… is sauce for the gander

The Heartland billboard in Chicago

What an amazing experiment.

But the alarmists don’t like this. No, they don’t like this at all. Well, many sceptics don’t like it either — it’s the raw, bleeding, white-knuckled edge of hostility. It simply points out what is true: that some loathsome people believe in dangerous man-made global warming. But it sets an objectionable context and tars its opponents with a distastefully black brush.

Of course, it just turns the warmists’ own arguments back on them. They started it, and they’ve been at it for years. The sceptics have been immensely patient. The warmists are the ones with the shredded moral fibre.

For a sample of their complaints about this detestable sceptical tactic, a reader referred me to Stephan Lewandowsky’s article Are Heartland billboards the beginning of the end for climate denial? at The Conversation, where he opens with:

The inversion of reality and morality has been a long-standing attribute of the climate “debate,” which reached a new watershed low a few days ago with the latest travesty from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago “think” tank.

Heartland posted on its website that “the people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

Ted Kaczynski

I got the impression, reading how Stephan Lewandowsky is an Australian Professorial Fellow, Cognitive Science Laboratories at University of Western Australia, that he’s a scientist of some kind and sober and thoughtful. We’re told:

“Stephan Lewandowsky receives funding from public organizations (primarily the Australian Research Council) to conduct research in the public interest.”

But his approach to this topic is way outside academic standards. A selection of comments from the article reveals what seems a deep bitterness, an acrimonious hatred of opponents (at least on this topic) surely too ingrained to be assuaged by any therapy.

They include: this inverted universe; the chimerical construction of an ideologically-driven topsy-turvy reality; hallucination; Heartland … are also long-standing champions of the tobacco industry; robustly sociopathic fringe groups that believe, among other psychological nuggets, that Prince Phillip runs the world’s drug trade and is culling us for mass slaughter; Western history’s only precedent for such confluence between vested interests, extremist ideology, and outright abdication of reality is the Weimar Republic of the 1920s and 1930s; scurrilous accusations against actual scientists; climate denial will take ever more scurrilous forms; close to insane as well as depraved.

Lewandowsky concludes:

… the tobacco tank refused to apologise, and its website is still referring to those who accept the geophysical reality of the planet as “murderers, tyrants, and madmen”.

But only because the earlier statement is still there — here, Lewandowsky is simply deceitful.

In his press releases, Jo Bast makes a determined case for the controversial billboard and for climate scepticism and I find it easy to agree with him.

“This provocative billboard was always intended to be an experiment. And after just 24 hours the results are in: It got people’s attention.

“This billboard was deliberately provocative, an attempt to turn the tables on the climate alarmists by using their own tactics but with the opposite message. We found it interesting that the ad seemed to evoke reactions more passionate than when leading alarmists compare climate realists to Nazis or declare they are imposing on our children a mass death sentence. We leave it to others to determine why that is so.”

Then, without self-pity, he curtly elaborates the crimes of the warmists.

“Heartland has spent millions of dollars contributing to the real debate over climate change, and $200 for a one-day digital billboard. In return, we’ve been subjected to the most uncivil name-calling and disparagement you can possibly imagine from climate alarmists. The other side of the climate debate seems to be playing by different rules. This experiment produced further proof of that.

“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”

A poll at Watts Up With That indicates that about three out of every four of their visitors (i.e., mostly AGW agnostics) think that Heartland has made a mistake in running the ads, because it has surrendered the moral highground that it had occupied before.

The trouble is, the moral high ground may well have made you feel good, but in 10 years it hasn’t attracted any press attention. The Heartland’s single provocative advert must have generated over a million dollars worth of commentary in the mainstream media. That the commentary is uniformly hostile makes the very point that Heartland wanted to make.

Of course, the warmists early on coined the term “deniers”, associated sceptics with “death trains”, accused them of genocide, threatened them with “war crimes tribunals” and produced a video showing even children being blown to pieces if they doubted dangerous man-made climate change.

How does it feel now, huh? How does it feel to be called nasty names, be accused of horrible crimes, feel the lash of public mockery?

Do they like it? They don’t like it. Serves them right.

That doesn’t settle the arguments, but perhaps it’ll make the warmists pull their heads in a bit, be less hostile; I’m sick to death of being called a denier. Perhaps it’ll settle the agitation so we can get on with the arguments in a better climate.

Perhaps. I hope so. I don’t want us to lose sight of the big picture: save humanity from the save-the-earth rot.

But what a stupid, brave, heart-warming experiment.

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12 Thoughts on “… is sauce for the gander

  1. Mike Jowsey on 09/05/2012 at 12:40 am said:

    No, they don’t like it. Especially when they realise that in order to point the finger at this billboard they have to ‘disappear’ certain of their own crapola. e.g. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/07/climate-progress-disappears-their-own-climate-ugliness/

    (In the WUWT poll I voted No Opinion, incidentally – was not convinced by all the hyperbole in the comments that this was such a bad thing. Nor convinced it was good.)

  2. Doug Proctor on 09/05/2012 at 3:07 am said:

    Sorry, Richard., I don’t see this as a “heart-warming” experiment. I see it as a juvenile, vendetta-supporting returning insult. It attacks the very people we wish to convince have been bamboozled by the CAGW crowd.

    Angering your neighbours when they play their stereo too loud: how does that help?

    The worst of the Heartland fiasco is the refusal to admit error. Pulled it down and claimed success with the “experiment”. No apology. No consideration that they have now attached that vile attack ad to anyone who might support what they are doing. The same as the UK No Pressure campaign.

    When some say there is no moral high ground, that this is a war and all tactics are legitimate if you win, I think that attitude is why we have physical battles instead of heated discussions. Being the better man, so to speak, is a productive way to defuse a counter-productive situation.

    Heartland did nothing but further polarize the debate. If they even agree there IS a debate.

    Perhaps that is what is behind the Heartland scenes: the same fixed positions as the warmists, that the science is settled and the outcome is certain. Heartland is just on the other side.

    I’m a skeptic. I don’t think CAGW is a real threat. But I’m willing to say that there is some influence on our planet, though I think it is more an UHIE and local land use, like the loss of Kilimanjaro glaciers from lower elevation deforestation. And I’m willing to say that reduction in fossil fuel use is, overall, a worthy goal. I wonder now more than before what Heartland stands for: pure, right-of-capture capitalism and an environment protected by the “market”? If so, I ain’t for them, at all.

    Strong and Hansen and Suzuki and WWF and Greenpeace and the Sierra Club make me nervous because I suspect their background agenda is far more insidious than their foreground statements. Heartland has always been brusque and harsh: I accept that. Now I wonder what other offensive or divisive stuff there is hidden in the closet.

    Heartland made Peter Gleick look like a whistleblower, not a fraud, liar and forger. What an accomplishment.

    • Doug, I understand your objections to supporting the Heartland Institute. You probably already noticed that I hedged my bets by mentioning the “objectionable context”.

      After reflection, I’m reminded of the Indian tale of the snake which longed for self-realisation. To this end, the snake decided to practice non-violence towards every creature. He would acknowledge the deity in every being and bring harm to none. But every afternoon, a group of boys on their way home from school passed the place where the snake lay basking in the sunshine. They poked him with sticks to see his reaction, and when they found the snake did nothing in return, they made his life a living hell from that day on.

      One day a wise man passed by and, seeing the snake obviously out of sorts, inquired as to the reason for his unhappiness. The snake described his desire to work towards realisation and the torment he endured from the wicked boys. He didn’t know how to prevent it.

      The wise man thought for a moment then said: “You are to be applauded for your vow of non-violence, but nobody told you you couldn’t hiss occasionally.”

      I see the Heartland tactic as hissing. It will now return to its practice of non-violence.

