by: David Marotta
“Looking Backward 2000-1887” was a socialist utopian science fiction story written by Edward Bellamy and published in 1888. The story consists of a Bostonian man who falls into a deep sleep and then awakens 113 years later in the year 2000 to find the United States has become a socialist utopia. Much of the appeal of Looking Backward as a story was due to the use of a persuasive technique called “future pacing.”
Future pacing is a Neuro Linguistic Programming and hypnosis technique that is often used in copy writing for advertising agencies. Future pacing seeks to get the listener to imagine the future benefits of what you are trying to sell them in the present. It allows someone to experience desired benefits in an abstract ideal dream. It transports someone into enjoying and experiencing the future benefits now, while dismissing any cost or negative consequences. Future pacing causes readers to “think past the sale” and explore the finer details of the idea being sold without questioning the entire conception itself. Understanding the persuasive technique of future pacing may help you critically analyze both sales and political messages.
On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, David John Marotta appeared on Radio 1070 WINA’s Schilling Show to take a closer look at the hypnotic appeal of future pacing a socialist utopia.
Studies have shown that liberals and conservatives think differently. Some of those differences may, at least by adulthood, be hard-wired in our brains. One of those differences is measurable. Chris Mooney writing for the Washington Post in “Liberals and conservatives don’t just vote differently. They think differently.” explains:
There’s now a large body of evidence showing that those who opt for the political left and those who opt for the political right tend to process information in divergent ways and to differ on any number of psychological traits.
Perhaps most important, liberals consistently score higher on a personality measure called “openness to experience,” one of the “Big Five” personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires. That means liberals tend to be the kind of people who want to try new things, including new music, books, restaurants and vacation spots — and new ideas.
As this quote says, liberals tend to score higher in Openness to Experience, which involves the enjoyment of flexibility, creativity, curiosity, and adventure. The opposite of Openness to Experience involves the enjoyment of routines, predictability, structure, and tradition. Those who are open are more likely to be trusting. Those less open are more likely to distrust.
People who are fearful and lack trust are difficult to hypnotize. They tend to judge the process rather than relaxing into it. However, those who are open to new experience are easier to hypnotize. They tend to be curious about the suggestions and enjoy relaxing into them. Indeed, a 2017 study found that the personality trait Openness to Experience correlated with the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale Form C (SHSSC), suggesting that those who are open to new ideas are also more susceptible to suggestions such as hypnosis or Neuro Linguistic Programming.
This relationship between hypnosis and a personality trait common among liberals implies that liberals may be more easily influenced by the future pacing technique of Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Openness to Experience is normally a good thing. It helps you to learn and experience new things and, for this reason, is correlated to a higher intelligence. F. A. Hayek, a famous economist beloved by conservatives, saw the lack of this trait to be the weakness of the conservative party, writing in an excerpt called “Why I am Not a Conservative“:
As has often been acknowledged by conservative writers, one of the fundamental traits of the conservative attitude is a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such, while the liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead. There would not be much to object to if the conservatives merely disliked too rapid change in institutions and public policy; here the case for caution and slow process is indeed strong. But the conservatives are inclined to use the powers of government to prevent change or to limit its rate to whatever appeals to the more timid mind. In looking forward, they lack the faith in the spontaneous forces of adjustment which makes the liberal accept changes without apprehension, even though he does not know how the necessary adaptations will be brought about. It is, indeed, part of the liberal attitude to assume that, especially in the economic field, the self-regulating forces of the market will somehow bring about the required adjustments to new conditions, although no one can foretell how they will do this in a particular instance. There is perhaps no single factor contributing so much to people’s frequent reluctance to let the market work as their inability to conceive how some necessary balance, between demand and supply, between exports and imports, or the like, will be brought about without deliberate control. The conservative feels safe and content only if he is assured that some higher wisdom watches and supervises change, only if he knows that some authority is charged with keeping the change “orderly.”
Liberals are generally less skeptical of trying new ideas. This is, at times, their strength. It enables them to have courage and confidence in novelty and change. However, this is also at times their weakness as they are more open to suggestion and manipulation.
Studies suggest that Trump persuaded a significant percentage of Obama voters that he embodied the change they had hoped for when they voted for Obama. Many have argued that Donald Trump won the Presidency because he is so adept at the hypnotic persuasion of neuro-linguistic programming. His way of speaking is both commonly maligned and extremely effective. His techniques are worthy of study. Even his constant statements like “It’s going to be great” represent a rudimentary form of future pacing.
You may think those voters were misled. However, leading susceptible liberal voters is the technique we are discussing. While many liberals opposed him on policy issues, the significant Never Trump movement may be explained by conservatives who are especially resistant to his form of verbal hypnosis.
Since socialism is built on a faulty view of human nature, it is difficult if not impossible to persuade people that it works in the present. The present is filled with so many flaws, how could socialism work now? However by using the technique of future pacing it is easier to attract supporters to this future ideal. In future pacing, the harsh realities of the present and the concerns about how we get to the future utopia are ignored while the ideal vision is explored in detail.
This is a technique that Looking Backward used in 1887 to achieve its global impact. This technique is just as effectively when it is used today.
A Modern Example of Future Pacing
Recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) offered her own version of a socialist utopian science fiction film entitled “A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” In it, she asks, “What if we actually pulled off a Green New Deal? What would the future look like? For the Green New Deal to become a reality we must be able to close our eyes and imagine it.”
Her film is filled with the same fallacies and persuasive techniques as Looking Backward was filled with 132 years ago. In it, she explains from an imagined future how we brought about a socialist utopia in order to solve climate change.
However, assuming that we want to prioritize environmental issues, it is a logical fallacy that we should therefore implement socialism. There is no connection between the two. The connection is the attraction that if you want to get something done and done quickly, you are going to have to seize and extend the power of the government and use violence and the threat of violence to impose your perspectives. This is why every historical implementation of socialism ends in violence.
Implementing AOC’s socialist agenda would likely do an extensive amount of harm. Some of the most recent work by the Copenhagen Consensus found that work spent on increasing world economic freedom and free trade had, perhaps, some of the greatest benefits per dollar spent. The benefits of economic freedom are also the engine of what will actually be needed to address issues of climate change.
The harm which will be done by the socialist agenda, however, is lost in the future pacing of a science fiction story. The story format of Looking Backward makes it seem obvious that there was no harm done. This, of course, falsely implies when we are looking forward no harm will be done. That is the hypnotic appeal of future pacing.
Here is the complete voice over of her socialist utopian vision along with my analysis and critique.
The video opens with something from the future as though it were undeniable: the existence of a bullet train. Then, she begins to muse from that future, a future where her perspective has already won:
Ah the bullet train from New York to D.C. It always brings me back to when I first started making this commute. In 2019, I was a freshman in the most diverse Congress in history up to that point. It was a critical time. I’ll never forget the children in our community. They were so inspired to see this new class of politicians who reflected them navigating the halls of power. It’s often said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And for the first time they saw themselves.
The story of the video has a very similar structure to the novel Looking Backward. Somehow, we are receiving a retrospective from a golden future explaining how we got to this socialist utopia. The entire structure of the story assumes as a fact that utopia is possible and achievable in our lifetimes. This is the definition of the future pacing persuasive technique. You get your audience to think past the sale, skipping the precise road or cost to get there.
Additionally, this frames Ocasio-Cortez as a winner and achiever for having been elected in the “most diverse Congress in history.” She is also seen as being superior, someone to be reckoned with. She is part of a “new class of politician.” She is “navigating the halls of power.” This section of the video also includes the social proof of her worth by showing as completed fact that she inspired a generation of minority children. She is literally in with the “cool kids.”
It took me a long time to understand the importance of AOC claiming to be the “most diverse Congress in history.” Recently, I listened to Arnold Kling’s analysis from his book “The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides.” He describes the axis of moral certainty for progressives, conservatives, and libertarians. For progressives the axis is one of oppressed peoples and oppressors. The importance of the images of minority women being elected to “navigate the halls of power” is one of oppressed people overcoming their oppression and taking the helm of power in order to rectify past oppression.
This image has a moral certainty for progressives. Kling suggests that, for progressives, whatever follows after “As a black woman…” holds great sway and can’t be argued with. Conversely, whatever follows “As a white man…” could easily be discounted.
According to Kling, conservatives might see the same event along their axis of moral certainty, one of civilization and barbarianism. Perhaps more mildly, conservatives might worry that this new class was unified in their attack on Western values. Progressives would interpret this worry as racism. And as you can imagine, they talk past each other because their axises of moral certainty are at right angles to one another.
As a libertarian, my axis of moral certainty is one of freedom verses coercion. The skin color, race, or gender of those pictured in AOC’s montage were not even considered relevant until after I had been working on this article for over four months and heard Arnold Kling speak on the three languages of politics.
Kling’s recommendation is that on policy issues we slow down our normal reaction to comment or repost on social media in order to think more slowly and try to understand the perspective of those with whom they disagree. This article is an attempt to make the arguments in this video clearer for people to analyze and consider.
Part One: Relax into the Suggestion
This section of the video sets out what was at stake, looking backwards from future pacing. AOC continues her future pacing:
I think there was was something similar with the Green New Deal. We knew that we needed to save the planet and that we had all the technology to do it. But people were scared. They said it was too big, too fast, not practical. I think that’s because they just couldn’t picture it yet. Anyways, I’m getting ahead of myself.
In this case, the goal is saving the entire planet. No earth-centric science fiction story can have greater stakes than saving the planet.
The story is framed with several assumptions as given.
First, “we knew that we needed to save the planet.” Who knew this to be true? Apparently everyone. If you didn’t know, then embarrassment might lead you to change your mind. The “we” is a form of social proof. Also, did we merely suspect it? No, we “knew.” Rather than a projected trend, everything is framed as a certainty. She suggests that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind. If there is no doubt and we all agree, is there really any moral choice? No, “we knew that we needed to save the planet.” Her words push you towards her perspective.
