The fake populism from those pushing the anti-science disinformation of the plutocrats and pollutocrats

A favorite attack line of conservatives and/or disinformers is that progressives are elitists who supposedly “espouse their intellectual superiority.”  The goal of this disingenuous attack is so that they can push the Big Oil, Corporate Polluter agenda and appear to care about the middle class, while putting the screws to them, and so they can undercut the credibility of all ‘experts,’ especially scientists, whose work is crucial to preserving clean-air, clean water, and a livable climate.

The attack is particularly laughable coming from elite disinformers who themselves treat the American public with so much disdain by lying non-stop to further an agenda that will enrich the rich and put the screws to pretty much everyone else.

Remember, perhaps the main reason the country has failed to act on climate change is the immoral, but brilliantly successful, disinformation campaign funded by Big Oil and billionaire polluters — the pollutocrats (see “From promoting acid rain to climate denial “” over 20 years of David Koch’s polluter front groups“) — and embraced by the elite conservative media, pundits, and politicians.

Now, those pollutocrats are pulling the strings of the Tea Party, in order to give a populist, grass-roots gloss to their corporatist agenda.  Frank Rich makes this point in his Sunday piece, “The Grand Old Plot Against the Tea Party“:

What made the Tea Party most useful was that its loud populist message gave the G.O.P. just the cover it needed both to camouflage its corporate patrons and to rebrand itself as a party miraculously antithetical to the despised G.O.P. that gave us George W. Bush and record deficits only yesterday.

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and Wall Street Journal have been arduous in promoting and inflating Tea Party events and celebrities to this propagandistic end. The more the Tea Party looks as if it’s calling the shots in the G.O.P., the easier it is to distract attention from those who are actually calling them “” namely, those who’ve cashed in and cashed out as ordinary Americans lost their jobs, homes and 401(k)’s.

So it is beyond ironic for anyone to call ‘elitist’ those who are trying, however ineffectively, to actually provide accurate information on climate science and give America a fighting chance to regain leadership in the clean energy industries that will be one of the biggest job creating sectors of the economy.

That doesn’t stop NY Times reporter Peter Baker from parroting the standard right wing attack in his piece, “Elitism: The Charge Obama Can’t Shake.”  Of course, who does the NYT quote to prove his case:

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” he told a roomful of doctors who chipped in at least $15,200 each to Democratic coffers. “And the country is scared, and they have good reason to be.”

The notion that voters would reject Democrats only because they don’t understand the facts prompted a round of recriminations “” “Obama the snob,” read the headline on a Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush “” and fueled the underlying argument of the campaign that ends Tuesday. For all the discussion of health care and spending and jobs, at the core of the nation’s debate this fall has been the battle of elitism.

Mr. Obama’s remark that autumn evening played into a perception promoted by his critics that he is a Harvard-educated millionaire elitist who is sure that he knows best and thinks that those who disagree just aren’t in their right minds.  Never mind that Mr. Obama was raised in less exalted circumstances by a single mother who he said once needed food stamps.

Uhh, yes, the attack is “promoted by his critics” — along with the claim Obama is socialist or a fascist or a Muslim or someone who wasn’t born in this country — or a Joker-style anarchist.  Seriously, the speechwriter for the President who did the most to enrich to rich at the expense of the poor and middle class, who created the largest income gap in many decades, is calling Obama an elitist?  And the New York Times uses that attack to justify an article on the front page of the widely read ‘Week in Review’ section?

Obama isn’t an elitist — he is just painfully bad at messaging. Indeed, in recent weeks he has been consistently ignoring the first rule of political messaging — don’t talk about process!  Don’t talk about why you have failed to deliver your message effectively — deliver your damn message effectively already!  The media just love to trash presidents who talk process, rather than substance.  The fact that Obama doesn’t know this — and that his advisers won’t put a stop to it — is embarrassing.

