Monthly Archives: March 2013

Uncategorized

The Chaser [Skeptically Tuned (episode 2)]

[Trigger warning: Fuck you!]

Today we are going across the globe to discuss a group of skeptics who many people have not heard of. Though if you are a savvy skeptical Youtuber you know exactly who I’m talking about, unless your name is Brian Dalton. In which have a seat, Brian, I’ll explain.

Ya know that show that you and your friends talk about at drinking skeptically? That show that would be skeptical AND entertaining that people would actually watch; if only they would have the money to keep production value high, and the creative team really understood the issues. Why can’t—like Why can’t they make a show like that? Why not bro? Huh, why not skeptic-dude-bro-turncunt-man-baby-honey-child?!

Well, “that” show—the one that would make skepticism sexy and cool—is the chaser.

The Chaser, it may surprise you to learn, have, in one series or another, been on the air for 12 years. That’s 4 years longer than Bullshit, and 105 more episodes produced than Bad Universe. The chaser have created slick, hip, and funny shows that are dedicated to tackling false claims and yellow journalism.

Now, if you’re looking to watch their entire catalog, available on DVD for you Australians, and here in its entirety on Youtube [http://www.youtube.com/ChaserEpisodes] (if you’re not lucky enough to have them personally send you a DVD. Thanks Chaz!!!), a quick word of warning: If you are not familiar with Australian politics there will be a percentage of the show that leaves you in the dark. After a while I sincerely wished I knew who the hell people like Kevin Rudd, John Howard, Obama, and Julia Gillard are.

The Chaser’s work covers nearly the entire gamut of skepticism from alternative medicine to psychics to media scare mongering to faux journalism to cults to self help propaganda to just reminding us that commercials aren’t real. There is no issue too big, no matter too trivial, and almost no place off limits for these guys. They are the poster boys for guerrilla skepticism. They should live in the hearts and minds of every skeptic who accuses every other skeptic of being an armchair skeptic… Whatever the fuck that means… hold on…

So I put it to you again; if you happen to know of any skeptical organization that gives credit where credit is due tell them to give the Chaser a no spending limit, 0 APR, frequent flyer miles, super duper… Just give them credit, ok, Jesus Christ!

I mean, not only are these guys producing their own brand of badass skepticism, they even produced fellow comedian Lawrence Leung’s Unbelievable; an amazing series that I will get to in the coming weeks.

It must also be said that what puts these guys on the map beyond their dedication to skepticism, and probably what makes their skepticism so potent, is their comedy. Not just the fact that they’re comedians, but the way they do comedy. Their satire is unflinchingly committed. You see, most comedians will break character, most forms of comedy will give a wink, a disclaimer, or god help us a ‘Trigger warning’, but these guys hold fast the entire time; even when they’re part of other people’s programs. They are not asking “will the audience get this joke?” or “will the audience understand that this is in fact a joke?”; they are asking “what is the logical consequence to this line of thinking?”, “What is the absurdest/satirical conclusion to that which we find stupid, silly, redundant, and/or fallacious?”, and “can we play that just as straight as our mainstream media colleagues?” …Who don’t seem to be aware that their profession is a joke.

In a time when some people have decided that certain topics should never be joked about, and that comedy can even harm people, I’m glad that the Chaser is out there to push the envelope, to bring gorilla skepticism to the masses, to do comedy for the sake of comedy. You’re never going to see these titans of satire apologizing for a fucking joke… oh…

Uncategorized

The Chaser [Skeptically Tuned (episode 2)]

[Trigger warning: Fuck you!]

Today we are going across the globe to discuss a group of skeptics who many people have not heard of. Though if you are a savvy skeptical Youtuber you know exactly who I’m talking about, unless your name is Brian Dalton. In which have a seat, Brian, I’ll explain.

Ya know that show that you and your friends talk about at drinking skeptically? That show that would be skeptical AND entertaining that people would actually watch; if only they would have the money to keep production value high, and the creative team really understood the issues. Why can’t—like Why can’t they make a show like that? Why not bro? Huh, why not skeptic-dude-bro-turncunt-man-baby-honey-child?!

Well, “that” show—the one that would make skepticism sexy and cool—is the chaser.

The Chaser, it may surprise you to learn, have, in one series or another, been on the air for 12 years. That’s 4 years longer than Bullshit, and 105 more episodes produced than Bad Universe. The chaser have created slick, hip, and funny shows that are dedicated to tackling false claims and yellow journalism.

Now, if you’re looking to watch their entire catalog, available on DVD for you Australians, and here in its entirety on Youtube [http://www.youtube.com/ChaserEpisodes] (if you’re not lucky enough to have them personally send you a DVD. Thanks Chaz!!!), a quick word of warning: If you are not familiar with Australian politics there will be a percentage of the show that leaves you in the dark. After a while I sincerely wished I knew who the hell people like Kevin Rudd, John Howard, Obama, and Julia Gillard are.

