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INAUGURAL HUMANITAS VISITING PROFESSORSHIP IN RHETORIC AND THE ART OF PUBLIC PERSUASION in honour of Philip Gould Michaelmas Term

2012

Policy, Rhetoric and Public Bewilderment:


Mark Thompson
The Cloud of Unknowing
Outgoing Director General of the BBC New president and chief executive of The New York Times

LECTURES AND SYMPOSIUM 5 - 9 November 2012

ST PETERS COLLEGE

jimmy saville mark thompson bbc - Google Search

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Programme of Events
Monday 5 November 5.30 - 7.00pm Inaugural Lecture: Is Plato winning the argument?

Drawing in particular on recent examples from American and British healthcare reform, Mark Thompson asks whether the language of politics is changing in ways which threaten public understanding of and engagement with the most important issues of the day.

Mark Thompson is the outgoing Director General of the BBC, a post he took up in 2004. He has recently been announced as the new president and chief executive of the The New York Times.

Tuesday 6 November 5.00 - 6.30pm Lecture: Consign it to the flames


Almost everyone accepts that science is our most authoritative guide to understanding the world so why is it so disputed and disbelieved when it comes to public policy? In his second lecture, Mark Thompson focuses on the case of science to look at whats happened to the argument from authority in modern rhetoric.

Policy, Rhetoric and Public Bewilderment: The Cloud of Unknowing

Why does so much of contemporary politics feel divisive and unproductive? Why is public understanding and engagement in the issues of the day so low? Some blame political opponents. For many others its the various international media outlets. Still others wonder whether its because the publics own attention span is on the wane. In this series of lectures Mark Thompson searches for an explanation by looking instead at our public language.

Wednesday 7 November Lecture: Not in my name

5.00 - 6.30pm

In his third lecture, Mark Thompson looks at what happens when modern rhetoric and morality collide, taking the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as his principal examples.

Friday 9 November 5.00 - 6.30pm Symposium: Politics and Language Friends or Enemies?
With Mark Thompson, Polly Toynbee, David Willetts MP and Lord ODonnell, chaired by Andrew Marr.

The events will all take place in the Chapel, St Peters College, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford. The lectures and symposium are free and open to all. Admittance will be strictly by ticket only. For further details and to register for your free ticket go to www.humanities.ox.ac.uk/humanitas
HUMANITAS is a series of Visiting Professorships at Oxford and Cambridge intended to bring leading practitioners and scholars to both universities to address major themes in the arts, social sciences and humanities. Created by Lord Weidenfeld, the Programme is managed and funded by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue with the support of a series of generous benefactors, in collaboration with the Humanities Division of the University of Oxford.
The Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Rhetoric and the Art of Public Persuasion in honour of Philip Gould has been made possible by the generous support of Freud Communications . www.humanities.ox.ac.uk/humanitas

THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING


Policy, rhetoric and public bewilderment

1. Is Plato winning the argument? On July 16th 2009, the former Lieutenant-Governor of New York, Betsy McCaughey, used a talk radio show to lob a grenade into the American healthcare debate. Deep within one of the drafts of the Obamacare legislation which was then making its way through Congress, McCaughey claimed to have discovered a previously unnoticed but sinister proposal:
[] one of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, [she said,] is on Page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory [] that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go into hospice care. [] These are such sacred issues of life and death. Government should have nothing to do with this.i

There are two things to note about this claim. First its untrue. The section of the bill which McCaughey was referring to Section 1233 did not call for compulsory end-of-life counseling sessions. Such sessions would have remained entirely at the patients discretion. All it would have done was to cover them under Medicare, the Federal programme which pays many of older Americans medical costs. But the fact it was untrue and indeed was promptly and definitively refuted did nothing to stop it quickly gaining currency. In the days that followed, many of Americas most influential conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham took up the claim. So too did a number of Republican politicians. There were Op-Ed pieces in conservative papers and, of course, innumerable tweets and blogs and Facebook postings. The claim began to be rounded out. Laura Ingraham cited her 83-year-old father saying: I do not want any government bureaucrat telling him what kind of treatment he should consider to be a good citizen. Thats frightening. ii That last phrase, a good citizen, spells out the suspicion that what Section 1233 was really about was healthcare rationing. Liberal commentators and politicians mounted a counter-barrage of their own, excoriating the myth or hoax of Section 1233. On MSNBCs Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough joked about the Grim Reaper clauseiii. But on the other side, most of the discussion was predicated on the assumption that McCaugheys claim about the bill was not a myth but a simple statement of

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fact. Then on August 7th, Sarah Palin entered the fray with a posting on Facebook which included the following words:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obamas death panel so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgement of their level of productivity in society, whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.iv

What followed is well-known. Within a few days the freshly-baked term death panel became one of the best-known utterances in modern political history. It was everywhere on radio, TV, the newspapers, the web, Twitter spread not just by its authors and their supporters but by those who were frantically trying to debunk it. By the middle of August, an opinion-poll by Pew suggested that no fewer than 86% of Americans reported having heard the termv. 30% believed it was a real proposal the proportion among Republicans was 47% while another 20% said they werent sure whether it was true or false. Given the clutter of modern media, these numbers are astonishing. Despite all denials, belief in the death panels remained stubbornly high and a few months later the Democrats dropped the underlying proposal. Earlier this year the Obama administration again raised the possibility of covering end of life counseling under Medicare, but once again the death panels threatened to take flight and once again the proposal was quickly dropped. The issue is now politically decided for the foreseeable future. A phrase which exaggerated and distorted a claim which was itself false and which anyway had virtually nothing to do with the central thrust of Obamacare, had changed both the course of politics and the law. Its probably the only thing that many Americans can recall about the whole healthcare debate. The veteran conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan put it this way: Of Sarah Palin, it may be said: The lady knows how to frame an issue.vi

Ill take a closer look at this intriguing morsel of public language, the death panel in a moment. But first lets step back and consider a broader question namely the widespread view that something has gone awry with the character of our politics and the way in which political questions are debated in America, Britain and other western democracies. Democracy is a rough business and disquiet about it is hardly new read Thucydides or Burke. But arguably theres some real-world evidence to support present day anxiety: declining turn-out and increasing voter apathy in many countries;

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increased polarisation in both the US and UK around issues health, education, foreign affairs which used to attract fair levels of crossparty consensus and compromise; a sense of sclerosis in decision-making in the US and many other western political systems; polls suggesting that in many countries trust in politicians and what they say is falling and suspicion is rising; and finally, declining readership and audiences for many of the newspapers and news broadcasts which deal seriously with public policy issues.

But of course what lies behind these phenomena is itself fiercely debated, as is that question which in contemporary public debate is always the most pressing of all: who is to blame? For some, its the politicians usually, it must be said, political opponents. On this view, there was a moment when some rascally or mentally unhinged crew got into power and started to undermine the integrity and reasonableness on which democracy depends. Clinton, Bush and Cheney, Blair and Campbell, Brown, Obama. The right, the left, the Tea Party, the liberal conspiracy. Excessive partisanship, extremism, spin. Theres a growing literature devoted to this theory. A special prize for the most depressing title of the year should go to Thomas F Mann and Norman J Ornsteins 2012 tome, Its Even Worse Than It Looks: How The American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics of Extremism. That book essentially pins the entire blame on the modern Republican party but of course, next to it on the bookshelf, youll find a row of equally trenchantly argued volumes blaming the Democrats. For others, the villains are the media. Commercialisation and competition, 24hour news, talk radio, the internet, social media: perhaps it is structural changes in media that have replaced seriousness with triviality and sensationalism. Or perhaps its individual institutions with their own dark agendas: The Daily Mail, the BBC, Fox News, The New York Times. Fears that our media is letting democracy down and specifically that it is failing properly to explain political choices to the citizenry have been building for years. Nearly four decades ago, John Birt famously wrote in The Times of London that:
[t]here is a bias in television journalism. Not against any particular party or point of view it is a bias against understanding.vii

That claim, and others like it, have been repeated with ever greater urgency as technology has changed the grammar of journalism and the way it is consumed. Tony Blairs 2007 Feral Beast speechviii argued that the resulting competition between media outlets has led to a savage hunt for what he Page 3

called impact journalism in which responsible reporting is replaced by character assassination. Finally, one sometimes hears politicians and others wondering privately whether the real culprits arent the public themselves. Perhaps theyve changed: become more trivial, more selfish, less civically-minded, less able to concentrate. Now youll have your own views about these explanations. Im skeptical about any theory which relies on the premise that human nature has changed or which is predicated on the turpitude or madness of one political party or media organisation. Demonising your opponents seems to me more like a symptom of the problem than a diagnosis. Nor do such theories explain why the same or similar trends are apparent in different countries and in different left-right combinations. As you will hear, I believe the structural and behavioural changes were seeing in media are relevant but, unlike Tony Blair, I believe theyre only one part of the story. And for me, what lies at the heart of that story is language.

Watching the global financial and economic crisis unfold over the past few years from the vantage-point of the BBC, Ive been struck by how hard everyone politicians, columnists, specialist journalists, academics has found it to explain what is happening and why to those who have been most affected by the shock. Remedies are proposed which politicians duly promote or disparage. Monthly economic data is released. Across the media, there is a super-abundance of news, analysis, commentary and debate. And yet, across the West there is a sense of a public which feels disengaged from all of this. The distress signals are manifold. In many democracies, the dismissal of incumbent leaders and parties, regardless of policies or political orientation. In some, the rise of extremism. In Southern Europe, national strikes and serious public disturbances and, in a few countries, a turn only partial and within constitutional parameters, but a turn nonetheless away from normal democratic political leadership and towards rule by technocrat. Public incomprehension and distrust are measurable. One recent BBC survey found that only 16% of those questioned felt confident about defining the term inflationix. For GDP the number was 10%; liquidity 7%; credit default swaps, CDOs, QE, TARP, the EFSF not asked, but presumably off the scale. For most lay people, much of the theoretically public discourse about the economic crisis might as well be in Sanskrit. Ipsos MORI have identified what they call a presumption of complexityx among a significant portion of the public, a sense in advance that certain public policy issues are so hard to understand that theres little point trying. And even for those lay people who feel its worth the effort, there is deep scepticism about whether what they hear about such issues can actually be Page 4

trusted. Even before the crisis, a 2005 MORI report suggested that 68% of the British public believe that official figures are changed to support whatever argument the government wants to make; 59% that the government uses figures dishonestly. At least in the UK, trust in much of the media is similarly low. With figures like that, its not surprising that both the politicians and the media find themselves in the dock. But this evening, I want to offer you a new suspect which is our public language itself. Im going to argue that the public language which most people actually hear and are influenced by, is changing in ways which make it more effective as an instrument of political persuasion but less effective as a medium of explanation and deliberation. Far from diminishing incomprehension and distrust, it often increases them.

So lets return now and consider the death panels purely as a piece of rhetoric. What makes it tick? Why was it so successful in shaping the debate? And what, if anything, does it tell us about what is happening to our public language? Part of its strength is obviously its compression. A powerful political point that can be expressed in two words is perfect for the world of Twitter and not just Twitter. Say that at some point in the summer of 2009, youd been walking through an American airport past a TV monitor. The words death panel fit neatly onto the straps which Fox News and CNN and MSNBC put across the bottom of the screen. You dont even know whether the person on the screen is arguing in favour or against Obamacare or Sarah Palin or anything else. What you see what you remember is the two words. We can break the compression down further. The phrase is metonymic in the particular sense that, in what it signifies, the part is clearly intended to represent the whole. Death Panel doesnt just stand for Section 1233, it stands for the whole of Obamacare. Actually it stands for everything to do with Barack Obama, his administration, his vision for America. And its proleptic: it takes an imagined future state and presents it as current reality. Whereas Betsy McCaughey simply misrepresents the draft bill, Sarah Palin is offering a political prediction which goes like this: the legislation the Democrats are proposing will give the Federal Government control over your and your familys health and given limited funds it follows that sooner or later theyll create a bureaucracy to decide who gets what. On the face of it, this is a thin-end-of-the-wedge argument let them pass this law and in the end the Feds will decide who lives and who dies. But of course it isnt really an argument at all. Its a piece of rhetorical panache which leaps at once to the dystopic end-state and brings it to life with vivid imagery. The power of the prolepsis means that you may not even notice that the intermediate steps in the argument are absent. The vividness is accentuated in the original posting by two inspired pieces of passing-off: Sarah Palin puts Page 5

the phrase death panel in inverted commas as if shes quoting from the draft bill; and she also puts quotation marks around level of productivity in society, as if it was Barack Obamas term rather than her own invented one. In its evocation of a dehumanised bureaucratic state, Level of productivity in society is a miniature masterpiece in itself. But the central two words Death panel trigger even darker allusions: 20th century eugenics and euthanasia programmes, or the selections in the death camps, with Barack Obama and Medicare officials taking the place of Nazi doctors. If we listen really carefully though, I think we can hear something else. Sarah Palin helps us with her crib: The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome [my emphasis] will have to stand in front of President Obamas death panel []. The mention of Trig Palin, her Down Syndrome child, signals how far Palin has generalised and radicalised an argument which began with the relatively modest claim that the elderly were going to be badgered into refusing further treatment. Now its about killing the young. But it does something else as well. As an American voter, you might be forgiven for thinking there are two classes of public policy question. Those which go to the heart of religious, cultural and ethical differences the debates about abortion and gay marriage are obvious examples and those which are essentially managerial whats the best way of securing the USs energy security? How can we prevent another shock like Lehmann Brothers? You might further conclude that the question of healthcare reform fell into the second category. Sarah Palin says no. Her previous public mentions of Trig have been in connection to her opposition to abortion, and for her, Obamacare raises very similar issues its a battle between the forces of good and evil. Literally evil, she uses the word. In mentioning him here, shes attempting to pivot the visceral, Manichean quality of the abortion debate into the battle over healthcare reform. When it comes to abortion, the two sides believe there can be no compromise. Sarah Palin says that the same is true of healthcare. You cant compromise with people who mean to slaughter your children. And thats the final point to make about the language of the death panel. Its maximal: in all respects it states its case in the strongest possible terms. What Sarah Palin claims to be uncovering is nothing less than a conspiracy to murder, with Barack Obama playing Catiline to her Cicero. And just as with the four In Catilinam speeches, theres no could or might about it. Presumption of good faith on the part of your opponent is long gone this is a fight to the political death. Its a rhetoric which doesnt seek to dispel distrust about politicians, but to foment it. But the difference between Sarah Louise Palin and Marcus Tullius Cicero is that she does it in a handful of words, essentially two words. And it worked.

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Perhaps the death panel leaves you cold: perhaps you find it grotesque or comical, its amazing to you that anyone could be taken in by something so crude and excessive. But all rhetoric is designed for a particular time and place and above all for a particular audience its a supremely tactical art and the death panel wasnt intended for you. For the audience it was intended for, it was devastatingly effective, like a shaped explosive charge punching through an opponents political armour-plating. And yet in one respect it is an utter failure. It is so tendentious; so abstracted from the real and difficult decisions and trade-offs which must be faced up at the limits of all healthcare systems, including Americas pre-existing one; it is so purely partisan in intent and meaning that it makes the real policy choices associated with Obamacare not easier, but harder to understand. Explanatory power has been wholly sacrificed in the interests of rhetorical impact.

The death panel is an extreme case of what I take to be a broader trend of public language, which is a growing avoidance, at least when the public at large are listening, of long-form and explicit argument about underlying issues in favour of a rich, but cryptic semaphore often in the form of lapidary words, phrases and gestures, sometimes expressed at greater length often composed of vivid examples or anecdotes which are presented to us as deeply revealing, and out of which a new kind of argument can be created a hole-in-one argument with no need for further evidence or inquiry or debate. It is the language of partisanship, character, intentionality, values and of solidarity with ones own side. It is sometimes as the death panel is the language of the conspiracy theory. It is never the language of explanation. The result is what I have called shamelessly stealing and subverting the title of a work of mediaeval English mysticism the cloud of unknowing. In my cloud of unknowing, a political career can be scuppered by a single word: in the case of Andrew Mitchell, the improbable yet non-survivable word pleb, a word which remember, were in the cloud he may never have said. In the cloud, that simple, artless phrase Im sorry can have so much political strategy and media expectation pumped into it that for a day or so it floats above the political landscape like a giant dirigible at least until a genius armed with Autotune launches the equivalent of a Stinger missile at it and suddenly Nick Clegg is singing on YouTube and we can savour the strangeness of the original speech-act in all its deconstructed glory. Other words float in the cloud. Choice. Fairness. Opportunity. Freedom. Change. Its hard to think of many contemporary politicians who havent found themselves using at least one of them. These words sit beyond argument who, after all, could be against any of them? Theyre usefully ambiguous in that different listeners can apply quite

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different, perhaps even contradictory meanings to them depending on their perspective, but they sound crystal-clear. And each is typically used in isolation. Theres no sense of tension or the potential need for trade-offs between them. The cloud is full of concentrated phrases and anecdotes which seem to define a moment or decide an election or settle an argument. The peoples princess. Jennifers ear. Bigotgate. When its a phrase, often its mis-remembered there is no such thing as society in other words, its not actually what the person said, but in the cloud knowing that a quote has been doctored or even made up doesnt matter. If it fits a preconception or pre-existing narrative, or is sufficiently and satisfyingly ironic, then the view seems to be that the person should have said it, or perhaps even in some deep Freudian sense did really say it, even if they didnt. In the cloud, policy debates can be brief affairs. One politician signals that he wants to see the return of O-levels. Within seconds, a second warns that a generation of children will be consigned to the scrap-heap. Neither the Olevels or the scrap-heap are literal of course everyone knows that the technocrats responsible for education policy will never be content simply to dust off exam papers from the 1970s. But even in the opening salvoes of the debate, both sides want to position themselves with their own supporters and friendly commentators, and O-levels versus scrap-heap is a tried-and-tested code for doing just that. Like jaded grandmasters, the players know the moves before the game begins. The more complex the policy area, the more important individual words and definitions can be. One of the BBCs minor successes, in the battle over its funding between 2004 and 2007, was to get the phrase top-slicing accepted as the standard shorthand for the proposal to divide the licence-fee between the Corporation and other broadcasters. Top-slicing is about cutting not sharing, it sounds both brutal and arbitrary things most people are instinctively against. Crisp and succinct, it ended up being used, not just by the BBC itself, but by most neutral observers and indeed by some of the proponents of the policy. At least top-slicing dealt with the main topic under discussion. Theres another case I want to examine which illustrates something else: a tendency to focus not on the often impenetrable central issues in a given policy debate, but on anything which can be turned symbolically or emotionally to good rhetorical and political effect. The topic is healthcare again but now were in Britain, where we will see many of the same pressures at work on public language, though not yet to the same degree as in the US. And this time the political polarity is reversed: Andrew Lansleys reforms were put forward by a Conservative-led coalition, the opposition led by the Labour party, health sector unions and some health policy academics and specialists. These opponents however would face many of the same rhetorical challenges as their American counterparts.

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First, the policy area is so complex that it is almost impossible to explain, let alone to make political points about. I asked one of the leading experts in the field how long it would take an intelligent lay-person to understand the issues behind the 2012 Act and she replied: what sane person would even try? And the task would become harder as amendments stacked up more than a thousand by the end. Second, just as in the States, some of the critics would find themselves having to argue against ideas and positions which were alarmingly close to ones previously promoted by their own political side. The individual mandate, in some ways the centrepiece of Obamacare, began life as a Republican idea promoted by Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Over here, for years successive governments of left as well as right have accepted that the best way to improve the quality and allocation of resources within the NHS is to inject greater choice and competition into the commissioning of health services though, to respect sensitivity on the left about anything that smacked of marketization, the word competition was often replaced by the special term of art contestability when Labour was in power. Betsy McCaughey and Sarah Palin had seized on Section 1233 because, even though it was peripheral to the Obama plan, it was easier to understand than the world of individual mandates and health insurance exchanges, but also because it could be made to speak to intentionality and intentionality was a safer way of discriminating between the two political sides than the policies themselves. In the same way, the opponents of Lansley-care knew that, while the finer points of GP-commissioning as a replacement for PCTs might provide hours of delight for MPs, peers and the charmed circle of health policy experts, it wasnt likely to catch fire with the public or sound that different from what had come before. So they too were on the look-out for aspects of the draft legislation which even if they were at the margins could be used to reveal what they took to be the Tories real agenda. That agenda in their view was privatisation pure and simple. So their goal at once a rhetorical and a political goal was to convince a significant proportion of the British public that privatisation was the true meaning of the Lansley bill. I want to look at one of the tactical battles in this wider war. This revolved around not an argument, nor even a word, but a number. 49%. The trigger for this debate was Clause 163 in the emerging draft billxi which read:
[an] NHS Foundation Trust does not fulfill its principal purpose unless, in each financial year, its total income from the provision of goods and services for the purposes of the health service in England is greater that its total income from the provision of goods and services for any other purposes.

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In other words, a Foundation Trust cannot make more money from nonNHS presumably private sources than it does from the NHS itself: commercial income in any given year cannot exceed 50%. In the shorthand of the debate, that quickly became 49% and it was this 49% limit on commecial income which, although never actually mentioned in the bill itself, suddenly spread like wildlife on Twitter and the web. But what does the 49% actually mean? Its hard to believe that a raw percentage, that basic building-block of the technocrats art, can have multiple meanings, but in reality numbers can carry a cargo of meaning every bit as rich as words. To a Conservative, the 49% might indeed be seen as a long-term stake in the ground for the economic liberalisation of the health service though, given that the bill maintained the universal right to NHS care, it was unclear where the new army of private patients to consume those 49% of health resources was going to come from any time so. To a Lib Dem, the 49% was unintelligible in isolation from the system of checks and balances which they claimed they had won from their coalition partners. In reality, they claimed, Foundation Trust hospitals couldnt increase their private income above 5% without a vote from their governing body, not to mention scrutiny from the regulator. The 49% was just a backstop. But to many of the opponents of the reforms, the 49% was of great signficance. On the 8th of March this year, under the banner The Tories are disembowelling the welfare state sheep-like, decent Lib Dems can only watch, Polly Toynbee wrote:
On Thursday Shirley Williams led her erstwhile rebels into the government lobby to vote for hospitals right to use 49% of beds for private patients.xii

Polly Toynbee has simplified Clause 163 into a new right which hospitals are being granted and shes reified the 49% and brought it to life by making it 49% of hospital beds. Many of the Tweets which followed this column assumed that the privatisation of half of the NHSs facilities would happen as soon as it became law. A few days later, Polly used different language, suggesting that the government was fencing off 49% of NHS facilities to private practice in a way that risks denying NHS patients their scans, services and beds.xiii Now the 49% has become a floor, not a ceiling or better, a curtain which will be drawn around half the beds so that ordinary NHS patients cannot use them. We see again the concentration of the claim, the collapsing of a possible future into a certain present. And of course there can be no doubt about the intentions of the people who are closing the curtain: whatever they say, they are privatisers.

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But meanwhile Shirley Williams was stoutly defending her efforts to, in her words, make a bad bill better. She quoted Polly Toynbees first article to delegates at the Liberal Democrats spring conference and went on to say:
The so-called 49% is a myth or, to put it in non-parliamentary language, a lie. Either [Polly] just did not look at the detail and therefore is able to say that in the Guardian, or she did look at the detail and decided that tribalism should trump truth.xiv

And she went to offer this ringing denunciation, not just of her critics, but of the new forms of media that had apparently helped them: We are fighting an uphill battle for the truth, to be able to base peoples opinions on facts, and not on the stuff they have presented on Twitter and tweet and, dare I say it, the new social network, which is known as twist.xv So what is the truth about the 49%? People often appeal for someone the UK Statistical Authority, the BBC, one of those self-appointed political factchecking organisations, someone to adjudicate definitively on arguments like this. But, although it sounds as if it should be factually determinable, the meaning of the 49% is actually a matter of political opinion.
When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less. The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things. The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master thats all.xvi

And to state the obvious, hearing a revered politician and distinguished journalist, both of whom are known for the seriousness of their thinking on social policy over decades, trade one-liners over the meaning of a number which doesnt even appear in the legislation is hardly likely to help the public understand the actual provisions and practical policy questions raised by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The bill was eventually passed in substantially amended form. But in some repects, the bills opponents could be said to have won the rhetorical battle. MORI found consistently low levels of public understanding of what was proposed at no point did those claiming to understand the bill rise above 30% but when asked what the reforms involved, by far the most common answer was privatisation and that figure grew over the period.xvii That was always the word Andrew Lansleys opponents were trying to land. We should note something else. Shirley Williams mounts a spirited defence of the Lib Dem position with some sharp catch-phrases of her own, that tribalism trumping truth line and her joke about the social network Twist. But a rhetorical asymmetry has opened up: it is becoming harder to argue in favour of compromise than against it. In my time as a journalist and editor, Page 11

Ive seen the noun compromise itself become a pejorative and the adjective uncompromising a compliment. To change ones mind is to execute a U-turn or, in the States, to flip-flop. To meet a political opponent half way is treason. Anything less than utter certainty can sound and I mean literally sound weak or false or both. So making a bad bill better, though of course redolent of the give and take on which all democratic government is based, is now a risky thing to admit to in public. Surely the right thing to do with a bad bill is not to amend it, but to abolish it? In the case of Andrew Lansleys health reforms, this is exactly what the Labour Party is now committed to which probably means that the NHS can look forward to further waves of reform as far as the eye can see. Earlier this year, when one of Mitt Romneys advisors suggested that perhaps he should only repeal the bad parts of Obamacare, the right reacted with savagery. Heres the conservative blogger Erick Erickson:
If a Republican gets into the White House and does not sweat blood trying to repeal Obamacare in its entirety (regardless of success), I predict the end of the Republican party legitimately. [] If the GOP takes back the White House, its voters will expect a real fight, not a half-hearted attempt.xviii

The most interesting words there are in the parenthesis regardless of success. Solidarity with ones own supporters and ideology is more important than improving a given piece of legislation. It is better to fail purely than only partly to succeed. Ranged against the language of compromise, the language of radical solidarity is simpler and more powerful.

So today the death panel and the 49% float together in the cloud of unknowing, the cloud which purports to make difficult issues easy to understand but which raises more questions than it answers. Its a cloud of images as well as words. Sometimes a group will choose a visual rather than a verbal rhetoric to convey a particular message: flagburning or shoe-throwing or, more innovatively, the tiny tents of the Occupy movement under the tall, impersonal towers of Wall Street and the City of London. One way of thinking about 9/11 is as mass-murder conducted to create a single piece of rhetoric: in this case, a few seconds of television footage of aeroplanes hitting skyscrapers and the skyscrapers subsequently collapsing. The twin towers stand for western might and western values, their collapse the possibility that that might and those values can be laid low. The flame and smoke, the falling walls, bring that hoped-for future destruction into the present. Metonymy, prolepsis.

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Let me sharpen up my claim. It is not that traditional rhetoric has disappeared. On the contrary, some of the greatest orators who have ever spoken Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton among them are alive today. Nor is it that traditional political debate is dead. The work of government goes on, laws are passed and there are still moments when what happens on the floor of the Commons, or the Senate, or the many other assemblies across the west matters most though such occasions are rarer than they were. Nor is it that the information on which someone might base a reasoned understanding of a given issue is less available. Far from it, there is probably more of it today than at any previous point in history. Nor am I claiming that highly synoptic language or ringing and memorable phrases are something new. Let them eat cake. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. No, my claim is that for a series of reasons which are not principally the fault of any one political persuasion, nor of our political class, nor of our media we are seeing a growing concentration of public language into would-be knockout blows, rich in allusion but abstracted from issues they purport to illuminate; and that the public discourse which the public themselves are most likely to hear is undergoing a change which, though not necessarily a change in kind, is potentially dangerous.

The word rhetoric has two broad senses in English. One is negative, as in the phrase empty rhetoric. Under this meaning, rhetoric is sweet talk, a dubious art which allows a shyster to dress up their argument with eloquent words and make it sound stronger than it is. This suspicion of rhetoric is particularly salient in the English-speaking world but it has ancient precedents. But so far this evening, Ive been discussing rhetoric in its more neutral sense, meaning the art of public language in other words the language of politics, public policy, the law courts and so on, the language in which issues which matter collectively to a society are deliberated and decided. Rhetoric is a fact of life in all societies, but the more open the society the more central rhetoric becomes. Its impossible to imagine a democracy without debate and discussion and competition in acquiring and mastering the skill of public persuasion. Perhaps you prefer to imagine rhetoric as a superficial layer in politics beneath which lies a pristine base of pure policy. The reality is that in democracies, the substance and articulation of policy are always tangled up and to claim otherwise is itself to make a classic move in the rhetorical game. And at least in principle, rhetoric performs a vital role in an open society which is to provide a bridge between the professionals, the political leaders and civil servants, and the public at large. It is through an effective public language that average citizens can both understand and contribute to Page 13

public questions. It is for this reason that, in ancient Greek and Roman cultures, rhetoric was regarded as a higher art-form than poetry something more or less incomprehensible to us today. So lets start at the top and listen for a moment to the statesman Pericles as the historian Thucydides imagines him describing the particular virtues of Athenian democratic culture:
Our people are interested in the private and public alike and, even among ordinary working people, youll find no lack of insight into matters of public policy. [] Unlike others, we Athenians decide public decisions collectively for ourselves, or at least try to arrive at a clear understanding of them. We dont believe that debate gets in the way of action its when you act without proper debate that you get bogged down.xix

It is rhetoric, the language of explanation and deliberation as well as of persuasion, that enables this collective decision-making to happen. Pericles himself, Thucydides tells us, was the most influential man of his time in words as well as deedsxx. Professor Thomas Habinek, who refers to that moment in Pericless funeral oration in his guide to ancient rhetoricxxi, also reminds us that for the Romans at the core of the concept of libertas is the ability of favoured citizens to take part in matters of state. Someone who is unwilling or unable to engage in this way is a layman in a radical sense of that word, an incomplete human being. It was the same in Athens: immediately after the passage Ive just quoted, Thucydides has Pericles describe such a person as useless. But again the ability to engage depends on mastery of public language. Today, we tend to think of freedom of speech as freedom of personal expression and, when a society suppresses it, we regard that as a consequence of the broader politics. But for at least some in the ancient world the causality runs the other way: its when public language fails and collective deliberation is no longer possible that democratic and republican institutions collapse and oppression ensues. In Book III of his History, Thucydides adduces a change in language as a factor into Athens descent into demagoguery and political failure: people began to define things in any way they pleased, he says, and the normally accepted meaning of words broke downxxii. And here, from Sallusts account of the Catiline crisis in republican Rome, is a warning from Cato the Younger: we have long since lost the true names for thingsxxiii. Im indebted to Professor Matthew Leigh of this university for both these examples. But there were others in the ancient world who were sceptical about rhetoric even in principle. In Platos Gorgias, Socrates tells Gorgias that rhetoric is not an art at all but a knack. Whereas philosophy aims at the truth, rhetoric is a form of flattery, a fake or imaginary version of politicsxxiv. And for Plato this antipathy to rhetoric is bound up with a wider scepticism about democracy. In Page 14

The Republic, Plato warns that democracies inevitably degenerate via mob rule to tyrannyxxv. Instead, famously, he argues for rule by philosopher-kings, in other words government by a technocratic elite who will not have to persuade the general population of anything but can manage the state with objective skill and knowledge. On the face of it, the immense success of modern western democracy in driving economic growth, social advancement and human flourishing suggests that Platos misgivings are misplaced. Our democracies differ in one important respect from that of Athens: they are representative. The people delegate power to elected officials and do not have to be as conversant with day-to-day issues as voters in Athens did though, even in a representative democracy, public ignorance of and disengagement from public policy cannot be healthy. And there are other pressures playing on the representative model. Plebiscites and referenda are becoming more common in many democracies. So too driven by the kind of political rhetoric we saw in the US healthcare debate are pledges and contracts in which those standing for election declare that, come what may, they will vote in accordance with a prior commitment given to electors. These pledges are a specialised rhetorical gesture in themselves and the penalty for breaching them is growing as Nick Clegg and his colleagues discovered in relation to university tuition fees. Arguably the pledges speak of a distrust not just in a given set of politicians but in the idea of representative democracy itself. Add this distrust to the broader distrust of politics I discussed earlier, and voter apathy, and perhaps we cannot dismiss Platos attack on democracy quite as easily as we could have done a generation or two ago.

