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Monday, December 11, 2017

Two publications have broken with their respective histories to wade into the presidential election: WIRED, which released a ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton Thursday, and Scientific American, which did not endorse a candidate, but came out strongly in an article for the September 1 issue condemning Donald Trump’s anti-science views.

Scientific American editors traced the history of Trumpism through decades of anti-science and anti-fact sentiment in American politics:

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who pays even superficial attention to politics that over the past few decades facts have become an undervalued commodity. Many politicians are hostile to science, on both sides of the political aisle. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has a routine practice of meddling in petty science-funding matters to score political points.

But Trump, they wrote, is not only the result of a consistent politicization of science as an instrument of control or influence, rather than an objective standard for testing hypotheses — he makes things significantly worse:

The current presidential race, however, is something special. It takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain. When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up.

WIRED‘s endorsement of Clinton, written by editor in chief Scott Dadich, also mentioned Trump’s knack for baseless assertions (“Does he really think that wind power kills ‘all your birds’? Who knows.)

But the bulk of the article praised Clinton’s mastery, according to Dadich, of the sorts of policy discussions that Silicon Valley’s utopian libertarians value:

“[H]aving met Clinton and talked about all these issues with her, I can tell you that her mastery of issues and detail is unlike that of any politician I’ve met. She comes to every policy conversation steeped in its history and implications, and with opinions from a diverse set of viewpoints. She is a technician, and we like technicians.”

Of course, the Clinton campaign has also done a lot to reach out to the tech community, holding town halls with “content creators” and promising to cancel the student debt of young entrepreneurs — a move some progressives said showed too much favoritism to a specific sector of the economy.

“This is a pragmatic plan that could help leverage what happens in Silicon Valley so that there’s innovation and job growth throughout the country,” Karen Kornbluh, a Clinton advisor, told the New York Times about the Democratic nominee’s plans for tech-related business incentives.

To the good people at WIRED, that promise alone could have been enough to endorse. Regardless, their and Scientific American‘s steps against the Trump campaign are unusual forays into the political for two prominent science and technology publications. Guns and Ammo and National Geographic have 81 days to let the public know where they stand.

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tours John Marshall High School before holding a rally in Cleveland, Ohio August 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Mark Makela

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