The Politics of Fear: Right vs. Left

Last week Andrew Sullivan gave the mic to a National Review editor named Peter Suderman, among others, who has posted on the petty-minded Planet Gore. (That’s the right-wing website devoted to the proposition that global warming is Al Gore’s doing, and if we can just make enough fun of him personally, the whole problem will miraculously vanish).

Suderman borrowed the allegation that global warming is, like the war on terror, part of the politics of fear. He quoted another writer for the seriously thoughtful journal n + 1, Alex Gourevitch, who wrote:

Environmentalism is a left-wing politics of fear because it rests on the
deeply fearful idea that only an overweening threat to our physical and
collective health can inspire us to “transcendence.” Threats to the
very conditions of life, rather than social controversies over power
and distribution, come to motivate political engagement – an engagement
that presumes setting to one side inequality and unfreedom as the
central categories of political contestation.

I realize now that I trust Suderman to quote Gourevitch fairly: I shouldn’t make that assumption. Here’s Gourevitch’s original essay: Will follow up. But for now let me be fair to another of Sullivan’s guest bloggers, Patrick Appel, who posted a deeply thoughtful response from a reader. In part, it read:

That
global warming and global environmentalism both inspire fear, and fear
can result in antipolitics, is quite clear, but the analogy between
this war on terror and the war on global warming breaks apart at a
fundamental level.  The war on terror has been characterized by
affirmative misrepresentation of facts to achieve political ends while
the war on global warming is characterized by a struggle to bring facts
to human consciousness, which will have political consequences.

Yes! Brilliant. Thank you, anonymous reader.

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