I have an idea, which I am calling ‘Overreach Theory’, about why some events seem to become the tipping point for causes, conflicts or other momentum driven ideas.
The simple theory is:
At some point a person or group with ‘Belief A’ will become so emboldened by the acceptance or absence of opposition of Belief A that they will make a large and potentially fatal (to their Belief) error, and cause ‘blowback’ that will often end their ability to continue promoting that Belief, if not the actual end of the Belief itself.
Here are three examples that I can try to apply to my theory:
1. Islamic Terrorists
Islamic terror groups spent much of the 1990’s nipping at America’s interest overseas, notably the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers bombing and the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. America never responded strongly to these attacks, and this was seen as weakness. Even after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre, no serious action was taken against the terror groups.
Therefore, in 2001 when the atrocity of 9/11 was unleashed on America, the terrorists had little reason to consider that any response would be severe. Yet within a year of the 9/11 attack, Afghanistan was lost to them as a safe haven, their global support networks were being dismantled and their leaders being captured or killed.
Had the leaders of the 9/11 attack been able to foresee the blowback, would they have continued with their evil plans? Hard to say, but there is no doubt that they are weaker and less effective today than they were in the years before 2001.
They were guilty of ‘overreach’ and the blowback isn’t done with them yet.
2. Man-made Global Warming Activists
There is only so much scare-mongering that a population can take. As Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ led the battle for hearts of the mindless, there can be no doubt that the movement gained massive ground and inserted the much-abused term ‘global warming’ into the mainstream of everyday conversation.
What little opposition there was to this movement was small, marginalized and effectively shut out of the debate during the crucial opinion forming period.
Then, sometime in late 2007, just as Gore et al were receiving their Nobel prize, the tide of public opinion started to turn. The process is not yet complete, and may never be, but for those of us watching carefully, seeing skeptical stories in the New York Times is a sure sign of trouble for the greens.
Overreach again. This time Bali was a factor – the carbon-spewing festival of greens made people look more closely at those demanding we all accept a poorer lifestyle to ‘save the planet’ – and we saw hypocrites in action. And lots of them.
2008 will see more balance in the debate, but I estimate that the green movement has passed its high point. For evidence I point to this weeks decision by the UK government to pursue nuclear power as the emission free solution to future power needs. This is a rational, sensible decision, yet Greenpeace is outraged.
A year ago, I posit that the green movement’s power would have given pause to policy makers on the nuclear decision. Today that power is diminished and the wonderful unintended but completely foreseeable (except by the greens of course) outcome of more nukes is reached. Blowback, and there will be lots more as the wilder claims of the activists come back to haunt them, and bit by bit, undermine their own argument.
3. Canadian Legal Activists
For years in Canada, legal activists – groups and individuals – have been waging battle against views, opinions, groups and people they disagree with (or are ‘offended by’) in Human Rights Tribunals and Commissions across the nation. There has been almost no media comment on these cases, other than basic rehashing of press releases once cases were heard and ruled upon.
Probably the reason there was so little dissent on the topic was that most of those being accused were groups or individuals that it would be distasteful to defend; white-supremacists, anti-Semites etc. So activists across the country became complacent that they could continue to attack views and opinions they disagreed with, with impunity.
Then, inevitably, the activists committed overreach. The recent and high-profile case against Maclean’s magazine and Mark Steyn has lit up the issue of the Human Rights Tribunals and Commissions and how they have expanded in scope to potentially affect every Canadian’s right to free expression.
The result is massive blowback and national attention on both the case and those bringing it against the defendants. If ever there was a demonstration of the sudden-ness and surprising nature of blowback, this must be it. I wonder if the Canadian Islamic Congress or the Osgoode four would have filed their complaint if they could have foreseen the national attention and outrage they have initiated.
Yet, how could they have anticipated this reaction when no other case has resulted in any real attention? Answer, they could not have foreseen it, because their action was the final action in the long inevitable road to overreach.
Populations and mainstream conciousness are not what those that would seek to control or undermine them (Belief A sponsors) would think: stupid or complacent. Not forever. Sooner or later, especially in todays wired and connected world, people will notice what is going on around them. There will be a period of this noticing, and eventually some commentary will start, but not enough to alert the Believers that danger lay ahead.
Then, Belief A followers will commit an act of overreach, and the population will take great notice, the collective conciousness will follow and blowback against the sponsors of the act of overreach will ensue. The consequences may be devastating to Belief A followers (i.e. the terrorist example), or it may be more like a slow air leak from a tire (the greens). But the point is that there will be consequences. For the Canadian legal activists, it may be the loss of their favoured forum, the HRC’s. Or, it may be that the HRC’s remain but their mandate is redefined.
Either way, the salad days are over once the blowback from the Maclean’s/Steyn case is done.
In the face of the stunning counter-argument left by Allan in the comments, I surrender. It was so refreshing to have a fully thought out response to the ideas instead of the usual mindless lefty name calling that I was won over… Oh, wait…nevermind.