Tag Archives: politics

The sacrifices one must make (part 2): should Gillard resign for the good of the nation? Yes.

My post on whether or not Julia Gillard should stand aside  as Prime Minister got a little attention. But it was not an easy thing to suggest, especially given the vitriol and hatred the Prime Minister has experienced. I do not wish to “let the bastards win”. No one does.

But what matters now is the future of nation, the skeletal climate change policy framework we have only just begun to implement and a genuine contest of ideas.

There are times when personal careers have to be sacrificed.

This is such a time.

The editors of The Age have come to similar conclusions, arguing for “the good of the nation” Julia Gillard must stand aside:

It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, as Prime Minister of Australia, so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again. Ms Gillard should do so in the interests of the Labor Party, in the interests of the nation and, most importantly, in the interests of democracy. The Age’s overriding concern is that, under Ms Gillard’s leadership, the Labor Party’s message about its future policies and vision for Australia is not getting through to the electorate. Our fear is that if there is no change in Labor leadership before the September 14 election, voters will be denied a proper contest of ideas and policies – and that would be a travesty for the democratic process.

And that:

The opposition under Tony Abbott has contentious policies on the carbon tax, the mining tax and schools funding; these are just the start of it. Yet Labor under Ms Gillard has been unable to step up to the contest. Mr Abbott is being allowed to run almost entirely unchallenged with his preposterous claim that a Coalition government would ”stop the boats”, in part by turning back the pathetic trail of rickety vessels laden with asylum seekers. This is a potentially dangerous and deeply dispiriting approach. Labor’s inability to unscramble this sloganeering is damning.

Time is running out. Labor needs to refresh its public face and present a compelling, united and inspiring voice. It is capable of doing so. Now it must find the will. There may only be one chance to minimise the damage that appears inevitable in September. To do nothing would implicitly weaken the democratic choice. If it is to be done, it is best done now. But it must be an unequivocal and energising change for the better.

There was nothing prescient in what I wrote, nor do I think the MSM pays much attention to bloggers such as myself. Farifax’s Sydney Morning Herald said the same thing a few weeks back.

It is simply that I am not alone in reading the situation or the risks should Labor continue to be led by Julia Gillard. Commentators across all sections of the media and on both sides can see the writing on the wall.

Is it fair? No.

Did Gillard deserve to be treated with respect? Yes.

Was she handed an extraordinarily difficult situation? Yes.

Was overt sexism a feature of the attacks on her? Yes.

Was the malice of the shock jocks and News Limited a factor? Yes.

As a nation, we need to reflect on just how toxic the level of debate has become these past few years. I lay much of the blame on News Limited and the Coalition. But the blame also rests with the Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan.

The nexus for all this strife began when the “kitchen sink” cabinet that included Swan and Gillard convinced Rudd not to take us to a double dissolution election on the carbon price. At that time the public and mood of the nation was with them.

But they blinked, they thought they could ditch a policy which helped deliver them office in 2007. Since then Labor has been paying the price for the failure of the first iteration of the ETS under Rudd.

They thought we lived in a time of “politics as usual”.

Politics has been reshaped by climate change: it is time to acknowledge that reality.

This is the new normal on so many fronts.

If you want to proportion blame then start with this decision. 

Julia’s finest hour, and the speech that will be her enduring legacy:

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Orwell’s 1984: the greatest environmental novel of last century, even if author didn’t intend it as such

Our imagination allows us to create all versions of Hell; and Heaven too

Our imagination allows us to create all versions of Hell; and Heaven

All art is theft.

Thus it comes as no surprise that aspiring writers with an interest in politics and the environment fall under the spell of George Orwell. Not just his novels 1984 and Animal farm, but his majestic essay Politics and the English Language.

Christopher Hitchens, perhaps one of the greatest essayists of the last decade, was an enormous fan of Orwell. One can consider Hitchens writing a long exercise in paying tribute to – and wanting to be – Orwell.

Fortunately for Hitchens (and us) he found his unique voice. Hitchens has the same command of language, clarity and sense of justified outrage found in Orwell’s work. Read Hitchen’s God is not Great to see his righteous anger filtered through a powerful prose style.

