The Weekender: Sometimes, Sarah Palin Says Something So Dumb…


It’s been a banner year for Sarah Palin. The former Alaska Governor has retaken the political stage as one of the first “establishment” Republicans to jump aboard the Trump train, she welcomed her third grandchild, and she’s going to be getting her own People’s Court-style reality show. That’s nice, but candidly if the world were to forget Sarah Palin ever existed, we wouldn’t be missing anything (and I’m aware of the irony of saying that in the midst of a takedown piece so don’t bother pointing that out). But then, she had to attack Bill Nye.

Palin went after the science guy the other day for his advocacy on the issue of global warming. She said that Nye was using his position of authority to harm children by teaching them that climate change is real and man-made, and that “Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am.” […] “He’s a kids’ show actor; he’s not a scientist.” Considering that Palin’s a communications major about to get her own show where she’s a judge, I guess to her everyone’s a phony.

Let’s drop some biographical science on Palin. Bill Nye got a B.S. (that’s Bachelor of Science) in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell University, which was also where Jon Rubinstein, one of the main developers of the iPad, and Robert Tappan Morris, inventor of the first computer worm, studied. Eight of Nye’s fellow Cornellians became astronauts, and Nye himself developed a sundial used on the Mars Rover. Of course that was after he worked at Boeing and invented the hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for the the 747 and started warped young minds with science, but you know, there’s only 24 hours in a day.

When Sarah Palin invents something that works in an actual airplane, I’ll call her a scientist. But why is she making Bill Nye enemy number one? Well, the context is that Palin was a guest at a screening of a “documentary” called Climate Hustle, which is sadly not a sequel to Kung Fu Hustle where Stephen Chow beats climate change by drop kicking it. Let’s take a blurb from the film’s own website:

Scorching temperatures. Melting ice caps. Killer hurricanes and tornadoes. Disappearing polar bears. The end of civilization as we know it! Are emissions from our cars, factories, and farms causing catastrophic climate change? Is there a genuine scientific consensus? Or is man-made “global warming” an overheated environmental con job being used to push for increased government regulations and a new “Green” energy agenda?

Tough stuff. I couldn’t find any credits for Climate Hustle – you know to say who wrote, produced or directed it or anything –  but the name most associated with it is Marc Morano. If Palin is unwilling to take the word of a man that, at the very least , hosted a science kids show about global warming than you’d think this Morano guy was some kind of science wizard. And you’d be wrong. He’s a political science major from George Mason University, we worked for Rush Limbaugh and something called the Cybercast News Service, originators of Swift boat veterans attacks against Secretary of State John Kerry in 2004. He was then director of communications for Senator Jim Inhofe (he of the “this snowball disproves Climate Change” fame) before starting, a climate change denier’s one stop shop for “real” reporting on environmental issues.

To recap: Sarah Palin believes the professional political spokesperson on science more than the Ivy League-educated scientist that designs airplane and space vehicle parts. Let that sink in.

The real question is why anyone would take Palin, any Palin, as an authority on any subject. They’ve failed in practically every endeavour. Forget the low-hanging fruit of abstinence-advocate Bristol with two kids out of wedlock, Sarah Palin quit being Governor halfway through her term, her contract at Fox News wasn’t extended, her reality show on the so-called TLC wasn’t renewed, her expected presidential bid in 2012 never materialized, and her own endorsement of Trump in January was memorable more for for its coherence, or lack thereof, as opposed to any substantive contribution to the candidate (and he lost Iowa on top of that).

“These issues that Donald Trump talks about had to be debated. And he brought them to the forefront. And that’s why we are where we are today with good discussion. A good, heated, and very competitive primary is where we are. And now though, to be lectured that, ‘Well, you guys are all sounding kind of angry,’ is what we’re hearing from the establishment. Doggone right we’re angry! Justifiably so! Yes! You know, they stomp on our neck, and then they tell us, ‘Just chill, okay just relax.’ Well, look, we are mad, and we’ve been had. They need to get used to it.”

Yes, that woman was the same one that said this week “Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am.” I doubt Sarah Palin would make it out of Sesame Street alive let alone the Natural History Museum, or CERN.

But going after Bill Nye, a man who with Wonderstruck‘s Bob McDonald formed the basis of my own scientific curiosity (I can’t do science, but I’m still curious about it), is not the point we should be focusing on. “It’s something that our candidates should be talking about and giving us their view on and hopefully acknowledging that it needs to become, in the science community, less political,” Palin said. “Otherwise, it leads us to believe that so many things coming from perhaps the scientists could be bogus. If this is bogus, you know, what else are they trying to tell us and trying to control us around if they can’t get this one right?”

That’s right, scientists are con men, and climate change is a pyramid scheme. It’s an old line sold by the far right in the United States that “big science” has a vested interest in perpetuating the myth of climate change to keep that juicy grant money flowing. “Big science” was an expression coined by former Nixon speech writer and high school economics teacher Ben Stein in his film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a supposed expose of “widespread persecution of scientists and educators who are pursuing legitimate, opposing scientific views to the reigning orthodoxy,” AKA: intelligent design proponents. The New York Times called it “an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike.”

In the Stein movie, he tries to draw straight lines from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to the atrocities of Stalin and Hitler, grossly misquotes Darwin himself to prove the point, and profiles several “prominent” scientists that were “expelled” and chastised by their colleagues and peers for daring to dissent to Darwin’s theory. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) ended up building an entire website to debunk the film point for point. Interestingly, at the time Stein was probably best known for his Ferris Bueller cameo and the Comedy Central game show Win Ben Stein’s Money!, yet oddly enough he was on CNN a month ago calling the Palin-supported Donald Trump “dangerously misinformed.” I guess it’s easy for Stein to forget his own dangerously misinformed past when the company that produced Expelled went bankrupt in 2009, and the rights were sold to persons unknown in 2011.

As for Palin comparing herself as expert on science to Bill Nye, yeah, what can be said? The problem with this debate remains the polarized righteous ignorance of Palin, Trump, Inhofe, Morano and Stein who because they don’t want to believe in a scientific fact decide then that it must not be true. In those toothpaste commercials four out of five dentists are recommending that one particular brand, but the fifth one isn’t saying that brushing your teeth with Windex is the better call to battle cavities. But in the climate change debate, the fifth scientist is a straw man that a certain type of politician will always cling to because in the end, the Palins of the world are right about one thing: you can always find one person who will pay to play devil’s advocate even if everyone else is against them.

A reminder that Earth Day is this coming Friday, and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner will be on the show for the entire hour this Thursday to talk about environmental issues. If you have a question for Schreiner, feel free to let us know.

And FYI, Climate Hustle will be screening at the Cineplex at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto on May 2 at 7 pm if anyone’s brave enough to check it out. Anyone? Anyone?

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