In dealing with the general public, emotional blackmail is one of the chief weapons in the arsenal of the political left. For decades now, hyperbolic appeals to Americans’ emotions have been employed not only to sway individuals in the interest of issues and causes, but to shape our opinions and our worldview as well.
An object lesson in this phenomenon came to the fore just this week, when press reports featured a scene in the new Netflix documentary “Our Planet,” which is presented by British naturalist David Attenborough (who produced the acclaimed “Blue Planet” documentaries for the BBC). Though Attenborough has produced some great stuff, he is nevertheless a very politically active anthropogenic-climate-change guru who believes that human beings should feel “jolly guilty” over the damage we’re allegedly doing to our planet.
The attention that “Our Planet” recently garnered has to do with a scene in the documentary involving walruses. Yes, walruses. In the film, there is a disturbing scene that takes place in the Bering Strait, where filmmakers captured a large group of Pacific walruses climbing high, rocky cliffs en masse, well away from their normal seaside habitats. As one might imagine, these two-ton, cumbersome creatures that don’t even have proper feet do not fare very well in this alien environment, and many of the animals wind up falling from the cliffs and perishing.
Inevitably, the first question that strikes the viewer is why these animals would engage in this behavior – and Attenborough is more than happy to tell us. The actions of these free-climbing walruses are put down to their normal icy habitat dwindling due to climate change. As their peril is detailed, we can envision hordes of nervous walruses standing atop unsteady, ever-shrinking ice sheets, then panicking and charging up the cliffs to their doom.
Considering all of the speculation that goes along with the documentary producers’ assessment, coupled with their obvious agenda, I’ve a feeling that they possess no more insight into why the walruses behaved in this manner than you do – but let’s not let the lack of facts obscure the political objective here.
While this goes hand-in-hand with the invective leftists routinely employ to shame their opponents into capitulation – accusations of racism, homophobia, misogyny and the like – emotional blackmail goes beyond the pressure of mere invective. The key component here is in impressing upon the target that they are harming someone or something if they do not summarily accept whatever proposal is being advanced by the left: If you don’t buy into anthropogenic climate change, you’re harming the planet. If you don’t buy into the proposal that America is an institutionally racist nation, you’re harming ethnic minorities. If you don’t buy into open borders, you’re harming poor little Pablo and his family who only want a better life.
With regard to people as individuals, things become even more emotionally charged and less rational. In the world of liberals, there’s nothing worse than hurting someone’s feelings, saying or doing something that has the potential to make someone feel bad about themselves. Thus, if you don’t buy into the LBGTQ agenda, you’re damaging the self-esteem of LGBTQ people. If you don’t buy into Islamophilia, you’re hurting the feelings of those who follow Islam. If you don’t buy into the idea of reparations for blacks, you’re minimizing their collective suffering, which of course will make blacks feel bad.
And so on.
Emotional blackmail has served the left very well over the years. Since few want to be thought of as the type of person who would wantonly harm another person or destroy something of intrinsic value, if the invective doesn’t get them, the prospect of a guilty conscience often does.
I am convinced that millions of Americans voted for Barack Obama in 2008 for no other reason than in so doing, they were able to count it as definitive proof that they were not bigoted. Forever after, such people will be able to counter any accusation of racism with the fact that they voted for a black man as president.
Similarly, I am convinced that hundreds of thousands of voters in the state of Colorado voted for former Rep. Jared Polis as their governor in 2018 for no other reason than in so doing, they were able to count it as definitive proof that they were not homophobic.
Between the marketing that goes on during political campaigns and the ideological bent of the establishment press, in both cases, voters remained blissfully unaware that these men were two of the most subversive ever to seek office in America.
In the case of Polis, there is an even more insidious and dangerous dynamic at work here: Countless Americans have accepted the notion that homosexuality does not represent one being morally compromised because they’ve been told that harboring such a belief would make them bigots (as well as hurting homosexuals’ feelings). Coloradoans’ summary denial that homosexuals are a morally compromised lot has effectively allowed a morally compromised individual to run their state.
As one may have noted, there’s no shortage of emotional engagement these days, particularly on the part of the left. Reckless accusations of “racist!” barked at pretty much anyone liberals don’t like these days, wholly unsubstantiated claims that white nationalism is on the rise and other racialist propaganda have the potential to shame voters into making some decidedly perilous decisions over the next few years.
Outside of enlightening as many Americans as possible regarding the nature of this phenomenon, there really isn’t much that can be done to combat it. I may come up with something more constructive in the future, but right now I have a walrus burger waiting.