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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Denier weirdness: Mock outrage and conspiracy ideation by Anthony Watts at WUWT

Sou | 4:00 PM 12 Comments - leave a comment

Today Anthony Watts indulges in some more scientist-bashing and conspiracy ideation.  He writes a protest article on his blog WUWT about a newly published article by Lewandowsky et al.  Anthony blogged under the headline (archived here):
Mann and Lewandowsky go psychotic on climate skeptics
It would be very rare, if not unheard of, for five people, while simultaneously experiencing a psychotic episode, to co-author an article and have it accepted for publication by the Association for Psychological Science.

Sane Australia provides a generalised description of psychosis:
When someone experiences psychosis they are unable to distinguish what is real — there is a loss of contact with reality. 
About psychosis from Wikipedia:
In properly diagnosed psychiatric disorders (where other causes have been excluded by extensive medical and biological laboratory tests), psychosis is a descriptive term for the hallucinations, delusions, sometimes violence, and impaired insight that may occur.[6][7] 

Anthony Watts feeds off people's inability to distinguish what is real. Delusional beliefs and impaired insight are commonly seen at Anthony Watts' blog.

No, I'm not saying that Anthony Watts is psychotic or that climate science deniers are psychotic.  Psychosis is a particular condition that is usually temporary or episodic in certain psychiatric disorders.

Being unable to tell science fact from science fiction doesn't mean a person is psychotic.  It usually means they don't have sufficient knowledge.  Sometimes an individual may not have the mental capacity to obtain such knowledge. Sometimes a person's brain refuses to process information properly because there is a perceived conflict between their view of the world and knowledge - resulting in cognitive dissonance.  There is research that suggests that with some people, when faced with particular facts, the "fear" centre of the brain takes over from the "reasoning" pathways.

The article that Anthony basis his "psychotic" accusation upon has the title:
The Subterranean War on Science
It was written by Stephan Lewandowsky, Michael E. Mann, Linda Bauld, Gerard Hastings, and Elizabeth F. Loftus and published in the Association for Psychological Science's Observer.  The paper is short and strong.  It's well worth reading.

Conspiratorial thinking

The paper refers to the conspiratorial element of denial, for example:
The conspiratorial element of denial explains why contrarians often perceive themselves as heroic dissenters who — in their imagination — are following Galileo’s footsteps by opposing a mainstream scientific “elite” that imposes its views not on the basis of overwhelming evidence but for political reasons. Mainstream climate scientists are therefore frequently accused of “Lysenkoism,” after the Soviet scientist whose Lamarckian views of evolution were state dogma in the Soviet Union. Other contrarians appeal to Albert Einstein’s injunction “. . . to not stop questioning” to support their dissent from the fact that HIV causes AIDS (Duesberg, 1989).

One has often seen on Anthony Watts' blog accusations of Lysenkoism in among the comments.  Anthony Watts himself has indulged, for example:

Attacks on science and scientists in a variety of disciplines

More from the Lewandowsky et al paper - I've changed the formatting slightly adding dot points:
This conspiratorial element provides a breeding ground for the personal and professional attacks on scientists that seemingly inevitably accompany science denial. The present authors have all been subject to such attacks, whose similarity is notable because the authors’ research spans a broad range of topics and disciplines:
  • The first author has investigated the psychological variables underlying the acceptance or rejection of scientific findings;
  • the second author is a paleoclimatologist who has shown that current global temperatures are likely unprecedented during the last 1,000 years or more;
  • the third and fourth authors are public-health researchers who have investigated the attitudes of teenagers and young adults towards smoking and evaluated a range of tobacco control interventions; and
  • the fifth author has established that human memory is not only fallible but subject to very large and systematic distortions.
This article surveys some of the principal techniques by which the authors have been harassed; namely,
  • cyber-bullying and public abuse;
  • harassment by vexatious freedom-of-information (FOI) requests, complaints, and legal threats or actions;
  • and perhaps most troubling, by the intimidation of journal editors who are acting on manuscripts that are considered inconvenient by deniers.
The uniformity with which these attacks are pursued across several disciplines suggests that their motivation is not scientific in nature.

Cyber-bullying and public abuse - this is what Anthony Watts' blog is all about, particularly the "public abuse".  Note for example the title that Anthony Watts gave to his article:- "Mann and Lewandowsky go psychotic on climate skeptics".  This is mild abuse by comparison with his normal fare.

Harassment by vexatious freedom-of-information (FOI) requests, complaints, and legal threats or actions - it was just over a week ago when Anthony's blog was last used to urge harassment by email.  Anthony posted an article by Willis Eschenbach.  Willis wrote some rather impolite (to say the least) letters to Science and Steven Mosher urged WUWT readers to spam Science (archived here).  Steven Mosher says (excerpt - my bold italics):
October 22, 2013 at 8:06 am
...I would suugest that people at WUWT start filling email boxes at Science. with polite requests for the data and the code. Grass roots effort. people rely too much on guys like willis and steve Mc and me to make these requests. The more people who ask or complain in a nice way the better chance we have of changing things. We might not agree about the climate but we can agree about the importance of supplying code and data. On this there should be no sides to the debate. both sides, all sides. Show your data and your code or stop wasting our time.

Anthony Watts often posts articles about the ongoing frivolous lawsuits by ATI used to harass, intimidate and try to get access to scientist's private emails.  Examples are archived here and here and here or just use google.

And who can forget Anthony Watts threatening to sue Greg Laden (archived here) simply for pointing out the silliness of Anthony's speculative article about life in space?  Click here for Greg Laden's take.

Intimidation of journal editors who are acting on manuscripts that are considered inconvenient by deniers - the standout case relating (peripherally) to climate change is the attempt to suppress the Lewandowsky et al paper, Recursive Fury.  Anthony Watts blogs about that too - archived here. (Be warned, Barry - if you post a comment pushing your barrow here it will be deleted.  Same goes for the others who want that paper suppressed. I rarely delete a comment.)

Anthony Watts' mock outrage

Now to Anthony Watts' latest article of mock shock horror that anyone could be so accused.  Anthony writes (archived here):
Dr. Michael Mann and Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky have a new paper out that redefines the term “climate ugliness”. Apparently FOIA requests are “harassment”. And Internet blogs “wrongly sidestep peer-reviewed literature”. Oh Mann, tell that to the IPCC who used magazine articles as sources for AR4. The title suggests all this is happening “subterranean” when in fact blogs are all out in the open, while Dr. Mann continues to fight expensive legal battles to hide his publicly funded emails at the University of Virginia and imagines the Koch brothers behind every virtual rock and tree.

What is harassment?

Apparently FOIA requests are “harassment”  FOIA requests are only harrassment when they are organised campaigns like that solicited by Steven Mosher above or by Anthony Watts himself when he wrote (archived here):
My advice to UK readers, start sending an FOI request every week and complain loudly to your UK representatives and write letters to the editor.  Details are in the body of the post below. – Anthony

Or when Steve McIntyre wrote on his blog (archived here).  Click the image to enlarge:

Side-stepping peer-reviewed literature

Side-stepping peer-reviewed literature: Internet blogs like WUWT do this as a matter of course.  There are plenty of examples at WUWT.

Anthony Watts claims that the IPCC report quoted from a magazine article.  He's wrong.  Ironically, Anthony points to a newspaper article as his source for that claim!

In fact, the reference was to a University of Berne Masters thesis by Dario-Andri Schworer (search the page for "Schworer").  Also it was only one of several references in a table in Working Group 2, not Working Group 1 (see Table 1.2).  Working Group 2 is about Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability not the physical science as such. This volume by its nature draws on many more sources of information than can be found in scientific journals.

