Global Warming Skeptics, Sexually Assaulted?!!?!?!

Since I have written several posts criticizing global warming "skeptics" recently, I want to take a moment to point out their tacit approval of criminal fraud and fawning embrace of dishonest glory-hounds does not mean I think it is okay to sexually harass them. I never thought I'd need to point that out, but apparently it's a thing.

I discovered this epidemic of sexual offenses committed against "skeptics" due to my recent criticism of a misleading article Roger Pielke Jr. wrote for the Wall Street Journal which "skeptics" have been promoting as proof they and theirs have been harassed my their enemies. One such person, Andrew Montford, runs the blog Bishop Hill. He saw the American Geophysical Union (AGU) post a tweet:

Promoting an article which discusses sexual harassment in the scientific community. This is an important issue, one which deserves serious discussion. I was shocked to see Montford respond:

I guess Montford thinks somebody has touched Pielke inappropriately as in his Wall Street Journal piece Pielke wrote about how the AGU defended him when he was harassment by a member of the United States Congress, saying:

Almost a year later Mr. Holdren’s missive was the basis for an investigation of me by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Grijalva explained in a letter to my university’s president that I was being investigated because Mr. Holdren had “highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change.” He made the letter public.

The “investigation” turned out to be a farce. In the letter, Rep. Grijalva suggested that I—and six other academics with apparently heretical views—might be on the payroll of Exxon Mobil (or perhaps the Illuminati, I forget). He asked for records detailing my research funding, emails and so on. After some well-deserved criticism from the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, Rep. Grijalva deleted the letter from his website.

Since the AGU was discussing sexual harassment and Pielke says the AGU defended him from the harassment he described, I can only assume Montford has some secret knowledge about how Pielke was fondled and groped by some hairy old man. I'm sorry for mocking you earlier Pielke. Would you please show us on the doll just where the bad man touched you?

You may think I'm over-interpreting Montford's tweet, but lest there be any confusion he believes global warming "skeptics" are suffering unwanted sexual advances, he clarified his question:

I had never heard about this rash of sexual crimes committed against global warming "skeptics," but I would like to state, for the record, I do not support sexual harassment of anyone, no matter what their views regarding global warming may be.

With that said, I'd like to close this post on a serious note. Everything I say above was written in jest with the hope of using humor to make a serious point. Sexual harassment is a horrible thing. That it continues to be a problem within the scientific community is disheartening and should be the topic of serious consideration and discussion. It is disgusting for Andrew Montford to attempt to hijack that effort to whine about how he thinks "skeptics" are treated unfairly.

24 comments

  1. ==> It is disgusting for Andrew Montford to attempt to hijack that effort to whine about how he thinks "skeptics" are treated unfairly. ==>

    IMO, essentially the same as exploiting the holocaust to score points in the climate wars (by uniformly equating the label of "denier" with being accused of being a holocaust "denier,") and exploiting the importance of free speech and freedom from censorship (by claiming they're being "censored" if they're not able to comment on a blog), and exploiting tyranny (by comparing their own treatment as "skeptics" to those who suffered from Lysenkoism and McCarthyism), etc.

    That isn't to justify the use of the term "denier" or to justify the identity-based tribalism that exists on the other side, but merely to point out that the "culture of victimhood" so evident among "skeptics" is nothing new and that this example is just more of the same.

  2. Joshua:

    IMO, essentially the same as exploiting the holocaust to score points in the climate wars (by uniformly equating the label of "denier" with being accused of being a holocaust "denier,")

    The difference is there were at least some people actively trying to associate climate change "deniers" with Holocaust "deniers." Given some people explicitly sought to make that association, it is understandable people might take offense at it. That's true even if the people who sought to make that association were a minority of those using the label. I think the issue has been greatly overblown, but it was certainly a real issue.

    and exploiting the importance of free speech and freedom from censorship (by claiming they're being "censored" if they're not able to comment on a blog),

    I get some people like to argue it isn't censorship because the person can always talk somewhere else, but... yeah, it is censorship. It may be a mild case of censorship, and censorship is not inherently wrong (random aside, I've seen reports over 60% of people support some forms of censorship). This is still censorship though.

    Or at least, it is reasonable for people to view it as such. Censorship is a pretty broad thing. It's reasonable for people to use the word that way. Maybe some people would rather the word not be used that way, but If I say I'm censored at Watts Up With That, people understand what I mean.

    and exploiting tyranny (by comparing their own treatment as "skeptics" to those who suffered from Lysenkoism and McCarthyism), etc.

    Yup. While some parallels can be drawn between what various people experience and what people of other situations experienced (as you can find parallels between almost anything), the connections are tenuous and have little to do with why people make the comparisons. From what I've seen, I'd say it is pure rhetoric.

    That isn't to justify the use of the term "denier" or to justify the identity-based tribalism that exists on the other side, but merely to point out that the "culture of victimhood" so evident among "skeptics" is nothing new and that this example is just more of the same.

    I would say there's a "culture of victimhood" on all sides of all polarized debates. I'm not sure it's true, but I am sure it's a defensible position. I have never seen a case where people felt it was "us versus them" without also feeling they've been victimized. I've never understood that. I've definitely been the victim of unfair abuse, and I'm sure I have misjudged some situations as being slights against me when they were not, but I've never felt like a victim of a group. To me, it's always been a matter of, "This person did X; that person did Y."

    Though if I write any more posts about "skeptics" in the near future, that might change. I got an e-mail today in which a person informed me I should be mindful of things as a few people they knew had, I assume metaphorically, gone out shopping for pitch forks.

  3. Brandon -

    ==> The difference is there were at least some people actively trying to associate climate change "deniers" with Holocaust "deniers." Given some people explicitly sought to make that association, it is understandable people might take offense at it. ==>

    Yes, there were some who did make that comparison explicit. But IMO, the deliberate attempt to parlay that reality to score points in the climate wars is usually, essentiall, exploitative - seeking to leverage the real problem of holocaust denial. Yes, I agree that it is understandable that some might take offense, but IMO, the vast majority of "skeptics" complaining about the term, from the angle that they are being compared to holocaust deniers, are not really taking offense but using victimhood as a weapon. Of course, I can't know for sure, but my evidence that the "outrage" is faux? The fact that many of them turn right around and use the term "denier" to label people on the "realist" side of the climate wars, such as when they call people "pause deniers," and the like. And I have yet to see a "skeptic" complain about a "skeptic" using the term in such a fashion (although as I recall you did criticize "skeptics" for using the term), or for employing similar pejoratives. I also think that people who are truly offended by the term "denier" would be careful to avoid using similar pejoratives, such as "alarmist" or "eco-Nazi" or "warmunist," blah, blah, and to voice objection when they see other "skeptics" using such terms. I see little evidence of such.

    ==> I get some people like to argue it isn't censorship because the person can always talk somewhere else, but... yeah, it is censorship. ==>

    I think calling it "censorship" is exploitative - it exploits the real problem Having comments deleted from a blog comment section is not a real problem, IMO. It isn't comparable to, say, a government disallowing people from expressing their opinions. The later is a real problem, and even approaching equating the former to the later is exploitative, and trivializing, of a real problem. It was interesting to read your comments about prescriptivism versus descriptivism. I consider making the argument that technically it is censorship to fall into the category of where prescriptivism becomes counterproductive w/r/t precision and clear communication. Equating the two seems to me to trivialize the difference.

    ==> I would say there's a "culture of victimhood" on all sides of all polarized debates. I'm not sure it's true, ==>

    I think it is, no doubt, true. Identifying as a victims is, IMO, a key driver in this kind of debate. It's about "otherizing" the group to which you don't belong. Identifying with an group of victims creates solidarity, and identifying others as victimizers justifies demeaning and demonizing others. That is why, IMO, the complaints about being victimized are so often overwrought and contrived to the point of trivializing real problems for the sake of scoring points. I consider it to be pretty much a human condition, and something that takes a lot of diligence to avoid. So I think it's true from a more removed perspective on "normal" human behavior, but I also think that I have seen many examples of the phenomenon (on both sides), specifically, in the climate wars.

    Watching the changes in your positive vis a vis "skeptics" has been very interesting to watch. Most of what I see in the climate wars is sameosameo. What has been going on with you generally fits into that category, IMO (without passing judgement - bickering rather than meaningful exchange of views, limiting to a focus on meaningful dialog, and seeking mutual understanding rather than being right and smart) - but it has a flavor that, from what I've seen, is somewhat unique.

  4. Joshua, it's good to see we agree as much as we do. For clarity, I largely agree with you regarding the use of "denier." The difference I was highlighting is that arose from a real issue people were right to be upset over. It morphed into unreasonable whining that exploits real tragedies over time. Andrew Montford started at the end. He jumped straight to the exploitative... I can't think of a good term for it.

    I think calling it "censorship" is exploitative - it exploits the real problem Having comments deleted from a blog comment section is not a real problem, IMO. It isn't comparable to, say, a government disallowing people from expressing their opinions. The later is a real problem, and even approaching equating the former to the later is exploitative, and trivializing, of a real problem. It was interesting to read your comments about prescriptivism versus descriptivism. I consider making the argument that technically it is censorship to fall into the category of where prescriptivism becomes counterproductive w/r/t precision and clear communication. Equating the two seems to me to trivialize the difference.

    I think people who attempt to determine what is and what is not a "real problem" rarely do a fair or reasonable job. My experience is you can always find people who will dismiss something as not a "real problem." I don't intend to let that color my proper usage of words. Censorship has a meaning that is well-understood. If people use the word in a way everybody understands, I'm not going to complain because what they refer to is a minor case of censorship. People understand words like "censorship" can refer to a range of things, from large and serious cases to small and minor ones.

    As for what you say you find interesting to have read, I'm not sure I've ever discussed prescriptivism versus descriptivism here. I might have. It's not what I discussed recently though. I recently criticized a subset of prescriptivists, but that was because those people conflate what they think the rules of English grammar ought to be with what the rules actually are. That is wrong. It's also not an inherent aspect of prescriptivism. That's why I would fall much more on the "prescriptivism" side of the prescriptivism/descriptivism continuum. I shouldn't say more though because I can be long-winded on the subject.

    Watching the changes in your positive vis a vis "skeptics" has been very interesting to watch. Most of what I see in the climate wars is sameosameo. What has been going on with you generally fits into that category,

    I'm guessing you meant "position" rather than "positive." Assuming so, there might not have been as much change as you think. As I've said many times, I'm apathetic about global warming. I got involved in it because the technical criticisms Steve McIntyre made of Michael Mann's original hockey stick were so obviously true and so damning I couldn't believe it. The defense of the hockey stick was shocking to me because of how easy it was for even high school me to see through the BS.

    For quite a while, I simply didn't expose myself to most of what "skeptics" said because I had no interest. I submitted some posts to Watts Up With That because I thought it'd be a good way to get people to hear what I had to say, but otherwise, I rarely visited there. My position was I didn't like what I saw of "skeptics" so I didn't expose myself to them any further.

    I thought I could maintain that position because I thought a number of people who talked a good game about standards and integrity would apply those standards to people on both sides. It turns out I misjudged some people. In the process of trying to get people to do things I had expected them to do, I got exposure to things I otherwise wouldn't have.

