Be that as it may, I just finished reading Michael Crichton's STATE OF FEAR, and I found it fascinating. I decided to buy the book in hardback because 1) say what you will, Michael Crichton knows how to move a thriller along and, 2) I liked the way Crichton handled himself in his interview with the thoroughly churlish and contumacious Matt Lauer on the Today Show last week.
Anyhow, Crichton's thesis in STATE OF FEAR is that the catastrophic spectre of global warming, which we read or hear about pretty much every single day, doesn't actually exist. There is either zero, or conflicting, scientific facts to back-up the theory of global warming. Instead, the dire predicitions on global warming are part and parcel of what Crichton calls a "state of fear." Here's the condensed version, as elucidated by one of Crichton's patented talky characters:
"I'm leading to the notion of social control, Peter. The requirement of every sovereign state to exert control over the behavior of its citizens, to keep them orderly and reasonably docile. To keep them driving on the right side of the road — or left, as the case may be. And of course we know that social control is best managed through fear."The problem is that between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the coming of Al Quaeda, there was no overarching enemy for the West to oppose and thus create a state of perpetual fear in the citizens ("Duck and cover!"). What has filled that void is an industry composed of politicians, the media and the legal industry dedicated to promoting fear in the population under the guise of promoting safety. Toxins in the environment, looming environmental catastrophes, Y2K , serial killers and child kidnappers, bad apples, fill in the blanks — all part of what has become a relatively bizarre Western obsession with safety. Go read the book to get the details (and a plot, of sorts).
All in all, I'm liking this. It's interesting to apply Crichton's thesis to the politics of gun control, presently cast as a safety issue, lacking in any hard data and endless extolled by the media, a lawsuit-crazy legal structure and politicians like the San Francisco supervisors who are presently putting forth a ban on firearms in San Francisco. It's especially interesting since Crichton has usually come down on the anti-gun side of arguments.