No sympathy for the devil

I don't get it. First there was Climategate, in which hackers illegally broke into a server at the University of East Anglia and stole a pile of emails from climate researchers. The denialists seemed to be fine with that, and quote-mined the heck out of the documents to find damning statements, lying and claiming that they showed that the scientists faked their data (they did no such thing, of course). All the sturm and drang at that time was over the contents of the emails, not the illegal method of their acquisition.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank with an agenda of willful dishonesty, leaked, and leaked hard. Someone mailed a collection of internal documents to Peter Gleick, and Gleick responded by sending a request to Heartland under a fake name, and got additional copies that confirmed the accuracy of the documents. Was this wrong? It doesn't seem to be illegal, and I think it's an open question whether it was unethical — it would be unethical if Gleick lied and misrepresented the contents of those documents, as the denialists did with the East Anglia emails, as the Heartland Institute did with those emails.

And there's Peter Gleick beating himself up for exposing the Heartland Institute's mendacity. I really don't get that. He's a scientist. Scientists gather data to make informed decisions. Gleick got the data the Heartland Institute tried to hide. You can't on one hand condemn Gleick for asking for the information and getting it handed to him, while praising hackers for breaking into a server and illegally taking data.

And then Mann, Trenberth, Bradley, Overpeck, Santer, Schmidt, and Karoly write the most naïve letter ever, pointing out the hypocrisy of the denialists while deploring the acquisition of the documents, and saying this:

We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to "think about what has happened" and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy. The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.

Really, people? Seriously? This is what the Heartland Institute wants, the poisoning of the debate and the undermining of public understanding. They probably read that letter and said, "Yay! It's working!"

How about if we focus on the content of the leaked documents instead? They do reveal a deep truth: that the Heartland Institute is a propaganda organization with great support from right-wing political organizations and individuals, and that their mission is to parcel out money to disinformation agents like Anthony Watts and Fred Singer, who sow unfounded doubt and confusion about real science. And they plan to poison American education.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain- two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We
tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

No matter how it was obtained, the Heartland Institute has confirmed that it stupidly mailed out internal documents. The denialists are trying desperately to claim that one of the documents is fake, which just affirms that all the others are accurate.

That ought to be the central story here.

(via Greg Laden)

(Also on FtB)


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