Ezra Klein has been filling in on Larry O’Donnell’s MS-NBC show The Last Word, and last night we talked about guns.
Ezra’s lead-in was in many ways more interesting than my segment. I didn’t say anything RBC readers don’t already know; after all, I’m not a real gun expert (like Phil Cook or Jens Ludwig or John Donohue or Rick Rosenfeld or David Kennedy or Susan Ginsburg); I just play one on TV. But Ezra proved again the silliness of the false equivalence between MS-NBC and Fox; he devoted most of the segment to demolishing the case for bringing back the Assault Weapons Ban (as opposed to the limitation on high-capacity magazines).
Putting aside the merits of the question, just imagine a Fox News host carefully explaining why a key Republican talking point is fundamentally bogus.
At the very end, we talked about the President’s actions to limit the scope of the Congressional ban on gun-violence research, and I called that limitation “an anti-Lysenkoist measure,” thus dating myself.
Everything old is new again; if you think that having politicians decide scientific questions, and persecute scientists who follow the data rather than the Party line, is obsolete, you’ve clearly never met a contemporary Republican politician (VA Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, for example).
So while I’m glad to have added a word to Ezra’s already-prodigious vocabulary, I’m sorry that “Lysenkoism” is of contemporary, rather than merely antiquarian, interest. But since it is, we should all be aware of it, and its insidious effects.
Footnote Kevin Drum’s piece on lead and crime reminds me that the first researcher to show a link at the individual level – Herb Needleman of the University of Pittsburgh – almost lost his job to a furious assault, featuring trumped-up accusations of scientific fraud brought by people paid as expert witnesses by the smelter industry.