Wait, you can actually destroy someone on the interwebs?

Do you find yourself deeply annoyed by those headlines on Facebook and social media sites that declare that this politician or that scientist DESTROYED their opponent in a debate? It never happens. I’ve been in debates where the consensus is that I ‘won’, or was most informative, or was most difficult to refute, but the opposition usually has some rationalization to salvage their position. You can’t literally ANNIHILATE someone with an argument.

Or can you?

Neil deGrasse Tyson was accused of belittling a 9 year old girl who asked him a question, and one of those conservative talk-radio blowhards, Neal Larsen, made a big deal out of how awful Tyson was. Unfortunately for Larsen, his information came from one of those even more annoying “satirical” news sites (which is another of my pet peeves — I block people who cite those abominations). Larsen was loudly ridiculed for his gullibility.

And then…a miracle! Larsen didn’t give up his radio show, but he has resigned from writing a newspaper column over the exposure.

Larson acknowledged the error in his final op-ed, adding that he apologized to deGrasse Tyson for his mistake. But he also complained about the amount of attention his failed attack received.

“For those in the national spotlight, this is probably old hat, but I wasn’t equipped to handle the influx, logistically or emotionally,” Larson wrote. “If anyone had sent a kind word or more gentle and constructive criticism, I apologize because I probably missed it in the onslaught of hate.”

Aww, poor man. If only someone had given him a cookie, he might have been inspired to soldier on and produce even more bullshit like this, below:

However, Larson will continue broadcasting his radio show. Daily Kos pointed out that he has used it to argue, among other things, that Donald Trump is suited for the presidency because of his “alpha-male” personality, and that the choice of mascot for Washington D.C.’s NFL team is better than “a screaming Black Lives Matter activist, or a finger-snapping drag queen.”

Still, Tyson did manage to shut down a little bit of vileness. Larsen is still babbling on the radio, but he’s not poisoning newspapers anymore, which is a bit of progress.

So maybe Tyson didn’t DESTROY him, but I think we can at least say he was DECIMATED.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Self-inflicted harm. Among British magic users also known as Krantzberg syndrome.

  2. Holms says

    I wonder if the ‘freeze peach’ crowd will take up this example of ‘shrill lefties shutting down a poor guy just expressing his honest opinion’ while unironically continuing to trash female / black / gay / etc. people via twitter and telling them that ‘expressing their derision isn’t harassment,’ and that anyone that quits twitter as a result of it is just too weak to face having their views challenged.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    Decimated? So one out of every ten right-wing radio talk show goons will be put to death?

  4. says

    I get annoyed at those fake “news” sites that think they can be The Onion, but Clickhole is The Onion and is their version of Buzzfeed and like the main site, they do it right. They are obvious in their humour and it takes a special kind of ignorance to think it’s serious.

    As for Larson, it’s really hard to feel sorry about him receiving hate considering that it came about from him trying to direct hate elsewhere.

  5. jrkrideau says

    Well, one probably cannot destroy anyone in a debate now-a-days although some of the debates in the parliament in Kiev seem to be getting close. Taiwan seems to come to mind as well.

    In the UK and, I believe, in Canada the floor of the House of Commons is supposedly a bit wider than two sword lengths suggesting that it may have been possible a few centuries ago.

    @ 3 Akira MacKenzie

    Well, I suppose one could hope. The rest would be devastated.

  6. wzrd1 says

    @jrkrideau, well, the US Congress literally had full on donnybrooks a mere century and a half ago. In Louisiana, Pierre Bossier challenged a political opponent and perennial thorn in his side to a duel, shooting said opponent to death with a rifle. Abraham Lincoln had a duel on a foot bridge using broadswords, which ended quite humorously.

    @3, while one can have an emotional satisfaction, we are speaking of the summary execution of many citizens.

    As for destroying someone online, read some of the horror stories about online bullying and suicides of teens. I’d qualify that as destroyed.*

    *Note, that I do advocate for the option of suicide be allowed for those facing a protracted, agonizing death from incurable disease. Back when Doctor Kevorkian was still a controversial figure, I was performing my clinical rotations at Elsmere VA hospital. There, a man in his 90’s, both in age and weight, was slowly dying of advanced metastatic carcinoma. He was on continuous morphine, to the maximal safe dosage for his slight body mass and age, had a pressure ulcer in his hip one could lose a softball in and was in continuous pain. There was nothing that we could do to help him, as he was maxed out on pain medications and still in agony. The first day that I saw him, I agreed wholeheartedly with Dr Kevorkian. We should have been allowed to give him an option to end his pain.

