Friday, February 1, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does Trofim Lysensko

Lone Ranger: Hmm.... We’re surrounded by hostile Sioux Indians. Looks like we are done for, Tonto.

 Tonto:  Wadya mean, “we,” Kimosabe?

From: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. House of Representatives

To Microsoft, Google, Facebook Execs.

Dear Mr. Nadella, Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Pichai:
We are writing to you today in light of the important role that your companies play as we prepare to take comprehensive action on climate change…we were deeply disappointed to see that your companies were high-level sponsors of a conference this month in Washington D.C., known as LibertyCon, that included a session denying established science on climate change.

So, you think that a grammatical subject-matter like the rhetorical function of personal pronouns is the high end of boring and inconsequential. Well, think again, as we follow the trail of the “we” in Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s dispatch to three of the biggest Mr. Bigs in the information-tech industry.

We are writing to you ….  as we prepare to take comprehensive action …. [and] we were deeply disappointed to see that your companies…” etc.  Note the ominous direction: from “we’re just communicating with you, to we’re about to do something very important, to we’re real disappointed because it looks like you are standing in our way by supporting a bunch of reactionaries we don’t like.” Sounds pretty threatening to me, and from someone sitting in the U.S. Congress. Just who is this “we” rapping the knuckles of a Big Enchilada like Zuckerberg? Well, it’s the latest social media sensation, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in good Commissar fashion is wielding the “moral-we,” now one of the virtue-signaling Boss-ladies in the Capital city who knows what is best for us all. It is also an up-and-coming “we” of momentum and power, a bold “we” that takes “comprehensive action” and lets the bigshots who throw their money around know that they’ve been a big disappointment.

Obama some time back set the bar very high for the effective use of the “moral-we.” From the Obama’s 2008 campaign: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Ignoring the disturbing pathological elements in this concoction, if you were hoping for some semblance of genuine humility in this young generation of “leaders,” and if arrogance, unbounded self-regard and immaturity put you off, these know-it-all “we’s” who seem to be running the show are just getting started. There will be many more suspects to fuel their deep disappointment, and they will make life miserable for anyone who fails to recognize their superior virtue and doesn’t snap to.  As Bob Dylan once sang: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

So, we stagger bewilderedly into increasingly muddled times where, for example, the ruling Triumvirate of the tech-media world will likely go wobbly to learn that they had “deeply disappointed” a twenty-nine year old Puerto Rican ex-waitress with a few weeks of seniority in the U.S. House of Representatives and a round of talk show appearances where she recently said she said she gives “zero fucks” about criticism she’s received from members of her own party. This is now how one is supposed to speak “truth to power.”

It’s beyond distressing to see someone like this taken seriously, and the works of Karl Marx, of all people, might be taped to provide some insight into this mess. Surveying his own tumultuous times, he wrote, history repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce.” This apothegm was from his essay, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. Tragedy reappears throughout the course of history as farce. The farce that Marx was contemplating was the French coup of 1851 by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, a repeat of the seizure of power by his uncle, Napoléon Bonaparte in 1799 and the tragic consequences of his despotism.

Fast forward to the present, if you will, and attempt to comprehend the unfolding of the latest tragedy-as-farce in the person of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.  An instant celebrity and the darling and future of the Democrat party, it seems, she has stepped into a starring role on the political stage as the Queen of Farce. From News Week: “Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat from New York, called climate change “our World War II” and warned that the world will end in 12 years if we don’t address global warming on Monday [January 21, 2119]. During an interview Monday at the MLK Now event at Riverside Church in New York with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ocasio-Cortez argued that global warming needs to be addressed immediately to avoid the end of human existence.” 

Note, of course, the predictable scolding “if we don’t address climate change...” But this is a different “we” at work than the moral-we in her memo citied above. This is a fake one overloaded with apocalyptic hyperbole, adolescent bombast and wild hallucinations. You see, she sees herself in charge now, rescuing the world, only twelve years away from oblivion, calling the shots – the Commander in “our World War II.” And the “we” in this outpouring of mental incontinence is actually “us,” those of us who she wants to salute her, take orders, bear the cost, conform to the mountains of rules, regulations and dictates that she wants to cascade down upon us, and suffer the horrific unintended consequences that follow from the whims, fantasies and dictates of an ignoramus who has suddenly found herself with lots of power and showered with attention.

