Another Megan McArdle post — but only a little one
Not the promised mountainous tome, but via Sadly No, I find that the Divine Ms. MM has taken up comedy writing.
Her attempt at humor?
…it’s kind of funny that Al Gore’s speeches and summits like Copenhagen seem to have an unfortunate tendency to be beset by cold snaps and blizzards.
Ah yes. Snow in Denmark in December is funny as long as it falls on that notorious meanie, Al Gore. It does provide a chuckle, I guess — if you’re sense of humor never made it past a third grade playground. My son, in fourth, is already beyond this kind of stuff. He’d never attempt the following dialogue:
“It’s cold today.”
[Editor’s note: this is a true fact. 17 F, – 6.3 C as I dropped my kid off today at school]
“Yeah. But yesterday we were talking about how the earth is getting warmer in our Communist-conspiracy dominated third grade science lesson.”
“Teachers are dumb.”
“Yeah. Do you want to be Jedi or Sith this time?”
[Alright. He’d ask that last question. Not the rest, though.– ed.]
I mean, seriously. Did McArdle not get enough mean-girl action in high school? Or was she in an out clique, perhaps, and is getting her revenge now by being willfully stupid through a big megaphone? (Call this the Joe Lieberman theory of the diaper-brigade of modern right wing bloviators. Too much disdain thrown their way in their teens turns into a flattery-by-imitation style and a deep, insatiable hunger for revenge.)
The best part is that in the comments thread someone actually goes to say it’s all Rachel Carson’s fault — and environmentalists have killed lots of people because they outlawed DDT for malaria control.
Except, of course, they didn’t.*
Which is the point: a lot of McArdle’s stuff, to the extent that I can hold my nose and read it, has about that level of intellectual rigor. She is a lazy writer, as I’ve documented before at tedious length.
Most of the time, the consequences of such sloth are negligible. There are lots of bad writers in the world,but almost all don’t get read enough to matter. But if you are sloppy in useful ways — and there never much more useful idiots than Ms. McArdle — and you can write with superficial polish, then you can find a platform in which you can do real harm.
How much harm?
I don’t know.
I’ve come to think that McArdle is in fact rather like a high school in-group kid.
She’s risen as her talent, such as it is, and certain kinds of luck have taken her. But she persuades only the persuaded, as far as I can tell, and if the above is any indication of her grace with language and the native bite of her wit…I’m coming to think that she resembles no one so much as Plankton in my son’s favorite show, SpongeBob SquarePants.
(For those of you unitiated in the ways of Bikini Bottom, know only that Plankton is loud, ever-certain and always wrong — the butt rather than the bearer of the joke.)
*The DDT/malaria story is complicated, as you might expect (though you would never learn from McArdle or her claque), but the very short form is that what was outlawed was the use of DDT as an agricultural pesticide, for reasons that I know of no one disputing today.
However, DDT has remained in constant if debated use in an indoor application to defend against malaria-bearing mosquitos where it counts, and there is considerable evidence that it has real value in that venue.
At the same time, as critics of the use of this known human toxin have pointed out, some countries, have achieved even better anti-malaria results through the comprehensive use of coordinated public health approaches emphasizing bed nets and targetted in home spraying with non-DDT insecticides. Vietnam is the poster child for such approaches, but anti malarial success stories are not limited to that nation.
So, to the off repeated lie that Rachel Carson killed millions, with her anti-DDT Birkenstock-wearing zealot-hippie followers wielding the knife of a DDT ban, wrong on all counts: DDT wasn’t banned as an anti-malarial tool; and DDT is not the without-which-die weapon in the malaria wars its Curtis LeMay-like proponents would have you believe.
In fact, if you see a kind of “bomb the village/kill a million Iraqis” in order to save them mentality here, I sure wouldn’t say you were wrong. Some people out there can only tolerate the simplest of solutions to complex problems, and some others make too good a living off feeding their fantasies. (Are you listening, Thomas Friedman?)
Image: Vincent van Gogh “Snow-covered field with a harrow (after Millet),” 1889