I don't usually bother with science deniers on Twitter these days. They are too predictable, pointless and boring. However this little episode is an example of how science deniers operate. I feel for scientists when they are quote-mined, misrepresented and libeled. It shows how far deniers have to stretch to get any joy these days, when the climate isn't behaving as they think it should.
Someone called @blairking_ca whistled me into a tweet fight he tried to start with Andy Skuse and ATTP. He claimed that I and Naomi Oreskes call everyone we don't agree with a "denier". (I'm flattered to be mentioned in the same tweet as Dr Oreskes but won't let it go to my head.) Normally I ignore such silliness. This time I didn't, and replied with a link to the definition I use for climate science denial - from RationalWiki (as in the sidebar here). Incidentally, there are people with whom I've disagreed on particular topics (and they me) who are by no means science deniers (see here and here for examples).
@blairking_ca said that he wasn't a science denier. I let that ride. He showed all the signs and symptoms, and I had a vague recollection of him running into me some time ago, leaving a nasty taste behind him. However it wasn't relevant to the exchange so I didn't quibble. It turns out that claim was part of the con, leading up to the sting.
The twitter discussion went on and Blair continued to dwell on his complaint about the word "denier". He was arguing how some climate science deniers object because they claim it is a slur (which it is) and linked to Holocaust Denial (which it isn't). I responded - asking at one point why I should be concerned at what science deniers think. (They don't get to label themselves.)
Well, after mulling on this for some time, Blair decided that would have to do. After claiming he wasn't a science denier he turned around and decided that when I tweeted "Why on earth would I be concerned about fake umbrage from a science denier?" I was referring to him. Which I wasn't, of course, as should be clear from the preceding tweets.
Now that might have been an innocent mistake on his part, in which case, he'd have soon realised that I wasn't talking about him, but about deniers in general. He'd have let it go. But it wasn't an innocent mistake at all. It was deliberate (if nonsensical). In the style of climate conspiracy theorists, he hung onto his persecuted victim complex, even after it was pointed out to him that:
- he claimed he didn't reject science (turns out he does),
- my response was in the context of him arguing I should take the feelings of deniers into account - with me naturally responding "why should I".
Nope. He decided both that the hat fitted him too well, plus he figured he'd won a gotcha. He leapt about with glee, tweeting not just once, but twice that my innocuous tweet was identical to him saying "Miriam, you are insane." (Deniers don't observe internet decorum, you'll notice.) He not only won pats on the back from a couple of his fans and fellow deniers (presumably), he managed to make a blog post out of his quote mine.
I haven't read his blog article, but someone else did, and called it "the Blair Bitch Project". Now this has a double meaning. Firstly, I presume he was bitching about me (not) calling him a "denier". But go back a bit. Remember when I first came into the tweet exchange? Blair had singled out me and Naomi Oreskes - it's likely that not only is he a science denier, he feels threatened by women. He fits the profile to a T.
There's more to support that notion. Blair hinted that it's happened before. So he makes a habit of bitching about women? That wouldn't surprise me at all.
Consider all the elements in this exchange.
- Unreflexive counter-factual thinking (against the evidence, and despite constantly claiming context is important)
- Nothing occurs by Accident
- Persecuted victim (and a chance to play hero)
- Nihilistic Skepticism and over-riding suspicion (against all "alarmists")
- Nefarious intent and questionable motives (after all, Sou accepts science plus she's a woman)
- Something must be wrong (and if there isn't, Blair will make something up)
- Self-sealing reasoning (Sou denies it therefore Blair must be right)
The moral of this story
Like I said right up at the beginning - I don't usually bother responding to denier bait these days. In this case I did. If you're a scientist, not just a blogger like me, don't bother. No denier who's following the discussion will be persuaded by science or facts, use logic, or be capable of critical thinking. They are merely playing games, behaving like adolescents showing off to their mates. And like adolescent wanna-be-jocks who treat a scornful look from a girl as a come-on, they'll make believe they scored one over a climate hawk.
What pointless games deniers play - a toxic waste of time and space.