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  2. 29

    This barrage of stories is really awful, but I take some solace in the fact that this kind of thing is finally getting sunlight.

    As some of the other comments make clear, when we let bad behavior get stuffed under a blanket, many people can be oblivious to the fact that there’s a problem. Best to turn these rocks over and try to use our anger to help improve things, even when (especially when?) it’s unpleasant to hear.

    1. 14

      Author’s note: Kelly Ellis reported to us that she’s being targeted by 8chan, a community of internet users who tend to “doxx” or attack people online. We have removed the links to her Twitter account and her Twitter embeds for Ellis' safety.

      Yeah, great. It’s not like her real name, literal quotes from her twitter and a picture from her Google+ make it trivial to track her accounts down. I’m sorry, but if they intend to protect her, they should redact her name, rephrase her quotes, and remove her profile picture.

      Now they’ve just pointed out where to go if you want to join ranks with people upset with her statements.

      1. 8

        She made her Twitter account protected now, but it looks like she’s justifiably quite upset over the amount of rudeness and harassment she’s been receiving - and not just from 8chan; journalists and other 3rd parties have been blowing up her phone with misguided judgments and intrusive questions, too. It’s depressing how typical this situation is for high-profile harassment cases.

        1. 3

          It’s not even just rudeness, they’re trying to dox her.

      2. -2

        There is an interesting comment in the discussion at the bottom the article:

        If a woman had made that comment to her about the bathing suit would it have been sexual harassment? Probably not. It likely would have been a compliment. What if the woman was a lesbian? How about now? What if the woman was a closeted lesbian? It probably wouldn’t be considered a sexual comment then because there is no implied sexual intent to the receiver of the comment even though there secretly would be. What if a closeted lesbian made the comment, and the receiver later found out that that the commenter was in fact a lesbian and decided that that fact makes it a sexual advance?

        So the difference between sexual harassment and not sexual harassment is how likely the two parties are to be sexual partners? The implication that men and women are predominantly sexual partners makes a comment like that sexual harassment? Then how do we know that routine, mundane conversations between men and women shouldn’t be taken as sexual advances just because they are natural potential sex partners?

        What if a woman made that comment to a man? He would probably take it as a compliment. So the same comment in the opposite direction can optionally be taken as a compliment. The only difference is what the receiver implies. In that case, can we prove that the person commenting made an unwanted sexual advance or a remark that is universally viewed as obscene. Is commenting on how someone looks in an article of clothing universally obscene? Most would answer that with, “well it’s a bathing suit and it’s revealing her body; it’s a more sexual article of clothing, etc., you shouldn’t make comments like that.” If you agree with that, then you are agreeing with the statement that a woman’s bathing suit is innately sexual and wearing one in the presence of male co-workers should be considered sexual advances toward male co-workers. It would be equivalent to having a pajama party at work and wearing just panties and a bra.

        Considering the receiver of these comments is mentally adjusted to viewing males as enemies in her field, I think there is a good deal of bias that shouldn’t be overlooked.

        I’m not really arguing for or against anything. I’m just questioning the situation. There is a lot of gray area here.

        1. 25

          There is a gray area, but it’s not as wide a gray band as you’d think. It’s about context and delivery.

          A lot of people, disproportionately but emphatically not exclusively introverts, tend to dislike this; they want the sentence, “You look nice today” (or any other sentence, for that matter) to mean the same thing written as spoken, and that implicitly means that the way you deliver the sentence is immaterial.

          But that’s just not how people work. Standing too close to someone and saying “you look nice today” with a wide smile is very different from saying “you look nice today” in a level, casual tone as you’re both getting coffee, and, unfortunately for you, it does make a different if the speaker is a man, a woman, a child, a parent, or so on, even if the deliver were mostly the same in all of those contexts. They convey different intentions, and they result in different emotions being felt by the recipient.

          As a casual rule, think about how you’d feel if the situation were reversed, including your tone and body language, and, that the person telling you that is someone you dislike. If you wouldn’t be offended or upset, you’re probably good. If you would be, don’t say it.

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            Ah, a shit sandwich! Fine, I’ll bite.