Second, “we had all the technology to do it.” Who has this technology? Apparently everyone. Nothing is missing? Apparently, we have everything necessary. There is no doubt here. In her vision, we know what we need to do and we have all the tools to do it.
It seems to be a common socialist assumption that technology, used properly by the collective, will make the socialist utopia possible. This same assumption is made in Edward Bellamy’s 1888 Looking Backward and is either assumed or explicitly stated in most socialistic thought. The Wikipedia article on Technological Utopianism explains:
Edward Bellamy’s socialist utopia in Looking Backward, which inspired hundreds of socialist clubs in the late 19th century United States and a national political party, was as highly technological as Bellamy’s imagination. For Bellamy and the Fabian Socialists, socialism was to be brought about as a painless corollary of industrial development.
Marx and Engels saw more pain and conflict involved, but agreed about the inevitable end. Marxists argued that the advance of technology laid the groundwork not only for the creation of a new society, with different property relations, but also for the emergence of new human beings reconnected to nature and themselves. At the top of the agenda for empowered proletarians was “to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible”. The 19th and early 20th century Left, from social democrats to communists, were focused on industrialization, economic development and the promotion of reason, science, and the idea of progress.
Socialist are often technological utopians. They believe it is inefficient to have multiple competing companies performing the same function in different ways. They believe that eliminating this inefficient redundancy would make these functions more efficient and cost effective. Any cursory examination of actual government bureaucracies demonstrates the fallacy of this argument.
We lack examples of excellent client service or cost effective efficiencies provided by government. Socialists try desperately to counter the claim “Capitalism built your iPhone,” but both historically and in the modern world, technical innovation develops best in competitive free markets.
Third, any disagreement you may still have is dismissed as fear that is corrected by future pacing.
AOC says that you might say that the problem or the solution is “too big,” that the implementation is “too fast,” or that the liberal’s plan is “not practical,” but that is just because you are “scared” and “couldn’t picture it yet.” She frames all disagreement in these simplistic terms.
There is no room for true objection. We all knew after all, so how could you have any major disagreements?
Even so, in the context of the video, the objections mentioned are actually praise for the solution. If we are, as the story frames it, looking backwards from The Green New Deal’s accomplishment, then it can’t, by definition, be “too big.” If saving the planet is necessary, we can’t accomplish it “too fast.” The faster the better. Finally, it must be practical if we ended up putting it into practice.
None of these are the real criticisms of people who believe that implementing the Green New Deal would do more harm than good. Real critics would say, “This is not actually a solution. This is the wrong conclusion. Your ideas will make it more difficult to actually solve the problem. Seizing political control of the economy will harm millions of people. Your course of action will ultimately result in you having to use violence or the threat of violence against many Americans.”
Fourth, she says she is “getting ahead of herself” and implies that she will assuage your doubts if you just listen listen closely and imagine. This is the hypnotic request to relax into the suggestion. Stop judging or doubting and just lean into her ideas.
It also makes the narrative sound unrehearsed and off the cuff. This casual and conversational tone is another verbal persuasive technique.
All together this very brief introduction pulls you into the programming.
Part Two: Frame the Opposition
Sarah Sobieraj and Jeffrey M. Barry wrote a book about the next political technique used in AOC’s video. They called their book “The Outrage Industry.” In a PBS interview, Sobieraj summarizes the idea, saying:
Outrage is a concept we developed to describe political speech and behavior involving efforts to provoke emotional responses — especially anger, fear and moral indignation — from the audience through the use of categorical statements, misleading or inaccurate information, ad hominem attacks and partial truths about opponents. It is a form of political communication that glosses over the messy nuances of complex political issues and instead focuses on melodrama, mockery and forecasts of impending doom.
Categorical statements, misleading or inaccurate information, ad hominem attacks, and partial truths about the opponent are used to define and frame the oppositions as definitively bad intentioned and separate from the listeners. This next section definitely “focuses on melodrama, mockery and forecasts of impending doom.”
As you will see, AOC continues the video with a personal attack on Exxon Mobil:
Let’s start with how we got here. 1977, New York, a senior scientist named James Black made a presentation about how burning fossil fuels could eventually lead to global temperatures rising 4 or 5°F. Within two years one of the world’s biggest supertankers was outfitted with the state of the art lab to measure CO2 in the ocean, gathering more data about global warming. Guess who was doing all of this research: Exxon Mobil, the oil and gas company. Oh yeah, Exxon knew this whole time, as did our politicians.
In psychology, conspiracy theories are seen as coping mechanisms to regain certainty or control in the face of uncertainty or powerlessness. As Brian Resnick reports for Vox in “Social media’s conspiracy theory problem isn’t going away“:
People who feel powerless and who are more pessimistic are also more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. The theories “serve the need for people to feel safe and secure in their environment and to exert control over the environment,” a recent review of the field of conspiracy theory psychology, explains.
