Is the American Spectator trying to appeal to stupid people? to foster more stupidity? or to merely alienate the more intelligent segment of the conservative wing? I have to ask based on the recent article Climate Alarmism’s Flimsy Foundation by climate change / global warming Denier1 Paul Chesser published Oct 24th.
It’s not simply that the article is factually inaccurate, but rather that it is pathetically so. The quality of the alleged ‘research’ would be considered lame at a junior high school level, and frankly it insults the intelligence of an adult reader. It is so bad that one has to wonder what on Earth Chesser and the editors were thinking when they published this.
In the current US election there has been much talk of the attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator, ie rather than reach out to ‘the base’, the politics appeals to and nurtures all that is base. The worst kind of populism that does not seek to empower the common man, but rather to gain power through the mob.
This has been commented on repeatedly with respect to race, xenophobia and anti-intellectualism as personified by some alleged east coast elite. I have noticed that at least with respect to the politics of climate change there is not an attack on intellectualism so much as an attack on intelligence. Chesser’s article is symptomatic and unlike him I will document my claims before discussing it further. Those wishing to skip the vivisection of this smug piece of hack journalism can skip to “Not all conservatives are stupid people”
Chesser reports on various warnings about the probable consequences of climate change and then mocks them without offering the merest shred of evidence that they are in anyway wrong or exaggerated. He takes it as given that they are inaccurate, presumably because he must since as far as I know there is no such contradicting evidence.
Rather than evidence his only “support” seems to be an ad hominem attack on a single journalist. Is he attempting to imply that all of the “ so many environmentalist reporter articles” that he refers to were all written by this single journalist? even though he links to a story by other journalists? This entire section s one long Bulverism, one of the most juvenile of logical fallacies, and only ‘true believers’ can miss it.
He then makes the assertion that “the core issue of whether the temperature uptick (of one degree Celsius) over the last century is attributable chiefly to man’s influence and thus mitigable, or to natural fluctuations and that nothing can be done about it. In other words, the vast majority of research (80 percent? 90 percent? more?) tied to climate change has nothing to do with its cause. “
How irrelevant can you get? The scale of climate research is huge so even if his ex nihilo guesses are accurate it still leaves a vast amount of evidence showing that humans are causing climate change. Further, even if there were only a single piece of evidence, it would nonetheless be something in contrast to the nothing that he offers.
He makes reference to various reports that documents the small number and irrelevant nature of the Deniers1, and then dismisses them as being “dismissive.” Naturally he makes no effort to offer any evidence to counter them. For example he scoffs at the claim that there are only handful of scientists that are Deniers (which is true), and makes no attempt to counter it. The whole basis of his position seems to be the paranoid conspiracy hysteria cf “So obviously it’s in each of the alarmists’ interests to dismiss their dissenters…” which is obvious, idiotic nonsense (see link).
Next he asserts “But the difficulty of the alarmists’ protectionist task only grows” and then repeats
We are then treated to a few more discredited, inaccurate, or distorted bits of evidence, such as reports of cooling oceans which they are not (and here). That Antarctic ice is growing, which is true of the Eastern Antarctic and is due to warming, and not true of the Western Antarctic. In fact the National Snow and Ice Data Centre announced last March “Antarctic Ice Shelf Disintegration Underscores a Warming World.”
Then we get the standard Denier Myth that surface temperature measurements are biased, finishing with the tradional Denier Straw Man attempt to imply that climate scientists have suggested that climate change replaces all other climatic factors. This is utter nonsense of course. Anthropogenic climate change is as well as, not instead of natural climate drivers.
Not all conservatives are stupid people
So the Spectator piece is the standard Denier collection of lies and frauds, not particularly surprising given their political agenda. What is surprising is how lame the piece is. Given the internet, a reasonably bright 12 year old could produce a much more accurate report on the state of climate science, and possibly even a better fraudulent one.
Even more surprising is that this was not written by some hack journalist like Lorne Gunter or Andrew Bolt but by someone who “is director of Climate Strategies Watch.” Granted this seems to be another one of these one man, basement operations, but even so it suggests someone who’s principal interest would be climate issues. That someone with even amateur level expertise would write such a juvenile piece, and that the Spectator would publish it, begs the question why?
I think we can dismiss disputing the science of climate change as it’s purpose given that it is so spectacularly unconvincing. The case it builds is so flimsy that it bears no scrutiny whatsoever.
Of course in the world of politics one on-going agenda is to keep group support united by endlessly repeating it’s mantras and myths. That certainly would seem to be the case for much of the climate Denier blogosphere as the bulk of it is as transparently false as Chesser’s piece. The climate Denier conspiracies are a particular case in point in that they are so utterly ridiculous that only the ‘true believer’s’ can find them even remotely credible.
Beyond group cohesion a consistent theme with the Denier meme is anti-intellectualism. For example Chesser’s piece appears under the by-line “Among the Intellectualoids.” There is not only the suggestion that educated people may be mistaken, but outright contempt for the knowledge class and even knowledge itself.
At it’s best anti-intellectualism has been a response by the commons to the knowledge class setting itself up as an elite. While cloaking itself in this guise the current trend seems to be more a case of “people who feel their values threatened” by change and reacting by attacking the messengers of change.
Nonetheless, it is one thing to throw out slogans while whipping up a mob, quite another to put it into print. John Stuart Mill was right, not all conservatives are stupid people. I have to believe that the brighter ones will come to resent being vilified and condescended to (if they haven’t already).
At some point they will express their disgust by seeking a political environment where intelligence is at least tolerated, if not actually valued. Already we are seeing this happening with respect to the upcoming US election. Certainly with respect to climate science it is difficult to imagine anyone of reasonable intelligence managing to retain their dignity and self-respect while embracing the Denier Canon.
Expedience or strategy?
Is this alienation of the best and brightest conservatives an unfortunate by-product of expedient tactics, or a deliberate effort to drive the better minds out of the conservative wing? By deliberate I do not imply that it is planned or conscious, but rather that it reflects an antipathy towards even conservative intellectuals. Certainly the relationship between the conservative intellectuals and the mob must be conflicted at best.
It also begs the question of where this will leave American conservatism in the coming years (see also). In a country already deeply divided along ideological lines this trend of the radical Right to use the lumpenproletariat as it’s base would tend to exacerbate the divide. While perhaps a smaller group in size the mob can be a powerful political base given it’s lack of constraint and furious energy. As Yeats observed, “the worst are filled with passionate intensity.” This would not bode well for the coming years.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 21 … still no evidence.
1As I discuss here I do not use the term “Denier” to refer to all climate change doubters. Those who thoughtfully and intelligently address the facts I call ’skeptics’.
Those who irrationally deny the existence of the science and instead propagate the lies and distortions such as those discussed above and linked to the right under “Debunking Denier Nonsense” are “Deniers”.
The choice of the correct term is based on their actions, not their conclusions.