Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Al a kazam! Al a kaboom! Al a can't be bovvered...

Newsnight - Tuesday, 27th March, 2007

Interesting. Which is more than I can say about the Al Gore interview, which doubtless was a BBC 'exclusive'. What did he offer? 2 minutes between more important meetings?

Other than a few side mentions, almost 100% of responses to last night's programme are concerned with poverty, which may have a part to play in my area of interest (other than wondering if it is a mandatory to be Scottish to get into government and/or be a spokesperson these days - if so, sign me up. I am, at least half), which is the environment and how to just keep it ticking along, and with luck tickedy boo.

So it seems we may have to call in Al.

I have lately weathered a lot of blog storms (sorry and sorry for the puns) about the issues of climate change, post IPCC and Ch4/Durkin, and Mr. Gore's role in it all has popped up on occasion.

It has not been pretty. I'm afraid this piece didn't scrub up much better.

For a start, the programme was launched with Mr. Gore quoted as saying the US could learn a lesson from the UK Government.

Sadly it was not too clear what that was. Hopefully it is not saying to the population to do one thing whilst those doing the saying don't feel it really can or should apply to them.

Mr. Gore was mildly tasked on this aspect of leadership by example. At least on his electricity consumption, which he had a good chance to field, and did so fairly comprehensively; though saying something is a lie and not really saying where sets up some red flags. Personally I thought he would have been better advised to point out that as his is not exactly a two-up, two down family home and as he runs his office from it (with staff), there is likely a bit more than a microwave and TV left on standby in there.

Sadly we did not go on to find out why him flying (if indeed he does) by private jet is necessary thanks to a busy schedule that the rest of us apparently do not suffer from. I'm off next month to Geneva and simply can't wait to get in that aluminium tube and see what I can catch in the 90 minute flight from row 22b. But the price and time advantage vs. a train was simply too great to enjoy the slooooow travel now promoted by all our offsetting travel writers with places to eventually get to, and people to sponge off.

So we're winning the war on climate change? When EU ministers think their 4x4 is OK but yours is not, and then vote to let even more planes shuttle back and forth to the US, along with Air Force Gore, of course. Not.

I was also very surprised how unconvincing he was. He droned, dealt out dry facts and frankly didn't look as if he cared a damn what anyone thought.

Maybe the CH4 doco was reckless, but explaining how by just saying 'his' 'experts' are better than 'theirs' is a level of argument my 10 year olds would demolish. And I now have a lot of highly-educated and aware mates tackling me more challengingly on my advocacy, based on being swayed by this show. It's no good just saying they are naughty people and 'we' wear white hats, so we must be right. The small group of sceptics I am aware of seems pretty big to me, outside of the green elite and business leaders with their eyes on a) not being walloped with punitive measures and b) making a nifty profit. These folk only know what they know, and calling them deniers won't help much to change their minds.

The poverty story does make one wonder. Is it just possible a reason that most average people are not as engaged as one would imagine, or hope, is because we are being talked down to mostly by guys who have scored nice little earners but are often shown to be doing so from very dubious and shaky pedestals. I would accept that Mr. Gore is better placed morally than most, as he has form going back a long way. Genuine stuff. But unfortunately for him, and in my view his - and my - cause, he is not the best person to communicate effectively with the general public by dint of personality and personal circumstances. Not his fault, but a simple fact of media life.

The world's mid to low-income consumers really are the only ones that matter when it comes to making the necessary changes in personal choices to in turn help the planet.

Can this nation's 'leaders' (especially, lord help us, the self-anointed 'green elites'), and Mr. Gore for his own country, and all the trendy media who would support them, really put hands on hearts and say their efforts at reaching this majority, much less influence them, have been successful to date? I'd say not.

So we need some new brooms.


ps: Ribena has been fined for its lack of Vitamin C in the iconic drink. That'll teach 'em! I'm guessing about what they make in an hour, right?

pps: I am thinking of taking the Italians to court for war reparations for stuff I am sure happened to my great, great, etc granny, who I'm pretty sure was a Roman comfort woman. Now can we fill five minutes with some spokesperson and critics hauled off the BBC rentamouth crowd to chew on this, please? And anyone who says I can't is a racist, and I demand compo!



The percent you can claim back via tax credits (minus admin costs of an army of pen-pushers with only one personal voting option to stay employed by those who created them) to compensate for what you've had taken directly in tax - a long way shy of a 100, Jimmy!

Taking a private jet to go to an enviro awards ceremony or media opp - worth every tonne, especially if Bono can hitch his hat a ride.

Telling your customers that what's in your product isn't quite what they may actually find - £70k

Taking a bit of distant history and turning it into a divisive conflict tournament for a few days - loadsaratings!

The trust the people now have in government, activists, spokespersons, business... and the media that is meant to keep us informed objectively on their activities - er.... less.

A whole lot less.

ADDENDUM: I was rebutted -


Well one bit out of a few is not too bad! Better than none!

I don't think we are disagreeing too much at all on anything, even what the problems are. But I'm afraid I must offer the opinion that your reply rather makes my point.

I have worked my whole life in media communications. One lesson I learned early on was when we were pitching and my boss said to a client ''I'm afraid you are not understanding my point", to which the client replied: '"And I'm afraid you are not making it clearly enough for me to be persuaded by it. Oh, and I'm the one you want to pay for the consequences of your proposal'.

