climate change as social control through fear?

The leftwrites blog had a post on some nutball rightwing thing that was talking about politicised weather reporting. If you can’t be bothered going to the site this is the quote that got my attention:

The Weather Channel is now engaged in a con job on the American people, attempting to scare the public that their actions are destroying the planet by creating a global warming crisis. …

Although I side with those that chant ‘climate change is real’ I think that these nutballs point to something true…

…over the last few months I can’t help thinking that all this climate change stuff reaks of fear campaign. Every event now seems to be related to climate change, a storm in the pacific, victorian bush fires, drought in Australia, snow in summer all seems to point to impending apocalypse – or so we are reminded. Then there are the random stories about nothing…except some guy is worried about climate change -I remember one report informed us that “climate change would cost the world an equivelent to two world wars and one depression…

the insuing discussion by comment on the leftwrites site related to the climate change and the position of leftists – some of it was interesting but i still don’t see good reason to ‘help fight climate change’ – in the usual way anyhoo. Below is a comment that I posted with rought ideas about the climate change issue and ways of approaching it (sort of).

vaguely… i think that it is more worthwhile to appraoch climate change as an issue that is being used to control through fear (fear of apocolypse, no less) and as a newish element in the expansion of capital, rather than as a threat that we need to mobilise against in some way…

It seems pretty clear to me that, regardless of the realities of global warming, it is being made into a fear of the apocalypse panic. And it this that should be most concerning rather than any technical issues – such as the planet is going to sink.

…The technical realty of what is happening to the world may be close to the propaganda but that is something that is in unkown to me. That material reality is unkown to my self, except through knowledge as mediated object – thereby irrevocably influenced by the influences of power current within capitalist society. It is also something that I have no power over as capital has reduced me to an atomised individual unable to know the world (except as a mediated object)… in short in the place that the individual is situated within capital determined social action is impossible – we are automatons…

…I do not believe that there is anything interesting in exploring ‘climate change’ along the lines of individual attitude vs corporate responsibility (or government sanction). The arguement held here seems to be a false polemic. A more accurate and in the end more hopeful approach would be to view both these tendencies as ones common to a general effort by capital at expansion. We individually do our part and expect that companies do the same is perhaps more accurate as – companies expand, dealing with climate change is something to expand with/to, individuals need to be educated so as to allow for expansion (all three occuring at once)…

Perhaps because it is a global phenomenon, and cannot be deliniated/limited (artificially and yet) – it is impossible to take action surrounding this issue – in terms of the technical dimensions of the problem (ie world sinking) that doesn’t become simply creating new markets and/or obedience through fear…

The better approach towards climate change is to attack it as a source of controlling fear and as something that capital is expanding into (in a multitude of ways).

People are derided for suggesting that we need to go for revolution because that doesn’t deal with the problems here and now – but I guess the point is that if we actually want control of our material existence then a revolutionary break is necessary otherwise we are simply riding the waves of one crisis after another, whilst all the time having work, exploitation and alienation intensified

(on getting environmentalists onto the leftwrites site I think that that would mean that the site would have to change its name to left and right writes. – the greens (according to themselves) are the new conservatives and the only environmentalist that I know with politics that don’t tend toward religiousity or facism arn’t environmentalists but just don’t know it themselves).


After I posted this there were a number of replies, that I have only really properly had a look at just now, that in the end proved interesting and made started me thinking about environmentalism as some odd form of identity politics – identity politics for those without an identity perhaps….

Two people initially put comments suggesting I am a loon and have a case of scramble brains(which maybe true)…
then someone suggested that I might have a point about environmentalists not being left…which was condemned…

then there was this little discussion sparked by a comment supporting the position I put forward… I have copied and pasted that discussion below…and the whole thing can be viewed here.


Comment by benjamin
January 16, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

I think Kernal raises a number of point that are far from reflectibg a scrambled mind, if the scrambled-mind comment means not worthy of attention.

Fear plays a key role in the reproduction of capitalist social relations: fear of terrorism justifies surveillance and control; fear caused by socio-economic ‘insecurity’ (or even ‘precarity’ if you want) helps to enforce conformity in so many ways; fear of being seen to be immoral can be used to reproduce a privatised individual ethics, which holds the atomised responsible for systemic problems and demands conformity with whatever is currently being imposed as pseudo-solutions (eg. the successful state-backed campaign to have opposition to water wastage become a moral imperative, integrated into the image of the good citizen in which we are invited to see ourselves, such that the person who waters their garden at the wrong time is now condemned as an irresponsible wrecker). Most greenies I know, even the ‘radical’ ones, have no critique of the last, only of its limits.

