It has struck me recently that Conservatives – including even the huggable progressive types we’re apparently blessed with in the UK – have moved on from simply disagreeing on the politics or morals of issues: increasingly, they’re inventing their own reality as well.
This isn’t good for politics. Political opinions are based on your gut instincts about ephemeral, subjective, moral issues – what you think human nature truly is, what you think is moral and what immoral, and how you are willing to prioritize.
Facts, on the other hand, are facts – plain and simple. For sure, what is fact – or what is likely to be factually true, and what is unlikely – can be shrouded in mystery: but it’s important to put your consideration of what is a fact and what isn’t into a separate brain compartment to what’s just, correct and politic.
So, in that vein, here’s my favourite seven weird flat-earther fictions that some conservatives believe. I don’t necessarily mean Tories (although for each I’m sure I could point to Feel free to add your faves in the comments.
- Climate Change. This must surely be the biggie. Environmental, man-made climate change has been part of the scientific consensus for decades. In 1990, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that carbon emissions were causing the earth’s temperature to rise, and they haven’t changed their minds since. In his excellent book “The Republican War on Science”, Chris Mooney points out that the overwhelming number of scientists writing in peer-reviewed journals support this thesis; the few contrarians emerge with very dubious claims. The right use a variety of tactics to deal with this – they claim either that there is no climate change; or that there is climate change, but that it has natural causes (these range from “solar warming” to undersea hot springs); or that there is some man-made climate change, but that we can’t or shouldn’t stop it; or that it’s simply a myth by whinging jealous lefties who secretly envy people who can afford to drive 4x4s and shop at Waitrose.
- Birthers. This struck me as particularly mental when I read it recently – apparently 25% of Americans believe that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the USA (and therefore is ineligible to be President). Never mind that he has produced his birth certificate, or that the Republican Chief Justice was apparently happy to swear him in (twice!) despite knowing the rumours. But guess what? Most of them are Republicans. But it’s not just over there – our very own home-grown right-wing nutjob Donal Blaney flirts with the topic constantly (though he has, to be fair, avoided coming out as a full-on Birther – Mr Blaney is clearly very protective of his credibility).
- BNP = Lefties. This one is guaranteed to get me going. I’m not going to rehash all of what I’ve said before, but it’s a laughably simplistic abomination of political history and political philosophy to claim that the BNP are a “leftist” party. It’s not what they think; it’s not what their political forbears believed; and it’s not what lefties (or, indeed, Conservatives!) of the past thought. But obviously, the rightist blogotariat are really onto something by saying that everything “statist” is vile, and that everything vile must be left-wing.
- The MMR-Autism link. An odd one I’ll admit, but it’s been a pervasive debate in the Daily Mail for donkey’s years. Why it is such a right-wing hobby horse I have no idea; I’m tempted to say that their sheer hatred of the MMR-autism link sceptics it implies a worrying mistrust of all scientists and the norms of scientific methodology. Melanie Phillips loves to froth at the mouth about it; As the ever-brilliant Ben Goldacre points out, most of what she says is absolute bobbins.
- the Laffer Curve. This is obviously in a different category to the scientific and factual items above – economic science being of a very different type – but it’s still in the category of right-wing dumbness. The Laffer Curve posits that if you have a either a 100% or a 0% tax rate you receive £0 in tax – at 0% because no tax is collected, at 100% because nobody would bother to work. It’s a fine (and rather trivial) theory – but conservatives constantly go on as if the rest of its shape is obvious and manifest, and that they know where we are on the curve, and that any tax rise will automatically lead to a fall in government revenue. Well hold on there – where’s the evidence to back up how this theory works in the real world? There isn’t any. Next time you hear it, just shout “cobblers” till they hit you and run away.
- Creationism. In fairness, there aren’t nearly as many creationists in the UK as in the US, and they’re not as strongly associated with the organized political right. But it’s still concerning. Look at Conservapedia (from which I have been banned! True stories), if you can stomach it, to see just how messed up this all is. I particularly recommend their page on dinosaurs, which gives serious credence to the idea that dinosaurs and men co-existed on Earth (and that they may not be extinct).
- Brit-amore. Chris Grayling says that Britain is “like the Wire“. This is preposterous. Actually, what he said was even more preposterous: he said that Britain has become like the Wire (i.e. that it is now, but wasn’t before). This contradicts every set of statistics on crime – including violent crime – over the past 15 years. As Sadie points out, murder is very easy to define and count, and isn’t subject to the statistical jiggery-pokery Tories love to shout about with crime stats – and it’s gone down year on year. You’re less likely to be murdered in the UK today than at any point since 1980.
Actually, on the last point, there is one place that is The Wire – Warrington. Congratulations to The Wires for their Challenge Cup win on Saturday.