Some­thing fa­mil­iar …

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES -

Spread­ing pro­pa­ganda that science is noth­ing more than a politi­cized tool of the pointy-headed elite. El­e­vat­ing un­qual­i­fied peo­ple to pol­i­cy­mak­ing au­thor­ity be­cause they par­rot dogma, not be­cause they know what they’re talk­ing about. Crony­ism in­flu­enc­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing, with pos­si­ble dire con­se­quences for public health. Vil­i­fy­ing sci­en­tists who refuse to hew to the party line.

This sounds so fa­mil­iar.

This is what hap­pened in Soviet Rus­sia. Joseph Stalin in­stalled Trofim Ly­senko as di­rec­tor of bi­o­log­i­cal pol­icy. Ly­senko faked ge­netic data to con­form to Marx­ist ide­ol­ogy that so­cial­ism would cre­ate a new self­less pro­le­tariat. Ge­neti­cists who dis­agreed were im­pris­oned, “dis­ap­peared,” and ex­e­cuted, un­til crop fail­ures and star­va­tion forced Ly­senko’s re­moval in 1965.

Nowa­days we have anti-en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism fo­mented by cli­mate-de­nier EPA chief Scott Pruitt, fos­sil-fuel com­pa­nies, and con­ser­va­tive think-tanks and me­dia. We have Sen. Tom Cot­ton proudly pro­claim­ing the dis­man­tling of “harm­ful” rules de­signed to pro­tect our water­ways. We have Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Betsy DeVos be­long­ing to a church es­pous­ing that “all sci­en­tific the­o­ries [should] be sub­ject to Scrip­ture.” We have pres­sure ex­erted by Pruitt’s min­ions on science ad­vi­sory board chair Deb­o­rah Swack­hamer to get her to fall in with ap­proved talk­ing points and to “ad­just” her tes­ti­mony be­fore Congress in ac­cor­dance.

If Lenin didn’t in­vent the term “po­lit­i­cally cor­rect,” the Sovi­ets sure knew what to do with it. We in the U.S. are not at the point where we “dis­ap­pear” dis­si­dents—yet—but oth­er­wise, to quote the im­mor­tal Yogi Berra: It’s like déjà vu all over again.

ANITA SCHNEE

Fayet­teville

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