I won’t take up too much of your time, but I just wanted to point out a certain irony that finds its expression 46 minutes into Owen Sheers’ blockbusting ‘success’, the BBC’s massively vaunted and even more massively ignored docudrama, The Trick. It occurs in a disarmingly domestic scene in which a young PR consultant, representing the switched-on yoof, explains to the naïve elder (his father) how these things go down with Big Oil:
PR man: Some big players have had plans for ages, oil companies especially. They all want to stop the science getting out there. What’s so crazy is that they all knew more about it than anyone else. All through the eighties they had the best climate scientists – scenario planners – and these guys are telling them, the CEOs, the boards, increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is going to be a major problem for the whole world. Extreme weather, food shortages, mass migrations…”
PR’s dad: So what did they do?
PR man: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they took all that, all that knowledge, which they had more of, in more detail, and earlier than anyone else – well they used it to get ahead of the curve, to come up with strategies to keep the public uncertain, unconcerned.
PR’s dad: What kinds of strategies?
PR man: Front organisations mostly, to produce alternative research that backed their message, and pushed it to the media.
Now, forgive me if I have got this wrong, but isn’t that a conspiracy theory? In fact, is it not essentially the same conspiracy theory that is supposed to lie behind the average climate change denier’s delusional state? Because do we not stand accused of believing that all the world’s best climate scientists were capable of discovering one thing, and yet turn a blind eye when the authorities in receipt of their research persuade the public of the opposite? As far as I can see, the only difference is that Owen and his Extinction Rebellion colleagues believe that all the world’s best climate scientists happened to be working for oil companies. Also, presumably, some of these ‘best climate scientists’ must have been providing the ‘alternative research’ that Owen despises so much. Or is Owen suggesting that the oil companies had to go outside their organisation to find any scientists that doubted and were prepared to misrepresent their ‘best’ scientists? I’m not sure that all the world’s best climate scientists would have been happy with that.
Not only is it highly unlikely that all the best climate scientists were working for the oil companies, one has to wonder how it came about that the best ones just happened to be so mercenary. Also, if all the best scientists were spoken for, it doesn’t say a lot for the calibre of all those inferior scientists who unfortunately missed out on the lucrative opportunity of having their life’s work ignored.
I’m not going to dwell too long on this strange nonsense, because it’s Saturday and we all have better things to do. But it does rather bring home the degree to which trickery, sleight of hand and lack of self-awareness play a central role in the debate.