New Atheists claim they are led by evidence and reason, yet they are so enslaved to their stereotypes that is is obvious reason and evidence serve only their confirmation bias. This explains why they are so easily Poe’d. Case in point – New Atheist JT Eberhard was taken in by a troll that was impersonating Kim Davis:
Kim Davis, along with her handlers, is trying to prop herself up as a modern day civil rights hero. Starting by denying a minority their civil rights was a pretty silly way to go about it, but I digress. Twenty minutes ago Davis’ husband tweeted her “letter from a Carter County jail.”….. I showed this to a high school teacher friend of mine. His response was “I have a Masters degree and I’m a high school teacher and this woman makes three times as much as I.” Look, I try really hard to focus on the arguments, but sometimes there’s just nothing else to say: Kim Davis is an abject idiot who harbors delusions of both morality and grandeur. That’s really all there is to say.
When one of Eberhard’s readers noted it looked like a Poe, Eberhard assured him:
It’s not. It’s her actual twitter she made. Her husband has been running it. I’ve been monitoring it. It’s legit.
Of course, the Twitter account was a troll (that also fooled a NYT reporter and Mother Jones).
Herman Mehta (the so-called Friendly Atheist) is the one who sounded the alarm, by outlining the evidence that the letter/twitter account was fake. So why did Mehta put a spotlight on the deception? He writes:
Why spoil the fun? Because people are spreading bullshit when there’s plenty to criticize in real life. We don’t need to resort to mocking this letter — and the supposed ignorance and lack of education it conveys — in order to criticize Davis’ beliefs.
It’s easy to get taken in by this stuff. I almost did, too. But it’s not that hard to find evidence that it’s all fake.
It’s easy to get taken in by this stuff when your brain is enslaved to stereotypes and confirmation bias props up those stereotypes by looking for things to blog about. So was Mehta standing on principle here? I doubt it, as the same reasoning he uses to spot the Kim Davis troll could have been used to spot the trolls in the “hate mail” video from Dawkins that Mehta promoted (see Dhay’s recent comment).
I think Mehta blew the whistle on this when it started to go viral for fear that it would hurt his precious movement. After all, if Dawkins began to tweet about it and Coyne began blog about it, the last thing the New Atheist movement needs is yet even more laughing at its leaders.
UPDATE: It turns out Jerry Coyne did fall for it. I’d say its pretty clear Mehta was trying to stop the bleeding.