This is, indeed, downright hilarious.
The producers of the creationist fan-flick Expelled! have lately been shopping their movie to right-wing and religious outlets all over the country: screening it mostly for the rather bizarre purpose of trying to get activists on board to promote it when it opens.
At the very same time they’ve been bloviating about free speech and the merits of open discussion, they’ve been dodging any critical press questions, inventing new ways to completely avoid addressing substantive criticisms, and doing their best to make sure that critics are kicked out of their promotional film screenings.
They’ve screwed up on several occasions: accidentally inviting actual movie critics… who then refused to leave, refused to sign their “non-disclosure” gag orders, and then panned the film for its duplicity.
But now it seems like they’ve really slipped up: they apparently spent so much effort making sure that small-town scienceblogger PZ Myers would be screened out of a recent showing at the Mall of America that they completely missed none other than Richard Dawkins, coincidentally visiting from England.
Update: There are a just ridiculous number of resources discussing this event in more detail. PZ Myers has the best update, pointing out how Expelled! producer Mathis has been scrambling to come up with a plausible cover story for his behavior. He also refutes a bunch of fabrications from fans of the film about how he was supposedly being “disruptive” or that he and Dawkins were somehow gatecrashing the showing.
When the film’s own marketing company puts something like “YOUR NAME WILL BE ON A LIST AT THE DOOR. NO TICKET IS NEEDED. IDs WILL BE CHECKED” in their rsvp confirmation emails, you know that wild stories about how Myers was trying to break into the showing “without a ticket” when in fact he had registered like everyone else under his own name, are flatly phony.
Meanwhile, the same domain-name discrepancy I noted way back when with the producer’s claims to have innocently used “Crossroads” as a “working title” for the film is getting some new scrutiny from Wes Elsberry. To re-iterate, contrary to their protestations, the producers seem to have registered the Expelled! trademark (and, obviously, decided on the extremely one-sided message that title represents) months before they solicited interviews under the name “Crossroads.” And they even seem to have invented the “Rampant Films” company name and website to advance the deception further.
Update 2: Dawkins and PZ chat about their experience:
I’m inclined at this point to think that people are making a bit too much of this. It’s stupid and, as Dawkins said, inept on the part of the producers, but in the end not exactly front page news or even a particularly solid and unambiguous PR victory. It’s just one more example in a litany of examples of the bizarre, hypocritical, and dishonest nature of this production.
Update 3: Sean Carrol over at Cosmic Variance has a great post on the subsequent debate over whether Dawkins and PZ Myers are really helping or hurting “the cause” of advancing science and winning this debate over Intelligent Design in the public mind. Some real insight on what framers get wrong about the people they are trying to lecture into silence.