Chris Mooney doesn’t understand the Internet, and neither do some researchers

The world wide goldfish bowl

I had to laugh.

Over at Discover Magazine Intersection Blog, Chris Mooney is defending the paper I critiqued a couple of days ago as if it contains some actual solid science. He’s griping that I didn’t read the full paper (which was pay-walled), and thus my critique is invalid. What Mooney doesn’t realize is that he’s committed the same mistake as the authors of the paper, who clearly don’t understand what a “website” is or is not in the context of its connection to broad human interaction.

One only has to read the abstract though, to realize this paper isn’t about science at all, but about politics. here is is:

ASTROTURFING GLOBAL WARMING:
IT ISN’T ALWAYS GREEN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE
ABSTRACT
Astroturf organizations are fake grassroots organizations usually sponsored by large corporations to support any arguments or claims in their favor, or to challenge and deny those against them. They constitute the corporate version of grassroots social movements, which proactively connect people locally with the aim to foster pro-social and pro-environmental issues. Serious ethical and societal concerns underline the astroturfing practice, especially if corporations are successful in influencing public opinion by borrowing a social movement approach. This study is motivated by this very issue and examines the effectiveness of astroturf organizations in the global warming context, wherein large corporate polluters have an incentive to set up astroturf organizations to undermine the importance of human activities in climate change. We conduct an experiment to determine whether astroturf organizations’ websites impact the level of user certainty about the causes of global warming. Results show that people who used astroturf websites became more uncertain about the existence of global warming and humans’ role in the phenomenon than people who used the grassroots website. Astroturf organizations are hence successful in their promotion of business interests over environmental protection. Aside from the multiple business ethics issues it raises, the astroturfing strategy poses a significant threat to the legitimacy of the grassroots movement.

From my perspective, this reads more like an opinion piece than a scientific abstract. So with Springerlink asking $34.95 for something that reads like an article on HuffPo, why would anyone bother? I sure didn’t, because unlike Mooney, I’m not paid to blog, I don’t have a budget. If I subscribed to every journal that issues press releases without the benefit of the actual paper, I’d be in the poor house. The issuance of press releases making PR claims while the peer reviewed paper is held hostage for money has long been a sore point for me and others, especially when public funding is involved. It smacks of elitism and leaves the general public out of the loop.

Fortunately though, reader and regular contributor “Just the Facts” found a copy of the paper elsewhere and posted the link to it in comments. Here it is:

Just The Facts says:

I had a look later in the day at the full paper, and it reinforced the impression that I got from the abstract that this isn’t a science paper, but just another political hit piece disguised as one.

Here’s a few points from the paper that led me to that conclusion:

This investigation is motivated largely by the denialism, and more specifically the astroturfing, phenomenon described above.

As discussed above, this case of faking a grassroots
movement is called astroturfing. Hoggan and Littlemore (2009) simply define an astroturf group as a “fake grassroots organization animated by a clever public relations campaign and a huge budget” (p. 36). A commonly cited example of astroturfing  activities often mentioned in the general media is the alleged large-scale campaign and funding support from ExxonMobil Corporation toward creating and funding “think tanks” that spread false information about global warming and climate change science
(Greenpeace USA, 2007).

The citations for the second paragraph are:

Hoggan, J. and Littlemore, R. (2009). Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books.

Greenpeace USA. (2007). ExxonMobil’s Continued Funding of Global Warming Denial Industry. Available at http://www.greenpeace.org.

Gosh, for a second there I thought it was an IPCC publication. So, with references like that, Chris Mooney’s employer DeSmog Blog, (which is run by James Hoggan’s PR outfit in Canada) one really can’t take this as science when it is so tightly interwoven with politically motivated and paid for flak.

So, knowing that, I thought nothing more of the paper since I first posted on it, until Mr. Mooney decided he had to defend it today. His defense is that the  fake (as I called them) “websites” weren’t actually online for the public to see, and thus “no harm done”.

He writes (and continue from there to DeSmog Blog):

The fake web sites were not on-line in a way that permitted viewing by the general public. They only existed within the computer system used for the experiment. The only people who saw the web sites and answered the survey questions were the participants recruited for the study.

In other words, an Intranet. Wikipedia delineates that as:

An intranet can be understood as a private analog of the Internet.

Note the abstract of the paper states:

We conduct an experiment to determine whether astroturf organizations’ websites impact the level of user certainty about the causes of global warming.

Note the word “website”, which appears 56 times in the full paper. The word “Internet” appears once, in the bibliography, and the word “Intranet” does not appear in the paper at all. Why wouldn’t they mention that the study was conducted on a private Intranet and not on the World Wide Web?

And way back on page 15, once you get past all the wordy opinion about denial, Exxon-Mobil, astroturfing, and the like, we find the experimental procedure:

The experimental task and questionnaire were completed in a lab setting creating a realistic environment for viewing website disclosures and allowing individuals to complete the experiment on their own time in a natural context (Bryant, Hunton and
Stone, 2004).

