The Right Swindles Itself on Global Warming
Apparently under pressure from rightwingers inlcuding Janet Albrechtsen on its board the ABC will broadcast The Great Global Warming Swindle tomorrow night. This piece looks like being the last hurrah for the delusionists in Australia – even JA herself seems to have got the memo recently.
I’m not going to bother with the tired talking points presented in Durkin’s film. The Wikipedia article (to which I’ve contributed a bit) does an excellent job on it, as on most forms of delusionism, and there are more critiques here. Paul Norton notes that some of the most clearly bogus elements have been cut from the version to be shown here, but the basic claim, that thousands of scientists and all the world’s major scientific organizations are engaged in a gigantic fraud (directed from beyond the grave by Margaret Thatcher!), remains right out there in LaRouche/Lavoisier territory.
The more interesting point to me, is the way the political right in Australia is swindling itself here.
To begin with, I’ll observe that, AFAIK, no significant commentator on the Australian right has criticised the film (I’m labelling Harry Clarke as a centrist here) and many have endorsed it. (Counterexamples will be gratefully accepted and prominently publicized)
To the extent that this pattern of implicit or explicit endorsement isn’t purely opportunistic it’s indicative of the extent to which the those on the right have come to be complicit in their own delusion, disdaining factual evidence in favor of wishful thinking and a magical belief in the power of ritually repeated talking points. It is a notable reversal of the situation a few decades ago, when there was a lot of pressure on the left to endorse (or at least tacitly accept) various kinds of fringe science and anti-scientific rhetoric. The same pattern has been evident in relation to the Iraq war, and reflects a willingness to take the standards of evidence used in partisan political debate and apply them to issues where reality will bite no matter how clever the rhetoric.
By now, though, I doubt that, to the extent that they adhere to a notion of objective reality at all, many on the right seriously think these claims are defensible. Rather, they apparently believe that it is a good thing that they should be aired. Perhaps a handful of them are serious devotees of Voltaire and John Stuart Mill, but given their reaction to (say) the films of Michael Moore, the number of free speech absolutists on the Australian right cannot be large. In any case, devotion to free speech shouldn’t stop those with critical views from airing them. So, I conclude, those who welcome the film being shown must think it is politically beneficial to their cause. Presumably the idea is that creating doubt on the science will reduce support for effective action to stabilize the climate.
This just seems silly to me. The Australian public has made up its collective mind on this issue, and the government has been at pains to assure us that it accepts mainstream science on the topic. Now, we are presented with ample evidence that its ideological backers are just as far out on the lunatic fringe as ever. As Paul Norton observes:
I must say that from the standpoint of partisan political calculation, given the state of public opinion on climate change it may not be a bad thing to have such tripe being screened in a Federal election year at the behest of an ABC board cluttered with Howard government appointees, and for a very loud chorus of greenhouse denialism to be sustained by prominent supporters and allies of the Howard government. Messrs. Rudd and Garrett will hopefully ensure that this is not lost on the voters.
The main inference to be drawn from this sorry episode is that there is no-one among the government’s supporters who is intelligent enough to see through this fraud, honest enough to admit that it is a fraud and brave enough to say so out loud.