By now you may have heard that the man behind such heartwarming chick flicks as Bridget Jones’s Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral has come out with an environmental snuff film.
Leading environmental organizations in Britain, with the backing of numerous major corporations, recruited British screenwriter Richard Curtis to produce a video for the “10:10” campaign, which seeks to cut carbon emissions by 10 percent every year for ten years.
The video begins in a classroom, where a mild-mannered teacher tells her middle-school students about the 10:10 effort. She then asks the class if they’d like to sign up. Most do, but two kids abstain. The teacher tells them, “That’s absolutely fine, your own choice.” Then she reaches for a device on her desk with a red button on it. She pushes the button, and the kids who refused to sign up for the green crusade are blown up, their blood and viscera spraying across the classroom, staining the school uniforms of their conformist and compliant classmates. The same “joke” plays out several more times in different settings (an office, soccer practice, etc.).
Each time someone resists the idea of getting with the program, the response is swift, bloody execution.
The video’s defenders argue it’s all a big joke, lighten up.
For the layman, the obvious response is, “That’s not true. Blowing up people isn’t funny.”
But that misses the point.
This isn’t a joke for the benefit of you and me. No, this is a knee-slapper for those already committed to the cause. The subtext is, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could just get rid of these tiresome, inconvenient people?” That’s why they’re blown up without anyone trying to change their minds. That’s the joke: “Enough with these idiots already.”
How else to explain the fact that this thing went through the entire pre-production and filming process, was undoubtedly screened by any number of people — most likely including sponsors and PR people — and none of them said, “Are you nuts? We can’t go public with this.”
That’s the outrage here: not that they thought normal people would find it funny, but that the producers and sponsors clearly did think it was funny. It’s like one of those ugly inside jokes high-school cliques share that instantly become horrendous when outsiders find out about them. In their arrogance and insularity, they didn’t realize that their inside joke wasn’t appropriate for mixed company. Imagine Curtis’s horror when he discovered no one was laughing outside the green bunker.
That’s also what makes this so disturbing. Environmentalism has always had a fascism problem (which is different from saying that all environmentalists are fascists). A couple years ago, a British power company joined the green bandwagon by launching a “Climate Cops” program that encouraged children to keep dossiers on their parents and neighbors, recording their “climate crimes.”
Frustrated with the perceived environmental threat of economic freedom and the inconvenience of political freedom, many environmentalists yearn for shortcuts. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wishes we could learn from China’s one-party system. In The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy, environmentalists David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith insist that democracy needs to be replaced with a more authoritarian system. NASA scientist James Hansen wants to put corporate CEOs on trial for crimes against humanity. Al Gore compares his opponents to Holocaust deniers and insists that the time for democratic debate is over.
Some environmentalists have almost as little regard for human life as the fictional teacher in the 10:10 video. When Charles Wurster, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was told that banning DDT would probably result in millions of deaths, he replied, “This is as good a way to get rid of them as any.” Finnish environmental guru Pentti Linkola argues that the Earth is a sinking ship, and the greens must head for the lifeboats: “Those who hate life try to pull more people on board and drown everybody. Those who love and respect life use axes to chop off the extra hands hanging on the gunwale.”
In fairness, a host of leading environmentalists have condemned this snuff film as an idiotic disaster. I’m fine with taking most of them at their word, but I suspect that at least some object to the film because it is bad PR, not because they actually find it offensive.
Meanwhile, you can be sure that the green Left will only grow more frustrated with the ignorant masses, and that more such “jokes” will be forthcoming. Let’s just hope Shakespeare was wrong when he wrote, “Jesters do oft prove prophets.”
– Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.