Manichean paranoia?

20617065_1539768166080456_8820204049348327673_o Ha. While I’m wasting my time on heat waves, ATTP is reaping the clicks with Manichean paranoia, a far more amusing topic. After all, everyone loves RP Jr [content advisory: talk given at the GWPF: may pollute your brain]. I’m not terribly interested in most of it, but I’ll talk to “Engage with those with whom you disagree”: which, nowadays, seems to be most of the readers of my blog. At least those who comment; I don’t know about the lurkers. That is somewhat regrettable, but so it goes; I don’t complain.

Roger sets the stage with Senator James Inhofe versus Prof. Michael Mann. That’s probably the kind of thing his GWPF listeners wanted to hear; they know that Imhofe is an idiot, so they love to hear him compared to Mann, who isn’t. Naturally, the other way round doesn’t work so well, and ATTP complains if you think that the two sides of the debate are represented by James Inhofe, on one side, and Michael Mann on the other, then your sense of where the reasonable middle lies is wildly different to where most would regard it and I guess that’s true enough. But this is a case of RP making his point badly, rather than not having a point at all. Instead of the people, let’s try reading the text.

Imhofe’s is std.sci.denialism: “With all the hysteria, all the fear, all the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? I believe it is. This is objectively false, and I have no problem saying so.

Mann says: [T]he villainy that we long suspected was taking place within ExxonMobil really was. It wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was a legitimate conspiracy… fossil fuel interests, including ExxonMobil in particular, have been waging a bad faith assault on me (and on other climate scientists) for decades now. It makes me angry that they would knowingly risk the degradation of our planet for future generations in the name of their own short-term profits. This isn’t quite std.econ.denialism, but it is close to it, and it’s invisible to ATTP and all his readers.

To start off and be really picky, is it true that Exxon have been at war with Mann for decades? As in, for at least two completed decades? No. Mann wasn’t notable until MBH98, which is less than two decades ago. And I’m not even sure his visible-to-Exxon notability started then. Reader competition: what’s the first actual attack on Mann by Exxon that you can find? Actually, can you find any direct-by-Exxon at all? If not, attacks by “Exxon stooges” will have to do.

Being less picky, while I’m sure lots of people are nasty about Mann now, I don’t think it is true that Exxon hates him at all. This line of arguement by me will be familiar to any of you who read Yet more Exxon drivel and so on, so I won’t belabour it here. But I will point you at on getting out more, even though I know it’s hopeless. The discussion in Why don’t people pay attention to the future of their own world? is relevant, too.

Side note: RP’s slides include Appoint a devil’s advocate” and “Establish contrarian teams” and i can’t help but feel that he senses the approach of the Red Gravy Train and is hoping for a ticket. Against that, his Trump slide is headed “Manichean paranoid-in-chief?” and rumour has it that Trump is thin-skinned.

BTW: if you’re wondering what the inlined picture is for, the answer is that it’s a cute optical “illusion”. Don’t give up until you’ve “seen” it; it’s worth it, I promise you. As a bonus, it is almost relevant.


* Quotation of the Day from CH.


  1. #1 Arun
  2. #2 Marco

    (not quite) Playing the devil’s advocate for a moment, here:
    “(and on other climate scientists)”

    That is, Mann is referring not just to himself, and in my opinion he has a point here: Exxon had a leading role in the Global Climate Coalition, which among others published a report tellingly titled “The IPCC: Institutionalized Scientific Cleansing” in 1995, which accused several IPCC authors of fraud. Ask Ben Santer how that worked out.

  3. #3 William Connolley
    United Kingdom

    Arun: sorry, but that is just the drivel I was warning you against.

    World: I’m going to have less admin access for a bit.

  4. #4 Griff

    An honest broker ?
    look at me I inhabit the middle ground between two extremes so my voice should be listened to.
    His two extremes are reality and stupidity.

    Tone trolling trying to present as reasonable totally unreasonable positions to capture the argument
    Style over substance .
    Roger is not honest witness the 538 debacle he just wants his voice to have more power.

    “The tone argument (also tone policing) is a logical fallacy that occurs when an argument is dismissed or accepted on its presentation: typically perceived crassness, hysteria or anger. Tone arguments are generally used by tone trolls (esp. concern trolls) in order to derail or silence opponents lower on the privilege ladder, as a method of positioning oneself as a Very Serious Person.

    The fallacy relies on style over substance. It is an ad hominem attack, and thus an informal fallacy. ”

  5. #5 William Connolley

    Griff: sadly you’re not listening / reading either. Ignore your dislike of RP; try to think about what I quoted.

  6. #6 Griff

    Hate is a strong word.
    I don’t “hate” RP I don’t hate any individual in this debate.

    I only hate the attacks on science.

    Perhaps a dilemma you are familiar with.
    It is very difficult being a neoliberal and a supporter of the scientific method when your politics fellow travelers are heavily slewed towards an unreal world view that ignores science or discounts it .

    [Yes; they do have a distressing tendency to do that -W]

    The only reason I am a realist is I follow political blogs and looking into the claims of many about climate change I found they relied on logic errors and lies that are unsupportable.

    Yip to abandon all hydrocarbons is an unrealistic move at this point in time. Highlighting this seems to be the intent of your Mann quote. If we forsake all burning now we forsake our civilization .

    [No, you’ve misunderstood me. What I’m objecting to in the Mann quote is the Exxon-is-evil idea. The idea that all the evil resides in a few large corporations, and that the bulk of the USAnian people are poor dupes of propaganda. Which is self-serving rubbish. The USAnian people are willing dupes, not really dupes at all. This is important, because it affects how you go about “fixing” the problem. In the naive MegaCorp-are-evil version of the world, you “fix” the problem by attacking / changing a few large corporations. In the real world, you need to change your people -W]

    In my personal life I have tired to minimize my carbon footprint I still need to drive a car to get the necessity’s of life . There is as yet no other viable option for me to live a modern life where I am presently based.

    The economics of a shift towards sustainability are helped by interference in the market. Placing a value on dumping our waste into the atmosphere is 101 economics the tragedy of the commons.

    I my view Players like RP are attempting to maneuver into a position of strength based on the tone of their arguments not the content.
    The same goes with those attacking consensus messaging .

    [Well, RP and others are looking for eyeballs / readers; but he does have something to say, too. Regrettably he says it in a way that “the Left” can’t hear -W]

    I think a major issue is the inability of many to take a long view of our direction .I find that strange as I have no offspring to protect from our apparent future. I have no real skin in the game besides my love for humanity.

    Ps I don’t have an education only some intelligence so are massively out classed by many who comment here and at other realist sites . I don’t have DK I do acknowledge that I am an ignorant trying to have a say among those with far more right than me to an educated opinion. The wonders of the connected world that allows me to have a voice also allows everyone else to do the same.

  7. #7 CIP

    I have looked at your “Exxon Drivel” comments and I don’t think you’re making any sense. Your only significant point seems to be that the world knew about fossil fuels and global warming even before Exxon is alleged to have heard about it from it’s own scientists. That is irrelevant to the point of ridiculousness, and has a more or less exact parallel in the reaction of tobacco companies to rising evidence of of the links between tobacco and mortality: the commissioned their own studies and suppressed the results. That’s what Exxon is accused of doing and you say nothing to cast any doubt on it.

    What, if anything, is your point?

    [That’s disappointing. I’ll try again. My point is that #exxonknew is drivel. There are two components: (a) that Exxon knew stuff (implicitly or explicitly: that Exxon knew stuff that other people didn’t); (b) that Exxon mislead people. People like are pushing (a), which is drivel (do you dispute that?). (b) is trivially true, but not news: we’ve known that for ages -W]

  8. #8 Steven Mosher

    We agree again WC.

    must be the end of times

    [And you’re friends with Eli, too -W]

  9. #9 David B. Benson

    Exxon, not being human, is incapable of hate.

    [OK, that was a shorthand. More precisely, I don’t think it is true that Exxon is (note present tense) “waging a bad faith assault on [Mann] (and on other climate scientists)” -W]

  10. #10 ...and Then There's Physics

    This isn’t quite std.econ.denialism, but it is close to it, and it’s invisible to ATTP and all his readers.

    Didn’t seem relevant to the point that James Inhofe and Michael Mann are not really representative of the two extremes – well, not unless your middle is very far from where most would regard it. That you’ve focussed on this is unsurprising :-)

    [Well, it’s one of the things that RP Jr is pointing out, and your post is nominally about what RP Jr was about. So ignoring one of his major points is odd -W]

    I’m slightly reluctant to get into the whole Exxon issue, but I’ll do so anyway. My understanding of your point (which you can correct if I’ve got it wrong) is that Exxon is a company that is trying to sell a product and make money. They’re not exactly going to shoot themselves in the foot and shouldn’t be expected to. What they did is unsurprising. Also, the information wasn’t hidden; it was in the public domain. It wasn’t their responsibility to deal with this issue, even if their product was playing a role. Is that about right?

    [My main point is that the information was in the public domain. Therefore, #exxonknew is drivel. I’m not defending them pushing disinformation, as they used to -W]

    If the above is about right, then I agree in principle. However, it also seems completely unsurprising that the information about Exxon is being used as it is. You might argue that scientists should avoid it because they should try to be objective, but that it is being used to try and make the fossil fuel industry look bad seems an obvious use of the info (I haven’t checked as to whether it is true, or not; if it isn’t true, then that would change my view).

    [You mean, it is obvious that people will lie in propaganda? I’m happy to agree that is unsurprising. I’m not happy that anyone pretending any degree of objectivity who is a commentator on the debate feels free to ignore the problem -W]

    Furthermore, we keep getting told that facts aren’t enough; that we should focus on values and other relevant societal factors. Here we have people trying to make a values argument (can’t trust the fossil fuel industry; they don’t care about humanity) and apparently that isn’t right either.

    [No; you’re deliberately blurring points together. Leave that to the propagandists. People are welcome to make values arguements; they aren’t welcome to lie, even if you’re unsurprised by them lying -w]

    I’m not suggesting that I necessarily like this argument; just that it’s unsurprising that it is being made and that at least it is different to the “here’s some facts, now make a decision”.

    [It has now become unclear what you mean by “this argument” -W]

  11. #11 dave s

    “To start off and be really picky, is it true that Exxon have been at war with Mann for decades? As in, for at least two completed decades?”

    You’re taking issue with the exact wording of a phone and email interview as recorded by ICN; “As I’ve described in my book, fossil fuel interests, including ExxonMobil in particular, have been waging a bad faith assault on me (and on other climate scientists) for decades now.” Perhaps it would have been better if they’d left out the brackets; better still “on me for almost two decades, on other scientists a decade earlier”, but verbal interviews don’t usually result in such precision.

    [I’m reading the words quoted by Pielke; I don’t (didn’t) know their source -W]

    “No. Mann wasn’t notable until MBH98, which is less than two decades ago. And I’m not even sure his visible-to-Exxon notability started then.”

    On pp. 1–2 of his book, Mann describes his 1996 GRL paper (with Park) being misrepresented a few months later by Accuracy in Media; Wapo have shown AiM as funded by Scaife, allegations of other fossil fuel funding unsourced, but shows visibility around then.

    “Reader competition: what’s the first actual attack on Mann by Exxon that you can find? Actually, can you find any direct-by-Exxon at all? If not, attacks by “Exxon stooges” will have to do.”

    Mann doesn’t say “direct by Exxon”, he says “fossil fuel interests, including ExxonMobil in particular”; the first attack I’ve found is on 11 May 1998 on his Western Fuels Association funded World Climate Report website; apparently coal funded.
    In June 1998 the Exxon funded George C. Marshall Institute published attacks on MBH98, followed in August by Soon & Baliunas who later ran into controversy about their Exxon funding.

    [S+B was junk, but was it really an “attack” on Mann? -W]

    So, fossil fuel stooges misrepresented Mann two decades + ago. Exxon stooges attacked his work from June 1998; over 19 years ago, but not yet decades! Anyone know of earlier attacks?

    [So, no direct attacks by any fossil fuel companies at all, only by stooges? -W]

  12. #12 dave s

    Oops, missing name – should have said he first attack I’ve found is by Pat Michaels.

    As above, Michaels published it on 11 May 1998 on his Western Fuels Association funded World Climate Report website.

  13. #13 Griff

    Ok another try.
    RP is an honest broker in his own world view.
    He may be, debatable, fooling himself.
    But he acknowledges enough of the science to give at lest a starting point to debate policy from.

    GWPF is not as honest .
    If they shifted towards RP we would be better off .
    So RP presenting at the GWPF is not a “bad” from the realist view.
    If he did influence them It represents a shift towards a position that opens avenues for real dialog instead of total denial.

    [Ah, I see what you mean. It’s not a bad idea, but I think nonetheless it is wrong. You are correct, I think, in that GWPF moving towards Pielke’s actual position would be an improvement. You’re wrong (says I) in thinking that is likely to happen as a result of the talk; because RP isn’t actually presenting his (scientific) position in that talk; he’s deliberately avoiding doing so; because he knows full well they’d throw things at him if he says “I think IPCC basically gets the science right” -W]

    In a continuum from tony hella to real climate RP is closer to what we desire than the GWPF .

    The question of climate change is not linear it has many dimensions
    We all bring our subjective experience of human existence to the debate .

    Which leads into Exxon
    If we allocate emotion to a corporate entity… good and bad is an emotional idea.
    We can also see that the threat of annihilation would color the response to climate change from the entity .
    Fighting for existence is the expected response from any entity faced with death. This is selfish from our world view but to Exxon it is perfectly reasonable.

    [Agreed. But I don’t think Exxon did face death; they might naively have thought so – at least at first – but they have no excuse for thinking that after, say, 1995. In their “rabid” phase they were driven quite largely by the opinions of Lee Raymond. When Tillerson took over, things got better -W]

  14. #14 CIP

    Re #7 – I don’t see people making your claim (a).

    [Really? Doesn’t #exxonknew rather suggest that? as in, that the primary thing they’re interested in is “exxon” and “knew”? The tag is rather suggestive, as is the website I think it requires quite some mental gymnastics to suggest otherwise. What I think has happened is that it os so obvious to you that the claim is drivel that you’ve already done the gymnastics before thinking about it, in order not to think they’re talking drivel -W]

    Certainly not the Hill article Arun cited that you called drivel.

    [Yes, it does exactly that: Journalists at Inside Climate News, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2013, have recently revealed that Exxon’s scientists may have known as early as the 1970s that the release of carbon dioxide from the consumption of oil, coal and natural gas was causing the Earth to warm. of course they knew that early; it wasn’t exactly secret, it was published – or rather, they knew of such research; it wasn’t definitive by that point -W]

    Instead, the claim made is that they imitated the tactics of the tobacco companies as I claimed in #7. I challenge you to reread the article in The Hill and find any evidence of (a). You are brutally slaying a strawman and using your ‘victory’ to attack climate scientists and activists. You are equally deceptive in your attack against Michael Mann.

    [Errm, that’s not supposed to be an attack on Mann. It’s a minor quibble, and clearly labelled as such. The “attack” on Mann is the std.econ.denialism bit, which you’re ignoring -W]

    You imply that he had claimed to be the sole or main target of Exxon’s attacks, but your quote of him says the opposite. You are hanging your hat on what’s perhaps a slight imprecision in his statement – it might have been more humble for Mann to have said that “Exxon has waged a decades long war against climate scientists, including me” rather than the exact wording he used, but come on – his meaning is pretty damn clear and yours is arrant pedantry.

    [Mann being attacked by Exxon, or not, isn’t terribly interesting. I’m more intereted in Mann’s opinions – shared by many I think – about Exxon, considered as a proxy for fossil fuel companies in general. So the interesting bit is the std.econ.denialism. I didn’t really try to draw that out because I know it is hopeless, but see for example my responses to #6 -W]

  15. #15 ...and Then There's Physics

    [You mean, it is obvious that people will lie in propaganda? I’m happy to agree that is unsurprising. I’m not happy that anyone pretending any degree of objectivity who is a commentator on the debate feels free to ignore the problem -W]

    You didn’t read my parenthetic comment? No, I wasn’t suggesting that it’s obvious people will lie in propaganda (although this may also be true). I was simply suggesting that people with agendas will use information if they think that information suits their narrative. I’m not excusing people lying; I actually don’t know if what is being said about Exxon is true, or not (you’re presumably claiming that what is being said isn’t true).

    I also disagree with the “commenters ignoring the problem” suggestion. I’ve seen exactly the same suggestion about the hockey stick – people ignoring obvious problems with the hockey stick. Sometimes, it becomes obvious that some topics are best avoided (well, that would be an individual judgement, but one that people are entitled to make).

  16. #16 Marco

    Ehm…why did you completely ignore my comment about the Global Climate Coalition, of which Exxon was a founding member, and its vicious attack (“fraud!”) on several IPCC authors, primarily Ben Santer?

  17. #17 Tom Fuller
    United States

    Perhaps your point would be clearer with different examples. Mann, Inhofe and Pielke are both symptom and symbol, much in the same way Donald Trump is. They each represent a point of view to both their admirers and detractors.

    Of the three, Mann and Pielke are most alike in that they clearly noticed a path to glory arising from their studies and pursued it. If you look at the similarities between the two they are striking.

    As a progressive liberal it’s easy to make the case against Inhofe–if you wanted to compare him to anyone it would be someone like the US Senator Whitehouse. Both have spent a lot of energy trying to shoehorn climate change into their political agenda.

    Mega corporations like Exxon are not beneficial to the world, as they are the result of a planned merger strategy that reduced competition, hence reduced responsiveness to market signals. Their position on climate change is unremarkable and a side issue. Most attacks on Exxon stem from their behemoth status and assumed invulnerability to pressure regarding the environmental insults their company has inflicted. Climate change is just the reason du jour.

    Framing the position of each of these players only is useful in understanding the attacks on them. People like me go after Mann, not because of his science but because of his abuse of his bully pulpit. From what I’ve seen, the same is true for critics of Pielke.

    Exxon and Inhofe are easy targets because of past sins. If we reframed the argument around less contentious people and organizations we would stand a better chance of resolving it.

  18. #18 CIP

    Re # 14. OK, now I am puzzled. It seems to me that you are saying that the claim that “Exxon knew, Exxon lied” is drivel because Exxon only knew the stuff that a bunch of climate scientists had already claimed and lied because it was in its economic interest to do so. Let me reiterate: I think the actual claim is that having read the literature, Exxon conducted an independent effort to check its validity and then deliberately suppressed its results and orchestrated a massive and deceptive propaganda effort to discredit what it had verified.

    In your account, the villains of the piece are the stupid Americans who, lacking either a D. Phil or the resources of an Exxon, believed that propaganda.

  19. #19 William Connolley

    Marco: I’m not sure what to make of GCC ’95. Does it “count”? I can’t tell; which shows that Manns aparently direct and clear words are actually quite ambiguous.

    Regardless: per prev: that isn’t the interesting bit.

  20. #20 dave s

    re #11, “[So, no direct attacks by any fossil fuel companies at all, only by stooges? -W]”

    Ah, so this is a grammatical quibble about spoken language being inadequately lawyerly. Thus Al Capone didn’t kill or attack anyone, he merely organised stooges. As for Exxon, both the Marshall Institute and S&B were their stooges.

    re “[S+B was junk, but was it really an “attack” on Mann? -W]”

    S+B tried to discredit various reconstructions (including MBH98) in their 1998 World Climate Report post, which was of course junk. It’s normal to call such written critiques “attacks” or “attack pieces”, you seem to be demanding that the victims of published falsehoods should avoid common usage.

  21. #21 dave s

    re #17, Tom Fuller tells us “People like me go after Mann, not because of his science but because of his abuse of his bully pulpit.”

    Tom, the usual term for people like you is a troll, using the internet as your bully pulpit and disrespecting science. Tsk.

  22. #22 Tom Fuller
    United States

    Tsk, indeed.

  23. #23 David Babcock
    Texas: expat from Northeast

    It took me 3 or 4 MINUTES to see circles. The commenters on the originating Sc. Amer. blog saw them between immediately and 20 seconds. Age maybe? I’m 82. Dear wife still can’t see them.

  24. #24 wereatheist

    Let’s make capitalism great again. By introducing ‘risc’ into the worldview of CEOs.
    If Exxon, or Volkswagen, CEOs face no real risc compared to us rubble, something is terribly wrong.

    [Apparently, CEO turnover is higher than it used to be -W]

  25. #25 wereatheist

    With ‘risc’ I mean getting jailed for fraud (dieselgate), and getting stripped of the proceeds of one’s criminal career. Won’t happen.
    ‘Turnover’ quite often means getting another post in another corporation.

  26. #26 wereatheist

    being jailed for fraud, of course.

  27. #27 wereatheist

    Aaand I should have said ‘personal risc’.

  28. #28 dave s

    Ah, thought risc meant reduced instruction set computer.

  29. #29 wereatheist

    Ha ha yes RISC is what you mean.

  30. #30 Kevin ONeill

    SM writes: “We agree again WC.

    must be the end of times”

    BREAKING NEWS: Two Libertarians agree corporations aren’t evil! Yawn.

    Almost by definition the modern corporation is not ‘evil’ – it is amoral.

    [Largely correct. And something to think about -W]

    It seeks profit regardless of moral consequences. If you believe in and have a POV that views the morality of actions as discernible, then some corporate actions will fall into Category A (good) and some into Category B (evil). In reality they are simply Category C (for profit).

    Once upon a time the system required that corporations be ‘good citizens;’ their charters could be revoked otherwise. When the legal system allowed them to disregard good citizenship they did.

    [Ah, “Age of Gold” stuff again. Read Popper. See comments to mt -W]

    But the idea that a corporation cannot commit moral or immoral acts basically denies the existence of any morality at all and seems rather sophomoric. Oh wait- it’s Libertarian

    [Err, no. It’s something you made up -W]

    – so I guess it redundant to even point that out.