Friday, December 10, 2010

Selective Science

One of the features of the conservative movement is a suspicion of the educated. As David Frum recently pointed out, it's an odd characteristic of American populist movements that it's the educated elites that they attack, rather than the economic elites that actually oppress them. THis leads to suspicion, where as Frum says
many refuse to believe that the so-called experts care for the interests of anyone beyond their narrow coterie and class.
. Little wonder that educated people continue to move away from the Republican culture of ignorance.

In the case of LGBT rights, those opposed to equality refuse to believe myriad findings that homosexuality is a normal human variant and not a pathology, that kids of gay parents do just as well as kids of straights, and they peddle such endless lies and propaganda that the Southern Poverty Law Center labels many of them "hate groups."

The media plays into this, in an aberrant expression of "balance" that gives the most perverse minority view equal standing with actual mainstream thought.

In fact recently Dan Savage called out CNN for giving Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council "equal time" to peddle his lies.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labels these groups as hate groups and yet the leaders of these groups, people like Tony Perkins, are welcomed onto networks like CNN to espouse hate directed at gays and lesbians. And similarly hateful people who are targeting Jews or people of color or anyone else would not be welcome to spew their bile on CNN.
They invent official sounding organizations, like the so-called College of Pediatrics, which is really about a hundred conservative malcontents founded by George "lift my luggage" Rekers, who dislike the fact that the mainstream medical community accepts gay people. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the real organization of 60,000 pediatric professionals, is supportive of LGBT people and of same sex marriage.

Last week, Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball, had to clarify that this group cited by Perkins as a justification for his bile is a fringe offshoot.

Notorious anti-gay activist Paul Cameron, who has been thrown out of the mainstream groups and willfully misrepresents the facts, actually says
“We can no longer rely — as almost all pro-family organizations do today — on gleaning scientific ‘bits’ from those in liberal academia… . [W]e must subvert the academy by doing original, honest research ourselves and use this to advance the historic Christian faith"
Remarkably Cameron continues to get away with this. He out and out lies, but still manages to provide a veneer of respectability to the other side, despite the fact he has been soundly repudiated by a vast majority of physicians. And he keeps at it: this from a recent interview
God’s 11th Commandment is “Thou shalt not corrupt boys,” Cameron told me. He celebrated the Ugandan anti-gay bill, in which the penalty for gay activity could be death. “Whatever they decide, I’m OK with,” he said.

Cameron believes homosexuality should be criminalized in America. He proposes heavily taxing single American adults and homosexuals because of their failure to procreate. He would also like to see gays undergo a “public shaming,” though he offered no specifics.
Amazingly, he still gets an outlet for this crap.

They do it with official sounding words, but examination of the data shows that they focus on small reports and on mis-stating the findings of actual papers to the dismay of the authors.

The same sort of selective facts are characteristic of the conservative attacks on climate change, evolution, as well as other issues. Do you remember the cigarette company CEOs standing in front of Congress, each stating "I do not believe smoking causes cancer"? An excellent book documenting this is The Republican War on Science.

In a world where knowledge drives economic growth and development, this legitimization of fringe viewpoints as somehow "equal" to the mainstream is a dangerous step into willful ignorance.

So how do we counter this gullibility of the media and calculating abuse by the opponents of actual facts? One way is to be ever vigilant. The bad guys are good at sounding "official," which is why Chris Matthews fell for the College of Pediatrics But he was called to task and corrected it. Now it would have been more effective if he had been aware enough to challenge it when it started--but expecting our media to be informed and responsible appears a pipe dream. (Except for Anderson Cooper, who is pretty on the ball).

Another way is to work to get the facts out there. Of course, people must be susceptible to the facts, which leaves out the tea party persuasion, but there are still reachable people in the middle.

It's why I keep writing, and sourcing this stuff, in hopes that I can give my readers the resources needed for vigilance.

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