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Jan 28 2012

Hey, Tennessee, why are you electing these ignoramuses?

Seriously, I don’t understand how people can be this stupid and uninformed and acquire high office in a democracy. When you look around your communities, shouldn’t you be promoting the smart, successful, well-educated people to represent you in your capitol, instead of picking the village idiot? Tennessee has at least a couple of dangerously flaming fruitcakes in office; and it’s not just that state (<cough> Michele Bachmann…). Here’s representative John Ragan explaining how homosexuality doesn’t really exist.

A person is a heterosexual because of the presence of genitalia of one sex or the other. No one except a very few with an exceedingly rare congenital deformity have both kinds of genitalia.

Get it, all you gay readers? You can’t be a homosexual unless you are born with a penis and a vagina.

And then there’s Senator Stacey Campfield. He has his own, private, special version of epidemiology, virology, and medicine that the damned doctors are unaware of.

Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community. It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.

My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.

His recall and understanding are deeply flawed. Everything is wrong in his statements.

Did you know you can be as stupid as Ragan and Campfield and still hold office in this country? We don’t have friendly burly men in white coats who gently lift them out of their chairs in their legislatures and take them off to a wonderful little school in pleasant surroundings for intensive remedial education in the sciences, after which they are returned to promote their peculiar politics, but with accurate information, at least, in their heads.

63 comments

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  1. 1
    bribase

    FYI there was a really cool audio piece on the transition from simian HIV to human HIV by WNYC Radiolab here:

    http://www.radiolab.org/2011/nov/14/aids/

  2. 2
    lizdamnit

    Well, I’ll start this one off…Damn! Are you sure this is from 2012, PZ? Those statements are so full of wrong, I don’t even know what end to pick them up from!

    After the valiant efforts of educators and activists in LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS fields, the fact that people in *public office* are trumpeting this stuff is staggering. There’s no excuse for this crap anymore. Wasn’t acceptable “back in the day” and it’s certainly not now. Campfield’s is especially dangerous given the laughable standards the US has for sex ed.

  3. 3
    lobotomy

    >Did you know you can be as stupid as Ragan and Campfield and still hold office in this country?

    PZ, coming from a state that “boasts” Michele Bachmann as a “leader,” I would think that you understood that in some areas you MUST be as stupid as Ragan and Campfield in order to hold office in this country.

    I believe I speak with some authority in these matters since some of my “representatives” at the national level include Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn.

  4. 4
    komponist

    I grew up in Tennessee, until I was able to get the hell out of there when I was eighteen to go to school in Philadelphia, and let me say that nothing that comes out of that state, regardless of how idiotic it may seem, should surprise you. True, as anywhere, there are reasonable people, even in small towns such as the one in which I was raised, and in Nashville, which is a sort of blue oasis in the midst of a vast red desert — but by and large, Tennessee, like the rest of the South (and the Midwest, for that matter, where I lived and taught in a major university for thirty years until I was fortunate enough to be able to move to Massachusetts) is largely populated by morons. Sometimes, in my darker moments, I think that Lincoln made a big mistake in not letting the South go!

  5. 5
    goneniviti

    I grew up in Tennessee…not far from Dayton (where the Scopes Trial took place). You don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with people who think like this (this is just one of a number of subjects where the ignorance makes me want to rip my hair out).

  6. 6
    Larry

    Damn you airline pilots!

    Damn you to hell!

  7. 7
    jamessweet

    Heh, it’s the “I believe it was an airline pilot” thing that is really the cherry on top. The rest of it, well-known urban myth, and I suppose at least borderline plausible (it’s far more likely that AIDS made the jump to humans due to the consumption of bushmeat, but I suppose it *could* have been a guy screwing an ape…). The airline pilot thing is just so random, that’s really what makes it.

  8. 8
    raven

    wikipedia:

    Across Sub-Saharan Africa, more women are infected with HIV than men, with 13 women infected for every 10 infected men.

    This gender gap continues to grow. Throughout the region, women are being infected with HIV at earlier ages than men. The differences in infection levels between women and men are most pronounced among young people (aged 15–24 years). In this age group, there are 36 women infected with HIV for every 10 men.

