From hell: A rationalist soaks in the heated swamps of popular sentiment

You might think that in a well educated, robust democracy like Australia, there might be some kind of fond attachment to the idea of rational debate.

You might think the media, politicians, other public figures and, yes, even the public themselves might feel inclined to engage themselves in logical discussion of important issues, no matter what their underlying beliefs or perspectives.

You might even think it would not be frowned upon to establish first the facts of an issue, then move on to the debate over differing interpretations and appropriate responses to those facts. Calling a spade a spade, you might think, would be an uncontroversial position.

Apparently not, it would seem.

And especially not, at the moment, when it comes to climate change.

I made this point in a letter to The Advertiser after their editorial attacked South Australian Greens MLC Mark Parnell for suggesting that coal mining town Leigh Creek might not be around much longer. Here’s exactly what he said:

“I imagine towns like Leigh Creek, where there’s not much other than coalmining, probably don’t have a long-term future.”

Makes sense, right?

He even qualified his comments later on, telling ABC radio: “There’s probably about five, maybe 15 at the outside, years’ worth of coal left.”

“So Leigh Creek as a coal mining town has no future. Leigh Creek as a town doing other things, servicing tourism, whatever, may survive in some form.”

The Advertiser, however, accused Parnell and the Greens of being “close to celebratory” in the tone of their commentary and suggested “the aspirations, and legitimate fears, of productive people accustomed to lifestyles of hard work and reward have been cast aside as victims in an ideological war against carbon pollution.”

Wow.

Just, wow.

The important thing to remember here is not that people opposed to carbon pricing, or people who are sceptical of global warming, are evil or bad or even stupid (they may be some or all of the above, but that’s a different and rather less sustainable argument).

The point is to recognise and call-out bad-logic, shallow rhetoric and near sighted emotional manipulation whenever it occurs and whoever is dealing in it.

On this particular issue, it just happens to be coming mostly from those opposed to carbon pricing, simply because most of them either don’t really believe there’s a problem that needs addressing, or they’ve been convinced by Tony Abbott and others to stop even thinking about whether or not there’s a problem and focus entirely on the (real and imagined) negative effects of a carbon tax for them personally.

Anyway, just read the editorial here, read my letter (among others) here, then sink down with me into the depth of intellectual despair, like Johnny Depp in that movie about Jack the Ripper.

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