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Foreign Policy Magazine DESTROYS Obama | Main | AoSHQ Podcast: Guest, Sonny Bunch
September 12, 2014

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Seems to Make Up Quotations Which He Then Attacks For Being Stupid

Sciencer Than Thou.

Here's what Tyson did:

In giving a talk, he put up two "quotes" that he alleged were demonstrative of scientific illiteracy in journalism and in Congress.

Now let me say something here: Of course journalists and Congressmen are scientifically illiterate. They're barely literate in literacy.

I do not disagree with his point. These people do not understand science.

But you can't just make up quotes to prove this point. (And why would you? The point is easily made without resort to phonied-up quotes.)

Neil DeGrasse Tyson included two quotes in his talk, attributing one to "Newspaper Headline" (what the hell kind of citation is that?), and another one to "Member of Congress."

You know, "Member of Congress." That asshole.

These quotes seem suspicious on their face, and Sean Davis' attempt to discover them via Googling has not disclosed "Newspaper Headline" saying "Half of all schools in district are below average" (get it? Duh, of course they're below average! Except... um, usually less than half are below average, because a lot are in fact average), nor "Member of Congress" saying "I have really turned my thinking 360 degrees on this issue" (get it? turning around 360 degrees faces you in the direction you began at! How dumb!!).

Update: A commenter, notropis, has tracked down a "Member of Congress" saying something like this, though the quote is still doctored in Neil DeGrasse Tyson's slide.

Maxine Waters told Henry Hyde that his claims about Presidential perjury had changed "360 degrees," when she plainly meant 180 degrees.

But the quote is still re-fashioned for the slide, and, curiously enough!, Maxine Waters' ownership of the quote is elided in favor of the vague "Member of Congress."


These quotes are fckuing stupid, in the first place, because these are cliched quibbles on the plane of "ASSH**E IT'S 'YOUR' NOT 'YOU'RE.'"

Yes, we're all aware that some people can't tell your from you're. We have been aware of this since 1998, if not before.

We also know that some people often say "literally" when they mean "metaphorically."

I am not saying these aren't real errors. I'm not saying the people making them aren't assh*les.

What I'm saying is that the people pointing these things out are also assh*les, because this shit has been said sixty three thousand fckuing times already.*

We get it. We've heard it. Why do people insist on saying the same fckuing twenty things every fckuing day?

What are we parrots? Do we only use our Words to make the Same Words everyone else made the day before?

It's not that this complaint is wrong. It's just hackneyed and cliched to point it out.

This is why I began, consciously, using "impact" as a verb. Because I got sick of people complaining that impact was being used as a verb.

The people complaining bothered me more than the people using "impact" as a verb (and I never thought this was some egregious neologism in the first place), so now I'm trying to impact the English language by employing "impact" thus.

Anyway, Neil DeGrasse Tyson's points are churlish, childish, and cliched. Yes we all get the "half of all people are below average" joke. We all got it the sixty five billion times we heard it before, when Garrison Keillor described Lake Woebegon as a place where all the kids were just a little above average.

And we get the "360 degrees is all the way around, you meant 180 degrees" thing.

We've heard this from Nerds in Eighth Grade. My God, were those Nerds so totally stoked to correct us!

And My God, were those Nerds horrified when we wrapped them up 360 degrees around with packing tape and stuffed them in a locker filled with unwashed jockstraps.

So Neil DeGrasse Tyson is making an infantile point, intended to produce laughs from an infantile audience which is itself scientifically illiterate but likes to think it's all In Love With Science. So he needs to make a joke which flatters them while simultaneously keeping within the extremely limited parameters of "Science" these fcuking nitwits have actually heard of.

By the way, these idiots' "Science" consists of saying "Man, Pluto isn't a planet any more!" and "360 degrees is all the way around; you meant 180 degrees."

So Tyson only has a little bit of room here for error.

So what does he do?

Well, apparently he just makes up quotes and pretends they came from a real "Newspaper Headline" or a real "Member of Congress," so that his scientifically illiterate fanbois can feel scientifically superior to someone.

Now here's the thing: Sean Davis contacted Neil DeGrasse Tyson and asked him, "Where did those alleged quotes, which you seemed to claim were genuine, actually come from?"

Here's The Ultimate Scientist's reply:

Well, my Cargo Cult Ignorant Savage Worshippers liked my making crap up, So.

* When Weird Al did his parody of Blurred Lines -- Word Crimes -- I was kind of not all that psyched because he only touched on these absurdly obvious and absurdly over-commented-upon errors.

However, I gave it a pass, as it was a song, intended for general commercial audiences; I supposed it wasn't fair to demand he notice less remarked-upon errors.

Still, I was annoyed by the Endless Restatement of the Already Sufficiently Stated in that song, too. **

** I should note this is also objectionable as "Punching Down."

Yes, well-educated people know grammar better than poorly educated people.

But why point this out? Are well-educated people competing with poorly educated people?

Congratulations, you have now proven that people with fewer advantages than you have do in fact have fewer advantages than you have.

You Are Ultimate Winner.

If you're going to make a Superiority Move (and I don't object to that; I'm doing it right now), make a Superiority Move against your social and educational peers.

There's more sport in that, and more glory in a well-executed Social One-Upsmanship Gambit.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:27 PM

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