As NewsBusters reported Saturday, a documentary skeptical about man’s role in climate change aired in Great Britain on Thursday. The show’s director, Martin Durkin, was interviewed by the British website Spiked the day after the program ran, and he had some rather harsh words for journalists and politicians that are haphazardly advancing the junk science surrounding this issue (emphasis mine throughout):
Durkin’s latest film has won him the accolade – or perhaps slur – of being the ‘anti-Al Gore’. Where the American president-who-never-was transformed his rather dull PowerPoint presentation on the threat of global warming into a marginally less dull big box office flick – An Inconvenient Truth – Durkin has directed a 90-minute made-for-TV movie that basically says: ‘Everything you know about global warming is wrong!’
The article wonderfully continued:
Whatever viewers may have thought about the new theories put forward in Swindle to explain global warming (personally, I found the replacement of the widespread, all-encompassing manmade theory with an all-encompassing cosmic ray theory – sort of ‘It’s the Sun wot done it!’ – a little unconvincing), there’s no denying that the film poked some very big holes in the global warming consensus.
Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, one of the world’s leading experts on malaria, was a revelation. He explained how he had to threaten legal action against the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to have his name removed from the list of ‘2,000 of the world’s leading scientists’ who apparently backed its summary published last month. The problem? Professor Reiter didn’t back it, instead arguing that it was a ‘sham’. The IPCC ‘make it seem that all the top scientists are agreed, but it’s not true’, he said.
As one might imagine, the airing of this documentary has caused quite a controversy:
Watching The Great Global Warming Swindle felt a little bit naughty, even subversive. You simply never hear stark criticisms of the politics of global warming in the mainstream media very much. And yet, as Durkin points out, the response to his film has pretty much been a shrill: How can Channel 4 show this stuff?!
‘Some people seem really outraged that 90 minutes of airtime was given to “the other side”’, he says. He describes as ‘surreal’ the accusation that Channel 4, in airing his film, is somehow distorting the debate about global warming. One commentator declared: ‘Channel 4 has done a huge public disservice. Or are they planning to show a follow-up that takes apart last night’s wayward thesis?’ (1) ‘These people talk about balance, but the environmentalist view is everywhere!’, says Durkin. Indeed, even Durkin’s film was not allowed to stand alone: earlier in the week Channel 4 showed a Dispatches documentary made by green Guardian columnist George Monbiot to ‘balance out’ Durkin’s film, and then repeated it again last night after Durkin’s film. So even when you get to criticise the prevailing view, you have to be sandwiched in between two slabs of Monbiot.
Durkin had more to get off his chest:
‘It shows that environmentalists and journalists can be utterly intolerant’, he says. ‘They simply will not tolerate any dissenting view. Straight away they try to take it down. You can see that in the kind of language they use – they say “the jury is in” on global warming, or “the science is done and dusted”, or you’re a “denier” if you question the consensus. This is not about having a debate but about shutting down debate.’
This is how the media in Britain responded to this documentary:
Indeed, many of Durkin’s critics have responded to The Great Global Warming Swindle by trying to slur Durkin and the participants in the film. Or they have gone running to the Office of Communications (Ofcom) to demand that it rap Durkin’s knuckles – a bit like overgrown school sissies squealing to teacher about the boy they don’t like in the hope that teacher will give him a jolly good thrashing.
Sound familiar? But there’s more:
Before the film aired, a contributor to a green-leaning website advised fellow contributors to keep an eye out for who is due to appear in the film ‘and more importantly who they work for’ (my italics). This sums up the approach of trying to demolish the arguer rather than his argument, to expose people’s alleged funding or leanings rather than to take up the substance of what they say. (For what it’s worth, most of the participants in the film said they hadn’t received a penny from oil companies, much as they would have liked to.)
In today’s Guardian, Zoe Williams seems to make a sly dig at one of the participants (Professor Tim Ball) on the basis that he is from Winnipeg. Apparently, being based on Farringdon Road in central London is a far better qualification for commenting on climate change, even if you are a ditzy la-la columnist and the weird Winnipeg man a professor of climatology (2). (Durkin points out the irony of people ‘exposing’ that he doesn’t have a background in science. If everyone who doesn’t have a background in science was forbidden from researching or talking about global warming, he says, then that would mean silencing some of the leading environmentalist thinkers and just about every newspaper columnist, who can always be relied upon to churn out an ‘I’m Scared of Global Warming and So Should You Be!’ column despite not knowing what a test tube is.)
The article marvelously concluded:
The various attempts to have him shut up, denounced, sacked or whatever speak to a worryingly censorious climate in the climate change debate. And whatever the sceptics in the Swindle film might think, such a climate has not come about as a result of a handful of greens conspiratorially plotting to take down Durkin and anyone else who stands in their way. Rather, it is a product of a broader, society-wide attitude of ‘You can’t say that!’ in relation to discussions of global warming, development, man’s intervention in nature and the future of humanity itself. If we want a proper debate about these issues, we need an open and rigorous public life, rather than sneaky accusations of secret conspiracies and demands for censure.
As a comical aside, Durkin originally wanted to name the documentary “Apocalypse My Arse,” “but in the end we decided on ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’. It’s a provocative title, which helps with ratings.”