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A scary Guardian article, somewhat neutralised by a mole among the sub-editors

Let us salute the heroic secret agent at the Guardian who subverted this quietly sinister article by giving it a brazenly sinister title and undid most of its power to persuade at a stroke: Don’t give climate change heretics an easy ride.

Fun as it is to play Galileo, the author, an Oxford academic called Jay Griffiths, is not calling for the Holy Office to resume work against climate “deniers”. Oh no, she’s far too nice and British for that sort of thing. She reveres democracy:

One more thing is required of academia: to play its role right at the heart of democracy. Being adequately informed is a democratic duty, just as the vote is a democratic right. A misinformed electorate, voting without knowledge, is not a true democracy. Society needs the expertise of academics in the most important issues: climate science above all.


I would propose a system of certification for media articles in which there is a clear issue of social responsibility – a kitemark of quality assurance. It would be awarded by teams of academics, and be given to the article, not the journalist, recognising the facts, not the sometimes spurious credibility of being a “personality”. It would be awarded when the article is accurate, using reliable sources and peer reviewed studies. There already exists the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, which answers journalists’ questions to help them achieve accuracy. A misinformed electorate, voting without knowledge, is not a true democracy.Accuracy must not only be achieved, but be seen to have been achieved.

The certification should be voluntary.

I am relieved that she saw fit to add that it should be voluntary, but even with that, there is a whiff of early Dolores Umbridge here. “A misinformed electorate, voting without knowledge, is not a true democracy.” The modern tendency to make a god of democracy has its own dangers, but it is still the least worst form of government – and a democracy is not denatured by a misinformed electorate, or any other sort of wrong electorate. That’s the point of democracy, actually.

In so far as Jay Griffiths’ proposal is not merely the class interest of an academic talking, I suspect that it is another eddy in the same current of opinion that has led Michael Mann to sue Mark Steyn for libel.

20 comments to A scary Guardian article, somewhat neutralised by a mole among the sub-editors

  • chuck

    I keep telling you that the UK will be screwed until the universities are looted and burned. Surely you can find a modern Henry VIII to undertake the task even if there is little silver to be recovered from the modern day monasteries.

  • Dom

    Natalie, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that the author has a degree in … English lit.

  • Presumably articles about “drowning” polar bears or “unprecedented” Greenland ice melting that is exactly on time will not get the certification.

  • joel

    Well, there is a lot to agree with, providing this system is applied to all aspects of journalism. Why not just license journalists, and pull their license for malpractice? And, make them specialize, too, like Drs. and lawyers.

    The stupidity and arrogance of these people seems to know no bounds. It is scary. I mean, they seem serious and well meaning. This idea is ludicrous. Can you imagine the intellectual bubble they must live in?

    This is just another example of the impulse to totalitarianism that exists in a lot of people at the political extremes. These days, the left wing people seem to be a lot more favorably disposed to a totalitarian system than the right wing, however.

  • Laird

    Joel, it was ever thus. Nazis were the National Socialist Party, after all. All the really good totalitarians are leftists.

    But as for democracy being “the least worst form of government”, I remain unconvinced of this, but that’s a topic for another day.

  • Jacob

    “These days, the left wing people seem to be a lot more favorably disposed to a totalitarian system than the right wing, however.”

    “These days” ???
    Are you too young to remember?
    Totalitarianism and the Left are the same thing, they are synonyms. Always were.

  • Alisa

    I think the distinction can be made between the modern totalitarians (“leftwing”) and those of the olden days (“rightwing”) in that the latter didn’t bother – or might have not yet discovered the possibility – to hide their dictatorial ambitions behind the veneer of the Greater Good, the Social Justice and Welfare. But I could be wrong…

  • PersonFromPorlock

    To me, ‘heresy’ seems le mot juste, since her cure for it is ‘anointing’.

  • Satan and the bastard-buggering-Christ on a hybrid-powered air-conditioned snowboard that is utter mingewash of the first water.

    That is a vile twatturation beyond the desperate shrieks of Pikachu upon the occassion of his sodomization with a knotty broom handle.

    That is so far from science it might as well give it’s address in terms of galactic co-ordinates rather than a post code. It’s cuntingly so far beyond the be-shitted cloaca of Ungoliant herself as to be unbelievable.

    It is that evil. That wrong.

