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Why AGW advocates should hope that Peter Gleick did fake that memo.

I may be obsessed with this but the world is not. If I knew how to do one of those word cloud things for UK headlines over the past week or so, I think it would look like this:

Syria Ryan Giggs Euro Horsegate Olympic tube strike PC Rathband climate scientist controversy Leveson

Although in truth the font for “climate scientist controversy” would be too small to see. Partisans on both sides make the distinction I referred to earlier between lies about the way world is and lies as a ruse of war, so to us it matters whether the disputed document is proved to be fake or not, but all most people will remember in six months’ time is that there was some scandal or another. If they remember that much.

That said, whichever narrative wins among those who are interested does filter through to the general public eventually, if only as a vague preconception as to whether a controversy about a climate scientist will feature the scientist as villain or hero. I do not want either result but so it goes. Most human beings choose to be rationally ignorant about matters that do not immediately affect them.

So, on the understanding that whichever narrative wins among the partisans will be simplified almost to nothing, and that most people are not indifferent to truth, which narrative should those sincerely convinced that anthropogenic global warming is a threat want to be true?

So far, this has been decided solely on the basis of team loyalty. I am sure examples of blind loyalty can be seen on both sides but in this post I only wish to look at it from the side of those who believe in a serious danger from AGW. The lengths to which a wish to defend Gleick have been taken by some are illustrated by a post by Dr Greg Laden, who posts at a site called scienceblogs.com and clearly values his identity as a science blogger and all round rational person. He first put forward a fiendish and elaborate conspiracy theory and then pulled back and claimed it was all a joke when he saw some members of his own side were taking it seriously. Aside from the sheer lameness of his passive-aggressive “can’t you guys take a joke” coda, there is an unintentional parallel here to the way that Gleick, by his continued silence, leaves his own side to overreach in their efforts to defend him.

If Gleick is telling the truth, I don’t think it is good for their side at all.

There are two main scenarios.

Scenario (1) This is a glimpse into the way the happy world of climate science works all the time. First someone sends an anonymous and vague document to Gleick. Whether it is sting or genuine leak does not matter to this argument. An outsider might think a person sending anonymous tittle-tattle to the Chair of a Task Force on Scientific Ethics would be on a hiding to nothing, but X knows better. That correct expectation tells us something bad about the general culture. Then, we are told, Gleick’s idea of what constitutes a good means of verifying the document is to set up a fake email address and impersonate someone. Then in his turn he sends it out anonymously, lying to his own side in the process by representing himself as “Heartland Insider”. [Added later, prompted by this comment from "Fluffy": he also by his own account lied to his own side by mixing up the anonymous tittle tattle with real, if stolen, documents and presenting them as of equal status.]

He does all this under no particular pressure. It just seems like a good idea. That tells us something yet worse about the culture. And Heartland? Who cares? The harm done to the belief in climate science is not undone by harm also being done to some advocacy group.

Scenario (2) One man, seething with wounded pride, goes off the rails in an effort to get personal vengeance. Peter Gleick goes phishing to get dirt on his enemies, and when the dirt he gets isn’t dirty enough he makes some more up. His actions from then on are the same as in the first scenario but the fact that they are done under strong emotion makes it a personal tragedy rather than a reflection on the general standard of ethics in climate science. Embarrassing, but containable.

18 comments to Why AGW advocates should hope that Peter Gleick did fake that memo.

  • Dom

    I don’t think you’re obsessed, Natalie. Or no more than I am. If you’re the only one doing this, then keep doing it.

  • Dom

    BTW, have you noticed how often we are being told that the forged document contains nothing that is not found in the original documents? That simply isn’t true. The OD state that the Koch Brothers donated 25K to the HealthCare Newsletter. The FD states that they gave 200K to climate denialism.

  • Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do word clouds. I for one hate them.

  • Mark Green

    I don’t think you’re obsessed but I’m starting to believe that you, me, and every other AGW skeptic or agnostic need to start shutting up, start sitting back and start letting the dam burst of it’s own accord.

    We’ve done enough. AGW is utterly discredited in every sphere except the state-sponsored scientific and envronmental spheres, and tey’re being starved of funds as a result of this ridiculous last ditch effort to keep the proxy money economy afloat. It’s time to step back and let the facts win the argument.

  • JDN

    I’ve found this event to be very revealing. Presented with clear evidence of fraud and forgery, there are still those who rush to defend the indefensible, and as Dom says perpetuate easily provable lies, with the purpose I’d assume of minimizing damage to the cause. It makes it that much easier to know just who can never again be trusted to be ethical or honest.

    That so many people simply refuse to call a lie a lie, and denounce it as such, is indeed something bad about the general culture. Sure, the general culture will contain various shades of gray when it comes to good vs bad, but when it comes to the AGW issue, the gray area has just shrunk somewhat.

