Seems like only yesterday John was answering a particularly absurd piece of propaganda hiding shamelessly on the BBC News homepage ready to ambush anyone who happened by wondering what was happening in the world, i.e. someone looking for actual news.

Oh, it was yesterday.

A day later – i.e. today – two of the BBC’s Climate Disinformation specialists saw fit to publish on the “News” front page a disgraceful assault, not just on climate deniers, but also on logic itself. As with yesterday’s, it manages to redefine the concept of news to encompass “writing a screed belittling people who disagree with you.” Today’s insult requires answering. So here we are.

Let’s begin at the beginning:

What can you do when the people closest to you believe climate change is a hoax? It was during school pick-up a few years ago that Lance Lawson first asked his father about his views on global warming. “He basically told me something along the lines of ‘It’s nonsense’,” Lance recalls. His dad spoke of unscrupulous politicians “fearmongering” for electoral gain. Climate change, he told Lance, was completely “overblown”.

Poor old Lance. His father is a climate denier. Isn’t he? Leave aside the question of how likely it is that Lance’s memory of this initial conversation is accurate. Much of what Lawson Sr is accused of saying is actually true. Politicians have obviously, indisputably exaggerated the threat. Even the BBC itself is to be found overblowing climate change, as in the recent “we meant cumulative deaths” debacle.

Lance begins by accepting what his old man tells him, but presumably unceasing propaganda from the other side sees him gradually realise that his dad is a heretic.

“Whenever he drove me to school, I would give my own argument, and he would downplay the evidence. It would force me to acquire new evidence, and that cycle helped expand my own understanding.”

Let me give you a good line here, Lance, at no charge: “I’m worried about climate change, so I’m going to do my bit by walking to school from now on.”

“OK son. What time do you want me to wake you up?”

If someone close to you believes climate change is a hoax, you may find it hard to do what Lance did. Maybe you fear confrontation, maybe you simply don’t know how to explain the basic science of global warming.

Well, if you know nothing about global warming but like to tell deniers to shut up about it, you’d be in good company, or company at least. And you could try being on the other side for a moment. Imagine yourself “coming out” as a climate denier in the staff coffee room. Imagine it now, go on. Look in the mirror and say, “Guys, I think maybe climate change isn’t an existential threat after all.” Now imagine a shocked silence, interrupted only by the soft chortling of the coffee percolator.

But Gail Whiteman, professor of sustainability at the University of Exeter, says it’s important to talk: “If we don’t tackle climate denial and climate indifference, then the uphill battle to find a safer future is lost.”

At this point the Dynamic Duo from the Climate Disinformators bring in an expert. Is it a climate denier arguing their corner? After all, it’s important to talk. No, it’s a catastrophist. “…the uphill battle to find a safer future is lost.” Beg pardon? Even if we are headed for catastrophe absent a revolution in our way of life, the climate deniers ain’t what’s stopping it. Three men and a whippet gathered around four halves of brown ale are not capable of calling a halt to your rush towards Utopia. All we can do is gripe about it. Just how much power do you think we have? No one listens to us. Politicians are almost entirely on your side. Corporations are on your side. The media is your propaganda arm. Even articles about climate deniers don’t feature any actual climate deniers. In short, get real.

Next the Climate Disinformation team turn to yet another expert. Is it a climate denier this time? No. Evidently climate deniers are too hard to find, which for such a notorious group is somewhat surprising. No, they turn to a professor of social psychology with the wonderfully musical name of Sander van der Linden. Sander studies how people get sucked into conspiracy theories.

He says years of research have shown him that confronting people with hard evidence is not the way to go. While it might be tempting to try to bluntly fight conspiracy theories with facts, “there’s a very high chance it backfires”. “Telling people that they don’t know what they’re talking about, or that they’re wrong, just creates more defensive responses.”

No. The good professor is wrong here. Confronting people with hard evidence IS the way to go. If you confronted me with hard evidence of an existential threat by rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, I would recant my heresy. That is not what is tried. Is there such evidence? I’ve looked for it, and can’t find it, so they must keep it well hidden. No, what they confront us with instead is baseless assertions about how terrible it all is, many of which are obvious exaggerations. And you wonder why we don’t just acquiesce, why we just don’t give up, why we don’t join XR and glue ourselves to something?

Back to Lance and his plan to convert his father.

Lance says that his father is a very religious man – so he asked him to assume that climate change might be real, and questioned whether he wouldn’t then have a moral responsibility to take care of what God had provided.

Yes, I don’t doubt that works. You just turn a question of fact into a question of morality.

REMAIN HUMBLE!

No-one likes being talked down to, and the same goes for someone engaging with climate change denial.

“You can’t convince someone if they perceive that there’s a power differential,” says Prof van der Linden. “The whole point of a conspiracy is the idea that there are these powerful elites conspiring against us.”

Right, so after paragraphs of condescension you suddenly advocate humility? Real humility comes from admitting that you might be wrong. Otherwise you come to a debate with bad faith. You don’t come to meet the other person in a disinterested search for truth. You arrive knowing you are right, and your search for new information – such as provided here – is only for technical advice about how to convert the other to your way of thinking. You just want to win the argument.

This entire article drips with conceit, and here you are talking about humility?

Lance’s close bond with his dad is something he believes was key to persuading him, but he also says it’s important to check your tone: “Ask yourself, ‘Am I sounding sanctimonious?’ Remain humble. Be gentle.”

Don’t Talk, Ignore

Well, the BBC has become very good at this. And they have found an academic who agrees with them.

Abbie Richards researches the spread of misinformation on social media.

“Effort is better spent on pushing for actual change, rather than trying to combat solidified disinformation that has been pushed… for years,” she says.

On TikTok, she debunks disinformation about climate change, but says she’s given up trying to engage with hardcore conspiracy theorists: “I don’t want to waste my energy on debunking more of their disinformation.”

I don’t know who these hardcore conspiracy theorists are. But in the spirit of judging a group by its worst members, I think you should dismiss everyone who doubts we face an existential threat because you got trolled by one of them. Solidified disinformation: doesn’t that feature on the Bristol Stool Chart?

Hang on, no, you do have to talk to them, because:

… Prof van der Linden points out that “some of these dismissive individuals are very loud and have a disproportionate influence on public debate”.

“It’s quite risky to do nothing, especially when [they] have outsized voices.”

I wish van der Linden could see things from our side for just a picosecond. Just who has the outsized voices here? Step outside of the box. Get a bit of perspective, prof.

Ultimately, Lance wins out:

With time and patience, Lance managed to convince his father that climate change was real – so much so that he was surprised by his own success.

“One time, my dad came downstairs in the middle of the night, so enthused after watching a documentary about deforestation that he was like: ‘Lance you won’t believe what’s going on in the rainforest!’

Um. You’ve just conflated two issues. One is deforestation. The other is climate catastrophe. You will find that sceptics care as much about the environment as you do. It’s just that they would rather the focus was on saving the rainforest rather than reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Conclusion

As is usually the case, the BBC a) treats “climate deniers” as a species of alien dunces. Despite the title of the piece, they don’t actually try to talk to a climate denier (Lance’s dad gets one line, but he’s a convert);

It b) reduces climate change to a binary problem, IS or IS NOT rather than HOW MUCH?

c) It accuses deniers of having disproportionately loud voices, having never heard of Greta Thunberg; and

d) It places all this on the “News” front page.

It’s easy to win if you are fighting scarecrows. They just sort of stand there and take whatever you dish out.

Featured Image

Credited to NASA, ESA, M. Kornmesser, and turned green by YT. Opening of original caption: This illustration shows HD 189733b, a huge gas giant that orbits very close to its host star, HD 189733. The planet’s atmosphere is scorching with a temperature of over 1,000 degrees Celsius, and it rains glass, sideways, in howling 4,300 mph (7,000 kilometer-per-hour) winds.

23 Comments

  1. Jit,

    Excellent, but you missed the ‘vessels of communication’ bit. Vessels of something, I’m sure, but not something that communicates. As you say, the Bristol Stool Chart seems germane. For my part, I think ‘firm but fair’ is the only stool that matters. This effort from the intrepid duo is neither.

    Would you like to hear about my own stool chart based upon resemblance to confectionary (e.g. twix, bounty bar, maltezers etc.) or is that enough about poo for now?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great report JIT.

    It’s too good an opportunity to miss, to not remind readers here of a great example of the BBC pedalling Climate Disinformation.

    https://www.thenational.scot/news/20128771.bbcs-justin-rowlatt-made-misleading-weather-claims-panorama-show-probe-finds/

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bbc-climate-editor-made-misleading-weather-deaths-claim-on-panorama-n68b6mplg

    If only I knew then, that the BBC offered such a Climate Disinformation trawling service via its “Do you have a story for us? Get in touch.” invitation at the bottem of their page, I’d have set them on themselves.

    It’d have saved Paul & I the trouble of combatting their stock rejections of Complaints, and wasting the valuable time of their Executive Complaints Unit. 🤣🤣🤣

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Who, or what, is Lance, and why should I care about the mental decline of his dad?
    Will the BBC’s Climate Disinformation Specialists (CDS’s) become our neo-Inquisitors or just concern themselves with those of us that continue to pay the licence fee?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Which kind of denier, or believer, are you?

    1. you believe climate change is a hoax.
    2. you believe climate change is completely overblown.
    3. you believe climate change is real.

    Lance’s dad is said to have gone from 2 to 3. The funny thing is, one can believe both 2 and 3. Easily. I do.

    Marco didn’t find anybody who believed 1. To find someone a bit like that, such as myself, you’d have to be a tad more precise:

    1a. you believe that the idea that current climate policies are going to benefit the mass of humanity, especially the poorest, not a very small subset of elitists … this is, in the lips of some people, deliberate deception. Or a hoax, if you insist.

    Marco is welcome to interview me at any time as someone who now falls into all three categories.

    I can even argue with myself. I do it all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. (I forgot to credit Merlyn. David Silva, the great Spanish footballer, has made Marco’s name stick, sorry. But I’m sure Merlyn also brings a special magic to proceedings.)

    Like

  6. Sorry for the bolded title in recent comments. I think this is a property inherited by cut’n’pasting the BBC’s title. The title is not a block as WordPress sees it, otherwise I would edit and unbold it to see what happens – both to new and existing comments. I could try deleting and re-typing the title, but it may well inherit existing formatting anyway. Dunno.

    [Fixed. — A Friend]

    Like

  7. Here’s a tweet from Professor Gail Whiteman on Tuesday:

    ‘Near #Luxembourg … check the temperature! #heatwave’

    40.0C.

    Whiteman’s Twitter handle, GenerationCO2, came from a book that she was writing when she joined Twitter. It was to be called _Generation CO2: A Mother’s Guide to Climate Change_. She seems to have abandoned it but here’s a plug from 2010:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/sep/08/climate-mum-work

    The force of a mother’s love can move mountains. Let’s use that to move the world to a better and more carbon-neutral place.

    Or we could forget all about that soppy stuff and generate CO2 by driving a Porsche across Europe.

    Because the pic in her Tweet is definitely of a Porsche dashboard, almost certainly a Porsche Cayman 987. Cayman 987s all had petrol engines, with sizes ranging from 2.7 to 3.4 litres and CO2 emissions that put them all in the top two (of 13) UK road-tax bands.

    During the last couple of years, climactivists have switched from denying their hypocrisies to saying that individual carbon footprints don’t matter.

    Which they don’t – if that’s all that’s on the table.

    But here’s an academic* driving a Porsche around Europe in a heatwave (Cayman 987s have air-conditioning) while lecturing people about climate change.

