Ed Driscoll

Progressives Against Progress Redux

“Won’t Al Gore please stop it with his extremist, eliminationist rhetoric before he inspires still more violence,” Glenn Reynolds insta-quips in response to the incident at the Discovery Channel offices today:

ECO-TERRORISM? Gunman who took hostages at Discovery Channel inspired by Al Gore. “Lee appears to have posted environmental and population-control demands online, saying humans are ruining the planet and that Discovery should develop programs to sound the alarm. . . . Lee said he experienced an ‘awakening’ when he watched former Vice President Al Gore’s environmental documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’”

Won’t Al Gore please stop it with his extremist, eliminationist rhetoric before he inspires still more violence?

UPDATE: Reader Lois Brenner sends this:

A manifesto posted on a Web site registered to a person named James Lee, who gave a post office box in Canada as his address, lists several demands to the Discovery Channel, saying the station “MUST broadcast to the world their commitment to save the planet.” It lists 11 demands about airing shows that would promote curbing the plant’s population growth, finding solutions for global warming and dismantling “the dangerous US world economy.” . ..

“All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions,” it reads. “In those programs’ places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it.”

The manifesto was published on http://SavethePlanetProtest.com. Law enforcement sources said they believe the site was operated by the same person who is inside the building. Lee has lived in Hawaii, California and the D.C. area.

“Parasitic human infants” — well, that’s the logical conclusion of the “deep ecology” view. Eliminationist rhetoric indeed. Brenner also comments: “If this is more zeitgeist tie-in publicity, Franzen has a genius working for him. By the way, the book stinks.” Oh, well.

Here’s a reprint of a post from a couple of days ago linking to a couple of recent items for and against such apocalyptic rhetoric. First up, on the negative side, Fred Siegel spots the moment when self-styled “Progressivism” turned on itself, in a must-read piece in City Journal titled, “Progressives Against Progress — The rise of environmentalism poisoned liberals’ historical optimism.” As Siegel writes, “In 1972, Sir John Maddox, editor of the British journal Nature, noted that though it had once been usual to see maniacs wearing sandwich boards that proclaimed the imminent end of the Earth, they had been replaced by a growing number of frenzied activists and politicized scientists making precisely the same claim:”

If one were to pick a point at which liberalism’s extraordinary reversal began, it might be the celebration of the first Earth Day, in April 1970. Some 20 million Americans at 2,000 college campuses and 10,000 elementary and secondary schools took part in what was the largest nationwide demonstration ever held in the United States. The event brought together disparate conservationist, antinuclear, and back-to-the-land groups into what became the church of environmentalism, complete with warnings of hellfire and damnation. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, the founder of Earth Day, invoked “responsible scientists” to warn that “accelerating rates of air pollution could become so serious by the 1980s that many people may be forced on the worst days to wear breathing helmets to survive outdoors. It has also been predicted that in 20 years man will live in domed cities.”

Thanks in part to Earth Day’s minions, progress, as liberals had once understood the term, started to be reviled as reactionary. In its place, Nature was totemized as the basis of the authenticity that technology and affluence had bleached out of existence. It was only by rolling in the mud of primitive practices that modern man could remove the stain of sinful science and materialism. In the words of Joni Mitchell’s celebrated song “Woodstock”: “We are stardust / We are golden / And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

In his 1973 book The Death of Progress, Bernard James laid out an argument already popularized in such bestsellers as Charles Reich’s The Greening of America and William Irwin Thompson’s At the Edge of History. “Progress seems to have become a lethal idée fixe, irreversibly destroying the very planet it depends upon to survive,” wrote James. Like Reich, James criticized both the “George Babbitt” and “John Dewey” versions of “progress culture”—that is, visions of progress based on rising material attainment or on educational opportunities and upward mobility. “Progress ideology,” he insisted, “whether preached by New Deal Liberals, conservative Western industrialists or Soviet Zealots,” always led in the same direction: environmental apocalypse. Liberalism, which had once viewed men and women as capable of shaping their own destinies, now saw humanity in the grip of vast ecological forces that could be tamed only by extreme measures to reverse the damages that industrial capitalism had inflicted on Mother Earth. It had become progressive to reject progress.

Rejected as well was the science that led to progress. In 1970, the Franco-American environmentalist René Dubos described what was quickly becoming a liberal consensus: “Most would agree that science and technology are responsible for some of our worst nightmares and have made our societies so complex as to be almost unmanageable.” The same distrust of science was one reason that British author Francis Wheen can describe the 1970s as “the golden age of paranoia.” Where American consumers had once felt confidence in food and drug laws that protected them from dirt and germs, a series of food scares involving additives made many view science, not nature, as the real threat to public health. Similarly, the sensational impact of the feminist book Our Bodies, Ourselves—which depicted doctors as a danger to women’s well-being, while arguing, without qualifications, for natural childbirth—obscured the extraordinary safety gains that had made death during childbirth a rarity in developed nations.

