Tonight on BBC4 you have another chance to see the BBC’s latest propaganda effort on behalf of the climate change alarmism lobby. It’s called Climate Change By Numbers and I reviewed it, briefly, in the Spectator.
Its arguments went something like this: climate change is real because nice, smiley girl with red hair; climate change is real because maths; climate change is real because potted history of US sea captain who standardised methods for measuring water temperature; climate change is real because Tottenham Hotspur; etc. With these ingenious distractions, it effortlessly swerved contentious issues such as the fact that the entire 20th-century temperature record has been subjected to unexplained — and probably unjustifiable — adjustments. I wonder what percentage of its presumably tiny audience it convinced.
Now I see on Twitter that Team Climate (they hunt in packs) are taking umbrage.
Do I realise that the woman I have so peremptorily dismissed as “nice, smiley girl with red hair” is in fact none other than Dr Hannah Fry, a mathematician from University College, London?
Well yes. I thought I’d covered that particular Appeal To Authority, more or less, in the sentence which said “climate change is real because maths.” Had there been space, I suppose, I could have added “climate change is real because doctorate” and “climate change is real because University College, London.” But I’m not sure it would have added a great deal to the point I was trying to make.
Since I have a bit more space here, though, let me elaborate.
With TV the medium is the message. That is, what people say on any given programme is usually far less important than how they say it: their tone of voice, the visual context in which they appear, the way they are introduced, the things they are shown doing, even the way they are lit and the way they are recorded.
It’s no coincidence that the most successful and enduring politicians of the modern era are those who have mastered the medium. However much you loathe Ken Livingstone or Ken Clarke the fact remains that they are superb media operators. Even if you may personally find – as I do – that what they say is often ideologically toxic, they always come across on TV as relaxed and affable. And it’s the relaxed, affable part that most viewers pick up on, not the ideologically toxic part.
So the best compliment I can pay Climate Change By Numbers is that it plays this game very well.
I don’t mean to pick on poor Hannah. She really does come across as a nice person and she does have lovely red hair. But I think it would be naive for any of us to delude ourselves that these trivial details were not in fact at least as important a part of the programme’s message as the fact that she has a maths doctorate.
To put it another way, what this programme was essentially about was reassurance.
If you’d storyboarded it it would have gone something like this:
Here is Hannah with lovely red hair. But she’s not just a pretty face: she’s also a mathematician. With a doctorate. Isn’t that just great? And look, here she is carrying a magic stick thing which, thanks to the miracle of computer technology can make graphs appear from thin air. And graphs are used a lot in science, so you can trust that what we’re telling you has a solid scientific base. A solid mathematical one too because Hannah’s a mathematician – did we mention this? – and she totally agrees with all the maths in this script that we’ve scripted for her.
Ooh – and look, now here’s Hannah smiling (and looking ever-so-slightly queasy!!) in a shaky off-road vehicle, so she’s not just fun but game too. Have you ever been in an off-road vehicle, viewer? Did you feel a bit like Hannah? I’ll bet if you were in an off road vehicle with Hannah you’d find her great company!!!
And, no wait, this is amazing – here’s another mathematician. A bloke this time, but no worries Hannah’s already shown that we’re not sexist or ageist or anything. And here’s the thing: this bloke too totally agrees that the climate scientists are right. And it’s not like he’s thick: he too has a doctorate in maths which is a hard science, don’t you know. And it’s not like he’s biased because he’s a mathematician – did we mention this? – so how could he be?
And what’s this? Noooo! Get in there! He’s a footie fan. Loves Tottenham Hotspur, which means he’s not just a brilliant mathematician but also a regular guy, totally down to earth, probably even eats fast food and goes to the loo occasionally, just like you and me. Now he’s explaining how computer models work. And amazingly, it turns out that predicting the climate is just like predicting how a football team will perform during a particular season. And football’s something we can all relate to more or less, so he’s bound to know what he’s talking about…
Now here’s Formula. Nyeeeeeeeoooooooo. F1. So exciting and noisy. And visual. Speed. Cars. Something about computer models being great? Yeah. Whatever. Nyeeeooooooooo!
You were hoping I was going to pick apart the programme’s tendentious arguments and the devious way it managed to pretend to answer all the key questions posed by sceptics while in fact cunningly swerving round them?
Sod that for a game of soldiers: the mighty Booker, as I understand, is going to take care of that side of things. He can take care of the science stuff; I’ll do the cultural analysis and the goading. It’s what we free marketeers believe in: division of labour.