Chris Mooney is a Prospect senior correspondent and, most recently, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatened Our Future (with Sheril Kirshenbaum).
Chris MooneyNov 07, 2001
"W hy do people who are so smart get up and say things that are so dumb?" wonders lefty political commentator Bill Press, announcing his pick for "spin of the day" on CNN's snarky new talk show, The Spin Room . Press's baby-faced on-air sidekick, the bow-tied Weekly Standard writer Tucker Carlson, defines the "spin of the day" as a political comment so ridiculous it makes you want to hurl your beer bottle at the television screen. In this instance, Press has chosen a loaded remark made by Karen Hughes, George W. Bush's communications director. During the Florida recount, Hughes observed that her candidate won more total popular votes than Bill Clinton did in 1996. When it's put like that, you might almost forget that Al Gore did too. In fact, Gore won 300,000 more votes than George W.--which Hughes didn't mention. This kind of partisan nonsense-spewing--ranging from half-truths like Hughes's to downright lying--has become a fixture of American political discourse. That's one reason...
Chris MooneyNov 05, 2001
When it comes to the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, it is a truism that critics either love the books or hate them: Concerning Middle Earth, there is no middle ground. Such has been the case ever since Tolkien, an Oxford philologist, first published his epic novel The Lord of the Rings in three volumes ( The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King ) between 1954 and 1955. In 1956 W.H. Auden wrote in The New York Times that, in some respects, Tolkien's story of the hobbit Frodo's quest to destroy the Dark Lord Sauron's "One Ring" of power surpassed even Milton's Paradise Lost. But that same year, Edmund Wilson, at the time America's pre-eminent man of letters, dismissed The Lord of the Rings as "balderdash" in a review for The Nation titled "Ooh, Those Awful Orcs." Wilson also swatted at Tolkien defenders like Auden and C.S. Lewis, observing that "certain people--especially, perhaps, in Britain--have a lifelong appetite for juvenile trash." Wilson's...