Dr Isis gets outed. I get hits. Life goes on.


And so it came to pass that one Henry Gee, a Senior Editor of Nature, distinguished biologist and author of science fact AND fiction, recently outed one Dr Isis as being a Melissa L Bates via Twitter.  He actually also apologised for this in print, while mentioning that:

“Since 2010, Dr Isis has, in my opinion, waged a campaign of cyberbullying against me. I do not feel it appropriate to rake over the history of this situation, but throughout it I have been subject to unfair personal criticism including the repeated unjust assertion that I am sexist. This is untrue and is an allegation I find deeply distressing. I do not think that anyone deserves to be personally and publicly attacked in this way. As an editor and member of the online community I am absolutely up for a robust debate, but this went far beyond what I feel is acceptable.”

Now I was alerted to the whole thing by the steep rise in accesses of my modest blog, shown above – due largely to a blog by one Sarah Hillenbrand discussing the issue, and Dr Isis’s response to it, which linked out to my account of the Womanspace saga.  And Dr Isis’s response to Womanspace, which was one of my first introductions to cyberbullying of the kind Henry describes.

Fascinating stuff, by Sarah, and sad: for me, largely because Sarah was so disheartened, yet still wanted to go out and inspire little girls to be scientists.  Even if what she took from Womanspace was:

“Men sitting around talking about science while the women clean house and fix supper and keep the children in line”

Ah, well.  We read into things what we want to.

And of course, the redoubtable Michael Eisen got involved – via this blog post – and yet again weighed into Henry and me:

“Gee and Dr. Isis have apparently had issues in the past. I don’t know the full history, but I was witness to some of it after Gee published a misogynistic short story in Nature several years back. Gee behaved like an asshole back then, and apparently he has not stopped.

Think about what happened here. A senior figure at arguably the most important journal in science took it upon himself to reveal the name of a young, female, Latina scientist with whom he has fought and whom he clearly does not like.”

Three things that are essentially irrelevant to this issue here: young, female, and Latina. I am sorry:  NONE of those things give ANYONE the right to cyberbully anyone – none!  My daughter’s high school knew that, and had a written policy that Dr Isis and like-minded folk would have fallen foul of long ago IF they could have been regulated by such a thing.

But it’s in the comments to the blog that the vitriol comes out: comments like

“Gee is an asshole, and he would be an asshole even if he worked for PLOS”

by Eisen himself.  Although this is partially counterbalanced by:

“Regardless of Gee’s history of frankly “being” an asshole he doesn’t deserve what essentially is genuine abuse”

But yet, from someone known as “Ginger”:

“If a person is bigoted, his behavior will give him away far more quickly than his name in an online forum. That’s why Ed Rybicky and Henry Gee have run into opposition: they’re demonstrating their inner attributes very publicly, and being called on it, which is new to them. That is the power of the internet.”

Takes. My. Breath. Away.  Our inner attributes (bugger that; MINE!) as imagined by a small, vicious, self-satisfied, smug, self-congratulatory cabal, who gleefully and childishly trash us on the basis of those misperceptions in any forum they please, damaging reputations and possibly even mental well-being – being evidence of “the power of the internet”??

Oh, there’s a lot more, there and all over the blogosphere – and so much of it is so uninformed, and so vicious, as to be the playground gang response to slights real or imagined, where the response is so disproportionate as to constitute a mugging.

Henry, you should have taken the advice you gave to me a couple of years ago, and simply ignored the nasty rabble.  So childish.  So wilful.  And seemingly ignorant of any customs of civility, or privacy, or decency, or even possibly of the laws of libel.

So here’s a song for y’all, courtesy of the British Army.  Feel free to replace the word “bless” with anything you like.

Bless ’em all,
Bless ’em all.
The mean and the snide and the small,

Bless all those tweets from anonymous ones,
Bless all those bloggers and their bleedin’ sons,
Cos’ we’re saying goodbye to ’em all.
As back to their slimepits they crawl,
You’ll get no reaction this side of the ocean,
So cheer up my lads, bless ’em all!

Note added 9/3/15:
And to my surprise, I today discovered a VERY reasoned blog post discussing Dr Isis. Henry Gee, and even my little story – with which I agree wholeheartedly.  She is a bully; Henry is not a dyed-in-the-wool male chauvinist – and my story wasn’t that bad.  Good one, Greg!

Oh, and Dr Isis has doubled her h-index in just 1 year, from 2 to 4!  Way to go, Melissa!!

Dr Isis's relentless climb up the academic rankings

Dr Isis’s relentless climb up the academic rankings


About Ed Rybicki

Ed is a 60-ish virologist and biotechnologist, formerly a Zambian and presently a South African. He is into family, virology, biotechnology, science in general, science fiction in particular, photography, red wine, wearing loud shirts, 70s rock, blues and smooth jazz...and telling stories. Sometimes, interesting ones. And writing for his own amusement.
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3 Responses to Dr Isis gets outed. I get hits. Life goes on.

  1. meg rybicki says:

    The InternetCan be hurtful and online bullying really damaging.
    Dont justify yourself to ridiculous, demented losers.
    Stand by what you write and never feed the trolls:)

  2. Ed Rybicki says:

    …and I see the redoubtable Dr Isis (really: I did doubt) now has an h-index of 2! Really!! Way to go there, DI!!

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