Bigfootery and the skeptic, or “Get offa my lawn!”

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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. [1]

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.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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 [2], 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 [3],  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.

Episode 55: I doubt it | The Bigfoot Show Blog.
Binnall of America
Sounds Sciencey, Virtual Skeptics and my Huffington Post blog.

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.

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13 thoughts on “Bigfootery and the skeptic, or “Get offa my lawn!”

  1. Brion Woods

    They did the same thing to me, and Matt insulted me left and right on the BFRO site. What they did was to copy/paste one of my Bigfoot debunks from Yahoo Answers! directly to the BFRO site without asking me or even notifying me. It took months before I became aware and responded.

    Lord Brion Bearclaw

  2. “A prerequisite for interacting with the BFRO appears to be belief in Bigfoot. No skepticism allowed.”

    Bingo.

    “Bigfoot Evidence is a stream of posts about anything remotely Bigfoot related, designed for ad revenue and to garner lots of hits.”

    Bingo.

    “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.”

    Bingo. A trifecta!

  3. spookyparadigm

    DANG. I lost a super-long post. I’m not going to retype it.

    TLDR, it may not be a church (though there are parallels). But there are tons of parallels to fandom, far more than science. Never minding scientific method etc., see difference in how much of community produces vs. consumes, and if they produce, how it is distributed and what are the results and payoffs.

  4. The field of Cryptozoology needs more critical thinkers and skeptics interested in the facts. “Other wise you’re just a cheerleader, and we already have enough of those”. Unlike BFRO or Bigfoot Evidence, we welcome more critical thinkers and their imput. It’s needed.

    Too often the driving force behind most of these nitwits is the goal of increasing revenue and popularity; while sacrificing integrity. Sites such as Bigfoot Evidence have sadly become slaves to their bottom line. It is clear they have little interest in the truth.

    Skeptics, Believers, or those simply interested in investigating their reality; must embrace what is true; after considering the facts; or they are little more then Hoaxers and perpetrators of misinformation.

    I could care less about belief. Belief has no bearing on a chemical reaction; and belief has nothing to do with facts. Belief has no effect on a critter shitting, dieing or killing crap in the forest. It also doesn’t effect gravity.

    The facts are clear. Thousands of people are reporting seeing a enigmatic furry upright walking Monster all across North America. They are not reporting Unicorns.

    Either there is a real biological creature responsible for these accounts, or a mass, as yet unexplained psychological phenomena responsible.

    Either way something darn interesting is afoot.

    • lagaya1

      The fact that thousands of people have seen “bigfoot”” doesn’t mean all that much. When I lived in Kentucky there was a virgin Mary sighting in some tree branches that thousands of people saw, too. Not to mention hoaxers, and story tellers, and people who are so open to suggestion that anything could look like bigfoot.

  5. I just listened to Sharon on the BF Show (podcast). First off, thanks to the host (Brian?) for having her on…it makes the BF arena a better place in many ways. Very refreshing to hear how the mind of a trained scientist processes information and what she is able to conclude from information, and more importantly, what she can’t conclude from certain information.

    Success in my chosen career relies heavily on skepticism, ability to think of alternative reasons why something is happening, and the ability to ask multiple follow up questions to clarify information and ferret out untruths, half-truths, misinformation, and flat out lies. I love the BF phenomenon but my unbiased nature allows me to recognize that a tremendously high percentage of events that are attributed to BF most likely have nothing to do with BF at all.

    I love the BF phenomenon but I’m not going to willingly suspend logic and critical analysis just to believe BF is real. I love it, but I want some tangible, realistic, verifiable, plausible data please.

    The BFRO chat board is a waste of time not just for skeptics, but for people that just offer plausible alternatives. I became anathema to them after multiple times pointing out the multiple other possibilities for something other than “it was a BF”. In response to someone claiming a loud clang on the finding bigfoot show was from a BF, I posted this:

    “the clang could have come from a lot of things:
    - Deadfall from surrounding trees falling and hitting the metal
    - A rock, dislodged by an animal, rolling down the hill and hitting the metal
    - Metal contracting as its temperature drops at night from a higher temperature level during the day
    - Shifting of the metal as the material under it changes over time (ground erodes, logs rot, rocks break/crumble, leaves decay, etc)
    - Concrete/rock/masonry chunks from the crumbling and damaged base/supports of the metal towers cleaving off and hitting on the metal

    There are likely many more very natural and non-BF related reasons. The point is we don’t know and the myriad other possibilities need to get as much consideration as ‘it was a BF’.

    given the fact that those natural occurrences probably don’t create a markedly noticeable therm image…a large bi-pedal creature would create a therm image…and no therm image was seen, then I’d say the BF probability as the source of the clang is very, very low in comparison to the sum of all the other possibilities.”

    Here was a reply to my info:

    “No way it sounded just like Matt when he hit it. Were you there to hear how loud it was? They could tell it was not a natural sound from the bridge.”

    You can’t make that up folks…it’s pointless to debate with people like that.

    Anyway, thanks a ton to Sharon and Brian (of The Bigfoot Show), keep up the great work.

  6. Sean A. Elliott

    To Michael Merchant: nice to see you here! I just about died when I listened to the Chicken of Truth interview Jeff Meldrum. I’ve always appreciated your wit and humor.

    As a person who has been on the other side of the fence, I understand that people who point to evidence such as dermal ridges on track casts believe they are thinking critically. I found much of the evidence persuasive. So much that I was a believer, through and through. Confirmation bias runs rampant in the Bigfoot community, and critical viewpoints are too often met with hostility, the defenders are confident they have all the facts.

  7. idoubtit

    I’ve been blocked from the BFRO board. Now I can’t see what shit they say about me. Honestly, you guys have no backbone. If you think I’m some meanie, you are really pathetic. At least one other person has notified me that they have been blocked and some posts are being deleted. Deleting posts, the last refuge of scoundrels. I did nothing wrong, it was an open group and I didn’t start any arguments, they did.

  8. idoubtit

    Also, you will find ample evidence at my bio and on Doubtful News that I do more than talk about Bigfoot. I am interested in all things that sound sciencey. I have the credentials to state my position when your so-called science is passed onto the public. You won’t see me talking about ape behavior because I’m not a hominologist. You won’t see me writing about folklore or animal tracking. I know my limitations. So, I shall continue to cover the Bigfoot news that it portrayed as “factual” to the public. And, this whole episode gives me some insight into the ideology of Bigfoot. It IS becoming a religion for a subset of you.

  9. idoubtit

    Bigfoot Evidence continues to post additional pieces using me to get hits and ad revenue. If you are really curious, go ahead and check out that blog to see the disgusting sexist comments on there about me that Shawn allows to be posted. If you don’t approve of such, tell him so. He’s made it the sewer that it is.

    I have no plans to respond with another blog post. I’ve got actually stuff to do…

    • VT1985

      Shawn does not care that he has created a cesspool. He seems rather proud of it and blames Google for being too lazy to not moderate his comments. The fact is, permitting and encouraging the slander and filth ups his hit count, and as we all know, that is all he cares about.

  10. Graham

    Hi Sharon,

    Listened to and found your episode on the Bigfoot show well worth listening to. Not so impressed with the rant in episode 46 where it was stated that skeptics had to come up with a grand unified explanation for ALL sightings or shut up, especially since in episode 47 the naturalist pointed out that many people can’t identify animals properly.

  11. I was a long time listener to The Big Foot Show. Up til recently, I had a good deal of respect for this group and consider them pretty critical. But the last few shows, mostly concerning “Area X” (great name BTW), are pretty telling. You hear stories of from “officials” like rangers and outdoors-persons as facts on the behavior of these “wood apes”. They are actually giving these “concepts” ape and human like characteristics solely based on mostly glances reporting as sightings.
    Then I heard the story of one Area X member actually firing at one of this “wood apes”! I am like, how long til one of these people shoot one of their own members trying to bring in a body so non believers will believe! Now they have crossed the line of being a harmless bunch of campers to a roving group of armed primate hunters! And the only higher primate that is walking around Area X is human. Wow, now that is a scary situation. How many LEOs have shot a “bad guy” when it was an unarmed person in the wrong place in the wrong time. Or service members going into a war zone with the mind set that everyone is the enemy, and shoot on sight anything that moves in the shadows. Bad things happen.
    And I feel like this group holds on to their personal “wood ape” experiences because its all they have to keep them going in the search of this concept. The only visual proof they have is a 40 plus year old shaky movie from Bluff Creek of a guy walking across a creek bed. The guy wearing the suit has come forward, and still this is the best proof they have. How many phones with cameras are out there with 20 or even 50 times better video and photo quality than the PGF? One million, maybe even ten million.
    Then there are the piles of footprints. They all look like a large human foot. Now since we humans were a small group of higher primates (over millions of years) that walked upright, bipedal. And then add the fact that all of these bipedal higher primates were small (four foot-ish, maybe five foot at the most and that is pushing it!), not seven foot hairy beast weighing several hundred pounds. So its not a biological possibility for a these “wood apes” to leave these type of foot prints. All the larger higher primates are on all fours, majority of the time.
    And then there is the lack of a fossil record. Wouldn’t you think some teenage “wood ape” would far prey to peer pressure and dare to grab a Saber Tooth by the tail? Nope.
    Yep, you are just a closed minded skeptic when you voice these facts. You are personally attacked when you explain how the mind saves and recalls memories.
    I see The Bigfoot Show guys as trying to be a critical version of Finding Bigfoot, and they fail at it. They just do the same thing, talk about personal experiences as real encounters of “wood apes” , rehash dis-proven studies, and mingle biological facts with folklore to fit their views.
    The one good thing that comes from all of these guys running around Area X is that there is less people trying to force Texas to teach biblical principles in text books!

    Jerry

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