So let me sketch out a hypothesis about how weve got to where we are now. And youll see that I dont place language at the end of the story but in the middle of it, as a cause as well as a consequence of change. Background and context first. In the deep background are three centuries in which Enlightenment critical rationalism and scepticism and the reaction to them have left us with a pervasive climate of suspicion composed of two opposing camps: a suspicion of all traditional forms of purported authority church, state, class and so on and, in reaction, a contrary suspicion of everything which it is proposed should take their place. The contours of this crisis were thoroughly explored in the 19th century by thinkers including Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, but it is still running its course and its left us with a presumption that no policy proposal, no public statement, should be taken at face value but rather should be interrogated so that we can understand what its real meaning and the real intentionality behind it are. Whether this scepticism is healthy or not is itself of course the subject of debate.

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Next come the decades of relative peace and prosperity across most of the west; decades in which great advances have been made on many first-order social and other policy issues. No doubt, further advances are possible but they entail trade-offs which are more finely balanced than the ones that came before. It was easier to decide that London needed an airport in the first place than it is now to decide whether that airport should acquire an additional runway. The second decision may be much less momentous than the first, but it doesnt feel that way and everything about it the length of time it takes, the evidence you need, the opposing passions is more complex and troublesome. Add to this evidence-based policy-making in other words the belief, shared by all mainstream parties in this country and most others, that the process of policy formulation should be grounded in the most thorough gathering and analysis of evidence. It means that anyone who truly wants to engage with a given area of policy must master vast quantities of data and argument. The gap between the illuminati, the technocrats who devote themselves full-time to the task, and Pericles ordinary working people, has grown wider and the challenge of bridging it through communication and explanation harder. Evidence-based policy-making has contributed to another contextual factor which is that, on many issues, political differentiation is also more difficult. Relative prosperity and the collapse of communism mean that traditional differentiation based on class or pure ideology are becoming harder to sustain except at the extremes. The ascendancy of political managerialism, the judgement of the success of governments increasingly against a set of objective metrics GDP growth, unemployment, inflation and so on combined with the fact that a new minister from whatever political background is likely to be confronted by his or her civil servants with the same analysis and the same basic policy prescription as their predecessor, make it more difficult for politicians to look and sound different from their rivals. But meanwhile our understanding of language itself has been changing and deepening both through academic research and the needs of marketeers and advertisers. The particular challenge of how to differentiate your brand and your product when technology, utility and public taste are all forcing it closer to those of your competitors how to convince potential buyers that a given BMW really is quite different from the seemingly near-identical Mercedes or Audi is a classic marketing conundrum which can be addressed not just by intuition and imagination but by the exhaustive testing of candidate ideas, words and phrases with consumers. Often the solution is a combination of words and images which imply something about values and character in the case of BMW, by summoning up a brand essence which is somehow sportier, more rakish and characterful, perhaps a little younger than its rivals. It was inevitable that similar empirical techniques would be applied, with growing specificity and precision, to political utterances and nor is that necessarily dishonourable or sinister. Philip Gould believed passionately in

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the cause of New Labour and to him it was obvious that he should do everything he could to help New Labour express its ideas as effectively as possible. That was the end which all the research and all the focus-groups served. Of all contemporary practitioners in this field though, perhaps the one who has concentrated most closely on how to engineer the most political potent language down to individual words and phrases is that alumnus of Trinity College, the American Frank Luntz. The author of the self-explanatory Words That Work and numerous other books aimed at politicians and business leaders alike, Franks contention is that successful public language need not be left up to chance or individual instinct but can be arrived at by exhaustive and recursive testing with audiences. Here he is, writing in The Huffington Post in January 2011:
Words matter. The most powerful words have helped launch social movements and cultural revolutions. The most effective words have instigated great change in public policy. The right words at the right time can literally change history.xxvi

Frank Luntz goes on to offer his readers what he says on the basis of his research are the eleven key words and phrases that politicians and other leaders should use in 2011. Most are disarmingly simple. Imagine remains a very powerful word, apparently so too, unsurprisingly, is integrity, especially in the phrase uncompromising integrity note again how problematic that word compromise has become. He also strongly recommends the phrase I get it:
This explains not only a complete understanding of the situation [he says], but a willingness to solve or resolve [it]. Its short, sweet and effective and too few leaders use it.xxvii

And Frank recommends its use not through instinct but because he has seen and measured audiences reacting to its use again and again. Rhetoric, which was once the queen of the arts and accessible at its highest level only to those of genius a Demosthenes or a Cicero, a Lincoln or a Churchill is acquiring some of the attributes of an empirical science. At its cutting-edge, it intersects with behavoural economics and so-called nudge, the theory that there are certain cues and triggers often indirect or even subliminal that can influence human attitudes, decisions and actions. All of these approaches rely on the testing and recommendation of specific cues, most of them linguistic cues. The inevitable consequence is a systematic concentration on the research and use, not of long passages or even of whole sentences, but of individual words and phrases.

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Until recently, the only way of analysing a piece of language in this way was through qualitative and quantitative market research. But no one focusgrouped the phrase death panel and no one needed to. The internet and platforms like Twitter and Facebook have made the public at large into a vast, cost-free focus group. A politician like Sarah Palin can put out literally dozens of sentences and phrases a day. Every so often, a phrase will pop up which is so eye-catching or thought-provoking or funny that within minutes it is being re-posted and re-tweeted across an ever-widening pool of people. And theres a further twist. Newspapers and conventional broadcasters, fearful of being left out of this new kind of opinion-forming, watch these platforms especially Twitter like hawks and at a certain point, a tweet or posting can cross over and be further amplified by a traditional media which is itself now an on-all-the-time hyper-reactive environment. There is a kind of Darwinian natural selection of words and phrases going on and, by definition, the only kind of language that emerges from this process is language that works. And it works characteristically for the same reason that Frank Luntz thinks that the phrase I get it works or the death panel or the 49% or even, horrifically, the aircraft crashing into the side of the World Trade Center: because its short and simple. You hear it, you get it, you pass it on. A deep background of social and cultural suspicion. Policy which is more complex and more finely-balanced that ever before. Politicians struggling with the challenge of differentiation. Around a century of empirically-based advances in the understanding and construction of public language. Digital technology and its impact on the way new and old media alike both report and influence that language. It is not wicked politicians, or a perverted media, or a disengaged public, but these five factors taken together which provide what I believe is the most compelling explanation of the changes in public language which Ive explored this evening with all their attendant consequences for our wider political culture.

Earlier on, I pointed to a weakening of the language of compromise. I think that theres a second telling asymmetry, which is that it is becoming easier to argue against proposed reform than in favour of it. It is not that reform is impossible: as Ive noted this evening, weve seen governments both here and in America passing controversial healthcare reform despite concerted opposition. But the greater power of critical, deconstructive rhetoric and its ability to sow the seeds of doubt, not just about the reforming policies themselves, but about the motives of those who are promoting them, means that the political cost of such reforms can be high. So reform in whatever direction is getting harder. And some politicians are beginning to believe that the bigger the attempt to communicate and explain a given set of proposed reforms, the more likely they are to get bogged down in Page 18

polarised party-political argument. Earlier this year in the New Yorker, Ezra Klein quoted Jim Cooper, a Democratic Congressman giving this rather bleak assessment about how counter-productive it can now be to attempt to argue out loud for the reforms you want to enact:
The more high profile the communications effort the less likely it is to succeed [he said]. In education reform, I think Obama has done brilliantly, largely because its out of the press. But on higher profile things, like deficit reduction, hes had a much tougher time.xxviii

This doesnt mean that reform is impossible, but it does mean that governments have to pick their fights carefully. It also means that there are real limits on what can be proposed in the way of reform without intolerable political cost. Despite the heat and noise, what is striking about the debates in this country about the NHS and public spending and taxation is how narrow the immediate policy gap between the parties often is. Whether you believe in significantly higher or lower taxes or higher or lower public expenditure, if you come to power you will find that the political friction involved in making the case beyond the first few percentage-points rises up a frightening parabola. In placid times, this may provide stability, but supposing we encounter a situation when drastic action is called for? What if, for example, the worst scenarios about climate change were shown to be valid and immediate and radical steps had to be agreed and taken? Do we still have a public language capable of supporting such decisions? Europes economic crisis is not as serious as that, but it still means bitterly painful policy decisions in many countries. So far Europes democracies have survived intact, though the fault-lines are more visible by the month and those fault-lines are directly related to the issues I have discussed this evening: public confusion, public suspicion, the ascendancy of political rhetoric over policy explanation.

Let me close by answering my own question: is Plato winning the argument? No, not yet. Democracy, and the engagement, not just of rulers and technocrats, but of the people at large in the decisions that determine their future, remains one of the prime reasons for the extraordinary success of the West and it is far from eclipse, let alone destruction. But if I am even only partly right in suggesting our public language is entering a decadent phase less able to explain, less able to engage except in the purely political, more prone to exaggeration and paranoia then the risk is that a public language and a set of institutions which were once a source of competitive advantage, as well as a guarantee of freedom, may falter.

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Although the factors that have led to the changes I have described cannot be wished away, that doesnt absolve us of the responsibility to attempt, in Eliots words, to purify the dialect of the tribexxix. How we might begin to do that, I will return to later in the week.

Fredthompsonshow.com, interview archives, 07/16/09. th Fox News, The OReilly Factor, July 17 , 2009. iii st MSNBC, Morning Joe July 31 , 2009. iv http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=113851103434 v http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1319/death-panels-republicans-fox-viewers vi Patrick Buchanan opinion piece, Creators.com 2009. (http://www.creators.com/opinion/patbuchanan/sarah-and-the-death-panels.html) vii th The Times, February 28 , 1975 viii th Tony Blair, speech to the Reuters news agency, June 12 2007 ix BBC Pulse National Representative Sample 2011 x Ipsos Mori BBC News Economy Research for BBC Audiences 2012 xi Clause 163 (page 159) of the Health and Social Care Bill xii th Guardian March 8 2012 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/08/nhs-billlib-dem-defining-moment) xiii th Guardian March 16 2012 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/16/whoright-on-nhs-polly-shirley) xiv th Quoted in The Observer March 11 2012, page 3. xv Ibid. xvi Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass xvii Ipsos MORI No decision with me? The NHS in 2012, September 2012 xviii http://www.redstate.com/erick/2012/01/25/romney-advisor-no-obamacare-repeal/ xix Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, II, XL 2 xx Ibid., I cxxxix 4 xxi Thomas Habinek, Ancient Rhetoric and Oratory, Malden/Oxford 2005 xxii Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, III, LXXX 4 xxiii Sallust, The War With Cataline, LII, 11 xxiv Plato, Gorgias p463 D (p. 314/5 in the Loeb edition) xxv Plato, The Republic, VIII 10 ff. xxvi http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-luntz/words-2011_b_829603.html xxvii Ibid. xxviii The New Yorker, March 19, 2012 xxix T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Little Gidding II.
ii

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mark thompson jimmy saville - Google Search

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11/13/2012 11:02 PM

Jimmy Savile Climate Seminar - a Freedom of Inf...

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Jimmy Savile Climate Seminar


Billy Blofeld made this Freedom of Information request to British Broadcasting Corporation
Currently waiting for a response from British Broadcasting Corporation, they must respond promptly and normally no later than 27 November 2012 (details).

From: Billy Blofeld 30 October 2012 Dear British Broadcasting Corporation, Can you please confirm if Jimmy Savile attended (either as a participant or in the role of "climate expert") the seminar called Climate Change the Challenge to Broadcasting which was held at the BBCs Television Centre in White City London on 26 January 2006. The seminar ran from 9.30am to 5.30pm. Yours faithfully, Billy Blofeld

From: FOI Enquiries British Broadcasting Corporation 31 October 2012 Dear Mr Blofeld, Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as detailed in your email below. Your request was received on 30th October 2012. We will deal with your request as promptly as possible, and at the latest within 20 working days. If you have any queries about your request, please contact us at the address below. The reference number for your request is RFI20121196. Kind regards The Information Policy & Compliance Team
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Jimmy Savile Climate Seminar - a Freedom of Inf...

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Billy Blofeld left an annotation (13 November 2012)


In order to save the licence payer money I can tell the BBC that the participants of the climate seminar in question are available on-line here: http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/11/... It would seem that Jimmy Savile was not a participant at this seminar, either as a delegate or in the role of climate expert. Unless the BBC wish to correct this understanding? The original source for the participants is here: http://wayback.archive.org /web/jsp/Inter...

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11/14/2012 12:22 AM

BBC's latest excuse: forget Jimmy Savile, blame Ni...

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/...

BBC's latest excuse: forget Jimmy Savile, blame Nigel Lawson


By James Delingpole Media Last updated: November 12th, 2012 653 Comments Comment on this article

Mark Thompson. Beard or bum-fluff: you decide The other day I argued that, following the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine disasters, the BBC will learn nothing and do nothing. Patten I'll bet you: and there's no bet I'd more happily lose will keep his well-upholstered rear stuck rmly in the Chairman's seat. The BBC will remain, as it is now, a bastion of entrenched left-liberal orthodoxy. If you need proof, have a read of this astonishing speech just delivered to Oxford University by the BBC's ex-Director General Mark Thompson. Though Thompson probably bore more responsibility than anyone for the Jimmy Savile fiasco he was in charge when the BBC took its ludicrous decision to shelve a programme exposing Savile and run one praising him instead he escaped in the nick of time to go to his new cushy 4 million a year job editing one of the few media institutions in the world even more nauseatingly bien-pensant than the BBC the New York Times, aka Pravda. Even so, you might have thought a bit of humble pie would be in order. Instead, however, Thompson has decided to fan the flames by having a go at yet another blameless senior Tory politician, this time former Chancellor Lord Lawson.

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11/14/2012 12:57 AM

BBC's latest excuse: forget Jimmy Savile, blame Ni...

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One quite understands why Thompson might feel strongly on this score. Nigel Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation has been a consistent thorn in the side of the BBC, by exposing the lamentable bias of its climate change coverage. Its publications include Christopher Booker's devastating report The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal, whose significance was nicely captured in this foreword by Sir Antony Jay: The issue of man-made global warming could have been designed for the BBC. On the one side are the industrialists, the businessmen, the giant corporations and the bankers (or at least those who are not receiving generous grants, subsidies and contracts from their government for climate-related projects such as wind farms or electric cars), on the other the environmentalists, the opponents of commercial expansion and industrial growth. Guessing which side the BBC will be on is a no-brainer, but no one has documented it in such meticulous detail as Christopher Booker. His case is unanswerable. The costs to Britain of trying to combat global warming are horrifying, and the BBCs role in promoting the alarmist cause is, quite simply, shameful. You hear that, Thompson? Quite simply, shameful. No one likes being told they've been naughty and done a bad thing. Especially not the gingery-beardie Mark Thompson, it would seem, who has come out all guns blazing well, all guns fiercely firing blanks with an angry speech about how Nigel Lawson and the GWPF's Benny Peiser and Christopher Booker are all stupid and smell of poo. He starts by quoting an unexceptionable paragraph from a speech by Benny Peiser which he precedes to Fisk with such self-righteous fury you'd think it were a hitherto unpublished extract from the Wannsee conference and at such length I can't imagine a single delegate was awake by the end. It's called The Cloud of Unknowing: Policy, rhetoric and public bewilderment. Here's a flavour: If we look a little closer, we notice a little rhetorical filigree: within a couple of sentences, that serious concern begins to get pushed linguistically away from us with a triad of qualications it turns out that its a potential problem that may only possibly happen in a distant future; whereas staring us in the face is another triad which is only too immediately present the actual and
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BBC's latest excuse: forget Jimmy Savile, blame Ni...