    The vast majority of HIV worldwide is transmitted heterosexually. In Africa, where most of the cases are, more women are infected than men. In some cohorts, it is now 3.6 women infected to one male.

    The large majority of HIV/AIDS patients worldwide are women and children.

    There are two problems with Tennessee politicans.

    1. Some are scientifically illiterate.

    2. They don’t care. The guy could have looked it up on Google or Wikipedia in two minutes. But why bother when you are going to babble like an idiot and tell bigoted lies?

    3. Stacey Campfield does have a good excuse, He is a fundie xian toad. What is the excuse of the people who keep electing them? To the other toads, a toad like him just looks normal if not absolutely fascinatingly cute.

    (OK that is three problems. I’m just practicing to be a Tennessee legislator.)

  9. 9
    lizdamnit

    Raven,

    I think I could *almost* deal with scientific illiteracy (for a few minutes, anyway) if it wasn’t for the willful ignorance. It’s that part that scares the crap out of me and many others.

    Not knowing is at least fixable. It’s the pride in ignorance that baffles me. When did this become a positive trait?!

  10. 10
    GeekMelange (formerly thepint)

    Sigh. This is unfortunate but hardly surprising. Tennessee’s got some amazingly stupid initiatives popping up, including another try at their “don’t say ‘gay’ in schools” bill and wanting to strip any reference to slavery in history textbooks.

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/01/23/408974/tennessee-tea-party-demands-that-references-to-slavery-be-removed-from-history-textbooks/

    http://www.towleroad.com/2012/01/dsg.html

  11. 11
    lordshipmayhem

    So according to the boy senator with a girl’s name, monkeys can be airline pilots.

    That makes as much sense as everything else he said.

  12. 12
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    lizdamnit:

    Not knowing is at least fixable. It’s the pride in ignorance that baffles me. When did this become a positive trait?!

    When it became obvious that education worked against Christian belief.

  13. 13
    Ingdigo Jump

    Patient Zero (said airline employee) was not the first to have HIV or AIDS, he was just the person they could trace the western outbreak to.

  14. 14
    pryopizm

    We’ve got a lot of really, really, obscenely stupid people in this state, so it’s no surprise that our representatives are morons. It’s one of the many and varied reasons I want to get the hell out of TN. But first, I need to focus on finishing my education.

  15. 15
    jacobusvanbeverningk

    @14 “It’s one of the many and varied reasons I want to get the hell out of TN”

    Oh, and which state are you considering to move to in order to avoid the stupidity?

    ;-) *sarcastic smile*

  16. 16
    Neil Rickert

    Did you know you can be as stupid as Ragan and Campfield and still hold office in this country?

    That’s because anyone who is smarter than Ragan and Campfield is smart enough to stay far away from running for public office.

  17. 17
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Don’t be a dumbass, lordshipmayhem. Stacey is a unisex name.

  18. 18
    chigau (違う)

    janine
    According to a “Name your Baby” book I once saw, Stacy is for boys and Stacey is for girls.
    ….
    According to a quick google-search you can spell your name any damn way you want.

  19. 19
    ohioobserver

    “I don’t understand how people can be this stupid and uninformed and acquire high office in a democracy.”

    Easy question, easy answer. The people who vote for these morons are morons. Why? Because a decent education is expensive to produce, and since we refuse to lavish as much money on schools as we do on, say, the auto industry or Dancing with the Stars, there are more ignorant morons than there are well-informed real people. So the morons win.

  20. 20
    jaybee

    Senator Stacey Campfield said:

    My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.

    I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, then, if his daughter was engaged to a straight man who acquired AIDS via a blood transfusion.

  21. 21
    Lycanthrope

    A person is a heterosexual because of the presence of genitalia of one sex or the other. No one except a very few with an exceedingly rare congenital deformity have both kinds of genitalia.

    …Does he think homosexuality is having sex with yourself?…

  22. 22
    intercalaris

    Why would they even think to question those statements, or both to fact check them? I’d bet anything they got those insane claims if not from their own pastor/priest/whatever, then from a friend/relative who heard it from their own priest/whatever. Why question such claims? Why would a priest lie to them or their friends? Hell, I doubt their programing even allows them to question such claims.

