2011-02-11 04:31:47Crusher Crew
Rob Honeycutt



Badgersouth and I were just discussing the potential of setting up a coordinated "Crusher Crew" where we could pull our collective time and knowledge together in order to pounce on overly vocal deniers on various comments sections of blogs and news articles.

I've had quite a lot of success (I believe) hammering on these people over the past couple of years.  I have a few guidelines that I lay out for myself.  I'll post them here and we can discuss them...

Basic ground rules for posting on denier sites (if you want to get any kind of message through).

Remember this one important rule:  The "audience" you are writing for is not the person you are responding to.  For every denier posting on a site there may be 10 to 100+ other people actually reading the comments.  THAT, my friends, is the audience you are writing for.  Those are the people you need to convince by appropriately responding to denier claims.

1)  Don't expect to convince anyone of anything.  Those who are commenting are the ones who are most intransigent.

2)  ALWAYS be polite.  Think of the SkS comments policies and apply them to yourself, even if the site you are posting at doesn't.

3)  Stick to the science.  Use the SkS resources to locate solid arguments and reference the scientific papers.

4)  Avoid referencing blogs as sources of information.  Even though SkS is a great site in our estimation, it's still a blog.  Actual scientific papers hold more weight, again maybe not for the commenter you're responding to, but for the broader reading audience.  If you DO reference a blog do so with the caveat that, "Hey, this a blog but it references several scientific studies that you can look up."

5)  Expect to get baited into pointless debates.  Expect to be personally attacked and insulted.  Expect the worst.  Put on your asbestos suit.  Don't fall for it.  Realize this is when you are winning from the standpoint of the broader audience.  When commenters start stooping to extremist rhetoric they are losing the audience because most of the readers are NOT going to hold an extremist position.  If you follow the commenter down that hole you are both lost to the audience.

6)  Don't get dogmatic.  Laying a little praise on Lindzen and Spencer now and again goes a long way.  Regardless of what you may think of their science, at least these guys are doing the closest thing to science as is coming out of the denier side of the debate.  Plus, ultimately we know their claims are going to be proved wrong so if we can get deniers to hang their hats on Lindzen and Spencer, later it's going to be pulled out from under them.

7)  Try to find common ground on some occasions.  Hobbies, interests, second languages, age of children, anything that builds a bridge.  This can soften both the commenters and the audience into maybe taking a look at some of the science.  I've had a lot of success presenting videos of electric drag racers on Youtube usually with the response of, "Well, okay, that's pretty f-ing cool."

8)  Watch out, there are some serious pros out there.  Vicious attack dogs like Richard Courtney frequent a number of blogs.  Guys like this attack like there's no tomorrow and have no compunction for sticking to the facts.  A good response strategy needs to be formed for these guys.  

9)  Don't insult your host.  Remember that a blog is a little like someone's living room.  You are a guest.  Getting banned ultimately serves no purpose.  Befriending your host, even if they are on the opposing team, can earn you permanent residence and a certain level of immunity from overly aggressive attacks.


2011-02-11 04:41:43May I suggest
Robert Way

May I suggest first on our list as being the *#1 Science Blog* "Watts up with that"?

They get a few people come there to engage from time to time but rarely a coordinated effort.

My biggest advice is to be right.

Don't make arguments you know can be refuted or that there is still considerable controversy over. If we're talking Medieval Warm Period for example cite Moberg et al. 2005 instead of Mann for example.
2011-02-11 05:42:56
Rob Honeycutt


Robert...  I think it might be better to start out with smaller fish.  Build a community and a team.  Find some methods and strategies that work.  Then start moving up the denier food chain with our targets set on WUWT.

I could see this expanding into a broad team of 100 or more people (outside the scope of this SkS forum of course).  If we could pull together that many people and could use them to focus how we address denier claims, that could be a very powerful tool.  

Gavin Schmidt made a great comment the other day saying that there are really very few of them and there are many of us.  We just need to raise our collective voices to drown them out. 

2011-02-11 05:45:01
Rob Honeycutt

I would venture to guess that most people here know of 4 or 5 regulars on comments sections that would be interested in coordinating their efforts.  I know probably 10 or 20 people who would like to help with this.
2011-02-11 07:55:38


I think that a resource of psychologically convincing arguments (rather than just scientific ones) would be more useful for some types of audience which frequents Denier boards. The PR industry generated opposition to AGW by appealing to peoples selfish inner desires and biases. After that is acheived they believe anything.  It's tempting to get over technical and you will be wasting your time.

climate change will increase immigration pressures

No need to trust climate scientists use the good old US military experts they will tell you the truth http://securityandclimate.cna.org/report/  (this is less reticent than IPCC AR4!)

renewable energy provides national energy security

how much does gasoline cost once the cost of middle Eastern conflicts are taken into account?

what group did the Western Fuels Association, National Coal Association and Edison Electric Institute (ICE) target in 1991 in an attempt to change the opinions of a selected population regarding the validity of global warming? (Older, less educated males"..... )

Do you have a home beside the sea or river? what height above sea level? Who will buy land which will be under water in 100 years time? 