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/...

specifically economic costs which we will have to pay here and now. These contrasting triads are a rhetorical trope which was used, studied and defined thousands of years ago. Still awake? There's 14 more pages where that came from. What's interesting, though, as you wade through it, is discovering how woefully ill-informed and muddle-headed he is about the subject on which he purports to be so knowledgeable. He quotes the Doran survey ("97 per cent of scientists say"), quite unaware that it has been exposed as rubbish; he is impressed by Bob Ward whom he seeks to brandish as an expert in the eld; he constructs his whole speech around the argumentum ad verecundiam blissfully unaware throughout that by citing supposed authorities such as the Royal Society he is guilty of precisely the rhetorical fallacy he is striving to criticise. My favourite bit though is the one where again unwittingly, it seems he resorts to yet another rhetorical fallacy (the argumentum ad populum) to demonstrate that "scientists" are considered in opinion surveys to be much more trustworthy than "journalists." Well given what the BBC has done over the years in its piss-poor reportage of any number of issues to discredit the cause of honest journalism, is it any wonder? The New York Times is more than welcome to its new editor. Frankly, they deserve each other. UPDATE I'm not going to do a separate post on Maurizio Morabito's scoop. (I'm writing it up for my Speccie column instead: important to get this stuff beyond the blogosphere, I think) You can read the full story of 28Gate here at Watts Up With That? But my immediate thought is: wow! These people are so shameless. Tags: BBC, GWPF, Jimmy Savile, Lord Lawson, Lord McAlpine, Lord Patten, Mark Thompson, New York Times

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11/13/2012 11:11 PM

THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING


Policy, rhetoric and public bewilderment

2. Consign it to the flames

Ladies and gentlemen, The climate change debate is much more than just a battle over scientific theories and environmental statistics. At its core is the question of which approach our societies should take in view of a serious concern that could possibly turn out to be a real problem some time in [the] future. What rational societies and policy makers need to ask is: what are the most reasonable and the most cost-effective policies that neither ignore a potential problem that may possibly materialise in the distant future nor the actual economic costs of such policies here and now. Fundamentally these are social, ethical and economic questions that cannot be answered by science alone but require careful consideration by economists and social commentators.i

Those arent my words but the words of Dr Benny Peiser introducing the Global Warming Policy Foundations Annual Lecture in October 2011. Dr Peiser is a social anthropologist who is also the Director of the Foundation. The Chairman is the former Conservative Chancellor, Nigel Lawson. Lets begin by taking a good look at this passage. At first, what comes across is the judicious tone. Climate change is a serious concern which might turn into a real problem. What rational societies and policy makers have to do is to arrive at policy responses which are both reasonable and also costeffective. Serious, rational, reasonable. If we look a little closer, we notice a little rhetorical filigree: within a couple of sentences, that serious concern begins to get pushed linguistically away from us with a triad of qualifications it turns out that its a potential problem that may only possibly happen in a distant future; whereas staring us in the face is another triad which is only too immediately present the actual and specifically economic costs which we will have to pay here and now. These contrasting triads are a rhetorical trope which was used, studied and defined thousands of years ago. Having thus contextualised and fixed climate change, Benny Peiser then turns to sciences role in formulating a response. Heres comes another triad: fundamentally these are social, ethical and economic questions which cannot be answered by science alone but require careful consideration by economists and social commentators. That word fundamentally is important. What it implies is that the layer of policy consideration which addresses social, ethical and economic questions is somehow weightier or Page 1

more critical than the scientific layer. Its as if the science were a necessary but insufficient precursor to the real debate. In support of this, let me quote Dr Peiser from a few months earlier:
The global warming hysteria is well and truly over. How do we know? Because all the relevant indicators polls, news coverage, government u-turns and a manifest lack of interest among policy makers show a steep decline in public concern about climate change.ii

There is considerable polling evidence to support Dr Peisers contention that, by 2011, public anxiety about climate change was receding. This was a period when, in almost all western countries, anxiety about the economy was growing and there may be an inverse relationship between economic fear and fear for the environment. But what this second quote again implies is that there are two layers of discourse about climate change: a scientific layer whose relevant indicators are atmospheric temperature readings and so on; and a separate layer of public perception, policy and politics with its own quasi-scientific metrics opinion-polls, news coverage and that, presumably slightly harder to measure, manifest lack of interest among policy makers. The good news, at least as far as Dr Peiser is concerned, is that in this second layer the metrics are going his way. But of course none of that tells us anything at all about the first layer. The planet could be heating up even as public interest in climate change cools. The subordination implied by that fundamentally in Dr Peisers first quote is not just of the science of climate change but of science as whole. When it comes to policy discussions and the assessment of possible responses and mitigations, whatever science comes up with will require careful consideration by economists and social commentators. Now I know what economists are, but who are these social commentators? What training and qualifications do you need to become one? Or is social commentator like community leader, an office which involves an element of self-election? If you read through the names on the board of trustees of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and indeed some of the authors of its reports, youre left with the impression that in practice social commentators means retired politicians and civil servants, academics in the social sciences and Im sorry to have to break it to you journalists. Lets try dropping that into Professor Peisers last sentence. These are [] questions that cannot be answered by science alone but require careful consideration by journalists. It doesnt work, does it? Thats because of the stark difference in authority between scientists and journalists. A 2005 MORI surveyiii asked 2000

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respondents to what extent they would trust people from different professions to tell them truth. For scientists, the resulting net trust score was +52%, for professors +67%. For politicians generally, the score was -53% and for journalists as a class -61%. In a straight fight for credibility between scientists and journalists then, journalists are going to be massacred, and retired politicians wont fare much better. Much safer to make them kneel, be anointed and arise as members of the splendidly new and untainted category of social commentator.

Yesterday evening I talked about language. This evening I want to talk about argument and specifically about what the rhetoricians call the argument from authority, the argumentum ad verecundiam. Professor Peisers remarks are all about authority and specifically about which authority takes precedence when it comes to weighing public policy choices. Indeed the Global Warming Policy Foundations website is itself a kind of shrine to authority or at least an imitation of it. The Foundation, the site tells us, is all about restoring balance and trust to the climate debate, which again sounds suitably measured and grown-up. Who, after all, can be against balance and trust? To a former public service broadcaster like me, the word balance suggests an even-handed debate, but that isnt what the founders of the GWPF have in mind. The site is an anthology of straightforward and thorough-going climate scepticism, much of it from familiar voices. Lets let one author and one title stand for many: Christopher Booker: The BBC and Climate Change: A Triple Betrayal.iv Only triple?, I want to say. We must be slipping. But in one sense, I think the GWPF really is an attempt to restore balance in the debate. Faced with the formidable scientific institutions backing the case for dangerous climate change the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, the Royal Society and so on the Foundation is an attempt to put a heavy paw in the other scale by gathering together a group of committed climate sceptics, many with long and distinguished careers in government, business and academia. Professor Peisers remarks are best seen as a demand that these authorities, generally from other disciplines, should be taken as seriously, and when it comes to policy-formulation, perhaps more seriously, than the scientists. Im going to explore the present state of the argument from authority through a single prism namely the way in which science is handled in argumentation about public policy. And Im going to attempt to tease apart a paradox which genuinely perplexes most of the scientists that I know, which is this: almost everyone accepts that science gives us our most secure understanding of the physical world so why doesnt it always carry the day?

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Surely, if anything can, science can pierce what Ive called the cloud of unknowing and replace public bewilderment with public enlightenment. So why is it so often questioned and challenged by non-scientists without anyone accusing them of stupidity or absurdity? Why, when it comes to public policy formulation or media discussions, is science typically regarded as one of the considerations rather than the card that trumps every other card?

The distinction between speculation and opinion on the one hand and true understanding on the other is an ancient one: in Greek the first is , the second . Throughout the whole history of western thought, but especially from the Enlightenment onwards, philosophers have claimed a special role for science in the search for that true understanding. Here, in a well-known passage from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume contrasts the knowledge which can derived from mathematics and science from what he takes to be the idle and groundless speculation of scholastic theology:
If we take into our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Consign it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.v

Humes sense that science represents an epistemological gold standard is almost universal today. Like most non-scientists of my age and background, I accept that fundamental authority completely and whenever it comes to an argument I usually find myself instinctively on the side of mainstream science. I dont do that because I have personally checked the evidence which underpins The Origin of Species or examined Bohrs or Schrdingers equations: I havent the expertise to do either. No, I back science because I find Poppers account of the scientific method and its falsifiability intellectually compelling and because, at the level of common sense, the explanatory and predictive success of science is so overwhelming. Moreover, Ive spent enough time with scientists to be wholly convinced that the culture and practice of science genuinely aim at truth. As non-scientists then, our acceptance of the primacy of science is based less on our own scientific training than on a mixture of cultural, social and philosophical factors. This is exactly what is implied by the argumentum ad verecundiam if you can work out the equation for yourself, after all, you dont have to take it on trust.

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At the same time, many of us know that its too simplistic to say that science is always and immediately right. Sometimes theres not enough data, or the puzzle of what the data means has yet to cracked, or the whole thing is still a work in progress: sometimes, in other words, the science is or at least appears unfinished. On other occasions, scientists disagree there are rival explanations, or theres one candidate explanation which some scientists back but others oppose: in these cases, the science is disputed. On still other occasions, someone may call into question the good faith of the scientists theyre in the pay of the government or Big Pharma or theyre committed to some cause and therefore their work may lack impartiality and thus reliability: we might call this corrupted or even perverted science. We also know that, on a few very rare occasions, there have been dramatic revolutions in the history of science when a consensus view has been overturned in favour of a radical new theory Copernicus, Einstein and that, before such revolutions, scientific group-think is possible; this is what Lee Smolin alleged about contemporary American physics and M-theory and string theory in his 2006 book The Trouble with Physicsvi, though one would need to understand the science rather better than I do to judge whether hes right or not. So as we listen to a given scientific debate, in theory any number of doubts can appear. Yes, of course we still believe in the authority of good, finished, honest science but maybe in this case its not quite ready; or maybe were in the middle of a he-says-she-says wrangle and God only knows whos right; or maybe there is something fishy about the way that report was paid for; or maybe that lone scientist I heard on the radio is right and its the other 99% of physicists who will be proven wrong in the end. In an age of pervasive suspicion and uncertainty, it doesnt take much for the weevils to get to work. And theres something else. Lets imagine a conversation between two characters, you can call them stereotypes, though Ive met plenty of living examples of both of them. The first is a business-person. They dont dismiss the green agenda out of hand, but they think theres a lot of bullshit and political correctness involved in it and theyre genuinely terrified about the cost and bureaucracy involved in some of the proposed solutions. To them, what the Global Warming Policy Foundation says probably makes a lot of sense. The second person Ill call the environmentalist. Theyre someone who worries at every level from moral as well as practical about the damage they believe humanity is doing to our eco-system. They fear that policymakers are doing not too much, but far too little and too slowly. The conversation begins with climate change and, unsurprisingly, the business-person says theyve got grave doubts about the so-called science behind global warming. Didnt those scientists in East Anglia do something wrong and didnt even the IPCC drop a clanger about Himalayan glaciers? Are you a scientist? asks the environmentalist; and, if not, who are you to Page 5

doubt the conclusions reached by the overwhelming majority of the worlds climatologists? Then the conversation switches to genetically modified food. Now its the environmentalist who voices doubts about the science: perhaps its not ready and we dont yet understand the potential risks. Or perhaps, because of the commercial interests involved, the science isnt truly independent. And now its the business-person who makes the case for simply backing the experts. In other words, our preconceptions our world-view can be key in determining how far were prepared to accept the authority of science or to turn up the dial on all the available doubts. How can we predict whether someone is convinced or not convinced by the scientific case for anthropogenic global warming? It turns out that, although there are no doubt numerous exceptions, a good place to start is to ask them how they vote. Numerous polls both here and in America have suggested that people to the left of the political spectrum are far more likely to believe the case than those on the rightvii. Ones response to a piece of hard, technical science turns out, to a significant degree, to be a matter of political taste. We tend to see science, like everything else, through the lens of our own beliefs and prejudices and although scientific uncertainty is itself a technical field which requires scientific expertise fully to understand we can easily find ourselves treating the reliability of a given scientific claim as it was like any other debate in which our own and other peoples lay opinions are as good as anyone elses. And we pick and choose. We probably wont argue the toss when a hospital consultant offers a diagnosis. We may very well believe we have something useful to add something weve read in paper or on the web, say, or just the benefit of our own generic common sense as a scientist explains the the case for or against culling badgers.

When we consider this background of preconception and expectation, of doubt and suspicion against which science enters the arena of public debate, our paradox becomes easier to explain. But we need to add to all this another issue which relates to the structure and character of argument itself. Public debates about science represent a messy clash between two, not just different, but diametrically opposed approaches to argument: scientific argument and advocacy. Scientific argument if we imagine it idealised in a perfect scientific paper seeks to state its case not just as clearly as possible, but in a sense as weakly as possible. Every objection, every area of doubt should be flagged up. Suppose there is a rival theory, which our paper intends to argue against: it should be presented as strongly as possible. All of its good points should be set out before counter-points are brought to bear.

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Advocacy does the opposite. Advocacy prefers to ignore or skate over the weak points in its own case and to focus on those in its opponents. It feels less of an obligation to clarity and comprehensiveness and it is quite happy to rely on rhetorical effects to win the day. Advocacy can itself be part of a systematic search for the truth in the context of a law court, for instance, where each side can make their own case and challenge the others but it is a quite different way of seeking the truth. So what happens when you mix science and advocacy? Lets take the example of the UKs most distinguished scientific body, the Royal Society. In 2007, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary called The Great Global Warming Swindleviii which, as its title suggests, aired strongly sceptical views. It was the most high profile part of a wave of vocal scepticism which many scientists feared might be turning public opinion against the case for anthropogenic climate change. In June that year, the Royal Society weighed in with a paper called Climate Change Controversies: a simple guide. It begins with these words:
The Royal Society has produced this overview of the current state of scientific understanding of climate change to help non-experts better understand some of the debates in this complex area of science.ix

Then it lays its cards on the table. The paper it says is not intended
to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of global warming. Instead, the Society as the UKs national academy of science responds here to eight key arguments that are currently in circulation by setting out where the weight of scientific evidence lies.

There then follows punchy ripostes to each of eight arguments put forward by the climate sceptics on pages headed Misleading argument 1, Misleading argument 2 and so on. This passage is almost a rhetorical mirror-image of the remarks by Benny Peiser with which I opened. Now the weight of scientific evidence and the UKs national academy of science in all their sober might are ranged against those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change. The only real caveat offered is that the consequences of global warming are only potential. Note also the withdrawal of the assumption of good faith. Those on the other side of the argument are seeking to distort and undermine the science: this is not an honest argument between honest people but a battle between enlightened science and people who actually want to distort and undermine. The same claim can be found in a letter to the journal Science in Page 7

2010 from hundreds of members of the American National Academy of Sciences: many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence. x Were never told in either case what the precise evidence is of this malign intentionality but I think we can be pretty sure that, to quote Hume, it does not directly arise from either quantity or number or experimental reasoning. This is advocacy, clearly and strongly expressed. This is how the Royal Society guide ends:
We must also prepare for the impacts of climate change, some of which are already inevitable.xi

Not probably inevitable but inevitable. Now as a piece of advocacy, this is pretty formidable. It uses the extraordinary authority of the Royal Society to full effect and it sets out its case in plain language and with far fewer conditions and qualifications than one would normally expect to see in a communication from scientists. Well, you can guess what happened. Forty-three members of the Royal Society complained about the tone of Climate Change Controversies and in particular about its alleged stridency and failure to acknowledge fully areas of uncertainty in the science. Accordingly, the Royal Society commissioned a new guide which was eventually published in the autumn of 2010xii. The rhetorical flavour of this second guide is very different from the first. It is called Climate Change: a summary of the science and, at least to my laymans eye and ear, it is exactly that. Now the question of scientific uncertainty is dealt with at length. Indeed the guide is partly structured along a spectrum of certainty in sections with titles like Aspects of climate change where there is a wide consensus but continuing debate and discussion and Aspects that are not well understood. As far as I can tell, the underlying scientific evidence on which the two guides rely is almost identical. Ive no doubt that the majority of the scientists who signed off on the second guide were just as convinced that the weight of the evidence points to a high probability of serious anthropogenic warming as the authors of the first. The difference between the two guides is in the character of the argumentation: the second draws back from the techniques and language of advocacy towards something which is much closer to straightforward scientific exposition. Reaction to this second guide was predictable. BBC Newsxiii reported Professor Anthony Kelly, one of the Fellows who had criticised the first paper, and who happens to be a member of the academic advisory board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, as saying that this new guide had gone a

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long way to meeting our concerns. Some on the other side of the argument were less happy. Indeed Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment said he doubted whether membership of both the Royal Society and the Global Warming Policy Foundation was even reconciliable.

