We learned last week that a major player in the now infamous proposed Santolina development on the southwest mesa put up scads of bucks to defame Albuquerque mayoral candidate and State Auditor Tim Keller with a disgusting and utterly bogus TV attack ad accusing him of supporting sex offenders over children. As was noted last week in this space, that’s as dirty and scummy an accusation as one can think of and based on a malicious twisting of facts. It brings Albuquerque city politics to a new, abysmal low.
And now we see New Mexico’s governor tossing science education into the bottom rings of ignorance, basically advising teachers to lie to our children about the natural world in which they live. But this time, unlike Santolina, it’s a monstrous deceit by omission — leaving out mentioning evolution and climate change in the name of honoring a diversity of opinion. All it does, of course, is favor one opinion, a medieval one at that, over current science and its centuries of investigation, analysis, and hypothesis testing.
Is there a similarity between Santolina’s vicious deceit and Martinez’ science education guidelines in our public schools? Certainly there is. It’s called twisting the truth. Or in the world of George Orwell’s 1984 it was known as doublespeak. You call the Department of War the Department of Peace (or Defense like we do). You call superstition science guidelines on the grounds of fairness and a pursuit of a balanced perspective, completely omitting scientific tenants and valorizing the tenants of superstitious conjecture. You call facts fake news, and in fact, anything you don’t like or agree with you turn into a sham, a fakery, even when your point of view is held by only a miniscule number of smart people.
Truth twisting is the bottom-line art form of political propaganda. Hucksters hustling for power will sell the public booby traps and graffiti, making them out to be full fledged policies and plans supported by reason and logical argument. We all know now that Santolina investors who helped fund the scurrilous attack on Keller claimed that voting for a bill six years ago in the New Mexico Senate, a bill that was supported by the New Mexico attorney general and all the major agencies that deal with sex offenders and are committed to keeping them as far away from children as possible, somehow did the exact opposite. This is an example of classic Orwellian doublespeak.
So it’s only logical to ask if we can trust anything the Santolina people might say in support of their ludicrous promises and projections. And if we do, what kind of suckers are we?
Obviously, they are utterly untrustworthy. They promise to do what no other entity, developer, city, or other jurisdiction has ever been able to do — create 75,000 new jobs in a new city that will have 38,000 homes to house some 90,000 residents. Does Santolina have some kind of magic formula that will allow them to do the impossible?
Santolina has a mirror twin, Mesa del Sol, near the Sunport six miles from downtown on I-25. Its history is instructive. Designed by Forest City Covington, a much more sophisticated developer than those planning development on the West Mesa, it shows us what likely will happen to Santolina — big promises but no delivery. Mesa del Sol promised some 37,000 new homes and broke ground a dozen years ago. While it made good on some of its economic development projects, with soundstages and other business facilities, only some 200 houses have been built so far. It’s most likely the same thing will happen to Santolina, unless hordes of new businesses and vast numbers of refugees from the drought-stricken Southwest should trek across the desert and land at our doorstep. That just isn’t going to happen.
A British newspaper The Guardian, finds the whole idea of Santolina so absurd it devoted a massive piece to portraying its unlikelihood to incredulous Brits. It describes Santolina as “a bizarre mega-development backed by the British bank Barclays, which proposes to build an entire new city in the middle of the desert…” The Guardian gave much space to interviews with small farmers in the South Valley who contend, with good reason, that Santolina will soak up water from their farms as New Mexico experiences longer and longer droughts. Others say Santolina, like Mesa del Sol, will become another example of what’s come to be known all over the Southwest as “ghost developments,” or “zombie subdivisions” — public/private partnerships that harvest public money for private profit with pie-in-the-sky plans that are never fulfilled. The properties are resold, recycled, and somebody makes a small fortune, and the land is platted, bulldozed and basically scarred for decades, if not centuries. These projects plague cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, and Albuquerque with perhaps millions of partially started houses and wrecked landscapes. Just fly over Albuquerque’s northwest mesa and see the mile upon mile of bulldozed roads and no houses, all part of planned community hawked by a company called AMPREP in the 1960s and ’70s, that never materialized. Are we going to allow ourselves to be bamboozled over and over again?
The Martinez administration’s science guidelines will surely be opposed by virtually every educated person in the state. Here we are, a state reputed to have more Ph.D.s per capita than anywhere in the country, a state known for its history of world-class physics. New Mexico is synonymous with not only the poorest children in the country, and the highest property crime rates, but also science and technology of all types, which supplies New Mexicans with our best paying jobs.
Teachers will be guided to discuss “fluctuations” in climate, not human-caused climate change, and they will be guided not to talk directly about evolution.
Here is truth twisting at its most pathetic. It will result in scientifically illiterate graduates of New Mexico’s public schools and leave them at an even greater disadvantage than they already are in a state that ranks among the poorest.
How could the Martinez administration be so blatantly wrong-headed? The generous answer is that after a while truth twisters start to believe their own tortuous view of reality. A more realistic answer might be that truth twisters will do anything and say anything to keep and expand their financial and voting base.
“Base” is a word used frequently by Trumpian strategists to describe the people who gave them their victory in the last presidential election. When you use the word, however, as an adjective to describe truth twisters and the like, “base” means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “having no moral principles or rules” and acting out of “base motives,” honoring “winning,” or making a big profit, let’s say, over simply telling the truth. But now, it seems, truth pays — too little.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it