    Science is about truth and falsehood. This is not science. This propaganda with graphs. By platypus-molesting toves. And cunts. Formal cunts.

    They can just fuck off.

  • Sam Duncan

    I used to think these people just didn’t see the scope for corruption, bias, and subversion in their councils of Wise Men. But over time I’ve become convinced that it’s what they’re counting on.

  • RRS

    Governments once choate are never democracies in their operation.

    Governments in their operation are the instruments of authority.

    Governments may be formed by democratic processes; in which case no other authority should be permitted to intervene in the process in any way.

    Democracy is a process, not a condition.

  • Dave Walker

    Hang on a minute; the author seems to have forgotten the classic quote about “journalism being the first draft of history”. There’s a matter of timeliness to consider (also bearing in mind that the duration of academic peer review is frequently a function of the complexity of the subject matter); if news articles required peer review a la academia, we might start getting articles about the Olympics, this month – and given the complexity of what’s going on over there and its ramifications, news about Syria would be yet to break.

    It’s generally accepted that the news media is fallible and has its biases; timeliness, comprehensiveness and accuracy frequently need to play off against each other. Academia frequently does an excellent job of writing more considered and comprehensive views of history, after the fact.

    Also, I had cause to note (with pleasure) only this week that some academics do take the opportunity to play their role “right at the hert of democracy”; however, they may choose to do so without making much noise about it, such that most journalists don’t notice them…

  • Dave Walker

    “A misinformed electorate, voting without knowledge, is not a true democracy. Accuracy must not only be achieved, but be seen to have been achieved.”

    Well, that’s a new angle on voter apathy and low election turnouts, if ever I saw one…

    “General Election next week; have you decided who you’re voting for?”

    “Not a clue – I’d better not vote, then…”

  • CaptDMO

    “Academia frequently does an excellent job of writing more considered and comprehensive views of history, after the fact….”
    Sadly, “educational” text book publishers must cater to
    those “entrusted” to setting “policy”, and “teaching” the NEXT generation-to suit their needs.

    It MUST be true. I READ it, in a SCHOOL book.
    Ok..ok…more likely, “But…but…that otherwise demoted comedian(enne) Twitted(sic) on their Twitter account…”

  • RRS

    This is probably outside the conceptual capacity of many “academics” particularly those who “specialize” in both their studies and their thinking:


    It is the linkage of the information of each that is given best effect in those conditions of maximum freedom of individuals to act (including vote) on the basis of their information and capacities to understand its realations to the information of others equally free.

  • Dishman

    RRS wrote:

    There’s a belief among some circles that the statement “people are dumb” somehow doesn’t apply to themselves.

    For myself, I’ve found that accepting that I am dumb has allowed me to stumble, stagger and muddle my way to some very interesting physics. Go figure.

  • mdc

    Not exactly competent attempt at social control. It’s pretty obvious that the ‘kitemark’ would only be a sign of quality and truth to people who already agree that global warming is real, and a warning sign to those who don’t.

    If it were mandatory that would be something else, but I think even this person doesn’t want to bring back the Vatican Censor.

  • Bruce

    I don’t believe Prof. Mann has actually sued Steyn. Rather his lawyer wrote a letter threatening to sue – a very different thing.

    Mann would be regarded as a public figure under American defamation law and would have to prove actual malice in addition to the usual elements of the tort.

    Actual malice is very difficult to prove. It is defined as, “knowledge that the information was false” or that it was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

  • David Gillies

    If, as Dom asserts, this wannabe totalitarian has a degree in English Lit., you’d think she’d be at least passingly familiar with Milton, in particular Areopagitica. What an incredibly stupid, doctrinaire and unpleasant woman. This dovetails with the lament we saw last week from the repulsive and oleaginous Mandelson, lamenting the fact that the traditional media’s role of gatekeeper was being usurped by all those upstart bloggers. It is always disconcerting for self-anointed elites when their power starts to crumble.

  • Surellin

    Well, fascinating. I’d say “God save us from all academics”, but then I realize that I am thinking, not of myself, but of those other purblind idiots with whom I disagree in department meetings. So, to address ourselves to this nice lady’s proposal, would the aforementioned Council of Academics include dissenters? I’m thinking that Her Academic-ness is assuming that No True Academic would disagree with her one jot or tittle. Else what’s the point?