Is there a plan?

Podcasters Alex McCarron (Escape from Lockdown) and Paul Rodriguez (State of the Markets) have a debate on the ideas in currency about whether all things Covid (and more) are the fruits of a ‘plan’ or not. Arguing that there is a plan was State of the Markets co-host, Tim Price. In the other corner was Country Squire’s James Bembridge.

The climate war has often thrown up claims of conspiracy theories. There are the cod-psychologists who have attempted to embellish elaborate theories about sceptics’ being prone to conspiracy theories — ‘ideation’, as the climate shrinks want to call it — using exotic statistical methods that are not appropriate to the tasks. Others have followed the cause of psychology as political smear-mongering — essentially libelling people who disagree with the cosy consensus of tired academe. It turns out that attacks on democracy from lofty towers that trade on defending those towers from criticism using ‘conspiracy ideation’ as a stick to beat down such criticism only expose the shortcomings of their science. It’s too easy to see it for what it is: grubby, cod psychology, recruited into political campaigns, to use the authority of academic institutions to belittle opposition to a political agenda.

Is that a conspiracy theory or is it a statement of no confidence in what is, on any reasonable analysis, a very poor science indeed, which nonetheless has political utility? Calling politically-motivated academics bullshit merchants is not a conspiracy theory. But they would maintain it is, because they believe that the Academy is the only place in which authorised thought may occur. QED.

Anyway. The response to covid has taken everyone by surprise. On many a view, lockdown and the suchlike has left far more lives in tatters than the virus. And this raises a massive question mark over what caused the response, which includes the idea that a plan of some kind must have been in effect. I initially wrote the following in response to Alex’s request for questions to the debaters. But it soon grew too long. So I’m posting it here instead. I do not believe there is a plan, and I think it is a shame that many have rushed to claim that plans — among other things — must exist, because there is no other way to explain how things have unfolded. On the other hand, the last 18 months really do require a hell of a lot of explanation.

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Of course there is a plan… in the middle of the last century, the United Nations very quickly formed around the idea that national sovereignty must be heavily modified, if not entirely dismantled, and the nation state made subordinate what was candidly called ‘world government’. These ideas are clearly stated in its founding texts and in its machinations. Among its leading proponents in that era were Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein, who having urged for the creation of the atom bomb during WWII, then argued that only science could regulate global society in the aftermath of its creation. But this was an impossible dream, given the emerging geopolitics created by the bomb. The USA and USSR could not be reconciled in that way.

In fact, the idea of ‘internationalism’ preceded WWII, the bomb, and the UN – the League of Nations – and was advanced by many, including the architect of Apartheid and founder of ecological holism, Jan Smuts. That is to say that the idea of a world political order, led by Europeans (i.e. white people), founded on seemingly scientific principles of ecology preceded Greta’s emergence by some 100 years.

The idea of technocracy was well and truly established by Technocracy Inc. in the 1930s. These ideas have gripped wealthy and powerful people throughout the following century, who saw opportunities to influence designs for social organisation in their interests. Initially, they were able to influence the UN. The UN Environment Programme, for example, was established I the 1970s by oil tycoon Maurice Strong, and supported by the Rockefeller family, among other green billionaires.

However, the UN proved to be too inflexible and slow-moving for their ambitions. The raft of weirdo outfits like the WEF/Bilderberg/Trilateral were established as a parallel UN, because their convenors believed that international governance based on the cooperation of governments of sovereign nations was clumsy and outmoded. They believed that global society should be regulated by business leaders and ‘stakeholders’ – i.e. a neo-feudalism, in which democratic governments are diminished, and serfs represented only to the extent that NGOs take an interest in their lives.

Those are the plans. But the historical detail has been lost, and the rightfulness of global institutions (including Bretton Woods institutions) was first taken for granted, and then taken as the necessary solution to every conceivable ‘problem’ with a global dimension.

But of course there is no plan. Though everyone can see the problem with globalists’ designs for a new world order, some notable fantasists and blowhards have presented open, easily accessible, recorded but boring historical fact as evidence of a nefarious, secret plot. By overstating what plans are capable of, and the plotters’ abilities to assert their plots on society, a sober reading of history and the present are obscured.

The plan is the ‘great reset’. Or the plan is Satan. Or the plan is to smash planes into skyscrapers. Or the plan is to activate a modification of human bodies using nanoparticles activated by the 5G network. Or the plan is Agenda 21. These claims – and more besides – fill gaps in their authors’ historical knowledge and understanding to replace them with elaborate fantasies. They conceal an inability to explain the problem with ideologies from first principles. And the notion of a plot simply raises the question mark over the good faith of conspiracy theorists, who seem keener on promoting themselves than developing robust ideas.

The plan does not need a “plan”. Ideology establishes the basis for institutions, and institutions take opportunities to advance themselves and the ideologies on which they are founded. As sure as the maxim ‘when you’ve only got a hammer’, an institution established to protect society from novel viruses will see every new pathogen as the re-emergence of Spanish flu (or worse) and will act accordingly.

Ditto, every natural disaster will seemingly highlight the urgency of global institutions required for the amelioration of global warming. But notice that greens did not need to cause the disaster, even if they did lie about the frequency, intensity and destructive potential of extreme weather. It is green ideology, not a plot, that drives the agenda.

The ‘plan’ is the ideology. And any criticism of the ideology that requires a plot – such as a document like Agenda 21, or Schwab’s dire prose, or a plot like 911, or nanoparticles – overreaches, even if it is offered in good faith.

The questions that get neglected by a preoccupation with plots are: who the F does Bill Gates think he is? What are the competencies of global institutions? What legitimate role exists for ‘philanthropists’ in global society, and public life? Why have seemingly democratic representatives been such an open door for global projects, but at our expense? And why should we take global institutions’ (or even any institutions’) good faith for granted, and at face value?

Worse, attempting to explain that what has been ‘exposed’ is not what it seems, is prosaic or incredible, draws the ire of people who have been frankly lazy in their search for evidence and making sense of history, in otherwise well-meaning attempts to explain their sense that something is wrong. In seeking to understand the world, they may well have fallen for ideas that are no better than the WEF’s ambitions to create a dreary existence for us.

The desire for smoking-gun evidence of a plot is understandable. But even a video of Bill Gates on Epstein’s private jet, an underage girl on his knee, with a bottle of poison mislabelled ‘vaccine’ in one hand and the blueprint for 5G-enabled nanobots in the other, while explaining the whole wretched scheme to the camera, would tell us nothing. It may humiliate him, and perhaps undermine organisations that he was involved with. But others will take their place, and plots do not explain how money and power work, and how ideologies fester. It distracts from ideas about how to resolve the problem.

Let’s focus on ‘plans’ as ideology, not as plots. All of the plots that need be discovered, and that are required to understand the world were published by the conspirators and given full exposition in countless boring documents. There is no ‘truth’ to be discovered, such that the scales will fall from people’s eyes. To see a situation with clarity and perspective requires hard work, discrimination, self-reflection and criticism from friends and allies. There are no short cuts.

It’s not enough to criticise only XR’s ‘methods’

The fortnight of Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests on London’s streets are drawing to a close. As with earlier protests, significant news coverage and comment has been driven by XR’s trademark tactics: although seemingly making demands of government, directing its ‘protests’ against the public by blocking roads. But while discussion is about its tactics, the opportunity for deeper reflection on what XR is, and what the absurd spectacle of so many self-regarding narcissists in fancy dress making unreasonable demands on the rest of us says about society is lost. The continued failure to meaningfully confront green ideology not only explains XR’s existence, it ensures that the backwards, anti-democratic and deeply weird green movement, XR and beyond, will linger.

‘What is Extinction Rebellion and what does it want?’, asked an almost entirely uncritical BBC. It’s a good question, but one that the BBC is incapable of answering. This lack of depth to coverage was set in advance of the protest by a Newsnight ‘debate’, which asked, ‘is this form of mass action the best way to change policy?’. XR organiser, Clare Farrell claimed that ‘People will come together in mass protest’, and that they “are serious about the fact that disruptive protest does work”. Director of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN), Sam Hall disagreed, ‘XR’s actions in the past and potential this action as well are going to be counter-productive’.

What this concern for a more effective protest movement demonstrates is the aversion to debate. Whereas Farrell may have vastly overestimated XR’s abilities to mobilise the public, CEN is little more than a Westminster cheese-and-wine club. Neither street-level greens nor establishment environmentalists can claim to have won the public over, yet PR tactics is the only point of difference between them. Moreover, XR and CEN are all but the same organisation. They share the same funders, who backed the project established by multimillionaire failed MP, failed London Mayoral candidate, now Lord Zac Goldsmith, to address the perception that the climate ‘movement’ is dominated by left-wing crusties, to bring the centre right into the climate camp.

Thus mainstream discussion about XR gets no deeper than discussions about ‘perception’, with the righteousness of the anti-democratic cause presupposed. At the new and usually provocative GB News, in an interview with XR co-founder Roger Hallam, Nigel Farage declared himself a lifelong and committed ‘environmentalist’.

Similarly, a forthright Mark Dolan diminished his monologue against ‘avocado-chomping numpties’ by explaining that he was ‘no climate denier’. ‘There’s plenty more to do in the UK to tackle our carbon footprint’, he said, suggesting that XR should focus their criticism on BRICS countries who have yet to fully commit to the Net Zero agenda. ‘I’m hugely excited about the possibility of millions of jobs generated and the massive potential long-term income created for the country by embracing eco technologies’, he claimed elsewhere. Really? What ‘eco technologies’? There are none.

The problem with this reluctance to commit to criticism of XR without caveats or apology is that it leaves nobody any the wiser as to when and how a categorically crazy argument becomes… what… Sensible? Commentators obsess over agreeing with XR’s aims, but not their methods. But is there really such a distinction to be made? Are establishment greens any more grounded in reality than their scruffy counterparts? At what point between a protester and a climate technocrat does reason enter the climate camp? Both will obstruct traffic, but only one will get moved on by Police.

That something as absurd as XR exists to champion the cause should be a fatal embarrassment to all green politics. What passes for their political argument, philosophical grounding or connection with a broader constituency is no deeper than their absurd, hackneyed situationism – petty vandalism thinly disguised as naff street theatre. XR cannot pass as a movement of people that are capable of understanding what they demand, because it’s not plausible. They are too obviously seen as hypocrites, bearing only manifestly impossible and unreasonable demands, such as the imposition of Net Zero by 2025, and the subordination of representative democracy to Citizen’s Assemblies – ideas that would more likely create civil war than ecological Utopia. Accordingly, it should be embarrassing to sympathise with XR’s aims to any degree.

It is to widespread confusion that XR continue to make demands to a government that is not only in total agreement with its aims, it has already conceded to them. The group formed in Autumn 2018, and within months, they had met with then Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, and had given “evidence” to Select Committees. By the end of 2019, Parliament had declared a climate emergency, raised the targets of the 2008 Climate Change Act from 80% to Net Zero, and convened the Climate Assembly, which met the following year – all apparently in response to XR’s demands and pressed ahead without any semblance of broader public support for them.

There are no sensible ‘aims’ that are divorced from XR’s ‘methods’ to speak of. XR’s aims are to put an intolerable burden on people, to restrict their mobility and material freedoms and impose huge costs on them… Exactly the same as their methods. And with the near-total agreement of the establishment. Thus, any TV commentator agreeing with the ‘aims’ of any part of the green agenda commits to something they simply do not understand.

That perhaps sounds unfair, but the quality of climate-warriors’ arguments do not improve as one moves away from lunatic activists up through the ranks of the political establishment and scientific institutions. Arguably, the absurdity increases.

Take, for example, the appointment by the UN and UK government of David Attenborough as ‘People’s Advocate’ at the upcoming COP26 climate meeting. Attenborough, patron of the neomalthusian campaigning organisation, Population Matters (pka The Optimum Population Trust) is categorically anti-people, as he revealed in a 2013 rant in which he claimed humans have become a ‘plague on the Earth’. ‘We keep putting on {television} programmes about famine in Ethiopia. Too many people there’. Not only was this callous claim wholly ignorant of Ethiopia (which has half the population density of the UK) and its conflicts, it was ignorant of the BBC’s schedule too. In the week that Attenborough made his comments, the BBC showed 14 nature and wildlife programmes and none about Ethiopia. Attenborough has starred in more BBC films than the BBC has made films about famine in Ethiopia. Appointing Attenborough as ‘People’s Advocate’ is as absurd as calling Harold Shipman a ‘pensioners’ advocate’.

Parliament’s virtue-signalling declaration of a ‘Climate Emergency’ was absurd.

Parliament’s passing the Net Zero target, establishing the limits of three decades of policy after just 90 minutes of non-debate, with no idea how to achieve the objective, let alone how to pay for it, let alone without asking the public for consent for the agenda heaped absurdity upon absurdity upon absurdity.

The sight of politicians and world leaders prostrating before a teenage truant is absurd.

UN Secretary General António Guterres declaring ‘a code red for humanity’ following the release of the IPCC’s most recent report was an absurdly alarmist interpretation that owes nothing to any science the report contained.

This emphasis on establishment environmentalism’s absurdities is not merely an argument from incredulity. At the heart of the green perspective is the notion that society’s past can be explained and its future defined by weather, and that civilisation was and is only possible because a favourable and ‘stable’ climate exists.

It has never been true – civilisation exists across a vast range of climatic circumstances, many of them ‘extreme’ relative to others. And as all metrics of human welfare demonstrate by a wide margin, society has never been less vulnerable to extreme weather or any other challenge from “nature”. The central proposition of environmentalism and climate policy is manifestly absurd.

Whereas we might expect institutional science to correct green ideological hyperbole, if they aren’t indulging in it, scientists’ voices fall silent. ‘Transformation is required at every level of society’, wrote UK Chief Scientific Advisor, Patrick Vallance. ‘This is a whole systems challenge. Tackling it will require a systemic approach.’

But transforming society is manifestly the domain of politics, not science. And even within that domain, the extent to which the government and its appointed officials are free to use their power to transform society must be limited and contested, rather than taken for granted, or the consequence is tyranny. The failure of institutional science and its chief scientists to see that they have been recruited into a political project that demands the surrender of democracy to fearmongers is absurd. It is an absurdity far more grotesque than anything XR have staged.

You only need to wander to any climate protest to find exactly the same vapid slogan that Vallance utters so glibly. ‘System change, not climate change’ – on every banner and T-shirt. But what does it mean? Does Vallance really know? Does XR know? I doubt that they do.

XR’s ridiculousness then, by comparison to establishment environmentalism, is understandable. They are responding to, and are the victims of, an unopposed absurdity of epic proportions. And, though annoying, XR are not capable of inflicting on society as much harm as Chief Scientific Advisors, UN Secretary Generals, degenerate Parliaments and wholly incompetent governments. The fact that none of its advocates are able or willing to explain what is the ‘system’ that we must submit to without question or debate and without democratic process, is absurd.

Put simply: if you think XR obstructions are an irritant, wait until you see Net Zero. The seemingly sensible ‘aims’ of XR as espoused by the entire political establishment, and their favoured ‘eco technologies’ are going to leave you immobilised, in a cold home, jobless, and deep in the red forever. Many people are going to be killed or injured, and have their lives diminished and reduced, not by XR protests, but by their ‘aims’.

XR is merely what obedience to absurdity looks like. Its activists have suspended reason, judgement and apparently their own interests. That should signify a warning, because something darker lies beneath XR’s persistence than agreement between them and the establishment.

In the aftermath of the shockwaves caused by the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump, the green project needed to be reformulated. A growing resistance to global ambitions, which threatened the green agenda was developing, and needed to be overcome.

Central to this reformulation was the work of founder and director of US-based The Climate Mobilization project, clinical psychologist, Margaret Klein Salamon.  She is credited with inspiring XR, Greta Thunberg and her schools strike movement, and the Sunrise movement. A 2016 paper by Klein Salamon called ‘Leading the Public into Emergency Mode’ used her insights from clinical psychology, not to help people overcome irrational and false fears, but to instead engender fear and anxiety, especially in children. By first fostering a sense of panic in a core constituency, a political movement could ‘effectively trigger emergency mode in others’. Panic begets panic, as everyone who claims to be against shouting ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded theatre claims to understand. Says Klein Salamon,

In this paper, I will introduce the concept of “emergency mode” which is how individuals and groups function optimally during an existential or moral crisis — often achieving great feats through intensely focused motivation. I will argue that the goal of the climate movement must be to lead the public out of “normal” mode and into emergency mode.

This has huge implications for the climate movement’s communication style, advocacy, and strategy. Because emergency mode is contagious, the best strategy is for climate activists and organizations to go into emergency mode themselves, and communicate about the climate emergency, the need for emergency mobilization, and the fact that they are in emergency mode, as clearly and emphatically as possible.

And so central to this ambition of aligning British society with environmentalism’s goals is the notion that a ‘war footing’ can be established – a reference to the apocryphal ‘wartime spirit’, that seemingly united the country against a deadly foe. Not coincidentally, XR founder Gail Bradbrook, when giving evidence to Parliament, repeatedly cited a sloppy WWII mythology to MPs…

Imagine there’s twenty Hitlers… you know, ‘cos this is far worse than one Hitler… twenty Hitlers lined up… and the British people would say, “no no no, we won’t do anything ‘til twenty-fifty… I just can’t actually imagine that would happen.

Bradbrook believed, per Klein Salamon’s hypothesis, that she could shout “TWENTY HITLERS!” at the British public, and the entire nation would jump up in response  to shout, “WHERE?”, and LO! The wartime spirit would have been synthesised, the world would come together to tackle the greatest ever threat facing mankind! Twenty Hitlers would have been defeated and the world would be a better place.

Such are the delusions of people who take LSD and call it ‘therapy’. Literally.

The top of Klein Salamon’s paper, again not coincidentally foreshadowing Thunberg, asks ‘Imagine there is a fire in your house’, before stating, falsely, ‘Humanity is careening towards the deaths of billions of people, millions of species, and the collapse of organized civilization.’ The overtly panic-mongering treatise drew the attention of the usual suspect eco-billionaires, who funded projects based on the idea, including XR, and of course the Climate Mobilization project, which states

A whole-society transformation.

To protect communities across the world from the Climate Emergency, we need a radical solution: a whole-society mobilization of people and resources to restore a safe climate.

Mobilization is an emergency restructuring of a modern industrial economy, accomplished at rapid speed. It involves the vast majority of citizens, the utilization of a very high proportion of available resources, and impacts all areas of society – nothing less than a government-coordinated social and industrial revolution.

Which is exactly what Vallance ordered, isn’t it.

But we should not constrain our focus on this absurdity to understand what’s going on.

Such attempts to mobilise campaigns through fearmongering are of course, not new. Since the end of the Cold War, western governments have embarked on three major political projects, each of which at face value claim to make the world a better place and protect domestic populations from risk. Terrorism, climate change, and latterly the Covid 19 pandemic have each been presented as causes that demand urgent action.

But as recent weeks have shown, twenty years of War on Terror have not made the world, or us, any safer – a fact which was predictable as it was predicted.

Though there can be little doubt that terrorists exist, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and coronaviruses pose risks to the elderly and infirm, questions about foreign policy, the effectiveness of lockdowns, and the reasoning behind climate policy are always met with the same response: the development of consensus on these issues by amplification of fearmongering, an escalation of smear-mongering, and exclusion and censorship of inconvenient analyses.

To question the proportionality of responses to extant problems is to be a Saddam apologist, to wish death on old people, to be a denier. Yet history has proven early critics of aimless, incautious, and deeply corrupt and corrupting western foreign policy to have been correct. $trillions have been wasted. Thousands of young men have lost limbs or lives. Countless thousands of non-combatants have been caught in the crossfire, and made victims of increasingly savage Islamofascism – a movement that arguably did not exist before the War on Terror created the power vacuum that it stepped into.

Ditto, governments have created far-reaching new powers for themselves, which they are never going to withdraw. Yet critics have pointed out that lockdowns and other interventions are hugely expensive, destroying countless livelihoods and jobs, and are neither necessary nor effective. The UK government’s response to these perspectives was not open, transparent, democratic debate between experts in the full light of public, but was a secretive smear campaign against the scientists who had spoken out of turn.

The fear-mongering and smear-mongering against critics of the climate agenda needs no rehearsal here. Suffice it to say that what unites these three urgent, global causes is that a response to them, in each case requires the transformation of society – the suspension of democracy, the reformulation of the relationship between individuals and the state, and the rollback of ancient rights and hard-won freedoms – just as Vallance, using ‘science’ as a fig leaf, demands.

This is how politics is done in the twenty-first century. Fear and smear. The War on Terror, Lockdowns, and Net Zero are the new normal. And they are already firmly established. The direction has been set. Democracy, criticism and debate are not required. Society is being transformed on the basis that its transformers know better than the transformees, and therefore do not require consent for their projects – even if they require a little bit of nudging, here and there… And the brighter ones need a little bit of smearing every now and then, just to keep things in order.

Society has been unable to confront green ideology because the political establishment is wholly invested in it as much as it is with other ‘urgent’ issues that require them to grant themselves ever more power, and to protect it from democracy. XR are just one, and perhaps a trivial consequence of this failure – a sideshow, which lingers, because even their critics have not understood that XR’s aims and its methods are identical, and that there exists no sensible departure from XR’s methods in the establishment’s aims. Greta said it herself: ‘I want you to panic’. She was reading from a script that had been written several years earlier by Klein Salaman, which was itself written in response to a global political project’s – one of many – standoff against democracy.

So when you hear journalists and TV presenters claim that they agree with XR’s aims but not its methods, that is what they are committed to. They may not know it, but that is the reality beyond XR. XR’s tactics are a distraction from its aims. There is nothing sensible beyond XR’s protests to agree with. They want you to panic, rather than think, because there is nothing sensible beyond XR’s protests to agree with. They do not want society’s consent for its transformation, only its obedience. Do not let anyone tell you that XR’s aims and its methods can be understood as distinct things, nor even that XR exist as a distinct part of the climate movement. They are not well-intentioned but slightly odd people; they have suspended all judgement, to make themselves the agents of fear and panic in the service of an anti-democratic ideological movement.

The Anti-Democratic Climate Assembly

I have written a report on the UK Climate Assembly for the Global Warming Policy Forum, published today. Here’s the press release.

London, 29 January: The UK Climate Assembly, which claimed to have delivered a mandate for a green revolution, could not have delivered a mandate of any kind, according to a new analysis published by the Global Warming Policy Forum.

According to the report’s author, Ben Pile, the Assembly was set up to deliver a preordained result:

“It was in no way a democratic process. Almost everyone involved with convening the assembly, and almost everyone who spoke to it, was involved with environmental campaigning to some extent. Most can be linked to a small group of wealthy environmental funders.”

Pile says that the Assembly was actually set up because the public were unpersuaded of the case for radical action.

“Politicians agreed the net zero target without debate and at best lukewarm public support. The Assembly was an attempt to provide a justification for strong policy measures, but it is ridiculous to suggest that a project like this could deliver some sort of a mandate. The assembly was an attempt to sidestep the democratic process.”

You can download the report here.

I wrote a fair bit more than is in the report. A few sections which didn’t make the final cut was some discussion about the background to the Climate Change Act. As I have long argued here, MPs have put all their horses before all their cars: they believed that they could generate public support for their policies after they had been turned into law, and they believed that the technology required to make their plans a reality required laws to make them viable. Here is a passage summarising that view.


The problem of public opinion vs cross-party consensus

Public opinion has long beset politicians’ climate policy ambitions. In December 2008, then Environment Secretary in the Labour government, Ed Miliband is quoted in the Telegraph,

“When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here”[i].

Miliband’s frustration that climate policies lacked popular support was surprising first for its coincidence with climate activist group, Plane Stupid’s occupation of Stanstead Airport runway, which pitched green activists against the public. Second, it came just days after the Climate Change Act had received Royal Assent on the 26th November 2008. The Bill’s almost entirely unopposed passage through Parliament contrasted with the public’s lack of interest. But Miliband’s concern was pragmatic, rather than for the democratic deficit created by legislation with such far-reaching consequences. Government now faced the prospect either of having to persuade people to ‘Act on CO2’ – as  government campaigns to communicate “the seriousness of climate change to the public through TV, press, radio and online advertising” put it[ii], or enforcing draconian legislation on an unwilling population.

Celebratory accounts of the history of the Climate Change Act reveal that Friends of the Earth (FoE) had produced a draft Climate Change Bill in 2005, organised around the principle of a “top-down” carbon-emissions “budget”, reducing each year[iii] [iv]. The group had organised a campaign, the “Big Ask”, in which 200,000 people wrote to MPs asking them to support the bill. Consequently, an Early Day Motion in the next Parliamentary session drew the support of 412 MPs[v].

Though impressive, 200,000 letters are fewer in number than the votes won by Green Party candidates in that year’s general election. Moreover, by the standards of the era, this sum is dwarfed by other demonstrations of public will, such as the 2003 anti-war marches, which drew crowds estimated between 1 and 2 million[vi].

This contrast is significant to understanding the development of flagship policies of the era, which is characterised by a tendency towards voter apathy. From a relative high of 77.7 per cent in 1992, General Election turnout fell to 59.4 in 2001 rising only slightly to 61.4 in 2005. The candid history of the development of the Climate Change Act offered by its designers[vii] explains that a Labour Party under new leadership was keen to draw a line under its recent history. Similarly, the Conservative Party, also under new leadership, was keen to ‘detoxify’ its image. Parties competed to champion the seemingly safe ground of ‘saving the planet’, in an era regarded by many as politically sterile.

In this era, government and oppositions parties, and public bodies drew heavily from campaigning organisations to formulate policies and to promote them to the public. In 2006, then new leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron, held a press conference at Greenpeace’s London headquarters at which he told journalists, “I passionately believe that a greener world will actually be a safer world”[viii]. Nearly nine years later, the consensus between green organisations and political parties was cemented by Parliamentary lobbying campaign, the Green Alliance, which asked party leaders to sign a pledge, committing to “work together, across party lines, to agree carbon budgets in accordance with the Climate Change Act”[ix].

The political problem of this was identified in 2006 by Professor Mike Hulme of the UEA and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. On Hulme’s view, campaigning organisations, politicians and scientists, “are openly confusing the language of fear, terror and disaster with the observable physical reality of climate change”, concluding that “The language of fear and terror operates as an ever-weakening vehicle for effective communication or inducement for behavioural change”[x]. And just as Hulme observed, climate alarmism failed to align the public with the political consensus.

To the extent that the 2005-2015 era can be characterised by the public’s political appetites, it was manifestly defined, not by the urgent cause of saving the planet, but on the question of Britain’s membership of the European Union. The 2008 Climate Change Act received almost unanimous support from MPs, but on the basis of little public pressure. Politicians, struggling with their parties’ images in an era of disaffection and disengagement, instead seem to have been persuaded by campaigning organisations to create far-reaching policies that now exist on the wrong side of a democratic deficit. With no sense of the public’s willingness to accept draconian policies, this deficit created a climate policy impasse, which was further eclipsed by Brexit, leading to green campaigning organisations’ impatience.

[i] Ed Miliband urges ‘popular mobilisation’ to tackle climate change. The Telegraph. 8 December 2008. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/3681149/Ed-Miliband-urges-popular-mobilisation-to-tackle-climate-change.html

[ii] About ACT ON CO2. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20101006102515/http://actonco2.direct.gov.uk/home/about-us.html

[iii] The Big Ask: How you helped make climate change history. Friends of the Earth. 2017. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/big-ask-how-you-helped-make-climate-change-history

[iv] The Climate Change Act (2008). Institute for Government. 2018. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/climate_change_act.pdf

[v] CLIMATE CHANGE EDM #178. UK Parliament. May 2005. https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/28373

[vi] Iraq war 10 years on: mass protest that defined a generation. The Guardian. February 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/feb/15/iraq-war-mass-protest

[vii] Bryony Worthington speaking at the CDKN Action Lab. Youtube. April 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3xseCcfMZY

[viii] David Cameron goes up on the roof at Greenpeace. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6V85RzlCvE

[ix] Cameron, Clegg and Miliband sign joint climate change agreement. The Green Alliance. February 2015. https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/leaders_joint_climate_change_agreement.php

[x] Chaotic world of climate truth. Mike Hulme. BBC. November 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6115644.stm

 

Who will police green Utopia? And how?

This post is adapted from a recent Twitter thread, based on a Telegraph article, in which it is suggested:

Police may have to enforce strict  environmental laws as part of Government’s ambitious Green agenda

Ambitious climate change targets set by the Government will see a raft of new lifestyle restrictions being imposed

Some have said the article is ‘clickbait’. I think it’s understatement. More on the article shortly.

It’s relevant to me, because I’ve had a a number of conversations with people recently, who are of the mind that, as soon as the government realise the Net Zero agenda has hit material and political reality, it will be withdrawn.

‘Material reality’ means blackouts and huge expense. ‘Political reality’ means the backlash that expense and scarcity cause, which could be anything, protests, riots, or new political movements taking the initiative. The last is a moot point, because there is almost zero possibility of a new party emerging, convincing a majority and taking power before the Net Zero agenda is all but fully implemented. The dominant Westminster parties are members of near-formal consensus on climate change, and are adamant that the public should have no say.

Another version of the argument goes something like, “you can take my car/boiler from my cold dead hands”, but from people who (presumably) have no gun with which to protect their property from policies. The fact is, nobody is going to physically take away your car or boiler. You can keep them. But they will be reduced to useless lumps of metal (or perhaps museum artefacts) by policies which will switch off fuel supplies, after making them ruinously expensive.

It’s going to take, from very many millions of people, that which is essential. And it will hand back only that which is necessary for subsistence, in return for compliance.

Climate technocrats, lobbyists and campaigners of all kinds know that this is the eventuality. They even have a term for what they believe will mitigate the political fallout. They call for a “just transition”.

The problem is that the definition of ‘just’ depends on the generosity of those who stand to gain. The consequence of ruling out democracy is that the principles and policy of “transition” are untested, and nothing holds any promise-maker to their promises — which been nothing but a cascade of unsubstantiated upsides. When the promises fail, it is, of course, going to make very many people very angry. I believe that it risks creating a division in society deeper and wider than anything we have ever seen before: deeper than the miners strikes of the ’70s and ’80s, and deeper than the 1930s, following the Great Depression.

Why? Because it is a draconian agenda, requiring an unprecedented expansion of the state, the reorganisation of the entire economy and of society, which is untested democratically, from which all opposition has been excluded from public debate, and because it relies on technology which does not exist — unicorns — and the green sector’s hollow promises. People are going to lose their jobs, their livelihoods, their homes, their pensions and savings, their stuff, and the things they had planned for their lives. (If such things have even survived government’s and Parliament grotesque Covid-19 failures.)

That’s not something which is going to be resolved in the way that the climate debate has hitherto been resolved: by shouting “DENIER!” at people. The question it will raise is ‘is climate change policy worse than climate change?’. It is going to set people against the state and against each other, not just on the blogosphere, and on the pages of the Guardian — in real life.

The agenda is explicit in requiring the surrender of political sovereignty — the same issue that Brexit was fought over. There will be no mechanism for addressing the inadequacies of green politics. And it is explicit in stating that it will have a material impact on people’s lives — that it will require ‘behaviour change’.

If you disagree, show me the mechanism by which we can, in the event that either the ‘science’ or political design for the post-carbon future turn out to be flawed, withdraw from what politicians who are intent on a ‘global agreement’ between governments call “our commitments”. There is no such exit. There will be no means to switch off *their* power.

The job of managing such differences within society falls to the police, and sometimes the army. Hence, as the Telegraph explains,

Police officers could have to enforce unpopular environmental laws as part of Britain’s increasingly radical Green agenda, a senior officer has suggested.

That is the future of democracy in Britain. The Police *know* it. It’s not an ‘if’. It’s not really a question.

… there are questions around who will enforce the measures with senior police leaders expressing concern that the burden may fall on their shoulders.

[…]

There are concerns that if enforcement by local authorities fails to change people’s behaviour sufficiently, the Government will turn to the police to act.

That’s the answer to people who say that nobody is taking your car/boiler/livelihood away. They are. They will take your stuff away, and charge you for doing so.

Paul Griffiths, the President of the Superintendents’ Association, said this had the potential to create a backlash from the public.

He said: “There are certainly questions around the role that the police will play in enforcing environmental laws in the future.

“We always see with governments and policies, that if they are not keeping pace with their own targets they will look at stricter ways to try and achieve them.

“And of course the police are always a potential avenue of enforcement that is all too easily and readily available.”

[…]

“Whenever we are asked to deal with an enforcement process that has an implication on individuals – as we have seen it in such a stark way this year with the infringements of people’s liberties and freedom of movement – there is a natural backlash.

“The police are the front face of the State in that sense and some of the ambitious green targets that have been set will involve a number of different state agencies in terms of driving environmental change, but at what point on that journey might the police be required to play a role in terms of enforcement? These are issues that should be being discussed now.”

Remember… NOBODY voted for this.

There are indications from the USA, that lawfare — the use of courts, rather than democratic politics, to secure the green agenda’s advance — is to take a new direction, as Anthony Watts reports:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) will be pushing the Biden administration, calling for prominent climate skeptics, and climate skeptical organizations to be put on investigations and “show trials” for daring to question the consensus. There may be worse than that coming, as he seems to genuinely believe we’ve committed some sort of crime and should be punished for it. Make no mistake, it’s coming.

Climate activists have long fantasised about criminalising their opponents. And these are no idle fantasies, either, from isolated green weirdos. They are academics’ fantasies, politicians fantasies, and extremely rich people’s fantasies. In 2011, they acted out their fantasies by hiring the UK Supreme Court, to hold a mock trial of oil executives charged with ‘ecocide’.

Others have called for the death penalty, for Nuerumberg trials. Professor of Political Theory at the University of Exeter, Catriona McKinnon, more recently argues:

Climate denial has increased the risk of catastrophic global change. Should international criminal law be used against those who promote this dangerous trend? Economic and political leaders can no longer pretend it is business as usual. Whether they actively induce environmental harm or just ignore the existential threat against the survival of the human species, states and corporations must be held accountable for their actions or inaction regarding climate change.

[…]

Climate denial has seriously impeded aggressive mitigation efforts that could have averted our present climate emergency. It has magnified the risk that humanity locks in to catastrophic global climate change. The people in positions of authority in states, or industrial groups whose lies have put us and our descendants in peril, should be held accountable. The damage that climate deniers do is heinous, and they have no excuses. The time has come to prosecute them for postericide.

The ambition behind this histrionic rhetoric has been given a trial run during the pandemic. Scientific voices that depart from the political consensus have been slandered, censored and fired. Tech giants have abolished all mention of alternative perspectives. Ordinary people who protest against the measures that have destroyed their lives have had their faces introduced to the pavement.

The ‘science’ proving itself to be so much bunk, scientific debate has been abolished. The institutions of ‘science’ revealing themselves to be entirely political organisations, criticism of scientific claims has been prohibited, by soft power, by harassment, by financial might, by weight, and by law. The government’s claims to be following the ‘science’ collapse in the face of fearmongering academics and self-aggrandizing TV news anchors, authority clutching to sustain itself by revoking longstanding freedoms and belittling the capacities and competences of ordinary people.

What is true of covid-19 is true of climate. If you can invent a projection to use as the basis to protect “half a million lives” by forcing millions of people out of work, then you can use any old hockey stick to justify smashing just as many heads into pavements. They are saving the planet, and they have the charts to prove it. Anyone who would say otherwise will be locked up, censored, fired, cancelled, deleted, fined and disappeared.

Do not underestimate the climate change agenda.

Happy Christmas and new year!

Climate Resistance vs. Extinction Rebellion

Earlier this month, I debated Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallam on Darren Grimes‘ Youtube show, Reasoned.

If you don’t know Darren yet, you should. He started a Brexit campaign for young people and students, and drew the intense ire of the anti-Brexit establishment and media, including press smear campaigns that resulted in accusations of illegalities, resulting in several court cases. Big mistake. They lost. And he has fired back on all cylinders, making a name for himself as an independent journalist. They have never forgiven him.

Extinction Rebellion and Roger Hallam need no introduction here, of course.

Some were expecting fireworks. But I found Roger likable and reasonable, despite our being essentially political enemies. We discussed those differences, and Roger was accepting of much of the criticism. We even found some agreement, of sorts.

One point of agreement was our views of the state of democracy. I think Roger genuinely wants there to be a democracy. However, I think he hopelessly misconceives democracy and its problems. He believes citizens’ assemblies, or sortition — the random selection of members of the public to make political decisions — are solutions to what appears to be the terminal point of British representative democracy.

However, I try to argue that the establishment, too, would rather do away with representative democracy, and to appoint citizens’ assemblies that it controls — which is exactly what happened with the UK Climate Assembly (much more on which will be discussed here later). He thinks the government and MPs are reluctant to follow a radical climate agenda, whereas I argue that they would like nothing more, but have been held back by fear of a public backlash. He believes, not unlike the politicians, technocrats and ministers that organised the Assembly, that once you explain things to people, they simply agree with you.

The next few years will be the test of our debate. Net Zero is going to be imposed on the British public, and in the words of one outgoing civil servant, “they don’t know what they’re in for”.

Watch here.

 

 

Where were we…

It has been nearly five years since there was a new blog post at this site. And it was a pretty thin blog in the few years leading up to that.

At the time, it seemed that blogging, which is time-consuming, had little to offer to the ‘debate’. Everything that could be said had been said. It became repetitive. The sheer might of the green blob machinery allows it to regurgitate its own mess, endlessly. Climate Resistance is futile! Demonstrating that the cascade of bullshit that emerges from green quarters is nothing more than a cascade of bullshit is like chucking sausages at a gunboat. They will win any war of attrition, because they have very many $billions, to our near zero.

However, we are at a new juncture.

For many years — the entire lifetime of this blog, at least — climate policymaking has been a matter of setting abstract emissions-reduction targets that mean little to most people. Nobody really cared what promises were made by each of the parties that have occupied Number 10, because nobody believed anything would come of them, if they even knew anything about them. Urged on by the doom pixie and the Extinction Rebellion, the government and MPs have decided that these abstract proposals must become concrete reality. The UK Government won its bid to host the postponed COP 26 climate conference, and has used the opportunity to increase its diplomatic effort to be the world’s foremost champion of draconian policy.

The logic of being a ‘global leader’ was established by Ed Miliband (among others) is to impose on the home population a suite of draconian policies that nobody voted for. It was his claim that ‘showing leadership’ on domestic policy would impress all the other world leaders, who would immediately follow. Hence, the Climate Change Act 2008 was passed (with its abstract emissions-reduction targets), and Ed Miliband went to Copenhagen, full of hope that he would be received with fanfare. The British delegation was ignored, and the COP meeting produced nothing.

The Johson government has decided, per Miliband, to increase its level of domestic policy ‘ambition’ (that’s their word for it), hoping that the rest of the world will join the suicide pact. We will know in a year, whether or not they are successful.

But now they have decided that emissions-reduction targets really are going to be made concrete, and that, among other things, boilers and petrol and diesel cars will be abolished, and energy bills are going to rise and rise and rise, and rise some more. They call it ‘building back better’.

This creates a new opportunity for blogging about climate change. The era of abstract climate politics is over. Now they are betting the future on a herd of wild unicorns, the pain caused by fantastic green Utopianism is going to be felt, on top of the crushing blow that has been dealt to millions of people by the government’s absurd reactions to the covid19 pandemic.

To that end, then, I’ve revamped the site for easier navigation. It is divided into three: the old blog, a section where I’ll put videos from my new Youtube channel, and articles that have been published elsewhere.

I don’t plan on the long, essay-ish blog posts that I used to put here. Mostly, the plan is to produce short, informative videos, as I think these are the most direct, portable, and accessible format. Please help by subscribing to the channel on Youtube (and others, as I join them), and “liking” and, most of all, sharing the videos.

I’m very often asked “who funds you”. The answer to which is, as it always has been, nobody, though at the moment, a man called Rishi Sunak has been extraordinary generous, after having destroyed much of the economy, including most of the bit of it that involved me. I would quite like to go full time into this project. If you feel like helping me do that, I’ll be putting up a donation page in the near future. I will also be joining up with others, hopefully to make resistance viable again.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas, or whatever this time of year means to you…

It’s the End of the World… As They Know it

One of the hypotheses posited on this blog is that the preoccupation with the end of the world is in reality a displaced existential, and altogether far more internal crisis. Where you can see climate alarmism, you can see a crisis afflicting the individual, organisation or institution which promotes alarm much more clearly — a decline that is far more vivid than any climate change signal. Today, we see the proof of that hypothesis, in the terminal decline of The Independent newspaper.

Back in 2014, the death of The Independent was half-jokingly forecast right here on this very blog, for a little earlier than it actually happened.

IndyGraunPolyTrend

But then again, perhaps it wasn’t premature — arguably The Independent has been dead for a while, it’s lifeless corpse kept twitching by desperate attempts to revive it…

Speaking of dead tree media attempts to flog dead horses

MillyAndGeorge

The failed leader of the ailing political party is to pow-wow with the failing newspaper’s prognosticator in chief, about the political failure of the attempt to rescue ailing governments from their failures..

Are we failing to grasp clear global consensus on how to tackle climate change? Join former leader of the Labour party Ed Miliband and best-selling author and Guardian leader writer George Monbiot as we debate the implications of the historic Paris agreement.

As has been observed here, the externalisation of internal existential crises as climate crisis is a phenomenon we can see in politics, as well as in newspaper circulation figures. Miliband represented the worst of political party machinery failing to ‘engage’ with the public… The more detached from ordinary people and ordinary life politicians and political parties become, so the more they seek legitimacy in ideas that are beyond the senses of ordinary people, and the more they locate power above democratic control on the basis of seemingly ‘global’ risks. The Guardian has hitched itself to that cause, because it too is incapable of making sense of the world — the thing that people turn towards newspapers for. Thus, the Guardian has tried to assert itself as more than a newspaper, such is the extent of its identity crisis, after such a question mark emerges over its status as such, its circulation figures dropping so violently.

Of course, the same could be said of other broadcasting and print media’s struggles to sustain their identity as they, too, struggle to make sense of the world. But the Guardian’s attempts to reinvent itself is, first, of more interest to us critics of such things as giant, undemocratic political projects, and second, perhaps the epitome of such a struggle. The futility of that struggle is reflected both in the fact of it putting forward such mediocre characters — abject, proven failures — as intellectual giants, and the raw numbers…

The Press Gazette reported last month:

Guardian News and Media to slash £54m from annual budget to curb losses
[…]
According to The Guardian, GNM is expected to lose more than £50m in the year to the end of March, more than double last year’s total.
[…]
As of April last year GNM parent company, Guardian Media Group, had £838.3m in the bank thanks largely to the sale of Trader Media Group.

According to The Guardian, this investment fund has been depleted by more than £100m and currently stands at £735m. At the current rate of spending GNM will run out of money within the next eight years.
[…]
Last month print sales of The Guardian fell 7 per cent year on year to an average of 165,672 and The Observer fell 6.2 per cent to 189,383.

If I understand the figures correctly, then, the Guardian lost approximately £1,000 per daily copy ‘circulated’ in the last year.

For a paper that lectures the world on economic and environmental sustainability, that is truly a remarkable loss.

Ask a Stupid Question

A premise of democracy that I believe is worth defending is that it is incumbent on those seeking either change or for the status quo to be sustained to define and defend their arguments, even against robust criticism, and even against seemingly stupid and evil opinion. Needless to say, I also believe that this principle is entirely absent from the green argument. Instead, the environment’s putative voices have preferred to question the intellectual capacity and moral character of their critics, no matter how big a question mark it puts over their own hearts and minds. The most significant development in this regard seems to be the recruitment of cognitive and behavioural sciences into the climate debate, with their own ‘standards’ of evidence. Yet more recent developments have shone more light on this dark tendency.

While I was putting together the previous post, I was interested in where David Grimes was taking his claims from. For example, Grimes wrote:

Conspiratorial beliefs, which attribute events to secret manipulative actions by powerful individuals, are widely held [1] by a broad-cross section of society.

The basis for this claim was a 2008 paper by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, called simply ‘Conspiracy Theories‘. As was pointed out, Sunstein and Vermeule’s claim was itself second hand. More troubling, the second hand evidence had little academic rigour itself, and moreover tried to establish belief in conspiracy theories in an area that had seen a massive incident in its very recent history. Any traumatic private or public event is bound to seed the formation of such beliefs. The failure of any public institution to do what people expect of it will rightly raise questions about that failure, prompting hypotheses in lieu of convincing attempts to avoid responsibility. We should therefore be suspicious of research which looks at the phenomenon of ‘conspiracy theories’ which takes no account of their context. What is its motivation?

The abstract of Sunstein and Vermeule’s paper reads as follows,

Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law. The first challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which conspiracy theories prosper; the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined.

I believe we have answered the question ‘why do conspiracy theories prosper’. One only needs to look as far as the caricature of the conspiracy theorist to understand that the condition of conspiracy theorising is a relationship of distrust.

The character played by Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory was the archetypal conspiracy theorist: able to accumulate lots of information, but inclined to over-associate and to marshal the facts accordingly. As the film shows, the conspiracy theorist’s paranoia, demeanor and distrust of all forms of official authority isolate him, further fuelling his alienation. The whack-job has no credibility.

But rather than probing the reasons for the phenomenon of distrust in society, the paper’s motivation is more interesting: ‘the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined’. Why is this a challenge? What kind of threat is the lonely, isolated nutter?

I was wondering where I had heard Sunstein’s name before, but it didn’t occur to me to look until after the post. Amazon provided the answer…

We are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions that make us poorer, less healthy and less happy. And, as Thaler and Sunstein show, no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way. By knowing how people think, we can make it easier for them to choose what is best for them, their families and society. Using dozens of eye-opening examples the authors demonstrate how to nudge us in the right directions, without restricting our freedom of choice. Nudge offers a unique new way of looking at the world for individuals and governments alike.

‘Nudge’ always sounds bland enough. But it always seemed to me to treat people as means, rather than as ends. Indeed, ‘nudge’ is always presented as making it easier for people to do the right things. But when was that really the responsibility of the state, and if the state assumes responsibility for making sure people do the right thing, what autonomy is the individual really left with? When does a ‘nudge’ become a shove?

Nudge became especially popular under the previous coalition government, which established a ‘Behavioral Insights Team‘ (BIT), also known as the ‘Nudge Unit’. BIT claim:

We use insights from behavioural science to encourage people to make better choices for themselves and society.

I believe that the right and proper rejoinder to such a mission statement is ‘Foxtrot Oscar’. While the interventions it proposes may seem trivial, it represents one of the concerns that his blog has highlighted, about the transformation of the relationship between individuals, the state, and increasingly, academia. Suffice it to say that the latter’s recruitment into matters of public policy is wholly regressive, anti-democratic and assumes far to much about its own rectitude, not to say about its ability to better understand the choices individuals make than they.

“Choice architects” thus became flavour of the month with governments throughout the Anglosphere. Sunstein himself was made a chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs by his personal friend, Obama, to nobody’s delight (not even greens’).

The psychologist-as-bureaucrat, then, isn’t a mere reflection of the increasing tendency towards official intrusion, not merely into the private sphere, but into the mind. And mirroring this is the academy’s increasingly unhealthy interest in mind-probing, too, as means to understanding what’s happening in society, and how to intervene.

The point here, which is made here often, is that the ‘politics is prior’ to a great deal of climate research — that the presuppositions of environmentalism are routinely passed off as the ‘finding’ of studies which invariably ‘show’ precisely what the green perspective already held with. The head-shrinking of the public by… let’s call them ‘psychocrats’… is the broader phenomenon which either encompasses, or at least overlaps with what we have seen in the climate debate, most notably from the likes of Lewandowsky.

That is to say that we can see the politics loading researchers’ questions. The cognitive scientists seeking roles for themselves in policy-making circles would, no doubt, see this as a conspiracy theory… But the questions should be asked, nonetheless, with or without the protection of a tin foil hat: is it just a coincidence that an otherwise not-particularly-remarkable academic has found such favour amongst policy-makers? Are the insights yielded by psychocrats’ research really a sound basis on which to reorganise public institutions? And are psychocrats not using their science as a vehicle for a particular form of politics?

The anxious psychocrat can relax; the point here is not to credit him or her with sufficient nous to have organised a conspiracy, but that they are the useful idiots of people who look up to them as intellectual giants. The point, then, is to put the psychocrat’s anxiety under the microscope — just as we would with any ideology or doctrine that governments embrace.

Grimes and Sunstein have both been bothered by the fact that people not believing the right things seem to present a problem for policymakers. The obvious problem here is that such a worry presumes their own infallibility. Grimes, for instance, as well as much other politically-motivated research into the phenomenon of ‘denial’ (the examples of Lewandowksy and Chris Mooney were given in the previous post) takes belief in climate science as a proxy for belief in science — that to take a sceptical view of climate science is to be ‘anti-science’. The is easily debunked: we can find seemingly respectable scientists and scientific institutions involved with, and fueling most conspiracy theories. The interesting point, however, is the corollary of presuming oneself right is to presume the other is stupid.

More trouble for the pscyhocrat has emerged (hat-tip to Paul Matthews) and is summarised over at Dan Kahan’s Cultural Cognition blog

First, as science comprehension goes up, people become more polarized on climate change.

Still not surprising; tha’s old, old, old, old news.

But second, as science comprehension goes up, so does the perception that there is scientific consensus on climate change—no matter what people’s political outlooks are!

Accordingly, as relatively “right-leaning” individuals become progressively more proficient in making sense of scientific information (a facility reflected in their scores on the Ordinary Science Intelligence assessment, which puts a heavy emphasis on critical reasoning skills), they become simultaneously more likely to believe there is “scientific consensus” on human-caused climate change but less likely to “believe” in it themselves!

[…]

One thing that is clear from these data is that it’s ridiculous to claim that “unfamiliarity” with scientific consensus on climate change “causes” non-acceptance of human-caused global warming.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The idea that public conflict over climate change persists because, even after years and years of “messaging” (including a $300 million social-marketing campaign by Al Gore’s “Alliance for Climate Protection”), ordinary Americans still just “haven’t heard” yet that an overwhelming majority climate scientists believe in AGW is absurd.

[…]

These new data, though, show that acceptance of “scientific consensus” in fact has a weaker relationship to beliefs in climate change in right-leaning members of the public than it does in left-leaning ones.

I can come up w/ various “explanations,” but really, I don’t know what to make of this!

Kahan could save himself some head-scratching by reading this blog, of course. One can take the fact of the consensus for granted without committing to any of the imperatives greens would say it generates. The point being that there is a great deal between observing the effect of CO2 on the planet and claims about what it means — distance which has been obscured by many green advocates’ use of the consensus without regard for its actual substance. Kahan should have realised it, because he’s a relatively able critic of the 97% strategy. That is to say that the paradox is not that so many recalcitrant climate sceptics also hold with ‘the consensus’, but that researchers who aimed to measure the public’s understanding of climate have been largely ignorant to the nuances of the debate, if not extremely partial players in the debate.

Ask a stupid question, as they say…

… And you will get a stupid answer. Thus the psychocrat’s estimation of the public in fact measures only the mind that authored his own facile hypothesis. The more stupid the researcher, the lower his estimation of the public, and concomitantly, the greater utility his work has to psychocracy. This should remind us of Lewandowsky’s attempt to argue otherwise.

Back in 2014, Lewandowsky and Richard Pancost wrote

It is an unfortunate paradox: if you’re bad at something, you probably also lack the skills to assess your own performance. And if you don’t know much about a topic, you’re unlikely to be aware of the scope of your own ignorance.

[…]

Ignorance is associated with exaggerated confidence in one’s abilities, whereas experts are unduly tentative about their performance. This basic finding has been replicated numerous times in many different circumstances. There is very little doubt about its status as a fundamental aspect of human behaviour.

Lewandowsky was attempting to deploy the alledged Dunning-Kruger effect — which claims that people who do less well in tests of their knowledge over-estimate their performance — in his latest salvo in his war on climate scepticism. Sceptics, he argued, were stupid, and thus over-estimated themselves. But it was Lewandowsky who was claiming too much expertise, as was pointed out here.

The professor of psychology makes bold claims. He believes that he understands the entire world’s relationship to the natural world. He believes he understands the natural world, and professes expertise in climate science. And he believes he knows how society should be organised. Surely he is a true Renaissance Man… A polymath… A Renaissance Polymath… Or he is an epic blowhard?

The point of all this is that the pscyhocrat’s real project is to deny democracy. Not purposefully, and not out of some clearly defined malevolent intent, but through bad faith, nonetheless — hubris, at best — the aim is belittle ordinary people, and to elevate whichever university has been canny enough to establish a School of Psychocracy.

What that tendency costs us is the real dynamic that helps us to filter out good ideas and beliefs from the bad — the public contest of ideas. It fosters a condition of mutual cynicism between people and official institutions — the very thing that brings forth conspiracy theories. The upshot of which is that confidence in authorities that we turn to for knowledge — the academy — will be undermined. The slower that the academy responds to the bullshit from within its own corridors, the longer and deeper will be its decline in the public estimation.

I am under orders to make these posts shorter. To to save 3,000 words from what is essentially a bootnote… Sunstain has authored a number of books of interest here.

Mr. Sunstein is author of many articles and books, including Republic.com (2001), Risk and Reason (2002), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), The Second Bill of Rights (2004), Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005), Worst-Case Scenarios (2001), Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler, 2008), Simpler: The Future of Government (2013) and most recently Why Nudge? (2014) and Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas (2014). He is now working on group decisionmaking and various projects on the idea of liberty

Chiefly amongst these is his attack on the precautionary principle. What I suspect, however, from reading the blurbs, is that rather than wanting to depart from the Precautionary Principle, Sunstein wants to own it more completely. ‘Risk’ being at the centre of his perspective, we can see Sunstein as a victim of Risk Society, and his work very much belonging to that movement, more of which can be read about here and here.

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