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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/18/14

Frankly, Koch Brothers Deserve the Death Penalty

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In several OpEdNews articles (most recently here ), I've proposed a climate-action version of the infamous right-wing Tea Party.

Now a Tea Party, even in its 1760s Boston incarnation, is essentially radical, conceived as a wake-up call about--and outraged protest against--an intolerable status quo. And "radical" implies a willingness to do things one's unawakened fellow citizens consider extreme, like, in the present case, threatening Democrats with destroying their 2016 electoral prospects if they don't pass the Climate Protection Act. But radical, in its Latin origins, also evokes a readiness to strike at an evil's roots instead of, as Thoreau puts it, hacking at the branches."  

David Koch & Charles Koch - The Koch Clowns (except crimes against humanity aren't funny)
David Koch & Charles Koch - The Koch Clowns (except crimes against humanity aren't funny)
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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Yet clearly, there's close linkage between political radicals' willingness to do and say things that shock fellow citizens and our pronounced bent for attacking the roots of societal crises. Confronting one's compatriots with r oot emergencies they're, at best, dimly aware of, is a guaranteed recipe for shock. To cite the most relevant case, perceiving our current age as primarily a time of impending global climate catastrophe triggers vastly different attitudes and behavior from either (1) denying the problem exists or (2) admitting it and vaguely, stupidly, hoping all will be well. The two predominant climate stances of Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Radicals view our current world in--shall we say?-- radically different terms; and climate radicals are presently America's "only adults in the room." Naturally, our spoilsport temper outbursts to impose climate discipline ("before you hurt yourselves") are going to shock America's heedlessly playing kids.

Now, today's U.S.A. is such an ungodly mess, teetering on the brink of explosive social unrest likely to be crushed with police-state brutality (Chris Hedges is the prophet we should heed), that radicals face an embarrassingly large "menu" of social emergencies. If I focus obsessively on climate change, it's because it features the shortest timetable. If we don't act--and act radically-- in the next few years, we can likely kiss a livable climate (and humanity with it) goodbye within the next century. Consider me a nut case, but I think that's an outcome we should be striving heroically to avoid. There are numerous fiascoes--lack of democracy, unemployment, economic inequality, political corruption, warmongering, racial profiling, universal surveillance, plutocrat-serving media--that could reasonably claim the full-time efforts of any radical. But if we don't prioritize climate, all these crises may well be resolved by this century's end. Why? Because the "sapient" mammals now facing them will simply be extinct.

So if we wish to solve global warming, we must prioritize global warming, at least for the time being. It differs--again radically-- from  our other urgent problems because the laws of science itself impose a rigorous action timetable. (Just consider, as distinguished expert evidence for my claims, this just-leaked draft report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: here

Anyone who grasps humanity's impending climate curtain call will instantly "grok" the moral leprosy of denial-funding criminals like the Kochs. Since their unspeakable crime hardly bears a name--should we call it humanicide?-- they richly deserve mention in the same horrified breath as "mere" genocidal demons like Hitler, Stalin, Suharto, and Pol Pot. And arguably worse, because they conspire to murder not just the entire human race, but most animal species along with it. Yet this radically evil crime against most sentient beings doesn't even have a name, and is subject of no law on the books. If ever humanity's outraged sense of justice cried out to heaven, "There ought to be a law," this should be the case. And the assigned punishment should be death--or the worst penalty the law allows.

So a climate Tea Party, faithful to its radicalism, should demand criminalization of funding climate-change denial, sanctioned by the severest penalties--including possibly death--the law allows. And yes, I understand this view will shock most Americans' moral sensibilities--it's expressly meant to -- and perhaps overly worry ACLU types legitimately concerned about free speech.

If most Americans are shocked, I think it's because they've simply (and slavishly) grown used to laws bereft of any clear connection to the common good. Or, if laws promoting the common good do exist, they're almost never enforced against the rich and powerful, no matter how egregious their crimes. 

So it's shocking to visualize the death penalty (or life imprisonment) for the Kochs, just as it's shocking to picture either for the heinous war criminals of the George W. Bush administration. Yet a true radical sees that laws--and their enforcement--exist to serve the common good, and that any nation where mass murderers like Bush and his neocon cronies or the Koch brothers walk the streets, let alone prosper, is a nation so unjust it bears within the seeds of its own destruction. Tragically, in the Kochs' case, that self-destruction will likely drag the whole human race in its wake. A people who can't fathom how criminal that is deserves to be shocked.

The ACLU types defending free speech merit, by contrast, a far more respectful answer. I find the perfect materials for constructing that answer in Tom Engelhardt's excellent editorial, "The Pyromaniacs Arrive With Blowtorches on Planet Earth," which I read on the Common Dreams website ( here).

 In pointing to humanity's lunacy in the face of climate change, Engelhardt writes, "To adapt that classic example of free speech limits, imagine that a vast crew of scientists is now continually yelling 'Fire!' in the global movie theater and, as a result, more pyromaniacs with blowtorches are arriving all the time."

Exactly--and Engelhardt's citation of the time-honored free-speech test case of yelling fire in a crowded theater perfectly fits my case. If yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater is not protected speech, why should the moral leprosy of spending megabucks to mislead fellow citizens about humanity's encroaching preventable climate apocalypse be any better protected by law? We're not talking about the ignoramus denialist rants of some wing-nut jacked up on Fox News; these, of course, would remain protected speech. As would the views of credentialed "outlier" scientists, arguing their last-ditch global-warming skepticism for qualified colleagues in peer-reviewed journals.

I mean to target, rather, the large-budget financing, by funders exhibiting negligible  competence in climate-science prerequisites (like physics, chemistry, oceanography, and mathematical probability), o f public-disinformation campaigns designed to undermine that science. My point, like Engelhardt's, is that in this case the theater--a global one--really is on fire, and that the Kochs are like murderous psychopaths who knowingly misinform firefighters and other rescue workers that there is no fire, or otherwise willfully obstruct all help from reaching the conflagration. Billionaires' criminal assaults on the deeply confirmed science information free Americans desperately need for responsible citizenship should not be tolerated; instead, they should be punished by the severest penalties available under law. And perhaps under the "crimes against humanity" statutes of international law. For the prospective consequences are worse than genocide.

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Patrick Walker is co-founder of Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP) and the Bernie or Bust movement it spawned. Before that, he cut his activist teeth with the anti-fracking and Occupy Scranton PA movements. No longer with RAP, he wields his pen (more...)

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