Monday, July 28, 2008

Of Eco Melodrama, Sentiment and Agit Prop: a Review

Pajamas: "The BBC Presents: Sex and Global Warming Propaganda," by Mike McNally

Not so long ago you couldn’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV news without seeing pictures of ‘stranded’ polar bears (who weren’t stranded), ‘collapsing’ ice sheets (ice sheets have collapsed for as long as there have been ice sheets), or Manhattan under water to illustrate some new claim about how runaway global warming was going to lead to imminent catastrophe.

Alongside the propaganda masquerading as news, Hollywood and TV companies have been churning out fictional disinformation in the shape of films such as The Day After Tomorrow and Happy Feet (any self-respecting propaganda machine knows the importance of catching ‘em young), and various small-screen dramas and ‘drama-documentaries’.

- Caption: The People's Cube: "Al Gore's Carbon Footprint Discovered" -

But with no significant increase in global temperatures for the past ten years or so, and atmospheric monitoring failing to find any evidence of the much-vaunted ‘greenhouse signature,’ what used to be a steady stream of apocalyptic stories emanating from the newsrooms has all but dried up, and the job of trying to persuade us that the threat from global warming is real is increasingly being left to the entertainment divisions of the mass media.

The BBC has long been one of the worst offenders in terms of biased reporting on the issue, and now the Beeb has stepped up to the plate to address the propaganda deficit with its two-part drama Burn Up. [Note: Burn Up is a joint BBC-Canadian production, which just aired in Great Britain. It will also air in Canada, and it’ll likely find its way on to US television at some point. There are no outright spoilers in what follows, but a couple of minor ones.]

The plot of Burn Up revolves around the newly appointed boss of Arrow Oil, Tom McConnell, who’s drawn into all manner of intrigue surrounding attempts to get the United States to sign a ‘Kyoto 2′ treaty at a climate change summit in Canada. Tom begins to question his company’s commitment to fossil fuels when he falls under the spell of Holly (Neve Campbell), Arrow’s hot new appointee to the supposedly token position of head of renewables.

Battling Holly for Tom’s soul is oil lobbyist Mack, played by The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford. Mack is essentially JR Ewing without the good points, and in case the viewer should be in any doubt as to the extent of his moral bankruptcy, in one of Burn Up’s many gratuitously America-bashing scenes Mack is shown watching a faith healer at work on cable TV, and exclaiming, with tears in his eyes, “Praise the Lord!” It’s not bad enough that he’s a shill for the oil industry - he’s a Bible-bashing shill for the oil industry.

Tom’s conversion from oilman to eco-warrior is helped along by an encounter with another pretty woman, an Inuit scientist and environmental campaigner called Mika. Mika serves Tom with a writ (...) >>>

- Filed on Articles in "The Science of Global Warming" -

No comments: