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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/30/13

Sabotaging Climate Struggle--Eric Zuesse as Neville Chamberlain

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(Article changed on December 31, 2013 at 08:10)

In the climate-action alphabet, whoever says A must say B. Or to restate climate matters in ethical terms, whoever wills the end must will the necessary means. So if the window for effective climate action is narrow and getting ever narrower--and if the politics is almost hopeless--whoever wishes to save the climate must be willing to take desperate political measures. If you care about saving a humanly livable climate, endless other animal species--and, quite likely, human civilization itself--let the urgency of desperate political action imbue every brain cell and seep into every pore. It's the basis of everything I'm about to say.

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My proposed climate-battle plan involves desperate action. Average citizens of prosperous Western nations--even average "adrenaline junkies"--have scarcely a grain of appetite for desperate action. After all, the very purpose of prosperous, civilized societies was to eliminate the need for desperate action from most people's lives. But when such societies risk imminent destruction--as all of Western Europe did from Hitler's Germany in World War II--it's time to crank up your atrophied "fight or flight" response and get busy. And to repudiate those--as Churchill repudiated Neville Chamberlain--who undermine battle plans and assure us "business as usual" will serve us just fine. Too much of human nature is on the side of lazy complacency for its seducers' blandishments not to prove extremely dangerous in societal crises. Before proceeding to my battle plan, I must warn against the seductions of a powerful, determined saboteur of desperation strategies like mine who has emerged at OpEdNews: "investigative historian" Eric Zuesse.

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In my previous OEN article, "Only Climate-Action Tea Party Can Reform Dems" (, I introduced the concept of a climate-action Tea Party (whose strategy I'll elaborate in an upcoming OEN article). But I first analyzed Zuesse's article breaking news of Elizabeth Warren's first act of climate righteousness, for I felt he unnecessarily smuggled a highly debatable personal agenda, promoting the electoral fortunes of "progressive" Democrats--even if unreformed climate slouches--into a highly important news piece for progressives invested, like me, in climate action. If I stop to update my criticism of Zuesse, it's because I believe his subsequent article, "Global Warming Is Rapidly Accelerating" (, sheds penetrating light on his real agenda. In his favoring of "progressive" Democrat fortunes over climate action, he clearly has an ax to grind--and given his unprovoked nastiness toward Democratic Party skeptics in article comments--he's very ready to plunge it into engaged climate activists' necks. Especially if our "battle plans" in any way threaten Democrats.

To be blunt, the evidence from Zuesse's articles strongly suggests (1) he has utterly given up on climate action himself but (2) he exaggerates the climate virtue of a progressive like Elizabeth Warren because--though he's despaired of effective climate action himself--he wishes to herd those of us naïve to still believe there's hope into the Democratic Party, where it's very questionable we belong. To which I add (3): that he publishes articles promoting near-despair on climate because he wants no one to maintain enough hope to seek effective action--which would involve calling out Democrats. 

If I spend so much valuable space exposing Zuesse's agenda, it's because it's a sneaky, subtle, dishonest one--ably pursued by an intelligent, capable writer of genuine investigative talent. In fact, it's Zuesse's very plausible pose of objectivity--based on real investigative gifts gone wrong--that makes him so dangerous a Democratic Party flack. So dangerous, in fact, that exposing him necessarily became part of a battle plan--soon to be covered in more detail--that he'd otherwise surreptitiously undermine and destroy.  

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If I accuse Zuesse of dishonesty, it's precisely because of his intelligence and ability, which I initially thought would make him an effective climate-action ally. Given how well he sees--sees, for example, the desperateness of the climate issue or sees through the regressive phoniness of Obama or Hillary Clinton--I don't think his failure to do what's needed on climate ("whoever says A must say B") is based on any mistake of fact or logic. And if he, like my former-activist wife, has merely given up on climate, based on the narrow and vanishing window for action and the sheer horror of the politics (which includes the criminal climate irresponsibility of Democrats), that's a position I can understand and intellectually respect. Granted, I probably wouldn't adopt it myself, since, if any real hope remains, surrender to hopelessness is merely a self-fulfilling, world-condemning prophecy.

But I can fully understand the sense that a fight is so desperately uphill that it's no longer worth one's personal effort; in fact, if I can't mobilize urgent climate action by my writings, that is the stance I will take myself. But Zuesse's article on global-warming acceleration, forcefully sketching the grimness of the situation with no call for heroic, crisis-level activism, merely suggests the attitude of someone who has despaired. And who therefore has no right to package Warren's first tentative pro-climate step as a panacea for our climate ills. Will the real Eric Zuesse please stand up? Based on his willingness to elevate Democrat Elizabeth Warren to climate sainthood on so little evidence (especially given the deplorable climate slouchiness of the party she belongs to) and his unprovoked personal nastiness toward us  who'd hold Dems responsible for their climate (and other progressive) failings, I'd say the real  Eric Zuesse is the shill for "progressive" Democrats.

If I put "progressive" before "Democrats" in scare quotes, meaning I don't mean the label to be taken at face value, it marks my vast difference in perception from Eric Zuesse--a difference from him I share with numerous top-notch progressive intellectuals. Namely, that rank-and-file Democrat pols are hunky-dory, and the only problem is some bad apples among the leadership. Now, among the progressive luminaries who'd differ with Zuesse on that perception are heavy hitters like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, and Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz; their lesser-known but still-respectable company includes such writers and activists as John Stauber, founder of the Center for Media and Democracy, or black leftist writers and journalists like Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, or Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report. Or pick virtually any writer for Counterpunch, or almost any guest (many of them respected economists) on Paul Jay's Real News Network or Amy Goodman's Democracy Now. Yet Zuesse has the trick, based on a combo of know-it-all arrogance and genuine investigative skill, of acting as if his position is the only one anyone with half a brain could dream of holding. Which made me a tad perturbed when Zuesse, in a comment to his Warren article, pontifically dismissed as "nonsense" or "foolish" viewpoints I share with most of the luminaries named here. One would think an "investigative historian" would have taken the trouble to investigate opinions shared by top minds on the intellectual left. Or do they not count because they're not Democrats?

That Zuesse dismisses--or utterly ignores--widely shared progressive opinion so breezily is a further hint to me he's not playing an honest game. As is the fact that his supposedly hunky-dory Democratic Party elevates as top leaders the likes of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Dianne Feinstein, or marched in virtual lockstep with Bush's liberty-crushing Patriot Act and criminal Iraq war. To say nothing of Obama's assaults on civil liberties,  bank regulation,   the social safety net, a free press, transparent government and trade treaties, and international law. Or, most relevantly here, on global-climate agreements. That Democrats at minimum tolerated all of these assaults on progressive values--and that many of them, like the crushing of Occupy Wall Street, happened on Obama's watch--is the reason a vast sector of progressive opinion does not find the remedy to all our ills in merely electing "progressive" Democrats. Rather than breezily, arrogantly dismissing--or utterly ignoring--that sector, Zuesse, if he means to be intellectually honest, should feel he bears a heavy burden of proof in facing and rebutting its arguments.

And never are those arguments stronger than when it comes to climate change, where the last thing we should be doing is consecrating first-time climate activists like Warren as climate saints. On the contrary, so bad are Democrats on climate--and, even on Zuesse's own showing, so corruptly are Dem leaders like Hillary yoked to fossil fuels--that I feel we need a climate- action Tea Party to reform them. And in my next OEN article, I'll lay out a full strategic battle plan for that climate Tea Party. But first I had to discredit seductive underminer Zuesse, the climate-action Neville Chamberlain who'd urge us not to do battle with Democrats at all.

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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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