Flamebaiting as a marketing strategy?

So today I made the mistake of using the #atheism hashtag on Twitter. It wasn’t really a mistake, I did it purposefully, and was aware that it brands me exactly as I’m comfortable being branded. What I didn’t expect was the troll I got in response.

He doesn’t fit the classic description of a troll or flamebaiter per se, or at least not MY definition. He’s a calm enough guy who’s simply making the same old tired, illogical, badly-presented arguments. In particular he’s claiming that atheism is, in fact, a religion, and that he has proof of this, a list of 5 gods that atheists believe in, and that we need to stop saying we don’t have belief or that we lack belief.

Where it gets interesting, though, is that he mainly avoids making the arguments themselves, only referencing the fact that he has them. Why? Because he has a convenient eBook available for sale on his website that has all those answers! And it retails for only $4.99, which is actually quite reasonable. $4.99 is almost inexpensive enough to be worth me buying just to read his arguments which I’ll likely immediately recognize from decades of others making the exact same tired arguments, along with nonsensical ramblings full of logical fallacies. Then I’d have the ammunition with which to refute his claims directly and show him how flawed they are, assuming he’s capable of following an intelligent argument.

And right there is where I realized this guy’s hidden brilliance. Regardless of whether he believes his claims (I have no reason to doubt that he does), and regardless of whether I and many more knowledgeable folks can rip said claims to shreds, is irrelevant. Why? Because the moment he’s successfully baited us into wanting to read his evidence to dispute his inanity he’s made $4.99 off us (minus fees, of course). At that point we could prove he’s one of the worst authors on the planet and has no skills whatsoever in philosophy or theology, and he’ll still have proven that what he lacks in those fields he makes up for in marketing strategy. Much like Brian Dunning once pointed out, sure you can make a better hamburger than McDonald’s, but you can’t make a better business. It’s not about the product, it’s about the selling of said product. And this guy deserves some credit for that. I can make a better argument than he can, but at the end of the day, which of us has made $4.99 off the other?

I’ve purposefully avoided linking to the person in question, but if you’re interested in checking out what he has to say, look to my Twitter feed. While I personally don’t wish to financially support his flawed arguments or deceptive practices, I won’t prevent you from doing so. He is pretty clever, and perhaps some may feel he deserves a few bucks for that. So be it. Now, should he wish to send me a FREE copy of the eBook and prove this wasn’t his strategy and he really does want open and honest discussion of the subject, I’d be happy to review it here. But I’m not paying for the privilege of arguing with him. I’m not that big of a masochist.

EDIT 5/18/10: I realize I’m doing nobody justice by not providing some link to this guy’s chatter, especially since he’s apparently still at it, even if he left me alone when it was clear I wasn’t buying (his book or his BS). So check out his Twitter feed to see what he’s up to.

Free Willy–wait, that’s not right…

I’ve seen this image before, but it popped up in my RSS reader again today, and I just had to share it.

It’s a sad and scary truth…

(image courtesy of Crooked Timber)

EDIT: Luke from LukeSurl.com has commented below and come forward as the source of this great image. Check it out on its original page, along with his other great work, here.