On Differences of Opinion

Flash mobs of stupid conservative bigots are monopolizing our headspace



OCCASIONALLY, DEAR READER, I AM FORCED to come up with a statement of principles. This usually happens when I’ve been online, getting exasperated by and attempting to respond to the comments of conservatives who are all in a panic about some class of people they disapprove of, like gay people or liberals or women, being happy and exercising their rights.

If there’s something a modern-day conservative hates, it’s people they disapprove of being happy and free and shoving their equality down everyone’s throats. Man oh man—!

My incessant life’s work is grappling with, untangling and decoding conservative “logic.” Conservative logic is an act of contortion that the Cirque de soleil would have rejected for its latest Vegas show as being too demanding, for conservative logic is always trying to prove that some minority’s insistence on the right to live their life with the same rights, benefits and protections as anyone else constitutes a denial of the rights of conservatives.

The assumptions underlying this logic are never clearly articulated, either because conservatives are too entitled to bother thinking through the implications of what they’re saying, or because they understand the implications perfectly and sense how outrageous they are.

These assumptions are that only a select class of people, the best people—the aristoi—have rights; and that these best people are by definition WASP, heterosexual and male. To allow other, non-best people—the demos—to have rights devalues those rights.

It’s like a conservative’s wife seeing her immigrant housemaid dressed in a replica of her Christian Lacroix ballgown, a cheap imitation that the maid constructed herself during her coffee break using plastic tablecloths from Dollarama. And here’s the galling bit: it looks better than his wife’s, because she’s happy wearing it.

Relentlessly co-opting street culture and sucking it dry of meaning, the conservative’s wife runs out and buys a plaid Vivienne Westwood number bristling with sterling silver safety pins and randomly-placed zippers that have no function and calls herself a punk, even though if the conservative saw an actual punk approaching their front door he’d grab his assault weapon and shoot them.

This is the analogy. Anything the grimy hands of a non-conservative touches is tainted forever. So, if I, a gay male, get to marry my partner, I’ve spoiled conservatives’ exclusive right to and definition of marriage: “One man, one woman.” (Unbelievably, no one consulted me about this definition.)

For women to get equal pay is to destroy the idea that men’s work is inherently more valuable, usually expressed as “all of the businesses in the universe will tank from the expense of paying women equally, so, like, we can’t.”

Included in this argument is the lie that “there isn’t enough money,” because there’s always room in the savings account for a nuclear warhead or a gerrymandering project, to name two.

Missing from this argument is the concept that people’s rights aren’t subject to budgetary constraints. They’re not expendable if they are expensive. They need to be recognized, and now.

Conservatives are depressingly similar: a tight-assed gang of spoiled brats and shrieking bullies in Lacoste polo shirts who can’t bear to think about women having abortions, me getting married to a dude, gender identity, anthropogenic climate change, up-to-date sex education in schools or national anthem kneelers; anything that reminds them that they’re in the twenty-first century.

We do try. We want to be good parents to these maladapted children. We strap them into the high chair, we feed them the nourishing creamed spinach of inclusiveness, “this is the airplane coming into the hangar!” but they spit it right back in our faces.

My doomed attempts at educating the insistently ignorant and the perpetual onslaught of their thin-lipped rage has caused me the type of frustration that can only be relieved by bending forward and smacking my face repeatedly on the surface of my desk.

The more I do this, the more I resemble a fourth Trump son, sibling to the two Frankenstein Foreheads. Frankenforehead the Fourth, who you don’t know about because they keep him hidden in the White House attic, is the Washington, D.C. version of the first, mad Mrs. Rochester, except instead of emulating her and setting fire to the place, he stomps around with a lighted candelabra at the stroke of midnight and whispers tweets and other assorted sound-bytes in Donald’s ear.

“Psst! Don’t forget to call the Swedish Prime Minister and guarantee bail for A$AP Rocky! Even though Sweden doesn’t have bail and their leaders are forbidden to interfere with the legal system, but they’re SURE to make an exception for you!”

“Psst! Homeboy! When you make your Fourth of July speech, don’t forget to include how George Washington closed all the airports during the American Revolution! Yep, just throw that in any old where! Oh boy oh boy! This is gonna be even bigger than your inauguration! Biggest audience in, like. The history! of Time?!”

So that’s how the process goes that leads up to my statement of principles. I beat my forehead on the desk. I push back, I untangle. I decode. I attempt an answer. I beat the forehead again.

Also I cry. Let’s not forget the crying. And I’m not talking polite, “excuse me for a moment while my lips quiver and I sincerely hope my suicidal ideation and free-floating misery wasn’t too much of a downer, eh?” apologetic, Canadian-style crying, either.

I’m talking Man-Sobs: great, honking, moist, gasping, choking, snot-flying asthmatic gulps and mucus-y snorffles that would make you back away in alarm, fearing that this heralds my projectile vomiting onto your Yves St. Laurent smoking jacket, whilst literally an entire St. Lawrence Seaway of tears and saliva and invasive species pours down my face.

When I Man-Sob, my face looks like an open lock on the Welland Canal, if the locks on the Welland Canal were made of aging human flesh and covered with patchy, unkempt hair.

If only I could figure out how to make all of this aerobic. Or, failing that, just monetize the shit out of it.


PUBLIC DISCOURSE HAS BECOME POLARIZED to the degree that it’s scary and stressful to broach certain subjects with people, even worse when someone you thought you knew, your mom, for example, or your co-worker, initiates an exchange clearly assuming you hold the same bigoted views.

And I’m pushing back with less and less energy. I’ve lost some of the, how can I put this, spunk. I have less piss and vinegar. My responses are weary.

Instead of just slipping into my nuclear-grade conservative-proof overalls and flailing my hands at the keyboard, or in the face of the bigot, I first pause and consider what I might be getting myself into.

Do I want to be rolling on the ground at the bus stop, mud wrestling with a supporter of Andrew Scheer as we each attempt to bite off our opponent’s nose and pull out handfuls of each other’s hair?

Was it really on my agenda to have my face shoved into my plateful of gazpacho and my ears lobbed off with a vegetable peeler?

Did I willingly wake up this morning to the delighted realization that “I promised myself that today I will deliver a sharp, corrective thrust of my Doc Martens to the groin area of a Christian who’s decided gay men are Satan’s secret sauce! Yippee!”?

There is very little consensus remaining about our fundamental rights. When Lyndon Johnson kicked off a War on Poverty, or Pierre Trudeau affirmed Canadian multiculturalism, people supported them, or if they didn’t, at least they didn’t let on. These were not controversial ideas, they were mainstream.

I know that everyone says it’s Trump’s fault that there’s more polarization now, less agreement, more hatred and bigotry and stupidity, but that’s not entirely correct.

Don’t blame Trump for bringing bigotry into the world. The bigotry was there. The stupidity was there. He just took out his Stupidity Wand and went dowsing for Kellyanne Conway; he put on his hard hat with the lamp on it and went down the historical mineshaft to extract humungus ante-bellum boulders of bigotry.

Trump did not add to the sum total of bigotry and stupidity. He validated the bigots and the stupid people who’d been there waiting for him. He role-modeled, he set the gold standard for bigotry and made it super awesomely cool to be stupid.

For stupid, bigoted people he was aspirational. Now stupid bigoted parents could look at their stupid, bigoted kids and say, “Look, Thelma! Maybe one day you could be stupid, bigoted President! Isn’t that nifty? Oh, except that will never happen because, you know. Girl.”

Previously all the stupid people and bigoted people were in the closet, figuring out ways to “pass.” They had a suitable sense of shame about their condition.

They cocooned, developing economic theories that proved the market would effortlessly provide all of our needs in just the right quantities and at just the right price points if we stopped regulating it. This was the Stupid Theory of Economics, now taught worldwide, cooked up by Milton Friedman, a Stupid Economist.

This theory, incidentally, is the reason you and your extended family are now migrant workers sleeping in an abandoned railway car underneath the Bloor Street Viaduct.

Because stupid people get bored easily they need to fill every last minute of their waking lives, and then some. In the old days, traveling incognito, they would dress up like “Libertarians” and “Neo-Liberals” and convene in small groups to study the Second Amendment. These became the members of the Stupid NRA, who were astonished to discover that, although this Amendment is on the surface clearly referring to an 18th-century volunteer militia using muskets as a last-ditch effort against an oppressive, warring government, it is also effective at subtly conveying the Founders’ unmistakable intent that everyone in America should be issued a recreational automatic weapon at birth.

