Friday, June 30, 2006

Weird science from the far right

It seems that in facing up to the realities of global warming, the right -- taking its cue from Rush Limbaugh, who's perfected this schtick -- is responding by flinging as much shit on the wall as humanly possible, not so much to see what sticks but just to obscure the issues long enough for them to evade them.

And in some cases, they're even stealing entire sections from the old Far Right Playbook. (You can imagine my surprise.)

The most recent example came on Wednesday's Joe Scarborough show on MSNBC, featuring a discussion of global warming from the right-wing ABC News reporter John Stossel. After Scarborough and Stossel ate up a chunk of airspace badmouthing Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, they invited Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen to join in the discussion. Slocum immediately set about putting the record straight regarding the scientific consensus on global warming.

Then Stossel piped up:
STOSSEL: Well, my earpiece fell out so I missed part of what he said, but the National Academy of Sciences report said we can‘t rule out that this is just natural. I wish people would look it up and read the whole thing instead of the summaries of the liberal media.

SLOCUM: They conclusively said it was man-made.

STOSSEL: They said we think man made. Man is contributing to this, but we don‘t know. We can‘t rule out that these are all natural influences.

SCARBOROUGH: And Tyson, isn't that again, you heard the beginning of this conversation with both John and I believe there is global warming, we just think Al Gore and others are being alarmists about it.

SLOCUM: There is no alarmists that the facts that are on the ground here. The fact is that NOAA in the federal government has shown that there is conclusive evidence that the tropical waters are getting warmer as a result of global warming and while that doesn‘t lead to more hurricanes, what it leads to is more intense hurricanes.

SCARBOROUGH: We see these Al Gore shot shots of Manhattan being submerged by water and South Florida being submerged. Should we not book any vacations in South Beach 10 years?

SLOCUM: These things are not going to happen overnight. It‘s going to take time. And there is still time at the federal level to start changing our policies and the fact I is that a year ago.

STOSSEL: What would those be? Those changed policies—Gas should cost maybe $10 a gallon?

SLOCUM: Absolutely not. We need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels.

STOSSEL: You are right. That's corporate welfare and it's disgusting.

SCARBOROUGH: And we all agree with you on that.

STOSSEL: That's a tiny amount of money.

SLOCUM: Absolutely. So what we need to end the subsidies to the oil and coal industry and start investing in renewable energy and mass transit.

STOSSEL: That's going to make any difference?

SLOCUM: Of course it's going to make a difference.

SCARBOROUGH: I think we already—isn't the problem in the end, though, Tyson, even if America does that, even if Great Britain and the western powers do that, you have China and India and these developing country that is don't have any environmental regulation regulations and the polluting coming from that region is going to dwarf what the United States puts out.

SLOCUM: Actually, China just implemented stronger full economy standards than the United States. So China is starting to understand it. They are starting to understand the ravages that their heavy reliance on coal is.

I am not holding up China as a model of environmental activism, but what the reality is that the United States with less than five percent of the world's population contributes to 25 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. China, with a billion and a half people contributes 14 percent. So what we clearly need international cooperation and we cannot deny.

STOSSEL: Sounds like socialism to me.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. John, I will give you the final word to clear up the myths, the lies, the downright stupidity that Al Gore and others may be giving Americans.

STOSSEL: That took me 300 pages in the book in the book. Let me just say that this, at bottom is a hatred of capitalism and a hatred of industrial production. Yes, it's true, we produce more carbon dioxide, but we are also the cleanest country in the world.

As we get wealthier, the air gets cleaner and we can afford to do things that maybe some day if the globe is warming we have to make adjustments, it's our wealth that will allow us to save the world. If we let these socialists control our lives, we will be worse off.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. We will have to leave it there. Every time Tyson comes on he gets called a Marxist.

STOSSEL: Jim Kramer called him that.

Media Matters dissects Stossel's factual falsehoods (and Crooks and Liars has the video), but what you really stood out was how readily Stossel reverted to the classic right-wing retort: when all else fails, call 'em a pinko.

But Stossel really means it. Because it's becoming increasingly clear that he's adopted a view of the environmental movement that springs directly from the far-right Patriot movement: that it actually is a cult-like "religion" that has been whipped up as a front for a cabal of socialists intent on ruling the world.

At least, that appears to be the direction he's heading, given the accusations of "socialism" and Stossel's recent column attacking environmentalists, which concluded:
Science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, "In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers' purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the 'Naturist' reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e., his own self-hatred." The "Naturist" religion, which today we call "environmentalism," elevates every other form of life above human life. The Constitution was written to protect human beings' rights to life, liberty and property, but environmentalism says those rights must be subordinated to the protection of other species. And men and women who count on their land to support them must live at the mercy of the regulators.

How would environmental fanatics capture a government agency? Well, who is more likely to volunteer to take a job in a bureaucracy that has little to recommend it except that it gives you the power to use government force to control the lives of others? A dispassionate scientist or a zealot?

