I’m a mediocre guitar player. I’ve also said 12 lines in a one-act play. Neither of these activities gave me insight into the geopolitical consequences of China’s economic growth. Even if I could play the guitar like Jimmy Page, how can playing music make me informed about Brexit or the internal politics of Burkina Faso? In fact, my acting and musical career, such as it is, has not helped me find Burkina Faso on a map. Making sounds and saying other people’s words, then, doesn’t give me an insight into anything.
Unfortunately, not everyone thinks this way. Celebrities, for instance, can’t seem to say the simple phrase ‘I don’t know’. The latest example of celebrity hubris was the response to the fires in the Amazon rainforest. Within hours of the fires starting, a deluge of propaganda, spread by celebrities, but also by environmentalists and politicians, spurred a collective ego-fest of virtue signalling. The speed at which celebrities jumped to conclusions or spread nonsense, which just happened to conform to their own beliefs, was extraordinary. Suddenly, listening to experts, being a part of the fact-based community, conforming to rational principles, or accessing the evidence before making a judgement was passé. Environmentalism as religious faith, and not dispassionate science, was plain for all to see. What was dispiriting was how easily celebrities and their followers on social media could be manipulated. And how obvious misinformation was lapped up by people who routinely ridicule other people’s intelligence or who remind everyone of their goodness. Some of the information the celebrities shared was so obviously wrong that only a prankster or an ideologue could spread the information with a straight face. So was their response to criticism. You could toast bread from the glow of their imagined virtue.
But this is the world in which we live. A world where, if you have the correct opinion, the socially sanctioned opinion, you’re allowed say any untrue statement, while, if you have the wrong opinion, even if it is true, you are cast out of society. Musicians and actors – celebrities, in other words – insist on making pronouncements about subjects of which they know nothing – and they are celebrated as moral for their stupidity.
Intellectual heavyweights like Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cristiano Ronaldo – a man who is very good at playing football – did not wait for detailed information about the Amazon fires to be made public, they instantly posted their considered views on social media. The problem, though, was they were wrong about everything. In a nutshell, not only were the celebrities wrong about the fires, but they proved they didn’t have a rudimentary grasp of how to understand information. The same people who say we must believe scientists about global warming, because the scientific method is the best way of sifting fact from fiction – which is true – were incapable of distinguishing evidence from nonsense. Dating a photograph was beyond their abilities. Some of them posted photographs of fires in countries other than Brazil. (Other people posted photos of burnt kangaroos, baboons and other animals not native to South America). The celebrities proved that the very thing that underpins the case for global warming – reason, in other words – was beyond their intellectual capacities. They were, to use a term coined by Jordan Peterson, in the throes of ideological possession. This is a generous interpretation of their rhetoric – a less generous view is that they are not very bright. Words came from their mouths, but they were parroting the words and ideas of other people. They were no different from people on social media who quote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or who believe the Moon landings were fake. A little knowledge can, as the saying goes, turn you into an idiot.
While the number of fires in Brazil, not the Amazon, has increased this year by 85 per cent, the amount of land on fire is below the average of the last 15 years.
Sting, to give a counter example to celebrity stupidity, was duplicitous. He had the sense to wait a few days before commenting on the fires. But he repeated the deceptive claim about the number of fires rather than the extent of the fires, which gave his social media followers a belief that the fires were unprecedented and were caused by climate change. Then again, anyone who could write the lyric ‘I hope the Russians love their children too,’ during the Cold War is not someone to take seriously. Substitute ‘Nazis’ or ‘Isis’ for Russians and you’ll understand the inanity of his worldview.
Here are some of their untrue claims. While the number of fires in Brazil, not the Amazon, has increased this year by 85 per cent, the amount of land on fire is below the average for the last 15 years. The source for this counter-intuitive claim, at least by the standards of what’s reported in the media, is NASA, who have been tracking the fires by satellite.
The Amazon rainforest is not the ‘lungs of the Earth’. The Amazon uses as much oxygen as it emits. There’s equilibrium, in other words. While forests create oxygen, the air we breathe comes from the world’s oceans and not its forests. Savannahs, grasslands, what’s left of the land, in other words, after farmers have cut down trees, create almost as much oxygen as forests. And there are more forests worldwide, which is contrary to conventional wisdom, than there were 100 years ago. As countries become prosperous because of capitalism, people become environmentally aware and plant more trees.
Anti-capitalism is the real agenda of environmentalists. But the people who will suffer from environmental ideology won’t be the anti-rational, virtue-signalling celebrities, it will be people in third-world countries who never rise out of poverty. Buying carbon credits as penance is something only the rich can do and it is as practical as Catholics buying indulgences for sin during the Renaissance. All this would be tolerable if celebrities said anything other than feel-good, virtue-signalling nonsense, but few of them say anything original or controversial, and those who do are excommunicated as heretics. Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sting and other celebrities have not changed their lifestyles one iota because of what they claim are the apocalyptic effects of climate change. It’s the rest of us plebeians who must pay the price. When they stop travelling to concert venues, football stadiums, film sets, or international climate change conferences, I’ll take them seriously.