If at first you don’t find a reason to hate keep looking

When you have a bee in your bonnet you tend to seek out whatever information you can muster to support your position or satisfy your need to be right. Whether we are talking about the political party you back or the sports team you cheer for you are constantly on the hunt for evidence that tells you – and the world – that you are right. This is what is called ‘confirmation bias’.

In my former life this tendency was one of the seven (or more) deadly sins of intelligence analysis. We in the spy business were told to check our assumptions, read different points of view and not allow our deep-seated beliefs to influence how we read information so as not to affect our analysis. When we fail to do so things go badly. Very badly. While I can’t be 100 percent certain on this, I do think that the US government’s foregone conclusions that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had both ties to Al Qaeda and a robust WMD program influenced the disastrous decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Then again, we all want to feel as if we are on the straight and narrow. We want to convince ourselves that our views on matters are justified and based on solid information. We do not want to think we are, and have been for some time, wrong. Hence we gravitate to data that underscores what we have been saying all along. Or change our minds when it suits the same goals.

Well, as it turns out, extremist groups are no different. Their world view is informed by convictions that they are on the right side of history (Bernard Lewis famously wrote “I’m right; you’re wrong; go to hell”) and they will go to extraordinary lengths to chase down whatever is needed to maintain those views.

A good case in point is the far right’s new-found mantra that climate change is bad because it will lead to the destruction of the white race.


If you are like me, you did a double take when you read that last sentence. After all, far right proponents and extremists have long dismissed climate disaster as a lie perpetrated by the far left to undermine everything the former stand for (economic interests, capitalism, and hatred for science).

Well now it seems that these folks have concluded that the very climate change they denied will lead to massive global upheaval and mass migration to the ‘civilised’ northern parts of the globe, hence accelerating what they call the ‘grand remplacement’ (French for ‘great replacement’, a wacko theory by Renaud Camus).

Stay with me on this. One US scholar has termed this the ‘greening of hate’ and this apocalyptic fear made its way into the manifestos left by the Christchurch and El Paso right wing terrorists. In essence, according to these views the instability caused by climate change will create unlivable areas in the third world and feed non-white immigrant flows to North America and Western Europe, areas containing ‘white nations’ in which “white people have built agreeable places to live”. White supremacist Jared Taylor went so far as to say, “White nations should do exactly what Israel does: build fences, deport illegal immigrants, and manage immigration in ways to ensure that the founding stock (NB emphasis added) remains a substantial majority.”

These views apparently mirror earlier ones in which the spectre of overpopulation fed fears that brown races would out breed white ones and that this surplus of ‘undesirables’ would cause irreversible environmental damage (ignoring the niggling fact that the ‘white’ northern world has been largely responsible, to date, for much of what we call climate change through its domestic policies and international economies).

Lest you think this is all theoretical I give you the Arab Spring. I have heard some theorise that the early popular protests that presaged the eventual mass uprisings were the outgrowth of bad weather linked to climate change. We all saw the mass movement of refugees from Syria, especially as the Assad regime cracked down on dissent, and the effects that had on Western Europe. It is probably no coincidence that some of the recent rise in far right violence in those lands is a direct consequence of these refugee flows.

In the end I don’t think the far right really needs much more to prove to itself that it is on the right side of history. It already has enough to convince its followers that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Climate change is yet one more ill being used to make its point that the ‘white’ world is under siege.

Pity the far right could not use its energy and passions to come up with actual useful ideas to deal with the challenges of global warming.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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