03 June, 2008

Carnival of the Elitist Bastards #1


The maiden voyage of the H.M.S. Elitist Bastard, May 31st, 2008

Here she stands in dry-dock, awaiting launch: a ship of the line, cannon gleaming, masts straight and strong: the H.M.S. Elitist Bastard, built to withstand the endless assaults of ignorance. Her mission is to seek and destroy stupidity and make the world safe for knowledge once more. Where she sails, no IDiot is safe, no ignoramus secure: she's armed to the teeth and filled with a feisty crew begging for battle.

Witness that crew now gathered together about her bow. Their cohorts gleam. Their eyes shine with the light of reason. The rattle of their cutlasses nearly drown out the screams of seabirds and the hiss of waves. All gazes fall upon John Pieret of Thoughts in a Haystack, who now lifts the champagne bottle from its case and steps forward to christen the ship. "Be All the Bastard You Can Be," he exhorts us, and breaks the bottle. Champagne sprays. Cutlasses leap into the air, cutting sunbeams into a billion rays.

Our great ship of the line slides from her dry dock into the bay, throwing up a great spray of water as Efrique of Ecstathy gives us our mission: Celebrating the Intellect. "We need smart people," he announces. "We need experts. We need people who are prepared to devote years of their lives to studying a subject." We shall go forth and make sure the world knows it.

As the gangplank is run out and we prepare to board, Paul Sunstone of Cafe Philos solemnly reminds us of what is at stake as he is Introducing the Carnival of Elitist Bastards. "An “elite” is one of the worse names you can call an American these days. It’s a word that, like communist or fascist, conjures up a visceral reaction.... Scientists and intellectuals are increasingly becoming marginalized in American society. It is that elite that is besieged. That elite that is loathed, distrusted, ridiculed and scorned." We are going forth to rescue that beleaguered elite and ensure the world does not fall prey to ignorance. It is a daunting task.

But Lirone of Words that Sing strikes up the band, and rouses us with a battle cry: Playing Small Doesn't Serve the World. As we march up the gangplank, she reminds us, "The delights of one of those conversations where two minds dance together in a world of ideas - serious or plain silly, it doesn’t matter - what matters is that living intelligence. The essence of humanity."

The wind fills our sails, and we leave the bay for the open ocean. Battle awaits: we know the war will be hard-fought, at times bitter. Etha Jean Williams at The Sacred Tree of Jeanne Shade gives us the speech that will see us through many a dark day: The Consolation of Elitism. Her consolation will resonate with us again, again, and again throughout our voyage.

The ocean stretches away, vast, empty, full of hidden dangers. At last, an enemy is sighted, our first battle at hand! Ames takes the command and fires the first volley: Democracy in America: Factual Relativism on the Hillary Clinton Campaign. "First, America needs to get past the idea that our principles of universal equality and 'anti-elitism' somehow entitle us to ignore facts. And second, Hillary’s little speech on elitism, far from being the opposite of the Bush administration, replicates the administration’s own integral failings - that is, the tendency to subordinate reason and facts to emotion, jingoism, pageantry, and politics." A hit! Ames has left a gaping hole in Hillary's hull, and we cheer.

But the battle has only just begun. A fast frigate slips around the listing behemoth and hoves into view: it's the anti-elitists, attempting a quick and dreadful strike! Efrique brings us hard to starboard, cuts into the wind, and fires a devastating volley: "Anti-elitism"... Is Anything But. "So wishing really hard for experts to be wrong doesn't make them wrong. Just saying "they're wrong" won't convince them they're wrong. Those egghead 'elite' economists don't want to pay high prices any more than anyone else. They almost all say that the gas tax holiday won't work because they have very good reasons to believe that it won't." The frigate's rigging topples, its masts splintered. The elitists win the gas tax holiday war!

In the wake of victory, Bitter at Going Down Bitter in the Hinterlands speechifies us: Capitalism is Great! Raiding the Piggy Bank for Gas Money? Ah, so this is why it came to blows, why our enemies had nothing to throw at us but the "elitist" label! "The mobility of the car built the suburbs, built the recreation industry, built the tourist industry, built this and many other countries into manufacturing and consuming giants. But all along, we all knew that crude oil is a finite source of energy and whether or not there’s 25 years or 100 years left of oil, it will run out. When it does and if there is not an equivalent replacement, everything that oil built will collapse and modern civilizations will be no more."

Ah, well. Damned good thing we're on a sailing ship, then, isn't it? Elites, to the rescue! We sail on, into the night, and in the darkness Brian at Truth is Freedom amuses us with tongue-in-cheek commentary and inspires us to remember why we joined this Carnival of Elitist Bastards. " Being an elite doesn’t mean knowing more than someone else, it should mean doing more with that knowledge to affect positive change for all." We raise our glasses and cheer: Huzzah! This is exactly why we set sail.

Morning comes with a blazing red sky: sailors take warning! In the glare of dawn, another enemy emerges. His ship is old and creaky, but no less deadly for that. Mike O'Risal puts down the looking glass and announces we've sighted the ship Of Cockroaches, Creationists, and Clyde Berg: the Arguments of Insects. We are prepared. We know we'd face a 'berg sometime on this voyage. Mike loads his blunderbuss and trades shots with Clyde. It was an uneven battle from the beginning: "The sum of human knowledge has evolved massively since the first prefrontal cortex appeared upon this planet. That of cockroaches hasn't changed at all and, apparently, neither has that of the Clydes of this world." Alas, no. Clyde could no more win this battle than a cockroach could.

We dock at a rough-and-ready trader's cove, full of pirates, prostitutes, and peacocks. As we traverse the noisome street from dock to tavern, a strutting middle-manager attempts to win a battle of wits with Cousinavi from Veritas Nihilum Vincet, forgetting that a man who speaks Latin always wins against a man who speaks only corporate pidgin English. Cousinavi shows his true Elitist Bastardry: “Don’t you fucking condescend to me, you illiterate imbecile. I invented condescension!” he bellows, sending the middle-manager scurrying for the safety of his cube.

Alas, his defeat proves no warning to the gaggle of fundies now descending upon us. We fall in shoulder-to-shoulder, ready for a long and frustrating battle of wits against the witless. But lo! Karen Simon pushes us gently aside and descends upon them, Using the Bible as an Elitist Bastard Weapon! They greet her at first as a comrade-in-arms, until a few wisely-wielded verses destroy their arguments and force them to flee. "The beauty of the Bible is that the the authorship is so vast and the opinions expressed so varied that you can justify almost anything," Karen informs us as she sheathes her leather-bound weapon.

Ah, how we laugh, we mighty crew of the Elitist Bastard! We return to our ship rested, rejuvenated, and ready for the next engagement. As we reach the mouth of the bay, we pass another ship of the line, come from England. "Prime Minister’s Questions ‘Cross the Pond," Ames observes. "The UK Parliament has a fantastic tradition, known as Prime Minister’s Questions. Every Wednesday at noon, the Prime Minister faces pointed, brutally phrased questions, which he must deflect with wit and candor. Should he fail, he faces the harangues of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle." We agree that this tradition should be spread far and wide, and hope the good ship Prime Minister's Questions wins fame at every port of call.

Back at sea, a storm is brewing. The skies grow dark and wild. We never expected such weather at this time of the year, but George from Decrepit Old Fool is able to tell us why we're seeing foul weather now: Because Mother Nature Isn't Waiting For Us to Wise Up. "It’s time to go on the offensive against anti-intellectualism, anti-science, and anti-elitism, and start calling stupidity by its right name. As a culture we need to stop thinking in slogans and start celebrating complexity, depth, and study, and if the answer to a problem is complicated, then it’s complicated and that’s fine. It’s time to stop pretending that the laws of nature don’t apply to us." We roar our approval. Yes, this is why we sailed out, and the storm tells us that we have sailed just in the nick of time.

We batten down the hatches, and Blake Stacey from Science After Sunclipse helps us weather the storm by reminding us of that there is An Alloy of Pleasures available to the Elitist Bastard. At times, we may be discouraged by the sheer volume of the enemy we face, both in terms of numbers and the cacophany of misinformation roaring from them. Our hearing is more acute by virtue of who we are. Sometimes, it may seem better to be deaf to such things, but Blake reminds us: "Precisely because online science writing makes irascible iconoclasm a way of life, though, it teaches the joy of discourse and the admiration of written words which, finally, work." We give three cheers for words that work: Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! And so the storm passes, in both the actual and the metaphorical sense.

We sail for days before we engage in our next battle: we run unexpectedly across a fleet of sub-standard education, apathetic students, and atrocious grammar. We are taken aback by the overwhelming numbers of this enemy, but NP, one of En Tequila Es Verdad's esteemed co-bloggers, is undaunted. "Friends, Americans, countrymen, Lend Me Your Dictionaries!" she cries with a hearty laugh. "The written word is a powerful weapon. Writers wield whole worlds with their pens, and, unlike surgeons, lawyers, and real estate agents, there is no examination that must be passed in order to become certified. Anyone can become a writer with just an idea, paper, and pen." We take up those weapons, and after a days-long and epic battle, we triumph. The difference between they're and their is secured!

As we set a course home to our port-of-call, our host Dana Hunter regales the triumphant crew with a story she told on the pages of NP's The Coffee-Stained Writer. We are not the only swashbuckling intellectuals: there is at least one other whose pen is as mighty as his sword. He once gave Dana a deep draught of the heady wine of wisdom. "I Drink the Wine... But the Taste Lingers!" she says, pouring us all brimming glasses full. And we drink - my friends, we drink deep!

