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.