Tariq Ali: smh

Sometime recently (it was during the recent General Election campaign: you’ll find you can glean that) the Oxford Union hosted a talk and Q&A by Tariq Ali, and I had my interest and memories stirred.  Ali was President of the Oxford Union in the mid-sixties, and spent much of the rest of that decade leading marches, protests, even riots. His name was seldom out of the papers. He was one of the leaders of the now-defunct International Marxist Group, a brand that made the Workers Revolutionary Party look like wishy-washy liberals.

I wanted to see whether the years had mellowed him. I know of several firebrand Trots from those days who have since performed philosophical u-turns; but from the little I’ve seen of Ali in the past half-century I get the impression that he is not one of them.

He begins by announcing that he had intended to speak about his book on Lenin but had changed his mind. He then speaks about his book on Lenin.

I was not surprised to see that one who had addressed so many protests, marches and suchlike was quite relaxed here, shooting this entire speech from the hip. On the other hand I was delighted to learn that his speaking skill is not merely a byproduct of doing a lot of it. There are indications that he has put in some thoughtful work, and one piece of evidence is to be found at 35:18, where he makes gestures accompanying a comparison between the political left and right. He is doing the gestures in mirror image, so that when he says ‘left’ he is indicating our left. It is these small things that single out expert speakers.

Actually he doesn’t speak exclusively about his book: he eventually moves on into rambling around matters of today.

I actually find myself quite liking him as a person, even though he is profoundly misguided. He comes across significantly less strident than he did in the sixties, but then so do we all. He disappoints me with a dreadful piece of cheap and gratuitous (though well-timed) ad hominem. I’ll put it down to senility – he’s a little older than I. Smh.

Smh is one of those tla (three letter abbreviations) to be found on Twitter. It stands for ‘shaking my head’ and I’m smh quite often during this speech as he trots out preposterous assertions. Nevertheless he’s entitled to his opinions.

If I were advising him I would warn him about one thing. He always did seem to take himself too seriously, and when you reach our age that comes across as pomposity. He needs to watch that.

More than once in this blog I have castigated hosts of speeches, conference halls, all sorts of auditoria, for not having a clock on the back wall with which speakers can time themselves. Tariq Ali over-runs, and it emerges that he has been carefully watching just such a clock, thoughtfully supplied by the Oxford Union. It just isn’t working properly.

Smh.

Christopher Monckton exposes motives

On 27 April 2015 there was held, in Rome, what was called a ‘prebuttal’ to the Vatican’s Climate Summit on the following day. A substantial collection of leading independent scientific experts was assembled to convey a simple message. All the empirical data show that there is no climate crisis.

In my previous posting we covered a speech by E Calvin Beisner, addressing the theological arguments in general and in particular how the world’s most poor were the biggest losers as a consequence of the policies being pursued by the proponents of this fictional crisis. Today we look at a speech by Christopher Monckton at that same conference. He is addressing the motives behind those policies.

Monckton opens with a tribute to other speakers at this conference. If you wish to see them go here.

Because he can use humour well, Monckton is often tempted to play the Court Jester. Being good at humour is not the same as being a stand-up comic, and too often he dies. This conference deals with very serious matters. Monckton plays it dead straight and my word but he is a good speaker!

I first became interested in this subject very many years ago. What grabbed my attention was that only one party in the argument actually argued. The sceptics always showed their workings, drawing attention to the data. The alarmists too often merely made unsubstantiated assertions and indulged in name-calling (argumentum ad hominem). The sceptics regularly challenged the alarmists to debates; and the alarmists ran away and hid behind argumentum ad verecundiam or argumentum ad populum. This last intrigued me quite early. The level of persecution meted out to dissent, called into question the genuineness of consent. I dug behind the ‘97% consensus’ claim and looked at the original survey. The ‘consensus’ was phony: a shameless piece of data manipulation. The same data that claimed 97% support could make an equally strong case for 97% against.

I am not a scientist, but I quickly developed a system for myself whereby I checked what data I was able to understand, went and found credible scientists who were saying what I had found, then I followed them. They were the ones showing their workings and they weren’t calling the opposition names. They were the sceptics, and what they said has shown to be correct. I learned that yes, carbon dioxide has a greenhouse effect but it is minuscule. The ‘crisis’ was based on what was never more than a tenuous theory which has collapsed. None of the alarmists’ projections has materialized. You could have been born since there was any measurable warming and now be old enough to vote. Alarmists’ assertions can today withstand not even cursory scrutiny. It’s so easy that I was puzzled that more didn’t do it. Or did they? Not everyone could be fools: some had to be knaves who were authors of the fiction or went along with it for base motives. And were those motives actually base? It took me time to get answers that I could check, and what I found chilled the blood.

And that is what this speech is about.  We don’t see Monckton’s slides, but I am not sure we need to.

I think we need to be afraid.