Somebody Help Joe Romm

Always eager to play the guilt-by-association card, Joe Romm seizes on George Will’s latest column in yet another attempt to tar the reputations of Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of The Breakthrough Institute.

By now, it should be clear to sensible greens that Romm can’t help himself. He seems possessed by a fanatical hatred for Shellenberger and Nordhaus. How else to explain his latest broadside against S & N? He’s merely using Will’s column–which quotes snippets from their recent essay in The New Republic–as a battering ram.  The whole point of Romm’s post is to make it appear that Will and S & N are soul travelers Indeed he baldly states:

They have the same exact world view.

To make this case, Romm lumps Will and S & N together in a series of false associations that wholly distorts the latter’s critique on contemporary environmentalism and their policy prescriptions for global warming. Instead of me summarizing their stands, see here and here for responses from The Breakthrough Institute to just some of Romm’s previous attacks.

In his current sulferous blast, Romm again labels S & N as “anti-environmental” (they must be if that notorious anti-environmentalist, George Will, cites them!) The logical extension: S & N are thus illegitimate voices in political and policy debates. In case that’s not clear enough:

And the media can do better than pretending that Nordhaus and Shellenberger are part of the environmental movement.  They are part of the conservative movement stagnation.

(Memo to Joe: hasn’t that strike-through joke gotten old yet?) Now, what perplexes me more than Romm’s obsessive fixation on S & N is why no leading environmental voices have publicly chastised Romm for his many uncouth and irrational diatribes against them.

Several weeks ago, Tom Yulsman, a journalism professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, shined a light on Romm’s modus operandi, but so far as I know, nobody at Grist or any other prominent environmental outlets has dared to ask Romm to dial it down. And if they’re doing it in private, well, clearly that’s not working.

So maybe it’s time for an intervention. By staying silent, all you do is enable him. Don’t any of you righteous environmental bloggers find his tantrums embarrassing? Counter-effective? How does Grist even cross-post some of those classic Romm screeds without feeling slightly queasy? You know he’s not making arguments when he gets so nasty; these are primal screams. You have to help the poor guy if you want him to retain a shred of credibility on climate issues.


6 Responses to “Somebody Help Joe Romm”

  1. T B says:

    What do you think of Shellenberger and Nordhaus?  It seems that you appreciate their perspective (in some way or ways, and to some degree)

    I realize that you questioning Romm’s mode of discourse is valid in itself — regardless of what you might think of his targets — but…. well, I’m curious

  2. Eli Rabett says:

    Shellenberger and Nordhaus are charter member of the lie back and enjoy it school of dealing with climate change.  Romm is really angry because it is completely corrosive to actually starting to do anything.

    1. Climate change is not happening.
    2. If it is happening, it’s not our fault.
    3. If it is our fault, it’s too late to stop it.
    4. If it’s too late to stop it, there’s still time to get famous on  it.

    They are somewhere between 3 and 4.

    There is no magic wand, there are a number of small steps we can take RIGHT NOW which at worst will stop things from getting worse, and at best will help.

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    It’s true that my criticism of Romm stems largely from the way he criticizes people he disagrees with–people who share his concerns about climate change, by the way (contrary to what he’d have you believe). If Romm engaged their views in a civil fashion, instead engaging in character attacks, I wouldn’t be taking him to task the way I have.

    On this note, I’m starting to wonder if Romm’s reliance on ad hominem, guilt-by-association tactics is revealing of more than Romm’s nature.  After all, I have to think that someone who had confidence in his own arguments wouldn’t sling so much mud.

    As for my own views on S & N, in a broad sense I think they offer a constructive critique of contemporary environmentalism.  I have thought this since they crashed the party with their “Death of Environmentalism” essay. That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with everything they say. But I respect and welcome their perspective.  I don’t take kindly to anyone–on the right or left–that tries to stifle other voices in a debate.

  4. Arthur says:

    I really wish Joe Romm could do something about global warming before we freeze to death.  It was 32 degrees and snowing like crazy here in Dickinson, North Dakota this morning (no jokes about my home state please).  Yes, it’s cold here in the winter, but this is absolutely bizarre for the 6th of June.  Today’s normal high is 73 degrees.

    I hope Joe’s campaign to stop global warming kicks in soon.

  5. Alaskan Seal says:

    Soros is spending a lot of money on Joseph Romm.  If soros can ramp up fear, we can see him profit on the rise of oil futures.
    3,000 years ago we had asstrologers and sorcerors that claimed to predict and forcast.  They also got violent when ignored.
    Romm offers his “readings” as power point presentatins of future climate reports.  They can’t be proven false because they are out there 30 years.  He wants people punished if they do not react.

  6. Hank Roberts says:

    You pointed to CEJournal, where in a now-closed thread Tom Yulsman posted on March 31, 2009:

    “… if you are trying to argue that Joe’s approach is correct simply because he has many more page views than Nordhaus, then by that logic the National Enquirer’s approach is correct because it has more readers than, say, the New York Review of Books.”

    Well, yeah.  If you’re trying to reach the people whose votes will add up, you have to reach them with what they read and recognize as resembling sincerity.

    As in — a sincere decent person controls himself as long as he can, is polite, tolerates being pushed around and crapped on, until one day he just won’t take it any more — and whups some ass.

    It’s exactly this kind of behavior that is _simulated_ so effectively by demagogues.  This kind of behavior from the PR industry works _very_ well.

    Joe Romm?  Well, who else have we got who’s filling this behavioral profile — who acts the way the people who read the Enquirer think a really sincere person will act when he loses it and starts yelling?

    I say it’s theater, and I say pass the popcorn and give Joe Romm credit — around the back at the stage door after the performance — and remind him that it’s _awful_ hard to use science as a basis for outrage.

    See, the people on the other side, their take is entirely political.
    They hear ANYTHING about this and they think politics, control, lies.  Vaccination? Phonics? no antibiotics for a sore throat?  No spray for the fleas? — remember it’s taken a generation or two to get past the folks who were happy to have lead additives they could buy in the auto store to put the lead back in their gasoline.

    And it took catalytic converters, something that the lead would screw up, to make them give up believing they _needed_ that lead, and to heck with a few IQ points.  Of course they fell for the Ethyl Corp.’s full page ads in Scientific American (remember those?  Pictures of the three feet of grass beside the asphalt and the reassurance the lead only got that far before it got trapped in the dirt, so don’t ban it ….).  Scientific American ran those.  Probably National Geographic did too.

    Without someone emoting “sincerely” a lot of people just won’t believe the sober worried talkative guy trying to explain the science.

    I don’t like it.  I wish there were some better way.

    But dagnabbit, if you want to reach the people who read the kind of stuff people read, you have to write the kind of stuff they read.

    Joe does.

    If only he didn’t enjoy it so.  But where is anyone willing to replace him?  It’s a nasty job.

    Someone has to do it.

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