There’s been a fair amount of niggling in social media over my presence at the Mann talk at Bristol. I find it humorous that there seems to be almost as much interest in my presence there as the Mann talk itself. It all started with this tweet from Leo Hickman at the event:
You can see just how far separated the audience was from Dr. Mann, as I was seated in the front row in a seat reserved for me. You can also see the band of the hearing assistance headset I was wearing, graciously and at extra expense, provided by the Cabot Institute when I informed them of my disability. Kudos and my sincere thanks to them. Also, thanks to director Rich Pancost for his openness with me.
In a Tweet from Dr. Mann, taken from the balcony seating you can see just how isolated Dr. Mann was from the audience. The stage extended so far forward that you can’t even see the first row of people on the ground floor. You can also see the video production crewman and camera. Rich Pancost promises me the video of both the Cook and Mann talks will be made available.
For all attending the Michael Mann lecture tonight, remember that we are guests, there to listen and observe. Be respectful of the venue.
The reason I sent that was that in my opinion, for climate skeptics, almost any public interaction with Dr. Mann would be a “no-win” situation. Given the track record of hostility that has been on display from Dr. Mann (and blowback from skeptics too), I felt that if tough questions were asked, we’d be vilified for “badgering” Dr. Mann or being “out of order” in a polite venue. Since Dr. Mann framed the venue as “Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” I thought that taking the advice of WOPR in the movie “War Games” was likely the only winning move:
A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?
One commenter, the pundit known as “Climate Nuremberg” had a response to my suggestion that would later prove to be prescient:
@wattsupwiththat I bet when hordes of deniers turn up and listen courteously, you'll be accused of sending us there for that exact purpose!
— Climate Nuremberg (@BradPKeyes) September 23, 2014
Indeed, and that’s what happened. Leo Hickman got a question in the thread he started from behind me from the known unknown known as “and then there’s physics”, who used to run a blog that had nothing but “Watt about…” in the titles. He changed to the new theme/name when he realized how stupid he looked.
Dr. Richard Betts (who I met for the first time at the extraordinary meeting prior to the Mann talk) also wondered why skeptics had been so quiet.
I tried to locate that Tweet today, but it seems to have shuffled off the digital coil, perhaps one of the readers has saved it or can locate it. It said essentially:
Richard Betts provided it in comments, added for accuracy rather than my one from memory:
— Richard Betts (@richardabetts) September 24, 2014
Dr. Mann himself responded to a question posed by GISS employee Chris Colose on Dr. Mann’s Facebook page, asking if there had been any “disruption” of his talk:
Note my response at the bottom, we’ll get back to that in a moment. First I want to address Dr. Mann’s “tinfoil hat” assertion.
My opinion is that the environment at the Mann talk contributed greatly to the lack of interaction from the other climate skeptics present. Though Barry Woods notes that he and “Katabasis” both had their hands up during the Q&A period. Even so, from my perspective, asking a question at the Mann talk was an exercise in futility, due to the choice of Q&A moderator, Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky. He is seen in these two photos below standing on the stage, watching for questions, and directing the microphone bearers:Here, Dr. Lewandowsky directs a microphone bearer to a person in the balcony:
Note the empty seats, despite Dr. Mann’s assertion of a “full capacity crowd”, it clearly was not. There were empty seats directly behind me also. As one might expect in a packed lecture, there were no people standing along the walls or near the doors, other than the security guards.
The Q&A session was short, about 5 questions, all softballs, and much shorter than the Cook lecture, where the majority of questions were in fact from climate skeptics. After the short Q&A, Dr. Mann was immediately whisked away to his book signing table, complete with a policeman standing guard. The line was rather short as I walked by and snapped this photo:
While I had stated clearly in a tweet earlier that I was there to “listen and observe” imagine if I had tried to ask a question.
These thoughts went through my mind.
1. Lewandowsky knows me and knows where I’m sitting, would he even call on me if I raised my hand? Doubtful. At the Cook talk, I did not see Dr. Lewandowsky directing microphone bearers, and the majority of questions were in fact from climate skeptics. The Mann talk had an entirely different vibe, and seemed much more tense than the Cook talk as I describe here. Director of the Cabot Institute, Richard Pancost said in a tweet today that Lewandowsky was directing microphone bearers at the Cook talk too, but I sure didn’t see it.
2. If Lewandowsky did call on me, would he do so only for the purpose of spite, and do something like announce “here’s a question from Arch-denier Anthony Watts, whose ‘conspiracy ideation’ I’ve written about in my paper Recursive Fury.” I could only wonder, especially since I lodged a complaint that aided in getting that horrid, spiteful, and ethically irresponsible paper retracted.
3. Would Dr. Mann preface his response to my question with something similar, such as saying I’m funded by the ‘Koch machine’ to be there and harass him with questions, much like he did when I sent him a free Christmas Calendar on my own dime? This sort of worry is evidenced by Dr. Mann’s response to the discussion today on Twitter:
4. If Dr. Mann responded to my question with a question of his own (a typical tactic when inconvenient questions are asked) would I even be able to hear him correctly and respond? If I misheard him, would I accidentally make a fool of myself due to my hearing issue? The crowd would not know of my difficulty, and I’d be laughed at. Despite the hearing assistance device being graciously provided by the Cabot Institute, it had issues and would only work correctly if held away from my body due to the loop circuit having a fairly weak signal. I had email discussions with Cabot about this after the Cook talk, but there wasn’t much they could do. They tried though, and I give them props for doing so.
So, in effect, asking a question was very likely a no-win situation for me. I knew this going in, but with a Q&A moderator documented to be hostile toward skeptics (Lewandowsky) directing the Q&A session, it was even more of a losing proposition. I don’t think the director of the Cabot Institute, Richard Pancost realized how intimidating it was to have a person who had named and shamed climate skeptics in peer reviewed paper, only to have it retracted by complaints from climate skeptics, and then to have the journal defend the rights of climate skeptics as unwilling “human test subjects”.
I can imagine the reticence of many other climate skeptics present, seeing Lewandowsky up there on stage pointing, wondering if asking a question was worth the risk. As I said, the advice from WOPR “The only winning move is not to play.” seemed best.
But, as indicated by the responses of Dr. Mann and company, they weren’t happy with that either. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
Now back to the other issue raised earlier. On Dr. Mann’s Facebook page, he lamented that I didn’t ask a question, so I asked permission to ask one of him then. However, it seems that Dr. Mann has BLOCKED my question from appearing to him and others, as I soon found out, nobody else could see it:
@wattsupwiththat Can't find it! Must be doing something wrong…
— John Dunton-Downer (@doubledee3) September 26, 2014
— Уинстън смифф (@AndyMeanie) September 27, 2014
My Facebook question was also made known in a Twitter post, and it has been over 24 hours and no response from Dr. Mann. I know that some climate skeptics wanted to ask why Dr. Mann chose to cherry pick surface temperature data only to 2005, with the suggestion that it might be so he could “hide the pause”. It is a valid question, especially since Dr. Mann had been called out on the tactic two years ago by Steve McIntyre when he saw the same slides at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting. We also have a discussion about it at WUWT here.
Imagine if a climate skeptic did the same thing at a Cabot Institute lecture, they’d be vilified.
But clearly by his actions, Dr. Mann has shown that such questions are off the table. Dr. Mann doesn’t want honest questions, he only wants to play at denigration, as evidenced by his use of labels like “deniers”, “tin foil hats”, and “Koch machine”.
My mind was made up going in that I wasn’t going to engage. The humorous fixation on social media over my not asking a question at the lecture seems to be little more than a brouhaha of their own making. Wikipedia says:
Typically, a brouhaha is marked by controversy and fuss that can seem, afterwards, to have been pointless or irrational.
As we waited in our seats for Michael Mann’s lecture at the Cabot Institute to begin, I was struck by the sight of the great man alone at the side of the stage. He stood there for several minutes, ignored by everyone, as the last of the audience appeared and the Cabot Institute people, Lewandowsky among them, scurried about making final arrangements. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mark Steyn’s comments about climatologists’ stark failure to make any amici submissions to the DC court on Mann’s behalf. The other day I also heard a story about a room full of paleo people rolling their eyes and groaning at the mere mention of his name. Somehow the Cabot Institute’s abandonment of the honoured speaker at the side of the stage seemed to epitomise this growing isolation. Even the scientivists seemed to be abandoning him.
Probably the most valuable thing we can do, is simply to ignore Dr. Mann and his rants about climate skeptics being tinfoil hat wearers, Koch shills, or deniers. We are none of those.
But most important, and on full display now, is the fact that if Dr. Mann can’t even be bothered to update his slides with current global temperature data. In that failing, he has already become irrelevant to the climate debate.