Fear and Loathing in the Blogosphere: Doom, Gloom, and Controlling the Message

I spend quite a bit of time reading the work of other bloggers. Believe it or not, I’ve read a few books, too. This post follows my usual approach of being an equal opportunity offender as I comment on the philosophy of James Howard Kunstler, Dmitry Orlov, and John Michael Greer, along with a few others. As always, it should be clear that this post is filled with my opinions, which likely won’t match yours.

Rather than commenting on the entire blogosphere, I focus on bloggers who actually understand some part of the connection between the twin sides of the fossil-fuel coin, even if they fail to understand the connection between the three E’s: environment, energy, (industrial) economy. I ignore the many blogs that deal strictly with economic issues because they tend to be administered by people who do not acknowledge, and probably do not understand, the links between energy and the industrial economy, much less between fossil fuels and climate change. A large portion of these writers think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax, and they uniformly cheer for economic growth, failing to recognize — and likely failing to care about — the consequences for the living planet. They claim denying anthropogenic climate change makes them skeptics, but, echoing George Monbiot, I think it makes them suckers instead.

I recognize that this exercise will make me as popular as a lightning rod during a thunderstorm. On the other hand, I welcome the same sort of criticism. I retain all my hate mail simply because it serves as a check on my expansive ego. Nonetheless, I doubt I’m sufficiently well known to warrant attention from these other writers, although upon posting this entry I sent an email message to each of them (except John Michael Greer, who puts a firewall between himself and the general populace). Readers, feel free to dive in.

Lest you think I’m all about unwarranted criticism, the reason I keep turning to these particular blogs is because I enjoy their writing. So, although I’ll be poking a little fun and pointing out the absurdities I observe, I’ll keep reading these folks as long as they keep me entertained or informed. I’m especially inclined toward humor, and especially writers who manage to take their own messages seriously without taking themselves seriously. I’m commenting about blogs, so I’ll ignore writers who put out their essays online but do not allow comments (e.g., Carolyn Baker, Joe Bageant, peacenik doomer Jan Lundberg, consummate scientist and seeker of objectivity Richard Heinberg, and off-the-charts doomer Matt Savinar).

My own thinking has been influenced quite heavily by Daniel Quinn. Like Quinn, I believe industrial culture is absolutely omnicidal. In fact, I think the first admission of any writer should be that he (here and elsewhere, I’m using the gender-free “he”) depends entirely on western civilization’s culture of death to make a living. The second admission is a litmus test, of sorts: Either he supports the ongoing omnicide, or he wants to terminate the industrial age as quickly as possible. Full disclosure: As I’ve stated many times, I will gladly give up my life to see industrial culture breathe its last, and therefore relieve other cultures and species from the ongoing oppression of empire. I recognize that most people would rather kill the entire living planet than give up a few creature comforts.

For the sake of standardization and in the name of organization, my critique employs three axes: doom, gloom, and message control. Obviously, I’ll comment about many other attributes, but these three axes provide an opportunity to rank the writers according to sort-of measurable criteria.

Me first, of course, and feel free to weigh in: I think I have a good grasp of the link between fossil fuels and climate change, as well as the links between the three E’s (the industrial economy runs on cheap energy, which is a subset of the environment). We’re destroying the environment on which we depend for our own lives. On a scale of 1 to 10, I score myself a 10 as an economic doomer. I recognize, in other words, that an economy based on ready access to inexpensive fossil fuels is destined for failure. For that matter, so is any civilization based on hierarchy and therefore oppression. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give myself a 2 as a gloomer. I’m seriously optimistic about life on Earth in the wake of economic collapse. I’m not quite as sanguine as some writers about the human suffering associated with completion of the collapse, but I can hardly wait for the collapse to be complete because of the associated alleviation of suffering throughout the world (human and otherwise). In terms of information control, I score myself a 1. Throughout the history of this blog, including its time at another website, I’ve deleted two comments that were not obviously spam. At the time, I explained why I deleted them: They were mean-spirited toward other readers in this online community. I have not altered or deleted critical comments about me.

