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Friday, 1 February 2013

That Old Intellectual Bubble Chestnut

A few nights ago I watched an episode of Stephen Sackur's HARDtalk on BBC News.  The programme concerned some twat named Mark Lynas, who once was an anti-GM food activist but changed his mind some years later after he converted to the global warming religion.  There is a three-minute hilarious and informative clip on the BBC's HARDtalk page, a small part of which I will cover below. Fortunately, somebody captured the entire programme and uploaded it to YouTube in two parts, so I've embedded those videos at the end of this post.  It really is worth watching the entire programme, but if you are pressed for time then please watch the first five minutes.

The reason I write about this particular programme is because it illustrates perfectly that the fanatics of any cause are intellectually lazy and ultimately dishonest.  They don't do research. If somebody merely tells them something is bad, they believe it wholesale and subsequently rally around this false propaganda and cause great damage to industries and organisations without a single shred of evidence. While I watched the programme the other night, I couldn't help but draw numerous parallels to the anti-smoker nutjobs working for the Department of Health or any anti-smoking NGO out there. I have no doubt that they operate the same way.

Here is an illuminating exchange between Sackur and Lynas at the 2:45 mark in the first video, in which Lynas describes how he came to believe that genetically-modified foods were dangerous:
Sackur:  Yes, but you can't have seen it that way just because other people have told you it was so. You must have done some research.

Lynas: (laughs) Believe me, I didn't. Nor did anyone else, to my knowledge.  I mean, you gotta understand how this works.  When you are a campaigner or an activist, you spend a lot of time with other activists, and you live kind of within a sort of intellectual bubble. And I have written already -- and this on the record -- that I hadn't read a single peer-reviewed scientific paper about biotech or biology or plant science in general until at least five or six years after we started doing this campaigning. So my information came from Greenpeace and the green NGOs.

There you have it in a nutshell.  Activism and campaigning come first. In other words: "something must be done!" Evidence does not matter.  The only thing that matters is who has the better propaganda, or in the case of Lynas and so many other activists out there, whose propaganda best suits your ideology.  It is perfectly acceptable to these people to destroy industries and livelihoods based on nothing more than hearsay.

But it's that "intellectual bubble" bit that I'd like to point out, because it rings true for not just the green and global warming movements, but for any cause. 

For instance, the anti-smoking lobby is an incestuous, closed shop.  Any person or group not in their little clique is disregarded and/or labelled as a stooge for Big Tobacco. Any opinion that dissents from the gospel of their religious convictions is labelled as heresy, perhaps paid for by Big Tobacco.  Their peer-review process is likely nothing more than ensuring that a paper conforms to the tenets of their denormalisation programme, that the funding for their so-called research came from "approved sources" (see this tweet from the Root of All Evil, for example) and perhaps a basic spelling and grammar check.  Indeed, if the queen of junk science, Anna Gilmore, ever had to go through a proper and rigorous evaluation of the methodology used in any of her papers, it's doubtful that anything she has done in respect of tobacco control would be published. Yes, in many cases the peer-review system really is that bad, particularly within tobacco control, but fortunately for Gilmore she's also the European editor for the tobacco control journal that often publishes her inventions.

Anti-smokers live in their own little [un]intellectual bubble.  Their sole goal is the destruction of the tobacco industry, by any and every means, including distorting facts and evidence to suit their agenda. But the truth is that most of the people who support the New Inquisition (including the media and its health correspondents) have never read any of the studies produced. Instead they tirelessly cite propaganda from carefully-worded press releases and sound bites designed to produce an emotive response, which is a far cry from an intellectual, objective and reasoned viewpoint.  These people then rally in support of their cause based on nothing more than propaganda and in turn lobby government ministers, who also never have read a single study but instead rely on these "learned experts" who work for anti-smoking NGOs and the government's own anti-smoker groups like ASH, FRESH, Smokefree South West and of course the Department of Health's tobacco programme group. There is nothing intellectual about any of these people. It's only a bubble of misinformation and propaganda designed to further their agenda of hatred against tobacco companies and smokers.

Anyway, you know all of this already.  I feel like I'm preaching to the choir.  So back to the HARDtalk programme then, which confirmed my belief that far too many activists for any cause are generally misinformed halfwits hell bent on destroying industries without a shred of  real evidence to support their opinions.  Again, just watch the first five minutes of it if you're short on time.

If the above videos stop working, please let me know in the comments.  Ta!