That 10:10 video – a sincere defence
Analysing humour, as the famous formulation goes, is like pulling the wings off a beautiful fly to see if it can still dance to anything by Phil Collins and/or Genesis (or any eighties era bands that flies liked then) – it’s a horrifying ordeal best left to the imagination. But with all the hoohaa surrounding 10:10’s video of exploding (sceptical) children, added to the fact that all the hoohaa will soon be approaching its sixth anniversary and still seems to erupt on a semi-regular basis, pulling the wings off this particular fly is, in my book, necessary and overdue. So here goes.
I don’t think the ‘No Pressure’ film was offensive. I wasn’t upset by the idea of climate sceptics being destroyed for the hesitant, mild qualms they had in the video. And I don’t think climate justice warriors made a huge error in putting the film out. It’s not tasteless in the way that many sceptics characterised it as. The violence is cartoonish, the set-up clearly absurd, the intention light-hearted – even affectionate.
So the film wasn’t tasteless, and wasn’t offensive. What it was, however, was boring. By 2010, writer of the film Richard Curtis’s schtick was so old and creaking it was like watching a nonagenarian earnestly arrange what’s left of his hair because he thinks he’s in with a chance with the 22-yr-old cleaner. Heartbreaking, really.
What schtick am I talking about? The essence of it comes in the first few minutes of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Posh, upper middle class Hugh Grant is late for a wedding and for the next three minutes we’re treated to one ‘Fuck!’ after another. That’s the joke. Beautifully articulate, well-spoken and respectable Hugh confounds your expectations with three minutes of ‘Fuck!!’.
This is Curtis’s schtick. His world is the world of stiff, hesitant, slightly prim, middle-class, diffident English people suddenly confounding your expectations with vulgarity and violence.
Haha. Funny. It’s because you weren’t expecting it. And oh, how it jars! So funny.
Actually no – not funny. Funny in 1985 when Phil Collins was at his height. But ready for the grave by 2010 – rotting and surrounded by flies. Wingless flies.
Incapable of dancing. Think about it.
Above all it was dumb. Their defence was that it was aimed at a Brit adult audience in cinemas but it was released on the internet (and would have made its way there anyway). The Americans in particular are very funny (odd) about things like that. In many ways they’re a lot more prudish than the Brits. It was guaranteed to offend.
It was released into a post 9/11 world where terrorism, which it was simulating, wasn’t funny any more. The Brits may have joked about the IRA but it’s a defence mechanism not an attack on the intended victims. Sceptics may not be a weak and feeble target but we’re not oil barons with security guards either. It’s dangerous to start presenting any group (even politicians) as ok to blow up – even in jest. If a conservative put out a video blowing up trade unions or greens, what do you think the response would be? justified outrage. The left has a history of abusing the right in a way that they’d never accept in return. Frankly I’m fed up of being the only side that is supposed to shrug it off.
So no, it wasn’t that bad (and I laughed my socks off at the own goal) but I’ll kick and scream about it because I can. I’m not a victim, but I’m not a bloody doormat either.
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I see what you’re saying, Tiny, and agree to the extent that claiming climate sceptics fall foul of some agreed, Curtis-world definition of acceptable is pretty nasty, despite Curtis’s ability to present himself and his characters as rather modest and bumbling. Being increasingly bored of his style over twenty-five years, though, it was the predictable nature of it that I hated more than anything else because being boring is *even worse* than being nasty.
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Blowing people up is never funny. Ever. In any society or circumstance. Yet sixty-odd people co-operated in making this video, and for free, I believe. OK, one odd psychopath might think it a good idea, but it is not conceivable that sixty psychopaths got together to pool their resources…
So what happened? We don’t know. What it needs is for a social scientist to interview a number of the people involved and ask them. Sixty civilised British citizens acting out the kind of fantasies that killed millions in Auschwitz, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia – this is interesting. Why would they do that? twenty interviews would maybe suffice to satisfy our curiosity…
Will it happen? Will it frack. There are thousands of would be social scientist PhDs looking for a subject of interest and not one will choose this. Why not? Ask the question, and you open up a thousand other questions about our society, questions that are supposed to interest social scientists…
“boring is *even worse* than being nasty.”
I don’t know if it was deliberate, but Ian Woolley’s judgement on Curtis echoes Arendt’s judgement on Eichmann. And with reason.
