I have received a handful of threats by email and phone myself, which given my low profile is a measure of the extent of the problem. My better-known colleagues George Monbiot and Leo Hickman receive more.
So it’s clear that even in issues such as climate change there is an active fringe of people deploying violent rhetoric and hate mail against those with whom they disagree. Could that tip the balance between thought and action in the mind of an unstable individual? It’s a worryingly plausible thought.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
I suggested that Theodore Kaczynski’s (aka The Unabomber) manifesto bore uncanny resemblance to much of the narrative offered by the Guardian’s ecological team…
1. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering—even in “advanced” countries.
2. The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it may eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: there is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.
3. If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.
4. We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. This revolution may or may not make use of violence: it may be sudden or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. We can’t predict any of that. But we do outline in a very general way the measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of society. This is not to be a political revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.
5. In this article we give attention to only some of the negative developments that have grown out of the industrial-technological system. Other such developments we mention only briefly or ignore altogether. This does not mean that we regard these other developments as unimportant. For practical reasons we have to confine our discussion to areas that have received insufficient public attention or in which we have something new to say. For example, since there are well-developed environmental and wilderness movements, we have written very little about environmental degradation or the destruction of wild nature, even though we consider these to be highly important.
… Thus, we might to want to look for clues about the expression of violence in the thinking behind it. Accordingly, we find in environmental ideology the belittlement of humanity, as I pointed out on the website:
Leo Hickman: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/29/james-lovelock-climate-change
James Lovelock: Unfortunately, Gaia is in trouble today, says Lovelock. It is infected by a virus called Homo sapiens. Humans are destroying ecosystems, killing off species in their thousands and destabilising climates. “We became the Earth’s infection a long and uncertain time ago, but it was not until about 200 years ago that the Industrial Revolution began: then the infection of the Earth became irreversible,” he says. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/01/biography-scienceandnature
John Gray: Homo rapiens is only one of very many species, and not obiously worth preserving. Later or sooner, it will become extinct. When it is gone the Earth will recover. Long after the last traces of the humans have disappeared, many of the species it is bent on destroying will still be around, along with other that have yet to spring up. The earth will forget mankind. The play of life will go on.
In order to kill people, you must first dehumanise them, to make them sub-human, or undermine the value of humanity, such that people can become indifferent to people.
Carrington worries about the bit of hate mail he gets from deniers, conveniently ignoring missives sent the other way, and the casual disregard for democracy evinced by environmentalists as a matter of course.
But what he forgets most is that environmentalism is an open poison pen letter, to all humanity.
“Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change…”, “…a virus called Homo sapiens…”, “Homo rapiens is only one of very many species, and not obiously worth preserving”, are not statements about something that is going to happen in the future; they are statements about the moral value of humanity.
Monbiot: It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four: There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always— do not forget this, Winston— always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.
The point is straightforward enough. In order to do violence, one needs to have made oneself indifferent to the victim, either by making him sub-human, or by degrading entirely the concept of humanity.
And we don’t have to look hard for evidence of environmentalists doing precisely that.
Once you are convinced of the idea that humanity is like a cancer/virus/plague, it is undoubtedly easier to be indifferent to human suffering; at best, and to enjoy it, at worse.
The point is to see environmentalism as an ideology, just as with any other ideology of hate.
The Guardian moderator decided to delete my comments about Kaczynski, without even leaving the usual ‘This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.’ notice in place of the deleted comments that litter the CiF site. I repeated the comment, along with the suggestion that the moderator explains how my comment breaches their guidelines. No word from them, yet they deleted the comments. I now find the words…
Your comments are being premoderated.
… above the text entry field on the CiF website.
What could they possibly be afraid of?
‘Ad hominem’ argument? Nope.
Lies or libel? Nope.
All of these exist in abundance on the CiF website.
What seems to have upset the moderators at CiF is a straightforward argument that peoples’ attitudes towards other people are shaped by the ideas they are exposed to. The anti-human message of environmentalism makes it easier to be indifferent to humans, therefore.
So you can say that humans are a cancer on CiF. You can say that humans are a virus on CiF. You can say that the human race is ‘not obiously worth preserving‘.
But you can’t say that these ideas are dangerous. You can’t challenge these ideas. And you can’t hold the authors of these ideas to account.