Team Harpy Retracts

Update #2 3/26/2015 – See comment below from Kevin Duke, who identifies himself as Joe Murphy’s stepfather. I think his open letter to the library world is worth reading by all.

Mr. Duke, Thank you for writing.

Update 3/26/2015 – If your comments on any post of mine include profanity, personal attacks, comments on my virility, etc. They’re going to be marked as spam and never make it to this page – like the first comment I received on this post.


Apologies and retractions

I apologize for the false and damaging statements that I have made about Joe Murphy. I ask you to please read the following statement for details from my perspective.

On May 3, 2014, I posted a post on my blog entitled “Time to Talk About Community Accountability,” which made certain negative statements regarding librarian Joe Murphy, even suggesting that he had sexually harassed women at librarian conferences. My comments had no factual basis at all. My intention in writing my blog post was to draw attention to the larger issue of sexual harassment of librarians. While I continue to feel that this is an issue that we must all address, I do now realize that Mr. Murphy was the wrong target for my post. There was no basis for me to make the comments and insinuations about Mr. Murphy that I made, except for a single tweet by Lisa Rabey.

(Excerpt from statement by nina de jesus

via Apologies and retractions | Team Harpy.

I am using this post to document my acknowledgement that Team Harpy aka nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey have officially recanted their accusations against librarian Joe Murphy.

I have never taken a position on Mr. Murphy’s actions with regard to sexual harassment, but I have criticized his choice to sue fellow librarians. I stand by this criticism. I continue to believe that this case will have a chilling effect on future conversations on harrassment where there is more direct evidence.

I am disappointed with Team Harpy, but not so much that I will demand a refund of my contribution to their legal fund. However, they have also damaged future conversations on the very real issue of harassment within librarianship.

But I am going to let this post be my last statement on the issue because I am going to respect the written requests made by ms. de jesus and Ms. Rabey in their blog posting:

I realize that a lot of people have rallied to my aid, but I have to be honest to them in saying “I was wrong” about Mr. Murphy and I urge anyone who might take the position that they “support” me by helping me to undo the damage I unwittingly caused to Mr. Murphy and to the cause of credible conversations about accountability and harassment.

— nina de jesus


I strongly encourage those who aligned with #teamharpy and decided to attack Mr. Murphy to cease to continue to defame or disparage him. Mistakes have been made and we have the opportunity to show good character by apologizing and moving on.”

— Lisa Rabey

They would prefer we not offer speculations on “what really happened” and so I will not offer any. I advise you do to the same. I’d also advise you to support ALA’s Code of Conference Conduct and if you see something, say something at the time it is happening.

Finally, it is my intent to link all of my prior Team Harpy posts to this one. If you visit my blog next week and don’t see such a link on a Team Harpy post, let me know

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2 Responses to Team Harpy Retracts

  1. Kevin Duke says:

    An open letter to the library world

    My name is Kevin Duke. I am Joe Murphy’s stepfather. I do not speak for Joe Murphy, or for the rest of the family. I speak only for myself.

    I have followed the TeamHarpy vs. Joe Murphy mess since the very beginning. I have read and re-read every post and every comment on every blog. I have googled “team harpy” more times than I can count, often setting the search to “last 24 hours” just to see if there was a new post. As you can imagine, this has been very painful, so you may ask why I did it. All I can say is have a child, or as in my case, help raise a child, and you will know. My wife, Joe’s mother, had a different reaction. She was unable to read the things that were being said about her son.

    Until now, I have not commented on this matter. I have been a silent spectator to this strange circus – an old man standing on the edge of the crowd. You never noticed me, but I was always there. There are many reasons I have been silent. I am not a librarian, so I have no standing in your world. I also had no relevant information to contribute, even though I was one of the only people in the crowd who actually knows Joe Murphy, or, for that matter, has even met him. Joe has never, of course, harassed me, and one can not, as they say, prove a negative. I could have said that Joe was incapable of any type of harassment or predation, but I am admittedly biased, and many of you wouldn’t have listened anyways. So I stood silently and listened as those who have never met Joe or met him only in passing made definitive and self-assured judgements on his character. I am reminded of my own father’s advice that “it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and leave no doubt.” I think that old adage applies particularly well to some of the participants in this discussion over the past year.

