. clear examples of sociopaths) are often at a loss about anything with even the slightest moral import; they look for advice from a woman (mother, girl friend), often ignored because incomprehensible.

    The epic and myth are too recent in human history for evolution to effect significant change. The integrity required to prevent this behaviour has to be developed from an early age. Free expression blogs like this also help.

  • Sandra Kiume says:

    I was a blogger at ScienceBlogs, while Bora was there. All the bloggers, including Janet, good-naturedly called each other Sciblings in our jovial and generally supportive community.

    However, during that time as well as after I started writing for PsychCentral, Bora never promoted my work. We did meet for dinner once, but there wasn't any impropriety. And he didn't try to stay friends with me.

    Yes, I was a female up-and-coming science writer. One that he could have taken under his wing, vulnerable to harassment like any other female. But it never happened.

    Why? There was a key difference. He realized I wasn't worth promoting, because I couldn't be sexually manipulated by him.

    I'm a lesbian.

    • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

      I agree with a lot of the comments here, but I have to take issue with this. It's pure speculation and wildly offensive to those that Bora did promote. Isn't there a way to express these feelings without questioning the talent of the people he chose to promote? It's not a zero-sum game.

      • A Hermit says:

        "Isn't there a way to express these feelings without questioning the talent of the people he chose to promote?"

        Well that's just it; even those people are questioning themselves...that's what the whole Ripples of Doubt thing is about.

        The damage done by Zivkovic's behaviour goes beyond the women he directly harassed. Every woman who had professional dealings with him is going to be asking herself whether his promotion (or lack of promotion) of her work was due to the value of their work or his sexual interest. And wondering whether others perceive their success in that light as well.

      • I think these comments are a perfect demonstration of how the harm that Bora caused ripples out far beyond just the three people directly involved.

        Sandra may not be able to prove that Bora treated her differently, but equally she has no reason to be confident that he didn't. On the flip side, the suggestion that Bora could have played favourites is a slap in the face to those who have been successful at SciAm or elsewhere, and now feel that they're somehow being called into question.

        Both of these views are completely valid, both of you have been put in a really unfair and shitty and hurtful position, and I don't think there's any neat way to reconcile it. This is why the whole episode is so utterly toxic and horrible, and why those who claim the damage was somehow limited to a few awkward moments have utterly missed the point.

  • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

    "Every woman who had professional dealings with him is going to be asking herself whether his promotion (or lack of promotion) of her work was due to the value of their work or his sexual interest."

    Well... no. (I speak for myself, anyway.) But I get the point. I guess my point is that there is collateral damage with these trains of thought, even if they are worth talking about it.

    It's a good demonstration in harm anyway, as Martin points out.

  • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

    I would also like to point out that there is a difference between questioning one's own success and being angry when that success is called into question by others. Both sentiments have been expressed by Sci Am female bloggers.

    I'm not sure if there is a difference re: how much of it is due to Bora's actions and how much of it is due to (to use Martin's term) "enthusiastic interpretation" by others.

    • Isabel says:

      You don't think people are just pointing out what everyone is already thinking?

      • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

        No, I really don't think everyone has doubts about this.

        • Isabel says:

          I meant thinking *about* the attractive women he mentored.

          • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

            No, I understand your question. My answer is the same. That being said, I've read the work of the bloggers. Maybe you speak for those who haven't.

            I think the reason I feel this way is that this isn't a titular position. You actually have to produce solid writing after you're hired. Ultimately, the readers, not Bora, become the benchmark of your success.

            I do understand the concern about women not being hired based on attractiveness. But I don't share the converse concern, because the hired women are actually *good*.

          • Isabel says:

            The bloggers are good, but they are not the only ones who are good. There are more good writers than highly visible slots, no? So the fact that the writers are good doesn't eliminate the possibility. Others may still suspect favoritism and feel resentment.

            I am not saying I believe this, just that people think these things.

  • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

    Sorry, meant to add: Especially when those females have had zero untoward interactions with Bora.

    • Patti says:

      As more comes out, we can see how adept he is at reading different people's vulnerabilities, and figuring out what to say to each of them in order to advance his agenda. Something we all do to some extent in our lives, of course, but most of us try to balance advancing ourselves and not harming others. The book, "The Courage to Heal", talks about this skill in abusers - that a predatory man can spot a vulnerable woman across a room. It can be hard for people who are not vulnerable to understand what's going on, to even perceive that there is something going on. I think that the women who have the least self-doubt about themselves and their work are not the women he would target.

    • Ms. Daisy Cutter says:

      Don't call women "females."

  • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

    Okay, let me try to explain in a different way.

    The evidence is in this thread that harm has been done; against Sandra because of what she expressed and against me/young female Sci Am bloggers.

    There are several ways to address this. You can say, as Martin has: "See! This is exactly an example of how Bora has done terrible things"! Of course.

    But after you say that, why not commend the female writers he promoted in the first place? Have you read their work? In a way, you're contributing to the problem by voicing these concerns without any additional remarks or suggesting how to repair that particular harm done.

    I understand that people here are trying to make the point that what Bora did was wrong. But in doing so, you are also hurting the people he promoted. Your agenda has been served (Bora=bad), but without actually *supporting* those female writers, you've proved your point at our cost.

    I think more than why Bora=bad should be on the agenda.

    • Patti says:

      I think we just haven't gotten to the "after you say that" part yet. People are still processing, still in the stage of shock, and further untangling what actually happened (see Janet's new piece, for instance), and having old wounds reopened for some of us, and dismay that this stuff still goes on.

      That said, do you have suggestions about how to repair the harm done, how to support the women writers who are writing, and the women who have been silenced by this kind of thing?

      • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

        That makes sense, thanks.

        As for suggestions, I appreciated Bora's RTs, Q&As with newer science writers, and picks of the week/month. I know not many people have his sheer influence, but it is nice if you read something you like by someone with an unrecognizable name, to spread it. Or at least leave a nice comment :)

        I appreciate the discussion!

  • Shara Yurkiewicz says:

    And from what I have seen, those bearing the brunt of this particular train of thought have been females. If Bora was truly incompetent, why stop at questioning his choices based on sexual inclinations? Why not extrapolate that he gave unfair advantage to people based on friendship, for example? Yet the only ones I see who are being questioned are (presumably younger) females. Don't these targeted questions hurt the same people we ostensibly want to protect?

  • Since I am a man I may have a viewpoint that's slightly different from everyone else in this thread, but as someone who was in fact hired by Bora I have to agree with Shara; these insinuations that almost every hiring decision by Bora might have had either lascivious or self-serving, political motives do a disservice to the many bloggers he picked who are undoubtedly talented and is speculative and futile at best since we will never know the real reason.

    For instance as Shara pointed out, there have even been speculations that Bora might have picked his male bloggers with the expectation that they would support him in times of crises rather than in appreciation of their writing abilities. I personally find that speculation unfair since there is zero doubt in my mind that Bora picked me for my writing; I know for a fact that he carefully watched my writing for years and had several discussion with me about it, and only after making sure that the kind of writing I do would be on par with Sci Am's standards and diversity of viewpoints did he send me an invitation. I also know for a fact that several bloggers who I have spoken to - both male and female - have similar sentiments.

    What Bora did was very inappropriate and it's also clear that he will have a long way to go before he regains the trust of the community; personally for me the saddest fallout of the whole matter has been the bitterness and divergent viewpoints that seem to have divided a once robust ecosystem. But I am afraid I don't find this retroactive blame-assignment and psychoanalysis productive.

    • Isabel says:

      So, what do you suggest? And as someone who only benefited from the association are you the best one to decide? Funny that I am the one here accused of "good vs bad" thinking. It seems it is you that cannot tolerate "divergent viewpoints" as you call them.

