Mirror mirror on the wall

Russell Blackford said in More on H.E. Baber’s piece in The Guardian that yes there are such people as knee-jerk atheists, who are far less nuanced and thoughtful than Dennett and Dawkins and so on, but –

But that is inevitable. What movement doesn’t attract a lot of people who adopt a relatively crude version of its ideas? It’s very unfair to write in a way that perpetuates the myth that Dennett, Dawkins, etc., themselves are unnuanced and dogmatic. Any fair reading of their work shows the opposite. If anything, there is now some urgency in dispelling that myth, which is not only unfair but also making it more difficult for the individuals concerned to get a decent hearing, i.e. they have been demonised with some success.

Quite, and the myth-perpetuating and demonization are if anything getting louder and more pervasive. The Great Anti-atheist Noise Machine is leaving The Atheist Noise Machine in the dust, at least in terms of sheer volume. (In terms of quality, I would say no, but then I would, wouldn’t I.) Andrew Brown has made a specialty of it at Comment is Free belief, Terry Eagleton and Stanley Fish and John Gray have joined the chorus, Madeleine Bunting and Mark Vernon and Theo Hobson and Giles Fraser and Chris Hedges and many many more grind away at the subject week in and week out, and of course Chris Mooney is at it almost full-time.

It’s noticeable that a lot of those people would probably call themselves liberals or leftists of one kind or another – yet they seem to be curiously blind to the commonalities between their pet hobby and a good old-fashioned witch hunt. They seem to be surprisingly obtuse about the risks of the hyperbolic scapegoating they are indulging themselves in. They seem, in fact, like people who have never even heard of pogroms or Joe McCarthy or God Hates Fags. They seem weirdly easy in their minds about heaping frenzied opprobrium on people whose ideas they dislike. They seem to think they are like Stephen Jay Gould when in fact they more closely resemble Anita Bryant. Strange, isn’t it.

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