Number of the Month

January 2011

Pardon the absence of wishes of a happy new year. In the circumstances it would be in rather poor taste.

Ever decreasing circles

Going back in the archive to the beginnings of Number Watch a decade ago, for the purposes of the Numby awards, was in many ways a depressing experience. Many of the names are the same and the claims are the same. Prince Charles, James Hansen and Co are all still going strong and grabbing the headlines. The sceptical tribe are cock-a-hoop over the apparent collapse of the campaign of the global warming alarmists. They are mistaken. Nobody knows about it. All the failed predictions, fraudulent fiddling of data, debunked theories etc might be well known in the relevant corner of the internet, but even well-informed members of the public know nothing of them. Ask any of them whether they have heard of Kiwigate, for example. Allies of the zealots have virtually complete control over the media.

This not only applies to the great climate scam, but also to many other nonsensical science and technology claims. Flying generators, for example, have come up yet again. It is now a decade since we first covered this preposterous proposal (March 2001). We coined the term “enginasters” for the people who make such claims, a theme to which we have returned many times in the decade. They have had ten years and much funding. How many are flying?

Then there are the political stories we have covered that the media have completely ignored. They have at long last discovered the nightmare that is the private finance initiative (PFI). Back in October 2002, when our number of the month was the total UK personal debt, we drew attention to the hidden public debt that was PFI, which we likened to hire-purchase. People lucky enough to be just starting their first job will have to pay this debt back for the rest of their working lives, just as those of us who have now retired had to pay back the post-war Labour Government’s debts for our working lives. That piece in 2002 ended with the following:

“To mix a couple of metaphors, the time bomb is ticking and we stand on the edge of a very steep precipice. Perhaps at some time in the future someone will write the horror story When the borrowing had to stop.”

Now, eight years later, the story is being told. All around things are getting worse, which brings us to:

Link to this piece

BBC more outrageous than ever

One of the saddest changes in recent years has been the decline of the BBC from a uniquely worldwide trusted source of information to a notoriously biased propaganda outfit. Over a whole range of topics (the EU, militant Islamism, British and world politics etc.) it peddles a totally one-sided viewpoint in the guise of sweet reason. There is no subject, however, that displays this partiality more than Global Warming. We have just had two examples in consecutive weeks of rigged documentaries that flaunt the whole gamut of trickery that it employs to force home the alarmist view and assault those who are inclined to apply traditional scientific scepticism to the hypothesis. The first employed a pop musician acting in a faux naïf role, despite the fact that he has a PhD in physics, who is trying to find out what a degree of temperature means. It started as a quite entertaining, if  galumphing, story, in which the protagonist begins by making a thermometer; but slowly morphed into propaganda mode with the tricks coming in rapid succession. An academic scientist draws a bell curve and superimposes another shifted to the right, pointing out that this results in more people in the discomfort zone. We are not supposed to reflect upon the fact that it is the lower tail of the distribution that represents people who are suffering and dying, as they have done in multitudes during the recent disastrous cold spells throughout the northern hemisphere. For most of the human race a little warming, if there were any, would be a fine thing.

The second programme was one in the long-running Horizon series, which long ago was the epitome of honest informative television. The presenter was a geneticist, who happens to be president of the Royal Society, once the greatest scientific institution in the world, but now brought low by a greenie takeover. That, however, is beside the point for the BBC. He is a pleasant, soothing member of the establishment, who played the role well of the thoroughly reasonable man who is just a seeker after truth.

In order to discuss coherently the carbophobic hypothesis you do not need to be a climatologist (in fact, in these days of Climate Science, better not). You need a working knowledge of quantum physics and the science of measurement. It seems rather unlikely that a geneticist would develop such skills, unless he had put in a lot of voluntary overtime.

The title of the programme was “Science under attack” an emotive phrase the enabled the makers to lump climate sceptics in with lunatics who think they can cure AIDS with yoghurt and protesters against Genetic Modification. Name one climate sceptic who marches against GM. You can see some strangely edited excerpts of the programme on YouTube.

The tricks come thick and fast. Commentators such as Booker and North have commented on a few of them, but you could write a whole book on their use in this one programme. Richard North dwells at some length on the one genre of trickery that the BBC has taken, refined and made its own. This is the technique of filming a long interview, to the point of exhaustion, and then taking a small section, usually out of context, when the interviewee is induced to say the words that the director needs. The rest lies on the imaginary cutting-room floor. It is customary to try to make the victim look as foolish as possible. So James Delingpole was caught hesitating over an analogy that was so bizarre that any reasonable person would pause – that accepting a scientific hypothesis is akin to being treated for cancer. This is where the huge resources of the BBC, for which all Britons pay through the nose in a compulsory tax, come to the fore. They can afford to send interviewers anywhere in the world to obtain hours of interview on location and then throw almost all of it away.

Link to this piece

So we have:

Number of the month – 3

This is the number of hours for which James Delingpole was interviewed to provide a few carefully selected sentences that suited the purposes of the director.



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