By: Benjamin Weingarten
“The world must not belong to those who slander the prophets of Global Warming, Climate Change, or Climate Disruption.”
So said Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a fatwa issued in the Washington Post.
OK — perhaps that was not what he said verbatim, but it might as well have been.
Whitehouse intimated that racketeering charges be considered regarding Big Oil’s support of research challenging the supposed climate change consensus.
Without a hint of irony given the nature and activities of the climate change movement, Whitehouse compared the oil industry – which after the American people will be most harmed by regulations putatively relating to climate — to the RICO-violating tobacco business:
The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.
In a point almost beyond parody, Whitehouse relies on a report by a Drexel University professor whose “environmental justice” work has been funded by federal grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A nakedly partisan voice, the “Culture and Communication” department professor lists as areas of research and teaching “Critical Theory,” “Social Movements” and “Social Change,” to go along with the more relevant “Environmental Sociology.”
The professor writes that the “climate denial network”
span[s] a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.
None of these activities are illegal, or even unethical – though if Whitehouse gets his way the thought crime of challenging global warming may soon be.
All of these activities one can ascribe to the very environmentalist cause to which the professor is a part, except that academics like himself and other global warming proponents are also again showered with government support to the tune of $2.5 billion in research funding annually.
Is government money in the hands of policy advocates any more or less corrupting than private money? Should not private enterprise be allowed to dispense with its funds as it wishes?
One wonders whether Whitehouse has considered the conflict of interest or free enterprise considerations at hand.
Moreover, while Whitehouse questions Big Oil’s motives and actions, he ignores the dubious track record of those on his side of the climate debate.
Specifically, Whitehouse’s recent diatribe was silent with respect to Climategate, the inaccurate models on which the global warming crowd relies and the significant flaws in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Is the senator aware that the science is decidedly not settled — even according to President Barack Obama’s former undersecretary of science in the Department of Energy?
More broadly, Whitehouse’s irresponsible op-ed — which raises the prospect of civil discovery — represents a chilling threat to those who dissent from the orthodoxy of the political elite.
Coincidentally, this chill has already crossed the pond, sending a shiver down the spine of European oil companies.
Just last week, the heads of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and several other executives issued a public letter in which they effectively raised the white flag in the face of governments hell-bent on further regulating their activities in the name of global warming.
Resigned to this fate, the companies called for a rational, clear and consistent set of rules governing carbon credits, and asked for a spot at the table in discussions with the U.N. and other political bodies in order to protect themselves.
It is unclear whether U.S. companies will go the way of their European counterparts. But what Whitehouse’s comments indicate is that our government is at least willing to explore using legal coercion if American enterprises do not submit to the environmentalist party line.
We have seen this “process as punishment” in the private sector, through actions such as climate scientist Michael Mann’s targeting of conservative commentator Mark Steyn and others, but the federal government’s threat to Big Oil would be of an entirely different size, scope and character.
Lost in all this is the fact that the global warming crusade against so-called “denialists” represents another area in which liberal illiberality threatens critical areas of speech.
Recent challenges to free speech whether as a means of enforcing de facto or de jure Shariah slander and blasphemy laws, stifling political messages or now crushing scientific dissent reveal a totalitarian impulse to end debate.
It is particularly galling in this instance because scientific discovery requires constantly questioning assumptions and testing hypotheses. Especially when science is being used as a basis for determining public policy that affects the lives of billions of people and concerns trillions of dollars worth of resources, the burden of proof must be immense.
Proponents of climate change should be providing an unprecedented amount of transparency and welcoming all scrutiny – indeed encouraging competition in the marketplace of ideas — if they really care about getting the science right.
While we can never know the true motivations of a politician, it stands to reason that Whitehouse and many of his colleagues may view environmentalism as as good a justification as any for seizing wealth from one of America’s few remaining booming industries.
If that is the case, all advocates of truth should prefer that he show the same candor as Rep. Maxine Waters, who called for “socializ—,” sorry, “taking over … [with] government running all … [of Shell’s] oil companies.”
While Waters may support violating the Fifth Amendment, it appears Whitehouse would rather challenge the First.
The consequences of the latter would be far more dire than the former.
For if the First Amendment falls, all of the rest shall soon follow.
