Liveblogging FFRF on The Daily Show March 8, 2010

Liveblogging FFRF on The Daily Show

Alright, I’m jealous that Dan Barker has met Jason Jones.

They’re mocking FFRF. But it’s pretty damn funny.

Dan Barker comes off looking intelligent and level-headed and reasonable about what they are trying to accomplish and what they reasonably can accomplish.

Ooh… Barker now comes off attacking Mother Teresa. Which is tough to do without sounding kooky. The editing is good.

“Tentacles”?! “Conspiracy”? Oh, this isn’t good.

This Da Vinci Code tangent isn’t funny…

Hm. Not all that funny. I wouldn’t have minded them poking fun at Dan some more, but the segment just got weird after they were done with him…

Your thoughts?

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  • I have to wonder how much more Barker said about Teresa. There’s a good case to be made against her image as a humanitarian, but they don’t show him making it. Did he not make it, or did they edit it out because they thought it would make a better joke that way?

  • FFRF needs to drop this. It’s bad for their image, and in the end what will they have accomplished? They might get rid of a postage stamp? Who cares?!

    Not to mention that he preambled his little Roman Catholic church insanity with “I don’t really want to make this public”. Really Dan Barker? Really?

  • Unfortunate that he went into the truth about Theresa. Trying to think of the message the daily show was hoping to send with the davinci code skit. It’s not like the FFRF’s decision to protest the Theresa stamp has been in the news… U think they were trying to say that the FFRF over-reacts in these situations, or chooses our battles poorly? Or maybe they were just sayin the FFRF is a bunch of nutjobs… Was it a jab at the orginization, or just at this particular decision?

  • Alan E.

    I personally liked the DVC part after. yes there was the part that made it look bad (which as you mentioned is tough not to do), but you almost forget about it with the second part. I got a kick out of the skit, but then again, I had knocked back a few before watching it.

  • Pwned. You have to pick your fights wisely, and not only is this fight unwise, I feel it’s wrong. If someone has done good, it should not be discounted because of her religion. I would be furious if my good acts were to be put aside for my atheism.

    As for FFRP needing to drop this, it should not have been picked up in the first place. Conspiracy theory is a losing proposition.

  • Matthius

    @Jimspice I’m sort of with you, but I’ve been talking to people a lot about the Catholic church in general right now.
    I feel like yes Mother Theresa did right by her charitable acts, but having heard the topics covered by Hitchens it seems she has a bit of a darker side as well.
    That being said, what the hell are they doing protesting Mother Theresa stamps, it sounds like they’ve been spending too much time away from non-strident-atheists.

  • Eric

    I have to agree with what Jason Jones said at the beginning. “This is what you’re making your stand over? THIS?”

    Mother Theresa may have been a religious figure but she is also equated by many as a great humanitarian. Whether or not it is deserved or not, it is firmly cemented as her reputation.

  • Oregon76

    What FFRF does was not portrayed in this clip. The show is indeed a comedy, but turned the message Dan Barker meant to share into something it was not. Barker had many valid points that were more then likely cut, to serve the laugh factor of the show.

  • I think they made Dan Barker out to look a little like a kook when he’s got a great message. Mother Theresa didn’t do anything for the poor but give them a place to die but she was all about raising money for the Catholic church. Hopefully the publicity will be good for the ffrf.

  • “Charitable acts”?
    If you take Hitchens seriously (and I do) she performed no charitable acts whatsoever. Despite her control of many millions of dollars, she never established a hospital, she never hired a doctor or nurse, she never distributed food to the starving, and she never dispensed any medicine stronger than an aspirin.
    She provided a tent with a cot for sick people to die in, provided they agreed to convert to Catholicism first. That’s it. The rest of the money she was given went to proselytizing. She was an obscene witch.

  • Erik

    This was a bad decision by Barker. How do you NOT know what the Daily Show is going to do with a story like this? Of course they’ll mock you – that’s what they do in these segments!

    If you’re going to make a case against a figure like Mother Theresa, you do it in an appropriate venue where you can articulate your points. You don’t do it on a comedy show.

    I agree this is not the fight to make public. Bad PR. Bad move. Pick another fight you can actually get some widespread support for.

  • Steve

    I’m sorry to say, but Barker got his ass handed to him. He came off as a complete conspiracy quack. I was very embarrassed. I don’t know if this was a bad edit job, or if he is just awful at this PR thing.

  • Sarah TX.

    I think Dan Barker came off really well.

    Most people who watch the Daily Show recognize that the interviewers intentionally try to draw out or sensationalize any statements or arguments made by the guest. Barker did a pretty good job of image management: he stated the case clearly and calmly.

  • Alex Wilkins

    I really hated it all, an it kind of changed the way I look at The John Stewart Show. Yes the fight Dan Barker is fighting here is stupid, but they made him look like a conspiracy nut.

    Not only that but this piece made me realize how many people really believe that mother Teresa was a good person.

    You have to look at this piece the same way every piece they do like this. Are you there thinking these people are reasoned, or do you think they’re whackjobs? I for one think the latter about those people, and I think the audience reaction mirrors that.

