Some of Britain’s top newspaper editors hit back at minister who thinks he has the right to tell the Press what it can and cannot print.
“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets..” –Napoleon Bonaparte
Editorial: Inconvenient Truths
Post-Leveson, politicians increasingly think they have the right to tell the Press what it can print.
On Sunday the egregious Lord Soley accused newspapers exposing the lobbying scandal of taking revenge for Leveson.
Yesterday it was the turn of Lib Dem Minister Ed Davey, who said it was wrong for the Press to give a ‘platform’ to anybody daring to question the political orthodoxy on climate change.
The fact is the influence of the printed Press is tiny compared to the power of the BBC, which, in its global warming crusade, has dropped any claim to objectivity.
But then we know what this is about: it’s a cynical exercise in softening up voters not to complain when swingeing green taxes are added to their energy bills.
Editorial: Remove The Blinkers
People often complain about politicians being unwilling to speak their mind, but that is not a charge that can be laid against Ed Davey. In a speech yesterday, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary castigated sections of the press for giving sanctuary to deniers of climate change, accusing such commentators not just of selective use of evidence, but “destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, Nimbyism, publicity-seeking controversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness”.
If Mr Davey is so confident in his facts, he should surely be confident of their triumphing in a free and open debate. But what he misses is that to many of those who accept the scientific evidence, and want to do the right thing by the planet, the Energy Secretary and his allies often sound just as “blinkered” – even swivel-eyed – as those they castigate.
The vast majority of scientists are persuaded that climate change is real: concentrations of carbon dioxide are now 40 per cent higher than before the Industrial Revolution. Where there is plenty of scope for disagreement is over its extent (witness the soul-searching prompted by the current “pause” in temperature rises) and, in particular, the solutions. Mr Davey claims sceptics “seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty… as proof that all climate change policy is all hopelessly misguided”. But he asks the public to accept the equal opposite: that all climate change policy is all utterly necessary.
Mr Davey’s new Energy Bill is part of an effort to “progressively decarbonise” our energy sector and economy. That appears to mean sky-high bills, vast subsidies for wind farms and potentially fatal energy costs for manufacturers. Is it any wonder that he is having difficulty in convincing the public of its wisdom?
Lib Dem Energy Secretary tells newspapers to stop publishing views of climate change sceptics
Toby YoungLater today, Ed Davey is due to launch an extraordinary attack on climate change sceptics and “some sections of the press” for publishing their views. “This is not the serious science of challenging, checking and probing,” he says in a draft of the speech. “This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity seeking contraversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.”
This criticism of climate change scepticism is hardly new. Both sides in the debate about man made global warming frequently accuse each other of being “blinkered”, “dogmatic” and “bloody minded” and being unduly influenced by “vested interests”, whether it’s Big Oil or green energy companies. In addition, they each claim the other’s position is essentially “political” and not informed by a dispassionate analysis of the scientific evidence.
What’s unusual about the Energy Secretary’s latest attack is that he’s saying that sceptics shouldn’t be given the same opportunities as warmists to make their case. “Of course there will always be uncertainties within climate science and the need for research to continue,” he says. “But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups.”
That’s an odd thing for Davey to say on several levels. To begin with, it’s a charge that could be made equally well by climate change sceptics about the Guardian and the Independent. Indeed, if you substitute the word “media” for “press”, it could also be made about the BBC. As every sceptic knows, the BBC held a famous meeting in 2006 in which the corporation assembled 28 of “the best scientific experts” to discuss global warming and concluded that “the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus on anthropogenic climate change”. What Ed Davey appears to be saying is that it’s perfectly acceptable for some sections of the media to endorse one side in this debate, but not for other sections to endorse the other.
More importantly, it’s completely inappropriate for a senior politician to criticise the editorial policy of any newspaper, however much he or she disagrees with it. Davey’s comments are reminiscent of the attack on the Observer made by Lynne Featherstone, another Lib Dem minister, over its publication of Julie Burchill’s article on transexuals. The impression given by Davey’s speech is that he’d like newspapers to stop publishing views he disagrees with. No doubt many politicians feel that way from time to time, but most of them accept in their more sober moments that freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic right. Not Davey, apparently.
Even if we put the moral objections to state censorship to one side, there’s a good practical reason for not muzzling your intellectual opponents. As JS Mill points out in On Liberty, either they are right, in which case you shouldn’t try and suppress the truth, or they are wrong, in which case you have nothing to fear from the publication of their views since their wrong-headedness will then be plain for everyone to see. If Ed Davey really believes that the truth is on his side in this debate, he should encourage his opponents to air their views in public as often as possible, not criticise “some sections of the press” for giving them a platform.
The Intolerance of Climate Change Zealots
This evening on my LBC show we discussed Ed Davey’s outrageous idea that newspapers and broadcasters should refrain from giving a platform to climate change sceptics. How very ‘liberal’ of him. I remember at 18 Doughty Street back in 2007 I phoned Greenpeace to invite them to take part in a panel discussion on climate change. They refused on the basis hat the argument was won and there was nothing to debate. It’s attitudes like this that make me very suspicious of this climate change industry, which is supported by people whose fanaticism borders on the religious.
The very same people who warned the world in the 1980s about the coming nuclear apocalypse are now warning about the end of the planet. In the 1980s we had politicians who were able to expose these zealots for what they were. We now have cabinet ministers who go along with them and give them money. And have the cheek to tell people on radio stations that they shouldn’t be providing platforms for climate change sceptics. Ed Davey agreed to come on my show tonight – first in the studio, then byISDN, then on the phone, first at 620, then at 630, then at 720. Then not at all. A meeting, apparently. It happens. But if any of his staff were listening, they might have been rather worried to discover than with one exception, every caller expressed some degree of scepticism about global warming. I’d say that proves that the argument is far from won and that people like Ed Davey need to up their game. He’d probably say they were all brainwashed by a climate change sceptical media, of course.