July 16, 2019

“WE LIVE IN AN AGE IN WHICH IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE TO BE FUNNY. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE, NO MATTER HOW LUDICROUS, THAT WILL NOT PROMPTLY BE ENACTED BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES, PROBABLY BY SOMEONE WELL KNOWN,” Tom Wolfe wrote in 1989. He might have added, or by a very well known institution.

Here’s the popular “xkcd” Internet-themed cartoon series on YouTube commenters from 2007:

Here’s the New York Daily News’ Twitter feed today:

Meanwhile, WTOP, an ABC-affiliated DC-based FM news station gets the vapors over the problematic origins of manned space flight: “DC news outlet pulls feature crediting Nazi rocket scientist for Apollo 11 moon landing.”

Washington radio station WTOP apologized Tuesday after pulling a story that commended Nazi aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

The story removal and apology came after the news outlet described von Braun as a “brilliant German-American rocket scientist.”

“After careful consideration, WTOP has decided to remove the article from our website. This story did not meet WTOP’s standards and should not have appeared on any of our platforms,” WTOP wrote in a tweet to its more than 280,000 followers.

The historic origins of rocketry include some horrific elements which von Braun was in the center of, not least of which, using slave labor to build the V-1s and V-2s that he aimed at London. But after WWII, he was one of the chief architects of the American program to land men on the moon, an achievement near-universally praised in 1969, from figures as disparate as Walter Cronkite, who would come to believe in the importance of “one world government” in his dotage, to the mother of libertarianism herself, Ayn Rand.

Apparently, the bifurcated nature of von Braun’s life was too much for WTOP’s news people to handle. Both their meltdown today and that of the New York Daily News’ social media account may very well be attributable to a phenomenon described by Obama flack Ben Rhodes in his infamous 2016 interview: “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

And it’s only going to get worse. As Joel Kotkin writes at Quillette, we live in an “Age of Amnesia:”

This trend was most marked in the British colonies of North America. Benjamin Franklin noted that high levels of literacy helped American traders and mechanics instigate the rebellion against the Crown and sustain it. But now, with access to information unimaginable in the past, our knowledge of history is fading. Information is increasingly separated from actual knowledge; blogs replace books, and tweets replace essays. Knowledge of even relatively recent events, like the Holocaust or D-Day, is become scanty. Four in 10 American millennials, and at least one in three Europeans, say they know “very little” about the Holocaust, and one in five young French respondents are not even aware it took place.

As we’re seeing today, Apollo 11, once a global event, is subject to the same “Great Forgetting,” to sadly invert the title of Tom Wolfe’s increasingly unlikely 1987 hopes for a better 21st century.

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