Thursday, March 28, 2013

#486: Art Bell


The legendary Arthur W. Bell III was the original host of Coast to Coast AM, which is currently run by George Noory, and although retired he occasionally drops in to talk loon (his classic ramblings can also be heard on Dreamland and Somewhere in Time).

In fairness, it might be pointed out that Bell does not necessarily accept all the unhinged claims made by people who call in, and that the point is merely to give them an outlet where they won’t be immediately mocked. But that idea (giving them an outlet) is rather loony itself (and here is why it is troublesome). Although Bell wouldn’t screen callers, he did choose his guests, and must be held partially responsible for boosting the popularity of crazies like Nick Begich, Ed Dames, Richard Hoagland, David John Oates, and Geoffrey Simmons – you can find a list of memorable callers, guests, and incidents here. In 1998, Bell was named recipient of the Snuffed Candle Award. The CSICOP Council for Media Integrity cited Bell “for encouraging credulity, presenting pseudoscience as genuine, and contributing to the public's lack of understanding of the methods of scientific inquiry.”

Bell, who has written plenty of credulous books on the paranormal, is also the co-author (with Whitley Strieber) of “The Coming Global Superstorm”, which was made into the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”.

Diagnosis: Though it is hard to gauge Bell’s actual insanity (though his authorship suggests “plenty”), he is a facilitator for and popularizer of all sort of thorough crap, and his overall impact on the world is surely not good.

4 comments:

  1. I strongly disagree, G.D. Art Bell was HONEST--the LAST of a dying breed in today's media.
    Let's face it... You were probably just scared of every little creek and squeak in your house after a late-night tune-in to Art Bell on Coast to Coast back in the day. It's okay if you screamed out loud once or twice. That was the BEAUTY of his broadcasts! It scared the Pea-Waller-Bee-Jesus out of you! :)

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  2. I agree with G.D. Whether Art was gullible himself or knew he was promoting pseudoscience, the effect has been negative --fostering sensationalism and obscuring the difference between real science and junk science. I often listened to him to kill time on some late night drive. As his guest invariably spewed lame story about about alleged paranormal or unverified phenomena, I'd often cringe as Art responded with comments like "ooh, that's fascinating" instead of asking any really probing or challenging questions.

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  3. In fairness, sane, sober individuals have also appeared on coast to coast radio. Thus, the Bad Astronomer Phil Plait.

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  4. It really should be pointed out that Art Bell only sort-of came out of retirement because he hates George Noory and says Noory ruined the show. Bell even thinks Noory is nuts.

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