BBC: The most curious piece of evidence of institutional AGW bias

From “Yes, John: Steve Jones Is Wrong And The BBC Totally Unbalanced On Climate Change“, 1 year 3 days ago on this site – see what happens when everybody including the Head of Comedy is pushed to insert climate change / global warming in their BBC output:

[...] I can now present [...] the most curious piece of evidence yet of BBC’s institutional bias in favor of AGW proponents and away from skepticism.

And yes, this evidence makes a mockery of Steve Jones’ allegations too. Introducing Spiked Online and Patrick West’s experience with various language courses in Italian, and in particular the words dedicated to the BBC (my emphasis):

I’m currently on the second volume of the BBC’s Active Talk Italian Course. The two books and CD companions contain some bizarre diversions, Talk Italian 2 (2007) especially so. This volume is rich fare for those convinced that the BBC is governed by a liberal-left cabal, aging hippies and proselytising environmentalists.

Much of Talk Italian 2 is concerned with asking for directions in the rustic campagna of Tuscany and Umbria, where one would expect BBC bigwigs and well-to-do liberal-left champions of the corporation to take their vacations. A chapter is devoted to renting and buying luxury property (In zona panoramica e comoda… quattro camere, due bagni, cantine di 50mq, garage e giardino… Prezzo: €840,000). This no doubt appeals to Italy-loving Islingtonians who think holidaying in Spain is for the ghastly hoi polloi and that the south of France is a repository for the vulgar bourgeoisie.

The section in Talk Italian 2 on telling the time casually envisages a scenario of ‘Jorge’ and ‘Alessandro’ co-ordinating a meeting at a climate-change conference: Il cambiamento climatico: rischio per la biodiversità marina. The reader is invited to insert the Italian for ‘we start’ in the following ominous sentence ‘_____ alle dieci e un quarto con il discorso del Ministro sul cambiamento climatico’ (answer:Cominciamo) (1). Whatever happened to time-keeping dialogues simply based on railway enquiries?

On visiting the doctor, a further chapter asks you how to recognise notices for ‘alternative solutions’: medicina olistica, agopuntura, omeopatia, meditazione. Would you like to mettere in armonia le dimensioni fisiche, emotive, spirituali e sociali della persona? When ‘Simona’ complains of having l’influenza and asks for some painkillers, you, her hypothetical friend, are inveigled to suggest a superior alternative: Io ho un prodotto omeopatico molto efficace (2). Simona ought to reply Che stronzata! (3)

Some translation to help:

(1) “We start at quarter past ten with a speech by the Secretary of State for Climate Change”

(2) “I’ve got a very effective homeopathic medicine”

(3) “What a load of bull!”

[...]

Imagine A Junkie Pontificating On The BBC About People's Passion For Chocolate

Imagine a junkie given space by the BBC to pontificate about people’s passion for chocolate.   Some would laugh, others would despair at the BBC turning into a all-out asylum.

Alas, it is not just a hypothetical situation. Step forward Lisa Jardine, “Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary” (at the University of London, not the inpatient unit at Roehampton Hospital).

Prof Jardine is of course completely stranger to hard drugs, however somehow managed to write an entire essay about “Climate change and craving a cause” absolutely clueless about the way “climate change” has become THE cause for its believers, rather than for the skeptics. We’re treated instead to pearls of wisdom such as:

Instead the climate sceptics have created an intricate web of their own associations and allusions, to produce their version of an alternative story which runs contrary to that of mainstream science. [...] Faced with an uncertain future and declining prosperity, without religion for reassurance, what could be more comforting than to join a select band searching for the Holy Grail?

Never mind that Climategate one and two have shown how climate scientists did create an intricate web of their own associations and allusions, to produce their version of an alternative story which runs contrary to that of mainstream science, removing the Medieval Warm Period for example.

Prof Jardine has absolutely no idea about what skeptics are skeptical of, has surely never ever spoken to a skeptic, doesn’t know what climate change is (falling as she does into the old cliché of “climate change predictions“), and bases her point of view on dubious mob rules:

the continued commitment of almost all the world’s nations surely points to the fact that the danger to our planet of high-level carbon emissions is a real one [...]

Attenborough’s audience have accompanied him on a personal voyage of discovery on his most recent visits to the polar regions. They have witnessed with him the changing patterns of life there, and shared his reactions to dramatic change that has taken place during his lifetime. They may feel properly in a position to share his disturbing conclusions.

