A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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Skeptimedia is a commentary on mass media treatment of issues concerning science, the paranormal, and the supernatural.

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CNN.com posts racist column by Linda Saether

March 3, 2008. These are sensitive times. A golf announcer is suspended for two weeks for saying Tiger Wood's opponents might be able to win if they lynched Tiger in a back alley. Some young man shows up at a Hillary Clinton rally and shouts "Iron My Shirt" while holding a sign. He was removed from the premises. A woman asks John McCain at a political rally "How do we beat the bitch?" and McCain responds: "Excellent question!" No, John. That was a sexist question and it was the wrong question, anyway. To his credit, McCain followed up his response with: "I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat Party."

Politicians, journalists, and editors often don't realize that words, stories, or articles they think are amusing and throwaways are racist or sexist. A recent example was sent to me by Dave Ricks who was disturbed at the racist implications of a CNN.com article on personology. I'm sure the author, Linda Saether, thought the piece was humorous and lighthearted and wouldn't offend anybody. Wrong! Dave wrote to CNN:

The article on Personology says any blonde white person you meet is more sensitive to taste, touch, smell, and sound than any black person you meet -- based on the diameter of their hair. That is a racist opinion from the past, not refereed science from the present.

Will Al Sharpton enter the fray? (He publicly called for the Golf Channel to fire Kelly Tilghman.) Unlikely. There's not much political hay to be made out of this story.

Some people might take offense at the claim that you can tell what a person is like by the shape of his nose:

You have to really look at that from the side profile. The Roman-shaped nose is a bossy nose. It likes to be in charge. They are also very aware of costs. How much it costs. 'Is it worth it? Can I get it for less?' Those are Roman nose-shaped questions.

These words come from Naomi Tickle, who fancies herself an expert on reading noses, hair, lips, eyes, and other facial features. (I will resist referring Ms. Tickle to Kabalarian pseudoscience, which claims that your name is your destiny.)

Saether writes about the origin and history of this pseudoscience and its relation to other pseudosciences (like physiognomy and phrenology), but she settles for the laugh rather than for the skeptical analysis. From what I can tell in reading her article, she doesn't have a clue about the racist implications of personology. Maybe she has a snub nose.

Personality as plain as the nose on your face?

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