Looking back down the page, I notice that the entries here have been increasingly trivial. This is, I know, my fault. I have added at the bottom of the recent posts listing a feed to my more serious pieces on Comment is Free. When I am less busy, I will try to do more than just link blog here, but the book comes first until it is finished. Next week I am off to Stockholm for three days, on a foreign ministry freebie, arranged at very short notice.
In the meantime, a thought about Melanie Phillips: Steven Poole has been wondering why she is such a passionate Global Warming denialist. Obviously, she passionate about it because she doesn’t do calm and reasonable any more. But why so perversely disbelieve the evidence? Why should just this have become a right-wing cause?
I think in her case the explanation is personal. She was a friend of a good friend of mine at the time when she began her swing from the Left. It was sparked off by the discovery that the local state school was no bloody good even though, at the time and since, there were great numbers of experts asserting that British children have never been so well-educated and so forth.
Similar things happened when she started to study social policy, and discovered — rather ahead of the pack — that things like absent fathers really matter.
So two of her formative political experiences involved the discovery that all the respectable experts were wrong (cf also Conquest’s Law, that everyone is a reactionary about the subjects that they understand). Something similar happened to her beliefs about social policy, where it also turned out that a lot of large and inconvenient truths were being suppressed in polite discourse. A non-loony, non-conspiracist version of this is found in the work of “Theodore Dalrymple”.
So I think she expects everything else to fall into the same pattern of a self-serving bureaucracy bamboozling the public. It’s a credible stance because such bureaucracies do appear and are sometimes influential. In any society that is failing at something important, a lot of expert opinion is spent ignoring or denying the bleeding obvious for dishonourable motives. Other examples would be
- almost everything said officially about church membership in the last forty years
- almost everything said by respectable American commentators about foreign policy
(Yes, yes: I know that MP’s views on foreign policy are passing strange as well. But they are differently loopy and not driven at all by this particular dynamic.)