Onward to the master of the metaphor, James Howard Kunstler. There is no finer producer of doomer porn than Kunstler. His writing is witty enough to make me laugh out loud and creative enough to keep me coming back, and he clearly understands the connection between cheap oil, growth of the industrial economy, and anthropogenic climate change. I really liked The Long Emergency, which was one of the first books to tackle the topics of peak oil and climate change in a meaningful manner. Kunstler is brazen enough to make predictions, which I admire. And his predictions have been right on the mark, with the exception of timing nearly as atrocious as mine. For example, he nailed the subprime meltdown, the collapse of the financial sector, the ongoing destruction of large entities, and the ongoing economic contraction. Although Kunstler keeps expressing disappointment with Barack Obama, I think it’s time to get over the notion that the current leader of this increasingly totalitarian state can turn around the imperial cruise ship long after it hit the iceberg, or would even want to. Kunstler is a serious doomer: I score him a 10. He’s a defender of industrial culture, though, so I give him a gloomer score of 9. Kunstler gives me the impression that he foresees a lot of suffering in the years ahead, unbalanced by the alleviation of suffering in places such as Gaza, nearly all of Africa, and the entire non-human world. The industrial economy has been pulverizing the living planet for decades, and I’ve got to believe Kunstler knows it — but he’d like to keep the current game going, in reduced form, so we can keep track of the level of pulverization until we’re reduced to six bands of hardy scavengers living near the poles. Finally, I score Kunstler a 1 on controlling the message. He takes more hits on his blog than anybody deserves, and he doesn’t edit them into oblivion. If he removes comments, they must be the ones paying him compliments.

Dmitry Orlov is milk-through-the-nose funny. Reinventing Collapse is a wonderfully witty and informative book, and Orlov writes intelligently about a wide range of issues. Unfortunately, he has decided to focus his blog on a much narrower range of topics in the future. As with Kunstler, Orlov clearly understands, and patiently explains, the connections between cheap oil, economic collapse, and climate change. He’s a 10-point doomer. Orlov is an engineer, and he is careful to be careful, so much so that he refuses to put a timeline on any prediction. As a result of his studious carefulness, I cannot determine a “gloomer” score for him. Although comments on his blog formerly were very interesting, he has disabled comments. As a result, I score him a 10 on controlling the message (and I recognize the difficulties in dealing with the rampant dumbassery of trolls, spam, and a generally ignorant and hateful populace).

John Michael Greer is stunningly learned, with a strong grasp of history and philosophy. So it surprises me that he borrows his online name, without acknowledgment, from the original archdruid (the presiding official at the National Eisteddfod of Wales) and the best-known archdruid in memory (the great conservationist David Brower). And yes, I know he’s the grand archdruid … but still. Although Greer is a doomer, he’s a half-hearted and unfunny one, constantly seeking the “middle way.” As I’ve indicated previously, there’s no half-way with economic contraction and global climate change. According to recent climate projections, we either complete the ongoing collapse in the very near future, or we run out of habitat for humans by mid-century. The notion that we can power down relatively smoothly, over a span of three centuries, is ludicrous. The Long Descent is a fine title, but a terrible idea. So, I give Greer an ironic mid-range score of 5 on the doomer front. Because of his measured approach, it’s difficult for me to evaluate Greer’s level of gloominess, so I won’t try. With respect to controlling the message on his blog, I score him a solid and unimpressive 8, in part because he moderates every comment. Of course, we cannot know what he edits out, but I know he’s purposely deleted comments when a reader sought clarification on issues raised by Greer. Why? What’s the point of claiming to conduct an online conversation if you’re so concerned about rogue comments that you don’t let them into the discussion? All in all, Greer is a great student and also a great teacher, at least for the American system of education (i.e., K-12 concentration camps). But I hate to take a class from somebody who thinks he has all the answers.

I was just about ready to give up on Sharon Astyk because Casaubon’s Book had become terribly boring. She had abandoned her earlier lucid and prolific writing about peak oil and climate change, opting instead to write about gardening and raising children. I have no problem with these topics, mind you: They just don’t interest me as much as the collapse of western civilization and the extinction of humanity. Alas, Astyk is back with a very welcome vengeance. Most recently, she pointed out the lunacy of Greer’s “balance” in a recent post of his (after I wrote the critique above, which remains unchanged). She certainly understands the link between fossil fuels and anthropogenic climate change. I haven’t paid close enough attention to her writing to draw any conclusion about her knowledge of the relationship between cheap energy and the industrial economy, but I’ll assume she’s literate enough to understand that link. She’s a 10-point doomer and a 2-point gloomer. I have no reason to believe she edits or deletes any comments, so I score her a 1 on that front. My only complaint is Astyk’s sense of humor: If she has one, it doesn’t match mine (therefore, it doesn’t count). On the other hand, she’s actually blogging about living a life: She walks the walks, instead of just blogging about it, like the rest of us.

Kathy McMahon takes a decidedly and expectedly humanitarian approach. Expectedly, that is, because she’s a shrink. She exhibits considerable kindness to those who comment on her blog, even the idiots who fail to understand we’re already committed to economic contraction and global warming (stunningly, people fail to see these phenomena even though they’ve already occurred, and continue to increase in magnitude). McMahon certainly understands the connections between the three E’s and also between cheap energy and global climate change. She’s convinced we have quite a bit of time before the industrial economy completes its crash, which suggests she is unaware that the industrial age nearly came to a close at least five times within the last fifteen months. In addition, I’ve seen no evidence McMahon understands what a slow decline in the industrial world’s standard of living means for habitat on Earth, for our species and many others. Thus, she’s a 7-point doomer. Because of her anthropocentric approach, I think she’s a 7-point gloomer as well. I suspect she doesn’t edit comments, and she responds to nearly all of them, so she scores a 1 on controlling the message.

Tim and Sally take perhaps the most comprehensive and hopeful approach in the blogosphere, as they did with their excellent documentary film, What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire. They’re both a lot funnier than you’d expect, given the direness of the subject matter. They completely grasp the three E’s and the fossil-fuel coin, as well as just about every other aspect of the straits we’re in. They don’t attempt to control comments (1), they’re consummate doomers (10), and they’re less gloomy than almost anybody else I know. In fact, they think human beings will come together, take a big dose of Fukitol, and hit the reset button, perhaps in time to save a few remaining remnants of the living planet. Along the way, we just might even save ourselves. As calamitous as that seems, I think it’s worth a shot.

Care to differ? What did I miss about each of these bloggers? And who did I miss?

Comments 30

  • I think Industrial Civilisation needs the concept of “celebrity” to continue – hence “doomer celebrities” are a rational outgrowth to distract us from it’s activities.

  • Prof Em Guy:

    Above you mentioned “my expansive ego”,but in a previous post you said
    you were FINE(f—–up,insecure,Neurotic,emotionally unavailable).Are we
    to suffer from cognitive dissonance here? Einstein was all of those.All intelligent,creative people have to be child-like,with the open mind of a child.Unfortunately childishness goes with child-like.

    Another thing.I enjoy christmas carols,even tho they are maudlin,soppy,
    sentimental and insipid.Remember no one “is mocking you” by playing them.Be childish like me and enjoy them.

    Merry Christmas.

    Double D

  • I became aware of the fullness of the doomer message only a few years ago. My reading started with books by Daniel Quinn, Bill McKibben, and Derrick Jensen and proceeds with many of the bloggers you mention: Kunstler, Astyk, Orlov, Monbiot, and Bageant. One you omitted is Dave Pollard. Although I’m not familiar with everything written by all of these folks, the ones I keep up with are clever, insightful writers who often exhibit an inevitable gallows humor. Hardly anyone speaks a full version of the message at any one time that squares with my appreciation of our predicament. But that’s alright with me, as the horror of it is too difficult for me to address every day all day. While I dislike having to register at a website to make a comment, I suppose that bloggers who set up that hurdle are frequently victims of their own success. Moderated or edited comments (other than spam and troll deletions) are even worse responses.

    At my own blog, I tend to write around the fringe of peak oil/global warming, as I’m unqualified to convince anyone of the truth being denied so intransigently, nor am I especially interested in mustering the facts and arguments to clarify the picture when others already do that so well. But let me comment on something you wrote above. We’ve been pulverizing the planet (living and otherwise) for centuries or more, not just decades. For example, deforestation has been ongoing for at least two millennia. It’s been worst in the last 150 years, as we now use machine power to pulverize more efficiently and globally. Where I differ from your perspective is in any optimism that a reset button can collapse the industrial economy and preserve diversity of life, not to mention our own human population. I’m pessimistic that the desire for mischief on a grand scale will be too great to relinquish in the waning days of empire, unlike the fizzle that accompanied so many collapses before ours.

  • Good point, Andrew. And thanks for mentioning Dave Pollard’s blog, Brutus, which slipped my mind. The link is here.

    Although this particular post has received little attention here, as evidenced by the paucity of comments, it has generated several messages to my email in-box — so far, the number of messages exceeds the number of comments by a factor of three.

  • Guy,

    I was surprised that you find my writing “hopeful,” and really pleased that you find it, at least occasionally, funny. Of course I may be flattering myself as likely it’s in reference to Tim’s writing when you note the humor.

    I’m not sure that hopeful quite describes my own experience. I am in terrible awe of the escalating destruction of the non-human world by the civilized human world even in the face of melting glaciers of evidence that we are doing so. Yet I do, on a regular basis, witness the beauty, tenderness, and value of human beings.

    I guess in that there is hope. We are not totally fuck ups. Mozart and Van Gogh were impressive but as Andrew points out so are countless non-celebrated humans in daily life. I’d say in regard to the discovery of penicillin, not so much, considering population overshoot.

    Worth noting, and saving, is humans’continued ability to feel love and on occasion to transcend our petty little discomforts enough to engage in real service and self-sacrifice without hope or expectation of personal advantage or extrinsic reward.

    So what moves me most about this post of yours is this: “I will gladly give up my life to see industrial culture breathe its last, and therefore relieve other cultures and species from the ongoing oppression of empire.”

    I’m glad you say that. Because unless, and until, I got to that point, I think I missed the point and the opportunity for the spiritual growth that is possible out of this. Sadly it’s not clear what the next step is even as I’ve come to that point. Because it is not clear, at least to me, that giving up my life would make one whit of a difference in the big picture except to leave my family bereft. But it’s a good and worthy place to bite a raw hunk of, and then to chew on.

    Thanks for your contribution to the conversation. It would only be better if we do it in person.

    Sally Erickson

  • Hmmm.. Don’t know which schools you attended, but i learned that “he” is masculine, “she” is feminine, and “one” is gender neutral, as is “it”, but i’d rather not be referred to as “it”. If you think that “he” is neutral, then try using the other pronoun, “she” as neutral and see how it translates in your head.

    Other than that, i enjoyed your post.

  • Susan, apparently my humor was lost on you. I intend equal offense to all sexes and genders (and yes, I know there’s a difference between sex and gender).

  • I have my own scale for these things. The ‘what age you’ll be dead by’ scale (I’m currently 17, live in Sydney, just finished high school). On this, Guy, you top. You give me somewhere between 3 and 8 years. Thanks…

  • Wow,
    That was a great post! I enjoyed every minute of my read. I haven’t responded to your blog in awhile but I just had to say that this was the “Guy McPherson” that I found months ago and love to follow. Your insight,sarcasm and humor are in top notch form. I can just picture you pounding away on your computer keys.
    thank you,

  • Guy, thank you for making me laugh. I really enjoy your writing. I was going to point out what Susan pointed out (“he” not being gender-neutral and all that) but your response to her made me laugh even more. I salute your cantankerousness. It’s also refreshing to hear someone else’s opinions on bloggers I often read.

  • I really like Charles Hugh Smith’s writing and analysis. It is funny, it draws from many disciplines, and he relies heavily on his readers, where is where some of the most profound insight originates.

    He’s tied it all together in a book, which is turning out to be a good read:


    I can’t remember exactly what you said when I mentioned him in our conversation – too optimistic? That may explain why I like his writing. I’m giving in to the human tendency of fatalistic inertia lately, so I’m inclined to take my doomer doses with an upbeat slant.

    Thanks for the list, I’ll check out some of these writers. If I can overcome my inertia. I think I’ll go play a video game with my son first…

    Take it easy,
    — Chad

  • Well, um, you missed me.

    I have a very well trafficked website dealing specifically with the Three E’s, an online Crash Course on them as well that has been viewed well over a million times, and have been blogging about this subject matter for several years.

    However, I tend to stick to the Economy “E” because I see that as the best way to reach the most people. Also, I tend to stay well away from doomer & gloomer territory because I have found that territory to be more paralyzing than activating, at least for most people.

    So perhaps I don’t quite fit into this summary of bloggers? Still, I am slogging away in this space day after day and we have a quite deep and lively community of commenters and forum participants and we almost never delete posts (but do have a tidy set of guidelines for participants).

