Dear MSNBC,

I know it is appropriate to have a range of opinions among the talking heads representing a news agency, and MSNBC certainly does have a range. Pat Buchanan, regular commentator on two or three MSNBC news shows, probably serves at the most conservative individual in the MSNBC panoply.

But he has to go now.

This letter comes as a reaction to Buchanan’s most recent column, which addresses Darwinian theory and evolution in an over the top intellectually dishonest, inaccurate, and offensive manner. I will not discuss the details of his absurd column; several of my colleagues on the blogosphere have (see “Old fossil” by PZ Myers, “Buchanan Blathers” by Ed Brayton and “We Don’t Take Pat Buchanan Seriously” by Mike Haubrich). Rather, I’d like to simply call for Buchanan’s retirement from his role as MSNBC commentator, with this letter being the written manifestation of Buchanan’s final steps into unacceptable offensiveness and intellectual irrelevancy.

It has always annoyed me that MSNBC would use the services of Pat Buchanan. I would have thought that by now we would have put aside all remaining vestiges of the Nixon Administration. In fact, I always thought that MSNBC’s choice to use Buchanan as a regular was moderately offensive to those of us who suffered through the Nixon years and were, at the time of Buchanan’s joining MSNBC, now suffering through the Bush years.

You see, the self-righteous politics at any cost, “if the president does it it is legal” attitude of the 1970s right wing has moved off the stage over recent decades, and most of the practitioners of that attitude (many in prison) moved with it. So what was Buchanan doing on your show?

Now, we are seeing a new shift in political framework. Over the last decade we’ve seen a relentless erosion of the role of quality science in the forum of public policy, and a steady induration of ideological humors into the scientific discourse. Press agencies, even including the relatively intellectual and progressive MSNBC, have not helped as much as they have hurt society, the economy, and as a matter of fact, the truth itself, by insisting that every issue has two valid sides in matters of science (it doesn’t, by the way). If someone says “global warming is real” there MUST be someone out there saying it is not. Find that person and put them on TV. The “balance” of viewpoints “pro” and “con” with respect to this and other important scientific issues has had a chilling, negative effect on science. At this point in time, more people die younger, suffer more, and live less happy lives than they otherwise might because science has been so badly treated by conservative politicians. That is indisputable fact. It will take years to undo the damage that right wing ideological anti-science has done.

Although there is still a great deal of work to do, it is a fact that as we speak the nature of science funding, evaluation, reporting, and implementation is rapidly changing in a post-Bush environment. Suddenly, science can breathe.

But many elements of the right wing hang tenaciously on to the ideological approach in which real science is denigrated and damaged wherever doing so will produce either profit or power. As a long time voice of this sort of conservatism (“Right from the beginning” is his motto, after all) Pat Buchanan now represents the damaging fringe, the corrosive edge, the untenable underbelly of political commentary at MSNBC. As the anti-science gambit of the right wing is moved, still struggling but doomed, off the stage, Pat Buchanan is left on your stage … the MSNBC stage … playing a tune on the atonal kazoo of ignorance to which fewer and fewer people dance.

That era of political whitewash of scientific truths and mean spirited hobbling of progress in medical, life science, and earth science studies is flanked by several events. The election of Ronald Reagan and the daparture of Bush II from office are volcanic layers dating the rise and fall of the eclipse of science. The publication of The Republican War on Science and Unscientific America are literary bookends. The first Earth Day, which some will remember as a radical act, and the IPCC report on climate change are the embryo and the wise sage representing different ends of a remarkable developmental period.

Perhaps the retirement of science-friendly Walter Cronkite in 1981 and the retirement from MSNBC of science-unfriendly Pat Buchanan … this year … would be appropriate era-markers for the dark ages of science’s role in the American political forum.

Sincerely,

Greg Laden
Denizen of the Liberal Blogosphere

Comments

  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    July 1, 2009

    Hear, hear! It is one thing to speak truths that may hurt someone. It is quite another to speak lies designed to hurt people for others’ profit. The latter is what Buchanan does, and it’s appalling that MSNBC is willing to provide the forum.

  2. #2 Rob Jase
    July 1, 2009

    Apparently you didn’t notice that we’ve just had eight years of “if the president does it its legal’. Yes, it’s royally messed up the US as well as the rest of the world but it has hardly moved offstage, the Religious Reich is still out there trying to theocratize America (you do know about Palin right?)

    Besides, if MSNBC lets him go he’ll only move over to Fox.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 1, 2009

    Rob, I certainly did notice it. What I refer to in my letter is the Nixon Administration. He is the President to which that is attributed, and Buchanan was on his staff.

    “Only moving over to Fox” would be an excellent outcome! Great idea!

  4. #4 Jason Thibeault
    July 1, 2009

    Yeah — that way when we tune out Fox altogether, then we don’t have to hear Crazy Uncle Pat any more.

    In tribute to your open letter I’m watching Crazy Uncle Pat Youtube videos.

  5. #5 Anon
    July 1, 2009

    If you have not sent it already, please add the appropriate “e” to “breath[e]” in par. 7.

  6. #6 norelpref
    July 1, 2009

    I heartily endorse this letter. How long are we to endure these anti-intellectual, puerile pundits?

  7. #7 Glen Davidson
    July 1, 2009

    I’m slightly torn on the (slim) prospect of not having Buchanan to kick around any more.

    He might be there just for laughs, and/or to keep our minds on how stupid the right has become (yes, if it wasn’t necessarily very bright ever, it’s definitely more stupid than in the past). I mean, he just gathered up a bunch of long-exploded creationist canards and spit them at America.

    Of course you have to call for retiring the author of such rancid tripe. But he’s really just making creationism look as stupid as it is with such an article. At least Dembski obscured his nonsense with math, and Behe dressed up his anti-scientific false dilemma with a bunch of impressive-looking facts.

    Buchanan’s using the old quotemine of Gould that Stephen himself addressed as ridiculous and dishonest (he wrote that transitionals at higher taxonomic levels are “abundant”), dredges up the fact that Piltdown was a fraud (Schoen alone effected far more frauds in physics than are known in evolutionary science), and repeats noxious creationist lies about the fossil record.

    It’s pathetic, far more embarrassing to Buchanan and ID/creationism than a problem for the science side.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  8. #8 Richard Eis
    July 1, 2009

    and we like our slaughter meat fresh. Most of his comments about evolution were laughed at and dealt with in about the 70′s.

  9. #9 Rob Jase
    July 1, 2009

    My mistook Greg.

    Bet you never thought you’d see worse than Tricky Dick did you?

    Makes a fella realize that the worse may always be yet to come.

  10. #10 Lou FCD
    July 1, 2009

    Buchanan wouldn’t be so bad if there were a rolling ticker underneath him, pointing out how fucked up he and his ilk really are.

    Maybe a comedy ticker, running headlines from The Onion?

    Maybe just appropriate commentary on his bloviating, something along the lines of “Idiot. Moron. That’s a lie. Oh THERE’S a good idea… if you’re dumber than a rock.”

  11. #11 Stacy
    July 1, 2009

    WUT a Friggin’ ijut he is!

    I’m embarrassed to live in the same country as Buchanan.

  12. #12 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 1, 2009

    Me, I think that Obama should name a standing internal Army to round up right-wingers, take their guns away and close their churches. And he can do it, too, because “if the president does it, it’s legal.”

    I don’t take Pat seriously anymore.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    July 1, 2009

    Rob Jase: I want to restate/revise my comment in response to your comment. I did not quite click with what you were saying.

    Nixon and Bush II certainly shared the “If the president does it is it legal philsophy.” But, back in the day, in the post-WWII through Viet Nam eras, this attitude was more widespread among the general public. It is because of Watergate that the attitude that Power=Law in the Whitehouse is totally unacceptable rather than simply a matter of opinion.

    Having said that, it may well be true that Bush II was worse than Nixon. As has been suggested in the comments. Makes me sick to think about it.

    The whole point of this letter is to insist on a shift of the right (towards the left) to produce a bit of a shift in the middle, so that when the usual, expected cycle from progressive control to regressive control happens it can not as easily go as far as it did last time.

    A network that can have Rachel Maddow is a network that and Dump Buchanan.

  14. #14 Rob Jase
    July 1, 2009

    Greg, I quite agree BUT the attitude persists in a fair percentage of people.

    Certainly the Religious Reich naturally adheres to authoritarianism, its dogma to them, so they project it onto Dog’s earthly representative – the POTUS (yes, many do believe that).

    Rachel is the sharpest knife in MSNBC’s drawer.

  15. #15 Ron Hager
    July 1, 2009

    Pat Buchanan is lying sack of crap. The man has no morals and is not above inventing lies just to get himself on television one more time. I watch MSNBC, but when he appears I immediately turn to any other station, other than Fox, because I have heard enough of his lies over the years to know that it is a complete waste of my time to listen to him.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    July 1, 2009

    Rob, you may be right, and it may be getting more widespread.

  17. #17 xavier
    July 1, 2009

    I don’t believe that having someone (stupid) to kick around is ever a good reason to keep the (stupid) person around. Frankly, that is a little dangerous sometimes.

  18. #18 April
    July 1, 2009

    This is like a miniature version of Ben Stein discovering the Answers in Genesis web site and making a documentary. Only it was, thankfully, just a blog post.

  19. #19 Lisa A
    July 1, 2009

    I share your crush on Rachel and I did notice the departure of some of the more conservative hosts. I wonder if Dan Abrams counts as one?

    My schedule is generally arranged around when Rachel is on. Good thing she’s on twice daily.

  20. #20 Tim
    July 1, 2009

    I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and sent a similar letter (well, similar intention) to MSNBC. I assume he will be off the air by Monday, latest.

  21. #21 Bob the Patriot
    July 1, 2009

    Here we go again. The self-titled “liberal blogosphere” picking and chosing when someone they disagree with may and may not speak out with their own mind. Last I checked the first ammendment was still first.

  22. #22 Liz
    July 1, 2009

    I’m in. My letter went off this afternoon.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    July 1, 2009

    Bob, nobody is taking your buddy Pat’s first amendment rights away. But, in siding with creationists, he is conspiring to violate the first amendment rights of millions of children.

  24. #24 Anon the Second
    July 1, 2009

    BobP: I know you believe that when it comes down to it, your second amendment trumps my first amendment. Because my first amendment is telling you to bite me.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    July 1, 2009

    Lou: I like the rolling ticker idea. In fact, we could all take turns filling i the text.

  26. #26 Ted
    July 1, 2009

    I second the emotion.

  27. #27 Andrew
    July 1, 2009

    Am I crazy or has Buchanan hardly been on Hardball at all over the last several weeks?

  28. #28 386sx
    July 1, 2009

    I think maybe the First Amendment is for keeping the government from interfering with free speech, or something like that, if I’m not mistaken!

  29. #29 Nemo
    July 1, 2009

    The thing is, this isn’t (as far as I’ve seen) the kind of stuff that Mr. Buchanan contributes to MSNBC. In fact, he mostly provides fairly objective, non-politicized commentary, as strange as that is to say — much of it insightful. I think he brings a valuable perspective.

    I know from his long public history that he’s kind of reprehensible, but if I only knew him from MSNBC, I’d never think that. He’s no Fox News ranter there.

    Unless he’s been going on a lot of rants when I wasn’t watching…

  30. #30 Paul
    July 1, 2009

    I always associated him with Reagan, but you are right, he was a Nixonite too.

  31. #31 Bob the Patriot
    July 1, 2009

    Millions of children? You don’t know what you are talking about.

    But it does protect anyone from being harassed by a group of micreant bloggers. Buchanan is not right about everything, but he can not be told to get off a particular tv show just because you dont like the truth behind what he says about evolution.

  32. #32 Andrew
    July 1, 2009

    Nemo: He rants on MSNBC sometimes. I think he tries not to and then it just comes out.

  33. #33 Sean Micheal
    July 2, 2009

    Bob:

    It’s funny, I’ve hardly ever seen someone be so wrong, in so many different ways, in so few words. People haven’t written entire books without being as wrong as you are in those few sentences (well, maybe the writers of Leviticus, but that was not a “book” in the modern sense).

    I’m glad to hear that you consider yourself a “patriot”, but I hasten to wonder the value of patriotism when its accompanied by such ignorance.

  34. #34 Lou FCD
    July 2, 2009

    Bob is apparently a master of highly concentrated ignorance.