It shouldn’t be any surprise to a great speech-maker like Obama that “facts and science” aren’t winning the day.  They hardly ever do — “argument” does.  That’s what the Greeks figured out 2500 years ago when they invented rhetoric.  Indeed, that was specifically why they codified the rules of rhetoric.

The specific reason “facts and science” aren’t winning the day is that the plutocrats and pollutocrats have spent hundreds of millions of dollars spreading lies — and have their own media outlets that provide billions of dollars worth of coverage of those lies  — whereas Barack ‘no narrative’ Obama and progressive politicians hardly spend any time explaining what he’s done or why, so much so that even The Onion noticed (see Democrats: “If We’re Gonna Lose, Let’s Go Down Running Away From Every Legislative Accomplishment We’ve Made”).

The disinformers try the same faux populism when they claim, as the discredited Anthony Watts recently did:

Screaming “hell, high water, global boiling, climate disruption, etc ” while at the same time saying “you’re too dumb to understand it” looks to be an epic “failure to communicate”.,

I have never met a climate blogger  who wrote or even thought that Americans were too dumb to understand what’s happening to the climate and why.  There’s nothing terribly complicated about it.  Indeed, it would be absurd to hold such a view — since Americans consistently support much stronger action on climate and clean energy than their leaders, including “cap-and-trade.”  And indeed, as Jon Krosnick, senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, has found in poll after poll, “The vast majority of Americans know global warming is real.”

If we even had simple majority rule in the Senate, we probably would have had a climate bill last year — and we certainly would’ve had one if there were voting strictly based on proportional representation.  But the super majority in the Senate allows a minority backed by the pollutocrats to thwart the will of the people.  And their superior messaging strategy and greater financial resources allow them to convince a great many people that this was an okay thing to do.

It is certainly true that most polling suggests that Democrats and independents understand climate science better — but that isn’t terribly surprising since conservatives get much of their news from media outlets that are run by and/or parrot the pollutocrats.  Yes, I think it is appropriate to be disgusted with politicians who flip flop on basic issues of climate science and climate action rather than tell voters the facts:

BUT those who call out political leaders whose job it is to be informed on crucial issues of the day, particularly the single most important issue of the century, are not calling voters dumb — much as the disinformers desparately want to push that smear.  I repeat, on this issue, most voters, particularly Democrats and independents, are considerably wiser than the collective wisdom of the U.S. Senate.

The rest of this post is going to be an extended excerpt from my 2008 post, Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 2: Why deniers out-debate “smart talkers.” Scientists — and technocrats like Obama — must understand the elitist frame that the opposition desperately wants to shoe-horn them into, a narrative the media is all too eager to repeat, as the NY Times shows.

Public debates are typically won by the person or group who presents the most compelling and persuasive character. If I can convince you I’m an honest, straight talker, you’ll believe what else I say. If can’t, you won’t. This fact was very well understood by the masters of persuasive language from ancient Greece and Rome through Elizabethans like Shakespeare and by skilled debaters like Lincoln and Churchill, as we will see.

Debates are not usually won on factual or policy merits, in part because listeners aren’t in a position to adjudicate sometimes subtle differences between complex positions “” what exactly was the difference between Clinton’s health care plan and Obama’s? and what exactly is the difference between carbon dioxide emissions and carbon dioxide concentrations? “” and because those who are undecided on an issue are typically skeptical of all advocates, especially self-style “experts.” They assume everybody exaggerates to defend their position. In any case, if I don’t convince you I’m honest, my stated positions can’t possibly matter.

Here’s why (those who appear to be) straight talkers beat smart talkers every time, ending with a discussion of the 2004 election.


A core strategy of rhetoric is to avoid seeming like a smarty-pants, to avoid appearing like Carter Dukakis Gore Kerry a highly educated (i.e. elite), wonkish speaker, but rather a plainspoken man of the people.

Shakespeare “” a master of rhetoric who knew more than 200 figures of speech like all middle-class Elizabethans (why do you think they called it grammar school?) “” understood that very well. That’s why he has Mark Antony say in one of the great debate speeches of all time, his famous “Friends, Romans, countrymen” response to Brutus in the Roman Forum: “I am no orator, as Brutus is, But-as you know me all-a plain blunt man.”

