Saturday, May 18, 2019

On cult leadership

Andrew Scheer's scheming with oil lobbyists in advance of this fall's federal election has received at least some attention. But it's worth pointing out just how drastic a step Scheer has taken in aligning himself with a shadowy group trying to push dirty energy sources as "miracles" rather than commercial substances.

By way of background, I'll suggest that for the most part, the public face of oil industry lobbying has involved appeals (even if often inaccurate ones) to what might at least be considered rational instincts.

To be clear, it's long been tiring to hear the constant drumbeat equating Exxon's profits with jobs and economic development - particularly when any reference to real-world evidence has found a tenuous connection between the two in the short term and divergence in interests in the long term. But at least that type of message recognizes that any attempt to justify government action facilitating the development of the oil sector depends on the acknowledgment of other, higher-ranking values - and implicitly allows for the possibility that those values may be better advanced through other means.

And even the most prominent attempt to introduce a values debate to discussion of Canada's oil sector was one which (however falsely) tried to distinguish oil production by location, not to sanctify the concept of fossil fuel production itself.

But now, an increasing proportion of the electorate recognizes the need to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels which all parties including the federal Conservatives once accepted. And it's also becoming obvious that there's no business case for fossil fuel development without accepting the utter destruction of our living environment.

In other words, the conflict between human interests and fossil fuel profits is one which can no longer be hand-waved away. 

And so we're now seeing the emergence of rhetoric turning the worship of dirty energy into a new religion - with Scheer joining Jason Kenney and Scott Moe as the highest-ranking and most prominent messengers in the effort to convert the public to the cause of valuing oil production above any human interest.

The obvious results of the campaign even in its infancy include the eager adoption of the religious language by right-wing commentators - in some cases coupled with an attempt to set up false sectarian wars.

They include Kenney's plan for a "war room" intended to ensure that any mere people who try to speak up for our planet get shouted down by publicly-funded propagandists.

And they've also included attempts to brand as heretics and public enemies well-respected journalists, scientists and public servants.

Of course, as noted toward the end of Liam Denning's report here, the fossil fuel industry itself has used the wording of religious doctrine to distinguish between in-groups and out-groups for decades.

But it's a new development for mainstream politicians to be openly using their positions of power to serve as missionaries for a death cult. And we should use any politician's willing association with the attempt to build a religion around oil - whether in collaborating directly, mirroring messages, or uncritically accepting policy goals - as a litmus test indicating a gross lack of fitness for office.