Main Stream Skeptic

I’ve always liked Rachel Maddow. She is often labeled a “liberal” to scare people, but she is a very harsh critic of the administration. I’ve noticed a very skeptical theme amongst in her reporting. Today, June 25th, was an extraordinary.

A bit of background first though. She recently spent a week in Louisiana reporting on the oil spill disaster. The fact that she spoke to experts, and not celebrities was great viewing, made even better by giving them enough time to explain themselves thoroughly. She also provided the emotional appeal herself— describing the ocean smell as sickening, and difficult to not throw up because of the smell. This latter point, when technically a fallacy, is still very effective. A forgivable offense because it was so balanced with the hard science.

Why am I currently gushing all over her now? Because of this:

If you haven’t heard, someone filmed an oil sheen on the roads of New Orleans and narrated with “its raining oil” over and over again.  As an example of modern science reporting, the Huffington Post asked readers if they felt it was really raining oil or not, as if our votes could decide what was really happening.  (Again, I will not link to this particular video because I don’t want to increase it’s popularity.)

Rachel Maddow took the time to correct to her followers that it is impossible for it to be raining oil.  It sounds crazy that I should like something so simple, but the state of science reporting is absolutely trash.  I remember when ABC reported that the very last link between autism and vaccines was shredded, they gave 10 times the airtime to a celebrity saying that she believed to still be true anyway.

If Rachel Maddow has an agenda, she would want her viewers to be disgusted with BP, and our politicians for allowing BP to go unregulated.  This particular YouTube video could have played right into that agenda.  She mentions that many of her followers sent her the video, showing their disgust.

Knowing the video is a mistake, many reporters and pundits are faced with two choices:  say nothing, let the rumor spread and with it any agenda, or  promote the video anyway.  Seeing her take the third option was quite refreshing. She does not seem to want followers for followers sake, she wants smarter, better informed followers, even if she has to tell them things they may not want to hear.

And this is why I think she is the a good skeptic.

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2 Responses to Main Stream Skeptic

  1. Derick says:

    Why do you say it’s a fallacy when she’s describing firsthand that the oil made her nauseous?

    • Dave says:

      It was an emotional appeal, and it was anecdotal. These tend to raise red flags for many skeptics because they are technically fallacious arguments. Effective, but not very proper. However it’s ok to do so, we all do it, as long that isn’t the only card you ever play. She has made many more beautiful and scientific arguments besides these. Her personal stories better illustrate her points than raw numbers and data ever could. They drive us into action far better than numbers can.

      –Dave

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