Worst Sentences of the Day

From Clive Hamilton

Last month, Americans were shocked at the attempted murder of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the killing of six bystanders. The local County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik captured the immediate assessment of many when he linked the attempted murder to the rise of violent anti-government rhetoric and imagery, observing, “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”

When asked if the Congresswoman had any enemies her father replied: “Yeah. The whole Tea Party”. Many, including Giffords herself, had had a premonition that the inflammatory language of radical right-wing activists would sooner or later find real expression.

The same hate-filled rhetoric that created the circumstances in which Gabrielle Giffords was gunned down also stokes ferocious attacks on climate scientists and environmentalists in the United States.

Wow, you know you are in for a load of really stupid crap when someone, at this late date, still is out there blaming the Giffords shooting on political rhetoric.   When someone writes this, you can be sure they are about to attempt to shut someone up, most likely someone the author disagrees with.

The author goes on to relate how nearly every climate scientist (up to and including the serially-wrong Paul Ehrlich) is quaking in their house behind locked doors waiting for some crazed skeptic to gun him or her down in their sleep.  Look, just about every interest group develops a mythology, and this notion of bravely seeking truth in the face of crazed irrational wackos is part of the internal mythology of many interest groups.

I have no doubt that these guys get nasty comments and abusive emails.  But Hamilton is absolutely wrong to imply that climate alarmists are somehow unique in this.  He is not describing an unfortunate aspect of the climate debate perpetrated asymmetrically by one side in that debate, but an unfortunate aspect of all politically charged online debates by nearly every side of every issue.  Seriously, Hamilton has discovered the Internet troll in 2011?  What is next-- agriculture, fire, the wheel?

Welcome to the political arena.  Alarmist climate scientists expressly went political a number of years ago.  I could put up pages of quotes from climate alarmists like James Hansen urging their brethren that doing scientific research was not enough, that they had to get out there and openly advocate, be a part of the political process.   And politics is messy, especially when you are advocating what is in effect the most expensive single government program every proposed.  You can't be political when you are on the attack, and then claim you are a scientist immune from political debate when there is a response.

I am but a second-rate player in the climate debate at my site climate-skeptic.com.  I am not going to be one of the names of skeptics most alarmists would rattle off.  And none-the-less I get threatening emails about my climate positions.  In fact one of the reasons I am pretty sure bad behavior on the Internet crosses all political lines is that my top two threatening and irrational email sources are from anti-immigration conservatives and climate alarmists on the left.   But I grew up in a household where my parents worked for a major oil company.  Every time oil prices would rise, some crazed leftist would send us death threats, and several of our friends actually got letter bombs.  So its hard for me to wet my pants over a few anonymous threatening emails with poor grammar.  And unlike Mr. Hamilton, I don't attempt to tar the many people who disagree with me with the actions of a loony few.

I am sorry for folks on both sides who get such crazed threats.  But what Mr. Hamilton wants is to not have to deal with the specific arguments made by skeptics.  This is the whole history of the climate debate, with alarmists trying one technique after another to avoid engagement.  Skeptics are funded by Exxon -- Don't listen to them, they are just shills!  The science is settled -- No need for debate!  Skeptics are violent and helped kill Gabriella Giffords -- everything they say is hate speech and must be ignored!

Oh, and here is one more parting shot in his last paragraph

Like those whose opinions they value — shock jocks and television demagogues — climate deniers are disproportionately older, white, male and conservative — those who feel their cultural identity most threatened by the implications of climate change. While the debate is superficially about the science, in truth it is about deep-rooted feelings of cultural identity. This makes deniers immune to argument, and their influence will wane only as they grow old and die.

LOL, its all white male suppression!   I don't even have the energy to deal with this, except to repeat the obvious:  Capping white male American fossil fuel use at 1990 levels would be costly and reduce economic growth, but could be done.  Capping Indian or Chinese or African fossil fuel use at 1990 levels basically sends them back to the stone age.   So don't tell me who is shilling for the arrogant white male perspective.

Anyway, his last paragraph is a fantasy, a part of the internal alarmist mythology that gives them a smug feeling of superiority, that skeptics are all crude evolution-denying anti-science old cranks.  And, frankly, some are.  Just as some alarmists are human-hating totalitarian neo-communists.  To some extent, Hamilton's article is an exercise in self-esteem building among alarmists, making them feel better about themselves by supposed superiority to the incivility he enumerates.  Fine as far as it goes, all groups engage in the same kind of behavior.  But there is a lot of thoughtful work that goes on in the skeptic community that in a non-broken scientific process would be considered productive challenges and/or replications of various studies.   To the extent he is trying to hide this work from view and shut up skeptics in general, tarring those of use who are science-based with actions of the fringe, he is doing a severe disservice to the science he is supposedly defending.

  • Dan

    Good post. I tend to be in the middle on the climate change issue, and see valid arguments on both sides. I agree with you that both sides have their crazies.

  • DrTorch

    Why bring evolution into the discussion? Sheesh.

  • dovh49

    If the climate scientists and politicians succeed in their bid to tax us all to death then I could see that it wouldn't necessarily be bad if the crazies came out and defended their properties.

    Personally, I think an approach of education, opting out and civil disobedience is a better route to take and that's what I advocate but I can understand why people would want to defend their properties. I just think it would get them six feet under or into a deep dungeon cell, not really worth it if you ask me.

  • greg

    wow this is the most slow motion well-articulated bitch slaps i have ever read. Good one.

  • Ken Gorrell

    Solid post, except for the comment about "anti-immigration conservatives." You might not receive so much negative feedback from those conservatives if you labeled their position - and yours - correctly.

