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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We don't want a RICO investigation sez WUWT. What are they afraid of?

Sou | 10:25 AM Go to the first of 15 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts clearly doesn't want a RICO-style investigation of organisations that peddle climate science denial.  I don't know what he thinks will emerge, but he's obviously very much against shining a light on the behind-the-scenes activities.

Which organisations he is protecting he hasn't said.  I don't think it's his own.  He's just a bit player.  His blog is just one of the many outlets used by professional climate science deniers.

Today he's got an article up (archived here) complaining about a barely heard short comment by Naomi Oreskes in an hour long you tube video.  I doubt Anthony would have heard the comment itself.  He has a hearing problem.  I don't.  Yet I couldn't quite make out the words that Naomi spoke.  Anthony wrote: I want to highlight Naomi Orekses and Suzanne Goldenberg, who seem seem to like the idea of having climate “deniers” arrested under RICO act for thought collusion... 

Arresting climate (science) deniers for "thought collusion"?  That's not what Naomi Oreske's said.  Or not as far as I can make out.  Here is the video in full.  Her suggestions about RICO-style investigations is almost at the end.  At the 1:12 mark or thereabout.


So who was it who alerted Anthony to the video and to the comments.  Would it have been an organisation that funds or is funded to promote climate science denial?  Climate Depot for example, which seems to act as a clearing house for all things anti-climate science. Or was it an enthusiastic amateur who spends all their time poring over you tube videos and blogs for comments that can be twisted and used out of context.

Here is an explanation of the RICO Act from Wikipedia:
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually commit the crime personally.
RICO was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Pub.L. 91–452, 84 Stat. 922, enacted October 15, 1970). RICO is codified as Chapter 96 of Title 18 of the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. § 1961–1968. Under the close supervision of Senator John Little McClellan, the Chairman of the Committee for which he worked, G. Robert Blakey drafted the "RICO Act," Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, signed into law by Richard M. Nixon.[1]While its original use in the 1970s was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its later application has been more widespread.
Beginning in 1972, 33 States adopted state RICO laws to be able to prosecute similar conduct.

I'm not from the USA and am by no means an expert in law, let alone US law.  However to claim that the RICO Act, which was signed into law by Richard Nixon and adopted by 33 states, is akin to Nazi domination in pre-War Germany seems to me to be a little over the top.

Also, for people at WUWT to think that dumb deniers like them would be prosecuted under the Act is incredibly naive.  I mean it looks to me that it's people like them that the Act was designed to protect.  Most of them are the ones being hoodwinked.  They are the victims. Anthony Watts isn't a victim.  He's a stooge.  He's one of the low level lackeys who embarked on his crusade against science for ideological reasons as far as I can make out. Funded organisations, like the Heartland Institute use him and people like him as freeby public relations arms.

I gather that the RICO Act was used to prosecute people who deliberately hid the facts about tobacco.  The Heartland Institute allegedly had strong links to the pro-tobacco lobby.  I came across this comment by A Physicist at Judith Curry's blog.  The comment included a comment that Anthony Watts deleted from his blog, which was speculating that this letter from Edward J Markey to the Heartland Institute was in preparation for a RICO investigation into Heartland Institute, when it emerged that they were funding a deliberate campaign aimed at subverting education in climate science.

Will the RICO Act ever be used to investigate funded campaigns to spread disinformation about climate science?  I wouldn't be surprised if it were.  Not this year.  Not next year.  Maybe in the early 2020s.

A lot of cyberspace this past few days has been devoted to fake sceptics and contrarians arguing that free speech means people are free to defame, libel and slander and try to ruin the reputation of climate scientists.  I take it from the WUWT reaction to Naomi Oreske's short comment that these same people think that free speech also gives organisations the right to manufacture propaganda designed to mislead the general public about climate science.

Science deniers live in a very strange world.  Not the one I want to live in.

As an aside, Anthony is surprised that a normal person doesn't know what CAGW stands for.  That's an acronym that took me ages to work out.  It's only ever used by climate science deniers and would only be understood by them or people who frequently visit their underworld.  It stands for "catastrophic anthropogenic global warming".  Although some of the less educated deniers seem to think the "A" in CAGW stands for Anthropomorphic :)

As another aside, and in keeping with Roy Spencer's recent outburst, later in his article Anthony quoted a passage by AlecJC (whoever that is):
Some commentators on WUWT have likened this little scene to Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda in the 1930s, and I’m inclined to agree. 

Climate science deniers are a weird mob.

PS Anthony used his article as an excuse to post an image stolen from the SkS private website.  Someone from the SkepticalScience crowd obviously decided to make a joke out of the tedious allegations from science deniers.  Fake sceptics were constantly referring to SkepticalScience as "Nazis".  Rather than let the endless namecalling get to them they had a bit of fun - Monty Python style.  In private - at least until Brandon Shollenberger broke into their private files and stole their images. Fake sceptics aren't predisposed to laugh at themselves so they don't understand how letting off steam and turning around the nasty name-calling and making light of it can be therapeutic.  (Some of the best television comedy series of the 1970s were the English poking fun at themselves, the English.)

From the WUWT comments

I don't have time to sieve through the WUWT comments, you can wallow in them in the archive here if you're interested.

Here are just a few of them.

Richard Drake says he agrees with the parallels with Nazi Germany:
February 24, 2014 at 9:39 am
I totally support you in the line you take on this Anthony and the historical parallels you rightly draw.

Tamara says, after Anthony pointed out Naomi Oreskes is Jewish:
February 24, 2014 at 9:39 am
Another parallel: Oreskes is an “educator”. Training the Hitler-youths of the future?

Roy Spencer says:
February 24, 2014 at 9:59 am
good summary, Anthony.

Dr Norman Page says:
February 24, 2014 at 10:13 am
It is a sad commentary on the intellectual zeitgeist of many of our great universities when someone of Oreskes limited capacity for independant data based critical thinking and penchant for propaganda can be employed as a Professor.
We see similar politically correct scientific and communications departments and groups at Yale and Columbia.

Ric Werme says smiling is a crime and winter snow means global cooling - or something like that:
February 24, 2014 at 10:13 am
Watch the video: The RICO quote is about 1:12:30 in the video. Note that none of the panelists blinks an eye at the suggestion. They are all smiling after Oreskes finishes.
I skipped around that video some yesterday, all three were smiling nearly all the time, it seemed a self-satisfied sort of smile between friends rebuilding their common worldview.
I don’t know when the video was made, but apparently it was snowing outside at the time, so their worldview likely needed some rebuilding.


  1. If you want to alarm an AGW denier, sneak up from behind and whisper "Discovery!" in their ear.

    As Spencer might say, we didn't start it :)

  2. Yes, RICO was used against Big Tobacco, see Bad Acts: The Racketeering Case Against the Tobacco Industry by Sharon Eubanks and Stan Glantz.

    Whether or not one can use RICO against folks like Heartland is as yet unclear, but if any of the current complaints to IRS on tax-exempt status work out, we''ll see.

    1. The tax issue would seem the best way to go, and with the GWPF in the UK, but we're relying on apparently reluctant authorities to address it.

  3. I may be wrong *, but I think deniers didn't bother to listen to this portion of the talk except for RICO **. I'm French, I'm not that learned in the various anglosaxon spellings, but it was quite clear for me that Dr Oreskes was talking only about points that could tip the public perception about climate change. She was not *advocating* for RICO, she was merely *stating* that a RICO prosecution will maybe have the same results than those filed against tobacco industry.
    She's not a witch hunter, she "only" has a pretty poor opinion about climate denial organisations.

    * I know, this is more rhetorical than true
    ** as usual


  4. Naomi Oreskes on RICO:

    CONAN: You also, speaking of smoke-filled rooms, draw an analogy to the so-called debate over tobacco's health.

    ORESKES: Well, exactly. And this was a major topic in our book [Merchants of Doubt]. And that's where the true conspiracy, of course, comes in because the tobacco industry, the American tobacco industry was in fact found guilty by the U.S. Department of Justice, charged under the RICO statute with criminal conspiracy to defraud the American people. And one of the things we were able to show in the book is that some of the exact same people, not just the same tactics, but actually the same individuals who had worked in the tobacco industry and developed the strategy, for which they were convicted of criminal conspiracy by the U.S. Department of Justice, those same people have been involved in some of the attempts to undermine and challenge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change.

  5. "... a normal person doesn't know what CAGW stands for. That's an acronym that took me ages to work out. It's only ever used by climate science deniers and would only be understood by them or people who frequently visit their underworld. It stands for "catastrophic anthropogenic global warming"."

    That surprises me bigtime and it's not the first time I'm mentioning it. I use the acronym because I think it denotes the reality!
    Now I am becoming prepared to use violence to wrest the use of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming from climate revisionists and those bona fide people like Sou who apparently concede to giving away a perfectly good phrase to the revisionists :)

    Damn what a warped world this is. I knew there was Orwellian linguistic terror but I'm aghast at the actual giving in to this terror! Well it stops at cRR.

    Given the HUGE escalation in climate change related phenomena and disasters - a fact gravely underestimated even by most profs in the field - I think the first RICO invocations will happen already this decennium.
    Perhaps when the graph in this article by Tamino, Unnatural Catastrophes, gets properly understood, which of course demands some more confrontation with reality (those who know me catch my bitter drift). I've confronted some people who are very aware of AGW with it and found to my astonishment they couldn't parse the graph. In other words, even those who occupy themselves with climate change cannot get their head around the inconvenient truth, which is that AGW has real consequences.

    1. The 'Unnatural Catastrophes' link doesn't work. Here's the correct link:

    2. Thank you...
      In preview it did work.
      Now, because it didn't work, the content will never be parsed. Again. I'm getting so sick & tired of this.
      Answering people again who think Moscow '10 was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think Texas 'Spot the outlier' '11 was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the Summer in March was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the Angry Summer was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the 'Floods of the Millenium', Europe 2002, was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the 'Floods of the Millenium', Europe 2013, was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the strongest hurricane ever seen in the Indian Ocean was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the strongest hurricane (typhoon) ever to make landfall in the same year was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the worst floods in Cambodia's history (same year) was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.
      Who think the worst cyclone landfall in Somalia's history (same year) was only one incident from which nothing can be concluded.

      Wishing each of those people an incident or two. I mean that. Call it revenge for Haiyan or payback for the Syrian 2006-2009 drought.

  6. I don't know whether it's because the sound system on my computer is better than other people's, or because I've spent years editing video, but—though I agree the sound is crap—it's very clear what Oreskes says. This is a transcript ..

    "I think there are a couple of things that could be significant: a RICO-style prosecution if a smart lawyer thought that there'd been some aspect of the law that had been broken...".

    Clearly, Oreskes is only suggesting a RICO investigation might occur if the law has been broken. Which I would have thought is fair enough. I, too, can imagine that happening if it can be shown at some point in the future when populations are gripped by the true horror of what climate change means for their lives that they have been wilfully deceived by people covering up the facts. Populations will demand it.

    On the matter of 'CAGW'. Use of this phrase came about around 2007/8 (if my memory serves me correctly) when those denying AGW came to the realisation that their position would be strengthened—and would be easier to defend—if they (when necessary) accepted that there was an anthropogenic component to the warming and instead just concentrated on denying it would be bad. As they saw it, for 'warmists' to prove that AGW exists is relatively easy using just the scientific evidence, however for 'warmists' to show it will be catastrophic requires projections, models and suppositions all of which makes it harder to create a convincing argument. Hence the fake sceptics' current fixation on uncertainties.

    1. This is the first time it was used at WUWT as far as I can tell, in February 2008. (In a period of boredom I decided to see if I could trace the term back). A year earlier it popped up at CA.

      The word "catastrophic" was used in the Oregon Petition way back in 1997.

      There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate.

      ...but it took ten years or more for "CAGW" to catch on in the blogosphere. Even then it didn't come into common denier parlance until around 2010 from what I could tell.

    2. Well oh the irony, then.
      So the Oregon fraud got one thing right :)

    3. Very good summary Mr Russell. Yes, it represents a 'raising of the bar' as simple denial becomes untenable. The word is unscientifically subjective, and while it gets used in press releases and so forth has not been used in the literature or by the IPCC, to the best of my knowledge. The closest would be Hansen's 'Dangerous Climate Change' papers, and they are good scientific efforts to define exactly what constitutes dangerous GW.

      When I see the acronym 'CAGW' I generally ask the person using the term to define it with some hard numbers, how many degrees C over how many years? How much more precipitation? How many people killed or dislocated? What amount of drought?

      Never had a satisfactory answer. If you cannot define a term, you really shouldn't use it in a 'scientific' argument.

    4. The 'C' in CAGW should never be taken to have a scientific meaning. Correct. Observe how the catastrophe in Britain's prime agrarian region this year is a time of paradise for Dutch pumpers and dyke builders.
      Death of some is bread for others.

      How many people killed? O, a quarter million during this incident: .

  7. Any Attempts to Silence Skeptics with threats of Litigation will be met by equal lawsuits for Climate Fraud, and data manipulation , which is already well documented, and all I can say is, give it your best shot, your own words will get an Indictment


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