The Heartland Institute has aroused much controversy with its recent anti-global-warming billboards, such as this one:
Here is their announcement concerning these billboards, and the fact that they have now taken them down.
Many climate skeptics are most unhappy. Ross McKitrick, for instance, is “absolutely dismayed”:
I am absolutely dismayed. This kind of fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory rhetoric does nothing to enhance your reputation, hands your opponents a huge stick to beat you with, and sullies the reputation of the speakers you had recruited. Any public sympathy you had built up as a result of the Gleick fiasco will be lost–and more besides–as a result of such a campaign. I urge you to withdraw it at once.
Strike the tone in your advertisements that you want people to use when talking about you. The fact that you need a lengthy webpage to explain the thinking behind the billboards proves that your messaging failed. Nobody is going to read your explanation anyway. All they will take away is the message on the signs themselves, and it’s a truly objectionable message.
You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers. Once you have done such a thing you have lost the moral high ground and you can never again object if someone uses that kind of rhetoric on you.
I’d be very interested to hear what others here – fellow posters, regular commenters and for that matter irregular commenters – think about this. Is this an own goal, as we say in soccer-playing England, or has the Heartland Institute actually accomplished something valuable and important with this operation?
Me, I am genuinely unsure, but at present think that this operation may actually play out rather well.
For instance, I would never tangle with McKitrick over things like bristle cones, but is he right to say that the big advert above is “fallacious”? Surely not. “Believing in Global Warming” is a muddled phrase. ( I have long preferred C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming).) But it just about serves.
My over-all hunch as of now is that these billboards seem outrageous but actually, they are not. They seem down and dirty. Because they pull no intellectual punches, they seem like some of the more disgusting statements perpetrated by CAGW-ers against their skeptic enemies. But, they make various points which are true, and very important, and they tell no lies.
The big point they make, I think, is that all this talk about cute polar bears and melting ice caps and so on, quite aside from usually being mistaken, is not nearly as nice as it seems. It is a part of a huge argument, and not a nice argument at all, which says that modern industrial civilisation is evil and should be trashed, and the human species savagely culled to the tune of millions, sometimes billions. Or: not.
Most of the people who fret about polar bears have no serious designs on western industrial civilisation, nor do they have fantasies of mass genocide. However, all those who do now want industrial civilisation trashed and humanity culled, and a global despotism of people like themselves superimposed upon the ruins, use CAGW as either an excuse or a reason for their nightmare projects. The psycho-politicians who launched the various global institutions which funded the “science”, and the mass propaganda, behind the CAGW scare had exactly these murderously destructive ends in mind. (For a brief summary of this story, I suggest, once against, the excellent Watermelons.)
One of the few Big Points about which I entirely agree with the more fanatical CAGW fanatics is that this is indeed a very important argument. However, I think it very important that my side should win and that theirs should lose.
The CAGW scare is indeed not a small spat about polar bears. It is a very big confrontation, right up there with such things as Civilisation versus Communism. Indeed, again as these posters indicate, the CAGW scare is in many, many ways, Communism 2 (and to a somewhat lesser degree also Nazism 2).
This is why, exactly as these posters highlight, a succession of history’s recent villains, great and small, have aligned themselves with the CAGW scare, and have in some cases been strongly influenced by it.
I presume many on the CAGW side are now also getting very angry about these billboards. But again, this was one of their purposes. You shouldn’t be this horrid, eh? Well no, maybe you shouldn’t. Comparison is invited, between these insultingly true billboards and the insultingly false abuse that has been hurled over the years at people who have opposed the whole CAGW scare, people like Ross McKitrick for instance. Far from lowering the tone of the CAGW debate, I suspect that these billboards may well end up raising it.
I always have my doubts about that “moral high ground”. Yes, it’s good to have it, but not if you leave all the other ground in the possession of the enemy.
Also, I think that a great many people will read that Heartland webpage.
I may, after I have studied that webpage and further reactions to it some more, change my mind about all this. But I thought it worth posting my half-formed thinking-aloud thoughts nevertheless, and also hearing anything others have to say here in response.