This is funny. Thing is, unless you’ve been following the whole New Atheist nonsense over the last year or so it won’t make much sense. Basically, there’s this fella called Chris Mooney, and he tortures kittens. Not literal kittens, but metaphorical kittens that have something to do with framing and accommodation and communion wafers. Anyway, torturing kittens is a bad thing, especially if you get paid by the Templeton Foundation to do it, and this really, really, really upsets those righteous defenders of all that is good and true – the New Atheists.
Now the New Atheists go on about Chris Mooney a lot. Imagine Sisyphus being condemned to listen to some facile bit of Vivaldi for the whole of eternity, or maybe Brian Leiter listing all the people he thinks don’t understand Nietzsche, and you’ll get a sense of it.
Okay, so over the last few days there has been a new explosion of mouth-foaming about some bloke called Tom Johnson, who seems also to be called Milton, William, Uncle Tom Cobley and possibly Sock Puppet (though that’s a bit of a strange name). Anyway, Tom has been naughty. His various personae have been rude and sexist. And a while ago he told some story, which Chris Mooney repeated, which turned out not to be true (for which, of course, Chris Mooney should be thrashed and forced to listen to Vivaldi).
Right so that was all a bit tedious. But here’s the interesting thing. Jean Kazez, who incidentally has been absolutely right about all this New Atheist nonsense from the get-go, is privy to some information about Tom Johnson that other people don’t get to see. It’s boring why other people don’t get to see it, but basically the idea is that Tom Johnson’s life doesn’t get ruined just because he fucked up on the internet.
What is interesting here is the comments on Jean’s blog post. The vindictiveness and viciousness of the New Atheist horde in the face of Tom’s misbehaviour is extraordinary. It’s not only directed towards Tom and Chris Mooney, but also towards Jean. Here’s an example:
Either produce evidence to support your claims or withdraw them. Do do anything else would be dishonest. Now Mooney is dishonest, but I have been told you know better. Prove it.
(To which, if I were Jean, I would be tempted to reply Fuck Off.)
Here’s two more (about Tom this time; the second one addressed to Jean):
His actions should at least result with him NOT getting a degree.
If anybody messed up “Tom Johnson’s” future career it is “Tom Johnson.” Are you really going to suggest that you and Chris Mooney should conspire to keep the identity of this admitted fabulist secret? Don’t you think the scientific community nor the community at large deserves to be able to cross index his name and give his papers and claims a second, closer look based on his extensive history of lying?
There’s more – just check out the link for yourselves. Anyway, what’s amusing about all this is that it’s exactly the sort of reaction one would expect from certain sorts of religious fundamentalists when confronted with behaviour they consider unconscionable. It’s a demand for justice and retribution born of an absolute certainty of moral righteousness.
However, the truth is the participants in this witch-hunt are the 21st century, virtual-world, equivalent of a medieval mob baying for the blood of their latest victim.