Perhaps somebody needs to remind Bengt Braun that Finland just topped the Reader’s Digest list of greenest countries in the world. And while they’re at it, they might suggest he put in a word to the management of that Helsinki TV station they own.
Finland’s MTV3 (their current home page includes a link to the Evangelical Christian network Worldvision, a showering young woman on the Big Brother cam and a bloated Brittany Spears staggering through a dance routine) understands the Finnish TV audience (even with a lower tolerance for commercial interruptions than their American counterparts) can survive on a “low-fact” diet of reality shows with voyeuristic and prurient emphases, spiced with the occasional blockbuster film, popular American series, and some “fair and balanced” current events programming. Having shown the Gore movie a few weeks earlier, it was hardly surprising that MTV3 chose to air Martin Durkin’s The Great Global Warming Swindle on an otherwise pleasant Sunday afternoon. The possible justifications for showing this particular film as a counterpoint to An Inconvenient Truth could be that 1) publishing titan Bonnier is moving to a more abrasive advertising strategy (unlikely), 2) those doing the programming at MTV3 didn’t realize it was a hit piece (hmmm…), 3) those doing the programming believe the program to be factual (trusting the Channel 4 brand, not unreasonable), and 4) those doing the programming know the film is a hit piece and that showing it constitutes harmless fun à la Reefer Madness (possible, Finns are subtle in this respect). Whatever the reason, the documentary was produced for Britain’s Channel 4, which decades ago was founded by luminaries that include Colin Young, a genius who trained two generations of serious documentary filmmakers.
Whatever you may think, Durkin’s film is now in circulation and a good reflection of our age, where ideas must be think-tank-certified to qualify for public discussion.
When Firesign Theater released it’s spoof “Everthing You Know is Wrong” in 1974, the conspiracy fringe was seen as a target for ridicule. Nowadays, people who sell the same line do it in all seriousness. If we buy Durkin’s line, global warming was cooked up by scholars who want grant money and spoiled Greens want to deny third-worlders their right to coal-burning electrical power plants. Oh yeah, and if you buy into fears that global warming could have large impacts on the 6 billion-plus inhabitants of our planet, Mr. Durkin invites you to go fuck yourself. Sweet come-back, Dude.
We’ve seen large discombobulation on a global scale in the past, and even within the memory of some of us. Last century the world was hit between wars by an economic tsunami , the Great Depression. It took most countries decades to recover. Yet when the problems of speculative borrowing emerged in the Roaring 20s, the decision by the Federal Reserve and other central banks to raise interest rates seemed prudent. By 1933, when a quarter to half of the working population was unemployed in most industrial countries and similar amounts of industrial capacity were idle, central banks were hoping for a do-over. They had screwed the pooch — rich and poor alike were caught up in a vicious deflationary circle characterized by delayed consumption, bankrupcy and bank runs. It was the time Hitler came to power. The world was nuts.
Could another period of collective insanity be lurking just around the corner? Naomi Klein suggests in The Shock Doctrine that social crises, manmade and natural, have many people are already on the ragged edge ready to jump. While she assumes that ultimately a frightened population will remain docile while those manipulating the shock effects to strip them of their civil liberties, I submit that, unfortunately, there could be a further point beyond where things get so confused that nobody operates in their best interests, not even the manipulators. This is the distinction economists make about major economic shocks; usually governments can do things to correct or mitigate shock effects, but once a society is overwhelmed the ability to rationally deal with problems is absent until things calm down. In the case of shifts in weather patterns and global heating and cooling patterns, the limits on the amount of push-back that can be served up by the Hudson Institute or Greenpeace is decisively constrained. At some point the natural shock of lost habitat, environmental degradation and new systemic equilibia points will arrive. Do I need somebody to interpret this for me? After all, I already know that the Sierra glaciers I climbed on in my teens have all but evaporated, that there’s all those blue patches I saw flying over Greenland this summer weren’t there two decades ago, that the wind patterns that I measured as an apprentice meteologist in college have changed, that the Golden Trout I fished as a child are no longer plentiful, that the Baltic has been trashed, and that the yellow Gobi desert dust that floats over the Mojave every spring signals that this change is wide-ranging.
Yet Durkin insists it’s all a swindle. Silly me for trusting my senses and memory. So what ultimately was MTV3’s motivation for broadcasting such a fact-bending piece? We may never know. I think what I’m supposed to do is forget about it and get back to worrying about who’s dancing with which star, the F1 driver pouring champagne on his pit crew and those jumping bikini ladies, that woman in the shower, Brittany’s child-rearing skills,and a guy who tells me he’s the Lord’s TV spokesman.