The rot at the core of American conservatism

May 29, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More

Peter Daou argues that the anti-environmentalism espoused by the political right wing is not only wrong-headed; it is dangerous:

Of all the wrongheaded ideas proudly trumpeted by America’s right, anti-environmentalism occupies a unique position: it is at once the most devoid of a rational or moral foundation and the most dangerous. It is selfish, crass, illogical, willfully blind, a denial of the undeniable reality that humans are pillaging irreplaceable natural resources and spewing filth into the air and water and soil at unsustainable rates. Green-bashers stubbornly negate what is directly before them. There is no moral imperative underlying their belief (or lack thereof). It’s about unbridled hostility at the suggestion that we must all make shared sacrifices. It’s about refusing to acknowledge that the environmental movement has been right to sound the alarm. It’s about laziness. And greed. And irresponsibility. And colossal shortsightedness. Green-bashing exposes the rot at the core of modern conservatism.

The reason this conservative attitude toward the environment is dangerous is that it would leave us unprepared for the quickly approaching transition from oil to post-oil. It would be an economically and socially dangerous transition even if we planned well for it.

I’ve argued before, and I still maintain, that the right wing uses its anti-environmentalism as a badge of group identification (among other things). In short, I don’t believe that most right-wingers are truly against the green positions that they publicly disparage. I’m not convinced that most right-wingers have actually thought their positions through (e.g., most conservatives don’t realize that there’s only enough oil in Alaska to run the U.S. for six months, which makes “Drill Baby, Drill palpably absurd).  I believe that when conservatives shout down green positions, they are actually shouting up their membership in the right-wing herd.

But how can someone take a policy position contrary to the facts without a straight face?  See the Dunning-Kruger cognitive bias, which refers to the fact that “people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.” Thus, many people are ignorant of the fact that they are ignorant, thus freeing them up to pontificate to others and to run for Congress in good conscience.  We’re surrounded by this, and we’re fed “news” media stories that flout this conflict pornography (featuring know-nothings shouting at people who do know something) in order to sell commercials.  Note that self-critical fact-finding and careful analysis is not treasured anywhere in this process.  See also, this earlier post on tortucanism.



Category: Environment, Politics, Risks and Dangers

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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    • Erich Vieth says:

      Interesting . . . "virulent ignorance."

      Reminds me of the double edge sword of "Forgive us our trespasses." Should we believe in the possibility of redemption? Yes, as much as possible. But we must always be on guard that "forgiving each others trespasses" doesn't become malignant. If not carefully checked, it becomes free license to do whatever we want and to let others do whatever they want. It becomes a social contract to turn a blind eye to each others' sloth and greed, to allow our society to decay without raising a cry of alarm and concern. It becomes a pact that we will not criticize others, even when they (often in the name of God) are stealing from the next generation, and the next (what else can you call anti-green other than stealing from the future generations?). If unchecked, it easily turns into free market fundamentalism.

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