Ed Driscoll

The Moral Equivalent Of The War On The Na'vi

In an item that dovetails quite nicely with the topic that Ed Morrissey and I discussed today on PJM Political, James Cameron goes back to the future, and regurgitates a meme that’s about as old as the original Titanic herself. As John Nolte writes, “James Cameron Declares Thoroughly Debunked Global Warming as Severe a Threat as WWII.”

To understand how ancient a meme this is (particularly coming from a guy who has a made a career of futuristic-looking movies), allow me to quote liberally from a post I wrote in late November, right after Climategate first broke:

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:

At least at the moment, it’s the good guys that are winning, likely much to Time’s chagrin.

Click over to Big Hollywood for the video of Cameron in action, in which he says he’s attempting to “raise awareness” of global warming — good thing too, as so few people have heard about it! Hollywood in particular has really fallen down on the job here, particularly in the last decade.

John adds:

How much carbon did the Malibu Mansion-dwelling director emit to create and promote ”Avatar?”

If Cameron and all the other elitists who so casually spew this socialism-disguised-as-nonsense enviro stuff really believed Global Warming was a dire threat, they would behave accordingly with respect to their own  jet-set lifestyles and carbon-spewing professions.

I don’t believe in Global Warming because — well, because I have a brain — but mainly because the James Camerons and the Al Gores of the world don’t believe in it, either. They get rich off of it. They puff their insecure selves up with it. They feel a sense of superiority over it…

But they don’t believe in it.

Look how the “experts” live.

Or they really do believe Global Warming is as dire a threat as WWII, which means their lifestyle is a weapon of genocide.

Not to mention their industry, which relies on enormous quantities of electricity, chemicals, computer equipment, artificial lighting, vehicles, and aircraft to function. What happens when some crazed lefty takes up Cameron’s earlier, equally silly cry that “I believe in ecoterrorism,” and smashes the equipment on a film set or location shoot?

And speaking of Cameron and techno-sophistry, at Instapundit.com, computer guru Ray Kurzweil reviews Avatar and notes:

The Na’vi were not completely technology-free. They basically used the type of technology that Native Americans used hundreds of years ago – same clothing, domesticated animals, natural medicine, and bows and arrows.

They were in fact exactly like Native Americans. How likely is that? Life on this distant moon in another star system has evolved creatures that look essentially the same as earthly creatures, with very minor differences (dogs, horses, birds, rhinoceros-like animals, and so on), not to mention humanoids that are virtually the same as humans here on Earth. That’s quite a coincidence.

Cameron’s conception of technology a hundred years from now was incredibly unimaginative, even by Hollywood standards. For example, the munitions that were supposed to blow up the tree of life looked like they were used in World War II (maybe even World War I). Most of the technology looked primitive, even by today’s standards. The wearable exoskeleton robotic devices were supposed to be futuristic, but these already exist, and are beginning to be deployed. The one advanced technology was the avatar technology itself. But in that sense, Avatar is like the world of the movie AI, where they had human-level cyborgs, but nothing else had changed: AI featured 1980’s cars and coffee makers. As for Avatar, are people still going to use computer screens in a hundred years? Are they going to drive vehicles?

I thought the story and script was unimaginative, one-dimensional, and derivative. The basic theme was “evil corporation rapes noble natives.” And while that is a valid theme, it was done without the least bit of subtlety, complexity, or human ambiguity. The basic story was taken right from Dances with Wolves. And how many (thousands of) times have we seen a final battle scene that comes down to a battle between the hero and the anti-hero that goes through various incredible stages — fighting on a flying airplane, in the trees, on the ground, etc? And (spoiler alert) how predictable was it that the heroine would pull herself free at the last second and save the day?

None of the creatures were especially creative. The flying battles were like Harry Potter’s Quidditch, and the flying birds were derivative of Potter creatures, including mastering flying on the back of big bird creatures. There was some concept of networked intelligence but it was not especially coherent. The philosophy was the basic Hollywood religion about the noble cycle of life.

The movie was fundamentally anti-technology. Yes, it is true, as I pointed out above, that the natives use tools, but these are not the tools we associate with modern technology. And it is true that the Sigourney Weaver character and her band of scientists intend to help the Na’vi with their human technology (much like international aid workers might do today in developing nations), but we never actually see that happen. I got the sense that Cameron was loath to show modern technology doing anything useful.

Well, other than technology’s ability to create a zillion dollar motion picture that’s printing money for himself and 20th Century Fox. Hollywood’s elites are anti-technology in their heart of hearts, and yet use enormous quantities of it to further their bottom line. Too bad they don’t grant such a distinction to the rest of us.

(Update: Speaking of Big Hollywood, thanks for linking to this post.)