From Spiro Agnew to Sarah Palin, American conservatism has long had a strong anti-intellectual component, and the election of an incoherent con man to the presidency has only made stupidity more central to its movement. Look at the current edition of National Review: The conservative flagship, once run by the erudite William F. Buckley and featuring in its heyday writers like Joan Didion and John Leonard, now features bizarre celebrations of Billy Joel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
So it stands to reason that the March for Science two Saturdays back and last Saturday’s People’s Climate March — both of which opposed The Leader’s fund-cutting, data-erasing, planet-endangering approach toward any knowledge that irks the enablers of his grift — reignited their hatred of eggheads and impudent snobs.
Don’t feel too bad for them, though: They got some comfort from the New York Times’ status-hire of a straight-up climate change denialist.
The success of the April 22 Earth Day March for Science, which focused attention on the administration’s animus against environmental science, was galling to rightbloggers, and they did what they could to minimize it.
“March for Science comes under microscope over left-tilting political agenda,” claimed the Washington Times, with examples road tested in previous anti-protest propaganda; for example, if you remember the ginned-up controversy over anti-abortion groups uninvited to the January 21 Women’s March, this bit will sound awfully familiar: “What rankles many critics is that the march has positioned itself as the arbiter of what represents legitimate science and what doesn’t by accepting partnerships with some groups and rejecting others . . .” (Among the march’s rejects: “the Discovery Institute, which argues for intelligent design.”)
National Review’s Jonathan S. Tobin raged that it was also science that abortion is murder but none of these so-called scientists were marching for that (“the life-begins-at-conception idea is a basic truth rooted in science not religion”).
Much of the brethren’s wrath was turned, strangely, on Bill Nye the Science Guy, TV star and prominent spokesman for the March for Science.
HeatStreet’s Emily Zanotti repeatedly informed readers that Nye was not a scientist but a mechanical engineer, as if that were an intellectual disqualification for his role (much like, say, being a reality show host is a disqualification for being president). Brandon Morse at Glenn Beck’s the Blaze agreed (“Can we stop pretending Bill Nye is a science guy already?”). The Daily Wire listed “9 Reasons You Shouldn’t Listen To Bill Nye About Science” (“3. Nye doesn’t understand the basic science surrounding the abortion debate”).
Rod Dreher called Nye “The Afraid-Of-Science Guy” and “Dirty Old Man Bill Nye” because he disseminated a cartoon featuring talking ice cream cones that suggested it was OK to be gay or trans, a toleration Dreher opposes with every fiber of his being. “These people are entitled to say whatever crackpot thing they want to, and to show ice cream cones licking each other until they all melt down,” Dreher sputtered, “but they are not entitled to call it science.” That’s for the Discovery Institute to decide!
Well, that march was huge, and so was Saturday’s, as even right-wing outlets had to report. In response, rightbloggers rolled out some vintage Al Gore Is Fat global warming material (“IRONY: People’s Climate March Postponed In Colorado Due To Heavy Snow” — yes, in some underperforming school districts, this is a sick burn).
Breitbart featured a rant by house environmental writer James Delingpole, “THE PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH – AKA WATERMELONS’ WAR ON CAPITALISM – IN PICTURES” — green on the outside, red on the inside, get it? Delingpole’s essay consisted of photos of marchers and what he probably imagined to be witty remarks; for example, he showed a sign that said, “Make Love Not CO2” and remarked, “How is this even possible? Do these Greenies really know as little about science as I fear?” Apparently, CAPITALISM doesn’t get jokes.
The Washington Times blamed everything on George Soros, helpfully described as “a longtime top donor to Democrats and left-wing causes,” who according to a Media Research Center report gave “$36M to groups behind People’s Climate March.” MRC revealed the nefarious front groups include the NAACP, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. And that’s not counting the money conservatives believe Soros pays directly to protestors! It’s a miracle the guy’s still solvent.
Jerry Dunleavy at the Resurgent attacked “Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Science Lies” — yes, they were still after Nye; even Milo Yiannopoulos, the disgraced alt-right It Boy, attacked Snopes.com for spoiling a joke about Nye’s lack of a proper science degree. Guess it’s gonna be a long road back for Milo.
When that didn’t move the masses, there was always the antique bit about liberal protestors leaving garbage in the street. “Maybe the Earth would be better off if the people who say they care so much about it just stayed home and didn’t create more garbage,” said Kyle Olson of the American Mirror. Makes ya think!
Cold comfort as these ancient tropes may have been for the brethren, they were given a real boost by the maiden column in the New York Times of that paper’s latest right-wing hire, former Wall Street Journal man Bret Stephens. While Stephens is awful is many of the traditional ways, as he demonstrated in a remarkable Vox interview, his climate march weekend column was a dilly. Here’s a tiny taste:
We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.
You get the idea: So-called scientists think the Earth is warming, but people make mistakes, so you should definitely go instead with the con artists and corporate flacks who say the scientists are the real frauds.
Rightbloggers produced some expected takes: “Times columnist blasted by ‘nasty left’ for climate change piece,” headlined the New York Post — why, some liberals even swore on Twitter! But these were not nearly as interesting as the reactions of Mainstream Media people — you know, the ones we’re always hearing are as reliably liberal as a paid Soros protestor — who seemed perplexed that some people were mad at (and even planning to boycott) the Times for amplifying yet another denialist in its pages.
“Readers,” assured New York Times national editor Marc Lacey, “the @nytimes puts a priority on both aggressive coverage of the very real threat of climate change . . . and free speech.” (The Times also takes seriously the danger of cholera . . . and the right to pump water anywhere along the Thames free from meddling interference.)
“Really didn’t expect otherwise smart climate advocates to go the way of Berkeley protesters on the NYT,” harrumphed CNN media reporter Dylan Byers. Byers later called proposed boycotts “remarkably dumb and self-defeating in this case” and then, get this, said it was “frustrating to see liberal Twitter proving it can be as intolerant & illogical in the Trump era as conservative Twitter was in the Obama era.” The Times has a constitutional right to your subscription money, intolerant Berkeley fascists!
“Who’s Afraid of Bret Stephens?” said Politico‘s Jack Shafer, who chortled over the “howling ricocheting through the liberal precincts” since Stephens’s column had “traumatized the Times mind-meld like nothing before. . . . Demonstrations outside Times headquarters, clever protest placards, giant street puppets, and a picket line can’t be far off.” You know how those liberals love their protest puppets! Shafer also compared the reaction to Stephens to that accompanying the Times’ hiring of Nixon speechwriter William Safire, whose style and example Shafer was clearly following.
The moral of the story is, you may have science and moral right, but The Leader has the power — as the behavior of his high-profile camp followers shows.