Guardian Correspondence (2)

This is the reply I received 29 April 2014 from the Guardian Readers’ Editor:

Dear Mr Chambers,

The role of the readers’ editor is, indeed, to investigate a complaint and come to a conclusion. When we have come to a conclusion with which a complainant disagrees she or he is free to use any alternative course of action that an individual feels open to her or him. I have now reviewed your complaint with colleagues. In my view, it is unfounded.  

First, I believe that the letters and emails received by Frontiers and/or UWA, the magazine, which led to their decision to pull their link to the researcher’s article (http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/Recursive%20FOI%20complaints.pdf) and obtained in an anonymised form through an FOI request, provide clear evidence of both a bullying tone and threats of legal action.  For instance, one piece of correspondence dated 30 April 2013 from a complainant refers to a researcher whose name is redacted, suggesting (at page 12) the university must be ‘greatly relieved that this third rate academic has left UWA’ and that his research is ‘nonsense’.  The same letter complains about a previous response to the complainant from an ‘underling tame professor’.  Other letters/emails of complaint make threats to bring a ‘formal complaint’ and to contact the ethical committees of ‘universities concerned’.  Further examples of correspondence accuse one of the researchers involve of ‘falsifying data’ and the ‘alleged data fraud’.

A complainant in the FOI correspondence also alleges defamation against the researchers.  An email dated 5 April 2013 repeatedly uses the word defamation.  The reply from Frontiers of the same date makes clear that they removed their link to the article complained of because of the allegation of defamation (see page 22 of the correspondence).  A previous email dated 5 April 2013, apparently from the same complainant, says (at page 29) ‘I should also remind that, if this proceeds to legal action, any court or tribunal would take a very poor view of you attempting to impose an arbitrary and unreasonable deadline….’

On 4th April, a complainant (presumably the same one) wrote (at page 30): ‘I have sought legal advice which confirmed…I could potentially have a defamation action against the authors and publishers of this paper’. The same email says: ‘Obviously, I understand that any legal action would have to be prosecuted under my real identity.’

Moreover, you say in your email (below) to me: “I’ve been rude about Lewandowsky, calling him a liar, a fraud, a charlatan and a fool, but I haven’t bullied anyone.” I disagree. That is a bullying tone.

You and Steve McIntyre are not mentioned in the Guardian article. You are both featured in Redfern’s blog.  Redfearn links to both your own online publications regarding this matter: your point of view and your own statements are included in the Redfearn blog that mentions them.  Your comments, Mr Chambers, also appear with that article.  You have both already ‘replied’ or had your views reflected in the same places you are named.  There is no need for a further reply in the Guardian and I don’t propose to take any further action. You are, as I said at the beginning, free to take any other action that you feel is open to you. I am unable to help you any further.

best wishes

Chris Elliott

_______________________________________________

I replied today as follows:

Dear Mr Elliott,

Thank you for your reply of 29 April. I’ve been away on holiday, which is why I haven’t replied before. In the interest of bringing this long and tedious correspondence to a close, it might be useful to summarise it. My first letter of March 30th began:

 “I’m writing to complain about this article which is factually incorrect and defamatory of myself and of Steve McIntyre”.

After a description of the defamatory nature of the article, I continued:

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.”

The replies by Ms Harper and yourself are entirely devoted to the question of whether the article is defamatory. They deal with this (quite ably I may say) by accusing the anonymous writers of letters of complaint of adopting “a bullying tone”. The letters of complaint referred to are a selection of those reproduced by Graham Redfearn from the FOI request which presumably he authored (my letter of complaint is not among them).

You further subsume under the heading of“adopting a bulling tone” what you describe as threats to bring a ‘formal complaint’ and to contact the ethical committees of ‘universities concerned’”.

Does the Guardian really believe that bringing formal complaints to government-funded bodies constitutes bullying?

[It’s slightly off-topic, but I’d like to point out that I’m a fervent defender of the Guardians publicising ofthe actions of the British and American secret services. It’s all about getting the facts out to the public. Facts are sacred, or scarce, or scary, or something.]

See paras 14ff of

https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/apocalypse-close-chapter-11-moonbat-on-the-couch/

You say:

Moreover, you say in your email (below) to me: ‘I’ve been rude about Lewandowsky, calling him a liar, a fraud, a charlatan and a fool, but I haven’t bullied anyone.’ I disagree. That is a bullying tone.”

Call it a bullying tone if you like. I’d say it’s my polite way of saying that Lewandowsky is a total arsehole (No, not totally. I’ve praised him on my blog for his courageous stand against the torture condoned and possibly practised by the US and British governments. And if ever some future British or US government tries to limit his academic freedom in any way, I’ll be the first to defend him – though he may not thank me for that).

You and Ms Harper have failed to deal with the fact that the headline to the Nuccitelli article falsely accuses the journal “Frontiers in Psychological Science” of giving in to bullying.

Those who sent letters of complaint to “Frontiers” (me, Steve McIntyre, Anthony Watts and others) deny the accusations of bullying. “Frontiers” deny having being bullied. Nuccitelli deals with this embarrassing situation by accusing the editors of “Frontiers” of lying. I have two simple questions for the Guardian:

1) Do you stand by the title of this article?

2) Do you stand by Nuccitelli’s statement that the editors of “Frontiers” are lying when they deny being bullied?

I await a prompt response to these two simple questions. Otherwise I shall be submitting a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

Yours

Geoff Chambers

 

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

8 Responses to Guardian Correspondence (2)

  1. omnologos says:

    why oh why every Brit organisation is bound to circle the wagons and defend its own bastards, just because they’re its own bastards??

  2. TinyCO2 says:

    Unfortunately bullying is in the eye of the beholder. When the Guardian writes it is seeking the truth, when others disagree it’s bullying. I suspect Frontiers feels bullied by everyone but that doesn’t mean it’s decision about Lew’s paper wasn’t based on good reasoning. The pressure from an article in a national newspaper (albeit one with a small circulation) would be far greater than a few grumpy letters from members of the public but if the paper broke rules, it broke rules. The senior editors were grown up enough to see that. They foolishly offered Lew a fig leaf only to have him run around the media rubbing his shame in every face prepared to notice. They couldn’t have published the truth which would have been ‘the field of scientific publishing is bursting with utter drivel but if we only published the good stuff we’d be out of a job, however Dr Lew’s paper went beyond the average tripe and ventured into the very territory he was accusing others of and we have to wonder how close the author is to some sort of personal crisis situation. Frankly we wish we’d never heard of the guy or climate deniers and we’ll automatically reject anything from those areas in the future.’

    I have a theory that if sceptics stopped reading the Guardian’s web pages, linking to them and gave up trying to get comments posted, the hit rate on the site would fall over night.

  3. TinyCO2 says:

    “bullying is in the eye of the beholder” I didn’t know how prophetic I was being. Needless to say the Guardian won’t bat an eyelid at the bullying of Lennart Bengtsson.

  4. TinyCO2
    Ha! I missed your excellent comment here because I was busy following the Bengtsson story at BH, where I replied to you, and to omnologos.

  5. update: 21May 2014:
    Reply from the Guardian Readers’ Editor 14 May 2014:
    Dear Mr Chambers,
    I have nothing to add to my previous letter.

    Next stop, the Press Complaints Commission

  6. catweazle666 says:

    [It’s slightly off-topic, but I’d like to point out that I’m a fervent defender of the Guardian’s publicising ofthe actions of the British and American secret services. It’s all about getting the facts out to the public. Facts are sacred, or scarce, or scary, or something.]

    Interesting.

    Perhaps I’m a bigger cynic than you Geoff, but I’m not convinced by that either, in my view the fact that the Guardian publicises it is sufficient to make me doubt that is as it is presented either – based as it is primarily on the disclosures of an individual – Assange – who appears at least as questionable in his motivation as Lewandowski is in his.

    Facts are indeed sacred, or scarce, or scary, or something.

  7. Michael Reuss says:

    I wrote this to the reader’s editor in the UK, and the top NY editor at the Guardian US.
    reader@theguardian.com ;
    janine.gibson@theguardian.com

    Dear Guardian,

    I can’t find an ombudsman link on your web sites, so I’m sending this to the readers editor in the UK and the top editor in NY. Having followed the ongoing e-mail exchange between The Guardian and Geoff Chambers, posted at https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/guardian-correspondence-2/ , I can remain silent no longer. My summary of the ongoing tit-for-tat is this::

    – Misters Lewandowsky, Cook, Nuccitelli and Marriott submitted a paper (Recursive Fury) to New Frontiers, that contained dodgy and tendentious science regarding climate change catastrophe “deniers,” probably intending them to be publicly shamed and to put political pressure on them to conform. Bad enough scientific principles right there to reject, for me. But they didn’t.
    – The paper was originally accepted and published by New Frontiers.
    – Chambers and Steve McIntyre and others were named personally in the paper, even though they had not been subjects of the study, nor did they participate in any way that’s defined in any methodology. In essence, their replies to Fury were mined from blogs moderated by Cook himself, and which were used to draw and imply conclusions about their personal mental health.
    – Some of the named individuals complained to New Frontiers (Chambers was the most vociferous) about what is, at the very least, an ethical breach of research on human studies.
    – New Frontiers, eventually, after investigation, retracted the article, explaining the possible defamation risks as the cause, but using some mealy-mouthed terminology.
    – Guardian columnist, Dana Nuccitelli, who is not a disinterested party, and is in fact a co-author of the rejected paper, wrote a column announcing that the article retraction was due to ‘bullying’ of the publisher.
    – 1st, since Nuccitelli was not disinterested, and has a conflict of interest, he should not have been allowed to write his Guardian article at all, or at least not without including a co-author from the other side of the question. Far better would have been to have a truly neutral reporter or columnist interview both Nuccittelli and his side, and Chambers and others on his side, AND to include and interview someone from New Frontiers.
    – Following Nuccitelli’s article, Chambers complained repeatedly to the Guardian in private e-mails, insisting that he did not bully anyone.
    – New Frontiers, in a direct response, or should i say rebuke, to Nuccitelli, wrote a direct reply, refuting his bullying claim. This letter was circulated widely, and the Guardian is aware of it. Also, the statement, unlike the first, which it superseded and was intended to clarify, was direct and not mealy-mouthed in the least.
    – The Guardian has now repeatedly refused to correct Nuccitelli’s language while attempting to justify it in private e-mails to Chambers.
    – Nuccitelli’s erroneous statements stand as the Guardian’s statement of record on this subject.

    For shame! Publish a correction that no bullying has been done to New Frontiers. And publish an apology (two separate statements) to all the named individuals for Nuccitelli’s comments. If you can make it that far, perhaps you might even want to take a look at the basic premise behind Recursive Fury itself, and see it it does not also meet your standards for bullying. By your own definition, isn’t calling someone a bully who is NOT a bully, itself a form of intimidation and bullying? Are truth and accuracy so devoid of meaning at the Guardian these days, that you will let this crap that Nuccitelli wrote, stand and fester?

    Michael Reuss
    Fort Lauderdale, FL

  8. Michael Reuss
    Thanks for your contribution. Sorry it’s been stuck in WordPress’s moderation system, due to the enclosed links.
    A couple of corrections:
    The article “Recursive Fury’” was by Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer and Marriott. Nuccitelli was not an author.
    We can’t be sure that “Chambers was the most vociferous”, since no complete source of complaints exists. I’ve published my complaints, as has Watts and McIntyre. Otherwise we only have the incomplete and anonymised complaints in the FOI document provided by Readfearn at
    http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/03/20/science-journal-retracts-paper-showing-how-climate-change-sceptics-were-conspiracy-theorists-after-sceptics-shout

    Otherwise, I agree completely with your analysis. If you were twenty or 200, or better 2000, the Guardian, and other news media would be forced to pay attention.
    The Guardian is a British newspaper with an honourable two hundred year old radical tradition of opposition to slavery and to British intervention in American affairs. The current editor is obsessed with two things: global warming, and breaking into the American market in order to exist as an internet-based news medium. A few more interventions like yours from Florida might be all it takes to convince him that he’s mistaken.
    My complaint to the Press Complaints Commission is now being considered. A decision is expected within a month or so.

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