Pharyngula

Expelled gets more bad press

The New York Times has taken notice of the promotional tactics being used for the creationist propaganda flick, Expelled. As you all know, they are trying to filter screenings, allowing only ideologically friendly people to see it, and keeping out the serious critics who might actually evaluate it on its merits, rather than as a media echo of what the viewers want to hear.

There were nondisclosure agreements to sign that day, but Mr. Moore did not, and proceeded to write perhaps the harshest review “Expelled” has received thus far. The film will open April 18, but has been screened several times privately for religious audiences. Mr. Moore deplored what he perceived as “loaded images, loaded rhetoric, few if any facts” and accused Mr. Stein of using a “Holocaust denier’s” tactics.

Which, of course, was exactly the reaction the moviemakers were hoping to avoid by keeping mainstream critics out.

Mr. Stein said in a telephone interview that he had not read Mr. Moore’s review, but that “being compared with a Holocaust denier is nonsense,” adding, “This guy is extremely confused.” He said he decided to participate in the project because “there’s just a lot of people who don’t believe that big science and Darwinism should have a stranglehold on academic life, and they have been waiting for a voice.”

Every time Stein opens his mouth, he’s helping us. This is a movie that uses Nazi imagery to accuse science since 1859 of being the primary cause of anti-semitism — it’s not denying the Holocaust, but instead is trivializing it by using it as a tool to dishonestly browbeat a group that was not responsible. In the 1930s, a political group in Germany used centuries of deeply rooted anti-Semitism to create a popular movement that culminated in the murder of six million people for their ethnicity and a war that consumed practically the entire planet; it wasn’t caused by academics arguing over a theory.

And he projects his bizarre misinterpretations again. “Darwinism” doesn’t have a stranglehold on academics; we’ve moved well beyond Darwin to new ideas, and are constantly wrestling with novel suggestions to expand on the old Darwinian core. To name one example, proponents of evo-devo think they’ve got a set of theories that should change the way we think about evolution. There are smart people loudly arguing on both sides, with the pro side bringing up observations and evidence that emphasize the importance of the discipline, and cons poking holes and pointing out major failings, and pushing for more and better evidence. There is no stranglehold, there are only high standards of evidence that are not met by making propaganda films and getting church leaders with no knowledge of biology to denounce one side or the other. There is hard work required to break through into academic credibility, work which is not being done by the IDists.

We also have expectations of honesty that are not being met. The makers of this film had to hide their motivations every step of the way, because they know that they can’t stand the harsh light of criticism. And they just can’t stop lying.

Logan Craft, executive producer of “Expelled” and chief of Premise Media, said he thought Mr. Moore had been wrong to attend the screening after being disinvited, but both he and Mr. Lauer denied any involvement in an online “media alert” that purported to be from a backer of the film. The alert accused Mr. Moore of posing as a minister to gain admission, calling his actions a “security breach.” Mr. Moore said he never represented himself as other than a reporter.

Oh, come on. I’ve got a copy of the “media alert,” and it’s from promotional material put out by Motive Marketing. Look at the official movie site, and right there on the bottom right is the logo for Motive Marketing. They’ve been bragging about using Motive for marketing, since this is also the firm that promoted Gibson’s snuff movie, The Passion of the Christ. This Lauer fellow is the founder of Motive. A reader has sent me more promotional mail from these guys, and they are peddling the movie hard. And now they’re lying to the New York Times and claiming they’ve got nothing to do with it? It seems to be a kind of pathological reflex to deny, deny, deny even when they’re caught red-handed in something relatively inocuous.

Oh, well. It’s a sign of desperation that they are straining so hard to find a narrow audience that will appreciate their movie; they know that they’ve got a klunker that will rely on appeal to a narrow bias to succeed. Randy Olson has ‘em pegged: they want to use humor to broaden the appeal to more than just the theocratic sheep, but their movie isn’t funny. A movie that tries to build on clips of goose-stepping Nazis and Hitler salutes is pretty much destined to be depressing, unless you’re Mel Brooks. And Ben Stein is no Mel Brooks.

