I may have signed my actual death warrant.
Those words were spoken by a man called Michael Collins when he signed what was in effect a peace agreement between Ireland and Britain to end the bloodletting of the War of Independence, knowing his country would be deeply divided on the question of the amount of independence the treaty would grant. He signed anyway because he was realistic about what was politically achievable but also for another reason.
It was never about him but his love of something bigger – his country. It’s often conveniently forgotten nowadays by both sides just how savage that war was. Make no mistake, a lot of things on the road to places like Lidice and Oradure-sur-Glane happened out in the sticks and not even the big cities were untouchable. The country and the people had suffered enough, even in his home county of Cork and something workable that would bring peace was finally on offer.
Sadly, his intuition about his own fate came to pass; he was targeted and killed not long afterwards in an ambush by his own former comrades who were opponents of the treaty. He became a non-person in the land he loved and had given his life for, and one of whom very few kind official words were spoken for many decades.
This piece is not about the perhaps still sensitive scabs of old history, Irish or otherwise, but about future history and courageous people like Collins prepared to make brave decisions which they know will result in personal difficulties, both for them and their families. They do so because there’s something larger at stake than just their careers, reputations, livelihoods and even at times their lives. They choose the honourable course forward and being too realistic to suffer from martyrdom complexes, have hopes of moving the current situation forward towards something better and perhaps even surviving themselves.
At this particular moment, the scientist Dr. Willie Soon is being targeted in a concerted vilification campaign by various propagandists safely ensconced in the supposedly respectable organs of the legacy media like the New York Times, the Washington post, the Boston Globe, the Guardian and what can only be described nowadays as science rags such as Nature and Scientific American. I’m impressed the BBC resisted the temptation to pile in but watch this space – they’re probably too busy outing their own stars of yesteryear who sexually molested children they made available and then looked the other way.
The whole thing at any level is distasteful, to say the least. Even some bottom-feeding pond life in Congress have now got in on the act and you can’t help but get the feeling it’s only a matter of time until a Committee on Unclimatical Activities will be convened. It’s back to the past rather than the future, and that past is 1950’s America in the witch-hunting grip of trial by media McCarthyism. It is after all still the land of the free and the home of the brave, except nowadays that means the brave refusing to wilt under the pressure of elected thugs making free with any rights they might have under the constitution to freedom of expression. Tell me, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
It’s by now the usual routine. If they can freeze him out of publishing in the journals, get him sacked or at least pressure his academic employers into revoking his tenure, they’ll be sending a message to any other researcher – be very positive about the almost papal infallibility of climate science or we’ll gang up and target you too, and it’s very much a part of the message that they don’t give a shit about how obvious or plain vicious it looks.
When you want to make an example of someone, you have to make sure everyone can see it. We can destroy anyone who opposes us and nobody will come to their defence, because nobody is going to fly into that danger zone. Dr. Soon is a walnut they’re determined to very publicly crack. The usual response to such overwhelming pressure is people shut up, consign any doubts they might have to the other people’s problem category and keep their head down. To his credit, he hasn’t.
As one would expect, the skeptic blogosphere has rallied to his defence, since we know only too well how it feels to be on the business end of a two-minute hate. It’s a peculiarity of the climate wars that the alarmists are too afraid to debate anything but instead choose to concentrate their attacks their opponent’s character.
I find it absolutely deplorable but at the same time revealing, that none of the people who’ve been busy repositioning themselves in recent years as honest brokers in the middle of the climate wars have come to his aid, even if it’s only to be skulking behind some fig leaf like being in defence of a nobler abstraction such as academic freedom, but I suppose that’d require some intestinal fortitude. To restate that more explicitly, some guts or to put it even more bluntly, some bollocks. Anyway, their thinking runs along the lines of a rather guarded better him than me, so let him take the thrashing.
Some true colours are being nailed to masts by circumstances, rather than by any volition on their part.
They’ve obviously decided to keep their mouths shut and hope nobody notices, and they’ll slither back out of the woodwork in a week or two when it’s all blown over and clamber once again atop their massive anthill of superiority to become yet again the voices of sweet reason preaching to all and sundry. It’s only when push comes to shove you’ll find out exactly who’s all mouth and trousers, and on this outing they’ve yet again shown themselves up to be exactly what they are.
It’s so difficult to always appear good and virtuous to everyone when you’re being forced to make some hard ethical choices – it’s better to do nothing. Looking on the bright side, I suppose we can chalk up their defrocking to the climate thugs. And the creeps get all offended that we won’t grovel and suck on their twinkly toes in gratitude for them sorta deigning to engage with poor denier scum like us …
Even if I didn’t have massive reservations about the science underpinning the theory of global warming, I’d choose not to be on the side of proponents of any argument that not only resorts to such gutter tactics, but more importantly one whose leading figures condone such execrable behaviour by their silence.
Irrespective of my own position, I’d support Dr. Soon, if only on principle, and yet at the same time I’d still feel comfortable laying into his interpretation of the scientific facts if I disagreed with it. That’s the way discourse in grownup science works but of course that’s terra incognita when discussing the climate, because that’s all about politics rather than science.
He’s not the first, won’t be the last and there were certainly a lot of good people before him who followed the data where it led, rather than bent it to an interpretation that was politically correct. If you’ve been following the climate wars for as long as I have, I’m sure you can pick out a lot of personal heroes who’ve taken a bullet for integrity but we should never forget those other casualties of war, the nameless ones who never made it to a mention in the skeptic blogosphere and some sort of recognition. They might not have been science rock stars, but they took their own stand in obscurity and their own bullets too.
It’s sobering to note that the leader of the opposition to the peace treaty signed by Collins, and the man who adroitly left the hot-potato political decision to him in order to keep his own skirts clean, went on to become prime minister and then president of Ireland for many years, which were in many people’s opinion its Brezhnev years of decay. He was asked in the late autumn of his life what he thought of Collins from the perspective of forty years since his death. Nobody had dared to broach that still sensitive subject with him in years.
He thought about it for some time and spoke the following words which should be taken as one of those rare moments of complete candour by a politician, perhaps because it no longer mattered and he felt a need for expiation – and he refused to ever be drawn on the subject again. “It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time, history will record the greatness of Michael Collins and it will be recorded at my expense.”
History, as by then I think he realised it would, has done exactly that. Some men will not die. They haunt you down the years.
In the same way, I feel posterity will be kind to those individuals of lonely courage who took a principled stand for the integrity of science against political ideology and suffered the consequent damage, and it will be at the expense of populist demagogues who did nothing more than bay like a pack of feral dogs for such blasphemers to be burned at the stake. Let’s be clear on this, their stand is nearly always for the science, not about picking a side or laying it all on the line to be a skeptic.
Unlike the alarmists, our heroes are not insubstantial paper men, origami figures fashioned by nothing more than lies and propaganda. Our ones have been tested in a red-hot furnace of hate, scorn and very personal betrayal, and survived it on nothing more than their own individual brand of courage. We can count ourselves lucky to have people of such calibre positioned anywhere over that line called climate scepticism.
Related articles by Pointman: