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[CORRECTED] Dean Esmay’s Pile of Lies: How A Voice for Men Destroyed its Last Remaining Shred of Credibility

Dean Esmay: You can close your eyes, but it won't go away.
Dean Esmay: You can close your eyes, but it won’t go away.

CORRECTION: New evidence suggests that the screenshot discussed in this post and elsewhere was not a forgery but the result of a glitch. I offer a correction, and an apology, and a discussion of the implications, here. I have left the text of this piece as is.

Those who have been following the ongoing saga of man’s rights hate site A Voice for Men’s stumbling attempts to explain away the fraudulent claims — and the blatantly faked screenshot — that they used in order to cover up an embarrassing error in one of their stories may have been wondering how on earth they were going to respond after I confronted them directly with the evidence in the comments section of the blog of AVFM contributor Girl Writes What.

The answer is: with a whole new batch of lies. And they are even more dumbfounding than the last batch.

I had momentarily allowed myself to hope they would rise above their lying nature. Indeed, the last we checked in with them, AVFM founder Paul Elam was admitting that “as much as I hate to say it, Futrelle does have a valid point,” and promising that he would investigate further. Indeed, he promised,

I will address the results of my inquiry in public no matter where they end up.

Instead, Elam has given the man who seems to be at the center of the fraud — “managing editor” Dean Esmay —  free rein to provide yet another completely contradictory, and completely unbelievable, account of the whole thing.

And instead of addressing the fraud in public in a new post, Esmay has attached this new explanation to the bottom of the original post, knowing that this way many fewer people are likely to see it. I’m sure he’d prefer if he could post it at the bottom of a deep well.

Before we get to the latest (and I assume final) round of lies, here a quick recap of this somewhat complicated story, in simplified form. (Skip past the numbered items if you’ve been following the case, or go here, here, and here if you want the gory details and links.)

1) A Voice for Men reposts a blog post by Jason Gregory of American Idiocracy making the bizarre (and false) claim that if you Google the phrase “violence against men,” you get results dealing not with that topic but with “violence against women” instead. As many readers of the article notice, and as I point out in this post, this is not true: the results are overwhelmingly related to violence against men, as you would expect.

2) AVFM managing editor Dean Esmay writes a confusing editor’s note suggesting that before AVFM ran its article on the subject, the results from a Google query for“violence against men” were full of links to pages on “violence against women” but that somehow AVFM’s attention to the topic caused Google to modify its search algorithms so that searching for “violence against men” would return results related to “violence against men.” So even though their article appeared wrong, he claims, they were really right, and they had improved Google’s search returns to boot!

3) He also posts a screenshot, which he indicates was made before AVFM posted its article, and which purports to show search results for the phrase “violence against men,” and which shows numerous search results dealing with “violence against women.”

4) I demonstrate conclusively (in this post) that the screenshot is a blatant fraud, in two ways.

First, I show that the actual search phrase being used was “violence against” not “violence against men,” and that whoever made the screenshot simply typed the word “men” into the search box before making the screenshot in order to make it look like the search was for “violence against men.”

Second, by looking at the news results in the search, I show that it had been made AFTER the AVFM article ran, not before, thus completely undercutting Esmay’s explanation.

5) Esmay announces that he has “found” the evidence that he’d thought he “lost,”  that he will be writing an updated article on the subject with these newly found screenshots, and that “David Futrelle is caught out as a dishonest weasel once again.” He does not say how exactly I am supposed to have lied.

6) As I am banned from posting comments at AVFM, I take my evidence to the comments section of AVFM contributor Girl Writes What’s blog. Amazingly, one AVFM regular actually reads my post and concludes that I’m right. Even more amazingly, Elam shows up, also admits I’m right about something, and promises a let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may investigation.

7) Well, so much for that.

And that’s how we got to the steaming pile of lies that Esmay deposited on AVFM yesterday. Let’s go through it paragraph by paragraph; there’s just so much to digest. Brace yourself for some very strange logic, and some very poor writing. And lies, lots of lies.

Esmay starts off by trying his hardest to deflect attention away from both his original mistake — running a post whose central claim is blatantly false — and his later coverup of this mistake through fraud.

His first attempt at misdirection? Mocking me for … pointing out how incompetent and dishonest he is, while half-assedly half-admitting that I sort of nailed him. He goes on about this for three long paragraphs before even getting to his “explanation” for his fraud. Feel free to skim; it’s all pretty much frantic hand-waving on his part.