            What is it about sexual harassment accusations that give folks a case of the flapping hypotheticals? “What about if one of them was a woman and the other one was a flowerpot? Now it doesn’t seem like a big deal so what’s the big deal anyway?” Charitably, we might see this line of thinking as a nod to Heraclitus’s Ship Of Theseus paradox, but the nuance is hammered flat into the face-numingly mundane observation that, y’know, changing some parts of a thing seem to make it, like, different – the sort of insight one might expect of a particularly bright toddler.

            Entertaining the possible contents of arbitrary parallel dimensions is transparently used here as a rhetorical mechanism to muddy the waters on what we’re actually talking about, because naturally the only “counterfactuals” being entertained are ones which would serve to undermine the strength of Kelly’s claims. As any social scientist will tell you, counterfactuals are slippery things, so if we’re going to entertain “what if Kelly’s boss was a double lesbian” we should also entertain “what if Kelly’s boss was a Mecha-Hitler” as a sort of palate-cleanser before we go back to huffing paint and watching Sliders.

            None of the imagined alternatives to the claims at hand are at all relevant to the current conversation, nor do they have any merit on their own in a generic conversation about sexual harassment. I feel comfortable entirely dismissing the first three paragraphs of “their” comment. Onward!

            Paragraph four contains the meat of “their” complaint:

            Considering the receiver of these comments is mentally adjusted to viewing males as enemies in her field, I think there is a good deal of bias that shouldn’t be overlooked.

            Ah, right. Because that’s what someone who says “patriarchy” must be: a man-hater. A Bayesian account of the priors and posteriors of sexual harassment accusations this is not. Someone’s mad about feminists!

            Then, of course, the final, spineless weasel-off:

            I’m not really arguing for or against anything. I’m just questioning the situation. There is a lot of gray area here.

            This is cowardly, useless, skim-milk horseshit desperately clinging to some raggedy-ass rhetoric of objectivity and dispassion. This is transparently shit. You should feel bad for reading this nonsense. Lord knows I do.

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              Your language is 10/10, possibly 11 for Mecha-Hitler.

              And I agree with you completely, of course.

              1. 1

                This is cowardly, useless, skim-milk horseshit desperately clinging to some raggedy-ass rhetoric of objectivity and dispassion. This is transparently shit. You should feel bad for reading this nonsense. Lord knows I do.

                That was unnecessary.

                1. 5

                  If these issues are off-topic on Lobsters, then they are off-topic. Personally I feel that they should be allowed. But since the intent of these “calm and reasonable” derailings and “what-ifs” is to disrupt and anger, I do think that anger is an entirely necessary response.

                  To try to have a principle that people can say horrifying things, as long as their tone is pleasant, is to side with people who want to silence debate.

                  1. 1

                    If these issues are off-topic on Lobsters, then they are off-topic. Personally I feel that they should be allowed.

                    I completely agree. The issues of diversity and gender equality in the workplace are important and should probably be allowed on Lobsters. But it looks like they are since we have this discussion :)

                    But since the intent of these “calm and reasonable” derailings and “what-ifs” is to disrupt and anger

                    What makes you think that my intent was to “disrupt and anger”? You don’t know me, we’ve never met, and you’ve no idea about my opinions on gender equality, so how can you know what was my intent?

                    That said, I agree that using the word “interesting” to qualify the quoted comment was a mistake. I also agree that the “what-ifs” are poor arguments. But I’m still not convinced that the intent of the original commenter was to disrupt and anger. Maybe he is just ignorant about the topic. In such a case, what do you do? You try to explain or you call him an idiot?

                    I understand how anger can be a “necessary” response when you’re confronted to a person or a group that repeatedly ignores your concerns and your feelings, whatever efforts you made to be understood. But you cannot suspect every stupid questions to be a troll!

                    To try to have a principle that people can say horrifying things, as long as their tone is pleasant, is to side with people who want to silence debate.

                    Nobody in this thread has suggested that “people can say horrifying things, as long as their tone is pleasant”. And nobody has tried to silence debate.

                    Update: Just to be clear, I think that sexual harassment is intolerable, and when the harassment is proven (this is important because we still have something called “presumption of innocence”), then the author of the harassment must be severely punished. In a professional context, this means the author being fired.

