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About those Heartland Institute billboards

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.

67 comments to About those Heartland Institute billboards

  • Gib

    The billboards are ridiculous and insulting to anyone who knows what a logical fallacy is.

    Truth is, that right or wrong, most people believe in global warming. It draws attention to that too, and backfires in that regard also, in my opinion.

  • Frank S

    Gib, there’s ‘global warming’, referring to the quite modest rise in estimated global mean temperature of the order of 1C since c. 1850. That’s open to some discussion on data quality grounds, but is otherwise dull and uncontroversial. Then there’s ‘Global Warming’ used to denote disastrous interference in the climate by humans doing things which release CO2. That’s the meaning in the billboard, and it was apparently a concern of the Unascumbag who had a well-thumbed copy of one of the core alarmist creeds about it by Gore. Now that is controversial, and far from dull. There’s a paucity of evidence for it, a lot of computer outputs for it, and a lot of people who see it as a marvellous lever to attain their ends, which include making a fortune in carbon trading, harvesting renewables subsidies, raising donations for charities, and destroying the capitalist system.

    Which is the one you believe in?

  • Alsadius

    You do not convince people that they’re wrong by saying “You’re thinking like a terrorist!”. It’s not a PR campaign, it’s a stick-in-the-eye campaign, and it will never do anything more worthwhile than giving some imbecile at Heartland a chubby. Stupid bastards.

  • Eric Tavenner

    This is exactly the thinking that has had us loosing ground for decades. We need to stop this gentlemanly, soft spoken manner of fighting and use the successful tactics of our enemies against them. They use those tactics because they can think of no counter for then. These billboards are a step in the right direction.

  • Frederick Davies

    Truth is, that right or wrong, most people believe in global warming.

    Do they really (Link)? It may not be a representative sample, but I think you are overstating the gullibility of the average person.


  • Runcie Balspune

    Compare and contrast against the 10:10 video showing “denier” heads exploding.

    Definitely an own goal, but this will get a lot more mileage.

  • Edward Smith

    Heartland Foundation? Aren’t they tied to the John Derbyshire professional suicide controversy? And to the expulsion of someone more tangentially tied to the NRO site?

    They seem as silly and simultaneously nasty as the OWS crowd.


  • Logically the billboards are fallacious and insulting. Rhetorically they are very effective indeed. Humans respond with reliable predictability to such emotive stimulus. The debate is reframed from ‘is this argument correct’ to ‘is this an appropriate way to advertise.’ the assumption that there is another way to advertise is implicit

  • I am with Eric Tavenner on this. I think this sort of shock tactic is exactly what is needed and pricking the bubble of warmists respectability by showing who else thinks what they think is just fine.

    It is a dirty unfair trick, no doubt about it… and I am all for dirty unfair tricks, particularly when those buggers have been using similar dirty tricks on us for years very effectively.

  • Alisa

    I sure do not think that this tactic is immoral, but I am not at all sure that it is effective, or even not self-defeating. The key question in my mind is: are most people aware of the fact that The Unabomber is in fact a CAGWist, and how much of a CAGWist he actually is?

  • Runcie Balspune

    particularly when those buggers have been using similar dirty tricks on us for years very effectively.

    Agreed, The casual term “denier” has the obvious fascist undertone, but nary an outcry is made of those using it.

  • Gib


    Personally I’m undecided on the causes of global warming, due mainly to lack of me doing much research into it.

    The billboard didn’t help make me any more on Heartland’s side though.

  • andyinsdca

    Some positions are untenable, if only because their supporters are so repugnant.

    This is one of those times.


  • llamas

    Oh, this is ‘inflammatory’, but a series of TV spots that show those who have doubts about AGW being blown up and splattered over bystanders (“No Pressure’) – that’s just fine?

    I get it.

    This is ‘juvenile’, but suggestions that those who question AGW are ‘criminals against humanity’ who need to be ‘hunted down and killed’ – that’s just civilized discourse?

    I understand perfectly.

    Professor McKitrick, for all his sterling qualities, persists in seeing this as a leisurely academic process, whereby the truth shall be eventually discovered and accepted. But those on the other side of this argument have played by street-fighter’s rules for 20 years, and for 20 years they’ve had all the running in the debate. Time they take a few doses of their own medicine.

