Shorter David Klinghoffer: Strange Bedfellows at the National Center for Science Education:
Has NCSE stopped beating its wife?
He’s writing in reply to my post a couple days ago. I had criticized him for comparing 9/11 “truthers” to scientists who advocate for evolution, when it’s easier to find a prominent anti-evolutionist who thinks 9/11 was an inside job.
Anyway, Klinghoffer spent his 9/11 decennial writing about how it’s totally the other way because he found this one guy who totally proves his point. James Fetzer, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is a philosopher who has written extensively on artificial intelligence and philosophy of science, and in his free time is also a prominent truther, a JFK conspiracy theorist, etc. He also wrote a book critiquing creationism, and with NCSE’s Glenn Branch, recently co-edited an issue in a philosophy journal which examined “evolution and its rivals.”
From this thin reed, Klinghoffer seeks to weave a mighty rope with which to bind a tight connection between NCSE and Fetzer. But he fails to show any connection other than that co-edited journal issue, and doesn’t even try to show that Fetzer’s conspiracist sideline had any influence on it, let alone that Branch or anyone at NCSE was aware of that sideline. So basically, I pointed out that a prominent figure at one of the major pro-ID blogs is a truther, and he responds by pointing out that some guy I’d hardly heard of before is a truther, too.
Despite that underwhelming reply, he winds up with this rousing challenge:
When William Buckley founded National Review he made a famous and wise ruling that no writer could appear in the pages of NR if that same writer also appeared in the pages of another, then-existing conservative magazine, The American Mercury. Why? Because the other journal promoted vile anti-Semitic nonsense. Buckley judged that if his magazine wanted to have any credibility, he’d have to draw a bright line separating anyone associated with him from anyone associated with the fever swamp.
I’d like to ask Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, and his colleagues Eugenie Scott, Executive Director, and Josh Rosenau, why they do not feel inclined to adopt a similar policy?
I can state confidently that NCSE does not need such a policy, since The American Mercury went out of print in 1981. But perhaps I’m taking his crummy writing at face value, and that isn’t the policy he means.
There are any number of problems here, but the greatest is the “have you stopped beating your wife?” quality of the challenge, the implicit assumption that there’s some extant nexus of NCSE with the sort of “pathologically irresponsible editorial material” which Buckley decried in the American Mercury.
If he means to suggest that NCSE publishes truther material or antisemitic content, that’s readily falsified. Granting arguendo all of Klinghoffer’s charges against Fetzer (which I haven’t independently verified, and since Klinghoffer’s not the most reliable source, I can’t endorse the charges), the narrowest possible construal of Klinghoffer’s paragraph doesn’t work, since Fetzer himself has not published in NCSE publications.
On this blog, I don’t speak in my capacity as an NCSE employee, and in any event, I don’t edit NCSE’s house journal, so I couldn’t comment more generally on what sort of screening NCSE applies to authors who submit. I imagine that if NCSE refused to print some authors because of those authors’ unsavory associations, the Disco. ‘tute would do the electric slide over to complaints about censorship and guilt by association, but who knows, or cares.
Naturally, Klinghoffer’s piece doesn’t just slander me, NCSE, and two of my co-workers, it also gets basic facts wrong. For instance, that the issue with the American Mercury began when the formerly liberal magazine (which launched it’s own TV franchise: “American Mercury Presents ‘Meet the Press'”; you may have heard of it) was purchased by a fanatical Bircher (N.B.: Birchers are what the Tea Party used to be called). The new owner installed as editor the future head of the American Nazi Party. Buckley quit his job there, and in April, 1959, citing the “pathologically irresponsible editorial material” at his former employer, decreed that no one appearing on the National Review masthead could also appear on the American Mercury masthead. Contra Klinghoffer’s claim, this would not block anyone who ever wrote for the Mercury from ever writing for Buckley - the masthead typically only covers editors, staff writers, columnists, etc., not freelance writers.
