There is a scene in Woody Allen’s Radio Days in which we see a diminutive old man from Rockaway Beach who, one day, snaps and runs out of his house in his underwear—t-shirt, shorts, socks with garters. He stops every so often, turns and waves a butcher’s knife. The old man desires to menace and terrify, but he comes off like a confused, impotent old man. It is a comical performance.
And in yet another instance of life imitating art, the scene was played out yesterday in Forbes by Steve Zwick, who played the old man. Poor Zwick’s unfortunate weapon of choice is purple prose, which of course is never very frightening. However, Zwick’s apoplexy appears to have unhinged his faculties so he may not be responsible for his actions.
Zwick edits something called “Ecosystem Marketplace” (I won’t bother linking to it) whose stated purpose is as “an online news service that reports on market-based solutions to environmental problem.” In other words, Zwick makes his living touting environmental causes, so it should not surprise that those who are not concerned as he that the world is coming to an end are the objects of his enmity. Skeptical opinion robs his purse.
Here is his butcher’s knife:
We know who the active denialists are — not the people who buy the lies, mind you, but the people who create the lies. Let’s start keeping track of them now, and when the famines come, let’s make them pay. Let’s let their houses burn. Let’s swap their safe land for submerged islands. Let’s force them to bear the cost of rising food prices.
They broke the climate. Why should the rest of us have to pay for it?
Now if that isn’t funny, I don’t know what is. Poor Zwick! I can just picture him in front of his keyboard, a manic rictus fixed across his face as he hunts and pecks those phrases onto the screen. I can even detect pride in his words, which shows you how far gone the sad creature is.
[T]he denial machine is ratcheting up its disinformation campaign, and therein lies the problem. Every time someone validates or fine-tunes the science, ten or twelve well-funded and active propagandists pop up to distorting it — usually by twisting the attempts at fine-tuning into “proof” that the models are fundamentally useless…
By “well-funded and active propagandists” poor Zwick had in mind people like yours truly. It would do no good, in his advanced state of crackerness, to tell him that I have never made any money from my work in climatology, that, in fact, my activities in this field have harmed me much more than they have helped me, and that the same situation holds for all of us skeptics. Similarly, it would be shouting into the void to let poor Zwick know that it is people like him, environmentalist groups, and most scientists whose livelihoods depend on promulgating a dim view of the future.
We skeptics are all on the outside: of government, of the media, of the academy, of even the business world. The closest I’ve ever come to an oil-company executive was the last time I rented a car and pulled into the Shell station.
Poor Zwick says of me and other skeptics that it “is a very public record of who has been lying to the public and who hasn’t — and it’s time to start using this information to make the liars and shirkers pay.” At least we can see from this how the man’s episode began. He has the idea that there in only One Truth in science and that all should be made to speak it, that descension is a moral crime, a sin, and therefore should also be a civil crime.
Of course, there really is One Truth, in science or in any field, but the real question is if we know it. Not all truths are known with certainty. Poor Zwick’s disease does not allow him to recognize this obvious fact. I am not expert in the DSMV IV, but this disorder surely has a name.
We needn’t end on a glum note, for there is good news that poor Zwick’s state may not be permanent—or that he fears an evil worse than climate change: being sued. For he has amended his original rant to say please don’t burn skeptics’ homes, that perhaps skeptics haven’t done anything illegal, etc. He is still unable to free himself from using the appalling word “denialist”, but we remind ourselves that some cures take time. Get well soon, Steve.