  • AWayfaringStrainer

    Given how they have treated others, Dan came across as good as could be expected. The stamp guy who said it was no big deal because they already print Christmas stamps was unfortunate. Postal regulations do put stronger limits on honoring individuals, especially of religious deeds, but then again, the Daily Show was looking for humor, not the facts. Dan was right when he admitted he should not say “conspiracy” in public. Instead, I wished he had focused on why are not they printing the stamp with her real name, Agnese Bojaxhiu?

    Btw, radio will most likely talk about the show this weekend. Can’t wait to hear Dan’s side, including how long the interview went.

  • Claudia

    Sorry, but when you sit down with the Daily Show correspondants, you kinda renounce your right to have your position portrayed fairly and with nuance. You damn well better have a grade-A spokesman who will stay on-topic, never say anything awkward (like “its a conspiracy”) and hammer 10 second or less talking points that can’t easily be edited. Otherwise you will be pwned, these people are masters of their trade.

    There’s a good case to be made against putting Mother Theresa on a stamp based on her biography, but its a nuanced position and therefore not at all one that you’re going to get on the show. Dan should have declined the interview.

  • BeeDee

    Dan spent three hours with Daily Show staff and it was reduced to 5:39 on the air. He’s a bright and funny man and not some kind of conspiracy nut, which was the angle Comedy Central chose to present. It was sort of a low (and easy) road to take. The good-humored folks at FFRF are a little disappointed but take it in stride. The show chose to go for cheap laughs rather than educate or inform by presenting a view that’s contrary to conventional wisdom.

  • DemetriusOfPharos


    In regards to the appearance, meh. A decent interview with Stewart would be nice (maybe next book?) but overall the whole thing was set up for comedy. Barker is smart enough to have realized that before going in, so he played along. Bully for him.

    In regards to the Mother Theresa stamp, meh. FFRF has a valid complaint, but this is honestly something that doesn’t affect us. Unlike money, if you don’t like a particular design of stamp you can get another design. Stamps have become little more than collectors items if my mail is any indication – my letters come ‘stamped’ by en electronic meter, if I even get letters any more.

  • Andrea

    OK, you guys, if you see this as anything other than a horrible embarrassment for FFRF, that’s your cognitive dissonance (I like Daily Show! I like FFRF! But Daily Show is mocking the hell out of FFRF!) driving you to rationalize away the evidence that FFRF was just well and truly pwned. Any viewer with no stake in the freethought/atheist/agnostic movement comes away from that piece thinking Dan Barker is an irrational, wacky conspiracy nut.

    He should have known better than to give them the building blocks of funny that he did. I don’t care how many hours of footage they edited down to how many minutes — anyone who has seen the Daily Show knows what the deal is, and anyone acting as a spokesperson for an organization should know to stay on message the whole time, no matter how long the cameras are there.

    If you are going to take on a public figure like Mother Theresa with a public image that is basically made of sunshine and halos, you have to find a ten second way to communicate your message without sounding kooky. If that is impossible, don’t start that campaign.

    And if you are sitting with a TV reporter and you find yourself starting a sentence with “I don’t want to say this publicly,” the proper end to that sentence can only be, “so I will shut up now.”

    Finally, I agree that while a religious postage stamp can be seen as improper, separation of church and state-wise, there are bigger fish to fry in this movement. The religious right continues work hard to keep women from controlling their reproductive systems and to prevent LGBTQ Americans from accessing the equal rights everyone else has. And of course evolution and climate change denial is still hurting everyone. FFRF, reevaluate.

  • beelzebub

    Mostly what Andrea said. Given that there are other religiously themed postage stamps I have to say – SO WHAT?

    – Science education in the schools
    – Climate change
    – GLBT issues
    – Evolution
    – Women’s rights
    – Energy conservation

    Jesus jumping Christ on a pogo stick! He just came off as another “kooky” atheist freaking out over “In God We Trust”, blah, blah, blah.

    I think the Daily Show did him a favor by making him look like a jackass. Maybe FFRF and the whole “crabby” atheist movement needs to re-evaluate its message. When you start looking as bad as the religious right – only liberal – something is wrong.

  • Noah

    I have to imagine that they were trying to allow themselves to be looked at humorously, but with the intention of just getting some exposure for the organization. Unfortunately, the Daily Show really did a number on them. It hurt me to watch it. I do agree that they need to be very careful about the battles they pic. The stamp thing seems a little far reaching and distracts people looking critically at the organization from all the good work they are doing.

    Oh well. Live and learn. I just hope the damage from this turns out to be minimal.

  • LordNo

    I do think that protesting the Mother Theresa stamp was NOT the right thing to do. Mainly because it marginalizes us in the minds of many. It cannot be undone and it will be brought back in the future as a way to discredit non-believers on the whole.

    It was patently stupid – a PR nightmare. This happens as on the whole – our numbers have been growing and many have become more vocal.

    There have recently been far more atrocious abuses of the establishment clause against which to rise.

  • sohy

    I dropped my membership in FFRF several years ago when I started feeling as if the organization was taking on issues which weren’t important to me. Dan Barker’s appearance on The Daily Show just confirmed to me that doing things like fighting a stamp causes more harm than benefit. It makes us look as kooky as some of the Christian kooks around.

    Mother Theresa may have had a dark side, but the myth says otherwise. There are some myths that are better left alone. I think this is one of them. Atheists have much bigger fish to fry than a tiny dead nun who is perceived as a great humanitarian.

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