      Of course Bora promoted good people. He is smart and talented as well as manipulative and a liar. Is that so hard to accept?

      But he lied to hundreds of people! He manipulated his good friends (see Janet's new post). He lied to his family. He didn't just flirt or ask someone out "inappropriately" he acted very weird and sleezy in a Jekyll and Hyde way (as sociopaths typically do) and targeted vulnerable members of the community. Now he is blaming the victims and painting himself as a victim and making weird, inappropriate requests for instructions in how to move forward.

      But you classify all that as simply "very inappropriate" and predict he will "regain the trust of the community"? Because it all worked out for you?

      • Not sure if your post was directed against me since my comment was directed at the general tenor of the discussion above and not specifically at you (and therefore I did not accuse you of anything). The fundamental point I was making was simply that retroactively assigning blame for past actions is highly speculative at best since one is trying to judge intentions; this is not a question of tolerance, it's simply a fact.

        And no, I am not the best one to decide. But neither are you. And I don't "predict" that he will regain the trust of the community, I am saying that he will undoubtedly have a long way to go before and if that ever happens. Ultimately individual members of the community will decide how, why and when they may or may not want to make Bora a part of the community. That's how it always work, right?

      • Isabel says:

        I don't think you get the point of the discussion, not sure why you think it is to "assign blame" or even what that means.

        "And no, I am not the best one to decide. But neither are you."

        I am not the one criticizing the very existence of the conversation.

        Funny how you talk about having "zero doubt" and knowing Bora's intentions in hiring you and your friends "for a fact" but criticize others having such a discussion because it is all speculation, we will never know etc. Anyway I think *not knowing* is the very point being made that you are missing, and it is far from the only point under discussion.

        For example there is no speculation in Janet's new post. As I stated above I am not interested in analyzing Bora's actions either. I am interested in the pattern of his actions and what the pattern reveals.

        • I am not criticizing the very existence of the conversation, I am simply stating that retroactive analysis won't uncover *facts* since it's speculation. Again, my comments were not directed at you, they are directed toward the original post and speculations in other places about every hiring decision that Bora may have made (and they are also not directed at the new post). My point is that we should focus on what happened and what the evidence tells us since that's what's known, rather on intentions which are unknowable.

          • Isabel says:

            Yet you said:
            " ... there is zero doubt in my mind that Bora picked me for my writing; I know for a fact that he carefully watched my writing for years and had several discussion with me about it..." So I don't really trust your distinction between speculation and facts.

            Anyway, I also agree with Shara- in my opinion that he used everyone across the board, not just young women. What would it have gained for him in terms of power and prestige if he had promoted mediocre bloggers? Or only white male bloggers?

          • What I am saying is that in my case the evidence seems to indicate that he picked me for my writing and not for other reasons. In other cases where the evidence is lacking it is much more speculative.

            Also, "What would it have gained for him in terms of power and prestige if he had promoted mediocre bloggers?" The answer is that he could have gained much if these bloggers were still pliable or politically lucrative. In fact that would have been an excellent 'control' in our experiment and would have given credence to factors other than quality of writing as major reasons for his picks. As far as I know that control is largely lacking.

  • A Hermit says:

    ...these insinuations that almost every hiring decision by Bora might have had either lascivious or self-serving, political motives do a disservice to the many bloggers he picked who are undoubtedly talented and is speculative and futile at best since we will never know the real reason.

    That's very true. And it's entirely Bora's fault that such speculation is happening at all, isn't it?

  • Sam Juno says:

    All this talk about Bora's inadequate apollogies reminds me nothing less that the Chinese Cultural Revolution when the young Red Guards complained that their elders didn't recant their confessions with enough enthusiasm.

  • […] how much should people in power be allowed to get away with. Zivkovic, for example, seems to have made some attempt at a triumphant return to the community, backed by various supporters. These people seem to be relatively free of […]