Lou Dobbs’ temper tantrum over a slick, corporatized version of Dr. Seuss’s classic environmental children’s book The Lorax and the Studio Ghibli movie The Secret World of Arrietty must be seen to be believed:
Now, let’s be clear about the source material for both of these movies. The Lorax is hardly an anti-business tract: in the picture book, a factory owner called the Once-ler, starts a business that requires him to cut down a certain kind of tree to make a product called a Thneed. The Lorax, who speaks for the animals and plants who are harmed by the Once-ler’s logging activities and his factory’s pollution, warns the Once-ler repeatedly about the impact of his actions, but he ignores them. The ultimate result? An environmental collapse that depopulates the land, and wrecks the Once-ler’s business because he’s run out of trees to support his production and didn’t plant any more. If anything, the book argues that the interests of the environment and industry go hand in hand. That holds true for the movie, too—among the products that are being cross-promoted in connection with it is an SUV.
The Secret World of Arrietty is based on Mary Norton’s fantasy series about tiny people who live in the houses of ordinary humans, which starts with the book, The Borrowers, which since it was first published in 1952 is probably not a direct agent of the Occupy movement, unless Ms. Norton had a crystal ball working for her or something. It is true, though, that the book is based on the idea that “human beans” have more than enough to satisfy them and can spare the occasional piece of doll furniture or fibers from a door mat that the Borrowers can repurpose to make their own lives better. But the book suggests a model that looks a lot more like voluntary charitable giving than forced distribution or an endorsement of theft by the underprivilged.
But the lesson here is less that Dobbs is reaching to make his case in this particular instance. It’s how desperate conservatives are to marginalize some totally reasonable ideas. You can see this sort of thinking in the paranoid argument that bike lanes are part of a United Nations plot to control American communities or the extreme reaction to taxation. These are the sorts of arguments people turn to when they’re out of good, rational ideas to put up against something they just don’t want to happen, because it makes them angry or uncomfortable.