Alex Gourevitch at n+1:

“While Democrats have become increasingly uncomfortable with the anti-democratic consequences of the hard power of the war on terror, they seem more comfortable with a ‘soft power’ politics of fear: environmentalism. Environmentalism is one of the few movements on the left that presents itself in the same totalizing political terms that the war on terror does on the right, and its influence only seems to grow as the war on terror’s influence declines. The New York Times’ bellwether of elite opinion, Thomas Friedman, recently swung around to the new framework…

The global warming argument can be as morally coercive as the infamous ticking time-bomb torture scenario, even if the clock ticks slower. It’s not just that we should unite; we are, as Gore puts it, ‘forced by circumstance’ to act.”

Trolls please note that Gourevitch is not making the discredited argument that global warming is nonexistent or harmless. He’s talking about the way in which real problems — terrorism and environmental deterioration alike — tend to be discussed these days, as if the facts dictate one response and one only.

“In the face of real political opportunities, there is always an element of freedom. One chooses between two alternatives, picks a principle, and commits to it. Imagining ecological collapse as an overweening crisis demanding immediate action and collective sacrifice, with emergency decisions overriding citizens’ normal wants and wishes, is not really a politics at all, but the suspension of politics – there is no political choice, no constituencies to balance, nothing to deliberate. There is no free activity, just do or die. It seems we will have traded one state of emergency for another.”