Now, depending on your own position, you may well feel considerable sympathy with scientists who believe the climate is almost certainly changing in a dangerous way, who further believe that disinformation is causing public scepticism and confusion to grow, and who therefore decide to put their case with the forcefulness which advocacy offers. As I suggested earlier, that growth in scepticism is demonstrable: a Populus pollxiv suggested that even between the autumn of 2009 and the spring of 2010, the numbers of those who said they did not believe that global warming was taking place had jumped from 15% to 25% and those who agreed with the statement man-made climate change is environmentalist propaganda for which there is little or no evidence from 9% to 14%. By contrast, one surveyxv suggested that no fewer than 97% of atmospheric scientists believed that man-made climate change is happening. So: a perceived threat to the planet, a widening gap between experts and public, a live policy debate one can easily see how advocacy can seem like a duty. Nor do I claim that a scientist who goes down that path is doing anything wrong. What I am suggesting is that the admixture of advocacy and dispassionate scientific exposition makes the question of authority a good deal more complex. The governing body of the BBC, the BBC Trust, recently commissioned the eminent British scientist Professor Steve Jones to report on the impartiality and accuracy of the way in which the BBC covers science. They published his review in August last yearxvi. Steve Jones report is a serious piece of work which was welcomed and accepted almost in its entirety by the BBC and by me as its Editor-in-Chief. But if you read the report, youll come across an argument a rather civilised argument, it must be said, but an argument nonetheless between Steve Jones and some of his BBC interlocutors which goes to the heart of this question of authority. When it comes to impartiality, to what extent should the BBC treat science like everything else politics, religion, the arts and to what extent should it treat it differently because of sciences unique epistemological claims? To caricature the two extremes, the first would suggest that science should climb into the boxing ring like every other interest and submit to all the usual rules of adversarial debate, the second that the role of the broadcaster when a scientist wishes to speak is to turn on the microphone at the start and to say thank you at the end. Page 9

The actual debate was a good deal subtler than that, but Professor Jones was definitely on the side of a privileged position for science. He was consequently very nervous of the idea of impartiality, if impartiality meant balance and balance meant a 50/50 balance between mainstream science on the one hand and marginal or downright unscientific or anti-scientific opinion on the other. Against that, some BBC senior editors argued that, given how integral science is to so many policy debates, given that there are sometimes genuine disagreements between scientists, that there are real editorial dangers in putting science into a wholly protected category not least that, if the public do not hear science being scrutinised and challenged in the way that everything else is, they may actually believe scientists less rather than more. So whats the way through this? For me, the key is in the phrase the BBC uses to describe its obligation to treat controversies fairly: what is required beyond party politics is often not mathematical balance checked with a stopwatch, but due impartiality. The dangers to health from smoking are so clearly established that it would be not impartial, but irresponsible to give a smoking enthusiast equal time with the Chief Medical Officer. In the BBCs coverage of climate change that triple betrayal according to Christopher Booker we have tried progressively to adjust the balance of the debate to reflect shifts in the underlying science and the developing findings of the IPCC and other scientific bodies over time. Professor Jones says that some of his BBC interlocutors suggested that impartiality implies equality of voice. Thats not my view. For me, its important that editors ask themselves how much scientific support a given position has and adjust the prominence they give that position accordingly. Fundamental climate scepticism is now very much a minority view. There remain a few serious sceptics within science and I believe that it would be wrong to do what some scientists call for, which is effectively to ban them from the airwaves: censorship is a way of undermining, rather than building, public trust. I do however believe that their arguments and the amount of time they have to expound upon them should broadly reflect the support they enjoy within science and that is low. Unfortunately, the media both here and abroad have often failed to apply this weighting to the way they cover scientific and medical stories. Theres the danger of what one could call good horse-race bias a tendency to ignore a disproportion of underlying scientific support in order to run a more evenlymatched and therefore more satisfying debate. Andrew Wakefields claims, initially aired in the 1998 Lancet paper, that there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism would ultimately be described in another learned medical journalism as perhaps [] the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 yearsxvii. Mr Wakefield was struck off the medical register for serious professional misconduct in 2010. The evidence that there was no demonstrable link between the vaccine and autism would mount over the Page 10

years but authoritative studies cast grave doubt on the Wakefield claims very early on and official medical advice about the net benefits of the vaccine never wavered. But when the story played out around a decade ago, it was covered in the UK media and sometimes on the BBC as if the argument was in fact evenly balanced. The Today programme, for instance, which covered the story assiduously, often mounted on-air debates in which, for instance, the medically untrained representation of a parents pressure group on vaccines would be given equal time with a government medical expertxviii. Britains newspapers also often treated the story as if it was a good even-handed talking point though they soon became distracted by the fascinating ad hominem question of whether the then Prime Minister Tony Blairs son Leo had been given the vaccine. All this credence given to the Wakefield theory had its effect. A Today programme poll in 2001 commissioned discovered that no fewer than 79% of respondents thought there should be public enquiry into the topicxix and many parents simply decided not to allow their children to be given the vaccine. Irresponsible repetition of unwarranted doubts about the MMR vaccine had caused actual damage to public health. To me, this is not impartial journalism, but ignorant and shallow journalism. Coverage of the MMR controversy is a cautionary tale about how unwise it can be to apply the same approach to balance in science that one might to political debate. As Professor Jones says in his report, checks and balances and impartiality are already built into the scientific method and it is not difficult for responsible specialist journalists to establish the view of the science community on a given claim or controversy. That is what the BBC strives to do at its best and I believe that it has got much better in its coverage of science in both journalism and documentary in recent years.

But what happens if supporters of the majority scientific view cross the line into advocacy and, for instance, over-state the actual level of scientific certainty or accuse their opponents of bad faith? In covering that specific argument about the first Royal Society guide, say does the core authority of science stretch so far that there should still be nine people saying the guide is completely fine for every one who says it is flawed? And suppose the discussion turns to possible policy responses to climate change, responses that raise a host of political and economic questions which are perhaps unlike the underlying science under-determined and fully open to political debate? We may not agree with Dr Peisers implied ordering of the relative importance of science, economics and social commentary, but we probably do have to accept that in that discussion our approach to impartiality will have to be somewhat different.

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Now you might say: why not keep the two separate why not deal with the pure science, lets call it Sphere A, over here and then deal with the debate about the policy implications, Sphere B, over there. And it is useful, wherever possible, to distinguish in the presentation of such stories to the public what the science is from the discussion of what it means and what we should do about it. But in the real world, the two spheres are often jumbled together. The whole point of Dr Peisers remarks are to claim that the costs of the proposed mitigations to climate change B are not justified by the probability of its actually happening A. And, as weve seen, there are many scientists and scientific bodies which are not content to restrict their public utterances to Sphere A and who also seek to combine, sometimes even to blur the two. In practice, the ubiquitous admixture of opinion, , to established scientific fact or at least widespread consensus, , means that the type and strength of authority that is being brought to bear in the argument and therefore how it should be treated is often far from straightforward. For David Hume, the decision to keep the works of Sir Isaac Newton and to throw the works of St Thomas Aquinas into the fire is an easy one. But lets imagine him going through a pile of contemporary materials about climate change: that first Royal Society guide, Sir Nick Sterns report, even the promulgations of the IPCC. When it comes to public policy formulation, its probably not just impossible, but undesirable, to attempt to keep science qua science separate from the discussion of political and economic responses. But how far then does the special writ of scientific authority run? And thats only the start of our problems. Because in the hurly-burly of public discourse, all sorts of other authorities are also at work. Anita Howarth, in her paper Contested processes, contested influencexx, looks at how the GM debate played out in the UK mass media from the mid-90s to the early 2000s. She identifies a key moment in 1998 when a new voice of authority entered the debate:
The catalyst for the Daily Mails entry into the debate was an article in the Daily Telegraph by Prince Charles which enabled them to frame the debate in terms of ethics/religion, uncertain science and unknown effects. They also highlighted the associations made by Prince Charles between GMO and BSE in terms of unpredictable consequences, unknown effects and uncertain science. []xxi

By the autumn of that year, she claims, the debate had swung decisively towards uncertainty and the unacceptability of that uncertainty to the public and one of the things that may have tipped the balance was an intervention by the Heir to the Throne. Prince Charles used a quite different sort of authority to shift the centre of gravity of that debate away from the science where he had no expertise to offer towards ethics and religion

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where his own authority, both by dint of his status and the reputation he has built up with the public over many years, could really count. Ethical considerations, atavistic fears, including the fear of science, stray images and preconceptions can all play a part in the battle for authority. In their study of biotechnology and the popular press in Flanders, Knowledge culture and powerxxii, Peter Maeseele and Dimitri Schuurman include an intriguing table of the metaphors used in the Flemish popular press between 2000 and 2004 to describe the debate about different kinds of bio-tech. And there werea lot of them: of the 506 articles they examined, 202 contained metaphors, often multiple metaphors, so that there was a total of 400 metaphors used:
GMOs: use of the Frankenstein metaphor - 22 times. GMOs are pollutants - 4 times. The battle against GMOs is a crusade twice. Cloning is Jurassic Park - 6 times Cloning means eternal life - 26 times Genetic manipulation is a Nazi practice - 10 times Genetic manipulation is Brave New World - 6 times Genetic manipulation is an activity pursued by Saddam Hussein once.

And so on. Although a few are positive, the overwhelming majority of the metaphors are negative, and many nightmarish. The powerful and crucially readily comprehensible narratives evoked by the use of words like Frankenstein, Jurassic Park or Nazi, all of them redolent of science gone wrong or perverted to evil ends, have the effect of setting up an incoherent, but nonetheless potent anti-authority which some members of the public may find more persuasive than scientific authority itself. Maaseele and Schuurman conclude that, in Flanders at least, what they call the scienceindustrial complex has either lost or is losing the interpretive strugglexxiii. Beneath the surface, all sorts of beliefs and influences are at work in that interpretive struggle. Rachel Carsons 1962 book about the use of pesticides, Silent Spring, set out a substantial body of empirical evidence, but what made the book resonate was its elegaic tone and the way it cast the issue of our stewardship of nature into a language of moral responsibility which has remained an important element in the debate about the environment ever since. Bjrn Lomborg has written, convincingly in my view, about how the Club of Romes famous 1972 report, The Limits to Growth, created a paradigm about economic growth and the exhaustion of the worlds natural resources which remains extraordinarily influential forty years later, even though virtually every one of the specific predictions on which it was based has turned out to be wrongxxiv.

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With these themes of stewardship, moral responsibility and the fragile and threatened integrity, its hardly surprising that in the middle of arguments about science and the environment, one often stumbles on language which has a quasi-religious quality. Nor is this restricted to those who are arguing against science: when it comes to topics like climate change, one sometimes hears it from scientists themselves. Im not suggesting that the green movement is religious as such, simply that multiple paradigms and cultural themes are at work in the language we can find ourselves using about nature and science and the feelings we have about them.

Scientific authority finds itself having to make its case not in a rhetorical vacuum but in a jostling crowd of rival influences and allusions. Inevitably there are some who wish it were not so. Writing recently in Nature, Dan Kahan, a professor at Yale Law School who comments on the climate change debate, suggested that the problem with successfully communicating information to the public about the science lies not with the publics reasoning capacity but with what he calls the polluted science communication environment that drives people apart. He goes on to say:
Overcoming this dilemma requires collective strategies to protect the quality of the science-communication environment from the pollution of divisive cultural meanings.xxv

So now, rather brilliantly, we have an ecology of language itself and, instead of pesticides, a pollution of divisive cultural meanings. But, although we might sympathise with Professor Kahans frustration, surely those divisive cultural meanings are an inevitable part of post-Enlightenment pluralism and open democratic debate and, even if we could imagine any collective strategies which could protect us from them, would we really want to employ them? And who would decide which of the cultural meanings was divisive? That too would be a question of authority. Once again we can hear the ghost of Plato stirring. Meanwhile I think we should expect the role of authority in public discourse to continue to evolve and be contested. We live in an age of heroic brand extension and we can see something similar when it comes to authority. So it is no surprise to us when many papers and the BBC website reported the following urgent headline in 2010:
STEVEN HAWKING: GOD DID NOT CREATE UNIVERSExxvi

Its a headline because Professor Hawking is an eminent scientist, perhaps the most famous scientist in the world, but how much scientific authority Page 14

should we assign to this statement? Does it contain reasoning about number or experiment? Well, not exactly indeed it seems to have been largely prompted by the discovery that Professor Hawking had a new book coming out. A scientist explaining that the evidence for Darwinian evolution means that a fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis must be wrong does in my view pass the Hume test. Someone who told us that we should rely on their authority as a scientist when they offer us personal financial advice does not. Professor Hawkings remarks about God seem to lie somewhere in the middle. The extension of authority is not always a risky enterprise. Years ago I commissioned a leading zoologist, Aubrey Manning, to make a series about geology for BBC Twoxxvii. Aubrey only had a general knowledge of geology but had always been intrigued by the geological context for his own biological studies and the resulting programmes were an effective combination of the presenter as authority figure, fully conversant with the scientific method, and the presenter as vicarious viewer, finding things out alongside us in the course of the series. But, its not hard to think of examples in television or elsewhere in the media of authority been stretched so far that the elastic eventually snaps. In our newspapers youll find examples of every kind of translated authority, from the film star who has suddenly become an expert in nutrition or eastern mysticism to the notable retired politician who feels fully equipped to sound off on pretty much everything. Sometimes one comes across a letter about some matter of public concern signed by a long list of notables from many different and unconnected backgrounds: this is authority sliced and diced and repackaged like the Collateralised Debt Obligations which precipitated the financial crisis, authority each piece of which may be far from its point of origin and justification, but where its still hoped that the whole can be greater than the parts. We might have hoped that authority might be one sure way of piercing the cloud of unknowing. Instead, we find that even the most clear-cut authority, that derived from science, can find itself in the most opaque, impenetrable regions of the cloud. And if what Ive said this evening is true of science, it is probably even more true of economics and the other social sciences, indeed of any area of professional expertise which intersects with the world of public debate and policy. Misrepresentation is undoubtedly often part of the problem but, as Ive tried to demonstrate this evening, its too easy to blame the publics lack of knowledge of, or unwillingness to trust science entirely on the dark forces of misrepresentation. When science enters the public arena, it almost always ends up having to play by at least some of the rules of that arena, rules which often confuse the question of authority. It also finds itself in competition with radically asymmetrical rhetorical forces which derive their power from the spheres of morality, culture, superstition, even the mystic.

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But to wish we could eliminate those divisive cultural meanings is to wish away the freedom and openness on which modern democracies are built and, short of dictatorship, its impossible to achieve anyway. In my view our task rather is to find practical ways of helping the public to pick their own way through this difficult, cluttered landscape. Ive tried this evening to give some examples of how it is possible to parse public statements about science and disentangle them so that one can analyse and understand the different elements: exposition, assertion, opinion and advocacy. It takes time and, in its own way, a little training. Our challenge is how to encourage more people to take the time and acquire the skills to do this for themselves. I will return to that theme tomorrow, but I want to leave you with a parting thought which is particularly relevant to this professorship. Ive spent the whole of this afternoon talking about science but, in doing that, Ive relied on a sensibility and a set of techniques that absolutely derive from the humanities. People sometimes talk about the humanities as if they are an indulgence we no longer need or can afford, but without them, who is going to be able to address problems like the one Ive explored this evening? Science is the most formidable intellectual force of our age, perhaps any age. The irony is that, without the insights of the humanities, it may still find itself without words.

Introduction to Global Warming Policy Foundation Annual Lecture 2011, October 2011 Benny Peiser, March 23 2011 [need reference] iii MORI/BMA survey, February 2005 iv [need reference] v David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section XII vi Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics, Allen Lane 2006 vii [needs reseach back-up and reference] viii Channel 4, March 8 2007 ix Royal Society, Climate Change Controversies: a simple guide, June 30 2007 x Reported in The Guardian, May 6 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/ 2010/may/06/climate-science-open-letter xi Royal Society ibid. xii http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/ _Society_Content/policy/publications/2010/4294972962.pdf xiii http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11438570 xiv http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/05_02_10climatechange.pdf xv Published in Eos, 2009, see http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf, quoted by Prof Steve Jones in the BBC Trust report below xvi BBC Trust: Professor Steve Jones, BBC Trust review of the impartiality and accuracy of the BBCs coverage of science, July 2011 xvii The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, see http://www.theannals.com/content/45/10/1302 xviii [need reference or other example]
ii

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xix

ICM Research/Today MMR poll August 2001, see http://www.icmresearch.com/pdfs/2001_ august_today_programme_mmr.pdf xx Collected in Routledge, Public Policy and Mass Media, 2010, p 143 ff. xxi Ibid, p. 152, other references removed. xxii Also collected in Routledge, Public Policy and Mass Media, 2010, p 86 ff. The table I refer to is Table 5.1 on p. 101. xxiii Ibid, pp 102-3. xxiv Foreign Affairs Volume 91 No. 4 (July/August 2012) p 24 ff. xxv Nature, 15 August 2012, see http://www.nature.com/news/why-we-are-poles-apart-onclimate-change-1.11166 xxvi http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11161493 xxvii Earth Story, BBC Two, 1998.

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mark thompson jimmy saville - Google Search

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11/13/2012 11:02 PM

- Bishop Hill blog - +++BBC Climate 28 revealed+++

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/11/12/bbc-clim...

From Mr Mark Thomson's article. I've made the modifications required, for him to read and understand what the BBC did:

Now I know what economists are, but who are these social commentators? What training and qualications do you need to become one? Or is social commentator like community leader, an oce which involves an element of self-election? ... Lets try dropping that into Professor Peisers last sentence. These are [] questions that cannot be answered by science alone but require careful consideration by Greenpeace. It doesnt work, does it? Thats because of the stark dierence in authority between scientists and Greenpeace.

and

Advocacy does the opposite. Advocacy prefers to ignore or skate over the weak points in its own case and to focus on those in its opponents. It feels less of an obligation to clarity and comprehensiveness and it is quite happy to rely on rhetorical eects to win the day. Advocacy can itself be part of a systematic search for the truth in the context of a law court, for instance, where each side can make their own case and challenge the others but it is a quite dierent way of seeking the truth. So what happens when you mix science and advocacy?

Indeed. What does happen when you mix science and advocacy? I think whoever's been watching the BBC for a few years now know the answer. Nov 13, 2012 at 11:32 AM | shub

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11/14/2012 12:46 AM

28 Gates Later the BBC's nightmare gets worse ...

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/...

James Delingpole

28 Gates Later the BBC's nightmare gets worse and worse!


By James Delingpole Media Last updated: November 13th, 2012 1547 Comments Comment on this article

Maurizio Morabito: the BBC's new unfavourite thing Oh go on then, twist my arm. Even though I've spent all morning writing it up for my Spectator column, I suppose there was no way I was going to get away with not writing a blog about the story du jour: the one they're now calling Twentyeightgate. This of course follows the unsuccessful attempt by blogger Tony Newbery (Harmless Sky) to get to the truth of the now-infamous January 2006 seminar where the BBC decided to give up even pretending to be balanced on the climate change issue and start reporting it like a full-on Greenpeace activist. The BBC's excuse: clever experts made us do it. But this won't wash now that thanks to some inspired digging by Maurizio Morabito the list of the guilty has nally been revealed. (A big thanks to Tony for setting the ball rolling.) Here are allegedly "the best scientific experts" who attended:

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11/14/2012 01:47 PM

28 Gates Later the BBC's nightmare gets worse ...

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/...

BBC Television Centre, London Specialists: Robert May, Oxford University and Imperial College London Mike Hulme, Director, Tyndall Centre, UEA Blake Lee-Harwood, Head of Campaigns, Greenpeace Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen Michael Bravo, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge Andrew Dlugolecki, Insurance industry consultant Trevor Evans, US Embassy Colin Challen MP, Chair, All Party Group on Climate Change Anuradha Vittachi, Director, Oneworld.net Andrew Simms, Policy Director, New Economics Foundation Claire Foster, Church of England Saleemul Huq, IIED Poshendra Satyal Pravat, Open University Li Moxuan, Climate campaigner, Greenpeace China Tadesse Dadi, Tearfund Ethiopia Iain Wright, CO2 Project Manager, BP International Ashok Sinha, Stop Climate Chaos Andy Atkins, Advocacy Director, Tearfund Matthew Farrow, CBI Rafael Hidalgo, TV/multimedia producer Cheryl Campbell, Executive Director, Television for the Environment Kevin McCullough, Director, Npower Renewables Richard D North, Institute of Economic Affairs Steve Widdicombe, Plymouth Marine Labs Joe Smith, The Open University Mark Galloway, Director, IBT Anita Neville, E3G Eleni Andreadis, Harvard University Jos Wheatley, Global Environment Assets Team, DFID Tessa Tennant, Chair, AsRia BBC attendees: Jana Bennett, Director of Television Sacha Baveystock, Executive Producer, Science Helen Boaden, Director of News Andrew Lane, Manager, Weather, TV News Anne Gilchrist, Executive Editor Indies & Events, CBBC Dominic Vallely, Executive Editor, Entertainment Eleanor Moran, Development Executive, Drama Commissioning Elizabeth McKay, Project Executive, Education Emma Swain, Commissioning Editor, Specialist Factual Fergal Keane, (Chair), Foreign Affairs Correspondent Fran Unsworth, Head of Newsgathering

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11/14/2012 01:47 PM

28 Gates Later the BBC's nightmare gets worse ...

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/...

George Entwistle, Head of TV Current Affairs Glenwyn Benson, Controller, Factual TV John Lynch, Creative Director, Specialist Factual Jon Plowman, Head of Comedy Jon Williams, TV Editor Newsgathering Karen OConnor, Editor, This World, Current Aairs Catriona McKenzie, Tightrope Pictures catriona@tightropepictures.com BBC Television Centre, London (cont) Liz Molyneux, Editorial Executive, Factual Commissioning Matt Morris, Head of News, Radio Five Live Neil Nightingale, Head of Natural History Unit Paul Brannan, Deputy Head of News Interactive Peter Horrocks, Head of Television News Peter Rippon, Duty Editor, World at One/PM/The World this Weekend Phil Harding, Director, English Networks & Nations Steve Mitchell, Head Of Radio News Sue Inglish, Head Of Political Programmes Frances Weil, Editor of News Special Events Good work, Maurizio. Nice job! This story is such a target-rich environment, with so many ramifications one could go on writing about it all week. As indeed, I hope we will. For the moment, I highly recommend the comments at Watts Up With That? and also at Bishop Hill. Jo Nova offers a characteristically thorough summary. So too does Andrew Orlowski at The Register. So too does Tallbloke. The important thing is not to let the scandal lie down and die as the BBC and its chums at places like the Guardian no doubt hope it will. It can't be said often enough: this is a scandal far more significant than either the Jimmy Savile affair or the Lord McAlpine fiasco. Why? Because those first two were (mostly) cock-ups whereas this one is definitely a cynical and deliberate conspiracy by an institutionally corrupt organisation which has got far too big for its boots. As Barry Woods notes at Watts Up With That, the scandal goes at least as far back as 2002 with this email (exposed in Climategate 2) by climate activist Mike Hulme. Did anyone hear Stott vs. Houghton on Today, radio 4 this morning? Woeful stuff really. This is one reason why Tyndall is sponsoring the Cambridge Media/Environment Programme to starve this type of reporting at source.

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11/14/2012 01:47 PM

28 Gates Later the BBC's nightmare gets worse ...

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/...

Hulme is a slippery customer. In the aftermath of Climategate, he could often be heard on the radio posing as the voice of sweet reason and moderation. Privately, Hulme was one of the arch Post Modern Scientists (read Watermelons for more on this) who helped build the great global warming scam into the Frankenstein's monster it is today. In that private email, he shows his true face. The Stott is Professor Philip Stott one of the few scientists in the early days prepared publicly to speak out against AGW alarmism; the Houghton is Sir John Houghton, long one of Britain's most shrill and influential alarmists. Hulme's response to this unwelcome balance: to use money from his publicly-funded Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to shut down the debate. Scandalously, he achieved this with one of the BBC's own reporters the climate activist Roger Harrabin. It was Harrabin together with another green activist Joe Smith (see list of names above) who ran the Cambridge Media/Environment Programme. This organised a series of seminars, including the one above, designed to make the BBC's climate science coverage more aggressively alarmist. As we've seen since, these seminars were very effective and have given Harrabin and the rest of his alarmist colleagues (David Shukman, Richard Black etc) an awful lot of self-publicity, money and airtime. But what about the BBC's charter obligation to be balanced? What indeed! Tallbloke sums it up nicely: So now the BBC has yet another big problem on its hands. It turns out it has lied to the public who pay for it about the makeup of the group which has determined its climate reporting policy. This is no small matter considering the billions of pounds involved in the Green energy industry. Additional carbon taxation has directly led to fuel poverty for hundreds of thousands. The excess cold related deaths in the UK have shot up in the last few years. We hear stories of pensioners buying secondhand books by the yard and burning them to keep warm. This one should run and run. Well I hope so. Tags: Jimmy Savile, Maurizio Morabito, Mike Hulme, Roger Harrabin, Tony Newbery, Twentyeightgate

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11/14/2012 01:47 PM

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11/13/2012 11:11 PM

THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING


Policy, rhetoric and public bewilderment

3. Not in my name
You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word; victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terrors, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.i

Well, I cant do the voice as you can hear but that of course is Winston Churchill. Its May 13th 1940 and he has been Prime Minister for three days. This is his first address as Premier to the House of Commons. It is also the fourth day of Fall Gelb, the German invasion of France. As Churchill speaks, the French defence is breaking at Sedan. Dunkirk is less than a fortnight away. The passage Ive just quoted has the structural clarity of a sonnet, or a prayer. There are two parts stanzas, I want to call them the first asking and answering the question what is our policy?, the second the question what is our aim? The first is controlled by the repeated word war, the second by the repeated word victory, though perhaps the single most important word in the entire passage is the very last one: survival. Its rich in rhetorical effect: anacoenosis (rhetorical question); alliteration (wage war, that God can give us); enumeratio (the listing first of the ways in which the war must be fought, then of the challenges that must be faced cost, fear, difficulty and exhaustion before victory can be secured; tricolon crescens (those three victory clauses which progressively grow both in length and emphasis); and so on. Yet it never feels studied or contrived, but immediate, unforced, fluid; the repetition, alliteration and the short, spare clauses driving both the speaker and listener forward. Theres one phrase the monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime which reminds us of the Churchillian orotundity that even contemporaries found old-fashioned, pompous even, though at this moment it is both comforting and rather magnificent, deftly anchoring what Churchill has to say about the present crisis into a context, not just of history, but of a version of that history in which this country has always recognised a chivalrous duty to oppose tyranny and evil.

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And thats what strikes me most about this passage and about the blood, sweat, toil and tears speech as a whole. This is not a speech about a moral crusade as such. The United Kingdom is at war because it has entered into a defence pact with other countries and some of its allies have been invaded. Churchill is rallying the Commons and the nation for immediate and entirely practical reasons: the enemy is racing across France and the threats of military catastrophe, invasion and national destruction are real and imminent. And yet the moral dimension and the strength that comes from knowing that this is also a righteous fight for civilisation against unparalleled evil is completely continuous with the practical. Of course we know much more than Churchills listeners did about the war that Britain would fight for another five years. We know that, while the justification for waging the war ius ad bellum would never be seriously questioned, things would be done by British forces, the bombing of Dresden and other German cities for instance, which would certainly raise questions of justice in the conduct of that war ius in bello. In other words, we know that the Second World War fits into an intricate and vexed argument about just and unjust wars that goes back, through Aquinas and Augustine, to Rome. We also know that the fiction of World War II the Sword of Honour trilogy, say or, from the other side of the Atlantic, Catch-22 would often express the same themes of absurdity, waste, horror and despair we associate with the literature of World War I, and that these things would indeed be part of the experience of those who fought in this war. We know, if weve read Corelli Barnetts The Audit of War for instance, that the war effort would sometimes reveal, not just British political and industrial incompetence, but disunity and division. We know finally that some of Churchills own, newly-formed Cabinet would soon be making the case for suing for peace with Hitler. But none of this nor the honourable objections of a minority of pacifists and conscientious objectors diminish the sense we have, when we listen to Churchills words, of a moment both of supreme emergency but also of supreme clarity: a moment when leader and people come together, and the pragmatic and the moral fuse together and a resolution is made to go on fighting, uncertain of success but certain at least of the reasons and the moral case for fighting it. What a long shadow that certainty casts. How difficult for any subsequent prime minister to stand at the Despatch Box and achieve that level of clarity. Lets listen to one trying. The location is again the House of Commons, the date is now 18th March 2003 and Tony Blair is opening the debate into whether this country should join the United States and other allies in invading Iraq. The speech best remembered from this day is the resignation speech made by the late Robin Cook, the author of the Blair governments ethical Page 2

foreign policy, who had just left the cabinet because of his objections both practical and moral to the war. But Tony Blairs speech is itself a striking piece of oratory. This is how it begins:
At the outset I say: it is right that this house debate this issue and pass judgement. That is the democracy that is our right but that others struggle for in vain. And again I say: I do not disrespect the views of those in opposition to mine. This is a tough choice. But it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down and turn back; or to hold to the course we have set. I believe we must hold firm.ii

There is a gracious tone to this and indeed to the whole of the speech: an acknowledgement that, as he says a few sentences later, people who agree on everything else, disagree on this, while those who never agree on anything find common cause. We hear the first hint of a moral argument whereas the United Kingdom is a country where people have the right to question and debate everything the government proposes, the citizens of Iraq are not so lucky. Next, a recognition that this is a tough choice, not in the Churchillian sense of a choice with painful consequences, but meaning that the choice itself is difficult to make. But this tough choice is also stark perhaps the choice is finely balanced in the listeners mind but what is involved are alternatives which stand at 180 degrees to each other. Theres a little artistry in the way the choice is put. It is either to stand British troops down and turn back or to hold to the course we have set. So who are we? Well, this first we, the we that has set the course so far, is clearly Tony Blair himself and his government. But then he goes on to say: I believe we must hold firm. And this second we must include not just his government but his listeners, everyone who will be voting in the Commons and, by extension, the nation. Its easy to miss the distinction and to hear the following meaning: we-everyone must hold firm to the course that we-everyone have already set. Under this meaning, to stand the troops down is to go back on a decision that we had all already more or less made. The simplicity and power of the short sentence I believe we must hold firm stand out though. Theres no hint of vaingloriousness about it, or aggression: indeed the words hold firm smack in the end of defence of our own and the worlds security rather than attack. The I believe is important too. This is a statement by the leader of a government, but it is also explicitly a personal statement. Knowing how divided the country is, and his own party, Tony Blair is laying his own political judgement and reputation on the line. Like Churchill, Blair has practical policies and aims to lay out, but I believe we must hold firm hints that this is also about a question of courage or the lack of it, a question of right and wrong. But the case he then has to set out is far more complex and nuanced than Winston Churchills. Its a story not of a direct attack on British allies and forces and who knows? soon the British homeland but a convoluted tale of

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UN resolutions and weapons-inspectors and diplomatic manoeuverings. The questions it seeks to answer are not as simple as what is our policy? or what is our aim? but have we exhausted all diplomatic ways of ensuring that Saddam Hussein comply with Resolution 1441? and are the consequences of his non-compliance so serious that they justify the use of force against him? Tony Blair will answer yes to both these questions. Behind these questions and answers is an unspoken but coherent strategic doctrine the doctrine of liberal interventionism which the Prime Minister had previously articulated in a speech in Chicago in 1999iii and to which, not just Kosovo, but the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq clearly conformed. In many ways, this doctrine would turn out to be what Tony Blair and New Labour meant by an ethical foreign policy and he would stick to it consistently throughout his premiership. We note though how much more sophisticated it is and how much harder to explain than the case for national self-defence in 1940. Nonetheless, in the midst of this painstaking exposition, the ghost of Churchill makes an appearance. Is Saddam Hussein another Adolf Hitler? Are those who oppose the war in 2003 like the appeasers of the 1930s? Tony Blairs answer is a subtle one. He protects himself by dismissing what he calls glib and foolish comparisons with the 1930s and explicitly says that No one here is an appeaser, but he nonetheless immediately goes on to talk about 1930s appeasement at some length, his argument being that we shouldnt blame the appeasers then because unlike we who have the benefit of hindsight they didnt know how dangerous Hitler was. This leads him straight to a discussion of Saddam Hussein and all the evidence we already have of just how dangerous he is. Elsewhere he offers this Churchillian insight:
[] the world has to learn all over again that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant, is the surest way not to peace but unfortunately to conflict.iv

Eighty years on, hindsight, revisionism and modern scepticism have done little to blunt or tarnish the impact of Winston Churchills rhetoric. Just nine years laters, it is impossible to read Tony Blairs speech in the way it was intended to be heard at the time. His argument rests centrally, indeed almost exclusively, on Saddam Husseins weapons of mass destruction and the manifold dangers they pose: direct danger to his neighbours and the region and to us, if the terrorists with whom he colludes get their hands on them; and indirect danger, because if we dont take on Saddam and neutralise his weapons, other bad regimes will believe they can keep or acquire ones of their own. The term WMD appears fourteen times in the speech, and individual WMD VX, anthrax, mustard gas, sarin, botulinum toxin, radiological bombs and so on many more times.

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None of them were ever found. That is what we know now. And that knowledge eviscerates the speech. To us now, it is a speech without a foundation, a speech almost literally about nothing which nonetheless led to a war. This is not to reach a verdict about whether or not the speech was delivered in good faith in other words, whether Tony Blair believed at the time that Saddam had WMD thats a quite separate issue. It is simply to say that what we might call the objective moral justification set out for going to war has vanished. In his passage about the 30s, Tony Blair suggested that we shouldnt blame the appeasers because it was only later that the scale of the menace of Hitler was revealed. But now were dealing with the opposite situation. In this case, it was only later that it became apparent how much smaller the threat from Saddam was than had been claimed at the time. Other reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein could and would be adduced he was a tyrant and a massmurderer, he destablised the region, a democratic Iraq could be a force for good in the Middle East but they do not form a significant part of this, the Prime Ministers case for going to war at the point when the decision had to be made.

Over the past two days, Ive looked at two ways in which Ive claimed that our public language has become less effective in helping the public to understand and engage with the big issues of the day: first because of some interesting developments in the language itself and second because of the way authority is treated, disputed, extended and distorted. This evening I want to suggest how we might respond to these developments. But before that, Im going to touch briefly on what I take to be a third source of potential bewilderment, which is what happens when should enters the sentence in other words, when politicians and others feel its necessary or appropriate to add a moral dimension to their arguments for a given piece of public policy. There are of course debates where moral argument is characteristically to the fore so called values issues like abortion and the debate about gay or same-sex marriage. Here the moral case for or against is often spelled out by advocates explicitly, though the debates are often marked by what the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has called conceptual incommensurabilityv, by which he means, I think, that the two sides in the debate proceed from premises and, behind them, world-views which are so radically different that what follows is not a conventional argument at all, but the disconnected interplay of cases, each of which may be consistent in its own terms, but which never touch each other and can therefore never be resolved. The internal logic of a womans right to choose and the sanctity of human life may be perfect. Bringing these two logics together in the hope of reaching a definitive conclusion is impossible and thus the argument is, to use MacIntyres word, literally interminable. Page 5

Interestingly and this parallels a contrast I noted in my first lecture this incommensurability and interminability is much more visible and established in American public debate than in this country. In the UK, theres often a strong practical or technocratic element to the debate a discourse around the number of weeks of pregnancy before abortion should be banned, for instance which increases the possibility of compromise and resolution at least pro tem. Even in the British context though, I think its possible to detect signs of a growing absolutism, and consequently a growing polarity, in the ways such issues are discussed. But in much of public policy, the moral sits alongside the practical, alongside political, economic, technical, geo-strategic and potentially many other considerations and its presence can either be overt or covert and can move from one to other. If there are differences or divisions on what is right and wrong, then unlike in pure cases like abortion they can lie dormant until something happens to awaken them. The example Im going to examine this evening is one where all of these dimensions form part of the debate, though for reasons which I come to, the moral dimension seldom disappears entirely from view and often, to many members of the public, feels like the most dimension of all. The example is war: the decision to go to war; and, if war comes, the debate about the conduct of that war.

Whats striking about so much of the modern rhetoric of war in the UK is the extent to which it relies on a set of archetypal paradigms. Churchill in the 1930s and 40s is part of a broader paradigm of World World II as the definitive good war. George Bush Senior was reading Churchill when Saddam invaded Kuwait: it was natural for him to paint Saddam in Hitlerian colours just as Tony Blair would, at least implicitly, a decade or so later. Anthony Eden would do the same to Gamal Nasser in the build-up to Suez in the 50s. But the Second World War can be played the other way as well. Perhaps we or at least those leaders who argue for military intervention are the bloody-thirsty aggressors, war criminals even. If you doubt this, take a look at tonyblairwarcriminal.com or arrestblair.org. Then there are the wars of the imperial era, wars which at least in this simplified version of history were just about geographical and economic gain. Perhaps the oil-fields of Iraq are the real reason why in 2003, George W Bush and Tony Blair were determined to press ahead with the invasion. So: blood lust, or imperialist greed. But the other major lens through which modern wars are often viewed in this country is a more interesting one: its the Great War a war whose popular narrative emcompasses heroism, sacrifice, nobility on the battlefield and reckless, incompetent generals and a political class who, for no very good reason, slaughtered a generation. It was famously in Germany that a stab-inPage 6

the-back myth took root in the years after the war, but that same sense of betrayal by the elites also characterises the collective memory of the war in Britain too. Arrogance, over-confidence, death through bureaucratic or political miscalculation or a cavalier disregard for reality: these things make the Great War paradigm somehow more modern than the one we associate with World War II. And you bump into it everywhere. In April 2006, Dr John Reid said a few words at a press conference in Kabul about the British Armys deployment into Helmand province. He was contrasting the aim of this employment which was intended to be focused on reconstruction, security and the building of strong local institutions with earlier, more combatfocused or kinetic phases of the Afghan campaign. In that context, he said:
We're in the south to help and protect the Afghan people to reconstruct their economy and democracy. We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years time without firing one shot.vi

But that phrase without firing one shot is a resonant and oddly reminiscent one. It has a 1914, Home by Christmas quality to it and, although it is not actually an expression of optimism it is not a prediction and Dr Reid cannot have remotely imagined that that the deployment would proceed without any military action it can easily be made to sound like one. Heres Simon Jenkins writing some eighteen months later in The Guardian:
John Reid, the then defence secretary, even talked of completing the Helmand deployment without a shot being fired. [] The whole Helmand expedition has from the start been a suicide mission.vii

We might notice the inversion. Now it is without a shot being fired, which at least to my ear, gives it even more of the sense of an over-confident First World War general. For years now Dr Reid has energetically tried to convince the world that, in his words, I never at any stage expressed the hope, expectation, promise or pledge that we would leave Afghanistan without firing a shot viii he once phoned me at home when he heard someone on the BBC suggesting that he had, and I acted on the phone-call but this is the kind of narrative pull which is almost impossible to counter entirely. On Monday, I talked about the compressed phrases Sarah Palins death panel, for instance that can take over a debate. Dr Reids problem was rather one of meanings: instead of his own original meaning, a new meaning had been imposed on his words, a meaning whose connection to national memory was so powerful that it took on a life of its own.

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In March this year, the Lancashire Telegraph reported the death in action in Afghanistan of Sergeant Nigel Coupe from the Duke of Lancasters Regiment. Here are some of the comments that were posted on the papers website under that story:
This now brings the total killed to 400. When he was Defence Secretary John Reid boasted that we would be in and out of Afghanistan without a shot being fired. I wonder how he can sleep at night. The military have done a fantastic job over there at great sacrifice. More than can be said for the politicians. The sad thing is there have never been any casualties amongst the Westminster regiment. I wear my poppy with pride every year and pray for those that dont come back. [] RIP good lads: I for one will not forget.ix

Were very close to the First World War here. Dr Reids comment has become a boast and now its not just about the Helmand deployment but the whole Afghan war. The phrase is now fixed in its inverted form. And theres that jibe, which could have come from any decade in the past century, about the Westminster regiment. Im not the only one to have become intrigued by the after-life of the distorted version of John Reids quote. This April, Julian Borger wrote a piece, again The Guardian, which pointed up the misquotation but then went on:
but the myth does nonetheless encapsulate a deeper truth about the blithe optimism with which the Blair government sent the first deployment of 3,000 soldiers into Helmand in early 2006 [].x

That phrase about a myth which nonetheless encapsulates a deeper truth is a clear sign at least to me that were heading full-steam into what Ive called the cloud of unknowing, but the thing that most interests me about this sentence are the two words blithe optimism. While Borger certainly goes on to catalogue over-confidence among the military, the reasons he lists for why the politicians agreed to the deployment do not include optimism. There was, he says, group-think around the inevitability of the deployment; a sense that Tony Blair might be embarrassed at an international conference on Afghanistan if the decision had not been made; finally there was extremely limited knowledge about conditions on the ground in Helmand. All of these things may be true and may indeed explain a decision which led to an immensely difficult and bloody experience for the thousands of British troops who have ended up serving there. But none of them support the phrase blithe optimism among the politicians, and its difficult to avoid the suspicion that the words are there and especially that Edwardian-sounding

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adjective blithe because they firmly bolt the decision, and the politicians who made, to the Ur-myth of the First World War: lions led by donkeysxi; Never such innocence againxii; and Wilfred Owens Abram who slew his son,/ And half the seed of Europe, one by one. xiii So a sentiment which began as an attempt by British minister to assure Afghans that his governments intentions in Helmand Province were to do as little fighting and as much reconstructing as possible ends up morphing into an apparent proof-text of ignorance and callousness. And the fact he didnt actually say it is seemingly irrelevant even to those who know he didnt say it.

Avarice, recklessness, murderousness, stupidity, a series of historical paradigms that can carry you away like a rip-tide and an expectation grounded in the Second World War experience that we fight wars in a Manichean moral universe in which we are either on the side of good or of evil. With all these pressures playing on them, no wonder modern politicians often end up in contortions as they try satisfactorily to integrate a moral imperative into fiendishly complicated practical policy considerations. So what are our military objectives in Afghanistan? Given how many politicians I could have quoted from either side of the Atlantic, it seems rather churlish to pick on one, but here is the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, laying them out in the House of Commons on the 8th of July 2009:
It is important to ensure that in the mountainous regions surrounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, we do not have a crucible for the development of terrorism which threatens people not only in those countries but in the wider region and, indeed, the whole world. This mission is also important for the education of people in Afghanistan. Our troops [] are paving the way for economic development and a more secure democracy as well as security in the region and the world.xiv

Well, its a belt-and-braces list. Despite that topographically puzzling but heroic-sounding reference to the mountainous regions surrounding Afghanistan and Pakistan, we grasp the first war aim at once: it is to interdict the terrorists though now, eight years on from 9/11, the mission has broadened and, in a way, diffused into a global policeman role targetted at the two countries, the region and the whole world. In contrast to Tony Blairs Iraq speech and indeed Winston Churchills blood, sweat, toil and tears, national self-defence no longer represents the core of this war aim. But our military objectives and military objectives were what Ms Harman was being asked to explain also apparently include education, economic

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development, democracy. Now all of those things no doubt depend on a stable security situation in Afghanistan, one that perhaps could only be achieved by significant numbers of ISAF troops, yet its not just a long list but one which stretches the use of military force a long way from simple warfighting. As one American commander said to me in Afghanistan, an M16 is not a lot of use when it comes to making the cultural case for womens education. By the 2012 presidential race, American war aims in Afghanistan would come full circle, back to the days following 9/11. As far as both President Obama and Candidate Romney were concerned, the US wished Afghanistan well and would continue to support it no doubt with aid, training, technology and diplomacy. But the core war aim interdiction of terrorists who could attack America and allies had been achieved and, because of that, the western powers could now plan their withdrawal. Everything else security, education, economic development, democracy in the end would be left in the hands of the Afghans. So why, just three years earlier, was Harriet Harman and her governments list of military so long? Eight years into a war to which both the UK and, at least at this moment in 2009, the US were still fully committed, a kind of moral deficit had opened up in the case. Immediate self-defence was not as compelling as it was at the start and other, previously ancillary good causes were needed to top up the moral justification for the war. Its easy to dismiss this topping up exercise as cynical: politicians determined to carry on with their war come what may, and prepared to use any excuse to justify it. This is exactly the charge that was made about the allies in their conduct of their war in Iraq: that, when it became clear that WMD, the original casus belli, were unlikely to be found, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair seemed moved on to other justifications for continuing the military intervention. But the same broadening of war aims has also characterised the Afghan war, a war whose original justification that Afghanistan had hosted the terrorists who attacked America has never been undermined in the way that Iraqi WMD were. If, in simplistic terms, Iraq was for many a bad war right from the start, Afghanistan at least began as a good war, or at least a war whose origins in self-defence were so clear-cut and well-evidenced that there was little protest when it began. What happened in Afghanistan was not the discovery that the war had been launched on a false prospectus, but something older and more familiar: domestic fatigue at a war that never seems to end; a sense among the political leadership that, despite the difficulties, there are cogent reasons of state to press on; and the need, therefore, to flesh out new or additional reasons for why it is right not just practically, but morally to be there. And because some factors the consideration for instance in the case of the UK of the relationship with the US are difficult to justify from this moral perspective,

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its probably inevitable that humanitarian and developmental goals should be the first to make the cut. Some will argue that this is a cynical gesture, but it neednt be. A political leader may always have believed that there were multiple justifications and potential benefits for fighting a given war just as with any other policy choice even if there was a single overriding one to begin with. If that is the case, its not obvious that it must be cynical to mention one justification at one point and a second at another. But you can see the problem. Even if always delivered with good faith and the best interests of the country at heart, a list of war aims and justifications which changes and evolves runs the risk of confusing not just the public but the military leaders who are tasked with actually achieving them. Its not that morally simple wars are impossible to imagine. For many, though of course not everyone, the UKs campaign to eject Argentina and recover the Falkland Islands was exactly that. And if this country ever again faced the existential threat that confronted it in 1940, we can certainly envisage a rhetoric as direct and compelling as that of Winston Churchill. But of course those are not typically the kind of military intervention which western nations have to contemplate. The ones which they do Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierre Leone and the wars that nearly never were, like Kosovo, and never were, like Rwanda are as complex as any other pieces of modern policy formulation. Explaining the case for and against presents potentially all the problems I have explored over the past two evenings, but with this additional challenge: that at any time the debate may move abruptly into a purely moral sphere and your decision to intervene or, as in the case of Rwanda, not to intervene may be subjected to a moral test. Is it surprising that modern politicians should strive hard to make sure that, at every stage of a given conflict, the aggregate moral justification should be sufficiently high. As a result though, both the generals in the field and the public at home may struggle to keep up. Its possible that the strategy and tactics required to build a new Afghanistan are identical with those one would employ if the primary aim was solely to interdict international terrorism in the country, but they may not be. And, more straightforwardly, a public which is giving one subtly different set of war aims after enough may simply become confused about why we are there at all. And the controlling narratives which colour so much of public expectations about modern wars probably introduce distortions of their own. I suggested that, for many in both the US and the UK, Iraq was a bad war in the way that, for many, Vietnam and Suez were bad wars; while Afghanistan began as a good or at least justified war, like the Falklands say, or even the archetypal good war that took place between 1939 and 1945. Given the run of modern history, theres a danger of a particular fallacy or bias: which is that good wars end well and bad wars badly.

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In reality domestic support based on a convincing moral case is only one of the factors that determine whether a war achieves its aims or not. The strength of the enemy, the achievability of the war aims, the attitude and culture of the society in which the conflict is taking place: all of these things may influence the outcome. A war can be both justified and yet unwise because of its practical difficulties; while a war can be unjustified, or only marginally justified and yet be carried to a militarily successful conclusion. Those who defined Iraq as a bad war and Afghanistan as a good one may yet witness a better outcome in the first than in the second. But the apparent dissonance implied by such a result is very difficult for many people to accept. This is why, in the UK, the 2006 deployment of troops into Helmand plays such an important part in the framing of the story. Not at the time, but relatively soon after, Helmand came to be seen as a turning-point: a moment when a good war grounded in self-defence become a bad one grounded in military adventurism or, to put it another way, when a Second World War paradigm gave way to one from the First. The strange life of Dr Reids without firing a single shot is part of the rhetorical expression of this conceptual turn. To a significant extent, modern popular protest movements against what are taken to be immoral wars like the Not in Our Name movement which campaigned against Iraq in some Western countries work within the framework of this and other controlling paradigms. Theirs is the language of imperialism, lies and betrayal by elites and, above all of course, the slaughter of innocents, both on and beyond the battlefield. Of course there are third-party wars which dont fit neatly into those paradigms and which dont offer characters who can play the familiar roles in the drama. And even if the horrors of these wars the deaths and maimings of civilians and combatants, rape and murder and war crimes of every kind are far greater than our own wars, the moral outrage which greets them in the west has a far less bitter and vituperative quality. Its a disputed topic, but perhaps 120,000 civilians died in the Iraq conflict in the period when western forces were in the countryxv, with military deaths additional to that. Its estimated that the running conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed between 5.5 and 6 million lives so farxvi, including millions of children, and that it has involved crimes of murder, rape, torture, pillage on an unimaginable scale. There are war crimes investigations and suspects, but of course youll be hard put to find anything on the internet which mirrors tonyblairwarcriminal.com. Its too distant and our sense of moral engagement of moral responsibility too remote for that kind of animus. Our moral response to war and its human cost is more variegated and more contingent on proximity and relevance than we sometimes acknowledge. Not in my name then does not represent an universal abhorrence of any aggressive war or any war crime. Instead it is focused on something rather Page 12

closer to home. After all, you would only use the phrase if you feared that something was being done in your name, or at least that the rest of the world might think it was, unless you vocally refute it. No: for a citizen in a democracy, Not in my name is not just the rejection of a specific democratic decision but a rejection of that democracys right to make such a decision on your behalf. Its a moment when moral disgust at what is being proposed overwhelms the sense of the need to obey the conventional rules of the game and, after a period of appropriate debate, accept the verdict of the majority. It shares some of the certainty and purism of the values debates I discussed earlier, debates in which practical considerations are put inside in favour of a simple, clear and effectively unchangeable position. What follows may well be a powerful individual or collective declaration of morality, but it is a declaration which is made by people who have already left the debating chamber. Its not for me to say who was right or wrong in the matter of Iraq. But in ways which, like Suez fifty years earlier, still colour British public life nearly a decade on the decision to go to war in Iraq marks a break-point where, for many citizens, an entire diplomatic and technocratic rhetoric collapsed and the public trust and moral solidarity associated it was undermined. So they simply staged a walk-out. Some of this of course relates to the Iraq decision itself. But its hard not to conclude that something broader is at work as well. Again, as we saw with the changing texture of public language on Monday and the argument from authority on Tuesday, we see how difficult it is to construct arguments which do justice to complex, finely-balanced policy choices and yet satisfy a public need for utter simplicity and clarity when it comes to morality. That task is made more difficult still when so much of the debate is influenced by prevailing historical paradigms of limited explanatory power but overwhelming emotional force. Winston Churchill had a harder war to fight, but an easier war to explain, in moral as well as practical terms.

Over these past three evenings, Ive tried to sketch out some of the challenges which I believe confront our public language. So what, if anything, can we do about it? Many of the forces Ive talked about technology, empirical advances in our understanding of language, Enlightenment scepticism especially about authority, the underlying complexity of the issues which public language has to explain and debate are not reversible. There are others whose future Page 13

path we cant predict: for example, the fragmented and garbled state of many of the Wests ideologies since 1989 which has had its own impact on contemporary rhetoric. We cant wish any of this away. But I dont want you to leave you with a prevailing sense of pessimism either about our public language or our political institutions. I do believe that, despite the extraordinary openness of modern media, public bewilderment and alienation are real threats. I do believe that the gap between those who formulate and execute public policy and the public at large is sometimes dangerously wide. I suggested on Monday that our public language might be entering a decadent phase a phase which the ancients believed could precipitate a crisis in political institutions. But it is also possible that what we need is a period of adjustment to our new circumstances to more complex politics and policy choices and to an information and media environment which needs new critical tools to understand. After such an adjustment, our public language might regain its explanatory power. So what might it entail? Lets start with the public themselves. Whats called for, I believe, is a new and different kind of education in civics. We need, not just media literacy but civic literacy. In our schools, colleges and universities, we need a focus on some of the knowledge and skills about quantity and proportion and probability which are critical if citizens are to understand public policy choices but which so many people cannot comprehend. We need to teach citizens how to parse public language in all its many forms, from marketing-speak to the loftiest political utterances to the use of video and other media on TV and radio, the web and social media. Exploring how public language works and developing the critical faculties with which to analyse it is the surest way of understanding it and becoming able to discriminate between real information and debate and the distortion and exaggeration Ive discussed in these lectures. In other words, we need our citizens to study rhetoric again. Its a mission which should extend beyond formal education. The BBC and the other broadcasters, our newspapers and the rest of media, cultural institutions like the British Library and the BFI all have a part to play. And that brings me to the media and their role. We cant and I would not want to reverse the technological advances that have given us ubiquitous, on-all-the-time, interactive media. It brings enormous benefits as well as contributing to some of the trends Ive been exploring this week. But both public and media professionals need to learn and adapt to the dynamics of this new environment. The concentration and intensification of political rhetoric are driving some public figures beyond any reasonable reading of the facts and sometimes we Page 14

in the media lend such distortions a kind of qualified privilege as if they are just one more part of the political process and should really only be challenged by other politicians. But for me, untruths are untruths and should always be exposed at once as such. Fact-checking should be a bigger and more prominent of the way in which all public affairs are covered. I dont subscribe to the view that the media as a whole are too hard or too vituperative in our handling of politicians. On the contrary, in our failure often to interrogate claims, to de-construct statistics, to submit opposition spokespeople to the rigours we regularly apply to those in government, I believe that we sometimes err on the side of softness. My friend the former Panorama reporter John Ware once proposed a new current affairs programme with the title Lie of the Week. It wouldnt be short of material. Next we should get the facts right ourselves. It is not just lazy but wrong, for instance, to misquote people so that they can be fitted more easily into a narrative of your own choosing. Great journalism questions pat narratives and thinks twice before declaring a turning-point or defining moment: it knows that reality and history dont generally conform to simple geometric shapes. It needs thinking time and the space to adduce its evidence and develop its case. This is why the preservation of long-form journalism for investigations, policy analysis, debate and for classic reportage is so critical. By this I dont mean long-form instead of short-form, but long-form alongside short-form, long-form which someone who has read or heard the short-form and who wants to know and understand more can move on to. And I believe theres evidence both at the BBC and the New York Times and at other broadcasters, newspapers and websites that there is still a significant appetite for journalism of this kind. Finally the politicians and other public figures. In many ways, they have the hardest job: the complexity of communication overlaid on top of the complexity of the underlying issues. Forced by the exigencies of political campaigning to make extravagant promises before they enter office, they are then confronted by reality with all its constraints and yet still have to strive to satisfy the public expectations they have raised. Because our public language seldom does justice to the complex landscape of trade-offs in which they are making actual policy decisions, they have to communicate in a way which somehow bridges the gap between that technocratic domain and the much less nuanced and more partisan arena in which political debate takes place. I havent got much to offer other than a belief that in the end clarity, consistency and reasonableness increase public trust while showboating, artful phrase-making and tactical manoeuvring do not even if they appear to offer immediate political advantage. Simplicity is a wonderful thing, but many public policy areas are necessarily complicated and bogus simplicity or simplesse reduces the chances of true public understanding. If experts want to be believed, its better if they dont stray too far from their area of

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expertise. If politicians want public support for something as momentous as a decision to go to war, it would be better if they explained clearly why including all of the considerations, not just most obviously appealing ones and then stuck to those war aims through thick and thin. But the demonisation of politicians by other politicians and by the media is itself part of the problem and not least because it can be so readily presented as an easy but false explanation of the problem. Democracy depends significantly on the ability of political leaders of different views to collaborate as well as compete with each other. Serious public policy initiatives for example reforming a healthcare system depends on strategies which will inevitably take longer than any presidential term or stint in government. Strategic consistency of policy depends on a language which can support compromise and concession and the possibility of good faith on the part of those who disagree with you. In the US more than in the UK, but in the UK as well, this is exactly what we are in danger of losing. The only chance of recovering it nave though it may sound is the return of a generosity of spirit and the emergence of political leaders and commentators with the courage to put the case for it into words. Difficult, almost impossible, it may be. But perhaps its that which offers us our best chance of escaping the cloud of unknowing.

Winston Churchill, House of Commons, May 13 , 1940. th Tony Blair, House of Commons, March 18 , 2003. iii nd Tony Blair, Speech to Chicago Economic Club, April 22 1999. iv Ibid. v Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, University of Notre Dame Press, second edition, 1984. vi th Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, December 12 2007 vii rd John Reid, Press Conference in Kabul April 23 2006, quoted by Reuters: see http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/uk/factcheck%2Ba%2Bshot%2Bin%2Bafghanistan/32 66362.html viii th Dr John Reid, House of Commons, July 13 , 2009 ix http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/9574114.UPDATED _Soldier_from_Duke_of_Lancashire_s_Regiment_killed_in_Afghanistan_named/ x rd Julian Borger, The Guardian, April 23 2012 xi In fact probably a quotation developed during or after the Crimean war. xii Philip Larkin [needs reference] xiii Wilfred Owen [needs reference] xiv Harriet Harman in answer to a question from John Maples, House of Commons, July 8 2009 xv [Needs reference.] xvi [Needs reference.]
ii

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mark thompson jimmy saville - Google Search

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11/13/2012 11:02 PM

The List of Names the BBC Did Not Want You to S...

http://order-order.com/2012/11/13/the-list-of-names...

November 13th, 2012


The List of Names the BBC Did Not Want You to See Scientist Exposed by Climategate Set BBC Policy

Last month Guido reported that the BBC were refusing to respond to a Freedom of Information request asking for the names of scientists who attended the now infamous climate change seminar in 2006, that was convened to decide BBC climate change policy. The BBC Trust admitted that the evidence given at the seminar led to an unprecedented editorial decision to no longer give equal airtime to opponents of the climate change . At the time Guido wondered why the BBC was spending a six-figure sum to keep the names of the specialists who dictated their editorial policy secret? So who was there? Well if the BBC had their way we would never know, they are still trying to ght the publication of this list, however what is believed to be the complete whos who has now been acquired by legitimate sleuthing by Maurizio Morabito: Specialists: Robert May, Oxford University and Imperial College London Mike Hulme, Director, Tyndall Centre, UEA Blake Lee-Harwood, Head of Campaigns, Greenpeace Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen Michael Bravo, Scott Polar Research Institute, University Cambridge Andrew Dlugolecki, Insurance industry consultant Trevor Evans, US Embassy Colin Challen MP, Chair, All Party Group on Climate Change Anuradha Vittachi, Director, Oneworld.net Andrew Simms, Policy Director, New Economics Foundation Claire Foster, Church of England Saleemul Huq, IIED Poshendra Satyal Pravat, Open University Li Moxuan, Climate campaigner, Greenpeace China Tadesse Dadi, Tearfund Ethiopia Iain Wright, CO2 Project Manager, BP International Ashok Sinha, Stop Climate Chaos Andy Atkins, Advocacy Director, Tearfund Matthew Farrow, CBI
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11/14/2012 01:01 AM

The List of Names the BBC Did Not Want You to S...

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Rafael Hidalgo, TV/multimedia producer Cheryl Campbell, Executive Director, Television for the Environment Kevin McCullough, Director, Npower Renewables Richard D North, Institute of Economic Affairs Steve Widdicombe, Plymouth Marine Labs Joe Smith, The Open University Mark Galloway, Director, IBT Anita Neville, E3G Eleni Andreadis, Harvard University Jos Wheatley, Global Environment Assets Team, DFID Tessa Tennant, Chair, AsRia BBC attendees: Jana Bennett, Director of Television Sacha Baveystock, Executive Producer, Science Helen Boaden, Director of News Andrew Lane, Manager, Weather, TV News Anne Gilchrist, Executive Editor Indies & Events, CBBC Dominic Vallely, Executive Editor, Entertainment Eleanor Moran, Development Executive, Drama Commissioning Elizabeth McKay, Project Executive, Education Emma Swain, Commissioning Editor, Specialist Factual Fergal Keane, (Chair), Foreign Affairs Correspondent Fran Unsworth, Head of Newsgathering George Entwistle, Head of TV Current Affairs Glenwyn Benson, Controller, Factual TV John Lynch, Creative Director, Specialist Factual Jon Plowman, Head of Comedy Jon Williams, TV Editor Newsgathering Karen OConnor, Editor, This World, Current Aairs Catriona McKenzie, Tightrope Pictures Liz Molyneux, Editorial Executive, Factual Commissioning Matt Morris, Head of News, Radio Five Live Neil Nightingale, Head of Natural History Unit Paul Brannan, Deputy Head of News Interactive Peter Horrocks, Head of Television News Peter Rippon, Duty Editor, World at One/PM/The World this Weekend Phil Harding, Director, English Networks & Nations Steve Mitchell, Head Of Radio News Sue Inglish, Head Of Political Programmes Frances Weil, Editor of News Special Events

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11/14/2012 01:01 AM

The List of Names the BBC Did Not Want You to S...

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What you might call fair and balanced: the conference was billed as bringing together the best scientic experts. Scientists, scientists and hippy campaigners, but what the Beeb will be most embarrassed by is the representative from the disgraced Climatic Research Unit who were exposed three years later for manipulating data to t their arguments. Emails from Mike Hulme, second on that list, were at the heart of the Climategate scandal. No wonder the BBC are wasting your money hiding this See also: Andrew Montfords Conspiracy of Green for background and Andrew Orlowskis recent article FOlA judges: Secret 28 who made the BBC Green will not be named. Tags: BBC, Green Totalitarianism, Spin at November 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

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11/14/2012 01:01 AM

Police Launch Formal Investigation Into Allegation...

http://younghipscene.com/2012/10/09/police-launch...

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11/29/2012 11:25 PM