It’s a tiresome but time-limited problem.
Darwin in the schools lobbyist Eugenie Scott is retiring at the end of this year I kind of thought that would happen because, age apart, the new emphasis on climate change activism at her National Center for Science Education would mean a whole new desk to learn after a lifetime doing something else. Over at Evolution News & Views, David Klinghoffer complains about the misrepresentation of the Discovery Institute in the New York Times profile of the energetic lobbyist:
An admiring profile by New York Times reporter Cornelia Dean, in praise of Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, contains this egregious falsehood (emphasis added):
To organizations like the Discovery Institute, which backs the teaching of intelligent design in schools, Dr. Scott actually is “stifling legitimate scientific dissent,” as the group says on its Web site. It has also accused the N.C.S.E. of misrepresenting its work.
Actually there’s more than one falsehood there. Can you count them? Discovery Institute has consistently opposed, not “backed,” trying to get intelligent design taught in public high schools. We’ve been absolutely clear about that — see our policy here.
Moreover, the phrase Ms. Dean quotes in our name, about NCSE’s “stifling legitimate scientific dissent,” not only does not appear on Discovery Institute’s main web page to which the reporter links. It doesn’t appear anywhere on any of our web pages. A Google search for it produces only the NY Times article by Ms. Dean and blog posts derivative of that article.
Notice that: Dean’s apparent quotation, for example, is apparently fiction.
But reporter Dean isn’t really distorting the record. What she claims is the record because she claims it on behalf of the Times, the “paper of record”. It’s just that today the record no longer needs to be factual. The record needs to be what the dwindling numbers of Times readers want to believe. And it mustn’t contain what they do not want to know about. That is so on a large and increasing number of issues, actually.
These days, many people wring their hands over the egregious shaping of the news that goes on at dying red ink-a-saurs like the Times.. But the handwringers miss the point that most people who actually want to know what is going on do not use or need the mediasaurs any more. The bottleneck of news they used to exploit has become a flood tide. News and analysis aggregation sites are where to look now. If you are still reading the New York Times to find out what is happening in the world, you have a doubtless admirable taste for contemporary popular fiction. I’ve been following this trend for years, by the way, on a variety of issues.
Of course Dean could easily have discovered the facts, as they have been the same facts for many years. But Dean’s job is to maintain in print, not in fact, a world in which Darwin was right, virtuous and noble Darwinists are assailed by evil creationists who want to corrupt school kids, and the reader is so very, very clever to be a follower of Darwin himself. Subscribe if you want. Fewer do all the time.
None of this will change. The Times will close its doors sooner.
Along with every blogger and tweeter, we are the new media. We’re not better. We are just the survivors who can live in the new reality.