    Chris Martenson

  • Hey Guy,
    First off, I’m all tens, though I don’t blog, I’ve written way too much about this crap, for probably way too long to either be considered sane or be invited to any Christmas party ever again. And given I can’t suffer conservative diphthongs for even a second, if I were in a position of censorship, I would most likely have rubbed off the letters on my kill button a long time ago.
    So allow me a tad bit of clarification pertaining to the gray area of where our doom ends, and our gloom begins. Am I safe in assuming that you’re basically quantifying “doom” as our collective clusterfuck ushering us ever closer to collapse, and “gloom” as being what follows thereafter? Or is gloom just the hangover after years of binge dooming?
    Well, let’s step outside the blogosphere and take the doom to 11. By adding both Lovelock and Catton to the mix, and with a sprinkle of James Hansen, just a pinch of E.O Wilson, a pipe hit of Jay Hanson and Joseph Tainter, Chris Hedges and the entire history of western philosophy and we have a recipe for there being little left for any following generation to ever miss, for an enormous chunk of earth will have long come to resemble Utah, but without the beauty of its National Parks.
    Having spent the last twenty years perversely engrossed in our evolving understanding of Climate Change, our ever peeling onion of comprehension regrettably leaves little room for humor these days. As far as gloom goes, our lexicon of invectives has become almost passé, for “economic gloom” is the least of our dire concerns.
    The heat trapping gases already in the pipeline, added with the planet’s thermal lag time, coupled with the reality that the majority of the worst case scenarios in regards to positive feedbacks, have already been triggered, and guess what that leaves us with? Other than corporate plutonomy seizing all viable resources in what remains of the earth’s few remaining habitable areas, via eminent domain. And other than the death of some 7/8 of humanity by the end of the century, and the virtual extinction of most of the planet’s flora and fauna, and acid baths for oceans……………I could belabor this point ad nauseam, but I believe you’re more than familiar with the data.
    No matter how you slice it, there will soon be no such thing as “community”. Just as there is no such thing as “community preparedness” (thrust me, I’ve spent nearly a decade flogging that dead horse), there is only our collective desire for community. It’s an illusion like everything else. It’s the carrot that keeps our spirits buoyed amidst the despair of a dying biosphere. The hope for community is what get’s us all out of bed in the morning, but sadly, that’s all it will ever do.
    Massive starvation and dispossession awaits us all………as it should, and no community can prepare for it, period.
    Is it doom or gloom, but really, what’s the difference other than our subjective desire for hope?
    With that said, thanks for comparatively telling it like it is Guy, you are one of my favorite writers………and that is saying something. Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, Daniel.

  • Great post….I’ll give kudos to Chris Martenson as his Crash Course was lucid and informative….and I have found the blog Front Porch Republic interesting as well.

    Keep up the good work…

    Chris R.
    Concord, MA
    The Localizer Blog

  • Thanks for the commentary, Guy. I certainly don’t think there’s any point in arguing with someone’s opinion of me, so I will just point out that I think in 5 years of blogging, I’ve only twice ever moderated any comment, under any circumstances, and I have threatened to do so once or twice if someone kept something up. I appreciate the credit for not doing so – I really hate censorship, and won’t do it on my blog, even when the trolls and assholes come to call.

    This was a fun read, and thanks for sending me the heads up email, I enjoyed it.



  • Everybody, thanks very much for weighing in … and a special thanks Sally Erickson and Sharon Astyk for commenting in space.

    Huge apology to Chris Martenson. I even strongly recommended your crash course in an earlier post! How could I forget? Oh, that’s right — I’m old.

    Chad Woolley, Charles Hugh Smith is one of those I check regularly, but I did not include here because he’s in denial about peak oil (and perhaps climate change, though I haven’t paid close enough attention to be sure).

    Chris R., thanks for commenting about Front Porch Republic, which is linked here. I check it now and again and I appreciate the focus on community — but it doesn’t have much about energy decline or global climate change.

  • Hi Guy, just enjoyed your description of John Michael Greer’s approach.
    I used to translate some of his post in French – then I got fed up because he became -at least to me – highly predictable. A case of non-evolutive type of thinking.

    A good reference for all: “Surviving the Future” by Arnold Toynbee (1971).

    Here is the content:
    -The purpose of Life
    -The Obstacles to Achieving Life’s purpose
    -Technology: A Generator of Wealth and Problems
    -Religion: A perennial Need?
    -Education: A Means of Constructive Change
    -Society under Pressure from Technology
    – Hopes and Expectations for the Younger Generation

  • Nice overview of our favorite bloggers. I tend to agree with your opinions of their various strengths and weaknesses. There is one thing that disqualifies Kunstler from a 10 re information control, the comments on his blog require an account to use, as do Greer’s. That’s a pre-existing filter, which cannot get a 10 ranking in my opinion. Orlov’s don’t, or didn’t, nor do the automatic earth people’s.

    The signal to noise ratio tends to make comments totally unreadable in cases like Kunstler though, what I like to think of as the drudge report effect, ie, there are hosts of clueless right-wing drones out there ready and willing to attack everything that threatens to expose the emporer’s lack of clothing, and which they have been pointed to by someone else, since they have come to identify their future with the invisible clothing industry, they can be relied on to rabidly attack anything that appears to threaten it, whether it be climate research, oil production, natural resource production, or what have you.

    Although I like the Arch Druid, or used to like him, I find it somewhat sad that he appears to have totally dropped any sign of druidry (so to speak) in favor of an increasingly strident view that his alleged ‘middle case’ view is correct and all others are incorrect. He seems to suffer from some fairly large holes in his apparent auto-didactic methods (college, if focused, really can teach you how to learn/research, but only if you make it do so). His recent idea that for instance, fascism, has to take the exact form it took pre WW II, to be considered fascism, was pretty weak, and shows a distinct lack of study on the topic, guys like John Dean, Conservative’s Without Conscience, who actually did the research, the reading, the intellectual history work, disagree completely with this view, correctly so, in my opinion, but Greer seems to be getting increasingly wedded to his middle view, which is I think saleable because it offers a type of false hope to people, and this makes them inclined to buy his books, which makes publishers more inclined to publish his next one, and so on.

    This ‘seek the middle’ practice, to me, also reeks of that standard Anglo/American semi-educated/pseudo-intellectual view common in the academy and elsewhere that if you create two polar opposites, both strawmen, artificial, etc, then create a synthesis between the two, you have created a ‘sensible’ position. To me this is a poor substitute for real thinking, but it’s sadly very common. But over the past year, I now see almost no signs of any earth / spirit connection at all in his writings, seems like the more you study / focus on economics the more your mind gets corrupted, not sure why, same thing for guys like Mish, and the increasingly unreadable denninger, and to a lesser extent, the automatic earth bunch, who seem to just be paying lip service to the idea that peak commodity/population is of course going to create economic instabilities.

    But it’s nice to see sort of a summary of the current bunch, to me they all form an interesting spread of notions, often worth a weekly read.

    But given that Orlov has a real life, I don’t blame him at all for getting sick of that right wing nutcase stuff he had to deal with the second he drifted from straight doomer stuff, which right types are generally fine with, since they can then stock up their fantasy survival compounds with all the gear they think will replace functioning community, to other areas of the collapse, especially the climategate garbage, which if nothing else, shows just how desperate that sector is to believe anything at all that says the invisible clothes really are fine and the foundation for future generations of producers and artisans. Meanwhile of course the glaciers melt, the permafrost dissolves, the ocean acidifies, and it’s all just fine, if those pesky liberals would just stop being such nay-saying downers.

  • Guy, I can see that you really don’t understand that people can’t hear tone of voice in the written word. (e.g. Susan’s reaction) I would much appreciate “sarcasm tags”, as in:

    Guy McPherson is clearly one of the web’s foremost techno-optimists.

    The lack of such made this very hard to read, let alone take seriously. The most valuable thing I got out of it was being led to Sharon Astyk’s response to John Michael Greer. Thanks much for that.

  • Oops, my mistake, some software routine removed my tags. Let’s try:

    [sarcasm]Guy McPherson is clearly one of the web’s foremost techno-optimists. [/sarcasm]

  • I’m not sure what the value of message control is in the comments unless you’re a site like TOD where threads can be subverted by the determined, but I like less moderation rather than more generally.
    I do think there is a blind side of some of these blogs, and particularly in Kunstler’s blog. Don’t misunderstand me, I read his blog regularly each Monday, but sometimes I think his anti-conspiracy stance is almost bulimic. Clearly there is room for intelligent people to question the political narratives and events that led to Afghanistan and particularly Iraq, and the current narrative of slow recovery.
    I am rather unsympathetic to Jim’s (may I call you that?) aversion to conspiracy, because to many, PO and GW are conspiracies. Conspiracy… what an ugly word, almost as ugly as insurgent. No one should have to tolerate people fighting for their country in the only ways they have? And Conspiracy… really! Who could possibly think that rich and powerful men might join forces and conspire in their own behalf? Certainly not David Rockefeller?
    If we blind ourselves to the possibilities of how we got to where we are, there are certainly other stories to cling to. It must be frustrating though, waiting for change we can believe in, now that Uncle Sam turned out to be Uncle Tom. Certainly our next president will give us back our American Dream. Just be patient and wait, wait, wait, wait… Oh and don’t forget to keep those peaceful protest going. We all know the difference that has made.

