The Politics of Fear, Left and Right Variants

Alex Gourevitch in n+1:

[E]ven if the declining fortunes of the war on terror give the appearance that the politics of fear itself is on the wane, another campaign may be reviving it. While Democrats have become increasingly uncomfortable with the anti-democratic consequences of the hard power of the war on terror, they seem more comfortable with a “soft power” politics of fear: environmentalism.

Environmentalism is one of the few movements on the left that presents itself in the same totalizing political terms that the war on terror does on the right, and its influence only seems to grow as the war on terror’s influence declines. The New York Times’ bellwether of elite opinion, Thomas Friedman, recently swung around to the new framework. His solution for overcoming the “trauma and divisiveness of the Bush years” is “a new green ideology, [which] properly defined, has the power to mobilize liberals and conservatives, evangelicals, and atheists, big business and environmentalists around an agenda that can both pull us together and propel us forward.”

The congenitally unoriginal Friedman channels the hopes of others. Most prominently, it has been Al Gore who has championed the idea that environmentalism should replace the war on terror. He has long reminded us “global warming is a threat greater than terrorism.” This could have been simply a pragmatic judgment, but Gore is interested in more than technical risk-analysis.