This is relevant for two reasons. First, the masthead for NCSE’s journal is rather easier to audit than the much wider community of people who contribute essays and research reports. Second, Klinghoffer shares posting privileges at Evolution News & Views with Martin Cothran, who has defended Pat Buchanan’s Holocaust denial and antisemitism, and Klinghoffer himself has joined in the DI’s regular association with antisemite Don Wildmon, his hate group the American Family Association. Cothran’s defense of Buchanan against charges of Holocaust denial and antisemitism (charges which, you’ll recall, were put forward by William Buckley, among many others) is old hat here, but let’s talk more about the AFA. I’ll note that Cothran’s group came out against teaching Kentucky schoolkids about the Holocaust and move on.
AFA is part of a consortium of radical religious conservative groups that advocates a system of legalized discrimination based on sexuality, not to mention advocates for religious discrimination of various sorts. When the California Science Center canceled an AFA-sponsored film screening (citing a press release by the DI as cause for the cancellation), DI joined AFA in suing the Center, and the blog where Klinghoffer posts regularly praises the AFA in this and other contexts. [OOPS! There are two different AFAs, and the one which sued the California Science Center is the American Freedom Alliance. Too many wingnutty groups use the same acronym.]
A few years back, the Anti-Defamation League criticized the AFA and other radical religious conservative groups, decrying their effort to “implement their Christian worldview, to Christianize America.” The ADL had previously called out antisemitic language from Wildmon and other AFA staff. Wildmon responded by dismissing claims of antisemitism (“not that many people pay attention to ‘em”), and warned Jewish groups to stop criticizing right-wing religious radicals:
[T]he more he [ADL president Abe Foxman] says that ‘you people are destroying this country,’ you know, some people are going to begin to get fed up with this and say, ‘Well, all right then. If that’s the way you feel, then we just won’t support Israel anymore.’
David Klinghoffer, now an advocate of distancing oneself from antisemitism, took a different approach back then. Rather than practicing Buckley’s advice and separating himself from Wildmon, Klinghoffer defended the antisemite and echoed his threat against Israel and American Jews:
Let every Christian gently ask a Jewish friend for a moment of his time. …In a spirit of affection and respect, ask your friend if he would be willing to answer six simple but puzzling questions.
• If conservative Christians were less politically powerful, would this help or hurt the security of the state of Israel?
…In shaping American policy, domestic Christian pro-Israel sentiment has been at least as influential as Jewish support. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that some of them really are looking forward to Armageddon, in the manner of the Left Behind books, with a global war centered upon Israel playing a key role in the unfolding of events at the End of Days. However distasteful you might find that view, please consider: If these same Israel-loving conservative American Christians all retired from political activism now, would Israel be better off or worse? Safer from attack or less so? Would America be a more faithful defender of the Jewish state or a less faithful one?
One prominent religious conservative, Donald E. Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association, has said forthrightly that attacks on conservative Christians endanger Israel’s safety.
In other words: “Nice Jewish homeland ya got there. Be a shame if something … happened to it. Now shaddup while we institute Christian prayer in schools and other settings, tack up Christian (not Jewish) versions of the Ten Commandments in every public building, promote bellicose Israeli policy to the detriment of Israel, and force Christian theology into your kids’ science classes.”
That’s the argument Klinghoffer - an Orthodox Jew – is making. And he has the gall to play guilt-by-association?
(Never mind that Klinghoffer’s Disco. ‘tute colleagues Phillip Johnson and Jonathan Wells both deny that HIV causes AIDS, preferring to believe absurd conspiracy theories rather than medical science, conspiracy theories that seek to demonize homosexuality and which have had devastating and deadly consequences in the developing world. I dislike 9/11 truthers as much as the next guy, but unlike the HIV/AIDS deniers, at least truthers haven’t killed people. You don’t see Klinghoffer worrying about Johnson and Wells’s prominent placements on the DI masthead, do you?)