    ===
    *How do you get to be a professor of anything at all if your only expertise is in your own personal history plus some tosh about Cree beavers?** The world has gone mad, I tell you.

    **That’s unkind. Whiteman was also a brand manager for a well-known manufacturer of chewing gum for a while.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Alan asks “Who, or what, is Lance…?”

    Answer:

    “How a teen changed his stepdad’s mind about global warming
    Both used to think the problem was a hoax.”

    https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/08/how-a-teen-changed-his-stepdads-mind-about-global-warming/

    Interesting sub-title: BOTH used to think climate change was a hoax!

    That’s from August 2020. What interests me is how and why the BBC suddenly turned an almost 2 year old story into a piece of propaganda. Anyway, it seems that Lance has an ability to generate publicity. This one, for instance, is from Feb 2020:

    “The rising tide of conservative climate activism
    Young Republicans understand the science of climate change and the GOP risks losing their support”

    https://www.theinvadingsea.com/2020/02/13/the-rising-tide-of-conservative-climate-activism/

    So, to answer Alan’s question, who is Lance? Well, in January 2020, this is who he was:

    “Lance Lawson is a senior at Bayshore Christian High School in Tampa and serves as a county youth chair for republicEn.org, which promotes conservative free-market solutions to address climate change.”

    https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/2020/01/09/how-i-convinced-my-dad-climate-change-is-real-column/

    Quite why the BBC chose this story when they did is a bit of a mystery, but presumably they have their reasons. The Climate Disinformation reporters must have their reasons, I mean. Maybe they don’t have enough to keep them gainfully occupied?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. They’re all at it, by the way:

    “Berating climate sceptics isn’t enough – disruptive protest now seems the only way forward”

    Sub-title:

    “The time has come to choose: do you trust the people in suits downplaying this emergency, or the activists lying in roads in an attempt to ward off catastrophe?”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jul/24/climate-sceptics-protest-emergency-activists

    Includes this:

    “…Meanwhile, for a certain kind of media voice, the past week has been all about raging against climate sceptics and deniers and their influence on politics, as if pointing out that they are mendacious and dangerous is an act of bravery. The former BBC presenter Andrew Marr provided a good example in a monologue broadcast on his new show on LBC: “I for one have had enough of being told by pallid, shadowy, old businessmen and lazy ignorant hacks and sleazy lobbyists – who aren’t real scientists, any of them – that the science is wrong and that what is happening isn’t happening,” he said. “Enough!”

    The key question of 2022 is not whether those people are wrong, both factually and morally: we know the answer to that. For the moment, I don’t think many people need to be thinking very much about particular parties or politicians. What we surely need to focus on is the deep attachment to fossil fuels still locked into our economy and political system, and how to help the movements that definitely want to end it: Extinction Rebellion (XR), Insulate Britain, Just Stop Oil and the other forces that clearly understand the unspeakable gravity of the moment. This comes down to a question that still does not intrude on politics nearly enough: as these groups take the most direct kind of action, do you support them? And if – or, rather, as – the climate emergency deepens and the awful gap between politics and the sheer scale of what we are faced with only widens, what will you think if their actions take new, ever-more disruptive forms?

    To some extent, the way our media and politicians fend off the climate crisis accidentally confronts people with exactly those arguments. In one of our most regular national rituals, mainstream politics barely intrudes and instead, a protester fresh from some or other climate action is berated by Piers Morgan, Richard Madeley or one of the presenters from GB News or TalkRadio, and the only real options become clear: meaningful and radical action or nothing at all. An editorial last week in the Sun insisted that “we need a sober debate, free from the extremists’ juvenile panic, on how we inch towards Net Zero in decades to come”, which made panic look like much the more sensible option. In April, the Labour party demanded that the government take legal action to effectively ban climate protests that disrupt traffic and oil production. When he stood to be his party’s leader, Keir Starmer took donations from a former boss of the RAC and AA, and the latter company-cum-lobby group’s former chief financial officer. The people he apparently thinks should be locked up, by contrast, are motivated by a comparatively pure mission to confront the car industry and quickly finish the hydrocarbon era, and thereby avoid catastrophe. So who do you choose?…”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So Lance isn’t even the son of he who drives him to school – his stepfather. The story gets weirder and the reason for its promotion of it by the BBC even more obscure. Couldn’t they find a genuine British lad that browbeat and proselytised to his own father?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Mark:

    They’re all at it, by the way.