My thanks to Dave Futrelle of Manboobz. In his increasing efforts to remain relevant, he’s published multiple stories on this one little article already. In a way it’s pretty cool; we need people to hold us to high standards, after all, and even dishonest people can help others to stay honest. Futrelle is holding us to standards as high as the mainstream media, which is pretty awesome, although we want to be held to even higher standards than that. So in that sense, he’s being useful: if we publish something we can’t back up, we need to admit it. Thank you, Dave.

I also want to thank Dave for tacitly admitting we’re as important as a mainstream news organ by giving this much attention to one small story–a small part of a much bigger story of internet censorship, one that I somehow think the Dave Futrelle of the 1990s would have been on our side of.

So I thank Dave Futrelle for helping me catch an error I should have caught in the first place. I also thank him for unwittingly helping expose just how lopsided the content on “violence against women” is versus “violence against men” when you look online, even though men are demonstrably more often the victim of violence than women are.

Finally, Esmay gets to the actual topic at hand. Sort of. (In what follows, I’m going to add some paragraph breaks to Esmay’s walls of text, but this is otherwise unedited.)

The fact is that I did witness the Google behavior I mentioned in Update 2. However, Jason emailed us a screen shot after publication (not before) that has been wrongly declared a forgery. It is not a forgery.

The screenshot he links to here is the same one posted earlier, which I showed conclusively was faked. (I’ve pasted it in again at the end of the post as well.)

It was made after this confusion began, to show us what Jason’s post-publication results looked like and to express Jason’s own confusion privately, to us.

Here Esmay concedes one point: the screenshot was made after the AVFM article ran.

That screenshot shows an artifact caused by Jason’s slow internet connection, his screen shot software, and his browser, which he was able to demonstrate to my satisfaction is in fact a glitch and is not reasonably declared a forgery.

Really? Really?! That’s so amazing I have to read it again:

That screenshot shows an artifact caused by Jason’s slow internet connection, his screen shot software, and his browser, which he was able to demonstrate to my satisfaction is in fact a glitch and is not reasonably declared a forgery.

This is the best you can come up with? It reminds me a bit of those pat explanations Tommy Lee Jones trotted out for the civilians in Men in Black:

All right, Beatrice, there was no alien. The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.

Remember, Esmay is trying to explain away the fact that the phrase “violence against men” appears in the search box in the screenshot, while the search results are clearly for “violence against.”

Any ubergeeks out there can correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’m pretty sure there is no “glitch” in the world that would RANDOMLY ADD THE WORD “MEN” TO SEARCH BOXES IN SCREENSHOTS.

And I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing about a “slow internet connection” could possibly explain that either.

And Esmay knows that. He’s simply counting on his readers to never ever check what I actually wrote, and just to assume that I noticed some small glitch in the screenshot and declared it a forgery because of that.

You’ll notice that Esmay never once refers specifically to any of my charges, nor does he link to the posts in which I make them. He is relying on his readers to never wander from the AVFM walled garden to look at my posts.  And the fact is that most of them won’t.

That’s the entirely of his response to my charge of forgery: it was just a “glitch.”

Looking at the screenshot again, I see something that I missed earlier: the letters “Jas” off to the right at the top, which suggests that the file came from someone whose Google account starts with those letters — the most likely culprit being Jason Gregory. So perhaps the fraud originated with Gregory, and Esmay was initially taken in by it.

Of course, they two may have cooked it up together. Or Esmay may have photoshopped the “Jas” onto the screenshot. Or the word “men.”

At this point this doesn’t much matter: however it originated, Esmay has thrown himself fully into perpetuating the fraud.

I rushed when I first saw it to assume it was the pre-publication screen shot when it wasn’t and promised an update on that here.

Yeah, and you also called me a liar, in two separate places.

An editor new to the process here at AVfM rushed in behind me and linked that post-publication screen shot to my words saying “We witnessed this behavior” above, effectively putting words in my mouth. That is bumble #2 and #3 on our part.

I’m sorry. I literally laughed out loud when I read this patent bullshit. So it’s the fault of an (imaginary?) “new” editor, huh? “Rushing in?” The AVFM offices must be a busy, bustling place indeed! Oh, wait, you don’t have offices, do you?