And now I'll point to the transcript of a television show that has an interview with Dario-Andri Schworer, in which he discusses the IPCC's use of his reference :D  Or you can watch it here:
Anthony continues (my bold italics):
Mainstream climate skeptics admit there has been warming in the last century, CO2 has an effect, but that the issue has been propped up by biased surface temperature measurements and oversold by activist scientists (such as Mann) and the media, since we have seen that climate sensitivity has been observed to be significantly lower than claims by computer models.
Anthony's claim about climate sensitivity could be described as "side-stepping peer-reviewed literature".  It's a bald statement and in any case it makes no sense.  Climate models don't make claims.  Scientists and science deniers may "make claims" but climate models are just tools.  Very sophisticated tools but tools nonetheless.  (A very different and much less sophisticated tool is Anthony Watts.)

Anthony Watts' Lysenko-style conspiracy ideation

Anthony foolishly writes (my bold italics):
Since they are slowly losing the argument as nature keeps adding years to “the pause” in global warming, what Dr. Mann and Dr. Lewandowsky are doing is engaging in suppression of dissent.
That's just silly.  Has Anthony Watts' dissent been suppressed? No?  Then who or what dissent is being suppressed?  He doesn't say.  What he could be arguing is that Professors Mann and Lewandowsky are so all-powerful that they control not only the world's media but all the little science-attacking blogs on the internet.  The evidence shows otherwise.

But Anthony is busy proving the paper correct, writing:
Their tactic is exactly the same thing that went on in communist Soviet Union with dissenters. It is called Political abuse of psychiatry. Psychiatry was used as a tool to eliminate political opponents (“dissidents”) who openly expressed beliefs that contradicted official dogma. Dissenters were labeled as having a form of mental illness that needed to be cured. We all know how that turned out. The Soviet Union is no more.

Aha!  Anthony's promoting the old Lysenko theory again!  Anthony Watts likens the publication of a paper to Stalinist Russia! The circle is complete!

(Is Anthony forecasting the demise of the USA with his "the Soviet Union is no more"?)

From the WUWT comments

The comments section is bursting with conspiracy ideation and attribution of unimaginable power and influence to just two scientists - Professors Lewandowsky and Mann.  The WUWT commenters largely ignore the other authors of the paper and focus in on the two whose names they recognise, except for one or two mentions of Elizabeth Loftus. (Comments are archived here.)

pablo an ex pat says:
November 1, 2013 at 10:47 am
Looks like projection to me too

David Johnson says:
November 1, 2013 at 10:49 am
It is beyond parody

daviditron says:
November 1, 2013 at 10:50 am
The clearest case of projection I’ve seen in a while.

Pat Michaels is digging for something and says:
November 1, 2013 at 10:50 am
I’m betting that his email shows how much he received from Fenton for RealClimate. Mann does not work for free.

007 says Michael E Mann has wielded enormous power right from when he was only seven years old!:
November 1, 2013 at 11:01 am
Funny he doesn’t mention the millions who’ve died from malaria due to the de facto ban on DDT (instigated by people like Mike Mann and in the absence of sound scientific evidence).

gopal panicker says:
November 1, 2013 at 11:03 am
they are using the tobacco industry as a straw man…if they have the truth they should welcome questions…these guys are now paranoid

Oldseadog says:
November 1, 2013 at 11:17 am
Mann et al are guilty of assisting in the deaths of countless third world people by making sure that £Billions are spent needlessly in useless research regarding CAGW.
Kettle, black, pot, calling, the. Rearrange to suit.

andrewmharding says:
November 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm
I have said this on WUWT several times before, AGW is now a belief, no different to a belief in astrology or witchcraft. The science of AGW ended when the world stubbornly refused to warm for 17 years as it was predicted to do by the computer models.
Mann and Lewandowsky are like rats in a corner with a cat coming towards them, hence the squeals. Their squeals though are not of terror, but of spite and self-righteous indignation to those who would dare have the temerity to question their beliefs. One thing is certain though, the louder and the more shrill the squeals, the more certain we can be that the whole rotten mess they have concocted is falling around their ears and more importantly, their wallets!

Tim Clark says:
November 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm
You’re sick.
Because you have to be proven correct to maintain self-esteem and the CAGW bandwagon is crumbling, your fragile ego is shattered.
Self loathing has caused you to become bitter with hatred.
Seek professional help, please.

Dr Burns rejects Anthony Watts' own statement about what "mainstream climate skeptics admit" and says:
November 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm
Mainstream climate skeptics admit there has been warming in the last century, CO2 has an effect, but …” No they don’t. Where is the evidence that atmospheric CO2 concentration is not an effect of warming oceans rather than a cause ?

SanityP, in among the 150-odd comments to date about what Professor Lewandowsky and Mann et al wrote, says:
November 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm
Nobody actually cares what Messieurs Mann and Lewandowsky actually think about anything.

bushbunny says:
November 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm
You know if this came to trial, how many scientists will test their hypothesis a lot more than 99.

DirkH has particular criteria for determining when he is being lied to and says (excerpt):
November 1, 2013 at 6:17 pm
Well, I grew up near the Iron Curtain and we were able to receive DDR television.
When I hear that 97% of people agree on something I know I’m being lied to. (The DDR’s ruling party SED hat that kind of election result.)

Jim Clarke does his own amateur psychological analysis, singling out - you guessed it - Michael Mann and says (excerpt):
November 1, 2013 at 8:29 pm
I have recently been learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), due to an unfortunate relationship in my personal life. As I read the above paper, I could not help but see some similarities to the disorder, particularly with Prof. Mann. I am certainly in no position to make a diagnosis. Not only do I lack the necessary qualifications, but I know practically nothing about the authors outside of their published statements. 

Note to commenters:  As HotWhopper readers know, I have a very liberal comment policy.  It will be more tightly enforced for this article.  I will not allow this article to be used as a springboard for resurrecting old denier memes about climategate emails or to post conspiratorial rants about Recursive Fury or NASA faked the moon landing or similar.  (This is despite the fact that any such comments would most likely support the findings of these papers and the paper discussed in the above article. )


dbostrom said...

I'm sure somebody has already pointed out that if Godwin's Law pertains to Hitler and National Socialists (Bocialists to Monty Python fans), by now it's quite clear there need to be corollary laws for Stalin and Lysenko.

How about Watts' Law and Goddard's Law? After all, the honor, recognition and regretful respect should be accorded to archetypal victims, same as other scary pathological conditions.

George Montgomery said...

Skeptics liken themselves to Galileo but are completely oblivious to the fact that Galileo was a scientist pursued by skeptics (mainly from within the Catholic Church clergy). Even fewer skeptics would know what the Galilean kerfuffle was all about. IMO, the 'best' reason put forward by a skeptic blogger, an Andrew Bolt suckophant (thanks to Clive Palmer for this new word), was that Galileo stated that the "world was not flat" (something that the classical Greeks knew).
WUWT appeals to cranks and crackpots because the misinformation technique used is in the style of The X-Files - the 'truth is out there' and there's a massive cover up. So brave Willard Anthony Mulder, supported by the surrogate skeptic Scully commentators, is doing his best to reveal the conspiracy and secrets to save the world from the reptilean overlords. Makes your head spin, don't it?

Catmando said...

I read the comments as far as Monckton's. his made my skin crawl with its supercilious tone and arrogant attitude. Nice to see that Monckton is keen on corrections - apparently James Delingpole recommended the electric chair rather than the noose for Michael Mann. And they wonder why scientists don't like them.

And the comments just go to back up what Lewandowsky & al say. Ironic.

Wotts Up With That Blog said...

Monckton's comment is remarkable. The irony of what some people say is quite astounding. I got into a ridiculous discussion with some people on Twitter who were upset that the Guardian had taken 6 days to moderate a comment about, if I remember correctly, murdering a particular "skeptic" journalist. I pointed out that it only took a few minutes to find a comment about "putting nooses around the necks of climate scientists" on Delingpole's article about executing Michael Mann - the article being more than a year old at that time. I was told that these were not equivalent because the comment on the Delingpole article didn't mention any particular individual (despite the article naming specific climate scientists). Paul Matthews was so upset with my comparison that he responded by claiming that I was about to become the first person that he would block. Sadly, he seems not to have actually done this yet.

