Don’t Look Up: a response to a response

Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay (screenplay by) David Sirota (story by)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep
Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes

Reviews of the recent Netflix movie Don’t Look Up have been mixed. Whilst some have accepted it for what is, an enjoyable satire on the issue of climate change and coincidentally, given it was written before the beginning of the current pandemic, the response to the world-wide covid-crisis, there have been more politically inclined criticisms from both the Right and the Left of the political spectrum. Critics of the Right have tended to see the movie as hopelessly ‘woke’ and alarmist, buying into a catastrophic mindset that is both unwarranted, and ultimately a threat to a civilisation that is wholly dependent on constant technological progress, a progress that is also seen as ultimately providing humanities’ greatest chance of salvation from the looming climate crisis, if indeed there really is a looming climate crisis.

The Left, on the other hand, see the great weakness of the film in its unwarranted pessimism, primarily through its dismissal of ordinary working class people as essentially stupid (clearly modelled on Trump’s working class social base in the film)  and easily led, and thus incapable of themselves being the agents of the kind of necessary change that is seen as essential if a catastrophe is to be prevented. The review under discussion here, by Jim Poe on his Under the Paving Stones blog-site, is unusual in that, whilst itself emanating, through its own words, from a ’revolutionary socialist’ perspective, it takes a very positive view of the film, and in so doing dismisses most other leftist reviews of it as being hopelessly fatalistic.

A film to be enjoyed but watched critically

I should say right off that I don’t really have a dog in the fight here (except for as a human being who’d like to see the human race survive, and for my children to do likewise). As someone who has spent most of my own political life on the Far Left, I’m sympathetic to the idea of Eco-Socialism in theory, whilst also accepting that ‘small c’ conservatism, what some might call Paleo-tonic conservatism, is inherently ecological, as are such fringe political movements as Anarcho-Primitivism, though I’m not sure I would particularly like to live in a society dominated by either philosophy. I also believe it to be a basic duty of good citizenry to be as green as possible in one’s our personal life.

But I don’t pretend to know nearly enough about the science of the subject to make even an informed guess as to the reality or otherwise of the ‘climate emergency.’

All I wish to say really is that, as a movie, I found Don’t Look Up to be entertaining, funny in parts and thought provoking; and Poe’s lengthy review is one of the most interesting I’ve read on the subject.

However, I do believe that both the film itself, and the review under discussion, suffer from the same central inaccuracy and weakness; that is, the underlying assumption that our world leaders, in politics, in business, and in the means of mass, mainstream communication, what we might call ‘the Elite[L1] ’, or in Marxist terms ‘the Ruling Class’, are deliberately ignoring the ‘climate emergency’, and encouraging us, the general population, to do likewise. The demand from their fictional representations in the film, to not look look up towards the gigantic comet growing ever bigger in our skies as it comes closer and closer to a catastrophic collision with our fragile planet, is thus, to Poe, a more or less accurate metaphor for the ‘ignore it and it’ll go away’ attitude that is supposedly hegemonic amongst our globalist leaders.

But is it true that this is the dominant real-world narrative? If so, what was the recent ‘Cop26’ gathering in Glasgow all about? We can dismiss such gatherings, as many on the Left do, and not without justification, as mere hypocritical theatre but, such show-piece events of this type aside, aren’t we in reality being constantly fed an alarmist narrative that assumes that 1) Climate change is happening, 2) it is happening as a result of human action 3) it will have disastrously negative consequences for human civilisation, perhaps ending it entirely, 4) certain forms of human action, as long as they are taken immediately, can begin to reverse or at least alleviate the worst of these potentially catastrophic consequences, and 5) that the most enlightened of our leaders know the forms, at least in general outline, that these pre-emptive human actions must take?

Poe is guilty of the same mistakes as most other contemporary leftist analysis, that is of not really understanding the vision of reality we are being sold, and through this lack of understanding he actually ends up as a defender of the elite-narrative, with criticism being confined to little more than ‘not far enough, not fast enough’.

If the five points listed above are more or less correct, then such a criticism is of course fair enough. But what if some or all of them are wrong, and are in fact little more than a smokescreen for a much more nefarious agenda, one designed merely to further strengthen their own wealth, power, and control of the Earth’s resources, free from democratic control and accountability?

I’ll make it clear here that I’m not a ‘climate change denier.’ Such people do exist, and in general tend to be tied to sections of the business community which have a vested economic interest in continuing with ‘business as usual.’ And, as I’ve mentioned, my knowledge of the relevant science is less than adequate for the forming of a judgement either way. But what I am is someone who is concerned at the increasing use of the word ‘denier’ as a means of closing down public debate and restricting individual thought.

This tendency of course begins with ‘holocaust denier,’ an easy target as the vast majority will naturally and rightly agree that the belief that the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler didn’t deliberately set out to exterminate millions of people, most of them, though not all Jewish, in occupied Europe in the nineteen forties, is irrational, is contradicted by a mountain of evidence and eyewitness testimony, and is also often motivated by a desire to continue where Hitler and his henchman left off.

I leave aside here the question of whether or not Holocaust denial should be punishable by law. Personally, I don’t think we need laws against irrational belief per se, though if someone wishes to advance alternative reasons why this particular instance of irrational belief should be outlawed, then I am prepared to listen. The point here is to raise the question of whether a ‘climate change denier’ is really in the same category as a holocaust denier, and to question the motivation for applying the word ‘denier’ to those who question the prevailing narrative on an ever-growing number of issues.

We should also question as to how and why this word little ‘denier’ is applied specifically on the issue of climate change, to not only those who doubt that any kind of negative climate change is occurring at all, which would be a very small number of people, but to anybody who questions any of the five bullet points I listed above.

There is a radical, socialist, environmentalist critique of the elite climate change agenda to be made, but that can only be based on an understanding of what that agenda actually is. It appears to me that far from a ‘don’t look up/’ignore it and it’ll go away’ narrative being pushed by big tech, big capital, and their political hirelings, what is instead being fostered is 1) An attempted ramping up of public fear, and 2) a sleight of hand designed to discourage us from looking too closely at how the new ‘green technologies’ that will apparently be our salvation are owned and controlled by the very same people who owned and controlled the industries that did much environmental damage in the first place. I.e., we are being asked to trust the globalist polluters to end global pollution.

Hand in hand with these two points of course goes the recognition that the ‘fear factor’ will provide these elite individuals and corporate entities with sweeping powers to control our movements, limit our freedom of speech, and our access to alternative, none-corporate sources of information. The Online Safety Bill, currently under process of becoming British law, is but one of many similar pieces of legislation being passed throughout the western world, and is but one of many measures designed to bring a totalitarian-liberal-technocratic dystopian system into being.

The top-down approach to the ‘climate emergency’, and how we can expect it to develop, can already be seen in embryonical fashion in the global response to the current, ongoing covid ‘health emergency.’

It’s worth mentioning here that, although the satirical target of the writers’ of Don’t Look Up was undoubtedly, and by self-profession, the supposed inaction over climate change, the coincidence of its release occurring after almost two years of covid lockdowns has certainly played a key part in its success, giving it a resonance with a world-wide audience that it would likely otherwise have lacked. But that is merely an aside. My main point here is to note once again the widespread use of the word ‘denier’ to those who challenge the officially sanctioned narrative on covid. That is, to note that it is not only being applied to the handful of cranks who actually do ‘deny’ that the virus exists, and/or that the vaccination program is an exercise in mass population control, perhaps even a form of mass population cull, but also to those who, like me and many others, have come to believe, from a starting point that was originally more or less in agreement with our government’s emergency measures,  that ‘mask mandates,’ and especially lockdowns, do more harm than good, worry in particular about the effects on other areas of our health services brought about by our over concentration on a single health issue, and believe that our best protection against the worst effect of this virus is achieved by maximising our personal health and fitness, whilst of course still protecting, as best we can, those who are, through age and/or other health complicating factors, the most at risk from the virus in our community.

These views can still just about be found in our mass media and popular social networks, but they are increasingly marginalised through the cavalier use of that word, ‘denier.’ Some might argue that ‘covid sceptic’ is a term that is more often used, and is much less toxic than ‘denier.’ To this, I would reply by simply asking the reader to consider what would pop into their head if someone were to be described as a ‘holocaust sceptic’? Would it be very different to the image elicited by the phrase ‘holocaust denier’?

Essentially, the suffix ‘denier’ (or indeed ‘sceptic’) in reference to any given issue serves the same purpose as the phrase ‘conspiracy theorist,’ that is, of acting as a means of closing down debate, a quick and easy way of signalling to the majority that this person or organisation’s views can safely be disregarded, without the need for debate or close examination of what is actually being saying.

To those who still don’t accept that such a process of the marginalisation of alternative viewpoints is occurring, I’d suggest a close look at the (at the time of writing) ongoing pressure being applied against Spotify (a company I have little sympathy for in other regards) to ‘cancel’ or at least to censor their star podcaster Joe Rogan. Rogan is not a ‘Covid denier’ either, but he is a person who chose not be vaccinated because he trusted in his own level of fitness and in the efficacy of his immune system, decided himself what medications he would and wouldn’t use when he did contact the virus, and has been prepared to discus with those, from within and without the scientific community, who question the dominant, officially sanctioned approach to the virus. At the moment, Rogan is, like perhaps J.K. Rowling on the ‘Trans’ issue, probably ‘too big to cancel’. But the fact that he can be attacked in such dishonest terms, accused of holding views he does not hold, is an indication of the increasing limitation on what can and can’t be publicly said.

OK, I seem to have drifted a long way from Don’t Look Up. But the way Poe treats the Covid issue is instructive of the general leftist failure to question ‘actually existing’ dominant narratives. Note how the reviewer himself makes use of the term ‘denier’ in relation to both covid and climate change.

In a sense, this is an eighties leftist approach. Back then, left activists, of which I was one, took it as axiomatic that capitalism couldn’t function without the ‘divide and rule’ tactics of racism, sexism and homophobia. Now, who can seriously deny that being seen to be strongly and openly ‘anti’ such evils have turned out to be an even more effective weapon of division? We are now clearly living in the age of Decadent Authoritarian Woke Capitalism.

As I said earlier, the Left’ critique of the ruling elite ends up as little more than ‘not far enough, not fast enough,’ thus relegating themselves to the role of outside cheer leaders for what Naomi Klein correctly identified as Shock Doctrine/Disaster Capitalism. For Poe, and for most of his leftist co-thinkers, nothing less than ‘Zero Carbon,’ will do on climate change, no matter the resulting impact upon our living standards, our civil liberties, and our access to information. On covid, of course, only ‘Zero Covid’ will do. This leaves them with no alternative other than acceptance of the draconian measures currently being implemented against the Freedom Convoys by the Trudeau government in Canada, or of any such future measures enacted elsewhere.

Given two years’ experience of on-off lockdowns and general popular compliance with dictacts from above, is a future of ‘save the world’ restrictions on our remaining freedoms, based on a science that has moved from being a never-ending and falsifiable process of rigorous investigation, into becoming an all knowing, infallible ‘The Science’, really so fanciful?

The future is to be marked by the rule of the ‘experts’, and only a genuinely populist movement can develop the power to challenge and avert this, the kind of movement that can best be see developing through initiatives like the Canadian truckers, as well as of the French Yellow Vests.

On a slightly lighter and more general point, a point that was well made in our recent and excellent Counter-Culture film group discussion on the movie, I’m not quite sure that the meteor works particularly well as a metaphor for a coming climate change catastrophe. Whatever the truth or not of the general assumptions of the environmental doom-mongers, the fact is that the reason most of us don’t spend large chunks of our lives worrying about the effects of climate change is that it still seems, to most of us, like an event on the distant horizon, which if it happens at all will almost certainly happen once most of us are dead and gone. The unremarkable passing of several ‘tipping point’ dates already, dates when we had apparently already reached the point of no return, hasn’t exactly helped to reverse this tendency towards indifference.

 But, if we really could ‘look up’ and see an apocalyptic event growing closer by the second, would we really choose not to do so, simply on the say so of certain sections of the elite who believe they can make profit from this biblical-like disaster, before literally making their escape to a new Garden of Eden in a far-off future?

 Isn’t the suggestion that a large proportion of us would choose this course of action a real insult to our intelligence, a fact which the reviewer, not very successfully, denies?

 I don’t pretend to know what the reaction would be if a gigantic comet could be seen in the sky, heading rapidly towards impact: mass panic; fatalism; a brief, final flowering of spirituality; a violent ‘last days’ reckoning with those who could have averted the disaster if they hadn’t put their own selfish interests above those of humanity as a whole? Probably a combination of some or all of these. But continuing denial in the face of the evidence of our eyes? I don’t think so.

So yes, good film, excellent central performances from Leonardo de Caprio and particularly from Jennifer Lawrence, some good political points, most of which have been covered in in Poe’s review, in particular the extent to which the American President (and of course, in good Hollywood style, apart from a couple of quick references to elsewhere, America IS the world in this film) is in the pocket of the composite Jeff Bezos/Mark Zuckerberg/Elon Musk, Zillionaire character. And, in very brief response to the Rightist critique of the movie, I didn’t find it to be overly woke. I actually found the movies’ critique of the increasing trivialisation of western culture, where even the most serious event imaginable is turned into a glorified ‘Reality’ show, to be the one of movies’ strongest points, and one that is essentially conservative in nature.

In summary, it’s a film to be enjoyed, but to be watched critically, with due thought given to how far its central assumptions reflect the real-world viewpoint we are being constantly sold from on high.

All this aside, I highly recommend Under the Paving Stones as a website, and its host Jim Poe as one of the more interesting leftist cultural critics and writers currently out there in blog land.

Anthony C Green, February, 2022



  1. Enjoyed this Tony – thanks!


  2. A good review of Don’t Look Up. Thank you 🌍😊


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