The Listener against free speech

Earlier, I wrote how the environmental writer for the New Zealand Listener was fired after Heartland demanded he be silenced, and:

Gareth Renowden has the full story.

Well not any more. The Listener hired a lawyer to threaten him and the post has been taken down and an apology put up, which includes this statement:

In fact Mr Hansford was not sacked by The Listener, and nor did The Listener seek to censor or suppress Mr Hansford’s views.

When you use lawyers to suppress people’s views it kind of undercuts your claims that you didn’t suppress Hansford’s views.

Dave Hansford commented on the post. I’m reproducing the comment here in case the Listener uses legal threats to suppress his views:


Pamela Stirling’s statement in John Drinnan’s column this morning is correct. I took on Ecologic back in November when the incumbent columnist, Francesca Price, took leave to work on another project.

As such, it was indeed a temporary arrangement. But it was not terminated on the due date, and continued to run as Francesca’s leave extended. The fact that Francesca did not, in the end, return to reclaim her column did not automatically mean it was mine in perpetuity.

But if my time was simply “up,” it’s baffling that I wasn’t simply told that. I was told instead that negotiations over Francesca’s return were under way. They were not.

Francesca had already made it clear she was not returning. I was then told that I had been “rationalised” in a response to a shrinking contributors’ budget. That the column would be brought in-house because the magazine could no longer afford a freelancer to write it.

I accepted that explanation, but it soon transpired that The Listener had, in fact, approached another freelancer to take the column over (They declined, and the column will now indeed be written in-house), placing a question mark over the claim of an ailing contributor’s budget.

At no time was any suggestion raised that I had made any errors in the climate deniers column, or left the magazine legally exposed.

I cannot prove that I was rolled because of legal posturing by the Climate Science Coalition, and I have never stated that as fact.

What I have stated repeatedly is;

That I was dropped from the Listener column, Ecologic.

That it came less than a fortnight after my column of March 22 about the Climate Science coalition’s financial and ideological links to the Heartland Institute and, by extension, Exxon Mobil.

That it came in the wake of a published call for my dismissal by the President of the Heartland Institute.

That it came in the wake of a threatened complaint to the Press Council and alleged threats of legal action by the Climate Science Coalition.

That The Listener agreed on a settlement with the Climate Change Coalition that gave the CSC the right of reply published this week.

That the Listener did not inform me of the bringing of the Press Council complaint.

That I was not informed of the letter from The Heartland Institute calling for my removal, nor given a right of reply.

That I was not informed of the Listener’s decision to give the CSC right of reply on behalf of my own column.

That both reasons I was given for my axing proved to be unsubstantiated.

That my subsequent request for the truth of the matter was never replied to.

That I was told that “We stand behind our columnists.”

Given this concert of circumstances, and the artifice surrounding my axing, it is valid to ask questions of the Listener and of the Climate Science Coalition about the nature and terms of their negotiations.

The implications for the independence of the media, and for the public interest, are too great not to.

Perhaps these events were entirely unrelated. But if they were not, they mark a black day for the freedom of the media.

Comments

  1. #1 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 18, 2008

    Here’s a copy of the original “Climate cranks claim a scalp” article. I got it off the Google cache, printed it into a PDF file, put it onto my blog, and finally used WebCite to archive it. (WebCite doesn’t like caching Google caches.) Let’s see how many people the Heartland Institute will threaten to sue this time!

    And here’s an archive of the “The law won (again)” post.

  2. #2 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 18, 2008

    And while I’m it, here’s a cache of the replies to the original post, including Hansford’s.

  3. #3 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 18, 2008

    Anyway… so that’s what the “free market” Heartland Institute does now, is it? They can’t actually do anything useful and valuable, so they go around lawsuit-trolling and making little guys lose their jobs?

  4. #4 Laser Potato
    April 18, 2008

    troll derailing the thread in 3…2…

  5. #5 QrazyQat
    April 18, 2008

    You always stand behind the guy when you’re pushing him off a cliff.

  6. #6 Lance
    April 18, 2008

    The Beeb caves to pressure from alarmist activists and rewrites a story and you applaud. The Listener doesn’t extend the “temporary” fill in job of a columnist and it’s an assault on press freedom.

    Nice consistency.

  7. #7 David Baigent
    April 18, 2008

    Yes good response!

    Bell Gully just took the dollars for writing a letter.
    They should know that that letter would increase the exposure to the blog and guarantee that the blog item would be multiplied and further cached forever. Just stupidity.

