As I’ve said here before, Romm’s recent attack on Kloor — headlined “Meet trash journalist Keith Kloor” — was uncalled for, and I applaud Shellenberger and Nordhaus for adding their voices of support.
(An aside: the word “trash” seems to be one of Romm’s absolute favorites. I searched on it at his blog, Climateprogress, and not counting references to actual garbage, I found at least 18 uses of the word in posts linked from the first page of search results.)
Today’s post by Shellenberger and Nordhaus uses the shameful attack on Kloor to make a bigger point: Romm’s tactics carry echoes of the McCarthy era.
What makes this particularly disturbing is that Romm seems to be held in high regard by influential columnists, such as Paul Krugman (who said recently in a blog posting that “I trust Romm on climate”) and Tom Friedman (who called Romm’s blog “indispensable”).
I might add that Time magazine inexplicably named Romm a “Hero of the Environment 2009″ (which would have prompted me to cancel my subscription had I not already done so several months earlier).
Shellenberger and Nordhaus argue that Romm’s bullying tactics are designed to chill free and unfettered inquiry by journalists and others:
These days especially, journalists are an easy mark. Journalists are perhaps the most insecure professionals in America. Reporters fear for their future, and with good reason. Bureaus are closing, journalists and editors are getting laid off, and whole newspapers and magazines are going under. Reporters who are insecure for their futures are easy prey for bullies like Romm, whose attacks are aimed at having a chilling effect on the entire national press corps,
And their comparison of Romm’s approach to McCarthyism is deeply unsettling:
The character assassination, the bullying, the psychological projection — it all adds up to Climate McCarthyism, and Joe Romm is Climate McCarthyite-in-chief. Joe Romm’s “Global Warming Deniers and Delayers” play the same role as Joe McCarthy’s “Communists and Communist sympathizers.” While Romm built a loyal liberal and environmentalist following for attacking right-wing “global warming deniers” — a designation meant to invoke “Holocaust denier” — he spends much of his time attacking well-meaning journalists (e.g. here, here, and here), academics (here and here) and activists (here, here and here) who take the issue of global warming seriously, accept climate science, and support immediate action to address it. His aim is to intimidate and prevent increasing numbers of people from questioning climate policy orthodoxy, and especially Democratic efforts to pass cap and trade climate legislation.
The blogosphere certainly is a rough and tumble place where passions run high, people often say things they shouldn’t, and sometimes there’s lot’s more heat than light. That’s fine. Perhaps out of this raucous give and take, democracy is advanced in fits and starts. But Shellenberger and Nordhaus make a convincing case that Romm has stepped way over the line — that his interest is not simply to argue passionately for what he believes, but also to crush anyone who dares to disagree with him publicly.
In the long run, this can’t be good for democracy or the cause of grappling with climate change.