Jonah Goldberg

Gore talks about the dysfunction of political discourse today. But when it comes to global warming, he and his acolytes insist that the time for debate is over. In other words, Gore's ideal discourse would involve only discussion about how best to follow through on his prescriptions.

But such high-minded objections sail over the chief source of Live Earth's lameness. The acts were mostly fine. But the outrage and passion felt so prepackaged, you almost expected Ludacris (who rapped about the evils of SUVs) to say, "This moral outrage is brought to you by GE's Ecomagination." One could say Live Earth is proof that global warming has jumped the shark, except for the fact that the phrase "jumped the shark" has jumped the shark.

Madonna, Genesis, UB40, the Police, Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam), Crowded House, Duran Duran - these were among the headliners for this supposedly cutting-edge extravaganza. I listened to these acts in high school more than 20 years ago, and some of them were already going gray by then. Phil Collins is 56. Sting is 55. Cat Stevens is pushing 60. The Rolling Stones didn't play Live Earth, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was because Mick Jagger needed a hip replacement.

Like the Rolling Stones, who define "graceful retirement" as drags on the oxygen tank between sets, these acts hawk youthful-activism nostalgia for the fans rich enough to pay for it.

Some argue that environmentalism has become a secular religion. Buying carbon offsets, they say, is the modern equivalent of purchasing indulgences for your sins from the Catholic Church. Live Earth certainly fit into that vision. The concerts seemed like Baptist hoedowns of yore, except now Gore is the Billy Sunday for the baby boomer booboisie.

Maybe that's in the works, too. But more likely, these were simply concerts by and for people who need to salt their sanctimony with platitudes about raising awareness. The music industry always has played fans for saps. In 1968, Columbia Records peddled the slogan "The Man Can't Bust Our Music!" Now global warming is a brilliant way to market aging rockers too rich and famous to pass as rebels against anything save their refusal to retire with some dignity.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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