In case you missed it, lately we've been going through "Deny, Deceive, Delay," the new report on digital climate disinformation illustrating the extent of the problem and suggesting some steps towards solutions in the digital space.
Today we're stepping back from the report's topline finding to discuss the implication that the opponents to climate action are increasingly comfortable being explicitly hateful, and physically and metaphorically attacking LGBTQ+ people, Black people, people who don't want to catch Covid, and people who want reproductive control over their body.
While the fossil fuel industry has spent decades integrating itself into the Republican party, there has traditionally been some distinction between the "professional" operatives who wear suits and ties and dine with lawmakers at the Capital Grill and/or Tortilla Coast (RIP) with briefcases of campaign contributions, and the John Birch Society turned Q-Anon conspiracy theorists and explicit white supremacists who stoke the outrage necessary to turn turn out voters in support of a platform favoring industry billionaires over policies that would objectively help them.
Four years of the Trump presidency, culminating in the January 6th attempt to violently overthrow the United States government, should have put to rest any notion that the bulk of the modern Republican party is interested in participating in democracy fairly and in good faith.
In the two years since the disinformation machine built by fossil fuel funders to spread climate disinformation was used to organize and instigate an attempted fascist takeover of the country in the midst of the global pandemic, then it was used to turn its audience against basic public health measures. But that wasn't enough either, so then they ran a white supremacy campaign to burn books teaching about slavery under the CRT banner, and have turned their sights back to a perennial favorite target of authoritarians: LGBTQ+ rights, specifically Trans people.
Take one of the highest-profile anti-Trans bigots whose multi-media propaganda is pushed to virality by broken social media algorithms all too often these days: Matt Walsh. He works at Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire, which if you've forgotten, is backed by billionaire fracking Wilks brothers. (Which if you've forgotten, joined with the big oil billionaire-backed Koch network to use the wealth they accrued destroying the climate in order to bend the political system to their greedy, racist, patriarchal desires.)
So while climate change scientists shouldn't be expected to fix systemic racism, and racial justice advocates shouldn't be expected to confront the fossil fuel industry and end the climate crisis, and neither group could alone secure reproductive healthcare rights that abortion activists have secured, and none of those professional advocacy sectors can be solely responsible for keeping Pride safe from violently homophobic, anti-Trans bigots … the reality is that we are not separate groups fighting our own individual fights on multiple different fronts. We are side by side, whether or not everyone acknowledges it, because the opposition certainly does.
Each of our communities are bound by a vision of a safe, healthy, inclusive future, and we are all united in the unmistakable fact that the venn diagram of the opposition to progress on our issues is in fact a nearly perfect circle.
This means you, old white climate activist who thinks this pronoun thing is getting a bit much, have been drafted by your opponents in the fossil fuel industry's covert defense team into supporting people's right to be addressed with respect. You don't have to understand it to respect it, but if you ignore it, you can be sure the opposition is filling the void left by your silence with hateful rhetoric to recruit new followers to try and turn back the clock.
The fossil fuel industry has used its profits to fund a disinformation ecosystem to protect its polluting products from regulation, and billionaires like the Kochs actively recruited bigoted religious extremists and anti-abortion activists into the the Republican party the fossil fuel industry's campaign contributions keep well-resourced.
As a result, there's an online disinformation ecosystem, fertilized by the fossil fuel industry's ample funding in order to carry their disinformation, but increasingly home to the hungry weeds and poisonous wildflowers popping up around Big Oil's crop of climate denial. Those viral voices are plying the rich vein of hate that's plagued the United States since its founding on a stolen continent, and our options are to improve the social conditions that give their scapegoating appeal, re-ostracize their regressive and outdated prejudices, or give up and succumb to hate.
That's not a fun fact. But it's one the climate community must reckon with if it is to secure its ultimate aim of a safe and stable climate and resilient communities.
Because the failure to do so carries consequences, and the bodies are stacking up. In Christchurch, in El Paso, in Buffalo, mass murderers who bought into a version of climate change that didn't incorporate civil rights and social justice, for want of keeping the issue free from the supposed distractions of white supremacy, were instead enticed by the vicious hatemongering allowed to run rampant on social media.
Climate messaging that doesn't center the larger social struggle for liberation is being co-opted against it, whether you like it or not.
So happy Pride, climate friends, and a reminder: Juneteenth is coming!