  • Most conspiracy theories fail occam’s razor, and most conspiracy fans fail: do they react to data points that deny the conspiracy but which are empirically true. The second test is pretty much a dead giveaway for most conspiracy types. That means if data that disproves the theory is presented, the ‘believers’ simply either ignore that data, or invent new data to reinforce their beliefs. Global warming deniers are a good example of this, they simple respin their stuff every time new evidence comes up, but it’s totally obvious that their views are not shaped by the evidence, but that they seek evidence to bolster their views.

    Unlike peak oil, which is based on actual work by actual geologists, much of the current internet fueled conspiracy stuff is based on bad readings of incorrectly understood data, or when that fails, on simply invented data.

    So it’s hard to blame Kunstler for not allowing that stuff in his comment threads, it’s a slippery slope that leads nowhere. Now Kunstler’s huge blind spot: fairly extreme anti-arab sentiments, is another story, but I just put that down to him reading the New York Times far too often, and from being from NYC in the first place.

    Most conspiracy theories give far too much credit to the people who allegedly created the conspiracies, people like the Bush group, who had for example failed at every single thing they’d ever tried to do in their lives, up to and including the Iraq fiasco, but then these same losers suddenly were supposed to get magical powers to plant and plan a complex demolition timed to the microsecond…. don’t blame Kunstler for insisting on at least some standards, sure the rich and powerful tend to focus on their interests, and tend to manipulate the system in their favor, but they aren’t magicians, and that’s the dividing line Kunstler insists on.

    To really get this, the basic idea is pretty simple: if something can be done by a few people getting together and talking it through, it might, or might not, get done, say cracking regulation support of financial lobbying. If however that direct, sort of thuglike activity, then requires highly complex technical planning in addition, and perfect timing in ways that really defy any common sense view of reality, that’s a conspiracy theory, and that drags down the rhetoric to a pointless babble level.

    And so on. It’s easy to see which is which, operations that are very complicated often fail, simple military type operations often succeed, thugs are good at being thugs, but they are not good at being smart. Have you ever read the actual writings of these alleged masterminds? They are not smart people, to be very very polite about it. So any time you are tempted to give them more credit than they are due, resist the urge, think mafia type action, not complex planning type actions that requires huge webs of secrecy and advanced planning and scheming.

    Personally, I really wonder why, when so many complex systems are beginning to creak, groan, and crumble, and the collapse is already hitting parts of the third world now, as we speak, anyone feels the urge to worry about subtle conspiracies etc, especially when huge scale theft is going on globally, etc. I’ve never met a 9-11 conspiracy type who paid any attention to the junk on wall street, for example, and that was where all the action was going on. When I let myself drift to conspiracy type thinking, my favorite thought is that there is no finer way to distract people from the real stuff going on than to have them focus on non-real stuff, chem-trails, etc… odd way the human mind works, someone should write a book on it, it’s interesting.

  • Hello Harold,

    Many Americans don’t even know WTC7 collapsed on 911 (three towers in all), and yet we had 2 reports of its collapse prior to its demolition. Go Figure. Where’s Occam’s razor fall on this. The simplest explanation is prior knowlege.

  • Oh, I won’t engage in this type of discussion, sorry, I gave it a shot with a few fairly smart guys I knew, it took almost no time to debunk all major points they held as evidence, and I liked those guys too, and far too many statements were simply fictions with no actual reality. So I don’t argue it anymore, like I said, why are you focused on this when reality is so deadly serious now? That’s the interesting question to me. Sure, they might have had a bit of foreknowledge, maybe it was ok with them in their plans if some arabs flew planes into the towers, then they could do things like the patriot act etc, that’s fine, that’s within their talent level. That would certainly account for that odd look on Bushes face when he got the news, it was all the world: oh, crap, they (the arab terrorists) actually did it, man… now what?

    Too many of these reports of reports etc turned out to be fabrications, misunderstandings, etc, to make following more worth any time at all.

    Today the world is groaning, oil is teetering on the brink of decline, there’s all these utterly real problems that are being brought to light in places more respectworthy than youtube, and you focus on this stuff? Why? What’s the point? Bolivia’s glaciers are melting, no water for their overpopulated cities, and they just barely managed to take control of their water from Bechtel if I remember right, who was trying in a seriously cynical bid to control resources at the most basic levels, to control the very water of our lives. What’s up with this wasted time and mental energy? What do you hope to achieve? Where is the mental disconnect from? Where are serious sources, not internet flakes? They aren’t there, so why bother looking for them when you can find a world filled with serious research about serious topics, not this nonsense. Aliens too? Chemtrails? What else? Sorry, I’m with Kunstler on this, keep the discussion focused on reality that can be demonstrated in empirically verifiable ways, and if you want to follow other stuff, fine, but don’t expect others to go for it until you have actual real data that can’t be overturned by a 45 second google search, sometimes I’ll admit it takes longer, it took me a while to find the original source of the chemtrail nonsense, that guy hides himself well.

    Science has its uses, as does its method.

    Then there’s the fairly severe implicit racism in the idea that those hijackers couldn’t possibly have done that stuff, being arab and all… that’s I think the real essence of that whole idea. But that’s ridiculous, it was simple, get money, check, head to flight schools, check, hijack planes, using a security hole, check, fly planes into buildings, check. Just give them the blame or credit, depending on your perspective, they earned it. Remember, if you are readjusting your theory to as each alleged ‘fact’ is refuted, then you’re not looking for the truth. But conspiracy thinking is a very old phenomena, with repeatable and quite tiresome characteristics, so much so a few books have been written on it recently.

    But reality is really quite enough at the moment, no need to colorize it in such bland ways as internet based myth propogation. But each to their own, no accounting for taste. The belief structures required to engage in such pseudo thinking are interesting, but not that interesting.

  • Re: Charles Hugh Smith: I definitely wouldn’t say he’s in denial about Peak Oil; he discusses the decline of oil/energy production and supply in Survival+. It just isn’t his only (or primary) focus.

  • Good post, I’ve just started up a blog website and began creating rather diverse articles for it. Do you object if I blog something about this article? Obviously I’ll provide you and this site due credit.

  • Howdy, I have just started up a blog website and I’ve started making rather diverse articles. Would you mind if I blog something about this? Obviously I’ll give you and this site full acknowledgment.

  • I just found your blog (through LATOC no less) and really enjoy your writings. My question is, what do you think about Jay Hanson (dieoff.com)? When I need a serious reality check, I go to his site, only to need a stiff drink afterwards.

  • Okay, so Guy, I waited a while to let your post marinate, and still can’t figure out quite what to say about my ratings, short of “okay, I guess.” Having set up doomer categories myself in an earlier blog, I can hardly point out that something’s off about doing so. I’m totally honored to be among those you’ve ‘rated.’

    Have you placed me a bit high on the gloomer scale? Maybe. I do admit to having a fondness for homosapiens (“Their my SPECIES!”) but I don’t particularly see them as in any way more entitled than other creatures or the planet we’re successfully wiping out. I’m also, of the 3 E’s, most terrified by what’s happening to the planet in reports I get from trusted sources. I feel totally unqualified to write intelligently about them, as well, so I don’t.

    I HAVE written about the curious emotional split I see between the way climate scientists talk in private and write in public about what’s going on. Climate collapse is much more frightening to me than the collapse of industrial civilization. I say “leave me spots on my industrial economy, but leave me the birds and the bees, PLEEEASE…” (I’m also freezing cold in my home most of the time, to show my solidarity…)

    Regarding censorship, I have not posted a few comments that I found down right mean-spirited toward other commenter. Flame me, not my contributors. I also don’t debate the existence of the 3 E’s, so that’s censorship of a sort, but I say so right up front, so maybe its not.

    The “signing up to the blog in order to comment” is also the fastest way to eliminate endless spam. I spent hours one day cleaning up the “Buy Viagra!” comments when I experimented with shutting it off, so it’s a hassle commenters go through, but not readers (or me), so that’s the way it is.

    I think a wide-spread economic crashes will happen a lot sooner than the collapse of other elements of civilization (I agree with Greer on that one) but much has to do with what you define as “evidence” of civilization’s collapse. My family got whacked up side of the head good this past year, so I’d say we’ve already crashed economically in this hacienda. I don’t think we’ll see wide-spread roving hordes for a while, but they’ve around now in some places, and will get more common world-wide as time goes by.

    Too long-winded a comment. Sorry That’s enough, I’ll stop here.