Now that people are sitting down and actually reading the papers commissioned by Alberta's so-called Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, they're finding paranoia and poppycock aplenty.
It begs a question, though. What was Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan up to when he reached out and paid significant sums from the public purse for these papers?
On Monday, Vice Magazine dug into one chapter of the 133-page submission by Tammy Nemeth, a PhD historian said to be employed in the United Kingdom as a home-school teacher. She was paid $27,847 for her work, which suggests if nothing else that Allan thought it would make a significant contribution to his effort.
Vice's reporter concentrated on Nemeth's claim groups of journalists covering climate change are organizing "to coordinate and effectively distribute propagandized climate-change issues in their reporting."
Their alleged goal, according to a line quoted by Vice, is to effect a Great Transformation -- the capital letters are Nemeth's. "Life after the Great Transformation," she warned, "will be constantly monitored, short, cold, and miserable, just like pre-industrial times."
But it's worth looking a little beyond Nemeth's chapter on media -- specifically journalists who have joined organizations dedicated to encouraging coverage of environmental issues, which, done properly, inevitably means covering points of view that are not going to please the fossil-fuel industry and its enablers in government and politics.
When University of Calgary legal scholar Martin Olszynski published his blog post on January 15 about the three documents, which cost us Alberta taxpayers a combined $100,000, he politely described the efforts of two academics and a fossil-fuel advocacy group as "textbook examples of climate-change denialism."
Noting that none of the authors "appear to be trained in climate science," he also concluded, "these reports are replete with generalizations, speculation, conjecture, and even conspiracy."
That is undeniable. But there is more.
Quoting such learned authorities as Postmedia columnists Rex Murphy and Terence Corcoran, well known for their National Post paeons to petrochemicalism, Nemeth posits that there exists a "Transnational Progressive Movement" that "draws in, mobilizes, and utilizes whatever 'vehicle,' front, institution, organization, or individual at a given time that may aid the movement in achieving its outcome: the overthrow of modern western industrial capitalist society." (Emphasis added.)
Even Barry Cooper, the University of Calgary political science professor whose paper alleging Marxism is "a widely held ideological view among social scientists who engage with the question of environmental philanthropy," doesn't go that far.
For one thing, Cooper explained, he's talking about a special kind of Marxism, "de-coupled" from socialism. What's more, he conceded, not all environmentalists are terrorists, dedicated to the destruction of capitalism. Some of them might even be offended by such a characterization, he observed.
His effort was a comparative bargain, fetching only $6,125 from the inquiry's paymaster, although a quick back-of-an-envelope estimate suggests they were each paid about 75 cents a word.
Nemeth, meanwhile, argues that what these would-be overthrowers of capitalism are actually advocating "is a form of corporatism where the government makes partnerships with companies and gives them directions as to what the government wants researched or produced -- business winners, or euphemistically 'champions,' and losers will be chosen."
If this sounds to you pretty much like what we've got now -- with the current priorities being oil and guns -- it does to me too. But to Nemeth, apparently, it is something far darker, motivated by, among other things, organic farmers.
"The uncomfortable or unspoken truth is that for many at the centre of the Transnational Progressive Movement this global energy transition … is the replacement of capitalism and the post-World War II framework with a repackaged technocratic socialism, complete with an industrial policy that picks economic winners and losers, not based on economic principles but through arbitrary processes driven by ideology, and agricultural 'planning' that promotes small-scale organic farming and subsistence agriculture over industrial agribusiness."
There's more. This movement, Nemeth alleges, "is overseen by a technocracy that creates algorithms to 'neutrally' direct our existence augmented by artificial intelligence that monitors, evaluates, and judges where we go, how we get there, and what we are doing -- just like it does in China."
What's more, she argues, they're using the pandemic to achieve these sinister goals.
"It is clear that the Transnational Progressive Movement seeks to use the economic shut-down of the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to restructure the global economy, as was attempted in 2008/09," she states.
However, Nemeth opines a little later, "as the pandemic has demonstrated, lives depend on a vibrant, free, and well-functioning economy with reliable, affordable, and secure energy at its core that enables the possibility of well-being and prosperity for those who choose to work and participate in it."
"Those who advocate a complete replacement of the current free-market hydrocarbon system with a 'beyond GDP' circular or 'net-zero' economy with 'green' renewable energy at its core know that their new system is about degrowth and subsistence rather than prosperity," she asserts.
"This new system, with the EU having gone the farthest in attempting to implement it, will re-make modern life in a way that will make it unrecognizable. The public at large do not understand what it represents; what it means for their individual everyday existence. If they did understand, they would reject it."
It would be fair, if colloquial, to describe this dystopian worldview as bonkers.
In addition to being fair, it is reasonable to call the author's conspiratorial view of the COVID-19 pandemic dangerous, since it hardly encourages cooperation with public health measures.
Further, it is not unreasonable to conclude that no matter what the inquiry's professional spokesperson says about the commissioner's determination to be balanced, his willingness to pay significant sums for this kind of stuff, and this kind alone, is a reflection of how he and the United Conservative Party government that set up this inquiry see the world.
How Nemeth came to the attention of the inquiry remains a topic for speculation. It is interesting to note that, as environmental journalist Chris Turner pointed out yesterday in a tweet, "the best evidence I can find is that she once contributed to the Dorchester Review, which was founded by Jason Kenney's favourite curriculum review adviser, C.P. Champion."
The $3.5-million inquiry is supposed to submit its final report next Monday.
When next we return to this topic, we'll take a look at the submission by Energy in Depth, the Washington D.C.-based fossil-fuel advocacy organization funded by a group of independent oil and natural gas fracking companies in the United States.
Its contribution, for which we paid about $64,000, is a somewhat different breed of cat that raises an additional important question.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image credit: Film still of Monte Python's "Anarcho-Syndicalist Commune" skit
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