Religulous and Expelled

Back when Ben Stein‘s joke of a movie called Expelled was being made, people like PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott were duped into being interviewed for the movie.

  • Ben Stein’s name was never mentioned as an interviewer until the last second.
  • Producer Mark Mathis lied about the production company making the film (“Rampant Films” doesn’t really exist.)
  • Mathis lied about the title of the film (It was never going to be called Crossroads).
  • Mathis lied about the nature of the film (saying it was about the Intelligent Design “controversy,” not an all-out propaganda film against evolution).

So Mathis and Stein were contemptible liars, right?

I was looking forward to seeing comedian Bill Maher‘s upcoming movie Religulous — a movie that is supposed to illuminate the irrationality of religion.

Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times, however, writes about the similar tactics that went into making Maher’s film.

So how did Maher manage to get all these people to actually talk to him? Since “Religulous” was directed by Larry Charles, who also did “Borat,” I suspected that subterfuge and trickery were involved. I was not far wrong. Here’s how Maher pulled it off:

Essentially, they didn’t tell interviewees that Bill Maher would interview them until the last second.

And they used a fake working title:

On how [Maher] got people to talk to him: “It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it ‘A Spiritual Journey.’ It didn’t work everywhere. We went to Salk Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all.”

On the element of surprise: “Larry Charles’ theory is — just keep going till they throw you out. I guess he learned that on ‘Borat.’ The crew would set up and at the last second, when the cameras were already rolling, I would show up. So either they’d be seen on camera leaving the interview and lose face or they’d have to talk to me. It was like — ‘And now here’s … Bill!’ You could usually see the troubled looks on their faces. At the Holy Land theme park, the PR woman freaked out and finally told us to leave. She was definitely not a happy camper.”

No word yet on whether a fake production company’s name was used.

I assume interviewees knew they were going to speak about their faith without knowing the film would mock their beliefs.

And while Expelled at least duped intelligent people, it looks like Religulous went after the nutcases that even religious people would say are embarrassments to their faith.

So, does Religulous get a free pass from atheists because this movie is on our side? Are we condoning the methods used to make the film because they show religious belief at its kookiest?

Or will we come out and admit the tactics used to make this movie were no different from those of the despicable Ben Stein and his crew, lowering us to their level?

  • Eric

    I’m torn. On the one hand, it kinda depends on what the point is – are you trying to get people to say something that they think but are ashamed of, or are you trying to quote mine them. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard to get people to talk about their religion – why do they need to resort to trickery? Why aren’t people just willing to talk about this stuff on camera without it? I think the answer is because they know it’s ridiculous. Many of the people interviewed for Expelled would likely still have done the interviews if the interviewers had been honest in the first place. Is that true of these religious people?

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    I had no opinion about “Expelled.” In fact, I didn’t know about the trickery. However, PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott are more than capable of holding their own against a bunch of creationists.

    I might be inclined to say that Maher’s tactics were unfair, if only because his subjects were not that bright. A bit like taking candy from a baby.

  • Pustulio

    The lies told to get the interviews are hardly the most egregious offenses committed by the makers of Expelled. So if the circumstances of the interviews is the only controversial aspect to Maher’s film then I just can’t find it in myself to get worked up over it.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    I’m okay with a little subterfuge, like downplaying what the movie is about or using a hidden camera to me is appropriate in order to catch people being really honest. However outright lying and using a fake name is wrong, it’s no different than what Expelled did. Not right then, not right now.

  • Cafeeine

    I would have to say that the tactics used to acquire the interviews were as bad as those used for Expelled.

    However Maher’s people are already coming out and admitting they used subterfuge while Stein’s crew are still claiming that their interview subjects were not fooled into making their interviews.

    Furthermore, the way the interviews are used will play a great deal into justifying or condemning Maher’s tactics. Expelled’s initial frame, a ‘crossroads between science and religion’ was meant to extract specific points from its interviewees and use them in support of a propaganda piece. If Religulous has the same slant, it should be placed in the same lump.

    I can make some allowances for shady tactics in investigative journalism. A reporter may have to e.g. violate someone’s privacy to uncover something sinister etc. but that is hardly a license to distort or lie.

    In essence, Maher lied to some of his possibly hostile subjects. Expelled lied to them as well as their audience.

    I hope Religulous has a better quality than that, if for no other reason that Maher’s audience will consist largely of skeptics, who will likely call him on any fraudulent behavior, as we are in fact doing here.

  • Richard Wade

    If it is true that the tactics were deceitful, dishonest and manipulative then I am deeply disappointed in Maher. He has been my favorite comedian and all around reality checker for a long time, but this is just as low and reprehensible as Stein’s tactics, and I’ll not accept any rationalization for such methods.

    Mockery and satire is a legitimate form of criticism as long as the information presented is true and it was obtained honestly. Religionists have a long and fabled history of trickery. A film that tries to discredit them by stooping to the same dirty tricks is self defeating in the long run. Rationalists should take the high road or they’ll end up being just like the opponents they disdain.

    I’m really disgusted.

  • Wes

    As pointed out above, the only major difference between what Charles and Maher did and what the Expelled crew did was that the Religulous guys are at least being honest about their tactics, whereas the Expelled guys continued to lie about their deceptions. Other than that, they sound pretty similar.

    I don’t know how much of a difference that makes. I’m not taking Religulous very seriously (and I still abhor the title). I see it as a goofy movie that’ll probably do a good job of exposing several loonies to the light, but little more than that. I’m not expecting any kind of profound point to be made by the movie. I’ll probably see it, but I won’t be telling people it accurately represents the disagreements between religious people and atheists, because I seriously doubt it will.

    Also, if Maher brings up his germ-theory denialism and medical quackery in the movie, I shall be very, very pissed. It’s annoying that he sees himself as a champion of “reason” while simultaneously espousing some of the most ludicrous myths of the alternative medicine industry.

  • http://www.romsteady.net/blog/ Michael Russell

    If one adapts the abhorred tactics of an enemy, one becomes indistinguishable from the enemy.

  • chancelikely

    How Maher can be anti-religious nonsense and still be pro-medical nonsense is beyond me.

    Maher and I might agree about religion, but until he gets off the woo train, I can’t really say he’s on my side. So if it turns out that he used the Expelled playbook (and it doesn’t seem like he used all of it, unless Desmond Tutu or somebody got kicked out of an advance screening), I’m not too ashamed.

    Rationalization? Not really. Maher and Christopher Hitchens are only my bedfellows on this one issue (and boy, are they strange!).

  • Darryl

    Why aren’t people just willing to talk about this stuff on camera without it? I think the answer is because they know it’s ridiculous.

    I don’t think so. They don’t trust the media, or non-Christians in general. They think they’ll only be ridiculed. Remember, in their minds they are in a culture war–no aiding the enemy.

    If one adapts the abhorred tactics of an enemy, one becomes indistinguishable from the enemy.

    If only our country believed that right now.

  • http://alcaritown.myminicity.com/ Sanity

    Well, it depends.
    There’s a difference between asking people “Could you give me a view on christianity from a scientific viewpoint” and using it to show how critics dogmatically hate christianity, and asking someone “Tell me about xyz in your religion”, and using it to show how dumb those religions are.

    Still, the interview tactics weren’t the worst thing it did. By far the worst thing is plain out telling lies about those people who were “Fired for promoting christianity”. Then, to get insult to injury, Stein continued telling lies about science causing genocide and being the root of all evil.

    If Maher does what he always does, and stay pretty much on the amusing side of reality, I’ll love the movie, but won’t point to it in debates about religion. However, if Maher does the same as Stein, ignore facts, create his own reality and lie about everything so that “your side wins”, I know exactly what he can do with his movie.

  • Spork

    Here’s the thing. I was never pissed off at Ben Stein and how he set up his interviews. The fake name, the fake production company, none of it. Part of the interview is influenced by the interviewer. So, if you can minimize that impact by waiting until the last minute to introduce the distraction of a celebrity interviewer, fine then. That’s just strategy.

    But, the manner in which the answers to his questions were edited, however, is where it took a left turn. Framing replies to support his batshit crazy Nazi fantasies, etc. That’s just dishonesty.

    Now, Bill Maher probably has a little more name recognition to deal with. Also, he’s not interested in sitting down and having a nice tea with the pope, either. Maher isn’t making a highly intellectual documentary featuring high-brow discussions about the nature of reality or the existence of god. He’s out to ridicule the buffoonery and lunacy of religious wingnuts. I seriously doubt there’s much clever editing to make these people sound as stupid and fantasy-prone as they do in the film. Really, he just needs to get in front of them, ask his questions, and roll his eyes on camera. That’s just strategy.

  • wwyoud

    Your questions assume an “us vs. them” viewpoint. I don’t consider all atheists as on my side, just as I don’t consider all (or even most) christians as on Donahue’s side. Bill Stein is a lying, cheating excuse of a ‘documentarian’. If Borat is any indication, the same is true of Charles and Maher. Ethically, people have the right to know if you’re filming them to make fun of them, and thus choose not to participate. I won’t pay to see either movie. Besides, it sounds like a rerun of so many YouTube video debates and self-posted revival meetings. Really, he could have just posted links to Ray Comfort and that electrified pickle man!

    Pan it as another crap movie, and move on…

  • Michael

    The difference between the two is the purpose.

    Expelled had an agenda to discredit evolution and demonize “Big Science.” It was a political movie, with the intention of persuading the audience to believe a certain way.

    Religulous is, before anything else, a comedy. Bill Maher doesn’t make weighty arguments, but makes light of the crazy things that people believe. The movie isn’t intended to persuade you to believe anything – it’s just a comedy. Even the religious are going to be able to watch the movie and be entertained by it (unless they are easily offended). People believe ridiculous things, and it’s funny: that’s the whole point of the movie.

    Borat deceived people about the nature of the interviews, yet no one cares, because it’s comedy. Religulous even has the same director.

  • http://daybydayhsing.blogspot.com Dawn

    I don’t think so. They don’t trust the media, or non-Christians in general. They think they’ll only be ridiculed.

    And Maher proved their concern was justified.

  • justin jm

    From the article…

    On the element of surprise: “Larry Charles’ theory is — just keep going till they throw you out. I guess he learned that on ‘Borat.’ The crew would set up and at the last second, when the cameras were already rolling, I would show up. So either they’d be seen on camera leaving the interview and lose face or they’d have to talk to me. It was like — ‘And now here’s … Bill!’

    I think this is called the “bait and switch” technique of tricking people that we hear about being employed by evangelists.

    Also, from a journalistic ethics perspective, it is both unnecessary and wrong. You won’t be taken seriously by future sources if you’re known for using such deceptive tricks.

  • Emily

    Maher doesn’t get a free pass from me, that’s for sure. I don’t plan on watching either movie; Expelled is just ridiculous (from what i’ve heard, and of course being in the atheist community that it a lot) and i doubt that Religulous will be much better (the trailers didn’t look too great anyway), plus it will proably just disgust me more than is necessary (i couldn’t watch more than 20 minutes of Jesus Camp- i have a weak stomach when it comes to extremism).

  • http://kjcw.blogspot.com Kelly

    I’m disgusted by this. I had been excited about the movie. I’ve long been a fan of Bill Maher, and I was looking forward to this movie. But this just makes me ill. The Religulous tactics are just as low and dirty as the Expelled tactics, and it doesn’t make it better because he’s doing it for our side. I’m repulsed. I’ll be skipping this movie.

