[Update 2 April 2014: to those linking here from
McKewon's article is full of inaccuracies, which will be addressed soon]
This is the letter which I’ve posted at
and emailed to
This is the letter I’ve been trying to post at
To the editors, Frontiers in Personality Science:
In table 3 of this paper, I am mentioned by name and identified as having been the first to have mentioned in public Recursive Conspiracist Hypothesis number 4 – namely that Sceptic blogs were only contacted after a delay. This hypothesis is quite true, as Professor Lewandowsky has admitted. Nonetheless, the fact of having been the first to make this accusation leads to me being accused of exhibiting the following symptoms of conspiracist ideation: nefarious intent, nihilistic skepticism, “must be wrong”; “no accident”, and unreflexive counterfactual thinking.
From the definitions of these criteria given in the paper I extract the following:
Nefarious Intent: “… A corollary of the first criterion is the pervasive self-perception and self-presentation among conspiracy theorists as the victims of organized persecution. The theorist typically considers herself, at least tacitly, to be the brave antagonist of the nefarious intentions of the conspiracy; that is, the victim is also a potential hero.”
Nihilistic Skepticism: “The conspiracy theorist refuses to believe anything that does not fit into the conspiracy theory. Thus, nothing is at it seems, and all evidence points to hidden agendas or some other meaning that only the conspiracy theorist is aware of.”
“Must be Wrong”: “The underlying lack of trust and exaggerated suspicion contribute to a cognitive pattern whereby specific hypotheses may be abandoned when they become unsustainable, but those corrections do not impinge on the overall abstraction that `something must be wrong’ and the `official’ account must be based on deception.”
“No Accident”: “To the conspiracy theorist, nothing happens by accident … Thus, small random events are woven into a conspiracy narrative and reinterpreted as indisputable evidence for the theory.”
Unreflexive Counterfactual Thinking: “Contrary evidence is often interpreted as evidence for a conspiracy [...] the stronger the evidence against a conspiracy, the more the conspirators must want people to believe their version of events.”
These definitions clearly identify me as being irrational and paranoid, and are therefore defamatory. I therefore request that you withdraw this paper.
I note further that, in the section on hypothesis (4) (“Skeptic” blogs contacted after delay) in which I am named, only one piece of evidence is produced, and that is a quote from Lucia Liljegren. If you don’t withdraw the paper, you might at least correct it and replace my name with that of Ms Liljegren.
However, that won’t absolve the authors of having defamed me. If we turn to hypothesis (3) “Presentation of intermediate data”, we see that the person accused of having been the first to pronounce it is Steve McIntyre. Despite the fact that this hypothesis also turned out to be true, it leads him to being accused of exhibiting the same irrational and paranoid tendencies as me, (except for “No Accident”).
The link provided
leads to a comment by Dr McIntyre (comment 8) on an article by Professor Lewandowsky. However, Dr McIntyre’s comment is not about the presentation of intermediate data, but about four entirely different subjects. The reference to the presentation of intermediate data is in two previous comments by me to the same article (comments 3 and 6). In Comment 5, a commenter notes that I had already made the same point in a comment at SkepticalScience, a blog run by second author John Cook, which for some reason was not included among the blogs analysed, despite being one of the “Principal web sites involved in blogosphere’s response to the publication of LOG12” (title of table 2).
One reason for not considering SkepticalScience, despite the fact that this blog is widely regarded as one of the leading blogs commenting on climate scepticism, can perhaps be found in the paper, where, under the heading of “Potential Limitations”, it is explained why the content analysis of blogs was entrusted to authors Cook and Marriott:
“Two of the present authors also contributed to LOG12, and the present analysis may therefore be biased by a potential conflict of interest. This possibility cannot be ruled out [...]. [B]ecause data collection (via internet search) was conducted by two authors who were not involved in analysis or report of LOG12, the resulting “raw” data – available in the online supplementary material – cannot reflect a conflict of interest involving the LOG12 authors.”
It might have been wise to indicate that:
1) the two authors whose data collection “cannot reflect a conflict of interest” both run blogs which concentrate on countering the views of sceptics (SkepticalScience and WatchingtheDeniers)
2) John Cook of SkepticalScience is coauthor with first author Stephan Lewandowsky of ‘”The Debunking Handbook”;
3)SkepticalScience was the scene of some of the most lively debates about(LOG12) and of at least one of the first occurrences of a conspiracist hypothesis.
I therefore suggest that, in the interest of accuracy, the authors replace the name of Dr McIntyre with mine, (since I do believe that my comment at Skeptical Science was the first to raise this hypothesis, the truth of which has been confirmed by Professor Lewandowsky) and my name with that of Lucia Liljegren.
I haven’t looked at the attributions of earliest mention to the other hypotheses mentioned in table 3. However, I noticed that a quote attributed to me is false, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are other errors.
Finally, I would like to point out that by the time Cook and Marriott began their content analysis (August 28), the paper (LOG12) had already been the subject of numerous comments on blogs for at least five weeks, beginning with
19 July 2012 (400+ comments)
29 July 2012 (1300+ comments)
30 July 2012 (70 comments)
30 July 2012
(August 2 2012)
The claim to have identified the earliest occurrences of the conspiracist ideation starting on 28 August is therefore moot.
I therefore respectfully suggest that the wisest course might be to withdraw this paper.