Imagine a junkie given space by the BBC to pontificate about people’s passion for chocolate. Some would laugh, others would despair at the BBC turning into a all-out asylum.
Alas, it is not just a hypothetical situation. Step forward Lisa Jardine, “Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary” (at the University of London, not the inpatient unit at Roehampton Hospital).
Prof Jardine is of course completely stranger to hard drugs, however somehow managed to write an entire essay about “Climate change and craving a cause” absolutely clueless about the way “climate change” has become THE cause for its believers, rather than for the skeptics. We’re treated instead to pearls of wisdom such as:
Instead the climate sceptics have created an intricate web of their own associations and allusions, to produce their version of an alternative story which runs contrary to that of mainstream science. […] Faced with an uncertain future and declining prosperity, without religion for reassurance, what could be more comforting than to join a select band searching for the Holy Grail?
Never mind that Climategate one and two have shown how climate scientists did create an intricate web of their own associations and allusions, to produce their version of an alternative story which runs contrary to that of mainstream science, removing the Medieval Warm Period for example.
Prof Jardine has absolutely no idea about what skeptics are skeptical of, has surely never ever spoken to a skeptic, doesn’t know what climate change is (falling as she does into the old cliché of “climate change predictions“), and bases her point of view on dubious mob rules:
the continued commitment of almost all the world’s nations surely points to the fact that the danger to our planet of high-level carbon emissions is a real one […]
Attenborough’s audience have accompanied him on a personal voyage of discovery on his most recent visits to the polar regions. They have witnessed with him the changing patterns of life there, and shared his reactions to dramatic change that has taken place during his lifetime. They may feel properly in a position to share his disturbing conclusions.
I can’t imagine anything more remote from Renaissance thinking than to follow the herd of the Great and the Good.
ps There is really only one bit that might be saved from Prof Jardine’s essay:
Perhaps a more discursive approach which focuses on observable change backed up by scientific evidence may be more persuasive
Well dear Prof, have you got yourself anything to show about observable change and scientific evidence? I thought so.
Plenty of…skepticism on the part of chairperson John Lloyd during my comment/question at Thursday night’s RISJ/British Council presentation of James Painter’s “Poles Apart”.
I intervened after Steve Jones of BBC science impartiality and accuracy report “fame” (or not), who’s still (and still angrily) repeating the fantasy allegation of the BBC being too keen on balance and thus providing too much space to skeptics. To that, I retorted that just a few days ago a WWF representative was given heavenly time during the BBC Radio4 Today programme to talk about climate change
As everybody can see there was (as usual) not a hint of any even remotely critical question on the part of the BBC journalist/interviewer (something that happens regularly instead when interviews are not with AGWers but with politicians or even with scientists in a different discipline).
And that’s where the chairperson’s face started making quite telling movements….well, I can now present to John Lloyd (whom I met at a debate in Oxford in 2009 on Italian politics, where I was in the panel) the most curious piece of evidence yet of BBC’s institutional bias in favor of AGW proponents and away from skepticism.
And yes, this evidence makes a mockery of Steve Jones’ allegations too. Introducing Spiked Online and Patrick West’s experience with various language courses in Italian, and in particular the words dedicated to the BBC (my emphasis):
I’m currently on the second volume of the BBC’s Active Talk Italian Course. The two books and CD companions contain some bizarre diversions, Talk Italian 2 (2007) especially so. This volume is rich fare for those convinced that the BBC is governed by a liberal-left cabal, aging hippies and proselytising environmentalists.
Much of Talk Italian 2 is concerned with asking for directions in the rustic campagna of Tuscany and Umbria, where one would expect BBC bigwigs and well-to-do liberal-left champions of the corporation to take their vacations. A chapter is devoted to renting and buying luxury property (In zona panoramica e comoda… quattro camere, due bagni, cantine di 50mq, garage e giardino… Prezzo: €840,000). This no doubt appeals to Italy-loving Islingtonians who think holidaying in Spain is for the ghastly hoi polloi and that the south of France is a repository for the vulgar bourgeoisie.
The section in Talk Italian 2 on telling the time casually envisages a scenario of ‘Jorge’ and ‘Alessandro’ co-ordinating a meeting at a climate-change conference: Il cambiamento climatico: rischio per la biodiversità marina. The reader is invited to insert the Italian for ‘we start’ in the following ominous sentence ‘_____ alle dieci e un quarto con il discorso del Ministro sul cambiamento climatico’ (answer: Cominciamo) (1). Whatever happened to time-keeping dialogues simply based on railway enquiries?
