(A review of The World Turned Upside Down, by Melanie Phillips)
Melanie Phillips, the columnist for the British newspaper the Spectator, has written a fine new book: The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth and Power. Ms. Phillips lives up to her reputation for tackling political and social issues in this attempt to create an overarching thesis for why we have seen such absurdities as climate change fraud, political correctness run amok, unbalanced portrayals bordering on propaganda regarding Islam and Israel, and the war in Iraq. This is a challenge that Phillips meets head-on and masters.
Climate change is the hot topic of the day, and Phillips methodically charts the rise of the "movement." A core problem is that science has given way to ideology. The scientific method has been dispensed with -- or abused -- to serve the myth of anthropogenic (man-made) warming (AGW). There is more than a taint of ideology involved: Many of the advocates of AGW view the Western world and its way of living as the culprits. Computer models are built in an almost backwards fashion: The goal is to show evidence of AGW, and the "scientists" go to work to produce such a result. When even these models fail to show what advocates want, the data and interpretations are "fudged" to bring about the desired result.
An example of this is the infamous "hockey stick" developed by Michael Mann that purports to show a steep rise in global temperatures coincident with the rise of industry. In fact, the hockey stick is now seen to have been the result of creative misuse of numbers and data by Mann (now the subject of investigation in the wake of Climategate -- the release of e-mails from a research center in England revealing efforts by climate change advocates to suppress opposing views).
The models may be wrong (after all, it is fiendishly complicated to try to model the complex world of weather), but all too often, so is the data that is fed into them. The maxim of "garbage in, garbage out" holds true in climate research. Advocates dummy up data to feed their already fragile models. One example: data regarding temperatures come from data collected from old machinery located close to heat sources. This distorts the accuracy of the results. Instead of ground stations, satellites can be used to give a more accurate view of the world's temperatures -- which show far less "climate change" than that claimed by advocates of AGW. But of course, that data is not used.
Skeptics of AGW are suppressed and ridiculed. Plots are hatched to punish them. They are ostracized and cursed. Their arguments are shunted aside. All these attacks are focused on creating the hysteria needed to bring about massive change in the Western world -- as well as help out the budgets and bank accounts of groups formed to promote the AGW myth. Al Gore and his rapidly growing fortune (and number of lavish mansions) constitute just one manifestation of the get-rich-quick schemes hatched by purveyors of the myth of man-made climate change. As Phillips writes of AGW, it is "a quasi-religious belief system; and the only reason it was sustained for so long was through the abuse of authority and intimidation of dissent."
Ms. Phillips then tackles more political issues: the Iraq War and the Israel-Arab conflict. Her vantage point is London, where she lives and works. We are given an insight into how Europe views America -- particularly how it viewed George Bush (not well, unsurprisingly). The same fictionalizing of history displayed by liberals in our media was exhibited by liberals in British media. As in the section of her book regarding AGW, Phillips compiles an exhaustive -- and stimulating -- record of foolishness on the part of liberals.
But there was an additional dynamic at work. Anti-Israel animus is far more widespread in Europe than in America, and that undoubtedly played a role in how the invasion of Iraq was perceived from those shores. The animus towards Israel is -- like AGW -- inexplicable if one looks only at facts. But facts don't animate as much as ideology does. The Arabs-as-victims narrative is pervasive on all levels of society. There is an inversion at work: Despite the onslaught that Israel has experienced even before its creation and the anti-Semitism that has swept through the Arab world, Jews are pictured as oppressors, and Arabs (more numerous than Israelis by a multiple of fifty) are the victims. This is regardless of the fact that England itself has been subject to terror attacks, not just from the Irish during the days of the troubles, but from Muslim terrorists themselves. This is the result of political correctness from on high being broadcast to the entire citizenry of England.
The BBC -- once regarded as a sterling source of honest news -- has been tarnished by its outright propaganda regarding the Middle East. This bias is not just anecdotal; it is based on independent studies. But will there be a change in the BBC coverage? After reading Phillips' analysis of the facts on the ground -- and the weakness and moral emptiness at the top of British leadership -- one may not have high hopes for a reversion to reason.
We truly do live in a world upside-down -- whether we see it in the world of science, on the airwaves of Britain, or in the streets of America. An inversion has occurred: Ideology takes precedence over facts and lies trump truth. Even religion has undergone a radical change -- and Phillips takes a brief foray into the world of "exotic" religions that seem to be proliferating at a rapid clip. But this points out the fundamental cause, as Ms. Phillips sees it, of why the world flipped around.
Judeo-Christian religions, based on the core values of Judaism, have been downgraded in our lives. The precepts that other generations have lived by have been cast aside, or perhaps cast onto the junk heap. These values are what provided a foundation for the scientific method and of rationality. Now they are disparaged by many (church attendance is almost non-existent in England). When that foundation was removed, what moved into the moral vacuum? Feelings and ideology, with a big slug of irrationality.
Paul Johnson, the English historian, wrote a fine epitaph of the final years of the 20th century that also served as a prophecy for how the 21st century would devolve:
One of the keys to understanding the twentieth century is to identify the beneficiaries of the decline in formal religion. The religious impulse -- with all the excesses of zealotry and intolerance it can produce -- remains powerful, but expresses itself in secular substitutes.
These are the zealots who control much of our world now and who are driving us down very perilous roads. These are the zealots that Melanie Phillips has done a superb job identifying and battling in her superb new book.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.