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Guardian Watch: Hickman gives Morano a helping hand

July 13, 2010

An open letter to Leo Hickman of The Guardian suggesting that climate change deniers are getting too much airtime. Leo pops in and adds his thoughts…


The Guardian is getting obsessed with deniers. More and more stories are being given over to the antics of the daft, the venal and the outright deceitful. Less and less space is therefore given to the science and the important issues that climate change invokes. Many activists are coming to realise that the main stream media has been duped into giving climate change denial an equal role in the public discourse, as if the ideological and political beliefs, fears and conspiracy theories of climate change deniers must be taken as seriously as the science and evidence based foundations on which climate change mitigation and adaptation are built. 


I beg you – and the Guardian – stop writing about these people.

Think of this as a territorial battle. The battleground is the MSM, and what it discusses. Every time you write about these people you concede the territory, and they have achieved an important aim – they have dictated the agenda.

No longer are we discussing the science, mitigation, adaptation, taxation, the social, economic or cultural implication, the foreign policy issues – there is so much constructive discussion we could have off the back of today’s 800 words from you. Instead, we get a bunch of fruitloops giving an award to another bunch of fruitloops. Frankly mate, who gives a shit? This is trivial nonsense, made to seem significant by your giving it the space – just like his Lardship Monckton.

Deniers want to move all public discourse onto their territory (one of them must have read Sun Tzu) – move it away from the science, and towards every distortion, anxiety and exploitative inference they can get into print. As there is no bad publicity, so there is no bad criticism (to which they are immune in any case).

Sure we need to expose the mendacious practices of these people. You can do that in one line, while setting the record straight in respect of whatever lies and deceit they foist on us today. Right now, chumps like Morano don’t need publicists: well meaning journalists like you are doing their work for them.

A bit later, Leo posts a quote from Morano’s site. He’s picked up the story and listed it so it will now generate search engine hits. Hickman seems quite naive about how this works, and tries to make a joke of it, after linking to Morano’s website again (there are several links in the main story):


Should I consider this my own “award” from Morano?

Actually, he should send you a cheque. First, you make important that which isn’t: the award, and Morano himself. Then you provide him with material – the article – which he immediately quotes. Now search engines will pick up either the Guardian story, or his reference to it. The blogosphere will now go viral, with denier sites everywhere featuring this rabid, unprofessional ‘ad hom’ (they never have a clue what an ad hom actually is), defending poor old Morano, and linking to his bloody website.

The upshot of this exposure of yours is a massive upswell in traffic driven to Morano – and all he did was turn up to a lunch. All in all, a good day’s work – and perhaps the people who dreamed up this award (the exceedingly strange Doctors for Disaster Preparedness) are not quite as crazy as it seems, since they will dominate climate news channels briefly, but for very little outlay.

Full Guardian Story:

UPDATE: A regular ‘warmist’ blogger – Dorlomin – responded with what I view as the standard argument – that people like Morano should be exposed. Trouble is, I don’t think that’s what is achieved, because those who are going to lap up Morano’s snake oil are unlikely to be troubled by facts. 

dorlomin responds: 

I disagree, the Guardian has a duty to get across to British people not used to the trench warfare of the blog wars just how mainstream and batsh*t crazy this crowd are.

I think you rather missed the point I was making. How do people know about Morano? You and I – and the deniers – know about him because we are very invested in the subject. The undecideds are not – the “Casual CiFers” as you call them, or perhaps more accurately, the mainstream general public – they get to hear about Morano because Leo is trumpeting his righteous outrage.

Morano is everything Leo describes (and a lot more he can’t put in print, no doubt) but the story isn’t news, it is just a pissing contest. Morano isn’t exposed; this story is about Leo’s outrage, just like the froth that escapes Monbiot from time to time – remember him demanding to know the identity of some poster or other across several threads? How do people find Morano – by following the signposts erected by The Guardian.

The tone of the Guardian has changed. Pearce and his lop-sided rants got too much space. The Guardian crew are getting payback for CRU, the IPCC and most of all for COP15. They worked so hard, invested so much, and got stitched up like the rest of us. But all this confrontation and self-righteousness is getting us nowhere. The science has grown stronger, the administration and procedures will improve after all this scrutiny, and the deniers are increasingly marginalised – see the business stories about the UNEP and Lloyd’s to see where the money is really leading. Let’s talk about fixing things, not charlatans and crooks.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2010 6:05 pm

    In honour of your rant, I won’t bother going to check the original G article. 🙂

  2. gpwayne permalink*
    July 13, 2010 6:11 pm

    One saved then 🙂

    (Nice one)

  3. Leo Hickman permalink
    July 14, 2010 9:51 am

    Hello GPWayne,

    Thanks for the commentary – sorry to have missed your remarks in the original blog. I agree with much of what you say in your many comments (thank you for the time and effort you put in to leaving your thoughts, btw), but needless to say I don’t agree with you on this one.

    Morano is a major force in the sceptic world – I haven’t got the figures to hand, but I think his Climate Depot is in the top 5 most visited climate-related blogs – and I believe he needed to be called out on this one. I ignore an awful lot of what he does and says, believe me, but making light of death threats to scientists – and then publishing their email addresses – needs to be challenged in my mind. If this sort of thing doesn’t get challenged there is a danger it will perpetuate and spread.

    Yes, I accept there is a danger that you are giving some of these people free publicity, but, for the same reason I think the media should take on, say, the BNP, rather than ignoring them and hoping they go away, I think the “information” (for legal reasons, I’ll leave it at that) they put out has to be exposed for what it is. That, surely, is a fundamental task for any journalist. “Standard argument” or not, I firmly believe this to be the case.

    Also, as you allude, if this is an “information war” being conducted online, then it is important that Google searches throw up results that show searchers what these various characters are up to. Also, it’s not like we don’t cover all the issues you say we should be covering on the Guardian Environment website. We publish dozens of articles a day with arguably more range of subject matter than any other environment website in the world.

    I hope we can agree to disagree.

    Best wishes, Leo Hickman

  4. gpwayne permalink*
    July 14, 2010 11:05 am

    Hi Leo, and welcome. Thanks too for taking the time to respond – I’m flattered you even noticed me, and appreciate your…er…appreciation.

    And of course we can agree to differ – since this is purely a matter of opinion we can be neither wrong nor right: neither of us can demonstrate any quantitive effects, so I have to admit I’m guessing when I say I think the coverage produces what you and I would agree was a net negative effect (agree on the definition of negativity, that is).

    My argument really speaks to credibility, in that I believe we give these chumps the appearance of having arguments of merit by taking them and their arguments seriously. But as a keen reader of history, I’m all too aware of what silence and collusion can do to the public discourse, even as the mob takes to the streets and brownshirts break down doors. It will appear an allusion too far for some, but the distance between certain US commentators and, for example, the remnants of the KKK (now holding tea-parties, I believe) is small and shrinking.

    Anyway, I’ve said my piece and respect your viewpoint enough not to wish to argue in a way that demonstrates an intolerance of that viewpoint. That’s a denier trick, and God knows we see enough of that day in and day out. I’m just chuffed you read my stuff, frankly – and you’re very welcome here any time.


  5. Leo Hickman permalink
    July 14, 2010 5:18 pm

    Thanks, Graham. Much appreciated.

    Best, Leo

    (PS. I didn’t know you blogged until now – why not link to it in your Guardian posts?)

  6. gpwayne permalink*
    July 14, 2010 7:33 pm

    Because the mods put me on pre-mod the last time I did, and Isabella warned me off when I complained about it, claiming the mods thought I was spamming the forum. Nowt I can do about that, and pissing off the mods is hardly a strategy for success in CiF…

    (Sorry, but you did ask)

  7. July 15, 2010 8:38 pm

    The thing is The Guardian is one of the most progressive newspapers in the world, it’s environmental section is second to none IMHO. Yet still they largely present AGW as an argument between sceptics and proponents. It’s much, much, more than that, the debate has to be moved on (adaptation versus mitigation, anyone ? ) and when it does there are many dimensions to it. For me it makes AGW the most absorbing topic . But The Guardian doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job of foreseeing/promoting the next question.

    My, what interesting times we live in. Comfortable because now we are between the invention of penicillin and the depletion of the oil. Fascinating because we can watch our planet change in a way that hasn’t happened for some 65 million years .

  8. July 16, 2010 11:52 am

    Fascinating in a similar way to watching a train wreck while you’re on the train.

    Nonetheless, this was a comment with which I largely agree. The Guardian is rare amongst mainstream newspapers in its ecological coverage, but there is still significant room for improvement.

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