The oil industries own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted

2011-02-11 08:17:02Crusher crew
John Cook

The Rapid Response Network would be a good way to coordinate this kind of activity, identifying new articles, logging responses, supporting each other. Can i suggest if a group engage in this, that they use the RRN as beta testers to he'll me develop and refine the system?
2011-02-11 08:40:14John Cook
John Hartz
John Hartz

How do we access the RRN?

2011-02-11 08:52:27General Thought
John Hartz
John Hartz
The above suggestions reflect the fact that each of us brings our own perspective on how to effectively engage the climate deniers on comment threads. While we may be able to agree on a few general principles, we certainly do not need to be completely in lockstep on what we say and how we say it. Each article that we choose to comment on is unique and each comment thread of an article takes on a life of its own.
2011-02-11 09:01:31Audiences
John Hartz
John Hartz

One of my primary audiences when I blog on comment threads are like minded indivduals who are also commenting. I find that many of them are not praticularly well-versed in the science of climate change. That is why I like to quote from SkS and provide links to specific articles. A number of these like-minded bloggers have thanked me for providing this information. The more climate-sceience literate these people become, the better their posts will be.  

For the record, I also post resource materials and links from other than SkS.      

2011-02-11 09:03:24
Paul D


I would be careful.

It can become obvious that a 'group' is invading a forum or blog.

That has happened at Deltoid once or twice.

2011-02-11 20:33:48


This explains what I am trying to say

From the values of everything by George Monbiot

Tom Crompton of the environment group WWF, examines a series of fascinating recent advances in the field of psychology. It offers, I believe, a remedy to the blight which now afflicts every good cause from welfare to climate change.

Progressives, he shows, have been suckers for a myth of human cognition he labels the Enlightenment model. This holds that people make rational decisions by assessing facts. All that has to be done to persuade people is to lay out the data: they will then use it to decide which options best support their interests and desires.

A host of psychological experiments demonstrates that it doesn’t work like this. Instead of performing a rational cost-benefit analysis, we accept information which confirms our identity and values, and reject information that conflicts with them. We mould our thinking around our social identity, protecting it from serious challenge. Confronting people with inconvenient facts is likely only to harden their resistance to change.......

and this

Fixing the communications failure

People's grasp of scientific debates can improve if communicators build on the fact that cultural values influence what and whom we believe, says Dan Kahan.

For instance, people with individualistic values resist scientific evidence that climate change is a serious threat because they have come to assume that industry-constraining carbon-emission limits are the main solution. They would probably look at the evidence more favourably, however, if made aware that the possible responses to climate change include nuclear power and geoengineering, enterprises that to them symbolize human resourcefulness. Similarly, people with an egalitarian outlooks are less likely to reflexively dismiss evidence of the safety of nanotechnology if they are made aware of the part that nanotechnology might play in environmental protection, and not just its usefulness in the manufacture of consumer goods......

As straightforward as these recommendations might seem, however, science communicators routinely flout them. The prevailing approach is still simply to flood the public with as much sound data as possible on the assumption that the truth is bound, eventually, to drown out its competitors. If, however, the truth carries implications that threaten people's cultural values, then holding their heads underwater is likely to harden their resistance and increase their willingness to support alternative arguments, no matter how lacking in evidence. This reaction is substantially reinforced when, as often happens, the message is put across by public communicators who are unmistakably associated with particular cultural outlooks or styles — the more so if such advocates indulge in partisan rhetoric, ridiculing opponents as corrupt or devoid of reason. This approach encourages citizens to experience scientific debates as contests between warring cultural factions — and to pick sides accordingly.

2011-02-11 22:56:39Rapid Response Network
John Cook

Badgersooth, the RRN is still being designed. Yesterday I posted the proposed design in a thread on the Authors Forum:


No feedback yet. If I don't get any feedback, I'm just going to go ahead and start it and hope people here use it, beta test it and help develop it into a powerful tool. Perhaps it's too hard to imagine at conceptual stage, I just have to create a working model to use first.

2011-02-12 04:23:32
Rob Honeycutt


perseus...  I think you are totally on the mark here.  Most people find it almost impossible to distinguish good science from bad science.  It's all pretty much gibberish to the general public.  Very simple logic works best.  

My best successes have been when I've brought myself down to a base level.  What's entertaining, fun.  Like the video of electric drag racers kicking ass against muscle cars.

There is definitely room for teaching the science but finding ways to make it fun and interesting will always win the day.  In a way, the idea is not so much to make people think but make them smile.