On visiting the doctor, a further chapter asks you how to recognise notices for ‘alternative solutions’: medicina olistica, agopuntura, omeopatia, meditazione. Would you like to mettere in armonia le dimensioni fisiche, emotive, spirituali e sociali della persona? When ‘Simona’ complains of having l’influenza and asks for some painkillers, you, her hypothetical friend, are inveigled to suggest a superior alternative: Io ho un prodotto omeopatico molto efficace (2). Simona ought to reply Che stronzata! (3)
Some translation to help:
(1) “We start at quarter past ten with a speech by the Secretary of State for Climate Change”
(2) “I’ve got a very effective homeopathic medicine”
(3) “What a load of bull!”
And as if demonstrating the BBC Italian language courses’ focus on climate change undermines their quality 😎 , Patrick West’s article title is not what an Italian would write. “Questo corso è molto prevenuto” meaning “This course is very biased” would sound much better as “Questo corso è pieno di pregiudizi“.
Bar a sudden epidemic of Damascus Road Conversions, there is no hope for a serious, balanced, informed, informing reporting by mainstream media on the topic of Climate Change. For a series of reasons, not too dissimilar from why politicians cannot go wrong on climate change:
- Bad news is the only good news
- Journalists can only be as good as the sources they carefully select
- Scientific laziness and ignorance leading to dumbing down
1. Bad news is the only good news
Nobody has ever sold any newspaper by printing really good news. Readers are simply disinterested, partly because of the thrill of reading about somebody else’s misfortune, and mostly as a natural way, responding to alerts much more than to the sound of high-five’s. Hence as journalists are only as good as the readership they attract, good news for them are bad and vice-versa.
As a corollary, to mistake newspapers as remotely informative about reality is to open one’s life to doom and gloom. Take a bunch of users of an IT application and they will never ever tell each other how fast that application is: they’ll either say nothing, or complain when the application is slow. Somebody reporting out of their comments might mistakenly become convinced that the application is, on average, slower than it should be, simply because there is no information about it being faster, even when it is faster. And that, independently from the application’s speed. Analogously, a newspaper reader is likely to become just as mistakenly convinced that the world is going pear-shaped, independently from how well the world is doing.
On the other hand, skepticism on climate change means (a) the world is not going pear-shaped, at least in matters of climate and the environment and (b) if there is little to worry about the future, that’s good news.
Combine now these three observations and you’ll find mainstream journalists striving to stay away from any skepticism on climate change (even when it’s skepticism coming from professional scientists), as that would twice undermine their business, and even their professionalism. Climate Chambers skepticism is anti-news. If you want a related example, see what the BBC did when some good news threatened to be coming from Chernobyl.
The BBC did not, could not report the American Scientist article that said things around Chernobyl were better than previously thought: they reported instead, weeks later, the alarmist criticisms against the American Scientist article.
2. Journalists can only be as good as the sources they carefully select
I have experienced this first-hand in the UK with the BBC away from climate change. If you read the BBC, it’s almost impossible to fathom what happens in Italian politics: it all looks like a movie where half of the plot is missing and a great deal of the image is blanked out.
Simply, all BBC reporting about Italy is invariably left-leaning (from an Italian point of view). That’s because the Italians they interview are 99% of the time only Italian journalists writing in leftist newspapers. I remember once months ago there was some time given by BBC Radio4 Today to a recorded statement by an Italian non-leftist MP, drowned by untold number of live radio minutes given to a leftist journalists. Same happens with the Financial Times.
If journalists only keep company with a certain group of people, they will only report what those people tell them. If journalists actively avoid communicating with another group of people, they will never correctly report their point of view. As we’ve seen, mainstream journalists keep skeptics as far away as possible. And as Climategate has shown, they have very friendly relationships with scientists turned activist warmists.
Mainstream science journalists won’t and can’t fathom what climate change skepticism is about, because they can’t listen to skeptics.
Journalists have to make sure somebody will read their articles. Scientific journalists of mainstream media find themselves in trouble trying to translate science news in a way that the average reader will find remotely interesting. The right way to do that would be to write great articles in a splendid prose: but that’s a lot of effort, so the common way is the lazy one: dumb down the science content so that it will elicit the most basic of responses in the least interested of the readers.
