You Dumb Deniers

I meant to be done after my last post. I had made my point. People are too quick to label those they disagree with "dumb," "delusional" and things like that. On the other hand, the global warming "skeptic" movement has, more and more, come to embrace the insane, conspiratorial rantings of people who should have been dismissed as loons.

I thought that was enough. It turns out I was wrong. Not long after I wrote that last post, I came across an article which made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Not because the article was wrong, mind you. The absurdly hilarious thing about the article wasn't its contents, but the headline. Just look at this tweet the author posted:

I still can't see that without snickering. That tweet is the exact headline of the article:

Climate deniers agree their key messages for journalists (with a journalist in the room)

Those dumb climate deniers. How stupid could they be to... agree their key messages? I can't even tell what that headline was supposed to say. The word "agree" couldn't be a typo for "argue," as that would be ungrammatical. Maybe it's supposed to be "argue about" or "agree on" or something else, but I honestly can't tell. It's just so stupidly, obviously wrong.

And after I tweeted about this, the author of the piece, Adam Ramsay, decided to make things worse. Yes, he decided to say things dumber than criticizing people because they "agree their key messages," whatever the hell that means.

You see, after one of my tweets mocking this headline, another person on Twitter asked why people keep using the word "denier." Ramsay responded.

This surprised me. I don't have a problem labeling crazy people crazy, but saying a truly crazy person denies reality is hugely offensive. Saying a person with a psychological disorder denies reality places the blame for their condition on them, as though they somehow choose to "deny" what other people can see. So I said:

I get this may seem like a bit of a semantic quibble, especially since plenty of the people who believe crazy things being promoted at Watts Up With That and by people like Mark Steyn don't actually suffer from a psychological disorder. There was another reason for my tweet though.

Remember, this exchange began when a user asked why people still use the word "denier." Adam Ramsay responded by referring to a certain fringe element of the "skeptic" movement, saying they deny reality. What I wanted to do was confirm Ramsay was saying "deniers" are people who deny reality. I felt that was important because the word "denier" is commonly used to refer to all sorts of people who hold all sorts of views, including many people who don't talk about crazy conspiracies like he had mentioned. I asked my question wwith the intention to use whatever response he made gave as a springboard to point out he was calling tons of people conspiracy nuts with no basis.

Only, he did me one better by making my point for me. After justifying his use of the phrase "climate denier" by saying climate deniers deny reality, Ramsay said this to me:

That's right, according to Adam Ramsay, anyone who denies the consensus on global warming is a "climate denier." Also according to Ramsay, climate deniers deny reality. Ergo, denying the consensus on global warming means you deny reality.

But it gets better! While Ramsay was rather determined to talk about the "consensus" on global warming only in vague terms, constantly talking about the "consensus" while never defining it, I eventually managed to pin him down and get him to say what the "consensus" climate deniers supposedly deny is:

I kid you not, he actually wrote that. He wrote the "consensus" on global warming "climate deniers," who all deny reality, deny is... global warming is dangerous. He was that stupid.

No, he was more than that stupid. You may have noticed one of the Twitter handles in this exchange was @andyskuce. That is Andrew Skuce, prominent member of the team. He was a participant on and author of the most prominent study claiming to find a "consensus" on global warming. The "consensus" that paper found was listed in the paper's abstract:

the consensus position [is] that humans are causing global warming

There are interesting and important details about whether "causing global warming" means causing some global warming or all of the global warming, but one doesn't need to worry about them to realize the study never says a word about global warming being "dangerous." The idea never even comes up in the paper.

I pointed this out to Ramsay, telling him Skuce would confirm it:

I posted several other tweets pointing out the "consensus" position on global warming isn't what Ramsay claimed, but conveniently, he chose that time to stop responding. I decided to wait a while and see if maybe he just went offline, but later in the day when I saw he had posted a number of other tweets, I posted these two tweets:

Naturally, he didn't respond to them, and Skuce never spoke up to correct him on what he and his co-authors found the "consensus" on global warming to be.

The message I take from this is climate deniers are stupid and dumb, denying reality by ignoring the "consensus" which only exists in the imaginations of people who are really bad at what they do. Because not only has Ramsay still failed to correct the hilariously bad headline to his piece, despite me making jokes at his expense for a couple days (which began the exchange he got involved in), he has retweeted something like half a dozen tweets which copy the headline ridiculous error and all, and his piece says this in a caption:

The climate deniers: Tom Harris standing at the front, Christopher Monkton in the front row on the right

I know it's a caption so Ramsay may not have been directly responsible for it, just like he may not have written the headline himself, but... how do you not notice errors like these?

Oh well. It could be worse. I could get started on the many fake quotes he posted. For some reason Ramsay decided to post many paraphrases, but he put some paraphrases in quotation marks while he didn't put other ones in quotation marks. Why? Who knows. He couldn't even get the periods in his article right. Something like a quarter of the lines are randomly missing them.

And before anyone says I'm nitpicking, this guy promoted himself as a journalist in this very piece, and he says he co-edits the site he published the piece on. Pointing out that he can't even meet the standards of my high school journalism class is perfectly appropriate.