  • Jack

    Geez, I don’t know why I even read anything on this stupid site. The few times I’m linked into this place, I end up with a damn headache. This is nothing more than a group-home of “torn” atheists always singing the same pathetic hymnals in their very own godless church. You’re just like a bunch of Catholics with your freakin’ guilt trips over all kinds of stupid minutiae. Now, you filthy worthless heathens, get on with your repenting and self-loathing over the manner in which Larry Charles runs HIS BUSINESS of film-making, which just happened to run into producing the best, and culturally the most important, documentary the United States of Jeebusland has ever seen to date. Good grief!!!

    At least most atheists aren’t gutless pansies like you all. You’re so totally wrapped up in trying to convince yourselves that you’re so fucking much more moral than Christians that you won’t even know when the theocracy arrives. Keep whining so you might make yourselves feel just a bit better..or, at least it will make your leader, the so-called Friendly Atheist, feel better that you’re all under his spell. B-bye now.

  • ryot

    I really have no problem with the tactics, the difference is that Expelled was a propaganda piece promoting a lie and was genuinely dishonest, and Religulous is a comedy about people saying stupid things and a guy mocking them. I’d have a problem if this were a serious documentary and they pulled this shit, but it’s not.

  • Adrian

    When a movie is ostensibly about integrity, honesty and the search for truth, basing the movie on deception and lies tarnishes the whole production.

    When a movie is about how batshit insane people can be, deception and gonzo-journalism tactics to get interviews sound like fair game if it gets the pictures.

    Remember, Religulous was produced by the same guys that did Borat. When Borat sang in the rodeo and got the Good Old Homophobes to display their hatred in glorious technicolor, does it matter if he only got the gig due to deception? The reactions were entirely honest, and that’s what counts.

  • nontheist

    As long as the interviewed are given the choice of backing out I have no problem. Maher is fairly well known as Rationalist and many would not have allowed an interview otherwise. In the case of PZ et. al. they were not made aware of the films purpose. I presume that once it was known Maher was in it that most people knew that the fix was in, but I do hope that they got their O.K. in an above board way.

  • Pseudonym

    Just for comparison, Richard Dawkins managed to get the biggest religious nutjobs he could find to speak to him and say some quite ridiculous things in The Root Of All Evil? and didn’t need to lie about who he was to do it. Louis Theroux even managed to spend time inside the Westboro Baptist Church.

    There is a huge difference here, though. Dawkins and Theroux were making documentaries. Religulous is, I have no doubt, more like Borat. Nobody could possibly think that most Americans are like the loonies they found in Borat, and nobody would argue that most religious people are like the people whom Maher has no doubt found for Religulous.

    The difference between these people and Expelled is that Expelled pitched itself as a legitimate documentary.

    (As an aside, nobody would argue that most religious people were like the loonies that Dawkins found for The Root Of All Evil?, either, but Dawkins was very clear about what the focus of his documentary was. Ted Haggard was not dangerous (at the time of the documentary; obviously he’s less of a danger and more of a cocktail party joke now) because he was typical, but because he had disproportionate influence.)

  • http://breakingspells.wordpress.com Yenald Looshi

    I have to agree that the Expelled crew continue even now to be dishonest about their dishonesty whereas the Religulous Crew appears to be honest about their dishonesty.

    I also agree that Expelled is a film that alleges itself to be one with academic integrity while Religulous is one that professes to be a comedy and of satire.

    Even still, I didn’t get too worked up over Expelled‘s deceptions to get the interviews. It occurred to me then that this must be very similar to the way Penn and Teller get their footage for Bullsh!t. After all, it isn’t too likely that the couple who channels dolphin spirits into their homes for guests who they charge $500 a session would willingly let Penn and Teller film for a series called Bullsh!t. I bet the camera crew shows up and just says their filming a documentary for Showtime.

    Fair’s fair. The ploy Expelled used to get their interviews was still the most honest thing of the film.

  • Pseudonym

    nontheist:

    Maher is fairly well known as Rationalist [...]

    Maher is known for his Atheism, but I don’t think he’s known for his Rationalism.

  • Adrian

    Let’s also not forget that when people started asking about Maher’s tactics, he openly admitted to them, explained himself and joked at his own expense (he says he couldn’t get a single interview in Salt Lake City).

    When Stein and his crew were questioned about their tactics they lied, lied some more, kicked out people they disagreed with and then lied about that. They’ve clearly demonstrated that dishonestly isn’t just a means to make a movie but something they do at all opportunities.

  • Aerik

    I don’t like Bill Maher anyways. The bullshit rant he did in one of his HBO specials was absurd and repellent. All he did was regurgitate conservative wingnut complaints about straw-liberals, then made a straw-feminist out of them and attacked it.

    He’s not exactly an honest man.

  • http://thehappyhuman.wordpress.com jtradke

    It’s unfortunate that Maher chose to do things this way. I figure this is the same way Ray Comfort comes off like the “winner” in his “man on the street” interviews is that he catches people off guard, and he wins because the subjects aren’t quick enough to answer his questions.

    We’re dealing with issues of truth here, and just because someone doesn’t think of a witty answer off-the-cuff doesn’t make them wrong.

  • Darryl

    Ooh, Jack has big ones: he tore us all a new one while hiding behind his computer! He’s so brave when no one can see him. He’s my hero!

  • Miko

    From the preview, I’m not overly impressed or optimistic, although I’m a fan of Maher in general. But I’ll wait until I see it to pass judgment. In any event, I’d be surprised if he quote-mines, regardless of the circumstances in which interviews were obtained. And people probably figured out what they had gotten into fairly quickly after interviews started. Still, I don’t care much for deceit in general.

    He has been my favorite comedian and all around reality checker for a long time

    I wouldn’t use that phrase in reference to someone who, to put it bluntly, rejects the germ theory of disease.

  • Miko

    We’re dealing with issues of truth here, and just because someone doesn’t think of a witty answer off-the-cuff doesn’t make them wrong.

    Truth has little to do with comedy. There are certainly issues of truth here, but I sincerely hope Maher will avoid discussing them in this film.

  • Darryl

    The difference between Stein and Maher is that Stein doesn’t really believe the shit he’s peddling in his film. The film was done to fire up the whacko base for November.

  • CJ Sevilla

    I don’t think anyone is looking at Religulous and saying “Yay! A movie for atheism!” I believe anyone that’s going to see this movie knows that it’s a movie mocking religion and they’re seeing it for that reason. While I very much dislike the underhanded techniques of securing the interviews, I think Maher did that purposely to get the real nutters on film for him to really mock and that he knows his audience knows that.

    I’m glad that some people are annoyed and disgusted and how few people think “Fair’s fair” or “Ben lied so anyone on our side is allowed to lie.” There’s a few people that think that, but the majority seem sensible.

    Even still, I didn’t get too worked up over Expelled’s deceptions to get the interviews. It occurred to me then that this must be very similar to the way Penn and Teller get their footage for Bullsh!t. After all, it isn’t too likely that the couple who channels dolphin spirits into their homes for guests who they charge $500 a session would willingly let Penn and Teller film for a series called Bullsh!t. I bet the camera crew shows up and just says their filming a documentary for Showtime.

    Penn and Teller have said many times that they do not do Borat or Michael Moore stuff. The people that they interview very clearly know the name of the show, what their opinions are, and why the interviewee is being interviewed.

  • CJ Sevilla

    I went off too soon. What I meant by “I don’t think anyone is looking at Religulous and saying “Yay! A movie for atheism!” I believe anyone that’s going to see this movie knows that it’s a movie mocking religion and they’re seeing it for that reason.” I meant that anyone seeing this movie knows it’s a movie making fun of people and not entirely about showing people an atheist / anti-religious mindset. SOME people might say “Yay! An atheist movie!” but I think the majority of the people that will see this movie will think “Yay! Bill Maher being funny!”

    Regardless, lying to people to make fun of them is just lame. I think Dawkin’s and P&T make it clear that you can tell the truth and still have people and ideas to make fun of. Lying to do that is dishonest and lazy. That shouldn’t have much merit on how FUNNY you think Bill Maher is, but then I don’t think he’s that funny so I probably won’t see this movie. But if there’s any other reason someone will see this movie please tell me so that I stop saying nonsense.

  • penn

    I think there is a slight difference because Expelled tried to sell itself as a serious documentary on the scientific debate regarding Evolution and Intelligent Design. Deception and quote mining to create pro-ID propaganda completely destroys the credibility. Religulous on the other hand is a comedy trying to show the ridiculousness of religion. Using subterfuge makes sense in such a situation to get people to act ridiculously. They aren’t trying to seriously examine religious belief. They are purposely looking for instances of religious beliefs making people do goofy things, and people generally don’t act goofy in front of you, so you can say how goofy they are.

  • Spork

    Sure is a whole lot of self-indulgent hand-wringing going on around here.

    Why won’t you kick out a proselytizing repairman, again? Jack may be a dickhole, but I think he may be onto something about you bunch…

    Being “friendly” doesn’t mean you become a doormat, nor does it mean you can’t get your licks in every now and again.

  • http://thehappyhuman.wordpress.com jtradke

    Jack & Spork – do you have anything substantial to add to the discussion, or did you just want to troll? Perhaps you’d like to back up the assertions of self-indulgence, or maybe WHY the concern is not called for in this particular instance (nevermind the insipid scare-term “hand-wringing”)? The issue is whether or not Maher operated ethically while producing this film. It’s an interesting question.

    Are you saying no atheist should question another atheist’s ethics?

  • http://thehappyhuman.wordpress.com jtradke

    Truth has little to do with comedy.

    I disagree vehemently! Pointing out uncomfortable truths is a mainstay of comedy. If Maher went around ridiculing people who believed in gravity, the movie wouldn’t be funny (or it’d at least be a very different sort of funny).

  • Eric

    “I can’t believe Candid Camera is so dishonest! They lie to the people in order to get them to do funny things! What a bunch of liars! I never watch that show because of how dishonest they are.”

    If you’re someone who disagrees with that statement, but agrees with it when it’s applied to Religulous, then you’ve got some explaining to do. The purpose of the filming is directly relevant to what methods you use. It isn’t a black and white, “the people being interviewed didn’t know absolutely everything about why they were being filmed, therefore the show is contemptible” type of thing. Like was mentioned above – Expelled was intended to be about integrity and honesty. Borat was not. So I think whether or not Bill’s methods are as contemptible as Ben’s depend on where Religulous on that spectrum between Expelled and Borat.

  • http://skepchick.org/teen Elles

    Hrm…

    I may have to wait to see but if the intent of Religulous is humour, not to get school boards to force atheism into the public school system or something, then it’s not as bad. Expelled had no humour whatsoever and it was trying to get the “academic freedom” bills passed to get creationism snuck into the classrooms so that’s one thing that Religulous has going for it that Expelled doesn’t.

    I think it’s inevitable that if somebody were to make a documentary like this they’d bend the truth a little.

    We shall see.

  • Keith B

    Movies like these accomplish next to nothing, especially in comparison to what they could have been: well-researched and level-headed instead of shady, juvenile and fact free.

  • Spork

    jtradke, I’ve posted twice in this thread (this make my postings thrice, actually), please go back and read the first one. In that one, I directly replied to the posted subject.