In government, the zealots eventually take over.

[Stossel's methodology in this column is laid bare, incidentally, in the chief example he uses: the lynx study in Washington state in which scientists planted hair samples among those tested, which Stossel claims demonstrated that they were "rigging the test." But in truth, both investigations by the Forest Service and the Interior Department found that the scientists weren't "rigging" the experiment at all, but rather attempting to test the reliability of the lab that was checking the samples. They were chastised for their obtuseness, but the claims that they represented environmental ideologues run amok were completely baseless and bogus.]

Now, it's clear that Stossel is springboarding to an extent from his interview last year with Michael Crichton in which he remarked that "people's feelings about the environment are very close to religion."

But Stossel has elevated this to a whole new level. Though of course, it's actually an old one. He's essentially adopted the militia theory of the environmental movement.

The first militia meeting I ever attended was at a small meeting hall in Maltby, Wash., and the subject was environmentalists' plans for western Washington. Bob Fletcher of the Militia of Montana got up and told the crowd -- with the help of some pie charts and maps -- that a proposal for an internation ecospheric wilderness was actually part of a U.N. front for a plan to start herding Americans into concentration camps that they were secretly building even then. He referred to environmentalism as a "cult" and a "religion," and suggested that "ordinary citizens" had become expendable in the view of the "cultists."

MOM also used to hawk books about how the Greens were secretly "Red" underneath. And then there was the video they used to sell with Helen Chenoweth.

Chenoweth, you may recall, was the militia-sympathizing congresswoman from northern Idaho who finally disappeared from the political scene amid a scandal over her sexual indiscretions. But before she was elected (in 1994), she recorded the speech that MOM immortalized for their audience.

Here's how it went:
What is some of the programs that the environmentalists are engaging in? Well, some of the programs are programs of fear -- fear that is so broad and so expansive that you and I can do nothing about it.

What about the idea that the earth is warming? You know, we hear that every day -- that the earth is warming. But when we look back, where are temperatures taken? Well, they’re taken from airports. Weather balloons go up from airports, where heat rises from miles and miles of concrete.

And you see, the satellites that are recording data around the globe will tell us that today, the earth is not warming. But you see, what the pseudoscientists -- who have turned into political scientists and lobbying scientists -- are saying is that these issues are so huge that you and I can do nothing about it.

... When we begin to realize what the battle really is, then we begin to focus on what we need to do. Because ladies and gentlemen, the battle isn't a scientific battle. The battle isn’t even a battle for species. The battle isn’t even a battle for certain areas of timber or certain wilderness areas. Only until we're able to understand that this battle is a full-fledged spiritual battle will we begin to understand and have the weapons to deal with it.

You see, always in the past, armies have clashed, and we've had physical lines of battle. We've had armies and armaments battling out back and forth for the conquering of countries. We’ve been able to see over the course of history battle lines drawn and battle lines moved. We've seen countries conquered, we’ve seen countries victorious. But ladies and gentlemen, today as I stand here in front of you, we are in a battle today that is far more insidious and far more dangerous as far as conquering our people, their soul and this great nation than we have ever faced before -- because the battle lines are invisible.

But the battle lines are spiritual in nature. Who are these environmentalists? These environmentalists are a group of people whose members are driven by a certain sect of esoteric concepts, with all the trappings of religious dogma. They believe that nature is God, where we know that the Creator, God Himself, is the one who created nature. And there comes the conflict.

Because you see, for any land management, they believe in their spirit that we are trying to manage and move in and desecrate their sacred ground. Nature is God to them.

You see, this country flourished very well because we understood the role of God in this country....

... A man by the name of Marx developed what he called the Communist Manifesto. And ladies and gentlemen, when we understand that that was where the very depths of the darkness of this spiritual war began. They declared war on private ownership in the Communist Manifesto.

... But you see, of greater significance, and in more frightening detail, that manifesto went on to lay out a series of sequential steps by which this would be accomplished. Among the many goals that the Communist Manifesto predicted was the abolition of property and land and the application of all rents of land to public purposes. Today we call it taxes. The abolition of all rights of inheritance. That's a constant battle that we're waging. ...

You see, what the environmental movement is doing is breaking down state and national boundaries. And so with that one enactment, and the listing of that one species, we encompass northern California, Oregon and Washington. The unfortunate thing is that it breaks down the sovereignty of states -- and you see acid is no respecter of the national boundaries between Canada and America. And that’s part of the way we begin to globalize and break down the sovereignty of this great nation.

And ladies and gentlemen, the bottom line is that if we are forced to place our world resources in the hands of a few who are controlling a world government, that isn't what God planned for us, and it certainly is not in our best interest. We will certainly lose our liberties, and it begins with the breakdown of our state boundaries. And that's what the spotted owl issue did.

Sound familiar?

Right-wingers aren't just channeling Joe McCarthy when they go on TV and smear environmentalists as "socialists" who "hate capitalism." They're tossing Helen Chenoweth in there for good measure.

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