This post is the second in a series chronicling my engagement with a climate-change-denying, retired dentist who has mistaken me for Tony Heller, a climate denier, and how I am able to lead him down a path toward fascism using the twisted logic of climate change denial as my entry point. If you haven’t read Part I, please do.
So we last left off with our anti-hero, “Bill,” agreeing to fund my fictional scheme by the Trump administration to smear climate scientists. Early this morning, I exchanged more emails with Bill in which I entice him into writing a piece for Tony Heller’s blog (who he thinks he’s talking to). I suggested he should give his account from a Gore supporter in 2000 to where he is today, a willing participant in fascist activities. Bill also reveals how quickly his fascist tendencies are progressing.
Here is the first email I received from Bill (again, the emails have been redacted and lightly edited to hide the original author’s identity):
This blog is a parody of Tony Heller (aka Steven Goddard), a climate change denier who has managed to make a name for himself equipped only with a blog and a Twitter account.
This is the first in a series of posts (read Part 2 and Part 3) that tell the story of how a fan of the real Tony Heller mistook me for the real Tony Heller and how I was subsequently able to get him to agree with and cheer on ridiculously fascist statements in emails I sent to him. I also persuaded him to actively contribute financially to support a fictional covert persecution of climate scientists by the Trump administration. This is not a parody post and the account I give below actually transpired. As this post is not meant to out the person I corresponded with, I have redacted information in the emails that might be used to identify this person. His first name has also been changed.
The mainstream media is suppressing a covert CIA operation it is setting up to spy on future White House operations and President-Elect Donald Trump. “High-level operatives within the CIA have declared Donald Trump the nation’s highest threat to national security,” said a source with intimate details of the operation.
The source said documents outlining the plans will be forthcoming and is currently in discussions with WikiLeaks to “blow the lid off this act of treason.”
More details to follow. Please post this far and wide on Facebook and Twitter to help uncover the threat to our Great and Wondrous Leader, Donald Trump.
Apparently unaware I’m a completely discredited climate denying nut–so much so that I even got laughed off of Anthony Watts’ nonsense climate change blog–Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts has seen fit to enlist me as an expert to help bolster his position that NASA and other agencies are fudging climate records. Here I am pictured with this sucker at a press conference today along with another fellow denier loon, Tim Ball.
My name is Tony Heller (aka Steven Goddard). I’m a professional climate change denier and I use this blog to blow the whistle on myself and sometimes others, too.
Today I continue my series on denier assholery by calling them out for their pearl clutching when they get called “deniers.” My post here is inspired by this blog post, written by Blair King, a self-proclaimed free-market, lukewarmer who apparently helps mop up fossil fuel waste for a living. In his post he explains why use of the word “denier” to describe individuals who deny climate change “saddens” him. His blog post was, in turn, inspired by his recent Twitter war with the denier-slayer from down under, Sou, who recounts the details of said war here. As usual, Sou does an excellent job sending him up.
Anyway, back to my point: why are deniers like me, who object to the label “denier,” major assholes? Now, I know I’m late to this debate and I’m on the losing side of it, at least if the AP were judge, but our King fellow has resurrected feelings I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a while now. So let’s get to it.
First, the dainty deniers and supposed lovers of the free, rough and tumble exchange of ideas are almost always the first mother fuckers in line to recoil in horror at the idea of “political correctness.” Our dear Mr. King, the aforementioned inspiration for this post, is no exception. For example, in the last paragraph of this blog post from May, he laments how “honest scientists” are victimized by “attack-first climate activists,” for challenging what he calls “politically incorrect” positions on climate change.
Boo fucking hoo. Pass me a tissue.
But then, after railing against the idea of political correctness, deniers want us to believe describing them as deniers hurts their feelings. Well, guess what assholes, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim you despise political correctness on the one hand and then swoon every time you get called a name you don’t like.
What’s particularly idiotic is these assholes can’t even figure out the difference between labeling someone for their ideas and true hate speech. For example, in this blog post from 2015, Mr. King has the gall equate the term “denier” to the “f” word used to disparage homosexuals (go read his blog post if you want to see the slur spelled out). As if a word intended to exclude or shame a person for a central part of their being is the same thing as a descriptive moniker for a kook making wild claims in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Sorry, but if I think your conclusions about climate change or the proper response to the crisis are shit–especially if you act like a juvenile, know-it-all asshole–I get to call you out on it. Nothing personal.
But the crux of King’s argument is he objects to the word “denier” because that word is somehow sacred, like a retired sports jersey number, and should refer exclusively to Holocaust deniers. Weirdly, he’s actually cool with calling someone a “denialist.” Even more weirdly, he suggests we call the hard core deniers “sky dragons,” instead. Whatever. Anyway, for King, the word “denier” is off limits because it “carr[ies] with it the toxic scent of Holocaust denial.” What a bunch of total and utter horseshit.
First of all, there are all kinds of deniers. There are “Jesus deniers,” “moon landing deniers,” “9/11 deniers,” “religious deniers,” “vaccine deniers,” “liquor deniers,” “racism deniers,” “evolution deniers,” etc., etc. Google these phrases and you’ll see them everywhere. But by this moron’s reckoning, all such terms describing all the many types of deniers should be off limits because it unfairly associates them with evil Holocaust deniers thereby diluting the word “denier” that King, at least according to him, worked hard to imbue with super, magical powers to beat back white supremacists.
It’s obvious to anyone beyond a sixth grade reading level that the word “denier,” used alone, is shorthand for a specific kind of denier. The type of denier it refers to is made clear from the context the word is used in. If I’m writing about “evolution deniers,” for example, I don’t continually have to write the term “evolution deniers” to make clear I’m not referring to Holocaust deniers. I can just use the word “deniers” and it’s obvious from the context what kind of denier I’m referring to.
Aside from Blair, the only people who read “Holocaust denier” into the word “denier” are those who’d like to convince the world they are getting wrongfully persecuted by “alarmists.” Now some might try to argue that if a group is offended by a label, it’s just common courtesy and respectful to discontinue using it. For example, shouldn’t the “Washington Redskins” rename their football team out of consideration for the Native Americans that have raised objections to it? This seems to be the reasoning behind the AP’s decision last year to not use the term “denier.”
And that brings me to my final point. What truly make deniers who feign offense at the use of the word “denier” assholes is they essentially try to equate themselves with groups, like Native Americans, who have endured long histories of racial, ethnic and social persecution and who have legitimate gripes about the words used to describe them; words that were used to alienate, ostracize and dehumanize them so they could be divided, conquered, enslaved, persecuted and killed by an unsympathetic, dominant culture. So to these mostly male, mostly white, often wealthy, well-educated, reality-denying assholes, I say, “Fuck you, quit complaining, and go do the hard work of publishing legitimate science to back your crazy claims up.”
And you want to know the real reason deniers don’t like being called “deniers?” Because, just like the moon landing deniers, 9/11 deniers, evolution deniers, vaccine deniers and yes, Holocaust deniers, that word effectively paints them as the fucking kooks that they are. So don’t listen to Blair King. Keep calling them “deniers” every opportunity you get.
We are all familiar with assholes. Driven by their own fears and insecurity, assholes posture themselves to look superior to others. By tearing others down, assholes attempt to build themselves up. Once you understand that we are nothing but assholes, our behavior is explainable.
Now assholes have been around since the beginning of time and they can actually do us some good. For example, sometimes assholes benefit us by attacking and exposing other assholes. And fights between assholes can be fun to watch.
Even emotionally-developed adults are sometimes forced to act like an asshole to defend against other assholes who are too broken to handle any other way. Sometimes reasonable people screw up and act like an asshole to people who don’t deserve it. And some people feel like they have to act like an asshole to get stuff done for the greater good. They’re usually wrong and we much prefer and admire people who aren’t assholes and who still accomplish quite a lot precisely because they aren’t an asshole.
But as people like Donald Trump and climate-change deniers like me demonstrate, a new super strain of asshole is in ascendancy. Today’s media environment provides a stage for us to mainline our juvenile stupidity and venom directly to our audience and bypass existing societal defenses that used to thwart us. It’s now possible for assholes like me to take big, fat, public shits on others and their work with our own bullshit to sate our badly dysfunctional egos. Not only that, we are rewarded for our anti-social behavior with lots of attention and adulation from other idiots and assholes. They, in turn, mimic our behavior. As a result, our culture thrives and spreads like a cancer.
The best pathological assholes do a good job of presenting themselves as normal people to other assholes. We can be polite, gracious and even self-effacing to the other assholes that agree with us but we behave like assholes toward just about everybody else if we can get away with it. That’s how we build community and solidarity with each other. The biggest assholes love other assholes like us who take their side of an argument even if our ideas have no basis in reality. Because it’s not our logical thought they embrace; they like us because we are assholes, just like them.
So there you go. You can now stop pretending we are logical, rational people and can be reasoned with like normal people. The best offense against us is to call us what we are: straight-up assholes. I hope this profound insight helps clear shit up for you.