The experimental task first consisted of answering a series of questions about opinions, knowledge and concern levels on various social issues (homelessness, racism, fair trade, and global warming). To disguise the purpose of the experiment,
participants were told that the purpose of the research was a marketing experiment about effective website design for social issues. Participants were told they would be randomly assigned to view a website related to one of these social issues. The next step was to visit a given website and read some information related to global warming issues contained within the various links of the assigned website. These websites were designed expressly for the experiment and were based on an extensive review of real-world grassroots and astroturf websites relative to the types of global warming-related information commonly provided by these two types of websites. This provided a high level of internal validity, while keeping the task externally valid as well.

Well I don’t know about you, but if you want to learn about something in the wild, you generally study it the in wild. What we have here are manufactured, “fake” websites, running on an Intranet (apparently, according to Mooney’s query of the authors). And generally, when I hear about a study on websites as applied to real websites viewed on the world wide web, I expect the study would be about real world websites, not one limited to a lab fishbowl.

As I see it, this would be like doing Jane Goodall like studies of wild chimpanzees based on chimp-robots made to look like chimpanzees, confined in the lab, and studying how they interact with students who are told they aren’t actual chimpanzees, but disguised as marketing salesmen.

In other words, they didn’t study websites in the wild , but copied wild ones and manufactured “tame” ones of their own design that never left the lab. Even Chris Mooney at one time understood what that “wild” aspect of the Internet means, though it appears he has forgotten since writing this about the Internet in his book Unscientific America on page 115:

So Mooney “gets it” about the wild nature of the Internet, and he more than anyone should understand that you don’t study fake manufactured websites on an Intranet and then use that data to draw conclusions about the Internet at large, for the same reason animal behavior scientists don’t study animals in the zoo to get a clue about what they actually do in the wild.

The Internet is dynamic, changing every minute, with many websites like this in the study changing hourly. The authors make no mention of trying to reproduce that dynamic to get a representative sample.

So in a nutshell, the paper

Astroturfing Global Warming: It Isn’t Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

Charles H. Cho, Martin L. Martens, Hakkyun Kim and Michelle Rodrigue

Is mostly political hokum, and given the level of rhetoric used in the peer reviewed paper, I have serious doubts that the researchers were capable of separating their own political bias when it came to creating those Intranet websites used in the study. I think confirmation and other biases loom large in this. The funding source was not disclosed either.

Further, Chris Mooney’s defense of the paper is most likely rooted in the fact that his current employer, DeSmog Blog aka Hoggan and Associates is heavily cited in the paper.

I will apologize to Chris Mooney though for calling him a “kid blogger” based on that youthful photo he uses. It just seemed so much more cuddly (he looks amiable and likable in it) than calling him a schill blogger.

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70 Responses to Chris Mooney doesn’t understand the Internet, and neither do some researchers

  1. Climate Nonconformist says:

    Mooney has written before that; because high scientific literacy is assocciated with skepticism, knowledge is dangerous for the planet. Now he is boasting of a clearly political piece which implies people who actually do some research on global warming are more likely to be skeptics, to back up a similar point. How does this guy not connect the dots? People who do some digging into global warming find out it is nonsense.

  2. jorgekafkazar says:

    Hey, it’s a model. Isn’t that what Climatology is all about?

  3. Ryan Maue says:

    I think I look pretty young for 29, too. But Anthony doesn’t call me a “kid”, just Dr. Something about those credentials…

  4. TBear (Warm Cave in Cold-as-Snow-Sydney) says:

    Chris Mooney is a lightweight loop.

    The Bear is ever-amazed that anyone pays any attention to him at all.

    He has all the substance of mildly warm air and is as convincing as a wet kitten.

  5. What they “prove” in the paper is that if you are subjected to critisism of global warming you tend to agree that the critisism is valid. Nothing else.

    By the way, does anyone have a clue as to which if any astro-turf websites that exist to promote agw skeptisism?

  6. And, if Mooney was worth the salt to rub in his wounds, he’d realize that the ABSTRACT must succinctly summarize the main point and conclusions of the paper. His assertion that you didn’t read the body (implying that it contained something new or different) is hogwash, because, if the body WERE different than the summary, it should never come close to passing peer review.

  7. Asmilwho says:

    All Mooney has done is to re-discover the psychological effects of the “availabilty error” and “anchoring” first described by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahnemann in the early seventies.

    Which could be summed up as “a strong disposition to make judgements or evaluations in the light of the first thing that comes to mind” (from “a mathematician reads the newspapers” by Prof. John Allen Paulos). Also in wikipedia.

    So if you read something with a sceptical orientation and then answer questions immediately afterwards, then your answers are more likely to be sceptical.

  8. Steeptown says:

    Chris Mooney who?

  9. Deadman says:

    In a world of proper peer-review, the ill-written sludge of Cho et al. would have never be accepted by any reputable journal.

