The Academic Ape and Political Aggression


Anyone who has been following British politics, cannot but be bemused, by the recent happenings in the UK Parliament. There we have a group of MPs, who having numerous times said they would respect the referendum vote of the UK populace (which was to leave the EU) have voted against every deal* and none, refused to sack the PM or back him, and have vehemently refused to present themselves for scrutiny before the electorate at a General Election. Then, despite having a perfectly good procedure to block any action of the PM (through a no confidence motion) when the PM tried to start a new session of Parliament, which the opposition had long demanded and which was an entirely normal practice, the MPs who had refused to stop the PM themselves, went to the Supreme court who then invented new law to bring back Parliament, where MPs sat around with nothing much to do. Clearly, even the MPs who took the PM to court, had not expected to win the supreme court case, as they had absolutely no plans what to do when they came back!

Against most expectations, Boris Johnson, one of the finest political speakers I have witnessed as PM, managed to secure a new deal from the EU, which appeared to meet the concerns previously expressed by Parliament. But, instead of accepting the deal, the biased speaker of Parliament, who should be an “impartial referee” worked against one side and with a foreign power (the EU) to block the expressed will of the British public to leave the EU.

As a result of their lies about respecting the referendum result and their various shenanigans, the main opposition party’s electoral support has plummeted, and it is now obvious their only chance of any substantial presence in the next Parliament is to allow the UK to exit the EU and desperately hope the electorate forgives them in the two years before the next scheduled election.

Instead, politicians in the UK Parliament, now appear to be much like a wild animal trapped in its lair. Refusing to come out and meet the challenge of a General Election, unable to move from their position, but viciously attacking the public if we dare to express our anger at their behaviour.

Bizarrely, this does appear to have a connection to climate. In this article, I will attempt to explain this. The quite irrational behaviour by our British politicians seems to have parallels in the area of climate and thus climate may explain the current crazy situation of UK politics. And having seen the behaviour of US politicians, this rise of irrational political behaviour does not appear to be unique to the UK. Indeed, given the police brutality now being seen in France, Spain and other places across Europe, it may represent a general and growing hostility between politicians and the public. And, I do put it that way. Politicians versus the people. Although having campaigned in climate, I was used to insults, I was surprised by the vitriolic language used by politicians. We public were called racists, Nazis, xenophobes and bigots, simply for wanting our own Parliament to be in control of our own country.

The Academic Ape

The key to understanding this appalling behaviour by politicians, lies I think, in understanding the similarly appalling behaviour we have seen by academics against climate sceptics. None of us here have to be reminded of the language used. Nor do we have to be reminded of the unwarranted lies such as our “massive fossil fuel funding” (which is particularly galling for those like me who chose to give up paid work to campaign on this important issue). Nor will we forget the vile behaviour such as Lewandowsky who made up accusations that sceptics were “moon landing conspiracists” or Michael Mann who appear to spend all their time in hate filled lawfare attacks on sceptics. But worst of all, I thought, was the appalling behaviour I saw given to several academics. As I was a first hand observer of the vitriol against Prof Salby I can relate these. His “crimes” were 1) to be a professor (which seemed to trigger a particular vicious response) and 2) that he said that at least some of the change in CO2 was natural. An undeniable statement given that the evidence clearly pointed to that, and that even some of those attacking him admitted that CO2 levels changed with the ENSO cycle. The attack was all the more galling, because for this “crime” of telling the undeniable truth, Prof Salby lost his job.

Again, we have a situation where a group in society (academics) appeared to be acting irrationally and were engaged in vicious name calling and totally unwarranted attacks on others.

However, what I found peculiar about the Salby attack, was that although I have written over 1000 articles on my own blog, some which were far more contentious than the write up of Prof Salby’s speech, the only one that had ever drawn such vicious attacks, was the one where I chose to write up the presentation by Prof Salby in a very “academic” manner. (my normal being more light hearted) Why was this? And why was it that some sceptic blogs like my own, had very few attacks, but others like WUWT were constantly under attack?

In particular, why when academics attacked sceptics for just having “blogs”, were they then viciously attacked when they presented work to a journal and finally managed to jump all the endless hurdles to get it published? After looking at the range of blogs & sceptic publications and the behaviour they attracted from academics, whilst academics criticised sceptics for not presenting their work in an “academic fashion”, I had to conclude, that: the more academic the work, the more careful and considered the article, the more the work should have been accepted, the higher the shrill, the more vicious the language, the more sustained the attack on our work by academics.

Instinctive aggression

My conclusion, was that the behaviour we sceptics were being subjected to, was not a rational attack based on the credibility of our work, but something more primitive and instinctual.

I had seen very much the same behaviour before in the field of archaeology. As a non-academic I was part of an online forum consisting predominantly of academics. It became clear that there was particular hostility between “archaeologists” and “metal detectorists”. As I was in neither camp, I could see that neither side was a paradigm of virtue. Many metal detectors have been used to rob historic sites. But, for example archaeologists had previously stripped bare the Stone Henge monument so that if anyone went back today using more modern methods the site is practically destroyed in terms of evidence.

So, it very much surprised me when, as a neutral observer, I spoke up to say that “metal detectorists” were being unfairly attacked, that I then found myself under a vicious attack by young archaeologists. They took extreme dislike that I had “sided” with “the other side (although I had tried to be neutral). And, like the Salby affair, they would not stop attacking, but instead tracked me down to another website and a group carried on the wholly unwarranted attack there (at Christmas). Clearly and quite unintentionally I had “trodden on someone’s toes”. I was getting attacked, not for backing one group, but for being impartial and not joining the attack on the metal detector users.

This bizarre pattern of irrational aggression by academics both in archaeology and climate, appeared to be related. There were many similar features:

  • It was one group against another
  • The stimulus for attack seemed to be work & activity that encroached into “the domain” or perceived “territory” of the other.
  • The attacks were often carried out by groups of younger males (this was a notable feature of the metal detector wars, where older academics & females seemed to egg on the younger males but otherwise took no part in the attacks)
  • It seemed to involve “ritualistic” behaviour. Where one group would form a pack (in climate there were websites where alarmists would gather) and they would hurl ad hominem attacks at the other side. These appeared to have very little relevance to the article or work at contest and were totally out of all proportion to any issues. A lot of noise, a lot of commotion … it reminded me of the behaviour of chimpanzees rushing around and hurling sticks at another troop.
  • Another feature, was that individuals or very small groups would leave the general group holding one “territory”, and then intentionally make a “running attack” on the other and then return to great praise. Again typical of ape attacks where groups stand off against each other and then individuals or small groups rush across to attack the other and then return.
  • Very often the attacking group would spend a lot of time locating the “prized work” of members of the other group, and then set about attempting to destroy it. In this context the way that alarmists spend inordinate amounts of time trying to discredit the academic qualifications of sceptics was bizarre. Also if someone had put a lot of work into a website – even on an unrelated theme – I have seen these being attacked. The more it was “their baby”, to put in the terms of ape behaviour, the more viciously it was attacked. Again very characteristic of apes.
  • The most vicious attacks were directed against those who had or appeared to have changed membership. This was not something I’d read about ape behaviour, but I had seen this “primitive” aggression against “blacklegs” when I was working in a very unionised company.

From the characteristic of the behaviour I had seen in both archaeology and climate and perhaps a few other areas where I have dabbled, I realised that the vicious attacks on sceptics by academics, appeared to be very closely related to those of apes like Chimpanzees and their behaviour in territorial disputes. So the appalling behaviour of by those like Lewandowsky who have no expertise in climate, but joined in vicious group attacks, may have nothing at all to do with what we were saying, instead we were being attacked for “invading” the “territory” of academia.

