7 Sep

What supposedly creates the front line of the war between the left and the right is a conflict between freedom and equality. There are those who maintain that there is no conflict but I disagree. Recently a shitfight that illustrated well the Mandelbrot entanglements that can come of this conflict played out among the blogs.

Over at Skepticlawyer, Legal Eagle expressed a fear of castigation in retaliation for her views on the theory of anthropogenic global warming and the policy instruments suggested to address it. She’s not convinced by the case for AGW and believes that the suggested policies will hurt poor people. The Left obliged her fears, calling her her ignorant and intellectually lazy. A shit-train of derisive commentary followed.

The irony was patently obvious to everyone outside this circus. Here was someone who pointed out two inconvenient facts: One was that the policy that will address climate change will raise prices for electricity, fuel and anything else that requires either to be produces and delivered. This will hurt more if you’re poor, right? The second is that AGW opinion tends to be divided along the lines of certain socio-economic disposition. Those most concerned about it tend to economically secure professionals. Those who maintain they are the avatars of such viewpoints were hostile because of an attendant unorthodoxy.

Legal Eagle cares first about equality. Her concerns about AGW policy are consistent with traditional leftwing views. One would think them friendly to socialist sensibilities but no. The facts of her case that a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme will hurt the poor most were ignored. The main argument, that the sub-culture of political progressiveness is becoming hostile to freedom of thought, was missed entirely.

They not only did not address it, they did their part to making free speech even harder to exercise.

Sinclair Davidson called it as he saw it in stronger terms than I would use. Australia has a tradition of, not an actual legal right to, free speech. Legally entrenched or no, there is no free speech if the culture does not support it. And the way in which we support it is by respecting others’ entitlement to a difference of opinion and right to express that.

We may not respect the opinion. It may well be ignorant, lazy or even evil but when you describe those who are no such thing that way because you don’t like what they say, or can’t answer it any other way, you close the walls in on the freedom to speak. And if you are not as free to speak your mind as once you were then you are not as free to think what once you would.

The AGW shitfight has probably closed more minds in Australia than anything else. Neither side is innocent in this. The cherry-picking of facts, the slander of opponents as ‘crazy’, the intentional myopia and the deployment of hardline prejudice are commonplace in the arsenals of both sides of this dirty little war.

The results are appalling policy ideas that won’t work on one side and a dismissal of the problem entire on the other; science re-conceived as institutional authority and the assertion of a compulsory quasi-religious ethos. The results are that people who’re educated better than that display a significantly frayed understanding of the difference between what we feel, what we suppose, what we imagine and what we know.

To be scientific these days is to pick a side, learn the slogans, shout and ask no questions! And whatever you do, don’t say that out loud.


  1. Legal Eagle September 7, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    Good post, and thank you.

  2. skepticlawyer September 7, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    LE, this is worth adding in an update to yours I think, if you get a chance before the SBS thing goes to air.

  3. Iain Hall September 7, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    Good Post


  1. Skepticlawyer » Climate change, scepticism and elitism - September 7, 2010

    […] ANOTHER LITTLE WAR IN OZBLOGISTAN « STILL CHAOS on September 7, 2010 at 1:18 […]

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