"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

seven statements that prove Margaret Wente is an idiot

Is there anything more tedious than a professional contrarian with a newspaper column? You know the type, they are everywhere - those who can be relied upon to always zig when society zags just because they fancy themselves courageous rebels taking a stand for "freedom" or "common sense" by doing or saying stupid things just because they are the opposite of what everyone else is doing or saying.

I'm not talking about people who dislike top 40 music because it is top 40 music - unless you are a 12-year-old girl or tone deaf or actually hate music and have an IQ around room temperature (in other words American Idol's target audience) hating top 40 music is common sense. Nickleback really does suck. They have sold millions of records to people who don't actually like music but feel the marketing-driven need to consume pop culture. Their music is like a not-so-clever imitation of actual rock music, in the same way a paint-by-numbers copy of the Mona Lisa is an imitation of actual art. But I digress.

I'm talking about the sort of people who, because doctors say too much fat is bad for you, insist on eating nothing but bacon at every meal. The sort of people who mark Earth Hour by turning on every light and appliance in the house and idling their Humvee in the driveway for an hour. The kind of people who regularly say things like "Experts? ha, what do they know?" or "just because its on the news/in the newspaper/in a textbook/in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, doesn't mean it is true, my gut feeling tells me it is false!" or "Ha, all you sheeple think X is true just because of so-called 'evidence' and 'statistics' and 'math' - that's how I know Y is true!" These are the people psychologists talk about when they discuss the Dunning-Krueger effect.

One such person is Margaret Wente. She has had a long and successful career in the newspaper biz on the basis of a few things, one of which is undoubtably very thick skin. I suspect another is the ability to make herself such a pain the ass to her coworkers and superiors that she has often been promoted out of the way - a process often referred to as "failing up."

Anyone who has had the misfortune to read her column on a regular basis already knows this, but for those lucky enough to have dodged that particular bullet, I submit this article as proof: Margaret Wente "7 Things You Can't Say In Canada"

Wente's article is little more than a list of "sacred cows" that no one but brave little her dares to kick, with little or no evidence to support any of her claims. Her list:

  • 1. Margaret Atwood writes some awful books. (none of which are named, naturally)
  • 2. Recycling is a waste of time and money. (Maggie is the kind of person who thinks bailing out the leaking boat is a waste of time, what you really need to do is make some more holes to let the water out)
  • 3. Only private enterprise can save health care. (apparently the ghost of Tommy Douglas will haunt you if you say this out loud)
  • 4. David Suzuki is bad for the environment. (see number two)
  • 5. A national day care program won't do a thing to help poor kids. (except allow both their parents to get jobs and earn money, thus making the family less poor)
  • 6. The Group of Seven are overexposed genre painters (she may not know art, but she knows what she likes)
  • 7. The United States is the world's greatest force for good. (Yes, you must never say this in the America's biggest trading partner and closest ally or you will join all the other conservatives in the liberal anti-american re-education camp we built that everyone else calls Alberta.)

First, the fact that such an article being published in the Canadian edition of Reader's Digest pretty much proves that not only can you say these things Canada, but that you can be paid handsomely to say them in a mass market magazine that generally publishes the literary and journalistic equivalent of rice pudding. Second, every single thing she says is idiotic, reactionary, meaningless nonsense that is being spouted simple for the sake of trying to start an argument. An argument that Wente would then inevitably lose and then proceed to claim that because someone took issue with her saying something as  dumb as "David Suzuki is bad for the environment" proves that she is a courageous maverick who bad people want to censor.

Look Margaret, saying "the earth is flat" is not insightful, it is not clever and it is not true. Claiming that by saying it, you have somehow kicked a sacred cow or declared that the emperor wears no clothes is  not just bullshit ("my heavens. just look how outrageous I am! Is there anything I won't dare to do? Watch out, I might wear white after Labour Day!") but exceedingly tedious, attentions-seeking bullshit that most people grow out of before they finish high school.

Addendum: Just to be crystal clear, I have no problem with Wente saying whatever she wants. Free speech being promised by the constitution and all that, she can blather on about what ever she likes, but free speech being promised in the constitution and all that, I can blather on all I want about how stupid her blathering are. That isn't censorship, that is criticism. And there is nothing in the constitution promising that no one will critique your stupidity when you exercise your freedom of speech.