There are two reasons to bother reading The New York Times.
First, it hosts and proudly (and entirely uncritically) displays major exhibits of overclass irrationalism. In an age of peaking resources and rapidly worsening imperial decrepitude, keeping track of what the elites are thinking is more important than ever.
Second, the NYT sometimes hosts and proudly displays actual journalism.
A bit of the latter happened yesterday, December 6, 2009, under the headline “Promoting the Car Phone, Despite Risks.” As reported by Matt Richtel, this valuable story details how the capitalist cellular phone industry has known from day one that its product is seriously deadly.
Now, we’re not talking here about speculation on the effect of cell phone radiation on the human body. No. We’re talking about the cell phone’s long-understood status as a direct and certain cause of the thousands of annual deaths that indisputably result from its use inside moving automobiles.
As Richtel reveals, those who planned to make profits from cell phones knew from the very beginning that what they wanted to sell was going to snuff out many thousands of individual lives:
Martin Cooper, who developed the first portable cellphone, recalled testifying before a Michigan state commission about the risks of talking on a phone while driving.
Common sense, said Mr. Cooper, a Motorola engineer, dictated that drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Commission members asked Mr. Cooper what could be done about risks posed by these early mobile phones.
“There should be a lock on the dial,” he said he had testified, “so that you couldn’t dial while driving.”
It was the early 1960s.
Long before cellphones became common, industry pioneers were aware of the risks of multitasking behind the wheel. Their hunches have been validated by many scientific studies showing the dangers of talking while driving and, more recently, of texting.
And what do corporate executives do when their engineers express such concerns? Do they, as long alleged by a range of economists and social scientists, balance the needs of their prospective customers with those of their firms’ shareholders?
Not so much: