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“Science” marches fail to oppose environmentally destructive wars on Earth Day

April 22, 2017

Tens of thousands today marched for “science” and interests related to government funding in the United States. There’s nothing wrong with that except there is no conflict between that and supporting wars, evidently.

Judging by photo evidence from several U.S. cities, even budget-related signs with words like “less invasions, more equations” (which is clever and facetious but actually suggests many wars could still be accepted) were unusual. It was like sighting a rare species.

At the same time, there were different signs protesting different things, and signs each protesting multiple things but war. There were some anti-oil signs with at best an ambiguous message about U.S. wars in the Middle East. In addition to signs celebrating U.S. rocket development, there were posters showing females including white females and supporting “women in power” in both the lab and the White House – two weeks after unsuccessful presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for missile strikes to destroy all of Syria’s airfields. No doubt scattered on the ground and marred by footprints were some newspapers talking about war, as there were after the Women’s Marches. In marchers’ hands was something else.

That is the picture that is going to appear in newspapers tomorrow: people opposing things like climate change denial, but not war, weeks after important U.S. attacks.

This writer isn’t saying anything about the March for Science that hasn’t been said about the Women’s March. The marches today and the U.S. post-inauguration pseudo-feminist marches(1) may not have built for war directly, but they did build for U.S. Democratic Party victories in 2018 while being virtually silent on war. It will be hard for more-honest marchers to deny that, whether it was their own intent or not. Among some, there may be less willingness to openly embrace the fact that top Democrats with a pro-science image, such as Hillary Clinton, are also warmongers.

The crowds and the marches will be gone tomorrow with some discarded signs left as evidence – no revolution in the United States – but people will be talking about the March for Science months from now. They may remember seeing some pro-choice people who brought their pink “pussyhats” from the Women’s March to the March for Science and still didn’t protest war then. Trump will be in office still, and the U.S. midterms will be approaching. It’s not just that opposition to “alternative facts” obviously refers to the Trump administration. In U.S. politics, statements about white males ruining science and cutting the Environmental Protection Agency have a particular meaning and may have a predictable effect in elections. That is true though life and physical science occupations, and computer and engineering occupations, are still disproportionately white and male in the United States. It is also true despite ongoing post-election Democratic discussion of how to win over white males.

One statement after another, promoting the March, from a variety of organizations including supposedly leftist and anti-fascist ones, did not mention war at all. That might have something to do with the fact that supposed science champion Democrat Barack Obama presided over war for eight years, invaded multiple countries, and bombed others. Then there is the ongoing anti-Russia jingoism used as a way to oppose Donald Trump while actually supporting “I’m the most militaristic person” Trump’s war-making ability. There were some messages from scientists concerned about nuclear winter, but what they were saying was barely audible in the din.

Less than two weeks ago, Trump detonated the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever used in world history, over Afghanistan. Trump openly attacked Syria a week before that. And, the United States’ top diplomat has been scaring people and saying for more than a month now that diplomacy with northern Koreans is over. Trump may or may not go on to kill more people than Obama did. However, if Science marchers had wanted to avoid appearing partisan (pro- Democratic or Republican Party) or avoid undermining science by in effect associating science with Democrats’ own warmongering, they could have at least carried some environmental anti-war anti-Trump signs. The fact that Trump may have set a certain record there in Afghanistan doesn’t in some convoluted way justify not opposing Trump on war while giving a pass to pro-war Democrats.

It is obvious that some marchers working for the U.S. government are either working on U.S. military projects themselves or receiving Department of Defense funding, or know somebody who is. Failure to oppose war in that context is self-serving in the extreme.

Silicon Valley has a liberal reputation, but the United States’ cyberwarfare needs and activity involve computer science. Lately, there has been more effort to recruit hackers into the U.S. government, people who might have typically been against working for “the Man” decades ago.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one fifth of U.S. physicists worked for the U.S. federal government directly.(2) That is one example. Trump has proposed cutting budgets of various departments, including the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE funds green energy projects, but is obviously also involved in producing nuclear weapons. Everyone knows that. Deliberately or not, many March for Science participants focused on threats to EPA and National Institutes of Health budgets. It’s hard for anyone to support cutting government funding of rare disease research, for example. Combined, the proposed EPA and NIH cuts are a tiny fraction of the current U.S. military budget. Marchers could get what they want just in terms of EPA and NIH budgets and the DOD budget might remain basically as it is now. The Pentagon budget could even increase still.

