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« What is Truss being told? | Main | Open advocacy »
Thursday
Jan082015

Blocking the door to the marketplace of ideas

There are people who are willing to tough it out in the marketplace of ideas and there are people who are not. Charlie Hebdo and the violent attempts to silence dissent apart, in recent days I've noticed other bits and pieces that touch upon the same issues, albeit in a less violent way, but perhaps in a more insidious one as well. 

A couple of days ago I noticed a geography teacher asking for help in finding someone to put the pro-fracking case in a school debate - the chief executive of iGas had dropped out. The panel already featured no less than three greens as well as an academic (with no particular expertise in unconventional oil and gas), so I raised an eyebrow at a reply from Chris Vernon, a PhD student and one-time contributor to the Oil Drum blog.

 

 

As an example of the sort of casual, unthinking challenge to the free exchange of ideas it's hard to beat. Three environmentalists seem perfectly acceptable to Vernon, but the idea that someone should speak up for the interests of their shareholders is anathema. And has he considered that the livelihoods of some of the other (green) speakers are a function of their positions on fracking? Presumably he also thinks that if someone were to consider throwing him off his PhD course we should ignore his protests on the grounds that he was motivated only by money.

Then there is the Green Party's outrage today that they have not been awarded "big party" status by the Ofcom and will not therefore be able to take part in televised debates. The more opportunities there are to expose the insanity of the Greens the better as far as I am concerned, but it's still hard to have much sympathy with Ms Bennett et al, who have worked pretty hard to ensure that their opponents' arguments are never heard at all. Purges of those who hold dissenting views and their removal from the airwaves, as advocated by the Green Party, are just Vernon's casual intolerance writ large.

This behaviour is familiar. I certainly can't forget Lord Deben's complaints about my being allowed airtime on the BBC. It's pervasive in academia too. We read that nearly one in four social scientists would not recruit someone of conservative views to their department. We have people like Bob Ward trying to ensure "consequences" for those who disagree with him on a daily basis.

So at a time when we are all reeling in horror from violent attacks against free speech and attempts to stifle the free exchange of ideas, it's worth noting that there are plenty of other people blocking the door to the marketplace of ideas. Their use of less violent methods does not excuse them.

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Reader Comments (59)

What can I say?
iGas clearly aren't paying their way (i.e. properly funding us denier types) if the Chief Executive was scheduled to speak in a school debate.

Jan 8, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

"Why need for a 'pro' view at all? Balanced speakers better. Most pro voices linked to private profit anyway."

Aren't the first two sentences contradictory? Balanced speakers - biased greenies???? A PhD student - in what stupidity. I wish I were the external examiner in his PhD Viva (assuming he gets that far).

[Snip - OTT]

Jan 8, 2015 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

the idea in a debate is usually to have a balanced PANEL... (expressing a cross section of thought)

no doubt 3 environmentalists think they are right and balanced, and everybody else is wrong/evil/greedy, etc

pathetic.

Jan 8, 2015 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

> I wish I were the external examiner in his PhD Viva

He apparently got his PhD in glaciology from the University of Bristol in 2013.

http://chrisvernon.co.uk/cv/

Jan 8, 2015 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Its all part of a wider malaise - the 'warmists' have shouted so loudly - and recruited so many 'luvvies' and 'celebrities' - that anyone expressing a contrarian view is seen as one step from being sectioned.

Frankly - and sadly - I can't see a solution.

The latest stupidity - as aired on - where else? - the BBC News website - is that basically if we don't leave all fossil fuels in the ground, we will exceed the 2C 'limit' beyond which we will all fry....

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Most pro voices linked to private profit anyway.

What he is saying with this is that if you work in the private sector then your voice should not be heard.

The private sector should simply pay their taxes (preferably multiple times) and keep their mouths shut. Leave all the decision making to the public sector and pressure groups. After all, since they do not have to be productive they are not motivated by profit and therefore purely altruistic in their opinions. Unless, of course, they have a different opinion in which case they are secretly funded by big oil/tobacco/energy or some evil industrialist who just wants to eat babies for breakfast.....

Sorry, my conspiracy ideation was getting the better of me there.

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Great question. It is an oft-encountered and lazy tactic to pretend academia is where 'values' live and if you go into 'industry' you have embraced the profit motive and, crucially, given up on 'values'. The technique is sometimes subtle but not after you learn to recognize it.

On a related tanget, take a look at this borderline eugenicist rant from Greg Laden's blog (which he is admits is a bit overdone):

Sometimes I’m hard on an entire state. Like Texas. Or, recently, West Virginia.

It’s funny when the slack jawed yokels who live in these god-forsaken shitholes get annoyed at that.

But seriously folks. I’m hard on your state for a reason. I do it for your own good. A state is a democracy. If you have medical care that is second only to a despotic third world war torn failed state, that is because it is what you vote for, what you strive for. If you have a state with a system of education that produces high school graduates who couldn’t pass the entry exam to Romper Room and have no chance of going to a good college unless they happen to be one of the athletes you raise up and systematically traffic, then you got that way because that is what you vote for, what you strive for.

While you were busy clinging to your guns and your gods and that watery piss you call beer, other states were getting their acts together to have positive growth, clean and stable industry, a clean environment, excellent education, proper infrastructure, humane health care, proper beer, etc. You know Obamacare? Actually, a big part of Obamacare is about pulling your stupid-ass nuts out of the fire, because those of us who live in the progressive states fixed half those problems you are living with a long time ago. Yet you are the states that seem to be sending more than your share of teabaggers to DC to complain about the very progress that is going to keep your 11 fingered offspring from the misery that your created environment imposes on them.

I would be hard-pressed to say Laden doesn't view climate skeptic commenters in the exact same way - as disgusting slack-jawed 11-fingered subhuman products of consanguineous unions.

Another related point: It is frequently claimed "this is my blog" or "this is my twitter-feed" as an excuse for deleting inconvenient comments. But the said blog doesn't live on its own, rather it exists in the larger milieu of the internet - where open, free discussion - however 'offensive' - has been the norm from day one. Just as in the real world, where people exploit a culture of freedom to perpetrate and enforce a restrictive, censorious culture - because they had the freedom to, the deleting censorship crowd does the same online.

Turn the tables - people who practice censorship should be kicked out first.

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:15 PM | Registered Commentershub

Sometimes observing academia is like watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory...

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterManniac

Amazing how contemptuous people in the public sector are of private profit.

Without private profit who do they think would be paying their salaries?

They seem to think the money just appears out of thin air or that they are in some self funding closed system, where their taxes can pay the wages of everyone else in the public sector and so on.

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuck

Poor old Vernon.
Doesn't have an inkling about the concept of "debate". Cannot understand that someone else could have a different view of the world simply because .... well, because he does. If it's not the same as Vernon's then it is corrupt in some way.
This is all of a piece with the idea that students need to be "protected" from things that might upset them (see spikedonline over several recent weeks).
Carefully selected facts (selected by Vernon, of course) are all that the sheeple ought to be trusted with.

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:34 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The close-minded effect has worked. Look at the latest opinion poll. Those under 40 are far more likely to vote Green than anyone else. Why?

-Because they have been fed only one side of the debate throughout their schooling.
-Because they have seen only one side of the debate from the media.
-Because they are often still in their spoon-fed learning phase.
(Yes, a PhD is still structured about learning not learning whilst doing).

The easiest way to win a debate is to declare it won before it’s begun.

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMCourtney

I'm afraid MCourtney is right. And the consequence is that we are heading into another dark age of 'religious' intolerance.

These people believe they are right because they KNOW they are right. Evidence isn't needed. Argument isn't needed.

We are re-entering an age of rhetoric, one deliberately created by the leftists. When Communism failed because reality intervened, their answer wasn't to drop Communism, but to drop reality.

We are now living in a world where minds are closing.

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Has someone been organised to go and support the common sense viewpoint?

Are we asking for a volunteer?

Jan 8, 2015 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Richards

When is the debate? I've sent this on to an ex-academic mate of mine who has been involved in fracking.

Jan 8, 2015 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Jimmy

I've linked to the flyer above. It looks so obviously like a set up, with greens dominating the panel, I wouldn't do it myself.

Jan 8, 2015 at 3:40 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Kings Edwards School, Witley, Godalming GU8 5SG. Tuesday, February 10th 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (that's 1000 - 1300 for some). £15 per student (staff free). Not sure if they are accepting outsiders.

Jan 8, 2015 at 3:46 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

£15 / head... should make a tidy profit ;-)

Jan 8, 2015 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterHyperthermania

[O/T]

Jan 8, 2015 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

I wonder where the profits are going to be donated to? Perhaps, FoE or the Green Party, or some other branch of the green blob?

Jan 8, 2015 at 4:36 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

"They seem to think the money just appears out of thin air"

What? You mean it doesn't? Seriously, there is no magic money tree?

Has anyone told the SNP?

Jan 8, 2015 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

If Humphreys isn't deep green himself I'll eat my hat.

Just take a look at the sort of stuff he re-tweets.

Why the £15 charge for attendees?

Jan 8, 2015 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Presumably there are speakers' expenses to be paid.

Jan 8, 2015 at 5:08 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

... but the idea that someone should speak up for the interests of their shareholders is anathema

It's not only speaking up for the shareholders of (in this case) iGas, or even the shareholders of all fossil fuel companies, or the subset who are attempting to take advantage of fracking technology. It's speaking up for all of us who might prefer to maintain a modern economy and comfortable standard of living. As a society we are trying to balance our material well-being and the level of risk (of all kinds) we are willing to bear. That collective decision will not be optimal of we are don't understand the risk that fracking (or CO2 emission, or grid reliance on intermitent energy, or nuclear etc) presents, or the economic activity that the related policy choice will allow.

To date the Green Blob has actively prevented that understanding by cutting off debate and distorting facts - it just has to stop.

Jan 8, 2015 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

You can come up with all sorts of reasons why this sort of thing is becoming more common, but my (current) favourite is the apparent belief by so many people 40 or younger that they are always and unconditionally right just because they are.

I blame the bizarre notions of child-rearing that we have imported from the US, where nobody can criticise a child or tell him/her they are wrong, or their work is sub-standard - good job Ethan!

We have rewarded and reinforced the narcissism of individual thought, that whatever you think is right and valid just because you think it.

Jan 8, 2015 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim Hammond

People will do worse things for ideological commitments or power than they will ever do for "private profit." Screening for "profit" while not screening for "ideology" or "ambition" won't lead to balance.

Jan 8, 2015 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlberich

The slaughter in Paris is a rather vigorous extension of the censorship trend that The Left (mainly, not solely) has been foisting on us for years. And now the hypocrites shed crocodile tears. Boo hoo, says the Gruaniad. Oh dear, says the Beeb. Aye, that'll be right, boys.

Jan 8, 2015 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

The slaughter in Paris is a rather vigorous extension of the censorship trend that The Left (mainly, not solely) has been foisting on us for years. And now the hypocrites shed crocodile tears. Boo hoo, says the Gruaniad. Oh dear, says the Beeb. Aye, that'll be right, boys.

Jan 8, 2015 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Something we should import from the US is Private Mineral Rights.

That is the whole point there is no UK private profit in Fracking if there was the drillers would be trapping through every ones back garden with the owners rubbing their hands together.

Then the new Local "Shalinaires" will be splashing their new found cash locally in their usual local shops and restaurants.Keeping the new wealth local in the community.

If Farrage wants a vote winner stick Private Mineral Rights in his manifesto and watch Natalie Bennett,s reaction on the televised debates.

Jan 8, 2015 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

The University of Bristol used to have a pretty good reputation. Things seem to be slipping.

Jan 8, 2015 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Bish, There is a DOSS (Deniail of service) happening, again.

Jan 8, 2015 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

Vernon should just listen to himself "balanced speakers".

Does he realise what an idiot he is?

Jan 8, 2015 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

@ jamspid: Private Mineral Rights are a great idea in countries like the US and Australia where private landowners often hold 10-100 square miles of property. But it is sod use in the UK. where the majority of 'back gardens' are smaller than a tennis court, and as many are likely to be leasehold as freehold. The only people likely to financially benefit from PMRs in the UK will be the lawyers for the wannabe Local 'Shalinaires'.

Jan 8, 2015 at 7:09 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Jan 8, 2015 at 2:15 PM | Registered Commentershub

"milieu of the internet "

Milieu = short for midi lieu = middle place = middle

mêlée = in english nearest is scrum but we also use it to express middle of muddle.

Not sure which one you meant Shrub.

Jan 8, 2015 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

If Farrage wants a vote winner stick Private Mineral Rights in his manifesto and watch Natalie Bennett,s reaction on the televised debates.

Jan 8, 2015 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid


That is a cracking idea. !!!! I shall suggest it to Tallbloke or perhaps you would want to.

Jan 8, 2015 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

The Public Sector - in my experience selects for a certain type of individual who is disdainful of "profit"

Only when profit is not there anymore and they lose THEIR jobs do they realise that the private sector has a valid criticism of their easy tax payer funded lifestyle.

We have seen a distinct movement from Public to Private sector here in the UK.

It has been an interesting change.

Jan 8, 2015 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

Salopian

The US mining industry was developed under the Federal Mining law of 1870 which provided for Lode Mineral claims of 1500 x 600 feet = 20.66 acres. There are thousands of farms and plots of private land in the UK larger than that.

Jan 8, 2015 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeospeculator

@Stephen Richards: "That is a cracking idea. !!!! I shall suggest it to Tallbloke or perhaps you would want to."

As a former UKIP candidate (as you have previously stated in other comments), why do you need to suggest it through a third party? BTW, are you a prospective candidate in May's election, or are you just an activist now?

Jan 8, 2015 at 8:06 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

@Geospeculator: "There are thousands of farms and plots of private land in the UK larger than that [20.66 acres]."

Yeah right, I think you will find that there are are somewhere in excess of 20 million privately owned properties in the UK. So if you are advocating that PMRs only apply to those owning more than 20.66 acres, then you're probably only extending rights to a fraction of one percent?

Jan 8, 2015 at 8:30 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

The whole point of a debate is to have the two sides represent themsevles. A single ballanced view is not a debate.

Jan 8, 2015 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

Geological Society keen to pass on fossil fuel development expertise to the next generation

In view of the absolute certainty by some that we must stop extracting fossil fuels very soon (for example, as reported in two Guardian articles today, one by Monbiot: "Why leaving fossil fuels in the ground is good for everyone"
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2015/jan/07/why-leaving-fossil-fuels-in-ground-good-for-everyone
- and a similar one by Monbiot-wanner-be, Damian Carrington.

it is refreshing to read about a 2015 meeting of the Geological Society's Petroleum Group:

8th Petroleum Geology of Northwest Europe Conference (Sept 2015), whose programme includes the following:

- Standing on the shoulders of giants – what we have learned from past successes?
- Finding and developing more oil and gas in both mature basins and new plays
- Optimising recovery – extending the life of existing fields and re-developing old fields
- In particular, emphasis will be given to crafting and selecting talks to transfer learning from the past 50 years of the North Sea to younger generations of geologists and geophysicists.

So, despite the AGW-alarmist conclusions of the Geological Society's Climate Change Policy Statement, at least some of its members are giving it little credibility.
It claims 10,000 members, but only 3965 list their 'area of expertise' (= 'subject of interest') in the online members' database. Of these, 182 (4.5%) give climate change as 'area of expertise', while 1133 (29%) list 'oil & gas', or coal.

Jan 8, 2015 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

Regarding mineral rights, the Church has bagged most of this area, and I think a lot of the rest of England as well!

Jan 8, 2015 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJo Beaumont

"Why need for a 'pro' view at all? Balanced speakers better. Most pro voices linked to private profit anyway."

Profit implies that there are customers for fracked gas. A speaker from a company is therefore representing the interests of his customers as well as his shareholders. The real question is "Who do Greens and academics represent?"

What almost every country needs right now is lots of new successful "capitalist exploiters of the workers" (and resources) who can put millions of people back to work, ending current economic stagnation and fiscal crises. Green industries that require government subsidies to get started and pass higher costs on to consumers certainly aren't the answer.

Jan 8, 2015 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

--Presumably he also thinks that if someone were to consider throwing him off his PhD course we
should ignore his protests on the grounds that he was motivated only by money.--

It seems years of education has failed to educate Chris Vernon.
Say if US vice president Joe Biden had said "Why need for a 'pro' view at all? Balanced speakers better.
Most pro voices linked to private profit anyway."
It would not be much of problem, as few who voted for Joe would consider
that he has been adequately educated.

I wonder if there any PHD [even if in say basket weaving, Marxism, or whatever] who could
argue that Chris has not wasted his educator's time?
Or have any reason to have much faith that Mr Chris Vernon can manage to somehow get
educated in the future?

Jan 8, 2015 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergbaikie

@Salopian - "Yeah right, I think you will find that there are are somewhere in excess of 20 million privately owned properties in the UK. So if you are advocating that PMRs only apply to those owning more than 20.66 acres, then you're probably only extending rights to a fraction of one percent?"

I don't think the goal of assigning mineral rights to landowners would be to extend a direct financial benefit to suburban homeowners with postage stamp lawns. The goal is to provide some incentive for landowners to work with the energy industry and encourage economic development. I don't believe that Pennsylvania, for instance, would have a natural gas industry today if the state, rather than private farmers, had owned the Marcellus Shale mineral rights.

Jan 9, 2015 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

Bloke in Central Illinois:

The paradox is that in the UK the state does own the mineral rights to oil and gas, and yet we developed the North Sea, and even some conventional onshore production (over 2,000 onshore wells have been drilled). It can be made to work.

Radical Rodent:

Unfortunately I have a rather lengthy dental appointment during the event at KES, otherwise I might have volunteered myself. But an obvious candidate is James Verdon - although I guess is he very busy as he hasn't posted at his Frackland site since November, until today:

http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/more-misleading-leaflets-from-anti.html

Jan 9, 2015 at 12:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Reviewing Phil Humphries' Twitter line, I noted a link to this:

https://www.soci.org/Events/Display-Event.aspx?EventCode=MAC026

Prof Mike Stephenson of the BGS talking about fracking, ahead of his new book on the subject.

Jan 9, 2015 at 12:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

The Public Sector - in my experience selects for a certain type of individual who is disdainful of "profit"

Only when profit is not there anymore and they lose THEIR jobs do they realise that the private sector has a valid criticism of their easy tax payer funded lifestyle.

We have seen a distinct movement from Public to Private sector here in the UK.

Doug UK said.

Funnily enough, how many times do we hear the screams of umbrage when their vast stipends are mildly questioned, and the swift retort from the legions of paper clip assessment auditors goes, "we have to have large fat salaries in order that we can compete with the private sector" - er......... no you don't.


The civil service.

What a lark it all is. On the government teat for life [well 30 years].

And they, reward themselves with bonuses and pay has indeed exceeded the equivalent*[1] grades or, postings in the private sector. So now, these 'hard working souls' not only are their taxpayer pocket monies grossly excessive for the meagre 35hr *[2] week they put in - the wages beat the private sector and hands down.

Next, throw in the more than generous hols [6 weeks paid], pension rights and sickies [as much as you want], free child care, car allowance, rail travel discounts and jollies on career assessment/augmentation/learning the latest fad courses and team building, and the equality, diversity, H&S courses blah, blah, blah and finally senior civil servants trek regularly [fully paid natch] - to Brussels to learn the latest dark arts, green miasma and other propaganda paraphernalia - it all adds up to: doing not much throughout the year.

A UK public sector with far too much time on their hands for devil making, unionization and most if not all are ironically privately educated kids - "privately educated"!! .......ooh dear that hurts it's like a Ka-bar sticking into my ribs.


* 1. "equivalent" - a loose descriptor admittedly.

2. + 2.5 hrs for paid breaks = 37.5 hrs.

Jan 9, 2015 at 1:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Only one dumb outsider gave that opinion
Greens bully, censor and don't like free speech and this an example of 1 person Alf Garnett like following that lead..but just one outsider. The school itself is less wrong at least they made an attempt at balance : 3 activists + 1 acadaemic against 1
It sits clearly in the capitalist world
King Edwards School is a private school in Goldmading, Surrey (founded by Nicholas Ridley)
fees range from a minimum £15K/yr day-rate to £30K for boarders
session is 10-1pm Tickets per student are £15 or £20 inc lunch, A cheap train ticket to/from London should be <£15 ,so school does seem to profit after expenses.
The Geography teacher has tweeted BBC alarmist stuff before.
"Rich kids pay big money for anticapitalist propaganda event." Is NOT the subtitle if the school does end up with a proper balanced panel.

Jan 9, 2015 at 2:47 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@MCourtney referred to a recent UK poll
Green voters - 17% for a short age range 18-24 and 9% 25-39 ..( Note many just comimg over from the other pseudogreen party The LibDems)
Funny that people who live in the real world are less likely to vote Green.
trouble is ..they grow older and get more sceptical. Skepticism won't die cos old skeptics die out that me is unsustainable.

Jan 9, 2015 at 3:00 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Bish is wrong in stating the academic has no expertise : he is widely quoted on fracking. But perhaps the go-to man if you want a cautious rather than pro opinion. (His name is Michael Bradshaw, Professor of global energy at Warwick Business School born 1933)

(Oops meme .. my previous comment )

Jan 9, 2015 at 3:20 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

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