F*ck Expelled. I’m done with it.

Okay, here’s my ‘tude at the moment. I figure I’ve done my bit, said all I had to say, voiced my opinion in several forums: here, in the comments of other blogs, even at the movie’s IMDb page. As far as I can tell there’s nothing more needs be said. Those of us on the pro-science side know full well by now that the movie is a pack of disgraceful, meretricious lies. And any criticism of it whatsoever simply gives the producers another opportunity go into Monty Python mode all over again and wail, “Help, help, we’re being repressed!” (Another irony-meter breaker, since one of the movie’s major false claims is that science will tolerate no criticisms of its theories.) The movie is selling a persecution fantasy and a conspiracy theory, nothing more. It whines about scientific “thought police” while never once bothering to argue a scientific case for ID. Thus its dishonesty ought to be laid bare for anyone who isn’t already an ignorant, uneducated ideologue or deluded fundamentalist tool.

So I’m done talking about it. I will, of course, leave the link to Expelled Exposed up in the sidebar, pretty much in perpetuity. The NCSE’s fact-checking site has, thanks to the efforts the pro-science blogosphere, finally bounced onto the first page of Google search results for “expelled.” The site’s a first rate takedown of all the movie’s lies, and right now it’s gotten so much traffic its server has been overwhelmed, a problem I’m sure they’ll remedy ASAP. If you encounter any creationist nitwits who seem to think the movie is something to gloat over, forward them on to Expelled Exposed. And if they refuse to read it, just taunt them with, “Now who’s scared to have their beliefs challenged?”

I suspect that, Monday night, I’ll go have a look at the weekend actuals over at Box Office Mojo to see how the thing did, and write one more post as a result at that time. The producers are still claiming they’re rolling out on over 1000 screens, which I still doubt.*

But whatever their release pattern, I predict that Friday/Saturday could be pretty decent for them (as The Choir will all go see it then), after which point it will peter out. Amusingly, Mark Mathis has been quoted as saying he anticipates an opening in the $12-15 million range, a laughably unrealistic boast, as such A-list superstars as George Clooney and Keanu Reeves have recently struggled to squeak out $12 million opening weekends for their recent releases. And Expelled is only one of many releases this Friday, all of which are going up against the new Judd Apatow comedy. That’s going to annihilate everything else at the box office in its path.

But then, when has Expelled ever been anything other than laughably unrealistic? Okay, so the movie will resonate with a built-in core audience of scientifically illiterate fundies who respond easily when their emotional hot buttons are pushed. It may even spark some testy debate for a while. But whether it succeeds or fails, remember, Expelled will not change two things. 1) Intelligent design is still not science, and 2) all life evolved and continues to evolve, and will go on evolving long after Christianity, and even homo sapiens ourselves, have gone extinct.

As far as my own posting about Expelled on this blog is concerned, well, that’s a wrap.


*Box Office Mojo in fact reports 1052 screens, which is insanely ambitious for any independent film. They could very well take a huge bath on this, but at this point I suspect they don’t care, as they’ve already stirred up enough hostile and mocking reaction to crank their persecution complexes into overdrive.

NCSE’s “Expelled Exposed” site now live

Up to now, Expelled Exposed has just been a collection of links to some pre-release reviews and blog posts about the upcoming Ben Stein festival of propaganda and lies. Now the work on the full site is done, and it contains a complete fisking of the film, all the way from its outrageous claims of a link between Darwin and Nazi eugenics, to revealing the real circumstances behind what happened to all the ID “martyrs” the movie wants you to believe were “expelled” by the Evil Darwinist Conspiracy (presumably on orders from Obergrüppenfuhrer “Blofeld” Dawkins hisownself) for daring to promote the “taboo” idea of intelligent design. And as a nice little poke in the eye, the site also features the story of someone who really was expelled: Chris Comer, who, as you will recall, was forced out of her job at the Texas Education Association for simply sending out an FYI email about the talk given here in Austin last November by Barbara Forrest.

In all, this is a vital resource to counter the despicable lies this movie is spreading.

Some people might remark that those of us in the atheist/pro-science blogosphere are making too much hay about this movie, that we are simply giving them the promotion and attention they want.

It would be nice if we lived in a utopian world where all we had to do to make the bad people go away was not think about them. But we don’t live in that world, and you know the old line about evil triumphing because good men do nothing. Well, that applies here. As Scientific American and PZ have all pointed out, this is not merely a shitty movie, but a moral outrage, made in a spirit not simply of old fashioned creationist stupidity but outright malice. If it were just a case of some idiot making a creationist film full of silly bullshit that we could laugh at, then we’d just laugh at it and have done with the whole thing. But this movie slanders science itself, and tries to paint the purveyors of scientifically empty nonsense as unappreciated geniuses and oppressed martyrs at the mercy of an imaginary supervillain. The Moron Brigade may eat this up, but in order to reach the intelligent folks who are simply sitting on the fence, the film’s evil — hell, I’ll say it, why not, that’s what it is — must be confronted straight up.