  7. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 wzrd1
    RE: decimated.

    Akira MacKenzie & I were making fun of the misuse of the word; in its literal sense it is is exactly what Akira said. I think PZ meant to use “devastated” and got caught by a spell-checker.

  8. wzrd1 says

    @jrkrideau, I’m dyslexic and while I had significant amounts of training, to even a somewhat painful level, when fatigued, it creeps up and bites me hard. So, I am guessing that I missed the spell-checker induced gaffe, with an internal autocorrect making it transparent.
    As my wife is dyslexic and being female in the US, at the time we grew up, wasn’t given the appropriate training, also gives me one hell of a workout in filtering. The gentlest is bacon being spelled as bancon, always. But, this many years together, I’ve adapted my internal translation to figure out what she’s usually writing or typing to me.
    Hence, I’ll miss some things.

    And fatigued, I am. Got home from work at 7:00 AM, local time. Helped cook breakfast (albeit, I only had to traditionally poach some eggs). Wait a couple of hours, drive to Shreveport for her specialist appointment, return home with a car that suddenly and massively overheated, requiring an emergency stop six miles from home, requiring a couple of hours for the car to cool enough to start (a fuel injected car actually overheated enough to vapor lock the fuel injection system in under two minutes!).
    It’s 15:12 now, locally. I’m now awaiting my hydrocodone to take effect, as I just had three major spasms in my calves, two in each foot trying to collapse my arch and one on the top of my foot that I swear, felt like it was trying to tear the damned foot off.
    So, a bit of an off day. :/
    I get them from time to time, typically, on a day that ends in “y” in English. ;)

    I think a disc went from 30 years of bulging to herniated a few weeks ago, when my wife came home from the hospital after having her gallbladder removed and a umbilical hernia repaired (old c-section scar oddly and suddenly started unzipping itself in her abdominal wall, from the naval down, causing some rather severe pain). Upon return home from day surgery, her legs gave out and I leaped to catch her, totally out of proper body mechanics positioning to avoid injury.
    Ever since, I’ve had bilateral spasms in my calves, bilateral foot spasms and some other bilateral and worrisome issues to suggest significant neurological trauma. Annoyingly, I’m also having to rely upon the spell checker more often as well, also indicative of chronic pain.

    Oh, besides being an old SF medic type, I’ve also, out of interest in chronic pain patient care, my wife being a chronic pain patient, I’ve attended professional pain management conferences and seminars.
    One of my most treasured gifts is the ability to learn complex subjects rapidly.
    PZ would likely love me as a student, while also dreading the notion. ;)

    I’ll eventually get around to actually taking some college courses. Just to learn more interesting things, as my company is reasonably generous in paying college costs for employees.
    Philosophy courses are on my short list, largely due to my sheer ignorance of what appears to be a fascinating series of subjects. Biology, to cover some gaps in comprehension on organic chemistry functionality. Most other hard sciences, just because they’re cool. I’ll probably go with some humanities, as after trying some practice CLEP tests in the humanities, I learned that I’m inhuman. ;)
    Can’t tell a Monet from a matinee. I know of Rembrandt because of his cataracts and recognizing his symptoms, correctly identified my visual faults with trauma induced cataracts.
    I’m also rapidly becoming as deaf as Beethoven (I knew him, as I’m a pianist, organist and accordionist).

    Who knows what I’ll be when I finally get around to growing up? ;)
    Mid 50’s here, but my goal has always been to learn something new each day. :D

  9. andyo says

    Yes, Clickhole is the clickbait wing of The Onion, and it’s frequently hilarious. Its schtick most of the time is completely deadpan nonsensical clickbait humor, but it’s still obvious to anyone with more than 1% irony detection.

  10. andyo says

    Forgot to add: there is another kind of “fake news” sites whose purpose is exactly to sow confusion by publishing semi-credible yet still a bit too ridiculous stories, to troll “legitimate” outlets to pick up on them, and those are probably the ones you mean, but Clickhole is definitely not one of them.

  11. wzrd1 says

    @andyo, erm, save for satire/parody site stories on Trump. With him, it’s impossible to tell if it’s satire or real.
    The man has no filter to stop him from saying that which should never be even thought…