Also, “bumble?” Those aren’t bumbles. This is a Bumble.


Anyway, there seems to be an awful lot of “rushing” going on at A Voice for Men. Evidently they are always on deadline at AVFM, and every split second counts, and there’s no time to check facts or spelling — or even, it seems, to come up with lies that sound even vaguely plausible.

Dave Futrelle has been on the internet long enough to know that search engine results on uncommon phrases (like “violence against men”) can change daily, and that a site as big as A Voice for Men will, in fact, alter search results on Google within hours.

Don’t flatter yourself, guys. And it’s not an uncommon phrase. At all. Searching for the phrase “violence against men”  in quotes brought up more than 2.5 million hits for me. (YMMV, but I’m guessing it’ll be a similarly huge number.) “Violence against marmosets who enjoy soup,” by contrast, is a rare phrase, and I can proudly say that my little blog has had considerable influence over the search results for that phrase. Sorry, I should say “search result.”

He continues on with the Google nonsense:

He also almost certainly knows that companies like Google have huge teams of people who work daily to test and improve results, thus causing search results on uncommon phrases like “violence against men” to change pretty quickly. As the old phrase goes, “the elephant squeezed mightly to give birth to the mouse.”

Is it just me or does that last bit sound really … dirty?

Anyway, Esmay then he tries once again to distract attention from his lies. Aspiring journalists, take note: This is how NOT to handle things when you fuck up.

It’s pathetic, really, to make this much out of this little. But Dave Futrelle has been given this opportunity because I personally failed to take and include a screen shot before publication, I rushed an update, and a green editor added a link she shouldn’t have post-production. It’s a mistake we have discussed among the editorial team and we will not repeat it.

So now the “green editor” is a woman. I should have known.

When in doubt, blame a woman!

It was probably TheWoolyBumblebee, right, using a time machine to do some editing after you fired her, right?

I may still go ahead and publish an article schooling Futrelle’s misguided readers on exactly how things like Google work, although at this point our screwup on this matter has resulted in so much work and so much pointless confusion it may not be worth it.

Yeah, you’re never going to write that article because you want everyone to forget about all this as soon as possible.

I stand by Jason Gregory, but I regret my error in not taking the screen shot before publication.

Well, it doesn’t appear that Jason Gregory — hey you got his name right, for once — stands by you, as he has rewritten the piece on his own blog in a very revealing way. More on this below.

We do not and will never have the screen shot Futrelle demands.

Aw, so when you wrote so definitively in your previous update  — and in your Monday news roundup — that you had “found” the screenshots, plural, and that I was a liar, that was … a lie? Or was it just you just blurting out something that you thought was true without checking? A really long, involved typo? Something a monkey typed on your computer when you weren’t in the room? A glitch caused by Jason’s slow internet connection? Swamp gas reflected the light from Venus?

It would be nice if he would retract the claim of forgery, but that’s up to him; I don’t believe it is one and have ample reason to believe otherwise. We do, however, withdraw this story by Jason because of the lack of an available screen shot to demonstrate the pre-publication search results. This is my screwup ultimately folks. Sorry about that.

Oh, you “withdraw” the story. No harm no foul, right guys!

In the world of journalism, that’s not how it works. In the world of journalism, people get fired over this sort of thing — and worse. Forging evidence is a step below plagiarism. It’s a career-ender.

Obviously, I don’t have definitive proof that Esmay himself forged the screencap — and Jason Gregory could well be the culprit. Or someone else.  But Esmay’s assorted explanations are literally unbelievable; even if you assume he’s the most gullible and incompetent person in the world, and he certainly shows evidence of both gullibility and incompetence, you have to admit that his ever-changing explanations are full of shit.

How many others at A Voice for Men are complicit in this fraud? Like, say, AVFM top banana Elam? For all we know, he may have instigated the whole thing in the first place. If not, and it was Esmay’s baby all along, then Elam is certainly culpable for allowing Esmay to be the one to write the “update” on his own misdeeds. (“I investigated the murder, boss, and I’m innocent!”)

