Extinction Rebellion, the BBC and a Deadly Embrace

A Little Historical Background (skip this if you like)

In 1957 a world renowned Social Scientist named Leon Festinger  studied an end-of-the-world cult to see what would happen when their end-date came and went.

He was particularly interested in what would happen after their prophesy failed ( a disconfirmation as he called it). Surprisingly the disconfirmation did not destroy the cults belief but rather the cult tended to re-direct and reinforce it with some pseudo-rationalisation as to why the disconfirmation occurred.

Before the end-date the cult was utterly convinced that the end-of-the-world was at hand. The primary members fed off each others belief in a bizarre social embrace which annihilated
any prospect of disbelief and locked them into the cult. While the leading members were middle aged, the "foot soldiers" were almost exclusively young. Most were teenagers.

Intelligence did not appear to be a criteria in cult membership. The cult included a PhD Astro-physicist, one of the leaders was a qualified medical doctor and another was a degree qualified electrical engineer.

Yet their cult belief was laughable. They believed that the world was going to end in a flood and that they (as the chosen) would be picked up by flying saucer.  As the end-date approached they saw every calamity affecting the world (in that year there were severe earthquakes in Iran) as proof of their belief.

When the end-date came and went, the cult were presented with the painful truth that their mutually inflated prophesy had failed. Festinger later on defined this state as one of "Cognitive Dissonance" . Instead of what most people would expect to happen (i.e cult members would realise their error and move on) the cult leaders pseudo-rationalised that the disconfirmation was due to their commitment. In fact in their view the cult had saved the world from certain annihilation.

Preposterous as it was, this pseudo-rationalisation drove the cults proselytising into over-drive. The press lapped it up.

The editorial policy for almost all newspapers was (then as now) to boost circulation.

The stories of a world about to end, governmental conspiracy and a "higher calling" boosted circulation and so played directly to the newspaper's editorial policy. The fact that the cult was based on an absurd premise was irrelevant.

The editorial policy came first.

So, what has it got to do with Extinction Rebellion and the BBC?

Unfortunately, in my opinion, quite a lot.

I hate to use  25 minutes of your time but if you have a chance please watch at least a few minutes of this video of one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion in an interview on BBCs Hard Talk. (starts one minute in)

Notice the end-of-days style prophesies with "6 billion dying from wars/starvation".  Notice the impending "social collapse", how "nobody was listening". Then we have the "lying elites" and "lying experts". It could be Festinger's flying saucer fanatics talking. And of course, like Festinger's cult, only Extinction Rebellion have the answer.

So what about the BBC?

Watch the interview. While it is perfectly reasonable for a public service broadcaster to interview fanatics, the interviewer allows the Extinction Rebellion founder to get away with just about any hair brained statement he cared to mention.

He continually refers to "the science" though what he quotes is out-and-out dark fantasy and bore no relation to anything from the IPCC let alone from any other reputable scientific source. Nobody asks what science he is referring to. Let alone requesting verification.

Unchallenged, he repeated several times that 6 billion would die. At one point early on he predicts mass starvation within ten years. No scientific references were given or sought. Each time the BBC presenter nodded it through.

When the interviewer does briefly corner him the Extinction Rebellion founder then declares the interviewer was not "emotionally" connecting to the problem. (Whatever that means.) Again this ludicrous assertion is given a free pass.

The BBC interviewer appears to be solely interested in the disruption this group causes and how it may threaten the established order. The only scientific query the  presenter focused on was their crazy concept of making the UK "carbon free" by 2025. (Even the journalist finds this risible)

Other than this, in a quite shocking dereliction of journalistic enquiry the journalist simply fails to challenge the pseudo-science spouted out by this individual. Particularly, nowhere is the reduction of the planets population to just one billion by starvation and war in 60 years questioned.

I worry that this dereliction is in fact driven by BBC policy rather than simple editorial incompetence. I got the continual impression that the journalist was trying at every opportunity to align with the Extinction Rebellion founder. The scientific basis for the absurd claims went totally unchallenged. The silence implied agreement. It was in effect a discussion between two like minds. It was just one of them was more extreme than the other.

Like Festingers cult, where journalistic integrity came a distant second to editorial policy, I suspect the BBC deliberately ditched the hard (and vital) questions. To them it is better to flatter the crazies. Just as long as they more or less align with the BBC editorial policy on Climate Change.

While all cults are potentially dangerous this abomination called Extinction Rebellion makes Festingers flying saucer fools look positively benign. The social embrace from Extinction Rebellion (especially to the very young) is far more sinister, destructive and totalitarian in nature.

I fear that one day soon the followers of Extinction Rebellion may well find the "cause" has turned from a call to civil disobedience into a crushing deadly embrace that could easily cost them (and many others) their lives.

While Climate Change may well be a problem, it is NOT an end-of-days problem.

It is wholly irresponsible of an organisation like the BBC to sit back and give unchallenged airspace to (any) organisation that presents pseudo-science as fact. Even if the pseudo-science is more palatable to the BBC than asking the hard and verifiable questions.

We need a public broadcaster that is prepared to ask the hard questions. Even if the BBC themselves do not like the answers, and even if the questions go against BBC editorial policy.

Otherwise we simply have a propaganda channel.

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