Stupidity on Parade…

Some things just set me off. Today was a day where I came across something quite innocently posted by someone on the old Facebook page, that when one reads it, you just have to shake your head in disgust.

Over at The Federalist, a slick conservative blog for the learning impaired, a writer named Bethany Mandel really showed her stupid chops today when she got her panties in a bunch over this Google header:(click to view properly)

Seems it really bothers her that Google would honor a woman whose book was a landmark publication at the time, created a lot of discussion and controversy and played a key role in our understanding of the consequences of not paying attention to our environment. Somehow, that really seems to bother her.

Those who decry life-saving anti-mosquito chemicals like DDT are the kinds of progressives who call conservatives anti-science and heartless. They do so while withholding environmentally safe chemicals from saving the lives of children in the developing world. Rachel Carson and her present-day admirers throw nets at those at risk of malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses. There are charities that give them out like candy.

 

Next year, when Google’s doodle team thinks about what or who to honor, I invite them to spend a few nights under a suffocating net in tropical and scenic Cambodia. Experience the true legacy of Rachel Carson. After throwing off the net at 2 a.m. in order to breathe, I invite them to spend days or weeks ravaged by fever in Kantha Bopha Hospital in a non-air conditioned room with 60 other families. 

 

And here is the kicker-she has the gall to blame Carson for a setback that befell her-and blames it all on what Rachel Carson supposedly set into motion. After all, she has a report from…….wait for it……..The Heritage Foundation to prove it. Like they are an honest broker.

Ms. Mandel fashions Rachel Carson as some sort of genocidal murderer. There is just one problem with that conclusion and its typical of websites like The Federalist and morons like those who write for the Liars Club, it is not true.

Not… one ….bit.

But never let the facts get in the way of a good wingnut tirade, shall we?

Google has really angered the Wingnuttospere this week. First off, on Monday, the search engine failed to put up a special doodle for Memorial Day, because Google Hates America — actually, the page did mark the day with an American flag and yellow ribbon icon, but they were too small and didn’t go up at midnight like they should have, but later in the day.* Then Tuesday, Google drew the wrath of all nine fulltime staffers of Twitchy by honoring Rachel Carson on what would have been her 107th birthday. This tribute to a known environmentalist sparked a Twitch-Fit, because of course by writing Silent Spring, a book that eventually led to the banning of DDT, Rachel Carson personally murdered millions:

 

Wingnuts love to distort history in any way, shape or form, so long as it makes them come out looking like the victim. Especially when the deeply disturbed people tending Breitbart’s mausoleum are on the case.

Funny thing is Rachel Carson died two years after her book came out and was never in government. How that somehow turns her into the Joseph Mengle of the 1960’s is beyond me. Especially when you look at what she really believed:

Rachel Carson, who stoically weathered misinformation campaigns against her before her death from breast cancer in 1964, would find the current situation all-too predictable. As she said once in a speech after the release of Silent Spring, many people who have not read the book nonetheless “disapprove of it heartily.”

 

Rachel Carson never called for the banning of pesticides. She made this clear in every public pronouncement, repeated it in an hourlong television documentary about Silent Spring, and even testified to that effect before the U.S. Senate. Carson never denied that there were beneficial uses of pesticides, notably in combatting human diseases transmitted by insects, where she said they had not only been proven effective but were morally “necessary.”

 

“It is not my contention,” Carson wrote in Silent Spring, “that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge.”

 

Many agreed. Editorializing shortly after The New Yorker articles appeared, theNew York Times wrote that Carson had struck the right balance: “Miss Carson does not argue that chemical pesticides must never be used,” the Times said, “but she warns of the dangers of misuse and overuse by a public that has become mesmerized by the notion that chemists are the possessors of divine wisdom and that nothing but benefits can emerge from their test tubes.”

 

Carson did not seek to end the use of pesticides—only their heedless overuse at a time when it was all but impossible to escape exposure to them. Aerial insecticide spraying campaigns over forests, cities, and suburbs; the routine application of insecticides to crops by farmers at concentrations far above what was considered “safe;” and the residential use of insecticides in everything from shelf paper to aerosol “bombs” had contaminated the landscape in exactly the same manner as the fallout from the then-pervasive testing of nuclear weapons—a connection Carson made explicit in Silent Spring.

 

Furthermore-a lot of scientific evidence backed up her contentions. Kind of like the debate about climate change today, there is a dedicated body of folks, like the writers at The Federalist, who seem content to just spew out the garbage and hope no one calls them on it. My hope in this post is to call them the contemptible liars they are. For example, I am at a loss to understand why Carson is somehow to blame for the deaths of children when she herself is gone and DDT is not banned. Seems Ms. Mandel missed that little detail:

At one level, these articles send a comforting message to the developed world: Saving African children is easy. We don’t need to build large aid programs or fund major health initiatives, let alone develop Third World infrastructure or think about larger issues of fairness. No, to save African lives from malaria, we just need to put our wallets away and work to stop the evil environmentalists.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy.

For one thing, there is no global DDT ban. DDT is indeed banned in the U.S., but malaria isn’t exactly a pressing issue here. If it ever were, the ban contains an exception for matters of public health. Meanwhile, it’s perfectly legal—and indeed, used—in many other countries: 10 out of the 17 African nations that currently conduct indoor spraying use DDT (New York Times, 9/16/06).

DDT use has decreased enormously, but not because of a ban. The real reason is simple, although not one conservatives are particularly fond of: evolution. Mosquito populations rapidly develop resistance to DDT, creating enzymes to detoxify it, modifying their nervous systems to avoid its effects, and avoiding areas where DDT is sprayed — and recent research finds that that resistance continues to spread even after DDT spraying has stopped, lowering the effectiveness not only of DDT but also other pesticides.(Current Biology, 8/9/05).

And even if you do agree with Ms. Mandel ( and you are a moron if you do), the book was still a landmark incident of the 60’s and worthy of historic recognition. Somehow Ms. Mandel seems to ignore that. Probably because, writing inside the wingnut echo chamber, perspective and context are things that easily get lost. Certainly, it works out well for her. She gets to publish inaccurate precepts, her readership is generally too stupid to know better, and so, in turn, they spread it around to all their right thinking friends.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

She marking them begins a wailing note And sings extemporally a woeful ditty How love makes young men thrall and old men dote How love is wise in folly, foolish-witty Her heavy anthem still concludes in woe, And still the choir of echoes answer so. (William Shakespeare)

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It's not easy being me-but the adventures I get to have- make it totally worth it. "One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny."- Bertrand Russell