A Fine Bio and a Fine Myth
Newly well-known blogger Chris Clarke has quite a tale to tell beyond personal knowledge of a sociopath (whoch is after all a disquietingly common knowledge in these times). He claims one accomplishment which I might never have thought possible, to wit: "Persuaded James Watt not to use pesticides in his yard."
I've always had a weakness for the humor of oddball encounters, & this is top-shelf. I had a vague recollection of Watt making some wild statement about how protecting the environment wasn't so very important since the End Times were coming anyway. It was no great step to believe that a man who wanted to sell off vast tracts of old-growth forest to pay off the sponsors of Reagan's revolution would be amenable to protecting his own offspring from neurological damage. Such hypocrisy is old hat to someone who ground his teeth through much of the Eighties.
My enjoyment has been tempered, though, by the discovery that Watt's been patrolling his legacy. It appears that at some point a (somewhat flaky)writer published a book in which he quoted Watt as having said "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." The quote was wild enough (and, in view of the record, believable enough) to get used in an online magazine and a speech at Harvard by Bill Moyers.
Here's where it gets ugly: apparently nobody can source the quote. The online magazine said that his statement was made "in public testimony", which was just sloppy; their article now carries a correction. Worst of all, I found this out because Watt's efforts to get the quote corrected got covered by Powerline (no link, just trust me). Damn, I hate it when the wingnuts score. Moyers, by the way, was a gentleman about it.
Now, Watt had a real reputation for shooting his mouth off. Nevertheless, I've had a real lesson today in being careful about buying into statements just because they seem credible.
And another thing: I remember being pretty steamed (even as a young whippersnapper) about Watt when he was in office, but some reasonably extensive Googling turned up very little on his actual record -- what he tried to do & what he did. All I could turn up was his own, presumably self-serving catalogue of how much he improved the process of "restoring" land after strip-mining & so forth. Is history truly written by the winners?