Despite there being no shortage of hard news to cover right now, RTE’s Prime Time last night took a curious detour to air clips from a propaganda film, Not Evil, Just Wrong, made by two Irish filmmakers. It is, for want of a kinder way of putting this, bullshit par excellence, a bizarre neo-con mix of clichés about freedom, faux concern for ‘poor people’ and undying worship at the altar of bare-knuckle capitalism as the only way to organise world affairs. In short, a narrow, ugly little project.
Yet here we were, just after the main news bulletin, being served up such tripe as: “I don’t think it would be a bad thing for this earth to warm up”. This dense nugget of stupidity comes courtesy of one Patrick Moore, described in caption as ‘founding member of Greenpeace’. Assuming this is the case, I can only assume Moore has long since been drummed out of that organisation, a body which is only too well aware of the calamitous effects of a warming Earth.
The McAleer propaganda film fingers the campaign against DDT as ‘proof’ that these eco types are secretly plotting the deaths of millions of Africans from malaria. To listen to the hand-picked loons interviewed in this mockumentary, you would be left with the impression that DDT is the vapour squeezed from fresh rose petals. It is in fact a ‘persistent organic pollutant’. It has a half-life of 2-5 years. It accumulates in the food web, and concentrates in apex predators, such as eagles and other birds. DDT undoubtedly has its uses in tackling malaria but to suggest that it is benign and poses no health hazards is total bull.
And that’s about as good as this little film gets. The narrator intones: “Al Gore still supports (Rachel) Carson’s discredited claims about the compound…he is now also campaigning against fossil fuels with the same enthusiasm”. Good point, except that (i) Carson’s claims, in her book ‘Silent Spring‘ have never been discredited and (ii) global warming has nothing to do with DDT, no matter how many times these idiots try to smear-by-association.
McAleer appeared in studio to ‘debate’ his film with Dr Kieran Hickey of NUI Galway. Hickey played a blinder, patiently unravelling the web of lies and half-truths and laying its “fundamental flaws” bare. He opened with a damming three-point demolition of the film, pointing out how it had cherry-picked its facts (and contributors) while ignoring the strong consensus view of literally thousands of professional climate scientists, notably via the IPCC’s 20 years of analysis and its four major Assessments Reports.
McAleer again trotted out his bizarre line that the IPCC report had somehow been hijacked by the “many people in the IPCC” that he suggests don’t agree with its findings. Who these people are, what their objections are, we are left none the wiser. The report, by some mysterious osmosis, turns from hard science into what McAleer calls an “alarmist mantra” (I had my fun back in August in a live debate with McAleer on Today FM with Anton Savage).
He then quickly steers off into back to talking about DDT, and warnings that “it’s going to cause cancer, it’s going to kill us all, kill the birds…the result was 50 million women and children died in Africa from a spike in malaria”. No men, Phelim, just women and children. Is that an onion in your top pocket as your eyes begin to well up?
What’s the link with DDT and climate change exactly? “It’s a consensus, like the consensus about BSE, about killer bees…we’ve had these scares before”. Aaaaaah, yes, now I remember the Intergovernmental Panel on Killer Bees (IPKB?) and it’s alarmist report that we’re all doomed. Kieran Hickey interjected mid-rant to point out that the reason BSE was no longer a major threat to public health is precisely that it was taken seriously, the scientists told us feeding animal brains to other animals, and then eating those animals was just asking for trouble – so we stopped doing it.
In McAleer-land, if the fire brigade is called and manages to stop your house burning down, then there can’t have been a fire in the first place. The ‘debate’ descended into pure farce when Hickey challenged McAleer: “let’s talk about climate change”, to which the suddenly modest McAleer replied: “let’s NOT talk about climate change”. A bemused Miriam O’Callaghan intervened, reminding McAleer that this was in fact the reason he was in studio to begin with!
To cover his retreat, McAleer slung out a red herring about the difference between ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’, as if it mattered. Apparently McAleer’s geography teacher back in the 1970s told his class that we were entering a new Ice Age, as presumably reported by the Intergovernmetal Panel of Geography Teachers (IPGT). Ha! So there!
So what’s really behind all these mendacious scientists telling us a pack of lies about global warming? “I think there’s a lot of anti-capitalism, anti-development people behind this global warming hysteria”, said McAleer, a self-appointed spokesman for “the poor people in the world”, who he reckons desperately need global climate collapse brought on by out of control fossil fuel burning to lift them out of poverty – and into the abyss.
Nowhere does McAleer point out that over 90% of all fossil fuel burning to date has been done by us in the developed world, with the direct, tangible and highly damaging brunt of our actions already falling on the world’s poor.
When someone prefaces a statement to you by saying: “with the greatest respect…”, it’s a sure sign they think you’re talking rubbish, and so Miriam O’Callaghan brought McAleer back in to give him a kicking about his utter lack of qualifications for the task he purports to address in his mockumentary. His razor-sharp riposte is that “…but Al Gore’s not a scientist, in fact Al Gore interviews no scientist in An Inconvenient Truth and he wins a Nobel prize…our film has scientists from both sides of the argument”.
He wraps up by trying to smear environmentalists as being the new colonialists, trying to hold back people in developing countries from achieving prosperity. Miriam O’Callaghan’s growing frustration at McAleer’s tortured logic surfaced when she told him: “you’re almost making two different points”. Kieran Hickey scored the final punch when simply asking McAleer why he didn’t just make a film about DDT (given the gaping level of his ignorance on even the most basic science behind climate change).
I think I have the answer: DDT isn’t a bandwagon. Masquerading as a ‘climate sceptic’ gets third rate filmmakers like this onto prime time television – literally, something that would never happen had he restricted his film making to an area in which he is competent (whatever that might be). The meeja loves a good argy bargy, and while I was horrified to see such a spoofer get this kind of publicity, he did remind me a little of P. Flynn on that famous Late Late Show many years ago, where the public saw clean through the gloss to the character beneath.
The so-called climate sceptic camp is getting critically depleted of spokespeople who can even pass for competent. Maybe this is indeed the best way of calling them out.