Maurizio Morabito put my first internet article up on his blog three years ago. Tony Newbery put the next seven up at Harmless Sky. (links are on the first post on this blog: “I’ve got a Blog”).
I’ve never met either. A planned meeting with Maurizio was missed when snow screwed up my Christmas visit to England, and a meeting with Tony fell through when his car broke down in the Pyrenees.
I missed the great moment last night when Maurizio revealed The List, but I’ve been following the story closely since. If you haven’t, then get over to http://omnologos.com/full-list-of-participants-to-the-bbc-cmep-seminar-on-26-january-2006/
or follow it at
It’s significant for a lot of reasons. First, simply, it’s a scoop. So were Climategates 1 and 2, and so was the Gleick affair and the SkepticalScience internal email leak. All five affairs gave us sceptics the same liberating feeling of having our suspicions confirmed. We weren’t a bunch of paranoid conspiracy theorists after all: they really were up to just what we thought they were up to – and worse.
Secondly, it’s a scoop unlike the other four, which more or less fell into the laps of the happy recipients. Note that Maurizio called it his second-best scoop. His other one was the discovery of a CIA document confirming what warmists have long denied: that the 1970s Global Cooling Scare was taken seriously at the highest reaches of government.
Both Maurizio’s scoops were the result of his hard slog. No-one asked him to go ferreting round the British Library in search of the CIA document. No-one asked him to spend those hours searching the Wayback machine for the List of BBC climate “experts”. He explained in a throwaway comment at Bishop Hill what made him do it: “I wouldn’t have looked so damned hard had the BBC not fielded six lawyers against a pensioner.”
Which brings us to Tony Newbery, who had devoted Gaia knows how much time and energy to his Freedom of Information application, and the appeal before a tribunal when it was refused, and who seemed, just yesterday, to have reached a dead end. One short article by Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph and a lot of sympathy on sceptic blogs was all he seemed to have gained for his efforts.
Tony and Maurizio will probably have much more to say on this subject, and it will be much more interesting than anything that I can add. My function as a humble footblogger in the sceptic camp has always been that of a facilitator, suggesting things: “Have a look at this”; “Go and comment on that”. It seems so trivial, but sometimes you find that you have an effect.
One of TonyN’s best campaigns was over the government’s “fairy story” TV ad campaign to raise awareness of climate change. Commenters at Harmless Sky and other blogs wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority to complain, and the ad was the most criticised of the year, receiving 900 complaints. 900 may not seem much in a democracy of 60 million inhabitants, but it was enough to get a campaign withdrawn. And it’s almost certain that readers of sceptic blogs like Harmless Sky were a significant proportion of the plaignants. It wasn’t in any way an organised campaign, but the simple fact of consulting with likeminded souls on a blog thread certainly helped us to hone our arguments.
I added a comment to Maurizio’s comment about wanting to help out a pensioner who’d had to face up to six BBC lawyers: “It’s being so disorganised and unfunded what makes us so effective!” And I mean it.
Which isn’t to say that I’m against organised action. Simply that, at this stage of the struggle (and one must call it a struggle, since we’ve been refused all possibility of a rational debate) the sometimes apparently quixotic efforts of determined individuals can have surprising results. This is a subject I’ll be coming back to again and again and again. How a movement develops. It’s what I find fascinating about the sceptic position. If the last polar bear dies of heat stroke on the last Arctic ice floe tomorrow, I’ll still be here, discussing strategy for furthering the sceptic argument.
In the meantime, I’ve been neglecting the Adventures of Moonbat and Apocalypse Close.
I ask you, how can one write a satirical account of a global warming seminar after today? Still, I’ll try.
I guess now we know why poor old Tom Lehrer went back to teaching maths when Kissinger won the peace prize.
George has had a bit of explaining to do with respect to some ill-judged comments he has made recently. Despite his obvious embarrasment I am still looking forward to reading his further adventures.
I didn’t know that. I thought Tom Lehrer alternated between teaching at Harvard and being interned in mental hospitals (when he wasn’t performing, of course).
It’s very gratifying how this blog attracts readers with the same unfashionable tastes as myself.
George always has explaining to do. There’s something wrong with a press when one of its foremost investigative reporters spends most of his time explaining his position. He’s supposed to find out things, not take up positions.
I do remember that about Lehrer and Kissinger. Chimed in with my very confused feelings at the time as a teenager, though only learned about much later.
Geoff, I came on to say hi and that I was very interested in your comment about Tom Sowell on BH yesterday. I put my brother onto the ‘sage of Palo Alto’ a while back and he’s become a voracious, not completely uncritical reader of the guy. I’d be interested in any reflections, coming from where you do. I won’t burden you with mine. Not for now anyhow.
Don’t be too hard on Mumsbott, you might make him break down and cry. Apocollapse.
Thank you Geoff. It looks like you’ve been spying my every move 😎
Nice to find somebody who understands.
I’m still trying to catch up, and probably about a week behind the fair.
Maurizio’s angst about the BBC fielding a legal team of six against a pensioner who lives on mountaintop in wild, wild, Wales is understandable and much appreciated, by me at least. It really does sound like an extreme form of bullying, but perhaps things were not quite like that.
To begin with, I made the BBC team about eleven strong at the start of the hearing, including the two witnesses: Helen Boaden and Francis Wiel. Six were easily identifiable as lawyers, but how many of the others were security types or bag carriers, rather than lawyers, it was impossible to tell. It is pretty certain from what I know of other cases that the BBC don’t usually field forces on this scale in Information Tribunal cases.
While the case is still ‘live’, to the extent that the 28-day appeal period has not expired, there is a limit to what I am prepared to say about the proceedings, but I think I can go this far. I take the large legal team, whatever the final headcount was, as a complement, and there was a very noticeable escalation in the BBC’s efforts after I submitted my skeleton arguments a week before the hearing. These really did, and still do, look pretty persuasive.
It seems at least possible that the big battalions reflected fear of defeat by a blogging pensioner from a moutaintop in Wales representing himself. I quite like that idea.
Yes Tony – nobody behaves irrationally. If they came out with the tanks and machine guns, it means they thought they had to come out with the tanks and machine guns. Your arguments definitely scared them silly. And I am not even mentioning the strange set of characters who were there in judicial roles.
But whatever their reasons, the BBC going out with bataillon remains a form of bullying – if only because everybody trying FOI after you would have had full knowledge that the bataillon would be deployed and therefore would have likely been intimidated in not even attempting.
Of course I’m not suggesting that my forensic skills were equal, let alone superior, to those of the team fielded by the BBC. More that they realised that there was a risk of loosing to a sucker punch. As I’ve explained elsewhere, I can’t go into the legal issues at the moment, but it would seem that the Supreme Court’s judgement in Steven Sugar’s case has opened up new grounds for challenging the BBC’s ‘business as usual’ attitude to FOIA. It just might have worked, and I’ll explain why as soon as I can.
Please can you edit out the repeated final sentence in my comment above. Don’t know how it crept in there.
[GC – done]
Tony – look at the timeline. You requested the list of names before it was put up on the net by the IBT. It was then removed long after the first BBC refusal.
Then the link to it was left for five years for me to find. Whoever removed the document and whoever asked for it to be removed never ever said a peep to the lawyers I suspect, and none of the lawyers ever asked if there’d been any publication of the list even by mistake.
I would be forgiven to think your legal prowess all in all surpasses anything the BBC threw at you. Their Silly Secrecy Department has been their demise.
I would be very interested to know what you have found out about the timeline and also the names of the documents you found. In Sept 2008 I downloaded a pdf from the ITA site. It had only three pages describing Real World seminars in genera terms – no lists of participants. So far as I remember, I did not know about the IBT’s involvement until then.
At one point in the proceedings I was asked by one of the two lay judges whether I knew the names of the participants, but this was in connection with the description of the seminar Richard D North very kindly provided.
Tony – your first request was from Spring or Fall 2007, right? The document I recovered was written after 13 Jul 2007, the last date mentioned in the file. It was also written before 8 Nov 2007, when Wayback Machine took a snapshot of it. Finally its properties mention 9 Sep 2007 as creation date.
As for the day it disappeared, commenter Gareth at my blog has already noted the IBT page started sporting a link to a shorter name-free document in July 2008. The properties of that new PDF file indicate a creation date of 30 Jul 2008.
On what date did the BBC first refuse your request?
A chronology showing the various stages of my request, the comiplaint to the ICO, and the appeal to the IT might be quite interesting now. I’ll try to do this before the end of today.