Sunday, May 6, 2012

2002 post in 'skeptics-forum'

Adam Joseph posted a well research, factual article about "The Australian Skeptics" in 2002.

The original piece was written in 1999-2000 and is around 6,500 words.
He added another 1,500 words in the forum post.

Barry Williams, the long term Editor of "The Skeptic" and paid Executive Officer of the (NSW) Association, responded in an email quoted in the forum with an unpleasant attack that fails to address any of the serious questions raised, nor points to any forum those questions had been addressed.

I understand that threats to sue for Defamation were made against Mr Joseph at the time the piece was written, possibly even after the 2002 forum post.

That these threats were not followed through with in the last 10 years suggests that they never will be. We can only guess whether the original threats were empty or why they were never completed.

I'm reposting Mr Josephs' piece for three reasons:

  • to provide a second copy on the Internet to better preserve it,
  • to update the formatting, not content, to be more readable in this format, and
  • to provide a base or reference for writing up my own research on the topic.
Why have I committed time and money to this effort?

Because I was doing "due diligence" research on an organisation I might join - which might make me a perfect candidate as a 'Sceptic' (I prefer the English/Australian spelling, not the American affectation).

I became deeply concerned as I continued my research, enough to pay for Association records in an attempt to source "the facts" and arrive at an unbiased version of 'the truth'.

What has struck me in forcefully in this research, is the degree that self-proclaimed "Skeptics" resort to "ad hominem" attacks - that is intemperate, abusive language, such as you'd never find in published Academic papers. The lack of respect shown to "targets" or dissenters, the ridicule and opprobrium heaped on 'others' as a matter of course, seems outrageous and completely unprofessional to me.

Many times I think these streams of bile and vitriol, published on-line and generally accessible, cross well into libel.

But when you read the collected editorials, comments and articles of the gatekeeper and maintainer of the culture and mores, long-term Editor of "The Skeptic" (~76 issues, or 19 years), Barry Williams, you understand both where this style originated and why it was widely modelled.

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