Conservatives hate Neil deGrasse Tyson because he's smarter than them, but on this week's Real Time, the Cosmos host also proved he's smarter than liberals, too.
The National Review's cover story this week features an article on the irrepressible astrophysicist headlined "Smarter Than Thou," penned by Charles C.W. Cooke. To save you some time and money (the full article, sans paywall, is reposted here), Cooke essentially started with the lame punchline, "These are not the nerds you're looking for," and wrote an even lamer 2,000-word setup for it. Its popularity, though, is indicative of the collective inferiority complex of Cooke's readership (as well asitsracism).
DeGrasse Tyson demonstrated, this weekend, that he's smarter than liberals and conservatives when he took on a variety pack of dumb shit on HBO's Real Time. First, he punctured the liberal notion that if only we showed executions, Americans would rise up against the death penalty. He then calmly vaporized the conservative idea that the death penalty is right because murderers are really bad, you guys!
He also reminded Democracy Now's Amy Goodman that there has never been a time in history when public executions weren't a huge hit with the public, and when conservative Fraggles Matt Kibbe and Hogan Gidley tried to remind deGrasse Tyson that murderers are bad, and that we're better than murderers because we try not to make them suffer, he quietly reminded them of an even more surefire way to avoid being like murderers: by not killing.
"Wouldn't not killing them at all separate us even more?"
"It would be a statement that we are above the base level of conduct exhibited by the killer himself."
Next, deGrasse Tyson took on a double-sided trope that the left and the right cling to, the widely misunderstood theme of Gil Scott-Heron's brilliant poem Whitey on the Moon.
If you really want to drive white people nuts, put this on your iPod and let it play in a carload full of them, because about two-thirds of them will bitch that it's stupid for black people to blame the space program for poverty, and the other third will say some shit like Bill Maher said. He told deGrasse Tyson that he was sick of hearing about how the moon landing was the last great thing America did, and that semi-universal healthcare was a greater achievement.
Tyson took on both flawed interpretations of Scott-Heron's polarizing verse with a beauty and fervor that were nearly as poetic:
"People who go to the moon come from a community of people who want to explore where we’ve never been before, not only places, but ideas, and that frontier, especially when it’s in the sciences, arrives at discoveries, some of which have transformed medicine. In fact, you go into a hospital, every machine with an on-off switch, brought into the service of diagnosing the condition of the human body, is based on a principle of physics discovered by a physicist who had no interest in medicine. Because they had the freedom to explore the frontier. To pit one against the other, as though you can even have health care in the absence of these machines...don't get me started!"
See, the problem Scott-Heron was identifying was never that Whitey, or anyone else, was on the moon, but that people on Earth can't rely on the same government that enabled that monumental achievement to also ensure a society that functions at the most basic levels. Go to the moon and provide the most basic of protections to your citizens.
So, you see, Mr. Cooke, Neil deGrasse Tyson isn't just smarter than thou, he's also smarter than we are.
We're just okay with that.