Posted by: Barry Bickmore | October 10, 2011

More Fun With the Daily Herald Editors

I’m convinced that one reason people just can’t fathom the depths of ideological brain-mush we conservatives have willed upon ourselves with respect to climate change is that the scale of it is just too unbelievable.  Who could suspend their disbelief in a novel character like Christopher Monckton, for instance?  He pretends to be a member of the British Parliament, says he’s developed a miracle cure for most known diseases, repeatedly gets caught telling falsehoods about climate research… and gets invited to testify before the U.S. Congress?  Rrrrriiiiiigggghhhht.  Well, I’m starting to see the editors of the Daily Herald, my local paper, in the same light.  If I were to tell my neighbors my experiences with these guys, would they believe me?  I sort of doubt it.

In my last post, I wrote about how the DH editors had written an opinion piece about climate change, in which they said that scientists at CERN “have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”  They had said that before, and I had pointed out to them that the study’s lead author, Jasper Kirkby, had emphatically denied this, but Jim Tynan had told me that he knew how to read between the lines (i.e., read Kirkby’s mind and determine that he meant the exact opposite of what he said.)

Back then, I had also asked if they would print an op-ed by me about the errors in their piece, but they declined, just as they had a few times before.  Well, when I blogged today about their latest fib-telling spree, I sent the link to the editors, Randy Wright and Jim Tynan, and then sent them this follow-up message

Just for kicks, I decided to ask whether you guys would print an op-ed by me about how you printed false information… or at least information that originated with Jim Tynen’s ability to read the minds of scientists and tell when they mean the exact opposite of what they say.  You see, with the number of words allowed in an op-ed, I could throw in big quotations from Jim’s e-mail, where he admitted that Jasper Kirkby didn’t actually say that his experiment proved any significant link between cosmic ray flux and climate, but claimed that he could tell what Kirkby really had in mind about it.

You’ve never agreed to print an op-ed by me before, when I’ve asked, so I wasn’t going to bother.  I have reconsidered because this is one of the worst cases of intellectual dishonesty (or insanity?) I’ve ever seen.  Nevermind that Randy promised to investigate Monckton’s fake data, and never followed up.  Nevermind that you keep repeating the same idiotic line about water vapor being a more important greenhouse gas than CO2, even though it is explicitly accounted for in the standard theories.  All that can be chalked up to ideology-fueled, willful ignorance.  But this is something different, because in this case Jim either knowingly printed false information, or he actually thinks he can read minds.  If the latter, he at least should have informed readers that he was getting his information from the little voices in his head.

So what do you think?  Will you let me spill the beans on your pages, or will you pretend it never happened?  Here’s another idea–maybe you could write an editorial where you lay out the facts in this case, even if you admit no fault.  Sort of a “Truth in Advertising” push, so to speak.

What say ye, gentlemen?

Barry Bickmore

Randy Wright responded with this message.

Dear Mr. Bickmore —

Sunday’s piece was intended to be our signoff on this subject — at least
for some time. I think we want to wait to see what happens next in both
science and politics. If climate change wins in either arena, we will be
glad to publish a column by you on the subject of “I told you so.”
Alternatively, we would also accept an “I was wrong” column.

There are two possibilities: Either climate change will win out politically,
with a massive shift of dollars into investments, regulations and foreign
aid that will, at best, deliver minuscule change in C02; or climate change
and the massive redistribution of wealth desired by many third-world
governments, climate scientists and Al Gore will not occur, owing to lack of
votes.

I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes
will make a measurable difference in the political outcome. I rather suspect
our combined influence will be even less than the most optimistic reduction
of carbon that might be purchased by mortgaging my great-great-grandchildren
and dooming them to a future of insufficient and expensive energy.

You are a good Mormon, I presume, judging from your position. So I don’t
know why the prospective death of Planet Earth seems to bother you so much.
Doom will come eventually, one way or another. Isn’t the earth supposed to
pass away and be renewed? And won’t heaven pass away and another rise to
take its place? If you hold this religious view with as much fervor as you
hold your view on man-made climate change, you might someday sit back with a
bemused smile when you find that our political system has made a decision
that shortens the planet’s life.

Given a general lack of persuasive evidence and the bad economics that
attend virtually all corrective choices, I rather expect the political
outcome will be disappointing to alarmists. In the final analysis, it’s
going to come down to policy votes, and today I’ll wager that climate change
will not prevail.

We should have more definitive answers to all this in, say, 40 years, at
which time we can consider publishing your proposed column. After all, the
intelligence gained in the four decades since the early 1970s has been quite
helpful in deciding what to do about the dire scientific predictions of the
onset of a new ice age. A good time to evaluate the scientific consensus on
climate change would be around 2051.

On one item I have no doubt, however: By 2051 there will be a scientific
consensus that Randy Wright is dead.

RW

Did you notice where he addressed the charge that they had knowingly printed a falsehood?  Neither did I.  I just sent them this reply.

Dear Randy (and Jim),

You guys crack me up.  It’s no wonder you like Monckton so much, because he is the undisputed master of throwing out an enormous cloud of smoke when he is (frequently) caught telling demonstrable falsehoods.  I point out that you have printed an outright falsehood, and that I have Jim Tynan on record saying that his source is his personal intuition about what Jasper Kirkby REALLY meant to say (i.e., the exact opposite of what he did say,) and you respond with… what, exactly?

I’ll paraphrase.

“Well, we weren’t going to open up that can of worms again for a while, anyway, and really, what difference does it make?  You may be right about climate change, or we may be right, but who can tell, what with space-age materials and such?  And after all, the whole thing is going to end someday, right?  Mormons believe in the end of the world, right?  So why don’t you behave like a pitchfork-waving psychopath and try to bring it about as soon as possible?  But, given my tough-minded journalistic nature, I’m betting the climate won’t change much, because all that evidence they talk about (the stuff I haven’t bothered to read or understand–see our nearly continuous stream of editorial comments about water vapor) isn’t very convincing.  I mean, there were a few scientists 40 years ago who thought we were headed into an ice age!  I didn’t actually try to find out whether there might have been even more scientists, even back then, who were worried about global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, but… where was I?  Oh, yeah.  We should wait until I’m dead to decide who’s right or wrong.”

Since I’m a mind-reader, with abilities at least as great as Jim’s, I’ll paraphrase what you REALLY meant to say.

“We don’t care that we printed a claim we knew to be false.”

Barry

Apologies in advance to my friends who disapprove of my tendency toward sarcasm.  I’m trying to stop.  Really.  But in this case, I think God will make a special allowance because I am totally unprepared to stop myself in the face of this kind of thing.  Rest assured that I will feel kind of guilty later.

UPDATE:  Ok, so I did feel a little bad about the sarcasm in the morning, so I sent Jim and Randy this note.

Dear Randy and Jim,

I’m sorry I let myself get a little too sarcastic in the last message I sent.

However, I still find it unbelievable that you would respond to the charge that you had knowingly printed a falsehood with, “I very much doubt that what either the Daily Herald or Barry Bickmore writes will make a measurable difference in the political outcome.”  In other words, it’s ok you lied, because it won’t make much difference, anyway.  If there’s one thing that journalists should care about, it’s accurate reporting of facts.  Anyone can accidentally leave out important facts, or spin them according to some bias or other.  But when you report a fact, there is no question that you should check it’s accuracy, and that if an obvious inaccuracy is pointed out to you, you should care enough to write a retraction.  That’s the kind of ethic expressed on the Daily Herald’s contact page.  “The Herald corrects errors of fact appearing in its news and opinion columns.”

But you don’t care, because your journalistic ethics take a backseat to your ideology.

Barry Bickmore


Responses

  1. I would have gone short on sarcasm and long on killing them with kindness. Having said that, I enjoyed the sarcasm. And am rather astounded by their commentary.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Word salad. With gritty rancid dressing.

    But maybe these guys have missed their calling in choreography. All those nifty sidesteps, spinning round the room, tap-dancing as though the floor’s too hot and leaps beyond logic would be visually mesmerising.

    I admire your patience.

  3. Sarcasm is the best way to deal with idiocy, IMO. I love the part where if they are right, “climate change and the massive redistribution of wealth desired by many third-world governments, climate scientists and Al Gore will not occur, owing to lack of votes.”

    Firstly they seem to think climate change can be decided through a democratic vote. I wish that were true – I’d vote to be wrong!

    Secondly, they think AGW will result in a massive redistribution of wealth to climate scientists and Al Gore (not to mention third world countries, who are going to be the hardest hit by climate change).

    Thirdly, I love how they don’t have to worry about selling out future generations, because they’ll be dead. How convenient.

    And of course finally, as you note, they seem to have no journalistic integrity, or qualms with grossly misrepresenting scientific research.

    Sarcasm is definitely the appropriate response to such idiocy.

  4. HIghly recommended: John Mashey’s What to do about poor science reporting (link)

    • (sarcasm is not a good way to deal with misinformed editors.)

      • I agree, but I have been trying to talk to these guys for about 1.5 years, and there’s no reasoning with them. Seriously, if I try to tell them that they made a mistake about the role of water vapor in the climate system, they come back with some spiel about how even if we detonated nuclear bombs all over the surface, unicellular life would survive, somewhere. This is not the first time they’ve said something like that.

        Honestly, what do you do with someone like that? Here is someone who is an “opinion maker” in the community, yet apparently completely devoid of any morals.

      • …though how not-good depends on the context, obviously. (A one on one “will you run my rebuttal, you moron?” doesn’t go over well; but if they’ve proven themselves to be, well, the WSJ editorial page editors…)

      • Sorry Barry, I hadn’t seen your reply.

        Have you met them? It might help to put a human face on everyone. Take them on a hike, maybe? Someone who’d struck me as maddening came around when another outreach person pointed out that newspapers were (somewhat) in a position to make or break democracy.

        If you’ve tried all this then maybe it *is* too late for them, it might be time to look into who owns the newspaper (if the publisher doesn’t).

      • No, haven’t met them in person. I’d like to. But the fact is that it doesn’t really bother me that much that they are climate contrarians. Our biases make certain facts seem way more important than others–I get it.

        When it comes to a case like this, however, I can’t just chalk this up to people being people. The editors reported that certain scientists concluded the opposite of what they said they concluded. It’s not complicated. It’s not a matter of “spin”. It’s black and white. These guys can understand the difference between “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate,” and “Scientists there have concluded that cosmic rays play a much larger role than previously thought in creating clouds on earth.”

        This is my dilemma. I want to give these guys the benefit of the doubt, but how far do they have to go before I have to conclude that they are being consciously dishonest?

  5. Thanks for blogging about this–it’s very interesting. From what you’ve written it’s fairly obvious to me that ideology is driving what the Daily Herald is printing on climate change. This highlights the complications of these big policy issues that science can inform on–and how intent some are on using the studies to dis- or mis-inform.

  6. […] so they could tell that he really meant the opposite of what he said.  Yes, mind reading.  (See here, here, here, and here for follow-up […]

  7. […] so they could tell that he really meant the opposite of what he said.  Yes, mind reading.  (See here, here, here, and here for follow-up […]


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