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Anger Makes You Lose

When the emails started coming in a couple of days ago, I thought it was an urban legend. I really did. (I get a lot of those here.) I went to Snopes automatically, as I always do when someone sends me an email telling me to “forward this to everyone in your address book!” Appallingly, as a single Google search showed, this time the topic was true: Well-known British director Richard Curtis (Love, Actually; Four Weddings and a Funeral) and a global warming group of some significance have created a short film showing True AGW Believers murdering those who disagree with them…including a couple of grade-school children.

The organization is 10:10. The film is “No Pressure.” I won’t post a link to the film itself here because it has been withdrawn from its original location and reposted in lots of other places. I also hesitate because if you have anything like respect for human life you will find it hideously disturbing. Seek it out at risk of nightmares, and don’t say you weren’t warned.

Quick representative summary of a scene from the film: Smug teacher is indoctrinating a group of grade schoolers about the dangers of global warming. A couple of them refuse to buy in. Teacher then pushes a button, and the dissenting kids explode into a realistic cloud of blood and guts, splattering on the walls and on their classmates.

You think I’m kidding? Then grab your barf bag and go find the movie. You won’t have to look far. (It’s on YouTube as I write this.)

No pressure. Right. Disagree with us and we’ll kill you.

This entry is not about global warming, which I’m still researching and will discuss when I’m ready. This entry is about a theme I’ve touched on here again and again over the years: Anger makes you stupid. The level of anger-driven stupidity in this case boggles the mind. To science’s sorrow, anger is now the driving force in the global warming debate. The stupidity comes in when your anger compels you to hand a cudgel to your opponents, which they will then gleefully use to bash your head in again and again and again…forever.

This is galactic-class stupidity. The film will never go away. It will become a legend, and “no pressure” will become a meme for “wanting to kill people who disagree with you.” The Right will broaden the film’s scope and cite it repeatedly as evidence that the environmentalist left is a sort of Stalinist religion that hates humanity and advocates violence against its opponents. The whole thing will inflate far past absurdity. It will tip elections and put more Republicans in power. It will reverse years of gains on environmental issues, and will make it even more difficult to entertain rational debate on any environmental topic at all.

Small price to pay for a piece of delicious tribal poo-flinging, eh?

Bottom line: Anger makes you stupid. And when you get stupid enough, you do things that make you lose.

17 Comments

  1. Erbo says:

    For far too many proponents of the anthropogenic global warming theory, the subject is effectively no longer a science; it is a religion.

    That religion comes complete with the desire to wage jihad against the “unbelievers.” Up till now, that’s mainly taken the form of smearing anyone daring to espouse a contrary view. But in the future…?

    I’ve seen the “10:10 No Pressure” video. Does it represent the “wet dreams” of the militant AGW-proponents? Arguably, yes. Could something like it ever come to pass? I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out.

    1. Erbo says:

      I must amend this; I wrote it before I had read Eric S. Raymond’s post on the same subject.

      He poses a different line of argument: Even if we take the filmmakers at their word with regard to their intention (“It was supposed to be funny!“), we’re still left with a problem. Namely, in ESR’s words:

      The question this video really poses is: what kind of person thinks it’s funny to show schoolchildren being blown into bloody gobbets for any reason at all, let alone for merely disagreeing with a teacher’s chirpy sermonizing? And another, which I haven’t seen anyone else articulate: what kind of idiot could fail to foresee what a gift this bit of grand guignol would be to 10:10’s opponents?

      I suppose it’s true, then, that “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” And you can interpret “mad” as “angry,” too, not just “insane.”

  2. Umm… I guess I’m a “True AGW” believer, although I had never heard the phrase. I’m not sure if the part about which I’m supposed to be brainwashed is the “global warming” part or the “anthropogenic” part, but either way, I suppose I’ll bite. At the very least, I’m willing to play the role of Devil’s Advocate.

    As far as I know, there is no strong evidence that CO2 has _not_ increased and I’m of the opinion that CO2 forcing is well-established both theoretically and through evidence (the role of CO2 in warming the Earth was theorized in the 19th century and taught to me in school 30+ years ago, so it’s not some new crackpot thing). So… that would seem to me to support the both the “A” and “GW” aspects.

    I don’t see how this is “no longer science” or why my hope that something can be done to mitigate the loss of ecosystems like the coral reefs and cloud forests that I live near (and don’t have a prospect of migrating to more northerly climes) deserves to be equated with jihad (by which I assume the writer means violent struggle against non-believers).

    I know those aren’t your words, Jeff, but if you do write a summary of your views on global warming, I hope you try to include in your audience people like me and not simply those who are predisposed to agree with you.

    1. Huh? What? You’re responding to a post I didn’t write. This post isn’t about global warming. This post is about the sort of damage that an angry lunatic fringe can cause to a movement, by realistically depicting the murder of those (including young children) who disagree with the movement’s core tenets.

      Period.

      Now, since the post is actually about anger, I think this question is pertinent: Why are you so angry? I’ve actually written very little about global warming, and am certainly not considered a pundit on the issue. This isn’t the first time you’ve jumped in when I’ve mentioned it.

      I’m not objecting to the anger, because you’re keeping to my rules: Angry comments cannot be anonymous. I’ve known you a long time and respect your work very highly. But why did this post get you worked up enough to comment on something I didn’t actually say?

      I’ll admit, I’m intrigued.

      One reason I don’t post much on global warming is that I’m not sure I understand it well enough to discuss it fairly. I’m reading a lot on it, from both sides of the aisle. I have some tremendous difficulties with the AGW position as it stands now, but those positions can be stated on the basis of research that I’ve seen and are not coalitional (i.e., tribal; I have no tribe and spit on both political parties) in nature. I may comment at some point in the future or I may not; that decision is something I will make as I go along, when the time comes.

      Feel free to take as much space as you need here (text is compact on the server side) to explain.

      1. I didn’t write the post in anger at all: just the opposite. Precisely because you and I have been on different sides of many issues all the way back to “C vs Pascal” and have always been civil or at least (I hope) have forgiven any lapses on that front. I value very highly the increasingly rare opportunity to have a civil written discussion in which the conclusion is not foregone.

        First I’d like to address why I jumped in on the subject of global warning. To me, it seems that both the fact of global warming and a major role of humanity in that are fairly settled science. I’d be very interested in understanding the viewpoint of someone who feels that it’s not settled but who I could trust to be logical and clear — sounds like your line of work.

        Second, I don’t see in my previous post much that seems angry. Perhaps I’m blind to my own affect, but it seems to me that I didn’t ascribe motivations to others, dismiss viewpoints with which I disagree, question anyone’s integrity, or any of the other all-too-common rhetorical tricks of the angry.

        To my reading, Erbo’s comment seems far more emotional than mine. I intentionally claimed the mantle of “True Believer” to highlight the hyperbole of Erbo’s comment — in what way does a guy who pretty much accepts what he reads in general science magazines qualify as having strayed from science and into a religion with a “desire to wage jihad against the “unbelievers.””? It may have been a mistake for me to make responding to another comment the majority of my response and I don’t want to make the mistake again, but I made it clear that I understood those weren’t your words, Jeff.

        Moving on to the subject at hand which is, as you’ve said, anger and extreme emotion, you say the filmmakers’ thesis is: “Disagree with us and we’ll kill you.” Yes, that’s a despicable premise. But a minute of Googling shows that the filmmakers thought they were saying something satirical about apathy or willful denial; they seem to have been trying to say “Disagree with us and your apathy or bullheadness will kill you.” Right or wrong, it’s not nearly as despicable.

        I’ve never heard of these guys before and I cannot say that you’re wrong about their beliefs, but I tend to think that idiots who over-estimate their comedic skills are more common than people who think its okay to kill people who disagree with them. I find it interesting that you have been receiving emails on this piece for a few days (while I, in my perhaps more liberal circle, had never heard of it until I read your post). Am I wrong in imagining that these emails share the more indignant reading of the film? As your conclusion states, this indignant reading of the film serves a political function.

        Is it possible that the indignant reading of this film (as opposed to the “quelle idiots!” reading) is being promoted in order to increase anger, polarization, and distraction from fact-based discourse?

        1. This note sounds a lot less angry, and that’s good. Let’s keep the discussion at this level.

          I will eventually post a series summarizing my research on global warming. I can’t do it yet because I’ve got more reading to do. I’m trying to take into account as much of what is known as possible, including factors that no climate models I’ve ever heard of take into account, like heat transfer from sea-floor magma. (I’m not opening a debate on that individual issue here; I’m simply trying to put across the fact that I’m going deep and excluding nothing from consideration.) There are teams of university researchers who have some evidence that climate is governed more by chaos math than anything as simple as a single greenhouse gas. I’m trying to get a sense for as much of the current research as I can, not simply that which agrees with my hypothesis–or yours.

          There are higher-level issues, too, including the highest of them all: How do we know that any element of science–especially the science of extremely complex systems–is “settled?” What does that word mean? That science will entertain no further inquiry? If we cannot continually test our conclusions against new data and new insights, can the process still honestly be called science?

          As for the 10:10 video, I will say right here and right now under my own name that it is despicable. I don’t see any situation where a depiction of this level of graphic violence committed against children could be considered funny, or even satirical. Are you willing to put your name beside a statement claiming otherwise?

          As for the ultimate effect of the video, well, what the filmmakers thought they were saying matters far less than how they come across, and they are by no means newcomers to the field. They should have guessed that there would be trouble. Joe Romm himself has condemned the video in the strongest possible terms. (I assume you know who he is and are familiar with his perspectives.) My view is not limited to skeptics. My whole point with this entry is that 10:10 did enormous damage to the global warming hypothesis in the world of public opinion, which is not something you can just ignore, especially in Western democracies. An indignant reading of the film is inevitable, and does not imply opposition to the AGW hypothesis. It simply implies a far greater sensitivity to human life than the filmmakers or their patrons displayed.

          1. Am I willing to say that “a depiction of the level of graphic violence committed against children could be considered funny, or even satirical.”? I’m not interested in defending something that I had nothing to do with, from people I’d never heard of, that has nothing to do with the science, and which, by every account, utterly fails to achieve its claimed objectives. To the extent this calls for a “Will You Condemn”-a-thon, I condemn the film and the idiots who made it.

            But to answer your direct question, the epitome of satire is generally considered to be a proposal of child cannibalism. Satire is, if not inherently, at least often profane. Does visual media make a difference? Maybe — it’s certainly more immediate. But if someone came out with a video of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” with similar graphical gore, I can imagine it being “considered funny, or even satirical.”

            (While I think it’s only fair to provide that answer to your direct question / challenge, I don’t think debating the boundaries of humor and satire is very interesting. I think the questions of “what is ‘settled’ science’?” and “Why is the grass always angrier on the other side of the fence?” are.)

            On the ‘settled’ science question, would you agree that there’s a spectrum ranging from, say:

            crank (perpetual motion)
            contrarian (no dark energy/expansion of space)
            minority (uh… never any liquid surface water on Mars (?) )
            unsettled (life ever on Mars)

            And of course the heart of science is that no question cannot be asked — no one dismisses continuing tests of relativity or “no dark energy” experiments / theories. So “crank” or “contrarian” or not, do the experiment, get it through peer-review, and let the chips fall where it may — that’s science. Of course, it’s harder to get funding for expensive research that is seen as addressing more settled issues, but that’s not sinister, it’s just finite resources.

            For me — just a guy who reads general science magazines — it seems like questioning either the “GW” part OR the “A” part (has humanity affected global climate?) are towards that contrarian band. And, just mathematically, the product of two contrarian positions are less likely to be true than one. So, and I’m not saying this as a conclusion, but rather just to lay out why I jump in when you seem to say AGW is suspect — what do you see that I don’t?

            On the subject of “the grass is always angrier on the other side of the fence”: Do you agree with the premise? Is it as simple as the feeling that “Had only the last election gone the way I voted, this would not be an issue?”

        2. Erbo says:

          I will note in passing that not everyone who buys into a particular point of view is a True Believer…and the True Believers may have “hidden motives” that escape the casual supporter. The True Believers are also more likely to be truly angry over their cause…with all that implies.

  3. Lee Hart says:

    What an appalling film! How could they believe this would move the dialog forward? What kind of person thinks this is “funny”?

    I agree with you, Jeff. It will only make people angry; and mad people do mad things. Was that their real agenda? To make people mad so they won’t think?

    I thought of Leonard Cohen’s “Story of Isaac”. It is the biblical story of Isaac, whose father believed so devoutly in God that he was willing to murder his own son. God stops him in the end; but Cohen adds,

    You who build these altars now
    To sacrifice these children,
    You must not do it any more.
    A scheme is not a vision
    And you never have been tempted
    By a demon or a god.

    There are already too many hate-mongers in the world, ready to murder innocents in the name of their perceived revelations, whether from gods or man-made demons.

    The producers should have looked for ways to bring the sides together, not drive them apart. These are bright, creative people, skilled at making images that leave an imprint. Couldn’t they do better?

    This film bothered me so much that I had a dream last night. (Warning; engineers have weird dreams). The world was a million times smaller. Instead of 3 million square miles and 300 million people, it’s just 3 square miles and 300 people. The same is true for every other country.

    The consequences of our individual actions are multiplied by a million. If you smoke, a noxious cloud surrounds you wherever you go. If you litter, your own yard is filled with trash. The garbage dump is literally in your back yard. Every action you take, good or bad is multiplied a million-fold. I guess it represents my view that we’re all connected, and what we do affects the world.

    It seems like this image (or something like it) would have been more likely to lead to productive discussions than angry fights.

    “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” — Pogo

  4. (Note to all: This is not a new comment but in response to Larry O’Brien’s most recent. I had to bounce it out of the thread, as Larry and I have reached the end of WordPress’s indentation machinery.)

    “Settled” to me is an extremely strong word, especially in the realm of science, which may be considered methodologically rigorous skepticism. It implies something more like the mass of the electron, which is settled in that anything challenging our current measurements would have massive consequences for our understanding of, well, everything.

    So what’s actually going on here (as so often happens) is that we have different understandings of the term “settled.” Maybe I’m fussier about such things than you are, and that’s a topic of reasonable debate. We were so certain about the conservation of parity that we declared it a physical law, only to end up with egg on our collective faces a mere 25 years later.

    There is a great deal of peer-reviewed research that posits other explanations for climate changes beyond CO2. The science is difficult because repeatable experiments are impossible and there is only one environment to observe. We have direct instrumental data from only a vanishingly small slice of time. Other data are often extracted from very old materials like ice cores, fossils, and rock, the mechanisms of which are complex and sometimes controversial and for which there are nontrivial calibration problems.

    Furthermore, global climate is an insanely complex system, involving variables that are diabolically difficult to quantify and probably more than a few that we simply haven’t discovered yet. It’s a young field and it’s got tendrils in almost everything that involves the skin of the planet we live on: geology, solar astronomy, orbital dynamics, ocean currents, cosmic rays, wind, tectonics, vulcanism, impact events, and many other things. It may also involve chaos math, which, if true, may make climate something that simply can’t be predicted with any precision except in broad statistical terms.

    I’ve seen no rigorous research that rules out any of the above as climate drivers, and if any of them are still in play, by my definition the issue is light-years from being settled.

    There are two additional higher-level issues that I don’t have time to go into here today, and which will have to wait for a later post.

    1. I’m glad that we caught the potential confusion re. “settled.” I had no idea that the phrase “settled science” was such a lightning rod ( I just Googled the phrase “define settled science” and it’s page after page of global warming-related hits)! Since all science is open to refutation, I took “settled” to mean something far less than absolute and more along the lines of … well, what shall we say? … “supported both by theory and evidence, with a good record in the peer-review world, and widely accepted among a large majority of professionals in the field.” (Can you suggest a non-inflammatory word?)

      Of course, I realize that there’s a world of difference between this level of “supported both etc.” and the truth — Newton’s gravity worked great right up until it didn’t. And we know that Einstein’s gravity is incomplete, but so far it’s “supported both etc.”

      You say that there’s a good deal of peer-reviewed science disputing various aspects of AGW, and it seems like you have developed some thoughts, if not come to a conclusion. If you do ever write up your thoughts (and I hope you do), I hope you can foresee the question: “If it is the case that there’s good science that throws AGW into serious doubt, why has the scientific process broken down here? There’s money on both sides of the issue and surely there’s a Nobel for anyone whose climate model is both contrarian and accurately predictive. So, what’s the story?”

      I know that there is a petition with tens of thousands of signatures declaring skepticism against AGW. But my understanding is that among climatologists, the large majority accept AGW. (I should perhaps say that this is not my “understanding” but “my impression based on the general science press.”) So if that impression is correct and most climatologists believe in AGW, doesn’t that mean that the majority of scientists in the field are ignoring good science? That seems to me a remarkable claim and I hope that if you ever write up your thoughts, you address it.

      This might be bringing us close to the end of what we can usefully do in a comment stream, so if you choose to conclude let me again say how much I value and appreciate your civility and willingness to discuss.

      Aloha,
      Larry

      1. It’s difficult for me to answer your question here without getting more into the politics than I want to. Climate science depends heavily on Federal-level government research grants, and I see a conflict of interest there, since the Federal government stands to gain hugely from carbon taxes if they happen. I’ve read again and again that you can’t expect to get a grant by proposing to challenge the CO2 hypothesis, and if true that might explain why so many climate scientists (meant here as a discipline distinct from other older and more widely-dispersed Earth-sciences like geophysics, meteorology, and oceanography) lean in that direction: There’s no grant money to be had doing otherwise.

        How true this is I don’t know, but I consider it plausible. Certainly climate science isn’t the only place where there’s bias in research funding; my friends who are researchers in other fields have complained bitterly about it ever since I’ve known them.

        What I’d like to suggest before signing off this topic is that we can’t simply sweep these other disciplines off the table as irrelevant. The oceans are where Earth’s heat lives (above the crust, at least) and oceanographers know something about that. Geologists have a grip on how the crust changes over time, which can provide vital clues and data points for analysis. The nature of climate is much more complex than most people admit, and I haven’t yet seen a synthesis that pulls enough of the pieces together to present a coherent picture of the whole. We simply may not have been at it long enough. Other fields focusing on extremely complex systems like the human body are turning over just as quickly, and have seen similarly violent conflicts over how organisms develop and how species evolve. (See evo devo, epigenetics, and so on.)

        I’ll talk about it someday. In the meantime there’s still much for me to learn. I’m a tech writer, and my business has long been explaining difficult things to ordinary people. (See Assembly Language Step By Step, now four editions, 21 years, and almost 220,000 copies old.) There’s a knack to explaining, obviously, but before I can explain something I have to understand it first. That’s where I’m currently at in the process. I have a sneaking intuition (the very worst kind!) that the road to understanding climate is asymptotic, especially for citizen scientists like me. I may have to say, “This is what I’ve learned so far…” and hope that’s good enough.

        You’re welcome to challenge anything I post here, and I appreciate your willingness to set the emotional dimension of the debate aside for the moment. What we’ve done these past couple of days works far better than the endless poo-flinging I have to tiptoe past on so many other sites on both sides of the discussion. I always have a reason for anything I write, and I’ve changed my mind several times since I first encountered the climate/carbon issue in the late 1970s. I may change it again. I just don’t know. In the meantime, it’s been a wonderful chance to learn things they just didn’t teach English majors at third-tier schools in 1973.

  5. Tom R. says:

    I have not seen the 10:10 video and, after what I have read about it here, I have no desire to.

    However, it does make me wonder if the reaction would be anything similar to the “Daisy Girl” campaign spot from the 1964 Johnson vs Goldwater campaign. I was only 17 at the time, but I do remember actually seeing it. It really left a lasting impression, and not a good one at that.

    As to the other topic, I do think SOMETHING is happening to the climate. I claim no scientific insight for this, but my own impressions are that extremes are more frequent and more extreme than when I was younger. If the weather, and by extension the climate, are chaotic systems (which I think they are) then an increasing tendency to extremes may indicate decreasing stability to the current attractor.
    Maybe this is just another way of saying that the only thing constant about the weather/climate is that it is going to change.

    1. Daisy. Ugh. I was only 12 but it was talked about for years afterward. Probably the most effective one-shot electoral assassination ever accomplished.

      Something’s always happening to the climate; the crucial question is identifying the machinery that drives it. There’s a group at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee doing interesting things with synchronized chaos and climate. A diabolically formatted draft of the paper can be had here:

      http://www.uwm.edu/~kravtsov/downloads/GRL-Tsonis.pdf

      Glieck had a (very) few interesting things to say about climate state changes in his 1987 book Chaos, which has the virtue of predating most of the current global warming tribalism. If you haven’t read it you should. I’m a little surprised that this isn’t being researched more than it is.

  6. Tom R. says:

    Thanks for the link to the article Jeff. I have downloaded it, but it will take more than a quick read through!

    Yes, I bought Chaos in 1987 and have read it more than once. However, I might ought to go read it again since it has been so long. I did write some programs (in Pascal of course) to play with the logistic difference equation on an AT&T 6300 computer I had at the time. Watching a slower machine paint the points line by line as it iterates the equation really gave me a feel for how things could quickly change from a small range of values (Climate?) to anything goes.

    1. Darrin Chandler says:

      It’s not usually from a small range of values to “anything goes.” More often there are several strange attractors, with the system switching from one to another. Different systems have different characteristics. Some are quite stable around any given attractor, but as you perturb it, it may switch to a new one, or bounce around between attractors for a while, or …

      The reason I bring this up is that one of the more practical goals of chaos research is to characterize the gross behavior of chaotic systems, without being able to do the impossible of making exact predictions. Knowing the kind of perturbations that are likely to shift the system into a new state is useful, even when you can’t say exactly how much, when, or where you’ll end up.

  7. […] I predicted, people are going to be making jokes about this thing forever. I liked this one. Not only epic fail, but epic humilation. Anger is […]

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