↑ comment by Duncan_Sabien ·
2021-10-18T01:23:42.194Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
"It has been alleged" strikes me as not meeting the bar that LW should strive to clear, when dealing with such high stakes, with this much uncertainty.
Allegations come with an alleger attached. If that alleger is someone else (i.e. if you don't want to tie your own credibility to their account) then it's good to just ... link straight to the source.
If that alleger is you (including if you're repeating someone else's allegations because you found them credible enough that you're adopting them, and repeating them on your own authority), you should be able to state them directly and concretely.
"It has been alleged" is a vague, passive-voice, miasmatic phrase that is really difficult to work with, or think clearly around.
It also implies that these allegations have not been, or cannot be, settled, as questions of fact, or at least probability. It perpetuates a sort of un-pin-downable quality, because as long as the allegations are mist and fog, just floating around absent anyone who's taking ownership of them, they can't be conclusively settled or affirmed, and can be repeated forever.
I think it's pretty bad to lean into a dynamic like that.
In very plain terms: it is the explicit and publicly stated position of CFAR leadership that they were unaware of Brent's abuses, and that as soon as they became aware of them, they took quick and final action.
In that very statement, you can also find CFAR's mea culpas re: places where CFAR feels it should have become aware, prior to the moment it did become aware. CFAR does not claim that it did a good job with Brent. CFAR explicitly acknowledges pretty serious failures.
No one is asking anyone to take for granted that community leaders either [always see], or [never wrongly ignore], harms. That was a strawman. Obviously it is a valid hypothesis that community leaders can fail to see harms, or fail in their response to them. You can tell it's a valid hypothesis because CFAR is an existence proof of community leaders outright admitting to just such a mistake.
It seems to me that Anna is trying pretty hard, in her above reply, to be open, and legible, and give-as-much-as-she-can without doing harm, herself. I read in Anna's reply something analogous to the CFAR Brent statement: that, with hindsight, she wishes she had done some things differently, and paid more attention to some concerning signals, but that she did not suppress information, or ignore or downplay evidence of harm once it came clearly to her attention (I say "evidence of harm" rather than "harm" because it's important to be clear about my epistemic status with regards to this question, which is that I have no idea).
I furthermore see in Anna's comment evidence that there are non-CFAR-leadership people looking at the situation, and taking action, albeit in a venue that you and I cannot see. It doesn't sound like anything is being ignored or suppressed.
So insofar as "things that have been alleged" are concerned, I think it boils down to something like:
Either one believes CFAR (in the Brent case) or Anna (above), or one explicitly registers (whether publicly or privately) a claim that they're lying, or somehow blind or incompetent to a degree tantamount to lying.
Which is a valid hypothesis to hold, to be clear. Right now the whole point of the broader discussion is "are these groups and individuals good or bad, and in what ways?" It's certainly reasonable to think "I do not believe them."
But that's different from "it has been alleged," and the implication that no response has been given. To the allegation that CFAR leadership ignored Brent, there's a clear, on-the-record answer from CFAR. To the allegation that CFAR leadership ignored Robert or other similar situations, there's a clear, on-the-record answer from Anna above (that, yes, is not fully forthright, but that's because there are other groups already involved in trying to answer these questions and Anna is trying not to violate those conversations nor the involved parties' privacy).
I think that you might very well have further legitimate beef, à la your statement that "I'm claiming that CFAR representatives did in fact notice bad things happening, and that the continuation of bad things happening was not for lack of noticing."
But I think we're at a point where it's important to be very clear, and to own one's accusations clearly (or, if one is not willing to own them clearly, because e.g. one is pursuing them privately, to not leave powerful insinuations in places where they're very difficult to responsibly answer).
The answer, in both cases given above, seems to me to be, unambiguously:
"No, we did not knowingly tolerate harm."
If you believe CFAR and/or Anna are lying, then please proceed with that claim, whether publicly or privately.
If you believe CFAR and/or Anna are confused or incompetent, then please proceed with that claim, whether publicly or privately.
But please ... actually proceed? Like, start assembling facts, and presenting them here, or presenting them to some trusted third-party arbiter, or whatever. In particular, please do not imply that no answer to the allegations has been given (passive voice). I don't think that repeating sourceless substanceless claims—
(especially in the Brent case, where all of the facts are in common knowledge and none of them are in dispute at this point)
—after Anna's already fairly in-depth and doing-its-best-to-cooperate reply, is doing good for anybody in either branch of possibility. It feels like election conspiracy theorists just repeating their allegations for the sake of the power the repetition provides, and never actually getting around to making a legible case.
EDIT: For the record, I was a CFAR employee from 2015 to 2018, and left (for entirely unrelated reasons) right around the same time that the Brent stuff was being resolved. The linked document was in part written with my input, and sufficiently speaks for me on the topic.