Friday, September 05, 2008


Have you ever been in a position where you totally agree with someone's message you just really wish they could have delivered it better? I find myself in this position quite frequently. For instance, I agree with most libertarian party platforms but the candidates they choose frequently come across as out of control nutcases. Ron Paul's constant overstatements and hysterical twisting of the fact in the primaries is a prime example.
Well I'm also finding myself in that position with the current book I'm reading. Debunked by Richard Roeper takes on many of the more popular conspiracy theories of the first part of the 21st Century. He handles everything from the 9/11 conspiracy crowd to the folks who think that "American Idol" is rigged. Roeper clearly has his head firmly on his shoulders and isn't easily swayed without large amounts of evidence. He uses language like "skeptical toolkit" and "baloney detector" which are catch phrases in the skeptical community and show that he is educated on how to recognize a baseless claim when he sees one. He does a pretty good job of addressing the claims of all of these conspiracy theories in the same language and style that the conspiracy nuts use.
I guess that's the problem I'm having with the book. Much of it is written in the same style as the emails that spread the conspiracy in the first place- right up to the use of all caps and multiple exclamation points. I also don't see the need for the profanities that grace nearly every single page. It paints an image that the author is just angrily pounding on he keyboard and yelling at the monitor. I feel like I've been yelled at for the last fifteen minutes after when I finish a chapter.
The conspiracy emails typically string a bunch of vague facts in line and then coax the reader into drawing the conclusion that they are therefore linked. Roeper takes these theories and using their own twisted logic puts it right back in their laps and then asks them leads them to accept his conclusion in the same, in-your-face, way.
Although undeserved, skeptics already have a bad reputation of being cynical and negative. Roeper's style adds snarky and confrontational to the list. There are several skeptics who are very fun to talk with, non-confrontational, and would make much better spokesmen than Roeper. My concern is that next time a media representative wants to get a skeptical point of view for their story they might assume that all skeptics will treat them like Roepertreats those who disagree with him. The reporter may choose to avoid getting the skeptical viewpoint altogether or at the very least give it less air time than if the skeptic was more pleasant.
Again, I agree with Roeper's analysis of the claims in this book. And I recognize the sarcasm and satire of the book. I just think he could have made his points a little more... professionally.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your review of the book! Thanks!