Bigfootery and the skeptic, or “Get offa my lawn!”
I’ve attracted some attention from online Bigfoot forums and blogs lately. The up side of that is that I’ve made connections with super people like Brian Brown of The Bigfoot Show who invited me on as a guest. The show is here and I hope you give a listen because it’s important for what I have to say next. 
Recently, the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Org) Facebook group called me out as being antagonistic after posting a news story I wrote for Doubtful News. It was good information, important to share so I thought, and said nothing about the BFRO. The moderator and maybe four or five others (out of a group of nearly 3500) expressed annoyance with my participation on the forum. They were not familiar with my writing about cryptozoology, they were not aware of who I was or what my purpose is. I got the feeling they categorized me as a “know it all” skeptic who has never had a personal experience and so it was ridiculous for me to even be there. (They questioned my credentials so I posted my bio, but less than 7 people actually viewed it according to my web stats.)
Pointing out my other work in order to help clarify my position was called “self promotion”. One of my comments was deleted and I was told to “be nice” (I was, they just didn’t like what I had to say). So, I left. There was no point in discussing anything there. It was not my goal to be argumentative but when someone directly confronts me on something, I feel compelled to reply if I feel it’s worth it. After I left the thread, a commenter noted that I was ‘trouble’, other forum admins had been warned about me. I’m labeled. Gee, that’s childish. Good to know I can’t “hang out” in Bigfoot forums anymore. I’m crushed. Oh well…
So, a couple of observations here.
This is the way I have been previously treated by Matt Moneymaker of BFRO via Twitter. And not just me, all people with a skeptical POV are brushed off with an insult. A prerequisite for interacting with the BFRO appears to be belief in Bigfoot. No skepticism allowed.
Tweet from Matt Moneymaker (Note: I never told him my name.)
@DoubtfulNews Prove it in Twitter? Sharon, ya think I dont know what yr branding game is? U can b the pretty skeptic but don’t b a parasite.
This is also the same experience I had on the Bigfoot Forums. Pro-Bigfoot people are generally not open to criticism and don’t particularly want to read about the problems with their claims. They can’t comprehend why I would want to talk about the subject since I think it’s “nonsense”. (I don’t.) It probably feels like me walking into the church and questioning God. But it’s not church. And you are making a claim that is not supported.
This is a good opportunity to make my interests and philosophy very clear.
I love the idea of Bigfoot. It does not matter if it’s real or not, it is still a fascinating phenomena that is worthy of study. People have experiences. Because Bigfoot is an iconic part of our culture in America, witnesses will attribute their experiences to a Bigfoot entity. They deserve the best answer to the question: What happened? Groups like the BFRO assume that Bigfoot is out there and promote that. That is fine for your personal belief. I have ZERO problem with belief in Bigfoot (or ghosts or psychics or whatever). A serious problem arises when you present your views to the public as factual and, worse, scientific. Then you have crossed into my focus area – science and the public – and I get to have a say.
Because I have zero problem with personal belief in Bigfoot, I can get along quite nicely with pleasant people like Michael Merchant, Brian Brown and several other people I’ve met online, in the Facebook groups Bigfoot Lounge or Zen Yeti, or at conferences. But it’s clear that I rub some people the wrong way, especially those with no interest in examining their core beliefs. I get that. I suppose it was a mistake to try to share information on the BFRO FB page. They are closed to outsiders of which I clearly am one. I assumed that they were a moderate bunch or perhaps in this incident I was seeing the behavior of a few. Good luck making progress in such an environment.
We know accurately only when we know little, with knowledge doubt increases.
The BFRO exchange that I saw as a mild form of bullying was reported with glee by the Bigfoot Evidence blog who thought this was interesting news.
Want to know who posts just as much Bigfoot stuff as Bigfoot Evidence? The blogger Sharon Hill is one of the most active bloggers on Bigfoot, even though she is a self‐proclaimed skeptic. Rather than posting random, and questionable Bigfoot videos for people to decide for themselves like we do, Hill’s take is from a different, more skeptical approach. Her knee‐jerk critical reaction to anything Bigfoot related earned her the respect of The Huffington Post who ultimately gave her a platform to scoff at Bigfooters. It seems her recent acceptance into the community may have given her the wrong impression that she’s welcome to “self‐promote” her Bigfoot material on any Bigfoot‐related website. Last year, Hill and her JREF goons attacked the President of the BFRO, Matt Moneymaker with a blog post titled, “You are Not Entitled to Your Own Bigfoot Facts”.
The only correct statement in there about me is that I am one of the most active bloggers on Bigfoot. (The rest is wrong in one way or another so I disregard it as just an emotional reaction, not factual.) I present a rational, science-based point of view directed to the general public for media stories via Doubtful News . I also write for several different audiences such as for Sounds Sciencey (a skeptical audience) and on the Huffington Post for the public interested in a skeptical outlook.
Bigfoot Evidence is a stream of posts about anything remotely Bigfoot related, designed for ad revenue and to garner lots of hits. It’s another place where skepticism is pilloried unless it can create drama to bring in more hits. It’s also a place where you don’t want to read the comments. They are pointless, sexist , crude and disgusting. (A second piece about me was posted because the nasty comments were getting out of control.)
If BE is the kind of blog you want to read, posting rumor and bits of gossip and will promote personal attacks and continues to allow denigrating comments, that’s your choice. But it’s sites like this (that post “random, and questionable Bigfoot videos”) that epitomize Bigfoot “research” to the public.
BFRO and Bigfoot Evidence are the face of Bigfootery. Ponder that and you can understand why Bigfoot research is disrespected in the eyes of much of the media and public. I feel bad for groups like the NAWAC who are trying to do things a new and better way. They have an uphill battle to overcome the sensationalism.
I try not to attack people , just their claims. In the past 2 years, I’ve been the focus of five public attempts to make me look bad. Each time a person has tried to shame me in public, it has backfired. It’s great for their own cheerleaders who don’t like me anyway but neutral observers notice the off behavior. The ranters ended up looking ridiculous and petty because they went personal instead of at the claim. It shows they have no actual good argument so have to resort to personal jabs. I ended up with more twitter followers, more supporters and a stronger foundation. In general, the bullies lost support and respect. (Just remember: Attention is NOT respect. Drama blogging is a losing game.)
I like to be busy so I produce a lot of content. Life is short and I want to learn and contribute as much as I can to positive skepticism. I don’t plan to stop talking about cryptozoology (and many other topics). If I think of an important point to share, I surely will. If I feel like engaging with pro-Bigfoot believers in order to understand some concept better, I will do it. It won’t sit well with some, but I won’t be bullied. I won’t be intimidated by this male-dominated Bigfoot arena where you are expected to defer to the experts and stick to the dogma.
One person on the BFRO FB page said “that woman makes my blood boil”. (I did not have any exchange with that person individually.) I take that to mean I’m saying something worth saying to make you react and hopefully think. I also know that I’m just not a pot-stirrer because other Bigfooters say they LIKE what I have to say, that I’m the right kind of skeptic. Those are the people I’m happy to listen to all day long. It’s a better bet in the long run that we learn to tolerate one another and, heaven forbid, cooperate.
Warning: The following is self promotion, because I’m pleased about the things I’ve accomplished. I don’t see how I’m not supposed to promote it. This is what I do.
Finally, guess what? I’m writing a book on amateur research and investigation groups. I can’t say how much the latest dustup will influence that writing, but I bet it will color it somewhat.
1. I feel I’m channeling Orac today. Respectful Insolence, Bigfoot style.
2. I’m not going to go into the prejudice and sexism in the Bigfoot community. It’s probably not the majority but it’s pretty bad when it surfaces. I mostly fault the anonymity of the Internet but girly pictures and the attitudes don’t help.
3. There are exceptions for those who are deliberately deceptive – Alex Jones, Andrew Wakefield, Kevin Trudeau, etc.