  23. 23
    SaraAbbyGarcia

    I’m mildly surprised no one has noticed this before. But, Mr Campfield’s theory actuall comes from a Seth MacFarlane short. The story is exactly the same, its actually terrifying to think about. This means that leaders in our country get their news and theories, not from scientists, doctors, out any other expert, but from cartoons. I have never been so afraid for the future of our species.

  24. 24
    Francisco Bacopa

    Ragan is just bizarre. I can’t even understand what he is trying to say. It’s like he has no concept of what gay sex might even be and just makes something up.

    Campfield is just seriously misinformed in a way that if his complete lack of understanding of the problem became policy, many people would die. I am sure the staffers at the state health department are much better informed, though probably underfunded.

  25. 25
    Doubting Thomas

    No seriously Tennessee, at least the eastern end is a beautiful place and the weather is mild. Unfortunately it is attractive to morons too. Sigh.

  26. 26
    agafina

    Ragan is just bizarre. I can’t even understand what he is trying to say.

    It comes from his definition of ‘sex=penis in vagina.’
    So if one of the guys doesn’t have a vagina there can be no sex. Simple!

    /that’s my best guess

  27. 27
    hypatiasdaughter

    During a “discussion” with a conservative friend about gay rights, he threw down the trump card “But gays are responsible for AIDS!”.
    I told him, that if he were a praying man, he should get down on his knees and thank his god that AIDS vectored into North America through the gay community.
    The gay community is somewhat sexually, socially and geographically isolated from larger society. They were the canary in the mine shaft that gave us enough warning to research its epidemiology and treatments before it spread through the general population.
    It was going to get here eventually (in this age of mass traveling). If it had come through hetero men, it would have been spread all over the country – through wives, girlfriends, & prostitutes and their clients; their children; and to drug users – before we knew what was happening.
    The suffering of the gay community went a lot towards sparing us the situation we see in Africa.

  28. 28
    Ichthyic

    I wanted to say in response to Ragan:

    “The Stupid, it BURNS!’

    but really, it isn’t sufficient, is it?

    what comes after burns?

    incinerates?

  29. 29
    Ichthyic

    …Does he think homosexuality is having sex with yourself?…

    *considers for a moment what it would actually feel like to have simultaneous glans and clitoral stimulation*

    You know, being a hermaphrodite might have advantages…

  30. 30
    Ichthyic

    That’s because anyone who is smarter than Ragan and Campfield is smart enough to stay far away from running for public office.

    or at least has been convinced to.

    but then, that’s just the problem, ain’t it?

    people run away from leadership positions, because they for some reason think it’s *smart* to.

    all that accomplishes is that you inevitably destroy your own system of governance.

  31. 31
    Gregory Greenwood

    Wow.. I can’t even… is it even possible to be that stupid and retain enough neurological capacity to maintain your autonomic bodily fucntions?

    A person is a heterosexual because of the presence of genitalia of one sex or the other. No one except a very few with an exceedingly rare congenital deformity have both kinds of genitalia.

    How can someone so abysmally confuse physical sex with sexuality? Does this person seriously not realise the difference between a homosexual orientation and being an intersex individual? Doesn’t it behove the holders of high office to make some effort to be minimally informed before holding forth on a topic?

    Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community.

    Wrong. The current leading theory is that the virus made the transition to our species due to the ‘bushmeat’ practice resulting in accidental introduction of primate bodily fluids into the human blood stream, hardly;

    It was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.

    As for;

    My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.

    This simply flies in the face of reality. As noted upthread by raven @ 8, we know that the majority of HIV tranmission now occurs through means of heterosexual sex.

