Sunday, January 4, 2015

Defamation tricks: "Slur and Slurp"

Sou | 2:27 AM Go to the first of 20 comments. Add a comment

WUWT is one of the main disseminators of lies about scientists in the climate blogosphere. Anthony Watts has, at times, tried the defense that he doesn't read what goes up on his blog. As publisher, I doubt would hold up in court. In any case, he also is a source of some of the lies about science and scientists.

Today he provides another illustration of how climate disinformers try to cement a lie as "fact" in the minds of their readers. Anthony Watts published an article by Tim Ball (archived here). In it he tells so many lies and misrepresents so many people I reckon it could almost form the basis of a class action suit, if scientists decided to do so.

Tim Ball can't even get his lies right!

Let me add, that Tim Ball can't even keep his lies straight. His opening sentence is:
The most recent aberration of climate science is the apparent cherry picking of ocean temperature data by government scientists, Richard Feely and Christopher Sabine. 
Except the lie about Drs Feely and Sabine related to pH not temperature.

"Slur and Slurp" strategy

This article isn't about ocean acidification. It's about how climate disinformers spread lies. In particular, the use of the "slur and slurp" strategy, which is quite simple:
  1. The slur: Plant the seed of the lie in enough places
  2. Eventually someone will water the seed and it will grow and bear fruit
  3. Sit back smugly and slurp the fruits of your sins.

1. The slur: plant the seed of the lie

The way it works is an old strategy, well known to gossip-mongers and share market traders. First you "seed" a false story. The fake story in this case was that two scientists "hid" data. It's a blatant lie of course. It is a complete fabrication. The reverse is true. The scientists have been instrumental in collecting and collating data, not hiding it.

Intelligent share traders are well aware of this strategy. There are unscrupulous people who "hype and dump" or "pump and dump" or "slur and slurp" (see here for an explanation). They will plant a rumour on a share trading discussion board, for example. The rumour is spread around discussion boards and the unwary start buying (or selling) the stock. It takes a little while for the stock market people to query the company in question about the unusual change in price and get a response and publish it. In the meantime, the person who planted the initial seed has bought low and sold high (or shorted the stock and sold low) and made a packet. Sometimes they get caught and end up in prison.

Gossip-mongers rely on people believing the saying "no smoke without fire".

This is how climate disinformers work. They seed a lie and watch it spread all around the deniosphere. If they are "lucky", the lie will get picked up by the mainstream media, as happened with the stolen CRU emails. (The media having been bitten badly. is a bit more cautious with climate denier scams these days.)

How Mike Wallace planted the seed

The seed for the first targets of this new libel was planted by someone named Mike Wallace, a year or so back as I understand it. He planted a false allegation about two of the world's leading scientists in ocean acidification - Drs Christopher Sabine and Richard Feely.

It looks as if Mike Wallace tried to plant the seed of the story with Steve McIntyre. It died before sprouting. Steve didn't do anything with it as far as I'm aware.

Mike was successful in planting the seed with a writer called Marita Noon. Marita Noon said that it was Mike Wallace who came to her (with his false allegations). You can read about Marita Noon on SourceWatch and the Heartland Institute. Among other things she is Executive Director for what looks like a pro-fossil fuel organisation (of one person?), Energy Makes America Great Inc.

2. Watch the seed grow and bear fruit

Having planted the seed, all that Mike Wallace needed to do was sit back and watch it grow. His job was done. (Planting the seed successfully has not been sufficient for Mike Wallace. He has also spread the lie by petition. Yes - he really has.)

Ms Noon was a good choice for Mike Wallace. (That is, unless the one or other or both scientists decide to take advantage of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund and take him and CFACT and Marita Noon and WUWT and Tim Ball all the other scoundrels to court.) She elaborated on Mike Wallace's lie in an article for CFACT.

When Marita Noon first got hold of the story is unclear. When CFACT published the lie is clear. It was on 22 December 2014, just a few days ago. The story spread around the deniosphere to Marc Morano's disinformation clearing house, ClimateDepot and to WUWT and elsewhere.