A recent piece on The Conversation about the value of art in understanding the environmental crisis got me thinking about which novels and films we regard as having an “environmental” theme.

Novels like Cormac McCarthy’s biblical The Road paint a bleak world – the product of some unknown apocalypse. It depicts the journey of the unnamed father and son. They are simply called The Man and The Boy – through this world to the perceived safety of the coast. It is both nightmarish and grueling.

And yet it ends with hope.

Indeed, the ending of The Road is poetic and uplifting: its prevailing mood of pessimism is sharply punctuated by hope. Maybe it is just a glimmer, but it burns all the more brightly in contrast to the ash and death of the world painted by McCarthy.

McCarthy affirms a truth we all know – the human spirit can endure the worst horrors, provided we retain our humanity.

For “the Man” of McCarthy’s novel, it is not enough to merely survive: retaining one’s humanity in a world that has gone to literal Hell becomes the central question, far more important than finding the next meal.

This is also the core of Orwell’s 1984.

The focus of 1984 is Winston Smith’s struggle to retain his humanity in a world that may not be Hell, but is something very akin to it. He has only the vaguest memories of his childhood and mother. All he recalls is loss and horror, and some snippets of a song.

Winston implicitly understands the world is not as it should be – that it does not have to be this way. He suspects he exists in a counterfactual nightmare; a parallel universe to what might have otherwise been. As the reader, we know the world is better than what Winston experiences. But for us, that increases the horror, not reduce it for we step into the world of Big Brother.

Winston can imagine better worlds. He may not know where they are or what they look like, but he is convinced they exist. The tragedy is Winston’s failed struggle to find this world and retain his humanity. We all know how 1984 ends.

The facility to imagine a better world, despite the evidence before our eyes, is a crucial component of our moral imagination. This is what makes us human: to reflect on all possible worlds, and hope to create one closer to Paradise than Hell.

Perhaps this Utopian impulse is unrealistic. At times this impulse has been dangerous, as the distorted racial and economic utopias of Nazism and Stalinism of last century taught us.

However, at times this impulse has been liberating for humanity: Martin Luther King had a dream.

It is my firm believe this impulse resides within all of us, and this is a good thing. We should cultivate it, but temper it with realism, compassion and dare I say it – a dose of conservatism? At least the kind of Edmund Burke who feared the horrors the French Revolution unleashed.

But fear of change? We should embrace change, for that is the permanent state of the universe.

Thus, reflecting on the great “environmental novels” mentioned in The Conversation article it struck me Orwell’s 1984 contains implicit environmental themes.

Ostensibly Orwell’s novel is about politics, the dystopian future of Big Brother and the creation of a monstrous and intrusive police state. It is Stalin’s Russia writ large across the globe and taken to logical extremes. For good reason Orwell was signalling the dangers of totalitarianism.

But the politics of the world Orwell creates shapes the fictional environment, even if the author did not recognise this.

We now know Soviet industry made a polluted wasteland of large parts of Russia and regions of the Soviet Empire. The industries of the Eastern Bloc countries were technologically backwards and polluting. Their  collapse increased the air quality and well-being of the environment of those countries, but at great economic cost and social dislocation.

Does not the political process and the choices our society make shape the environment of today? If you doubt that claim, merely look at our failure to act on climate change.

Are today’s coal-fired generators soon to be the equivalent of the shuttered and empty factories of Eastern Europe – relics not merely of a failed industry, but a failed world view?

It is unlikely Orwell would view his work as an environmental critique. However, authorial intent is often at odds with the perception of readers.

Environmental themes are there in the details of the world of Big Brother and Oceania.

The streets of Airstrip One (the renamed England) are strewn with refuse – everything is ruin.

The universe is in a state of entropy, of falling apart. And yet everyone is indifferent to this state of affairs. They are too preoccupied with the basic questions of survival: of having enough food to eat and avoiding the worst aspects of the security state.

All is ruin.

All live in indifference.

All avoid the truth before them.

All seek the safety of anonymity.

