media

Doctor Who and the Deadly Wokeness Peril

(This was going to be a comment on Richard’s excellent Culture War post, but it was getting a bit long, so I’ve turned it into a sort of follow-on post to Richard’s.)

On 12 January 2020 the BBC aired Episode 3 of their latest season of Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whittaker as the eponymous Doctor. The episode was called Orphan 55, it was about climate change and was, it seems, not generally well-received by the viewers.

*** SPOILERS ***

The story starts with the Doctor and her companions being teleported to a mysterious holiday resort. Various mishaps occur and it turns out that this luxury resort exists in a kind of bubble, outside of which lies a barren, toxic wasteland inhabited by vicious (and rather rubbery) monsters called “dregs”. We find out eventually that the planet is in fact a future Earth which has been ruined by catastrophic man-made climate change, and the unfriendly “dregs” are the CO2-breathing descendants of humans who have adapted to the horrible conditions on Earth by becoming pretty horrible themselves.

Much has been said by various reviewers about the lame story, sub-par costumes, leaden script and uninspired acting, But what stood out for me was the fact that there wasn’t really much in the way of science fiction at all in this episode, despite all the SF trappings. It basically amounted to being a sermon about the evils of man-made climate change.

“How did Earth end up like this?” asks one character.

“You had warnings, from every scientist alive”, says the Doctor. “The food chain collapses – mass migration and war.”

And a sermon is what Jodie Whittaker actually delivers at the end, with all the subtlety of a ball peen hammer to the head.

“You want me to tell you that Earth’s going to be okay. ‘Cos I can’t. In your time, humanity is busy arguing over the washing up, while the house burns down. Unless people face facts and change, catastrophe is coming. But it’s not decided. You know that. The future is not fixed, it depends on billions of decisions and actions, and people stepping up. Humans… I think you forget how powerful you are. Lives change worlds. People can save planets or wreck them – that’s the choice. Be the best of humanity, or…” [scene cuts to a roaring “dreg”.]

Well, some people liked it. Rotten Tomatoes currently gives this episode a score of 50%, with an average rating of 5.8/10. And on IMDb there are a handful of 10-star reviews. However, Season 12 as a whole currently gets an audience score of only 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. And the majority of reviews of Orphan 55 on IMDb fall into the 1-3 star bracket and are somewhat scathing!

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9354208/reviews?ref_=tt_urv

A brief sample:

“… The series feels condescending, insulting our intelligence and far too clichéd. When Davis brought the show back there was a nice balance between all elements that appealed to everyone. This time it seems far too childish. As a long time fan of both the classic and revival, I am saddened to see the show go this way.”

“… Not going to discuss the tons of holes in the otherwise simple and boring plot. It still wonders me why the Doctor abandoned the mother and daughter at the end. Instead of going back for them with the TARDIS, she decided to go all Greta Thunberg in a preachy monologue about quite a serious subject in such a manner that made it sound so ridiculous that probably had more people start laughing/cringing instead of thinking about the issue.”

“… What’s more is it’s staggering to comprehend how we’ve reached new levels of peak wokeness! Gone are the days when Doctor Who’s audiences were gently immersed in to the creator’s personal politics of “enlightenment” – prepare yourselves for the violence & aggressiveness of unrepentant drowning…”

And now a few observations from me:

1. Amongst the negative reviewers there were some who were fine with the climate change message but nevertheless hated the unsubtle and preachy way that it was delivered at the expense of the story. And this goes to the heart of the matter, really. People watch Doctor Who to be entertained, rather than be hit over the head with a sandwich board.

2. An environmental message can be woven into a story without this kind of preachy overkill. When Jon Pertwee was the Doctor in 1973 there was an adventure called The Green Death – it featured industrial pollution, a sinister mega-corporation and toxic green slime that infected and slowly killed anyone who touched it. The environmental message was definitely there – but it did not get in the way of what was an enjoyable, thoughtful and very creepy tale from Doctor Who’s heyday.

3. The show’s ratings now seem to be falling steeply – and the previous season’s ratings were on the bumpy side, too. Back in 2018, my impression was that viewers were already being turned off by the tedious and excessive wokeness, once the wow factor of having a female Doctor began to wear off. The BBC had a chance then to step back and reflect on why their customers were voting with their feet (or their remote controls, rather) and going elsewhere for their entertainment. Maybe lay off a bit on the sermonising and focus on creating some great stories? They managed it in 1973, why not now?

But no. And that’s what ties this in with the “culture war” being played out elsewhere in 2020. The BBC (and the establishment in general) still don’t seem to get it, that outside their bubble, there are a lot of people – voters, customers, viewers, ordinary folk – who are beginning to get tired of being preached at and told that they are bad people for having opinions that deviate even slightly from the approved, progressive, bien-pensant vision of the world. Even people who consider themselves to be basically on-message are getting tired of it.

How will all of this end? I don’t know. But (unlike Doctor Who, in its current form) whatever happens next should at least be interesting to watch.

39 thoughts on “Doctor Who and the Deadly Wokeness Peril

  1. The appalling diatribes become worse by the day and it gets through. This is probably the worst article I have seen for a while:

    https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/local-news/climate-emergency-i-dont-want-3749705

    ‘I don’t want my sister to die before reaching 50’ – How climate change is affecting these North Staffordshire siblings”

    “Yasmin Sarwar started recycling as a child after she was told a polar bear is killed every time someone drops litter. But now she fights to protect the environment because she doesn’t want her little sister to die before reaching middle-age.

    For Yasmin and millions of activists across the world, many of them young children, the climate emergency is a simple matter of life and death – and their fears are backed up by scientific evidence.

    According to United Nations scientists, there are just 10 years left to effectively save the planet from catastrophe by limiting global warming to 1.5C, which would still have a serious impact on the world’s coastlines, forests and ice caps, but would avoid some of the more devastating effects of climate change.

    It is predicted that a 2C rise in global temperatures would destroy almost all coral reefs, devastate habitats, melt the ice caps, cause sea levels to rise and flood coastal areas and radically increase the intensity of droughts, storms and extreme weather.

    In 2019, the global average temperature was 1.1C above the pre-industrial age. It was the second hottest year on record.

    As an activist with Extinction Rebellion Stoke, Yasmin campaigns to get people to realise the imminent danger of climate change – and in particular the harm it will do to children growing up today, including her 11-year-old sister, Lily Stead.”

    Propaganda works
    https://propagandacritic.com/index.php/how-to-decode-propaganda/fear/
    ” ….there are four elements to a successful fear appeal: 1) a threat, 2) a specific recommendation about how the audience should behave, 3) audience perception that the recommendation will be effective in addressing the threat, and 4) audience perception that they are capable of performing the recommended behavior.”

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  2. Pingback: Avaaz Campaign to Censor Climate Sceptics | Climate Scepticism

  3. Alex: As the man cut off from almost all popular culture (thanks again Paul) this is particularly valuable for me. The negative reviews of what is clearly a sorry story must contain secrets of how we are going to be able to finish off the painfully repetitive Daleks of the climate catastrophe.

    (I also took the liberty of editing the OP to link to mine. But then I edited Geoff’s to link to this one!)

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  4. Oh how far we have fallen since Clarence Oddbody’s (1946) rather sexist “Every Time a Bell Rings an Angel Gets His Wings” to Today’s – “A polar bear is killed every time someone drops litter.”

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  5. Some of the IMDB review titles:

    “Future Seems To Be Full of Current Day Politics”

    “Worst Doctor Who Episode”

    “Can the Doctor time travel back to 2005 please?”

    “Who heading for TV Oblivion”

    “Trendy-preachy and generally nonsensical”

    and my favourite:

    “Doctor Woke exterminates more viewers”.

    Other BBC dramas that have tried to preach with with political messaging have received similar treatment from IMDB reviewers, for example the recent War of the Worlds:

    “And early in the 21st century came the great disillusionment.”

    “Wilful destruction of literary art.”

    “I’ve just heard the groan of Well’s turning in his grave”

    “War of the Woke”

    “Very disappointing. BBC con their licence payers. Cancelled mine.”

    “Diabolical Abuse of H.G. Wells classic”

    “No opportunity for propaganda missed”.

    Let’s hope somebody at the BBC is listening.

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  6. Suppose we have a cause that we believe in and which we think is important and requires action (say the consequences of homelessness). Was it appropriate for the BBC to enable Ken Loach to produce a blatantly propagandist play like “Cathy come Home”?
    I believe we run a risk of ignoring the conviction of millions who fervently believe there is a strong case for ACW. They don’t believe organizations like the BBC are doing wrong? Apart from quality, is there much difference between the recent Dr. Who episode and HG Well’s The Time Machine?