  • Ed Snack

    There’s certainly been a lot of “piling on”, but it seems necessary to keep this in the public eye as best can be.

    In the end Peter Gleick will not be prosecuted, the FBI won’t touch it, and neither will the public prosecutor in California, and I doubt that heartland has the money to sue for libel given the weight of money behind Gleick. This by the way is regardless of the strength of the case against Gleick; inn terms of wire fraud the case is all but ironclad, he’s even confessed to exactly that, but prosecuting is almost at the whim of the politicians in a case like this. So Gleick walks, and that’s no doubt why he’s gone quiet for now.

  • Hmm

    Scenario (3): Gleick having discarded his ethics many years ago to become an active groupleader in the watermelondream-scenio in which he could make massive gain for minimum outlay, and at the same stride the scientific world like a verdant colossus, enviro-hero to the plebs… decided to do something desperate to stop his dreamworld disappearing. The rest of the scientific greencommissary and their associates of the FUweknowbest-media who have also clambered onboard for their own self interested reasons are now loathe to admit they were wrong and are desperately trying to spin away from reality at any cost.

  • There are levels to this particular fraud case. There’s the actors involved and their actions; there is the larger AGW context which is motivating the actors to act, and there is the perception at large about the context itself, and how this case folds into all that.

    I am enjoying watching Natalie pound the issue until the rubble bounces, but the public doesnt yet see individual rubble bounce through the media fog of war surrounding it all. I suspect that you’ll have to sifting through talcum powder before the perception we have is shared by the masses, Natalie.

  • Ed Snack

    Another interesting point this Gleick incident highlights: that the CAGW crowd are obsessed with finding out who leads the shadowy conspiracy that is undermining all their efforts.

    I mean, when you look at the funding imbalance, if Heartland is a core part and it has $4.4M last year in TOTAL funds (and only a part for Climate Change), and the Climate Coalition was given a further $100M this year and their only a small part…the imbalance is something like 1000:1 against the skeptics. So why are they so effective ?

    Thinking as a CAGW advocate, the answer must be that there really is a lot more money sloshing around in secret, and the only possible source must be those awful oil industry corporations like Exxon plus general evil doers like the Koch’s. So although heartland is rtelatively small, evidence must exist that they are part of this grand conspiracy, and hence Gleicks “heroic” sortie to try to trace this avalanche of secret money.

    Perhaps the best way to fight this is to make tin-foil hats available at a special discount to “the faithful” who adhere to the “cause” ?

  • Alisa

    Ed nailed it.

  • Hmm

    Just a thought… but are we presuming too much in continuing to think Glieck acted alone? Is there a possibility he may have been under “orders” and admitted responsibility because he was told to?

  • Alsadius

    Hmm: I see no reason to assume that. This seems like something he was quite capable of doing solo, and given that it was sufficiently obvious that everyone knew who wrote it days before he came forward, it seems likely to have been done solo. A group that put him up to disgracing himself seems about as likely as this being a Heartland sting operation.

  • Hmm

    Alsadius, I agree it is quite possible that Gleick acted alone, and yet he wasn’t working in a vacuum. He is very much a high status worker drone of the operating body that keeps the AGW ball rolling. He gets all manner of political, academic and industrial/monetary gain from the AGW fraud: Those who gift him this gain do not do so without expecting results. I haven’t seen anyone look into who exactly pulls who’s strings yet. Even if no direct instructions were given to Gleick to do exactly what he did, he was almost certainly getting pressured to do something to neutralise all skeptical argument. The backers, and enablers of Gleick continue to be overlooked: The scientists involved in the AGW fraud are only the device used to make the fraud a saleable entity… they are not the real movers or shakers.

  • Bill

    I very much doubt he followed orders from some Big Brother or other. The warmists are not that much of a conspiracy either. Most likely he did it all freelance and has his mouth shut now for legal reasons.

    I dont think it means anything to the average punter, and unlikely it ever will. But it will contribute to the growing smell, and resentment in scientific circles, about what these people are doing for science’s reputation. Unalligned scientists dont like conmen and frauds.

  • Hmm

    Bill, the idea of “A Big Brother Conspiracy” is one that is easily pooh-poohed – because who other than a ‘conspiracy-nut’ is going to believe that there is some “Mr Big” (Greenfinger?) pulling everyone’s strings.

    However, when it comes to AGW it is already plain that there are multiple groups conspiring in a kind of circle jerk to keep their own agenda’s running at all costs.

    (1) There are the various “Green” environmental groups all conspiring to get stop the hated oil/coal/gas/mining/production industries and free the earth of the plague that is man. Groups like Greenpeace and WWF are multi-Billion dollar concerns and love throwing their weight about. AGW is now their main moneyspinner and route to hands on power via lobbying/eduation etc.

    (2) There are the Oil/Gas/Energy production industries inc OPEC from around the world that conspire to use the AGW agenda to further their own markets at the expense of their competitors: Again bringing multi-billion dollar concerns to the circlejerk.

    (3) There is the UN that created AGENDA 21 etc, and runs the IPCC that has very specific agendas that it uses to pull strings, and variously conspires to redistribute wealth from 1st world countries and create a global government.

    (4) There is the EU, which loves itself some AGW and happily beggars itself in pursuit of same.

    (5) There is the US Goverment, which also loves itself some AGW and currently runs a DOJ and EPA that are apparently above any law if you are in the right circles.
    For who the belief in AGW is a priority, because it allows for new control laws.

    I could go on and on… there are so many many individuals, groups, corporations, governments, international bodies who have a finger the pie that the idea of a single Big Brother controller is ludicrous.

    The conspiracies are multifarious. They help and hinder each other all the time, but they do in their own ways conspire to defraud the general public for whatever reason happens to fit their niche.

    Gleick is a small cog. He didn’t act alone in creating his normal AGW work. He himself claimed that it was pressure that caused him to do what he did. Why do we willingly assume that the pressure was self induced when there are so many larger players on the field?

    It is a question that could be useful to unravel many threads, yet is avoided because people don’t want to appear to be tin-foil hatted, which in such a conflagrancy of conspiracies is kind of ironic.

  • Joseph Bast

    Natalie’s first scenario is likely the right one. Watch for some major news about all this on Friday. The damage being done to the reputations of the many scientists with whom Heartland works cannot be undone. Heartland might be a David compared to Gleick’s Goliaths, but we plan to pursue all legal remedies. We owe it to the skeptics we work with, and we owe it to history. I hope you visit http://www.fakegate.org for the latest news.

  • AMac

    > [Greg Laden at scienceblogs.com] first put forward a fiendish and elaborate conspiracy theory and then pulled back and claimed it was all a joke when he saw some members of his own side were taking it seriously.

    This is not my impression.

    At the time, Laden’s five-paragraph post attracted attention as a reputable blogger’s serious claim, hailing recent work by Sean Otto. That blogger had just described his discovery that textual analysis vindicated Dr Gleick from the charge that he had authored the fake memo.

    Commenters pro and con discussed Laden’s post in this way, joined in the comments by Laden himself.

    A day later, Laden stealth-appended a sixth paragraph, stating that the post ” is a conspiracy theory, produced for your amusement and, admittedly, as troll bait.”

    A likely explanation is that the passage of time gave Laden the chance to realize that the text-evaluation method he had been trumpeting was a dead end. The good arguments in the thread were added by Gleick-wrote-it commenters.

    To new readers, Laden seems like a clever fellow, and many of his good-faith commenters look like dolts who can’t read for meaning, or can’t recognize a joke.

    In my view, sneakily rewriting text to change the meaning of a post is poor practice.

  • Joseph Bast, welcome. I must admit that my first thought on seeing your name was, “Is this the real Joseph Bast?” – but I am sure you of all people will forgive me for that, given your recent experience.

    I shall certainly be looking with interest at the fakegate.org site today, but I will be amazed if my first scenario does turn out to be true. I suspect that you read my post too hastily!

    AMac, welcome also. You were correct to say that “The good arguments in the thread were added by Gleick-wrote-it commenters”, and your own arguments were among the most logical. Before you commented here I had already noted your name below several good arguments at that blog and elsewhere. Throughout this thread from “James’ Empty Blog”, for instance.

    To the general reader: the exact link above takes you to a comment by James Annan, the blog author, that is another example to go alongside John Callender of a blogger who believes in a strong threat from global warming who nonetheless thinks that Gleick did write the memo. He writes, ” It’s the equivalent of someone being found holding a knife, spattered with blood and standing over a fresh corpse saying “someone else did it, then gave me the knife and ran away”. I wouldn’t be surprised if such an event has indeed occurred at least once in the past, but on any given occasion it’s a lot more than just “likely” that the knife-holder did it.”

    Read the whole thread for a lively and intelligent debate in which not all the good arguments are on the Gleick-wrote-it side. Just most of them.

    As for Greg Laden, my head is still spinning from all the guessing as to Dr Gleick’s motives that I have been filling it with recently, so I won’t speculate as to his motives as well. But, yes, his attitude of “Am I being ironic?”, playing games as to whether he means it or not, is poor form for a blogger, particularly a science blogger, particularly a science blogger writing about an issue relating to loss of public trust in science.