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The Federalist Diaries


The Eleventh Commandment, Part 5:
Should We Ask Mel Brooks?

Семь раз отме́рь, оди́н отре́жь.

Translation from Russian:  Measure seven times, cut once.            

We have stated the eleventh commandment, “We shall not pass judgment or take action without confirming the information which has incited or attracted us”, and we have suggested that the best means for most of us to follow this commandment would be if each of us joined a group which came together regularly, enjoyably, to put this commandment into practice.  We have read of examples of why we should adopt the eleventh commandment.  In ending this essay, this writer introduces a poignant example which might not disturb us, but, rather, perturb us. 

"Science a la Joe Camel

At hundreds of screenings this year of "An Inconvenient Truth," the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie. 

The producers of former vice president Al Gore's film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer. 

The teachers had a different idea:  thanks, but no thanks, they said. 

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too;  they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs. 

Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film's theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden. 

Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp. … 

By Laurie David, Sunday, November 26, 2006.  Laurie David, a producer of "An Inconvenient Truth," is a Natural Resources Defense Council trustee and founder of 

            If we followed the eleventh commandment, we would ask ourselves how important this matter was?  On a scale of “not important”, “important”, “serious”, and “critical”, I would choose either “serious” or “critical”.  That being the case, I would be slow to pass judgment on Ms. David or Exxon Mobil—but not too slow, as global warming is a modern-day juggernaut that is not going to pause for us to ruminate at our leisure.  I would meet right away with a group to investigate Ms. David’s assertion. 

            If we decided that the problem asserted by Ms. David were true, we would be left with an inescapable conclusion:  if we cared about ourselves, our families, and friends, we must do something, and we must do it now.

February 8, 2007






























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