Cooch vs. UVA: The Logic of Tyranny


    Cross posted at Daily Kos

    Ken Cuccinelli’s latest filing in his legal witchhunt against the University of Virginia is a genuinely Orwellian demonstration of how to bend reality to fit the needs of one’s ideology.  Cooch’s “logic” here is chillingly similar to the reasoning of totalitarian leaders who, confronted with facts that challenge their power, simply declare war against reality and logic altogether.

    Here are a few examples:

    According to Cooch, the fact that repeated investigations by academic institutions around the world (like here and here) have cleared climate scientist Michael Mann of any wrongdoing – and shown “climategate” to be nothing more than a right wing hoax – actually proves that Prof. Mann must be guilty:

    Ironically, the various investigations of Mann and other climate scientists cited by the university in its brief and various other similar investigations simply augment the already sufficient evidence to warrant an investigation. It is truly the university’s position that none of those investigations were warranted and all of the groups cited acted without any reasonable basis in fact? If not, the very existence of those investigations reinforces the conclusion that there is sufficient basis for the attorney general to have issued the CIDs in the instant case. That some of the investigations cited have been completed and have allegedly ‘cleared’ Mann does not alter the analysis.


    In other words, the fact that investigations were conducted proves the need for more investigation!  This reminds me of the position of certain traditional cultures that because a woman was raped, therefore she must be a slut.  It is the bullying technique politely known as “blaming the victim”, one used to belittle the victim in the hope that he or she will be too intimidated to fight back. In fact, Mann has been investigated because the right wing noise machine, with ample funding from the fossil fuel industry, has been so effective at smearing him – and the fact that legitimate investigations have not found one shred of actual evidence against him is most certainly significant.

    Here’s another doozy.  Cooch says that Professor Mann had a clear motive to commit “fraud” in his climate change research – money!:

    … Because neither the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] nor governmental grants to climate scientists would likely continue were it to be determined that man-made global warming was not a serious threat, potential conflicts of interest flow predominantly in one direction.

    Now, work with me on this one – Michael Mann is a college professor.  If he were so desperate to get rich, might he not have chosen a more, um, Republican profession, perhaps?  Like stockbroker, or defense contractor – or perhaps hired gun to the fossil fuel industry, like the scientists upon whose work Mr. Cuccinelli’s slender case rests?

    No, according to Cooch, the fact that Prof. Mann may gain future grants if he identifies evidence of climate change is itself reason to investigate him.  On this basis, how many of our academics deserve similar subpoenas?  Just for the heck of it, let’s think about some of the right wing academics who may merit such investigation based on this precedent.  Might conservative researchers finding proof of the value of gun ownership deserve to be investigated because their research could win them grants from the NRA and gun manufacturers?  How about economists demonstrating that free trade is a win-win proposition for everyone – think about the funding they could receive from grateful multinational corporations.  

    If you follow Cooch’s train of thought here, then there is a sizable portion of the academic community that deserves to have prosecutors breathing down their necks.

    Okay, one more – the state’s top legal advocate claims, chillingly, that “neither the First Amendment nor concepts of academic freedom shield the information sought in the CIDs [civil investigative demands] from review by the Attorney General.”  Why? Because

    …the First Amendment…offers no protections for things that fall outside of the protections of the First Amendment – such as fraud and fraud investigations…

    So if you are a powerful official who wants to shut down a professor conducting politically inconvenient research, you have a convenient way to protect yourself from charges of assaulting academic freedom.  Just claim that his research constitutes “fraud” and get the ball rolling to prosecute him for it.  And suddenly, magically, you’re freed of the constraints of the First Amendment.  

    Indeed, Cooch in this filing demonstrates his belief that he is free, not only from the constraints of law, but also those of logic, common sense, reality and – last but not least – decency.  This is not the freedom of an official acting within the bounds of a Constitutional democracy, but the license of a tyrant who believes he can do or say whatever he pleases, all in pursuit of his ideology and self-aggrandizement.  It is simply stunning to find such a display here in the state where George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison defined America’s Bill of Rights – and particularly to see Jefferson’s university under attack simply for asserting the most sacred of those rights.  

    Cooch’s perceived freedom to act as an all-powerful government official is a threat to your freedom and mine.  Our freedoms now rest in the hands of the court that shall decide whether the First Amendment is still worth the paper upon which it is written.

    For more on UVA v. Cuccinelli, check out the Charlottesville Daily Progress’s superb coverage, with links to all the briefs both sides have filed in this case.


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