So far, all the publicity that matters (that is, what’s appeared in the mainstream media, rather than fundie websites) about this farce has been uniformly negative, which is a good sign. It hasn’t gotten — and will not get — a single favorable review from anyone who is not already a committed right-wing, fundamentalist, creationist ideologue. Now it’s up to the folks who truly love and support science, knowledge, honesty, truth, and morality to keep up the heat on this disgrace, and send it down in flames where it belongs once and for all.

(And don’t forget to link to Expelled Exposed in your own blogs, every time you discuss Expelled in any capacity, in order to drive the site’s Google ranking higher.)

Word of the Year: “Manufactroversy”

Valerie Tarico modestly admits to not having invented it, but it’s a brilliant neologism that I’m sure will gain new cachet within the reality based community, now that it’s been used to mock the intelligent design crowd in general and the claims of Expelled in particular. Tarico writes the latest derisive smackdown review of Ben Stein’s folly over at HuffPo, and she takes the gloves off right away.

Now the creationists have taken a new approach that they hope will help them achieve their goal of teaching religious beliefs in our schools as science. That approach can be summed up in one simple word: whining.

One week from today, the new movie, Expelled, attempts to turn creationist complaints into mainstream media. Featuring Ben Stein, one of the conservative right’s biggest whiners, the film makes several plaintive appeals: There’s a conspiracy among big government and big science, and it’s not fair! All we ask is for our perspective to get equal time! (Read: we lost, so let’s split the prize.) All we want is for teachers to “teach the controversy”! This is all about academic freedom. Americans like freedom, right?….

The proponents of intelligent design can’t gain credibility among hard scientists because their evidence is pathetic. So what do they do? Follow in the footsteps of the tobacco and oil companies and spend millions in an effort to create public doubt. They plea for their side to be told, they imagine vast conspiracies and they cry out for fair play, but the reality is much simpler.

The hits just keep coming.

Expelled: agitprop not even Fox News can love

You’d think if Expelled could find a receptive outlet in the mass media to promote its lies, it would be the fine folks at the Bush Administration Ministry of Propaganda. But even Roger Ailes’ network, that brought us Sean Hannity and John Gibson, let alone Bill Orally, isn’t benighted enough to swallow Ben Stein’s anti-science spooge.

What the producers of this film would love, love, love is a controversy. That’s because it’s being marketed by the same people who brought us “The Passion of the Christ.” They’re hoping someone will latch onto an anti-Semitism theme here since there’s a visit to a concentration camp and the raised idea — apparently typical of the intelligent design community — that somehow the theory of evolution is so evil that it caused the Holocaust. Alas, this is such a warped premise that no one’s biting.

It’s looking more and more like Expelled will be to documentaries what Howard the Duck was to Hollywood special effects blockbusters.

UK’s Guardian flunks Expelled

Haven’t been blogging for many days, mainly because of being busy, but also because there’s been little to report that hasn’t been covered very extensively elsewhere in the atheist blogosphere, and Austin’s been pretty quiet. Also, what else is there to say about the train wreck that is Expelled? Every day these people reveal themselves to be a little more reprehensible than they already were. My mind reels at the thought of what it would be like to be the kind of person whose life has been so completely swallowed up by the endless stream of lies required to shore up a creaking, desperate ideology. I think of what it must be like to be Ben Stein and Mark Mathis, and, if I believed in souls, I figure I know what it would be like to sell yours to Mammon. Sure, these guys have probably got the Benjamins. But to do so at the cost of all fundamental human decency is just depressing.

The UK paper The Guardian has now weighed in on Expelled (at least the bit of it that’s been previewed online) in a snarktastic little dig at that pompous fool Ben Stein. It’s a fun morning read.

From the parts I’ve seen – the first 10 minutes online – it seems to deploy all the loaded-dice arguments, the overdog’s deep-seated sense of victimhood and conventional rightwing hysteria. Stein lambasts academe for dismissing the work of “ID scientists”, even when they are bankrolled by the rancid likes of the Discovery Institute, a think-tank inseminated yearly with funds from California savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson Jr, who in 1985 told the Orange County Register: “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.” Man, I can’t wait for that, Ben, the priests running everything and we live like it’s Ireland in the 1940s. Par-tay!

Heh. But otherwise, yeah, not much new under the sun. The movie is still a dishonest piece of shit, and the people promoting it are still dishonest pieces of shit. That’s creationism for you. [Cue Thompson Twins] Lies, lies, lies, yeah….

Thanks, Eugenie!

Following up my post about the Facebook group “Protest Ben Stein’s Expelled”, I got this blush-inducing celebrity endorsement from no less than Eugenie Scott!

Martin Wagner, you have your head on very, very straight.

If we raise a fuss for Expelled, we increase the publicity and the gate. We play directly into their frame.

Why would we want to do that?

Okay, take a minute to chuckle at the visual of me putting on my “aw shucks” face. Anyway, Eugenie goes on to point out that while Expelled is sure to be a huge hit in “church basements,” — har! — the general public isn’t exactly awaiting it with bated breath the way they are, say, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Launching some massive protest campaign against the movie will simply play into their hands by validating their false message that “Big Science” wants to shut down open debate. She goes on to recommend the NCSE’s newly launched site Expelled Exposed. It’s new and fairly spartan at the moment, but it’s been launched both as a one-stop shop for all of the news surrounding the movie’s release and publicity (such as the PZ fiasco), and will go on to be a resource for refuting the false claims in the movie itself. Go on over and bookmark it.

Incidentally, if you’re a member of the Facebook group, you’ll see that one guy who’s responded, one Barrett Cune, is doing a great job making my case for me, by presenting himself as exactly the kind of histrionic assclown we don’t want responding to the movie. In a couple of ALL CAPS harangues, he wails about the need to “hit the streets” and attacks imaginary people who “just want to whine about the Earth and her problems.. you dont actually want to do anything to help.. you want your fucking parents to do it for you.” If old Barrett can’t tell the difference between coming up with ways to counter the movie effectively and productively, and thinking no one wants to do anything simply because we think parading the streets like some kind of I.R.A. rally would backfire, he clearly needs to grow the fuck up. I can understand and sympathize with his passion, but not his immaturity. The idea is that we’re smarter and more rational than the IDiots who do things like make movies comparing scientists to Hitler as a way of concealing the fact they have no science backing up their own position. Acting even stupider than they do is not how to turn the generally indifferent public off to their message.

Picket Expelled? No no no no no!

I just got an invitation in my email to join a Facebook group called “Protest Ben Stein’s Expelled,” which lists PZ Myers as one of two admins. The thrust here is to organize protests in front of theaters wherever it’s playing. I joined right away, mainly so I could stop these folks — whose motivations I am, of course, 200% in sympathy with — from what could be a foolish mistake. I promptly posted a bulletin to the group, which I will reproduce in full below. There’s a right way and a wrong way to oppose a folly like Expelled, and picketing theaters is the wrong way.

I think picketing theaters is a bad idea. Why? Because it will only serve to draw attention to the movie and might make people curious where they were indifferent before. Nothing sells tickets like controversy, and by organizing theater protests, we who oppose this pack of lies may unwittingly help give it more business.

Remember what happened with Passion of the Christ? This was Mel Gibson’s small independent movie, until the Anti-Defamation League began making a big stink in the media about the possibility it might be anti-Semitic, and complaining Gibson would not screen the film for them. The media ran with that, with the result that so many people became fascinated and curious that the movie ended up taking in over $375 million in its theatrical run.

I don’t think we want to make the same mistake in dealing with Expelled.

Instead, how about contacting your local media (newspapers, TV, radio) if the movie’s coming to your town, and offer to either write a guest editorial detailing the specific lies in the movie, as well as the long campaign of dishonesty being used to promote it? Or ask to talk to their staff movie critic, and provide him with correct information to counter the film’s falsehoods that he can then include in his review.

Picketing theaters may even feed into the movie’s false message that “Big Science” and its supporters merely want to shut down dissenting views. When in fact, that’s what the producers of Expelled are doing!

This movie isn’t poised to become some big megahit, people. With the possible exception of an opening-weekend “Church Bus Bubble,” I think theatrical attendance will be minute, and the movie will end up doing the bulk of its business with DVD sales marketed directly to churches. Right now, Expelled is having a PR nightmare surrounding the screening they kicked PZ out of. Let’s keep working that angle, to help the public understand what liars and hypocrites are responsible for this shit. The best thing that could happen would be for the movie to peter out after a week in theaters due to massive public indifference. That won’t happen if we raise a big ruckus and make everyone eager to see it out of curiosity over what the fuss is about.


Addendum: Ames Grawert, who’s listed as the group’s other admin, replied to my bulletin with the following, which gives me a sense of relief.

I think you’re probably right. I’ve heard this critique from a lot of people. I’ll change the description of the group a bit. I like the editorial/education angle a little better.

Very nice. This is a time when cooler heads will prevail. Still, I think this post is relevant, in case there may be any other folks out there considering some kind of overt protest activity on their own.

Last night turning into PR Waterloo for Expelled

Now the whole hilarious story of PZ Myers being thrown out of a screening for Expelled has hit at least one mainstream media outlet. The dishonesty of the people behind this propagandist rubbish is being spread far and wide for the world to see. I laugh. I giggle. I even chortle. Meanwhile, PZ’s daughter-of-darkness Skatje has reviewed the movie, and the short version of her take is: Bring a pillow. It sounds like it’s a very slapdash affair, and most tellingly, it never does what the promoters are claiming it does: make the case for “intelligent design.” They seem to think that intercutting stock footage of Nazis with interviews of scientists constitutes some kind of withering refutation of evolutionary biology. Amateurs.


Addendum: Now the New York Times has picked the story up, and allows associate producer Mark Mathis to lie at great length, only to be rebutted at the end in full. He really sounds like a blustering little nobody with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, while Dawkins and PZ and Genie Scott sound mostly bewildered at the staggering foolishness of these people.

But you know, if they weren’t fools, they wouldn’t be IDiots either.