    It appears that Representative John Ragan and Senator Stacey Campfield value their homophobic bigotry somewhat more highly than reality…

  32. 32
    robro

    Perhaps the gentleman from Tennessee is half-remembering that in And the Band Played On Randy Shilts credits Canadian flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas with being “Patient Zero,” responsible for infecting a number of the first individuals with AIDS in the US. It was a rather dramatic tale, but the idea of a “Patient Zero” was soundly discredited by medical scientists researching the AIDs epidemic after release of the book. Of course, that wouldn’t stop idiots like this politician from mangling the “facts”, such as they are, and not really knowing the story before shooting off his mouth. I mean, they take the Bible as fact and they generally know nothing about it.

  33. 33
    duphrane

    I think every state (except maybe Hawaii) has at least one pocket of right wing ignoramuses who can only see fit to elect the chief ignoramus in their district to federal offices. My home state of Colorado is mostly full of sane, reasonably well-informed people, especially in the Denver Metro area. But when you go to Colorado Springs, for instance, the ratio gets flipped, and the well-informed have to walk on eggshells. Hence, politicians like Tom Tancredo, who embarrass the rest of the state to no end.

  34. 34
    Rey Fox

    Pretty damned amazing that he knows enough about the history of AIDS to know that “Patient Zero” was an airline employee, but nonetheless maintains that it can’t be transmitted by heterosexual sex. That’s textbook “not ignorance, stupidity” there.

  35. 35
    truthspeaker

    Francisco Bacopa says:
    28 January 2012 at 11:49 am

    Ragan is just bizarre. I can’t even understand what he is trying to say. It’s like he has no concept of what gay sex might even be and just makes something up.

    I think what he’s saying is simple and straightforward. If you were born with a penis, you’re supposed to have sex with women. If you were born with a vagina, you’re supposed to have sex with men. Who you feel attracted is irrelevant in his worldview. You do what you’re supposed to do, not what you want to do.

    Simple, straightforward, and wrong.

  36. 36
    Amphiox

    My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.

    He must be taking the per-heterosexual encounter transmission risk for HIV of 1:1000 to 1:100 000 and mixing it with a complete and total lack of understanding of basic statistics, along with an odious political agenda.

    A little knowledge in the hands of a stupid (and malicious) brain is a dangerous thing….

  37. 37
    Amphiox

    That’s textbook “not ignorance, stupidity” there.

    Malignancy.

  38. 38
    truthspeaker

    ^Whom you feel attracted to

    Or, “To whom you feel attracted…” if we’re playing old school.

  39. 39
    carolw

    Durr, durr, we get all our science information from emails that our crazy relatives forward us.

  40. 40
    DLC

    Those guys are ignorant, alright. massively. I don’t blame the internet, but lack of learning skills being taught in this country.

  41. 41
    Kagato

    I’m mildly surprised no one has noticed this before. But, Mr Campfield’s theory actuall comes from a Seth MacFarlane short.

    Not only that, but in the short the airline steward infects the monkey

  42. 42
    Rolan le Gargéac

    PZ Myers @Origine

    Seriously, I don’t understand how people can be this stupid and uninformed and acquire high office in a democracy.

    You don’t live in a democracy.

  43. 43
    myeck waters

    You don’t live in a democracy.

    Oh, SNAP!

  44. 44
    Rolan le Gargéac

    lordshipmayhem @11

    So according to the boy senator with a girl’s name

    What?

    John Wayne salutes you ! With one finger, in case you don’t get it.

  45. 45
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    truthspeaker:

    Simple, straightforward, and wrong.

    Like so much of the conservative agenda.

    Fuck. Me.

  46. 46
    Rolan le Gargéac

    Itchthick @30

    people run away from leadership positions, because they for some reason think it’s *smart* to.

    all that accomplishes is that you inevitably destroy your own system of governance.

    Turtles, all the way down.

  47. 47
    Midnight Rambler

    Ichthyic @30

    That’s because anyone who is smarter than Ragan and Campfield is smart enough to stay far away from running for public office.

    or at least has been convinced to.

    but then, that’s just the problem, ain’t it?

    people run away from leadership positions, because they for some reason think it’s *smart* to.

    You make it sound like there’s no valid reason behind it. Where I live, everyone who has been elected to public office and both is not an egomaniac, and is competent and intelligent, has left after one term. I’m thinking that says something about the job.