    That said, there has definitely been a (d)evolution in the "skeptic" side. For an example I find telling, there was a time Anthony Watts pushed back very hard against people who denied the greenhouse effect. Now, one of his most frequent authors not only denies the greenhouse effect but has told people they ought to do the same in at least one post at Watts Up With That. I'm referring to Tim Ball, of course. He's the guy who likes to compare people to Hitler* and things like that who labels himself a Sky Dragon (basically rejecting the greenhouse effect), a group Watts banned from his site for posting too much nonsense. It's weird.

    *Or at least try to. There was a strange twist to this. Ball wrote a post creating an analogy in which he tried to compare people to Hitler. Due ignorance and incompetence on Ball's part, he actually put himself in the role of Hitler. I find that more amusing than I probably should.

  5. By the way, I should point something out about how my interest in the global warming debate got piqued. When I first stumbled upon Steve McIntyre's website (the one which existed before his blog), I didn't understand what he was saying that well but thought it was interesting. I followed along out of curiosity and witnessed the birth of Real Climate. That site quickly began writing things to "rebut" what McIntyre said. As I read their "rebuttals," it was easy for me to see how paltry and bogus they were.

    It pretty much began when Real Climate wrote posts arguing the hockey stick existed despite Mann screwing up his methodology if you included the first five principal components instead of just the first two. Even if you had no idea what that meant, it didn't matter. McIntyre agreed. His response was very simple. He EXPLAINED principal component analysis was determining what data to use and how much weight to give it. If you used data with a hockey stick pattern, you got a hockey stick. If you didn't use data with such a pattern, you didn't get a hockey stick.

    Seeing that response, I expected Real Climate to say, "That's nonsense! That's not how it works" Or if not that, then something like, "Yes, but there's a lot of data with a hockey stick pattern in the data set so of course we'll use a lot of it." They didn't say either. They said, "That's nonsense!" but didn't actually disagree with what McIntyre said. They argued about why it was "right" to include the data with a hockey stick pattern, but they were still acknowledging the hockey stick depended entirely upon ~10% of the data, data all taken from a single area.

    It was easy for me to see everybody agreed on the main technical details, The only disagreement was regarding how to interpret them. Given the agreement was, "A small amount of data from one area in North America is the entire source of the hockey stick," I couldn't understand why scientists were defending it. I couldn't understand why it got made the most visible set of results in the global warming debate. I still can't. That people continue to defend it to this day baffles me.

    That's one example which led to me discovering many more (like basically the entire field of millennial temperature reconstructions). I can maybe chalk up to tribalism the dozens or hundreds of scientists who engage in and/or turn a blind eye to abuses that were obvious to me even as a layperson. It'd be depressing and somewhat frightening, but I could maybe do it. There's one problem though. Some of these same people go around saying global warming is a serious threat to humanity. I don't understand how they could possibly subvert their belief human civilization is at risk to such stupid and petty whims.

    Which is one of the main reasons I've remained apathetic about global warming for so long. If I believed global warming were a serious threat, I would never behave like the people pushing for action have.

  6. Thanks for your explanation. That's why I keep on visiting your blog, your make-no-prisoners approach appeals to me although sometimes your vision is a bit "tunnelled", but in the meantime keep on chasing the poseurs and pseudo scientists!

  7. Brandon -

    BTW - I just wanted to point out that with the "uniformly" here in my parenthetical statement: "...(by uniformly equating the label of "denier" with being accused of being a holocaust "denier,")... I was intending to suggest the point that you picked up on...that pointing out that some people directly equate the a "climate change denier" with a holocaust denier is not exploitative, but that leveraging an argument that the term is used in that matter uniformly is exploitative.

    You say...

    ==> The difference I was highlighting is that arose .... It morphed into unreasonable whining ==>

    I'm not sure how you create your timeline of (d)evolution there. Seems to me that the whining about the term as being uniformly meant to equate people with holocaust deniers started pretty early in the game. That said, I have no problem with people taking issue with the labeling and "otherizing" that takes place in these discussions (as seen with the term "denier") ...but I have a hard time taking it seriously when people raising the issue engage in exactly the same behavior (as, from what I've seen, "skeptics" as a group pretty much routinely do), and as far as I can tell the "otherizing," or "identity-protective and identity-defensive" behaviors, have characterized much of what has taken place in these discussions on both sides from pretty much the beginning (not as a development over time) - much as what I would expect, as the discussion about climate change is, IMO, to a large degree an proxy battle within a larger war of (politically associated) identity-orientation where such behaviors are ubiquitous.

    ==> I think people who attempt to determine what is and what is not a "real problem" rarely do a fair or reasonable job. My experience is you can always find people who will dismiss something as not a "real problem." ==>

    Fair enough. There is certainly an inherent subjectivity there on my part. But at the same time, I am quite content with the subjectivity in saying that having comments deleted from a website falls far lower on the scale of "real problems" when compared to government restrictions on the rights of people to express their opinions. I think that not making a clear distinction between the two is problematic. As such, I think that is an example of a structural issue stemming from the inherent tension between prescriptivism and descriptivism, where you reach a point of diminishing returns from being prescriptivist. Again, I acknowledge subjectivity there (where does that point lie?) - but in this case at least, it is a subjectivity that I am comfortable with. Going on and on (as many climate-o-sphere participants do, on both sides, often in support of the ridiculous argument that the existence of such "censorship" confirms their conclusions about the inherent unfairness of the "other side"), about the "censorship" they suffer from having their blog comments deleted (or about being "banned" from comment sections of blogs) does nothing, IMO, to advance the important discussion about the tension between responsibility to others and the governments role in protection the collective good, and the rights of people to express themselves openly. Not sure what else to say that isn't just a repeat of my point about trivialization - so maybe there's nowhere else to go with that.

    ==> I'm not sure I've ever discussed prescriptivism versus descriptivism here. ==>

    I was imprecise. I didn't mean to say that you discussed them in relation to one another...merely that you spoke to the issue of where prescriptivism has limits in usefulness (again, my wording, not yours)...and I found it interesting because it relates to something that I find interesting, which is the tension between the merits and demerits of prescriptivism and descriptivism, respectively. So I added the comparison part to elaborate on what I found interesting, not to suggest that you spoke to that more general framework of comparison explicitly.

    ==> That's why I would fall much more on the "prescriptivism" side of the prescriptivism/descriptivism continuum. ==>

    Which is why I found what you said interesting...because you and I have in the past come to points of disagreement which, IMO, were rooted in our different orientation along that continuum. It was interesting to see that with that difference notwithstanding, you made an argument about where prescriptivism has limits.

    ==> Assuming so, there might not have been as much change as you think. As I've said many times, I'm apathetic about global warming. ==>

    Maybe you thought I was referencing a "change" in your orientation (on global warming). I wasn't, however. I was referring to a change in your position, vis a vis a subset of a community of "skeptics" (such as it is), despite that your positions on the issue of climate change haven't changed in any way that I've been able to see.

    That contrast, specifically, it what is of interest to me - as I find it informative. That it happened is not unusual in a general sense, IMO, because it suggests well-worn patterns in how people engage on these issues: I see it as a reinforcement of the influence of identity-orientation. In other words, part of the reason for the change in your standing vis a vis the "skeptic" community is that you have more clearly fallen outside of the accepted identity markers by making certain aspects of your political views that don't conform to the more common ideological orientation of "skeptics" more explicit. Such as that is, it seems a common pattern.

    But while in that larger sense it isn't some kind of paradigm-challenging development it is nonetheless interesting to watch for some of the context-specific aspects. To give just one example of that, with the changes in your standing in the "skeptic" community I have seen you being criticized for aspects of your individual style of engagement that I have previously commented about, without getting any support from "skeptics" in those regards.

    One the other hand, I have been personally challenged to see whether or not I am holding your arguments to the same standards when you are arguing (on politics) from a perspective that is more similar to my own.

    On the flip side, it is interesting for me to see where "skeptics" have employed fallacious and vacuous arguments in discussion with you in ways that I have seen them do so many other times in other discussions in similar ways, but where (I didn't see) those poor arguments and reasoning being employed against you, before you made explicit aspects of your views on politics or other issues that created more space between you and the "skeptic" community.

    Or at least that is my perception - and what I see as having taken place with you becomes a vehicle through which I can try to explore my biases by trying to see if I can approach an objective assessment of the patterns that are playing out.

    That said, your description of how your orientation vis a vis the "skeptic" community has changed is interesting to me in that in some ways, it parallels some aspects of what happened with me. When I first started observing the online discussion of climate change more closely, it was when I migrated over from more political discussion fora after hearing Judith Curry talking about "tribalism" in the climate scientist community. I found it interesting because I am interested more generally in how people shape their reality to confirm biases - because I find that issue very relevant more generally in questions of politics and within my personal relationships. However, what I found once I started participating at Climate Etc. was the interesting phenomenon that people who, to a large degree accurately IMO, recognize the proclivity for biases such as confirmation bias and motivated reasoning in others, could be so blinded to recognizing it in themselves. Not terribly profound, of course, when I think about it. It is to be expected. But I still find it interesting to have so many reminders of how prevalent the pattern is.

  8. Brandon -

    Just a few more "thoughts" and then I'll get off the dance floor.

    ==> That said, there has definitely been a (d)evolution in the "skeptic" side ==>

    It is interesting that I don't see any such "(d)evolution," but merely a few distinctions that make no difference. What I see is sameosameo, whereby the same underlying fallacious reasoning has been employed all along, although to some degree the subjects to which such reasoning has been applied have changed. I would imagine trying to discuss which view is "objectively" correct would be very, very involved, and I'm not really interested in going there because I doubt that we'd be able to cover new ground, but thought I would just mention that my perspective in that regard is different than yours. That isn't to say that I doubt that from where you sit, the trajectory of "skeptics" is one of (d)evolution, only to point that isn't the case from where I sit. Maybe it's my bias, maybe it is a matter of perspective, or maybe there is some objective reality there - but I do certainly question the assertion of "definit[e]" (d)evolution."

  9. "I couldn't understand why it got made the most visible set of results in the global warming debate. I still can't. That people continue to defend it to this day baffles me."

    I find it hard to believe, Brandon. I think you have a pretty good idea, why people do it.

  10. I don't think it's a small minority that equated Holocaust denier to global warming denier.
    It is a deliberate attack, and a large number of people are OK with it because of the people being attacked. Like how a number of commentators are happy to declare racism by people they disagree with.

    Michael Mann's book is evidence, where he speaks of how a colleague was personally hurt by being equated with Nazis as he was a Holocaust survivor. Mann is definitely being deliberate in his usage.

  11. Joshua:

    ==> I think people who attempt to determine what is and what is not a "real problem" rarely do a fair or reasonable job. My experience is you can always find people who will dismiss something as not a "real problem." ==>

    Fair enough. There is certainly an inherent subjectivity there on my part. But at the same time, I am quite content with the subjectivity in saying that having comments deleted from a website falls far lower on the scale of "real problems" when compared to government restrictions on the rights of people to express their opinions. I think that not making a clear distinction between the two is problematic.

    I would be curious to see how you think I should have changed what I've written in previous cases where I have been censored from sites. I've never felt the need to go out of my way to distinguish between a blogger such as Anders censoring me and the federal government doing so as I am confident people can pick up on the fact a blogger on a relatively small website is very different from a national government without me needing to draw attention to the difference.

    ==> That's why I would fall much more on the "prescriptivism" side of the prescriptivism/descriptivism continuum. ==>

    Which is why I found what you said interesting...because you and I have in the past come to points of disagreement which, IMO, were rooted in our different orientation along that continuum. It was interesting to see that with that difference notwithstanding, you made an argument about where prescriptivism has limits.

