The onward march of ignorance

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.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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4 Responses to The onward march of ignorance

  1. barra says:

    methinks they might have had him on precisely so he could be demolished so well on prime time television therefore depriving the climate change “sceptics” of their secrecy as it were, much in the same way lots of people cling to Lomberg without

    a) ever reading what he writes
    B) without ever seeing him challenged


    Climate Change sceptic: “you may well have the overwhelming scientific consensus on your side but I saw a documentary on the tv and they said its a load of thrash”

    Response: “the documentary which has repeatedly been demolished for being factually inaccurate?”

  2. Gerald Looney, MD says:

    The climate lost its greatest clairvoyant recently with the untimely death of author and physician, Michael Crichton. In addition to his many popular books (The Andromeda Strain, Jurrasic Park. etc, most of which became popular movies), he also explored unpopular themes because they were important to society’s future, not because they were popular. State of Fear is precisely pertinent to this discussion because of his insight, perspicacity and courage, and I urge all readers to review this timely work and pay homage to its creator. Michael, we will truly miss you.
    Gerald Looney

  3. John Gibbons says:

    Barra, you may well be right about the folks in Prime Time; am I alone in thinking McAleer did a passable impression of Benny Hill, with the blonde highlights and shirt buttons open almost to his navel?

    Gerald, yes I too mourn for the passing of Mr Crichton, a talented novelist with a terrific imagination, for sure, but when he crossed the line into becoming a stooge for the neo-con snow job on climate change, sorry, that did it for me.

    I believe Crichton was courted by Republican Senator James Inhofe, the jackass who in 2005 told the US Senate: “The threat of catastrophic global warming…is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”.

    Here’s what I wrote about Crichton elsewhere on this blog on March 14th last:

    “…the Heartland Institute does, however, believe that fiction writer Michael Crichton is an authority on climate change (yes, that’s the same Mr Crichton who believes dinosaurs can be cloned from 65 million year old amber). Crichton in 2004 penned an unusually ill-informed novel called ‘State of Fear’, centred around eco-terrorists who attempt mass murder in support of their views.

    In the Alice In Wonderland atmosphere of US politics this decade, it’s perhaps not totally surprising that Crichton’s dodgy book should be described as ‘required reading’ for the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works”

    Yes Gerald, a great mind is lost to science (fiction). John G.

  4. John Goodwillie says:

    Congratulations to both you for the report and Kieran Hickey for his expert rebuttal.

    I am old enough to remember the stuff about the coming ice age. It was propagated in Ireland by an enthusiastic man who sent closely-typed circulars to anyone whose address he got hold of. Maybe he got to a public meeting or two to spread the word. Obviously he got to McAleer’s geography teacher. But the idea that this was scientific consensus is nonsense. I don’t think it even reached the Irish Times.

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