Trolls, drawing and quartering, and other vexatious characters

A bit of a roundup of interesting posts of late:

An interesting post over at Rabett Run — one of my favorite parts of the climate briar patch — reposting Jorg Zimmerman’s post on the nature of trolls, and in particular “concern trolls”.

Here is an excerpt:

In internet jargon, there is the English term “concern troll”. A troll is someone who disrupts discussions by provoking others. Through excessive, improper, aggressive or irrational behavior, the troll attempts to drive the discussion off the rails and cast doubt on accepted ideas. The “concern troll,” which I occasionally translate as Betroffenheitstroll, is a special variant. He acts as if he accepts the group consensus but places it indirectly in doubt by pretending to find problems in what he claims to be his own position, creating reasons why one should worry that the consensus is false. In truth, the concern troll does not agree with the consensus, but he tries to hide that.

Zimmerman clearly labels Steve McIntyre as a Concern Troll:

There are several varieties of internet “concern trolls” as in any public debate. It can be scientists who ostensibly want to promote scientific inquiry by questioning existing results. If, however, all they do is ask questions without ever producing any results, leaving only unfinished projects, one is probably watching a “concern troll” at work, one whose only concerned is insuring that no conclusion is ever reached. McIntyre and his blog Climate Audit are fine examples of this, where as self-appointed “Auditor”, he only seeks to discover errors in climate research. Naturally, in almost all cases he only finds fault in the IPCC and research that points to global warming being due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. And, of course, all the faults he finds are ultimately rebuttable or details which have no effect on the results. His discovery, together with McKitrick, of errors in the temperature reconstructions of Mann et al 1998, for example did not change the so-called hockey stick shape of the global temperature curve for the last 1000 or 2000 years, as has been confirmed by all subsequent research. Further, an error in the United States temperature records reconstructed by NOAA and GISS, were totally irrelevant to the global temperature curve and did not alter the relative order of years for U.S. mean annual temperature. While McIntrye and his blog have produced a big zero of meaningful results his annoying and persistent requests for information have cost those he pursues considerable time. No wonder that some of the targeted, such as the Climate Research Unit, regarded the requests for information as a sabotage attempt and talked about how they could defend themselves against McIntyre and others of his ilk who are using requests for information as ammunition for further attacks.

This post, which is very enlightening, got me to thinking about how to classify various people involved in this debate.

Which leads me to another topic du jour — a lot of commentary around the blogosphere about CA, Steve McIntyre and the denialosphere.

Rabett Run: Steve Had A Little List:

A list of the FOI requests received by the University of East Anglia about the CRU has been posted. Most of the Climate Audit fishing expedition were turned down, but there is one priceless one FOI 09-97 for which additional information was sought

I hereby make a EIR/FOI request in respect to any confidentiality agreements)restricting transmission of CRUTEM data to non-academics involing the following countries: [insert 5 or so countries that are different from ones already requested 1]

Lol. Reminds me of when I was working as a writer for a certain politician in Canada where I live and I neglected to change the Dear Mr. Jones line so that it was to Mrs. Smith… Sadly, my boss and her boss failed to catch the goof and it was the politician himself who found it and sent it back. Shit happens, despite several layers of checks and numerous sets of eyeballs.

Here’s Bart Verheggen’s pull-no-punches post: “McIntyre’s concerted effort to derail the science and harass scientists“:

Scientists and their supporters however view McIntyre’s tactics as pure sabotage. He doesn’t seem interested in furthering the science, but rather in attempting to shoot holes in work that is supportive of the scientific consensus, and then blowing it up way out of proportion to the significance of his finding (if at all correct). He also frequently engages in character assassination, insinuating fraud, scientific misconduct and manipulation on the part of scientists. There’s no need to back up such accusations; a verbose writing style and an uncritical audience who love every word that slams climate scientists does the job very nicely. The echo chamber on the internet does the rest.

The thing about insinuation — it’s hard to prove it is intentional, but of course, it is carefully crafted to ensure that there is nothing libelous but the content and intent are clear to everyone. He is right that the “echo chamber” on the internet does the rest. A lie or deceptive bit of smear is repeated over the internet until it becomes fact and the damage, once done, can never be fixed despite detractions and corrections — which often do not come.

Deep Climate has a couple of must-read posts on Steve McIntyre and Wegman:

From: “Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, part 1: In the beginning

As 2005 wore on, McIntyre and McKitrick were clearly rising stars in the contrarian firmament, thanks in no small part to the diverse efforts of their think tank and PR supporters, not to mention complaisant media outlets like the National Post and the Wall Street Journal. McIntyre and McKitrick’s inexcusable and enthusiastic co-operation with APCO’s sordid propaganda efforts, not to mention those of CEI and the Marshall Institute,  continued to be ignored.

The time was approaching for ratcheting up the politically motivated attacks on climate science, in the form of  an abusive investigation instigated by Republican congressmen Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield. That will be the subject of part 2 early next week, including some eye-opening new revelations about the origins and development of the Wegman report.

From: “Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, part 2: The story behind the Barton-Whitfield Investigation and the Wegman Panel”

I can now fill in important gaps in the timelines of the initial investigation and the Wegman panel. But more importantly my review has led to some startling conclusions:

  • Not only was the original Barton-Whitfield investigation (in the form of intimidating letters) inspired by the allegations of “climate science auditor”  Steve McIntyre, but the defining impetus seems to have been a little known Cooler Heads Coalition-Marshall Institute sponsored presentation by McIntyre and sidekick economist Ross McKitrick in Washington barely a month beforehand.
  • Energy and Commerce Committee Republican staffer Peter Spencer played a key but hitherto undisclosed role in the investigation and the subsequent Wegman panel report, and  apparently acted as the main source and gatekeeper of climate science information for the panel.
  • Steve McIntyre was in communication with the Wegman panel, at least concerning technical questions around replication of his work. The full extent of McIntyre’s communications or meetings with Spencer or other staffers, as well as Wegman panelists, is still unknown. However, the record shows there were at least two intriguing opportunities for face-to-face meetings in Washington during the Wegman panel’s mandate.

All this, along with new information about the circumstances of the Wegman panel’s formation and mandate, raises serious doubts about the supposed independence of the Wegman panel

I know that “skeptics” point to the Wegman Report as the authority on the destruction of the hockey stick, but DC’s examination of Wegman has raised a number of concerns about it, including very sloppy (or worse) use of references that call into question the amount of real science and research that went into the report. Now, DC has unearthed evidence that suggests the committee was far from objective, and was orchestrated by clearly biased politicians and interest groups, that Wegman made no efforts to even consider Mann’s work or talk to him, and instead focused on M&M, and that the committee, such as it was, was overseen by political hacks. Add it all up and its a pretty scathing rebuttal to the claim that Wegman is authoritative. A hack job.

Richard Littlemore has a post on Wegman as well: “Wegman Report Highly Politicized — And Fatally Flawed”:

According to a detailed analysis by the blogger Deep Climate, McIntyre and McKitrick’s criticism of the Hockey Stick graph was aggressively promoted and disseminated by an echo chamber of think tanks and blogs, all of which had financial or ideological associations with fossil fuel industry funders.

Then, in 2005, (and perhaps through the machinations of CEI climate specialist Myron Ebell), Republican Rep. and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton began calling for an investigation into the graph. But Barton rejected an offer from National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Ciccerone to conduct a formal and independent review in the highly professional manner typical of the nation’s foremost scientific body. Barton chose, instead, to engage a statistician (Wegman) from one of the most conservative institutions in the country (George Mason University) and to task him with setting up a team to dissect Mann’s Hockey Stick.

The result was predictable. Collaborating with McIntyre, Wegman’s team recreated and then endorsed the critical view of Michael Mann’s work. According to earlier revelations from Deep Climate, Wegman also cribbed – arguably plagiarized – work from Raymond Bradley, lifting whole sections of his 1999 textbook, but periodically changing material or inserting information calculated to cast doubt on the reliability of tree-ring data (the source of the MBH  climate reconstruction). In the most outrageous example, suspiciously unattributed, Wegman’s report actually suggested that tree rings might be affected positively by automobile pollution. (“… oxides of nitrogen are formed in internal combustion engines that can be deposited as nitrates also contributing to fertilization of plant materials.”)

What makes me smile about this (the smile is of course over top gritted teeth) is that according to DC’s investigation, Wegman used Bradley’s authoritative text, lifted passages and then subtly and not so subtly changed the meaning of the text, in order to discredit — wait for it — Bradley, Hughes and Mann! Quite the feat.

And last but not least, I found a couple of videos of Rush Limbaugh video in which he calls AGW a “hoax” that has is motivated by a political agenda for — you guessed it — the following left wing goals:

  • more government
  • more taxes
  • more spending
  • less freedom

And that the earth has been cooling since 1997 (did he forget about 1998?).

The worst was his calling climate scientists “frauds, liars, skunks” who should be held up for public ridicule, and for “every scientist at every university in this country that’s been involved in this be named and fired, drawn and quartered.”

Here we have one of the most prominent right wing commentators calling for climate scientists to be tortured and executed — that’s what used to happen in days of old to criminals — they were drawn and quartered.

Here is a description of this form of torture and execution Limbaugh is calling for from Wikipedia:

Until reformed under the Treason Act 1814,[1] the full punishment for the crime of treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in that the condemned prisoner would be:

  1. Dragged on a hurdle (a wooden frame) to the place of execution. This is one possible meaning of drawn.[2]
  2. Hanged by the neck for a short time or until almost dead (hanged).
  3. Disembowelled and emasculated and the genitalia and entrails burned before the condemned’s eyes (this is another meaning of drawn—see the reference to the Oxford English Dictionary below)[3][4]
  4. The body beheaded, then divided into four parts (quartered).

Typically, the resulting five parts (i.e., the four quarters of the body and the head) were gibbeted (put on public display) in different parts of the city, town, or, in famous cases, in the country, to deter would-be traitors who had not seen the execution. After 1814, the convict would be hanged until dead and the mutilation would be performed post-mortem. Gibbeting was later abolished in England in 1843, while drawing and quartering was abolished in 1870.

That’s like an incitement to murder. It’s really breathtaking. It’s McCarthyism.

Everyone who participates in the denialist industry, whether it be to participate in their “conferences” or use their scientists as experts, or publishes on their websites, is responsible for this state of affairs, whether they take money from them or not.

About Policy Lass

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16 Responses to “Trolls, drawing and quartering, and other vexatious characters”

  1. Posted at Tamino:

    “M&M got at least one person affiliated with GOP to make a bogus request. Does the name Sarah Ferguson (and no I am not referring to the royal). She goes by SarahF at CA, do a search. How many more are/were there?

    Also, this is definitely worth a read:

    Rush Limbaugh calling for “every scientist at every university in this country that’s been involved in this be named and fired, drawn and quartered.” I had no idea until reading her post what he meant by that.

    So he can incite people to torture and/or murder climate scientists someone with no consequences?! Come on, people have been sent to prison for less.

    If we get through this without losing a climate scientist at the hands of a madman we’ll be very lucky, and going by Limbaugh’s call to violence I do not think that is an exaggeration.

    I’m shocked and disgusted.”

  2. Naw, Jollife destroyed the hockey stick even worse than did Wegman. Even Gavin has abandoned the hockey stick earlier than 1500. You just haven’t gotten the memo yet.

    • Folks, if you frequent the skeptic blogs, you will see Kim’s post and frequent poetry, haikus and the like. I have no interest in his/her posting here and mucking up the place, so please ignore. Leave the echoes alone and they will soon die out.

  3. Nevermind; you wrote this before Gavin abandoned the hockey stick. Well, after he’d abandoned it, but before anyone had figured that out. But you do have the memo now, right?

  4. Kim, you are dealing with intelligent people here. Attempts to derail the discussion will not work.

    Of course, Jolliffe (two f’s) never said anything about the hockeystick. He warned against using short-centered PCA, that’s it. Of course, when other methodologies showed the SAME hockeystick, one may wonder how much Ian’s beef with short-centered PCA really mattered…

    There, your comment thrown where it belongs: the trashcan. Back to all those ‘skeptics’ crying fraud, shall we?

  5. Other hockey sticks either depend on Yamal, Strip Bark Bristlecones, or Upside-down Tiljanders.
    Gavin doesn’t support Mann’s stick earlier than 1500. But I guess you haven’t got the memo, yet.

  6. Well, that needs a little commentary added. The other reconstructions that still show a long straight shaft and a rising blade, like the original, depend upon cherry-picked series, such as the ones mentioned above, to replicate the shape which ‘gets rid of the MWP’. Reconstructions without such corrupted data show the MWP and suggest that current temperatures are not unprecedented in recent millenia. It is likely that the Roman and Minoan Optimums were even warmer.

    Yet no anthropogenic CO2 way back when. Hmmmm.

  7. Heh, I’m amused by ‘derail the discussion’. It seems I’ve placed it back on its tracks after it lay moribund for months.

  8. Read ‘Hockey Stick Illusion’ by Andrew Montford, search for discussion of the reconstructions above, and come into the light. You have nothing to lose but your global warming fears.

  9. Kim, let’s go back to the actual topic of this thread, shall we?

    Such as concern trolls like yourself, but also serial obfuscators Andrew Montford and Steve McIntyre. We’re still waiting for McIntyre himself to make a paleoreconstruction. Seems that that is a bit too difficult for him (rather, he knows the outcome will be the same pattern he so vehemently tries to attack).

  10. Well, you have a funny idea that I’m a concern troll. I do dramatically disagree with you and with our hostess.

    Check out Loehle and McCulloch’s reconstruction, sans tree rings and avec MWP.

    Calling on Steve to make his own reconstruction is getting a little absurd. He’s busy enough auditing just some of the errors in the climate literature.

    You really have hackneyed objections. Running out of ammo?

    Have you read ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’? It just keeps selling and selling and selling. As more and more people read it, tired objections like yours above are merely going to be exposed as the regurgitations of the uninformed.

  11. You’ve not been substantive; you’ve just name-called. Your task, should you choose to assume it, is to refute the points I’ve made above.


  12. So far you seem to have agreed that Ian Jolliffe’s objections have sunk MBH ’98. So much for the Piltdown Mann’s original hockey stick. The rest of the reconstructions from the team have one or more of the inappropriate series listed above, which warp the hockey stick, flattening the shaft and exaggerating the blade. Searching climate audit can show you how the rest of the reconstructions are corrupted by those series.

    Scholars? You can check it out.

  13. Peek a boo, I see.
    Don’t miss your chance to see all.
    The moving hand writes.

    Ta, ta, lass. Thanks for the forum.

  14. OK, Susann, I’ll ignore Kim. It’s quite telling she needs three posts to answer one, anyway.


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