Is it coincidental that the only ones to use the word “rhetoric” in the 2004 presidential debates were George Bush and Dick Cheney? In the Vice Presidential Debate, Cheney said to his Democratic rival, Senator John Edwards, “Your rhetoric, Senator, would be a lot more credible if there was a record to back it up.” In the final debate, Bush twice repeated almost verbatim the same accusation about Kerry: “His rhetoric doesn’t match his record,” and again “His record in the United States Senate does not match his rhetoric.” This was only a small salvo in the Bush team’s war on Kerry’s language.

It is a mark of wily orators that they accuse their opponents of being rhetoricians. Winston Churchill, who wrote a treatise on the use of rhetoric in political speech at the age of 22, himself once opened an attack on his political opponents, saying “These professional intellectuals who revel in decimals and polysyllables”¦.”

Returning to the Roman Forum, Marc Antony says

For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,
To stir men’s blood: I only speak right on;
I tell you that which you yourselves do know;

So Antony is a man of the people, just reminding them of what they already know. Antony was, in fact, a patrician, like Bush. Indeed, Antony was a student of rhetoric, but his repeated use of one-syllable words lends credibility to his blunt sincerity. It is a mark of first-rate orators that they deny eloquence.

Lincoln was a “plain homespun” speaker, or so goes the legend, a legend he himself worked hard to create. In a December 1859 autobiographical sketch provided to a Pennsylvania newspaper, Lincoln explained how his father grew up “literally without education.” Lincoln described growing up in “a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods”¦. There were some schools, so called.” He offers one especially colorful spin: “If a stranger supposed to understand Latin, happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard.” No fancy talkers here. Lincoln modestly explains the result of the little schooling he had: “Of course when I came of age, I did not know much.” And after that, “I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.” All this from a man who in the previous year had proven himself to be one of America’s great orators in the Lincoln-Douglas debates and who during the course of his presidency would demonstrate the most sophisticated grasp of rhetoric of any U.S. President, before or since.

Lincoln opened his masterful February 1859 Cooper Union speech echoing Shakespeare’s Antony: “The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them.” (In Antony’s own words, “I only speak right on; I tell you that which you yourselves do know.”) These are the words of a man who had memorized Shakespeare from William Scott’s Lessons in Elocution, a treatise that included Antony’s famous speech.

Does this sound a little familiar [the late Michael Crichton from a climate debate discussed in the 2008 post]:

I myself, uh, just a few years ago, held the kinds of views that I, uh, expect most of you in this room hold.

If you want to switch people’s viewpoints, pretend like you once held their views. It is a twofer. First, you can pretend you’re just like one of them. Second, you draw people into the narrative, since they become intrigued about how someone who used to believe as they did now believes differently. Classic storytelling “” you need to create a hook for the listener early on or they will tune out.

Returing to rhetoric, the master orator who denies eloquence was such a commonplace by the sixteenth century that Shakespeare resorted to it repeatedly. Consider his King Henry V, a master of oratory, who delivered the most famous pre-battle speech in the English-language:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother”¦

After the British triumph at Agincourt, King Henry V woos Katherine, the daughter of the French king. Yet, even though Kate’s hand was one of Henry’s conditions for peace, the master of rhetoric still treats us to his tricks.

When Kate says she doesn’t speak English well, Henry says he’s glad, “for, if thou couldst, thou wouldst find me such a plain king that thou wouldst think I had sold my farm to buy my crown.” He’s just like a farmer, a man of the people. He adds, “But, before God, Kate, I cannot look greenly nor gasp out my eloquence, nor I have no cunning in protestation; only downright oaths, which I never use till urged, nor never break for urging.” Like Antony, he disingenuously denies eloquence. The reason orators use this trick: Being blunt and ineloquent means they must be honest and steadfast.
Here is Bush in his Orlando campaign speech on October 30, 2004:

Sometimes I’m a little too blunt-I get that from my mother. [Huge Cheers] Sometimes I mangle the English language-I get that from my dad. [Laughter and Cheers]. But you always know where I stand. You can’t say that for my opponent”¦.

