“Self-righteous pricks piss me off.” – PZ Myers

It won’t be easy for National Geographic to bring ScienceBlogs — including Pharyngula, the popular blog written by biologist PZ Myers — into the NGS editorial orbit. Especially when Dr. Myers insists on posting stuff like this:

(Ed. note: Kirk Cameron is an actor & an evangelical Christian.)

Myers’ original post is here.


Dear John:
Your thoughts?

  • Iam not quite sure what wuour problem is with that post? I gather you don’t agree with PZ Myers evaluation of mr Craig.

    Mr Craig is telling Myers to remove content he has not posted, which is rather prickish behaviour. As Myers says, it is the Streisand effect, bullying people on the internet to remove material that offends you is a sure way to have that content go viral.

    • Søren: My problem is not with the post itself — even though it’s a little confusing whether or not the email from “Mark Craig” is authentic. 

      My concern is that PZ doesn’t seem to take a breath before he rhetorically punches someone in the face. It seems like he’s quick to call someone a “prick.” So, I wonder whether or not he is the sort of blogger that National Geographic wants to showcase. Because the “prick… idiot… batshit insane” rhetorical style has never been the Geographic way.  

      Also: If the photo is authentic, and if Kirk Cameron really was mocking Stephen Hawking’s disability, then I’d say the best strategy is: Post both pictures — of Cameron & Hawking — side-by-side, and let Cameron incriminate himself. 

      Letting the facts speak for themselves — isn’t that what a good scientist would do? 

      (Thanks for stopping by, Søren. And for your comment.)

  • Borrower

    Blogs are easily avoided if you don’t like them.  Most blog readers know this.   (If you found this post offensive, I recommend you just block Pharyngula altogether, for the sake of your tender sensibilities.)

    • B: I agree that no one is forcing me, or anyone else, to read Pharyngula. But PZ is about to enter National Geographic’s editorial orbit, and that’s of interest to me because I’m interested in the fate of our Society — and our society. 

      Put another way: I’ve never commented about PZ Myers — in fact, I didn’t even know PZ Myers existed — until National Geographic acquired ScienceBlogs. But now that SB is part of the family, well… he’s not so easy to avoid. 

      As for my sensibilities — they’re not nearly as tender as you might think. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. 

      • But isn’t this a matter between NG’s current editors and PZ?  Presumably they knew something of PZ before they acquired SB? If they didn’t, they certainly should by now.

        They can make a decision about his style and if they think he’s ok, then he’s ok. If they don’t think he’s ok, they can tell him to tone it down. Then PZ can decide whether or not he wants to tone it down or take his readership elsewhere. Either way it’s a business decision made by the parties involved. What am I missing?

        • You’re not missing a thing, Kammy. You summed it up quite nicely. 

          The only piece I might add is that the “parties involved” include the audience — the people who may suddenly see PZ Myers under the NGS umbrella. How will they respond? Will they applaud, or head for the exits? I don’t know. But for the editors, it’s a problem that’s already on their radar.  See the excerpt I quoted from Retraction Watch:http://societymatters.org/2011/06/08/discussion-debate-pz-myers-style/

          • Well,  alrighty then. This basically comes down to waiting to see how it all shakes out. Everyone will make their choices, including the audience.

            So now I’m wondering what your goals are? I’ve followed up on your link and on PZ’s blog and you’ve been going after him rather aggressively lately.  Not that he can’t take it, but I haven’t been able to tell exactly what you’re after.

          • Test 1 2 3

          • Good question, Kammy. I’m really not trying to dog PZ, nor am I asking him to change his tune. I’m interested in the National Geographic Society — what it is, was, will be. 

            What I find especially intriguing about the ScienceBlogs acquisition is the problem that PZ poses to NG’s management: I think they’ve put themselves in a no-win situation, which I’ll blog about tomorrow.

            In short: if they push PZ to simmer down, he’ll leave; if PZ *does* simmer down (doubtful), his fans will leave, which defeats the whole purpose of NG controlling a blog network; and if PZ stays and continues to offend, then NG will have to bury their brand on the site — so they can get the ad revenue without taking responsibility for what’s its bloggers are saying.

            In other words: They’ll try to hide what they’re doing, which is kinda dumb in a networked world. 

            Society Matters is an attempt to map out a different future for NGS — and to critique the current business strategy. The PZ Myers Affair makes that critique all too easy. 

            Does that make sense?

  • Tony Lloyd

    What an odd post.  Yours, that is, not PZ’s.

    The caption on the  “goofy picture” took Cameron to task for bringing Stephem Hawking’s disability into the argument about Hawking’s views on God.  How is that “defamatory”?

    How is it not acting like a self-righteous prick to threaten action for defamation to someone who has just looked at a non-defamatory criticism?

    And so to:

    “Self-righteous pricks piss me off”

    And your point is?  Don’t self-righteous pricks piss you off?  They do me. 

    • Tony – Yes, self-righteous pricks do piss me off. I think a little humility is good for all of us.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, my concerns are less about PZ Myers, and more about National Geographic. Specifically: Is the Society (of which I’m a member) now the kind of place that welcomes the sort of rhetorical pugilism that is PZ’s trademark? And if so, who, if anyone, will be on stage with PZ to offer a rebuttal? 

      PZ Myers need not justify his style to me. But I would love to hear from John Fahey, CEO of NGS, on why he thinks showcasing PZ is a good thing for NGS, which became an amazing success without calling anyone a “prick” or an “idiot.” 

      Thanks for your comment & for stopping by.

  • Why do religious apologists always feel the need to distort the truth?

    For anyone who doesn’t know the true context of post, it started when Kirk Cameron started mocking Stephen Hawking’s facial appearance.  He imitated the  distorted shape of Hawking’s mouth, which is a consequence of the neurological disorder that is slowly killing him.  Another blog posted a picture of this, and rightly excoriated him for it.  Cameron and his manager responded by making legal threats.  The phrase “self righteous pricks” might be (gasp) rude, but given the circumstances, is it really undeserved?

    A word of advice, Alan: If you feel the need to distort the truth in order to make your case, your case probably wasn’t worth making in the first place.


    • Hyper: Good points, and useful background. I wasn’t completely aware of the full context of PZ’s post. And if the photo of Kirk Cameron is legit (not Photoshopped), and he really did what he appears to be doing, well… that’s appalling. And he should be held publicly accountable. 

      But how? What’s the most effective way for PZ to make his point — esp if he has the facts on his side? As I said in another comment: “If the photo is authentic, and if Kirk Cameron really was mocking Stephen Hawking’s disability, then I’d say the best strategy is: Post both pictures — of Cameron & Hawking — side-by-side, and let Cameron incriminate himself.”

      That would be far more devastating than PZ’s “self-righteous prick” approach. It would make the issue Kirk Cameron’s callousness, instead of PZ Myers’ swashbuckling rhetoric. It would shine a bright light on PZ’s adversaries, and effectively say: See who I’m dealing with? See what these crusaders will do? See how they treat their neighbors?

      That, to me, would not only be reasonable for a National Geographic web site. It would be effective. But that’s just my opinion. 

      Thanks for filling in some of the context & backstory on the photo. And for stopping by. 

  • Martin

    Geez, another tone troll with a hard on for P.Z. Just what the world needs.

    • Hmmm… “tone troll” … that’s a new one for me, Martin, especially since I’m writing over here, on my blog, instead of on Dr. Myers’. And as I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not trying to silence PZ, or get him to change his ways. I’m simply asking — as are the editors at National Geographic — whether or not PZ’s rhetorical style (“prick… idiot… batshit insane… etc.”) are a natural fit for NGS.

      Actually, now that I think about it, “tone troll” is exactly what editors do — and, speaking from experience, writers often don’t like it. 

      Thanks for stopping by.

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