So I guess I can now reveal that no, I am not jackass enough to imagine that the “John E Walker” Bigfoot video is so compelling as to command the attention of SkepticBlog or the Skeptologists.
The video was made and sent to me back in January by John Rael of SkepticallyPwnd.com, and he asked me to write up something that looked like a critical review of it. He said it would be easy, since it’s such a lame video, and I suppose it was. It would have been easier if it had been more compelling. When a video is so dumb, it’s kind of hard to say anything intelligent about it.
I’m not exactly sure what role I played in his gag, but what the heck, it was a fun little lark. His reveal video is here.
But Google Alerts made this a little more fun. Turns out some Bigfoot site, the Bigfoot Lunch Club, picked up on my SkepticBlog analysis and found it lacking. The author’s comments are well worth a read:
Today SkepticBlog wrote a post about a video they received a link to. They thought they would make fun of it and call themselves skeptics.
I always wanted a Bigfoot video to make fun of, so I could finally award myself the badge of Skeptic.
And then, to support his statement, he quoted the last two paragraphs of my original post about the video. These two paragraphs followed what was, I think, at least a half decent discussion of what was actually known about the video: its time, place, equipment used, and stuff that’s actually testable. There was none, so I wrapped up with a laissez-faire rumination:
Maybe it is a Bigfoot. Maybe it’s a guy in a suit, one that flares out bellbottom style, like my own cheap-ass gorilla suit does. Maybe it’s an autonomous robot in a suit. Maybe it’s a Bigfoot in a Bigfoot suit. Maybe it’s an example of high-end composite work combined with low-end 3D modeling, all rendered on Renderman.
The fact is that we can’t really know or conclude much of anything about this video, and the million others like it. We can’t prove it’s a fake any more than we can prove it’s a real Bigfoot. What it is is crappy evidence. It’s not testable. It’s fun, and it’s interesting, but its value as evidence is zero. Its value as an anecdote is that it suggests a direction for research. So to all who feel motivated: Grab your 3CCD cameras and head on up to Greenhorn, Oregon. A bellbottomed Bigfoot might be waiting for you.
And then he brought out the big guns, to show by comparison how lame those self-described “skeptics” really are. He quoted from someone named Autumn Williams, evidently a much more serious Bigfoot enthusiast, who had “dug a little bit deeper” into the video in her own analysis:
I’m not sure what to say here. No offense intended if you’re trying to be serious (it sure sounded that way?), but the hair is obviously synthetic, the face appears to be a poor reconstruction of a “planet of the apes” theme, the makeup pitiful, the movements awkward, the staging is obvious, subtle references to the Patterson film are rather amusing… and I’d have to say, if it’s not an attempt at a hoax on your part, you’ve been hoaxed. Somehow, though, I find it difficult to believe that you could follow something for that long and NOT know it was someone in a stovepipe-legged, poorly-made suit. I didn’t even need to pause the footage to tell that…
…Finally, asking people for “offers” and having “james randi” in your tags in your youtube account is a dead giveaway that you’re looking for money. I’m sorry, but ol’ Jim won’t buy it, and I doubt anyone else will either.
“Kudos to Autumn Williams,” he went on to conclude. Well, I take issue. This analysis by Autumn is guilty of exactly the kind of useless commentary I panned in my Skeptoid episode about Bigfoot research. She makes no attempt to address anything in the video that’s testable. She basically says only that it’s a really stupid looking suit. That’s a terrible analysis. The first person who ever saw an okapi probably thought it was a really stupid looking suit too.
To Autumn, and to your Bigfoot Lunch Club associate, I suggest you work on improving your analytical skills. You have to have testable evidence if you want anyone to take your claims seriously. You omitted the part of my blog where I discussed what was testable (which was almost nothing), so it was of course very easy to make my analysis look weak. But if what you quoted here was the strongest part of your analysis, the rest of it must have been strongly wanting. Red herrings, like mentioning the James Randi reference in the YouTube description, are not testable data. The assertion “The movements are awkward” is not testable data, and since some animals are awkward as hell, it’s not even a useful observation. “The hair is obviously synthetic” is laughable. If you can truly discern synthetic hair from real hair by a YouTube video shot from a distance, you’re a freaking wizard.
So, Mr. bravely-anonymous Bigfoot Lunch Club, you’ve not succeeded in impressing me, and if this is the level of analysis that passes for science with you, you’ve got a long way to go before you’re going to impress anyone. Oh, and it appears that you’ve been SkepticallyPwnd by Mr. Rael.
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