Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Scientific Dialogue on Fox News

Something pretty incredible happened on Fox News today. Really. Given that Fox has managed to take the practice of using racial euphemism to the point of high art (no real surprise that, given that the whole shebang is run by master propagandist Roger Ailes), one would not expect one of their employees to depart from polished rhetoric and just go on a baldly racist rant, but one would have been quite surprised tuning into this morning's Fox offerings, if of course one wanted to torture oneself by sitting in front of such mind-numbing nonsense (like all television news networks, it must be said in fairness). And what a surprise it would have been.

On Fox & Friends a little chat was taking place over what under any sane conditions would be a study that would receive approximately zero attention by any serious science or health journalist, though nobody would confuse any of the three hosts of this show with such a beast. The study under discussion involved Scandanavian seniors, among whom those who had remained married appeared to be less likely to have Alzheimer's dementia.

Much could be said about the generally minimal worth of such a study, but that is merely a sideshow to the main attraction, which came when co-host Brian Kilmeade explained why he thought the results of such a study did not apply in the US. His reasoning? "We are...we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other..." was his first foray into the thickets of reason.

Immediately--and to her great credit--his fair-haired co-host Gretchen Carlson tried to cut him off with a not-so-subtle rebuke: "You're sure you're not suffering from some of the causes of dementia right now?" Say what you will about the formulaic arrangement of a pretty blonde chatting with two guys on the morning news; she understood the potential for ugly consequences within milliseconds of hearing the sounds that issued from Kilmeade's mouth.

Undaunted, Kilmeade pressed on, saying, "See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes .... Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society." Again, Carlson responded with a look of puzzlement worthy of an Emmy, and third co-host Dave Briggs appeared to try to find middle ground with a half-question half-exclamation of "Huh?!" in response. You really have to see this thing to believe it.

The nakedly racist bent of Kilmeade's "analysis" is really only half the point (and requires no further commentary). At least as important though is the idea that this man--who reveals himself through this short little piece to be a woefully uninformed and deeply unsophisticated anchor--has been chosen by a major television news network to hold forth on the latest in medical research. Moreover, said anchor is spouting off on this inconsequential study, chosen by some superior, instead of any number of other medical or scientific topics that might be of some actual use to its viewers. Lastly, the size & reach of Fox News relative to, say, the "Health & Medicine" section of the New York Times is of course considerably larger, so the impact of such vapidity is amplified.

Video is here:


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