The Chaser’s work covers nearly the entire gamut of skepticism from alternative medicine to psychics to media scare mongering to faux journalism to cults to self help propaganda to just reminding us that commercials aren’t real. There is no issue too big, no matter too trivial, and almost no place off limits for these guys. They are the poster boys for guerrilla skepticism. They should live in the hearts and minds of every skeptic who accuses every other skeptic of being an armchair skeptic… Whatever the fuck that means… hold on…

So I put it to you again; if you happen to know of any skeptical organization that gives credit where credit is due tell them to give the Chaser a no spending limit, 0 APR, frequent flyer miles, super duper… Just give them credit, ok, Jesus Christ!

I mean, not only are these guys producing their own brand of badass skepticism, they even produced fellow comedian Lawrence Leung’s Unbelievable; an amazing series that I will get to in the coming weeks.

It must also be said that what puts these guys on the map beyond their dedication to skepticism, and probably what makes their skepticism so potent, is their comedy. Not just the fact that they’re comedians, but the way they do comedy. Their satire is unflinchingly committed. You see, most comedians will break character, most forms of comedy will give a wink, a disclaimer, or god help us a ‘Trigger warning’, but these guys hold fast the entire time; even when they’re part of other people’s programs. They are not asking “will the audience get this joke?” or “will the audience understand that this is in fact a joke?”; they are asking “what is the logical consequence to this line of thinking?”, “What is the absurdest/satirical conclusion to that which we find stupid, silly, redundant, and/or fallacious?”, and “can we play that just as straight as our mainstream media colleagues?” …Who don’t seem to be aware that their profession is a joke.

In a time when some people have decided that certain topics should never be joked about, and that comedy can even harm people, I’m glad that the Chaser is out there to push the envelope, to bring gorilla skepticism to the masses, to do comedy for the sake of comedy. You’re never going to see these titans of satire apologizing for a fucking joke… oh…

Ethics Opinion

The Defense of Freedom of Speech: A Summary.

 

 

In general, we have as natural a right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk, and hazard. I know many books which have bored their readers, but I know of none which has done real evil. Theologians, or pretended politicians, cry: “Religion is destroyed, the government is lost, if you print certain truths or certain paradoxes. Never dare to think , till you have asked permission from a monk or a clerk (Voltaire, 1977).

 

Though I risk comparing my wit to Voltaire’s, I must expand his point in this final essay. Those words which are not controversial, do not need to be defended. It is the extremists like us who need to defend our minority rights.

Have no doubt that we are extremists. We will be extremists until atheists aren’t considered a minority. I’ve heard frequently, of late, that change comes from the moderate. I find this to be a pernicious lie. The moderates among the abolitionists proposed a compromise on slavery; we’ll just send those english speaking, darker colored Americans back to Africa where we took them from. Would anyone like to defend their viewpoint? How much more to we agree with the extremists who argued that not only should slavery be abolished, but that blacks were are equals? Extremists like John Brown argued not only this, but acted on it as well. He sought to give black Americans arms, so that they might defend themselves like humans, rather than ineffectively petition their rights for them, as if they were children.

Another of the moderate’s brilliant ideas was to contains slavery, rather than end it outright. This includes the very first of many compromises on the subject: that 3/5ths bit of which you may have heard. To quote another master on the subject of indefinite compromise:

Until 1850, perhaps, the “peculiar institution” of slavery might have had a chance of perpetuating itself indefinitely by compromise. But the exorbitance and arrogance of “the slave power” forbade this accommodation. Not content with preserving their own domain in its southeastern redoubt, the future Confederates insisted on extending their chattel system into new territories, and on implicating the entire Union in their system (Hitchens, 2012).

 

Yet the profiteering racists were not the only extremists to prompt chance. John Brown was tired of the abolitionist’s snail-pace. He remarked that “[t]hese men are all talk. What we need is action—action” (Rhodes, 1892). His actions, though doomed, instilled a nervousness in the South that ended the fruitless moderation. There can be no doubt that the South sought to silence him.

No, The Innocence of Muslims is not an abolitionist masterpiece, but it is controversial, which makes it the front line fight -and the only fight- in the freedom of speech. We must always endeavor to separate in our minds the right to say something, and agreeing with what’s said. A work of fiction does only as much harm as our over-reactions to it allow. The work itself is quite tame.

Dissenters need their rights, and by their nature, they will be minority rights. That means, unpopular rights. I suspect all those who tell me change comes from the moderates, because that seems to be the easy way out. They may as well say: “We don’t have to be controversial, we can agree our way to justice.” Moderation is mediocrity for everyone but the politicians. Leave it to those who’ve already sold their souls, and speak your closest approximation of the truth regardless of what people will think of you. You can know, at least, that I will do my best to defend your right to say it.

 

References

Hitchens, Christopher (2013). Arguably: Essays (29). New York, NY: Twelve

Rhodes, James Fork (1892). History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 (385). Cambridge, MA: Harper & Brothers.

