The only reason I write articles attacking the irrefutable science of “climate change” is that I am paid such vast sums to lie. Besides the stupendous salary I get from Breitbart News, I also receive generous retainers from the oil industry and the tobacco industry, which, for reasons of crass right-wing ideology or crude economic self-interest, require me to churn out propaganda stories, day in day out, insisting that global warming is a myth.
No, not really.
I doubt even many leftists or greens would be stupid enough to believe that this were so.
First, most of the money is on the other side of the argument, so why would I bother shilling for relative paupers when I could be coining it in from the $1.5 trillion-plus Climate Industrial Complex churning out lucrative global warming bilge for the Guardian, the BBC, or the New York Times and being flown out to endless environmental conferences to sit on panels bewailing the selfishness and greed of people who fly too much?
Second, like a lot of journalists, I’m quite lazy. Why would I put myself through the stress of faking scientific articles and torturing data and pretending to take people like Michael Mann seriously when it’s so much easier just to print the truth?
Third, okay, so where are my stables, my string of hunters, my sexy girl groom and under groom, my villa in Tuscany, etc?
Fourth, anyone who would make such an allegation clearly doesn’t understand journalism. We don’t go into it for the money. Otherwise, by now, we’d have made the transition to corporate PR. We do it – bizarrely – because we actually believe in this shit we do.
Fifth, I would have been rumbled by now. Conservative commentators are always held to much higher standards by our left-biased media culture. So if I were just printing anti-global warming stuff for monetary gain, the flaws in my feeble arguments would certainly have been cruelly exposed by doughty left-leaning investigators, and everybody would have long since ceased to take my commentary seriously.
But suppose if, despite all the above, I really were doing it just to please my nefarious funding sources; here’s the clincher: it wouldn’t matter a damn anyway.
Why wouldn’t it matter?
Because facts are facts, logic is logic, truth is truth, and everything else is for the birds.
The claims I make in my pieces are verifiable, well sourced, often illustrated with helpful graphs, linked to scientific studies, and abundant with quotations from experts in the field.
So whether I’m paid a billion dollars a day for writing this stuff or I’m doing it for free is entirely irrelevant. If you want to go ahead and refute my facts and my arguments, feel free to refute my facts and arguments. They’ll remain valid facts and valid arguments regardless of what you think of me personally or of my funding sources.
I mention all this by way of introduction to a fascinating debate I saw on Twitter recently, which I want to share with you because it goes to the heart of perhaps the biggest and most dangerous challenge to conservatives right now: our increasingly tough struggle to make our voices heard in a world which is trying to close us all down.
It started with a tweet by economist, philosophical thinker, and author, Jamie Whyte:
I am leaving the IEA as of 1 Jan 2019. I will miss it. But I won’t miss the endless “who funds you?” tweets. They reveal a profound misunderstanding of the kind of people who work at think tanks and what motivates them. And always irrelevant to the issue at hand. So stupid.
— Jamie Whyte (@_JamieWhyte) December 27, 2018
As listeners to my podcasts will know, the IEA, Institute of Economic Affairs, is one of my favorite London think tanks. From the fake news “gender pay gap” to the Nanny State’s war on sugar, salt, fat, fun, and freedom, the IEA is one of our greatest intellectual redoubts against the creeping menace of ever-bigger government.
That’s why it is constantly being plagued with the “Who funds you?” question from its leftist critics. They don’t like its arguments but find them too difficult to refute. So, instead, they opt for the smear tactic of making out that its arguments are somehow corrupted by its donors.
Whyte has written about this logical fallacy before. He calls it the “motive fallacy.”
As he puts it in his excellent book Bad Thoughts: “A man may stand to gain a great deal of peace and quiet from telling his wife that he loves her. But he may really love her nevertheless.”
Whyte reiterates this point with his usual clarity here:
Many people on Twitter wonder how they can trust me, gven that they do not know who funds me. But I have never asked for people to take my opinions on trust. If my arguments are no good, tell me where they go wrong. My income and its sources are irrelevant.
— Jamie Whyte (@_JamieWhyte) December 28, 2018
Yes. So why is it that the people on the left – and it is almost always people on the left – cannot understand this?
And I’m not just talking about stupid or NPC-level people on the left, either.
Here is a left-leaning commentator and author I normally admire weighing into the fray. His name is Jeremy Duns, and one of the reasons I usually respect him is that he strives hard not to let his instinctive political impulses cloud his judgment. For example, he has proved an extremely trenchant critic of the Corbynista sock puppet, Owen Jones – an easy thing for those of us on the right to do but a much braver and more original line for someone on the left to take:
His claim to be asking to be judged on the strength of his arguments is nonsense. They publish research. Concealing funding is a masssive red flag, pretending conflicts of interest don’t exist even more so.
— Jeremy Duns (@JeremyDuns) December 28, 2018
Eh? The point is that declarations of conflict of interest are there for a reason – it’s not up to the reader to work them out or investigate them, as this works on trust. If you simply refuse to say who funds you, you are essentially boasting about a conflict of interest.
— Jeremy Duns (@JeremyDuns) December 28, 2018
What a tragically pettifogging point on which to stake your credibility as an impartial, thoughtful commentator.
Sure, part of what Duns is arguing here is trivially true: research can be corrupted by funding sources (as we see a lot in, for example, the global warming industry, where so much “peer-reviewed” lol research confirms what the alarmist paymasters wish to hear); if someone refuses to disclose their funding sources, then, yes, that would indeed prompt any neutral observer to be more wary about taking his “facts” at face value.
But so what?
In no wise does this refute Whyte’s fundamental point: arguments stand or fall on their own logic, not on the motives or funding or “bad faith” of the people who make them.
This might seem a fairly abstruse philosophical point on which to base a 1,500-word article at a time of year when most of us are still struggling to cope with our Christmas hangovers and our preparations for the onslaught of New Year.
Actually, though, I’d say it’s key to almost everything that matters – perhaps the most important struggle of our times: the battle to preserve plurality of speech.
If you’re on the left – as the IEA’s critics are – you’re never going to find yourself silenced because of your politics. Not in the politically correct West, at any rate. You’ll be welcomed in academe, in the media, in politics, in big business, in the law – all of which are now fully on board with the identity politics/social justice/communitarian agenda.
If you’re on the right, on the other hand, your every thought and deed is a microaggression potentially punishable by loss of income, loss of credit rating, loss of social acceptability, loss of freedom. Just one expression of an idea that contradicts the politically correct status quo can get you thrown off Twitter or demonetized by Patreon or kicked out of your job or denied promotion or refused work in the first place.
So crushingly victorious has the left been in the culture wars, indeed, that many intelligent, reasonable people out there – Jeremy Duns clearly being one of them – have come to accept its tyrannical hegemony as normality.
Apparently, it hasn’t even occurred to Duns that there might be very good, morally unimpeachable reasons why an organization like the IEA or the Global Warming Policy Foundation may wish to keep its donor list secret. And the reason it wouldn’t have occurred to him – and his ilk – is because, being on the left, he is never once in his life going to experience the kind of prejudice, discrimination, and persecution that is becoming routine for those of us on the right.
Try earning a living as a conservative journalist, Jeremy, in a climate where even once-conservative newspapers are now squeamish about publishing opinions that the shrill, resurgent left has successfully but unjustly branded “hard right.”
Try getting a novel published when – as you are, Jeremy – you are cursed with being white, educated, and middle class, only with the added killer handicap that your politics are deemed insufficiently woke by the social justice warriors who dominate the publishing industry.
Try – ditto – getting yourself heard on TV, except as the token right-wing loon to be doughnutted on a panel by a socialist, a green, and a feminist.
Try making a crust as a vidcaster or a podcaster or a blogger when, if you’re even remotely conservative, YouTube will demonetize your content and Patreon will deny donors the chance to support you.
Try being paid to articulate and promulgate free market ideas in a scholarly, published way unless you work within the security of a free market think tank.
Yes, I’m quite, quite sure that the people and organizations who fund free market think tanks have powerful reasons for doing so, sometimes ideological, sometimes financial. But the same goes for the people and organizations that fund left-wing think tanks. The only difference is that the latter are not held up to nearly the same degree of scrutiny.
We on the right may deplore the cynicism and hypocrisy and self-serving nature of the likes of George Soros or Tom Steyer in the leftist causes they choose to fund. But we’re not so ideologically blinkered as to imagine that “funded by Soros” or “funded by Steyer” or “funded by the Russians” (as so much anti-fracking industry propaganda is) constitutes an argument sufficiently strong to make our case. Sure, it’s a bit of helpful color, circumstantial evidence which may enhance the case for the prosecution – or at least prompt like-minded readers to raise their eyebrows in sympathy with our line of attack. But we’d never expect our audience to view it as the clincher because that just wouldn’t be intellectually tenable. It would be as fatuous as trying to insist that dogs are all hateful because Hitler was very fond of his.
For the left, on the other hand, “Who funds you?” is more than sufficient to act as judge, jury, and executioner.
There are a number of reasons why the left does this, one being that it has a completely different mindset than the right – one based on emotion and “the narrative,” rather than on facts and logic. For, say, Antifa or Momentum or your average leftist Twitter bloviator, rightists are so evil that there’s no need to refute their arguments; merely to point and shriek at how wicked they are is more than adequate.
But the main reason the left does it is simply because it can.
“Who funds you?” is not a valid criticism or a credible argument. It means little and proves nothing. Those who care about the future of our civilization, be they on the right or the left, need to recognize it for the ugly, dishonest, mean-spirited, low down, and dirty tactic it truly is: and cover their faces in shame, Jeremy, for ever having imagined otherwise.