(Tom Toles)
Editorial cartoonist

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.” Ring that freedom bell! If you want your heart to break hearing words of truth ooze from the mouth of someone whose former company has profited immensely from the manufacture and dissemination of “alternative realities,” here you go. Drink your fill. Take it away, Rex Tillerson!

The role of fossil fuel companies in syringing calculated misinformation into the collapsing arteries of American civic discourse is the crime of the millennium. Rex, take your bows, as we count the ways!

First and foremost, the fossil fuel campaign of misinformation, mal-information and obfusc-information has been instrumental, if not decisive, in delaying action on climate change to a degree that is already wreaking havoc on real people here and all over the world. And worse is to come as further catastrophe is being funneled into the pipeline every hour of every day. If you think that ExxonMobil’s current pro forma, heavily hedged, sotto voce acknowledgment of the reality of climate change mitigates this crisis, then you might have a bright future in corporate communications. “There is a consensus that comprehensive strategies are needed to respond to these risks.” Whoa, baby! Truth to power in the passive voice! Are needed to be undertaken by somebody, somewhere, sometime or other. Why, the company is going so far as to participate in “constructive dialogue on policy options.” I’m sure you’d love to hear all the constructive dialogue that their lobbyists have with legislators on this subject. Transcripts unavailable.

Which brings us to the second level of damage the climate-change denial efforts have achieved: the terminal alienation of the Republican Party from the truth. Yes, the GOP was well along this greasy trail away from honesty already, but the climate issue slid the party right over the cliff edge and into the ocean. Causing the sea level to rise, no doubt. A Republican Party that became completely untethered to facts paved the way for the third great consequence of climate-science denial: the climate-destroying nonstop lie machine that is the Trump administration. In a whirling slurry of unending lies, there are no footholds left to correct or even talk sensibly about climate change or anything else.

So thanks a lot, Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil and former top official of the Trump calamity, for your help in setting the United States on the path you now look back at and warn us so unctuously about.