    Thus the language used in narratives can be used to help reduce uncertainty and increase trust by helping people act in an uncertain world leading to greater legitimacy for the logic underlying the narrative. Conversely attacking a narrative can be used in increase uncertainty and decrease trust by making people question the legitimacy of the logic underlying the narrative. [sic]

    The paper fails to explain which “astroturfing” websites were plagiarised. I for instance, before my more recent, small self-funded efforts (such as Impact of Climate Change, Say “Yes” to More Taxes, and the Friends of Carbon Dioxide) was exposed by a blogger as an astro-turfer earlier in the year.
    My son, in his second year of high school, reviewed his high school’s AGW-indoctrination sessionsmasquerading as Science and History classes for his blog. His review, however, could not have been written by a real school-boy, claimed the critical blogger, because his review was too well-written as well as as being too incompetently written, because the name of my son, Alfred, is not the name of any modern boy, and because Alfred referred to Al Gore’s claim of a twenty-foot rise in sea-levels (quoting the teacher who was quoting Gore) though we’re supposed to use the metric system in Tasmania; also, when I attempted to provide evidence of my son’s existence (by, inter alia, supplying my telephone number so the critic could talk to me), he proved with impeccable logic, that I don’t exist either. It seems that, instead of calling me, he determined from my IP address, that my computer is not here in Battery Point but near a town wherein an organisation notorious for being opposed to wonderful environmental things is based; accordingly, he banned me from replying to comments which claimed that I was wickedly manipulating my unfortunate but fictitious son, or misappropriating his non-existing identity, without having the courage to respond to those comments.
    Anyway, for aught I know, my sites could be used as examples of astro-turfing sites, and a competently written paper would reveal which sites are astro-turfing websites the proof of that determination.

  10. J.Hansford says:

    That internet study is about as flawed as the AGW hypothesis’ catastrophic claims about Global temps is…..

    Not to mention the fact that as you read it, it appears that only AGW believers and environmentalists can have “Grassroots” movements… all those “Other” people can only be “astroturf”….. Honestly, these people live in another universe.

  11. Stephen Skinner says:

    It is irrelevant whether a site is a so called Astroturf or whatever. All that matters is how accurate or correct the enclosed information is. What is also missing from this ‘model’ is the test data.

    Meanwhile, here is a clip from the The Fast Show – Indecisive Dave – World Cup Squad

    Perhaps Chris Mooney thinks that most people are like indecisive Dave and can be persuaded by whatever sounds convincing, so it is vital that everyone remains ‘on message’ and there are no inconvenient truths.

  12. JohnOfEnfield says:

    If “Warmists” are reduced to merely discussing the psychology of “denialism” (behind a paywall to boot) then all is lost.

    For them.

  13. Stephen Skinner says:

    Or maybe this one:

  14. Layne says:

    If I understand this correctly, the experiment says it found evidence that when
    people read opposing information about a topic, it influences their opinion.
    Wow. Who would ever have guessed that? So, someone, (probably taxpayers)
    paid good money to acquire this stunning revelation?

    So, the result is that the blindingly obvious is indeed fact, and here, let’s throw in some childish name calling, and package the whole thing in a tired conspiracy theory.

    Brilliant! No wonder the brethren of Klimate are losing the debate.

  15. KnR says:

    Its a poor piece of work with bad methodology , in other words a classic climate science paper , so you can see why Mooney likes it . To be honest for the AGW faithful if the ‘Team’ put out a paper claiming that due to AGW the Moon was turning into cheese the only question some of them would ask would be ‘what type? ‘

  16. omnologos says:

    I strongly recommend anybody with an English major to stay away from a field, such as science, about which he’s got absolutely no qualifications at all.

  17. Galane says:

    Mooney would love some of these cancelbots… http://www.zark.com/pages2/az68/az68b.html Get rid of those pesky bloggers. ;)

  18. jonjermey says:

    In the interest of open science, it seems to me that these fake websites should be released to the public so that unbiased objective evaluations of their effects can be made and replicated.

  19. Steve T says:

    J.Hansford says:
    July 14, 2011 at 12:59 am

    That internet study is about as flawed as the AGW hypothesis’ catastrophic claims about Global temps is…..

    Not to mention the fact that as you read it, it appears that only AGW believers and environmentalists can have “Grassroots” movements… all those “Other” people can only be “astroturf”….. Honestly, these people live in another universe.

    Exactly, and how much money in the way of grants from various government funded bodies finds it’s way into the coffers of Greenpeace, WWF etc. etc.? Are all these agencies websites considered astro-turf?

  20. TerryS says:

    Actually this looks a lot like climate science.
    The participants in this study were 151 undergraduate accounting students and 127 students from marketing classes (who where paid). All of them where attending a Canadian University.
    They have then applied these results to people of all ages and experience located throughout the world in order to reach their conclusion.
    Sounds a lot like what Mann does with bristlecone pines.

  21. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Anthony, Have a good and restful break. Don’t worry about analysis of astroturfing. The authors have forgotten that they produce no real wealth, but are happy to bite the hand that feeds them. They come from the “money grows on trees” mentality. End of story.

  22. Brian H says:

    The chanting and frothing about “astroturf” is textbook projection and misdirection. The percentage of leftist blogs receiving NGO and political funding must be very high. The claimed right-leaning blogs’ corporate etc. funding and backing always turns out to be hand-waving innuendo, or trivial trickles compared to the accusers’ backing.

