Tuesday, December 13, 2016

No To Rex Tillerson, CEO ExxonMobil

Let's use this topic as a lesson of the media talking past each other. That's a nice way of me saying a lesson in conservative media (WSJ) talk past very legitimate concerns of the liberal media (NYT).

No, Suzanne Maloney, writing-in-the-WSJ, this isn't about the "chattering classes" being aghast at a just any old CEO being nominated for Secretary of State. The NYT made this point fairly emphatically (editorial link above), as do I. It is about that CEO having worked his entire professional career for one company with, allegedly, a long history of strategically working to combat science and, as if that were not enough, that CEO also having conflicts-of-interest with the head of state of a nation currently accused by the CIA of intentionally trying to destabilise the faith in the US electoral process. Your column inches given to the boy scouts is ghastly amid these extremely serious concerns.

Now, of course I can't fully prove that statement about ExxonMobil having a long history of combatting science, but it seems pretty clear, as I have been learning from Doubt is Their Product, that ExxonMobil has been one of the key examples of companies strategically working to create doubt about the negative externalities of their business model.

From Chapter 18, "The Bush Administration's Political Science":
There are thousands of scientists on our side of the debate and a mere handful on the other, but uncertainty can reign in the mass media and the public mind if that handful has a large enough megaphone--and they do because they are underwritten by ExxonMobil, by all analyses the hands-down largest funder of the warming deniers. According to the authors of the internal ExxonMobil memo titled "Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan", "[v]ictory will be achieved when...average citizens 'understand' (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the conventional wisdom." 
Let's be fair. Can we link Tillman to this memo? No. Is he responsible for the whole company? No. Does having worked in Russia disqualify him? No. Does working with oil and gas disqualify him? Of course not.

But...and this is a huge, "but"...why on earth at this time and in this context would Donald Trump select such a person from such a company and with such a working relationship in Russia? Why, after promising to "drain the swamp", would he think that appointing the CEO of a company ranked No. 8 in lobbyists (2014) is a good idea?

I am against Rex Tillerson because his appointment raises doubt about the institutions of the United States in such a way that is extreme. Diversity matters of experience matters! Rex Tillerson does not have a diverse work history and even if he is the best diplomat on the planet, his CV and conflicts of interest radically undermine the very idea that we have checks and balances in our political system.

Without time to read Steve Coll's "Private Empire", you can listen to this 2012 interview on Fresh Air.

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