Jim Motavalli peddles the notion, in part for The New York Times no less, that there is such a thing as “green cars.” He is, he says, “passionate about hybrid, hydrogen, biofuel and electric cars.” He is also pals with none other than Bill McKibben, the Don Quixote of our epoch.
McKibben, as we know, is on a tour of the nation’s colleges, trying to encourage the kids to strike a pointless pose about Big Oil, which he describes as a mere “rogue industry,” rather than part and parcel of our cars-first transportation order.
In this context, Jim Motavalli reported a highly interesting fact this week:
McKibben is on a 21-city campus tour in a biodiesel bus, speaking and raising hell. He called me from the road, shortly before taking delivery of his new Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid.
Without commenting on the harebrained joke known as biodiesel, let us ponder this very telling “delivery.” Not only is this a hugely over-rated non-revolutionary product, but accepting (and thereby endorsing) it is analogous to C. Everett Koop ordering up a case of Camel Lights after testify against cigarette corporations.
DbC now wonders whether Mr. McKibben is more than a sad enigma and an example of the limitations of endowed activism. Is he, in fact, a positive danger to the world, a beloved misleader and miseducator, a huge hypocrite?
DbC also asks: Was McKibben’s C-Max a gift from Ford?
His latest gesture is even nuttier than the windmill tilt against the Keystone XL pipeline. Now, the proposition is to get universities to “divest” from “fossil fuel” corporations.
ROFLMFAO, Bill. Divesting from things that depend on subsidies and special treatment — things like the not-so-great state of Israel — makes powerful sense. Divesting from the world’s most internally profitable organizations is, well, a pointless gesture.
It’s also, of course, a misdiagnosis. Fossil fuel corporations are where they are today not because of simple corruption, but because of the reign of cars-first transportation policy. To peddle the notion that you can somehow do something about the former without fighting the latter is just plain stupid. It is also, alas, the hallmark of McKibbenism.
“Do the math” indeed. This kind of shallowness and misdirection — C. Wright Mills called it, aptly, “liberal practicality” – is worse than good old inaction. There is only so much time and energy available for organizing and political action. To spend that time and energy in ways that are patently hopeless and silly is a major sin against the future.
In one of the least surprising pieces of news you’re likely to hear, Zerobama spiked Bill McKibben today. Obummer went to Cushing, Oklahoma and, posing in front of stacked pipes, announced he is expediting construction of the southern segment of the much publicized Keystone XL oil pipeline. Once that happens, what would you say are the odds the northern section gets blocked by McKibben’s windmill tilters? Only slightly better than those of McKibben admitting he has been multiply wrong in this whole tempest in an irrelevant teapot, I’d say.
Speaking of being epically wrong, here is McKibben’s latest analysis of the meaning of today’s move by Zerobama:
It’s clear that the power of the oil industry drives political decision-making in America–that’s why we need to go after them directly. The first step is an effort to remove the subsidies that they and the rest of the fossil fuel industry enjoy. 350.org is helping coordinate protests at Ohio State University this afternoon, where students will call on President Obama to stop Keystone XL, fracking, and other “extreme energy” projects
As ever, McKibben makes nary a mention of the actual reason for the centrality of the oil industry — cars-first transportation policy. “Doc, I’m worried I might have lung cancer.” “Not to worry,” assures good Dr. McKibben, “we’re going to stop that chronic cough of yours!”
Alas, mere superficiality and woefully erroneous target selection are not enough for McKibben. Having been clearly slapped down, he now promises to squander further political energy pursuing a blend of gestures both hopeless — stopping Keystone and fracking — and simply absurd — taking away a small tax subsidy from one of the planet’s most profitable industries and suggesting that will somehow change a damned thing.
What a flippin’ nightmare.
Fortunately, it looks like the Occupy proto-movement might be heading in the proper direction, albeit rather timidly. Check out the plans for April 4.
On September 9, the bony Señor McKibben graced the stage of the Commonwealth Club of California, at an event dedicated to explaining how McKibben and co-star Paul Hawken “advocate a cleaner and healthier form of capitalism.”
McKibben’s diagnosis of our main problem?
“Our problem is far and away caused by the fact that the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry on Earth, has all of the financial means at their disposal to keep us from taking action….It’s people versus very concentrated pockets of money.”
Such quixotic superficiality is music to the ears of yuppie pseudo-radicals and capitalists alike. Its repetition signals that cars and capitalism are still safe from scrutiny, despite the accumulating facts of the matter. Fake activists can continue to buy Priuses and strike poses, while business as usual rolls along, unmentioned and unthreatened.
Bill McKibben got himself arrested, wearing a suit and tie, at another one of his microscopic non-movement photo-ops.
The cause? A hopeless and technocratic gesture, as always. This time, it’s an effort to pre-empt construction of a pipeline to deliver Canadian tar sands extracts to Texas oil refineries.
Question for Billy Boy: What does one “win,” even if this project gets canceled? The same crude oil gets trucked to Texas? How is that a victory?
Of course, the whole affair has a strong odor of Democratic Party gamesmanship to it. Koch Industries, which funds the Tea Party farce, is apparently going to be a major contractor in the pipeline project.
And catch this, McKibben’s core statement of his cause:
So, we’ll be arrested outside the White House. But less in protest of the President, than in support of the Obama who ran for the White House in 2008, and who said the night he clinched the nomination that with his Presidency ‘the rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet begin to heal.’ I’ll be wearing my Obama ’08 button when I go to jail tomorrow; we want to show him he has the support he needs to do the right thing, in the face of unrelenting pressure from the fossil fuel industry.
News flash: “The Obama who ran for the White House in 2008″ was the Advertising Age Marketer of the Year for that particular annum. In other words, Bill, you get taken, bought, sold, hoodwinked, eaten alive. One would think that three years and hundreds of betrayals later, you might begin to think and learn some rather obvious things. Apparently not, however.
With greens like these, who needs the Koch brothers?
See, the thing is, despite the continuing appeal of liberal practicality to mis-leaders like McKibben, lying to people just doesn’t fly, even when the lies are well intentioned.
Here is the ultimate prescription, the basis for its call-to-arms (er, I mean call-to-phone-calls), of 350.org:
To leave this issue at that, given the revelant findings about allegedly renewable energy, is to peddle a major lie-by-omission.
What we really need, as McKibben certainly knows, is a radical reconstruction of human societies and an equally radical redistribution of national and international wealth and power.
Meanwhile, by conveying the impression that the movement we need is all just a matter of minor, easy, familiar adjustments, promoting things like phoning your purchased “representative,” planting a tree, or posing for a snapshot by a windmill does less than nothing to move things in that direction. Gestures and delusions are not going to get us where we need to go, Bill McKibben, and you know it.
Take your own prescription: Before you squander even more of the people’s precious energy, “get to work” on dealing with reality and promoting public honesty.
The jejunosity (hat-tip to Allan Konigsberg) of this effort is multiple:
McKibben thinks his gesture might start a new social movement.
McKibben thinks “slowing global warming” can possibly be the core issue of a new social movement at the present time.
McKibben describes Obama as “doing lots of good practical things already.”
McKibben is “surprised” his gesture has not yet been embraced by Obama, and apparently has devoted no thought to the question of why not.
McKibben thinks “the fossil fuel industry” is the ultimate culprit, and does not mention the automotive-industrial complex.
Like virtually all green activists, McKibben keeps the word “capitalism” in the closet, even as Great Depression III continues to gather sucking force, thereby ensuring his “movement” will remain an Ivy League jejunosity.
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