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Alarmism: How to create crisis from a nothing-burger

(Tuesday blog)

Vested interests – The Four Conmen of the Apocalypse?

While doing the maths for yesterday’s blog, I started wondering how something as insignificant as an annual 0.0002% increase in a trace gas (CO2) in the atmosphere could be blown up into being a supposed crisis and threat of extinction to the human race. And I started to realise that there were at least four powerful vested interests which always stood to benefit from what I’ll call ‘alarmism’ – creating crisis and catastrophe from what the Americans would call a ‘nothing-burger’.

In any situation four very powerful and influential vested interest groups will try to exploit what is happening for their own benefit. They are:

  • journalists – who desperately need to hyperventilate over the most minor events bigging them up and click-baiting them to draw in the maximum number of readers or viewers so they can advance their own lousy careers
  • campaigners/activists – who will jump on any passing bandwagon to inflate their own sense of self-righteousness and importance and who are really only out to impose controls on our lives extracting more money from us and restricting our freedoms. Journalists and activists have a symbiotic parasitic relationship where each fuels the other’s self-interest. Journalists give the oxygen of publicity to the activists and the activists’ exaggerated claims of catastrophe seem to justify the journalists’ hyperventilation over the supposed ‘problem’
  • eco-loons – who will exploit any situation to their advantage by claiming it proves Global Warming or Climate Change of Climate Breakdown or Climate Crisis or Extinction or whatever it’s called this week
  • politicians – who feel that, whatever the situation, they must be seen to be ‘doing something’ and so cravenly pander to the ludicrously-hyped claims of the journalists, activists and eco-loons.

One trick these Four Conmen of the Apocalypse play is what I’ll call the ‘taking it out of context trick’.

Let me explain how this works:

Little Wallop under Wye

Let’s imagine a quiet English village with about 5,000 inhabitants. We’ll call it Little Wallop under Wye. Let’s also imagine that the inhabitants of Little Wallop under Wye make around 100,000 car journeys a year – going shopping, the school run, visiting friends, having days out etc etc. Next let’s imagine that every year there are on average about two car accidents a year in Little Wallop under Wye. The accidents usually occur in the winter when the roads can get a bit icy. Therefore, around 0.0002% of car journeys made in Little Wallop under Wye result in an accident.

Now, let’s imagine we have a typical miserable rainy English summer (just like this year) and, given the slippery roads and poor visibility in the rain, there are four car accidents in Little Wallop under Wye during the summer and then, as usual, there are another two accidents in the winter.

There are two ways of reporting what has happened in Little Wallop under Wye.

Putting everything into context – one way would be to report that due to a wet summer the percentage of car journeys made by the residents of Little Wallop under Wye resulting in an accident had slightly increased from 0.0002% to 0.0006%. So, despite this increase due to the wet summer, Little Wallop under Wye was still one of the safest places in England to make a car journey and anyway, it was expected that the level of car accidents would probably fall to the average of 0.0002% of car journeys the following year.

But putting everything into context doesn’t give the story the Four Conmen of the Apocalypse need to fuel their self-interest. So, they have to take the story out of context in order to create a sense of crisis and catastrophe.

Taking everything out of context:

  • journalists – would report that there had been a “Massive increase in car accidents” in Little Wallop under Wye; they would ask “Has Little Wallop become the most dangerous place to drive in Britain?” and they would no doubt find someone living there who claimed “Everyone is now terrified of going out in their car”
  • campaigners/activists – road safety campaigners would leap onto the story demanding lower speed limits in Little Wallop and more signposting and more speed bumps etc etc. They would also probably claim that, if the number of car accidents continued increasing at the current rate (tripling every year), then within just six years every car journey in Little Wallop under Wye would result in an accident. They would also no doubt start blaming car manufacturers for producing “killing machines” and demand politicians impose new restriction on car manufacturers.
  • eco-loons – would, of course, claim that Climate Change had hugely increased the risks of driving in villages like Little Wallop under Wye and they would howl that more ‘extreme climate events’ (aka wet English summers) could lead to the maiming and possible deaths in car accidents of millions living in English villages
  • politicians – faced with this barrage of screaming, snarling, self-righteousness, virtue-signalling, hyperventilating bollox from the vested interests, politicians would be forced to impose more speed limits, more regulation of car manufacturers and more taxes on energy use to reduce the supposed CO2 that supposedly has caused the supposed ‘extreme climate events’ (wet English summers) that have supposedly led to the supposedly “massive increase in car crashes” first reported by the journalists.

Thus, by taking everything out of context, the Four Conmen of the Apocalypse manage to transform a tiny rise in the chance of being in a car accident in Little Wallop under Wye from a miniscule 0.0002% to an equally miniscule 0.0006% into a catastrophic threat to millions of people.

Pretty smart, huh?

3 comments to Alarmism: How to create crisis from a nothing-burger

  • loppoman

    Brilliant article David.

  • A Thorpe

    You are correct. These groups exploit situations for their own benefit. But what has happened to journalists? They are not concerned about unbiased reporting of different views on a situation or identifying fraud. The MMR scandal would never have taken off it it hadn’t been for the media. The worst group of all is however the politicians. They don’t represent our interests. Their objective is to get elected and stay elected. This results in them overpromising using our money, but when elected they want to expand their political empires and have power over us. I don’t know what percentage of the population these groups represent but what is wrong with the rest who just seem to soak up the nonsense from these groups without question. The human race had thousands of years of surviving on the edge with no help from the state. This is how we achieved the life we have today. But now the majority seem to have given up and look to the state to help them with every aspect of their lives. It is the perfect storm for failure of our society.

  • Hardcastle

    Spot on David,nothing to add.Keep writing I look forward to your blog everyday.

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