Neil deGrasse Tyson joins Jon Stewart in the hallowed ranks of people who humiliated conservative hacks so badly that they actually lost their jobs.
Following a fiery exchange with the astrophysicist, conservative columnist Neal Larson has abruptly announced that he is resigning from his newspaper column. In his final column, Larson acknowledges becoming the “laughing stock” of the country after his epic swing-and-a-miss attempt to bash Tyson.
Larson was enraged by Tyson after the renowned scientist observed that per capita, the United States wasn’t doing as well at the Olympics as other countries.
The USA has 3x as many Olympic golds as Hungary, but 30x the population. Adjusting for this, Hungary is kicking our ass.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) August 12, 2016
This harmless observation caused conservatives to go into full freak out mode. America is supposed to be the best, dammit! Larson channeled his rage into a bafflingly dumb column.
I’ve listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson before. And what I observe is a smart guy who consistently enjoys asserting his intellectual supremacy over others more than he actually likes educating. In one of his worse moments, Tyson mocked a 12-year-old girl who suggested she’d like to live on Jupiter. He ridiculed her in the midst of a crowd, then later, several times, on Twitter. That told me everything I needed to know about Neil deGrasse Tyson.
For that moment he was just a horse’s astrophysicist.
The problem? Tyson didn’t mock a 12-year-old. Larson pulled that anecdote from the satirical website Clickhole (run by the people at The Onion). Tyson, who has spent his career encouraging young people to get interested in science, was not pleased. In a response, he dismantled Larson piece-by-piece, in a letter that began:
First, I’ll forgive you for not spelling your name correctly.
Second, and more importantly, I don’t mind being labeled a horse’s astrophysicist (I see what you did there), provided it’s based on factual information. So what we must do is subtract the false information from your article, and then re-assess what name you choose to call me. If it still justifies “horse’s astrophysicist”, then so be it.
By the time Tyson was done, there was nothing left of Larson, as even Larson would admit.
I love writing. I mean I really love writing. Not that I’m good at it, but it’s therapeutic. It’s an escape. It forces me to order my thoughts. It’s an alternate form of expression. It’s all the reasons writers write. In my field I write to persuade. But for me, right now, I’m conceding defeat to a machine that is horrifyingly efficient in destroying people who make a thoughtless, foolish mistake. Perhaps I’d have the mettle to power through this had there not been so much personal collateral damage.
One day maybe I’ll take another crack at it, possibly when the stigma of being the nation’s laughing stock wears off and I can write with a cleaner slate. Let me end on a note of gratitude, first to the editor of this paper for carrying my column, and to the readers for reading it. And finally, to those who encouraged me this past week and did not pile on when you could have. You mean the world to me.
For now, farewell.
In short: You come at Neil deGrasse Tyson, you best not miss.
Featured image via Comedy Central