Victor Venema said...

The uniformity with which these attacks are pursued across several disciplines suggests that their motivation is not scientific in nature.

That is not true in their eyes. They call any scientists they do not like a climate scientist. Economics, hydrology, sociology, glaciology, oceanography, biology, geography are all one discipline if reality does not fit to the libertarian ideology, it is all climate science.

John Mashey said...

Thanks, useful. I'm just finishing Defamation By Internet? Part 1 - Murry Salby's Short-Lived Blog Storm's followup, Defamation by Internet? Part 2 - SalbyStorm Surges Through (Un)Skeptical Blogs.

I will reference this and the next post, since WUWT figures prominently, although in that case, Jo Nova was the lead. I gathered and analyzed ~2000 comments, and paranoid conspiracy ideation was pervasive.

1) Of course, the discussions repeated the usual mantras: the IPCC is bad, Mann is bad, Lewandowsky bad, Agenda 21, etc, etc, which of course had nothing to do with the Salby case.

2) But they invented a bunch of new ones, like the delightful idea that Macquarie U had *lured* Salby to Australia in order to obstruct his research dangerous to the CAGW religion (or variants), not a behavior I've witnessed at universities. Even more, this was attributed to international efforts in cahoots with MQ, The Team, or others, such as Kevin Trenberth, discovered to be working in the same town, Boulder, CO.

3) The other interesting effect was the behavior when presented with one side of an employment dispute, and the resulting minimal reasoned skepticism. I.e., some of these folks have been trained long to disbelieve climate science, know that climate science is a hoax run by a cabal, etc, but here was a new situation, whose only evidence was Salby's unsupported claims, which could be assessed with little science knowledge.

Sou: if you're interested, within a few days, this will be ready for review, and if you'd like to take a look, I'd be delighted, since I don't regularly watch WUWT, and you may recognize people I didn't. If so, send me email and I'll send one over, and point you at the subset that might be relevant.

John Mashey said...

Monckton is well-known to have Grave's Disease. Google:
graves disease delusion grandeur
graves disease paranoia (or paranoid)

Of course, he has claimed to cure that (as well as other diseases).
His behavior gets positive feedback from a few people, and being born into the aristocracy was likely not a plus.

I have discussed Monckton with a good clinical psychologist friend, asking what can be done, and the answer was not much. Such eople build walls of unreality around themselves, and when confronted with factual information that threatens their views, simply build the walls higher or attack the bringers of information.
(Of course, such behavior is seen often at WUWT, Nova, etc, as outsiders to the tribe get pounded for stating facts.)

Note: this is not to excuse his actions, simply to observe that there is likely a biochemical/endocrinal reason for some of this.

Phil Clarke said...

Quote: "These evil pseudo-scientists, through the falsity of their statistical manipulations, have already killed far more people through starvation than “global warming” will ever kill. They should now be indicted and should stand trial alongside Radovan Karadzic for nothing less than high crimes against humanity: for, in their callous disregard for the fatal consequences of their corrupt falsification of science, they are no less guilty of genocide than he."

Monckton of Benchley.

"The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant's dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap."

Delingpole (paywalled).

Always remember this: the Warmist faith so fervently held and promulgated by the Met Office is exactly the same faith so passionately, unswervingly followed by David Cameron, Chris Huhne, Greg Barker, the Coalition's energy spokesman in the Lords Lord Marland, and all but five members of the last parliament. And also by the BBC, the Prince of Wales, almost every national newspaper, the European Union, the Royal Society, the New York Times, CNBC, the Obama administration, the Australian and New Zealand governments, your children's schools, our major universities, our minor universities, the University of East Anglia, your local council….
Truly there just aren't enough bullets!

Delingpole again.

John Russell said...

I hadn't realised there were psychological side effects to Grave's disease. That explains a lot.

Of course what it doesn't explain is why so many hold Monckton's loony ideas in such high regard.

dbostrom said...

"[Endless list] are crazy, and I'm not!"

John Mashey said...

Given a strong belief system, any support is welcome regardless of source.
From the SalbyStorm text corpus:

'have news that Christopher Monckton has spoken to him
and confirms that “
“This case is outrageous. I shall be finding out further details from
Professor Salby and shall then arrange for powerful backers to assist him
in fighting the university, which – if his side of the story is in all material
respects true – has committed multiple criminal offenses. This needs to be
a high-profile case.” Christopher Monckton
(Thanks to John Smeed and Malcolm Roberts for passing on CM’s emaill)'

'Joanne Nova #49
July 10, 2013 at 2:05 am · +27 -1
Christopher gave me permission to post his full response:
“This case is outrageous. I shall be finding out further details from Professor Salby
and shall then arrange for powerful backers to assist him in fighting the university,
which – if his side of the story is in all material respects true – has committed multiple
criminal offenses. This needs to be a high-profile case.”
Some offers of donations have already come in before he asked.'

'Monckton of Brenchley says:
July 9, 2013 at 2:31 am
Professor Salby should consider the criminal as well as the civil route. The
university has defrauded him and has attempted to pervert the course of

'joannenova says:
July 9, 2013 at 4:03 am
UPDATE: I hear from Christopher Monckton that he has spoken to Salby and
the situation is indeed outrageous. So it’s very likely the email is legit. Of
course we have not heard Macquarie Uni’s point of view. But the email — if
accurate — suggests appalling behaviour on their part.'

'Chad Wozniak says:
July 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm
@Janice Moore, Lord Monckton, Allencic -
My sentiments exactly, well said by all. What a gross miscarriage of justice, 741
and a prostitution of “science.”'

'David L. Hagen says:
July 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm
At WND’s Right to , Lord Christopher Monckton writes:
Academic Freedom? Not if you Question Climate Change786 Exclusive: Lord
Monckton tells 7 stories about professors shut down for their views'
(, whose comments are of interest. Also, the logo is still rather reminiscent of the House of Lords.)

'Just lucky he has a man like Monckton on his side (and Josh, it would seem).
Jul 11, 2013 at 10:38 PM | John in France'

'oldbrew says:
July 16, 2013 at 9:55 am
Monckton has waded into the Salby controversy'

'Duncan says:
July 10, 2013 at 8:25 am
Apparently Lord Monckton has spoken to Salby. Expect things to get more
interesting in the next couple of days….'

NOT MONCKTON, but paranoid conspiracy at its best:
'tallbloke says:
July 10, 2013 at 8:27 am
Basically, the university has acted in bad faith from the start.1200 Maybe it’s
purpose in offering Salby his position was to thwart his research and make sure
his findings were delayed, suppressed and blocked from publication for as long
as possible.'

'Reed Coray says:
July 10, 2013 at 9:28 am ...
I believe the reason the University responded is because (a) it felt the
pressure of the internet’s response to the affair, and (b) it may already have
heard from some of the “powerful backers” alluded to in Lord Monckton’s

'Jeremy Shiers says:...
In addition Monckton has said Murray Salby has 4 blockbuster papers in

'Yonniestone #20
July 11, 2013 at 10:31 am ·
The more I look at this farce the angrier I get, so I say to Murray good luck
mate and with Lord Monckton on your side I hope you tear Macquarie
University a new one.'

jqb said...

I keep going back to that line from Tamsin Edwards' awful piece:

"I care more about restoring trust in science than about calling people to action"

Reasonable people continue to trust in science ... it is the wackos who don't, and if there's a way to "restore" their trust in science, it certainly isn't her approach of cozying up to them and handing them more ammunition against scientists.

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