In his 1962 book, “Gutenberg Galaxy,” the Canadian English professor, Marshall McLuhan, introduced the intriguing idea that the methods a civilization uses to transmit ideas profoundly influence the structure and psychology of societies. His central premise was that the content getting transmitted mattered little and that the technology employed to deliver the content had a much more profound influence on society. For example, a literate society which relied heavily on printed text to communicate would be vastly different from a society which communicated via television and radio, the dominant new mediums of the last half of the 20th century. Though sometimes baffling and unscientific, McLuhan’s ideas were thought provoking and he became a pop culture phenom, even earning a bit part in Woody Allen’s, Annie Hall.
Thirty six years after his passing, McLuhan’s ideas are still being explored and debated particularly with how they might be applied to the internet and the seemingly never-ending explosion of new methods for sharing information and experiences. As individuals, we wonder about our own ability to adapt psychologically to the constant bombardment of new information available to us. We also ask how will a world where everyone can be in touch with everyone instantly be different from a world with gatekeepers and hierarchical structures?
But we no longer have to guess so much. The internet has been with us forty-five years or so, the world wide web about twenty five, and the ubiquity of true personal communication for less than ten. A clearer picture of the impact of these technologies on us is beginning to emerge. And so far, I’m afraid to report, it’s looking pretty fucked up.
Once upon a time, the dream was that the internet and the accompanying technologies built atop it would usher in something like McLuhan’s profoundly misinterpreted phrase, “global village.” We imagined people across planet would be woven into an interconnected, electronic hive mind which would amplify and transmit the greatest ideas and allow us to coordinate thoughts and actions like never before, driving civilization to ever higher heights and dwarfing the accomplishments of the past century.
What we failed to consider, however, is that the key value of the Enlightment—that reason must guide our decisions—is simply not the overriding principal most individuals strive toward. We also forgot that humans are, before all else, social creatures. We seek out and maintain relationships and form alliances with those who are most like us; we have a very strong tendency to tribalize and become more warlike. This is what McLuhan actually predicted would happen as a result of a “global village.”
And so the internet, rather than bringing people together, is having precisely the opposite effect. By making it exceedingly easy for like-minded people to find and communicate with one another in virtual spaces, the creation of tribes around any particular idea or value, even if totally baseless or detached from reality, becomes much more prevalent. Combine this with a weakening of traditional, gate keeping institutions like political parties and major news organizations, the internet has set the stage for vast political and social disruption.
Witness the rise of Donald Trump. What else can explain him as a phenomena? Political scientists are at a loss. The country is not in severe economic turmoil. Even when we were, we still turned to establishment figures like Roosevelt to lead us. Some political scientists have posited theories that Trump appeals to authoritarians. But haven’t there always been politicians that did that? I argue that what’s different today is that a huge share of the population is plugged into the internet.
As Trump demonstrates and as McLuhan taught us, content simply doesn’t matter. As we have seen, the more incoherent drivel Trump spews, the more popular he seems to become with his followers. What explains the Trump phenomena is the internet and the tribal bonds and relationships that can be built as a result of it. Websites, videos, social media are allowing members of the Trump tribe to share symbols and feel connected with one another in ways never before possible. And you could replace Trump with just about anyone. Trump is, in fact, irrelevant. He is merely scaffolding for a cultural movement made possible by the internet.
And then there’s dreck like me. Bypassing scientific journals with a Twitter account and a blog, I have been able to amass quite a following pumping out reams of pure bullshit everyday about global warming. The fact that what I say is detached from all scientific evidence is immaterial. I have successfully carved out my own little tribe of like-minded climate deniers to the point where my lunatic conspiracy theories are getting traction on alt-right websites that they can turn around and feed to their own tribe.
Rational individuals have trouble wrapping their heads around what’s happening because they make the mistaken assumption that clear, rational thought is an ideal everybody strives for and can achieve. They can’t understand how someone like me can exist. Unfortunately, the desire to belong and be part of a tribe trumps all logic. So here I am.
I believe it’s only going to get worse. As 20th century institutions continue to weaken, the internet will usher in an era of what I call hypertribalism. Each tribe will have its own set of values, worldview and established “facts” they operate from. Members of the various tribes will be ensconced in their own sub-sub-cultures to the point where it will be difficult for them to relate to members of other tribes. Perhaps economic survival and the need to create wealth is the only force strong enough to hold a complex society together in the face of such hypertribalism. Where this all might lead us is anybody’s guess. But unfortunately, hypertribalism will likely make tackling issues that require massive global coordination like climate change exceedingly difficult.