I’ve said this before but I plan to keep saying it intermittently… because I think it’s relevant, and we won’t unpack the mindset behind climate denial without this jigsaw piece. I think the constellation of JP’s attitudes and postures is welded to gender, and this includes his climate denialism.
His aggressive defence of the gender binary (almost like a religious dogma) is one indicator. Though we can always find plenty of gender panic on the left, there’s a particular cluster of attributes that seems to clump together consistently on the medium to far right: nation, flag, male supremacy, homophobia, white supremacy, cultural exceptionalism. We find that cluster world-wide, across language groups and national boundaries. It’s possibly the most visceral kind of “conservatism” — a radical revanchism that longs (in some cases openly) for the days of warlord barbarism, female servitude, religious wars… the days of old when knights were bold and peasants and females were unpersons.
How this connects to climate denialism, I think, is not only via nationalism and exceptionalism, though I think they play a part: if our culture does it — fossil fuel consumption for example — then it must be right and good, because our culture is exceptional and exempt from critique. Any change to our traditional practises would be an admission of imperfection, and imperfection is inadmissible. But I think there’s a very strong gender aspect to climate denialism as well, and it may be even more powerful.
For the barbaric (manly) heart (I borrow this phrase with thanks, from Curtis White) recklessness, carelessness of consequences, swagger, bluster, bluff, bully-boyism are positive values. Caring, concern, caution, and cleaning up your room are for sissies. Environmentalists are just a bunch of sissy faggots and whiny little girls. You get the picture. The idea of being responsible for the mess we make is associated strongly in the barbaric heart with women, with Mom telling you to brush your teeth and clean your room, with your wife wanting you to do some share of the household chores. If government tries to regulate toxic byproducts of industry, the barbaric heart immediately labels it “the Nanny State,” trivialising and dismissing such efforts as both feminine and servile, triggering feelings of resistance to female authority that go right back to early childhood.
The gender-panic element is always there. Men stuck in the rat-race of probative masculinity (hat tip to Stan Goff) live in a state of existential insecurity, compelled forever to deflect and destroy any influence they label as female or “gay”. Essentially, femaleness is the perpetual enemy. The barbaric (male) heart fantasizes about a breakdown of civil order, a lawless world which would force women to beg protection from individual strong men for survival, which would reward brutality and brute force, rather than cooperation or cleverness, with success and status.
I suspect that some of these gendered themes play out strongly today in contemporary efforts to undermine the international order, the rule of law, and the treaties and trade bonds which for several decades have prevented (mostly) armed conflict in Europe. Steve Bannon on gender makes interesting reading, for example, and Putin is constantly portraying himself as a muscular he-man in his PR. Barbarism is experiencing a marketing push. [I know there’s more to that story — the international order has been neither honest nor kindly in handing out its benefits mostly to the upper ten percent, and there’s a realistic class-based anger driving much of the backlash against, e.g. the “Eurocrats” or the Dems in the US. But gender is always in the mix.]
So I see JP as firmly situated on this continuum of gender panic and masculinist revanchism, and his climate denialist stance as wholly consistent with the rest of the package.