Climate change guru Dan Bloom, the professed originator of the term “cli-fi” whom I’ve come to like and admire over the last few months (even if I disagree with him), complains in a recent blog post that climate novelist Paolo Bacigalupi sicced a Twitter gang on him with the tweet “I believe anything this man [Bloom] publishes should be followed up by medical intervention.”
Bloom, a fervent believer in man-made climate change and the need to address it, responded:
Your tweet was uncalled for and very very wrong. You always stand up against online bullying, and yet look what you just did yourself the other day. Physician, heal thyself. You spoke of my [sic] to your online bully gang [IN A PUBLIC TWEET and not in a DM] the way that authorities and police in places like Communist China and the old USSR and the current North Korea talk about creative artists and free thinkers in their authoritarian regimes? Are you aware of what you did?
I don’t know what Dan posted that set off Bacigalupi; however, I’d wager that the author was just trying to be cute, sarcastic, or a bit of both.
I certainly understand Dan’s consternation regarding the tweets. But, if he’s been on Twitter long enough, he should know that Twitter gangs are hardly anything new, and the best thing to do (in the long run) is to just ignore them.
Regarding Bloom’s analogy to the old Iron/Bamboo Curtain nations, I’d ask him which is more akin to Red China or the old USSR: a person merely stating that one needs “a medical intervention,” or using the power of the state to quash dissenting opinions?
Case in point: Approximately 20 professors, led by George Mason University’s Jagadish Shukla, have led the effort “to urge a federal investigation aimed at scientific skeptics who differ with their views on climate change.”
“Shukla’s name appears first among 20 signers of a letter to Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking them to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, to investigate corporations and other groups skeptical of man-made global warming, also known as climate change.”
We appreciate that you are making aggressive and imaginative use of the limited tools available to you in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. One additional tool – recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change. The actions of these organizations have been extensively documented in peer-reviewed academic research … and in recent books …
The methods of these organizations are quite similar to those used earlier by the tobacco industry. A RICO investigation (1999 to 2006) played an important role in stopping the tobacco industry from continuing to deceive the American people about the dangers of smoking. If corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters are guilty of the misdeeds that have been documented in books and journal articles, it is imperative that these misdeeds be stopped as soon as possible so that America and the world can get on with the critically important business of finding effective ways to restabilize the Earth’s climate, before even more lasting damage is done.
David Rivkin and Andrew B. Grossman add that Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Edward Markey (MA), and Barbara Boxer have joined the fray, as well as (Democratic) California Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier.
(Irony Alert: Funny how Democrats routinely complain about the size of the US prison population, yet they are typically at the forefront of criminalizing some of the most trivial of offenses, whether it be at the federal level or in cities like New York.)
The two Washington DC-based attorneys (rightly) address the frightening nature of such government-backed threats:
Intimidation is the point of these efforts. Individual scientists, think tanks and private businesses are no match for the vast powers that government officials determined to stifle dissent are able to wield. An onslaught of investigations—with the risk of lawsuits, prosecution and punishment—is more than most can afford to bear. As a practical reality, defending First Amendment rights in these circumstances requires the resources to take on the government and win—no matter the cost or how long it takes.
It also requires taking on the Climate Inquisition directly. Spurious government investigations, driven by the desire to suppress a particular viewpoint, constitute illegal retaliation against protected speech and, as such, can be checked by the courts, with money damages potentially available against the federal and state perpetrators. If anyone is going to be intimidated, it should be officials who are willing to abuse their powers to target speech with which they disagree.
Quoting the US Supreme Court’s 1951 Dennis v. United States — “speech can rebut speech, propaganda will answer propaganda, free debate of ideas will result in the wisest governmental policies” — the lawyers note they have established the Free Speech in Science Project in order “to defend the kind of open inquiry and debate that are central to scientific advancement and understanding.”
So, what do you say, Dan Bloom? Isn’t flexing the power of the state in this manner rather frightening? Is it not just a bit more “authoritarian” than a social media mob getting on your case?