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Friday, March 25, 2016

Shady journalism at WUWT: Investigative reporting vs disinformation smears

Sou | 10:37 PM Go to the first of 13 comments. Add a comment

There's quite a bit of difference between investigative reporting, "science" via FOI email fishing, and lazy smears via word association games. There are some examples of the difference at WUWT today (archived here). As you know, Anthony Watts isn't the sharpest tool in the toolshed, which is maybe one reason his fans forgive him his lack of critical thinking and dreadful double standards. Another reason is that his disinformation is aimed at the bluntest tools in the toolshed, so the content doesn't matter. As long as there are some slogans to toss about, the facts are irrelevant.

Today I happened to notice, belatedly, that Anthony Watts whistled for my attention, using me as an excuse to beg for money again - so I'll do him the honour of responding. He copied and pasted a smear attack on some top notch investigative reporting. The closest that his sloppy, lazy copy and paste came to "investigative reporting" was:

  • misrepresenting a press release, 
  • reading a paragraph publicly available for all to see on a web page (I'm guessing Katie read it), and 
  • adding some sensationalist language. 
Who would know that it was garbage anyway? Certainly not Anthony Watts or his readers. Anthony can't even read a simple temperature chart much less come close to understanding what investigative journalism entails.




Investigative journalists should work for free, implies Anthony Watts


He topped his article with this: "From the “cloak and dagger journalism for hire” department comes this today from EnergyInDepth and Katie Brown, PhD". What that says is that journalists should work for free, and not get paid for their efforts. You'll notice that at the same time he tailed his article with a plea for donations. So he must think that dim denier bloggers should get paid but Pulitzer Prizewinning Inside Climate News shouldn't.  Yes, Anthony was referring to the teams from Inside Climate News and the The Energy & Environment Fellowship Project of Columbia School of Journalism.


Revealing more Exxon secrets


What are the facts? Well, Inside Climate News did some detailed months' long investigation of Exxon's history with climate research and disinformation. So far, the effort has won them five journalism awards. It's worthy of another Pulitzer for Inside Climate News.  You can read about it at Inside Climate News. In one short segment, the journalists document how their investigation came about and unfolded. They searched research papers, various archives, and conducted numerous interviews with people who had worked for Exxon, including those who'd worked on climate research projects for Exxon.


Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) smear attack


Contrast that with the pathetic smear effort that Anthony Watts pasted on his blog. It comprised a copy and paste topped and tailed by Anthony himself. In the copy and paste Katie Brown, PhD of Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) Energy In Depth tried to sensationalise a straightforward statement from a Reuters article, twisting it back to front in the process. She wrote:
In a stunning admission, Lee Wasserman, Director of the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), today openly admitted that the Rockefellers are pouring millions of dollars into “media” organizations like InsideClimate News (ICN) and projects at Columbia University School of Journalism with a specific mission and outcome in mind. 
What was the "stunning admission"? According to Katie Brown it seems it was:
No specific company was targeted in our push to drive better public understanding and better climate policy…..We supported public interest journalism to better understand how the fossil fuel industry was dealing with the reality of climate science internally and publicly,” Wasserman said. (emphasis added) 

First of all, as you will see Katie turned back to front the quote she got from the Reuters article, which was:
Rockefeller Family Fund Director Lee Wasserman said Exxon was not singled out when it granted about $25,000 to InsideClimate News.

"We supported public interest journalism to better understand how the fossil fuel industry was dealing with the reality of climate science internally and publicly," Wasserman said. "No specific company was targeted in our push to drive better public understanding and better climate policy."

Second of all,  "no specific company was targeted" - so the "specific mission and outcome" wasn't Exxon. So what was the "specific mission and outcome"? It can only have been supporting "public interest journalism to better understand how the fossil fuel industry was dealing with the reality of climate science internally and publicly."

What is wrong with that? Isn't that what the public has a right to know? Do Anthony Watts and Katie Brown PhD want to hide how the fossil fuel industry was dealing with the reality of climate science internally and publicly? Surely not.

As an aside, on the same day as Anthony effectively saying he wants fossil fuel industry activities hidden, he's got another article about yet another of the dumb email fishing expeditions so beloved of conspiracy theorists. Anthony and his disinforming mates know that all they have to do is say "FOI emails" for his idiot fans to assume that said emails must prove that climate science is a hoax. Yes, really. WUWT deniers are nuts. Batshit crazy. And they have double standards.

Thirdly, what about how Katie Brown PhD wrote about the Rockefellers "pouring millions of dollars into “media” organizations like InsideClimate News (ICN) and projects at Columbia University School of Journalism"?

