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 Sensibilities

An interview with Charli Coon, a senior energy analyst for the Heritage Foundation just concluded. Against concerns over smokestack-amplified mercury content in fish, Coon was quick to point out that, hey, mercury is everywhere, even in ash from forest fires and volcanoes. Why worry about smokestacks? Underlying this and other inanities, Coon over and over indicted environmentalists as “alarmists,” which seems rather unbecoming for someone who is supposed to be a scholar, and cited “common sense” as the philosophical foundation of conservatism. When did common sense become the sole domain of conservatives? Is it because pinhead academics, with their theories, their research, and their complicated science, are all tricksy liberals?

Conservatives like Coon have found wonderful trade in mocking the complexity of issues like environmental regulation by assigning their own position the badge of common sense; this tactic fits well with a president whose own image is a carefully cultivated everyman saying “see here” in the face of complexity.

The trick, of course, is that they know full well how complicated this stuff is. Issues are rarely as clear-cut as either side would present. In the face of that, it’s troubling that appeals to anti-intellectualism are so powerful. They worked in the campaign against Gore, after all. I suppose that it’s easier to stage simplicity than to communicate complexity. Per yesterday’s conversation with Chris about appealing to Bubbas, it would appear that this is another case of making the other guy think they’re like you, even if you’re not at all like them.