Sunday, August 17, 2014

Headline Writer Strikes Again

We have more than once had occasion to notice the tawdry packaging of perfectly respectable essays and news articles, perpetrated by headline-writers, caption-writers, and illustrators:  an egregious example from the New York Times  is discussed in detail here:

This morning’s New York Times Magazine has an engrossing, informative, well-written, entirely unobjectionable article about evolving zoology and climate change, by Moises Velasquez-Manoff.  It was given a silly title, which I won’t quote (the Website gives it a completely different silly title, which I likewise won’t quote);  but of more interest is the headline that announces it on the cover of the (print) magazine.   The cover headline gives no clue that the real subject is scientific, the treatment dispassionate and at a professional level;  it reads, in its entirety,

Is Interspecies Mating O.K.?

as though this were a matter of current debate among ethicists.

Now, if that had been the title of a term-paper by a high-school biology student writing twenty or thirty years ago, there would have been no agenda behind it, for none, at that time, was imaginable outside of the locked wards of sanatoria -- it would simply have been a matter of sloppy style.   But the ‘off-news’ sections of the Sunday NYTimes (the magazine, the weekly review, and the Style section above all) make something of a specialty of peddling paraphilia.  And that seemingly innocent question, proposed in what then purports to be a scientific context, does reflect this agenda. 

Note:  Dr. Velasquez-Manoff  (not sure he actually has a doctorate;  but anyhow, honoris causâ)  almost certainly had nothing to do with any of the lamentable headlines;  nor with the illustrations, which are completely uninformative, gratuitous, and creepy -- much in the spirit of the transgeneric face-melding that defaced that earlier Times Magazine article alluded to above, and likewise with garishly discordant colors. 
For a more tasteful depiction of a chimaera, we offer this:

And now, Boeôtos timens, we must lapse into the Delphic ductus.
Time was, before our collective descensus Averno began in earnest, le premier pas (le seule qui coûte) was chid as conducive to subsequent steps on a slippery declivity; that caveat was dismissed as alarmist.  Since then, all that was predicted  has indeed come to pass.  At this point, there is not much left out-of-bounds, but microendogamy and zoölagnia (as it were, hyperexogamy).   Progress has been made in licensing the former , in the name of certain folkways indigenous elsewhere;  the Times cabal  is now testing the edges of the latter.   In blithely blurring interspecific demarcation, they are treading upon the Island of Dr Moreau territory, currently being populated manu chîrurgi, to great public acclaim.

[Update, alas, 22 August 2014]  Ah, turns there is one more taboo, that did not even occur to my sheltered imagination;  but of which we are reminded again today:  libidinous anthropophagy.  It happened recently in Germany, and you can read about it here:

Once again, an ipsigeneric amorous encounter between consenting adults, so we presumably are not allowed to criticize;  and in time, a “…C” will be duly added to the alphabetical palmarès des paraphilies.

-- But why (you rightly ask) do I link to a French account of something that happened in Germany?  -- Well, I did try to find one (being curious as to the German original of «la viande exotique»), but found none:  turns out they are (as of press time) self-censoring over there.   Search “Detlev Günzel” in Google News, and see the returns you get:  None from Germany (as yet).   No doubt the perp’s identity is being protected out of some tender concern for paraphiliacs.  

For readers interesting in exploring the biology of evolving species in (much) greater depth, a fine guide is  Jerry Coyne and H. Allen Orr, Speciation  (2004).  You can sample their insights here:

For readers who, having been suitably sained, dare venture there, where a cautious man would not:

As of press date, that one’s satire.  Perhaps not so, this time next year.

Christians should not be neutral in such cases;  crusades have been launched for less.


For a celebrated instance, from Classical Antiquity, of interspecific conjunction (and which did bring forth issue),
lavishly illustrated for the connoisseur,
try this:

Contains images of cygnic significance --
Must be 18 or older to view

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