The Australian is notorious for its attacks on climate science and its hypersensitivity to criticism, so this segment on the Science Show on the psychology of the rejection of climate science where this Maurice Newman opinion piece in the Australian was (correctly) described as “drivel” was pretty well guaranteed to draw lots of responses. So far there have been eight published. On the front page of Tuesday’s paper we had the headline “It’s OK to link climate denial to pedophilia, ABC tells ex-chairman Maurice Newman” (search for it if you wish to read the article). You have to read right to the end of the article to find out that the headline is completely false:
In its direct response to Mr Newman, the ABC maintained it did “not equate climate change sceptics to pedophiles”.
So they didn’t say it was OK, but rather denied doing it. Because they didn’t. Here’s what Robin Williams said on the Science Show:
What if I told you that paedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma? Or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths again and again in recent times, distorting the science.
The example of a similar statement that Williams gives is Todd Akin’s claim that rape cannot cause pregnancy. Williams did not equate Akin with a pedophile, but rather said that Akin made an outrageously false and unscientific claim, A statement equating a group with pedophiles would look like this:
“The wind-farm business is bloody well near a pedophile ring. They’re f . . king our families and knowingly doing so.”
Of course, that wasn’t published by the ABC, but by The Australian (search for “Wind farm scam a huge cover-up” by James Delingpole) and yesterday The Australian was forced to publish this:
Third, it has concluded that the report of the anonymous remarks concerning paedophilia, a very serious and odious crime, were highly offensive. The Council’s principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful. They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech
As you might expect, rather than admit that the two cases were different, The Australian’s Nick Leys complained that the ABC was being held to a different standard. As did The Australian in an editorial. And they also published a ridiculous rant from Delingpole making the same complaint (“Where free speech is as dead as the dodo”). Also saying the same thing was a column by Christopher Pearson (“Climate lunacy rules at Aunty”). I imagine there will be many more over the next few weeks.
The Australian also used this as an excuse to publish more drivel from Newman (“ABC clique in control of climate”):
We have seen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change discredited. We know the science is less robust. And, for the past 16 years, mother nature has been kind to the sceptics. Because Williams says the entire globe is threatened in a way that is pretty dire doesn’t make it so. Yet the “weight of evidence” argument is often used as a licence to vilify holders of alternative views. As a taxpayer-funded organisation, the ABC shouldn’t even have a view on global warming. What it does have is a duty to all Australians to broadcast honestly the best available evidence on both sides of the argument so that we can make up our own minds. This is not happening.
You could make up your mind as to whether Newman’s claim that there has been no global warming for 16 years by looking at the data. Here, from woodfortrees.org, is a graph showing the temperature trend from 1980 to 1996 (the green line) and global temperatures since 1980. The data shows that in the last 16 years temperatures have been mostly above the trend line.
Newman also claims:
In March 2010 as chairman, I addressed an in-house conference of 250 ABC leaders. In a speech titled “Trust is the future of the ABC”, I asked, “how might we ensure in our newsrooms we celebrate those who interrogate every truth?” I lamented the mainstream media’s role as an effective gatekeeper. It was too conformist and had missed the warning signs of financial failure. I blamed group think and used climate change as an example. My mistake was to mention climate change.
Actually, Newman’s mistake was to smear scientists, accusing them of lacking in moral and scientific integrity and basing all this on a some blog posts.
Update: The Australian refused to print a letter from the ABC correcting the record.