Winning the Climate Blog Wars (2)

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].

                                              *             *             *

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

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/24/season-goodwill-cif-christmas

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

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/01/intolerance-virtue 

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. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/08/middle-east-temperature-rise-climate

at 2.32PM comments were closed]

                                              *             *             *

I’ve also had a go at the New Statesman which, despite its small circulation, is still an influential journal, commenting at

http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/sci-tech/2012/12/brian-cox-and-robin-ince-politicians-must-not-elevate-mere-opinion-over-sc

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.

                                              *             *             *

My third attempt to get scepticism on the agenda at a left-wing site was here:

http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/blog_comments/climate_change_and_the_left

(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. 

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9 Responses to Winning the Climate Blog Wars (2)

  1. Philip Richens says:

    Great article, Geoff, thank you! Unfortunately, skeptics are currently losing the recommendation war on Bob Wards latest. …

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/jan/08/meteorology-bold-leadership-trust

    Not sure about long term record though.

  2. avenir says:

    Hello Geoff, i am regular commentator at CiF but because I am that rare thing, a left-wing sceptic/lukewarmer, I tend not to contribute on the environment pages or other climate blogs. My own take on the Guardian environment pages is that most of the journalists writing there don’t have any scientific training that I can discern. George Monbiot has a degree in Zoology, which a start but not ideal.

    In the old days, if you were going to write for New Scientist you would al least have a undergraduate degree in the subject and have the ability to read and understand scientific papers – at least get a grip on the experiment, the data and what the graphs were telling you.

    As a consequence, the journalists there are reliant on press releases and very susceptable to those press releases being spun. A recent example is the latest Leo Hickman article about global warming
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/jan/09/global-warming-met-office-paused

    As I understand it, the BBC misinterpreted the Met Office press release, the Guardian repeated the misinterpretation and, despite guardian commentators pointing out the mistake, it took Richard Betts in a comment BTL for The Guardian to acknowledge the mistake.

    It’s a problem the Guardian could fix by hiring some science journalists, but maybe they’re happy the way it is.

    Congraulations on your blog, I always enjoy reading your articles and comments

  3. avenir
    It would be nice to see more left wing sceptics commenting at CiF and elsewhere, if only in order to counter the charge that we’re all rightwing Nimbys who don’t want to pay taxes to help the world’s poor etc. There is a political dimension to people’s position on global warming, without a doubt, but it’s more complicated than the average Guardian journalist or reader will admit. I discussed this with Adam Corner at length at
    http://talkingclimate.org/understanding-climate-scepticism-a-sceptic-responds/
    but it didn’t do much good.
    I don’t think lack of science qualifications is the problem. Damian Carrington has a PhD. It’s not lack of qualifications that make Sir Paul Nurse and Brian Cox into convinced warmists. It’s the philosophical, historical and sociological dimension I think that’s lacking, rather than the scientific. It’s not enought to quote “our” science aginst “their” science. This is to suggest that the difference between sceptics and warmists is one of degree, which could somehow be settled by arbitration.
    There’s something seriously wrong with a world that bases important political and technical decisions on something like the IPCC reports, not because they’re full of errors, but simply beause of what they are . I said something like this in a comment at BishopHill, and Maurizio turned it into post at
    http://omnologos.com/insanity-at-the-ipcc/
    I’m interested in developing a space for left-leaning sceptics to be able to express themselves. Hence the comments by several of us on Alice Bell’s article at New Left Project.

  4. Mooloo says:

    Outside the US, perhaps, I suspect there are lots of left-leaning sceptics. Even at WUWT they occasionally try to put the “AGW is a leftie plot” crowd straight (although that really is a losing battle).

  5. Klam says:

    Actually, if, like you have mentioned in your review of “watermelons”, the polarization is not so much left-right but more freedom-statism then one reason the left will not dive in the discussion, is that they know that the majority (translated: democracy) will always “legitimate” state-intervention and taxation. All they have to do is stay the majority and steer policy.

  6. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really
    nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future. All the best

  7. Pingback: Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks | Environment | guardian.co.uk « Habari Gani, America!

  8. Paul Nottingham says:

    Novice. Banned six times? I think I’ve been banned at least five times as many even though I am generally polite to people. Commentisfree is a great title, its the “Americans don’t do irony” set proving that they are blind to their own unintentionally ironic comments.

  9. Bitethehand says:

    :Well including Bitethehand I’ve had 46 monikers pinned to the moderators’ wall, placed in the “Welcome to Guardian Censorship” pack, and attracted a gang of dozens who regularly accuse other innocent posters of being me, with the inevitable consequence.

    Now rather than post of CiF (well not as much) I relentlessly pursue via this website and twitter, those who feel CiF is their own playground, from which they can ban any undesirables with whom they don’t agree.

    I claim to be a founder member of CiF and recently posted, before yet another banning, about how civilised things were in the early days, quoting from this reply to a post of mine in May 2006:

    Here’s meekowarrior on the 30 May 2006, at 7:50AM

    Bitethehand – your question is perfectly valid, i hope i can provide you with an answer. It is such that the distribution of rainfall arround the globe is uneven – there is actually very little precipitation in the polar regions of earth – cloud formation depends on pockets of warm air rising to condensation levels due to infrared radiation of the earths surface, which only happens on a minute scale at extreme latitudes. This will be easily offset by the melting of icecaps. As for snowcapped mountains, on the very high ones there is also very little precipitation, as the condensation point for cloud formation is luch lower in the atmosphere – if you have seen large mountain ranges from a distance you will notice they tower above the clouds. further, if the freezing point is now 3000m, just as an example, then a warmer climate woul turn this into 3500m, or 4000m, which is why snow is dissapearing from kilamanjaro, for example.

    So I’m glad I found this place although to be honest I was looking for a blog run by MoveAnyMountain, a one time winner of CiF’s poster of the year competition. And I have yet to find it – if it in fact exists.

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