Tag: Uncensored

Still Crazy After All These Years

Maybe it’s my wounded professional pride, but I came to the Sunday programme’s segment on conspiracy theory magazines with the thought that “This will be a bit rubbish.” I mean, really, they had to go to Australia for an expert? I’m right here in Ponsonby/Grey Lynn.

So, with that egotistical bit out of the way, “Sunday,” this last Sunday, featured a segment on Jonathan Eisen and “Uncensored” magazine (the internet for people who can’t afford dial-up), as well as the chap who runs “Nexus” over in Australia. You can watch it here.

The thesis, as put forward by the publishers of “Uncensored” and “Nexus,” is that the so-called Mainstream Media (MSM) only appeases vested interests and doesn’t fulfil the remit of informing the general populace. This wasn’t questioned by Ian Sinclair, the reporter for the piece, which was strange because he works for the MSM and thus… Well, it’s not really clear what the piece was about. It wasn’t about debunking the claims that magazines like “Uncensored” put forward, because whilst there was some very casual debunking ((For example, Clare Swinney asserted that some fairly innocuous cloud cover were actually chemtrails. Sinclair showed said chemtrails to a scientist, who said they were perfectly normal cloud cover, which then caused Jon Eisen to say that the scientist must be a minion for the “Man.” Hardly award-winning journalism.)) most of the piece seemed designed to allow the publishers of “Uncensored” and “Nexus” to say ‘You aren’t getting the whole truth from the media,’ as if a) most people don’t already know that and b) the publishers of “Uncensored” and “Nexus” would give you such truths.

All fairly predictable.

I really can’t think of anything particularly interesting to say about the piece, really. The segment had nothing new to say; it didn’t exactly paint Eisen as a crackpot or as a serious journalist but rather as… a man who prints a magazine. I’m curious as to what “Sunday’s” mostly middle-class audience thought of the piece. I could understand if they had brought Ian Wishart into the discussion, because Wishart, in “Investigate,” talks to the concerns of the white middle-classes but this?

Consider me bemused. And obviously not doing any work of substance if I can spend an entire morning trying to write this post.

Protest or Attend, that is a question

Over at Map’s place (which has a vibrant comments community) discussion goes on about the Uncensored Symposium and the consensus (admittedly not a scientific survey) is that attendance = bad; protest outside = good.

I’m not sure what to think about that.

I’ve never been much of a protester; I can count the number of protests I have been on with the fingers of one hand. In part this is because I don’t like crowds (one explanation for this is that my lack of peripheral vision makes being in a crowd an uneasy sensation) and in part I’m not necessarily convinced protests are the answer. An answer to some questions, yes, but not the be all and end all of reactions to things you don’t like.

Giovanni and Paul both agree that attending the actual forum means giving them money and giving them money is a bad thing.

And I agree. You hardly want to fund these people. That seems intuitively wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people like ourselves shouldn’t attend. It might be a necessarily evil act (or rather, if I am being philosophical, it might be a morally suspicious but not necessarily morally wrong act) to attend but that cost might be outweighed but some perceived benefit, i.e. the chance to debate these people.

A quality debate, however, needs both quality and certain quantity of people; if, say, I went and no one else like-minded did, then I would be the lone nut in the room (I speak from a little experience in re how I was ignored by certain members of the Skeptics after that conference last year) and thus I would be drowned out by the noise.

Ah, the noise of anti-semitism and racism…

I’m fully aware that the debating practices, if they can be called that, of people like DoutrĂ© is based upon the notion of the info dump; if I present a credible critique of his position he will be liable to then list factoid ((I use the term factoid to refer to something that is taken to be a fact when it is nothing of the kind.)) after factoid, drowning out my critique with excessive verbiage ((Which is how Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates work.)).

Which makes me think that attendance may not be the best option in the circumstances and, thus, you could, there is a credible case for not paying money to go; the cost and the style of debate would not be conducive to the aim of people like us ((If you are reader is is not a member of our special ‘academic other’ cabal, I apologise.)).

Yet turning up to the debate rather than simply protesting it seems to be a good in its own right. Doutré, Eisen, Gray; all these people claim that our silence and failure to debate them on the issues they think most critical shows that we are aware our positions are fatally flawed. Protesting will only confirm that view. Attending, even if we are seemingly defeated, may make the more duplicitous members a little more wary about presenting again.

Yet for organised resistance within the symposium to work you will need not just interested individuals but quality debaters; you will need rhetoricians who can play the game. Now, I consider that I am such a person, being both a critical thinker and a trained public speaker (due to years of speech therapy and speech and drama training) but I would, ideally, want a similarly qualified archaeologist, local historian, medical expert, et al. You would then want them to research their particular speaker, look at what they’ve argued in the past and what you would reasonably be expecting them to present at this symposium, et al.

It is, as they say in the trade ((And don’t they say it in the Trades… Thanks “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again.”)), a tall order.

Which is why I’m all for putting as many blocks in the way of the conference, of course. I think Map’s idea of approaching the city council about the use the hall is being put use to is superb and getting the anti-fluoride campaigners off-board, so to speak, could be a wonderful blow.

Maybe what this debate about the symposium shows, at least to me, is that we need an organisation of well-prepared intellectual types ready for the next ‘engagement.’ The ‘Rationalists and Humanists’ are definitely out; the Bill Cooke fiasco shows that they can’t be trusted to provide a spirited defense (and their lack of presence these days somewhat confirms that they are a dying organisation (which also seems to have become a libertarian article clearing house, in re the publication known as ‘The Open Society ((Karl Popper, I suspect, would not be pleased.))’). The ‘Skeptics…’ Well, whilst some of their membership seem on to it (I’m looking at you, Vicki Hyde) others are what I would describe as keen fans of science; they like science but aren’t particularly sure how it really works.

I.e. we should definitely make a secret society of our own. We can have a name, and badges and passwords and everything.

Which is where my thoughts end (temporally). I should probably get back to work; I have a table to make.