    I'm not sure what you're thinking of here, but I will note a central topic of disagreement between us, which led to what was quite frankly (not sexual!) harassment on your part and others at Curry's place, was that I'd have the audacity to say something "doesn't make sense." You portrayed this as me being unreasonable, that I was conflating my inability to understand something with it being nonsensical. Of course, you would do this while systematically failing to discuss any of the explanations I provided to demonstrate what I labeled was nonsensical actually was nonsensical.

    I'm not sure if those cases are related to what you had in mind, but I figured it might be useful to mention what comes to mind when you say this. Plus, I feel it's worth chiding you a little so people don't mistake me treating you civilly with me thinking you're a reasonable participant in discussions. My experience is you often (in)tend to just be a troll.

    ==> Assuming so, there might not have been as much change as you think. As I've said many times, I'm apathetic about global warming. ==>

    Maybe you thought I was referencing a "change" in your orientation (on global warming). I wasn't, however. I was referring to a change in your position, vis a vis a subset of a community of "skeptics" (such as it is), despite that your positions on the issue of climate change haven't changed in any way that I've been able to see.

    I thought you meant regarding "skeptics" as opposed to in relation to "skeptics." I'm not sure why I misinterpreted "vis a vis" like that. It's probably because people misuse that phrase all the time.

    One the other hand, I have been personally challenged to see whether or not I am holding your arguments to the same standards when you are arguing (on politics) from a perspective that is more similar to my own.

    You aren't. I can't speak to what goes on in your mind, but what you post about things I (or other people) say are very different depending on how much you agree/disagree with them. One interesting aspect of online discussions is how easy it is to examine people's response styles. Just pulling up the comments people have left on this site reveals some interesting patterns.

    ==> That said, there has definitely been a (d)evolution in the "skeptic" side ==>

    It is interesting that I don't see any such "(d)evolution," but merely a few distinctions that make no difference. What I see is sameosameo, whereby the same underlying fallacious reasoning has been employed all along, although to some degree the subjects to which such reasoning has been applied have changed. I would imagine trying to discuss which view is "objectively" correct would be very, very involved, and I'm not really interested in going there because I doubt that we'd be able to cover new ground, but thought I would just mention that my perspective in that regard is different than yours. That isn't to say that I doubt that from where you sit, the trajectory of "skeptics" is one of (d)evolution, only to point that isn't the case from where I sit. Maybe it's my bias, maybe it is a matter of perspective, or maybe there is some objective reality there - but I do certainly question the assertion of "definit[e]" (d)evolution."

    Fun fact. Several years ago I started studying comments to see if I could create a spam filter which could accurately identify "Trolls." My definition of a "troll comment" was any comment which offered no substance and did not advance any discussion. I found it was fairly easy to create an effective pattern matching tool, but identifying patterns as "trolling" was fraught with difficulty.

    I always suspected that would be true. I was mostly just wanting to see how well patterns in comments could be identified. That had some interesting byproducts. One was being able to identify different styles of responses some individuals switch between. Another was seeing how one can use mapping of linguistical structures to identify people and groups. It turns out it is possible to predict who wrote a comment and/or where they wrote it simply by the contents of that comment. One can even go beyond that and identify time periods comments were written in.

    There's interesting literature on the topic, and I'm certain nothing I did compares to what some researchers have done. On top of that, this is ultimately a form of modeling and suffers all the normal difficulties of such. Still, it was interesting to see how it was possible to make surprisingly accurate predictions using this approach. The reason I bring this up is there have been huge shifts in comments at several sites over the years. Even just a concordance of the words used at some sites shows a dramatic shift.

    It's a subject I find interesting. Unfortunately, I lost access to most of the data for it recently. My laptop died, and I was able to recover the hard drive from it. Then the power went out one day and caused the master boot record of the hard drive to get corrupted. A series of problems followed that, and I haven't managed to regain access yet.

    So yeah, objective analysis yo. It is possible.

  12. MikeN:

    I don't think it's a small minority that equated Holocaust denier to global warming denier.
    It is a deliberate attack, and a large number of people are OK with it because of the people being attacked. Like how a number of commentators are happy to declare racism by people they disagree with.

    Michael Mann's book is evidence, where he speaks of how a colleague was personally hurt by being equated with Nazis as he was a Holocaust survivor. Mann is definitely being deliberate in his usage.

    Well first, I'm pretty sure Michael Mann didn't say that in his book. I believe he said his colleague's family survived the Holocaust. Second, I don't think there was any connection to "denier" in that passage. I don't know why you think this would be evidence the majority of people using the word "denier" did so with the intention of making a comparison to Holocaust deniers. I've never seen anything that appears to be evidence to support that view.

    Sven:

    "I couldn't understand why it got made the most visible set of results in the global warming debate. I still can't. That people continue to defend it to this day baffles me."

    I find it hard to believe, Brandon. I think you have a pretty good idea, why people do it.

    No, I really don't. I can come up with reasons about promoting a "cause" or whatever, but none of them actually explain it. All such explanations fall apart at the stage where I'm forced to decide people are not just blithering idiots, but dishonest and delusional as well. It takes that many faults for me to explain people doing things that, simply from a tactical perspective, are so incredibly dumb.

    I have a negative view of the human race, but I'm not sure I can justify that negative a view of it.

  13. MIkeN:

    Some of my response to your comment is similar to Brandon's.

    ==> Mann is definitely being deliberate in his usage. ==>

    I'm not following your chain of logic to determine Mann's intent unless he has stated his intent as you have described. I have no particular idea what Mann's intended usage was, but I would be curious how you can definitely know that he intends to compare people to holocaust deniers by extrapolating from him writing that he has a colleague who was hurt by being equated with Nazis. Maybe you could elaborate?

    ==> I don't think it's a small minority that equated Holocaust denier to global warming denier. ==>

    I don't know how we bring anything to this discussion other than anecdotes or selective sampling, but I will say that from the discussions I've had (online) with people who use the term "denier," (just involved in one today, in fact) they have stated an intent other than what you have determined. I don't know for certain that their stated intent was their actual intent, but I also don't know how to determine whether their intent was different than what they stated.

    I will say this, however, that personally I do think that the use of the term is primarily effectively an act of pejorative labeling - dictionary definitions notwithstanding (going back to the issue of prescriptivism vs. descriptivism, it is interesting to me that often when discussing the term "denier" with people who use it I have the same disagreement with them about whether dictionary definition trumps common interpretation - stemming from my having a different orientation on the continuum - that I have sometimes have had with Brandon) or even intent notwithstanding, much in line with the similar pejorative labeling that takes place in myriad other polarized and tribalized discussions.

    -I also think that the term "denier" often implies a volitional act, - on the part of the person so labeled - to deny something that person knows to be true, and that I don't think that in most cases, people using the term "climate denier" have any way of knowing whether the person they are labeling actually is volitionally denying something he/she knows to be true, or is simply expressing an opinion he/she formed (be it through "motivated" reasoning or not).

    I wonder if you think that when Judith Curry or many other "skeptics" use the term "denier" (e.g., "pause denier"), they are likewise often (I'm not sure what the prevalence is that you're finding with "not a small minority" - perhaps "large numbers of people," but that is a vague quantification and you use that to refer to people who are "OK" with it, not specifically people who use the term to equate people to holocaust deniers), deliberately intending to equate those "pause deniers" to holocaust deniers? I would also be curious why you think that people who are offended because they know for sure that "not a small minority" of people using the term are comparing them to holocaust deniers, they then turn around and use the term themselves, or use other, similarly demonizing, pejorative terms?

    ==> It is a deliberate attack, ==>

    I agree that it is, effectively, usually a deliberate attack. In other words, I consider it to be effectively pejorative labeling. But a deliberate attack does not have to take place in the form of deliberately equating someone to a holocaust denier. If "skeptics" would just say that it is a deliberate attack, I would have no criticism of them for doing so, but my point is that I think it is exploitative to leverage the real problem of holocaust denial as a rhetorical device of counterattack.

  14. Brandon -

    ==> I would be curious to see how you think I should have changed what I've written in previous cases where I have been censored from sites. I've never felt the need to go out of my way to distinguish between a blogger such as Anders censoring me and the federal government doing so as I am confident people can pick up on the fact a blogger on a relatively small website is very different from a national government without me needing to draw attention to the difference. ==>

    I don't know the specifics of your individual situations to weigh in. I will say, however, that in my experience, getting banned or having comments deleted is pretty much always a volitional act on the part of the commenter. The occasions are rare, IMO, where if the commenter had thought it through, they couldn't have gotten essentially the same message across without engendering a response of banning or deleting. I certainly know that it has been the case for me when I've been "banned" or had comments deleted.

    Sometimes over at Judith's I have no idea what criteria she is using to delete a particular comment of mine - but I do know what it is that I've done to put my comments under greater scrutiny than pretty much anyone else who comments there, and I don't think it is merely a matter of my being in disagreement with Judith or her "denizens" but also a matter of how I have expressed my disagreement. And I have made deliberate choices about whether I wanted to alter the "how" in the ways that I've commented there, and I accept the consequences as such.

    I always think that it's funny when people think that they've been moderated or banned simply because they've expressed disagreement despite seeing that there are many other comments made at the site by people who also express disagreement also. What people often don't seem to get is that people get moderated or banned because the person the site moderator with thinks that they are being obnoxious or persisting in making comments that they think are inane, or not engaging with criticisms in good faith, etc. They fail to account for their own subjectivity.

    Of course, I think that the application of criteria for moderation and banning is often (maybe always) mercurial and arbitrary (not in the sense of being random but in the sense of being subjective), but that doesn't mean that the person being moderated or banned couldn't have avoided that outcome, and still expressed disagreement, if they had given more thought to how they might express their disagreement without seeming obnoxious, inane, engaging in bad faith, etc.

    ==> I'm not sure what you're thinking of here, but I will note a central topic of disagreement between us, ==>

    I'm not sure what the "central topic of disagreement is," but a couple of things. First, I don't see the topic that you were describing as a "central topic of disagreement," nor do I see that topic of disagreement in the same way that you see it (not surprisingly, I guess). But further, that topic that you are referring to (I recognize what you're describing without agreeing completely with your description) is not what I was referring to when I was describing how, IMO, often the disagreements we have had are rooted in different orientations along the descriptive vs. prescriptive continuum.

    So that is just a long way of saying that I don't think that you "should" have changed anything, unless your intent was, rather specifically, to not get moderated or banned - in which case I think that you should give the matter some thought as to how you might have done so.

    I'll just leave the rest of your comments in that post where they are. I'm not particularly interested in that aspect of the discussion.

  15. I don't have the book, but I remember it as Mann highlighting how it was particularly hurtful for one colleague who (Brandon notes it is his family) survived the Holocaust. If he is able to discern this detail, then he surely is able to discern the link between denier and Holocaust denier. To continue to use it after it is mentioned, after he has written about the use of Nazi being hurtful, is a deliberate choice on his part.

  16. MikeN, I went ahead and trackekd down my initial commentary on the passage you refer to. I posted it on lucia's blog back when I first got Mann's book during what was a sort of live-commentary on the book. As I read the book, I posted my initial reactions (something I"ve done on this site for several different books). During that commentary:

    "Insiders accusing Santer of abusing the peer review system and of “political tampering and “scientific cleansing”–a charge that was especially distasteful given that Santer had lost relatives in Nazi Germany."
    At this point, I’ve seen Mann use the word “denier” something like half a dozen times. It seems strange to use it while claiming “scientific cleansing” is a reference to Nazi Germany. I know there is disagreement over whether or not “denier” is a Holocaust reference, but it seems to me there is a far stronger case for it than for “scientific cleansing.” At least with “denier,” the original user of it explicitly stated they were making a Holocaust reference.

    I should have said "some of the original users" as I don't actually know who was the first to use "climate change denier." Regardless, this shows my memory was a bit hazy as Santer's family wasn't portrayed as Holocaust survivors. Some of his family did not survive the Holocaust. It's a not entirely inconsequential distinction.

    More to the point, I see nothing in that passage or surrounding text which suggests Mann is using it to link global warming "deniers" to Holocaust "deniers." I also see nothing in that passage to support Mann's suggestion that commentary had any connection to the Holocaust.

  17. Joshua:

    I don't know how we bring anything to this discussion other than anecdotes or selective sampling, but I will say that from the discussions I've had (online) with people who use the term "denier," (just involved in one today, in fact) they have stated an intent other than what you have determined. I don't know for certain that their stated intent was their actual intent, but I also don't know how to determine whether their intent was different than what they stated.

    You should compare this to racist or other forms of bigoted language. Some people use language that is bigoted without meaning to. The question is not about the speaker's intent but the resonableness of the offended person's interpretation. That's a murky realm. Personally, if I know somebody will take offense at a label, I will try not to use that label to identify them as long as they can provide me a better one. I don't see a point in doing otherwise.

    Of course, that's built on the fact I believe in not using behavior designed to preclude discussion with people simply because I disagree with them. Whether or not "denier" has any Holocaust connotation, it's definitely intended to exclude people. If you're trying to exclude them anyway, upsetting them doesn't matter. All that matters is if your method of excluding them is viewed negatively by people you don't wish to exclude. Refraining from using "denier" there is simply a matter of shady tactics.

    Personally, I think it'd be better to not use perjorative labels for groups of people at all. That can only serve to increase polarization rather than decrease it. I don't get why people would want that. At a minimum, it's bad from a tactical perspective.

    I don't know the specifics of your individual situations to weigh in. I will say, however, that in my experience, getting banned or having comments deleted is pretty much always a volitional act on the part of the commenter. The occasions are rare, IMO, where if the commenter had thought it through, they couldn't have gotten essentially the same message across without engendering a response of banning or deleting. I certainly know that it has been the case for me when I've been "banned" or had comments deleted.
    ...
    So that is just a long way of saying that I don't think that you "should" have changed anything, unless your intent was, rather specifically, to not get moderated or banned - in which case I think that you should give the matter some thought as to how you might have done so.

    The only two sites I have been fully banned from are SKeptical Science and Anders's place. The former was over me calling out their abuse of moderation in which they grossly misrepresented what their own moderation policy stated (and not applying it to people attacking me), while Anders banned me for things that had nothing to do with anything I said at his site. Basically, he just doesn't like me. The steps it would have taken to avoid either of those bans would have been completely unreasonable.

    The same is true for sites like WUWT where I haven't been fully banned but am actively censored. I could have avoided that, but doing so would have required not pointing out questionable, or even outright dishonest, behavior on the parts of a number of people. The simple reality is the tone of my comments that get me in "trouble" never compare to that of other commenters who are welcomed with open arms. I could adjust my tone to try to avoid moderation, but that would mean forcing myself to abide by different standards than other commenters. That's still a form of censorship.

    I always think that it's funny when people think that they've been moderated or banned simply because they've expressed disagreement despite seeing that there are many other comments made at the site by people who also express disagreement also. What people often don't seem to get is that people get moderated or banned because the person the site moderator with thinks that they are being obnoxious or persisting in making comments that they think are inane, or not engaging with criticisms in good faith, etc. They fail to account for their own subjectivity.

    There may be some people who fit your impression, but I would challenge you to find a single example of mine which would fit that. I have no doubt people convince themselves they are using moderation for the reasons you suggest, but that doesn't make it true. For instance, Anders banned me from his site because in comments here, I said he "fabricated" claims to criticize papers by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. He said I shouldn't use that word because it means I was calling him dishonest.

    Given Anders openly calls people liars, using a word (not at his site) which implies but doesn't outright state he is dishonest is hardly grounds for him banning me from his site. The reality is he was trying to find an excuse to duck out of the discussion. He had been the entire time. He outright refused to discuss specific points of disagreement despite the fact they demonstrated he had made serious and false accusations. When I called him on it, he derided me and again refused to attempt any meaningful discussion.

    Did Anders feel I was being obnoxious? I'm sure he did. Did Anders feel I was not acting in good faith? I'm sure he did. I'm also certain Anders actively trolls people (he's even admitted to it) then turns around and plays the victim when they do anything "mean" to him. That's been his MO for years. He's actually a lot like Roger Pielke Jr. in that regard.

    The reality is some people behave in a way it is impossible to be treated fairly by them if you wish to express ideas they dislike. They may claim it is a matter of tone and behavior, but it does ultimately just come down to them not liking what you have to say. If you don't believe me, try calling Anthony Watts out on his promotion and defend of Douglas Keenan's fraud, discussed on this site recently. It doesn't matter how you phrase it; he'll either ignore you or abuse you. It is impossible to raise the issue with him and get a fair response.

  18. Brandon -

    ==> You should compare this to racist or other forms of bigoted language. Some people use language that is bigoted without meaning to. The question is not about the speaker's intent but the resonableness of the offended person's interpretation. That's a murky realm. Personally, if I know somebody will take offense at a label, I will try not to use that label to identify them as long as they can provide me a better one. I don't see a point in doing otherwise. ==>

    I agree, for the most part, and have written, essentially the same, many times. Except that I would be less categorical. I think that there is more than one question (i.e., there is a "the question)...as I think that the speaker's intent is important...if only because the speaker's intent in turn has some meaning, ultimately, to the reasonableness of the reaction.

    ==> Of course, that's built on the fact I believe in not using behavior designed to preclude discussion with people simply because I disagree with them. Whether or not "denier" has any Holocaust connotation, it's definitely intended to exclude people. ==>

    I try to avoid making judgement of intent, and I definitely try to avoid making absolutely certain judgments of intent. If you have that ability, more power to you. The best I can do is judge effect, and as I see it, the use of the term effectively creates a pejorative label. I'm not sure that using the term has the power to "exclude" someone; I'm sure exactly what that means, actually. Discussions go on all the time even afterthe term has been used, and it doesn't quite add up to me that someone could continue to discuss something with someone if they've been "excluded," and it also doesn't quite add up to me that someone would persist in a convo with someone that they are trying to "exclude" from that convo). I don't see those so labeled as being even remotely "excluded" from pretty much anything. I think that the function is more primal and less concrete or focused. I see the function as to reinforce a sense of identity and group association through the act of "otherizing" someone else or another group. The act of "otherizing" and the act of "excluding" might overlap, IMO, but they aren't precisely the same.

    ==> All that matters is if your method of excluding them is viewed negatively by people you don't wish to exclude. Refraining from using "denier" there is simply a matter of shady tactics. ==>

    For me, it is slightly different. I think that what matters, primarily (although it isn't all that matters) is that it is effectively a pejorative label - and so if you're going to use it, then it would make sense that you measure the effect against your desired outcome. I also tend to be reluctant to characterize it as a "shady tactic," as pretty much everyone engages in these behaviors at least to some degree. Characterizing it as "shady" seems to me to not be terribly effective as a way to understand and, if you want to, mitigate such common behavior.

    ==> Personally, I think it'd be better to not use perjorative labels for groups of people at all. That can only serve to increase polarization rather than decrease it. ==>

    I agree.

    ==> I don't get why people would want that. ==>

    I think there are various reasons, but at the heart of it, the most explanatory factor is that people are seeking to strenghten their sense of identity (and group) through "otherizing" - meaning creating (what I consider to be fairly arbitrary) boundaries.

    ==> At a minimum, it's bad from a tactical perspective. ==>

    Of course, that would depend on your desired outcome. But, IMO, if your desired outcome is to have policies implemented to mitigate climate change, then using term "denier" is more likely counterproductive than productive - although I think that the differential effect is probably relatively small. The polarization that exists around climate change is not, IMO. largely affected let alone explained by the use of the term "denier" - despite how much time is wasted discussing the use of the term. IMO, the use of the term and the related discussions are a product of the same underlying forces in play as what creates the overall polarization, and if other terms were used, people would just move on to waste time bickering about other things in similar identity-aggressive and identity-offensive ways.

    As for the rest of your comment, I'll just leave it where it is. Nothing there that I'm particularly interested in discussing. You're certainly entitled to your opinions.

  19. Just my two cents....

    I like the feature that you have where you can preview your comments in the dialog box below where you're typing the comments. If I were more disciplined, then I think it would be a great feature (primarily because it would allow me to see formatting errors before it is too late after the comment has been posted), and help me to keep from making errors in my comments. But the editing feature that I like the best is when a blog has a period of time after you've posted the comment to edit. For some reason, I almost always miss much of the needed editing until after I've posted the comment and I'm re-reading it after I've posted - even with the editing box you have on your blog. That is the reason why I always have so many grammatical and syntax errors, and typos, in my comments. I find it useful to have a grace period where I can correct those errors after the initial post. It's probably something that's idiosyncratic, but just thought I'd present my experience in case it works that way for others as well.

    Have a nice night.

  20. Strange how I read your quote and feel it endorses my position, while you think it weakens it because the specific quote is even further away from what I remembered. What you find 'strange' I interpret as deliberate action by Mann.

  21. Joshua, I would like to have an Edit feature like you describe, and for a short while, I actually did. Unfortunately, the plugin I liked stopped working after a WordPress update, and the developer has stopped updating it so it looks like I won't be able to use it again. I've tried a couple other plugins that enale the feature, but so far they've each involved creating ugly buttons/icons instead of a simple text link with the word "Edit."

    If I can find a plugin that either doesn't look hideous or gives me the ability to control its appearance, I'll probably install it. It's just a matter of finding one I like.

    MikeN, I'm not sure how you think that quotation says anything about what people use "denier" to mean. It might help if you would explain.

  22. I feel I've explained it, but no one seems to agree or even understand my argument, so I don't know what else there is to say for an argument that comes from a few sentences in Mann's book. I'm just baffled because I feel you make the same argument in

    At this point, I’ve seen Mann use the word “denier” something like half a dozen times. It seems strange to use it while claiming “scientific cleansing” is a reference to Nazi Germany. I know there is disagreement over whether or not “denier” is a Holocaust reference, but it seems to me there is a far stronger case for it than for “scientific cleansing.”

  23. Brandon, MikeN, I can attest that when I first heard the term "climate denier" I immediately understood the connotation and connection because holocaust denier was the only other circumstance that I had ever hear the term denier used. The noun was synthesized for a novel purpose to show a psychosis related to extreme religious bigotry.

    I think this is one of the things that caught my attention to the climate subject, not because I certainly lost all my relatives beyond 2nd cousins on my father's side (from Sudetenland), but because diminishing the holocaust with political equivalency is exactly what the religious extremest were hoping for. It's probably also true that a lot of people on the left think that Jews are just making a big deal out of the holocaust to play the victim card so they can hold onto stolen land that belongs to Arabs. This felling was apparently freely shared enough in MSM journalistic circles (that we now know are alt-left) that the late Helen Thomas said once matter of factly, "It's about time for the Jew's to get the hell out of Palestine."

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