The Whole Life Expo is:
Canada’s largest showcase of natural health, alternative medicine, and eco-friendly lifestyles. With 60 speakers and over 200 exhibitors, Whole Life Expo brings you the most comprehensive array of natural health products and services ever gathered under one roof.
… Im sure one of two of you read that and rolled your eyes a little bit. Well, so did some skeptics/atheists in Toronto. A few of them decided it would be fun to go and see what was going on, take some pictures and maybe write a follow up blog post or two to discuss what they found.
Well, it all went a little honky. As soon as some of the Skeptics North people showed up they were identified as skeptics and specifically asked not to take pictures of videos of what was going on at the fair. This request was accompanied by a couple announcements over the PA system to watch out for the skeptics milling about the hall. Now… I can’t say for sure how the rest of this all played out or who was egging who on to say what – but eventually someone at the expo said something like “do you think it would be funny if i punched you in the face?” (which to me sounds like an exhausted response to something provoking said by the other side that no one has [or likely will] fess-up to saying). So then… all this happened (hopefully that audio works, if it doesn’t let me know and I’ll sort it out). If you listen to the audio file you will hear some interesting things happening. …The “punch in the face” comment was all twisted by Justin Trottier (the main voice on the audio) to be a threat to Michael’s life. Then there is a bunch of redundant and silly back and forth that just sounds immature and embarrassing.
There are a few things I want to say about the whole mess:
1. Don’t take pictures
If you go to another groups event and they ask you not to take pictures and videos – don’t take pictures and videos. I think it’s reasonable for them to ask – there have been events at CFI where people were asked not to take picture and video… And to snap a photo from upstairs in the hall and then say you’re “out of the exhibition hall” just makes you sound dumb. You obviously know that you’re in the same building that they asked you not to take pictures inside of… and you know that you’re taking pictures of the things they asked you not to take pictures of. To try and pass it off as being legitimate is ridiculous.
I think it is important for us all to remember that we need to avoid overreacting and sensationalism. It was wrong for the security guard to do a half/hearted threat to Michael about the punch in the face. But to blow this up as a threat to someones life?! To say that you are genuinely scared for your life because of it?! Come on, this just makes you sound like a child overemphasizing the playground squabble to get the school-teacher on your side. If people know you exaggerated something, especially to this extent, you start to lose your creditability in the whole issue. Far fewer people, including myself, would have taken this entire situation more seriously if it hadn’t been substantially blow out of proportion. Now it just makes it all seem like a big ol’ joke.
3. Doesn’t CFI have better things to do?
Skeptics North is a blog that should definitely be covering this stuff, but doesn’t CFI-Canada have better things to do? It seems like a waste of CFI’s resources to make this into such a big spectacle. As commenter #12 says on the CFI post…
It seems to me CFI is running off the rails, instead of applying effort to fundraising, large sensational media and going after important issues like religion in government or census representation that affect everyone, we are taking on hippies and flakes at the whole life show, pretty pathetic really, immature is another word that comes to mind, after seeing the altercation and the ensuing over blogging of it I wonder what CFI really stands for…..
4. Looking for a fight
There is something to be said for being polite to people. You are taken more seriously and come out as the bigger person. Listening to that audio, who sounds like the bigger person? Who sounds like they’re simply looking for a fight? Justin keeps jabbing at the issue and trying to make someone say something so he can snap at it.
5. Freedom of speech
Now I am not entirely on the side of the Whole Life Expo – they definitely shut out a voice that had the right to be there. Whether or not CFI/the skeptics did enough to warrant their removal from the expo is definitely up for debate. When people on the other side of an issue show up at CFI they don’t get asked to leave or told not to take pictures of the books and photos there… CFI fosters open debate and discussion about this issues. Unfortunately there is a lot of money in natural foods/health products, so I can see why they would want to keep people from exposing anything illegitimate about their products. From a purely business point of view it was in their benefit to kick the skeptics out, but from a freedom of speech and honest debate point of view… it wasn’t a good thing.
(Having said that, if I was them I probably would have kicked them out too… making a stink, taking pictures when they weren’t supposed to and saying people are threatening their life …when they aren’t… is enough to kick people out of an event. But some might disagree.)