Oilly bedfellows: Sexism, racism, and climate change denial vs Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

  • Published on January 8th, 2019

Back in November, Paul Krugman wrote a great column on “the depravity of climate denial,” comparing climate denial to the tobacco-cancer denial industry. Krugman concludes that climate denial is even worse than the tobacco industrial complex: cancer denial most impacted those who choose to smoke, he argues, whereas climate denial hurts us all.

By Climate Denier Roundup

And it’s not like those in denial have legitimate concerns. Krugman points out that “there are almost no good-faith climate-change deniers,” as they are really driven by sins of greed and ego. And because one political party appears beholden to this denial, he concludes that “Republicans don’t just have bad ideas; at this point, they are, necessarily, bad people.”

Krugman’s arguments were so upsetting it apparently took Canadian denial blogger Donna LaFramboise over a month to respond with a post of her own, decrying how Krugman’s disdain for deniers “is extreme prejudice” and “outright bigotry.”

“To be a climate skeptic,” LaFramboise concludes, “is to belong to a despised minority, one that respectable people think it’s OK to demonize.”

So sad.

On the same day LaFramboise posted her complaint about how respectable people treat deniers, one of the loudest and least respectable deniers wrote a post of his own. At Breitbart last week, James Delingpole wrote up a listicle of things he’d like to see more of in 2019. It’s pretty standard outrage clickbait: Delingpole laments that even conservative media fails to recognize that “Donald Trump is one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history.”

The real kicker, though, is the kicker: Delingpole’s “resolution this year is to be much more sexist.” According to Deli, sexism “is just a made-up leftist term designed to pathologise normal male behaviour.” “Girls are great,” Delingpole writes, “but as we’ve known since Genesis they do have a tendency to get out of hand if they’re either not watched carefully or overindulged.”


While clearly ridiculous, it’s important we not forget that the axis of denial operates on many fronts at once. Keeping women down means keeping the pro-fossil fuel status quo going. And keeping people of color – the real minorities whose struggle LaFramboise minimizes – from positions of power also serves to support the fossil-fuel status quo.

And the tools for doing so are basically the same. As American University’s Director of Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center Ibram Kendi wrote recently at the Atlantic, climate and racism deniers are functionally quite similar. Both deny observable, objective reality by framing the acceptance of climate science or acknowledgement of structural racism as a matter of opinion, which makes it difficult to hold those with different beliefs accountable.

This line of reasoning what gives  LaFramboise the cover to complain that deniers are reviled for simply believing something different. Therefore, one way to hold deniers accountable, Kendi argues, is by reframing questions to focus on knowledge rather than one person’s opinion–asking about the evidence of climate change rather than what a person believes about it, for instance, or what racism in action looks like rather than if someone believes a person is racist.

Fortunately, this tone-deaf blindness to reality and full immersion in their false but comforting beliefs can lead to some real own-goals. For example, a tweet (from a now-deleted account) with a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing that was meant to be an attack on her character. Because apparently conservatives think (a young woman of color) dancing is bad, which AOC respond to by doing a little dance on her way into her new office in the House of Representatives.

Then in addition to having the gall to dance, in an interview Sunday Ocasio-Cortez suggested taxing the rich at historically moderate rates to pay for climate action.

Rare is the political figure who’s willing to be honest about the need to raise taxes instead of cutting them, but seems like the only thing Ocasio-Cortez wants to cut is loose: footloose!

(Crossposted from DailyKos.)

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