The winner of the bloggy
awards’ best political blog and the winner of the bloggy
awards’ best scientific blog are having a fight after school. This is the best
show since the Olympics. Popcorn, anyone?
A most uncivil civil war is being waged amongst climate
deniers over exactly how rude one ought to be to the opposition (that’s us,
BTW). The two online generals in this transatlantic tiff are the
denial-o-sphere’s finest elite bloggers, in the UK’s corner, the Telegraph’s
own James Delingpole, and in the US, ex-TV weatherman Anthony Watts.
To quickly bring you up to speed, our old energygate
friend and one-trick wind farm whinger, Delingpole, wrote an article in the
Australian (biggest paper in Oz, Murdoch, obviously), which you will never read,
because it’s behind a paywall and you’re not going to pay to see a Delingpole
article in an Aussie paper when you can see several hundred identical blogs on
the Telegraph for free.
So here’s the crucial sentence:
"The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions
to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge
wearing a black cap."
Yes, the sentence is… DEATH. For the climate alarmist
industry. Which is us, by the way, but also Mike Mann the famous
climate scientist, who felt he’d been sentenced a little harshly. Greenpeace,
of course, are accustomed to being sentenced harshly.
All good knockabout fun in the ongoing debate over whether
physics was invented by the Kremlin (cf. Delingpole
Or not, as it turns out. Likening people to Nazis
(apparently James’ Aussie piece managed to break Godwin’s Law above the line)
and calling for their execution isn’t quite the accepted rhetorical tradition
in the US that it is in the UK. They have a somewhat anachronistic attachment
to what they call ‘civility’, which is similar to the 19th century British
concept of ‘good manners’.
So Mike, being an American, failed to appreciate Jim’s
journalistic stylings, and was quite cross on the Twitter. And other
‘alarmists’ were cross on his behalf, on both the Twitter and their hopelessly bloggy-less
So James wrote a blog
explaining why he was actually being far too soft on the ‘alarmists’ and no, he
wasn’t sorry, and anyway it was all a MET-A-PHOR, you illiterate plebs.
At this point I feel compelled to quote James again:
"A metaphor, let me explain – I can because I read English at
Oxford, dontcha know – is like a simile but stronger. So when, for example, a
rugger team boasts in the shower room after a particularly brutal match that it
"raped" the opposition, it doesn't literally mean that it had
forcible sex with the other side even though that may be – if you're incredibly
thick and literalistic and looking for offence – what it sounds like."
Hope you all got that.
This is where it got interesting. Anthony Watts, who runs
the Single Most Popular Climate Denial Blog in the World, is also an American,
and Anthony made the same mistake that Mike made – assuming that calling
someone a Nazi and demanding their execution (not really though! Metaphor!) is
‘uncivil’ or ‘bad manners’. In fact, Anthony went so far as to claim that
James’ tone might be harmful to their shared cause*, in the sense that innocent
bystanders might read Delingpole’s rhetoric and jump to the entirely
unwarranted conclusion that perhaps climate deniers are unstable, paranoid
conspiracy theorists. Further, in fact. Anthony actually suggested
that James apologise.
Various other climate deniers agreed with Anthony on Twitter.
So poor old James was getting it from every angle. And what
makes this whole affair so spectacularly unfair is that Anthony, an ex-TV
weatherman, is the ‘science’ deny-o-blogger, who does all that numbery, techie
stuff, whilst James is the ‘political’ deny-o-blogger, who says
‘It’s not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers, because I simply do
not have the time; I don’t have the expertise.’
No indeed. James studied English at Oxford, and is the
master of subtle rhetorical flourishes and METAPHORS, and the idea that some insufferable
yank weatherman is going to show the effrontery, the sheer impudence, to lecture
him, James, not on ‘weather stations, the correct siting thereof’ but on
rhetoric, is simply insupportable. And the idea that he should apologise? No no
no no no. In fact, Anthony should apologise to him.
And James said so. On Twitter. And in the Telegraph.
And in the Spectator.
In fact, he said he’d rather eat worms. Although that may have been a metaphor.
One could draw many valuable lessons from this episode.
Lessons about civility, about Godwin’s Law, about the value of an Oxford
education, and about how you can publish the most offensive thing you can think
of in the UK’s last broadsheet newspaper, so long as it’s a metaphor.
But this blog is quite long enough already. More popcorn?
*Delingpole’s cause, according to recent tweets and blogs,
is ‘openness, honesty, truth, liberty and freedom of expression’, and,
according to a 2010 blog
entitled ‘only the tea party can save us now’ –
‘It's the same one Toby Young
is fighting over education; the same one the likes of Rod Liddle, Andrew
Gilligan, Nick Cohen and Mark Steyn are fighting over political Islam; the same
one Melanie Phillips is fighting over Israel; the same one Douglas Murray is
fighting on pretty much everything.’
So that’ll be neoconservatism then.