My letter to the New York Times

The New York Times
Elizabeth Spayed, Public Editor

Dear Elizabeth,

I am writing to express my concern for the addition of Bret Stephens to the NYT team as a columnist.

I don't expect a columnist who seemingly writes about everything to be wrong about nothing. But the Gray Lady should, at the very least, expect a columnist to know something about something.

Stephens doesn't simply express opinions that are not popular in certain, many, circles. He attempts to support his opinions with what we now seem to be calling alt-facts.

For example, his opinion about the importance of climate change is that we don't know what climate change will really do, if it will really do anything, or when. He supports this idea by asserting that there is too much uncertainty in the science for us to know.

Elizabeth, you must know that science is nothing if it is not the study of variation in nature and its causes and properties. While the public face of many scientific findings is often the trend line showing the relationship between two variables, much of the science itself is about the uncertainty around that trend line; measuring, understanding the limits and extent of, and grappling with uncertainty is what scientists do.

As a scientist (not a climate scientist, though I've published in that area) and a science communicator, I can tell you that when Mr. Stephens makes the claim that there is too much uncertainty about anthropogenic climate change to say much about it, he is simply wrong. He does not know the science, he has made up this thing that looks like a fact, and he has used it to buttress absurd arguments, and you, the New York Times, is now set to be a vehicle for passing this misinformation on to the general public.

Many of my friends and colleagues have unsubscribed to the New York Times over this. I have not. Rather, I was just about to subscribe, as part of my overall effort to support good journalism in the Trump Era. In the past few weeks I've subscribed to my local paper, my regional paper, and one national paper (Washington Post) and I was just about to add the New York Times to that list. But now I can't ethically do so, even though much of your other science coverage is pretty good, and even tough I grew up on the New York Times Science Section (remember that?).

But this probable drop in subscription is nothing to you, because trends in the business side of the NYT operation are much larger and more complex than many, if not most, of the world's climate scientists dropping off your list over the addition of Bret Stephens to your staff. The bigger problem is this: The New York Times editorial staff has lost our respect.

I look forward to your prompt and decisive attention to this manner, and the quick repair of the mistake the NYT has made.


Greg Laden, PhD.

More like this

Perhaps if everyone who values science and climate science in particular were to follow suit and drop their subscription or let the Grey Lady know they will not subscribe for this reason, it might make a difference.

By Doug Alder (not verified) on 27 Apr 2017 #permalink

Doug #2:

I think that is a great idea. Let everybody cancel their subscription to NYT! A circular firing squad. Kill your friends. After all, writing something your clique disagrees with is a killing offense.

"Kill your friends."

That isn't how you cancel a sub, "dick".

(PS what happened about the "invisible hand" and "vote with your dollar"?)

And the only ones killing those with the opposite opinion are the nuts on the right.

One over there shot but failed to kill a Democrat, one over here shot a Labour MP for being for remaining in the EU.

Here's a catchy phrase to summarize the philosophy of the oh so compassionate, empathetic, civil, gentile assholes like Bret Stephens and RickA when it comes to dealing with the effects of climate change:

“Hopefully we'll be dead.”

Greg, are you trying to imply that this is a more important story than nuclear bombs?

"Mike", are you trying to say you don't care about anything else but nuclear bombs?

Greg, Stephens is a great addition to The New York Times. Your bar you are setting for the Times is not met by The Washington Post who publishes people with identical views regarding climate science as Stephens holds. As a PhD student in political science, there are hundreds of people with better analysis of history, international affairs, and foreign policy than Stephens yet Stephens still is a respectable thinker. He is well read and though I often disagree with him, he is worth reading.

This is sanctimonious shit you are espousing. I study climate change as a national security threat; it seems to be existential. And I still think that Stephens has particularly compelling views.

Patrick: " not met by The Washington Post who publishes people with identical views regarding climate science as Stephens holds." Name the comparable individuals. They may well be there, and if so, I'd want to complain about them. Can't think of them, though, so please enlighten us.

Is the editorial board's having lost your respect the reason you repeatedly address this senior staffer as "Elizabeth" rather than "Ms. Spayed", while being careful to conclude your own name with PhD? That looks a little disrespectful, or mansplainy, to me.

Why did oyu use the name "jane"? Why not your full name? Why did you not capitalise it? Do you think you are unworthy of a Proper Noun Capital?

Plainly you hate women, all women.

Tell me, do you ask that people address you formally at all ties and call you "Mz whatever"? Or do you only do that with people you don't know at all?

"And I still think that Stephens has particularly compelling views."

What and why?

Jane, no, that's just her name being Elizabeth and me happening to have a PhD while simultaneously representing science in my own way. Happy to explain that to you.

Wow, I didn't ask you, but take a look at the newspaper. Wondering if I am interpreting it right, or if Greg intended another message.

You don't have to ask for a question first. It's how questions work, dumbass.

Now, you didn't answer. Are you saying that you only care about nuclear bombs?

If you intended a different message, then you would have been able to say so, but you haven't so far. Are you saying I'm right?

Why did oyu use the name “jane”? Why not your full name? Why did you not capitalise it? Do you think you are unworthy of a Proper Noun Capital?

Plainly you hate women, all women.

Stay classy, Wow.

"Stay classy, Wow."


Stay deliberately obscure so as to hide from needing to explain yourself dumdum.

I had to read this howler from Patrick half a dozen times to actually believe that he wrote it: "I study climate change as a national security threat; it seems to be existential".

Patrick, climate change is not an 'existential' threat to our planetary ecological life support systems. It is a very real and serious one. It may very well decimate interactions in communities and ecosystems to such an extent that they will be unable to sustain themselves, precipitating collapse that will reduce the planet's ability to sustain us. There won't be any national security to ponder over in an ecologically ravaged planet.

Why do you write such piffle?

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 29 Apr 2017 #permalink

Patrick, you have a point about the standards set for the New York Times versus the standards set for the Washington Post, but I think the comparison falls apart under closer examination.

I assume you are referring to George Will, who is indeed as bad as Bret Stephens on the issue of climate change, if not worse. But Will has been writing for the Post or Newsweek since the 1970's. The outlines of climate change were known to some climate scientists back then, but knowledge of the problem and appreciation of its implications were not widespread at that time. Moreover, it's probably safe to assume that Will was several decades away from writing his first column on the topic when he was first hired.

Stephens, on the other hand, is being hired in April, 2017, a time when climate change is widely understood and the risks are fully appreciated. And Stephens has already shown his willful ignorance on the topic on many occasions in many articles. So the Times is knowingly hiring a climate misinformer at a time when clear, factual information and thoughtful commentary are desperately needed.

I don't mean to be defending Will. In fact I cringe every time he writes or speaks on the topic. But a new hire is different than a 43 year-long tenure.

By David Gurk (not verified) on 29 Apr 2017 #permalink

BBD, regular readers of ScientismBlogs know that there's no point in trying to communicate with Wow unless you fervently agree with his every belief and opinion.

Greg, let me explain to you that addressing mature adult strangers by their first names in formal contexts is considered less than respectful in our society, and that treating people with disrespect does not encourage them to adopt your views, especially if they happen to be women or minorities who have found that people from their own group are less likely to receive the customary honorifics.

BBD, regular readers of ScientismBlogs know that there’s no point in trying to communicate with Wow unless you fervently agree with his every belief and opinion.

Oh, we go back. I know :-)


Ah. the tell of the idiot.

"unless you fervently agree with his every belief and opinion."

Nope. But I DO realise that it makes morons sit easier in their high chair eating their eggy soldiers to believe so.

"Greg, let me explain to you that addressing mature adult strangers by their first names in formal contexts is considered less than respectful in our society"

Where? Some bumfuck nowhere? It's considered IMpolite in western society to use second names unless you're in a formal occasion with someone you know.

YOU want to use your first name. Therefore you want us to disrespect you. But there you go whining and whinging when I do just that.

"and that treating people with disrespect does not encourage them to adopt your views"

Yet the same people have no fucking problem with not bothering to do that themselves. And the evidence is that they're not adopting our views because they DO NOT WANT to, so it's rather pointless to whine and whinge and bitch and moan about tone.

Again, I'll point you to the bullshit that is the tone argument.

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

Your trying, and I repeat again, TRYING to make deniers' intransigence the fault of others because YOU don't want to change your mind and want to make out that you're RIGHT to be mulishly ignorant on the subject.

You know, the same BS that has morons go "Well I'm gonna go out and drive an SUV" in response to a cut in GHG emissions or some environmental protection law being passed.

All you're doing, if you were being honest and really believed that bollocks, is saying that they're DELIBERATELY not accepting the argument, NOT because it's invalid or uncertain, but because their feelings are being hurt.

And that's the same dipshits who sneer about leftist snowflakes...

Doesn't work, cupcake.

" I know"

That you're better off with the belief that I just want youy agreeing with me than actually face the fact that your arguments for nuke fuffing are shit?

We ALL know that, buddy.

You are a lunatic, wow, and really, really should be banned.

Really, I think he's called Wow because that's what people say when they read his comments. As usual, he's all about the ad hominems. I know anthropogenic climate change to be a fact, and never even implied otherwise, but he pretends to know otherwise because it fits his Manichaean worldview. And of course there's nothing grossly sexist about calling a woman who has disagreed with you "cupcake."

If you don't mind, Wow, you may address me as "dr. doe" from now on.

"You are a lunatic, wow,"

Nope, you're just desperate, dumdum. And you have no argument, only shouting.

"Really, I think"

Really, you don't.

" he’s"

"He?" How do you know?

"As usual, he’s all about the ad hominems"

As usual, th emorons who can;t argue will avoid the content and avoid the facts and instead tone troll and whine about the words used, not whether the facts are right.

Because you can't refute the facts but you don't want to accept them.

I think jane here is a fuckwitted little troll who is a creationist retard who is trying to shit all over the site with tone arguments (the very first post was a tone argument), because they have no ability to argue coherently, so have to run for the feels, because they don't require evidence or argument, only proclamation.

"And of course there’s nothing grossly sexist about calling a woman who has disagreed with you “cupcake.”"

Nope. Not even if it was a woman calling a woman cupcake.

It's a term of disrespect.

I disrespect YOU.

Not women.

I, unlike you, do not despise women and hate them for independence. I accept them, flaws and all, as valid human beings the same as any other.

But you haven't got anything other than whining about the words others use, you've not done anything else.

Because you are, frankly, intellectually incapable of anything requiring intelligence.

Thanks for the smile!

Jane, ad hominems galore. I pointed Wow to a post on the blog of one of Mann's fiercest defenders and he called him a denier.

Aaaaw. But you're so unreliable about what you say, "mike". Hardly possible to believe you, even if you were right.

"Thanks for the smile!"

Excellent! Given you completely missed the point (so did BBD, classless oik that he is) the first time, I thought you'd missed it this one, and considered you were either too close to it and reading (as you so frequently do) what you want to believe is there based on your biases and bigotries, or were, really, just too stupid to see it.

Glad you spotted it.

I guess you'll stop taking some tiny fragment of evidence and proclaiming a shitload of negative assertions about someone else (like you did with Greg in your very first trolling appearance here) as if they were established fact.

Or you're just laughing because you spotted it but don't give a fuck, you're deliberately and maliciously making BS clams.

Oh, and "mike", as with every other denier it appears on the planet, you mistake "insults" with "ad hom".

Know how to tell the difference? The insult is a personal attack against you because of the evidence given that your claim is wrong.

And an ad hom is the assertion of insult as proof that the evidence is wrong.

Of course, there IS a third option, you're unable to counter and concede the argument and you're just insulting me, in which case the insults are irrelevant as to whether I am wrong or not, and therefore the point conceded. You have to sort of indicate that you concede the point, even if you have to leave it with "I'll check up because I think you're wrong, but have no evidence or rational explanation for why yet".

Do you both want me to accept your insults are irrelevant because you concede the point and have lost the argument?