That's "Skepticism" For You

One of the most common complaints of the global warming "Skeptic" movement is people get censored for having views considered to be problematic by the mainstream. This might lead you to think they believe censorship is bad as an open exchange of ideas is important. My experience suggests that's wrong. I've had comments deleted from Skeptic sites numerous times without breaking any rules, I've been banned from a number of Skeptic sites despite behaving better than most of their regulars, and I've even had Skeptics pass around e-mails telling others not to talk to me.

Here's the latest example. Earlier today, I posted a comment comment at the site Cliscep which simply said:

There is nothing in that comment which breaks any rules or norms of civil discourse. Naturally, it needed to be deleted. You see, while Cliscep describes its group as:

Our thinking in launching this new blog (called – very originally – Climate Scepticism) is that a joint site, with more frequent and more varied articles, would be more visible and possibly more useful. 
We don’t aim to compete with Bishop Hill or WattsUpWithThat on the news-gathering front, but to assemble a number of disparate voices in a joint venture. There’s no “party line” or rulebook, and certainly no 97% consensus about anything.

The reality is there is very much a "party line" to that group, just like there is to the Skeptic movement in general. If you cross it, Skeptics will do everything they can to punish you and prevent you from participating in discussions in the future. Even (or especially) if that means censoring you when you point out their errors.

The comment I show above sums up the error well enough, but let's go into some detail. The post is titled "Misleading Figures Behind the New Climate Economy." It's about 2,500 words long and claims to discuss misleading figures in a recently published report which says (amongst other things) humanity could get $28 trillion in economic benefits if it follows the report's ideas on how to develop modern infrastructure over the next decade or so. The author of the post discussing this report, Ben Pile, responds to that claim by saying:

And higher GDP? Well, it all sounds nice, but for the $30 trillion of unlikely benefits the Global Commission claims will be realised by 2030, it is demanding a commitment to $90 trillion now. Let us write the figure in full:

$90,000,000,000,000

$90 trillion is a lot of money. There are 7.442 billion people in the world. This means the Global Commission is asking for $12,093 per person. The world Bank — where Nick Stern used to work, after having been given a job by his brother — informs that global GDP per capita is $10,714. In other words, the Global Comission want more than a year’s worth of labour from the entire population of the planet to realise its goal. One has to admire the ambition, and the frank admission about what it is they want to create…
...
It is a manifesto. Indeed, it is a manifesto. It is a manifesto that its authors will not debate, will not accept any challenge to, and which they do not intend to subject to democratic contest. Yet they want more than a full month of every person’s labour, per year, for the next twelve years.

One might think, then, given the vast sums of money demanded, and the extraordinary commitment required, that the Global Comission would have been very careful in putting together its argument.

No.

After this he discusses what he alleges are errors/misrepresentations in the report for a bit then returns to the $90 trillion figure:

If I were to author a demand for $90,000,000,000,000, I would make damn sure I had bullet proof statistics. As it happens, I took half a day off work to produce this blog post. I do not enjoy the patronage of billionaires like Jeremy Grantham. I do not have the backing of Western governments and boatloads of their civil servants. I am not invited to take part in any UN agency’s business. I have no corporate sponsors. I am not best mates with the world’s top climate scientists.

And yet, even I can see that the ransom note issued by Stern and his pals is utter BS.

The cost of Stern’s manifesto is extraordinary, and the case for it is extremely weak. Yet no research organisations will be rushing to question the data, much less the motives. Few newspapers will be wondering what is the ideology underpinning the Commission’s manifesto, let alone where the money will come from.

Call me a crazy, conspiracy-theorising climate change denier, but I don’t think demands for $90 trillion on the basis of such low quality data are produced by people acting in good faith. I think their motives should be questioned, their claims challenged, and their data scrutinised. That the likes of Stern and the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate go unchallenged, routinely, is an extremely worrying fact of contemporary politics.

The central themes of this rhetoric seem to be: 1) They're asking for $90 trillion, 2) Nobody will be willing to question them, 3) They're act in a bad manner, probably in bad faith. Each of these claims is interesting in its own right, but past experience made me believe it'd be futile to try to try to have any detailed discussion at that site so I decided to only comment on the first point, saying:

This post claims:

And higher GDP? Well, it all sounds nice, but for the $30 trillion of unlikely benefits the Global Commission claims will be realised by 2030, it is demanding a commitment to $90 trillion now.

Then goes on to spend a fair amount of text talking about how extreme this value is. However, none of this is true. The report doesn’t call for any commitment of ninety trillion dollars. What it does is say, multiple times, the world is expected to invest that much money in infrastructure by 2030. That is, the people of the world are expected t ospend that money on infrastructure no matter what.

Whether that estimate is reasonable, and whether or not how the report wants the money spent to be appropriated, it is simply not true this report calls for a ninety trillion dollar commitment

The point of this comment is incredibly simple. The report being discussed claimed $90 trillion dollars will be spent by humans over on the world's infrastructure in the upcoming years and discussed how it believes that money should be spent. The post claimed the report consisted of people demanding $90 trillion.

That's not the same thing. People wrangle over how to spend money in budgets in all the time. This report claims to detail the benefits of the world spending its infrastructure budget the way the report suggests. Pile calls that issuing a ransom note, demanding $90 trillion. Pile's response to me pointing out that is an untrue portrayal began:

BS: —Then goes on to spend a fair amount of text talking about how extreme this value is.–

No, the much larger part of the text is a discussion about the Commission’s stats abuse — a point you seem to have skirted past. We can assume that the stats abuse simply doesn’t bother you.

This is an obvious non-sequitur. I said nothing about "the much larger part of the text" of Pile's post. I simply noted the post contains a fair amount of text discussing how extreme a demand for $90 trillion is. Pile attacked a strawman as though it somehow rebutted what I said then made the absurd claim that by not discussing the things he criticizes in the rest of his post, I must endorse them. He then continued with some odd rambling:

Meanwhile, the $90 trillion is the figure the Commission wants to direct. Yes, the $90 trillion would still have been created and spent, but that is to say nothing except a truism. The point of manifestos is precisely to elicit a commitment, philosophically and materially. That’s why people, throughout modern history, have put their own money towards manifestos, Communist, Conservative, Liberal, and Green, to achieve what the manifesto sets out. The Commission’s manifesto, however, is a manifesto for governments, not for the hoi polloi — the voter. And it doesn’t ask us to volunteer our money, it asks governments to take it. Furthermore, the commitment requires, among other things, the creation of new institutions, and new relationships between organisations. In other words, the construction of fiefdoms, to oversee, regulate, and direct the ‘investment’.

As usual, your point is nit-picking.

How this addresses anything I wrote is beyond me. The issue I raised was simple. Pile portrayed the report as demanding a $90 trillion commitment with a ransom note rather than accurately observe the report was simply discussing how it thinks a pre-determined budget ought to be spent. Even if one thinks I am wrong on the issue, ranting about manifestos does nothing to address anything I wrote. So I responded:

Ben Pile, pointing out an error in a post should not require commenting on the overall topic of the post lest one be accused of endorsing whatever is criticized in the post. I pointed out an error because I believe errors should be corrected. I didn’t comment on anything further because I felt I had nothing to say on the topic. Please try not to make it out as something more.

As for the rest of what you say, I simply don’t care. You can drone on about manifestos or anything else if you’d like. My only interest was in correcting the error you spent a dozen sentences of rhetoric on. That remains true even if you think it nit-picking to point out wrangling about how to spend a $90 trillion budget is very different than demanding people give up $90 trillion in new funding.

This comment got me banned. That may seem difficult to believe, but it's true. Pile responded to this comment:

You didn’t point out an error, BS. You rarely do. You nit-pick at what is usually your own misunderstanding, or occasionally imprecise language. And then you endlessly bang on about it as though your misperception is an unimpeachable detection of an error that proves the total absence of morality on the error-maker’s behalf.

You’re not welcome to comment further; you are a waste of time.

And:

Readers who do enjoy BS’s pointless nitpicking on the basis of nowt but his inability to follow the arguments he comments on can take their fill at https://cliscep.com/2018/04/10/brandon-shollenberger-to-steve-mcintyre/

I think it is informative he again made no effort to respond to the issue I raised, instead dismissing it as "nit-picking" and attacking me as a person. I also think it's interesting he said I'm not welcome to comment further, which sounded like saying I was banned but not explicitly stating such. So I tried writing another comment, the one shown at the top of this post:

This has been replaced with:

Which is a fasicinating statement. I said, "I simply don't care" about Pile's strange ramblings about manifestos that had nothing to do with anything I said, and he claims that means I don't have the right to ask him to confirm he believes a statement he made about the issue I was discussing is true.

I wanted to make sure I was banned so I tried submitting another comment:

Which has now been replaced with:

I think that speaks for itself. Not once did Pile claim I broke any rules. Not once did he say a word which actually addressed the issue I raised. All he did was rant about things I hadn't said a word about, attack me as a person then delete me comments.

That's Skepticism for you.

16 comments

  1. hunter, of course I get it. It's sad it happened and it's a shame. Wait, what is "it"? You didn't say. I guess it's it. Can you feel it? See it? Hear it today? you don't understand what I"m saying/ It doesn't matter anyway.

  2. Brandon -

    I just followed that Cliscep link to the post (and comments) about your letter to Steve. Interesting to read the comment thread.

    I'm curious as to whether, after the passage of time, you have any thoughts as to whether you would have been better off approaching the issues at hand in a different fashion.

    I'm not fishing for anything in particular, just wondering if in retrospect, you think it would have been more productive to do something differently

  3. Joshua, I'm not sure what you mean by "more productive." Could I have done things differently and got a different reaction? Sure. That's always true. But there's nothing I could have done differently to express the same sentiments that would have resulted in a different outcome. I'm sure I could have written things better, but in the end, the reaction I got was due to the sentiments I expressed. To get a different outcome, I would have had to not express them (either by saying nothing or by saying something different). Perhaps that different outcome would be "more productive" to some, but I see no value in a different outcome which doesn't include getting to say what I think.

    The people who reacted negatively to what I wrote were going to react negatively to what I wrote no matter what since I had the audacity to call Steve McIntyre out on his BS. They have to. It's not just identity protection because McIntyre is such a respected figure amongst Skeptics. It's also that people like what he's doing that I say is wrong. Take the sort of dishonest BS McIntyre has been pulling, and you'll find the same things coming from them,

    As just one example, I pointed out how after I criticized a post McIntyre wrote for having an error, he secretly changed his post to try to correct the error (he failed to get it right) and change a second thing I hadn't commented on. When I say "secretly," I mean he say a word anywhere about the change. When I called him out on this, he acknowledged one of the two changes he made by editing my initial comment pointing out the error to include a note from him saying he fixed the error I pointed out. Edits aren't timestamped so nobody reading his remark would know he only made it because I called him out on secretly changing his post.

    That's not okay. You can't have an honest discussion if you're secretly changing the record to make one side look better/worse. Only, CliScep disagrees. I recently found out Ben Pile, author of the recent post I criticized, has edited comments by users to change what they say to make the commenter look bad. To the CliScep group, that's considered acceptable behavior. Calling McIntyre out on his small dishonest acts of moderation can only get negative reactions when CliScep supports major acts of dishonesty in their moderation.

    For a short answer, there are hundreds of examples of people claiming to react negatively to what I say because of how I said it when it was abundantly clear the real reason is they didn't like the idea I was expressing. I see no reason to think this case would have been any different. Heck, just look at hunter above. He's one of the people you saw comments from. He thinks it's cool and okay to accuse people of having autism as a petty smear. It can't put responsibility for that sort of reaction on me.

  4. Brandon -

    Joshua, I'm not sure what you mean by "more productive."

    I didn't really have any particular meaning in mind. My question was more whether you felt you might have done something different that would have resulted in what you would see as more productive.

    But there's nothing I could have done differently to express the same sentiments that would have resulted in a different outcome.

    Perhaps. I'm not sure I agree, but again my question was to hear your perspective on that.

  5. I really didn't have any particular meaning in mind. I could just as well have said less productive, or more cauliflower. Anyway, I am not sure I agree and I wanted to prompt you to reflect on your error in judgement. I am very smart and just trying to help.

  6. However:

    "Meanwhile, the $90 trillion is the figure the Commission wants to direct. Yes, the $90 trillion would still have been created and spent, but that is to say nothing except a truism."

    Is not all that far from:

    "demanding a commitment to $90 trillion now"

    Given the elicited explanation, I would allow the poor guy the benefit of just classifying his original statement as hyperbole.

    This would have been OK:

    "demanding a commitment to control the spending of $90 trillion now"

    Although, I would never call Brandon a nitpicker, from this day forward.

  7. Don -

    That's cute - you commenting in a discussion of perspectives how people might engage productively.

    Still engaging in that certain canine behavior we've discussed in the past, eh?

  8. joshie, joshie

    Whenever you say whatever you say about engaging productively, we assume that you have no particular meaning of "engage" or "productively", in your little mind. So, we will just let that little turd lie.

    As for canine behavior I have discussed with you in the past, I do recall explaining to you why a little under-powered mutt such as yourself should not be trying to stomp with the big dogs. Oh, and I did admonish you many times on your nasty habit of yapping at Judith's heels. That's all.

  9. Don -

    I won't link one of the photos depicting your behavior (as I used to over at Judith's) because it would probably transgress one of Brandon's blog rules, but I'm sure you remember, Don. Stop trying to pretend you don't remember.

    You're not fooling anyone.

  10. When Don would go chasing me around Judith's (he was absolutely obsessed, the vast majority of his comments consisted of nothing other than insults toward me) I would link to photos of ugly little mutts humping on someone's leg.

  11. I... honestly don't know that that breaks any rules of this site. I don't think it does. I'd appreciate it if you didn't post images like that though.

  12. Oh no, please don't let little ankle biting joshie link to one of those photos of a nasty dog. That's his best shot. Pathetic mutt.

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