But hey! Look at how stupid those denier are, daring to... agree their key messages.

18 comments

  1. "To agree (a document)" is a common British usage.

    Evidence from Dictionary.com:

    10.
    Chiefly British. to consent to or concur with:
    We agree the stipulations. I must agree your plans.

  2. Interesting. That definition is completely absent from multiple dictionaries. I had even checked a couple before writing this post in case there was some definition I just didn't know. After checking about a dozen now, some do list it, and most of those say it is usually used in Britain.

    I guess that means there may be some regional usage which sort of justifies the article's headline?

  3. By the way, if this really is a common way to use the word in Britain, Britain is just weird. In that case, please read my scoffing attitude as not applying to Adam Ramsay, but the nation which assigns such an odd usage to the word "agree."

  4. http://grammarist.com/usage/agree/

    Here's a link discussing the issue. Apparently in the UK, "agree" has been used as both a transitive and intransitive verb, though the transitive usage has been growing more popular as of late. In the United States, there's only the intransitive usage.

    So I guess I kind of criticized of Adam Ramsay unfairly, in that he is just doing what many others in the UK are doing, but... I still think it's deserving of mockery. The UK uses "agree" as both an transitive and intransitive verb. That's ugly and bad writing, and it makes sentences look like they're written by imbeciles.

    I'd be fine with using "agree" as a transitive verb if that's just how the UK wanted to use the word, but don't use it as an intrasitive verb as well. Pick one or the other, not both.

  5. Brandon

    The derision you heaped on the use of the word so passed me by that I didn't even understand your point.

    I see nothing at all out of the ordinary in the use of the word. The headline makes perfect sense.

    Tonyb

  6. Tonyb, I didn't explain the reason for the derision because, in American English, that sentence is so obviously wrong as to need no explanation. That's because, as I mentioned above, American English treats "agree" as an intransitive verb. Apparently British English treats it as both a transitive and intransitive verb, which I find bizarre.

    It's not that doing so is inherently wrong, mind you. The word you cite is an example of when it makes sense. The phrases "pull a rope" and "pull on a rope" convey the same meaning. You can switch one out for the other. If you see the phrase without the word "on," you can just add the word in and the sentence will (still) make sense.

    That's not true with this headline. There is no word you can add to it which changes it from a transitive to an intransitive use. The headline wouldn't work if you changed "agree" to "agree on," "agree to" or anything lile that. None of those convey the intended meaning, that people came to an agreement (as opposed to simply being in agreement).

    That's why I think this is bad. By turning "agree" into a transitive verb, British English allows it to be used in places it could not otherwise be used. That means the choice between treating it as a transitive or intransitive verb is not merely stylistic or cosmetic.

    Oh, just to be clear, I should point out we are only talking about one definition of "agree," namely when it's used to mean "to come to an agreement." There are other ways the word can be used, such as the one I alluded to above, where people are in agreement.

  7. Alright, I posted all my previous comments from my phone, and I just now got on a computer. Let me try again now that I can type things out better. The most important thing here is to understand the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb. Transitive verbs are verbs used with an object. The object can be a noun, a pronoun or even a phrase serving the role as a noun, but the key is the verb is doing something to something. If I say, "I love ice cream," "love" is a transitive verb because it is used with "ice cream." The sentence wouldn't make sense if you took "ice cream" out of it. "I love" is incomplete.

    Intransitive verbs are verbs which aren't used with an object. If I say "I talked for hours," "talked" is an intransitive verb because it isn't being used with anything. The prepositional phrase "for hous" describes how I talked, but the sentence is still complete if you remove it as, "I talked" makes perfect sense.

    Now, many verbs can be used both ways. You can say, "I eat ice cream" just as easily as you can say, "I eat every day." The former uses "eat" as a transitive verb because it says what you eat while the latter is an intransitive verb because it describes how you eat.

    In American English, that doesn't work with the word "agree." You and I might "agree on revisions to the document," but we wouldn't "agree revisions to the document." That's important because there are real differences between if we "agree on," "agree about" or "agree to" those revisions. Because of that, to an American, the phrase "agree revisions to the document" appears to leave out important information. This is particularly bad because the word "agree" has multiple definitions. While there is the one we've been looking at, where people come to reach an agreement, you also have definitions like:

    1. have the same opinion about something; concur.

    You see this definition used in sentences like, "I agree with you," which could be shortened to, "I agree." In American English, you can distinguish between that definition of "agree" and the other definition by the fact in this one the verb is intransitive while in the other the verb is transitive. It British English, that's apparently not true. You can say, "Deniers agree" to mean deniers agree with one another or deniers come to an agreement.

    I think that's bad. I think American English makes it clear what you mean when you say "agree." Briitish English doesn't. British English makes it so multiple definitions could fit the same sentences, adding unnecessary confusion while providing no benefit at all.

  8. Brandon, instead of saying "British English" , you ought to use the correct term "English English" . Do you see how absurd your argument is? The transitive sense has been around for centuries amongst the people whose native language it is.

