by Scoobie Davis
Eric Alterman, "Next Stop on the GOP Crazy Train: 'Newtsville'":
In their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson explain the nature of intellectual insularity of so many in this world, in which “the teachings of dubiously credentialed leaders are favored over the word of secular experts in the arts and sciences.” Considering the example of evolution, they write, “Anointed leaders convince their followers to reject evolution by undermining the credibility of the scientific community. The resulting widespread distrust of the scientific community—often portrayed as atheistic, anti-religious, ideological—undermines the credibility of everything the scientific community says, including its conclusions about climate change, the dangers of fracking, the importance of ecosystems, the need for vaccinating children, and so on.”
The authors describe “what amounts to a ‘parallel culture,’” where people like alleged “historian” David Barton (whose formal education consists of a degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University) and psychologist James Dobson (tennis team captain at what is now Point Loma Nazarene University) proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America’s founders.
Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sport with fewer (and perhaps crazier) fans than the Mets or the Red Sox.