Inner Spin, Outer Chaos

Rotation has long been a problem for humans seeking to understand the world. Who or what is rotating? Any sufficiently drunk person or dizzy child sees everything else revolving, yet they both remain static in relation to the world they fall to. A more sober Copernicus posited that the earth revolves around the sun, which explained things more simply than the geo-centric view that had existed before. Galileo followed, adding weight to this view and upsetting the order which had located its authority at the centre of the universe. Later still, the notion of a centre ceased to have any real meaning. The revolution of mind about the rotation of the world yields a powerful metaphor – the Copernican Revolution.

Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge of objects by establishing something in regard to them a priori, by means of concepts, have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success in the tasks of metaphysics, if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge. This would agree better with what is desired, namely, that it should be possible to have knowledge of objects a priori, determining something in regard to them prior to their being given. We should then be proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus’ primary hypothesis. Failing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved round the spectator, he tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest. A similar experiment can be tried in metaphysics, as regards the intuition of objects. – Immanuel Kant. Critique of Pure Reason.

What we apprehend in the act of seeing, then, is the bringing together of the perceiver and the perceived, not simply the world. Though, it is the perspective we have on the world which we forget – we only see the world. One does not see one’s eyes ‘seeing’, just as one does not feel one’s hands feeling for the light switch in the dark – we instead feel the surface of the wall. Quicker than we forget that we’re seeing, we forget what we bring to our view.

If we have been saying anything on this blog, it is that, in the debate about the climate, it is the perspectives which are brought to the climate change problem – not the problem itself – which shape the outcome of that meeting. As we put it, ‘the politics is prior’. One effect of this, we have argued, is to see the human world in ‘natural’ scientific terms, as though it had arrived in its current state through a force of nature. An instance of this we have spent much time considering is the reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) who argue respectively that 150,000 and 300,000 deaths are caused each year by climate change. We argue that the causes of those deaths – malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition – are in fact first-order effects of poverty, even if they are (and they may well be) Nth-order effects of climate change. But the GHF and WHO instead seem to argue for climate change to be prioritised, in spite of the fact that from any an ethical, logical or numerical perspective, poverty is the much greater problem. The GHF and WHO are preoccupied with climate.

So much for the view of the world from the perspective of the WHO and GHF, then. We think that we have, on this blog, achieved a better purchase on the world than those we have criticised have managed. We make no claims about this being the last word, or that our view is not itself vulnerable to criticisms about perspective. We welcome criticism that would identify a problem with our approach. Have we mistaken what we had brought to our picture of the world for something that really exists within the picture? Had we failed to reflect on our own perspective? It is this lack of reflectivity that we criticise the environmental movement of.

Criticism of this kind has not been forthcoming. Instead, it seems that we are charged with belonging to a ‘network’ that is somehow committed to something so hideous that our criticism is, by this membership, made illegitimate. At least, that seems to be the logic of the Spinwatch project, who have given us our own page on their muck-raking website Spin Profiles. The copy of this page has since changed (we pointed out to them just how daft it was), but this is how it read

Climate Resistance is a blog based anti-environmentalist project of the libertarian LM network. Launched in 2007, it is edited by LM network associates Stuart Blackman and Ben Pile.

We had been listed by the Spinprofiles site as a ‘Principal Current Associated Organisation’ of the ‘LM Network’, which is characterised by Spinwatch as an association of people holding with a ‘libertarian and anti-environmentalist ideology’, formed from the remains of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Living Marxism magazine (later known simply as LM magazine), which was sued for libel by ITN about a decade ago. This ‘network’, argues Spinprofiles, still exists.

Many of the techniques used are characteristic of the RCP, including: the creation of a range of organisations without apparent formal links; the launching of multiple campaigns; the preference for extensive and extended debate; the adoption of contrarian and controversial positions; the use of martial terminology; and the early adoption of leading edge communication techniques.

So although there is no formal link between ourselves and whatever the ‘LM network’ is supposed to be, this was taken as evidence that a nefarious, underhand connection exists – we are therefore a ‘Principal Current Associated Organisation’ of the ‘LM Network’. Absence of evidence is evidence. We are, according to this claim, a ‘front organisation’. This here little blog is like an al Qaeda cell, unconditionally given to a doctrine, that precludes its authors from reason.

… political extremists who eulogise technologies like genetic engineering and reproductive cloning and are extremely hostile to their critics, whom they brand as Nazis. What is particularly disturbing is that it is a network which engages in infiltration of media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote its agenda as well as establishing a strong {sic} of their own organisations.