All live in denial: even those in the elite of The Party.

However, don’t let your imagination stop there: dwell on the image of the world Orwell created in 1984.

It is run down and exhausted.

Look in the corners of his world and you will see the poverty and shambolic social services.

What else do you see?

The exclusive use of resources by the military and political elite at the expense of the populace; the stifling of voices who question this status quo; every organ of the state exists to control the use of resources and keep the people compliant through violence, language and surveillance.

People are distracted by a vast political-entertainment complex, the “proles” living on an information diet of sensationalist news and pornography.

How very prescient of Orwell – no doubt unintentional – to paint the picture of an exhausted and run down world, in which the elites squabble over the remaining scraps.

How very much we risk the creation of such a world.

All art is theft.

All art is truth.

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Conspiracy nation: 37% Americans think climate change a hoax; 30% fear a New World Order; 27% think Obama is the anti-Christ

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The prevalence of conspiracy theories within a society or nation can have a profound effect on its politics. Indeed for the last several decades scholars of conspiracy culture have been signalling the growing acceptance of conspiracy beliefs across the globe and their potential to distort political debate.

As Kathryn Olmsted notes in her work, Real Enemies: conspiracy theories and American democracy from World War 1 to 9/11the prevalence of conspiracy theories can lead the ordinary citizen to become:

“… less likely to trust the government to do anything: to conduct fair elections, say, or spend their tax money, or protect their children or the planet. The result is a profoundly weakened polity, with fewer citizens voting and more problems left un-addressed for a future generation that is even more cynical about the possibility of reforms.’ (page 238)

And while there has been a growing acceptance of conspiracy theories, there are some that are particular to what is called American “New Right”.  There can be no doubt they have been influencing the tone of political debate within the United States (even spilling over into Australia and across the globe thanks to the Internet).

George Johnson in his text Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia on American Politics notes the New Right emerged in opposition to liberalism and the perceived incursion of the state beyond what was necessary: 

“Since the 1970s, New Right leaders have been building a well-organised political force whose members are motivated by the conviction that their beliefs are rooted in the absolute truth of the Bible or in old-fashioned American morality based on individualism and laissez-faire capitalism.” (page 163)

[For a brief overview of the New Right, start with the Wikipedia article; see also a the history of conservatism in the United States.]

For some time I have argued we should stop viewing climate change sceptic movement as simply a tool of big oil. We should also stop viewing climate sceptics as cynical shills, funded by the polluting industries to prop up their bottom lines for as long as possible by delaying action on climate change.

Most sceptics are genuine in their belief climate change does not exist . For many evidence exists of a vast, overarching hoax involving scientists, the UN and even international bankers. Nor did they simply come these conclusions themselves: much of this conspiratorial thinking has come from the New Right and were formulated decades ago.

A recent survey conducted Public Policy Polling in the United States lends weight to this argument.

Conspiracy nation: fear of the coming New World Order, Obama the anti-Christ and climate change as a hoax

Recently the group Public Policy Polling (PPP) looked at 20 “widespread and/or infamous conspiracy theories” and surveyed their acceptance or rejection by >1240 registered Republican and Democrat voters.

The results were telling, as far greater number of Republican/conservatives held conspiratorial beliefs. Here are some of the numbers (see the full survey here):

  • 37% believed global warming a hoax while 51% don’t – Republicans a 58-25 margin; Democrats a 11-77 margin
  • 21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell – More Romney voters (27%) did so than Obama voters (16%)
  • 28% of voters believed a “secretive power elite” where planning a New World Order – 38% of Romney voters feared the NWO
  • 27% believed Obama was the Anti-Christ – 22% of Romney voters believed that and – would who believe it – 5% of Obama voters?

On a few issues Democrats and Republicans were roughly equal (19% of Democrats believed vaccines caused autism, as opposed to 22% of Republicans). As they note:

“There is an intense partisan divide on whether or not global warming is a hoax: 58% of Republicans agree that it is a conspiracy, while 77% of Democrats disagree. 20% of Republicans believe that President Obama is the Anti-Christ, compared to 13% of independents and 6% of Democrats who agree. 51% of Americans believe there was a larger conspiracy at work in the JFK assassination, while 25% think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. 29% believe aliens exist and 21% believe a UFO crashed at Roswell in 1947…” – Public Policy Polling

In nearly every conspiracy theory, Romney/Republican supporters seemed to be more readily accepting of conspiracy theories. The question is why?

Much of this I think has to do with the history of conservatism in the United States and the emergence of the New Right in the 1970s.

From the New Right to climate sceptics movement: the lineage is plain to see

The climate sceptic movement is but one subset of a broader movement whose agenda includes the propagation of libertarian values, advocacy for limited government, conservative or explicitly Christian morality and the free market: the New Right.

Fears of a New World Order emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, but were particular to the Evangelical movement from the 1970s onward. Militia groups also feared the coming NWO, and there was a great deal of cross-over between these two groups, as they exchanged ideas about who was behind the NWO – usually a mixture of the UN, bankers and communists.

While the fossil fuel lobby helped seed the climate sceptic movement (pace Oreskes and ConwayWashington and Cook) it’s true heritage lies with the emergence of the New Right and its tendency to accept and propagate conspiracy theories.

The results of this can be seen in the PPP survey results and the clustering of conspiracy beliefs among Republican/conservatives. This is why political debates – not just in the US – but across the world are becoming intractable.

If you’re primed over decades of conspiratorial thinking and paranoia about a coming NWO, then the idea that climate change is a hoax will come naturally. Indeed, these two ideas are often folded together. 

If climate change is a hoax perpetrated by that Anti-Christ Obama in collusion with New World Order types about to herd you into a FEMA concentration camp, why do anything?

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Nature v technology: climate ‘belief’ is politics, not science (reprint)

Clive Hamilton has written an interesting piece in The Conversation today on the question of “believing” in climate change. Personally, I’ve always stated I accept the scientific evidence – what I believe is of little consequence. 

As Hamilton states, the climate change debate is a political one. Hamilton looks at how the Theory of Relativity played into the political debates of the 1930s, a point I also made in my piece “To pilot a planet”. 

By Clive Hamilton

It is hard to imagine a scientific breakthrough more abstract and less politically contentious than Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Yet in Weimar Germany in the 1920s it attracted fierce controversy, with conservatives and ultra-nationalists reading it as a vindication of their opponents – liberals, socialists, pacifists and Jews. They could not separate Einstein’s political views – he was an internationalist and pacifist – from his scientific breakthroughs, and his extraordinary fame made him a prime target in a period of political turmoil.

There was a turning point in 1920. A year earlier a British scientific expedition had used observations of an eclipse to provide empirical confirmation of Einstein’s prediction that light could be bent by the gravitational pull of the Sun. Little known to the general public beforehand, Einstein was instantly elevated to the status of the genius who outshone Galileo and Newton. But conservative newspapers provided an outlet for anti-relativity activists and scientists with an axe to grind, stoking nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiment among those predisposed to it.

In a similar way today, conservative news outlets promote the views of climate deniers and publish stories designed to discredit climate scientists, all with a view to defending an established order seen to be threatened by evidence of a warming globe. As in the Wiemar Republic, the effect has been to fuel suspicion of liberals and “elites” by inviting the public to view science through political lenses.

At the height of the storm in 1920, a bemused Einstein wrote to a friend:

This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.

The controversy was not confined to Germany. In France a citizen’s attitude to the new theory could be guessed from the stance he or she took on the Dreyfus affair, the scandal surrounding the Jewish army officer falsely convicted of spying in 1894, whose fate divided French society. Anti-Dreyfusards were inclined to reject relativity on political grounds.

In Britain, suspicions were less politically grounded but relativity’s subversion of Newton was a sensitive issue, leading Einstein to write an encomium for the great English scientist prior to a lecture tour.

Like Einstein’s opponents, who denied relativity because of its perceived association with progressive politics, conservative climate deniers follow the maxim that “my enemy’s friend is my enemy”. Scientists whose research strengthens the claims of environmentalism must be opposed.

Conservative climate deniers often link their repudiation of climate science to fears that cultural values are under attack from “liberals” and progressives. In Weimar Germany the threat to the cultural order apparently posed by relativity saw Einstein accused of “scientific dadaism”, after the anarchistic cultural and artistic movement then at its peak. The epithet is revealing because it reflected anxiety that Einstein’s theory would overthrow the established Newtonian understanding of the world, a destabilisation of the physical world that mirrored the subversion of the social order then underway.

Relativity’s apparent repudiation of absolutes was interpreted by some as yet another sign of moral and intellectual decay. There could not have been a worse time for Einstein’s theory to have received such emphatic empirical validation than in the chaotic years after the First World War.

Although not to be overstated, the turmoil of Weimar Germany has some similarities with the political ferment that characterises the United States today – deep-rooted resentments, the sense of a nation in decline, the fragility of liberal forces, and the rise of an angry populist right. Environmental policy and science have become battlegrounds in a deep ideological divide that emerged as a backlash against the gains of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Marrying science to politics was a calculated strategy of conservative activists in the 1990s, opening up a gulf between Republican and Democratic voters over their attitudes to climate science. Both anti-relativists and climate deniers justifiably feared that science would enhance the standing of their opponents. They responded by tarnishing science with politics.

Einstein’s work was often accused of being un-German, and National Socialist ideology would soon be drawing a distinction between Jewish and Aryan mathematics. Although anti-Semitism plays no part in climate denial, “Jewish mathematics” served the same political function that the charge of “left-wing science” does in the climate debate today.

In the United States, the notion of left-wing science dates to the rise in the 1960s of what has been called “environmental-social impact” science which, at least implicitly, questioned the unalloyed benefits of “technological-production” science. Thus in 1975 Jacob Needleman could write:

Once the hope of mankind, modern science has now become the object of such mistrust and disappointment that it will probably never again speak with its old authority.

The apparent paradox of denialist think tanks supporting geoengineering solutions to the global warming problem that does not exist can be understood as a reassertion of technological-production science over environmental impact science. Thus the Exxon-funded Heartland Institute – the leading denialist organisation that has hosted a series of conferences at which climate science is denounced as a hoax and a communist conspiracy – has enthusiastically endorsed geoengineering as the answer to the problem that does not exist.

The association between “left-wing” opinion and climate science has now been made so strongly that politically conservative scientists who accept the evidence for climate change typically withdraw from public debate. So do those conservative politicians who remain faithful to science.

The motives of Einstein’s opponents were various but differences were overlooked in pursuit of the common foe. Today among the enemies of climate science we find grouped together activists in free market think tanks, politicians pandering to popular fears, conservative media outlets like the Sunday Times and Fox News, a handful of disgruntled scientists, right-wing philanthropists including the Scaifes and Kochs, and sundry opportunists such as Christopher Monckton and Bjorn Lomborg.

While Einstein’s theory posed no economic threat and industrialists were absent from the constellation of anti-relativity forces, the way in which climate denial was initially organised and promoted by fossil fuel interests is now well-documented. In the last several years, climate denial has developed into a political and cultural movement. Beneath the Astroturf grass grew.

This is an edited extract from Earthmasters by Clive Hamilton, published by Allen & Unwin.

Clive Hamilton does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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Climate politics shifting: NYC Mayor Bloomberg cites climate change a factor in US elections

“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans…  And heal the planet” – Mitt Romney

Sandy – and climate change – is having a profound impact on American politics and the Presidential election in surprising ways:

In a surprise announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign and that as a result he was endorsing President Obama. 

Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent in his third term leading New York City, has been sharply critical of both Mr. Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, the president’s Republican rival, saying that both men have failed to candidly confront the problems afflicting the nation. But he said he had decided over the past several days that Mr. Obama was the best candidate to tackle the global climate change that the mayor believes contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage. 

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote in an editorial for Bloomberg View. 

“Our climate is changing,” he wrote. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

Perhaps this is the break-through moment for climate politics in the US: when a respected, conservative leaning politician (Bloomberg is an independent with progressive views on a range of issues) helps dismantle the logjam stifling acknowledgement that climate change is central to the political discussion, and not a fringe concern.

The conservative politicians, think tanks, one particular global media corporation and journalists who have spent decades denying the reality are not merely looking out of touch with reality – it is now clear giving credence to their views was both foolish and dangerous.

The price of denial is writ large across Caribbean nations such as Haiti (60 dead) and the North East of the United States where the death toll has reached over 80.

The world has listened to these fanatics and merchants of unreality for too long.

But sadly it has taken two hurricanes in the United States – and far too many dead and billions in damage – to illustrate the folly of denial.

Twice climate extremes have destroyed the ambitions of conservatives in the US to hold or gain the Presidency. And twice they have chosen to ignore the lessons.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Presidency of George W. Bush, who was shown to be grossly incompetent. Recall it was Bush who sought to delay action on climate and ushered in the Republican war on science.

But denial among the GOP and conservatives only increased in intensity.

Now hurricane Sandy may have shifted the politics of climate change, most likely ensured a second term for Obama and discredited the sceptic movement in the eyes of most of the public.

The response of the millions who experienced the devastation of Sandy to the arguments of the sceptics will be personal and visceral:

“You’re a climate sceptic? Well I’m from New York – f*ck you”

Nor will the world forget the foolish utterances and names of those who denied climate change. The evidence of their stupidity and ideological zealotry is voluminous.

Romeny’s mocking of the issue of at the recent RNC will not merely haunt his failed bid for the Presidency: it will haunt conservatives in the US for decades.

It will haunt News Corporation for decades, who will be seen as one of the principle agents of denial.

And it will haunt conservative politicians in Australia, who fell under the siren song of the sceptic movement.

But it was bound to happen: reality was always going to catch up in the form of surging flood waters, withered crops and smashed and storm ravaged cities.

There will be an accounting and a reckoning, of that there can be little doubt.

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Merchants of hate: the right wing populism of Alan Jones versus “decent Australia”

I’ve not commented on the so called Jones Affair yet, but I’ve been watching developments out of curiosity. For those unfamiliar with the issue, Jones is a Sydney based right-wing radio shock-jock whose now notorious comments about the Prime Minister’s father have generated intense controversy.

And while the Jones affair has sparked enormous debate it is merely symptomatic a broader issue: for too long our media has been infected, shaped and effectively ruled by the merchants of hate.

The merchants of hate: who are they?

What the merchants of hate have wrought (Source: News)

Every day in both print and radio we are constantly assaulted by men – and they’re mostly older, white conservative males (with some few token exceptions) – espousing a toxic brew of climate scepticism, disdain for the environment, free market fundamentalism and a loathing for women, refugees and anyone who does not fit into a narrowly defined category of what is acceptable to their world view.

One only have to look at the writings of Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt, the daily content of The Australian, Daily Telegraph and the messaging from the Liberal-National Party as evidence for the above.

It is the diffusion of right-wing popularism from the United States into Australian political culture, and the blending of conspiracy culture and hate. But what was once restricted to the fringes of society has been made popular via the Internet and – let us be frank – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Noted economist John Quiggin also recently made this point on his blog:

For practical purposes, any comment, wherever it is made, is addressed to the world as a whole. More significantly, political debate has been globalised. In particular, the “cranks and crazies” who dominate the US Republican Party, along with the right-wing of the Tory party in the UK, inform the thinking of much of the Australian right-wing commentariat.

This is line with some of my thoughts: right-wing popularism (as I’m attempting to describe it in relation to climate change scepticism) has burst into the mainstream. In turn, it has had a toxic and destructive effect on the political process and public debate.

I believe a strong case can be made that climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts have been compromised by the intensity of the more extremist elements of the conservative movement opposing both the science and any attempts to address the challenge.

Which brings us back to Alan Jones.

Alan Jones: merchant of hate and unreality

For years Jones has suffered very little in the way of repercussions for the vitriol he directs against his perceived enemies. But now it seems Jones has gone to far.

His comments that Prime Ministers Julia Gillard’s father, recently deceased, died of shame has prompted a feeling of disgust across the country.

To date over 110,000 people have signed a petition to get Jones off the air. Major sponsors have dropped their association with his breakfast show (if you’re interested in signing see here).

Jones behaviour has prompted – to quote Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter Fitzsimmons – “decent Australia” to stand up and call him on his behaviour:

What has in fact happened in the last week has been the rise of decent Australia  saying enough is enough. And yes, sponsors like Gerry Harvey have publicly  worried that by withdrawing from the Jones program they are taking part in a  lynch mob, but they misunderstand. What you are actually doing, Mr Harvey, is  refusing to sponsor any further “lynch-mob radio”.

The public outrage in relation to the Jones affair as given me a sense of optimism: perhaps we have reached a tipping point, when ordinary citizens have said “enough!”

Nor is it just Jones comments about the passing away of the Prime Minister’s father people are reflecting upon.

It is Alan Jones and his world view that is now under the microscope, as Jones subscribes to the usual cluster of right-wing popularist nonsense:

As one of the most prominent climate sceptics in the Australian media he frequently distorts the public’s understanding of the science. It is worth noting that earlier this year the Australian media watch dog found he’d made “unsubstantiated comments” about the science.

But merely being wrong about the science was not enough to stop Jones.

He had to prompt the disgust of the nation.

And even then, like any school-yard bully pulled up for their behaviour he is claiming the mantle of victim.

Countering the merchants of hate

Perhaps in the public’s justifiable outrage we are seeing the stirring of a new counter-movement against the merchants of hate – one that calls for a return to civility and reasoned debate.

It is vital that we do so with urgency.

Those of us attuned to reality appreciate we are confronted by a broad range of challenges: environmental collapse, resource depletion, an ageing population and less certain economic times to mention but a few.

It is not the end of the world, but some nasty shocks are on the horizon if we don’t start seriously planning a response.

And yet we cannot meet these challenges creatively or with a sense of common purpose when the merchants of hate preach division and call out scientists and environmentalists – indeed anyone perceived to be in opposition to their paranoid world view – as the enemy within.

The likes of Alan Jones are not dissenting voices; he is not the representative or champion of unpopular causes as he and his defenders are so very quick to claim.

The language of hate peddled by Jones, Bolt and News Corporation is merely a tool to silence critics of the status quo. Told that we cannot consume blindly or pollute the world’s atmosphere without consequences, and their response is blind fury and denial.

And yet in opposition to their fury what is an appropriate response?

Censorship in a free society is untenable, and destructive; it is not an option in a genuinely democratic country like Australia. Nor do I advocate it.

What then?

Limits to hate: victory over the merchants of unreality?

We can reclaim the media and public debate by standing up to the likes of Jones; we can bring back accountability.

Which is what 110,000 Australians did in signing that petition to get Jones off the air. It is a genuine grass-roots initiative taken up by tens of thousands. Which is why sponsors are fleeing from Jones in horror at being associated with his tainted brand.

Decency, humility and respect for the rights of others never went away or into decline: the values of our society are not in free fall.

But you would not know that tuning into Alan Jones or picking up The Herald Sun.

By capturing the media and using it as a platform for their distorted reality, the shrill and panicked voices of right-wing popularism attempted to drown out any sense of common purpose in a tirade of hate filled invective.

They wanted to divide the world into us and them and for the public to follow their conspiratorial lead. They treated climate science as a subversive heresy and have been attempting to stamp it out.

Indeed there can be little doubt in coming decades Jones and the climate sceptics will be mocked for their beliefs; that climate scientists perpetrated a gigantic hoax for funding; that environmentalists wanted to de-industrialize the West; or that the Rothschild family is behind it all.

We have listened to Jones and his fellow travellers for years; we have tolerated their hate filled world view far longer than was necessary. They have had their opportunity to put their case forward, in a manner befitting their temperament.

But there are not merely limits to growth; there are limits to the level of hate a pluralistic society will tolerate.

Perhaps those limits are now finally being reached.

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