Crankery, in short, became respectable. In 1972, Sir John Maddox, editor of the British journal Nature, noted that though it had once been usual to see maniacs wearing sandwich boards that proclaimed the imminent end of the Earth, they had been replaced by a growing number of frenzied activists and politicized scientists making precisely the same claim. In the years since then, liberalism has seen recurring waves of such end-of-days hysteria. These waves have shared not only a common pattern but often the same cast of characters. Strangely, the promised despoliations are most likely to be presented as imminent when Republicans are in the White House. In each case, liberals have argued that the threat of catastrophe can be averted only through drastic actions in which the ordinary political mechanisms of democracy are suspended and power is turned over to a body of experts and supermen.

Hey, nobody said it would be easy to put the toothpaste back into the tube, while still wanting to own your private plane, live in a lavish mansion, and sell multiple director’s cut edition DVDs.

Which brings up this item on director James Cameron, last seen decrying Hollywood production of DVDs — while having three different Avatar discs to promote. Apparently Cameron was attempting to make an offer that those wishing to be debate him on global warming/cooling/climate change would refuse — and punted when they didn’t. Click over to John Nolte’s post at Big Hollywood for the run-down on what happened, which ended with a meltdown from Cameron, and a modest proposal from Andrew Breitbart:

The incontrovertible evidence of Cameron’s bad faith – the proof that his only goal was to get a conservative on the line in the hopes of being increasingly unreasonable until they backed out so he could hold up their scalp in victory, is in this email from Greene to everyone on our team dated August 20th:

What do you two think of an intelligent “Roundtable” where all 6 sit around with a glass of wine or coffee and have a serious conversation in order to try to find some common , ground. Instead of spinning around and around in an adversarial way with both parties claiming “victory”, what about honoring all the participants as “Thought Leaders”, fully listening to their perspectives and showing the American people that both Andrew Breitbart and James Cameron, in their own way and from an authentic perspective, really care about their country. It would even allow Marc Merano [sic] to be more understood and to be considered as such.

How nice. A bottle of wine, a good conversation, a little common ground, and the honoring of all as “Thought Leaders” who “really care about their country.”

Doesn’t that sound pleasant?

Well, the very next day Greene unceremoniously pulled the rug out from under that pretty picture, stating Cameron would only debate Glenn Beck or Senator James Inhofe.

One day after that, before an adoring crowd of Aspen sycophants, here’s how both Greene and Cameron referred to climate change skeptics, the same skeptics they once wanted to find common ground with over a bottle of wine:

Cameron: “I think they’re swine.”
Greene: “Effing demagogues.”

Here’s Breitbart’s response:

“I challenge James Cameron to lead the charge with Big Hollywood to stop eco-unfriendly Hollywood film and television production. We’ll call our initiative: “Lights Off, Camera Off, Action Now!” We can start with an immediate moratorium on wasteful and redundant sequels. Then we’ll create a government bureaucracy to decide what can and cannot be made, with a heavy entertainment surtax for the producers to incur. Our delicate and depleting ecosystem cannot handle more energy-sucking television and film production, especially the size and scope of the average James Cameron production. And anyone that disagrees with me is swine and an effin’ demagogue.”

Banning eco-unfriendly Hollywood film and television production? Say, that idea rings a bell…

Here’s what I proposed in 2007:

Wouldn’t banning movie production be a way to save resources? Films involve miles of celluloid, a petroleum-based resource. Plus the fuel involved in transporting the celebrities, crew, and equipment. They involve thousands of watts of electricity for their lighting. Imagine what the lights themselves are doing to the ozone. Then more reels of celluloid when the finished product is shipped to theaters. What about the chemicals involved in processing the film? Then all of the DVDs, which are made of plastic.Then there are the forests cut down to produce magazines to promote them, such as Vanity Fair. And what about the obesity issues caused by theater concession stands? Is the popcorn grown organically? Is the CO2 in the Coke machines harming the atmosphere?

I call on Leonardo DiCaprio to put his money where his mouth is. He’s made enough. It’s time to (a) quit the film industry and (b) call on studio executives to voluntarily cease production of all movies and television shows.

And if they won’t do it, perhaps it’s time for Sacramento to swing into action.

Leo? James? What say you? As Cameron recently told the Washington Post, DVDs and by inference the digitized films they hold are just “a consumer product like any consumer product,” after all.

Related: Speaking of Eliminationist Doomsday rhetoric emanating from Hollywood, Hollywood actor John Cusack Calls for “Satanic Death” of prominent cable TV channel and associated politicians.

But he’s merely ragging on Fox News and the GOP, so he’s granted the left’s patented “botched joke” get out of jail free card.