By Donella Meadows
–May 11, 1995–
“Dear Dumbella: If there was any lingring (sic) doubt that the liberal mentality is a product of severe brain damage at birth with continued degeneration from there you certainly dispell (sic) those doubts….”
Normally I wouldn’t read further in a letter like that, much less subject you to it. Columnists get used to a continuous low flow of venomous feedback. Until the Oklahoma City bombing, I just chucked those letters out.
Now I take far-right verbal bombshells (and occasional nonverbal ones) seriously, whether they’re aimed at liberals, blacks, immigrants, women, Jews, the poor, homosexuals, the government in general, President and Mrs. Clinton in particular — or people like me who speak for the environment. The hate-talk comes not just from nuts on the street, but from people with national microphones and political power. Since the bombing, many of them have been sweetening their tone a bit. But their hostility is still there, and their words are on record.
Here’s a small sample of anti-environmental hate-talk. I apologize to those of you who will find these words sickening or frightening, but it’s better to shine the light on this stuff than to let it fester away, building up pressure in the darkness.
Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) chairman of the House Resources Committee: “What I’m going to do in my reign as chair is to show people who environmentalists really are…. They are the most despicable group I’ve ever dealt with… — the self-centered bunch, the waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual bunch of idiots that don’t understand that they’re leading this country into environmental disaster.”
Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican convention: “America’s great middle class has got to start standing up to these environmentalists who put birds and rats and insects ahead of families, workers, and jobs.”
Rush Limbaugh, from The Way Things Ought to Be: “The environmentalist wackos go out of their way to find fault with everything in America…. Why do these people do this? I think they just don’t like our way of life…. There are two groups of people that have made environmentalism their new home: socialists and eco-religious fanatics.”
Congressman Bill Emerson (R-Missouri) on the floor of the House: “Ultimately a National Biological Survey will lead to the establishment of a militant eco-Gestapo force…. We are going to be subject to the whims of the eco-police.”
Alston Chase, syndicated columnist: “A lot of people don’t understand this, but Hitler considered himself an ecologist.”
Ron Arnold, founder of the Wise Use movement: “Our goal is to destroy, to eradicate the environmental movement…. Environmentalism is the new paganism. It is evil…. We will not allow our right to own property and use nature’s resources for the benefit of mankind to be stripped from us by a bunch of eco-fascists.”
Wise Use activist Dennis Winters, working a crowd in a Montana timber town: “What’s happening out there is nothing less than the eviction of the only endangered species really in Montana, and that’s the working Montana family! We’re going to have 30 percent unemployment, and along with that comes wife-batterment and child molestation, and all the rest of it. Now, do you think the environmentalists … give a damn about the fact that kids are going to be molested?”
Advertisement in the Washington Post, paid for by the Schiller Institute: “[The 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development] is part and parcel of a larger gameplan to make the United Nations the centerpiece of a new world empire…. Under this U.N. dictatorship, the nation-state will disappear, and the world will be turned into one large ‘game park’ in which ‘park rangers’ — in the person of U.N. blue helmets — will cull out the ‘undesirable’ and ‘excess’ populations from the ‘human herd.’”
Rick Sieman, president of the Sahara Club, former editor of Dirt Bike magazine: “We take on tree-hugging wierdos, Bambi-bimbos, … limp-wristed faggots, and Earth First?! eco-terrorists.”
James Watt, former Interior Secretary, speaking to a group of cattlemen in 1992: “If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used.”
The worst thing about language like this is not that it’s loony, out of touch with reality, spiraling into self-generated hysteria. The worst is not even that it inspires the most deranged of its hearers to violence — though that inevitably happens. The worst is the effect of hate-talk on its targets.
Some of us duck, lie low, abandon our deepest beliefs, just to get out of the line of fire. Others strike back, or at least yell back. When fear, anger, and hate are thrown at us, it’s just about impossible to keep it from stirring up our own fear and anger and hate. We begin to think terrible thoughts about those who think terrible thoughts about us. Paranoia is catching.
To be scared into silence is the response the hatemongers want. To be angered is to descend to their level. There are better choices than these. We can simply expose their ravings, which look sad and silly in the light of day. We can stand together beside all their targets, so no one has to stand alone. (One of the loveliest demonstrations I’ve seen of that was the German people turning out by the millions to line their city streets with glowing candles, showing solidarity with the Turks against the fascist skinheads.) Most important, we can use every peaceful, democratic opportunity to keep people who spout hate away from national microphones and political power.
Copyright Sustainability Institute 1995