SwindleWatch ’07 March 4, 2007Posted by smiffy in climate change, Environment, Environmentalism, Film and Television, Global Warming, Media and Journalism.
“Ever get the feeling you’ve been had”? I can’t be sure, but I’d bet Johnny Rotten’s famous quote will crop up in next Thursday’s Channel 4 documentary on climate change, The Great Global Warming Swindle, taking its name from the not-very-good Sex Pistols film.
According to the Channel 4 website:
In a polemical and thought-provoking documentary, film-maker Martin Durkin argues that the theory of man-made global warming has become such a powerful political force that other explanations for climate change are not being properly aired.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Imagine what it could mean if it were true: that there’s a vast conspiracy of vested interests including, most recently, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, collectively lying to use about the nature and cause of climate change, and that all our concerns about energy conservation and reduction of greenhouse gases have been a complete waste of time.
Don’t go rushing to buy shares in Ryanair just yet. The Observer’s science editor Robin McKie has a pretty damning piece in today’s edition rubbishing the programme. While I’m not sure I’d go along with his comparision with CFC gases and with his proposed solution, he makes the point that many of the claims on the programme are untrue and simply a rehash of the same so-called ‘scepticism’ that, until relatively recently, used to get an amount of coverage in the media disproportionate to the weight of scientific support it attracted in the name of a ‘balanced debate’ (i.e. until the BBC realised that it was a load of old rot, and that there was little or no support for the view that contemporary climate change was anything but man-made).
Something McKie doesn’t point to, however, is the background of the director. Martin Durkin has quite a track record in this kind of programme. George Monbiot writes about him here, pointing to his some of his previous output including a report on how silicone implants reduce the risk of breast cancer (initially proposed to the BBC’s Horizon but dropped when the commissioned researcher contradicted the claims, then shown by Channel 4), a series (again for Channel 4) called Against Nature, which essentially argued that environmentalists were proto-Nazis out to control the world (which misrepresented the views of many of those interviewed, for which Channel 4 was forced to apologise) and a programme (once again, Channel 4) on genetically-modified foodstuffs which one of the participants described as having “rendered great disservice to science generally and to the scientific debate on GM-food particularly“. For someone with no scientific background, one has to wonder how Martin Durkin keeps being commissioned for programmes like these. Or, as Private Eye wrote at the time “What does Channel 4 do with programme makers condemned by the TV watchdog,the Independent Television Commission (ITC), for using underhand editing techniques? The answer is, er, hire them to make another programme.”
One intriguing element to the whole affair is the link to the Revolutionary Communist Party, also known as the Living Marxism group, also known as the Institute of Ideas, also known as Spiked Online, also known as Sense About Science. Phew! It’s hard to keep up, even for an ex-DL member, so for an introduction to the bizarre and murky world of this sect which went so far left it came out the other side, check out George Monbiot’s pieces and ‘The Revolution has been Televised‘ and ‘Invasion of the Entryists‘, as well as Nick Cohen’s ‘The rebels who changd their tune to be pundits‘. All of these pieces highlight the role played by RCP members and friends in Durkin’s films and, while it isn’t claimed that Durkin is a member of the RCP, an article on the group by What Next states that “The day after (a piece on Against Nature appeared in The Guardian), the paper reported Martin Durkin, the Against Nature producer, saying that the RCP had been dissolved a year previously. Not known as an RCP member or supporter, it’s not clear how he was privy to such information”.
It’s hard to do justice to the sheer strangeness of the ideology behind this group in its various guises. Essentially, it presents an uber-libertarian view of the world, where everything suggestive of state intervention in private lives, or which might limit scientific exploration or experimentation to any degree is charged with being ‘politically-correct’ or totalitarian, part of a creeping statism which aims to control the actions of everyone on the planet. Whatever you’re for, these professional controversialists will be against it. Indeed, if John Waters scrubbed himself up a bit, he might even be admitted as a member.
Much of what they write, particularly from The Times’ Mick Hume or the New Statesman’s Brendan O’Neill seem, at first glance, to be run-of-the-mill contrarianism. Worried about emissions for air travel? Just leftie elitists trying to stop working class people going on holidays. Use a green bin for recycling? Council plot to regulate our lives. Concerned that maybe homophobic or racist abuse shouldn’t be thrown around on a college campus? Politically-correct Big Brother attack on freedom of speech.
Pretty standard, Magill-type rubbish, all in all.
But poke a little deeper and you find an ideology far odder than anything dreamt up by Eamon Delaney in a rare, sober moment. This is also the group which denied the existence of concentration camps in Bosnia, as well as describing Neil Hamilton as a ‘sacrificial lamb’. For a real indication of how nuts they can get when questioned, check out the stunned response of the presenters of Little Atoms (not known for the tough interrogation of their guests) to Brendan O’Neill’s (Spiked contributor and New Statesman columnist) claim that intervention is always wrong, even in the case of genocide, because it’s paternalistic and disempowering.
Many profiles of the RCP-group try to understand their almost Ayn Randian ideology. Some think that they continue to be Marxists, religiously so, and are promoting the market and global capitalism in order to hasten its inevitable demise (rather like those fundamentalist Christians who want to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem in order to bring about the Apocalypse). Others see them as having abandoned the class-struggle and economic elements of Marxism, leaving only an ultra-humanist fanatical devotion to ‘progress’ for its own sake. Others still see them as just in it for the money.
I’ve no idea. All I would say is that if you do sit down to watch the programme on Thursday, treat everything you hear with some scepticism, and do some research into who is speaking. You wouldn’t want to be had!
[As a side-note, looking back over that Nick Cohen piece in the New Statesman for the purpose of writing this post, one quote in particular jumps out immediately:
Former lefties can make a good living in the media by attacking their ex-comrades - I'd do it myself if the price was right.