Monday, August 04, 2008

Aye, there's the rub

Having been gently beaten about the head with a cluebat, our nice Mr Lockwood has posted a response to his ill-advised censorship post. You can go and read the whole thing, but this is the crux of his point.
And that was what I was trying to get at: the purpose for the original blog came from a paper I’m writing, but also from Ofcom’s ruling on C4’s GGWS programme. They judged it did not cause harm or offence, despite agreeing that the science is proven. I was left with the thought: harm against whom? This was the question I wanted to ask: what measurement of harm was Ofcom measuring the programme against, if they are judging it against a measure where they themselves agree the science is proven (enough)?

Aye, well, there's the rub, eh?

You see, whilst Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was, inconveniently, found to be inaccurate scientifically, in at least nine respects, no such stigma attaches to The Great Global Warming Swindle. Because, apart from anything else, not one—not one—of those complaints about factual content was upheld.
But the broadcaster will not be censured over a second complaint about accuracy, which contained 131 specific points and ran to 270 pages, with Ofcom finding that it did not mislead the public.

A Place To Stand has a fairly comprehensive run-downor two—of what complaints were upheld.

This is, of course, a somewhat different attitude to that of Al Gore's film which, despite being found to be inaccurate in court, is still being distributed (by the government) to schools as a factual science programme.

So, do we see some double standards here? I think that we do.

The fact is that the government either believes in AGW or it wants to ensure that everyone else does. One can speculate as to their motives, and regular readers know that I have done, extensively (and yes, I always hold the opinion that they see it as a route to more money but, more importantly, more power).

OfCom is, of course, a government QUANGO: it is funded by the government and its officers owe their sinecures to the government. It is quite clear where their loyalties lie.

How else could they possibly adjudge that the film was not factually inaccurate whilst at the same time claiming that the AGW science is settled? There simply is no way that the two positions are tenable if OfCom are uncorrupt: if the AGW science is settled, then the Channel 4 film must be factually incorrect. If, however, The Great Global Warming Swindle is factually correct, then the AGW theory must be at best unproven, at worst untrue.

You want my theory, Alex? That OfCom knew damn well that the film was accurate but it dare not speak out against AGW for fear of... what? Losing its funding, losing respect, being pilloried? Or being prosecuted for daring to deny the new religion?

Whereas I, a mere blogger (for what is my reputation worth?) will continue to speak out, until people like you, James Hansen and Margo Kingston have me slammed into jail. Because you are—to quote TGGWS's director, Martin Durkin, in an article written shortly after the film's broadcast—"wrong, wrong, wrong."

5 comments:

Jones said...

Why censor? An open debate (sans illiterate name calling) on a topic is a healthy thing if we do have as is claimed a functional democracy.

Censorship of non-pornographic material by comparison, is the tool of fascists and tyrants, and most definitely not democratic in any measure unless clearly called for by a majority. Do the persons in question claim any democratic pretensions at all, or are they just bigots who desire no point of view but the one they currently support? Do tell.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Jones,

Quite so. Just one point...

"Censorship of non-pornographic material by comparison, is the tool of fascists and tyrants..."

Why do you think that censorship of (consensually-made) pornography is OK?

DK

Anonymous said...

I don't care for porn but don't think it should be censored either.

This is the comment I left on that blog:

I have a serious problem with this quote: “If the science is beyond reasonable doubt”.. spoken like a lawyer, not a scientist. There is a huge difference between ‘proof’ and something that has been peer-reviewed - please read some decent philosophy of Science (I’m surprised you don’t seem to have at least not come across Karl Popper or Thomas Kuhn)
Even gravity isn’t beyond ‘reasonable doubt’ when you get into the nitty-gritty physics as to what gravity actually is (gravitron particles? a force?).

To be quite honest, what made me more and more of a skeptic was actually reading pro-AGW blogs. The more I read, the weaker I found their arguments, the weaker I found various claims (such as there being a ‘well-funded’ denial lobby. Sorry, I’m very good in maths, and a quick tally of what Exxon and vague ‘coal and petroleum interests’ have spent pales to that of the activist groups. I got my numbers from Exxonsecrets and sundry annual reports).
Really, if it were a matter of one side being completely right, there would be no need to censor, ad hominem attacks and character assassination, no for shoddy data, and other propagandistic tactics. It would be laughable in the same vein as astrologers and feng shui practitioners.

I also find it odd the claim that ‘they attack science because they are right wing’ whilst the linked article mentions pollution in Eastern Europe, China and the Soviet Union. Wee bit o’ contradiction there? As for the Sixties - part of why it could be so ‘revolutionary’ is because it was the first generation that was largely freed from having to work constantly - the very comforts of western civilization enabled them to have the free time to pursue such things.

Why is peer review not trusted? Sometimes some pretty shoddy studies can get past peer-review, particularly if they support the pre-existing beliefs of the reviewers themselves. Anything that runs counter tends to be held to much greater, more rigorous scrutiny. Science (the Journal) is famous for having rejected for publication a rebuttal to an article they published on the grounds that ‘the information was already widely dispersed on the internet’.

I leave with a quote from CS Lewis:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

alex said...

Thanks DK.

I don't agree with you that Ofcom knew the film was accurate. I do think they took the easy option of utilising the very wide room for vagueness that the code allows in how it assesses complaints put in front of it, and that this has served no-one well.

I tell you what though. I went back and did some hard thinking about censorship, and some looking around. Belarus has just introduced a law where all new sites, bloggers included, have to sign up with the government.

Russia shuts down paper for extremist views. (Russia has also just imprisoned its first person for leaving a comment on another blog).

Censorship was the wrong idea and wrong phrase to use, granted for the cluebatting, even though I disagree with the position from which you swing your bat. And I still believe we need to reevaluate the job of how we regulate social relations of power where the media is plays a role in those relations. But then I'm getting into Foucault, and I don't want to do that without some serious rereading.

Gareth said...

How else could they possibly adjudge that the film was not actually inaccurate whilst at the same time claiming that the AGW science is settled? There simply is no way that the two positions are tenable if OfCom are uncorrupt: if the AGW science is settled, then the Channel 4 film must be factually incorrect. If, however, The Great Global Warming Swindle is factually correct, then the AGW theory must be at best unproven, at worst untrue.

The science behind the theory might be settled but that doesn't mean it has been proven.

Does Ofcom actually come down on the side of AGW? Their ruling mentions the overwhelming political and media consensus without explicitly backing it I'd say. It even counted in Swindle's favour - meaning parts 1 to 4 had no requirement to be impartial. But I don't read into their ruling that they are pro, or anti-AGW. It's simply not their job to decide one way or the other.

At least that's what I think they mean in this part of the ruling:

Ofcom is not a fact-finding tribunal and its obligation in this case was to reach a fair and reasonable decision on whether The Great Global Warming Swindle breached the requirements of the Code. Given the ambit of Ofcom’s obligation as regards adjudicating on the complaints, however it was in Ofcom’s opinion impractical and inappropriate for it to examine in detail all of the multifarious alleged examples of factual inaccuracy set out in the complaints.

As much as the group complaint would have liked Ofcom to decide whether the alternative climate change theories in Swindle were true or false, it is not Ofcom's to job clamp down on dissenting ideas. If it were, BBC's Horizon series would be for the chop. Ofcom's main concern was whether the programme misled viewers. By being quite open that Swindle's ideas are in the minority, viewers were not misled.