A communist? A homosexual? A Conscientious Objector? A climate scientist?
Wait. A climate scientist? I mean we all recognize the other accusations (in the form of “questions”) from the McCarthy era, but not the “crime” of being a climate scientist.
In the McCarthy era, they hauled you before the House Un-American Activities Committee and asked you these questions. It didn’t really matter what you said because they already had you based on some meeting you’d been to or someone you’d been associating with.
But then they asked you who else was there, who your friends are, who influenced you, and so on. They wanted you to name names. It was the worst thing you could do, and yet there wasn’t much point in refusing. If you refused to answer, you would go to jail for contempt of congress and you’d lose your job and become a pariah. If you answered, you’d be shamed, lose your job and become a pariah, but, hopefully, not go to jail. You were blacklisted either way. And they already knew the names you were naming.
Describing the times years later, Arthur Miller said,
It was a ritual of humiliation – conspiracy was the name for all opposition. And the reformation of the accused could only be believed when he gave up the names of his co-conspirators. Only this ritual of humiliation, the breaking of pride and independence, could win the accused readmission into the community
In today’s terms, the country had been delivered into the hands of the radical right, a ministry of free-floating apprehension toward anything that never happens in the middle of Missouri. It is always with us, this anxiety, sometimes directed towards foreigners, Jews, Catholics, fluoridated water, aliens in space, masturbation, homosexuality, or the Internal Revenue Department. But in the 50s any of these could be validated as real threats by rolling out a map of China. And if this seems crazy now, it seemed just as crazy then, but openly doubting it could cost you.
Sounds like a lot things happening today. But naming names of scientists? Was this a thing back then?
Not then, no. But it is now. From a piece in the Christian Science Monitor:
Donald Trump’s transition team has sent a list of 74 questions to the Energy Department (DOE), asking, among other things, for the identity of all employees and contractors involved in international climate meetings and domestic attempts to cut carbon emissions.
The questionnaire specifically asked for the names of all DOE employees who attended the United Nation’s annual climate talks for the past five years, employees who helped develop the President Obama’s social cost of carbon metrics, and which programs are essential to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
All of which raises concerns that Trump’s administration will target employees involved in Obama-era policies that the president-elect spent his campaign promising to dismantle, including the Paris Climate Agreement, Clean Power Plan, and various other DOE and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.
“This feels like the first draft of an eventual political enemies list,” said a Department of Energy employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal by the Trump transition team, told Reuters. “When Donald Trump said he wanted to drain the swamp it apparently was just to make room for witch hunts and it’s starting here at the DOE and our 17 national labs.”
The Republican Party has been the anti-science voice of America for a long time now. They’ve opposed stem cell research, put forward “creationist” curricula in schools, and some have even opposed vaccination. And, of course, they’ve advanced the notion of climate change as a left-wing hoax.
So far, scientists themselves have not been sanctioned for their work. So far.