Catch Me Tonight on MSNBC

By Chris Mooney | April 28, 2011 3:59 pm

UPDATE: It appears I’ll be on closer to 8:30 or 8:40 ET than to 8 ET…

Tonight I’ll be going on MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” where Chris Hayes is hosting (in place of Lawrence O’Donnell). The topic is birthers and conspiracy theories, and I’ll be talking about my Mother Jones article alongside Jonathan Kay, author of the new book Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground. Show airs around 8pm, although I believe our segment will be later than that.

By the way, here’s O’Donnell with the original birther Orly Taitz last night, who quite predictably, appears to have gone through a “cognitive dissonance” resolution/motivated reasoning process and found a new way to rationalize her ongoing denial that President Obama was born in the U.S.

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The more I think about it, the more the birthers and the Seekers (described in the Mother Jones piece) have in common. Both had adopted a worldview that essentially required them to bet it all on a single development: The Seekers had predicted that the world would end on a particular day, and the birthers had bet that Obama’s long-form birth certificate would have something wrong with it, not exist, etc.

And then, when the day and data finally arrived and the facts didn’t fit their theory (the world didn’t end, Obama had a perfectly good birth certificate) they of course couldn’t give up their prior views–to which they had committed themselves emotionally, financially, etc. These views had quite literally become a physical part of their brains. So what did they do?

Well, you saw the video.

Comments (20)

  1. Exactly!…I’ll be watching

  2. Jon

    Both had adopted a worldview that essentially required them to bet it all on a single development

    Nice!

    Fits nicely with Tanenhaus’s commentary on Michael Gerson’s description of the GOP’s predicament in early 2009:

    “The issues of the moment — income stagnation, climate disruption, massive demographic shifts and health care access — seem strange, unexplored land for many in the movement.”

    The key word in Mr. Gerson’s analysis is “movement,” a term more applicable to moral or spiritual crusades than to the practical matters of governance, particularly governance in a two-party system, where success almost invariably requires compromise, consensus and a mind open to all manner of workable solutions.

    These have not been, historically, the strength of “movement conservatives,” who prefer arguments built on first principles often expressed in supercharged rhetoric.

  3. Nullius in Verba

    Imagine… The year is 2050. Global Warming has remade the face of the Earth, but no continent has been ravaged more than North America. Even before the greenhouse age, its landmass experienced climate’s greatest excesses. The Pacific Ocean on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the cold waters of the Arctic to the north, and the warm waters of the tropics to the south provided sharp temperature contrasts and ample moisture, while the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians drove air currents upward and gravity pulled them down. As a result, hurricanes, blizzards, thunderstorms, bitter cold spells, tornadoes (almost unique to the continent), drenching rains, and blistering heat waves had always played out a life-and-death drama across the land. These extremes slowly and at first imperceptibly melded with the changing climate. The year 1988-1989 saw drought in the Midwest followed by erratic shifts in the jet stream that brought record low temperatures to Alaska and snow to Los Angeles. What were once anomalies have become a matter of course.

    All debate about global warming ended in 1998 after a four-year drought desolated the heartlands of North America and Eurasia. In 1995, food riots in Kiev, Cherkassy, and Odessa sparked a new resurgence of Ukranian nationalism, prompting the neo-Stalinists, who had overthrown Mikhail Gorbachev, to start a brutal repression that made even the Chinese call for UN sanctions. In the plains states, from Iowa to eastern Colorado, south to Texas and north to South Dakota, the age of the family farm finally came to an end, and the sturdy freeholders, long seen as the anchor of US democracy, dispersed. Some signed on with the agribusiness conglomerates that bought up land and lobbied Congress for pipelines to the Great Lakes before the water levels there fell, too, while others sought to start over in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. But most of them joined in the next two decades by a swelling trek of tens of thousands of others from bankrupt farm and ranch communities, looked for jobs in the cities of the upper Midwest and Canada. Duluth now bulges with 1.3 million people; Edmonton 6 million; Toronto 11 million. Forty years have passed since farmers in John Deere hats gathered for morning coffee at the Rocket Inn in Rolan, Iowa, to chew the fat about the weather, the cost of machinery, and how the Cubs were doing, and thirty years have gone by since the high school band last played in Valentine, Nebraska, before the Badgers’ big game against Ainsworth. They were among the first communities to empty, the precursors of thousands of ghost towns that stipple the plains from Colorado to Indiana.

