Friday, April 24, 2015

Free speech means only thing: free speech!

There are nutcases everywhere.  Even at academic conferences.

The other day I was checking out the exhibitor booths.  And I was shocked to find a booth with a banner that read "Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization."  With a whole bunch of information brochures and documents.  Of course, I didn't want to grab any of the papers.  But, I scanned a few without touching them.  It felt creepy like hell.  It caught me off-guard; I just didn't expect such a nutcase to have a booth at the academic conference.

Naturally, I was tempted to click a couple of photos.  But then as a brown-skinned person with an accent, I chose to avoid that action.  I didn't want to confront the maniac working that booth, when one of the papers there made it clear that immigration to the US is a problem!  I stood there for a couple of minutes.  Two people stopped to chat with the maniac.  And then one other person went into the booth.  Guess what?  All were white men.

Later, as I always do, I checked my Twitter feed, and wanted to find out what people were commenting about the conference.  (Hashtag #AAG2015.)  One of the tweets was this:
More than anything else, I now had the photo that I wanted to take but did not.

If it were a tad clearer then you would be able to read what was in that paper on the top-right.  So, let me tell you what it was: a boastful statement that they were banned at two meetings of the AAAS, which is the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

When I was there at the booth, I thought it was interesting that the AAAS had kicked them out but the AAG had not.  Which is what I made sure to note in my reply tweet:
I am feeling mighty good about my professional association for granting the space to this nutcase organization, even when a much larger--and more influential--scientific community had apparently banned them.  It is easy to ban such nutcases.  But, it is way more awesome to permit them to make fools of themselves.

Free speech means making room for nutcases too.  I love free speech, even if the speech from nutcases makes me want to puke!

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