Some of right-wing media’s most prolific climate deniers are using the disastrous effects of the coronavirus to promote their anti-climate agenda across multiple platforms.
These figures have reframed their usual climate attacks around the pandemic. Some have compared the (alleged) outcomes of the Green New Deal to the (real) impacts of the coronavirus, while others have claimed that both the coronavirus and climate change are being used by leftists to push a radical agenda.
Green New Deal
Perhaps the most shameful connection made between coronavirus and the Green New Deal came from Daniel Turner, a fossil fuel industry shill whose recent career has been bankrolled by Koch Industries. Making his debut in The Federalist on March 13, with an article titled “How The Wuhan Virus Is Accomplishing The Green New Deal’s Goals,” Turner concluded that “coronavirus is a glimpse of the long-term pain a Green New Deal and environmental radicalism would inflict on America.”
Turner attempted to support this conclusion with false claims about the Green New Deal, claiming that, like the coronavirus, it would crush capitalism, put the “oil and gas industry into panic,” end travel, and control the population.
To add insult to blatant misinformation, he also stated that supporters of the Green New Deal should be “pleased” at what the coronavirus is accomplishing because “green activists don’t fret these casualties” and that “greens will rejoice” over the coronavirus’s disastrous effects.
Turner had previously pushed this narrative on March 11, again connecting the coronavirus and the Green New Deal to “more government control.”
Over the past year, Turner has made a habit of appearing in right-wing outlets to lie and fearmonger about the Green New Deal, and to promote climate denial in general. This is also not the first time he’s claimed that the Green New Deal is just a front for socialism. Since January 2019, he’s appeared on Fox News at least 12 times and on Fox Business at least 21 times, and written at least 40 op-eds for Fox News’ website.
The same day that Turner published his abhorrent piece in The Federalist, well-known climate denier Rush Limbaugh made a similar connection between the climate resolution and coronavirus on his radio show, stating that “If you want to know what the Green New Deal would look like, you're starting to see it”:
Rush is no stranger to lying about the Green New Deal; in August, he said that “the premise behind it is bogus,” and also said that “there is no man-made climate change.” He’s been echoing the same sort of misinformation during the coronavirus outbreak, even claiming that it’s been “exaggerated and ... lied about.”
Alex Epstein, author of the book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which argues that the “overall impact of using fossil fuels is to make the world a far better place,” picked up on the egregious connection between the Green New Deal and coronavirus in a March 16 tweet. He told his followers:
Epstein has produced five videos featuring climate denial with Prager U -- a right-wing, propagandist online video resource -- including one in which he lies about the Green New Deal. Perhaps more dangerously, his controversial (and flat out wrong) ideas are being promoted by Chevron to push back on climate activism against the oil industry. In the past, he’s appeared on Fox News, Fox Business, BlazeTV, and the Rubin Report.
These climate deniers love to fantasize about the supposed bad outcomes of the Green New Deal, despite the fact that it will have positive climate impacts -- it will help fight climate change and inequality, while reducing the reliance of harmful fossil fuels that are contributing to these very issues in the U.S.
Leftist policies and government control
Claims that climate action, especially as embodied by the Green New Deal, is just a front for more government control over our lives are popular among right-wing media figures, and they’ve also been invoked when talking about the coronavirus.
On March 16, The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles did just this, calling the responses to both climate change and coronavirus a “panic” and arguing that these issues are “simply being used to push through all the leftist policies that the left really, really wants.” He specifically referred to efforts “to pump up the Wuhan virus panic,” and he misrepresented climate science multiple times.
Knowles is perhaps best known for being too unhinged even for Fox News; after he shamefully called Greta Thunberg a “mentally ill” child on a September appearance on The Story with Martha MacCallum, the network apologized for his “disgraceful” comment and stated that it had no further plans to book him. But he apparently still fits in perfectly at the cesspool of hatred and bigotry that is The Daily Wire.
Not to be outdone by Knowles, National Review’s Kevin Williamson invoked fascism when discussing climate change. Although he didn’t claim that the coronavirus is a false crisis, like some of his other right-wing colleagues, Williamson insinuated that both the left and the right are using the pandemic to push their respective “agendas.”
The great American longing for a generation-defining crisis — Pearl Harbor envy — is strange and enduring, and it shapes thinking on both sides of the great sociopolitical divide: On the left, global warming is the Third Reich, the so-called Green New Deal is the moonshot, and whatever unnecessary immiseration and chaos is unleashed by the fantasies of progressives are only sadly inevitable casualties on the beaches of this new Normandy. On the right, it’s an Islamic caliphate, the coming civil war (there’s always one), the nation’s being overrun by hordes of Spanish-speaking people, or — it is almost a relief to consider it — Armageddon itself. With everything from right-wing survivalist novels to ironic hipster zombie shows, we have been preparing ourselves, in our low-impact way, for just such an eventuality.
And in the plague, we see whatever we want to see: the need for a universal health-care system and paid leave, the need for a wall and for severing our relations with the Chinese.
An op-ed in RT (the state-run outlet formerly known as Russia Today) also made the government control point -- and also included a reprehensible attack on children concerned about climate change. Titled “What do the coronavirus & Greta Thunberg have in common? They’re both great for the planet,” the author writes:
Airplanes are grounded. Roads, deserted. The skies are clear and fish swim once again in Venice’s canals. Covid-19 has achieved in three short months what Greta Thunberg and her ilk could only dream of.
But climate hysteria has been relegated to the back pages by coverage of Covid-19. Thunberg and her devotees can find some silver linings though: not only does she not have to return to school (nice timing, G), but the virus has helped Mother Earth recover in ways that screaming, crying, and gluing themselves to trains never could.
But once things are back to normal, the environmental debate will likely start anew. This time, the Greta Thunbergs of the world can point to the current, virus-induced environmental uptick as proof that we can – when push comes to shove – give up our carbon addiction. However, remember that if your leaders are serious about meeting the climate goals they promise to, the lifestyle changes they ask of you will need to be enforced with the machinery of the state.
The author insinuates that “extreme measures” being taken to stop the spread of coronavirus are what “environmental crusaders” really want in pursuing their climate change goals.
The government control idea has also been espoused by fringe, far-right YouTubers. One YouTuber, who has over 360,000 subscribers, produced a nearly 18-minute video saying that coronavirus and climate change are both propaganda and that both of these “scaremonger” stories are being pushed by “globalist-backed” agendas that allow “governments to crack down on the public in various ways.” YouTube, which has a huge problem with climate change misinformation on its platform, has not tagged the video as pushing a climate falsehood.
Right wing-outlets, especially Fox News, have used a lot of misinformation when talking about the coronavirus. It’s no surprise that they’re also using favorite climate denier arguments within the discussions.