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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a cynical reason « Previous | |Next »
September 20, 2013

I understand that the climate change deniers in the Liberal Party are flexing their muscles in the name of throwing away the distorting spectacles of ideology.

John Howard, the last Liberal prime minister, is going to deliver the keynote lecture at the annual meeting of the most prominent climate skeptic group in the UK, the Global Warming Policy Foundation. His core argument is that one religion is enough, that is the science around global warming as “a religion”, and those who support action on climate change are “believers” and zealots.

Maurice Newman, another climate change denier who is Abbott’s chief business advisor, goes further. He has declared climate science to be a myth and has accused the CSIRO and the weather bureau in having a vested interest in encouraging extreme weather events and propagating the myth of anthropological climate change:

The new Coalition government is faced with enormous structural issues that have been camouflaged by effective propaganda and supported by well-organised elements in the public service, the media, the universities, trade unions and the climate establishment. With a huge vested interest in the status quo, they will be vocal opponents of change. The CSIRO, for example, has 27 scientists dedicated to climate change. It and the Weather Bureau have become global warming advocates. They continue to propagate the myth of anthropological climate change and are likely to be background critics of the Coalition’s Direct Action policies.

What we have is cynical reason at work. Ideology's dominant mode of functioning is cynical The cynical subject is quite aware of the distance between the ideological mask and the social reality, but he none the less still insists upon the mask. Cynical reason is no longer naïve, the cynical subject knows the falsehood very well, is well aware of a particular interest hidden behind an ideological universality, but still one does not renounce it.

The denier's ideology no longer has pretension to be a lie experienced as truth. These representatives of denialism do not believe in what they are doing anymore, or do not regard their position to be the one and only truth, but they have to act and talk as if they were completely convinced of what they are doing. It is no longer meant, even by its authors, to be taken seriously — its status is just that of a means of manipulation, purely external and instrumental; its rule is secured not by its truth-value but by simple extra-ideological violence and promise of gain.

What is a useful way to respond to the deniers? Turn to the the popular, plebeian rejection of the official culture by means of irony and sarcasm: the classical kynical procedure is to confront the pathetic phrases of the ruling official ideology — its solemn, grave tonality — with everyday banality and to hold them up to ridicule, thus exposing behind the sublime noblesse of the ideological phrases the egotistical interests, the violence, the brutal claims to power.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:55 PM | | Comments (4)


The problem is that a large majority of people are unaffected by climate change and are ambivalent about it.
By unaffected I mean. As I sit here on my front veranda typing the birds are singing the sky is blue and the grass is green.
I think most people would rather stop war, crime and earn more money. Climate change is very low priority when it isn't spoiling your day. Yes it was on the agenda for a while there but its not now. That's the way things go.
Some do think its all a conspiracy of deniers , conservatives, mining magnets and media tycoons but it really is just most of the little people just couldn't give a shit.

"Screw you Jack, I'm all right" seems to be the default human attitude when it comes to abstract masses of people. A person can demonstrate extreme compassion to another known individual in trouble, evidenced by giving time and money and emotion, whilst simultaneously ignoring the much worse plight of millions of anonymous 'Others'.

In the case of climate change, the Others who will bear the brunt are the young and the still unborn, plus lots of foreigners in third world countries. Easy to convince yourself that your own kids will be fine, and really why should you be responsible for anybody else?

I wrote consistently in the old Road to Surfdom days that human institutions would not be able to respond effectively to the challenge of climate change. Institutions depend on public support and are therefore all prone to gross discounting of future benefits when they evaluate current costs. Moreover they reflect the normal human optimism that things will turn out all right in the end if we just hang on tight.

Let's hope they're right, but Howard for one will never have to pay a price if he is wrong.

An example of a cynical reason:

the neo-liberal advocates of competition, open markets and market efficiency say that the energy market must organized so that the incumbent electricity industry is protected so it can recover its costs.

That is industry welfare which they are opposed to. The buyers of networks paid inflated price for the old poles and wires, so their fixed costs are high. Why should consumers pay this cost caused by a poor business decision?

It's always good to come to a site where where the principal is capable of explaining concepts in the way Gary has done.