Bigfoot, spectacular claims and being a jerk online

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This entry is about tone <GROAN!>, big claims and trash talking. From Bigfoot to trolls.

Wait, don’t tune out, I have some interesting examples. Let’s talk about Bigfoot DNA a little bit. I know, that sounds weird.

Today, the news about the Ketchum Bigfoot DNA study has jumped from the Bigfoot blogosphere into the major news outlets.

Yesterday, some scientists also took note of the news and found the story… interesting.

In many circles, it was considered a joke. In almost all cases it was framed at least a bit critically. That’s OK. There are many important questions unanswered.

One major complaint on the study is that there is now a HUGE claim out there in the public eye and NO data to back it up (until the sooper secrit paper is published). You just don’t do science by press release. Not only is it unprofessionally bad form, it often turns out to be a bust. Typically, it seems to happen because the news is SO spectacular and exciting that the researcher are afraid of being scooped or they just can’t wait for the slow churn of peer reviewed publication. But since the claim IS so spectacular odds are good that it is mistaken. (Thus, we had the debacle of cold fusion, a fake bird fossil and the exaggerations about arsenic-based life.) Researchers really believed they had something incredible to share. I’m sure Dr. Ketchum is the same. There’s no need to be snarky.

My Doubtful News post was shared on other pro-Bigfoot, cryptozoology sites. Most comments were fine. But not all. Some very rude and juvenile replies trickled in to the DN blog. They either call me stupid for not wanting to believe the obvious reality of Bigfoot or they are nasty to people who have faith the creature is out there, calling them idiots. I moderate comments on my sites so you won’t see them.

The same sorts of comments appeared in the threads under the online pieces by others. There was a clear polarization of solid skeptics or certain believers and each could be blunt about the intelligence level of the other. What’s worse, Dr. Ketchum was the subject of sexist or degrading remarks. This is typical when commentators are detached from actual contact with the person they are insulting so they feel very free to be an utter asshole about it. We’ve all experienced this.

As I said, I won’t allow insults to be posted on my sites, here or on Doubtful News. If you call someone an idiot, your comment gets removed. If you come at me with aggressively opinionated language without any reasoning to back it up – gone.

I’ve been criticized for this. Free speech and fair debate and all…

No. It is not a matter of free speech. It’s a matter of people being civil and not beating each other up (verbally) And, frankly, I don’t usually want to engage in a debate.

It’s sad when people don’t even bother to understand why someone might have a differing view and just issue a verbal smackdown instead.

Yesterday, I was informed that I was the subject of a thread at the Bigfoot Forums. Already a member but was not very active, I went over to see. Well, there were already several comments against me, saying that I or my view was worthless or wrong and a few supportive remarks from those who know I am not the nasty scoftic. I posted a clarification that I might say if I were there in person then I left. I returned the next day to see that they made a valid point about being drummed out of skeptic forums for their views. Fair enough. I know they have. Both sides can be rude and obnoxious.

When I write, I try to think if I would actually say this stuff out loud to a crowd of interested people. What would the social ramifications be? Would they throw things at me? Would they shout me down? Would they ask me to leave the premises? If so, then I’m clearly not achieving my intent. So, consider that comments ought to be something you would say to that person’s face. If people actually did that more often, there would be less of the fiery fuss about trolls, misogyny and blacklisting that we currently have occurring.

So, I feel sympathy for Dr. Ketchum. She wants a chance to put her views out there. No matter what, SHE does not deserved to be disrespected as a person. None of us do.

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4 thoughts on “Bigfoot, spectacular claims and being a jerk online

  1. snoma

    Well said! I really like the idea of thinking of the ramifcations of posting comments on a blog as if you were talking to people face to face. If people thought about it more that way, we probably wouldn’t get see all the nasty comments on various sites and blogs as we do.

  2. It was pointed out to me recently that if a person states an opinion, they will be attacked. But if a woman is states an opinion, she will have her gender/sex attacked. I believe the word for this behavior is cowardice.

  3. Kitty Lapin Agile

    I may indeed be doubtful, but I have also stated, I would be so HAPPY if Bigfoot was found to be true. For one thing, I know our local Bigfoot group truly is committed to shooting one. They think that’s the failure of other groups. I agree with Ketchum’s goal of wanting to protect the creature, IF IT IS REAL. Even if she has gone about it in a round about way, science is science, and no one can deny real results! But please, let’s see these results as soon as possible. (Also this will make the new Bigfoot show offering millions for proof of Bigfoot much more interesting, someone could win the money!)

    • idoubtit

      It’s out of her hands now. For a few months, really. According to a many times published zoologist, 12 months is not unusual a delay from submittal to print.

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