IT was an extraordinary response, but then it was an extraordinary video revealing some extraordinary alliances.
Two weeks ago I posted a story on my blog about a YouTube video featuring one of the world’s least media-shy deniers of human-caused climate change - British hereditary peer Lord Christopher Monckton, the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley*.
In the video, the Viscount was in the boardroom of the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a free-market think-tank founded by west Australian mining magnate Ron Manners.
The video had been watched only 130 times when I clapped eyes on it following a Twitter post from journalist Leo Hickman, of the UK’s The Guardian. In the video, posted by Mannkal (but since removed… and then reinstated… but possibly removed again by the time you read this), Lord Monckton suggests a good way to get free-market, climate science-denying views into the mainstream media, is simply to find some “super-rich” backers to buy the mainstream media.
As I watched the video last Tuesday evening, news was just emerging that mining billionaire and Asia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, had bought $192 million worth of shares in Fairfax (the publisher of Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and many regional newspapers and city-based radio stations) to take her share in the company to about 14 per cent. To me, these two events were intrinsically linked, and not just because Mr Manners is a personal friend of Ms Rinehart’s.
When Lord Monckton went on a speaking tour around Australia in 2010, the organisers admitted that Gina Rinehart had offered to put up some of the cash. Ms. Rinehart also made one of her Hancock Prospecting staff available to organise one of the events in Perth. When Lord Monckton repeated his junket around Australia in 2011, Ms Rinehart was again a supporter.
When ABC presenter Adam Spencer asked who had invited him to Australia, Lord Monckton answered he had been invited to deliver a lecture at Fremantle’s Notre Dame University. The university’s Dean of Business School Chris Doepel had already told me that this lecture, dedicated to Ms Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock, had been organised after discussions with her iron ore and coal company, Hancock Prospecting. Ms Rinehart attended the lecture.
In another interview, this time with the ABC’s Wendy Carlisle, Lord Monckton claimed he didn’t know who had paid for him to come, although the boss of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies had told me they had helped pay some of his costs.
Lord Monckton’s 2011 tour was mired in controversy before it even started after it emerged that during a conference speech in America he had compared one of the Australian Government’s climate change policy advisors, Professor Ross Garnaut, to a fascist. He also displayed a huge Nazi swastika next to Professor Garnaut’s name. He “unreservedly” apologised for his “catastrophically stupid” remarks, but a few months ago changed his mind and said they were “very mild”.
In short though, the evidence would strongly suggest that Lord Monckton has close ties to Ms. Rinehart and that they have spent time discussing ideas.
So anyway, knowing all this I wrote a blog two weeks ago, which was reposted over at DeSmogBlog, where I’m a regular contributor. This was then reposted on the ABC’s The Drum. People, like Robert Manne and Peter FitzSimons, wrote things about the video and the broader issues. Other people wrote things too, like John Bruno at the Huffington Post and Leo Hickman on The Guardian. Triple J’s The Hack did a special radio report.
People tweeted, like The Chasers' Craig Reucassel. Monckton supporter and News Ltd Columnist Andrew Bolt, (an “expert” along with Lord Monckton on the activist climate sceptic group the Galileo Movement) blew his dog whistle, sending a handful of his regular lap dog commentators over to my blog to post insults, which I duly deleted. Campaign group Get Up! was more than a little spooked at the video. They republished it, adding some subtitles, and posted it on their YouTube channel.
This has now been viewed more than 110,000 times. They started a fundraising campaign (currently more than $60,000 raised) and then devised and placed what you might describe as a rather confrontational full-page ad in the 14 per cent Rinehart-owned The Age newspaper. I even did a couple of radio interviews with ABC Newcastle and ABC Perth. Finally, the Viscount (not an actual biscuit), responded on the blog of Jo Nova, who described me as a “poor hapless soul” for having to sit through “hours of free market discussion”. Actually, it was about six minutes.
In his response, Lord Monckton claimed he had previously revealed a United Nations plot to install a world government (he didn’t) and that he had “parachuted” in to a UN climate conference (he didn’t do that either, according to a contact who was there and tells me he dropped in to a beach three kilometres away).
Monckton then bragged that he got an “enormous amount of support” for his talks in Australia last year. That is, an enormous amount of support away from the network of German clubs who decided they would no longer provide their venues for his talks after his use of the grossly offensive swastika.
There were though a group of individuals, obviously, who were happy to give up or hire out their venues to Lord Monckton. One such group which provided a forum for Monckton, but unreported at the time, was the fringe political party Rise Up Australia, which is a de facto branch of the extreme Christian fundamentalist group Catch the Fire Ministries.
Rise Up Australia chairman Pastor Dr Daniel Nalliah, also the president of Catch the Fire Ministries, once declared that the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria which claimed 173 lives, were God’s revenge for the state’s “incendiary abortion laws which decimate life in the womb”. Pastor Nalliah had apparently received this information in a dream on October 21 2008.
On the Catch the Fire Ministries website, Dr Nalliah states: “In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God. That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.”
The following year 2010, however, Dr Nalliah’s god apparently forgot about the abortion laws and instead spared Victoria the ravages and heartache of further bushfires – but only because lots of people prayed.
How about the Queensland floods of 2011? Were these the result of a strong La Nina weather pattern and exceptionally warm ocean temperatures? No.
According to Pastor “Danny” Nalliah, the Queensland floods were a divine intervention after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (a Queenslander) had apparently said something “against Israel”. Before having his picture taken with Pastor Nalliah for the Catch the Fire website, Lord Monckton reportedly told the audience he was a born again Christian.
Yes, I am a Christian and was born again when I was very young. So don’t waste your time, you must get born again soon. I am sure Pr Danny can help you. We must speak the truth and not be worried about fighting the lie with the truth, as the truth will always prevail. Do you know the meaning of the scripture, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail’. The gates don’t come to fight you, this means you must go to the gates to fight and get back what you have lost.”
Once Lord Monckton returns from the gates of hell to retrieve his Nobel laureate, perhaps Ms Rinehart, Ron Manners and the rest of Monckton’s supporters could then go off in search of some credibility, which is irredeemably tarnished by their association with him.
To borrow a phrase from the recently poetic Ms Rinehart, “Through such unfortunate ignorance, too much abuse is hurled”.
*small print: not an actual member of the House of Lords.