I read Jim Manzi’s dismissal of the chapter on environmentalism in Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny and, while I really do not have time to do this today — happily, I have a full day of TV, Internet, and radio to discuss Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America — I do not think Manzi’s lengthy post was reasonable. It was simply an attack, and so I am going to lay down a marker.
I don’t have the time to be any more brief than Jim was. Let me begin by agreeing with Andy McCarthy — there are people who write on this topic who deserve all the scorn one can muster, but Manzi’s scorn is wildly misplaced. The purpose and function of Levin’s chapter was to remind everyone of who we are dealing with on the catastrophist side of the warming debate, and that — given that they and not we have the burden of persuasion if not proof — there are many reasons that their steamroller must be stopped immediately. More reasons have emerged since Liberty was published — yet it is Liberty that is at fault somehow.
Jim not only misses that point but engages in and defends exactly the behavior he sniffs at. Manzi is bemused that a book addressing the Left’s . . . well, power grabs . . . doesn’t stop to ponder, say, Schwarz’s arguments on climate sensitivity, or how many angels can relieve themselves in the woods while dancing on the head of a pin if the value of X is Y.
Simple me, I read L&T as Mark’s effort to remind a popular audience of the history and premises of the environmental global complex. The case seemed fairly straightforward, critically undermining those things without which the green Left cannot progress and to which they risibly cling like grim death: the debate-is-over ruses of certainty and unanimity and appeals to consensus authority. (And Levin is the one guilty of epistemic closure? Do what I want or people will die! is usually not a sign of a strong case or confident movement.)
Apparently, Mark was supposed to haggle. And, most certainly, to refrain from observing that others of relevance and standing equal to those of the alarmists actually dissent from the catastrophist consensus. When Levin does that anyway, Manzi accuses him of simply appealing to authority. And if he does present those dissenters’ views, then he should be a sport and present the counterarguments made against their dissents — which are not written on stone tablets, after all. Besides, Jim notes, a bunch of institutional authorities agree with the consensus — though he fails to acknowledge that the positions announced by the boards of these institutions might not be written on stone tablets, either. Jim appeals to these various authorities as if their pronouncements had not been exposed as misreported, had ignored challenges from panel participants, and been subject to strong protest among their memberships — with one national academy even dropping its membership in the consensus choir. (I’m sorry I cannot search for links for all of these given my tight schedule, but regular PG readers likely have seen them all).
I fail to see why Manzi should credit the Green stunt of sneaking the name of a Spice Girl onto the Oregon Petition before its verification process. That stunt seems to me a vivid illustration of a movement that feels it necessary to sneak phony names and qualifications onto their own lists, not just others’. Not a sign of a winner, or a winning point.
Even if this dissatisfies the intellectual urges of some, the AGW campaign is being decided at the popular level: If nodding acceptance can be imposed and dissent made impolite, the most massive intervention in our lives in at least a half a century will lock into place. The premise no longer deserves the respect Manzi wants to give it, and we can disagree about that (though preferably not in the fashion Manzi chose to, which — as Andy writes and I sense even though I do not know him — is beneath him).
Without the slightest pretense at being a Roy Spencer book about climate sensitivity or the impact of clouds, L&T armed the catastrophist agenda’s putative victims with the verve and responses needed to push back. If you had doubts about these people, their movement, and their claims, then — it is true — Mark is guilty of affirming them.
So up strolls Levin to unceremoniously punch the AGW complex’s shibboleths in the mouth and Manzi doesn’t like it. Showing that two can fight the way the Left made its bones makes certain polite elements in our camp uncomfortable (David Brooks, call your office). Mark is not dishonest in his arguments, while global-warming alarmists have widely been shown to be. And contrary to a major premise of Jim’s claim — that Mark simply engages in the tactic of appeal to authority — Levin took head on the inescapably implicit premise of the catastrophist view: anyone who knows what they’re talking about agrees with us, so all you have left to do is obey.
The global-warming industry will drop like a stone once policymakers and the public understand the unsupportable nature of the claims essential to the industry’s viability: unanimity and certainty, or the closest thing thereto that one could reasonably expect. I think Jim picked up Liberty and Tyranny, written by a lawyer and street fighter, and was disappointed that it didn’t want to haggle and tell the alarmists of course there is some kind of monster under the bed and we should discuss what sort of monster. Let’s have a sit-down. On their turf. In a meeting arranged by Tessio — but with no gun taped behind the toilet.
Jim’s disappointment is not the fault of Mark Levin, who decided instead to punch the smarmy global-warming industry in its mug.