Sunday, March 07, 2010

Legendary Pitchmen

There’s always a lot of smoke and dust in the air throughout internet chat rooms and blogs about so-called religious fundamentalists and their irrational beliefs, their circular logic, their contradictions, etc. An perfect example of such a character that gets his fare share of bashing is Eric Hovind and his imprisoned father Kent.

I don’t take issue, necessarily, with the idea that people should take a stand against them, I simply think the charges and methods are rather peculiar. It seems to me people are focusing too much on what they think these people believe instead of focusing on what these people are actually doing - so what you end up seeing are heaps of personal attacks that probably don't link up to what the person actually believes. What they believe is entirely irrelevant, especially against the backdrop of Kent’s offenses – “Since November 2006 Hovind has been serving a ten-year prison sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution, Edgefield in Edgefield, South Carolina, after being convicted of 58 federal counts, including twelve tax offenses, one count of obstructing federal agents and forty-five counts of structuring cash transactions.” – certainly we can see that in the Hovind case (and many others like him) his behavior is not a reflection of what he claims to believe. Although I can hardly jump to such a conclusion, I leave it as said.

If we just make the shift to focusing our attention on behavior, we can see these people for who they really are, Pitchmen. They’re Vince Shlomi with the “Slap Chop”, they’re Anthony Sullivan with the “Turbo Snake”, or Billy Mays with “Hercules Hooks”. Just take one look at hovind’s videos and you can see the same sorts of themes and bullshit in action.

Good afternoon folks, it’s Kent Hovind here with Creation Science Evangelism! I’m here to tell you about the new Jesus Christ Superstar. He-dies-for-lives he-prays-he-saves, he was God’s-only-son-on-the-run and his mamma-was-a-virgin halleluiah! Have you ever been feelin’ down, blue, didn’t-know-what-to-do, well let me tell you what I have for you here today. Our new Super-Saver Sole-Tastic repair kit will get you back on track to a new life, that’s right folks, I said a new life. And all you gotta’ do is act now, that’s right I said act now, right now because the time is drawin’ in and satan is on our tails. All you gotta’ do is pick up that phone right now and buy my book and instructional video tape. But wait folks, just wait, because if you act now by the grace of God we’ll send you TWO books and TWO tapes for TWO easy payments of only $19.95, halleluiah-and-God-be-praised. What do you have to lose folks, except your lives in the screamin’ pit of hell, that devils on our heals with wheels-a-steel ready to shake-bake-and-rake you into non-existence…
(do I have to note that this isn't an actual Eric Hovind quote, but rather my own nonesense?)

I think all would agree that there’s no sense in evaluating what the Pitchman actually believes, because most of us grant that he probably thinks everything he’s saying is nonsense (Although George Costanza did say, "It's not a lie, if you believe it"); nonetheless I think we can say with some confidence that there isn’t a “Slap Chop” in Vince’s cupboard. Oh, and it’s probably worth noting that Vince has also taken a trip to the slammer, for battering a hooker. Of course I’m not suggesting that all pitchmen are slime, I’m merely saying that they're not looking out for your best interests, and they're behavior is not necessarily a reflection of what we'd presume them to believe.

To summarize and repeat: don't bash the Pitchman for being irrational or believing in irrational things, it's pointless and fruitless - he's just performing a role, doing a job, and rakin' in the doe. To put it another way, one doesn't launch personal attacks against Anthony Sullivan because we think the guy is full of shit, some bold faced liar, or that he's completely irrational (again, we should already know that). Rather what we do is go after the product he's selling, we point out that it doesn't really do what he says it does. Or, in the case of the Swivel Sweep, perhaps it does do some of the things he says, but we later find out that it's shortcomings existed within the things he failed to mention, but was nonetheless there for one to observe all along had one thought about it at the time (e.g. it's small dander holding capacity render it a poor buy overall. It seems you'd be dumping the thing constantly).

On the other hand, it should be noted that in the case of Evangelical Pitchmen, they're really pitching a product to be used in a way that it wasn't really intended - like using the Swivel Sweep to bash your neighbor over the head. Once again though, the product is there to be evaluated outside of the Pitchman's pitch.

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