Guest Post: Skeptics Have a PR Problem
Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post, from Jenny Splitter, is a good reminder to step out of your comfortable echo chamber and engage with people instead of lecturing at them.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Grounded Parents called In Defense of Gluten Free. As I’m obsessed with site stats, I was pouring over all of the incoming links that day and at the very bottom I found a link from this post: “Jenny Splitter & Non-Celiac Gluten Free Sensitivity.”
First of all, how important am I to be in the title of a blog post that’s all about my fallacious reasoning skills? Exciting! Can I just say that I love how I manage to get haters before I have fans? Kinda like how exactly no one has asked me hey are you working out? but some lady in my Power Lift class told me I was on my way to looking like a linebacker. SERIOUSLY? Isn’t there a step in between Pillsbury dough boy and linebacker??? Fucking hell.
Kudos, Emil Karlsson, on a very well-reasoned, logical argument. There’s no evidence that gluten free sensitivity exists, and my criticism of the skeptical position fails for various reasons described in meticulous detail at the link above. But my piece isn’t about refuting the skeptical position on gluten free sensitivity. It’s actually about communication.
Time and again, skeptics write pieces that read like—hey, dumb asshole, here’s the science that you just aren’t getting. You suck at life, you dumb asshole. And lo, the troops are rallied and skeptics pump their fists like The Situation in his heyday. But is anyone actually convinced of anything new? Does this win anyone over? Does anyone change their mind?
Ok, the answer is actually sometimes. Clearly, the pro-science ranks have swelled in part because skeptics weren’t afraid to get down, dirty and mean in the trenches. That’s cool. I totally get it. Sometimes I even like it. I just don’t find it very interesting anymore. (But what do I know? I’d kind of rather be watching Vanderpump Rules anyway.)
I just wonder whether there isn’t a point at which you reach all of the folks you’re going to reach, and then the rest becomes just shouting into your echo chamber.
Listen, I get the appeal of the echo chamber. Sometimes I step out of mine and I’m like, holy shit, there are a lot of racist, sexist, transphobic idiot Americans out there! And then I thank God (not literally, you smug atheists!) that I live in an overpriced rowhouse in the hippest neighborhood in America and I celebrate my mother-fucking echo chamber with a mother-fucking craft beer. But then eventually I get bored again. Because echo chambers are boring. Engagement is interesting. Ok, engagement is a buzzword. So how about conversation? I’m just talking about conversation—a conversation with the people not eating gluten.
Jenny Splitter is a writer/storyteller and over-scheduled mom of two living in Washington, DC. She spends her glamorous days trying to write whatever she can, counting 1-2-3 in a slow yet threatening manner to her children, playing with gluten and working to eradicate dog hair from the planet (or at least her home). You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.