So how much of this is true, you may be wondering – though the real question ought to be ‘how much of it is significant?’ Are we libertarian? Shock, horror… yes, we are a bit. Are we anti environmentalist? Read the blog! Of course we are! Are we part of a ‘network’? No.

As flattered as we are by the claim, this blog is an independent project. Spin Profiles believes that this blog is a project of the ‘LM network’ because we occasionally write for Spiked and the Institute of Ideas’ on-line and off-line projects. (And we are proud to have done so.) Thus we are now – in the eyes of Spin Profiles – ‘associated’ with a network. The implication is that we are somehow obliged to some organisation, or take instructions from them, but the substance of Spinwatch’s arguments – i.e, the evidence of ‘association’ – consists of nothing. You could be part of a ‘network’ on this basis for nothing more than having had a beer with another alleged ‘member’ of the ‘network’.

The nerdish and unhealthy preoccupation with conspiratorial networks must be very exciting for those casting themselves as brave investigators. The discovery of every ‘association’ in every ‘network’ must surely reveal to these detectives the full extent of the web of conspiracies that rule the world. However, there is a problem with such an approach. It presupposes that there is something wrong the very nature of ‘association’.

SpinProfiles documents the communication, PR, spin and propaganda activities of public relations firms and the public relations industry. SpinProfiles also includes profiles on think tanks, front groups funded by industry and industry-friendly experts that can influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of transnational corporations or other special interests.

What is a network, then? And what does membership of a ‘network’ imply? Spinwatch could not tell you. All that Spinwatch have observed is an essential characteristic of political life – people with similar ideas converge occasionally. It is no more a surprise that the objects of Spinwatch’s study converge than it is that the people behind Spinwatch have converged. Indeed, this is similar the the argument of a blog – Spinwatch Watch – who point out that the group’s claim to be exposing the undue influence of PR and corporate interests is somewhat undermined by the fact that committed environmentalist and Tory MP and multi-multi-multi-multi millionaire, Zac Goldsmith funded the operation:

Zac Goldsmith is theTory millionaire who funds SpinProfiles, SpinWatch and scores of other green front organisations. Goldsmith, who inherited £300 million from his father James Goldsmith’s asset-stripping, used his cash to buy The Ecologist magazine.

Goldsmith raised eye-brows when it became clear that though he was running to be a Member of Parliament, he was avoiding paying tax in Britain, by having himself registered as non-domicile.

So who is spinning?

The reality seems to be that the people behind the Spinprofiles have a very primitive understanding of the world they attempt to observe. The world and the objects in it appear to be spinning. Yet, it is in fact their own profile which rotates.

We have pointed out before that there is a tendency amongst those of an environmental bent to see criticism of their projects as unjust, and in conspiratorial terms. Mythology and Rumours of ‘well-funded denial machines’ exist to explain to Green campaigners why their success in changing the public’s mind has been so limited. On this view, the human mind is fragile, and so it has been easy for conspiratorial networks to distort reality against the difficult truth that environmentalists have been selflessly working to make known. Heroic, down-trodden, hard-working greens have been battling against the establishment itself. The likes of Prince Charles, Zac Goldsmith, Crispin Tickell, Jonathan Porritt and Nick Stern are today’s… erm… revolutionaries…

… You see, it just doesn’t work. No matter how hard environmentalists try to tell this story, it just doesn’t tally. The establishment is green, Green, GREEN. The UK general election produced a coalition of two parties that are firmly committed to the climate agenda. The major party once stood under the slogan ‘Vote Blue, go Green’, and got its leader – now the UK’s Prime Minister – to announce its energy policy at Greenpeace’s UK headquarters. The minority party promised a carbon-free Britain by 2050. The losing Labour Party is deciding on a new leader, a role which Ed Miliband is competing for. Miliband, you will remember, was so mindful of the stark fact that his government’s climate policies lacked democratic legitimacy that he asked environmentalists to produce a movement like the suffragettes, or the civil rights and anti-apartheid campaigns of the last century. Miliband is also best chums with Franny Armstrong, the director of the Age Of Stupid, and frequently makes appearances with her. The climate agenda enjoys the support of the political establishment, and has denied the public the opportunity of testing it democratically. Yet the mythology which casts the climate agenda as radical – and its players as heroes – persists.

As we have pointed out on very many occasions, George Monbiot and the UK’s first Green MP, Caroline Lucas, are the first to complain about the undemocratic influence of corporate spin and PR. And indeed, these two greens sit on the advisory board of Spinwatch – Spin Profiles’ parent project.

