'Let's Just Say'
A global-warmist hysteric trivializes the horrors of Nazi Germany.
BY JAMES TARANTO
The American Spectator, April 2007
The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman starts a recent column about global warming on a loopy note:
On the day that the latest report on global warming was released, I went out and bought a light bulb. OK, an environmentally friendly, compact fluorescent light bulb.Wow, Ellen, thanks for sharing! But a few paragraphs later she tries to make a serious point and ends up making a serious moral and intellectual error:
I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.Ellen, maybe we shouldn't "just say" it. Before we make a truly invidious comparison, let's think a bit, shall we?
A little perspective can be found in a book from 1937 called The House That Hitler Built, a 380-page study of Nazi Germany written by Stephen H. Roberts, a professor of modern history at the University of Sydney. Roberts spent 16 months in Germany and neighboring countries between 1935 and 1937. "My main aim," he explained in the preface, "was to sum up the New Germany without any prejudice (except that my general approach was that of a democratic individualist)."
The substance of the book is alarming, although the tone is calm and detached--so much so that it is eerie to read with the knowledge of what happened in the years after October 1937, when it was published. One ten-page chapter is devoted to "The Present Place of the Jews." At the time Roberts wrote, the persecution of Jewish Germans was well under way:
At present, the German Jew has no civil rights. He is not a citizen; he cannot vote or attend any political meeting; he has no liberty of speech and cannot defend himself in print; he cannot become a civil servant or a judge; he cannot be a writer or a publisher or a journalist; he cannot speak over the radio; he cannot become a screen actor or an actor before Aryan audiences; he cannot teach in any educational institution; he cannot enter the service of the railway, the Reichsbank, and many other banks; he cannot exhibit paintings or give concerts; he cannot work in any public hospital; he cannot enter the Labour Front or any of the professional organizations, although membership of many callings is restricted to members of these groups; he cannot even sell books or antiques. . . . In addition to these, there are many other restrictions applying in certain localities. The upshot of them all is that the Jew is deprived of all opportunity for advancement and is lucky if he contrives to scrape a bare living unmolested by Black Guards or Gestapo. It is a campaign of annihilation--a pogrom of the crudest form, supported by every State instrument.When Roberts published his book, Kristallnacht was more than a year away; the ghettos and death camps were further still in the future. Roberts described what he witnessed as "a campaign of annihilation," but he did not foretell the multiplication of its brutality in the ensuing years. Had he somehow managed to do so, he would be remembered as a prophet today, but he might well have looked like a crank at the time.
Which brings us back to Ellen Goodman. Imagine if someone in 1937 had foreknowledge of the Holocaust and began sounding the alarms, describing in detail what was going to happen just a few years later. Most people probably wouldn't believe him. They would be, to use Goodman's phrase, denying the future. But would they be "on a par" with people who deny the Holocaust after it has happened?
Let's just say that seems a stretch. There's an enormous difference between doubting an outlandish prediction (even one that comes true) and denying the grotesque facts of history. Because we are ignorant of the future, we can innocently misjudge it. Holocaust deniers are neither ignorant nor innocent (though extremely ignorant people may innocently accept their claims). They are falsifying history for evil purposes.
This writer is skeptical of global warming. I don't have enough scientific knowledge to have anything like an authoritative opinion--but neither does Ellen Goodman, who bases her entire argument on an appeal to authority, namely the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I lack the time, the inclination, and possibly the intellect to delve deeply into the science. No doubt the same is true of Goodman.
Why am I skeptical of the global-warmists' claims? Because they speak with a certainty that is more reminiscent of religious zeal than of scientific inquiry. Because their demands to cast out all doubt seem antithetical to science, which is founded on doubt. Because the theory of global warming fits too conveniently with their pre-existing political ideologies. (Granted, conservative skeptics are vulnerable to that last criticism too.)
Above all, because I can't stand to be bullied. And what is it but an act of bullying to deny that there is any room for honest disagreement, to insist that those of us who are unpersuaded are the equivalent of Holocaust deniers, that we are not merely mistaken but evil?
Is Ellen Goodman a bully? That seems hard to square with her image as an auntly old lady who writes ditzy columns about her shopping habits. So let us be charitable. Let's just say that she is uninhibited about expressing her prejudices and insensate about trivializing the horrors of Nazi Germany.
In this she is far from alone among the liberal left. George Soros said earlier this year that America is in need of "de-Nazification." In 2005 Sen. Dick Durbin, describing claims that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had treated terrorist detainees harshly, said that if you read the allegations, "you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis." Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York has said the Iraq war "is just as bad as the six million Jews being killed." (Soros later acknowledged "a bad choice of words"; Durbin, under pressure, apologized twice; Rangel did not back down.)
These comments all received far less aggressive coverage in the mainstream media than did the racial gaucheries of Trent Lott in 2002 and George Allen in 2006. Democrats get off easier when they make racial gaffes, too. Harry Reid's baseless disparagement of Clarence Thomas's intelligence in 2005 did not cost him his Senate leadership post; and Joe Biden's maladroit description of Barack Obama as an "articulate" and "clean" African-American may well be forgotten by the time you read this, barely two months later.
Liberal journalists are ever vigilant against conservative prejudices, and far more forgiving of prejudices they share. That's only human. But it is also a service to conservatives, who as a consequence are more circumspect about expressing their own prejudices or appearing to be prejudiced. Liberal disinhibition, by contrast, allows major newspapers to publish such ugliness as Ellen Goodman's unthinking remark about Holocaust deniers.
I would like to say she and her editors cannot help but be ashamed of themselves. Let's just say that they ought to be.
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