1984 in Laughlin, Nevada

It’s an Orwellian world, in ways even Orwell could hardly fathom. If you believe the United States is a free country, think about this: How many times have you been scanned by a “security” camera today?

George Orwell was a brilliant, prescient writer. This post sprinkles in a few of my favorite quotes from him. With respect to the ongoing collapse of civilization, here’s a nice one to start with: “People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”
My translation: Denial runs deep in the Empire.
I have my own personal example of ignoring grossly obvious facts and, worse yet, censoring the messenger. Of course, I’m the messenger in this tragic tale.
The story begins a couple months ago, when Chris Jones asked me to give a presentation at workshop organized by the Desert Managers Group (DMG) Laughlin, Nevada in early April. Specifically, he asked me to speak about biological invasions, climate change, and fire regimes. Chris is an associate agent in Arizona Cooperative Extension, which means he is a faculty member at the University of Arizona with the Extension equivalent of tenure.
No problem, I told him. As a bonus, I’ll even throw in some information about peak oil, because peak oil informs every aspect of life on Earth. I steered Chris to a blog entry about peak oil and runaway greenhouse. I pointed out that my role is to restate the obvious: “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” And even, apparently, unintelligent ones such as myself. I gave Chris an opportunity to un-invite me.
No dice, he says. We need to hear this.
A couple weeks later, Chris came to Tucson to hear me speak at a campus “Focus the Nation” event. I presented peak oil as our final viable solution for stopping runaway greenhouse. My outlook couldn’t have been more stark. Afterward, I told him I’d take a similar approach in Laughlin, and I gave him another chance to un-invite me.
No dice, he says. We need to hear this.
Laughlin was dismal, by the way. In fact, it changed my entire world view. I had long given up on heaven and hell. But if there’s a Laughlin, there must be a heaven, too.
My presentation was the keynote address for the second day of the workshop. It was stunningly well received, and it generated discussion that lasted for the duration of the workshop. I was all the buzz. And you know how I love that.
The keynote speaker for the first day failed to show up, although she did give a few hours’ notice. Even though she didn’t make it, her abstract and presentation both appear on the conference website. On the other hand, I’ve been edited out of the website. It’s not just that my abstract and presentation aren’t there: I’m not there. It’s as if I was not invited. Check out the online program, and note the conspicuous gap on Thursday, 10 April between 8:15 and 8:50 a.m. That’s me.
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
I contacted Chris Jones via email with this message: “Is this situation as embarrassing to you as it should be? I’ve clearly been edited out of the workshop. Any change you can edit me back in? Thanks.”
In truly spineless fashion, Chris responded thusly: “I’m sorry Guy, but I do believe some of the program sponsors did take offense and DMG chose to edit your presentation out. I have no control over the Desert Managers Group.”
My level of irritation and amusement on the rise, I responded with this message: “Wow. It’s 1984. Thanks for passing along my concern. If any of the program sponsors have sufficient backbone to tell me their names, I’d love to contact them directly.”
Then I spoke to Chris’s supervisor, Jim Christenson, on the telephone. He was backpedaling so fast he nearly fell over. He just kept saying he has no control over the “.gov” website. We didn’t edit you, he said, again and again, until I think he believed it himself. Jim even gave me the name of an individual he believed responsible for the censorship: Gerry Hillier (I’ve no clue who he is, or what he does). He’s not a member of the Desert Managers Group, according to their online directory.
I’ve received no response from Chris. To be fair, it’s only been a day since I asked for the names of the people pulling his strings. During that time, I sent him another message: “After speaking with Jim Christenson about this issue, I’ve decided I would really like to know which of the sponsor(s), if any, made the decision to censor the website. I’d also like to know who gave the program sponsors the authority to censor a .gov website. Help? Thanks, in advance.”
I suspect Chris thinks we should separate politics from science and management. In reaching this over-reaching conclusion, he fails to recognize the inseparable nature of these enterprises: “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
I do not expect to hear from the Chris Jones, because I suspect he’s too spineless to tackle this seemingly minor issue. He could have challenged the sponsor(s), if they exist, about the issue of censorship, which, when stated in honest terms, suddenly doesn’t seem so minor. His status protects him, and he could even quote Orwell: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” He could put a clever university spin on it: “If tenure means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” He could even point out how silly it is to edit a website seen by about ten people, most of them disinterested in the workshop or lost in cyberspace. If he were really heroic, he could take a lesson from me and use hyperbole to advance the cause of freedom: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” But no. Chris is a product of empire, a toe-the-line, follow the masses, don’t-stir-the-pot kind of guy.
I agree with nearly everything Orwell wrote. But not this line, at least not for Chris Jones and his ilk, who continue to shovel coal on the runaway train even as it’s headed for a sacred cow in the middle of the tracks: “When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.”
But I take heart, knowing the bloated cow of economic growth grows ever closer, ever more dangerous (and ever more odorous) with each turn of the imperial wheels: “Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”
Like I often say: That problem’s going to take care of itself.

