Actual photo of Nuremberg trial that accompanies latest Delingpole piece with actual caption, “Not pictured: Monbiot, Flannery, Mann….”
If you ever needed (more) proof that the professional deniers are driven by a mindless rage devoid of any actual science, I urge you to read James Delingpole’s latest piece.
It will nauseate you — consider yourself warned. But I think it’s important to dissect this hate speech in detail because Delingpole seems to think that hate speech isn’t hate speech if you just use rhetoric — the figures of speech, like metaphor.
Having spent a quarter century studying rhetoric and having just published a well-received book on this very subject — Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga — I think I can safely say that is bullshit, though most likely only metaphorical bullshit (see below).
You may recall Delingpole’s 2011 meltdown on the BBC, where they got him to admit he is a hand-waving know-nothing: “It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers because I simply haven’t got the time…. I am an interpreter of interpretations.” This pieces makes that meltdown look like the height of lucidity.
The piece is also worth examining closely because I think it is indicative of how the deniers and disinformers really feel — and we’ll know if that’s true if none of them denounce it.
The headline is “An English class for trolls, professional offence-takers and climate activists.” Delingpole is going to lecture us plebes on our native tongue.
Under the headline is the photo above, which is one of the popular pictures of the post-WWII Nuremberg trials in which Nazis were tried for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” The Telegraph’s caption is simply, “Not pictured: Monbiot, Flannery, Mann….” That would be George Monbiot, Tim Flannery, and Michael Mann.
Yes, that’s right, this isn’t hate speech just from Delingpole — senior editors at the paper must have signed off on all this. Oh, but it gets much worse.
The piece opens (emphasis added):
Should Michael Mann be given the electric chair for having concocted arguably the most risibly inept, misleading, cherry-picking, worthless and mendacious graph — the Hockey Stick — in the history of junk science?
Should George Monbiot be hanged by the neck for his decade or so’s hysterical promulgation of the great climate change scam and other idiocies too numerous to mention?
Should Tim Flannery be fed to the crocodiles for the role he has played in the fleecing of the Australian taxpayer and the diversion of scarce resources into pointless projects like all the eye-wateringly expensive desalination plants built as a result of his doomy prognostications about water shortages caused by catastrophic anthropogenic global warming?
It doesn’t matter how many times the Hockey Stick is independently verified, the anti-science crowd just hate, hate, hate it and Dr. Mann with a force that is beyond reason. Note that he offers no evidence against Mann or Monbiot or Flannery here — mainly because there isn’t any.
Apparently it’s not enough for Delingpole to smear people for wanting to avoid catastrophe by reducing CO2 emissions — he even wants to smear them for adaptation. Now we can’t even plan for climate change without being subject to fact-free hate speech from the deniers.
Oh but you see, Delingpole thinks he can write such smears as long as he puts them in the form of a question and then follows with this (emphasis added):
It ought to go without saying that my answer to all these questions is — *regretful sigh* — no. First, as anyone remotely familiar with the zillion words I write every year on this blog and elsewhere, extreme authoritarianism and capital penalties just aren’t my bag. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it would be counterproductive, ugly, excessive and deeply unsatisfying.The last thing I would want is for Monbiot, Mann, Flannery, Jones, Hansen and the rest of the Climate rogues’ gallery to be granted the mercy of quick release. Publicly humiliated? Yes please. Having all their crappy books remaindered? Definitely. Dragged away from their taxpayer funded troughs and their cushy sinecures, to be replaced by people who actually know what they’re talking about? For sure. But hanging? Hell no. Hanging is far too good for such ineffable toerags.
What more proof is needed that hate speech is the “logic” of deniers?
By the way, this trick of “pretended denial” — smearing someone by putting it in the negative (“I’m not calling my opponent a liar, but …”) — is so old the Greeks classified it as a figure of speech 25 centuries ago! And here it is indeed just rhetorical denial — as evidenced by the absurdist addition of “*regretful sigh*” and, even worse, “the mercy of quick release” and “Hanging is far too good.” Anyone who “read English at Oxford” as Delingpole snearingly asserts a few sentences later would know that.
Let’s take a quick look at the alleged “terms and conditions for Telegraph.co.uk and all associated websites”:
In submitting material to us, you warrant that any material you submit:
… (6) is not obscene, threatening, menacing, offensive, defamatory, abusive….
If Delingpole’s piece doesn’t count as “threatening, menacing, offensive, defamatory, abusive” then it is quite safe to say that nothing does. It should be retracted, the Telegraph should issue an apology and then fire him.
Delingpole then doubles down by bringing in — what else? — a Nazi war criminal metaphor (emphasis in original):
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a strong case for the myriad dodgy scientists-on-the-make, green activists, posturing and ignorant politicians, rent-seeking corporatists, UN apparatchiks, EU technocrats and hopelessly out-of-their-depth environment correspondents who talked up the global warming scare to be brought to account for the vast damage they have done to the global economy, for the people they have caused to die in fuel poverty, for the needless regulations they have inflicted on us, for the landscapes they have ravaged with wind farms, and so on.
Indeed, it would be nice to think one day that there would be a Climate Nuremberg. But please note, all you slower trolls beneath the bridge, that when I say Climate Nuremberg I use the phrase metaphorically.
A metaphor, let me explain — I can because I read English at Oxford, dontcha know — is like a simile but stronger.
Well, yes, metaphors are arguably the strongest of the figures of speech. As I discuss in my book, back when Lincoln was (briefly) in Congress in 1848, he attacked his opponents for using a metaphor against him and got them to give it up. He then said:
The point — the power to hurt — of all figures consists in the truthfulness of their application; and, understanding this, you may well give it up. They are weapons which hit you, but miss us.
Lincoln, the greatest student rhetoric of all U.S. presidents understood all too well that the figures of speech are (metaphorical) weapons that have “the power to hurt.”
Obviously you could hardly have a literal climate Nuremberg since those were post-war trials of Nazis for crimes against humanity. The point — the power to hurt — of the metaphor is in its suggestion that there is some truthfulness to the analogy between climate scientists and Nazis, some actual analogy between performing climate science and performing war crimes. If there were no analogy, there’d be no point in the metaphor.
So yes, a metaphor can be used to smear and to hurt. Delingpole himself tells us he knows that metaphors are stronger than similes, so he is pointedly not making a simile. That is, he is pointedly not saying he wishes we could have something “like” a Climate Nuremberg or something that “resembles” a Climate Nuremberg.
The great rhetorician Winston Churchill, who as a young man published a terrific essay, “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric” (which one hopes they read in Oxford), wrote of analogies:
Whether they translate an established truth into simple language or whether they adventurously aspire to reveal the unknown, they are among the most formidable weapons of the rhetorician. The effect upon the most cultivated audiences is electrical…. One such will make a speech or mar a measure.
Again, metaphors are exceedingly powerful and can have an electrifying effect, which is precisely why I urge people to use them — but wisely!
Delingpole actually continues with examples that prove the case against him:
So when, for example, a rugger team boasts in the shower room after a particularly brutal match that it “raped” the opposition, it doesn’t literally mean that it had forcible sex with the other side even though that may be — if you’re incredibly thick and literalistic and looking for offence — what it sounds like.
Memo to Delingpole: This is precisely why you never see the word “raped” in that context — at least in the sports pages of the unwashed United States. The metaphor is far too strong to be used that way in the public arena.
In case you were wondering why Delingpole is going on and on with this lame defense of hate speech, he explains:
Anyway, I mention all this by way of reference to a piece I wrote in The Australian, the other day. It was headlined “Deluged with Flannery and covered in Viner”. It’s well worth a read if you can negotiate the paywall. For those who don’t want to, let me treat you — for free — to the final sentence.
“The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap.”
How do you hang an “industry”, I wonder. How exactly do you put a rope round a dodgy computer model?
… Seems to me that it’s quite an impossibility. But there are others who don’t, clearly, for the day after the Australian article ran I was gobsmacked to read on Twitter that a small cabal of weapons-grade pillocks from the further extremes of the eco loon movement had chosen to interpret this phrase as some kind of demand for “climate scientists” to be executed.
Seriously. So what Delingpole is saying is that because you can’t literally put an “industry” on trial (which actually isn’t true, but never mind) then you can’t criticize him for suggesting, metaphorically, that this so-called industry — composed of scientists and activists — be put on trial.
That is metaphorical bullshit. Heck, for all we know, it may even be literal bullshit, but we’d have to go to England and see what medium Delingpole actually composes the drafts of his columns in to find out — and I doubt any of want to wade in that deep.
I am reminded of that far better English writer, Lewis Carroll, who created a character that is the metaphorical kissing cousin of Delingpole:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
Delingpole literally does not want the word “metaphor” to have any meaning whatsoever. He writes:
I’m going to come back to this subject again because I think it’s one of the deadliest threats to freedom in our era: what I call the Liberal War on Metaphor….
For the moment I want to conclude by saying this: the real menace is not the fairly small minority of hard left activists, whingeing Guardianistas, professional victims and bien-pensant ideologues who seek to silence freedom of speech by cynically creating moral equivalence between metaphorical violence and real violence. (cf also, for example, the way the US left tried to pin the blame for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting on the “inflammatory” rhetoric of people like Sarah Palin).
Apparently Delingpole is unaware that people like Lincoln and Churchill fully understood the power of metaphors to hurt and to rouse a crowd.
As it turns out, I discuss the Giffords-Palin case in my chapter on metaphors. As I explained:
During the 2010 midterm election, Sarah Palin “marked with cross hairs” some districts of congressional Democrats “she had targeted for defeat,” as the Washington Post reported. Arizona Democrat Representative Gabrielle Giffords, “whose district was one of those 20, had publicly complained that this was an invitation to violence.” Many argued these cross-hairs were a visual metaphor inciting violence.
When Giffords was later shot, Palin herself came under figurative fire. And she returned fire:
“Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.”
The term “blood libel” was one of the worst metaphorical misfires imaginable: “The phrase refers to a centuries-old anti-Semitic slander — the false charge that Jews use the blood of Christian children for rituals — that has been used as an excuse for persecution.” Whether or not Palin understood the full implications of the metaphor, the use of those two words blew up the rest of her message and was widely seen as contributing to her declining poll numbers.
Apparently Delingpole thinks it is perfectly fine to “metaphorically” mark some politicians in cross-hairs. And the response to Palin’s misuse of the “blood libel” metaphor again underscores the fact that metaphors can hurt.
By the way, Delingpole’s whole notion that this is somehow a “liberal war on metaphor” is laughable. Who precisely gets so worked up over the term “denier,” arguing (weakly I believe) that the term inherently must connect one to a Holocaust denier?
What really is a difference between all of Delingpole’s noxious metaphors, including his wish for a “Climate Nuremberg” and the Heartland Institute comparing “Climate Science Believers And Reporters To Mass ‘Murderers And Madmen’:
Oh, but it was just a metaphor by Heartland, folks, so no one can possibly take offense. Nor I suppose can Delingpole take any offense at my analogizing him to this Heartland campaign.
I have wasted enough time on this disingenuous rhetorician who justifies the term applied to the worst of the Greek rhetoricians — Sophist.