One of the things that has enabled the mainstreaming of various idiocies, from altie woo, to creationism, to global warming denialism is mainstream corporate media’s inability to accurately describe lunacy. For obvious reasons, ‘family-friendly’ newspapers and teevee can’t call creationists, birthers, or deathers batshit lunatic or fucking morons. This is where ‘civility’ (beyond the basic norms of decency when dealing with the mentally ill) and pretensions of ‘balance’ utterly fail.
In Idiot America, Charles Pierce provides a good example of how this works:
How does it work? This is how it works. On August 21, 2005, a newspaper account of the intelligent design movement contained this remarkable sentence:
“They have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin’s defenders firmly on the defensive.”
“A politically savvy challenge to evolution” makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy party ticket. It doesn’t matter what percentage of people believe that they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly: none of them can. It doesn’t matter how many votes your candidate got: he’s not going to be able to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.
On the front page.
Of the New York Times.
Consider that the reporter, one Jodi Wilgoren, had to compose this sentence. Then she had to type it. Then, more than likely, several editors had to read it. Perhaps even a proofreader had to look it over after it had been placed on the page–the front page–of the Times. Did it occur to none of them that a “politically savvy challenge to evolution” is as self-evidently ridiculous as an “agriculturally savvy” challenge to Euclidean geometry would be? Within three days, there was a panel on the topic on Larry King Live, in which Larry asked the following question:
“All right, hold on, Dr. Forrest, your concept of how you can out-and-out turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?”
And why, dear Lord, do so many of them host television programs?
While I think things have become better vis a vis evolution, it is instructive. Consider that someone like Republican Senator Charles Grassley can lie with impunity–or be allowed in public while suffering from delusions: the good Senator is a deather–that is, he thinks the proposed healthcare legislation could lead to forced euthanasia. To use a highly technical term, this is fucking insane. And only one newspaper–the New York Times—has written about this in unstinting terms, albeit too late in the game.
So much stupid, so little Mad Biologist…