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  7. Alan… huge difference… the quality of the writing.. (if it is good, entertatining, more subtle than a brick, don’t care about the ‘message’ – just good entertainment. Dr Who, has ALWAYS been ‘preachy’, the outsider judging the human race, themes, amongst others. but the writing,plot, etc was much, much better)

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  8. Barry, Please read my “apart from quality”.
    So following your argument, if the a BBC produced a high quality production proselytizing CAGW you, and others here, would not object? Rejoice in the fact that the Dr Who episode appears to have been so crap.
    I have much appreciated the production values, writing and images of many of Attenborough’s recent outpourings while at the same time being bitterly opposed to their intent. They, I would venture to suggest were much more damaging.

    I doubt very much if the latest Dr.Who was devised to influence anyone regarding climate change. I would suggest it was targeted (if it were at all) at those already convinced about CAGW.
    I would ignore it. Clearly it was not appreciated by cognoscenti.

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  9. Hi Alan.. Avatar was a massive enviro eco propaganda movie and not even that subtle… I enjoyed it in the cinema.. and like the rest of the public totally ignored all the preachiness.. It’s fiction… so we all die of global warming message, can be thought of as just fiction, ie, extrapolating a real world issue, exaggerating it to make entertainment. lot’s of fiction does that, especially sci-fi..

    I suspect, that the reviews it has had (by random members of public, not us blog sceptics) is because it is so blatantly preachy.. and really badly written, speeches by lead character, that the audience can see are clearly directed at the audience, with the bugbears of writers/ programme maker and a complete turn off. My now 15 year old daughter, has loved Doctor Who, from the rebooted beginning, since she was tiny.. She watched two-three episodes of the current Doctor, and absolutely hates it… Not because, the doctor is a female… Missy/Master was absolutely brilliant, it really could have worked, imagine Olivia Coleman..being both kind and ruthless… but the reboot seems to be, drag it back to the old days, ditch all the previous themes/darkness/story arc, etc and make it a kids TV show, an adventure an episode and shallowness. A higher budget Sarah Jane adventures (which my daughter enjoyed)

    the general public watch Doctor Who.. so that is the audience, and the BBC’s non so subtle ‘message’ to get climate change into wider programming. I’m sure they have had lots of advice from the social scientists..

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  10. ie no connection (across programming) what so ever.. lol https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/our-planet-matters-2020

    “Under the BBC’s Our Planet Matters banner, BBC News and wider programming will do more than ever to explore all aspects of the environment and challenges facing our planet, both at a local and global level.”

    I’m pretty sure public will just yawn.

    BBC’s ‘plans for Asia…

    http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/mediaaction/pdf/climateasia/commsguide/resources/ClimateAsia_CommGuide.pdf


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/climateasia

    “There are many different formats for communicating
    with your audience. For example, if you want an
    audience to use less water, instead of simply announcing
    it to them it could be more compelling to create a song,
    play or joke about it. It is important to consider all
    available formats before choosing the one you wish to
    use. A long-running drama may be useful in approaching
    many different issues over a period of time, whereas
    a documentary may be useful for focusing on just one
    issue in-depth using a single programme.” – BBC Climate Asia_communicating Climate Change Guide.

    A ‘long running drama’ – lol

    I’d love to see the BBC’s similar documents for the UK, to spread the climate change message..

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  11. It’s always get the youth. isn’t it….. (young optimistic, alledgely ‘naive’ to the media manipulation by old activists)

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmediaaction/entries/8e9e72ad-c885-4a04-9824-89e32f1c8bfb

    “To do this, we believe a sense of identity is key. Young Indonesians care about what their peers think about them and crave their respect. If we can create a culture of “green kudos” among friendship groups, and make it ‘cool’ to care about the forests, we could spark a generation of young Indonesians who actively engage with their leaders on sustainable development.

    Young Indonesians on smartphones in the country’s capital, Jakarta

    This engagement cannot be tokenistic, which is why we’ll be backing up our digital content with a high-quality TV discussion programme and a challenge-style reality TV show. These will provide young people with the tools to understand how climate-related issues, such as air pollution and water security, affect their lives, and how they can engage with leaders on these issues.”

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  12. this is an old document (IBT, was involved in the Harrabin, Smith, series of programmes – that gave rise to the BBC, etc,etc…

    http://ibt.org.uk/documents/reports/IBT-EnvironmentonTV-for-web.pdf

    look at all the names involved, – and the “Smuggling in” section and drama and comendy… this attitude is ingrained I think at big media corporations, not just on climate change, but ANY social issue… just look at Eastender for the last twenty years…

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  13. Barry, personally I couldn’t care a Monarch butterfly’s buttock about Dr Who and after watching the first two episodes of its revival (out of interest to see if they could pull it off) I have religiously ignored it. I am far more interested in claims (here and elsewhere) that programmes like it are propaganda pushing CAGW and whether organizations like the BBC should be producing such products.
    I was making the point that there are many BBC viewers who fully believe in CAGW who are being catered for. The quality of the programme is quite separate from any discussion about whether the programme is proselytizing, although I cannot deny that its success (or lack of it) depends upon its quality.

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  14. and I was making the point, that the BBC ARE using drama and other non enviro/climate) to push social messages, to the wider public, who are not watching those specialist programmes. (you seemed to think this was not happening on purpose (sorry, If I’ve misinterpreted that?0

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  15. Barry. Oh I agree, but I’m asking the question whether or not this is wrong? If the BBC (and other media) judge that the majority of their audiences believe in some version of climate change, are they then wrong to cater to them. Recall that the overwhelming scientific support they get and advice they receive, and have had in previous years has been of the alarmist variety. Add to that the avoidance strategy the BBC pursues against rabid defenders of the true climate faithful and you have every reason for the BBC to follow the paths they do. I see the BBC (and in fact all of our media) to be a reflection of ourselves.

    I believe that the BBC (in particular) is more a mirror for what it judges its audience is. Recently it got it spectacularly wrong, as over Brexit, but apart from a very few stragglers, it believes its stance over climate is right on the money. Who has the clout to oppose this view?

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  16. Jon Pertwee was the best Doctor ever. I never rated Tom Baker, his successor. Far too frivolous and not serious enough when it came to saving the Universe in my view. After Tom Baker, the series nose-dived until Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper came along in 2005. I thought they were both great in their roles and it really looked like Dr Who was going to be worth watching again, even if one was all grown up by then. Eccleston and Piper brought back a much needed grittiness and edginess to the series. But then Eccleston left under a cloud after making just one series and Tennant took over, who wasn’t very inspiring. Then it went woke and now it’s gone broke. Such a shame

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  17. Many thanks, all, for the comments! I would tend more towards Barry’s point of view – yes, I agree with Alan, TV has also been a vehicle for social commentary, some of it very gritty and effective. But I would also argue that traditionally different audiences were being catered for, or at any rate someone tuning into a Ken Loach film would do so with different expectations than they would with Doctor Who.

    Nowadays I’m noticing blatant social and political commentary being wedged into productions that never had much of it before. One example from 2018 was the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders that had obvious anti-Brexit themes awkwardly shoehorned into it.

    A point I’d like to make is that in the past, I think social commentary tended to have its own distinct types of programmes, and this goes back to the “kitchen sink” dramas of the 1950s. And where it existed in mainstream entertainment it was more subtle – even when you noticed it you didn’t mind, as the production was entertaining and well-made.

    Now it seems to be increasingly strident and in-your-face, and also poorly executed – it’s as if the message is becoming so important in the minds of the producers that anything else (plot, characters, pacing, script, etc) can just go by the board.

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  18. I watched a few episodes of the Whittaker era, having given up in the Capaldi era. I think the episode when Capaldi enters on a tank playing an electric guitar was the last straw. When I first started writing stories – probably in middle school – I had already read enough to realise that writing in CAPS and appending !!!!!!! everywhere did not, actually, make the story more exciting. Unfortunately the writers of Dr. Who have forgotten that.

    I vividly remember a scene in The Ark in Space where one of the cast is infected by a dreadful contagion – it is merely bubble wrap and green paint on his forearm, but the anguish he shows makes the viewer forget about all that. Now, with CGI, writers have become lazy. But the story was never about the SFX.

    Fortunately perhaps I did not experience the sermon of the latest episode. My advice to the staff of the current version of Dr. Who would be simple: turn down the volume; concentrate on the characters, not the SFX. The characters make the story.

    @ Alan I admire your fortitude. Attenborough was my hero when I was ten, but I cannot bear to watch his programs now.

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  19. never watched Dr Who since the guy with the scarf, it’s a kid/teen’s prog so the Beeb will push the MMGW meme for all it’s worth.

    ps – captain pugwash is worth a watch even after all those years!!

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  20. Jit. I watch Attenbollocks for two main reasons 1.Because they still contain the interesting and provoke wonder and are sometimes amazing (Galapagos snakes and death defying chicks falling down cliffs are notable examples) and 2. To be aware of what the opposition are arguing. At UEA I deliberately attended lectures given by climate change advocates for exactly the same reason. Know your “enemies” is good advice in many walks of life.
    Our television gets a verbal battering and “she who should be listened to” watches in another room at such events.

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  21. Alex I deliberately chose “Cathy Come Home” as an extreme example of what I was trying to convey. It was not chosen by a self-selecting group of viewers as you suggest. Instead, and according to Wikipedia, it was seen by 12 million people, a quarter of the population at the time.
    It was BBC at its absolute best, but as biased as hell!

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  22. Alan, agreed re Cathy Come Home – it was a massive influence at the time, watched by millions as you say, and also hard-hitting, innovative and well-made. I admit my comment was a bit muddled at that point – what I should have emphasised more was that someone watching it would have known what they were in for, and not expected a different kind of story about time travel and monsters or a police drama. So yes, well-made programmes with a strong message (social/political/environmental) were and could still be made and appreciated, whether or not the message is one that everyone will totally agree with.

    And also good programmes can be made where the message is there as part of the story, e.g. a police or courtroom drama that has a homelessness theme, let’s say, and is in other ways a solid and effective drama, to be watched and enjoyed in its own right. What I noticed in Doctor Who (and there might be other good examples around, currently) was the crude and lazy way that the Thunberg-esque message *was* the story, and the rest of it just didn’t hold up. HG Wells it was not!

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  23. How did this person get on the BBC?

    Well, it was a live programme. I don’t suppose she’ll be invited again.

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  24. Thanks Paul. There was much concern over the breakdown of BBC consensus enforcement on Twitter of course. I tried my best to chip in:

    I’d used the ‘back of a fag packet’ phrase at lunch with my sister, who, very much against her better judgement of many years, asked me about global warming in the light of Greta. She set a strict time limit but she was asking some good questions off her own bat. Using the autistic teenager (a point she really picked up on with her NHS hat on) may yet not be the best move ever from climate agitprop central.

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  25. Alan K makes a good point about Cathy Come Home – in many respects, the BBC at its best. Hard-hitting, gripping, and dealing with an important subject that was, in the opinion of many, simply being swept under the carpet and not being properly discussed, let alone addressed. I was aged 2 when it was first shown, so have no recollection of it at the time (though I have watched it subsequently, on one of its several repeats). My mother, now in her late 80s, can still be reduced to close to tears at the mention of it, so great was its impact on her when she watched it (obviously, she was a young mother herself at the time).

    I would argue, however, that the difference between the BBC’s presentation of Cathy Come Home and its current behaviour is the difference between chalk and cheese. Unless those who were around at the time and/or those better-informed that me advise differently, my understanding is that the BBC then occasionally showed programmes of that ilk which could be regarded as campaigning programmes. Then, having stimulated a debate, they stepped back. Today’s behaviour by the BBC regarding (inter alia) climate change, could hardly be more different. Here they seek to proselytise, remorselessly pushing the agenda and inserting it into programmes of almost every type, from comedy through soap operas, travel documentaries, and of course the likes of Doctor Who. It never ends.

    If the BBC produced a brilliantly-researched documentary warning of the dangers of climate change (preferably allowing dissenting voices to be heard) then I for one would have no objection, ditto regarding all the other issues on which they relentlessly campaign. It’s the fact that the BBC has become a campaigning broadcaster, and the relentlessness of those campaigns, combined with their determination to silence dissenting voices, that I object to.

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  26. Mark:

    If the BBC produced a brilliantly-researched documentary warning of the dangers of climate change (preferably allowing dissenting voices to be heard) …

    The problem here, of course, is that the BBC produced Climate Change – the Facts at great expense last April. The mediocre (or lousy, more like) drives out even the possibility of the good. They fool themselves that they’ve done it.

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  27. I will try another time to get my point across using the “Cathy come home” comparison because it has become entangled with issues of quality.. Mark you write that the BBC has become a campaigning broadcaster. I argue that, in some some ways it always has been. What is “Cathy come home” but an absolutely brilliant piece of campaigning – against the system that allowed homelessness to fester? But it is as biased as any modern BBC play that involves climate change. It’s just that we at Cliscep probably to a man (and woman) heartily approve of the bias within “Cathy come home” (or don’t even notice it) whilst deploring it in Dr Who.

    If you doubt “Cathy Come Home” ‘s bias, consider its last searing scenes where local council officials take away Cathy’s screaming children. You have been manipulated big time and by masters of their crafts. What about those officials (and the system they represent)? Are they fairly represented? Would the children be appropriately catered for by society to be left in Cathy’s care beneath the railway bridge? Please don’t get me wrong. I heartily approve of the bias.

    Of course there is bias and it’s present in truckloads, and the play is infinitely the better for it. The majority of the audience approved. The BBC was in that play catering to what it judged its audience would approve of. What I asked in my first post was whether the BBC has made judgements about its audience about climate change and is catering to them. The overwhelming informed advice it gets is that ACC is real, and that CAGW could well be. It judges that most of its audience is of a similar mindset and tries to cater to it. It has also learned to its cost that there is a vocal minority that is bitterly opposed to giving the “deniers” any voice and has cowardly acquiesced to their demands. Apart from the last, I cannot convince myself that the BBC is doing much wrong.

    Some years ago I engaged in a long lonely battle over at Bishop Hill advancing the view that it isn’t the BBC that ought to be attacked for its pro CAGW bias, but the various institutions (like the Royal Society) that give the BBC biased advice. I have not changed my views. Deja vue.

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  28. That’s very good Alan. I don’t remember you making that case on Bishop Hill though. And isn’t that one of the strange frustrations of being a ‘sceptic’ – not just being ignored by the alarmist hordes surrounding us but by our very own? Who of the nascent Cliscep core team argued that Jaime Jessop should be a member from the start? (Me me me.) Who drew attention to the key role and writings of Dominic Cummings in January 2017 only for Geoff Chambers to discover the guy with no mention of prior Cliscep discussion as recently as September 2019?

    Anyway, with not a trace of bitterness, I’m largely with you on the BBC in contradistinction to the Royal Society etc.

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  29. Oh Richard I wasn’t ignored. I was opposed by the BH multitudes, all eager to prove to me how evil the BBC is. Problem is that I lived 13 years in North America, without the BBC (except for repeats on PBS) and when I returned to the UK I was so very grateful. I do not believe those who have been deprived of it can fully appreciate what it’s good at, although I acknowledge that perhaps we are too lenient about its faults.

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  30. There seems to be a key difference between the episode of Dr. Who mentioned and Cathy Come Home. (I haven’t seen the former, and have only seen the latter once, probably four decades ago, gulp).

    To speak approvingly of what your master is doing takes no courage. It’s propaganda. There was no “consensus enforcement” in Cathy Come Home, but instead the raising of an under-appreciated problem. No one could argue that “climate emergency” is an issue that needs to be brought to the public’s attention.

    Alan, I was one of the multitudes at BH until I could bear the bigoted utterances of a certain anonymous individual no more. Can’t remember where I would have stood re: BBC. But one thing I will criticise them for is a basic lack of what PK Dick called a “built in BS detector”. As an example, this headline from before Chrimbo: “Oceans running out of oxygen, scientists say.” As if appending a little comma and a “scientists say” absolves them from paying a blind bit of attention to what they are actually reporting. (I complained about it and asked for a correction, I think probably in the hour it was published; I’m still waiting for a response!)

    They are not alone in that, of course, and I have sent a letter off in response to “Shocking global warming map shows swathes of East Anglia under water by 2050” in the Eastern Evening News…

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  31. Alan: Point taken. But I continue to agree with you, that there tends to be too much animus against the BBC in sceptical circles and not enough elsewhere. Roger Harrabin became really quite a good friend as we both lived on the south side of Hampstead Heath in the 1990s. He hadn’t been given the environment brief then. He and his wife continue to be very close to some great friends of mine in that area. That’s personal and difficult. He, like Richard Betts, didn’t respond when I tried to point them to my Missing Facts critique of Attenborough’s big showpiece on the Beeb in May. That inability to say anything is really sad. But then Geoff in Lying on Climate

    Pointing out for the millionth time that Lewandowsky or Roger Harrabin have stated something that’s not true is not a sensible way for an intelligent person to spend their time.

    That is very true but still bothered me, in that Lewandowsky is for me a much worse case.

    But, thanks to Alex for his sterling start, this has been an excellent thread.

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  32. Alan, we are (I believe – and certainly hope) online friends, but we do regularly cross swords about the BBC, whether here or at Bishop Hill. My frustration with the BBC isn’t that it fails to do some things well (I still watch the BBC far more than any other TV channel), but that it ignores its brief, often ignores news it doesn’t want us to know about (if it isn’t reported, it hasn’t happened, seems to be the idea) and its remorseless driving of agendas close to its heart.

    I agree with much that you say, but am frustrated that you seem to have missed completely this paragraph, which was written with some care to meet your point about Cathy Come Home:

    “I would argue, however, that the difference between the BBC’s presentation of Cathy Come Home and its current behaviour is the difference between chalk and cheese. Unless those who were around at the time and/or those better-informed that me advise differently, my understanding is that the BBC then occasionally showed programmes of that ilk which could be regarded as campaigning programmes. Then, having stimulated a debate, they stepped back. Today’s behaviour by the BBC regarding (inter alia) climate change, could hardly be more different. Here they seek to proselytise, remorselessly pushing the agenda and inserting it into programmes of almost every type, from comedy through soap operas, travel documentaries, and of course the likes of Doctor Who. It never ends.”

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  33. Mark. Friends (online or otherwise) can disagree without rancor and we have over many years. I enjoy seeing parts of the world from a different viewpoint and I very much value yours. I did not respond immediately to parts of your post because your argument was more subtle and I wished to think about it some more. Having been away in North America for large parts of the time when you considered the BBC more favourably I find it impossible to comment upon your claim that the BBC has become more relentless in pushing what it wishes to promote. I still fail to understand how the BBC benefits other than by reflecting what it judges its audience agrees with.
    I note that you do not comment upon this, my main thesis. So there!

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  34. Alan, thank you for that.

    I don’t actually disagree with your main thesis regarding the BBC, at least so far as climate change is concerned – yes, the BBC can, with some integrity,say that its output on this topic simply mirrors the science as put forward by the Royal Society, the Committee on Climate Change, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. You are right to reserve your main contempt for those scientists who should be presenting a much more thoughtful, nuanced and intelligent message regarding climate change.

    Nevertheless, I still fault the BBC for pushing the narrative so relentlessly, shoe-horning it into just about any and every programme, whether on radio or on TV (plus its website, of course). And I know we differ over the Brexit debate, but I still feel the BBC’s behaviour during the whole sorry Brexit saga was beneath contempt, its bias was so palpable. There it doesn’t have the defence that “the experts agree” that Brexit would be bad for the UK, because pushing that message was sticking two fingers up at the 52% who voted for Brexit. The failure of the establishment, cheer-led by the BBC, to implement Brexit, was IMO probably the major factor in BoJo’s recent general election victory.

    The BBC does of course have a number of other agendas it also seeks to promote on an active and regular basis. I do not think its doing so is appropriate, given its privileged role as recipient of the TV licence fee, and its trusted status, built up over many decades, and also given the terms of its Royal Charter.

    To conclude on a positive note, however, I do appreciate all that the BBC does well, and it is a lot. I am not one of those who wishes to see its demise. I want to protect it from its own worst excesses, and see it restored to the great and trusted broadcaster that it once was, concentrating on what it does well, and giving up on the agenda-pushing. I hope reality is dawning on those at the top, and it can yet pull itself back from the brink.

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  35. Reading through this comment string I am amazed that no one has made the point that science fiction has, from its beginning been preachy – used it as a vehicle to push a message. Scifi also flourished in totalitarian regimes where authors could more safely park criticisms in the future or distant galaxies.

    Please save electrons by not criticizing me for defending the Dr Who programme – I’m not. I haven’t watched it, I’m merely pointing out that it seems to follow a long tradition. Much of mid-twentieth century SF was also trash. My parents despaired of my teenage reading habits.

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  36. This weekend’s episode, preaching about microplastics, didn’t go down very well:

    And the viewing figures are still falling, now below 4 million.

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