Murdoch, Azarian, Reich, and Scientists

Items today:

  • The retirement of Rupert Murdoch, who became wealthy by degrading American politics and appealing to many Americans’ worst instincts;
  • Republican hypocrisy example: John Fetterman vs. Lauren Boebert; with a classic definition: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”
  • A good summary by Bobby Azarian about the Dunning-Kruger effect, relevant to the previous items;
  • Robert Reich explains what “socialism,” a concept conservatives don’t seem to understand, actually is;
  • And how American dominance in science is threatened by conservative science-deniers.

The significant cultural/political news yesterday was the announcement that Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chair of Fox News. Sometimes I wonder, if aliens, or foreign agents, wanted to infiltrate American society in ways to bring our society down, wouldn’t they act a lot like Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump? Is the nation better off now than before those two came on the scene? Obviously, I would say, no.

Slate, Justin Peters, 21 Sep 2023: Bloody Murdoch, subtitled “As much as anyone, the Fox News mogul is responsible for America’s conservative crackup. What did it get him?”

It is depressingly easy to summarize the career of Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old media mogul who on Thursday announced that he would retire in November as chair of Fox News and News Corp. Over the past half-century, Murdoch made billions of dollars with media properties that preached a reactionary populism rooted in fear and division. His outlets pandered to their audiences’ secret cruelties and validated their worst instincts. Over time, they fostered a virulent strain of head-in-sand cultural conservatism that helped transform multiple national polities while fortifying Murdoch’s own personal financial interests.

Long piece, and I’m not going to read all of it; it’s too depressing. The piece ends:

When he dies, it will not take long for the world to forget his name.


HuffPost, 22 Sep 2023: CNN Torches Rupert Murdoch With Sickening Supercut Of Fox News At Its Worst, subtitled “Host Abby Phillip gave the outgoing right-wing media mogul a scathing send-off.”

I’m not going to watch this either; skimming it, I recognize many of these pieces. Filed as evidence of life in the 21st century, which future generations might not believe.


One more.

Media Matters, 21 Sep 2023: Angelo Carusone on Rupert Murdoch stepping down: “The world is worse off because of Rupert Murdoch”, subtitled “Murdoch created a uniquely destructive force in American democracy and public life, one that ushered in an era of division where racist and post-truth politics thrive”

The site’s homepages’ headline: “Rupert Murdoch’s legacy is one of deceit, destruction, and death”


This item is noted in particular for the description of conservatism in the first paragraph.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 21 Sep 2023: Fetterman’s hoodie vs. Boebert’s handsy night: Why Republicans can’t see their own hypocrisy, subtitled “The Senate dress code whining isn’t really about propriety, not from the party of Donald ‘Capitol Riot’ Trump”

Let’s just get this out of the way, since it will be tweeted at me a million times: Wilhoit’s Law comes from a 2018 comment posted on the Crooked Timber blog. With devastating — and viral — precision, Frank Wilhoit wrote, “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

Whereas liberals, soft-headed as we are, want the law to bind and protect everyone; conservatives are more tribal. But the article is about the Republican hypocrisy of caring more about a hoodie than getting “handsy” in public.

The searing truth of Wilhoit’s Law has been on full display this week in the disparate reaction Republican reactions to two alleged breaches of propriety: Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn. wearing a hoodie to his office vs. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., getting to third base in the very public audience at “Beetlejuice: The Musical.” Well, the latter is not “alleged” at all, as Boebert getting handsy with her date before getting kicked out of the play was caught on a widely spread security tape. But, measured by volume in weight and decibel level, Republicans clearly believe that Fetterman being comfy while doing the people’s business is by far the greater offense against basic decency.

Not reading this whole article either; it’s too trivial and sordid to waste much time on. But again, noted as evidence, for future people who may not believe our nation at one time sunk so low.


There have always been a lot of stupid people in the world; what I think has changed in recent decades is that these people, along with everyone else, can amplify and spread their views via social media.

