No, seriously!

The post I made yesterday – it isn’t a wind-up. It is, though, a bit of a troll.
But note what I’m not saying. I’m not saying the issues are being addressed – I’m just saying we have won the argument about whether they should be. (To draw a very useful comparison, Scott brings up the feminism and racism issues – those arguments have been well and truly won, but as Scott points out the implementation of this victory is far from complete.)
I could have phrased the post more simply, as this: ‘public opinion has shifted about the Iraq war and about climate change, and is now in line with what the progressive movement has been saying for some time’. I am also saying, sorry KiZ, that the shift in public opinion is irrevocable. It’s a judgment call, of course, but I’m making it. The jury is in on both issues, just like it came in on the racism/sexism issues some time back.
Still, making any claims about public opinion is automatically dodgy territory – by what right do I proclaim on such a construct? By what evidence can anyone know public opinion? What, in fact, does public opinion mean?
Those questions are interesting, but you know what? Don’t matter to me. I’m making a claim. It might be premature, but I’m making it. (And I think it’s the right call, and I’ll talk about that in a sec.) But…. all those details I provided – the personal narrative, the allusive ‘evidence’, the invocation of the recent election – they were all far too flimsy to be an argument, right? Yeah, I didn’t post an argument, I posted a narrative. A mythology. So here’s another line of inquiry: what on earth was I trying to achieve?

So, given that I just said that defending my claims is unnecessary, I’d better get on and do just that. The two examples I used aren’t really equivalent. They talk about different scales of public opinion, and different kinds of argument, and different kinds of change. I address ’em both here in their different ways.
I claim that public opinion on the Iraq war has shifted. Specifically, that It is no longer in dispute that [the military removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime] was not the right thing to do, and [the invasion of Iraq] wasn’t the way to do it.. In response, Liz commented:

The Democratic victory was in response to much short sighted discontent including changing opinions on Iraq because it’s taking too long with too many American deaths, not that the decision to go to war was itself wrong.

‘Taking too long with too many American deaths’ is exactly what the progressive movement foretold. All other reasons for the wrongness of the invasion aside, this was foreseen. Also foreseen was the other, unspoken, side of this comment: there were no WMDs. There was no urgent need for war. This response doesn’t contradict my statement – it is evidence for its veracity. To think otherwise is to misunderstand what the progressive movement was actually saying in 2002/2003. Of course, there has been continual misrepresentation of what the movement was saying, so that sort of confusion is understandable. Tony Blair in particular repeatedly answered any and all criticism with ‘Saddam is a monster’, as if that was ever in dispute. No, I stand by this one, for sure.
Climate Change
I claim that public opinion on climate change has shifted. Specifically, It is no longer in dispute that climate change is real and caused by human activity. Several people took me to task, but I stand by this claim.
I think public opinion has passed the tipping point on this in the last six months. Maybe not in the US, but in the wider global “public landscape of ideas”, it’s a done deal. Sure, there’ll still be arguments. Sure, lots of key people (e.g. the Bush administration) will continue to deny it or to stall. But I think we’re over the hump on this one. The jury has come in, and word is spreading. That’s my perception. Yours might be different. S’cool.

5 thoughts on “No, seriously!”

  1. I completely agree with you Morgue, on the narrative you’re striving for, and the goals you are reaching towards.
    However, I still feel that you’re on shaky ground with your statement vis a vis Iraq.
    From my readings and watching across the US media, there is no general consensus that the removal of the Hussein government by force was wrong.
    There is a growing agreement (except on Fox, o’course) that what has happened *after* the invasion was a poorly planned, miserably mis-judged disaster. There is a growing voice that the Bush administration needs to be punished for “losing the peace,” hence the recent Democrat success.
    And there’s a growing acceptance that there were voices, previously marginalised, who were warning that this would happen in 2002 and earlier.
    However, the awareness of those voices hasn’t created a feeling that “we should’ve listened and never gone to war.” No, the response is “we should’ve listened, and made better plans for the occupation.”
    However, all said and done, it’s not really an important debate for us to have. We on “the left” won’t gain anything by going “nyah nyah, we told you so.” That will just keep us at the outskirts, because no one likes being told they were wrong (and, being told you were wrong makes it even harder to admit that you were).
    Because, at the end of the day, the invasion happened, right or wrong, supported or not. And while history can and will be written and re-written, some facts will always remain embeded.
    You hit on the key word when you mentioned “implementation.” There’s an awareness that there were previously marginalised voice who have turned out to be right on the money about Iraq. What needs to be done now is to use that awareness to try and ensure that those voices won’t be marginalised in the future.
    The invasion of Iraq can’t be stopped, but the lessons from that well help stop the invasion of Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela.
    So, where is this long ramble headed? Where it started – that I agree with you Morgue, that the debate is over, now to move onwards evermore.

  2. It would’ve been better if I’d bothered to grammer and spell check it.
    But, hey, I never do those things, so why change the habits of a lifetime? 😉

  3. In order to state that the public landscape of ideas has shifted irrevocably to accommodate these two victories, I think you need to get agreement from both sides of the political spectrum. I accept you are talking about the public landscape here rather than the political landscape, but until the Republicans as a party, and therefore the 50% of Americans, as well as the Democrates and the 50% of American they represent, actually change their party policies, I don’t think victory can be claimed. Beyond moaning about petrol prices and the odd reference to Al Gore, I just didn’t see any evidence during the recent election that the environment played any role. The was was definitely there as were sordid gay stories and corrupion all the way up capital hill, but sadly, the environment… And on that note, I don’t think the environment was even going to feature in APEC except that Clark had to lobby hard to get it mentioned. If there was an irrevocable shift, I would have thought the leaders of major polluters: China, Japan and the US would have tackled the problem head on. Sadly, not. Where there has been a paradigm shift is by the car companies that have been hit because of the increase in petrol prices, and they are being driven by economic considerations to produce hybrid and non-oil using vehicles. But the cynic in me says that is much more about $$$ than it is about caring about the environment.
    I really wish I could agree that there has been an irrevocable movement where the environment is concerned, and there has truly been some remarkable progress, but until the major parties in the major countries make a determined policy effort to embrace protection of the environment, I don’t see we are there yet.
    Let me demonstrate what I mean with my ramble here and use the example of gay marriage/civil unions in the UK. Up until recently, the esablished Tory party was against them. Indeed, they introduced legislation that made it essentially illegal for the gay lift to be discussed in school. Labout got into power, re-wrote the book and now is it not only permissible to talk about homosexuality in schools, but the ability to enter into a civil union also exists. And the Tory party has come out (ahem) and supports the legislation publicly stating that there is no place for discrimination against gay people and there is no move to repeal the legislation. That, I would argue, is a fundamental movement in the landscape of UK politics.

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