Let's ignore the "media" in quotation marks, except to say that most people regard a multi-award winning news organisation of being the real deal. Most people at least recognise the Pulitzer. And few would not recognise Columbia as one of the world's top universities. The "millions" poured into Inside Climate News looks to have amounted to $0.025 million. That's right. $25,000 - enough to pay for, at most a few weeks effort of a junior journalist. As for the "millions" paid to projects at Columbia University School of Journalism - well I'd say she blew that number up from here, on the web page:
The Energy & Environment Fellowship Project is an intensive, full-time investigative reporting opportunity for four recent graduates of Columbia Journalism School. The fellows work independently and in teams to rigorously examine issues related to the environment and energy resources on an international level. Fellows perform extensive archival, public records and database research, as well as conduct interviews with a variety of sources from government, academia and industry. Fellows work under the guidance of veteran investigative reporter Susanne Rust.

The project advisors are Steve Coll, Dean of the Columbia Journalism School, Sheila Coronel, Dean of Academic Affairs, and Marguerite Holloway, professor and Director of Science and Environmental Journalism. The program is supported by the Energy Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, Lorana Sullivan Foundation, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund and the Tellus Mater Foundation.
I doubt it amounts to the purported "millions" from just one source.


Shady journalism from Katie Brown PhD


According to Katie, uncovering Exxon shenanigans is "shady journalism". I wonder what she thinks about the implied smears in all the email fishing expeditions conducted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute over the years? I'm not aware of any of these fishing expeditions revealing any wrong-doing, let alone proving climate science is a hoax. You don't usually hear the outcome - the story is in the fishing not what isn't caught.

I can guess what shady Katie thought about this, because she obviously disapproved of anyone finding out about shady corporate funding of disinformation campaigns. She wrote, as if this was a bad thing to uncover:
Only about a month later the RBF funded a study at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies  suggesting that “corporate funding” to more than 160 so-called “climate counter movement” institutions was largely responsible for skepticism about climate science.

Fake sceptics and disinformers don't want their shady dealings to come to light. I don't blame them. Some of these disinformers will probably sooner or later have to answer to the public for their sins. It could be sooner if a full investigation gets underway under RICO laws. Or it might be later if it doesn't.


From Inside Climate News - a cautionary warning for WUWT and Katie Brown PhD


This is from the website of Inside Climate News, where they list their major funding sources:
Donors who support our award-winning environmental journalism do not have access to our editorial process or decision-making. Please be mindful of false reports that suggest otherwise, or that seek to discredit our news organization with misinformation and mischaracterization. Our hard-hitting watchdog reporting provokes retaliation and unfounded smears of many varieties. We do not respond to most of them. Our work speaks for itself.

From the WUWT comments


PiperPaul wants to know what journalism is in the public interest.
March 24, 2016 at 3:05 pm
“We supported public interest journalism”
What exactly does this mean?

ftopt tells him that "propaganda" is. In this case, disinformation propaganda that is intended to delay action to switch to clean energy:
March 24, 2016 at 3:49 pm
In a word “propaganda”

Arno Arrak (@ArnoArrak) is a regular at WUWT who promotes wacky conspiracy theories. I haven't come across this particular one before, though:
March 24, 2016 at 7:10 pm
Müller of BEST only pretended to be independent. His true colors were revealed when he refused to use satellite temperature data for his Magnum Opus and incorporated the falsified ground-based data as a basis for his temperature curve. These ground-based data exaggerate warming from the seventies on and fraudulently pretend vthat there was warning in the eighties and nineties when actually there was a hiatus. It lasted from 1979 to 1997 and is shown as figure v15 in my book that came out in 2010. I kept referring to this but was completely ignored by the powers that be in control of official temperature records. They have gotten away with that fraudulent temperature curve since the nineties, a good twenty years by now..

Felflames has it back to front. It's the journalists in this case who have been asking hard questions of disinformers about their conflict of interest:
March 24, 2016 at 3:29 pm
“Sow the wind, reap a storm.”
Or if you prefer
“When the winds of change blow hard enough, the most harmless of objects become deadly projectiles.”
The “journalists” may want to consider what will happen to them when the whole climate change movement comes crashing down around their ears,and people start asking hard questions about ethics and conflicts of interest.

Speaking of conflict of interest, Katie Brown PhD's smear article was on the website of Energy In Depth, which was apparently "Launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in 2009". Anthony Watts didn't think that detail was worth mentioning. Enough said!

Marcus seems to be supportive of a RICO action, which is odd, because he's a hardcore climate conspiracy theorist:
March 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm
There has to be at least a few laws broken there !!

Niff is flabbergasted that anyone would think that disinformation campaigns could have affecting his "belief" in climate science, or something:
March 24, 2016 at 6:55 pm
RBF funded a study at …. suggesting that “corporate funding” to more than 160 so-called “climate counter movement” institutions was largely responsible for skepticism about climate science.”
The implied thinking is that only the press and media delivers information and if they have captured it exclusively then you can only think what they want you to. Flabbergasting! 

William R
March 24, 2016 at 11:38 pm
I’d like to help fund some journalism projects. Specifically, I’d like to fund some ambush journalism catching warmists at the fuel pump filling up, and explain why it’s OK for them but not for the rest of us. Wouldn’t it be hilarious to catch weepy Bill in the act?

References and Further Reading


Exxon the road not taken - investigative report by Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer from Inside Climate News

Rockefeller Family Fund hits Exxon, divests from fossil fuels - article by Terry Wade and Anna Driver at Reuters, 24 March 2016

Assaulting Reason: The Climate Inquisition and silencing science - with Tim Ball and Chuck Wiese - HotWhopper, March 2016

13 comments :

  1. InsideClimateNews listed the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) as their donor already in December last year on their publicly accessible 'Our Funders' webpage and the Columbia School of Journalism listed RFF already in 2013.

    How that qualifies as a 'stunning admission' is beyond me.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20160125030609/http://insideclimatenews.org/about/our-funders
    http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/news/777

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, HK. I've added a note at the bottom of the article. Inside Climate News attracts a lot of retaliatory smear articles, from the look of things.

      Delete
    2. "Stunning admission" seems to be click bait language these days -- I see it pretty often on things that are not at all stunning.

      Picking on the Rockefellers for installing the new world order agenda 21 socialist conspiracy Jewish bankers Cthulhu -- that's also as old as the hills. Except for the Cthulhu part.

      Delete
  2. Although it's true that 'Anthony Watts isn't the sharpest tool in the toolshed', it doesn't make him any less of a 'tool'.

    Lurker

    ReplyDelete
  3. This particular variant of "Al Gore is fat" always kills me:

    I’d like to help fund some journalism projects. Specifically, I’d like to fund some ambush journalism catching warmists at the fuel pump filling up, and explain why it’s OK for them but not for the rest of us. Wouldn’t it be hilarious to catch weepy Bill in the act?

    We don't 'believe' in AGW, so we're allowed to drive cars, but you do, so you're a hypocrite if you drive a car. WTF? With lack of logical acumen like that on proud display, it's no wonder they can't/won't understand any of the science.

    Perhaps Anthony should change the name of his site to be more representative of his readership. How about: The D-K Club?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You fail to realise that investigative journalists must only travel by canoe or skateboard to preserve their journalistic integrity. They also must be vegans and cannot wear leather, wool or furs.

      There is some disagreement as to whether they are allowed to use a cell phone or should stay with the tried and true carrier pigeon communication system.

      Most of Anthony's people might not pass the D-K Club qualifying examination

      Delete
    2. Most of Anthony's people might not pass the D-K Club qualifying examination

      Ah, but that's the true beauty of the Dunning-Kruger effect. They'll *think* they passed, and chalk it up to a conspiracy that they didn't make the club.

      BTW, since the Dunning-Kruger effect essentially boils down to "being too stupid to know you're stupid"... how exactly do you *fail* a D-K test? That's a rhetorical question, BTW :-)

      Delete
    3. That worldview could be part of the problem. If someone really thinks (rather than just states) that if you accept the science you are not allowed to drive in a society that is still designed around everyone having a car, then the easy solution is to reject the science.

      The harder solution is reconsider your worldview and to realize that we need to change the system over the coming decades.

      Delete
    4. Ah, but that's the true beauty of the Dunning-Kruger effect. They'll *think* they passed, and chalk it up to a conspiracy that they didn't make the club.

      Of course, how could I have missed that. I feel so stupid. Check's club membership. Nope, I' still a paid-up member.

      Delete
  4. Arno's comment intrigued me. I checked his self-published book on Amazon (Amazon says it came out in 2009, not 2010 but a minor mistake). Some of the five-star comments are a delightful repeating of the basic canards (CO2-temp lag is 800 yrs, CO2 already reached saturation, satellite data better than ground-based data, any observed warming is due to ENSO) with some of these points apparently being in the book itself.

    According to the buying options I can have one shipped to me for any price between $51.77 CDN to $984.37 (plus $6.43 in shipping) with the latter price being USED-Very Good Condition--although I think going with the $108.13 one is a better bargain as it is BRAND NEW!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Why would anyone buy a book by someone who labels the greenhouse effect as 'imaginary'?

    Amazingly, this guy has been a biology teacher in NYC for 20 years.

    http://www.climate-lab-book.ac.uk/2013/wmo-report/#comment-569
    http://www.eesti.ca/opilasest-opetlaseks/article35039

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sad to see that the Estonian community gives a soap box to this kook.

      Lurker

      Delete
  6. "So he must think that dim denier bloggers should get paid but Pulitzer Prizewinning Inside Climate News shouldn't."

    Actually, he's just admitting he's not a journalist, so it's okay to pay him.

    I note that none of the conclusions or evidence presented in the Exxon investigation were disputed by Anthony. He objected to the occurrence of the investigation itself, not what it found; its conclusions and evidence were above reproach and cannot be disputed, apparently. It just shouldn't have happened, and certainly shouldn't have been funded.

    As for the "millions" involved, we must keep in mind that $25,000 is 2.5 million cents.

    ReplyDelete

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