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Global warming and the centrality of irritating liberals

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 15:54 EDT
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So, it seems some scientists have been caught talking about global warming in political terms, privately, but in a way that simply reaffirms that global warming is real and caused by human activities. But since these scientists take global warming very seriously, and want the world to take it seriously, that means that conservatives have everything they need to declare that it’s a hoax. By this logic, everything is actually a hoax, by the way. For instance, if I email a fellow feminist about some article on abortion, and I suggest that the article needs to be dealt with delicately for political reasons, this proves there is no such thing as abortion. Using this logic to its fullest extent, we can easily prove there is no such thing as reality. Except emails. Those are real.

The staggering intellectual dishonesty in pretending that these emails prove anything shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. It’s basically the same MO as the ACORN “sting”—create a stink that everyone knows is a lie, but exploit the media’s unwillingness to accept that conservatives really are 100% full of shit 100% of the time in order to get everyone to pretend that the cardboard cutouts of smoke you hung around on pieces of string indicates fire. That is also why some wingnuts are trying on criminal trespassing. No one involved thinks they’re really going to find anything. The point is to pretend that it’s possible, and use that to round up into claims that global warming is a myth. The other part of this strategy is projection—accuse your opponents of the wishful thinking that you are in fact guilty of. This should cause enough confusion to keep the lie going. The reason it works is that so many of the gatekeepers are willing to substitute “taking everyone, including obvious lunatics, seriously” for “look over the evidence and draw sober-minded conclusions” when it comes to being fair-minded. And that’s because the latter takes work. Conservatives are adept at exploiting laziness, probably because they understand it so well.

The question remains: Why do conservatives insist on denying global warming, when they know that slowing down reform will result in the deaths of millions and widespread environmental destruction? There are two theories:

1) They’re in deep denial.

2) They know that global warming is real, but they don’t care.

I think most cases of global warming denialism are a combination of both these urges. And different individuals have a mix to different degrees. I will never deny that there is a lot of stupidity on the right, of course, and so I’ll accept there may be plenty of morons who are more #1 than #2. But as you know, when it comes to the “stupid or evil?” question, I tend to believe there’s more evil—and that the evil occupies the important leadership roles—than stupid. The reason I think that global warming denialism is deep into the evil-over-stupid territory is this: The entire basis for denialism rests on a supposed belief in a worldwide conspiracy involving millions and possibly billions of people that are motivated by……nothing really. Arguing with conservatives about this, I’ve been informed that the entire scientific community around the world (and all their millions, perhaps billions of supporters) is in cahoots to pull this sham because that means they get more federal research money. I wish I was kidding. That’s the entire motivation for this worldwide conspiracy. Never mind that any scientist willing to sell out his soul in order to get paid would go immediately into global warming denialism, where the real money for no work is at. Or that people brilliant enough to orchestrate that kind of worldwide conspiracy could certainly use their brilliance to make more than the comfortable middle class incomes of most scientists.

Clearly, if you buy into this conspiracy theory wholesale, you are too stupid to breathe, much less argue a point. (And yes, I’ve seen those wingnuts. I won’t deny their existence.) For the rest of them, we have to ask why they’re willing to pretend so strongly that they’re not full of shit, when they know that their obstinacy is aimed towards worldwide death and destruction. For the doddering old fools in the Senate that push denialism, the answer is easy: They are unbelievably selfish. They’re going to cash their oil company checks with the assurance that they’ll be dead before any of this really goes down. But most of the denialists aren’t really getting directly paid, and many of them are invested in their own futures as well as that of their children. So why are they willing to gamble with all of that?

I’m forced to conclude that it’s because denying the reality of global warming achieves the central goal of wingnuttery: pissing off the liberals. And boy, is it effective! Those liberals sure get steamed when they think about how reckless behavior will result in millions of unnecessary deaths. They blow smoke out their ears when you drive around in an SUV precisely to show how little you give a shit if worldwide drought creates worldwide war. They may be smarter and cooler than you, but by being a mega-watt asshole of sociopathic proportions, you gain the upper hand because you piss them off. There are a lot of ways to piss liberals off. You can be pointlessly racist or sexist. You can sniff around in people’s private lives and carry on about how vegetarians are stupid. But few things really can top the global warming denialism. The sheer magnitude of the damage that it does is so severe that it’s impossible for liberals not to get upset. And so you win!

For now, of course. Unfortunately, since conservatives have to share the planet with the rest of us, the short term victory of pissing off the liberals doesn’t translate into long term gains, but in fact into long term losses. But thinking about that means admitting you share the air and the water with all those hated other people—and especially those hated liberals—and so that’s put out of the mind.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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