The only people who can’t recognize that our nation has a “smug liberal” problem are smug liberals. Case in point, smug liberal (and television comedienne) Samantha Bee. On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Bee to react to a pre-election Ross Douthat column that called out Bee and other late-night comics in part for creating a comedy world of “hectoring monologues,” full of comedians who are “less comics than propagandists — liberal ‘explanatory journalists’ with laugh lines.”
We’re all familiar with the style. It features the generous use of selective clips from Fox News, copious amounts of mockery, and a quick Wikipedia- and Google-search level of factual understanding. The basic theme is always the same: Look at how corrupt, evil, and stupid our opponents are, look how obviously correct we are, and laugh at my marvelous and clever explanatory talent. It’s like sitting through an especially ignorant and heavy-handed Ivy League lecture, complete with the sycophantic crowd lapping up every word.
Yep, they sure are hilarious (language warning):
Let’s be clear about what Stephens actually said. Here’s his summary of the current state of climate science:
While the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future.
Here’s the translation: Science teaches us that humans have helped cause global warming, but when we try to forecast the extent of the warming and its effects on our lives, the certainty starts to recede. In addition, the activism has gotten ahead of the science. Indeed, Stephens even quotes the New York Times’ own environmental reporter, Andrew Revkin, who has observed that he “saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.”
Not only did the “hyperbole” not “fit the science at the time,” but — Stephens writes — “censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts.”
As if on cue, parts of liberal Twitter melted down. Stephens was instantly treated as, yes, an imbecile and a deplorable. Not only did the vast majority of commentators ignore his argument, they treated it as beneath contempt. But can anyone actually doubt that climate predictions are uncertain? Does anyone doubt that climate activists’ rhetoric has far outstripped not just the scientific consensus but even the bounds of good sense? This 2008 Good Morning America report is just too funny not to repost:
Note that GMA’s dystopian future — with Manhattan sinking under the waves — is set in 2015.
Bizarrely, even the commentary calling for Stephens’s head inadvertently make his point. For example, David Roberts writes in Vox that “the New York Times should not have hired climate change bullshitter Bret Stephens,” but buried in the middle of Roberts’s harangue is this “to be sure” paragraph:
Of course we are never certain about anything. Of course scientists have been wrong before. And of course climate science — especially when it tries to project damages at smaller temporal and geographic scales, like the next several decades — is filled with probabilities and uncertainties.
Umm, yes, and that’s exactly why we need to ask hard questions about proposed solutions — rather than simply accepting environmentalist propaganda at face value.
Liberal dogma is rapidly becoming a secular religion, a “faith” that conspicuously omits any requirement that one love his enemies. Christians have long struggled to keep one of Christ’s most difficult commands, but many leftists don’t even try. To many, it’s not even a virtue. Indeed, the same kind of vitriol is a hallmark of the post-religious Right and is part of the explanation for extreme polarization. Post-Christian countries eschew Christian values, including the very values that can and should prevent even the most ardent activists from becoming arrogant . . . and intolerant.
Yes, there is a smug-liberal problem in America, one that smart liberals recognize. Stephens is right. You don’t win converts with mockery. You can sometimes win grudging compliance, but you mainly make enemies — especially when your mockery reveals your own ignorance and inconsistency. But as we know, the smug liberal doesn’t care. They want to make enemies. After all, how do they measure their own virtue? When the Right rages, they rejoice. The unbelievers deserve their pain.
— David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.