It’s interesting to me just how much pettiness runs through the skeptical community.
I just learned Brian Dunning was sentenced to 15 months in jail for wire fraud. I had known about the charges and investigation for a while, but I still listen to his Skeptoid podcast (yes, even its musical numbers, which I saw as satire).
I read a number of blog posts in response to the news, and was becoming quite disheartened . . . skeptics be all petty-like. I say that because some big names (smaller names, too) in the so-called movement were positively gleeful at the news. Beyond that, they took the opportunity to slam Brian, Skeptoid, and his t-shirts prices (among other things).
Anyone who knows me knows I am not sympathetic to anyone who breaks the law (or, for that matter, rules, social convention, or just plain act in selfish ways).
I don’t know all the details of the case, but hope justice was served, at least insomuch as justice can be served in this world. I do have some uneasiness because people, petty people, called for harsh sentencing and for Brian to me made into an example because of his notoriety(!).
Outside of the “skeptic movement”, if I were to mention the name Brian Dunning I would be met with blank looks (to be fair, the majority of the population sport blank looks about most things, but still), so I’m not sure who Brian would serve as an example to.
There’s another thing that bothers me; most of the “skeptic movement” luminaries are liberal leaning. Aside the fact they took this opportunity to slam his “libertarian” leanings, they got into personal attacks that had nothing to do with the charges.
Yet in the past some of these very luminaries have commented on things like our growing prison population, bemoaning the fact the plea bargain process often does not serve justice. In many cases, innocent people would rather plea bargain rather than risk financial ruin for their families, or face the possibility of even harsher sentences.
How do they know that is not the case here? Mind you, I’m not saying it is. I don’t know all the details of the case, but neither do they. However, they seem convinced they do. It’s always heart-warming reading people joyously resorting to name-calling.
To my simple mind those reactions come across as personal animosity they have for Brian. And that animosity seems partially anchored in the success of Skeptoid. That much is clear, and it comes across so with every word they write slamming the show.
Here’s the thing . . . I listen to Skeptoid, I read the transcripts, I check the sources when interested in a topic (not all, but enough). I’m no luminary of the ‘skeptical movement’, but I can read. Some say I have above-average comprehension (others disagree), but for the sake of argument, assume I can understand most of what I read. Skeptoid seems reasonably researched, less prone to presenting opinions, and willing to make corrections when someone points out errors that can be substantiated.
Much more so, in fact, than a lot of stuff I read in various skeptic blogs, and definitely more so than the few skeptic podcasts I listen to (soon to be fewer). It be hard to keep personal opinions in line with facts, especially when, you know, you gots followers hanging on your every word.
I am not big on personality cults, and what I read today brought home to me the fact that many big-name skeptic personalities are indeed petty. And not just the personalities, but their followers, too (but I already knew that about the followers).
Here’s what it looks like to me . . . it looks like some people jockeying to be relevant in the ‘skeptical movement’ are rejoicing a competitor for the attention of other skeptics is going to be removed from play.
Those two pieces echo my sentiments, and I’ll add the following. I don’t know of anything else like Skeptoid, or I would be listening to it. I think it made a difference, and I think it was a positive thing for critical thinking and skepticism in general.
I also don’t know Brian Dunning. I don’t know if he is a good man, a crook, or an evil mastermind. Had I met him, I would have a gauge on what kind of person he is. Unfortunately meeting Brian would have involved meeting other skeptics, many of whom I have little respect for, and it would show through.
I wish Mr. Dunning and his family luck in getting through this, and I hope when he is done serving his time that he can come back and not only resume the work he is doing, but build on it.
. . . especially since I’m cancelling my subscription to at least one skeptical podcast with one member that has shown themselves to be less-than-deserving of my attention, and avoiding a number of blogs for the same reason.
I’m petty like that.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.