For a blunt language-mangler, that’s surprisingly old-school “” very old school “” rhetoric.

Henry urges Kate to “take a fellow of plain and uncoin’d constancy, for he perforce must do thee right, because he hath not the gift to woo in other places.” Because he is not a clever orator, he must be an honest and constant man. Then Henry compares himself to an imaginary rival: “For these fellows of infinite tongue, that can rhyme themselves into ladies’ favours, they do always reason themselves out again.” In short, the other guys are flip-floppers and liars. They talk smarter than I do, but that’s exactly why you can’t trust them.

This is precisely why the deniers like Stott and Crichton love to repeat the global cooling myth, love to say, as Crichton has one of his fictional environmentalists climate in State of Fear, “In the 1970’s all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming.

This clever and popular attack tries to make present global-warming fears seem faddish, saying current climate science is nothing more than finger-in-the-wind guessing. This attack appeals especially to conservatives who want to link their attack on climate scientists to their favorite attack against progressive presidential candidates “” that they are flip-floppers. It been debunked time and time again “” see “Killing the myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus” and “Another denier talking point “” ‘global cooling’ “” bites the dust.”

Consider Bush’s stump speech in Wilmington, Ohio the day before the election, discussing his September 2003 request for $87 billion in Iraq war funding and Kerry’s vote: “And then he entered the flip-flop Hall of Fame by saying this: ‘I actually did vote for the $87 billion right before I voted against it.’ I haven’t spent a lot of time in the coffee shops around here, but I bet you a lot of people don’t talk that way.” In Burgettstown, two hours later he said, “I doubt many people in western Pennsylvania talk that way.” In Sioux City, Iowa, a few hours later, “I haven’t spent much time in the coffee shops around here, but I feel pretty comfortable in predicting that not many people talk like that in Sioux land.” And in Albuquerque, he said, “I have spent a lot of time in New Mexico, and I’ve never heard a person talk that way.”

Sarah Palin, in her stump speech, makes an almost identical criticism of Obama: “We tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.” He is not one of us. He’s two faced. Yes, it may seem laughable coming from the Palin-McCain team, but even laughable works when it uses the tools of rhetoric “” Palin here is using antithesis– placing words or ideas in contrast or opposition, one of Lincoln’s favorite rhetorical devices: “with malice toward none; with charity for all.” And she is placing Obama into a very old narrative about liars, flip-floppers, and Democratic candidates for President.

Kerry’s self-defining and self-defaming quote-“I actually did vote for the $87 billion right before I voted against it.”-has the powerful elements of eloquence. Sadly for Kerry, this is the precise reason it stuck in the mind. It has the repetition and sound of two memorable figures found in famous political quotes, antithesis, (“voted for” versus “voted against”), and chiasmus, words repeated in inverse order (in this case, “I .. vote for” and “before I voted”). Little wonder it was ripe for exploitation through repetition and sarcasm.

President Bush in 2004 had everything down cold that we expect from a master rhetorician: The repeated simple words, the repeated phrases, and the message that his opponent is inconsistent and inconstant because he’s too clever by half and doesn’t talk the way you and I do. Yet at the same time, Bush managed to leave the impression that he himself is rather slow and inarticulate. Ironically, the (all-too-many) Democrats who attacked Bush as being stupid merely gave him a free pass on all his lying and made him seem more genuine and credible to many voters.

Why did Kerry flip flop? Bush had a simple answer. The President told every audience that Kerry’s most revealing explanation “was when he said, the whole thing was a complicated matter. My fellow Americans, there is nothing complicated about supporting our troops in combat.” Rhetoric retains the power to move real people. In a 2005 post-election analysis, Journalism professor Danner quotes one Dr. Richardson-Pinto saying to him at Bush’s Orlando rally: “It doesn’t matter if the man [Kerry] can talk. Sometimes, when someone’s real articulate, you can’t trust what he says, you know?” And Richardson-Pinto is a doctor, someone whose credibility depends on being articulate.