    No they’re not. How about this little ray of hope?

    And from the thread underlying this:

    The Guardian may never say anything sensible about climate and energy again.

    They will become increasingly irrelevant. Change will come from other quarters.

    Like

  12. Richard, that’s encouraging. According to Wikipedia:

    “Liebreich is a member of numerous energy-focused industry groups, including the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the New Energy Architecture and the UN Secretary General’s High Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All. Liebreich is a former member of the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative’s Energy and Climate Change working group, the selection panel for the Zayed Future Energy Prize, Accenture’s Global Energy Board and the UN Secretary General’s High Level Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. He is also a visiting professor at London’s Imperial College Energy Futures Lab, a board member for Transport for London, a member of the Advisory Panel of the INSEAD Energy Club, and an organiser of the annual ecovillage event at Les Diablerets, Switzerland.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Liebreich

    Let’s hope he’s talking sense to power.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mark: Ben Pile I know has crossed swords with Liebreich in the past. But if someone moves away from the “gabbling hordes of virtue-signalling politicians on the left” even a fraction I’m willing to cheer them on.

    Like

  14. In the interests of balance the BBC should do a piece on Climate Change: How to Talk to a Believer. It is often difficult but the same challenges apply as outlined above. I sympathise with Professor Sander van der Linden:

    He says years of research have shown him that confronting people with hard evidence is not the way to go. While it might be tempting to try to bluntly fight conspiracy theories with facts, “there’s a very high chance it backfires”. “Telling people that they don’t know what they’re talking about, or that they’re wrong, just creates more defensive responses.”

    Like

  15. OK It’s late and I have NOT read the article
    #1 News is newsPR cos it pushes agendas and also distorts by omission

    #2 Everything these day is underpinned by NUDGE NUDGE NUDGE .. PRtrickery

    #3 Libmob are rooted in Marxism/Stalinism
    so the Orwellian concept of “some animals are more equal than others” seems right to them
    ie the Greenblob-animals get to be boss of the farm/nation
    .. and the others do all the work & don’t get a say

    #4 There is an avalanche of such stuff today
    #A The Guardian John Harris article that says XR should step up the lawbreaking
    and sceptics should shut up

    #B The BBC How to talk to Deniers article
    from the BBC Trending unit, which also calls itself the DISINFORMATION unit
    It’s MO is creating disinformation and nudge

    #C The John Kerry R4news Sunday-lunchtime interview
    “Kerry has said Biden is considering whether to announce a climate emergency, to give him additional powers to push his renewable energy agenda”

    That was a BBC crafted Climate-PR piece
    Context : John Kerry is a PR guy not a truth guy
    , video of him in 2014, saying that the artic will be ice free in 5 years.
    – Today BBC presenter Jim Naughtie tweeted a preview tweet
    – Naughtie plays the part of the straight man, lining up Kerry so he can read off his autocue
    (he misread once)
    – It was then followed by another alarmist German Environment Agency President Dirk Messner
    – The Kerry item was carefully edited and then spun as a TV item on the BBC newsPR channel.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. R4 A Point of View item at 8:48am on Sunday
    Climate Change and the Fall of Icarus
    Tom Shakespeare decided several years ago he was no longer going to fly for pleasure. But his father’s cousin – who lives in the US – has just turned 90 and he’d love to see her again.
    He describes his fraught decision – as he grapples with his environmental conscience.

    Like

  17. Tony Heller
    “The BBC refuses to talk to anyone who tells the truth about energy and climate
    – but they have written a primer on how to talk to a climate denier”

    Liked by 1 person

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