Prosecutorial Abuse

Silence the critics! Walter Olson reports about CEI subpoenaed over climate wrongthink.

If the forces behind this show-us-your-papers subpoena succeed in punishing (or simply inflicting prolonged legal harassment on) groups conducting supposedly wrongful advocacy, there’s every reason to think they will come after other advocacy groups later. Like yours.

In these working groups of attorneys general, legal efforts are commonly parceled out among the states in a deliberate and strategic way, with particular tasks being assigned to AGs who have comparative advantage in some respect (such as an unusually favorable state law to work with, or superior staff expertise or media access).

This is happening at a time of multiple, vigorous, sustained legal attacks on what had been accepted freedoms of advocacy and association.

The absurdity of these efforts is illustrated by David French: Yes, Let’s Prosecute Climate-Change Fraud — and Start with the Scaremongers

The attorneys general of New York and California are on the warpath. They’re fed up with dissent over the science and politics of global warming, and they’re ready to investigate the liars. … Not to be outdone, Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed that the federal Department of Justice has “discussed” the possibility of civil suits against the fossil-fuel industry. The smell of litigation is in the air.

Some people are worried about little things like the “First Amendment,” “academic freedom,” and “scientific integrity.” Not me. I hate unscientific nonsense. So if Harris and Schneiderman are up for suing people who’ve made piles of cash peddling exaggerations and distortions, let’s roll out some test cases.

Environmental scaremongering is a lucrative business, and the evidence of exaggeration is everywhere. If Lynch, Harris, and Schneiderman file their first lawsuits now, they can file a second round by Christmas, when the season’s first snowflakes provide the next set of litigation targets — all the hysterics who predicted the end of snow.

Or maybe — just maybe — these liberal attorneys general aren’t truly interested in the truth and are instead radical ideologues hoping to shut down dissent. Perhaps they’re trying to advance their political careers by appeasing the social-justice Left and further establishing the new pagan religion of environmentalism. There is a chance that we can’t trust the government to be fair.

A nation can’t sue its way into clarity, but it can sue its way into oppression. The First Amendment still matters. Rather than settle scores, let’s extend the debate.

A more insidious part of this issue is in the a priori assumption that anyone raising any question regarding climate alarmism is scientifically illiterate and should be laughed at. The climate “deniers” are often brought up in all sorts of contexts to illustrate a horrific social problem of people who refuse reality. The people that make this analogy should look in the mirror but their belief system and hubris and group think lead them astray. They don’t realize that they illustrate their own illiteracy be poor problem definition, polar grouping, straw man building and other logical fallacies.

The problem is that it isn’t a debate but rather an argument. A debate requires intellectual integrity and careful listening to the ideas and reasoning provided. An argument is where one or both sides refuse to listen and do what they can to force their views into acceptance. What Olson illustrates is that the efforts to shut down critics is potent, creative, and persistent. French shows just how destructive such efforts can be.

Worried, yet?

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