A Just-So Tale, by “Zep”
Once upon a time, or maybe twice, a skeptic named Zep who used to post on the JREF forum1 was instead taking the skeptical word to where it was needed most by posting on a Pakistani homeopathy forum. All homeopathy forums on the internet are like little clubs which allow in only members they like, and they usually hated skeptics or anyone who asked questions really. But this homeopathy forum was the only one that allowed skeptics to post without banning them immediately on sight. Zep was a skeptic and knew the homeopaths didn’t like him, so Zep and the other skeptics there were always very polite on that forum.
Also on that forum posted one of the well-known stars of Pakistani homeopathy: Dr. “MAS”2. MAS was not really a doctor, he just printed out bits of paper that said he was and thought everyone should believe whatever he said without question. He was quick to make up all sorts of stories about science and homeopathy and put them on the internet. But if you asked him to produce any evidence to support these stories and show why they were true, he did his level best to ignore your questions and make fun of you instead!
You see, MAS was a bit of a jolly joker for his little gang of friends in Gujrat, Pakistan, when it came to “dealing with skeptics”. They thought it was amusing and really cool when MAS came up with pranks, excuses, lies and insults, and acting the giddy goat. But MAS’s real, secret, sneaky plan was to use his contacts with some shady people to get a promotion to be a big, powerful politician in Pakistan so he could boss everyone else around and make himself very rich. Not that MAS ever admitted that was his real plan, even to his gang.
Zep and the other skeptics knew MAS knew nothing about science or homeopathy and they said so politely on the forum where everyone could read. So MAS would try to make the skeptics angry by making wild challenges at them to try to make them look silly and angry. Because the skeptics knew what MAS was trying to do, MAS never succeeded, but he never learned so he kept on trying.
And so to our story today.
MAS decided to try and put down the skeptics and challenge Zep to meet him in person anywhere in the world. He wanted to make fun of Zep when Zep refused. MAS wanted to say that the skeptics were too scared to meet him because he was too clever and too famous. MAS knew Zep lived on the other side of the world from Pakistan, so he thought Zep was certain to refuse. So MAS thought Zep was going to be an easy target for his insults.
But much to MAS’s confusion, Zep said that indeed he would agree to a meeting anywhere in the world and said a meeting in London would be the most acceptable, which should be easy for MAS to get to. Zep told MAS that he visited London regularly, so it should be possible to organise a suitable date for a meeting.
So MAS suddenly found he was in a bit of a pickle! His attempt at insulting a skeptic was starting to backfire. And because of his pride and his public offer in front of his gang, he could not let himself back down. Hoping to bluff it out and for Zep to back out, MAS tried to sound calm and said he would certainly come to a meeting in London. He then jokingly asked Zep for a date for the meeting.
Then that joke started to go wrong for MAS, and in front of all his gang too. Zep immediately responded with an exact date and a location: 4th of October at the Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars, London. He even provided MAS with online pictures and a map to show it was a real place.
MAS was now caught on his own hook. How could he back out now? His pride would not let him. So he agreed to the date and location, but still insisted this was a “skeptic trick” of some sort. So then something curious happened: MAS’s gang said on the forum they wanted to come to the meeting too, to witness this historic meeting. Clearly MAS was trying to force Zep to give in and not turn up. He thought that getting his whole gang of homeopaths to say they would come too would intimidate Zep…
…but MAS was wrong and so was his gang. Zep replied, “The more the merrier!” and invited anyone else MAS wanted to the meeting as well. “In fact,” said Zep, “because it is the famous MAS, at least 20 skeptics were now going to come to the meeting as well.”
So MAS tried a different and original excuse to get out of going to the very meeting he had organised himself. He told the forum that to get a tourist visa to go to London from Pakistan, he needed an official letter from Zep to the Pakistani government saying exactly who Zep was and where he lived and all about the meeting. It also needed to explain that MAS was invited to this meeting and that he needed the tourist visa. Clever people will see that MAS was really trying to get a lot of private information from Zep so he could harass him later. Obviously MAS expected Zep would realise that, and so get angry and refuse. And that would give MAS the excuse he needed to not come to the meeting.
