When 1,600 atheists and skeptics come to town, the local media pays attention. PZ already linked to this article on Skepticon, calling it positive press, but I don’t think that’s entirely true, at least when you consider the underlying reality.
The first thing you need to know is that we had neighbors in the convention center where Skepticon was held. Here’s what the article had to say about them:
Volunteers have been working since Friday packaging meals for victims of Hurricane Sandy. “We work with all different groups, different churches, non-denominational, cross denominations, just everybody,” says Karen Wood with Friends Against Hunger.
And Wood says the meals a million packathon brought in just that. “We’ve had all different types of groups and they’ve done such a great job working together, we’ve seen kids from nine to 99 help package this meal and you can really see that you’re making a difference,” says Wood.
Quite nice, and almost entirely accurate. Here’s a taste of how we were covered:
“Skepticon is well known everywhere as a place where you’ll find lots of obnoxious and aggressive atheists and skeptics,” says Biologist and professor from the University of Minnesota, Morris, P.Z. Myers.
“Atheists are such an under represented minority so to be able to openly discuss it is a beautiful thing,” says Jack Boyer who drove to Springfield from Manhattan, Kansas to attend the convention.
They let their style guide override the actual spelling of PZ’s name, but it’s not bad. There’s video that makes PZ’s dry humor a bit more obvious. Boyer’s quote is highly sympathetic.
Then there’s the pleasant end of the article:
But despite their differences, “My husband and I are Christian,” says Wood, both crowds had something in common. “It’s so diverse, from what I can tell there’s people from all over,” says Boyer.
Sweet, right? There’s just one problem, though you’ll never spot it in the article. Take a look at Skepticon’s schedule. It won’t take you long to spot it.
From 2:00-5:30 pm, you can help a local non-profit organization pack meals for the hungry.
That was the Friday afternoon of Skepticon. That means that we were one of the first groups to help package meals.
That strikes me as something a bit more important to have in common than having some people who “ain’t from around here”, yet it’s nowhere to be found in the press we got. This is one of those lovely times when the “interfaith” became completely about faith. We are not “non-denominational”. We’re a bunch of atheists who got together for a weekend, some of whom did something good. And who were then completely ignored because they didn’t fit the narrative.
I don’t know that there was anything malicious about it, either on the part of Friends Against Hunger or on the part of the station covering the two events. It’s just one of the risks of doing things that contradict the standard story of who does what good. You become invisible.
At least one of the attendees had some fun challenging preconceptions with her volunteering: