A Musing on the Lonely Politics of Skepticism…

It is weeks like last one that make a person understand how it sometimes seems like the universe is listening.

On Tuesday at Skeptics in the Pub a recurring theme crept into our conversations.  It was something that has been on my mind for a while; the imaginary politics people attach to skeptics.

Skepticism itself has no inherent political affiliation, left, right or otherwise; though as previously discussed, the tendency is dominantly left and libertarian with very little right-wing leanings.

Speaking personally, the most right wing party I have ever cast a vote for is the Federal Liberal Party, and even that was a strategic vote.  I ultimately consider myself left, though that is a big over-simplification.  I recognize a number of issues where the left wing regularly drowns in a pool of ideology in the face of good evidence.  This is strictly a matter of opinion, is intended as back-ground to my subject and should not be considered in any way a specific endorsement either by myself or more so, by Skeptic North.

On Tuesday we were musing about how skepticism can result in divided political loyalties and how that can be troublesome at times.
My right-wing friends, family and co-workers see me as a lefty; my left-wing associates see me as politically right or as libertarian — which many of them equate to being politically right.  It can be alienating knowing that the only people you have as allies are those who similarly cannot expect the politics of any one party to reliably represent your own evidence based world view, but it can also be empowering to know that you aren’t blindly tied to one side of the spectrum or another.  I actually find great amusement in catching people flat-footed on issues that one or another of them expects me to oppose them upon.  It’s less amusing when it works the other way around and they think that I’m on their side when I have determined that the evidence is not — the recent brouhaha over naturopathy has been a very good example of that amongst my generally left-wing peers.

On the capital ‘R’ right side of the equation one only needs look to fellow Skeptic North contributor, Jon Abrams’ post on Climate Change from earlier this week.  The post was picked up by the National Post, and the comment thread is little more than a screed by the right-wing, largely missing the point of the post – crying out for scientific proof when proof had little to do with Jon’s personal perspective.  Jon announces his “libertarian/right-wing values” and yet, the ideologues cannot help themselves; they practically fall over one another to find a new way of calling him an under-educated hippie-nut-case.  Okay, no one precisely calls him that, but reading through the comments, the unhinged fury of that sentiment is more than evident: Shame on you, Jon – you are a bad bad capitalist for bothering to consider options that don’t seem to be solvable by a free market!

Aye, me…

Swinging back to the other side of the spectrum for the final example:

As if to underline the larger point, this past week Vancouver homeopath, Sonya McLeod — who has been discussed at length by both myself and by SN’s editor, Steve Thoms — published an offensively fact less blog post this week which a number of Vancouver skeptics leapt upon with comments.  They were soon recognized for whom they were and predictably Ms. McLeod deleted all dissenting comments from her blog.  But (ha ha!) before she did I had made a point of copying them… so I posted them for all to see, with her absurd defences intact upon my own blog.  Various skeptical peers added comments of theirs that had not passed her moderation to the comment thread of my post.  Looking at my blog stats the following day it appears as though Ms. McLeod found her way to my blog — I may be mistaken on this point, but someone whose previous web hit was the stats page for her blog gave me a huge number of hits that day.

After a few more efforts to post to her blog — many of which ended up in my comments — the following comment appeared on her blog: “All posts from extremist right-wing hate groups will be deleted.”

And, just in case she realizes how ridiculous that makes her look and decides to delete again… here’s a screen shot for posterity!

It is such a ridiculous Godwin-esque allegation that I have trouble taking it seriously.  Indeed in this case it really only serves to undermine her own position.  The ludicrousness of it actually kind of strikes me as a bit of a feather in my cap.  Realistically the most provocative thing that had been done was the collecting of her comments on my blog, and nothing that had been said was remotely disrespectful on our end, yet there she was… persecuted right off the rails.

Are you reading this because you too are a skeptic?  Did you have any idea you were involved in extremist right-wing hate?  I am shocked.  If I had only seen the truth sooner.  I am so ashamed to have been sucked in by such a pernicious and dangerous ideology.  Erm… yeah…  Happily the level of paranoia demonstrated by this laughable attack is itself an extreme… though on the other hand perhaps if more of the opponents of reason were more obviously unreasonable then our crusade might be simpler.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have an appointment to get my head shaved so my swastika tattoo shows through.

- Kennedy

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  • Kennedy Goodkey

    Kennedy is a film-maker and skeptic. As a skeptic his primary interests are in the communication and advocacy of skeptical and science issues, specifically calling attention to the idea that the standard practice of “playing nice with others” is not always the best approach, and definitely must be explored and refined as a tactic to be leveraged to best effect.