Film review corner: Dr Ron Smith, a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato and a regular contributor to Muriel Newman’s crank echochamber went to see Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s film Home earlier this month (previewed here), and was moved to provide Muriel with a review. As crank effluvia go, it’s a classic…
The good Doctor is impressed with the look of the film:
Home is certainly enormously visually appealing and it presents, particularly in its early parts, a vivid depiction of the evolving planet and the many environmental problems that beset the modern world. In many ways this is the best of it.
Unfortunately, he quickly smells a rat:
It stands in an infamous tradition of propaganda films that set out to rally public sentiment via the attachment of emotions.
And so he lets rip:
The methodology of Home is sadly familiar: a nearly two-hour torrent of exaggeration and downright lies and all beautifully, almost mesmerizingly filmed. But is this latter feature a virtue that can stand alone? Can a film built around the presentation of untruths be justified on the grounds that it is visually stunning? Leni Riefenstahlâ€™s 1935 Triumph of the Will has been said to be a masterpiece of documentary film making but we do not appreciate it in that way because of its subject. Propaganda that is exquisitely produced is nonetheless propaganda and it is the more dangerous for it.
Godwin… quickly followed by Gore:
In many ways there is less excuse for the persistent misrepresentations of Home than there was for Al Goreâ€™s An Inconvenient Truth.
And after asserting the error-ridden nature of AIT, Dr Smith delivers himself of what can only be described as a “torrent” of carefully crafted lies:
It is thus not plausible to argue that Arthus-Bertrand and his supporters would not have known that, for example, the polar ice-sheets are not presently shrinking in a dramatic way but rather they are about the same as they were forty years ago, when satellite measurement began and that the featured transit of the Northwest Passage was not â€˜unprecedentedâ€™: in fact it was done about 100 years ago and has probably been possible at various times in human history (during the Medieval Warm Period, for example).
I haven’t yet seen Home, so I can’t directly comment on the “torrent” of disinformation that Dr Ron detects, but the examples he provides are telling. Polar ice sheets not shrinking? His choice of words could be better, but if he really means ice sheets, then he’s comprehensively wrong. If, as it appears, he means sea ice, then he’s wrong there too — and he fails to distinguish between a transit of the Northwest Passage that took Amundsen three years, and the fact that today ordinary sailing yachts can get through in a single summer.
More generally, it is scarcely credible that Arthus-Bertrand could be unaware that global temperatures are presently falling and have been doing so for several years.
I suppose it was inevitable that he would trot out the “cooling since…” meme (which remains as untrue as ever), but he then launches out into the wilder realms of crankdom:
In fact, some scientists now think that far from warming, we may be entering a cold period. There is some similarity between the present pattern of sun-spot activity and the onset of the so-called Little Ice Age of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.
There’s that favourite crank unit of measurement, “some” — in this case applied to “scientists” who are said to believe that we’re about to enter a cold period. He may be right, but only for values of “some” approaching unity, and for definitions of “scientist” that includes anyone posting at crank blogs. Still, it allows him room for some penetrating policy analysis:
Of course there is still room for doubt about whether this will happen but it would be bizarre indeed if we were launch into mitigation measures on the assumption of global warming when there was any possibility that the opposite might occur.
It’s not now enough to observe warming and its effects, and have a good and steadily improving understanding of the role of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions in causing that warming, now we must demonstrate that there’s no possibility of the opposite happening before doing anything at all.
Finally, Dr Ron makes a plea:
The crucial principle must be that of â€˜reasonable doubtâ€™.
At last, a statement with which I can agree. Unfortunately, Dr Ron is arguing that unreasonable doubt provides an excuse for inaction. In this case, it is as if a jury at a murder trial were asked to believe the defendant not guilty because the killing could have been committed by Santa Claus and his elves. He continues:
In this context, ordinary citizens need to attempt to engage with the facts as far as global climate change is concerned and the media need to play their part, in making sure that the facts are available and by avoiding the naÃ¯ve prejudgement that has characterised their treatment of environmental issues to date. It is not in our interest to allow Arthus-Bertrand and his backers to pre-empt the debate.
Whose interest might that be, I wonder? The interest of the public in preventing the worst effects of global warming and maintaining a healthy planet, or the interest of a few ideologues who demonstrate no appreciable understanding of the true nature and huge scale of the problem? The balance of evidence is clear enough, “reasonable doubt” long since left in the dust. I wonder when Dr Ron will notice? As ever, I won’t be holding my breath…