    Never did the motes and logs analogy apply more precisely.

  23. David says:

    Anthony states, “Well I don’t know about you, but if you want to learn about something in the wild, you generally study it the in wild. What we have here are manufactured, “fake” websites, running on an Intranet…”

    Well then Dear Mr Watts, they are well qualified to be climate scientists. I have rephrased the above sentance to apply it to the field of climate science…”Well I don’t know about you, but if you want to learn about something about the worlds climate, you generally study it the in the real world. What we have here is manufactured, “fake” ,climate running on an computer models.

    You see Anthony, a tiger cannot change his stipes.

  24. David says:

    In the original post on this I challenged Gates to name which books were “astroturfing”. Just as the study in question does not reveal which sites are, according to them, corrupt, Mr Gates refused to list which books were likewise corrupt. Instead he made a claim that 90% were corrupt, using another “study” as flawed as this one. Their (Mr Gates, and this “study”) failure to name the sites and Books, as well as the failure to release their fake web sites content, shows they are nothing more then a propaganda arm for CAGW.

    Many thanks Anthony for exposing such trash to the real internet.

  25. Mark Wilson says:

    As near as I can tell, the author’s of the paper have found that when people read information that runs counter to the CAGW dogma, those people become less likely to believe the official dogma.

    Well, duh. This is news?

  26. W O says:

    You accuse someone of not understanding the internet, yet you still use page views as a measure for your ‘popularity’? Pot, meet kettle..

  27. Smokey says:

    Brian H is right. I’ve commented many times that if it were not for psychological projection, the climate alarmist crowd wouldn’t have much to say.

    And @WO: what metric would you use for popularity? Does 82 million+ unique hits, and over 625,000 reader comments in only 4 years mean nothing? RealClimate would kill for those numbers.

  28. Caleb says:

    .This study is not true science. It is the sort of balderdash you get, when you allow “social science” in the same room as true science.

    “Climate Science” reminds me more and more of the so-called science of Psychology. Back in the 1960′s I took Psychology to be a true science, and strenuously took notes as a so-called “expert” explained human nature. Now I look at those notes and moan. Nearly every “truth” has been exposed as, at best, a half-truth, or else as, at worst, sheer balderdash.

    Certain words in psychology had to change, just as “Global Warming” had to change to “Climate Change.” For example, when scientific studies pretty much shredded the concept of “Manic-depression,” it was changed to the concept of “Bipolar behavior.” Why wasn’t the concept completely discarded? For the same reason “Climate Science” isn’t discarded: Much money can be made by perpetuating the “science.”

    True science is a discipline, and as a discipline it accepts limits. It is humble, and accepts a border it does not pretend it can step beyond. While it may understand a great deal about paint and canvas, it does not presume to measure the greatness of a Rembrandt with a ruler and thermometer.

    Social Science, on the other hand, is arrogance personified. It looks down its nose at all that is high and inspired about human nature, pretending it understands when it hasn’t a clue.

    That is how we wind up in the sorry state that this so-called “peer-reviewed study” is a perfect example of, where a one-sided opinion is foisted as “truth,” and the vastness of all differing views is disdained as “error,” or perhaps as mere “noise.”

  29. Tucci78 says:

    One of the cute aspects of this bullpuckey “research” – using an “Internet-in-a-bottle” Intranet to simulate what the investigators conceive to be a replication of conditions “in the wild” is that what we’re seeing is a response of selected study subjects to an emulation of what the investigators have assumed to be happening online.

    What they did was to create a model predicated upon assumptions, and then treat it as if it accurately reflected reality.

    Jeez, does this sound uncannily familiar to anybody else reading here?

  30. Ric Werme says:

    In your original post about this, I noted the strong biases the researchers expressed in the first page (e.g. President’s Obama’s efforts may be for vain). I’d love to see what they came up with for their fake web sites, I’m sure we’d have a field day with them. Apparently they’re not in the paper, perhaps they’re available as supplementary information.

    OTOH, given their bias, I’m not going to waste my time beyond a quick check to see what Mooney has to say.

  31. Tucci78 says:

    Oh, yeah. One other little thing.

    In the real “denialist” Web sites – like those which Mr. Watts lists as “Skeptical Views” on every friggin’ page of his blog – there tend reliably to be responses on the part of people visiting, some supportive, others hostile; some bereft of scientific literacy, others providing thorough scientific insight; some eloquent, others incoherent.

    Contrary to the practices of the people running the propaganda sites of los warmistas (and is anybody gonna do a similar study of their funding, and their “Astroturf” character?), the “Skeptical Views” Web sites’ operators tend to censor very lightly.

    For los warmistas – as all of us on the skeptical side know only too goddam well – even the most dispassionate, erudite, and thoroughly supported contrarian responses are stricken swiftly and inexorably.

    Hell, especially the well-argued and robustly supported “denialist” posts get expunged. The perfect “Ministry of Truth” treatment obtains with sustained viciousness among los warmistas online.

