For many years, I have accused conservatives of acting in bad faith on climate change.
I have accused Republican leaders of knowingly spreading misinformation in order to delay climate action and maximize profits to the fossil fuel industry.
Once, I even wrote that the Republican Party would “never be part of the solution,” and that it was time for Democrats to stop hoping its politicians might become good-faith partners in tackling the climate crisis.
I now see the error of my ways. Because I have heard the latest conservative-led argument against climate action. And unlike all the others before it, it demands seriousness.
Ready for it? Here it is:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports eating babies.
Happy Monday and welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis.
Today’s issue is about a real, non-fictional argument being circulated widely right now by the mainstream right: That Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to ever serve in the United States Congress, supports consuming the flesh of living human children as a climate solution.
This is obviously an insane argument—and the fact that this is American conservatives’ main ammunition against climate action should tell you a lot about where they’re at right now.
But I’m writing about the baby-eating argument today because I want to show you three things.
How conservative media personalities and the president work together to spread misinformation about the climate crisis;
How effective their misinformation campaign continues to be;
How the complacency of everyone around them ensures that misinformation continues.
Some light stuff for a Monday, yeah?
The baby-eating backstory
On Thursday night, Ocasio-Cortez held a town hall for her district constituents in Queens. During the question and answer portion, a woman demanded the congresswoman support cannibalism as a climate solution. It was a real yikes situation:
We only have a few months left. I love that you support the New Green Deal, but it's not getting rid of fossil fuels. It's not going to solve the problem fast enough. A Swedish professor has suggested eating dead people, but that's not fast enough. So I think your new campaign slogan should be this: We have to start eating babies. … We have to get rid of the babies. That's a big problem, just stopping having babies. That's not enough. We need to eat the babies!
If you’ve spent time communicating climate science, you might recognize the look of concern on Ocasio-Cortez’s face. Communicating this crisis can provoke extreme despair and depression in people—and that despair can manifest in scary ways for people suffering from metal illness.
So Ocasio-Cortez deescalated. She validated the woman’s concern, but pivoted to “positive” solutions:
We need to treat the climate crisis with the urgency that it does present. Luckily we have more than a few months. We do need to hit net zero in several years. But I think we all need to understand that there are a lot of solutions that we have that we can pursue, and if we act in a positive way, there’s space for hope. We are never beyond hope.
Because Ocasio-Cortez did not explicitly state that she does not condone eating human children, however, a bunch of influential people on the right suggested Ocasio-Cortez condones eating human children. These influential people also suggested this was a normal position held by some of Ocasio-Cortez’s supporters and constituents. These people include:
Regular Fox News and National Review contributor Kat Timpf
Conservative media strategist Caleb Hull
Morgan Zegers @MorganZegersThis has to be a joke, right? This person claims to be an AOC supporter and she’s screaming that we have to “eat the babies!” to save the planet from climate change... https://t.co/M5vAbQ2Ujo
Donald Trump’s son
Ryan Saavedra @RealSaavedraOne of Ocasio-Cortez's constituents loses her mind over climate change during AOC's townhall, claims we only have a few months left: "We got to start eating babies! We don't have enough time! ... We have to get rid of the babies! ... We need to eat the babies!" https://t.co/uVmOnboluI
Donald Trump Jr. @DonaldJTrumpJrSeems like a normal AOC supporter to me. https://t.co/NWVMRD0wsl
How climate misinformation spreads
It’s crazy, in retrospect, how quickly this thing blew up on Thursday. Take a look at the timeline.
The woman made her comments at about 7:30pm EST. By 7:57pm, conservative Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra had tweeted out the clip, calling the woman an “AOC constituent.”
At 8:16pm, Saavedra’s tweet was quoted by Don Jr., who called the woman a “normal AOC supporter.”
A little before 9pm, Tucker Carlson played the clip on his Fox News show, and speculated that the woman might be “someone who believes the rhetoric of the left.”
At 9:27pm, President Trump quote-tweeted his son’s tweet of Saavedra’s video, and called Ocasio-Cortez a “Wack job.”
The information reached millions of people in that two-hour time frame. Carlson’s Thursday show had 3.2 million viewers, according to Adweek. Saavedra’s clip now has more than 11 million views.
But nine minutes after Trump’s tweet—at 9:36pm—a right-wing PAC that supports Trump admitted that they staged the event, and planted the woman in the crowd. So the woman was not a “constituent,” or a “supporter,” or “someone who believes the rhetoric of the left.”
And yet none of the people cited above ever corrected their claims about the woman’s identity.
Isn’t that, like, totally weird?
It’s not weird
To recap, a Trump-supporting PAC hired a woman to pretend she wanted to eat babies for climate action; planted that woman in a congresswoman’s town hall; and didn’t go public about it until both Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump told millions of people she might be a real climate activist.
This is not an accident. This is part of the climate right’s longstanding campaign to make climate action look like a crazy ploy to take away your hamburgers and cars and plastic straws, instead of a good-faith effort to prevent millions of deaths, millions of species extinctions, and trillions of dollars in climate-related economic losses.
It doesn’t matter, and has never mattered, that this campaign is based on lies. Because when it comes to climate change, mainstream Republicans continue to show they are perfectly fine with lying. That’s why Trump’s 2020 presidential press secretary Kayleigh McEnany falsely characterized the woman as an “AOC supporter” on Twitter on Friday, after it was well-known that the woman was a Trump-supporting plant. McEnany also wrote, “You really can’t make this stuff up,” even though Trump supporters literally made it up.
The are no adults in the room
As of Monday morning, no major Republican politician has spoken out to defend Ocasio-Cortez against claims by the president and his son that she might support eating babies. Nor has any Republican politician spoken out against the idea, proliferated by Tucker Carlson and the president, that eating babies represents a totally normal thing that liberals would like to do.
I looked around to find sane voices on the right that might be pushing back against these things. I found exactly one thing: a piece from Washington Examiner commentary writer Brad Polumbo. His was the only one I could find from a conservative writer who seemed upset with his colleagues for implying that Ocasio-Cortez might support eating babies:
Come on, he wrote. Seriously?
Any conservative who isn’t operating in pure bad faith must give their intellectual opponents, at bare minimum, the benefit of the doubt to assume they do not support cannibalism. When some conservatives fail to do so, it undermines all of our efforts to make the case against Ocasio-Cortez’s radical policy agency.
Yeah. It sure does.
OK, that’s all for today—thanks for reading HEATED!
If you liked it, please forward it to a friend. If you’ve been forwarded this, you can sign up for daily emails by clicking the button below:
Questions or comments about today’s issue? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Suggestions for hot action? E-mail them to: email@example.com
See you next week in Colorado!