AlterNet, Bobby Azarian, 19 Sep 2023: Opinion | A neuroscientist explains why stupidity is an existential threat to America

It may sound like an insensitive statement, but the cold hard truth is that there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and their stupidity presents a constant danger to others. Some of these people are in positions of power, and some of them have been elected to run our country. A far greater number of them do not have positions of power, but they still have the power to vote, and the power to spread their ideas. We may have heard of “collective intelligence,” but there is also “collective stupidity,” and it is a force with equal influence on the world. It would not be a stretch to say that at this point in time, stupidity presents an existential threat to America because, in some circles, it is being celebrated.

The writer here, Bobby Azarian, published a book earlier this year, The Romance of Reality: How the Universe Organizes Itself to Create Life, Consciousness, and Cosmic Complexity, which is on my TBR (to be read) shelf.

The subject here is not new; this piece is all about the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is about dumb people not realizing how dumb they are. Star example: Donald Trump.

Stupidity is a consequence of a failure to be aware of one’s own limitations, and this type of cognitive failure has a scientific name: the Dunning-Kruger effect.

And Azarian does a good job explaining it.


Other topics. Here’s Robert Reich explaining one of those concepts that most Americans simply do not understand, using the term as an expletive.

AlterNet, Robert Reich, 22 Sep 2023: Opinion | Why socialism fear-mongering is bananas

Don’t get scared. I’m going to talk about something that’s caused a lot of fear mongering.

You see, advanced countries, like the United States, pool resources for the common good. How? Well, governments enact taxes and then spend that money on things that benefit everyone. Think of national defense, schools, highways, healthcare, unemployment insurance — basically government spending that protects the well-being of the people.

But since some folk, like your conservative Uncle Bob, think ANY pooling of resources for the common good is…socialism.

And since socialism is apparently so terrifying…

I’m going to use a different word to describe this taxing of individuals for the common good. Let’s use.. I don’t know.. How about…Banana! That’s not scary, right?

Great. So, there are essentially three purposes for which governments banana.

Which are: social insurance; public goods that we all benefit from; and public investment in our future.

Needless to say, all the hysterical Republicans railing against socialism (conflating it with communism and fascism) have no idea what they’re talking about; many, many aspects of our society, that we’ve grown up with for a century, are socialist in the strict sense that Reich describes.


One more for today. The MAGA anti-science anti-vax fearmongers don’t realize they’re trying to tear down centuries of human progress, progress that has made the world a wealthier, healthier place to live. (Not to mention the US being a leader in this progress.)

LA Times, Peter Hotez, 22 Sep 2023: Opinion: Scientists have become sitting ducks. We need leaders to step up and defend us

Nearly a century ago, when global dominance in scientific research began shifting to the United States from Europe, our nation built an empire firmly grounded in the natural sciences. America’s research universities and institutes flourished and provided the discoveries leading to the Manhattan Project, Silicon Valley’s tech industry, NASA and space exploration, vaccines to fight polio and other global infections, and new treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and depression.

As a science envoy for the State Department, I saw first-hand how global leaders and technocrats admired the U.S. for its higher education system of scientific training and support. They spoke to me with pride about their time spent at U.S. universities or their hopes and aspirations that one day their sons and daughters might study here.

But not anymore. COVID deaths in Republican strongholds. Victims of “misinformation.” Fox News. “If I wanted to guess if somebody was vaccinated or not and I could only know one thing about them, I would probably ask what their party affiliation is.” Recalling Stalin and the Soviets. And how some 15% of American scientists report having received death threats. The writer concludes,

We must find ways to preserve our achievements in biomedicine and support scientists, even if that means both the scientists and those in positions of power engage political leaders and challenge ideologues to reject their anti-science rhetoric and agenda. Otherwise, almost a century of America’s preeminence in science will soon decline, our democratic values will erode, and our global stature will fall.

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