Saturday, December 17, 2016

When The First Amendment Is Revoked

A troubling development has surfaced in the preparations being made by the Trump team to seize the White House which they "won" in a rigged election this past November.  It appears that the Trump team issued a list of 74 questions to Department of Energy personnel, asking them to identify which employees and contractors worked on climate change initiatives under President Obama.  Among the items in the questionnaire are the following:
  • "Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings?  Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation or as a result of those meetings?"
  • "Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change)) in the last five years?"
  • "Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?"
  • "Can you provide a list of the top twenty salaried employees of the lab, with total remuneration and the portion funded by DOE?"
  • "Can you provide a list of current professional society memberships of lab staff?"
  • "Can you provide a list of all other positions currently held by lab staff, paid and unpaid, including faculties, boards, and consultancies?"

These questions are being asked by the transition team of a President-elect who has vowed to dismantle Obama's climate action policies and who has publicly said that "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."  It is therefore understandable that the scientists in the Department of Energy are looking at the questionnaire from the incoming Administration in the same way that a flock of chickens might look at a fox who is asking for each chicken's name and address.

However, the point of my post today is not to argue whether climate change is real, or whether, if real, it is being caused by human activity.  (On these two points, the science is indisputable.  As to the consequences we are now reaping, see this, this, and this for instance.)  My point is, rather, whether the scientists who are seeking to do objective, fact-based work at the DOE have good reason to be worried about what a hostile incoming Administration might try to do to them.  For it is well known that Donald Trump is a classic narcissist, and we can also be reasonably certain that most of his inner circle shares his disease.  One of the rules for survival in proximity to a narcissist is this: Don't ever disagree with him.  If you break that rule, be prepared for retaliation.  And if the narcissist not only controls your employment, but also knows all your professional associations and positions held outside of your regular employment, he can majorly ruin your chances of finding any kind of employment in your particular field.  There are many stories around just now of people whose careers were ruined by narcissists or bullies. 

So it will be interesting to see how dissenting scientists fare in the DOE under a Trump administration.  That will tell us how the Trump administration will respond to dissent in general.  Early reports are not encouraging, as seen here, here and here, for example.  I think that it is very likely that we will have to endure an extremely thin-skinned President who is determined to live in the narcissistic bubble of his own fantasy, a President who will explode in narcissistic rage at any fact, reality or person who dares to burst that bubble.  He will be Nixon on steroids.

And for that reason, I think it is prudent for those of us who will have to live under such a President to consider two of Gene Sharp's Methods of Nonviolent Action (from his book How Nonviolent Struggle Works), under the heading of Social Intervention: creating alternative social institutions, and creating alternative communication systems.  What is more, these alternative social institutions and alternative communication networks must be tough, survivable, and able to function even when they are denied access to the resources available to official institutions and communication networks.  It might be a very good idea to ask how you would form a network of people you can rely on when your power to form networks is being interdicted by the State.  It might be a good idea to ask how you can communicate with a wider audience or an audience spread over a wide geographic area when you can't use Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Blogger, or any other electronic Web-based social media - either because access to these media is denied, or because dissenters who try to use them might wind up getting arrested.  Message in a bottle, anyone?

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