Toby Young


Toby Young

Credentials

  • Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Brasenose College, Oxford. [1]

Background

Toby Young is a writer, journalist, and social commentator, most notable for being an associate editor at The Spectator and the London associate editor of Quillette, an online “platform for free thought”. [2], [3]

Although Young has previously denied being a “complete climate change sceptic”, he has rejected what he calls “overly-pessimistic predictions” that he claims “turn out to be inaccurate”. [4], [5]

Young regularly criticises climate change activists, who he has described as “gloomsters”. He has also claimed teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg “traffics in fake news” and said he could “easily imagine” the Extinction Rebellion protest group “metastasizing into a kind of violent revolutionary doomsday cult, and giving birth to dozens of terrorist cells”. [6], [7], [8]

In early 2020, Young launched the Free Speech Union, which he described as a “mass membership organisation that stands up for the speech rights of its members”. In an introductory promotional clip, Young said: “the enemies of free speech hunt in packs. Its defenders need to band together too. Whatever it takes, we’ll defend your right to speak freely without being punished”. [9]

The Union’s advisory board includes Conservative hereditary peer and Global Warming Policy Foundation advisor Matt Ridley and Mail on Sunday journalist David Rose, who has a long history of promoting climate science denial. [10]

During the coronavirus pandemic, Young has been at the forefront of opposing lockdown measures designed to slow the spread of the disease, launching the site Lockdown Sceptics soon after people in the UK were ordered to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19. [11]

In January 2018, Young was appointed to the board of the government’s Office for Students, having previously set up the West London Free School. His appointment was strongly criticised after a string of misogynistic and homophobic comments he had previously made resurfaced, and Young quickly resigned. [12], [13]

Stance on Climate Change

October 11, 2019

Sharing a Washington Post article on Twitter, Young wrote: [14]

One reason Greta Thunberg wasn’t awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is that there is no scientific consensus about whether there’s a link between climate change and global conflict. Extinction Rebellion please take note.” [14]

September 18, 2019

In a Twitter thread, Young wrote: [15]

…And, of course, the climate emergency stuff is one of the gospels of the Social Justice Bible, so draws on that wellspring…

… of quasi-religious fervour that shows no sign of abating and is clearly rocket fuelled by social media.” [15]

August 15, 2019

Young tweeted: [4]

I’m not a complete climate change sceptic, but do think climate change zealots often overstate their case, going far beyond the science, for moralistic reasons.” [4]

He subsequently wrote: [5]

I think the problem with overstating — eg Prince Charles saying we have 18 months left to save the planet — is that when the overly-pessimistic predictions turn out to be inaccurate the public begins to lose trust. And if you can’t bring them with you on this, the game is lost.” [5]

Key Quotes

February 1, 2020

In a Spectator article, Young said of climate change activists: [6]

On the face of it, we should be grateful that these gloomsters make such oddly precise predictions. It’s like putting a sell-by date on their credibility. After all, when the soothsayer in question is proved wrong, they just shuffle off with their tail between their legs, never to be heard from again, right? In eight years’ time, when the planet hasn’t disappeared in a cloud of toxic gas, presumably Greta will throw up her arms and say: ‘Sorry guys. Looked like I was wrong about you ruining my childhood. I’m now going to become a flight attendant.’

But, weirdly, that never happens. No matter how often these ‘experts’ are shown to be no better at forecasting than Paul the Octopus — worse, actually — they just carry on as if nothing has happened.” [6]

He went on to write: [6]

I’m generous enough to think that these activists are not cynics trying to grab headlines, but are sincere in their prophecies of doom.” [6]

January 24, 2020

Young shared an article written by Myron Ebell from the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Steve J Milloy, publisher of the climate science denial website JunkScience.com, on Twitter, commenting: [16], [17]

George Monbiot said in 2002 that Britain would suffer a ‘famine’ within 10 years. Al Gore warned in 2008 of an ‘ice-free’ Arctic by 2013. Prince Charles said we had ‘eight years to save the planet’ — in 2009. Why do we still listen to these soothsayers?” [17]

September 23, 2019

On activism, Young wrote: [18]

It’s all linked in the minds of the social justice cultists. Climate change, like racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, etc., is all the fault of cishet white men and the capitalist system they’ve built to perpetuate their privilege.” [18]

September 18, 2019

In a series of tweets, Young wrote about what he thought was behind the youth climate strike: [15]

A theory about why the climate strike has spread from Sweden to other European countries, including the U.K., so rapidly: it’s an opportunity for teenagers who don’t fall into any of the obvious “oppressed” categories to claim the mantle of victimhood. If the planet really is…

… facing imminent collapse, they will suffer more than others in virtue of being young (a point teenage climate change protestors often make, as do those older people expressing sympathy for them). In a playground culture of competitive victimhood, being able to make that argument…

… is very appealing. If this theory is correct, it would explain why the teenage climate change protestors are overwhelmingly white and middle class. Arguing that they’re going to suffer more than others as a result of climate change is the only way they can compete in the…

… oppression Olympics. It has the added bonus of providing teenagers with a pretext to wag their fingers at their elders, an opportunity they rarely pass up. And, of course, the climate emergency stuff is one of the gospels of the Social Justice Bible, so draws on that wellspring…

… of quasi-religious fervour that shows no sign of abating and is clearly rocket fuelled by social media. As Chesterton said: “The modern world is full of old Christian ideas gone mad.” [15]

September 8, 2019

In a Telegraph article criticising what he called the “virtue-signalling mumbo jumbo” of the private sector, Young wrote: [19]

But what if you don’t subscribe to the view that – to quote Prince Charles – we only have 18 months to stave off the fifth great extinction? What if the rank hypocrisy of all these super-rich eco-warriors telling us to reduce our carbon footprint, while flying around the world on private jets, sticks in your craw?

Ultimately, your view on global warming, the extent to which it’s caused by our personal behaviour and what you think we’re obliged to do about it is a moral and political choice that each person is entitled to make themselves. It’s not a choice that should be imposed on them by their employers.” [19]

May 11, 2019

In an article for The Spectator, Young wrote: [20]

Anyone watching the BBC’s News at Ten on Monday would have been surprised to learn that economic growth poses a dire threat to the future of life on this planet. We’re used to hearing this from climate change campaigners, but I’ve always taken such claims with a pinch of salt, suspecting that the anti-capitalist left is distorting the evidence.” [20]

Key Deeds

May 5, 2020

Young participated in a webinar hosted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s most prominent climate science denial campaign group. [21]

Convened by GWPF’s Head of Policy, Harry Wilkinson, and joined by Conservative hereditary peer Matt Ridley, and Spiked columnist Inayah Folarin Iman, participants discussed the coronavirus, climate change and the role of science in public policy. [21], [22]

Young said: [21]

[01:15:26] What I hope will be one of the outcomes is a general decline in scientism, but not science. So, I think of scientism as a kind of veneration of scientists who happen to share your liberal politics, so you can then dress up your own policy preferences as having the authority of science. And I hope that that phenomenon gradually fades after this. One interesting point I thought that Michael Levitt made, he’s the Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford and the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry … is that if you are an epidemiologist tasked with advising the government on how to respond to a dangerous new bug like this, you’re incentivised to overestimate the likelihood death toll, rather than underestimate it. And that’s because if you underestimate it and the government does nothing, and many more people than you predicted die, that really does harm your reputation. But if you overestimate and you get it slightly wrong, or even very wrong, then your reputation remains intact. You’re not punished in the same way for committing an error, not like a normal scientist would be. You can commit errors in one direction and be forgiven, you commit errors in the other and you’re not. [21]

[01:30:02] One of the things which strikes me about the various anti-capitalists somehow hailing lockdowns as evidence that we could all live much simpler, happier existences is that, almost without exception, they themselves aren’t suffering in any way. They’ve either been furloughed, or they’re public service employees so they’re on effectively full wages, or they’re living with their parents in nice manor houses in the home counties with large gardens, paddocks full of livestock and so forth. If you’re living at the top of a tower block, and you’ve got three kids that aren’t at school, and you’re a taxi driver and you’re currently embroiled in an endless negotiation with HMRC about how much money you earn as a sole trader in the last year because you want to be compensated in some way for your lack of income, then I don’t think this is a great advertisement for the kind of society that Extinction Rebellion want us all to live in. [21]

October 12, 2019

In a Spectator article titled “You have to laugh at Extinction Rebellion,” Young likened the actions by the protest group to a “21st-century equivalent of The Life of Brian, except in this version the protagonist has embraced his messianic status”. Young also wrote: [23]

For all the demonstrators’ talk of ‘science’ and their insistence on telling ‘the truth’, it could not have been clearer that this global movement is a religious cult. Several of the protestors seemed to be in an emotional fugue state, their eyes burning brightly, like evangelicals possessed by the Holy Spirit.” [23]

Young also described the protestors as having “apocalyptic moralism” which he wrote was a “hallmark of millenarianism”. [23]

October 10, 2019

In a podcast episode titled “Attack of the Doom Mongers” with anti-wind farm activist and Breitbart columnist James Delingpole, Young expressed his views on Extinction Rebellion: [8]

Toby Young [13:28] It is largely a peaceful protest at the moment, and I know that you’re very insistent about that, but you could just easily imagine it metastasizing into a kind of a violent revolutionary doomsday cult, and giving birth to dozens of terrorist cells. [8]

Toby Young [14:29] But having planted this idea that unless we do the bidding of these radical anti-capitalists we are bringing about certain doom – that’s all the licence a terrorist needs, isn’t it? “I’ll kill a few people. So what? I’ll be saving the planet”. [8]

James Delingpole [14:46] Yes, well they do think like terrorists, and they are not held to account. [8]

Toby Young [17:40] So it’s entirely speculative. The idea that this is all settled, fixed science is just nonsense. [8]

[…]

Toby Young [18:23] What’s odd is that even when you drill down into these supposedly scientific claims, or these alarmist claims, that have the imprimatur of these responsible, respectable, scientific bodies, actually there’s an enormous amount of speculation, and vagueness, and pulling numbers out of their navels going on, and yet the Extinction Rebellion protestors proceed as if it’s all absolutely certain. There’s no room for doubt or nuance at all. Anyone who thinks that the entire planet isn’t going to be wiped out within the next few decades, with every animal in a children’s picture book going extinct, is just in denial, you’re a denialist. It’s just extraordinary isn’t. And it clearly is a religious movement. [8]

September 25, 2019

Young appeared on breakfast television show Good Morning Britain to debate the actions of teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg and the school “climate strike” movement. In response to a comment by Extinction Rebellion member Skeena Rathor that climate change was “a question of survival”, Young said: [24]

The problem with this catastrophising, alarmist language is, as you say Piers, it’s terrifying young children.” [24]

Young went on to express his worries about the movement, saying: [24]

It’s harnessing children’s justifiable concern about climate change to this extreme hard left agenda. We don’t need to end capitalism; we don’t need to end economic growth.” [24]

February 16, 2019

Young criticised the youth climate strike movement in a Spectator column where he claimed the protestors just wanted “a day off school”. He wrote that Greta Thunberg had been “living on another planet for the past 16 years” and concluded the article by writing: [25]

If children really must wag their fingers at older generations for some imaginary sin, I wish they’d do it at the weekend. Better yet, they could combine it with picking up litter, which really might do something for the environment. The fact that so many students have been taken in by Greta Thunberg’s crude propaganda is an argument for raising the voting age to 21, not lowering it to 16.” [25]

February 15, 2019

Young tweeted that Greta Thunberg was spreading “fake news”, claiming that the activist never says Western political leaders are not doing enough, but that they are doing and have done nothing on climate change. [7], [26], [27]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

Resources

  1. Robert Booth. “Toby Young: social media self-obsessive still battling with father’s shadow,” Guardian, January 5, 2018. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/l1IzE

  2. Toby Young,” Spectator. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/jkWpy

  3. About,” Quillette. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/ZEQZ0

  4. Toby Young. “I’m not a complete climate change sceptic, but do think climate change zealots often overstate their case, going far beyond the science, for moralistic reasons,” Tweet by @toadmeister on August 15, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  5. Toby Young. “I think the problem with overstating — eg Prince Charles saying we have 18 months left to save the planet — is that when the overly-pessimistic predictions turn out to be inaccurate the public begins to lose trust. And if you can’t bring them with you on ,” Tweet by @toadmeister on August 15, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  6. Toby Young. “Climate doomsayers keep putting sell-by dates on their credibility,” Spectator, February 1, 2020. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/tQw7K

  7. Toby Young. “If she wants to become a powerful voice for combatting climate change, good luck to her. I just wish she wouldn’t traffic in fake news. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to distinguish real news from fake news? Or do you not care provided it’s “progre,” Tweet by @toadmeister on February 15, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  8. James Delingpole, Toby Young. “Attack of the Doom Mongers,” Podcast episode uploaded by London Calling on Ricochet. Archived page on July 16, 2020. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmog.

  9. Introduction to the Free Speech Union,” YouTube video uploaded by user The Free Speech Union on February 9, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  10. Who We Are,” Free Speech Union. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/skTLY

  11. Peter Geoghegan, Mary Fitzgerald. “The 'lockdown sceptics' want a culture war, with experts as the enemy,” Guardian, May 18, 2020. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/wD1Cn

  12. Toby Young resigns from university regulator,” BBC News, January 9, 2018. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/DtGl9

  13. Rob Merrick. “Toby Young stands down from government post after just 8 days over misogynistic and homophobic comments,” Independent, January 9, 2019. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/ehyOM

  14. Toby Young. “One reason Greta Thunberg wasn’t awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is that there is no scientific consensus about whether there’s a link between climate change and global conflict. Extinction Rebellion please take note,” Tweet by @toadmeister on October 11, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  15. Toby Young. “Twitter thread beginning – a theory about why the climate strike has spread from Sweden to other European countries…,” Tweet by @toadmeister on September 18, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  16. Myron Ebell, Steven J Milloy. “Wrong Again: 50 Years of Failed Eco-pocalyptic Predictions,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, September 18, 2019. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/9jrTt

  17. Toby Young. “George Monbiot said in 2002 that Britain would suffer a “famine” within 10 years. Al Gore warned in 2008 of an “ice-free” Arctic by 2013. Prince Charles said we had “eight years to save the planet” — in 2009. Why do we still listen to these soothsayers?,” Tweet by @toadmeister on January 24, 2020. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  18. Toby Young. “It’s all linked in the minds of the social justice cultists. Climate change, like racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, etc., is all the fault of cishet white men and the capitalist system they’ve built to perpetuate their privilege,” Tweet by @toadmeister on September 23, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  19. Toby Young. “Sacked for using plastic? Welcome to the latest madness from the 'woke corporation',” Telegraph, September 8, 2019. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/X68m6

  20. Toby Young. “This extinction warning just doesn’t add up,” Spectator, May 11, 2019. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/VxUkm

  21. GWPF Webinar: Toby Young, Matt Ridley and Inaya Folarin Iman,” YouTube video uploaded by user GWPF on May 5, 2020. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  22. Articles by Inaya Folarin Iman,” Spiked. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/dGAU2

  23. Toby Young. “You have to laugh at Extinction Rebellion,” Spectator, October 12, 2019. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/rGoV2

  24. Is Greta Thunberg a Force for Change or Inciting Fear?,” YouTube video uploaded by user Good Morning Britain on September 25, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  25. Toby Young. “All these striking kids want is a day off school,” Spectator, February 16, 2019. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/z4SpV

  26. Toby Young. “More fake news from Greta. You can make an argument that political leaders haven’t done enough. But “inaction”? What about the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement? In the U.K., the Climate Change Act and the Climate Change Levy, not to mention other green,” Tweet by @toadmeister on February 15, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

  27. Toby Young. “Challenging a 16-year-old’s views is not “trolling”. @GretaThunberg said in her TED Talk that Western political leaders “never mention” climate change and have done “nothing” about it. She didn’t argue they hadn’t done enough. She said “nothing”. That’s f,” Tweet by @toadmeister on February 15, 2019. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

  28. London Calling,” Apple Podcasts. Archived July17, 2020. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/1iruD

Image credit: Channel 4 News
Tags: