There are so many lies being churned out by the ultra-right corporate propaganda machine. It is difficult to separate fact from fiction. The Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, said the more often you lie and the bigger the lie, the easier it is to get people to believe.
With “climate-gate,” the ultra-right seized on some email improprieties by several leading climatologists to further their ends (financed by big oil) to discredit the global warning models agreed to by the overwhelming majority of scientists concerned with the matter.
There is huge potential financial loss for some involved in the shift away from fossil fuels to a more green economy. And, of course, the nuclear power industry has tried to weasel in on the green label, to get their share of the money to be made on the shift.
So what is a worker to do, to wade through all this baloney?
An old Marxist organizer named Daniel DeLeon, active from the late 1800s up to just before World War I, gave an interesting stump speech when developing Marxist analytical skills among working people. He called it “the elephant and the blind men.”
DeLeon’s message to workers was that the truth of a situation or development can be understood by the fable of the five blind men and the elephant. The first blind man grabbed the elephant’s trunk and said, “The elephant is like a snake,” and he sat down. The second blind man grabbed the elephant’s tail and said, “The elephant is like a whip,” and he sat down. The third blind man grabbed the elephant’s leg and said, “The elephant is like a great tree trunk,” and he sat down. The fourth blind man grabbed the elephant’s ear and said, “The elephant is like a large wing,” and he sat down. The fifth blind man touched the elephant’s side and said, “The elephant is like a great wall,” and he sat down.
Each of the five blind men spoke the truth as they felt it. Getting ideas solely from individual experience sometimes can amount to this.
Theory is often times understood in American culture as just any old wild unproven idea. So, ultra-rightist demagogues can say, “The theory of global warning is just a theory or the theory of evolution is just a theory. It’s not fact.”
Marxism shows working people who study it that theory is in fact the careful summary of large amounts of experience and observation from different perspectives, summarized and consistently tested and retested and then reconfigured when new information is gathered. This outlook is reflected in all forms of genuine scientific search for truth. It is part of what is referred to “as the scientific method.”
If one of the blind men in DeLeon’s fable was a Marxist organizer, he would get everyone together, summarize the experience of all perspectives, and search out others who had contact with elephants, then gone to the library and studied the scientific literature about elephants, and without denying the truthful experience of each individual’s contact with the elephants, summarized all the other experience and study together, to form an idea of the truth about elephants. Then he would be open to new information that would add to, modify, or update this body of thought. Only then could he say he had “a theory of elephants.”
A common experience of many working people in our society is having been lied to by people in authority. I can still remember the ad in an old Life magazine from the 1930s that showed a medical doctor smoking a cigarette, and the ad said, “More doctors recommend Chesterfield cigarettes than any other brand. They promote relaxation.”
My dad who was shot in the chest in combat in World War II-this wound destroyed one of his lungs-still smoked two and a half packs of cigarettes a day for years after World War II, shortening his life.
Images such as a doctors recommending cigarettes from the advertising industry, linking science and product development, has gone a long way towards discrediting the scientific method amongst working people. It’s not surprising that a common working-class saying is “ideas are like (name your favorite body part); everyone’s got one.”
The theory of evolution was described in a lunchroom discussion, that I was a part of, as another “one of those goofy theories dreamed up by some egg-head whose never done an honest day’s work in his entire life. The Bible’s where the truth is at. End of story.”
Global warming theory was described to me by another fellow worker “as another liberal idea that will make our country weak, and besides, they said on the radio that oil is being created all the time so all this crap about us running out of oil is just that.”
The battle for scientific thought against reactionary ideas goes back hundreds of years. Galileo was put on trial for saying the earth revolved around the sun. A witch hunt is being organized by the ultra right against all scientific thought that doesn’t fit their agenda.
Within the working class movement, we must struggle for the scientific method. Ultra-right ideas are fertilized and grow in the absence of the scientific approach to the truth.
I won a fellow worker over to openness to the theory of evolution by explaining to him the reason why his ill son kept having to change antibiotics was because antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria were evolving constantly and the theory of evolution is the only way of understanding this, so that the doctors can search for the medicine that will help your child.
“Climate-gate” is an ideological diversion to distract people from the overwhelming evidence that global warming is here; it is real, affecting all of us and must be dealt with.
The Blue-Green Alliance is a developing coalition of labor and environmentalists around the country, begun by the United Steel Workers and the Sierra Club, dealing on a positive political level with global warming. Look the Blue-Green Alliance up, get involved, and defeat the ultra-right in the November elections, and keep doing your science homework. It’s a matter of saving the planet.