Remembering Ed Brayton

Two years ago, today, Ed Brayton told us he was about to die.

Content Warning: Death, Fundie Stuff

I understand he had a liver disease, that he’d been a long term unhealthy dude, that his medical care was making him unhappy and angry, and that he got to leave on his own terms. It was, I understand, really unpleasant towards the end, because liver conditions don’t exactly treat you nicely. It’s having a part of the system failing, and the thing that’s failing is the part that’s meant to clean up failures.

You might be thinking ‘well, who the hell is Ed Brayton, why does this matter?’ and it kinda stings to think about because yeah, Ed Brayton was just one guy, in a collection of dudes, whose influence includes things like helping to found the internet resource The Panda’s Thumb, or Freethought Blogs, or his help in coaching and preparing important civil liberties cases in the United States. He was an old white guy in a network of old white guys, who even though he did argue that his platform should not be about old white guys still was the kind of old white guy who said things on stage that, in hindsight, I kinda wince at.

On the other hand, where many people in this space were cruel and meanspirited to be funny, Ed shot for using his cruelty on the things that were funny. Not calling his mother stupid for what she believed, but pointing out the ways her beliefs and their interactions were stupid. He didn’t countenance a lot of the low-key respectability stuff that followed after him – making fun of Chuck Norris not because he could dismantle Chuck Norris’ arguments, but just because the idea of listening to Chuck Norris was, prima facie stupid.

What hurts me the most about this when I think about it is how I forget Ed Brayton’s name. When he was alive he was always one guy other people referenced or had on their podcasts or shared with friends, but he wasn’t a focal person to me. I didn’t appreciate that these two dozen references were all pointing to the same dude.

What survives the man is his blog writing, which, often because it’s very topical and of the moment, doesn’t archive as well, and his talks and presentations, where because he’s giving context to them, often do.

Particularly, I recently rewatched this talk he gave about the Dover Trial, which was about teaching intelligent design in class.

The other talk, which yes, the quality sucks indescribably here, is about violence Christians use to oppress non-Christians in their space, a thing I’m assured ‘doesn’t happen’ because ‘Christians wouldn’t.’

Jessica Ahlquist noted, this year, that it’s been ten years since this trial. She’s twenty six.

She was fifteen when this stuff kicked off. She was getting death threats and her home attacked when she was fifteen. This isn’t some distant remote thing. This was a time when gay marriage wasn’t legal and Prayer banners in schools were, and these things aren’t so different right now.

It must be nice to have your faith so privileged that you can hear stories like this and think ‘well, that doesn’t count.’

Back to top