A sceptic on the couch

I’ve had my say on KennyGate, as have a good many other people (to my new cadre of hate-mailers, sorry for not posting all your anonymous spleen. Life’s a bitch, eh? Give my regards to Elvis). Meanwhile, a regular correspondent, Coilin MacLochlainn, sent in a highly original take , which I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did. Over to you, Coilin…


Let’s imagine that Pat Kenny is feeling a bit off colour and decides to visit a psychoanalyst.

Dr Thelme Datruth-Y’Boyo is a bright young thing from Darfur who happens to read a certain column that appears in the Irish Times every Thursday. Her parents and siblings are starving because of drought brought on by climate change and the resulting war in Darfur. She gives John O’Shea of GOAL most of her savings but knows that the war won’t end until the real problem, climate change, is tackled.

She suggests a hypnotherapy session. PK agrees and stretches himself on the couch. Swinging her crystal, Dr Thelme waits until he is cross-eyed and drowsy and begins.

Thelme: “Now, Mr Kenny, do you believe the climate change sceptics?”

PK: “Eh? Well, no, actually. I don’t.”

Thelme: “And why would that be?”

PK: “Because they are in denial and wishing climate change was not real.”

Thelme: “Very good, Mr Kenny. And do you believe the climate scientists?”

PK: “Yes, of course.”

Thelme: “And why would that be, Mr Kenny?”

PK: “Because they are scientists in search of the truth, they have no reason to falsify their findings and they would lose all credibility among their peers if they did.”

Thelme: “And do you read John Gibbons’s column in the Irish Times?”

PK: “Of course I do. I’m a journalist, I have to keep on top of these things and John Gibbons provides excellent potted summaries of the state of play.”

Thelme: “Very good, Mr Kenny. Now, cast your mind back to…”

PK: “My childhood?”

Thelme: “No, just to last spring, when you had David Bellamy, a well-known climate change sceptic, on the Late Late Show. How did you handle him?”

PK: “I gave him a very soft interview.”

Thelme: “And last week, on Frontline, you spoke to Gavin Harte of the Village, and Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth, both in the audience. How did you deal with them?”

PK: “I gave them two seconds each.”

Thelme: “Alright. And last Wednesday on your radio show you interviewed journalist John Gibbons. How did that go?”

PK: “I used rhetorical gish gallop, my stock in trade, to confuse him, but the guy has guts and wouldn’t give up. We ended up trading insults. Mission accomplished.”

Thelme: “Mr Kenny, we have established that you believe the climate scientists, and yet you promote the denialists’ arguments at every turn and rubbish the climate experts. Isn’t there a contradiction here?”

PK: “No, how could you say that? I am even-handed, objective and balanced at all times. I’m a professional, the very best, if I may say so.”

Thelme: “Yes, quite, but some of your interviews tell a different story. We need to examine your thought processes in a little more depth.”

(She produces a syringe and surreptitiously rams the business end into PK’s butt. As the truth serum takes hold, a beatific smile steals across PK’s face.)

Thelme: “Now, Mr Kenny, tell me why you refuse to believe that humanity is responsible for recent climate change. Tell me the truth.”

PK: “Well, if I believe it, then it means we’ve got to sharply curtail our use of fossil fuels to avert disaster on an unimaginable scale. We will have to reduce our fossil fuel consumption by 50%, maybe 100%. But my lifestyle depends totally on driving my car everywhere, flying to all kinds of places, warming my luxury villa like a hothouse, and I can’t imagine living any other way. I’m a responsible, intelligent person who does the right thing when I’ve got the right information. But since I can’t do the right thing here, there’s no way I could have the right information. The climate scientists must be wrong, somehow. They must be. I can’t change my lifestyle!”

Thelme: “Mr Kenny, we have a classic case of cognitive dissonance here. It is painful to hold opposing, dissonant facts or thoughts in our heads. So, you have rejected one of the facts or thoughts unconsciously, without even hearing yourself do it. And so you have dismissed the scientific reality of global warming and become a sceptic. You are a conscientious person, we know that, and you always like to do the right thing, but in this case that would be just too uncomfortable for you, and so you have rejected the truth. You are not listening to it, you cannot hear it. Am I right, Mr Kenny?”

PK: “Yes, Dr Thelme, yes, I’m so sorry.”

Thelme: “Some people will go to incredible lengths to oppose and resist what they don’t like, oblivious to reason or to the consequences of their actions.

“In your case, Mr Kenny, the consequences of your actions are profound, as you have enormous influence over public opinion in Ireland. We cannot afford to ignore your actions, as there is too much at stake and you could be doing us all harm. Have we learnt anything here today, Mr Kenny?”

PK: “Yes, Dr Thelme, thank you.”

Thelme: “If it helps any, the latest Eurobarometer poll on attitudes to climate change in the European Union found the overwhelming majority of Irish people, 82%, believe global warming to be a serious problem. I read this in yesterday’s Irish Times. However, the survey suggested Irish citizens were not changing their personal behaviour in key areas that reduce their carbon footprint, at least not as quickly as their European neighbours. So you’ve got a lot of work to do, Mr Kenny. Okay, on the count of three you will wake up… One… two… three….”

(PK wakes up and hops off the couch.)

PK: “That was a great session, Dr Thelme. Must dash. I’m flying to Dubai for a short break. See ya!”

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
This entry was posted in Global Warming, Irish Focus, Media, Sceptics, Sustainability and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A sceptic on the couch

  1. gift, well done…Coilin McLoghlainn, and John Gibbons of course….. i don’t know who to believe these days, but i find myself believing you guys because somehow it makes the most sense to me. lots of good luck with your work,

  2. David Quinn says:

    Well I guess this just shows you guys have learnt nothing from the other day and are still intent on playing the man and not the ball, and not even the man with the ball Ian Plimer.

    a tip – if you want to make us laugh try using humour

  3. John Gibbons says:

    I demur. You’ll never stop the Plimers of this world spinning lies and cashing in on their ideology, but there has to be some hope of challenging journalists, especially those on state-sponsored broadcasters, to do their jobs properly, effectively challenge the charlatans and not abuse the huge trust the public place in their hands. Laughter is strictly optional.

  4. David Quinn says:

    But John I still can’t understand how you can rubbish a book you haven’t read. I am the last one to tell you how to get your point across but I really can’t see how material like this helps it just comes across as petty and bitchy.

  5. Brian Delaney says:

    He can rubbish it because a quick read of the contents will tell you that it’s a simple rehash of all the other populist nonsense out there. One of Plimer’s main arguments appeared to be “how could a small increase in concentration of a trace gas warm our atmosphere?” Phrasing the argument in those terms revealed the disingenuity of his words. (Answer to question – it alters the radiation balance)

  6. Billy says:

    Credible scientists put forward legitimate challenges to the AGW consensus. It is how science works…people are challenged continuously at conferences and it leads to better science. Climate skeptics are necessary if the AGW camp are to be believed, it results in a more robust approach to research

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