Comments

  1. #1 Ray C.
    March 11, 2008

    Sorry, but I click on that NYT link and I get a login screen instead of an article. Nope. FAIL. The web is meant to be read. If I have to jump through hoops to read your web site, I’m not going to read your web site.

  2. #2 MartinM
    March 11, 2008

    Mr. Stein said in a telephone interview that he had not read Mr. Moore’s review, but that “being compared with a Holocaust denier is nonsense,” adding, “This guy is extremely confused.” He said he decided to participate in the project because “there’s just a lot of people who don’t believe that big science and Darwinism should have a stranglehold on academic life, and they have been waiting for a voice.”

    In other news, leading holocaust deniers vehemently objected to being compared to creationists, adding “there’s just a lot of people who don’t beleive that big history and Holocaustism should have a stranglehold on academic life, and they have been waiting for a voice.”

  3. #3 Cappy
    March 11, 2008

    Next will be the movie about how Big Science and the “Copernicans” are stifling debate about the sun revolving around the earth.

  4. #4 MissPrism
    March 11, 2008

    A huge proportion of Europe’s Jewish population were massacred in the fourteenth century because they were blamed for the Black Death. I bet time-travelling Darwinians were at the bottom of it, and it’s all been hushed up by BIG HISTORY.

  5. #5 Tulse
    March 11, 2008

    “Big Science” a really great song by Laurie Anderson.

    And the lyrics are strangely appropriate:

    Big Science.
    Hallelujah.
    Big Science.
    Yodellayheehoo.
    Hey Professor!
    Could you turn out the lights?
    Let’s roll the film.

  6. #6 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 11, 2008

    Stein however is using the phrase Big Science in the way people might use the phrase Big Oil, or Big Energy.

    Though he is doing it so ineptly that it provokes all sorts of comical images as seen on this thread.

    The image that pops up in my head is Big Theories and small theories. Big Bang Cosmology as opposed to spacetime expansionCommon Descent as opposed to evolution. And Stein trying to part the sea between and declaring that small theories is the domain of science and IDon’tunderstandthesciencesogodsdidit is the domain of ID.

    Pity he is getting all wet.

  7. #7 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    March 11, 2008

    Stein however is using the phrase Big Science in the way people might use the phrase Big Oil, or Big Energy.

    Though he is doing it so ineptly that it provokes all sorts of comical images as seen on this thread.

    The image that pops up in my head is Big Theories and small theories. Big Bang Cosmology as opposed to spacetime expansionCommon Descent as opposed to evolution. And Stein trying to part the sea between and declaring that small theories is the domain of science and IDon’tunderstandthesciencesogodsdidit is the domain of ID.

    Pity he is getting all wet.

  8. #8 Aaron Kinney
    March 11, 2008

    PZ Myers needs to DEBATE BEN STEIN!

    Slay ‘em!

  9. #9 Quintana
    March 11, 2008

    Motive Marketing: This name is so appropriate. The evolution of the televangelist.

  10. #10 Steve Rowe
    March 11, 2008

    Every time Stein opens his mouth, he’s helping us. – PZ Myers

    Here is a quote from another great man that I think we should take heed of and let Stein open his mouth as much as possible!

    Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
    Napoleon, 08/15/1769 – 05/05/1821, French monarch

  11. #11 Brownian, OM
    March 11, 2008

    “This guy is extremely confused.”

    What’s Stein referring to? That Moore didn’t get the take home message of the film? Apparently, now these fuckers want us to watch movies like they understand science: forget everything you’ve just seen and believe what we tell you to.

    BTW, thanks for the definitions of ‘Big Science’ and ‘Little Science’, Marcus! LOL!

  12. #12 Ranson
    March 11, 2008

    It only has to satisfy the sheep, who require no more than a comforting message and good production values.

    I think you overestimate their needs. Have you seen the production values on the Left Behind movies?

