"Intellectuals Cannot Operate At Room Temperature"

Found via Sissy Willis, back in 2004, Thomas Sowell was interviewed by the American Enterprise Institute:

There’s something Eric Hoffer said: “Intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature.” There always has to be a crisis–some terrible reason why their superior wisdom and virtue must be imposed on the unthinking masses. It doesn’t matter what the crisis is. A hundred years ago it was eugenics. At the time of the first Earth Day a generation ago, the big scare was global cooling, a big ice age. They go from one to the other. It meets their psychological needs and gives them a reason for exercising their power.


A couple of years later, Julia Gorin made an acute observation that during the mid-aughts, global warming served as a Freudian displacement for a left that turned their backs on the Global War on Terror:

It’s a peculiar thing that as the threat of global terrorism reaches a crescendo, so apparently does the threat of global warming – at least that’s what some would have us believe.

Tough language is borrowed from the war on terror and applied to the war on weather. “I really consider this a national security issue,” says celebrity activist and “An Inconvenient Truth” producer Laurie David. “Truth” star Al Gore calls global warming a “planetary emergency.” Bill Clinton’s first worry is climate change: “It’s the only thing that I believe has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it.”

Freud called it displacement. People fixate on the environment when they can’t deal with real threats. Combating the climate gives nonhawks a chance to look tough. They can flex their muscle for Mother Nature, take a preemptive strike at an SUV. Forget the Patriot Act, it’s Kyoto that’ll save you.

But while the reasoning behind such impulses change over time, they all boil down to rehashes of a century-old concept by William James: the moral equivalent of war, as Jonah Goldberg told Salon while promoting Liberal Fascism, where, needless to say, the concept is explored in depth:


What appealed to the Progressives about militarism was what William James calls this moral equivalent of war. It was that war brought out the best in society, as James put it, that it was the best tool then known for mobilization … That is what is fascistic about militarism, its utility as a mechanism for galvanizing society to join together, to drop their partisan differences, to move beyond ideology and get with the program. And liberalism today is, strictly speaking, pretty pacifistic. They’re not the ones who want to go to war all that much. But they’re still deeply enamored with this concept of the moral equivalent of war, that we should unite around common purposes. Listen to the rhetoric of Barack Obama, it’s all about unity, unity, unity, that we have to move beyond our particular differences and unite around common things, all of that kind of stuff. That remains at the heart of American liberalism, and that’s what I’m getting at.

Or as Time magazine graphically illustrated with this cover story in 2008:

Update: And speaking of Time magazine, as well as wide swatches of the rest of the legacy media, we noted last night that Editor & Publisher called for an end to objectivity in regards to “Climate Change” back in 2007. But Sissy writes that NBC’s Andrea Mitchell spilled the beans on it happening in the media almost 20 years ago, quoting from Insight magazine in 1990:


Only lately have the pooh-bahs of the national press felt secure enough to admit publicly that they filter the news through their personal-tribal creed. As a result, of course, they often report as fact that which is both unsettled and disputed.

. . . At a conference on the environment in Washington earlier this year, reported by The Wall Street Journal’s David Brooks, Charles Alexander harrumphed:

As the science editor at Time I would freely admit that on this issue we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy.”  There was applause from the pressies in conclave assembled, after which Andrea Mitchell, an NBC correspondent, said that “clearly the networks have made the decision now, where you’d have to call it advocacy.”

Of course, NBC has gone beyond even that in recent years, moving from advocacy to near-eschatology.

Update: And speaking of immanentizing the eschaton, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift unwittingly ties a variety of themes we’ve been discussing today together, in her response to Pat Buchanan on PBS’s The McLaughlin Group, caught by Newsbusters’ Jeff Poor: “Buchanan: Gore’s Moment ‘Passed’ – No Proof of Manmade Global Warming; Clift’s Response: ‘No Known Proof There’s God Either.'”


Keep flucking that empirical science, Eleanor!


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