Monday, August 29, 2005


The Conservatives' Eliminationist War On The Brain

Earlier today, Atrios wondered why so many right-wingers are so eager to defend ridiculously indefensible pseudoscientific works such as The Bell Curve:

Finally, I'm often curious about what Bell Curve supporters, many of whom are clearly mostly unaware of what's actually in the book, think the book has "proven." Why do they get so upset when people point out it's full of crap? Which empirical results, logical conclusions, or policy recommendations found within do they support? It's weird, because they rarely discuss it in those terms. They seem to mostly believe the book supports some particular view they have, whether or not it actually does.
Steve Gilliard goes for the most obvious answer: It's because they're racists. But while that is indeed part of it, it's not all of it. They have the same weird-ass reactions with regard to that other great pseudoscientific scam, Creationism/"Intelligent Design". Seriously: Look at the language used to defend both of these scams. People who attack them are called intolerant and chided for not being fair and having an open mind. I keep thinking back as well to how the conservatives hate a truly fair and independent media, and how vicious attacks similar to those used against science and scientists were used to bludgeon the US media into submission:
The Gannon scalping is different from the Jordan and Rather controversies in two very important ways. First, whereas the conservative bloggers were out to destroy journalists with distinguished careers who'd made serious missteps, the liberal bloggers on Gannon's trail were seeking to expose an out-and-out fraud. Second, while some of the conservative bloggers going after Jordan and Rather were mistaken for regular citizens by the mainstream media, the liberal bloggers were very much out in the open. (...) But there's another a key difference between the effort against Gannon and conservative blog firestorms: The targets of the liberal blogosphere are conservative activists; the target of the conservative blogosphere is the free and independent press itself, just as it has been for conservative activists since the '60s. For the Republican Party, pseudo-journalism Internet sites and the blogosphere are just another way to get around "the filter," as Bush has dubbed the mainstream media.(...) But unlike traditional news outlets, right-wing blogs openly shill, fund raise, plot, and organize massive activist campaigns on behalf of partisan institutions and constituencies; they also increasingly provide cover for professional operatives to conduct traditional politics by other means -- including campaigning against the established media. And instead of taking these bloggers for the political activists they are, all too often the established press has accepted their claims of being a new form of journalism.
I think that the conservatives are pissed off because they keep trying the same well-financed shrieking and bullying tactics on the academic and scientific worlds that they used to cow into submission the media and political worlds -- and they're not working. (Or at least, not as well as they'd hoped.) Furthermore, as the practitioners of legitimate science are building ever-more evidence that shows the ill effects of the conservatives' way of being (global warming, pollution, the utter lack of justification for race prejudice, the helpfulness of communitarianism in aiding humanity and the planet, etc.) -- and even as Bush's contempt for immutable facts that don't say things he likes is well-known throughout the scientific world -- the disconnect between the conservatives and the scientific community grows larger, as does the disdain the conservatives feel for actual science and scientists. The link between creationism and eliminationism -- and between anti-science thought and eliminationism -- is pretty darned strong, methinks.

You have something here. I think the connections are even deeper, so that anything that serves to uphold the status quo will be used. The two major pillars usually are pseudoscience and religion, so the wingnuts pick from both the bits that would support a hierarchical, winner-gets-all worldview. It doesn't matter if this is illogical in many cases, like in the one your post describes. As long as it makes them the winners they will pursue it.
"I think that the conservatives are pissed off because they keep trying the same well-financed shrieking and bullying tactics on the academic and scientific worlds that they used to cow into submission the media and political worlds."

There are other reasons for the repeated scream and shriek attacks. First, if you say something enough times, people will believe you, regardless of how stupid it may seem; secondly, if you take up all the time of the airwaves with your attacks, those defendign science/other subject will have no time for a defense. Since the defender's view point does not get as much airtime, it appears there's no defense, so of course the attack must be true!, which feeds into the first point.
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