Pat Sajak ... scientist?
By Bob Gaydos
It's Pat Sajak's fault.
For the past few years, I've been writing one opinion piece a week for a blog. It's a way to keep doing in retirement what I did for more than 40 years for newspapers.
But I have been unable to form an opinion for three weeks -- ever since I read about Sajak tweeting about "global warming alarmists being unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends."
This made no sense to me, starting with why the ever-smiling host of "Wheel of Fortune" had any reason to think his thoughts on global warming were worth sharing on Twitter in the first place.
But as I tried to set aside the Sajak incident, I found myself unable to find anything else that made sense to me. What the heck is wrong with this country? I wondered. What could I write about when what is supposedly the most technologically advanced society in history seems to be paralyzed by a combination of willful ignorance and abject laziness. Sajak Syndrome, if you will.
When did dumb become fashionable?
Pick a topic. Global warming? Pictures of the Arctic ice pack melting? Nearly 100 percent agreement among scientists that humans are destroying the planet's atmosphere through extravagant, ignorant use of fossil fuels and cutting down of rain forests? That's nonsense, the pundits on Fox News say. Wasn't it cold this winter? Didn't it snow? What the heck do scientists know?
If it were true, the Fox News folks would tell us, the Fox flock say. Really? When they're being paid to lie? This is abject laziness on the part of the viewers and willful ignorance on the part of the bosses and staff and big money backers at Fox News. And sadly today, most of the Republican Party.
How do you reach people who don't want to be reached, I wondered, people who are too lazy to question, who are so set in their own prejudices that they eagerly accept the drumbeat message that the man living in the White House is to blame for all that scientific foolishness and everything else that is wrong with this country?
Please, tell me again how racism is dead in America since we elected Barack Obama, a black man, to be president. Tell that to people whose voting rights are being stripped (by Republicans). Tell that to people of color in "Stand Your Ground" states. Check the arrest and imprisonment statistics on drug crimes.
Forgive me for jumping around here, but, as I said, I can't figure out what to write about because there is so much insanity going on in this country. The bankers drove this country into a recession through shady deals and didn't go to jail. Today, people who still can't find jobs because of the recession are called lazy and Congress -- again, led by Republicans -- cuts money for food stamps for the poor and refuses to extend unemployment benefits to the unemployed or raise the minimum wage or expand benefits to veterans.
It also refuses to cut college students -- the future of this country -- a break on the interest rates on their back-breaking loans. The corporations, of course, still get their tax breaks and CEOs who drive companies into the red still get rewarded with lavish golden parachutes. And the boss of McDonald's tells his employees to get another job to make ends meet because he can't afford to pay them a living wage. To Fox News, this makes sense.
Did I mention guns? There is a shooting at a school or mall or other public place virtually every day now, but it's not because guns are too easy to get, the willfully ignorant insist. No, the leaders of the NRA tell us that if we armed teachers and let everyone carry weapons openly there would be fewer shootings. Bring your guns to Chili's and Target. More guns mean fewer shootings. Oh, and if you don't feel like paying your share of income tax, hole up on your ranch with an arsenal and defy the federal government. Because you're a patriot. Fox News will defend your "right.'' This is insane.
Look at the food we eat. Well, actually, most of us apparently would rather not. Monsanto, a chemical company that controls the food supply, changes the genetic structure of basic foods. This allows companies to sell food cheaper because more crops grow in less space and the "food" lasts longer on shelves. That food is usually full of salt and sugar and chemicals, in addition to having its genetic structure changed.
No one knows the possible effects of genetically modified food, but Congress (Republicans, again) allows it -- won't even require labeling of foods with GMOs -- because Monsanto is a very generous donor to political campaigns. Europe has banned GMOs. China, too, and other countries. But Fox closes its eyes and ears and shuts off its brain to the obvious questions -- willful ignorance -- and its sheep munch away on cheap, addictive food, raising health insurance costs as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight-related illnesses increase. All the while, of course -- again at the instigation of Fox -- they are criticizing the president for trying to make health insurance more affordable for everyone.
There's plenty more. We are a nation of immigrants that can't come up with a reasonable immigration policy. We espouse freedom of religion, but in some areas of America it's probably not wise to admit being Muslim. There is still some question among some conservatives as to who is responsible when a woman is raped. Evolution is considered by the willfully ignorant and abjectly lazy as a theory to be debated. But Noah and the Flood -- an undeniable fact.
The Internet gets blamed for a lot of the misinformation that is spread today. But the Internet is just a tool. People spread ignorance, out of fear, greed, selfishness, prejudice, envy, laziness. I think many of the commentators at Fox News are laughing all the way to the bank. They are getting rich by criticizing the poor. Others are simply willing to say whatever they are told to say to get a paycheck. Some are just nasty and don't like people who are different from them. I think at times they all say stuff that they have to know can't be true, but they do it anyway because that's their job. There is really no excuse for people like this -- the willfully ignorant.
Why the Republican Party has allowed itself to be dragged down to this level, kowtowing to the frenzied anti-government, anti-Obama cries of the tea partiers, I don't know. I suspect it has to do with race (the president's) and with money -- who is providing how much of it to whom. Integrity is clearly not held in high regard in the GOP these days, at least not since it offered Sarah Palin as a person to be trusted a heartbeat away from the presidency.
That leaves the climate-change deniers (who also doubted the president's birth certificate) who think anything they read on the Internet is true, except if it's on an actual mainstream news site or one run by liberals. These are the abjectly lazy who wouldn't check a fact put forth by Fox News even if their life depended on it. And sometimes it does.
So there's my dilemma. I know what I have described here doesn't apply to everyone in this country. My belief -- indeed, my fervent hope -- is that it doesn't apply to a majority or even large minority of us. But Sajak Syndrome exists. So I will continue to write with that in mind and encourage others of like mind to do so as well. Far too many Americans have bought into the idea that dumb is good, up is down, black is white and what some politician said yesterday doesn't have to make sense with what he or she says today.
Far too many, in other words, would rather think of renowned scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of "Cosmos" (on Fox TV no less) as a charlatan and liar when he describes the "Big Bang" theory and tells us that global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously and immediately. On this issue, they'd rather trust the judgment of game show host Pat Sajak.
That's where I came in.
Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)