Monday, June 20, 2011

How the Right Wing's Worldview Is Torn Apart By Climate Change Science

From AlterNet:

Climate change poses a profound threat to many things that right-wing ideologues believe in. Conservatives tend to champion private property rights, small government, and above all else, unfettered industrial capitalism. Industrial capitalism is an economic system predicated on the accelerating extraction and consumption of fossil fuels for energy, which is driving the climate change we face today. To accept this basic premise, one is compelled to question the wisdom of capitalism itself, which is a terrifying notion for conservatives. And it doesn't take long to recognize that conservative values are inherently antithetical to the desperately needed actions to tackle global climate change.


For a conservative whose entire identity is defined by faith in the economics of capitalism and free markets, acceptance of climate change poses a danger to their sense of self, and will be avoided at all costs. Therefore, attempts to persuade this portion of the country with science and logic is a lost cause.

More here.

What's really disturbing about the right wing's total embrace of ideology-over-reality is that it has slowly seeped into many many other major issues. Probably the first and foremost, historically speaking, is rejection of evolution as the organizing principle for the science of biology. So conservatives' strong taste for reality denial is something that goes way back. But it seems that only recently has this dynamic become so widespread that it makes political discourse problematic, at best, and impossible at worst.

And when the public isn't particularly well informed about a topic, the endless chest beating and howls from the right can alter public perception in dangerous ways. Remember those awful days of 2002 and early 2003 when nobody wanted the "smoking gun" evidence of Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" to be a "mushroom cloud"? Well, countless sources, most of them cited in the independent and foreign presses, were continually observing that there was just no evidence of Iraqi WMD, that the IAEA and the UN weapons inspectors were pretty much in lockstep that Saddam was essentially defenseless. But most Americans never heard about that. Instead, we heard the steady drum beat of Republicans, and cowed Democrats, on the war path. So everybody, not just the conservatives, knew that we had to invade Iraq.

And it's still happening today. All over the place. I mean, see yesterday's post about the "debate" between John Stewart and Fox News' Chris Wallace: the disconnect between their two respective views was so profound that the whole thing was virtually an absurdist performance. Fox really is a conservative ideological apparatus, and insiders pretty much admit this privately, but Wallace stuck steadfastly to the party line--we're just "fair and balanced." Stewart had no way of cutting through this bizarre psychological morass of reality-denial, and had to resort to sputtering frustration.

The right wing can no longer defend its views in a fact-based way, so it spins yarn after yarn to fool both themselves and the public into accepting its harsh and oppressive ideology. Thing is, we now live in an era when technology is so good at creating and mass producing illusion, it is extraordinarily difficult to unravel such bullshit in a gut-convincing way.

This may very well be the worst crisis our nation has ever faced. Illusion is preferable to reality. The Civil War, WWII, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights era, Vietnam, stagflation, presidential assassination, and on and on, none of these crises even come close to this one.

I'm afraid there's no way out.