Death Of The MeTooSTEM Lie

As a joke, I twitted for a few days the date, that everyone was still full of shit, and have a nice day. It was funny because it was true, as many folks on twitter have gained substantial popularity and credibility with others who are either desperately inclined to believe them no matter what or too clueless to grasp they’re being lied to.

But in the scheme of people who are full of shit, BethAnn McLaughlin, founder of the advocacy group MeTooSTEM, takes the cake.

McLaughlin, a neuroscientist who says she lost her tenure bid at Vanderbilt University due to her activism against “harassholes,” has lots of Twitter followers. So did Sciencing_Bi, who sometimes defended McLaughlin against critics who said she was a toxic, controlling leader within MeTooSTEM.

It’s the “Sciencing_Bi,” a twitter handle, that supported this bold person fighting for women in STEM to be safe from “harassholes” that should catch your eye.

Sciencing_Bi revealed once that she’d been sexually assaulted by a prominent man in her field, after other complaints against him became public. And in April she announced that she’d been forced to teach in person at Arizona State during the pandemic and was suffering from a protracted coronavirus infection as a result. Many academics followed her dispatches from the sick bed, including this post, from May: “ASU kept teachers, staff and students on campus until April. That’s well after we knew this was a killer disease. Many got COVID. Including me.”

Sciencing_Bi’s health declined through last week, when McLaughlin announced her death.

“Please read her timeline,” McLaughlin wrote on Twitter. “Campus closed and she was in the hospital a week later. Be mad about COVID but be more mad that BIPOC community is most vulnerable and underrepresented on campus. We are killing them.” McLaughlin also wrote that she and Sciencing_Bi texted often and had planned to get matching Indigenous tattoos. She also suggested that the two may have had a romantic relationship, tweeting, “Looking at her side of the bed and crying. Just a lot of crying. I literally can do nothing.”

There turned out to be only one problem. Sci_Bi didn’t exist. McLaughlin said she did, claimed to have been in bed with her, to know her in real life, but whatever the ‘nym was, it was not real.

McLaughlin later held a small online memorial service for Sciencing_Bi, and that’s when things begin to unravel. Some in attendance sensed holes in McLaughlin’s account of her friendship with Sciencing_Bi. Others, wanting to hold Arizona State accountable for the death of a faculty member due to teaching-related COVID-19, could find no death announcement or any other public clues about who she was. The institution is huge — in retrospect, the perfect place to situate a fake ally — but the total silence rang alarm bells.

Arizona State eventually put out a statement saying, “Unfortunately, this appears to be a hoax. We looked into this over the weekend and were unable to verify any connection with the university. We were in touch with several deans and faculty members and no one was able to identify the account or who might be behind it.”

And there had been doubts and challenges all along, including when Sci_Bi went to cash in.

Once, Sciencing_Bi even asked her supporters to send her cash through McLaughlin’s Venmo app account, so she wouldn’t have to “break pseud.” The occasion for the request? Sciencing_Bi said her dean asked her if she’d taken a DNA test to prove her ancestry.

“If people Venmo me $ for day drinking, I may email them and ask if they have taken a DNA test to prove they are an asshole,” she wrote.

What Sci_Bi was or wasn’t is hard to say. Was this account a McLaughlin sock puppet? A real person who hid behind a ‘nym and lied about everything? If McLaughlin lied to give cred to this phony, was she part of the scam or did she rationalize this as necessary to back up her activisim? And if she was happy to lie about Sci_Bi, including faking a COVID death, would she be reluctant to lie about anything?

There’s an old comic that those newer to social media might not know about.

One of the great things about the net was that one could be pseudonymous. In the early days, it was a way to equalize all those immutable characteristics that might get in the way of engaging, like race or gender. Nobody had to be black or white, male or female, if you didn’t want to. You were Trogdor or Fluffy, Destroyer of Worlds.

But what you could not do while being pseudonymous was use your unverifiable personal stories, experiences or expertise to back yourself up. There was a cost to going ‘nym.

Today, there are a good number of people who use real names, and take whatever punches people choose to throw because of it. Everything from age to law school will be used to smack you, but if you want to be able to rely on the facts of your existence to back up your assertions, then you have to pay the price. whether that’s a lunatic calling your job, a SWATting by the local cops or a hundred disciplinary grievances from randos for your having used a “bad” word on twitter. The list goes on and on. Who wants to tolerate such insanity, particularly when it could cost your career or life?

Some of us have and do, not because we want to get a box in the mail without knowing whether it’s got Bowmore 18 inside or cockroaches, but because we value our integrity and credibility, and refuse to lie or hide.

But when a “movement” is led by a liar and adores a non-existent victim, the usual excuses fail. It started a conversation? There are real victims even if the most prominent is a fake? Sorry, but if it’s not real, then it’s a lie. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. But for those who care nothing for truth, for facts, as long as it furthers their cause, none of this matters. It’s just “harassholes” trying to erase their victimhood just because it’s based on lies.

Today is Tuesday, August 4, 2020, and everybody is full of shit. Have a nice day.

17 thoughts on “Death Of The MeTooSTEM Lie

  1. Skink

    “Today is Tuesday, August 4, 2020, and everybody is full of shit.”

    Today is also National Honesty Day. I might be making that up, but that just makes me full of shit. In keeping with the spirit of the day, Vandy should just be honest and not hide behind the usual “we ain’t talking about this stuff.” Like this:

    While her loneliness makes us sad, we hesitate to give tenure to someone who is nuttier than squirrel shit. For her own good, she’s been transferred to the psychology department.

    1. Onlymom

      I like that ideal. On that one day a year you can only tell the TRUTH!

      Just think of the politicians we would be rid of. 10’s of thousands around the country and the world would drop dead at 12:00:01 from the shock

  2. Robert Davidson

    This is what happens when academics overshoot on social media and turn into academeme-ics.

  3. Lawrence Kaplan

    What I don’t understand is how this hoax wasn’t uncovered earlier. “Sciencing bi” tweeted she was forced to teach in person until mid-April. But ASU announced they transitioned to distance teaching in mid-March. Did no one think to call ASU and check this easily verifiable matter? These are academics???

  4. Casual Lurker


    Down Fido! Bad dog! Get away from that keyboard! No doggy treats for you!

    (Relax, this is my last post for today. Someone just yelled “stat!”, so lunch is over… Ugh!)

  5. Assistant Village Idiot

    The most reliable signal that something is a hoax is when it is too perfect. Real hate crimes are usually just some dumbass shoving someone or calling them a name, opportunistically, not planned and made poetic. Second after that is when people start bleeding across boundaries, inserting professional info into personal discussions, or the other way around, as you describe here. In discussing professional issues such as sexual harassment in STEM, mentioning that you were going to get matching indigenous tattoos is a red flag.

    Of course it just could mean that the writer has a borderline personality disorder, as they often can’t get boundaries right, but that is also a red flag for hoaxes.

    A third signal that the harassment, hate crime, or oppression is a hoax is if it happens in any connection with a college.

    1. LocoYokel

      Aren’t indigenous tattoos a hate crime all by themselves? Cultural approbation and all that.

  6. Chris Halkides

    She has now acknowledged that she was behind the hoax. Maybe if she had spent more time in the lab and less on twitter, she would have gotten tenure.

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