On Wednesday, I saw on Twitter that the #teamharpy defendants, nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey, have published apologies and retractions for their accusations against Joe Murphy.
Today, Lisa Rabey confirmed that these statements were part of an out-of-court settlement that has ended the lawsuit.
Last September, I wrote a blog post in support of #teamharpy. In that post, I argued:
The charges of sexual harassment aside, Joe Murphy has subsequently demonstrated that he is a man who is willing to bring a lawsuit against two professionally-vulnerable women with limited financial resources who spoke up about behavior they (and many others) see as a systemic social problem.
I re-read this post in light of de jesus and Rabey’s retractions and I stand by my position (made formal by co-signing this open letter) that the situation was not one that should have resulted in an international lawsuit. I am glad that lawsuit is at an end.
I hope that all involved can now move on toward a better chapter in their lives, both personally and professionally. I wish them healing and peace.
I also hope we, as a professional community, can take steps to improve our handling of harassment so as to minimize the dependence on unreliable whisper networks for safety and reduce the chance that people will feel it necessary to sue — or look over their shoulders in fear of being sued.
We are collectively responsible for taking constructive next steps and looking toward a more just and inclusive future.
Joshua Daniel said:
I don’t agree. These kinds of libelous accusations ruin peoples lives and make things more difficult for actual victims. Thanks to this an innocent man can no longer continue his career and rape victims are less trusted than ever. They deserved every cent they lost.
We will likely remain in disagreement on the basic facts of this case and what lesson(s) are to be learned.
My question to you would be, what was gained — even for Mr. Murphy — in filing this lawsuit? The people who believed his reputation as a harasser within certain circles are likely to continue believing that version of events. The people who disregarded that reputation will go on disregarding it. The lawsuit, particularly since it was settled out of court, established nothing factual apart from the determination that the defendants could not legally prove what they heard within the whisper networks, and subsequently reported online, was true.
What the lawsuit did instead was bring Mr. Murphy’s litigious attitude to the attention of many people (such as myself) who had never heard of him or his reputation (professionally or otherwise) previously. And now we know him as an individual willing to sue low-profile people who make accusations online that they cannot prove in a court of law. It’s a path that doesn’t seem like a great one to take if your aim is to improve your reputation as a trustworthy, professional colleague.
An alternate route to take, if Mr. Murphy had wished to establish himself as someone who does not engage in (or condone) harassment, would have been a statement and actions similar to those John Scalzi took when faced with a smear campaign by a high-profile internet harasser who determined to characterize Scalzi as a confessed rapist. I would argue that you can demonstrate a commitment to stopping harassment in your profession and in the spaces where you work and move professionally and let the evidence accumulate in your favor. You give your detractors more, not less, credibility by suing them because you suggest their accusations are threatening enough they have to be quashed.
But Joe Murphy lost his job because of the accusations. I doubt future employers would believe a blog of “I didn’t do it.”
Chris, you are the first person whom I’ve spoken with who has asserted that Mr. Murphy “lost his job” due to his reputation within the whisper networks and their articulation online. Given that the settlement did not award damages to Mr. Murphy, I am skeptical of this claim. Do you have evidence to support it?
“reputation within the whisper networks”
Perhaps you should just use the accurate term “gossip”
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I agree both terms could be used here. Where we disagree, it seems, would be on the nature of gossip or whisper networks and their legitimacy as a mode of information transfer.
“I wish them healing and peace.”
Except for the man you tried to destroy, of course.