Climate change denial warriors have been berating Greta Thunberg all week for daring to say we need to look after the world, for suggesting that adults were letting her generation down, and for suggesting people should take science seriously.
I thought it might be useful to look at some of the styles of argument employed in the next couple of articles on this blog. This require several conditions. First off, I could not select the articles themselves, as I might knowingly, or unconsciously, choose badly argued or stupid articles. The articles had to be recommended to me, by people who were intelligent and who agreed with them. Secondly I had to try and restrain myself from being rude. The Second point was probably more difficult – oh let’s be clear, by the end of it I failed. These people did not want a discussion and they just handed out abuse, and a demand to shut up about climate change..
The first article was a broadcast by Australian right wing ‘shock jock’, Alan Jones. This guy is highly influential; newspapers write feature articles about him, his words get wide circulation, he is hostile to anything to do with climate change, although he often opposes fracking and coal mining near his many property holdings. He can be said to be central to the Australian media, and its self-image. The speech was recommended by an American, so that shows he has international repute among the right.
The speech is here. To be fair he is reporting a letter written to him that he thinks is a wonderful response to teenagers protesting aganst climate change.
He starts by asserting climate change is a hoax. Ok there is a hoax here, but its called ‘denialism’ Or perhaps more accurately, the “don’t do anything, because it will affect our sponsor’s profits” move; there are lots of motives we can imagine for denying the problem or its severity, but we don’t know what he, or the person he is quoting, is about, so let’s not pretend we do – it does not seem a courtesy that will be extended back.
He then attacks young people for:
1) Having airconditioning in class rooms (Yes its getting hotter and no the kids probably did not agitate for this, but parents might have done. It is obviously unfair to agitate to stay alive. If you know anything about NSW classrooms a lot of them are demountable and made of metal which heats up quite a bit in summer. Education department figures show there are 10,000 classrooms in NSW with no form of air conditioning or evaporative coolers. <https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/where-summer-is-stifling-the-nsw-schools-with-and-without-air-con-20180711-p4zqsx.html>
Of course Alan Jones and his like, oppose using solar panels to keep things below heat stroke territory in summer. He might need to get his facts right).
2) TV in every room and computers (Hmm, the kids buy TVs for every room? The kids do not manufacture the TVs nor promote them for sale, nor pay for them. Neither did they design a workplace which requires computerisation, or for people to use mobile phones to be in constant contact. Nor do they spend millions of dollars trying to convince people to upgrade their phones even if the old ones are still working. Kids are really so powerful, that they did all this???? I presume Alan Jones and his team, who are signalling virtuously here, do not use computers or smart phones at work, or demand that they be available – or is it ok to use them because they deny climate change is a problem?)
3) The kids all decide to be driven to school (really? not the parents deciding its not safe for kids to walk to school? I assume he has done some research on any of what is being asserted here? No…? Wow he just knows stuff like he knows that climate change isn’t real. This is so convincing….)
4) Then he avoids even the suggestion that the economic system could be generating endless consumerism – its all the kids fault – not the fault of business, not the fault of profit seeking. We can’t suggest capitalism is to blame – it’s got to be the kids. These kids are so powerful they can bend the whole economic system – no wonder he is scared of them.
5) Then he asserts the climate strikers are supported by people who want to boost population. Actually, it’s pretty obvious that there are people who encourage inflating the population are on his side of politics. The Coalition have been driving population increase since John Howard – they mix this with penalising refugees who come by boat, so as to distract people from what they are doing. They reckon its economically necessary to provide for the aging population, make up for the low birthrate, and to keep wages down… Some of those supporters of population growth are the religious right who want everyone to obey God’s commands to keep breeding. They don’t care about the ecological damage this does…. so again this is twisted at best
6) Final killer argument, young people are “virtue signalling little turds” – that is a real reasoned argument for you… more evidence that the righteous have nothing to offer but abuse, and threat… (after they have done the misdirection)
7) Wait! There’s more: “Wake up, grow up and shut up” – well again if you can’t beat people by facts or rational argument just get them to shut up and stop disturbing you in your pursuit of profit and sponsors. This is the righeous love of free speech. They get the right to lie and abuse anyone, but everyone else gets to shut up.
This speech could not be even remotely persuasive to anyone who did not already agree with his position.