Twitter Harassment or Calling Your Bluff?

Today on Twitter, I called for the dismissal of Melody Hensley from her position at Center For Inquiry. Here’s why.

Here’s the offending  Twitter sequence:



It’s really the last two that made me stop in my tracks for a few minutes. Of course Ms. Hensley doesn’t provide any supporting “statistics” to her assertion that there are groups that have more incidence of PTSD that war veterans. We’re just supposed to take her word for it, I guess

Then, when she starts receiving pushback from others on her timeline, she of course jumps directly into “harassment mode”. You see, disagreement with some, asking them to provide evidence for what they assert, is nothing more than harassment.  Ms. Hensley then decides to threaten those that dare to disagree, that if they are active duty military, to call their commanding officers.

Now, I’m sure that most, if not all of her “harassers” on this subject laughed out loud when they saw that tweet. But doesn’t that show something about this person that possibly CFI needs to take notice of now? She’s not small potatoes there, she the Director for Washington D.C. area.  This is what I called on Twitter today bad “optics” for CFI.

For me, this is a matter for any employer to address, whether she’s dismissed or not. Someone needs to sit down with her and tell her that as a representative of CFI, even if using her personal Twitter account, being known as a representative, she is not presenting CFI in a positive way.

I really believe that Ms. Hensley “uses” her claim of PTSD from Twitter to play a victim when she makes really egregious posts like these above.

I’ll leave it for you in the comments though. Do you think a dismissal is what’s required after this or some other administrative action?

12 thoughts on “Twitter Harassment or Calling Your Bluff?

  1. I tend to dislike calls for dismissal. Ugly speech should be met with more speech.

    I do think it’s quite reasonable to help air her ugly comments out and make sure they get widespread exposure, especially since she isn’t some random person, but is executive directory of a lobbying group.

    It makes her personal speech a bit more public and a bit more relevant than it would be for most twitter drivel by most people.

    In fact, in all seriousness, when/if CFI does not fire her for her truly ugly tweets, I think that shows a lot more bravery and a lot more principle that most corporations would have.


  2. I agree that it’s her personal speech, but if you view hew profile, she states there she is a director at CFI in D.C. for me this changes the paradigm a bit because we’re talking about personal ideas, but then on a personal account, announcing affiliation with a specific lobbying group. That, for me takes it beyond her personal opinion, whatever.
    Her speech in this case reflects on CFI because people see her as representing CFI, by her profile.
    At minimum, she should remove all references to CFI on her profile and also not use her personal account to promote CFI as an employee.


  3. I am a member of CFI and would be very upset with CFI if she were dismissed for expressing her opinion. The fact that she lists CFI as an employer on her Facebook page or Twitter account is irrelevant when it comes to her expressing her opinions on her facebook page or twitter account.


    • I disagree. If you write something that refelcts poorly on your employer, you should be in some way held accountable for those remarks.
      If I wrote something on this blog that my employer didn’t like, and on this blog I made it known who I worked for, my employer would have every right to sanction me up to and including dismissal.


  4. I tend to dislike calls for dismissal. Ugly speech should be met with more speech.

    I’m generally against asking for people to be fired, unless they’ve done something patently illegal or dangerous.

    The reason is the other team. They aspire to this all the time. I don’t really want to be like those people.

    That being given said, Hensley has been spectacularly dense. I would not expect her to end this affair without a chat with the boss, without tea and biscuits.


  5. I disagree. Your employer should not have a right to punish you for exercising your first amendment right to free speech, unless your remarks are specifically about the employer. The fact that free speech rights are much more constrained in the private sector as opposed to the public sector is a problem that I hope will be remedied one day.

    By the way, are you a CFI member? If not I am curious as to why it even matters to you. I know the CFI leadership team. I am pretty confident that they don’t perceive Melody’s comments as reflecting poorly on CFI. After all, CFI is a strong advocate of and defender of free speech. Much more so, it seems, than are you.

    You say that your employer would “have every right to sanction” you “up to and including dismissal” if you wrote something they did not like and you had posted on your blog the name of your employer. Thus, I take it, you are perfectly okay with your employer placing limitations on your right to free speech? If this is so then you are not an advocate or defender of the first amendment whom I would welcome into my ranks. (By the way, I am aware that the Constitution applies only to the government and governmental agencies. This, in my opinion, is a flaw.)


    • Your second sentence leads me to believe you don’t understand what the 1st amedment concerns. I really become exasperated when people keep referring to “free speech” as something that is universal when all it has to do with in the context you refer to is that the government may not prevent the people from voicing their opinions.

      So yes, a company may sanction an employee for speech they deem harmful to them(their business), if the employee puports to represent them, as in the case of MH. There is no consitutional protection.

      Do you believe the same for everyone? How about the CEO that was recently forced out of his postion because in 2008 he donated to Prop 8 in CA. Political contributions have been deemed by the Supreme court as a form of speech, yet I saw no outrage from Free Speech advocates about his departure.

      As for CFI, no I am not a member, but I have donated and I susbscibe to one of their periodicals. I actually am a huge advocate for what they are doing.


  6. I suspect you don’t know the CFI leadership team. As a fairly active CFI member (was president of one of the chapters), I know the leadership team fairly well. I’d be surprised if they were to have the chat over “tea and biscuits” that you think she deserves.


  7. “Your second sentence leads me to believe you don’t understand what the 1st amedment (sic) concerns.”

    You need to reread my comment more carefully. I made it perfectly clear in my last sentence that I am aware the first amendment applies only to the government. When I said I hope it will be remedied, I meant that it is my hope that one day the first amendment will be amended to prevent employers from doing to employees that which we insist the government be prohibited from doing to citizens. I realize that there is a small chance of this happening, but it is my position that employers should not be permitted to punish you for exercising free speech, unless your remarks are specifically about the employer.

    “I really become exasperated when people keep referring to “free speech” as something that is universal when all it has to do with in the context you refer to is that the government may not prevent the people from voicing their opinions.” Again, reread my comment. I clearly stated that I was aware of this in the last sentence of my comment. You read what you wanted to read rather than what I said.

    “So yes, a company may sanction an employee for speech they deem harmful to them(their business), if the employee puports to represent them, as in the case of MH. There is no consitutional protection.”

    First, let’s be very clear here. While Melody listed CFI as her employer, at no time nor anywhere in her comments did she say that she was representing the views of CFI when she tweeted her comments. I accept that the company should be able to discipline you for speech that actually harms them or obviously is specifically about them. But your standard allows an employer to discipline an employee for anything they say. Who is to judge if what the employee said is harmful to them. However, this discussion is not about whether it harms them or not. You argued that Melody should be fired because what she said reflects badly on CFI, not that it harms them. These are in fact two different standards. No employer, in my judgement should be permitted to discipline or dismiss an employee because they think that something said reflects badly on them. Under this standard an employee at a company owned by an opponent of abortion could be fired publicly supporting abortion on their Facebook page if that employee also happens to list for whom they work as a part of their personal information on the Facebook page. Perhaps you think this is fair and appropriate. If so then you have an inconsistent and weak commitment to the principle of free speech. Again, my commitment is more inclusive. Though employers can now discipline employees for such speech I am of the view that this should not be allowed.

    Yes, I do believe the same for everyone. I am not familiar with the example of the CEO you mentioned, but going on the description you gave I would say that the CEO should not have been dismissed. And the CEO would not have been dismissed if this country was more deeply committed to the principle of free speech and enacted the appropriate legislation to prohibit such actions.

    Just because you saw no outrage doesn’t meant there was none. Perhaps you should look into in more thoroughly. I was totally unaware of the case, and I am a strong supporter of the first amendment. By the way, who was the CEO? What company? Could you please provide me a source or two I can examine about this case?

    Finally, I should have asked earlier. What exactly is it about Melody’s comments that you think reflect poorly on CFI? I read the tweets you included in your post and I found nothing about them that reflects poorly on CFI, though even if they do this is, in my judgement, insufficient grounds to dismiss a person. This would be particularly true for an organization such as CFI which is a very strong advocate of free speech. As I said in another comment, given CFI’s commitment to free speech, and knowing the CFI leadership as I do. I am very doubtful they see Melody’s comments in the same light you do. I think that you and Sulman don’t fully understand CFI and you both have an an inconsistent commitment to the principle of free speech. Again, the free speech principle should apply to the private sector in pretty much the same way it applies to the public sphere. I don’t believe an employer should be permitted, at least in regard to speech, to do to an employee what we demand the government be prohibited from doing. And if you think the should, then I would like to read your argument as to why they should. I want to let you know up front that any argument that rests on the difference between a person’s status as an employee vs. a citizen will almost certainly be unpersuasive to me. When it comes to the principle of free speech, this difference is insufficient as a condition for punishing a person for exercising free speech. Why should an employer be able to influence political discourse – in this case place a chill over its exercise – yet we insist that the government not be permitted to do so?


  8. The 1st Amendment prevents the government from arresting you for the things you say. As far as saying stupid shit on twitter goes, it’s not a protection offered by the 1st Amendment. If her employer finds the retarded bullshit she says makes their institution look bad, they have every right to fire her.


  9. Granting corporations the power to fire people for their private speech sets a very dangerous precedent. For this reason, I am very much loathe to support this, even when I am presented with speech I dislike. This sort of policy allows teachers to be fired for no toeing the line set by fundamentalist christian parents, for example.

    So, no, I will never ask CFI to fire her, even if I do believe it would be a good idea, from their point of view.


  10. On the other hand, by this point it is clear that CFI’s interests and those of MH herself and closely aligned, so asking CFI to fire her is pointless. Much better to ask the general public not to support the organization, and to suggests to current members that they cancel their memberships; that would leave the CFI with only the members who support it in its current degenerate state, which is as it should be.


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