Clearing up Confusion About the Green New Deal

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What do farting cows, men urinating in milk jugs, and airplane bans have in common? They’re all not in Alejandra Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal”.

What do farting cows, men urinating in milk jugs, airplane bans, and giving money to people unwilling to work have in common? They’re all not in Alejandra Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” Resolution. Yet, by the way people are reacting in places like Twitter, along with misleading articles like this one from the National Review, you could be lead to believe that it does. So why all the confusion?

There’s a little bit of blame to go around for why the Green New Deal (GND) is causing so much chaos. The GND, named after Roosevelt’s Great Depression era “New Deal,” was proposed as a plan to promote economic growth while at the same time help the country transition into being a net zero-emissions energy producer. The resolution, which was drafted up to be submitted to Congress, was published on AOC’s website alongside a summary of the deal. That is, there are two distinct documents here, the resolution itself and an FAQ, both published by AOC’s team.

Part of the reason for the confusion is Ocasio-Cortez’s own summary of the resolution. The uploaded document containing the summary of the resolution differed from the actual resolution in key ways. After realizing this, the summary was taken down by AOC’s team. It was, perhaps, written up by a junior staffer who failed to accurately represent what was written in the GND. Still, AOC ultimately should’ve been aware of what was being pushed up onto her website. For this, AOC deserves some of the blame for publishing two documents with differing information.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, Green New Deal, environmentalism, environment, climate change, economics, politics

This FAQ summary, unlike the resolution itself, did, in fact, offer economic security for people unwilling to work. This is despite what Professor Hockett of Cornell Univesity said on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News. The summary did say it would offer people unwilling to work some form of economic security (maybe that’s why it was deleted). For this, people like Professor Hocket deserve some of the blame for not acknowledging that the two documents have differing information.

Yet, on this same show, Tucker Carlson clearly did not do his research. It was clear he had read neither the resolution or the summary of the resolution. This was made clear by his assumption that the resolution offered to pay people unwilling to work. It didn’t, the summary did. It was also made clear by his assumption that the resolution stated that the government would build enough light rail to make airplanes unnecessary. It didn’t, but the summary does suggest that it wants to be rid of “farting cows and airplanes.” For this, people like Tucker Carlson deserve some of the blame for conflating the two documents.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, Green New Deal, environmentalism, environment, climate change, economics, politics

Far right purveyors of misinformation spread around doctored images and further added to the confusion. As a result, many people believed (lots still do) that these fake images were actually from the GND. Take, for example, conspiracy theorist Mark Dice’s tweet. In this tweet, Dice presented an image which claimed that the GND advised men to “urinate into an empty milk jug instead of a toilet.” Later, he took credit for the doctored images and claimed they were “satire.” Whether they were truly intended to be satire or not, lots of people took the bait. This should be a reality check for anyone who believes these trolls have any real interest in participating in the dialogue. For this, people like Mark Dice deserve some of the blame for spreading completely false information about what’s on either of these documents.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, Green New Deal, environmentalism, environment, climate change, economics, politics

The resolution itself has been faulted for being too ambitious, unrealistic, and even impossible by reasonable people on both sides of the political spectrum. Fair enough. But, we aren’t doing anyone any favors by not understanding what‘s actually being debated here. If you’re a right-winger who truly believes that the GND is ridiculous, there’s no need to spread falsities about what’s in it. Because, if these ideas are truly as ridiculous as you say they are, then you should have no problem dismantling them. You wouldn’t hide from them. You wouldn’t fear that the public learns the truth of what’s being debated.

And, if you’re a journalist whose job it is to inform the public, but you still want to further a certain narrative, the least you could do is present what’s true. The least you could do is take 30 minutes to read both of these documents. Then, you could try to interpret what’s being said accurately and present it in a fair and clear way. That way, your readers can be armed with the facts, regardless of whether you think they’d be better off agreeing or disagreeing.

Lastly, if you’re a left-leaning individual who’s skeptical of the GND, and see it as too far left, too radical, maybe you could try the following approach. Instead of dismissing the GND, you could see it as the first step in a negotiation. Which areas do you believe are unreasonable? Which arguments, actually in the resolution, do you think should be tweaked? And remember, when Bernie Sanders first proposed the idea of a $15 minimum wage, many people scoffed at the idea, dismissed it as too far left, too radical. Today, that idea doesn’t seem so radical. Democracy, a country with no slavery, and women’s liberation were once considered “radical” ideas which eventually became what we expect. Maybe too, if we entertain it, can the idea of a “green economy” become reality.

Christopher is a research assistant at the Department of Demography at UC Berkeley. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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