Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Ehrlich’s Guide to Being an Intrusive A**hole

SPOTLIGHT: The venomous, judgmental tone of public discourse can’t be blamed on Twitter. It was already in full swing 50 years ago.

BIG PICTURE: Convinced that overpopulation threatened civilization, scientist Paul Ehrlich urged readers of his monster 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb, to harangue their friends and acquaintances.

The question of how many children to bring into the world wasn’t a supremely private matter. Ehrlich insisted it was everybody’s business.

His book says someone who already has eight kids should have it pointed out to them that they “surely would not behave that way today.”

Childless individuals, he said, should be praised for their “selfless devotion to mankind” even, he said, in instances in which “you suspect [they are] sterile.”

People with two children should be told that “two is plenty,” and advised that any additional offspring would make it clear they were “doing it for personal satisfaction, not out of love of children.”

Conservatives should be reminded that “overpopulation breeds conditions in which communism and ‘big government’ thrive.” Liberals should be told that “as long as population continues to grow” the rich will get richer and the poor poorer. (Global poverty has actually fallen sharply in recent decades, despite ongoing population increases.)

Those encountering a university professor

must convince the professor that he should immediately use his influence in every way possible within and outside of the university…The population crisis must be an integral part of his teaching – it is pertinent to every subject… (italics in original)

In this context, Ehrlich the censor is once again on full display. Someone in the physical sciences, he says, should “write to the Scientific American and similar journals to ask the editors to stop accepting advertisements that imply that a technology for mining or farming the sea can save humanity.”

Such a scientist should also “write strong letters to his narrow-minded colleagues who are proposing idiotic panaceas to solve the food problem.”

A man who dismissed others as narrow-minded had the chutzpah to insist it was his way or the highway. Multiple analyses weren’t permitted. Other people had no legitimate contribution to make. Magazine readers shouldn’t even be exposed to ads that implied a different perspective.

TOP TAKEAWAY:  Supercilious arrogance. Scorn, contempt, and disrespect for other people. This has been the Paul Ehrlich playbook for half a century.


The Population Bomb
Paul Ehrlich


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