If you aren’t an advocate for the truth, you aren’t a journalist


Way back in the distant past, lost to the internet, when Pharyngula was just a tiny project I was running on my lab computer, one of the subjects that pissed me off was pseudo-objective journalism. The kind of thing where a New York Times reporter would write a long article on the geology of the Grand Canyon, and give equal time to creationism and real science, and excuse it by saying,

I don’t consider myself a creationist. I don’t have any interest in sharing my personal views on how the canyon was carved, mostly because I’ve spent almost no time pondering my personal views — it takes all my energy as a reporter and writer to understand and explain my subjects’ views fairly and thoroughly.

This is the kind of journalism where facts and evidence don’t matter and aren’t part of the evidence — all we’re supposed to care about is cataloging the opinions of the uninformed, and weight is bestowed by how loudly they are shouted, or by how rich and famous the ignoramus with an opinion is. The journalist doesn’t have the time to assess the facts, all their energy is consumed in transcribing quotes. And worst of all, they tout this as a goddamned virtue of good reporting.

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If you’re giggling over Josh Duggar’s comeuppance…


You need to consider this:

The Saudi Arabian government is using the recently leaked data from Ashley Madison to track down homoesexuals in their contry. As homosexuality is a crime, punishable by death, in Saudi Arabia the leak is estimated to result in the death of hundreds if not thousands of gay people in Saudi Arabia.

Or if you prefer your news with fewer clumsy typos, here’s another source.

The Ashley Madison leaks, as many observers began noting yesterday afternoon, will have real world, devastating consequences on thousands of users worldwide. When the dust clears, it will be most vulnerable among us — LGBT and women in repressive countries — that will ultimately pay the price. And unlike Josh Duggar, their price will not be paid in snarky internet comments but rather loss of employment, family, and, in some cases, possibly their lives.

Yeah, Josh Duggar is going to come out of this oozing piety. Other people won’t be so lucky.

The ol’ racist evolution switcheroo


Ben Seewald, whose only claim to fame is that he’s married to Jessa Duggar, tries to stake out his own domain of stupid in a conversation with Dante Berry, another evangelist. He does not do well. But in the topsy-turvy world of American fanatical Christianity, that might mean he succeeded.

“If you check it out, what they’re trying to do with America, is basically have us going against each other while the Devil can sneak in real clearly and destroy what he’s trying to destroy,” Dante explains to Ben, adding that “if we’re fighting against each other, the Devil can sneak in and do what he want to do.”

“That’s right,” Ben agrees, “there’s no room for racism in Christianity. That all comes from the Devil. That all comes from, like, this false religion out here, evolution, that stuff? Teaching that, like, some people are ‘more evolved?,’ and different stuff.”

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How to use genomic information for evil


The combination of access to genetic data and computer programming must be an irresistible temptation to racists. Someone tried to distribute a code fragment that would allow a program to look up gene data on 23andMe and use it to limit who would be allowed to use the program.

Dubbed Genetic Access Control, the program—which was posted to GitHub on Monday—would act as a login for sites and scan the genetic information of 23andMe users who make their data available, much like how websites currently request access to your Facebook profile prior to entry. The coder in question cited a few “possible uses” for Genetic Access Control, ranging from “Groups defined by ethnic background, e.g. Black Panthers or NAACP members,” to “Safer online dating sites that only partner people with a low likelihood of offspring with two recessive genes for congenital diseases.”

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Changing lanes while black

I’ve been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. It’s powerful — I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and had to read a bit more, and then I had a tough time getting back to sleep afterwards. There’s this bit where he’s talking about the terror he felt on being pulled over by the police in PG County, and the dread he felt at the arbitrary abuse by police of black people at traffic stops, and his friend who was gunned down by a policeman, and I am marveling at this strange world I’ve never had to experience. When I’ve been pulled over, what I feel is annoyance, and a bit of self-blaming, and concern that I might get a ticket, nothing more. Driving while white is easy.

Then this morning I get up and the first news I see is that the dash-cam video of Sandra Bland’s arrest has been released.

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The ear of David Brooks


David Brooks read Ta-Nehisi Coates new book, Between the World and Me. His response to Coates is quite possibly the most Brooksian thing I’ve ever read.

I think you distort American history. This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame. There’s a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children’s Zone for every K.K.K. — and usually vastly more than one. Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America.

In your anger at the tone of innocence some people adopt to describe the American dream, you reject the dream itself as flimflam. But a dream sullied is not a lie. The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.

This dream is a secular faith that has unified people across every known divide. It has unleashed ennobling energies and mobilized heroic social reform movements. By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future.

Maybe you will find my reactions irksome. Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change. In any case, you’ve filled my ears unforgettably.

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