As I write this column, I do so without knowing if all those who regularly purchase the Daily Mail from their newsagents will be allowed to buy the edition in which it appears.
That infringement of their — your — liberty is the purpose of Extinction Rebellion, a small-ish but increasingly influential group of middle-class climate change protesters who want to silence anyone or any organisation that doesn’t share their hysterical view that the planet and its inhabitants will fry to fossil-fuelled extinction within a decade or two unless we return immediately to a form of pre-industrial subsistence.
That, ostensibly, is why they had been blockading the print sites of most of our national newspapers.
Their belief is not based on science but is quasi-religious: they regard any provider of information which does not conform to their strictures as wicked and to be silenced (if they refuse to be converted), rather in the same way that the Spanish Inquisition treated heretics.
Extinction Rebellion are pictured blockading Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday
One of its founders and still an active member, Roger Hallam, went even further, declaring that ‘maybe we should put a bullet in the head’ as ‘punishment’ for those he deems responsible for this alleged impending planetary extinction.
Although it was the bulk of the newspaper industry that his group has been attempting to intimidate and shut down this weekend, last year it tried something similar with the BBC, massing outside New Broadcasting House, preventing many of the corporation’s journalists from getting in, while holding up banners with the slogan ‘BBC, your silence is deadly’.
In fact it is Extinction Rebellion which wishes to silence voices it disapproves of; and it was almost comical that it should have targeted the national broadcaster, which has itself taken the decision not to allow airtime to anyone who questions the idea that man-made climate change is the biggest global threat to human health (although the coronavirus pandemic might have caused some inside that organisation to wonder belatedly whether in fact disease might be the true villain).
Sir David Attenborough, still vigorous well into his 90s, is the cutting edge of that BBC campaign. He has declared that ‘we cannot be radical enough’ in our policies to reduce CO2 emissions.
Andrew Neil (left), during XR’s tedious onslaught last year on those attempting to get to work in London, interviewed the movement’s then spokeswoman, Zion Lights (right). Neil asked her to give the scientific basis for her claims that ‘our children are going to die in the next ten to 20 years’
It is even more fabulously ironic that the issue of The Sun newspaper which the Extinction Rebellion blockaders on Friday night fought to prevent reaching the public contained an adoring interview with Sir David about ‘the climate crisis’.
In it, he told his interviewer: ‘We are damaging the environment just by sitting here breathing. The carbon dioxide going out of this window as a consequence of meeting here is quite significant.’
I would have been tempted to reply: ‘Don’t be silly, Sir David; it isn’t.’ But the nation’s favourite presenter of once ideology-free wildlife documentaries was, as always, treated with uncritical deference.
In a way, the same unwillingness to debate has been both the media’s — and the politicians’ — approach to Extinction Rebellion and its spiritual leader, the precocious Swede Greta Thunberg.
More from Dominic Lawson for the Daily Mail…
Yes, the Press is now defending itself robustly against XR’s physical attempts to silence it, yet there has been a peculiar reluctance to challenge the protest group’s claims forensically. Peculiar, because it is not just that their methods are objectionable: so are their arguments.
Perhaps the only time this happened (at least on the BBC) was when Andrew Neil, during XR’s tedious onslaught last year on those attempting to get to work in London, interviewed the movement’s then spokeswoman, Zion Lights.
Neil asked her to give the scientific basis for her claims that ‘our children are going to die in the next ten to 20 years’. After some confused waffle, she responded: ‘The overall issue is that the deaths are going to happen’ — which did not get us much further.
She seemed even more at a loss when Neil responded to her insistence that ‘billions of people will die [as a result of climate change] over the next few decades’: ‘I looked through the report of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and there is no reference to anything of the sort.’
Alas, the BBC have since parted company with Mr Neil, whose critical approach to this matter is not their house style.
As for Ms Lights, she has since left XR … to become an advocate of nuclear power.
In a brave article, she said that she had become aware that this country (or any other developed nation) could not abandon fossil fuels and still keep the lights on without rapid development of nuclear power — the only reliable way of mass-producing energy without emitting CO2.
Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts The Poor, And Fails To Fix The Planet, has been almost entirely ignored in the British media (forget about any BBC interviews with Lomborg)
No amount of wind or solar energy installations can produce energy 24 hours a day, or in absolutely reliable quantities: they are inherently intermittent in their production.
As the late chief scientific adviser to the Government, Professor Sir David MacKay, said a week before he died in 2016: ‘Because my time is thinner and thinner, I should call a spade a spade…
‘There is this appalling delusion people have that we can take this thing [renewables] and we can just scale it up, and if there is a slight issue of it not adding up, then we can just do energy efficiency. Humanity really does need to pay attention to arithmetic and the laws of physics.’
Yet the XR lot regard nuclear power as satanic, not just because of its former connection with weapons production, but also because they shun anything which doesn’t seem to them ‘natural’.
One of Extinction Rebellion’s founders and a continued member, Roger Hallam declared ‘maybe we should put a bullet in the head’ as ‘punishment’ for those he deems responsible for this alleged impending planetary extinction
It seems they would rather mankind died of hunger naturally, than prospered through technological and industrial processes. Or, rather, they take prosperity for granted, without understanding how it was created (perhaps because the great majority of them seem to come from homes which have never known poverty).
Yet our politicians seem cut from the same cloth. When Greta Thunberg came to the UK in April last year, they queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR.
Speaking alongside her in parliament, the then Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘We have not done nearly enough. Greta, you have been heard.’
Indeed, two months later, the Government legislated to make the UK ‘net zero carbon by 2050’ — admittedly 25 years later than XR’s impossible demand. But it had no idea how much this would cost, or how it would be done.
When Greta Thunberg (second from right) came to the UK in April last year, politicians including Michael Gove (far left) queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR
The New Zealand government did carry out such an exercise, and concluded that to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050 would cost 16 per cent of GDP annually. This would equate to £560 billion a year if applied to the UK — equivalent to almost three-quarters of all public expenditure.
Yet this legislation was passed without even a debate, let alone a vote in the House of Commons: it was enacted through a statutory instrument. This could only happen because the overwhelming majority of MPs are too scared to be seen as so-called ‘climate change deniers’.
And they absolutely refuse to engage with such rigorous thinkers as Bjorn Lomborg, the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre think-tank, or Michael Shellenberger (named as a ‘hero of the environment’ by Time Magazine in 2008), both of whom argue that grotesquely excessive resources are being ineffectually dedicated to ‘preventing’ climate change.
So Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts The Poor, And Fails To Fix The Planet, has been almost entirely ignored in the British media (forget about any BBC interviews with Lomborg).
And I believe the Daily Mail is the only British newspaper which has given much space to Shellenberger’s new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All — perhaps the most pertinent of his points being that to move to 100 per cent renewables ‘would require increasing the proportion of land used for energy from today’s 0.5 per cent to 50 per cent’.
The fact that the British political establishment — and the bulk of the media — have ceased even to engage in this debate, on an intellectual level, has left the ground free for Extinction Rebellion to occupy. Really, they didn’t need to try to silence the Press. The intimidation and groupthink has done its work quite thoroughly already.