Ocasio-Cortez has with much encouragement risen quickly to become our very own Trofim Lysenko, an ambitious charlatan who led the wreckage of biological science in the Soviet Union along with the ruined lives of many distinguished scientists. Lysenko was a quack agronomist whose theory of environmentally acquired inheritance was, by the man who ran the USSR, eagerly turned into the “established science” that would be career-ending, not to mention physically hazardous, for those in the biological sciences to “deny.” “He [Lyskenko] had no postgraduate  training or higher degree, no formal claim to the title of scientist, yet he aspired to the theoretical heights from which, as he told a Pravda correspondent in 1927, practical problems could be solved by a few calculations ‘on a little old scrap of paper.’” (David Jorasky, The Lysenko Affair, University of Chicago Press, 1970, 189)  

Lysenko’s astounding success was due to his skill in bending his “scientific research” into findings that greatly pleased Stalin, whose authority in all matters of importance – art, history, music, philosophy, sociology, economics and, yes, science, was supreme and unquestionable. The science of genetics that the ignorant Lysenko overturned pointed its researchers toward conclusions that were, unfortunately for the geneticists, incompatible with Stalin’s insights into how any part of the world (social or physical) actually worked. Marx had laid the theoretical groundwork for it all: Stalin fleshed out the details and perfected its applications. Pointing out flaws in any of it, shall we say, was not a prudent decision. The real scientists who noted Lysenko’s deficiencies were also casting shadows over Stalin’s jealously guarded shield of infallibility and were dispatched to the work camps. Lysenko, with Stalin’s imprimatur, shutdown scientific debate and research in much of the life sciences, including genetics, wrecked Soviet agriculture, and put biology in the Soviet Union into a thirty-year deep freeze.

Like Lysenko, Ocasio-Cortez is a science-ignoramus (more on that below) who uses her political leverage, as we see with her memo cited above, to control what scientists get to talk about and to demonize critics. Hence the label “climate change deniers” which is intended to carry the same de-legitimizing stigmatism as “Holocaust-deniers.” “Deniers” are moral-lepers who in Stalin’s reign got shot or sent to the Gulag. In the soft-totalitarianism that now envelops us, “deniers” are shut-out of the conversations and the institutions, their careers destroyed and characters assassinated. Thus, we see Ocasio-Cortez putting the “deniers” in her cross-hairs.  “[W]e were deeply disappointed to see that your companies were high-level sponsors of a conference … that included a session denying established science on climate change.” Representative Ocasio-Cortez, like Lysenko and the CPSU bosses in earlier times, thinks she should decide who the real scientists are.

It seems to me that the obvious question Messrs Nadella, Zuckerberg and Pichai, the subjects of Ocasio-Cortez’s disappointment, should be asking themselves is: does this woman have the remotest understanding of what the “established science of climate change” is? And, does “established science” ever change? And, finally, is there some good reason she should be dictating the sponsorships of science conventions in any case? The answer to the first question is not a secret. Her formal education consists of a BA degree in economics and international relations from Boston University.  From Wikipedia here is her post-college professional experience:

After college, Ocasio-Cortez worked as a bartender in Manhattan and as a waitress in a taqueria. Her mother, meanwhile, cleaned houses and drove school buses. She launched Brook Avenue Press, a publishing firm for books that portray the Bronx in a positive light. She worked as lead educational strategist at GAGEis, Inc; for the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute (NHI), and served as NHI's Educational Director of the 2017 Northeast Collegiate World Series, a five-day long program targeted at college-bound high school students from across the United States and other countries, where she participated in a panel on Latino leadership.

It is safe to say that her knowledge and theoretical expertise in the area of “climate science” would likely rival her mastery of cardiology, cartography or civil engineering.  Would anyone trust her to design a bridge, construct a map, or read an EKG?  Given what we have seen from her so far, self-promotion seems to be her singular talent, and she shouldn’t be trusted to do much of anything. Here, sadly then is Lysenkoism, twenty-first century style, featuring a blustering, know-nothing egomaniac, threatening the end of the world, like some street-corner crackpot, demanding control over the agendas of scientific gatherings and threatening business executives. This is as about a nightmarish display of arrogance married to ignorance as one can imagine. Like all ideologues, Ocasio-Cortez’s beliefs are absolute and impregnable, only confirmation is permitted. Doubt is heresy and heretics get punished. The Stalinist in Russia shot them; the Stalinists in the U.S. smear them. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in quest of heretics is proselytizing for her religion under the guise of science. As a waitress, nobody needed to pay attention to her; as a United States Representative, with a large following, she is a very frightening woman. That she is taken seriously by so many, particularly, young people, is a signal that the bad times are getting worse. When does the farce turn into a tragedy?

1 comment: