Rush Limbaugh's War on Science

By Chris Mooney | December 10, 2009 7:19 am

Rush is ticked because everybody told him to be afraid of swine flu, and now it turns out that as pandemics go, the current strain of swine flu is probably less like a category 3 hurricane, and more like a category 1 or tropical storm. So what does Rush do? He blames the scientists:

We are the targets of lies, damn lies and science and scientists are rapidly becoming as trustworthy as politicians.

Actually, at first it was hard to say how dangerous H1N1 was going to be. Lots of rapid-fire research had to be conducted; the scientists were working their butts off to protect us, and to clarify the picture. Sure, there was some exaggeration, especially from the press–but what do you expect in such a situation of fear and uncertainty?

But Rush doesn’t get the whole uncertainty thing; he speaks, idiotically, of a “phony swine flu virus.” Ask the people who died of swine flu whether it was phony.

The point, which scientists understand but which Rush apparently does not, is that whenever we have a new strain we need to be worried about it–and even if we were relatively lucky with the current strain of swine flu, we are not always going to dodge the bullet.

That Rush uses swine flu to beat up on scientists in this way just shows how little he understands of science–how difficult it is to conduct in real time with lives at stake, and how important it is to ensuring our public health and safety.

Comments (59)

  1. Limbaugh is influential enough that we should worry about such a turn in his rhetoric. American political and popular culture already contain many strains of anti-intellectualism and distrust of any evidence critical to established assumptions. This development can only stoke the fire further.

    Entire ideological systems and philosophical schools have been constructed to counter the legitimacy of evolution and secular reason, to name two. The last piece of the puzzle is to popularize and make mainstream those ideas. If a society becomes less interested in the methodology of the truth, then it will get less of it.

  2. Joel

    Troglodytes like Limbaugh don’t really dabble in uncertainties. This dichotomic, black and white mindset is all to characteristic of those who don’t understand the nature of how science works. Back in the dark days, when I used to think Ruch was great, he actually used the argument that we were vain to think that we could change the Earth’s climate, ergo global warming was a hoax. No data, no science, just a swipe at scientists, some of whom have spent their entire lives studying the Earth’s climate. This guy is as ignorant and close minded as they come. It’s too bad so many people actually listen to this guy.

  3. Sorbet

    Another corpulent cretinous centipede who either does not understand how science is done or willfully neglects it. I am betting anything it’s the former.

  4. Gus Snarp

    That quote from Limbaugh is stunning in its ignorance. Associating science with lies? Saying scientists are as trustworthy as politicians? As if the media aren’t the people who turned the science into hype. As if he actually knows anything about the science of epidemiology other than what he heard from low quality science reporting or politicians. This may be the worst thing I’ve heard Limbaugh say. And I’ve heard a lot.

  5. bilbo

    Limbaugh-brand conservatives have adopted the caveman mentality of looking at the world. Everything is either “good!! good!!!” or “BAD!!!!!!!!”

    It’s pretty clear where Rush places the scientists.

  6. Paul W.

    Those dumbass Chicken Little scientists and their false alarms.

    Kind of reminds me of one of those dumbass academic ecologists in New Orleans, 10 or 15 years ago, explaining to me how New Orleans was insanely vulnerable to hurricanes, and something very bad would likely happen if the coming hurricane hit them square on.

    Of course it didn’t, and that hurricane was no big deal.

    What a dumbass!

  7. Paul W.

    Somebody should tell Bill Maher that Rush Limbaugh’s a vaccination skeptic, too.

    Maybe that would wake him up to his antiscientific doofustry. Nothing else does.

  8. gillt

    Mooney: “That Rush uses swine flu to beat up on scientists in this way just shows how little he understands of science.”

    Exposing Limbaugh as anti-science seems beside the point–he’ll embrace the title and equate it with being anti-elitist. Besides, like most politicians, you shouldn’t take what he says at face-value, that only serves to legitimize empty rhetoric. Mock and deride him as a hypocrite, a performer, a bullshit artist, and sensationalist.

  9. Yup. He’s (brace yourself for this) a total hypocrite. He slams on scientists for cherrypicking data to serve some grand conspiracy of climate change so the elitist marxist totalitarian leftists can control our lives. Problem is, he’s notorious for cherrypicking studies and using them to make his own points. Here’s a recent example: a couple days ago, he cited a study which purported that rural Americans are more prosperous than most people assume. He was using it to counter economy “gloom and doomers.” Problem was, the study was conducted in the year 2000. The funny thing was that he actually admitted this at the end of the segment: “This study was conducted in the year 2000. So, it’s from the year 2000.” He just left off the “which means it’s totally irrelevant.” Maybe he whispered it to Snerdley off-mic.

  10. John Kwok

    Much of what Rush Limbaugh says is designed merely for shock entertainment value, and I’m one Conservative Republican who listens to him mainly for entertainment (I rarely do listen to him BTW), not because I am hoping he’s going to provide really useful commentary. There are others, most notably John Batchelor, who are far more successful in offering meaningful discourse on the issues of the day.

  11. falcon

    He is influential, and the science community should be careful to avoid the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” syndrome. Rush has seen too many sensational claims go bust, so he blurts out his frustration.

    But sensational is what gets airtime, heck as long as you use the magic word “COULD” you can say anything. H1N1 could kill over a billion children.

    BTW, was anyone else annoyed by the sensational children’s global scare clip which opened the Copenhagen Climate summit?

  12. Paul W.

    John,

    Much of what Rush Limbaugh says is designed merely for shock entertainment value.

    I don’t believe that. (Well, it’s partly that, but…) I think that Rush throws anything he can at the wall, in hopes that some of it will stick—some people will believe anything he says, others will disagree with some of it but buy things they shouldn’t because they’re ignorant about both things.

    I think he systematically tries to tar the left—i.e., anybody to the left of him—with whatever brush he can get his hands on.

    He is playing the “shift the Overton Window” game—you don’t win by watering down your message and silencing extreme voices on your end of the political spectrum. People on your side but more extreme than you may generate some backlash against “your side,” but it’s often worth it—they also make you seem more moderate and reasonable.

    And to a considerable extent, it works. He has a self-selected audience of mostly two kinds of people:

    (1) People who find most of what he says credible, and believe what he says by default, and

    (2) People who are somewhat skeptical, but agree with a significant amount of what he says.

    Both groups tend to shift further right. He whips group 1 into a frenzy, and gets a chance to throw a whole bunch of stuff at group 2, some of which they’ll accept less critically than they think.

    And the people who aren’t open to your message may hate you, but they’ll mostly just not listen to you, and it won’t make all that much difference. It will not galvanize as much opposition as you’d think if you listened to the “moderate” strategists who say to play to the center all the time.

    That’s what the right has been doing for decades, because they’ve realized that there are a lot of people who will believe pretty much anything, and a lot more people who are more credulous than they realize, even when they know some of the things you’re saying are wrong.

    It’s how they made “liberal” a dirty word in my lifetime—and they didn’t do it by being “accommodating,” playing to the center, and being nice. They risked backlash, and until recently it was worth it to them.

    I think they’ve taken it too far and the Republicans are in deep trouble—they whipped up a bunch of kookiness, and now the inmates are pretty much running the asylum—but for several decades they played a long-term strategy that works. The moderate Democrats generally gave away the store by mostly refusing to defend any position that the center didn’t already agree with, while the extreme right was getting its ideas out there and making them fairly mainstream… oops!

  13. tox

    whats the big deal? disease weeds out the weak, and there are already too many people on this planet. I would expect scientists to understand that. Given the history of western science past and present, all this hypocritical hand-wringing about saving lives is absurd. I guess scientists arent immune from the need for self-deception.

  14. Whether or not Rush Limbaugh says things for shock value and entertainment is of little consequence. The guy has a wide audience who hangs on his every word. If he’s going to be a blustering fat asshat, we need to take his diatribes seriously. Were things fairly alarmist with the H1N1 flu? Yes, I tend to think so, and I didn’t make as much of it as others did … I certainly wasn’t predicting the end of the world like some people seemed to think … but I think there were certainly valid concerns. So we took strong efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

    It’s a Catch-22 situation. If we had done nothing, the scientists would be to blame for not doing enough. If we did everything we could, and nothing big happened the scientists would be to blame for upsetting people and their daily routine. It’s a no-win situation.

  15. cgray

    You took the “phony swine flu virus” completely out of context, and deliberately so. Rush was merely criticizing the scientific community’s tendency to hyper-inflate matters to scare people and therefore justify their status and prestige. It never ceases to amaze me how willing liberals are to lie about conservatives while simultaneously patting themselves on the back for being so honest.

  16. JJ

    I was always skeptical of the H1N1 hype from all the information I encountered from stats and medical professionals. I felt that the government was blowing it out of proportion because little was actually known of the long term projections at the time. Turns out my skepticism was confirmed…myth busted. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Rush’s statement is complete douche baggery.

  17. John Kwok

    @ Paul W. –

    More than once Limbaugh has admitted on air that his number one job is to be entertaining to his audience and to help the program’s sponsors and other advertisers enhance their profits from the products being advertised on his program. At least he’s refreshingly honest in this regard.

    As for the Republicans being in “trouble”, I’m sorry, but I don’t think so. There is a substantial moderate and conservative – and even liberal – backlash against Obama and his policies around the country, that, surprisingly, is even true here in New York City. Have heard too many anecdotal stories about how people now regret that they voted for The One back in November. Indeed, I would say that if present trends continue, we may see a repeat of 1994 with regards to the Congressional elections next year.

    Otherwise, I’m not going to disagree much with your reasonable assessment of Limbaugh and his audience.

    Sincerely,

    John

  18. Paul W.

    John,

    As for the Republicans being in “trouble”, I’m sorry, but I don’t think so. There is a substantial moderate and conservative – and even liberal – backlash against Obama and his policies around the country, that, surprisingly, is even true here in New York City.

    I don’t actually disagree with that. I do think that the Republicans are in trouble—which is why Obama is president in the first place—but that doesn’t mean I think Obama has an easy row to hoe. Not at all.

    One reason why, IMHO, is the long-term success of the right’s Overton strategy. To the extent that his policies are actually liberal—and they’re not very, IMHO—he scares many people because the Overton Window has shifted substantially rightward over the last few decades.

    Otherwise, I’m not going to disagree much with your reasonable assessment of Limbaugh and his audience.

    I think you just agreed with an Overton Window argument, more or less.

  19. WestWright

    I’m not sure what Rush was speaking of about vaccines but I have read numerous reports recently about the collusion of Gov Bureaucrats & Big Pharma to exploit and profit from increased hype regarding global epidemics and the over blown need for mass vacinations. So far all I read here is political harping, if this blog wants to be relevent, take a look at the high possibility of some serious & criminal graft involved.

  20. Robert E

    On the other hand, if the conclusion early on was that H1N1 was no big deal, and it ended up killing 1,000’s, they’d be slammed for not warning us.

    So, they loose either way.

  21. gillt

    It’s called being cautious, not crying wolf. And sounding as such by trying to alert the public to a virulent strain of H1N1 is a good thing, because the benefits of an inoculated public far outweigh the costs of a pandemic.

    Here’s an example of crying wolf: Dick Cheney: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”

  22. Charlie Gibson made an astute observation on World News yesterday, that while climategate made absolutely no difference to the science of climate change, it made a lot of difference to the politics. We need to operate in both arenas and the rules are not the same.

    Classic example: A lot of people were excited when Gov. Schwarzenegger appointed Mary Nichols to head the California Air Resources Board (ARB). After all, as a previous executive in EPA, she should carry a lot of clout. However, along with that came an arrogance that threatens to undo a lot of work. The ARB had to reset their entire process on controlling emissions from diesel engines yesterday because the person who compiled their report lied about their credentials. The science is right, the conclusions are right but the politicians are completely tone deaf and it

    There are other reasons that I had called for Nichols to be fired in the past. This is just one more example.

    We all know what science tells us is right. But, for those who, like Limbaugh and his evil twin Beck, live in a world where only the politics counts, we have to be as politically astute as they are. The old statement about having to be right all the time while they only have to be right once is as true when dealing with intellectual terrorists as it is in dealing with the bomb throwing kind.

  23. WestWright wrote: I have read numerous reports recently about the collusion of Gov Bureaucrats & Big Pharma to exploit and profit from increased hype regarding global epidemics and the over blown need for mass vacinations.

    Those mass vaccinations may prove useful further down the road, and there is always the “better safe than sorry” element as well.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    “That Rush uses swine flu to beat up on scientists in this way just shows how little he understands of science–how difficult it is to conduct in real time with lives at stake, and how important it is to ensuring our public health and safety.”

    Rush knows exactly what he is doing. It’s part of his war on science and his war on intellectuals. It’s part of his faux populism.

    What Rush is doing at this specific moment in time is reinforcing a message he has given out for years.

    My question is, what are you doing? Because in the past several weeks with climategate you’ve been delivering tanks of gasoline to Rush.

    See clive crook (or judith curry) regarding your wagon circling and how ineffective and strategically wrong that is.

  25. Gus Snarp

    @cgray – You said: “You took the “phony swine flu virus” completely out of context, and deliberately so. Rush was merely criticizing the scientific community’s tendency to hyper-inflate matters to scare people and therefore justify their status and prestige. It never ceases to amaze me how willing liberals are to lie about conservatives while simultaneously patting themselves on the back for being so honest.”

    What’s funny here is that your assessment of the quote is exactly the problem. “The scientific community has no tendency to hyper-inflate matters to scare people and therefore justify their status and prestige”. The hype came from the media and from politicians, not from scientists.

    This belief that scientists “hyper-inflate matters to scare people” and “justify their status and prestige” IS anti-science and it is entirely inaccurate.