So, yes, being smart, talking smart, and using big words may impress some in the audience “” but most likely only those who already agree with you. It may cost you credibility with the very people you are trying to reach.

I fully understand that many scientists don’t want to spend the time needed to learn how to be persuasive to nonscientists. Indeed, Part 1 discusses how scientists are punished for being popularizers. But it is a skill that can be acquired, not really more difficult than differential equations. In any case, if you won’t spend the time, or don’t want to be known as a popularizer, then simply turn down public debates. This is not an amateur’s game. The stakes are way, way too high.

I fear that because Obama is a good speechmaker, he thinks he’s good at messaging and won’t let anybody tell him otherwise.  Well, he isn’t.  He’s bad at messaging, dreadful even.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t make consequential policy mistakes.  He did.  The stimulus was clearly too small — see Krugman sets the narrative straight: “We never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.”

But when your messaging is this bad, you can’t tell how much of your failure is due to bad messaging or bad policies.  And, of course, your opponents get to define you, rather than you defining them, which is the key to victory.  Unless Obama brings on board someone who understands messaging a lot better than David Axelrod or is given the gift of an unelectable opponent, like Sarah Palin, he is going to struggle mightily to be reelected.

12 Responses to The fake populism from those pushing the anti-science disinformation of the plutocrats and pollutocrats

  1. John McCormick says:

    This post is the most emphatic, dramatic, cogent and in-your-face reason why thinking and caring Americans must support Democratic candidates (good, bad or indiffent) now and in the future. There are dangerous minds out there in the corporate world who have not an scintilla of interest in the working class. We Americans are being taken over by a machine as powerful as that which threw the world into World War II.

    John McCormick

  2. rp says:

    “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
    e e cummings
    US poet (1894 – 1962)

  3. JonS says:

    For me, what I took away from this was a message about power and authority. If you are feeling unwell, you are *reliant* on the doctor who can then speak in techo-jargon and things you may not understand. But you are reliant on their aid and expertise and the ‘smart talk’ is a symbol of that, and you trust that they are acting in your best interest.

    The mistake coming from climate science is that they are adopting the ‘doctor’s mantle’, and describing and prescribing to people who haven’t approached them for aid. This is one aspect of the ‘science-policy gap’, and I’d be interested if Joe Romm has ever examined or discussed the science-policy gap.

    In my neck of the woods it is common for right-wing political parties to raise the fear of run-away crime (generally home invasions), and to then declare themselves ‘tough on crime’ and should be voted in. This is an old tactic but similar in effect to the doctor scenario. The average person is made to feel at risk from crime and the conservative party offers the aid and solution.

    The inverse is occurring in America; climate science is being portrayed as a scam and a threat to the average person and their way of life (power costs, etc.), something is being imposed on them that they did not feel the need to seek aid and help for in their life.

    If you’re sick you ‘appeal to authority’ for treatment; if authority tells you to stop smoking, or wear a seatbelt, authority is more likely to be rejected. This is a key element in the debate and one the deniers have rhetorically latched onto.

    Finally, if you actually read this Joe Romm, I would be interested if you could write about the science-policy gap or point me to where you have discussed it, thanks!

  4. Mimi K says:

    How can we speak bluntly and plainly about global warming, Joe, the most complex science there is? SO long as we make it about the science, then we are always vulnerable to the elitist charge.

    Three suggestions, two tame and one very bold and risky.

    Two Tame: Redirect what the Deniers are denying.

    redirect denial of human caused climate change to: the Deniers are denying the HUMAN SUFFERING that extremes of climate cause. Whatever causes the climate extremes, the extremes cause suffering. Shift the political question from, Why don’t you believe in global warming?
    TO: Why don’t you care about people? The “human suffering” line of questioning takes one right to “moral character” – the GOP meme-weapon that destroyed liberalism turned around and deployed against them.

