Fascism’s Twisted Take on Climate Change

Longview, Washington. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The climate catastrophe has caught fascism’s evil eye. First it spawned eco-fascism, a creed founded on lies about immigrants and population control. More people migrating to first world countries, eco-fascists say, means more people with outsized carbon footprints. Better for those immigrants to stay home, having less climate impact, than coming here to indulge in our red meat, SUVs and guns.

Eco-fascism also posits that there are too many people in the world – read black and brown people. Fewer people mean a healthier climate, so this deviously false reasoning goes. But this neo-Malthusian nonsense conveniently ignores the fact that most people on the globe, billions of them have a very small climate impact. Millions in Bangladesh, drowning in climate catastrophe-caused flooding, have tiny carbon footprints compared to, say, the U.S. military, one of the planet’s pre-eminent carbon emitters. Subsistence farmers in Central America do nowhere near the climate damage of industrial agriculture, or corporate fossil fuel capitalists, fracking companies or even just North American suburbanites. The problem is not numerous poor people. It’s rich people – and their obscenely opulent corporations and the militaries they deploy to defend their wealth.

Then last year, Australia burned. When climate change thus became undeniable, radical right-wingers tried a new diversionary tactic: blame the left. Right-wing politicians and Rupert Murdoch’s rabidly reactionary Newscorp spread the lies that left-wingers and environmentalists set Australia’s fires. Those fires, according to Vice, “burned an area larger than South Korea, killed over 30 people and resulted in the deaths of millions of animals.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison downplayed the role of the climate catastrophe, while climate-change denying propagandists, including Murdoch’s Newscorp, wouldn’t shut up. Trump picked up the “environmentalists did it” lie and disseminated it further.

Then this past summer, the West Coast burned. Actually, parts of it still burn. It did so because of globally warmed, extremely dry weather, which is the direct result of huge corporations abetting the burning of fossil fuels. These fires had nothing to do with raking and nothing to do with antifa. But that didn’t stop both lies from gaining wide currency. According to NBC, the falsehood that antifa set the fires metastasized in neighborhood Facebook groups and on far-right websites. It wasn’t just that the Trumpian know-nothings took over, it was worse. Actively promoted, flagrant lies, inciting violence against unspecified leftists, took over. And they were dangerous.

The Douglas County, Oregon Sheriff’s office said it was “overrun with…inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires.” QAnon also got into the act, and NBC reported that a fire-fighters union in Washington State called Facebook “an absolute cesspool of misinformation right now.” Once again, thank Facebook for polluting public discourse with so much fake news, people didn’t know what to believe.

The authorities knew this “antifa did it” line was a blatant fabrication, but idiot, radical right-wing terrorists believed it. They interfered with people evacuating, which was dangerous. Locals fleeing killer fires had to waste time while imbeciles with guns held them up at self-proclaimed check-points, to ascertain that they weren’t in fact antifa arsonists. Who didn’t exist anyway!

Just as stupid were those radical reactionary armed fanatics who refused to evacuate and insisted on staying in their homes, risking their lives and those of their families, to protect their property from antifa marauders, a threat anyone with a brain could spot as a colossal fabrication in 10 seconds. But right-wingers aren’t the brightest bulbs in the batch, as this latest activity proves. They will believe anything, no matter how preposterous, about the left.

These lies about climate change and their hysterical, uncritical, wide acceptance bode very poorly for the future. If we can’t even have a coherent national or global conversation on the subject, informed by science, how on earth can we expect to control the climate catastrophe? Fortunately, lots of other countries ignore the U.S. and Australia and their climate disaster denial. Citizens of Europe take the climate catastrophe seriously, as do their governments. So do many African and Asian countries. That’s where humanity’s future lies: with people and their governments who face, honestly, the death and destruction that rich capitalists have wrought and who move to limit the damage – because it’s too late to stop it altogether – so that some parts of earth remain habitable. The future does not lie with the U.S. and Australia, purveyors of megadeath, who deny what they’ve done as the world burns down in front of them. Liars like the world’s Murdochs, right-wing climate-change denying politicians, fossil fuel corporations and eco-fascists will usher in only one thing: planetary doom. The evidence of that is already all around us.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Lizard People. She can be reached at her website.