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your last sentence has given me pause to think. Perhaps my difficulty with finding the video’s violence upsetting is that the style of it reminds me of stuff like Comic Strip’s Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, in which Peter Cook plays a serial killer who does the bare minimum (playing Tom Jones very loud) to hide the butchery he performs in his office from the business in the office next door. So blood comes squirting up on the dividing high windows, then Mr Jolly pops round all bloodied holding a meat cleaver asking for washing up liquid – all that type of stuff. The fact that ‘No Pressure’ is about blowing up climate sceptics, a set of people with a specific characteristic, is different I suppose. I need to let it sink in.
Isaiah Berlin was one Jewish intellectual – and there were many – who deeply rejected Arendt’s “banality of evil” take on Eichmann. It was deliberate – the mass murder he organised, that is. The faux sophistication of finding such a person ‘banal’ appalled them.
Being boring is never the worst thing.
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The difference between good brutal comedy and bad brutal comedy is very subtle. A lot of it has to do with whether the person being violent is the protagonist or not. In the first Blackadder series, written by Curtis, Blackadder wasn’t likeable in any way. He cared for nobody and nobody cared for him. The brutality just added to the lack of comedy. In the second series (mostly written by Ben Elton) Blackadder is a much better character. He’s still nasty and self centred but he’s got a bit of charm about him. He cares about Baldrick and in the later series he cares for the characters played by Huw Laurie too. He’s the butt of the jokey downfall but through misfortune, not stupidity. When he hurts Baldrick, it’s Tom and Jerry style violence. There’s no blood, no writhing in pain, no screams. Usually Baldrick just emits an aggrieved ‘ow’ and accepts that pain is his duty in life. It works.
In the Vicar of Dibley, Geraldine is very rude to her parishioners but she does it with affection. In the recent revival for Comic Relief, she was just rude. She’d lost the empathy that was the vital part of the justification for being obviously superior to her idiot flock. I don’t know if it was Curtis’ writing or Dawn French’s acting but the humour fell flat. The parishioners had lost an element of innocence too. They’d gone from delightfully nutty to a bit sinister, although the last few original series had turned that way too.
The 10:10 sketches failed on several fronts. They weren’t equally bad. Blowing the famous actress up for being hypocritical was ok, as was blowing up the well paid footballer but the boss blowing up his employees, no way. He was neither the under dog nor an established protagonist. He was just a bully boss. The scene with the kids was mental. The two sceptic kids were quite reluctant sceptics. They weren’t proud of going against the teacher’s demand they campaign at home. For all the viewer could tell, they could be from violent homes where demanding their parents cut their CO2 might lead to abuse. They might have been too poor to insulate the loft or not even own the loft at all. They might have already been walking to school.
The violence was also inappropriately realistic. It would have been more acceptable if they’d exploded in a shower of glitter or petals. The simulate blood and guts meant it was strictly over 18 viewing even if it had been a soaring success.
All the evidence points to this being an expensively acted out fantasy of Curtis’. He wants to be able to push a button and make us suffer, not just vanish. That’s some powerful hatred to have over-ridden basic common sense that these sketches were too brutal. He hates sceptics because of their opinion, rather than their actions. It doesn’t matter to him if we have a smaller footprint than him. That level of illogical antipathy is dangerous. And THAT’s why the video needs to be condemned on a regular basis. It’s depressing but we need to keep reminding the other side that the end doesn’t justify the means.
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Fine overview Tiny. I doubt we know what was in Curtis’ heart but the result with the employees and especially the school kids was abysmal.
Well it may have originally been for british viewers who may have knowledge of the filmmaker and his foibles but it made it over here to the US. And it is shocking in a truly disgusting way to see the underlying hatred of CAGW activists for anyone who disagrees with them. No it isn’t funny and NO it isn’t boring. It’s an act of hate. As was the other one we saw featuring the destruction of children in a classroom by an ignorant, violent bigot with an explosive device. Not funny. Not one bit funny. But very revealing of the total amorality of the CAGW fascist wannabes.
The 10:10 video illustrated the awful depravity that mindless zealotry can lead people into. I don’t suppose anyone involved in acting in, producing or directing or subsidising that video could make a remotely convincing case for the kind of anything-goes alarm behind such barbaric ‘amusement’. Nobody can. I described them at the time as ‘eco-blackshirts’ but later regretted that: ‘I regret the term ‘eco-blackshirts’ in the title. Although I think such people could readily be recruited, the film-makers themselves did not actually apply real violence to those they deem to be so evil that they, or their children, must be blown up by terrorists acting for the climate cause. They merely promoted such violence.’ [link: http://climatelessons.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/teacher-alert-eco-blackshirts-promote.html ]
The impression I get of Richard Curtis is that he knows he’s part of a privileged, Oxbridge class and like all decent Englishmen – or a caricature of what a decent Englishman should be – is embarrassed enough about it to self-deprecate and self-mock. What he writes therefore reflects his desire to put his hands up to middle-class preciousness, and make fun of the snobbery and prejudice that often percolates through middle-class circles. For example, in Four Weddings you’ve got the middle-class hippy, vegan do-gooders who insist on putting everyone through their dreadful acoustic guitar nonsense; you’ve got Duckface, the awful, sloaney, self-consumed drama queen incapable of a moment’s self-reflection. In contrast, his working class characters often come across as no-nonsense dynamic types, people who get things done, even if they do it in a slightly mad way (I’m thinking of Rhys Ifans’s Welshman in Love Actually).
The important thing is, though – absolutely crucial – is that cutting a self-conscious middle path between these unreflective, tribal, egocentric daft people, is the Everyman of Curtis himself (or whichever character he writes himself into – usually the lead).
With the 10:10 film there’s no lead character because it’s a collection of sketches, so Curtis hasn’t put himself in it but he’s still there, commenting as the writer. So we get the same precious, do-gooding middle class characters as in the films who have the same purpose as the film characters i.e. to serve as vehicles for Curtis’s embarrassment and self-deprecation, to show how keenly he’s aware that these types can grate and irritate. The school teacher is a retread of the vegan-hippies in Four Weddings addressing children called ‘Jemima’ for Pete’s sake, the boss on the stairs is a slick, smarmy prick. So I disagree that the film exposes some underlying hatred on the part of Curtis. I think it’s yet another attempt to bolster his modesty (and by extension, Franny Armstrong’s and 10:10’s) and to show how self-aware he is (and they are).
And this is what has become boring about his style. He makes fun of himself (and his class) in order to win you over to his world. By admitting the awfulness of the people who go on about the planet, he thinks he can win us over. These people are awful, but actually, chaps, it is a serious point even if it does come across as preachy and irritating sometimes. In other words, sorry for the preachiness and come and join us because actually we’re kind of great people really who can laugh at ourselves. Curtis has his cake and eats it; and in Curtis’s head what happens now is we all go off into a mythical land where everyone’s a bit eccentric but decent and all classes mix with a healthy dollop of awareness of each others foibles, and causes like Acting on Climate Change are finally agreed by all to probably be worthwhile because ultimately we’re all, well, nice, actually.
Well, balls to that. His isn’t the everyman centre-ground he likes to imagine. Working class people aren’t the eccentric, loveable comic relief of Curtisland Britain. We’d rather Curtis and his ilk fucked off, so that we could get a foot in the door of television and film ourselves. Curtis in this respect is the EU of British comedy: claiming to represent everyone fairly but actually only interested in his own worldview which he sees as unarguably right and good. A brexit-style missile in the balls for him and the wider media elite, sending luvvie scrotal matter across Crouch End and beyond couldn’t come soon enough.
Geoff – is there a difference between blowing people up, as in this film, and causing people to be blown up, as in Mr Creosote being persuaded to have one last tiny wafffffer thin mint? The latter’s innards showering across the restaurant is funny, I think.
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re the “banality of evil”, I think Berlin deliberately misunderstood Arendt’s point because she was something of an anti-Zionist, which annoyed Berlin. He was a lifelong careerist and mischief-maker, something of a serial liar in his private life. You only have to read the documents collected and displayed at Holocaust museums throughout Eastern Europe to see that a thoroughly routine bureaucratic apparatus was at work. People get commended for processing so many case-files in so short a time – which the reader then has to translate back to mean “proving beyond doubt that a certain person was of Jewish origin and therefore worthy of the death sentence”. It is the language of the civil service applied to a gruesome process. Dehumanised and dehumanising and thoroughly banal. They don’t refer to killing Jews – it is about processing documents and carrying out sanctions. However, this is not germane to the issue of the thread.
I don’t exactly disagree with your view of Curtis but you’re missing a subtle difference. There’s a kind of affection for those awful upper class twits. He admits they’re preachy or daft but he views them as harmless twerps. He might admire the working class more but like you write, they’re a charicature of working class people. Just like the coal miners in champaigne socialist Guardian reading Labour supporters’ minds. Normal people don’t work in big businesses. They don’t have a mobile phone or a Sky subscription or worry about immigrants or EVER vote Conservative… at least that’s how the Guardianistas think. So what are the rest of us? We’re the despised middle class who aren’t rich enough to be interesting but aren’t poor enough to be worthy.
It’s not hatred to fantasise about blowing somebody up. It’s not hatred to blow people up in a film. It’s hatred to plan a film, make a film and release the film without ever wondering ‘is this going to upset enough people to explode back in my face?’ He sees sceptics as fit to outrage. He didn’t give real people a moment’s thought and if he did, he assumed we deserved it. He was so tied up in his plan he didn’t even wonder if simulating blowing up kids would upset his own side. That feels a lot like hatred to me.
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Connected – warmists determination to label anyone who debates AGW as in the pay of Big Oil. It lets them turn us into 2 dimensional baddies who deserve everything they get. If they accept that ordinary, unfunded people resist them they have no plan B
I think that’s a good point about the film itself not being a display of hatred, but the thoughtlessness of contemplating making it revealing an underlying callousness. I think we can agree he and they are not fully aware of how callous they are.
man in a barrel:
Then more on the banality of the process of mass murder, and finishing with:
Well, maybe not, but Geoff set the hare running and, with apologies to Ian and to him, I’d like to question your first three sentences, indeed to strongly object to the first two.
First up, here’s a reminder of what I originally said:
The last sentence being the link back to Ian on 10:10 of course. One detail not covered in your response was “there were many”. Berlin was only one example. It’s also fair to say, I think, that Arendt was widely disliked and distrusted, before and after the Eichmann trial. But that for me is beside the point.
I admit to being appalled by the idea that “Berlin deliberately misunderstood Arendt’s point because she was something of an anti-Zionist, which annoyed Berlin”. That would mean Berlin cared nothing about Eichmann and the Holocaust in themselves, compared to Zionism, and that, from his own writings, I’m convinced is gross calumny.
The follow-up sentence, seeking to establish how shallow Berlin was, will take us miles off topic if I ask you to justify it item by item. Instead, let me say that I’ve read Michael Ignatieff’s biography of Berlin and various writings by John Gray on his mentor. Both men knew Berlin well and I would never arrive at such a portrait from them. Could you please therefore provide names of authors and works which have led you to your own conclusion, as expressed here?
The banality of much of the organisation of the holocaust is itself a banal and trite truism. In Thomas Keneally’s telling of Oscar Schindler’s story in 1982 it’s through being made aware through his SS contacts of something as banal as the new building plans for the existing camp at Auschwitz that the German bon-viveur and businessman realises that his fellow-countrymen are deadly serious about extermination. Keneally’s treatment leaves one gasping at the horrific novelty of this evil in the mind of one ‘good German’. I remember the impact of that moment as I read the book in Switzerland around 25. How these things are told matters enormously. Berlin and others were I’m sure genuine in feeling Arendt came up badly short at a crucial moment. I’d always felt dissatisfied by her headline statement and I readily fell in with these new critics, as they were to me. More recently, watching the film ‘Shoah’, the patient scholarship of Raul Hillel on the logistical challenges of the trains that Eichmann organised, interspersed with horrific accounts of what happened at the destinations, including from Polish farmers in the fields surrounding death camps like Sobibor, again left a much more appropriate impression.
Best to nip all such deadly things in the human breast in the bud. Good thread Ian.
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I’m a delicate flower, as you all know. But I still find this really shocking, even though I know what’s coming. Especially the first scene with the schoolkids.
It’s shocking that somebody dreamt this up and wrote the script. It’s shocking that he discussed it with the 10:10 team and they agreed it was a good idea. It’s shocking that they brought in a whole load of school kids to take part in it to be blown up and spattered with blood. It’s shocking that of all the hundreds of people involved in making it, the actors, producers, cameramen, props people etc, nobody blew the whistle on it or realised the obvious – that it would backfire so badly.
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The Guardian highlighted it as part of their support for the 10:10 climate change campaign. They had in the title of their piece, “There will be blood”.
Note it was in 2010 and the main message from the film was that the planet had only four years left for long term survival unless we were all willing to cut back our emissions of CO2 immediately. These time scale scenarios are moveable feasts, (viz Peter Wadhams et al), knowing that most people forget the last one. They do seem to keep the funding flowing.
This is what Franny Armstrong thought about her film at the time:
“Doing nothing about climate change is still a fairly common affliction, even in this day and age. What to do with those people, who are together threatening everybody’s existence on this planet?
Clearly we don’t really think they should be blown up, that’s just a joke for the mini-movie, but maybe a little amputating would be a good place to start?” jokes 10:10 founder and Age of Stupid film maker Franny Armstrong.”
This woman is so hilarious it hurts.
The Guardian interviewer asked her, “But why take such a risk of upsetting or alienating people?”
Her reply: “Because we have got about four years to stabilise global emissions and we are not anywhere near doing that. All our lives are at threat and if that’s not worth jumping up and down about, I don’t know what is.”
“We ‘killed’ five people to make No Pressure – a mere blip compared to the 300,000 real people who now die each year from climate change,” she adds.
They were also happy to pervert the minds of young children:
“Jamie Glover, the child-actor who plays the part of Philip and gets blown up, has similarly few qualms: “I was very happy to get blown up to save the world.” A parallel with young jihadists perhaps?
Richard Curtis was equally proud of the production:
“The 10:10 team are a fearless, energetic bunch, completely dedicated to getting the public fired up about climate change. They also turn out to be surprisingly good at blowing stuff up,” he said.”
Franny Armstrong founded the 10:10 climate campaign in September 2009 , aimed at cutting the UK’s carbon emissions by 10% during 2010.
The campaign bandwagon amassed huge cross-societal support including Adidas, Microsoft, Spurs FC, the Royal Mail, 75,000 people, 1,500 schools, a third of local councils, the entire UK Government and the Prime Minister, (then Gordon Brown). 10:10 launched internationally in March 2010 and, as of July 2010, had autonomous campaigns up and running in 41 countries, where some of the key sign-ups included the French Tennis Open, the city of Oslo and L’oreal.
It even got special support from the OU: http://www.open.edu/openlearnworks/course/view.php?id=68
Franny Armstrong has a film company called Spanner Films, still extant:
In September 2009, a million people watched her film, the “Age of Stupid” in a Global Premiere event – featuring Kofi Annan, Gillian Anderson & Radiohead’s Thom Yorke – in 700 cinemas in 63 countries, linked by satellite.
The film was embraced by the Royal Society in March 2010, when they organized a Public Symposium with the Tate Modern Gallery in London. It’s title was: “Rising to the Climate Challenge – Artists and Scientists Imagine Tomorrow’s World”.
Major Science from the 300 year old Royal Society……
The Press Release:
“On 19 and 20 March, 2010, Tate and the Royal Society collaborate to bring you a screening of the film The Age of Stupid following, [sic] by a discussion and a public symposium about the social and psychological impacts of climate change.”
And they tell us WE have psychological problems by not believing, when we clearly just don’t have a big enough imagination.
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Speakers for the Tate/RS symposium above, included the IPCC science luminaries, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of Imperial Grantham Institute and Professor Corinne Le Quere, Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA:
“I instigated and lead the annual update of global carbon budgets as part of the Global Carbon Project, a community effort to provide timely delivery of policy-relevant carbon research, and assist the international policy process to address climate change”
Oh, and also Professor Steve Rayner, James Martin Professor of Science and Civilization and Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at Oxford University from where he also co-directs the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities, the Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship and the Oxford Geoengineering Programme.
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Hoskins was wheeled out to publicize a new edition of the Times Atlas that showed Greenland to have lost 15% of its ice mass in twelve years. He accepted this figure without question and told ITN that such periodic snapshots of ice cover reminded you that gradual melting quickly added up. (ITN said that Hoskins thought the new atlas would be ‘a useful tool against climate change sceptics’, though he didn’t say this in the broadcast snippets.)
Unfortunately, it turned out that the cartographers at HarperCollins had, for mysterious reasons*, ignored all ice less than 500m thick and that the real loss was something like 0.05%.
It’s a bit of a mystery how such a senior climatologist could have had such a poor instinct for what is and isn’t plausible. A 15% loss would have produced a metre of sea-level rise. Perhaps he doesn’t live by the sea.
(Rayner is OK. He pooh-poohs catastrophism and thinks that mankind is very resilient. Plus his PhD was fascinating: it was all about far-left groups in London in the 1970s, including the one led by Comrade Bala, the diminutive Maoist rapist who thinks that China controls the world via a satellite-mounted thought-weapon called Jackie.)