Nov 232012

When I returned home after the Information Tribunal hearing in London, I assumed that apart from deciding whether it was worth taking further action in an attempt to get the information out of the BBC, really the last word had been spoken on the matter of the Seminar. It looked as though life might become pleasantly quiet again, for a while at least. How wrong I was.

First there was Andrew Orlowski’s revelations about the two lay judges who sat on the tribunal, and the rather tantalising comment that he obtained from the BBC concerning grounds for an appeal.

And Andrew Orlowski was anything but finished with the story. He was still publishing reports which were picked up by Christopher Booker, James Delingpole and others.

Then the bombshell from Maurizio arrived late last Monday night, and a media storm began to develop. At the moment, if I type ‘my name’ + BBC + seminar into Google, it yields over 3 million hits. Life is not quiet at all really, but yesterday I thought that things were, at last, beginning to settle down a little. Surely nothing else could to crawl out of the woodwork?

So in rare idle moments I was exchanging comments with Maurizio on Geoff Chamber’s blog about the files that he had found on the WayBack Machine. I seemed to have a print-out of the same ten-page PDF file in which he found the participants list. The funny thing was that my September 2008 version had only had three pages: no sign of any participants lists.

One couldn’t help wondering when the file was either altered or replaced.

So in the end, Maurizio and I put a chronology together, and this is what it looks like:

(Maurizio’s contributions are in red, and mine are in black)

13/07/2007 International Broadcasting Trust (IBT) ten-page document recovered by Maurizio written after this date.
20/07/2007 Request to BBC for information about the seminar.
21/08/2007 The BBC’s response citing their derogation under the FOIA.
05/09/2007 I send a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
09/09/2007 Creation of ten-page IBT document recovered by Maurizio according to file properties.
08/11/2007 IBT document recovered by Maurizio written before this date.
It was a very long time before the ICO did anything more, and so far as I am aware the BBC never replied to their letter.
July 2008 Date when link to truncated IBT document became available according to Gareth.
28/07/2008 The ICO eventually writes to the BBC asking for their side if the story.
30/07/2008 Creation date of truncated IBT file according to file properties.
O6/08/2008 My first post at Harlmess Sky on the mattter:  

Jeremy Paxman, the BBC, Impartiality, and Freedom of Information

 

 

Sept 2008 I print out a three page document at the IBT website describing a number of seminars, including Climate Change – the Challenge to Broadcasting, but without the participants lists.
29/09/2008 Post at Harmless Sky mentioning the IBT:  

The Freedom of Information Act and the BBC’s willing little helpers

 

 

28/01/2009 The ICO say they are still waiting for the BBC to reply to their letter of 28/07/2008 and so I ask for a case review.
17/11/2009 The ICO publishes a decision notice endorsing the BBC’s decision not to provide me with any of the information.
16/12/2009 I send Grounds of Appeal to the Information Commissioner.
19/01/2010 The ICO submits its response to my appeal.
14/04/2010 BBC joined as a party in the appeal.
12/05/2010 The BBC submits its response to my appeal.
The speed at which the case could then be heard was determined by the progress through higher courts of Steven Sugar’s attempts to obtain the Balen Report as this sought to determine how ‘for the purpose of journalism’ should be interpreted in terms of the FOIA and therefore how the BBC derogation should be applied.

Can anyone spot a rather startling coincidence? Sometime around the end of August 2008?

Well goodness-gracious-me! You never seem to know what’s going to happen next, do you?

So far, everyone seems to have been so transfixed by the revelations of the participants list that they have ignored any other alterations made to the information on the IBT website. So lets look at the first section of each version of the document.

Here’s the first section headed Background from the first page of the later, three-page version:

REAL WORLD BRAINSTORMS

Background

The Real World Brainstorms take place annually and are co-hosted by BBC Vision and BBC News. The aim is to bring together key decision makers within broadcasting with a mix of writers, producers and environment and development specialists to explore how we can more effectively represent our interconnected world Delegates exchange views on key issues and ideas, discussing fresh approaches to stories which impact here in the UK and around the world.

Past seminars have had enormously positive feedback, inspiring major programme seasons as well as diverse individual projects. But the meetings are not about pitching ideas – they are about making space for fresh thinking about the way the world is and how it might be represented more richly.

The seminars are organized jointly by the BBC, IBT and the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme.

3-page version

And here is the Background section from the 10-page version, with the participants list, found by Maurizio:

REAL WORLD BRAINSTORMS

Background

The International Broadcasting Trust (IBT) has been lobbying the BBC, on behalf of all the major UK aid and development agencies, to improve its coverage of the developing world. One of the aims is to take this coverage out of the box of news and current affairs, so that the lives of people in the rest of the world, and the issues which affect them, become a regular feature of a much wider range of BBC programmes, for example dramas and features. The BBC has agreed to hold a series of seminars with IBT, which are being organized jointly with the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme, to discuss some of these issues.

So far, 6 seminars have taken place. They have had a significant impact on the BBC’s output and have also provided a unique opportunity for dialogue between those working in development and broadcasters.

As a result of the success of these seminars, further brainstorms are now planned for 2008.

For a full list of delegates see attached Appendix.
10-page version

If you then have a look at the bottom of page 2, and then page three of this document, you will find sections headed The Aim, Themes, Participants and Plans for 2008, none of which appear in the later version. There are a fair number of other minor differences between the two documents that suggest routine editing, and the later document includes a description of the 2008 seminar, which had taken place some two months earlier. (3-page Version and 10-page version)

Whether all this is just coincidence, or an annual update that had nothing to do with the Information Commissioner’s letter alerting the BBC to the fact that a complaint was about to be investigated, is hard to say. But there can be no doubt that between September 2007 and September 2008 the IBT seems to have become very much less forthcoming about its relationship with the BBC, and about its agenda as lobbyists representing some of the wealthiest and most active NGOs, including Oxfam and Friends of the Earth,dedicated to campaigning for action on climate change.

Am I being too suspicious about this coincidence? The problem is that the BBC is a national institution that has traded on its reputation for integrity throughout its ninety-year history. If that reputation is compromised, then public trust is likely to be lost very quickly and very completely.

 

Update 24th Nov. 2012: See Gareth’s comment #17 below. It would seem that the strange coincidence of dates at the end of July 2008 in the chronology above are exactly that: a coincidence.

31 Responses to “What a very strange coincidence”

  1. 1
    tlitb1 Says:

    It seems Joe Smith must know the exact details of how and when the IBT where instructed to modify the release. He tweeted this on 13th November :

    @etzpcm No paul, co-organiser IBT posted the documents in error: when realised they were asked 2 take down

    I wonder if they were also asked to take out the crowing about their lobbying success influencing the output of the BBC? ;)

    BTW I spotted a couple of typos – “ITB website” and “I though that things were”

  2. 2
    TonyN Says:

    tlitb1

    Thanks for the Smith quote, which is certainly interesting. Typos duly corrected.

  3. 3
    Alex Cull Says:

    There is a notable shift of emphasis between the earlier and later versions of the Background section. What was described as “lobbying the BBC” with the aim to “improve its coverage” and having “a significant impact on the BBC’s output” is now an activity to bring together people, in order to explore and discuss fresh approaches – it has clearly been watered down and made more anodyne. This looks very much like a purposeful stealth-edit.

    Recent remarks made on Twitter by Joe Smith (in conversation with Barry Woods, Louise Gray and others) include: “Barry you’ve not spent much time w journos if u think they’d respond to a ‘policy’” (this is in answer to Barry’s “BBC have stated changed policy. Based on 30 experts”. And: “One of the utterly brilliant things about Brit journalism (above all BBC) is..” “ts crammed with difficult intelligent independent minded b******ds”. “As I said ystdy: absurd to sugg a ‘policy’ on massive topic”.

    How does this picture of tough-minded independent BBC journalists fit in with: “They have had a significant impact on the BBC’s output…”?

    Perhaps more to the point, why the stealth-edit, if stealth-edit it was? What would have been going through the mind of the person who decided that words such as “improved” and “impact” were now surplus to requirements? And who made or requested the changes?