When Adolf Hitler published “Mein Kampf” in 1926, he spelled out his vision for Germany’s domination of the world and annihilation of the Jews. Germany would not have lost WWI, he wrote, “if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas.”
In 1933, Hitler’s Nazis took power. The few people who had read Hitler’s manifesto and took him seriously fled in time to save their lives. But most – including most Jews – didn’t. Comfortable, often prominent, and fully accepted, they believed in German society and could not fathom that a madman actually meant what he said and intended to fully carry out his malevolent vision.
Even as things grew increasingly menacing – through Kristallnacht, book burnings, the stultifying restriction of civil liberties, the expulsion of Jewish children from schools, the construction of Dachau, Auschwitz, Treblinka, and other death camps – there were Jews and others who downplayed Hitler’s ominous threat. Worse, they derided and vilified those who took him seriously, calling them fear-mongers and haters and liars. Sound familiar?
Today, the entire world faces the threat of galloping Islamic terrorism. We see this every day in every newscast – grisly individual and mass beheadings, people chained in cages and set on fire, hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped, raped, and worse; Christian churches burned to the ground with their desperate congregants locked inside; innocent cartoonists shot dead and their colleagues gravely injured in France, Jewish babies murdered in their cribs and strollers. Increasingly, we see “honor killings” in the United States, as well as other freedom-smothering manifestations of Sharia law.
What happened in Germany in the 1930s and ’40s is happening in America today, except the assault on our system is not coming from Nazism, but rather from radical Islam. The mullahs in Iran and their surrogates around the world stand at podiums and declare boldly: Death to America, Death to Israel! They tell us outright that their goal is to create a caliphate in which Sharia law is the law of the land, in which all infidels – anyone who does not practice or has not converted to Islam – are relegated to second-class citizenship, draconian taxes, and groveling servitude, if not outright enslavement. Some of our own elected officials echo their words. All of them, like Hitler, rely on apologists who flagrantly lie about this escalating threat. Shame on them!
During WWII, Winston Churchill was the proverbial canary in the coal mine, repeatedly issuing the earliest warnings to the Western world of Hitler’s psychotic megalomania and evil intentions. Again, few listened, while prominent, educated, and sanctimonious types derided and vilified Churchill and called him a fear-monger and a hater and a liar. Sound familiar?
Since 2004, when she founded the Atlas Shrugs website (now PamelaGeller.com), Pamela Geller has been our Winston Churchill, warning of the increasingly aggressive actions of radical Islamists, the terrifying acts they commit, and their fervent goal to eviscerate our Constitution and Bill of Rights – you know, those little documents that afford us spoiled Americans the right to say what we want, be it in speech, drawings, art, movies, and music, without fear of being murdered!
That is why, as journalist Jonah Goldberg points out, the First Amendment applies to things that people find offensive, for instance Andreas Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” in which the “artist” urinated in a glass and then placed a plastic icon of Jesus on the cross into it, or the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s exhibition of a portrait of the Virgin Mary, which was partly comprised of pornographic pictures and elephant dung.
As I recall, all the holier-than-thou hypocrite who are calling for Geller’s head were bleating their support of “free speech” back then.
That is also why people who cherish the First Amendment agreed that it was okay to have a loathsome Nazi contingent walk the streets of Skokie, Illinois (with its formidable Jewish population) in the mid 1970s, and why other protest movements have been so powerful and important: for instance Patrick Henry’s bold declaration, “Give me liberty or give me death”; the Yo No rebellion in Cuba against its repressive government; the Boston Tea Party’s “no taxation without representation” protest; Susan B. Anthony’s “illegal” vote for women’s suffrage; Henry Thoreau’s demonstrations against slavery; the history-changing actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks against racial discrimination…the list of heroic people sounding the alarms is endless.
Throughout history, all of these crusaders for freedom have been insulted by the cowardly accommodators among us, the appeasers, the apologists, and the deluded masses who thought, as Churchill said, that “the crocodile [of tyranny, fascism, murder, even genocide] would eat them last.”
Pamela Geller succeeded in literally flushing out the enemy within, two of the many jihadists in our midst. Only days after their failed assassination attempt, ISIS claimed credit for the attack and embarrassed our Department of Homeland Security into increasing security conditions at U.S. military bases and elevating the threat level in the U.S. to BRAVO – not the highest level, but pretty damn high!