For geekier, computer-type fun they’d log on to ICQ chat rooms and make thought-provoking statements like, “I don’t think the earth can be round because we would just, like, fall off, I know, right? Pass it on.”

Now? The stupid bigoted people, swarming on Twitter in a new Day of the Locusts, have taken their cue from The Big Man, The Great Mouth Breather. They’re empowered, they’re vocal as hell, they’re no longer ashamed, and they’re gradually drowning out all but the most persistent liberal voices. They’re not going to take it anymore, whatever they’ve decided “it” is.

This is the kind of transformation that can happen when the leader of the most powerful nation on earth endorses something, like steaks or hooker sex or capital punishment.

Or stupidity and bigotry. Shares are through the roof!


ONE OF THE MANY WEIRD CONCEPTS going around is that freedom of expression is under attack and that people are being censored and silenced by the intolerant left (a concept usually expressed by someone speaking to their audience of millions on YouTube). The idea is that expressing an opposing viewpoint to a progressive is like thrusting a head of garlic and a cross into the face of a vampire, that we’ll explode, or whatever it is that vampires do in those circumstances.

Hence our “safe spaces,” our “political correctness” our “snowflakiness.” YOU are the fascists, the right says to us.

I don’t have time to personally address every single stupid and/or bigoted person, though I know some of you walked miles through a tornado then grabbed an Uber to get here today. Please try to understand, though I’m not holding my breath. I need to make this shit scalable.

I want to provide a public service at this point and define for you what is, and what is not, a difference of opinion.

Here’s Example One:

“I think we should provide healthcare by allowing people to keep their private insurance if they want.” / “I think we should provide healthcare using a single-payer model, like Canada and Britain.” / “I think government should stay out of the business of providing healthcare. The market will provide the best price and options if we just leave it alone.”

Those are differences of opinion. Although I strongly disagree with the last one, (because the evidence doesn’t support it) vive le difference, it makes the democratic world go ‘round. We’re smart enough — I think — to weigh the evidence and vote accordingly.

Another example:

“First-past-the-post voting is a disaster, because the party that gets into power doesn’t always have a majority of the votes.” / “Proportional representation is a disaster, because you end up with coalitions that give the third-level party undue influence on policies.”

Those are differences of opinion. They’re both concerned with a fair outcome to elections, an outcome that would best represent voters’ wishes.

With me so far?

Now let’s look at the following examples:

“ Women who have abortions should receive the death penalty. They should be hanged.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“If people want to criticize the government, they’re traitors.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“If you don’t like it here, you should go back to your shithole countries.”

is not a difference of opinion.

“Homosexuality is a sin and the gays [sic] shouldn’t be able to marry or adopt. They’re bringing about the downfall of society.”

is not a difference of opinion.

I feel almost embarrassed to have to spell this out, but:

If we want to live in a democratic society, if we want to work together to expand the scope of rights, equality, dignity as our understanding evolves, we have to agree on certain fundamental, inalienable human rights, and to do this, we ehshrined these rights in an authoritative document from which flows the entire rule of law: a Constitution, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a Bill of Rights, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We have differences of opinion when we discuss how to implement these fundamental human rights we have agreed on, these rights that may evolve, but which by common agreement can never be rescinded.

Rights may be expressed in the broadest terms, but their implementation is always specific, their meaning clarified within a matrix of situation, context and community. Always the question is: does this law, does this judgment, finally include whoever has been excluded, relieve the oppressed from their oppression, provide justice where justice has been denied?

If you don’t believe that women should control their own bodies;

if you don’t believe in the free expression of non-violent protest;

if you believe that some people are less than human or less than equal because they are different in their sexuality, gender expression, skin color, religious beliefs or any other trait and you counsel others to oppress and discount and exclude them;

if you advocate violence against a class of persons,

you are not expressing a difference of opinion.

You might actually be engaging in hate speech. This follows from the concept, noted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in their literature about balancing conflicting rights, that “the private expression of the right is more protected than the public expression.”

Yes, there is freedom of expression. You are free to express in private whatever you care to express, no matter how reprehensible, but when you express the same idea publicly you may be causing a whole lot of mischief. Your right, exercised in public, to call for death to women who’ve had abortions may not be judged to be in the best interests of society.

More bluntly, if you publicly advocate violence against a class of persons, the restriction of that right may be justifiable. The harm of restricting your freedom of expression may be negligible compared to the harm that is caused to the target of your bigotry by its public expression.

My rights, your rights.

So please, conservatives, Christians, conservative Christians, the whole lot of you: Enough with the cant about freedom of expression and the misguided (to take a charitable view) or disingenuous (my actual view) attempt to rehabilitate statements such as those listed above, statements that indicate that you, the speaker, do not hold with the fundamental values of a democratic society. There is no dialog possible with people such as you and nothing to engage with in these statements.

When you engage in your convoluted conservative logic it makes you look incredibly foolish, and it makes the rest of us wonder about your — to appropriate one of the right’s favorite loaded words — agenda.

If you can’t come on board about the fundamental principle of democracy—namely, the equality in dignity and worth of all persons—I have a suggestion. Maybe you could find your own island somewhere, hopefully free of shithole-ness, and populate it with yourselves until your island is positively busting a gut with great-again-ness.

Then you can relax, secure in your fundamental beliefs, and the rest of us, relieved of your hateful rhetoric and privileged whining, can get on with the business of creating a more fair and more just society for everyone.


Afterword

Conservatives have a repertoire of sneering insults which they direct at liberals whenever they can get away with it. This usually means that no bona fide news organization is watching, in loco parentis, so think Twitter or Facebook.

Gay men used to be called “queers” and there is something about the sound of the “q-u” followed by the fluting double “e” that still makes me catch my breath in fear and shame. But we took the word “queer” and we owned it, using it as a badge of pride that we were odd, eccentric, creative or just plain ornery. This idea of “queer” as rejecting stereotypes and gender norms switched the focus to society instead of sex. Hearing “queer” used as a positive or at least neutral descriptor was surprisingly liberating.

Queer has lost its edge of sexual deviance and now begins to sound spirited, and happy-go-lucky, like a charming iconoclastic leprechaun who could cast a spell on your first-born but who is too busy dyeing the shamrocks pink to bother.

Conservatives call Liberals “snowflakes,” and we could start our rehabilitation of the word, rescuing it from the cycle of abuse and maybe sending it on a little vacation to Antarctica where it can tell itself, “Goldarnit—I’m snowflake and I’m OK!”

I think snowflakes are beautiful, unique crystals which can be fragile by themselves, but can make a pretty effective blizzard when they agitate with the other snowflakes.

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A Case of Dementia in Squirrels

lost: a few nuts randomly buried under the Statue of Fuckery



WHATEVER YOU POST IN AN INTERNET FORUM, no matter how bat-shit insane or obviously fueled by malice, becomes instantly and indisputably true, provided you make your case with the absolute conviction of a Supreme Court justice and the fire and brimstone of a born-again Christian preaching to the converted. To test my hypothesis, please spread the rumors described below, being careful to follow the instructions and not attempting anything beyond your current skill set. Go on, you know you want to!

Rumor 1

“Hillary is running a child-sex brothel from an apartment on the second floor of the Golden Lemongrass Thai Restaurant, in Pocatello, Idaho, and on weekdays you get two for the price of one! True!”

What is it: Standard Hillary rumor

Where should I spread it: Facebook is the only way to go.

Why: Facebook was never cool and just went downhill from there, giving a Hillary-Facebook profile match of 10/10; Facebook is mainly used by low-income, middle-aged women who find the real news too confusing and who are all related to you, and/or entire developing nations where women are allocated a status just below even-toed ungulates. Delivers more intensity for less effort than standard “Crooked Hillary” models.

Difficulty: Level 1 (suitable for beginners)

Rumor 2

“Alexandria O-C, that crazy humorless Lesbian socialist c**t,¹ is in cahoots with the Palestinians about plans to pelt the Brooklyn Bridge with balls of exploding falafel filled with broken glass and metal screws, and if you survive that, she’s going to raise your taxes to 90% and take away your cow! All so very true!”

What is it: Experimental “Crazy Socialist/Accusatory Anti Semite” combo type (in beta; may not perform as anticipated)

Where should I spread it: YouTube or other video-heavy sites that attract teenagers and angry middle-aged white guys because a. there’s something that moves; and b. they have to take a break from beating off to “barely-legal” teen porn at least one day out of four so the swelling can go down.

Why: This is uncharted territory. Works on the theory that anyone who demands social justice must have had pre-marital sex, gone dancing or lied about getting straight A’s in college at least once, so there’s bound to be something we can nail her with.

Gets you bonus points for reminding us that anyone who dares to question even for one second anything Israel does, or anything done in the name of Zionism, no matter how morally reprehensible, is so beyond the pale they might just as well have put on their souvenir pair of Hitler’s tattered underpants, then shoveled great-grandfather’s ashes out of the incinerator at Auschwitz before using them for fertilizer.

Difficulty: Level 4 (advanced). Requires impeccable insinuation and moral outrage techniques, plus the ability to withstand mockery by twenty-somethings, and Twitter pile-ons of grandstanding goyim who’ve never been closer to anything Jewish than that time they bought a boil-in-the-bag serving of Shopsy’s corned beef.

¹ Backgrounder:

(Yes, one must consider bringing the “c-word” out of retirement, because the usual styling for a strong female, “bitch”, is currently in the private collection of the Speaker, and besides, “bitch” is not even remotely nasty enough for a wee slip of a thing, not yet thirty years old, who speaks her mind, considers herself equal to a man and dares to talk of revolution.

“Bitch” is too light and breezy to convey the impotent rage of the male conservative whose daughter has stayed out all night being a slut when she’d promised to keep her knees together and return home by midnight, full of chaste, dutiful daddy’s-little-girl kisses.

The moribund, flatulent old guard is incredulous at the vigor and righteousness and juiciness of the new. A O-C is impervious to taunts, because she doesn’t give a fuck what you think; she has that Latina warmth and affability and superiority; plus the natural moral high ground of the female deployed with the ardor of a saint. If you’re on her side, she’ll be your ever-faithful pal; if you’re not, her eyes will flash like steel and she’ll cut you down with a well-aimed retort, swift and sharp as a switchblade. Tremble, o fathers, at untamed, untameable womanhood—!)

Rumor 3

“Nancy Pelosi, actually Nadia Pelosinheimer, filthy rich Jewess, together with her latest lover, George Soros, the Antichrist, and her army of bastard Satan-children, is funding a new caravan of out-of-work Central American soap opera actors who will storm The Wall as part of her Communist-Jewish agenda to slice off every remaining piece of foreskin in California. Vile prepuce, be gone!”²

² (The above should be self-explanatory, except please note that in this one we follow the common practice in that you dislike Jews rather than suddenly wanting to stand up for them because it suits your purpose.)

Rumor 4

Have you been getting this down? Have a go at Rumor 4 by yourself. Should be a cinch!

“Global warming and climate change are hoaxes perpetrated by the Chinese so they can destroy our economy. True!

“They are supported in this by an international cabal of renowned scientists who’ve forged all the data, having forgotten that the Earth’s climate goes in cycles—kind of like your clothes dryer at home with the different settings for linen and synthetics, and we’re just stuck on delicates at the moment. One full cap for a dirty load of true!

“Remember how your ancestor from the Holocene period always told you, It’s OK, dude, just take shelter in your cave until the monsoons pass? Well, there you go! That thing! Crack my skull with your caveman club of truth!

“Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s my turn to demonstrate my killer blow-job technique on the CEO of Esso.”


All of these are facts. Cross my heart and hope to die. Let the world know!

Nope. Not facts. Not even factoids. None of that happened. Just random, made-up shit.

But true.

And why the hell not? The actual truth is so plain-Jane and unadorned, it is as a straight-backed Shaker chair to the curvaceous Louis XIV fauteuil of our fakery. The actual truth admits no duty other than to just be, and it will not be gilded or lilied with your agenda. The actual truth lacks efficiency: it does not rouse the base, deflect blame or target a suitably depressed class as “other.”

The actual truth involves getting out of bed and taking a selfie without the Instagram filter that lets you pretend you’re a tiger, or breathing fire, or even Marilyn, even if you’re a guy. The actual truth might not be that pretty.

What are the actual truths?

The actual truth is that men hate women, hate them so much that every fleeting opportunity for rape not taken is cause for regret; the actual truth is that everyone hates Jews and fags and the transgendered and people with non-white skin and immigrants, the actual truth is that we hate in a dizzying infinite regress of Venn diagrams of who’s the hated and who’s the hater, who hates the haters, and who the hated hate in their turn in whatever hateful hierarchy. That’s actual truth.

We didn’t get out of bed this morning and sip our Evian to admit that our bombed and machine-gunned kids, be they in Palestine, Syria or Parkland, are real kids whose flesh shreds to the bone and whose faces melt like sugar as we wage war against them, and we hate them all the more for being so delicate, so trusting and vulnerable; that hurts, doesn’t it? And to that I say: that’s actual truth for ya!


A black woman, a Democratic representative in Congress, is told by the Chair, a white man, that her time is up, she must stop talking about gun control and her fears for her children. He makes the demand in the soft, decorous voice one would use to say, “A spot of tea, Priscilla?”

The woman explodes in anger. “I will NOT!” she bellows.

White men, as always, offer their opinion on Twitter. You would do better to have some decorum. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Honey. We understand your position, but there’s a time and a place.

I read these Tweets, thinking, “This woman has probably endured in her lifetime insults, injustice and indignity that these men would not put up with for ONE SECOND, were it them—and now they want to take away her RAGE as well?”

Is there no fucking limit to our shamelessness?


We didn’t cast our vote for Trump or Scheer or Harper or Brexit to admit the actual truth: that The Wall can never be built.

Honestly, haven’t you ever wondered why? Why the delays, why the faffing around and procrastinating and backtracking and deal-making?

It’s not like building a wall costs that much, in a nation that allocates half its discretionary spending to defence while kids starve and their parents shoot up Fentanyl, praying for an overdose; it’s not like it’s technically difficult, in a nation that builds a World Trade Center just so the Deep State can knock it over like a juvenile delinquent knocks a tin can off a fence.

(Except that’s just a rumor; the actual truth is that America, read “the West”, is hated by those who’ve endured the West’s greed, insatiable appetite for oil and callous indifference to the misery they’ve inflicted on entire nations, who looked through the windows at the sumptuous banquet and thought, Why not us, too? Why were we not invited? Why is it their oil, not ours?

To the West, those people were nothing but inconveniences, pawns to be hoodwinked and manipulated and shifted on the board. And the bitterness and hatred of entire nations spawned fundamentalism, which in turn triggered the horrified awakening: that Western life is the unholy life of the apostate, that Westerners are infidels who deserve to die, and for all I know, they’re right.

The actual truth is that you might as well have leveled the World Trade Centre yourselves, so inevitable was the disaster that you call 9/11 and that some call sweet and righteous victory. An infinite regress of haters and the hated…)

The Wall can never be built because it was and is and always will be a metaphorical wall, a glorious Fascist symbol, an intangible, enthralling fever dream that has hooked the souls of the lost and angry white overlords who yearn for a Golden Age.

The Wall is Heimweh, nostalgia for the Fatherland, the Ur-Amerika of cotton and tobacco, and horses-and-buggies transporting the exquisite parasol’d daughters to the cotillion Good evenin’, Miss Scarlett! while the family niggers drop dead in the fields.

The Wall is a Jungian vision of the cosmic hymen that will restore Amerika’s virginity and racial purity, and to attempt to build it would be to awaken us, the sleepwalkers, force us to admit that purity is a chimera, a state that never existed and thus can never be restored.

To attempt to build The Wall would force us to admit we are indelibly stained. We long to be pure water again, but we are forever tainted with the blood of those we hate, and to admit that is to admit defeat.

God and Satan and all the legion of the fallen angels help us! when we whose vocation is hate must admit defeat. Except the actual truth is that God doesn’t exist. Ours alone will be all the kingdom and the power and the glory for what we’ve wrought, forever and ever. And that is why we, the haters, hate Him most of all.


Did you know? Squirrels forget where they buried eighty percent of the nuts they harvest.

True.

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“Asteroids and genetic engineering are a more serious threat than climate change” ?

is climate change just “a wedge issue”?

Firefighters battling the King Fire watch as a backfire burns along Highway 50 in Fresh Pond, California September 16, 2014. REUTERS/Noah Berger

My dialogue with a climate-change denier in sheep’s clothing continues.  


On Friday, November 23rd, 2018 the U.S. federal government published the National Climate Assessment, which is endorsed by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense, and 10 other federal scientific agencies not normally viewed as tasked with frivolously stirring up the public for the sheer wedgeness of it all.

But first, Scientific Expert, your claim that:

The relative silence [of the media] on [asteroid collisions, genetic engineering] proves that climate change is a political wedge issue —

How on earth does it “prove” anything of the kind? Here’s our fundamental disagreement in a nutshell:

You: The relative silence proves there is an agenda.
Me: The relative silence is because these are not the most important issues / issues that the average person can affect in any way.

Certainly I agree with you that hidden agendas exist, probably more than we will ever know, and I’m not naively suggesting that we should believe everything we read in the papers without questioning it.

And another answer is certainly, “What gets reported is whatever sells.” If that’s the case, surely they’d be reporting on the impending asteroid, were that our fate, in the hope of maximising profits before before we’re all vaporised. Who would choose to push climate change? Climate change is not sexy; Hollywood screenwriters are not tossing about ideas for “Climate Change II: Failure of the Wheat Crops Over a Ten-Year Timespan!”

I do suggest it is a basic principle of reading a situation that, in the rush to interpret its hidden agenda, one does not overlook its most obvious meaning.

For all I or you know, teams of concerned scientists are at this moment creating the missiles to knock out that asteroid; or just perhaps, the asteroid threat is not as immediate and not as amenable to the drastic day-to-day changes of behavior that are required globally to put the brakes on the climate juggernaut we’ve set in motion.

I mean, what can the regular human do about asteroid impacts? I say, leave that to the experts — NASA and Lars von Trier! Or I guess we could all run out and throw medicine balls at each other, to build up muscle strength in our arms so we can, at the crucial moment, just hold the asteroid at bay. A futile gesture, but it passes the time while we wait for extinction.

As for genetic engineering of, say, a biological weapon, that’s a legit concern that falls roundly under the heading of terrorism, which I suppose would be in hand had not the Trump regime emptied the ranks of government of everyone appointed by or supposedly allied with Obama, and neglected to replace them. Oh, my mistake — replaced them with oil industry lobbyists and members of Trump’s family.

Maybe Trump, who states, “climate will probably change back” — now there’s a reassuring statement by a highly-qualified nerd-type guy clearly allied with science and reason and not afraid to show it — should be on your list of existential threats, just above “asteroid.”

And,  I’m sorry, but — you tell us that our Holocene ancestors took cataclysmic change in their stride and survived in their caves? Are you serious? I nearly choked on my GMO’d hamburger patty laughing when I read that. Was that supposed to be reassuring?

Either you’re teasing us, you rascal, or you’ve got one great first-class seat on that get-us-outta-here spaceship that carries the billionaires off to the new Las Vegas they’re building, somewhere in another galaxy that will appreciate them.

But back to that pesky report: The reasons for dumping this on the busiest shopping day of the year are not hard to figure out.

I quote from The Atlantic (and I’ve provided the link below to the full article):

The report is blunt: Climate change is happening now, and humans are causing it. “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” declares its first sentence. “The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.”

…The report visits each region of the country, describing the local upheavals wrought by a global transformation. Across the Southeast, massive wildfires — like those seen now in California — could soon become a regular occurrence, smothering Atlanta and other cities in toxic smog, it warns. In New England and the mid-Atlantic, it says, oceanfront barrier islands could erode and narrow. And in the Midwest, it forecasts plunging yields of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice.

You’re correct that there will be time to decide what to do. That time is urgently, irrevocably, existentially now.

Read the story in The Atlantic

You can see the full conversation, if you’re feeling strong, on Medium

Global warming: Real but “not existential?” Seriously?

Even worse than the deniers? “Experts” who downplay the crisis.


Mexico Beach, Florida, showing destruction by Hurricane Michael
Credit: David Goldman/AP

Dear Scientific Expert:

you have scientific cred like nobody’s business, yet you get all rolly-eyed on climate change. That’s what I don’t get. As far as I understand, and I understand maybe slightly more than the average bear, there is near complete consensus in the relevant scientific community about global warming and the urgent need to address this before it’s later than the too-late it already is.

Yes, agreed, climate is not inherently stable in that it undergoes macro-level shifts over time. I get that. And yes, those who, as Noam Chomsky pointed out, have an independent income and/or the chops to spend their entire lives uncovering the truth, should question what we read in the papers. Good luck with that one. (Though I do seem to recall that the New York Times, more relevant to me than Canada’s The Globe and Mail — I like my news first-hand — has been pretty clear on the consensus that we’re in big trouble. I don’t recall much hesitation along those lines.)

Notwithstanding all that, I don’t share your jolly optimism about how we averted a scheduled programming, ice-age catastrophe by creating a we-interrupt-your-scheduled-programming polar ice-cap melting catastrophe. Your comment reminds me of a Trumpism — and I’m sorry, I don’t mean that to be quite as insulting as it inevitably turns out to be because of it being, you know, Trump — along the lines of “gee, it’s pretty darn cold today, so much for the fake global warming hysteria promulgated by Democrats!” Or friends I hear saying, “Thank god for global warming, now I get to wear my Speedos in Toronto in February.” Or Reagan’s “If you’ve seen one giant sequoia, you’ve seen ’em all.” You get my drift: The pin-headed, narcissistic benefit or one’s agreeably devil-may-care attitude to life does not outweigh or negate the reality of the actual disaster.

The pin-headed, narcissistic benefit [from climate change] or one’s agreeably devil-may-care attitude to life does not outweigh or negate the reality of the actual disaster.

If the conservative spectrum would stop, yes, denying the fact of anthropogenic global warming due to the hothouse effects of greenhouse gases, largely produced since the industrial revolution and now in overdrive, then it wouldn’t have to be “politicized.” (It’s analogous to “identity politics.” Stop discriminating against me on the basis of my identity, and we won’t need the identity politics. Kind of thing?). Like, not just questioning the data. Destroying the data, reams of data. Denying as in “this is not happening, it’s a hoax.” That very word, “hoax.” Do YOU think global warming is a hoax? Clearly not. How can that NOT become politicized, and who’s politicizing it?

Your reasoning leaves me rolling MY eyes. (Maybe we should get an act together? No, I guess not.) Yes, in theory there is triage to be done. There are indeed umpteen worrisome things, from nanobots setting up training camps in our blood vessels to whether pin-headed narcissist Elon Musk will crash his spaceship into a nuclear facility, but that doesn’t change the fact that seas are going to be rising and the situation is projected to look pretty dire by about 2050. I’ll be ninety-five then, though I won’t look it, and I’d like to visit Fort Lauderdale in my bath chair, attended by disco-boys wearing silver hot pants and not much else, before it turns into the underwater theme park of Disney’s dreams, or the final scene of “A.I.”.

The thing about not knowing, forgive me for reminding you, is that you don’t know. Also, you don’t know what you don’t know. I can imagine any number of scenarios arising from higher sea levels that are pretty darn existential. You see, I somehow feel that mass migrations of hundreds of thousands of hysterical, hungry, homeless Americans, and Canadians for that matter, from the coasts when the giant tide rolls in, or the fallback from Category 6 hurricanes— yes, 6, they don’t quite exist yet, but they’re projected for next September; these are mega-hurricanes that will level everything in their path like a smart bomb — I suspect this will not be a little thing in a country with crumbling infrastructure, no real health care, a whole lot of guns and a FEMA that is barely functional. How many troops will you have to call out then, and where will the wall be and will the cyber attack on the internet be far behind? I don’t believe that you can’t imagine this just as easily as I can.

I guess, in the end, two things. Your scientific cred plus your dismissive attitude makes the word “agenda” pop up in my mind like a scary clown out of a scary clown box; and secondly, your dismissal of the dire situation we are in, existential or no, is irresponsible, in that it is likely to be condensed in those politicized minds to, “See? A science guy and he says it’s not important. Let’s get the second Hummer.” Yet another voice added to the “hoaxers” and the deniers, whether you intended that or not; and more obfuscation of those very people you are already so impatient with who just don’t get it, and more confusion added to all those media outlets who fail to explain so that average joes can understand the way you understand.

And every qualified voice like, I assume, yours, that adds to that negative drag on this task we needed to have begun twenty years ago weighs about one tonne more than any given voice added to the scientific consensus that we must begin. 

It all adds up to some pretty politicized pooh-poohing, if you ask me.