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Climate change deniers: give ‘em enough rope, and guess what happens?

January 10, 2011

I have to thank Rogerthesurf for being so obliging (and Elsanasser, to a lesser extent). Several times, my comment policy has been criticised, with words like censorship bandied about when it transpired I had moderated comments that breached this blog’s comments policy. I don’t want to shrug off criticism in some self-righteous way – in fact the whole business does bother me – but my belief was that without some firm editorial policy, this blog would become like so many others – a horrid, bickering, pointless place where you have to ‘wade through vomit’ to find anything worth reading, let alone discussing. I base this view on what has happened to the Guardian blogs, where it is no longer possible to enter into any kind of sensible debate on climate change (or many other topics, it appears).

Anyway, after posting my latest riposte to the latest Andrew Simms ‘100 months’ piece in the Guardian, two of the usual suspects turned up – Roger and Elsa. Both have been banned from this blog, Roger because he’s a rank denier, and Elsa because she makes claims so bizarre I can’t take her seriously. But it isn’t just my view of deniers that matters in this respect; it is the readers of this blog I’m trying to protect, because if serious people turn up here too often, only to find it’s a cess-pit of stupid arguments, I wouldn’t really expect them to come back again. That’s no way to build a quality site, or a readership that values such qualities as I can muster – whatever they are.

When Roger turned up yet again in the bin (where his posts automatically go) I decided to do a little experiment, (aided and abetted by Elsa’s later appearance). I decided to allow his posts to appear, and see how much rope was needed before there was either a lynching, or a suicide. Thankfully, the latter outcome was the result, and now I’ve got my rope back I’m going to take a look – once and for all – at what happened here. When I’m done, I will not discuss moderation again, but merely point any complainants to this thread so they can see for themselves what kind of crap I’m chucking out, and why. To further this objective, I could not have asked for a better or more willing accomplice than Roger, who demonstrated so aptly everything despicable and petulant, foolish and badly informed, hectoring, unpleasant and utterly self-important, that characterises denialism and those who practice it.

* * * * *

Roger’s shtick is quite clever, in a low-cunning kind of way. He goes to ‘warmist’ sites like mine, makes some kind of spurious challenge, which he then invites bloggers to discuss – at his blog. Like me – and as he admits on his blog – nearly everyone ignores him, possibly after seeing his encomium to Monckton, a statement of credulity impossible to ignore.

What he does next is the “clever” bit. He posts his challenge, with commentary to the effect that, because they decline to argue with him, those he challenges are scared of him, can’t refute his arguments, can’t prove their case – that kind of thing – all of which positions him as the white knight of climate scepticism, jousting with the gullible and defeating them at every turn – and their absence from his blog is proof of their defeat! A nice, self-reinforcing delusion in which the more he’s ignored for being an idiot, the more profound his satisfaction. A martyr in the making, created out of his self-immolation.

As self-congratulatory as all this is, it remains a fact that experienced debaters know very well that trying to engage with people like Roger is impossible. (We’ll see a demonstration of this in a moment). After all, what kind of discussion can you have with someone who claims, in the first line of his first post:

I think that we are in the grip of the biggest and most insane hoax in history

How can people become so divorced from the most basic logic, the simplest constructs of rational thought, that they can think things like this. I’m not going to spend any time elaborating on the impossibility of climate change being a hoax, although I will note that straight away the hidden agenda reveals itself – due to not being very well hidden – and that is for a hoax on this monumental scale to be perpetrated across nations and cultures, religions and ideologies, there must be a conspiracy behind it. This claim alone would normally see Roger’s post to the door, because he broke one of this blog’s rules; don’t come here just to tell me I’m wrong. Roger isn’t here to discuss anything; he’s here to correct me and those like me who have been taken in by this hoax – which he’s clever enough to have seen through.