3. Mike Wallace and CFACT slurp up the fruits of their sin

Now that the lie has taken hold in the deniosphere, Mike Wallace, CFACT and the disinformation propagandists like Marc Morano and Anthony Watts, can all sit back at least partly satisfied. They won't really be happy unless the lie is picked up in the mainstream media, but I doubt that will happen.

The big lie

In the CFACT article, Marita Noon falsely claimed that the two scientists deliberately withheld data. She wrote:
Feely’s work is based on computer models that don’t line up with real-world data—which Feely acknowledged in e-mail communications with Wallace (which I have read). And, as Wallace determined, there are real world data. Feely and his coauthor Dr. Christopher L. Sabine, PMEL Director, omitted 80 years of data, which incorporate more than 2 million records of ocean pH levels.
Feely’s chart, first mentioned, begins in 1988—which is surprising, as instrumental ocean pH data have been measured for more than 100 years — since the invention of the glass electrode pH (GEPH) meter. 

Now that's a contradiction straight off. Marita claimed that Dr Feely's work is based on computer models (and I expect a lot of it is supported by scientific modeling studies), but then goes on to talk about a chart that is of actual observations - from Hawaii since 1998. There are pH readings going back a long way, but they are sparse and of limited value when considering global changes (as I've discussed previously).

She then ludicrously writes:
Wallace was then able to extract the instrumental records he sought and turned the GEPH data into a meaningful time series chart, which reveals that the oceans are not acidifying.

I've already discussed (here and here) how "meaningful" Mike Wallace's ridiculous effort was. He hasn't the first clue about ocean pH.

Oh, and would you believe, Marita slips in the stock standard denying politician's get out clause: "I am not a scientist, but ..."

Why I wrote this article

This article was mainly to show how lies get propagated in the deniosphere.  I'll point out that Tim Ball didn't quote Hitler this time around. But don't heave a sigh of relief just yet. Instead he quoted Osama bin Laden! (Tim Ball has strange heroes.)

After repeating the faked up rumours about Drs Feely and Sabine, Tim went on and talked about a number of other prominent scientists, trying to make out they were dishonest. He has a real problem, which I hope will get partly addressed in the defamation cases against him - or future ones. He asks for it.

From the WUWT comments

daveandrews723 may be correct or not, if he is, it will be for different reasons to what he surmises:
January 2, 2015 at 9:52 am
All excellent points. This will go down as one of the “dark ages” of science.

Doug Proctor is a grade one climate conspiracy theorist:
January 2, 2015 at 9:55 am (extract only)
Bad science in geology is just bad science. You read it and dismiss it – the conclusions, that is, because generally the observations are solid. The difference with climate science is that ANY science, good or bad, is governmentally and ideologically supported if the conclusions are pro-CAGW, and not supported if it is anti-CAGW....

cnxtim is a member of the scientific illiterati who shudders with contempt - of science:
January 2, 2015 at 10:14 am
The final absurdity of the warmists creed is that any change upwards in the earth’s observable climate is all bad for everyone and everything. Surely even the most fervent disciple can see the idiocy of that position? But no, they do not – I shudder with contempt. 

Louis has fallen for the "big lie" hook, line and sinker. He even elaborates on it, in the style of recursive fury.
January 2, 2015 at 11:36 am
If showing the historical pH data “wouldn’t have changed one part of what they have shown,” then why did Sabine stubbornly refuse to provide the data when requested? Why not provide the data with an explanation of why they thought it was unreliable and let people decide for themselves? Isn’t that the proper way to do science? When you hide data, it makes you look like you’re trying to hide something. That’s because you are.

LearDog thinks Tim Ball ought to look for other heroes:
January 2, 2015 at 10:53 am
Really? Really? Osama bin Laden as arbiter of morality in the West? Wouldn’t the Pope have sufficed?
The extreme rhetoric distracts from the main points I think.

Ed Brown probably believes in Lizard Men and one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eaters, too:
January 2, 2015 at 11:32 am
Thanks, Dr. Ball. Your essays are an enormous reservoir of well reasoned arguments. I’m archiving them. I do it for the children. Their elders may be beyond hope. Climastrology seems an apt term.

Mike M. isn't buying it and vows to ignore articles by Tim Ball:
January 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm
This is ridiculous.
the apparent cherry picking of ocean temperature data by government scientists, Richard Feely and Christopher Sabine” by “temperature” do you mean pH.
The data were not in any way cherry picked. The graph was labelled “Hawaii”; no claim that it was global. What was shown was the high quality time series data specifically obtained with the rigorous controls needed to identify long term trends. For the entire time series. That consisted of CO2 data for Mauna Loa (the entire time series) and pH and p_CO2 data for Station Aloha (the entire time series). No cherry picking. They did not show the CO2 data for Antarctica or elsewhere because the graph was for Hawaii. They did not show pH data for elsewhere either. They also did not add a bunch of crappy CO2 data to the graph just because it exists (I am sure one could find some crappy CO2 data somewhere). Nor did they add crappy pH data just because it exists.
For years I went along with the IPCC position because the criticism was almost entirely nonsense. Eventually I realized that within that ocean of nonsense there were some islands of reasonable criticism. This whole pHraud business just adds to the flood of nonsense and makes it harder for the real criticism to break through.
I hereby make myself a promise: When I see an article by Tim Ball, I will ignore it. Which, based on prior experience, I should have done when I saw that this was by Tim Ball.

That's as good a comment as any to finish on. Most of the commenters bought the lies as intended. They are a stupid lot at WUWT, and most of them are not the least interested in questioning what they read on their favourite anti-science blog. They find there are people who are willing to feed them what they want to believe - and that's enough to satisfy them. If they had a terminal disease they'd probably shop around for a quack to tell them they will live forever - and be satisfied with that, until their time inevitably comes.


  1. It's a feature of conspiracy theorists that they always know all about what's being concealed, and in cases like this can even point to it.

    I think you're right that this won't get past the legal eagles in mainstream media. Due diligence, or even cursory diligence, should see to that. The problem with suing Wallace is that you have to show he knew his nonsense to be nonsense, which is practically impossible. And as for the blogosphere, there's no reasonable expectation of any diligence at all.

  2. The CRU theft elevated the power of lies in science. I think scientists do need to make lying expensive for the perpetrators but as Michael Mann has discovered it's a hard row to hoe.

    I have not been involved in any 'defo' matters but I have litigated twice and it's an awful business. It sucks the energy and creativity out of you The first time I won comprehensively with all costs and damages awarded. The second time I lost in the court of first instance and so took it on appeal to my state Supreme Court where I won a 3-nil judgement. Had I lost that judgement I would have been liable for my costs (in both courts) and those of the respondent. It would have cost me over $1 million. My win left me drained not elated.

    What we have asked Michael Mann and perhaps are asking Drs Feely and Sabine to do is to put part of their life and research on hold whilst they fight for the protection of science (and therefore the species) by stomping on the larynx of the LIE

    The very least we the public can do is to make sure that they are well financed when they weigh into litigation.

    I suggest Drs Feely and Sabine their start the journey. If the lies are not retracted and apologies published then we must get behind them with cash via the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. We need to price lying.

    1. I certainly wouldn't ask anyone to start such proceedings. I greatly respect Michael Mann for doing so but I get the impression it's very much in character for him. That's not the case for everybody, and there's no sin in that.

      I think I'd do it if I had a good case but then I'm retired, don't have much to lose, love an argument, and have a wide vindictive streak - I'm not proud of it, but there it is, I'm not going to apologise either.

