Right away, I suppose you know where this is going. I’ll stipulate at the outset that I do not impute to all (or even most) environmental activists a Nazist desire to blow away the other humans who disagree with their beliefs, conclusions, and prescriptions for “the planet.”
But I do impute such a desire to the makers of the “No Pressure” video. In their unapologetic apology for the video, they display neither contrition for the theme of pulverizing those who disagree with them, nor understanding that it’s their inverted “moral” justification for doing so that’s the problem. It’s not the contrived images, per se, that ought to disturb us, it’s the ideology behind them.
As several commenters pointed out at Ed’s post, the proposition of the video is Nazism. It’s not “like” Nazism – it is Nazism. This is partly because a tortured idea of environmental-ecological hygiene was a strong element in Nazism. But that’s not the most important reason. The “No Pressure” video’s proposition is Nazism because it implies a moral justification for “problematic” humans being exterminated. It shows the global-warming skeptics dying because they “deserve it” – because they interfere with realization of the urgent collective idea.
This is Nazism. It is the very heart of Nazism. It is why Nazism produced euthanasia of the old and disabled, why it justified ghastly eugenic experiments on “problematic” humans, and why it led to the Holocaust of the Jews.
Note this well: Nazism did not do this by preaching in favor of euthanasia, of homicidal eugenic experimentation, or of slaughtering Jews. Nazism was always publicly coy about the implications of its vicious themes. It achieved its real outcomes, rather, by first positing a “utopian” condition (one with a substantial element of eco-harmony alongside the “racial hygiene”); by then supposing a systemic racial and political menace to it; and by demonizing and dehumanizing those who were held to be interfering with the realization of the utopia. Nazism further assumed a mystical urgency to the problem, which justified limiting the people’s freedoms, requiring certain involuntary actions and heroic sacrifices from them, and subjecting some of the people to unequal treatment.
It does not matter that environmental activists who achieve public prominence and political influence today aren’t preaching a Final Solution. The Nazis didn’t preach one either, nor did Germans vote for them in the hope of one. What the Nazis’ public rhetoric did was justify the Final Solution, along with the other hideous undertakings of the Nazi state. Their public rhetorical campaign laid the foundation for their moral decisions behind closed doors.
The horrific decisions themselves were not featured in public communications. They were not advocated explicitly or introduced for national debate. Yet they were still adopted and executed by the national government. And this is important: in Nazi propaganda – in what we would today call the Nazis’ “information campaign” – there could be found no countervailing affirmation of the irreducible moral standing of the “problematic” humans. In word and picture, the “problematic” humans were portrayed solely in terms of their “vile” nature, as if they were a virus infecting society, and as if they should be treated as such.
I’m sure that most environmental radicals are not personally in favor of blowing away their critics. Most of them would repudiate such an idea with repugnance. I understand that. But their intellectual idea is an absolutist one; it does not admit of the possibility that their fellow humans are owed the right to live by their own moral lights in this matter, just because they are human. We are all human, in fact. Being human makes each of us prone to error, something the long parade of errors and unraveling assertions in the history of AGW advocacy has amply demonstrated. A moral society does not assume error and punish preemptively; it waits to establish error, by process of law and investigative iteration; and it seeks accommodation and compromise when neither absolute truth nor incontrovertible error can be objectively established.
We are assuredly living under the latter conditions today, when it comes to the AGW/Climate Change/Climate Disruption proposition. There may well be some amount of anthropogenic global warming, although theoretical certainty has persistently been greater than unassailable evidence in that regard. But skepticism that human carbon emissions are having a cataclysmic effect on “the planet” is as fully justified as was skepticism that Jews and other substandard humans constituted a mongrelizing infestation of a pristine, ecologically harmonious Aryan super-race.
The central moral vulnerability of radical environmentalism is that it does exactly what the Nazis did: it advances arguments that would justify a wildly hubristic, fabulist attitude about our fellow humans; and it never mitigates the force of that rhetorical theme with an uncompromising commitment to the moral right of those fellow humans to their lives and liberty.
This latter form of mitigation is not a given in any time or place. It cannot be left to operate on its own, because it doesn’t. The moral right to life and liberty has been defined out of effective existence by every collectivist ideology and most forms of autocracy. The most epic, tragic fool is the one who suggests, in sophomoric fashion, that people ought to “lighten up” about fanatical ideologues and their cavalier dismissal of the moral rights of others.
On this topic, there is under no circumstances an obligation to “lighten up.” We either acknowledge instead the obligation to be weighed down with the burden of vigilance, or we end up being ruled by people who think it’s funny and satisfying to imagine us being pulverized. The step from that to actually killing people, in the name of an ideological morality, has already been taken, and more than once in the last century. No one who prescribes disregarding that history can be taken seriously.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.