The last weekend of April delivered one of the more enjoyable spectacles of 2017. It wasn't
No, the most amusing show over the weekend was the collective case of the vapors across the liberal left establishment over
Until recently, Stephens was a columnist for the
So what was so funny?
First, there was the substantive reaction.
Stephens wrote that the "warming of the earth since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming." The work of climate scientists is "scrupulous," Stephens insisted, and he went on to clarify that he does not "deny" climate change.
The reaction? A Slate headline captured it well: "
When someone says that he is not denying climate change and concedes that it's real, that is "classic climate change denialism"? Huh. What words do we have left for people who call the whole thing a hoax? In civil debates, when someone concedes much of your premise, the proper reaction is not to scream "liar!" or "heretic!"
And that brings me to the second, and more amusing, thing about all of this. You've been trolled, people.
Recall that Stephens is said to have left the Journal because he was swimming against the currents of the Trumpified right. What better way to inaugurate his new column than with a splash, earning back some populist street cred by making liberals set their hair on fire and causing an (alleged) onslaught of canceled subscriptions? All the while, he invited hordes of conservatives to defend him and mock his critics.
As a fellow columnist, I doff my cap to you, sir.
It wasn't hard to trick liberals into going offsides. In the past, Stephens was a more acid-tongued critic of climate change research. But the column in question was a model of restraint that when read by non-ideologues and non-combatants must have seemed utterly reasonable, even a tad banal.
I particularly enjoyed Wemple's first question: "Please condense the argument that Stephens makes in the piece."
Wemple's a clever fellow. I'm sure he understands Stephens' point about the dangers of certainty, particularly based on sophisticated mathematical models that have been proven wrong in the past.
What I think sailed past Wemple and so "many, many people" was Stephens' subtler point about the sanctimonious condescension of people who claim to be motivated solely by their passionate care for the planet.
Stephens' sin isn't dishonesty, it's heresy. He's refusing to concede that one group of people has a total monopoly on defining not just the problem but the acceptable responses to it. Such dissent is not a crime against science; it's a threat to a guild. And the guild took the bait.