  3. Sou, I didn't dare read the article because I just wasn't in the mood to get that hacked off by the slimy lies and readers of them who say "skeptic" when they really mean "gullible". The excerpted comments confirm my prejudices, except now I have to go read the darn thing to see how much flak Mike M. caught for not following the herd.

  4. from my notes of 5 or 6 years ago:

    "Natural Resource Stewardship Project (NRSP), a lobby organization that refuses
    to disclose it's funding sources. The NRSP is led by executive director Tom Harris and Dr. Tim Ball. An Oct. 16, 2006 CanWest Global news article on who funds the NRSP, it states that "a confidentiality agreement doesn't allow him [Tom Harris] to say whether energy companies are funding his group." The NRSP also has ties to Canadian energy-sector lobbyists"


    Also appearing in the movie "The Great Global Warming Swindle" is Tim Ball, a retired professor of the department of geography at the University of Winnipeg. In the documentary, he is listed as Professor Tim Ball, University of Winnipeg, Department of Climatology. There is no Department of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg! He has not published a research paper in eleven years. He is a geographer, not a climate scientist.

    and more recently:

    Tim Ball recently gave a presentation at the University of Victoria's Young Conservative Club. Unfortunately for Ball, a group of graduate students in climate science were in the audience, which I'm sure was not the uniformly receptive audience Ball expected. These students had the facts necessary to debunk the lies that Ball presented as scientific truth. In a victory for truth over pseudoscientific quackery and disinformation, Ball was interrupted numerous times by graduate students, who called him on his blatant lies about climate science. Ball, typical of denier spokesmen, refuses to retract his mistatements and fabrications. He even claimed he receives no funding from fossil fuel interests.

  5. Sou, when you get the chance read the documentation on co2sys over at CDIAC. Actual chemical oceanographers don't focus only on one parameter like pH since you need at least 2/5 measurable parameters to determine whether something dissolves or calcifies in the ocean (aka saturation states). These other parameters include Total Alkalinity, pCO2 and fugacity and even some nutrients can affect saturation states.

    Congrats on learning ODV! We'll have to get you learning Matlab next, so you can start to play with co2sys =)

    1. Thanks Chase. I figured as much. There is an ocean acidification portal that selects DIC, pCO2/fCO2-water, alkalinity - plus a heap of other choices:


      It would take me a long time to learn how to make sense of the ocean and its chemistry, just by looking at such things. Easier by far is to learn from what scientists write about it - and much less risk of making a complete mess of things (ie a complete fool of myself ) :)

      Not sure about Matlab - I see there is a home version - and MIT offers an "aggressively gentle" introductory course in it, which sounds - um - interesting :) And then I'd need to brush up on statistics - which would pretty well mean starting all over again from the beginning. (That is something which is on my to do list.)

    2. Sou, I don't know if a primer on oceanography would be of value, you may already have studied one or two but I have found this one, with its broad spectrum of topics, useful:

      Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science by Tom Garrison . Many of the topics - geological and atmospheric I was already into but this book fills in many gaps and provides jumping off points to deeper study. My copy, purchased in UK, is an earlier 2007 edition emblazoned across one corner with 'Not for Sale in the United States' so some content may vary across borders.

      I think it no coincidence that a number of the top climatology scientists are grounded in oceanography.

    3. Thanks for the tip, Lionel. I've come across that before and thought it would be a perfect place to start. It's still on one of my "to buy" lists :D

      So much to learn - always new things to discover. Never boring.

    4. There is an Excel versionof co2sys. The Matlab code CO2SYS.m might even be amenable to running on Scilab. I did play around a bit with converting it a few years ago but had no pressing need to use it.

  6. O/T but this http://quantpalaeo.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/the-lure-of-underwater-volcanoes/ is a pretty spectacular takedown of another piece of WUWT nonsense.

    1. That's an excellently written article (as are all Richard Telford's articles). Worth a bookmark for rebutting other "it's undersea volcanoes" silliness.

    2. It has a couple of predictions which will come to pass quite soon.

      Prediction: when 18 months of OCO-2 data are available, they will

      1) show the most important source areas are those with high fossil fuel consumption or deforestation (with some up-welling ocean regions),

      2) provoke fake climate sceptics into alleging malpractice.

      Perhaps add them into your 2015 predictions.

    3. They're already pre-predicting malpractice. I think, in classic denierville schizoid fashion, this time next year we're going to see one camp claiming data fudging, and the other camp still fixated on the large natural sinks/sources, near zero awareness that they're in conflict with each other.

  7. He has also spread the lie by petition. Yes - he really has.

    This is hilarious. The petition demands that the pH results be set to some median value as specified by the petition. Science by decree!

    It is ironic when you look at the thousands of words in the denial blogs against the "consensus" - insisting that science is not done by a committee. (They of course know the real insights are made by frustrated Galileos sitting at home.)

  8. I do wish Sou and company would cease the defamations regarding my work and assertions about the ocean pH concern. The reason none have sued me is likely largely due to the fact that I'm right about my concerns. If you had any scientific capacities you would quickly confirm that. If you can do no more than call me a liar, you can't do much, can you? I also wish you would refrain from defaming Anthony Watts and Marita Noon, who helped to break that story, even after the PMEL scientist threatened my career for the sin of ASKING FOR THE DATA.

    1. Although you deserve it, given your false smears, I'm guessing the reason none have sued you is because you wouldn't be able to pay the costs, let alone the defamation award.

      You seem to think that you can wrongly defame leading experts and get no comeback. It's not just the fact that you don't or won't understand the data the scientists have given you. It's not just the fact that you misrepresent the data that's there and make false assertions (eg despite having virtually no data for extended periods early in the piece). It's also that you make false allegations against the very same scientists who, by all accounts, were very patient with you and most accommodating of your many requests for assistance. That is not nice and makes you look extremely stupid. (Think Dunning and Kruger.)

      Michael, you are not just a foolish ignorant person who didn't understand what he was doing, but enjoyed a brief moment of infamy. By now, and with the help you've been given, if you used just a smidgen of your brain you'd have understood that you are so far wrong and why.

      Your behaviour on the matter of ocean acidification is monstrous. This appalling behaviour is symptomatic of willing deniers and deliberate deceivers.

      For anyone who thinks I'm being too harsh, try these for size:

      Mike Wallace, denier hydrologist

      Know your data - ocean acidification again

    2. Mike, I have significant scientific expertise, including lecturing first year students on how to do pH measurements and pH calculations (extremely boring stuff for someone with a PhD, but better they have a highly qualified lecturer to do this, rather than a poor PhD student who has limited didactical skills). I do this at one of the top-25 (Shanghai ranking, my own field) universities in the world.

      My scientific capacities are rated high enough for me to get frequent invitations to speak at conferences (well above and byeond those of the predatory conferences), collaborate with industry, and be a member of editorial boards. And those same capacities call BS on your concerns. Or rather, BS on your ability to assess complex scientific data. Anyone with even the most basic understanding of science would have checked the origin of the data, assessed the known uncertainties, and realized that you cannot just take those measurements and declare them all not only equally valid, but indicative of global pH. Even people who are ignorant of ocean flows would already hesitate strongly to compare a measurement in the Arctic in one year with another measurement somewhere around the equator in another year.

      This link: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Quality+of+pH+Measurements+in+the+NODC+Data+Archives would make anyone with scientific abilities stop and ponder about your claims of supposed fraud.

      Those with a little bit more scientific capability would then go to this:
      and realize that there's a lot of stuff to read up on, before being able to do any analysis at all, and also realize that you clearly didn't.

      I also doubt you just asked for the data from PMEL. Most, if not all of that data is freely available anyway, so why would the threaten your career? More likely is that you already accused them of fraud/they knew you have accused them of fraud.

    3. How much scientific expertise do you need to realise that 'publishing' anything at WUWT has zero scientific relevance?


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