16 April 2014

Krauthammer vs. the "totalitarian" American left

Charles Krauthammer feels threatened. His home paper, the Washington Post, recently received a petition organized by an organization called Forecast the Facts and signed by 110,000 people, demanding that the paper not run any of Krauthammer's columns that could be construed to deny global warming. While the Los Angeles Times has implemented such a policy, at least as far as letters to the editor are concerned, the Post did not comply. As a result, the petition ends up grist for Krauthammer's mill, proof in his eyes that the left is " no longer trying to win the debate but stopping debate altogether, banishing from public discourse any and all opposition." This is a multifront operation, the left seeking to eliminate all opposition to the acceptance of gay marriage, the Affordable Care Act's mandated contraception coverage, etc. But as Krauthammer goes on, his argument becomes less precise. Name calling, it turns out, is part of this massive "totalitarian" campaign to silence the opposition. To be called a bigot or a sexist for opposing certain measures becomes morally equivalent to petitioning the Post's editors to suppress a columnist. Merely to characterize one's opposition in terms less generous than the opponent himself would use is to try to silence the opponent. In short, Krauthammer is going PC on the left. It's long been a staple of "political correctness" that bigoted or sexist language in discourse has an intimidating effect and is used consciously to silence minorities. In effect, Krauthammer argues now that invective aimed at Republicans is an implicit threat to silence them.

Krauthammer's beef with the climate activists stems from his reluctance to acknowledge that anthropocentric global warming is a "settled" fact to such an extent that debate is no longer necessary on the subject. A sense of urgency on the subject is understandable on both sides, I suppose, one side feeling a threat to human life on earth, the other a threat to individual liberty, free enterprise, etc. Unanimity on the question of warming may be impossible, but Forecast the Facts argues for an overwhelming consensus, with 97% of climate scientists accepting the anthropocentric premise. I suppose they could be all wrong, and that the climate crisis is no more than mass hysteria, but it's also possible that the 3% are cynical corporate hirelings or ideologically blinkered. Since much of the controversy focuses on models predicting future warming and its consequences for global climate, it's impossible to say that any model is absolutely right until more time passes. Nevertheless, the consensus should seem compelling for policy makers -- but should it have any coercive effect on dissidents? Unless it can be proven that climate dissidents are lying about anything, it's hard to argue that they should be silenced by their employers, much less by any other authority, even if dissent on the op-ed pages is vastly disproportionate to dissent in the science departments due to corporate control of the media, the power of lobbyists, etc. In any event, a recognized ideologue like Krauthammer isn't really changing minds one way or the other on this issue. Readers know him as a conservative and won't pay attention if they're liberals. The irony of it is that in his refusal to acknowledge that this debate can end, his insistence that it continue indefinitely as long as some fail (or refuse) to be convinced -- Krauthammer is arguing exactly like a liberal.


Anonymous said...

How can there be a "debate" when the right-wing simply ignores all the data? There is no, can be no "debate" regarding global warming because the right-wing simply refuses to accept the fact.

Mike Lang said...

Scratch a liberal find a fascist.

Samuel Wilson said...

Anon: It sounds like you're saying there can't be a debate because the data can only be interpreted one way, or that there is a debate only because some people choose to ignore the data. I can't help sharing that suspicion to some extent. Some people simply don't want to do what would have to be done, so they dispute its necessity.

Mike: Thanks for writing, but you can't know what a liberal is if you can write that with a straight face.

Anonymous said...

No. I'm saying there can't be a debate when one side simply refuses to accept any date, whatsoever, that questions the lie that is their world view.

Lang: Every conservative is simply an authoritarian too cowardly to act on his own and to stupid to "collectivize". The fact is, you people hate democracy. That's why, whenever your side loses an election, you all start whining about "tyranny" and "secession".