America’s Orwellian Liberalism

The ink was barely dry on the asterisk in Jimmy Hoffa Jr.’s rant about taking out those “sons-of-b*tches” — referring to Tea Party members — when the vice president made his own contribution at a Labor Day rally. “This is a fight for the existence of organized labor,” the veep shouted. “You are the only ones who can stop the barbarians at the gate!” And the diatribes have continued, with the establishment of a website designed to track unfair comments made by those who, in President Obama’s words, want to “cripple” America. Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ snippet about telling the Tea Party to “Go to H*ll!” (that pesky asterisk again) added a nice sentimental touch, and some Wall Street protesters are denouncing free enterprise with words snatched from Robespierre’s rich vocabulary.

This is pretty harsh stuff applied to a menagerie of mostly gentle souls whose views of constitutional government differ from those of President Obama & Company, but such perfervid comments take on a clearer meaning when viewed in a more appropriate context: George Orwell’s “1984.” That is, somehow certain voices of liberalism today sound less like traditional partisan pep-talks and resemble more Oceania’s “Two-Minute Hate” sessions, where party members screamed at a giant tele-screen filled with the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, one of Big Brother’s objective enemies. The purpose was to deflect rage against miserable social conditions by directing it to a foreign source; siphon off the hatred by venting against Big Brother’s enemies.

The parallels go beyond hurling epithets at that massive Leon Trotsky look-alike in one of the most memorable scenes in “1984.” Consider the three slogans of The Party applied to today’s Orwellian liberalism: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength.” As explained in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, “the book” within the book, the purpose of war was to preserve the domestic power structure. As applied to today, Orwellian liberalism’s increasingly vicious attacks against the Tea Party and Republicans perform the same function, which is to preserve the current liberal power structure by blaming others for its failures. High unemployment, failed foreign policies, high energy prices, horrible housing markets, disastrous federal deficits — they’re all the fault of liberalism’s enemies. Republicans and Tea Party members — you, like Emmanuel Goldstein of 1984 — are being blamed and are being used a distraction.

“Freedom is Slavery” offers a host of villains in civil society to whom the American public is “enslaved” under the guise of being free, and could be seen as similar to what Orwell had in mind. Thus, freedom to choose one’s own healthcare plan or no healthcare plan at all is slavery to the insurance companies; Americans “addicted” to oil to drive gas guzzlers is slavery to Exxon and its partners; freedom to eat French fries is slavery to McDonald’s clever advertising campaigns; and freedom to make your own investment decisions is slavery to Wall Street. In fact, Orwellian liberalism assumes that citizens’ own decisions to live their lives pretty much as they please constitutes slavery to someone or another in a so-called “free country.”

Which leaves us with what is likely the most important slogan of Orwellian Liberalism, “Ignorance is Strength,” which means in this context that ignorant citizens constitute the foundation of the liberal establishment. President Obama could not get away with statements about “millionaires and billionaires not paying their fair share” of the income tax without the silent collusion of Americans’ ignorance about how much the upper two percent actually pay in taxes. Similarly, the country’s energy shortages could not conceivably exist with an informed citizenry that is aware of how well-connected environmental activists have prevented production in resources where North America dominates, such as coal, natural gas, and shale oil. Further, the propaganda campaign centering on an alleged “consensus” over anthropogenic global warming could not possibly succeed with an attentive public.

In short, “Ignorance is Strength” for Orwellian Liberals; pierce it, and the whole century-old liberal-progressive project collapses in a heap of prevarications and pretense.

If this happens, liberals’ presumption to govern on the basis of the other two slogans, as well as a thick vocabulary of Orwellian Double Speak, will collapse as well. The question is whether this situation can endure indefinitely, as it did in “1984.” The answer depends on Americans’ determination to reclaim control of their government.

 

COPYRIGHT 2011 THE CENTER FOR VISION & VALUES

By

Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled "The Thirteenth Commandment."

  • Tom

    I don’t thing Orwell was partisan.
    The right wing also has its Orwellian double speak.
    “The rich are poor.”
    “Charity is obedience”
    “Protect life only before birth”
    etc…

    This is good quote about two giants, Orwell and Huxley, that sums up where we are:

    “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”
    N. Postman”

    • Cord Hamrick

      Tom:

      “The rich are poor?” Since when has the right wing ever said that? What could possibly be meant by it, if they did say it?

      I have heard them say, “75% of the ‘poor’ in America are ‘rich’ by the standards of most of the rest of the world.” Perhaps you got the quote backwards?

      “Charity is obedience?” Again, when did the right ever say that? What does it even mean? I grant that the right (at least in the U.S.) is rather more charitable to the needy than the left-progressives are: Statistically they give about twice as much of their pre-tax income to the poor, both measured as a percentage of income and in actual dollars. And this is true at all income levels. And it is often done out of a religious motive, and through religious charitable organizations. So I suppose you could say that their philosophy is that “Charity [= almsgiving] is obedience [to God].” But somehow I don’t think that’s what you meant.

      “Protect life only before birth”: Ah, now that slander I recognize, but it is slander. For of course the right does not say that; they say, “Protect innocent life from conception to natural death, by all just means, but not by unjust ones.” They therefore allow for the execution of certain persons who are not innocent, and they disallow socialism because it is an unjust (not to mention, in the long run, ineffective!) means.

      I like the Postman quote, however. One could even take it a step farther: Our failures of courage allow us to be controlled by pain; our failures of self-discipline allow us to be controlled by pleasure; in either case, the root of the problem is Original Sin and the lack of sanctity.

      • Tom

        Cord
        Let me explain
        “The rich are poor.”
        During WW2, everyone sacrificed, including the rich, by paying more taxes, rations, etc… Nowadays, its ok to cut the VA budget for kids that return maimed from war, but God forbid asking for one more penny from the Master of the Universe that run Goldman Sachs et co., that got us in this mess in the first place.
        “Charity is obedience”
        Used in some right wing movements: if one blindly obeys, there is no need to care for any one else.
        “Protect life only before birth”
        Just look no further than cuts to Medicaid for women and children, to help the “new poor” described above, so they can better fund the manicuring of their lawns, while bemoaning abortion (NB Medicaid is a program that 5 years ago, the mainly Republican Governors association said was more efficient than private insurances; yet they now want to slash it).

        But the left has the best, imo, double speak. The one that beats all is “science is moral”, as in “embryonic stem cell research uses science and thus is automatically moral”, I even heard people say that about abortion.

        Huxley predicted our world so well.

      • Cord Hamrick

        Tom:

        Okay, I accept your explanation of “the rich are poor”; but wouldn’t that be a quote applied to the left, not the right? It’s Obama and the left who got the lion’s share of Wall Street contributions in the last two election cycles. It’s the current White House whose revolving-door relationship with the Wall Street finance houses has won them the moniker “The Goldman Sachs Administration.” And apart from legal abortion, can you think of anything the average American conservative has protested more loudly than the bank and large-company bailouts? The Tea Party got started during the Bush Administration as a reaction to that Administration’s bailouts, which the Tea Partiers labeled as too liberal. The Tea Partiers are, of course, very pro-small-business, but that isn’t the same as pro-“Wall Street”; these days, the two are nearly antithetical.

        I grant that the Occupy Wall Street folks are hard left and yet are protesting “Wall Street.” They thus seem to represent a sort of left-versus-Wall Street paradigm. But that’s because those folks are deeply out-of-touch with reality, or at least their sense of political alliances is badly out-of-date. Everything they’re protesting could be more constructively protested by camping on the White House lawn.

        You say that “Charity is obedience” is “used in some right wing movements.” I was on the verge of saying I didn’t think any such movement really existed, but I hesitated, because, in a world of 6+ billion people, there’s almost certainly some 10-member fringe group out there with that exact slogan prominently on its website!

        (I did, however, just “Google” the phrase, and got no exact hits; the closest was a Catholic website — Rorate Caeli — using the phrase “charity in obedience” and quoting Benedict XVI.)

        But who on earth are these “movements,” and what kind of influence do they have in the American right? I mean, I’ve never heard of this slogan before, ever, and as a quasi-libertarian, I’m pretty familiar with the right-wing landscape.

        Also, you say that it means “If one blindly obeys, there is no need to care for any one else.” Well, I don’t know about blindly, and I’m not sure who these right wing movements are supposed to be obeying, but the thing that really rings false about applying that attitude to the American right is the part about not caring for anyone else. A very significant hallmark of right-wing culture is voluntary support of charities and helping the poor through church ministries and the like. Even poor right-wingers in the U.S. often give 5% or more of their pre-tax income to folks who are poorer than they are. And my mother, who is right-wing enough that she doesn’t find Rush Limbaugh boring and repetitive, makes the number rather bigger, and helps run her church’s “Care Ministry.” Before becoming Catholic, I spent years in a small-group Bible Study with about 10 other couples; of them, nearly all have done some overseas missions work among the poor in third world countries, and one guy left his six-figure income with HP to take his family to Guatemala and help run an orphanage there. That, I grant you, is unusually heroic, even for red-staters. But everything else I just described is normal right-wingerdom.

        Re: Your comments about “protect life only before birth”: Ah, okay. So now I see more clearly your perspective.

        Or…maybe I do. I mean, you didn’t come right out and say this, but you seem to suppose that when right-wingers, for policy reasons, want Medicaid and other government entitlements cut, it’s because they’re heartless people who don’t care if the poor starve. If that’s what you think, then…I’m sorry to complicate your worldview, but that just isn’t the motive or the mindset.

        I understand full well that you, yourself, don’t hold such programs (as a category) to be…

        – Unconstitutional,
        – Ineffective,
        – Tending to produce perverse incentives,
        – Tending to systemically produce cost-increases, shortages, and gluts in the health-care and public-services economies overall,
        – Unfundable in the long-term,
        – Corruptive of the political process,
        – Corruptive of the character of recipients,
        – Usurping the role of the church in society and undermining her evangelical mission,
        – Tending to replace rather than augment private charity,
        – Tending to undermine the culture of neighborly assistance to persons in one’s own community,
        – Prone to inciting class divisions, and,
        – So economically damaging as to greatly increase unemployment in any given year and thus thrust millions of people into poverty (and the risks to life and health which come from poverty) while simultaneously depriving charitable organizations and almsgivers of the kinds of resources they need to help the poor through private means.

        …and worse, but folks on the American right generally hold some or all of those views, in all honesty, with all the economic papers and scholarly credentials and historical precedents to back them up. (I hold some of them myself.)

        As a consequence, they tend reflexively to oppose programs that fall into the “welfare state” category of entitlement precisely because such things are so harmful to poor people. I myself opposed “Obama Care” not only because of the abortion-funding and anti-conscience-protection issues, but because I could foresee what I thought the long-term consequences would be and was unwilling to stab my poorer and needier neighbors in the back that way.

        So I think you need to check your notions about the motives or priorities of the American right; those notions (if I have discerned them correctly from what you have written) seem, to me, to be in contradiction to the available evidence about their charitable giving habits, their overall culture, and what their influential thinkers and opinion-writers actually say.

        • Tom

          Cord, I may be old fashion, but I believe in what Madison et al. put place: a government by the people for the people (primary role: prevention of tyranny). I agree that government is now largely dysfunctional, but that reflects only poorly on us. For me, the baby-boomer generation ideals, be they “left” or “right”, is about pure selfishness. The “right”, contrary to Madisonian ideals, proposes a form of anarchy dominated by the wealthy, the “left” uses government to justify and entrenched “orgy-porgy” ideals to satisfy their selfish appetites and slough. People are brainwashed to think “right” or “left”, but all too often it just a fabricated con. Goldman Sach et al were entrenched in both administrations…

          • Cord Hamrick

            Tom:

            Fair enough. I actually agree with nearly every statement you just made in your last reply.

            I think your view of the right (that it “proposes a form of anarchy dominated by the wealthy”) is both correct and incorrect: Incorrect when applied to conservatism as a philosophy of government held by the GOP “base,” but often correct when applied to the GOP party leadership after they’ve been in office for a while because small businesses and individuals can’t buy the same level of influence that the financiers and large corporations can.

            As a result, GOP candidates are more likely to attain office if they’re willing to be “flexible” about conservative principles and indulge in a little bit of corporate welfare. And once they get into office, their “flexibility” becomes a gradual “ideological drift” until eventually, all the conservative voters who originally voted for them become disgusted with their anti-conservative behavior. They get labeled “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only) and primary challenges begin to emerge. This is what happened to cause the GOP to lose their congressional elections in 2006; their base was disgusted with their entrenched un-conservative governance. And G.W.Bush, for all his reliability on pro-life issues and anti-terrorism ferocity, was equally suspect: Most conservatives consider him, in domestic policy, to have been a moderate, not a conservative: A repeat of his father.

            So, not “anarchy,” when the conservative base is considered; they’re very much law-and-order folks (go to YouTube and watch Bill Whittle’s “What We Believe” series to hear the conservative base’s views presented in an articulate fashion. And one can’t say the conservative base cares only the wealthy, either: As I’ve pointed out before, they’re by far the most generous charitable givers in our society, and on a policy level, the policies they’d like enacted are pro-small business and pro-open-competition where business is concerned. That’s something the Goldman Sachs types dislike intensely: Lean, hungry, upstart competition is the last thing large corporations want!

            That’s the conservative base who doesn’t fit your description of “the right.” Your description is pretty apt, however, to describe the more moderate-leaning right-wing politicians, and their party apparatus: They’ve spent too long in Washington D.C. and are culturally disconnected from anyone except their network of power brokers. They have all the time in the world to write legislation protecting incumbency in all its forms, whether for the Fortune 500 against small businesses, or for the already-elected politicians against possible challengers. Those in power, economically or politically, angle to stay there, and leave the rest of the country hanging with important business left undone and important problems unsolved.

            That’s why I hope the Tea Party will be effective in taking over the GOP; a good purging of the folk whose ideology has drifted too far from the Jeffersonian/Madisonian ideal is long overdue.

            Anyhow, that’s far too many words nitpicking the one part of your reply I don’t quite agree with. Most of it gets two thumbs up from me.

    • Sarto

      Sounds like Huxley was the one who saw the future most clearly. In a world of 140 character tweets, the capacity to reason and discover has withered.

      As for the right being mostly sweet well-mannered people: Remember the Tea Party rampages in public meeting halls? The Right has a much larger propensity for venemous rage because they see things in black and white. The liberals, who see lots of grey, are much more tolerant. Liberals tend to understand conservatives. The mindset of a conservative cannot expand that far.

      • Cord Hamrick

        Wow, Sarto.

        Have you examined the political landscape recently? Have you compared the Occupy Wall Street folks with the mild mannered grandmas at the Tea Party rallies?

        You call them rampages: Why is it that the cops and the custodial staff who have to clean up after them are shocked to find that the Tea Partiers typically leave the lawns cleaner than they found them?

        I’ve been there. I’ve talked to the cops in question; I’m not exaggerating.

        I suggest that you become friends with some conservatives — or if you already know any and think they’re a representative sample-set, chuck the ones you know, because they’re apparently an unusually bad lot, and find some conservatives who’re more representative.

        Actually, I can do better than that: Ever heard of Bill Whittle? He’s the darling of the internet-savvy conservatives, especially the Tea Party folks. He did a series called “What We Believe” on YouTube which comes as close as you can get to articulating the political philosophy of conservatives on a popular (and thus mildly simplistic, but also relatively concise) level. No hate, no anger (beyond some mild testiness); just a basic recitation of the philosophy of the average right-wing Joe.

