A Shameful Attack on Free Speech by a Group Claiming to Speak for Coal-Dependent Workers

פורסם: 4 בפבר׳ 2012, 7:47 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 4 בפבר׳ 2012, 7:47 ]
By Andrew Revkin. 2/2/2012

If you disagree with the views of a prominent climate scientist, one approach might be to attend his forthcoming lecture at his home campus, Pennsylvania State University, and engage in civil debate when he’s done.

Another would be to mount a faceless Facebook campaign beginning with this catchy phrase:

Did you know that Penn State is having Michael Mann – the professor behind Climategate – speak on campus? Join us in calling on the administration to disinvite the disgraced academic.

The campaign continues:

At a time when Penn State should be doing everything possible to regain its status as a bastion of truth and integrity, the last thing they should be doing is supporting someone of such questionable ethics and motives with our tax dollars. There is no place for this brand of extreme political activism, disguised as academics, at Penn State now or in the future.

The campaign is promoted by two interrelated groups, Choose Common Sense, which claims to have the interests of the hard-working people of the coal and gas industries at heart, and the Secure Energy for America Political Action Committee.

In a post Thursday night, Brad Johnson of Think Progress provided details on the backers of these organizations.

There’s a letter-writing template as part of the effort to block Mann’s talk, which presumably is related to his new book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.”

I encourage you to read the suggested boilerplate text, which speaks of Mann “conspiring with his left-wing cronies to intimidate and silence those who would dare to question his intentions.”

So of course the response, rather than debate him, is to intimidate and silence him back. The many people I know who work in America’s fossil energy industries would not do this kind of thing. Would those bankrolling this effort kindly stand up and publicly identify themselves?

I’ve questioned some of Mann’s assertions about climate risks, and he once warned colleagues to be careful what they share with me. He’s prickly and defensive (which is no surprise given what he’s been through).

Nonetheless, here’s the note that I submitted in place of the offered language (my note was rejected automatically, perhaps because I’m not from Pennsylvania):

I’ve covered climate science fairly and accurately since 1985, including through more than 15 years as a reporter at The New York Times. Even though I’ve disagreed with him on some matters, I strongly support the right of Professor Michael Mann to speak at Penn State or anywhere else on the subject of climate change. Critics can feel free to debate him, but have no right to muzzle him.

Do not cave to those running an anti-American smear campaign against him in the name of coal-related jobs. The campaign, steeped in insinuation, demeans the many fine Americans who’ve worked for generations providing this valuable fossil fuel.

Here’s what I posted on Facebook and Google+:

Antidemocratic, hateful, and coal-backed smear campaign against a scientist I’ve sometimes disagreed with but who has every right to state his case at Penn State or anywhere else.

What would you write?

[4:43 p.m. | Updated | Leo Hickman of The Guardian has posted that a spokesman for Penn State says the university has no plans to cancel the lecture. Here's part of the statement quoted by Hickman:

Penn State has a deep and profound commitment to the First Amendment and the principles of free speech and expression. Our role as a university is to serve as a marketplace of ideas and by allowing this talk we are protecting the civil liberties of our students, faculty and staff. There are no plans to cancel his speaking engagement. (Read the rest.)]

Source: nytimes.com