Melanie Phillips

20 July 2011

The BBC's secular inquisition

Published in: Melanie's blog

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I am open-mouthed. The BBC Trust is recommending that its journalists ditch balance for propaganda.

A report being published today has apparently decided that the BBC no longer needs to interview man-made global warming sceptics because there is a consensus on this issue that the theory is true.

Its conclusions are said to be based in part on recommendations by the geneticist Professor Steve Jones. Astonishingly, he is said not only to have found no evidence of bias in the BBC’s output on climate change, but suggests that on issues like this where he says there is a ‘scientific consensus’ – also including the MMR vaccination and genetically modified crops – there should be no need for the BBC to find opponents of the mainstream view.

This is as terrifying as it is outrageous.  First of all, the claim that there is a consensus on man-made global warming is itself false. The wickedly cynical propaganda strategy to promote this false belief in a consensus was described in an eye-opening blog post by James Delingpole in the Telegraph last year:

The story begins in autumn 2004 when the government’s hysterically warmist chief scientific adviser Sir David King successfully persuaded the then Prime Minister Tony Blair to put action on global warming at the heart of UK government policy. This resulted in the creation of a propaganda body called The Climate Change Working Group which in turn sought PR advice from a company called Futerra communications.

Futerra – Britain’s answer to Fenton communications in the US – recommended the following policy:

Many of the existing approaches to climate change communications clearly seem unproductive. And it is not enough simply to produce yet more messages, based on rational argument and top-down persuasion, aimed at convincing people of the reality of climate change and urging them to act. Instead, we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement.

To help address the chaotic nature of the climate change discourse in the UK today, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won, at least for popular communications. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken [emphasis added].

There is no consensus on man-made global warming. There are in fact hundreds of scientists at the very least, amongst them some of the most distingushed in their field, who are sceptical about the theory. Some of them, such as the meteorologist Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, have testified to the outright fraud and intimidation used to support the climate change scam. Some have been subjected to professional ostracism, loss of grant funding, vilification and even death threats because they have stood up for scientific evidence against the gross perversion of science involved in what is probably the most intellectually corrupt episode in scientific history. Such wholesale intimidation means that without a shadow of a doubt many more scientists are climate change sceptics than are registered in public debate.

Now the Trust is apparently stating that there is no need for their voices to be heard. So there is 'no need' for the BBC to report on one of the great scandals of our time -- the systematic intimidation of scientists and suppression of ideas within the academy. If this grotesque ruling had been in operation when the ‘Climategate’ scandal erupted, when warmist scientists tried to suppress the evidence that the climate was not warming but remaining static or even cooling, this would surely have meant that the BBC would have barely covered the scandal since the heart of it ran against the ‘consensus’.

Indeed, it would mean that in general BBC reporters would not only fail to present experts telling us the truth about the non-heating up of the climate but also guarantee that they fail to report the wholesale collapse of the theory and rout of the warmist agenda which is taking place.

Not that the BBC does this now – far from it.  For with some honourable exceptions, its journalism has always presented the warmist nonsense as mainstream and the sceptical side as heresy. It is already difficult for sceptics to get a hearing on the BBC. But if the Trust has its way, BBC science journalism will become as bent as a corkscrew. And dissent from its own ideological position -- dissent which happens to represent the views of at least hundreds of scientists and the majority of the population -- would be suppressed.

This is nothing less than a totalitarian agenda. Indeed, why stop at science? If ‘consensus’ dictates what is to be reported, and consensus is itself subjectively determined on the basis of the presumed weight of expert opinion (which can never be truly known) or the presumed agreement of the population (which can never be truly known), then it follows that on issues such as abortion, membership of the EU or immigration (on which even the BBC has been forced to admit it got public opinion terribly wrong) the BBC would similarly see ‘no need’ to allow alternatives to chattering-class opinion to be heard.

A free society requires toleration of dissent. Progress depends upon the recognition that today’s dissent may turn into tomorrow’s orthodoxy. Science is littered with examples of this, from Galileo onwards. Indeed, the idea that a presumed consensus should wipe out dissenting voices is positively anti-science. If science doesn’t have an open-mind, it is no longer science but propaganda. And that is what the BBC Trust is proposing.

The BBC Trust is supposed to be the guardian of the public interest. Its role is to ensure that the BBC adheres to the high standards of its charter. But with this recommendation, the Trust has shown that it will destroy the BBC’s duty of fairness and impartiality and replace it by an Orwellian double-speak on the grounds that there are certain ideas which cannot be challenged. This is not guarding the sacred flame of journalistic integrity. It is a secular Inquisition.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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