Conservative cynic Konstantin Kisin is woefully ignorant about global warming

Photo by: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Konstantin Kisin’s belief that wokeness has gone too far in the face of climate disaster is a rhetorical tapestry of conservative clichés and emotionally blinded drivel lacking in logical seriousness. 

Kisin, a comic and host of the podcast “Triggernometry,” has recently ventured into world affairs and along the way has been able to capitalize on the conservative impulse for a bridled, coldly sober analysis of the world that preserves crude ideological notions of capitalist-Darwinian excellence and toughness. 

The comedian Norm Macdonald, in his last special, made a joke that nicely plays on the irony of Kisin and his ilk’s recent popularity in political punditry:

“When you’re a comedian they expect you to know things nowadays… It didn’t used to be like that. Like during the Vietnam war they wouldn’t go ‘I wonder what Red Skeleton thinks on this!?’ But nowadays, I’ve heard, they go ‘A comedian is a modern day philosopher, you know?’—which, first of all, always makes me sad for the actual modern day philosophers [chuckles].”

At a recent Oxford Union Society debate on woke culture, Kisin objected to woke hysteria around the climate crisisKisin, ultimately arguing that wokeness has gone too far and that the climate crisis won’t be solved by complaining but by “creativity,” “work” and “building.” This is all Kisin has to offer: empty platitudes and a brutal valorization of a violent form of the atomic family unit in the face of capitalist competition. The following passage from the debate is worth quoting at length: 

“15 months ago my wife got pregnant — not me because we’re old school

[laughs] — and for nine months we talked about what our boy would look like, what he might do when he grows up. We looked at baby scans and videos on YouTube about what the fetus looks like at nine months and 12 months and 20 months and eventually he was born and he is this cute little bundle of joy. He’s cuter than about eighty percent of puppies right now [laughs,”

He continued: 

“If you said to me that I had a choice: either my son had a serious risk of starving or dying from a preventable disease in the next year or I could press a button and he would live, he would go to school, he would bring his first girlfriend home, he’d go to university and graduate and become a woke idiot [laughs] and then he’d get a job and get married and have children and become a man but all I have to do is press this button and for every day of my son’s life a giant plume of CO2 is going to get released into the atmosphere, now you’re all very young and most of you are not parents, let me tell you something—there is not a parent in the world who would not smash that button so hard their hand bled.”

This passage is in reference to a statistic Kisin presents that India, one of the world’s largest CO2 emitters, is home to a third of all children in extreme poverty. The argument is that these people are desperate and need certain industries to catch up to the first world’s level of wealth and security, regardless of their carbon footprint. Curious that Kisin doesn’t engage with the fact that India was historically a rich country, and that its relative poverty today has to be considered in the framework of British colonial expansion

But Kisin doesn’t speak of systems and history, both their past and how we can change them for the better in the future. Kisin doesn’t mention the fact that many of the countries that are in poverty are rich in terms of resources, but that their resources have been overly expropriated by the colonial-capitalist enterprise of the last 300 years. This is the case with Africa, Latin America, India, and the list goes on. 

Kisin’s critique is entirely predicated on emotional appeal. Ironic, considering a lot of the right wing talking points about climate alarmists is that they are hysterically overcome with doomful emotional affect and have no concrete, logical solutions. 

The only thing in the way of a solution in Kisin’s speech is the following, “The only thing we can do in this country to stop climate change is to make scientific and technological breakthroughs that will create clean energy that is not only clean but also cheap.” 

Kisin either pretends or just flat out ignores that this solution has been the scientific consensus for years now. What he is unwilling to do is critique, say, Shell and Exxon for knowing about the deleterious effects of climate change, and keeping it under wraps to save their market share at the cost of our future in the 1980s. 

Kisin also mentions the Just Stop Oil activists who went viral late last year throwing soup at the Van Gogh painting in his speech as examples of how not to solve the problem. Meanwhile, one of the women in the clip who threw soup at the Van Gogh painting, when interviewed on her reasoning, provides an explanation that has to do with starting a conversation over how the former prime minister of the UK Liz Truss, at the time, was licensing over a hundred new fossil fuel initiatives and that fossil fuels are subsidized 30 times more than renewables—so actual policy. Policy is a territory that Kisin is unable to approach. 

Ultimately, Kisin doesn’t critique the capitalist axiom of endless growth and its clear connection to global warming because his speech is a thinly veiled attempt to preserve the capitalist ethic of hard work, to make sure systems don’t change too much. Why else would he mention Xi Jinping’s experiences of poverty under Chinese communism as the reason why China has the right to continue to be the number one polluting country in the world today under Jinping’s government? 

The comedian paints a highly emotionally cathected image of parental sacrifice to explain why a certain kind of privileged, carbon-footprint obsessed Westerner is out of touch with the rest of the world. This kind of discourse does exist, so fair enough. However, anyone who takes the issue of global warming seriously understands that it’s in a Whole Foods devotee’s obsession with personal responsibility that the consumerist ideology of individual choice and moral responsibility is reinforced not critiqued, that that kind of woke hipster is often underread on the economic and political aspects of the issue, unlike Phoebe Plummer of Just Stop Oil who is serious and engaged with the policy terrain. 

Kisin’s speech is a perfect example of conservative charlatanry as it begins to accept that the climate crisis is an issue, but nevertheless refuses to go all the way to the end about what must be done to stop it. 

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