Stupidity is the Real Offense

Calling for your opponents in a debate to be jailed is idiotic. It drives away all but the most fanatical of supporters, and it makes everyone else shake their head or laugh at you. Amazingly, that’s not the dumbest thing about this recent article.

The dumbest thing about the article is the people defending it. For example, blogger AndThenTheresPhysics (Anders) wrote a post about it saying:

The article has various people – Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, Christopher Monckton and James Delingpole, to name a few – up in arms. My understanding, though, is that he’s not arguing that those who believe that climate change is not anthropogenic, or who publish papers diminishing anthropogenic influences, should be regarded as criminally negligent. He’s referring to those who are knowingly presenting misinformation for political or financial gain.

It’s my understanding that this is essentially what Lawrence Torcello is suggesting in his article in The Conversation and, if so, I find it hard that anyone can actually disagree. Of course, having been involved in this contentious topic for a while now, I’m sure there will be many who will find reasons to do so.

Anders is right about one thing, people “will find reasons to” disagree with his interpretation. Or at least, they’ll find one reason, “I can read.” Before I get to that though, I have to laugh at this excerpt from the first paragraph of the article in question:

When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on. With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.

Global warming skeptics are often painted as conspiracy theorists, with Anders doing so on the very same page of his post. I find that remarkable given this article Anders defends is claiming there’s a conspiracy to prevent actions from being taken to combat global warming.

But that’s a sideshow for another day. What’s more remarkable is Anders argues the article referred only to people who “knowingly presenting misinformation for political or financial gain.” People who look in a dictionary will see misinformation is incorrect information. Disinformation is incorrect information one knows to be incorrect.

The article Anders defends clearly refers to misinformation (“an organised campaign funding misinformation”). Anders clearly refers to disinformation (“knowingly presenting misinformation”). Based upon this “understanding,” Anders finds it hard to understand why anyone would disagree with him. He apparently thinks people should read this:

We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

As only referring to people who spread disinformation. That would require “all… climate deniers who receive funding” from this supposed campaign know what they’re saying is false. That’s an absurd idea. If there is a disinformation campaign, it’s natural people at least some being paid by it will be fooled by it. People who genuinely believe what they say to be true cannot be “knowingly presenting misinformation.”

The only way to sustain Anders’s interpretation of this article is to not read the article.


On an unrelated note, I don’t think Anders quite gets the humor of his comment here:

I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I would guess that noone who’s complained about Gingerbaker’s comment is going to complain about jeremyp99′s comment or about this comment. Of course, happy to be proven wrong.

As Anders knows, jeremyp99’s comment was deleted. It’s unlikely anyone is going to complain about a comment they can’t see. The reality is once you start deleting comments capriciously, you have no room to criticize what people comment on.

And for those who don’t know, Anders has banned me. For behavior far tamer than that of his commenters on this post or the behavior of the article he defends. I find that amusing.

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26 comments

  1. Brandon: And for those who don’t know, Anders has banned me

    Given who he hasn’t band, that’s pretty interesting.

  2. Carrick, I certainly think so. The amazing thing is he didn’t even ban me for what I did on his site. He banned me because of what I wrote on this site. He then didn’t tell anyone I was banned. He instead made a passive-aggressive post where he referenced having banned someone, saying he wouldn’t say who he banned because he didn’t want to have a discussion about it.

    Because that’s apparently how moderation should be done. Ban people for behavior nobody else can know about or examine.

    My impression is still the reason for my ban was, “Brandon is mean to me; he won’t stop saying I’m wrong!”

  3. By the way, Anders’s remark about what comments people will complain about is utterly idiotic. I just looked at the text of the comment people were complaining about. It concluded with:

    And yes, I believe Anthony Watts should be frogmarched to The Hague as well. No question, in my mind. In fact, I find the idea of a defense of his actions ethically reprehensible.

    The commenter called for a specific person’s arrest. Anders compares that to this comment, saying:

    They’re not directly equivalent, but it’s the same kind of “if we do what you suggest, lots of people will die” kind of rhetoric.

    He conveniently ignores the part about the comment calling for Anthony Watts to be arrested.

  4. I agree that Anders article itself is a whole ‘nother universe of stupid, but it was easy to pick the low hanging fruit glossing over the calling for my “frog march”. He has since deleted the comment once it got some unwanted external attention. I’ve been on the fence awhile, but is probably time to give him the treatment if he wants to hold such discussions.

  5. I can understand banning somebody because they repeatedly ignore moderation rules or refuse to abide by them.

    Banning you because you’re being critical of him, especially given how critical he is of other people (McIntyre in general) and how much vitriol he permits towards Those Who Should Not Be Named or Allowed to Speak, well that sure seems hypocritical to me.

  6. I can see banning people because they are disruptive to a thread too. Doug Cotton is a name that comes to mind in that respect.

    Lucia banned willard (or full-Nelson comment-throttled him actually) for similar reasons. If willard isn’t capable of responding to the comments people are actually making, even if he’s sincere (which I am having my doubts about), he’s not adding anything and just disrupting a thread in the process.

  7. Anthony Watts, I understand that. What surprised me is I didn’t see any commenters or people on Twitter point out anything with the post. It troubled me because it seemed a lot of people took Anders’s representation of that idiotic article as true. That’s bad as he downplayed the article’s stance quite a bit. The way Anders represents it, that article is understandable, if not reasonable. In reality, the article is deranged.

    Carrick, I certainly have no problem with people using moderation to keeps their site manageable. I think a number of bloggers do it in stupid ways, but I at least get the reasoning. That’s why I try to follow sites’ rules when I post at them.

    Incidentally, lucia’s decision with willard is part of where I got the idea for my moderation perspective here. You may not know, but I’ve stated I won’t ban people from my site. Instead, I’ll allow anyone who has been moderated to post comments in topics marked for moderated users. I’ll then let them post comments anywhere else that contain a single link to a comment they’ve made in one of those moderation topics. That means anyone will be able to post here, but nobody will be forced to read comments from disruptive users.

    It’d be a bit of work to enforce, but I don’t expect to get enough traffic for that to ever be a problem.

  8. What are you earthy fallowes talking about? The Anders post hit the nail directement sur la tete (…now how do I put a circumflex..?). It’s clear from the last two paragraphs that he finally gets it(!)

    I illustrate it thusly:

    “Let’s also imagine that there is convincing evidence that certain people/groups have actively engaged in misinformation campaigns, knowing that the risks were real, and doing so for their own benefit”

    “If such a scenario does come to pass, surely – irrespective of our views today – we’d all agree that those who knowingly misinformed for their own benefit, should be held accountable. This isn’t about trying to punish those who chose poorly, believed something that turned out to be wrong, or made mistakes in their scientific endeavours. It’s about holding to account, those who – cynically – tried to influence policy makers, and society, for their own benefit.”

    Well fine! I concur! What he doesn’t add is that we just have to make sure the next set of Climategate investigations are actually worth a damn.

  9. To R.O. : Try alt-136 to get the ê 🙂 I am also of a mind that the most egregious miscreants are the climate-gaters and will eventually be judged and found guilty, if only in the public mind.

  10. People who directly benefit from climate disinformation. Well, proprietors of Tesla motors. Al Gore. James Hansen. Tom Steyer. John Doerr. Natural gas distributors. Enron executives. Hundreds of authors. The entire staff at Think Progress. Whomever is shadow financing the Canadien shell corporation that bankrolls Sciblog (whatever name they happen to be using at the moment – it keeps changing from one year to the next)

    I’m sure that many more names could be added if my memory were sharper.

  11. “And yes, I believe Anthony Watts should be frogmarched to The Hague as well. No question, in my mind. In fact, I find the idea of a defense of his actions ethically reprehensible.”

    Before Anders blathers on like this he should take the time to inform himself about how the International Criminal Court operates, and which crimes it actually covers:

    http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/frequently%20asked%20questions/pages/faq.aspx

    and about this letter from US Secretary John Bolton to Kofi Aman:

    http://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2002/9968.htm

    “”Dear Mr. Secretary-General:

    This is to inform you, in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000. The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.

