Akermangate

i-75e0dde918b0c040ab02dafb55ff6348-moncktonhoughtonmisquote.jpg

The Independent tracks down the person who fabricated a fake quote used by folks like Christopher Monckton and Benny Peiser to attack John Houghton and scientists in general and it turns out to Piers Akerman in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

That’s bad enough, but look at Akerman’s response when contacted by Media Watch:

there was an error in The Independent report. I have responded to The Independent.

Now that has to be one of the most pathetic lies ever. If there really was an error, why not tell them what it was? And, sure enough, The Independent confirm that Akerman hasn’t told them about any error in their story.

See also James Hrynyshyn.

Comments

  1. #1 Charlie
    February 15, 2010

    Innocent until proven guilty? Apparently not. Far better to conduct your argument ad hominem, it seems, than to deal in data and interpretation. That seems rather sad to me.

  2. #2 stepanovich
    February 15, 2010

    Thank you, Charlie, for yet another totally detailed point-by-point response to Lambert’s post.

  3. #3 t_p_hamilton
    February 15, 2010

    Charlie says:”Innocent until proven guilty? Apparently not. Far better to conduct your argument ad hominem, it seems, than to deal in data and interpretation. That seems rather sad to me.”

    The newspaper article states a simple fact that Charlie did not dispute:”In fact, the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006 when it appeared in a newspaper column written by the journalist Piers Akerman in the Australian newspaper The Sunday Telegraph. Akerman, a controversial right-wing columnist and global warming sceptic, appears to be the first person to use the quote verbatim in an opinion piece criticising the Stern Review, which looked at the economic effects of global warming.”

    The way to deal with the fact is to find an earlier verbatim quote, not accuse others of doing what you are doing.

  4. #4 carrot eater
    February 15, 2010

    Following the links around, this is what the reporter from the Independent said, about Akerman:

    >He said that he cannot remember where he got the quote from but was going to check through some material he has. Not heard from him since….

    I take it we’re still waiting.

    http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2820429.htm

  5. #5 WotWot
    February 15, 2010

    Charlie

    With a track record as appalling as Ackerman’s, nobody is under any obligation whatsoever to give any of his rabid hysterical jabberings one jot of prima facie credibility.

    From the judgement in Richard James Talbot v Nationwide News Pty [2006] NSWDC 59

    61. The inaccuracies of fact by the defendant [Piers Ackerman] on this topic are gross. In particular, to accuse the plaintiff of failure to attend committees that do not exist when in fact he consistently attended meetings of the Board which did consider such issues, is so extreme a misstatement of fact as to vitiate any defence of comment for any imputation based on it.

    If I recall correctly, that little lie cost Mr Ackerman’s reputation, and his employer’s wallet, quite a bit.

    First rule of honest, serious debate: You can’t just make shit up.

  6. #6 J Bowers
    February 15, 2010

    @ Charlie

    I’m sure I would laso jump to defend a friend of mine.

    The thing is, there is no ad hominem here. The Independent is the source of the story, and it is The Independent who you should be complaining to, or the Press Complaints Commission.

    John Houghton has categorically stated that he did not say the words. Nobody can find the words in the book that Christopher Monckton says the quote comes from.

    It’s a done and dusted case of quote fabrication.

    Move on, and tell your friend that he needs to voice record his interviews, as has been suggested to him here on Deltoid. So far, there are three scientists who say he has misquoted them. Apply some critical thinking to the issue and do your friend a real favour. Buy him a voice recorder for his birthday.

    If you’re a comparative stranger to the issues of the media and climate change, you can do worse than go to the following link and see what a real climate scientist, indeed one accused of wrongdoing in the “climategate” fiasco, has to say.
    < http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/ipcc-errors-facts-and-spin/>

    “Innocent until proven guilty”: Tell that to the Mail, Telegraph and Times. At least your friend hasn’t had death threats and been pushed to the brink of suicide, unlike one certain climate scientist.

  7. #7 Mike
    February 15, 2010

    How on earth is this “ad hominem” Charlie? Ad hominem arguments are where a personal attack is used as a basis to assert that the person’s argument isn’t true.

    Fact: Akerman attributed a quote to someone from his book.
    Fact: That person never made the quote in the book.
    Unanswered Question: What is Akerman actually doing?

    Akerman’s catchphrase of course, is always that it is “only an opinion column”. Yes indeed. One riddled with falsehoods, misquotes, and lies. Something he can be proud of, I’m sure.

  8. #8 Monkeywrench
    February 15, 2010

    Ad hominem? That surely is the weakest, most illogical response I have ever seen in this blog.

  9. #9 Hank Roberts
    February 15, 2010

    Charlie, you hit the F3 key, the “AdHom” copypaste response. Wrong button, man. Try F2 (“Fat!”) or F6 (“Cool!”).

    /Snark

  10. #10 lord_sidcup
    February 15, 2010

    I suggest Tim adds “Wrongly claims argument ad hominem” to the global warming sceptic [bingo card](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2005/04/gwsbingo.php).

  11. #11 Richard McGuire
    February 15, 2010

    While I have sympathy for Sir John Houghton, why did he wait so long to set the record straight ? The allegation has been around nearly fifteen years,and is now folklore on the denial-o-sphere. The damage has been done.

    Having recently listened to the audio of the Monckton/Lambert debate, I must congratulate Tim on his clever ambush of Monckton. Hopefully lessons will learned by others who take on his Lordship.

  12. #12 Dave R
    February 15, 2010

    The allegation has been around nearly fifteen years

    Do you have a source for that claim?, which contradicts what the cited article says…

    In fact, the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006 when it appeared in a newspaper column written by the journalist Piers Akerman

  13. #13 Bruce Sharp
    February 15, 2010

    Richard, if you follow the links you’ll find that the claim has not been around for fifteen years. It apparently originated with Akerman in 2006.

  14. #14 James Haughton
    February 15, 2010

    Richard @ 11; if you read the Hrynyshyn story you will see that Ackerman only made up the quote in 2006. This story has only been around for 4 years at most. I’m sure Sir John has been trying to set the record straight since he first heard it. I’m also sure the media have given him no airtime whatever to do so.

  15. #15 Steve Reuland
    February 15, 2010

    “While I have sympathy for Sir John Houghton, why did he wait so long to set the record straight ? The allegation has been around nearly fifteen years,and is now folklore on the denial-o-sphere.”

    Actually, it’s been going around for just over three years, which is evidence of its fabrication. It’s too young to have come from the source it was claimed to have come from.

    As for why Houghton didn’t set the record straight earlier, who’s to say he hasn’t tried? Unfortunately, to paraphrase (I think) Mark Twain, a lie can make it half way around the world before the truth gets its shoes on.

    At any rate, the point needs to be made very forcefully that people calling themselves “skeptics” passed around a quote for several years and reproduced it thousands of times without a single one of them ever checking the original source to verify its authenticity. That’s the complete inverse of actual skepticism.

  16. #16 chek
    February 15, 2010

    And yet … Lie, spin and deceive shalt be the whole of the law. Oh, and casually and egregiously accuse the scientists of doing exactly what you’re doing while you’re at it.

    It’s a long term and sophisticated campaign folks!

  17. #17 blob
    February 15, 2010

    all over the comments in the independent article people were also claiming “How come he hasn’t said anything for 15 years”

    It’s like they haven’t even read the flipping article.

  18. #18 DavidCOG
    February 15, 2010

    lord_sidcup:

    > I suggest Tim adds “Wrongly claims argument ad hominem” to the global warming sceptic bingo card.

    Seconded. It’s a pandemic. Everything from citing a peer-reviewed paper to correcting their grammar is met with “*Oh! Oh! Ad hominem!*”

    ~~~

    blob:

    > It’s like they haven’t even read the flipping article.

    Why would they need to do that? They *know* what is happening by some process… information osmosis, perhaps.