  9. "That’s important because there are real differences between if we “agree on,” “agree about” or “agree to” those revisions. "

    They look like distinctions without any difference to me. Your mileage will vary because.... For me the word "agree" means to "agree" - but maybe because that's because I am English and speaking my native language, whereas you are not. Is it true that till around 1914 or so half the European settlers in the USA were still speaking German?

  10. "You see this definition used in sentences like, “I agree with you,” which could be shortened to, “I agree.” In American English, you can distinguish between that definition of “agree” and the other definition by the fact in this one the verb is intransitive while in the other the verb is transitive. It British English, that’s apparently not true. You can say, “Deniers agree” to mean deniers agree with one another or deniers come to an agreement."

    Are you trying to say somethng meaningful here?

  11. Brandon...if you waqnt to opine upon grammar, learn grammar. It needs to be said.. It might not be what the idiots who taught you when you were 12 said was grammar....

  12. Graeme:

    Brandon, instead of saying “British English” , you ought to use the correct term “English English” . Do you see how absurd your argument is? The transitive sense has been around for centuries amongst the people whose native language it is.

    The correct term is not "English English." I don't think anybody calls it that, and certainly nobody who takes this sort of thing seriously does. Similarly, nobody who takes discussions of languages or grammar seriously thinks a language originating in one location means the people living in that location have a monopoly on how that language should be used. That's especially true since anyone who know's the history of the English language knows the English people in the United Kingdoms speaks is almost nothing like their "native language."

    Languages evolve over time. The English language evolved a great deal long before settlers came to the Americas. Then, what happened is the same thing that happens all the time. Different groups which speak the same language split apart and moved away from one another. As a result, the languages they spoke evolved somewhat differently. Neither of the evolutionary branches was more "right" than the other. That one evolutionary branch of the language happened to take place in the area the language originally evolved in no way means it is the "correct" one.

    In fact, there has been some argument British English has evolved further away from its roots than American English, making it more different. If that argument is true, one could say American English is more "right" because it is closer to the "native language." I don't agree with that argument though as I don't think there is ever a "right" stage in the evolution of a language. What I think is there is just helpful and unhelpful (or even harmful) evolutions in languages, and this is a case where British English is undergoing an unhelpful one.

  13. Diogenes:

    They look like distinctions without any difference to me. Your mileage will vary because…. For me the word “agree” means to “agree” – but maybe because that’s because I am English and speaking my native language, whereas you are not.

    That's a foolish reason. The fact "agree" means "to agree" does not tell us certain details that can be established by prepositional phrases. The simple reality is I convey different information if I say, "I agree about the plan" than if I say, "I agree to the plan." You may think being English somehow means you are imbued with some special sense I lack, but if you can't see the difference in meaning between those sentences, you're actually less aware than most American children. So in the future, when you quadruple post to write things like:

    Are you trying to say somethng meaningful here?

    You might consider the possibility anyone who could pass a basic English class in the United States should be able to understand that paragraph. If you cannot, due to being English, well... perhaps you should consider taking remedial courses over here. Or perhaps it has nothing to do with you being English. Maybe you should have just paid attention when you took grammar lessons, because nothing I said was complicated. That you can make an excessive amount of comments to make derogatory remarks like:

    Brandon…if you waqnt to opine upon grammar, learn grammar. It needs to be said.. It might not be what the idiots who taught you when you were 12 said was grammar….

    While showing incredibly poor writing skills yourself, which is amusing, does nothing to support the idea anything I have said here is in any way remarkable or wrong. All it does is suggest you're petty and belligerent, lacking in any substantive argument. Or any real understanding of grammar as:

    stick to your native language, Brandon….which is evidently not English.

    If I were going to criticize someone's knowledge of grammar without offering any substantive argument or evidence, I would at least not make numerous mistakes in my comments. Normally I wouldn't care about your misuse of punctuation, but if you're going to mock someone over grammar in the way you have, well...

  14. "In fact, there has been some argument British English has evolved further away from its roots than American English, making it more different. If that argument is true, one could say American English is more “right” because it is closer to the “native language.”

    This is generally the case.

  15. Regardless of how poorly the headline was written, it seems he was genuinely surprised he would be allowed to be in the room, as if there were some nefarious battle plan being laid on to which his presence would pose some danger. He must think pretty highly of himself.

    But people get together and discuss policy and positions all the time. I wish scientists and politicians of both sides would do this together more often.

    Regardless of the strange use age of the word "agree", his responses didn't really do much to improve my opinion of his objectivity, lol.

  16. Justin, I agree, and that point is part of what made the headline so confusing to me. What did he think would be remarkable about allowing a journalist in a room with you while you discuss what messages you want to get out to journalists? What kind of reaction did he expect?

    "Oh no guys! One of the people we're trying to get our message out to is going to hear us discuss the particulars of what that message is! Kick him out so he can't hear what we're... planning on telling him later."

    The only way his reaction makes sense is if you think there was something nefarious about this meeting that they would want to keep secret. But if there was, they wouldn't have allowed him to stay. So really... he's just being silly.

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