    Sincerely,

    S/John R. Bolton”

    In other words even if Anthony Watts actions were considered by the court to be a crime (which they are not), US citizens aren’t subject to the powers of the ICC anyway.

  12. Wotty shows himself to be as clueless as ever. His statement It’s my understanding that this is essentially what Lawrence Torcello is suggesting, after a lot of what-if-this-happens-in the-future, is completely false – Torcello is saying this is what should happen now.

    He is also completely clueless about sceptics being ‘up in arms’. Of course the reality is that sceptics are delighted when people like Torcello show themselves to be such extremists.

    I am disappointed to hear that he has banned you, but not, apparently, me. You may challenge my crown of ‘the most unpleasant person on the internet’ or whatever it was he said about me.

    The other joke that hasn’t been made here yet is his banner of “Trying to keep the discussion civil” and then allowing through the comment about Goebbels and Anthony being frogmarched off to the Hague.

  13. Asmilwho, that comment wasn’t by Anders. It was by a commenter at his blog.

    Paul Matthews, I don’t think I could win the title as the most unpleasant person as long as there are people like Romm and Mann. I could be wrong though. I do seem to tick a lot of people (on both sides) off.

    As for the joke that hasn’t been made, I think it’s really this comment. In it, Anders links to a post by willard which says:

    People have asked how to play Calvinball. It’s pretty simple: you make up the rules as you go.

    Is he trying to describe his moderation policy?

  14. That is pretty funny. I’m not bothered by anonymity on the internet, but I don’t see how one can make strong calls for transparency from organizations while maintaining it. How can anyone tell a blogger isn’t just some paid shill if he or she remains anonymous? Sure, Anders says he is self-funded, but nobody can actually know that to be true.

    I’m curious just where Anders would draw the line.

  15. I’m all for the war crimes trials. On one condition. It cuts both ways. IF, in the end, it is proven that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is real, and that the “denialists” knew it to be true, yet conspired to hide that truth from the public and influence public policy, based on untruths, for their own personal benefit, and therefore intentionally causing the deaths of millions or billions of people, then those denialists should be tried for mass murder. BUT, if it turns out that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is the bullspit hoax that I already know it is, then those who devised that hoax, and those who, knowing it was bullspit, helped to support it anyway (i.e., pretty much everyone involved in ClimateGate), should face the music as well. At the very least, they should all be tried for fraud. But, if the alarmists ever succeed at significantly changing government policies, then I believe there will be many, many deaths attributable to the global warming hoax: deaths in automobile accidents because drivers were in tin-foil cars mandated by fuel efficiency standards; heat/cold-related deaths in homes due to government controls on thermostat settings; mandated cuts in fuel usage for emergency responders (police, fire, ambulance) that result in deaths – all those deaths should be treated as murders, and the alarmists tried for them, the same way they want to treat global-warming related deaths as murders and try the “denialists” for them.

  16. His claim to be self-funded is untrue (or his claim to be an active university researcher/lecturer is). He’s funded by the British taxpayer. yet somehow finds the time to write dozens of long blog comments every day.

  17. I deleted Jeremy99’s comment at about the same time AndThen wrote his asking why no-one had complained about it. I don’t like other people being blamed for my actions.

  18. Rachel, while I understand that attitude, I don’t get why you feel the need to share it at this particular juncture. As far as I can see, nobody here has said Anders deleted that comment. That’d mean nobody is blaming anyone for your actions.

    Could you clarify who you think is blaming someone for your actions?

  19. Attp is the second site I abandoned and the first I unsubscribed from for reasons linked to the apparent insanity of its commenters and host.

    Those guys should be left alone before they get fully unbalanced and need be institutionalised.

    Random deletion of comments, capricious banning and illogical blocking on Twitter demonstrate their own brains are trying to salvage themselves by removing contacts with the real world.

  20. “that comment wasn’t by Anders. It was by a commenter at his blog.”

    Oops, sorry, my bad. Although it’s a sentiment I’ve seen quite a lot of times expressed by activists.

    I think the point still stands though – no one gets dragged to the ICC because free speech isn’t a crime against humanity, and doubly so for US Citizens because the US Govnt doesnt recognise the authority of that court anyway.

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