Sunday, November 20, 2016


Climate  Activists, policy wonks and other  progressives have lately  been  reporting acute  feelings of  malaise,  depression  and  falling  through  space.

They need  not be alarmed. These are normal symptoms of Post-Defenestration Stress Syndrome, an election-year  affliction  long evident among Central European climate skeptics, that  has finally gone  viral enough to  jump the Atlantic and erupt in the fever swamps of the Potomac.

 A decade ago, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an essay by Harvard legal theorist Cass Sunstein ( then at the University of Chicago) that speaks prophetically to recent both electoral politics and the Climate Wars : The Polarization of Extremes  in which Sunstein observes that:

In 1995 the technology specialist Nicholas Negroponte predicted the emergence of "the Daily Me" — a newspaper that you design person-ally, with each component carefully screened and chosen in advance. For many of us, Negroponte's prediction is coming true. As a result of the Internet, personalization is everywhere. If you want to read essays arguing that climate change is a fraud and a hoax, or that the American economy is about to collapse, the technology is available to allow you to do exactly that. If you are bored and upset by the topic of genocide, or by recent events in Iraq or Pakistan, you can avoid those subjects entirely. With just a few clicks, you can find dozens of Web sites that show you are quite right to like what you already like and think what you already think.
Actually you don't even need to create a Daily Me. With the Internet, it is increasingly easy for others to create one for you. If people know a little bit about you, they can discover, and tell you, what "people like you" tend to like — and they can create a Daily Me, just for you, in a matter of seconds. If your reading habits suggest that you believe that climate change is a fraud, the process of "collaborative filtering" can be used to find a lot of other material that you are inclined to like. Every year filtering and niche marketing become more sophisticated and refined. Studies show that on Amazon, many purchasers can be divided into "red-state camps" and "blue-state camps," and those who are in one or another camp receive suitable recommendations, ensuring that people will have plenty of materials that cater to, and support, their predilections.
Of course self-sorting is nothing new. Long before the Internet, newspapers and magazines could often be defined in political terms, and many people would flock to those offering congenial points of view. But there is a big difference between a daily newspaper and a Daily Me, and the difference lies in a dramatic increase in the power to fence in and to fence out.

Sunstein predicated this view on a sociological experiment conducted in Colorado in 2005, designed to cast light on the consequences of self-sorting. In it, members of each group were asked to deliberate on such controversial issues as gay marriage, affirmative action, and, tellingly ( Sunstein has his own prioroties) " Should the United States sign an international treaty to combat global warming?

As the experiment was designed, the groups consisted of "liberal" and "conservative" enclaves — the former from Boulder, the latter from Colorado Springs. It is widely known that Boulder tends to be liberal, and Colorado Springs tends to be conservative. Participants were screened to ensure that they generally conformed to those stereotypes. People were asked to state their opinions anonymously both before and after 15 minutes of group discussion. What was the effect of that discussion?
In almost every case, people held more-extreme positions after they spoke with like-minded others...[those who approbate what they consider ] a good idea can, and often do, read reams of material that support their view; they can, and often do, exclude any and all material that argues the other way. Those who dislike carbon taxes can find plenty of arguments to that effect. Many liberals jump from one liberal blog to another, and many conservatives restrict their reading to points of view that they find congenial. In short, those who want to find support for what they already think, and to insulate themselves from disturbing topics and contrary points of view...
There is a general risk that those who flock together, on the Internet or elsewhere, will end up both confident and wrong, simply because they have not been sufficiently exposed to counterarguments. They may even think of their fellow citizens as opponents or adversaries in some kind of "war."...
The devolution of the climate conversation into polarized camps that correspond  less to religions than hostile principalities, globalist and isolationist, has morphed the disturbing Thirty Years War battle cry, Cuius regio, eius religio --  'Your prince, his religion', into something even scarier:
 'Who rules you, rules what you believe'. 

While the Defenestrators and Defenestrated  of Prague had  a common Bible to thump, voters for Clinton and Trump had to bend their brains  to signifiy allegiance to climate  policy  positions less defined by  scientific gospel- the IPCC reports themselves,  than  election year party playbooks.  Anyone exposed to so much politically frought and ideologically predetermined material is likely  to emerge with a four year headache.