It seems that Lewandowsky, and so many other academics, with absolutely no idea about atmospheric physics, joined in the attacks on sceptics simply because they perceived sceptics as being “outsiders” invading the “academic territory”. Of course, academics have no right whatsoever to call climate “their territory”, nor do they have any right to keep out non-academics from journals (which should be solely on merit) but they clearly perceive this as their domain. Like any trade union, academia as a group aggressively attacks those who dare to encroach on “their turf”. And the attacks are most vehement against those who “desert” one side, or in trade union terms “the blackleg”.

Political Aggression

Fortunately, in the long run science is settled by the evidence. Thus for all the silliness, despite academics grouping together to “circle the wagons” against reality, the evidence will eventually force them to admit there is no such thing as a “climate emergency”. Moreover, with most of the public sceptical, the costs rising so practical political support disappearing, in practical terms the behaviour of academics in the area of climate is … “academic”. For me, climate is an irritation, indeed a very expensive irritation, but eventually it will sort itself out as academia will be forced to accept the science.

However, if I am right, that the climate wars largely result from the increasing availability of data, knowledge and discussion through the internet, allowing those with an interest in academia to start becoming “internet experts”, then not only does this explain the appalling behaviour we saw in the area of climate, but it may also explain other apparently irrational changes we have seen lately.

Where else do we find a group of people who have hitherto dominated a sphere of activity which was formerly difficult or impossible for the public to gain entry into, but which are increasingly finding themselves exposed to the public?

In politics.

One hundred years ago, politics was an activity that almost exclusively involved two groups: politicians and the press. The politicians claimed what in the UK was called “Parliamentary supremacy”, but is better called “politician supremacy” meaning they were “in charge”. The press likewise claimed their domain: that they were the voice of “public opinion” and as such should be the ones to scrutinise politicians.

Today it is an absurd notion that journalists, who had no idea what most people thought, were somehow the voice of the public, but that is how the press portrayed themselves. Likewise it is an absurd idea that politicians are the “masters” of the public and not our servants. But that is how politicians viewed their roles.

There was a cosy relationship between the two. Political scrutiny was the press’ self-proclaimed “territory”, and through this role journalists as a group became the public arbiter of politics, deciding what the public should and shouldn’t hear and thus the lies that should and shouldn’t be called out. As a result journalists who came from a relative narrow social group, dictated as a group who got into power and as a group politicians came to reflect the politics of journalists.

Likewise the politicians had their domain: running the country was their job. They were “supreme” as the public were almost entirely excluding and even ignored. So, for example, in the UK, whilst the public were always against joining the EU superstate, the politicians thought that as they ran things, they could ignore the public view and turn our democracy over to the unelected Eurocrats.

Until the rise of the internet, the press and politicians kept this cosy relationship where the politicians chosen by the voice of “public opinion” (in the press) ran the country. Politicians tended to reflect the culture and views of journalists and, any politician who went against the view of the journalistic “troop” and raised an issue like leaving the EU, controlling immigration or building a wall, was ruthlessly attacked. With no means to put their own side except through the press, any politician subject to such a group attack by the media would have their views and motives totally twisted in the media to an extent that they were doomed to political oblivion and with them the causes they pursued.

Then came the internet.

The internet provided three things. Firstly it enabled ordinary people to access information such as climate data or the day’s proceedings in Parliament. Secondly it enabled ordinary people to publish information on sites like blogs, so that it became incredibly easy to bypass the press. And thirdly it enabled people from extremely different places to find each other and discuss subjects that had never interested, or had been repressed, by the press. Because the internet gave the public much more freedom to discuss the issues that concerned it, rather than the press as before, this I think is why soon after the internet, we saw a rise in issues that had been hitherto repressed by the media like control over immigration.

This has created a revolution, not just in areas like climate where it enabled the sceptic movement, but also in politics where it would have been impossible for Trump and Brexit to have happened without the internet.

However, just as we have started to see some bizarre irrational behaviour from academia in the area of climate, it is now clear, that we are seeing equally bizarre and irrational behaviour in the area of politics. In both the US and UK, where once, the public (or press) would very quickly accept the result of any vote, we have started to see he anti-democratic behaviour of rejecting the democratic vote. In the US, this became the “Not my president” movement. In the UK it is the “remainers”, who became “remoaners” and are now sometimes called “remainiacs” for their refusal to accept the democratic decision.

Likewise we are seeing politicians in our Parliament, behaving as I said at the start: like wild animals trapped in their lair. I am truly amazed by some of the delusional behaviour I have seen recently, I watched the proceedings in Parliament about a week ago, when Boris Johnson returned with jet lag from the US to face Parliament. After three hours of continuous aggressive and repetitive questioning, an MP, entirely without foundation, inferred he was somehow condoning the death of an MP who was murdered during the brexit campaign by a mentally ill person who happened to support brexit. Boris replied “Humbug” (a type of sweet). It was so innocuous I hardly noticed at the time.

But apparently this “language” (Humbug) so incensed the MPs that they went on the offensive in the press about it. Their total, and apparently unrecognised, hypocrisy attacking Boris for saying “Humbug”, when some of these very MPs had called brexiteers like Boris “Nazis” and “Racists”, was bizarre. It was irrational behaviour, behaviour not dissimilar to academics in climate and other topics when their “area” was “invaded” by “outsiders”.

Can we explain this rise in irrational behaviour by the political elites seen in both the US, UK and probably worldwide?

If we go back, formerly the press saw their role as being the people who should not only scrutinise Parliament, but they also told us what issues to consider and decided which issues the public should not. Likewise, except for the press, with whom the politicians had a very cosy relationship, the MPs were above effective criticism from the public as the public could only effectively critique them through the press who for obvious reasons favoured opinions similar to their own.

Today however, politicians are under huge pressure through social media. Today the press no longer can prevent discussion on topics like immigration control. The politicians & parties who came to power in the age of press dominance are now struggling to cope with the realities of a public who are now far more able to get directly involved in politics through social media.

And, I think it is this mounting pressure, which is resulting in some bizarre behaviour as seen recently in the UK Parliament, and has been going on for some time in the US press and political life with the endless vicious and dishonest attacks on Trump. It can be explained as politicians & the press, having “their” territory “invaded” by the public, who, like the climate academics, are responding in an instinctive territorial way like all apes with insults and attacks ON THE PUBLIC by the politicians.

I will repeat: the politicians are now ATTACKING those who vote for them for invading what politicians see as “their territory”.

In the UK this is causing extreme anger. People have even talked about the army forcing a general election. The politicians look to us like despots clinging to power. It is becoming possible that the overwhelming majority of politicians currently in power will be kicked out in the UK and a party that never existed last year (Brexit party) could be running the country in a few years.

There is now a political crisis in the UK and it is not brexit. Politicians are blaming it on brexit and they think it is something temporary, but I think not. Like climate academics, we are are now seeing a political elite from politicians to judges, who are no longer acting rationally. Likewise there appears to be much the same thing occurring in the US. Likewise throughout Europe, in France we have the ongoing yellow vest protests, in Catalonia the separatists, and in many places extreme concern about immigration. The political class is losing the support of the public and the public are literally beginning to riot. If it escalates much more, it will turn into literal violent revolution.

I don’t claim to have a solution.

All I can say, is that the first stage in tackling the bizarre behaviour of some politicians must be to understand the problem. From my research it does seem that changes created by the internet together with very primitive territorial behaviour are combing to create a very real problem: a growing political crisis in many places of the world marked by irrational political behaviour by politicians attacking their own electorates. We need a solution fast.

*Whilst Boris won one of the latest votes in Parliament, it was then prevented from proceeding.


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