The United States had the world’s largest military expenditure even throughout Obama’s presidency, and the military budget that Trump has proposed isn’t as large as the military budget was in more than one year under Obama. Calling for a retention of Obama-level research funding, or consideration of science in decision-making, doesn’t preclude supporting war and military buildups on a technocratic basis.

Some have said the large anti-war street demonstrations aren’t there because street protests are supposedly obsolete in general. Now there are the Internet, social media, and mobile devices. Supposedly street protests don’t work or are unnecessary. However, mobile social networking played a role even in 2011 with the Occupy movement, and in the United Snakes that populist movement pandering to U.$. workers (and railing against “Goldman Sachs” in particular on behalf of “the 99%”) did have an impact, just not the one some think it did or thought it would. If anti-war street protests don’t have an effect in the United States, it could be because of U.$. citizen privilege and other country-specific factors impacting the development of anti-war movements.

The March for Science involved both social media, and extensive traditional media coverage. Even numerous websites, many by themselves just Web 1.0 sites, were created for the march and satellite marches. It was a street protest that involved various types of media and was energetically promoted. The marches will have an effect, but opposing war or fascism may not be it.

Not that this matters to more than a handful of those who marched in Western countries today, but: If Palestinian prisoner hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti, Palestine’s Nelson Mandela,(3) dies from any cause – I$raeli refusal to negotiate, or force-feeding – there could be a war involving U.S. forces or U.S. aid money. That’s a scientific statement, not a threat. The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War is in a matter of weeks. Palestinian hunger strikes in recent years have lasted several weeks.(4) Of course, some of those who talked about “occupying” territory on Wall Street years ago (land already occupied by Amerikans), and marched to Times Square in New York today, are fine with I$raeli occupation of Palestine as long as they think it leads to the secular Greater Israel one-state outcome and more Palestinians’ claiming the same nationality as settlers on Facebook and casual sex apps.

Some march participants and critics have talked about the lack of minority inclusion in Western scientific communities, partly because Democrats want votes from both white liberals and non-whites. That exclusion isn’t more important than deaths of people in the Third World as a result of Amerikan hegemony and corruption. It isn’t more important than the lives of people whom the United States kills in countries that it exploits. It isn’t more important than the environmental impact in the Third World of drone strikes, which increased under Obama. (But who cares about that, right, Democrat scientists and so-called environmentalists?) Westerners focused on protecting the wealthy international-exploiter United States’ outsize role in global scientific research and that country’s supposed climate leadership, yet failing to oppose wars and militarism threatening the climate and the environment, look ridiculous from the viewpoint of people in some countries. That is the case though U.S. hegemony has influenced many to think others should be particularly excited about the world’s #1 aggressor country supposedly losing its status as the global leader in areas of research.

It is true that much research and electronic gadget use in other countries is connected to funding and industry in the United States, more than should be the case. That situation should be regretted, not reinforced.

Peer review and respect for many aspects of science didn’t prevent fascism. Even Hitler had a science thing going on despite the racial pseudoscience and unethical experimentation, but today it is possible to be fascist, pro-militarism or pro-hegemony in ways that might not be so obvious to some. Perhaps some of those patriotic scientists who marched today, don’t think that U.S. fascism already exists, were worried about Amerika losing its global leadership, and weren’t thinking about war, would do well to study the history and contemporary reality of the relationship between scientists, and war and spying, even in their own country. Not all goose-stepping looks like what you see on TV involving some uneducated people or military personnel wearing non-white uniforms. ◊

• “There is still no massive U.S. anti-war movement, thanks to Democrats,” 2017 March.
• “Climate for anti-Americanism versus anti-fascism: Only 2% of Americans named the environment as most important issue, right before election,” 2016 November.
• “White nationalist Pat Buchanan is more anti-war than U.S. liberals and so-called leftists, because of Obama,” 2017 April.
• “Liberal Democrats are complicit in the Syria strike,” 2017 April.

1. “Women’s March lacked strong anti-war message,” 2017 January.
3. “Palestine’s Nelson Mandela,” 2017 April 22.
“American stooges put Palestinian prisoner hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti in solitary confinement,” 2017 April.
4. “More Palestinian prisoners join mass hunger strike,” 2017 April 22.

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