Is it a coincidence that we criticise Monbiot and Lucas, and that we end up on their project’s blacklist?

That’s not to say that Spinwatch have added us to their collection because we’ve spoken against Lucas and Monbiot, but that rather than answering our criticism – or any of the criticism that has come from any of the people we are now ‘associated’ with – we have now been ‘associated’ with a ‘network’ of ‘PR’ and ‘spin’, so that they don’t have to. It’s easier to complain about networks than it is to get engaged in debate.

We could make more of an issue about the connections between Monbiot, Lucas, Goldsmith, and Spinprofiles’ connections to and sympathies with the British establishment, ie, hypocrisy. But our point here is more to try to explain why Spinprofiles perspective is unwittingly spinning. Lucas, Monbiot, Spinwatch, the UK’s new, green political establishment, are a network, the associations of which consist in each member’s disorientation. We have pointed this out before. Monbiot expresses the symptom most acutely:

George emerges dizzy from his own spinning and thinks it is the world that’s confused about what direction it is moving in. And this is his fundamental problem. Everything he writes is a projection of his own inability to understand a world that fails to conform to his expectations. The ideas he uses to orientate himself fail to give him purchase on his own existential crisis; they crumble underfoot.[…] Monbiot is a painful symptom of this disorientation, not a bright and leading advocate of an urgent cause.

The crisis is in politics, not in the skies. Monbiot – who, for some reason is regarded as one of the intellectual lights of the environmental movement – misconceives any form of politics as ‘identity politics’ because he struggles to identify himself. Therefore he becomes terrified of any political ‘identity’ or idea which threatens to undermine or usurp his fragile grip, expressed as his fears that ideas themselves will lead to the inevitable destruction of the biosphere by distracting people from their religious commitment to carbon reduction. Similarly, as more mainstream members of the establishment loose confidence in themselves and their functions, their claims to be engaged in ‘saving the planet’ is straightforward self-aggrandizement in the face of nervousness. We can say then, that the wasteland that is the intellectual landscape of contemporary mainstream and radical politics represents its thinkers’ own identity crises. The result is crisis politics – politicians, journalists, and activists who sustain themselves by creating panic, fear, alarm, and tragically, public policy.

What brings the associates of Spinprofiles together – what they share – is an inability to understand the world, and a lack of confidence in their own grasp on it. Hence they see it spinning – nothing they use to see the world by holds true. And hence they invent stories to explain their failure to make it do as they will it to. A thin grasp on the world amplifies anxiety about its demise. In the same way, an infant cannot make a distinction between his failure to assert his will on the world, and the end of that world. The choice as they understand it is between their way or doomsday.

The Spinners see a problem in the mere fact of association – it implies something underhand and malign – but fail to see themselves as associated. It is as if, in order to compensate for their failures, they now seek the real estate above the petty affairs of mere humans: people who find themselves associated by virtue of shared perspectives or interests must obviously have only been brought together on a dangerous myth, because there can be no objective basis for their coming together. Only the spinners are brought together by truth.

This inability to identify or reflect on their own perspective is nothing new. It’s the same symptom of any of the alienated 9-11 truther, or NWO conspiracy theorists. The world exists as a huge mass of connections, and the connections can be read off to imply that Queen Elizabeth II is related to George W Bush, and so both are implicated in something or other, thereby proving that both belong to some extra-terrestrial race of lizard-Jews. But what is being expressed in such views is not as much a perspective on the world, as these individuals’ inability to understand it.

15 thoughts on “Inner Spin, Outer Chaos”

  1. Welcome back, it’s been too long without you!

    It seems as if the intelligentsia has now thought so long and so hard about so many difficult issues, that they have exhausted themselves and reached a set of conclusions that totally invert reality. So in their fevered minds, science and rationality are exchanged with dogma and prejudice; debate becomes conspiracy; improvements mutate into degradations; uncertainty is banned and truth becomes … whatever they want it to be. The only question left is how on earth can we save ourselves from these lunatics?

  2. A well-reasoned piece! I’m so grateful to you – now I see clearly why Monbiot is so dogmatic, emphatic and unable to accept any alternative views – he’s frightened even to consider he just might be wrong. Brilliant!

  3. Having for so long assumed I was part of a right-wing denialist conspiracy, now by virtue of association with nefarious “LM network” members I find myself part of a left-wing denialist conspiracy as well, simultaneously. Do the two cancel out??

    Seriously, welcome back!

  4. Great piece. “Spin Profiles” sounds like it’s the same as “DeSmogBlog” or “ExxonMobilSecrets” in the States. Or is that a conspiracy theory of my own?