    Second, Denialists are denying human aspiration. Denying the American patriotic pulse for a better world by settling for business as toxic usual. Reframe “business as usual” to “denying the great American aspiration to a better world.” Denying the idealism and optimism that made this country. The Deniers are denying Americans a chance at a healthier, happier world. We can do better than a toxic world. We can do better than destroy the planet. We can do better than trash god’s creation. Life on earth is about as nasty, brutish and SHORT as it has ever been, and a handful of humans 200 years ago decided they could do better than the meanness of tyranny, and so can we, their descendants.

    Such messaging takes us to the deep aspirational heart beat of our nation. Against the drumbeat of planetary doom is the heart beat of Americans who have always aspired to a better day.

    The Risky Bold
    I believe that almost all the elitist frame woes in environmentalism come down to one thing: that we cannot use the word “life” because of the political baggage of “right to life” it carries.

    “Life” is the simple, plain and blunt word for what all the environmental science is advocating for. If you define “life” as all life on Earth, then environmentalists are the actual pro LIFE movement — pro aliveness, pro the conditions for life, pro ALL Life. The U.N Earth Charter calls us to act on behalf of “the unborn.” While we may not want, or perhaps should, cast ourselves as the real right to life movement, certainly we can shake up the frames a bit and re-brand ourselves as “right FOR life,” on the side of what is right for life itself?

    If Democrats and Progressives re-branded all environmental and energy policy as making the CHOICE FOR LIFE, it would dissolve the two opposing frames of the right to life movement into a single new environmental frame. Choice For Life as the new environmental and energy ‘brand’ would force the opposition to explain why they are NOT MAKING THE CHOICE FOR LIFE. Why they are AGAINST life. Turn the tables on them and use their meme-missile that brought down liberals against them.

    Yes, I know and appreciate the downside, opening the floodgates to GOP Religious Right attacks and anti-abortion deals and feminist outrage. I said it was risky, and it is. But one could argue that if we steal and re-work the pro-life frame as what environmentalists are actually for, it helps expose the religious right as pro-birth. Creating the conditions for a child to THRIVE – health care, education, and a non-toxic world of clean energy — is what a real, “long term commitment” to the life of a human being is all about, with “long term commitment” evoking the moral ‘marriage’ meme that would further confound and confuse the GOP.

    Again, I appreciate that this is very high risk politically, but, given the rules for Rhetoric and framing that we need simple, plain and blunt, then we have to find some way to get the word “LIFE” on our side because it is the simple, plain, blunt word for what we are, in fact, FOR. We dance around it, now, with everything from Gaia to carbon, but Rhetoric demands we use the regular word that humans use for what we’re talking about when we’re talking about climate: life.

    Throw CHOICE FOR LIFE into the next two years of Obstructionist Overkill, and even if we could not get any decent legislation passed, we would at least have the very sweet victory, indeed, of watching the opposition be tongue tied after all these years.

  5. paulm says:

    If governments were doing their jobs then the fossil fuel industry would have been nationalized awhile back.

    In fact it is the only sane solution still.

    Its time for Gov and sane people to step in and ramp up activity to reduce CO2 emissions to Zero in the shortest possible period.

    It is time to concentrate the majority of research effort, resources and money to reducing CO2 concentration.

    We are literally fighting for our survival here. The quicker we get going the better.

  6. henry cox says:

    Here is a link to a post I made linking to an article in similar vein

    ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings’….it is said….

    Hark at the silence ;-)


  7. Gibbs has done horrid PR work for Obama. Obama needs help to communicate effectively but his insiders do and say the wrong things. Gibbs rhetoric has effectively split the Democratic party making them all look bad.

    When the communications director creates wedges in his own party, the party is in trouble.

  8. CW says:

    A thought-provoking post. In particular, the first half dozen of your paragraphs. And within that, the nugget of a phrase “corporatist agenda”.

