Guest post by Roger Knights
“There has been, for years now, a very well-organized and frankly well-funded effort to confuse the public about climate change.”
Brian Martin, in his wonderful online booklet Strip the Experts, wrote that if your opponents:
“have a financial interest in what they are promoting, exposing it can be very damaging.”
This line of attack on skeptics has been very successful for the warmists in the past, which is why they constantly recur to it. But the recent skeptical attack has been mostly an indignant, blogger-led populist revolt against increased and unnecessary taxation and regulation (fewer barbecues, etc.) and against elitist presumption.
If our side were well funded and well organized, it would have the following characteristics:
1. There’d be a slick umbrella site like HuffPo under which all dissident bloggers could shelter, cutting their costs, increasing ad revenue, and simplifying and standardizing the process of surfing the deviationist blogosphere, especially for visiting journalists. The effect would be to considerably “amplify” the dissenters’ voices.
2. Failing that, there’d be enough $ for individual sites to ensure that, for instance, Climate Audit would have been able to handle to traffic-surge in the wake of Climategate, instead of being overwhelmed. (How’s that unpreparedness agree with “well organized”?)
3. Commenters would be compensated for accessing paywalled articles. Instead, virtually every thread on WUWT that critiques a warmist paper laments its paywalled status and critiques only what is outside the paywall.
4. There’d be a copy editing & peer review service to vet our side’s books prior to publication, since any flubs will be seized on by warmists to discredit the entire work, as happened to Plimer’s book. Instead, dissenting books continue to be produced in an amateurish fashion. For instance, in Steve Goreham’s just-out (and excellent) Climatism!, I found two obvious spelling errors in just an hour’s skimming. (“Forego” for “forgo” and “principle” used where “principal” was needed.)
5. There’d be a PR agency to “package” stories emerging from the blogosphere and articles in scientific journals or contrarian columnists and feed them to media sources in easy-to-read, pre-edited form. (Or at least an unincorporated online network of funded individuals performing a PR function.) This is a topic that is so complex and filled with jargon that it desperately needs such pre-chewing to get the MSM to swallow it. But what do we have? Only Climate Depot, which provides leads, but no packaging.
As Mike Haseler wrote, “it’s blatantly obvious to me that the press need to be fed stories almost ready for publication, you can’t expect them to take highly technical writing and try and make sense of it!”
BTW, another contra-factual is Climategate. There was no pre-planned media-coordination involved in the matter. There was no campaign to alert them to its importance, nor any professional packaging of the story for them. No one gave Fox a heads-up. As a result, MSM coverage of the event was nil.
(As for the idea that the leak was “timed” to disrupt Copenhagen, that’s equally absurd. The story gained no MSM coverage at all for the first two weeks, because that’s how long it took to ascertain that the e-mails were legit and to untangle the rat’s nest of e-mails and shed some light on them and the Read_Me file. It took about four weeks for the scandal to really heat up, with outraged commentary finally appearing in some middle-of-the-road venues. Any professional media consultant would have advised leaking the documents six to eight weeks earlier than Nov. 20. By that time, attendees’ reservations and trip-plans were cast in concrete.)
6. There’d be a centralized, regularly updated, annotated, topically divided, web-wide index of useful “ammo” skeptical or skeptic-supporting articles. If I, or anyone, were cat-herder in chief, this would be one of the top items on the agenda.
7. There’d be a REPOSITORY for “quotes of the day” from blog commenters. (These get lost in the noise after a week or so otherwise.) Here’s an example, from Willis:
“First, my thanks to all the prospective henchdudes and henchbabes out there, a map to my hollow volcano lair will be emailed to you as soon as I get one. Well-funded mercilessness roolz! I demand a volcano lair!”
8. There’d be extensive book tours for every skeptical book published, to gain exposure in multiple markets via interviews in the local press, etc. Such tours could be extended for many months, well beyond any rational “payback” in book sales, if the real aim were to get media exposure – for instance by challenging local warmists to debates on the premises of the newspaper or broadcaster, etc. The funding for such a tour could easily be concealed.
9. There’d be an astro-turfed tag-team of high-stamina commenters assigned to Win the War for Wikipedia by out-shouting and out-censoring Connolley and Co. They’d also go en masse to Amazon and give warmist books a thumbs-down and engage in comment-combats there and on other high-profile sites as well. But the dissenters in such venues have been an outnumbered, disorganized rabble.
10. Not only would there be more stylistic similarity, but the content would be less idiosyncratic as well. There’d be evidence of a “script” or list of talking points that skeptic commenters were following, instead of the typical home-brew assemblage of arguments.
11. There’d be an extensive online collection of opposition research, such as warmist predictions waiting to be shot down by contrary events. Such opposition research is so valuable a tactic (as is now being shown) that no political or PR consultant would have failed to insist on it.
E.g., a score of warmist predictions of less snowfall would have been at hand to counter Gore’s claim that the models predicted more snowfall. Similarly, the IPCC’s Assessment Reports would have been scoured for flaws and nits long ago. Instead, it wasn’t until Glaciergate that we got on its case in any semi-organized fashion.
12. There’d be an online point-by-point rebuttal of all the “How to Talk to A Skeptic” talking points, not just scattered counterpoints to a few of them. And there’d be a Wikipedia discussing those points and more in fuller detail. Lucy Skywalker is trying to assemble these, but it’s obviously an unfunded effort.
13. The Oregon Petition Project would have been handled professionally. I.e., there’d have been no short-sighted tactics such as use of NAS-lookalike typography, no claim that the signers constituted “a meaningful representation” (let alone that the consensus was on the skeptics’ side), no claim that all the signers were scientists (when some were technologists and dentists, etc.), and no implication that the signers had all been vetted. A skilled propagandist, such as one hired by King Coal, would have avoided such a transparent over-reaching, which threw away the petition’s effectiveness by handing the opposition a chance to counterpunch effectively.
14. There’d be a place for the reposting of the “highlights” of WUWT and other skeptic sites, and also such sites would have editors who would retroactively (after a month or so) work on a “sister site” consisting of “Highlights of WUWT,” in which outstanding paragraphs would be flagged and/or highlighted. This would make it easier for newcomers and journalists to effectively skim it and notice our better arguments and facts.
Such editorial work could be done by people who have good judgment and lots of knowledge of the issues, like Pamela Gray, Lucy Skywalker, etc.
15. There’d be a reposting of “negative highlights” from warmists’ sites in which the unsavory qualities of their leading lights and hatchetmen were on display. Call it, maybe, “Quoted Without Comment” or “Get a Load of This.” It would make an impact on fence-sitters.
16. We’d be conducting polls of various groups of scientists designed to offset the effect of such polls by the other side.
17. There’d be mass distribution of my broken hockey stick button. (Here’s a link to a comment where I describe the button: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/20/dueling-statements-in-the-american-chemical-socity-science-by-press-release/#comment-1062323 )
18. There’d be a spiffy ad campaign consisting of short spots (20 to 40 seconds) that would focus on making one quick jab at the warmists. There should be a standard format for these ads, such as a common tag-line, music, lead-in, graphics style, etc. It could be built on Anthony’s TV-show items headed, “Did You Know?” The touch should be light, with the aim of making the spots entertaining, such as by including little bits of silly rhymes, etc. The ads should also be “different,” to get around viewers’ defenses, and to make the message “sticky.” Care should be taken to avoid overstatement, and to make qualifications where necessary, to forestall counterpunches.
One easy target, because of its good “visuals” and absence of technical obscurity, would be to show non-performing wind turbines and weed-overgrown solar-panel farms. The failure of these ventures (relative to the promises that were made about them), and the fraud associated with them abroad, would be a benchmark against which other swarmist claims could be judged.
Here’s an example (one that would not have had the negative consequences of the Unabomber billboard): A close up of of short bursts extracted from Chavez at Copenhagen ranting at length ala Castro (a superimposed stopwatch behind him would indicate the passage of time). At the end, the camera would pull back and show the standing ovation he received.
Then a text message would appear on-screen saying: “Chavez was allowed to exceed his ten-minute speaking time.
Three guesses. …
Three guesses. …
Is your congressman applauding too?”
(PS: I suspect, from the leftist venues Mann’s spoken at, and from his victim-of-a-conspiracy mindset, that he’s on their side.)
19. Certain fringe or off-topic comments would be “moderated” out, because they step on people’s toes and don’t play well in Peoria. E.g., New World Order theorizing, bolshy bashing, boot-the-UN and tar-and-feather-‘em remarks, and most attribution-of-motives comments. Populist “venting” of all sorts would be toned down; instead the stress would be on sweet reasonableness and out-reaching to the average citizen and opinion-leader. Any media pro would advise that course, especially one with a big funder behind him (who wouldn’t want to be tarred by association with tin-foil-hat opinions (if news of a link ever came out)). Such a “mainstream” tone and mindset would be the fingerprint of any top-down campaign on a scientific topic.
20. There’d be much more stress on arguments that would move the masses and that don’t take a degree to understand. I.e., arguments about the costliness, technical impracticality, and political unenforceability of mitigation strategies, and about the ineffectiveness of massive CO2 emission-reduction in the atmosphere even if all those obstacles were of no account.
If skeptics were truly Machiavellian, or guided by political “pros” behind the scenes, they’d be hitting these popular hot buttons. Those are where the warmists’ case is shakiest — and it’s always a good strategy to focus on the opponents’ weakest points and pound on them endlessly. Instead, these topics make up only 10% or so of the skeptical thrust. Most dissenters devote most of their energy to talking about weather events, dissing believers, and arguing about technical and scientific matters.
21. We’d be pushing geoengineering as the preferred “adaptive” alternative to mitigation. It’s something that the average man can understand as a general concept. E.g., if it rains, open your umbrella. Instead, contrarian bloggers we’d virtually never mention geoengineering except to sneer at it.
22. We’d make a point of proposing reasonable-sounding, politically popular “no regrets” mitigation measures, such as diesel cars (like Europe’s), inducements for homes to convert from oil to gas for heating, incentives for insulation (including large awnings), incentives for battery assisted bicycles (like China’s), increased use of hydro-power, and research into safe, low-waste nuclear power. Any PR “pro” would recommend this strategy of sweet reasonableness.
But many outspoken contrarian bloggers & commenters have a strong aversion to governmentally mandated incentives and penalties—a distinctly minority position that it would be politically wise to conceal. In addition, contrarians aren’t interested in playing up to an audience—they are focused almost entirely on mocking and scoring points against the enemy.
Big Oil? Baby Oil is more like it. Ologeneous overlords? My companions and I on Skull Island laugh until we vomit.