    Most importantly, I did not say anything because this was not my fight. It was Joe’s fight. He fought mostly alone, and he fought well. He won the fight, although there are many who will never be able to acknowledge that fact. So now that the crowd is dispersing, I would like to step to the center and speak to the few who linger, and are willing to listen to an old man.

    To Lisa and Nina, I no longer bear any animosity. For a while, I did hate them. I wanted to see them suffer. I wanted to see them bankrupted by the lawsuit. I wanted them to pay. But Joe never wanted that. He only wanted an apology, even though that apology would never replace what he lost. He didn’t want money. He is donating the token sum he’s receiving to charity, even though he spent a small fortune defending himself. This confused and frustrated me at first, but once I saw Lisa and Nina on the ground, defeated, I understood why Joe did not want to see them hurt further. I believe that their apologies are sincere and that they feel pain not just for themselves but for the pain they caused.

    Forgiveness is a very difficult concept, I think one of the hardest concepts to accept or to get your head around. Few people learn it. Pride stands in the way of both the bestowing and the receiving of forgiveness. Many of you will say that Lisa and Nina do not need forgiving, that it is Joe, not they, who are guilty. You will always think this, and nothing I or anyone else will ever say will change your mind. So to you I say this: I forgive Lisa and Nina, deal with it. And if you still believe Joe was at fault, I ask that you forgive him, not for Joe’s sake, but for your own.

    I am not a particularly religious man, but there is a sermon somewhere in here. Scripture and the law say not to bear false witness. Both are quite clear about that. Bearing false witness causes all sorts of trouble and pain. It causes riots in our souls, violence, wars, and hate. But forgiveness is even more powerful. Whatever you are convinced about in this lawsuit, and whatever you will always and forever be convinced about, lay aside the certitude of your immutable convictions, which is only pride after all, and try a little forgiveness. You will sleep better, believe me.

    Since Lisa and Nina have issued their apologies, I have seen others post comments that attack them and insult them. Please do not do that. Please do not bully them. It is not what Joe wants. It is the opposite of what he has fought for.

    For the others in the crowd, the ones with no names and no faces, the absolute strangers who threw stones at my son, and who, now that the protagonists have left the field, are in some cases still throwing stones, I have a way to go in my forgiveness. I still feel contempt for them. I still lose sleep when I think about them. I don’t think of them as individuals. I think of them as types. I need to speak to them, so please let me address them by type.

    The first type is those who, having no information that was relevant to the issue, still felt it helpful and insightful to insult and hurt Joe. A typical comment from these people was “he never harassed me, or anyone I know, but he was rude/creepy/fill in your own epithet.” It is as though, in the total absence of anyone saying that Joe actually harassed them or someone they knew (i.e., actual evidence), they felt it necessary or helpful to build a case against him on other grounds. What bothers me about this type of character assassination is that it is totally gratuitous. It serves no purpose. It proves nothing. Corroborates nothing. Just a little extra pain. It strikes me that over the course of almost twelve months, a volume of blog posts and urgent pleas for witnesses, not one – not one – person came forward to say that they were harassed by Joe Murphy or knew anyone else who was, not even anonymously. Yet this never stopped this type of person from building a case against Joe based on first impressions and innuendo.

    The second type is those who are resentful or perhaps even jealous of Joe’s standing in the library world. A typical comment from these people is something like “Who is this guy? Who made him an expert? Why is he allowed to speak? He’s too young. Why is he a ‘Rock Star’.” To these people I say, look at his CV, its on his website, look it up. Look at the amount he has published, corroborated with others on, publications he has edited. Judge his qualifications by the body of his work, not his age. Nothing was given to Joe. He earned his credentials through a lot of very hard work. Joe was a physics major as an undergraduate, not a gut major. After graduate school he got hired by Yale University as a science librarian, not a light gig. He busted his butt and he excelled. He wrote, read, published. When he announced that he was leaving a comfortable and prestigious position at Yale to pursue “the future of libraries” his mother and I thought he was flat out crazy. Yes his rise was meteoric. He became a Rock Star. Not because he was lucky, or even gifted, but because he worked his butt off. He overcame his basically introverted nature to be a public speaker. His self confidence was not natural, he had to earn that too. He reinvented himself again and again and again. He took risks. He taught himself. He rejected complacency. So, I could never figured it out. Is it good or bad to be a rock star? When I was a young person, a long, long, time ago, we all wanted to be rock stars. But few of us were willing to work for it, and fewer still had the talent to actually become one. Maybe that is why there are so few rock stars.

    Joe “rocked” the library world with his message. Perhaps that proved his undoing. He told me his ideas, which I didn’t, and still don’t, understand. But, as far as I can understand, in the future, what I think of as a library will be a museum for books. Technology is changing libraries, or, put differently, libraries must change or die. Libraries of the future will be different, and librarians will be different. Instead of people stamping index cards, checking your back-pack, and telling you to “shush,” librarians will be information technologists, highly specialized IT people. Librarians need to get on a steep learning curve or be swept away. Books will be stored in a place called the “cloud,” instead of on shelves. Information will be accessed at light speed. Libraries will be physically different places – open, airy, fun, actually ahead on the information curve. They will have baristas. They will change the world. So, I’m just wondering how well this all went over in the library world. Scary stuff for some, perhaps. This has nothing to do with sex harassment, but maybe there were a few who saw this as an opportunity to shoot down a star that was rising a little too fast.

    The third type of people I still feel contempt for are the ones who said nothing. These are actually the worst and I have saved them for last. I’m talking about all the people who worked with Joe. The people who knew and understood his work. Where were they? Of course they had no evidence, they couldn’t confirm or deny the truth of the allegations, but why didn’t they call for calm, patience, fairness? Why didn’t they say, let’s wait for the facts. There is a name for this type: cowards. Their cowardice was not unjustified, because the few who did ask for balance were quickly denounced as “minions” or “trolls.” These are the most pitiable group, because they live in constant fear of losing their social standing. They abandon people and do not defend friends in trouble. They are not worth any more words.

    So the upshot of all this is that Joe lost his job, and many “friends.” He doesn’t get speaking engagements any more. People in the library world don’t look him in the eye, they shun him. They talk behind his back. This hurts Joe very deeply. The word “passion” is very overused, but Joe’s love for libraries really is a passion, something he is willing to give up everything for, and it has been taken from him. But I am not really worried about Joe because he has a very, very strong character. He will land on his feet. He will reinvent himself again, if need be. He will not stay down.

    I don’t know if Joe will stay in the library world, but personally, I hope he doesn’t. I think the library world stinks.

    Sexual harassment is a horrible thing. So are all types of harassment. So is bullying. These things should never be tolerated. Let’s end them.

    I have heard people describe Lisa and Nina as “brave.” I would not describe bullying people with the crowd cheering you on as bravery. But I don’t know them that well, or what challenges they have had to overcome, so perhaps they are brave. Being brave requires being tested. No one knows how brave they are until they are tested. Being brave requires facing the truth. I have read their apologies. I believe that they are telling the truth now. This must be very hard, and they must be brave. Very brave. If they are just lying now to avoid the consequences of losing a lawsuit, then they are not brave in my book.

    Over the past year I have watched Joe be tested. Tested very hard. Tested hard enough to break people. I must tell you, he is very, very brave, and I am very proud of him. He is my hero.

    At the beginning of this I gave my name. I gave my name because I’m old and I don’t really need it anymore. I don’t need a job. My life’s work is basically over. That’s a great thing about getting old. You get to a place where you basically don’t give a damn. You really learn that anything other than the truth is just a waste of time.

    One last thing: please set the books free. The books deserve to be free. Let them go live in the clouds.

    Enough said. Peace.

  2. Andrew says:

    Mr. Duke, it saddens me deeply what happened to your son Joe.

    As someone who has been active on the internet since its very early days, I have witnessed its evolution and “democratization” (so to speak). As such, I see this (which you may or may not) very clearly as one of many examples of a disturbing trend. Mob justice, vigilantism, mass shaming campaigns, guilty until proven innocent, unsubstantiated accusation — these are becoming primary weapons in a kind of internet social warfare. For the uninitiated, this can be hard to believe; they think, why would someone make something like that up? But, the sad fact is that some people would. And once they do, they feed into a mob that simply does not check facts. A mob that often chooses what to believe based on personal alliances and ideological commitments instead of facts.

    I thought you would be interested to know that Joe is not alone, and that this article might make you feel a bit better and also to understand better what is going on (why this kind of thing happens):

    Personally, I hope that the verdict in this case will empower Joe to renew his career in libraries — not for his sake but for the sake of the public education and the universalization of knowledge. These are ideals that libraries cannot hope to help achieve until they embrace the new technological landscape.

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