    • Doug Proctor on 12/05/2012 at 11:05 am said:

      Hi, Richard,

      I understand your position and that of others. If we were in a true, physical war, I would have no objections. The snake in the story is in such a thing. Here, though, we are in a war of truth and facts (or as close as we can get to it) versus deceit and manipulation. Especially the manipulation. What Heartland did was not just technically incorrect vis-a-vis the logical derivation of one belief system from another, not just gratuitously and counter-productively insulting to the very people that “we” wish to view CAGW more skeptically, but used blatant misrepresentation as a tool of argument.

      If a balloon gets too puffed up, it requires only a pinprick to finish it. Making your balloon as outrageously big as the other guys’ maintains the illusion that shouting means sincerity.

      The Americans are very big on the adversarial system of justice, in which the flashiest and loudest wins his day in court. Science should be handled differently, in my opinion. Heartland will go back to hissing, as you say, but now I’m less convinced that what they say they mean, and maybe what they mean, they say. The first is manipulation, the second, deceit.

      Let the warmists specialize in the m and d. But I’m not in a war, I’m in a debate, even though I might get my nose bloodied from time to time.



    • Doug,

      Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. I too find Heartland has slipped in my estimation. But I’m glad you gave the long reply to Jon, above; you provided more insights for us all.

      I guess I accommodate both sides — praise and condemnation — together. Perhaps only a parent of several children could do that comfortably, but don’t quote me on that. For their descent to the “white-knuckled edge of hostility” no condemnation is strong enough; but for their courage in taking the fight to the unrelenting traitorous hordes imperilling our future they deserve a medal.

      For I believe they confronted the traitors by copying the traitorous methods in an attempt, and only in the attempt, to show the traitors what they are doing and shame them into desisting. When people are being shortsighted, it can help to put an example of your complaint closer to them, that they might now see it. Heartland succeeded, for the complaints came immediately and numerously, the irony notwithstanding. For the traitors were complaining of tactics they themselves had practised for years.

      Can they see what has happened? Let us hope so.

      In the meantime, we all go back to contemplation of the truth to understand it; and occasionally to hissing.


  3. Andy on 09/05/2012 at 3:48 am said:

    I’m with Doug on this. I don;t think it was a smart move at all, despite all the nasty stuff (10-10 for example) that has gone before.

    There are sponsors backing down too. Heartland really should have said some weasel words to placate everyone.

    Donna Laframboise pulled out of the conference over this, and I think Ross McKitrick had some negative comments too.

  4. Alexander K on 09/05/2012 at 9:05 am said:

    I, too, believe that the HI management made a serious error of judgement. I can understand them being totally pissed off with the mad inventions that are hurled at them, but hurling stuff that was not terribly clever back was ill advised, to say the least. As someone said, ‘when you wrestle with pigs, the pigs enjoy it and you get covered in mud’.
    What really intrigues me is the underlying cultural differences between various slices of the English-speaking world that appear to be the source of various forms of extreme expression. I suspect that Christian Americans who inhabit the ‘Bible Belt’ actually think in terms of extreme good and evil, a mode of thinking that most of the English-speaking world would find it difficult to get a handle on, let alone sympathise with. I have met and talked with people who think in apocalyptic terms, their thinking makes me extremely uneasy and their company, however friendly, loses its charm quite quickly. Stefan Lewandowsky appears to be of this mindset; I cannot accept his extreme pronouncements about sceptics, which, to me, seem irrational, unbalanced and the very antithesis of the way a scientist should speak.

  5. jon on 11/05/2012 at 12:20 am said:

    “It attacks the very people we wish to convince have been bamboozled by the CAGW crowd.”
    No it doesn’t. It shows them that argument by association goes both ways. It simply counters the tactics of the CAGW movement.
    “Angering your neighbours when they play their stereo too loud: how does that help?”
    Inconsiderate neighbours will be angered with any response other than the “seethe in silence”, “turn the other cheek” nonsense you espouse.
    HI position is not fixed on this issue except in that they oppose the unscience and economic stupidity of the CAGW movement. If CAGW had any strong scientific arguments in their favour I am quite HI would not be bothering to oppose them.
    “…reduction in fossil fuel use is, overall, a worthy goal.” Care to explain why?
    How is “right of capture” a uniquely capitalist notion. It applies through all systems unless you can point one out to me that does not involve someone taking something off someone else. In fact at least with capitalism one is required to provide something of real value in return directly.
    What Glieck did should land him in court and unlike you Doug I fail to see that anything good or bad that HI might do mitigates Gliecks basically criminal actions.