    Sorry if I’m wrong, but you haven’t, it seems to me, talked much about the effects of the “citizen’s united” supreme court decision on the hopes for climate action.

    Also, given the bit about the middle class being ‘put the screws to’ … are you re-casting the “Tea Party extremists” (as you’ve labeled them in your right-hand side list of links)? Are they now victims of the agenda just like the rest of us?

  9. Andy says:

    How do you explain to a nation that they’re being sold a bunch of bull without implying that they’re stupid?

  10. David Ferrell says:

    JR – it looks like your sentence

    “So it is beyond ironic for anyone to call those who are trying, however ineffectively, to actually provide accurate information on climate science and give America a fighting chance to regain leadership in the clean energy industries that will be one of the biggest job creating sectors of the economy.”

    dropped a key word—the word being “elitist.”

    As I figure it, the sentence should read as follows:

    ‘So it is beyond ironic for anyone to call “elitist” those who are trying, however ineffectively, to actually provide accurate information on climate science and give America a fighting chance to regain leadership in the clean energy industries that will be one of the biggest job creating sectors of the economy.’


    BTW, I’ve always thought the “elitist” charge was preposterous—more or less a way of condemning progressives and their liberal leaders for actually knowing something compared to the dumbed-down majority (or at least large minority) of know-nothings in this country.

    Since the 1950s and 60s, you will recall, a favorite tactic of the reactionary Right has been to brand educated liberal leaders (who include or included Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama) as “elitists” and “intellectuals” out of touch with “ordinary” people. The charge didn’t work in the cases of LBJ and Bill Clinton because these men had carefully cultivated a down-home, Southern-drawling, no-nonsense political style that made them seem a bit more like ordinary Joes than they really were. Plus, Bill Clinton had that special charm, making his impact more gutsy than cerebral.

    Back in the 1960s, the British-born eco-philosopher Alan Watts made the interesting point that the American Revolution, which abolished the aristocratic ideal that for centuries had dominated the social and political order of Europe to establish the idea that “all men are created equal” and that “every man in his castle is King”—in effect, that we are all equally superior—can easily be stood on its head to yield the result, “we are all equally inferior.” He cited a number of instances to show that something of this kind was in fact happening in America.

    Looked at in that light, the angry charge of the Far Right that today’s educated and generally well-spoken progressives are “elitists” more or less boils down to the complaint that “you’re not as inferior/ dumb/ stupid/ idiotic as we are!!!”

    Well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The truth has at last been spoken. Could we have a lot more of that? And fast? We need it, like, ten years ago.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Don’t look to the Democrats for salvation.Like all mainstream political parties in the West they are totally beholden to the real rulers-the holders of money power. And in a market capitalist plutocracy only one interest is axiomatic, and it trumps all others-profit maximisation. The fossil fuel industry is the richest, most influential, in planetary history, and,like all capitalist enterprise (with some very few exceptions) it is run by psychopaths with no human empathy (although they can fake it plausibly),no sense of guilt or shame and no inhibition on lying, threatening or inflicting violence to achieve their ends.
    As long as your sham ‘democracy’ is practised in a market capitalist system,it will be corrupted by business. The mass of voters contains many (an increasing proportion, in my opinion)creatures who are borderline psychopathic,or worse, brainwashed by incessant Rightwing propaganda in the entirely business owned media into habits of greed, envy and antipathy towards numerous demonised groups. They hate scientists because of intellectual envy, despite, as Dunning and Kruger pointed out, risibly overestimating their own intelligence. And they have been conditioned, in crude Pavlovian fashion, to see anthropogenic climate change not as a matter for rational debate, which they are insufficient to engage in, but as an ideological contest against the demonised ‘Left’. There can never and will never be any accommodation with these creatures-their hatred and resistance and fervour will only grow,even after the reality of accelerating ecological collapse become unarguable. This is ‘faith-based’ science, and the factsare irrelevant.

  12. caerbannog says:

    Folks, if you are on blood-pressure medicine, pop another pill before you watch this video: