A Word, If I May

I don’t like to write opinion pieces. Opinions do not require facts or rationality or really much of anything besides a viewpoint and some sort of evidence to support that viewpoint. That evidence doesn’t need to be factual, it doesn’t need to make logical sense, it just has to elicit a reaction in the audience. If you have had the misfortune of watching any twenty-four hour cable news network recently, you know what I’m talking about. What few facts usually do make it into a published or broadcast opinion are piecemeal, taken out of complete context with the intent of not necessarily misleading the audience, but certainly not of fully informing them. I have a serious problem with that.

So when it came time to write my article for today, I wasn’t really sure what to do. When I write a policy article, I typically check over the sites for large government organizations such as the EPA, DOE, NIH, and so on, to try and find some new story from this week that people have probably missed and that I find interesting. Well, as you are no doubt aware, these sites are not being updated. There is no news. All you will find is a notice on each page, letting you know that each organization has lost funding and that the site will no longer be updated until a new budget is approved, and below that the site as it was before the shutdown began.

As a result, I don’t really have any news to report on. News implies that there is something new. Hence the word, news. I could cover the shutdown. I could talk about the stubborn, dickish children who brought it about. I could even pitch it in such a way that both sides of the aisle are represented as equally culpable. But to be perfectly honest I don’t care. There is no news there. There are no facts to be reported. All I can do is tell you what I think about the shutdown, about whose fault it is, about universal healthcare in a first-world country, about national debt and the political implications of using it as a tool. But none of that is reporting. It’s telling you what I think. All reporting is, to some degree, telling you all what I think (since I choose what stories to report and how to approach them), but there is a point where it really doesn’t qualify as reporting any more. It’s just talking. And that’s about the point this whole shutdown thing has reached.

So for today’s piece, I am copping out. Big time. There are some interesting stories being put out by other science news outlets about the shutdown and its effects on research and science as a whole. You should check them out (I’ll provide links). Then, if you really want my opinion, go read something else. Anything else. There is no news out there that will make this situation not suck. There is no narrative you will find where you won’t have that nagging rage at the back of your mind, over how stupid the whole thing is and how damaging it will be, both to the American people and our national reputation. So go read a book. There are plenty of good ones out there. Maybe Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. It’s not a book, but it’s certainly fitting.


Science Magazine’s shutdown coverage:


NASA and the shutdown:


Funding fears:


A bit more:



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