April 30, 2007
Judge Global Warming on
Merits, Not Sheryl Crow
Last week, in one of
the decade's more embarrassing celebrity political moments, singer
Sheryl Crow suggested that "a
limitation be put” on how much toilet paper can be used per person per
sitting. The suggestion came
in a Huffington Post
blog post which Crow also suggested other ways in which we can help the
environment in our everyday lives.
warming skeptics and others generally contemptuous of entertainment
types quickly seized on the comment, citing the mediocre singer and
ex-girlfriend of Lance Armstrong as just another clueless Hollywood
lefty, “out of touch” with regular people. There was also much
(admittedly deserved) mockery of how exactly the new TP limitation would
be handled or enforced.
The flap came in the
midst of the Stop Global Warming College Tour,
which Crow is leading along with fellow activist Laurie David.
Crow, for her part, said the suggestion of a uniform national standard
for toilet tissue was “just a joke,” and also made news a few days later
for fulfilling the common liberal fantasy of berating Karl Rove in
public, as she and David confronted the powerful Bush adviser at the
White House Correspondents Association dinner.
Was what Crow said
stupid and ridiculous? Oh yes. Did it make her look awful? Sure it did.
Does this mean that people who believe in global warming are all idiots
too? No, of course not.
And that’s the central
fallacy here. Just because someone we don’t like supports a cause does
not, on its own, drain that cause itself of legitimacy. This is
especially true in the global warming debate, in which a hypocrisy hunt
is underway at all times from warming deniers seeking to make some
celebrity’s alleged overuse of energy/planes/resources into a bigger
story than climate change itself.
We saw this even more
with the recent “scandal” over Al Gore’s house. Reports surfaced in
February from a not-exactly-unbiased think tank called the
for Policy Research that Gore had spent more on energy per
month than most Americans do per year. The reason, it was later
reported, is that Gore purchases “green energy” which increases the cost
of powering his home, while the think tank doing the accusing claimed –
falsely, according to Time magazine – that it had received the
if the accusations were completely true and Gore were an absolute
hypocrite, would it make what he says about global warming any less
true? Climate change is a major part of the national conversation these
days, with major corporations even getting in the act, essentially
because of Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth.
It’s often that the messenger makes us uncomfortable, while
their message is right on. Some of us may not be comfortable with the
“damn dirty hippies” waving Palestinian flags and Bush/Hitler signs at
those rallies back in 2003. But guess what? They were right about Iraq,
and a lot of us weren’t. Meanwhile, there seems to be a tendency on the
right to support something (i.e., the president) just because the left
(or the media) is against it – or to oppose someone (i.e. John McCain)
because the media is for it.
We're going to see more of this later this summer when
Michael Moore's documentary about the American health care system,
Sicko, is released to theaters. Even many liberals, such as myself,
were disgusted by the condescension, sanctimony and questionable ethical
practices of Moore’s earlier work, and it’s likely that we’ll see more
of the same in the new film.
But the release of “Sicko,” while coinciding with the ramping
up of the presidential campaign, is likely to insert health care policy,
and the possibility of universal health care, back into political
discourse after a long absence. And following the 2004 campaign – in
which Republicans often acted as though the controversial filmmaker was
the Democratic nominee for president – we’re likely headed towards a
future in which every politician who supports health care reform is
equated with Michael Moore.
There are many different factors to consider in choosing
which causes and issues to support. But in making that decision, the
positions and comments of celebrities should be very low on the list.
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