One of the great things about my Bogpaper column up until now is that I haven’t broached the topic I write about pretty much every day on my Telegraph blog, every other column in the Spectator, and probably one out of every three articles I write elsewhere?
Climate ****ing change.
I would spell out the “fuck” except that my strict, disciplinarian editor Jan doesn’t like it. She thinks it unnecessarily offends certain readers and perhaps she’s right. But that doesn’t stop me thinking that “Climate Change” is a ****ing pain in the arse. Which is why, till now, I’ve reserved my Bogpaper slot for more grabby topics like Jimmy Savile and the BBC, the unutterable wankiness of Graham Linehan, the inevitability of global economic collapse, and so on.
If I could, I’d stop writing about climate change for good. It’s been a complete career killer for me. Once I used to be known as a generalist – one of those freewheeling, free spirit journalists you could rely on to turn his hand to almost any subject. But now I’m known, not just in Britain, but across the world as Mr Denier. Or Mr Totally Evil Denier. Or Mr Baby-Eating Gaia-Raping Scumbag In The Pay Of Big Oil Denier. Or worse.
It has made me much, much more famous than I was. But not necessarily in a good way.
Not only does the Climate Change Ghetto mean I earn less money than I used to but it also means that every day I get bags and bags of hate mail (well, the electronic version thereof: emails or Tweets) from strangers, and almost-strangers, and even friends telling me how loathsome I am.
One Tweet that particularly hurt me the other day was from Caitlin Moran. I like and admire Caitlin, a lot. We have loads of mutual friends; she took me out for an evening’s drinking once and we had a reasonably fun time together; plus, of course, she’s unquestionably one of the funniest, most fluent journalists of her generation.
Caitlin’s speciality – in so far as she has one – is pop culture. No one writes better about the immeasurably trivial. And I mean that as no criticism. A journalist’s first duty is to be read. A journalist you’re dying to read no matter what topic they turn their hand to – even if it’s trash TV programmes you’ve never watched or girlie fashion issues you wouldn’t, as a rule, be remotely interested in – is a mighty journalist indeed. On TV, fashion, music, social mores, celebrities, food, drink, sex and so on, there’s really no other writer who can touch her.
What Caitlin tends not to tackle, though, is the serious stuff – politics, especially. I envy her this. Dearly would I love to be so totally complacent about the state of the economy, the corruption of our political system, the greed and incompetence of our politicians, the ever growing threats to our liberty that I could spend the rest of my life writing nostalgic tributes to the SodaStream or hilarious digressive articles about One Direction’s haircuts.
But I just can’t. I’ve seen too much and I know too much. It’s a red pill, blue pill thing. Caitlin is living in the world at the beginning of the Matrix – the one that looks like the superficial world she writes about so amusingly and comfortingly. I’m living in the one Neo gets to see after he’s taken that pill: the one that reveals it to be merely the illusory construct of a diabolical engine.
I’m making no moral judgement here. As in The Matrix, the choice is ours. Caitlin – and many, many other people, if not most people, which is one reason why her writing appeals to a much larger audience than mine – has gone one way, I’ve gone the other. What I will say, though, is that it ill behoves someone living out the blue pill fantasy to presume they know better than someone who has chosen the more difficult, demanding path of the red pill.
This, though, is what Caitlin did this week. I’m quite sure she didn’t mean to be vindictive. All she did was retweet a link to a New Statesman article accusing me of having got my facts completely and utterly wrong in a piece I’d written about corruption, dishonesty and ineptitude at the Met Office. Which, of course, meant that Caitlin was effectively endorsing the New Statesman’s view – and sharing it with her 352,000-plus followers.
I replied to the New Statesman article – itself a regurgitation of a self-justificatory post the Met Office had put up on its website – in a blogpost at the Telegraph. Did Caitlin retweet it to her 352,000-plus followers for the sake of balance or old acquaintance?
Not as far as I can see from a trawl through her timeline. But then, why should she? It’s clear from her decision to retweet that New Statesman article that she has already made up her mind who’s right on the climate change issue. How does she know? Because it’s just a known fact, isn’t it? James Delingpole is wrong about climate change because a) he’s right wing, b) he’s not a “climate scientist” c) he doesn’t really mean this stuff anyway, he just says it because he’s trolling for hits or because he’s paid by Big Oil.
Now there are lots of different types of people from whom I can more or less tolerate this kind of ill-informed character assassination: junk scientists on the global warming gravy train; green activists; wind farmers; anyone in the “sustainability” industry; celebrities with science degrees who want to flaunt their intellectual credentials. I don’t enjoy the hassle they give me but I accept it as part of that unfortunate phenomenon noted by Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
But when it comes from someone like Caitlin Moran it has equivalent effect of being carpet bombed by the enemy during the war. Rather than break your spirit – as it’s supposed to do – it just makes you more defiant. You think: “Well I can take it from Sir Paul Nurse – he’s a lefty wanker; and I can take it from George Monbiot, he’s a barking mad eco-loon; and I can take it from the Guardian’s environment desk because they’re all going to be out of work soon. But when someone who you’d always thought of as a sweet, good-natured, funny, quintessentially apolitical, and basically on your side joins in the witch hunt, you say to yourself: “That’s the final straw. This is Total War here and I’m fighting to the last man and the last round.”
Caitlin, in case you’re reading this, let me explain where I’m coming from in terms you’d understand. Vajazzle.
Vajazzling – as well you know, because this is fertile Caitlin Moran column territory, is a sparkly way of decorating your vagina with shiny crystals and things.
There’s no doubt about it. That’s what vajazzling is.
But suppose Dara O’Brian were to perform an hilarious topical news comedy item, disputing this. Would it make your known definition of vajazzling incorrect? Of course it wouldn’t.
What, though, if handsome, pouty-mouthed, perma-smiley boy band astronomer Professor Brian Cox were also to dispute your definition on one of his stargazing TV programmes. Suppose he were to declare that Vajazzle was nothing to do with vaginal decoration and never had been – but was in fact the third largest asteroid in the Crab Nebula. Would that invalidate what you know to be true?
Of course it wouldn’t.
Ah, but wait. What if Giles Coren were to pooh-pooh your definition of Vajazzle in a witty column? What if the 10 O’Clock Live team were dispute it? And the president of the Royal Society? And Hugo Rifkind? And every one of your other celebrity mates and drinking partners and Times colleagues – even ones with PhDs and impressive shit like that?
Would that make your definitions of Vajazzle and Vajazzling wrong?
Nope. Despite all this pressure from diverse sources, despite all the mockery and vilification you got on Twitter, you Caitlin Moran I know would remain defiant to the end. You wouldn’t surrender to the opposition, just for a quiet life, because it was a small matter of no importance. You’d fight fight fight to the bitter end because you’d find it so incredibly, utterly, gobsmackingly irritating, would you not, Caitlin, to have a bunch of celebrity wankers bullying you for the crime of failing to fit in with their celebrity groupthink.
Well that’s how it is with me and Climate Change, Caitlin. I’m as right about Climate Change as you are about Vajazzle being a sparkly way of decorating vaginas.
Obviously, for you to be able to see why I’m right would take you rather more reading than I suspect you have the time for.
But just in case you’re interested I’ve written a great, idiot’s guide called Watermelons.
It’s possibly not quite as brilliantly funny as anything you’ve ever written. But it does have its moments. And the science is all bang-on. No, really.