Mr. Orwell Comes to Virginia


    Cross-posted at Daily Kos

    “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” — George Orwell, 1984

    You know a political movement is desperate to maintain control of the debate when it starts banning language itself.  And so my jaw dropped when I saw the following in the Virginian-Pilot:

    State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who insisted on changing the “sea level rise” study in the General Assembly to one on “recurrent flooding,” said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether.

    He said “sea level rise” is a “left-wing term” that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation?

    “What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door,” Stolle said. “Let’s focus on that. Let’s study that. So that’s what I wanted us to call it.”

    Wow.  Just wow.  Since when did “sea level rise” become a “left-wing term”?

    As far as I can tell, sea level rise is an observable phenomenon, meaning that you either measure and observe it or you don’t.  It’s like gravity or rain or sunrise — you can prove and demonstrate the effect happening by resorting to basic scientific methods.  Ideology, religion, and political party have nothing to do with it — it’s about the truth, plain and simple.

    In fact, sea level rise has been measured worldwide and yes, it has been correlated with melting ice caps and expanding oceans due to global warming.  And this has been shown to be a very real threat to Norfolk, as documented in a recent episode of PBS’s Need to Know.  This fact was also confirmed in a recent Hampton Roads forum by Kathryn Sullivan, an assistant secretary of commerce and deputy administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    What you do about that truth is a political choice — but on that basis, the Republicans and Democrats in Virginia were in agreement at least on studying the serious threat of increased flooding in the Hampton Roads area.

    So why condemn a generic, accurate, measurable term like “sea level rise” as “left-wing”?  The only reason could be to stifle debate, to make sure that opinions that some powerful interests don’t want to hear are fully suppressed.  (Powerful interests like the oil-rich Koch Brothers perhaps? — i.e., the primary funders of the Tea Party groups agitating against rational action on climate change.)

    As Orwell showed so brilliantly, the destruction of language and of democracy go hand in hand.  So let’s not let the right get away with banning perfectly accurate terms from the debate, or trying to make scientific results disappear with a wave of the magic wand.  They are entitled to their opinions about how to proceed politically, but they are not entitled to force our political system into the straitjacket of an alternate reality.  


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