Today's Guardian contained an article by Science editor, Robin McKie, which is essentially a lament of the power that established businesses have over the public discourse:
In it, he sums up the anguish felt by many that the climate debate has been sidelined, blaming big business interests who want to protect their market share and business model. I want to try to show the method of this madness.
He says "university and government researchers are hounded... Their emails are hacked while Facebook campaigns call for their dismissal from their posts, calls that are often backed by right-wing politicians... Rick Santorum insisted he should be the presidential nominee simply because he had cottoned on earlier... to the "hoax" of global warming."
It is matter of record that Climate Change was a consensus issue in US politics, with John McCain co-sponsoring carbon-capping legislation that was supported by Alaska's very own Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich getting together with Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on behalf of Al Gore's project to combat global warming. This stuff is all on tape from 2006/2007.
It has moved from this unarguable, apolitical subject into a highly partisan, culture-war issue. The political climate has indeed changed. This seemed to happen under cover of the financial crisis and the tumultuous, world-gripping election of 2008.
Global warming, a subject upon which there is a broad consensus amongst scientists on all but the extent of the damage and how much we can do about it now, is treated as if it is as abstract and subjective as 'rights' or 'religion'.
In '08, McCain had to convince the right-wing that he was one of them by embracing one of their more crazy ideas: that scientists are "elites" who want to grab power by terrifying everyone with global catastrophe. In Robin McKie's thinking, I assume it would be the energy company lobbyists who sold - or, perhaps, bought - him on this issue.
If you want an example of the sort of mind-jarring non-sequiturs that make up a right-wing argument against global warming, it is a target rich environment. Just today, there was this from Rick Santorum's Press Secretary, Alice Stewart, who tied up a whole jumble-sale of bewildering right-wingery in one 40 second blast:
She later said she "misspoke" when calling Obama's sparse environmental achievements "radical Islamic policies". It doesn't matter: what she was saying is devoid of any sense. However, this 'mistake' exposes what language she was speaking: a language of symbol over sense, where words have no meaning other than in relation to 'good' and 'evil'. They are locked in to the world of faith and moral absolutes.
"Islamic", "secular", "environmental", "socialist", "welfarism", "class warfare" all mean exactly the same thing. It didn't matter which order she put the words in, they all refer to 'the evil'. They are all suitable substitutes for one another in this language. While of course it is preferable to match issue to terminology, it is barely a necessity and it wouldn't surprise anyone if this 'slip' was planned.
But, just look at this religious right three-minute-hate on environmentalists:
This video is compiled by a liberal poster, but is still instructive. It is a compilation of speakers who make it seem like all that is right and good in the world is under attack from environmentalists. The first speaker, Cindy Jacobs, listing first and foremost "human prosperity" as being under attack by the "Green Dragon". 'Human' of course is supposed to mean Joe Sixpack, Anywhereville, USA. Disturbingly, it seems to actually mean 'fossil fuel based businesses and their executives'. Well, corporations are people now.
They all, of course, say that the gospel of Jesus Christ is under assault from environmentalism. This is justified by tying environmentalism with humanism, a point I will return to another day.
Who are these guys? Jacobs is a 'pray-away-the-gay, homosexual-exorcist'. The second speaker, Bryan Fisher, is a say-anything madman ("gays are nazis", anyone? No?) and Tony Perkins is head of 'The Family Research Council' who are a powerful lobbying group with strong ties to oil billionaires, the Koch brothers.
The language they use is bald-faced re-education. "Environmentalism is no longer your friend" they say, these party elders, religious leaders, community icons, respected figures of the conservative community, over and over again.
With this sort of unity, the majority of their flock will, quite understandably, begin to agree with them, or at least use these same words. Church going folk are swayed by their pastor - that's his/her job, after all - and party underlings affirm the attitudes of their candidates. These are people who are looked to for spiritual guidance and they are dispensing an anti-environment message under the guise of movement conservatism.
What I am trying to say is not that climate change is the single greatest threat to human civilisation and life on this earth - that's for another venue, I'm not a climatologist. Rather, I wanted to show how the business interests in the US have used faith and the unity of the conservative community to block any serious discussion of this subject.
They have, very effectively, turned an issue on which 77% of Americans agreed in 2006, into a 57% - or partisan - issue in 2009. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/22/most-dangerous-global-war_n_330614.html)
The trick, I feel, is in arguing in faith-based abstracts: Texas is suffering from increasing drought, but Texans are not convinced global warming has anything to do with a gradual upward trend in temperatures in many areas of the globe - including their own. Hell, last year Governor Rick Perry held a state-wide day of prayer for rain. The drought worsened considerably thereafter.
Christian thinking places 'pure' spirit over 'sinful' body, so to get these Texans to ignore the drought and vote for the eco-holocaust, framing it as an issue of spirit raises it above worldly concerns like water and crops.
It is my observation that American Conservatives don't tend to vote their interests - they vote their beliefs.
So long as you can influence the beliefs espoused by leaders in the religious right, you will have a large measure of power in Washington.