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Michael Crichton

Are science fiction writers bad for science? Following recent discussion about Larry Niven, this week we have the case of Michael Crichton.

In his latest novel Next, Michael Crichton writes (p. 227):

Alex Burnet was in the middle of the most difficult trial of her career, a rape case involving the sexual assault of a two-year-old boy in Malibu. The defendant, thirty-year-old Mick Crowley, was a Washington-based political columnist who was visiting his sister-in-law when he experienced an overwhelming urge to have anal sex with her young son, still in diapers. Crowley was a wealthy, spoiled Yale graduate … (Crowley’s penis was small, but he had still caused significant tears to the toddler’s rectum.)

The whole sequence is completely gratuitous; the character is unimportant to the plot and only appears incidentally.

However, there is a real life Michael Crowley who not only has a similar name but is also a graduate of Yale and a Washington political journalist. One who wrote a scathing review of Crichton's previous novel, State of Fear in The New Republic, in which Crichton dismissed global warming as a hoax perpetuated by scientists:

During his career, Crichton has relentlessly propagandized on behalf of one big idea: that experts -- scientists, intellectuals, reporters, and bureaucrats -- are spectacularly corrupt and spectacularly wrong. (Not a terribly surprising response from a writer consistently patronized by critics.) Crichton's oeuvre has promoted, for an audience of millions, a damning critique of expertise. And the Bush administration has put this critique into action, trampling the opinions of government scientists, exorcising trained economists, muzzling the press, and stifling State Department wonks. Crichton, in other words, primed America for the Bush era.

By constructing this highly credentialed stock villain, Crichton created a new hero, too: the debunker, who uses his wits and untainted eyes to see through the hokum perpetuated by PhDs. This heroic figure happens to resemble none other than Crichton himself. By trashing the conventionally trained expert, Crichton has helped create an anti-intellectual ethos where the country's most powerful political leaders can embrace a science-fiction writer as a great authority. And that's exactly what has happened. Since State of Fear's release, Crichton has been captivating audiences throughout Washington, from the American Enterprise Institute to Senate hearing rooms to the Oval Office itself. Finally, in Michael Crichton, the Republicans have found an expert they can love. And, for his part, what Crichton has found is something that, despite his mind-boggling commercial success, had always eluded him.

The connection between Crichton and the Bush era was not just hyperbole on Crowley's part. Crichton was contacted by Karl Rove, with word that Bush had read his novel and wanted to meet him. In January 2005, Crichton spent an hour with Bush that found the men "in near-total agreement." In September 2005, Dr Crichton (a medical doctor) was called to testify as an expert, debunking Global Warming before the US Senate.

Michael Crowley contends that Crichton has tried to escape public censure for his juvenile literary attack by hiding behind what has become known as “the small penis rule”. This was described in a 1998 article in The New York Times in which the libel lawyer Leon Friedman said it is a trick used by authors who have defamed someone to discourage lawsuits. “No male is going to come forward and say, ‘That character with a very small penis — that’s me!’”

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
entropy_house
15th Dec, 2006 22:54 (UTC)
The part of this post that I find hard to believe is Bush's assertion that he read a novel.
hawkeye7
16th Dec, 2006 00:02 (UTC)
More recently, he claimed to have read Camus's 'The Stranger' (in English) while on a ranch vacation. My recollection is that that the novel is a thin one.
entropy_house
16th Dec, 2006 00:46 (UTC)
Well, if Bush says it, it must be true. *cough*... I expect morgan_dhu has it right and a staffer excerpted a few useful quotes and a one page summary of the plot.
morgan_dhu
16th Dec, 2006 00:34 (UTC)
Maybe that's shorthand for "one of Bush's staffers read him parts of the novel at naptime to help him get to sleep."
entropy_house
16th Dec, 2006 00:42 (UTC)
Now that sounds more likely.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )