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Booker attacks… BBC Newsnight science editor Susan Watts

with 6 comments

Having disproved man-made global warming, refuted Darwin’s theory of evolution, and proved that white asbestos is “chemically identical to talcum powder”, Christopher Booker this week returned to one of his favourite themes, the all-round-general-beastliness of the BBC.

…while the BBC was refusing to show an appeal for aid to the victims of Israeli bombing in Gaza, on the grounds that this might breach its charter obligation to be impartial, a rather less publicised row was raging over Newsnight’s doctoring of film of President Obama’s inaugural speech, which was used to support yet another of its items promoting the warming scare. Clips from the speech were spliced together to convey a considerably stronger impression of what Obama had said on global warming than his very careful wording justified. While that may have been unprofessional enough, the rest of the item, by Newsnight’s science editor, Susan Watts, was even more bizarre. It was no more than a paean of gratitude that we now at last have a president prepared to listen to the “science” on climate change, after the dark age of religious obscurantism personified by President Bush.

For the record, the full text of Obama’s inaugural address, including his comments on global warming, can be read here.

See also: In his 41st article on the subject, Booker accuses the BBC of “moral corruption” for highlighting the health risks of asbestos

6 Responses

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  1. So do you not think it was unprofessional of Ms Watts to cut and splice the words of the most eagerly awaited speech in modern history, to suit her own agenda? I love the BBC, but despair when its own journalists massage news to fit a message they have already prepared. Why not just report what happens?

    James P

    April 17, 2009 at 10:53 pm

  2. I don’t really have an opinion about Susan Watts – I just find the idea of Booker lambasting anyone for supposedly distorted reporting quite amusing – that together the fact that he can’t seem to leave the BBC alone.

    I saw the Obama speech in full, and his message on global warming – ie. that he sees it as a serious problem and one that needs to be addressed on the basis of science rather than the shock-jock whimsy of Bush-style politics – appeared pretty clear. Obama’s actions since would seem to be consistent with that interpretation.

    Richard Wilson

    April 18, 2009 at 8:29 am

  3. Thanks for the reply. I do take your point, but just because Booker says something, it doesn’t necessarily meant it ain’t so. Rather as with Bush, who opposed the global warming story for all the wrong reasons, he still may well be right.

    Having learned that CO2 levels follow, rather than lead, temperature changes; that we have had CO2 at more than 10 times the present amount, without overheating the planet or killing the inhabitants (plants love CO2 and it is used to encourage growth in commercial greenhouses), and following the current Catlin Arctic expedition with increasing amusement/incredulity, as their equipment keeps freezing up and they keep complaining of the cold (they had gone to prove that it was getting all warm and melty), I really think it is time we saw the AGW industry for what it is: a political bandwagon, and nothing to do with science.

    If you have the time and the inclination, there is plenty of information, and informed comment, here:

    James P

    April 18, 2009 at 5:05 pm

  4. James – that’s indeed a fair point – I generally agree that almost everyone will have something useful/interesting to say and very few people are wrong on every subject they write about (though it has to be said that Booker appears to be having a good go at it). I stayed away from climate change in DGFA because it’s been so well covered elsewhere and I didn’t feel there was much I could add. But when I was looking at the historic pseudo-controversies around the links between smoking/cancer, HIV/AIDS, and white asbestos/mesothelioma, what I was really struck by was how easy it is for unsuspecting lay people to be led down a complete blind alley by superficially convincing, yet nonetheless wrong, arguments about supposed flaws in the mainstream scientific view. One classic example of this is the total bamboozling by AIDS denialists of the Sunday Times’ medical correspondent Neville Hodgkinson:

    I think there’s a genuinely intractable problem here in that science is now so specialised that from the outside it’s very difficult to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong, and therefore very easy to get bamboozled by bogus/flawed experts. I personally wouldn’t feel competent directly to critique the peer-reviewed science on climate change (or indeed HIV-AIDS or evolution etc.) without doing a PhD in the subject, so what I’m left with is trying to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong on the basis of external factors like academic track record, evidence of bias/conflicts of interest etc. I guess I tend to think about scientists in a similar way to how I think about doctors, surgeons and airline pilots – beyond a certain point you just have to hope that they know what they’re doing and keep your fingers crossed. Not an ideal position for a sceptically-minded person to be in, but in many instances I don’t think there will be any way around it.

    Richard Wilson

    April 18, 2009 at 7:15 pm

  5. Richard, what do you make of the article by Pallab Ghosh (“President of the World Federation of Science Journalists”, according to Wikipedia) at ?


    June 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

    • Interesting – thanks for the link. I’m surprised that rather than disputing the finding that 98% of scientists who have had stuff published in journals on a relevant issue believe that climate change is caused by human activity, the self-described “sceptics” try to reject the validity of the test itself, and claim that being published in a peer-reviewed journal is not a valid measure of expertise. Begs the question of what measure *would* be acceptable to them.

      Their argument is almost identical to that used by AIDS denialists when faced with the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists who have actually carried out published research on HIV/AIDS believe that HIV causes AIDS. Attacking the validity of the peer review process with this “closed shop” conspiracy theory seems to be where it’s at in denialism right now!

      Richard Wilson

      June 23, 2010 at 7:40 pm

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