The gym where my wife and I work out is, in some ways, a tragic place. First, it smells like a gym. Second, the floor is covered with what I surmise is human dander. And third—and by far the worst of all—half of the televisions are perpetually tuned to Fox News, and are strategically placed so as to be unavoidable while using cardio equipment.
Last Saturday morning while riding an elliptical machine, I was “treated” to a dose of “Fox & Friends” with former Governor of Arkansas and failed Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee. To me, this experience was a lot like being “treated” to a dose of the clap (gonorrhea, to polite readers).
Huckabee, citing Lance Amstrong’s admission of cheating during every one of his Tour de France victories, as well as the bizarre Manti Te’o internet girlfriend story, asked (with a straight face) if these revelations were an indication that American culture is in decline. The closed-captioning on Fox is so poorly done that it is virtually impossible to decipher, which in this case was a blessing of sorts: I didn’t have to try to decipher Huckabee’s arguments. Of course I could simply ignore Fox News, or strain to see one of the distant televisions that are tuned to ESPN, but sometimes Fox has that sort of power—in the same way that a minor fender bender at the side of the road can snarl rush-hour traffic for hours on the Schuylkill Expressway.
Here’s what I want to say about Lance Armstrong: he cheated. He used modern medical technology to gain an advantage in his chosen arena of competition. Theoretically, this technology was not employed by the other riders (roughly 200 of them) on the Tour. But that’s bullshit and everyone knows it. Don’t be deceived by the likes of Huckabee; cheating is not unique to the twenty-first century, or athletic competition, or the United States.
And poor Manti Te’o! He’s a twenty-one-year-old boy, subject to all the limitations of his age and, especially, his experience. He was fooled into believing he had an internet girlfriend. It happens all the time. The reason we are privy to his embarrassment is that Manti Te’o has tremendous athletic ability so his life is laid bare on media outlets such as Fox News and ESPN. Don’t be deceived by the likes of Huckabee; misplaced trust is not unique to the twenty-first century, or athletic competition, or relationships, or the United States.
However…I am not about to suggest that our culture is not in decline, and here are the signs:
- Against overwhelming evidence in every relevant field of scientific inquiry, huge numbers of Americans, including Mike Huckabee, reject evolutionary theory in favor of Biblical creation stories as explanatory of reality.
- And against overwhelming evidence in every relevant field of scientific inquiry, huge numbers of Americans believe in so-called “paranormal” phenomena—ESP, ghosts, telepathy, astrology and the like.
- And against overwhelming evidence in every relevant field of scientific inquiry, huge numbers of Americans believe that natural disasters are God’s little way of toying with his creation. Doubt it? Look here, here and here.
- And, finally, against overwhelming evidence in every relevant field of scientific inquiry, huge numbers of Americans believe that there is no connection between human activity and global climate change.
In fact, I believe that our general rejection of demonstrated scientific truth in favor of myth and superstition is the single greatest threat not only to our culture, but to our survival as a society. And superstitious attention-whores like Mike Huckabee are leading far too many Americans down that dangerous path of decline.