04 November 2009

Joe Romm's Climate McCarthyism

Michael Shellengerger and Ted Nordhaus have decided that the right thing to do is to stand up to a bully. Good for them. Here is an excerpt:

What are the warning signs that one is dealing with a bully? Wiki names, "Quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others' actions as hostile, concern with preserving self image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions." Bullies, Wiki notes, "will even create blogs to intimidate victims worldwide."

The character assassination, the bullying, the psychological projection -- it all adds up to Climate McCarthyism, and Joe Romm is Climate McCarthyite-in-chief. Joe Romm's "Global Warming Deniers and Delayers" play the same role as Joe McCarthy's "Communists and Communist sympathizers." While Romm built a loyal liberal and environmentalist following for attacking right-wing "global warming deniers" -- a designation meant to invoke "Holocaust denier" -- he spends much of his time attacking well-meaning journalists (e.g. here, here, and here), academics (here and here) and activists (here, here and here) who take the issue of global warming seriously, accept climate science, and support immediate action to address it. His aim is to intimidate and prevent increasing numbers of people from questioning climate policy orthodoxy, and especially Democratic efforts to pass cap and trade climate legislation.

And make no mistake, Joe Romm's political agenda is as mainstream among liberals today as Joe McCarthy's was among conservatives in 1953. Romm is held up by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, UC Berkeley's Brad DeLong,The New Republic's Brad Plumer, Grist's Dave Roberts, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as an inspiration. He works for John Podesta, Obama's transition director and head of Center for American Progress. And he is the leading spokesperson for Waxman Markey climate legislation that passed the House, and Kerry-Boxer legislation in the Senate.

Think about it: If you're an ambitious young Democratic Hill staffer, a liberal policy analyst, or a struggling young reporter, why would you ever stand up to a guy who is famous for first trashing people to their editors, employers and funders in private emails, and then, if that doesn't work, in public blogs? Why would you challenge someone who seems to have so much of the liberal establishment on his side?

It is important to point out that this is not simply about Joe Romm the bully, but the tenor of discourse on a very important subject. Michael and Ted conclude:
There will always be bullies like Joe Romm -- they are not the problem. It is the the establishment figures who goad them on, and the bystanders who could speak up but do not, fearing the consequences of doing so. If we are to move to real solutions to global warming, and protect some level of basic human decency, Joe Romm and his enablers must be challenged. For climate McCarthyism isn't just bad for climate policy, it's anathema to liberal and democratic values.