A month ago, The New York Times posted an oped by a Canadian novelist, Stephen Marche, warning that the country’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, was waging a “war against science” in service of his larger purpose “to prevent democracy.” I held this claim to scrutiny here at The Atlantic a few days later, and found it lacking, to put it mildly. The accusations against Harper presented by Marche and those who think like him ranged, I said, from the true but trivial (more formal manners at press conferences) to the overwrought verging on hysterical.
Here’s an especially outlandish version of the latter, postdating Marche’s article but endorsed by him in his Twitter feed:
In late August, many media sources across Canada—including Canada’s state broadcaster, the CBC—lent credence to the claim that Harper was “targeting science” because the federal department of Agriculture was digitizing farm research libraries and then recycling or pulping obsolete and redundant printed materials. This claim was magnified and publicized by left-of-center social media into a veritable Fahrenheit 451 bonfire of precious knowledge:
People have gone pretty far over the cliff when they can believe that an update to modern technology constitutes a war on science. The truth of the matter was less far-fetched and more squalid. Demand for materials-on-paper from the Lethbridge library had plunged by more than 80 percent over recent years. Digitization of the library threatened public-sector jobs. What was at issue here was not know-nothingism. It was unionized Luddism.