The Obama administration needs to convey a message that things are under control. So they commemorated the first anniversary of the Recovery Act with this:
It’s a chart showing the number of jobs lost each month from December 2007 to January 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continue reading
Rachel Carson (1907-1964), wildlife biologist and alleged angel of death.
When I wrote about the anti-environmentalist textbook Facts, Not Fear, I mentioned being astonished by the authors’ attack on the DDT ban, even though the ban rescued the bald eagle and other American raptors from extinction.
I should have mentioned that the ban came about in response to Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, the first popular work to sound the alarm about heedless damage to the environment.
Now I find that Aaron Swartz has the back story to a bizarre right-wing version of recent history, in which DDT is good for us, banning it has killed poor little innocents in Africa (via malaria), and Rachel Carson is the moral equivalent of Hitler. Versions of this tale, which oversimplify both science and history, have made it into several newspapers of record, the New York Times Magazine, and the fiction of Michael Crichton.
It’s all in “Rachel Carson, Mass Murderer? The Creation of an Environmental Myth.” A quick read, highly recommended.
P.S. Anyone want to venture a guess as to whether Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter-based campaign against malaria (here and here) will turn into a full-court press to lift the ban on DDT? If so, Yorkool Chemical, Sanofi Aventis, and other megacorps should be pleased. They still make the stuff.
I reviewed this intriguing textbook (Facts, Not Fear: Teaching Children about the Environment) recently for LibraryThing. As the book originates with our own Alabama Policy Institute (formerly the Alabama Family Alliance), I thought the review might be worth repeating here. There’s nothing about the Alabama organization in the acknowledgments, but I found a magazine article in which AFA president Gary Palmer claimed responsibility for this book.
This textbook (for homeschoolers) poses as an antidote to biased, alarmist teaching about the environment, but its own bias is flagrant. It is valuable as a model of propaganda technique in general, and of anti-regulatory rhetorical strategies in particular. Its method mostly consists of amassing anecdotes, omitting unfriendly evidence (while preaching about respect for “science”), and keeping strict silence about topics that cannot be easily spun. There’s not a peep about toxic or nuclear waste, for instance, or about human health problems stemming from pollution.
The tykes whose parents use this book are likely to come away thinking that “garbage” consists entirely of household waste, and that industrial plants are just bigger versions of their own households. It follows, then, that petrochemical plants are just as concerned with keeping things neat and tidy as Mommy and Daddy are. And the biggest threats to the environment? Government regulation and public ownership of land, of course. Continue reading
Historical myths and simplifications about a monolithic “Islamic world” are a besetting problem in the U.S. media, and I think professional historians should be concerned — especially when a member of the profession is responsible for sowing confusion in the first place, as in this case.
The story, in brief, is that the world’s Muslims see Barack Obama as an “apostate” who deserves to die for abandoning their religion. Acceptance of the story relies on the assumption that Muslims are irrational savages. It also overlooks the fact that the media in the Muslim world are uninterested in this alleged issue.
I have a feeling this story won’t go away, so here are some links for my own reference, and for anyone else who’s interested. (All URLs are shortened via snipr.com.)
Edward N. Luttwak, “President Apostate?” http://snipr.com/2diw8 This is the New York Times opinion article that first stirred the pot.
- Readers’ comments were generally unfavorable. http://snipr.com/2diy1
- Emory professor Abdullahi An-Na‘im responded with “Misrepresenting Islam” http://snipr.com/2dj9c (Religion Dispatches).
- Clark Hoyt, “Entitled to Their Opinion, Yes. But Their Facts?” http://snipr.com/2dity After canvassing Islamic scholars, the NYT public editor criticizes Luttwak’s piece.
- Svend White, “Who’s Smearing Obama?” (Religion Dispatches) http://snipr.com/2dj4k traces the rumor campaign back to Daniel Pipes, the Chicken Little of Muslim fright tales. White mentions how this story serves the aggressive propaganda strategy of “swiftboating,” or telling fibs in order to recast an opponent’s political strengths as weaknesses.
P.S. Dr. An-Na‘im’s insightful (and historically aware) new book on Islam and the secular state is reviewed at the SSRC blog: http://snipr.com/2djbu. Great read.
P.P.S. This post started out as a Facebook note; hence the written-out URLs.