Valentine's Day on Twitter is typically a day when most people flood the platform with sappy tweets and acerbic quips on singledom. Not Jordan Peterson. The right-wing provocateur marked the day by trolling 20-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg with a creepy tweet about her new book on climate solutions.
"What's the carbon footprint of the book, dearie?" goaded the 60-year-old climate denier before ironically suggesting she was "so important, such niceties don't apply." The post was one among a flood of similar attacks on Thunberg — cue her epic December Twitter battle with professional misogynist and alleged sex trafficker Andrew Tate — by right-wing male climate deniers.
That is no coincidence. Researchers have found a tight relationship between harmful forms of masculinity, right-wing extremism and the refusal to deal with the climate crisis. Fostered by the fossil fuel industry, this confluence has been dubbed "petro-masculinity" by Cara Daggett, a Virginia Tech professor and climate sociologist, to describe a form of masculinity where using fossil fuels is a way to express an individualistic and patriarchal type of masculinity.
Symbols of petro-masculinity, like souped-up trucks and highly gendered divisions of labour, show up repeatedly in climate disinformation where they simultaneously hinder climate action and fuel authoritarianism. Environmentalists and politicians must consider this mindset in their efforts to tackle the climate crisis, gender inequality and political polarization, she said.
Fossil fuels provide petrol and plastic. But for some people — particularly white, conservative, North American men — they underpin culture, she explained. Measures to phase them out in the face of climate catastrophe can easily be perceived as a threat to these people's sense of culture and self-worth, imposed by a vague group of elites. These perceptions serve to make climate action a political hot potato.
"We've seen … the climate denial groups morph into (misogyny) seamlessly, in a way that indicates it's a core value," explained Michael Khoo, a strategic communications expert and former lead campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. "A lot of those groups have been part of building the infrastructure of the radical right-wing, which is now an amorphous hotbed of vitriol that has taken on energy policy as a core tenet."
Peterson is among Canada's most infamous climate deniers. The ex-professor has become a household name for his regressive views and antagonistic opinions on culture war topics like gender, race, sexual politics and COVID-19. He has about 6.5 million YouTube subscribers and is often featured on right-wing podcasts and at public events.
What people are reading
Recent years have seen Peterson increasingly delve into the climate change conversation, largely by denying it exists and presenting erroneous pseudo-science to back up his claims. Take recent tweets promoting a pro-fossil fuel lobbyist or falsely suggesting climate measures will allow "tyrants" to take away people's "cars," "flights," or "luxury."
Canadian conservative content creators regularly decry climate change and gender equality on their platforms. These include People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, who leads a climate-denying political party and has links to right-wing extremists. Like Peterson, he has attacked Thunberg for her climate activism.
While these kinds of online personalities play a major role in spreading climate disinformation and bolstering petro-masculinity, researchers have found that social media networks are equally important. A 2022 study of the use of the term "climate" on Facebook found some of the groups referring to it most widely on the social media platform were prominent right-wing groups known for spreading climate disinformation, most headed by men.
Topping the list was conservative communications strategist Jeff Ballingal's network of "Proud" pages, including Canada Proud and Ontario Proud. The pages received about 118,000 engagements on climate between December 2019 and December 2020, making them the sixth-most popular group to post about climate.
True North Canada, a right-wing content creator, was the 10th-most engaged-with group. The organization has helped spread climate disinformation and amplified the messages of right-wing influencers like Peterson. Senior researcher Cosmin Dzsurdza regularly attacks climate action — most recently plans to reduce emissions from fertilizer, bolstering months of disinformation and conspiracy theories — and progressive gender politics. A 2019 Canada's National Observer investigation uncovered that he has strong links to far-right groups.
Still, University of Regina climate sociologist Emily Eaton warned that while Peterson and his ilk take “up a lot of room and [do] a lot of damage," the fossil fuel industry poses an equal, or larger, threat.
"Behind the scenes, the industry has been working at ensuring their workers identify with a suite of things that are highly masculinized," like big trucks and "hard work" in the oilpatch, she explained. Peterson is "reflecting back something deeper and much more grassroots" that has been fostered by oil and gas companies and lobby groups for decades.
The fossil fuel industry "very knowingly" ties its products to nostalgia for a post-Second World War society where fossil fuels and patriarchy dominate, she said. Take a recent ad for a job at Suncor's Port Moody, B.C. marine terminal, where a short video touting the company's history extracting oil in northern Alberta frames its first refinery as "historic" and a "leap of faith" towards what former Alberta premier Ernest Manning dubbed the "continual progress and enrichment of mankind."
Or simply, ads for trucks.
These industry narratives are a boon for right-wing politicians and online personalities, who tap into "nostalgia" for the era's social norms and economic possibilities to push climate disinformation, Daggett, the Virginia Tech professor, explained.
"Losing oil is seen as a threat to that way of life — and it is," particularly for white men in industries linked to fossil fuels, she said. Governments and environmentalists need to acknowledge this, she added, and devise ways to tackle the cultural and economic shifts it entails. Without offering people alternatives to austerity politics, and ways to make up for real losses in job security, wages and functional public infrastructure, governments risk fuelling petro-masculine nostalgia and authoritarianism.
"It's important to stress that these things have to be addressed," she said. "Otherwise, we're facing a serious political crisis."
Petro-masculinity: "using fossil fuels is a way to express an individualistic and patriarchal type of masculinity."
I guess that explains the cars, trucks, and motorbikes with modified mufflers roaring up and down the street, deafening pedestrians during the day and keeping the populace awake at night.
And "rolling coal" at cyclists.
"Driver Posts Video Rolling Coal on Cyclists—and Is Surprised by the Consequences"
"Texas DA Charges 'Rolling Coal' Teen Who Hit Cyclists "
It also helps to explain why people idle their cars and trucks (sometimes for hours), while also blaming Trudeau and his dreaded "carbon tax" for the high price of gas.
No shortage of fossil-fuel defenders with two X chromosomes: Danielle Smith, Vivian Krause, Rachel Notley, Christy Clark, Tamara Lich, Deborah Yedlin, Diane Francis, Donna Kennedy-Glans, Martha Hall Findlay, Anne McLellan, Heather Exner-Pirot. Not all right-wingers, either.
"Peterson is among Canada's
"Peterson is among Canada's most infamous climate deniers."
No shortage of fossil-fuel defenders with Liberal and NDP party cards.
Climate change denial comes in two flavours: explicit à la National Post or implicit à la federal Liberals and provincial NDP.
Denial with a frown à la Stephen Harper or with a smile à la Justin.
It is a fundamental error to limit the discussion on climate denial to right-wing troglodytes.
Petro-progressives like Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan claim to accept the climate change science, but still push pipelines, approve LNG projects, promote oilsands expansion, subsidize fossil fuels, and let Corporate Canada and the Big Banks dictate the climate agenda.
The Liberals' climate sins are long and many. The Liberals have proved far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda. Trudeau & Co. have persuaded many Canadians that we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels.
Trudeau and Notley moved the ball on the Trans Mountain pipeline down to the ten-yard line. Their signal achievement was to "push country-wide support for pipelines from 40 per cent to 70 per cent." Something Harper, Scheer, Kenney, and Poilievre could never dream of doing.
Corporate Canada's plan to fail on climate was set in motion long before the current government came to power. The Liberals are delivering on Corporate Canada's agenda willingly and effectively.
Conservative opposition did not force Trudeau to buy the Trans Mtn pipeline.
Or promise to sell more fossil fuels to fund climate action.
Or shovel billions of tax dollars into the pockets of largely foreign-funded oil companies reporting record profits.
Or approve provincial carbon pricing schemes that let major industrial emitters off the hook.
That's on them, not on conservatives.
Big Oil couldn't ask for a better setup. Terrified by the Conservative bogeyman, progressive voters run into the arms of Trudeau's Liberals. CAPP sets their Conservative hounds on the Liberals, while the Liberals give the O&G industry just about everything on its wishlist. The Liberals play the fear card every election to limit the NDP and Green vote.
That's the real story on climate politics in Canada. That's the dynamic that real journalism needs to report. That's the impasse we need to solve.
Male primate aggression has
Male primate aggression has another obvious manifestation: war and militarism.
The military and security agencies are under no illusions about climate change.
The Pentagon and NATO call climate change a "threat multiplier". Not exactly flaming lefties.
"The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Defense Department's major planning blueprint for the next four years, calls climate change an 'accelerant of instability' and a 'threat multiplier'."
"Climate change is real: Just ask the Pentagon" (LA Times)
A CP story this week:
"Climate change threatens Canadian security, prosperity, warns stark spy agency brief"
"[The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)] warns that climate change poses a profound, ongoing threat to national security and prosperity...
"...CSIS spells out several concerns presented by global warming, ranging from looming dangers to Arctic, coastal and border security to serious pressures on food and water supplies.
"The spy service says its preliminary examination determines that climate change 'presents a complex, long-term threat to Canada’s safety, security and prosperity outcomes.'
"'There will be no single moment where this threat will crystallize and reveal itself, for it is already underway and will incrementally build across decades to come.'
"...Human migration might grow to unprecedented volume due to newly uninhabitable territory, extreme weather events, drought and food shortages, and human conflict zones, CSIS says.
"...Overall, climate change will undermine global critical infrastructure, threaten health and safety, create new scarcity and spark global competition, and might open the door to regional or international conflicts, the CSIS brief says.
"Put simply, climate change compounds all other known human security issues and serves as an accelerant towards negative security outcomes."
"Climate change threatens Canadian security, prosperity, warns stark spy agency brief" (CP, Mar 05, 2023)
So which message prevails among angry white conservative males?
In The Calgary Herald comments section, military/security concerns do not even make a dent in climate change denialism.
Online comments: Quick disconnect your furnace... save the planet. I thought climate change meant no more snow? Biggest scam since COVID."
"'Modeling shows....could happen....anticipation...possible loss...looming dangers'.....if, if , if. Climate Change...the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the human race."
Has it ever occurred to you
Has it ever occurred to you Geoffrey, that commenting at length, more than once, on an article, just might prove the general point this article is making??? White men often have a great deal to say........on every topic.....and too often they also take it personally when that fact is noted.
I can imagine verbosity on all sides of an issue, and the problem it causes is often the same. Listening suffers, conversation suffers, dialogue doesn't happen.
We all need to learn more techniques to 'turn each other on' as opposed to monopolizing the available space with what we know.
Of course, if you read the
Of course, if you read the history of climate warnings, attempts to get fossil companies and governments to see the problem, you don't find many names that are not white men, on either side:
...James Hansen, Carl Sagan, Steve Schneider, whole secret-adviser "Jason" group that I'd never heard of...
Contrast, of course, to Danielle Smith.
...by the way, while googling to check that the the main parties in the news about the Anglia Climate Research Unit, the one that got hacked in "climategate", was/is white guys, I found that BBC is doing a movie about that event...and that many of the news sources that haughtily proclaimed Anglia was lying, are now refusing BBC the clips of themselves doing that. How embarrassed they must be by their work.
Thanks for the links Roy;
Thanks for the links Roy; with such excellent media as The Guardian I can never understand how conservatives have held onto power there for so long.
And I'm wondering why we never heard of "The Trick" at all when it's such a central plank and a wedge for the denialism narrative! It's like no one is parsing the deluge of information anymore, they've just given up under the onslaught.
In googling the movie on BBC I see they DO have links to sucide prevention hotlines though. This is where we are right now, this superficial phony emotional treatment of EVERYTHING. If it was negatively reviewed as a movie per se, rather than an explanation of what actually happened, that would probably be enough to consign it to the dustbin as it were. Never mind how seminal that explanation would be to the climate science.
And that "low-drama" narrative chosen by science, choosing the ivory tower idea, is portrayed as a generational attitude, which it is, and in retrospect it's starting to make sense. It's like the wizard in "The Wizard of Oz" where he has more power behind the curtain.
As often happens I find the
As often happens I find the commenters on Nat Observer, filling the holes in my understanding of current affairs. My lackadaisical pursuit of "news" - often limited to headlines - is greatly enriched by those who make a habit of in-depth analysis. Some would call them obsessive-compulsive, I call them useful adjuncts correcting my faults. I am not an uncritical consumer of both professional and hobbyist analysis of events. My sources are varied but rarely come from the right/far right spectrum. There is something about the tone that puts me off even before the outrageousness registers. Is it the evangelical raving? Perhaps.
My process is slow but grinds along, as pieces of evidence pile up; corroborating or contradicting other pieces and eventually I arrive by osmosis at a more or less coherent portrait of a given situation. My conclusions sometimes worry me as confirmation bias (a term that has only recently entered my lexicon) but equally I have a life long history of questioning and skepticism that dates back to my very early years of listening, willy nilly to radio broadcasts from Lake Success as the United Nations' formative discussions took place. My mother, in retrospect, a very odd women for the late '40's & early '50's, followed the proceedings avidly, and was particularly incensed by the bombast and vengefulness of the Soviet Union. Some of the other diplomats also earned her scorn. Late in my life I have come to the conclusion that she, brought up in an evangelical Baptist household, was all too familiar with the speciousness and prevarication of political exhortings. Her attitudes seeped into my character.
I have been enlightened by the article's connections; and my instincts; already bubbling in my brain, were confirmed without, I hope, bias. My conclusions are that the deliberate stoking of toxic masculinity to further the delusions of superiority and the predatory accumulation of wealth; are only to be expected - given the dismal millennia of human aggression, war, and drive for domination. It appears that for all our claims to sophisticated intellectual progress, evolution has not yet managed to subdue our hard wired flight or fight panic.
Gee, do I have to spread
Gee, do I have to spread toxic masculinity and climate denialism is I'm a white male? Really?
Is it all about championing your tribe and trashing the other tribes?
If a white man gets upset, does that mean he is gaslighting?
Gee, do I have to spread
Gee, do I have to spread toxic masculinity and climate denialism "if" I'm a white male? Really?
The article didn't say you
The article didn't say you must spread anything. But it would be nice if more males of good conscience responded to some of the trash talk on line.....calling for more civility and less denial of obvious realities.
I sometimes think a lot of men are more afraid of the climate deniers than we realize.....because they do continue to take up more space than their opinions warrant....and they are dreadfully rude and dismissive, to say the least.
1/2 First, I'll acknowledge
1/2 First, I'll acknowledge and sign on to Geoffrey's comments. (Glad you added the coal rolling, Geoffrey; few actions scream "immature man-child" quite as clearly).
Second, a few weeks back I learned through the local paper that Jordan Peterson was scheduled to soon hold-forth at the local NHL-club's hockey arena; in response, a group was organizing to shut him down and prevent him speaking. As it happens, a few weeks before I had come across a YouTube video of an appearance of John Kenneth Galbraith appearing, decades ago, on Firing Line with William F. Buckley (it's easy to find and I recommend watching even the first few minutes). Suffice to say they were of differing opinion, and they were aware of that fact going in. Neither sought to prevent the other from speaking. They debated. Honestly, I find it tiresome to continue hearing about yet another speaker being "shut down" rather than debated.
Newsflash : Jordan Peterson holds views that some people find offensive.
Wokeness has a reasonable definition in the dictionary (essentially, it's simply awareness); however, on the street it seems to too often translate into "I'm right, you're wrong and, because I find your views distasteful and/or disrespectful and/or offensive, I'm going to try to prevent you from sharing your views". Is that a truly effective counter?
I'm hoping a follow-up to this line of inquiry will speak to discriminating between, and identifying, root causes and symptoms. Looking south, Trump is viewed by many as merely a symptom, a view I subscribe to. The root cause lies elsewhere. Similarly, I can't see petroleum as the root cause of our problems; it's just black sticky stuff without an agenda. What's the root cause?
Lastly I am in a constant state of amazement that the pro-climate-action commentariat consistently peddles the idea that effective climate action will not cause or require any changes to our lifestyles; the corresponding phrase in this article is
“…falsely suggesting climate measures will allow "tyrants" to take away people's "cars," "flights," or "luxury."”
I think it is fair to say, at this juncture looking ahead, that we can’t be even remotely certain what the lifestyle of an average Canadian will look like 40 years hence. Does the commentariat believe that we will be able to, in the coming decades, consume resources at the same rate as has been our want over the last several generations? We may not have tyrants telling us what we can and cannot do, but it is possible that travel may not be as prevalent as it is today. It might be that personal vehicles will no longer be needed or desired.
I’d suggest we don’t know how the future will unfold. All we can do is look for the next couple of rocks on the path to the other side of the river: stop pumping out greenhouse gases; stop destroying ecosystems; respect the inherent rights to existence of every other species on the planet; use the wealth of the society to ensure the health of the society; discipline our greed and temper our entitlements.
I think the current summary
I think the current summary dismissal of the right wing's "views" is a natural consequence of the very same right wing also being wholly responsible for the whole post-truth mess we're currently in. It's something they did not only cavalierly but deliberately, like a bunch of rebellious juvenile males, throwing our whole evolved civilization as we know it up in the air, recognizing the appeal and sheer novelty of introducing intense emotional conflict in a society like ours that has evolved to be broadly "conflict-averse society."
To go THAT rogue at THAT political level (Trump) is kind of like what Putin's doing with the international rules of order. It's motivated by greed for power, but revenge figures in there too. jAs a woman who came of age during the 60's and the rise of feminism (I bought the daring book "Our Bodies, Ourselves") , and a person who was also raised in male-dominated rural Alberta, the spirit of which still very much informs conservatism everywhere now, I see feminism as a root cause. Talk about upsetting the world order; women being "in charge" is can be seen as pure heresy, comparable to even a half-black man becoming president. Heresy because of the inherent power of women as mothers, which also explains climate science denialism being defiance of "Mother Nature."
And thanks to social media, this massive case of oppositional defiance disorder has been put on steroids.
Failure to rein in our own
Failure to rein in our own fossil fuel consumption, and exports to feed the fossil fuel addiction of wealthy people in other countries, are making ever increasing parts of the planet unfit for human habitation. This generates a stream of climate refugees. Some come to Canada, maintaining population growth and economic growth. This creates an incentive to keep subsidizing the industry. Before he died last year, James Lovelock predicted that life will move up to the Arctic basin because only it and a few islands will remain habitable, This is also the belief of the people living around Great Bear Lake. Sahtuto’ine elder Eht’se Ayah, who died in 1940, foretold that in the future, people from the south would come to Great Bear Lake because it would be one of the few places left with water to drink and fish to eat - a last refuge for humanity. Canadians are making these prophecies a reality.
White men have the most to
White men have the most to say about just about everything. Thanks for noticing Max.