Rationality fights back

Is the resistance to post-modern totalitarianism beginning to stir?

Truth and Falsehood; Alfred Stevens, 1857-66

Might we be witnessing the beginnings of a revolt by the long-suffering centre-ground against the malign imbecilities of the age?

In America, ground-zero of identity politics, some intriguing straws in the wind are floating out from behind the entertainment and education barricades. Even in the world of apocalypse-now climate change, it’s possible to detect some slight movement towards sanity.

Item one, as I write in my Times column (£) today, is the Oscars. Hollywood is nervous that the audience for this Sunday's awards ceremony may display a further disturbing drop in public interest after a declining trend in the ratings for other award ceremonies this year.  

This can’t be put down entirely to the ravages of the pandemic on cinema attendance. As the New York Times has reported, TV ratings for the Oscars ceremony plunged by 44 per cent between 2014 and last year before Covid struck. 

It’s more likely that viewers started tuning out after Tinseltown turned itself into a platform for identity politics. Awards ceremonies turned into virtue-signalling harangues, and the subjects for this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominations resemble a social justice warriors’ handbook.

There’s poverty, immigration, more poverty, right-wing state officials stitching up a heroic political campaigner against poverty, a woman taking revenge on a violent man, a Black Panther leader assassinated by vicious right-wing state officials and — wonder of wonders — the very same Black Panther leader popping up in another possible Best Picture when his comrade is put on trial alongside principled, witty and intelligent revolutionary lefties by a vicious and risibly imbecilic right-wing legal and political system.

Is it therefore surprising that the viewing public, which has had it up to here with the colonialist patriarchal heteronormative racist far-right white supremacism of which they have been judged guilty just by virtue of their existence, might not be rushing to bag their place on the sofa for Sunday’s three-hour TV wokefest?

Item two is the stirring of revolt at some of the most exclusive high schools in America. Parents and teachers are beginning to withdraw their co-operation, children and money in fury at the hijack of these schools by anti-west, anti-white propaganda. They’re paying a fortune for their children to be indoctrinated into hating their country and their culture. Now some of them have had enough.

After seven years, Andrew Gutmann has pulled his daughter out of Brearley, a private girls’ school in Manhattan which charges annual fees of $54,000. He has written to around 600 fellow parents to urge them to do the same on account of Brearley’s “obsession with race”. 

In this coruscating letter, which has been published on Bari Weiss’s blog, Gutmann  wrote: 

I object to the view that I should be judged by the colour of my skin. I cannot tolerate a school that not only judges my daughter by the colour of her skin, but encourages and instructs her to prejudge others by theirs. 

…I object to the charge of systemic racism in this country, and at our school. Systemic racism, properly understood, is segregated schools and separate lunch counters. It is the interning of Japanese and the exterminating of Jews. Systemic racism is unequivocally not a small number of isolated incidences over a period of decades. 

…We have not had systemic racism against Blacks in this country since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s, a period of more than 50 years. To state otherwise is a flat-out misrepresentation of our country’s history and adds no understanding to any of today's societal issues. If anything, longstanding and widespread policies such as affirmative action, point in precisely the opposite direction. 

I object to mandatory anti-racism training for parents, especially when presented by the rent-seeking charlatans of Pollyanna. These sessions, in both their content and delivery, are so sophomoric and simplistic, so unsophisticated and inane, that I would be embarrassed if they were taught to Brearley kindergarteners

…If the administration was genuinely serious about “diversity,” it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Instead, the school would foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought. And if Brearley really cared about “inclusiveness,” the school would return to the concepts encapsulated in the motto “One Brearley,” instead of teaching the extraordinarily divisive idea that there are only, and always, two groups in this country: victims and oppressors. 

Gutmann’s letter followed a public protest, also published on Bari Weiss’s blog, by Paul Rossi, a maths teacher at the private Grace Church high school in Manhattan. Teachers there agreed to flag up students who appeared to resist its promotion of “anti-racism”. Examples of such resistance included “persisting with a colour-blind ideology,” “suggesting that we treat everyone with respect,” “a belief in meritocracy” and “just silence.”

After Rossi protested that this pedagogy reinforced the “tendency toward tribalism and sectarianism that a truly liberal education is meant to transcend,” a public reprimand of his conduct was read out loud to every student. National Review reports that on Sunday, the school wrote to parents and staff telling them that Rossi had been relieved of his teaching duties, and that his essay “contains glaring omissions and inaccuracies.”

Yet now, in recordings posted online by the Foundation against Intolerance and Racism, Grace’s head teacher, George Davison, can be heard telling Rossi that the school used language that made white students “feel less than, for nothing that they are personally responsible for.” He also said that “one of the things that’s going on a little too much” is the “attempt to link anybody who’s white to the perpetuation of white supremacy,” and that “we’re demonising white people for being born”.

At Dalton, yet another exclusive Manhattan school which charges annual fees of $54,180, its head teacher has resigned after an anonymous group of parents wrote an open letter objecting to its radical social justice agenda. 

Last month, the school responded to the Black Lives Matter agitation with eight pages of “proposals”. The New York Post reported

Those demands called for the hiring of 12 full-time diversity officers, and multiple  psychologists to support students “coping with race-based traumatic stress,” requiring courses that focus on “Black liberation” and “challenges to white supremacy” and abolishing high-level academic courses by 2023 if the performance of Black students is not on par with non-Blacks. 

But according to the parents, the school’s curriculum has already been hijacked. They wrote:

Every class this year has had an obsessive focus on race and identity, “racist cop” re-enactments in science, “de-centring whiteness” in art class, learning about white supremacy and sexuality in health class. Wildly inappropriate, many of these classes feel more akin to a Zoom corporate sensitivity-training than to Dalton’s intellectually engaging curriculum.

Item three is a development in what is arguably the most intractable of all our current lunacies — the belief that the planet is hurtling towards apocalyptic climate change caused by man-made global warming which will destroy life on earth as we know it. 

I very much support environmental issues such as fighting pollution and safeguarding diversity in the natural world. However, catastrophic man-made global warming is a theory for which no evidence exists that sustains serious scrutiny. Constructed almost entirely from wildly inadequate and inappropriate computer modelling, grant-aid which is conditional upon research results that uphold the theory and outright intellectual frauds, the theory represents (in the words of one of its major advocates) “post-normal science,” a branch of truth-denying post-modernism which fits evidence into a preconceived belief and therefore negates the meaning of science altogether. 

In the three decades and more since this theory emerged, attempts to explain that it is anti-science by some of the most storied scientists in the world — including several who resigned in disgust as advisers to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change over the way their own research was being grossly misrepresented — were gradually drowned out by a corrupted scientific establishment that punished those who spoke scientific truth to this abuse of power. The media and education establishment also played their part in turning this propaganda into holy writ, with schools teaching this theory as unchallengeable fact and with the BBC actually barring global warming sceptics from its broadcasting studios on the basis that the science was “settled,” an attitude that betrayed both science and journalism. 

The reason this is arguably the most intractable issue in the west’s repudiation of reason is that, because of the systematic suppression of the evidence that undermines man-made global warming theory, very few people are aware that there is indeed another side to this claim. 

Yet even here, rationality has begun to stir. An article in the Wall Street Journal notes that the “climate community” has been backing away from the apocalyptic scenario the public now accepts as unchallengeably true. Holman Jenkins writes

A drumroll moment was Zeke Hausfather and Glen Peter’s 2020 article in the journal Nature partly headlined: “Stop using the worst-case scenario for climate warming as the most likely outcome.” 

This followed the 2017 paper by Justin Ritchie and Hadi Dowlatabadi  asking why climate scenarios posit implausible increases in coal burning a century from now. And I could go on. Roger Pielke Jr. and colleagues show how the RCP 8.5 scenario was born to give modellers a high-emissions scenario to play with, and how it came to be embraced despite being at odds with every real-world indicator concerning the expected course of future emissions.

…The strain of holding realism at bay is starting to tell. John Kerry, the new climate czar, recently blurted out that the Biden green agenda will have no effect on climate unless countries like China and India join, which they already declared they won’t. 

A bigger moment of truth will come with a book by Steven Koonin, a theoretical physicist and chief scientist of the Obama Energy Department, demonstrating what the science — the plain, recognised, consensus science — says about climate change: it won’t be catastrophic. It’s unlikely to be influenced in a major way by policy actions. The costs will be large in relation to everything except the future, richer economy that will easily pay for them. 

In a paper published in the International Journal of Global Warming, Carnegie Mellon University's David Rode and Paul Fischbeck argue that apocalyptic climate forecasts can erode public trust in science. You bet. And this is why. The Eureka Alert site reports

Rode and Fischbeck, professor of Social & Decision Sciences and Engineering & Public Policy, collected 79 predictions of climate-caused apocalypse going back to the first Earth Day in 1970. With the passage of time, many of these forecasts have since expired; the dates have come and gone uneventfully. In fact, 48 (61%) of the predictions have already expired as of the end of 2020.

Fischbeck noted, "from a forecasting perspective, the 'problem' is not only that all of the expired forecasts were wrong, but also that so many of them never admitted to any uncertainty about the date. About 43% of the forecasts in our dataset made no mention of uncertainty."

In some cases, the forecasters were both explicit and certain. For example, Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich and British environmental activist Prince Charles are serial failed forecasters, repeatedly expressing high degrees of certainty about apocalyptic climate events.

Rode commented "Ehrlich has made predictions of environmental collapse going back to 1970 that he has described as having 'near certainty'. Prince Charles has similarly warned repeatedly of 'irretrievable ecosystem collapse' if actions were not taken, and when expired, repeated the prediction with a new definitive end date. Their predictions have repeatedly been apocalyptic and highly certain...and so far, they've also been wrong."

The researchers noted that the average time horizon before a climate apocalypse for the 11 predictions made prior to 2000 was 22 years, while for the 68 predictions made after 2000, the average time horizon was 21 years. Despite the passage of time, little has changed--across a half a century of forecasts; the apocalypse is always about 20 years out.

Fancy! An infinitely moveable apocalypse! Who knew?!

Of course, all these signs of rational life are merely straws in the cultural hurricane. But they do offer hope that all is far from lost in the battle for civilisation, and suggest that the resistance to post-modern totalitarianism is beginning to stir.

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