He then puts up some spurious arguments about economics, with hyperbolic claims all over the place to try and get some traction e.g. “…we can expect, if the IPCC has its way, a price rise on petrol of greater than 500%”.  Note the positioning of the IPCC as villain of the piece – that’s a thinly disguised world government trope, where the IPCC is ‘telling’ everyone what to do. Actually, it isn’t: the IPCC is saying that given a range of human activities, such will be nature’s likely response. Governments should act appropriately to minimise the risk. That’s the message, and a message is all it is. Unless it’s part of the conspiracy, right?

There’s more turgid stuff:

All this leads to an economic crash of terrible proportions as unemployment rises and poverty spreads. I believe that this will be the effect of bowing to the IPCC and the AGW lobby.

Ignoring the fact that, given the probabilities, it is the action of people like Roger who will bring about the devastating crash by hindering any sensible progress towards mitigation or even adaptation, it is striking that in his world view, we would be ‘bowing’ (interesting choice of word, that) to the IPCC and the AGW lobby. Nowhere does science get a mention – the stuff that fills page after page of the IPCC reports and informs every projection. Silly, really, to be so transparently biased in debate. But not in terms of propaganda, however.

His first post ends thus:

The fact that the emission reduction cost issue is not discussed, leads me to believe that there is a deliberate cover up of this issue.  

Decode: it’s all a conspiracy. Time to change your pants, Roger.

* * * * *

There’s a horrid predictability in what happens next. I respond to Roger’s post, ask him to restrain his hyperbolic claims, but I don’t take up any issues he’s raised because they are too vague, the sort of mobile goalposts I know better than to aim at. Roger cunningly comes back with a standard cut and paste cliché, plus a plug for his blog:

If you visit my blog you will find that I dwell on the fact that the earth’s climate has always changed throughout its history as well as in human historical times.

What is it about deniers that makes them so fucking patronising? I know that; more’s the point, climate scientists know that. What this statement doesn’t account for is the forcing. All change requires some kind of energy input. Right now, there’s only one we can account for, and it is the change in proportional greenhouse gases in advance of a climate shift, a new phenomenon caused by a new agent – mankind. The whole argument about natural change is just too naive. It is this kind of over-simplification that so demeans real science, which is so much more complex and nuanced, detailed and equivocal. And messy.

Talking of messy, the thread is starting to deteriorate. A very good and well informed writer called JR pops in, and take issue with something Roger implies. How does Roger respond to this criticism? He plays the victim, whining:

That is not what I am saying and you are deliberately twisting my words.

Not for Roger, the non-confrontational ‘you’ve misunderstood me’ or just the first half of his statement. Oh no – JR is ‘deliberately twisting’ his words. Perhaps he thinks JR is in on the conspiracy. Or perhaps Roger is perpetually on the defensive and this response is habitual. To disagree with Roger is to fail to understand him, because he’s right and we’re wrong.

At this point, a regular contributor called Hengist turns up. He seems to be having trouble taking Roger seriously (perhaps he’s wondering why I’m letting this stuff through) but gamely chucks in a few comments. And things turn ugly. Despite Hengist being perfectly civil, and putting some reasonable points, Roger turns all petulant. (He’s losing on all fronts now, which probably reminds him why he rarely argues in other people’s blogs – no control over the turn of events). He starts off with a remarks that makes me laugh, because it contains a truth I don’t think Roger comprehends:

I am unable to explain any further. I’m sure all other reasonable readers understand perfectly clearly what I am saying.

We do indeed, Roger; we do indeed, all too well. He continues:

Your obtuseness makes me suspect that you are very young, maybe 12 or 13. Am I right? I have had this problem before and the correspondents turned out to be teenagers.

This is seriously out of order, and completely unprovoked. Hengist has been anything but obtuse. He has good arguments, and clearly knows his subject. He is articulate and witty. For Roger to be so rude, so demeaning and dismissive, suggests to me that his arguments are tissue thin; why else would he resort to such childish, defensive remarks? In fact, Roger knows he is losing the argument, and seeks to deflect the reality by getting personal and being offensive. He compounds matters by suggesting that Hengist read AR4, remarking:

…read it from top to bottom. By that time you will have grown up and matured a little, but at least you will know what you are defending.

 This is not the stuff of mature debate. It is bigotry, an unjustified arrogance that has nothing to support it, no evidence, no logic, no rationality. There is no argument, merely taunts, insults, petulance and sneering. It’s such an exaggerated response, so unprovoked; confrontational and self-aggrandising.  And now my blog has sewage running through it, which I have to hose down to remove the bad smell.

* * * * *

I’ve had enough of this analysis. It serves its purpose, but I can’t spend any more time on something so unconstructive. The thread is why my moderation policy exists; the shabby tone of it is why I do not permit posters like Roger to cut and paste their anxious arguments here. If you read the thread on which Roger commented and disagree with my characterisation, fair enough: go to WUWT, where you will feel at home.

For everyone else, this is the last time I’m going to allow this nonsense in my blog. This ‘experiment’ was for the record. I don’t intend to play it ever again.

(Oh yes – what happened to Elsa? Her next post went off on one about the use of the term ‘denier’. Again. Guess where that post ended up?)

24 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2011 2:32 pm

    And Moses went back up the mountain. And he cameth down again, bearing with him another stone tablet. The LORD your God has given me another commandment, for the time that shall come far into the future, when ye shall have the power to talk unto one another across the entire scope of the world. And the commandment is this. Thou Shalt Not Feed The Trolls…

  2. Graham Wayne permalink*
    January 10, 2011 2:40 pm

    Ah – he knows a thing or two, that Lord of yours, Dwight 🙂

  3. The King In Yellow permalink
    January 10, 2011 5:09 pm

    Yes, its a familiar and dreary pattern, of unsupported claims, strawman arguments, and when caught out a petulant litany of abuse.

    preparing my own (non AGW) blog, I’ve already decided on a strict moderation policy seeing what has happened here, on CiF and other blod sites.

    All the best.

  4. Birgit Kvarnstrom permalink
    January 10, 2011 6:12 pm

    Hello Graham. First, to wish you a good new year in 2011. This come a bit late because I have spent some time on holidays but am now back to the work and also making some comments on blogs.

    Well as you know I do not like the word “d***ier” but this Roger is also using the word hoax in a bad way I would say. He should concentrate on the issues and not make so personal attacks. And this Elsanasser seems also to make some special comments. I did look back to some old blogs and she is arguing quite well. But then perhaps you have cut all the bad comments that she did make.

    Also I was interested in Dwight Towers comment which is quite from the bible. I am not so strong on this subject. But he is also keen on the Trolls which is a good story coming from Sweden. Do you also have Jötun and Jötnar in England which are also part of the Troll legend?

    I read that although the winter has been cold so far in many places still 2010 was a very warm year. So you must keep up the good works in 2011 and not let Roger and this Elsanasser get in the way!

  5. January 10, 2011 11:38 pm

    Nice write up Graham. It’s a good run down of Roger who does not even attempt to argue from a scientific basis (believing it all to be corrupt) thus completely ignoring basic rules of an informed debate.

    Early on with my blog, I ran into Roger and unlike many, I actually tried to take him seriously. I wish I had your brilliant term, “mobile goalposts” as it is so fitting of him and many like him, same with the reply, ‘you’re twisting my words / you are too naive (or young, I often get) to truly understand what you’re defending” instead of even approaching my argument.
    I too have a problem with removing comments, but have recently begun doing so (Roger’s reappearance and childish comments required as much and another tirelessly paranoid individual, Pete Ridley).

  6. Graham Wayne permalink*
    January 11, 2011 10:35 am

    Morning all. Thanks for the comments – needless to say Roger popped by to accuse me of various forms of cowardice etc but you won’t be seeing any more posts from him.

    I hope it is now clear the kind of posts I moderate, and why. There’s something I’ve noticed that touches on Moth’s remark, and that is that when people cannot take on the argument, they take on the messenger. The personalisation of the argument is always a give-away, a sign of weakness. Those with good arguments don’t need to make disparaging comments about other people because their arguments speak for themselves.

    Anyway, that’s enough about the trolls (and no Birgit, we don’t get much Nordic mythology here – don’t get much of our own, come to that, history being so badly taught these days).

  7. Birgit Kvarnstrom permalink
    January 11, 2011 10:37 am

    And now we read about the situation in Brisbane in Australia. For me this is another example of climate change because this did not happen there before. There seem to be some Australians on this site and I wondered if there was some comments on this in the Australian news?

  8. Watching the Deniers permalink
    January 11, 2011 1:03 pm

    @ Birgit

    Try and

    Right now, parts of Brisbane – one of Australia’s largest cities – are being evacuated. Panic buying as people strip supermarkets of food. Toowoomba town >150km outside of Brisbane was devastated. 10 dead, dozens still missing.

    Go to YouTube and search for Queensland or Toowoomba floods.

    I’ve got some stuff on my blog as well, trying to keep up with events.

    The flooding has effected an areas the size of Germany and France combined. Billions of dollars worth of damage.

    The worst is not over, Thursday looks to be bad.

    No one has “called” it climate change officially, but everyone is talking about it.

    Personally, I believe events such as these are in line with predictions.

  9. Birgit Kvarnstrom permalink
    January 11, 2011 5:09 pm

    Thanks to Watching the Deniers for this comment and reference. I did look at some of this and it seems a rather clear example of climate change which now is catching up with mankind. We must probably expect more of this in the future.

    This was a good position to take in the end on Roger I would say Graham. I like very much an open discussion but it seem he is completely unreasonable and maybe also he is mad, which is why he can be in Nordic mythology I suppose.

  10. Graham Wayne permalink*
    January 11, 2011 5:30 pm

    maybe also he is mad, which is why he can be in Nordic mythology I suppose

    Ah dear me, that made me chuckle… 🙂

  11. January 12, 2011 11:19 pm

    Regarding Australia;
    We had the terrible Vic bushfires in 2009, which devastated many towns in the SE of the state, and we also had the worst dust storm in 70yrs which left Sydney looking like Mars, last year we saw the decade long severe drought finally come to an end – but not before widespread environmental degradation and anger within agricultural sector due to regulations – and when it did break, it broke with force – first the Murray Darling system broke its banks and now the rivers systems of SE Qld, which as must of the world are now away, will be years and billions of dollars to repair (and for Qld, this is only 1 or 2 or more floods that they’ve experienced across the start over the past few months). At the same time, we have bushfires in WA.
    You could take it abroad and look at all the “freak” events, such as the cold snaps (while the Arctic remains warmer than average), Russia’s wildfires, the wildfires in the Middle East, flooding across Asia…
    This is all over 2yrs – so many “once in…” weather events in such a short time. Of course it’s hard to pin down any one in relation to changing climate (the water over Aust currently is due to a La Nina event) and even the whole cluster could be nothing more than a statistical streak and nothing more.
    Sure, this La Nina may have been wet, but would it have been so wet? Sure Aust’s persistent drought may have occurred regardless, but would it have been so severe for so long? You can ask the same questions of the other events and at the end of the day it comes down how much of a gambler you are – how many times your will to bet big on the dice before it turns up numbers you just should get (we’ve had 2 “once in a century floods” in Qld in 35yrs).
    I’m not a gambler and I think the world is worth more than the odds (ie. choosing business-as-usual over sustainability). Risk manage should put necessity on adaptation and mitigation at this point – any reasonable person should take the evidence as compelling and play conservatively with something as important as our life support system.

  12. BenedictQuantum permalink
    January 20, 2011 6:17 pm

    Good comment by you in the Caroline Lucas debate on CiF today-
    “Moderation is an editorial policy where specific topics are defined and protected from disruption and anarchy so the discussions can be focused and fruitful and not just full of trolls. Censorship is the complete denial of your right to free speech, usually by the state”

  13. Graham Wayne permalink*
    January 20, 2011 8:34 pm

    Thanks Benedict, and welcome to my blog.

