XR crashes and burns as climate sceptic becomes UK trade envoy

Ok, I’m in optimistic mood. But this post is to give space to discuss the latest in the UK, both on climate and anything else people see as a crisis.

Today: Extinction Rebellion facing ‘organised crime’ curbs

Tuesday: Tony Abbott rails against Covid ‘health dictatorships’, saying some elderly should be left to die naturally

Both links are to the Telegraph, whose paywall I find hard to predict, not least this weekend, as they say they’ve opened up all their articles for two days due to XR’s foolish antics. Let me know.

This is from the un-paywalled BBC on Abbott on Thursday:

Mr Abbott was a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage in Australia’s 2017 referendum on the issue and has been accused of making homophobic and misogynist comments in the past.

He has also described the idea of climate change as “faddish” and, last year, claimed the world was “in the grip of a climate cult”.

But Mr Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, defended him against claims of misogyny and homophobia.

“As a woman who has always been part of his life and who came out to him as gay in my early 40s, I know incontrovertibly that Tony is neither of those things,” she wrote on Twitter.

“In reality he is a man of great conviction and intellect; an unabashed conservative but with great compassion, respect for others, and an indelible sense of doing what is right.”

Call me biased but I like that description of a Christian from someone who knows him as well as anyone. But, as said already, please find and debate whatever crisis you want to in all this. This snippet of health economics I found fascinating from Abbott at Policy Exchange:

He said Australian health officials were spending up to £100,000 keeping elderly Covid patients alive, significantly more than they would normally allot for life-saving geriatric care.

On XR I felt a great urge to respond to a Guardian journalist outraged at Labour MP Dawn Butler’s Twitter defence of the stormtroopers of Net Zero trying to nuke the distribution of UK newspapers. But what I ended up saying came out not sceptical of the science at all, as I tried to put myself in the lady’s left-leaning shoes. I’m genuine in asking for criticism of this.

Feel free to chat below about any aspect of XR, Tony Abbott’s appointment and opinions, and on climate, covid or indeed anything.


  1. Richard,

    I think the real crisis is what the communications revolution is doing to human society. Never before has it been so easy to exchange views, and so never before has it been so easy to contrast one’s own sense of self-worth against the worthlessness of others. I don’t know where this is headed, but the application of the term ‘denier’ to anyone who wishes to remain open-minded and resist following the consensus seems a dangerous road for us all to be going down.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Never before has it been so easy to exchange views, and so never before has it been so easy to contrast one’s own sense of self-worth against the worthlessness of others.”

    I don’t think this is so. The kind of things happening now have happened endlessly throughout history and have very recognisable characteristics (which even within the many Twitter storms, is oft pointed out, though little good it does). In extended tribes up to a few hundred individuals, it is possible to know essentially all of society, and with regular public exchange communicate with most regularly, plus more intimately than on twitter (that doesn’t have body language). Operating like this for endless millennia is why we’re so attuned to it. Gossip has been called ‘power without responsibility’, and is just one of many ‘features’ of these behaviours. Even ‘denier’ is only one instance of very many out-group demonisation terms, large numbers of which have echoed down the ages, most not even remembered. In the end, the consensuses calling the shots are not scientific, but public and cultural, whether or not they happen also to skew / trash one or other or several scientific topics along the way.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Andy,

    I’m not sure where the disagreement lies here. I find nothing to disagree with in your comment but I don’t think it addresses my concern that technology is enabling a change in the nature and extent of remote communication in a way that is exacerbating the situation. In the good old days we would go to church to learn the truth and be denounced by the man in the pulpit. All I am saying is that we all now have our pulpits from which to denounce and disseminate on a global stage. The result may be more conflagration than congregation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. From the way Kay Burley was tearing into Handjob for daring to defend the appointment of Abbott, exasperatedly referring to his rampant homophobia and misogyny, I was thinking Abbott must have said something well out of order in the past. From what the BBC say, his ‘homophobia’ amounts basically to his principled opposition to gay marriage and his ‘misogyny’ is on account of having a politically incorrect opinion about gender differences and being anti-abortion:

    “This is a man who described abortion as ‘the easy way out’ and suggested that men may be ‘by physiology or temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command’.”

    On top of all that, he’s a climate denier. OMG! That puts him beyond the pale with the vast majority of our immature, spiteful, low-info, factually challenged and scientifically illiterate ‘progressive’ left wing political elite and media presenters. You just cannot hold those opinions and be a virtuous person; in fact, you can only be a ‘far right’, hate-filled, bigoted science denier if you hold those opinions.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Changing the subject perhaps:

    I have picked up on a spat between a council and its local health trust, in which the former was attempting to investigate the actions of the latter. In particular, the council was concern why old folk had been discharged back into care homes without being tested (this being government policy prior to April 12). At one point a councillor asked whether “red flags” were raised at the trust when it came to discharges without tests. To which the health trust representative replied:

    “In terms of questioning the national guidance, we didn’t. We had a very robust process for receiving guidance and disseminating that throughout the organisation…”

    I think this defence first got its airing during the Nuremburg trials, during which it emerged that the people on the ground were simply applying ‘robust procedures’ to ensure compliance with Nazi Party guidelines. Unimpressed, another councillor wryly remarked:

    “I know you don’t want to cry over spilt milk, but if you’re getting something which isn’t going to do the job, I’d hope you’d have enough about you to say “hang on here” and actually challenge it. When you’re not getting what you need, that challenge has got to be there.”

    Of course, the problem is that the health trust was getting exactly what it needed by following the government guidelines.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. John, “I find nothing to disagree with in your comment but I don’t think it addresses my concern that technology is enabling a change in the nature and extent of remote communication in a way that is exacerbating the situation.”

    In the sense in which there is temporarily (years!) imbalance as a new technology spreads / grows, which may benefit particular sides or authority or anti-authority unequally, then maybe. But in the longer term, all such technical advances tend to benefit all sides / parties / groups equally, as has occurred with email / simpler internet technologies before sophisticated social media, radio / TV and forums based on same before that, telegraph and wire-phone technologies before that, printing before that, and writing before that. But once the waves have passed, nothing is exacerbated in the sense that all the behaviours in society still occur as they always have, and indeed that these behaviours are emotive / instinctive (which is to say not rational) suggest they’ve been around for a very long time indeed. I think, once the ‘magic’ of technology was removed and the subject matter boiled down to basics (so mere terminology didn’t get in the way), our deep hunter-gatherer ancestors would not only recognise perfectly well what’s happening on twitter wars, they’d probably be better at handling it than generations who’ve been unusually isolated (in the West) for a while from the constant conflicts in society.


  7. John (2:42pm GMT): I had a long conversation with someone ‘in the know’ earlier today and she confirmed this kind of thing and worse. It is deeply depressing.

    John and Andy: I side with John in agreeing with you and feeling that tech has made a difference. Two well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalists recently discussed what they see as the ‘unintended consequences’ of this. I just said thank you. I know my place.

    Jaime: Thanks. I watched that Kay Burley piece too, before reading you, well one of them. The way she used ‘climate denier’ so casually of Abbott was so deeply depressing. Taken out of context I don’t agree with him about men and women and leadership. But his sister’s testimony counts for a lot. We’ll always disagree about something.

    The fact that the government stood its ground on Abbott’s appointment is I think a considerable positive. I’m not saying it’s been enormously brave but it’s better than a poke in the eye with a wet rag or whatever the expression is.

    I may not be able to comment much more. I thought these two bits of news weren’t so bad. Barry Woods has been exposing the common funding of XR and Tory Party greenies on Twitter. I realise that there’s a way to go. Chin up to all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hmm, that twitter conversation between Paul Graham and Balaji Srinivasan is probably better looked at from here. That doesn’t seem as easy to reach from my embedded tweet as it should be. Not that Twitter would ever try to soft-censor an interaction that exposed its own weaknesses so badly. (Though it applies to blogs too, albeit with some helpful constraints.)


  9. Richard: “John and Andy: I side with John in agreeing with you and feeling that tech has made a difference.”

    Made cultural contention or negative culture still worse, you mean? If technology was magically held absolutely rigid, cultural contentions would still come in temporal and geographical waves. So… worse than 2 years ago? Maybe, depending on where we sit upon those waves, and where we live. Worse than the Khmer culture in Cambodia in the 1970s? I don’t think so. Worse than McCarthyism in 1940s / 50s US? Probably not, but it could happen. Worse than the cultural revolution in China? I don’t think so. Worse than Germany in the 1930s? I don’t think so. Worse than the purge of the Cathars in 13th Century France? I don’t think so. Worse than the blues versus greens craziness in Byzantine Constantinople? I don’t think so. Worse than the millennial average for the endless thousands of deleterious cultural events that have afflicted humanity essentially forever. Most certainly not, as yet, nowhere near. So worse than what, and when?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Andy: Last comment from me for a while. I’d follow Douglas Murray and friends yesterday in agreeing that in the West ‘we have never had it so good’ since 1945. (Said by Macmillan in 1957, the year of my birth, as it happens.) The ideology the French university system exported to Cambodia in the shape of Pol Pot was horrific though – assisted by Nixon and Kissinger’s bombing. The comments about communications tech are though in the context of the privileged place it has arisen. Real losses are possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pol Pot was basically an early version of XR. Blaming him on Nixon and Kissinger, when the deadly contagion in his head was created in France seems less than reasonable. I am considering some ideas about how despite can take over, and I believe the tragedy only occurs after a social breakdown is looking ng underway. In effect the moral/rational part of a society (for lack of a better term) must be weakened to allow claptrap like Pol Pot or Lenin or XR to take over.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Richard; “In the West ‘we have never had it so good’ since 1945.”

    Absolutely. The real challenge is not to figure out why things may be less good at the moment, for the West, but why it has had a period of stability, minimal cultural conflict, and minimal warfare, that is likely unprecedented in world history. Hence while real losses are indeed possible, this reflects a return to more ‘normal’ conditions, which have reigned essentially forever at any level of tech. So was it tech that brought about the unusually stable conditions in the first place? In terms of generic tech across the board (medical / agricultural etc) creating unprecedented success in survival / growth, so indirectly, maybe. In terms of specifically communications tech *improving* our social behaviour, so directly, I doubt it. Any more than the likelihood that still further advances of comms tech have likely been a direct main cause of regression. Given that throughout history cultural conflicts and negative phases come in waves anyway, we can’t objectively know that this is just a ‘due’ wave, entirely independent of communications tech even if some is expressed through same simply because that’s an available mode.


  13. Andy, I appreciate your putting media technology in historical context, and noting the actual past atrocities with real blood, compared to today’s twitter mobs whose damage is social and cultural cancellation; bad, but not physical violence. There is the street violence in US cities, enabled by social media platforms, but that is still at the stage of psyops, rather than kinetic conflict. You could also reference tech advances like the printing press, which broke the Roman Catholic monopoly, and opened up Christian religious exploration. In this sense, your POV aligns with the notion that the best response to misinformation is more information, not less by means of censorship. Of course, along with that goes the downside of crackpots and truly evil people using the internet to find each other and collaborate.

    I am reminded of Marshall McLuhan’s writings regarding the Global Village he foresaw prior to the internet emerging. He was lucid enough to say that this village would not be a simple peaceful tribal community as imagined by globalists.

    In his lifetime, Marshall McLuhan foresaw the rise of the Global Village along with the return of tribalism, pre-conditions for the present obsession with climatism and other apocalyptic visions. Quotations:

    “All media are extensions of some human faculty-psychic or physical.”

    “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.”

    “The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum, where everybody gets the message…. all the time.”

    “Our technology forces us to live mythically.”

    “Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.”

    “The more you create village conditions, the more discontinuity and division and diversity. The global village absolutely insures maximal disagreement on all points. It never occurred to me that uniformity and tranquility were the properties of the global village. It has more spite and envy. The spaces and times are pulled out from between people. A world in which people encounter each other in depth all the time. The tribal-global village is far more divisive — full of fighting — than any nationalism ever was. Village is fission, not fusion, in depth all the time.” (McLuhan “The Hot and Cool Interview” 57–58)

    Liked by 2 people

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