Strategies of Communication on Climate Change

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A corollary to Godwin's law: the "law of genocidal intentions"

(image from Corellianrun)

You surely know about Godwin's law (also known as "reductio ad Hitlerium"); the one which says that, given enough time, any Internet discussion will eventually result in somebody being compared to Hitler. This law seem to be almost as strong as the principles of thermodynamics and, recently, we saw it applied to Russia's president - Vladimir Putin - compared to Hitler in a press release by the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

But Godwin's law seems to have many variants; e.g the "racist variant". Here, I would like to propose another variant or corollary; one which doesn't necessarily mention the name of Hitler or the term "fascism". It is the "law of genocidal intentions", which can also be termed as "reductio ad exterminium," . It can be described as follows:

Every discussion about environmental policy, sooner or later someone will accuse someone else of genocidal intentions, that is of planning to exterminate most of humankind

This seems to apply especially when the environmental policy being discussed has to do with population. In this form, one of the first examples goes back to the the publication of "The Limits to Growth" in 1972. The sponsors of the study, the Club of Rome were later accused of being an evil organization dedicated to the extermination of most of the world's population. They were even accused to have created the AIDS virus specifically for this purpose. Needless to say, "The Limits to Growth" or the members of the Club of Rome never ever recommended - or even remotely conceived - anything like that. But the legend remains widespread as you can see by googling, e.g. "club of rome" together with "extermination" or "depopulation." See also a post of mine titled "How the Limits to Growth was demonized"

The law of reductio ad exterminium doesn't apply just to discussions about population. It pops out more or less in any discussion involving environmental policies, in particular those related to climate change. In this case, any action designed to reduce the damage involved with global warming may be defined as aiming, in reality, to the extermination of most of humankind. A recent example involves a paper by Lawrence Torcello, where the author expressed the opinion that:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent

Note that Torcello said that what should be criminalized is only the funding of climate denial by those who have "a financial or political interest in inaction." He never said that about people expressing their opinion on this matter. But the "law of genocidal intentions" immediately kicked in. For a report on the hate campaign unleashed against Lawrence Torcello, see this article by Graham Redfearn. Here are a couple of examples taken from the Web:

So, what happens when we discover there is not enough prison space anywhere to house the 2/3 of America guilty of Climatic Blasphemy? I guess executions will be necessary, which suits the whole Agenda 21, environmentalism-as-religion philosophy just fine, since such people believe at least 80% of the planet's population needs to be eliminated for things to be sustainable. (link)

What is the logical extension of jail time? Taken to its end, Torcello’s philosophy leads to execution. You may think that’s crazy, but you’d be wrong. This is how fascism begins. Liberal philosophy evolved always leads to fascism. As they say, the path to hell is paved with good intentions (link)

These laws, Godwin's law or the reductio ad exterminium, look almost funny, but what we are seeing is the complete degeneration of the debate: a true "reductio ad vituperium." Will we ever be able to set up a rational discussion on any important subject? Probably not, and that's a real tragedy in a moment in which we desperately need to find a consensus on what to do to avoid various impending disasters; including climate change.


Note: "exterminium" is a late Latin term which is the origin of the English term "extermination" (see here). Literally, it means "outside the borders" and figuratively can be taken as meaning "destroy" or "kill". "Vituperium", instead, can be simply translated as "insult" and it has been coopted in various ways in the modern English language. 

1 comment:

  1. I think Global Warming is the only and true Hitler. And Global Warming will not make distinctions between GW deniers or not. We all end up as its victims.