I taught them everything they know

Chris Mooney explains that journalists often get things wrong.

Why is Richard Dawkins, promoting his new evolution book, regularly being asked about his atheism, and why he is “strident,” “polarizing,” etc? Is it the media’s fault–or is it Dawkins’? I would actually say a bit of both.

Journalists can be quite irresponsible, and even when they’re not outright irresponsible, they love to be provocative and to stir up conflict. To them, Dawkins is “Mr. Big Atheist,” and thus instinctively seen as a polarizing figure. Many radio or TV hosts, and even print journalists that Dawkins encounters on his tour, will not have read his books carefully; instead, they will be going on impressions and what they’ve heard.

Ahhhhhh yes, that sounds quite likely. Many naughty journalists will be going on impressions and what they’ve heard. And what would those be? Why – partly, they would be impressions assiduously created by none other than Chris Mooney himself! It would be what they have heard from that indefatigable pursuer of Mr Big Atheists, Chris Mooney. As far as I know, Chris has done more over the last five months to create exactly that impression than any other single source of impressions – so it has the faintest whiff of crocodile tears for him to talk of irresponsible journalists going on impressions and what they’ve heard. Didn’t he want them to? Wasn’t that the idea? If not – why was he so dedicated about it? Why so many articles, in so many places? Flogging the book, of course, but he and SK could have done that by talking about Pluto, or Hollywood, instead – but it was atheists atheists atheists, and Dawkins leading the pack.

Finally, atheism is, to a trouble-making journalist, potentially a much sexier topic than evolution. It’s divisive. It’s controversial. It’s much easier to create sparks with culture war questions than it is to patiently allow Dawkins to explicate science…That Dawkins would, after The God Delusion, be framed as a scientist-atheist combo, or even the icon of atheistic science, was as inevitable as night after day. It’s the media equivalent of a law of nature.

Really? Nothing at all to do with the efforts of one Chris Mooney? Or is Chris Mooney writing about himself in the third person – yes maybe that’s it. He’s explaining that he’s part of something that is the equivalent of a law of nature so it was all inevitable and nobody should say he was being ‘divisive’ and ‘controversial’ himself while rebuking everyone in sight for being divisive and controversial. They could all do otherwise; Chris Mooney, being a journalist, was helpless in the onrush of a natural event.

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