    Polls clearly show that mainstream conservatives (people like me) favor enforcing our immigration laws and treating our borders like the dividing lines between sovereign states that they are. That's not an anti-immigration position; it's a pro-law position. Having read your blog for quite a while, I believe you know the difference and choose to misrepresent the opposition.

    I am an anti-illegal immigrant conservative. I know many conservatives who hold the same view, and none who are "anti-immigrant." We favor increasing immigration quotas and streamlining the process for foreigners with desirable skills who want to become fully-participating American citizens. We also favor enforcing our existing laws and our borders.

    There is a big difference between mainstream conservative reality and your portrayal of the "conservative" position on immigration. I wish you would acknowledge that fact.

  • Dr. T

    "... he is doing a severe disservice to the science he is supposedly defending."

    There's a mistake in that phrase. It should be "...disservice to the pseudoscience..." Almost none of the AGW climatologists have performed like real scientists.

  • Gil

    Indeed dovh49 people have a right to defend their properties against invaders.

  • Dave in Oz

    Warren, Clive Hamilton is well known in Australian sceptic circles as a thin skinned alarmist groupie. His occupation is a professor of public ethics and he is, self described, a public intellectual. Basically any leftish policy prescription receives two thumbs up from him. Conversely any alternative is considered to come from the "far right" or "Big [insert bogey man here] or "well funded lobbyists".

    There are no neutrals in his war on the capitalist system.

    He's pretty much a joke but the MSM, particularly the government broadcaster ABC, love having him on the tube or the radio.

    A prime example of one of his hissy fits is this "resignation" from contributing to a website. You'll note that towards the end this conspiritorial gem pops up:

    What readers were not told is that Harris is a paid lobbyist for energy companies, that he has tried to change his Wikipedia entry to conceal the fact that he is or has been employed by the PR company High Park Group, and that at least one other website has pulled his articles because he is a paid political lobbyist. [Editor's note. Harris contacted us complaining about this paragraph. Our investigations indicate that there is no evidence he has ever been employed as a lobbyist, but that High Park Group does act as a lobbyist from time to time. The claim about a website pulling his articles is false. This blog post explains in more detail.]

    Please enjoy it in all its glory.

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=7580

    (long time reader, first time commentor. thanks for providing a very interesting blog, I find the posts on your business most enjoyable)

  • Bearster

    Good article. But I have one quibble.

    I do not think that personal attacks or threats of violence have a place in politics any more than in science. Our culture is rotting, and this is but one of the signs...

  • Gil

    Who says Bearster? Would you like America still being a colony of the British Empire?

  • Max

    Conservatives?! Really?! I mean the modern conservative is the Green one. They want to "conserve" the status quo of the Earth (might it be in 1992 or now) and thus want to punish everyone else. Actually, Greens and Republicans should go along quite well, because their solutions to perceived problems are very similar.

    The anti-immigration Republican doesn't want the countries ethnicity distribution to change and thus wants to barr people from entering the US.
    The Greens want the to be as it is right now and thus want to prevent people from emitting all kind of gases or performing all kind of "destructive" as they call it, jobs.

    It always baffles me how close their ideologies are on a basic level and yet they don't see it. On the other hand, perhaps they see it quite well and yet choose to ignore it and get vile and retributive as a consequence. A bit like Stalin and Hitler, they both had ideas along the same lines and yet they hated each other, though that would be the most crass example (and being wrong on some level of course)...

  • GoneWithTheWind

    How can you tell when the left is losing the arguement? They call you a racist, homophobe, accuse you of hate speech, change the subject, deny it is all about money, etc. How can you tell when the left is winning the arguement? They have their hand in your pocket.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    > Welcome to the political arena. Alarmist climate scientists expressly went political a number of years ago. I could put up pages of quotes from climate alarmists like James Hansen urging their brethren that doing scientific research was not enough, that they had to get out there and openly advocate, be a part of the political process. And politics is messy, especially when you are advocating what is in effect the most expensive single government program every proposed. You can’t be political when you are on the attack, and then claim you are a scientist immune from political debate when there is a response.

    Warren, it's not even that -- go look for it:

    There are plenty who claim that opposition to AGW is a criminal offense, and that those who oppose it should be locked up and/or had violence done to them!

    To attempt to claim the proponents of AGW are the victims of substantial threatened violence isn't even "the pot calling the kettle black" -- it's the pot calling the sheet black!

    The mind just boggles at the total and utter lack of factual connection going on here. It's not just simple cognitive disfunction, it's bordering on actual schizophrenia!

  • Ron Hart

    You are wrong on this one. I spend a lot of time visiting websites on the issue and I have the impression that sceptic commenters are much more gentlemanly than the warmists.
    The warmists have no problem in wishing all sorts of unpleasant fates for "deniers" and in denigrating their intelligence, motives, or qualifications. This despite the fact that their chief spokesperson is a failed divinity student who stands to profit greatly from green initiatives.
    Proponents of AGW are also fond of wanting to censor or imprison those who disagree with them. They not only do this in commentary but also in testimony before congress.

  • mahtso

    “How can you tell when the left is losing the [argument]? They call you a racist…”
    Funny, that’s what the blogger does with regard to illegal immigration foes.

    News flash: at national restaurant chain Sheriff’s office arrests 23 suspected of using stolen ids. Sheriff “Arpaio said he believes that to gain employment, more than 120 Pei Wei employees used false identities from around the nation, with some identities belonging to children and some to dead people.”

    Question – do you think these people are in the US legally?

  • tehag

    “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.”

    Why? This is absolutely correct: Ayers, Wright, Obama, Holder, SPLC, TSA, ACLU, etc. their hatred, bigotry, angry is appalling and the source of all evil.

  • dr kill

    Eagerly awaiting your post on the beanbag-AK battle sponsored by BATFE and won by your undocumented Democrats, Warren.