Corbett Report Extras | April 2, 2017
Kenneth Trentadue was murdered in the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center in August, 1995. The authorities ruled it a suicide. Join us this week on The Corbett Report as we explore the incredible story of Jesse Trentadue, Kenney’s brother, who has spent the last two decades working to find out what really happened to his brother… and how it connects to the Oklahoma City Bombing.
SHOW NOTES AND MP3 AUDIO: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=1939
The NATO Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday assumed special significance since it happened to be the first appearance by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the alliance’s ‘diplomatic podium’. The alliance, in fact, refixed the date of the ministerial to suit Tillerson’s scheduling convenience. And he, for sure, did not disappoint his audience.
Tillerson’s interventions on Friday were the first structured statements of the Donald Trump administration on two important vectors of the US foreign policies – NATO’s raison d’etre as a military alliance and, secondly, Ukraine – which together inevitably reflect on the overall approach that can be expected from Washington in relations with Russia – at least in the near term. Tillerson is slated to visit Moscow on April 12.
Tillerson unequivocally stressed the Trump administration’s commitment to NATO. He described the alliance as the “bedrock of transatlantic security”. Thereupon, he went on to identify ISIS and Russia as the two “common threats” that the alliance faces. He said NATO as an alliance is “fundamental to countering both non-violent, but at times violent, Russian agitation and Russian aggression.” Tillerson called on NATO to “remain vigilant in strengthening NATO’s eastern defences… from Baltic to the Black Sea.”
No doubt, it was exceptionally strong language for the US’ top diplomat to use. Tillerson cited against this backdrop this weekend deployment to Poland of the US’ “enhanced, forward presence battalion”. He hinted that the Trump administration envisages a lead role for NATO in fighting the ISIS and, importantly, in the stabilization of Iraq.
This effectively rules out any significant level of military cooperation between the US and Russia in the fight against ISIS. (Notably, though, Tillerson made no mention of Syria.) Indeed, it remains to be seen how an enhanced NATO presence in Iraq will be perceived in Tehran.
Tillerson also addressed a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Brussels on Friday and his remarks there have been the most detailed statement so far on the Trump administration’s policies towards the Ukraine crisis. Tillerson literally tore into Russia. The following excerpts bring out the flavour of this unequivocal condemnation of Russian policies in Syria through the past 3-year period:
- Three years ago, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine shook the very foundations of security and stability in Europe. Today, Russia’s ongoing hostility and occupation is compromising our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. American and NATO support for Ukraine remains steadfast. As we have repeated at every Ministerial and Summit since Russia launched its campaign of aggression against Ukraine, NATO Allies stand firm in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do not, and will not, accept Russian efforts to change the borders of territory of Ukraine… NATO solidarity is crucial to finding a political solution to this conflict.
Tillerson made it clear that the US squarely holds Russia accountable for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. He warned Moscow:
- The United States sanctions will remain until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered our sanctions. We note with alarm the escalating violence along the line of contact and the repeated targeting of civilian infrastructure by Russia-led separatist forces, which poses an elevated risk of humanitarian disaster. We call on Russia to exercise its influence over the separatists to put a stop to the violence, end the campaign of attacks and intimidation against OSCE monitors, and facilitate the access they need to do their job. The OSCE must be able to fulfill its mandate which included monitoring throughout the conflict zone and to the international border. And Russia must understand there is no basis to move forward on the political aspects of the Minsk agreements until there is visible, verifiable, and irreversible improvement in the security situation.
Simply put, Tillerson has put Russia on notice that the Trump administration policies will be hard as nails when it comes to the Ukraine situation. (Meanwhile, there are growing demands that the US should supply lethal weapons to Ukraine.)
On Crimea, Tillerson was pretty much blunt: “Crimea-related sanctions must remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
Most important, Tillerson just stopped short of saying that the US is supportive of Ukraine’s induction as a NATO member country. He urged Kiev to bring the Ukrainian armed forces to continue to reform and modernise so as to come up to the NATO standards by 2020. In a subtle reference to what lies ahead, Tillerson recalled Trump’s assertion that “every country has the right to chart its own future.” To be sure,Ukraine is looming ahead as the inflection point in Russia’s relations with the US.
The overall tenor of Tillerson’s remarks suggests that not only is the Trump administration unable or unwilling to do anything to improve relations with Russia in immediate terms, it might simply continue with the Barack Obama administration’s Russia policies for as long as the civil war conditions prevail in Washington between him on the one hand and the Russophobes in the Congress and the American foreign and security policy community on the other. Read the triumphalist opinion piece by Time magazine – These Five Facts Explain Why Trump’s Russia Reset May Be Over.
The Israeli government has purchased a software system enabling it to monitor social media and specific users to plan ideas in online discourse.
The bid, which was won by a company called Buzzilla, specifies that the software must have the ability to “plant an idea in the debate on social networks, web news sites and forums,” reports Ido Kenan on the website Room 404, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Haaretz said, according to Days of Palestine, that the main purpose of the software is to monitor debate on the internet and identify trends and feelings among the public.
“From time to time, the ministries have the need for monitoring services, and recovery and processing of data on internet,” the bid request states.
“These services are necessary for a range of needs in the government sector, such as generating useful information for the sake of ongoing activity, feasibility testing, identifying trends, identifying needs and identifying and handling crises.”
The Israeli finance ministry, which issued the request, further explains that, until now, ministries requiring such services had obtained them from different sources, so it decided to find a system that can supply all of the ministries’ needs.
Via this system, the Israeli government is able to plant ideas in conversations on social networks and forums through an automated or semi-automated mechanism.
Haaretz wondered what the government is doing with the system. It answered: There is the possibility of swaying an existing debate, which is worrying; but, as the system also offers a breakdown of users, even more worrying is the theoretical ability of the ministries to focus on specific ones, such as supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
“In our case, since there is no legal obligation to deliver information, and since there is no certainty regarding the ways this information will be transferred and processed, there is another problem: What is going to be done with that information,” lawyer Yehonatan Klinger, the legal adviser of the Digital Rights Movement, said.
In a previous piece, I noted how the British Labour Party had departed from its traditional values. But if it is no longer truthfulness or ethics that motivate the Labour Party, what is it that drives the current crusade against Ken Livingstone?
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust provides a possible answer.
“Even when it has been made blatantly clear that his comments have caused deep hurt and offence to Jewish people, and in particular to Holocaust survivors, still Ken Livingstone has persisted down this route – repeatedly invoking the Holocaust, promoting a misleading and misinformed version of history to further his agenda.”
For Karen Pollock, a true Holocaust industry apparatchik, truth and historicity or any other recognised value are all subservient to Jewish sensitivities. For Karen Pollock and the Holocaust Educational Trust, only what is Jewish is to be embraced – it is the universal which is the enemy.
But Ken Livingstone deals in the universal. He has been telling the truth. His vision of the Holocaust is accurate and consistent with scholarly work, both Zionist and revisionist.
So Livingstone’s crime is obvious. Refusing to subscribe to the primacy of Jewish suffering, Livingstone, an old-style Lefty, aims at the universal, in this case, the truth.
So the question we need to ask ourselves is, why does the Labour Party now subscribe to the primacy of Jewish suffering? When and why did the Labour Party drift away from ethics, truth, the universal and the worker?
We need to know when and why our Labour Party and the Left closed the door on Athens and opened the door to Jerusalem?
The Vault 7 exposé by WikiLeaks neglected to mention the most important part of the disclosure. Sure, the CIA has all these tools available. Yes, they are used on the public. The important part is; it’s not the CIA that’s using them. That’s the part that needs to frighten you.
The CIA, by the definition of its mission, cannot use the tools in Vault 7, and definitely not on Americans. All the tools are unclassified, open-source, and can be used by anyone. It makes them not exactly usable for secret agent work. That’s what makes it impossible for them to use Vault 7 tools directly. Because of the possible exposure for the agency, use of the tools was farmed out.
Instead, they are there for subcontractors to use. Are you worried about your TV watching you? Has your car developed the habit of starting itself in the morning?
If these tools were solely in the hands of a US agency, you would be much safer. The agencies have limits on what they can do and agencies have oversight providing protections.
Instead, intelligence and counterterrorism tools are in the hands of people that make most of their money pushing political agendas forward. And there is no oversight for what they are doing with the tools.
In March 2015, I started writing about private NSA guns for hire. These hired guns work in the revolving door between government Intel and counterterrorism and private intel and counterterrorism. What it showed was the same people that worked for US agencies and trained them were using the same tools and methods on Americans that they used for terrorist hunting. And they brag about it in social media.
The same people that take counterterrorism measures against Al Qaeda, are free to use those tools on you. According to CNN, Aaron Weisburd models his methods on the no-holds-barred Al Qaeda model.
From CBS News:
sources close to U.S. intelligence as saying that “hackers knocked out Al Qaeda’s online means of communication, thus preventing them from posting anything to commemorate 911 anniversary.” The paper also said Western intelligence suspects two hackers were responsible: Aaron Weisburd from Internet Haganah and Rusty Shackleford from the web group My Pet Jawa.”
According to Sputnik News :
As much as 80 percent of the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) budget is privatized, demonstrating the merger between Washington and corporate organizations, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Tuesday.”
This means that up to 80% of that budget is going to people in the private sector that are also working on other agendas, including their own. That’s why we see more headlines like “NSA staff used spy tools on spouses, exlovers:watchdog.” or “The Crazy Emails That Took Down NSA Spook John Schindler.” Both articles show contractors use Vault 7 tools for their own domestic spying or revenge.
In May 2015, The Nation published an article that is a must read to grasp how dangerous this has become. I’ve written intensively on how these tools are used to create news and policy from a ground and company level for NGO’s and lobbyists. This article ratchets it up by looking at the policy makers and former agency heads that go into the private Intel and policy crafting business for hire.
