Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Wurlitzer Prize for Wingnuttery for the week ending February 23, 2008

This week's Wurlitzer Prize Winning Wingnut of the Week is a longtime contender, Mary Matalin. Not as prolific a wingnut as a Jonah Goldberg or a Bill O'Reilly, Matalin makes up for her infrequent appearances by poking her head out of her den and spouting some really over-the-top crazy. You may remember her from such positive contributions to the public discourse as “Why African-American Civil Rights Leaders are Racists and are Still Enslaving Their Brothers” and “Harry Whittington Threw His Wrinkly Face in Front of My Master's Shotgun While it Was Safely Discharging but He Apologized and We Forgive Him.”

This week the thin-lipped Mouth of Sauron distinguished herself once again by using Wolf Blitzer's show to 1) attack the ongoing climate change as a “largely unscientific hoax” and a "political concoction" and 2) beat McCain over the head with it for not taking the time to label said reality as hoax for the benefit of the wingnut community.

Now while this week's contribution may seem pedestrian in comparison with her former achievements, I've recommending her for first place based simply on the sheer audacity of the claim and her casual dismissal of the conclusions of tens of thousand of scientists from a dozen different disciplines on national television. For starters, 2007 was on track at the beginning of the year to be the hottest year on record. To be fair it cooled off toward the end and ended up being only the sixth hottest year on record. And six may not seem like much compared to the number of deferments Cheney received so he could avoiding serving his country to take up studies on how to be evil in the future and get away with it, but the reality is that the six hottest years on record have all happened in the last ten years.

And if as a reality-challenged wingnut, thermometer readings are as meaningless to you as casualty counts in Iraq, then I suggest you come up from your mommy's basement, fumble around with the vertical blinds until you manage a functional eyeslit, and give your beady paranoid little eyes a good at what's happening around you. The four million residents of Atlanta nearly ran out of water – any and all of their water – last year due to a prolonged drought. This is reality, baby. Do we need to see images of the freeways clogged with fleeing residents before we address this issue? And it's not just Atlanta, water shortages and droughts are happening worldwide.

While droughts will affect our ability to grow our food on the one hand, warming is hurting the animals that we rely on food for the other. Scientists say that entire fish stocks are in danger of collapse due to warming, putting over two billion people at risk of malnourishment. Huge chunks of the food web are being carved out as insects and birds and fish and dwindle in numbers due to inability to adapt.

With a daily supply of fresh and convincing evidence that the planet is warming in a way that is already having a negative impact on the environment, the economy, and overall quality of life and prospects for the future, you'd think that the self-described conservatives of the world would begrudgingly admit there is a real problem here. Sure, they'd rather mine ash and eat scrub cactus than pay a carbon tax, but at least they'll admit, right? Not according to Matalin. On the contrary, she insisted that conservatives “loathe” the topic of global warming because it's a "hoax." Really? Despite mountains of evidence they loathe it for its hoaxiness?

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Well there is a long and distinguished pedigree of this kind of fear-and-denial-cloaked-as-loathing throughout human history when societies have been faced with imminent danger. Certainly Matalins stood in the Roman Senate and pontificated on the sheer ludicrousness of the barbarian threat. No doubt they stood their ground and filibustered the issue until they were finally split in two by a greasy broadaxe.

In the shadow of Pompeii Matalins sold joke umbrellas in the town square while mocking the families loading their ox-carts and leaving for higher ground.

I'm sure conservatives like Matalin even loathed the theory that the Titanic was sinking. I have it on good authority that a Matalin traveled aboard the White Star Line's flagship on its fateful voyage. From what I've been told, hours after the iceberg had been struck and the great ship was taking on water, great grand-mère Matalin was heard to exclaim, "Oh for heaven's sake, decent upstanding people do not hold to the belief that this ship is sinking. That is a largely un-maritime theory and hoax put forth by snake oil salesmen and the Irish. It is but a mere concoction cobbled together by unseemly charlatans for perfidious profit and I...."

Apparently there was more but bystanders report that her speech was cut off as the water rose above her head at her makeshift pulpit on the grand staircase. Meanwhile her manservants, as yet unaware of their mistress' watery demise, were busy selling tickets for the lifeboats to the highest bidders on behalf of the guy who saved White Star a lot of money by not providing enough of them for every passenger.

And thus it ever is with the unprincipled mouthpieces of business interests and corrupt power. Inoculate yourself against your opponent by accusing him of having perpetrating a hoax and possessing ulterior moneymaking motives -- when, in fact, it is you and the parties that you represent (Big Oil, Big Parka, Big Furnace) that are lying to the public and have everything at stake in denying the reality of global warming.

Sadly, even as Matalin pounds away clumsily at the Wurlitzer in discordant tones, there are still a few who listen and think she's making beautiful music.

I think what this country needs is a good music appreciation class.