Why the NYT hired a science denier

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/05/02/why-the-nyt-hired-a-science-de.html


This phrase, from To Kill a Mockingbird, comes to mind:

They is mistaken in their mind.


And there you have it folks…


I don’t understand the desire for news-outlets to have lots of op-eds in the first place, just as much as I don’t understand the need for news programs to “ask the people on the street”.

Now, obviously, analysis is a different beast. Having experts on politics analyse political stories or scientists analyse science stories can add context to complex stories. I would understand that an outlet like the NYT would want analysts from all sides provide their insights and, for instance, hire both a conservative and a liberal economist to analyse stories on the economy. But for a serious news outlet to hire people to write opinion pieces about whatever tickles their fancy is just weird.


The most repeated comment I’ve seen in the conservative blogosphere:

“I hear that thousands of people are canceling their subscriptions to the NYT over Stephens’ column. Okay. What’s the down side??”


Honestly, you’ll probably hear the same thing from the left of the blogosphere. The relationship to the NYT is like the relationship to the Democratic party. If you need to support a well-known, well-funded institution, hold your nose and read it, but keep your head on a swivel for moneyed-interest bullshit. And, coincidentally (not a coincidence) this move is exactly what the Democratic party is doing. In the face of waning support, rather than energize their base, or recommitting to emphasizing/clarifying the truths that drive their party platforms, they’re reaching across the aisle to the moneyed interests on the other side. It can’t be long before a party to the left of bluedogD+moderateR buds off.


I think they aren’t lying and they genuinely think this represents diversity.


They’re not wrong. It’s just that this is the same “diversity of opinion” they’d get if they hired someone to write columns questioning the link between smoking and lung cancer. It’s an opinion that’s unsupported by evidence and dangerous to propagate.


Sadly no warning label comes with this jack-wagon’s pseudo-scientific drivel.


There are several elements of the Wall Street Journal’s product that the NYT might emulate to improve their own. It seems they’ve chosen to inject elements of the WSJ’s loony-toons op-ed page, where right-wingers are entitled to both their own opinions and their own facts.

When media outlets and political parties choose to abandon basic standards of truth and principles in ways that only an American right-winger would celebrate, educated liberals and progressives are going to start abandoning them with good reason.


There is a link between CO2 levels and atmospheric temperature
Supported by historical evidence

We are heading for cataclysmic outcomes driven by rising CO2 levels
Indicated via modeling which is partially supported by evidence

There are policy steps we can take which are necessary and sufficient to avoid said cataclysmic outcomes
Not yet established

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A rich, glib, dumb, anti-Trump conservative, on the other hand, can give Upper East Side cocktail parties that frisson of intellectual disputation while conveniently avoiding most of the actually important questions.

I thought they had that already in David Brooks. Or was that Thomas Friedman?


Sigh. Just more legitimizing of fringe opinions and deliberately incorrect understanding of the world.


Your example is also on-target because the oil industry spent years using tactics of denialism straight out the tobacco industry’s playbook. Their intellectually dishonest methods delayed for decades policy steps that would have been necessary and sufficient to avoid a large number of lung cancer deaths.


SUFFICIENT is the part that is not yet established.


Thanks for the comment, 2002.


The mind reels in horror at the innumeracy (and, frankly, just plain cluelessness, this is obvious years before you get to Stats) of someone who isn’t clear on the whole "law of large numbers makes predicting trends and bulk behavior way easier than predicting the specific outcome of a specific situation).

Can’t even predict what the next roll of a d6 will be… How can you even pretend to know what their behavior on average will be?




Very good point, I never thought of that. Back when it was just Paw farming the land, he might hear an opinion or two on the monthly run to the general store. But today we have the internet, and it’s somewhat easier to find opinions. They are no longer scarce. Do we really need a pile of paper to give us some?

The NYT op-ed page has been a disaster for ages now, and it kills me because many people use that section of the paper to disparage the fantastic journalists who are doing straight reporting in the front pages.