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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It’s well known that harsh climate conditions can mess with your mind — from cabin fever to heat delirium. But America is now experiencing an even more dangerous mind-numbing disease called Climaticus Non-Vocalism Extremism.

Oddly, CNE Syndrome almost exclusively afflicts a narrow segment of our population: Republican political officials and candidates. Scientific studies suggest that CNE Syndrome might stem from a genetic defect, but scientists say more research is needed on that.

The symptoms, however, are uniform and include an obsessive impulse by GOP politicos to deny that human-caused climate change is happening. It’s often accompanied by a feverish insistence that government employees be banned from studying it, discussing it or even uttering such phrases as “climate change” and “global warming.”

Hard to believe? For an example of the mind-altering impact of Climaticus Non-Vocalism Extremism, look at Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin administration. The Koch-funded governor and Republican presidential wannabe is an ardent climate-change denier — but the state’s public lands board has escalated his denial to Orwellian censorship. The two GOP commissioners on the three-member board, which oversees the ecological health of thousands of acres of Wisconsin forestlands, have banned agency employees from even considering damage caused by climate change. Worse, they have such severe cases of CNE Syndrome that they’ve imposed a gag order on freedom of speech by public lands employees, prohibiting them from even talking about climate change while on the job.

The heartbreak of CNE is that its victims even deny that they’re in denial about the disease. Thus, the Wisconsin duo say that their no-speech rule is not censorship, because employees are still free to talk about climate change at home — or even chit-chat about it “by the water cooler,” just as they might talk about sports.

Gov. Walker — who wants to be your president — says that he finds that censorship perfectly reasonable.

But it’s not just Wisconsin that has imposed such ridiculous levels of science denial and censorship. This raises the question: If a state government issues a right-wing political order, but it’s not written down, does it make a sound? Let’s ask Florida.

Bart Bibler, a respected employee of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, says you betcha it makes a sound — even though the order directed at state employees like him was meant to enforce the sound of silence. Since Rick Scott became governor of the Sunshine State, various agencies run by his appointees have issued 1984-style newspeak decrees that “climate change,” “global warming,” “sustainability” and other terms related to Earth’s looming climate disaster are verboten.

Unaware of this censorship edict, Bibler innocently blurted out the phrase “climate change” in a February teleconference. To his amazement, his breach of ideological correctness earned him an official letter of reprimand, a two-day suspension without pay, and — get this — an order to undergo a doctor’s evaluation to verify his mental “fitness for duty.”

When outrage over this blunt attempt to banish the idea of climate change spread across the country, the governor and his appointees doubled-down on Orwellian denial: “It’s not true,” said the slippery Scott, insisting that no such gag policy exists. By “exist,” though, he means his dictate is not written down. As many employees have confirmed, however, state officials verbally impose their policy of outlawing the language of climate change. The official taboo is so extreme that even a phrase as benign and factual as “sea-level rise” is banned. Instead, Scott’s team has mandated that this measurable (and alarming) reality be referred to as “nuisance flooding.”

It’s their mental fitness that needs to be evaluated! Trying to ban words only amplifies their sound, meaning, and impact — while also exposing how pathetically scared and stupid the censors are.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. 

Photo: Florida governor Rick Scott (Gage Skidmore via Flickr)