Many years ago, Austrian-American economist Ludwig Von Mises coined the term “useful innocents”; and these words seem highly relevant to the events of the last few days up here. Von Mises claimed the term was used for liberals that von Mises described as “confused and misguided sympathizers” in his 1947 work ‘Planned Chaos.’
Unbeknownst to me, a growing body of people have been gravitating towards a self-styled ‘environmental visionary'; a man claiming to be a millionaire entrepreneur, and playing on both the hopes and fears of people that appear to be ripe for such a ‘messianic’ figure.
If anything, this is the real tragedy of this ongoing Stronsay Inc affair; that seemingly normal folk will abandon all semblance of critical thinking when they want to believe in a thing strongly enough. One might conclude that Charles Mackay’s 1841 classic ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds‘ has never been a more urgent addition to school curricula. “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”
Climate change is of course happening; climate change indeed always has happened, and, it will go on happening for as long as the Earth endures. Also, mankind plays some role in that change. Cynically convincing people to be anxious & worry about this constant change is -in itself- immediately establishing dishonesty, and should be a red flag for any sentient individual.
At the same time, to err -or be mistaken- should be forgiven, lest we set a standard that can be met by no-one; but lying -which can serve no lofty purpose at all- is immoral, and should be pointed to wherever one may find it, but perhaps most especially when ‘useful innocents’ are in the process of being manipulated for financial, material or political gain.
The magazine Living Orkney, ran an article this month entitled ‘Millionaire visionary sets his sights on Orkney’.
Having read this shocking article in full, my suspicions were instantly aroused, and where better to look for answers than by merely typing ‘Stronsay Inc’ into a Google search window.
After perusing the surprisingly scant links offered (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Linked-In) it became clear, very quickly, that this ‘company’ did not have a ‘global reach’ as claimed. Christophe Watkins -and his Stronsay Inc- looked highly suspicious in just the first few minutes.
After checking with Broadgate Estates Ltd, it was clear that neither Mr.Watkins nor Stronsay Inc had a business address in Bishopsgate, as is clearly claimed on some of his facebook pages.
The facebook pages state that there is an employee working at the London office which is clearly a lie as the premises are not leased to Stronsay Inc or Mr.Watkins.
A quick check at Companies House and one finds there is no company record of that name.
On Stronsay Inc’s foursquare page there is a company logo with TM (trade mark) after it. I can find no record of Stronsay Inc having obtained a trade mark.
Stronsay Inc do not even have a website of their own.
Stronsay Inc was cited in the Living Orkney article as being influential on the international green policy scene. On further checks I can find no evidence to suggest that Mr.Watkins has any influence, anywhere, let alone the international green policy scene.
Mr Watkins cited to Living Orkney that he was the ‘keynote’ speaker at the Energy-Forum Solar Skin Conference in Bressanone Italy Dec 2011. There is no record of him having been a speaker whatsoever.
As a consequence of my discussions with a BBC Orkney employee, I am led to believe that Mr Watkins has accepted an interview with BBC Radio Orkney on Friday 23rd March 2012. This BBC Radio Orkney employee is fully aware of the allegations against Mr Watkins and his ‘company’ and, at this moment in time, Mr Watkins may still be unaware that he has been ‘rumbled’.
I submit that the ‘journalist’ who wrote this three-page article has in fact written a piece about a fantasy company, and a man intent on preying on the weaknesses of vulnerable people who have been taken in by his deception. One striking aspect of this, is that over one thousand people have not seen the sense of googling his company name & reading the provided links. Or perhaps, they have done so but have not seen what is staring them squarely in the face.
Did it not occur to our Living Orkney ‘journalist’ to do at least a little bit of fact checking before submitting this piece for publication? Consider also that the writer is the editor of the magazine in question, and it truly verges on the unbelievable.
Did he, like so many of Mr Watkins followers, allow the desire to ‘believe’ over-ride any sense of journalistic craft? As a good friend of mine has suggested to me today: “Christophe may be a low-level grifter but he’s a great example of the great and the good being taken in.”
When you have journalism of such a debased sort as this, one might be forgiven for thinking that the third estate is all but dead, and the only hope for any kind of Truth is on the blogosphere.
I, personally, came around to that way of thinking some considerable time ago.