If you are of a certain age, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were caught up in a perverse sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Dr. Strangelove, in which a deranged rogue military officer sets off nuclear Armageddon because he thinks fluoride in the water supply is a Kremlin conspiracy to destroy America. • "You know when fluoridation first began? Nineteen hundred and forty-six. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your postwar commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core commie works." • Whew! For a moment there, while Pinellas County Commissioners Norm Roche, John Morroni, Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield wrung their hands and bemoaned the socialist plot to induce fluoride into the water supply, you half-expected them to fret about losing their collective "essence" by gargling.
More worrisome is the thought that if Sterling Hayden's Gen. Jack D. Ripper was a real person, the tea party movement would be walking in lockstep behind him and abandoning Ron Paul as a flaming liberal.
Well, what other choice did these four county commissioners really have?
After all, the health benefits of fluoride have been vetted only by such crazy, zany nutballs like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Public Health Service and numerous professional dental associations.
Even one of world's foremost scientific minds, Dr. Linus Pauling, was an ardent advocate for the dental hygiene value of fluoride.
Yet if Roche, Morroni, Bostock and Brickfield were to throw their lot in with these lefty, socialist, commie, dental deviant scientists, why, this could simply be a fiendish trap to get them to accept evolution, global warming and the efficacy of vaccinations.
Science? Phftt! We don't need no stinking science.
Good Gawd, where does all the heresy end!?!
Looking like John Birch Society throwback uniform day, the four commishes voted to eliminate fluoride from the county's water supply, affecting some 700,000 residents. St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Dunedin and Belleair — still caught in the throes of Fabianism — will continue to include fluoride for their constituents.
One of the arguments advanced by the tea party-influenced fluoride foes is that adding the chemical to the water supply sure looks like a Nazi/Moscow/Ho Chi Minh City axis of oral domination that could also lead to lowering the IQ of Americans yearning to chew free.
Would anyone be surprised if at the next meeting Commissioners Karen Seel, Susan Latvala and Ken Welch, who favored fluoridation, inch their chairs toward the other end of the dais?
Fluoride as a U.N./black helicopter/SPECTRE coven to enslave Americans has been around since the 1950s. So it is rather vexing that Roche, Morroni, Bostock and Brickfield would be so blithely willing to succumb to their worst political impulses to pander to a tiny — but nonetheless vocal — sect of willfully ill-informed tea party whiners who see a Trotskyite hiding behind every public policy.
There is no evidence that decades of fluoride in the county's water supply has resulted in a zombie-staggering populace with fewer teeth than the former Philadelphia Flyers' Bobby Clarke.
Morroni, who once supported fluoridation, flipped and voted to end adding fluoride to the water. He claimed he was better informed on the issue, although he couldn't cite why. Maybe his tea party minder had stepped out of the room to double check on the Earth's flatness.
Perhaps if the commissioners had been able to note a substantial body of peer-reviewed epidemiological scientific research supporting the overarching health risks of adding fluoride to the county's water supply, this would have been washed down easier. But the fluoride debate has less to do with science and more to do with delusional fears on the part of a subset of a fraction of a sliver of an extremist ideological movement.
This has nothing to do with principled political conservatism. The vote by the four toothless county commissioners fearful of offending their political patrons is more a reflection of a growing movement that is antiscience, antischolarship, anti-intellectual rigor and antireality in the public discourse.
Nationwide, the fluoride-as-a-tool-of-Marx has made the Pinellas County Commission look like a gaggle of yahoos more beholden to the tea party than to the people who elected them to look after their best interests.
Now that's something to chew on — while you still can.