                    1. 3

                      But you’ve got about ten replies in this thread, all explaining verbosely why not even the smallest detail of what was said applies to you.

                      That IS “repeatedly ignoring concerns and efforts”.

                      People with sincere questions on contentious issues are far less verbose.

                      1. 2

                        People with sincere questions on contentious issues are far less verbose.

                        Feeling unjustly attacked tends to produce a response.

                        1. 3

                          Reading codahale’s original comment as an attack on ngrilly is extremely uncharitable. codahale attacks the anonymous comment to show exactly how it’s an appalling pile of tripe. Perhaps the only thing in codahale’s comment that “attacks” ngrilly is

                          You should feel bad for reading this nonsense.

                          If that’s an “unjust attack” we all need to put another layer of asbestos on our flame suits post-freakin-haste.

                          ngrilly’s response was to take codahale’s response as a personal affront and become ~*~terribly offended~*~. That doesn’t really make sense to me: ngrilly floated the comment as an “interesting comment” (there really wasn’t anything interesting about the comment, it’s trolling transparently disguised as “Just Asking Questions”, but onward!) and later said he simply wanted to know what other people’s opinions were. Well, he got ‘em!

                          Why should someone who doesn’t hold the views in a comment feel attacked when someone adeptly skewers the views in the comment? If I reposted an anonymous comment on the internet that was excerpted from “The Bell Curve” and which purported to claim that whites have higher average intelligence due to inherent genetic differences, I wouldn’t be upset in the slightest to see someone use anthropological and psychological research to reduce the argument to rubble. I’d be happy to learn something from a knowledgeable person! Even if they did use a mean word or two to make their retort a bit more amusing!

                2. -1

                  Would you please calm down? I shared this comment because I was genuinely interested in what others would think of it. Do you realize that the language and tone of your comment is offensive, which is ironic considering that the whole story is about indecent language and behavior towards women?

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                    Would you please calm down?

                    oh for sure man

                    I shared this comment because I was genuinely interested in what others would think of it.

                    And now you know! Wasn’t that fun?

                    Do you realize that the language and tone of your comment is offensive, which is ironic considering that the whole story is about indecent language and behavior towards women?

                    Are you honestly suggesting that me dissecting your comment section shitlord copypasta’s rhetorical style is offensive to women? I don’t think you mean it to be, but that’s fucking hilarious.

                    1. 1

                      And now you know! Wasn’t that fun?

                      Why are you sarcastic?

                      Are you honestly suggesting that me dissecting your comment section shitlord copypasta’s rhetorical style is offensive to women? I don’t think you mean it to be, but that’s fucking hilarious.

                      What I tried to say, not clearly enough obviously, is that a part of the story is about men being disrespectful and using inappropriate language while interacting with their female coworkers. [1] This is why I find ironic that your comments contain so much rude language (“shit sandwich”, “horseshit”, “raggedy-ass rhetoric”, “This is transparently shit”, “You should feel bad for reading this nonsense”, “shitlord”, “fucking hilarious”, etc.). In my opinion, this is the kind of language that doesn’t help in making our field welcoming to newcomers, and especially women.

                      I’m not your enemy in this discussion.

                      [1] “You look amazing in that bathing suit, like a rock star.”

                      1. 9

                        Why are you sarcastic?

                        Because it’s hilarious. Also because that comment you copied was pretty bad. After a while, the never-ending stream of people ignorant about feminism and the surrounding issues is trying.

                        1. -1

                          Also because that comment you copied was pretty bad.

                          If the comment I quoted is so bad, it should be easy to dismiss it with a short, rational, argument. Why not do that instead of yelling at each other?

                          For the record, I read that story and I’m participating in this discussion because I care about gender equality. I read articles on this topic whenever I can. I shared the comment I quoted, not because I endorsed it, but because I wanted to know how people more invested than me in the “fight” for gender equality would answer to that kind of “argumentation”.

                          Here is an example of the kind of link I’d have been happy to receive as an answer, instead of a bunch of profanities:

                          https://medium.com/message/no-nate-brogrammers-may-not-be-macho-but-thats-not-all-there-is-to-it-2f1fe84c5c9b

                          Lobsters can be a toxic place sometimes… If you truly want to make the workplace a better place for women, then maybe you should start by trying to not make Lobsters a worst place for discussing about gender equality.

                          After a while, the never-ending stream of people ignorant about feminism and the surrounding issues is trying.

                          I understand that, but if you’re tired about this, then you should let other people continue the fight. Martin Luther King or Gandhi have not won by insulting and offending their opponents.

                          1. 8

                            If the comment I quoted is so bad, it should be easy to dismiss it with a short, rational, argument. Why not do that instead of yelling at each other?

                            First, I’m operating on the assumption you’re entering into this discussion in good faith. I’d hope this is true.

                            “Don’t yell”, “why don’t you address the argument I put forth”, “I’m just asking questions” - these types of comments tend to come from people who are aggressively ignorant on the topic, or people who are just trolling. When you pull out a patently ridiculous comment and float it for discussion, the assumption is going to be that you’re either clueless or that you know exactly what you’re doing.

                            I shared the comment I quoted, not because I endorsed it, but because I wanted to know how people more invested than me in the “fight” for gender equality would answer to that kind of “argumentation”.

                            codahale did a really good job at that. He addressed the comment head on and showed why it’s transparent concern trolling: any time you see a story about sexual harassment you’ll find people working their ass off to come up with hypothetical situations where, hey, maybe it just ain’t that bad after all!

                            Focusing on “the man used bad language, then codahale used bad language, we’re all naughty and let’s all transcend bad language!” ignores the actual problem at hand, which is that Google may[1] have an imbalanced power structure that is harmful to women.

                            Women aren’t shrinking violets that we need keep safe from mean words. They’re people that need the fair chance to advance on merits and not have to put up with harassment because of their gender.

                            Martin Luther King or Gandhi have not won by insulting and offending their opponents.

                            You’re trending dangerously towards a tone argument here. A few points:

                            MLK’s image has been bowdlerized into that of a passive benevolent figure. This is pretty far from the truth. But even ignoring that, these types of struggles are often a broad tent, and there is plenty of space for people that would be branded as “angry reactionaries” by dominant powers.

                            Proclaiming that one person won the struggle for black equality[2] does a serious disservice to King, let alone the rest of the movement.

                            [1] that’s me being charitable

                            [2] it’s almost impossible to type those words without rolling my eyes

                            1. 1

                              @owen, sorry for reading your reply so late, and thanks for answering.

                              First, I’m operating on the assumption you’re entering into this discussion in good faith.

                              I’m participating to this discussion using my main and only Lobsters account and using my real identity. I wouldn’t use my real identity if I was trolling. As you know, most trolls are anonymous.

                              […] these types of comments tend to come from people who are aggressively ignorant on the topic, or people who are just trolling. When you pull out a patently ridiculous comment and float it for discussion, the assumption is going to be that you’re either clueless or that you know exactly what you’re doing.

                              It is very easy to confuse a real troll with a regular folk. [1] The application of the term “troll” can be highly subjective. One may call a comment a troll, while others may regard it as legitimate. And moreover, like any pejorative term, “troll” can be used as an ad hominem attack. For all these reasons, calling someone a troll should be used as a last-resort measure.

                              From my point of view, codahale’s comment could have been considered as a troll, using an inflammatory language in the goal of triggering an emotional response. But I can see that codahale has been an active member of Lobsters for more than one year, like me, and it’s clear he/she was just upset and is not a troll.

                              A comment that sounds ignorant or controversial doesn’t automatically come from someone that is “clueless” or trolling. The comment may be genuine. There is no point in discussing on a site like Lobsters, which works by invitation, if you don’t assume other members' good faith.

                              He addressed the comment head on and showed why it’s transparent concern trolling: any time you see a story about sexual harassment you’ll find people working their ass off to come up with hypothetical situations where, hey, maybe it just ain’t that bad after all!

                              I understand codahale’s argument and I agree. I just disagree with automatically assuming “trolling”. By assuming trolling, you lose any chance to educate someone about the issue.

                              Google may have an imbalanced power structure that is harmful to women.

                              I live and work in France, far away from Google’s headquarters. It may explain why I’m not aware of this issue as much you are. That said, if it is true, and I understand the suspicion is serious, then I agree it is a big issue.

                              Women aren’t shrinking violets that we need keep safe from mean words.

                              I agree that women are not “prudes” that should be protected from rude language. This not what I meant by condemning rude language. I meant that a community where respectful discussions are the norm is more welcoming to minorities than a community where inflammatory language is common.

                              You’re trending dangerously towards a tone argument here. […]

                              I agree that using this reference was exaggerated. Thanks for the link about MLK, it was a useful read.

                              Proclaiming that one person won the struggle for black equality does a serious disservice to King, let alone the rest of the movement.

                              I’m of course not suggesting that! I’m sorry if my wording was confusing.

                              [1] http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/do-not-feed-the-trolls/453906

                            2. 2

                              I understand that, but if you’re tired about this, then you should let other people continue the fight. Martin Luther King or Gandhi have not won by insulting and offending their opponents.

                              dies laughing

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                                Oh man. Good stuff. Anyway.

                                Look, whether or not you intended to do so, the fact of the matter remains that you republished a grip of ass-out nonsense without critically engaging with the text. You said:

                                There is an interesting comment in the discussion at the bottom the article:

                                While you don’t just come out and say “here’s something I agree with”, the fact that you’re republishing this turd here combined with the fact that you’re calling it “interesting” (vs. say “tired”, “cliché”, etc.) serves to endorse the content of the turd. This is not Twitter, and this particular “RT” does carry a strong connotation of endorsement.

                                I get that you’re offended by me dragging this comment (and, to some degree, you), but I feel the need to defend neither my hostility towards this genre of sexual harassment apologia nor my use of fuckwords.

                                If you truly want to make the workplace a better place for women, then maybe you should start by trying to not make Lobsters a worst place for discussing about gender equality.

                                Stop trying to center this conversation around your feelings.

                                1. 1

                                  […] the fact that you’re republishing this turd here combined with the fact that you’re calling it “interesting” (vs. say “tired”, “cliché”, etc.) serves to endorse the content of the turd. This is not Twitter, and this particular “RT” does carry a strong connotation of endorsement.

                                  I agree that my comment can be interpreted as an endorsement. My mistake.

                                  I get that you’re offended by me dragging this comment (and, to some degree, you), but I feel the need to defend neither my hostility towards this genre of sexual harassment apologia nor my use of fuckwords.

                                  Stop trying to center this conversation around your feelings.

                                  Expressing your “hostility” and using “fuckwords” is centering the conversation around your feelings in its own way. I respect — and, surprise, I even share — your hostility towards sexual harassment. But sorry, I don’t like feeling insulted on a public forum or anywhere else.

                                  My point is that a community where respectful discussions are the norm is more welcoming to minorities. It’s not a sufficient condition, but it’s a necessary condition.

                          2. 10

                            You’re asserting that me using fuckwords to drag the second-hand rubbish you quoted is somehow the moral equivalent of sexual harassment, which I can only take to mean you’re laboring under the misapprehension that all women are prudes.

                            1. 4

                              I don’t think ngrilly is asserthing any such thing. Of course sexual harassment is much more serious problem than rude language, but rude language is still not nice.

                              1. 1

                                I’m of course not asserting any such thing! It would be a lot easier to discuss if you were less confrontational.

                                I’m asserting that it is more difficult to achieve gender equality in a place where rude language and aggressive comments are the norm, because it creates a culture where people don’t listen to each other and don’t respect each other.

                                A dialogue is necessary to resolve issues without violence, and that dialogue is made more difficult by profanities and insults.

                      2. 2

                        There is definitely a lot of gray area, but this isn’t as surprising a result as the commenter seems to think. There are lots of things that you can say that are flattering from one person and creepy from another, even people who are superficially similar.

                        One example is that signaling that they’ve been paying special attention to you from someone you’re attracted to can be flattering, but creepy / stalkerish from someone you dislike or aren’t attracted to.

                      3. -13

                        I have difficulty taking things at face value from someone who self-identifies as “bitchy software engineer. doing what i can to smash the patriarchy.”.

                        1. 19

                          Why?

                          (Though I doubt a Twitter bio is the same thing as self-identifying.)

                          1. 19

                            If you felt forced to resign due to being sexually harassed at work without any way of stopping it and without any support from your peers or superiors, perhaps you would have your twitter bio say something similar.

                            1. 3

                              Yes, because Twitter bio’s are never joking around!

                            2. [Comment from banned user removed]

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                                What kind of evidence do you want? Google is pretty careful about drilling “communicate with care” into employees from day one. There are lots of ways they do this, but the takeaway is that most legally sensitive issues end up being discussed one on one, in person if possible, and over video chat or phone if not possible.

                                Having worked at Google in the past, I can think of a number of pretty bad stories, and in every case where I heard about what HR did, HR was very careful to act in a way that mitigated the risk of legal liability as much as possible. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that there’s an email lying around that’s a smoking gun that says something like “Welp, director Y clearly harassed person X, now what?”.

                                On the other side of things, I know multiple people who have avoided talking publicly about their stories because of the severe damage to their career they were afraid would be caused by the backlash. There’s a lot of downside to speaking out about stuff like this and not much upside.

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                                  At the very least, Rod could have denied that she poured a drink on him before hanging up the phone. I know I can remember everybody who’s poured a drink on me. Sounds like they caught him off guard for a sec before he remembered his training.

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                                    What kind of evidence do you want?

                                    Corroboration from any of the dozen+ people who were present for the incident(s).

                                    1. 13

                                      Some of whom are likely still employed under this person, where speaking out may affect their careers?

                                    2. [Comment from banned user removed]

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                                        And yet, on the other end of the thread, you say - with just as much evidence - that she thinks she is at war with 3.5 billion people.

                                        1. [Comment from banned user removed]

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                                            We should all be at war with the patriarchy. The term refers to the exclusion of women from positions of power. I feel pretty confident that the culture I live in would be better off for everyone if it were more meritocratic.

                                        2. 16

                                          You must be kidding. You think claims of sexual harassment (something which is well known to happen, far more than is talked about) are comparable to claims of alien abduction or reptile people?

                                      2. 21

                                        Assume for a minute (or an hour, or a day), that it happened just the way she tells it. So, what do you do after the internal reporting process failed and you kept it quiet? Also, harassment cases are rarely the one where a colleague flips out the camera and starts filming.

                                        1. [Comment from banned user removed]

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                                            “Smashing the patriarchy” means smashing a system that unfairly benefits men, not men themselves.

                                            1. 21

                                              I’m pretty sure she will have a harder time finding a new job than her colleagues after that.

                                          2. 15

                                            “Dang, my smoke alarm is going off. That’s a pretty serious allegation, and what if it’s a false alarm? Better stay in bed until I see some REAL evidence of a fire.”

                                            1. 1

                                              += 10

                                            2. 6

                                              While I wouldn’t dismiss these stories out of hand (after all, it is pretty hard to prove of hand remarks that have passed before you realize what’s happened), I agree with your stance that we should approach them with critical caution.

                                              While sexual harassment is a real problem, and no doubt exists in the technology industry (and pretty much everywhere else), there have been many cases (outside of tech) where women falsely accused employers, coworkers or acquaintances of sexual misbehaviour of various natures.

                                              History also teaches us that if you give a certain issue public attention (such as these kinds of acts have been enjoying in recent months), many stories, both true and false, will come out of the woodwork.

                                              I’m not saying this one in specific is a false story though.

                                              1. 5

                                                there have been many cases (outside of tech) where women falsely accused employers, coworkers or acquaintances of sexual misbehaviour of various natures.

                                                There have also been many cases where women truly accused employers, coworkers and acquaintances of sexual harassment.

                                                And there have been many cases where women didn’t accuse employers, coworkers and acquaintances who had sexually harassed them.

                                                One guess which of these totally blow away the other in terms of frequency.

                                                1. 5

                                                  Absolutely. I’m just saying we shouldn’t take every accusation at face value, innocent until proven guilty etc.

                                            3. -3

                                              I like how the misspelled “Google” as “Goole”. I wonder if they have a proofreader…