A review of this morning 's BBC news
Today's BBC news broadcast left me with a despairing sense of the mentality and attitudes of pretty much everyone it touched. First, of course, there was the hysteria about climate change. Some of my friends will remember my view about this subject: that is that climate changes, because that's what it does, and mankind can no more affect it by reducing its energy consumption by a certain amount than it can stop a flood by waving a couple of bone sticks at it and chanting “hocus pocus”. There are still many excellent reasons to reduce pollution and waste, first of all the rescue of many environments (it breaks my heart every time I see my beautiful country scarred by worthless development and uncontrolled waste dumping), the environment and a reduction, hopefully an end, in the destruction of animal and plant species; but this idea of “the planet” as a whole, put into danger by vicious human activities and rescued by correct ritual performance, is nothing but a degraded religious idea. So did the Aztecs believe that the sun kept rising and falling because they sacrificed human beings to it.
In an age of fake religions, a true, if disastrous, religion, a philosophy of existence as I call it, has unconsciously emerged: a worship of “the planet” as a whole, as an entity worthy of sacrifice in itself. It's not exactly pantheism, for pantheism would involve the whole universe; it is a kind of cosmic nationalism that places all value and all moral demand within it. So, a hundred years ago, nationalists placed all kinds of value within the nation, and Italian Fascists used the word “Italian” to mean “morally good, excellent, and admirable”, an “Italian idea” being the same as a great and progressive idea. The Earth is now vested with this kind of idolatry; it is the new idol to whom those who deliberately deprived themselves of higher religions come and worshsip. Religion gets a very bad rap in our time, and to judge by the performance of these novel religionists, there is a reason. They have been deprived of any sense of religion as a life of the intellect by their educators' terror of “sectarianism” and “bias”, and they know noting about Plato, Thomas Aquinas, or Kierkegaard, or about the bond of religion and philosophy. (Horribly, polls tell us that the favourite philosophers of those English who know enough to tell the difference are Karl Marx and David Hume.) And having no notion that religion is something that stimulates thought and creates debate, they approach it as only the most benighted and bewildered fanatics ever approached their religion – as a mental fetish or idol, whose every word is command, never to be doubted, discussed, or confronted.
This attitude was evident in what was called the BBC's “report” on President Trump's decision to vacate the Paris Accords – a decision that was fully within his rights as the head of an independent state. It was no more reporting than a party manifesto is an objective account of the state of a country. It was a half-hysterical, half-triumphant, wholly uncritical list of all those heroes of earth-worship morality who had denounced Trump. Even the list of corporate charmers who had discovered their earth-worship morality in this time of drama was uncritically and triumphantly delivered, as though Disney, Facebook and Goldman Sachs were champions of the people and excellent teachers of morality. I am not saying that a large business may not be conducted with something like basic morality; but, apart from the record of the specific companies concerned, The fact that the whole class of international big business had set up this common howl shows that, at the very least, they feel themselves protected from whatever sacrifice may be asked of the common populace. Otherwise they would, at best, be silent, and at worst be howling against the accords. The eye of big business, from its Victorian rise to this day, has always been to the bottom line, and they have always been willing and ready to fight in every possible manner anything that would damage their dividends. What is more, it is likely from their behaviour that at least some of them think that earth-worship morality may further their interests. In other circumstances, such a coming together of huge and dangerous special interests would have drawn the unfavourable attention of journalists. Today they applaud it.
But even before I had stopped being overwhelmed – though hardly surprised – by the blatancy of the whole operation, I was struck as if with a wet, smelly fish in the face, by the absurdity and pettiness of Theresa May's government. May, mind you, is quite clearly an earth-worship religionist; and she has taken the personal step of phoning Trump to inform him of her “disappointment” - a strong step by any standard. And yet, even in this dramatic moment, she has not been willing to put her signature to a document signed by the governments of Germany, France and Italy, condemning Trump's decision and reasserting the Paris Accords. So much does it matter to her to establish her particularist, literally Little Englander credentials. At a moment when the European Union and China, rightly or wrongly, are about to issue a joint statement on the Paris Accord, to take the position that you support their position but will not collaborate with them is nothing short of pathetic.
And that had no sooner gone by, that the BBC had me yelling at the radio and arguing in favour of May. And again, it is on an issue on which I do not support her. She had said that she would be, and I quote, “working to achieve” the hoped-for reduction of the balance of immigration into Britain to the tens of thousands. The meaning of that must have been clear to every intelligent person who heard it; being that she would do whatever she could think of, she would “work” towards it, but would not promise – could not promise – she would achieve it. And yet the BBC claimed that one of her ministers had “contradicted” her when he said, exactly, that they could not make any promises on the matter. To such a pitch of idocy and blindness does the “gotcha” culture drive people. It is possible to understand how such things happen: the heated atmosphere of a press conference, the need to get a juicy soundbite, the approximate understanding that always occurs when people work with their voices and with their memories instead of starting from extensive records. What is tragic and ignoble is that such a gross failure of understanding should be preserved, surviving the editorial process, and be broadcast as “news” every hour on the hour. This is not only bad in itself: it is counter-educational, teaching people to miss obvious connections and to look for breaks even where they aren't there. It is literally contrary to what is supposed to be the BBC's primary educational mission. And it brings to a suitably crashing end these few minutes of folly, irrationality, and bad religion.