I Thought I Was Having a Nobel Laureate for Tea. Instead , the BBC Had Me for Lunch

By Delingpole, James | The Spectator, February 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

I Thought I Was Having a Nobel Laureate for Tea. Instead , the BBC Had Me for Lunch


Delingpole, James, The Spectator


Last week I was stitched up like a kip - per by the BBC. Perhaps you saw the programme - a Horizon documentary called Science Under Attack . Perhaps you were even among the dozens whom it inspired to send me hate emails along the lines of, 'Ha ha. Think you know more about science than a Nobel prizewinner do you? Idiot!' Perhaps it's time I set the record straight.

It started in August last year when I had an email from a BBC producer/director called Emma Jay. She was making a film on 'public trust in science' to be presented by the next President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse. 'The tone of the film is very questioning but with no preconceptions, ' she wrote. 'Sir Paul is very aware of the culpability of scientists and that will come across in the film. They will not be portrayed as whitecoated magicians who should be left to work in their ivory towers - their failings will be dealt with in detail.' As an 'influential blogger on climate change', would I chat to Nurse about my views? Though I had my suspicions, I agreed after Emma had reassured me that Nurse was genuinely open-minded on the subject and had no axe to grind.

In fact I was rather looking forward to the meeting. It's not often you get an actual Nobel laureate (Physiology or Medicine, 2001) pop - ping round to your home. Besides, I was keen to find out what he planned to do about the Royal Society's increasingly embarrassing position on anthropogenic global warming.

Both his predecessors - Lord May and Lord Rees - were fanatical warmists and shifted the Royal Society's politics accordingly. Last year, 43 of the Royal Society's members wrote in protest at its advocacy of what remains an unproven hypothesis. By allying itself so closely to the politicised 'consensus', the Royal Society seemed to be betraying its traditions of honest scepticism ('Nullius in verba') and also running the risk of one day being proved humiliatingly wrong.

What I didn't properly consider - though of course I should, having done the odd bit of TV myself - is how documentaries like this really work. When your presenter announces, as he so often does, that he is 'going on a journey of discovery', he is in fact doing no such thing. Right from the start, often before the presenter has even been chosen, the director and producer know exactly where the film is going and what it is going to say. The interviewees are mere pawns: the camera is to be pointed at them until such time as they can be prodded into saying what the documentary requires.

And so it was with me. I should have guessed something was wrong when, from the off, Nurse's questioning proved unexpectedly aggressive for a man who was open-minded.

'Perhaps, ' I persuaded myself, 'this is just his natural manner.' Which was suicidally naive, I now realise, because had I twigged in time I could have fought my corner instead of being constrained by politeness. …

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