Saturday, February 27, 2016

                               THE  REVOLT  OF  THE  MASSES

No one should be surpised when flagship  science journals  give claques of political activists  carte blanche  to hector their readers on the issues of the day.  Delegating  leader writing to those who share their political views has been an editorial prerogative since Newton's day. If you doubt that science remains  as much a Whig institution as it was in the days of Huxley, Haldane, Bernal, or Science For The People, behold how  Science and Nature' s  opening pages  have become an Op-Ed echo chamber for  a new Climate Establishment bent on  monopolizing the scientific conversation, by dictating  who is allowed to express themselves, and in what ways.  

Face it - the political sociology of scientific activism is an open book, and the political prejudices of  Climate Progress and The Union of Concerned Scientists are as  explicitly activist  as those of Occupy or The Southern Poverty Law Center.   Those  who question their desire to control the scientific conversation, or their reductionist view of the Precautionary Principle:
We initiate our argument with the known fact that vested interests and political agents have long opposed political or regulatory action in response to climate change by appealing to scientific uncertainty. 
We know from earlier work that uncertainty is no cause for inaction—on the contrary, greater scientific uncertainty should make us worry more, not less, about the potential consequences of climate change. "
are denounced as Anti-Science capitalist tools,  or condescendingly identified  with America’s poorer and less educated demographics, including the Republican Base.

But despite hectoring by a united front of Britons equally addicted to  Nature and The Guardian, and Americans with breakfast plates flanked by copies of both Science and The Nation, a cultural shift  is in progress on both sides of the pond:

Populism is upon us!  It used to be the lower  classes  who were constrained by convention,  while academic  freethinkers and the ruling class  got to experiment with unconventional ideas.  No longer- like the sexual revolution of the Sixties,  today’s  blogs  tweets and social media are a great leveler.  Alternative and often bizarre views  of science and politics rapidly filter down to ordinary people.

Once Wall Street trembled at what muckrakers, Shaw, and Mencken might have to say.  Now , with  political wevils like Trump drilling into an angry electorate, it’s the scientific ruling class that's looking over its shoulder.   Hidebound by political correctness, it is fearful lest raw  democracy question the climate oligarchy's  right  to frame a controversy  that continues despite  endless declarations that “the debate is over.”

Tell that to Donald Trump. People, scientists included , don’t need  permission to express  controversial views- there is no safe zone in the Climate wars, a post-modern change the hegemons of  Public Television,  The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The Nation Institute may not much like, but universal suffrage  has bound them with chains of  received opinion they themselves help forge. 

What can  bien pensant climateers  and throwbacks to the days of CND marches do in the face of the lumpenklimatariat, when nature fails to cooperate, and temperature trends sullenly refuse to follow the playbook and behave as  exponentially as modelers might wish ?  Should they volunteer  as  Trump’s science advisors ?  Go trick or treating for UNICEF?  Take over UKIP? Tell Anne Klein to lighten up?

Nick Gillespie shrewdly notes at Reason :
“America’s new elites, fancying themselves superior to the rural, the old, the religiously inclined and the rest, have increasingly turned politics into something that is done to people, for their own good, rather than by people according to their moral outlook. And then they wonder why people go looking for something else, something less sneering.
In Britain, meanwhile, the Third Wayists are losing sleep over the EU referendum, when ordinary people — including people who watch the football and wave the St George’s flag! — will get to have their say on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. What madness is this, they wonder of democracy.”

The real wonder is that so many have forgotten how much of  this election year's events  Ortega y Gasset foresaw,  years before Orwell,  in The Revolt Of The Masses, published in 1930.