I can’t imagine anything more remote from Renaissance thinking than to follow the herd of the Great and the Good.

ps There is really only one bit that might be saved from Prof Jardine’s essay:

Perhaps a more discursive approach which focuses on observable change backed up by scientific evidence may be more persuasive

Well dear Prof, have you got yourself anything to show about observable change and scientific evidence? I thought so.

Yes, John: Steve Jones Is Wrong And The BBC Totally Unbalanced On Climate Change

Plenty of…skepticism on the part of chairperson John Lloyd during my comment/question at Thursday night’s RISJ/British Council presentation of James Painter’s “Poles Apart”.

I intervened after Steve Jones of BBC science impartiality and accuracy report “fame” (or not), who’s still (and still angrily) repeating the fantasy allegation of the BBC being too keen on balance and thus providing too much space to skeptics. To that, I retorted that just a few days ago a WWF representative was given heavenly time during the BBC Radio4 Today programme to talk about climate change

UPDATE: transcript here thanks to alexjc38, including the BBC’s Evan Davis uttering a veritable gem “Do a little bit of the campaigning then, go on“).

As everybody can see there was (as usual) not a hint of any even remotely critical question on the part of the BBC journalist/interviewer (something that happens regularly instead when interviews are not with AGWers but with politicians or even with scientists in a different discipline).

And that’s where the chairperson’s face started making quite telling movements….well, I can now present to John Lloyd (whom I met at a debate in Oxford in 2009 on Italian politics, where I was in the panel) the most curious piece of evidence yet of BBC’s institutional bias in favor of AGW proponents and away from skepticism.

And yes, this evidence makes a mockery of Steve Jones’ allegations too. Introducing Spiked Online and Patrick West’s experience with various language courses in Italian, and in particular the words dedicated to the BBC (my emphasis):

I’m currently on the second volume of the BBC’s Active Talk Italian Course. The two books and CD companions contain some bizarre diversions, Talk Italian 2 (2007) especially so. This volume is rich fare for those convinced that the BBC is governed by a liberal-left cabal, aging hippies and proselytising environmentalists.

Much of Talk Italian 2 is concerned with asking for directions in the rustic campagna of Tuscany and Umbria, where one would expect BBC bigwigs and well-to-do liberal-left champions of the corporation to take their vacations. A chapter is devoted to renting and buying luxury property (In zona panoramica e comoda… quattro camere, due bagni, cantine di 50mq, garage e giardino… Prezzo: €840,000). This no doubt appeals to Italy-loving Islingtonians who think holidaying in Spain is for the ghastly hoi polloi and that the south of France is a repository for the vulgar bourgeoisie.

The section in Talk Italian 2 on telling the time casually envisages a scenario of ‘Jorge’ and ‘Alessandro’ co-ordinating a meeting at a climate-change conference: Il cambiamento climatico: rischio per la biodiversità marina. The reader is invited to insert the Italian for ‘we start’ in the following ominous sentence ‘_____ alle dieci e un quarto con il discorso del Ministro sul cambiamento climatico’ (answer: Cominciamo) (1). Whatever happened to time-keeping dialogues simply based on railway enquiries?

On visiting the doctor, a further chapter asks you how to recognise notices for ‘alternative solutions’: medicina olistica, agopuntura, omeopatia, meditazione. Would you like to mettere in armonia le dimensioni fisiche, emotive, spirituali e sociali della persona? When ‘Simona’ complains of having l’influenza and asks for some painkillers, you, her hypothetical friend, are inveigled to suggest a superior alternative: Io ho un prodotto omeopatico molto efficace (2). Simona ought to reply Che stronzata! (3)

Some translation to help:

(1) “We start at quarter past ten with a speech by the Secretary of State for Climate Change”

(2) “I’ve got a very effective homeopathic medicine”

(3) “What a load of bull!”

And as if demonstrating the BBC Italian language courses’ focus on climate change undermines their quality 8-) , Patrick West’s article title is not what an Italian would write. “Questo corso è molto prevenuto” meaning “This course is very biased” would sound much better as “Questo corso è pieno di pregiudizi“.

Journalists In A Cage, or The Curse Of Climate Change Bias

Bar a sudden epidemic of Damascus Road Conversions, there is no hope for a serious, balanced, informed, informing reporting by mainstream media on the topic of Climate Change. For a series of reasons, not too dissimilar from why politicians cannot go wrong on climate change:

  1. Bad news is the only good news
  2. Journalists can only be as good as the sources they carefully select
  3. Scientific laziness and ignorance leading to dumbing down

1. Bad news is the only good news

Nobody has ever sold any newspaper by printing really good news. Readers are simply disinterested, partly because of the thrill of reading about somebody else’s misfortune, and mostly as a natural way, responding to alerts much more than to the sound of high-five’s. Hence as journalists are only as good as the readership they attract, good news for them are bad and vice-versa.

As a corollary, to mistake newspapers as remotely informative about reality is to open one’s life to doom and gloom. Take a bunch of users of an IT application and they will never ever tell each other how fast that application is: they’ll either say nothing, or complain when the application is slow. Somebody reporting out of their comments might mistakenly become convinced that the application is, on average, slower than it should be, simply because there is no information about it being faster, even when it is faster. And that, independently from the application’s speed. Analogously, a newspaper reader is likely to become just as mistakenly convinced that the world is going pear-shaped, independently from how well the world is doing.

On the other hand, skepticism on climate change means (a) the world is not going pear-shaped, at least in matters of climate and the environment and (b) if there is little to worry about the future, that’s good news.

Combine now these three observations and you’ll find mainstream journalists striving to stay away from any skepticism on climate change (even when it’s skepticism coming from professional scientists), as that would twice undermine their business, and even their professionalism. Climate Chambers skepticism is anti-news. If you want a related example, see what the BBC did when some good news threatened to be coming from Chernobyl.

The BBC did not, could not report the American Scientist article that said things around Chernobyl were better than previously thought: they reported instead, weeks later, the alarmist criticisms against the American Scientist article.

2. Journalists can only be as good as the sources they carefully select

I have experienced this first-hand in the UK with the BBC away from climate change. If you read the BBC, it’s almost impossible to fathom what happens in Italian politics: it all looks like a movie where half of the plot is missing and a great deal of the image is blanked out.

Simply, all BBC reporting about Italy is invariably left-leaning (from an Italian point of view). That’s because the Italians they interview are 99% of the time only Italian journalists writing in leftist newspapers. I remember once months ago there was some time given by BBC Radio4 Today to a recorded statement by an Italian non-leftist MP, drowned by untold number of live radio minutes given to a leftist journalists. Same happens with the Financial Times.

If journalists only keep company with a certain group of people, they will only report what those people tell them. If journalists actively avoid communicating with another group of people, they will never correctly report their point of view. As we’ve seen, mainstream journalists keep skeptics as far away as possible. And as Climategate has shown, they have very friendly relationships with scientists turned activist warmists.

Mainstream science journalists won’t and can’t fathom what climate change skepticism is about, because they can’t listen to skeptics.

3. Scientific laziness and ignorance leading to dumbing down

Journalists have to make sure somebody will read their articles. Scientific journalists of mainstream media find themselves in trouble trying to translate science news in a way that the average reader will find remotely interesting. The right way to do that would be to write great articles in a splendid prose: but that’s a lot of effort, so the common way is the lazy one: dumb down the science content so that it will elicit the most basic of responses in the least interested of the readers.

In other words, transform a scientific topic into something that appeals to the readers’ guts. In the case of climate science, this has meant depicting the whole global warming thing as a struggle between Good and Evil, heroic scientists vs debased skeptics, with the journalist as a biased commentator of some kind of spectator sport. In other words, science transformed into a cheap-and-cretin feuilleton.

Of course this issue is badly compounded by the fact that most scientific journalists have no idea of what making science entails, and often have no science degree at all.

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In conclusion, with no clue on what they are forced to write about in the hope of getting the least likely reader to still read their articles; with communications strictly coming only from a single channel; unable to report good news, ignorant of science and pretending to be commenting football: well, climate change reporters live in a cage of their own making and the real miracle is when any one of them does report anything remotely non-biased on climate change.

ps It’s hard not to notice that even the skeptical journalists, like James Delingpole, have developed their own “bad news” mantra, in the form of Watermelons taking over the world. QED

pps Andy Revkin is not a full-time journalist any longer, so his climate change reporting has progressively improved compared to the past, becoming much less biased. QED again.

Ppps David Whitehouse is no longer a BBC science journalist, more or less since climate change became the Beeb’s mantra. QED number 3.