  35. #35 Bob the Patriot
    July 2, 2009

    Well, you will all stick together to tell each other you are right, but you can learn from this. Pat Buchanan has expressed a (valid but it does not matter) opinion on that Evolution is not truthful. It is fine, even good, to tell him he is wrong. This posting has nothing about that whatsoever, and you are telling him only that he can not speak freely. If he is wrong, then tell him why, but do not just tell him to shut up. This is what the 1st amendment protects him against. You could do well to read the constitution once.

  36. #36 Carman
    July 2, 2009

    Umm… actually the first amendment protects the right of a bunch of miscreant bloggers to harass someone. Just sayin’ … speech ain’t only free when you like it BobP.

    Now, I agree that it would be a violation of Buchanan’s rights to toss him in jail for espousing the tripe that he does. Insisting, however, that a news outlet not give a forum to something so intellectually dishonest and just plain silly is not.

  37. #37 Stephanie Z
    July 2, 2009

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Bob, maybe you should read it again. We’re not making any laws here, either about speech or the press. Just as a newspaper does not have to print every letter they receive, a station may choose which talking heads to air. We’re making our opinions about MSNBC’s choices known.

    Nor are we telling Buchanan to shut up (much less “just” telling him; see the links Greg provides for people telling him he’s wrong), although we’d still be within our own rights to do that, since we don’t have enforcement powers. We’re saying his speech, with its power to hurt others, belongs in the margins, not the mainstream.

  38. #38 Andrew
    July 2, 2009

    Bob P., the connection to the children which you have missed is the Establishment Clause. Buchanan’s position is promoting a religion (assuming it is implemented in the science grade school setting, for instance). That would be OK in a private school but not in a public school.

  39. #39 Liz
    July 2, 2009

    Buchanan’s attacks on Sotomayor are also typical of him. In fact, Sotomayor is Buchanan’s worst nightmare. This particular Mexicana not only climbed over the fence but she took a job away from a home born and bred American White Person.

  40. #40 Aunt Bea
    July 2, 2009

    Bob, Laden is giving Buchanan a break here. You should see what he did to James Watson.

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    July 2, 2009

    I agree with Andrew (32) and Nemo. Buchanan is more sensible-seeming and less ranting on MSNBC most of the time, but then every now and then he turns red and starts a rant, and everybody else takes a step back or two and Chris Matthews says something like “This is why I like having you on, Pat. Just don’t do it too often” or words to that effect.

    And yes, it will be interesting to see how he swings into the immigration issue next time around as it emerges possibly later in the current congressional session (but probably next session).

  42. #42 Tennessee-Socialist
    July 6, 2009

    And i think that we are in a world of paradigm shift. Where conservative, right-wing elitist ideology is fading away. It is fading away because we are living in a sort of enlightenment period again. (But this time brought to the masses by the internet, economic collapse and the sharing of knowledge. Which produces an objective revolutionary situation)

    The old right-wing system of the XX Century will fade away. Right-wing ideology is anti-scientific, not backed by science and proofs. But backed by Domination Theology Churches (Right wing classist, elitist churches)

    People are waking up and rejecting The Republican Party and all philosophical and political systems that deffend the rich people and oppress the majority which are poors.

  43. #43 Tennessee-Socialist
    July 6, 2009

    OH ONE MORE THING MY FRIENDS:

    And don’t worry people. The collapse of the US dollar and the coming hyper-inflation will make Republican Party religious zionist voters and lunatic evangelical zealots, into socialists. Sooner or later the US citizens will be necessarily forced to look toward people like Ralph Nader, Cynthia Mckinney, The Green Party, The Socialist Party of USA and other Third Political Party alternatives as an escape out of this barbaric capitalist hell of Democrats and Republicans which have only brought to all US citizens, poverty, misery, diabetes, obesity, an epidemia of heart-related deaths and illnesses, foreclosures, tent cities, 20% of unemployment, 80 millions of americans in poverty, and 1 out of 6 american children starving. While a minority which is about 2% to 5% of the USA population is getting richer, and richer and richer. While the rest of americans is getting poorer, poorer and poorer.

    In others capitalism in USA is only making us poorer and poorer.

    .