Voltaire, Francois (1977). The Philosophical Dictionary. (Peter Gay, Trans.) New York, NY: Penguin Group. (Original work published 1764)

 

Uncategorized

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia [Skeptically Tuned (episode 1)]

Welcome to the premiere episode of Skeptically Tuned, where we’ll give analytic breakdowns of some skeptical shows we like, some skeptical shows we don’t like, and some skeptical shows that we are extremely embarrassed for liking. Sorry, but we will not be reviewing bullshit programs…yet.
The first show that I would like to talk about has been one of my favorite sitcoms for years. I love it… maybe too much. You may not realize this, but It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a pretty damn skeptical show. Yes it can be raunchy, and the characters are downright despicable, but this show never hesitates to lampoon bullshit.
Now, I realize that any asshole sitcom can point and laugh at ‘woo’, but this show takes some of it’s sweetass time to call out the bullshit. Let me explain:

  • Sunny introduces the false claim,

[They introduce the bullshit]

  • Sunny explores many features of the false claim,

[They explore the bullshit]

  • And Sunny ultimately shows the comedic failures of such false claims.

[Then they debunk the bullshit.]

Sometimes the characters embrace the woo, and sometimes they reject it. This might be confusing for those of you who cling to the myth that art says something, and are looking to interpret the stance of the hero or anti-hero, but for the rest of us who aren’t trying to butcher aesthetic value with a didactic blade, it’s just a good ol’ well thought out laugh. And certainly one deserving of some recognition from the skeptical community.
Are they intentionally promoting critical thinking and skepticism? I’m not sure. Are they creating some of their comedy with an audience of skeptics in mind? Maybe. Are they doing comedic bits that are greatly enhanced if you happen to be a skeptic? Fuck yes!
So if you happen to know of any organizations or groups (e.g. IIG) that give out awards for things like being a great sitcom for skeptics, maybe you should let them know about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Oh… oh what’s that? They want more evidence? Well, maybe it would interest them to know that Sunny has also tackled homeopathy, miracles and exploitation. They even dive into murkier quasi bullshit territory. That is things that aren’t necessarily bullshit, but are often breeding grounds for bullshit and/or utilize the same techniques employed by bullshit. Things like overzealous patriotism, faux activism or ‘Disneyland’ activism. They even regularly attack that oh so cunning piece of social manipulation: Pick Up Artistry. [More concise and effective than any blog on the subject :) ]

And if you have not seen their latest season finale featuring a hilarious trial between evolution and creationism, you are officially missing out on a significant part of your life, and you need to rectify the situation!
In conclusion: If you’re a skeptic, and you love comedy, the kind of comedy that doesn’t let anyone decide what is or is not allowed to be funny, this sitcom is for you! Thanks for watching.

Skeptic Hero

Uncategorized

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia [Skeptically Tuned (episode 1)]

Welcome to the premiere episode of Skeptically Tuned, where we’ll give analytic breakdowns of some skeptical shows we like, some skeptical shows we don’t like, and some skeptical shows that we are extremely embarrassed for liking. Sorry, but we will not be reviewing bullshit programs…yet.
The first show that I would like to talk about has been one of my favorite sitcoms for years. I love it… maybe too much. You may not realize this, but It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a pretty damn skeptical show. Yes it can be raunchy, and the characters are downright despicable, but this show never hesitates to lampoon bullshit.
Now, I realize that any asshole sitcom can point and laugh at ‘woo’, but this show takes some of it’s sweetass time to call out the bullshit. Let me explain:

  • Sunny introduces the false claim,

[They introduce the bullshit]

  • Sunny explores many features of the false claim,

[They explore the bullshit]

  • And Sunny ultimately shows the comedic failures of such false claims.

[Then they debunk the bullshit.]

Sometimes the characters embrace the woo, and sometimes they reject it. This might be confusing for those of you who cling to the myth that art says something, and are looking to interpret the stance of the hero or anti-hero, but for the rest of us who aren’t trying to butcher aesthetic value with a didactic blade, it’s just a good ol’ well thought out laugh. And certainly one deserving of some recognition from the skeptical community.
Are they intentionally promoting critical thinking and skepticism? I’m not sure. Are they creating some of their comedy with an audience of skeptics in mind? Maybe. Are they doing comedic bits that are greatly enhanced if you happen to be a skeptic? Fuck yes!
So if you happen to know of any organizations or groups (e.g. IIG) that give out awards for things like being a great sitcom for skeptics, maybe you should let them know about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Oh… oh what’s that? They want more evidence? Well, maybe it would interest them to know that Sunny has also tackled homeopathy, miracles and exploitation. They even dive into murkier quasi bullshit territory. That is things that aren’t necessarily bullshit, but are often breeding grounds for bullshit and/or utilize the same techniques employed by bullshit. Things like overzealous patriotism, faux activism or ‘Disneyland’ activism. They even regularly attack that oh so cunning piece of social manipulation: Pick Up Artistry. [More concise and effective than any blog on the subject :) ]

And if you have not seen their latest season finale featuring a hilarious trial between evolution and creationism, you are officially missing out on a significant part of your life, and you need to rectify the situation!
In conclusion: If you’re a skeptic, and you love comedy, the kind of comedy that doesn’t let anyone decide what is or is not allowed to be funny, this sitcom is for you! Thanks for watching.

Skeptic Hero