    Also, science is a field almost entirely lacking in status and prestige. Name a scientist with status and prestige. Think of the best one you can come up with. Now compare that to Limbaugh’s status and prestige. Yeah, see my point? How many scientists ride around in limos and smoke twenty dollar cigars?

  26. Anonymous Coward

    As if to echo my little blog comment, Daniel Henninger in the WSJ has an interesting editorial about what is going on in this war on science, why, and how it works.

    Yes, it’s the WSJ, I bet you’d find it interesting though:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107104574572091993737848.htm


    I don’t think most scientists appreciate what has hit them. This isn’t only about the credibility of global warming. For years, global warming and its advocates have been the public face of hard science. Most people could not name three other subjects they would associate with the work of serious scientists. This was it. The public was told repeatedly that something called “the scientific community” had affirmed the science beneath this inquiry. A Nobel Prize was bestowed (on a politician).

    Global warming enlisted the collective reputation of science. Because “science” said so, all the world was about to undertake a vast reordering of human behavior at almost unimaginable financial cost. Not every day does the work of scientists lead to galactic events simply called Kyoto or Copenhagen. At least not since the Manhattan Project.

    What is happening at East Anglia is an epochal event. As the hard sciences—physics, biology, chemistry, electrical engineering—came to dominate intellectual life in the last century, some academics in the humanities devised the theory of postmodernism, which liberated them from their colleagues in the sciences. Postmodernism, a self-consciously “unprovable” theory, replaced formal structures with subjectivity. With the revelations of East Anglia, this slippery and variable intellectual world has crossed into the hard sciences.

    This has harsh implications for the credibility of science generally. Hard science, alongside medicine, was one of the few things left accorded automatic stature and respect by most untrained lay persons. But the average person reading accounts of the East Anglia emails will conclude that hard science has become just another faction, as politicized and “messy” as, say, gender studies. The New England Journal of Medicine has turned into a weird weekly amalgam of straight medical-research and propaganda for the Obama redesign of U.S. medicine.

    The East Anglians’ mistreatment of scientists who challenged global warming’s claims—plotting to shut them up and shut down their ability to publish—evokes the attempt to silence Galileo. The exchanges between Penn State’s Michael Mann and East Anglia CRU director Phil Jones sound like Father Firenzuola, the Commissary-General of the Inquisition.

    For three centuries Galileo has symbolized dissent in science. In our time, most scientists outside this circle have kept silent as their climatologist fellows, helped by the cardinals of the press, mocked and ostracized scientists who questioned this grand theory of global doom. Even a doubter as eminent as Princeton’s Freeman Dyson was dismissed as an aging crank.


  27. Well, scientists are constantly lying to us. Remember how they were all in a panic about the coming ice age in the 70s?

    Oh, wait a minute. I forgot, they weren’t.

  28. bilbo

    Those silly scientists with their numbers and data and facts. Elitists!

  29. Robert E Says:

    On the other hand, if the conclusion early on was that H1N1 was no big deal, and it ended up killing 1,000’s….

    Your basic point is right on, but a clarification:

    It’s already killed thousands. There are nearly 1,400 confirmed deaths in the US alone, and real total is almost certainly over 3,000. Put another way, it’s 9/11 plus a bit.

    But it’s not like there was a towelhead with an exploding Toyota who killed a few dozen in Topeka or something. That would be newsworthy.

  30. cgray Says:

    You took the “phony swine flu virus” completely out of context, and deliberately so. Rush was merely criticizing the scientific community’s tendency to hyper-inflate matters to scare people and therefore justify their status and prestige.

    Oh, please. I read the full transcript, and there’s nothing remotely out-of-context about it. Here’s another part.

    “A bogus scandal! A bogus pandemic! You combine this with the UK story and we can see what’s happened here, a manufactured, phony crisis. Hoax and change. The media loved this BS story, but you were a problem. ”

    Doesn’t strike me a “mere criticism”, and there’s not a syllable about enhancing their status and prestige.

    He did get one thing right: The CRU “scandal” is bogus.

  31. bilbo

    Something tells me cgray won’t take something as simple and damning as a verbatim quote that seriously. Hyperbole that agrees with preconceived prejudices reigns over fact in Silly Little Denialist World.

  32. Brian Too

    Here’s the problem with Rush’s comments: He’s a Monday Morning Quarterback with all the answers. If he were any ordinary dude, I’d listen disinterestedly for a while. If he kept it up I’d eventually call him on the most outrageous thing he said.

    The Public Health people have a situation where there’s a small upside (the flu wasn’t terribly serious and maybe the vaccination campaign had some small role to play in keeping it that way. You did your job, one person in the audience claps and suddenly stops when they realize they are the only one). The downside is that the flu gets BAD, to the point that many die, hospitals are overwhelmed, and there are family tragedies galore.

    Either way Rush has a punching bag to hit. He wins regardless.

    The answer is to call Rush out. Some people work hard and make positive change in the system. They work for their fellow man and contribute even when there’s no one acknowledging them. Lots of medical professionals do this. Now name one positive thing that Rush did to contribute to the flu season this year. No? I got nothing either.

    That’s a whole different matter than the issue of the Pandemic rating system. This system is broken because it only measures the prevalence of disease, and not it’s acuity. The top rating is a Level 5 Pandemic and the Public Health people rated the H1N1 as a Level 5 Pandemic. This needs to change because it scares people!

    The good thing is that I’ve started to hear the CDC and others start to talk about this matter. I’m sure Rush will find a way to criticize that too, and all the while the money rolls in for him.

  33. Ozonator

    Limbaugh (and sponsors) claim to be a quick and dirty education for those not wanting to read, go to school, think for themselves, or need to justify unbridled hatred and greed.

    If it is to “complex” for the audience/GOP, it is an extra $100 million to LABI Limbaugh’s cradle to grave harvesting of humanity. ”I am a liberated American … in the bowels of the Republican Party complex … Rush the Vote and Operation Chaos … have the gonads …” (”Wednesday Quotes: America’s Real Captain America”; 3/12/08), “RUSH: … Would somebody explain to me what’s wrong with it getting warmer? … It is absolutely absurdly hilarious. …how utterly stupid to believe that something as complex as simple day-to-day weather … if it is changing it’s a crisis, and then blame it on us” (“Algore’s Idiotic Poem and All the Latest from the ClimateGate Stack”; 12/7/09), “RUSH: … the climate, geology — all of this — is so, so, so complex.  It’s so complex we can’t possibly understand it. … but to try to predict it … is ridiculous.  We don’t have the power, we don’t have the ability. … another geologist. … a Macaca. CALLER:  (laughing)” (“Gibbs Stonewalls on Climate Hoax; Two Geologists Call in to Respond”; 11/30/09), ”RUSH … global warming … our Official EIB Climatologist, Roy Spencer … And I said, “Dr. Spencer … we say to Dr. Hawking, “Dr. Hawking, I want you to create the climate of the planet Earth … all of the systems … all the complexity. … ” and Dr. Spencer said, ” … It’s impossible.” … not a human being alive who … could … science has been corrupted by politics … design just the climate … not enough knowledge …”” (”God’s Creation Is So Complex and So Massive, We Are Insignificant”; 5/9/08), with approaching Hurricane Frances, “from a hurricane-safe bunker … the hype of these things is incredible … even if it does hit, or when it does hit, it’s not going to be as bad as it was forecast to be” (“Rush Reacts to Soaring Bush Speech, and Disastrous Kerry Midnight Response”; 9/3/04), “I’d rather get sucked up by the hurricane than go to the shelter” (“Watch for Flying Coconuts”; 9/2/04), and from the 1st landfall of Hurricane Katrina, “I am not leaving this hurricane is to stay with my little cat … We are going to do our best to be here tomorrow despite the hurricane” (“ Show Prep For Cable News Channels”; 8/25/05) (the old, ugly and evil Rush “LABI” Limbaugh, produced less children then the more normal, Viagra-less, King of Pop Michael Jackson, aka Dr. “Jeff ‘Gannon’ Christie”, and extremist Republican and Christian outlets; rushlimbaugh.com).

  34. bilbo

    Kinda cray, Ozonater. I agree with you…but kinda crazy.

  35. Ozonator

    I can correctly predict (>5%) hurricanes, solar flares, earthquakes, volcanoes, and other stuff like monster blizzards and wildfires from global warming. I can’t predict what holes in reality these extremist chickens will find to peck at entertainment for their 2-legged locusts on our backs and graves.

    My apologies to the memory of the good Carl Sagan, for example – “RUSH: … better stand up and stop what’s going on over in Copenhagen because all of science is being corrupted by these political hacks masquerading as scientists. … Everything is made up. … Carl Sagan, who was not even really a scientist … people like Algore and these guys over at the Climate Research Unit” (“The Big Warmers Pervert Science”; the old, ugly and evil Rush “LABI” Limbaugh, extremist Republican and Christian outlets for plagiarism from his ExxonMobil – 80 cat feces-filled mansion; rushlimbaugh.com, 12/10/09).

    M geaux Blue!

  36. Guy

    If people get their science information from propagandists instead of from scientists they will probably draw all the wrong conclusions. They will be getting an answer as to why they’re getting screwed but they will be the answers that propagandists want them to hear. Hence they will develop a deep and long lasting resentment towards the wrong group of people.

  37. Gus Snarp

    @Chris Dunford – I think your numbers may be a little low. The latest report is 50 million infections, 213,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 deaths in the United States since April.

    But hey, that’s no big deal, right?

  38. Gus Snarp Says:

    @Chris Dunford – I think your numbers may be a little low. The latest report is 50 million infections, 213,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 deaths in the United States since April.

    Really? Where did you find that?

    I was a bit surprised to discover that these weren’t really easy numbers to find.

  39. Ozonator

    Demigod LABI Limbaugh’s “scientific” method experience may include little more than the safe use of non-deafening oxycontin and another man’s Viagra in Haiti. However, Jesus may be the answer but only an extremist Lord (needing no stinkin’spellcheck) can allow Greenland (with glaciers above sea level) to temporary leave the Earth and enter the heavens past Uranus. “Q. The great truth-monger Al Gore claimed yesterday that 40% of the Artic Ice Cap has already disappered, … then why arent London, New York, Miami, Venice, Houston, Singapore, etc., under water? … A. Even if the entire Arctic ice cap were to disappear altogether … the Arctic polar ice cap is floating. … Much more here” which linked to “reduced the poor people of Haiti to eating mud pies made with real mud?” (“Reports from Copenhagen Climate science Q&A: Has 40% of all Arctic ice melted? ”; By Lord Christopher “sippy” Monckton – the Viscount “of discount carpeting and visqueen porch monkey” Monckton of Brenchley aka Lord Christopher Monckton aka Monkton aka Christopher Walter Monckton aka Lord C. Monckton aka bug-eyed 2-legged lounge lizard of da “Skeptic Tank”, SPPI – the Science and Public Policy Institute – SPPI is yet another “sippy cup” for funding liquified falsehoods; Editorial abuse by Joseph D’Aleo, CCM, IUD, IED, BMF, STD, H1N1, FU-AMS, and ExxonMobil approved TV weather presenter; icecap.us, 12/11/09).

  40. Greg in Austin

    Let’s see if I can make this simple:

    I do not read Phil’s blog to learn about politics, or about how to replace the motherboard in my laptop, or how to train to run a marathon. Nor do I listen to Rush Limbaugh to learn a darn thing about science. (No offense, Phil, if you do indeed know how to tear apart and rebuild a notebook computer.)

    Rush knows less about science that I know about… Tibetan tree moss. I do listen to him occasionally to hear his point of view (which is simply anti-liberal). Know thine enemy, and all that. Usually I disagree with his arguments (and I always disagree with his childish name-calling and pompus attitude,) but sometimes, he does say something intelligent. This is not one of those things.

    8)

  41. t-storm

    Gus Snarp from wikipedia:

    Total cases 101,462, hospitalizations 21,165, deaths 2,607.

    Quite a bit off of the 1/6th of the population you reported.
    And granted it is wikipedia (grain of salt) but still 1/6th of the population seems a bit high.

    As far as Rush, he’s responding to the media hype and pointing blame at his favorite target Obama and of course all scientists lie especially if he doesn’t agree with them.
    I bet he loves the scientists who came up with the cochlear ear implants that saved his hearing and career. Of course it’s probably the scientists fault who invented them who got him hooked on pain killers. Science just can’t win.

  42. Mark Schaffer

    Chris Dunford asks where to find H1N1 infection/death rates? Really? Did you not think to look at the Center for Disease Controls website?
    http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/estimates_2009_h1n1.htm

  43. bigjohn756

    Hey! What you got against troglodytes anyway? After all, we’re your cousins, you know.

  44. Gus Snarp
  45. Mark Schaffer Says:

    Chris Dunford asks where to find H1N1 infection/death rates? Really? Did you not think to look at the Center for Disease Controls website?

    Uh, yes, I went to the CDC site. That’s where the numbers I quoted came from. The CDC does not have the world’s best organized site. That’s what I was talking about.

  46. Author David Brin is fond of speaking about “Self-preventing” prophecies. We all know about the self-fulfilling ones. But what about the ones that actually do trigger a change in behavior? If that behavior change prevents a catastrophe, were the people wrong who gave warnings and advised precautionary measures?

    By Limbaugh’s reasoning the sanitary measures implemented after Koch’s and Pasteur’s experiments, by preventing disease, disproved germ theory.

  47. Ozonator

    George Noory, like LABI Limbaugh, is also helping to murder great piles of Americans by warning against taking flu shots of all types on many of the same radio stations and public air waves. They can’t spell “fool” and “flu” without “U”. George “mispronouncing” Noory of Coast to Coast AM (beta.coasttocoastam.com) is just 3 – 5 more hours of mostly Limbaugh’s, Hannity’s, and Levin’s “conservitard” war on science. If you got the money, you can kill as many people as you want with time on Noory show and kill. Idiot Noory amazingly believes in cities on the Moon, Mars, and Uranus, big foot, and prediction of quakes only after they occur but has spent all week denouncing the “hoax” of global warming with an unending waste stream of humanity from the “Skeptic Tank”.

  48. Steve in Dublin

    Virtually the same damned if you do/don’t thing vis H1N1 happened with the Y2K problem. After the dust had settled and it turned out there were very few actual digitally-caused catastrophes when the clock hit midnight on 31 Dec 1999, the problem was downplayed by the media to the extent that the man on the street would have viewed the Y2K problem as having been been over-hyped by the scientific/engineering community.

    BUT, a large part of the reason nothing catastrophic happened is that millions of dollars and person-hours were invested starting about 1997 to avert the potential disasters. People conveniently forget that when it suits their political agenda.

  49. @ Steve in Dublin

    I was going to bring up Y2K, I was in charge of the Y2K effort for the technical division of a major broadcast network in NY. I spent over 2 years, several million dollars and 10s of 1000s of man-hours. If we had not done it we would have gone off the air. Period. Our satellite distribution software could not deal with it. We found the problem, fixed it and had not a glitch. There were other serious problems, but that one alone would have blacked us out.

    The head of IT, myself and our teams spent a very boring 28 hour period, being quite glad to be bored.

    BTW the engineers and scientists who work for the media, shudder at what is often broadcast but have no input at all.

  50. Ozonator

    Extremist Republican and Christian Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is paid to be scientifically retarded enough to “think” that slavery also is a natural cycle yet not stupid enough to provide an incubator for the childless LABI Limbaugh’s organ harvesting needs. “A Republican lawmaker … Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is among a group of GOP congressional critics of Democratic climate legislation … ” … would destroy millions of American jobs and damage our economic competitiveness for decades to come,” Blackburn … GOP’s radio and Internet address … ” … especially when nations like India and China don’t agree to these mandatory emissions limits,” she said” (“GOP: US competitiveness at risk from climate pact”; AP; news.yahoo.com, 12/12/09).

  51. PJ in Texas

    @ Ozonator

    I had no idea that Mr. Limbaugh had lampooned Carl Sagan, I listen to his show but I must have missed it on that day, if I had heard that I would have flipped out.

    I believe in hearing everyone out but Mr. Limbaugh’s stances on things are so out there it’s very hard to listen to sometimes.

    I can’t believe that someone would call Carl Sagan a political shill, I could see Former Vice President Al Gore being called that, but not Dr. Sagan. That is really just too sad.

  52. I don’t think its that Limbaugh doesn’t “understand” science. That implies that he’s tried to understand it, and that he didn’t manage it. I think it’s something altogether more slimy: He just wants to pillory things. It’s not even to support an agenda – again, that would imply having a positive position to actively work from. It’s just lashing out vitriolically at things He Doesn’t Like. Truth, Facts, Objective Reality – all these are utterly irrelevant to the Furthering of Limbaugh, and therefore ignored at best, mocked at worst.

    And this is something that really bugs me. The man appears to be nothing but a self-service shouting machine – that’s fine, you see those on street corners. But a large slice of the US appears to listen to him and take him seriously.

    Now that’s worrying.

  53. @MarkHB:

    I can sum up that paragraph in one word: dirtbag

  54. Robert

    Dear Chris,

    In your first paragraph you claim, “Rush blames the scientists.” I’ve listened to Rush for many years and I think I even heard that comment. You provide no evidence his quote was even in reference to the swine flu. What did he say before or after that statement. Certainly you would have to admit that the Global Warming “Scientists,” were hiding their data and essentially lying to everyone by not providing what they based their conclusions on or what methods they used to come to those conclusions. Follow the money. There are as many crooked scientists as there are ignorant writers. Please try again later….

  55. Ozonator

    Poor “55.   Robert Says: December 14th, 2009 at 1:16 am”;

    We can’t spell fool without “U” and Zicam. I am not sure if you are a liar, idiot, lazy, in need of a new helper monkey, or 1 of Massingill’s container model Marc Morano’s wing-nut cowboys with leather chaps at his Climate Depot and Bait Shop.

    After ~5 minutes of “research” – ta da:

    Blaming everybody not approved by him – from the scientists to their dog Checkers, “RUSH:  Imagine a flu outbreak, swine flu, bird flu, Democrat flu, … This flu, folks, let me tell you something.  Nothing to worry about.  Nothing to sweat here.  I’m not going to worry about this outbreak of flu until Fox News puts Geraldo Rivera on 24 hours a day.  … to report on it.  … The Centers for Disease Control … I doubt that anybody running that place knows everything going on there … Obama.  …  He’s going to handle the Surgeon General job.  He’s going to handle the swine flu.  … Obama … paralyze our ability to defend ourselves … Rules for Radicals.  This flu is being exploited … you are protecting the people from the scourge of the swine flu … is you enlist them without their knowledge … into your revolution.  … Obama …from this morning at the National Academy of Sciences annual meeting. … OBAMA:  … to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community. RUSH:  Here’s exploitation. … OBAMA:  Federal funding in the physical sciences … has fallen … RUSH:  “Those damn Republicans, they’re just ruining the country! But I, The Messiah, President Barack Obama, I’m going to restore all the spending that these evil Republicans cut from your science budget … that’s why there is swine flu because Bush was in the White House. ….”“ (“Swine Flu Outbreak? No Problem! Obama Handles from Golf Course”; the evil Mr. Rush “LABI” Limbaugh of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity – extremist Republican and Christian corporate horror media outlets; plagiarism and dope dealing in melamine, BPA, tainted peanuts, DDT, downer cow, and bile server farms; princess rulers of Planet-Star Wormwoody Jenkins and national baby monitors; screwed General Motors, Bobby Jindal, and Louisiana into the ground from his 80 cats in a feces-filled mansion; as pro-life as a Missouri mule; rushlimbaugh.com, 4/27/09).

    It must be pointed out that LABI Limbaugh’s fiendish consumption of illegal Oxycontin caused him to go deaf and that loss of taste and smell would be considered relatively harmless. “Consumers across the country have alleged in more than 400 lawsuits filed in courts and complaints logged with federal regulators that Zicam nasal gel, meant to relieve cold symptoms, has destroyed or diminished their sense of smell or taste … Zicam’s manufacturer, Phoenix-based Matrixx Initiatives … also has touted its products in radio and television ads featuring talk-show personality Rush Limbaugh“ (“Homeopathic medicine company fights off Zicam lawsuits”; By Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic; usatoday.com, 8/1/07). Years later with an administration that practices science, “FDA says Zicam nasal spray can cause loss of smell” (The Associated Press; nola.com, 6/16/09). And, “GOP criticizes Dems on cost of health overhaul” (ERICA WERNER, The Associated Press; nola.com, 6/20/09).

  56. Joe Meils

    You would think that Limbaugh would be more of a science supporter… when you consider how much science and technology has put huge fortunes in the hands of the GOP elite. Everything from energy research, manufacturing, and meida (which they pretty much own lock stock and barrel) is dependant upon science for making it what it is today.

    Luddites like him will end up shifting power alright. Away from them. The question is: how bad will they make the world to live in before the bulk of the population sees them for what they are?

  57. Rocktoppus

    Rush has been pissed at scientist ever since they interfered with his chance to fight the commies face to face in Vietnam….
    As fate would have it …Scienitst found what was thought to be an ingrown hair on the rim of his anus which lead directly to to him hanging out on the couch and eating donuts instead of fighting commies face to face… … he’s hated science since that woeful day..

    http://www.snopes.com/military/limbaugh.asp

  58. Ozonator

    Evidence strongly suggests that LABI Limbaugh keeps 2 sets of “science” books just like some organized crime and GOP accountants.

    There still is no public accounting for what the extremist media outlet did with all that ticket money during his time of oxycontin abuse. “Talk Radio powerhouse Rush Limbaugh is planning a one-man Broadway show to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina … for a one-day-only performance on Tuesday Oct. 18 … Sean Hannity will provide … a special introduction” (“Rush Limbaugh Plans Hurricane Katrina Benefit”; By Cris Bergman; nationalledger.com, 9/6/05). “”Folks, it’s just common sense to me.  How in the world can you have a set of global warming statistics and numbers if you do not provide people the original data on which everything is based?”” (“Monday Quotes: A Tripple A-Plus”; 12/14/09) and with no mention that it was a benefit for the Hurricane Katrina victims, “ RUSH: We had a great time last night … on Broadway. “Rush on Broadway” is our first such appearance in New York … The audience was just fabulous … no protesters showed up. … Would you show up with 2,000 dittoheads in one place trying to protest it? “ (“Great Night in New York”; 10/19/05) (the old, ugly and evil Rush “LABI” Limbaugh, extremist Republican and Christian outlets for plagiarism, falsehoods, hatred, greed, and abusing the public airwaves to put drivers in harm’s way, produced less children then the more normal, Viagra-less, King of Pop Michael Jackson, and aka Dr. “Jeff ‘Gannon’ Christie”; rushlimbaugh.com).

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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