Not that long ago, in a galaxy just around the corner, I had occasion to take to task one of the BBC’s storm-trooping disinformation reporters over an article she had written. It was calling out Facebook for being on the Dark Side, and our Jedi heroine, a certain Merlyn Thomas, was taking on the evil Mark Zuckerberg, armed only with a degree in Arabic and French and the lightsaber of truth; which is to say a big red ‘False’ that she could use to zap any statement that threatened the Galactic Republic. The Force is indeed strong in the Zuckerberg, but Merlyn’s gravest warning was reserved for a much more dangerous and pervasive peril:

“The climate crisis is increasingly becoming the new culture war, with many of the same individuals who for years have sought to stoke division and polarise opinion now viewing climate as the latest front in their efforts.”

I wondered at the time just who these lords of the dark energy might be and just what they had hoped to gain by all of that stoking and polarizing. I assumed they wore black and only came out at night, but beyond that I had little clue as to their DNA profile, let alone where they got the money to pay for their Death Star – Ms Thomas was strangely protective of their identity. That is, until now.

Declining the not so hidden

For her next gallant offensive against the offensiveness of free speech, Merlyn teamed up with fellow crusader, Marco Silva, to take on the galactic menace of a particularly sneaky and sinister group called the Creative Society. Just how sneaky this society is could be discerned from the article’s headline:

“How high-profile scientists felt tricked by group denying climate change”

Trickery indeed? But is this just another of those harmless mathematical tricks that the BBC likes to dramatize? Apparently not. This trick was a lot more subtle and entrapping. What the Creative Society did was to send out invitations to experts asking them to contribute towards one of their online conferences, using only the words ‘Creative Society’ on the letterhead to give any clue as to the identity of those making the invitation. The poor experts who failed to decline the invitation discovered too late (and to their horror) that the Creative Society was actually a group with some rather unorthodox theories about what is causing climate change. Of course, these ‘tricked’ experts hadn’t bothered to check beforehand what they were getting into. Take, for example, Dr Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, in Bangladesh. Merlyn and Marco take up the story:

“When Creative Society volunteers invited him for an interview, he simply didn’t think very much about it’. He had been told the footage would be shown at an international conference, he said, but had not asked who the other contributors would be. And only after it aired, last year, did he realise something was amiss.”

Now, you and I might suggest that Dr Huq hadn’t been tricked at all – he was just an idiot. However, the BBC smelled a rat:

“But why would the group interview people it fundamentally disagrees with?”

I don’t know, Merlyn. Perhaps it’s because they don’t share the BBC’s contempt for people who happen to disagree with something they have to say.

So who are these guileless tricksters?

Contrary to the BBC headline, the Creative Society does not actually deny that climate change is taking place – in fact, they are very worried about it. It’s just that they think that the anthropogenic contribution is overplayed and the real cause has something to do with “cosmic pulses” and “cyclicity”. The scientists who walked blindly into their lair had been invited because the society was keen to cherry-pick any expert statements that appeared to cast doubt on the orthodox alternative. I don’t condone this practice (cue mocking laughter from the gallery) but, just maybe, if the scientists concerned had not been so keen to flaunt themselves at what they assumed to be yet another climate alarmist shindig, they wouldn’t have come to grief so easily.

So, other than it being insidious and a little bit loopy, what else do you need to know about the Creative Society? Well first of all, Merlyn would wish you to know that they are omnipresent and influential:

“The group runs a network of more than 200 accounts – with hundreds of thousands of followers – across all major social media platforms…Broadcast in dozens of languages, they have amassed thousands of views online.”

Oh dear. Does this mean that the BBC has a competitor? Maybe not, but whatever the society lacks in outreach it more than compensates with its aura of mystery:

“But its structure and finances are opaque…It remains unclear how the Creative Society is funded but Mr Prudkov insists members are volunteers devoting their free time to the cause.”

So, in that respect, it’s a bit like Cliscep, I imagine. And yet they are much more fanatically committed to their cause:

“The group’s last two conferences went on for more than 11 hours.”

My God! Eleven hours? Even COP26 only went on for… Okay, fair enough, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that 11 hours is still a long time.

But, above all, they are deniers:

“The group has uploaded videos on YouTube falsely describing greenhouse gases as ‘the scam of the century’.”

Well, that’s just downright naughty of them. But should we be taking the word of a pair of BBC disinformation reporters on all of this? Is the Creative Society really an organisation established for the purposes of climate change denial, or are they something completely different?

And now for something completely different

Naturally, the BBC does not want you to visit a climate denier’s website, and so no link is provided. Nevertheless, for those who have a penchant for finding things out for themselves, or are still in the thrall of the evil Zuckerberg, this is no real obstacle. And upon visiting the Creative Society’s website one thing is immediately obvious: It is first and foremost a humanist society that wishes the world to embrace its humanist credo. Consequently, you will read foundational statements such as:

  • All People are born free and equal
  • No one and nothing in society has the right to create threats to the life and freedom of a Human!
  • Ideology should be aimed at popularizing the best human qualities and stopping everything that is directed against a Human.

And more controversially, as far as the average water melon is concerned:

  • Everyone has the right to private property and income, however within the limits of the individual’s capitalization amount set by the society.

The negative impact of humans on the environment is not ignored, but the society’s members happen to think that this is limited to non-climatic influences. Instead, cosmic cyclicity is invoked to make good the destructive shortfall. It is for this reason that the society is keen to stage forums to which any scientist who speaks of natural cycles is invited. The agenda for their next forum on this subject is clearly spelled out on the website, and so such invitees cannot claim to have been trapped.

All of which raises an important point. The ideological differences between the Creative Society and a social justice warrior such as Merlyn Thomas are not so pronounced. Both are keen to promote equality and human rights, and both are deeply concerned about the impact we are having on the environment. The difference lies in the fact that the Creative Society places humanism at the centre of its ideology and questions the extent to which humans can be held responsible for changing the climate. As humanists, they believe in freedom of speech on such issues and look towards the scientific community for any support they can get for their openly held views. However, despite having much in common with the society, Merlyn cannot condone their questioning of climate change orthodoxy and, perforce, has to portray them as a secretive, scheming and pernicious cult that exists only to ‘stoke division and polarise opinion’.

Well, I say shame on you Merlyn. I’m not about to sign up for the Creative Society any time soon, but I think I have more time of day for such a group than I do for a pair of journalists who misinform under the protective moniker of ‘disinformation specialist’.

14 Comments

  1. Thanks, John. I spotted this BBC piece at the time, and smelled a rat. Sadly, I lacked the motivation just then to dig a little deeper.

    One of the revealing things about the BBC piece seems to be the naivety of climate scientists. Without downplaying your research, it doesn’t seem to have been too difficult to establish very quickly who the Creative Society are and what they stand for.

    Why would anyone sign up to be interviewed by someone who makes contact out of the blue, without first checking them out? I wouldn’t.

    Like

  2. Mark,

    Precisely. As the Creative Society spokesman put it: “It was a certain lack of due diligence.”

    Like

  3. the BEEB seems to me to be trying to out compete web based sites.

    nearly every news has “BBC investigation found” – you name it – to many to count.

    good for them – but do I pay my TV licence for the “investigation” by the BEEB when we already pay the Police to do this?

    Like

  4. Interesting, not heard of the Creative Society before.

    “The climate crisis is increasingly becoming the new culture war…”

    Sometime truths are spoken inadvertently. Well, not too far from the truth, at least. Climate Catastrophism is the first and by far the largest of the many secular cultures that are filling the vacuum left by the declining traditional religions in the latter half of the twentieth century until now. In this sense the issue of climate change has always been a culture war, and beyond the self-justification it has very little to do with science or indeed the physical climate (its principle narrative of certain imminent global catastrophe, contradicts mainstream science, let alone anything sceptical, and has no basis in physical reality). Pretty much everything that is happening in the human sphere regarding climate change, is a product of the culture.

    “However, despite having much in common with the society, Merlyn cannot condone their questioning of climate change orthodoxy and, perforce, has to portray them as a secretive, scheming and pernicious cult that exists only to ‘stoke division and polarise opinion’.”

    Indeed. Out-groupers gotta be demonised. We can’t know the motives of any single individual. But speaking generally, it’s a subconscious thing, so will bypass any objective consideration about what, beyond the climate domain, they may have in common.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Andy,

    When Merlyn spoke of a culture war, I’m sure she didn’t have your understanding in mind. As far as she is concerned, she is just a fact checker with science on her side. As such, it is the other guy who is trying to turn this into a culture war. She thinks she is observing it from afar, and I believe this misconception is at the root of the problem.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. John, I think you’re absolutely right. Which is why I said ‘inadvertently’. But I think the root of the problem is not the misconception per se, but that which causes the misconception, which is cultural belief.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andy,

    To be fair, I think we are saying the same thing. Merlyn is driven by cultural belief but it is in the nature of cultural belief that those who are in its thrall may not necessarily appreciate it. This can lead to bias blindspot.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. For the sake of completeness, this is how the BBC presented the story about the Creative Society on its home page on 27th April. This was my comment on Open Mic after Mark had drawn attention to this very strange, almost surreal take from the Beeb’s official disinformation department. There are further comments by Mark, Alan and myself on Open Mic nearby.

    —-

    Two stories I notice alongside each other on the BBC home page this morning:

    The second Mark already drew attention to yesterday at 7:16am. The other:

    Four ways Elon Musk might change Twitter

    is really quite a good bit of journalism, except it doesn’t mention the crucial step of making all the Twitter code open source.

    The second though is disastrously bad, and stupid, and is now adorned with a horrible pic of a ‘denier’ that would not have been out of place in Der Stürmer.

    That’s our state broadcaster for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Richard,

    Thanks for that. I think the ‘pig’ image is actually taken from the Creative Society’s own propaganda and is intended to satirize those who are making money from the alarmism. However, the context in which the BBC used the image would leave the casual observer with a very negative impression of the ‘denier’. This I suspect was deliberate. Also, posing the accusation as a question and then referring to experts ‘feeling’ tricked are obviously mealy mouthed words intended to keep lawyers at bay whilst still making the point. There is no doubt in my mind that the Creative Society is a much more straightforward organisation to deal with than the BBC, for all of its loopiness.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. John:

    I think the ‘pig’ image is actually taken from the Creative Society’s own propaganda and is intended to satirize those who are making money from the alarmism.

    Agreed. I’d come to this conclusion by the evening of 27th.

    However, the context in which the BBC used the image would leave the casual observer with a very negative impression of the ‘denier’. This I suspect was deliberate.

    Also agreed.

    One point I didn’t make at the time but deeply felt:

    Now, you and I might suggest that Dr Huq hadn’t been tricked at all – he was just an idiot.

    Isn’t it reassuring to know that men such as these are the pilots of such wisdom that they can steer the megatanker of humanity through all the complexities and political maneuverings of global decarbonisation.

    Like

  11. When it comes to exercising subtle bias, your average journalist has a veritable Swiss army knife of techniques at his or her disposal. Two of the more useful instruments are the carefully chosen word and the omission of vital information. Both are expertly employed in the following article covering the Amber Heard v Johnny Depp trial:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-61559568

    Firstly, you will note that whilst both sides called upon ‘expert’ witnesses attesting to the psychological failings of the two litigants, Heard’s experts ‘rejected’ the testimony aimed at her whilst Depp’s lawyers only ‘sought to undermine’ the testimony aimed at him.

    Secondly, the report says that Depp’s lawyer’s attempt at discrediting Heard’s expert rested upon the fact that he had no ‘direct contact’ with Depp. What the reporter omitted to say, however, was that Depp’s lawyers not only pointed out that Heard’s expert had never spoken to Depp before arriving at his assessment, they also forced him to concede under cross-examination that he had based his conclusion that Depp was a ‘narcissist’ who ‘abused alcohol’ entirely on his performance as Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean. The reporter also forgot to mention that the same expert witness conceded under cross-examination that he had failed to take into account Depp’s performance as Willy Wonka.

    Quack, quack.

    These are your experts folks. But it matters not. There isn’t an expert on Earth that is so bad as to be beyond a sympathetic journalist’s salvation.

    Like

  12. Yes, Richard, it is important to acknowledge that there are still some excellent journalists out there. I’m reading one at the moment: Catherine Belton and her book, ‘Putin’s People’. Journalism at its finest and its most important.

    Liked by 1 person

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