To Chris Elliott, Readers’ Editor,
on March 30th 2014 I wrote to you to complain about this article:
which accuses “contrarians” (i.e. climate sceptics) of bullying a scientific journal into retracting an article.
I pointed out that no bullying took place. We have the journal’s word for it. I further pointed out that the only evidence for bullying was a link to a blog article (by another Guardian contributor, as it happens) and the only evidence he gave for bullying was a link to my blog.
I pointed out that the link, and remarks about two other people, “Foxgoose” and Steve McIntyre, were potentially defamatory. But that was not the main point of my complaint, which was [that] the headline was clearly false, and that the author had provided no evidence to back up his claim, and anyway the supposed victim of the bullying, the editor of the journal, had denied it. There are other errors in the article and in the author’s comments below the line, but my complaint was focused on this one point: that the headline and the main gist of the article were false.
Three weeks later I received a reply from Barbara Harper in which she refers to links in the Readfearn blog article linked in the Nuccitelli article (she confuses an article by Lewandowsky and Cook, linked by Nuccitelli, with an article by Lewandowsky and Oberauer, linked by Readfearn, but no matter). She ends her reply: “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.”
There is nothing in her reply about the fact that the Guardian has published an article whose headline and contents are demonstrably false. The article accuses people unnamed (though clearly identifiable thanks to links) of bullying, while the supposed victim says that no bullying took place, a fact revealed in a comment on to the article.
I replied to Ms Harper, pointing out why her reply was unsatisfactory, and received the following reply the same day:
“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.”
Neither of Ms Harper’s letters make the slightest mention of my principal concern: the fact that the Guardian has published an article which is demonstrably false.
I’ve highlighted a couple of phrases in her letters, which I interpret thus:
that Ms Harper (or possibly Mr Nuccitelli, or someone else) has looked at the articles by Lewandowsky and Oberauer or Cook, and discovered that McIntyre, Foxgoose and I were all frequent critical commenters on these articles, and that Ms Harper (or someone else) thinks that our frequent criticisms are sufficient to establish the fact that we are bullies.
If that is the reasoning behind Ms Harper’s replies (and it’s only my surmise, of course) it’s not enough to establish that we bullied the journal “Frontiers in Psychology”. I’ve been rude about Lewandowsky, calling him a liar, a fraud, a charlatan and a fool, but I haven’t bullied anyone. Lewandowsky has written an article replying to anti-semitic and other racist attacks, but he has never replied to the accusation that he is a liar.
It’s your job, isn’t it, “to collect, consider, investigate, respond to, and where appropriate come to a conclusion about readers’ comments, concerns, and complaints in a prompt and timely manner, from a position of independence within the paper”?
I’ve been looking back through past articles on your site for similar situations, without success, but at:
I found this:
“When a serious allegation is made to the readers’ editor about a published article, it is often not possible to come to a quick decision as to whether the complaint has merit or not.”
Here, there is no problem about coming to a decision. Your article accused (via links) named people of bullying. They deny the bullying. The journal which is the supposed victim of bullying denies being bullied. Therefore there was no bullying, and the article is false.
Will you please reply to this complaint?
Yours, Geoff Chambers