If you don’t believe Crichton was right, consider this. Our smartphones collate and spit out our diet of fast-news, while Twitter’s 140 characters provide much of our analysis. The 30-second sound-bite and 24/7 news is all we have time for, especially where the latest claims of transient science are concerned. Never has a generation been so vulnerable to superficial thought and, in consequence, the pro-activism of the propagandist social engineer; hence Crichton’s assessment. Step forward a pseudo-scientific movement with an agenda – and the very latest technology able to help them take advantage.
Remember the media furor in 2006 when astute bloggers – note, not paid journalists – exposed a photoshop of horrors? How it was that a Reuters photographer was able to Photoshop billowing smoke into a picture ‘proving’ an Israeli airstrike had hit civilian targets? How the German newspaper Bildt and others ran a staged shot of an ‘Israeli’ soldier carrying a dead girl – part of a Hezbollah PR stunt? How the New York Times front page ran a pic of a Pakistani family standing around an artillery shell in front of a derelict house – until it was pointed out the shell had clearly never been fired?
All kids stuff for today’s propagandist. Why use primitive techniques when you can utilise the latest state-of-the-art technology and compliant mass media organisations that share your agenda?
Millions around the world admired the supreme photography of the BBC’s natural history flagship series Frozen Planet. Until, that is, a British newspaper exposé revealed how the BBC faked key sequences including the intimate filming of a polar bear and its cubs in the Arctic. Duped viewers could hardly believe it when they were told the sequence was actually shot in a Dutch zoo – and using fake snow. Writer and broadcaster David Attenborough was unrepentant, pointing out that, in fact, the BBC fakes it all the time.
When other sequences from Frozen Planet were also revealed to have been staged, BBC bosses were forced to admit that staging shots was in fact “standard practice”. For a man billed as “one of the world’s foremost environmental film-makers”, Attenborough, as subsequent interviews revealed, entirely fails to see the irony of faking “natural” history and hood-winking viewers into believing that what they are watching is “natural” and in context. “Come on, we’re making movies”, pleads Attenborough. Unlike movies, however, BBC documentaries do not appear to carry fictional disclaimers.
In November an investigation by the Independent newspaper further discovered that the BBC has been selling airtime slots to climate crusading organisations in breach of its guidelines. One BBC World program was actually sponsored by green campaigners Envirotrade. Also, the BBC’s “environmental analyst” Roger Harrabin admitted that he had accepted £15,000 in grants from East Anglia University, the university at the heart of the Climate-gate scandal – a scandal on which Harrabin regularly reported without disclosing said payment.
But the BBC is not alone in subscribing to a growing culture of environmentalist duplicity. In our book Energy and Climate Wars, Michael Economides and I drew attention to the growing “lack of integrity” running as a theme through the use of data and facts by many environmental campaigners. If you have not actually read any of the damning Climate-gate I and II leaked emails, you really should. It’s an education. Unfortunately, however, largely an education into how far publicly-funded environmental researchers are prepared to go in twisting, hiding, deleting, bullying and generally perverting facts and data. Examples of the culture of climate cons are mounting monthly. They include, Michael Mann’s iconic ‘hockey stick’ graph, a major exposé of the ‘conflict of interest’ culture within the UN IPCC, and of course, the finding by a British court of eight un-scientific statements in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Last year, Josh Fox’s Gasland movie was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category as an expose of ‘fracking’ in shale gas. However, many suggested it be moved to the Best Fiction category when it was revealed that, factually, Gasland’s amounted to fracking nonsense as process has been used safely in mining for 60 years; that the 1 percent of fracking fluid that is not water is well regulated; and, oh yes, that methane in faucet water is a fairly common, entirely harmless, phenomenon.
Which brings us to Chevron’s upcoming criminal lawsuit against leading U.S. environmental scientists caught red-handed faking data and planning outright lies in their upcoming report. If it’s hard to believe, watch the video for yourself.
The case involves the alleged proliferation of allegedly polluted groundwater leaking beyond the waste reservoir. Essentially, Dr Ann Maest, managing scientist at Straus Consulting, and ex-Harvard pal of President Obama, Stephen Donziger, are seen in the video agreeing to ignore their own data to enable them to win a landmark environmental case aimed at closing down an Ecuadorian mining and petroleum operation. While admitting their own evidence actually revealed they had no case, the two discuss drumming up enough local antagonism to prejudice the court case, while proposing their study amount to, “smoke, mirrors and bullshit”.
As a report by the New York Times in April 2011 pointed out, Dr Maest happens to be involved in another high-profile case: BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill investigation. Maest’s firm, it seems, is a “long-term contractor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration”. The NOAA is, of course, heavily involved in providing data relating to climate change. Amazing as it may seem, Dr Maest has recently been reappointed by the National Academy of Sciences and is still being used by the current U.S. administration even though her work has been thoroughly debunked by an independent team of scientists.
The French philosopher Jacques Ellul, in his definitive book on the subject, warned, “The propagandist uses a keyboard and composes a symphony”(1). When it comes to the shameful culture of enviro-spinning it seems they have adopted the art of sleight-of-hand and illusion, too.
The Economist laments that the public has “fallen out of love with environmentalism”. But the ‘magic’ has a habit of wearing off when we discover sanctimonious zealots are feeding us a diet of “smoke, mirrors and bullshit”.
I am grateful to Wizbang’s Kevin Aylward for alerting me to the Chevron lawsuit story.
(1) Ellul, Jacques, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (Vintage), p.10.
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“The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda”. The late science writer Michael Crichton certainly put his finger on the spirit of our age.