Classics of English Literature (1): James Delingpole’s “Watermelons”.

I like Delingpole. He makes me laugh. I like him too for the same reason I like Monbiot: he’s read lots of stuff I haven’t, which saves me the trouble, and he’s good at drawing interesting conclusions and laying them out in an entertaining way.

There the resemblance ends. Monbiot has a fierce belief in social justice. Delingpole has an equally fierce belief in freedom and property rights. If there were just a few dozen more intelligent, well-informed people in Britain with an equally fierce belief in something, we could found a political system based on the ensuing debate. We could call one side “socialist” and the other side “conservative” and the  ensuing system “democracy”. But there aren’t, so we can’t, and we’ll just have to make do with Cameron-Clegg versus Miliband.

There’s another difference between Delingpole and Monbiot. Delingpole the humorous writer knows a tragic farce when he sees one. He knows that catastrophic man-made global warming is a dangerous joke. Monbiot the investigative journalist knows that people lie. But Monbiot the green activist knows that activism is like cycling (and recycling); you have to keep pedalling (and peddling) if you don’t want to fall off.

Monbiot the investigative journalist knew as soon as he glanced at the Climategate emails that  Professor Jones was a lying fool, and he said as much in the Guardian. Then the environmentalist changed his mind and apologised. The investigative journalist must have wondered how a railway engineer became first a millionaire, then a leading climate scientist. The environmentalist knew that Pachauri’s financial deals were above reproach, because Pachauri’s accountant said so.

Because of his irrational belief in catastrophic global warming, Monbiot ceased being an investigative journalist. Because he saw through this nonsense, the comic writer Delingpole became one.

I’ve just been reading Delingpole’s “Watermelons”, squeezed in between Isaiah Berlin’s biography of Karl Marx, and “The Coast of Utopia”, Tom Stoppard’s trilogy of plays about the nineteenth century revolutionaries who did so much to shape our world. It’s a bit unfair to compare our Dellers with Sir Isaiah and Sir Tom, but if you’re going to expound a thesis, you have to be prepared to defend it against opposing arguments. And if those arguments come from two of the most brilliant writers in Britain over the last century, well – tough.

“Watermelons” is a book well worth reading. Even someone like me who’s been obsessed with the global warming saga for several years can learn something. Delingpole is generous in his acknowledgements to other writers like Christopher Booker and Richard North who cover the story with more seriousness and thoroughness. But if you’re new to this complex saga, I’d guess that Dellers’ is the one to start with.

His argument has three components:

First: the argument for catastrophic man-made global warming has been exaggerated far beyond anything justified by the science. You don’t need to be a scientist to understand that. You don’t even need to be able to decipher words more complicated than “up” and “down”. Just look at some graphs. Atmospheric CO2 started shooting up in the fifties, as soon as we started measuring it accurately. Average global atmospheric temperatures have been zigzagging around on a vaguely upward trend for a couple of centuries. Anyone who claims to be able to detect a causal relation therein is a fool or a charlatan. And that includes Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society.

[Delingpole mentions the interview which Sir Paul conducted with him at his house, in which he used his (Delingpole’s) hesitation when faced with an infantile question to demonstrate the existence of global warming. Delingpole is far too polite in his description of the event. Nurse, temporary presenter of “Horizon”, the BBC’s flagship science programme, in the absence of any evidence, used the most despicable methods of gutter journalism in order to prove his point. Nurse is an idiot who couldn’t hold a job as a cub reporter on the kind of free newspaper you wouldn’t wrap your chips in. (He is also a Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society.)]

[But I digress (and I’m running out of brackets) - here in France - far from the reach of British libel laws.]

Secondly: the current obsession with the utterly fantastic theory of catastrophic man-made global warming has its roots in a conspiracy (the word is not too strong) to foster a system of global governance on the world. This is the strongest part of the book, as long as one understands “conspiracy” in the sense – not of a dozen masked plotters sitting round a table – but  of a movement evolving slowly over decades in obedience to obscure and little-understood social forces. Nonetheless, the key actors can be identified: the UN; the EU; the Club of Rome; the US environmental movement which grew around figures like Paul Ehrlich and Barry Commoner; and also such eminences grises as Maurice Strong and  Sir John Houghton, key advisers to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Which brings us to the third and main thesis of the book – the Watermelon Theory – according to which environmentalists are closet Marxists  – green on the outside and red inside.

Delingpole dissolves his own theory into incoherence by using the terms “socialist” “Marxist” and “Eco-fascist” indiscriminately – sometimes on the same page. The only sustained political analysis of the similarities of  the green movement with other political tendencies is contained in three pages of analysis of – National Socialism.

OK, there’s the word “socialism” in the name of the Nazi party, but “brown on the outside, green on the inside” doesn’t conjure up anything that would make a handy title for a book. “Kiwi Fruit” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. It’s plain that the so-called Watermelon theory  is little more than a marketing gambit, probably aimed at the US market.

We can forgive Delingpole this analytic inexactitude when we consider that no-one in the academic world is making the slightest effort to do what he and a tiny number of climate sceptics are attempting – namely, to find an explanation for the inexplicable. Comparisons of environmentalism to religions and ideologies are common – banal even. We all do it, and we’re all partly right in some aspect or other of our comparisons. But analysing worldwide movements which aim at nothing less than changing humanity is, in the immortal words of The Onion, really hard. We need really clever people to help us do it – people like philosophers, historians, and above all sociologists.

The normal image we have of sociologists is of bearded lefties who are wheeled into TV studios from time to time to say something nice about serial rapists or welfare scroungers, in order to counterbalance the views of common sense.

But it was not always so. Sociology evolved slowly throughout the nineteenth century, partly in reaction to Marx’s economic theories of society. Its originators were German philosophers steeped in Hegel, British philosophers like John Stuart Mill steeped in British empiricism, eccentric intellectuals like the French aristocrat de Tocqueville or the Scottish classics professor James Frazer. They were wildly disparate in their beliefs, methods and interests, and it was only the long slow process of  the bureaucratisation of education (a process analysed by the German sociologist Max Weber) that led to the modern image of the social scientist as a bearded university lecturer of either sex with a clipboard and a Greenpeace badge.

And therein lies the problem. Those whose job it is to analyse the problem are themselves part of the problem. The environmentalist movement is anchored in the very stratum of society – the university-educated chattering classes, or “opinionocracy” – whose job it is to analyse society.

Which is why the job of analysing environmentalism – the most pervasive intellectual force in post-war Western society (that’s their own view by the way, as laid out in Paul Ehrlich’s account of the “New Environmental Paradigm”) falls to a buffoon like James Delingpole.

And to you and me, of course. We can all do our bit.

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14 Responses to Classics of English Literature (1): James Delingpole’s “Watermelons”.

  1. Good and fair review. Enjoyed reading it.
    I hope (and believe) that James is mature enough – and well enough versed in the origins of the word – not to bridle at ‘buffoon’.
    I read Watermelons a few months ago, having procrastinated in the belief that it would tell me little new and therefore be merely a self-indulgent (the ‘self’ being me) guffaw-fest. Like you I found the strongest part of the book the second factor as listed by you. How the existence of Agenda 21 had passed me by remains a mystery to me, though I have been busy catching up ever since.
    I am less concerned than you over perceived confusion in your third factor. I have virtually dispensed with left/right concepts in the creeping belief that they are a distraction (the tribal puerility of PMQ is an example). There is surely more than the inclusion of the word ‘socialist’ to argue the leftist tendency of Nazism. For instance any administration that fosters the development of something called the ‘People’s Car’ has leftist credentials. But this debate muddies what today seems to be the main political conflict. There are the top-downists and there are the collective-intelligencists. Agenda 21 is clearly espoused by the former camp, and it is statism, corporatism and any sort of Orwellian social control ‘ism’ that is the enemy. For centuries The Church provided the engine, but recently its influence has faded so much that CAGW neatly filled the vacuum..
    It is hugely difficult to find any other explanation (except money) for the collective lunacy that gripped the world.

  2. tallbloke says:

    Top banana Geoff. I’m reblogging this at the Talkshop, libel and all. If Sir Paul feels like taking it to court, I’ll happily call some expert witnesses to debunk his Horizon bollox.

  3. tallbloke says:

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Without further comment…

  4. mitigatedsceptic says:

    Sir Paul seems not to have read the motto of the Royal Society the meaning of which is affirmed on tis web site – “The Royal Society’s motto ‘Nullius in verba’ roughly translates as ‘take nobody’s word for it’. It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.”

  5. psychopigeon says:

    I read the book and it’s quite enjoyable, nothing new though, anyone who’s studied the ever growing presence of the state has an idea of what is going on and understands this whole ‘green’ movement is anything but a power grab. I just hope there’s enough critical thinkers to get us out of it

  6. hro001 says:

    Geoff, I, too enjoyed Dellers’ Watermelons – which I found to be written with his customary “makes me smile and often LOL” irreverence!

    But in the interest of truth in posting, I must point out that a minor correction in your (excellent) piece is required. You speak of:

    … such eminences grises as Sir Maurice Strong…

    Strong has received many awards and honours (whether deservedly or not), but knighthood is not one of them!

    As for the insidiousness of Agenda 21 [and the concomitant introduction of the all-encompassing feel-good "sustainable development" and "sustainability"], I had resisted writing about it for quite some time. Primarily because even the mention of Agenda 21 could lead one to be labelled – and quickly dismissed – as a “conspiracy nut”.

    But the plethora of papers being pushed prior to Rio+20 brought this previously unmentionable elephant (concocted in large part by Strong & Brundtland) out of the shadows. Not fully, however: the Rio+20 “Outcome Document” [aka The Future (we don't) Want] gave it a mere 12 mentions (compared to 400 for sustainable/sustainability).

    I’ve often wondered how many of the 300+ pages of Agenda 21 were actually read and comprehended by the delegates who – in effect – agreed to sign away their respective countries’ sovereignty to the bureaucrats of the UN. As I had commented, last March:

    Agenda 21, so we’re told, was adopted by all the nations of the world 20 years ago in Rio at the first “Earth Summit”. Reading through the bromides and bureaucratese in this document is enough to make one fall asleep – which may well have been the intent when it was written :-)

    Hilary [hoping that WordPress has fixed the problem whereby my comments on other WP blogs disappear - sometimes to be rescued from a spamtrap, and other times never to be seen again]

  7. Brian the Rhetor
    The question of whether the concepts of left and right are a distraction is one which deserves an article of its own. I get the impression it’s mostly people I would identify as being “of the right” who want to abolish them, which makes me think: “What has the left got that the right wants to claim as its own?” But I agree entirely about top-down versus collective intelligence.
    “Bouffon” in French has the non-pejorative sense of “court jester”. One of the perils of living between two languages is that you forget the subtle differences.

    Tallbloke
    Many thanks. That’s done wonders for my hit rate. I once offered at your blog to do some transcribing of old texts not available digitally. As you can see, I’ve found other ways to waste my time.

    Hilary
    Thanks for the correction. Sir Maurice has been deknighted. I keep promising myself I’ll look further into Agenda 21, sustainability and UNEP. Happily, lots of others are doing so, which is a good example of Brian’s “collective intelligence” in action.

  8. OzWizard says:

    The ‘graphical’ representation I find most politically informative does not run from ‘left’ to ‘right’ or from ‘liberal’ to ‘conservative’, or republican’ to ‘democrat’, etc. but from ‘control-seeking’ (CS) to ‘freedom-promoting’ (FP). ‘Left’ and ‘right’ just don’t cut it, analytically, for scientific assessment. Both trerms carry too much unspecified ideological baggage.

    In my reference frame, parties of both ‘left’ and ‘right’ persuasion (so-called) can be rated much more objectively. Few parties today seem keen on moving from the CS side of the origin towards the FP side of the chart.

    Up to two other orthogonal axes can be superimposed on this basic axis fairly easily, to rate parties on any other performance criteria you find helpful, e.g. their propensity for ‘honesty’ vs ‘dishonesty’ or their ‘observed predilections towards spending/saving, creating/destroying, etc.’.

    There is no reason why you can’t also score individual ‘policies’ of various parties in a similar way.

  9. Paul Matthews says:

    Another nice post Geoff. I like the idea that if there were people who believed in principles then we could have a political debate. In fact I may have said something like that myself recently.

    I think it’s important not to take JD too seriously. Clearly when he talks of eco-fascists and Marxists his terminology is not precise. One of his strengths is that his opponents never know when he is being serious and when he is playing the fool, so they find him hard to deal with.

    To be fair to the sociologists, I think some of them are aware that they are a bunch of lefty activists, while others are aware that they are seen that way (eg Bell and Corner).

    Ozwizard, there is a website called politicalcompass.org that gives you a quiz and then puts you on a 2D chart showing left/right and CS/FP (they call it Authoritarian/Libertarian). Don’t take too much notice of its results though. It says that I am am a left libertarian (huh?) and that Ed Miliband is well to the right (huh?)

  10. Paul Matthews says:

    The ‘buffoon’ just tweeted his approval:

    James Delingpole ‏@JamesDelingpole
    Why it fell to a “buffoon” to take on the environmentalists. Insightful, must-read review of Watermelons http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/classics-of-english-literature-1-james-delingpoles-watermelons/

  11. Paul Matthews
    Thanks for the tip about Dellers. I don’t do Twitter, so I’d be grateful for news of any follow up.
    I did the Political Compass test, which I thought was pretty fair, though necessarily plagued by cultural preconceptions. What seemed daringly libertarian in the USA circa 1980 seems pretty old hat here in the foothills of the Pyrenees in – where are we now? (well, it always did).
    I was left libertarian too – a bit further out than Mahatma Gandhi, which surprised me, since I claim to be rather Old Labour statist.
    Know Thyself – tick a box.

  12. Fragmeister says:

    [Delingpole mentions the interview which Sir Paul conducted with him at his house, in which he used his (Delingpole’s) hesitation when faced with an infantile question to demonstrate the existence of global warming. Delingpole is far too polite in his description of the event. Nurse, temporary presenter of “Horizon”, the BBC’s flagship science programme, in the absence of any evidence, used the most despicable methods of gutter journalism in order to prove his point. Nurse is an idiot who couldn’t hold a job as a cub reporter on the kind of free newspaper you wouldn’t wrap your chips in. (He is also a Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society.)]

    Not sure if you’ve seen the clip. It’s easily found on YouTube. The question wasn’t to demonstrate the existence of global warming – it was a question about consensus in science. Delingpole couldn’t answer it because it check mate. He might be able to comment on the politics but on the science he is totally at a loss.

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