Ever have an argument and think of a good comeback too late?
It happened to me once on the old MSNBC early show “Up with Chris Hayes.”
Having your best rejoinders occur to you after the moment has passed is especially embarrassing in front of other people (even if it is not that many other people).
The discussion unexpectedly shifted into the real and imagined sins of conservative journalism. Hayes read something from a writer who compared his work to fighting in a war — or, more precisely, #war — and asked the panel how anyone could possibly trust this person’s reporting.
If you see your journalism in these terms, as the moral equivalent of war, Hayes continued (I’m paraphrasing here), wouldn’t you be tempted to play fast and loose with the facts sometimes to achieve victory? After all, isn’t truth the first casualty of war?
Leaving the studio dissatisfied with my performance in that exchange, the right answer suddenly hit me like a ton of “Up with Chris Hayes” mugs: My host believed that Republican environmental policies were quite literally destroying the planet. If you believed your world was at risk of destruction, wouldn’t you want to go to war — the real kind, not the hashtag version?
What truths might you shade to protect Mother Earth?
All this came back to me this week when I read Hayes’ long piece in The Nation comparing getting rid of fossil fuels to abolishing slavery. Not to put too fine of a point on it, the headline described the crusade against global warming as “The New Abolitionism.”
The article is classic Chris Hayes (whom I happen to like): earnest, well meaning, morally certain and seemingly unaware that the 20th century called and wants its bad totalitarian ideas back.
Hayes sees the stakes here as preserving “a roughly habitable planet,” thus “we somehow need to convince or coerce the world’s most profitable corporations and the nations that partner with them to walk away from $20 trillion of wealth.”
“The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865 — and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought,” Hayes continues.
Note that Hayes is invoking not a hashtag war, but “the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought.”
As responses go, comrade Tim Cavanaugh’s probably can’t be improved on: “Chris Hayes wants to kill 5.7 billion people.”
The pre-fossil fuels planet was, after all, “habitable” to far fewer people than the planet with which environmentalists are itchy today. We are not merely burning “carbon to power our devices,” a Hayes phrase that makes the entirety of modern life sound like a single iPhone.
Or as Cavanaugh puts it, “A person in an expansive mood might even say exploitation of fossil fuels is a miracle, enabling transnational markets for food, widespread travel and education, heavier-than-air flight, full-time employment for left-wing commentators, and even the abolition of slavery.”
But let’s take a step back for a moment. The debate here is not between science and science-hating denialists who believe “The Flinstones” is a documentary. (Though some of the claims made about extreme weather are questionable and global warming has apparently paused for the last 15 or so years.)
The real question is whether the solution is to give people like Chris Hayes and his buddies money and power, including the re-gifting of $20 trillion in other people’s wealth.
It is people who do not bat an eye at the the total disruption of the global economy, taking aim at the conveniences offered by their society with all the subtlety of a Unabomber manifesto, waving the bloody shirt of human slavery and a civil war in the process, whose instincts I might trust a bit less than some blogger who has gone a little cuckoo for Ted Cruz.
This is to responsible stewardship of the planet as Cliven Bundy is to respecting private property rights.
Few arguments can get in the way of one’s quest to recreate the Garden of Eden. No matter what I might say on a Sunday television show, Whittaker Chambers already identified the fatal conceit of liberalism’s wildest and wooliest forms in the book of Genesis: “Ye shall be as gods.”
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation and author of the book Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? Follow him on Twitter.