    • Doug Proctor on 12/05/2012 at 11:32 am said:

      Jon, I see your points. I guess I feel, however, that the emotional message is greater than the intellectual one. And there is no counter, as in an army group that pushes back an enemy force. It is a continuation of using emotion instead of facts.

      In the same way as angering your neighbour: if what you want is him to treat you more considerately, insulting him won’t work. Perhaps nothing will work, because he is a jerk. But making him angry is not doing anything but hardening his position. Recall what you probably felt about the 10:10 No Pressure UK campaign. Did that make you think you should rethink the warmist position, or harden you against it?

      I’m in the oil and gas business, 33 years. In my time I have seen serious declines and increasing difficulties in finding new oil and gas. What you have heard about the success of gas shales is physical, not economic: the only way you are going to get large amounts of gas out of those shales is if you are paying $5 to $7/mcf for it, twice what we are paying now. As an o and g guy, I know my retirement would be better that way, but as a regular guy I know that every dollar I pay for energy is one less dollar I can pay for my other interests. And that affects all the service people my “other interests” employ. Where I am, Calgary, has seen 5 or 6 recessions since 1979 (o and g is a rollercoaster business). Each time it is the non o and g part of this city that goes quiet. The part, actually, that we all enjoy at the end of a day’s work.

      Reducing our usage of fossil fuels for energy usage is a good idea when your supplies are becoming more difficult and expensive. There are huge pollution aspects to vehicular traffic that anyone who lives in places that have inversions, as I do, sees regularly. I’m not saying we should stop using them, but displacing those we can without creating the same financial harm high oil and gas costs create, is what we should do to preserve our pleasant lives going forward.

      Right of capture, as I use it here, says that whatever you can get and do get, has no aspect of public consideration. The Texas Commission back in the early 1900s (?) recognized that the community benefited when going after oil and gas in the ground was done to maximize the amount coming out generally, not just for you. You can’t just slam wells down and suck as hard as you want, though that may be best for you. The principle also applies to reforestration, though you could argue that I’ll cut all I want and let nature take 200 years, because I don’t care. That’s right of capture. But social responsibility says we must reforest so that after you are around, others can benefit. Heartland, it seems to me, says that anything goes as long as you win. There is no moral or social consideration involved in the Billboard ads. It’s purpose is to inflame, not to convince or to moderate, though which you might think the community would be better served.

      Finally, Gleick: he did what he did because he believes that under the stump of Heartland lies maggots. Crazy man, trying to save the world. The campaign says that some of the Heartland people, especially those at the top, may not be the wiggling larvae he wanted to expose, but they are not very nice people. Think of this: they just said that my dear old Ma, and yours, have ideas in common with executable convicts. That isn’t an intellectual device to initiate conversation. It is an emotional device to offend. So while he wasn’t right really, he had some reason to distrust them … it is just human nature to give the guy some slack now that we have seen inside Heartland a bit more.

      Thanks for the thoughts, by the way. It is only in the back and forth that we find out what we really think. I get over involved at times, and carried away with words. So your reply helps me understand better, as well.

  6. Billy on 11/05/2012 at 6:08 pm said:

    Stop press.Jams Hansen is selling waterproof teabags on e bay

  7. Pingback: Give them enough rope . . . | Open Parachute

    • Perrott chides me for not making up my mind, but I did make up my mind, and I expressed it. For in my universe, matters are not always black and white, with good and bad clearly distinguishable — they are often shades of grey. Rather than indecision, it often requires wisdom to acknowledge a mixture of qualities rather than side with some popular faction and end up throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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