Imagery and hypocrisy

Mike Huckabee’s recent comment about President Obama, “He would trust the Iranians and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven,” produced much shock, indignation, and verbal condemnation from the media, late-night news airheads, and some members of the Jewish community…perhaps not so much for the accuracy of the claim of the real-world net result of implementing the proposed nuclear treaty with Iran as for the transgression of invoking disturbing imagery of the Holocaust.

However, the outpouring of such moral indignation is apparently modulated by the occasion upon which it is invoked, and by the status conferred by the media upon the one uttering such comments.  A federal employee as director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), James Hansen, opined: “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains.  Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.” 

His testimony before Iowa’s Utility Board included: “If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains -- no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species.” 

In response to Andrew Revkin’s New York Times article: “Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton, who has spent decades examining the relationship between humans and other species, wrote: ‘I’m sensitive to comparisons that might trivialize the Holocaust, because 3 of my 4 grandparents were murdered by the Nazis. But we should look strictly at what Hansen writes. Although Hansen invokes the images of the Holocaust, with boxcars and crematoria, he doesn’t compare global warming with the slaughter of Jews. He says, rather, that he thinks of these coal trains as bringing ‘uncountable irreplaceable species’ to their extinction. Given the facts about global warming, that seems to be exactly what continuing to burn coal will do, as long as we use existing technologies that mean that burning goal contributes to, and will accelerate, climate change. So while the image is vivid and unsettling, I don’t find it objectionable.’”

Evidently, Holocaust imagery is objectionable for some causes but not in the service of climate change…termed “today’s greatest threat to humanity” by President Obama in his inaugural address.  Obama is now pushing the Iran nuclear deal.  The architect of this Iran nuclear agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry, is also an expert in ranking global threats: “climate change can now be considered the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.’’ 

Mr. Huckabee has undoubtedly noted that hypocrisy is an occupational hazard for those in the political arena.

Charles G. Battig,  M.S.,M.D., Piedmont Chapter president, VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE). His website is