In general there is an acceptance of and willingness to participate in attempts to create essentially unquestioning relations to authority, not incidentally also creating conditions where the proletariat can be required to pay more of it money, supposedly to deal with these systemic problems configured as individual reponsibilities ultimately to be dealt with in the private sphere – which many environmentalists can be relied upon to think is OK because charging more money will be a ‘disincentive’ to individuals doing what there are told to, if moral condemnation is not sufficient.

This is actually closely related to the issue Kernal raises: The greeny desire to create an apocalyptic fear (a) predates their knowledge of global warming and (b) is not reducible to it: people believe that only a very scared population will do what they believe they should. Panic can be a kind of social relation: Kernal is right to raise the issue of what kind. The issue is not one of degree in willingness to act; much more it is about strategies to manage the population and the reproduction of capital.

Incidentally, fifteen years ago I remember having an argument with Jeff because his then group had started a campaign for more car-parking at La Trobe. I had the familiar arguments about campaigning for more public transport, he talked about the immediate needs of the student population. While we haven’t exactly reversed positions since then, it does seem to me that neither of us would probably argue the same politics today.



Comment by Rose
January 16, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

The thing I find most stunning, counter-intuitive and plain wrong-headed is not just the over-analytical, intellectualising and counter-productive cynical defeatism in the above, and the content of the post it was referring to, but the lack of any understanding such an approach demonstrates with not only why so many “ordinary” people might be motivated to do their bit by abiding by recommendations or legal restrictions on conserving water, electricity, fuel, consumer spending, despoliation of the environment, etc., but the lack of empathy with the environment itself, as a massively threatened ecosystem of which we are a part. We are nature, the most conscious part of nature – how could we not be passionate about its preservation, its survival?
Someone once noted, forget who, maybe Veronica Brady or David Tacey or any other of the multifarious Australian activist writers and poets interested in such things, that the thing most Australians most frequently identify “Australianness” as being, largely boils down in one way or another to this continent’s natural environment: the beaches, the rainforests, the bush, its flora and fauna, the quality of the light, the national parks. Anyone who lives here, who is a sentient being, in the city or the bush, knows firsthand the huge environmental problems we face. And it is this that is the starting point for most people’s individual action, not kowtowing to authority, though that may play a secondary role for some.

I don’t know that you can teach this sort of thing to people, this environmental consciousness, this ecological-earth affiliation, to people who don’t get it. And some are so alienated, for multiple understandable reasons, they don’t get it. But the environmentalists I reckon, of all stripes, all degrees, across the political spectrum, do get it. And more power to them.

And they, not some pontificating nihilistic academic lefty will lead the way on this. For the most important reason: their hearts are in it.

“For we are not pans and barrows, nor even porters of the fire and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, made of it. Man is a compendium of nature, an indomitable savage. Take the smoothest curlied courtier in London or Paris. He lives, makes and alters, by omnipotent modes, and is directly related there, amid essences and billets doux, to Himmaleh mountain chains, wild cedar swamps, and the interior fire, the molten core of the globe.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Comment by Jill
January 16, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

Kernal, Benjamin: There’s a major debate happening right across the world at the moment about global warming. On the one side, there’s the governments of Australia, the US and Britain who have spent the last five years trying to deny the reality of global warming, backed up to the hilt by big business who have been pushing “their” scientists onto government climate change reviews and generally attempting to lie and distort scientific findings to avoid having to change any of their destructive and dirty production processes and to keep making profits at whatever cost to the environment.

On the other side, there is (now) the bulk of the scientific world, environmentalists and, increasingly, more and more ordinary people who care about the environment and worry about what the future holds.

And you’re choosing to take issue with the “The greeny desire to create an apocalyptic fear”???

That’s just perverse.

Sometimes politics just comes down to something as simple as knowing which side you should be on. And if you don’t get that, nothing else matters.


Comment by benjamin
January 16, 2007 @ 9:04 pm

Rose, Jill

This is a bit ridiculous. I challenge you to find anything in the texts of Kernal or myself that argues against the reality of global warming – an accusation you directly made about Kernal, Jill, I believe.

And Rose, however much your naturally Australian concern for the environment makes your opinions more valid than those of people who are “over-analytical, intellectualising” and manifest “counter-productive cynical defeatism”, those “pontificating nihilistic academic lefty” types, nonetheless I would ask:

(i) what do you mean by “over-analytical”? how much is too much?

(ii) what do you mean by defeatist? what part of my comment is ‘defeatist’? can you actually demonstrate that this accusation has any meaning?

(iii) what do mean when you say I lack ‘empathy’ with the environment? In criticising the practices of some self-declared environmentalists I certainly criticised people who often act as if they represent the ecology, but surely disagreeing with these people isn’t the same thing as being against the environment per se. The equation of greenies and the environment is a form of identity politics worthy of some attention, actually, but rarely is this identification used so crudely to as an act of policing – we represent the environment, not you, you academic people and your thinking (sorry, intellectualising, over-analysis). (And a key phrase here is “environmentalists […] of all stripes, all degrees, across the political spectrum” – which ‘side’ do you think this really is, Jill?)

So I’m less in touch with nature, maybe even less Australian, one of those academic-intellectuals, you know, all alienated. Well (i) all because I favour a critique of identity politicians who claim to represent the environment, of political mediation in green politics, of economies-of-fear-as-politics?

OK, abuse, fine. I would point out the incoherence some more, but it is the coherence that concerns me more: (ii) this is a political lexicon I’m familiar with, a form of anti-intellectualism opposed to alienated ‘cynical’ academia, of nature versus those people who are rootless, separate from the real community, and from the land, etcetera. From the soil.

This last point is not a joke to me. I know what I think about this discourse of Rose’s, Jill, with this particular spin of her pre-political environmentalism of empathy. I know what it means to me, and I know you are sharp enough to know what it means too. And I seriously ask you: what side are you on?

Benjamin Rosenzweig


Comment by Jill
January 16, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

I challenge you to find anything in the texts of Kernal or myself that argues against the reality of global warming – an accusation you directly made about Kernal, Jill, I believe.

Well, I don’t know how else to read the comments about “the greeny desire to create an apocalyptic fear” other than to read it as a suggestion that the fear is unwarranted ie that the threat is exaggerated. But if that’s not what you meant, please elaborate!

With the comment about taking sides, what I mean is that in the context of the debate on global warming, it seems bizarre to me to be lining up against greenies. Of course we can (and do) criticise environmentalists but the way Kernal expressed it, it sounded as if they’re the main enemy. That’s what I mean by perverse.

then myself again…

Comment by kernal.corn
January 17, 2007 @ 6:12 pm

…from crazy land

To restate a point – the reality of the situation is irrelevant. What ever the arguements are put by either either side of this ‘global debate’ over the veracity of climate change they all boil down to being based on expanding capital and finding new ways to exploit people in order to gain that expansion and consequently alienate people from their lives.

It seems there are only two sides to choose from and that both sides present a horrid vision of the future… Rosie’s world of life under some environmentalism ideology (what happens to the people that can’t be re-educated to “this environmental consciousness, this ecological-earth affiliation” is too scary to think about) or continued growth until the rich are forced to move planet. But the truth is, and this is the problem that myself and (I think) benjamin suggest as being worthy of attention, that both sides hold little truth of the situation of the whole or of the likely way forward. That the fate of the world is can almost be considered as predetermined (unless some break is made) – it is a product of the manauvers of capital which is not subject to any human control (capitalism is a social system not a coalition of big business and right wing governments). To change this situation it is necessary to assault that social system. The Greenies should be attack because although they are in the left wing of capital they are still crucial and integrally complicit with that social systems continuation. There ‘contribution’ is irrelevant except insofar as they hold power within capital. As long as capital continues our lives only get worse, in ways that make the question of having to wear a gas mask or swim to work trifling, in the face of this why should I care if the rich have their environment or not?

Those that want to control people – whatever the justification – should be seen as the enemy. Environmentalists are a faction of capital, defined by this environmentalism ideology – there is no reason to support them in any effort for real-change, I will not because I have no delusional interest in the material success or failure of any faction of capital. As for the ‘anarchist’ element, this seems to be the result of a superficial rejection of heirarchy and the ‘radical’ environmentalists own particular symbolic-social captial relationhips, standing alongside, without any real contradiction, the other adherents to thi environmentalism ideology.

Finally, what the hell are Jill and Rosie wanting when they suggest bringing environmentalists on board to leftwrites…so as to have knowledgable discussion? Does knowledgeable discussion mean operate on the same basic value assumptions but with more ancedotal evidence of bad companies/governments as well as scientific data?

A point differing from the hegomonic left is put forward and it is derided as insane – and the basic idea put forward: 1. that climate change involves fear, 2. fear is source of control 3. green group complicit in this – is ignored. Surely if productive discussion is wanted on green issues some reflection on the operations of ideology in peoples lives is required…


About barkingcoins
This author is just another fucking dickhead.

12 Responses to climate change as social control through fear?

  1. Pingback: Going Somewhere....?

  2. datakid says:

    As an disinterested employee of The Wilderness Society, I’ve found this discussion interesting.

    Mostly because I agree with what kernal is saying, and disinterested because while being of green mind, I find people who identify as being green exclusively to have very poor political analysis except at maybe a local democratic level (ie, “how to get elected” or “how to lobby effectively”, lolz).

    The one idea I did want to bring up was this: If not sensationalized/fear-mongered, how _would_ one expect these ideas to take root in the general consciousness, when competing with Brangalina, Paris Hilton, Leyton Hewitt?

    At what point is too much fear mongering too much? What is the optimal critical media-mass to inform the public effectively (ie, to help bring about change), yet small enough to not be a system of control?

    I don’t have answers – I was just throwing the questions out there….

  3. barkingcoins says:

    “The one idea I did want to bring up was this: If not sensationalized/fear-mongered, how _would_ one expect these ideas to take root in the general consciousness, when competing with Brangalina, Paris Hilton, Leyton Hewitt?”

    If by ‘ideas’ being brought into ‘general conciousness’ is understood as ‘ideas about the reality of the condition of our envrionment being generally know’ I think that this is perhaps an impossibility under capitalist social organisation due to our fundamental alienation from our lives. For instance it is not so much the drought that we feel but the restrictions which are capitals current method in dealing with this issue. So I guess I would suggest that its not an ‘idea of the reality of the situation’ that is communicated but the instilling of fear in order to be able to control people and thus these activities are little different to the Brangalina, Paris Hilton and Leyton Hewitt spectacle.

    The issue is a denial of our own agency… Within capital the individual is not affected by climate change but by capitals demands in its efforts to deal with climate change… I would argue that it is this situation that should be assaulted…

    What is the optimal critical media-mass to inform the public effectively (ie, to help bring about change), yet small enough to not be a system of control?

    I think that a politics of ‘informing’ that mass which is the public is not about empowering people in a way to deal with environmental (or for that matter any other) but about ensuring adherence to the current social system so that they may respond as that system demands.

    The problem with going forward on climate change in a way that does not perpetuate capitalism and therefore the very horror that climate change is a part of is that it would require the ability to gain some form of collective experience of the world that is not boud up within that system – on a tremendous scale. And if this is an impossiblity surely it would be better to try and secure that situation rather than ‘being part of capitals solution’ because capitals solution will certainly be a non-solution for us – as little more than an expansion – I guess the Wilderness Society can be seen as part of that expanded territory. (see the grey green trackback for illustrations Ceres in addition )

    But perhaps I am wrong on this last point – the need for global approach – perhaps that position is just as based in the perpetuation of capital as those that place themselves within the fear/discipline site…

  4. barkingcoins says:

    After my last comment on the leftwrites site the following comment was added in response…

    Comment by Ablokeimet
    January 17, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

    Sorry, but Kernal.corn is dead wrong. The reality of the situation is totally relevant. And to say “Ignore what’s happenning to the planet, take on capital instead!” is sectarianism of the most mindless and futile variety.

    People have lives to lead, families to raise, bills to pay, etc, and they won’t rise against capital unless and until they see it as being relevant to what they want to achieve. Many people are now concerned about the environment, since the drought in Australia has turned global warming from a distant threat to an urgent danger*. They want something done about it. It is the job of revolutionaries to struggle alongside them, explaining how capitalism has caused the problem and how the necessary solutions are against the interests of capital and cannot be fully implemented without a workers’ revolution.

    Instead of advocating this strategy, Kernal.corn issues broadsides against undefined “Greenies”. This conflates three different categories of people: hardened capitalist politicians who really do deserve to get a pasting (though using evidence rather than bald assertions); honest environmental activists and their supporters who don’t yet understand that capitalism is the problem, but they are possible to win over; and subjective anti-capitalist revolutionaries who have chosen the environment as their terrain of struggle.

    The most that Kernal.corn could hope to achieve is to rally the subjective revolutionaries to the Gospel according to Kernal.corn. The honest environmental activists will be left to listen to the hardened capitalist politicians.

    * For the information of Kernal.corn, who seems to be from Britain (check the link behind the name), most major cities in Australia are suffering water shortages due to a drought year of record severity coming on top of an extended period of much-lower-than-average rainfall.

  5. chaoco says:

    Control through fear has been the way of the world for a very long time. Fear of climate, fear of invaders, fear of death, fear of hell, fear of each other.
    What no one sees is the part of the truth. People tend to side entirely on one side or the other. While the rest wonder what all the noise is about. Climate change is real, but not to the extent that Al Gore dreams of. The main point of climate is that is a cyclic changing of the earth. In events from as short as 100 years to millions if not billions of years. Or did science forget to mention the Jurasic Age or the Ice Age during the Al Gore movie. Science shows that these major climatic changes have already transpired about 6 times. As we just recently left an Ice Age it is obviously going to get warmer.
    Although it may be true that carbon is being expelled, these things happen. Man wasn’t meant to live forever and the earth will destroy us if it so desires.
    Why not pour money into China’s fusion reactor and use the extra salt water that will melt do to warmer climates. More salt water= more necessary components for the soon to be power of fusion. Which has currently under way to be above break even. 100 seconds will produce more than enough.
    Oil wasn’t really used in such high volume until the Narcotics Act passed. Plastics, made from plant material, are stronger than steel in some cases.
    Burn the oil on Mars and cook the helium-3. Man on Mars? No time soon. Not when the money made from the oil is more than gold one day. But even gold’s price is controlled by one of the heads.

    Luckily none of you will have to even notice. Their won’t be enough time in all the world for you to worry or strain over it. The thing right in front of you is not always what you are looking at.

  6. barkingcoins says:

    Our experience of climate change occuring now is likely to be markedly different to the experience of the mini-ice age in the 13th-19th centruries and certainly a different human experience that previous climatic shifts.

    What differs is not simply the speed or the human activity connection but that the event gains meaning through certain discourses permeating the modern world. What these discourse mean is that certral to the human experience of climate change will be its ‘fearful’ nature and its role in the management of human beings following particualr discourses, that characterise capitalism. This management in turn can be seen as the enforcement of the discourses of capital as truth. Thus climate change is threat no different to other institutions seeking to reproduce capitalism…

    Also it is false to say ‘the earth will destroy us if it so desires’, the earth doesn’t desire – if it appears to this is simply something imagined by people…

  7. chaoco says:

    Imagination is more powerful than all of the works of humankind.
    Would Einstein have been able conduct research in the distance of light over one earth year without his mind. As he said he imagined himself as a beam of light racing across space. Time is not real. It was created by imagination.

  8. dic says:

    did someone just quote einstein? … bloody ‘ell

    aaaanyway. who said we shouldn’t be challenging time. Time, like other ‘imagined creations’, is what means i can be late, penalised, kept track off. Belief in a distict consciosuness thatt binds the natural world/universe or some great power guiding our destruction is religious drivel that serves to create a sense of subordination to an imagined super-power or cause. If only it were ‘the opiate of the masses’, I wouldn’t be so bored and annoyed.

  9. spike says:

    Have you heard of the “Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace”? That is has been touted as a hoax seems a moot point when we can now see it is essentially a blueprint of all that has come to pass.

    The following is from

    The report pointed out that the authority of the government over the people stemmed from its ability to wage war. Therefore, without war the government might cease to exist:

    ‘war’ is virtually synonymous with nationhood. The elimination of war implies the inevitable elimination of national sovereignty and the traditional nation-state.

    The report included a number of recommendations that the government should follow just in case peace did break out. For instance, it suggested that expensive institutions be created that would mimic the economic function of a war, such as:

    (a) A comprehensive social-welfare program, directed toward maximum improvement of general conditions of human life. (b) A giant open-end space research program, aimed at unreachable targets. (c) A permanent, ritualized, ultra-elaborate disarmament inspection system, and variant of such a system.

    The report also recommended that the government invent “alternate enemies.” For instance, it could mobilize the population by scaring them with reports of extraterrestrial threats, massive global environmental pollution, or “an omnipresent, virtually omnipotent international police force.” Alternatively, the population could be roused by “socially oriented blood games” done “in the manner of the Spanish Inquisition and the witch trials of other periods.”

  10. CHAOCO says:

    Off point but entirely valid.Some people die and somepeople live. Might as well have fun before the sun sets and your stuck in the rain. I didn’t like the way this column has ended so I will change it.Say what you will either way the balance remains the same. Run out of time and you will have endless more. Because you and I barely exist anyways so might as well enjoy the bright sunshine than fall into the worried and hurried trap that has been placed around you since before even you.Love CHAOCO

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