We all feel powerless when it comes to these vast climate issues. That is what makes this section of the video, which reads like a conspiracy theory, compelling. She is claiming to know certainties that are theoretical at best.
There are also several new persuasive techniques here.
First, Exxon Mobil is implicitly framed as the only villain. There is no mention of any other greenhouse gas emitters such as coal, natural gas, chemical reactions, decomposition, livestock, or agriculture and no mention of any other cause of climate change, such as changes in land use and land cover changing Earth’s reflectivity.
We have simplified a complicated issue where we could all have responsibility down to one villain who is at fault.
Second, Exxon Mobil is framed as having malicious motivations. “Oh yeah, Exxon knew this whole time,” AOC says. This is a standard socialist argument technique.
Socialist generally cannot imagine the diversity of desires and perspectives that exist. They earnestly believe that their one opinion would be for everyone’s good and therefore only the sick or selfish would oppose them. For this reason, they believe that anyone who opposes them or acts differently than them must have bad intentions. Those bad intentions are pointed out as though it disproves their perspective.
However, this sort of attack is just a different form of ad hominem.
As Thomas Sowell said, “It is amazing how many people think that they can answer an argument by attributing bad motives to those who disagree with them. Using this kind of reasoning, you can believe or not believe anything about anything, without having to bother to deal with facts or logic.”
At this point, the images that accompany the video show sneering, fat, older, white, suited men, One carries a briefcase to represent Exxon Mobil. The other is presumably our politicians.
AOC’s insulting image again shows her use of ad hominem attacks. Her physical characterization of them is irrelevant, unfair, and unkind.
The attack on Exxon Mobil was designed and orchestrated as a marketing idea to take advantage of the public’s perceptions of the company. Before you believe what she goes on to say about them, you probably owe it to hear Exxon Mobil’s side of the story.
She continues in the video:
Ten years later James Hanson NASA’s top climate scientist told Congress he was 99% certain that global warming was happening and caused by humans. That was 1988, the year before I was even born. So did Exxon listen to the science, including their own? Did they change business models? Invest in renewables? No, the opposite. They knew and they doubled down.
They and others spent millions setting up the network of lobby groups and think task to create depth and denial about climate change was an effort designed to attack and dispute the very kind of science they themselves had been doing and it worked. Politicians went to bat for fossil fuels and these massive corporations kept digging and mining, drilling and fraking like there was no tomorrow. America became the biggest producer and consumer of oil in the world. Fossil fuel companies made hundreds of billions while the public paid the lion share to clean up their disasters.
This section shows her use of categorical statements, misleading or inaccurate information, and partial truths about her opponents
President Carter was in office from 1977 through 1981. He was dealing with the aftermath of the Arab oil embargo and resulting oil crisis of 1973. We dreamed of being an energy exporter and having energy independence. Back then, environmentalism culminated in movies like Jane Fonda’s 1979 The China Syndrome where the heroes are blocking movement toward nuclear energy and keeping us with fossil fuels. They would be villains to AOC these days.
On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez struck a reef and spilled oil into Prince William Sound. It was the worst spill in U.S. waters until the Deepwater Horizon Spill in 2010. That incident has both a complex reality and an environmentalist mythology. According to Wikipedia, the original jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion in punitive damages. The company ultimately spent over $3.8 billion to clean up the site, and the Supreme Court reduced the punitive damages to $507.5 million. The mythology excoriates the company for their unwillingness to write a blank check to the government and for being an oil company and having an accident.
For the 21 years after the spill, Exxon was villainized, and environmentalists held up British Petroleum as the darling of environmentalist responsibility. In 2000, British Petroleum changed its name to just BP and launched a massive marketing campaign that they were “Beyond Petroleum.” The company changed its logo to a green and yellow sunburst. Then in 2010, the company experienced its own accident resulting in the worst spill in U.S. waters leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast.
It is easy to incite outrage for the two worst oil spills in U.S. waters. But neither of these spills provides any justification for seizing control of the entire industry and giving more power to the federal government. As Wikipedia reports:
On 11 May Department of the Interior released a press release, announcing that the inspection of deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico found no major violations. …
The Obama administration has been noted for its unusually aggressive and often excessive rhetoric in criticizing BP, which some investors saw as an attempt to deflect criticism of his own handling of the crisis. A White House spokesman said the President’s job was to keep his “boot on the throat” of the company. … Paul [Ryan] stated that said he had “heard nothing from BP indicating it wouldn’t pay for the spill”. British pension fund managers (who have large holdings of BP shares and rely upon its dividends) accepted that while BP had to pay compensation for the oil spill and the environmental damage, they argued that the cost to the company’s market value from the President Obama’s criticism was far outweighing the direct clean-up costs.
There are many management lessons to be learned from both oil spills. One lesson is that government regulation doesn’t make us safer. Government paperwork rarely matches reality. Government inspections sometimes catch inaccurate paperwork but rarely help avoid the real safety risks.
Part Three: Dramatize the Cost
AOC continues her video by blaming climate change for killing species, natural wonders, and people.
We lost a generation of time we’ll never get back, entire species will never get back, natural wonders gone forever. And in 2017 hurricane Maria destroyed the place where my family was from, Puerto Rico. It was like a climate bomb. It took as many American lives as 9/11.
This is the “melodrama” and “forecasts of impending doom” that The Outrage Industry writes about.
Environmental alarmists often quote that “Every day, up to 150 species are lost.” However, according to the Yale Environment 360:
Only about 800 extinctions have been documented in the past 400 years, according to data held by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Out of some 1.9 million recorded current or recent species on the planet, that represents less than a tenth of one percent.
There have most likely been more undocumented extinctions, but everything over the documented number is a wild guess at best. Neither I nor most of the readers of this column have the expertise to decide that number or to determine if the current number of species is 1.6 million or 8.7 million or even 1 trillion. But we do have the ability to recognize unwarranted political alarmism.
Having claimed mass extinctions, AOC suggested that hurricane Maria was a “climate bomb” that “took as many American lives as 9/11.”
Climate change gets blamed for many disasters for which it should not get credit. Hurricane Maria was a category 5 hurricane that struck Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane on September 20, 2017. I am not competent to judge the complex and nuanced record of hurricanes to determine if the number or intensity of hurricanes has increased or is reasonably projected to increase. However, to call hurricane Maria a “climate bomb” is melodrama.
Furthermore, calling it a “climate bomb” while saying that it “took as many American lives as 9/11” is misleading. It implies that the hurricane, like a bomb, instantaneously killed as many people as immediately died on 9/11. That is simply not the case. The government of Puerto Rico reported that the immediate deaths of hurricane Maria were 64 people. For comparison, the immediate deaths of 9/11 included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. That is 46 times more people in 9/11.
You would think that how many people die in a natural disaster would not be a cause of political contention, but you would be wrong. Presidents are undone if public perception is that they did not “handle the crisis” as well or swiftly as they could. Many wanted Maria to be President Trump’s Katrina. The resulting controversy of how many died in the hurricane has continued for the past two years.
Regardless, comparing the number of deaths from hurricane Maria and 9/11 doesn’t make any sense. One might as well look at the tens of thousands of deaths that result each year from governmental programs such as Medicare, hospital errors, the VA hospital system, Social Security, or the FDA regulatory environment and call them “socialist bombs.”
AOC goes on to say:
And in the next year when I was elected to Congress, the world’s leading climate scientist declared another emergency.
This section is framing AOC as not responsible for anything that came before this moment. Unlike Exxon, who she vilified for having been part of climate research, she frames herself as having known nothing about this issue until she is elected to Congress. The only other moments she has mentioned herself in this looking backward narrative are to mention that she was not yet born when the villains entered the scene and to frame herself as a congressional hero of the present.
They told us that we had 12 years left to cut our emissions in half or hundreds of millions of people would be more likely to face food and water shortages, poverty, and death. Twelve years to change everything: How we got around, how we fed ourselves, how we made our stuff, how we lived and worked, everything.
There is an interesting play on the facts in her narrative. Here she is referencing an October 2018 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The “12 years left” comes from two IPCC report suggestions. IPCC has suggested that the 0.5°C difference between 1.5°C and 2°C increases the risk of droughts and risk heavy precipitation events in tropical or higher elevation locations while increasing the fraction of the global land area affected by flood hazards.
AOC has summarized this “food and water shortages, poverty, and death.” Again, you can see the focus on melodrama and forecasts of impending doom.
IPCC suggests that:
Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming
above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence)
In other words, they have projected that between the year 2030 (12 years from their report) and 2052 (34 years from their report) the earth may have warmed 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels if we do nothing.
After that finding, IPCC tried to find valid solutions to limit global warming. As IPCC summarizes:
In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range). For limiting global warming to below 2°C CO2 emissions are projected to decline by about 25% by 2030 in most pathways (10–30% interquartile range) and reach net zero around 2070 (2065–2080 interquartile range). Non-CO2 emissions in pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C show deep reductions that are similar to those in pathways limiting warming to 2°C. (high confidence)
In other words, when they modeled scenarios that limit the global warming to under 2°C for the long haul, in many models that succeeded CO2 emissions declined by 25% by 2030 (12 years from their report). To remain under 1.5°C, in many models that succeeded CO2 emissions declined by 45% by 2030.
Now that you know what the report actually said, you can see the manipulation of AOC’s sentence.
Moving backwards through her claim, she says “more likely to face food and water shortages, poverty, and death.” This implies she has selected global warming of 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels as the outcome she is talking about. To be clear, if we do nothing, the IPCC report doesn’t project when we will reach 2°C, but that date is well beyond 2052. Also, she has elected to translate droughts, heavy precipitation in tropical or high elevation locations, and more flood hazards into food shortages, poverty, and death.
Knowing she is talking about 2°C global warming, when she says, “They told us that we had 12 years left to cut our emissions in half,” she is simply wrong. IPCC said in many models that succeeded in keeping global warming under 2°C, CO2 emissions declined by 25% by 2030. First, 25% is not half; it is a quarter.
Second, reducing CO2 emissions is a marathon not a sprint. Halfway into the marathon we can be running moderately ahead of or behind the ideal schedule without having a significant impact on achieving our goal. We don’t have only “12 years left.” The average ideal model had us on track if by 2030 we had reduced emissions by 25%.
Third, she has implied that we have 12 years until the doom of 2°C global warming, when that is not what IPCC projected.
She is glossing over the complexity to focus on the impending doom.
Then she suggests that she knows the solution by saying, “Twelve years to change everything: How we got around, how we fed ourselves, how we made our stuff, how we lived and worked, everything.”
In reality, there are many proposals for how to address climate change that span across every part of our lives, but is it not guaranteed that 1) they all will actually help the problem and 2) all or even most of them are necessary.
For example, “Family Planning” or “Women’s Education” because of its ties to child rates have both been cited as potential solutions to global warming. From this, AOC and others have been led to ask, “With global warming, is it OK to still have children?”
Going down this thought experiment, you can see how progressives go there. Less children means less humans. Less humans means less human needs, so less usage of all the various CO2 emitting industries. It also means less human breathing, again less CO2. Thus, less humans is seen as a valid solution.
However, questioning the morality of having children is a horrible prospect. When socialists think something is immoral, they almost immediately push to make it illegal. And there is precedence for socialist countries making it illegal for some or all of their citizens to have children.
Just because it is a proposal or even valid solution doesn’t mean that we need to change it. We don’t need to change everything. That kind of hyperbole is what leads her to the next part.
Part Four: Cast the Future
She starts the next section:
The only way to do it was…
This is the future pacing at its core. She is in the future, telling us what the solution was. She is saying that this solution literally was the only way. How can we argue? If we’ve fallen into the rouse of her hypnotic charm, we are on track to agree with her.
The only way to do it was to transform our economy, which we already knew was broken since the vast majority of wealth was going to just a small handful of people and most folks were falling further and further behind.
Again, she says “we already knew.” Who knew? Apparently everyone. Did we merely suspect it? No, we “knew.” She suggests that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind. Her words push you towards her perspective.
She uses the so-called wealth gap as evidence. Even though increasing wealth inequality is a sign of a healthy economy rather than a sick one. We want people’s wealth to increase. However, there will always be people with a net worth of zero or even negative. Some people will spend everything they get. If you want to increase wealth, those with wealth will have to get more. Oddly enough that will increase the gap between those who have wealth and those who spend everything they get.
It was a true turning point. Lots of people gave up.
They said we were doomed.
Again, she is simplifying the perspective of those who disagree into emotions as well as praise for her solution. Her opposition “gave up” and “said we were doomed,” implying that they both thought that we should be trying her solution at one point and agree with her about her dire predictions. Their only fault is that they lost heart.
This makes sense why she continues:
But some of us remembered that as a nation we’d been in peril before: the Great Depression, World War II. We knew from our history how to pull together to overcome impossible odds. And at the very least we owed it to our children to try.
This appeal to the past is likely to make an impact on conservatives who value tradition.
AOC’s solution to what problems do exist are simply to buy what she is selling and elect more Democrats so that they can pass what they want without question. She continues:
The way it began when Democrats took back the house in 2018 and then Senate and the White House in 2020 and then launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a flurry of legislation that kicked off our social and ecological transformation to save the planet. It was the kind of swing for the fence ambition we needed.
This section uses a technique of dissociated future pacing. It sows the idea of actually achieving something as a result of taking the desired action. In this case, it is the Democrats taking complete control of every branch of the government that quite literally results in saving the planet.
But AOC’s suggestion that coercive government legislation is the solution to all environmental issues is most likely wrong.
Finally, we were entertaining solutions on the scale of the crises we faced without leaving anyone behind. That included Medicare for all, the most popular social program in American history.
We also introduce the federal jobs guarantee, a public option including dignified living wages for work.
Funnily enough the biggest problem in those early years was a labor shortage. We were building a national smart grid, retrofitting every building in America, putting trains like this one all across the country.
Suggesting that Medicare for all will become “the most popular social program in American history” is ridiculous. There are some polls that suggest that the phrase “Medicare for all” has public support. This is because people feel the pain of the Affordable Care Act and are looking for something to lower their costs. But polls also suggest that survey takers seemed to be confused about what is actually being proposed. Poll results switch when those being surveyed are told that it would eliminate private insurance companies.
Emily Ekins, director of polling at the Cato Institute, was asked, “What is the most surprising or counter-intuitive result you’ve found?” and answered:
We consistently find that the public turns against purportedly popular new government programs or expansions of existing government programs when they learn how much the programs cost and what trade-offs they will have to make.
