Miscellaneous · Politics

Skeptics Easier to Control than Republicans?

On Thursday, Max Pappas boasted on Hardball how his organization, FreedomWorks, mobilizes right-wingers to go to town hall meetings. These are the loudmouthed WATBs whose only aim is to disrupt these meetings to shut down any discussion of health care reform.

Then on Friday, on C-SPAN, he said that there was nothing he could do about how his members were behaving.

The passions are so deep about this issue that we can’t send out an email that says “calm down.”

In contrast, the Student Secular Alliance recently organized a trip down to Ken Ham’s Hebrew Mythology “Museum”. The group included PZ Myers and over 300 atheists, freethinkers, and skeptics — people notoriously hard to organize.

Before the trip, PZ posted this:

Here’s what I expect: EVERYONE in our group will be firm, rational, and will not shy away from asking hard questions. You will feel free to wear some distinguishing clothing — a scarlet A, a Darwin fish, a t-shirt, something so that we can tell we are members of the same group. You will discuss the material on display with your peers, but with other visitors to the “museum” if and only if they invite it.

There are a number of things you will not do, however.

Do not show up wearing obscenities or particularly abusive articles of clothing. Dress casual, but look good — you are setting an example. Pro-science t-shirts are excellent, t-shirts with naked lesbians masturbating with bibles will give them an excuse to throw you out, so don’t do it. The SSA won’t even give you a ticket if you show up looking like you want to brawl.

You will not be disruptive. This is an information gathering mission that will make you a better informed individual to criticize bad ideas. Do not interfere with other visitors’ ability to examine the place. Ask questions only where appropriate. Collect questions that you can ask of any of the real scientists who will be in our group. Do not get into loud arguments. If a discussion starts getting angry on either side I want you to be the ones to back off.

Remember, if you are calm, civil, and well-behaved, and you tour the “museum”, we win. If you are calm, civil, and well-behaved, and the security guards throw you out because they don’t like the fact that you’re an atheist, we win. If you are angry, rude, and cause trouble that gives them a reasonable excuse to throw you out, we lose, and I will be very pissed off at you.

(bold added.)

The result? The Inside Science News Service published a story with the telling headline “Tour of Creation Museum Quieter Than Expected“.

In the most noticeable moment of noticeable conflict, Derek Rogers, a computer science major at Dalhouise University in Nova Scotia, Canada, was detained by guards for wearing a shirt with a slogan recently plastered on buses by activist groups that read “there’s probably no God, so get over it.” He was escorted to the bathroom and ordered to flip the shirt inside-out.

“One family of religious people told me that I had ruined their trip, and they drove all the way from Virginia,” said Rogers.

As far as I can tell, that was the one and only “disruptive” event. And if it really did go down as described (and it probably did, since it’s mostly confirmed by Answers in Genesis), 300 skeptics and freethinkers can make it through a palace of lies without causing a scene. (Hell, even I managed to sit through one of Kent Hovind’s performances without bursting into laughter.)

But Max Pappas can’t send a message to his mailing list explaining the whole “moral high ground” thing.

Way to go, wingnuts. Way to show the country that you’re a bunch of whiny crybabies with no ideas. The sooner you run off into the woods to await the Rapture, the happier we’ll all be.

2 thoughts on “Skeptics Easier to Control than Republicans?

  1. Well sure. PZ made an appeal to reason directed at reasonable people and achieved the desired result. Pappas is fully aware that neither his position nor the actions of his adherents are amenable to reason and accepts that, much like the loaded gun, there’s not much you can do once the trigger has been pulled (which is a surprisingly reasonable conclusion to be drawn by someone so obviously deficient in reasoning skills).

  2. I think it was in the post-TAM episode of the Geologic Podcast that George Hrab described someone trying out for Randi’s million-dollar challenge at TAM. He said that the organizers asked the audience to give her complete quiet, and the audience of hundreds complied. Not quiet as in you could hear someone leaning back in their chair on the other side of the room. Quiet as in not one cough, no creaky chairs, no shuffling of papers, no breathing.

    He attributed it to the audience all thinking the same thing: “this woo is going to fail to demonstrate any psychic powers. And if I cough, or make any noise, she’s going to blame it on us not being quiet enough for her. I’m not going to give her the satisfaction.”

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