Right-wing blogs twist Holdren's clarification of 37-year-old book passage

Blog ››› ››› TODD GREGORY

CNSNews.com recently conducted an ambush interview of Obama science adviser John Holdren and used his unremarkable response to write a sensational, fearmongering headline and summary.

CNS' article is headlined "White House Science Czar Says He Would Use 'Free Market' to 'De-Develop the United States,' " and here's their summary:

In a video interview this week, White House Office of Science and Technology Director John P. Holdren told CNSNews.com that he would use the "free market economy" to implement the "massive campaign" he advocated along with Paul Ehrlich to "de-develop the United States."

Several other right-wing blogs quickly picked up the article or accompanying video, all using similar headlines.

Here's what they all downplayed: the "de-develop" line comes from a book that Holdren co-wrote in 1973, and in the ambush interview, Holdren explained that he was advocating "stopping the kinds of activities that are destroying the environment and replacing them with activities that would produce both prosperity and environmental quality." When asked how, he said, "Through the free market economy."

CNS quoted from the book, including this sentence:

"A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States," Holdren wrote along with Paul and Anne H. Ehrlich in the "recommendations" concluding their 1973 book Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions.

The article eventually got around to describing what Holdren said Tuesday, rather than what he wrote in 1973:

CNSNews.com asked: "You wrote 'a massive campaign must be launched to restore a high quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States' in your book Human Ecology. Could you explain what you meant by de-develop the United States?"

Holdren responded: "What we meant by that was stopping the kinds of activities that are destroying the environment and replacing them with activities that would produce both prosperity and environmental quality. Thanks a lot."

CNSNews.com then asked: "And how do you plan on implementing that?"

"Through the free market economy," Holdren said.

The end of the video that CNS posted with its article shows the same CNS reporter talking to Holdren in June:

REPORTER: I just want to ask you real quick about a lot of your past work. I've read it, and I --

HOLDREN: Look, this is a stale topic. If you read it and you have a problem, you're misreading it. I didn't come here to be interviewed, I came here to honor my friends. Thanks a lot.

On a side note, the "science czar" tag that the right-wing media are fond of using for Holdren is particularly ridiculous -- Holdren was confirmed by the Senate in March 2009.

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