Until recently my ideas of the social forces that had brought about the “climate war” (as I call it), was that the internet had enabled outsider scientists and engineers to become interested in and to comment on the subject of climate, and that the internet had also been the means of enforcing a rigid group-think in academia. These ideas I published in the book “the Academic Ape” (ostensibly an “April fool”, but in reality the core ideas were serious and the “April fool” was on anyone who thought it was just an April fool).
This theory suggested that academia was behaving like a group of apes, who having “their territory” invaded by outside “sceptics” were behaving with ape-like instinctive aggression to “repel” outsiders by basically howling and thrashing trees and generally throwing metaphorical shit at us. This seems to explain the appalling behaviour of numbskull scientifically illiterate individuals like Lewandowsky.
However, this clearly wasn’t sufficient. Because I see many similarities in other social changes that have been happening – and they can’t all be blamed on the same idiots in academia – but they all did seem to be connected to the internet:
- The Arab spring – was a series of revolutions in which the internet was instrumental.
- Brexit – where the evidence shows every single media outlet is either extremely hostile or at best neutral, and every major political party is dominated by remainers, showed that even the remainers almost monopoly of the press and political parties could not change the views of ordinary people formed larger through shared personal experience on social media.
- The election of Trump, where he was universally loathed by the press who used to dictate who got elected again showed the new power of the internet.
Thus my original theory that this was one group “invading another’s territory” didn’t explain these massive changes that we have seen in politics worldwide. Somehow the internet seemed to be key. At first I saw the internet as a triggering mechanism.But I am now more and more drawn to the idea that the internet is almost solely responsible as a controlling mechanism. This graph sums up my view very well:
For what it appears to show, is that the period of Witch trials, church revolutions and event the English civil war, were all part of a common group of phenomenon, during the phase of RAPID CHANGE due to printing. Rather than as I had thought, that printing ENABLED the revolutions & witch trials, instead, it appears to be that these are transitional phenomenon due to unresolved IMBALANCES in society caused by the change in power of various groups as printing changed society.
The best example of this I know is from the climate wars. This started because academics who are very politically biased against private industry and biased toward eco-activism, were the leaders in the internet revolution. As such this eco-activist anti-industry viewpoint very quickly dominated public discussion and policy. That dominance was all the worse, because unlike almost every other public subject, there was almost no one to argue the alternative view. (Which is why I was compelled to become a sceptic). However, I didn’t become involved until about 2007 and very little was achieved until 2009 and the climategate revelations of misconduct. That was a decade after I had first become involved in wind energy. Clearly these are long term phenomenon. Even today, two decades after my first involvement, whilst the debate is now far more even handed, we still don’t have a proper balance with something like a 1000:1 disparity in funding between alarmists and sceptics. But at least in the political arena there is a kind of balance beginning to be formed as governments start to baulk at the eye-watering costs.
Thus the problem was this: before the internet, it appeared that the internal rivalry between different Universities and countries maintained a sort of balance in climate allowing a diversity of views and “balance”. Then the communication revolution of the internet, gave excessive power to academics who were early adopters and also the internet made subjects like climate into one global community where it was possible for powerful individuals to repress alternative views and so create a single “groupthink”. That power then created a vicious self-re-enforcing group think that required even more power to be given to the “virtuous” insiders and denied power to outside groups.
When I first saw that madness – it really did look like it would take over and it has taken decades to re-establish some kind of powerful vocal opposition group and to start dismantling the nonsense that was established during the “reign” of certain climate academics.
From a period of balance before the internet, the internet created a period of imbalance during which there was almost a literally witch hunt against other views. But now, slowly a new balance is being created. That balance comes when those who used to have power accept they no longer have it, and those who have newly gained power – learn how to use it responsibly.
And I think the same can be said about every major change from Brexit to Trump. The initial tactics by those losing power are extremely vitriolic in nature. For example brexiteers were all labelled as racists, bigots, xenophobic extreme right little Englanders. But whilst a few idiots still attempt those tactics – such insults are increasingly rare, largely I think because telling the majority they are racist for wanting control of their own country – doesn’t do much to increase your support. The majority who are against being in the EU got a voice through the internet. And now those who used to keep us held in the EU against our will are slowly accepting the majority will prevail.
MPs in Britain are still doing all they can to resist Brexit – much like climate academics are still doing all they can to stoke up the alarmism – but it is increasingly losing credibility. Likewise, the press attacks on Trump – seem to be slowly losing their heat. Many of these “social wars” are losing their heat. But not all.
A case study 1. – left wing academics v. studies
I spend much of yesterday watching videos and reading articles about various academics “run in” with “study” subjects (like gender studies, race studies). This was very useful. Because it showed left wing academics (who undoubtedly are very much the same group as attack sceptics so appallingly) being subject to appalling attacks by other academics. In this case, the argument goes: if you don’t accept the present system is racist/sexist/etc. then you are in denial about the racism/sexism/etc. and therefore a racist, etc.
This was fascinating! Because none of the factors I had previously seen as predisposing people to attack/be attacked, in this stupid way, worked here. In climate, the attackers are left wing academics, in “studies” they are the ones being attacked. Unfortunately, I can’t link these attacks directly to the internet as I have been on so many others, but by carefully listening to what was being said, and the craziness of the allegations and the clear group think behaviour of attackers – and perhaps those being attacked, it does seem that the mode of attack and behaviour of individuals shares enough similarities to strongly suggest a similar root cause.
This is the purpose of this article: to try to understand how I could explain all these various recent phenomenon using a single social theory.
My hypothesis is this: that the internet (or previously printing) gave a voice to certain social groups who were previously denied a voice and that in turn meant they were denied power. These groups include: private sector scientists & engineers (climate); working class Britons (Brexit); a similar group in the US (Trump) and African Americans (Academia). My hypothesis is that each of these has been given a voice that has in some way disturbed the “status quo” that previously existed and this has resulted in some very nasty “turf wars” as those that previously controlled areas are threatened by these new groups. However, just as printing drove “good” revolutions that reduced pope/monarchical power, it also had “bad” effects such as the witch trials. The effects of these information revolutions are morally blind! Just because there is a change in balance as new groups gain power, doesn’t mean that what they do with the power will be good.
For example, I strongly suspect that many people are using the race issue purely as a way to push their own politics – in precisely the same way academics when they got power as early adopters of the internet, used their position to push their own appalling political eco-nutter hatred of industry.
Thus the theory is that the change in power drives change, and that this change creates a temporary imbalance in society as old groups with power resist the change and new groups without power try to assert their voice and with it power. And that in many cases opportunistic people (wind developers gender/race hate stirrers/witch finders) will be there to use the situation of imbalance to profit themselves.
However, I expect that eventually a new “balance” will be gained. That the period of strife and angst and “climate wars” will end when those who used to have a monopoly of power learn to share it with those groups who have gained power through having their own voice.
Case Study 2: Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece had a system of sharing power that was so abhorrent to their “elite” that they called it a name akin to “Yokel power”. In addition Ancient Greece is known for the best education system in the ancient (and arguably the modern) world.
Unfortunately, the rise of this system predates historical accounts, so we can only guess what drove this change. But whilst Greek writing is first attested from the 8th Century BC, during the 5th century BC, the direction of Greek writing was standardized as left to right, and all the letters adopted a fixed right-facing orientation suggesting that writing began to be used & taught extensively in this period. And this is exactly the period of the development of the political system of Greek democracy which is attributed to Solon (594 BC), Cleisthenes (508/7 BC), and Ephialtes (462 BC). Thus,although a very difficult thing to test (because for obvious reasons there is no historical record before writing) it seems reasonable to say that writing led to revolution in Greek politics that gave us democracy.
This is also undoubtedly the period in which Greek education began to flourish, because democracy and education are reliant on each other. Democracy, as the Greeks meant it literally meant ordinary people being in power. As such their governments were run by committees of ordinary people chosen by lot. They did not elect official – they did not (s)elect on merit (except in exceptional cases) because they saw elections as undemocratic (something we see today where only those with money can win elections). The flip side of this process of selecting those who ran government by lot was that every citizen needed to educated sufficiently well to be able to sit in government. Democracy needs the entire population to be well educated and it doesn’t work if only a pitiful number of people get a decent education and when you live in a political system run by a handful of public school kids their last concern is educating the masses.
The critical point here, is that Greek democracy only works as a viable system, when the populace are well educated. But if you start from a system where the populace are generally ignorant – then whilst the political pressure for inclusivity may exist, the means for the general population to be active players in politics is denied. Thus there are fundamental structural changes that may be necessary to resolve a social imbalance and that these changes may take one (or more) generations.
Thus the means to resolve an imbalance caused by a change in power within society as new groups gain a voice, may not be immediately available, leading to a period of increasingly hostile battles between the new and incumbent power groups.
So for example in the US, where African Americans have historically had a much poorer education, the internet has undoubtedly given this group a voice – but academia – which because of the better education for those of a European ancestry is dominated by this group. But it would be stupid to just appoint African Americans because of their race – because all that is likely to do – is to see Black American taught by second rate academics, thus receiving a second rate education and further perpetuating the issue.
Likewise attempts to change standards or subject content to tackle the issue are equally likely to perpetuate the problem rather than move toward a new balance. A good example is the argument that runs: rational thought and the requirement of evidence are ways that “straight white men” empower themselves. Thus some activists want to get rid of rational thought and evidence based argument (and replace it with political indoctrination) . This reminds me of the humour of Monty Python’s witch trial:
It could be true that those most versed in the use of rational & evidence based arguments are “straight white men” and that these “straight white men” are blocking jobs which could be taken by others who are not so well educated. But the problem is the lack of good education and not the “straight white men”. And all that will happen if the best educated “straight white men” were replaced is that education standards will fall – and likely in those establishments that most buy into this nonsense that will attract non “straight white men” so that non “straight white men” still end up with a second rate education.
There is no simple fix and anyone suggesting there is, either has only their own interests in mind or is an idiot (albeit perhaps only an idiot because of the second rate teaching they got).
Thus, whilst we have seen a rapid change in communication giving various groups who were formerly ignored a voice, the system (such as education) cannot so rapidly change. It cannot give equity to those who have had a poor education & no interest or experience in power (because they were ignored) with those who have. This is not because it should give equality, but because it can’t give them equality until there are some fundamental changes which inevitably take time.
The result is a period of social strife.