Linking instead of Thinking

Glenn Reynolds, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt are prolific bloggers, posting several posts each day. With such frequent posting they don't seem to have time to check to see if they stuff they link to is correct. They don't accept the scientific consensus on AGW so they link to every thing that comes along about cold weather or global cooling -- for example, the misrepresentation of Tapping's views on the solar cycle got linked again and again and again and again.

Since I've been critical of Glenn Reynolds, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt it's no surprise that all three linked to this post where JF Beck links to lot of his own posts, claims that I've made lots of errors and accuses me of lying. So Reynolds, Blair and Bolt linked to Beck, with Bolt declaring:

JF Beck does something very embarrassing to global warming alarmist Tim Lambert.

It is, of course, Reynolds, Blair and Bolt who should be embarrassed for linking to Beck's post without bothering to check if any of it was true. And Beck's claims fall apart under the slightest bit of examination.

For example,

Lambert says DDT was the WHO's insecticide of choice up until 1994. The document he links to says 1984, not 1994. Is this a typo or did Lambert intentionally alter the date?

The document I linked to was written in 1994 and states:

the author considers that DDT should no longer be recommended as the insecticide of choice for malaria vector control.

I.e. the policy changed in 1994. This was explained to Beck by a commenter on his blog, but he continues to repeat it. This is typical of Beck's claims. He gets it wrong. It is obvious that he is wrong. The nature of his error is carefully explained to him, but he won't budge an inch and he repeats the false claim next chance he gets.

To get a feel for the process, let's look at another of his self-links.

I had quoted Brent Herbert, who wrote:

One of the most common themes in the media stories you will read if you do a search for news articles on bed bugs is that we have bed bugs because DDT was banned, thus forcing us to use 'weak chemicals' against bed bugs. This is false. Bed bugs developed resistance to DDT in the 1940s and Rachel Carson did not write Silent Spring until the 1960s, and by this time DDT resistance among bed bugs was so widespread that DDT was no longer the chemical of choice for treating bed bugs.

In his self-link Beck responded with:

So, here we have a science blogger -- contemptuous of the non-peer reviewed writings of RWDBs -- getting his DDT information from an amateur entomologist posting to Indymedia. Herbert's posting is crap and Lambert's an idiot for linking to it.

And the reason Beck gave for claiming that Herbert's posting was crap was that it just seemed wrong to him:

This pretty hard to believe. DDT wasn't widely available to the public until after World War II, with the government's house spraying program starting in July 1947. So, according to Herbert bed bugs showed signs of resistance within 2 1/2 years but other insecticides remained effective for the best part of half a century.

But I'd checked that Herbert's statement was accurate, so I gave Beck a cite on the development of resistance by bedbugs in the 40s:

Johnson, M. S. and Hill, A. J. (1948). Partial resistance of a strain of bed bugs to DDT residuals. Med. News Letter., 12, 26-28

But a mere scientific journal didn't isn't going to persuade Beck:

If I understand the resistance mechanism correctly, bed bugs did not develop DDT resistance in the 1940s. Rather, some bed bugs were naturally DDT resistant (to some degree) at the time it was introduced. Thus, on face value, Herbert's observation about 1940s DDT resistance is meaningless.

Commenter Mark explains it to Beck

Well, yes. I think that is, indeed, the way a resistant strain of bedbug would have spread so as to become the dominant strain of bedbug. That's the way bacteria develop large populations that are resistance to antibiotics. So what?

So Beck just pretends that none of the discussion occured and goes back to the beginning:

Mr Lambert has linked to a very iffy source here; anyone care to state exactly which myths Indymedia poster Herbert debunks?

Well, this post is long enough, so I won't bother with any more of Beck's claims, but they are all like the ones above. Feel free to pull them apart in comments. I'll leave you with this whopper from Beck:

Lambert insists that the word "toady" is abusive in order to justify removing a comment from his blog. Toady is another word for sycophant and is not abusive.

(Context is here.)

Update: Beck just will not admit that he got it wrong.


More like this

Andrew Bolt should have been embarrassed with his unthinking linking, but he is unrepentant: If someone claims to find 24 mistakes in your work and you manage to kind-of defend just three, it might be wiser to actually stay quiet. If you don't actually have the integrity to admit and repent, that…
Brent Herbert debunks some myths about bedbugs and DDT: Since I discovered that I have bed bugs I have been touring around the internet doing research right from day one and what I have discovered is that the media is doing a terrible job of covering the bed bug story, and as a result many of the…
Glenn Reynolds accuses me of quote doctoring, linking to this utterly conclusive proof by JF Beck: Lambert himself engages in selective out-of-context quoting in attempting to refute Berlau's assertion that Paul Ehrlich advocated the forced sterilization of all Indian men who had fathered three or…
Jake Young reports that bedbugs are back. Andrew Bolt naturally blames greens: "Being green can make you itchy", because: Before World War II, bedbug infestations were common in the U.S., but they were virtually eradicated through improvements in hygiene and the widespread use of DDT in the 1940s…

Are you surprised though? It is a common theme amongst climate skeptic fools.

Being accurate isn't one of their strong points.

The more important thing is that private wealthy environmental groups conditioned their aid on stopping DDT usage.

Environmentalists also did their best to persuade Africans dying by the bucketload of Malaria to not use DDT. Fifty million deaths resulted from their scientific illiteracy.

What a cosy nest of vipers they are. To that list you could add the increasingly bizarre Duffy and the entire staff of the Australian. They have a don't disturb sign on their foreheads but are in actual fact very disturbed.Duffy's interview with the slimy Peter Saunders was a beautiful example of how Duffy accepts points of view which agree with his completely uncritically.

By Bill O'Slatter (not verified) on 09 Jun 2008 #permalink

"JF Beck does something very embarrassing to global warming alarmist Tim Lambert."

Here I was expecting something nsfw.

"The more important thing is that private wealthy environmental groups conditioned their aid on stopping DDT usage.
Environmentalists also did their best to persuade Africans dying by the bucketload of Malaria to not use DDT. Fifty million deaths resulted from their scientific illiteracy. "

ah the classics; they never die.

1) if that's "the more important thing", then why is the meme "the 'ban' on DDT" and not "private wealthy environmental groups conditioned their aid on stopping DDT usage", as though the UB DDT police would come and haul you away should you spray your village to eliminate a malaria outbreak? are you at all familiar with the phenomenon of moving goalposts? "your father was a Nazi SS officer who killed numerous civilians" "no he wasn't!" "well, he is German, that's the more important thing".

1a) which private (properly conservative, of course) groups attempted to donate DDT for spraying, or money for DDT spraying and were stopped from doing so? the nature of a ban is that such efforts would be blocked. surely one of those whining so hellishly about this must have had such an experience. after all, if nobody wants to do something, then how can you perceive that there is a ban, and what would it matter if there were one?

2) from your exalted scientific literacy, perhaps you could enlighten us as to how the unregulated spraying of DDT on cotton crops, etc., as was the case pre the ban on agricultural use and led to the rise of resistance in every country where such use was carried out, thereby making your beloved DDT useless on two continents, would suddenly cease to do so, would there not have been a ban on agricultural use? scientific literacy would seem to include understanding of selective pressure, which without any doubt states that the remaining utility of DDT is entirely due to the ban on agricultural spraying.

is it that you really never heard any of this before? why not?

Being accurate isn't one of their strong points.

Accuracy is not necessary to maintain the talking points, mendacity, demonization and mischaracterization.



> Accuracy is not necessary to maintain the talking points, mendacity, demonization and mischaracterization.

Still, it seems sometimes they need to drop some memes. I wonder how the dittoheads decide which talking points to propagate, and which ones to drop.

So basically, JF Beck, Glenn Reynolds, Tim Blair, and Andrew Bolt are one big circle jerk....of jerks.

Not surprising.

I think Tim should give Beck a break. After all, it's apparent that the man is functionally illiterate. You shouldn't be so mean to a guy who obviously can't read.

Were private wealthy environmentalists doing so much of the funding of Malaria control that deciding how they spent it hugely changed the course of Malaria control? Wow. Good on them.

The green campaign against the use of DDT for indoor spraying against malaria was undoubtedly very successful. Governments and aid agencies were convinced and stopped using it. As it turned out the fears about harm from human contact were unfounded, and no replacement was anywhere near as cheap, practical or effective, particularly once the use of DDT in agriculture was stopped.

The green lobby made an honest mistake, but does not seem to willing to learn from that mistake, and instead seems to want to change history.

There is a similar story going on now about GM crops. The green campaign has meant that they are not widely used in many developing countries, although of course they are very common in the USA. The benefits from GM in increased production and lower costs are clear (why else would the US farmers use them?), but despite the famine caused by recent world food shortages the greens have not yet changed their minds.

No doubt in 20 years time the greens will be saying that they never called for a ban on GM.

By Bernard Blyth (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

Boy, I tell you: Bernard Blyth personifies the success of the Denial Industrial Complex when it turns its attention to a topic.

But the other half of the equation is one has to want to believe these things.



Geez, Tim. You keep insisting on Facts! And using peer-reviewed research!

No wonder they can't get it.

*beats head on desk*

Paulidan writes:

Environmentalists also did their best to persuade Africans dying by the bucketload of Malaria to not use DDT. Fifty million deaths resulted from their scientific illiteracy.

Are you sure? Neil Craig said it was 70 million.

Actually, of course, DDT was never banned for antimalarial use even in the USA. I see, though, that the "environmentalists killed millions!" trope is now saying those wicked old environmentalists "persuaded" the Africans not to use DDT. This is a bit of movement from the flatly wrong "DDT was banned" trope they used to use. In another few years, maybe they'll stop bringing up this psychotic lie altogether...?


Bolt et al. have a basic handicap; they don't accept the scientific consensus on AGW because they don't even know what the science is, and are thus defenseless against the stream of misinformation directed to them by their more scientifically illiterate readers. In reality, their fundamental interest in any issue they cover lies in its conflict value.

BPL and others once again attack the straw man of a ban on DDT.

They seem to enjoy attacking the non-existing ban, but are quite unable to explain what difference whether or not there is a ban makes to families living on less than $2 a day. Families whose children are dying of malaria because their government and aid agencies chose freely not to use DDT because of the green campaign, cannot simply go to the store and buy some.

The green lobby, following Rachel Carson, campaigned for a total ban on all use of DDT. They did not achieve their primary aim of a ban, but they succeeded in persuading governments and aid agencies not to use it in anti-malarial campaigns.

Whether or not there was a legal ban makes precisely zero difference, and it is simply ludicrous to repeat this debating point time and time again.

By Bernard Blyth (not verified) on 10 Jun 2008 #permalink

OK, OKOKOK. Let me swing the whack-a-mole hammer.

Blyth: lil' skeeters were becoming resistant to DDT cuz of all that there air-yul sprayin'. So they done stopped. Tweren't workin' no more.

The lil' bugs in them there skeeters were becomin' a-resistant-like to th' quinones 'n there were no research for the new 'uns cuz they was pore paypul done dyin'.

Weren't no POWERful green lobby runnin' no world.


This tiresome envirohate DDT whack a mole, number 24,224, was done as a public service and no skeeters were harmed in its creation or delivery.



The green lobby, following Rachel Carson, campaigned for a total ban on all use of DDT.

Rachel Carson never campaigned for a total ban on all use of DDT, you dishonorable lying sack of right-wing dung.

Bernard Blythe.

I am embarrassed to share a name with you.

Follow the science, not the right-wing ideology and dogma.


By Bernard J. (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

If someone who has not read "Silent Spring" thinks that Rachel Carson did not campaign for a total ban on DDT then they are merely misinformed.

If they have read that book, but still say that she did not want a total ban on DDT, then they are being dishonest.

Rachel Carson genuinely believed that even the smallest contact with DDT could cause cancer and other serious diseases. Her book reads as a total condemnation of DDT in any circumstances. She was not opposed to all insecticides, but ruled out DDT.

By Patrick Hadley (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

Every time Patrick Hadley lies, a kitten dies. Why do you hate kittens, Mr Hadley?



"The benefits from GM in increased production and lower costs are clear (why else would the US farmers use them?),"

Actually virtually all GM crops to date have been designed for pest resistance or herbicide resistance.

Virtually none of them give significant increases in production and the price premium the seed companies charge for them puts them beyond reach of most subsistence farmers in any case.

Farmers in the developed world use them because they allow them to reduce insecticide use and use herbicides more freely, this represents a minimal advantage to subsistence farmers who can't afford insecticides and herbicides.

There IS a clear connection between cuts to agricultural subsidies in the developed world, reduced surpluses from those countries being dumped on third world markets and higher food prices there.

I'm waiting for free market advocates to do their own "We're worse than Nazis/ we starved millions through our blind ideology" auto da fe.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 11 Jun 2008 #permalink

The more important thing is that the Paulidans not be allowed to breed or raise children.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 12 Jun 2008 #permalink

I didn't know Africans came in buckets. Or is it malaria that comes in buckets? Must be a pretty big bucket in any case to hold 30 or 50 or 70 or I-pulled-a-number-out-of-MacIntyre's-arse million of them/it.

By the way, was it ever the case that anyone could buy DDT over the counter?

By James Haughton (not verified) on 12 Jun 2008 #permalink

James, DDT came on the market before pesticide regulations IIRC, so I'm pretty sure the answer is yes. In the same vein, at one time heroin could be bought over the counter.

Come to think of it, are there any countries where DDT can be bought over the counter now? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that there are. Many parts of the world still lack the environmental/safety regulations that we take for granted (and which are for the most part of very recent provenance).

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 13 Jun 2008 #permalink

not sure how "over the counter" this counts as, but

"In the past several years, we supplied DDT 75% WDP to Madagascar,
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Solomon Island, Papua
New Guinea, Algeria, Thailand, Myanmar for Malaria Control project, and
won a good reputation from WHO and relevant countries' government."

Spraying a house with DDT requires a pump-pack and basic safety gear - rubber gloves & a respirator mask.

Buying those are clearly beyond the reach of people earning $1-2 per day.

I suppose a village could club together to buy the gear.

Or they could buy treated bednets which cost a couple of dollars each - and which the WHO has been promoting for years.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 14 Jun 2008 #permalink

Re: increased productivity from GM crops, please see the spectacular failure of GM cotton crops in India and China (due to the fact that they protect against a pest that basically doesn't exist there). Controlled studies show similar results. The answer to why would American farmers use them is: people buy dumb shit they don't need all the time because they think its cool. See iPhone sales.

Steve Bloom,

A guy I know said that in Peru (maybe Ecuador) he could purchase DDT soap (for lice, apparently) from the market, and that such a thing was quite common. So, yes, DDT is still freely available in at least some places for personal use.