One final thought from Dean:

I’d especially like to thank AVfM regular TallWheel for bringing all this to our attention and not letting us ignore it. –DE

Really, Dean? You didn’t, perhaps, notice that I was writing about you in stories with titles like “Worse than Wrong: A Voice for Men resorts to phony screenshot and outright lying to avoid admitting embarrassing error?” Dude, you MENTIONED ME IN YOUR EDITORS NOTE. And you called me a “liar.” Obviously you were aware of what I was writing.

I think you were forced to react when TallWheel and other AVFMers were forced to confront my evidence publicly in a setting that you and Paul didn’t directly control — that is, the comments section of Girl Writes What’s blog.

Gosh, maybe you need to have a talk with her about letting people you don’t like post comments on her blog. Hard to run a cult properly if you don’t have the proper milieu control.

It’s truly comical to see AVFM double and triple down on this nonsensical idea that they were always right and that before their article ran, Google really did return endless “violence against women” search results when you searched for “violence against men.”

Because if you go over to the blog of Jason Gregory, the author of the post in question, you can see that, even if he might have been the original source of the forged screenshot, he’s not pretending that his blog post was right in the first place, and that A Voice for Men magically changed the search results so it appeared wrong. Indeed, he seems to have implicitly (if not explicitly) admitted his gigantic error by replacing the old piece with a rewritten one that makes a very different central claim.

It’s the blog post he should have written in the first place — one that shows that when you search for the phrase “violence against,” (not “violence against men“) it returns lots of results relating to “violence against women” and many fewer relating to “violence against men.” What that means, I don’t know, but at least that claim is true.

I believe that’s the post that he originally meant to write, but that for some reason — innocent or deceptive, I don’t know — he added the word “men” when he wrote the blog post, which made for a more dramatic claim, but one that was proven wrong as soon as anyone tried the search on their own. AVFM reposted his blog post, clearly without checking it, and everything since then has been an attempt to cover up their mistake.

A simple correction would have sufficed. But instead Dean Esmay has shown the world his true character, and so has A Voice for Men.

One little addendum. As I’ve noted in previous stories, Esmay has had some trouble remembering the name of AVFM’s own writer, Jason Gregory, calling him in some instances “Jason Thompson” and in other cases “Joshua Thompson.” Well, yesterday he went and tried to fix his errors — but didn’t quite catch them all.


Seems like Dean himself may be a little green, editing-wise.

Well, nothing to worry about, really, because after this nonsense, there’s no reputable publication in the world that would hire him.

NOTE: For more on A Voice for Men’s ongoing troubles with the truth, see these posts:

Why haven’t Men’s Rights Activists turned on Paul Elam for falsely accusing Arianna Pattek of civil rights violations?

JohntheOther: I totally didn’t lie about Rebecca Watson, Take Two

Reno calls a domestic violence hotline: The MRA Reality Distortion Field in action

A Voice for Men has 99 problems, and the word “bitch” is one

The screenshot at the heart of all this:


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9 years ago

Oh, for the love of what the fuck I don’t even
He has a video supposedly demonstrating the “glitch”. It’s over 6 minutes long, I watched all the way, and guess what, it doesn’t show that happening. The closest that happens is when he searches for “violence against women” and gets results for “violence against women act”.

And then he starts saying how there’s no way to have a different phrase in the google search bar than in the results, unless you turn off google instant, and he certainly didn’t, so he couldn’t possibly have faked the screenshot, and then he accuses David of lying by omission because he didn’t mention that you have to turn off google instant.

It’s just, is he that convinced he’s right, or is he that convinced that MRAs will believe anything he says?

9 years ago

wow. Dean should calm down.

9 years ago

Myoo: He’s certain the MRM will back him, because Dave is Teh Evil!

9 years ago

Why wasn’t my damage control rewrite published? I don’t know. That is a good question, given that “tallwheel” and Dean suggested doing one. I even suggested a “rephrasing” in the comment thread. I did submit a rewrite, as it appears on my personal blog.

Why did Dean Esmay suggest in the Monday Roundup that we found screencaps?

I don’t know. That is a good question. My guess is for the same reason that my rewrite didn’t get published.

Excellent questions he raises.

9 years ago

Ohhh . . . that comment thread is getting more and more awesome. It’s going to do down in Blog Comment Thread History. Seriously, peeps, don’t miss it.

9 years ago

Go down, not do down, is of course what I mean.

9 years ago

David, just wondering if you will be doing an update on this saga soon? That comment thread on Jason’s blog has some pretty odd stuff on it now.

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