  19. #19 Sandra Oates
    February 15, 2010

    Careful Tim. The Independent and Media Watch don’t say that Akerman fabricated the quote. They say that his Tele article of November 2006 is the earliest use of it that they could find through their independent searches. This is stated explicitly in the Independent’s response to Media Watch, available from the [Media Watch transcript](http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2820429.htm)

    So it’s still possible that somebody else fabricated it and Akerman just didn’t check.

  20. #20 Fran Barlow
    February 15, 2010

    Oddly, when I first saw this quote … retailed on usenet by an agnotologist spammer using the nym “Bonzo” in the course of a set of ostensibly accurate but embarrassing quotable quotes from such as Stephen Schneider, Christine Stewart and others, I did try looking it up but failed to find any reference to it, outside the filth merchant blogosphere.

    Plainly, I should have done more follow up at the time, but as the copy and paste spammer in question was incorrigible and posted so much else that was obviously tosh, I simply moved on.

  21. #21 John
    February 15, 2010

    @19 – That’s true, but as Akerman is the first cited source of the quote, and until he tells us where it came from, the buck stops with him.

  22. #22 PS
    February 15, 2010

    @19 – The statement in the Akerman piece was that the quote was from Houghton’s book so if it is not, in fact, in the book I don’t see what defense Akerman can have (other than total incompetence I suppose – is that a defense?)

  23. #23 jakerman
    February 15, 2010

    >*The statement in the Akerman piece was that the quote was from Houghton’s book so if it is not, in fact, in the book I don’t see what defense Akerman can have (other than total incompetence I suppose – is that a defense?)*

    The simplist of rebuttles is all that is required by Akerman, cite the page. But know what do we get from the pork pie indulger:

    >*there was an error in The Independent report. I have responded to The Independent.*

    To whcih Tim correctly observes:

    >*Now that has to be one of the most pathetic lies ever. If there really was an error, why not tell them what it was?

    And a Tim informs us of this golden little ending:

    >*And, sure enough, The Independent confirm that Akerman hasn’t told them about any error in their story.*

    Porkies can look really funny sometimes.

  24. #24 jakerman
    February 15, 2010

    Charlie writes:

    >*Innocent until proven guilty? Apparently not. Far better to conduct your argument ad hominem, it seems, than to deal in data and interpretation. That seems rather sad to me.*

    I though Charlie was standing up for John Houghton, whose case had not been heard before he was found ‘guilty’.

    Though others seem to think Charlie is talking bout Akerman? Guys don’t be so harsh on Charlie. Charles is aware that Akerman has been given a chance to rebutt the charges, but [simiply failed](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/02/akermangate.php#comment-2277789).

    Lets not judge Charlie guilty when all the evidence suggest a fair man would make Charlies arguemnt in defense of Houghton and not Akerman.

  25. #25 el gordo
    February 15, 2010

    There appears to be some confusion over Charlie’s wording, a clarification from him would be appreciated.

    The blogosphere is renowned for creating urban myths and propaganda of one sort or another.

  26. #26 Bernard J.
    February 16, 2010

    I read charlie in the same way as jakerman, although I did think about it for a moment.

    By the way, jakerman, you must be so embarrassed to be the love-child of Piers, and of Albretchson…
    ;-)

  27. #27 Al
    February 16, 2010

    To extend the answer of Steve Rueland @15, Sir John Houghton gives his reason to not responding earlier to [MediaWatch](http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/1002_houghton.pdf). The relevant quote from Sir John Houghton regarding his motivation is:
    “I’ve been aware for over a year, but I don’t remember exactly when I was first aware. My attitude to such attacks in the first place has been generally to ignore them, as to fight them only gives them publicity. But now it has got to such a level with millions of internet examples that it is doing not only me but also the IPCC a lot of damage.”

  28. #28 Richard McGuire
    February 16, 2010

    @11. I made the claim the accusation against Jim Houghton had been around for fifteen years. This was taken from a quote in the Independent Feb 10th 2010 by Dr Ben Peiser. Perhaps I should have been more cautious than to rely on quote by Ben Peiser. At the same time I strongly suspect the accusation was in circulation before it was picked up by Akerman in 2006.

  29. #29 jakerman
    February 16, 2010

    Bernad, I feel like Luke Skywalker, except I find my mother is also Sith.

  30. #30 jakerman
    February 16, 2010

    Applogies that is Berna**r**d.

  31. #31 Mike
    February 16, 2010

    Hmmm. I may indeed have misread Charlie’s post after all. I initially thought he was accusing TL of ad hominem, in which case…..mea culpa.

    My disclaimer is that there are actually “sceptics” who peruse this blog and would be that stupid. The sheer number of poes gathering around this whole topic just has me completely bamboozled sometimes.

  32. #32 jakerman
    February 16, 2010

    Mike, I was Poe defending Charlie.

    I’ll also admit I actually like el gordo’s clever line as well. (no Poe this time).

  33. #33 Vince Whirlwind
    February 16, 2010

    @11, @28 – Richard McGuire

    That’s just bizarre – the quote you quote is immediately followed by:
    “In fact, the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006 when it appeared in a newspaper column written by the journalist Piers Akerman in the Australian newspaper The Sunday Telegraph.”

    So, your “strongly suspect” seems a bit wilful, unless you’ve done more research into the matter than the journo who wrote the article.

  34. #34 Hasis
    February 16, 2010

    Just as an illustration of the balanced tone in which Houghton wrote ‘The Complete Briefing’, here is an extract from the ‘Preface to the First Addition’ [which is reproduced at the start of the 3rd edition that is on my shelf]

    Some researchers [contributing to the 1990 and 1992 reports] initially felt that the uncertainties were such that scientists should refrain from making any estimates or predictions for the future. However, it soon became clear that scientists have a responsibility to communicate the best possible information about the likely magnitude of climate change, along with statements of the assumptions made and the level of uncertainty in the estimates. Like weather forecasters, their results will not be entirely accurate, but can provide useful guidance. [emphasis added]

  35. #35 P. Lewis
    February 16, 2010

    Richard Maguire said

    At the same time I strongly suspect the accusation was in circulation before it was picked up by Akerman in 2006.

    Richard, if you input the Houghton quote under discussion into Google and then do a timeline analysis (under Show options), this indeed shows that it first appeared in web-indexed form in Akerman’s Stern Report piece. An apparently earlier cite turns out to be a rather recent use that happened to have an earlier date cited elsewhere in the web page. Whilst not absolute proof that it was in use prior to Akerman’s usage, it is highly suggestive that this is the source … unless and until Piers Akerman reveals his reference.

  36. #36 P. Lewis
    February 16, 2010

    Oops! That should have read

    “Whilst not absolute proof that it wasn’t in use prior to Akerman’s usage, it is highly suggestive that this is the source …”

  37. #37 sg
    February 16, 2010

    I love how Ben Peiser responds – Houghton has to “clarify” that he never said this, i.e. it’s Houghton’s responsibility to prove that he never wrote something someone else randomly claims he wrote. Brilliant!

  38. #38 Jean Demesure
    February 16, 2010

    Scholar Adams has found that Sir Houghton has said to the Sunday Telegraph in 1995
    “If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster.”

    So the liar here is Sir Houghton. It’s not Ackermangate, it’s HoughtonGate.
    I expect Tim and his groupies to make updates to amend their false claims, but I’m not holding my breath.

  39. #39 Bud
    February 16, 2010

    So the liar here is Sir Houghton. It’s not Ackermangate, it’s HoughtonGate. I expect Tim and his groupies to make updates to amend their false claims, but I’m not holding my breath.

    In what sort of parallel world does an observation (““If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster”) mean the same as a hinted plan of action (“Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen”)?

    If a journalist cannot track down the source of a quote he is not doing his job right.

    That said, I don’t have a great deal of time for people who claim God can send natural disasters to show humans the way.

  40. #40 RHC
    February 16, 2010

    On the contrary. I do believe that Sir Houghton is mistaken. Although the actual statement has been slightly distorted through time, I believe that the underlying sentiments remain.

    From :http://john-adams.co.uk/2010/02/15/is-god-trying-to-tell-us-something/

    Houghton warns that God may induce man to mend his ways with a disaster. “If we want a good environmental
    policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster.”
    “God tries to coax and woo, but he also uses
    disasters. Human sin may be involved; the effect will
    be the same.”

    Sir John Houghton, former director of the Met Office, Chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution,
    Co-Chair of the IPCC (Sunday Telegraph, 10.9.95)

  41. #41 Tim Lambert
    February 16, 2010

    Shorter Demesure and RHC:

    “All sentences that contain the word “disaster” mean the same thing.”

  42. #42 lord_sidcup
    February 16, 2010

    So we have to believe that in 2006 Piers Akerman dug up a 11 year old copy of the Sunday Telegraph to quote mine John Houghton, but still managed to get the quote wrong.

    Going quote mining is pointless and stupid. Going quote mining and getting a quote wrong is even more pointless and stupid.

  43. #43 Boris
    February 16, 2010

    “So the liar here is Sir Houghton.”

    No, but we know who the stupid person is. It’s Jean Demesure, who is apparently incapable of deciphering plain English.

    Or as you said earlier:

    “I expect false claims are the only way to challenge Tim and his groupies.”

    A direct quote of yours, sir or madam.

  44. #44 zoot
    February 16, 2010

    Going quote mining is pointless and stupid. Going quote mining and getting a quote wrong is even more pointless and stupid.

    Particularly when you cite a source that doesn’t contain the quote.

  45. #45 Hasis
    February 16, 2010

    On the contrary yourself RHC

    I see a need to reiterate what Bud said here:

    In what sort of parallel world does an observation (“If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster”) mean the same as a hinted plan of action (“Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen”)?

    My reading of these comments by Houghton is that he is actually referring here to the ‘window of opportunity’, which is a well known phenomenon in the ‘disasters’ field.

    In effect, a disaster acts as a catalyst for legislation to be enacted to reduce the risk of the circumstances that ‘set up’ the disaster in the first place being repeated [NB. such legislation may be reactionary but often it has been in preparation before said event, but was being held up by, e.g. public resistance to change].

    This effect has been identified as contributing to the transition between three phases of flood risk management in the UK since World War II. See…

    http://www.psi.org.uk/ehb/projectsjohnson.html

  46. #46 dhogaza
    February 16, 2010

    I love how Ben Peiser responds – Houghton has to “clarify” that he never said this, i.e. it’s Houghton’s responsibility to prove that he never wrote something someone else randomly claims he wrote. Brilliant!

    Obviously, Ben Peiser spends too much time beating his wife to investigate this claim himself.

  47. #47 t_p_hamilton
    February 16, 2010

    In my experience, disasters don’t need to be announced since they are bloody obvious, unless you appointed or are the person nicknamed Brownie.

  48. #48 Boris
    February 16, 2010

    I met Benny Pieser once and he told me “Hitler had nice legs, for a man.”

    You know it’s true because he hasn’t denied it yet.

  49. #49 Steve Reuland
    February 16, 2010

    So we have to believe that in 2006 Piers Akerman dug up a 11 year old copy of the Sunday Telegraph to quote mine John Houghton, but still managed to get the quote wrong.

    And get the source wrong.

  50. #50 Sandra Oates
    February 16, 2010

    {sigh} If this is Akerman’s source, then at best it’s a stupid misinterpretation. Here’s the full paragraph (my emphasis):

    If we want a good environmental policy in the future, we’ll have to have a disaster. It’s like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there’s been an accident.

    The fabricated / misquoted version accuses Houghton of saying that people won’t listen unless you announce potential disasters that haven’t happened yet. In this paragraph he says that people only act after a disaster has actually occurred. The fabrication contradicts what Houghton said in this piece.

    Time for Piers Akerman to speak up. If this was his source, how does he justify the twist he put on it? If there’s another source, what was it and what did Houghton actually say?

  51. #51 el gordo
    February 16, 2010

    This might be where they got the original idea from.

    http://john-adams.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/houghton-and-god.pdf

  52. #52 Anonymous
    February 16, 2010

    Late to party gordo?

  53. #53 el gordo
    February 16, 2010

    Caught shorter again, but while you’re there, I’ve been searching for seasonal weather forecasts to see who predicted the US chill of 2009-10.

    Everyone so far has failed miserably except for Matt Rogers, of the Commodity Weather Group, who was spot on the money. He pointed to a weak El Nino which has a notorious reputation for producing strong Nor Easters.

  54. #54 jakerman
    February 16, 2010

    el gordo,

    While your at it, can you also findout who if anyone predicted the Arctic warm this winter?

    Then find for us what they predict for 10, 30, & 100 years hence.

  55. #55 sg
    February 16, 2010

    wow! Peiser’s a gay nazi!? If that’s not true then he really has a responsibility to clarify what he said.

  56. #56 el gordo
    February 16, 2010

    Janet

    NOAA I expect, but I haven’t found it yet. While over there browsing I found this forecast..http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20091015_winteroutlook.html

    ‘This seasonal outlook does not predict where and when snowstorms may hit or total seasonal snowfall accumulations.’

    Well, that’s just not good enough.

  57. #57 el gordo
    February 16, 2010

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20091015_winteroutlook.html

    Note the warmth predicted by NOAA, what an irony.

  58. #58 el gordo
    February 17, 2010

    Janet

    This may come closest to our understanding of what is happening in the Arctic. Not so much warmer air temperature and more to do with warm ocean currents.

    http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=282&cid=69134&ct=162

  59. #59 Lotharsson
    February 17, 2010

    Not so much warmer air temperature and more to do with warm ocean currents.

    Because warmer ocean currents are not part of global climate but warmer air is?

  60. #60 el gordo
    February 17, 2010

    My understanding is that warmer air temperatures would eventually melt all the Arctic, but as the melt is being created by warm ocean currents then there will be no catastrophe.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/3345666/North-Pole-ice-may-disappear-by-September.html

    I think Tim’s onto something, those damn journalists will write any rubbish.

  61. #61 Lotharsson
    February 17, 2010

    My understanding is that warmer air temperatures would eventually melt all the Arctic, but as the melt is being created by warm ocean currents then there will be no catastrophe.

    I would expect the outcome to depend on additional factors. For example, are the currents warm because the ocean as a whole (or in that region) is warming, or are they warm currents that have moved from their usual path? Will the melting effect reduce the overall albedo and cause the Earth to retain more incoming radiative energy than it would otherwise? And no doubt more factors that I’m not aware of.

  62. #62 Peter Pan
    February 17, 2010

    Piers Ackerman has written a response in his blog today.

    He says “It’s possible that someone, somewhere in cyberspace tidied up Houghton’s original remark before including it in the material which was sent to me” without stating exactly who exactly sent him the material.

    Must be those internet Gremlins I guess?

  63. #63 jakerman
    February 17, 2010

    Oh Piers! How could you yank that chain?

  64. #64 el gordo
    February 17, 2010

    Loth

    Another interesting paper from Woods Hole, which came out a year ago, suggests the North Atlantic circulation pump had been turned off for about a decade and that the sea decline around 2007 may have helped start the ‘conveyor’ up again.

    Riveting stuff!

    http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=12457&tid=282&cid=54366

    The scientists noted ‘that the increased liquid and frozen freshwater flux into the Labrador Sea was probably tied to the large export of sea ice from the Arctic Ocean that contributed to the record minimum in sea-ice extent observed in the summer of 2007. Ironically, this disappearance of Arctic sea ice, which has been linked to global warming, may have help trigger the return of deep wintertime (water sinking) to the North Atlantic.’

  65. #65 Lotharsson
    February 17, 2010

    It’s possible that someone, somewhere in cyberspace tidied up Houghton’s original remark before including it in the material which was sent to me” without stating exactly who exactly sent him the material.

    Shorter Bolt: I trust whatever lands in my Inbox if it confirms my views.

  66. #66 Ruchard Ryan
    March 19, 2010

    Piers Akerman speaks ill of the living, just ask Mr.Habib.