CSTPR Noontime Seminar: The Contrarian Discourse in the Blogosphere - What are blogs good for anyway?

I almost gave up subscribing to WUWT, but juuust about frequently enough something interesting comes up; and of course its a convenient way of keeping up with the denialosphere. So today I find A review of the seminar ‘The contrarian discourse in the blogosphere–what are blogs good for anyway?’ which is a somewhat odd title, because I can't really see any "review" in there; just a transcript of the talk and Q+A afterwards, and a minor whinge from AW (see below). But its fun, nonetheless. From the talk abstract:

...Using the highly ranked blog 'Watts up with that' as a case study, discourse analysis of seven posts including almost 1600 user comments reveals that blogs are able to unveil components and purposes of the contrarian discourse that traditional media are not. They serve as extended peer communities as put forth by post-normal science, however, blog users themselves do not see post-normal science as a desirable goal. Furthermore, avowals of distrust can be seen as linguistic perfomances of accountability, forcing science to prove its reliability and integrity over and over again. Finally, it is concluded that the climate change discourse has been stifled by the obsession of discussing the science basis and that in order to advance the discourse, there needs to be a change in how science as an ideology is communicated and enacted.

and its by Franziska Hollender, Institute for Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna.

Snide note: in order to defend his reputation for bad faith and getting things wrong, AW complains bitterly about FH's "No post has less than 50 comments". FH explains patiently that she means "of the 7 posts analysed", but AW isn't at all happy. This is just oh-so-typical: someone says something, which can be interpreted several ways. One of those ways is clearly false. The denialists leap upon the false way, apparently confident that anyone who disagrees with them is both a liar and a fool; and from then on there is no way of them backing down. Sigh.

The study itself is full of terms like "post-normal", which usually means I wouldn't bother reading it. From skimming it I don't think many people will find much of it surprising. Lets have a look at some bits:

Analyzing the seven WUWT posts, she finds discursive strategies on WUWT to include ridicule, personal attacks, and name-calling. She says this is formally discouraged on the site, but nonetheless occurs.

and the follow-up There are very few dissenting comments on WUWT, and if so, they are viciously attacked. Self-selection of contributors therefore takes place, under the influence of and to avoid prospective attacks on views expressed. These are all things that happen at WUWT–it is not that free, not everyone is welcome. There is gate-keeping. And so on. The commenters on the post aren't very happy with that - come of them vituperatively so, rather proving her point. She doesn't explicitly address the issue of some people like me being banned, although the commenters, again, are in denial, and insist that just-about-no-one-is-banned.

If you'd like something positive, she claims

On the plus side, the constant questioning encompassed in blog comments holds scientists accountable. She agrees with this function, which she considers valuable

Though I consider that dubious; note that no examples are provided.

On of the Qs afterwards is:

Q. Do blogs help generate new ideas and avenues of research?

To which she answers A. Different roles of commenters–there is the police function, aimed at exerting power and silencing oppositional voices. Another role is productive–criticism, reinforcement, engaging information. rather than the more obvious and simpler "No".

There's also:

Narrative structures utilized on WUWT include: 1) Scientific data dissemination. 2) Critique of scientific findings. 3) Social and political implications of climate change. 4) Climate change as a political tool to challenge capitalism and impose a new model of wealth onto the American public.

I think that is largely wrong, though a plausible mistake for a non-expert to make. Most of the "critique of scientific findings" on WUWT is simple denialism; there is very rarely enough understanding of the findings to produce any meaningful interaction or critique. And similarly for the other.


* WebCite of WUWT
* Stalin vs Hitler

More like this

"Analyzing the seven WUWT posts, she finds discursive strategies on WUWT to include ridicule, personal attacks, and name-calling."

And that's just looking at "Smokey"'s posts.

"She says this is formally discouraged on the site, but nonetheless occurs."

Yeah, because "Smokey" is also the mod "dbs". The problems with the site come from the top down. How many other mods have sock-puppets? All of them perhaps? At the same time Watts attacks people for posting anonymously. Then there's Watt's abusive strategy of publishing any personal info he can find about a pro-science poster, like emails, real names, and the location of the poster.

When the people controlling a blog are hypocritical asshats, the level of discourse is not going to be very high. WUWT in a nutshell.

[That's interesting. "Smokey", if I recall correctly, was one of the most blatantly ignorant of the commenters. But I'm curious how you know he's one of the mods -W]

By Robert Murphy (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

Of course, you could read Rabett Run and get a different answer.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

Yes, Smokey is one of the moderators. Read the Lewandowsky saga posts. OTOH, Eli finds this about as shocking as finding out that the sun rises in the morning.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

"Smokey" forgot to unlink his gravatar account when he posted one day:


Put the cursor over his name and at the bottom it says:

I didn't figure it out; someone else did on a threat at Open Mind. I've screen-saved it however, when he finally figures it out and deletes it.

[That turns out to be fairly commonplace; see e.g. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/20/on-the-plus-side-theres-no-reason… -W]

By Robert Murphy (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

"on a threat"

Should have been "on a thread".

By Robert Murphy (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

More information about Smokey-David Stealey in comments at Open Mind,
and Rabbett run,

> Watts is well aware of the sockpuppetry, of course. But maybe Stealey is not. In the same thread where he repeatedly uses two screen names, dbs and Smokey, the dbs character-moderator sternly warns someone else,

"The Policy page makes clear that multiple screen names are forbidden. Second request: Please explain the name "Rob W". Thank you. ~dbs, mod."

ha: Smokey

Retired from a 30 year career working in a metrology [science of measurement using physical standards traceable to N.I.S.T.] lab, calibrating temp, humidity, datalogger and similar instruments.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

"Post-normal science"

I'm genuinly curious to read a definition of this annoyingly pompous and fatuous term. Anyone got a good source for an enlightening description? (Please don't ask me to Google it - I'd like to be directed to the very heart of the matter please).

Anyway, I think I quite like Franziska Hollender and her talk (haven't seen it yet!) since she sounds refreshingly like someone from a rather different perspective who is comfortable calling a shovel a shovel.

Agree she hasn't got the "narrative structures" quite right since the dominant narrative structures seems to involve misrepresentation, self-delusion and bullying.

Some parts of the blogosphere are complaining loudly about bad {methodology. results, statistics, etc, etc} of the recent Lewandowsky, et al paper.

However, great credence is placed in the Weblog surveys, at WUWT About, i.e., click on the links at right.for those that utterly prove WUWT to be the best science blog.

[I think you must have had some phone-induced glitches there; I hope I've repaired them.

The invective piled on Lewandowsky rather suggests he did something right -W]

By John Mashey (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

In your case, your blog seems to serve the function of saving you the trouble of thought. Which would be a useful function, were it not that you apparently feel impelled to spread your half-witted opinions around. In the case of the "septics", they aren't all the same. Watts may be thick, but McIntyre is not, and he has some serious points. And from the outside, it looks as if Mann is [incivility redacted -W] papers, and will not acknowledge a single error he has ever made.

[I think by that last you mean "won't acknowledge imaginary errors you'd like to think he made". Though since you offer no specifics I can't reply in any detail. I don't think I've called Watts "thick"; he is a denialist, and is deliberately misleading his audience. McI is doing the latter too -W]

By Winston Kodogo (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

Post-normal science from the originators themselves.

Though I'd be fairly sure that it isn't what Funtowicz and Ravetz had in mind in the early 1990s, post-normal science and blog-"science" seem like natural bedfellows to me: an invitation to engage in fuckwittery...

I think your 'largely wrong' comment is in error; surely 'Narrative structures' alludes to the way WUWT presents itself (ie the site and community's own myths) rather than its actual functions.

billie, there is no gw since 1998. i understand your anger, but try to take it with honour.

what do you think how long you will wait until global temperatures will not rise again decently and you tell yourself: "shit, i stop now fooling myself to wait for fraud global warming"?

"...there is no gw since 1998."

GISS shows about .14*C of warming since the beginning of '98; HADCRUT shows a similar warming (the data ends in 2011 so I can't give an exact number). UAH shows about .08*C warming. Only RSS shows a negative value.

Of course, that was the strongest El Nino year on record. Massive cherry-pick. If we take your claim literally, and look at temps "since 1998", as in starting at the beginning of 1999, all indices are positive. GISS shows .2*C warming, HADCRUT4 about the same, UAH .23*C, RSS .06*C.

You're also ignoring most of the energy that was trapped over that time period - it went into the oceans not the atmosphere (thankfully!).

So no, GW did not stop in 1998.

By Robert Murphy (not verified) on 15 Sep 2012 #permalink

bobmurphy, you are very poorly informed, hence you need instructions:

here are the official temperature data from your holy global temperature authority, noaa annual mean global temperatures (anomalies) since 1997:

1997: 0.42 (degrees celsius above the average global temperature of the 20th century)
1998: 0.60
1999: 0.41
2000: not given
2001: 0.52
2002: 0.57
2003: 0.58
2004: 0.54
2005: 0.62
2006: 0.56
2007: 0.55
2008: 0.48
2009: 0.56
2010: 0.62
2011: 0.51

you should learn that there is no global warming since 1998, instead of insanely insisting on erroneous misconceptions led by misguided religious beliefs of the hysterical warming church pupils. you should reorient your life on positive things instead of hanging around in climate halluzinations