    As for the hand-wringing, the finest example of that is this blog in and of itself. The self-indulgence is evident in this blog’s obsession with being “nice” about everything. There’s no backbone around here to be found, but there sure is a lot of self-congratulation for doing what’s perceived as being nice to complete tools and morons. Including tolerating a repairman/woman prosylityzing in one’s home, being pleasant to people issuing death threats over a cracker, and showing some kind of weird “resepct” to silly superstitions in general.

  • http://thehappyhuman.wordpress.com jtradke

    There’s no backbone around here to be found, but there sure is a lot of self-congratulation for doing what’s perceived as being nice to complete tools and morons.

    Well, I think declaring oneself openly as an atheist in a largely theistic society takes a bit of backbone. Also, I’d like to see evidence of any egregious self-congratulatory comments this set of bloggers (or Hemant in particular) has ever made. “Egregious” being the key word – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with outward self-pride, per se.

    being pleasant to people issuing death threats over a cracker

    Please quote an instance where one of the bloggers thought being pleasant was the appropriate reaction to the death threats. Hemant, at least, has sided with PZ, as far as I can tell.

    and showing some kind of weird “resepct” to silly superstitions in general.

    I don’t know that Hemant or anyone else has ever spoke of respecting superstitions (“silly” is sort of redundant) – the whole “friendly” thing is about maintaining respect of people while not respecting their beliefs.

    I’m sorry that people aren’t unfriendly dicks around here, but this is clearly not the place to find them.

  • Spork

    Nope, but it’s clearly the place to find people overly-obsessed with being perceived as “friendly.” Too often, friendly just means sucker.

    Nice how you just ignored the repairman bit, by the way.

  • http://thehappyhuman.wordpress.com jtradke

    I ignored the repairman bit because I didn’t read that particular thread, and I didn’t feel like going to search it out, and I wasn’t about to comment on something I knew nothing about. I’d hoped you’d have given me the benefit of the doubt on that, but clearly you’re just trying to ruffle feathers, rather than trying to present a criticism of any substance whatsoever.

  • Spork

    You challenge me on specifics, I give you one, and you ignore it and play some sort of high-road thing about your failure? Are you kidding me? I’m not the one playing games here. You’re full of strawman bullshit.

  • Awesomesauce

    Spork-

    If you don’t like the Friendly Atheist’s obsession with being friendly, then what the hell are you doing reading this blog? It’s in the fucking title!

  • http://www.rekounas.org rekounas

    Something tells me that Maher wouldn’t be quote mining. He is very open to the fact that he is atheist. I think if they lied about the working title to get the interview, that I think it’s ok. You would be a fool not to realize what type of interview has going on once you had seen Bill. Even if you didn’t know who he was, his point would be pretty clear early. I don’t think he will play a neutral or unbiased reported.

  • Siamang

    I’ll reserve judgment until after I’ve seen the movie. I’ve seen Expelled, I’ll probably see this as well.

    I think that possibly there is a difference here.

    One is a comedy. One is proporting to be a documentary about political intimidation and an academic vendetta against non-philosophical-materialists within American higher education.

    The authority of the documentary Expelled can be undermined effectively by pointing out that the interviews were obtained under false pretense, as well as pointing out various shenanigans like PZ being expelled from a screening.

    It’s not that we’re going “ohhh, boo-hoo, Premise media is sooooo bad, they are bad, immoral people for doing this. Atheists would NEVER do this!” It’s merely that we’re able to undercut their credibility with these facts about their filmmaking process, so we make those facts available. Take or leave these facts, and do what you will with them.

    Contrastingly, Bill Mahr and Larry Charles’ film will only be undercut if it’s not funny. I’m pretty sure people will know that there is an element of ambush to their interviews… at least that was pretty darn clear while watching Borat.

    So let’s just put the facts on the table for both films.

  • Garth Patterson

    Speaking of ‘smear tactics’:

    Expelled did a helluva lot more than not tell people who was the main person running the documentary until the ‘last second’. Expelled went as far and got as desperate as to liken evolution to/hold evolutionists responsible for, Nazism and the Final Solution. … Has Religulous done something that is as comparable? ….. I think not!