According to The Nation :
These are the people — often referred to as “intelligence professionals” — who do the actual analytical and targeting work of the NSA and other agencies in America’s secret government. Over the last 15 years, thousands of former high-ranking intelligence officials and operatives have left their government posts and taken up senior positions at military contractors, consultancies, law firms, and private-equity firms. In their new jobs, they replicate what they did in government—often for the same agencies they left. But this time, their mission is strictly for-profit.”
What does this have to do with overhauling the ODNI and 17 Intel agencies? Everything. From oversight to policy, the level of non-partisan professionalism needed to conduct unbiased intelligence work is no longer there. The Vault 7 leak could well be an inside attempt to address these issues.
“In the intelligence community in the United States, there are certain disgruntled individuals [concerned] about the way operations are being run, and it’s obvious that material has come out that was felt by some of these individuals needed to be discussed,” Kampmark explained.”
The ODNI and its agencies descent into shambles have been three presidencies in the making. Why a shambles? When intelligence is based on political agendas, rumor, or speculation instead of facts, it’s in trouble. All of it was done in the name of getting faster intelligence and making actionable Intel available to members of Congress that had no business getting involved with classified, need to know basis intelligence.
The second part of this article will address how much effect these intel releases have on breaking story news over the years.
Many of the Intel experts hired as contractors are not Intel experts. As you’ll soon see, a housecleaning at the agency level and contractors is both unavoidable and necessary.
I asked Michael Jasinski, Assistant Professor Department of Political Science University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh about this. Professor Jasinski had oversight over researchers that were later hired by US Intel agencies and provided evaluations of them prior to their employment.
His comments show why a radical cleanup in both intel and counter-terrorism needs to happen. With the following statement he also added that their obvious patriotic feelings were real, but:
“Considering how the intelligence community is depicted in the media or in the movies (and clearly CIA “outreach” plays a role here), you’d think Jedi Knights. The Justice League. Gandalf. But if you ever had personal contact with the “three-letter agencies” for any period of time, you’d think different.
My most recent experience with the “intelligence” community was at MIIS, post-9/11 when the agencies were coming there to hire, and they were hiring big. They hired many of my research assistants–I was doing what might be termed “open-source intelligence” on WMD proliferation–and in the process, they’d ask me, their immediate supervisor, for my opinion.
So I’d tell them point-blank: can’t read, can’t write, can’t analyze. I don’t care what their CV says, the only language they can function in at any level is English. No matter, they’d get hired anyway. Drug convictions? No matter, they’d get hired anyway (at least at the time, the CIA would hire you if you didn’t have any drug convictions within the last 3 years). Scary political views they wore on their sleeve? No matter, they’d get hired anyway. All of my good assistants went to work for the UN, IAEA, major NGOs. The dregs went to “intelligence.”
So now when I see a) the “Russian interference” stories and b) the inability to safeguard, and presumably use responsibly, your own cyber-warfare arsenal, I can’t say I’m exactly surprised. But there are no shortcuts in this kind of work. If you rapidly expand at the cost of dramatically lowering standards, you (and the country) are going to pay a price. We’re paying it right now…”
When OSINT was pioneered, from the 1990’s into the 2000’s, none of the agencies had any experience with OSINT. It was a new concept. To get Intel gathering and online counterterrorism where it is today, US intelligence agencies relied on the methods and help of an out of work web-designer, a pornographer suffering from toxic black-mold induced delusions, a gift shop employee, a stay at home dad whose last job was selling underwear, and a man that heard coded intel messages in fax transmission beeps. Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke.
One thing all these people have in common is that none of them have a background in intelligence or antiterrorism. In the years before and after 9/11, these concerned citizens took to the web and started pioneering a new form of intelligence called OSINT (Open Source Intelligence). This would later provide the basis for the establishment of the NSA and become the backbone of US intelligence gathering.
All the intelligence gathering agencies rejected it at first because it relied on social media. At best this intelligence can only be looked at as unsubstantiated or rumor level information. While it’s OK for pointing to a potential problem, it’s limitations are that it provides unproven and possibly compromised and tainted information. The CIA was focused on HUMINT (Human Intel, using human agents or trusted sources) and SIGINT(Signals Intel/ communications).
These Open Source Intel pioneers started gaining ground by emailing community leaders and US Congressmen. They pushed OSINT to the forefront of US intelligence by sending it to anyone they thought would listen and forward their Intel to the US government. At first, they worked on the War on Terror.
Along the way, they collected letters of recommendation which they flashed around to the next prospective clients in government, Intel agencies, military, and lobbyists. This is important because letters of recommendation from people not in the Intel business became the basis for this new internet, Google search based, cottage industry.
Some of them work directly with Israeli intelligence. Most of these pioneers found ready help by sending their Intel to Israeli embassies that sent the info to US government agencies. At the same time, with the help of the connections they were making, they published news stories in major publications before US agencies had time to digest the information that they received. This forced the US government to react to their online Google-driven research.
Because it was Open Source Intel, these pioneers figured out quickly that they could send or sell the information BEFORE it was reviewed by an agency and classified. All Intel the CIA receives is given a classified rating whether it is open source or not. This one point increased the status of the practitioners.
Congressmen, Governors, and news outlets that were interested started getting the same “Intel” the CIA was. It also became clear quickly that the new Intel could be framed on whatever bias you chose. This meant it could be used to create policy.
Lobbyists and Congress quickly figured out that by using these sources, they could push pet or paid foreign policy forward. Because it was a private effort, OSINT operators got paid to deliver Intel for groups looking for specific insights. For instance, during the Gulf War, they searched for WMD and Al Qaeda connections.
From the mid-1990’s this became a boom industry thanks to pioneers Steve Emerson and Rita Katz. Emerson’s big break came with CNN after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He was sure Islamists were behind it. Being wrong didn’t slow him down.
Before 9/11, Emerson and Katz open source Intel was being spread far and wide and thanks to personal networking efforts it made, then president Bush’s daily briefings about Al Qaeda. Emerson and Katz provided erroneous open source Intel to support Ahmed Chalabi’s drive for invading Iraq. This was personal to Katz and Intel agencies noted that most of her Intel is one-sided and politically charged.
Katz made it a habit of bombarding agencies and media with new social media findings that came so fast news cycles couldn’t keep up with it. To ignore her meant you could be scooped by another news agency. To publish it meant that it was unsubstantiated information.
For Katz, this came to a head in 2007 when she posted an Osama bin Laden interview online before Al Qaeda had a chance to. How many conclusions does this point to? Al Qaeda got the video from Katz.
According to the Washington Post :
A similar event occurred Friday when another group beat al-Qaeda by nearly a full day with the release of the first video images of bin Laden to appear publicly since 2004. That group, the SITE Institute, provided the tape to government agencies and news organizations at a time when many well-known jihadist Web sites had been shut down in a powerful cyber attack by unknown hackers.”
According to the Newsweek article “How Richard Clarke Outsourced Terrorist Intel,” both Emerson and Katz became the go-to companies for OSINT. US intelligence had no experience with it until this period. And US intel and law enforcement didn’t want any.
Emerson and Katz furnished Clarke and his staff with the names of Islamic radical Web sites, the identities of possible terrorist front groups and the phone numbers and addresses of possible terror suspects–data they were unable to get from elsewhere in the government.
This private pipeline of information–which began under President Clinton and continued under Bush even after September 11–irritated top officials at FBI headquarters, especially when much of the private research bore fruit and was later used to help develop a U.S. government list of banned organizations whose assets were frozen by the Treasury Department.”
After the Patriot Act, it was these two in particular and contractors like them that caused the “no-fly” lists to fill out so quickly. The search for terrorists had begun and it looks like it was paid on a piece-work basis. The more potential terrorists there were the more money in government contracts that could be had.
Until this point, Emerson and Katz research was funded by unnamed wealthy donors and foundations who had an interest in finding Islamic terrorists operating in the US online. In his book “Against All Enemies” Clarke writes “Within days” of his first request in late 1999, Emerson provided him “with a long list of Web sites sitting on servers in the United States.” Clarke then passed along the list to the Justice Department and FBI. But officials there balked at using it and complained at the time about “how difficult it was to prosecute ‘free speech’ cases.”
While all of this sounds good and noble, the reality was and is that most of the targeted websites were American citizens expressing free speech. The only qualification to get on their list for a news site or a website was to print anti-Zionist articles, pro-Palestinian articles, or write something against the policies their donors or lobbyist bosses were against. When the government refused to act, OSINT pioneers took it upon themselves to shut down, hack, makeup, and plant evidence on websites to try to get convictions.
Big media and the agencies themselves did their job letting the public know what was going on. Because no one understood the technology and therefore didn’t care about this, the problem grew to where it is today. As early as 2003 in the Chicago Tribune, the FBI gave warnings like this one about a particular website it was asked to investigate, “The site is not illegal in any way [nor does it condone] illegal activity,” said FBI spokesman Frank Bochte in Chicago. “We cannot be the Orwellian thought police. If it is mere words and nothing beyond that, there’s nothing we can do.”
The proof terrorist hunter Aaron Weisburd offered was simple. “It talks about the “Zionist” rope over American leaders and lists 45 Jews in top positions of U.S. government. A photo gallery features the burning of the American flag, and one section is called “Know Your Enemy.”
In 2005, the Washington Post interviewed Weisburd and he unabashedly states his group uses the same tactics as Al Qaeda. He goes on to say that not everything they do is legal. According to his victims, he used the tools, access, and criminal activity to destroy their lives. They had nothing to do with the war on terror. They wrote human rights articles.
The Guardian made the point in November 2014 saying:
“Our choice isn’t between a world where either the good guys spy or the bad guys spy. It’s a choice of everybody gets to spy or nobody gets to spy.”
The privatized NSA makes its living off building hate. They are hired to drive headlines and policy. A longtime partner of Rita Katz and Aaron Weisburd drove these headlines in the UK.
‘Terror expert warns of ‘new 9/11’’, The Express, 1 January 2009; ‘Attack on US ‘soon’’, The Sun, 1 January 2009, ‘HATE HIT LIST’, The Sun, 7 January 2009
In her 2003 book “The Terrorist Hunter,” Rita Katz went as far as to say “the F.B.I., didn’t “possess one-thousandth of my knowledge on the relevant issues.”
Through agency overhaul in 2004, Congress set the stage and legislated the method that agencies and media warned would result in politically motivated, goal oriented reports loosely defined as intelligence. All of it affects policy today because a lot of it is designed to.
Because of the overhaul the US Government hired an out of work web-designer, a former reporter that was really bad at finding terrorists, a gift shop employee, and a man who dropped out of college to jump into the fray with no terrorism expertise to teach government agencies how to conduct OSINT.
With over 20 years of experience, Steve Emerson must deliver crazy good OSINT intel to the US government. Just how good is the god-father of US government OSINT intel?
Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke. These same experts taught NATO, the FBI, CIA, NSA, and related agencies their expertise in the business through 6-week courses and seminars. They also testify as expert witnesses for Congress and supply an endless stream of Intel built on the policies their clients or prejudice dictates. Today’s DNI is filled with people that learned his methods.
How serious are they taken? The Information Operations Newsletter Vol. 12, no. 06 (April 2012) Compiled by: Mr. Jeff Harley, US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Army Forces Strategic Command G39, Information Operations Division quotes the above-listed OSINT pioneers as the experts to listen to.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, I followed a team of these OSINT pioneers setting up to attack people in the USA using these technologies. Because no one had ever cared before, they were very open about what they were doing in social media if you knew where to look. They geo-located victims, collected information, and added hackers in the group to attack American news websites.
I followed this group as they destroyed the income of news websites and started to destroy the reputations of owners and journalists. After documenting enough of the facts, I tried to contact the concerned parties directly and indirectly. I wrote a couple articles describing how it was happening and even quoted the group doing it describing what they were setting up for. This even included screen shots.
Why would they go as far as geo-location? Vault 7 makes that clear. The pioneer in this area also helped set up the Peacemaker website for Ukraine. This site provides kill lists with all the information known or needed to find someone. Within a month of my first article about Peacemaker in March 2015, the first victim was murdered.
It raises some serious questions about what is occurring in 2017. When it’s clear the people using Vault 7 tools don’t think of you as anything more than an enemy in a “Call of Duty” video game and they get paid for results, it’s time to question the legality.
When they do it for foreign governments, it’s time to bring up treason. When they turn around, work for government and then put the same people and news site on lists; Are they working for their private clients or for the US government? If you disagree with their employers’ politics, they get paid to destroy your life. They are a privatized NSA attacking you.
Part 2 of this article will show the second fork using these tools took. Understanding who is behind the stories about Russian election influence, hacking, and even the MH-17 disaster in 2014, and why they did it is an eye opener.
This dissects fake news and shows how prominent fabricated intelligence is in mainstream media. The article shows the methodology and the technicians that ignited and pushed the biggest controversies of the past few years.
These are the tools and these are the players that built the election interference and Russian hacking story. The 17 Intel agencies need a ground up rebuild.
George Eliason is an American journalist that lives and works in Donbass. He has been interviewed by and provided analysis for RT, the BBC, and Press-TV.
Have you been suffering sleepless nights over Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia? Have you been fearing for the future of American democracy? Have you been wishing there was something you could do to help get to the bottom of all this?
Well, worry no more. One Washington-based liberal think tank has heeded your pleas for action.
The Center For American Progress (CFAP) Action Fund has launched ‘The Moscow Project’ to help “uncover the truth” about Trump’s ties to the Kremlin. In particular, they want you (yes, you) to help verify claims made in the infamous Trump/Russia dossier published by BuzzFeed in January.
“By scouring the internet to investigate allegations, donating to fund our research, or sharing our findings on Twitter and Facebook, you can help uncover the truth about Trump and Russia,” the website’s landing page explains.
That’s right. The Democrats, through their CFAP action fund, are essentially trying to crowd-source an investigation into Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russian government by encouraging random people to “annotate” an already widely discredited document full of wild and unverifiable claims.
So, what’s a concerned citizen to do? Simply “create an account, highlight a portion of the dossier’s text, and add a comment that includes corroborating evidence” — and bingo. If they think your “evidence” seems reliable, they’ll publish it. It’s that easy.
If, however, you’re among the few liberals left in America unconvinced that you possess evidence of Trump’s status as a long-time Russian agent, you can simply choose to make a financial contribution to the project instead. After all, “the American people need answers” and “without your donations” we’ll never get to the bottom of this never-ending saga of treachery and treason.
For the confused among you, the think tank has helpfully added a timeline of events and incidents that reveal “a troubling pattern of alignment” between the American president and Russian officials. Like, for example, the scandalous fact that you can buy Trump vodka in Moscow — and the wholly unexpected and deeply troubling revelation that when Trump visited Russia in 2013, he was found to be in contact with actual Russian people. He even tried on a traditional Russian ushanka hat.
Another helpful aspect of the site is the “players” section, where readers can peruse the biographies of all the people mixed up in the scandal, sorted according to importance and marked with little American or Russian flags to indicate their nationality. The use of the Cyrillic letter “Щ” to replace the “W” in Moscow is also a nice touch. A subtle reminder to patriotic Americans that the Russkies remain enemy number one.
The only thing missing is some light balalaika music playing automatically in the background — and maybe a flashing red hammer and sickle. Then again, the latter was utilized fairly well already by the Progress For USA (PAC) when they launched their pre-election “Putin-Trump project” as the go-to source for information on the “unprecedented ties” between Trump and the Kremlin.
I was going to say you really couldn’t make this stuff up, but apparently you can; Russia-related conspiracies and subsequent amateur “investigations” into them have become quite the little cottage industry.
The Moscow Project is headed by Max Bergmann, who, rather ironically, was a former speechwriter for John Kerry at a time when Kerry was mocking Republicans for promoting the “preposterous notion” that Russia was the US’ main geopolitical foe. Ah, how quickly things change. Mitt Romney, Kerry said at the time, talks “like he’s only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV.”
Fast forward a couple of years and the entire Democratic Party is talking like their only point of reference on Russia is Red Dawn.
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer, journalist and media analyst. She has lived and traveled extensively in the US, Germany, Russia and Hungary. Her byline has appeared at RT, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, The BRICS Post, New Eastern Outlook, Global Independent Analytics and many others. She also works on copywriting and editing projects. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook or at her website http://www.danielleryan.net.
Mark Steyn’s A Disgrace to the Profession is a compilation of scientific commentary on Michael Mann and his work and is a valuable antidote to the idea that questioning or criticizing this particular researcher is an overt admission of ignorance, let alone an “attack on science”. What I will argue in this essay is that Steyn has done serious students of the AGW hysteria an even greater service. In fact, this work reveals some features of the hysteria that are, I think, critical for understanding it in depth. The present essay, which will elaborate on this point, is intended as a contribution to the study of what one of those quoted in Steyn’s book called “pathological science”.
For those who aren’t familiar with the work, Steyn’s book is a collection of highly critical comments by scientists of varying degrees of eminence concerning Michael Mann and his (in)famous “hockey stick” temperature graph. The book emanated from a still-ongoing lawsuit that Mann filed against Steyn for writing in a National Review Online article that the hockey stick was fraudulent. Steyn was struck by the fact that, when it came time to file third-party amicus briefs, no one filed a brief in Mann’s defense. So he began combing the Web and other resources, and found a plethora of critical comments that he collected into one volume.2,3 In fact, by now almost everyone, skeptic or warmist, has backed away from this very flawed piece of evidence.
Together, the comments in Steyn’s book suggest that even in the midst of a great social hysteria like AGW much of the field of climatology is functioning more or less normally. Also, one finds the usual range of opinion that one finds in any science, although in this case it is somewhat muted, in part because of the possibility of intimidation from the more enthusiastic warmists and their followers. (Examples of this are mentioned below.)
The same conclusion can be drawn from the compendia of research results that Kenneth Richard has contributed to the NoTricksZone website. In a series of posts, Richard has reviewed a wealth of data drawn from the contemporary technical literature that in various ways runs counter to and therefore undermines the standard AGW narrative.4
In some respects, then, the field of climatology still has a pluralistic cast. On the other hand, the treatment of Prof. Lennart Bengtsson after it was announced that he was joining the Global Warming Policy Foundation and the recent comments by Judith Curry on her (I take it) premature retirement show quite clearly that even apart from certain individuals, the situation in this field is not particularly healthy. What I think the latter incident shows is that someone like Dr. Curry simply has a lower tolerance of double standards than do many other more or less serious practitioners – moreover, she has been unwilling to remain silent.
When they are read together, the quotations and commentary in Steyn’s book also shed more light on the Michael Mann phenomenon. For one thing, they show that his behavior over time has been quite consistent. There is, for example, the tendency to play fast and loose with methodology. This is shown most clearly in the methods that gave rise to the original hockey stick. Over time and thanks to the perseverance of a few, the puzzle of how it was derived is now pretty well understood. Steyn touches on all of the major points, each one a little story in itself.
In the first place, in collecting data for the hockey stick graph, Mann and his co-workers chose a very problematical proxy. Tree ring dimensions are subject to a number of factors that affect tree growth: “soil nutrients and structure; light variations; carbon dioxide; competition from other trees; disease; predators; age; rainfall” (Steyn, 28, quoting from testimony of A. Trewavas). Moreover, the bristlecone pine, which was a major proxy source in the original study is a particularly unreliable basis for temperature estimates since it is very responsive to factors such as carbon dioxide regardless of temperature.
Having chosen a problematic proxy, Mann et al. then went on to make a series of other dubious decisions. For example, in the original work the tree ring data were correlated with average temperatures for the Northern hemisphere rather than for North America, although the trees in question all came from North America. This was because the latter didn’t match the results obtained with their proxy data. This leads to a rather peculiar state of affairs. As one scientist put it:
“The logical conclusion [from their study] is that Northamerican trees respond better to global average temperatures than to local temperatures.” (Steyn, xiii)
In addition, their methods served to impose a peculiar form of proxy weighting, which was in fact crucial for obtaining their results (in addition to sometimes double counting the only tree/trees used from a location outside the bristlecone sites). According to Steve McIntyre,
“The effect is that tree ring series with a hockey stick shape no longer have a mean of zero and end up dominating the first principal component (PC1) [the main factor obtained from the analysis]; in effect, Mann’s program mines for series with a hockey stick shape. In the crucial period of 1400-1450, in the critical PC1 of the North American network, the top-weighted Sheep Mountain series, with a hockey stick shape gets over 390 times the weight of the least weighted series, which does not have a hockey stick shape.” (Steyn, 69-70)
Steyn sums it up:
“So his [Mann’s] hypothesis that it [the temperature record] looks like a hockey stick is confirmed only because a tree ring that produces a hockey-stick shape is given 390 times the weight of a tree ring that does not.” (Steyn, 5)
In all of this it is also telling that people with statistical expertise were never consulted about any of the sampling and weighting procedures.
And then we arrive the pièce de résistance of the 1999 effort. Because despite all this finagling, Mann et al. were still stuck with a basic problem. This was that the proxy data showed a decline after 1980 – at the same time that the global average temperature showed a marked rise. Their solution was bold and straightforward: truncate the proxy record at the year 1980 and for the remaining years in the 20th century use the record derived from thermometers. Clearly, this gives us the best of both worlds. So what’s not to like?
However, there were some doubting Thomases who took issue with this procedure, especially after it was properly understood (cf. below). The simplest argument is the most telling: if the proxy records don’t match the temperature record during the last decades of the 20th century, where both kinds of record are available, why should one assume that the former accurately reflects actual temperatures during the past millennium?
It is also telling that, according to Steyn (p. 53), it was not until 2014, sixteen years after the publication of the original hockey stick paper, that all these methodological details were adequately understood. This is because the issues involved could only be resolved by a detailed perusal of the original materials and methods. And Mann’s response to requests for the necessary information served to deter inquiries of this sort. For a long while he and his co-workers refused to share their data or allow anyone to examine the program that performed the analysis.
“Mann declined – for years – to release the elements needed to reproduce his stick. In evidence before the House of Commons in London, Professor Darrel Ince noted Mann’s refusal to cough up his computer code, and said that he would “regard any papers based on the software as null and void”. His stick could be neither proved nor disproved – and, as Professor Vincent Courtillot reminded European climatologists, if “it’s not falsifiable, it’s not science”.” (Steyn, 6)
Along with the discrepancies uncovered in connection with the early hockey stick papers, Mann’s later work is littered with a succession of questionable actions, or “mistakes” (once again showing how consistent people really are across time). These include reassigning “an instrumental precipitation record from Paris to New England”, and later “a Spanish data set to Tanzania” (Steyn, 198). In another instance it was found that a “South Carolina gridcell [had been transferred] to Toulouse” and another shifted from Philadelphia to Mumbai (ibid.). Then there was the case of the upside-down graph: a curve of temperatures based on sediment proxies was effectively turned upside down, thus inverting the data for the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. This was used to press the point that “the average temperatures in the Arctic are much higher now than at any time in the past two thousand years” (Steyn, 208). In another instance of dyscopia, Mann et al. rotated a climate data set 180 degrees “when interpolating … [it] onto a different grid”, “so that model data that should be located on the Greenwich Meridian were erroneously placed at 180 degrees longitude”. And so forth …
And throughout all this, there has been a perpetual refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing of any sort – or even any errors at all. So, when the flipped sediment curve was brought to his attention in a letter to Science, Mann “dismissed “the claim that ‘upside-down’ data were used as “bizarre”” (Steyn, 208; Notice the wording, which is strictly speaking correct; evidently it was the program that did the inversion). And even after corrigenda were published in Nature and Geophysical Research Letters in 2004, the authors maintained their original stance. The climatologist M. Leroux had this to say:
“After describing their errors, they still considered (2004) that “none of these errors affect our previously published results”! The corrigenda issued by Mann et al are “a clear admission that the disclosure of data and methods… was materially innaccurate.” (Steyn, 249, quoting from Leroux’s book, Global Warming: Myth or Reality?)
And as another scientist put it,
“… the original hockey stick still used the wrong methods and these methods were defended over and over despite being wrong … He [Mann] fought like a dog to discredit and argue with those on the other side that his method was not flawed. And in the end he never admitted that the entire method was a mistake.” (Steyn, 72)
This vehement defensiveness has been accompanied by continual attacks on opponents and even colleagues who question any of his methods; such people, including prominent people who are actually warmists of a sort such as Judith Curry and Craig Loehle, have earned epithets like “#AntiScience” and of course the dread word “denier”. There have also been concerted attempts (along with members of the UK Climate Research Unit) to discredit the editors of journals who published skeptical articles or who publically questioned the hockey stick. In one case this actually led to the resignation of the editor of the journal Climate Research.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mann has made extensive use of the new social media in the service of “the cause”. (In fact, one could almost say that Michael Mann and Twitter were made for each other.) This has led to a cascade of spiteful johnny-one-note tweets such as these:
“Crypto-denier #BjornLomberg… #climatechange denier #JudithCurry… #MattRidley in the London Times, ‘My Life as a Compensated Climate Change Denier’ (I tweaked the title…) #ClimateChnage denier #Roy Spencer… #AnthonyWatts climate change denier extremist…” (from Steyn, 232)
This style of aggressive counterattack has continued even to the point of publishing a book that defends his work and belittles his critics. And as we all know, it has also spilled over into actual lawsuits on at least two occasions. And in each of these, once legal proceedings are under way, the case seems to sputter and stall – because of failure to produce the data relevant to the case and for other reasons. This certainly suggests that the original suits were a form of bullying, i.e. attempts at intimidation rather than actions made in good faith.5
Along with this is the constant self-aggrandizement. This was on display in the Steyn case, where the original complaint said that Mann was suing Steyn and others for ”defamation of a Nobel Prize recipient” (Steyn, p. iii, quoting from the legal statement). Later this claim had to be withdrawn. And of course there is his self-assumed role of “defender of science”.
I will note parenthetically that there is an interesting similarity to the case of Sigmund Freud. Like Mann, Freud had an almost incredible capacity to convince himself of cherished fantasies that fit into his overall conceptions. (If you doubt this, read the “Wolfman” case.) And like Mann, he showed considerable antagonism toward anyone who questioned any aspect of his doctrines (although SF may have been more indulgent regarding questions regarding specifics). And, of course, for a long time Freud’s tactics were wildly successful, so much so that he still has his adherents and his champions.
One problem in getting a proper perspective on this case is that Mann seems to fit the role of the villain all too well. Because in all of this it is essential to remember that people do not have to have malevolent intentions to wreak tremendous havoc on the world. This is even true for the case at hand. I, for one, do not think that Mann’s intentions are malevolent, however bizarre and extreme his behavior; in fact, by his own lights he is probably well-intentioned, whatever that may mean in this case.6 By the same token I do not think that Al Gore is malevolent, and based on the account given by Anthony Watts of a meeting with him, neither is Bill McKibben. And this is certainly not true of our beloved Prince of Wales. But does anyone doubt the capacity of these people for wreaking havoc?
All this goes to show that OTT people like these are often the cause of real excesses and disasters. But I would go so far as to suggest that, as such, they are symptomatic of deeper problems that otherwise might not have been revealed – or that might have only become evident when the degree of damage had become much greater. So now let’s turn now to a consideration of the latter.
Given all these problems as well as the extreme behavior of the protagonist, it is astonishing how rarely questions have been raised about the hockey stick, especially in the public arena. In fact, many people seem to have blinded themselves to the facts on display – and this is part of the larger phenomenon that we are dealing with. Such behavior is particularly striking (and out of place in a field of science), given that the hockey stick represented a radical make-over of the standard view of the temperature changes over the previous millennium:
“The Medieval Warm Period – when Greenland got its name and was extensively farmed, and vineyards flourished in much of England – was a matter of uncontroversial historical record. But once you’ve decided to “repeal“ it, it’s amazing how easy it is.” (Steyn, 33)
“[The earlier account of past temperatures] was simply expunged from the 2001 IPCC report, much as Trotsky and Yezhov were removed from Stalin’s photographs by dark-room specialists in the later years of the dictator’s reign. There was no explanation of why both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, very clearly shown in the 1990 report, had simply disappeared eleven years later.” (Steyn, 10)7
These failures went hand in hand with a questionable level of peer reviewing:
“”The hockey stick is an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence,” wrote Oxford physicist Jonathan Jones. Nature never asked for any and, when it fell to others to demonstrate the flaws of the stick, the journal declined to share their findings with its readers. Mann and a few close allies controlled the fora that mattered, and banished any dissidents. “It’s a completely rigged peer-review system,” concluded Cal Tech’s Dr David Rutledge.” (Steyn, 6)
Another significant fact is that, despite the partial eclipse of the hockey stick in recent years, the AGW bandwagon has continued on its merry way without a hitch or backward glance, as far as I can tell. And at the same time the general field of climatology continues its business, some of it in concert with the AGW doctrine, but much of it more or less independent of this idea, as shown by Richard’s postings that were referred to above.
I think that the lesson to be taken away from all this is that there is a backdrop in addition to the central characters. Given this, it is impossible to ascribe the entire AGW affair to a few main actors alone. Put more strongly, there is not a single overarching ‘design’ or intention in the AGW hysteria that is simply carried through, in the sense of all the myriad facets being the result of a single guiding hand. On the other hand, there is a coherence to the movement that does require explanation.
I would argue that the processes that gave rise to the AGW movement were to a large degree – perhaps even essentially – bottom-up in character (despite there being major players behind the scenes). This resulted in a collective ‘machine’ whose function is to produce a particular output: namely, evidence and argumentation in support of CAGW. In other words, the overarching intentionality that in some sense is present has the character of a “group mind”.
Thus, conspiracies – while they do exist – are only part of the picture. In fact I strongly suspect that full-fledged conspiracies are often (perhaps always) emergent phenomena that issue from more fundamental processes.
Again, the point is that one person could not do this alone (not even Maurice Strong).
The point I am trying to make is reflected in a statement by the physicist Jonathan Jones that is included in Steyn’s book:
“My whole involvement has always been driven by concerns about the corruption of science.”
“Like many people I was dragged into this by the Hockey Stick. I was looking up some minor detail about the Medieval Warm Period and discovered this weird parallel universe of people who apparently didn’t believe it had happened, and even more bizarrely appeared to believe that essentially nothing had happened in the world before the 20th century.” (Steyn, 31)
Now, what this book shows – by means of collective quotations – is that this “parallel universe” exists within a larger world of more-or-less sane science (and sane scientists). And as those of us who have been following the AGW saga are aware, there are cases in which people with less knowledge of the subject (and probably less wisdom) than Prof. Jones have been swept up into this parallel universe, but were later able to break free of it once they had delved into the subject and realized what a house-of-cards the AGW thesis really is.
In this connection, one of the most striking features of the Climategate emails is the comparative insularity of the Team.8 In fact, their entire correspondence has a certain claustrophobic character. There is no discussion of large-scale coordination with other parties (despite some interaction with people like Andy Revkin). And they were certainly not getting instructions from any UN bureaucrat. While here and there one finds a fleeting reference to “the cause” (by guess-who?), the overwhelming impression is that of a small coterie defending its scientific positions. And yet, as we know, this coterie was at the same time central to a much larger social movement.
These reflections are also pertinent to another significant question: whose voice carries – and why? For example, Tim Ball, Fred Singer and others have been countering the AGW meme for a few decades, but to little avail. But why is this? Why haven’t their voices carried? And, conversely, why was The Team so successful in getting their message out? Was it because, possibly for quite other reasons, there was already a receptive audience at hand? That there was an existing matrix of attitudes and beliefs to which the AGW belief system could adhere? And this matrix served to amplify some messages while it filtered out other, conflicting messages.
It should be emphasized that the perspective I am describing in no way rules out or even diminishes the importance of institutionalization of doctrines. Clearly, this is a powerful mechanism for promulgating doctrine as well as suppressing antagonistic ideas. And here we must acknowledge the brilliance of Mr. Strong in recognizing the possibility of an institution whose main purpose would be to promote the AGW doctrine and in realizing the goal of creating such an institution. Without this achievement, I doubt that global warming would have become the world-wide force that it has been for the last twenty or thirty years.
This account also suggests the manner in which AGW will fail. One fine day we will wake up and find that the discrepancies and contradictions and dubious claims have accumulated to the point where the basic thesis cannot be sustained by anyone outside the inevitable fringe who will keep banging away before an ever-diminishing audience of true believers. At that point, because much of the field is more-or-less normal science, most researchers will simply put the excesses of the few behind them. In doing this, they will already have grounds for plausibly denying that they were involved in the hysteria in any serious fashion. And at that point the atmosphere of hysteria that now casts a pall over the entire industrialized world will vanish like the morning haze.
But there will be one hitch. The institutions that Mr. Strong and others have created together with all those over-busy government agencies will still be with us. And how all that will turn out is something I really can’t foretell. What does result when mastodons like these have been let loose to roam the countryside?
The present perspective naturally brings to mind the meme idea. However, I don’t think the selfish gene/replicator form of this hypothesis (à la Dawkins) is adequate, and it may not even be relevant. Instead, a kind of structure of activities has been built up that is grounded in an existing set of attitudes and beliefs.
A meme account of the usual sort also omits a particularly important factor (And so do all the other explanations that I’ve seen proffered.) This is a factor that, nonetheless, can be described in ‘Darwinian’ terms. This is that the whole business requires certain personalities who are willing to engage in questionable or even fraudulent activity. Where do they come from? How do they fit into the picture? (Specifically, how do they find their roles in the comedy as it is played out?)
In this connection, let me consider a case that is also discussed by Steyn (pp. 179-182), but has since undergone further developments. This is the saga of a ‘second hockey stick’, derived by Joëlle Gergis and coworkers for the Southern hemisphere. As many readers will recall, this work was also eviscerated by Steve McIntyre and others, to the extent that the original submission was retracted. A few years later it was resubmitted. At this time Gergis made a point of describing the problem(s) with the original paper as “a typo”.9 Now, in addition to this being wildly disingenuous, there is a certain shallowness and even a vulgarity of mind in evidence that I find difficult to associate with someone speaking as a scientist. (How can a problem that led to retraction have been a typo? It’s as if a casual, out-of-thin-air characterization was made rather unadroitly with the expectation that no one should question it, and more generally, as if it was an unnecessary bother to have to deal with criticism at all.) So I have to ask, what is such a person doing in a field of science in the first place? And isn’t this kind of personality the perfect material for embracing dubious doctrines and spreading them further?
Perhaps what is happening is that a type of social niche has been constructed where such personalities can thrive. In other words, the entire phenomenon involves a kind of niche construction in the sense of Odling-Smee et al.10 But this is happening at the social rather than the biological level.
Now, let me return to the hockey stick and in particular to the blindness to its obvious faults on the part of a large segment of the scientific community. This seems to me to be in large part a matter of ego-defense, as such evasion often is. But this also suggests that without this kind of pervasive ego-defense, Mann & Co. wouldn’t have gotten to first base. One could even think of Mann as a kind of surfboarder who had the ‘right stuff’ to ride the reality warp that had come into being. But the key question is this: is this a case of a personality type that is somehow pre-adapted for such situations? Is there a real sense in which this personality type found an appropriate niche?
The apparent consequence of all this is that when there are enough people like these who have worked their way into a particular field of science, then you have a quorum that can effectively further “the cause”. But this, in turn, requires an appropriate environment. In any case, we seem to have travelled light years from a time when someone like William James could say quite unselfconsciously:
“I have to forge every sentence in the teeth of irreducible and stubborn facts.”
But how could all this have come about? (And this is a question I will leave for another day.)
To return to a point made earlier, note that most of this is quite independent of Maurice Strong. Strong didn’t subvert the CRU directly, and he didn’t ensure that people like Ben Santer and Michael Mann got Ph.D.’s in climatology (although once they were on the scene someone clearly had the wit to take advantage of this in order to fill some key slots in IPCC committees). And he certainly didn’t bring into being groups like 350.org. (In fact, he had left the stage long before they made their entrance.) Instead, to me it seems very much as if the daemon acclaimed by Adam Smith has an evil twin.
To recapitulate, there are a few basic ideas that I think are implicit in the work under discussion and that I think merit a great deal of further study:
- The emergence and evolution of social organizations, partly top-down but also partly bottom-up, a process that I suspect can be formulated in computational terms, although in this essay I have done nothing more than throw out a few suggestions.
- The ‘selection’ (which in this case is a social rather than a natural selection in its usual sense) of certain personalities who perform requisite roles, which themselves are emergent in character. Usually these people take positions in existing institutions, whose direction they then influence.
- The resultant intermingling of real science and faux science, the former even serving as a kind of cover for the latter – for outsiders and even for participants. A major factor here is ego-defense, which allows the faux elements to work within a community populated by more balanced and better-intentioned scientists. (Another theme worth exploring in this context is that of parasitic strategies.)
It will be appreciated that if the basic processes described here (group mind effects, social selection, etc.) do take place, they must do so in both normal and pathological cases. The differences lie in the basis for organization, the basis for selection, and so forth. (But, again, I have to defer the task of filling in the necessary details to the future.)
At first blush, the AGW phenomenon for all its Sturm und Drang seems a far cry from the crude, widespread destruction of an entire field of science that occurred during the Lysenko episode in the USSR.11 In that earlier affair, whole research institutes were shut down, legitimate geneticists were ousted from their positions, and some even died in prison or the Gulag. Also, Lysenkoism arose in a milieu in which scientists were under the thumb of political types who were often deeply antagonistic to what they viewed as “bourgeois science”. To keep genuine scientists in line, Bolshevik officials were ‘elected’ to Academies of Science where they had a controlling influence, and scientific institutes were under constant surveillance by secret police, to the extent that the NKVD had an office in nearly every institute.12
At the same time, there are important parallels. People have been vilified (as noted above), and some like, William Gray, lost their funding, which severely hampered their research efforts. And we know (from a former member of NOAA) that there has been pressure from above (i.e. from politicians) to produce evidence in keeping with the desired narrative. Also, Lysenko was a bullying character, much like the chief subject of this essay.
Moreover, in spite of sometimes repeated setbacks, some scientists in the USSR still kept going, so that work of scientific value continued to be produced. But at the same time, most went along with Party dictates, at least on the surface, while a proportion even leapt on board the bandwagon. In the words of one author:
“People like Dmitri Pryanishnikov, Pyotr Kapitsa and Andrei Sakharov, who publicly raised their voices in defense of their arrested colleagues, were rare among the majority of compliant scientists who followed Party orders in exchange for their elite positions in Soviet society.” (Birstein, p. 45)
Another common feature is the failure among otherwise estimable people to face up to what was really going on. In part this is the result of minds of greater refinement being unwilling to descend to the level of their accusers. But, again, it seems to me that there is also a large aspect of denial, which goes hand in hand with the typical scholar’s reliance on conventions of ‘good-will’ to see one through, and which is in fact a form of evasion. In the Soviet situation this was often used by the higher powers to their own advantage.
Another interesting aspect of the affair that has some parallels with the present case is the way that Lysenko made repeated, heartfelt claims of calumny against the doctrines he was espousing and the people who espoused them. Here is one example out of many (which, incidentally, was directed against the author of the volume in which it is cited):
“Lately a voluminous memorandum compiled by Zh. Medvedev, full of dirty inventions about our biology, has been circulated about. … Substituting marketplace gossip for facts, Medvedev, with one stroke of the pen, crosses out the achievements of Soviet breeding in the creation of new varieties of plants and breeds of animals. … Along the way, in a haughty, mocking manner he “overthrows” the theoretical tenants of Michurinist biology. All these fabrications and fairy tales would appear as an empty farce if the author, in his lampoon of Michurinist science, had not resorted to political slander which can only provoke anger and disgust. …13
“The slanderous attacks against Michurinist biologists, the attempts of individuals to defame the attainments of Michurinist biology are not only insulting to Soviet scientists but also damage the development of biology. They are the grist for the mill of those interested in weakening the materialistic positions of Soviet science. … (Medvedev, p. 219-20)
In addition to the well-modulated display of moral indignation (which I think T. D. manages more adroitly than contemporary warriors for “science” and social justice), the reader should take note of the way in which Lysenko claims to be defending the ‘corporatist’ entity known as “Michurinist science” (named after an early agronomist), so that he can appear to be “defending Soviet science” and not just himself and his followers. (Does this ring any bells?)
Now, let me return to the ideas discussed above concerning the way in which certain personalities seem to mesh with certain social situations, which they go on to exacerbate. Here, too, there are some very curious and instructive parallels. Lysenko was an ill-educated agronomist who clearly harbored resentment against professional (and genuinely talented) scientists. Thus, he meshed perfectly with the anti-“bourgeois” attitudes that were prevalent among the Bolshevik elite. In a similar way, Mann seems to have been well-suited by nature to mesh with the growing AGW hysteria. In both cases, these aggressive characters took advantage of another aspect of scientific practice. A field of science is typically guided and managed through a set of gentlemanly conventions. But under special conditions, it may be possible for someone in a position of prominence to flaunt these conventions (at least for a while), which since they are conventions of restraint, put their sincere adherents at a disadvantage.14
A major difference that I see is that there appears to be much more internal support among scientists and other academics in the present situation. And if one follows the history of members of The Team and their activities back into the early 1980s (and this holds for other groups as well), one encounters a great deal of autonomous action in favor of the fashionable doctrines. This seems in marked contrast to the situation vis a vis Lysenko. In fact, the present situation clearly is in part a “revolt of the elites” rather than a revolt against them.
Another interesting difference, that curiously enough favors the Soviet government, is that after it had first emerged it took almost 20 years for Lysenkoism to become official doctrine (in 1948). It seems clear that there was a long period during which the government, not being entirely certain about the status of Lysenko’s claims, was hedging its bets. In striking contrast, nearly all politicians in the West (and some in other places) leaped on board the global warming bandwagon almost as soon as it left the gate.
In large part, this difference must be due to the magnificent orchestration of the IPCC, especially the succession of reports that eventually ran on for 2,000 pages at a pop.15 That certainly gave political types, especially those on one side of the aisle, more than enough cover to make their move – which was the wholesale embrace of a Green (carbon-free) Economy. In contrast, Lysenko was a rather primitive charlatan, who in addition made wilder and wilder claims about a field whose principles were already grounded in fairly refined studies and whose central idea (that of the gene) was (by the 1940s) being elucidated at the molecular level. It’s hard for sophistry even aided by intimidation to keep making headway against that.
At the beginning of this essay I said that “by now almost everyone, skeptic or warmist, has backed away from this very flawed piece of evidence.” Interestingly, this does not apply to certain ‘defenders of the creed’, who, as soon as Steyn’s work was made available, leapt into the arena to begin a full-throated assault on it and to defend the hockey stick. In doing so, they showed a remarkable indifference to the reservations expressed by their betters.
First off the blocks was a blogger named Greg Laden, whose post appeared in June of 2015.16 The tone is set in the opening sentence:
“There is a new attack by an anti-science and anti-environment talking head on a well respected climate scientist and his work. Mark Steyn is self publishing a book of quotes by scientists that allegedly disparage Dr. Michael Mann and the “Hockey Stick.” If the three examples Steyn provides to advertise his book are representative, Steyn’s book is unlikely to impress.”
Then it gets really interesting (these sentences follow immediately in the same paragraph):
“Like previous attempts to separate a key individual from the herd,17 Steyn’s latest money making scheme could make him a few bucks (his fans seem gullible) but in the end will destroy anything that happens to be left of his credibility and, possibly, his legal argument that he is not actively and maliciously attempting to defame an individual.”18
Mind you, this is being written in 2015, a decade after the critical articles by McIntyre and McKitrick, and five years after Montford’s book reviewed all the desperate twists and turns that had been taken to defend the Stick. Here, the stage is set as if none of this had ever happened.
Note also that Laden hadn’t actually read the book, but is relying on the three quotes which apparently were part of the original publicity campaign for the new volume.
We then get a rundown of the original result, and subsequent work that has purported to verify it, presented in an authoritative tone which one comes to recognize as typical of the genre. And on the face of it, it is impressive – provided one is unaware of all the vagaries involved, many of which are recounted in the (actual) book, as I have indicated.
This is brought out if we follow a link that Laden provides – to an article that summarizes “a landmark study known as the PAGES 2K project”. The link is to a 2013 article by Rahmsdorf, which in turn refers to a then-recently published paper by a group called the “PAGES 2K Consortium”. This appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience as a “progress article”, a category I had never heard of before. Later I found that, once again, the ever-vigilant Steve McIntyre had played cat to their mouse and ferreted out the fact that progress articles were meant to review material in fields that were not yet mature enough for a full peer-reviewed article on the topic. In other words, the paper was another ‘trick’ to get something in the literature in support of now-controversial claims without being subjected to a thorough review. (It’s also interesting that the consortium included the aforementioned Jöelle Gergis and thus incorporated material that had led to problems elsewhere.)
In referring to MBH98 itself, Laden writes, “there was some controversy but the work was good and over subsequent years it was verified by other research”. Apparently he is comfortable with:19
- “unjustified truncation” of three of the original data series
- copying values from one series into others
- displacement of series
- use of seasonal temperatures for annual temperatures
- “listing of unused proxies”
- idiosyncratic transformations of the original data prior to performing the principal components analysis, which results in the PC algorithm “mining the data for hockey stick patterns”.
as well as other vagaries. One wonders what it would take for something to qualify as bad research in Laden’s eyes.
After making the case for the stick, Laden proceeds to try to discredit the three quotations he has seen – and here, again, to my mind he makes a reasonably convincing job of it – if one hasn’t delved into the details. (And this (i) is a significant fact, (ii) that skeptics generally do not face up to, (iii) which is also a significant fact.) To properly assess his arguments, one needs to have the book at hand so one can look up the quotes and see how they’re actually presented. The first quote taken up is:
“Did Mann et al get it wrong? Yes, Mann et al got it wrong.”
–Simon Tett, Professor of Climate Science, University of Edinburgh
First, it should be noted that in the book itself we do get the context of the quotation; in addition, there is an additional piece that follows right after: “How wrong is still under debate …”. We also find out that this is part of a response to a query from someone in the UK Department of Environment in October, 2004 concerning the M&M critique. And it’s clear from this and other quotes that Tett is somewhat diffident about Mann’s work, so he clearly isn’t on board to the extent that Laden makes him out to be. Laden ends his arguments with a flourish (that one somehow feels was preordained):
“So. That’s settled. Steyn got it wrong.”
The second quote considered is one that on the face of it looks even more damning:
“Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred … because the scientific assessments in which they may take part are not credible any more.”
–-Eduardo Zorita, Senior Scientist at Germany’s Institute for Coastal Research
In this case, Laden assembles a genuinely impressive counterargument. He first admits that Zorita has in the past expressed “concerns about the way some of the research is conducted”, and he lauds this kind of cautious assessment. Then he asks rhetorically, “But is Zorita a Hockey Stick denier like Mark Steyn implies he is?” In reply, he first notes that Zorita was one of the authors of the above-mentioned PAGES consortium paper. And he describes Zorita’s present position, based on a conversation he had with him. Zortia had told him that the quote was accurate and reflected his concern that Climategate might affect the perception of the IPCC, that he thought that “the Hockey Stick was something of a public relations mistake”, and that the case for AGW does not depend on it.
The only issue here is that in the (actual) book, Zorita’s position is made clear – with a longer quote from the same Web post. So despite Laden’s claim that there couldn’t be “a worse choice to list as a person criticizing the hockey stick”, in the (actual) book, the quote does fit into the texture of the overall argument.
The third quote, by J. Jones (who was quoted earlier) is one that the author stood behind when queried, so Laden has to concede this one. So he concludes that Steyn got one out of three correct.
The final sentence of the piece is also worth quoting:
“I’m thinking that this is not going to be a very big book. Certainly not a very good one. Maybe Steyn is counting on a lot of pre-orders.”
Hard on the heels of this article, a short piece was posted at the Daily Kos under the byline “ClimateDenierRoundup”. Here are some excerpts:20
“He’s now self-published a book that is supposedly a collection of criticisms of Dr. Mann by other scientists.” (italics added; I suspect that the “self-published” bit was borrowed from Laden, since it’s such a nice extra jab.)
“For all his quote mining, it seems like the best Steyn could do when it came to finding criticisms from Mann’s peers is write up two quotes from scientists who agree with Mann’s findings and one from someone who’s not a climate scientist at all.” (italics added; notice how Laden’s more carefully qualified suppositions in this author’s hands almost become matters of fact)
This writer in fact cites Laden’s article (which probably prompted the Daily Kos posting) as his main reference. That’s perfectly reasonable, of course, but it’s still interesting to observe how the daisy chain develops (cf. below).
Another post appeared around this time on a blog called Hot Whopper :21 This is a brief cut-and-past account of the scientific evidence followed by a lengthier polemic against “deniers”. Strangely enough, the author later added an “addendum about the contents of the book” in which several links are given (including a link to Laden’s post) followed by what is essentially an admission that the author still hadn’t read it: “I can’t imagine there is anything in it that would damage Michael Mann, but I do expect it will have a lot of material that will damage Mark Steyn.”
I think it is fascinating, and extraordinarily revealing that in each case the writer seized upon a few quotes extracted from a 300-page text, as if undermining these was sufficient to refute the entire work. Why did they assume they could write an adequate commentary on the basis of promo quotations (which are likely to be abbreviated, and are necessarily taken out of context)? And why couldn’t they wait to make their critical (and in some cases derisive) comments? Why did they come off the blocks almost as soon as the title was announced? What does this imply about these people?
It is also telling that none of these articles mentions the situation that inspired the book. Instead, it is treated as another malevolent “denier” attack, which must be discredited at once. (Laden uses his Serengeti hypothesis as part of the explanation, but this still assumes some form of mindless malevolence (after all, it’s just about strategy), and it’s telling that he doesn’t even attempt to support his idea with particulars from the present case.)
At this point let us recall some context surrounding the lawsuit and the book. If the hockey stick were valid and Mann had been vindicated, then there should have been dozens of amicus briefs filed in his defense at the trial (including, one would have thought, briefs from Messrs. Tet and Zorita). Moreover, as some of the quotes in Steyn’s book make clear, the hockey stick flies in the face of a body of evidence supporting the occurrence and world-wide scope of both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, both of which were more or less obliterated by the flat handle of the hockey stick. In addition, despite some of Mann’s (amazing) protestations, the stick itself is an enjambment of proxy-based temperature derivations (the handle) and direct surface temperature records (the stick). One reason that this was done was that proxy data for the 20th century did not match the actual temperature record.
The important point is that none of this is reflected in any of this commentary. It is as if all these problematic facts, all these warning signals, have simply glanced off the minds of these people, as the saying goes, like water running off a duck’s back.
Not once do these writers speak to the actual arguments of McIntyre and others. Not once. Instead, they put together parallel arguments, much like someone plastering up a new billboard sign to cover the one underneath. In short, they never connect. Instead, what is achieved is a kind of cognitive closure (using the latter term in the sense given to it by Gestalt psychologists). One could also call it dissonance reduction. Or more simply, evasion.22
Along the way, some clever ideas are proffered, like Laden’s Serengeti Strategy, which is, again, a made-up explanation that doesn’t have any relevance to the actual situation or to the actual controversy. Instead, it seems to have the status of a fond belief that serves to embellish the argument. And, of course, it goes hand in hand with the above-mentioned cognitive closure.
I wonder why none of these people filed an amicus brief. Where were they when the Mann needed them most? In fact, there is also a disconnect between what these people wrote at the time (and I gather are still saying) and subsequent legal developments. One has the impression that they are living in a walled-off world, that they have fashioned their own reality.
One other thing strikes me very strongly in these articles: it doesn’t seem possible for these people to write about a subject like this without descending into scurrilous innuendos. Together with the disconnect from the actual contents of the book, this makes it obvious that these are not genuine reviews and therefore deserve to be called hit pieces.
In their efforts to defend the Hockey Stick, Laden, the Hot Whopper writer, et al. also demonstrate that not only do they not know much about climatology, they know little or nothing about how science is actually carried out – and why. Theirs is essentially a paint-by-numbers view of science. Under this view, one simply gathers and arranges ‘facts’, and this is sufficient to make one’s case.
If only it were so simple. One of the most insightful statements I have ever read about empirical science (unfortunately I have not been able to locate the reference, which was a magazine article probably written by a physical scientist about some dubious activity being billed as “science”) is this:
“Science is not like going to the supermarket.”
But isn’t a presupposition like this precisely what informs these people’s actions? Aren’t they in effect collecting facts as if they were supermarket goods and then arranging them into superficially impressive displays?
Also, around this time a book review appeared on Amazon, authored by a Russell S(eitz).23 It includes the following:
“Cabaret artiste Mark Steyn and the unfunniest cartoonist in England’s grim north have combined forces to show how little they have learned as PR-flacks in the Climate Wars.
“It is a sign of their side’s decay that it looks to ninety year olds and non-entities with few real connections to climate science as scientific authorities, while ignoring the sensible works of climatologists less ideologically entangled than themselves …
“Steyn’s highly elliptical (and often self-contradictory) quote mining is so absurdly polemic that this collection may well backfire in favor of the very UN climate bureaucrats at which it aims.”
“Russell” also tendered some comments under a posting at the Bishop Hill website.24 In one comment he cites four papers that he says support the idea that “the weight of the scientific evidence [for MBH98 and the hockey stick] is enormous and ever growing”. Looking these up, I found that the first, by Baille and McAneney (2015), has to do with the evaluation of tree ring evidence for volcanic eruptions by comparing it with ice cores, and doesn’t seem to bear on the matter at hand (other than indicating that tree rings including Bristlecone pines can be useful for some purposes in paleoclimatology, which is a non sequitur). The second paper, by Vinther et al. (2006) is about comparing ice core records from different locations; its main finding is the specification of the end-date of the Younger Dryas. A paper by Sigl et al. (2013) is mostly about dating volcanic events (with an eye toward assessing their effects on climate); it contains some long-term temperature records, but these do not have a hockey stick blade (!). The last paper, by Sigl et al. ad infinitum (Nature, 2015), is also about volcanoes and ice core indicators; it includes a hockey stick graph, but this is taken from the PAGES 2K project discussed above. So this sounds like another exercise in paint-by-numbers science.
A few days after this, a “warrenlb” posted a comment on a thread at the present site under a short review of Steyn’s book.25 His opening barrage went like this:
“Steyn chose three quotes as promo material to represent the book’s contents. One of the scientists has recently co-authored a paper confirming Mann’s hockey stick graph, and notes that his quote only appears damning because it lacks all context. A second has worked on a major paper that also confirmed Mann’s hockey stick graph, and has stated that the attacks on Mann “have no justification.” The third quote is from a physicist who doesn’t work on climate change, so he can’t accurately be described as one of Mann’s scientific peers.
“For all his quote mining, it seems like the best Steyn could do when it came to finding criticisms from Mann’s peers is write up two quotes from scientists who agree with Mann’s findings and one from someone who’s not a climate scientist at all. Looks like Steyn’s efforts here fell as flat as the handle on Mann’s hockey stick.”
From the quotations included above, it can be seen that this writer is cribbing from the attacks on Steyn’s book that were posted previously. The first paragraph paraphrases Laden’s discussion, while the second is taken directly from the Daily Kos posting. So we have here a nice example of the way that earlier comments tend to be recycled without attribution. (I wonder if in coming years it will be possible to carry out a two-degrees-from-Greg-Laden exercise in the manner of Russell Cook.)
Perhaps the most important lesson to take home from all of this is that there seems to be a large number of such people on the fringes of the AGW controversy, an army of water carriers ready and willing to aid “the cause”. If one regards the AGW phenomenon from a social-computational perspective, then these people are a significant part of the movement – even if they cannot be considered ‘major players’. So they are worth studying closely.
First, let me note that these people are reasonably proficient writers, and they know how to craft an argument. In fact, as is usually the case at this level of discourse, the problem is what is left out of their arguments, not the quality of argumentation per se. (To put the matter crudely in order to make this point clear, if their arguments were translated into predicate calculus form, a logical proof checker would probably pronounce them just as valid with respect to the logical inferences made as the arguments in, say, Steyn’s book.)
Without delving into this matter further in an already lengthy essay, the flaws in these arguments involve issues like vagueness of reference or failure to include material that is relevant. And these are pretty deep issues in the study of discourse and argumentation. In fact, this gets us into yet another layer of analysis and explanation if we wish to really understand the AGW phenomenon. (Add another bullet point to the list above.) But now I want to turn to another consideration.
Looking up Laden’s biographical details, I find that his background is in anthropology, and he has taught this subject at several universities. He has also been or is currently a free-lance science writer, with several articles in the Smithsonian magazine. All this I find estimable and, indeed, rather impressive. Similarly, I assume that Russell Seitz has had a worthy career as professor in a university physics department. And I suspect these cases are representative. So many people with better-than-average talents leading reasonably productive lives, performing useful tasks in society …
And then the gods set them a test – in the form of a new scientific doctrine. And perhaps because there was some flaw, some critical deficiency hidden within their outwardly impressive personalities, they have failed that test. Not only that; they have done so in a quite spectacular fashion – in part, I suspect, because they couldn’t imagine such a thing ever coming to pass. In fact, they have failed to such an extent that in some respects they have been turned into a force for evil.
And as part of the test, the gods sent them Michael Mann. And in a move that is reminiscent of the way that 19th century Frenchmen made Esterhazy a Hero of France, they have transmogrified him into St. Michael, a martyr for science.
There is a sense in which these people were betrayed by their own personas. Or one could say that in finding their own zone of comfort, they did not recognize all the implications of this mode of existence.
In light of these reflections, another question obtrudes. To what degree is AGW being championed by a certain kind of elitist ne’er-do-well, scientific or otherwise? Is there a status enhancing function involved in all of this? And is this one of the receptive surfaces that the AGW doctrine fits into (like a key fitting into a lock), making them part of a great social-computational machine?26
The Hockey Stick may eventually be seen as an extraordinary natural experiment that served to expose paint-by-numbers thinkers, causing them to be hoist by their own bien-pensance, as it were. (And of course, this is true of the entire AGW doctrine as well.)27
Returning to the major players, I think that what a social-computational perspective suggests is that not only are specific individuals like Michael Mann (and Maurice Strong) not sufficient to explain the AGW phenomenon, there is a sense in which they are not even necessary. That is to say, if these particular people had not come on stage and taken the roles they did, then others would have emerged and taken on essentially similar roles. The details of the story would be different, of course, but in its broad contours the course of events would have been much the same.
Let me put this a different way. We all know the old adage, if so-and-so did not exist, then it would have been necessary to invent him. According to the conception that I am adumbrating in this essay, if Michael Mann did not exist then he very likely would have been ‘invented’.
One final comment. While preparing this essay, I was rereading Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Sometime after reading the chapter where Solzhenitsyn gives an account of those whom he calls Communist “loyalists”,28 it occurred to me that the mentality of people like Greg Laden and Russell Seitz bears some resemblance to the people described in that chapter. At the same time, I had the odd thought that in the AGW drama we skeptics are in some ways like the Soviet Gulag’s zeks. Of course, we aren’t really entitled to call ourselves by that name just yet. But are many of us perhaps cut from the same cloth? In any case, I don’t think that these analogies are entirely fanciful – and if they aren’t, then a strange sort of pattern may be manifesting itself once again.
1 M. Steyn, “A Disgrace to the Profession”, Stockade, 2015. (When specific passages in this work are quoted or cited, they are flagged by the author’s name and a page number.)
2 In fact this is intended to be the first volume in a series, since only a portion of the quotations that Steyn collected are included.
3 For a more detailed account of the book itself, see A. May, “A detailed review of the book: ‘A disgrace to the Profession’, by Mark Steyn”, https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/08/28/a-detailed-review-of-the-book-a-disgrace-to-the-profession-by-mark-steyn/. And see footnote #23 below.
4 See, for example, “35 scientific papers: Global sea levels were 1-2 meters higher than now for most of the last 7,000 years” (6 February, 2017); “17 new (2017) scientific papers affirm today’s warming was not global, unprecedented, or remarkable” (26 January, 2017); “The hockey stick collapse: 60 new (2016) scientific papers affirm today’s warming isn’t global, unprecedented, or remarkable” (22 December, 2016).
5 A curious feature of these lawsuits is that it almost seems as if Mann stumbles into them, since he seems completely unprepared to handle the ensuing court cases. Instead, he acts as if he expected that the larger world would simply acquiesce to his claims. And when it doesn’t, he is left high and dry. There is an insularity in all of this that is quite wonderful. (And although it may be an extreme case, I do not think for a moment that this case is not part of a larger population; nor do I think it’s even an outlier.)
6 My take on Mann (although this is only an armchair assessment) is that he is an extremely bright guy who comes up with some clever ideas, such as new ways to handle proxies, but does not have the deep concern for getting things right that would keep him out of trouble. And of course he tends to get carried away with his brilliant ideas. Ironically enough, he would have benefited from an association with someone like Steve McIntyre; perhaps then he would have produced something of lasting value. However, it’s not possible to put such a charitable interpretation on a failure to share the code behind the proxy analysis or the hide-the-decline maneuver. Nor to avoid noticing that such failings are all too common in this community. Although I haven’t yet read C. Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism, I can’t help thinking that it may apply here (in this connection, see also G. W. S. Trow’s My Pilgrim’s Progress).
6 Here, Steyn may have been a little too casual. At least according to some accounts, the curve in the 1990 IPCC report was based on a sketch drawn by H. Lamb, so it was not unreasonable to question it and to try to come up with something more substantial. So this may be to some extent a case of “dueling graphs”. It needs to be borne in mind that this is a game that both sides can play.
8 S. Mosher and T. W. Fuller, Climategate. The CRUtape Letters, Quire/St. Matthew, 2010.
9 J. Nova, “Gergis Australian hockeystick is back: how one typo took four years to fix”, http://joannenova.com.au/2016/07/gergis-australian-hockeystick-is-back-how-one-typo-took-four-years-to-fix/
10 F. J. Odling-Smee, K. N. Laland, & M. W. Feldman, Niche Construction, Princeton, 2003.
11 To appreciate the force of this comparison, one must really read something about the Lysenko affair. The classic reference for the Lysenko affair is Z. A. Medvedev, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko, Columbia, 1969 (orig. 1962, 1967). More recently, the entire episode was reviewed and discussed by David Joravsky in The Lysenko Affair, University of Chicago, 1970. For the record, while Medvedev was a good Soviet citizen and seems to have been a devout Marxist-Leninist, his simple honesty shines though on nearly every page. In contrast Joravsky is a NYRB-type of modern intellectual who, although he states the main facts of the case clearly enough, seems at times to be trying to partially exonerate Lysenko. Although in some quarters this might be interpreted as providing a more measured, broad-minded treatment, I find it deeply meretricious – especially when placed beside Medvedev’s account (which I read afterwards). Further useful references are V. J. Birstein, The Perversion of Knowledge, Westview, 2001; E. Pollack, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars, Princeton, 2006.
12 Birstein, pp. 70-78. Here, I will remark that anyone trying to understand this or other aspects of intellectual life the Soviet Union must read works by dissident Soviet scientists. As Birstein himself says, the typical Western scholar tends to downplay the suffocating political/ideological atmosphere that pervaded every aspect of this world, as well as failing to give a proper account of the apparatus of repression that supported it.
13 In the next few sentences Lysenko dissociates himself from the harsh punishments that had been meted out to a number of geneticists and plant scientists.
14 Moreover, in our time the conventions themselves have come under fire, as (generally scurrilous) people claim they are “sexist”, “racist”, “patriarchal” and so forth. Needless to say, when such mechanisms of restraint are weakened in this way, as they have been, then all manner of dubious characters can take advantage. (Incidentally, it also says something about the quality of Mann’s judgment that he went outside this community when he chose to attack a figure like Mark Steyn, who isn’t going to be as inclined to follow the community’s rules of decorum in resisting such attacks.)
15 It would not be inaccurate to regard the IPCC reports as a kind of collective “Bellesiles strategy”, the latter referring to the work Arming America whose outlandish thesis, that frontier America did not have a gun culture or even many firearms, was buttressed by 150 pages of references, all or most of which turned out to be bogus. This in a way is the thesis of Donna Laframboise’s Delinquent Teenager book.
17 Here, Laden is referring to a pet idea of his that he calls the Serengeti Strategy (see http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2015/ 01/21/the-serengeti-strategy/) wherein he likens the attacks on Mann to a hyena pack’s strategy of going after the leader of a herd in order to demoralize and disrupt the organization of the herd as a whole.
18 I will not delve into this further in this essay, but it is worth noting how readily the author brings in the idea that ultimately It’s All About Money. In doing this, he becomes the warmist twin (or doppelganger) of those skeptics who demonstrate their sagacity by repeating the formulaic phrase, “Follow the money”. By now, such maneuvers on both sides are almost as predictable as the actions in a Kabuki play.
19 Items listed and quotations are from S. McIntyre & R. McKitrick, “Corrections to the Mann et. al. (1998) proxy data base and northern hemispheric average temperature series”, Energy & Environment, 2003, 14: 751-771, except for the last entry, which is from S. McIntyre & R. McKitrick, “Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance”, Geophysical Research Letters, 2005, 32: L03710.
21 “Vicious attack on Michael Mann: More smears from Mark Steyn and Anthony Watts’ lynch mob” http://blog.hotwhopper.com/ 2015/08/vicious-attacks-on-michael-mann-more.html
22 In fact, if you want to experience reality-distortion to the point of vertigo, I recommend reading Steyn’s book and immediately afterwards reading Greg Laden’s piece attacking it.
23 The byline used is “Russell” or “Russell S., but from his website and from various other commenters at the URL cited next, it seems clear that Seitz is the author. Some commenters indicated that he was also the warrenlb referred to in citation #23, but of that I can’t be sure.
25 A. Watts, “A review of Steyn’s scathing new book about Michael Mann: “A Disgrace to the Profession” WUWT, August 15, 2015. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/08/11/a-review-of-steyns-scathing-new-book-about-michael-mann-a-disgrace-to-the-profession/
26 These remarks may also apply to the authors of Web blogs such as “And then there’s physics” and “Deep Climate”, although their commentary is generally more sophisticated than the examples given. They were not discussed in the main text because I didn’t see anything that dealt directly with Steyn’s book.
27 Of course, this does not exhaust the catalogue of believers, but since this essay is concerned with aspects of the movement that relate to Steyn’s book, this subject will not be dealt with further.
28 A. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago. Volume II, Collins and Harvill, 1975.
Hundreds of allegations of “fake research” conducted at some of the UK’s top universities were reported between 2011 and 2016, figures show.
According to figures released by 23 of Britain’s 24 Russell Group universities following Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted by the BBC, the scale of fraudulent research is much higher than official Research Councils UK (RCUK) statistics suggest.
The figures reveal at least 300 allegations including plagiarism and fabrication.
Official data, however, suggests about 30 cases were reported between 2012 and 2015.
In response, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry to reassure the public that its monitoring system is “robust.”
Committee Chairman Stephen Metcalfe stressed the importance of reassuring people that public funds are being invested in accurate and trustworthy research.
“Where research has been found to be fraudulent at a later point it has a big impact on the public – it leads to mistrust,” he told the BBC.
“What we want to do is to investigate how robust the mechanisms are for ensuring that research is ethical, it is accurate, it is, to a degree, reproducible.”
According to the new data, around a third of allegations for plagiarism, fabrication, piracy and misconduct were upheld, while over 30 papers were withdrawn.
Although Metcalfe said the BBC’s findings must be balanced against the overall number of research papers, he said transparency is essential to build trust.
“We do need to have accurate figures that are available so we can all have confidence that the research is being conducted properly, and when it’s not, there is a system that challenges that,” he said.
It is thought that the inaccuracy and sloppiness in academic papers is due to researchers rushing through their copy in order to get grants to carry on with their work.
A spokesman for the Russell Group, however, said it takes “integrity” into thorough account.
“Our universities take research integrity seriously and work continuously to help staff and students maintain high standards of research,” he said, according to the BBC.
“The UK has a global reputation for the quality of our scientific research.
“This is not least because our members are rigorous in their approach to research integrity.”
Deliberate research fraud seldom occurs, but when it does take place it comes with severe risks, such as undermining public health or losing trust in the eyes of the public which funds it.
There are calls for a UK regulatory body to oversee publicly-funded research. Although Metcalfe said the idea could be looked into, he claimed there is currently “no appetite for that in the wider community.”
Under a concordat, to which UK universities signed up back in 2012 to guarantee transparency in reporting allegations of research misconduct, higher education institutions are still not obliged to release figures on allegations of fraudulent research.
According to an audit by vice-chancellors group Universities UK, only 35 out of 131 universities released figures on research misconduct to the public.
Co-founder of Retraction Watch, Dr. Ivan Oransky, backed the BBC findings and said the number of research misconduct cases being reported falls short of the real extent of the issue.
“We do not have a good handle on how much research misconduct takes place, but it’s become quite clear that universities and funding agencies and oversight bodies are not reporting even a reasonable fraction of the number of cases that they see,” Oransky told the BBC.