    Now, did these “Internet-in-a-bottle” simulacra of real-world Web sites include comments and responses? Remember, much of what happens in these online fora develops after the Website operator has generated his (or her) content, when things begin to roll among the various visitors. Sites that generate lots of give-and-go tend reliably to be the ones that also get lots of hits, and therefore can be said to have higher “impact factor” ratings than are those which do not.

    Might as well read through that whole paper myself (I’ve got to go out into Real Life in a bit), and I’ll do that later.

    But I’m willing to speculate right now that nothing was done to emulate the kinds of responses that show up routinely on “denialist” Web sites like this one right here, or to permit study participants to engage in the kind of exchange that each reader – right now – can enter and to which he (or she) can contribute while getting responses from other people, warmistas and skeptics alike.

  32. Yes, it is political, and the “research” is subjective. The experiment is designed to get the answer they want, much like IPCC “research”.

  33. starzmom says:

    This reminds me of the Naomi Oreskes paper which concludes that real science supports the hypothesis of manmade global warming because in her abstract survey, no abstracts of papers explicitly refuted it. Never mind that comparable studies, including my own informal, never published, one, indicated that very few papers presented results or even opinions of the authors which explicitly supported manmade global warming. It sounds impressive at first glance, but means absolutely nothing.

  34. 1DandyTroll says:

    “So, with references like that, Chris Mooney’s employer DeSmog Blog, (which is run by James Hoggan’s PR outfit in Canada)”

    So, essentially, CM is a propaganda outlet paid by Big “Green” Energy, which is exactly like being paid by “Big Oil”, but so much ever worse since Big “Green” Energy is naught but sleazy propaganda sustained on the tax funded gravy train. Ha ha does he believe so strongly that he would continue, on his own dime, to write his propaganda when the tax funds are cut short and the gravy train is derailed, I wonder? Or would he just abandon ship and seek another fat well fare system for cheap hand outs.

  35. Gary says:

    They recruited participants. That’s a big tip-off that their may be something fishy with results. They used manufactured “websites.” That’s a big tip-off that their method might have flaws. They were motivated by a political position (unhappiness with”denialism”). That’s a big tip-off to watch for confirmation bias.

    How is this paper defensible in any way?

  36. glacierman says:

    One of the finest “climate science” studies I have seen. At least this model seems to have gotten it right. The more people research global warming, the more they learn……and the less likely they are to accept the consensus view.

  37. Scott Covert says:

    278 accounting/ marketing students whom are only allowed to believe what they read in school for the last decade exibit the same behavior in a study about whether written information can influence their opinion.
    Wow, that’s solid science. All it proves is, the education system is able to brainwash young minds till they move into the real world and their eyes are opened. I doubt the same results would be found in a group of > 110 IQ adults aged > 30 years.

  38. Vince Causey says:

    What irony! A spokesmen from one of the largest astroturf movements of all time, is shouting that the broad and pervasive climate scepticism is astroturf, because. . . Well, because some funding from Exxon found its way to some think tank, or something.

    He has amnesia over Al Gore’s movement to create an army of climate activists – funded by George Soros – whilst working himself into a lather over an alleged think tank funding. The think tank, as far as I am aware, did not concern itself with ‘raising an army of sceptics’ so in what way that is astroturf is unclear.

    Hypocrite! First take the plank from thine own eye.

  39. dp says:

    Dear Kid Blogger,

    Show your work. How hard can it be to provide actual links to the public Internet that are irrefutable examples of astroturfing? If you’re having trouble getting unstuck from an analog of the real Internet, try finding it by looking for loose ends. Everything on the Internet can be found between these links, surely including your astroturf sites:

    http://TheStartOfTheInternet.com/
    http://TheEndOfTheInternet.com/

  40. klem says:

    “this case of faking a grassroots movement is called astroturfing.”

    Um, I thought that Desmogblog and RealClimate were astroturfs, I thought that was a given. Am I missing something here?

  41. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    Deadman- your story is jaw-dropping. Wow. Are people like that allowed to have kids in your country?

    +++++++
    “Hoggan and Littlemore (2009) simply define an astroturf group as a “fake grassroots organization animated by a clever public relations campaign and a huge budget” (p. 36). ”

    Is that not a clear description of NASA’s RealClimate? Just because it is publicly finded does not mean it cannot be properly categorised. It is a morph: add/change/subtract one letter at a time:
    Astronauts
    Astronuts
    Astronufs
    Astrotufs
    Astrotuf
    Astroturf

  42. BBK says:

    “These websites were designed expressly for the experiment and were based on an extensive review of real-world grassroots and astroturf websites relative to the types of global warming-related information commonly provided by these two types of websites.”

    Hillarious… I read it as, “skeptical websites are more convincing than AGW raving websites.”

  43. Nuke says:

    And this nonsense is why I no longer subscribe to Discover magazine. When they published a piece written by Laurie David, I knew the fat lady had sung for that rag.

  44. henrythethird says:

    “…the alleged large-scale campaign and funding support from ExxonMobil Corporation toward creating and funding “think tanks” that spread false information about global warming and climate change science
    (Greenpeace USA, 2007)…”

    Didn’t someone in an earlier post talk about the funding that Greenpeace got from oil companies?

    Puts their website in the “astroturfing” category, doesn’t it?

  45. PhilJourdan says:

    Being nice to some people is never worth the effort. just call Mooney what he is – a schill for his employer, who is too young to understand what ethics are.

  46. Gary Pearse says:

    “Serious ethical and societal concerns underline the astroturfing practice, especially if corporations are successful in influencing public opinion by borrowing a social movement approach.”

    Oh, so the “societal movement” is not a matter for ethical and societal concerns when they are pushing a political agenda, based on the “whatever” brand of science, to cancel human civilization. Gee, a study that takes sides at the “assumptions”, isn’t even clever propaganda. And by the way, what are these business schools doing bashing industry!!!

  47. MindBuilder says:

    I see no reason to believe that an intRAnet played any meaningful part in this experiment. My first instinct for how to set up an experiment like this would be to just create the websites as files on the hard drive of the computers used by the subjects. The web browsers used in the experiment could just get the web pages directly off their own hard drive. No network of any kind would really be needed for the execution of this experiment.

  48. thelastdemocrat says:

    I looked at the study brieflly. In Canada, they are already 3/4 of the way to allowing elite intellectuals tell them anything. So, one issue with the study is the degree that ppl might move one way or the other. When your view is the socially dominant view, people mostly have the luxury of not having to know a bunch abt any given issue. This has mostly been studied with party preference and issue knowledge- when you are the underdog in an election, you focus on studying up more, so that you have more likelihood of fighting the status quo. If you are in the status quo, you, the individual citizen, do not have to study so diligently.

    I was exposed to a lot of this by a doctoral student who taught a govt class I had when Reagan was up for election. This lecturere took these data to ‘show’ that we liberals are smarter and more well-informed compared to conservatives. Back inthe day, I swam along with his data, since I am a liberal, although I am not red – I did not realize the stealth red campaign back then, as I had been trained to shout “McCarthyism” anytime this was brought up. I now realize he was just another red, going on and on about Fromm (whose work ties in here), and like all of these reds, would not admit it straight-up.

    So, the prevailing wisdom in Canada is that the planet is warming due to SUVs. So, it is likely that opinions are on the high end to this sentiment. This is a good research set-up to lie with statistics: there is plenty of room to have some portion of ppl move lower, more skeptical, of their view on whether SUVs will melt the planet. – without too much interference from confounders. Not regression to the mean, just a lot of room for persuasion away from a ceiling-effect distribution.

    Logically, this makes sense. The data could be reviewed to determine the extent that ppl start out very favorable on the SUV-AGW view, and so have lots of opportunity to move modestly when confronted by known-bias info. But the baseline measurement are not provided, as far as I can tell in my quick review. This normally would be published, along with the outcomes post-intervention.

    It is suspicious that this is not included.

    Finally, it is an ecouraging study. AS ppl delve into this SUV-AGW hypothesis, they find the data lacking. The AGW fans cannot fight this battle well for two reasons: one, the data are against them, and 2. whether the data are against them or not, it is almost impossible to provide scientific education to the masses to enable tem to grasp any data. The masses hardly can divide fractions, and won’t unless there is some hefty incentive. The masses do not even have a personal budget, and cannot calculate their car’s mileage.

    So, there is plently of opportunity to win by painting your opponent as evil, independent of any data. This is a classic red strategy – used by the Bolsheviks and well-described by Alinsky.

    I myself am well-aware that there is always an agenda behind any study or campagn. I accept that, and then I figure out what I believe, what I want to know, and what someone or some group is trying to sell me.

    This combo of elitist intellectuals and reds want to control the world. At the same time, I believe less pollution is generally better, and am in favor of reasonable pollution-reduction strategies – things that don’t require us all to submit to the third-world lifestyle and Brave-New-World/Red China human reproduction rules.

  49. Mike says:

    AW: “He’s griping that I didn’t read the full paper (which was pay-walled), and thus my critique is invalid.”

    Lazy. Pathatic. Go to a library.

    AW: “One only has to read the abstract though, to realize this paper isn’t about science at all, but about politics.”

    The paper is about ethics. It is in the Journal of Business Ethics, No wonder it was over your head.

    “We thought it was a joke, then suddenly, we lost our power to laugh.” — Gunter Grass, The Rat

  50. Smokey says:

    Mike,

    You have about as much understanding of this debate as the goldfish in the bowl.

  51. glacierman says:

    Mike, you obviously missed:
    “I had a look later in the day at the full paper, and it reinforced the impression that I got from the abstract that this isn’t a science paper, but just another political hit piece disguised as one.”

    Maybe you can catch up.

  52. woodNfish says:

    Mooney is just another useful idiot. I don’t know why anyone even gives him the time of day.

    I have seen some refer to him as the “kid blogger” and wondered what they mean by that. The guy is 34 years old. He is certainly no kid.

  53. Gary Pearse says:

    thelastdemocrat says:

    You are pretty much right about basic Canadian ideas adopted from the (lefty) elites. Two things though. a) This is pretty much true of most populations who don’t have much influence on the world’s directions. What is scary is the USA’s ppl are slipping into the sweet syrup of socialism, more accepting of a new order with elites calling the shots (the climate science seduction and institutional changes tells me this). Wow, we Canadians could afford to be experimental in these heady, superior, European ideals because USA was steady at the helm with free enterprise, freedom of choice and personal freedoms which we secretly and guiltily also cherish. Europe, where socialism was invented, has hopelessly, and forever submitted to this politico-economic virus, their institutions riddled with it. Maybe Eastern Europe, China and India will save us from ourselves.
    b) Canada’s prime minister Harper, a Conservative, which in Canada is certainly somewhat right of today’s Democrats, has chucked the Kyoto accord along with Russia, China and India. This is ballsy leadership, in a country like ours and in a world where leadership is hard to find.

    I remain to be convinced that there is such a thing as significant AGW, but I am fully convinced I don’t want the policy prescriptions of the new world order, even if AGW is a serious matter.

  54. Old woman of the north says:

    Sounds like a second year psych set up so students can ‘explore’ social processes – political opinions etc..

  55. climate creeper says:

    I noticed this in the introduction: “These results, however, contrast sharply when scientists are surveyed” without citation.

    Could the authors of this paper be referring to the survey published in PNA by a student (Anderegg), a network administrator (Prall), an activist (Harold) and a biologist (Schneider), which violates several sections of the American Sociological Association Ethical Guidelines ( http://www.examiner.com/environmental-policy-in-national/global-warming-the-blacklist-paper-violates-every-ethical-standard )?

  56. Tucci78 says:

    At 3:23 AM on 14 July, TerryS had written:

    The participants in this study were 151 undergraduate accounting students and 127 students from marketing classes (who where paid). All of them where attending a Canadian University.

    They have then applied these results to people of all ages and experience located throughout the world in order to reach their conclusion.

    Sounds a lot like what Mann does with bristlecone pines.

    That point evoked in me the memory of a sequence from Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon strip a dozen or so years ago, in which the engineers who are the central characters convinced one of the company’s marketing idiots that an unspecified focus group had determined that all marketing drones are, in reality, weasels. Real weasels.

    Whereupon the marketing schmuck began to manifest a musteline snout, complete to long, stick-out muzzle whiskers, ’cause marketing clowns believe that focus groups reflect reality with implacable reliability.

    Okay, so the study subjects were drawn entirely from accounting majors and students in marketing classes. Oh, joy.

    Anybody else reading here happened to have been a major in any of the “hard” sciences, and resident in on-campus dormitories during those undergraduate days? For four years, I spent just about every Sunday morning (and some weekdays) stepping over the recumbent bodies of business and accounting and marketing majors, sprawled drunken and face-down in puddles of their own vomitus.

    Good preparation for covering the Emergency Department on week-ends and New Years, sure, but it’s the kind of experience that impresses upon you the fact that these guys are emphatically not the brightest candles on the birthday cake.

    I would like to speculate that the investigators conducting this study deliberately avoided recruiting study subjects from among the students majoring in mathematics or engineering or chemistry or physics, all of which areas of academic study – in spite of the corruption induced by the billions upon billions of dollars and other currency units funneled into “research” grants supporting the AGW fraud – tend with fair reliability to inculcate the critical faculties of reasoned skepticism.

    Cho et al are at war with factual reality when it comes to the “Cargo Cult Science” of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (aCO2) inducing global climate change.

    The LAST thing they wanted in this blithering excuse for “research” was the influence of scientific literacy, and so they selected subjects with the intellectual discriminatory capacities of sea anemones, most of them looking for careers in high-paying duplicity and “creative accounting.”

  57. Jimash says:

    I question their ability to even identify ONE “astroturf” website, and double question their ability to emulate one fairly, in a lab setting.
    Aren’t these researchers, themselves, the astroturf ?

  58. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Mike on July 14, 2011 at 10:19 am:

    AW: “He’s griping that I didn’t read the full paper (which was pay-walled), and thus my critique is invalid.”

    Lazy. Pathatic. Go to a library.

    You arrogant putrescent ooze that exuded from a break in a wax seal between a floor flange and a horn! Mr. Watts runs a successful business full time AND does weather reports for a local radio station AND runs this blog at least part time, and you dare to call him lazy? You couldn’t even be bothered to get the spelling right for all of those six short words you egested! Now that is pathetic!

    The paper is about ethics. It is in the Journal of Business Ethics, No wonder it was over your head.

    Because of course someone with a successful business, in California of all places, wouldn’t know anything about Business Ethics!

    Ah Mikey, thankfully the depth of your ignorance is countered by the shallowness of your thinking so you can normally calculate the proper elevation for your hand when you wipe your [trimmed. Robt]. Oh, and here is a helpful tip: It’s the internet age, you don’t have to go to a library to get the paper.

  59. Pete says:

    - “The Republican War on Science” translation: “Buahhh we be smart and you not buahhh!”
    - “Storm World” translation: “Buahhh AGW will doom us all and if you don’t believe you be dumb buahhh!”
    - “Unscientific America” translation: “Buahhh we be smart and you not buahhh!”
    - “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science,” translation: “Buahhh we be smart and you not buahhh!”
    - “reality-based community is moving to the left.” translation: “Buahhh we have the grasp of Reality and you don’t buahhh! We be smart and you dumb buahhh!”

  60. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Found in my previous post:

    [trimmed. Robt]

    *smirk* I should leave this alone, as to the casual reader it may likely appear my particular word choice was naughtier than it was. Yet my innate truthfulness compels me to reveal I could not have been misconstrued as referring to his donkey.

  61. mike sphar says:

    I may be alone in this but I sort of like ExxonMobil Corporation, so much so, that I bought shares of the company so I can get paid dividends (meager though they are) to compensate for my driving habit. All else about Astroturfing fluff is mere hyperbole. Go Exxon! Alright call me a cheerleader.

  62. Dave Wendt says:

    Brian H says:
    July 14, 2011 at 3:58 am
    The chanting and frothing about “astroturf” is textbook projection and misdirection. The percentage of leftist blogs receiving NGO and political funding must be very high. The claimed right-leaning blogs’ corporate etc. funding and backing always turns out to be hand-waving innuendo, or trivial trickles compared to the accusers’ backing.

    Never did the motes and logs analogy apply more precisely.

    Projection is the thought that came immediately to my mind when I saw the first post on this supposed piece of “science”. I’ve spent way too much of my rapidly dwindling supply of available lifetime pursuing this topic on the Internet, in part because it’s interesting, but mostly because of the threat of the political uses that were being made of it. I couldn’t claim to have visited every site that covers this farce, but I think I could safely say that virtually every one that constitutes a significant presence on the web is part of my regular rota. There are very few of the sites on Anthony’s blogroll that I haven’t visited, most at least semi-regularly, as well as quite a number which A doesn’t choose to feature. They never actually identify any specific sites that they claim are “astroturf”, which would seem to be pertinent and necessary information to provide, but from the context of their language they seem to be pointing at sites which are sponsored conservative or libertarian organizations or by “Big Oil”. From my experience climate sites relates to political organizations are usually clearly defined as such, at least from the skeptic side, many are actually included on an umbrella site of the organization, They normally make no claim to have arisen from the “grassroots”, but instead have clearly stated goals of building support at that level.

    As to those sites which are the creation of “Big Oil” I haven’t got a clue who they are referring to, but I would point out that calling Exxon/Mobil “Big Oil” is a bit of a misnomer. Last time I checked E/M was down in the midteens on the list of the world’s largest oil producers. Chevron and the rest of U.S. oil companies are even lower. World oil production is now dominated by nationalized oil companies, which probably explains some of the dismal projections about future supplies. Venezula is a prime example. After Chavez nationalized the assets of foreign oil firms and replaced private sector operators with political cronies, oil production there declined significantly and AFAIK continues to do so.

    On the other hand, when you consider the prominent sites on the “consensus” side nearly all the leading sites fit more accurately within the definition of “astroturf”, although the “grassroots” they claim to represent is that so called “consensus” community of scientists. Interestingly they all seem to practice the same draconian system of comment moderation, whose only logical goal would seem to be to minimize the suggestion that any legitimate disagreement from climate dogma exists

    This tactic of projection is almost the signature feature of leftist politics. Whether it is racism, intolerance, discrimination, lack of compassion, or any of the sundry calumnies that they routinely fling at anyone who challenges their delusional views, any rational examination shows that they are guiltier of the supposed immoralities than anyone that they accuse.

  63. PaulH says:

    I notice that AstroTurf® is a registered trademark
    http://www.astroturfusa.com/AboutAstroTurf.aspx
    Perhaps these “researchers” should be a little more careful about the words they make up.

  64. RobJM says:

    If only the cost of this paper was less than toilet paper it might actually have some use!
    Strangely enough astroturf doesn’t go rotten or require feeding with manure so in some ways the the term is a compliment!

  65. bob says:

    I agree. Just a quick scan of the abstract tells you that the abstracted article is nothing more than propaganda. Plus, using Greenpeace as any kind of authoritative reference is just cause for laughing, sneering, and extreme ridicule.

    Who is this Mooney guy, anyway? I have never heard of him.

  66. Jeff Alberts says:

    Typo,

    Here’s a few points from the paper”

    The grass is always greener over the skeptic tank.

  67. Jeff Alberts says:

    PaulH says:
    July 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I notice that AstroTurf® is a registered trademark
    http://www.astroturfusa.com/AboutAstroTurf.aspx
    Perhaps these “researchers” should be a little more careful about the words they make up.

    So is Spam, but no one seems to care about that one.

  68. rbateman says:

    An Intranet model becomes a substituted for the Internet, then the results are supposed to take the place of an actual survey. Monkey see, monkey do. Next, we’ll find out about ‘adjustments’ and ‘splices’.

  69. Dave Springer says:

    I refuse to join any grassroots movement that would have me for a member.

  70. Todd says:

    So what this amounts to is that a guy employed by a PR Firm is accusing others of using PR Firms…or something.

    Maybe this child’s next blog post will be about accusing “denialists” of engaging in projection.

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