Once again, the disconnect between what is shown by broadcast media and what some in the press want their readers to believe is brought into sharp focus by arguments about what happened yesterday near Balcombe in West Sussex. While the BBC showed a number of people protesting, and many getting arrested as a result, others have declared that acts of treachery and treason are upon us.
Wait, what? Well, as I pointed out a while back, the closer that the process of extracting gas from shale by hydraulic fracturing – fracking for short – comes to London, the greater the protests will be. Balcombe is prime commuter belt, and if there is going to be fracking there, rather than somewhere near Blackpool where very few hacks and pundits live, then that means it’s serious.
So, while very few turned up to protest when Cuadrilla Resources fracked happily away in Lancashire, things were not so quiet in Balcombe. This is turn has spooked proponents of fracking, and today has come a lashing out at protesters, and of course the BBC for, er, oh I dunno, but look, the Beeb is always to blame, whether it turns up and reports, or not. It’s written, that’s why.
Especially spooked has been Christopher Booker, who has been given a platform by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre: “A new 'Battle of Britain'? Caving in to the anti-fracking fanatics is a craven surrender to mob rule” he splutters and froths into his suitably upmarket high tea. Fighting them on the landing grounds, then, Chris? But he’s serious: “insanity ... threaten[ing] Britain’s entire energy future”.
The protesters are wrong: “fog of misconceptions ... suicidal energy policy ... deluded”. This is because “Scarcely an iota of their scare story bears any relation to reality” and fracking, Booker tells readers twice – just to make sure – means “cheap gas”. To no surprise, no figures are quoted, nor any analysis cited. It’s cheap in the USA, therefore it must be cheap here. So be told.
Booker’s rant is reinforced by an editorial in the Maily Telegraph which covers remarkably similar ground, and takes an almost identical attitude to protest, as Booker. “Anti-fracking zealots are the enemies of progress” howls the headline, while readers are told that the Government must somehow stand up to the protesters, who are depicted as “new Luddites” and “hysterical”.
And, just to put the lid on the whole thing, Booker’s pal James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole has asserted that “the fracking pollution issue has been invented by green activists as part of their anti-growth, pro-renewables campaign”. The thought that, given the tax breaks on offer, fracking would be off and running if this really was the new Klondike, is not allowed to enter.
But it isn’t, and so the ranting is pointless. No change there, then.