    Like all complex debates, this one has a range of exchanges, from the purely-logical to the radically-rhetorical. Finally, the doubters get down-and-dirty at the purely-rhetorical end of the spectrum. Good for Heartland.



  • Edward Smith

    Is it not possible that the global economic crisis will help put pay the Global Warming “Fire” Shouters? It is hard to do “Something” when there’s Little or Nothing left to pay for it.

    If I recall correctly, Congress voted down the Carbon Emissions Exchange Market, and one President can end another’s Executive Order.

    It’s not that I am not worried, it is more that I am not certain anyone has really won just yet, or really will.

    The World Economy may just have the last and lasting vote.

  • Linda Morgan

    It is a dirty unfair trick, no doubt

    So is shooting oneself in the foot to garner attention.

    I am all for dirty unfair tricks

    I don’t mind the ones that effectively advance one’s goals – which, if the goal was to hobble themselves, this may have done.

  • William Newman

    You have a point when you write “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 millions, sometimes billions. Or: not.”

    Unfortunately for the billboard campaign, the crude logical fallacious appeal to emotion “this odious person supports the position [therefore it is wrong]” is not a valid way to make this or any other point. Therefore, while possibly someone at the Heartland Institute had this point in mind, the Heartland Institute has not made this point here, merely beevilclowned itself. So feel free to go ahead and argue this point for its own sake, but you should stop trying to use it to excuse the Heartland ads.

  • Alsadius

    llamas, I don’t think anyone here is defending the exploding-head ad. It was insulting, offensive, and frankly rather scary. But it was also a gigantic own-goal for the CAGW crowd, and I’m not so polite that I feel the need to shoot myself in the foot just because my opponent did.

  • Laird

    It is indeed a “crude logical fallacious appeal to emotion”. But that is also precisely the approach used by the climate alarmists when they trumpet the oh-so-politically-correct opinions of such luminaries as clueless Hollywood celebrities and the ever-execrable Al Gore. That strategy is a bastard child of the “argument from authority” fallacy, rewritten as “argument from celebrity”. Well, sauce for the goose and all that. If anyone is truly moved by an appeal from the likes of Brad Pitt or Alannis Morrisette, he should be equally susceptible to learning that the Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro share the same opinion. It might actually cause a few to stop and think, rather than reflexively accepting the positions of the Beautiful People.

    Illogical? Certainly. But so what? Logic doesn’t sway everybody; raw emotion is an even more potent lever. Ross McKitrick (and many commenters here) may find such an appeal offensive, but not everyone shares their delicate sensibilities. Do you really think that very many fans of professional wrestling or The Jersey Shore are going to look at that billboard and say “Gee, that’s a logical fallacy; they must have no better arguments”?

    The battle must be waged on many fronts, and emotion is one of them. In the long run, while this type of appeal may not sway many people, it likely will at least have some effect on a few, and I seriously doubt that it will change the minds of any already opposed to the idea of GACW. At worst, people will just say “that’s a stupid argument” and move on.

    I have no problem with it.

  • Thanks for all these comments. Much food for thought.

    It occurs to me that one of the acid tests of an own goal, shot in the foot, whatever, is: If you “believe in global warming”, i.e. if you are on the other side of this spat from most of us here, would you draw attention to these adverts, the way the entire anti-CAGW world (including Delingpole in Watermelons (reprise)) gleefully drew attention to that exploding kids video?

    I rather suspect not. Any comments on that?

  • Laird

    Ooh, smited! With luck my missive won’t linger in smitebot purgatory for too long.

    Oh foul descent! That I, who erst contended
    With Gods to sit at the highest, am now constrained
    Into a beast, and, mixed with beastial slime,
    This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
    That to the height of deity aspired!

  • Laird – your earlier comment is now unsmited.

    Which I found especially interesting, and actually very logical.

    I think you just explained why (see my comment above) the CAGW-ers won’t spend much time linking to these billboards.

  • David James Roberts

    I have been following the debate on what is now known as Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming since its inception. Two strands have led me to think it is highly improbable.

    Strand one is my interpretation of the scientific information available and strand two is the conduct of the people involved in the debate. I am not a climate scientist, so my interpretation of the science could be mistaken. As a human being I am equipped to judge the moral probity of others. I have serious doubts about many of the leading proponents of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming based on their behaviour. I share Ross McKitrick’s view. To abandon the moral high ground is a fundamental mistake. Ends do not justify means.

  • Single Acts of Tyranny

    “Personally I’m undecided on the causes of global warming”

    But you seem to have made your mind up about the warming itself despite the lack of any?

  • To abandon the moral high ground is a fundamental mistake.

    Well it is good to have some people fighting to recapture the moral high ground for the people who are actually moral. If you see that as your job, well power to you. Please continue to fight the good fight.

    But that is just one of the battles. The other battle is to fight for public opinion against those who do not give a damn about who is right or wrong because AGW is just a means to altogether different ends. And against those people, you need to fight the way they fight. And this poster does that rather well.

    Ends do not justify means.

    Sometimes they do.

  • Foggytrucker

    When I worked in the Wise Use movement out West in 1995 I was constantly asked to comment on the OK City bombing. As far as I know, McVeigh wasn’t angry because the Forest Service wasn’t granting enough grazing leases. In 1996 it turned out that the Unabomber was a member of the “Blackfoot River Alliance” or some such group. The silence was deafening.

    I don’t know the answer, but I do know that as long as Ted Kennedy can become the “Lion of the Senate” after driving a woman into the Atlantic and leaving her to die, but Speaker Foley is hounded out of Congress because he made crass passes at people of legal age our side is doomed politically

  • YogSothoth

    What Perry said. I don’t some of you understand average people very well. Did you know that 1/5 of American adults agreed with the following statement:

    Winning the lottery represents the most practical way [for me] to accumulate several hundred thousand dollars.

    Note the word practical. This is what 21% of the people think. Chew on that for a minute.

  • Stonyground

    There seems to be some dissonance between those graphs of temperature records that have a wiggly line and a straight line, the trend, line which is always going upwards, and the real life experiences of a gardener like me who is dealing with late frosts in May.

    On balance I would say that this poster is an own goal but maybe time will tell a different story.

  • Andrew Hunt

    This is exactly to sort of thing our side needs to do to win.

    So what if its a logical fallacy or not on the moral high ground. this isn’t a sixth form debating society, its about power.

    Ordinary people haven’t been persuaded by global warming propaganda and already see politicians/politics as something that is done to them, not for them.

    So why not conflate nutters with ideology to deminish it. It works.

    Remember, its not telling ordinary members of the general public that they themselves are terrorists, its telling them that a bunch of politicians are.

  • You’ve got to admire the Heartland’s audacity in doing this even if the choice of content was rather ill-advised.

  • Tedd

    You have to play to your strengths. If reason and logic don’t support your position then purely rhetorical campaigns featuring logical fallacies may be your best bet. If reason and logic do support your position they are not, because they pull the fight out of the domain where you have the advantage.

    What makes that difficult to stick to is that it’s almost certainly true that the majority of the general population is more readily influenced by rhetorical campaigns that feature ad hominem attacks and other logical fallacies. So the temptation is always there for the side supported by reason to leave the high ground and get dragged down to defeat. That’s exactly why dumb so often prevails.

  • Hmm

    The information given by the Heartland boards is truthful… there is a link between the Unabomber and the CAGW crowd… and there are innumerable links between the CAGW crowd and other “nasties”.

    There is no logical fallacy in highlighting such a connection. What you draw from that connection depends on your own ability to parse information.

    Who decides it is not “nice” to highlight the link… As it is the truth, then surely that decision should rest with Heartland and Heartland alone.

    My only problem with the ad is that it needed to be part of a huge concerted linking of CAGW fellow travellers, listing all who support the vast multiple fraud and why they do it. Due to the MSM support of CAGW most people are still unaware of the magnitude of the fraud… or even that there is a fraud.

    We need more than Heartland putting out info. A few blogs on the internet is not enough.

    The best thing about this is that it got MSM publicity!

  • I’ve been 100% on the Heartland Institute’s side when they were slimed by that liar Gleick and his fans in the mainstream media, but I disapprove of the posters for the same sort of reasons as Prof. McKitrick gives.

    And I do, as it happens, still believe in global warming. Just not CAGW to use your useful abbreviation. That’s me insulted, that is.