    Joe Smith emphasises the tough-minded journalists, what he chooses not to emphasise is the fact that senior management figures were present. It’s not “absurd” after all, to talk of a policy, where managers are involved.

  4. 4
    Maurizio Morabito Says:

    This is now on Joe Smith’s page http://www.open.ac.uk/socialsciences/staff/people-profile.php?name=Joe_Smith

    The seminars have been publicly credited with catalysing fresh thinking in BBC outputs across platforms and with leading directly to specific and major innovations in programming, including Africa Lives on the BBC 2005 and the Climate Chaos season 2006, as well as other environment and development related seasons and projects.

    However things were a tad different in 2009 (Feb 7) http://web.archive.org/web/20090207095523/http://www.open.ac.uk/socialsciences/staff/people-profile.php?name=Joe_Smith

    The seminars have been publicly credited with catalysing significant changes in the tone and content of BBC outputs across platforms and with leading directly to specific and major innovations in programming, including Africa Lives on the BBC 2005 and the Climate Chaos season 2006, as well as other environment and development related seasons/projects.

    The change in the text happened between 7 Feb and 21 Nov 2009.

    I believe some recent tweets by Joe contradict his Feb 2009 statement.

  5. 5
    Maurizio Morabito Says:

    Another IBT statement:

    http://www.ibt.org.uk/all_documents/Submissions%20Key/Response%20to%20the%20BBC%20Trust's%20science%20impartiality%20review.pdf

    The Real World seminars [...] have tended to focus on senior postholders

  6. 6
    Maurizio Morabito Says:

    On the 4th of July 2008 there was another Real World seminars. This is 3 weeks before the list of participants to previous seminars was removed from the IBT website.

    We have pictures and names for that 2008, from this blog post: http://memex.naughtons.org/archives/2008/07/04/5287

    I guess Chatham House Rules were not explained to all participants…

    If you’d dropped a bomb on the Cavonius Centre at Gonville & Caius College in Cambridge any time in the last two days then you’d have wiped out most of the senior creative people in the BBC (plus a few academics). They were gathered for the annual media seminar organised by my colleague Joe Smith in collaboration with Roger Harrabin and others from the BBC and IBT, who now has the grand title of BBC Environmental Analyst. The purpose of the event is to get the BBC folks away from their highly-pressured environment and expose them to a spectrum of thinkers from academia and the arts world. I chaired one of the ongoing panels (with the magnificently opaque theme of ‘Things’). My fellow-panellists were a fascinating mix: Edmund de Waal, who is a distinguished potter and Professor of Ceramics at Westminster University; Dilys Williams, the Director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, at the London College of Fashion (both shown below); Heather Ackroyd, an amazingly inventive artist; and Tony Lake, who until a few weeks ago was Chief Constable of Lincolnshire.

    The overall idea of these gatherings is to reflect on interdependence. The theme this year was “Real World: storytelling in an interconnected world”. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of collective agonising about the state of the public debate about subjects like climate change and DNA testing — and on the role of the mainstream media in fostering (or hampering) those debates. The openness and vigour of the debate between the editors and programme-makers and their bosses was impressive. The BBC continues to employ a lot of intelligent and perceptive people.

    For me, one of the high points of the seminar was meeting John Lloyd, the producer/writer behind a staggering list of comedy shows. (The photograph shows him with Frances Weil of BBC Vision, one of the organising team.) He was co-chair of the event, and did it with grace, perceptiveness and wit. It’s not often that someone whom one knows only by reputation comes up to scratch. And wonderful when they surpass one’s wildest expectations.

  7. 7
    TonyN Says:

    I obtained information about the 2008 seminar from Wolfson College Cambridge with a FOIA request in 2009. This included Jana Bennett’s invitation to Prof. John Naughton (Open University and Wolfson) asking him to lead part of the proceedings and this is quoted http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/blog/?p=615” rel=”nofollow”>here. There is no mention in the invitation of the Chatham House Rule.

    IIRC, the description of the seminar quoted above was written by Frances Wiel, the BBC’s organiser. who was called to give evidence alongside Helen Boaden at my hearing at the last moment. At that stage she was certainly convinced that all the seminars were held under the CHR. Although she attended the 2006 seminar she was not involved in organising it.

  8. 8
    TonyN Says:

    Alex

    I don’t think that there can be much doubt about the ‘stealth edits’ and that your analysis is correct.

  9. 9
    Maurizio Morabito Says:

    IBT Annual Review 2008-09

    http://www.ourfutureplanet.org/newsletters/resources/annual%20review2008-9.pdf

    We continue to hold annual Real World Brainstorms with the BBC. This unique event, which takes place each summer over a day and a half in Cambridge, brings together an eclectic mix of experts – academics, writers, artists, grassroots activists, business executives and policy makers – to work with senior BBC executives and independent producers. Many of the specialists bring first person testimony from living and working in other parts of the world. One of the aims of the brainstorms is to encourage both groups to think creatively about how broadcasters can improve their international content.

    Purpose of journalism? Maybe not.

  10. 10
    Maurizio Morabito Says:

    The IBT forgets about the Real World Brainstorms between 2005 and 2006, when reporting to the Charity Commission

    http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends50%5C0000326150_AC_20051231_E_C.PDF

    http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends50%5C0000326150_ac_20061231_e_c.pdf

  11. 11
    M Morabito Says:

    IBT strategy in 2009, when they still claimed they could change things at the BBC:

    Support the Real World Brainstorms and ensure that they continue to have a significant impact on BBC output, and to offer opportunities for IBT’s members to interact with broadcasters

  12. 12
    geoffchambers Says:

    So, two days after the Independent Commissioner asked the BBC for its side of the story, the IBT stopped boasting that it was influencing BBC output on behalf of pressure groups which were financing it to do just that.
    Because it wasn’t true? Or because it was true?
    It becomes urgent to know exactly what BBC witnesses said before the Camden Truth and Justice Commission.

  13. 13
    Barry Woods Says:

    “It has had a major impact on the willingness of the BBC to raise these issues for discussion. Joe Smith and I are now wondering whether we can help other journalists to perform a similar role in countries round the world” – Roger Harrabin

    Have you seen that quote?

    Roger Harrabin writes about how CMEP gets started in the Wolfson magazine:
    The new chap in charge at the BBC (Tony Hall) gets a mention!:

    extract – Roger Harrabin (last bit most interesting):

    “I arrived on my Wolfson Press Fellowship in self-imposed exhaustion after a spell of work in which my editor (Roger Mosey, now Head of BBC Sport) had tantalisingly invited me to “do any story you want, anywhere in the world you want”. I responded by spending three years on planes chasing big themes then little discussed like globalisation and climate change. It was altogether too much fun, and by the end of that spell I could barely drag myself into the of?ce, let alone to Heathrow.

    So it was with enormous relief as well as pleasure to learn that I had been granted a summer in the Wolfson Sanatorium. I arrived over-brimming with ideas but on my ?rst meeting with my wise supervisor (Susan Owens at Newnham) was sent away to “read and Wolfson College Magazine 2005–2006 No . 56 30 sleep for a few weeks”. To my astonishment I did just that, with the emphasis on the sleeping. But three weeks later I embarked on research into the media.I tried to take the perspective of an historian looking back at our period from the beginning of the 22nd Century. How many of the really big changes in the world were being captured by daily news: the boom in global population, the depletion of ?sh stocks and forests, the (unproven) threat to the climate from the (proven) increase in greenhouse gases, the globalisation of many aspects of our daily consumption, the monumental shift from countryside to town?

    The simple answer was that News ?nds it very hard to respond to sprawling, complex, uncertain, slow-moving issues like these.I was hugely encouraged in my work by John and Bill – and my
    ideas were tested in conversations with the other Press Fellows. And on leaving Wolfson after a splendid Summer Ball, I continued my research by writing on the reporting of sustainable development
    for the International Institute for Environment and Development.

    On my eventual return to the BBC I was invited by the Director of News, Tony Hall, to discuss my sabbatical ideas with the senior members of his editorial team at a seminar I organised in Cambridge
    with Dr Joe Smith, now of the Open University.

    We then formed the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme with public and private funding to continue challenging the media to ?nd ways of making news out of long-term, slow-moving environmental change. The seminars programme is still running under the auspices of John Naughton and the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme and has attracted many of the UK’s most in?uential journalists. It has had a major impact on the willingness of the BBC to raise these issues for discussion. Joe Smith and I are now wondering whether we can help other journalists to perform a similar role in countries round the world.

    It all stemmed from the Wolfson Press Fellowship.
    May the Fellowship live long.”
    —————–
    http://www.wolfson.cam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/media/magazine-30.pdf

  14. 14
    Barry Woods Says:

    David Holland made a complaint to the ICO about the OU, and in it he quotes the original phrase from Dr Joe Smith’s bio…..

    His complaint was dated 15th July 2009:

    So changes to Dr Joe Smiths’;s bio made after the ICO and OU had received David Hollands complaint!?
    I wonder why ;-) :( !

  15. 15
    Skiphil Says:

    A) July 28, 2008: ICO writes to BBC requesting explanation

    B) July 30, 2008: A revised (SANITIZED) version of IBT document is created*

    *revised IBT document makes changes crucial to BBC interests: 1) deletes participant lists (which would show the lie of BBC presence that the “Brainstorm” on climate science was a “high level” meeting with the world’s leading climate scientists); 2) modifies background text to omit prior description of lobbying the BBC to influence their policy on reporting about climate.

    Anyone who thinks that B) occurred so soon after A) without influence from A) via some BBC to IBT connection is too naive, ignorant, and/or incompetent to discuss public policy, media, and governance issues.

  16. 16
    Barry Woods Says:

    Roger Harrabin:

    “On my eventual return to the BBC I was invited by the Director of News, Tony Hall, to discuss my sabbatical ideas with the senior members of his editorial team at a seminar I organised in Cambridge
    with Dr Joe Smith, now of the Open University.

    We then formed the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme with public and private funding to continue challenging the media to ?nd ways of making news out of long-term, slow-moving environmental change. The seminars programme is still running under the auspices of John Naughton and the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme and has attracted many of the UK’s most in?uential journalists. It has had a major impact on the willingness of the BBC to raise these issues for discussion. Joe Smith and I are now wondering whether we can help other journalists to perform a similar role in countries round the world.

    It all stemmed from the Wolfson Press Fellowship.
    May the Fellowship live long.”
    —————–
    http://www.wolfson.cam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/media/magazine-30.pdf

    Roger’s whole peice is worth a read, in the link above

  17. 17
    Gareth Says:

    There are three versions of the Real World Brainstorm pdf. The dates given are taken from the document properties.

    The 10 page 9th September 2007 version Maurizio found with all the names.

    A 2 page version from 26th June 2008 which is a re-write of the September 2007 copy and shorn of the list of attendees.

    The most recent 3 page version dated 30th July 2008 which is an update of the previous one to include details of the July 2008 meeting. This is the one Tony downloaded.

    At the time of posting this the file in the second link isn’t available via Web Archive but it should come back. I do have it saved to my computer and have uploaded a copy to a free file hosting website here. Click the green ‘Download file’ button to get it.

  18. 18
    geoff Says:

    Trust? HAH! Don’t make me laugh. BBC hasn’t been trusted for years now. The BBC is nothing more than a willing tool for their political masters.

  19. 19
    Mike Haseler Says:

    The irony, is that British industry & engineering needs a great PR organisation with a world reach like the BBC to promote us, whereas the BBC are institutionally anti-industry and anti-engineering.

    Or to put that in climate terms: they are anti pragmatism, and pro alarmists PR claptrap.

    The BBC are like those auto-immune diseases whereby the body starts attacking itself. Likewise the BBC is ostensibly “good”, but it has falsely identified the wealth creating parts of British life as being “bad” and now it spends most of its energies trying to downplay, marginalise, “re-invent”, ship-abroad or just downright destroy all the wealth creating parts of the UK (except the bankers who went to the same posh school).

  20. 20
    Paul Matthews Says:

    Gareth’s finding this morning is significant and means that the timeline needs to be adjusted.
    The toned down version of the IBT document, in which the list of participants disappears, and phrases like “IBT has been lobbying the BBC” and “The aim of the seminars is to change hearts and minds” also disappear, dates from 23 June 2008, according to the document properties, not the end of July 2008.

    The question is then, did anything happen in June 2008 to trigger such history-rewriting?

  21. 21
    Gareth Says:

    Sorry, yes 23rd June 2008 not 26th. Thanks Paul.

    Regards Joe Smith’s info here is an earlier version from 2004:

    “My work looks at the politics of environmentally sustainable development. Two new research projects look at media decision-making and the governance of consumption. The first explores the role of broadcast news and current affairs media in public understanding of, and deliberation about, global environmental change and development issues. A strong feature of the media-related research is its foundation in partnership working with the BBC, the International Broadcasting Trust and others, and the research feeds directly into debates within media and related organisations.”

    Whatever the intentions of Smith, Harrabin and the BBC in wanting to look at how the media deals with contentious or uncertain issues (which is imo a reasonable investigation to do), the seminars instead provided a direct route for environmental activism to influence the decision makers at the BBC. Far from improving the reporting of uncertainties it seems a decision was made to dismiss them.

  22. 22
    TonyN Says:

    Barry, #13<

    It was that article in the Wolfson College Magazine that led me my making a FOIA request to Wolfson College about CMEP.

  23. 23
    TonyN Says:

    Gareth

    Congratulations on your very interesting research.

    There is no indication in my file that the ICO contacted the BBC before 28th July 2008, in fact the documentation that I have suggests that there was no contact between them prior to that date. However I do know of two other people who were interested in CMEP and the seminar around that time, but I do not know whether either of them contacted the BBC at the end of June 2008.

    So far as the information that has been set out in comments in concerned, it is apparent that the coincidence that was the subject of my post is just that: a coincidence.

    I’m certainly not an expert on the WayBack Machine and I’d be very interested to know how the 26th June version of the IBT document can be unavailable at one time, but is expected to be available at another? I had assumed that what you find on the WayBack Machine at any particular time was all that is likely to be available.

  24. 24
    Gareth Says:

    TonyN,

    In the case of the June 2008 version when I posted last night it was not available. The Wayback Machine could tell me that it had archived it but it wouldn’t load the file because wherever it was physically stored was not accessible. I haven’t a clue where those copies are stored but sometimes computers or hard drives will be taken offline for maintenance or replacement or other issues that mean the Wayback Machine can’t give you access to that file. I had seen it before and saved it to my computer so guessed it would be only a temporary issue.

    The June 2008 version is now back online at the Wayback Machine and here is a link to it: Real World Brainstorm rewrite Jun08.pdf.

  25. 25
    geoffchambers Says:

    BishopHill has a report about an article on 28gate in the Scotsman which – at last – pushes this story into the mainstream. (They manage to spell Maurizio’s name correctly, but not TonyN’s. Nobody’s perfect)

  26. 26
    TonyN Says:

    Geoff

    Even more important, I think, is that this article considers the matter in a far wider context than the vexed question of climate change. In the same way that the Saville scandal is really about a cover-up at the BBC which seems to have extended over decades, and not about paedophilia, so 28Gate is really about betrayal of trust when the BBC committed tens of thousands of pounds to covering up an error in the Wagon Wheel report, not about climate change. Lets hope that others follow the same line now.

  27. 27
    Alex Cull Says:

    Hopefully not too OT (and apologies if this item has already been a topic for discussion on a different thread) but here in the British Journalism Review is an article curiously named “Beyond the oozone layer”, by familiar names Eleni Andreadis and Joe Smith, dated 2007:

    What lies ahead for the media is no small task. The proposed transformation of the political economy of carbon is on a scale parallel with the industrial revolution. The economics and politics of action to mitigate climate change will require boldness and experiment in terms of market measures and regulations. There are plenty of stories in all this, but journalism will need to sustain a sharply sceptical tone as it interrogates proposals for carbon sequestration schemes, switches to biofuels, and the getting and spending of “green” taxes. Their principal question should be: Will this help to reduce emissions dramatically, or is it a way of only denting the status quo?

    A “sharply sceptical tone” – but only within certain narrow limits.

  28. 28
    geoffchambers Says:

    The economics and politics of action to mitigate climate change will require boldness and experiment in terms of market measures and regulations. There are plenty of stories in all this..

    I know journalists use the term”story” in a special sense, but it’s striking how this use has spread to everyone else in the Climate Change business.
    I recently transcribed a Greenpeace/Guardian debate
    https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/home/20121002_bf
    in which government adviser Tom Burke and Committee on Climate Change Chief executive David Kennedy repeatedly used the term “story” (or sometime “narrative”) to describe global warming. It’s almost as if they’re trying to tell us something…

    For those who don’t know, the two authors of the article Alex quotes were both among the “top scientific experts” consulted by the BBC.
    Jo Smith is a lecturer in environmental studies at the Open University. Eleni Andreadis was a student of environmental studies, but is now a director of the family hotel business.

  29. 29
    TonyN Says:

    Alex and Geoff:

    I think you can trace the story/narrative meme back at least to that very influential little shocker Warm Words, which seems to have been a blueprint for so much manipulaton of public opinion:

    http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/leveson/r_ippr-spin_warm_words_coms.pdf

    Try searching for myth as well as story.

  30. 30
    Hilary Ostrov Says:

    Wow. Warm words indeed! Particularly (my bold):

    Climate change is most commonly constructed through the alarmist repertoire – as awesome, terrible, immense and beyond human control. This repertoire is seen everywhere and is used or drawn on from across the ideological spectrum, in broadsheets and tabloids, in popular magazines and in campaign literature from government initiatives and environmental groups. It is typified by an inflated or extreme lexicon, incorporating an urgent tone and cinematic codes. It employs a quasi-religious register of death and doom, and it uses language of acceleration and irreversibility.

    The difficulty with it is that the scale of the problem as it is shown excludes the possibility of real action or agency by the reader or viewer. It contains an implicit counsel of despair – ‘the problem is just too big for us to take on’. Its sensationalism and connection with the unreality of Hollywood films also distances people from the issue. In this awesome form, alarmism might even become secretly thrilling – effectively a form of ‘climate porn’. It also positions climate change as yet another apocalyptic construction that is perhaps a figment of our cultural imaginations, further undermining its ability to help bring about action.

    So we know that, and they know that – and obviously have for several years. I find it quite surprising that they should acknowledge that climate change is, in effect, a “construction”.

    Yet the media mavens – aided and abetted by the “construction workers” of climate change, aka “climate scientists” – are still regaling us with floods of ineffective, unscientific apocalyptic messages of gloom and doom. And the “construction workers” are blaming us for their failure to get their constantly “reframed” message across!

    They haven’t succeeded in brainwashing us, but they do seem to have succeeded in whipping themselves into a terminal state of climate hysteria. Which perhaps prevents them from realizing that they’ve constructed an elaborate façade on a very shaky foundation, and they cannot acknowledge that it’s crumbling all around them.

  31. 31
    geoffchambers Says:

    Hilary Ostrov:

    I find it quite surprising that they should acknowledge that climate change is, in effect, a “construction”.

    An ideology which aims to underpin society must necessarily be a “construction”, since all society’s actors have to participate in their different ways. These ways may even appear contradictory in some cases.
    As you rightly put it, the climate scientists are the construction workers in this project. The architects might be the founders of environmental thought , the Paul Ehrlichs and the Club of Rome who established the idea of a “fragile planet” which underpins the whole project.
    Warm Words’ criticisms of climate porn is just part of the “normal” debate about how to complete the project. Our criticisms come from outside the construction and so are inaudible. I don’t know what we can do except warn people to keep out of the way when the whole construction comes tumbling down.

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