Well! Witness-evidence has emerged that Tim Hunt, the Nobel-winning U.K. biologist forced to resign from his university job because of some supposedly misogynist remarks he made at a lunch for female science journalists had been only joking–and that that his remarks were distorted by an academic who was present, Connie St. Louis, who set in motion a Twitter cascade of feminist calls for Hunt's head. The University College London, the Royal Society, and the European Research Council duly complied, hounding him out of his prestigious positions. But then:
[E]arly this week, the simmering dispute took a further, seismic twist.
It came courtesy of The Times newspaper, which revealed the contents of a leaked report into Sir Tim’s fall from grace compiled by an EU official who had accompanied him to the Seoul conference.
This individual, who has not been named, sat with him at the lunch and provided a transcript of what Sir Tim ‘really said’.
Crucially, it presented a very different take to the one which had been so energetically circulated by Connie St Louis.
The report began by confirming that Sir Tim had joked about falling in love with women in laboratories and ‘making them cry’.
However, it said he’d prefaced those comments with an ironic introduction, joking that they would illustrate what a ‘chauvinist monster’ he was.
The report then revealed the existence of an entire second half of the controversial toast.
In it, Sir Tim was said to have told his audience that his remark about ‘making them cry’ was, indeed, an ironic joke.
He purportedly said, ‘now seriously . . .’ before going on to speak enthusiastically about the ‘important role’ women scientists play. He ended by joking that his largely female audience should pursue their trade, ‘despite monsters like me’.
The report’s author added: ‘I didn’t notice any uncomfortable silence or any awkwardness in the room as reported on social and then mainstream media,’ going on to describe the speech as ‘warm and funny’.
At this juncture, you'd think that maybe, just maybe UCL, the RS, and the ERC might ask Hunt, who won the Nobel Prize in 2001 for his work on cell division, might reconsider and ask him back–as several distinguished British scientists male and female who came to Hunt's defense, have pleaded. But nooo, that hasn't happened.
And the U.K.'s flagship liberal newspaper, the Guardian, thinks that's a good thing. Because there are some things that just can't be joked about: The Guardian lectured:
This bitter mix of resentments amplified by the polarising environment of social media should have met a calmer official response. But the professor still had to go.
The Hunt camp claims feminists are too humourless to see that it was a joke. But as the provost of UCL, Professor Michael Arthur, pointed out when he indicated last Friday that Professor Hunt would not be reinstated, it was impossible for an institution to tolerate someone to whom they had awarded an honorary post, even a 71-year-old Nobel prize winner, expressing views even in jest that so comprehensively undermined its own reputation as a leading supporter of female scientists….
All the same, the surge of support shows how widely misunderstood the pressing need for feminist activism still is, particularly in science. According to the latest evidence, women occupy just 12% of jobs in science, technology and engineering. In research, women earn less, are less likely to be promoted, and win fewer awards to support their work. A third of PhD students are women, but only one in 10 professors. This is not a joking matter….
Shorter version of the Guardian: "That's not funny!"
Meanwhile, U.K. Daily Mail has uncovered some intriguing facts about the online resume of feminist-justice-warrior St. Louis, who heads a science-journalism master's program at London's City University:
"She presents and produces a range of programmes for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service . . . She writes for numerous outlets, including The Independent, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, BBC On Air magazine and BBC Online.’
All very prestigious. Comforting, no doubt, for potential students considering whether to devote a year of their lives (and money) to completing an MA course under her stewardship. Except, that is for one small detail: almost all of these supposed ‘facts’ appear to be untrue.
For one thing, Connie St Louis does not ‘present and produce’ a range of programmes for Radio 4.
Her most recent work for the station, a documentary about pharmaceuticals called The Magic Bullet, was broadcast in October 2007.
For another, it’s demonstrably false to say she ‘writes’ for The Independent, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times.
Digital archives for all three newspapers, which stretch back at least 20 years, contain no by-lined articles that she has written for any of these titles, either in their print or online editions. The Mail’s accounts department has no record of ever paying her for a contribution.
Her work for The Guardian appears to consist of two online articles: one published in 2013; the other, about the Sir Tim Hunt affair, went live (online) this week….
Elsewhere on the City University web page, readers are led to believe that St Louis has either become, or is soon to become, a published author.
‘She is a recipient of the prestigious Joseph Rowntree Journalist Fellowship to write a book based on her acclaimed two-part Radio 4 documentary series, Raising Ham,’ it reads.
But that is not the full story. In 2005, St Louis did, indeed, receive the liberal organisation’s ‘fellowship’. She was given £50,000, which was supposed to support her while she wrote the book in question.
However, no book was ever published. Or, indeed, written. An entire decade later, the project remains a work in progress.
St. Louis denies embellishing her resume, maintaining that some of those articles she says she wrote are up to two decades old and thus don't show up in the newspapers' digital archives. Even so, it never ceases to amaze that the bien-pensants at the Guardian think it's just fine that she was able to destroy the career of a distinguished scientist.
Which reminds me of a joke: How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Oops, better not go there, "even in jest."