  14. JMurphy permalink
    January 21, 2011 5:13 pm

    I know what you mean about the Guardian CiF threads, especially the Climate Change ones. I gave up on them over a year ago and try not to even bother reading them anymore, just in case I get tempted to read some of the comments – only to find that the same people are posting the same rubbish time and time again. I admire the many rational posters there who are still engaged in countering all the rubbish, even after two or three years of the same denial from the same deniers.

    Anyway, with reference to your experience here, I’m surprised you also haven’t been accused of making ad-hom attacks or having to ‘censor the truth’ just like all the other supposed elitist/lefty bloggers and scientists, who are all biased against the brave, Galileo-like ‘truth-seekers’, aka Deniers.
    Especially funny when those who make accusations of ad-hom are patently ignorant of what it actually means…

  15. February 7, 2011 11:58 pm

    I wish I had paid more attention to “Elsa” when I read this post (I’ve never heard of her previously) for I went on to waste too many hours entertaining her a week or so later when she popped up on my site. I also suspect she uses a number of pseudonyms to help support herself. So far I’ve picked up a few with (screen name) and I strongly suspect another named “spyglass” to be her aliases.

  16. February 8, 2011 12:39 am

    Scratch that – I just looked at the IP’s and yes, it’s Elsa under many names… What kind of individual builds up an army of clones for support? She’s obviously unwell.

  17. Graham Wayne permalink*
    February 8, 2011 7:02 am

    Hey Moth – how are you? I didn’t know Elsa was quite that far gone. I was already quite familiar with her because she posted in the Guardian threads for a while. I guess she’s acquired enough of a bad reputation to need new identities.

    Still, things have improved mightily at the Guardian recently, now the mods have put a zero-tolerance policy in place.

  18. February 8, 2011 10:57 am

    I’m not bad.
    I’ve written a post on Elsa today (I’d suggest people to link her to it every time she asks her silly question). I know that she also has a “spyglass” and a number of characters that go by (screen name)

    She’s really out there.

    I’m getting close to the Guardian’s policy personally.

  19. February 9, 2011 7:53 pm

    Looks like ‘comment for profit and ideology aka freedom’ is behind much of this sadly. There is an orchestrated effort of denial at least in the US as featured in a new doc film “Astro Turf Wars”. Here’s a short bit from a ‘comments training’ session:

    And the book: “Merchants of Doubt” documents some of the key players. My interview with author science historian Naomi Oreskes:

    Graham, a nice analysis of an all-too familiar experience. Firm moderation is only solution to prevent deliberate hi-jacking of conversations. If we were at a party and Roger started yapping we’d soon turn our backs on him to go get another drink.

  20. Graham Wayne permalink*
    February 9, 2011 9:00 pm

    Hi Stephen – it’s strange to me that most of the arguments used really won’t work in a face to face situation. The kind of bald claims, misrepresentations and disinformation rely on distance, and permanance – at least long enough for the memes to spread. As you say, in conversation we’d be off to the bar rapido…

  21. February 9, 2011 11:35 pm

    Hi Graham,

    I’m not sure I agree. The number of candid conversations between Monckton and others that I’ve seen demonstrate that if one is bombastic enough, the arguments, as illogical as they are, seem to stick (personally, I think in many cases the other is too baffled by the crazy conclusions to respond) 🙂

  22. Graham Wayne permalink*
    February 10, 2011 7:06 am

    Moth – Monckton is a ‘special’ case. I was considering this when Delingpole attempted to eat his feet, wondering how he could have been quite so foolish and easy to expose. It occurred to me that Paul Nurse would not have got anything like the result out of someone like Monckton (or Lawson) because these people are professional demagogues, used to thinking on their feet, and being aware always of where a line of questions or answers can lead. I think in Monckton’s case he has made an artform out of obfuscation and bombast, switching between a gish gallop and hostility with remarkably evasive dexterity. Luckily, few can pull that kind of ‘trick’ off…

  23. February 10, 2011 8:08 am

    Good point! 🙂


  1. Elsanasser’s Insidious Clone War on Reason |

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