I’m a regular reader of Chris Snowdon‘s blog. I’ve also got two of his books. And I even met him briefly at Stony Stratford.
And I’m also a regular reader of Bishop Hill‘s climate sceptic blog, in large part because I’ve come to realise that the global warming nutters exhibit the same symptoms as the antismoking nutters: both are terrified of trace amounts of gases in the atmosphere, although the gases in question differ slightly from one camp to the other. Bishop Hill even has a place in my sub-blogroll, as a non-smoking-related link.
But I’ve also become a regular reader (but never commenter) of Richard North’s EUreferendum blog, in large part because I have come to identify (with painful slowness) the UK smoking ban as being the product of the EU (and its familiars in the form of the UN, the WHO, and the Tobacco Control section of the WHO). In the process, over a period of about 5 years, I’ve switched from being moderately pro-Europe (in the happy-family-of-nations sense) to strongly anti-EU. I do not see that a superstate that demonises 150 million of its 500 million citizens (and even proposes show trials for prominent dissident smokers) can possibly have any future at all.
But when I go cycling on my internet bicycle from one blog to the other, I seldom expect any of these blogs to mention each other. So it was with some surprise today that I found all three being mentioned in, of all places, EUreferendum.
There is a certain amount of excitement amongst the groupescules over an IEA Report by Chris Snowdon, on government lobbying. In particular, the role of green charities is explored, with the likes of Bishop Hill referring to “The Green 10”, which Snowdon highlights.
See! Both Chris Snowdon and Bishop Hill mentioned. But, alas, Richard North is not impressed.
For my own part, I find it rather ironic to be in receipt of e-mails directing me to the Bishop Hill blog, telling me how important Snowdon’s report is. I muse that, if the issue is so important, why the same people (and Bishop Hill) took no notice when I raised it back in 2008, having first written on it in July 2007.
One also wonders why, since this subject is now deemed so important, why so few of the current commentators took any notice of the Policy Network paper, published in March 2010, on which we then reported – also ignored by Snowdon.
We might thus be forgiven for wondering why concern and “importance” were such narrowly focused things, noting the limited breadth of Snowdon’s own report, which would have benefited from the overview provided by earlier work, and especially the Policy Network paper.
In short, North is saying that he wrote about all that years ago, and in greater depth. Been there, done that. And maybe he has. But how were they supposed to know?
More importantly, in a complex area where we are all fighting well-funded and dangerous enemies, I sometimes wonder why so many writers believe that it is a good idea to waste resources on reinventing the wheel, or indulging on the ego trip of colonising a tiny corner of the blogosphere, in order to dominate some minuscule dung heap from which to crow.
Perhaps I’m mistaken, but Chris Snowdon’s ‘dung heap’ seems to have been getting higher and higher, and also more and more extensive. He started out writing almost exclusively about smoking bans in Velvet Glove Iron Fist, but has since extended to prohibition in general with The Art of Suppression, and even further afield with the Spirit Level Delusion. I fully expect his next book to be about the history of Western philosophy.
But all I want to be able to do is sit in a pub with a pint of beer and a cigarette.
The blogosphere can be a magnifier, compensating for our lack of numbers and resources. But, to be effective, it must be used as a network, with multiple cross links, different people building on each others’ work, the net effect being greater than the sum of the parts and the audience larger than any of us could achieve individually.
I (almost) entirely agree with this. But it’s more than just putting links in blogrolls. It’s also a matter of getting together and doing things (like for example the International Social Impact Survey, in which 20 or so of my readers are co-operating in 8 different countries and 6 different languages). And I would say it’s not about ‘compensating for lack of numbers’, but creating the numbers: there are millions and millions of angry smokers out there.
If we retreat to our own little corners and build our own private little dunghills anew, then our collective power is diminished. That is the point I am making – the only point I seek to make. Our enemies understand it, but the British blogosphere seems to have trouble coming to terms with the idea.
Well, we all start out with our little dunghills, and they get slowly bigger (or not), and they gradually overlap other neighbouring ones. We discover, largely by accident, that we have a number of shared concerns, even if we arrived at them from different directions. I share most of Chris Snowdon’s concerns, and a great many of Bishop Hill’s concerns about doing good science, and also some of Richard North’s concerns about the EU. There is a growing commonality. There are a set of natural alliances emerging. Smokers who aren’t bothered by a bit of tobacco smoke in the air are unlikely to be bothered by a bit of carbon dioxide in the air, and vice versa.
What I would like to see, but have yet to see any trace of, is some recognition of this commonality. It would be, for example, refreshing to see Bishop Hill recognising that Global Warming pseudoscience has a great deal in common with antismoking pseudoscience, and may even be a direct descendant of it. It would equally well be refreshing to have Richard North observe that Britain’s smokers have been among those hardest hit by draconian EU rules and regulations. But neither has done so, to the best of my knowledge. I regularly mention AGW and the EU on my blog, but neither Bishop Hill nor Richard North ever mentions smokers. So who exactly has retreated to their own private dunghill?
And is this about the British blogosphere? In the case of smokers, it is now smokers everywhere in the world who are being hounded and vilified. In the case of Global Warming, the centre of concern is inherently global. And in the case of the EU, it is not just a large number of Brits who are heartily sick of it, but a great many French and German and Spanish and other people all over Europe (and beyond it).
And it’s about more than just climate change and the EU and smoking bans. The eugenicist assault is not just on smokers, but also on drinkers, and stout people, and in fact upon absolutely everyone in one way or other.
Politics, it might be suggested, is a form of trade. I will support you in your cause, if you will support me in mine. And the more actively that you support me, the more actively I will support you.
But in the comments under his piece today, Richard North rather sorrowfully writes:
The bigger picture, though, is that the independent political blogosphere in Britain is dying. Even I am seriously wondering whether it is worth continuing.
Well, my narrow little semi-political blog is doing very well, and getting about 1000 hits per day. And I think that’s because I reach out to people who share my concerns, whether they be in Barnsley or Bogota. And because I reach out to people whose concerns I don’t entirely share, but with whom I can readily empathise (e.g. Christians). And because I am derisive only of my enemies, not those who could readily be my friends.
P.S. I tried to post a comment on EUreferendum mentioning this post, but the comments appear to be invite only. No wonder the political blogosphere in Britain is dying.