I sure wish I could like activists like Al Gore. Last night, at the Oscars, he was charming and passionate. He has something he cares deeply about and flies around the world speaking about. It's terribly compelling, which you could see in the reaction Al got last night from an adoring audience and various fawning actors.
And if Mr. Gore were there last night to convince the audience to get out of their stretch limos and G-V's and drive Prius's and use compact fluorescent bulbs, I'd be fine. Sure I might laugh that it was all pointless and the movie Inconvenient Truth was terribly overblown, but its a free society and Mr. Gore would be welcome to make his call to other individuals that they change their lifestyle.
Unfortunately, Mr. Gore's only goal last night was not just to rally the TV audience to change its lifestyle. The more important goal was to increase the likelihood that government will compel Americans to do what Mr. Gore wants. And this is what makes me cringe nowadays when I hear the term "activist." I don't want to cringe, because passionately advocating for you cause, even if I disagree with it, should be part of the rich fabric of a free society. Unfortunately, though, at the heart of nearly every modern activist's agenda is compulsion -- the desire to use the coercive power of the government to force you to do something you would not otherwise choose to do. It is the very unusual activist today who is not trying, whether they admit it or not, to chisel away at individual freedom for some "higher cause."
By the way, speaking of higher cause, did anyone else note the religious parallels in the green-speak last night at the Oscars? You had Al Gore in the role of Bill Graham, with several people talking about how Al had helped them "see the light." Even more amazing to me was the parallel with a confessional at Catholic Church. I have been lucky enough in the past to attend the Academy Awards, and I can tell you from experience what was sitting right outside: The largest collection of stretch limousines you can ever imagine -- I am talking about enough limos to create a traffic tie-up four lanes wide and extending back for miles, all running their engines for six hours waiting to whisk stars to late-night parties and private jets. I am fairly certain that no other small group in America generated more CO2 yesterday through their private use than the audience at the Oscars. Yet by declaring the Oscars to be "green", voting for an Inconvenient Truth, and cheering Al Gore, the audience was in effect saying 10 hail mary's in the confessional, washing away all sin.
Update: How I can be sure Al Gore's activism is about government control and not individual action:
Drudge reports that Al Gore's Nashville mansion consumes more than 20 times the average amount of power for an American household.
Gore's whole deal is that civilization-saving absolutely and vitally
requires an action on everyone's part that he seems to refuse to do
himself, it leads one to wonder about how this whole global warming
thing is going to play out with the public and with the government.
(Unless Gore's house is powered completely or partially off a
conventional coal-burning grid, which doesn't seem to be true based on
Does Gore's seeming inability to curb his
power consumption--which has apparently grown since the release of his
Oscar-winning flick--mean it isn't true that we really do all
have to scrupulously use less carbon-burning energy or doom the planet?
No. But it does make it a little hard to believe that he really
believes it--or that if even the biggest believer in global warming of
all can't control himself in this regard, that a serious planetwide
reduction in the short or medium term short of draconian outside
controls has much hope.