THE PLANK FEBRUARY 13, 2007
A few days ago, Matt Yglesias wrote the following about global warming:
One doubts that any of these various rightwingers were actually humming along and then got bribed by energy companies to come up with the outlandish conservative arguments you here on this score. Rather, the money's just sort of out there ready to flow to individuals who make outlandish arguments and to publications and institutions that associate themselves with such people and such arguments. Under the circumstances, the human mind proves remarkably supple and creative. Next thing you know, the Bangladeshis are all in our debt for generously allowing them to burn gasoline so who cares if they wind up drowning when the glaciers melt.
In response, here is Ross Douthat, who disagrees with Matt:
Why, for instance, is Michael Novak a global warming skeptic? He doesn't write about the environment very much, and I doubt he has any special knowledge on the topic. But he does write a great deal about the virtues of democratic capitalism, and the modern environmental movement, from its 1970s infancy to the present, has been defined by its not-so-secret antipathy toward modern capitalist society. So Michael Novak has a default suspicion of environmentalism for that reason--and then he tends to work and socialize with people who share that suspicion, which works to reinforce it. This means, in turn, that he tends to respond well to arguments that further reinforce his suspicions, even when those arguments are somewhat outlandish ... The reason he doesn't [change his position on global warming] is the same reason that so many conservatives (myself included) who lacked special foreign-policy knowledge backed the Iraq War in 2002. People we thought of as good guys for a variety of reasons were for it, and people we thought of as bad guys for a variety of reasons were against it.[My italics]
I basically agree, but I think Ross is leaving out something: spite. If you read, say, The Corner on global warming, you get the sense that many of the contributors are skeptics not because they spend time with other skeptics or because being a skeptic is broadly consistent with their worldview. Rather, you get the distinct impression that they don't want to believe in global warming because they want to embarass and annoy Al Gore and company.
I certainly hope Iraq will be pacified, but a part of me takes pleasure in how disastrously the occupation has gone. I can't deny that I really, really want to see Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol humiliated for making really, really bad predictions (and because, well, I despise Dick Cheney). Rationally one can know this is an unhealthy impulse (not the hating Cheney part!), but it's prevalence in a contentious, partisan environment can't be overstated. And, I'd argue, it's one of the reasons you see people take the party line more than they ought to.