Monday, October 12, 2009

On Epithets, Labels, Beliefs, and Definitions ………

Clameur de Haro is prompted by recent comments on his posts to muse at length on the potential for confusion stemming from the epithets and labels applied to beliefs, and the benefits of more precise definitions.
Mr Frank Binney (a new commenter, and most welcome) raises the issue of how accurate, or otherwise, it is to apply the “left” or “right” label to the Greenists? Tony The Prof, in his courteous and erudite way as always, highlights the undesirability of debating climate issues with ad hominem arguments. Both comments, and the reasoned, courteous tone of them, merit a full response.
CdeH subscribes to the view of The Political Compass that the traditional “left” and “right” label is no longer sufficiently adequate to describe positions on the political playing field, because the continuum is one-dimensional, and predominantly an indicator of economic position – ranging from communism or overwhelmingly statist collectivism (on the left), to unfettered, unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism (on the right). And that a more sophisticated and illuminating definition of politico-economic philosophy can be made by complementing location on the economic dimension with a statement of position on the social, authoritarian-to-libertarian continuum, ranging from ultimate authoritarian (fascism, in fact) to ultimate libertarian (virtually anarchy).
It should come as no surprise to Clameur de Haro’s more careful and perceptive readers that CdeH finds himself in the area of the 4-o’clock position in the bottom right-hand quadrant of Libertarian Right – being unequivocally in favour of small government, free trade, free markets, low taxes, but light-touch regulation on the economic continuum, and with a moderate libertarian slant on the social scale, believing as he does that the state aggregates too much power to itself and then often proceeds to exercise it illiberally, and has no business, for example, interfering in willingly-undertaken social transactions between competent, consenting adults, provided that others are not harmed thereby.
Not a million miles from the Hayekian and Friedmanite positions, it would appear, which probably accounts for CdeH’s intuitive listing of Friedman’s “Free to Choose” and “Capitalism and Freedom” as among the most influential formatives of his political / economic thinking.
CdeH frequently has the label “right-wing” hurled at him as an insult. On The Political Compass’ economic continuum, of course, this is, as far as it goes, a more correct than incorrect identification of his economic and fiscal philosophy (although quite why the belief that government is not per se automatically efficient and that taxpayers should be entitled to keep more of their own money, should be a cause for insult, is mystifying).
But on the social policy scale, and when hurled at a commentator who -
(1) naturally inclines to concern at the accretion and abuse of power by the authoritarian state and its agents;
(2) has been appalled at the implications for our liberty as citizens of Labour’s 12-year attack on habeas corpus, the right to jury trial, the right to silence, and the presumption of innocence, all on spurious grounds; and
(3) would choose La Moye rather than be forced to carry a show-on-demand ID card or render up his DNA without just cause, believing that it is his property and not that of the state,
the epithet “right-wing” as an insult is hilarious in its inaccuracy (as Clameur de Haro’s friends who know his views on privacy and personal freedom issues tell him), and betrays rather more about the insulter that it does about the criticised.
Where does this take us on the subject of applying labels in that area where politics and Greenism meet?
CdeH has good friends, occupying varying locations on the left-right economic-fiscal spectrum, who are very environmentally-minded but who equally accept that scepticism on green issues is valid, healthy, and should in a free society be widely aired, and that this is all very much a matter of private, personal choice, not public coercion. In no way could they be described as fundamentalist Greenists. On this specific point of socio-political philosophy, we would have to place them in the libertarian half on the authoritarian–libertarian scale.
But others – indeed, many others - appear, regrettably, to be much less tolerant. Consider just the following examples –
The Godfather of the global warming scare industry, James Hansen, being on record as averring that anyone who even questions the postulate of catastrophic warming should be put on trial. Not positively counter-argues it – merely questions it;
The proposal of David Marxiband Milliband, when UK Energy Secretary in 2006, to force the entire population of the UK to carry a swipe card to be presented on every transaction, with every single person in the land being expected to render account for their carbon footprint and being allocated a personal annual carbon allowance – enthusiastically endorsed by the then environment correspondent of The Guardian (now there’s a surprise) in the following terms –
“The move marks the first serious step towards state-enforced limits on the carbon use of individuals……….extends the principle of carbon to consumers, with heavy carbon users forced to buy unused allowances from people with greener lifestyles” ;
The proliferating use of CTV surveillance cameras, originally justified and installed for counter-terrorism purposes, to spy on householders’ recycling habits;
The admission of Ealing Council in West London that “hundreds of Junior Streetwatchers, aged eight to 10, [have been] trained to identify and report enviro-crime issues” and that of Harlow Council in Essex which has said it has “25 ‘Street Scene Champions’, all aged between 11 and 14, who are encouraged to email or telephone the council if they suspect that an ‘enviro-crime’ has been committed” ;
The examples of prominent EU Greenists with hard-left, marxist, pasts: those of us of a certain age, (pace Tony The Prof) remember, for example, Joschka Fischer and Daniel Cohn-Bendit propagating in the 1970s, revolutionary socialist prescriptions eerily precursory of much of both the authoritarian restriction on private behaviour and freedom, and the “for-the-sake-of-the-environment-and-the-planet” taxation that the Greenists espouse today. Is it really just a coincidence that aggressive environmentalism really started to take off in the early 1990s when communism was finally consigned to the scrapheap?
The rallying call of Green Left - an offshoot of hard-left marxist Socialist Unity - for an electoral pact in Birmingham with the Green Party “……….to give a progressive and environmentally aware candidate the chance of taking the seat, and a victory for all those opposing the policies of privatisation, war, greed, racism and environmental destruction. We are firmly of the belief that this will benefit both the Green and progressive movements in this country……….” ;
The author of this, intriguingly enough, is one Derek Wall, former Male Spokesman (yes, I know – no laughing at the back of the class, please) of the Green Party, who in another incarnation also comes up with this explicit summary of the advantages from the growing collaboration between hard-left socialism and the Green movement -
“The creation of an Eco-socialist International network seems a good institutional basis for making European Green Parties more radical and I would like to see EU Greens working with the Nordic Green Left. I hope that it builds an eco-socialist network that links activists in every single state on this planet and, as we agreed in Paris, to work to make greens redder and reds greener.”
This, and plenty more of the same, can be viewed at
All of which suggests to Clameur de Haro that, far from the idea of Greenist Fundamentalism being an exaggeration, when taken overall, ample justification exists for that upper left Authoritarian Socialist quadrant of The Political Compass being the correct location for the activist, militant Greenism most often propounded by the save-the-planet-warriors. This is what he refers to when he speaks of Green Fundamentalists. As we can see, there’s a lot of it about.
And yet CdeH is mocked by a commenter for displaying a “Green is the New Red” logo on his sidebar?
Which brings us inevitably on to Mr Nick Palmer, Clameur de Haro’s most frequent commenter, and serial ritual abuser. Mr Palmer is fond of labelling CdeH as a recidivist perpetrator of what seems in his lexicon to be that most heinous of all crimes, far, far worse than mass-murderer, or child-abductor, or financial swindler, or…………………well, worse than anything at all really, namely being a “global warming denier”.
It sheds, firstly, an interesting perspective on the more strident advocates of radical environmentalism that mere scepticism, inherently just a manifestation of thought or opinion, rather than any illegal actions or criminal deed, should be judged so deserving of such calumny. But given on the one hand the inclination so prevalent in Gramscian cultural marxism (to give the colloquial, more familiar, label of political correctness its ideological origin) to establish, define, and prosecute crimes of thought and opinion, and on the other hand the correlation between Gramscian thought and militant Greenism, CdeH is relatively unsurprised by this.
The attaching to sceptics of the term “denier” in this context is quite deliberate, and no mere accidental or careless use of language. Its users are employing one of the classic tactics of cultural marxism – closing down the argument and thereby circumventing debate. It’s exactly the same technique which accuses someone of racism if they attempt to discuss whether current levels of immigration are sustainable, or of elitism if they suggest that a few more grammar schools with scholarships might actually benefit bright children from modest backgrounds, or of xenophobia if they suggest that handing over sovereignty to an unelected and unaccountable supranational authority might not be a terribly good thing for democracy. By seeking to equate enquiring scepticism about anthropogenic climate change with something as repellent as (primarily) Holocaust denial, they try to convey the idea that their target is so irretrievably and unspeakably vile that anything they say should not even be given a hearing, never mind taken seriously.
For the record, Clameur de Haro does accept that there has been an upward movement in average global temperatures over significant periods of the past century-and-a-half or so, but equally is persuaded that this has not been the case since 1998. As indeed, even the warmists – from the IPCC, who acknowledged that its first apocalyptic predictions omitted the Medieval Warming entirely, through Mann, who eventually conceded the fundamental flaws in the algorithms which generated his infamous hockey-stick, to the Biased BBC, which has just reported that for the last 11 years no increase in global temperatures has been observed and that there could be 30 years of cooling due to falling ocean temperatures - have had to admit.
Noticeable, isn’t it, how in the last few years, it’s all become “catastrophic climate change” rather than “catastrophic global warming”?
He has yet to be convinced, also, by the entire man-made / CO2 argument, having seen too many graphs of data sets showing non-correlation between temperature and CO2 output, temperature cooling during periods of rising CO2 output irrespective of whichever time lag is attempted, and studies suggesting that CO2 levels may be the consequence, not the cause, of temperature movements.
And he feels unable to ignore the peer-reviewed evidence that the Earth’s climate has changed throughout its history (and that a mere 30 years ago, some of today’s warmists were ardently warning of catastrophic global cooling and the strong danger of a new ice age). Climate change isn’t unlikely – it’s guaranteed, as it has been for the last x million years, mankind or no mankind, and CdeH is presently unconvinced that human influence on it, while possible, is nevertheless other than peripheral. The notion of “combating climate change” CdeH suspects, is about as feasible as combating tomorrow morning’s sunrise or combating the advent of next Christmas.
So, the correct term for Clameur de Haro is actually “anthropogenic climate change sceptic”. But then that’s so much less emotive as a term of derision than “global warming denier”, isn’t it? Perhaps those who inadvertently - or more likely deliberately - conflate the two need to put “dictionary” at the top of their Christmas List.
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Nick Palmer said...

Boy, this post was heavy going. I am glad you got your commenting gremlins sorted out and I'm sorry if I unjustifiably accused you of censorship. You're guilty of so much else that the momentum just carried me along helplessly. I'll try not to jump to conclusions so fast in future.

Nick Palmer said...

If you're interested, I got:

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -4.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.69

Almost the same position as the Dalai Lama

st-ouennais said...

I took the test at Political Compass, purely out of curiosity. The result:

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -5.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.49

Which apperas to place me somewhere between Ghandi and the Dali Lama, in the green coloured libertarian left block.

No surprise there then, albeit that I have very big reservations on using economics as a distinction of politics. Starting with view that classical economics is inherently flawed.


Nick Palmer said...

Hey St-Ouennais - looks like we're both in the extreme good guys ballpark. I didn't see ANYBODY in the right hand libertarian block - maybe Clameur really is completely out on a minute minority limb without a leg to stand on?