Foxgoose, McIntyre & Me v. Nuccitelli (and the Cook that spoils the broth)

[See Update 23 April 2014 at the end] 

Here’s a correspondence I’ve been having with the Readers’ Editor at the Guardian:

From Geoff Chambers to Guardian Readers’ Editor 30 March 2014:

Dear Readers’ Editor,

 I’m writing to complain about this article,

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/mar/21/contrarians-bully-climate-change-journal-retraction

which is factually incorrect and defamatory of myself and of Steve McIntyre.

The headline: “Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper” is contradicted by the journal itself, as is explained by commenter TLITB1 in the second to last comment on the thread (26 March 2014 11:22am) where the journal editor is quoted as saying:

This decision had nothing to do with caving in to pressure and was driven by our own analysis of various factors and advice received”.

Author Dana Nuccitelli provides no evidence within the article itself of “contrarians bullying the journal” or that the journal “finally caved to these threats”. Instead, in the sentence:

Very soon after its publication, the journal Frontiers was receiving letters from contrarians threatening libel lawsuits (Graham Readfearn has some details)”

there is a link to an article by Readfearn at DeSmogBlog.

The evidence for “bullying” and “contrarians threatening libel lawsuits” provided in the Readfearn article comes in the final section, under the subheading: “Gagging orders hide libel threats”, the second paragraph of which reads:

One blogger, Geoff Chambers, wrote to Frontiers asking that the paper be withdrawn because it was defamatory towards him”.

and which links to an article on my blog

https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/lews-talk-costs-libels/

which reproduces my letter of complaint to the journal. In the letter I point out that the paper (now retracted) is defamatory, and I end:

I therefore respectfully suggest that the wisest course might be to withdraw this paper.”

The third and fourth paragraphs refer to a complaint made by a blog commenter called “Foxgoose” who points out that a quote had been falsely attributed to him, and that this was potentially defamatory. But this error (one of many in the paper) was rectified before publication, so can have had no part in the journal’s decision to retract the paper.

The fifth paragraph refers to two complaints made by Steve McIntyre. They are couched in legal terminology and also use the word “defamatory”, but make no mention of legal action.

It is clear from the above, and from the statement by the editors of the journal themselves, that the accusation of “bullying” in Nuccitelli’s article is baseless. Since the only evidence for bullying and threats of libel lawsuits is a link to the Readfearn article, and since that article links directly to my letter of complaint, and mentions Steve McIntyre, (who has also published his letters of complaint at his blog ClimateAudit) it is clear that the accusations in Nuccitelli’s article are aimed at me and McIntyre.

It seems fairly pointless to publish a correction on an article on which comments are closed and which is now ancient history, in internet terms. In the case of a previous article at Guardian Environment by Bob Ward which made remarks about climate blogger Andrew Montford which Montford considered defamatory, the solution found was to give Montford a right of reply in an article at Guardian Environment. I suggest that this would be a suitable solution in this case.

I shall be forwarding this letter to Steve McIntyre, but will not otherwise publicise it.

Hoping to hear from you soon

Geoff Chambers

__________________________________

Guardian Readers’ Editor to Geoff Chambers 22/04/14 21:09

Thank you for your email, and I’m sorry it has taken some time to reply to your request for a right of reply.

As you say neither you or Steve McIntyre are mentioned in the Guardian article.

You are, however mentioned in the blog by Graham Readfearn, to which the Guardian article links.

The Readfearn blog in turn links to

a) An article by Lewandowsky and Cook, with comments. (Your own comments appear there.)

b) Your own blog

c) Posts made by Steve McIntyre

c) The letters and emails received by Frontiers and/or UWA and obtained through an FOI request.

The Readfearn blog links to both yours and Steve McIntyre’s online publications regarding this matter. Your point of view and your own statements are reflected in the places where you are named and I don’t believe there is any need for a further reply in the Guardian.

Best wishes

Barbara Harper

Follow us on Twitter: @GdnReadersEd

_____________________________________

From Geoff Chambers to Guardian Readers’ Editor 22 April 2014

Dear Ms Harper,

Thank you for your reply, three weeks late, which is no reply at all.

I wrote to complain that Dana Nuccitelli’s article accusing unnamed people of threatening and bullying the publishers of Lewandowsky’s paper “Recursive Fury” was factually incorrect, since the editors of the journal have categorically denied having received any threats. The only evidence Nuccitelli provides for his baseless accusation is a link to an article by Graham Readfearn (also a Guardian journalist) which provides as “evidence” a false statement about Foxgoose, a quote from Steve McIntyre, and a link to my blog. Anyone looking for evidence of the accusation of bullying in the headline will be naturally led to believe that these three individuals are the bullies.

