Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
Latest posts by Jim Lakely (see all)
By this evening, a total of 19 Democrats, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, will have taken to the floor of the United States Senate to attack the free speech rights of individual and organizations that disagree with the government dogma on the causes and consequences of global warming. Make no mistake: This is an abuse of power and an attempt to intimidate American citizens to keep quiet, and to send those who support them running scared.
It will not work.
The Heartland Institute today released a statement on this campaign, which goes by the hashtag #WebOfDenial. We’ve also been duking it out on Twitter here, here, here, here, and with many more tweets. Click here to read the release, but here’s my contribution:
“Sen. Whitehouse is, once again, abusing the power of his office to lead a coordinated attack on free speech. By singling out Heartland and other groups, Whitehouse and his allies are trying to intimidate us and our supporters into silence, but he will fail.
“Every American has the right to support the causes they believe in, even if a cabal of senators disagree. The words uttered by Sen. Whitehouse and others participating in this stunt are as un-American as they are unscientific.”
I was apparently too kind to Sheldon, even with that sharp rebuke. In a Facebook Live video — in which fewer than 30 watched live (I know, I was among them) — Whitehouse said “The Heartland Institute is about as reprehensible as you can get.” It’s a little flattering to live rent-free in a senator’s brain, but is that appropriate coming from sitting US Senator about a group of his fellow Americans? Regardless, it’s typical of Whitehouse.
All this yapping is in service to a resolution put forth by Senate Democrats — which has no chance of being voted on, let alone passed — which officially “disapproves of activities by certain corporations, trade associations, foundations, and organizations funded by those corporations” to “deliberately mislead” the public “about the dangers of their products.” As my friend Rick Henderson at the John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Journal notes, the resoultion gets worse:
Using language once associated with Red-baiting U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., the Democratic resolution also demands information from these organizations about “what they knew about climate change and when they knew that information.”
Have you now or have you ever been associated with someone who questions unscientific state dogma on the climate? Why, yes. Yes, I have. So come get me … as well as members and leaders of 22 other groups that signed a public letter today pushing back on this affront to free speech. Read the letter, and see who signed it, here. It’s also pasted below.
July 12, 2016
We, the undersigned, have long since known that you have a list—an enemies list of intellectual foes you wish to isolate. But our policy differences are not why we write. We write today with grave concern over political leadership in a time of deep national division. We write at a time when free speech and association are more important than ever in our national experiment. How will we, together, solve problems if we cannot speak? How can you lead when you refuse to listen?
You were elected by the people to build consensus and find compromise—to fiercely debate the most pressing issues of our day. Often, these debates are meant to be contentious and without a clear solution because innovation comes from great challenge. Sadly, our democracy and our freedom hangs in the balance as you use your office to bully and single out groups to blame rather than ideas to debate.
Just as you do, our civil society organizations represent many, many millions of Americans and a wide array of perspectives and interests. They deserve and increasingly demand healthy and respectful political dialogue, and well-informed, well-debated public policies. To support the debate our founders intended, all Americans have the right to support causes they believe in without fear of threats from overzealous government officials—threats paraded and perpetrated by you on the Senate floor.
The delicate balance of our democracy is preserved when all groups are free to speak in the public square, and ALL Americans should be concerned when agents of the government use their official offices to marginalize political foes.
Your enemies list groups together organizations that themselves maintain differing perspectives. While you have singled us out, labeling us as the enemy, we don’t even always agree with one another. And that’s the point: disagreement breeds solutions.
We hear you. Your threat is clear: There is a heavy and inconvenient cost to disagreeing with you. Calls for debate will be met with political retribution. That’s called tyranny. And, we reject it.
At the birth of our nation, patriots asserted their right to speech and broke British law in doing so. King George used the full force of the British crown to suppress the rebellion—to suppress speech. In spite of the tyrant’s commands and because they had put their lives on the line to defend their rights, the patriots enshrined free speech in our founding documents; the same documents that gave you your job.
In a country where you should be the patriots leading us into a great future, sadly today you are the tyrants, and we are the patriots.
It was fun sparring with the well-funded climate alarmists on social media today — especially when I leaned on the research at Heartland’s Left Exposed website, which I encourage you to browse and use as a resource of your own to push back at the eco-left. Here’s some prominent profiles to whet your appetite:
Seth Borenstein (AP propagandist reporter)
Natural Resources Defense Council
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Pew Charitable Trusts
The Hewlett Foundation
Center for American Progress
Climate Action Network
Environmental Working Group
Institute of Global Environment and Society
Union of Concerned Scientists
UPDATE 7/18: Here’s a rundown of the number of times a think tank was mentioned by the #WebOfDenial cabal … and Heartland came out on top.