There’s been a growing discussion in the science and skepticism circles about behaviors. The gist of it is that some members of the community are too loud, that not enough honey is being spread around, or that people of opposing view points are put off when you fail to properly accommodate them.
I don’t doubt this happens.
People, for any number of reasons, forget their manners. They are rushed, they are tired, they are frustrated and, well, sometimes, they are just inherent assholes.
Effective communication relies on all tools being available for us and I am beginning to loathe the this latest meme that the vociferous voices out there are hurting rather than helping. There are arenas where ridicule and humor are the only avenues through the insanity.
Example A: Draw Mohamed Day. I’ve covered this before, and it was a clever use of humor, ridicule, and disrespect to draw attention to the deplorable actions of Islamic clerics and the stupid notion that people’s lives should be forfeit over cartoons. There’s no better way to fight a bully then to get everyone to point and laugh.
Moreover does anyone really expect that a rational change will come about by addressing this in polite conversation? The point is to push irrational beliefs and behavior into the open so people can see it’s ugliness, hatefulness, and pure ridiculousness.
In fact, the point has been proved as everyone’s favorite cleric, Anwar al-Awlak took the bait:
Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – the radical who has also been cited as inspiring the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre and the plot by two New Jersey men to kill U.S. soldiers – singled out artist Molly Norris as a “prime target,” saying her “proper abode is hellfire.
Polite conversation and being nice is what has let kooky religious threats like these carry on for decades and centuries. It only ends when people make it clear that this type of intimidation and bullying will no longer be accepted- at which point you are left with two options to stop it – physical force or intellectual force.
We’ve already seen what physical force has wrought. A war closing in on a decade-long that has done nothing to change attitudes. That leaves the intellectual route – smart humor and smart ridicule that makes people think and reassess.
Dara O’Briain is a shining example and encapsulates this idea of humor and ridicule perfectly in this YouTube clip when he talks about a number of things from homeopathy to pseudoscience. I’d bet it’s far more useful and thought-provoking than any polite conversation you could have with an individual who staunchly believes that a bottle of water has magical properties.
There is a line that becomes counter-productive once crossed. Once your argument goes from ridicule to ad homenim, you’ve lost – and there is a fine line there. It certainly gets crossed all the time on the internet, hell trolling has become an art form in its own right (it’s fun trying to spot a Poe, sometimes…).
I think a fear of that line being crossed is being unfairly used to justify this new push for accommodation, which is a surefire path to nowhere. Accommodation is the environment where bad ideas thrive. It’s the same thought process that puts expert views on par with crackpots for the sake of equal time.
It’s what allows assholes like Anwar al-Awlak to put forth fatwas on a cartoonist’s life while the nice and polite people look the other way for fear of making waves.
This is when we need the vociferous among us who can wield the humor and ridicule when polite and nice is not enough.