MEMBERS of London's famous gentlemen's club Brooks's have no doubt cooked-up a few bizarre plots, plans and wagers over the years as Britain's gentry and ennobled upper class sipped on glasses of port in their smoking jackets.
In 1785, for example, there was an agreement between two Lords to hand over 500 guineas if one of them managed to have sexual intercourse with a woman in a balloon “one thousand yards from the Earth” . There's no record to suggest that the arrangement, recorded in the club's Betting Book, was ever paid.
The exclusive men-only enclave lives on and still attracts high-profile figures, although Rupert Murdoch's son James' application ran into trouble over the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Club member and climate science denier Lord Christopher Monckton put Brooks's famous address to good use this week for a letter sent to the University of Tasmania.
James Murdoch, son of Rupert and chief executive of the UK media giant BSkyB, sticks his corporate neck out with this piece, making some good points about climate change and sparking some considerably emotional response (eg., “Why is a monster like Murdoch Jr. writing in the Guardian?).
It shows, first of all, how manageable climate change could be if everyone got on board and started celebrating what Murdoch calls “small victory upon small victory.”
It also shows how loyal we purportedly civilized humans are to our “teams” - how determined we are to stake out ground with a certain number of like-minded individuals and criticize everyone else.
It happens on the right, as ideologues who don't really know much about climate change deny that it's happening - in part because their antipathy to people like David Suzuki prevents them from seeing an evident truth. And it happens on the left, when a stray good word by (or about) someone in the corporate community condemns the speaker to a vitriolic attack for hypocrisy, naivety or both.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.