    So tell me Mr. Friendly Atheist, who is really taking part in said smear campaign here? And since you don’t believe in letting atheists off the hook any more than religious people, ….. would you avoid letting yourself off the hook by such a dishonest comparison?

    IMNSHO, Bill Maher stands head and shoulders above Ben Stein any day of the week.

    Try again.

    Garth P.

  • Pseudonym

    Eric:

    If you’re someone who disagrees with that statement [about Candid Camera], but agrees with it when it’s applied to Religulous, then you’ve got some explaining to do.

    I’ve always thought that Candid Camera was a bit cruel; more so than Jeremy Beadle or Punk’d.

    Playing a prank on a person is one thing, if you know they can take a joke. Doing it to random strangers is something else. These people could be walking home from a funeral or something. You have no way of knowing.

    But then, the current crop of British cringe humour mostly leaves me cold. I find that Alan Partridge, Borat, most of The Catherine Tate Show and about half of Little Britain usually make me wince rather than laugh.

    (Admittedly, I’d probably appreciate The Catherine Tate Show more if I got the cultural references, and I love the character of Donna Noble and the stuff that Catherine did on Big Train. So I know it’s not her that I don’t like, it’s just the cringey humour.)

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  • http://www.chedstone.com Roy

    This kind of sucks ass. I was hoping that it would be a bit more legitimate, because now we are going to look like hypocrites if we don’t call Bill Maher out on the same trickery that Ben Stein and his producers were called out on.. MEH

    I’ll still see the movie though, and probably thoroughly enjoy it.

  • http://www.BlueNine.info/index.php EKM

    On August 9th, 2008 at 6:08 pm, Darryl Says:

    I don’t think so. They don’t trust the media, or non-Christians in general. They think they’ll only be ridiculed. Remember, in their minds they are in a culture war–no aiding the enemy.

    They might be ridiculed? Oh, my, that would be the end of the world!! As Greta Christina pointed out, gay people in this country have been killed by religious folk. Getting mocked is not that big of a deal. Let’s get some perspective.

  • http://www.thoughtcounts.net/ thoughtcounts Z

    Well, I am definitely upset to hear that Maher and his crew used these tactics too. He doesn’t get a free pass from me. Come on, it’s not like it’s that hard to get religious people to say ludicrous things even when they’re in a serious and respectful interview. There’s no need to be sleazy about it, and the sleaze eliminates any high ground he could have claimed.

  • Drew

    “So, does Religulous get a free pass from atheists because this movie is on our side? Are we condoning the methods used to make the film because they show religious belief at its kookiest?

    Or will we come out and admit the tactics used to make this movie were no different from those of the despicable Ben Stein and his crew, lowering us to their level?”

    The basic difference is that Stein’s movie was a lie. It was intentionally dishonest. It showed things as they are not. The fabrications in it have been soundly and simply exposed by a web site set up by a US organisation for teaching science.

    In this film, the religious are merely saying what they believe. They have given their honest opinions. They have been shown for what they are. I don’t think that’s a free pass at all; it’s the difference between Stein trying to fabricate, and portray the world as it ISN’T, and Maher trying to catch the kooks admitting what they’d rather keep quiet about.

  • Pseudonym

    The basic difference is that Stein’s movie was a lie. It was intentionally dishonest. [...]

    In this film, the religious are merely saying what they believe. They have given their honest opinions.

    It could also be argued that in Expelled, PZ and Dawkins said what they believed, too.

    Not that I’ve seen either movie in its entirety, but from what I have seen, the problem is not what it says, but what it doesn’t say. Like The Root of All Evil?, it ignores the overwhelming majority of religious people who are no harm to anyone.

    It doesn’t get a free pass on that. It’s much like Expelled completely ignoring the existence of the majority of Christians in the world who have no problem with evolution.