e. magill's                        

The Unapologetic Geek


Top 5 Heroes & Idiots of 2008

When talking about heroes and idiots in any given year, you have to look at two things: your personal preferences and the good or evil inspired by people. With one or two exceptions, I tried to avoid politics, so you won't find any presidents, candidates, or campaign workers on this list. When choosing who my heroes were this past year, I focused on the men and women who inspired me, and thus you will notice that the writing profession is heavily represented. When choosing who the idiots were, I chose people who have spread the most infuriatingly pervasive nonsense and possibly even accumulated a body count. This list does not represent the greatest or worst people of the year, but it does tell you who got my attention for either being great or being a totally moronic dickhead.

Damon & Carlton
5. Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse

There is a lot of quality television out there today--moreso than in the last two or three decades--and I can think of no greater example of this than ABC's Lost. Sure, it's not for everybody, but it's hard not to recognize the amount of quality work put in by every single person involved in the show. Still, for me, the first names that come up are those of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the showrunners and head writers. What they have managed to pull of in 2008 is unprecedented in the history of television, not only in terms of Lost's story, but in terms of how they were able to negotiate with ABC. They were able to shorten their seasons but not their budget, set an end date for the show, and even get extra episodes following the WGA writer's strike, all while communicating graciously with the fans. These guys prove to me that you can be a creative writer with wild ideas and still get respect in an industry that usually treats writers like garbage.

5. Ben Stein
Ben Stein

Before 2008, Ben Stein might have made a list of my personal heroes, which makes his inclusion here all the more heartbreaking. But rather than give a diatribe explaining why or how Mr. Stein became an idiot last year, I will let his own words do the talking. He said the following during an interview that was aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network:
When we just saw that man ... talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed ... that was horrifying beyond words, and that's where science--in my opinion, this is just an opinion--that's where science leads you ... Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.
Granted, there are assclowns on both sides of the religion vs. science debate, like the emphatic prick Richard Dawkins, but Ben Stein rises as the biggest idiot of them all from last year, thanks to his illogical support of anti-science and Intelligent Design (not to mention that awful movie).

Captain Disillusion
4. Captain Disillusion

You probably don't know who Captain Disillusion is, but if you have ever watched a YouTube video, you owe it to yourself to check out the great captain. He takes popular but patently silly YouTube videos and exposes them for the frauds that they are. He started late in 2007 by tackling the famous "Penguin Slap" and has gone on to debunk UFO videos, reptile people, aliens standing behind the president, and really bad ghost videos, all while maintaining a good sense of humor and a warm attitude. He proves that you can make well-produced videos on a shoestring budget, post them on the Internet, and spread a positive skeptical message for all to see. I love Captain Disillusion, and I'm hoping he puts more videos up as soon as possible.

4. Rod Blagojevich
Rod Blagojevich

Before I made this list, I spent a little time researching similar lists in magazines, websites, podcasts, and other media. One of the only people to appear in nearly every single list of worst people in 2008 is Rod Blagojevich. And why shouldn't he? Here's a guy who promised to end corruption in Illinois politics and wound up being embroiled in more scandals and controversies than his infamous predecessor, even before he was caught trying to sell President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat. Here's a guy who allegedly threatened to revoke funds for a children's hospital simply because the CEO didn't give him $50,000 in campaign contributions. Here's a guy so corrupt, so low, and so sleazy that other politicians--even fellow Democrats--unanimously agree that he's the scum of the Earth. Just look at him; if you google "douchebag," that's the face you expect to see.

Orson Scott Card
3. Orson Scott Card

While I was introduced to Card's brilliant science-fiction this year, I was startled to discover an essay he wrote a few months ago in which he managed to shine light on what's happening with the economy and how the mainstream media is dealing with it. I've read a lot of information, spin, and discussion about the economy and the current crisis, and I don't think anybody--aside from those who call for full monetary reform--have gotten the facts right the way Orson Scott Card has. While it sounds like right-wing ranting, note that Card is actually a Democrat (though his views on homosexuality and the War on Terror seem distinctly Republican). I list Card as a hero, not because of his politics, but because he is able to write fiction without letting his politics take charge while also able to write about political matters so intelligently. This is my own aspiration, so I consider him a personal hero.

3. James Hansen
James Hansen

In 2008, James Hansen, the man most responsible for the global warming hysteria that plagues the world today, called for the trying of executives of oil companies on the grounds that they have committed crimes against humanity for spreading disinformation about climate change. He also testified last year in defense of two eco-terrorists in England, on the grounds that it should be legal for people to save the planet by vandalizing fossil-fuel based power plants. The defendants were acquitted, and Hansen's testimony was cited as a highly motivating factor. Look, if you've been reading my weblog, you know where I stand on global warming, but even if I believed the hysteria, I'd recognize the idiocy of James Hansen. This guy argues that all dissent is guided by politics and oil company conspiracies, that there is no rational debate on the issue, and that anybody who tries to argue against running down the street and screaming that the sky is falling should be silenced, tried, and executed. As far as I'm concerned, Hansen is everything that is wrong with modern environmentalism, and he's doing great harm by taking attention away from the real--and more importantly repairable--environmental problems facing the world today.

Herbie Hancock
2. Herbie Hancock

The 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year was given to jazz icon Herbie Hancock, and it was only the second time the award was given for a jazz album. Hancock is 68 years old, has worked with a hundred jazz greats including Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and Lee Morgan, has experimented with rap and electronica, and could--if he so desired--retire a bonafide legend. But he earns the honor of being my second greatest hero of 2008 because he won't stop until the day he dies. He's also upbeat, humble, and affable, and he refuses to speak poorly of anyone. We can only aspire to be as great as Mr. Hancock, one of the only truly inspirational role models left to us.

2. Jenny McCarthy
Jenny McCarthy

As I get closer to the biggest idiot of the year, my list of the worst 2008 had to offer gets graver and graver. Now we're into people whose staggering ignorance has cost lives, and no celebrity had a bigger body count in 2008 than Jenny McCarthy. Gullible people across the country, urged on by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Larry King, are listening to McCarthy's unfounded propaganda against vaccinations. Driven by a medically unsound belief that vaccinations are causing an epidemic of autism, more and more people are choosing not to vaccinate their babies against a host of nasty diseases. Predictably, this rise in anti-vaccination has sparked a very real rise in viral outbreaks--outbreaks that have killed children. Therefore, Jenny McCarthy is, by proxy, killing children, along with her boyfriend, Jim Carrey. What startles me is that people are believing her so readily. This is a woman whose career is based on boobs and fart jokes, and who originally tried to tell the world that her baby was an Indigo Child. Yes, it's tragic that her kid has autism, but that doesn't give her the right to spread ignorant fear and stand in the way of medical progress. If you have any fears about vaccines--like if you wonder whether or not there is mercury, anti-freeze, or rat urine in vaccines--please do some research before you make the choice to endanger not only your child but other children around you. And please, for fuck's sake, don't take Jenny McCarthy's nonsense without question; when she speaks, just stare at her breasts and tune out her voice, like I do.

1. The W.G.A.

Okay, so my biggest hero of the year isn't a single person; it's an organization. The Writer's Guild of America stood up to the powerful forces of greed by striking until they got a fair shake. Yeah, it sucked when TV and movie production ground to a halt, workers lost jobs, and reality television exploded, but things would be far worse, in the long run, if writers were excluded from profits earned in the new media. Thanks to tireless picket lines and non-violent protests, writers were given a little more respect, and that's huge. Let's face it, without writers...

1. Matthias Rath
Matthias Rath

Peddling vitamin supplements as cure-alls is enough to get you into Hell, but Matthais Rath has made an artform out of conning people out of living. Rath spent a great deal of time earlier in the decade in South Africa, at the center of one of the worst AIDS outbreaks in history. There, he convinced thousands of people that antiretroviral medication is toxic and that his vitamin supplements will not only treat but cure AIDS. These people, rather than taking advantage of modern medicine, took Rath's snake oil, and of course, died. Last year, Rath expanded his advertising to Russia, targetting another AIDS outbreak there. It's not only AIDS, either; Rath claims his vitamins will cure diabetes, cancer, and many other life-threatening diseases, while simultaneously denouncing modern medicine as ineffective, poisonous, and evil. I have mixed feelings about the death penalty and I believe in the free market and free expression, but I wouldn't be too upset if this dangerous idiot were assassinated.

-e. magill, 01/12/2009


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