A critical antidote to the weapon of emergency talk is awareness of its existence and the threat it poses to our freedom. Emergency talk is notoriously malleable and susceptible to abuse because, by definition, it is difficult to define the conditions of a public emergency independently of the judgment calls of political leaders. Emergency talk is especially dangerous when it is thought to empower a highly autocratic style of top-down interventions and to disempower local civil society and political actors, as it has been interpreted during the recent pandemic.
Here are some of the defining features of the sort of emergency talk we have heard during the pandemic, features that are eerily similar to the emergency discourse of environmental activists:
So next time you hear a government talk about the revolutionary changes we need to make to “fix” global warming, whether steep carbon taxes, centrally imposed limits on energy usage, or the elimination of cars from our streets, you might ask yourself: