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.
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.