Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Righteous Indignation, Token Skeptic

I've listened to both the Token Skeptic podcast and Righteous Indignation podcast, and both touched upon Boobquake.  Kylie Sturgess on TS covered it in great detail with two interviews, one with Michael McRae and a second recorded out of a chat-room with Desiree Schell.  It was a interesting discussion of the The Blag Hag, Jen McCreight's Boobquake idea that turned into a pop cultural moment.  It made at least cable television coverage and swept into and around the Skeptical, Atheist, Feminist, and probably anti-cleric, and pro-plate tectonics circles.

For a quite in depth discussion on what one can take from and/or learn from the whole boobquake phenomenon, Sturgess covered the topic in an immense amount of deeply thought out, academic detail.  My take away from McRae is that while Boobquake showed skepticism has reached some type of point where it can have a wider impact on society, sometimes a protest is just a protest without any further ramifications.  The Skeptical collective has arrived (my term), but it also shows that there is now exists an "us" versus "them."   Measuring how successful boobquake or something more organized and less spontaneous such as the ten23 campaign against homeopathy, is quite difficult.  A protest just to protest is a good way to vent, and feel better in a placebo type of manner but it may not actually move the needle in the wider culture.  He pointed out that if done wrong and it was an "asshole skeptic" manner of expression it could backfire.

Schell seemed to focus on the turmoil within the feminist movement that boobquake begat, and seemed to think it was caused by a lack of target audience and focus.  Schell is a community organizer by trade and broke these type of protests down and explained how one should be properly organized, and how to measure the desired effect and success of a campaign or protest.  She also pointed out that some women/feminist disliked the whole idea of using something sexual, such as breasts, in such a flip manner.  They were ridiculed for not being more participatory.  (I have to admit if someone decided to do 'codpiece flood,' to show the lack of connection between tighter trousers and deluges, I think I'm a bit overly modest to participate.  To me, ridicule of not participating is worthy of ridicule itself.)

The Indignates (this week Hayley, Marsh, and (first time guest host) Carmen D'Cruz) when discussing Boobquake sorta looked at it as a really interesting event which was a great conscious-raising activity in that it may have shown at least a few people that there just might be a bit of skeptic in themselves.  Marsh took due pride that Boobquake in part was inspired by his own ten23 campaign.

My own take is that Boobquake does have some lessons to be learned for future campaigns, but the one thing I take away from Boobquake is just how quickly the skeptical community and its loose organization can spread a notion out into at least part of the broader culture.  It has enough mojo to sweep up the atheist, human rights, and feminist community if the dominoes line up correctly.  It really is something to be proud of as a skeptic.  Not to be lost is that this was a very grass roots, organic, seat of the pants, life of its own moment.  I think that was part of its power and what made it interesting.  While I think Ten23 was a wonderful exercise of conscious raising, Boobquake has a real 'snap' factor in it.

Boobquake might have revealed to some in the feminist community that not everyone is on the same page as might have been thought.  It gave fertile ground for some internet jackasses to do that which makes them a jackass in the first place.  To an outside observer, this appears to be an underlying issue brought to the surface, and not caused by Boobquake just as the recent "arrest the Pope" flap brought to light tensions between skeptic-atheist and atheist-skeptics (if that makes any sense?).  Needless to say, once again Sturgess made me think my noodle off, well played Sturgess.

(I just checked my queue on iTunes and Sturgess already has a second episode with McRae.  Yeesh.  I have not even covered the episode with Michael Blanford who is in charge of the education part of the JREF. He talks about how the JREF finally plans to promote critical thinking to school-aged kids, and how it is organizing and enlisting the help of educators in the effort.)

Back to the cats in England:

The episode covered many news articles, and makes it clear that co-host Trystan is not a misogynist.  If he was, Hayley would let him have it.  I am going to cut to the most interesting part of the episode for me, which was the interview of Mike Freebury, an investigator of animal mutilations with the Animal Pathology Field Unit.

Freebury argues that animal mutilation along the Wales-England border, as well as many of the mutilations that occur in the United States, are caused by UFOs.  He backs up his ideas by hours of videotapes of UFOs, the clean, precise and blood-free removal of soft parts of the dead animals, and the few hours during which this takes place at times compared to when a wild dog chows down.

He also covered that the government, at least the British Government and almost certainly the U.S. Government, cover it up.  He evidenced this proposition by the amount of UFO activity recorded and which the Ministry (or Department) of Defence (or Defense) must be aware.  He told a tale of the government sneaking a peek somehow at his cellphone calls, and the grandpoo-bah veterinarian contacting the vet they were consulting with by email.

What was interesting was the normally highly non-confrontational Indignates questioning Freebury's notions and ideas.  They were not rude or impolite, but they were quite direct in their questioning rather than the more normal ask a question and let the guest quietly hang themself a bit.  I must admit the one they took the most advantage of, basically because it was just handed to them, was the discussion on cult mutilations.   Freebury noted that in the States, mutilations in some corners were thought to be the work of pagan or satanic cults which he found rather preposterous.  The Indignates starting with Trystan queried why that was clearly wrong, but he was so willing to jump to aliens causing the mutilations and not some more likely means.   While I would not call the questionings a withering assault, Freebury did come out a bit worse for it all.

It was a nice night of podcast listening.

On a side note, I recently had a meal with a family friend.  We were discussing reading habits, and someone brought up if I knew who was David Icke.  I blurted out "David Icke -king of bullshit."  When I noted that Icke named looks as if it should be pronounced "ick" as in "ick vegemite is gross" our friend realized that a close relative had a few of Icke's books on their shelf.  It was a sad moment.  I was happy to finally blurt out "king of bullshit" during polite conversation.  


  1. It's not just Ick. It's Ickey

  2. Ooof! Vegemite is not gross! :)
    Thanks for the review - I'm going to start incorporating book reviews in future episodes, and I take your point about they recently sent me a suggestion to add them and I'm thinking about it. :)


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