Nothing promotes popular culture libel – the propagation of myths, lies and misinformation in society and in popular media – as does technology. Ready access to information is only part of the equation. The remainder is ready access to publication – the ability of individuals, no matter how misinformed, to transmit into the public sphere poorly sourced, poorly analyzed, poorly reasoned pseudoscience that supports their political agenda. When a media outlet of any kind picks up a headline or a sound bite that furthers the left-leaning popular information and entertainment industry's unwritten but nonetheless shared agenda to trash conservatives and libertarians, that bite, clip or statement is repeated ad nauseam in multimedia on the Internet, in print and on television.
This is not news. Since e-mail first became popular, often-forwarded and quite apocryphal "urban legend" messages have been relayed from user to user, furthering falsehoods concerning everything from cookie recipes to Nigerian royalty offering investment opportunities. All too often, these forwarded missives contained lies about Republicans. Remember the list of quotes Vice President Dan Quayle was alleged to have said? Many were manufactured. Then there was the e-mail purporting to reveal scientific evidence that George W. Bush had the lowest IQ of any president in the last 50 years. It turns out that was a lie, too.
But the problem isn't just e-mail. Internet blogging and video sharing allowed the functionally illiterate Rosie O'Donnell to spew hateful rhetoric even after she lost her post on "The View." A bloated, caustic liar churns out "documentaries" full of treasonous hatred and libelous falsehood ... and he wins awards for his documentaries. A former vice president creates a glorified slide presentation built on junk science, and he wins awards, too. A vapid propagandist who rose to fame as a nude model gains notoriety for claiming, falsely, that vaccines made her son autistic and that she cured him with gluten-free diets and other quackery ... and she is rewarded with her own talk show on Oprah's new television network. (That idiot is blogging to "build a following" as you read this.)
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Why, even one of my favorite authors, a successful adventure novelist, uses his Twitter account almost exclusively to condemn the legions of slavering torturers he believes are lurking ominously in the wings of our military and intelligence institutions, just waiting for a chance to interrogate a prisoner inhumanely out of sheer meanness. He now writes for the often-wrong Huffington Post, a liberal scandal sheet in which any and all lies about the right are gleefully, breathlessly and uncritically repeated (if not generated). Only the fact that talk radio is dominated by conservatives makes it difficult for me to cite numerous examples in terrestrial radio – that is, now that "Air America" has all but evaporated in a puff of embezzlement-flavored smoke.
Simple lies, distortions and urban legends propagated about conservatives and libertarians all pale in comparison to what is the most coveted of all libelous popular-culture mechanisms. I refer, of course, to the study. A "study," no matter how it is produced and, more importantly, no matter how ineptly it is analyzed, is repeated without question in the popular media if that study furthers a left-wing political perspective. Such studies are presented with pious credulity as liberal holy writ, from which absurd, illogical and irrational pronouncements are foisted on the public.
The most recent and most egregious example comes to us thanks to "evolutionary psychologist" Satoshi Kanazawa, apparently working at the London School of Economics and Political Science. As NewsBusters reported at the end of last month, Kanazawa "correlated" – and that term is important – data on political, religious and sexual behaviors with intelligence. His conclusion? Predictably and giddily, liberals are now repeating the study's wink-wink, nudge-nudge, implied assertion that liberals are smarter than conservatives. In other words, smug left-wingers around the world may now claim that "studies have shown" their ilk to be smarter than Republicans, tea-party attendees, NASCAR fans, libertarians, people who complain that taxes are high and, basically, anyone from a "red" state.
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The only problem is that this simply isn't true. The study's conclusion, repeated over and over again without critical analysis, doesn't stand up to even passing logical scrutiny. As NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard commented, the study defines "liberal" only in terms of "concern for genetically nonrelated people and support for private resources that help those people." This is far less than an inclusive endorsement of Democrat politics in defining "liberal." It doesn't begin to touch critical litmus test (as Sheppard identifies) like abortion, gun control and gay rights.
Last year, writing in regard to a similar study, "Conservatism and Cognitive Ability," Jason Richwine easily shot down the notion, going on to elaborate on it. In the latter piece, he said, "As long as smarter people are more likely to be skeptical of tradition, then full-blown rejection of tradition will almost inevitably be correlated with higher IQ, even if a majority of smart people still favor traditionalism."
In other words, a similar study conducted among a population whose default, "socially conservative" views were those held by liberals – say, athiesm and sexual promiscuity – would produce the opposite correlation. The fundamental lesson here is that correlation is not casuation. Further, a failure to consider the demographics of the study will inevitably taint the conclusions drawn from the results.
As for Satoshi Kanazawa, this is apparently a common problem for him. An earlier study of his in 2006 prompted "scholars from the U.S. and U.K." to refute the "controversial" work, in which Kanazawa used "questionable and dubious data about national Iqs ... to draw far-reaching conclusions concerning the relationship between intelligence and health." Blogger Matt Katz was less kind, characterizing some of Kanazawa's work as "the stupidest, most sexist" material he had read that year. "His list of articles," Katz rails, "is a grand collection of logical fallacies."
"A grand collection of logical fallacies." I can think of no better words to characterize the body of "liberal" political thought.