Liberty Commentary

Gaia’s Jolly Jokesters

by William N. Grigg

Suetonious records that while attending the Circensian Games the Emperor Caligula was so offended by a public display of support for one of his critics that he exclaimed: “I wish the Roman people had but one neck!”

It’s possible that “Little Boots” intended that outburst as a joke. If so, the depraved tyrant had a sense of humor quite similar to the one displayed by the 10:10 Campaign, an English environmentalist group that seeks to hector the public into reducing its collective “carbon footprint.”

On October 1, 10:10 rolled out a four-minute film — written by the immensely talented Richard Curtis — entitled “No Pressure.” The film is a series of vignettes involving an updated riff on Caligula’s depraved daydream. Each of the short scenes features an environmentally enlightened authority figure — a teacher, a middle manager at a corporation, and a soccer coach — extolling the virtues of those who are willing to take part in the grand campaign of collective self-sacrifice on behalf of Gaia.

In each setting those not convinced of the wisdom of this undertaking were asked — after being assured that “no pressure” would be used to impose conformity — to identify themselves. This being done, the commissar pushed a large red button that caused the eco-heretics to explode, thereby drenching the stunned and terrified faithful in the liquefied viscera of the less enlightened.

The closing voice-over — performed over the haunting strains of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” —  briefly lists some of the institutions and political figures who have signed on to the 10:10 Campaign, ending with the tagline: “Care to join us? No pressure.”



No Pressure was unveiled to representatives of government-recognized charitable groups on October 1. It went over about as well as Gilbert Gottfried’s notorious post-9/11 joke at Hugh Hefner’s Friar’s Club roast (“I have to fly from New York to L.A. tomorrow, and I couldn’t get a connecting flight — we have to stop at the Empire State Building first”).

“Our job is to encourage proactive decisions at class level to reduce carbon emissions,” sniffed ActionAid, which is presiding over 10:10’s schoolroom indoctrination efforts. “We did it because evidence shows children are deeply concerned about climate change…. So we think the 10:10 campaign is very important, but the moment this film was seen it was clear it was inappropriate.”

Were an inmate of the government school system in either the People’s Republic of Blighty or the U.S.S.A. to submit a student film depicting fantasies of mass murder, he would be charged with terrorism and consigned to the nearest psychiatric gulag. Yet when the same diseased fantasy is submitted by a government-aligned eco-lobby, the sternest adjective used to describe it is “inappropriate.” There’s something other than the storied British understatement at work here.

The 10:10 campaign’s official reaction is a variation on the familiar non-apology, “I’m sorry that you were offended” — a formulation commonly used by people seeking to deflect blame for genuinely offensive acts.

A premature environmentalist: Sade

“Many people found [No Pressure] extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and 10:10 would like to apologise to everybody who was offended by the film,” stated 10:10 global campaign director Lizzie Gillet.  Fanny Armstrong, founder of 10:10, recited the same potted non-apology: “When the film was released … lots of people found it funny, but many others were offended. Out of respect for those we offended, we immediately apologised and withdrew the film.”

I’m struck by the fact that 10:10’s “apology” follows the same collectivist logic displayed in its perverted mass murder fantasy: The enlightenedunderstand the joke, even if a few reactionary holdouts aren’t enchanted by it. Pity, isn’t it, that we don’t have a master detonator that would reduce such charmless people to a bloody mist?

The real problem for 10:10 is not that the stolid bourgeois didn’t find No Pressurefunny; instead, it’s that the film laid bare the totalitarian misanthropy that resides at the core of the radical environmentalist movement. Progressives are expected to epater la bouregoise, and they revel in giving offense. Giving away their true intentions is a much more serious matter.

“It has been suggested  that we call a United Species Conference — a conference far more representative than the United Nations is – and put this one question to the ten million representatives (one for each species): `Should the human species be allowed to continue on this planet?'” wrote eco-theologian Matthew Fox in his book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. “The vote would most likely be 9,999,999 to 1 that we humans, with our dualistic hatred of earth … be banished to some distant place in the galaxy so that Mother Earth could resume her birthing of beauty, amazement, colors, and health.”

Fox is a peripheral figure. David Graber, Chief Scientist for the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service, is not. In a 1989 book review for the Los Angeles Times, Graberunflinchingly expressed the idea that in order for Gaia to prosper, countless millions of human beings must die.

“Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet,” insisted Graber. “I know social scientists who remind me that people are a part of nature, but that isn’t true…. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the earth. Until such time as homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

Oh, if only the unregenerate masses had a single neck that could be severed by an immense guillotine — or if the exalted “some of us” to whom Graber refers could annihilate the rest by pushing a single red button.

“Anything that reduces human populations or reduces their growth is a benefit to just about everything else on the planet,” Graber said in a 1999 Reason magazine interview. “Ecology is a game where some win and some lose,” he continued, and in that conflict human beings have no greater intrinsic worth than other organisms. Pointing out that “Death is by far the crudest and cruelest solution to a problem of crowding,” Graber did express at least a measure of sympathy for the human victims of what he considers to be an inevitable culling-out process. Repellent as his ideas may be, Graber apparently doesn’t traffic in self-indulgent, sadistic “humor” of the kind found so winsome by the people behind the 10:10 Campaign.

The term “sadism” is singularly appropriate here, given that the Marquis de Sade, from whose name that term derives, gave voice to ideas very similar to those dramatized in the No Pressure film.

Decades ago, while researching an article on the “culture war,” I made the mistake of trying to read Sade’s Juliette, in which the author laid out what passed for his philosophy. Sade’s opus reads like what might result were Larry Flynt to dictate a novel under the influence of Tourette’s syndrome. I quickly discovered that the book — as Dorothy Parker might put it — was not one to be set aside lightly, but to be thrown away with great force. I was able to endure just a few chapters before a hurling both the book and my gorge.

Sade is widely recognized as a libertine, and regarded by some misinformed people as an individualist. He was certainly devoted to the unqualified service of emancipated appetites, but he had nothing but disdain for the non-aggression principle: “Were I to discover that my only possibility of happiness lay in excessive perpetration of the most atrocious crimes, without qualm I’d enact every last one of them this very instant, certain … that the foremost of the laws Nature decrees to me is to enjoy myself, no matter at whose expense.” (Emphasis in the original.)

By way of social prescription, Sade recommended that children (those who survived abortion and infanticide, both of which he believed should be commonplace) should be treated as property of the State.

“[Let us] create public schools where, as soon as they are weaned, the young may be reared; installed therein as ward of the State, the child can forget even his mother’s name,”opined Sade through one of his literary creations. This element of Sade’s manifesto resonates with the opening scene from the No Pressure film, in which a schoolteacher (played, alas, by Gillian Anderson of The X-Files) is enlisting children as eco-socialist missionaries with a commission to convert their parents.

Significantly, Sade was on the same page with modern “Deep Ecologists” like David Graber and the 10:10 collective, who believe that human beings are alienated from the environment. “Nature stands in not the slightest need of [human] propagation,” he wrote, “and the total disappearance of mankind … would grieve her very little.”

This is the same deified “Nature,” recall, that according to Sade, had ordained self-gratification of the elite as its highest law. So why couldn’t Nature’s priestly class get its jollies by liquidating everybody who disagrees with them? If there is a problem with this suggestion, Sade couldn’t identify it: “If from immolating three million human victims you stand to gain no livelier pleasure than that to be had from eating a good dinner, you ought to treat yourself to it without an instant’s hesitation.”

Sade would see the humor in 10:10’s No Pressure film, which isn’t so much an exercise in persuading the unconvinced as an expression by the bien-pensants of their self-satisfied, bottomless contempt for those of us who don’t share their theology.

After the audience at the Hugh Hefner Roast turned against Gilbert Gottfried for his 9/11-themed joke, the adenoidal comedian did exactly as Sade would prescribe: He doubled down on the depravity, winning back the audience by telling the filthiest joke imaginable. This isn’t surprising, given the crowd to which he was playing.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sade’s disciples a the 10:10 Campaign take a similar approach. Given that their opening bid was to use mass murder as a punchline, I find myself wondering what they will do for an encore.

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