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