International Journal of Inactivism (now supplanted by Decoding SwiftHack)


A word on Stalin, Galileo, and all that

Filed under: climate activists,rhetoric — stepanovich @ 13:33

cite as: F. Bi. 2009. A word on Stalin, Galileo, and all that. Intl. J. Inact., 2:83

Yesterday, Greenfyre wrote a blog entry in which he compared the US Chamber of Commerce’s call for a mock trial of global warming to, well, Soviet Lysenkoism. I commented that this is probably a bad idea, because we ourselves don’t like it when, say, climate inactivist Christopher Monckton compares scientists to war criminals.

Another use of a cultural icon. What do you think of it?

Another use of a cultural icon. What do you think of it?

Greenfyre replied,

Hmmm … it’s a complicated issue for sure, and not one to be solved in comment forum.

Want to blog back and forth on the question? not a debate or argument, but rather meditations that seek to explore the issue fully (or as fully as we can), and see where that takes us? Not just Stalin, but charged icons, good and bad.

So let the dialogue begin. (-: I guess the main reason I don’t like comparisons to Stalin or Lysenkoism is the same reason Mike Godwin doesn’t like comparisons to █████ ██████ — such comparisons tend to be overused, and overblown. Similarly for comparisons to Galileo, Einstein, the US Founding Fathers, genocidal dictators (e.g. Radovan Karadžić), Kim Jong-il, and so on. What counts as “overblown”? Generally, the more analogizing you have to do, the more overblown I’ll think it is. To give an example, if a person literally wants to euthanize all political dissidents, then a comparison to Stalin might be apt in my view; but if he just wants to reduce their influence, then no.

On a related note: George Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language also discusses worn-out metaphors and meaningless words in general.



  1. Damn damn damn, I SO want to accuse you of being █████ ██████ for posting this ;-).

    OK, we’re off then. Thanks, I’ll try to have some of my thoughts up soon.

    Comment by greenfyre — 2009/08/29 @ 14:15 | Reply

    • greenfyre: No hurry. 🙂

      Comment by frankbi — 2009/08/29 @ 15:44 | Reply

  2. […] exchange has begun with Frankbi’s “A word on Stalin, Galileo, and all that.” I hope do no injustice if I say his main point is that “…such comparisons tend […]

    Pingback by Godwin, itlerhay, and other icons « Greenfyre’s — 2009/09/02 @ 23:50 | Reply

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