There was a lively little exchange on the Today programme this morning between class-warrior Julie Burchill and posh eco-activist George Monbiot. Burchill was there to promote her new book Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy, in which she accuses high-profile Green activists of being hypocritical, authoritarian elitists:
In every other political movement, you will have people from the working classes. Even the Suffragettes, who were really posh, there were, like, some northern mill girls involved. Every green involved is from a rich, inherited-wealth family, and I think they just have a great contempt for the mass of people. It’s always cheap food, cheap travel that they say is such a terrible thing, as if it’s dreadful for the working class to have access to things they’ve always had, and I find this quite morally repugnant […]
Greenery is a great way now for posh, useless people to lecture the working classes about what they should be doing, and how they shouldn’t be having cheap food or cheap holidays, and it’s just so disgusting and hypocritical tomfoolery
George Monbiot was there to disagree:
It’s a concatenation of every lazy and ridiculous stereotype about the greens. And it seems to me that she knows nothing about Environmentalism, hasn’t bothered to do any research, and yet still feels able to mouth off about it at some length. And as for this idea that we’re all po-faced, hair-shirt posh people, it’s just complete nonsense.
He even had some research to prove it:
There was a recent ICM poll which showed that people in social classes D and E are far more concerned about environment and far more concerned that the government does something about it than people in social classes A and B. [His emphasis]
This is an argument he borrowed from his posh mate Mark Lynas, who had himself cobbled it together after a cursory rummage in the poll’s small print. But what Lynas actually said was this:
The number of people who thought that environment should be the government’s priority rather than the economy was substantially higher (56%) among the lower income, less well-educated DE demographic than among the better-off ABs (47%).
And even that was a highly optimistic interpretation. Yes, 56% of DEs thought that environment should have priority over economy compared to 47% of ABs, but that difference was balanced out by the 33% of DEs (compared to 26% of ABs) who thought green taxes should never be introduced. The responses of ABs and DEs to the remaining two questions were the same. And as we pointed out at the time, closer scrutiny of the small print reveals that the demographics of the poll’s respondents were such that a much higher proportion of DE respondents were unlikely to be affected by environmental tax hikes.
But once the poll has been filtered by Monbiot, via Lynas, the emergent truth is that
people in social classes D and E are far more concerned about environment and far more concerned that the government does something about it than people in social classes A and B.
Which is kind of funny when the subject of the interview is green hypocrisy and the person concerned is a strident Environmentalist with a penchant for writing stroppy articles at the merest whiff of a dodgy ‘fact’ from anybody who doesn’t conform to the climate orthodoxy. Here and here, for example.
Monbiot kept digging:
It’s true that upper-middle class people like me get far too much airtime by comparison to everybody else, but […] this doesn’t distinguish Environmentalism from any other aspect of public life. If you look at journalism, if you look at the arts, if you look at politics – even, for God’s sake, the Labour party is partly dominated now by relatively posh people. Why single out Environmentalism for this?
Monbiot might well be right that Environmentalists are no more hypocritical than various other opportunistic professionals, but is that really something to shout about? And it’s still worth singling out the Greens because they are the only ones claiming to be a grass-roots popular movement.
Talking of which, George was conducting his interview live from the Climate Camp protest in Kent. Which is about as grass-roots as it gets if you listen to the likes of Monbiot. Which makes the following comment made to a message board by a disgruntled eco-activist particularly hilarious:
i took time out of my life to attend both Drax and Heathrow camps… (costing me a huge chunk out of my monthly budget)
but have decided against coming to the camp in Kent this year.
reasons being, i feel the camp has an arrogant, middle class clique of “organisers”- who claim the camp has no leaders (but aggressively shout at you if ur not in bed by 11pm) and claim the camp has anarchist roots, whilst appearing (to me) as a bunch of george mombiet arse licks….
yes, i support the camp…
but no, i am not going out of my way to support it, as i do not wish to be judged/looked down on/be bossed around by a bunch of snobs posing as protestors
Case in point: the offshore oil debate in America.
I keep asking the question: what is so bad about offshore oil? Isn’t it more “local” than oil brought halfway around the globe? Wouldn’t you want this by virtue of your own philosophy?
Local oil only matters if you consider that local resources are more abundant and local extraction is more efficient than trading something else you have lots of with a foreign country where resources and extraction are so abundant and cheap that transport costs are paid for hundred times over.
Britain relies heavily on gas from Russia, and imports electricity from France. There’s more than enough coal in Britain, but it’s strategically better and more efficient to buy it for cheaper from elsewhere than deplete the local resource.
Switching to local supply only makes sense when it becomes more efficient than foreign supply. Sometimes if foreign supply is limited by a cartel, the threat of switching to local supply can also be a bargaining tool.
As usual, Julie Burchill shows a faultless sense of political judgement, not to mention an admirable respect for the facts and an in-depth understanding of the scientific issuee. If only people would treat her spirited defence of Stalin and Stalinism with as much respect! Stalin understood very well that politics – and specifically the merciless imperatives of class struggle – must take precedence over any bourgeois notion of scientific objectivity.
Of course, climate ‘sceptics’ such as Lord Nigel Lawson and Christopher Monkton (3rd Viscount Monkton of Benchely) come from unimpeachably proletarian backgrounds, and this is reflected in the soundness of their views.