  5. as an association of people holding with a ‘libertarian and anti-environmentalist ideology’, formed from the remains of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Living Marxism magazine

    Libertarian AND Marxist! Well done! I would have said that was an impossible mixture to pull off.

  6. I think the Spiked Online crew are more ex-Marxists (although they still advocate the abolition of the British monarchy and the House of Lords).

  7. Well come back.

    I hope you are going to talk about how the climate change “network” have been a little quiet lately – is it perhapse because a colder than average year mucks up their temperature trends?

    Your thoughts on the hyperbole surrounding the BP “Disaster” (I.e. accident and relatively short term pollution) would also be welcome.

    I know you need to defend yourself, but please don’t get too bogged down in what other blogs are saying. There are bigger targets for you out there!

    keep up the good work!

  8. Google search for “climate resistance” yields this top response:

    Climate Resistance
    Climate Resistance is a blog based anti-environmentalist project of the libertarian LM network. Launched in 2007, it is edited by LM network associates …
    http://www.climate-resistance.org/ – Cached – Similar

  9. Congratulations to whoever. David Adam of Guardian Environment has also been on paternity leave. You should arrange some mutual babysitting.
    Some sad news. Due to lack of funds, as of March 31st 2010 the Global Humanitarian Forum has ceased all its activities. So maybe those 300,000 deaths a year have been wiped out.
    Alex, we are doomed by our contradictions. I once recommended both C-R and Omniclimate in a post on CiF. A CiFFer did some googling, discovered the Spiked link, and that Maurizio of Omniclimate had done some moonlighting as London press officer for Berlusconi’s party. Suddenly I was at the centre of an international left-right conspiracy! For five minutes I was all Smiley.
    Spinwatch is odd. Its list of climate change deniers looks as if it hasn’t been updated for years. There are none of the blogs we all know and love, and some names (Dick Taverne) seem to have got there by accident. We’ve all heard tales of how farcically incompetent MI5, STASI etc are in devising lists of enemies. Here you can see the process in action.

  10. Wasp-honey, thanks for pointing it out, it’s obviously Google’s idea of a joke. It seems to periodically take random tags and quotes and take them as our mission statement, in spite of there being a perfectly good about page. I’ll try and sort it out, but google take months to respond to the simplest thing.

  11. Welcome back. If the climate change camp explained its positions as well and as honestly as you do yours — even if they merely engaged you in good-faith debate — the world of would be a much better place. And what the hey, we might even get closer to the truth about climate change, as a byproduct. I am, however, not holding my CO2-rich breath.

  12. xxx “world of would” should of course be “world would.” Cut and paste demons strike again. I see them as a bigger threat to humanity than even global warming! 😉

  13. “A thin grasp on the world amplifies anxiety about its demise. In the same way, an infant cannot make a distinction between his failure to assert his will on the world, and the end of that world. The choice as they understand it is between their way or doomsday.”

    This is the vital statement in this piece. It’s inversion is equally true – ‘An infant cannot (yet) make a distinction between his success at asserting his will on the world, and the continuance of that world’.

    In other words, our first belief is always – ‘the world IS, because I will it’. At its most basic – ‘I feed myself (by the power of my willing)’. Self-sustenance, of course, is a curious preoccupation of the environmentalist.

    Infancy is where this belief is challenged and (if successful) replaced with a new recognition – ‘I am because the OTHER sustains me’. If the sources of sustenance lie beyond the will of the self, then the infant accepts the need to surrender to negotiation with those sources in order to survive. Negotiation – or ‘relationship’ – becomes essential, along with a language where words are used to find what can and cannot be exchanged. Negotiation, of course, is something the environmentalist is notoriously bad at doing – and websites such as Spinprofiles never tire of protesting how unwanted it is.

    If the infancy period fails (if the acceptance of ‘other’ is rejected), the resulting adult will spend his life trying to will the world back to conforming to his first unconscious (and unmodified) experience of it. And he will seek out like-minded accomplices to further his project. It is in this we find all the ingredients of tyranny and Utopian regression (‘the world IS because I will it’).

    With the rightfully tyrannous demands of new babies preoccupying the Climate Resistance editors, perhaps their reflection on infancy here is doubly appropriate.

  14. “Have we mistaken what we had brought to our picture of the world for something that really exists within the picture?”

    It has often bothered me that I am so certain that the warmists are talking rubbish,
    (although I am not always certain what they are talking rubbish *about*). Certainly I bring something to the picture. Hopefully it’s something like common sense.

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