Suppose the British government – in the teeth of the worst recession since the 1930s – were committed to spending £18 billion a year for the next 40 years on a problem that did not exist. Suppose the total estimated global cost of dealing with this non-existent-problem were $45 trillion.
Suppose that a scandal had erupted in which some of the principal scientists who had been talking up this non-existent problem, essentially for political reasons, were found to be corrupt, dishonest and fraudulent. Suppose that among the institutions which stood to benefit from this massive scam were top financiers, banks and energy companies. Suppose that the people pushing this scam were an unholy, often hilarious, eminently mockable alliance of disappointed ex-communists, hair-shirt greens, failed presidential candidates, scheming politicians, bald-snarling-nightclub-bouncer lookalikes, loopy Old Stoics, European technocrats, one-world-governmenters, Notting Hill yummy mummies and tree hugging loons.
Suppose this were the biggest con trick in the history of the world – a Ponzi scheme to make the South Sea Bubble look about as serious as claiming for a cab that wasn’t strictly for work.
Pretty good subject matter, might you not think, for one or two fabulously thrilling exposes by Britain’s premier satirical magazine Private Eye?
But apparently not. Apart from a feeble polar bear joke on its cover – “Go with the floe” says one bear to another, perfectly encapsulating the magazine’s pathetically limp position – and a couple more similar cartoons within, Private Eye has chosen to pretend that the most important issue of our time isn’t happening.
Why not? Well perhaps this passage from the end notes of Christopher Booker’s The Real Global Warming Disaster offers a clue:
“In conversation one day with my Private Eye colleague Ian Hislop, I remarked casually how flimsy it seemed was much of the evidence behind the global warming scare, only to receive an almighty put down to the effect that George Monbiot of the Guardian knew a great deal more about the subject than I did and that I should think twice before daring to challenge such an expert authority.”
Booker, let it not be forgotten, was the first editor of this once-great satirical organ – whose purpose, he always told contributors in the early days, was “to challenge all orthodoxies.”
Over the decades, Private Eye has more than lived up to this precept with its frank, fearless (and legally costly) willingness always to speak truth to power.
But apparently not on this occasion.