The rise of the internet has seen an accompanying rise in a bizarre kind of paranoid distrust of any kind of authority, especially those that might threaten people’s notions of individual liberty or rapacious appetites.
Fanned by the right-wing press and lunatic bloggers, there are now significant swathes of otherwise intelligent people who don’t believe in anthropological climate change, evolution, or any case for abortion.
All share an almost anti-Enlightenment rejection of scientific fact, based, as they are, on ideological principles rather than scientific ones.
The internet is largely to blame for this, and it has been adopted by right-wing groups as the principal method of dissemination of propaganda, smear tactics and outright lies – often slyly funded by vested interests.
These groups stoke up fires of ignorance and prejudice, which play straight into the hands of climate change sceptics, evolution deniers and the vast swathes of people who think governments are out to get/cheat/eat them.
We though the internet would become a tool for change, education and progression. Instead it’s become just the opposite – possibly the best tool for controlling the masses there has ever been.
It’s in this climate – no pun intended – that the government is attempting to encourage people to scale back their personal CO2 emissions, primarily by using the car and central heating less.
The ActonCO2 campaign is, to my mind, an effort to inspire a kind of blitz spirit among Britons – trying to get people to ‘do their bit’ in lowering emissions and fuel use.
But I don’t think it will work. The adverts are too negative, too gloomy and even vaguely threatening.
I think there is a rump of people in the UK who are willing to be persuaded on climate change but are subject to a constant drip-drip of denial and scepticism from media and a bizarre rogues gallery of people like Clarkson, Nigel Havers and David Bellamy.
But these ads won’t convince them. Even worse, they may scare them into a kind of sceptical defiance. How to do you get someone to buy into a product when they don’t think there’s any reason to buy it?
That’s the issue these adverts should be addressing. This Bedtime Stories advert is the first to make explicit the connection between human activity and climate change – it should be focussed on getting people to buy into that fact.
Because, as any advertiser will tell you, consumers need a reason to buy. These ActonCO2 ads are pushing a product before providing a reason to buy.
I think it can only end badly. Already this ad has attracted hundreds of complaints. And the forces of ignorance will seize on the ad as more grist to their anti-government, anti-science mill.
Is there a happy ending? Nope. Let’s hope someone learns some lessons.
Drive five miles less