Some commenters here have asked “Why bother with the hopelessly biassed Guardian?” but, even after getting banned from “Comment is free” for the 6th time, I still think getting sceptical comments up at blogs in the mainstream media is probably the most useful thing a footblogger in the climate wars can do.
It’s what I started doing four years ago at Guardian Environment, and what I still do.
And I’m still disappointed if my comment doesn’t get more “recommends” from readers than anyone else’s. This may seem rather pathetic (ok, it is) but it sharpens your writing skills no end. Instant applause may not be the most reliable criterion for judging a piece of writing, but it motivates, and makes you think hard about what you’re doing wrong when you don’t get it.
Readers are better critics than you’d think from the pathetic standard of most comments. A long, well-argued comment will frequently get more recommends than a glib one-liner.
Guardian Environment’s Climate Change page, with its twelve thousand articles, (on average three new articles are added every day) is the most active source of climate propaganda in the mainstream media anywhere in the world. Popular articles frequently get thousands of comments, and an individual comment can obtain hundreds of “recommends”, suggesting that it’s being read by thousands of people. There’s a small number of defenders of the warmist faith who comment continuously, and a steady turnover of sceptics, suggesting that many, like me, get banned and have to change their identity.
A tiny number of regular sceptics survive for years, largely by being unfailingly polite and arguing with other commenters, rather than criticising the writer of the article. The one time the Readers’ Editor deigned to reply to my enquiry as to why I’d been banned, she said it was for “persistently criticising the writer of the article”. This was certainly the reason I was banned after my comments on the Goldenberg article. (see “Censorship in Moderation” above). You can argue about Arctic ice cover with other commenters on any thread you like as long as you like, but pointing out that a Guardian journalist is breaking the fundamental rules of journalism is not on.
[Suzanne Goldenberg’s behaviour over the Gleick story is not a trivial affair. The loss-making Guardian is banking on survival as a purely on-line journal. To achieve this, they have to pump up their US readership to a level where they attract significant American advertising. Goldenberg is their US environment correspondent. Her persistent suppression of the truth in her dozen articles about the Gleick / Heartland affair means that no decent US news organisation would employ her].
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My all-time favourite commenter at Guardian Climate Change was MoveAnyMountain. His comments usually consisted of lengthy excerpts from the article, interspersed with devastating critiques. In 2009 he was voted best commenter of the year by readers and was rewarded with his own article on CiF.
There was a po-faced tribute to him at
in which the anonymous Guardian journalist said, through gritted teeth:
“Tis the season of goodwill on Cif …Comment is free is a healthily combative place … here’s a real challenge: how about giving a compliment to someone you generally disagree with? Perhaps you dislike the political philosophy underlying MoveAnyMountain‘s posts, but nevertheless respected his contributions enough to vote him commenter of the year in the recent Ciffies awards? … After all, if first world war soldiers could suspend hostilities for a friendly game of football at Christmas, a happy Cifmas shouldn’t be impossible to achieve.”
There were 333 comments to this sniffy CiFilitic article. The first commenter said: I’m thinking of giving it up for 2010.” And he did. He hasn’t commented since. Commenters two three and four have since been banned.
Some time after, most popular commenter MoveAnyMountain was himself banned from commenting, and, in true Stalinist fashion, all reference to his comments was expunged from the Guardian’s site.
His article was about the Virtues of Intolerance, and is well-worth reading. It’s at
The 2006 commenter of the year MrPikeBishop has also been banned, and the competition hasn’t been repeated.
I still nurture the slight hope that the constant sceptical barrage of refutation and ridicule which greets the Graun’s climate propaganda might change attitudes, or at least tactics. There have certainly been changes of approach. They’ve more or less given up entirely on the science, and have also ceased the kind of flatulent climate catastrophe manifesto, signed by dozens of the Great and the Good, which used to be a CiF speciality.
The Guardian’s editor once signed a joint editorial with the editors of the Lancet and the British Medical Journal, with the usual warnings of millions of climate dead and wounded. I commented: “Help! The Doctors have have taken over the Asylum! Send for ther men in white coats! (Oh, they are the men in white coats)”. It raised a laugh or two and got me banned, but there’s always the hope that someone in the medical establishment noted the fact that not everyone wants to see government energy policy being dictated by the editors of medical journals.
[Footnote to CiF. The following article went up at 2PM today.
at 2.32PM comments were closed]
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I’ve also had a go at the New Statesman which, despite its small circulation, is still an influential journal, commenting at
It’s fascinating to see how the structure of the commenting set-up affects results. The NS allows replies to individual commenters, setting off multiple threads and leading to great chronological confusion. Their default setting also lists comments in order of popularity, which is irritating, but which can have amusing results. Links to their most popular/ most commented articles appear at the foot of all the other articles, together with the first few words of the most popular comment, so wherever you look on the New Statesman site my name pops up at the bottom of the page.
Good. But my many comments failed to elicit any response from the authors. The Statesman’s editors now know that articles which promote unthinking observance of the global warming religion will attract lots of adverse comment, and no coherent defence. We’ll see what their response is.
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My third attempt to get scepticism on the agenda at a left-wing site was here:
(Thanks to Barry Woods for alerting me to this article). As you can see, only sceptics seem to be interested in discussing the issues raised by Alice Bell, and discussion is slow, partly because it sometimes takes 24 hours for comments to get through moderation.
[I was rude about Alice Bell’s rapid and painfully grammar-free speaking style in November at “Greenpeace suffers Serious Graun Injury.” (My criticism stands, though I’ve reworded one phrase which could have been misunderstood in a hurtful way, but left in the comparison to Virginia Woolf).
Alice’s announcement of a regular spot at New Left Project devoted to climate change sounded promising, and you can see a favourable response from several of us. Alice has since added in a comment: “I’m not sure we’re planning on using this space for blog-comment based discussion… There are other places for that.”
So there’s no way of knowing whether this project will lead to a useful exchange.
Nonetheless, I think this is the only way that sceptics are going to influence the discussion. Of course, change is more likely to come about in circles closer to the levers of power, at the science policy or governmental level. But it’s still important, I think, for ordinary sceptics to maintain and develop the toehold thay have in the mainstream media.