I was on the radio with a “climate change sceptic” the other day. We were discussing my local food experiment which seeks to cut carbon emissions by reducing food miles. Stuart Waiton is a Sociology lecturer at Abertay University, and, as it turned out rather predictably, as writer for the LM Networks house paper, Spiked. His tirade was routine and could have been scripted. Our project was ‘nimbyist, parochial and pathetic’. In Stuart’s world everyone is healthy and living longer and you can buy a chicken for £2, so why worry? “What’s the problem?” he pleaded.
The radio researchers had taken the concept of eating from locally sourced food to Baldragon School in Dundee. The children had rejected the idea out of hand – the very concept of sourcing food from near where you lived was thought bizarre and impossible. Instead they defined themselves as “Asda” or “Tesco” kids. They were thoroughly brandwashed into a diet of processed industrial food. No big surprises there.
Turkey Twizzlers all round?
Listeners flooded the station with emails and texts of shock at the children’s obvious divorce from the land that surrounds Dundee, home to salmon, beef and rich agricultural land.
What should have shocked more was the idea that a sociology lecturer – a profession that’s given us C Wright Mills and David Miliband should conclude his diatribe with the idea that knowing where you food might come from and how its produced is a BAD thing.
Increasingly society is divided between ‘the critical community’ as described by Anthony Frewin in Lobster and the unblinking quiescence of mass culture, and Stuart’s £2 chicken.
Waiton’s LM Network of course has an agenda. Whether it’s Claire Fox – or is it Foster - or the Guardian’s own Brendan O Neill or the ridiculous Battle of Ideas, where’s there’s very little of either – the upfront message is “question everything” but the real message: don’t question a thing.
As a group they pose as being of the left, whilst being funded and operating as a mouthpiece for the far right and big business. What makes them particularly insidious, though, is their gift for combining a disciplined Leninist style of organisation and complete lack of independence of thought, with a proclaimed taste for the rhetoric of open minds and free speech. More on this here.
This encourages the media and many of those who should know better to treat them as providing merely some contrarian salt to to add zest to any debate. Hence, this year’s Battle of Ideas got itself sponsored by the ESRC – the premier social science funding body in the UK. In the past, the NERC, which funds the environmental sciences, has sponsored Brendan O Neill’s Spiked to organise its online debates on environmental issues. The net result has been that the NERC got debates deftly slanted to the LMers’ virulent anti-environmentalist agenda while the ESRC ended up with the war crimes apologist Thomas Deichmann sitting on its platform.
Deichmann and the LMers’ record of trying to airbrush away the atrocities of the Serb and Hutu militias, is a reminder that these are not just harmless cranks or freewheeling eccentrics but something much more sinister. And as the desperate outcomes of the Bali talks unravel before us, we need to understand that the “climate change sceptics” are playing for high stakes in a war to the death with the critical community.
- Mike Small