Public polling based on soundbites is a very fickle way to make public policy.
The Urban Institute estimated Medicare for all would cost $32 trillion over a decade. The Center for Health and Economy (H&E) estimated $36 trillion.
Those being polled, especially those with a utopian unconstrained disposition, are nearly blindly in favor of progress and solutions, even solutions that are unlikely to work.
It is a utopian perspective to assume that problems can be “solved” in the first place.
Unconstrained politicians often talk about a “solution” to some societal problem. Reaching that solution will, in their thinking, mean that the “problem” has been solved. They often assume that current historical societal structures have contributed to causing the problem in the first place. Tearing down these structures, while revolutionary, is a necessary part of solving the problem. They will, when pressed, admit that solving the problem will require great cost and sacrifice, and perhaps even some temporary measures which are unpleasant or even unfair. But these costs are worth paying to attempt to solve this great societal problem, the ends justifying the means. Once the problem is solved, they argue, keeping it solved will be much easier.
There are, of course, bound to be a few who still seek power and privilege in order to dominate others, but they can be dealt with firmly and swiftly. It is on account of these beliefs that socialists ultimately turn to the use of force to bring about their utopia.
In this section of the video, it should be obvious that the Green New Deal is a political ruse to sneak other progressive agendas into the political environment.
Medicare for all has nothing to do with the environment. In fact, it has been argued that more healthcare use has an adverse affect on global warming. According to one study, “The U.S. health care sector emitted 655 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2011, which accounted for around 10 percent of the CO2 generated in the U.S. that year.” Now imagine if healthcare usage increased.
In the video, climate issues are used as a pretext for the socialist agenda. None of this agenda provides a solution to climate issues.
Addressing climate issues will probably not require massive legislation and government spending. Most of the innovation will come from the private sector and be implemented gradually as the economics allow. There doesn’t need to be one centralized planner to make innovation. In fact, innovation almost never comes of government bureaucratic efforts.
Tim Mullaney explains in his article, “Stopping climate change will be easier and cheaper than Democrats think“:
Republicans from Donald Trump on down lie about renewable power’s costs and reliability. Some Democrats wildly exaggerate the scope of change needed: Climate has nothing to do with guaranteed government employment, discouraging suburbs or driving, or convincing people that they should go vegetarian because cows fart methane.
Government data makes clear: The greenhouse gases that matter come from electricity and transportation. Fix them, and the rest is details.
Fixing electricity and transportation issues will be less costly and easier than forcing socialism on the United States. Interestingly enough though, these are two infrastructures where there is a lot of government regulation and control. What would happen if we let the free market handle these problems?
Partisan politicians on both sides exaggerate the scope of necessary change for their own political gain. As Mullaney suggests, “Most of the money will come from the private sector, not from government,” and it will be incremental solutions crowdsourced to the competition of the free markets.
It is ironic that the competitive free markets are potentially the savior of climate issues, and yet this is what those pushing the Green New Deal are seeking to curtail or eliminate.
Progressives are quick to say that helping the environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue and they are right. But they are as much to blame for this as conservatives.
When progressives engage in environmental alarmism conservatives start disbelieving anything they say. They used to have much broader claims that few scientists agreed with. In more recent times they have reduced their claim to: “Climate change is happening, and it is at least partly caused by human activity.” With this reduced statement they are able to claim a scientific consensus.
Meanwhile conservatives, accustom to decades of skepticism about their alarmist claims, continue to say: “We don’t believe anything you say.”
A better answer would be: “Even if the small claim that climate change is happening and caused by human activity, that is no justification for any of the socialist agenda you are trying to push.”
There is no scientific consensus that socialized medicine will help climate change. Neither destroying the free markets. Nor providing a guaranteed income or raising the minimum wage.
Conservatives could just as easily claim, “Prosperity is happening, and it is at least partly the result of free markets.” Meanwhile there are many progressives who are free-market deniers.
AOC’s video continues to project all the details of a utopian socialist society within which young people can explore and find fulfilling careers with great pay:
We needed more workers. That group of kids from my neighborhood were right in the middle of it all especially this one girl, Ileana.
Her first job out of college was with AmeriCore Climate, restoring wetlands and bayous in coastal Louisiana. Most of her friends were in her union, including some oil workers in transition. They took apart old pipelines and got to work planting mangrove at the same salary and benefits.
Of course, when it came to healing the land, we had huge gaps in our knowledge. Luckily, indigenous communities offered generational expertise to help guide the way.
Ileana got restless, tried her hand as a solar plant engineer for a while, but eventually made her career in raising the next generation as part of the universal childcare initiative. As it turns out, caring for others is valuable low-carbon work. And we started paying real money to folks like teachers, domestic workers, and home health aides.