Except there was one problem for MAS. Zep actually checked the United Kingdom and Pakistani passport laws and found there was absolutely no requirement for a letter for MAS to get a tourist visa. He showed this information to MAS and his gang on the forum, and asked why MAS was still insisting on the letter. MAS got angry about this and insisted even louder that the letter was necessary. But some of MAS’s gang started to ask him why he needed it when his own government and UK laws clearly said he didn’t. And that made MAS even angrier still. So did the news from Zep that over a hundred people were coming to the Mermaid Theatre on the 4th of October.
Now MAS’s pride and obstinacy started to take control of him. He insisted even more angrily that he could not get a tourist visa without that letter. Zep, and then more of MAS’s gang too, asked MAS why he couldn’t be a tourist with a tourist visa, but strangely, MAS never ever gave a reason why. After a week or more of this banter on the forum, Zep announced there were now many hundreds of skeptics coming to the Mermaid Theatre. MAS still tried to pretend he was coming too but it became obvious he had tripped himself up very badly all along the way.
As for the gang members who had said they were coming, they found they could obtain UK tourist visas easily enough. But without MAS’s assistance, they could not afford the plane tickets to London. It turned out MAS had promised them he would ask some of his shady friends to pay for everyone to fly to London and back. But since he was making a mess of everything for himself and he was probably not even going to leave Gujrat, they could not go either. Some of the gang were starting to get quite indignant towards MAS about this – they had wanted to go to London!
As 4th of October came closer, Zep told the forum that his travel plans were now in order and that about five hundred people were coming to the Mermaid Theatre! Zep asked MAS if he really would be there on the day, but MAS still insisted he needed the visa letter even though that excuse was obviously bogus and he just looked sillier and sillier.
Come the big day, 4th of October 2009, and hundreds of skeptics came to the Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars, London. Over the next two days, the inaugural TAM London3, a global convention of skeptics and skepticism, was a roaring success. A great time was had by all…but strangely no homeopaths appeared. Certainly, no-one appeared who said they were from Gujrat or Pakistan or even anyone who said they were a messenger from MAS.
So what happened with MAS and his gang? Did they realise what had happened and what an opportunity they had missed to take on the skeptics? Clearly they had not. Because one noticeable shortcoming all homeopaths have is their refusal to do research, and the Pakistani homeopaths were no exception. It would have taken only five minutes of basic looking-up on the internet when Zep first gave the meeting date and location to discover that TAM London was already advertised at the Mermaid Theatre at Blackfriars for the 4th of October. The skeptics on the forum did their research and realised the connection almost immediately. But not one homeopath did. So for over five weeks leading up to TAM London, they simply did not realise what they had been invited to.
So after TAM London finished, Zep told the homeopaths all about it openly on the forum, including all the clues that would have made it easy for them to see that they were being invited to TAM London. MAS still pretended he wasn’t angry. And of course he tried to lie his way out of his predicament by trying to invent wilder and wilder excuses for not attending. But Zep showed time and again by posting evidence publicly that MAS was just making this stuff up too.
MAS’s gang was not very pleased with him either and began to say so publicly. They were obviously not pleased to be associated with someone who had lied to everyone so consistently. Zep even received private forum messages from some of the homeopaths explaining in more detail what they knew about MAS’s shady friends and shady deals in Gujrat. Clearly MAS was rapidly making himself persona non grata – a person whom people did not really want around – with the Pakistani homeopaths. Finally it became too much for the Pakistani homeopaths with MAS humiliating them. Zep agreed with them because he thought most of the other Pakistani homeopaths were at least decent and honourable people.
But MAS had one final Pyrrhic fling – using his shady contacts he had the homeopathy forum shut down completely so no-one could ever read how he had so humiliated himself and the Pakistani homeopaths. And that is where it is today. That forum has now been “Closed for one month maintenance” since mid-October 2009, which was nearly four months ago…
And that is how MAS did not come to TAM.
Think this isn’t a true story? Then look here: www.nch.ipbfree.com
Editor’s note, February 19, 2010
The NCH forum has returned, which enabled me to secure the thread in question. It can be downloaded here (PDF):