A few years ago the climate campaign 10:10 released a short film co-written by Richard Curtis, known for his work on "Blackadder" and a household name as the author of "Four Weddings and a Funeral".

Entitled 'No Pressure', the film predicts terrible consequences for those who don't 'join in' with the consensus view on climate change, and shows these people exploding horrifically. One vignette presents a broadcaster in a sound-proof recording booth, the glass window of which is suddenly covered in blood, the remnants of her eyeballs, still joined by the optic nerve, sliding slowly down the glass. (It is still available on YouTube, though I have not refreshed my memory of the facts.)

The films became instantly notorious, to the all-but universal discredit of 10:10, which never recovered. Curtis was understandably embarrassed and made a number of evasive remarks to the effect that it was very difficult to be funny about serious subjects, which is a sound observation but should perhaps have warned him off the attempt. Humour is always insidiously suasive rather than intersubjectively argumentative; it employs the black arts to reduce the value of one thing relative to that of another, while at the same time offering the audience the opportunity of inhabiting a safe location, within the chalk circle, either above the comparison or on the favourable side of the balance. In a serious discussion it is correctly mistrusted as betraying a lack of substantial grounds.

Nevertheless, Curtis has been forgiven, and largely on the grounds that 'No Pressure' was a mistake, an aberration quite out of and other than the benevolent character that was the author of 'Love Actually'. The point is fair, and I am not about to suggest that Curtis be retried; nevertheless, it should be acknowledged, I think, that in his film for 10:10 he was doing what he had always done before, with considerable skill and to general acclaim, and what he has continued to do since. Namely, act as a sensitive retailer of the received wisdom, the unconsidered and principal or activating views of those around him; he collects these voiceless opinions, concentrates and returns them to the audience conceptually unchanged but objectified and immediately intelligible. Mostly, this ingenious reflection is welcome to all, since he takes his hints from a very broad population. But such talents made him a dangerous partner for a more exclusive organisation such as 10:10.

Some have said that Curtis should have realised what a monster he had created, and suppressed the film. Certainly, it would have been prudent; but that would have been dishonest to his art, which though modest in kind has a mystery that must be respected as much as any other; and overall, I think he deserves credit for consenting to the release of 'No Pressure'. He enlightened the public at some cost to his reputation. One cannot ask more of a writer.