Czechoslovak carbon versus tyrannosaurus Rex

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I don't follow Rex Murphy too closely &#151; just like Mary Hart did to Kramer on <i>Seinfeld</i>, the sound of his voice tends to give me seizures.

The CBC's venerable Rex Murphy — long the dogma-guarding Dr. Zaius on his own private Planet of the Japes — has taken a stand against radical, wingnut environmentalists Elizabeth May and Prince Charles and their callous invocation of the imagery of appeasement, and the battle against Nazism, in relation to the fight against climate change.

And it's about time somebody put his foot down. The way we've let these jack-booted tree-huggers take over public discourse on the environment without a fight is shameful, almost without historical parallel — although, it is kind of like that time Neville Chamberlain let Hitler have the Sudetenland (I kid, of course; just trying to appease my readers with a joke).

Last Tuesday night, Murphy used his televised editorial to go after May for comparing the Conservative government's climate change plan (true to the label, it is actually a plan that will change the climate; specifically, it will heat it the hell up) to Chamberlain's appeasement of the Germans. He also suggested that Charles Windsor was on thin ice for suggesting an analogy between Britain's fight against climate change and its fight against the Nazis.

On the surface, neither May nor the Prince's comments seem altogether too far-fetched, as far as the traditions of political parallel-making go: on the one hand, Harper's plan, like Chamberlain's, marks a failure to respond in a timely way to an existing threat, as well as being a pathetic capitulation to powerful interests at the expense of their victims, with far-reaching and terrifying implications.

And, as when they fought the Nazis, the Brits will have to rally their collective will to accept a regime of austerity and even rationing in order to defeat the menace of global warming — the point isn't mine, or even the other Charles's; I first came across it in George Monbiot's book Heat, though I'm sure it's been stated elsewhere. That's because, like Rex Murphy's pointy eyebrow, it's there for everybody to see.

But the offending analogy actually goes further: in the case of the Holocaust, as in the case of global warming, the left warned for years of imminent humanitarian catastrophe but were dismissed as Cassandras by respectable, mainstream opinion-makers. And still further: in the tradition of rational, evidence-based argumentation, deniers of climate change have as little reason to be included in the debate around environmental policy as do Holocaust-deniers in debates around history, because they both cling to obscurant, politicized beliefs in the face of rational, fact-based consensus.

Murphy is notoriously hard-headed on the question of climate change — true to his long-standing belief that if you can't bite your bottom lip and moan along to a recording of Pierre Trudeau talking about it, it must not be a real issue. It's a posture that he and other cheap contrarians (Glenn Beck, say, or even Alexander Cockburn) like to present as skepticism — but it's hard to see it as anything more than obtuse, recalcitrant stupidity, as though proponents of the Young Earth theory were to call the rest of us sheep for following the herd in believing the planet to be billions, rather than thousands, of years old.

But the richest part about Murphy's editorial finger-wagging has to be that the Final Solution, and its attendant appeasement metaphor, has to be the most oft-invoked analogy in the political demagoguery of his own friends on the right. So why take the greens to task on it, as though every dictator on the brown side of tan in the last 20 years hadn't been called Hitler, in unison, by the Western press?

In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the tens of millions of us who marched against the invasion were called Chamberlain; when former-satirist (now self-parodist) Rick Mercer took an uppity female academic to task for her opposition to the war in Afghanistan, he insisted that “The gates of Auschwitz were not opened with peace talks.” And virtually every political demand articulated by the Palestinians over the past 50 years has been refused on the grounds of Holocaust, and preventing another one.

Ironically, Israel's political defenders on this continent have been actively encouraging the Holocaust analogy in our understanding of what's going on today in Africa, particularly Darfur — I say ironic because commentators like Monbiot have pointed out that the resource wars in Africa can only be exacerbated by the results of climate change, including desertification.

I don't follow Murphy too closely — just like Mary Hart did to Kramer on Seinfeld, the sound of his voice tends to give me seizures — and so I'm not sure whether he's ever given in to the temptation of the appeasement metaphor in his own writing. He did give in to a certain gloom-and-doom alarmism during the violent protests against the Danish cartoons a while back.

But if his writing on the Muslim threat to free speech is eschatological, his stance on climate change might best be classified as scatological: a steaming pile of bullshit, with all the climate-warming methane that entails.

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