Wise explainer

LeVar Burton is something special — he is beyond being a science communicator, and is more of a knowledge communicator, which is something we desperately need. Science is beautiful, but so are history and literature and philosophy and art and all human endeavors that make the world a better place.

So he appeared on The View, and Megan McCain, of course, thought she’d challenge him with the Dr Seuss “ban” (it wasn’t) and that deplorable cancel culture, and he gently and succinctly shot her down.

In terms of cancel culture, I think it’s misnamed — that’s a misnomer. I think we have a consequence culture and that consequences are finally encompassing everybody in the society, whereas they haven’t been, ever, in this country.

I think there are good signs in the culture, and I think it has everything to do with a new awareness on people who were simply unaware of the real nature of life in this country for people who have been othered since this nation began.

Nice. Listen to LeVar, everyone.


  1. JoeBuddha says

    I got disgusted with the cancel culture whining a while ago, so I came up with the hashtag #consequenceculture and have been using it for a while. Not sure if it had anything at all to do with other people starting to use it, but it’s so obvious I can’t believe I’m the only one.

  2. William George says

    If Burton shut me down, even that gently, I’d want to crawl into a hole and die because I knew I disappointed him. It’s too much to hope McCain will do the same.

  3. PaulBC says

    I used to watch Reading Rainbow with my oldest when he was little. As much as I admire Levar Burton, I still think this Onion article was hilarious.

    Besides ST:TNG, he played Kunta Kinte in Roots if you’re old enough to remember what a big TV event that was. I didn’t make the connection until reading the Wikipedia page years later. “Consequence culture” is good. I will have to remember that.

  4. PaulBC says

    …on second thought, it was probably the Onion article that first reminded me he was in Roots.

  5. Artor says

    I feel embarrassed for anyone who has to speak to MeAgain McCain. Talking to children or the mentally disabled is one thing, and kind people manage it all the time. But speaking with an ostensible adult without any diagnosed impairment, who is somehow that painfully dim and vapid has to be a chore.

  6. PaulBC says

    This sock puppet issue is out of control. Is there a way FtB can block a domain and whitelist legitimate posters from that domain when they request it? I can ignore the posts themselves, but another effect is the way the “Recent Comments” list is flooded.

  7. PaulBC says

    hemidactylus@8 Great clip. I started watching Community last year, but I found Netflix shows I preferred. Maybe I’ll give it another go.

  8. says

    I’ve been forced to moderate comments on my own blog. It’s a PITA because the same malignant idiots keep trying even though I never publish them, and I have to manually reject them every time. ‘Tis sad, but better than having to delete them after the fact.

  9. paulaeatscocks says

    [if anyone is curious, this clown is coming at us from the IP addresses of and, among others — seems to be using servers in the north of England. Maybe if I just block everything from the UK, it’ll clear up the problem?]

  10. says

    #10: yes, and I do. He’s using hotmail addresses (I totally despise hotmail, but a lot of legit users are on it), and logging in with multiple IP addresses.

    He’s making a good case for the bankruptcy of his position, and also fueling a fair amount of conversation in the comments, so he can keep trying, I’ll just kill him as he pops up.

  11. Tethys says

    I suppose they need someone to be the voice of the whinging factions, so that Mr Burton can respond by pointing out that suffering social or legal consequences for terrible behavior is not unjust.

  12. says

    Yeah, that’s what I’m trying, just block the comments and ignore them. I used to respond, but I realize that’s what they’re looking for. However, so far they haven’t given up.

  13. PaulBC says

    Brony, Social Justice Cenobite@21 One possibility is that the recent troll is acting out of an emotional response. Another is that they’re making a calculated effort to flood the blog and make it less usable, in which case no verbal response is going to make a difference. These posts showed less imagination than most trolls and not much attempt to engage or argue, lending weight to the idea that the flood of comments is the whole point.

    But honestly I don’t know. I have no interest in engaging.

  14. PaulBC says

    cervantes@23 Kill files worked very well for this. Nobody will ever convince me that we’ve advanced beyond the community provided by Usenet in days of yore.

  15. says

    @PaulBC 24
    Part of the complication is figuring out what kind of emotional response because communication is an emotional response. These are kinds of socially and politically aggressive responses. Otherwise emotion is in the responses we are sharing now.

  16. says

    My reading of the Seuss pruning is that modern politesse was just an excuse; it was really about corporate penny-pinching. Corporate wanted to reduce inventory, so they found something to object to. Some of the texts accused were indeed in need of some light edits; but some were too Seussian to give any Earthly offense, save to a fault-seeking Grinch. All could have been kept on their publication list with at most a light edit, but that would have required investing effort, judgement, and money. But the quick buck demands downsizing, not maintenance.

    There’s nothing new about any of this. Ask any author about publishers.

    Also not new: bipartisan diversion. The R’s blamed the PC excuse; the D’s explicitly defended the new politeness, and implicitly defended disinvestment, both as natural law.

  17. magistramarla says

    LeVar Burton is a wonderful, beautiful man!
    Old Star Trek fans, including myself and even Jonathon Frakes, have been signing petitions to get him to be the next host of Jeopardy. He’s going to have a guest hosting gig, hopefully because his fans demanded it.
    I think that he would be a great permanent host for the show.
    As PZ pointed out, he’s a great and gentle explainer of many truths, no matter if the audience is made up of kids or adults.

  18. PaulBC says

    Nathaniel Hellerstein@27 Books go out of print all the time. It doesn’t require any explanation. What is the point of producing an expurgated edition of a book that very few people are buying? Libraries should serves as archives of these books, though they don’t always fulfill that role.

  19. says

    Am I the only one that gets weirded out by his eyes? I’m so used to the visor I find his natural appearance weird somehow.

  20. raven says

    Libraries should serves as archives of these books, though they don’t always fulfill that role.

    I wish that were so.
    My local public library is very good and was one of my fun hangout spots before the Covid-19 pandemic.

    What they have been doing is purging their older books, both fiction and nonfiction. They purged a lot of their Fritz Lieber and Jack Vance and some other really good books that I know of.
    I suppose this is to make room for more recent additions since they have an active buy program.
    I find it disappointing when I want to reread an older book that I liked and it isn’t there any more.

  21. PaulBC says


    What they have been doing is purging their older books, both fiction and nonfiction. They purged a lot of their Fritz Lieber and Jack Vance and some other really good books that I know of.

    I have great memories of looking for obscure science fiction paperbacks at used bookstores. I imagine there aren’t as many opportunities now. My public library is well-funded and nice to go to (or will be when this pandemic ends). But their science fiction collection is spotty.

  22. birgerjohansson says

    PZ @20
    I have a Hotmail address, the domain has apparently now been taken over by Outlook. As I do not keep up with the nuts and bolts of internet communication I am usually at a loss of what to do when eejits misuse the system.
    There used to be some guy up in Canada that interfered with atheist blogs but he disappeared after the Canadian courts finally got involved.
    Kudos to the men and women that work hard at keeping the blogs safe!
    Burton is nice, but society also needs “benign assholes” who mock and ridicule that which deserves ridicule, because people in power can stand being hated but they cannot stand being laughed at.
    The viewpoints of Megan McCain are frequently a case in point. And if you follow politics in Northern Ireland you will know the new leader of the Unionists is likely to be a guy who thinks the world was created 4004 BC.
    I look forward to him providing the satire program “Spitting Image” with much material.

  23. Owlmirror says

    @PZ: Rather than blocking or banning or moderating an IP range, I’d suggest using the same model as other blogs: first post to the blog from anywhere goes into moderation, and only after that post is allowed through will the account stop being moderated. I would no longer trust IP addresses that any given person posts from to stay constant to a particular locale, or even country.

    Assuming the troll post something seemingly innocuous at first to get through moderation, you can choose to allow through comments when you’re going to be online for a while, and spot bad behavior right when it happens.

  24. Owlmirror says

    @Nathaniel Hellerstein:

    My reading of the Seuss pruning is that modern politesse was just an excuse; it was really about corporate penny-pinching.

    Were that the case, the Seuss estate could have done what they did with no announcement. Who would need any more explanation than “these books are not selling well”? But they posted a press release explaining why some books would be withdrawn from publication. I sincerely doubt that they expected a reaction from confused conservatives that would include “buy lots of Dr. Seuss books that were not withdrawn from publication to own the libs“, since the estate managers themselves were the “libs” in question.

  25. Owlmirror says

    Tangentially, this seems appropriate quote I just stumbled across:

      “Satire of satire tends to be self-canceling, and deliberate shock tactics soon lose their ability to shock, especially when they’re too deliberate.”
    — Herb Caen

  26. Artor says

    Wow, this troll seems to have a fetish for bragging how pathetic he is. I can’t imagine being so insecure that PZ’s blogging provoked an incoherent response like our friend is having. How sad.

  27. chigau (違う) says

    What will happen to you when your parents find out what you’ve been doing?

  28. Tethys says

    “If I have ‘Fangirls’ and ‘fanboys’ I don’t know who they are. But I wish nobody used vicious abuse.”

    ~Richard Dawkins on Twitter
    September 21, 2015

  29. Owlmirror says

    It’s worth noting that he has a podcast of the many books he’s read.

  30. Tethys says

    Roots is an iconic US television miniseries. It was truly great media, and I think Levars acting skills were a huge factor in its execution and popularity.

    I had forgotten about his cameo in the music video by Cameo.

  31. Owlmirror says

    That story, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”, by Ted Chiang, won the 2008 Hugo award for Best Novelette.

  32. Owlmirror says

    The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” was originally printed in Fantasy and Science Fiction in September 2007.

  33. Owlmirror says

    “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” was also collected in Ted Chiang’s most recent anthology, “Exhalation”.

  34. Tethys says

    Yoh pretty ladies around the world
    Got a weird thing to show you,
    So tell all the boys and girls.
    Tell your brother, your sister
    And mama too, cause they’re
    About to go down
    And you’ll know just what to do.

  35. John Morales says

    I remember watching an episode of TNG back in the day, where he took his shirt off and I was surprised at his rippling muscles.

  36. Tethys says

    Wave your hands in the air
    Like you don’t care, glide by
    The People as they start to look and stare.

  37. Tethys says

    Speaking of Octavia Butler, the Mars landing site of Preserverance has been named after her.


  38. Owlmirror says

    Hannu Rajaniemi is a Finnish SF author, who also wrote the more famous “The Quantum Thief”, and the very weird “Summerland”

  39. Owlmirror says

    Speaking of Octavia Butler, the Mars landing site of Preserverance has been named after her

    Excellent homage for an author who died much too young.

  40. Nemo says

    What they have been doing is purging their older books, both fiction and nonfiction.

    Ugh. Yes, let’s talk about libraries for a minute. My local library shut down for over a year (though they operated a temporary facility in the interim) so that they could knock down the old building and replace it with a much larger facility on the same site. Exciting! So, the time approaches for the reopening, and it turns out that it will hold… 60% of the books the old one held. Not 60% more, you understand — 40% less. Wait, what?! Why did this need a new building? Well, they filled it with computers, mostly, which is… great, I guess… That, and big soaring open spaces — there’s a whole second floor’s worth of nothing but air and windows. Oh, and a cafe, and meeting rooms, and… nothing that I wanted from a library.

    I get it. They’re serving a segment of the community that needs it more than I do. But you can’t even hide in the stacks in this place anymore — they only come up to maybe five feet tall. You can’t hide anywhere. What’s a library without the ability to shut out the world for a little while?

    It’s beautiful, and I hate it.

  41. birgerjohansson says

    The weird thing about “Roots” is Kunta Kinte looked happy when he was on the cart en route to the plantation.
    But that was not the actor’s fault, it was a weird decision by the director.

  42. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @33:
    I hope the purging of old books from the library is to to limited shelf space and lack of ability to expand its building. The ones purged most likely with lowest volume of circulation. I hope..
    Thank you letting me speculate, optimistically.

  43. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    rephrasing @92: (to correct all my tpyos):
    re @33:
    I hope the purging of old books from the library is due to limited shelf space, and inability to expand its building. The ones purged most likely being the ones with lowest volume of circulation. I hope..
    Thank you letting me speculate, optimistically.
    [correction in bold]

  44. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 90:
    I never saw Roots, only knew about it being LeVar’s first role, so I innocently ask: could have looked happy on the cart as conventional relief from being crammed in the hold of the ship, packed like sardines? I’m sure an open cart would have felt much better than the sardine can of the transport ship.
    Nevermind. I need to watch Roots to honor my hero LeVar

  45. magistramarla says

    We’ve been streaming Star Trek series during COVID. We just finished watching all seven seasons of ST:TNG.
    It was fun seeing LeVar Burton blossoming into an excellent science fiction actor again.
    We’ve finished Enterprise, Deep Space 9 and TNG. Now, we’re on to Voyager.
    We’ve also thrown in a few other fun SciFi series – Farscape, Warehouse 13, The Librarians, and Eureka.
    At the end of a long day, a glass of wine, a piece of dark chocolate and watching some enjoyable old series has been good for both of us.

  46. magistramarla says

    We used to volunteer at our local ComicCon in Texas, for the free admission and an enjoyable weekend.
    We were lucky enough to meet several of the SciFi actors that we have enjoyed watching over the years.
    I was once lucky enough to spend a couple of hours assisting in the moderation of a Q&A panel with Jonathon Frakes (Commander Riker). I learned that not only is he extremely talented as an actor and a director, but he is also a genuinely NICE man. I enjoyed getting to know him, and my husband and I have an outstanding picture taken with him.
    I also got to work with John Barrowman (Captain Jack from Dr. Who). He is also an incredibly NICE man, and is just as much fun to be around as the character that he portrays. He gave us an impromptu concert, and was hilarious. He loved it that I was dressed as the new female Dr. Who that day!
    When life gets back to normal, we’re going to have to look into volunteering at ComicCons here in California.

  47. Rob Grigjanis says

    magistramarla @96:

    he [Frakes] is also a genuinely NICE man.

    And he had the class to admit that showing the Enterprise finale as a TNG holodeck recreation was a really, really bad idea.

  48. magistramarla says

    I agree with you there. That was a very dissatisfying finale, especially the way it was handled for my favorite Enterprise character – Trip Tucker. I got the feeling that they were all pretty pissed off that the show was cancelled way too soon.