He’s at it again, as Phil Plait notes in a post that says all the smart things.
And now another attack piece on St. Louis has been posted on the far-right-wing Breitbart site, saying she has become immune from criticism because she’s black.
Yes, you read that right. And that’s not all. In a sentence so tone deaf I’d swear it’s parody, the author, Milo Yiannopoulos, writes*:
St Louis is responsible for the sacking of Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize-winning biochemist who became the target of an online lynch mob after his comments about women in science were taken out of context.
Yes, again, you read that right. You might ignore the obviously incorrect statements in that one sentence (Hunt wasn’t sacked, he was asked to resign from an honorary position; and as we’ve seen his comments were not taken out of context), but it’s much harder to ignore that, in an article attacking a woman because she’s black, Yiannopoulos used the phrase “lynch mob.”
I’m not going to link to Yiannopoulos’ article; it’s just too much dishonest hackery to be tolerated. As Plait notes, that one sentence is a loosely connected series of lies. But the rest…I have to pick on one other comment that infuriates.
After all, we can afford to lose scientists like Sir Tim Hunt, can’t we? He wasn’t doing anything important, just trying to cure cancer.
That’s a common inaccuracy. No, he’s not trying to cure cancer — that’s a whole different discipline. He’s trying to understand a basic feature of cells, the regulation of cell division. That’s important stuff, but please note: he hasn’t lost his official position, in which he has a lab (possibly; he’s in retirement, and mostly what he seems to have done is confer with other labs and get his name on a few papers.) There’s a tendency to inflate the direct relevance of work that scientists do when translating it to the lay public. For instance, I’ve been looking at cell migrations in the embryo — hey, that’s like metastasis! I must be working on curing cancer, too!
Most dangerously, though, he’s trying to move some scientists into a magical zone of invulnerability. Oh, you work on cancer? We shall forgive you all kinds of sexist asshattery, because medicine. Let’s tear up his parking tickets and give him a puppy-shooting license, too.
No, that’s not how it works. Doing science does not exempt one from normal expectations of healthy human behavior. You also know that Yiannopoulos is profoundly dishonest, and if Hunt had offended conservative sensibilities (there’s still time; I suspect that Hunt, like most scientists, probably leans liberal) the fact that he studies the mitotic cell cycle wouldn’t have given Yiannopoulos a moment’s pause before sending his right-wing dumbass sycophants after him.
Also, the guy who denies climate change and believes in a bizarre gender essentialism doesn’t get to hide behind science.