Vegetarian Stalinism Part 2: Ready the Gulags on the South Downs

Last month I highlighted the bizarre suggestion by the Green Party that in response to the flooding all government ministers and advisors who were sceptical of climate change should be sacked. Memorably when given the opportunity to refine and tone down this suggestion the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett claimed that even those advisers with no connection to environmental issues should be sacked if they do not accept climate change. The BBC suggested the Chief Veterinary and Chief Medical Officers as posts unrelated to climate change and Ms. Bennett repeated her position.

Tongue in cheek I described this as Vegetarian Stalinism and suggested there might need to be reeducation camps in Brighton. At least one Greeney on twitter seemed to see the joke suggesting Gulags on the South Downs.

Now to prove that if you think of a ridiculous parody idea someone, somewhere will have thought of it seriously and that academics can at times be so foolish as to be beyond parody.

Dr. Lawrence Torcello Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology has suggested criminalising scientists disagreeing with climate change:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

He explains this “interesting” position by pointing to the infamous case where six Italian scientists were gaoled for failing adequately to communicate the risks of the L’Aquila earthquake to the public.

Dr. Torcello goes on:

My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.

The advance towards the Vegetarian Stalinism of the new bearded sandal wearing 1984 continues apace. The Gulags on the South Downs may be needed soon. For the meantime can I recommend Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler: it might give the Green Inquisitors some ideas about how to ensure appropriate confessions.

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  • David Crookes

    Thanks a lot for that posting, Turgon. These people are fascists.

  • David Crookes

    Sorry to follow one post with another. Here’s a snippet from The Philadelphia Trumpet of April 2007.

    Please fill in the blanks: “It is a ____ fact: The Global _______ presents humankind with the most important social, political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for ten thousand years.”

    The correct words are “cold” and “Cooling.” Author Lowell Ponte went on to warn that our decisions regarding the trend of global cooling were of “ultimate importance” and would determine “the survival of ourselves, our children, our species.” The year was 1976. Newsweek had published similar dire predictions in April of 1975, warning that the global cool down would cause a drastic decline in food production. One solution: Pour soot over the Arctic ice cap.

    Today, of course, politicians and the media have declared the debate over. Global warming is now the threat to Planet Earth—and it is dire indeed.

    Ellen Goodman wrote in the Boston Globe that “global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.” End of snippet.

    * * * * *

    We were wrong then, but we’re definitely right now, and if you disagree with us now you are a dangerous criminal. It was indeed possible for us to be wrong then, but it is quite impossible for us to be wrong now.

    Fascists. The Leader is always right.

  • Delphin

    What we have here is a desire to control and manipulate people. The we know best and you will do what we say types. Self interest dressed up as a moral imperative.
    All too common I’m afraid – the Greens, Marxist-Leninists, fundamentalist Muslims or Christians etc etc. Meanwhile human kind just muddles through, being endlessly inventive and adaptive – despite the best endeavours of these types
    I will take the pragmatist any day over the conviction politician, the revolutionary, or the Calvinist street thug. Politics is the art of the possible.

  • babyface finlayson

    The beardy sandal wearing thing is a very tired old cliche. You usually write better stuff than that.
    It ill behoves a believer in a mythical deity to mock others so readily.
    From reading your link it is fairly clear that he is concerned about corporate funding of disinformation. Something we should all be concerned about surely?
    Perhaps if we think of big tobacco companies funding disinformation back in the 50s regarding the risks from smoking we might understand his concerns.
    If big business was found to be funding incomplete and inexact information would it not be an arguable case for criminal negligence?

  • tuatha

    BabyFace – you beat me to the disgraceful use of paid ‘white coats’ to cast doubt on tobacco’s. Current merchants of doubt, apart from the Koch Klimate Klatch, are GM, fossil fuel investors yelling about visual pollution, back-up & dark forebodings/hints of black-outs if their filthyu 19thC tek isn’t further subsidised.
    This list goes on, it always will as the old comfortable & rich are threatened by reality.
    Probably the best way to put it is the old saw, as Billy Bragg did somewhat clunkily in the grauniad, – “A rich man, his servant and a labourer sat at table with 12 loaves of bread. The rich man takes 11 and tell his servant that the workman wants to steal his loaf.” Works every time.
    As one of the 19thC railway robber barons in the US, Jay Gould, put it – “I can always hire enough of the working class to oppress the rest on my behalf”.
    Just because it is now “trahison des clercs” the principle is the same.

  • Turgon

    babyface finlayson and tuatha,
    You are of course both correct that money is no doubt given to climate change sceptic scientists by the oil companies: just as money is given to pro climate change scientists by governments, foundations and charities supportive of climate change science. Both groups no doubt spin their results: there is certainly evidence that pro climate change scientists do and I have absolutely no doubt that the other side do to.

    The problem is that company funding is the claimed cause of why Dr. Torcello wants to criminalise the anti consensus scientists. The result, however, will impact on individual scientists (criminal sanction).

    The moral imperative to fix a dangerous situation and move towards a future utopia (or avoid a disaster) is used to legitimise draconian proposals which would affect individuals here and now. This is classic of how those implementing Stalinism and other totalitarian systems came to decide on and morally reconcile their actions. You cannot make an omlette without breaking eggs etc.

    The problem becomes who decides what is acceptable funding. An initially okay source may in the “enhanced moral climate” which is created suddenly become unacceptable. A scientist who says the temperature will increase by only 0.5 degrees may become a heretic as others say it will be 2 degrees. This sort of progressive up ratcheting of extremism with increasing numbers of previously impeccable individuals becoming exposed as “closet deniers” was classically seen in Stalinism but has also been seen in other totalitarian systems, cults etc.

    Dr. Torcello may be a professor of philosophy but does not appear (or seems to choose to ignore) the warnings of history.

    Actually the example of the tobacco industry and their funding of research is instructive. Despite their funding the clear additional risk posed by smoking became clear. That was done without criminalising anyone and that despite many more people dying than have died of man made global warming (if one believes in it). Scientific evidence rather than legally enforced group think was what defeated the arguments against the health risks of smoking. The civil not criminal courts were then the appropriate mode of attack against the tobacco complanies and not individual scientists.

    Unfortunately in a democracy one has to allow people to have odd and potentially harmful ideas and even to spend their money defending their erroneous and harmful views. The alternative has countless times been shown to be even worse.

  • babyface finlayson

    “in a democracy one has to allow people to have odd and potentially harmful ideas and even to spend their money defending their erroneous and harmful views.”
    Totally agree. But there is an issue about the deliberate propagation of inexact or contradictory information.
    Like shouting fire in a crowded theatre or perhaps not shouting fire when the smoke is billowing around your ankles, it could be criminally negligent to obfuscate and muddy the waters especially when lives are at risk
    I am not saying I agree with Dr Torcello, but his argument is a reasonable one and does not deserve to be dismissed as cranky nonsense as you have tried to portray it.
    Terms such as ‘vegetarian stalinism’ and ‘green inquisitors’ not to mention ‘beardy sandal wearers’ are really only man playing and designed to shut down debate.