  8. #8 Gareth
    April 18, 2008

    I couldn’t possibly comment, but…

    Ta!

  9. #9 Craig Ranapia
    April 18, 2008

    When you use lawyers to suppress people’s views it kind of undercuts your claims that you didn’t suppress Hansford’s views.

    Really, Tim? You’d think science geeks would be a little more careful than most of the post hoc ergo propter hoc school of argument.

  10. #10 QrazyQat
    April 18, 2008

    post hoc ergo propter hoc? The Listener hired lawyers who threatened the guy. You don’t see that as being a logical connection? You don’t think it demonstrates a high likelihood of there being a pattern?

  11. #11 theo
    April 18, 2008

    Post hoc! Undisputed middle! Fallacy of four terms! Begging the question! One of these has to apply!

    Jeez, what a misuse of a logical fallacy. Because, you know, they could have hired the lawyer to shut the website down for any number of reasons. (sarcastic)

    If someone hits me with a car and I hire a lawyer to sue him you shouldn’t assume the two events are causally linked. They could just be…a spurious correlation.

  12. #12 Gareth
    April 19, 2008

    Not unnaturally, I’m rather taken with this opinion:

    To die like a blog, Media Law Journal (NZ)

  13. #13 Demesure
    April 19, 2008

    Wow,
    Just a handfull of skeptics has succeded in silencing the “scientifically settled” consensus uninamously accepted by the hugely immense majority of scientists with billion $ research budget, the IPCC, the UN, World Bank, IMF, BOM, BIM, BAM and ALL the governements of the world.

    And those guys are just a “tiny minority”. Imagine what if they had the UN and governements on their side. We’d all spend days and nights counting climate-protection martyrs.
    Be afraid, be very afraid.

  14. #14 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 19, 2008

    Demesure:

    Wow, Just a handfull of skeptics has succeded in silencing the “scientifically settled” consensus

    Nope, all they managed to do was to bully some little guys in New Zealand.

    When your inactivist brethren (Coleman, Monckton, McIntyre, etc.) have the guts to bring on the lawsuits against the key players (Gore, Oreskes, Hansen, etc.)like they’ve been screaming they would, then let me know.

    Until then, they (and you) are just a bunch of bullying cowards.

  15. #15 Andrew W
    April 20, 2008

    Demesure, if you check Gareth’s link above and other Kiwi blogs, it’s pretty obvious that by resorting to bullying with the goal of suppressing free speech The Listener has already lost.

  16. #16 Demesure
    April 20, 2008

    IJI and Andrew,
    You interpret bullying and free speech suppression. I observe a case of an AGWer telling craps about skeptics and forced to retract and publicly apologize.
    Pesky reality. Pesky interpretation.

    BTW, if you really want to defend free speech (which I doubt), tell the people who demand to put AGW “deniers” on trial like holocaust deniers or who threaten and fire their State Meteorologists or who cry “deniers” don’t deserve 1% of air time they have to shut up and apologize.

  17. #17 Demesure
    April 20, 2008

    We speech freedom fighters should all send this message to Hansen and FoE, who intimidate a publisher into rewriting his book. I hope Deltoid would spread the word and doesn’t suppress my right to free speech on its blog ;)


    TO: James.E.Hansen@nasa.gov ; nberning@foe.org
    CC: trade_publicity@hmco.com
    SUBJECT: ECO-CENSORSHIP

    Professor Hansen and FoE USA,

    I am writing to urge you to immediately publish a corrective addendum to your recent efforts to encourage members of the public to be outraged by text in American Government, 11th edition, by Professors James Q. Wilson and John J. DiIulio, Jr, published by Houghton Mifflin. Your calls for pressure to be applied to the publishers to withdraw or amend the book to suit your own political biases are factually inaccurate and misleading, and undemocratic.

    Wilson and DiIulio are correct to describe the scientific understanding of climate change as “enmeshed in scientific uncertainty”, especially with respect to the political response to climate change. Although the IPCC has provided projections from various scenarios to inform the political process, none of these projections have been offered as forecasts, but ‘what ifs’. The international political response to climate change science to date has been precautionary, not based on scientific certainty. The extent to which certainty is absent from climate science is epitomized by the contrast between Professor Hansen’s projections for sea-level rise, and the IPCC’s, which differ by an order of magnitude. Professor Hansen would have us believe that the IPCC is wrong, and has gone on public record to that effect. Why should others not be allowed to challenge mainstream scientific and political orthodoxy without attracting accusations of dishonesty?

    The application of the precautionary principle in response to fears about ecological catastrophe is not the result of politically-neutral, objective calculation. In recent years, the political environmental movement has been successful in presenting the precautionary principle as a ‘scientific’ response to uncertainty, while greatly exaggerating the scientific plausibility of imaginary apocalyptic scenarios to elicit a response in their favor from a terrified public. In other words, the environmental movement has hidden its politics behind science. And unfortunately, some high-profile scientists have been content to go along with this deception – with the best of intentions, no doubt, but at the expense of democratic debate that draws on the best available scientific evidence.

    Allowing alternative perspectives to enter the climate change debate would deprive the political environmental movement of its oxygen, and in turn undermine its political leverage and public profile. I suggest that your demands for statements of correction to American Government in the interests of “the facts” belie a desire for political censorship to silence your detractors and opponents.

    Thank you for your attention in this matter.

    Sincerely,

  18. #18 Andrew W
    April 20, 2008

    Demesure, I think smart people rely on those who are most expert in a field. Idiots of course just believe whatever suits they particular ideology, with AGW deniers that means ignoring the scientists.

    My gut feeling is that it was legal bullying, and guess what! So does one of New Zealands foremost media law experts!

    Steven Price: “I object to this because I think the Listener has used a tenuous legal claim to bully a blogger into retracting some moderate and reasonable criticisms.”

    “The post is largely a model of fairness. It sets out the background facts. It raises questions rather than making allegations. It even allows that the Listener’s editor may have made the change for other reasons.”

    “[the apology] looks to have been drafted by said lawyers”

    “The correction and apology looks ham-fisted to me. It even includes a retraction of things that weren’t even in the post.”

    “The proper response would have been a one-line letter politely telling the Listener to sit on its thumb. I doubt that any further action would have been taken. But bloggers, and those who host their blogs, can’t always be that brave. That’s what makes leaning on assertions of legal rights in situations like this reprehensible, I think.”
    http://www.medialawjournal.co.nz/?p=98

    Demesure, you ask: “if you really want to defend free speech (which I doubt), tell the people who demand to put AGW “deniers” on trial like holocaust deniers or who threaten and fire their State Meteorologists or who cry “deniers” don’t deserve 1% of air time they have to shut up and apologize.”

    No prob.

    Dear people who demand to put AGW deniers on trial like holocaust deniers, if you exist, you are asses.

    Dear deniers, have as much air time as you can get but stop telling porkies.

    I don’t know what you’re talking about regarding meteorologists, but as Dave Hansford has discovered, no job lasts forever.

    Happy now?

  19. #19 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 20, 2008

    Demesure:

    who intimidate a publisher into rewriting his book.

    Oh, so when stirring up some publicity is called “intimidation”, “coercion”, and it’s right up there with burning people at the stake in a gulag.[1] While getting lawyers to threaten damages is called “freedom and democracy”.

    [1] no, that’s not supposed to make sense

    It’s interesting the way the arguments are going — it’s the same kind of iterative backpedalling that characterizes climate inactivism in general. First the inactivists claim that the lawsuit has nothing to do with Gareth’s story. Then the inactivists claim that, well, the lawsuit’s probably related after all, but that’s OK because Clinton Did It Too.

    What next? My guess is they’ll probably just say yeah, it’s not OK after all, but we’re big and bad and you’re a bunch of welfare junkie losers and there’s nothing you can do about us, bwahahahahahaha! And no, the lawsuit has nothing to do with Gareth’s story. Round and round the mulberry bush…

  20. #20 Jeff Harvey
    April 20, 2008

    Look everyone, Demesure is living in a dream world if he believes the World Bank, IMF and ALL the governements of the world are involved in some sort of climate change ‘conspiracy’. In particular, the IMF and World Bank (pseudonyms of the United States Treasury) are promoting free market absolutist policies and structural adjustment through the Washington Consensus and neoliberal economics – which are neither new nor liberal – that are devastating to both the environment and to the poor.

    He’s also peddling the same discredited crap that scientists must scare the public to death in order to secure government funding. Please, Demesure, provide some empirical evidence to back up this crap. In fact, given the hostility of the current US administration to any form of regulation (because corporations are embedded in power with it), its quite likely that scientists arguing that AGW is based on shaky science are also likely to get well funded, if not directly by government than by any number of self-serving multinational corporations that see any kinds of regulations as a threat to the way that they do business.

    Demesure, your posts are an example of comic level book analysis. We should have realized this when you first showed up peddling the numbers web site on another thread.

  21. #21 Demesure
    April 20, 2008

    “Look everyone, Demesure is living in a dream world if he believes the World Bank, IMF and ALL the governements of the world are involved in some sort of climate change ‘conspiracy’.”

    Who talked about “conspiracy”? You Jeff, not me.
    Please, re-read my post, with your finger, so to avoid making strawmen.

    He’s also peddling the same discredited crap that scientists must scare the public to death in order to secure government funding.

    Ha, a little quizz for you denier:

    Who said this

    Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue, and energy sources such as “synfuels,” shale oil and tar sands were receiving strong consideration. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions. ”

    a) Demesure

    b) Harvey

    c) James Hansen, chief scientist of the FARCE* and Gore’s “science” adviser for AIT

    *Fraternity of Alarmists Rhapsodying on Climate Extremes

  22. #22 Demesure
    April 20, 2008

    Dear people who demand to put AGW deniers on trial like holocaust deniers, if you exist, you are asses.

    IJI, some ass asked me to broadcast this message:
    “Dear IJI, I do exist, I’m a well known climate activist journalist and I’m an ass. And you too are an ass for not knowing a celebrity like me”.

  23. #23 Tim Lambert
    April 20, 2008

    [Let's go to the tape, Demesure](http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2006/WorldWatch_20061006.pdf). James Hansen:

    >Michaels’ latest tomfoolery, repeated on
    several occasions, is the charge that I approve
    of exaggeration of potential consequences of
    future global warming. This is more unadulterated
    hogwash.Michaels quotes me as saying,”
    Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have
    been appropriate at one time, when the public
    and decision-makers were relatively unaware
    of the global warming issue.”

    >What trick did Michaels use to create the
    impression that I advocate exaggeration? He
    took the above sentence out of context from
    a paragraph in which I was being gently critical
    of a tendency of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
    Change climate simulations to emphasize only cases with very
    large increases of climate forcings.My entire paragraph (from
    a June 2003 presentation to the Council on Environmental
    Quality) read as follows:

    >>Summary opinion re scenarios. Emphasis on
    extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one
    time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively
    unaware of the global warming issue, and energy
    sources such as “synfuels,” shale oil, and tar sands were
    receiving strong consideration. Now, however, the need
    is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios
    consistent with what is realistic under current conditions.
    Scenarios that accurately fit recent and nearfuture
    observations have the best chance of bringing all
    of the important players into the discussion, and they
    also are what is needed for the purpose of providing
    policy-makers the most effective and efficient options to
    stop global warming.

    >Would an intelligent reader who read the entire paragraph
    (or even the entire sentence; by chopping off half of the
    sentence Michaels brings quoting-out-of-context to a new
    low) infer that I was advocating exaggeration? On the contrary.
    Perhaps I should take it as a compliment that anyone would
    search my writing so hard to find something that can be
    quoted out of context.

  24. #24 Andrew W
    April 20, 2008

    Demesure: “IJI, some ass asked me to broadcast this message: “Dear IJI, I do exist, I’m a well known climate activist journalist and I’m an ass. And you too are an ass for not knowing a celebrity like me”.”

    And:
    “re-read my post, with your finger,”

    Demesure, You’d better get your finger out.

  25. #25 Bernard J.
    April 21, 2008

    Demesure.

    Time for you to go back to school.

    Carefully read Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism

    and especially

    Self-Appointed Experts

    See if you can recognise yourself in any of what Steven Dutch has to say.

    It’s ringing a loud bell for many of us here, every time you open your mouth…

    …to change feet.

  26. #26 Demesure
    April 21, 2008

    #23, Tim Tim !

    I was not quoting out of context Hansen. My quote concern all the relevant paragraphs.

    What’s ironic that now, you quote Hansen saying
    “He took the above sentence out of context from a paragraph in which I was being gently critical of a tendency of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate simulations to emphasize only cases with very large increases of climate forcings.

    Ha, Hansen criticizing the IPCC for emphasizing to much extreme forcings. What a joke !

    Haven’t you read his lastest paper on Arxiv, about 6°C “long equilibrium” sensitivity and about “abrupt climate changes” ?
    And haven’t you read Hansen (yeah, the same one) criticizing the IPCC’s 4AR for using to conservative projections.

    This guy has no shame.

  27. #27 Bernard J.
    April 21, 2008

    Funny, I was just thinking the same thing…

  28. #28 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 21, 2008

    So when’s Monckton going to bring legal charges against Hansen?

    What happened to John Coleman’s lawsuit against Al Gore?

    I’m still waiting.

    Or are the inactivists going to just continue bullying little folks?

  29. #29 Brian D
    April 21, 2008

    Bi:

    You know (probably better than I do) that it’s not the legal action that matters to these folks — they are *in*activists, after all. Rather, the threat of legal action is enough for them — mention “Weather Channel founder is going to sue Al Gore!” and the delayers erupt with the same activity and stonewalling that would have happened if such a lawsuit actually took place, except without the legal fees or the risk of a ruling in favor of Gore. All the benefits with no cost or drawback, except to their credibility amongst people they don’t care about (in the reality-based community) — it’s win-win for the inactivists.

    I’m wondering when we can justify taking these cranks to task for crimes against humanity.

  30. #30 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 21, 2008

    Brian D:

    You know (probably better than I do) that it’s not the legal action that matters to these folks — they are inactivists, after all.

    I’m not too sure about that, since their lack of activity only emerges when it comes to actually mitigating climate change. But when it comes to blowing smoke and all that, they’re pretty active — they’re doing everything in their power to Do Nothing.

    I’m wondering when we can justify taking these cranks to task for crimes against humanity.

    Looks like Canadian Inuits are already doing it. Maybe they’re just more litigious.

  31. #31 bi -- Intl. J. Inact.
    April 21, 2008

    (oops, not Canadian; Alaskan.)

  32. #32 dhogaza
    April 21, 2008

    Demesure, caught in a lie …

    threaten and fire their State Meteorologists

    George Taylor, the poster case constantly referred to by denialists, was never fired as State Meteorologist of Oregon. He *couldn’t* be fired as Oregon HAS NO STATE METEOROLOGIST. It’s an honorary designation by some national meteorology association.

    Taylor got into trouble because he was representing himself as speaking for the State of Oregon in an official (state) capacity, which of course he had no right to do. When asked to stop misrepresenting himself, the denialsphere rose up in arms at the state trying to stifle its (non-existent) state meteorologist, with all the exuberance that denialist ignorance can bring to bear in such situations.

    So, Demesure, how exactly does someone get fired from a job that doesn’t exist?

  33. #33 Demesure
    April 22, 2008

    Now who should I trust, dhogaza who makes an unsustanciated claim or the Oregon University ?

    “George H. Taylor is the State Climatologist for Oregon. A faculty member of Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Science, he is Director of the Oregon Climate Service, the state’s official repository for weather and climate information.

    Source: Oregon state university

  34. #34 Demesure
    April 22, 2008

    “I’m not too sure about that, since their lack of activity only emerges when it comes to actually mitigating climate change.”

    And what should people do with the activists who have led to the biofuels fiasco ? Should they be tried for “crime against humanity” or minced and made into pâté to feed food rioters ? Oh bad chance, they are non elected and non accountable bureaucrats and they are now busy inventing other “actions to mitigate climate change” (no kidding).

    “Biofuels are a crime against humanity” Jean Ziegler, UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food.

  35. #35 Eli Rabett
    April 22, 2008

    Interesting, Taylor is now the State Climatologist FOR Oregon, and no longer can call himself the Oregon State Climatologist.

    The former is a title from OSU, the later is a title that implies he speaks for the state.

  36. #36 Demesure
    April 22, 2008

    So what, Taylor is Director of the Oregon Climate Service and he is summoned by Oregon Governor to shut up for having expressed his opinions about climate change hoax while Hansen can make public speeches about climate change doom and remain head of the GISS ?

    I don’t remember any outrage in here about a governor bullying a little guy.

  37. #37 Barton Paul Levenson
    April 22, 2008

    Demesure posts:

    Taylor is Director of the Oregon Climate Service and he is summoned by Oregon Governor to shut up for having expressed his opinions about climate change hoax while Hansen can make public speeches about climate change doom and remain head of the GISS ?

    The governor did NOT tell Taylor to shut up “for having expressed his opinions about climate change hoax.” He told him to stop implying that he was employed by the state of Oregon. Impersonating a government official is a crime for some positions, like police officer or fireman. Claiming to be the nonexistent “Oregon State Climatologist” is a step under that on the scale of irresponsible and dishonest behavior, but it’s still on the scale.