Our maiden voyage ends in triumph. As we sail into port, past docks lined with cheering citizens, we know that our mission has not been in vain. The HMS Elitist Bastard has fulfilled her purpose. We celebrate now, knowing we can never rest on our laurels. There will be many more voyages, countless battles to fight, and many islands of ignorance to conquer. We win by inches. But we win.

We are the Elitist Bastards, and we shall sail again!


NP said...

Love it!

CS McClellan/Catana said...

Congratulations. First shots over the bows and into the hulls. You simultaneously made and killed my day. I'm sure I'll find inspiration for taking down a mainmast or two.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Dana and everyone for a great launch.

Thanks for including us and here's another link to peruse.

"Saving for the Deluge"

brian said...

this is fantastic.

i've been a hard-core pharyngula reader for a long time, but this is an incredible addition.

haha i'd love to be a petty officer on the HMS Elitist Bastard. just call me a deckhand, happy to provide color commentary on all stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Dana, you got linked by PZ!!! Look for super traffic for all!!!

Dana Hunter said...

@Ames: I saw that! LOL! I figured something was up when I checked to see who was on the site and Sitemeter returned 10 FUCKING PAGES! Welcome, Pharyngulites! Drinks are on the house. Make yourselves to home and enjoy the Carnival!


@Brian: You have me blushing so hard right now my face should melt! Thankee kindly! We'll be happy to have you on board, sailor!

@NP: Excellent!

@Catana: Huzzah! I certainly do hope you find inspiration for a cannon blast or two - I've seen what you're capable of, my lass, and I think we need you manning the guns next go round!

@Goesdownbitter: Glad to have you on board, my dear! See you next voyage?

All of my crew members, you've done a spectacular job! Thank you from the bottom of my rum bottle for making this happen!

nisemono3.14 said...

I raise my nearly-empty bottle of rum to all of you.

This is highly brilliant, and inspiring stuff you have going on here.

Plus, you are helping to fight global warming!!

Joshua said...

Didn't manage to get a post in time for this carnival but now I'm somewhat glad I didn't since the general quality of posts is much higher than anything I would have likely produced.

Anonymous said...

This is the greatest thing I have read in a very long time.

The next time I'm doing physics while drinking tequila (and this happens every week) I'll sacrifice some accuracy with the taylor expansions for shots in honor of this.

I am definitely subscribing to the carnival of elitist bastards from now on.

Anonymous said...

Nay, nay, heave to ya horn swogglin' landlubbers!

thar be need for more piratey speak herebouts.

"Thar be many more voyages, countless battles t' swashbuckle, an' many isles, arrr o' ignorance t' conquer."

Now then me buccos, pour grog down yer gullets 'till it flows out yer ears!

Anonymous said...

OK. Another blog complaining that "the world is teh suxors." And what lasting change will this accomplish?

We're still stuck with one of three maniacs in the White House come 2009. Oh, sorry, Obama fans, but your Messiah is a false one, I'm afraid. McCain will get us into 215 more wars, and Ms. Clinton appears to be a terminator from the future, because she NEVER gives up.

But, yeah, ideology will save us all. You keep working with that. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Well done Dana,this is just fantastic !!

Anonymous said...

finally, something to sink my teeth into. I volunteer to give the figurehead a good scrub down and cook when the head cook is feeling, how shall I say this ..... under the weather :-)
By the Way, into the RSS feed you go!

Atheist Chaplain

Paul Sunstone said...

Well done, Dana! Thanks for including me!

Dana Hunter said...

@Paul: You earned your berth, my lad!

All of you, thank you kindly, sincerely, and profoundly. I wish I had time to respond to every one of you personally just now. You've all completely made my night!

Mozglubov said...

I wandered over here from Pharyngula and I have to say that I was nearly late for work because I spent much longer than my allotted time for breakfast reading all the posts...

Part of what made me so excited is that I wrote something along these same lines a while ago too! Not nearly as well-thought out as some of these, but maybe enough to allow me to dangle from the ropes or stow away in the lifeboats...


BekahDekah said...

Just finished this fantastic carnival that I started reading this morning - another fan sent by PZ. It's now 9pm at my place. I've already marked several posts to reread at leisure later and have added this carnival to my bookmarks.

Well done! Thank you!

JB said...

I have to say:
This. Is. Awesome.
I'm only sorry I didn't learn about this sooner, I'd love to be a part of it, as I am a skeptical pirate blogger myself.

Anonymous said...

Don't know about y'all, but I've had 150 views from just this Carnival page only. Outstanding job Dana.

Anonymous said...

Wanted to put my cutlass in the circle and say Huzzah! Huzzah!

Fantastic job Dana and the hits have been tremendous. You should be very proud of putting this together.

Blake Stacey said...

I'm already gearing up for next time! :-)

Cobalt said...

Absolutely outstanding.

Robert P. Thille said...

I whipped up a quick badge to tag myself as an Elitist here.

inchirieri apartamente cluj said...

Your ending phrase "We are the Elitist Bastards, and we shall sail again!" sound like one of an authentic pirate :P.

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