Standing alone on the bridge.
It’s at this time of year I run or at least have some fun pretending to manage the Climate Prat of the Year award. It’s become a chance for everyone to have a good laugh at the excesses of assorted climate maniacs. As far as I know, it’s the only award voted on and decided by the skeptic posse.
There’s a light, anarchic feel to it as people have gotten into the swing of it. It’s the sort of asymmetrical, contrarian, out of left field move I’m partial to. Instead of solemnly presenting a fellow skeptic with an award, we present an alarmist with one. Instead of coming with a tidy bit of bunce as a reward, it comes with absolutely nothing but shame and ignominy. Instead of winning recognition as a righteous ecowarrior, you get it for being a complete climate prat.
Like all skeptic bloggers, I don’t have the advantages of fat, well-heeled sponsors, generous grants, a bulging war chest or support staff – there’s only poor old me on my ownsome but I like to think I’m kinda cute. Sure, a little bit ditzy at times, but still kinda cute in a winsome way.
Anyway, all those missing advantages are just tangible resources and in the tradition of always working with what you’ve actually got to hand, which in our case is nothing much of anything, the Pratties deploys an intangible but deadly weapon only we seem to possess – a sense of humour.
I really like reading the witty and sometimes heartfelt comments posted by the readers during the competition and enjoy writing the two blog pieces it necessarily entails; the kickoff and final result articles. I say enjoy writing them because in my experience of all the different types of article you can write, humour is by far and away the toughest. Imagination, content, cadence, delivery – all have to be perfect and one clunky word in the wrong position can derail a whole paragraph.
It’s an unforgiving gig. You either make them laugh or you don’t, it takes to the air and flies or it crashes to the ground and burns. A string of strained, polite titters eventually trailing off into silence is a disaster. I wouldn’t be unique in that opinion. Witness the number of heavyweight straight actors who will always point out the comedian they love, admire and usually can’t wait to do an imitation of them at the drop of a hat.
You can strut around the stage doing your best Prince of Denmark effort and people afterward having an after theatre off Shaftesbury avenue meal can have a good meaty discussion of whether it was brilliant or not and there are lots of places for your ego to hide, but stand up on stage before hundreds of people trying to make them laugh and running the risk of being greeted by nothing but complete silence is only for the truly brave. You succeeded or you didn’t – and it all happens that very moment in public and under the glare of the spotlight.
The Pratties came about at the end of what was not a good year for skeptics but should have been a better one, and you could sense it in the blogosphere in the run up to that Christmas.
To digress, I once watched an interview of an elderly gentleman who was a USMC veteran of the battle for the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific. What was supposed to be a few week’s easy rollup of the Japanese garrison became three months of pure hell on Earth. He told a story about sitting down with his exhausted comrades, leaning with their backs against the side of a stone causeway. All of a sudden, a Japanese soldier appeared out of nowhere atop of it and suicided by pulling the pin on a grenade he was clutching to his stomach.
It blew him in two and the trousers off the bottom half, which spun up into the air and landed naked arse up hanging over the knees of a terrified marine. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, am I that badly hit?” he screamed in horror, staring at what he thought was his own ass just inches from his nose.
For the next ten minutes, a whole squad of US marines were what’s termed combat ineffective as they laughed uncontrollably in the midst of what was arguably the most brutal battle of the whole Pacific campaign.
That’s the practical value of humour and in a milder but equivalent sense, the origin of the Pratties. Sometimes when things are pretty grim, we really just need a laugh, no matter whether it’s rough, silly or even perhaps tasteless.
Scanning through a year’s worth of this and other blogs for some prats I could have some fun with in the kickoff article, I couldn’t help but notice it’s been an unusually vicious year if you were even a mild-mannered warmist working in the field, never mind a full-blown skeptic. The monster is slowly expiring but in a lot of ways, we’ve moved well into the anger phase of its spiral down to political extinction.
A lot of people have been ganged up on by anonymous cabals of nothing more than vicious thugs hiding safely in supposedly respectable organisations. People have lost posts, tenure, jobs and even been forced out of climate research altogether. As I read through it all, it made me progressively more angry and the thought occurred that instead of the Pratties, I should be running the Climate Bastard of the Year award.
On reflection, that wouldn’t be a good idea at this time, because by automatically but understandably coming out in support of the victims of the aforesaid bastards, we are actually intensifying the pressure on them and without their permission. The very real danger for them is that they become a football kicked around in the no-man’s-land of the climate wars for a week or two with consequences that last a lot longer than that. Of course, some of these McCarthyite purges of climate science become public knowledge and are therefore eligible for fair comment by the skeptic community.
Even then, I believe skeptic commentary should bear in mind that we are dealing with what is essentially a fundamentalist creed and woe betide any individual showing even the smallest divergence from any of its central tenets, especially if they become a cause célèbre for the skeptic blogosphere. The alarmists are a venal and unforgiving bunch. If the individual gives us the nod, I’ll be riding to their support with the rest of the cavalry, but apart from open scandals, that’s the only time I saddle up in such events.
At the end of the day, we are actually dealing with someone’s career and livelihood, and have no innate right to ride roughshod through that for our own purposes. We’re better than that and should have the forbearance to leave that arrogant level of violent intolerance to the alarmists.
After a couple of decades in the fight, we’ve hung on in through the bad old days and are not just still in it, but are finally gaining substantial ground. We’ve got some real rather than cardboard heroes in our ranks. Pick a reputation you like or a person; Lindzen, Moore, Steyn, Vahrenholt, Ridley, Soon, Montford, Curry, Bellamy, Nova, Dyson, Watts, Bengtsson and Verdier, to name but a few. In the case of Verdier, there does seem to be some push back by ordinary people in reaction to his dismissal, which is actually overshadowing the coverage of COP21 in the French media.
Mostly, they’ve all been long ago excommunicated by the church of climatology and are being shunned by the church elders. They each fall somewhere along the spectrum of doubt in the absolute teachings of the one true church, but such nuances of dissent are irrelevant to the latter-day Torquemadas of the climate inquisition – they’ve all been branded heretics and are treated accordingly by the church.
I do not agree with all of their positions on various issues nor sometimes with the efficacy of their suggested ways forward. Those are merely differences of degree but what is beyond doubt is that they’ve all put their head above the parapet and attracted some ferocious fire. One way or another, they’ve all paid a price in career, grants, money, advancement and social exclusion from what used to be some of their peer groupings. All that damage, and for no substantial benefit.
As always, the real question to ask is why.
Dependent on their chosen field of endeavour, I’m sure you’d get slightly different answers but I think the common reason is a refusal to accept on nothing more than faith things which they can plainly see are nonsense. Individually, they might believe in saints and angels, the tooth fairy, Father Christmas and love at first sight, but when it comes to their discipline, a very definite line is drawn between how you’d like things to work and how they actually do. They cannot swallow what amounts to dogma that runs against the facts, no matter how popular it is with the madding crowd.
Simply insisting something is true in the face of evidence to the contrary will not make it so. Neither will bullying, but intimidating dissenters into silence is the acceptable fall back position of alarmists, but some people refuse to be cowed.
They won’t recant and they simply won’t go away.
You have to pay respect to such people for not only refusing to compromise the integrity of their profession, but also for being prepared to stand up in public and endure the outrageous slings and arrows of some powerful and pretty vile individuals. They are a select band, a band of brothers and sisters.
Much as I value them, there is another and much bigger group out there, who are not what could be termed celebrity skeptics, and they are my personal heroes. I know them and move among them keeping my peace.
They have even less of a support network, if any at all, and yet they resist. Their names are not known and probably never will be, their battles are ones of silent fortitude against overwhelming odds and commence every morning at the start of each working day. They can’t win, they know that, but they resist anyway as they’re slowly driven backwards.
They are akin to lone warriors holding back the armies of unreason by finding choke points to slow it down. A narrow pass, the only fordable point on a great river or the only bridge over a deep chasm. They stand and fight a delaying action for as long as possible against the advancing hordes before being forced to make the necessary retreat back to their next position.
The abiding hope they have is that somewhere behind them, time is being bought to form an army of reason which is capable of taking on the barbarian hordes.
They are the warriors without a name, who every day make a solitary stand on a bridge somewhere.
There’s nobody out there running a Climate Hero of the Year award, and there should be, but in the absence of it, this article is an acknowledgement of you.
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