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First They Came for the Climate Skeptics

David Klinghoffer

Martin_Niemöller_(1952).jpg

…and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a climate skeptic.

And I’m not really (not a climate skeptic), but we’re remiss here in not saying more about the crackdown on climate change “deniers.” Using the law to intimidate people who disagree with you is absolutely chilling, and one naturally wonders who will be next. Go read Pastor Niemöller’s famous poem if it’s not already very familiar to you.

The current target cuts close to home — a think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Glenn Reynolds in USA Today has all the background (“Dear attorneys general, conspiring against free speech is a crime“), but let’s cut to the chase:

[Claude] Walker, the U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general, subpoenaed the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s donor lists. The purpose of this subpoena is, it seems quite clear, to punish CEI by making people less willing to donate.

This all takes place in the context of an unprecedented meeting by 20 state attorneys general aimed, environmental news site EcoWatch reports, at targeting entities that have “stymied attempts to combat global warming.” You don’t have to be paranoid to see a conspiracy here.

Not everyone believes that the planet is warming; not everyone who thinks that it is warming agrees on how much; not everyone who thinks that it is warming even believes that laws or regulation can make a difference. Yet the goal of these state attorneys general seems to be to treat disagreement as something more or less criminal. That’s wrong. As the Supreme Court wrote in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”

Add “science” there. More:

Yet prescribing such orthodoxy seems to be just what they have in mind. Their approach is — and I use this term quite deliberately — thoroughly un-American. In pursuing this action, they are betraying their oaths of office, abusing their powers and behaving unethically as attorneys.

Meanwhile, free speech advocates are already talking about a Virgin Islands tourism boycott. And voters everywhere need to ask themselves: If these government officials have such contempt for others’ constitutional rights, who might they target next for “unacceptable” speech?

Exactly. I’ve sometimes wondered why some conservatives who “get it” on the climate issue and understand the need for independent thinking and refusing to be spoon-fed by the media, nevertheless — when the topic turns evolution, the origin of life, cosmic origins, and the like — rebuke us for thinking independently and refusing to be spoon-fed by the media.

But I’m not going to be petty about it. On free speech, we’re for them even if they’re not for us.

Update: This headline from the Providence Journal couldn’t be more stark: “Climate-change deniers deserve punishment.”

Photo: Pastor Martin Niemöller, by J.D. Noske / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.

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