Instead of dealing with this clear example of an article which is false and defamatory, your letter merely points me to some links in the Readfearn article, one of them to my own blog, and one of them, you say, to “an article by Lewandowsky and Cook, with comments. (Your own comments appear there.)”

But there is no link to an article by Lewandowsky and Cook at Readfearn’s article (there is one to an article by Lewandowsky and Oberauer). Neither I nor Readfearn mention Cook. So where did you get Cook’s name from?

There is a link to an article by Lewandowsky and Cook in Nuccitelli’s article, and there are comments there by me. But what has that to do with the false statement in the Guardian article that the journal “Frontiers in Science” gave in to bullying, and the defamatory link that implies that Foxgoose, Steve McIntyre and I were the bullies?

The fact that you bring Cook into the story in a wholly irrelevant way, and that neither I nor Readfearn, whom I cite, had mentioned him, suggests to me that your letter was written in large part by Dana Nuccitelli. Am I right?

What action will you be taking to rectify the false and defamatory claim of bullying in the article’s headline?

PS This has nothing to do with anything, but I learnt recently that I am related to C.P. Scott. When my great aunt Rebecca Scott mentioned long ago that her father had worked for the Guardian, I asked her if he was C.P. Scott, and she laughed and said no. When she died recently I found among her papers the long obituary of C.P. Scott which appeared in the Guardian on his death in 1932, and there I learned that he had two brothers who also worked on the Guardian.

Small world, isn’t it?

yours

Geoff Chambers

__________________________________________________________

PPS, which I didn’t mention to Barbara: C.P.Scott, the famous editor of the Guardian, coined the slogan which adorns the Guardian’s comments page: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. I claim to have invented the version made popular by Delingpole: “Kommentmachtfrei” – but since I did it in a long since deleted comment at the Guardian, there’s no way of proving it. __________________________________________________________

 

Readers’ Editor to Geoff Chambers: 23 April 2014

We’ve gone carefully through all the links, including the correspondence obtained under FOI, in the light of the issues you raised and as a result we do not feel that any further action is necessary.

Best wishes

Barbara Harper

 

Geoff Chambers to Readers’ Editor: 23 April 2014

Dear Ms Harper 

Thank you for your prompt reply.

Does it mean that the Guardian supports Dana Nucitelli in his accusations of bullying against Foxgoose, Steve McIntyre and me?

Yours

Geoff Chambers





 

 

 

This entry was posted in Guardian CommentisFree, Stephan Lewandowsky and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Foxgoose, McIntyre & Me v. Nuccitelli (and the Cook that spoils the broth)

  1. Rational Optometrist says:

    An interesting exchange and I look forward to further updates (if any), but I hope you don’t mind if I pick you up on one cheeky point Geoff?

    “I shall be forwarding this letter to Steve McIntyre, but will not otherwise publicise it.”

    I assume the frustrating and delayed response you received invited publication?

  2. Rational O:
    I waited three weeks for a reply, and got a non-reply. All promises are off.
    If you look at the Readers’ Editor’s site, you’ll see that they correct the most trivial errors within a day or so. I’m guessing that this was tossed about between the Guardian’s lawyers ( a nervous lot. They once removed a comment of mine because I suggested that Berlusconi was a criminal) the Editor and Nuccitelli, who took five minutes off from his day job working for Big Oil to dictate something sarky to Barbara, who garbled it, with the result we see.
    My great-grand-uncle must be spinning in his grave.

  3. j ferguson says:

    Geoff,
    Kommentmachtfrei is really really good. thanks. john

  4. Katabasis says:

    Time for a PCC complaint against the Guardian I think Geoff. It is possible to win them, I won my case against them over their coverage of the “row to pole” farce. I’d be happy to submit a separate complaint too over this issue – they definitely seem to take it more seriously if more than one person complains over the same article(s).

  5. foxgoose says:

    Complaining to the Graun is eerily similar to trying to complain to the Beeb.

    They feel the need to occupy the fortress of the moral high ground by pouring boiling oil on anyone who approaches its walls.

    It must be tough having to listen to whingers when you always know you’re right I suppose.

    I think invoking the ghost of CPS was good – assuming Ms Harper, Junior Assistant Head of Denier Complaints Rebuttal, has heard of him.

    Katabasis’ offer of taking them for a PCC jaunt sounds promising – if he’s up for it.

  6. Katabasis says:

    Totally up for it. I don’t know if any of you have gone through the PCC process before so one thing that would come out of it even if we didn’t succeed is that the accused media outlet is forced to investigate and give some pretty detailed responses.

    I’d recommend that the primary point of attack is the simple fact that the claims made by Nuttercelli are completely debunked by Frontiers itself. A secondary line of attack may be to point out that his false claims have been picked up by a whole host of other media and that it does the Guardian’s image a serious disservice.

    I’m totally behind your concerns regarding being libelled but I don’t think it would be wise to make them centre stage for a PCC complaint. That can come after.

  7. j ferguson says:

    PCC?

  8. J Ferguson
    Press Complaints Commission. It has no teeth, as far as I know, but it is an embarrassment to a newspaper like the Graun which, as Foxgoose says, likes to believe in its moral superiority.
    I’m certainly in favour, and agree with Katabasis that the main point is the inaccuracy, the spread of the information, and in particular, the refusal of the Readers’ editor to address my complaints.
    If you look at their page
    http://www.theguardian.com/info/2013/sep/23/guardian-readers-editor
    They do actually make corrections. Their defence of Nuccitelli is incomprehensible. He’s not a Guardian journalist, just a “stringer” for the Environment blog. The headline is clearly wrong, whether or not we have been defamed in a legal sense.
    I agree the question of defamation is not essential. Ms Harper’s point seems to be that if you follow up all the links, you come across some where Foxgoose and I can be found criticising Lewandowsky. If she thinks that counts as “bullying” she should say so.

  9. foxgoose says:

    Agree.

    Libel’s probably too convoluted – but inaccuracy is hard to deflect. Also agree that embarrassment factor is high – if dastardly deniers show Graun’s green saints are telling porkies.

    If K is up for the paperwork & frustration – go for it.

  10. It occurs to me that the PCC may not cover blogs. I don’t think Nuccitelli or most of the other articles at Guardian Environment occur in the print edition.
    I’m away for 2 weeks and won’t have much internet access. If anyone has any ideas on this, please free to contribute.
    I’d point out a couple of things: the Guardian takes its reputation for honesty and accuracy seriously. I’ve always believed their claim that the blog moderators, complaints dept etc are separated from the journalists, but this makes me wonder.
    Another bit of background information. Editor Rusbridger was boasting not long ago how he employed 10 or 11 full time environmental journalists. It’s striking that they are almost entirely absent these days, with the spadework being hired out to “stringers” like Abraham and Nuccitelli, who are neither journalists nor climate experts, but bloggers and climate activists.

    (In today’s Graun their regular journalist Suzanne Moore calls Nigel Farage a pustule, so I suppose complaining about being called bullies does sound a bit fussy.)

  11. Katabasis says:

    Don’t worry Geoff, we’re good:

    “The PCC deals with all editorially-controlled material in UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites). This can include:

    *Articles and pictures

    *Words and pictures (including video) on newspaper and magazine websites”

    The two month time limit to complaining about articles in print also doesn’t necessarily apply to web content. There’s a definite case to be made here.

    http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/makingacomplaint.html

    The complaint must specifically identify where the publication has violated the code of conduct. I have a very strong suspicion that Dana isn’t even aware that the PCC or the code of conduct exist. He violates pretty much every subclause of clause 1:

    “1 Accuracy

    i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

    ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

    iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

    iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.”

    http://www.pcc.org.uk/cop/practice.html

    Something else to note is that in my experience the complainant also has a say over the content of the retraction / apology notice in 1.ii

  12. Katabasis
    Thanks. Sorry your comment was held up by WordPress, possibly due to links.
    On iv) it should be pointed out that there’s been no action for defamation, It’s the simple use of the word “defamatory” by McIntyre and me in complaints to Frontiers that has been interpreted in articles by Nuccitelli, McKewon and others as constituting a “threat”. Claiming that we threatened them when when we didn’t could also be counted as defamatory, I suppose, but let’s not get recursive…

  13. Katabasis says:

    No problem re: post holdup Geoff.

    I think its pretty much a slam dunk for i, ii and iii.

    I quoted iv also because it might be worth knowing it is there. Especially given how easily Lewandowsky seems able to get away with libel and he could well appear in a UK publication throwing his weight around at some point expressing more retraction fury at the hands of us damned fossil fuel funded kids and our well funded conspiracy.

  14. skiphil says:

    Geoff, my latest little comment, I would be very interested in your (much better) informed comments, since I delve into these matters only sporadically:

    http://climateaudit.org/2014/07/26/cooks-fake-ethics-approval/#comment-696231

    — John —

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