        I’m offering this to you because I believe that you honestly believe what you just said about conservatives. But that makes me sad because it’s just not factual. It’s like hearing a young-earth creationist insisting that God can make a world look old, or one of those poor slobs on the Arab street whose state-run television network has run discussions of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion so often that he doesn’t know it isn’t straight news.

        Make a simple comparison of the comment threads at, say, Democratic Underground or Daily Kos, versus those at National Review or Hot Air or Pajamas Media, if you like. If you want to rate the relative levels of rage, ask yourself: which set of commenters drops the “f-bomb” more often?

        All of this is not to say that all right-wingers are calm, decent, shiny happy people and that all left-wingers are the converse. I’ve known some left-leaning folk, even in my own family, with whom I, or even my card-carrying-Limbaugh-fan mother, can carry on quite civilized conversations. And I’ve known right-wingers whom even my mother found embarrassing to be associated with.

        But foul-mouthed invective, generally, and the substitution of name-calling and threats of street violence for policy argument is I think unquestionably more a left-wing phenomenon in the modern political climate. Both sides have it, but I’d put the ratio at 2:1 that the left does it more, and more egregiously.

        • Sarto

          Having been around long enough to have wrinkles and grey where you have a smooth face and brown hair, I have had a lot of time to observe liberals and conservatives and their habits.

          Did you listen to the behavior of the conservative audience during the series of Republican debates? I rest my case.

  • Michael PS

    Since you mention Robespierre, I believe he was quite right, when he said, “In defining liberty, the first of man’s needs, the most sacred of his natural rights, we have said, quite correctly, that its limit is to be found in the rights of others. Why have you not applied this principle to property, which is a social institution, as if natural laws were less inviolable than human conventions?” Catholic social teaching would agree with him, when he says that property is for Man, not just “for the rich, the monopolists, the speculators and the tyrants” [pour les riches, pour les accapareurs, pour les agioteurs et pour les tyrans.]

    Also right was another French Revolutionary, Mirabeau, a moderate, when he said “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens.”

    Perhaps most apposite for us was Saint-Just (not a moderate) when he asked, “What do those people want, who want neither virtue nor terror – They want corruption.”

    • Sarto

      The Pope just said the right to life includes the right to enough to eat. Now that should cause a twinge in a few craws on the Crisis team. Talk about a socialist. Now, if he had said something about lower taxes…that would have been the gospel.

      • Sarto

        Switch the subject. Nice try. I didn’t mention property. The Church teaches that it is a right but not an absolute right. The harm comes when people turn it into an absolute right and ignore the hungry and the homeless.

    • Frank

      Sorry, but property is not a “social” (whatever that may mean) creation. It is a personal creation. Before there were societies, there were communities; and before there were communities, there were families. They had property before there were communities, let alone societies.
      Property is a a social creation only if you believe that property is what the social authorities protect and enforce. By that criterion, the right to life is a social creation.
      If property were a social creation then it would not be “for Man” but only for the social elites, who rule societies, make its laws and enforce them — in short, who take what belongs to others to use it according to their own opinions (e.g. to buy guns, votes or whatever suits them best).
      “Property is a social creation” is but another way of saying that “might makes right”.
      Do not be led astray by words. In English, ‘society’ has no definite meaning. In French, the language of your apparently beloved “Revolutionaries”, the word ‘société’ applies indiscriminatelly to national (political) societies and to industrial, commercial and financial corporations. Robespierre (and his equally power-hungry allies/rivals) had no intention of maintaining any “natural law”; their ambition was to reshape the lives of everybody else — in a word, to play God.
      Thomas Aquinas, not a power-hungry would-be ruler, wrote: ” Moreover [property] is necessary to human life for three reasons. First because every man is more careful to procure what is for himself alone than that which is common to many or to all: since each one would shirk the labor and leave to another that which concerns the community, as happens where there is a great number of servants. Secondly, because human affairs are conducted in more orderly fashion if each man is charged with taking care of some particular thing himself, whereas there would be confusion if everyone had to look after any one thing indeterminately. Thirdly, because a more peaceful state is ensured to man if each one is contented with his own. Hence it is to be observed that quarrels arise more frequently where there is no division of the things possessed.” So, what gives? Robespierre or Thomas Aquinas?

      • Michael PS

        You are confounding possession, which is a fact, with property, which is a right, It is no accident that, in many languages, the words for “right” and “law” are the same – Ius, Droit…
        As to the limits on property rights, Rousseau understood them very well. “Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign is sole judge of what is important,” for “ if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.”

        This is in full accord with Catholic social teaching

  • Don S.

    Here’s another Orwellian phrase–“union bosses,” for the representatives of the true wealth creators in our country.
    And when radio hosts complain that the rich pay income taxes out of proportion to their income, they’re only referring to EARNED income (“Capital gains aren’t income!” one host yelled.) and only to income tax (not the other payroll taxes, such as FICA.)

  • Tony Esolen

    But the payroll “taxes” were supposed to be “contributions” to a Social Security “trust fund,” which does not really exist. That was the rationale behind the FICA taxes, which apply to everybody. It would make no sense, if we’re talking about a trust fund to provide for one’s own retirement, to demand a “contribution” a thousand times greater than what would be necessary. If the payroll tax structure is to be eliminated, then sure, go for it, get rid of the thing. Get rid of the pretense, while we’re at it, that employers “contribute” funds to their employees’ Social Security benefits. All of that is just a tax on the employee’s income. But then let’s get rid of the pretense too that there is any trust fund at all. I don’t hear anybody calling for these measures, because there would be a revolution overnight. If people actually had to write a check every month or so for the real fee they are paying, for the privilege of having a Department of Education and suchlike, they would all be taking up pitchforks. They’d all be Tea Party members, all except those who benefit directly from the high taxes.

    Right now I’m in a situation where I have to charge a fee for my lectures that is twice what I might otherwise charge, because half of my next dollar vanishes in taxes. That’s the marginal rate for me. I figure it out easily enough. About 16 percent comes straight off the top for Social Security and for “Self-Employment” tax, the mythical “contribution” to Social Security that I make as my own employer. Then we lop off 28 percent of the remaining 84 cents, going to federal income tax; so there goes another 23 cents. Now we’re down to 61 cents. Then goes a piggyback tax, one quarter of the federal tax, to go to my state. There’s another 6 cents, now down to 55 cents. We could “stop” there, and that would be bad enough. Or we could figure into the dollar a pro-rated figure encompassing all the additional taxes I pay: real estate, fire tax, car tax, SDI, and sales taxes. If we did the latter, it would lop off another 14 cents, by my estimation, which would leave me 41 cents out of the dollar.

    I don’t want to keep more of my dollar for myself. I want to keep it for the purposes to which I would put it – my autistic son, whom I’d like to set up in life; the charities I give to, to which I’d cheerfully give more; and so forth. Why should I want to give blood to a bloated and all-intrusive government? Why should I bleed for the Department of Education, or the Department of Urban Development? Why should I bleed for programs that are colossally expensive and destructive to the family?

  • Todd

    As a bit of an aside from the above conversation… contrary to the article’s assertion, there is actually consensus on climate change. While such consensus may not exist among the general public (which is wholly irrelevant anyway) it does matter among those who can make a claim to expertise, climate scientists…

    http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

    • Cord Hamrick

      Todd:

      There is, as you say, a consensus among climate scientists.

      Watch out, though: While there is a consensus as to the role of CO2 as a warming agent, there is not consensus about the relevant feedbacks, and whether they are damping (tending to equilibrium) or produce a multiplier effect (which is required for runaway, disastrous warming; and is also the only way to make the climate sufficiently sensitive to human behavior that changes in that behavior are capable of changing the course of temperature change on the planet).

      And, in the event that the relevant feedbacks do not tend towards equilibrium, there is no consensus as to what model predicts the change in temperatures adequately. No existing model has shown anything like accurate predictive value, not only for future temperatures occurring after the time the model was produced, but even for past temperature records when the relevant data is fed into the model. (And to trust them, and the proxy data used to create them, requires you to make assumptions like “there was no Medieval Warm Period” — apparently the European monks who wrote about how the flowers were growing in November were hallucinating, and Greenland was so named because it was covered with ice.)

      But let us say that one resolves these issues — science being what it is, that may yet happen — and we’re looking at significant temperature increases over the next hundred years. What then?

      Certainty about the problem and its scope does not translate into certainty about what, if anything, we should do about it.

      For example: Let’s say that we find that the problem, if left unaddressed, makes temperatures rise 10 degrees over 100 years — rather on the extreme end, in fact — and the resulting weather and crop problems are likely to cause 5 million early deaths over the same period while humanity adjusts to it. Pretty stern stuff.

      But let’s say that, because of the way feedback mechanisms in the climate work, the only suggested methods to bring that number back to a more moderate two or three degrees are all so economically costly that global poverty will increase by around 5%, causing 10 million early deaths from the associated retardation in economic development.

      Given the trade-offs, the smart move in that case would be to do nothing. But it’s hard for politicians to make a case that “I saved the earth by passing no legislation on the topic at all.” Constituents start resenting their salaries. So there’s a strong incentive to say that something must be done. And thus there is an incentive for propaganda about the harms of doing nothing (no reference to the benefits) and the benefits of doing Policy XYZ (and no reference to the harms).

      The propaganda effort which outrages skeptics — indeed, the thing which most of them are skeptical about — is not so much whether increases in CO2 cause increases in temperature. That’s pretty basic, but it’s also pretty basic that unless there are feedbacks, and unless those feedbacks are of the right kind, the amount of warming is too small to bother with; any attempts to avoid the warming produce more death and human misery than just letting it happen.

      Thus the emphasis on catastrophic global warming. But here the science is not settled, and recent experimental results (like the CLOUD experiment at CERN) tend to show the feedbacks (at least, some of the water-vapor-related ones) running in the wrong direction to support catastrophic feedbacks, thus calling into question the worst of the models. It is the propaganda effort to cover up that uncertainty which is shameful.

      And things get particularly nasty when politicians get involved, for then, of course, it’s no longer about the science but about proposed policies to remedy things, and the politicians who’re loudest about such things as carbon offsets trading are exactly the ones who’ve already put themselves in the best position to become trillionaires if carbon trading becomes mandatory on global businesses. Al Gore isn’t just loud about these things because of a deep emotional need for a personal narrative that gives his life significance and purpose. He’s loud about these things because he knows on which side his bread is buttered.

      So, yes: There is some settled science at the nucleus of all this. But like a buzzing electron cloud, it’s sometimes difficult to see the tiny nucleus through the haze of propaganda.

  • JOHANN

    The Orwellian analogy is quite apt; the OWS demonstrators have demonized Jews just as in 1984 the object of proleterian hate was the despicable Immanuel Goldstein and the govenment propoganda ministry would hold regular hate rallys to whip up the ignorant masses ; videlicit msnbc, cbc, abc, npr and the rest of the government ministry of truth. The reality is that America as we know it is finished; just read MARK Stey’s AFTER AMERICA. The OWS demonstrators are destined to live under Chinese hegemony but I am sure the young poorly educated Americans will convince themselves how lucky they are to live under Marxist totalitarianism.
    O tempora O mores

    • Sarto

      Again, you try to sidetrack the whole purpose of OW. The one percent of the population representing the finance “industry” just sliced off 24% of last year’s earnings. In previous times, it was 9% . Our country cannot survive this kind of greed and it is long past time that America finally began to notice.

      • Cord Hamrick

        Sarto:

        “Sliced off”…how? With a machete? Is this a Central Park mugging gone bad?

        “Earnings”…defined how? And why is this a bad thing? (I’m not denying that it is; I’d just like you to do the work of saying what you mean.)

        “Greed”…as evidenced by what? Do the tax returns of folks employed in financial industry firms show lower levels of charitable giving than the general public?

        I’m asking you to clarify your terminology because, while I can’t be certain, I’m not confident that you know what you mean by it.

        And if you don’t know, or can’t articulate it, there’s a risk that what you mean by it is simply this: “Some guys have really well-paying jobs, and I don’t, and I covet what they have, and even if I can’t have it myself, I’d rather it were taken away from them.”

        I say that’s a risk; I do not say I am sure this is your core motive. I am rather less than half sure, and I am giving the benefit of the doubt, even though it fits well with what you’ve said thus far. But I’m hoping you’ll explain your meaning more clearly and remove any concern.

        I particularly want to know what, in your view, does and does not constitute “greed” in a person who happens, through good choices, to have a high-paying job in a lucrative field.

        I mean, as a general rule, if A and B decide voluntarily to transact, and B goes away happy, and A goes away happy, and if A happens to do this often enough that he makes a million dollars’ income that year, and if B happens to do this only once that year…what of it? Assuming the transaction wasn’t immoral for other reasons (like it being the sale of a slave or providing a terrorist with a truck full of fertilizer), what’s immoral about Mr. A making a good living?

        Or are you not complaining about individuals, but about those legal fiction “persons” called corporations? Okay, why shouldn’t their shareholders make a decent return on their investments?

        The only time making money is immoral is when, well, it’s immoral; as in, you stole it, or were paid for doing something immoral, or because you only were able to conduct your business because you bribed a government official to obtain privileges you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to obtain, which allowed you to trounce your competitors and increase your profit margins.

        Now that, that last, is something you could genuinely accuse the financial industry of doing.

        But in that case, why isn’t Occupy Wall Street picketing the White House, too? They don’t call it the Goldman Sachs administration for nothing, you know. They got the lion’s share of Wall Street campaign donations in the last two cycles, you know. Obama has more donations from that sector than all the Republican candidates combined.

        The rational move, therefore, would be something like: “Down with Wall Street cronyism! Vote Tea Party in 2012!”

        The funny thing is, the OWS folks aren’t saying that. Their proposals run along these lines:

        1. Abolish money. (Doesn’t everyone acquire his bongo drums through bartering?)

        2. Abolish capitalism and redistribute the means of production to the people. (Because that approach produced an economic paradise in North Korea and Bulgaria and Albania, and is showing such promise in Venezuela and Zimbabwe.)

        3. Abolish private property. (I don’t suppose that OWS guy who complained about his MacBook getting stolen got the memo.)

        4. Take all the property of the richest 10% of Americans, leave them wearing barrels, and use it to finance the government spending. (Okay, that gets you to about January 12th of any given fiscal year; then what?)

        5. Just dooo something!!! (Because adolescent potheads, including those who’ve been that way since their first bong hit at Woodstock, are normally the best judges of when the situation is so dire that doing wildly stupid things is better than doing nothing.)

        Look, I’m not just making those up: Those are what interviewed OWS participants gave as their proposals, when their attention could be focused for long enough to extract a coherent answer.

        Perhaps I’m not quoting the right OWS participants. Fine, but which ones are the right ones? Where’s their Magisterium, so that I can learn about their authoritative agenda? The organization they seem most consistently to tout membership in is the International Socialist organization; the website URL is all over OWS materials and placards. But I defy anyone to show how the content of that site is much improvement over five “proposals” I just listed from on-the-ground interviews.

        And, again, the contrast between these and the Tea Party folks is so extraordinary. From the stink to the trash to the noise to the drugs to the public defecation to the sexual assaults, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the distinction is not even a right/left thing as much as a civilization/barbarism thing.

        OWS isn’t just Soviet; it’s nekulturny.

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