    To many Americans and Canadians, the greenhouse signal literally became visible during the last two weeks of October of 1996, when winds that seemed to roar without respite gathered a “black blizzard” of prairie topsoil that darkened the skies of sixteen states and the Canadian Maritimes. The dust penetrated the lungs of cattle, stopped traffic on interstates, stripped paint from houses, and shut down computers. People put on goggles and covered their noses and mouths with wet handkerchiefs. They stapled plastic sheets over windows and doors but still the dust seeped through. Analysis disclosed that soil from Dalhart in the Texas Panhandle landed as far away as Halifax, Nova Scotia. In place of the soil, the winds left only the heavy sands that now bury parts of the western plains under drifting dunes.

    Predictions made in 1990. Professor Michael Oppenheimer, IPCC lead author, twice.

  4. Jon

    And of course, Nullius, as you’ve told us before, there’s no difference between that kind of speculative storytelling and scientific work reviewed by multiple stakeholders, right?

  5. TTT

    If it wasn’t peer-reviewed, it does not exist. That applies just as much to some academic being wrong as it does to the entire tinfoil-hatted denialist kook alternate universe in which the “skeptics” mutter.

  6. Nullius, you have a round-about way of making a point.

    It’s true that many people have made various kinds of predictions in the past. And frequently been wrong. The population problem is probably the most infamous, in terms of failing to come true on the timetable predicted.

    However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t real issues with the human population bumping up against our probably carry capacity and ability to produce food, particularly as we start to run out of cheap, petroleum derived fertilizers, and use up the majority of our fossil water (which we are well on our way to doing in many places in the world).

    I understand that you are making the point that there may be people doing research on climate that are susceptible to blocking out new evidence, and sticking to their ideas. To which I say: Duh. There are humans involved. That’s why science is a team effort, played out over time, and younger scientists eventually blow up the work of the old guard (sometimes on accident). For every dire, somewhat fantastical prediction made, there are many other individuals treading very carefully, and being clear that we known only a small part of the picture, as yet.

    Of course, you may wish to check your own head on this issue.

    I’m somewhat agnostic on the issue to some extent and prefer a risk-management approach, as previously stated. I don’t think the comparison to Pascal’s wager is entirely apropos, as some–likely fairly large–percentage of humanity will live through even the worst climate change scenario. So it is not a matter of nothingness, heaven, or hell, and there is some real potential for loss by taking action (believing, if you will), if handled badly. For me the issue is what we want our future to look like, and what sort of human societies we want to emerge.

  7. Nullius in Verba

    #4, #5,

    Ah! The magical power of peer-review!

    #6,

    Yes, I think the population prediction parallel is very apposite to the current case. Dire predictions are made, draconian measures are essential to avert it, there is no time for debate or hesitation, and then when the predicted catastrophe fails to materialise, the predictions are subtly altered and shifted down the line and it starts all over again. And the odd thing is, nobody seems to remember what was said before.

    That the predictions turned out to be wrong in detail does not mean they are wrong in the broader perspective, true, but it doesn’t mean they’re right, either, and either way, it seems premature to declare “the debate is over” and “the science is settled” as some have. The carrying capacity of the Earth with current technology applied to its fullest extent has been calculated by some to be about a trillion humans, while others have calculated it to be about five hundred million. I don’t know. I personally think the evidence so far favours the higher end, but I don’t think we should make any assumptions about it. The future is unknown, both its problems and our technological capabilities for solving them. It hasn’t happened yet; we will deal with it (or not) when the time comes.

    Your “Duh” point is one I’ve been trying to make here for a long time. The old guard is prone to forming rigid orthodoxies, creating consensus by means of academic politics, and sceptics and mavericks and dissidents are an essential part of science, needed to keep it on the tracks. They might succeed or they might fail, but either way they’re essential, and they should not be excluded from the process, dismissed as cranks, accused of being “anti-science” – wreckers who only want to stymie progress by artificially stirring up doubt and uncertainty. There can be no more anti-science statement than: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” Without sceptics trying to find something wrong with it, science would go the way of the Dodo.

    Yes, there are dire, fantastical predictions being made, and others that are much more careful. We mostly only hear the dramatic ones in the media, and that is how most people think of it, but I’m sure that when it’s all over we will find out that only the careful ones really existed, and all the rest was media hype. The scientists will have been right all along, the seas will rise no more than a foot, and we don’t know what all the fuss was about. We never said the world was coming to an end.

    Winter to summer, a large percentage of humanity live through climate change every year. (Most die in the winter.) We humans have always been very adaptable, and prosperity, cheap energy, and advancing technology make us even more so. We live everywhere from the poles to the deserts, from the high mountains to the rainforests. Unless we abandon economic progress, I don’t think our survival as a civilisation is in question.

    There are many others who think that it is not so much a question of science or survival, but of what sort of society we want to emerge. (Although I get criticised for pointing it out.) Many regard environmentalism as a cover for an anti-technology, anti-industry, misanthropic yearning for a romantic agrarian Golden Age. The naturalistic fallacy rules. Worse, there is a small (but motivated) minority who understand that this utopia will never happen voluntarily, and so speak of world government, and pervasive regulation of people’s private lives, and “alternatives” to democracy, and worse. They are, frankly, making us nervous. For myself, the society I want to emerge could be described as “more of the same”. Spreading freedom, prosperity, health, long life, a cleaner and more pleasant environment, safer and more comfortable lives, expanding scientific knowledge, and so on. We were already on track to do that; we need to keep going.

    I don’t mind if people disagree with me – that’s what the debate is about. But I’m quite firm on the point that it is a legitimate debate.

  8. Sean McCorkle

    Nullius@3

    So you’re arguing that people worried about AGW are an apocalyptic cult like the Seekers, and Oppenheimer is the leader? One big problem with that is that I count myself among those worried about long term effects of AGW, and I’ve never seen that quote before until I read it just now in your comment. In fact, I’ve never even heard of Michael Oppenheimer. Furthermore, I doubt that the bulk of folks worried about AGW have either. Your example is irrelevant.

    @7

    Yes, there are dire, fantastical predictions being made, and others that are much more careful. We mostly only hear the dramatic ones in the media,

    To the contrary, what is mostly heard is that global warming is a hoax.

    and that is how most people think of it,

    most people think AGW is not happening at all

  9. TTT

    Nullius:
    Ah! The magical power of peer-review!

    Oh, good, you noticed how it is the benchmark of all quality in the scientific process and continuously destroys the quackery put forth by New Agers, creationists, and conspiracists of every stripe. I’m glad.

    Unless we abandon economic progress, I don’t think our survival as a civilisation is in question.

    The Black Plague, AIDS, Chernobyl, and Katrina are just a few examples of bad things that didn’t threaten “our survival as a civilization.” One needs a more human-scaled meter by which to assess problems.

    Many regard environmentalism as a cover for an anti-technology, anti-industry, misanthropic yearning for a romantic agrarian Golden Age. The naturalistic fallacy rules. Worse, there is a small (but motivated) minority who understand that this utopia will never happen voluntarily, and so speak of world government, and pervasive regulation of people’s private lives, and “alternatives” to democracy, and worse. They are, frankly, making us nervous.

    One paradox after another!

    Paradox 1: The peer review process is a lie–yet it is the scientists who employ it who reject technology, science, and progress.

    Paradox 2: Things that only kill individuals and not the entirety of the human race are not to be worried about–but those wicked environmentalists are trying to intrude in our private lives.

    Paradox 3: Every claim of fact put forward by a climate scientist ought to be challenged (even if you yourself agree with it) depending on how well you think they reasoned their way towards that claim–but it’s fine to resort to frankly paranoid green-bashing because of “people” who “say things”. I’m sure you can find many “people” who say such “things” on the Alex Jones show, PrisonPlanet, and Rense.

    “Romantic agrarian golden age,” indeed. I was not aware that on Middle Earth they used to have solar powered cars, hydrogen fuel cells, and a green-collar economy. Modern environmentalist idealism as typified by Al Gore can be said to be a fair number of bad or impractical things, but “primitive” is exactly the opposite of them. Far more primitivist and utopian is the hero-worship of current leaders of big industry, presuming virtue upon them due to their wealth and prominence as surely as was done to any medieval barony.

    Since you’re so keen to bash environmentalists by resorting to statements that some in the activist wing self-published 30 or more years ago, how about I trawl the Internet for a bit and look into some of the other statements and beliefs associated with a pervasive fear of “world government”? What else have the people who say that some “they” are going to replace democracy with a “world government” also predicted and warned about, hm? We’d be well into straight-up white supremacism and Holocaust denial in less than 4 mouse clicks, and everybody reading this knows it.

  10. Nullius in Verba

    “So you’re arguing that people worried about AGW are an apocalyptic cult like the Seekers, and Oppenheimer is the leader?”

    No, you shouldn’t take it so literally. I’m suggesting that for a subset, there are some parallels. That while you are busy congratulating yourselves on not being like the seekers and birthers, who are extreme cases, that you are missing the fact that it is an exaggerated form of a universal human tendency, and it is in the nature of cognitive biases that the person biased does not see it in themselves.

    I have come across obsessed people for who their belief in and fear of CAGW amounts to cultism. People who will break the law or threaten violence for its sake. Most people are not like that. You are not like that, and you obviously know it, but at the same time you immediately saw the parallel, to the extent it applies, without me having to say it. That limited similarity was the only message I intended.

    But now that you mention it, I do think that the psychological appeal of CAGW is related in a diluted form to what drives cults: – the material, pleasurable world is full of sin, that it threatens us with a terrible, apocalyptic doom, that an elite society, of which the believer is a part, has a clearer insight or access to knowledge hidden from the profane masses, and that they are called upon to help save the world, through personal sacrifice and symbolic rituals: actions evidently trivial compared to the perceived problem, but somehow seen as achieving a disproportionately significant effect. It is, I admit, an appealing fantasy. Whether that is all that CAGW is, is another matter – but I do think that it is a tendency that CAGW has at least harnessed to its cause. Contrarianism appeals to certain aspects of it, too.

    Oppenheimer is only one prophet amongst many – I picked him only because he was a scientist, one you might respect as a leader within the IPCC, who said he based his scenario on the best science understood at the time, and it would therefore be harder for you to dismiss him as some ignorant and irrelevant media pundit rather than an authentic voice for CAGW. The particular prophet and prophecy chosen are not relevant – the fact is that CAGW prophecies have been made, they have failed to come true, and yet here you all still are. Events have made no dent in your belief; you can easily construct arguments and minor alterations to explain it away. It’s a perfectly normal human response.

    “To the contrary, what is mostly heard is that global warming is a hoax.”

    What most people heard was that it was an argument between people making dramatic claims of global doom, and other people saying that the claims of doom were a hoax. And yes, a lot of them concluded the hoax was the more likely of the two.

    What they didn’t hear was the milder claims couched in caution, that better reflect our state of knowledge, and that are, I will say, more credible. The dramatic claims got them more political support for action in the short term, but I think will ultimately turn out to be fatal, as more and more of it fails to come to pass.

  11. Nullius in Verba

    “Oh, good, you noticed how it is the benchmark of all quality in the scientific process”

    Peer-review is not the benchmark of quality – replicable evidence is.

    “Paradox 1: The peer review process is a lie”

    No it isn’t. Journal peer review supposed to be a relatively cursory check to see that a paper is interesting, relevant, and makes approximate sense. The process is sometimes abused. But even when it is not, it is no guarantee of truth or quality. That comes in the extended peer review, when readers of the paper try to replicate or challenge the result – which is of course exactly what the sceptics were trying to do.

    “Paradox 2: Things that only kill individuals and not the entirety of the human race are not to be worried about”

    I didn’t say that.

    “Paradox 3: Every claim of fact put forward by a climate scientist ought to be challenged…”

    Yes. Or at least, open to challenge.

    “…but it’s fine to resort to frankly paranoid green-bashing because of “people” who “say things”.”

    You are welcome to challenge that, too. In fact, I was rather hoping you would, since it would give me an excellent excuse to bring up some of the less cuddly aspects of Greenery. But I suspect there’s no point, since you’re probably already well aware of them.

    There’s no paranoia involved. They’re quite open and explicit about it, or have been in the past, and they seem quite genuine in their beliefs and intentions. Nor are all views from thirty years ago. There a quite a few from the last few years. You can certainly question whether they have the power and influence to bring any of their dreams about – it is my fervent hope that they don’t – but there’s no doubt they exist.

  12. Brian Too

    Time spent on the Birthers and their obsessions is time wasted.

  13. TTT

    So let’s look at some of the things I found on the first 2 pages of searching for various combinations of “World Government” and “One World Government”.

    If this international climate change treaty passes, Americans will have no choice but to pay a global climate tax that will be paid directly to the United Nations, at first the tax will be introduced to the public gradually such as a barely noticeable tax at the gas pump, which will later be increased once it has been officially established. The Bilderberg Group has discussed this new global tax this year among many other things like creating a fast-but-painful depression to better establish a NEW WORLD ORDER [emphasis added]. The IMF, a United Nations entity has already declared itself the global central bank that will set regulations and issue a global currency to the nations. People like George Soros, IMF and the World Bank are betting against the dollar and with the help of the Federal Reserve will topple the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the world market to destroy the U.S. economy and force the global dictatorship on the western hemisphere.

    Gosh, that’s a funny name–”Bilderberg.” I wonder where your fellow travellers came up with it? Let’s read further….

    The idea of a conspiracy, an attempt at world power, without doubt reads like some science fiction story. Before dismissing it as such, the following questions should be asked:
    * Why the desire for control of the Media?
    * Why the monetary control?
    * Why the economic control?
    * Why the evidence of Jewish involvement in revolutions?
    Whatever the answer, the fact remains that, at this moment, CONTROL OF THE WORLD [emphasis added] and everything in it is slipping into the grasp of people whose motives are suspect. Anti-Semitic? No, merely a desire for that elusive commodity, the truth.

    Oh wait, I thought we were talking about carbon credits here? Maybe clicking further down the search results will explain the link….

    Jews don’t accept Jesus as the promised Messiah because they were expecting the ‘promised Messiah’ to help them gain power and wealth, which Jesus was not interested in. However, George Soro has the money, connections and he is interested in establishing ‘ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT’ [emphasis added] under Jewish domination.

    Gosh, just look at what these World Government watchdogs believe in–and this is what they say TODAY, not 20 years ago. Freaky!

    Shall I look further?

    Ooooh, sure, I shall!

    Anti-Semitism might be called anti-imperialism. At heart, it is opposition to the plan of the central bankers, based in the City of London, to “gradually absorb the wealth of the world” and establish a masked “WORLD GOVERNMENT” [emphasis added] dictatorship. This involves stupefying and degrading society through faux education, porn and violence; and bankrupting and brutalizing us through war, pandemics and domestic repression. It involves destroying “all collective forces except our own” which means destroying all race, religion, (God), nation and family. They use social engineering like diversity, feminism, multiculturalism and homosexuality to accomplish these aims. (I like homosexuals & different races; I just don’t think they should be used as a weapon.) The bankers place cooperative Jews in positions of control. The stigma attached to anti-Semitism is a form of mind control used to immunize their agents and their agenda against criticism. The Holocaust is callously used for this purpose. If we think of anti-Semitism in terms of opposition to the bankers’ political and cultural policy rather than to a race, it can be justified. The key is to distinguish between Jews who advance the New World Order and those who do not.

    Damn, those World Government bringer-abouters sure sound mean! I wonder just how much power they really have?

    Tim McVeigh was not a disgruntled member of some rag-tag militia. He worked for the CIA. But this was a false flag operation, meaning a purposeful disaster planned against a government’s own citizens, in this case the U.S. government against U.S. citizens, to frighten the people, to get them to surrender their rights willingly, and to further the government’s goals of increased control. Primarily, it was done by the U.S. Government in order to get the Anti-Terrorist legislation passed – which, indeed, DID happen within weeks of the Oklahoma bombing. In America, these False Flag operations have happened many times in the past, most notably at Pearl Harbor. The goal of the government at that time was to frighten the people enough to make them willing to go to war and die, or to be willing to send their sons to war to die, but NOT for freedom, but instead, to further the aims of the ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT [emphasis added] run by the Illuminati/Zionist Jews.

    HOLY CRAP that’s a lot of power! If I’d read sources like that, I’m sure I’d be afraid of the One World Government just as much as you are. I. Am. Sure.

    Seriously, dude, I gave you a chance to back away from this. That you did not do so suggests you either do not know the true origins of your coded phrases, or that you are aware of them and believe them. Across typed letters on a screen it’s ever so hard to tell.

  14. TTT

    So let’s just look over a random selection of what I found on the first 2 or 3 pages of results from searching for “World Government” and “One World Government”. By all means, try to match it with something Paul-damn-Ehrlich said.


    “Tim McVeigh was not a disgruntled member of some rag-tag militia. He worked for the CIA. But this was a false flag operation, meaning a purposeful disaster planned against a government’s own citizens, in this case the U.S. government against U.S. citizens, to frighten the people, to get them to surrender their rights willingly, and to further the government’s goals of increased control…
    In America, these False Flag operations have happened many times in the past, most notably at Pearl Harbor. The goal of the government at that time was to frighten the people enough to make them willing to go to war and die, or to be willing to send their sons to war to die, but not for freedom, but instead, to further the aims of the ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT run by the Illuminati/Zionist Jews.”

    Gosh, so THAT’s the problem with carbon credits after all?

    Let’s see what the next one says:


    “Care has been exerted by the Jews to hide their economic-political conspiracy for complete world domination under high sounding words that have a “religious” ring in the ears of Christians. The Jews use such “religious” sounding words as “the Jewish faith,” “the Jewish religion,” “Jewish spiritual values,” “Jewish religious doctrines,” and like phrases which deceive and lead the unlearned into total equanimity. Behind this mask of religiosity stands a complete plan for WORLD GOVERNMENT, world power, world conquest, a Jewish kingdom of this world, and the destruction of Christianity.”

    Oh no–we definitely can’t implement cap-and-trade now!

    Who’s next?

    “The Ahmadi 4th Khalifa of Promised Messiah (Muslim Messiah) speaks on the conspiracy to create a WORLD GOVERNMENT by elite jewish bankers, using freemasonry, mentioned in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which he explains is not a forgery as is commonly believed. He also speaks on how to break the chains of slavery to the powerful banks.”

    I knew the hockey-stick had to be false!

    Seriously, I brought up the non-trivial point of how fears of your enemies installing “one world government” are inherently psychotic in order to give you a chance to back away from it with some dignity. But you didn’t. Instead, you came back and said, yes, you think this is REALLY THE PLAN. Somehow I think there will be no shortage of primary sources to cite if the opportunity arises. And for that, I thank you.

  15. Nullius in Verba

    TTT, I do worry for you, sometimes. That behaviour is a bit… well… odd.

    You seem to be so tangled up in your own worldview that when somebody uses one of your secret codewords in all innocence, you immediately jump to the conclusion that they must be a member of a group that evidently has particular salience for you, or shares their beliefs. This does not follow.

    (As with the similar example: “Kopenhagen ist ein erster Schritt hin zu einer neuen Weltklimaordnung, nicht mehr, aber auch nicht weniger”. Did you spot the codeword?)

    It’s particularly odd on this occasion since I didn’t actually use your codeword. If you check, you will see that I didn’t actually use the phrase “one world government” that you’ve spent so much time researching. You did.

    Your usual logical slips – A believes C, group B believes C (and D and E…), therefore A is a member of group B (and also believes D, E, …) – are by now expected. And given the number of times I’ve pointed it out, to no noticeable effect, I don’t suppose that’s going to change. I guess it’s the modern education system, or something.

    There was a book out in 2007 by a Professor David Shearman called The climate change challenge and the failure of democracy that I think you might enjoy. Look out for the bit where they “train the ecowarriors to do battle against the enemies of life”. (That’d be me, I guess!) And you can also find out what is “the natural state of humanity”. I gather he was an expert reviewer for the IPCC on TAR and AR4. The book is lots of fun, and tells us what to do about those persistent deniers – you’ll love it!

    And if you enjoy that book, you may like to consider moving on to the works of Pentti Linkola, who has similarly fine ideas. “He is known for his deep love of birds” they say.

    There are others, of varying fame – but I’m sure that someone with your proven skills in internet kookery will be able to find them. They are, as I said above, a small minority, and you can argue, as I said above, about whether they have any influence. But there can also be no doubt that there are a few Greens who seem more interested in changing society in certain ways than in studying the science.

    I’ll leave you to enjoy the video.

  16. TTT

    Nullius: Your usual logical slips – A believes C, group B believes C (and D and E…), therefore A is a member of group B (and also believes D, E, …) – are by now expected.

    Whereas the above is beyond even your expected levels of obtuse, un-selfconscious hypocrisy.

    After your endless rehashes of “some enviro said this crazy thing, boogabooga!”, continuing into this very thread, you then quite unwisely characterized their alleged goal with your specific terminology of a WORLD GOVERNMENT. That was your exact phrase: you lost the chance to edit it away or disavow it, and now claiming you didn’t say it just looks sad.

    It took all of one minute to collect those very representative samples of what other noted WORLD GOVERNMENT Chicken Littles also believe.

    I hope you find your own petard comfortable.

  17. Nullius in Verba

    Tut. Your logic continues to amaze.

    The concept of ‘world government’ is a venerable and perfectly respectable political position. It has been held by many respected figures, and has been signed up to by over 600 members of various Parliaments in the shape of The Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, of which it has been said by its supporters “The UNPA concept is the a first step towards a democratic world parliament”. While I personally am not a subscriber, and have considerable doubts as to the practicality of the project, it is quite evidently as respectable a political position as liberalism. This idea of yours that the mere mention of the words is synonymous with this particular peculiar subset of “world government” belief – a subset you seem to be remarkably familiar with – is entirely without foundation.

    What I had asserted was that there was a small subset of Greens who had declared their support for a “world government” of a rather different character, which I found alarming. I pointed you to an example. You don’t have to take my word for it, I’m not claiming that it is advocated in secret and the evidence covered up. You can see for yourself: …

    “There should be one government, and our argument in chapter 8 would make this government authoritarian.”

    “Government in the future will be based upon [...] a supreme office of the biosphere. The office will comprise specially trained philosopher/ecologists. These guardians will either rule themselves or advise an authoritarian government of policies based on their ecological training and philosophical sensitivities. These guardians will be specially trained for the task.”

    “As we have said, it is not too difficult to see how this will end: It will end through ecological necessity. Nature will take humanity by the throat and confront it with the biospherical damage that it has done. It is most unlikely in our opinion that some form of spontaneous, unorganized democratic groundswell will awaken the masses to their fates before it is too late. Rather any such resistance to the system must come from an organized vanguard, unafraid to ultimately rule in the name of the common good. These new philosopher kings feature what we call the “authoritarian alternative” discussed earlier.”

    “In the present condition of the world childbirth cannot be family politics anywhere, under no circumstances the matter of parents or the individual. Of all actions of man, it is most clearly an undertaking subject to license and the authority of the society, and finally the world government. That how the child quotas are divided among families and mothers may be family, social and rearing politics. It may be that large families have to be supported as well; it is paramount that we do not give way to the idea of equality, which will never bring about anything but misfortune.”

    “At this phase of history and this part of the globe, we madly hold on to democracy and parliamentarism, although we all are well able to see that they are some of the most irrational and hopeless experiments of mankind. In democracies, countries of the parliamentary system, the world destruction, the sum of ecocatastrophes is incomparably at their most advanced: these things walk hand in hand. The sole glimmer of hope lies in centralized government, in untiring control of citizens.”

    And so on.

    I have no interest in editing it away or disavowing it. There’s no need. This is what people are saying – in their own words. It’s not even illogical – it’s a global problem so it has to have a global solution, there would be no use in one tiny country taking such measures if the rest of the world carried on as normal. They’re “saving the world”.

    These people are precisely analogous to the people you just spent so much time quoting, and they’re doing it as an aspect of being Green. If I was to follow your style of logic, I could say that here are representative samples of what other noted Greens are saying, your fellow travellers, and so associate the lot of you with Linkola’s re-education camps. I won’t, because it’s an illogical and dishonest argument. Just as yours is.

    Nevertheless, thanks for giving me such a good excuse to bring the whole subject up, and I hope you get better. My best wishes.

  18. Nullius – It’s obviously true that there are extremist environmentalists out there, on the political left. And it is true that many of these people (or even some of the non-extremists) are anti-technology, and would prefer to see humanity return to some sort of neo-agrarianism.

    However. These people are a relatively minor portion of the environmental movement, and have a minimum of social cachet, even within that movement. Permaculturists are probably the best respected, and in my experience, they are the most calm and sane; they simply view the end of cheap energy and petroleum products an inevitable (and they are at least partly correct), and want the transition to another mode of living to go smoothly.

    I happen to feel that these groups mostly have the wrong idea, especially as regards energy, and I’d rather see humanity move forward than sideways or backwards. Neo-agrarianism is fine for settlers on other planets, here on Earth, we’ve got a future to build.

    I also recognize that these groups, unlike their counterparts on the right, have very little political power or funding, and this is why anti-science groups on the political right are of far greater concern to me than green nutjobs on the left.

    I am unable to look at the war on science conducted by reactionaries, religious fundamentalists, and political bigwigs and remain unmoved. Teaching creationism as science in schools in unacceptable, giving Robber Baron Industrialists free reign to poison everyone’s drinking water, and attacking scientific research (be it stem cell research, on climate change) for political gain are bad for our society, and I’ll do what I can to fight them. It happens that a few of their criticisms of climate change science are reasonable, but a stopped watch is accurate twice a day, as the saying goes.

    I am perfectly open to criticism conducted in relatively good will, in the spirit of scientific competition, and in search of what is real or true. I am NOT open to meddling in the process by people with a purely political agenda, or acting out of ignorance and spite.

    And a great deal of the debate about ACC that is carried out in public is of the latter character.

  19. Nullius in Verba

    #18,

    Thankyou. That was much more the sort of comment I’d hoped and expected to see here.

    Yes, they’re a minority. They may or may not be influential – I honestly don’t know, and don’t intend to speculate. I hear hints of it in the mainstream more often than I’m comfortable with (like that 10:10 video), but I’m biased and may be off in my judgement.

    Similarly, on the question of funding, I’m unsure of the true state of affairs. It depends on what you count as an “anti-science group”. The CAGW movement, for example, is quite well-funded (and also widely supported for free). It depends on your perspective, I guess.

    I have a somewhat different perspective to the question of science education. You say “Teaching creationism as science in schools in unacceptable”, but as far as I’m concerned, it ought to be impossible. If you teach students how to question, and apply the scientific method, creationism ought to get utterly shredded in about half an hour. Creationists ought to be demanding that it not be used as an example in science class. The problem, in my view, is that science education has largely degenerated to rote learning of a list of scientific conclusions backed up by arguments from authority, since teachers believe they don’t have the time to teach the real science to kids, most of who they believe incapable of understanding. It leaves them vulnerable to any alternative authority, and whether they meet creationism in the classroom or out of it, they now have no defence against it. (Certainly, the presentation of science to the public in the mainstream media has by now been almost irretrievably degraded.) What makes it so hard to deal with is that by now, the products of this same system are teaching, and setting the syllabus. However, it’s not a new problem. You’ll no doubt have seen Feynman’s essay on judging books by their covers.

    The problem is far deeper than political interference in education with regard to creationism (or even global warming). It cuts to the heart of science education, dumbing down, and the pervasive use of authority as an argument in science’s relationship with the public.

  20. There, see? We agree on some things.

    And I reckon your critics above will agree with much of that last bit, as well.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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