  13. #13 Lilly de Lure
    March 11, 2008

    A movie that tries to build on clips of goose-stepping Nazis and Hitler salutes is pretty much destined to be depressing, unless you’re Mel Brooks. And Ben Stein is no Mel Brooks.

    Not to mention destined to be a monumentally tasteless movie under these circumstances. The spectacle of people trivialising the Holocaust by using it to score cheap political and religious points is not an edifying one and it generally says all kinds of unpleasant things about the people responsible for said spectacle.

  14. #14 Jaycubed
    March 11, 2008

    When your entire world view is based on a Big Lie, such as The Great Fairy, then lying about anything is easy.

    It is easy to lie to everyone else when you’re lying to yourself.

    Using the Nazi political tactic of the Big Lie to accuse ones opponents of promoting Nazism is an obvious/trivial technique.

    The important question is, “How do you deal with the lies?”

    There are two possibilities:

    1. You can yell at the liar to “Shut Up!”

    This is the technique that is, sadly, used by many countries in Europe against “holocaust deniers”. It is also the technique used against people who are truthful by liars, as evidenced by the reactions of Stein, Craft & Moore above. It is an easy technique, hence its popularity among the non-thinking of all stripes.

    2. You can rebut the lies with facts.

    This is the technique of science and the “reality based” community.
    .

  15. #15 AJS
    March 11, 2008

    I really don’t get it!

    There is no controversy to teach.

    There is no “theory of Intelligent Design”, just an Argument from Limited Imagination — which happens to contradict itself on closer examination. If it were true, it would simultaneously be false; therefore, it must be false. {cf. the proof that sqrt(2) is irrational.}

  16. #16 bybelknap, FCD
    March 11, 2008

    And I would tell you but then we would have to send you to our secret prison compound in an unnamed remote tropical country.

    Tropical? TROPICAL?!! Crap, I got sent to the Northernmost reaches of Lapland for my Big Atheist Indoctrination Re-Education Science punishment. That is so totally unfair.

  17. #17 bybelknap, FCD
    March 11, 2008

    … would be as exciting as watching someone hunt a dead cow with a Howitzer.

    I think I saw a YouTube clip of that once. The hunting part was dull as hell, but the end? A magnificent shower of partially decayed bovine flesh spread over an acre of freshly mown grass. Stunning Cinematography and visual appeal. A metaphor for the dwindling economic opportunities in the rural Midwest, I think.

  18. #18 Ktesibios
    March 11, 2008

    I’d like to introduce a diagnostic test I use to detect Nazi-like hatefreakery in written communication. The test is simple: you use a word processor to replace all references to the targeted group with references to Jews (after a little practice, one can simply do this mentally).

    If the result smells like it was scraped off the composing room floor at Der Stuermer, the test is positive.

    Now let’s try that with one of Stein’s quotes:

    “there’s just a lot of people who don’t believe that big science and Darwinism should have a stranglehold on academic life, and they have been waiting for a voice.”

    becomes

    “there’s just a lot of people who don’t believe that Jews and Zionism should have a stranglehold on academic life, and they have been waiting for a voice.”

    or, with a wee tad of creativity,

    “there’s just a lot of people who don’t believe that Jews and international bankers should have a stranglehold on economic life, and they have been waiting for a voice.”

    Hmmm. Who’s borrowing from the Goebbels playbook?

    Project much, Mr. Stein?

  19. #19 Dan
    March 11, 2008

    BIG HISTORY.

    Shhhhh, ixnay on the ig history bay.

    Posted by: dogmeatib

    Can we have Big Philosophy? That would be fun. And, Big Math sounds kind of intimidating.

  20. #20 bright
    March 11, 2008

    I saw the trailer to this movie a few months ago and I was blown away. I could not believe…ok I could, that this show was a reality. I’m pretty much tired of hearing, teach the controversy. It is not about teaching the controversy…we do not teach the controversy of why women should have the right to vote, we do not teach the controversy about why children should not work in sweatshops, we do not teach the controversy on tarot card reading, copper bracelets, astrology, alchemy or any other load of crap. So why should the crap about creationism be taught. It is not science.

  21. #21 bright
    March 11, 2008

    I saw the trailer to this movie a few months ago and I was blown away. I could not believe…ok I could, that this show was a reality. I’m pretty much tired of hearing, teach the controversy. It is not about teaching the controversy…we do not teach the controversy of why women should have the right to vote, we do not teach the controversy about why children should not work in sweatshops, we do not teach the controversy on tarot card reading, copper bracelets, astrology, alchemy or any other load of crap. So why should the crap about creationism be taught. It is not science.

  22. #22 Pyre
    March 11, 2008

    The reviewer, Roger Moore, should have known he wasn’t welcome there.

    The movie’s subtitle said so: “No Intelligence Allowed”.

    [Link to Moore's review]

  23. #23 LisaJ
    March 11, 2008

    P.S. I loved ‘Big History’ – hilarious.

  24. #24 Bobby
    March 11, 2008

    Stein however is using the phrase Big Science in the way people might use the phrase Big Oil, or Big Energy. He’s trying to create a connection between academia and big faceless evil corporations.

    I doubt that his target audience thinks of big corporations as faceless and evil (unless of course they provide health benefits to the partners of gay employees). More likely he is trying to jerk the “big government” meme.

  25. #25 defectiverobot
    March 11, 2008

    Randy Olson is absolutely correct: this is all much ado about nothing. Nobody is going to see this movie.

  26. #26 wrpd
    March 11, 2008

    We at Big Sodomy have not seen the movie yet, but we generally work against Big Stupidity.

  27. #27 Ichthyic
    March 11, 2008

    I (and others) am banking on them

    gambling is immoral…

    :p

    (psst: what are the current odds?)

  28. #28 mothra
    March 11, 2008

    Big Science (with apologies to Peter Gabriel)

    I’m on my way, I’m faking it.
    I’ve got to make a show, hey!
    No connection with life
    and so I’ll start crowing
    Hey hey hey heyyyyyy

    My movie production- no information,
    My world is small, I hold small views.
    Critics, they’re smarter than me.
    They’ll see clean through.
    I’d be laughed off the street, I must hide from peer review.
    I filmed EXPELLED, I’ve marketing clout
    I’ll smear Big Science with a Godwin shout.
    I’ll make so much noise, I’ll bluff the real boys, mostest fluff ever blown.
    I’ll get pay from the god crowd, matinee in a mega-church.

    Big Science, I’m on my way, I’m faking it, Big Science oh yee.
    Big Science, I’ve made a show, yeah, Big Science
    Big Science, no connection with life.
    Big Science, market tactics showing, Big Science.
    Ho oh oh, oh oh, ho ohh ohh, oh ohh.

    Syncophant big names, shared greetings with our widest smiles.
    Don’t tell them Big Science is one Big invention.
    and always they’re unphased, when I expel my world views on my head.
    I had to conceal every stage, every interviewee was mislead.
    And my paradise a soft room, and I will dead bolt the front door.

    Big Science, with EXPELLED I’m faking it, Big Science, Huh!
    Big Science, I went and made a show yeah, Big Science.
    Big Science, no connection with life.
    Big Science, and so I’ll start crowing.
    Big Science, DNA’s a trigger, Big Science, quarks alone don’t linger, Big Science, the cosmos getting bigger,
    OWWW OWWW my brain:
    Big Science, maths cause me to falter,
    Big Science, rests on data I can’t alter,
    Big Science, I take no account.
    Big Science, just ev-ry sin-gle i-de-a I find goes past me and so all of science seems BIG. (Howdy y’awll)

  29. #29 Shigella
    March 11, 2008

    @ #57:
    “Big Microbiology?” Giant Microbes!

    http://www.giantmicrobes.com

    They’re so cute and plushy. I have Staphylococcus and Rhinovirus. …And I just revealed an inordinate amount of nerdiness right there.

  30. #30 Marc Buhler, PhD
    March 11, 2008

    Congratz, PZ – I want to cite this statement back to every evolution-denialist who uses those arguments.

    “… but instead is trivializing it by using it as a tool to dishonestly browbeat a group that was not responsible. In the 1930s, a political group in Germany used centuries of deeply rooted anti-Semitism to create a popular movement that culminated in the murder of six million people for their ethnicity and a war that consumed practically the entire planet; it wasn’t caused by academics arguing over a theory.”

    Please let *all* of them be told this enough times that they actually take a minute one day to think about it.

    (signed) marc

  31. #31 Ichthyic
    March 11, 2008

    Big Science, no connection with life.

    not bad, Mothra, not bad at all.

    that un’s a keeper.

  32. #32 Freddy the Pig
    March 12, 2008

    PZ – as I read the review you are a “wierdo scientist”.

    I loved the generally trend of the comments on Roger Moore’s review – at least 90% pro evolution. There may be hope for Florida yet.

  33. #33 KenG
    March 12, 2008

    Big Science?
    Isn’t the saying “Getting scientists to cooperate is like herding cats……….unless funding is involved”

  34. #34 Kseniya
    March 12, 2008

    I can’t wait until Mark Mathis, Ben Stein and the rest of the folks who Expelled! us are shut down by Big Phonics. All they’ll be left with is this:

    “!”

  35. #35 Pattanowski
    March 12, 2008

    Just a reminder to any persons of sense and integrity who “need” to see this film; make sure to go to a theater where you can pay for one movie and actually view another. This is usually easy to do at large multiplexes.

  36. #36 Glen Davidson
    March 12, 2008

    Olson on marketing this crap:

    From Randy Olson: The Skillful Publicizing of “Expelled”
    Category: Communicating
    Posted on: March 12, 2008 7:55 AM, by Jennifer L. Jacquet

    Q1: How do you skillfully publicize a mediocre movie?

    Create a good story around it.

    Q2: What lies at the heart of a good story?

    A good source of tension or conflict.

    Q3: Are preview screenings of a mediocre movie a good source of tension or conflict?

    No.

    Q4: Are preview screenings where you have to sign non-disclosure agreements a good source of tension or conflict?

    Yes. Very good.

    Q5: Would The New York Times be likely to cover preview screenings of a mediocre movie?

    Only if the screenings had non-disclosure agreements required.

    Q6: Does the evolution community take the bait every time when it comes to
    intelligent design?

    The producers of this mediocre movie must be heartbroken by what The NY Times is saying.

    scienceblogs.com/shiftingbaselines/2008/03/from_randy_olson_the_skillful.php

    Yes, but then again, these liars can only win hearts and minds by being seen as credible and honest people. Controversy might sell tickets, but it’ll expose the dungheap that ID is.

    And, like they really have a choice whether or not to enforce non-disclosure. Expelled can’t withstand scrutiny.

    They do claim that in early April, before the movie is in the theaters, they’ll let the press see it–no doubt in order to increase the controversy and to sell tickets. Yet we can be quite sure that the reviews will be almost uniformly against it, which is good for us, because we get first crack at the undecideds. If the producers indeed do what they say, the fact that it’s a rant comparing scientists to Nazis, not entertaining, and with absolutely no evidence that ID is science, along with fisked “evidence” that IDists are “persecuted,” will already be known.

    Controversy might help shake shekels out of the pockets of the rubes, but advance publicity is going to keep hearts and minds from being positively influenced by their grotesque caricatures.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  37. #37 Ichthyic
    March 12, 2008

    true.

    a blogger might almost feel a responsibility to go, in fact.

    kinda like visiting the creation museum.

    I doubt I actually will ever watch expelled for more than the first 10 minutes or so, or ever bother to visit a creation museum.

    The amount of incidental bullshit in my life (from students, from relatives, from idiots met at parties, etc.) is already sufficient; forcing more of it down might exceed my enzymatic capacity for dealing with it and put me in the hospital.

    :p