The following is a guest blog and has been posted with the full permission of the author.
February 22, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota â A spokesman for the Minnesota Farmers Union is concerned about a shortage of straw and
hay available for agricultural purposes around the stateâand he is blaming PZ
Myers for the problem.
Myers, a prolific blogger and professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, has been accused of hoarding hay and straw for use in constructing his straw man arguments and logical fallacies. While some of the larger organizations such as the Minnesota Farm Network have been reluctant to criticize Myers out of fear of being targeted on his often-vitriolic blog, others are speaking out.
âEvery time he writes something outside of his field [of biology], Myers uses all of the available straw for miles aroundâ to craft his arguments, said Farmerâs Union representative Mike Helms. âIâm not saying he doesnât have a right to buy straw and hayâitâs a free country and all that. But the fact is our farmers and horses need it. He canât use that much straw [an estimated 3,000 bales per month last year] and not expect it to affect our local ecology and economy. We use straw for feeding our livestock and horses, bedding, and fuel. Heâs just using it to make faulty arguments. Whereâs the justice in that?â
Helms added that other quasi-famous pundits have been drawn to the area in search of straw for their own arguments (conservative writer Ann Coulter and creationist William Dembksi are
frequent customers), but that Myers is by far the most active.
Hardest hit are the farming communities southwest of Minneapolis and those north of St. Cloud. The regional shortage has caused the price of hay to triple, and additional straw is being brought in from as far away as Nebraska. One area man said he was making $500 per week hauling hay from Omaha and reselling it. But many farming families canât afford to pay a premium for straw, and grouse that Myers is unfairly cornering the market for his personal projects while their horses and cows go hungry.
Myers, once known for his work as a biologist, has in recent years become most prominent for his strident criticism of religion, skepticism, and almost anything else he disagrees with. In a famous incident in 2009, Myers overheard a young woman mention that she was a staunch vegetarian, to which he immediately responded: âYou know, Hitler was a vegetarianâ¦ What other Nazi policies do you agree with?â Myersâs blatant logical fallacies have been cataloged by dozens of people including scientist-and-best-selling authors Sam Harris and Richard Dawkinsâand most recently by a bored fifth-grader in Duluth who happened to be skimming Myersâs âPharyngulaâ blog for a school project.
Despite his dismissive tone and having yet to publish a single book, PZ Myers has attracted legions of fans. In an article in the September 2008 print issue of Movieline magazine, screenwriter Ed Naha acknowledged Myers as an important inspiration for his film Troll and its later sequels. âThe special effects may have been kind of cheesy, but the script was so strong because it came from real life,â Naha said. âIâd read PZâs stuff, and the script wrote itself, it was pure gold. He was one of the biggest trolls, even back then.â Indeed, Myers earned the distinction of being named the âshepherd of Internet trollsâ by Sam Harris earlier this year.
Republican political strategistsâthemselves well versed in straw man fallaciesâhave long expressed admiration for Myersâs uncanny ability to fabricate controversy from thin air and grossly mischaracterize his opponents. Wilson Moot, a protÃ©gÃ© of Karl Rove and the chief writer of Mitt Romneyâs 2012 presidential campaign ads, is a particular fan. One of Mootâs best-known ads took President Obamaâs statement âYou didnât build thatâ out of context (he was clearly referring to national infrastructure including roads and bridges) and claimed that it was instead
an attack on small business owners. âMyersâs ability to twist and spin the facts and misinterpret otherwise clear arguments by others is unparalleled,â Moot said in a recent Washington Weekly interview. âIâm good, but letâs be honest: Myers is in his own class. Up is down, black is white, night is dayâif he says it is. If weâd had him on our campaign I really think we could have nailed Obama on that Muslim thing and won the White House.â
Myers could not be reached for comment; a spokesman said he was in Chicago, negotiating the purchase of industrial cranes to assist with assembling even larger straw man arguments later this year. âHis goal,â the spokesman said, âis to make a straw man so big and glorious that it blots out the sun.â
Minnesota Farmers: Blogger PZ Myers Puts Livestock at Risk With Straw Use