Wingnut Push on Chu?

This looks like the spinup of a wingnut push against Chu, who said something scientifically unobjectionable but is being pilloried (Hmm, I believe that is the first time I ever used that word…) for it.

whuh, them’re ’em pillors, son

Chu is the real deal, of course.

That is why he uses “we” the way a scientist does, which is to say, “I don’t really get it, but the default scientific network of trust extends to people who seem to me to be saying that anyone looking closely enough will determine….” Right.

The redneck hinterland does not understand this use of “we” and projects that this is imposition of authority by untrusted chains.

Notice that science itself has an alternative network of trust. But the disastrous schism at NASA indicates that even that is deteriorating. Can we even say “we” anymore?

There is almost nothing in the way of common understanding in America nowadays. Perhaps there never was, but “we” (all of us pulling together) managed to paper it over somehow.


  1. Agree with Dan. I'm not at all sure what you're talking about. Can you provide context or a link?

    I follow Dr. Chu a bit, have blogged about him a couple of times, and attended multiple conferences where he's been a featured speaker. Brilliant man (obviously) but seemingly politically naive.

  2. My guess is, Chu said something generic, and the wingnuts responded with generic wingnuttery.

    The redneck hinterland does not understand this use of "we" and projects that this is imposition of authority by untrusted chains.

    Or maybe it's just good ol' "us versus them" thinking? As in, 'Steven Chu is a non-Republican, therefore he's obviously wrong'? Why not? Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most powerful.

    -- frank

  3. Just as MT was replying, I was searching my climate skeptic folder - which I confess I tend to stay away from mostly, since it leaves me feeling soiled. I hadn't realised quite how much Chu-bashed Morano does. No-one else seems quite as obsessed, at least in my subscriptions. All of the "Chu looks at piece of coal, clearly a hypocrite" variety of story, over and over.

  4. Indeed, that's the question. Do you want a politician or a scientist running DoE? Do you want a scientist in the cabinet, or just politicians? A politician would have known the baggage carried by every word, including "we". Chu was just using ordinary geek language. It's often revealing to see what subculture-specific language people use in public communication. Undergrads can be amazingly obtuse about it, but everybody has the problem to some extent.

    Except possibly politicians and journalists, who end up speaking in codes and half-truths for very much related reasons.

  5. I want someone effective. Please note that I'm NOT saying that Dr. Chu isn't - at least in some times in some places on some issues. But for DoE, in the end it's effectiveness that matters, whether produced by a scientist or a politician.

    Do you feel they're mutually exclusive? I guess there's a fair bit of evidence that they are.

  6. Speaking of trust networks, perhaps the problem isn't so much the breakdown in the existing networks. Perhaps the problem's more about the formation of new, resilient networks centred around charismatic individuals -- and increasingly becoming distanced from reality and common decency.

    Groups and individuals such as Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous, James Hansen, and Glenn Greenwald are some of the few who see any intrinsic value in studying reality.

    A certain pseudonymous blogger summed up the problem well (in the context of an effort by one "The Jester" to expose Anonymous):

    Our social order is patched together by sufficiently charismatic interpretations of reality.

    -- frank

  7. Indeed, perhaps what the US needs is precisely more people who are "politically naive"!

    Too many people these days are so full of political 'sophistication' that they've forgotten the basics. They've forgotten that there are some things, such as justice and safety, that one shouldn't sacrifice on the altar of political expediency; and that there are some things, such as the laws of physics, that one simply cannot sacrifice to political expediency.

    Global warming won't suddenly disappear just because it's politically inconvenient.

    Political awareness is good, but political 'sophistication' is oversold. Time to return to the basics.

    -- frank

  8. I want the Secretary of the DoE to be effective, regardless of whether he's a politician or a scientist or both (if such a thing is possible). This should not be interpreted to imply that I think Dr. Chu is ineffective. With respect to some issues he has been effective, and in some cases where he hasn't it's been because of sabotage by his political enemies.

    But all that aside, effectiveness is the sine qua non.

  9. Rob, "effective" at what exactly? That's a key question.

    Career politicians (I think Obama counts as one) are "effective" at gaining power and scoring points. But "effective" at understanding reality and doing good for the people -- not so much.

    Do you feel they're mutually exclusive?

    You have to hope they aren't -- at least not by too much. Because if they are exclusive, then the Earth is toast.

    -- frank

  10. Thanks for a new way of describing the problem. A look at your source also finds this:

    "influential people whose physical, mental, social, or financial well-being depends on how effectively they can delude others. Frequently these lies are better perpetuated by individuals that can delude themselves."

    Something to chew on (or not). I had forgotten that the other meaning of charismatic is relating to faith healing and the like. I wonder if there's any useful research on how to effect mass dehypnotization?

    more: "direct effect of how we cannot have security without knowledge; the fear of the unknown guides us to accept insanity as fact."

    The fear of the unknown - makes a lot of sense on the why.

    More in there to revisit when time permits.

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