writes: "I am intrigued by your crusade against vintage Popular Mechanics. I tried to follow your trail, but couldn't find anything explaining in detail. Do you have a manifesto or more information somewhere?"
Thanks for asking! Beyond horrors like vintage Popular Mechanics' role in the extinction of animals (which we'll address below), and beyond the nauseating smugness of the magazine as mouthpiece for fundamentalist Big Science, our spiritual quest begins with a phenomenon in the early 20th century, in which the white-coats (whom Robert Anton Wilson dubbed the New Inquisition) began systematically destroying the deep truths of mythology, bricking over, as it were, stained glass windows with reinforced concrete. The physicicst Mathis explains:
At the same time that the new intellectuals were smashing the old idols, they were setting up new idols in their place. Top physicists became the new gods, and the rank-and-file physicists and science readers were idolators par excellence, never questioning the dogma from above. The more superstition and paradox and idolatry it contained, the more they liked it. The less rigor it contained the more they liked it. But whereas the old pre-20th century dogma was at least rich and poetic, the new dogma was bare and prosaic. Whereas the old dogma at least told a good story, the new dogma told no story or a poor story. Whereas the old dogma was a clever and complex myth, giving meaning, the new dogma was a tattered and transparent lie, denying meaning. The small and pinched thinkers of the 20th century replaced large and beautiful idols with small ugly idols, to no real purpose. If all is but a conversation, as Bohr maintained, why not have a bright and varied conversation, full of meaning and content and bold creativity, rather than a dreary and one-dimensional conversation, empty and warning off future creativity?
After having studied thousands upon thousands of pages of vintage Popular Mechanics, it's difficult for me to communicate the breadth of toxicity that permeates every issue. Granted, my purpose in going through the magazine was to find amusing gems to post on my various blogs. So I ignored the most offensive material along the way. Yet several disgusting items still managed to get through, and I've collected some of the worst below, to help illustrate the poisonous mindset.
This headline reads: "Modern flying carpet visits city of Bagdad" (1932). Turns out that the flying carpet is just an airplane, but here's the crucial question: why call an airplane a flying carpet? Why, as vintage Popular Mechanics did in every issue, refer to scientists as "wizards" and their work as "magical"? The answer is simple: they co-opt mythology and magical lore so as to demystify the world into a very cold place, devoid of metaphor. Sad, colorless, and shallow.
Here's an article that actually says wild birds are "anxious" to join their captive brethren in zoos. The second article is about deer and elk who escape but then voluntarily return to a fenced area. These are great examples of why we rag on vintage Popular Mechanics. The undisgused fascism is terrifying. The first article is from 1929, and the second is from 1931. As an offensive bonus, note the article about how a hunted wolf commits suicide by shooting itself, from 1932.
The next article is utter bullshit and the perfect example of my horror (not too strong a word) of the cold, soulless mentality of white-coat scientists. From 1924.
The magazine that glamorized big game hunting and the clubbing of seals for their fur (not to mention poaching eggs from critically endangered species—for merely one example, see "Youth Fights Condor to Win Thousand-Dollar Egg" from the Nov. '29 issue, in which the condor's near-extinction is noted), promoted smoking, considered rainforests to have "no practical purpose," and predicted that blimps would end of war and disease by the year 2000 ... this same magazine was smugly skeptical of physiognomy. Hence, we're less skeptical of physiognomy than ever before. From 1928.
This is as good an example as any of why vintage Popular Mechanics horrifies us. The story isn't about how this glass-blowing maniac seals kittens into prison globes. Rather, it glorifies his so-called "expertise." Utterly disgusting, as per usual. From 1932.
We can affirm that a headache weighs almost nothing compared to the smug bullshit in every issue of vintage Popular Mechanics. (We haven't dared to look in more recent issues.) "Science to weigh headaches." From 1928.
Q: "Is this monster locomotive a 'he' or a 'she'?" (From 1930.)
A: Where's the cure for cancer, eh?
"Feather-covered dirigibles predicted for the future." From 1930. Big Science back then (as now) can't see the forest for the trees. The naiveté would almost be charming, if not for the smugness behind everything in vintage Popular Mechanics.
Ditto, from 1931. "Noiseless city is predicted within ten years."
This sort of embarrassing hubris spans the centuries. There are no "new" types of prehistoric Indians in Texas, only types new to the so-called discoverer who is merely extraordinarly behind the times. From 1931.
Here's Big Science telling you not to trust your intuition. There's one phrase here that we actually do agree with -- "it pays to be dubious," to which we would add "of everything published in vintage Popular Mechanics." It's all hogwash! From 1931.
"Fashion requires zoo to clothe woman." From 1931. Popular Mechanics very often glamorized and actively encouraged the poaching of endangered animals; utterly disgusting.
This is typical of the "New Inquisition" mindset behind vintage Popular Mechanics: "Poison gas guards 'health' of art treasures." If only Big Science could gas all the arts, this toxic sentiment suggests. The headline is a variation of the old witch test -- if she sinks, she's not a witch, and if the art survives the poison gas, it's "healthy." Yikes. From 1932.
Still no cancer cure, but "Milk not soured by thunder." From 1932.
We're finally beginning to understand the preposterous number of giant object illustrations in Popular Mechanics. The message is that things are bigger (more important) than people. This example is from 1925.