Remember Todd Akin?
We may be glad to forget him now. The Missouri representative’s ill-fated Senate shot was downed by his well-known “legitimate rape” comment. There’s a whole wealth of literature buried in the media reactions to Akin, but here’s my favorite weirdo footnote to come out of the whole sorry affair. Did you know Akin accused lovable, family-friendly science educator Bill Nye of causing Hurricane Isaac? And did you hear Akin’s emotional, profane reply?
It’s downright shocking — and deeply satisfying, isn’t it? For those of us who have had our fill of politicians denying global warming (or evolution, or any scientific consensus), it’s a breath of fresh air to hear this squeaky-clean scientist let loose.
Except it didn’t happen.
The Daily Currant is a satirical publication, like The Onion. That didn’t keep hundreds of commenters from registering their support of Nye, or their joy at finally hearing a member of the scientific community speak his mind.
It’s proof in action that we believe the news we want to be true. That’s an outcome of polarization. As we divide more whole-heartedly into separate camps, we lose sight of the Other, and we’re more willing to believe ridiculous news items that should be clearly satire. Of course, fans of The Onion have made a cottage industry by showcasing people falling for their satire. (See the brilliant tumblr Literally Unbelievable.)
But that’s not the most disheartening part for me — the most disheartening part is how many commenters see themselves as adept, perceptive media critics while failing to perform
Let’s look at some comments from a recent Daily Currant story, in which failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney supposedly says, “I should have offered them fried chicken.”
Okay, so how do we explain this?