Making it safe for progressives to talk about population


May 18, 2012–Day One
I stand here today in protest of the malicious and deceitful campaign of character assassination waged against good people by Hampshire College students and staff associated with Professor Betsy Hartmann, whose core beliefs and abusive tactics give rise to this political activism. As the founder of the Hampshire College Population and Development program (POPDEV), she is a central figure in a nation-wide effort to suppress open dialogue about global and U.S. population growth. As such, this campaign is infected with a resurgent McCarthyism co-opted by radical leftists for a war against any reasonable effort to address the unsustainable growth in both American and global population.
Dr. Hartmann publicly dismisses scientifically grounded concerns about the potential harm presented by population growth. As such, she clearly mirrors the tea-party’s willingness to put politics over science in debates about global warming and the origins of the human race, to cite just two prominent examples. Furthermore she has worked to dismantle the progressive political will needed to ensure adequate family planning services and education (FPSE) both in the U.S. and in the developing world. Her attacks on population activists compel a virtual taboo among progressives who fear that speaking out will invite this abuse on their own characters and reputations. Those silenced progressive voices are essential to countering right-wing assaults on FPSE in our own country and on U.S. support for international FPSE. Dr. Hartmann also recklessly deploys Hampshire students in her  political agenda aimed at suppressing civil discourse among progressives on the impacts of U.S. immigration policy.
Dr. Hartmann is entitled to express her opinion on topics  she addresses through the auspices of POPDEV, but I take issue with her slanderous tactics and her recruitment of Hampshire students in launching groundless, deceitful smear campaigns against activists with whom she disagrees.  At the core of these attacks is the flawed but unchallenged assumption that progressives, and especially environmentalists, who call for reduced immigration into the U.S. are secretly motivated by hatred of people of color. In this worldview, anyone who calls for slowing U.S. population growth to sustainable levels is inherently racist. Most notably, these activists promote a mythology often described as “the greening of hate,” which claims that environmentalists citing environmental concerns about U.S. population growth have been seduced into their advocacy by smooth-talking bigots.  In so doing, these pro-open-borders/anti-free-speech smear artists have completely and unfairly biased the progressive community against population activists with legitimate concerns.
A prominent public showcase for the efforts of Dr. Hartmann and her followers is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, Center for New Community, with an affiliated website,, devoted to relentless character assassination.  Individuals closely associated with the POPDEV program, including Hampshire students participating in the POPDEV Political Intern program, have published a series of groundless attacks on progressive population activists, including myself, on this organization’s web page.  The students themselves are engaging in a high-risk activism that could plausibly trigger legal retaliation on the part of the people they have attacked. In a very real sense, they are the kamikaze pilots in Professor Hartmann’s political war against people with whom she disagrees.  Although I expect that these students might be energized by this activity and look with pride upon their published work, I call on the Hampshire College community to carefully consider how the pursuit of Professor Hartmann’s political agenda will reflect on these students in later life. Character assassination does not, in the real world, look particularly attractive, whether listed as job experience on a resume or a learning objective in a college catalog.
In the next few days I will provide in-depth analysis of the McCarthy-like methods and ruthlessness of these activists so closely associated with Hampshire College. The first installment of this material, available here, addresses the work of two individuals, Jesse Sanes and Rebecca Poswolsky, who are actually graduates of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but whose associations with the POPDEV program are readily verified.  Out of respect for the unimplicated members of the senior class, and contingent on reasonable treatment by the Hampshire administration during this brief occupation, I will hold off, until at least 48 hours past this Saturday’s commencement ceremony, on releasing the additional materials detailing the slanderous works produced by current Hampshire students and recent graduates.
I call on the Hampshire College community to put a stop to their school’s participation in this 21st century left-wing McCarthyism.  And I invite them to join with me in fostering open and respectful dialogue about the impact of population growth, both globally and in the U.S., in  exacerbating the multitude of political, economic and environmental problems faced by the human race and the fragile planet it calls home.
Mark Powell

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