In other words, transform a scientific topic into something that appeals to the readers’ guts. In the case of climate science, this has meant depicting the whole global warming thing as a struggle between Good and Evil, heroic scientists vs debased skeptics, with the journalist as a biased commentator of some kind of spectator sport. In other words, science transformed into a cheap-and-cretin feuilleton.
Of course this issue is badly compounded by the fact that most scientific journalists have no idea of what making science entails, and often have no science degree at all.
In conclusion, with no clue on what they are forced to write about in the hope of getting the least likely reader to still read their articles; with communications strictly coming only from a single channel; unable to report good news, ignorant of science and pretending to be commenting football: well, climate change reporters live in a cage of their own making and the real miracle is when any one of them does report anything remotely non-biased on climate change.
ps It’s hard not to notice that even the skeptical journalists, like James Delingpole, have developed their own “bad news” mantra, in the form of Watermelons taking over the world. QED
Ppps David Whitehouse is no longer a BBC science journalist, more or less since climate change became the Beeb’s mantra. QED number 3.
guest post by Rupert Wyndham -about the BBC World Service “On the Fracking Frontline“:
Amongst an infinity of others, this programme is just one more example of a policy of systemic bias within the BBC. It might be tempting to add ‘in relation to so-called environmental reportage’. Upon reflection, of course, that is not true. BBC partiality and prejudice is evident across the entire spectrum of its journalistic output. In fact, the notion that BBC ‘journalists’ should report in such a way as to avoid any suggestion of insinuating personal opinion is now as moribund as the Corporation’s founding father himself or, indeed, as the Corporation’s own notional Editorial Standards.
It is quite evident that news reporting/commentary is no longer a matter of providing dispassionate and, as far as possible, carefully verified, accounts of matters of current concern. Rather, BBC news coverage is effectively little different from any other form of ‘reality television’. ‘Journalists’, laughably so termed, are no longer content to provide principally facts for listeners/viewers to absorb and interpret for themselves. On the contrary, instead they consider it encumbent upon themselves to pontificate. They do so, moreover, often with an arrogant disregard for the basic courtesies of civilised exchange. Indeed, impertinent interruption of interviewees now constitutes a mark of supposed independent thought and a tough interrogatory style. Presentational techniques display a uniformity, which denote the hallmarks of institutional in-house training. With few exceptions – and they, by and large, from an older generation – exaggerated gesticulation and extravagant body language are deployed to convey an aura of authority for output that, in truth, is merely glib. Radio has its own counterpart techniques for achieving the same objectives – frequently repeated interruption being especially favoured. The adoption of an endemic ‘corporate speak’ reinforces the perception of shallowness, not to mention of professional indolence. Of course, we now know that much of this froth amounts to little more than rehashes of press releases issued by leftist pressure groups and vested interests – such as organs of pseudo-environmentalism, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Worldwide Fund for Nature, The National Trust, by way of example.
This programme was no exception. Thus, with excruciating inevitability, we had trotted out for the millionth time the fashionable mot juste of the moment, ‘iconic’, in this case to describe Woodstock. What, pray, is ‘iconic’ about Woodstock? How, might one now go on to ask, did the BBC ever survive the preceding eight or nine decades with only rare and selective recourse to what has now been rendered a facile and hackneyed choice of adjective?
But, though irritating, this type of derivative, copycat reporting is but a symptom of a far deeper and more insidious underlying malaise marked, in particular, by a wilful rejection of objectivity. Repudiation in favour of what? Why, to be sure, in favour of ’emotional truth’, to borrow the specious and fatuous terminology offered by editors of The Times Comprehensive World Atlas. In short, mere assertion is no longer to be challenged. Demonstrable evidence of a contra-indicative character is to be simply ignored or wilfully misrepresented. Data are to be cynically manipulated within computers programmed to deliver predetermined outcomes. Such outcomes are to be so ordered that any and all observable phenomena in the real world are to be construed as confirmation of a contrived and perverted orthodoxy. Indeed, computer modelling is always to trump actual observation. And it is to this garbage that the BBC lends the weight of its authority – paid for, of course, by the license fee payer. Truth is to be the preserve of a consensus.
So it is with this programme. So-called ‘climate change’ attributable to CO2, human generated in particular, was not to be treated as an unproven assertion but as established fact, to be marshalled to inform programme content with as much certainty as blood circulation informs medical diagnosis. That scientific practitioners in thousands, many of immense achievement and distinction, regard climate change science as a fraudulent contrivance is a fact simply to be ignored, as is the associated chicanery attendant upon it.
Underlying institutional prejudice was carefully re-inforced by repeated references to ‘carbon’, notwithstanding its questionable contextual relevance. The shameless appeal to ’emotional truth’ was also carefully structured in such a way as to create a putative link between emissions of CO2 (in the programme maker’s eyes, a pollutant) with other wholly unrelated – and, for a change, possibly even genuine instances of pollution as, for example, in China and Hungary. It is noteable that One Planet made (and, one suspects, makes) little of massive pollution created in China, but brought about solely as a consequence of shrill Western pseudo-environmentalist demand of battery operated vehicles. But then, of course, the welfare of third world citizens and their living environments are to be regarded as expendable on the altar of AGW religiosity.
Like most BBC science/eco coverage, this programme was/is meretricious and hypocritical.
BBC News’s “Science & Environment” pages have seldom been a paradigm of in-depth, unbiased, trustworthy coverage. Yet, they’re now sinking to new, sensationalistic lows. And it’s not just climate change.
Latest offerings: Richard Black on absurdist claims that million-year-long processes are changing right now; Black again telling the world that coal is now good (and reporting the energy policy ideas of a Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology); Mark Kinver crying that penguins are “suffering” (whilst whales and seals are thriving, as reported well hidden in the same article); Pallab Ghosh fantasizing about Soviets getting the Moon before the Americans (forgetting that the key technological factor was the development by the US of combustion chambers able to withstand enormous pressures, so the Saturn-V could do with 5 engines on the first stage instead of 30).
Expect soon articles on how people feel about string theory, and the dangers to the fabric of the Universe caused by pesky European particle accelerators (oh…nevermind)
Evidently (and evidently again) the Met Office did tell some people that the winter was going to be mild (pettifogging protestations notwithstanding). And likely (and likely again) it did tell some other people that the winter was going to be harsh.
This might mean they have told some other people yet, that the winter was going to be average. Could those people please step forward. You know, that’s the best way for the Met Office to try to pull off a “Derren Brown” and tell the world how good their work really is.
The news about the “exceptionally cold winter” forecast was broken by the BBC’s Roger Harrabin (of Jo Abbess fame), apparently from the pages of the Radio Times. I cannot be 100% sure because I do not read the Radio Times, there is no mention of Harrabin on the RT website and the closest online trace to Harrabin’s words is an article from the Daily Telegraph. Obviously there is no reason to believe the Telegraph has made up Harrabin’s quotes, and given that there’s been no protestation by Harrabin himself the Telegraph story is very very likely to be true.
- Why then, has Harrabin said not a thing about this all in the BBC News website?
- How can the Met Office secretly telling something very important to somebody somewhere in the UK Government at local or national level NOT be an important news item to tell the world about in first person, given it also is has appeared in almost 30 mainstream media articles in the UK?
- Why has nobody at the BBC written anything on the BBC News website, so that the only references you find are in readers’ comments?
I have been insulted as a “denialist” if not “baby-eater” for far…warmer words than what has appeared last night on the BBC Science & Environment pages (as usual, one has to see things through the rather silly title of the piece).
Extract from “Polar bears can be saved by emissions cuts, study says”
by Neil Bowdler (BBC, 15 Dec 2010):
Dr Ted Maksym, of the British Antarctic Survey (Bas), said he agreed there was little evidence of “tipping points” in the Arctic.
“All the literature that has looked for a tipping point for sea ice has essentially found none. This has been drowned out a bit by the noise surrounding the 2007 minimum [for summer ice loss] and a possible ‘death spiral’ for Arctic sea ice.”
“The suggestion that if global temperature rise is kept below 1.25 degrees that polar bears will survive is encouraging; but given current trends this is not likely to be achieved. So we are by no means out of the woods.”
Professor Julian Dowdeswell of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, said such research was important, but that reality could turn out to be different – something the authors of the paper have recognised.
“To have a good physical understanding of the natural world, it’s important that we do run predictive models,” he said.
“But it’s equally important to remember that they are only models and not reality. Usually there is an envelope of possible futures, rather than one future.”