Focusing on the mundane and tangible details makes future pacing have a more successful hypnotic effect. Everything from the train in the opening sequence to the children watching AOC get elected grounds this narrative as though it has already happened. In this section, we find ourselves wondering about this one girl, Ileana. Will she get a job out of college? What will she earn? Why is she restless? What work will she ultimately settle on?
Illeana’s first job out of college is with AmeriCore Climate, presumably a public works program similar to the Peace Core. I also assume that this is just one example of the federal jobs guarantee. A socialist utopia always seems to include a National Service Plan. Bellamy, the author of Looking Backward, was also enamored with a National Service Plan. In his vision, everyone was employed by the industrial army of the United States, a perfect employer whose workers rise “simply by the excellence of his record as a worker.”
AOC calls out the broad category of “caring for others” by which she means “teachers, domestic workers, and home health aides.” There are millions of people working as teachers, domestic workers, and home health aides. Although she is being specific, these are specific categories that represent a large portion of the U.S. population. Throughout the video she is trying to flatter and build as large a consensus behind her socialistic ideas as possible. In this case, she is pandering to a group that feels under appreciated and letting them know that she thinks they should be valued more and paid higher wages.
When she calls caring for others “valuable work,” it makes you wonder if she thinks other vocations are not valuable work. Who is she to judge what work is valuable and what work is not valuable? In a free market economy, work is valuable to the extent that people find it worth paying for. In a socialist economy, we must have someone like AOC judge the value of work and decide if you can do the vocation you want.
She continues by pandering to indigenous communities who feel marginalized, unions with dwindling membership, and offering specifics like planting Mangroves in the Louisiana wetlands.
Mangrove refers to both a type of plant and a type of coastal forest where that type of plan often grows. According to Wikipedia, “Mangrove forests move carbon dioxide ‘from the atmosphere into long-term storage’ in greater quantities than other forests, making them ‘among the planet’s best carbon scrubbers’ according to a NASA-led study based on satellite data.” Mangroves also help prevent coastal erosion and provide stability for a thriving coastal ecosystem.
Mangroves are a wonderful part of earth’s biodiversity, but they have little to do with forcing socialism on the United States.
AOC knows she has suggested massive change. The video continues to try to imply that all of these socialistic ideas were good changes and the bad changes were the result of not acting fast enough. She continues:
Those were years of massive change, and not all of it was good. When hurricane Sheldon hit southern Florida, parts of Miami went underwater for the last time.
But as we battled the floods fires and droughts, we knew how lucky we were to have started acting when we did.
And we didn’t just change the infrastructure. We change how we did things.
We became a society that was not only modern and wealthy, but dignified and humane too.
By committing to universal rights like healthcare and meaningful work for all we stopped being so scared of the future.
We stopped being scared of each other. And we found our shared purpose.
The technique of looking backward allows AOC to claim that all of her socialistic ideas did not change society for the worse. By saying that “We became a society that was not only modern and wealthy,” she is future pacing that her ideas did not diminish our wealth and prosperity in any way without even allowing the listener to consider it.
Then she goes on to claim that we became “dignified and humane” as well without even asking the question of how all of these socialistic ideals would be implemented, which is likely forced through threat of violence on a populace that did not want their harmful effects.
The dream of future pacing ends with AOC’s successor being elected to office and AOC’s trance-like vision returning her to 2019.
Ileana heard the call too. And 2028 she ran for office in the first cycle of publicly funded election campaigns. And now she occupies the seat that I once held.
I couldn’t be more proud of her, a true child of the Green New Deal. When I think back to my first term in Congress riding that old school Amtrack in 2019 all of this was still ahead of us and the first big step was just closing our eyes and imagining it.
We can be whatever we have the courage to see.
AOC takes pride of Ileana taking her seat in 2028 after the socialist utopia has been achieved and the Green New Deal and every socialist idea imaginable has been accomplished. Ileana is supposedly elected “in the first cycle of publicly funded election campaigns.”
If government paid the campaign costs of running for government, then candidates would not have to compete in the free market of ideas. Socialists think it is campaign contributions which distort politics, and they are only partly right. Government controls the taking and giving of trillions of dollars each year. This power justifies millions being spent to sway the giving and taking. Coercive governmental power is much more dangerous than voluntary market incentives. Giving the government more power and more control will make the problem of governmental rent seeking worse, not better. Only if government had less power would the money spent swaying elections diminish.
AOC’s final statement, “We can be whatever we have the courage to see” shows her commitment to the perfectibility of human nature. It also shows her lack of understanding of basic economics.
If mankind is not perfectible though, then all the systems built by Utopians are filled with harmful unintended consequences which will never end as they continue to try and support a fragile and unstable system intended for perfect people. We need to inoculate ourselves to the sway of future pacing sales pitches and realize that socialism is not the answer to societies problems.
Our first step is not “closing our eyes and imaging it.” We need our eyes wide open analyzing each idea for its own individual costs and benefits.
Images are screenshots from the referenced video.
David John Marotta is the president and CEO of Marotta Wealth Management. This piece originally published here.