Yesterday, a brief review of Conservapedia appeared on one of New Scientist’s blogs. The review quoted two Sciencebloggers as well as the Schlafly responsible for the Hellerian, if not Orwellian, trainwreck of a website), and has sparked a second round of posts here. A sane reader (presuming, of course, that we have one) might wonder why we are so obsessed with a right-wing lunatic website that is, at first, second, third, and fourth glance indistinguishable from a parody of right-wing lunacy. The reason that a website like this should spark concern as much as laughter is simple: this particular website is an extreme symptom of a condition that has become extremely widespread, particularly (but not exclusively) among the political right in America.
The condition here could be (and has been) described as a delusional mindset, but I’m not sure it’s that simple, that harmless, or that easily excused. These people are not content to simply live in their own little alternate reality. They are determined to make certain that we live there, too. This means that when inconvenient little fact come up – the ugly little facts and inconvenient truths that can slay even the most beautiful hypotheses – reality gets rewritten and the facts that disagree with the core beliefs get omitted.
Conservapedia is symptomatic of the right wing’s ever increasing reliance on what Stephen Colbert so famously called, “truthiness.” It’s the reliance on gut instinct over actual fact, combined with a willingness to mock and attack those who believe that we should make our way through the world based on facts and not beliefs.
Conservapedia is symptomatic of the truthiness culture, where everyone is entitled not only to their own opinions but to their own facts. It’s the worldview that allows the Bush to claim, after two years of pushing a “stay the course” strategy that, “we’ve never been stay the course.” It’s the culture that allows the Whitehouse to claim, despite numerous on the record statements by the president questioning humanity’s role in climate change, that, “[b]eginning in June 2001, President Bush has consistently acknowledged climate change is occurring and humans are contributing to the problem.”
Facts matter. Reality matters. Right now, it’s possible that facts and reality matter more than ever before, as we are being faced with crisis upon crisis. If we do not stand up for the facts, and demand that reality be restored to its rightful place in our politics and policies, we will not be able to survive all the crises that we are faced with.
Conservapedia is a joke, to be sure, and it’s not even a good joke. The truthiness culture that it represents, on the other hand, is a clear and present danger to our future well-being and that of our children. It is a mindset that is unhealthy and unacceptable, and it needs to be fought.