    It’s not that I have any blanket opposition to hard-hitting or controversy-courting publicity – but it should be defensible in logic. You should be able to stare down the person criticising it, while challenging them to say exactly what is wrong with this message compared to messages they are always putting out. I don’t think I’d be able to hold my interlocutor’s gaze when defending this one.

    Incidentally, are they on show here in the UK? I’ve never seen one. And UK or US, do that many people even know or care who the Unabomber is any more? He was arrested in 1996. I would imagine that for most Americans he has been quite overshadowed by the 9-11 attacks, and for most British people it was a minor foreign news story even at the time.

  • “Incidentally, are they on show here in the UK?”

    Re-reading the link to the HI, I see I missed the part where it said that there was only one poster at one location in the US.

  • David Gillies

    Propaganda is never aimed at true believers on either side. People whose minds are genuinely made up are almost completely unamenable to persuasion by logic or emotion. It’s the waverers in the middle who are the target and, almost by definition, they haven’t given the matter sufficient thought to plump for one side or the other. The sole question in my mind concerning this ad is: will it be effective? It’s obviously logically fallacious (as an ad hominem and association fallacy) But will it work? That is to say, will it move more people into the anti-CAGW camp than out of it? I think, personally, this sort of crude appeal to the emotions of the low-knowledge middle is quite effective. We all know, for example, that attacking vegetarianism by claiming Hitler was a vegetarian is unfair, misleading and irrelevant. It’s also really hard to defend against.

    There’s a second point: that this is really just using the Left’s tactics against it. The supposedly hip and modern Left has been caught utterly flat-footed by how agile the grassroots right wing has been in blunting and negating their forays into Social Media. Witness the Obama Eats Dogs story. That short-circuited the Romney Straps Dogs To Cars attack in a couple of days. It made the enemy reactive, rather than proactive. If the warmists are busy explaining that they’re not like the Unabomber, and why they’re not like the Unabomber, they’re playing the game on our terms.

  • Laird

    Natalie, why should you have any problem at all holding your interlocutor’s gaze in defending this? Was there anything factually untruthful on the billboard or the website? Not that I can see. If anyone should have a problem maintaining eye contact it is the interlocutor himself. How can he reasonably challenge this tactic when it is merely the mirror image of the very one he has been employing for years? If you have trouble holding his gaze it’s only because you’re more squeamish than he is when it comes to appealing to emotion rather than cold logic.

  • I’m with Lubos Motl on this one. You aren’t evil when you fight evil just because you use the same sort of weapons.
    As Jerry Pournelle has said about other things “it’s Warre to the knife, the knife to the hilt”.
    We’re defending the very concept of civilization here folks.
    No mercy, no prisoners.

  • bobby b

    For the record: it appeared on one electronic billboard for a very short time on the freeway by the airport outside of Chicago. One click of a switch and it was gone.

    My first thought was, it must gall the heck out of the Dems – what with their “we’re the thinking community” self-image – to figure out that the message was, please go stand outside with the rest of the stupid Luddites.

    After that, my reaction was mixed. Something like this makes it harder for someone who has naively, passively, unthinkingly been a proponent of the CAGW ideology to change their minds. It cements them more firmly into the “us versus them” mindset. It’s harder to wander over and say “yeah, maybe you were right” to people who have placed you into Ted’s camp.

    But then I consider that such people are maybe just as guilty as anyone, for granting their ignorant, unthinking imprimatur to something this seriously fraudulent and deadly.

    And then I also consider those who don’t have that excuse of naivete’, who have the science background to know better, and who probably have known for some time that their chosen position is defenseless, but who have continued to pursue it anyway for political gain.

    And then the billboard gives me a sort of glee that makes me want to put up that 10-10 movie all over the internet once again and say to those assh_les, f_ck you and the horse you rode in on – we’ve gone well past the point where you can claim a good-faith belief in this rot, and I’ll worry not a bit about hurting the feelings of you, the scum who was willing to cause death and suffering on a magnitude not seen since Stalin died.

    So, I guess I’d leave it up. The science is going to become too clear to ignore very soon, and so antagonizing people isn’t going to delay the onset of the death throes of the Big Lie much at all. Given that this will really have no cost in terms of prolonging the fight, I’d say the chance to show my utter contempt for the dishonest, murderous bastards who have driven this death movement is worth taking.

    In fact, as I think about it, it seems too mild to convey what I want to convey to them.

  • Gib

    “Single Acts of Tyranny”, I think global warming is likely, but less likely that it’s human caused.

    As for the Heartland ad being OK, because the other side did that sort of thing first, well two points:
    1. 99% of the people seeing the add on the highway wouldn’t make that connection.
    2. Do you need to sink to the level of your opponents?
    3. When I see someone using an ad hominem such as this, I always as a first reaction assume it’s because they don’t have any substance to their position. So, to me, it’s a foot-bullet billboard.
    3. On the other hand though, it seems that Heartland didn’t really do the ad for the passers-by. They did it because they knew it would create controversy on the news and internet. And on that point they succeeded.

  • Jay

    It’s a moot point all around in terms of the overall discussion surrounding climate change. Most people will have neither read of nor heard of this tactic taken by Heartland. Similarly if you were to ask ten people on a busy street who Peter Gleick is, I’d wager 9 out of 10 would answer “who?” Beyond pissing off left wing partisans (and mainstream skeptics like Watts, et al) this is little ado about not much. Mainstream society is going to be swayed by evidence and economic realities. The screaming and dire predictions have seen pretty much zero in terms of evidenciary effect and measures to mitigate CO2 production will hit the mainstream directly in their wallets and so popular support remains low. Stuff like Gleickgate and Heartlands bizarre allegory are food for enthusiasts on both sides of the issue but mean little to the general public.

  • Fred Z

    Some people on some days are convinced by calm rational argument.

    On other days they are convinced by invective, insult, goofy photos, annoying commercials, images of naked women or men or even the knowledge that people they hate have some opinion or other.

    I am pleased that the right is finally showing some spine and trying all forms of persuasion.

    Sometimes the late night commercial from the abrasive furniture salesman appears to annoy, but causes the viewer to buy a new sofa a week later.

  • I’d say this is a bit of a dog whistle shot in the foot.
    Those who are used to pointing out logical fallacies on internet forums will spot that it is one straight away.

    Those who haven’t really thought about it probably know nothing about the unabomber except that he was a bomber.

    I haven’t really seen the “Obama friend of bill Ayers ” factoid mentioned at all apart from on sites like this one, for much the same reasons. Either you think it’s important, or you think it’s great but don’t mention it, or you don’t much care and are unlikely to start caring.

  • Tedd


    You aren’t evil when you fight evil just because you use the same sort of weapons.

    I don’t think good and evil is the issue. The issue is: Where is your strategic advantage? If your strategic advantage is that your point of view is supported by facts and reason you should stick to facts and reason, because that’s where your advantage lies.


    There is no logical fallacy in highlighting such a connection.

    Whether the connection is true or not is irrelevent, it’s still an ad hominem argument. If you say that my answer to a math problem is wrong because I’m a neo Nazi, and I am a neo Nazi, does that mean that my answer to the math problem is wrong?

    (Now you’ve got me wondering whether neo Nazis are any good at math.)

  • TDK

    A shot in the foot.

    The only demographic that matters is reaching the undecided and I doubt that this would be net positive.

    According to Watts Up With That 72% of his blog readers thought it wrong. I don’t know what proportion of respondents were believers in CAGW but I would guess a minority and of those, the ones who thought a high approval rating would harm Watts and voted tactically were balanced by those who thought it wrong.

    This means that instead of arguing publicly on the issues, we are arguing about the tactics. That’s always a fail.

    Now let me suggest an alternative that would have played “dirty” but was less prone to disaster. On the left of the billboard, show Think Progress with their Brievik headline. On the right show a montage of all the Unabomber, Osama bin Laden et al. Underneath the slogan: “One consensus that believes in CAGW”

  • Alsadius

    I like Laird’s metric about “Are our enemies using it against us?”. So far as I can see, they are, though I don’t spend much time among the CAGW crowd.

    And re defensibility, it’s not just issues of literal fact you’ve got to defend. The billboards are factual, but also completely irrelevant. This is pure Hitler Ate Sugar! territory. Yeah, one guy took CAGW too far and made some bombs. Why the hell should that reflect badly on the millions of folks who didn’t?

  • Chris Cooper

    Brian, I’ve written the forthcoming ThinkProgress post for which you’ve obligingly provided a template (I’ve made it shorter and made the logic a bit more obvious in places):

    About that ThinkProgress headline: “Norway Terrorist Is a Global Warming Denier”

    Many of our fellow climate alarmists are most unhappy.

    Is this an own goal, as they say in soccer-playing England, or has ThinkProgress actually accomplished something valuable and important with this headline?

    We think that it may actually play out rather well. For instance, is it right to say that the headline above is “fallacious”? Surely not.

    It seems down and dirty. Because it pulls no intellectual punches, it seems like – in fact it really is like – some of the more disgusting statements perpetrated by CAGW-deniers against their alarmist enemies. But it makes various points which are true, and very important, and it tells no lies.

    Of course its implications and presuppositions and rhetorical force are dishonest and insulting and make rational argument impossible, but we achieved that without telling any lies. And that’s OK, because the most important thing is that our side should win and that theirs should lose.

    We presume many CAGW deniers are now also getting very angry about this headline. But this was one of its purposes. We shouldn’t be this horrid, eh? Well no, maybe we shouldn’t. And nor should you. But it’s a bit late now, isn’t it, because we’ve just done our bit to push us all a little deeper into the polemical mire.

    Anyway, who cares? We think that a great many people will read that ThinkProgress webpage.

    The HI billboard sets an example of polemic that could make life very tedious and unpleasant if followed by our opponents. After all, there are plenty of swivel-eyed, tinfoil-hat-wearing screwballs and some outright villains on Our Side. So I hope your half-formed thinking-aloud thoughts will coalesce into a change of mind in favour of honest, reasonable and fair-minded argument.

  • guy herbert

    The appeal to reverse authority is such an obvious, stupid fallacy that the billboard is counterproductive.

    It undermines the credibility of the advertiser: if this is what they think counts as a good point, will I look to see what else they have to say? I think I might be wasting my time.

  • I don’t think you are their target audience, Guy.

  • Hmm

    Tedd, it’s not an “ad hominum” when the connection is plain and truthful. Its only an “ad hominum” when there is no connection. In this case there is a valid connection.

    The highlighting of the connection prompts the reader to query whether the connection has more to it than mere coincidence. Direct comparison provides for a perfectly valid argument. There is no logical fallacy – only cultural mores.

  • ggm

    I think many people here are wrong. We will NEVER beat the AGW fraud by being polite and pointing out “facts” to the AGW fraudsters. These people are nothing more than lying con-artists criminals, and criminals NEVER change their minds when you just point out the error of their ways (as we are trying to do). Criminals only stop when they face jail sentances for their crimes. As such, the only way the AGW hoax will ever be beaten is when we have politicians (real conservatives ones if they ever exist) proposing criminal charges for the MSM and academics who did this. In the mean time, we have to throw everything at these people, no matter how vicious. It`s a fact TedK was a hard core environmentalists, so lets associate them to terrorists. Until we start throwing their own tactics back at them, they will continue using them against us. This is not a polite debate about science, this is a Culture War in which one side is prepared to use all forms of lies, deceipt, propaganda, violence, fraud and any other means necessary, while we think we will win by being polite and proving their science is wrong. That`s like telling a crook who`s about to assult and rob you “please dont, it`s imoral what you are doing”. Yeah, that`s gonna work just as well as our tactics against the MSM and academia have so far. For all our pride in our morals, not one school teaches the truth about AGW, and not one MSM outlet tells the truth about this crime (except FOX)

  • Gib

    Hmm, to me the ad is saying “The unabomber believes in AGW. The unabomber is bad, therefore AGW is false”.

    That is pretty much the definition of an ad-hominum.

    What’s this “connection” that you speak of? It sounds like you got something else out of the ad.

  • Indeed Gib. Rather than making an intellectual argument it is making a rather nasty emotional attack, a bit like throwing a brick at their window rather than debating them… and can’t say I mind frankly.

    That might be because hearing AGW sceptics called climate ‘deniers’ in order to liken them to Nazi holocaust deniers, with very little outrage in the media about that, has left me rather enjoying seeing such nastiness done unto them as it was done unto me. Petty perhaps but I never claimed to be perfect.

  • Steve P

    Disappointing to see so many comments that assume that Heartland developed this campaign in a vaccuum.

    The Heartland Institute’s ad (while deeply stupid and counter-productive) was a response to many stories dating back to July 2011 that Anders Breivik is a “climate denier” (don’t take my word for it, google “breivik climate denier” ~330,000 hits…).

    Considering the Heartland ad without taking into account this backstory is just not paying attention.

  • Robbo

    To me the issue is that Heartland wants to hold scientific conferences to air the weaknesses of IPCC’s facts, logic and conclusions and hold them to account with scientific rigour.

    This is not compatible with the brutal rhetorical takedowns on the billboards.

    So it was bad tactics on their part. Worse than a crime, a mistake.

  • Alisa

    to me the ad is
    saying “The unabomber
    believes in AGW. The
    unabomber is bad,
    therefore AGW is false”.

    What’s this “connection”
    that you speak of?

    The connection is that this belief was what compelled the UB to use violence – just as it compels its many other, “legitimate” believers and proponents. They are members of the same religion as the UB, and they use similar tactics, – granted, milder ones, but on a much, much, much grander scale.

    BTW, the problem with *perceived* logical fallacies is not that they are somehow immoral, but that they can be ineffective – and I’m not so sure that is the case here. Another problem with logical fallacies is that they can backfire – as the alarmist crowd has discovered in this same case.

  • Hmm

    Gib – here’s the quote from Heartland on the connection

    “The most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists,” said Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast. “They are Charles Manson, a mass murderer; Fidel Castro, a tyrant; and Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Global warming alarmists include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).

    Bast added, “The leaders of the global warming movement have one thing in common: They are willing to use force and fraud to advance their fringe theory.” For more about the billboards and why Heartland says people should not still believe in global warming..”

    The quote compares the global warming movement and its methods with it’s fellow global warming travellers.

    If the named terrorists/tyrants had no connection with global warming then it would be an “ad hominem” bet as the said terrorists/tyrants vocally support CAGW – there is every reason to highlight that connection. There is no “ad hominem” in doing so because the connection is verified by they (the terrorists etc) themselves!

  • Laird

    Hmm, “ad hominem” has nothing to do with whether the statement is true or not, but is merely a personal attack upon the charcter of the individual rather than on the merits of his argument. Just because some lunatic believes in AGW does not necessarily imply either that all believers in AGW are lunatics or that AGW itself is lunacy. That’s why it’s an illogical form of argument.

    Which doesn’t mean that I disagree with this ad; lots of people are susceptible to non-logical arguments and emotional appeals, and I say use whatever weapons you have. But recognize if for what it is, and don’t try to characterize it as something it’s not.

  • Hmm

    Laird, “ad hominem” must have definition based in truth (or really: the absence of truth) or every opposing argument becomes defined as a personal attack. When truth is involved the “attack” is made on the “theme” not merely on the personal.

    The idea of every opposing argument being a personal attack is part of the leftist dogma – thereby creating an anti-think protection. Leftists don’t need to think about any opposing argument because it all, every single time, falls under their false “ad hominem” definition that exists in their mindset.

    That is why any and all true definitions must be distinguished from the bullshit definitions that leftism expounds.

    Ridicule, irony, sarcasm, are all good tools – provided they use truth. We should always use them to expose the truth – and we should be unafraid to use them to attack themes that are based on lies and distortion.

  • Gib

    Thanks Hmm, I didn’t realise the Unabomber stated his global warming belief as motives for his behaviour.

    But, it’s still an ad-hominem.

    The “leaders” and prominant people with regards to global warming may be douches. But what I care about is what the scientists who work in the field have to say.

  • Laird

    Sorry, Hmm, while I agree with your last paragraph the rest is simply wrong.

    It is certainly possible that a “leftist” (or anyone) might wrongly characterize a refutation of his argument as being ad hominem when it is not, but that doesn’t excuse claiming that a clearly ad hominem attack on someone sharing his views is anything but what it is. Read the definition of the word, don’t make up your own.

    Gib, the Unabomber did not espouse global warming beliefs as justification for his behavior. He was rabidly anti-technology, and to a certain extent that includes a measure of environmentalism. But AGW as a theory barely existed at the time of his arrest (1996), and it certainly is not mentioned in his Manifesto (which, incidentally, makes for interesting reading). So I presume that his conversion to that faith is of relatively recent vintage.

  • Hmm

    Laird, from the link you gave:

    “Ad hominem arguments work via the halo effect, a human cognitive bias in which the perception of one trait is influenced by the perception of an unrelated trait, “

    – that is not what is going on in this case, because the truth of the connection is easily provable.

    Even wikipedia notes the exclusion of logic and appeal to emotion in an ad hominem argument.

    But this case the link was truthful and therefore logical.

  • Tedd

    In Hmm’s defense, I think where he or she has gone wrong is in confusing logical arguments with empirical arguments. If, for example, you can show empirically that almost all neo-Nazis almost always get math problems wrong, and if you can show empirically that I am almost certainly a neo-Nazi, then you have a strong empirical argument that my answer to a math question is wrong. In the absence of the actual answer to compare it to, that might be the best you can do.

    Unfortunately, for Hmm, there’s no empirical argument here at all. It’s textbook ad hominem.

  • Hmm

    Sorry Tedd, My defense is simple truth – in that I think there is a long standing, leftist generated, deliberate misunderstanding on the idea of what constitutes ‘ad hominem’ … I believe the idea of ‘ad hominem’ has been fudged to accommodate any argument where the “victim” feels they are under ‘attack’, regardless of whether the argument is addressed or not.

    That is not what I was taught ‘ad hominem’ means: Attacking the person directly instead of attacking their argument.

    As the argument is being indirectly dealt with – via regard to the linkage of usage -although emotion is invoked it is done within reason, and reason has not been disregarded. Quite the opposite; reason has been invoked with regard to a specific list of self associated CAGW promoters.

    So being the obstinate male (and lover of truth and beauty) that I am – I have no trouble disagreeing and arguing for what I understand to be the truth 🙂

    I am open to being proved wrong – as I love to learn – but I believe that I am only wrong by ‘ad hominem’ being habitually redefinedn through habitual bad use.

  • Laird

    It’s not “habitual bad use”, it’s the proper definition. Ad hominem is an attack on the person rather than the argument. Simple and straightforward. And asserting (whether true or not) that some nutjob agrees with a proposition says absolutely nothing about merits of that proposition, and is pure ad hominem. There’s nothing complicated about it.

  • Hmm

    Laird, right – it is not complicated – I wholly agree- the simplest description of ad hominem is: “an attack on the person rather than the argument”.

    That is precisely why this is not a case of “ad hominem”.

    Highlighting the various political actors promoting CAGW is an attack on the argument… precisely because it shows the nature of the argument in its use in the political sphere.

    Showing the arguments usage is a perfectly valid attack on the argument.

    If I call someone an idiot for their argument it is a personal attack… Instead if I highlight how other idiots use their argument it is an attack on the argument.

    If they feel victimised by the connection – that’s due to their bad thinking… we should not join them in it, unless it is to show them the mistake they are making in personalising the argument.

  • Gib

    So, it seems the question of whether it’s ad hominem is dependant on what the “argument” is that we’re assuming the ad is trying to make.

    The text on the ad says: “I still believe in global warming. Do You?”

    The argument therefore seems to be that you shouldn’t believe in global warming, because the unabomber does.

    If it was widely accepted that global warming belief should be based on the rhetoric from politicians, crazy people, and others who can get on the news, then I agree, it’s not ad hominem.

    But, if belief in global warming should be a matter of scientific inquiry, then the billboard is an ad hominem.

    And, I’m in the camp of “I don’t give a shit what you say unless you’re talking about the evidence in an honest way.” (That wasn’t meant to rhyme..)

  • Alisa

    I think it’s ad hominem, and I don’t have a problem with that – like I said earlier: logical fallacies are not morally problematic when used as a rhetorical device. The only question is are they effective. My answer is ‘some times they are, and some times they are not’ – I’m still not sure which is the case with that ad.

    BTW, in order for that ad not to be ad hominem, it would have to say: ‘I still support coercive action to combat global warming – do you?’