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David Deutsch’s Denial

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch and his community. I’ve tried to address the problem privately but they refused to attempt any private problem solving.


Justin emailed David Deutsch (DD) to ask him to respond to the Andy B harassment and to write a tweet asking DD’s fans to stop harassing. DD replied and it’s the only thing he’s said about the whole situation, as far as I know, so I’m analyzing it. I already analyzed how DD lied. Now I’m focusing on a different section (source):

I don't know this Andy B he [Elliot] speaks of. I'm not aware of anyone I know sending DDoS attacks or anything else covertly to Elliot. I'm not the chief of anything.

DD’s comments don’t respond to the claims at issue or to what’s being asked of him. What’s going on?

Straw Man

DD’s words look like a straw man reply. The claims at issue include:

  • Andy harassed Elliot Temple (ET) and FI (ET’s community).
  • One or more of DD’s community members DDoSed ET.
  • DD’s associates know Andy (e.g. they follow him on Twitter and publicly talk with him there) and encourage Andy’s harassing actions.
  • Andy and other harassers are DD’s fans, who have said they’re standing up for DD against DD’s enemy (ET).
  • Something as simple as a tweet from DD might actually discourage the harassment.
  • DD has a fan community who listen to him, respect him, and take cues from him and his associates.

But DD didn’t reply to any of those issues. Instead he says:

  • DD doesn’t personally know Andy.
  • As far as DD knows, none of DD’s personal associates covertly DDoSed ET or covertly sent him something else.
  • He’s not a chief (no one said he was).

DD hasn’t actually denied any of the claims at issue. But he’s written it to sound like he’s issuing a denial.

And even if Brett Hall (for example) had covertly sent harassment to ET, including a DDoS, DD still wouldn’t be saying anything wrong as long as Brett never told DD that (and DD didn’t find out some other way). DD spoke about what he’s aware of, not what actually happened nor what the best explanation for the evidence is. (Brett or another of DD’s associates has probably written some anonymous, negative blog comments on curi.us, which actually would be sending something (“anything else”) covertly to Elliot. That’s the best explanation but the evidence is circumstantial.)

This apparent straw manning should be explained. What’s going on? I have two explanations: ignorance or word lawyering (carefully using technically true but misleading wordings).

Ignorance?

Maybe DD doesn’t know what the issues are because he didn’t read the info he was sent. If he doesn’t know what the claims in the discussion are, it would explain why his replies didn’t address them.

But in that case, why did DD reply like he was answering the issue instead of saying “I’m busy and won’t read this”? He gave the impression he knew what the relevant claims were and was responding to them with relevant denials. It’d be irresponsible and misleading to write DD’s response if he was simply unfamiliar with the claims and evidence.

And if DD was unfamiliar with what’s going on, then he must have gotten lucky. If you make claims about an issue you aren’t familiar with, usually you’ll screw up and say something that’s clearly wrong or is contradicted by facts you don’t know about. DD doesn’t appear ignorant: he seems to have known what statements he could make without fear of being directly refuted by the published evidence.

DD also found out about DDoSing somewhere. The email DD was responding to hadn’t specified DDoSing, so DD must have read or been told something else.

Careful Wording?

Another interpretation is that DD knows what’s going on and carefully wrote misleading statements. He may be intentionally responding to the wrong issues in order to say technically true statements while still making his reply sound negative towards ET. It looks like he was trying to bias his comments against ET without saying something false. (Trying to disown the harassment while being biased in favor of it is kind of contradictory.)

It looks to me like he was hoping people wouldn’t notice the straw manning and rhetorical tricks. It looks designed so people would react like this: “DD denied everything and wouldn’t risk his reputation by making factually false statements regarding crimes, therefore ET is probably lying.”

Aliases

How does DD know that he doesn’t know Andy? Andy has used 20+ fake names (even his main name, “Andy”, is likely a fake name). DD could be in contact with one of Andy’s fake names without realizing it. Getting DD’s attention and having some association with DD under a fake name is just the sort of thing Andy would love and might try repeatedly with different names.

Did DD even review all publicly known aliases of Andy before declaring that he doesn’t know Andy? Did DD ask his associates who know Andy what other aliases they know about? (I doubt it, considering that DD doesn’t seem to mind when his friends publicly associate with Andy, despite Andy’s involvement in threatening, persistent harassment, and other uses of force. DD doesn’t seem to mind having Andy two steps away on DD’s social graph via multiple routes; DD hasn’t even blocked Andy on Twitter and many of DD’s friends who he follows on Twitter are following Andy.)

“Knowing” Someone

On 2011-03-13, in IMs with DD, I suggested he should try having more discussions with a smart friend of mine. He replied:

[oxfordphysicist] I can't recall her ever addressing me. I don't know her at all.

DD had sent her at least 12 private emails within the previous month before denying knowing her at all. For each of those emails, she was one of only four recipients.

She had started talking in the TCS community in 2003 and written dozens of emails. DD had publicly replied to her, and he generally read most TCS emails.

She’d come up repeatedly over the years, e.g. DD had given her advice two years earlier. It was memorable, high-stakes advice about a child custody court case.

In 2010, I told DD one of her philosophical theories and his response referred to her by name.

I got DD to IM with her in 2006 (I set up a three-person IM chat). In that chat, she did address him and he said “good luck [her first name]” at the end. That wasn’t their only conversation; it’s just the first one I found.

If DD doesn’t know Andy in the same sense that he didn’t know her at all – meaning he only emails Andy privately 12 times in a month and Andy is active in a discussion community he co-founded, reads and replies to – then he does know Andy.

DD seems willing to use poor memory as an excuse (he said he “can’t recall”, which may have been true). Note that he didn’t have any significant incentive to lie then, as he does with Andy.

If DD forgot all about her, his memory can’t be trusted. If he remembered her, his statements can’t be trusted.

Maybe DD doesn’t think his interactions with her count as “knowing” someone at all. If so, DD could know Andy equally well and think that somehow doesn’t count as “knowing” Andy.

Conclusion

It’d be bad if DD denied stuff about harassment while being ignorant of what he was denying. But the ignorance explanation doesn’t work well, so I think something even worse is going on. It looks to me like he was word lawyering to make it look like he was denying my claims while actually denying other issues that weren’t in dispute.

Why would DD respond to harassment of me with word lawyering? Perhaps because he wants the harassment to happen (note that DD has been asked to say he doesn’t want it to happen, but has refused to say that), wants to use words against me, and also wants to carefully avoid responsibility by not getting caught in an error. (But I did catch him lying in a different sentence.) It’s hard to come up with alternatives that make sense, and DD isn’t providing any, nor are his fans.


Elliot Temple on April 30, 2021

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