From the Scrapbook
Oct 18, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 05 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Global warming activists are famously impatient with critics who question either the solidity of the scientific case for climate alarmism or the policy prescriptions of the alarmists. “The time for debate is over” is their rallying cry. Not that they were ever big on debate to begin with. Anyone who read Al Gore’s 1992 schlockbuster Earth in the Balance will remember that it was long on apocalypticism and short on the arts of persuasion.
So what comes after the time for debate? Apparently, the time for agitprop. Last week, the 10:10 campaign, a British-based group that aims for “voluntary” 10 percent reductions in carbon emissions every year beginning this year, released a much-anticipated four-minute film. The group was launched a year ago by director Franny Armstrong, whose magnum opus was a 2009 climate-change documentary bearing the prescient title, The Age of Stupid.
The new short film, No Pressure, was a labor of love by a host of British celebrities and P.R. professionals. It was written by Richard Curtis (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, etc.), directed by “top advertising director Dougal Wilson,” with name actors donating their time, and Radiohead music for the soundtrack.
The good liberals at the Guardian ran a puff piece for “our friends at the 10:10 climate change campaign” heralding the release of the project, although even they wondered whether “detonating school kids, footballers and movie stars into gory pulp for ignoring their carbon footprints,” while certainly “attention-grabbing,” might risk “upsetting or alienating people.”
They were right to wonder. As their summary suggests, the film is a scandalously tasteless gorefest. In a saner world it would end the careers of all the professionals responsible for it. No Pressure opens in a middle-school classroom with a cheerful teacher asking her charges what they will be doing as part of the 10:10 campaign to cut their carbon emissions. She suggests “taking your next holiday by train instead of flying, or buying energy-saving lightbulbs” and asks for a show of hands. “No pressure at all, but it would be great to get a sense of how many of you might do this.” All but two raise their hands.
“And those not? Philip and Tracy, fine, that’s absolutely fine, your own choice. . . . Oh, just before you go, I just need to press this little button here.” The two laggards are thereupon blown to pieces, the classroom explodes in screams, Philip and Tracy’s blood and body parts rain down on the room. The teacher, cheerfully, sends the others on their way: “Now everybody please remember to read chapters five and six on volcanoes and glaciation—except for Philip and Tracy of course.”
Ha ha. “The joke”—for that is what its backers claim the film is, edgy humor—is then repeated at a business, a football field, and a recording studio. Total body count: seven dissidents.
The 10:10 campaign realized within hours that it had disastrously miscalculated and pulled the film. Franny Armstrong and her team put out one of those disingenuous non-apology apologies public figures specialize in nowadays: “Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and 10:10 would like to apologise to”—here comes the weasel phrase—“everybody who was offended by the film.”
As far as The Scrapbook can determine, no one except its makers, and perhaps a few friends and family and people on their payroll, found the film even slightly funny. What does shine through is the sinister fantasy life of people who are impatient with debate. Apparently nothing makes them chuckle like the thought of dispatching their opponents with extreme prejudice, children very much included.
That same misanthropic urge was also on display in a poster for an exhibit last year at Cannes. As Andrew Bolt of the Melbourne Herald-Sun pointed out last week, ACT Responsible, “a group of left-wing advertising executives,” succumbed to the same sick fantasy of “threatening children with death”—depicting a small girl with a noose around her neck on top of a melting iceberg.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported on October 4 that the National Science Foundation, an agency of the federal government, “has awarded a $700,000 grant to the Civilians, a New York theater company, to finance the production of a show about climate change” called The Great Immensity. The Times characterized this as “a rare gift to an arts organization” by the NSF, which normally funds research. That’s one way of putting it. And it’s a grant that will be worth remembering the next time you hear whining about a shortage of federal funds for scientific inquiry.
So much for the “time for debate.” When, The Scrapbook wonders, will the time for propaganda be over?
Hail the Redeemer
Well that didn’t take long: In March 2008, then-governor of New York Eliot Spitzer was finished. Ruined by a prostitution scandal, he stepped down in disgrace. Flash-forward to the present: Private citizen Eliot Spitzer is now a CNN commentator with his own show, Parker Spitzer, cohosted by sometimes conservative columnist Kathleen Parker.
The former governor, having laid low for two years, is clearly on the road to redemption. But in order to attain full absolution, Spitzer needed to make one more stop—a gut-wrenching, soul-searching, no-holds-barred interview, the likes of which we haven’t seen since David Frost interviewed Richard Nixon. Except this time the grill session was with David Gergen.
“You Learn More by Losing Than by Winning” is the enlightening title of Gergen’s hard-hitting column recently published in Parade magazine. In it, Spitzer opens up like he’s never opened up before. When Gergen asks how he’d like to be remembered, the man once known as Client No. 9 replies, “For trying with enormous passion to influence the course of the state and the nation toward a society that is progressive, based on opportunity, equality, fairness, and decency.” Yes, decency.
“Are you at peace now?” asks Gergen. (Excellent question.) “One never leaves behind the pain that one has caused to loved ones. Somewhere further down is the cost to career.” (What cost him his career was definitely something further down.) Has being in exile done him any good? (Warning: The following response may induce nausea.) “You learn more by losing than by winning. . . . It’s a cliché, but the moments that really matter are the ones with the kids.”
Then Gergen starts to drill the governor with questions like, “Have the last few years made you humbler, more forgiving?” Take a wild guess. “What do you say to Americans who have been watching failures in the corporate world and in politics?” our intrepid interviewer wonders.
“Our plutocracy has failed . . . ” We’ll spare you the rest of that answer. “How do we find our way back?” Gergen also wonders, as well as, “There must be things you wanted to do as governor.” Spitzer demurs, but goes on to tell us what he would have done as attorney general. (The answer is, lots.)
Finally, Gergen observes, “Martin Luther King Jr. biographer Taylor Branch once told me . . . ” Unfortunately, at that point The Scrapbook started having the dry heaves and had to discontinue reading.
The small community of Vinalhaven Island, Maine, is in an uproar about noise pollution—from the three giant wind turbines that were installed last year on the island as part of a $15 million wind energy facility. The New York Times reports that “the whoosh-and-whoop of the 123-foot blades” is making life unbearably noisy for those who live on the otherwise tranquil island. Though studies have shown that many of the rumored side effects of wind turbines are exaggerated or untrue—from physiological impacts like rapid heart beat and vision problems to lower property values near wind energy facilities—the folks in Vinalhaven and in other previously peaceful communities around the country have found that the noise pollution is worse than the old-fashioned pollution they were trying to fix. The Scrapbook understands that local birds are also not fans of the giant blades.
In related environmental news, The Scrapbook was relieved to hear that Frito-Lay has announced the return of their quieter, non-Earth-friendly SunChips bags after receiving complaints that their 100 percent compostable bag made from plant materials was just too noisy. USA Today reports that the company is continuing its “journey with compostable packaging,” according to Frito-Lay spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez. But for now, the environmentally conscious crowd will have to learn to keep it down, while the rest of us quietly munch our not-so-green Harvest Cheddar chips in peace.
‘Six People Report Feeling Ill at Obama Rally” (WashingtonPost.com headline, October 7).