Comments 12

  • Dear Guy,
    In situations such as yours I take solace in “Revolt of the Masses”.
    Ortega points out that every idiot thinks his opinion is as good as yours.
    But there are others, whose accurate, prescient predictions on the price of crude oil in the past,have made them impossible to ignore,now tell us to look for $150-200 on crude in the next 6-24 months and for $7 to $10 gas. I tell my friends that the Revolution starts at $ 7 gas.
    So take comfort Professor in knowing that you are being vindicated.
    And please keep it up–we are with you !!

  • Guy,
    This morning I initiated a discussion with the DMG coordinators. The outcome of this meeting was a decision to post your presentation on the web in its place on the agenda. I expect it to be up before the end of the week. To anyone who is interested, check the website http://www.dmg.gov

  • Having read Prof McPherson’s views, I’m somewhat refreshed.
    Views such as his will be ignored until times get harder, much harder, for the US population.
    The easy times, since WW II, have bred soft people.
    When times get harder, we’ll pare away the nonsense in our society, piece by piece, and get on with what has to be done.
    The party will end before long, and then we’ll get to work…standby.

  • Debra apparently has pull–you’re baaaaack (on the site, that is).

  • I just watched the CNN Special Investigation: “We were warned-out of gas”. It is being repeated at 8:00 PM and 11: 00PM on CNN,in the Phoenix area tonight.
    More and more people are reporting on the same thing–Just what Guy McPherson predicted in his
    April 6, 2008 article in the Arizona Republic.
    The CNN TV program presents
    a very plausible scenario
    happening next year– 2009.
    The head of General Motors
    said we are going to stop driving at $ 6 gas. That is only $1.50 away from the
    pump price in California now.
    We better start planting our food gardens now.
    The Apocalypse is nigh.
    Oh and by the way ,better make sure your weapons are working–American cities are going to war amongst themselves for scarce gas–
    just thought you’d like to know.
    I taped the show if anyone would like to see it.

  • Good grief. What a tame presentation. Either that or as you clicked through slide after slide showing dead saguaros, the Bermuda High, climate change scenarios and invasive species, you were whoopin’ and hollerin’ about peak oil. Only in the later half did you get around to the big picture…we won’t soon care about climate change, and invading grasses, and even fire in the deserts, as we struggle to open that rusty and somewhat swollen can of beets or spinach that we found jammed in a massive crack in the wall of an ex-suburban Safeway. I’m glad to see you’re back, though I’m still as upset as I was when I first heard about the censorship. Y’know, the DMG meets the end of this month…I wonder what they’ll talk about…. j

  • There was a little snippet on TheOilDrum.com yesterday reporting that Barack Obama told an audience that we (Americans) are not going to be able to drive our SUV’s, eat all we like to eat, and get permisison from other countries to do so. Well, clearly Obama is still not getting it. This is not about SUV’s any longer. We could switch the entire national fleet to Priuses and we cannot continue as we have. Richard Heinberg last week began to foresee the imminent end of the commercial airline industry as we have known it, saying that soon only the ultra wealthy will be able to fly at all. An Australian government minister predicted fuel rationing and urged large scale emergency development of public mass transit in Queensland.
    But these plans are still likely, in my mind, to be too little too late. We are going to see the dam break soon, and the spillover will make the Burma cyclone look miniscule. By the way, it seemed to me that the Burmese government was ahead of the Bush administration’s response to Katrina — remember Brownie doing the great job?
    Stan Moore

  • CNBC–Jim Cramer’s show today, had a guest who said gas is going to $ 12 a gallon this year.
    Hooray for our environment !!

  • Every day brings a fresh news story or a new prediction confirming what
    Professor Guy has been saying all along, and refuting the myopic skeptics who can not and wiil not face reality.
    The most optomistic is that
    gas only goes to $6 this year–the consensus is for prices much higher than that.
    Happy Motoring.

  • Posts 7 and 9 here:
    are from a very sober, astute individual who has a somewhat more optimistic view of how it could play out.
    I would be interested to know what readers here think.

  • Might Europe escape the worst of the crash and be a good place to move? Its economy is increasingly decoupled from the US’s, its residents use 1/3 the energy per capita those in the US do, and Europe is close to Russia and its natural gas reserves.

  • “Jeremy” – Not sure you would want to live in Russia, its bloody freezing out there. Anyways back to topic Guy I agree with your saying “problem would take care of itself”.