I would dispute the word wilful totally, but for the purposes of brevity I summarised my feelings, which stand. Without reference to the archive it's hard to get into detail, but that's how it came across ... to me. And another, sad fact of our sound-bite culture. Who has time for the full story... 'when that's all we have time for'.

Be assured, I am keen for most, if not all, of Mr. Gore's views to prevail. But I concern myself that the messenger, and not the message, is at the fore, and there may be some flaws to this that outweigh any earlier gains in 'awareness'.

It is a fundamental aspect of the fight to win hearts and minds, to effect what I see as necessary changes to lifestyles to redirect our futures in a better environmental direction.

I am not telling you you are wrong in your data. How can I? I don't know yet what is fact and what is not. I am simply sharing how I feel. Yet your response has been that I am wrong and it seems I must now change to your way. I'm sorry, but my first instinct is to push back even harder.

I have lived through but been too badly burned by too many flame wars between big-oil-funded deniers and rabid eco-fascists (the only 'camps' that seem to get featured, and hence dominate any public media outlet) to feel like getting into the global warming 'debate' any more, as both can only seemingly operate in the most didactic manner. For the few paras you lob in here I can point you at scores of blog pages that have run to hundreds of posts, pro and con. We seem no further ahead.

For professional reasons I try a lot more than most to understand the problem, to be objective in seeking and sharing the solutions. Many do not have the time or inclination to do so. And they are 'our' audience to convince. If it is all so obvious, how has this failed to happen yet? Are you saying that the masses can't understand, and so don't know what's good for them?
We're getting to points where people are being asked to cut back, and if they are being asked to do so by those who reserve the right not to, or who will suffer in relative terms much less, we are entering eco-farming territory Mr. Orwell would recognise.

Ask the average person in the street what they think of the global warming issue, and I'll be interested in who cites the IPCC report, and who mentions the GGWS, both of which are used by various media to bash on their agendas. And you surely can't be saying that the BBC is not sympathetic to the notions in support of man's influence? But equally it is rather telling that you seem to require that only what you agree with gets shared. Allow debate to take place, and counter in ways that people can understand... and respond to.

I simply feel that those who think they know better then the rest of us are in danger of being more worried about being proved right, than seeing anything right get done by the best folk for the job.


All concerned have a passion that is to be applauded, and some... levels of conviction that are to be envied.

It could however be wished that such knowledge and desires to share are matched with an equal ability to convince, otherwise we are in danger of spinning in one place.

Sadly, it would appear that I suffer from a similar inability to get some to see my key point, which I must accept as a failing on my part. At least I hope I am not using the basis of my facts being the only facts that are valid, as can happen, and would rather deal in what seems to come across more by the evidence of my of my own eyes as I look out the window, and then witnessing what gets traded in blogs such as this.

The thing is, we are usually not debating from opposing sides, or even trying to effect a compromise between differing views.

So I end up agreeing with most of what people believe in and seek to share, if it's what's best for our kids' futures.

I simply question how effective such belief alone often is in effecting the necessary changes in the optimum timescales.

Applying highly simplistic tags to a very complex issue, the 'deniers' have a huge advantage.

They are basically saying 'There's nothing wrong. Or if there is it's not down to us. Or if it was/is there's little we can do now to change it. So just chill out as you warm up, keep on doing what comes naturally and partayyyyy!'

Those who take a different view, including myself, would beg to differ. Speaking personally, I don't really yet pretend to know with certainty whether what we are experiencing is as a result of a climatological natural phenomenon or not, but the visible influences are looking tangible, rather frequent and moving a lot faster than a geological timescale.

Hence I'm operating on the basis that whatever man is doing, we may not be helping. And hence it might be as well to check our headlong rush into potential oblivion.

Which brings us to scale. Do we 'cut back a bit'? Do we stop? Do we reverse? All involve compromise, which to a race with competitive cultures which have evolved into growing economies, is not going to be easy to manage.

So far, I don't think the problem has been sold very well, very consistently or at all convincingly. And with very few solutions that make sense or simply smack of bandwagon jumping. And while there are many sincere folk doing their best to share their messages, and doing so in an inspiring way and with best of practices and personal examples... too many are not.

As it stands, I regret that I think the 'my way or no way' style of persuasion stands a polar bear on a shrinking ice flow's chance of getting Joe Blow out of his aircon car, Fiesta family into a Prius, any Isligtonistas off their ski trip this Easter, or me to concede its OK to just talk loudly without being too concerned whether the message is being received, understood or being acted upon.

A bit like a Brit on holiday abroad. 'Silly foreigners don't see how obvious what I'm saying is'.

Good luck. Over and out.


Anonymous said...

BACKGROUND OF 'COMFORT WOMEN' ISSUE / Kono's statement on 'comfort women' created misunderstanding

Peter said...

Wow! Fancy picking up on what was a very small part of a very big piece with many facets.

Anyway, thank you for a valuable link to some further background on the issue of comfort women in WWII.

It does raise a question in mind as to when it is acceptable to say 'that was then'. Especially when the matter of apologies and/or reparations comes up.

Personally, I am of the view that if anyone is still alive that did something outside of a legally or morally forgiveable international frame, they should be held to account. Justice, but not money, should prevail. And it's all a bit easy to say 'sorry' these days.

But as we are talking of the Japanese prompted by group responsibility for slavery, on a related point I was not too keen on the strategy adopted by the UK authorities, possibly with the support of the Japanese police, of telling the nation the actions of a lone looney in killing a Western girl had bought shame upon them all.

That seemed a very dodgy bag 'o worms to start as a precedent.