  48. 48
    jkusters

    If you have the stomach for it, I suggest listening to Mr. Campfield’s interview with Michelangelo Signorile (the source of the quote above):

    Interview with TN Sen. Stacey Campfield

    I heard it live. So scary…

  49. 49
    Midnight Rambler

    I think every state (except maybe Hawaii) has at least one pocket of right wing ignoramuses

    Not right-wing per se (in the sense of the rest of the country), but we have our share of ignoramuses and politically powerful crackpots in Hawaii. Socially reactionary Democrats, various hippie factions, etc. Also, go to any local government meeting dealing with land issues and it is almost bound to be dominated, teabagger-style, by Hawaiian sovereignty activists.

  50. 50
    Ichthyic

    I’m thinking that says something about the job.

    does it?

    have you ever really looked?

    have you ever thought about it yourself?

    all I see are excuses.

  51. 51
    Ichthyic

    Turtles, all the way down.

    and always will be, unless people finally decide to take personal responsibility for their own governance, instead of always leaving it to someone else.

    that “someone else” will inevitably end up being the people least qualified to do the job (or else the most motivated to use the position simply to increase their personal wealth), since of course, everyone else refused it.

  52. 52
    Ichthyic

    You don’t live in a democracy.

    indeed. In fact, a representative republic should be even LESS vulnerable to rule by mob and rule by ignorance.

    and yet, here we are, talking about how insane elected representatives are in the democratic republic of the US.

    if it really WERE a “pure” democracy, it actually would be far worse, as well as likely being easier to explain.

  53. 53
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    It’s that built-in problem with that “best system we have”, democracy – those whackos with the powdered wigs and hobbit pipes that made up most of the rules were much better educated (for their time) than your modern, average plebian. They couldn’t have possibly known that the public would actually consistently vote against better educating themselves and celebrate stupidity.

    When someone told me during the 2000 elections that Americans would never elect anyone smarter than they were, I was incredulous. But sure enough, that is what happened. Then reality shows and Paris Hilton famous for being famous, creation museum, Texas textbooks…it was a quadrupling down on stupid. It defies logic and makes a person wonder how far a voting public will go against its own interests and for how long. It is one of those things that actually makes me make mental preparations for leaving to whatever secular countries are left if things keep going backwards as they sometimes appear to.

  54. 54
    scottjordan

    truthspeaker @38:

    ^Whom you feel attracted to
    Or, “To whom you feel attracted…” if we’re playing old school.

    I ain’t gots no idea what you’se talkin’ ’bout!

    </tennessee republican>

    I know not about what you are talking!

    </grammar nazi>

  55. 55
    doktorzoom

    it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual lesbiansex.

    Fixed that for you.

  56. 56
    crocswsocks

    PZ, you wonder why they don’t elect well-educated people. Well, it’s because the majority of the people who run live in Tennessee.

  57. 57
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    By Jove, crocswsocks, I think you’ve nailed it.

  58. 58
    TimKO,,.,,

    (2nd the belief that…)

    It’s the voters that are stupid in Tennessee. An historic stronghold of backwards.

  59. 59
    bradfeaker

    I MUST move the hell out of Tennessee. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot to like about living here…natural beauty, gorgeous ladies (I am married to one!) and the blues. But the fundies and the religitards who elect them are getting to be more than I can tolerate.

    The stupid – it BURNS…

  60. 60
    calebcupples

    I grew up in Tennessee, and I hate to say this, but I’m much happier after moving to Alabama. Alabama may be full of stupid, but it’s a lesser degree of stupid, in my experience.

    I’m still wondering why Lincoln didn’t let us go… The country would’ve been better off.

  61. 61
    duphrane

    “I grew up in Tennessee, and I hate to say this, but I’m much happier after moving to Alabama.”

    Well, now I’m intensely depressed. I moved to Alabama from Colorado. I hate to think that Tennessee is that much worse.

  62. 62
    Regular Joe

    Airline pilot, eh? DAMN YOU, UNITED! (they’ve lost my luggage on more than one occasion and have otherwise treated me terribly, so I’m just going to pile on here)

  63. 63

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