This cartoon — which first appeared in The Economist last summer during the debt ceiling crisis — is even more apt today regarding climate change, especially during U.S. presidential primaries, peak season for pandering.
Unfortunately, for many, climate denial has hardened into a conservative shibboleth.
“A shibboleth is a kind of linguistic password: A way of speaking . . . that is used by one set of people to identify another person as a member, or a non-member, of a particular group.” (from The Story of the Shibboleth).
The term derives from Judges 12:5:6:
The men of Gilead would ask, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” they then said, “Very well, say Shibboleth.”* If anyone said “Sibboleth”, but could not pronounce it [correctly], they would then seize him and kill him. . . (New Jerusalem Bible)
Today, most Republican candidates seem to believe that failure to articulate correct climate denial — or at least its weak sister, climate agnosticism — will lead to a similar fate, politically. The latest example: Rick Santorum, who prides himself on educating his audiences, expounded at length on the topic in New Hampshire.
* The term originates from the Hebrew word shibbólet (שִׁבֹּלֶת), which literally means the part of a plant containing grains, such as an ear of corn or a stalk of grain[Wikipedia].