The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

December 14, 2011

These dudes are anything but cool

Anderson — Steve McQueen and James Dean, two of the coolest cats to ever grace the silver screen, would probably roll over in their graves at the title of a new psychological study on climate-change deniers.

The title, "Cool dudes: the denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States," had to be written tongue-in-cheek about the least cool human subset in existence. But the study is interesting.

Authors Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlap show the CWMs are adamant on climate-change denial because the changes needed to fight it would inevitably eat into the disproportionate power in business, politics and the economy that white males enjoy.

Since CWMs have this power, they can influence others to believe their way through propaganda outlets such as talk radio and Fox News and also an uncritical mainstream media.

The authors call it the white-male effect. Thirty percent of these white males had high-risk acceptance, which gives them an affinity for hierarchy, greater trust in authorities and opposition to the democratization of risk management.

McCright quotes a previous study: "Perhaps white males see less risk in the world because they create, manage, control and benefit from so much of it. Perhaps women and nonwhite men see the world as more dangerous ... because they have less power and control."

Through identity-protective cognition, CWMs can spread their denial because other white males tend to believe those who are in their in-group. In other words, CWMs can easily spread their denial virus to others who don’t actually think about things but believe what their leaders say.

It’s like Rush Limbaugh telling his listeners that they don’t have to think, he will do that for them.

Of course, the foundation of the denial is economics. White males don’t want to give up the power, riches and prestige they have amassed for anything as chimerical as the end of the planet. It doesn’t matter that their denial is not based in fact.

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