But instead of praising Geller for her foresight and courage, cowards and apologists on both the left and right used the tactics of radical Saul Alinsky (described in his own manifesto, “Rules for Radicals”), which are to: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Hurling gratuitous epithets and insults and lying are also in their repertoire.
But in spite of it all, Geller is not intimidated, because like Churchill she has truth on her side! She awarded First Place to a graphic artist who left Islam for the freedom that the First Amendment offers.
Still, it is clear that few people have learned the lessons of September 11th and the 14 years that have followed about the increasingly urgent need for vigilance against a deadly serious enemy, and for the equally compelling need to thank and to celebrate people like Pamela Geller for risking everything to protect our priceless freedoms.
As journalist and author Mark Steyn reminds us, “you’ve heard them a zillion times this last week: ‘Of course, I’m personally, passionately, absolutely committed to free speech. But…and the minute you hear the ‘but,’ none of the build-up to it matters.”
“…all the nice respectable people are now telling us,” Steyn adds, what Mohammed Atta told the passengers on 9/11: “Stay quiet and you’ll be okay.”
By: Benjamin Weingarten
Conservatives are understandably depressed in the wake of Speaker Boehner and the Republican-controlled Congress’ predictable caving on executive amnesty.
Let me stop right there by emphasizing that I only said conservatives. Were our republic healthy, every single American would be depressed that President Obama’s amnesty—which on dozens of occasions he said he did not have the authority to enforce—will continue apace to the benefit of lawbreakers at the expense of American citizens.
Americans would be further demoralized at the notion that our president politicized the sovereignty of our nation represented by failing to protect its borders, all in a transparent attempt to win a permanent Democratic majority—which the shortsighted Republican establishment seem perfectly fine with, since they want immigration and the idea of “those racist Republicans” to become non-issues.
Some are lamenting the cowardice of our representatives, and to that I quote a former NFL Coach: “They are who we thought they were!”
I have even seen one article arguing that the Constitution itself has failed. But the Constitution and our Founders did not fail. Human nature has not changed between 1787 and 2015. There were undoubtedly plenty of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century booze-swilling, cigar-smoking iterations of John Boehner lumbering around Capitol Hill.
What has changed is the size and scope of government, the number and composition of people who are voting, and the public’s general indifference to and acceptance of the greed, graft, lying, and all matter of corruption that have become commonplace in public life. There is also a heck of a lot more bread and circuses to keep us fat, happy, and distracted from what our supposed leaders are doing.
Government Is Too Big to Control
Entitlement reform is not going to capture the imagination of the American people like a llama chase or the color of a dress. And it bears noting that many of the Founders themselves were involved in sordid activities, and even willing to accept a king.
But that king’s powers would have looked downright puny compared to those President Obama wields today; and what corrupt politicians did way back when feels less offensive than the systemic abuse and political malpractice on display now, in part because the nation our founders—exceptional citizen legislators—entrusted us with was substantially smaller and less intrusive.
Today, when you have hundreds of agencies and millions of pages of laws, when the federal government is among the largest employers in the world, hyper-regulating almost every aspect of our society, creating arcane and byzantine rules designed to reward one set of constituents or another over and above the American people, not to mention the rule makers, rule interpreters and compliance officers themselves—this naturally creates not only an unwieldy and unaccountable federal government, but one that will invite and reward people willing to pull the kinds of shenanigans we see today.
To the percentage of the public that is actually informed as to what is going on in government, there are simply too many egregious things occurring on a daily basis, not to mention again the Siren song of bread and circuses, for anyone to keep track of it all or know where to focus one’s energies and pitchforks.
The Failure Is Our Fault
What defines an informed voter itself is of course open to interpretation, given what the majority of people are taught in our hallowed Democrat-controlled community organizing institutions, also known as schools; and given that one can read The New York Times, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Vox, and watch “The Daily Show” each day to qualify as informed by today’s standards, without knowing anything about what the other half of the country thinks and believes.
On amnesty specifically, as a lame-duck president without control of either house of Congress, Barack Obama is completely unchained, simply running roughshod over our laws. That a supposed constitutional scholar is rendering the system of checks and balances and separation of powers meaningless; that the executive branch is usurping the legislative branch, while congressmen say one thing and stand by idly doing another, is not a reflection that the Constitution or founders failed.
Rather, these travesties reflect that the American people are failing the founders.
We elected Barack Obama twice, in spite of his words, actions, and associations, which have unsurprisingly led to these disastrous six-plus years. The presidents who preceded him were not much better, though no one would have posed the question of them as Mark Steyn recently dared: “If he were working for the other side, what exactly would he be doing differently?”
We elected the congressmen who with rare exceptions (see Lee, Sen. Mike) continue to stand by while Rome burns, and who are derelict in their duty to defend and protect the Constitution, including against its brazen violator who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Welfare Versus Defense: Who Wins?
We have failed to persuasively enough make the case that we cannot thrive as a nation just by slowing government’s rate of growth and hiring smarter technocrats, but must literally be slashing the federal budget by 50 percent, abolishing agencies en masse, allowing Americans to opt out of the welfare state (including programs which can only pay my generation back in devalued dollars like Social Security), ensuring that we have not small deficits but massive surpluses to pay down our debt so the interest alone does not consume all the money we pay to the feds each year, and demanding a massive devolution of power back to the states and the people where it rightfully belongs.
And if our fellow Americans choose to live in socialist basket-case states, they are free to do so without reaching into your and my pockets at the point of a gun.
At root and underlying all of these issues, we have allowed the Left to control the media, academia, and the rest of America’s key cultural institutions, such that the vast majority of our fellow citizens are reflexively progressive and cannot even conceive of the types of changes I just mentioned. This is how the radical, morally and economically bankrupting leftist policies can be considered mainstream, while freedom can be considered fascistic.
This inherent progressivism narrowly underlies Republican acquiescence to the growing leviathan, and dictates the type of leaders that America broadly finds palatable, which has led us to this perilous place in our history in which all of our worst enemies are ascendant, while we are fast on the road to bankruptcy and serfdom, with our only choice between welfare and defense.
When entitlements and our armed forces are sitting side by side on the chopping block, which do you think a war-weary, economically pummeled American public is going to choose?
We Need a New Generation of Savvy Statesmen
No, the Constitution hasn’t failed, and our founders haven’t failed. We the people have failed during the hundred-year progressive march. So now we are burdened with the doubly difficult task of trying to win the long game of culture and the short game of politics.
I have much more faith in the latter over the former—that over time the chances are greater that we develop the strategy and tactics to beat an establishment incumbent class than win America’s cherished cultural institutions, which form our national soul.
Our national soul determines whether the Constitution is a piece of parchment or enshrines principles like equal rights for all and special privileges for none, that law resides above man, that men are not angels and that we must compel government’s non-angels to control themselves, and that the most important thing in America is protecting the rights of the minority, the most important of which is the individual.
And the inspiration for our national soul should reside not in our Constitution but in the Declaration of Independence that breathes life into it, a majestic document that we have ignored for far too long.
Don’t Blame Boehner—Blame Us
In any event, we the people have all the leverage in the world. The Boehners and Mitch McConnells will listen to us when the political cost of siding with the Chamber of Commerce is so great that their political lives depend on it.
Using the power of the purse as a lever to control the president, or threatening let alone bringing forth articles of impeachment are political remedies, and they are not being used not only because the Republican establishment that makes up the majority of the majority in Congress are risk-averse and often spineless, but because the majority of the American people are not demanding it.
That impeachment brings howls of racism alone shows a failure of our culture to separate the original sin of slavery from the demerits of the job done by this president, to separate identity politics from the individual.
Until and unless we devote all of our efforts to winning the long and short games with a constant, strategic, relentless full-court press, we are going to see amnesties ad nauseum, Obamacare not only not abolished but metastasizing, the federal budget and debt continue skyrocketing, comparatively small things like the Export-Import Bank chugging along and, yes, the welfare state expanding and our defenses shrinking while Islamic supremacists, Russia, China, and their proxies grow ever-bolder and more confidently bellicose.
We the people have much work to do if we want to keep any semblance of our republic, as Benjamin Franklin challenged us to do. And we hold the power in our hands.
But do we have the will and capability to exert it?
Ben Weingarten (@bhweingarten) is publishing manager and editor of TheBlaze Books. Ben is a graduate of Columbia University, where he majored in economics-political science and contributed to outlets including the Breitbart sites and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.